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, "...you should Daddy. Then people could understand you." 

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

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Chilling In The Name Of

Me: Do you remember what it was like when snow got inside your clothes and everything was freezing cold and wet?
Son: It was horrible!! My sleeves wear always soaking! And that's why I was always getting naked inside the house in winter!
Me: Actually no Owen that seems to have been for an entirely different reason. Besides you still do that and we live in the desert.
Son: I do that just in case it snows here daddy.

On Wednesday morning of this past week my son was sad. We are not going to have a white Christmas here in Phoenix. I know - it's shocking. You'd think quite honestly someone like Sheriff Arpaio - a man notoriously quick to chase away anyone who even remotely seems Mexican - would be doing everything in his power to be making the entire city of Phoenix as white as he probably wanks that it should be. But then logic was never his strong point. After all here's a man who fits that mould of right wing non-thinkers who want to get the government out of everyone's business because it's power mad and scary and Stalin and "Obama's never shown his real birth certificate" and etcetera. Except for gayness of course. Those sorts of people tend to forego all that ranting about how government is too invasive when it comes to anything gay. Then it's state and federal marriage amendments galore. Plus as far as Sheriff Joe goes, I'm not saying he doth protest too much. But I'm not the one stood around in a police uniform stroking my big, big gun watching Latinos I've arrested wear pink blouses and women's underwear that I've made them put on. He seems to know what he likes anyway.

I might have wandered off the point quite a bit there. Still - while we have weirdly hit the low thirty degrees for a couple of days straight the chance of snow here in The Devils Gusset is next to zero. Granted I did find myself having to scrape a very thin layer of frost of my windshield the other morning. I even whipped out the massive ice scraper I brought down from Upstate New York that I used to batter the six-inches of ice and snow off my car with. God I felt so manly. And then I instinctively looked at the wheel arches of my Jeep and felt a sense of sadness knowing I wouldn't get to kick those nasty grey-black barnacles of sludge that would inevitably collect there all winter long in New York. Personally I do miss hearing this sound. But dear God that looks cold.

Nevertheless, my son plopped himself into his seat on the drive to school one days this week and asked, ".....WHY isn't it going to snow here?" He already knew the answer to that. And he let that fact hang in the air after he finished speaking. So I didn't make too much of an effort to explain it. After that he spoke about how - if you really want snow - you can drive ninety minutes north to Flagstaff and there's sometimes some there. But not like in New York. And that he remembers how every year he and his sister would be taken out to cut down a fresh tree in the snow a few weeks before Christmas. Of course he's only five. So I think his memory of doing that is more recounting my own memory of doing that with. Last year the kids mother drove up to Flagstaff with them to cut one down in an attempt to keep up that tradition. Evidently the reminder of what snow is like - be it a half inch of the stuff - was enough to jog her memory as to why she wanted to live on the surface of the Sun. So they didn't do that. I did ask them if they wanted to and both of them said that actually that sounds like it would be way too cold.We've all turned into pussies.

Speaking of which my son lost my best winter hat. Let's overlook the fact that I should never be wearing a hat. You'd think with my satellite-dish ears that a hat would be a good thing. Trust me - no. Regardless my son misplaced it at school. Which isn't remotely his fault. I knew when I started plopping it on his head that it was likely to last for three weeks at best. So I spent twenty minutes looking up winter hats online to see what was knocking around. Most that I saw seem to be deliberately absurd. Like this one below. Maybe it's just me but that's got an odd Karma Sutra vibe. Although to be fair the panda doesn't come up (...I can practically hear Sid James' rude laugh) in that. It's more pretending to be a flamingo or a duck.

Like all pandas this man is now notoriously difficult to mate with.
 I did just look through my closet to see what proper cold weather stuff I brought with me. It's all very functional. Meaning it looks terrible. But because where I lived in NY it was below zero for months on end you mostly gave up on any pretense of looking nice and wore anything that would keep you warm. So I have ridiculously expensive winter coat in there. Snow boots. Other boots I'd wear to stomp about in the slush and ice. Plus a balaclava. Frankly looking at it now it's got quite a serial killer vibe to it. Nobody should be wearing a balaclava AND a red, puffy Marmot jacket. Ever. I did find this photo from a few years ago today though. Yes -  I really am wearing those clothes.

What precisely am I pointing at? And why is my finger on fire?
Still - I want the kids to experience something wintery this Christmas. Which is precisely why I think I'll let them watch me drink snowballs on Christmas Day while they open their presents.

I'm sure they'll appreciate that.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

The Shrapnel

I need the needle. 

Ah the good old days. A time when people thought that bit in Only Fools and Horses when Delboy fell through the bar was funny (it definitely wasn't). A bygone period when people still ate pilchards on toast (gah). An age that people look back on and ask "do you remember when there was white dog poo everywhere? Where did all the white dog poo go?" (which on reflection now sounds suspiciously like something Nigel Farage would bang on about in a speech). And a time when I looked like a prize pillock. 

A disturbingly long time ago I was walking down the high street of the town I lived in and walked past a tattoo place. At the time I thought tattoos were ridiculous. Considering I had bright green hair that was stretched into a ridiculous hedgehog shape you'd think I wouldn't make a judgment like that. I mean honestly - every other week I'd dye my hair a deliberately stupid colour and then smear a mix of Imperial Leather and water into it to look as deliberately as silly (or "cool" as I mistakenly thought) as I could. Every now and again I'd wear one of two things I owned on my head as well. One was a black baseball cap with the word "pervert" written across it. The other was a weird yellow Gaelic headband. I'm talking quite an excessive level of twattery here. I have a photograph of me wearing that. It might be one of only a handful of photos of me between the ages of sixteen and twenty one. Probably to ensure that nobody sees what I looked like and therefore I'll get to have sex again. Quite honestly I don't really remember me at eighteen with bleach-blond hair wearing a second-hand wool sweater from Oxfam. But there it is. Good God I looked like one of the members of East 17 had run off to become a gypsy.

Tony Mortimer's Pikey Cousin
But let's be honest - like most young men I was a pretentious twat. I held views. I had feelings. God damn it I'd lived through pain and triumphed. But in a totally cool, sexy way. Right girls? Girls....? Anyone...? Even more embarrassing was that you could tell of this without actually having to meet me because I owned a denim shirt that I'd written lots of aforementioned pompous feelings on in marker pen. I don't remember much of the nonsense I scribbled on that thing. Other than some not-particularly clever allegory about Sisyphus pushing a rock up a mountain. And the patently-wrong-because-I'm-eighteen-years-old phrase, "everyone is wrong, and I'm the one that's right". Well clearly. I remember the sensation that I thought that was clever. That people would read my shirt and feel the same way they do after reading the last line of Funeral Blues. Or after watching the very last seen of Black Adder. Instead looking back that shirt had the touch of a manifesto about it. ..  

I don’t really remember making an actual decision. I was just walking past the tattoo shop. But fifteen minutes later I had my left nipple pierced. I remember the mechanics of it. And I remember during the entire thing that the bloke doing it seemed genuinely surprised that I didn't seem frightened at all. I'd love to say I'm just as tough as ten bears and those sorts of things barely tickle my sense of fear. Rather the truth is sometimes being massively ignorant can be quite helpful. Still my enduring memory – to be completely honest – was that I surprised to learn what people meant by a fine line between pleasure and pain.

A few years later I wandered into another place – still all pompous and snooty about tattoos – and had my bottom lip pierced. Weirdly that didn't hurt at all. A month or so later I had my eyebrow done. I kept all those piercings for a few years. I calmed down with the ridiculous hair. It was still silly quite often. Just not as often.  And I developed a schizophrenic dress sense. One day I'd be 90s Grunge. The next I'd have a shirt and tie on.

I remember two things happening right before I ended up waltzing off to university when I was 21. Firstly I was invited to a friends house for a party. That was the beginning of me farting about in weird rock bands playing guitar and drums. And at that party I was supposed to be showing up to play guitar a bit. Everyone else there was dressed up like a goth. I had on a pair of grey trousers, a collared shirt and a black tie. And a very drunk kid there kept calling me trendy as an insult. Yes I had silly hair. And yes I had an eyebrow ring and a spike sticking out of my lower lip. But he missed the irony completely of being dressed up exactly like fifty other people and saw me as a Townie. Right up until I picked up that guitar and started playing Sinatra and Meantime. I realized on my way home that night that the desperate grasp for an identity had piss all to do with clothes and only liking certain music. Which certainly helped because I'd been feeding a serious man-crush on Chris Isaak for years. I mean seriously...

Then I showed up at university. Still with piercings in - but no longer dressing like a homeless man had been given a makeover by the people on MTVs Headbangers Ball. And met probably a hundred people with a piercing in their face. I remember sitting in one of my first lectures and glancing down the row to see a line of people with their lip pierced. Exactly like in a  went back to my student house after lectures and took them all out. And that was that. 

Nowadays I don't have any shrapnel in my body. And I have two tattoos. And dear lord do I crave more. And no my skin has not become a substitute for that rambling, late-teenage denim shirt. But I love the sound of a tattoo place. And again - there's something strangely erotic about the way it feels when the ink hits your skin. Funny how things change. Mind you Only Fools And Horses still isn't funny. Nobody eats pilchards anymore. But you just know that someone, somewhere probably has a tattoo of white dog poo on their body. 

I'm betting it's Nigel Farage.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

The Running Man

I was not a cool teenager.

When I was about twelve or thirteen a girl in my school that I didn't really know asked me to be her boyfriend. Actually that's not quite right. She sent one of her friends to ask me if I'd be her boyfriend. It was right before the first class of the day. I wasn't entirely sure who she was but I said yes anyway. Total slag, I was. Actually truth be told I had no idea what I was doing and nobody had ever suggested such a ludicrous thing before. I honestly don't think before that moment that anything to do with grils had ever crossed my mind. I remember going into class and completely forgetting about it. At break time another girl that I didn't know at all came and told me that my girlfriend was breaking up with me. Again - I had next to zero experience of any of this silliness so just meekly nodded. At which point I was told that was actually this was just a test. And that because I didn't cry then clearly I didn't like her enough and now she's breaking up with me. Madness.

Fast forward a few years through a series of fluffy, innocent, childish boyfriend/girlfriend experiences. The kind that have absolutely no sense of anything physical in any manner. Not a hint of rudeness. If you consider that around that age I was still chuckling innocently at seeing belly buttons in the Littlewoods catalogue it should give you some idea of what sort of thing was going through my head. Whilst my friends were frantically wanking in secrecy I was still playing Kick Off 2 and waggling my Kempston Competition Pro joystick in an effort to get my tiny Daley Thompson across the finish line (euphemism of the day, surely).

Puberty Training Device

Not to lift the veil on the torrid, ickiness of being a thirteen/fourteen year old I do distinctly recall being with a bunch of my mates in an abandoned house and one of them revealing that he he'd nicked one of his dad's porn mags. And as the three or four of my friends creepily grunted at the naked photos on the page I remember looking around completely bewildered at what all the fuss was about. I mean - you could see the ladies belly buttons which was pretty awesome. But most of them seemed to be squatting in unusual fashion and draped in weird amounts of fur and lace. Which was stuff my nan had in her house. I remember that afternoon ending with me wandering off home as the magazine was divided up and each of my friends wandering off to different parts of that house to have a look on their own. Bored senseless I was.

Then in a six month period the frail bubble that held in my innocence was well and truly burst. This was when I was fourteen. Firstly by two sisters who lived across the street. One was the same age but the other was a year or so older. One afternoon they convinced me to practice kissing behind the shed in my backyard. My first true exposure to romance, clearly. The point here is that this was when I was taught that you can actually use your tongue. And not in that frightening, whack-a-mole rapid fashion that we've all experienced at one point or another. I'm sure my memory is all-a-mess looking back, but I do remember thinking afterwards that I definitely wanted to do more of this kissing business. 

Secondly when I was fourteen I was hanging out in someone's garage with a bunch of people I didn't really know all that well. Somehow I'd been invited in to hang out because I'd been told a girl there liked me. Truth be told that didn't really hit home. It didn't stir anything and I imagine I went along out of peer pressure rather than anything. At some point during that evening I ended up sat next to this girl. She was the same age. But she was the girl at school with big boobs. So all the other boys who seemed to have gone through the absolutely ravenous progress that is puberty lusted after her like a dog after another dog's arse. I've seen the tiny handful of photos of me as a young teenager. I looked about ten years old. So quite what this girl saw in me is actually baffling. In fact if memory serves me well - and it often doesn't - I spent a shocking amount of time trying to dress in as much flannel and layers as possible, and develop as much unkempt, long hair as possible, that people might accidentally think that Eddie Vedder had shown up. At some point during that evening I ended up sat with the aforementioned girl. Who was rather forward and - right in front of everyone - figured she'd have a go at kissing me. Obviously my stellar experience behind my own shed meant I had some skills to display. Ten seconds later this girl had somehow managed to take my hand and stuff it up her shirt. Which I hadn't expected at all. The stirring, powerful rush of puberty hit me for the first time. It was mental. I handled it (the puberty - not the boob) really well. She stuck my hand up her shirt and I casually and smoothly ran all the way home. Not immediately obviously. I made some sort of excuse to get up and go outside. And then I ran all the way home. All cool and stuff.

A few months before I was fifteen I was at youth club and a friend of my sisters that I kind of fancied found out and did that thing that some people did around that age. As in she displayed no subtlety or tact of any kind and just came over and grabbed me and dragged me outside to somewhere much more private. At which point she confessed her long-held crush on me (I'm guessing it had been at least ten minutes long). and we spent half an hour or so licking each others teeth. And then - much to my surprise - she stuffed my hand up her shirt. Obviously I'd matured from my earlier and only other experience of boobs. I remember calmly telling her I had to go grab something from inside youth club. And she said okay. And then I ran all the way home.

A few months later I was subjected to that shameful experience nearly all of use have been subjected to. That being I was hanging out with a friend of mine and his girlfriend. And her friend. And I was literally convinced into being her date for the night despite the fact that if it was up to me then in no way would have I said yes. But say yes I did. A few teenage beers later I ended up in a bedroom with this girl. Now I don't want you to all cheer too loudly but I didn't run all the way home after a quick fumble. Oh no - far too cool for that. No. Instead when she stuck her hand down my trousers I ended up faking an asthma attack and needing to go hide in the bathroom for a bit. And then I ran all the way home.  

I lost my virginity four days after my fifteenth birthday. Now as an old man (almost forty - still look fifteen) I am horrified at that statistic. It's far too young. All fifteen year old boys are dangerously stupid. Not in the mean sense either. I mean naively, ignorantly stupid. I lost my virginity to another virgin. Nothing quite as brutally awkward as two virgins discovering that neither of them have any idea what they're doing. I'll always remember that night. And by "night" I obviously mean "five minutes".  And I'll always remember it because somehow the white Liverpool shirt I was wearing (frankly who could resist ill fitting polyester?) somehow ended up on the bed beneath the two of us and she bled all over it. I ended up having to put it back on and walk the nearly-two miles home from her house in it. And without a word of a lie I was genuinely stopped by an old couple on my way home who thought I'd been stabbed. I wasn't cocky enough to respond with, "actually I think you'll find I was the one whose been doing the stabbing." To really underline that night when I got in I weakly tried to explain the horrifying evidence to my mother - when she opened the front door to let me in - by telling her I'd been at a friends house cooking with beef. Yes - during a two mile walk home that was the best excuse I could come up with. And frankly I deserve a reward for not actually running all the way home for that last one.

Eighteen months, that was. From innocent, foolish youth to vile, defiled beast. From not having the slightest proclivity to have anything to do with girls - to losing my virginity. In hindsight that's horrifying. Seriously I don't like that at all. On the plus side I suppose is that no teenage boy should be held accountable for the nonsense they get up to. But you aren't allowed to judge me for running away from boobs quite as often as I did.

I totally don't that anymore, by the way.....

Monday, December 14, 2015

When I Was A Gypsy

It's been awhile.

My gran.
Five years ago to the day I was sat in a dingy, office training room listening to a woman - who looked exactly like a cross between my Gran and Ray Winstone - swear blind they knew someone who turned themselves albino. Four years ago I found my daughter covertly locked in a bedroom intentionally slam dancing into her brother whom she had taken hostage. Three years ago today I picked my daughter up from school and she told me loudly in the corridor that, ""there's no kissing allowed at school......and if the teachers are caught kissing too they have to go and sit in the principal's office until the end of the day." Two years ago today my ex-wife's now fiance met our kids for the first time. Which involved him walking into our old house (I'd popped over to pick them up) while they were blasting Primal Scream's Swastika Eyes at an ungodly volume whilst pretending to spray everything like skunks. It's a credit to him that he didn't just walk back out the door. And a year ago today I was still aghast at how absurdly hot it was in Arizona in December and endured this ironic piss-take from my son.

There are two main points to this. Firstly - I know all that because I wrote it down. I have all those memories written out. Because I did that when I looked back through to see what happened this day for the last five years I swear I could hear all those things happen like an echo. I'm very lucky to have just spent twenty minutes having a poke back through time and feeling those things again. Granted I wasn't quite prepared for that sudden, dull sense of despair of five years ago of working a fucking dreadful job knowing that a) it was just a matter of time until I would be a stay-at-home Dad (still one the best things I've ever done in my life). And b) remembering that ever-present knowing that for all intensive purposes my marriage was already over. And that we both knew it but just wouldn't address it. And that nobody outside our house had any idea. We were just in a very, very long wind down. It's a very odd thing to feel that sensation again. That treading water feeling. And personally I think it's good to remember how that feels.

But it's also equally as odd to remember opening that bedroom door four years to find my son defending himself against his sister's violent dancing. Especially as today she spent an inordinate amount of time dancing to Minecraft songs while flailing a foam sword around while he deliberately tried to get hit by it. And it's weird to remember that look of confusion on the other parent's faces three years ago as my daughter loudly talked about how the teachers aren't allowed to make out at school. And as for a year ago - I can sincerely feel how uncomfortable it was to not have adapted to the Arizona heat. And being absolutely positive I never would. And yet now I'm huddled in my house with a cup of tea and a blanket at 10.20pm on December 13th writing away at this and well aware that I'm probably behaving as if I'm colder than most people around here. The words "delicate flower" come to mind. But I can also sincerely feel that sense of happiness I'd grown to a year ago of being pretty damn happy with who I'd become. Of having moved here and smiling with my kids. And of having met and got to know pretty well some of the most important people I'll ever meet in my life.  

And then there's today. Today my son lost his second tooth.

Albert Steptoe
Oddly enough he looks a bit like a cross between my Gran and Albert Steptoe there. He's quite excited. Firstly that his tooth falling out involved next to no pain at all. In fact he laughed it out. Apparently that's what I get for doing a workout in my own living room. It's just that funny to look at. But also my son is excited because when he found it in his hand he realized he was rich. And I realized I best find the six quarters (precedent set by his mother when the first one came out) the Tooth Fairy will be coughing up tonight. And lastly he's excited because with that tooth missing he now has his own personal hot dog hole. I strongly advise not Googling that.

More importantly is in five years I'll know that. Because I wrote it down. And I should say that even though I might not publish on this thing anywhere near as regularly as I used to - I still write things down. Thoughts I have. The inane stupid nonsense that I used to ALWAYS say out loud - I still write that down. Weird little ideas or stories - I still write them down. Not every day. But on scraps of paper that once a week or so are saved so that in weeks or months or years I can look at them and know what I was thinking. And while there are gaps they say their own thing too in just as silly, as importantly and as powerfully as words can sometimes too.

Secondly the point is the point we really don't have any idea where we will be in a year. Let alone five. That's both daunting and very exciting. I knew some things five years ago. I knew I didn't like an awful lot of things and that they had to change. For one thing my dress sense. Good God what was I thinking? I looked like a gypsy. Three years ago things were changing enormously and I knew that I was heading in very much the right direction. Painfully and into the unknown in many respects - but still the right direction. Six months before that I didn't think they would. It was almost unimaginable. I was an entirely different person then. Still looked like a gypsy for starters.

Six months can do that. In six months I won't be under a blanket - that's for certain. Six months from now my son will have a lot more hot dog holes. Six months from now these workouts better start paying off. I'm hoping that in six months lots will be different. I need to change some things. Just like we all do. And I'm fortunate enough to be able to look back five years and know that with a little work, a lot of waiting and a good mix of serendipity that I'll get closer to whatever that is. And I try not to do this but I'm well aware that in a year - and in five years - things will have changed in the same seismic ways as the last five years have. Dearly hoping I don't have some sort of hideous regression and start dressing like a gypsy again.

Now - I should go put that Tooth Fairy money under the pillow.