This post doesn’t adequately tell you exactly what happened to my testicles.

It’s a glorious Friday morning, midway through the school summer holidays, and I am stretched out on a chair in the Doctor’s surgery next to my injured son. My son is nervous and is reading aloud anything that scrolls across the electronic notice board in the waiting room.

X-Ray scans must be submitted before 12 noon…” his legs judder nervously up and down like two engine pistons. “There were 346 missed appointments last month…” he looks around like a Meerkat on high alert. “X-ray scans must be submitted before 12 noon.”

I look at him reassuringly and say, “They really don’t want X-rays after 12, do they?”

No,” he replies, and laughs the nervous laugh of a child preoccupied with the thoughts of doom associated with a doctor’s appointment.

I try and take his mind of it, “Hey,” I say in a cool dad voice. “Why don’t you go up to the receptionist and tell her that you’ve got some X-rays, but she can’t have them till after 3pm.”

He shakes his head in annoyance, and starts reading out the messages again. “Mrs Thorner to Dr Bartholemew. Room 2.”

You don’t need to read out all the messages,” I whisper to him. “Just read out the X-ray stuff, not people’s names.” We sit in silence, all we can hear is Ken Bruce on the radio. Rock Me Amadeus, by Falco, chants its way out of the radio

My son starts nervously singing, “Amadeus, Amadeus…Amadeus. Amadeus, Amadeus…Amadeus. Amadeus, Amadeus. Oh, oh, oh Amadeus. Come and rock me Amadeus. Amadeus…”

Have you heard this before?” I ask him.

No.”

How come you know the words?” He doesn’t laugh.

The doctor is now thirty minutes late for our appointment. We used the touch screen computer to log in and the computer flashed up that we had been ‘acknowledged’. I think thirty minutes is the official length of time you can wait before doubting a computer, so I approach the receptionist to check if the computer knows that we are here.

Hi. Our appointment was thirty minutes ago. I’m worried the computer doesn’t know we’re here. Does it?”

Yes,” she replied. “The computer and I both know you are here. We are very busy.” I look around the sparse reception room. There is an old man in one corner reading a leaflet and in the other corner is my son who is murdering, Knights in White Satin, by the Moody Blues.

I glance back at the receptionist. It’s just with a computer, you never know; you know? I just prefer talking to a human.”

The Doctor is very busy,” the human snaps back.

I return and decide to calm my son’s nerves by telling him a gruesome medical anecdote which will put his bruised wrist into perspective, “You know, when I was your age…”

…It’s not another one of your stories is it, Dad? I’ve heard them all before. Please don’t tell me the one about how your first girlfriend dumped you for a dwarf.”

Ssshhh. I think the preferred term is: Little Person. No, I’m going to tell you a new story, one that will put all this into perspective.”

Go on.”

When I was your age, I was the subject of the following sentence: ‘Quick! We need to get him to a hospital within the next hour or he may lose the testicle’.”

My son laughs the nervous laugh of a boy having to listen to his dad talking about his testicles and says, “So what you’re trying to tell me is that she went with the dwarf because he had two testicles?”

Before I get the chance to clarify the testicle anecdote he comforts himself by reading the notice board again, “Repeat prescriptions can only be issued for one month…Brodie Boffin to Dr West. Room 3.” He looks up at me nervously and says, “That’s us, Dad.” He takes my hand, squeezes hard and we both get up. I look down at him and say, “Little Person. The Little Person had two testicles.”

Can you use a selfie stick in a Swinger’s club?

My wife rushes into the room; a cheeky grin spreads across her face. I’ve seen that look before; someone’s died.

Have you heard? Have you? You’ll never guess in a million years,” she pants breathlessly and plonks hands on hips.

Over the years my wife and I have learned to share out the household chores that play to our strengths; I do the bins, and my wife breaks the news of celebrity deaths. This isn’t her only job, she also buries family pets. She’s a one-stop-shop for all your funereal needs. I fully expect that when I die she’ll do the eulogy, catering and digging.

My wife gets her fondness of announcing celebrity deaths from her mother. I got five missed calls from my mother-in-law when Jackson died, in fact I think that’s how Tito found out.

I do what I always do in this situation, I stare back at my wife and mime sifting through a mental list of celebrities that I think are knocking on death’s door, I call it, The Dead Pool, but she always interrupts me before I can say, Freddie Starr.

She dumps herself next to me on the couch and says, “I’ve just heard…” I am urging her to mouth the words, Freddie Starr, “… that there’s a Swinger’s club in Pudsey on a Wednesday afternoon.”

“Won’t that clash with the Farmer’s Market?” I reply sarcastically, and she gives me a withering look, the kind of look I think husbands see before their wives go on an afternoon shopping trip to Pudsey.

I’ve got to the age now where I can barely be arsed to go to the cinema in the afternoon, never mind shag strangers in Pudsey. For a start, the parking’s terrible and I wouldn’t know what to wear.

I give my wife a quizzical look, flip open the ipad and type: Is Freddie Starr dead? I get a quick response, he is alive and well, so I put Freddy back in the Pool. My wife frantically scans around the room for other people to gossip about swinging to, but the kids don’t look too interested, so she targets me again.

“You know Gary’s mum from year 5?” 

“Yes.”

“Apparently, she’s been swinging since year 2.” 

“Isn’t she married?” 

“Most of the time,” she replies optimistically.

“How many days of the week are you married?” I ask.

The phone rings before I can get an answer. It’s my mother-in-law trying to get through on our celebrity death line. We all pretend to look busy, which I’m rubbish at, so I pick up the phone.

“Whose died? Tell me, tell me,” pesters my wife, tugging my sleeve as I listen to her mother on the phone.

“No-one. She’s just called to ask if you want to go to the Farmer’s Market in Pudsey on Wednesday afternoon.”

“You’re kidding me. That’s next door to the Swinger’s club.”

“Yes, I’m joking, but I’m afraid we need to take Cilla Black out of the Pool.”

Breaking Updates.

Since I posted this I’ve had allot of people messaging me for more information about the Swinger’s club, here’s what I know:

The club is split into three pleasure zones: a Group Room, a Couple’s Room and a Voyeur Room, and yes, the orgy room does have free wifi. The dress code is office casual, and no, they don’t allow selfie sticks.

More details as I get them.

 

Captain Nemo and the classic £20 con trick.

Like most parents, I sometimes need a break from parenting to recharge my batteries, and it’s the same with writing a blog about parenting; a short interlude can give me clarity, plus I think my one reader (Hi Margaret – how’s prison life treating you?) needs a break too.

So, just to spritz things up, I occasionally post the best bits from my now defunct first blog, which ran for three years and revealed some of the curious goings-on at my cafe.

Enjoy the break and normal service will be resumed next week.

This is episode three in a five part series and includes: Captain Nemo, a shocking sex story that will change the way you look at Cbeebies, the infamous £20 con trick and details of a kid’s game I invented called: What am I scratching now? 

The classic £20 con trick.

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A Mancunian showing off his new wardrobe for spring/summer 15.

Let me start this blog by saying that not all Mancunians are criminals.

I know a couple of Mancs who are wonderful (that’s maybe stretching it a bit; they’re OK) but we’ve only ever had two in the cafe and they’ve both tried the £20 con trick; a con that all shopkeepers get stung by at some point.

I’m still confused about how it works, but the upshot of it is, is that a Manc waddles in with a £20 note and waddles out with £30 and a can of coke.

All I can say is that Mancs must really love fizzy pop and money. Or perhaps I’m mistaken, and there is a pop and cash shortage in Manchester, for which I apologise, but I haven’t seen anything on the news. There’ve been no shots of thirsty Mancs waddling like a monkey in the Trafford Centre, shouting: “Eeeeh, there’s no pop, our kid.”

This is how the scam is done:

A Manc bimbles into a shop and asks for a can of coke, but only has a £20 note. Coke is 90p, we give him £19.10 in change. The Manc complains that he doesn’t want all that shrapnel change and suddenly finds a tenner in his pocket. He then asks if he can have the twenty back and use the tenner instead, and this is where I get confused, but somehow he ends up with £30 and a can of coke.

This first happened 2 days ago, and the word must have spread around Mancland because another one tried it yesterday. I don’t know why they don’t just form an orderly queue, or maybe do it a bit slower so I can work out how it’s done.

Failing that they could try a more flamboyant act of 18 century deception to get pop, such as the classic magician’s trick of sawing a woman in half. The top half is holding a twenty, the bottom half wants the change, the legs give back a tenner and the head gets the pop. 

To be honest, it really upset my wife. Whenever you get conned it makes you feel vulnerable and naïve, so her faith in humanity has taken a bit of a hit. It’s also made me fear for her safety when she is working alone, which is not something I bargained for when we first opened the cafe.

To put my wife’s mind at ease, I’ve decided to get rid of all the coke and stock Lilt instead; no one drinks Lilt. It’s a simple tactic; just remove temptation. I employ the same technique when I’m hiring staff, that’s why all my waitresses look like wardens from Prisoner Cell Block H.

Just to clarify, it’s not to stop me from being tempted, it’s the customers. I once employed a pretty waitress but we got loads of Justin Bieber types, and dads who’ve been ‘married too long’ staring at her through the window. I went out a few times to reason with them, but I found I got quicker results if I just hit them with a broom. 

My customers are sex mad.

Here’s some sex gossip I overheard in the cafe today.

One of my regular customers, let’s call him Barry, lives in a terraced property next to a woman, let’s call her Margaret (Hi Margaret) who is also a regular. It turns out that she is a Commercial Broker and an avid sex screamer.

While Barry was decorating his child’s bedroom, he overheard the sex screamer shouting: “F*ck me harder! Aaaaagh you twat! Squeeze my f*cking tits…aaaagh! That’s it, put it in there. Aaaagh…F*cking hell!”

The problem is that her boyfriend is the spitting image of Mr Tumble.

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Gigglejizz

What am I scratching now?

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We shopkeepers take an overseas vacation around this time of year to give the impression to our competitors that we are doing much better than they are. It’s all smoke and mirrors of course; admittedly, we have just returned from Italy, but it was on a tight budget.

On the last night of our holiday we were all crammed together in a hotel in Pisa, not in the city centre, but some way outside the city in a business district. The air conditioning was broken, and someone had nicked the bath plug. I can’t say who did it, but I bet there’s a Manc somewhere guzzling coke and admiring his collection of European bath plugs.

There was laminate flooring in all the rooms, and the walls were paper thin, so you could hear every footstep. All we could hear from the guy next door was a tippy-tap noise on the laminate, going from the bathroom to the bed. He was either racing cockroaches, or he had really long toenails and a weak bladder.

To alleviate the tension, I decided to play a game I’ve invented that always helps to get the kids to sleep, it’s called: What am I scratching now? This is how you play:

Turn out the lights, scratch a body part and the contestants have to guess which bit; simple.

I always go for the same three areas: ankle, foot and ballbag. If any of the kids shout out the correct combination of: ankle, foot and ballbag, they are the winners.

The fantastic underwater adventures of Yorkshire’s Captain Nemo.

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I always try and make sure I’m in the cafe on Tuesday mornings because that’s when Captain Nemo floats in. 

Nemo is a retired submarine commander who loves spinning exaggerated tales about battling Johnny Foreigner beneath the ocean waves. As soon as he’s placed his order, I ring the chemist next door and he immediately stops selling itchy cock cream and pops in. We both sit down, like a couple of dough-eyed kids in library corner, with a strong cup of tea and a hot chocolate brownie (only £2.20!) and listen to a weathered old man talking about submarines. 

According to Nemo, during the cold war Russia deployed subs up to the northern Scottish coast to spy on us Brits. They would play a game of cat and mouse with our submarines; hiding in the reeds and slipping in behind our subs, which would really wind-up the Royal Navy, because once a sub is behind you; it’s game over. So with great fortitude and that unique sense of British endeavour, the Royal Navy dispatched our entire submarine fleet to the Channel, with strict orders to do the same to the French.

 

Off-grid activities to do with the kids on a budget.

Watch TV.

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The next door neighbour has just bought a big ass plasma screen, stuck it on the wall and hasn’t closed his curtains since.

I think the plasma fitting instructions tell you to use appropriate wall fixings that can handle the weight and to leave the curtains open for the first few months so everybody can see that you’ve got one.

To cash in, I made Brodie a rope swing. When he reached the apex of the swing he could see what they were watching.

We watched parts of Harry Hill yesterday and Eggheads today.

Acrobatics.

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I don’t know about you but after a hard week at work I like to unwind by seeing how many nappies I can balance on my son’s head.

Last night I managed to stack a jaw-dropping 16 nappies on the boy’s head.

I’m sure in years to come he will look back at this achievement with much pride and thank me for helping him break a record he didn’t even know he wanted to break.

Craft time.

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I don’t know about you, but after I’ve relaxed by balancing nappies on my son’s head, I like to march him down to the local supermarket, so that he can accomplish my dream of seeing him sat upon a throne of multi-pack kitchen rolls. The look of joy on my little lad’s face will stay with me forever.

Make up your own games.

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Quality time with the kids is important. I like to turn off the TV and invent new parlour games and this is one of Brodie’s favourites. It’s called, BOX BALLOONS!!

It’s pretty straight forward, I put Brodie in a big box and put him in a room where there are some balloons.

You cannot see his little face because it’s in a big box, but I can assure you he is enjoying every minute of the two hours he has to be in there.

Gracie is sat at the table behind him, and even though she is far away, you can just about make out the look of joy spreading across her face, as it suddenly dawns on her that when she gets older she will too have to play, BOX BALLOONS.

Role play.

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Some parents force their kids to become cooler versions of themselves when they were young, which has resulted in a generation of tiny body poppers; popping, locking and whirling about all over the place. I don’t agree with this. In my view, it is much kinder on your kids to force them to look like Brat Pack characters. I force mine to look like James Spader.

Upon my command: “Look like James Spader now!” My son has to rush around, find his Rayban Wayfarers and adopt a confident pose.

He then has to be dismissive towards a college geek who will then ironically beat him in a love dual for the hand of the college sweetheart.

With my daughter it’s different. I force her to look like Baby Bjorn Borg.

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My wife has super powers but only after drinking gin.

It is Thursday evening around 7pm, and my wife is working through her second day of a gruelling gin hangover. My wife can get a little caustic when she’s hungover, so to ease tensions I have been avoiding her. I reckon I only have four hours left to endure before she slumps into a coma on the sofa, so I take the plunge and enter her lair. With great caution, I open the door…

Everything seems normal, there is crap all over the floor and my wife is laid out on the couch flicking through an old photo album. She turns to me and says, ‘Hi’ in a spritely fashion. I say, ‘Hi’ back and cautiously sit down beside her.

My wife continues to flick through the album, she stops at a picture of me in my younger days and says: “You look so much better in 2D.”

“But I spend most of my time in 3D,” I reply.

“4D. You forgot about your smell.”

“What smell?”

“You’re kidding. What are you; hard of smelling?”

I am constantly amazed by my wife’s ability to elevate and deflate in the same sentence. I get up to leave and remind myself that in future I should never return to a lit firework.

Living with my wife during a hangover is not all misery though, when she’s not finding me unbearable, she is doing a stirling job of ignnoring the kids. In fact, I could swap the kids for two chimps and she’d never notice. She denies this of course, and says that if the kids were swapped for chimps she’d know because the house would be cleaner.

Thankfully, I’m saved from any more complimentary insults by our son who bursts into the room shouting: “My eyes! My eyes!!” like one of the old hags in Macbeth, and rubs both of his eyes with the palms of his hands. “My vision has gone all blurry. I can see little dots. They are all in clusters.”

My wife looks perplexed and says to me: “I used to really like Clusters; they were my favourite cereal. Did they stop making them? I’ll google it.” She starts scrolling.

My eyes. My eyes!” wails my son.

Excellent! They still make them,” exclaims my wife. “Score!”

I make soothing noises about his eyeballs and look over at my wife, prodding away on the ipad, and wonder why I’ve never noticed before that she says: ‘Score!’

Do you mind,” I say pointedly.

What’s the matter?” she barks.

Can you come off the ipad and help me look after our son.”

The injured chimp looks longingly at his mother, eventually she presses ‘Buy Clusters’ and comes over to dish out hugs and cuddles. This gives me a golden opportunity to dump my parental duties and tip-toe out of the room. I can feel her eyes burning into the back of my neck as I escape. As well as giving her a two day hangover, gin also appears to have given her laser vision.

A few hours later the kids are in bed and my wife and I are sat downstairs enjoying the last few hours of her hangover. My wife turns the TV on and we try to select a programme that we both like so that we can ignore it and go on our ipads.

“What about, Australian Border Control?” she asks.

“No,” I reply. “It’s just all about Chinese people smuggling fruit. I never knew Australians were so scared of Chinese fruit smugglers.”

My wife chucks the TV remote at me and says: “Here, you have it. I can’t be arsed looking any more.”

I start operating the clicker. I’m feeling adventurous and scour the unchartered channels, high up in the 500s. I land on a programme about injured chimps and look at my wife with a sarcastic look on my face. She doesn’t see it because she is slumped awkwardly asleep; her dressing gown has parted – revealing all to the world. I sit back and think: My eyes! My eyes!

My wife and I are busy planning our next spontaneous sex session.

As I get older I find that I am unable to have sex with my wife for a full 24 hours after she has had cottage cheese. This wouldn’t have stopped me in my younger days; back then I was sexually adventurous; back then I would even have sex during the afternoon.

For me, it’s the texture and smell; I have developed a real phobia about it. I have to wait until the cottage cheese is completely flushed out of her system before I can pathetically rub my body against her; lucky lady. I don’t like shiny buttons either, or Quavers. In fact, for me to have sex nowadays my wife has to be in a wetsuit eating crackers during an eclipse. This isn’t a one way street of course, there are certain things that I ingest that puts my wife off sex, such as onions and oxygen.

With this in mind, my wife and I started planning our next spontaneous sex session. I looked across the kitchen table at her; she was eating cottage cheese so that ruled out Monday and Tuesday. I moved onto Wednesday and noticed that I had a moderate workload scheduled, so Wednesday was out too.

My son shuffled in.

Guess what?” he said. My son is twelve years-old and all of his conversations start in this cryptic fashion. Being the parent of a pre-teen is like being a contestant on 3-2-1.

My wife ignored our son, looked at me and asked, “What about Thursday?”

Not sure,” I replied “What’s for tea on Thursday?”

Gammon,” she replied. I turned up my nose. I don’t think gammon is classed as an aphrodisiac. I very much doubt that they give porn stars gammon and peas before they shoot a scene.

My son slammed the fridge door shut, and a couple of the fridge magnets lost their will to grab onto kid’s party invites, and released them onto the floor. “Is nobody listening to me?” he shouted from the centre of a party invite dust cloud.

OK, sorry,” I replied, “what happened?”

My son became enthused, a trait you see less and less as they get older, so I savoured it and mentally locked the image away so I could refer to it the next time he is being unlikeable, “A girl at school got caught with a bottle of vodka in her locker.”

My wife and I both stopped trying to schedule sex, and listened to our son’s vodka in a locker anecdote.

Has she been expelled?” I asked.

I don’t know, what are you asking me for?” he replied sulkily, and I could tell from his expression that he was trying conjure up a fond memory of me looking ‘enthused’. He then flounced out of the room and slammed the door, which wafted all the invites across the room.

My wife munched on some more cottage cheese. “Friday?” she said rather hopefully.

Salad?” I asked; she nodded. “OK, let’s do Friday.”

My wife’s expression slowly changed from resignation to concern, “Do you think we should have asked him a bit more about the vodka in the locker?”

Yes,” I replied, “but let’s wait until he’s sobered up a bit first.”

From smashing pottery to group sex to devil worship in 2 minutes, but that’s pre-teens for you.

It is Thursday evening and I am watching my wife cook the tea; the tea I had promised to cook. It was a tense situation. I felt compelled to stay near her, so she knew I wasn’t off enjoying myself, but this was irritating her. The tension was momentarily suspended by my 12 year-old son who shuffled in sheepishly and delved into the fridge. He looked submissive, like he’d done something bad and wanted to get the verbal roasting out of the way. The same look I was giving my wife.

Is something wrong?” I asked him.

Daaaad…” he said slowly and cautiously. I mentally ran through a list of ornaments I thought he’d broken, and put them in an ascending order of importance so that my reaction was proportionate.

I sort of accidentally…went to the woods with four girls. I was the only boy there.”

My wife swung round alarmingly fast and said to me: “I told you not to buy him that Lynx deodorant.” We all laughed nervously.

Over the past few weeks my son has been pestering me to buy him some Lynx deodorant. Male grooming is now the natural rite of passage for most boys, and I hear that even some remote Amazonian tribes have dispensed with circumcision rituals to mark the onset of manhood, and are now giving each other ‘Instinct by David Beckham’.

Watching a twelve-year-old boy apply deodorant is a real eye-opener. They have no concept of what is an appropriate amount to wear on a trip to the corner shop to buy fizzy dummies. I timed him yesterday and he held down the nozzle in the spray position for a jaw-dropping 14 seconds. As a result, my house smells like the Lynx testing facility and looks like a foggy London scene from an early Sherlock Holmes’ film.

My wife cautiously side-stepped me and positioned herself so that she could more easily waterboard my son to find out all about his ‘trip to the woods’.

What happened?” she asked in a cool mum voice. The kind of voice that would make a kid think it’s OK to describe how he had sex in the woods with four girls.

It was awful.” he replied. Not what I wanted to hear, but at least the ornaments were still in one piece.

It’s OK,” comforted my wife. “What happened?”

One of them started doing black magic. They were trying to summon up this spirit to move a pencil….and it did. The pencil moved!”

Emotionally, I was completely drained. I had gone from smashing pottery to group sex to devil worship in two minutes; but that’s pre-teens for you. It soon got worse. My wife appointed herself chief councillor and ushered him off to a separate room, which meant that I had to finish the tea.

Later that night I tucked myself into bed, turned off my wife’s Ipad, which was blasting a white light into her sleeping face, and then rolled over. Ten minutes later there was an apologetic knock at the door, followed by a strong waft of Lynx. A sheepish voice broke the fragile silence, “I’m scared,” it said. “Can I sleep in here with you tonight?” 

I woke up my wife, which startled her and she started screeching like a possessed witch. Trust me here, a startled wife is not something a boy needs to witness when he is looking for reassurance that demonic spirits don’t exist. Eventually, we both agreed that he could sleep at the foot of the bed in a sleeping bag.

My son zipped himself in tightly, as though someone had told him that spirits from the fourth dimension struggle to undo zips. I spent a long time trying to reassure him, so much time in fact that I was starting to get annoyed. Eventually, I sensed that he was only half-reassured, so I took this as an opportunity to turn off the light. Darkness wrapped its ominous cloak around us.

A few moments later he piped up: “Dad, how do you know ghosts aren’t real and they won’t get me?”

Because they’re all allergic to Lynx. Now go to sleep!”

I have since found out that my son was referring to this, the latest internet Mexican demon summoning craze….http://dailym.ai/1duC96r

How to shout at other parents and get away with it.

When my wife’s not shouting at me, I like to spend this ‘downtime’ by shouting at the kids. I know this isn’t a great use of my time, I would much rather spend it shouting at a few parents whose kids have been mean to my kids. But how can you lose your rag with other parents and then not feel awkward on the school drop-off?

Here’s a top tip I’ve learned recently, and it works like a charm. I know, because someone did it to me. You can subtly persecute other parents by volunteering to organise the school summer fair. Apparently, that’s what it’s there for.

Joining the School Summer Fair Committee will give you free rein to order around some of those sickeningly enthusiastic parents from year 1, and sadistically stick them on the coconut shy with some of those jaded parents from year 5, who specifically said they didn’t want to do the ‘bloody’ coconut shy again. That’s me, by the way.

Because one of my kids insulted a committee member’s kid 6 years ago, the committee exact their revenge by sticking me on the coconut stall, and because my wife hates watching pensioner’s eat trifle, they put her on the tea tent. The tea tent is, of course, something of a contradiction. It serves tea, but the ‘tent’ part of the title only lasts ten minutes before it’s blown away.

This year we face the three main perennial problems, they are:

Effing ballache number one.

The tea tent has no access to water.

My solution is to get two of my best teenage waitresses, Pepsi & Shirley, plus one mature waitress, Vinegar Tits, to carry buckets of water from the cafe to the park.

Yesterday I timed them running with two full buckets, and Vinegar Tits beat Pepsi & Shirley by a nose. Problem solved.

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The cafe girls on the bucket run.

Effing ballache number two.

We’ve heard on the grapevine that there is going to be trouble between rival gangs at the event. Apparently, the Kirkstall Krips are going to rock up and cause trouble with the Village Masif.

The Police have warned us that if it is sunny, we may be swamped by groups of topless males drinking cans of Stella, who are more than likely to be accompanied by ‘women of easy virtue.

This concerns me because the coconut stall is the first stop for any drunken gangsta wanting to show off his hunting skills to the easily virtuous, or Big Bev as she’s known locally.

Working the shy for the past few years has taught me that nothing turns a woman on more than seeing her man win a coconut. I think it’s how Mark Antony wooed Cleopatra. It probably went like this:

Antony: “I give to you, Queen Cleopatra, the entire southern provinces of Rome and Gaul, and this coconut, which I won first throw; didn’t need the other two balls.”

Cleopatra: “Eeeeh thanks, Mark. Let’s shag.”

Thankfully, the committee has decided to hire three bouncers, and I’m getting two of them. The spare bouncer is guarding the other potential hotspot for trouble: the tombola stall.

Effing ballache number 3.

New members of the committee always try and make a name for themselves by coming up with something ‘fresh & exciting’ for the school fair, which has the effect of infuriating the rest of the committee.

The ‘fresh & exciting’ idea is always the same: donkey rides. It’s a complete non-starter because it’s easier to get insurance to go to the moon than it is to allow a toddler to ride on a 60 year-old donkey called, Bluebell on school property.

This year our fresh idea is: Classic Cars. Unfortunately, someone has typed ‘Plastic Cars’ on all the posters.

A table full of plastic cars is not much of a crowd-puller, but we don’t want to be criticised for misleading the public. My solution is to place a table displaying plastic cars next to the classic cars, just in case someone has turned up with the sole intention of viewing small plastic cars.

Crap Raffle Prizes.

No piece about a school fair would be complete without a rogue’s gallery of crap raffle prizes.

This is the booty that we came home with this year. It’s the usual suspects I’m afraid. Unfortunately, I don’t have a picture of the inflatable hammer, because it burst the very first time my daughter smacked me in the nuts with it.

Crap talc set.

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The crap talc set is great for office workers because they can re-gift it for their secret Santa.

Unidentified toy animal.

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If anyone can tell us what animal this is supposed to be we would be very grateful. I’m thinking; startled chicken. The manufacturers have gone to great lengths to add the belly button, so it’s obviously an animal known world-wide for its belly button.

Sideways glance monkey.

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Everyone needs a cuddly toy that expresses disapproval through its eyes. 

A pensioner eating trifle.

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The wife will be pleased. Not sure where we’re going to put it though.

Unofficial Hulk merchandise.

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I love this. Not sure which feature gave the game away to me first that this wasn’t an official Hulk toy. Think it was the teeth, then the eyebrows and the fact that one arm is way bigger than the other.

How to make kid’s boots for the price of a loaf of bread, and other stories…

 

Due to popular demand, my first ever blog, which ran for three years and centred around the characters that visited my small cafe, which is nestled in a little village somewhere up north, is now closed.

Yes, the blog that showed you how to make a pair of kid’s boots for just the price of a loaf of bread; how Tina Turner can help increase customer footfall; how to spy on your staff without getting caught and how we came into possession of the famous James Bond spoons.

If you missed it, take a look at the best bits below, before I turn the closed sign round for one last time. Tears, hugs, trudge off into the distance.

In-depth customer footfall analysis.

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I’ve never owned a cafe before, so the ebb and flow of customers is all new to me, but slowly, an in-depth pattern of customer footfall is steadily emerging.

Monday’s are quiet. In fact on Mondays I could easily dance around the cafe naked to Nutbush City Limits and nobody would notice.

Wednesday’s are also quiet, I could stand in the window and wank off to God Save the Queen, without being spotted standing in a window wanking off to God save the Queen.

Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday are packed. We get people waiting around the block, just like when Star Wars first came out.

So if I had to do a powerpoint presentation to prospective cafe owners about the experiences I’ve gathered so far, I would break it down like so: If you want to wank off in the window to the national anthem or Nutbush City Limits, I would do that on Mondays and Wednesdays but don’t do it on the other days. I would highlight this bit as important.

Window wars.

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The Harrods’ window displays are always spectacular, but are mere rags and baubles compared to what the chemist, my neighbour in our little muse of shops, can come up with.

This year he has gone for the classic, shiny pink paper and santa rabbits surrounded by cotton wool balls, with a Gillette shaving pack as the centre piece.

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I am new to all this shop game but I always thought that a chemist didn’t get much passing trade. It’s a specific shop for a specific need, mainly athlete’s foot powder and cream for your itchy cock or fanny.

In fact, I think all chemists should be renamed: The Foot, Cock and Fanny shop. I assume, from the products he’s selling, his prime customer is an hermaphrodite with trench foot, and I doubt an hermaphrodite with trench foot is going to be lured in by a Gillette bumper pack.

My missus has just pointed out that the chemist sells a wider range of products than I have suggested, and that people also visit the chemist if they have a cold or an itchy arse – fair point.

How to spy on your staff.

john harvey jones

Sir John Harvey Jones, MBE, was one of Britain’s greatest industrialists. He is mostly remembered for his TV show ‘Troubleshooter’ where he tried to breathe new life into ailing businesses.

In order to get some ideas for my own cafe I bought his book, ‘Managing to Survive’, but I was disappointed to find that nowhere in the entire book did he advise that you could increase profitability by spying on your staff from a bush over the road, which is what I did yesterday.

The business leader also didn’t advise taking pictures of them from a stranger’s bedroom, which I also did yesterday.

I ended up in the bush and the bedroom because I managed to get a job fitting shelves at a house directly opposite the cafe. And I think anybody in my position would have done the same.

The internationally renowned business guru also forgot to recommend ringing up your head waitress, in my case Vinegar Tits (she’s a bit bossy), and revealing to her that you know what she is wearing and where she is standing; just to see if she can still serve hot panninis (only £4.99) whilst in fear of being shot through the window by a crazed gunman.

I am glad to report that Vinegar Tits passed this standard business test with flying colours.

Eat my biscuits! Eat my biscuits!

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Owning a cafe means that sometimes you come into contact with strange characters; characters that have slipped through the net and inhabit the darker corners of society.

Every Wednesday morning a man stands in the doorway of the cafe and shouts: “Dalek don’t work! Dalek don’t work!”

It’s not clear if it is a broken toy Dalek that he’s referring to, or he’s infuriated by the lack of job opportunities for Daleks. Nobody has the balls to ask him.

Now we’ve attracted another random shouter. By the end of the year we’ll have gathered enough to form a very angry choir. This new guy looks like Oddbod from Carry on Screaming and shouts: “Eat my biscuits! Eat my biscuits!” He then ambles to the counter, pulls some biscuits out of his pocket and we have to eat them.

I would like to take this opportunity to tell the heavenly spirit or body that designates cafes for people to shout at, that we are running at full capacity, but my rival down the road, Big Keith’s Butty shop, is taking on new shouters. Thanks very much.

How to make you kids a pair of boots for the price of a loaf of bread.

When you first start out in the cafe business, you end up with a lot of stock left over because you are not attuned to your customer’s demands. It’s gut-wrenching to see your profits go straight into the bin, so to combat this, I used to just eat whatever was left. In the first week of trading I think I ate 15 quiches and drank 24 cans of Lilt.

Then, obviously, I wised-up and started using the excess food to make clothes for my kids.

My most popular creation was this pair of boots I made for my son, which are finely crafted from two loaves of Warburton’s Toasty bread.

After road testing them for a few days, he concluded that they weren’t very good in wet conditions, or dry for that matter.

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I even got a commission to make a pair of bespoke bread boots from my good friends Paul and Nina Gillette. By commission, I mean they didn’t ask me to do it. I just made them and left them on their doorstep, but I hear they brought joy to their kids for up to 2 minutes before they fell to bits.

My son’s first time sat at the adult table, let’s hope nobody mentions ‘you know who’.

There will come a time when your children want to sit with the adults on family visits, and forsake their usual childish activities when they are at grannie’s house of dragging a reluctant dog around the garden on a lead.

My son is twelve and he wanted to take the plunge into the world of adult chat on a trip to see my wife’s relatives in Liverpool. On such occasions, I think all you can do is just sit back and pray no-one mentions Jimmy Saville.

Thankfully my wife was on hand and she effortlessly steered the conversation into the safe waters of death by rabies. I gave my son a ‘see what I have to put up with’ face, followed by a ‘fasten your seatbelt, it’s going to get worse’ face. He looked out of the window longingly at his 6 year-old sister who was happily dragging the dog around the garden. I looked longingly too until she awkwardly held the dog in the air, in the same clumsy manner that Michael Jackson held his baby over that hotel bannister, hundreds of feet above the pavement. That’s another person we don’t want mentioning.

It’s appropriate to say at this point that my wife was tipsy and when she is lightly drunk she rattles off the same three tipsy anecdotes, anecdotes that were impossible to verify, until now.

Her jewel in the crown bullshit anecdote is that she once saw Magnum actor Tom Selleck in a bakery queue in Canada, and that she could feel a ‘vibe’ between them, even though she was stood three spaces behind him. Apparently, Tom is great at seducing women with his calves and shoulder blades. Her second one is that Craig Mchlachlan, the guy who played Henry in Neighbours, once tried to serenade her with his guitar at York train station.

Of course I think my wife is a beautiful woman, but I am somewhat annoyed by the fact that my wife’s sexual magnetism is confined to actors in shows with titles that fall between M and N in the alphabet; Magnum and Neighbours. It’s an enduring mystery to me why actors from other shows in the alphabet don’t want to seduce my wife with their calves.

Her third story isn’t a bullshit story, it’s a bullshit fact. It’s that an English man in England contracted rabies off a native English bat last year.

Sadly, time was up for this bullshit fact, a perfect storm was on its way, because there was a young person with access to google sat opposite her, and the nail in the coffin was that sitting quietly in the corner of the room, was a mysterious female stranger, who we were all about to learn had once been bitten by a rabid dog. We all collectively tensed up slightly when she told us this, and I saw several phones slide under the table to ask google if you can catch rabies at a dinner party in Liverpool in the middle of the afternoon.

The rabid dog victim started telling her story which involved a lot of hand gestures. “In India,” she said, “When you get bitten by a rabid dog you don’t ring for an ambulance, you call the Police, because they know what to do,” and then she did a menacing throat slitting gesture with her thumb across her neck. She then did another menacing hand gesture to show something else the Police did to the dog, which looked exactly how I would mime trying to smash open a chocolate orange.

The internet then interrupted with the answer and relayed it like a trance through the young person. It was bad news. It was indeed true that an English man contracted rabies, but he contracted it from a Scottish bat in Scotland. There was a slight pause, apart from the rabies victim who was busy showing another woman, through the medium of mime, that the best way to open a chocolate orange is to smash it over a dead dog.

Things I hate in my house that I have to look at everyday.

Overstuffed bowl of crap.

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This thing will haunt me till I die and then it will somehow gain the power of walking and visit my tombstone; the bastard. Passers-by will see the bowl and add their own crap to it, until one day it becomes so vast that my mortal remains become part of the bowl of crap itself. It’s the circle of life: birth, death, bowl of crap.

As you can see, the overstuffed bowl of crap is full of all the things you need to keep handy in case of an emergency such as, a red stapler with no staples in it, just in case I want to pretend to staple something. One snap card, that basically sums it all up. A Peppa pig purse you can’t fit anything in and a plastic tray full of grapes.

The grapes appear from nowhere. They burst onto the scene somewhere between the hours of 4 and 5pm on Wednesdays. I am planning to stake out all entrances next week so that I can spot the leak in my defences and then block up their point of entry. I don’t mind the grapes myself, it’s just the plastic tray. I know that once the grapes have been eaten, the plastic tray will stay in the bowl of crap for a further two weeks before it is jettisoned from the mother ship, at which point all the other bits of crap will hold their traditional farewell party, which involves buying more grapes.

We could all learn about how to deal with immigration from the crap bowl; anything and everything is welcome within its borders. Black or white, stapler or spent battery, all are treated equally. It’s essentially a swinger’s club for bric-a-brac.

The Pleasure & Pain Chair.

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My kid made this thing at primary school and it scares the life out of me, but I am unable to get rid of it because my wife is sentimentally attached to it. If she could find a magnet big enough it would be on the fridge door right now.

It looks like any other craft item from the front, but on the back it is full of spikes; pleasure and pain. Plus, to add to the freakish nature of what is just essentially just some Crunchy Nut boxes painted a luminous green, he made it with a kid at school who I have always been wary of because he is a sloppy eater; give that kid a bowl of spaghetti hoops and you better buy yourself a raincoat.

Using the stairs as shelves.

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If any member of my family is unable to stuff anything more into the overstuffed bowl of crap, they put it on the stairs. They think that the stairs are a never ending parade of shelves, that they can also use to get upstairs.

This is either a symptom of rank laziness on my family’s part, or they are trying to kill me. I once found three bowls of jelly and an empty tray of grapes on there. By found, I mean stood in and then toppled over and crashed to the bottom.

 

 

Top 4 dangers of being a parent.

Playing football in the garden with an uncoordinated child.

You may as well just smash the greenhouse up now, trample the plants and fall out with your neighbours.

Washing a pre-teen boy’s bedding.

Strap on the marigolds and get yourself some horse blinkers, because you really don’t want to see anything that looks like a liquid map of Africa. Personally, when I am entering the forbidden zone to retrieve pre-teen bedding, I wear the same flame retardant suit used by Formula 1 mechanics.

For a clean retrieval, it’s best to pull the under-sheet away like a 70’s illusionists whipping off a table cloth, and then hold the bedding at arms length (the same length away from your body that you would hold someone else’s baby who has just had a massive poo) before stuffing it all in the washer.

Top Tip. If anything smears on you, best to just think of that part of your body as dead from now on.

Being ignored by a parent you said hello to just the day before.

You could donate a kidney to some parents and they’d still give you the cold shoulder 24 hours later.

I don’t know whether it’s because we are in a playground setting, but some parents see it as an opportunity to act childishly by ignoring you. It does leave them in a predicament though when they have to pass you to get out of the school, so they pretend to be engrossed with what their child is saying to avoid your gaze, which is much harder than just saying hello, I should know, I’ve done it plenty of times myself.

Paintings magnetised to the fridge reach critical mass.

I am in constant fear that the sheer weight of paintings stuck to my fridge will make the 10 ton cooler tip over, or worse, that the one Lightwater Valley fridge magnet holding it all on will eventually give up the ghost and the whole lot will be released, turning my kitchen into a scene from a presidential ticker tape parade.

 

Inappropriate things I’ve accidentally said in front of the kids.

Dropping the F-Bomb.

During the following exchange I will swap the F-bomb for the less offensive, Burt. So to be clear, when you see Burt, think f*ck.

I am wearing sandals (Birkenstock – naturally) and I am in the back room organising a glitter and glueing session with the kids. My wife is in the corner behind a heap of washing, doing the ironing. The washing heap looks like that mashed potato mountain Richard Dreyfuss made in Close Encounters. I walk over to see if my wife needs some help and she drops the hot iron on my foot.

“BUUUUUURT!”

“I’m sorry. It was an accident. Are you OK?”

“For Burt’s sake! What the Burt do you think you were doing? Burt!”

“Stop saying Burt in front of the kids.”

“Burt the kids. Just look at my Burting foot. It’s Burted.”

Mentioning one parent having an affair with another parent at the same school.

This was awkward. As you can appreciate, I think it’s appropriate to change the names of those involved. I shall refer to them as Mr and Miss X.

Me to my wife: “Did you hear about Mr X and Miss X? Apparently, they’ve been…”

One of my kids pokes a head out from behind the couch. “What about Mr X and Miss X. What have they been doing?”

“Nothing. There’s some pizza in the kitchen, do you want to go and get some?”

The kid scoots off. I find offering pizza to a kid is a great way of getting them out of the way when you want to talk privately about how other adults have got themselves into a pickle by acting like children.

“Tell me, tell me, tell me,” begs my wife.

“Mr X has been seeing Miss X behind his wife’s back. Apparently, they’ve been Burting each other since the Harvest festival.”

The top 4 scenarios that warrant confiscating a pre-teen’s iphone or tablet.

Refusal to smile on a family photograph.

This is the ultimate betrayal and should be dealt with severely. Up until the point where all your family are lined up at whatever event you’re reluctantly attending, most people will believe the propaganda you pump out that everything is rosy in your garden.

Their refusal to smile, after repeated requests, will send a ripple of fear through the congregation and will signal the start of your decline. Think of yourself as a Roman Emperor and trusted friends are now picking up stabby things.

To regain power you must immediately confiscate their phone and force them to smile. It is OK to hold up proceedings for at least ten minutes while you scream ‘enjoy yourself!’ at your kid.

Not cleaning up Coco Pop spillage.

If you’ve ever been infested by mice you’ll know that spilled Coco Pops look just like mouse droppings, and each time you enter the kitchen, and see this mess all over the surfaces, the harrowing images of removing dead mice from the insides your slippers will return to haunt you.

If you’re unaccustomed to Coco Pops, when I say they look exactly like mouse shit, I am not kidding. I imagine when they were created in the laboratory, one developer turned to another and said: “Yes they taste great, but how can we make them look more like mouse shit.”

It will take at least three attempts to get them to mop it up, so the dead mouse image will stay with you, and be repeated daily. It doesn’t get any better when they try and clean it up, because children don’t understand the delicate intricacies of cleaning by using a flannel for mopping purposes, to absorb the moisture, and then gently dabbing with a dry cloth, they will just grab one of your T-shirts and go for it.

Not cleaning up Crunchy Nut spillage.

Same as above but instead of the dead mouse in a slipper image, the spilled Crunchy Nut will remind you of a severe case of dermatitis you had.

Pretending to turn the volume down on their tablet.

On the rare occasion that the whole family are sat in the same room, it is your right as a parent to have the volume control on your tablet set louder than your children’s.

The modern family viewing experience, prior to gadget confiscation, goes like this:

Someone puts the telly on and flicks to a suitable program that all the family members can ignore without being offended by it. It then plays away to itself at an ambient volume that doesn’t drown out each family member’s tablet.

The parent’s tablets are awarded the next highest volume setting and the kids get the lowest. At strategic intervals the kids will secretly turn up their volume. You need to keep an eagle eye on this, as the background chatter of whatever Japanese cartoon they are watching can create an intense throbbing pain in your temples. Please be vigilant. So just to clarify, that’s one eye on the TV, one eye on your own tablet and one eye on the kids.

Intermittently, you need to shout: ‘turn it down!’ to both kids at a level that is much higher than the TV. The sort of level you might expect an armed robber from the 1970’s to shout at a bank cashier. They will in turn scream: “I have. I’ve turned it down!” Please ignore this, as it is complete bullshit. They will then pretend to turn it down. Repeat this scenario for the next two hours until you finally snap, and then you should confiscate anything shiny with an apple logo on it. You can then punish them further by making them watch the TV.

 

 

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 unscheduled 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.

The introduction of an adult voice in a boy’s frame 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.

Refusal to wear a coat in cold weather

Big coats for kids going through growth spurts have a limited shelf life and may only last one season. It is your job as a parent to get your money’s worth out of it, so feel free to demand that they wear the big coat whenever they are in the vicinity of fresh air.

Perversely, it seems to be the child’s job to refuse to wear the big coat. They firmly believe that a nylon school jumper is perfect for blizzards, hurricanes and alpine trekking.

There are a couple of reasons for this. Either the brand of coat is not cool, or they have to hang their coats in the school locker room, which is usually where all the nutters hang out, and they are afraid that they might become a victim of unscheduled wrestling.

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 hazards of the double 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 when I was forced to soak up all her chores.

A day of feeding all the machines 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.”

“Waaaaaaaaaa!”

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 realise that 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 random 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, dragging his bags in the mud.

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 shifted 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 followed by trying 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.

My son and his friend 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 muddy bags onto the seat that he is about to sit on. Sports’ bag, rucksack & 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.

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. 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.

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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 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.”

“OK…bye.”

“Bye.”

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.

Tom?”

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.”

“Waaaaaa!!”

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.

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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.”

“Daddy.”

“What!?”

“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, the 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.

“Dad.”

“What?”

“Can I go on the Xbox?”

“Yes.”

“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?

raw-chicken

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.