Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Because having an opinion isn't all it's cracked up to be...

If there is one thing married life has taught me, and taught me well, is that wives don’t really care about their husband’s opinion when it comes to how to bring up “their” children.

They might ask for it, frequently, they just aren't actually interested in it.

They only ask because they want to amuse themselves by hearing an idiot telling them the wrong opinion.

This is how they think.

But we get them back.

Fret not; the last laugh is most certainly ours.

The other day, before leaving the house for work, I remembered my youngest son mentioning that his bedside lamp’s bulb had blown.

It was the work of a second to replace it.

I went to work my late shift, knowing I would not be home until well after the kids were in bed.

Later in the day, my lovely wife left about a dozen plates spinning at her work in order to rush home and collect Jamie from his after-school club. Swiftly joined by our eldest boy, she quickly knocked up an evening meal out of whatever she could find while helping with homework. Nobody knows exactly how my wife throws meals together as fast as she does.

It’s an enigma.

The fridge, the cupboards, the house – all completely bereft of food and the oven cold.

Twenty seconds later there’s a table full of piping hot dinner. Not that the boys are ever impressed. They don’t appreciate an artist at work. All they know is that they haven’t got any chips on their plates.

Within the same few seconds it took to feed the animals, she broke up three fights.

With the boys fed, separated and up to date on their school-work, she then ferried Daniel, my Teen, to his football practice.

Jamie was looked after, cuddled and loved.

And then he went up to bed.

Only to come down two minutes later with an absolute look of joy on his face…

OH – I LOVE DAD! he sighed with genuine emotion – “He’s fixed my light”

With that, he spun around and took himself off to bed with the contented swoop of a child who has figured out who his hero is.

And I can picture the look on Jo’s face.

Undoubtedly the woman, who has, on a daily basis, given her everything to this boy and made so many great decisions that have kept him healthy, educated, and happy. Put her career on hold. Put her body through hell. Clothed, watered, fed and loved.

The woman without whom both of my sons would not even be a fraction of the amazing human beings that they are.


I don’t doubt that she looked over at the empty space on the sofa where my backside usually sits, shook her head in despair and correctly imagined my smug hand forming an L for Loser…

I’d also have been grinning.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

If it don't make you dance - it ain't music

My eyes are closed.

My feet are tapping.

My head is nodding.

A smile spreads warmly across my face as my mouth fails to prevent the occasional word from the chorus leaking out.

I'm jolted sideways.

My eyes open. What they see stifles my feet, stills my head and flattens the smile.

I'm alone.

But I'm not alone.

In fact I'm surrounded by people. Lots of people.

Not people, I mean zombies.

Not zombies, I mean commuters.

I take my earphones out of their natural home and observe the carriage. It’s eight in the morning and, deep beneath England’s capital city, everything is completely normal.

I'm wedged into the corner of a car on the Hammersmith and City Line and of the hundred different pairs of ears that I can probably see, mine are currently the only ones without a length of wire hanging down from them.

So why am I the only one dancing?

A hundred stone faces sharing one glum expression. Each body a statue; moving only when forced to by the rhythm of the rails.

Silence that should never be heard from such a huge crowd fills the air. When hundreds of people in one small corridor can’t drown out the sounds of one person’s headphones 10 metres away, you know you are under London.

Okay, it’s early. Okay, we are on the way to work. But what the hell are you all listening to? If your music collection doesn't make you rock – change it!


We all have bad days at work and not everyone can be Sandra Bullock’s bra adjuster so it’s fair to say that most of us would be happier working somewhere else, or at least if we could start a little later in the day, just after lunch, for instance.

But the fact is we are doing just fine. Most of us commuters are lucky. Almost all of us can say with some confidence that there are other people considerably worse off than ourselves (possibly excepting Madonna’s bra adjuster).

I can accept that some people in the carriage could be having a pretty rough time and my heartfelt love goes out to them, it really does. People soldier on and work through crap that I can only ever pray I never have to understand.

But I do not accept that this is the same for the majority of us.

So come on, London.

Relax. Crank up the tunes and enjoy life.

And don’t ask me to turn down my music either. I know the beat is leaking out but I'm listening to AC/DC and I don’t think it’s actually possible to play that quietly. For that matter, I'm not entirely positive that it would be legal. If you tried to play Thunderstruck without hitting the red on the player’s rev counter, could you actually be arrested, I wonder? Probably.

I plug my ears back in.

My feet tap.

My head nods.

I feel myself smile as my eyes close once more.

For one fleeting moment my hands find themselves playing guitar with Angus. I swiftly ram them back into my coat pockets.

There are limits.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Where we learn just how incredibly bad I am at being romantic

Last week, I told readers of my reunion with the team I was out in Naples with, 20 years previously.  I told of how these were the best days of my young life, and that these were the best people in the world. Ever.

It may surprise you then, to suddenly learn that before I flew out to Italy, I’d already met someone slightly more important. Twenty years ago last September (24th to be exact), I met the woman who stole my heart and locked it away for ever.

I’d stumbled upon the second most important woman in the world, after my Mum. I didn't realise it at the time, obviously, and would never have believed it if you’d told me.

We met. We fell in love. We split up.

When we met, I already knew I was heading out to Naples just three months later. There would be no future for these young lovers. There could only be now.

The end wasn't nice. There were tears.

We both moved on and allowed ourselves to enjoy our separated lives. But like the Earth and the Sun, there was always something holding us together.


Phone calls.


We were single. But we were never single.

Of course we got back together – how could we not?

Back in summer, I began working on the reunion with my Naples gang, it had also struck me that it would also be 20 years since Jo and I had met.

This completely unlikely achievement needed celebrating.

What this called for was a bit of romance. I gave it some thought.

I concluded that I would try and recreate our first date, not only that but like the confident young man that I used to be, I would manfully organise it by myself.

It didn't take long to discover that the Newport Arch Chinese restaurant in Lincoln, where I had nervously taken this beautiful young woman so many years previously, was still open for business and taking reservations.

I secretly arranged babysitting with my parents, booked a table at the restaurant, and for good measure, I booked a very nice room at the Castle Hotel (slightly straying from the first date theme to be fair – there was certainly none of those shenanigans on the original).

All I had to do now, was wait. I love it when a plan comes together.

I was very busy at work when the call came through; Jo wanted to know why we were heading over to my parents’ house at the end of September? There was something else that had come up on that same weekend and when Jo had tried to enter it onto the Calendar of Life, she had come across a rather unclear appointment. The something that had come up needed availability confirming quickly.

Does everyone have a Calendar of Life? Not life in general, but of YOUR life: The calendar where you bagsy your nights out. Whoever gets their name down first on any particular day gets to go out and do something fun. A successful entry on the Calendar of Life is a key to freedom from the children of doom.

If it’s on the calendar – it’s official.

Anyway, I've digressed.

I was distracted with work. I had no cover story prepared.

I just wasn't ready.

I flapped, panicked, and mumbled incoherently. Like a rabbit caught in headlights I had nowhere to go but to dive head first into the approaching vehicle. I refused to give away the detail but Jo knew immediately that something was amiss.

Like the true beacon of her gender – Jo would not let it lie. Every thirty minutes for the next month, she came up with a new question to try and drag it out of me. My answers became harder and harder to believe. Slowly but surely, I became increasingly agitated with the relentless interrogation. Romance waned. The mood lighting of my soul darkened.

To fix this I hit upon plan B. The first date would still proceed at the weekend but I’d add in an extra. To celebrate the actual 24th, which fell on a Wednesday, I’d recreate our ‘thing’.

You can’t get more romantic than bringing back your ‘thing’, can you?

In the early weeks of our relationship and Jo was still a student, when I came home for the weekend, I’d pop around to her house carrying (at her request) a curry and a bottle of Lambrusco Bianco. It became a thing. Of course it did.

So I substituted the Lambrusco for Prosecco (times change) and secretly ordered a curry on-line, to be delivered on the 24th. Id booked it in secret the previous day. Who knew you could do that?

Well, not the Indian takeaway that I used, anyway. They didn't know you could do that because out of nowhere, a day too early and at about 11 pm, there was a knock at the door.

Jo stared bewilderedly at me as I explained to the driver that his fair was ordered for tomorrow, fumed at me as I got my laptop and showed him the confirmation email.

She stared and she frowned. She gave me that disappointed look that only wives, mums, and teachers can give (as Jo is all three of those things, you can imagine how good she is at it).

I was ruined.

I had to explain what I was doing. I had to explain that the meal was a celebration. Come to think of it, I had to explain what the celebration was in aid of as well… just saying, Joanna… Frustration at the way the surprise had come out and that yet another plan had completely come apart had completely killed the moment.

And so I’d failed.  Again.

I'm not going into detail about the recreated “first date” itself, as this was private. Suffice to say that the meal was fantastic, the laughs were genuine and the romance…...

Well, I'm clearly no expert in these matters but all I’ll say is that if the restaurant is still open in 2034, I for one will be booking us a table for two…