Sunday, April 24, 2016

I'll Huff And I'll Puff and I'll Slightly Blow My Fringe

This week I watched a very serious, ex-military man as he warned a room full of people about gangs of wild pigs. That willfully attack people.

Several years ago I was lying in the basement of my new house when I swore I could hear a helicopter. I say "new" house. There wasn't anything remotely new about it. But it was new in the sense that I had just bought it. Technically speaking if you pick this story up a few months later then all of it became new. But at that point -  after breaking in and climbing over the mountains of shit I had found in it - it was new to me. That's when the floor gave way. And I ended up lying in the basement. At which point I realized that one entire wall of the house was riddled with bees. Hence the helicopter sound. After an immensely frustrating time of finding huge hive after hive of honey bees in every fucking wall I had to make a decision. Especially after getting rid of them and them continuously showing up and trying to move back. So I ripped all the walls off the house. All of them. And the roof. And the floors.

I hit the window ledge and they spilled out like a demented horror movie.
When my daughter was around three months old I was living in a house in Brislington on the outskirts of Bristol. And every morning I'd bound out to the back garden to see if a hedgehog that would sometimes show up was there. And if it was I'd take her out to have a look. Inevitably my two cats and the dog would wobble off outside and gently give it a sniff as well. The hedgehog would curl up into a ball. Then it would make a decision as to when it was best to make a run for it. And rocket off towards the bushes and disappear. So then I'd strap my daughter to me and take the dog for a walk down by the river and watch the ducks.

Yes. Rowing and horse riding in one actual, real photo.

I didn't shop around for my first apartment in Arizona. I mean - how bad could it be really? I'm not too delicate to live in a cheaper place in a more working class area of town. But I really should have twigged that the price of $450 a month and the incessant buzzing of police helicopters overhead was an indication of the value of that neighborhood. But some days it wasn't so bad. I knew a few of my neighbors and they were nice people. Except the guy who looked exactly like his dog. And his dog looked like it had been burned in a bleach accident. One day I came hom from work and saw a beetle on the wall. Except it wasn't a beetle. It was a cockroach. And when I went to get a closer look it jumped. The bastard tried to blind me and then make a run for it. So I immediately drove to Home Depot and bought a five gallon jug of deltamethrin and sprayed every inch of that fucking apartment. Good lord was I smug. I knew from my battle with the bees that I will win. I could not be bested. Two days later I walked into my bathroom and there was a bug in my bathtub. A few hours after that I'd piled everything I owned into the center of my living room - covered everything in tarps - and set off four bug bombs in my apartment. According to the instructions for the square footage in my place I'd likely only need two at best. But I opted for the Israeli option - one minor transgression and I was going to go well overboard and make sure anything in the adjoining three apartments was going to be brutally massacred as well. After the fogger had cleared everything in my place a sheen on it like it had been rubbed with deli ham. I didn't let my kids sleep in there for a fortnight just to be careful. But I had won. Three weeks later I found a bug on inside of the balcony door. And I seriously considered burning down the entire apartment complex.

So as I sat in that room and that ex-military man revealed to this ignorant fool that there are parading mobs of demented, feral skunk-pigs (called javelinas) that chase people they can tell are on there own, I once again decided that Arizona is fucking bananas. I haven't heard any stories from friends here about how they were hiking and they were alarmed by an absurdly cuddly kitten. Or sat at home marveling at how it's April and the pool is already open - but on arrival they found a guinea pig next to it. No. All of the stories I hear involve "...but luckily I got to the hospital quickly enough for them to save my foot." The first time I hiked Camelback someone playfully told me there was a mountain lion somewhere on it. That mountain is entirely surrounded by swanky suburbs. The local Game and Fishing Department even have a handy pamphlet you can take home to help in case you spot one. There are creatures that live here that are of a Hieronymus Bosch level of demented. I've seen an emo bee. Seriously. A gargantuan, black bee the size of a Mini Cooper (that might be a slight exaggeration). And I've seen a tarantula wasp that I momentarily thought must be some sort of hairy pterodactyl. And this weekend I saw my first scorpion. Not in my apartment - thank God. This place would be dust already. But I was getting my mail when the perpetrator was witnessed tampering with my apartment mailboxes (a Federal crime, by the way). Obviously I dealt with the situation calmly and bravely. By yelling, "UNACCEPTABLE" and throwing a bill feebly at someone else also getting their mail. 

I don't like creatures that hand around gangs. Beasts are supposed to be territorial. Not want others about. But ones that work together clearly have a plan. And must be treated with utmost suspicion. Hence my healthy suspicion of bees, ants and roaches. And now javelinas. All of which don't remotely hold a candle to the epitome of Borg-like satanic evil that are penguins. Those fuckers are clearly up to something. Hanging around in secret far from everyone. All aware that they have a job to do. Which is clearly to wait for the moment to strike. The sad thing is that people think I'm joking about penguins. Think about whatever creature you are irrationally afraid of. That's me with penguins. Except it isn't irrational. After all - you don't get an article in The Guardian about how the were witnessed wantonly violating their own dead for no reason. 

After I'd rebuilt the house I bought in New York - with bee proof walls, floors and a roof - I set to digging up my backyard. I had grand ideas about landscaping. And despite getting deeply suspicious warnings from more than one of the prior occupants about digging in the backyard, I carried on with it. And dear God I ended up with a beautiful yard. But I can admit that during that damn, hard work that a fleeting terror bothered me for the months it took me. And that was that during the digging I'd uncover an almost exact replica of the terrocotta army uncovered in Shaanxi province in China.

This is what my local Starbucks is like if I go on a Saturday lunchtime.
But that instead of uncovering 10,000 oddly massive terrocatta Chinese soldiers I'd uncover something far more nefarious. Yes. Ten thousand terrocotta penguins. Shudder.

Instead thought I didn't find anything remotely as awful Just a bunch of dead animals and a disturbing number of what might have been human bones. Not kidding. But no penguins. Thank fuck. And whilst I am aware that my behavior at that time to any intrusive bug that dared come anywhere near my home was probably very Netanyahu-esque - it isn't remembered that way. No. Because this past week I've had a mosquito in my apartment and I've had fits of apocalyptic rage trying to catch the bastard. Whereas my memory of my family and bugs in New York is very much like this,

If that was Arizona that would look very different. It wouldn't be green for a start. And learly everyone is far too overdressed. And instead of a harmless bug on the wall that would be one of my kids clinging to it for dear life as they were surrounded by a marauding gang of Mormon (statistically speaking it's probably likely around here) death-pigs.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

El Pastel de Queso Blanco

Thought I might write something. Got some changes coming up. So a fresh start and all that. Besides - I promised someone I would.

For any people in Britain reading, this is called "sunshine."
I've come to like living in Arizona. And I think it's fair that it takes awhile to come to that conclusion. It's really like no other place. And I've never lived anywhere in my near-forty years that quite clearly tells it's residents that people shouldn't really be living here. For almost a year it was if the surrounding geography came to life and snarkily said, "Hey Gav. Jesus, how are you still so white? Seriously, it's like your body is making a political statement to show support for the ghosts of dead white power people who happened to work in a Tippex factory. Honestly - they should use you in lighthouses to guide ships at night. Anyway, thought I'd pop in and mention - have you noticed how everything is dead? I mean pretty much everything? And things that aren't are either weirdly lethal or is the very symbolism of almost dead. I mean - you've seen the strangely, leathery old people knocking about right? They look like they're made of English toffee. Anyway thought I'd remind you. I mean come on - the few plants that do have evolved to stab anything that comes near them. Purely because for millennia those things would kill anything that came near them."

To which I would reply, "aren't you noticing the massive irony of a dead desert landscape coming to life just to remind me how everything here is dead?"

It did rain last week though. For the first time this year. I thing I was one of only a few people wandering about utterly aware that we were 100 days into the year with nary a raindrop. Which in itself is messing with my memory of back home. I haven't been back to the UK since March 2008. My daughter was six months old when I was last in England. She's nine this year. My memories of Bristol all involve rain. Moving house in a torrential downpour. Walking the dog by the River Avon and it being so flooded the swans were swimming around the leaves on the oak trees. Catching a buss from Clifton back to Brislington because I was so soaked already that my clothes made a sort of rubbery, squeezing noise every time I moved. A few weeks a go a friend posted a very pretty picture of the Houses of Parliament. All I could see was this.

British people's hair has evolved into an umbrella shape.

A year and a half in as an Arizona resident and I see the beauty. I hugely appreciated getting to wander around mountains in deepest winter. I love that I could take my kids to playgrounds and parks whilst knowing that when we last did that in New York we all had snow clothes on. And that was in April. And yes I'm acutely aware that in August when it's 115 degrees I will bitch about that. And somehow still not have a tan.

Yet despite coming to enjoy it here I still have some irrational reservations. For example, I'm worried that I'll be sat harmlessly on my couch eating tortilla chips with slices of cheese - whilst licking taco sauce off a spoon (don't you judge me) when I'll inadvertently drop a chip. And when I reach down to pick it up a scorpion the size of a babies' foot will grab the chip and run off. And no matter where I look I can't find it. But I'll be able to hear can it. Munching. All night.

I'm worried that I'll be hiking up a mountain half-naked (no doubt local news reports will be choc-a-bloc with sightings of the rare Albino Mountain Hippo) when I'll be stopped by Park Police and accused of some sort of hate crime. Purely from the fact that despite having ponced about in the constant, unforgiving, never-ending sun for fourteen months that I still some how have skin so white it looks like canned chicken. More to the point - I don't even wear t-shirts very often. MY body has voluntarily decided to alter it's pigment to evoke a t-shirt tan.

I'm concerned that on the 173rd day straight of it being over 100 degrees that I'll go to the store for drinking water and they'll be out of it completely. And every store I go to will be out of it. And i'll be forced to go home and drink water right from the tap. And if you want to replicate that then simply wrap a dead pigeon in tramps sock and drop it in a bowl of cat piss for twenty four hours. Then drink it. Bear Grylls wouldn't drink that. Actually he would - which is precisely the indication that it's rank.

More than anything though moving to Arizona has coincided with me being happy. First and foremost my kids are here. Secondly - I managed to figure myself out in the year before moving from New York. I was still very much mired in problematic circumstances. My kids had moved 2500 miles away. I was living in periphery of a poorly chosen relationship that involved one of the most callous, astonishing, emotional head-fucks I am ever likely to experience. But I had just got to that point of taking a damn good look at myself. I liked me. And moving did that symbolic thing of making everything new. And almost to a tee it's been 18 months of happy. More pointedly - since moving here I've met some of the most loving, kind, piss-taking, wonderful people. Saying they make me happy is not a big enough word at all. It's a truly bizarre feeling to have people in my life I'm that close to that just seeing them happy means the world to me.

Those who know me know that every weekend I don't have my kids I go hiking. I love it. Not just the physical aspect of it. But I'm an over-thinker. Excessively so. Often I can make sense of it either by just bloody well sitting there until I've thought about it long enough. Or writing it out. Or best of all - talking to someone who has the exact same issue of over thinking everything. But for some reason when I sweat my tits off on a hike I can make linear sense of things. Or at least come to terms with a thought or an idea. And by God does that make me happy.

The only photo I'll ever share of me working the pole.
So I'll take the scorpions. I'll keep the t-shirt tan. I'll deal with worrying about living in place tterly devoid of water (besides - I can always drink a peach bellini or a margarita). Because if someone told me that guaranteed - in among the usual ebb and flow of life's ups and downs - they could promise that for the next eighteen months I'd be as happy as I have been for the last eighteen months, then I'd take that in a heartbeat.

"Although you will be whiter than Taye Diggs teeth."

They'll undoubtedly say.


Saturday, January 9, 2016

Slowly Warmed Plums

Today my son strolled out into the living room - naked - with a perplexed look on his face. "Daddy - what is this bit?"

My kids do have a habit of walking through the front door and shedding almost every item of clothing. Normally this is much later in the day. They seem to think there's a competition to see who can be ready for bed first. At 5pm. I say seem. Because I don't whip everything off they then mock me as if I'm utterly pathetic for still being dressed whilst they strut about in underpants. It's the oddest thing to feel inadequate about. To their credit they do have a tendency to look out the window to check if the sun is going down in any way first. If there's even the remotest hint of that then off it all comes.

Yep - it's all coming off.
  But today it was the middle of the day. My daughter was dancing in the living room. He'd wandered off into my bedroom. Where he was rolling around on my bed play-fighting an imaginary beast with his enormous sword. For anyone wondering I don't do any sort euphemistic, grown up version of this. He'd gone off in there because his sister was listening to her latest favorite Girl Power song. When he made a bit of a grumpy show of being forced to leave (complete with dramatic eye roll) she did change it to another song and gleefully yelled "look there are naked, hero men in this one - you like them!" Which was one of those moments where I really didn't want to know about any of this. So I carried on washing the dishes. A moment later he walked into the kitchen nude. With a quizzical look on his face. 

My son is five. And as such it's a safe bet that every other sentence includes a reference to parts of the body he finds somewhat rude. The context behind it really depends on the time of day. If it's after school then there's a darker, cheekiness behind it. Very much a "look what rudeness I'm saying!" tinge to it. In the morning or during the weekend and he's usually just being five. Very infrequently it involves actually pointing out or revealing something. Mostly his arse. On the whole though he tends to know that if he says or does anything along those lines in public then he's in trouble. However there is one now-famous incident where I showed up at his school gate to pick him up. My son - ever helpful - informed me instantly that he just told his teacher (context is unclear) that "my Daddy has a penis like me - but massive." The important thing to note here is he told her - and the horde of parents and teachers knocking about just as I was picking him up. Then I had to ask the mother of another kid if she could move slightly so we could squeeze past. And every single person there could tell I wanted to say, "you know - because of my massive cock."

Anyhoo - my son stood in the kitchen trying to point at under his willy and demanding I look. I was not prepared for this at all. And when there's absolutely no preparation for that kind of unexpected sight you cannot help but let out a very loud noise. Fifty percent of which is confusion and the other fifty percent is just the noise your brain makes to scare away whatever the hell it knows your eyes are looking at. Essentially my son had discovered that there appears to be this other part to his penis that isn't just the bit he can normally see. I don't even know if at age five you can call that part of the body your testicles. But he'd discovered something and wanted to know what it was. My brain raced. For some annoying reason the thought entered my mind that - in the seedier parts of the online dating world - testicles are probably called Tinder Eggs. "It's like I've got another elbow growing." He was entirely unaware of how close he was to an urban dictionary definition there. The only other thing he said was an "actually Daddy" statement where he gave me that look where he knew he was teaching me something I couldn't possibly know. Which in this case was to tell me a completely unrelated comment about how a boy at school told his teacher that one a week women lay eggs (a disturbing bastardization of the menstrual cycle, if ever there was one) when clearly only chickens lay eggs. 

Needless to say I did that thing you have to do of explaining to a five year old that it's just a normal part of the body. And resist any notion of talking about how puberty will cause enormous changes. I didn't quite think "don't mention pubes". But I think that's because I don't think I've ever thought it was reasonable not to. Fortunately in the middle of a three minute answer he wandered off to go put on a pair of just-dried underpants. Which was when I realized he did that earlier in the week too. Meaning he heard the ugly buzzer going on the dryer last Tuesday and knew  that was the alarm for Fresh Warm Knickers. So he wasn't just in my room contorting himself into uncomfortable shapes trying to figure out bits of his body he normally doesn't get a good look at. No - instead he's developed an odd sense of decadence that if the dryer is doen then he can warm hsi plums.

The boy's clearly weird.

Saturday, January 2, 2016

The Death Of The Gussett Moles

For a fleeting second I worried that my testicles had traveled forward in time from 2010 and were viciously attacking my shirts.

My daughter is going through some sort of growth spurt. The thing is she seems to be doing this every three weeks. Which - if I'm calculating this correctly - means that by this time next year she should be eight feet tall. Seriously though - it's deeply perplexing. Every month I seem to buy her a new set of everything. None of her pants fit. Her socks are weirdly too small. She's going through shoes like Imelda Marcos. And before you ask - yes I've checked to see if I'm just simply shrinking her clothes. Her brother's mostly seem to fit. He's growing too but not at the mutant, inhuman rate she is. And my clothes aren't oddly small of late. I do remember about ten years ago standing in my bedroom getting dressed for the day and being baffled that somehow all of my clothes were too tight. And naively thinking, "This is amazing - I seem to have shrunk everything I own. Even somehow clothes I haven't even put in the wash. And yet it seems incredibly selective as it's only my clothes that have shrunk. This is a complete mystery...." Back then I was fifty pounds heavier than I am now. And that mystery was a heady mix of potato chips, huge bottles of soda and a total and complete lack of exercise. Let me tell you I'm not especially ugly or anything - but fifty pounds heavier than this and I look like the lesbian version of me that really likes donuts and desperately needs electrolysis. Whereas now I'm alright. If we're thinking metaphorically I like to think of myself as cilantro. In other words I'm very much either your type or not at all. And that when you look at me you get the sensation that you'd either really, really like or be repulsed by the flavour I'd leave all over your tongue.

My profile picture.
Anyhoo - that's not the case now. I'm not shrinking all of our clothes. Although apparently I've hit some sort of critical mass where the general wear and tear I inflict upon my clothes has all hit at once. Most of my favorite things either look old or suddenly have a hole in them. I found myself sat in work last week aware that every single thing I was wearing probably had about four weeks of life left in it.

I went on a little vacation several months back. During which I left three shirts behind. Two very much my favorite two. I left them because they both somehow had a hole in the left elbow. I somehow also managed to rip my coat. A day after getting home I lost another very nice shirt to the exact same problem. After doing my laundry I realized that a pair of very nice grey pants had a hole in the leg. In the two months since then I've had the same left-elbow-hole problem in two other shirts. And yesterday after getting back from a hike I noticed that the blue sweater I was wearing had a hole in it. In the left elbow. All of which can only mean one of three things. One - I have the sharpest left elbow on planet earth. Two - at varying times of the day I fall into a deep, epileptic trance that is the only moment that my conjoined, hedgehog-twin comes to life and tries bursting through my skin. And three - I'm doing something very weird with my left arm.

I might need a shave.

I'm ruling out the first one. Because if I have been placed on this earth to be shining exemplar to all those around me (and let's be honest - you all kind of sense that it's probably true) I doubt it's to show my fellow man how to ruin perfectly nice shirts. It's probably got something to do with different ways to cook a potato, if I'm honest. But certainly not destroying decent shirts.

And believe me when I say I really like nice, collared shirts. Actually that's not really big enough. I really like nice clothes. Good quality ones that fit properly. Not in an arrogant sense. I promise you there's no vanity there. I'm not wandering about trying to get people to see labels or be impressed that I have on designer stuff. Unless it's shoes obviously. It would make total sense to me if people dropped to their knees and asked if they could lick whichever pair of Cole Haan or Aston Grey shoes I might have on. Yes - I'm acutely aware that last sentence is massively hypocritical to the one before it. And as far as clothes go it's not even in that sense in Crazy, Stupid, Love where Ryan Gosling (PBUH) takes Steve Carrell shopping. Because in that Gosling is so terrified that people might see how lonely and insecure he is that he hides behind the fact that he is possibly the most fuckable man on God's green earth (plus he wrote a damn good album nobody really heard about too). No. I just like wearing stuff that I feel good in. That's about as complex as it gets. I'm certainly not walking around thinking "come and get it ladies...". You know the type. Those blokes that lick their fingertips and smooth down their eyebrows with it. Or worse - a mustache. I assure you I don't have a vain bone in my body. Or anyone elses, for that matter. 

Like a lot of guys there was a period where I really didn't make too much of an effort. Buying clothes was a very functional thing. I didn't ever go wandering about in mom jeans and whatever polo shirts were on sale at Old Navy. But quite honestly I didn't have much of a sense that anyone would find me particularly attractive. So I didn't really think about how to look better than I did. I used to go to one store to buy $3 t-shirts. And I don't really even like t-shirts. I'd buy all my shirts from one store because they were the kind that looked half decent under a jumper and never cost more than $10. Because like a lot of people I had that sense that if I'm wearing layers then you might not be able to tell that I'm mostly out of shape. I've never really felt all that comfortable in jeans either. And I always wore shoes. Trainers always made me feel like I was twelve. So I've always worn decent pants, collared shirts and shoes. But in that History lecturer way. About four or five years ago that changed when someone flirted with me. Which I hadn't noticed happening in years. Actually I had to be told they were flirting with me too. As silly as it sounds I sort of learned then that it's perfectly okay to get some semblance of enjoyment out of looking nice.

I used to be plagued by gusset moles. Up until about four or five years ago. Every five or six months I'd suffer the horror that half of the knickers I owned somehow had massive holes in them. At the time I came to the conclusion that either a family of rampaging moles were living in my underwear drawer feasting on my underpants. Or that I had unusually abrasive testicles. Thankfully in hindsight it was neither. Just to be sure I did check my drawers (both kinds) and there are no moles in either. Pretty simply - I bought terrible underwear. Much like going out for $3 t-shirts I just didn't think about it much. So I promoted myself to better ones. Not great ones - but better ones. Since then I've moved up in the world and spend the money on good ones. And if I can make one difference in the lives of any men that might read this thing - go and buy decent underwear. If only because they feel so much better. They do look a lot better too. Granted it isn't going to have the same effect as a woman in good underwear. Life just doesn't work that way. But the fact that you actually give a shit about what knickers you're wearing does mean something.

Plus frankly I don't like the idea that there are men across the globe - stood in their bedrooms looking down at another hole in the underpants - and worrying that they've got cheese-grater testicles.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Pig Scabs

Sex gravy....

I don't usually get hungry in work. But today I had a massive craving for gravy and chips. A few hours later this had morphed into needing a Scotch egg. In an effort to assuage me a coworker offered me some Hershey's chocolate. Which is a bit like saying you're incredibly horny and someone showing you a naked photo of Keith Chegwin.

A Can of Corned Beef
Anyway, the food-lust was strong. Luckily I keep a picture on my phone of a food from back home that helps me beat the cravings. A reminder that there's plenty across the water that is beyond rank. It's only right that I share it with you - so that in those times when you crave something from back home you can remind yourself that sometimes it's good to be five thousand miles away from this sort of thing.

Keith Chegwin
I should admit that I haven't set foot in England since 2008. So there's a lot that I just don't know anymore about food. I haven't been exposed to Mel and Sue making risque comments about cakes. It's been an age since I've witnessed Nigella Lawson explaining why she really thinks you'd like to suck the frosting off her muffins. I have ni idea if you can still get a bloody good much down the pub before hanging around for the quiz. And I have next to no idea if when you buy a sausage roll from Greggs if they still have those weird lumps in them that can only be a pig verruca. So in a sense feeling shockingly queasy about corned beef doesn't really mean all that much. I'm well aware that for other English people transplanted to the US - reminded about corned beef sandwiches or corned beef pie - that I'm probably in in the minority here. I know a lot of British people who adore that stuff. You know I've had a lot of deeply suspicious things in my mouth. But I choose foods based on two very simply rules -:

1 - Never eat anything that might give you a yeast infection.
2 - Never eat anything that looks like that - at one time - it might have had scabs.

So you see why I won't eat corned beef.

Sunday, December 27, 2015


My son can now read. Almost everything.

This morning I found my son stuffing fistfuls of Trader Joe's Pumpkin O's into his underpants. I very quickly told him how disgusting that was. "Shame on you Owen. Nobody in their right mind should be doing anything with pumpkin flavored cereal." I didn't feel it necessary to tell him that at Kim Basinger and Mickey Rourke deliberately left out pumpkin-flavored food out of Nine and a Half Weeks for good reason. By the way - take stock a second and think about how that movie is THIRTY YEARS OLD. Anyway - turns out that he'd packed a Ziploc bag of the foul cereal last time he was at his mother's house. It'd been knocking about in his backpack since Halloween. His sister - well educated in just how repellent I find pumpkin flavored things - gave him a disapproving head shake. I swear she even closed her eyes a touch just to really ram home how much shame he should feel.

Obviously I did get around to asking why he felt that the need to fill his knickers with Cheerios. What possible motivation he might have. I fought back any images of an elephant picking up a bun. That would be quite a stretch - in more ways than one. Although frankly if he could then hold each Cheerio up to his mouth with his trouser-truncheon I couldn't in good conscience tell him that was something he should stop. Although it would sadly poke at any doubts I may have that he's actually my child. Granted I do have ears like Dumbo - but that's not really what I'm getting at here. So I asked him what he was up to. His answer was chilling. "I saw it on your computer, Daddy."

Now - technically speaking - that could quite honestly be true. I rapidly tried to think about anything I'd been looking at recently. I couldn't quite think of any cereal-based porn I may have either been cheeky enough to have a glimpse of whilst the kids were with me. Nor any deviant, breakfast
titillation I may have inadvertently been subjected to by any of the "friends" I know that spend a good portion of the day posting photographs of people doing things that they would need a good wash after doing. After thinking very quickly my mind rested on this.

Now, I knew I hadn't actually seen that particular image for about a month. But I was fairly certain I hadn't had that up on my laptop screen at any point when the kids had been at mine. And just to clear tis up - I wasn't looking at that for myself. Instead it was a general Facebook question a friend of mine had about how they were having a drink and dinner party at their house after moving across the US. Mainly with friends but also with inviting a few of the new neighbors - and they wondered if it was appropriate or not to whip this game out later in the evening. If you're interested the vote was more or less split down the middle with a few people suggesting Pie Face instead. I made the point that whichever game they chose it did appear that some people would end up with cream spattered all over their faces at some point.

So I ruled that out. Besides - the idea that my son had inadvertently seen that silliness and reduced that down to pouring Cheerios all over his willy didn't give me any sense of pride at all. So I breezily asked him what he meant. And he said that I'd left my computer open on "the thing you write on when you think of something". Meaning the enormous long, list of random nonsense I type onto a draft Blogger page. Most of which involves long, complicated means of figuring out what I've been thinking about. Good, bad, happy, sad - all of it jotted down as a means of thinking about it. But also on that page are quick lines and phrases. Some funny or some that I just like. And then I remembered what he'd seen.

Years ago I made up a list of monsters that my daughter and I would fight. And recently I'd decided that I'd try to boil that down to a short story of it's own. And had tried - very poorly I'm willing to admit - to add to that original list (I still think hiding under a duvet because we're being attacked by The Chocolate Chip Chicken and LL Cool J is utter genius). And - as my son helpfully pointed out - two of the names he'd seen were the The Underpants Onion (I swear I can kind of smell what that would smell like...) and "A Willy Full Of Cheerios."

Which is where you should stop and be eternally grateful that I discovered my son when I did. Because that description is painfully (seriously..) clear about where said Cheerios should be about one's person. And no matter how proud I am of my son. Nor how sometimes I just look at that boy and think, "he's a good kid - we've done alright there." It would take a shockingly long period of self examination to understand what kind of parenting fail led to my son wedging pumpkin-flavored cereal under his foreskin.

Saturday, December 26, 2015


This is our third Christmas like this.

Since I've been divorced the kids have spent every Christmas with me. For anyone doing the counting that's three Christmases. Honestly at least the one before that was very much a pretend family Christmas. The first one as a divorced dad was fairly modest. I'd not long moved to a little apartment in Westmoreland, New York and had very little furniture, no internet service and it was shockingly cold. I didn't have any decorations up. But I had bought one of those two-foot tall Christmas trees. My daughter spent a good few hours attaching the tiny baubles that go on it and also making a bunch of decorations herself. She cut out cards and colored paper to make figures for the tree. We gave each other a gift each. But I also carried on the tradition of giving a tree ornament to each of them so that when they're older they'll already have a tree-full of ornaments that mean something to them. There was a little Douglas fir tree out in yard that looked like a Christmas tree. So we spent some of that Christmas day out in the snow making a snowman next to "Daddy's outside Christmas tree." My son was quite concerned that Santa wouldn't have any idea where to leave presents seeing as he'd have to go to two houses. He ended up leaving them at both houses. He's a smart one is Santa.

I do remember feeling guilty when we got up and there was no real Christmas scene in the living room. The kids had put their stockings out. And when they got up they were fat and plump with little bits and pieces. After opening what we had I made breakfast and the kids set abut watching the Christmas episode of the kids show Arthur. I remember being stunned at how - unlike any other kids show - it stated outright Christmas is a made up holiday stolen from the Romans and the Jews. It went to great lengths to ram home the uncomfortable points that both Santa and Jesus have sod all to do with Christmas, thank you very much. And that Christmas in America has now evolved into a weird, commercial nightmare where families of people whom don't really like  each other force themselves into the same company.  The reason I remember this is because I recall quickly turning that awfulness off and thinking we'd try the radio. Can't go wrong with Christmas songs. Only for my radio to be set to NPR. And as I popped to the bathroom I swear I could hear my kids deflate a little as they were subjected to a story about the spread of "militant radical Islam" in Ireland. And I quickly thought "we're going to the playground in the snow" and, "Really? Suicide bombers in Ireland? Oh that'll never catch on there."

I did make a big Christmas lunch though. Which was hard in my tiny kitchen. And we sat down to eat and it was just happenstance that it was one of those days where neither of the kids really felt like eating. Both fully aware that they were going off to their mother's a bit later on to carry on with Christmas there. My daughter often does this thing where - even if she isn't all that enamored with dinner - will try to eat as much of it as possible to let me know she ate it for me. Not on that Christmas. They just wanted to know when they were going to their mother's. That was the first time I'd ever truly felt like I'd let them down. It was a very difficult evening after they left.

Christmas Spiders
I recall last Christmas being a mix of Lego and sweating. My son was utterly Lego obsessed. But at not-quite 5 years old he didn't really have the patience to build his own Ninjago Lego Jet Fighter thing that I'd got him for Christmas. I must have built that thing three times before getting it right. And then ten minutes later he dropped it. We spent a large part of the day at the playground. The kids remarking often about how weird it is to be outside in shorts and t-shirts on Christmas day. There were people swimming in the apartment pool. Of course in hindsight now I know they were visitors. Nobody who actually lives here is going to be swimming in December. Last Christmas my every waking moments were a medley of weird joy and discomfort. I would continuously think how fantastic it was to live near my kids again. It'd been almost 8 week since I'd arrived in Arizona. But it really felt like a few weeks. I'd also met some wonderful people who I just instantly clicked with. Principally a few English people. Some actually in town and a few farther afield. I kept just walking around with a silly grin on my face. But then I'd also think about how frighteningly hot I was at all times. Unable to sleep. Richard Herring talks about a time when he was quite depressed and started crying and had the realization that he may never stop crying. Obviously that's absurd - but he felt that knowing that he may actually never stop. Last year I was absolutely convinced that I would never feel comfortable again. Always be too hot. Always the sweaty one. Always thirsty. Too hot to eat. I am beyond delighted that I was completely wrong. Right now it's 40 degrees and I've got the heating on.

It was also the first Christmas in a very long time where I wanted to be back in England. For expats/immigrants there is sometimes a nagging tug that you belong "back home." Mine was exacerbated by living somewhere that seemed entirely alien. All I could see was desert and cactus. My eyes were being extremely selective. I'd also suddenly met a whole host of British people. All with different ideas of why they were in the US and what England meant to them, But most of them made trips back home every year. For many it refueled them. Able to enjoy the benefits of living in the US because they knew that they could go home - see family and friends. Feel where they felt they belonged. I hadn't been home in over seven years. And I knew I wasn't going to go home. But I felt that knowing - that I want to grow old there - very strongly. I dropped the kids off at their mother's house Christmas afternoon and dearly wanted to go find a British pub. Not to get drunk in. But to enjoy that British tradition of being with friends for a chat and a laugh. 

This year I've completely adapted to Arizona. I'm bloody freezing. There are decorations all over my apartment. The tree is big and sparkly. And the kids have been here since Christmas Eve and aren't going back to their mums until Wednesday morning. I made a bloody big dinner. Made Christmas cookies and we've completely overloaded on hot chocolate topped with whipped cream. We gave and received gifts. I really enjoy giving other people gifts. Somehow this year I ended up with a whole pile of stuff under tree. The kids loved what they got. My daughter has been asking for a Chocolate Pen for three months. And despite it clearly being a sex toy for lovers who love chocolate and calligraphy she ended up with it for Christmas. And truth be told it's a bit crap. But she's happy enough to have fund that out rather than not. She also got jazz dance lessons from her mother and I. There's no soccer between now and Spring so it's dancing instead. Santa also threw in a few books and little bits and bobs. And of course - a tree ornament. Like every good boy my son wanted a sword. Done. He got a little radio-controlled car, a Guide To Being A Superhero book (ghostwritten by me, obviously) and the bits and bobs of his own. And - about bloody time - they got proper beds. Plus the gift of the year - Pie Face.

Spoiled little monkeys.
I was rather spoiled. Sugar Skull wallet and decorations. Some chocolates. A new crock pot too. Plus a wonderful package in the mail crammed with some truly lovely things. I even got a Christmas Pickle in the mail. Yes. A Christmas Pickle. It's funny how you can be almost forty and have never heard of that until this year.

This year there was no playground. Although at first it seemed like me cooking a big, Christmas dinner had not really landed after they sort of made an effort at it. Only to ninety minutes later eat the entire thing. We don't even have any leftovers .And we sat and watched Netflix - wonderfully projected to my TV with another gift - last night and enjoyed a rather quiet Christmas.

This morning they want to put everything away. Owen has already grabbed half the ornaments and put them back in the box. Quite honestly I don't know if they do this at their mothers. Usually they've gone home Christmas evening so this is quite different. So we've been slowly packing things. I've been talking about friends of mine - some already back in England and some about to go. And my son asked me flat out if I'm going to move to England. I told him I had no plans to. To which he very strangely answered with, " should Daddy. Then people could understand you." 

I've been overthinking that statement since he said it.