Thursday, January 28, 2010

Party exchange

We have to organise a little party for our boy's third birthday next month, which I'm quite looking forward to.



Essentially, I'm looking to entertain some little kids with games, exhausting them by making them run about like chickens in front of a car and filling them so full of food they become perfectly spherical and end the day resembling the following:

I hope he enjoys it. His tastes in parties will probably change over the coming decades, as mine have.

The first party I ever attended was . . . unmemorable.

Not the most reliable foundation for an anecdote that, but even if I have no recollection of it, I can deduce that it probably involved jelly, ice cream and a trough full of carbohydrates covered in sugar.

It being the seventies, there was probably a few gallons of blue pop on the go as well, which had the distinction of being blue flavoured as well as coloured. Also, possibly carcinogenic, but children born in the 70s are noted for their resistance to cancer inducing chemicals, so we probably don't need to worry about those buboes which are actually beauty lumps and a sign of character anyway.

Occasionally, we had fancy dress parties. I seem to remember that the costumes we wore were all hand made and, what's more, bloody great. My parents once crafted a roman centurion outfit for me, complete with magnificent silver helmet that was, if memory serves, an old painted rubber football cut to shape.

Continuing the theme of influential personae in British history and literature, my middle brother went as Robin Hood and was a positive symphony in Lincoln Green, and my youngest brother went as . . . well . . . a rabbit. But my parents had the foresight to sew his carrot to his paw so he wouldn't lose it, or barter it for a Wagon Wheel.

It's all in the details see.

Grown ups tend to cheat at fancy dress parties because we hire or buy the costumes, and when someone makes their own we're full of admiration. In a moment of genius, my friend, at a horror themed party, came as his own electricity bill, because that was something that scared him on a regular basis.

On the night before my ninth birthday I was so excited about all my friends coming to my house for some childish shenanigans that I practically wet my paisley PJs with anticipation. Nothing could hinder my birthday party. Nothing.

In the night however, the mumps fairy came to visit and I woke up with a neck wider than my waist.

These were the days before vaccinations for such things, so my Mum phoned up all our friends to tell them that our house had become a miserable pit of disease. Rather than keep their precious ones protected from the nasty virus, the poor little buggers were marched round to get infected and give me presents in return. I was glad about this because misery loves company and I felt like a trend setter.

Then, teen-hood arrived in a hormone-scented cyclone of insecurity and gaucheness. The party format changed to one where I would demonstrate that I didn't give a damn what other people thought about me, and was desperate for everyone to know this. I'd even roll the sleeves up on my light-grey genuine faux-leather jacket to indicate insouciance.


About as cool as a radiator on a 1984 Vaxhaull Cavalier after a trip to Benidorm.

As teenagehood progressed, the social ineptitude didn't completely go away, but at least I could now hold a conversation using words of more than one syllable, and my voice wouldn't start by being a deep grumble at the beginning of a sentence but end as a bat-frighteningly high tremor.

We also discovered mingling. Not with other people, because that would require the ability to talk coherently about someone else, a subject teenagers are notoriously unfamiliar with, but just mingling saliva from snogging. Sometimes you would snog for ages, especially if one of you caught your lip in your partner's brace.

Parties also began to involve booze. These were the days before kids had it easy with alcopops, and we were forced to down copious quantities of cheap cider with an alcohol content equivalent to rum flavoured truffles.

However, even these weak beverages sometimes worked, eventually getting us a bit drunk, and if you had enough you might get lucky and be allowed into the inner sanctum of a girl's top.

This was a mixed blessing for a boy from an almost all-male household because, whilst boobs were something you could quite happily think about all day, every day, once you managed to get your incompetent little donnies on some real ones you were at a bit of a loss about what to do next.

A bra clasp was a mystery. There was nothing on my clothes that did up like that, and I spent much time analysing the structure and function of the bra before making my move. If I'd have put as much mental effort into my A Levels I'd have been laughing.

There must have been a by-law which prevented girls giving you any clues about how to get their top off, and I presume this was some sort of social experiment like when evil zoologists give an octopus a screw top jar with a prawn* in it to see how clever and dedicated it is.

I persevered, much like a team of top government scientists would if they were trying to reverse-engineer the mechanics of an alien spaceship that had been buried in silt for a thousand years. Only instead of a faster-than-light drive or energy weapons, I was after nipples.

You can imagine the sense of accomplishment when the bra came off after just thirty or forty minutes of intense fumbling.

Then . . .

Well, what next? I hadn't covered this in sex education, as I had been too busy laughing at the cartoon drawings of genitals and trying not to be sick at the birth video. A source of information was my friend Jason's older brother, who reliably informed us that girls liked it if you flicked their nips and shouted "Yeah baby!" in a gruff voice.

Jason's brother may have been a virgin.

I was a tad dubious, even at that age.

I remember hearing a girl complain to her mates that a boy had treated her boobs like a radio set and she'd told him to "Bog off!". I averted my head so they couldn't see I'd gone bright red at the mention of such things and resolved that, should I ever be fortunate enough to be in such a position, I would never try to get the Top 40 on a girl's mammaries. Being told to bog off would be a fate worse than death.

So, as well as trying not to clash teeth more than a dozen times, a boy must treat a girl's jumper spuds with the respect they deserve. With this in mind, as well as the withering judgements that might be made if I was overly graspy, I settled for a gentle fondle, which was apparently the right thing to do because I wasn't told to bog off and got seconds a few days later.

I wish bras had come with an undo button back then mind.

Parties, and my taste in them, have changed and evolved over the years, although I'm not hard to please. I now like decent food and quality beverages, I like conversation with people I find interesting. Alcohol is an addendum to a party and not an essential part. I like the music to be like auditory wallpaper and not smacking me upside the head with bass-driven sound waves from a cheap amplifier. I like a spot of sophistication, maybe crackers with more than one type of cheese and eight Ferrero Rochers built in a pyramid.

I would really like someone to train hedgehogs to scuttle back and forth, their backs adorned with olives, cocktail sausages, and pieces of pineapple and cheese. Obviously, it'd have to be one hedgehog for each different type of foodstuff because mixing pineapple with olives is just unhygienic.

No doubt a younger me would find it all a bit tedious, but then a younger me wouldn't have been able to hold a decent discussion or, in fact, keep still for more than ten minutes.

I still like boobs though.

Now, ladies and gentlemen, please remember this is a residential area so be quiet on your way home.

*a prawn with nice breasts, presumably.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Toy Whorey

I remember blogging!

I used to enjoy it. If I had a bit of spare time, I'd warble on for a few paragraphs, publish it, look forward to getting some comments, get excited about new posts by some of my favourite bloggers and read them with a cuppa and a garibaldi.

Life, in it's selfish, inimitable way, keeps rearing it's ignorant head and demanding attention, like the world's biggest and rudest baby starling, beak agape and begging insistently for the worms of necessity, forcing me to grub around in the mulchy humus of existence for whatever scraps of sustenance I can find, dutifully supplying it with whatever it needs when I'd really rather be flocking with the lads, wheeling about at dusk and shitting on clean cars.

This lack of me time has led to my neglecting this blog, as well as those I follow, and for this I can only apologise. I shall endeavour to make more of an effort in the next few weeks, so please feel free to lambast me for my tardiness.

Lambast me good.

I recall when time was so plentiful you had to find imaginative ways to fill it. Games and toys were obviously de rigeur for firing the imagination, although when you're a kid you can make do with a stick and some pebbles. And a target.

Remember playing War?

In your head, you and your mates would all be a specialist army commando unit, stealthily moving through the undergrowth to creep up on an enemy position, before launching an all out attack with blood curdling screams on unsuspecting baddies, shooting with deadly accuracy as they tried to escape into the jungle.

Or you were all half-cyborg space marines, stealthily moving through the star-destroyer to creep up on an enemy position before launching an all out attack with blood-curdling screams on unsuspecting baddies, shooting with deadly accuracy as they tried to escape into the vacuum.

Or you were all psychic ninjas, stealthily moving . . . well you get the picture.

To those uneducated in the dark art of warfare, the above exercises might have looked like some small bipeds with mud on their faces, skinless knees and hair sticking out at every conceivable angle carrying sticks and jumping out from behind walls to frighten elderly cats in the hope that they'd hack up a fur ball in panic.

The point is, accurate props aren't that necessary to small boys in the pursuit of excitement and replica derring-do. Being a middle-class libertarian, I wonder whether I will buy my son a toy gun, or will I try and persuade him that bead-work and craft dollies are just as exciting?

I think I will probably allow him to have one if he asks, but I won't be advertising the fact that guns are cooooool.

Strangely I have no such compunction against knives, having had one since I was a boy myself, and feel that they are an intrinsic part of growing up and, in fact, part of our human heritage. We've got a lot done since we started sharpening flint.

Recent demonisation of knives in the media because ignorant, barely literate teenagers have had a bonkers knife fight in a city doesn't stop me thinking of them as a generally wholesome sort of thing. As a boy, if you are given a knife with appropriate responsible direction and instruction, you learn how to hold it, sharpen it, use it safely and keep it in tip top condition until you decide to dig a trench with it and wonder why it then resembles a saw.

We all had penknives when I was young, and we all had fights as well, but no-one ever mixed the two.

Guns that are not used for defence and hunting, however, are out of step with human emotion. Our nature suggests that, if angry, even the most rational, calm and serene person might resort to violence. With fists, there are usually only temporary, relatively minor injuries received, and even that is often two-way. A few months later it's of little consequence.

With a gun, you get angry, you flex a few small muscles, and your target dies. They pay the ultimate price and you get to have killed someone for very little reason, and are left with the associated baggage for the rest of your life. Seems a bit extreme to me and might explain why I'm a bit nervous about anyone other than me being allowed to have one.

Anyway, it's guns for show, knives for a pro.

Bit of a tangent there. Excuse me.

Realistic weapons go in and out of fashion like big stupid sunglasses, and have done since I was a sprog. As children we love it and I expect my own son will too. As a growed-up though, I'm all suspicious of such desires and will no doubt explain how we had it hard when we were his age and had to whittle our own Kalashnikovs out of chicken bones and use dried horse droppings as grenades.

Actually, we really did do that last bit, but only because they made great grenades.

What about this then:

A local supermarket was selling it and I took a closer look. It's a stealth kit with night-goggles, compass and camo paint. For children. The picture of the kid on the front of the box freaked me out a bit:

He looks quietly confident, and his cold, cold eye gives him a terrifyingly competent air, as though he would think nothing of sliding up behind you unnoticed, maybe appearing out of a wall of mud, producing a matt-black stilletto and silently dispatching you with emotionless efficiency before having a jam toastie.

If I were the parents of the child who had modelled that, I don't think I'd be very comfortable around him now. Imagine trying to relax in the garden and suspecting that, just feet away, your little cherub could be fully camo'd up and watching you like a hungry jaguar. It'd be unnerving.

Does it glamorise joining the army, and if so, is that a bad thing?

When I was young(er), joining the armed forces was something we all considered, because it meant learning a trade, getting ski lessons and having sexual relations with adventurous ladies of questionable virtue.

These days, you actually go to war.

What's the world coming to?

Still, the toy in question here is no more offensive, I suppose, than having a realistic cowboy hat, or an exact replica police uniform, items that have been around for decades and resulted in no more than the usual amount of psychopathic cowboys and coppers on our streets.

Occasionally, you see a toy that causes your eyebrows to rise slightly, like the one mentioned above. Other times, you see a toy that makes them scuttle back over your head and nest at the nape of your neck like eloping ferrets:

It's a winking lady with a cat's head dressed in bondage gear.

That's right.

Bask in the glory of the winking lady with a cat's head dressed in bondage gear. It's not every day you see a winking lady with a cat's head dressed in bondage gear.

Did I mention that the winking lady with a cat's head dressed in bondage gear squeaks?

Well she does.

The fact that this is a dog toy makes it even worse.

Or better.

I haven't decided yet.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Snowmob Rule

I'm not sure about this snowman:

I would've been more impressed had the head had actually been carved from the living ice itself, and was merely the start of what would be an artistic tour de force in contemporary frozen water sculpting.

But it wasn't. It was a mannequin head.

Now I'm not one to judge, but the person responsible should be fined and made to attend a compulsory snow character creation course.

Okay, it would appear that I am, in fact, one to judge.

Still, at least the person in question, who has actually been known to wear a scotch bonnet to the pub (despite being neither Scottish nor a lady, judging by the beard and profanities that regularly accompany him) has made a bit of an effort, so maybe that's all that counts.

Down our road, there are only two snowpersons*, including that one and my own creation (called Honky) and seeing as the street is mostly full of very old, very retired and very frail people, you'd think they might've found time in the day to rectify this.

If the pensioners had got off their mobility scooters and burrowed through the drifts on their own front lawns, we could have had an army of snow-sentinels looking down either side of the avenue in a variety of poses, maybe a snowrabble or a snowmob, unnerving the postmanperson and reducing crime.

Instead, they had to waste their time with some pointless huddling, switching the fire on every few days and asking if we've got any spare blankets.

There's just not as much dedication as there used to be.

And broken hips heal, don't they?

But it's not just down our way that there is a dearth of such artifice. All across the nation, snowmenwomen are showing signs of tardiness. Gone are the coal eyes and carrot nose. Away are the second hand scarf and old mittens. No more the pipe and cane that would once lend the scenario a modicum of cheery warmth, as frost-bitten urchins gambolled about on frozen lakes, their cheery smiles chattering in accompaniment to some nearby carol singers holding a glowing lamp on a stick and vainly trying to hijack christmas for christians.

No, these days, the average snowhomonid generally consists of a couple of cylinders of yellowing snow stacked on top of each other in the local park, with the hope that facial features will form naturally from the dog faeces collected as the snow rolled over it. Effort is apparent in some respects because there will almost certainly be both boobs and oversize male genitalia, and decoration will be a couple of Rizlas expertly coned and lovingly inserted into the dog poo mouth.

The arms will be Special Brew cans jammed onto the end of windscreen wipers scrumped from a nearby car park.

It's just not the same.

Because the art of snowhomunculus creation is becoming a lost science, it doesn't take much to impress people when one is actually built.

The National Physics Laboratory, for instance, created this one, which measures just one nanometre wide, or 0.001 mm, and then they have the nerve to brag about it. It's tiny!

Mine's bigger than that, and it only comes up to my shoulders.

Where's my grant from the EU Science Budget?

*The suffragettes didn't trip up horses so we could continue calling it a snowman you know, even if it has got a top hat, courgette penis and testicles made of chilly kiwi fruit.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

First post

During these snows of January, I've just done my first post of 2010:

Aha. Post?


It's actually a post, you see?

For holding a fence up.

Just be glad you wore your corset, for surely the sheer humour I spurted forth then might otherwise have split your very sides in twain.

I am to DIY what Douglas Bader was to the hurdles. Other than life hurdles I mean, because he was pretty good at getting over them.

However, after owning my own house for the last decade or so, I have acquired a modicum of skill in fixing the basics, like shelves, fuses and light bulbs, because all of these things can be repaired using sellotape and a hammer.

One cannot, however, own an estate as grand as mine without it occasionally throwing up a problem which I've not previously encountered. Having been very lucky with my boundaries over the years, a snapped fence post was completely new to me.

Striding over the hills and valleys to the far border of my grounds*, I was rather taken aback by the fence swinging freely in the wind, the post being held up like a drunk bloke by his slightly less drunk mates following a successful night out, perhaps just after the vomiting stage but before the kebab stage.

Two questions occur to me when faced with an unfamiliar task, and it's the same questions I ask when I'm about to have sex. How much will it cost me, and can I do it myself?

In this case, I decided on giving it a go, with some advice from my Father-in-law, who's amateurish efforts on his own fence ten years ago are still solidly in place, which is all the qualification I need to know really.

First, there was a lot of digging, or because this is the winter, chipping to be done. Removal of the tundra around the post turned out to be relatively easy when compared with getting the rotten bits of wood out of the lump of concrete at it's base, beneath the soil. The concrete itself was huge. It had been modelled on the asteroid that had wiped out the dinosaurs. Seriously, you could go abseiling down it.

The person who built our house before selling it to us, who I shall allude to as Greg, it being his name, was a thorough sort of chap. Went for the belt and braces, better safe than sorry style of construction, and a bit of a perfectionist to boot. He even had matching bricks made for the extension so it went with the old 1939 building. A fence must have a sound base in which to sit, and Greg appears to have used a substantial portion of Europe's cement reserves for that very purpose.

When Greg built the fence, he obviously wanted to ensure it would stay in situ for ever, long after puny humanity had nuked or virused itself into oblivion. In future eons, when the evolved tapirs that will undoubtedly replace us as the most outwardly intelligent critters on the planet nose their way through the wreckage, the one shining monument to our brief existence will be Greg's fence.

Or at least the lumps of concrete beneath.

Unfortunately, he forgot that the posts are made of wood and so are prone to rot. Shortsighted really. I would've made them out of that stuff that Wolverine's skellington is made of.


Due to a slight dearth of technical skill and brute strength, removal of the tectonic plate that Greg had installed was out of the question, so we used plan B, and chipped as much of the wood out as possible before replacing it with a scaffold of old Dexion from a scrap yard.

Man I love that stuff. It's basically good for repairing anything. Fences, shelves, cars, harmonicas, fractured vertebrae. Brilliant. I always try to have a few metres lying about.

So, instead of having a professional, neat and long lasting job, I now have a self-repaired, but still hopefully long lasting job, which I can cover up with the all-forgiving tidiness of more concrete:

Look at that. It's like a post on stilts.

When all that was finished, I was able to to reward myself by playing in the snow with my kid. Last year, we went out and made a snow gargoyle, which was so successful and lauded throughout the land that I thought it wouldn't hurt to have another go:

The only criticism from last year was that it didn't terrify the religious kids down the road enough, so I've tried to address that problem.

That'll learn 'em to be so freakishly polite when they pass the gate.

It's a pity the tongue fell off mind.

* This is a slight exaggeration. I only have one valley in the grounds, and I totally couldn't touch my fence from my back door with a broom handle because I'm dead posh and rich me. I've eaten polenta.