Cats

You know the worst thing about the internet?

Cats.

Everyday someone will send me a picture of a cat doing something cute like wearing a policeman’s helmet or mewling into a trumpet or making a cheese sandwich.

God I hate cats.

People ask me “James, how can you not like cats? Are you allergic?”

and I reply

“Yes. I am allergic to cats. Specifically their highly visible pink arseholes”

Usually they stop trying to convince me then and leave. Because that’s what you get when you buy a cat: a highly visible pink arsehole that spends the whole day winking at you. Like Elton John.

You see these adverts where people (beautiful woman, normally) are adding sprigs of garnish on to a plate of jellied meat and the cat looks up to thank them? You never see the next bit where it’s presenting it’s puckered hoop while it’s eating and you have to open a window because their food smells like cancer. Advertisers tend to miss that bit out don’t they? Likewise the box of grit that people KEEP IN THEIR KITCHEN so after you’ve fed it you can prepare your own food while the cat takes a quick shit AND THEN GOES OUTSIDE??

And the hairs? After they’ve brushed past your legs a few times suddenly you’re wearing Ugg boots. And the owners will forgive them anything? Anything! If I dropped a half eaten baby pigeon on your foot and then took a shit in your kitchen we would probably have a falling out wouldn’t we? But not cats, oh no they are exempt from reasonable behaviour because their eyes are pretty.

“He’s just brought me a little present”

“Is it still alive?”

“No. I don’t think so”

“Then what’s that gurgling noise?”

“I’d better put it out of it’s misery”

That’s not the sort of present anyone wants is it? Having to mercy kill and bury another animal? I’d rather book tokens thanks, or maybe, for a really special present, you could put some pants on and learn to shit outside?

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Dogs

There are no dogs in my life at the moment and I miss them. I should probably get another one but I know I won’t……..

I’m fairly sure that my parents didn’t knowingly sign on for close to two decades of servitude when they arrived home with a golden retriever puppy all those years ago. A preposterously cute ball of sandy fur (seriously, baby seals would look at him and say “awww”), Lord Karl of GoldenWood bounded into our lives, hid behind the sofa and shat himself. We named him Max.

The puppy years are a little hazy for me but I remember certain things: laying in bed, not wanting to be the first person to go downstairs during the “house training” period, I remember his confused joy the first time he saw snow and the first time he “sat” for us. I remember the dead-person-smell of tripe in the morning and trying to avoid using the “dog spoon” if I ever had soup. One morning, I dropped a dripping fat-rimmed chunk of dog food between my toes, frozen with disgust, I watched Max nonchalantly lick them clean – unperturbed by decency as only a dog can be. There was also that Christmas Day I remember him lapping at his balls and lipstick for the entirety of the Queen’s speech.
 
With the genetic alchemy of the breed he changed colour and he grew, the underside of his massive leonine paws like suede cushions – he was inarguably a handsome beast. A placid giant – his breath was worse than his bite. When motionless there was a nobility about him, a majesty that lasted up until the moment he moved and then you realised he was just a dopey bugger with good breeding. Nowadays I meet people like that on a daily basis, often their breath is worse.
 

Whilst Max had nailed “Golden” early on, he never really fulfilled the “Retriever” part of the deal: often in front of witnesses I’d enthusiastically throw a stick shouting “Go on boy – FETCH!” and he’d watch it’s trajectory with mild interest before wandering off in the opposite direction to piss on some nettles. We went from leaded, to lead-free for a while, where he would walk obediently at my heel all the way to the field before bounding off.

This stopped the day he got hit by a car.

I was walking Max, lead-free, and chatting with a girl I fancied when, suddenly, he saw a moggy, and betrayed by instinct, he dashed out into the road in front of a car. The car hit him and screeched to a halt, Max rebounded off it’s bumper and lay sprawled in the road, unmoving. Time stood still for a long long moment: I remember the smashed glass scattered like frozen tears and that dent in the bumper the precise dimensions of my childhood. As I walked towards him, already rehearsing what I would say to my parents, my sisters, he leapt up and raced away, clearly disorientated and in shock. We took off after him leaving a confused driver (our next door neighbour as it turned out) far behind.

Now, anyone that has ever owned a dog knows that when they put their mind to it they can REALLY run, anyone that knows me (with my little legs and penguin feet) knows that running has never been my thing, but fueled by shock and the miracle of canine resurrection I flew. We eventually caught him in a lane about a mile later, confused and exhausted (him not me) but seemingly uninjured. His back legs though, were never the same, operating in a different time zone to the rest of him, the satellite link-up delay of their movement a constant reminder I’d let him down.

The years flew by and he was always there, smiling at us, warm-hearted, relaxed. As he got older the slobber came, and we became weary of his drooling kisses – often leaving the house unaware of the disturbing crotch stain of his affections. Old age comes to us all –  and we were considerate: when he smiled in his sleep, we learnt to just open a window and leave the room. Occasionally, tending to an itch beyond his reach, he would drag his ringpiece across the carpet, striping the hallway with incontinent glee.

I had already moved out when he died, a fact for which I am eternally grateful, but still he bounds and pounces around my childhood and I often see him smiling away behind the eyes of other dogs.

I’m not ready for another one just yet.

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James Brown Dog

My son wanted to go camping this weekend and it sounded like a great idea. I thought about us under a starlit sky, pictured us listening to the distant hoot of an owl amid the hot chirrup of crickets. Imagined our easy silence as we lounged around a jolly campfire, waiting for our delicious beans to start bubbling. Ray Mears would probably waddle past and nod appreciatively at my bushcraft: the pleasing symmetry of my campfire, the tautness of my canvas, the reduced salt and sugar content of my beans, my general oneness with nature.

So I said “Yes, let’s go camping”…….

Let me tell you right now summer camping is a game of two halves: Day and NIGHT.

Let’s start with the days, glorious well-lit hours filled with the simple pleasures of the great outdoors: catching grasshoppers in a wildflower meadow, or making a rope-swing over a chuckling forest stream, or throwing ‘flea darts’ at each other, or climbing rheumatic trees on muddy knees – it’s all good. Bumblebees doodle across vast empty skies and time slows to a warm syrup crawl. As the light starts to fade you notice blackbirds dotted across distant telegraph wires like sheet music.

Even “setting up camp” is fun, as you watch your home for the night take shape. We’d arrived early and picked a secluded spot before going off for the day, I wanted my son to feel safe but still on an adventure so I’d stayed away from the crowds. Unfortunately upon our late return we discovered that the crowds had come to us. In well-equipped droves. Our remote yet idyllic locus, our father-son bonding site, our tiny tent, was now totally surrounded by caravans, marquees and loud music – the circus had arrived. Feral children ran naked between washing lines strung up between caravans, chased by dogs with mad eyes and tongues. Everywhere we looked huge tents nuzzled one another like amorous shire horses, tents with porches, tents with electricity, loud, modular, sci-fi monstrosities. Somewhere nearby I could hear an argument and a toilet flushing.

And there cowering in the middle of all this was our little tent. Our crap little tent: a little red triangle – like a warning sign I’d failed to pay attention to. We picked our way past the cat’s cradle of guy ropes and sat down outside our home for the night. Caravans loomed up either side of us. I hadn’t yet dared look at my son, couldn’t bare to see the inevitable disappointment on his face. A moment passed in silence as I took off my hot dusty boots.

“This is brilliant isn’t it Dad!”

“Oh thank God”

“What?”

“I mean yes, YES!, this is brilliant! Look at all this company we have! How lucky!”

“We won’t have to be scared now that all these people are here will we Dad?”

I put my hand on his warm head, “No, I suppose we won’t”

A bearded face popped into view “‘Allo have you seen my little James Brown?”

I covered my son’s ears and said “I beg your pardon?”

“Ma doggie, mon petit chiot – James Brown!!”

“You wouldn’t happen to be French by any chance?”

“Je suis FRONCH!! Ow did you know?” he teased, “I think ‘e might be ‘ere because your tent looks a beet like a……..chenil?”

“A kennel?”

Suddenly my tent looked exactly like a kennel, my son laughed. I didn’t.

“No offense, just a beet small yes?”

“Well there’s just the 2 of us and it’s meant to be 4-man….” I started to explain and then I remembered the wise words of my Grandfather who’d lived by the code “Never explain yourself to a frenchman with a beard. Or any Frenchman. To a man they are cheese eating surrender monkeys”

(NOTE: I think this attitude came from him being shopped to the Germans having been shot down over France in the second world war, but it’s difficult to be certain as he also liked to watch Top Gear)

“….If I see your dog I’ll let you know. His name is James Brown?”

“Oui James Brown”

“Okay then”

My son ran off into a field of long shadows, eager to wring out the last drops of fun from the dying day, the sun was a peach melting into the fields around us – soon it would be time for his first night under the stars. I had to make the bed.

Alone again, I gingerly unzipped our tent, half expecting a french dog to leap out and kiss me on both cheeks. I pulled the inflatable mattress out and got to work with the foot pump. A familiar bald head re-emerged from the nearest caravan window, this time with the tiniest cutest dog in the entire world.

“I found eem, in a cupboard hahaha! He was humping a blanket! He is like me this one – ALWAYS HUMPING!”

I smiled politely “Good, good”

“My wife was English you know, we had 4 children together,” he continued “She HATED camping.”

I couldn’t tell if she were dead or divorced so I said “Okay then”

“Although I would never do it in a tent like that,” He held up an emphatic finger “Caravans only!” and with that he disappeared back into his mobile home with his humping dog.

An hour later and we were ready for bed, my son snuggled down into his sleeping bag and, exhausted, was asleep in seconds – the sort of sleep awarded to those that’ve taken as much out of the day as the day has taken out of them. I lay there looking at him for a minute, hoping he’d remember today in the years to come the way I would. He smiled in his sleep and farted. I opened the entrance flap a bit and put my head near it.

I unzipped my sleeping bag and got inside and, for the first 30 seconds, it felt incredibly comfortable, I kidded myself into thinking that I would have a pleasant night’s sleep. Sure, sleeping in a tent is like sleeping in a shell suit, a shell suit that someone had just farted in, but you know, it was OK. It was our own fault that we’d had beans for lunch. And supper. In fact it struck me that beans should never have become a campfire staple. As my son continued to sleep-fart it also struck me that essentially we were sleeping in a highly flammable bag filling up with methane next to an open fire. This not being the most relaxing of thoughts – I decided to get up and douse the fire.

I tried to move my legs and couldn’t. You might not know this but a sleeping bag is basically a straight jacket for legs and, if you’re foolish enough to have kept your arms inside, zipping it up to your neck using the internal zip, it can render you immobile in seconds. I reached up to pull the internal zip down and it caught on the material – I was trapped!

Just take a moment to picture me thrashing around the tent in silence, like an epileptic caterpillar, desperately trying to free myself from quilted bondage. Picture the panic as my trapped arms fail to undo the zip near my neck and I roll off the mattress and facedown onto the cold hard floor. Inch by inch I caterpillar myself facedown out of the tent.

Once outside I take a few deep breaths and roll myself on to my back, the snigger of insects surrounds me, mocks me. I lay there, looking up to the heavens and wondering how I’ve trapped myself in a sleeping bag when I spot “James Brown” – the humping puppy.

He inches closer and waggles his eyebrows.

Surely he wouldn’t?

Defenceless I watch James Brown as he looks at me.

Lustfully.

Slowly his tail starts to wag.

Oh shit.

Hard to believe that the wagging of a puppy’s tail could be one of the scariest things you’ve ever seen?

Frantically I start pulling at the zip, don’t get me wrong I like puppies, I can play with puppies all day and night but I take exception to having a young dog’s helmet slapped across my face while it tries to fuck my earhole. I’m particular like that. With a wrench I force the zip down and leap out of my bag. James Brown diverts his affections to my empty bedding just as his owner appears.

I must look quite shocked because he asks “Is something wrong?”

I point down to my sleeping bag and the tiny puppy thrusting upon it. It is suddenly a very funny sight.

“Monsieur I hate to inform you,” I say “but that dog is fickle”

“I know!” he replies “He is a sex machine!”

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21st century Macaroons!

My Aunt once got upset with me for using the word “shit”, but to me, that’s how her macaroons tasted.

I’ve got some great news for you all – Macaroons have changed, they’re nice now.

As a child, if someone offered me something that looked like a biscuit then you took it as a given that it was ‘guaranteed’ to be delicious – that was until I discovered macaroons. Macaroons made me WARY of biscuits. Back then they were just big coconut scabs – all dry and thin like a pensioners kneecap.

“Don’t make a fuss James! They’re just “nut flavoured” biscuits” people would say,

But why then, did they taste of sadness and dog’s balls?

And the horrible taste lingered, If I try really hard, even now, I think I might still be able to taste my first one.

But yesterday my friends, I had a 21st century macaroon and it was different. Gone were the overriding flavours of melancholy and canine genitals and in their stead was a moist coconut delicacy. The beige dandruff cookie of my childhood had transformed into a seductive beauty, it didn’t have that dreaded arthritic snap that I remember, instead it parted slowly, coyly, like a sweet charmed maiden up for some barnhouse fun. And the colours! Magenta! Pistachio! Yellowish!

Go forth today my friends and find yourself a 21st century macaroon* – you will not regret it!

Unless you have a nut allergy*

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Potty

As a parent you give up nappies like you give up cigarettes – you wait till the end of the packet. So when we reached the end of my son’s nappies there was a sense of sad theatre in throwing the green plastic away – another little chapter gone forever.

But I’d failed to consider the chapters that follow – the “pull-ups and potty” period and the less familiar “portable potty” period.

At home, it’s all very straightforward, but when you are out and about it becomes more interesting. For a start, it meant carrying a potty around with me whenever we left the house, one that could be deployed at a moments notice, always ready for action: much like the SAS. As you can imagine, it was a socially awkward period: my son would suddenly shout “Poo Poo coming!” and wherever we were, within 20 seconds, he would be naked from the waist down and sitting on a potty that appeared as if by magic. Wherever we were. Like a Formula 1 pitstop. The whole process was slick, we each knew our role and you get so used to doing it that you rarely stop to think whether the location might be anything less than appropriate. Y’know, for an impromptu dump. Occasionally it took bystanders by surprise. One moment we are a normal looking family and the next one of us has shouted “poo”,we’ve pulled a mobile toilet out of thin air, stripped a child to the waist and are ready with moist and dry wipes for the clean up operation. It’s the sort of behaviour that has, in the past, put other diners right off their tapas. We are “no longer welcome” at La Tosca. But we don’t care – who dares wins.

The potty itself resembled an upturned plastic cowboy hat, and once full, I would carefully wander the streets with it held at arms length, looking for somewhere safe to empty it. That was my least favourite part, trying not to spill anything in a shopping centre or supermarket whilst affecting an air of nonchalance, “Sure I’ve got a white plastic Stetson full of autumnal colours – what of it?”.  I even stopped wearing checked shirts for a while, suspicious, that to the general public, I looked like some kind of awful country and western busker.

Anyway, we turned the page on another chapter of childhood (although no doubt my daughter will enjoy the freedom of flash dumping in the near future) and he now insists on using “big boy” toilets. Which, for me, is much worse…………

We’d found a passable public toilet which lacked glamour but more importantly – occupants. There were just 2 cubicles. We picked the one on the left. Now you and I know that there is an etiquette, that once in a cubicle, you remain, vocally at least, silent. Let me tell you right now that it’s a social convention that 3 year olds do not respect. Perhaps it’s because usually there are 2 of us in the cubicle? I honestly don’t know. Whatever the reason, my son has failed to adopt my long held belief that there is no need for commentary of any kind, that under the circumstances narration is, at best, distasteful. I am not taking confession. Anyway, I was waiting patiently to hear the words “I’ve finished” in amongst the usual toilet waffle and reading a particularly surreal piece of graffito when I heard the door outside slam open and somebody rush in to the cubicle next to ours. Without being able to see who had just burst in I knew we were in for an unpleasant experience: being out of breath through exercise and being out of breath through “panic” sound very different. What I could hear next door was beyond “need”, it was hyperventilation through sudden glorious proximity to a toilet, that most dangerous time when the body thinks it has reached the finishing line but has failed to take into account those precious few seconds required to undo belts and jeans and get any underwear well out of the way. I could hear as they struggled with their belt, the desperate snarl of frustration that such a simple garment could betray them like this. “GAH!!”

I moved my son’s legs and my own away from the shared wall. Unconsciously I took a deep breath. Our new arrival was actually whispering to himself. His mouth and brain were begging the body for a few more seconds. And then. And then we heard the metal of the belt hit the tiled floor, followed by a whimper of gratitude to God, followed by pure evil. Liquid wrongness, and then a relentless stuttering mixture of liquid and gas: like somebody refused to believe they’d come to the end of a squeezy Ketchup bottle.

“Aw dad somebody’s doing a really long blow off aren’t they dad”

“Yes. Yes they are Alex”

“I don’t do that dad”

“No. No you don’t Alex”

“You sound funny dad – is because you are holding your nose?”

Satan’s expulsions had suddenly stopped next door. I could hear the sort of silence you get when a person’s entire being is clenching, having realised they are not alone.

“Have you finished Alex?”

“No dad – it’s gone back up”

“Oh okay – shall we go then?”

“Okay dad”

 

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Salmonella and Wasps

I had Salmonella poisoning but I didn’t know it. The violent effects of this condition had left me sore, dehydrated and waiting to see the annoyingly upbeat Doctor. With clenched and scalded buttocks I waited for my turn. I dared not look at anyone – 3 days of violent diarrhea doesn’t fill you with much social confidence. I sat on my hands keeping my poor ringpiece off the hard plastic chair. Bored, I texted my wife “ At the docs – wish me luck!”. Eventually my name appeared and I lifted myself off the chair and waddled in. I told the GP what was wrong with me. He smiled but didn’t shake my hand. After examining me he passed across a small tube and asked me to “step outside” so I could fill it. I must’ve looked slightly shocked.

“I’m afraid we’ll have to take a stool sample!” he beamed.

I held up the tiny see-through container.

“In this?” I said.

“Yes!” he chortled.

I looked at the doctor but it was clear he was serious. The diameter and length of the tube were not best suited for the collection of stools, let alone unstoppable splattering pints of hot liquid shit.

“Erm you want me to fill this?” I asked

“If you can!” the Doctor smiled

“If I can?” I thought to myself “If I could “aim” I could fill this a hundred times over in a tenth of a second”.

I said “Can I have a glove please”

“Of course!” he chuckled, “Take two!”

I stepped outside, the toilet was adjacent to the waiting room so I hid the tube in the palm of my hand and, trying to appear normal, I walked past the large group of patients and ducked inside. The cubicle was empty but I was acutely aware that I could hear the waiting room outside. I could hear the rustle of magazines and the coughs. I could hear the receptionist. I needed to be careful. Sighing, I took down my trousers and went to sit down. Then stopped.

There was a wasp in the toilet.

It looked dead, but to be certain I flushed again. But after the water had settled, there it was, still floating on the water. As wasps go it was quite big and I stared at it nervously for a good 30 seconds before, satisfied it must be dead, I lowered myself over it. I’m sure it’s not just me, but I have a real problem with wasps near my scrotum.

Actually, scratch that – any animal, not just wasps. Put me in a pair of jeans and I will happily fight most creatures, but with exposed testicles I feel far too vulnerable for any form of combat. I think I would rather fight blind folded and fully clothed against two chimps and an angry beaver than naked against a goat or a ferret. It’s a major flaw in men – it’s our Achilles ballbag.

By the way, if you’re reading this and don’t have a ballbag of your own then relax, you probably have an equivalent female weakspot. A weakspot that animals, particularly in a fight, could exploit. By which I mean sting, bite, squeeze or claw. Actually maybe I’m being kind, you girls don’t have anything that “dangles”. It’s the danglies that make you properly vulnerable.

Anyway, I lowered myself down on to the seat, hearing the coughs and sniffles outside the door. I couldn’t help but think that people were listening. You may call me paranoid but if it were me outside then I’d be listening. Minutes passes and nothing happened. I just couldn’t let go. It’s very difficult to let nature take it’s course when you have your trousers round your ankles and a big wasp near your arsehole, but I am nothing if not persistent so I decided to wait it out. Sometimes waiting it out is all you can do. Further minutes passed and I thought of the smiling Doctor waiting in the adjacent room. I looked around – but there was no reading material. Even if there had been it would’ve been tough to read, don’t forget I was doing this one handed, my other hand, double gloved, was poised to collect “the sample”.

Sitting there in a trance, pondering the horrors of being stung on the balls by a massive wasp I suddenly heard a loud buzzing noise. THE WASP WAS ALIVE!

BZZZZZZZZ

“JESUS SHIT!” I shouted, so frightened by the buzzing beneath me. I leapt up.

BZZZZZZZZ

I looked down and the wasp still lay there, drowned in the toilet and definitely not buzzing or trying to sting my ballbag.

BZZZZZZZ the noise went again, which is when I remembered that my mobile was on vibrate and in the pocket of the jeans around my ankles.

It had gone very quiet outside the door and the fact that I had just shouted the phrase “Jesus Shit” in a toilet next to a silent waiting room hit me.

“JESUS SHIT”??

It also occurred to me that the doctor had probably heard me shout this after 5 minutes of trying to provide a stool sample.

I reached into my jeans pocket (with my double gloved hand) and read the text from my wife,

“Good luck honey!”, it said.

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Car Park Ticket Machine Race

We were running a little late for a wedding. At some point that morning we had lost the huge head start that comes with children that wake up at 5.30am. We had somehow squandered our time advantage, which meant my wife and I were both a bit snappy and the children seemed to be using every means at their disposal to delay us.

“Did you charge the SatNav?”

“We don’t need the SatNav”

“When was the last time you went there?”

“5 years ago”

“We’ve moved since then”

“But the church hasn’t?”

“Fine, we get lost, you die”

“Fine. Actually we’ll take it just in case”

Then

“Right let’s get in the car”

“I need my blanket”

“Where is it?”

“I dropped it”

“Where?”

“Down the toilet”

“Again?”

Then

“Right, put your shoes on”

“Can I hold the car key?”

“If you’ll put on your shoes”

“Okay”

“Here. Now put your shoes on.”

“I can’t. I’m holding the car key”

“Fine I’ll do it – give me your foot. NO THE OTHER FOOT! WHY MUST YOU ALWAYS GIVE ME THE WRONG FOOT!!”

Then

“Right. Jackets on – let’s go!”

“Where’s the car key?”

“I’ve lost it Dad”

“You are still sitting on the same step. How could you possibly have lost it?”

“That was ages ago Dad”

“IT WAS 10 SECONDS AGO!”

Eventually we were all in the car and on our way. The journey was uneventful. The outside world blurred passed us unobserved, the tormenting weather and our collective irritations had steamed up the windows and cocooned us in our own special misery. Nobody spoke, the windscreen wipers ticked away the time like a grandfather clock, a constant reminder that we were late. My wife used the motorway’s inertia to put on make-up, the children played legroom tetris and dozed in the back. About halfway there I realised that I’d left the camera at home but decided not to mention it, it would be a shame not to have it, because we were all looking “wedding” nice, but a much bigger shame to admit I had forgotten it. We’d dressed for the wedding in team colours, my pink tie matched my wife’s handbag and my daughters skirt and the trim on my son’s blue jumper – little splashes of colour tying us together in a crowd of strangers.

As we got closer to the church we realised that we were still late and were now trusting in the bridal traditions of tardiness. It was going to be close. My wife woke the kids and made preparations to make a run for it, I agreed to park the car, get the parking ticket and follow on behind. Seconds were precious. As she set off for the church with the pushchair, dragging my son by the arm, I realised something, I wound down the window and yelled.

“Wait! I don’t have any change for parking!”

She rolled her eyes, took her handbag from her shoulder and threw it through the window.

“My purse is in there!” she yelled back and then she charged off.

I parked quickly and started to look for the ticket machine. There was only one and it was on the other side of the carpark. As I started heading for it I noticed that another man was also heading towards the machine and although he was approaching from a different angle we would arrive roughly at the same time. Our eyes met. I suddenly knew that he knew what I knew – it was a carpark ticket machine race!

Now usually I don’t partake in carpark ticket machine races, I will deliberately saunter so that I am arriving as they are leaving the machine, but today I was late. Today I didn’t fancy waiting in the rain holding my wife’s handbag whilst somebody fished around for the correct change and tried to remember the numbers on the number plate of a car they have owned for 3 fucking years.

Today, I would race!

Shit! Every second counted. Now, in situations like this, the rules are that you cannot sprint, (in fact if you are a man carrying a handbag then running is always a bad idea) you must walk just slightly faster than normal but nothing too obvious. It must appear a fluke of natural pace that you reach the ticket machine first. So I put the pink strap over my shoulder, held it close to my side and (head held high and mustering as much dignity as the situation would allow), I started to walk very quickly. I started to “mince”.

Which is when it happened.

Having seen me increase my speed the other guy ignored acceptable norms and did the unthinkable: he broke into a little jog! Our eyes met again. What manner of man was this? The sheer cheek of it! My nemesis was overturning years of male carpark ticket machine race protocol? I was incensed (and I was late and it was raining), I clutched my handbag a little closer and (may the good lord forgive me) broke into a run.

As a man, sprinting in a busy carpark with a pink handbag is tricky to pull off. For one, someone might shout “stop thief” at any moment (which is a factor worth considering under normal circumstances) but beyond that, there’s no getting away from it – it’s just plain undignified. It is as far from “Chariots of Fire” as it is possible to imagine.

As carpark ticket machine races go – it was a thriller. For we were two mavericks, breaking the rules. A battle between two loose cannons who were willing to do whatever it took to get our carpark ticket first – no matter what it cost us in dignity.

I bloody won though.

The thrill of victory lasted about 5 and a half seconds and we then had to pretend that neither of us were out of breath and that nothing was amiss as we exchanged awkward smiles and I rummaged through my pink handbag looking for change. In fairness, I had the change in my hand but couldn’t for the life of me remember the numberplate of the car I’ve driven everyday for 3 years. Long awkward seconds passed. The rain fell. I risked an apologetic glance up and met my enemy’s eyes, he pointedly looked at my handbag and smiled in a way that said “Nice handbag twatface”

I smiled back and nearly said out loud “It’s my wife’s bag” when I realised that my wife was nowhere in sight and, much worse, THE HANDBAG MATCHED MY FUCKING TIE.

It looked like I was accessorising!

There was no way he’d believe it wasn’t mine.

I collected my ticket, thinned my lips, put the strap back over my shoulder and sashayed back to my car.

Feeling less like a loose cannon and more like a loose woman.

 

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