Saturday, December 12, 2009

Snowmen in the Sunset

That dreaded time of year is upon us again, the time of year that induces tears, fury, jealousy, and tantrums in most parents. That's right it's the Christmas School play season. The time of year where patient Mothers turn into impatient seamstresses, and weekend Fathers show their faces, and their suits, in public. The clever pushy Mum's who know the score, spend the whole of November cozying up to the Teachers, hoping to land their kids the plum roles. The political hierarchy of the Yummy Mummies comes out in full force, and the in-house cat fighting begins. I'm sure it's just a coincidence, but the Mum who organised the Teachers Christmas pressie (£5 per child, 30 kids in the class, you do the math) is also the proud Mother of this year's Virgin Mary.

The powers that be, wisely decided that my help was not needed in neither the costume nor the scenery department, so all I had to do was just turn up on the day and enjoy. Although that is easier said than done, if you get there too late then you won't be seeing much of anything. Promptness is King.

Bearing that in mind, the wife sent me ahead and I got there 25 minutes early. I still managed to find myself 20th in a queue that was starting to get ugly, and I mean really ugly. The heat in the small reception room was making all the heavily applied mascara run, and the combined smell of the House of Frasier perfume counter was a becoming a bit overwhelming. When the door was finally opened, I was told that prams were not allowed in and had to be left outside the reception. Gee, thanks for the advance warning Ms Frosty the Receptionist. I battled my way outside, got Mate out of the buggy, and battled my way back in. This obviously left me way back in the line and way back in the 7th row. I got the traditional 'Why in God's name are we sitting there' look when the Wife did show up, but I had started to learn how to deflect those. Years of sitting on the wrong side of church during various weddings had taught me that much.

I looked around and watched all the middle class Dads have their 'who has the biggest camera lens' battle. The kids were going to be facing greying, balding, paparazzi when they eventually set foot on the stage. The Headmaster stood up and announced that, due to Health and Safety reasons, all photography was prohibited during the performance. For parents that had sent their kids to a Catholic school, there sure was a lot of blasphemy in the air. The Dad sitting next to me promptly got his Blackberry out, and fired of an email to his Solicitor. The jist of which, was to see if he could get a quick injunction against the school for Copyright infringement.

I had initially worried when Katy came home from school saying she was going to be a snowman in this year's play. It couldn't be that big a part, as I was fairly sure there wasn't much snow around Jerusalem, and in no bible I had ever read, had it mentioned the 3 wise men making snowmen and having a snow ball fight. When I saw the play was called Snowmen in the Sunset though, I started to imagine Oscar glory for her after all. Unfortunately towards the middle of the 1st act, the sun came out and melted all the snowmen, leaving us to ponder the real meaning of Christmas and the traditional nativity scene. I have to say though, Katy's head did look good for the 2 minutes she was on the stage, but I do wish I had remembered to comb her hair that morning.

The play went without much of a hitch, until one of the kids in their excitement knocked over one of the huge floor microphones. The resulting feedback screech and boom was deafening. This caused quite an upset to the children, and the air was full of the smell of tears and soiled under-garments. The teachers calmed them all down eventually, but by the time the performance was over, it wasn't just the reindeers with red noses.

The play finished at 2.30, but we were told we couldn't pick our offspring up until 3.15pm. I had no idea why, maybe they were having a wrap party? This left us with time to kill in a very cold playground. One of the more adventurous Mums suggested we walk around the corner to the nearby builder's café, and a few of us agreed. On the way there my wife remarked that to expect us to just stand outside doing nothing for 40 minutes was "Too hard." My unwise retort to which was, "Tell that to the five year old Indian boy in Delhi, knocking batteries apart for the chemicals inside." Whilst this raised a chuckle among some of the men folk, it also earned me a 'you wait till we get home look'. The ferocity of which had not been seen since I inadvertently let slip in front of the other Mums, that her Prada clutch bag was actually a fake. It's not, but I had consumed a few beers, and her genuine argument to prove it wasn't, only made her look guiltier. Actually it was after that weekend that I decided to buy a less drafty shed.

The highlight of the day came when Posh Mum and Even Posher Mum ordered themselves a Costafrapachino and a Mocahontas. The horror on their faces when told their options were black, white, sugar or not, was a joy to behold. Both sides of the counter examined each other as if they were an unknown species. The coffees were quickly consumed, and a hasty retreat was beat back to the school.

We arrived just in time to see a triumphant Katy bounce out of her classroom, arms, legs, costume and uniform akimbo. "Did you see me, did you hear me, wasn't I good." Not a question, just a statement. It was very hard not to agree with her, she was brilliant.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Man Flu

It all started as a normal day, it had all been pretty uneventful as far as Thursdays go. I only had to remove one crayon from Mate's nose, which was an improvement to the norm. I had picked Katy up from school, and had decided to sneak in some twitter time whilst the kids watched Scooby Doo. Not the old one that we used to love and enjoy, this new fangled abomination bears as much resemblance to our version as an acorn does to an oak tree.

Anyway, all was well in Casa Gooner until I started feeling a bit cold. I even remember tweeting "Have had to put a hoody on as I'm so cold. May go and mug a teenager and teach them some irony." That tweet marked the beginning of 5 days of sheer torture. At points in that period I half expected the CIA to come knocking, asking me to threaten to breathe on some detainees in Guantanamo Bay. It would have been far more effective than water boarding, although I'm sure The Hague would have taken issue with it.

Before an hour had passed I was laying on the sofa, shivering and wishing I still lived at home so my Mum could look after me. The Wife got home eventually, took one look at me and with a worried voice said "Did you manage to prepare dinner before you got ill?" I didn't have the strength to throw anything at her so I aimed some toxic breath her way. Luckily the family was spared the prospect of Chicken a la Burnt as I had already made something.

As the night progressed I went downhill rapidly. My body was freezing and yet I was sweating from everywhere, even my fingernails. I was perspiring so much, it was like the collective sweat of a weight watchers meeting held in a cake shop. I made myself a Lemsip (couldn't trust wife not to burn it) opened up the sofa-bed, snuggled under the duvet and drifted in and out of a sleep-like state.

Of course being ill and laying down meant I had to relinquish ownership of the remote control. I'm not sure in what world making an ill bloke endure a double episode of Ugly Betty is considered a helpful thing, but it sure isn't the one I inhabit. I'm almost certain that listening to her nasally whiny voice for two hours is what caused the four day headache that followed. I also had a very restless feverish night, full of dreams where I had to write a daily blog for a failing fashion magazine. Damn you Ugly Betty.

I woke up the next day feeling even worse, something I had not thought possible the night before. My Wife was unwilling unable to take the day off work, so I was forced to endure the school run. The school caretaker took one look at me, and covered his face with a dubious looking handkerchief. I half expected him to get his bell out and start tolling it to the shout of UNCLEAN, UNCLEAN. I managed to dump Katy and escape from the barrage of suggestions from the well intentioned, but know-it-all Mothers. Not one of them suggested I curl up and die, but that was exactly what I was going home to do.

Upon returning home I garnered the last of my strength to grab a load of Mate quietening treats, and my Indiana Jones DVD box set. I had decided that Mate should become an archaeologist and today was as good a day as any for him to start swotting up on the subject. Grabbing the duvet and another Lemsip, we retired to the sofa and started to study. I must have fallen asleep during the film for I woke to a loud BANG and the mother of all headaches. BANG. There it went again, I looked around for the source of the noise. BANG. Oh my God I thought my head was going to explode, please let it stop. I spotted Mate picking up a feather and dropping it, BANG. I coughed and the noise sounded like a tantrum of teenagers playing drums in my head.

I dragged myself to the kitchen to take some of my migraine tablets. When I swallowed them it felt like I was swallowing barbed wire. I poured a cold glass of water to help soothe my throat and even that was painful. How in the name of all that's unholy, can water feel spiky? I struggled back to the sofa, threw Mate an apple, and covered my head with a pillow. I may have cried, I really can't remember, if I didn't then I definitely deserved a Mummy's bravery reward.

The wife rang late in the afternoon to enquire after my health and to remind me she was meant to be going out that night. I lied and told her I was starting to improve, and that she should go out. The thought of her in charge of the TV remote for another night was too much to bear. The kids got fed junk food that evening. There were a few complaints about the frozen peas, but I passed them off as mini vegetable ice lollies. I packed them off to bed without a bath, I couldn't smell anything anyway, and then I settled into the sofa bed for the night.

At around 9.30pm I had a brainwave, and decided that gargling with wine may help the pain in my throat. It didn't, but by the time the bottle was finished I didn't much care anyway. I spent the rest of the night tossing and turning, caught between sleep and pain. The wife eventually returned at 3am full of remorse and Pinot Grigio. I endured her apologies for as long as I could, which was 10 minutes, before I sent her and her KFC upstairs.

Revenge was mine the next morning when the kids woke up. I reminded her hung-over self of my terrible illness, and sent her downstairs to deal with the kids. Saturday for me was spent in bed with the door closed, and a towel at the foot of it for sound proofing purposes. I could vaguely hear the screaming and shouting, I could also hear the kids, and for the first time in three days I smiled.

Saturday morphed into Sunday and everybody seemed to survive the weekend. The kids now looked like Augustus Gloop and the treat cupboard was empty, but what the hell, the house was still in one piece. Monday came around, and thankfully most of the symptoms started to disappear. I emerged from the dark side lighter (whoop whoop), and with the knowledge that nothing could possibly be worse that what I had just endured.

Three days later I discovered something worse than Man Flu, Wife Flu.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Clever Kids?

I remember reading approximately five years ago about this little 10 year old protégé who had just finished his doctorate in Biology. Seemed like a nice enough kid, a bit geeky, but what do you expect? His parents looked proud, well they would wouldn't they, but you could tell where he got his geeky fashion sense. He also had the look of a kid that had not seen daylight for a good while. Surely it's got to be hard studying Biology from a locked room? I would have thought that being able to walk amongst nature would be a prerequisite to those sorts of studies. Then again, they are the parents with the ten year old Doctor of Science, and I am the one with a 15 year old who believed me when I said that when you see the moon during the day, it is just a reflection from the great lakes. So maybe their way is best, if not a tad cruel.

Fast forward to this morning and I see a report on the BBC that says teenagers are naturally predisposed to have late nights, and then sleep late in the morning. It's not their fault, apparently, it's just the way they are built. There is a trial school that is now opening at 10am to see if there is any substance to the claims. I can't help but think that the two things are linked somehow. I have a picture of this, now surly, teenager having to get up early every morning to do his paper round or something. Then one day he has his own personal eureka moment. "Sod this for a laugh, this doctorate has got to be handy for something, I know lets tell the world about my new 'finding', that should put paid to all this early delivery nonsense."

I mean fair play to him, all this paper knowledge has got to have some kind of practical use. It did get me wondering about what kind of skills my lot would have. Was there any indication in the traits that were already showing, anything that they could use in the lead up to greatness?

Mate is only two and not showing too many skills right now. To my eternal shame he loves watching the ballroom dancing on a Saturday night. I have nothing against that, but Strictly Come Dancing, seriously? He is obviously lacking in taste, although he does a mean Fandango. He also likes locking himself between doors, well he does it twice a day, I have to presume he likes it. I'm rather partial to it myself as I can leave him there for a good 15 minutes before he starts to kick up. Not the greatest combination to work with then. A dancing David Blaine is the only thing that springs to mind, and I'm not sure the world is ready for that.

Katy (4) has always shown a strong interest in all things kitchen. Since a very early age she has demanded a stool to sit on whenever I start cooking. At first I thought it was because she just wanted to pinch food as we went along, which she did, but I soon realised she had an even more mischievous reason. I am a 'cook with a wine/beer/G&T' type of chef. I am also quite French in my attitudes to kids and alcohol. I see nothing wrong in letting the kids have a shot glass of shandy, or a watered down wine. Katy had obviously realised this, so would quite happily peel some spuds or carrots, safe in the knowledge there was a drink in it for her.

The upshot is she now knows her lemon grass from her spring onions, her garlic from her ginger and her soy sauce from her Worcestershire sauce (not that either of us can pronounce it). She also has most of her herbs down pat. We have quite a large herb garden, and she loves to taste and smell the difference in them all. The only two she seems to constantly confuse, are Basil and Rosemary. Now as they are polar opposites in both look and taste, I can only conclude that Katy will become the World's foremost Accidental Fusion Chef.

That leaves me with my eldest, Dawn. At 15 her career path should be almost sorted, well you would hope so anyway. It does sometimes feel that whatever her favourite TV show is at any particular moment, determines what occupation she intends to pursue. C.S.I. used to be a staple part of her diet, so therefore a strong interest in forensic science was born. Once she got into 24 she decided she wanted to fight world terrorism, but discounted that when she realised she could not join CTU straight from 6th form. She is currently into True Blood, so I am praying to God she does not have any thoughts of becoming a Vampire. Although as she has a boyfriend at the moment, I am putting double garlic in everything anyway, more subtle than the baseball bat I wanted to use to scare him off.

Unfortunately she has inherited my cynicism, sarcasm, and caustic tongue, so I fear a career in stand up comedy beckons. People will pay to be personally abused whilst other people laugh at them, won't they?

So it looks like my children are going to entertain, feed, and abuse the general public. Not the most lofty or noble professions maybe, especially when compared to a Lawyer or a Brain Surgeon. On the other hand, you would chose to go and see my kids, not have to see them when you are in trouble. I will settle for that, being wanted is loads better than being needed.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Housebandian Rhapsody

Is this just my life?
It's sure no fantasy
Caught in a timeslip
Of such endless banality
Open my eyes
And try to smell fresh coffee
I'm just a Houseband
Getting no sympathy
Because I'm "get this Dad", "take me here"
"where's my socks?" need a beer
Every day the same shit
Doesn't really matter to me, to me

Mama just ate some ham
Put some eggs upon her plate
Picked her fork up and she ate
Mama, breakfast just begun
And now you've gone and ate it all away
Mama, ooh
Didn't mean to make them fried
If they're not poached just right this time tomorrow
Have them boiled, have them boiled, it doesn't really matter

We're late, school bell has rung
Putting washing on the line
Body's aching all the time
Goodbye lazy mornings
I've got to sweep
Gotta find those dust bunnies and old cobwebs
Dusting, oooooooh (Every way the wind blows)
I just don't know why?
Sometimes wish I'd never cleaned up at all

[Air Guitar Solo]

I hear a moody teenage girl upon the stairs
Hair goes Whoosh. Hair goes Whoosh. Lost in a cloud of perfume
Purple nails and scrunchy, very, very trendy indeed
Where's my trainers? Where's my trainers? Where's my trainers and my coat?
Oh here we go-o-o-o-o
I'm just a young girl nobody loves me
She's just a young girl from a Twitter family
Sparing her nails from this monstrosity

Party please, ends at 12, will you let me go?
You're joking? No, we will not let you go
Let her go
You're joking? We will not let you go
Let her go
You're joking? We will not let you go
Let me go (Will not let you go)
Let me go (Will not let you go) (Never, never, never, never)
Let me go, o, o, o, o
No, no, no, no, no, no, no

Put that down Mate. Put that down Mate. Put it down before it burns
The A&E has a gurney put aside for thee, for thee, for thee

So you think that these spuds will just peel themselves
So you think that your clothes just appear on your shelves
Oh, children, can't do this to me, children
Just gotta get out, just gotta get right outta here

[Air Guitar Solo]
(Oooh yeah, Oooh yeah)

I do all the hard work
For a lousy fee
I do all the hard work
I do all the hard work for free

I deserve a beer now...

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Survival of the Fittest

I was in the kitchen preparing Katy's lunch for school one morning last week. After the whole school dinners debacle (see blog for excruciating details) we are firmly in the packed lunch dept. I removed the stalk from her apple and loosened the flap on her box of raisins. It was as I was making a slight tear in her tube of yogurt to help her open it, that it occurred to me that maybe I was doing her a disservice. I was making everything so easy for her, how was she ever going to learn? How would she ever be able to fend for herself if I continued on this path?

Right there and then I decided I was going to toughen her up. With that in mind, I didn't cut her roll in half, and I also wrapped it in a length of Clingfilm as tall as she was. I put it all in her lunch bag, added a carton of juice but removed the straw, and zipped it up all the way, without even leaving a little gap to make it easy to open. Happy with the start I had made on my new regime, I packed her off to school, tempted to make her walk, but as she is still only four, I drove her.

Once at school I put the next part of my plan into action. Five minutes before the bell went, I left Katy in the playground outside the classroom and said my goodbyes. I figured I would watch from a distance, and see how she coped with being on her own. I was quite proud to see her force her way to the front of the queue, eager to learn obviously. I moved nearer and peered in and saw the real reason she forced her way to the front. There on a table, by the door, was a bowl of bananas. Obviously not enough for the whole class, not even by half. Apparently a big glass of milk, two weetabix, and a slice of bread and honey isn't enough for a growing girl.

My worries for Katy's survival skills lessened, and to be honest at four she is probably beyond help anyway. I had observed her 15 year old sister Dawn try to light the hob with a lighter only the previous night, without any great success I might add. I would have to watch that situation, if she improves then I know she's started smoking. So another lost cause there then. I decided to concentrate on the boy, he was only two, still young enough to mould, still pliable in my good intentioned hands.

I had to teach him some hunter-gatherer skills. Not the easiest thing to teach when you live in the City and your trainee is two. All that was left for me was to hide his lunch. I would make it in front of him, send him out of the kitchen, and hide his plate in one of the low cupboards. On the first day I left the door slightly ajar so he would understand the game, but from then on he was on his own. He got the hang of it quite quickly, so I started hiding it in higher and harder places. The boy did me proud each time, and then he started to give me a smug grin. Let's see how smug he is today when he goes looking. I have hidden his lunch in the car, and the best bit is, shhh, I have to whisper this bit... I have hidden the car keys in my pocket. Score one for Dad.

I read an article once about the rise in the number of kids with peanut allergies. The author seemed to suggest that as pregnant women were cutting them out of their diet completely, when the child did first come in contact with peanuts, it would develop a reaction. He drew a parallel with our vaccination system whereby the child had a little bit of the measles, or polio bug introduced to their system. They then developed immunity to it, and Robert's your Father's brother.

My hygiene hypothesis was born. Working on the same lines as the eminent professors before me, I came to the conclusion that everything was too clean. All those tiny little bugs were being super-anti-bacteriologicaled away, leaving the door open for the big bad ones that follow in their footsteps. There could only be one cure for this, stop cleaning. Start believing that dirt is good, dust is our friend, and grime is the enemy of e-coli. I packed all the cleaning implements into a box, and retired them to the dustbin, safe in the knowledge that I was building a healthier future for Mate. Well safe in the knowledge until eight days later. That's when Wifey slipped on a discarded and forgotten roast potato. If that wasn't bad enough, whilst she was wriggling round on the floor like an upended turtle, she happened to notice the accumulation of crap on the laminate floor. Like a teacher dishing out lines in school, she demanded an explanation.

This has been the said explanation.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

The Honest Scrap Blogger Award

A fellow blogger, twitterer, and lovely gal Wendy Morrell aka @quillfeather, whose blog is at ,has given me the Honest Scrap Blogger Award. Thanking you most kindly. Just as I was about to give my acceptance speech, I took a look at the small print. There are rules? Rules? I just knew there had to be a catch, you don't get nothing for nothing in this world. These are the rules of the award:

a. 'The Honest Scrap Blogger Award' must be shared.

b. The recipient has to tell 10 (true) things about themselves that no one else knows.

3. The recipient has to pass on the award to 10 more bloggers.

d. Those 10 bloggers should link back to the blog that awarded them.

So, here are my 10 things, I hope they don't scare you too much. Please try to remember that, up until reading this list, you used to like me. I am still the same old @goonerjamie OK? Cool, so settle in and welcome to a quick glimpse into my inner workings and Jamieness.

1. On Monday, Wednesday, and Friday I paint my left big toe with blue nail varnish. On Tuesday and Thursday I do it to my right big toe. I don't do anything at the weekends because that would be just weird.

2. I did the first part of this blog topless. I am doing the rest of it naked, and I need to hurry as it is so cold things are shrinking rapidly.

3. Double barrelled surnames scare the bejesus out of me.

4. I don't know how to spell chesse cheese, supprise surprise, or chinesse chinese. You will not believe how many times I have had to use the sentence "As a supprise I gave them some chinesse chesse."

5. My kids think my farts and burps are funny, and that makes me extremely proud.

6. I don't think drinking every day means you have an alcohol problem. I think, only drinking at the weekends means you have.

7. I think the emoticon for heart <3 look like a dangly pair of bollocks. Every time I see it I think somebody wants me to join in some tea-bagging.

8. I cringe every time I add lol to the end of a tweet. Unfortunately as I am a piss taking bastard, and there is no sarcastic font, I am forced to add it because I kept upsetting people, lol.

9. I used to add a certain illegal herb to my Bolognaise sauce, and let it brew up all day. Stress free dining at its finest.

10. I wish I could dance before 10 pints had been consumed, and stop dancing after.

Well there you go, there's my 10. Hope they haven't affected you too badly, and I refuse to pay for any therapy sessions you now may need.

So the 10 victims bloggers who have thoroughly earned the award I have bestowed upon them, in an order only known to me, are:

1. Angela Montague @angpang with Incense and Peppermints at

2. Denis Vaughan @inshin with Inshin's Blog at

3. Tim Atkinson @dotterel with Bringing up Charlie at

4. Dave Bartlett @DaveBartlett1 with Bartie-Blog at

5. @omgmummy with And then there were three at

6. Tanya Burley @LaChatNoir with La Chat Noir's Ramblings at

7. Nene La Beet @labeet with Musings of a web crazed woman at

8. Debra Snider @DebraSnider with Woman at Work at

Oops, there are only 8. That's because every time I went to add someone, I saw that they had already done it. So there you go, please check out the above blogs plus @quillfeather's, they are all good reads and well worthy of the award

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

A toast to my Mother in Law on her 70th

I first met my Mother in law at a Toga party at Kirkdales, a pub I later went on to buy. She would always like a good natter, and was very quick to point out to me that in her day they were just referred to as 'parties', and that togas were just everyday wear. I have always felt that having a birth certificate engraved in marble, was quite a thing.

'Mummy Veronica' as she is known within the Kirkdales community, has always been a lively character. 'Vivacious Veronica' is a tag she oft likes to bestow on herself. In fact it was on hearing of her exploits on various Night buses on the way home from numerous Salsa clubs at 5.30am, that first sparked my interest in my wife, her daughter, Patricia. I figured that with those genes and those jeans, Trish would definitely be a party girl up for a wild time. Ten years of sitting indoors watching crap television on a Saturday night, has not entirely crushed those dreams. I like to live in hope.

They say Helen of Troy's beauty was such, that she started the Trojan War. She was 'The face that launched a 1000 ships'. Veronica was born in 1939 at the start of World War 2. 'The face that launched a 1000 kamikaze planes' does not have quite the same ring to it, and is definitely not mentioned in polite company.

Veronica is a keen church goer and an important member of that community. Seventy years of strict Catholic upbringing has taught her all the best ways to blaspheme. In fact her Salsa and Tango techniques are the Holy See's first weapon in his current fight to convert Anglicans to the Catholic way. Guilty pleasures indeed.

It is impossible to mention Veronica without referring to her children, who she has always taught to out-work, out-talk, and out-spell everybody else. Never have betterer lessons on the correct use and placement of apostrophe's been had. I consider myself learnt well. Her lesson of 'Never use one word if one hundred will suffice' is a family motto, and one they all hold dear to their hearts.

Three score and ten is a magnificent milestone to achieve, and has not been reached without a few red wine induced hic-ups. As Veronica herself would like to say, actually, I don't have room for that speech. So instead I say Congratualtions and Happy Birthday Oma.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Please, anything but this.

A notice went up on Katy's school window last week, basically saying that if any child wanted to try out school dinners, put your name down and pick a date. It seemed a strangely formal way of doing things, but as Katy had been banging on about having lunch like her friends, I put her name down and promptly forgot about it. Well up until two days before the grand event, and another notice went up. This one explained that the parents had to pay for their own dinners, and could we sort that out at the Reception.

Whoa, wait a minute, I've been conned. I never signed up for this, did I? I went back to the original notice and read all the way to the bottom this time. God damned small print "We feel this will be a good way for parents to experience the quality of food we provide your children". I felt the blood drain from my face, I distractedly waved goodbye to Katy, and trudged back to the car. I sat there for a few moments, quietly contemplating my fate, before letting out a scream of frustration that made poor forgotten Mate cry.

They couldn't make me eat it surely? It has taken me over 25 years to get over my own school dinners, and I'm still not sure my system is 100% free of it. I swear I did a burp the other day that had remnants of the Oxtail slop I ate when I was eight. No way was I going to risk it again, not in this lifetime. I don't care what anyone says, I'm going to put my foot down, point blank refuse to get involved in this insanity.

"You are going and that's the end of the subject. You are not letting our daughter down."

My fate was sealed. Foiled by Catholic guilt and a stern voice, and I'm not even Catholic, or a listener, or brave it seems. That left me the whole weekend to mope and sulk, and prepare my stomach for the long battle ahead. I stocked up with Andrews, indigestion tablets, chewing gum and Jack Daniels. I was nothing if not prepared.

When you are 2 days from payday (or housekeeping for me, heaven forbid someone actually pays me for my 24/7 job) two days last an eternity, but with its usual comical cosmic timekeeping, Monday lunchtime sped around. I arranged for the Mother in law to watch Mate, who with knife twisting irony, complained that the lunch I left him was not sufficient. I bit my tongue (probably the only decent thing I would eat today) and calmly explained that a ham sarnie, apple, raisins, yogurt, and cup of milk normally kept him happy. After she gave me a look that made me feel like a stranger to my own son, I shrugged and left them to it. Handy to know there was a fate worse than death after all.

As I sat in the car outside the school, I gathered my thoughts, summoned up my courage, and made the sign of the cross. I heard a shout of "Dead man walking" as I approached the reception. Fricking caretaker thinks he's so funny. I told him to get his bucket of sawdust ready, that wiped the smile off his face. After explaining to the receptionist what I was there for, I was then given a visitors tag to wear like the world's worst back stage pass. I can only blame the next conversation on my nerves, and my insistence on attempting humour to settle myself.

Receptionist: Will you being having one course or two?

Me : You mean like appetizers and entrées, ha ha?

Receptionist: No. Dinner and dessert.

Me : You're kidding right? Who in their right minds would eat a school dessert? The Art Department used to use the left over semolina and jam as building products at my school, ha ha.

Receptionist: One course or two?

Me : (very sheepishly) Just dinner please.

I had to sit and wait until the lunchtime bell went, all the while feeling her stare burning a hole in the top of my hung low head. I literally jumped out of my seat when it eventually rung, and went through to the dinner hall at speed. I spotted Katy waiting with her friends in the queue, and she gave me the biggest 'That's my Dad smile' when I went and joined them. I don't get that smile at pick up time, suddenly this was all seeming worth it. Katy made the introductions, and I attempted to win her friends over with my world renowned kid's humour. Getting their names wrong on purpose failed, funny noises failed, even my sarcastic remarks died a death.

I guess I forgot that my sense of humour is an acquired taste. Katy is quite used to it by now, and actually gets irony. I realised this one night when I was getting them both ready for bed. Little Miss Independent was putting her own PJ's on whilst I changed Mate's nappy. She happened to say "I love my little brother, he is the most cleverest brother in the whole wide world." That comment was still hanging in the air in a speech bubble, when Mate pulled himself and let out a yelp. I turned to Katy and remarked "Yeah, your brother is so clever he pulled his own willy so hard he made himself cry." Katy literally fell off the bed laughing, and continued to laugh for five whole minutes. I was so proud (well a mixture of pride and worry that Mate may well pull it off next time).

I remained silent until we reached the front of the queue, happy to let the kids chatter around me, nervously eyeing the ever nearing serving hatch. Today's choice was apparently chicken sausages, mash, baked beans and veg or salad. Pineapple and ice cream, or yogurt for dessert. We collected our food and I stumbled to the nearest table, blinded by what was the whitest mash, in fact the whitest anything I had seen in my life.

I'm not sure I can describe the meal with any real justice. Looking back, I think I may have done what any traumatised person does. Push the memory deep down into that part of you where you bury all your deep dark secrets, and other plain nasty things. Things like walking in on your parents at it, or the time you drove your bike into a wall and ended up with five stitches in your head. Actually I think that last memory may have been knocked out of my head, that whole day's a blur to be honest.

I am of the opinion that giving four year old children, who are just learning how to use a knife and fork properly, rubber sausages to eat is downright cruel. Funny to watch, but cruel. Once my pupils had contracted to the size of pinholes, I was able to attempt the mash. Somehow these cooks had defied the laws of physics and had created solid foam. They had also defied the laws of cooking, and created something totally and completely without taste. I may knock them, but it must take a certain amount of skill to achieve both those things. Not a useful skill, but a skill nonetheless.

A passing Dinner Lady happened to notice the face I was pulling, and remarked that it probably needed salt. My retort of "that and a bottle of Gin" did not go down well. No sense of humour these people, although judging by the lovely polite children (where's my sarcasm font) I was sitting opposite, it's hardly a wonder. The two angelic (that does mean odious right?) girls in question, had demanded that Alpha Mums son was in 'their' seat, and he had to move. Sensing an opportunity to score some brownie points with his Mum, I said he could come and sit next to me. They then actually had the audacity to tell me you are not allowed to change seats. Having been on the end of three disgusted stares myself that day, I tried to give my own in response. This was interrupted by Katy begging me not to blow off in front of her friends. Apparently my authoritative look is much like my breaking wind look.

Katy being the human dustbin that she is, soon polished off her dinner, and wanted to go out and play. This was obviously my cue to leave, which I grabbed with both hands. I said my goodbyes and took our trays to the front. I received my last look of shame when I had to scrape my hardly touched dinner into the bins. This one was actually accompanied with a quite audible tut tut from the Dinner Lady.

I was instantly transported back to my childhood, and instinctively hung my head again. Looking down and looking at my big adult shoes reminded me that I was no longer a child, no longer answerable to the hair-netted Hitlers. I turned to slay her asunder with my rapier sharp wit, strike a blow for all children everywhere. I turned, stood tall and proud, held eye contact, and mumbled a "Sorry" as I turned tail and sped out of the hall. Some things will never change.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Sheer Bliss, plus Mate

Its 7am Monday morning, the busiest and most hectic 2 hours of the week are upon me. The previous nights bottle of Cava only slightly slowing me down as I try to organise thoughts and plans in my head. 7.00-7.20 is Dawns slot in the bathroom, so a shout upstairs and a returned grunt gets that process going. Breakfasts are made, lunch boxes sorted, uniforms thrown on various children as I consider the first coffee of the day.

Dawn has overrun her allotted time, so a grumbling mumbling Wife takes the 7.25-7.50 position. Katy's elasticated tie is being used as a slingshot, her cardigan is on upside down, and her shoes are on the wrong feet. So far so good, a definite improvement on last week. Dawn slams out of the door, then sheepishly comes back in 2 minutes later to pick up forgotten homework. I actually get a goodbye second time round.

Wife eventually graces us with her presence, leaving me with the 7.55-8.00 final slot. I actually waste 30 seconds of my time looking in the mirror, always a mistake as the day is getting old fast, as am I by the looks of it. I waste a further 30 seconds trying to convince myself the grey makes me look more George Clooney than George Formby. An argument I lose every time. No time for a proper wash, will have to use the 'spray the deodorant in the air and wander around' trick. Can't dare despoil the wonderfully sculpted noses of the Mums who are unfortunate to be downwind of me in the playground. Well not again anyway.

Back downstairs and it's time to redress Katy, grab a sip of cold coffee, and pour everybody into the car. School bags, lunch bags, PE bags, and handbags all thrown in after them. A quick look around to check I have everything, which of course I haven't, so I pick up the nearest three things to me, and hope one of them fits the bill. Drop wife at station where she realises she has forgotten her glasses. Apparently my offer of either a stapler, empty CD case, or a blue sock does not help. A very silent (well silent on my part) drive back to the house ensues. Back to the station where a grateful (again, grateful on my part) drop off is completed. I have now lost 40% of the household, 20% to go. This is the kind of fiscal deficit I like.

On to Katy's school and we are actually early for a change, and by early I mean on time. I get a puzzled look from the caretaker as I walk past, and I realise this is the first time he has seen me not running with a child under each arm. His look of puzzlement returns to a smile as I run back to the car to retrieve the forgotten book bag. I grab a handful of hair clips from my pocket and attempt to do something with Katy's hair. I stand back and admire my work. She now looks like she has survived a heavy gale, rather than a full blown tsunami, so I am pleased. I go to wipe away her tears of abandonment but she has gone without even a backward glance. I vow to deal with my own abandonment issues. Maybe next term.

A slow walk back to the car, stuck behind the slow procession of Chanel No5 fumes and Mummy's with buggies. I forget about a quick getaway, and holding my breath, join the procession. Eventually I reach the car, my face a shade of blue from oxygen deprivation. A few deep breaths and my head stops swimming and I am OK to drive. I should walk really, it's only a 15 min walk, but what's the point having a car if you don't use it?

I arrive home twenty minutes later. Bloody school run traffic, drives me crazy. Go to get the unwanted stapler, CD case and sock out of the car, but decide against it, you never know when they will come in handy. I sweep them onto the floor to join the map of France, the old video remote, and a forgotten Teddy Bear called Tongue. Like I said, you just never know.

I open the door to the house and close it behind me, maybe a little too loudly, too extravagantly. A smile appears on my face for the first time today as I survey the silence. All I can hear is my own small giggle as I contemplate the lazy day ahead. Maybe I will put a wash on, probably not though. Maybe I will wash the kitchen floor, almost definitely not. Maybe I will read the paper cover to cover whilst sipping a piping hot cup of coffee, I answer out loud. A resounding "Sounds like a plan". I laugh again. I am happy with my lot, happy with my new found solitude. Not so happy with this new development of talking to myself, but I'm sure I will get used to it.

A small tap on the door brings me back to reality. I turn expecting to see the postman at the door, but I see nothing through the frosted glass. Another tap on the door and I open it with a slight frustration. I look down and there stands my two year old son Mate. His look says 'you forgot me again', his mouth says "breakfast". I gather him into my arms, go back into the house, and recalculate my day.

Sheer bliss, plus Mate.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

It’s our first day

This is it, this is the day, the day all our hard work and effort has been leading to. The day when at last, finally, Katy starts school. It seems like this day has been spoken about (in hushed reverend tones) since Katy spoke her first word over 3 years ago. It was "Pub" by the way, her first word. Made me proud, also got me a filthy look from her Mum, but you can't have it all can you.

Anyway the day has arrived, I am totally prepared, uniform, bags, PE kit, lunch snacks, all have been purchased, labelled and packed. I have even bought spare batteries for the camera, and have them hidden away in the case. I need to avoid a repeat of the first day of nursery fiasco, referred to as the 'You had to remember one effin thing Day' around these parts. Even the neighbours (on both sides) call it that.

I obviously can't be trusted to dress her for the first day, so am relegated downstairs to deal with Mate. You would have thought it may be a good idea to at least to watch how it's done, especially on the basis it will be me doing it from tomorrow onwards, but no. I imagine I may be given an instruction guide tomorrow, I do appreciate that school socks are that much more difficult to put on.

Mate seems quite happy though, he is wearing socks for the first time in 6 weeks, all the better for hiding those dirty ankles. I have spent a great deal of time planning my own appearance as well, you know how judgemental the Mums can be. I spent 10 minutes looking in the mirror deciding whether to shave or not. It's an important decision you know, you have to start as you mean to go on. Sod it, I don't want to spoil them on the first day. Plus if I raise the bar too high for myself, it will only lead to long term failure.

Have gone for the clean but scruffy look, like a Big Issue seller done good. Was quite proud of myself until I got sent back upstairs to change, "Quite frankly you are an embarrassment to be seen with". A bit harsh I feel, must be the nerves. OK, clean three quarter lengths and an un-ripped T-shirt this time, no socks though, not until winter anyway. I even remember to put on my special aftershave, the one that didn't come attached to a deodorant bottle. That should impress the Yummy Mummies, plus it does tend to keep the flies off me as well, which is good.

Time for the photos, she looks so beautiful, I think my heart is breaking again. I somehow manage to poke myself in both eyes with the camera, it has made me go all misty, well that's my story and I'm sticking to it. Trying to get Katy to pose for the photos is proving difficult. She managed to stand still and smile nicely for the first 50, but things aren't looking so good now. Although to be fair, I do wonder how easy it is to strike a natural pose when your Mother is screaming "smile properly" at you?

The first day starts later than normal, I guess designed to give you a less stressful start. It has also meant that I have had time for three cups of strong coffee, and I am beginning to think that this may have been a mistake. I can feel myself getting more manic and twitchy. I have been warned not to talk too much when I get there. When I get nervous I tend to joke a lot, it's my own Superhero Confidence Cape. Apparently this does not create the best first impression though. I will always be referred to by the nursery parents as 'that bloke who told Mrs Swithers her orange top matched her tan'. Maybe I should go stand in the corner and shout out random punch lines, get it all out of my system. This had just resulted in more frowns of disapproval, I fear I may be fighting a losing battle.

I have compiled a list of ways to behave on your first day of school. A kind of mixture of warnings and tips on how best to interact with all the new friends you will be making. So far it reads:

Be friendly

Don't interrupt people when they are talking

Always keep eye contact

Don't let anyone bully or intimidate you

If it all goes wrong, don't cry, just go and tell someone

I am hoping this will help me make friends with the Mums, am wondering if I should make a list for Katy.

Well that's it, it's time to go, there is nothing more I can do to prepare us. I am as ready as I can ever be. Be brave, be brave, I'll be fine, of course I will.

God, I want my Mum.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Your Worst Nightmare

Oh my God, I am 20 minutes into a power cut, and I have started to lose the will to live already. Katy and Mate, having been deprived of their Disney fix, are running round the house screaming. Every now and then Mate will stop and hand me the remote control, his look says "Dad you can fix anything, make it work." He can't say these words yet, but the constant prodding gets his point across. I have now realised how often I use the TV as a punishment tool, my "quieten down, or I will turn this off". This now has no meaning or impact. I am Superman and the lack of electricity is my kryptonite.

I am thankful for Dawn's laptop, with which I am writing this now, but the lack of internet is starting to have an effect on me. I can't Google kryptonite, so I have no idea if I have spelt it right or not. Where else can I find this information? When I write I like the quiet distraction of tweetdeck flashing away in the top corner, letting me know every time one of my friends has something to say. The challenge of being witty in 140 characters started me writing in the first place, can I still write without it? I guess you will be the judge of that, once I eventually get to upload this that is.

35 minutes now. They have told me on the phone that it will be 3pm at the earliest, it's only 11.37 now, I must take a deep breath and calm down. It's not the end of the world is it, is it? Oh apparently it is, well it is to Dawn, as Mate has just drawn on her piece of paper. Give me strength, someone give me strength.

I know, let's go out for a walk, that will kill some time. Oh somebody please give me a break. It is the end of July and the rain is torrential. Is this a test of some kind, am I being filmed? Or has some cosmic deity decided its 'Poop on J' day? I'm not a bad bloke really. OK, I do take the piss a bit, can have a caustic tongue when it suits me, but surely that does not deserve this.

Has just occurred to me that my friends on twitter won't know what's happened to me. They must be wondering by now, I was in the middle of at least 3 conversations. At least one of them must be thinking about me. I wonder if I can plug the phone line straight into the laptop?

Nope, that hasn't worked, and now the kids have found the broadband router, they think it is the answer to the problem, and that shaking it will turn the power back on. Stupid kids, I tried that half an hour ago, of course it won't work. I hate this laptop, why is it so hard to go back and put a missing apostrophe in?

This unfinished twitter conversation is really starting to bug me now, there must be a solution. Eureka, I will ring my mate Andy, he is the only person in the real world who has tried it. He gave up after one day, but not before I introduced him to a few of my virtual friends. He can let them know I am safe, and not to worry.

Have just come off the phone to Andy, all sorted, I feel a bit better now. Oh my god, am I an addict, I can't be, don't be silly. Next problem, the kids, this one won't be so easy.

They are running round in circles at the moment, they seem to be happy. It has been so long since running around in circles made me happy. Nowadays it just drives me nuts, why and when did that change. Wouldn't it be nice to go back to that time?

Mate has just trod on a brick and is screaming, my questions have been answered. It seems that if we keep our shoes on forever, then we will continue to enjoy running around in circles. Wow, that's deep, can't wait to tweet that one. Bugger, how can I?

It's 12.10pm now, if I can just hold the kids out to 12.30pm then its lunchtime. Ten minutes of relative quiet, not long to go. I have just caught a look at my reflection in the laptop's screen. I look like that famous painting by Munch I think, 'Scream', best Google that to check. Damn. Just when you think you have got over the pain, something pops up and slaps you in the face to remind you. Is this what grieving is like? I'm not comparing the two of course, but I do have a sense of loss. I think I'm getting a migraine.

Is 12.15 too early for lunch? It's a one off, am sure it won't matter too much, yes let's do lunch. Whilst they eat I can have a nice cup of coffee and read the paper. No instant coffee, perfect. Just caught myself stamping my foot in temper, trod on brick, all is clear again.

Have beers in the fridge, which is off, of course. I will have to drink them before they spoil. A silver lining at last, three of them in fact. That's better, there are no problems only solutions. Who said that? Caught myself in time then, it was my brother in law Mr Cliché-Man, one of his favourites that one.

Have 55 minutes battery life left on laptop. That only takes me up to 1.24pm, Mate won't have even gone for his nap by then. Will turn it off for a while, read the paper or something. I still have the Sunday Times to get through, that should do nicely.

Back again, it is now 1.45pm and by some kind of strange computer mathematics, there are only 39 minutes of battery left. How can turning something on and off take 16 minutes of battery? I had just got myself into a calm state of mind (putting Mate upstairs for his nap helped), and now this whole battery situation has got me all het up again.

The sun is out now, maybe I should go out in the garden, do some weeding or something. I love listening to opera when I'm gardening, makes me feel high-brow, and sure confuses the neighbours. I was looking for my Madam Butterfly CD when we lost the power, have found it now but of course I can't listen to it can I. Maybe this is Verdi's cosmic revenge on me for not choosing La Traviata to listen to. Were him and Puccini rivals back in the day? I would look it up but, well you know the end of that sentence.

Whilst I have be daydreaming about a Puccini/Verdi sing off X-factor style, Katy has grabbed anything not nailed down and piled it up in the middle of the room. According to the battery remaining clock, I have only been tranced out for six minutes, how did the pile of debris get so high? Do all laptop users time their day by how much battery is left? Do they say to each other things like "Meet you in Starbucks at 58 minutes remaining"?

I think I may be going insane. I always thought insane would be a loud thing to happen, come at you all kicking and screaming. When in actual fact it is a stalking lion, creeping up on an unsuspecting Gnu. Katy is now whispering to Mount Debris. I can't hear what she is saying but I bet it's about me. I have taken away her basic human right to electricity, and Playhouse Disney.

Offered her a lolly pop to test the waters, she just gave me a sad look and said that she only has them when she watches TV, apparently it's not the same now.

Have just spent 8 battery remaining minutes convincing Katy to have a lolly pop. In the end I had to agree to cut some flowers from the hanging baskets to put in her flower press, just so she would agree to put a huge lump of sugar in her mouth. I think a lack of electricity is altering my perception. I am too confused to know if this is a good or bad state of affairs.

Panic has set in, the '10 minutes of battery life remaining' icon has started flashing. It's only 2.30pm, what am I going to do. This laptop is the only link with my old life, those pre-boredom years. I can't let go of that, I'm not ready to move on.

Have officially hit the bottom rung of the insanity ladder. Just took a photo of the screen to remind me of the old days. I am worried that the ten minutes promised will not be accurate, must save before it's too late. Done. Should I save after each sentence? What if my final line is a real good one and I have not sav

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

What we learnt this year

Well the summer break is now upon us and Katy has finished her first year at school. I know it was nursery and not real school, but it was attached to the school, and the same Parent and Child dynamics hold true. Next term will mean the start of Reception year for her, more tears from her Mum on the first day (not from me you understand, stiff upper lip and all that). It means a real uniform at last, resulting in one less thing to have to think of, pre-coffee every morning. It will also leave me and Mate to do boy things almost exclusively from 9am to 2pm, leaving 2-3pm open for cleaning up of mess and selves, before braving the gauntlet of impeccable Mums at the school gate.

I look back over this past year and wonder how on earth I survived it. I bumbled along from faux-pas to fashion disaster (mine and Katy's) like a drunken ape, and yet I still managed to learn a few things along the way. I will take these life lessons with me into the new school year, in the hope that forewarned is forearmed. So here are some of the things I have learnt this year, and in the belief that history is a lesson in how not to make future mistakes, this should act as my defensive shield for next term.

There are two speeds of stroller pushing Mum, and just by looking at them from afar, you should be able to tell if they are on the way to school, or on the way home. The school-bound Mum pushes with speed and purpose, stopping for neither man nor beast. The accompanying walking children will be half guided half pulled alongside the stroller and woe betide them if they stumble or drop something. Do not attempt to make eye contact if one is seen approaching. She will be employing the 1000 yard stare used by snipers, as she searches for the quickest route and will look straight through you. Whatever you do, avoid the impulse to attempt an overtaking manoeuvre. This will only result in you crashing into a tree at speed, your last sight of Mum being a backwards thrown sneer of contempt.

The home-bound Mum is a different beast altogether, not a care in the world has this Mum. The speed is reduced to a slow meandering crawl, normally two abreast, making any attempt at passing impossible. Your frustration levels will increase, and after 200 yards of this pace you will be forced to cough a polite "Excuse me". They will grudgingly make enough room for you to get by, but you will misjudge this gap and drop one wheel down a curb, resulting in yet another crash. Again your last sight of Mum will be one of a shaking head, combined with the tutting sound reserved for an amateur driver.

I also learnt how to receive a fake phone call. Mock-calls are always handy things to receive when 'Pushy Mum' is trying to gather volunteers to collect/paint/pick-up/distribute something. You turn your back to the group, put your hand in your pocket to retrieve your phone, and in a semi loud voice say "Hello Darling, what's wrong?" You do not need to say anything else, just nod a lot. Whatever you do don't talk otherwise they will realise that you are faking. They know as well as you do that husbands are not allowed to talk during these types of conversations, and you will be busted. Most importantly of all, switch your phone to silent. Can you imagine what would happen if someone was to ring you in the middle of your fake call, a Guns and Roses (Sweet Child of Mine) ringtone blasting through your nodding dog impersonation. I could tell you but I am too busy handing out PTA flyers, then I'm off to dig up the school vegetable patch.

Never, ever, offer a divisive opinion, just don't do it. You have spent the whole year trying to get the Mums to talk to you, and then you weigh in with a sound-bite that then results in Mummy carnage. It could be the most innocent of topics, say for instance, should the nursery trip be to a Zoo or a Farm. Do not answer, this is the perfect time for a Mock-call (don't forget to switch the phone to silent). If you have no alternative but to reply, then sit on that fence until you get splinters. Do not under any circumstances say "I think the Zoo will be better, but to be honest they are both crap ideas. Let's go to the Forest and teach them to climb trees." You may think you were helping, but trust me, you weren't, and your Wife will find out what an idiot you were, eventually.

The last thing I learnt took me until the last day of term to realise. Mums have a weakness. Oh yes they do, and between you and me, don't tell anyone else, do you want to know a secret, I know what it is. They love nothing better than to gossip about each other. Not in a mean spirited kind of way, perish the thought, but general nosiness and gossip keeps their conversations going. We had all chipped in to buy a present for the teachers, to be given to them on the last day of school. For reasons best known to themselves, the Mums decided I would be the one giving the speech. I had spent the whole year trying to get them to listen to me to no avail, and now they wanted me to give them a speech. I am fairly sure 'Irony' was not part of their vocabulary, but I agreed anyway.

The present was an ornamental rose bush (don't ask, I have no idea how that would split 3 ways), which I handed over. I said all the usual platitudes about kids growing up, you have been such a help, inspirational, blah blah blah. It was then I went into mischief mode. I said "I would just to finish on a personal note, if you will indulge me for a few moments more." I could see I had their attention, the idea that I might be giving up some kind of secret had them gripped. I continued "It would not have escaped your notice that I am the only Dad in the group, (pause for polite chuckles) and I must admit it has been hard work learning how to ingratiate myself into your world. It has also been quite a challenge to learn all the things that just seem to come naturally to Mums." They were all smiling and nodding to themselves, a collective agreement in my failings. I then delivered my Coup de grâce, "I would like to thank the Mum, who I won't embarrass by naming, for all those endless cups of coffee whilst she listened to me moan and groan, and for generally putting me on the right track re everything else. I will miss our coffee mornings over the summer, but I won't forget what you told me. Thanks for everything." I then nodded my farewells, making sure I gave a couple of the alpha Mums a hug goodbye, and left them to figure out who the figment of my imagination was.

As Walt Disney said "Always leave them wanting more", and who would know parents and kids better than him?

Friday, July 10, 2009

Gardening Leave? Enjoy the garden then.(Part 1)

My wife was recently made redundant from the bank she had worked at for ten years, and was put on gardening leave for the last month of the process. She already had another job lined up, so there was no panic to look for a job and go on countless amounts of interviews, all she had to do was sit back and enjoy the kids for a month. I was also looking forward to a bit of down time, she could share a few of the daily chores, and maybe we could have a few leisurely lunchtime drinks at our local, the 'Sir Alfred Hitchcock'.

Unfortunately for me, rather than spending some time in his pub, I ended up feeling like I was in one of his films, 'Psycho' perhaps, and my Wife started looking like Tippi Hedren in 'The Birds', all manic and rushing around like a headless chicken every time one of the kids kicked off. This is not what I had in mind for that month, but it's what I got, and it resulted in me crossing off the days on the calendar waiting for her to start work again. I know it sounds cruel, but I think after reading my account of that fateful month, you will tend to agree with me.

"I think the house needs painting" were the first words out of her mouth on Day 1. "Of course dear, which room did you have in mind?" Hoping she would pick one of the small ones, the bathroom maybe, where we have just enough room to swing a mouse. "All of it, inside and outside. It hasn't been done in a while and is starting to look a bit shabby, a bit lived in." My reply of "but Darling dearest, is not the point of a house to be lived in, so by definition it will then look lived in?" cut no ice at all. I later heard her telling the water off for being too watery, and the stairs off for being too up-and-downy.

I spent the rest of Day 1 in Homebase (now known as Homewrecker) and then B&Q, because the former did not have the correct shade of white within its range. Our walls were off-white now, would a clean not suffice? Apparently not, we ended up with a shade called "Second Base Sue", it is white with just the mere hint of red. I thought that as I was stuck with this job I may as well add a few toys to the basket. So in went a new multi-purpose sander, the obligatory new paintbrushes (why I ever clean the old ones is beyond me), 3 rolls of masking tape (1 for painting use, 2 for general mischief and taping the kids together), and a new scary potted plant.

I returned home, and was duly invited upstairs to the bedroom. I must admit that whilst climbing the stairs, the thought that my luck was in and I was going to get an early 'reward' did cross my mind. I can only blame the paint fumes for this obviously stupid thought because, as was quickly pointed out, the next time she would be looking at the bedroom ceiling it, and the rest of the room, would be freshly painted. I rather grumpily started to prepare the room.

I don't actually mind the actual painting part of the process, that can be quite relaxing. It's all the washing, sanding, and moving things about part that absolutely does my head in, and I was tempted to skip this part. I have painted over cobwebs before and it is no big deal, but I was sulking now so I decided to work to rule. If Her Royal Highness Queen of all things Bossy was expecting a quick result, she had another thing coming. I was going to eke this out, lest she find me more jobs to do before this god-forsaken month was up.

By the time it was 2pm I was finally ready to start painting. I shouted downstairs "I'm about to start painting, you had best get some 'Painting Beer' ready, you know the rules." The 'rules' are very simple, provide beers for the duration of the painting. It has been scientifically proved (well my Dad said it and that's good enough for me) that your hand is steadier after a couple of beers, therefore improving the accuracy of your brush strokes. It is fair to say that my Wife is not a massive fan of these rules, but as I swear they are Gospel, she is forced to go along with them. Off she went round the corner, and I started to paint over the 'feature' red wall that she thought was a great idea four years ago, but obviously wasn't, and I've had to live with since then.

The Wife eventually returned, and as I had built a thirst up, I went straight to the fridge only to see one of the most perplexing things I have ever seen. She had only bought three beers. Three beers? I could not understand the thought process, who on earth buys three cans of lager? It actually takes more effort to but three than four, as you have to pull one out of the plastic thingy-me-jig that holds them all together. I don't like to look a gift horse in the mouth, but I was not best pleased. I offered my thanks, and took myself and one of my three beers, back upstairs.

A few hours later I shouted down that I was done, and did she want to inspect my work. Up she bounded, hardly containing her excitement (I really need a sarcasm icon to go here), and the inspection began. Almost immediately she pointed out that I had forgotten to do one of the walls. It was then I triumphantly informed her of sub clause a) of the 'rules', which reads "one beer per wall". She delivered three beers, I painted three walls. A fervent debate then followed, which I shall spare you the gory details of, but the end result was the fourth wall being painted, and a promise from her to never do something so daft again.

I would like to say that this was the only disagreement we had during this time, but it wasn't. I would like to say that all went smoothly from then, but it didn't. I would like to say that my wife could take a hint and continue to supply the beer, but she couldn't. Needless to say, this seems like a natural end to this particular chapter, so I end it here......for now.

Friday, June 26, 2009

The Me, Me Meme

The mischievous @angpang tagged me with a meme on her blog, which has forced me to turn my cutting insight on myself, not as an uncomfortable journey as I first thought. If you are a blogger reading this, why not take up the challenge (because you would be mad to, that's why not). I have listed my victims, I mean tagged people, at the bottom.

What are your current obsessions?

Writing and Twitter. I don't know how it happened but the part of my brain needed to get my smart-arse comments into 140 characters, kick-started the whole writing/creative side of my brain. I have not written a thing since I left school, and the only things I did then were forced upon me homework pieces, and generally rubbish. It has woken up a part of my brain that will now not switch off, I even carry around a little pad to write stuff down. Plus, I have made some really good friends, most of whom are the type of people I would never have met before. This is probably the only bit of sentimentality in this whole piece, I thought I would get it over and done with straight away.

What item from your wardrobe do you most wear?

Sloppy jogging bottoms in the winter, cabby old gardening shorts in the summer. Ever since becoming a houseband I have tried to get all my 'public' chores done in the morning, shopping, bill payments, dry cleaning, etc. So once I have picked No2 up from school at 11.30am, I can come home, change into old comfortable clothes, and lock the rest of the world out. Blissful.

What is your favourite cocktail, and what is the funniest thing you have done whilst under its influence?

Margarita. When we were on honeymoon in Mexico we were in an all inclusive hotel, and there was a hell of a lot of tequila flowing around. Towards the end of the fortnight we had hooked up with two other couples, and went on a Margarita binge. Our drunken conversation turned to how annoying it was that the, mainly American guests, would reserve their spaces around the pool. They would get up at 5am, drape their towels in the prime positions, and then go back to bed. A course of revenge was decided upon. We all sat up drinking until 6am, and then went down to the pool. We then proceeded to move the towels from all the prime spots, to crappy ones nearby. We then lay back, dozed off for a while, and waited for the ensuing chaos to begin. It was a very loud and argument filled morning by the pool, except for six giggling Brits drinking Margarita's.

Last thing you bought?

I just bought this really strange house-plant; it has the freakiest curly leaves with a tube-like red flower. I don't even have a place for it at the moment, so it is just sitting in the kitchen pending relocation.

What are you listening to?

Eminem, loving his new album, have been a fan from the start, although he can only be listened to when impressionable ears aren't around. Have just started listening to Melanie Gardot, love her voice, a calm afternoon favourite. Nina Simone and Sarah Vaughan are always firm favourites, and can be relied on to get me going. Although the artist I listen to virtually every day is Prince, he has songs for all seasons, and all moods, and is quite simply a Rock God. I have seen him in concert so many times, and he never fails to thrill (ohh get me, the fan boy). Almost forgot, I am also listening to 'Grounds for Divorce' by Elbow a lot. Love the song, and has the added bonus of keeping my wife on her toes.

Fave holiday spots

Budleigh Salterton, Devon. If you could have a place as a Soul-mate, this would be the place. It is probably the one place in the world most opposite my public persona, it is quiet, tranquil, and to an outsider quite boring, but it is the one place I love the most. My Aunt and Uncle moved down there when I was about seven or eight, and we have been going there ever since. A beach with huge round smooth pebbles, and an old fashioned Ice Cream shop with about 100 flavours. Plus my Aunt owns the main pub in the town, so what's more to like?

What are you reading?

'On Writing' – Stephen King. If I am to ever make any money out of this writing malarkey, I need to start taking it seriously. I can't think of a better teacher than him. I don't care if literary snobs look down on him, as a modern day character writer he is up there with the best of them. Although to be honest I am not that worried about the money, just to see anything I wrote actually in print would be a huge buzz.

4 words to describe you

Cheeky, funny, flirty, scallywag.

Guilty pleasures

Song – Islands in the Stream, Dolly Parton & Kenny Rogers (Genius).

TV – Brothers and Sisters (Crap but riveting).

Film – Field of Dreams (I cry every time).

Food – Tesco's savoury cheese balls (my midnight snack of choice).

If you were god/goddess who would you be?

Horus, the Egyptian God of War amongst other things, they were multi-tasking God's in those days. He is often depicted as a Falcon which is quite cool, and he has some great back-story. His Father was killed by Seth, and Horus then went on to avenge him in an epic battle. A typical bloke type God.

Who/what makes you laugh until you are weak?

You can basically pick any scene from The Young Ones and it will set me off. The first series came out just as I realised humour could be cool and stupid, and the more my parents didn't understand it, the funnier it became. I did not even understand all the jokes i.e. when Viv said that ASLEF was an anagram of 'Complete and utter bastards' I laughed like a loon, and he was right as it turned out. Derek and Clive's 'World's stickiest Bogey' sketch, also has me in pieces. Nobody will ever make the C word funnier than those two, no matter how hard I try.

Fave spring thing to do.

Starting to plant my vegetable and herb seeds, so we can have home grown fine dining all summer. I also really love getting my hanging baskets ready, when they start blooming I just look at them with a huge sense of achievement, and then realise what an old fart I have become.

When you die what would you like people to say about you at your funeral?

"Glad you could make it". I have always wanted a living funeral/wake, so I could say goodbye to everybody properly with one last mammoth beer-up.

Best thing you ate or drank lately?

Swordfish steak, chips and salad, at my Aunt's pub in Devon and it was absolutely gorgeous. I don't eat fish as a rule, smells to fishy for my liking, and this was the first time I had tried swordfish. I have tried to be a bit more adventurous with my eating since I gave up smoking, and my taste buds reappeared.

When did you last go for night out?

Last week for my Wife's birthday we went to our favourite Chinese restaurant, we are always treated so well there we rarely venture to a different one. On this particular night the place was empty, we were the only customers, and it was great, I felt like Tony Soprano in Vesuvio. The manager came over for a chat bearing drinks on the house, the food was great but not rushed. What could have been a total bad atmosphere, turned out to be the opposite and made for a great night.

Fave film ever.

Reservoir Dogs, an absolute cinematic masterpiece. I took my little sister to one of the first showings of it, and it was a midnight screening which just made you feel you were about to watch something special, something more maverick than anything you had seen so far. I remember seeing the trailers, and the clips coming out of the Sundance Film Festival, and just being blown away, and the finished result did not let me down. I have been a worshiper at the Church of Tarantino ever since.

Share some wisdom.

There is always a silver lining to every cloud, it's just that sometimes you have to search damned hard to find it.

Putting ground pepper onto a cut is the quickest way to stop it bleeding, you think it will sting, but you will genuinely not feel a thing.

Song you can't get out of your head.

Ever since reading this stupid question it has been Kylie's 'Can't get you out of my head'. Previous to that it was Dire Straits 'Romeo and Juliet'. I seem to have been humming this for the last 2 weeks on and off.

Thing you are looking forward to

Never having to deal with children's poo anymore, I have exceeded my faeces threshold, and just want it to stop now. I have always wanted a dog, but until they breed one that either doesn't poop, or can clean it up itself, it is never going to happen.

If you could change one detail from your past, what would that be?

Not one - as I am a firm believer in the butterfly effect. If I was to change one thing, even something as insignificant as having an extra drink one night, then my kids would either not be here, or completely different people. The night they were conceived, the fastest swimmer was one of six million, if it came second you have a different child.

Tag you're it......

Meme rules: remove one question and replace with one of your own.

And my unwilling victims are (less two as @angpang nicked one, and one asked me to do a different meme a few days ago.)






Thursday, June 18, 2009

If you have to blame someone, blame him

For anyone that has ever met me, spoken to me, twittered with me, innocently flirted with me, been at the sharp end of my increasingly caustic tongue, watched in bemusement as I walked down the street with bare feet, or been totally confused by my eclectic taste in music, this blog is for you. Not strictly true, as I am writing it for my Dad, it being Fathers Day and all, but you get my drift.

You see, it's my Dad's fault I am what I am. He is the man that made me, shaped me, taught me wrong from right (and how to bend that definition), gave me my values, but let me pick which ones to ignore. I realise you are going to need some proof, so join me as we trawl through the memory banks for tales bookmarked Dad aka Rocky aka Roadrunner (both work nicknames?????)

He has always been a bit of a smoothie, which meant something completely different back in his day, I do not have a delicious mixture of blended fruit for a father. He met my Mum in a Dance Hall when he was out with his mates one night, and according to him, she was wearing a mini-skirt so short my brain won't even let me imagine it. He was fairly sure she was out of his league, but gave it a try anyway (tried to blag it were his exact words I think). After a while he came back to his mates triumphantly, as Mum had agreed to go to the Casino with him afterwards. There was only one snag, Dad was skint, and so he had to borrow some money off his mates, otherwise he would have looked like a proper mug.

My Dad was a printer by trade, which meant that we were never short of paper and pads in our house. You can't explain to kids how much of a luxury paper was in those days, but we had a house full of paper in every shape size and colour. He was also a part time Assistant Manager in a pub up until I was about five. I have vague memories of sitting in the pub and being spoilt by the punters, but Mum reckons most of the things I remember aren't quite true (like being in the pub when Mum went into labour with my sister), so I will just skip over those bits.

Life wasn't always plain sailing for us as a family though. When I was about nine, the way printing was done started to change, and Dad got laid off. I remember sitting at the top of the stairs listening to him tell Mum, it must have been such a hard conversation to have, especially with three kids supposedly asleep upstairs. He always made sure we did not go without too much though, we still got our chocolate flake every Friday evening, and as for ice cream, well as far as I was concerned Dad had the best, best mate ever.

He shall remain nameless for legal reasons, but he was a Security Guard for Wall's, the biggest ice cream maker in the Country. Every third Friday he would turn up with a huge brown sack, full to the brim with tubs of ice cream and boxes of ice lollies. If Wall's made it, you can be sure it would be in the sack. Also in the sack would be a huge lump of ice that, or so we were told, would burn our fingers if we touched it. Sometimes that lump of ice would impress me more than the ice cream. It actually took three days to melt once it had been dumped in the garden. I did wonder if leaving it in a place where tiny inquisitive hands could grab it, was a better option than running it under a hot tap. Nevertheless, I could quite often be found sitting on the back step sucking on an ice lolly, watching the younger sibling of the iceberg that sank the Titanic, and waiting for it to melt.

He soon got a job working for Fords as a Docker (or Stevedore as he likes to be referred to when travelling in posher circles), but as that involved driving all the brand new cars off the ships, it meant he had to learn to drive. He had always travelled around on a pushbike until then. Well, as a young man he used to have a scooter, but I think he packed that in not long after a drunk walked in front of him and Dad knocked him down. The drunk got up, dusted the dirt of his butt, and continued to wobble off down the street.

He used to pick me up from school sometimes, and I got to sit on the crossbar all the way home, far more exciting than any car ride as far as I was concerned. Our first car was an old bright yellow Ford Cortina, and my love affair with driving started about then. I would always sit in the middle of the back seats, so far forward Dad would have to move me just to change into 4th gear. I just wanted the best view of how everything worked, and all our ever changing surroundings.

His love of a good drink is fairly legendary, and he was always a funny drunk, rather than an angry one, although Mum bans him from Gin nowadays in case he gets a bit melancholy. When I was about 15, Mum and I had to drive him to a Christmas works party, he couldn't make his own way there because he had had a cartilage operation on his knee the day before. We helped him out of the car, gave him his crutches, and watched him hobble his way down the jetty towards the party, too proud to accept any help in front of his pals. It took him 10 minutes just to walk the last 100 yards. Mum looked a bit worried, but I was fairly sure his mates would look after him. I waited up with Mum in case she needed a hand getting him up the stairs when he got back.

At around midnight we heard a cab pull up, a car door open and close, and then a load of loud singing. We rushed to the door to quieten him down before the neighbours started to complain, although for my part I was more worried about my ears starting to bleed, he may be many things, but a good singer he ain't. We opened the door to be faced with Dad dancing full gusto, up and down the path, no trace of any pain. He grabbed Mum and tried to twirl her around, but Mum was having none of it. We eventually got him in and upstairs, with him constantly repeating the mantra "Do you know how much I love you son?" The way to correctly answer this is to hold your thumb and forefinger about an inch apart, and reply "this much". I think it is his version of infinity, although it did not matter how far apart the gap was, he always insisted you had it wrong. I would like to be able to tell you that he could still walk the next day, and that a whole bottle of Capt Morgan's Rum is indeed a miracle cure for all that ails you, but alas, I can't. I think it was about a week before he could walk again, although it only took until lunchtime for the first beer to be poured. Dad is a true believer in 'The hair of the dog' as a hangover cure, and to be fair it is the only thing that has ever worked for me.

Dad also gave me my love of Jazz, probably because it was the only music he did not try to ram down my throat. The Police, Frank Sinatra, Mike Oldfield, all people I refused to listen to as a kid, purely because Dad would try to make me listen to them. Don't get me wrong, I love all these acts now, but there was no way I was going to admit that my old man might know what he was talking about, especially as a mal-adjusted 14 year old. I used to hate it, if he actually liked the same artist as me. It is to his eternal credit that he never told me of his love of Madness, lest I stop listening to them, and deprive myself of some of the most fun concerts I have ever been to.

I have so many stories about my Dad, some funny, some sad, mostly funny, and always remembered with awe. Just the ones that moulded me into the Father I am now could fill an entire book, and maybe once I have a grip on the Wordsmith's talent I will write that book, but until then this will have to do.

Happy Father's Day Pops. Love you, hope I didn't make too many mistakes.


Monday, June 8, 2009

Nobbly Oak Woods

I haven't written a blog piece this week, as I have been working on a children's story ('Book 'em Danno!' will explain my thinking). I have no idea what I will do with this story, now that is basically finished, but I thought I would share it with you anyway. Feel free to print it off and read it to your kids (presumptuous I know), would love to hear any feedback, good or bad. A normal service will be resumed next week (hopefully).

Nobbly Oak Woods

Our story starts in Nobbly Oak Woods, it is quite an ordinary place to live. The bats aren't too hungry, the owls aren't too noisy, the trees aren't too scary, and the creepy crawlies aren't too big. Altogether not a bad place to live, if you like talking animals that is. If you were to walk across the thin green bridge, over the pile of rocks that look like a spider, and through Tickly Grass Meadow, you would come across a cosy little cottage. It looks just like the one Hansel and Gretel found, except this one isn't made of sweets, and a horrible Witch does not live inside.

Inside this house live five beautiful forest Princesses. Forest Princesses look like normal castle Princesses, except that they don't live in a castle, and they don't have a wicked step-mother who is always trying to do nasty things to them. In fact they do not have any parents at all, they were made by a magician, because all the creatures and tree's in the woods were lonely, and they wanted somebody to sing to them. So they called the Magician on the wood horn, paid him with berries, flowers, and some nasty smelling mushrooms. Hogrot, for that was the magician's name, waved his wand in a big circle, and Hey Presto, the Princesses appeared.

They all looked exactly the same, beautiful but bald. Everybody wondered how they would be able to tell them apart, but Hogrot gave them all a 'wait for it' look, and one by one their hair began to grow. Hogrot gave a small smile, and introduced them to everybody, everybody except Nodrig the bunny, who had fallen asleep.

First was Sunshine who had long blonde hair, the colour of buttercups.

Second was Raven with hair as black as the cupboard under the stairs.

Third was Lily whose hair was as white as a snowman's belly.

Fourth was Hazel with brown hair that shone like a chestnut.

Fifth was Scarlett with a shock of red hair that looked like strawberries, but smelt of, well hair.

The whole forest laughed, and clapped, and cheered, and once everyone had quietened down Hogrot took a huge bow, and POP, disappeared leaving a small puff of smoke and the slight smell of old mushrooms. The forest folk then led the Princesses into their new home, and left them alone to settle in.

Over time the Princesses learnt all the forest songs (except "Googly is a codswallop" because nobody really liked that one), and they would spend their days, singing, dancing, and having a fun old time. Sometimes they would draw pictures of the wood folk, and they were also good at making the most colourful clothes from the leaves and flowers that grew around their cottage. The years went past and nothing really changed, everyone was happy, and colourfully dressed, and the Princesses remained as beautiful as ever, and everybody lived happily ever after.


What do you mean you want more, I thought everybody liked a happy ending? What more is there for me to tell you? I told you about the hooded horseman and his quest did I not? Silly me, I would forget my head if it was not screwed on. OK I shall continue my story, sit back down, get yourself ready, and back to Nobbly Oak Woods we shall return.

The hooded horseman stopped at the edge of the woods and looked in. All the animals, and at least three of the trees, covered their eyes and turned away. The horseman ignored them, and made his way into the woods. He kept his horse at a slow trot, until he entered the clearing in the middle of the woods. There he announced in a booming voice "I am Prince Griswold, and I have searched these lands from Greentop Mountains, to Wispy Hollow, looking for a beautiful princess to marry." Everyone looked at each other with a worried frown. "I have searched every Castle, and they have all been empty. These woods are my last chance to find a bride. Be there any here?"

Nodrig the bunny, who was not asleep for a change, heard these words, and ran off to the cottage to tell the Princesses. Being a lazy bunny, and one not used to running, Nodrig was out of breath when he reached the Princesses. For 5 minutes they all watched him with puzzled looks on their faces, whilst he tried to gasp out what was happening. After many deep breaths he managed to blurt out "There is a Prince in the clearing, and he is looking for a princess to marry. Comb your hair and put on your best dress, and follow me."

Twenty minutes of busy running around and hair combing later, the five Princesses left the cottage, and started the slow walk to the clearing, with a puffed out Nodrig trailing behind them. Quite a crowd had developed once they got there, and as soon as they entered the clearing everybody went quiet, except Coughy Joe the Mole, who was, well coughing.

"Come forth beautiful maidens. Let me cast my eyes upon you" ordered Prince Griswold loudly. "At last I have found myself not one, but five lovely Princesses. Come closer so I can see you all the better." They all looked at each other and then took a step closer. The Prince took his time looking at them, and then announced "I have found myself a Wife, for any one of you fine young girls will do!"

With that he pulled off his hood so that everyone, including the five beautiful Princesses, could see him. It would be quite safe to say that Prince Griswold was the ugliest person in the whole kingdom. The trees were so shocked all their leaves fell off, the frogs forgot how to croak, the family of otters starting crying, and the ducks started barking. The whole clearing had one big kerfuffle at the hideous site before them.

It is quite hard for me to describe the Prince to you, but I will try my best. One of his eyes was yellow, and the other was mushy pea green, and droopy. He had four big hairy warts on his very pointy chin that was also quite long. His nose was big, round, and red like a clown's, except it was covered with lots of pus filled spots, that were all oozy and running. His ears were 2 different sizes and shapes, and neither of them were a nice size or shape. He also had green and brown hair that looked like it had not been washed since Eldred the Foolish was King, and that was a long time ago. We all missed King Eldred, who had died trying to get his ping pong ball out of a lion's mouth, but that is a story for another day.

The Prince jumped off his horse, and kicked Nodrig out of his way. The Princesses may have been able to fall in love with an ugly Prince, but a cruel one, never. They all turned around and ran off into the woods as fast as their legs would carry them.

Sunshine ran and ran and ran, until she spotted a cottage very like her own. Outside this cottage was a sign that read "WANTED PORRIDGE TASTER, ENQUIRE WITHIN". Sunshine stopped, read the sign, and knocked on the door. A big Bear with a very friendly face answered the door, "Come in, Come in, let me introduce you to my wife and son. By the way, what type of porridge do you like?"

Raven and Lily always did things together, so they went straight to Two Toad Pond. Once there, they grabbed one of the toad's each, and gave them a big wet kiss. Everybody knows that when a beautiful maiden kisses a frog, the frog turns into a Prince, but what is less known is that if you kiss a toad the opposite happens. By the time Prince Griswold arrived, Two Toad Pond had turned into Four Toad Pond, and one of the toads had white hair, one had black hair, and the other two looked very happy.

Hazel looked around not knowing what to do. Mr and Mrs Mole called over for her to follow them, and that is what she did. They led her around the three Oak trees and to the entrance of their burrow. The hole was not big enough for Hazel to fit through, so she dropped to her knees and started digging a hole until it was big enough for her to wiggle through. Once she had crawled along the tunnel, she found a large opening, and saw Mr Mole standing over a fire, brewing a large pot of tea. "One lump of two dear?" said Mrs Mole as she handed Hazel a tea cup.

Scarlett ran as fast as she could into the woods and straight into the arms of Wolfy the Misunderstood. He wrapped his red coat with a big hood around her, "Matches your hair darling" he said, and then he rushed her off to his Grandmother's cave to hide.

Prince Griswold searched for the five Princesses for two days and two nights, and still he could not find them. The more he searched, the angrier he got, the angrier he got, the redder his nose became, until BANG, his nose exploded. If you thought the Prince was ugly before, well you should have seen him then. Not even a blind skunk, without a sense of smell, would have been able to love him now.

The prince jumped back onto his horse, and rode out of the woods, the sounds of the forest folk laughter, ringing in his very ugly ears. He decided to give up looking for a wife, they seemed to be a lot of trouble to find, and to be honest, he hated horse riding as well. He returned to his castle, a long tall building with only one window, and one servant, a tiny person who weaved a lot. The prince could never pronounce his name, so he called him "You". The prince never left his castle again, and You found a golden haired bride of his own, leaving the ugly and angry prince alone.