Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Tour de Farce

I hate the phrase ‘it’s just like learning to ride a bike’ it’s a load of old tosh. Nothing is like learning to ride a bike, nothing comes close at all. Between that and swimming, I don’t think there is a harder thing for a kid to learn. I learnt both at the same time, and I don’t mean at the same age. I mean within 10 seconds of each other.

My Dad took me over the local park to teach me, a typical father/son outing. As with most kids, it looked like I was never going to get it, and then all of a sudden everything clicked into place. I was riding on my own, this was easy, and I was so pleased with myself. I remember feeling the wind rushing through my hair and I remember turning round to wave at Dad. I remember the bike veering suddenly and I remember heading down the hill towards the pond. What I forgot, was where the brakes were or how to use them.

But do you know what’s harder than learning to ride a bike? Trying to buy one, that’s what. I spent last Saturday trying to buy my 5 year old her first bike without stabilisers. A fairly simple task you would think, after all, we live right near a branch of a major national bike and car accessory shop. At first I thought the problem would be that they have too many models of bike to choose from, but she picked out the one she wanted and the price suited me, so no issues there.

Unfortunately they didn’t have any in stock, but after the kind man checked his computer, he informed me that the branch 30 minutes down the road did. I wish he had used the same computer that they use in Little Britain, the one that always said no. At least I would have saved myself the journey, because lo and behold they had none in stock there either. Nor did the next one that was another 20 minutes down the road, their computer actually said they had three in stock. Do I really need to tell you how many they actually had in stock? Have a gold star, you guessed right, none.

Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. Fool me three times and I guess I’m just dumb enough to be asking for it. The conversation I had with the spotty teenager in the 4th branch of Halfwits went something like this.

“Hi, I’m hoping you can help me. I have been told you have a Sparkle 16” bike in stock and I really need to buy it off you, will that be possible?”

“Erm let me check my computer. Yes we do have one in stock but it’s the display model.”

“Excellent, as long as it has two wheels and a handlebar then I’ll take it, is there any discount as it’s shop soiled?”

“I’m afraid not, any item we can still order from Head Office cannot be discounted.”

“You’re kidding right? You know what, I’m not bothered, I’ll pay full price.”

“Sorry, I don’t really want to sell it to you, it’s too much hassle when they get returned.”

“Believe me, after all the aggro I’ve been through, I won’t be returning it.”

“I still don’t want to sell it to you.”

“Listen mate, if you don’t sell me that bike, one of two things will happen. The first is that I walk out of here in a simmering rage back to my car. In that car are my Wife and two fighting screaming kids, all of whom have been sitting in a car that is doing a decent impression of an oven right now. An oven we have been driving around in for 2 hours, just trying to find this particular bike. I will open the door to the car and before I can utter a single word, my wife, who is quite intuitive, will notice I don’t have a bike under my arm. She will then start telling me, in a voice that is one notch too loud, that she cannot understand why I can’t even manage to buy a bike without it becoming a song and dance. She will have a point, but that doesn’t make hearing it any easier, so I will probably snap back some kind of nasty retort. We will probably trade insults and throw in some still-festering arguments for good measure. One of the kids will start to kick the back of my seat, whilst the other one shouts and screams and demands food. After about 149 seconds of this, something inside of me will snap. I will exit the car, my wife still reminding me what a failure I am and I will go to the boot. When there I will look for something sharp, but failing that, settle for my golf umbrella. I will then wedge the handle of my umbrella against the kerb, place the tip of it against by heart and with a calm look of acceptance on my face, throw myself upon it. This will be done with such force that the umbrella will pass through me down to the handle, the wind will pick up, and the umbrella will pop open. Upon hearing all the screams, you will rush outside and see my still grinning carcass being blown around the car park, my wife chasing it shouting “you couldn’t even kill yourself properly.” With a speed of mind that belies the dumb arse look on your face, you capture my final moments on your phone. You will post the video clip on YouTube and it will go viral within a week. You also upload the stills to your Twitter account and gain yourself 113 new followers. A year will pass, and you forget all about me. Five years later you will actually find somebody to marry you, but between you and me, she’s only agreed because she’s five months pregnant. Oh and the real father is your best man Derek, but you won’t find that out until the kid turns eight. But when little Del is five, you will take him out one hot Saturday morning to buy his first bike. As you stand there listening to the spotty little oik behind the counter tell you that there are no bikes in stock because of the rising cost of aluminium in China, you will remember me, and you will start to cry and you will never be able to stop.”

“What’s the second thing that could happen?”

“You can explain to my wife why we can’t have the bike.”

“The bike is yours sir, and here’s a complimentary safety helmet.”

Thursday, July 8, 2010

A Fistful of Dollars

To plug, or not to plug: that is the question:
Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outraged bloggers,
Or to take gifts against a sea of adverts,
And by opposing end them? To die: gift free.

Would Shakespeare have written that today, a wannabe screenwriter, reduced to mere blogging to practice his craft? Accepting gifts and bribes from the Corporate world, some relevant to him, most not. There’s a part of me that thinks he might, well especially before his independent art house film got picked up and bastardised by Hollywood anyway. I don’t know enough about Shakespeare the man, to know if he wrote for the love of writing, or to keep a roof over his head. You’ve got to hope that someone that wrote ‘Love is too young to know what conscience is,’ was doing it for more than mere trinkets and baubles. But a man’s got to eat, no?

I am in no way shape or form comparing myself to the great man, sometimes I have to stop and think if there’s an ‘e’ at the end of his name, but we all have aspirations to be published one day. I don’t know if writing something with the pure intention of selling a product, makes you a better or worse writer. Is there a skill involved in trying to hide the fact that you’re a corporate glove puppet whilst actually selling the product at the same time? Or is that just a white lie you tell yourself before you attempt to look in the writers’ mirror?

I guess we all have pieces of work that make us cringe when looking back on them, but does knowing someone gave you a new knife set for writing it make you feel better or worse? Maybe it depends on how you see yourself. Am I a writer that happens to write a Daddy blog, or am I a Daddy blogger? I guess if it’s the later then it’s OK to take whatever the Fat Cats want to throw at you. Parent blogging is seen as big business by those in the know, we’re relatively cheap to bribe, and everyone’s a winner. Who can’t do with more toys, nappies, wine tokens?

But what if you want to either be seen as, or become a serious writer? If I’m going to sell my soul to the Devil then surely I should demand something a bit more than new pots and pans. Surely a Pulitzer, or a Booker maybe, or heaven forbid a Best Original Screenplay Oscar would be better compensation. There’s a good chance I would sell my three children’s souls for those awards, well two of theirs anyway, I think one of them have made their own deal already.

Or am I doing us bloggers a disservice? Apparently we are the reason that the print media is in decline so we must have some power. Our content is free, often quick to produce, and has no overheads. We have no big shot owners or political flunkies to appease, we can write what we want and when we want it. The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Times, all of them carry adverts, does that make them less of a paper? The Huffington Post has some of the world’s best bloggers writing for them, but they still run adverts alongside the content.

Anyway, I’m just starting to ramble now. I created myself a soapbox then didn’t know what to say once I climbed on board. I apologise for the lack of humour in this post, it’s just that I nearly pressed ‘publish’ on a blog that contained the sentence ‘Luckily **** Stores, who have some amazing online stores where I can get everything from cookware to lights’, and it seems to have shaken all the laughter out of me. Normal smart arse service will be resumed soon I’m sure.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Once upon a Weetabix

Once upon a time, in a town not to dissimilar to the one where you now reside, lived a man named Bert. Bert is not his real name, I’ve had to change it for his own protection. If word was ever to leak out who the real Bert was, and what he had invented, well he could kiss goodbye to his quiet life. He leads a simple life does Bert, but believe me the man is a genius. For one day whilst sitting at his kitchen table eating his breakfast, his mind stopped looking for words that rhymed with purple and started wondering what Weetabix and chocolate would taste like.

If it had been me or you that had had this idea then our story would have ended there, or maybe in A&E after one of us spilt molten chocolate on their hand instead of the waiting Weetabix. Luckily for us, Bert worked for Weetabix and knew exactly who to take this idea to. Days, weeks, possibly months later for who knows how long these things take, a brand new box of Chocolate Weetabix turned up on my doorstep.

I had won the sweepstake in life’s lottery and had been chosen to get an advance tasting of the new offering. Such was the level of secrecy surrounding the project, that the person who delivered my box was actually wearing a cloak and dagger. I was to spend a week with my prize before it would be wrested from my chocolate stained grip and delivered to those lucky blighters at Sainsbury’s for its big unveiling on the 12th July.

It was suggested by some that I should share my bounty with the children. Fools all of them, this would be wasted on the children, they didn’t deserve it, it wasn’t Christmas. After a medium bout of foot stamping, some mild tears and at least one temper tantrum I finally gave in and agreed to share. I wiped away my tears and the box was placed in the larder ready for the morning.

Once the children had been despatched to bed I ventured the opinion that it was morning in Kamchatka, so it would be alright to have a bowl now. I have tried this trick with alcohol in the past, it didn’t work then and it wasn’t working now. I decided to go to bed on the basis that the sooner I slept, the sooner it would be morning.

I dreamt of Bert’s invention that night, dreamt I was sitting in my chair made from Weetabix, holding a bowl the size of a footballers ego, full to the brim with chocolate Weetabix. Eventually my breakfast began to taste like feathers, and I woke up to find my pillow in my mouth. Thank heavens they don’t make coat hangers is all I can say.

I woke the kids up and rushed downstairs. I now had an excuse to make everyone sit down for breakfast rather than throwing toast at them as they run out of the door to school. I gave the kids a normal helping, but as it only has half the amount of sugar as other chocolate cereals, I gave myself double, result.

It was the quietest our dining table had ever been, apart from the occasional slurps and mmm’s you could have heard a pin drop. I proposed a toast to Bert and various cups of coffee, tea and orange juice were raised.

Chocolate Weetabix was an obvious success in our house, so much so that I am now using the threat of not having breakfast to get the kids to go to bed properly, and clean my car, oh and the hoovering, and sometimes the recycling. You mere mortals will have to wait until 12th July to get your hands on them. Ha Ha.