Monday, December 12, 2011

Satan Claus

Here’s a piece of advice, never, ever, drop the kids off at school with a hangover.  Because if you do you’ll end up agreeing to do something you would normally run a mile from.  Your defences are low, your judgement is shot and your ability to make up bullshit excuses off the cuff has left the building.
It was on one such morning, a morning where I was nursing a mild to medium hangover, when I got hung drawn and quartered by one of the Mums.  There I was, minding my own business, when I heard “Ere Jay, can you do us a favva?”  I knew that voice, it was a voice that could strip paint off walls, it was Josie, mother of Jody, Joey and Joely.  It was with some trepidation that I turned around as I knew that whatever came next wasn’t going to go in my favour, and I was right, it didn’t.
She wanted me to be the Father Christmas for the playgroup she runs – Grubby Gits I think it’s called – a bunch of two year olds left to run amok and become mini Jackson Pollocks.  I stuttered and spluttered as I tried to come up with an excuse, but she took my silence as acquiescence, told me the time and date to be there and marched off as fast as her tiny little legs would take her.
I cursed my stupidity, trudged out of the school and promptly forgot all about it.
Forgot until last Friday that was, when the dulcet tones of Herr Josie rang out with “Don’t cha forget about being Father Christmas on Monday, cheers darlin’.”
On the day of my ‘guest appearance’ I woke up early, drenched in sweat.  Sweat caused by a nightmare in which Father Christmas was drumming into me the difference between him and a rapper saying ‘Ho Ho Ho’, whilst cooking reindeer burgers on a BBQ.  This was not going to go well, I hadn’t even practised my voice yet.
Despite being told that I didn’t have to be there until 11.15, I spent the morning fielding calls and texts from Josie and her Michelle Minion, checking I was coming and asking where I was – there was no chance of me ducking out of this thing, so I got in the car and made my way there.  On the journey I decided to listen and sing along to Eminem, it was probably best if I got all the cuss words out of my system before I got there.  It would be poor form to open with “Have you all been good little f**kers this year?”
As I nervously entered the venue I could hear the collective screaming of 30 kids, it was all I could do to not join in the screaming myself to be honest.  I was having such a bad feeling about this, what kind of idiot would ask someone like me to do something like this?  I didn’t know what I was going to say and how I was going to say it and it was too late to practise now.
I walked in and had to rub my eyes in astonishment, Josie had turned herself into a real-sized elf.  Then I remembered she was naturally that small and had gone to no real effort at all.  The Michelle Minion handed me my costume, explained the running order and told me to get changed in the blokes’ toilets. 
So I took myself off to the toilets and started to get changed, which was beyond awkward due to the size of the cubicle.  The costume had obviously been bought at Scrooge’R’Us, it was the tattiest and sorriest looking thing I had ever seen.  The pants had a waist Buddha would have been comfortable in, but the jacket had been designed for Ghandi.  The black belt that was meant to tie the whole lot together was made from a rubbish sack and had an outsized buckle that would have been hard-pressed to keep rope tied together.  The fake beard was over-used and fluffy and made me sneeze so hard that I turned the moustache green and white like a Pacer mint.  With the help of the Minion and several safety pins, we eventually got the outfit together and I waited for my cue.
Now I’m sorry, but it doesn’t matter how pure of body and mind you are, there is something just plain wrong about hanging around in a toilet in a Santa suit, something I had to do for 15 minutes.  I started to feel like Sleazy Santa and my “Come and sit on my knee little girl” voice was sounding more and more deviant.   My big entrance had been delayed due to one of the little’uns being sick on the bouncy castle, which then set off a chain letter of puke amongst the rest of his play mates.  Always a classic combo of destruction – sweets, cakes, fizzy pop and a bouncy castle.
Eventually the sleigh bells started ringing so I took my cue and made my entrance into the hall.  You could have heard a pin drop as they all stared at me and I must admit that it felt quite good to hold the power of silence over 30 little kids.  I gingerly made my way to the chair that had been put out for me, desperately trying not to tread on one of them (I do have previous on this score) and sat myself down.  As soon as I did, the safety pin on the jacket gave way and I instantly regretted wearing my black Jack Daniels t-shirt underneath it.  I quickly picked up my sack and put it on my lap and hoped that it would cover the gap before anyone noticed.  Although judging by some of the Mummy stares I was getting, that was a forlorn hope.
It all went fairly smoothly, my “Have you been a good little girl this year?” was said with the correct timbre of joviality and deepness and the only slight hitch was when little Tony stepped forward.  Tony had long curly blonde hair that obviously belonged in a Timotei advert, but it left me with no idea if he/she was a boy or a girl.  So I went with a “Have you been a good…err…person this year?”  Not my finest moment, but it had to do.
I had soon whizzed through the 30 monsters and to my credit, not one of them cried, a success then.  I bid them all farewell and reminded them to leave beer and chocolate under the chimney for Santa at Christmas.  Back at the toilets I made a quick change that both Superman and a flasher would have been proud of, then I made like a Shepherd and got the flock out of there.  Job done.
Oh and Mummy’s, one last thing.  When picking out your wardrobe, please bear in mind that you will be bending over and ushering your 2 year old child towards a seated Santa.  Avoid low cut tops, Santa is only human after all.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Away with the Fairy's

OK, before we start, I have a confession…  I’m a habitual Fairy sniffer.  I’m one of those people you have to lean over to get your washing up liquid because I’m stood there opening the lids and sniffing, desperately trying to decide what new ‘flavour’ to get before the Security Guards throw me out for disturbing behaviour. 
When I’m caught up in this endeavour the wife rolls her eyes, Storm hides her face in shame (yet again) and Kaede and Nate try to join in (well they did until the day that Nate got a nose full of apple and lime blossom Fairy and was sneezing green bubbles for a week.)  My argument is that I’m the one that always does the washing up, so what’s wrong with it smelling nice at the same time?
So when Fairy contacted me and asked if I would like to join them at a pop-up restaurant at the OXO Tower for lunch cooked by the two starred Michelin chef Michael Caines to launch their Platinum range, there was only going to be one possible answer, ohmygodyescountmeinthankingyouverykindly.  There was a catch however.
I had to wash up afterwards.
Bring it on, said I.
So last Saturday found myself, the good Wife, Storm and Kaede heading off to London, all dressed up to the nines.  I think Kaede was the most excited, she’s wanted to be a chef since she was four and she was a bundle of nervous energy at the thought of meeting a ‘real proper chef’. 

When we arrived, everything looked as swanky as you would expect and one look at the menu (based on Michaels childhood memories) and we knew we were in for a treat.
Shepherd’s pie with saddle crusted lamb with smoked aubergine puree and a rosemary and thyme jus.

OH MY GOD.  Sorry, I didn’t mean to shout but it was so delicious.  I am not a big lamb fan, but this tasted like no other lamb I had tried before and the Shepherd’s Pie went way beyond gorgeous.

After the mains it was time to pay the piper and wash up.  Fairy had set up a stand where two people could race to clean a pile of dishes, head to head, with the best times winning prizes.  I faced off against Storm and after some strict instructions from the Scottish Washing up Sergeant, we were off.  Storm, showing off all the skills of a layabout student, made a meal of it but still managed to come in with a respectable 26 seconds.  I, however, in a performance par excellence managed the unbeatable time of 16 seconds.  Unbeatable that was until Sandy Calico managed to beat me by a second, grrrrrrrrrrrrrrr.

Taking my defeat like a man, I wandered back to the table to hunt out a glass of red wine.  When I got there I saw that dessert had arrived.
Sticky Toffee Pudding with Butterscotch sauce and caramel ice cream.  To say Kaede was impressed was an understatement.

After we had finished our desserts I settled back with a nice glass of red and released a very contented sigh.  I then realised that the table was a little bit too quiet and noticed that Kaede had disappeared.  I looked around the restaurant and quickly realised why she had disappeared so fast.  Michael Caines, having finished in the kitchen, had popped out to say hello and there was Kaede, bending his ear and grabbing his autograph.  He certainly was happy to give her his time and pose for a pic and has cemented her desire to be a chef.

He then started announcing the winners in the washing up challenge.  The Wife’s 26 seconds in the dishwasher challenge won her nothing, but my 16 seconds won me 6 months worth of Fairy Platinum, whoop whoop.
Since returning from the event I’ve been using Fairy Platinum and must admit that it really works well, even after a Sunday Roast.  But most importantly it smells pretty darned good.
Many thanks to Fairy, Michael Caines and Rosie Mann at Ketchum PLEON for the invite and an excellent day which will certainly stay in Kaede’s memory for a very long time.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011


The following takes place on the day of the Californian Presidential Primary.  Events occur in real time.
Tomorrow morning’s the date set for the op, a cockovisionogram with claws.  I’m looking forward to that, not.  Damn it, bloody kids and their bloody Lego.  How can something so brightly coloured blend into the carpet so well and why do I always manage to tread on it?
No eating or drinking after midnight so I had best stock up now.  I try to decide which would be the most appropriate pre-op drink.  I settle for a bottle of Pinot Noir but keep the Jack Daniels in the emergency standby position.  Damn it, somebody has broken the last big wine glass.  I get ready to shout at someone then remember that someone was me.
I wash down a handful of peanuts with a large JD and Coke.  We’ve run out of ice but I care not a jot.
I attempt to sleep, restlessly tossing and turning whilst protectively cupping my nether regions.  Damn it, why won’t sleep come to me?
Some inconsiderate arsehole has left his car running outside the bedroom window, with Barry Manilow blaring from the car stereo.  Another middle aged lothario dropping off the Widow Twankey from across the street no doubt.
Wake up from a dream where the cast of Monty Python perform my op with chainsaws whilst singing the ‘Lumberjack’ song.  Damn it, I’m never going to be able to watch Monty Python again.
On the way to the hospital now, traffic is light which is good as for some reason I’m eager to get there now.  Damn it, stuck behind a learner.  Seriously, at this time of the morning?  Send them back to the side roads where they belong.
Arrive at the hospital and it’s a pay and display car park.  Don’t we pay enough in taxes to avoid having to pay to park?  “Bloody NHS” gets uttered for the first time today.  I have a sneaking suspicion that it won’t be the last.
I’ve been sitting in the holding pen on the ward for over an hour now.  Damn it, the bloke sitting opposite me is eating chocolate and drinking an ice cold bottle of water.  I could cheerfully kill him for his booty.
Have finally been moved to the ward, I’m the youngest there by about 30 years.  The bloke in the bed next to me has his wife sitting with him and she is one of those loud complaining types.  I swear she just complained about the view.
A nurse turns up to take my blood pressure and the like.  I always worry that I’m going to fail these tests, so I hold my breath.  I don’t know why I think this will make a difference but I do it every time anyway.  My blood pressure is high, but on the basis that a camera crew are about to go on an expedition down my urethra, it’s hardly a surprise.
Despite being promised I would be the first person seen at 7.30, I am now the only person left on the ward as my fellow victims have already been prepped and taken.  Damn it, I would normally find being asked to take of my pants and put on some stockings quite a kinky request, unfortunately the person asking me is a sixty year old Asian bloke.
Great, I now look like a trussed up turkey wearing a gown that Mary Quant would find too short.  There is no possible way of sitting comfortably without giving the Crown Jewells a public airing. 
They are finally wheeling me into the operating theatre.  I meet the surgeon, who is one of those over-confident laughing types with an entourage bigger than any rappers, except his consist of student doctors and nurses.  He runs through what’s going to happen and then opens my gown and laughs.  Damn it, just damn it.
The first thing I hear as I start to come round is Maria McKee singing ‘Show me Heaven’ and I start to panic.  Am I in heavens waiting room, although considering the music maybe I’ve landed downstairs?  I open my eyes and with a huge sense of relief, realise I’m still in the hospital.  I have not shuffled off this mortal coil, at least not yet.
I’m wheeled back to the ward and told I can’t leave the hospital until I have passed water, a phrase so quaint even my gran found it old-fashioned.  I start drinking pints of water like my life depends on it, or maybe just my sanity.
I finally feel the urge to pee and gingerly shuffle to the toilet.  I stand there and wait and wait, and wait a bit more.  Damn it, come on, get on with it.  The ol’ chap has obviously gone on strike in protest of the treatment meted out to it today.  A bright red liquid eventually dribbles out, probably not enough for hospital purposes but I don’t care.  I want out and I want it now.  I go back and tell the nurse I’ve just turned their toilet into the Niagara Falls from hell and can I please go home now.
Doctor eventually arrives and gives me the preliminary results.  The results, that in my urge to get out of here, I had forgotten to worry about.  They found nothing wrong, so fingers (and legs) crossed, all is well.  After some slight exaggeration on my part, he agrees to let me go home.  I ring Mum and ask her to come and pick me up.  Apparently having a metal rod shoved into you can affect your ability to drive, go figure.
Mum arrives suspiciously quickly and after a brief interrogation she admits that she had been sitting in the car park waiting for the call.  I let it pass and allow myself to be led out of the hospital like a sick little boy being picked up from the school nurse.  I manage to convince her that I will be fine left on my own and she reluctantly drops me home and leaves.  The mother in law has the kids, so I just lie on the couch and let the silence wash over me.
Everyone is home now and either fussing over me, or ignoring me and I’m not sure which one is pissing me off the most.  Talking of which, I still haven’t been to the toilet so I escape them all and take myself to the loo.  Damn it, I still can’t go but it really feels like I need to, especially as I’ve drunk 4 pints of water and one can of lager.  I push until my eyes nearly pop out, yet nothing happens.  I’m not panicking yet.  I am, however, doing a lot of lying to myself to stave off that panic.
OK, now I’m panicking.
I am now seriously considering poking a hole in my belly button just to relieve the pressure.  I wonder how long it would take to cry out all the excess fluid in my body, but decide to try to pee whilst jumping up and down instead.  I realise it will make a hell of a mess if it works but am past caring right now.  Catch a sight of myself in the mirror doing a crazy piss pogo and begin to think that maybe I didn’t actually come round from the anaesthetic.  Maybe this is my version of hell?
I have now been in the bathroom for half an hour now and I’ve run out of ideas.  I’ve tried standing, sitting, pogoing, shaking my bladder, pressing my bladder, standing on my head (nope, I don’t know where that one came from either), doing the twist and staring and willing it out – nada, nowt, nothing.  Have also realised that despite being in here for over half an hour, nobody has sent a search party looking for me.  I guess that’s my fault for hiding in here so often, damn it.
Oh My God, the pain, the release.  I have somehow just passed a blood clot the size of a golf ball, I would be freaking out if I wasn’t so relieved.  The ‘Me Man, me make fire’ part of me takes over and I seriously consider taking a picture of it to boast about - and as I flush the toilet I instantly regret that I didn’t.
Normal service has been resumed, in fact I can’t stop going.  That may have something to do with all the beer I consumed to celebrate the end of a long day.  Feeling tired, time for an early night methinks.
Damn it, I’m going to be up peeing all night.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Lest we Forget

This year marks the 90th anniversary of the Royal British Legion, and to celebrate, they’re calling for the nation to join them in standing shoulder to shoulder with all those who serve, and support them by wearing a poppy.
The Shoulder to Shoulder website enables visitors to upload a photo of themselves (or themselves and their kids, a loved one etc), add a poppy to it and then a message of support to our Armed Forces. Once submitted, the image will then join the Shoulder to Shoulder virtual wall with thousands of others. The wall is open to the public, and allows anyone to hover over it and read all of the messages of support.
It’s a great way of visually interesting children in the Poppy Appeal and giving them a greater understanding of the kinds of sacrifices the Armed Forces have made.
It’s only a small thing to do, just a tiny way to show our support for the brave men and women who have kept us safe in the past and continue to do so now.  So please go visit the website at and add your message of support.
The Royal British Legion provides practical care, advice and support to Armed Forces personnel, ex-Service men and women of all ages and their families.
The charity runs recovery centres for injured personnel; provides advice and support for bereaved families; helps with financial and careers advice; offers life-long companionship, healthcare and practical support to the Service community and their families; and has 2500 branches worldwide offering comradeship and support.
The Royal British Legion is also the nation's custodian of Remembrance; organises the Poppy Appeal; campaigns on issues affecting Service personnel and runs one of the UK's largest membership organisations. For more information visit

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Bonfire of the Banalities

It seems to have become tradition in the blogging world, around this time of year, to suggest who you would like to replace Guy Fawkes on the bonfire come 5th November.  I’ve decided to join in with the imaginary bonfire this year, mainly because I couldn’t think of anything else to write about.  It is also partly because, since some strong suggestions from the Mrs, the neighbours and the remaining rabbit Spencer (RIP Mark), I’m not allowed to light real ones in the garden anymore.

I started to write a list of people that I would like to be rid of, all with justifiable (if not homicidal) reasons, but as I started the list when the Mrs was watching Strictly Crap Dancing and then X Fucktor, it started to get out of control.  I was never going to be able to limit my choice to one person anyway, so I’ve decided to have a host of categories and pick one for each.
To get the fire started I would obviously use copies of the Daily Mail, can you really think of any other use for it, with auto-biographies written by anyone under fifty also thrown on for good measure.
Politics – Lembit Opik nearly run away with this one but I guess he no longer fits in this category as he’s now an unemployed bum.  Dianne Abbot would be another but I get the feeling that’s she one of those ‘all publicity is good publicity’ types, so I won’t feed that particular bonfire of the vanities.  So it will have to be the back-stabbing Cain of politics – Ed Milliband.  Not only has he got nothing of any interest to say, he insists on saying it with that annoying nasal twang.
Sports – The rat faced twonk that is Ashley Cole nearly got thrown on, but I was worried I might catch something by even touching him in my imagination.  The winner by a country mile though, is the cud-chewing, bulbous nosed, Beckham bullying Scot – Alex Ferguson.  He also comes with the added bonus of being so full of expensive red wine, he’s bound to give off a lovely looking flame.
Music – It has to be Jedward doesn’t it, two people whose only discernable talent is the ability to jump out of time with each other.  Unfortunately the Health and Safety Executive have refused to let me add them due to the flammable nature of their hair and suits.  So in that case it has to be the band with as much talent, personality and taste as a can of Lynx – One Direction.  Every time the lead singer, with his hair do made from the collected cuttings of the Chelsea team’s manscaping, opens his mouth, I want to put pencils in my ears and press firmly. 
Z Listers – This is a tough one because firstly there are so many of them and secondly, they are so insignificantly famous, I don’t know their names.  Anyone who’s ever been on Big Brother would be an obvious choice, as would anyone that’s slept with Big Bouncer (Jordan).  But my final choice has to be that bloke from whatchyamacallit, you know the one, the one with the face like a slapped arse, goes out with that orange girl. Yep, him, that’s the one.
Real life – I wanted to throw on everyone that says to me “I don’t do twitter, who wants to know what everyone’s had for breakfast.”  A cliché so old, even moaning about it has become a cliché.  Instead I shall choose the mean spirited Restaurateur that has padlocked his car park to stop everyone parking their cars for 10 minutes when doing the school drop off.  We weren’t hurting anyone, you’re not even open at 8.30am so what’s the problem?  Now all you’ve done is pissed off a load of parents who were, or could have been, good customers.  Now we’re parking and eating elsewhere and you’re trying to flog discounted food - great decision mate.
Stranger - The bloke who picks someone up in my road every day and never says thank you whenever I pull into a gap to let him pass.  Never, not even once, not even a nod or a smile.  I am half thinking of buying some old clunker and running him off the road with it, but failing that I may just block him in the cul-de-sac next time I’m not in a rush.
Actor – Meryl Streep, one film, two words, Mama Mia.  Enough said.
Figure from history – Guy Fawkes, not for attempting to blow up the Houses of Parliament – but for failing.
Inanimate object – Michael McIntyre’s hair – every time I see it my blood pressure rises.  I’m sure he’s a funny guy, but whenever I see him on TV I have to change channels.  So until he gets his own radio show, his comic stylings are going to pass me by.
So there it is, these are the people that are going to sit atop of my bonfire, punished for the sins of making my blood boil or my stomach churn.  Hopefully I’ve now got the grumpy old man out of my system, but I somehow doubt it.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Turn left at the Iron Man

You know you are in a special place when your enquiry as to where the toilets are is answered with a “Go up past the Incredible Hulk and turn left at the Iron man” and this weekend found me at such a special place – Disney’s London Headquarters.  They had kindly invited me and the family to visit them to see their new AppMATes Mobile application toys and who am I to turn down an offer like that.
I didn’t tell the kids about the trip until the morning of the event as who wants to hear an “Are we there yet?” type convo for a week - it was bad enough I had to hear it for the hour it took us to get there.  I would like to describe to you how the building looks like the massive fairy tale castle you see at the start of the Disney films, but I have been sworn to secrecy.  It’s also the reason I can’t tell you that as soon as I passed over the threshold and into the HQ itself, the hands on my watch magically turned into Mickey Mouse hands.
As the kids entered the room where they were holding the demos of the toys their eyes went as wide as saucers, but both for different reasons.  Kaede saw the toys and was instantly sold, Nate saw the buffet table and was instantly hungry.  I kid you not, the boy ate four croissants, three pan au chocolats, six fruit spikes and a fistful of sweets.  At one stage, the only way to find him was to follow the croissant crumbs.
Kaede and I went straight for the AppMATes, basically they are tiny cars (based on the Cars film) that you use in conjunction with an iPad and the Cars 2 app (which is free to download from iTunes).  You then use the cars on the iPad to control the play as you explore Radiator Springs.  There are tons of things to unlock and explore and each character has some of its own unique content as well.  Here’s a link to a video clip as I don’t seem to be able to do it justice in words
I’m not ashamed to admit that I had a lot of fun playing it and Kaede certainly did.  They even managed to coax Nate away from the food to have a go, no mean feat indeed.  It seems quite easy for the little’uns to use, very responsive to their movements and it doesn’t hurt your iPad.  The packs are available as a single Lightening McQueen (£12.99), or as double packs including loads of the new characters (£19.99).
After we finished having a good play with all the toys, we went into their private cinema and watched Cars 2, which of course was awesome.  I’ve always been a fan of the Disney/Pixar stuff and this certainly didn’t let me down.  I loved the innocence of the first movie but I think the second one has just edged it in terms of fun and excitement and a couple of jokes that were definitely aimed at the Dads in the audience.
Thanks to Disney and Eulogy PR for the invite and for the bag of goodies they gave the kids on the way out.  Apparently I am now officially the coolest dad in the world for arranging this trip, result.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Is this Gooner a Goner?

I’ve been a Gooner (an Arsenal fan to the uninitiated, who will stop reading right about….now) since I was seven.  My Dad was a rugby fan with no ties to any particular football team, so whilst I played football morning, noon and night, I didn’t support any one team.  I admired the Liverpool team of the seventies, who didn’t, but it didn’t even occur to me to become a glory hunter and start supporting them.  My granddad collected the football cards that came in his packet of smokes and gave them to me – and I collected my Panini football stickers with more allegiance to filling empty spaces in my sticker book than to the teams they represented.
I was born in Barking which is a mere pass, dribble and shoot away from Upton Park, the home of West Ham United.  But even at seven I knew they called themselves ‘the Irons’ and I also knew that Iron in Cockney meant poof, so that was a non-starter.  So I just carried along in my own merry little way, playing football for the school, the street, the gang - whoever would let me to be honest (and when that was no-one then it was me versus the wall).
Then came the day that would change my life forever, for better or worse I know not, just changed.  That day was Saturday 6th May 1978 - FA Cup Final day – Ipswich v Arsenal.
We had gone to a Cup Final party at friends of my Mums, I remember they lived in Upminster and that they had a daughter called Sarah but I remember nothing more unless it was footy related.  The whole house seemed to be supporting Ipswich, I guess that’s because they were considered the underdog at the time and me being the contrary bugger that I was back then (and possibly still am), I decided I would get behind the Arsenal.
I couldn’t tell you too much about the game – I remember being spell bound by Liam Brady running down the wing and when they substituted him mid way through the second half, I swore I saw tears in his eyes and that was it - I was officially a Gooner.  Incidentally I met him years later in the hospitality lounge at the 2003 Cup Final and as I nervously collected his autograph like the seven year old I had become, I rather gushingly told him he was the reason I had become an Arsenal fan.
Anyway, I digress, Arsenal ended up losing that game 1-0, but that didn’t matter - I was hooked and I was a Gooner, and nothing was ever going to change that.
I got lucky as a fan, many have to wait years to see their team lift any silverware but I had to wait precisely a year and six days, for on 12th May 1979 Arsenal were back at Wembley, this time against a team that would become a thorn in my backside – Man Utd (further referred to as “Manure”).  I don’t know if it’s the romanticism of looking back through age tinted glasses, but that was probably the greatest Cup Final I have ever seen.  The sun was shining, we were two up by half time, but with ten minutes to go we were starting to look very tired.  Then came the Manure fight back and within five minutes and with less than five to go, they had brought it back to 2-2.  Even I could see that there was no way our boys would last another 30 minutes of extra time, we were doomed.
Luckily for me, Brady thought otherwise.  In the final minute he shrugged off two challenges and passed outside to Graham Rix.  Rix crosses over and up pops Alan Sunderland to head in the winner.  I went mad and ran around the front room screaming my head off (even writing this now has given me goose bumps). 
After that it was slim pickings for a while, a Cup Final defeat to West Ham the following year, a League Cup win against Liverpool in ’87 (thanks to Charlie ‘Champagne’ Nicholas), but it was mostly a lot of dour football.  I had started going to the matches with my mates by then, part of the North Bank faithful and by now Arsenal had become my religion.
I was lucky enough to have seen some of the great Arsenal legends – Henry, O’Leary, Rocastle, Wright, Vierra, Bergkamp and Adams (AKA God).  I’ve also been lucky enough to watch players who would bleed red and white, players like Groves, Parlour (AKA the Romford Pele), Davis, Keown, Bould, Dixon and Winterburn.  Neither of those lists is exhaustive, but I could go on for hours without even getting to Limpar, Ljungberg and Lukic.  The trouble is, that’s all in the past - if you cut our current crop of players they will bleed pound notes and then sue you for breach of contract.
I think my love affair with all things Arsenal is coming to an end.
I think it all started with Cashley Hole (AKA Mr Cheryl Cole) and his “I nearly swerved off the road” comment re his proposed wage increase to a mere £55K a WEEK, five grand less than he wanted, and it’s all gone downhill since then.  Sure we are playing some of the best football I have ever seen (well we were ‘till this season) and we are always there or thereabouts when it comes to the League title, but I’m used to investing time and loyalty to these players but they don’t seem to want to pay it back anymore.
Sure, maybe it’s because I’m getting older and more cynical now - I’m thirty-ten now and not as naïve as I once was – and maybe I haven’t got as much time to spare watching football, the kids want to go out and play it after all, but surely we as fans deserve some degree of loyalty from these overpaid mercenaries?
It was only when my 17 year old daughter texted me Sunday afternoon to check on the score because she was nowhere near a TV, that I realised that instead of watching the game I was out in the garage cleaning up (jeez you may as well pass me the pipe and slippers).  I haven’t watched a whole game this season and come to think of it, I can’t really recall watching many at all this year.  It looks like I’ve been a Gooner in name only for a while and I’m not sure how much that bothers me?
Would the Gooner in me today be able to write this piece here again ?  I somehow doubt it, the passion has gone, but do I blame the team or my age?  I want to be a hard-core fan again but what’s the point when the players leave as soon as some rich club show them a flash of knickers and a garter belt stuffed with cash?  I’ve realised that as you get older, the amount of hurt in your life increases exponentially and I’m not sure that I want to add the pain of losing games, or players to it.
So I don’t know where that leaves me.
When I started writing this piece, I had come to think of myself as someone who, from now on, would just keep an eye on the results with a smile or a frown.  But the writing of this and the watching of old goals on YouTube has made me somehow doubt that that would be possible.  I still shed a tear when I watch old clips of Rocastle play and I guess that will never change.
Arsenal, I’m giving you one more chance.  One more chance to inspire me, to make me shout, to make me sing, to make me cry.  One more chance I tell you.
But who am I kidding?

Wednesday, October 19, 2011


This is a sponsored post brought to you by the makers of Rio.  Not Rio the place as that would be God (or Darwin, I get confused), but Rio the animated film (you know, those Ice Age Creators). 
Last week Kaede and I were lucky enough to be invited to a screening of Rio at London Zoo.  Even luckier was the fact that the event was held in a function room within the Zoo and not the monkey enclosure, where the Mrs rather cruelly implied I would be more at home.
They had provided food (which Kaede had four plates of), drink (of which Kaede consumed three toilet stops worth) and cuddly toy characters (of which Kaede snagged two somehow).  After the screening one of the zoo keepers brought out a real Macaw, which created such a huddle of excited kids that I’m surprised they managed to get out alive.

Kaede absolutely loved the film and even though she had already seen it at the cinema, she still sat there riveted, only moving to dance along with great samba soundtrack.  From an adults point of view it was a fun watch, which is a good job as I’m sure this will be one that the kids make me watch over and over.
All this was to launch the release of the Rio DVD and Blu-Ray on the 24th October.  It comes with more extras than you can shake a stick at, including bonus Angry Bird levels.  Angry Birds is the app that Kaede is always nicking my phone or tablet to play, so some extra levels to keep her quiet on the trains are more than welcome.

Whilst I haven’t got any copies of the DVD to give away, I do have some links to some cool free stuff:
For some computer cursors (I’m currently using Luis) click here
For a Birds v Monkeys game click here

For a Rio In-a-Row game click here
So if you’re anything like me and the thought of the kids home for the half-term week is filling you with dread, you can’t go far wrong with a copy of Rio and maybe a bag of popcorn to keep them occupied.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Making Meccano

Quite often as you start to approach middling life, you look back with fondness at how much better things were in days of yore.  The music, the sense of society, the dress sense of teenagers and the size of a curly wurly.  But one thing that has improved with age is Meccano.  I have vague recollections of yellow bits of metal that could be bolted together to make something, that whilst looked harmless, made an excellent weapon for smacking my brother over the head with, but that is nothing compared to what they’re making now.
A few weeks ago, the lovely people at Meccano sent me a couple of their new kits for me and my six year old to try out and boy was I shocked.  Pack one was a Space Chaos DarkPirates Spaceship, all bells and whistles with light and sound effects.  Pack two was a Turbo Radio Control car and this was the one I was looking forward to making the most. 

Both packs were aimed at the 7-14 year old age groups and although Kaede is only 6, I figured something that really made her think would last a lot longer than something she could put together in 10 minutes (plus it would mean that she would need my help, whoop whoop).
The two boxes sat on my kitchen table for two frustrating weeks due to weekend activities, illnesses and sheer bad timing.  Meccano had always seemed like a rainy day toy and unfortunately we were having a crazy Indian summer with temps up to 29C.  Every time I walked past the boxes I could hear an ethereal voice calling “Come to me…play with me…don’t wait for the kids”.  Eventually I had to ask the wife to hide them away lest I succumb to temptation like an Essex girl outside Lakeside.
Eventually I snapped and one sunny Sunday afternoon, Kaede and I sat down and opened up the spaceship pack.  One look at all the parts and nuts and bolts, and Kaede was hooked.  As I read through the instruction manual, Kaede organised all the parts into their own separate places (a lesson she learnt from watching me attempt to put together all things IKEA).  The instructions were in a simple step by step guide, with every step listing what pieces were needed for that particular moment. Kaede took responsibility for gathering the pieces together before each step, each time with the furrowed brow of someone bearing the great responsibility of a major engineering project.  A really clever idea is that the front of the booklet had a printed ruler, so that when it said a 5.4mm bolt was needed, it was easy for her to pick out the right one. 

With heads buried deep into our project, we ignored the world and only paused to sup from our worker drinks (lager for me, a weak shandy for her).  You really started to feel the sense of excitement coming from her as the spaceship started to take shape and I was pleasantly surprised that she stuck with it from beginning to end.  Our Kaede is a bit of a feral one and not well known for sitting in one place for too long, but the Meccano had really grabbed and drawn her in.
With a flurry of activity and a gasp of relief (or disbelief) we finished and Kaede proudly held up the finished article.  Not only did it not fall to bits when she did that, but it also started making sound effects and the engines started to glow red.  Kaede then spent the next hour running around the garden with it, dive bombing her brother from behind - I guess some sibling things never change.

That night the spaceship had pride of place in her bed and it has slept there ever since.  The weather report said it will be raining next weekend and there’s a long winter ahead of us, so it looks like my, I mean her, radio controlled car will be next on the agenda.  I’m not sure who’s looking forward to it more.
Many thanks to the good people at Meccano for not only making the stuff, but for sending me the free samples as well.  The Space Chaos spaceship retails at £24.99 and the Turbo RC Racing car at £29.99

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Maybe it's because I'm a Londoner

I have an admission - I’ve been ignoring my relationship of late.  I pay no attention to her, I take her for granted.  I know she will always be there, so I ignore everything she has to offer.  Do you know what, sometimes I’ve been known to litter her, unforgivable I know.  For all this I want to make a public apology.
I’m sorry London, I had forgotten how beautiful you are.  I had forgotten how many interesting nooks and crannies you had.  I had forgotten how much of you remained un-explored to me and for that I humbly apologise.  You may wonder what brought on this ‘road to Damascus’ moment, what seismic event could have occurred?  Well, it turns out that seeing London from 135 meters was enough to do it.
I received an email the other week asking if I would like to go on a Champagne Experience on the London Eye, followed by a London Eye River Cruise down the Thames.  The first words that jumped out at me were FREE, CHAMPAGNE and A BREAK FROM THE CHILDREN, so I obviously accepted (as you knew I would) and on Saturday the Mrs and I took the (sometimes) short journey from East to Central London.
We had picked a beautiful day for it, the sun was shining and the air had that crispness to it that makes September the best month of the year (the fact the kids go back to school in September is pure coincidence).  It doesn’t take long to get from my neck of the woods to Westminster, so before we knew it we were standing at the foot of the wheel and craning our necks upwards at the tallest Ferris wheel in the Western hemisphere.
We went inside to pick up our complimentary tickets and as we were early we popped into the new 4D experience that comes as part of package.  I won’t spoil the surprise too much, but it’s a short 3D film with added wind, bubbles and mist effects, which was freaky if not enjoyable.
Ten minutes before our allotted time we went to the meeting area and were promptly walked over to the Priority queue, all the while trying not to look too smugly at the queuing tourists.  Each capsule holds 25 people, but with the Champagne Experience our group of 20 was split into two pods of 10.  This gave us all plenty of room to wander around and enjoy the view, and OH MY GOD what a view.
It takes fifteen minutes to get to the very top, but I guarantee your first WOW will be uttered within five.  The view down the river to Tower Bridge is spectacular enough, the view of St James Park and Buckingham Palace is awe inducing and seeing the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben from above is superlative inducing.  Then just when you think it can’t get any better, somebody puts a glass of champagne in your hands. 

It was at that moment that I decided to start playing the lottery again as I don’t want to experience anything else in life without holding a glass of champagne.  At the Post Office getting your Car Tax – have a glass of Champers Sir.  Standing in the ‘Ten items or less’ aisle in Sainsbury’s – here are your bubbles Sir.  Watching a never-ending School play – Champagne would be lovely please Headmaster.  Oh yes, that will be the life for me.
Our lovely host in the capsule was called Joy and she did an excellent job.  She was always on hand to take pictures for you or point out some of the sights.  It was once I stopped looking at all the obvious monuments and buildings that I realised how much of London I hadn’t seen and how much it had to offer.  Standing on top of the world over-seeing our beautiful city, I felt a sense of pride that I hadn’t felt since my daughter accidentally-on-purpose tripped up the school bully and got away with it.  All too soon our ride was over, but then we hopped straight on the boat for the cruise down the Thames.
So we proceeded to view London from a lower, but no less interesting, perspective.  As soon as the Tour Guide got on the microphone I knew we were in for a treat.  He sounded like Hugh Grant at his funniest (think About a Boy rather than Nine Months) and his spiel was part factual, part comedy routine.  For example –
“Big Ben is actually named after Sir Benjamin Hall who oversaw the installation.  Thank goodness his name wasn’t Richard.  Or William.”
“The Bloody Tower achieved its nickname due to the bloody murders that occurred there, including the rather bloody murder of the two young princes.  You can’t see the Bloody Tower that well because of all the bloody trees.”
He managed to keep this patter going for the entire 45 minutes of the cruise and it certainly added to the experience.  The trip took us past Westminster Palace to Lambeth Bridge, there it turned around and took us down to Tower Bridge, then another U-turn that brought us back to the London Eye.  It was a most relaxing way to view the Thames and loads preferable to the way I normally see it – running down the South Bank after the kids.
It was a great day out and it re-ignited my love affair with London.  I’m not saying where you live is bad and I’m not saying your town or city is in some way inferior.  All I’m saying is that London Rocks and there are a thousand good reasons why it’s still the hub of the country.  I’m a Londoner through and through and proud of it, I’m just sorry I forgot it for a while.
Many thanks to Alison from Hill & Knowlton for the tickets, they were very much appreciated.

Friday, August 19, 2011

I'm a nice bloke - Vote for me

Two things happened to me this week that I thought I would share with you (alright, I appreciate that obviously more than two things happened to me, but these are the two that I thought worth mentioning, unless you want to hear about bowel movements of course?)  Firstly @Trampy_joe  over at tagged me in a ’10 things we don’t know about you’ post, and secondly I was nominated, then chosen as one of the five finalists, in the Gurgle 2011 Awards for Best Daddy Blog.  I have no idea who nominated me, although I rather suspect it was my Mum, but whoever you are, thanking you most kindly.
You can vote for me (or one of the others I guess, it’s a free country and of course you are allowed to trample all over my feelings) at .  I’m not going to beg but please, please, please vote for me because I would quite like to meet Mylene Klass (the host) and talk to her about her classical music.
So here are 10 things you didn’t know about me and please don’t let anything you read here influence your voting decision in any way, shape, or form.
1.       Monday, Wednesday and Friday mornings I wander the streets of South Woodford helping little old ladies cross the roads.  Monday, Wednesday and Friday afternoons I spend helping confused old ladies who are inexplicably stuck on the wrong side of busy roads.

2.       I operate a butterfly hospital from my back garden where I repair wings and landing feet of injured butterflies.  I also run a self esteem course for the plain white ones where I hand paint bright patterns on their otherwise dull wings.

3.       On Tuesdays and Thursdays I put on my ‘You are not the weaker sex and I’m not mistaking plumpness for pregnancy’ T-shirt, then I ride the trains - giving up my seat for women young and old.

4.       I always, always, let cars out of the side streets when I’m driving down a main road.  Who cares that it then means that I have to start the school run at 3am?  If I can save a bit of your impatience then I’m a happy man.

5.       I believe that children are our future, teach them well and let them lead the way.  I also believe teachers are worth their weight in gold (even in today’s over inflated markets) and children make for excellent guide dogs. Win, win.

6.       When I live up north I vote Labour.  When I live down south I vote Tory.  When I’m temporarily hospitalised for my own protection, I vote Lib Dem.

7.       I do not believe Women are tetchy and illogical one week in every four, it is purely a coincidence.  An even if you are, it’s our fault anyway and we deserve whatever abuse comes our way.

8.       At the weekends I enjoy taking my children to different gardens in the South East of England.  Granted, they are Beer gardens, but they do enjoy a glass of lemonade and a packet of crisps whilst running between the tables.

9.       I think all babies are beautiful, even the ginger ones, or the mono-browed ones, or the non-identical twin ones.  There’s even a place in society for the ones that permanently look like they’re taking a dump, even when eating.

10.   At award ceremonies I would always dedicate my undeserved win to all the hard-working and underrated Mums and Dads of the world, they are so much more deserving than me and I’m just thankful to be a parent.
So with tongue firmly in cheek, I ask you again to do the right thing and VOTE FOR ME at .  A vote for me will not only let me continue some of the good works listed above, but it will also make you feel like the good minded citizen you obviously are.  Plus, as the vote is anonymous, you will be doing a completely unselfish act and it’s not often you can say that.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Crime and Punishment

So we're half way into the summer hols and all normal punishments for the heinous crimes the monsters I call children commit on a daily basis, have started to lose their effectiveness.
Sending them to a corner has stopped working as they have taken to hiding toys there, safe in the knowledge I'm a crap cleaner, so they will happily sit there for hours playing.
Threatening to turn off the TV doesn't work, as they have realised that I still have to do my usual work-from-home type work and if I want any peace and quiet then the goggle box is my only chance of that.
They're on a sweet embargo anyway, as it took three months to finally finish the Easter egg mountain, so the sweets are on a sabbatical and can’t be used as a threat.
I can't smack them because now that it's summer they're wearing short sleeves and shorts, so the marks will show.  Only kidding - it's because they've leant to duck and weave.
So I'm now in a quandary, either I start to feed us all Vodka and Valium and we spend the rest of the summer in a fog like void, or I start thinking up some new cruel and unusual punishments.
Here are some that have been meted out so far:
Nate (Male, 4) Constantly yelling into the microphone on his battery powered shopping till.
PUNISHMENT: Me accidentally dropping a full suitcase on to the offending toy.  Twice
Kaede (Female, 6) Singing along to a Justin Bieber advert in a non-ironic way.
PUNISHMENT: Spending an afternoon listening to John Coltrane, Ella Fitzgerald, Miles Davies and Sarah Vaughan.  Then discussing the merits of removing the voice box of annoying, pre-pubescent, talentless, crap magnets.
Storm (Female, 17) Leaving her hair straighteners on all day, resulting in a perfect V shape being burnt into her bedroom carpet.
PUNISHMENT: Fuse removed from said straighteners (and hairdryer for good measure.)  Offender not informed about fuse removal, leaving her to replace 'unrepairable' items.
Nate (Male, 4)  Picking a fistful of flowers that I had spent six months growing, then scattering the petals throughout the house like Cleopatra's man servant.
PUNISHMENT: I mowed the lawn without the collection box attached and made him pick up all the grass cuttings.
Kaede (Female, 6) Showing guests at a recent party we threw, the secret room where we had, last minute, hid all our crap.
PUNISHMENT: Have compiled and saved an assortment of truly hideous and embarrassing photos of her on a CD marked 'Kaede's Wedding Day'.
Storm (Female, 17)  Failing to get to a safe place to let me respawn during an online Halo game, resulting in the relentless taunting of me by a 12 year old American gob-shite.
PUNISHMENT: Making her go back to basics with a Space Invader marathon.
Trish (Female, 40) Only bringing home one bottle of wine for Saturday consumption, leaving me with the 'Daytime or Evening?' drinking dilemma.
PUNISHMENT: My accidental dropping of sanitary products into sink, blaming kids and my parting comment of "You may as well pick up another bottle of wine as you're going back to the shops anyway."
There were more I could mention but time, space and the social services have prevented me from listing them.  If anyone else has some bright ideas, then I'm more than happy to hear them