Daddyopolis

Minecraft character Steve looks out over the Minecraft landscape as the sun sets.

Last September, for my son’s 6th birthday, we bought him Minecraft for the PS4. As he’d been spending quite a lot of time watching gamers on YouTube Kids playing it, we thought he might like to experience the game for himself rather than just passively watching other people. I had always thought of it as “that stupid game with the blocks”, which now feels like a terribly unfair and disparaging comment, especially when it pops into my head while I’m branch mining with an enchanted pickaxe at 2am in the morning, as my dry, unblinking eyes scan subterranean tunnels for rich seams of diamond, emerald, lapis lazuli and redstone.

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What about Larry?

The Elf on the Shelf smiling and looking cheeky, with the lights of a Christmas tree blurred in the background.

Recently, late at night, as my wife and I peel ourselves from the sofa to clear away our empty gin glasses and extinguish the fairy lights on our Christmas tree by wildly jabbing at the inaccessible plug socket switch with a mop, one of us will stop dead in our tracks and utter the following words: “Oh God. What the fuck are we going to do with Larry?”

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It’s the not knowing

I’ve never really had many hobbies. As a young boy in the early 80s, I tended to adopt pastimes that had the potential to permanently enshrine my virginity. For instance, I collected matchbox covers for a short while, which I arranged in a scrapbook according to their country of origin. I also collected beer mats, which my grandad used to pick up for me from the local Legion. It was oddly exciting to be presented with a pristine Babycham mat, or a slightly damp and dog-eared one featuring Hofmeister’s George the Bear, scooped off a pub table through a puddle of spilled bitter and Cinzano. By the time my interest in beer mats waned, I probably had enough for an exhibition at the V&A.

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From Bing to the Black Death

I have various recollections of being genuinely scared by things when I was a child. After seeing Jaws on TV in 1981, I remember leaping from the bedroom door to the safety of my bed – pronking like a springbok – because in my seven-year-old mind, the blue carpet was ‘the sea’. (And Quint’s gruesome death has always stayed with me.)

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Essential viewing

The other day, I watched Jason and the Argonauts with my four-year-old son. It was one of my favourite films to watch as a boy (on many a rainy Bank Holiday) so I thought he might appreciate the sword fights and variety of weird and wonderful mythological creatures. So we snuggled up on the sofa together and watched as Pelias brutally murdered one of King Aristo’s daughters, coldly running her through with his xiphos as she cowered beneath a statue of the goddess Hera.

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Number two

Before my second son was born, I experienced genuine concern that I might not have enough love to lavish on another child. For some reason I started to think that love was something quantifiable, something finite, that I could potentially run out of. To illustrate this point in a slightly stomach-churning David Cronenberg style, it felt like my shirt was concealing a pulsating, fleshy gauge, clumsily grafted onto my chest, which would show a crimson-coloured liquid at dangerously low levels. I already had a son that I adored and doted on, so I panicked that I would fall short for ‘Number Two’. Where would I find all that extra love?

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They’re not scars, they’re medals

Children sliding down the 'Monster Drop' at Blackpool's Professor Peabody's.

I don’t have the exact figures to hand, but there are approximately one billion blog posts offering parents sage advice on how to “survive” soft play. It’s certainly something to be endured (soft play is a misnomer; it’s hard, gruelling even) but your survival is usually guaranteed. After all, I’ve never once entered a soft play zone to find a dad bleeding out on a crash mat, while a crazed toddler triumphantly pulls a bloodied trident from deep in his belly.

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A skeleton staff of knights

“What is a knight without a sword? This isn’t a riddle, by the way; this is a serious point. A knight without a sword is just a bloke clattering around a castle in cumbersome armour, sounding like a looped recording of a drunk trying to climb out of a builder’s skip full of venetian blinds. He may as well cart a plinth around the bailey all day, wowing children with a human statue routine, while occasionally retreating to the garderobe to daydream forlornly of battles he will never fight and quests he will never embark upon!”

At this point, a hand rests gently on my shoulder and I’m helped back into my seat. “We’re just doing a round of introductions first,” says the group leader, as everyone in the healing circle looks on sympathetically at my puce, irate face. I quietly apologise to the group and return a lady’s umbrella, which I’d rudely snatched and held aloft.

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Finally, a portmanteau I can believe in

I recently became a father again. Unbelievably, given that I’m a bit of a dickhead who tends to stumble through each day, I am now a father to two boys, tasked with keeping them alive and raising them to be kind, loving, thoughtful, intelligent, confident and empathetic human beings. It’s a truly daunting prospect.

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