Being the parent and having to be “grown-up” all the time can be exhausting and can often lead to moments where we swing wildly the other way………

Through some quirk of fate I have been left alone in the house without a list of things to do. This is great news because it means I don’t have to be the sensible adult for a few hours. The possibilities swoon before me. Although I am the oldest person in the house I am now also the youngest. Left to my own devices I change. For example, I go up the stairs on all fours. I don’t know why I do this, it is not something that can be easily explained. In my defence I only do it when the house is empty and I have to go upstairs anyway. I don’t want you to think that I just climb the stairs on all fours for no reason – that would be mad. Perhaps going up the stairs like a dog is my way of saying “screw you maturity”? I honestly don’t know.

Upstairs, a great idea comes into my head so I unspool vast quantities of toilet roll and get a continuous sheet going along the floor, out of the bathroom and all the way down the stairs to the front door. I draw a cartoon ghost on the bottom sheet then I run back up the stairs (on all fours) and settle one end just above the water. Later, when the kids arrive home and before my wife comes in, I will wait until they are through the front door, race upstairs, flush the toilet and watch it being gobbled up by the flush. The children, gobsmacked, will witness a long white 3 ply streamer race back up the stairs as if by magic before being flushed away and I will pretend not to have noticed this “miracle”. Later, when my wife asks what they are going on about, I will deny all knowledge of the toilet roll ghost and she will shrug her shoulders and say “kids eh?”

On a whim I rearrange the fruitbowl so that a banana and 2 satsumas are a little more erotic to look at and as I am doing this I notice the helium balloon. Once proud and thrusting , the balloon now hovers a mere inch from the floor. It’s diminishing powers of levitation are over a week old and it needs to be thrown away – a saggy balloon is depressing, we all know this. And not just because it supposedly looks like an old woman’s tits, which I think is unfair (and inaccurate in this case unless the old woman in question has green foil peppa pig tits), but because a balloon is a metaphor for our own inevitable physical decline, they are our gentle reminder at birthdays that life is finite and therefore precious.

But who can just throw away a balloon filled with fun gas? Certainly not me. That would be a waste, for who amongst us could resist the lure of Helium? The second most abundant element in the universe, an element forged in the stars through the thermonuclear fusion of hydrogen and used by the people of earth, principally, to make their voices sound funny.

I make a small hole and inhale deeply…….. just as the phone starts ringing.


I stare at the phone with the balloon still at my lips. I probably should just leave it.

But I’m not that guy.

I pick up the phone.

“Joe Pasquale here” my voice is incredibly high and tight, it’s perfect so I let out a little giggle.

“May I speak with the owner of the house please?” says a man’s voice.

I think to myself – bloody coldcallers.

“Yes it’s me, Joe Pasquale, can I help you?” giggling, I take another deep breath of helium.

“I came round the other day to give you a quote on those fencing panels?”

Double shit – it’s the fencing man!! A big humourless lump of a man. A Northerner! A man I have already told my wife we are going to use!

I cough a bit but it’s no good the high voice remains.

“Oh Mr Tate yes. I was going to call you”

“Are you okay Mr Conmy, your voice sounds funny?”

“Yes I know. I’ve erm just…….. been…… doing a bit of helium?”

Later, when my voice and maturity levels have returned to normal, whilst my son keeps ranting about a ghost stealing toilet roll, my wife, pointing at the sexy fruitbowl, asks me what else I did today.

I think about that sandwich I invented whilst watching “Jumanji”, about putting that ant on a crumpet to make him think he was on the moon and all the other stuff that happened.

“Y’know, just a bit of paperwork” I say “just grown up stuff”.


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