Saturday, December 20, 2008

I Believe in Rasta Claus

I just got home from the Dads' Club Xmas party with Poppy. We played 'pass the parcel', and I had to force myself not to hold the parcel until the music stopped. Then they announced that Santa was coming. I was very excited, much more so than Pops, who hasn't grasped the concept of Christmas yet, let alone Santa. I was even more excited when Santa came in, ho-ho-ho-ing, and turned out to be a rastafarian. You don't get anough black Santas, if you ask me. Poppy immediately wandered up to him looking for a pressie - so perhaps she does get the Father Christmas concept after all.

Last night was our office Christmas party, which was like one of those documentaries about Binge Drinking Britain. I was mixing drinks with the best of them, but as usual was unable to keep up with Buffy, who was doing her best to consume the EU Wine Lake. Have you ever tried to get a cab when you're with a girl who's so drunk she can't make both her eyes look in the same direction at the same time? We finally found a cabbie foolish enough to take us, though he eyed Buffy warily all the way, gripping a carrier bag in his fist in case she made any signs of throwing up. We made it back home without any vomiting, though my beloved did end up flat on her back in the middle of the road. I think I might just have saved her life.

We're both paying the price for our over-indulgence now. We're going to get healthy in 2009 and have a life that is less like a really long episode of Shameless.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Back. Back! BACK!!!

Buffy has retired to bed at 1.30pm feeling a bit poorly and Poppy is sprawled on the sofa. The mice are snoozing beneath the floorboards (more of which below). Which means, for the first time in several months, I have a few spare moments in which to tell a disinterested world what's been going on in the Roost since I last blogged, back in the days when TVs were black and white and I had twice as much hair on my head and half as much on my body.

1. Financial disaster struck and I nearly burned the house down

There I was, merrily going about my business thinking the credit crunch wouldn't affect me very much, cooking veggie spag bol and feeling all domestic, when the Virgin Radio newsreader announced that Icesave had gone bust.

Icesave - where I kept all my money.

In the ensuing panic, I burned the Quorn mince, caught the spaghetti on fire (not an easy feat) and went into a terrified synaptic meltdown, wondering why oh why oh why I hadn't transferred the money out of the world's least financially-stable country while I had the chance.

Thankfully, all ended well when our lovely chancellor saved us all and two months later I got the money back and was able to pay off my overdraft literally moments before it hit its limits and Poppy had to start her first job as a chimney sweep.

2. We got some new flatmates

Long-term readers will know that I used to keep pet rats (RIP Muffin, Flake, Syd and Nancy). Hearing about my love of all things four-legged and long-of-tail, an extended family of mice moved into our flat. Oh, what joy they give us as they scamper about, popping out from beneath the TV unit or the wardrobe when you least expect it. How we love the little presents they leave us, the teeny-weeny droppings, the holes in bin bags, the pervasive smell of wee that dribbles perpetually from their incontinent bladders.

They love paying practical jokes on us. My favourite was when I picked up a bag of pasta and it started to wriggle.

We caught four almost straight away, but since then all of the little bleeders have evaded us, laughing mockingly at the humane trap that sits ineffectually on the kitchen floor. Little do they know that I have purchased a box of mouse killer... but am too, well, vegetarian to use it. I feel like the good guy in an action film, the bit where he points a gun at the baddie, who sneers and says, 'Go ahead,' and the hero's gun arms shakes as he struggles with his conscience and the audence shouts 'Do it!'

I'm close, I tell you. So close to pulling that trigger.

3. Poppy got into a fight at nursery

Kids today, eh? By the time they're one and half they're joining gangs, hanging out on the street corner outside Somerfield and having turf wars.

Okay, it wasn't quite like that. What happened was Poppy and some other pre-verbal little girl had a squabble over a toy, and the horrible thug child bit Poppy on the lip and scratched her cheeks. It was very traumatic. Poor Pops. Cue gallons of Bio Oil in what may be a vain attempt to prevent her from scarring.

4. We bought even more gadgets

Buffy and I have a terrible disease that stops us from being able to resist various things such as cigarettes, each other and shiny objects of desire. My latest purchases include an iPod Touch and a PS3, on which we spend many a happy, slightly-bickery hour playing Little Big Planet. In our flat we now have:

1 iMac
1 iBook
1 MacBook, slightly broken after Pops chucked it on the floor
A Wii
2 Viewty phones
2 iPod classics
1 iPod Touch
1 iPod Nano
1 iPod Shuffle
2 digital cameras, both useless because we've lost the chargers

It's a burglar's paradise. (I just touched wood after typing that.)

It's painful to write the next bit but I bought Buffy a D-SLR camera for her birthday and last Sunday some piece of shit stole it from right under our feet (which were in the pub). I can't afford to replace it and our insurance doesn't cover it.

Uh-oh, Poppy just woke up so I'd better go. Also, the mice are playing with the iPod Touch and need telling off.

See you in 2012.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Olympics blog

This is what I've spent most of the last week working on: a new Olympic blog.

Monday, August 04, 2008

Tainted Love - the new definitive version

If Sara and I had met when we were nineteen (OK, she was 8 when I was 19, but you know what I mean) I'm sure we would have been pop stars.

All you need is Singstar, a lot of alcohol and new magic glasses, and you too can be a singing sensation.

Monday, May 26, 2008

My daughter in Majorca don't behave like what she oughta*

Or, Mr & Mrs Bean go on holiday

We've just returned from a week in Majorca, where the sun alternately blazed and hid behind clouds. We hired an apartment on a residential complex on the outskirts of Cala d'or on the east coast of the island. Here are a few of the things that happened. Or should I say, here are a few of the things that went wrong...

1. Oh buggy!

The first calamity happened before we even got to the airport. Somebody - ie me, as I have been reminded numerous times - forgot to put Poppy's buggy in the taxi. On arrival at Gatwick I opened the boot and said to Sara, "Where's the buggy?"

"I thought you put it in."

"But I thought you...oh, shit!"

I blame the taxi driver for turning up early and forgetting to bring a baby seat. In the ensuing flap, I somehow imagined that Sara had magically transported the pushchair into the boot. Poppy didn't mind, though: as far as she was concerned, this meant she could spend the entire holiday being carried, starting at the airport. Our arms and backs were screaming for mercy after ten minutes. And tempers were starting to fray.

2. Tempers frayed

Somehow it was also my fault that Sara looked at the wrong flight on the departures board and took us to the wrong gate, because I was the one who knew the flight number. We eventually, after a few moments of panic and recriminations, found ourselves on the correct flight. The second we sat down and the seatbelt came on, Poppy decided now was a good time to do the smelliest poo ever. She also decided she hates flying and spent two hours squirming, screaming, wriggling and knocking our drinks over.

The best moment was when, needing to mop up some fluid that Poppy had spilled, I grabbed some tissues from underneath Sara's wine glass, knocking over the wine that Sara had been looking forward to drinking all day, which went everywhere, causing my beloved to fix me with the kind of look that would turn a lesser man to stone and say:

"This is the worst holiday ever. And it's not Poppy's fault - it's yours."

It got worse when we arrived in Majorca. In a doomed attempt to save money, I had booked us onto a coach using a shit company called Resort Hoppa (see below for more). Of course, the imbecilic coach driver couldn't find where we were staying. He drove round and round Cala d'or, dropping everyone else off until we were the last ones left and Poppy had done another of her stinking poo specials. Finally, he drove into a cul-de-sac, swore loudly, beckoned me to to the front of the coach where he offered me a chewing gum and a cigarette (as a bribe) then got me to stand in the road and stop the traffic so he could reverse out of the dead end. Eventually he found where we were staying, after two and a half hours, then blamed us. 'Residencia!' he cried. Yes, you twat, I told you that two hours ago!

3. The great flood

There wasn't any hot water in our apartment when we arrived so I attempted to rectify this by, erm, fiddling with lots of buttons and taps and stuff. A short time later we noticed a drip-drip-drip. Then a slish-splash-splosh. Then a great gush of water pouring through the ceiling.

Luckily a nice man in the bistro - 'I'm the president,' he told us, several times - helped us stem the flow and prevent us having to spend the holiday floating about in Poppy's inflatable pink boat. It was something to do with the aircon apparently.

We also discovered the same day that it was possible to hire buggies, which we did. So what if the buggy we hired wouldn't go left or right?

4. Toe be or not to be

It's fair to say that we drank quite a lot on our holiday. By the end of the week I thought that if another drop of alcohol passed my lips I'd have pickled every one of my organs. One evening, when it was raining outside, Sara ran out of wine and went out looking for some. After buying a ten-euro bottle in a cafe, she made her way back... The next thing I knew, she was banging on the door of our apartment, crying, 'Mark, Mark...'

She was covered in blood and unable to walk. She'd tripped over in the darkened underpass, smashed the much-anticipated wine, cut her hand open - and broken her big toe. We spent the rest of the evening on the sofa watching a horror film, Sara's foot encased in an ice pack. It still hurts now, a week later. She was able to walk again within 48 hours though.

I'm running out of blogging energy now, so here, in brief, are a few other highlights:

*I nearly got locked in the Spar on our first night. I was lurking at the back just before ten, trying to choose cheese, when I heard a horrified gasp from the girls who worked there. They had locked up, not realising I was there, and put all the shutters down and had just been about to leave - with me locked in the Spar, banging on the door all night trying to remember the Spanish for Help - when they spotted me.

*The TV reception broke down during the Champions League final. Then came back immediately afterwards.

*The ResortHoppa office wouldn't answer the phone so we couldn't confirm our return journey and had to get a taxi back. Then our flight was delayed.

*Our camera broke after Poppy dipped it in sand on the beach.

*I was eaten by a shark.

It was, actually, a really really super fab ace and brill fun holiday. I just happen to attract disasters and mishaps like Sara attracts interesting young men. Poppy, who didnt really misbehave, had the time of her life. OK, so her life has only been pretty short so far but you know what I mean. Seven days felt like seven minutes. Now we're back and I want to go on holiday again. I mean, nothing could possibly go wrong next time.

Could it?

Friday, April 11, 2008

I hate Phil Collins

I just took a quiz online entitled 'Do you hate Phil Collins?' This was the result:

Do you hate Phil Collins?

Congratulations! You hate Phil Collins. You blame him for every mishap that occurs during your everyday life, and with good reason! Pat yourself on the back, you're a good person.
Take this quiz!

Quizilla |

| Make A Quiz | More Quizzes | Grab Code

This doesn't actually do justice to how much I hate that smug, dreary, ugly, Tory, arrogant, dumping-by-fax, scumsucking, Dairy-Milk-ad-ruining, criminally-overrated shiny-headed twat. I hate hate hate him and can't believe that he's undergoing a minor resurgence. Why? What has happened to the world? It's worse than global warming. In fact, Phil is probably responsible for global warming. It's all the methane he produces. I've despised him since I first saw him on TOTP with a pot of paint on his piano 'singing' that turgid dull-fest piece of shit so-called song 'In the Air Tonight', actually the worst record of all time. Closely followed by 'Easy Lover'.

I hate Phil Collins even more than I hate Margaret Thatcher.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Sometimes it Snows in April Prince once sang.

This morning, as I padded to the loo (I like to think of myself 'padding', rather than 'staggering' or 'groping my way', both of which are actually more accurate) for my first number one of the day, Buffy cried out "It's snowing."

And so it was. Poppy was very excited as we ran out into the garden to show her the virgin whiteness. Well, excited in the same way you are when you watch a really nasty horror film or go to a job interview or are forced to eat the jellied bit off the edge of a pork pie, the last of which hasn't happened to me since my childhood but I still remember it, oh yes. I honestly thought Pops would be excited by the snow, but she really hated it. 'Get me back indoors, now,' she cried, rather than lying down and precociously creating a snow angel. Shame. I tried to tell her that by the time she's old enough to appreciate snow, global warmng would have transformed Britain into a tropical resort over-run by giant scorpions, but she didn't listen. Just wait till I show her this blog (as soon as she's learned to read).

I just broke off from this post to cut Poppy's fingernails, to prevent the nursery from writing "Can you please cut Poppy's fingernails please" in her book, which they do every week. I hope the neighbours didn't hear all the screaming and call the police.

Poor Pops has had a rough week, what with having bronchitis and not being able to go to nursery. This meant that Sara had to take most of the week off work. And what with all that stress and the added trauma of me having to go to sleep every night with olive oil in my ears (which is another story) I would describe this week as 'pretty shit', except for one super duper event:

I got my new iMac. 20", 2.0Ghz, 250MB HD, superdrive, in case you're interested in that techie stuff. More importantly, it's so so so beautiful. The screen shines like a giant diamond that's fallen into a vat of Mr Sheen. It's well lovely.

Sara loves it too, mainly because it has a new version of Photobooth on it with even more special effects and video. I know, it's just too exciting. Here are just a few of the hundreds of photos we've taken in the last few days.

The snow has all gone now. Damn, my hopes of school being closed in the morning are dashed.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Your wife will put you in the corner

Welcome to the new look Roost. Granted, not as new-look as the new look Sara Sizzle, which really does look new. I've just stuck a picture at the top of the page which almost exactly represents my life. Except for the absence of a pint-sized tyrant called Poppy, who was just a twinkle in my winkle when this pic was taken.

The best piece of advice I received this week was from a Samuel L Jackson lookalike (if Samuel L lived on a pension in West Norwood) in the doctors' waiting room.

"Let me give you some advice, son," he said, shaking his head ruefully. "Never get old. When you get old your wife just puts you in the corner and..." He waved his hand in an impersonation of a woman gesturing dismissively at her once-proud husband, who now spends his days on the sofa moaning about his bad knee and his cataracts. Or sitting in the doctors' waiting room moaning about his bad knee and his cataracts to strangers.

I don't want to get old. As I've mentioned before, having a younger girlfriend helps, but then someone kindly left a comment telling me that Sara will probably run off with a younger man in ten years, as "there are many interesting young men in their 20s who like older women", thus leaving me alone with my male pattern baldness and my bad knee, wishing I had a wife to put me in the corner and wave dismissively at me.

I wouldn't be feeling so bad if the clocks hadn't gone forward last night, thus robbing me of an hour of my life. "You'll get it back in six months," I hear you cry. But what if I die in the next six months? That's an hour I could have spent doing something important like, er, playing Super Mario Galaxy or buying towels in the Croydon branch of Primark.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Easter Funday

Happy Easter, dear readers. There's a snow blizzard outside, Buffy is making fake bacon sarnies and Poppy is playing with a Kinder egg and a box of Ferrero Rocher ('With this gift, I am spoiling Sara.')

Buffy bought me a Dr Who egg and, excitingly, a David Tennant/Doctor Who figure. Very macho. He even has his own handbag. Now I need to get a Billie Piper/Rose so they I can make them kiss and stuff.

We visited Croydon yesterday. I know, I know, life doesn't get any more exciting. Actually, it does: we went to Primark and bought some towels. This was because I put our white towels in a black wash and you can guess what colour they came out.

I spend a large part of my waking hours at the moment fighting two consumer desires. One is for Guitar Hero III on the Wii. The other is for an iPhone. My Orange contract expires next week so now would be the perfect time to switch. But...but... It's so expensive. And I'm so skint. And if I got one, Sara would steal it and use it to take endless photos with as well as checking out her millions of friends on Facebook. So I'm going to resist. Resist, resist... Must.... resist...

Saturday, March 22, 2008

5 Days With Poppy

Poppy, at not quite 10 months, has a more fully-developed personality than most adults I meet. Here are some things I've learned so far over this Easter Weekend.

1. Poppy doesn't like men who wear glasses

All was well, though Poppy appeared a little consternated.

Daddy, there's something on your face.


Don't fight me, Daddy - I always win

Mwahahaha - that's better!

2. Crisps are a source of great joy and despair

Baby-rearing rule No 324: Don't eat crisps in the same room as your baby. One whiff of a crisp and Poppy turns into a potato-snack-scoffing monster, who will scream and scream until she has a soggy bit of crisp in one corner of her mouth, a glass-sharp shard jabbing her throat and choking her, causing a cycle of laughing and crying that Gary Lineker never warned us about. I have this terrifying image of Poppy turning into one of those children you see on the bus, podgy orange-tinged fingers stuffed into a bag of Wotsits, E-numbered up to their eyeballs. We won't allow this, of course. Poppy will be a fan of organic fruit snacks if it kills us.

3. Chocolate is even nicer than crisps

4. 'Can't Speak French' by Girls Aloud is the best video in the world, ever

There's something about the sight of Britain's second most popular girl band prancing saucily in full Regency get-up, coupled with the jaunty nursery rhyme tune, that sends Pops into paroxysms of delight. Me too. Except for the fact that Nicola, normally my favourite girl aloud, looks pretty awful in this vid.

By the way, her second favourite video is Nickelback's 'Rock Star', although the look in her eye as she stares at the endless parade of stars, playboy bunnies and Nickelback fans is one of transfixed fear rather than pleasure. Especially when she spies the massively fat girl in the front row of the concert at the end.

5. The less permitted Poppy is to play with something, the more she wants it

This morning I came into the room to find Poppy sitting on her mat. With the Playstation. Somehow she had wrestled it from the shelf and had it on her lap, with the controller in her hand. She hadn't quite worked out how to switch the TV channel and start playing a game. I give her two weeks.

Right now, she is pulling nappy sacks out of their packet and scattering them across the floor; also playing with a (closed) tub of Sudocrem, and eyeing up a set of knives, a box of matches and a chainsaw. Ooh, that little scamp.

6. Mummy is the best person in the world

When Sara walks into the room, Poppy smiles so wide that I fear her face will split. She pants with excitement. She just loves loves loves her mummy.

That makes two of us.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Marky had a little breakdown

I often have revelations on the journey from Wolverhampton, on the occasions when we go up to visit Buffy's family, to our flat in south-east London. The train part is usually okay. (Although today we got delayed because someone selfishly had a seizure and had to be carted off at Coventry. Tut.) Last time, while on the bus, fighting the voices in my head that go 'Kill kill', I realised that I don't want to live in London much longer. Today's journey made me think I don't want to live much longer.

Either that or I need to learn to drive.

Buffy and I had Poppy in her buggy and more baggage than the donkey that carried Mary to Bethlehem, most of which I was carrying. In one of the bags was Poppy's latest toy, a lamb puppet which sings 'Mary had a little lamb' in the most irritating squeaky American accent I've ever heard, the kind of voice that bores into you like a dentist's drill into an unanaesthetised nerve. Every other step, the bounce of the bag against my leg set the lamb off.

"Mary had a little lamb."


"Little lamb."


"Little lamb"

We carried Poppy's buggy down the escalators and queued up to buy our tickets.

"Mary had a little lamb."

I should point out that I am quitting smoking and hadn't had any soothing, lovely nicotine all day. I ground my teeth. Sara exclaimed that she would be very happy if I was able to remain calm (unlike her) in these situation. The vein in my temple throbbed. The lamb bleated its satanic bleat.

"It's fleece was white as snoooooow."

By the time we got to Brixton and staggered out into the rain and headed off towards the bus stop, having gone up and down about a thousand escalators - I'm not even going to mention the point where I stepped onto the escalator at the exact point Buffy decided it was too scary on the escalator, so I then had to walk up 100 steps to help her carry the buggy down the same 100 steps, the lamb shrieking about how following Mary to school is against the rules; oops I already have - we were both fantasising about how easy life would be if we could drive.

So why don't we drive? The simple answer is that we can't afford it. Despite having pretty good jobs, we are as poor as church mice. This is all Poppy's fault. Or rather, our lax approach to contraception's fault. The joy Poppy brings us is worth millions a month, but unfortunately we can't spend joy on driving lessons and car tax, or on clearing our overdrafts.

The more complex answer about driving is that neither of really want to drive. I had driving lessons a couple of years ago. Apparently I had good clutch control but poor steering. The idea of actually being in control of a powerful killing machine makes me tremble. I can barely walk from the living room to the kitchen without knocking something over.

And I fear that putting Buffy in charge of a car would be even more dangerous. An example: whenever we are walking along the road and she sees a pigeon anywhere near the road, she curls up into a foetal ball and hides in a doorway until she knows the pigeon is safe and hasn't been squashed. You should see what she does when there's a cat near the road. I can just imagine her driving along, one eye on the road, the other fixed on the pigeons perched on nearby rooftops, gripped with terror in case one swoops into the road.

So I think we have two options: put ourselves through the public transport hell periodically. Or never ever leave the flat.

When we got home, I put my vegetarian principles aside for a moment.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Dads' Club

I've spent this weekend of glorious-yet-slightly-freakish London sunshine doing dad stuff, including doing something that could hardly be more daddish: going to the father and baby club in Brockwell Park. Dads' Club is a kind of drop-in centre for cast-out fathers who are tired of wandering the streets, a haven for middle-class nappy valley dwellers with wives and girlfriends who need a bit of time to themselves. (Buffy spends said time doing housework and rearranging furniture, her favourite hobby, not sitting in the bath eating chocolates which is what I'd do if I were her.) There are toys and little wheely things and free coffee and fruit: imagine a village hall full of babies crawling and running around, and their balding paunchy fathers trying to look sensitive yet manly.

I'm quite a shy person who finds it hard to go up to strangers and talk to them, so I had been wary of attending Dads' Club. What if they all ignored me? What if everyone else knew each other and muttered 'we don't like strangers' in menacing accents when Poppy and I arrived? However, Poppy makes a great prop, either to hide behind (metaphorically; she's not that big yet) or to use as a conversation starter. 'How old is he? How old is she? Oh, I've memorised The Gruffalo too.' That kind of thing. Most of the blokes there were talking about rugby, which I hate. But I did actually have a whole conversation with someone. I'm a bit worried though because I told him my name but he didn't reciprocate. Is that a snub?

I think I'll go back though. Poppy really enjoyed it. She's a lot more sociable than me (she takes after her mother).

It's been a strange week. I went to my Grandad's funeral and saw my cousins and uncle and aunt who I haven't seen since Little Jimmy Osmond was in the charts. We're a close-knot family. Everyone looked so old, which made me feel old. Talk about the ravages of time. It was like staring into the future and not liking what you see. Because Buffy is so much younger than me, I can kid myself that I'm young and vibrant. My laughter lines are just because I laugh a lot. The grey hairs are a trick of the light. I wonder how many years I have left before I start to look haggard and jowly? Will my much-younger girlfriend still need me - will she still feed me - when I'm 64...and she's still a sexy young thing of 52? My god, I'm making myself worry now.

I would also like to publically state that I don't want 'You raise me up' either by Westlife or Daniel O'Donnell, played at my funeral. Even if it is a guaranteed tear-jerker.

My friend Sarah emailed me the other day. She's editing a magazine which is being published to coincide with Paris Fashion Week, whenever that is, and is going to use one of my stories in it. Exciting. I haven't written anything new since Pops was born. I'm too busy hanging out at Dads' Club. Although I do have an idea for a novel/film: a group of blokes meet at Dads' Club - one's divorced, one's unemployed, one is a recent immigrant, one has a sick child - and become bezzy mates. Hilarity and lots of sentimentality ensues, and Dads' Club gives each of the men a new sense of belonging. Then the council threatens to close down the club... Guaranteed bestseller, I reckon. Now if I only I could get motivated to write it...