Not Enough Snow

This morning there is the wrong amount of snow…

There is enough to make my morning commute long, slow, frustrating and treacherous – but there is not enough to justify that always anticipated and wildly celebrated “snow day”.

Let’s be honest, however old we are, our inner schoolboy always desperately hopes for mountains of the white stuff. Every worker, from the shop floor operative to the CEO secretly dreams of being wedged in, unable to make that long commute, so instead being forced to hold an impromptu day of festivities in a winter wonderland.

I remember those heady days, quietly listening to Radio Leicester, waiting patiently for that brilliant announcement that my school just couldn’t open. But not today kids, the dusting we got last night promised much at about 10pm…but it hasn’t delivered. Now any snowmen will be malnourished weak attempts and snowball fights will be more of a slight scuffle than an all out war.

Although a ‘snow day’ today would probably have been a disappointment. As my little boy is ill with a nasty cold and fever – he would have been confined indoors; and the days of long warm mornings under the duvet are far behind me. I would have been up and active at 6.30am regardless of what weather awaited in the outside world… but I suppose a day full of Cbeebies and hot chocolate would still have been a fun novel event in my working week.

But it wasn’t to be – I am faced instead with a slippery skate to the station, a slow, plodding commute and a miserable sniffly office.

Although I guarantee a handful of young singletons in my office will still find it ‘completely impossible’ to get in, despite living far closer to Central London than us dull, middle-aged parents! Lucky gits – maybe next week we will get a proper dumping *fingers crossed*.

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Content with Popoularity

This afternoon I received an interesting comment on my last blog entry (see England’s New Dawn & the comment by descartes1).

Today in England Fabio and Harry have dominated every headline. But have the broadsheets, tabloids, broadcasters, tweeters and bloggers (myself included) been guilty of pedalling popularity over genuine news?

I’m a big fan of the BBC’s broad coverage of news and current affairs, but today they are certainly as guilty as anyone of promoting England’s search for a new national team coach at the expense of all other items. The dreadful footage of shelling in Syria has been bumped further and further down the agenda to make way for the inane opinions of average ex-footballers on England’s current management dilemma.

Don’t get me wrong, many people care passionately about Fabio’s successor, but at the same time most have absolutely no interest. This morning millions of people will have tuned in for their daily digest of relevant British and World events, but have been met with a gurning Garth Crooks lamenting our chances at Euro 2012. As a football fan myself even I am bored of this blanket coverage. I’m also genuinely interested in the Levenson Inquiry, The Bank of England’s interest rate announcement and the plight of innocent Syrian civilians, but they have been blacked out to make way for more football. So is this irresponsible journalism, celebrating uneducated popular culture?

This blog has helped me understand the reasoning behind the universal media’s decision. I try hard to be relevant, to vary my content and to at least push out a few credible posts each week – but when I do nobody reads them! They’re dull, pointless and void of controversy. However whenever I try and analyse the Six Nations, Redknapp’s accounts, or another woeful cricket performance people log on – they read, like and comment on every post in their hundreds. I can’t win – I have to either bow to popularity and keep writing about sport or persist with responsible blogging and write solely for myself…

And I only write a simple blog, I’m not trying to increase viewing figures, circulation or ad revenues!

So sorry, I will continue to analyse the popular headlines is a vain attempt to drive up my hits, and only occasionally slip in a relevant yet very boring update (just like this one).

Chavs vs. Toffs

This afternoon a shocking viral email hit my inbox – outlining the code of conduct for the G4…

For those of you who are still unaware of this exclusive group, and their “gunning” behaviour, I’ll give you a brief summary. The email outlined the ‘tour rules’ as laid out by four City twenty-somethings for their upcoming rugby sevens trip to Dubai. A quick google search will give you the complete breakdown – but their code revolves around bragging about daddy’s money, cheating on their wives and generally maintaining their wild, rich lad lifestyle when away. It concluded with a short biography of each member, stating their current insurance-broker employment, red brick university degree and public school credentials.

G4 is a brotherhood of privileged, well educated, rich-boys whose very existence is a stain on British culture.

But the email got me thinking – who would I rather be stuck in a hotel with – a disgusting group of stuck-up toffs or a nasty hoard of lager swilling chavs?

Quite a dilemma. The blight of chav culture is well documented – there are countless TV documentaries outlining the antics of Wild Brits Abroad. All seem to focus on Burberry clad youths taking over Magaluf and Benidorm – downing bacardi breezers, destroying town centres, and eventually rushing to a Spanish hospital for a quick stomach pump. The images of girls in stilettos and boob-tubes, passing out in their own vomit, shock and disgust the middle classes and most Brits do their best to disown this TOWIE generation.

But are they any worse than the G4? Not in my opinion. The privileged rich boy, spending a small portion of the inheritance on a hedonistic shameless tour is a much more vile image in my eyes. Maybe it’s because I feel closer to them; on the chav-toff spectrum I am probably closer to the posh-boy end, and many are only just outside my social circles. In fact I see some of them on a daily basis – they all live in Fulham or Kensington, wear clothes that display their public school heritage, take at least one annual ski trip to Verbier and loosely flaunt their daddy’s wealth with complete disregard for the wider society. At least the chavs work hard and save all year in order to booze it all away on their annual destructive vacation.

No, give me ‘Geordie Shore’ over ‘Made in Chelsea’ every time. For me the chavs have better values, better ethics and more fun. In fact I think I’d quite enjoy a chav holiday – although I’d probably be in bed by midnight, I’m just too old now for all that nonsense…

Proving my Manhood…in the Snow

On Saturday I took a big step toward becoming the man I need to be.

When you become a father you are instantly tasked with an array of manly duties, the sort of complex tasks that previously you would rely on your own dad (or maybe father-in-law) to easily complete. This can range from bleeding radiators, to erecting complex flat pack furniture or even plumbing washing machines.

For so long I have been inept when it comes to engineering or DIY, but already I have mastered a number of those important dad duties. It was a steep learning curve, and there have been a number of slight mishaps and uttered profanities; but through a combination of sound advice and sheer determination I am yet to completely fail.

But on Saturday I was provided with my most challenging masculine task to date, as it concerned the most complex and difficult of essential life items…the family car.

We had just completed a comfortable two hour journey down the M4 to Wootton Bassett, just outside Swindon. I was driving my little boy to his first ever birthday party, organised by my wife’s cousin for her son. It promised to be quite an event, complete with ‘soft play’, fishfingers and pass the parcel. Unfortunately I was to miss it all…

On arrival the dashboard on my stylish new Ford S-Max started flashing and bleeping frantically – a bulb had blown in one of our headlamps. “Don’t worry darling, I shall fix this!” I announced…this was man’s work. I had noticed a petrol station a few miles back, and anticipated a simple purchase and even easier basic procedure. So I left them to enjoy the party and set off on my quest.

On purchasing the correct bulb, referenced from my owners manual, I returned to the pub car park and set to work. Surely I simply needed to remove the plastic headlamp cover and quickly exchange the bulb. As I just double checked the manual the first flake of snow landed on my windscreen – then the heavens opened.

And it got worse…page 65 made it clear that this was far from a simple procedure. I was going to have to disconnect and remove the entire front lighting unit, navigate a complex lamp system (full beam, dipped beam, fog lights etc.) and then change the correct bulb from the rear.

Four hours later, as the sun set, and the blizzard blanketed Wiltshire, this major feat of engineering was finally complete. It had taken another trip to the garage (the original bulb was wrong), a journey to my wife’s cousin’s house (to find the correct multi-head screwdriver), numerous cut hands and two more wannabe expert dads to complete this simple task. Finally the three of us stood and marvelled at our wondrous achievement – two working headlamps and plenty of light (for the three hour drive back through the heavy snow).

Just then my wife and son emerged from the warmth of the party. Apparently it was really good fun and they were now both ‘extremely tired’… the food was good too!

Despite having toiled all afteenoon in the arctic conditions, I was warmed by that true sense of achievement that only a real man can feel…I had mastered the car headlamp, and can now add this to my growing list of expertise. Who says fatherhood isn’t easy?

The Parent Relay

A Lament for The Loss of Freedom:

When you’re expecting everyone is quick to warn you about the horrors that await when the baby is born. Mostly these concentrate on the lack of sleep, extreme fatigue, escalted stress and financial burden.

Don’t get me wrong it is tough, but most of these exhausting obstacles are overcome in a few hard and fast months. In the short-term all new parents suffer as they struggle through the new born trepedations.

But it all gets easier. I emerged from my fuzz at about 5 months and since then it has been a steady slope of slow mental improvement. You start to get you life back…almost.

It’s Friday night – I have had a long, tough, stressful work week, but instead of heading out to blow off some steam I am trekking home to relieve my still shattered wife. It’s her turn – she is heading out into London tonight to grab a ‘few’ glasses of wine and glance into her former life – when I arrive back the torch (monitor) will be passed. And I certainly don’t deny her this rare opportunity. I at least have some sense of normality, I go to work, interact with ‘grown-ups’ on a daily basis and ocassionally get the opportunity myself to nip out for a few beers after work. Her only source of interaction is a largey incoherent, messy, demanding 14month old.

But I’m still jealous, not necessarily of her, but of my happy group of colleagues, intent of celebrating the weekend for a few hours down the local. No doubt on Monday morning stories will be regailed of another epic night of fun-filled, alcohol-fuelled excitement.

When you are free to be spontaneous you don’t appreciate what you have. A quick drink after work, or a long dark heavy Friday night, is a privilege that can quickly be taken away.

I love my little boy, I love spending time with him, and his perfect smile is so much more rewarding than the wash at the bottom of a pint glass. But I still fancy a ‘few’ beers after work at the end of the week…

And we can never go out together. Not only do did I enjoy the group sessions I also love to spend the evening out with my amazing wife. That too is now off the agenda, at any one point in time he must be guarded (and he is asleep by 7pm).

God I sound so miserable…I’m not.

If I am being honest it’s just not that bad. I was usually too tired to last past 11pm and have always been the one to retire early to the warmth and comfort of my 12.5tog.

And it’s minus seven tonight in London Town. My poor tired wife is heading out into the Siberian winter, while I have a cosy, centrally heated, evening planned of pizza in front of the TV – maybe life ‘ain’t so tough!

Bald and Graceful

It’s bloody cold in London today. I am currently standing on the platform at North Sheen station, once again wishing I had worn some gloves. Gloves would seriously affect my ability to ‘iPad type’ but i think I should start making that small sacrifice.

But one important item of clothing I simply cannot live without is a hat. As a child I started collecting a bizarre array of headwear – and maybe I was somehow subconsciously stockpiling for an inevitable bare-headed future…

When I look back now the signs were there from an early age. My stylish undercut, centre-parting and curtains in the mid-nineties was always a little thin, but it was at university when the effects of my hereditary condition really started to take hold. My dad sports an impressive combover, and my maternal grandfather pulled off a classic ‘Bobby Charlton’ sweep – I had no chance. And I feel sorry for my little boy; no doubt he will share his family’s folic curse, in fact you can already see it in the hairline.

Aged 19 I was devastated – I was proud of my wolverine look, but it simply couldn’t last. I finally took the monumental decision to hack it all off, and have never looked back. Helped by a symmetrical head I have rocked the ‘Phil Mitchell’ look for ten years now – as a proud bald man.

So I was disheartened to see Wayne Rooney fight so hard against his retreating hairline – you will never catch me transplanting hair from my arse to my head. Although, if I did, I would bare a striking resemblance to Pat Sharpe from Funhouse…

Lift Heaven & Hell

Today it happened, that thing you often dread (yet sometimes strangely hope for) actually happened to me…

Today I got stuck in a lift.

Despite the Baltic weather consuming London, our whole office is always well heated and it was surprisingly warm as I shuffled into the lift. I was only nipping out for 20 minutes, to pick something up from Covent Garden in my lunch hour…or so I thought. As it turned out there was no nipping involved.

The lift was full but not squashed. Eight of us stood silently as it quickly descended from the 6th to the ground floor…and then it happened. There was a loud grunt, followed by a terrifying bang as we hit ground zero. One lady let out a small yelp, but most of us stayed silent, still shocked as our predicament unfolded. The doors tried to open, but only managed a few millimetres before locking into place. A small slither of light informed us that we were near the correct ground position, but not quite there. We were definitely stuck.

It’s a common topic of conversation – who would you love, and who would you hate, to be stuck in a lift with? I used to play this game, although my lucid love list changed considerably over the years: MJ is no longer with us, Britney has lost some sparkle, Beckham, Botham, Arnie, maybe Nelson Mandela? I’m not sure anymore, I should probably say me wife, although in reality she would not be a calming presence in this situation.

In fact in many ways I didn’t do too badly on the lift heaven front. Jess and Luke from my office were both relaxed, and we managed to cover off a few interesting topics: The Olympics, The Six Nations, Oscar Pistorious…

But we were not alone. A number of people from ‘other floors’ were also in our space, and one in particular was not quite as pleasant. I now have a solid definition of lift hell… as I have been there. He was the first to panic, he was the first to bark instruction and the first to lose control. What’s more I suspect that he was very cause of the lift malfunction! The gentleman in question was larger than average, considerably unhealthily larger. Within minutes he was sweating profusely, flapping and hyperventilating. His constant alarm ringing, loud complaining and frantic fidgeting was certainly not helping. I was stuck in a lift with a morbidly obese demon, set upon drawing out our uncomfortable experience. And it was him that forbid me from trying to re-route the elevator to an alternate floor.

Finally, after roughly 20 minutes, under the instruction and guidance of our prompt lift engineer, we shuddered and started ascending. As the doors opened on the first floor the was a universal sigh of relief – from now on we will all take the stairs.

And maybe I was too quick to judge our hefty companion. If we had been stuck fast for months, and if our animalistic life preservation instincts had really taken hold, he would have definitely provided the most meaty meal…