What’s the precise date your child turns hideous?

The exact date is: the October half-term holiday in their first year at high school.

The signs will be pretty clear, they are as follows:

Embarrassing rapping.

Your child will couple up with another child and rap; this is, unfortunately, inevitable. One will do the embarrassing rapping and the other will do embarrassing beatboxing.

In gay relationships, you can usually tell which is the male and which is the female, it’s the same with amateur rap duos; the one doing the beatboxing is the woman.

Surprise wrestling.

If you have a son, during the October half-term holiday they will start spontaneously trying to wrestle their father. It is a classic show of male dominance; the young pretender trying to usurp the alphamale. If you’re the father in this scenario, then I recommend that you get something bullet proof, like the family tortoise, and sellotape it to your groin.

This wrestling is spontaneous and will happen at the most inconvenient times, such as when you’re resting a hot cup of tea between your thighs, or having a secret fag in the shed. My son is, at the moment, like Kato from the Pink Panther movies. I tread carefully into rooms, open kitchen cupboards slowly and watch for minor movements in the curtains.

Hair selfies.

As we all know, extreme quiffs need constant exposure on all media platforms, and your child will see it as their job to do this. You may at this point need a separate room for your child’s hair care products. So if you’re thinking about an extension, this is a prime time.

Going to the park.

Going to the park will become a constant obsession. Your child will hear the jungle drums beat across the village and will automatically drop everything and flock zombie-like to the park. Once there, they will indulge in all of the above, in-between being ironic on the swings and swearing at strangers, which usually turns out to be someone you know, so expect a phone call later from a ‘concerned’ citizen.

Voice Breaking (boys only – in most cases).

At some point the voice of one of your son’s friends will break, and your child is soon to follow. It is OK to take the piss out of their friend, but if their parents do it to your son, it is well within your rights to ignore them for a bit and go into an adult sulk.

It is a weird and uncomfortable time for all involved. Imagine Clint Eastwood asking you for a bowl of Coco Pops and you get the gist.

How to enjoy punishing your kids

When your child hits the age of 12, no matter how angelic the previous eleven years were i.e. toasting marshmallows by the fire followed by a big cuddle on the sofa, they will without question, become objectionable when asked to come off whatever flavour of the month technology they are glued to.

This is when your wrath, if you have wrath, will be tested. But it doesn’t always need to be a painful process of hand wringing anguish, as you let your partner be the bad guy, you can spice it up so that all involved, apart from your child, can have a little fun.

Firstly, you need to do a little research. Your disciplining techniques may be outdated, so confer with other parents, either at the school gate, or from the passenger window of your 4 wheel drive as you park on the no parking zone outside school, as to what the current disciplining trends are.

Here are the freshest, hottest disciplining techniques doing the rounds at my son’s school.

Hi-tech to low-tech.

One lad in my son’s chemistry class, known simply as, Big Gordon, decided to spend the previous Saturday in a massive strop after being told to limit his Xbox activities to a mere 4 hours. As a result, his parents replaced his new iphone with a Nokia brick.

Slow death.

Another lad in my son’s chemistry class (not sure what’s happening with this class, I must investigate further and see if this lesson is prefixed with the word ‘special’) went into a massive hissy fit when asked to come off his ipod. His parents then confiscated all the chargers for his gadgets and he had to watch them slowly die.

Enforced playing with crap gift.

Spurred on from hearing about these new strategies, I made up my own. A few years ago a guy selling books set up a stall in my work’s canteen. I found some lovely books for my daughter but there was nothing for my son; I didn’t want him to feel left out, so I bought him a book about the rules of snooker that also turned into a small snooker table. The cues were the size of tooth picks and the balls were no bigger than sherbet pips. I thought he’d see the funny side; he didn’t.

“Why has she got lots of books?” he bleated, folding his arms across his chest. “It’s not fair!”

“Don’t worry,” I said enthusiastically, “I’ve bought you a book about the rules of snooker, that also turns…wait for it…into a small snooker table,” and I revealed the gift that I’d been hiding behind my back.

“Waaaaaaaa! I don’t want a small snooker table. When have I ever said I like small snooker…When…When?”

He got the small snooker table and threw it across the room, and all the sherbet pip-sized balls scattered across the rug (I still occasionally hear one of them scuttle up the hoover). It was one of those awkward tantrum situations where everybody goes red in the face and we look at each other, wondering what to do next.

I keep this small snooker table, which now only has 7 balls left, in a glass cabinet, much like the crap back-up they keep in clear view on Top Gear when they’re doing one of their expeditions, and when he is naughty, I get it out and make him sit in the back room and play with it.

The conversations go along these lines.

“Can you come off the Xbox please? You’ve been on it for 6 hours.”

“I can’t, I just need to finish this bit…it won’t let me save until I finish this bit.”

“I said now!”

“It’s not fair…Mum said I could stay on.”

“Do you want to play small snooker?”

The School Pick Up

My wife left the iron on for 8 hours yesterday. Since then she has contracted a 24 hour virus and been confined to her bed, which means I’ve had to wait an agonising two days to tell her off.

“Why are you telling me off,” she bleated, “can’t you see that I’m ill?”

I lied when I said that I had waited two days. I couldn’t help it, it was like an itch that wouldn’t go away. I felt thoroughly guilty afterwards but that soon morphed into resentment as I was forced to soak up all her chores.

A day of feeding all the white goods with dirty dishes and clothes culminated with a double pick up of kids from different schools. I picked the smallest one up first. She looked pleased to see me until I said February.

“Daddy, can I have an ice lolly?”

“No; it’s February.”


She let out an ear-piercing shriek just as I was bending over her to click in the seat belt. I struggled to find the housing, the screaming continued and the noise drilled into my temples. I now think my wife left the iron on to kill us all.

We arrived at my son’s school. It’s his first year at big school and he has just got to an awkward stage biologically which is signified by occasional bursts of embarrassing white boy rapping.

The car park is at the foot of sloping field with a dense wood to one side, and it is my job to wait in the car and until he appears on the horizon, and trudges down the hill.

Two tractor-sized Range Rovers park either side of me and fill the cabin of my Vauxhall Astra with an eery half light as they block out the sun. My inner rage is momentarily directed away from my shrieking kid, who is strapped in the back seat and looks like a mental patient in a straight jacket shouting, ‘Ice lolly, Ice lolly’, to thinking about how selfish Range Rover owners are, which is always followed by having to suppress the burning desire to buy one myself.

I spot my boy on the ridge of the hill. At this point he is just a dot, but even at this distance I can tell by the way that he is walking that one of his shoe laces is untied; he is with his friend.

They meander slowly down the hill, occasionally one of them stops to pick up a bit of bush and chase the other with it. Then they stop by a tree and do some rapping; one raps with arms flailing around and the other cups his hands over his mouth to do some beatboxing.

The Range Rovers roar off and the cabin fills with sunlight. My son opens the door and throws all his bags into the car. Sports’ bag, rucksack and book bag and then tries to cram himself on top of it all and fasten the seat belt. He looks at me as though this is somehow my fault.

“What have you done today?” I ask.

“Nothing,” he grunts.

“Nothing?” I ask with mock incredulity.

“Well, there was something,” he replied. “I learned that if you put the speaker part of an ipod up your nose, the music comes out of your mouth.”

He wedged the corner of his ipod up his nose and Uptown Funk came out of his mouth, which was accompanied by screams of ‘lolly, lolly’ from the nutter in the back, and I raced home quickly so that I could put the iron on.

If you don’t like looking at my face, this probably isn’t for you.

Occasionally I get fans of this blog writing in to me and saying things like: “Stop doing this blog, it’s crap’ stuff like that. So, for all those of you who can’t be arsed to read it, I’ve decided to narrate them, in much the same way Stephen Fry might do it.

If you don’t like looking at my face for 5m 17 secs, this will be an absolute horror ride for you. Good Luck.

My son is on the school residential trip. Unfortunately, he’s been put in a room with two kids who aren’t allowed matches.


The boy has just set off on a week-long residential trip with his school to a resort called, Hi-Adventure. Unfortunately, his teacher has classed him as a role-model, which means he’s been put in a room with two kids who need role-models; two kids who aren’t allowed matches.

To make matters worse, he has just turned eleven, which is an age of sweeping biological changes, when his usual interests are supplanted by alien urges. It’s unfortunate that this trip has coincided with his blossoming interest in Loom Bands.

As he walked out of the front door, both arms mummified in rubber jewellery, I stood by as he dragged the big family suitcase, which is still peppered with airport check-in labels, over the threshold. At this pivotal moment, which is clearly a symbolic fleeing of the nest, he looked like Liberace setting off on a world tour.

The jewellery is a hangover from his audacious attempt to secure a girlfriend at the summer fair. The girl in question was working on the loom band stall with her boyfriend, who ordered my offspring to cease buying looms from ‘his’ girl. My son slinked away and then a few heartbeats later, he slinked back and bought another. This chest-beating at a jewellery stand was my son’s equivalent of the drag race in Grease, but with more of an arts and crafts edge to it.

Five minutes later he tugged at my sleeve, demanding more cash for rubber jewellery; it was a proud moment. I thrust the coins in to his palm and told him that he could outstay his welcome at the craft stall with my blessing.

This was the last straw for the love-rival, and he told my son that their friendship was history. All three of them are now sharing dormitory space with each other for the next five days alongside the Inferno Twins.

Through the miracle of modern technology I can check the twists and turns of my child’s tangled love life in real time, because the activity centre uploads photos to their website on a daily basis.

Early evening finds both of us hunched over the ipad viewing the latest upload, like witches peering into a cauldron waiting for the vapours to make sense.

The first post revealed a picture of all the kids grouped together. They were sat on the grass beside a dramatic cliff face, wearing brightly-coloured waterproofs.

He’s stood on his own. There’s a big group of them and he’s stood on his own,” squawked my wife, and then looked to me for reassurance.

“And just look at that,” she said, pointing at my son and his rival, “you can just see the tension between them.”

They’re just eating sandwiches,” I observed.

Still hungry for more sinister shots of love-rivals opening Tupperware, she clicked again, another picture popped up. We both looked for obvious signs of problems. I broke the silence.

Do you think he should be going down a zip wire wearing that many Loom Bands?”


How to teach your kids about sex

My wife loves it when I can’t answer simple general knowledge questions, and her latest one had me stumped. She also enjoys seeing me squirm, so she asked the same question again: “When did your balls drop?”

“I can’t remember,” I replied.

My wife sighed and said, “Our son is heading towards puberty, and we need to know these things.”

“The only major event that I remember from my puberty years is being allowed to walk into town on my own for the first time. And I don’t think the journey was in any way hampered by my balls.”

Were you 11, or 12-years-old…what?”

I don’t know. I’ve never kept a detailed record of my testicles’ movements. And even if I did, I don’t think I’d still have it. It’s not the kind of document you hoard deep into middle age.”

So why do you still keep a pair of knickers in your memory box?”

It was at this point that the other guests at the dinner table started to look uncomfortable, so my wife switched the conversation away from my knicker fetish and onto the price of our son’s new school uniform. Her smooth topic transition was masterful, and I hope that one day I will be able to emulate her skills and steer a chat about vaginal dryness effortlessly into a debate about the Euro.

Puberty is on the horizon, and times are changing. I constantly find myself harking back to the carefree days of being a parent with two small children; halcyon days when I could get through a whole meal without being quizzed about my plums.

That night my wife told me I had to have a chat with our son about sex.

I don’t want to do it,” I said, “he’s too young.”

It’s your job,” she answered, like a factory foreman ordering me to sweep up.

What’s your job then?” I asked.

I have to tell our daughter about periods; that’s far worse.”

OK, but who gets to teach them about tying shoe laces?”

My wife looked down her nose at me in a stern, matronly fashion and said, “Let’s see how you get on with sex before we move you onto shoe laces.”

I always thought that when my kids were old enough to know about sex, they would be able to tie their own shoe laces, but this hasn’t happened. I don’t know if I’m behind the national curve here; there are no statistics available to make a comparison.

I perched myself at the bottom of my son’s bed; he was getting settled under the covers and re-arranging his teddies. He has a revolving door policy where a different teddy gets the opportunity to lay next to his head each night.

He eventually settled on a fluffy dog that he’s named: Sir Flannels, and asked: “What do you want to talk about tonight, Dad?” and gave Sir Flannels a big hug.

I took a deep breath and said: “I need to talk to you about something serious…alone,” and I motioned with my eyes towards Sir Flannels. My son took the hint, covered Sir Flannels’ ears and looked up at me with his big, innocent blue eyes, and then I told him all about penetrative sex.


It is Saturday morning, and as usual, my wife is forcing me to ring up celebrities.

As we all know, it is standard social practice that if you went to university 20 years ago with someone who becomes famous, in my case Dermot O’Leary, and then you open up a tea shop in Leeds, the celebrity has to drop everything and open it; that’s just how it is – I don’t make the rules.

Four years ago I tried to cash my cheque by ringing up his agent, who passed me onto his assistant, who passed me onto the assistant to the agent’s assistant. Here’s a tip, if you’re trying to get hold of Dermot, and they put you onto someone called Dave, save yourself four years of looking at the phone and hang up.

I’m not daft, I appreciate that he is a busy man and it would be tough to make it up to Leeds at short notice, so I asked Dave if Dermot could mention the opening of the cafe while he was presenting the X Factor.

I was thinking something like: DERM: “Next onto the X Factor stage is Wagner…and don’t forget, Boff’s Baps is open for: hot drinks, sandwiches, panninis and afternoon teas. Now here’s Wagner with, Everybody Walk The Dinosaur.” Fireworks, applause.

A few months ago we opened our second cafe and my wife wanted Dermot not to open that one as well.

Why don’t you just ring him up?” asked my wife, as she stood cleaning the dishes before putting them in the dishwasher.

It’s embarrassing,” I replied, “I don’t want him to think that I’m just using him.”

Do you want me to ring him up? she asked over the noise of the dishes slotting awkwardly into the racks.

Yes, it’s much less embarrassing getting my wife to ring him up for me,” I replied.

At this point my son dragged himself into the kitchen. He is 11-years-old and has recently started talking like a rapper; the type of hardcore gangland rapper who likes Coco Pops for supper.

What’s ‘appening?” he asked and mooched over to the cereal cupboard. He grabbed the box of Coco Pops, fished out a bowl and then threw Coco Pops all over the room like the Shake ‘n’ Vac woman. I think they should put cereal control on the school syllabus. The timetable should read: Morning: Sex Education. Afternoon: Coco Pop Dexterity.

My wife looked at my son and said: “You’re just in time to see your dad squirming around.”

“Awesome. Can I film it?” asked my son.

“No, don’t be selfish; I want to do it,” she replied.

My wife used her foot to scoop up the dishwasher door and slammed it shut, then they both sat down, analysed me, and tried to recall other weaknesses of mine that they could film.

Pass me the phone,” I said reluctantly to my wife. She got up, crunched over the cereal-covered lino, and I started dialling. They both sat there, staring, expecting me to make a fool of myself, with Coco Pops squashed all over their mouths and feet.

Hello,” I said, voice quavering, “Dermot is an old friend of mine. Is there any chance I could talk to him?”

Hi, I’ll see what I can do. Who shall I say is calling?”

It’s Julian; Julian Boffin.”

Hang on; I’ll just transfer you.”

There was a slight pause. I imagined Dermot reclining on Simon Cowell’s vast super yacht, anchored somewhere like Porto Fino, and the outline of a butler carrying a phone momentarily blocks out the sun. “There is an urgent call for you, Master O’Leary,” announces the butler in a Victorian voice. “I’ll take it in the billiard room”, Dermot replies.

The line crackled and my heart started to bounce, then I heard a familiar voice: “Hello. This is Dave. How can I help?”


I’ve taken a precious chunk out of my holiday entitlement to watch my kids perform meltdowns in different rooms.

It is Wednesday morning, just after 9am, and I am lying in bed somewhere deep in the guts of the long school summer holidays. I am staring at the ceiling and regretting making some pretty unrealistic promises to the kids about taking them somewhere fun and exciting.

The word, ‘Dad’ wafted angrily up the stairs and I thought, let the summer fun begin.

I allowed a few more dads to float up before I screamed: “What?!…What?!…WHAT?!”

Where are we going today?” My daughter’s voice was full of hope and excitement.

How about the farm? You remember the farm. You can feed the animals,” I shouted back down the stairs.

What?!” There was a pause. “Not the…FARM!” Her voice embalmed in grief.

My daughter is only 5-years-old, but she is old enough to know that the farm is lame. On the other hand, if you mention the farm to my 11-year-old son, it sends him into fits of uncontrollable rage.

The FARM!” shrieked my son. “We are not going to the farm!” This was followed by footsteps; angry footsteps heading my way.

My son appeared at the door in his dressing gown, wearing the microphone headset that he uses for his Xbox Live games. He looked like a psychotic call centre worker.

I told you I didn’t want to go to the farm,” he said, dropping his shoulders and looking down at the floorboards in mock sorrow.

You didn’t,” I replied, and he flapped around in circles. At this point my daughter burst onto the scene and mimicked her brother. They were both parading around the room, much like high-speed wind-up toys, repeating fragments of the previous exchange under their breath, such as: ‘farm’ and ‘didn’t want to go’ and ‘dad is so boring’.

OK,” I said. “Who’s up for craft time?”

Aaaagh.” they both screamed, and stomped out.

One hour later I pulled the craft things out of the craft box, and what seemed like the entire contents of a 6th form art cupboard toppled out. I knelt down to pick it up, but quickly realised that it was such a catastrophic spillage, that scooping and shoving back in would not remedy the situation, so I left it.

Are we really doing this?” asked my son, pointing at the craft items displayed on the table and the floor. His tone was more conciliatory than before; he sounded almost pleasant.

Yes, you’ll enjoy it,” I replied optimistically.

He let out a heavy sigh, which he followed up with some intense arm flapping, and finished the routine off with an awesome display of chin on chest resignation. He reminded me of a fat pigeon trying to take off.

Basically, I’ve taken a precious chunk out of my holiday entitlement to see my kids perform meltdowns in different rooms. It’s tempting, at times like these, to mentally leave your body and go to a happy place, but this should only be used in the direst of circumstances, where all hope is lost. Over the past few years, I’ve found it more comforting to think that I’m a guard in a mental asylum. A technique that can also be used in the work place.

Ten minutes later I finally got my wish. We were all sat around the big table, crap all over the floor, with reams of blank paper stacked before us; perfect. I looked at my kids, who were rooting through a plastic tub full of felt tip pens, drawing a dry, squeaky line and sighing: ‘doesn’t work,’ before tossing them back into the tub. The actions took on a universal rhythm: Squeak, squeak, ‘who left the top off?’ Squeak, squeak ‘it wasn’t me’. Squeak, squeak ‘yes it was, I saw you’.

The door opened and my wife walked in. She looked at the arguing kids, the sea of crap on the floor and then at me, before she plonked her hands on her hips in disgust. I looked down at the mess on the floor and I saw a fresh ink spill in the corner of the room, and I drifted off to a happy place.

This is my son’s drawing. It is four happy knobs attacking each other.


It doesn’t feel right exposing myself while we are discussing holiday arrangements.


It is Sunday night and I am hiding in the bath. There is a knock on the door. It sounds like the Hulk is wanting to get in.

“Is that you in there?” shouts my wife.

“Is Hulk angry?” I reply. My wife stomps in and stands by the bath, towering above me.

“We need to decide where we are going on holiday,” she informs me and crosses her arms.

“Now?” I reply, and start covering things up.

“Why are you covering it up?” she asks with mock disappointment. “I’ve seen it before.”

“I doesn’t feel right exposing myself while we are discussing holiday arrangements, but if we were talking about mortgages…” my eyebrows wiggled suggestively, but she wasn’t looking at those.

I am regularly bath-bombed by my wife and kids. I can see their point: if I am in the bath, I can’t escape. Some major family decisions have been thrashed out while I’ve been trapped in the tub. I just lay back, smile and cup anything round or pointy.

The latest hot bathroom topic is my 11-year-old son’s furtive behaviour. He has set up an Instagram account which he can only access through my wife’s ipod. We leave the ipod in a drawer downstairs at night which means he has to attempt several after-hours missions to retrieve it.

A few moments after bedtime, he enters the room and tries to distract us by saying he needs water. He then secretly jinks into the back room and roots through the drawers; he sounds like a bunch of racoons rattling through frying pans.

With Instagram there are only two real scenarios for his furtiveness: he is either texting a girl from his class, or a 45-year-old man pretending to be a girl from his class. It’s the classic digital-age parental dilemma: congratulate him, or book him into the witness protection programme.

The following night we monitor his movements more closely, but he fails to do anything underhand, so I decide to sneak into the bath.

I tiptoe past my wife, grab a towel, and stealthily pad upstairs, where I come across my son who is stealthily padding downstairs. It’s a beautiful moment of father/son deception. We let each other go without raising the alarm; a decision I was soon to regret.

I slipped into the hot vapours and picked up my book. The peace was interrupted by a noise coming from the scaffolding outside the bathroom window. I went into a lazy alert mode, which involved tossing the book over the side, and rather inevitably, an unstoppable line of water ran down my arm and dripped off my elbow onto the cover. Outside, I could hear the distinctive sound of a boy shuffling around in a pair of Crocs, taking risky, high-altitude pictures to impress his demanding Instagram fan base.

There was a knock at the window.

“Dad, is that you in there?”

“Yes. Stop taking pictures of yourself on the scaffolding?”

“I’m not,” he protested, and I heard the familiar click, whirr of a camera shutter.

This was followed by a worrying silence, which panicked me into shouting, “Stop typing negative things about me on the internet.”



I picked up the book once more, I could almost hear it sighing at my infidelity, then I angled it down, and tilted my head, so that I could clearly hear my son pretending to go down the scaffolding, but was in fact, going higher. I must tell him that Crocs are not standard SAS issue footwear; they have been specifically designed for chefs on a fag break, and are useless in covert manoeuvres.

I grabbed the damp book again, which was now ready to pack it’s bags and leave me, when there was a knock on the door: how old fashioned, I thought; why not crash through the roof on a wrecking ball – and make sure you film it.



My wife has a terrible habit of talking over TV programmes I am trying to watch.


My wife has a terrible habit of talking over TV programmes I am trying to watch. She possess the unique skill of being able to blurt out her everyday opinions during crucial, plot-defining moments.

It is Thursday night, and right on cue, she flops onto the couch, at a game-changing point in my programme, opens her mouth and throws out one of her regular observations, ‘You’re so boring,’ she says chirpily, like she’s reading out a list of characteristics she’s found on my CV.

I tut and rewind the programme.

What are you watching?” she asks with indifference, as she flicks through Homes & Gardens magazine.

There is no decent exit strategy for me here. Whatever I say she will rate my viewing choice as mundane. “It’s a documentary about the National Weights and Measures Department,” I say, sitting forward to graphically illustrate that her chatter is drowning out the documentary. It’s a technique that I have perfected over the years observing my wife trying to watch Grey’s Anatomy.

Sensing that she is getting nowhere, she ratchets up the pressure.

Is there anything else on?” she asks, and slowly lets the magazine slip from her grasp. It flops down on the couch and splays out awkwardly; much like my wife.

Yes, there are lots of amazing, thought-provoking programmes on all the other channels, but I decided to fry my brain watching this rubbish instead,” I replied sarcastically, tightening my grip on the remote control, just in case she mounts a surprise attack.

Silence breaks out, so I make the bold decision to un-pause and let it flow. My wife is now slumped in a defensive posture with arms folded, and her legs soon join the party. I find myself wishing the documentary would throw out an amazing weights and measures fact that will soften her outlook and unravel her limbs; it doesn’t transpire, in fact, the worst possible thing happens; I start to lose interest myself.

I offer my wife the remote control. She smiles and says: “You’re weak,” and then starts flicking ravenously. She eventually lands on an episode of Murder She Wrote, an episode I know, for a fact, that she has seen before. To celebrate, she smugly pops a chocolate into her mouth.

My son walks in, stands right in front of the telly and just stares at it as though he has been hypnotised. My daughter shuffles in and does the same.

Move,” orders my wife. They both move away and then slowly drift back. They repeat this choreography several times. They’re like a pair of cuckoo clock figures revolving around the room. “Move out of the way of the telly,” she repeats, this time with more teeth on show.

What are you watching?” asks my son.

I’m watching MY programmes,” stresses my wife.

My daughter aggravates the wound by gyrating towards the forbidden zone in a hula hoop. As the hoop shimmies to the floor, she looks at her angry mother and says: “Mum, I’m hungry. Can you get me some butter toast?”

Rage is gushing out of my wife at an alarming rate, so I try and calm her down by saying: “You’ve seen this episode before.”

I know,” she screams, “but this what happened last time.”


Should you wear skin-tight cycling shorts when you drop your kids off at primary school?


It is Sunday night, the kids are in bed and my wife and I are splayed on the couch fortifying our relationship by gossiping about other parents.

These clandestine chats drive my wife crazy because I generally don’t know who she is talking about. The main problem being that I use nicknames, and she, in a rather old-fashioned way, insists on using their real names, which she embellishes further by describing their hair in graphic detail.

Do you know Tom from year three?” she says with a mischievous glint in her eye.


You know, the boy with the jet-black hair. It’s short at the sides and long on the top, but he gels it back.”

Do you mean Dracula?”

“I hope you haven’t called him that in front of our kids, ” she says in a preachy tone.

“Of course not,” I lie.

I have watched most of Breaking Bad marooned in such conversations. I think the writers of TV dramas, that are underpinned by complex storylines, should take into account that my wife and I, their target audience, get easily confused describing other people’s hair.

No, not not Dracula,” she says with a familiar frustration. “The one I’m talking about has got a brother in year four. Short hair, side parting.”

At this point, I am confident I don’t know who she is talking about, but what I do know is, that there are two of them. This is just enough information for me to pretend to be in the loop so that she can proceed.

“Do you know his dad?” she continues.

Yes,” I lie again. “What’s he done now?”

“When he dropped his kids off at school this morning he was wearing skin-tight cycling shorts.” She followed this statement up by doing a few hand gestures, which I think this guy would have found flattering.

As a parent you quickly learn that certain types of behaviour are out of bounds when dropping your kids off at school, or they will rank high on the gossip charts.

For instance, you should never ride your kid’s scooter to school. You may think you’re being ironic, but it will be seen as a desperate pitch for coolness. This, of course, pales into insignificance when you’re stood on a scooter next to someone showcasing their giblets in stretchy shorts.

Persistent lycra offenders will soon pop up on the radar of influential members of the PTA, who think dads obsessed with exaggerated crotch displays, are perfect for working on the hot dog stall at the summer fair.

Hang on. Who are we talking about?” I say with a furrowed brow. I have decided that this gossip is so juicy, I actually need to know who’s playing the lead.

My wife lets out a long sigh, and starts again, “You know Tom with the…”

I drift off again but I don’t feel guilty. My wife has known me for fifteen years and yet she still insists on describing people to me by using their real name, hair style and penis size.



My son puts just enough milk on his cereal to flood the kitchen.


It is a beautiful summer’s evening and my daughter is stuck inside the house forcing me to make her cry by identifying food.

She prods something on her dinner plate with a fork and asks: “Dad, what’s this?”

I rest my chin on my hand and I say with mock enthusiasm, “That’s broccoli.”

“Waaaaaaaa!!” She pushes another item forward. “Dad, what’s this?”

“That’s a carrot.”

“Waaaaaaaaa!!” To underline the deepness of her sorrow, she amplifies the volume of this cry to the level of a Dyson Airblade hand dryer.

She then decides to change her avenue of attack by willing me to make her cry by recalling numbers.

“Dad, how many more mouthfuls do I have to eat?”

“Three more.”


My son, on the other hand, is eating like a normal 11-year-old boy; slack-jawed, mouth gaping. I can see chunks of food tumbling around like trainers in a washing machine. He is speed walking towards the end of his meal so that he can ask me a question.

“What’s for pudding?” he asks. Unchewed objects abseil out of his mouth.

My daughter pulls at my sleeve. “Have I finished?” she asks.

My son looks at his distressed sister, then at me and asks: “Can I have some Coco Pops?”

My daughter pulls at my sleeve and resumes crying, “Have I finished?”

I am thinking that this is an opportune moment to cave in and dispense lollipops, but deep down, I know that they haven’t eaten enough vegetables to counterbalance the crap they will eat later, so I take one more round of crying questions. I immediately regret my decision as my wife walks in and surveys the scene. She eyeballs the daughter’s plate, she analyses the mess around my son, and finally, she analyses me.

She issues a set of directives that contradict my own; I let this pass. I have, by doing nothing other than crumbling, become the good guy. I am being promoted and demoted at the same time.

All questions are now directed past me and as such I feel it is OK to leave the table; I am wrong. My wife glares at me and I sit back down. Apparently, I have to stay to see her flexing her parental muscles. She might as well start doing lunges in front of me with the kids tied to her back.

My son throws the pudding question out again. I can see my wife mentally listing it as a low priority request and therefore I can deal with it. I take my cue, stretch my neck to look at what’s left on his plate, and say: ‘yes’. My wife looks at me disapprovingly. This was a high level request and I just messed it up.

My mistake was not remembering that we have an American-sized 6 pint milk container in the fridge. It’s too heavy for him to carry and he always puts just enough milk on his cereal to flood the kitchen. I am fearful that one day I will return from work to see milk lapping at the kitchen window, and my son bobbing past clutching a meteor-sized Coco Pop, and his sister twizzling around in the background, wedged in the middle of a huge Cheerio.

My son schleps over to the fridge. We both watch him struggle to take the milk over to his bowl. My reputation is at stake here. I am willing him to find some strength, and power through to the other side of the room where his empty bowl awaits. I can see from my wife’s expression that she is willing for a different outcome: she wants him to move his bowl over to the milk.



“Dad! We’ve just found an arm on the beach.” And other things to do in half-term.


It is the first time since my son was born 11 years ago that I find myself alone in the house for an entire week, and now that this blessed moment has finally arrived, I am completely bored. 

I mooch into the TV room, do an awesome dive-bomb onto the couch, and scroll down all the programs that I have saved. I am pleased, and a little horrified, to discover that I have 34 recordings of Magnum PI to watch.

The phone springs into life.

“Oh my God! I’ve think we’ve just found an arm on the beach. What do I do?”

This is my wife’s way of telling me she’s arrived safely in Scotland. She has taken the kids, along with four school-gate mothers and their offspring, to a remote, allegedly signal-free, cottage in the Highlands for the half-term break.

Just tell them it’s a monkey’s arm,” I said, shrugging my shoulders.

I knew I should have called someone else.”

If I ever find a body part, I will, without hesitation, ring up my wife first to gain her counsel. It seems that my wife has a list of people she can ring before she settles on me. God knows what else she’s found that I didn’t make the cut for. When she returns, I need to make her aware that if she ever finds an arm again, I must be the first person she calls, or at the very least, she should ‘cc’ me in on it.

Some time later the phone coughs again.

“Why haven’t you called me back?” asks me wife. “It seems as though you don’t want to know anything about the arm that your children have found.”

“I’ve been busy,” I snapped, with blossoming indignation.

“You’ve been on the internet, haven’t you?” she remarked accusingly. Her tone drenched in the now familiar scent of disappointment. With a family, I think; you’re never totally alone.

I decide to watch Magnum and sporadically stare at the phone in the hope that the thing never rings again. Almost immediately the phone pipes up again, and I treat it with childish indifference, as though it has betrayed our unspoken agreement that I’m the one in charge.

It is my son; he sounds excited. “Dad. We’ve found something amazing on the beach, did Mum tell you?”

Yes, but I don’t think I’ve been fully cleared to talk about this.”

We’ve found… an arm.”

What type of… arm?” I asked, tentatively.

I imagine all five mothers huddled around a large kitchen table, with tempers reaching boiling point, before they eventually concoct the perfect excuse that will make all the kids think that finding an arm is great half-term fun.

There is a slight pause before my son reveals: “Mum said it was… a monkey’s arm.”

It seems that my brain is equal to five women’s brains. I revel in this small victory for a moment, and then I take great pleasure in smothering the treacherous phone beneath a cushion and dive-bombing it.


I skilfully avoided my wife’s gaze by staying under the table until she left the room.

I had been at work for three hours when I realised that I was not wearing a belt, and I had odd socks on. I desperately tried to think of a way that I could blame my wife, but the well was dry.

My phone burst into life. It was my wife, or to give her my cute pet name: The Belt Thief.

“I’m going out tonight. Remember? I wrote it on the calendar ages ago. You’ll have to make tea,” she said in a loud voice to muffle out the background noise of her writing it on the calendar.

“What! All of it?” I replied.

“What does that mean?”

“I have to make yours as well?”

Quick as a flash, I thought of three meals that I could make for the kids which all revolved around spaghetti hoops.

“Yes, you have to make mine as well,” she sighed.

“But you don’t like spaghetti hoops,” I replied.

“We haven’t got any,” she said triumphantly. Sometimes I think she plans out these conversations.

Hoop shortages are common in our house, so much so that I’ve decided to get, ‘You won’t find any spaghetti hoops in here’, chiselled into my tombstone, which is to be followed by, ‘Hang on, there’s some alphabetti spaghetti, do you want that instead?’

I decided to take the unprecedented decision to ring my wife back, and ask her what I should make for tea.

“Why don’t you branch out from your signature dish of spaghetti hoops and make fish fingers,” she said. This gave me an unexpected boost because fish fingers are something I had thought of independently, which means, in my mind, that we both love our children the same amount. It also gave me the rare opportunity to outdo my wife by upgrading from fish fingers to show her that I love them more.

“What’s this, Dad?” asked my five-year-old daughter as she wriggled uncomfortably on her seat at the dinner table.

“That’s linguini,” I revealed theatrically, “and the thing that you’ve have thrown on the floor is called: salami.” I tried to catch my wife’s gaze. This was the start of a tense game of eye-avoidance which I knew I would lose, but as I’m always preaching to my son, it’s the taking part that counts.

In a long-term relationship praise is important. I needed her to recognise my efforts so that if she ever thought about having an affair, this golden memory of me reluctantly making tea would stop her.

I crawled under the table to pick up the salami and noticed that my daughter was wearing odd socks. I froze momentarily as I remembered that I had dressed both of the kids that morning.

I could sense that my wife was now trying to catch my eye, it’s as though she can smell fear, but I skilfully avoided her gaze by staying under the table until she left the room, and then my heart sank, as I heard the now familiar noise of salami hitting the floor.





Children: How to ignore them.


It is Saturday morning, and I’m doing what I always do on a Saturday morning; I am hiding in the toilet. It took my five-year-old daughter only a few moments to find me, but I cherished each one. She banged on the door.

“Daddy, is that you in the toilet?”

“Yes, what do you want?”

“Can you build me a pond in the back garden?”

“Not right now.”

“Can you fill it full of fishies and frogies?”

“Yes, but not right now.”



“Can you get me some juice?”

“Where’s your mother?”

“I don’t know where she is.”

“Have you tried the other toilet?”

“Yes, but it’s locked and there is no answer.”

“Keep trying.”

Normally I find it hard to get a job. I am signed up to a kaleidoscope of high-energy recruitment agencies who send me details about jobs I feel obliged to like because they have spent time texting them to me. They all fade out to nothing, but as soon as I sit on the toilet I land a major contract to build a pond and populate it.

More worryingly, it appears that my wife has become better at ignoring the children than me. I don’t know the precise moment that the balance shifted in her favour, I’ll have to ask her, that’s if I ever find her again; she appears to be ‘off-grid’ at the moment.

My thoughts are once again interrupted by a clenched fist banging on the toilet door. I show my exasperation by slowly lowering the celebrity magazine, it’s pages fan out and make a familiar flapping noise before I eventually drop it on the floor.

“Dad, is that you?”

This time it is my son. It looks like my interrogators are working a continental shift pattern. Witty, sarcastic replies paraded through my mind like beauty contestants hoping to be selected. I rejected them all, and decided to lose my wrag instead.

“What!” I screamed in frustration.

“Where’s Mum?”

“I don’t know.”

“Can I have some juice?”

I don’t know where my wife is, but searching for her appears to be thirsty work. I imagine my kids glugging gallons of juice as they step over the skeletal remains of other kids who have been foolish enough to look for my wife, before they have to run away from the Indiana Jones’ ball she has rigged-up in the laundry room.



“Can I go on the Xbox?”


“It’s not that simple,” he replied.

Instead of following my orders and flushing out her mother, my daughter had got derailed by a Disney movie, meaning that my son needed permission to kick her off the TV in order to play the Xbox. A high-level decision was required that would result in one of them becoming eye-wateringly upset. My mind wondered back to a much simpler time when I was being asked to build a pond and fill it full of happy, colourful things, and to a time when my wife was visible to the naked eye.




I was in no fit condition to accept flirty texts as I had just eaten some beef.

BH073K Heinz tomato soup

Fancy a bit of soup?

My wife has started sending me saucy text messages; she is clearly trying to annoy me. My wife knows that I am terrible at this sort of thing. I sent three texts back before I broke down and asked her what was for tea.

I was in the worst possible situation to accept flirty texts because I was at work, and I’d just eaten some beef. Throw in a chocolate orange and I’d be asleep. At my advancing age, my libido is easily knocked off course by chocolate and meat. I’m not ashamed. I think if you gave Warren Beatty a beef baguette and a chocolate orange he’d struggle to chase you around the bedroom.

Every time my phone bleeped I became anxious, and then the thing actually rang. Thankfully, it was my builder with an estimate for repairs. He said that after extensive excavations (prodding) he had discovered the cause of the damp patch in the back bedroom. For a brief moment, I wondered if my wife had put him up to this innuendo. Then I wondered what my wife was doing with the builder. Then I wondered what was for tea, so I texted my wife again. Apparently, she was having a big sausage for tea, and I was having soup. I spent the next few minutes on the internet trying to find out which depraved sexual act had been recently nicknamed ‘Soup’.

The internet was oblivious to this new trend, so I asked one of the girls in the office. She seemed to think I was talking about food, until I asked her if she’d ever been ‘Souping’.

I returned home to find a letter on the table. It looked like it had lived a hard life. There was a dusty footprint on it, and a scribbled phone number underneath the words: ‘The Honey Man’. More worryingly, it was not in the usual pile in the corner, it had, for some reason, been singled out for special treatment. The tatty letter had been placed by the big bowl in the centre of the dining table. The big bowl is where my wife artistically arranges fruit.

I have seen letters like this before, so I approached with caution. On the top of the letter was a cute silhouette of a ballerina, and underneath were the words: Your daughter’s Dancing fees are now due. You owe: Just enough to hurt.

Turning my daughter into a dancing silhouette is usually funded by my wife. I fund my son, who wants to be the silhouette of a boy who’s had all his homework completed by robot servants.

The high-profile discarding of the letter was a subtle hint from my wife that I might want to start funding both kids’ activities. I do not have a letter that I can put up for tender like this; my son’s subscriptions haunt me electronically.

Some time later my wife burst through the door and splashed her house keys across the big table. I waved the letter in the air and asked: “Who is the Honey Man?”

“He’s the man who gives me honey.”

“Is that…me?”

“Do you want your soup now?”



Why would a tradesman be driving around Leeds with a chicken on the passenger seat?


Come on, let’s go for a little drive

When the kids are at school I like to relax by going to work. The weekends are a little different, I manage to find a small air pocket of peace by taking all the things the kids have broken to the tip.

At some point during my luxury spa break at the local rubbish dump my wife will demand that I bring more sausages to the cafe that we own, but today was different; today she demanded a big chicken.

This annoyed me. I had just filled up the car with old lamps and bits of timber for a trip to the tip, so I was forced to put the chicken on the passenger seat.

The arrival of the chicken & I at the tip created a bit of a stir. As I opened the boot, two men: one large, one small, analysed my load. They quickly determined that my bent Art Deco lamps and wooden off-cuts were classed as commercial waste, and that they could not be dumped at a domestic site. In desperation, I pointed at the chicken.

“Why would a tradesman be driving around with a chicken on the passenger seat?” I reasoned.

The big one tried to clarify the situation: “Owning a chicken doesn’t mean that you’re not a tradesman.”

“So, it’s easier to believe that I drive a big chicken around Leeds and bend fancy lamps for a living,” I replied. “And to reduce my exorbitant ‘lamp bending overheads’, I secretly discard the lamps in a domestic tip so that I can dodge the commercial tip fees.”

I looked at the small one for reassurance. I assumed that because he was small he’d be more reasonable. The small one told me to leave. As I did so, I re-iterated that they were making a big mistake, and that I was clearly not a tradesman, unless of course, they had any lamps that needed bending, then I could offer them a discount.

I vowed to find another council tip with staff who believed that owning a chicken was a clear sign of innocence. The phone rang; it was my wife and she wanted to know how long I was going to be. “That all depends on the council,” I answered.

My wife finished the call by presenting me with a conundrum: I could either chauffeur the chicken around town looking for a tip, or I could drive the chicken to the cafe where she could cook it, serve it and earn some money.

At some point in the future, one of my many job applications will blossom into an interview. To assess my abilities, they will no doubt ask me to give them an example of a situation that required me to prioritise my workload and work to a tight deadline. I shall lie, and tell them that I drove the chicken to the cafe.


She moves like Shakira


My daughter was five three weeks ago and she’s still wearing her ‘I’m Five’ badge that flashes. The badge has been a constant addition to all her dress-up costumes, from the pink princess, angel with wings and the one that looks like a gravedigger; she even made me pin it to her ballet costume.

At her age the dance lessons focus on the basics such as First Position, well, that’s what I thought. I picked her up from dancing, and I was having great difficulty stuffing her in the car seat. This was mainly due to her big coat; a coat I had never seen before; a coat that turned out not to be hers. This made me both angry and confused. If she’s going to pick up the wrong coat why can’t she pick up a light summer coat or one from Boden.

The big coat made my daughter look like a caterpillar. The Caterpillar shouted from the back seat that she’d learned some new moves and wanted to show them off.

The whole family were summoned for the performance; they didn’t turn up, so I confiscated all their electronic devices and forced them to turn up of their own free will.

My daughter started off in First Position, I then advised her she might be able to move a little more freely if she removed the big coat. She stood before us, in maximum cute mode, wearing her full ballet costume with the badge flashing away.

First position then turned into a succession of strange, jerky moves you might see Shakira doing. The grand finale was a lopsided forward roll. As the curtain dropped on this latest performance, the family members I’d forced to attend all looked at me with the same ‘I-told-you-so’ expression, snatched back their devices and shuffled off to separate corners of the house.

A few hours later her best friend arrived for a play date. They both skipped off into the back room to rehearse for another performance. My daughter promised me that this new performance would be a little more ‘freestyle’. After sitting through many of my daughter’s rather avant-garde performances,  I have come to learn that ‘freestyle’ usually means more forward rolls.

We gathered on the couch, and my daughter appeared, her cute badge still blinking away. I don’t know who make the batteries in these things but I doubt NASA have developed anything this technically advanced. She entered the room very slowly, and the reason why soon became alarmingly apparent; she was dragging her friend along the floor by a dog lead which was tied to her now purple wrist. She then performed a forward roll, picked up the dog lead, and dragged her out again. The sound of flesh dragging along carpet will stay with me for some time, and so will the smell.

I have come to learn that ‘freestyle’ can also mean more dog leads.


I run downstairs in my half-open dressing gown and grab the baguettes.

Owning a café in a small village allows my son to see lots of different professions at work. There’s the Veg Man, the Pop Man and the Honey Man, but the one who has caught his eye is the Bread Man.

I find this confusing. Bread Man gets up early (much earlier than the Honey Man), he works in a hot environment and sets unrealistic minimum bread orders for cafes in small villages. I can see why the Bread Man does this to a point, he needs to make sure his efforts don’t go to waste, but having to accept 50 baguettes a day is setting the bar a little high for us.

I can’t eat 50 baguettes a day, I’ve tried, and there aren’t enough baguette lovers in the village, unless they are all secretly eating baguettes in our rival café.

Initially we tried to persevere with the intense bread orders but the surplus was stacking up in my back porch, which was annoying because I like to block up my back porch with coats my family and I never use. I even tried to re-purpose the bread by making my son some bread boots (see pic), but they didn’t catch on. They weren’t very good in the wet apparently, or the dry.

All this aside, the overriding problem was the Bread Man’s insistence on delivering bread in the middle of the night. Unable to get to the café to meet him, we asked him to deliver the unsellable 50 baguettes to our house. At 4am every morning he would slam the letterbox, bend over, put his mouth to the opening and shout: “Bread! Bread!” This would startle me somewhat and I would reach under the bed for my ‘nightstick’, which is a stick I have not yet been bothered to find or put under my bed to ward off intruders.

I would then run down stairs in my half-open dressing gown and grab the baguettes. The bread would then be swiftly spirited into the back room where I would count it to make sure I had 50 baguettes I couldn’t sell as opposed to 49; I didn’t want to be ripped off.

For some reason, after seeing all this, my son thinks the life of a bread man is somewhat romantic, akin to the adventures of a Musketeer; a Musketeer who oversells baguettes and regularly sees half-naked men in dressing gowns waving around invisible nightsticks.

I think the moral of the story is that if you ever go into a sandwich shop, or café, and they have run out of bread it is not for the want of trying.

Note. A few people have asked me if I have a pet name for my imaginary nightstick. Well, I have three imaginary names I can’t decide between, they are: Dr Damage, The Facilitator and Stick Astley.

This blog is currently being serialised in The Squeaker.


My radio app has got stuck on a Belgian station. The upside is that there’s minimal DJ chat and you are introduced to new artists. As a result, some of these blogs have been written to Belgian rap (you’ve probably noticed how this has shaped my writing) but this heavily bread-based blog was created as I listened to Lady Linn. Please think of my bread troubles as you listen to her.

How do you spend your Saturday mornings?

I am a 43 year-old dad of two living in Calverley, and I suppose you’re going to expect me to say that I engage in all the usual Saturday morning dad stuff like, pottering around in the shed, bike rides in the park or nipping down to the bank to check the balance on my secret account. But no, my Saturday mornings involve two bacon butties and a slice of guilt release.

My son is ten years-old and his SATS are looming large on the horizon. If you’re unfamiliar with SATS, they are the exams taken in the final year at primary school and can ultimately determine if your kid secures one of the top ranking classes at Big school.

The stakes are high. It’s the difference between your offspring hanging around with Lenny ‘Frog Breath’ Pearson or Giles Fortesque the third.

So, how do you tip the balance in your favour? Personally, I’ve started sending my son for booster lessons with a woman known locally in the village as: The ‘Clever Woman’. That’s the beauty of a village, your name denotes what you do. But I’m not the only one. Dads all over the village are sending their kids to similar gifted individuals such as: The Violin Man and Skateboard Pete.

This is our routine. I get up about 9am, have my first bacon butty and let my boy go on Minecraft for just 10 minutes. One hour later I drag him off the computer, put a pencil in his hand and off we go. We have a nice twenty minute walk up to St Wilfrid’s Church, take a scenic tour around the graveyard and then onto the Clever Woman.

We have been going for three weeks now and each week my son has walked into the wrong house. I have asked her to put quadratic equations and house remembering on the syllabus. Then I nip up to the local cafe, have my second bacon butty and trot back after thirty minutes to pick him up. I pay my fiver, look at my kid, who is now £5 more cleverer than when I dropped him off, and we head home past all the violin playing skateboarders.

By expanding my son’s brain by £5, all my Dad guilt just melts away and I can now relax for the rest of the day. If you’re not sure what Dad guilt is, it’s a build up of remorse that occurs when your kid wants some attention and you cry off by saying that you are too busy cooking the tea but are really just trying to watch Pointless.