Monthly Archives: August 2012


It’s a lovely summer’s morning in the garden, bumlebees wearing fur coats molest dainty flowers in the hazy sunshine. I am showing off my fabulous life to next door’s builder who looks down from atop his ladder with what I consider to be a wistful melancholy – perhaps he dreams of one day having a family like mine. I pretend I haven’t noticed him but I make sure he sees how unbelievably happy and content we all are. Don’t get me wrong, there is no outright animosity between us, but there is a lot left unsaid between our kind. Between my people who wear suits and manual labourers – there is a lot of mutual “judging”. It is a silent war, an unspoken conflict. We all know this. It is a war with a paradox, with both sides somehow managing to look down on the other. Damn them with their topless brown bodies, listening to their radios with their flexible working hours and their cut-off jeans. Damn them I say. Or rather I don’t. Anyway, where was I? Oh yes a lovely summer’s morning in the garden.

I am holding my daughter and she is giggling loudly, she has hiccups and each time she hiccups I pretend to be slightly more shocked than I actually am. Classic family entertainment. My son is sulking because he doesn’t have hiccups and frankly his faked ones were unconvincing. “Cheer up son! You can laugh! It’s funny!”  I say to him. My wife joins us just as my daughter does another hiccup and this time my son does laugh. A feeling of warmth spreads across my body, principally because this time his sister has vomitted porridge all over my shirt, my tie and suit trousers. She, however, remains spotless and cackles with glee at her clever trick. This time my shocked face is rather more authentic. My wife doesn’t even try not to laugh. I sneak a glance up and luckily next door’s builder is nowhere in sight. Phew. I have to move fast now: the builder might come back at any moment and see that the thin veneer of domestic bliss now has regurgitated Ready Brek all over it. This must not happen, I cannot let “my people” down. My wife tells me to stay outside and watch the kids, she will get me another “outfit”. That’s what she calls it – an “outfit”. The kids run off to play in the garden and I start to strip off, I can feel the heat of the breakfast-sick through my clothes. I notice as I remove my trousers that I am wearing pink jockey shorts and suddenly I feel a bit self conscious. They were a gift and they feel fantastic but I wish to God I had on something a little more masculine. The pink “Friday socks” don’t help the situation either. I hug the outside wall of our house, here, at least, I am out of the line of sight of next door’s builder. Safe from his rooftop smirks. Where is my wife? I call into the house but she shouts back that she is on the phone. On the phone? I am hiding from a labourer wearing only pink underwear and she is taking phone calls? I hold up the trousers and survey the damage: the porridge has covered the crotch area and one of the legs – this might take some explaining at the dry cleaners. Maybe I’ll let my wife take them in – no that might look suspicious. I’ll do it myself but ask the dry cleaner to smell the crotch of my trousers so they’ll know it is only Ready Brek, yeah that’ll work, don’t want the dry cleaner to think I suffer from premature ejaculation or anything. I’ll even take the kids so they know I am capable of procreative sex. It’s a great plan, I have saved a potentially awkward situation just by thinking it through. Well done James. There is still no sign of my wife. Who is she talking to on the phone? I want to run back into the house but my one year old daughter is heading over to the old wooden bird table. “Don’t touch that!” I yell, watching with a growing sense of horror as she starts to rock it back and forth. I dart my head out of cover and as expected the builder is back on his perch. Shit. What’s taking my wife so long? Why do these things happen to me? I feel like I am evading a sniper in my pants. The bird table looks like it may topple over at any minute. I sprint down the garden as fast as I can and, dressed a bit like a gay superhero, I snatch her out of harm’s way just as it topples over. It makes a lot of noise. She hiccups again and laughs. My son starts to laugh. My wife comes back into the garden and she laughs too. From behind me I hear a wolf whistle and I know that I’ve been spotted wearing pink underpants, pink socks and black leather shoes by the builder. 

“Cheer up dad, You can laugh! It’s funny” says my son and hugs my leg. My wife comes over and, still laughing, also hugs me. And I realise, in this family hug, that it is quite funny, so I do start to laugh. There is something quite magical about having your wife and children all hugging you and laughing at the same time. It sounds a bit like love.

I look up and the builder nods at me smiling. 

 Maybe, I think, he’s not such a bad person after all.


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Builder’s “Materials”

I was in a meeting and my phone kept buzzing. As is polite, I had ignored it the first few times, discreetly looked at who was trying to call the second few times and eventually after 7 missed calls, I started to worry. It was my wife. Maybe something terrible had happened. We were having an extension built, maybe there’d been an accident at home? Suddenly a voice mail message pinged up on my phone. It was a loud noise in the quiet room. There were 5 of us and the other 4 looked at me expectantly.“Look I’m really sorry,” I said “but my wife seems keen to get hold of me, do you mind if I just listen to this message? It might be important.”

There were various nods around the table. I dialled the answerphone and listened to the message.

“James, something awful has happened” said my wife at considerable volume, she sounded very upset.

The room went suddenly very still and the four businessmen were now looking at me with real concern on their faces, it was clear they could hear every word she was saying. They were braced for tragic news, as was I. We could all sense we were about to hear something awful.

“One of the builders has done a poo in our downstairs toilet. Call me.”

I shut off the call, but much, much too late. I suddenly felt very hot.

“Sorry about that. So gentlemen we were talking about the domestos er ………domestic markets” I said studying my papers.

After the meeting I rang her up and she told me how she’d arrived home and found “the item” unflushed and bold as brass in the downstairs toilet. She had confronted the builder who had denied the charge but she “could tell” he was lying.

“You’ll have to sort this out James. This is a man’s job”

“Evidently” I said putting the phone down.

You see we were very specific about the toilet arrangements during the extension. We wouldn’t be present during the day so certain trusts were being broken here. The rest of the house was pristine and to access the downstairs toilet meant traipsing wet muddy boots or soiled work clothes through the house, so, at great expense we had provided a porta-loo. A mobile chemical toilet for the builder’s exclusive “outside” use.

And they’d agreed to use it.

They had promised us.

And now this? After such promises finding a builder’s turd was as difficult to swallow as you’d imagine. But it got worse, the builder, the only one there that day, was the son of the boss, the man my wife had called for an emergency meeting at my house and the man who I would have to have this out with. I was pumped for this though, on the way home I kept telling myself that this was an outrage.

As I entered the house I found my wife standing at the end of the hall, close to the scene of the crime, pointing.

“Look” was all she said.

“Jesus, what you didn’t flush it?”

“I’m not going back in there and besides – it’s evidence

“This situation just gets more and more disappointing. Was there a mess in the hall, how do you know it was the builder?”

“Well it wasn’t me and it wasn’t you was it?”

“No!” I said.

Just then the builder’s dad and overall project manager pulled up outside my house. I watched him take a deep breath. He got out of the car slowly, nothing in the training manual had prepared him for this day.

We exchanged solemn nods and I beckoned him towards ground zero.

“Look, my boy says he didn’t do it, I really don’t know what to say to you…..” he began

“I’m afraid that the proof is right here” I said, and opened the toilet door in a Poirot has solved the crime manner.

The lid was up and there it was.

We all looked.

It was massive.

Above it, on the cistern was the Saturday times magazine, Giles Coren’s face just visible. A good article. An article that I suddenly remembered I’d read that very morning. In fact I’d been quite engrossed in it and suddenly realised I was running late for work………

Oh no. The penny drops.

God this is awkward.

My mind starts to race, my wife is looking at me like she “can tell”. The project manager looks a bit sick. I close the door.

“Look,” I say “There’s no harm done, but please please let’s try to not let each other down again”

I have my eyes closed as I say this, as if I am a benevolent father figure who is willing to give an unruly child one last chance.

The innocent boy’s father nods gratefully at me and, head still bowed, he gets into his car and drives slowly, respectfully away.

I look at my wife and shrug, “You just can’t get the staff these days” I try, but the game is up. I am a kindle to her.

“You do know that you are going to hell for that, don’t you” she says.

“Yep,” is all I can say “I know”.

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Double Trouble

I was in my usual position, clinging on for dear life at the very edge of the mattress: the domain of waking husbands all over the western world: the bed ghetto. Of the duvet that was covering me last night there was no sign, presumably my wife had confiscated it as part of her nocturnal megalomania routine. You’ve heard of sleepwalkers? Well she is a sleep looter. I am convinced that she cannot get a truly satisfying night’s sleep until I have been kicked to the very cusp of the mattress and robbed of all covers. Often, in the night, I will reach across for a sip of water and find she has drunk the lot and stolen my pillow. Most mornings I wake early, cold, bruised and thirsty, while my wife emerges from her massive duvet cocoon like a happy butterfly. Bed thieves and their victims eh? If you share a bed on a regular basis with the same person you are either one or the the other. I have adapted to this Promethian torture in surprising ways: from time to time my wife will reprimand me for the length of my toenails and I will inform her that I need them to cling, yes CLING, sloth-like to the edge of the bed, that these natural crampons are all that seperate me from total divan eviction every night.
But Saturday morning none of that mattered, I wouldn’t be sleeping in this bed ever again. Ever again. I lay there reveling in this fact and attempting to pass wind silently – a man has his hobbies. Occasionally a bedspring would detonate mysteriously somewhere beneath me and I would smile dear reader, for today was the day that the new bed was coming. A super king size, memory foam, pocket sprung something or other. A bed so massive that it’s gravitational pull was actually capable of creating lay-ins and early nights. A bed so royally massive it crossed time zones and came with a sherpa guide. Okay it didn’t come with a sherpa guide but it damn well could’ve. This was a bed that transcended the grasp of the bed thief in sheer width. We’d received an automated text on Friday night letting us know that it would be arriving between 7am and 8am on Saturday morning. I was impressed. I thought “hey these guys don’t hang around, these guys have got their act together, an hour window sent to us by text the day before – wow”.
What could possibly go wrong? Well let me tell you.
I have presented my misfortune in bulletpoint form for your concise enjoyment.

Empty drawers of clothes, giving wife ample opportunity to throw away clothes “I don’t wear anymore”

Dismantle double bed in pants with favourite screwdriver

Remove double bed from house for pick up later that day.

Heroically refuse assistance.

Sweat profusely hauling divan, mattress, 4 drawers and headboard down stairs.

Wife asks for hoover to give newly revealed under-bed carpet a good clean.

Whilst dragging hoover up the stairs – tread on dinosaur toy.

Say rude word.

Hoover blows up in bedroom in loud stink-bang-fizzle for no apparent reason.

Soil myself.

Say another rude word.

Sent to 24 hour Mega Supermarket to get new Hoover.

Tread on same dinosaur taking knackered hoover back downstairs.

Say another rude word.

Tread on snail getting into car, crunch-squish makes me retch.

Attractive jogger sees me retch.

On way to supermarket get snapped by speed camera van.

Many rude words.

Choose new hoover and head back at more sedate pace.

Arrive home, “Hospice in the Weald” taking old double bed away.

Driver from Hospice in the Weald thanks me for my “contribution”.

Take Hoover inside.

Notice dirty boot prints all the way through hallway and upstairs.

Am informed that the Hospice in the Weald man went upstairs.

Enquire why?

Told he needed to borrow screwdriver to detach headboard from bed.

Make joke about wet mud being good test for hoover.

Try to assemble hoover and quickly realise need favourite screwdriver.

Cannot find favourite screwdriver anywhere.

Becomes clear charity worker has still got favourite screwdriver

Have to admit to wife that “favourite” means “only”

Call “Hospice in the Weald” charity worker a “fucking thief”

Apologise to children.

Borrow next door’s screwdriver.

Assemble hoover and complete pre-delivery clean up.

Phone rings.

Delivery company inform us that new bed won’t be here for another 5 days.

Look at space where beloved double bed used to be.
Say rude word
Soil myself.

The End.

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Love Films

I love films………..

I’d got to the cinema early to pick up the pre-booked tickets and to hide just how much pick ‘n’ mix I’d be lugging in. The massive foyer was busy and after securing my own body weight in fizzy cola bottles I’d spent 10 minutes in a queue under the false impression that people were collecting their pre-booked tickets. Sadly no one thought it appropriate to inform those behind them that the machine was broken. After finding this out I turned to the queue and told them straight. Only for them to ignore me and try their luck at the same machine – as if I could’ve somehow mucked up inserting a card. Peeved, I joined the normal queue and waited in line.

“I ordered some tickets online but none of your machines seem to be working”
“Yeah they haven’t worked for ages, have you got your card?”
“Do you not think you should put a sign up?”
“The printer in the office isn’t working either”
“It’s just that people are queuing to collect their tickets because there is nothing to indicate the machines aren’t working”
“We put a chair in front of the machines – that means they are not working”
“Ah a chair, of course. Is there one in front of the printer in the office too?”
“Owe kay. Here is my card”
“Where do you want to sit?”
“Erm those 2 seats there please”
“You can’t sit there”
“Why not?”
“Those are luxury seats”
“What’s the difference?”
“No, I mean what makes them “luxurious”?”
“They have slightly wider armrests”
“How much wider?”
“I don’t know, a bit”
“You’ve really sold it to me. I’ll pay the difference”
“Any drinks, snacks?”
“2 massive cokes please”
“Is Pepsi alright?”
“Is fake money alright?”
“It’s a joke, I’m sure Pepsi is fine.”
“Any popcorn?”
“Just one. Salty please”

And he shuffles off in his “hat of despair” leaving me to ponder the definition of the word luxury. But you can’t have standard now can you, it could ruin the film? A film that has taken years and millions to make, it would be awful to have your elbow slipping off a skinny armrest during say, a chase scene. You might look like a fool. Best to pay another £3.60 to avoid looking foolish. Besides, when you get to go to the cinema as seldom as I do these days you can’t have anything ruin the experience. I look around and take 2 straws, ripping open one of them and realising that they never have a bin for this particular piece of litter. I lay it down on the wet counter.

“There you are. 2 luxury seats. 2 pepsi, one salty popcorn. That’s £26.50”
“Wow. Can I pay that in instalments?”
“It’s a joke”
“Enjoy your film”
“I will. Enjoy your hat”

And despite the queues, despite the heavy closed door to Screen 6 that you can’t open because you have your hands full, despite the criminal expense of junk food, despite the person sitting in front of me having some kind of afro tribute to Abraham Lincoln’s hat (honestly he looked like a black Marge Simpson), despite everyone’s very best efforts to make it impossible – I do enjoy it.

Because I love films.

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You do get some weird people on the train.

You do get some weird people on the train outside commuting hours.

It is early afternoon and I am sitting on the train on the way home from work. I have just said something I regret to an attractive family of 4 sitting diagonally opposite me around a table. The dad asked me if I minded if they sat there and I said “No, it’s fine, I love kids”. But I didn’t say it as you just read it. Oh no. For …

some reason I said it in a sarcastic voice, in a sort of Frankie Howerd sarcastic voice.

“Nuuuuuu!!, it’s fiiiiine, I looooooove Keeeds!”

I didn’t meant to, obvs. It just came out. The dad looked a bit shocked and I tried to smile my way out of the situation. They sat there anyway so I think I got away with it.

They are discussing their day out in London and being generally charming. They are free to talk because I now have my earphones in, although I am not listening to anything. It’s an old trick that stops people talking to me on trains. I notice that the mother is deaf. Her communication has been based on easy laughter, which is a little loud, and a lot of pointing at the West End Theatre Programme they have all been looking at. The dad is signing to her to clarify something but she can obviously lip-read. The dad gets up and moves all the way down the carriage to use the toilet.

As soon as he’s gone the children transform. Disguising their mouths with their hands they start to swear. The angelic daughter cups her hands over her mouth and says quite clearly “SMELLY SHIT”. Totally unaware, the mother continues reading the programme. The son is now looking down at the table and chanting “BASTARD, BALLS, BASTARD BALLS”, his sister is giggling. The mother is still totally unaware. It strikes me that these kids must do this a lot, they are well practiced in covering their mouths naturally or looking away from their mother’s eyes. I am suddenly angry. The mum deserves better, certainly much better than to be mocked by her own children. But how best to approach this? If I tell them off then they could deny everything and I would look weird. They already think I am a bit weird. I decide to get up and wait for the Dad outside the toilets, I’ll tell him. Yeah, he can deal with them in his own way, without embarrassing the mother. She would probably be mortified if she knew what was happening. This is a good plan.
I move down the train and wait for the Dad outside the toilet door. I suddenly realise that this might look a bit weird so I move away from the door. I am a little nervous about what I’m going to say but I know that the Dad will thank me for telling him. The main thing is to not make this weird. A woman approaches from the other end of the carriage and stops outside the toilet. I don’t want her to think I am in the queue so I say “I don’t actually want the toilet, I’m just waiting for someone”. I say this quite loudly and smile so she knows I’m not weird or anything. She looks a little shocked at this statement and I back slowly away from her towards the toilet door. I sound like a fucking mental. What is wrong with me? She moves away and sits down. The toilet door opens behind me. The dad is also a little shocked to find me right outside the toilet and tries to move past me. I put my hand out to stop him.
“Can I just tell you something about your kids” I whisper. I have honestly never sounded creepier. The dad looks confused and suddenly defensive “What about MY kids?” he says loudly. God, this is going badly I think. You sound like a crazy man.
“Well,” I continue whispering “they are being a bit rude” and then he’s pushing past me and shouting at his kids “What have you done huh?” I follow him back and he is standing over them. The mother looks panicked, her pretty eyes are wide with confusion. “This man says you’re being naughty? What have you done?” He is livid. This has not gone well. I am so unbelievably embarrassed at this point that I merely follow him back, hoping the children will confess to their father. They don’t. The dad turns to me “What did they do?” he asks. The children suddenly look so young and innocent and the mum so worried, that I genuinely hate myself.

“Oh nothing really” I say, packing up my stuff and hurrying away.

You really do get some weird people on the train.


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,Plate Spinning and Juggling

I am in such a good mood I look at the food and actually lick my lips. This is gonna be great: a cheeky roast in front of the telly. That doesn’t happen very often. Wow this food looks good. The salty amber coastline of moist well roasted, thickly sliced chicken, the huge homemade yorkshire puddings, the dam of shiny green beans waiting impatiently for the bite-squeak of their demise, sweet petit pois and fluffy yet crunchy roasted potatoes. I picture the thick gravy running down the sides of the Yorkshire pudding, softening the batter and making it all squishy. God I am so hungry. I sigh happily, pick up the plates and move through to the next room where we will be eating. And then I stop. I know where my wife is sitting in the next room and I have just noticed that I have picked up the plates in the wrong hands. There is slightly more chicken on the right hand plate and when I enter the room she will be expecting to be given the plate nearest her.
Shit – the plates are in the wrong hands. This is serious.
In these days of equality it must appear natural that I get the bigger plate. A teatime fluke. Could’ve been you, could’ve been me – but it was me. I can’t put the plates down now and swap hands – she can see me. She is looking right at me. I briefly contemplate crossing my arms over and somehow incorporating a sort of butler – flourish in order to disguise the fact I am giving her the worst deal, but she’ll notice that because I don’t usually present her supper with a cross handed butler flourish. It surely will raise her suspicions. I don’t want this to become awkward. Maybe if I walk into the room backwards this will appear more natural? Yes I could bump the door open with my backside, I’m sure I have seen waiters do that? But the door is already open. I can’t just walk into the room backwards, that will definitely look weird. Oh God it’s so awkward. She is raising her eyebrows now and smiling, she is giving me a classic don’t-just-stand-there-holding-the-plates-you-big-twat look. I sigh again and walk forwards into the room, putting the plate with slightly more chicken in front of her and omitting any gay manservant flourishes.
The news is on and my wife says “This poor couple got abducted by Somalian pirates and have been in captivity for over a year”.
“Well we all have our fucking problems don’t we” I say, scowling.

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August 10, 2012 · 8:40 am