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Sunday, 8 April 2018

The Confessions of a Public Toilet Butler

If you’ve followed my blog over the last 5 years you’ll have probably noticed I have written a lot about dung. Specifically, dung that has been produced by semi-feral children.

In this latest instalment, I’ve come to realise that kids are amazing at not only desensitising you completely to brown matter, but also making their excremental movements an entertaining topic of conversation.

Am I right in thinking there’s just something about their absolute joy in the pooing process that unless you’re a miserable git, you can’t help but laugh?

Picture the scene, I’m in M Shed Museum in Bristol and I’ve got both kids when the brown alert gets parped by the eldest, and I’m dragged along to the toilet.

We’re in a spacious cubicle. I can’t describe the stench, so I won’t bother. It’s sickening. This is a day’s worth of filth festering inside an enclosed space. I’m holding the baby just hoping this is going to be a quick one but knowing in my heart this is going to be a 10 minute job.

Aside from the sensory overload from the flavoursome aromas I’m happy because I’ve missed the boy and just picked him up off his grandparents and I’m looking forward to taking him sledging. This is par for the course of parenting. Grit your teeth and get on with it.

The conversation begins.

“Daddy I’m not gonna poo unless you leave the room” 

“Ok fine. I’ll stare at the wall.”

“I want you to go though. Go away.”

“No, don’t worry, look, I’m staring at the wall.”

Panic sets in. There’s no way I’m leaving this cubicle. I need to see he’s washed his hands, and I’m not sure he’s familiar enough with locks yet. I mentally picture a scene of carnage with him locking himself in. Fatherhood is full of paranoia like that.

The seconds pass and I hear the gentle plops of progress along with satisfied grunts.

I mimic the grunts. Can’t help it.

Laughing ensues. But now I’m just getting impatient.

“Please hurry up.”

“No. I want to sit here and poo alllll night long. HAHAHAHA.”

I hide my smile. That’s a good one.

“Seriously mate, it’s really hard holding Leo up all this time, my arm’s killing me.”

Frustration in my voice. I’ve been carrying him for ages, and it’s not like I can put him on the piss soaked floor of this hellhole. He’s also bored and doing his universal struggle movements to signify “put me on the damn floor so I can explore.”

Nothing good ever comes of putting a baby on the floor in a public toilet. When you’re on your own with one you have to pee sitting down while they flail around in your lap, grabbing at the toilet roll.

I lift him up onto my shoulders in a desperate attempt to keep him “entertained” and I take a toilet selfie because this is the type of crap a dad blogger feels like he needs to do in ridiculous situations like this.

A picture of me looking frustrated in the toilet with my baby on my shoulders
Absolutely fed up.

Charlie sees an opening to get one up on his baby brother.

“It stinks in here dunnit. Why don’t you put Leo on the floor so he can get all smelly and get pee on ‘is clothes!”

“No way, I’m not doing that!!”

More laughing ensues. Haha, very droll.

“Please hurry up. How much longer are you going to take?”

“I dunno, I think I got about 10 more poos to go.”

“OK. Keep going.”

“Daddy, what happens when all the people in the world die and there’s no one left in the world?”

[AUDIBLE LOUD LAUGHING FROM MAN IN NEIGHBOURING CUBICLE]

“Uhh. Wow. That’s a good question.”

Where the hell did that come from?

I thought of Stephen Hawking’s prediction that life on Earth will become unsustainable, and I pictured Elon Musk’s happy face, colonising Mars.

“Well maybe, well, what if everyone didn’t die, but actually some of them escaped to a different planet so they could live there instead of dying here...?”

“But why would they do that?”

“I guess they didn’t like the idea of dying! Look mate seriously it stinks here, it’s gross, we need to get out of here. Please hurry up.”

[LAUGHING IN NEXT CUBICLE INTENSIFIES.]

After 10 minutes the ordeal was over. I could start a podcast, 'awkward conversations I have in public toilets for the amusement of strangers'. It happens a lot.

Maybe this is weird, but I enjoy these scenarios, all the weird moments we get thrust into as parents. One day, my eccentric lord won’t need his butler’s stimulating conversation or helpful advice when we’re in public toilets. So I’d better make the most of it. 

I’m just glad I don’t need to wipe his arse any more.

Saturday, 17 March 2018

Burnham-On-Sea: cheap thrills, chips and charity shops.

If you ask me what my perfect day out with a baby is, I'll say get the little guy in a sling and take him to a run down seaside town for an afternoon of gawping at England's most interesting and weatherbeaten people, and shameless browsing of charity shops.

My wife HATES shopping but I love it, in fact I'd go as far as saying one of my simplest pleasures in life is to go at a snail's pace through a load of charity shops and whittle away time.

Luckily, I have a very obliging baby who seems to be cut from my cloth, and enjoys the browsing experience as much as I do. Today we went to one of my favourite haunts, Burnham-On-Sea in Somerset. Let me tell you, this is a PARADISE for the chazza shops. It's a god damn mecca!

Quirky road in Burnham-On-Sea
Quirky road leading to the high street, AKA shoppers' paradise
It's a joy to walk around. You've got a decrepid high street where Almost every Shop has Random Capitals on their signs that make absolutely no Sense. They have also been given logos that look like they were designed by a Child.

Burnham-On-Sea is eye porn, pure and simple. It's a feast for the senses, and your inner typography nerd will be screaming!

It's also full of pensioners, who inevitably croak it. Their lifelong hoards of awesome, unusual or terrible items are then gifted to the charity shops, so when you wander round them, your senses are assaulted with all things 80s, toys you remember playing with as a kid, and also things that are so tasteless you wonder how the hell anyone bought them in the first place.

They are a collection of unseen stories, from the tragic to the awesome. You'll see things that are weird, bizarre, cool, retro, awful, trashy, and wonderful all at the same time. You can't see the stories but you can feel them in your hands.

What else do I find interesting about them? Maybe it's the smell of dead people and house clearances coupled with the TK Maxx effect: you never know what you're going to find, and one day you find that one item that speaks to you on a primal level and screams "I am YOURS, motherfucker. Take me home!"

Man looking at Barry Manilow record in Burnham-On-Sea charity shop
Locking on to target, please wait
A funny picture of Barry Manilow looking suave
Take me baby.
I'm solo dadding for the next three nights while wife has a girly holiday. Today in Burnham was fucking excellent because I did all the things my wife would never agree to, charity shops included, she absolutely hates them! It was the perfect adventure with mini-me (the eldest is at his grandparents for the night, lucky me!)

I decided we'd do this properly, and find a greasy spoon, after all it's character building for the young lad. This place did not disappoint and the locals were extremely welcoming. He lapped up the attention of course, and had a procession of lovely old ladies shaking his hand. This reminded me of when he was a newborn, and it's an old lady's god given right to shake your baby's hand, pinch his cheek and politely enquire about his weight.

Picture of a traditional English cafe, very retro
Oooh yeah! But what or who is BOS? Did they forget an apostrophe?

Anyway, the kid was getting all the attention, and milking the shit out of it. No interest in his fish fingers and chips whatsoever, he'd already been given a caramel biscuit by the staff, and he's crafty. He has a sweet tooth and won't eat 'proper' food when he knows the Brucey Bonus is around.

I was loving life in this place, it was awesome knowing there was no way my wife would ever come in with me (she's a cafe snob) but here I was left to my own devices to experience the traditional English seaside town eatery.

Bos cafe menu, Burnham-On-Sea
Decisions, decisions.

I think it's sad that most of England, especially in cities, is being gentrified. Every day a new organic cafe pops up, and don't get me wrong I'm a cafe snob as much as my wife, but if you think about it, the 'real' England is being slowly eroded by the obsession we have with posh coffee and bistro food, and things looking 'just so'.

The real England is harder to find, but alive and well in Burnham-On-Sea. The views across the Bristol Channel mud flats look more like an apocalytic, desolate wasteland, framed with picture perfect concrete sea walls.

Me and the son at Burnham-On-Sea
"Excuse me can you take a picture of me so I can write about your town."

And then there's interesting locals everywhere, all with their own stories to tell, and it's really hard not to stop and watch them (or stare).

The town is a heaven for people-watchers and fans of a bygone age.

It's a place that endlessly rewards you for going down a side street. And then suddenly, out of nowhere, a stunning piece of street art.

Amazing graffiti in Burnham-On-Sea, fine art of girl staring at a lantern


Salvador Dali street art in Burnham-On-Sea with the caption, "True love is surreal"

I can't wait to go back.

Thanks for reading. If you enjoyed this then maybe you'll like my blog about a dirty burger...

Tuesday, 9 January 2018

Secret Diary of a Baby - The Universal Truths of Having an Older Sibling

Imagine if babies could talk, or write savage diaries about how hard it is being a second rate citizen subject to the torture of their older siblings. Well wonder no longer, because I found my baby's diary and it made for horrific reading..




Dear diary. At 9 months of age, I have a select vocabulary of “mama” “dada” and a peculiar “get the fuck away from me” grunt that I reserve for my older sibling.

I literally can’t WAIT until I can walk. It means I’m one step closer to being able to slam a door like he does. It looks (and sounds) so god damn satisfying.

I barely got anything for my first Christmas from my parents. A £1 toy lizard from Poundsavers and a few clothes from the H&M sale that I watched you buy me? REALLY DAD? And HE gets a Scalextric? What the fuck?!

Worst of all, on Christmas Day, that idiot brother of mine decided he liked my lizard more than anything else he got, and proceeded to tail-slap and taunt me with it while I crawled after him. Talk about a 101 lesson in how to enrage and distress a baby, I’VE GOT MENTAL SCARS HERE PEOPLE. 

And what’s with baby toys? No interest, pal. Instead, when he leaves it lying around I get a god damn SWORD, motherfucker! And the giant Bruder crane lorry for 3 year olds and above is siiick!
Hold up, what the fuck, I was clearly playing with that. Alone. And you came in here and took it away from me for no reason because you are an arsehole. And now you’re damn near strangling me with the rope whoa whoa whoa this is not cool. Abort abort ABORT. 

(No idea why I keep saying fuck, but I can’t stress to you how stressful it is having an older sibling.)

Parents keep talking to him about his “reward chart” but meanwhile I’m sat here wondering why don’t I get a chart? I need a mini break in the Algarve for the shit I have to put up with.

And what’s this LEGO stuff with all the little pieces, why does dad keep having kittens whenever I go near it? I’m fucking teething here man, throw me a bone!

Bathtime is just plain nasssty. I’m sat here trying not to drown while this hippopotamus oaf keeps grabbing me like I’m a girl at a gypsy wedding.

You know what also pisses my bottle? Mother and father carry my nappies around in a rucksack and not a proper baby changing bag. I’m not a second rate citizen you know! Stop acting like you’ve got parenting nailed. I deserve a change bag FFS.

And why does HE get all the new clothes? This is bullshit!

Don’t even get me started on the dirty ass Maclaren stroller you carted me around in. Grubby as fuck. Did you even bother to clean it? Such a huge relief when my dear grandparents bought me a swanky new one, out of shame. No question, it was the best day of my life. Love you, Nana and Grandpa. Can’t fake this shit, I cried real tears of joy. 

When you change my nappy it’s bad enough, but when that boy loses his shit because he hasn’t seen my poo it’s the final humiliation. I AM BETTER THAN THIS. I AM NOT A SCIENTIFIC EXPERIMENT.

Good news though. I’ve just learned how to climb the stairs. Up there is where all the good shit is! And my bed. Dear God how I need my bed. 

OK. Gotta go “play the game” for a bit. They keep telling me about this “See Boobies” thing on the big window and how my brother used to “love” this freak called Mr Tumble. Clearly the man is deeply unhinged but whatevs, I’ll smile and nod.

Saturday, 6 January 2018

Newsflash: Having a Second Child is HARD!

People have been asking me recently, why haven't I posted any blogs lately? My last one was in March 2017.

The truth is, what can I possibly write that accurately portrays how fucking weird the last year has been.

Nothing prepares you for two kids.

Nothing...

...Especially if your eldest owns a pair of handcuffs!

Don't get me wrong, I actively support the notion of having more than one kid, I am overjoyed to be a dad again.

He's absolutely delightful! I'm totally smitten with the boy.

But it's hard.

It's RELENTLESS.

At times you can question your own mental health.

And, when I drop the eldest off at school I sometimes look around and wonder why the same people smile like they're not finding this difficult at all. They warmly greet other people, as they trundle their ready made five-a-side team of angelic oompa loompas through the gates.

But I'm just there thinking, "Mate, are you OK? How the fuck are you OK? How can you smile like this?!"

What I've learnt from the last 9 months:

I know it's easy for some families, and having another child can be a breeze.

I respect that, I really do.

But also I know first hand that people can't compute how you could possibly be finding parenting hard. And I consider myself quite an open person. If I don't know you that well and you ask me how I am, I'll give you an honest answer.

In those first months of parenting, I remember confiding once in someone that I was finding it tough. I was worried by how Charlie was reacting to the new arrival, that he was a bit rough, and I was scared he might hurt the baby. Their face dropped like I'd just said the worst thing in the world.

How could I possibly think that my boy was finding it hard that he wasn't the centre of attention, and might have a little bit of ill feeling towards his brother?

What an insane thing to say. How unkind! How shocking!

Yep. It deeply pisses me off when someone is judgmental like that.

You have to be careful who you confide in, especially if they're a gossip.

The truth is, if you have another kid, the chances are your eldest is not going to react well to it. Shit is about to get real.

It's like being the Marketing Director of Kronenbourg 1664, and telling Eric Cantona you don't think he is the face of Kronenbourg any more, while Zinedine Zidane laughs in his face.

That sort of conversation is going to end BADLY.

It's like being a collective of Moroccan couscous farmers who've invited Ainslie Harriott on an all expenses paid vacation to Marrakech, only to tell him you're not comfortable with his face being used so extensively in British supermarkets on packets of your little steaming balls of crushed wheat. And then Jamie Oliver walks out, smirking, from behind a curtain.

Ainslie's ever present smile is going to drop and he is going to go absolutely mental.



Words of warning:

There's a chance when you have a second kid that your experience is going to be a tough one. Introducing a baby into your home is potentially going take a long time, especially while balancing other things like work, lack of sleep, moving house, settling your eldest (let's call him Ainslie) into his first year of school.

That in itself is big, no one prepares you for that, for the tiredness when little Ainslie gets home and is god damn beside himself with hunger, fatigue and quite often indescribable rage from feeling so tired.

But the good news is it gets better.

After weeks and months of pulling your hair out with stress, and fatigue, everyone including Ainslie will adapt.

9 months in, my eldest accepts that when baby goes to bed it's a chance to binge watch Cbeebies while waiting for his turn, and he loves that.

Now he's obsessed with his baby brother and tells us he loves him!

Watching them interact and laugh with each other is heart-melting, it reminds you that even in the most difficult day-from-hell moments, having two kids is the best thing ever.

I know I've been negative in this post but let me just set the record straight. It is totally worth it!

I think we've all come a long way as a family during this time and we've all learnt something about ourselves, and if you're doing it too, or are about to have another baby, I hope you find these words reassuring in some way!