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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Shut it all down

I miss the olden days. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t miss black-lunged street urchins scurrying up hellish, carcinogenic chimneys. Nor do I miss the days of young cotton mill workers getting a vicious strapping for having the gall to complain about exhaustion and a degloved finger. No, I’m talking about a mere 25 years ago, which genuinely feels like the olden days.

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The Oreos incident

The other day, my wife and I were at the park with our three-year-old son. He was playing on the swings and I was doing that thing that dads do, where I positioned myself directly in the way of his ascent so that he could kick me up the bum in a slapstick comedy style. After every carefully choreographed impact, I would then express Widow Twankey-levels of shock and surprise that even a pantomime director would ask me to significantly tone down. Still, it was a routine that was delivering lots of giggles, which is better than any drug in the world. (I had a toke on someone’s spliff at the Reading ‘95 festival and then had to spend a good couple of hours pretending that I found fruit hilarious – so it’s definitely better than that.)

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Sacrificial offerings to the giant pig god

My wife and I recently went on a train journey to take my two-year-old son to see Peppa Pig and George, courtesy of my very lovely and thoughtful mother-in-law. I’m a father now, you see. So this is how I occasionally spend my time.

Our journey began at Kidderminster Severn Valley Railway station, where we immediately joined the end of a long queue of families. “Hell is other people,” as Jean-Paul Sartre once said, which is why, in spite of the quaintness of the station, it’s how I imagine Brief Encounter would’ve looked if it had been produced by the Channel 5 documentary team behind the series Neighbours from Hell, High on Spice, Hacked Down My Conifers.

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The playlist that time forgot

Maybe it’s that the world is so fucked up right now and seemingly teetering on the brink of nuclear war (Donald Trump’s preference to being impeached), but I’ve been spending a lot of time wrapped in a warm, comforting blanket of nostalgia recently.

It all started when I heard Madonna’s ‘Borderline on the radio, which instantly triggered a memory of a school coach trip to Wales in 1986. Midway through the four hour journey from Watford to Criccieth, a girl I fancied suddenly reached over my seat, placed her Walkman headphones over my head, and pressed ‘play’, saying: “This is what you do to me.”

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My grandma died a couple of weeks ago. She’d just turned 91, was in failing health, and died peacefully in a nursing home. There were no frenzied attempts at resuscitation, with medical professionals swarming around her bed to a discordant soundtrack of blips and bleeps from an array of lifesaving equipment. She just ate some porridge for breakfast, returned to her room, then slipped away.

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Monty Don’s Gardens of the Illuminati

I blame Jon Ronson. There I was, a bored 26-year-old on a Sunday evening in late April 2001, lamenting the fact that TV was typically shit (before I truly appreciated Countryfile and The Antiques Roadshow), when I half-arsedly flicked to Channel 4 to watch something called The Secret Rulers of the World.

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I worry…a lot

I worry. I worry about lots of things. Only a couple of weeks ago, I cheerfully said “white rabbit!” to welcome in the new month, before blowing off loudly in the confines of my shower. I then started to overthink the consequences of my actions, speculating that the black squares of misery and misfortune on the Gods’ chess board might be reserved solely for the flatulent and disrespectful. Is that bad luck, I thought? Has my farty observance of this superstitious ritual now cursed November? Should I apologise and repeat the saying again…or will my repeating it only serve to amplify the bad luck that will likely befall me this month?

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Oh Dear Diary

I like my comfort zone. In fact, I enjoy curling up in a dimly lit corner of it, with peace and serenity washing over me like a warm summer breeze. I don’t really challenge myself – ever. To do so is to flirt with failure. In the words of Homer Simpson, when offering advice and reassurance to Bart and Lisa: “Kids, you tried your best…and you failed miserably. The lesson is: never try.” I pretty much live by these words.

So when I recently agreed to read my 1992 diary to an audience of strangers in a Birmingham bar – as part of my friend’s Oh Dear Diary event – it was completely out of character, and a truly terrifying prospect. My aim was to maybe get a couple of laughs and not get bottled off the stage. Although seeing as the audience were sitting close enough to spit a drink directly in my face, the fear of being taken out by a volley of bottles was completely unfounded.

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