Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Not The End of The World

12/12/12 – Had to write a blog post today if only because of the strange date. If only I had thought about it earlier I should have taken a photo at twelve minutes and twelve seconds past twelve and then it could have been 12:12:12 12/12/12

Enough of this inane numerology, who cares anyway, especially if the world ends as predicted by the Mayans on the 21st . I just hope if Armageddon does occur, that it’s after my works Christmas lunch, otherwise I could have saved myself £30 !

More significantly it’s only fourteen days til the big day itself. Yeah that’s right I said fourteen, I know for the rest of us it’s only thirteen but my other half has a birthday on Boxing Day and boy does she have a chip on her shoulder about it.
There is only one thing worse than getting a combined present and that’s getting a combined card. I did once actually buy a Happy Xmas / Birthday combo card for a joke early on in our relationship and I’m still getting pelters for it now.

So while everyone else chills out on Boxing Day and looks forward to doing very little, I will be hearing the same old sob story of how we never do anything special on her birthday, blah blah blah. Either that or I’ll be getting dragged around every single shop in town looking for a bargain in the sales, which will ultimately result in her conclusion that nothing in the sale is what she really wants, followed by another treck round all the shops again looking at the non-sale items. This is why Boxing Day is so called, as couples everywhere end up in a mass brawl usually starting around 2.15pm.

This is only slightly more preferable to full Armageddon.

Anyway, in other news, two of my presents for the kids that were ordered in good time online are now reported as out of stock and unlikely to be delivered until mid January. You can apologise all you like Mr internet based company spokesman, but they are no bloody use to me on the 17th January, so take your order and stuff it where the sun don’t shine. Grrr.

After embarrassing myself with a massive alcohol shopping trip last year, where the checkout girl gave me a direct referral to alcoholics anonymous, I am now opting for a different strategy. Instead of filling my trolley until it exceeds its weight limit, every other day, I am stopping off and picking up a little here and there. This was going great until I realised the same woman on the self service til has taken the security tags of individual bottles of Rum, Whisky and Vodka in the last five days. I can tell she’s now secretly judging me.

Incidentally, I must confess to necking a good chunk of the rum already which is always the danger when turning your kitchen worktop into a bar for the upcoming festive season. Cheers. Eat, drink and be merry !

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Car Share

I’ve spent the last 20 years driving to work on my own, until I recently offered a lift to a colleague who’s just moved in to the next street.

Well, I couldn’t just head off to work every day while watching them standing in the pissing rain by the bus stop or leave the office with a jovial “cheerio” knowing full well it would take them three times as long to get home.

Now I have inadvertently found myself sharing my personal time and space while trying to ensure I don’t make any etiquette faux-pas. This also has its drawbacks.

I have to make polite conversation. I don’t want to make polite conversation at 7am, even with my own family. Silence is very uncomfortable in a car with a relative stranger.

I can no longer sing along to the Radio at the top of my (very poor) voice, although I did find myself almost bursting into the chorus of Florence and The Machine this morning, before hurriedly muting myself.

I, like many other drivers sometimes pick my nose. It is a disgusting habit, I know. But who was I offending before – no-one. Now I have to be sure that little scratch of my nose, doesn’t lead to a wayward digit entering my nasal cavity.

In the mornings, I may be partial to occasionally breaking wind. In my own little environment, it would only be me suffering from last nights chile con carne. Now if I feel something brewing,  I have to hold it in for 30 minutes.

I have also found my morning commuting time very useful for running through scenarios in my head, talking to myself and orating examples of how I would introduce meetings etc. Now I will arrive for morning meetings unprepared or without my usually polished and pre-planned quick witted ripostes to the bosses demands.

On the return journey I quite often called my wife via the built in blue tooth system, to check if milk or bread was required on the way home. However, I’m very wary of this now as to be honest there have been occasions where cross words may have been exchanged. Can you imagine my passengers thoughts if on phoning home my wife starts ranting at me for leaving my boxer shorts lying in the bathroom or has a hissy fit about the fact I’m running late?

I like my music. I have good if not eclectic taste but appreciate that not everyone may share my passions. Do I just play Echo and The Bunnymen’s complete back catalogue all week regardless?

At this point, I should also probably confess to being particularly aggravated by others bad driving which usually results in me swearing at the dickhead doing twenty miles an hour in front of me to hurry the f*** up. Do I just enrol in an anger management course now – or buy one of those car machine gun accessory buttons to reduce my use of expletives?

I could be at risk of being misconstrued as a nose picking, foul mouthed, unsociable, wife hating, bad tempered bloke who farts, talks to himself and listens to thirty year old music.

Shit....Was that the sound of a penny dropping?

By the way it’s only day three of the car share. Wish me luck!

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

The Third Degree

@ageingmatron - The intriguing writer and vicar’s wife has tagged me to take part in a Q&A session. As always, I am happy to oblige.

Where do you do most of your writing / blogging?

Well, to be honest I am writing this at work. Now I know I shouldn’t be, but in my defence the defective network drive is down...again. So technically it’s the ICT department’s fault that I have resorted to skiving. That, plus I’ve also already spent half the day on the internet. At least this way people think I’m busy knocking up the latest business strategy. I may even make a random pie chart on my other screen.

What books were your childhood favourite?
I recall reading all of Enid Blyton’s twenty odd famous five books and somehow wishing my council estate had fields, gypsy caravans and lashings of ginger beer instead of concrete, a vandalised swing park and diluting Ki-Ora.

The Lord of The Rings also provided a fantastic backdrop of escapism with almost the same level of hideous creatures and villains that roamed the estate.

Who is your favourite fictional character?
The name’sh Bond... Jamesh Bond. Anyone who has the magnetism to attract Honey, Pussy and other exotically named women, gets to drive an Aston Martin, drink Vodka Martini’s and travel the world while dressed in a nice suit really has it all.

Have you ever googled yourself and been surprised at what you’ve found?
Well because I write under a nom-de-plume, this doesn’t really apply. I could divulge my true identity, but then I’d probably have to kill you – or wrap you naked in a fur coat and exchange espionage tips if you are a female Russian counterpart.

What is your favourite time of day and why?
Without a shadow of a doubt it is 3pm (or 2.30pm if I can get away with it) on a Friday as I turn up the stereo and zoom out of the office car park. Still living for the weekend.

Who would play me in a movie of my life?
Tom Cruise...however I would insist he wore heels, not that I’m a transvestite but I want to ensure my 5ft 10” is not undermined in any way. Actually he might not be too happy at being directed by me to stand up straight, but he’d be on the short list.

One material possession I could not live without?
Tech is so indispensable these days, my smart phone is so important whether it’s to interact on social media or listen to my favourite tunes on the go. I’m not saying I couldn’t live without it. I could. In fact I would be happy leading a simple life, back to nature so to speak.....but there had better be a bloody good wi-fi signal.

Have you ever been naked in public?
Think I fessed up to being drunk and naked in an earlier blog post, only to be relieved I hadn’t actually been running up and down the street, like my “friends” had pretended for a few days afterwards.

What is your dream car?
This has changed as I’ve aged. It used to be a Ferrari. Then it was a Porsche. Then an Aston Martin. Due to the current economic downturn, it’s now anything that runs on chip fat, is cheap to insure and doesn’t have holes in the floor. So, I guess I’ll stick with my Mondeo until the recession is over, then I want a Buggatti Veyron.

What/Who/where was your first proper kiss?
Apart from snogging my own arm....go on admit it, you did the same. I actually started pretty early and remember full tongues and everything with a girl in Primary 7 after the school disco. In the words of the verve “She knew my feelings were jangled and frayed, she took me into a wind blown alley way, she showed me a world a boy should see, I’ll thank her till the day I die”

Thursday, 1 November 2012

Treat or Trick

Had my first ‘festive’ turkey lunch today (1st November)....wonder how many I will manage between now and actual proper Christmas dinner. God it really is starting earlier every year. The hollowed out pumpkins haven’t even decomposed to mush yet.

Speaking of which or should that be witch. Halloween came and went without too much incident. Daughter dressed up as a blood soaked bride and went around with a deranged look that can only be described as a cross between Jack Nicholson in The Shining and a zombie. I think she’s setting her stall out early for future husband persecution, probably aided and abetted by my other half’s leading example.

Son, being typically autistic, did not want to dress up in any ‘normal’ outfit and bizarrely designed his own costume which consisted of a plain black helmet, a plain back chest plate and a sword. While you have to admire this creativity, I have no idea what any of the neighbours thought he was dressed as and am only grateful that my aforementioned wife had to craft this creation from nothing more than cardboard, paper-mache and black paint to his exacting standards. This is doubly difficult when you consider many of these images and specifications are pictured absolutely clearly in his head and can be misinterpreted and cause meltdowns of epic proportions because the back of the helmet is two inches longer than it was supposed to be.

I thought I had escaped any involvement, only to be told he was expecting a Minecraft pumpkin to be carved. This sent shivers down my spine. How many times would I have to try to get it as he wanted? Would it even be possible to carve some extravagant creation with my limited kitchen knife set and power drill? Luckily for me a Minecraft Creeper is a very simple block character shape, so disaster was averted once again.

As my own brood left for their trick or treating expedition. I was left to dish out the sweets to the masses of little spooks, ghouls and witches arriving at our door, while trying to control our monster Labrador from going berserk every time the bell went. Still, at least I got to stuff my face with Haribos and mini bounty bars.

After listening to the usual Halloween based jokes and pretending to laugh, one eight year old completely surprised me when I asked if they had a joke to tell.

“Yes”. “Why do Squirrels swim on their backs?”
Err, I don’t know.

“To keep their nuts dry”

Tonight it’s back to IKEA assembly following six weeks waiting for a blooming carpet to arrive. No rest for the wicked.

Friday, 12 October 2012

Changing Rooms 2

Decorating....again. I bet you’re sensing my state of ecstatic enthusiasm ?

This time it’s my Son’s bedroom. On the face of it this should be relatively straightforward, but with consideration of his autistic behaviours is a minefield because of the changes and upheaval.

Changes in his routine, changes in the colour of the walls and the carpet, changes in the furniture and to his room layout. Changes in his Dad’s normally mild mannered behaviour (well ok, scratch the last one).

Decorating = Expense + Hassle x Stress

Presenting your ASD child with a paint chart that has an inordinate amount of colours to pick from is putting them under increased pressure straight away. It overloads them with information and makes choice selection incredibly difficult.

There’s also a danger that they will home in on one colour that isn’t really suitable and no amount of persuasion will make them change their minds. I was dreading him choosing bright pink or battleship grey. As much as I want him to be happy, the thought of painting a ten year old boy’s room in “Fuchsia” just doesn’t sit comfortably with me.

Anyway, following some discussion. Well, ok, after about two weeks of tentative negotiations that Ban Ki-Moon would have been pleased with, he ‘chose’ a dark teal blue. Only he wanted the whole room painted in it. A further two weeks of persuasion.... and some begging, managed to convince him that one dark wall and three lighter would be better.

Repeat for Carpet, Furniture and Bedding and trying to ensure that the colours suited each other, I’m sure you can appreciate the difficulties. This is only compounded further by his tendency to change his mind at various points in the process.

So it was all agreed, and I must paint this weekend as the new carpet is scheduled for next Friday. (I’m not allowed to paint after the new carpet gets installed....let’s just say I have ‘previous’)

I was in the DIY store on Sunday and noted there was plenty paint and so didn’t bother picking any up. Instead I nipped in past work yesterday, and initially panicked as they didn’t seem to have any of the teal colour. 

A bit of further investigation and I noticed one single tin right at the back of the shelf.
I leaned in with one arm, stretched right to the back and as I removed this last solitary tin of paint with some relief and satisfaction...... I dropped the bloody thing and it burst all over the floor. I am now standing in Homebase with one teal blue shoe and half a paint splattered trouser leg.

As I stared at my beloved expensive Chelsea boots I only bought last month and a paint blob ran down my other trouser leg, my other overriding concern was that I really needed this paint.

I headed for the customer toilet, leaving a trail of footprints that even the apprentice CSI officer wouldn’t have any trouble spotting,  only to find there were no tissues or paper towel in the gents or the disabled toilet either.

Meanwhile, a helpful assistant confirmed there was no paint in stock and to try middle of next week.

I had to then drive another ten miles to the nearest B and Q in hope and desperation.

Luckily they had some. I did get some funny looks though; I must have seemed like the best dressed painter and decorator in town, what with my one blue shoe and splattered effect pinstripe trousers.

Maybe I should have opened up my shirt sleeves and pretended I was Laurence Llewelyn Bowen?

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Time to Hibernate

Autumn is officially here. What’s that you ask? How can I be sure?

Well, apart from the darker nights and leaves blowing everywhere, I’ve started cooking comfort food again. In the same way some weather forecasters predict apocalyptic winters because the cows are sitting in the lower field or the red berries are appearing early, my craving for stews, roasts, red wine and cakes can only mean we are heading for the depths of a bleak, cold winter.

Not content with a hunk of roast beef and half a tray of Yorkshire puddings to myself last Sunday, I moved on to beef olives and mince and tatties this week too.

Once, the braised steak comes out – it’s officially time to put the patio furniture away.

As part of my own Autumn lent, I also decided to use up all the eggs and flour that were sitting around and made some rock cakes with my daughter at the weekend. Despite my best efforts – they didn’t look anything like rock cakes and splodged out on the baking tray, resulting in one kind of big joined up flat mess. Once prised apart, they were remarkably tasty however and as if to prove a point – I made a second batch, determined to show my daughter what went wrong. Result was a second tray of splodged out cake mix. At least I’m consistent.

My Son also arrived on scene and proceeded to complain that he didn’t like them because I had added coconut and then insisted he wanted a fairy cake. I explained we hadn’t made them, but once he gets it into his head there is no changing his mind. So a batch of fairy cakes was whipped up and came out okay. Even I can cope with equal quantity recipes.

Anyway, the appearance of Nigella on TV has further ignited my cooking passion. Her descriptions of creamy peaks, while standing with her chest sticking out is clearly the stuff of legend. If you can get past how perfect her life must be, she does have some quick and easy recipes – none such more as her latest coffee ice-cream which when served up in a brioche bun sounds like it could be my favourite sandwich of all time. (Excluding my head in her cleavage)

Further proof if any should be needed that Winter is coming is the appearance of the Next Christmas book....and what parents of primary school age children haven’t already ordered their cards from Studio?

Just to further reinforce how close we are to hearing Jingle Bells being sung at school carol concerts, the X-Factor run in has begun. Remember this programme exists primarily to make a vast amount of money for Simon Cowell et al to provide us with the Xmas number one.

Sunday, 23 September 2012

Three Wheels on My Wagon

“I think I might have a flat tyre,” announced my other half.

Well you either have or you haven’t…it’s a bit like being pregnant really, there’s no in-between.

“Ok then, I have a flat tyre”

Did anything happen that contributed to this flat tyre?

“Well, I might have driven over a concrete island thing in the car park”.

Err,…don’t mean to sound repetitive here…. but either you did drive over something or you didn’t?

“Ok then, I drove over a concrete kerb thingy in the car park”

Would that be the concrete delineator that you are not supposed to drive over then?

“Yes, that’ll be it”

How did you manage to drive over something that is supposed to separate the lanes?

“Well, it kind of just jumped out at me and before I knew it the back wheel of the car had clattered it”

Was this like a major bang, or just a scuff?

“Oh, it was just a scuff really”

(Inspection of tyre in driveway now points to a gaping hole in the sidewall of the tyre.)

This “scuff”… it must have been a hell of a scuff to puncture the side of the tyre.
“Well, now you mention it… the car did bounce off the edge quite firmly”

Did you think about stopping to inspect for any damage or anything?

“Yeah, I just took a look once I got home”

So, that’s fifteen miles on a flat as a pancake tyre and you never noticed anything was wrong?

“Stop picking on me…you always blame me for everything, it’s not my fault”

No, never is…just like the time you reversed into that parked car.

“You always bring that up; it wasn’t my fault someone parked behind me”

(Thinks to myself, God give me strength)..Ok, who was driving the car?

“That doesn’t matter, if it had been you it would have been a different story”

Yes dear, that’s correct. I wouldn’t have driven over the bloody concrete divider in the car park. If I had made a (very rare) error of judgment, I would have stopped had a look at the tyre and possibly taken it to the tyre service centre which is about 200 yards from the mall car park…….And, by the way before you move off you are supposed to check your mirrors to see if anyone has parked behind you.

“That was years ago”

Ok, fair point. What about the alloy wheel you buckled last year that cost me £175 to replace?

“That wasn’t my fault either, there was a pothole”

You don’t have to drive through them at high speed though.

“I was not going fast”

That’s right dear, the wheel just buckled itself. You do know in over twenty years of driving I have never ruined a wheel.

“Oh here we go; Mr Perfect doesn’t ever make mistakes”

That’s not the point.

“Just change my tyre please”

Thirty minutes later, oil stained jeans, grease covered hands, scuffed knuckles, red faced and slightly embarrassed, as I couldn’t get the wheel off…. I am driving fifteen miles on a flat tyre back to the mall tyre service centre. “That’ll be £114.99 please sir and you might want to get that alloy checked out, looks like you may have damaged the edge driving it on the flat tyre – did you not think to put the spare on?”


Friday, 14 September 2012

Warning !

Last week I went shopping and bought some celery. Its okay, I’m not a celery-holic or anything like that; it was just a routine purchase.

On the back of the pack was a helpful Allergy Information Warning, which read “Contains Celery”.

Now, I’m all for providing valid information to those unfortunates in society who need reminding that their coffee may be hot, or those products with nuts in them may contain nuts, but this is surely taking the piss. What else could celery possibly contain?

I think warnings like these are missing a trick here. It’s not what is blindingly obvious we need to be told but the hidden less obvious consequences. Such as

“Using this condom incorrectly may result in at least 16 years of parental responsibility costing approx £200,000, two and a half years of very little sleep, projectile vomit on your once prized designer shirt and will change your sexy, vivacious, horny partner into a rabid foaming at the mouth, frigid wreck who will consequently blame you for everything for the rest of your life.”

“You may have used this scalpel sharp; five bladed razor successfully for the last three weeks without incident, but you will slash yourself deeply before today’s job interview/important meeting/wedding and spend the rest of the morning with half a toilet roll stuck to your lower chin”

“Monopoly may result in one player taking everything far too seriously, following the rules to the letter and tipping the board upside down in an explosion of rage prior to screaming they hate you and filing for divorce (especially on Christmas day after a glass of wine) Play responsibly”

“While this automobile has been provided with indicators on each corner to assist other road users in understanding your intended direction at roundabouts, if you are a spotty face jumped up young executive and choose not to use them, you may be bludgeoned to death in a road rage incident”

“While Sky Bet claims to be a fair gambling organisation, you will at one point have pocket aces, throw all your money in the pot only to lose to someone who wins the hand with three 2’s following the River Card miraculously favouring the other player. Either that or you will be surprised to learn that 11 even numbers will come out in a row, thus defying probability when you have just doubled your stake repeatedly on the appearance of an odd number in Roulette”
I think if I had known all of these things, my week may have been a little easier.
What helpful warnings would have assisted you?

Tuesday, 28 August 2012

The tooth, the whole tooth and nothing but the tooth

Well, I couldn’t resist after my last post title and two trips to the dentist this week, could I?

My avoidance of masochists, I mean dentists started many years ago when I was unlucky to have a flat above a dental surgery. I’m not sure whether he was actually a serial killer or not, but the screams coming from the chair were almost as bad as the last time I was in a maternity unit.

As if that wasn’t bad enough, there was a workshop down in the basement where he made all his false teeth moulds. Having sneaked into it one day, my flat mate and I were not only horrified at the various paraphernalia but the overall hygiene of the place was horrifying. Cue my avoidance of any dental appointments for the next several years.

Eventually, when I became a parent we had to register our daughter for a dentist and due to NHS shortages this ended up being at a private practice, where they agreed to treat the children as NHS patients if the parents registered.

Following an initial examination where he commented things didn’t look too bad, a couple of x-rays later had him shaking his head and taking sharp intakes of breath like a greedy car mechanic trying to rip off a customer. The conclusion – eight fillings in various places over a six week period of appointments and a £350 dental bill. Oh, and a tendency to set off metal detectors.

That was about ten years ago, and I have continued to go along for regular appointments ever since. It goes okay for one or two, and then he must think that he hasn’t had any money out of me for a while and finds something that needs replacing. Even, when I protest that he did the work so it shouldn’t need redone, he just smiles and secretly imagines the pound signs and his next holiday to Barbados.

This last visit, I made the mistake of telling him I now had private dental care. A cash cow if ever there was one for dentistry. Oh, well he says rubbing his has been some time since we had full x-rays done. Again, cue head shaking, umming, ahhing and a couple of problems with existing fillings come to light. After waving an x-ray in front of me and convincing me that two teeth needed doing, I turned up for the first appointment last Monday.

This tooth has given me no trouble at all, but following an uncomfortable half hour of drilling, poking, clamping and sticking that bloody cotton wool tampon like tubes in my mouth – I’m free to go. The result,.... I have had nothing but pain from the tooth all blooming week, it’s very sensitive to cold / hot, although and he assures me it will settle down soon.

Second trip to the dentist yesterday to finish off another miserable Monday and after hacking about at me for what felt like hours, he announces that if this doesn’t work then root canal treatment may be required. I had hoped it wasn’t trial and error on his part by this time, especially since he’d just drilled out the previous blooming filling. At least this one isn’t hurting the same.

As I left the surgery, I overheard someone trying to book an appointment only to be told the dentist was on holiday for three weeks in September. Looks like he was topping up his beer money again.

Friday, 24 August 2012

The woof, the whole woof and nothing but the woof

While chatting on Twitter last week, two of my fellow Tweeters mentioned they were thinking about getting a dog. A Labrador in fact.
They are no doubt used to my inane tweets about having to walk the dog, it chasing the cat, licking my feet or inflicting pain in my gentleman’s area with its blooming massive heavy paws !

As I’m now clearly an expert in dog ownership and it’s a big decision to make, they even asked for my balanced opinion on the matter. Of course, the question of impartiality raises some conflicts of interest on my part bearing in mind my previous pre-dog owning post"Walkies" and "Ok so she's a bit of a dog"

Reading those back now, I could be forgiven for being a little pessimistic about the joys of dog ownership. Funny, the joys of parenting are another closely drawn parallel….

Anyway, most of my Nostradamus style apocalyptic predictions actually did come to pass – so I wasn’t completely barking, if you pardon the pun.

It does cost a lot of money to own a dog, the ongoing food bills, worming, vaccinations, insurance all adds up….and that’s before the chewed skirting boards, plasterboard, pee-ruined rug, chewed phone cables and garden destruction!!! Oh, and the trip to the vet for stitches when she was bit by another dog before we had the insurance.

We also seem to have acquired not only the most expensive bitch in the litter, but also the most hyperactive, excitable, sees-another-dog-and-goes-berserk Labrador out there. Walking her is very difficult, at times embarrassing, especially when all the other dog owners look at you as if your one is the naughty kid in school. However, we are used to that with actually already having the child with ASD that everyone thinks is uncontrollable anyway, so perhaps the dog fits right in.

In all seriousness, I’m told that Lab’s generally are a bit mental until they are a couple of years old and apparently settle down into very steady pets…. or was that one of my wife’s other assurances. Hmmmm?

There are some positives (I’m told). Our autistic son loves the dog and has great interaction with it. She helps to get him out of the house and away from his computer. My wife says this works for her too and she has enjoyed having something else to do through the day. Although it has almost continually pissed down with rain this year – so you need to add waterproofs and wellies to your expenditure plan.

For me, I don’t really mind the dog….. but I do mind the commitment. I guess I didn’t really want to be saddled with the responsibility of having another weight round my neck. It is a big decision, especially if you have time constraints and as the age old saying goes…dogs are for life… a bit like kids and we know how much they don’t come with adequate small print. However, it doesn’t stop us having them, so I guess it should be the same for dogs.
Of course, being a lazy git, I always found the cat great to look after. You don't have to walk cats !
Anyway, as far as my balanced opinion goes.........Personally, anyone considering a dog needs to weigh up their circumstances, lifestyle and must never watch Marley and Me or the Andrex adverts while doing so.

Tuesday, 7 August 2012

Goodbye Summer

First day back at work following holidays and doesn’t feel too bad. That’s me ready for the long haul until Christmas, summer is officially over – well did it ever really start?

Ok, I’m exaggerating we still have the rest of August and hopefully September for a few nice days, but then I will be ready for the run into the festive season. Let’s be honest, as parents you have to start planning, budgeting and ordering the must have toys around October these days anyway. I mean do you remember the scramble for Wii’s a few years ago?

Before I depress you too much, I ‘d better change tack. This is my lack of summer sunshine,  vitamin D deficiency and impending SAD pessimism taking over already.

On a brighter note, I’m strutting around looking resplendent in my new Italian Chelsea boots. Oh, I like a nice pair of shoes. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not the male version of Imelda Marcos or anything – I only ever own a couple of pairs at a time, but with them and my new white shirt, I have that “back to school” feeling. Yes, I know I’m 42 and it’s not really like being back at school – but I like to start off fresh after my holidays with some new gear. It’s a bit like getting a new uniform, bag and pencil case.

Speaking of which, my daughter starts secondary school after the summer and I took her to WH Smiths for some bits and pieces. £34 later, yes that’s right, I said THIRTY FOUR POUNDS. Ok, there was a calculator in there, but throw in a few biros, pencils, highlighters, stupid over priced erasers that will be no use whatsoever, a geometry kit, a pencil case with Skulls on it and some coloured gel pens – that’s all you get.

I’m almost 100% certain I could have got the equivalent gear in Asda for less than a tenner. Don’t get me started on the school uniform itself and her choice of very questionable length skirts or her “Zombie Killing” school bag. I did try and explain that it wouldn’t really be like St Trinian’s – but I think she has other ideas.
Actually, once the kids go back to school – that really signifies the end of summer and impending Autumn doom and gloom.

Did, I mention there’s only 139 days til Christmas?
(Reaches for Prozac)

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

National Lampoons Vacation

Well my Center Parcs woodland holiday village experience came and went quite quickly last week. I am officially all swimming, cycling, field archery, tree trekking and zip wired out. Back to work for a rest next week.

I actually enjoyed getting out in the fresh air and cycling around, up and down the hills – well the down was a hell of a lot easier than the up to be fair.

Our son coped relatively well with the experience, although was never going to be able to take part in any structured group tasks due to his frustration and outbursts. However we managed to do a “treasure trail” which involved cycling around looking for clues, only hampered by me telling him to go down hill and then up to the right – only for him to go up hill and down to the left. This is a good example of where even simple communication can be picked up incorrectly due to the way the autistic brain can process information or where they only hear parts of a sentence and end up with a completely different message received.

He, of course, threw his bike down and shouted at the top of his voice to me that I was a stupid idiot and it was all my fault, much to the amusement of about twenty or so people who must have thought this was the brat from hell. But we’re used to that. His only other misdemeanour was to shout at mum she was a “f**cking idiot” for doing something equally as misinterpreted by him later in full earshot of another disapproving audience as we left the village centre. C’est la vie.

My daughter insisted we took a kayak on the lake and we had a lot of fun paddling in different directions at the same time. Olympic teamwork was not high on the agenda unless there’s a medal category for worrying ducks and heading for other boats inadvertently. Which we were very, very good at.

When we hired the sit on vessel, the guy did say we would get a bit wet from the waist down, however I had jeans on and was completely soaked through by the time we finished and had to walk around like John Wayne before cycling up hill in wet denim – not a pleasant experience. I’m sure everyone thought I had wet myself.

I diced with death on the flumes and canyon rides, escaping the trains of kids who seemed to ignore the “one at a time” rule and somehow always caught up with me half way down – causing impending panic as I imagined six of the little blighters landing on top of me at the bottom. Fortunately, no lasting damage was done.

Apart from the organised mayhem, the woodland lodge settings were very relaxing and quiet – and I even managed to barbeque without setting fire to the surroundings, which is a plus for future visitors and the elusive red squirrels that I am yet to see. We had a little rabbit that kept visiting our lodge and there was a pheasant that came close a couple of times – had we been in the true wilderness this could have provided dinner, but I don’t think the park rangers would have approved.

So, apart from the five hour drive each way and the lack of any meaningful, warm sunshine it was a good experience. Would I go back, probably, but not before I’ve had some Mediterranean sand in my toes. Now where’s the holiday brochures……

Thursday, 19 July 2012

Changing Rooms

My house currently looks like a bomb has hit it. Now, we are not normally an untidy lot and the self-employed cleaner (otherwise known as the wife) keeps on top of things fastidiously. However I am in the midst of refurbishing our daughter’s bedroom and the resultant debris fall out zone extends throughout the whole dwelling.

I have disassembled furniture taking up most of the family room, part-disassembled furniture still in the room and the contents of underneath her old cabin bed strewn over the hall, my bedroom floor, the living room and son’s room. How can stuff that fitted in the smallest bedroom suddenly take up most of the rest of the house?
Furthermore, daddy’s little girl is resisting throwing things out like her life depended on it and is clearly one of that hoarder type personalities who may very well end up with her own house full to the ceiling with books, newspapers, old school work from primary two and her own body fluids kept in plastic bottles.

I mean once you’ve looked at one scribbly sketch from when she was seven, you’ve kind of looked at them all. Surely one or two representative pieces of her “artwork” could be selectively chosen and kept. I think she possibly considers that if she does turn into a world renowned artist that her early work could be worth a fortune at auction one day. (Trust me it won’t)

She has every soft toy she ever had and doesn’t expect to part with any of them. We have even roped in the grandparents to hijack their loft to store these things in perpetuity.

Despite these slight hurdles, I also still have to paint the room using no less than three different colours, remove the existing carpet, curtain pole and light fittings. All immediately prior to replacing all of the above and trying to work out where the massive expected cargo load of IKEA furniture boxes are going to be stored.

Meanwhile, I have put together the new bed, which will have to be dismantled again prior to painting and the carpet being fitted - before being reassembled again.....and we are going on holiday for a week......Arggghhh – who planned all this chaotic mayhem?

Well, okay it was me. But it seemed like a good idea at the time. However, like a shark smelling blood, at first sight of a colour chart the self-employed cleaner has driven herself into a frenzy and is now talking about decorating the bathroom and family room. Casually dropped in “While you’re at it”.

Yeah, like I’ll just squeeze it in to my wide open schedule. Maybe I should stick a broom up my butt and sweep the floor at the same time.

Monday, 9 July 2012


Back to work with a bump following an extended long weekend which involved a brief visit to Edinburgh. I always like the feel of the Scottish capital in the summer, yes it’s full of Americans buying tartan outfits by the dozen and posses of Japanese with camera shutters clicking away, but there is a nice buzz about the place. I think its called atmosphere, yes that’s it. The Castle, The Ghost Tours, The Zoo there’s something for everyone

It’s especially lovely in the sunshine, where you can soak up some rays in Princess Street Gardens or quench a beer al-fresco outside a local cafe bar. However, it bucketed down with rain this time and so outdoor pursuits were limited except for the die-hard umbrella and cagoule brigade.

If you are ever looking to fill a few hours indoors, the National Museum is highly recommended by me, following our last rain soaked visit to Edinburgh a couple of years ago. This time however, we ventured to a place I hadn’t been before – The Real Mary King’s Close. Underground narrow streets, passages and tiny rooms that once provided residence to Edinburgh’s medieval population before being built over.

It’s Kind of like a cross between factual documentary and a most haunted experience, but not quite as scary as the underground vault tour you can take at midnight. Anyway, my twelve year old was impressed and thought the tour guide did a great job, and I, despite slight claustrophobia and vertigo survived to fight another day.

Our other great venture was to another of Edinburgh’s world famous tourist attractions, that’s right Ikea. The historic blue and yellow facade, hewn by hand from ancient sandstone....., well not really. Anyway, we had a look around trying to inspire my daughter who is about to have her bedroom re-done. She wasn’t convinced before we got there and thought I was pulling her leg about the Swedish meatballs, but in the end found some stuff she liked.

When I agreed to do up her room, I was thinking a lick of paint, a few nik-naks and some new curtains – however we are now looking at a new wardrobe, drawers, bed frame, carpet, lighting....otherwise known to Dad’s everywhere as ££££’s, a week of decorating and cursing while having to re-assemble the wardrobe correctly for the third time.

We should have just gone to the Zoo. In fact if you didn’t have to book three years in advance to see the bloody Panda’s, I might have managed to escape the room revamp for another couple of months.

Friday, 29 June 2012

Birthday Blues

Well, the end of another working week is near and my odometer of life has also clicked round to another digit. Forty two years......and counting.

My best moment of the week was when someone at work asked my age and didn’t believe I was that old, which in a backhanded way was a compliment I suppose.

I don’t tend to celebrate my birthday these days, in fact not for a long time really. It’s just another day, but people insist on buying me cake and sending me cards with footballs on them. I’m forty bloody two for god sake, I don’t play with footballs anymore, I don’t go fishing and I’m never going to have a red sports car either. The one apt card I received just had a picture of a large glass of beer on it, now that I can relate to.
I am the proverbial grumpy old git these days. Everything annoys me, people irritate me and I just don’t seem to have the enthusiasm for “fun”.

I wish life was a bundle of laughs, but it’s not. It’s bills, it’s hassle from work, it’s having to walk the dog when I just want to read the paper, it’s dealing with a pedantic autistic 9 year old, a “Dad, Can I have..” 12 year old and a PMT laden 40 year old.

Sometimes I just want them to leave me alone. Patience is not my virtue and I guess I have become increasingly less tolerant of repetitive situations and maybe just a bit fed up with life.

Then, sometimes I have a moment of clarity and I feel incredibly guilty for being angry at them. I realise I should be grateful for still having the opportunity to be on this planet and I remind myself that my brother died at the age of 21. I have been here twice as long as he got to be, and yet here I am moaning and groaning about how crap everything is.

When he died, I was 26 and actually used that as a driver for myself to live my life in a better, more positive way and this worked for a while. Somewhere along the way, this mantra has been lost and gradually overtaken by frustration and apathy.

I can’t foresee myself ever being entirely happy with the cards I’ve been dealt, but I need to find some way to appreciate life a bit more. Perhaps I need more “me” time or a change of scenery now and then. Perhaps I just need to man up and stop feeling sorry for myself.

Perhaps, I need to start celebrating birthdays properly and start having some “fun”.

Saturday, 23 June 2012


It never rains but it pours. In fact, it seems to have been pouring down here for weeks and I am becoming distinctively fed up with it.

We are obsessed with the weather in this country at the best of times, but rain brings an aura of emotive, depressing drudgery with it. This is summer, I should be basking in vitamin D loaded sunshine to cheer me up and prevent me developing rickets, but alas, it is not to be. It’s wet, miserable and I’m even inadvertently humming tunes about the rain. I haven’t quite resorted to umbrella swirling, Gene Kelly style singing in the rain yet but it’s not far off.

The Who tell us “Only love can make it rain” while Prince insists rain is purple and only wants to see us bathing in it. The great Echo & The Bunnymen believe “your hurricanes have brought down this ocean rain” and even The Beatles who probably started the whole rain thing “run and hide their heads” if it comes.

Bono screams its “raining, raining in the heart” towards the end of One Tree hill and even Madonna feels it on her finger tips and hears it on the window pane.

Adele more recently wanted to set fire to it, and I’d like to do that too, at least we would get some heat for a bit. However, The Cult confirm “here comes the rain, here she comes again” so there really is no escape and they love it too apparantley.

Actually so do the good old boys from the Alarm who also love to feel it in the summer time. Travis, however pose the rhetorical “Why does it always rain on me?”

In my ramblings of rain soaked desperation, that’s actually quite a good little play list and has cheered me up no end. I think to finish it off I will add my beloved elbow’s Great Expectations which is a most beautiful song and starts off with the very apt “and if it rains all day, call on you, I’ll call on you like I used to. Slide down beside you and wrap you in stories, tailored entirely for you….”

If you are fed up with the rain, or looking for a tune or two, go listen to these

The Who – Love, Reign O’er Me
Prince - Purple Rain
Echo & the Bunnymen – Ocean Rain
The Beatles – Rain
U2 – One Tree Hill
Madonna – Rain
Adele – Set Fire to The Rain
The Cult – Rain
The Alarm – Rain in The Summer Time
Travis – Why Does it Always rain on Me?
Elbow – Great Expectations

Friday, 8 June 2012

School Trip

My daughter’s P7 school trip is coming up and they are going away for five days to some adventure site with canoeing, zip wires, hiking etc. This will be the first time she’s been away for more than two days and will no doubt be a lump in the throat moment for me as I wave her off on Monday morning.

Come to think of it, it’s already sticking in my throat a bit, but that’s more to do with the all the stuff I’ve had to buy. There was a list of essential items sent home from school which covers all eventualities from an unexpected heat wave to a more realistic hypothermic climatic event.

When you explain to a fashion conscious twelve year old they need a warm fleece and a cagoule in case it gets cold or rains, they look at you like you’ve just told them the end of the world is nigh. “But I can’t wear that, what will all my friends say?” Well, they will either all be wearing the same or sitting there soaked to the skin catching pneumonia wishing they had sensible parents – duh. (Disclaimer – I say sensible in the loosest term)

Fortunately, we bought her funky wellies last winter because she made such a song and dance about having a pair in the first place – and then proceeded never to wear the bloody things.

Our list now includes indoor shoes, outdoor shoes, wellies, shoes to throw away after canoeing, waterproofs, jumpers, sun-cream, rucksack, thermos flask, sandwich box plus old clothes for outdoor activities and good clothes for travelling / peer pressure, toiletries to cover all eventualities but also with the caveat that only one small holdall is allowed ?

Unless someone has invented a Tardis like case then this is not going to work. I suppose we could make her dress up like the Michelin man and wear three days of clothes on top of each other.....A bit like trying to travel on a budget airline for a week long holiday with a cabin bag.

I ended up having to buy the biggest holdall possible from the local Argos and so she will just about be ok, other than the fact she may not be able to carry it.

There is also great gnashing of teeth because they are not allowed to take mobile phones with them. “It's not fair, how will I cope” Hmmm, let me see. You’ll just have to speak to each other face to face, instead of What’s Apping or Face-Timing, you know like we used to do when I was your age. “What you didn’t have texting or nothing? like how old are you ?”

I’m ancient, positively decrepit, a relic of the distant past, the good old days and the way it was all rolled into one. Well, actually I’m not. It just seems like it to her, all things being relative. Einstein’s great theory of relativity which says something along the lines of if you are young, then ergo your parents are massively old, stupid and know nothing of your world.

So, I hope all these twelve year old techno-freaks will survive a few days in the wilderness without their digital television, computers and mobile telecommunications devices.

Me, I’m looking forward to the peace and quiet. Well actually, I’m not. I know there will be a big piece of something missing from the house, even if it is the chaotic annoying bit.

Maybe these school trips are not only for the kid’s independence but also the first step in preparing us parents for the fact that one day they will leave home. See I’m going all melodramatic and forlorn already and she’s not going until Monday.

Monday, 4 June 2012

New Shoes

Picking a new pair of trainers can be a minefield with our son. He likes his old trainers you see. They are the same kind as he had before, and almost the same style he had before that. He kind of likes things the same. He doesn’t like change. Any change.

At first he resists leaving the house and finds any excuse to delay the process. He refuses to get dressed, takes an hour to eat breakfast, or says he’s just finishing something off on Minecraft. His list of excuses are legendary, he could write a book called 101 ways to avoid doing something you don’t want to.

Following extended negotiations, bribery etc we manage to leave, but only on the proviso, this will not take any longer than forty-minutes. God I hope there’s not a queue.

We arrive at the sport shop and the first problem soon becomes apparent, there are no black Nike’s with green stripes. Now, I am as stubborn as anyone when it comes to trainers – I’m an adidas man, always have been, always will be, so I can understand his brand preference, but why must it be a green swoosh ?

There are black ones with a black swoosh. What about these? “Nah, don’t like them”. There are black ones with a red swoosh. What about these? “Nah…Well, maybe…..Nah, they’ve got laces, I want Velcro” Ok but you have to learn to tie shoelaces sometime. This immediately puts more pressure on him and you can see the body language changing, so I backtrack quickly.

What about these ones? Look, they have a green stripe, ok they are white but they have Velcro. “Hmmm…..yeah, Ok then I like them”. It’s a small miracle, he’s picked a pair, we are sorted. Excuse me; do you have these in a size 2?

Five minutes later, assistant returns and apologises, sorry these only start at size 3. Oh crap, just when we thought it was in the bag. Another potential meltdown point, we pacify him for a second or two and quickly thinking on my feet I ask what Nikes they have in his size with Velcro. A few minutes later, the guy appears with two boxes and I’m praying by this time one of these will hold the answer.

First box opens and they have laces. Er, I thought we said no laces. He doesn’t like laces. Son is now rocking back and forth, meltdown approaching fast. That could just be enough to push him over the edge.

I wait with baited breath for the second box to open, I’m ready for the kick off, I’m ready to leave the shop in a hurry, I’m ready for the stares and for the embarrassment. By a stroke of luck, or fate or a butterfly flapping its wings in New Zealand, the second box opens…… they are size 2, they have a green stripe, they have Velcro…. but…. there is a touch of blue in them…….. “…..Yeah I like those Dad”

Relief, at least temporarily. We have the trainers. I almost want to punch the air, he hasn’t noticed we’ve strained over forty minutes yet either…. and we still have new swimming shorts to pick. Yeah, he likes his old shorts too, the ones with the green and the blue pattern on them, The ones he got two years ago and still wears because he couldn’t find another pair that were the same last year…..Here we go again….

Thursday, 31 May 2012

Parents Night

Parent’s night has come and gone. My last one at daughter’s primary school before she heads up to the academy. She’s been a great credit to herself over the years and has achieved ‘Golden’ status more times than I care to remember.

Parents night is a breeze, we wait for half an hour because they always overrun, only to be told how the teachers look forward to “these ones” because they are easy for them. Pleasantries aside, we are in and out of there in less than five minutes, with glowing reports of how great our daughter is.

Our son was at this same school for three years. His autistic disorder meant he could not cope with mainstream and they could not cope with him. I spent those three years of my life almost continually battling with the establishment to either explain to them how autism needed to be adapted for or defending his rights. 
We went through two headmistresses, three classroom assistants and two special needs one to one teachers. 

My e-mails and letters are the stuff of legend, no matter how clever they thought they were being I responded clinically and defended my son while slashing through their waffle and exposing their lack of knowledge and at times sheer incompetency.

We had so many meetings, reviews, urgent summonses, illegal exclusions and downright avoidance of responsibility that it almost drove us to despair. As a professional, well informed individual who is tough in nature, I have no idea how some parents cope with this shambles. We felt stigmatised, alienated and discriminated against.

At times it was regularly suggested that his challenging behaviours were a result of naughtiness or insinuations about our parenting methods were made. For this I have to be even more grateful for our daughter’s performance than anything. She stood as testament that we, the parents of the child from hell were not at fault. Without her we would have been subject to even more criticism, blame and probably more social work scrutiny.

If our parenting was ever in question, we were lucky in some respects to be able to say, look at our daughter, look how she behaves, how she responds, how polite and eloquent she is.
For parents with children who are all autistic, they won’t have this yardstick for others to measure them on and I would imagine the pressure must be even greater.

To you and other parents who are fighting bureaucracy or policies that do not deliver what they say and who have to cope with crap day in, day out.....Try not to let those bastards get you down. You know your child better than they ever will, but they will always think they know better.

Parents of autistic children tend to become very well informed about the condition. Initially this can be part of the denial phase where you franticly search for every little bit of information trying to convince yourself that your child doesn’t have the condition. This quickly progresses to scrambling around to understand entitlements, policies and current practice and is further reinforced by the realisation that many professional teaching staff know very little about ASD or its complexities as far as individual presentation goes. This drives you to become an expert in your own right and soon you learn where to take information from and who offers the best explanations. Undoubtedly this is provided by other parents – or more valuably by those who have learned and adapted to live with the condition. Their insight and perspective means a great deal to me.

Of course the internet can be your enemy too, and there is far too much nonsense out there, be it outrageous hypothesis or sheer exploitation. In truth, we may never know why our children have this condition, nor fully understand, but we must cope with it and the difficulties it brings.

Friday, 25 May 2012

First BBQ

Following some of the coldest, most miserable weather I can remember for May, the sun has finally hit the sky and we have had three great days. Well great for all of you who weren’t stuck in an office all week.

By the time I have travelled home and had supper, the sun has passed over the house next door and only a small sliver of sunshine is left across the bottom corner of my garden. Still quite pleasant though, and nice to sit out even if it’s only for twenty minutes or so.

However, last night I got home about 5.30pm and could smell the enticing whiff of smoky barbeques resonating from various back gardens. As I drifted into a hypnotic state drooling at the thought of grilled meat, it seemed like a good idea to go and fire up my own BBQ.

The cover had torn during the winter and when I removed what was left of it there was more dust, rusty bits and spider webs than I was expecting. The grill was slightly, ok more than slightly manky with the remains of the final cooking last year and the lava rock looked like it had degraded to dust.

No problem I thought, a quick brush down, soak of the grill, replacement briquettes and we are good to go.
Of course, being completely stupid, I’m still dressed in my finest work trousers with shirt and tie which of course became tarnished with grease, rust and black marks only seconds into my mission. Cue first batch of cursing.

I attempted to clean the grill, only to find out we had no brillo pads and so left to soak in very hot water while I shovelled out the old lava rock. A family of slugs had moved in to the bottom of the grill pan, and I must admit that even I was beginning to be put off the idea by now. I gloried on, removing dead and living creatures and went to the shed only to find there was no replacement lava rock. Curses.

OK, I thought, while the grill pan is soaking – I’ll nip to Asda, pick up some sausages, burgers, buns, lava rock and I’ll be back in a jiffy. Well despite the fact that the supermarket has had barbeque food in store since the 3rd February (a bit ambitious for Scotland) there are only about three sausages left on the shelf and no kebabs or anything else worth having. Furthermore despite selling gas barbeques they have no lava rock. More cursing and a trip to Homebase now required. Time is moving on here and it’s close to 6.15pm and I’m now hungry and irritated.

I get to Homebase, there is one person on the till and I’m in a queue of five people who are all carrying out major decorating projects, complete re-landscaping of their gardens or requiring assistance with carrying their newly acquired patio sets. I get home at 6.40pm.

Wife hasn’t even washed the grill for me because she was doing something else far more important. Cue some harsh words, slight argument and she may have used the words ”you can stuff your burgers then”.

So by 7pm, I’m sitting in the garden (now in the shade) on my own eating frozen beef burgers with processed sliced cheese, and a few of the worst sausages I’d ever tasted wishing I just hadn’t bothered.

On the upside, it was tranquil, no-one was bothering me and I had a beer in my hand. Tonight I think I might just go straight for the beer.

Monday, 21 May 2012

When I was a boy

I watched the Halfords seventies inspired TV ad on youtube the other night and it really reminded me of my own childhood right down to my beloved Raleigh Grifter.

I grew up on a city estate but was lucky to escape to the small town where my grandmother lived almost every weekend, where a harbour, two small rivers, numerous woods and fields replaced the concrete jungle and hard play areas I was used to.

I had a completely different set of friends with a spread of a few years between us and that always ensured a variety of ‘experiences’ as I grew up. The oldest ones always set the pace and probably drove many of the rites of passage.

We spent a considerable amount of time in the woods, playing cowboys and Indians at an early age, right through to full teenage making out sessions and everything in-between. We had rope swings over the river, “death slides” across a steep embankment, dens built in the trees or bushes and an inordinate amount of matches / firelighters and penknives.

We weren’t a bunch of raving arsonists either, well apart from the time we inadvertently set one of the hay bales on fire. In truth we were a bit naughty, but I remember making campfires responsibly by finding a clear area and using stones to build a surround – we knew to be careful. There was the odd occasion where the temptation of spraying lighter fluid got the better of us.

As for the knives, well these days kids all walk about threatening to stab each other. Back then, you had a knife for carving your name in trees and for gutting fish, cutting line and you could just walk in to the local sports shop and buy one without anyone batting an eyelid. Those fishing trips were always hilarious with people throwing worms at each other, running away from the local gamekeeper or stuffing a brown trout down someone’s pants.

Every time we went out someone always ended up soaked either by being pushed in the river, jumping into the harbour or falling off the rope swings.

I also remember we all used to gather empty refundable lemonade bottles from our respective houses and club together to buy sweets from the corner shop…. or sometimes 10’s of Regal King Size when they still sold them to twelve year olds.

Camping in the dark in the woods was also incredible as a kid. I remember bravely setting off with one of my friends as the others all chickened out. We were full of bravado and it was all great, setting up the tent and filling up with food as the sun was setting. By the time it got dark, we were absolutely shitting ourselves, not helped by my mate’s older brothers collapsing the tent at 11.30pm in a horror attack reminiscent of the Blair Witch Project.

As I look back with nostalgia at all those experiences, I realise how different childhood is these days. So, what of my own children. Well, I have to say they have never been fishing poaching, camping trespassing, built a fire burnt anything down or pushed anyone in a river tried to drown anyone. I must be doing something right.

Thursday, 17 May 2012

I am Lazy

Following my confessions of indoor Frisbee playing and thoughts about walking the dog on a treadmill from my armchair, I have realised I am officially a lazy git.

I am the kid who was led to believe that by the turn of the century we should have had robots doing the housework, serving you drinks and washing the car. Personally, I blame the programme “Tomorrow’s World” for introducing us to all these labour saving concepts and thereby brainwashing me as a child.

Having said that, I am also guilty of failing to take advantage of the many technologies that do exist to make our lives easier. For example we still do not have a dishwasher. I defend this by suggesting it’s far more environmentally friendly to wash your dishes by hand. In doing so, I am of course single handedly saving the planet. My wife will say that I’m just a tight git who won’t buy one. I’ll leave you to make up your own mind.

Anyway, now I have confessed to being a tight and lazy git I might as well ask for some other offences to be taken into consideration.

It struck me this morning that despite having an annoying warning message flashing at me on the car dashboard every day for the last six weeks, I still haven’t got round to changing my brake light bulb. I mean we are not talking huge expense or a major inconvenience here, all I have to do is stop past Halfords and spend about two minutes in the boot of the car and yet it remains undone.

In fact, bulb replacement must be one of my weaknesses. Again, I tell you no lies; my fridge light has been out for at least six months. Someone (My Cuntry Manor) was posting pictures of inside your fridge on Twitter the other week and I couldn’t join in, because my fridge was too dark.

Furthermore, my cooker hood bulb went out over a year ago, leaving my hob in relative gloom. Even worse, the oven light, you know the one inside the oven hasn’t worked for as long as I can remember.
Don’t mention Christmas lights either, half the bulbs on the tree were not working last year, although in my defence I couldn’t find any suitable replacement ones in Homebase after I was nagged incessantly for half of December.

Now that covers all my lack of bulb replacements, I’m glad I’ve got that off my chest. Oh crap, just remembered one of the table lamps in the bedroom too.

I’m not sure I have time to go into all the torches, toys or other things that are lying around needing batteries nor the set of shelves we bought from IKEA four years ago that are still sitting in the bottom of the wardrobe waiting to be put up.

In fact, I was also supposed to touch up all the internal woodwork varnish last year but I think the wife has forgotten about that , or is just keeping quiet about it because her bloody dog has chewed half the skirting boards.

I think I may have to stop this confession as I’m starting to recall even more grievous acts of sheer laziness that I had no intention of uncovering and must have been successful in forgetting them altogether in the first place.

I’m beginning to think I must have Spanish blood or the most advanced case of “mañana, mañana” syndrome in the western world.

Friday, 11 May 2012

We're All Going on a Summer Holiday

Well I say “holiday” loosely of course as anyone who’s ever been away from home with kids for any longer than five minutes will testify that most of the time its just more stress in a different location.

Having a son with autistic disorder makes our trips even more daunting and you tend to spend virtually every minute on edge just waiting for something to trigger a meltdown. Usually if we are lucky this might just involve him running away from the situation and probably interrupting our meal while one of us goes after him. In some cases it can be a bit more serious than that and it can be embarrassing having to apologise to restaurant owners for the smashed plates or when the whole breakfast room turn their heads at once while your ten year old is shouting at the top of his voice and stamping his feet like a spoiled three year old.
I have countless examples of our recent trips descending into difficulty and for this reason my wife decided this year we were not going to go abroad. She’s had enough. I can’t blame her. What used to be something to look forward to has become something she dreads and you wonder whether there is any real point in going anywhere.

We have been lucky enough to get away nearly every year, albeit we probably shouldn’t have and my outstanding credit card bill remains testament to this annual folly. I reluctantly agreed and instead of booking flights on the 3rd January like I normally do, we didn’t plan anything.

As summer gets closer I have been getting a little grumpier about this, the thought of being at home for two weeks is not appealing. We will be at each other’s throats, the kids will not be bothered about going anywhere local as they’ve been to everywhere before and the weather will be crap. Did I mention optimism has never been one of my strong points?

Anyway, about a week or two ago, my son starts asking where we are going on holiday. Ironically, he’s expecting to go somewhere and was not happy when I told him we hadn’t planned anything. Cue meltdown and endless whinging for the next week solid about how his summer will be boring and that he doesn’t want to stay at home. Now I’m thinking my two weeks off will be even more gruesome with an unhappy autistic person. Again this entrenched state of mind is a common trait where people will get it in to their head something is happening or should be a certain way and will simply be unable to accept it’s any different.

I started looking at the possibility of going somewhere in the UK. Yes that’s right, I said the UK. My utmost and absolute worst possible holiday destination. We don’t cater well for people in this country, the food is generally poor or chain related, the accommodation is overpriced or shabby and the weather is, well enough said. On top of this, you end up spending more than you would have done on holiday abroad in the first place without the benefit of increased vitamin D exposure or bikinis by the pool to gawk at sideways through your sunglasses.

My wife used to go caravanning with her grandparents in the seventies as a young child and has really fond memories of this, so suggested we could hire one for a week. A caravan? – I’d rather spend a week in Beirut. I dismissed this idea swiftly by pointing out that if we can’t survive in a two bedroom apartment without war breaking out, then the close living quarters in a caravan would result in all out Armageddon.

To make matters even more difficult, trying to book a cat and dog into kennels for the school holiday period needs to be done with military planning about nine months beforehand, not a matter of weeks. Following various phone calls, begging, pleading and bribery I managed to get the local cattery to take the cat for five days and the in-laws to look after the puppy. They have no idea what’s going to happen to their house!

So, after a week of steady, heated negotiations we are going to a certain woodland holiday village for a four day “break”. I can’t see this being any less stressful for us, but at least we won’t be at home the whole time. It does seem over priced, my son will probably not cope with the activities but did like the look of the pool and my “boy hunting” daughter will spend hours doing her hair and preening herself even if she’s about to go down a zip wire. Actually, she also seemed keen on the archery – I think Katniss is her new role model.

Maybe I should sneakily book one of that single person holidays in the Greek islands somewhere and tell the wife I have to go on a weeklong residential course for work.

Sunday, 6 May 2012

All Grown Up

This is my daughters twelfth birthday weekend; she came into our world on one of the sunniest, warmest days of the year on Sunday 7th May. I remember hanging out the baby clothes to dry, because I had to quickly wash them all as she arrived unexpectedly, 3 weeks early. In contrast, today is only six degrees and its blooming freezing.

All parents come out with the old “don’t know where the time has gone” line, but it is true. Seems like yesterday we were cleaning up baby vomit, spending all our money at Mothercare or sterilising milk bottles and suddenly we now have a young woman about to start secondary school.

Her birthday treat tonight is a proper slap up Chinese meal at a restaurant, followed by some sleepover chaos at our house. Of course, with her impeccable timing she announced on Thursday evening that she didn’t have anything to wear. Cue frantic shopping trip yesterday and a £60 dress and a new pair of shoes, which to be honest wasn’t in my budgeting plans. Combined with her extortionate list of sleepover requirements – Strawberries, Raspberries, Cream, Hot chocolate, Crepes, Waffles, Syrup, Chocolate Spread, Fresh Orange Juice, Face Masks, Popcorn etc – I am now financially crippled. Given her current insistence, I can only imagine what her “rider” would be like if she is ever famous. Probably Vintage Champagne, Caviar and hand crafted chocolates with someone to serve it to her on a silver platter.

Changed days from my birthday parties. First off, you only ever got one now and then if you were lucky. I have great memories of late 70’s birthday teas at my grandmas house though. Home made scones, fairy cakes, jelly moulds, ice-cream, sausage rolls and sandwiches were the order of the day. I can even see the old brown and orange plates in my minds eye with the plastic tumblers and diluting tartrazine filled orange juice. Oh we knew how to party back then.

I can also just about remember being twelve myself. I went abroad for the first time to my beloved Majorca in 1982, got the Aston Villa away strip for my birthday (not because I supported them, just cause it was a smart top) and spent a lot of time snogging girls. Crap, that must mean my beloved little angel is probably hanging round snogging boys. Time to get that big stick out of the shed.

In fact the next few years are the ones I’m dreading as a parent. Four years ago she was eight, in four years time she’ll be sixteen. We are on the cusp of a huge swing. Daddy’s little girl has almost gone and that makes me sad. I guess I always want her to be the eight year old but all I can now hope for is to help her grow into a responsible adult. Although, I’m not quite sure I’ve even managed that myself yet.

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

Homework Excercise

It has been some days since my last blog. I may have alluded to the fact I am very busy with work to the extent where I’m in the office at 7.15am, getting home at six and taking the laptop with me. The old work life balance is in danger of going the wrong way again.

I would have loved to have said my time had been taken up with extensive physical exertion and that I have been sweating buckets training for a marathon or something worthy, but I haven’t. In truth I mostly sit around during the day, then come home and sit around in the evening, with as little dog walking as I can get away with in between. In fact, the most exercise I get these days is sprinting up the stairs at work, but only if anyone attractive is in the near vicinity.

My work has a fantastic gym facility with modern equipment, exercise programmes and sporting events ongoing throughout the year. The gym is so great, I have been there, ooh let me see, that’s right, zero times since I joined.

 I’ve never been bothered by weight issues much and because I looked after myself by going to the gym in my twenties, I am probably getting away with murder these days. My waistline has crept up over the last ten years, but if I breathe in you couldn’t tell. To be honest I’m actually losing weight at the moment due to my healthier lunchtime breaks, where salad is the order of the day. Well to be fair some token lettuce and a few peppers get to accompany the roast ham or chicken I have on my plate. In all seriousness, I have stopped eating crisps, sandwiches and chocolate bars for lunch, which is probably the main difference.

I am wondering whether now is the time to pick up the mantle and start training again. A quick run round the block shouldn’t kill me, should it? or maybe it would. An old colleague of mine firmly believed in a theory that every living thing only had a certain number of heartbeats and then it would die. He justified this by explaining hamsters have tiny little hearts that race very quickly and they only live a very short time and would go through a whole story on a range of increasingly sized mammals to illustrate his point. He always culminated with a dig at joggers and used to jokingly say they were just wasting their heartbeats.

I swear that guy led the most sedentary lifestyle ever, feet up on the desk, wouldn’t even walk from room to room if he could get away with it and he smoked like a chimney in the days where smoking was still allowed. He retired about ten years ago and he’s still knocking around, so perhaps there was some merit in his theory.

So, back to my new exercise regime. I need to get some motivation, but while I’m still taking work home with me it’s unlikely to happen. The temptation of a glass of wine in the evening is far more appealing than pulling on my trainers and old tracksuit bottoms. Yeah, that's it I need some new kit first…...

Thursday, 26 April 2012

The Gig Meme

Another music “meme” going around. In fact this is the first of two I have recently been tagged to undertake. David at itsadadslife has a great blog and has asked me to reveal my gigging past to you.

My First experience of a live gig was in fact Motorhead. Yes, that’s right you read it correctly. Pick yourself up off the floor, its true. At the age of about eleven my incredibly generous uncle took me and my best mate to see the No Sleep til Hammersmith live tour. Lemmy, some other blokes and two thousand greasy heavy metal head-cases going mental and my uncle trying to prevent us rushing down to the front, where to be fair we would probably have died. My ears were ringing for three days afterwards and I’m not sure my hearing has ever been the same.

selected track: Ace of Spades

My Worst gig is a difficult one as I haven’t really been to that many I didn’t really want to be at, if you know what I mean. Would say the one I was most let down by was a Simple Minds gig in the early 90’s. It wasn’t bad, just not as good as I had hoped for. In truth it was a crap night, I was in a bad mood and the support act was uninspiring, so to be fair perhaps it was me and not them. They were one of my favourite bands and made some cracking music in the early eighties.

selected track: Don’t You Forget About Me

My Best gig is without a doubt Oasis at Loch Lomond back in 1996. Truly amazing day out in the most spectacular setting, only spoiled by overpriced burgers and beer. The band at their very best, totally great atmosphere that was absolutely bouncing. Words cannot describe how 40,000 Scots who have been drinking all afternoon can party into the evening. They even had some amazing fireworks at the end of the night just to top it all off. My mate even had his face painted like braveheart (pillock).

selected track: Slide Away

My Last gig was Elbow at Glasgow SECC last March (shows how often I get out these days !). Guy Garvey is without doubt an amazing down to earth bloke, who pens genius lyrics for a band who are musicians through and through, and have five fantastic albums. I so want to pick a track from their earlier albums, but the track should be from the gig, and this isn’t actually my favourite track but on the night the crowd were amazing and it really finished a superb evening.

selected track: One Day Like This

My Dream gig is such a tough one. I like so many great bands and have missed so many great opportunities to see them live. As a teenager U2 were never off my playlist and their concert at Redrocks, outdoor amphitheatre was just the most brilliant setting for a concert. They recorded Under a Blood Red Sky there and I watched the video until it wore out. U2 distance themselves from their early material these days, but hell it’s what made them – and you have got to love Bono’s leather trousers and flag waving.

selected track: The Electric Co (live)

Now to three other music types for them to continue if they wish. Jaille Daddy tagged me in another musical meme which I will complete in due course, so I'll return the favour and tag him. slightlysuburbandad likes a good meme and some good music. Finally Kev is into his music in a big way too.

Edit: I should add this meme was originally doing the rounds courtesy of MusoDad who has since retired from blogging but will put your suggestions on a spotify play list if you twitter him !

Friday, 20 April 2012

The Alternative Zodiac

The signs of the zodiac have been around for many moons, however do they really provide an up to date representation of each star sign?
First off, I am a man of science and do not follow astrology in the mind bendingly dumb sense of belief that everyone on this planet with a similar birthday will all meet a tall dark stranger, get a new job or come onto money on the same day. That’s just absurd. Having said that I once pinned my stars from the newspaper on my wall at work as they said “Those around you underestimate your true value to the world of business and commerce, consider taking your talents elsewhere” which I felt was apt and used as a continuous motivator to myself and my arse of a boss.

Ok, so what can we update? I will start with Taurus. Everyone knows some stubborn, lazy, self-indulgent Taurean, don’t they? The Bull may be quite appropriate with this regard, however from now on I declare “The John McCrirrick” should represent the sign of Taurus.

Moving swiftly on to the Gemini’s of this world. Superficial, devious and indecisive. You know who you are and shall have your Twins identity removed and updated with “The Two Faces”. Cause you are and you know it!

Moody, over-sensitive Cancerians everywhere, I bet you can’t wait to get rid of The Crab. Its bad enough having to say the “C” word let alone being represented by a snippy little creature that doubles as a sexually transmitted infestation. You shall go forth with glory and be represented by “The Sulky Teenager”.

Leo’s have always had a good thing with the king of the jungle, and that’s kind of how most of the pretentious, domineering folks behave. Henceforth they shall keep their mane and be rewarded with the new identity of “The Redfoo” (he’s the front man of LMFAO in case you are wondering)

Virgo’s of the world, hmmm a tough one. You are interfering,
cold (explains the Virgin representation), fussy and hence you shall now be known to me as “The Spinster”. Well if you weren’t so cold and unwelcoming you wouldn’t have been left on the shelf now would you.

Despite being represented by the scales, Libra’s are indecisive and unreliable, and must therefore (as much as it pains me) be deemed “The Man”. I used to be indecisive but now I’m not so sure.

However, Scorpio’s jealous, suspicious and manipulative nature can only mean they are of course without any doubt “The Woman”.

Sagittarians. Pushy, tactless, blunt and prone to exaggeration must hereby lay down their bows and be known as “The American”. Sorry if this upsets my cross Atlantic readers, but it’s kind of true mostly ;-)

As for all the Capricorn inhibited, distrusting, dictators out there, well you can kiss goodbye to the goat and welcome your new identity of “The Traffic Warden” (or Little Hitler if you prefer). Ooh, you like to be in charge and have things done your way, don’t you?

Aquarians with their sarcastic, unemotional aloofness shall forthwith be known as “The Dr House”. Lets face it your cutting, dry sense of humour may be superior to the other cretins around you, but you’re probably the only one laughing.

Piscean over sensitive, self-pitying wallowers can only be “The Celebrity Rehab”. I just want to say one more thing…. “GET A GRIP OF YOURSELVES”. It had to be said, you’ll thank me for it in the long run.

Aries by nature moody, impulsive and short-tempered shall be represented by “The Firework”, as they are ready to go off at any time. Keep your powder dry folks you don’t have to blow up at everything.

Ok that’s done it. I must have alienated everyone in the world now by choosing the worst traits that some of these star signs have….but none of you believe in that nonsense anyway, right ?

Tongue firmly in cheek.