Mocking Hell, I’m glad that’s all over. It seems the whole of this year has been spent listening to ‘Preparing for Mocks’ in stereo. We had become a single issue family.
‘Dad, Unnggh, NO! Can’t you see I’ve got to do my revision. Twat.’ says Girl 15
‘Dad, I’ve only got Classic Civ and Spanish oral tomorrow,’ says Boy 15.
‘Just because I don’t have exams it doesn’t mean that I’m not busy, too,’ says Girl 12.
All the above coming in a torrent following a simple request to help clear the table. Note: not washing-up; merely picking up a plate, walking four steps, and placing it next to the dishwasher (or rather sink, for some reason, which no one has ever properly explained to me, we [by which I mean Mum 49 and I] tend to do all our washing-up manually before putting everything in the dishwasher so it can be done mechanically. Can’t be good for the planet, but what do I know?) and then walking back four paces, unencumbered, and getting on with their mocks. Or, in Girl 12’s case, staring into space.
Now, obviously, I am as responsible as the next parent and anxious not to hamper our children’s education and fully aware of the importance of ‘The Mocks’ (even if not quite accepting Girl 15’s claim that ‘they will only affect the rest of my fucking life. Twat.’) and equally obviously keen they should pass all the exams they can (if only to speed their progress to university) but there are limits. And my limit tends to be reached about ten minutes into ‘testing Boy 15’ (Didn’t we used to test ourselves? Putting a piece of paper over one side of the page to keep ourselves relatively honest? Admittedly, the results might not have been up to much, but at least we weren’t a nuisance to anyone…) Testing Boy 15 is infuriating because he has either learned it all off by heart and knows everything. Or he clearly hasn’t looked at the relevant textbook for the last two years, if ever, and knows nothing. There is no middle ground to be tested upon. It is a waste of everyone’s time.
And also faintly depressing when your child turns to you and with exactly the same tone of voice as your Chemistry, Physics or Biology teacher and asks, ‘do you know anything?’
1) Dad/Daughter rows with Girl 15. Always tremendous fun. See
2) The joy of pets: Dog Day Afternoon. See
3) Living beyond our means. See
4) The Dianafication of Society. Poppy-foolery. See
5) Great clashes of our time. The Menopause v The Mid-Life crisis. See
(NB: Do not read while having lunch)
If Terrier 3 and Terrier 7 are indeed man’s best friend (for my reservations on this see Dog Day Afternoon blog) then, to put it mildly, they have recently been testing the boundaries of friendship.
Terrier 3, to be fair to her, has been her usual self. Yapping continuously, endlessly demanding food, and generally making persistent demands on one’s time and emotions. This is wearisome, but is compensated for by the fact that Boy 15, Girl 15 and Girl 12 all love Terrier 3 very much, although, strangely, not quite enough to ever actually take her for a walk.
All this is manageable. Life with Terrier 7, however and on many levels, has become intolerable. The problem with Terrier 7 is that if she feels her space has been invaded she is liable to defend her territory. In other words, she’ll bite your fucking hand off if you come anywhere near her.
This makes for personal grooming issues. Terrier 7 has not had a haircut for two and a half years and counting for no-one in their right mind would come near her unless she was sedated and the last time we asked the vet to sedate her (just so she could have a short back and sides) he gave her enough sedative to fell a 30kg dog (Terrier 7 is a svelte 10kg) and it only made her slightly drowsy. And certainly not inert enough for a doggy number three. Which is fine. If Terrier 7 wants to be a fucking hippy, then let her be a fucking hippy.
But then she became constipated. And pretty soon clumps of crap started clagging up on her arse. She waddled round the house with these clumps attached to long hairs swinging from her arse like the silver balls on the Newton’s Cradle toy that was such a feature of every high-flying 70s executive’s desk.
Now I’m as unhygenic as the next man but I have to say this gave me pause. The smell, for a start, was intolerable. And the sight, once witnessed seldom forgotten, arguably worse. It is testament to how horrific the whole thing was that I actually volunteered to take Terrier 7 to the vet.
Who was hardly thrilled to see her. Indeed, so unthrilled that despite being 6 ft 3’ and ‘built’ he visibly paled, took a step back, and made a hasty sign of the cross. Not something I can recall Robert Hardy ever doing in All Creatures Great and Small although something a dentist did do prior to invading my territory only the other week. Which was unnerving.
Anyway it soon became clear we had a stand-off. The vet considered grooming to be beneath him – and looking at Terrier 7’s arse who could blame him – while no groomer in his or her right mind would go near her without prior intervention by a vet. Terrier 7 was left dangling like one of the clags of dogshit hanging from her arse, with only me to guide her.
Luckily, I had a plan. Anyone who has ever taken a dog for a walk will know that it is one of their traits – being, on the whole, generous souls – that they will lick complete stranger’s arses without expecting payment. And it was my genius idea to try to take advantage of this generousity. Not that, once again, my genius was recognised within my own family for being apprised of the plan the girls only looked confused while Boy 15 remarked, ‘no one could ever say you are not an optimist’.
Undaunted, over the last few days, for hour after hour, I have been walking Terrier 7 round the neighbourhood in the hope that we might strike lucky. So far, close but no cigar. But like any terrorist operation we only need to get lucky once.
‘Can we have a house-party?’ asks Girl 15
‘Can we have a house-party?’ asks Boy 15
‘Can we have a house-party?’ ask Girl 15 and Boy 15, thinking somehow that by twinning up they might be able to exert some ‘twinny powers’ over me and force me to do something utterly and irrevocably against my own interests.
‘Urrr, Dad, why not?’ the twins whinge.
‘Call me a fool but I’m not a huge fan of hosting a houseful of teenagers throwing up in every corner of every room.’
‘Dad…’ the twins whinge
‘And leaving their sea of vomit behind for me, or in all likliehood your mother, to clear up in the morning.’
‘Dad, our friends aren’t like that,’ the twins whinge.
‘You only have three friends. Between you. It’s the other fifty-seven I’m worried about.’
‘You’re such a bad Dad.’
‘No, I’m not.’
‘Yes, you are.’
‘No, I’m not.’
‘Yes, you are.’
‘No, I’m not.’
‘This argument is ridiculous,’ whinge the twins.
Fast-forward a few weeks and, against all odds, Girl 15 has been invited to a house-party in the countryside. I think about banning her from going, just because I can, but relent at the last moment reckoning, what the hell, it is someone else’s house that is going to be covered in vomit. And, clinchingly, that someone else will be the parents who at the speed-meet the teachers evening insisted that their timetabled appointment took precedence over those of us who had been queuing semi-patiently for upwards of half-an-hour to see the same wretched teacher. Fuck them, frankly. Let them clean vomit.
Nevertheless, I allowed Girl 15 to go with some trepidation for if she had a whale of a time it would only increase the relentless pressure upon me to allow her and her twin a party. Luckily for me the party turned out to be a melange of two cult films from my youth – Party, Party and Withnail and I. Here is Girl 15’s match report:
‘So, we get there, and it’s in the middle of nowhere, and there are only about fifteen of us invited and three people leave immediately and the boys are like urrrggh and they are standing around going ‘Banter, Yahh’, ‘Banter, Yahh,’ ‘Banter, Yahh’. And me and my little friend go and have a drink. And then no one knows what to do. And someone suggests playing hide and seek. And we go and hide under the pool table. And we are there for ages. But while we are hiding there we hear one ‘Banter, Yahh’ say to another ‘Banter, Yahh’ that he had snogged his sister and the other ‘Banter, Yahh’ says ‘But she’s only eleven’. And both the Banter Yahhs start laughing. Which is pretty disgusting, when you think about it, in lots of ways. Anyway, me and my little friend go outside to escape them. And my little friend has got a bottle and she’s drinking quite a lot. And I’m not really because it tastes repulsive. And we go into in a field and suddenly we are being chased by, like, real rams, not sheep, but real rams with HORNS. And they are nothing like sheep. Honestly nothing like sheep. And it’s really frightening. And, anyhow, we do manage to escape. Somehow. And then we go back inside and my little friend goes to hug the host’s mother and, like, throws up all over her. And then she had to be put to bed and I stay with her to check she is OK and it’s…it wasn’t a good party.’
‘That’s a shame,’ I say. ‘Now what are we going to do about your house-party.’
‘Dad, are you mad? How many times do I have to tell you, I am not having a house-party.’
I wander into the room looking for something, a search which would have greater chances of success if only I could remember what I was looking for, and Mum 49, drinking white wine, and Boy 15, drinking Coca-Cola, are sitting round the table chatting.
‘Yeah, you’re right, Mum, I definitely don’t want my wanking to become routine.’
Sorry. Did I hear that right? Are they really sitting round the kitchen table chatting about…that…really? I would never in a thousand wanks have discussed my masturbatory habits with my mother when I was fifteen. I wouldn’t even discuss them with her now I’m forty-six. Especially, now I’m 46.
Yet, live and exclusive in my own kitchen, my son and my wife are blithely chewing the fat about something about which, I can’t help thinking, they should not be chewing the fat.
‘Are you looking for something?’ asks Mum 49.
‘Ummm…not really…what are you guys talking about?’
‘Masturbation,’ says Boy 15.
‘He doesn’t want his wanking to become routine,’ adds Mum 49.
‘Of course, not.’
‘He wants to keep it special. Spontaneous. Isn’t that right, darling?’ adds Mum 49
‘Yeah, I suppose so, Mum.’
‘What do you think? Did you wank a lot when he was his age?’
‘Define ‘a lot’’
‘What would be a lot, darling?’
‘I don’t know, Mum, about half-a-dozen times a day…maybe more.’
‘So, shall we say eight or so,’ says Mum 49, pouring another glass of wine. ‘Did you wank eight times a day when you were his age?’
‘Ermm…I doubt it…but I honestly don’t know.’
‘Come on, don’t be shy, did you?’
‘I honestly don’t know…I…’
‘Answer the question, man.’
‘Yes, I’m sure I did. Definitely.’
‘And how did you keep it spontaneous?’
‘If memory serves spontaneity wasn’t the problem it has become…’ And having remembered what I was looking for I exit the room in triumph.
Whither Shoe Polish?
There was a time, not so long ago, when a man might polish his shoes as assiduously as his car. I happily admit that I was never that type of man, but even I would reach for the Kiwi Polish once a month, maybe as often as once a fortnight, to ensure my shoes didn’t let me down irrevocably (the idea of shoes being used to judge anyone being a very English one suited to a race not keen to look one another in the eye).
Now thanks to ‘Internet Shoes’ I need never bother. They are a strange product ‘Internet Shoes’. You think you are getting a bargain as not only do they seem cheap but they are also on an inevitable 2 for 1 special offer. Then you try and wear them. The Agony. In very short order you have spent more on Scholl’s blister plasters than you would on a new pair of Loakes. The realization dawns that you have been conned and because of the state of your feet you cannot even kick furniture to remove the pain. Grrrrrrr.
And yet over time another realization dawns. These ‘Internet Shoes’ are self-polishing. They have clearly been made with indelible ink and however much furniture you kick they never lose their burnish.
Conclusion on ‘Internet Shoes’: What you lose on Scholl’s in the short term, you gain on Kiwi in the long term
Make Mine A Double Listerine.
I always used to be rather envious of Mediterranean men who on the way to work would pop into a bar for an espresso coffee and a shot of a local brandy before continuing on to confront the hell that is an office. Sharpeners could hardly be more stylish.
Compare and contrast with drearEnglandwhere about the only place which would serve you a coffee and a brandy on your way to work would be a Wetherspoons. And if there is one thing more ruinous to your reputation than being seen by your boss entering a Wetherspoons at 8.55 am it is being seen by your boss exiting a Wetherspoons at 9.05 am.
Now the problem may have been solved by the wonder product that is Listerine. Every morning, in one of those routines that Girl 12 can no longer find funny but pretends to do so to humour me, I go through my Listerine advert impersonation. At the end of the final gargle she will raise eyebrows, shake her head and say ‘you and your Listerine’. Because I am only, at best, a moderate gargler a lot of the Listerine tends to be swallowed – although overwhelmingly minty it does have a nice kick to it.
Bored out of my skull one morning I found myself reading the ingredients label on the side of the bottle and was thrilled to see the word ‘alcohol’ mentioned. Even more bored out of skull later that morning I went on the internet, googled ‘how much alcohol is there in Listerine’, and was amazed, and overjoyed, to discover it was 26.9 per cent proof, which is none too shabby. And whereas being found drinking brandy at 7.30 am can lead to questions being asked, drinking Listerine and thereby dealing with personal hygiene and ‘gum problems’ can only ever be regarded as the action of a responsible and mature human being. Magnificent.
‘Don’t you EVER shout at me. I can put up with ANYTHING except people shouting at me,’ says Mum 49, arguably shouting.
But before I can deal with whether Mum 49 has undermined her argument by shouting herself I have, in all fairness, to decide whether or not I was shouting. It’s so hard to tell. It is the shoutee not the shouter who determines whether shouting has taken place. Shoutiness is in the ear of the beholder. And although level of voice is clearly important it is not decisive. Tone and content and body language all play a part. And, of course, backstory. An examination of which always reveals an instance when the other party unquestionably shouted. Which makes them a hypocrite, which needs to be mentioned, which ensures the long running multi-room shouting match goes into another set….
…sometimes I even manage to take it all the way to a fifth. On occasion it develops into one of those titanic, and utterly exhausting, battles between two big servers in the early rounds of Wimbledon. But, even then, I never win. And, usually, I lose in straight sets.
Which is fine. Honestly. But I do become a bit irked when I lose a shouting match after the ‘it’s all right for you you don’t have to suffer the menopause’ card has been played. This strikes me as a low blow. Not because the menopause doesn’t exist. Of course it exists. But because it seems to have been elevated to an All Trumping Get Out of Jail Free card. And if we are going to accord it so much status then surely the much-derided Mid-Life Crisis needs to be re-assessed.
At present, if Mum 49 goes to her GP to ‘discuss things’ it is the Menopause which cops the blame for everything. Round up the usual suspect, have a cup of tea, and case closed. In contrast, if I was the kind of person who had the balls to visit GPs to ‘discuss things’ and I brought up the subject of the Mid-Life crisis I would either be laughed out of the surgery and/or be told to try and stop drinking. In short, one is a scientific fact and the other is a poor punchline in a music hall act.
Which again is fine. And probably as it should be. But there may be a lurking danger in depicting the Menopause as this all-conquering monster. I have never quite worked out why men in the grips of ‘mid-life crisis’ start having sex with girls who are young enough to be their daughters. If 95% of sex is in the mind then it followed that the men making this oligarchian move were admitting to the world that they had retired from the fray, put their slippers on, and settled for a life of uncomplicated, possibly slightly dim, sex. Their call. And, once an oligarch always an oligarch, when Trophy Wife II reached a certain age she would be traded for Trophy Wife III who would in turn cede to Trophy Wife IV (incidentally, a cracking name for a yacht)..and so on. Perhaps, once you develop a taste for uncomplicated, possibly slightly dim, sex it is hard to give it up.
Or perhaps a darker force is at play. Perhaps, it is nothing to do with procreation and more to do with self-preservation. Perhaps, men with oligarchian tendencies are not in search of sex but on the run from their first brush with a Menopausal woman. They are not serial Trophy Hunters but serial Menopause Dodgers.