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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The paunch of shame

A male runner on his back, collapsed on the pavement.

I’m new to running. I’ve obviously run at times in my life – to catch a departing train, for instance, or escape a persistent wasp. Also, my tardiness has occasionally forced me into a frantic dash across campus to attend a meeting, where I’ve strived to achieve a fashionably late arrival, albeit as a sweaty, breathless, dishevelled, shambles of a man. But actual running, for fitness, on a regular basis, never.

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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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My gaming life

I’ve had a creeping longing for a return to some kind of normality recently. And by ‘normality’ I don’t mean tombstoning at Durdle Door, where the few seconds of free-fall you experience as you plummet towards the shimmering waves below is, quite ironically, the safest way to socially distance yourself – by more than two inches – from thousands of lobster-skinned beachgoers shitting into burger cartons and ice boxes.

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This pandemic is killing my cynicism

I’ve cried a lot recently (more so than normal). While driving to work one morning in the week before lockdown, I welled up listening to The Leisure Society’s ‘The Last of the Melting Snow’. There’s nothing particularly unusual about that – plenty of songs get me in the throat – but it’s the fact that I was sobbing uncontrollably even when the song had finished. Inconsolable at the wheel and completely overwhelmed by the creeping, all-consuming nightmare of a deadly pandemic. Yesterday, I cried at the kitchen sink listening to the The Smiths’ ‘Please, Please, Please Let Me Get What I Want’. If we’re in this for the long haul, I may cry myself to the point where my entire body becomes as withered, cracked, and desiccated as my excessively washed hands.

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Content

A friend once described me as a “Premier League raconteur”, which, to this day, is the best compliment anyone’s ever bestowed on me (even if not entirely true). Anyway here’s a self-deprecating little anecdote about a terrible moment in my life that I’m not proud of, and for which you should definitely judge me. I have nothing else to write about right now, so this is just meaningless ‘content’.

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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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Number two

Before my second son was born, I experienced a 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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