Play Village of the Damned

Play Village of the Damned

Jeffrey Kluger once said “kids are anarchy writ large”. And if you’ve ever taken your offspring to a children’s play village, that’s exactly what you’ll witness: the complete breakdown of order. A festival of chaos.

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From Bing to the Black Death

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

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

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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A skeleton staff of knights

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

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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The Oreos incident

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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A dispatch from my safe space

A dispatch from my safe space

I hate all this bollocks about ‘safe spaces’, as if the very notion of having somewhere you can go to be content and happy, largely insulated from the hate, fear and bullshit of the world, is somehow indicative of weakness or timidity, or an unwillingness to engage. “Get back to your safe space, snowflake!” seems to be the insult du jour on social media at the moment – often, but not exclusively, used by emboldened right-wingers (let’s call them ‘red caps’) who just love snappy slogans (Take back control! MAGA!). However, it completely loses its impact if, like me, you think of it merely as a kind-hearted suggestion. “Get back to my safe space? Thanks, I will! It’s cosy there and we have Hobnobs.”

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