Life, kids etc.

Growing up is hard to do.

As I walked through Temple Bar after the meeti...

Do we ever really grow up?


ALMOST hidden among the plethora of pointless press releases to arrive on The Bolton News newsdesk this week was this gem:
“People in the North West don’t feel grown up until they hit 25, new research reveals.”
We opted not to use the, ahem, story, mainly because it’s a load of rubbish.
And anyway, is this really a shock? Surely I can’t be the only one who thinks people don’t actually grow up at all? Especially men. I am nearer 40 than 25 and still feel like a child most of the time. Most of my friends are immature idiots – and I mean that in a nice way!
If Mrs Short tells me off for spilling a drink on the carpet I sulk for an hour, just like I did when I was 10.
I am just as likely to sell the family cow for a handful of magic beans as I ever was.
I want to be all grown up and sensible now that I have children of my own but I can’t help it. When the kids dismantled the sofa and chucked all the big cushions on the floor to form a giant crashmat, then leapt off the windowsill onto it, I am ashamed to say I wasn’t chastising them about how they could hit their heads on the coffee table, or ordering them to put it all back – I was calling them names for not being brave enough to jump from the top of the bookshelf, and joining in myself.
Although the beauty of it is when the coffee table finally got cracked, I blamed it on the eldest boy and he missed his supper for telling lies about daddy. (Sorry son – one day you’ll understand why I had to do this).
I want to read important books in my spare time instead of shooting aliens on the Playstation. Or not think I’m John Travolta circa 1979 when I’ve had a few too many drinks. I want to – but I can’t.
Our bosses at work still have the same nicknames we gave to our teachers at school, don’t they?
In fact, the only people who are grown up were grown up even when they were kids.
When I was a little boy, like every child, I fell for the grown up myth.
I thought dads must get sent to some sort of secret dad school to learn skills like fixing leaks under the sink or assembling bikes.
Now I know we just fudge it and tell lies to our kids.
“Daddy, why are old films in black and white? “Err, because the world didn’t turn colour until 1971, son.”
It’s all lies. And the biggest lie of all is that we ever grow up.
Not just men, either – women too. Oh yes, they act all sensible with their “pregnancies” and “jobs”, but after being taken prisoner by a hen party in Cardiff in 2002, forced to wear pink fairy wings and dance on tables as they bayed for more, more, more, no one will ever convince me otherwise.
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Pina coladas and walks in the rain. Without pina coladas.

A pair of Wellington boots

If you don't have a pair of these, get some. They will come in handy.

I’VE had this week off to look after the nipper before he goes back to school.
I seriously can’t wait to get back to work.
Normally, Mrs Short is on hand to keep a lid on things and make sure the day to day running of the family is all clockwork and tickety boo.
But this week, with her at work, it has just been me and the boy. And to tell you the truth, I’ve found it a bit of a struggle.
At work you can always snatch a five minute chat with someone, grab a coffee from the machine or even just nip to the loo.
I’ve not been able to do any of that stuff – he is relentless. He won’t let me out of his sight.
It feels like one of those East European stag dos where the stag gets handcuffed to a midget.
If I try to leave the front room for a minute he demands to come as well, or just shouts after me at the top of his voice until I come back.
Always asking questions, questions, questions, or just jumping on me. He loves jumping on me, especially when I least expect it. How can someone so small make me feel so much physical pain? Although when I said exactly those words to Mrs Short on her return from work, she shot me a look of pure evil and started banging on about childbirth or something. Whatever.
Anyhow, the fact the rain’s been a bit biblical this week has meant we have been largely stuck indoors too.
By Monday, I had run out of creative things to keep him occupied. There are only so many cookies you can bake or pictures you can draw. And for a kid who got 1,001 toys and games for Christmas, I‘m amazed that he hasn’t wanted to play with any of them this week.
By Tuesday we took down the tree and decorations a bit earlier than planned, just to give him something to do. Then we chopped it up for the recycling bin – he was surprisingly adept with an axe and saw for a four-year-old. Still, he was finished in 40 minutes and back shouting and jumping relentlessly.
By Wednesday I was going stir crazy so we chucked on our waterproofs and wellies for a ‘nature walk‘ in the woods near our house. We might as well have just got in a cold, muddy bath and started hitting each other with thorny brambles. It was awful. There was so much aimless trudging and so much water, it felt like I was in the Poseidon Adventure. If Gene Hackman’s part had gone to a chattering child in Ben 10 wellies, that is. We managed to get lost in a wood not much bigger than a football pitch, saw one nervous, wet squirrel, a crow (in the distance) and a bird’s nest with some beer cans in it.
When we got back we were wet, cold, muddy and covered in scratches.
But you know something? It was almost all worthwhile. For as we sat in front of the fire with our hot chocolate, he turned to me, smiled, and said: “I’ve had a brilliant week with you, Daddy.”
It melted my heart. These few days, I thought, encapsulated everything that fatherhood is about. Then he quickly followed it up with: “So now can I have a biscuit?”
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Me just man, me not to blame

English: Caveman stick figure.

Bring it on, chicks!

THE kids were in bed, I was cooking the tea and Mrs Short came and joined me in the kitchen for a chat.
Leaning against the back door, she suddenly piped up: “How many steps do you reckon it is to the front door.”
I thought for a second. “Eight -no nine.”
So off she set: “One, two…”. It was 16.
“There’s no way it’s 16,” I moaned. “You could have easy done it in nine.”
So she went back to the back door and took massive strides. It was nine steps.
“Yessss!,” I cheered.
“But I didn’t ask how many I could do it in. I asked how many it was,” she countered. “Taking normal steps.”
And there it was. My wife had unwittingly stumbled on one of the things that separates us men from the girls.
When she innocently wondered how many steps it would take to get from our back door to our front door, I heard: “I bet you I can walk from here to there and it will only take me so many steps to do it.”
It’s not my fault. It’s hundreds of thousands of years of evolution and survival hardwired into my brain.
It gives us that competitive spirit. And it doesn’t matter what insignificant task we are doing – we carry it out like we have something to prove.
Ladies, when you send your man to the shops for toilet rolls and tell him exactly what sort he must buy, does he come back with that type? Of course he doesn’t. “I got these ones instead, love, because they are quilted and were 15p cheaper,” he says. We always feel we have something to prove
You want another example? How about charity fundraising. In Bolton each year we have the Midnight Memories Walk for the hospice or the Race for Life – lots of women having fun and raising money, without an ounce of competitive edge. Men aren’t allowed to join in – because they’d ruin it.
Even when we’re raising money for charity, it becomes a battle of manliness. “Yeah, think I’ll get my chest waxed,” we say.
And Movember! Each year at this time thousands of men grow a moustache for cancer charities. We even turn that into a battle, comparing our massive hairyness to the wispy efforts of our weedier pals. “And it makes you look like a pervert,” we add, kindly.
That said, I’m a big fan of Movember and will be sad to see it go next week. I like seeing hairy-lipped strangers nod silently at each other in the street. And weird uncles actually fit in for a few weeks of the year.
The one year I did do it I gave my family and friends the chance to vote for the style of tache I’d sport. My grandmas and several elderly aunts were among those who sponsored me. Yet “Hitler-style” was beaten by just two votes in the end. My family has a weird sense of humour.
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