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….