Wacky Races

In which our reluctant hero is going for gold. Or something.

I recently attended “Strength Based Conversations” training as part of work’s latest sheep dip of staff, introduced to give the impression of engaging and developing us all.

This latest most genius (probably) initiative encourages managers to focus only on the positive aspects of performance, with discussions relating to weaker areas strictly out of bounds unless your team member instigates it. I suspect that in practice this will be as likely as them unexpectedly turning into a turkey and voting for the Christmas Party, which is another thing best not discussed at appraisal time for some.

I can see some positives in being positive about the positives, but I wonder why business feels the need to do this now. Has the great British workforce suddenly gone soft? Or perhaps the first generation of children who were repeatedly told that it doesn’t matter if they’re rubbish at things and winning isn’t important as long they do their best, finally grew up and got jobs. Bless them.

Further disengaged by this failed attempt to artificially engage me, I took the day off to attend my daughter’s sports day.

Being responsible middle-class parents, we carried out a pre-sports day briefing, explaining that it doesn’t matter if she’s rubbish at things and that winning isn’t important as long as she does her best. She nodded, unexpectedly turned into a turkey, then joined her team.

We took our seats, playing “Name That Tune” as each 1980’s TV sports theme blared out to welcome the teams. My daughter’s yellow (or “old gold” as you are legally obliged to call it in Wolverhampton) team got “Ski Sunday” on one of the hottest days of the year. Award yourself five bonus points if you correctly identified this as “Pop Looks Bach” as I did.

Sports day consisted of four events, which played out like so;

The Summer Holidays Dash
This was a race where the children collected holiday related items on the way to the finish line. Our daughter is a good runner but fell behind while deciding whether to swap her hat with a new one (item one) or simply wear two. She made up loads of ground but was pipped to the post.

No matter, it’s only a bit of fun. Or perhaps not judging by the repeated screams of “JUST RUN!” at the eventual winner by his dad. Hmmm…

The Obstacle Course
Event two started with a hula hoop muddle, our daughter unnecessarily squirming through the hole several times as the other children jogged off. Like a tomato sat alone at a piano, she was left playing ketchup and ended up finishing last.

In this event we learned that shouting abuse at a four or five year old is acceptable constructive criticism if they’ve not won. We somehow overcame the temptation to join in as IT WAS ONLY AN OBSTACLE COURSE AT A NURSERY AND RECEPTION SPORTS DAY.

Welly Wanging
The difference in the physical makeup of a four and a half year old girl to boys potentially almost six became apparent in this event. Still, our little one literally gave it some welly, getting good distance on her throw and was rightly pleased. We now know why she was looking for skipping ropes to take down the garden a few days back, as these were used as the distance markers. It probably also explains why all of our wellies have disappeared.

Thankfully the comment made by one parent about cheating was aimed at another child, else more wellies would have mysteriously disappeared.

Penalty Shootout
After watching the older boys belting footballs like they had a traction engine in each boot, we wondered whether our daughter could even kick it as far as the goal, let alone beat the keeper. Relieved that she didn’t do a Cinderella and run away from the ball, she scored with a well placed side footed effort. GOAL!

However, I suspect that a UEFA investigation into the keeper’s performance may follow. Unable to hear clearly, I interpreted one dad’s mutterings as being about the lack of goal decision systems in school sports as his frustrated inner child surfaced again.

With all events out of the way, it was time for the awards ceremony. The children looked as pleased as punch as they received their medals, beaming and waving back at the partially sunburnt mums and dads in the crowd.

On reflection, the morning had been a real eye opener at times. Should parents really be encouraging such competitiveness at such a young age? A quick Google search revealed a huge list of articles for and against this and I understand both arguments.

Yes, a competitive edge can be a good thing, but constant disappointment and perceived failure of those not doing so well could cause esteem issues over time. Understanding that winning well is as important as losing well needs to be an early message too, else there could be other issues later on. It’s a difficult balance.

It seems to me that competition being good or bad depends very much upon the adults involved. For that reason, you’re not going to catch me shouting at my children from the sidelines anytime soon.

With effective coaching (focusing only on positives) and training hard in the garden over the next eleven months, my two could potentially sweep the board at next year’s sports day without the need for a raised voice from this dad.


As Good As It Gets

In which our reluctant hero is surprised to learn that his award winning blog* has become even more award winning. Or something.

Regular readers may recall that my everyday tales of Parenting and Disaster™ began with the unexpected press-ganging of yours truly by Wolverhampton NCT in May 2016. A year or so on, I found myself on a shortlist of three in the West Midlands 2017 NCT Stars Awards Volunteer of the Year category. Blimey.

Having resisted the temptation to head to my local farm to count eggs that I would most likely assume all contained fluffy chicks, I forgot about the nomination. So, imagine my surprise when, on Monday evening, an email arrived telling me that I had only gone and won it. Woohoo!

My first, typically self-deprecating, reaction was to wonder just how little everyone else in the region must have done to cause such an upset. This is nonsense of course. In reality, small armies of dedicated volunteers work their backsides off, helping their local NCT branches provide valuable support to new and would be parents. “They’re all stars to me” may be a cheesy but appropriate cliché to use at this point, as (like all clichés) it is true.

Popping my thinking head back on, I remembered that progress at this stage was determined by a public vote, just like on Pop Factor. Perhaps the victory for this plucky underdog was simply down to my wife coordinating a mass attack by the button pressers, of which there were many? Maybe. I dare say that being only one of two blokes on the national long list may have helped get me there in the first place too. I’ll take that though as it’s about time that us blokes got a bit of a leg up in such a female dominated industry. Ahem.

That’s not to say that I’ve been idle, or that my award is somehow undeserved. Creating around a thousand words of original semi-coherent nonsense each week certainly requires putting a shift in, and my efforts have (hopefully) provided a different kind of support.

Society generally fails to reach out to dads in same way as mums. Fact. My cunning plan was to lure a few unsuspecting other-halves in with my weekly tales of failing ever so slightly better each week. And it sort of worked.

Although my posts should relate to all parents, it’s probably reassuring that it is dad tackling the weekly mountain on a child’s pushbike with dodgy brakes and no stabilisers. The resulting chaos is intended to make other dads feel better as it’s not their wheels coming off this time, and make mums feel better by reaffirming their unwavering belief that mum knows best. The latter statement is, of course, not always true, but it would take a braver man than me to commit to that position in writing. Let us instead say that everyone’s a winner, baby.

Surprisingly, blogging and parenting have more in common than you may think. To explain, I cobbled together a list on the back of an empty Frosties packet.

  • There’s going to be an unavoidable disaster if you don’t plan properly.
  • There’s a huge amount of creativity required to constantly make everything up as you go along.
  • You get disproportionately proud of every ounce that your offspring gains and take every opportunity to tell everyone about it.
  • The worry of how your little treasure is developing occasionally keeps you up all night.
  • You wake up feeling sick some (Friday) mornings, but muster the strength to get through the day and finish things because you have to.
  • You spend a lot of time tidying and cleaning up vast amounts of poo.
  • Many people don’t really think much of your wonderful creation, but you love it all the same.
  • You are surprised and relieved to reach birthday number one with everyone still in one piece.
  • You swear blind that you could have done things so much better had you more time.
  • You forget about all of the stress and difficulties when you finally see your pride and joy sleeping peacefully at (6pm each Friday) night.

Award winning stuff. Probably.

Winning the regional award made me wonder how much I have actually contributed over the past year or so. I genuinely don’t know. I know that my writing has, on occasion, made people laugh, and also made them cry. It has made people feel better about themselves, and provided the odd gem of an idea (yes, really) to be shared by all. Even non-parents have liked and shared my musings, and that’s no mean feat. These extremes could be conveniently interpreted as emotional responses, and I’m happy enough with that.

It’s off to London on my daughter’s birthday weekend then. (Thanks for that, party poopers.) Realistically, I’m not going to win the big prize but I may scribble out a few words just in case. The thought of doing a Gwyneth at the Oscars is unthinkable.

To win or lose matters not. Oddly, being recognised for an award through my writing has given me something that we all crave but never get as parents. Somebody, somewhere, taking the time to say “Well done” for all of our hard work.


(*) Wolverhampton NCT Volunteer of the Month – August 2016-ish

A Shark’s Tale

In which our reluctant hero goes fishing. Or something.

It was my birthday a couple of weeks back, a day on which I received a most unexpected present. I can’t recall the actual name of the thing, or the web address of Google to look it up, but it’s known to us as “Alexa.”

It turns out that Alexa is a bright young thing. Ask her to tell you a joke, or the weather forecast, or the news headlines and off she goes. She recently informed me that it was the birthday of the bikini. They say that knowledge is power, and I’ll bet that nobody that I meet over the coming days knows this useful trivia. Yet.

I was initially pleased that Alexa only recognised adult voices. The kids spent days shouting at her without joy when, suddenly, our eldest discovered that slow and clear speech was all that was needed. No such luck with the boy who’s excited hybrid three-today-and-already-a-yam-yam rantings confuse the life out of her. As a side note, I swear that I’m going to sue the council over Accentgate. Or write to Points of View at the very least.

It’s now common for the children to greet Alexa with a cheery “good morning” or “goodnight” before mum and dad. This is probably because Alexa is considerably less grumpy and more tolerant than mum and dad when suddenly woken up or tired. If I can somehow train Alexa to make butties and do the washing, I can probably retire from dad duties to work on my memoirs.

On Tuesday morning, the little people said their usual goodbyes to their softly spoken automaton friend and headed for nursery and playgroup. Alexa was busy on the decks, belting out a Moana and Trolls megamix, when I got home from work.

An odd conversation then took place.

“Your teacher said that somebody had been put in timeout today for smacking a little boy in the face with a shark.”

I swear that I don’t just make this stuff up.

“Who was it?”
“It was [Boy A]”
“Really? Your teacher said that it was a girl.”
“Yes. It was [Girl A]”

Two definite and differing answers? A red herring perhaps? We’ve read the “Tell the Truth” book (an irritating but well meaning Waltonsesque tale, which has only survived by including the word “Transmogrification” several times) often enough to realise that there’s something fishy going on. Add the lack of eye contact, and you’ve got some explaining to do, missus.

You can predict the rest of the conversation, which was a drawn out mash of “forgetting” who smacked the little boy in the face with a shark, denying smacking the little boy in the face with a shark, then finally taking the bait and admitting smacking the little boy in the face with a shark.

Pleased as we were at the eventual confession, our daughter was not off the hook yet. A lie is a lie, even if it is a tiddler.

We worked through chapters seven and eight of the middle class parenting manual to bottom things out, shaking disapproving heads while attempting to mitigate further shark attacks. Hopefully it will work – we’ll find out when the little boy decides that it is safe to go back into the water.

Thankfully, such incidents are few and far between. Well, at school at least, less so at home. We do our best as parents, but is our best enough if another child ends up being attacked by a Great White? If only there was an independent person to ask for advice and reassurance.

“Alexa. What do you say to a little girl who has hit a little boy in the face with a shark?”
“I’m still learning about Sharks. Try asking “Tell me a shark fact” to learn about them.”

Holy mackerel! She knows less than us! At least we’ve bothered to make something up. Ah, well. Worse things happen at sea.

“Alexa. Tell me a shark joke instead.”
“I had a really great boomerang joke. It will come back to me.”


(If you’ve been affected by any of the fish based puns in this blog, please leave a comment to let minnow.)

UPDATE: 10th July – The mum of the little boy savaged by the shark in this post informs that ANOTHER CHILD DID IT! I give up…

On The Road

In which our reluctant hero takes the long and winding road – the A41 no less – to the land of his fathers. And his grandfathers. And his…

I’ve been a dad for a bit over four and a half years. I don’t yet qualify for veteran status, but I have just about enough miles on the clock to sneak into the lower end of “experienced.”

If parenting worked the same as paid employment, I’d be applying for promotion or at least hoping for a pay rise by now. Being a dad who is a civil servant, the chances of getting either are slimmer than Victoria Beckham in a house of mirrors. (Thanks, the government.) Additionally, the only home-based promotion that I’m aware of for a dad is to grandad, which can most definitely be filed under “too soon.”

Be it work or parenting, just when you think that you have it sussed, there’s a howitzer just around the corner ready to bowl a googly that pulls the rug out from underneath you, to overly confuse metaphors.

Now, you would think that the well trodden path to Wales, for a family 90th birthday celebration, would be a piece of (birthday) cake. But no. Let me explain.

Issue one occurred after breakfast when our eldest’s party dress was found to be substandard as it was apparently “not twirly enough.” Give me strength. This was further complicated when our youngest decided that he too wanted to wear a twirly dress, just like his big sister. Of course you do. Having eventually calmed everyone down and got them dressed into their pre-allocated clothing, it was time for the important last minute preparations.

This was to be the first longish journey since potty training began for the boy. A few weeks in, we are seeing variable results and may as well flip a coin to predict if there will be any accidents or not. Heads, dry all day. Tails, you’re mopping up a puddle in the bread aisle at Sainsburys.

Thinking ahead, I restrict fluid intake at breakfast to (hopefully) see us dry for an hour and a half in the car. We have six changes of boy’s clothing packed to take with us just in case as we’re not completely stupid.

We decide that we shouldn’t need travel medicine as it’s not that far a trek, but grab the spare potty. After five unsuccessful minutes spent trying to find the elusive “hidden wee” before we go, we’re off.

Predictably, we don’t make it from Tettenhall to the M54 before the little one is sat filling his potty in a drizzly lay-by. On a positive, at least we could pull over, at least it’s in the potty, and we should now be fine for the rest of journey.

Thinking it wise to take the A41 in case of further unscheduled stops, we make it to the Truck Stop at Whitchurch before pulling over again. Another stop, another potty filled. In about forty minutes we’ve disposed of at least three pints of waste fluids from the 100ml of water that went in at breakfast time. I consider ringing Norris McWhirter but decide against it as nobody will know what I’m on about.

While I clean up, mum stretches her legs and those of our daughter who has suddenly decided she has a poorly tummy. Poorly tummies normally mean “bored of travelling.” Being super organised, we have an old ice cream tub in the footwell that doubles as an emergency sick bucket. We’re halfway there, so it shouldn’t be needed but better to be safe than sorry.

We head off again, making good progress. At about fifteen minutes from the finish line, I notice a muffled belching sound coming from behind me.

“Are you feeling sick?
Do we need to stop?”

There’s no reply, so I quickly glance round…


Too late… Bleurgh!!

Pulling over, I turn around to see a dual yoghurty waterfall descending from its source on top of the closed tub. Down and down it pours. Onto the car seat, across the not-twirly-enough party dress, and down into the footwell. Lovely.

We start the preliminary clear up and something suddenly dawns on me. Guess who we haven’t got a change of clothes for? D’oh!

Eventually arriving at Nana’s, I call for the now customary bowl of disinfectant and cloth while the soiled clothes start a quick cycle in the washing machine.

As usual, there’s no real harm done, more a series of minor mishaps to be dealt with, which reminds me of a fitting quote from the philosopher Aristotle to finish this week’s post off.

“The ideal man bears the accidents of life with dignity and grace, making the best of circumstances. Then blogs about it. Or something.”


Weird Science 

In which our reluctant hero spends too much time thinking things over.

On Wednesday night, I joined fellow members of Wolverhampton’s liberal metropolitan elite at the Grand Theatre to watch Stewart Lee’s excellent new show, Content Provider. For those unaware of the concepts, “theatre” is a bit like telly performed in real life, and “Stewart Lee” is someone off of comedy. The thinking man’s Micky Flanagan. Or something.

After the show, we headed to the nearest hostelry where we bumped into said performer and exchanged pleasantries. Excited by this unexpected liaison, I briefly considered asking for a photo and Tweeting it. But it was a hot night and he looked fat, and depressed. And fat. So I thought better of it.

Pint finished, I couldn’t help but notice that the Wetherspoons clientele was quite different from normal. Less recently released psychopath and more geek. Aging leftie comedy geek, granted, but geek nonetheless.

Don’t get me wrong, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with a bit of geek and I include myself in this lazy generalisation. We’re everywhere. Even my team at work have got a poster with “#GEEK” printed in foot high letters on their notice board.

This sort of admission is less of a problem as you get older. With age comes experience and a general feeling of “I don’t really care what you think.” Which is nice in middle age, but would have been a lot more useful had it been my thinking during my teens.

Adult geekery? Fine. Yet still there is a perception that geeky kids are a bit weird, yes?

Tired, and over thinking something clearly irrelevant, I headed home to bed.

After a pleasant not-quite-as-much-as-I-needed-on-a-school-night sleep, I almost choked on my morning cuppa after spotting the headline Older fathers have ‘geekier sons‘ plastered across the BBC and other news websites.

I was an old dad on Wednesday evening at the show, but on Thursday morning I was a whole year older as it was my birthday. A dad, a mere six years away from qualifying for exclusive Saga holidays, with a two year old boy. NOOO!

The article details the results of monitoring the development of around 12,500 twins up to the age of twelve and according to science and research;

Findings showed a correlation between the age of the father and the geekiness of the sons, with a positive correlation between the two – the older the father, the geekier the son. They also noticed geek traits appeared more after the age of 45.

Repeated studies have shown that older sperm is more prone to genetic errors and children are more likely to develop autism and schizophrenia.

Deep breaths…

I was 41 when our son was born, so we should be at a lower risk of seeing the more extreme effects of the “geek gene” as he gets older. With a bit of luck, the boy won’t be full on geek by twelve, more a young lad who had a minor run in with the geek stick.

Looking at the positive aspects, the study suggests that sons of older dads are more intelligent, more focused on their interests, and less concerned whether or not they fit in with their peers or not. Which is pretty much the polar opposite of my adult perception of me at twelve years old. So far, so good.

With all this extra intelligence and focus, the boy will hopefully reach twelve, bypass the problematic teen years, and land slap bang into middle age. This has to be useful, as the worst behaviour of his teen rebellion could potentially peak at turning The Archers up to eleven on the wireless.

At best case scenario, being more intelligent could mean better academic prospects and, hopefully, a better paid job. Better still, in this utopian future, mum and dad will be able to blow the kids’ inheritance on several exclusive over fifties holidays every year. Masai Mara here we come.

There is only one potential concern that I can see from my hurried pre-work scan of the findings. We would need to ensure that our son doesn’t pick up the poor emotional and social functioning skills associated to the generic geek.

On reflection, this shouldn’t be too difficult. I’ve made it to my mid-forties being reasonably socially competent and quite well liked, despite not really liking people, things, or leaving the house. So there must be a tip or two that our lad can pick up on bluffing his way through adulthood as a borderline sociopath from his old man, should the need arise. Sorted.

We will have to wait another nine and a bit years to see if I can (falsely) claim that leaving fatherhood late was a deliberate and calculated plan for the betterment of my youngest child.

I will leave it to Prof Allan Pacey, professor of cleverness at the University of Sheffield, to sum things up.

“Whilst it may be chic to be a geek, I would not recommend that would-be parents delay their plans to start a family to specifically increase the odds of having a child with geek-like qualities.”

“However, I do find the idea of a ‘geek gene’ quite intriguing, and, given our recent trend to have our children later in life, perhaps we are destined for future society of geniuses that are going to help us solve all the world’s problems.”

Is he really predicting that an army of clever clogses will one day rise up to save us all? Spoken like a true geek.


Airplane II: The Sequel

IIn which our reluctant hero stars in the second exciting instalment of the alternative “Airplane” franchise.

Monday, 12th June. Sometime after lunch.
The car was packed, the little people strapped in and the twenty sixth essential “are the passports in?” checks were complete. There was no backing out. We were off. Off on holiday no less. To that Spain with its omelettes and crazy Catalan waiters. Or is that Torquay?

Stage one comprised of a largely stress free drive to the airport, asides from Google Maps’ passive aggressive attempt to circumvent my plan to use the M6 toll road. They say that life is a learning journey, and my learning during this part of the journey was that if you shout “OK GOOGLE. USE THE M6 TOLL!” loudly at your phone, it stops thinking that it knows best and lets you go where you want to. Who knew?

It turns out that using the toll road was pointless as the boy fell asleep twenty minutes from the airport. This meant slowing down to a speed that could be described as “M6 just before rush hour” to ensure a reasonable nap. It turns out that I should have listened to Google. Who knew?

Our pre-booked secure parking turned out to be a desolate wasteland occupied by hoards of hungover, or more likely still stoned, millennials trying to get home after the monsters-of-dad-rock that is the Download festival. Put those guitars down, you’re nearly sixty for crying out loud. And what’s with the tattoos, grandad? Call that music? Bah.

Carpark number two premiered the first number one issue of the trip, with the boy in a cross-legged meltdown as we wouldn’t allow him to wet his trousers. I bet the vagrants in carpark one would have gone on the floor, but the boy? Not a chance. Aren’t we just the worst parents?

Apparently yes, as the meltdown continued well into check in. Two toilet trips, a falling out with dad and empty bladder courtesy of mum later, we were back on track. The I-Spy airport book turned out to be a splendid idea, keeping everyone busy as I stood in a queue. It’s what Blighty does best.

Somehow the luggage had gained five kilos in transit to the airport. Ryanair being Ryanair, the lady at check-in naturally wanted to charge us for this. I’m sure that they will at some point attempt to charge for cabin air too. Anyway, the charge was waived as soon as we asked for one of the bags back to take on as hand luggage. Apparently this is “too difficult” for an airline. Ireland nil, Wolverhampton one.

It turns out that negotiating the body scanning and security sweep is far harder with four people than with two people and two people in progress. Our four year old was searched, although not arrested. Quite what they thought she was concealing in her size eight sandals is anyone’s guess.

Safely through, we remortgaged the house to pay for the kids’ Burger King which, as always, they didn’t eat. If that wasn’t annoying enough, the “restaurant” was located next to the world’s most overexcited softplay. I’m sure that airports used to be less fraught in the olden days.

Food now cold (I bagged it up so that it could be not eaten on the plane later) our flight was called, so we headed to the gate. There are smells that evoke all sorts of memories. Coffee and fresh bread for example, or the scent of the first rain after long, muggy summer days. Another is the Ryanair gate queue, with its unmistakable smell of booze, fags, cheap perfume and diesel. Beautiful.

We were nearly late boarding due to a number two scare in the queue that thankfully turned out to be a false alarm. On the plane, we encountered the usual rear-seat-front-boarder fighting the tide to get to row zillion. Don’t worry love, the hundred or so of us who read the instructions will all move, eh?

We ended up with six seats between us at the end of the musical chairs that is the five minutes before take off on a budget airline. The girls side and boys side arrangement worked quite well as both children got a window seat, thus preventing a row. Hoorah! Naturally, the boys side was the best.

Our children’s reactions to take off on their first flight were quite different. Our eldest was very excited by the whole whoosh and up, whereas our youngest took a more considered approach to the weird metal bird going up, up and away, only breaking his silence with “can I have my tablet now please?” when safely up.

We apparently had lots of “busy bags” packed for the flight. They were presumably the contents of the heavy, awkwardly sized bags that kept toppling the buggy over in the departure lounge. For those, like me, unaware of concept, “busy bags” are essentially zippable food bags filled with individually packaged activities (Lego, dolls, cars, pens and paper, voodoo, etc.) to be dished out at various points of the journey to prevent boredom.

Credit where it’s due, they were a brilliant idea and our eldest was all over hers. Seeing as the boy had asked for his tablet, I deployed strategy number two of the Lazy Parenting Manual 2017 and gave him his £35 Amazon miracle while I ordered the world’s smallest and simultaneously most expensive bottle of wine.

Fortunately, the kids don’t like me so I soon ended up in a bank of three seats of my own, only glancing up from my book and wine to pick up cars or Duplo discarded from the boy’s now operational busy bag every few seconds.

Amazingly, there were no toilet disasters on board. Both children were as surprised by the noise of the flush as I was by the little one not sucked out of the cubicle.

Back in our seats, the boy wanted to go down the big yellow slide off the evacuation procedures picture that had been teasing him for a couple of hours. I explained to him that it would be better to save sliding for the playground. Teddy and his tablet would probably end up getting very wet if we used it over the sea.

We landed with a bounce, on tarmac rather than into the Balearic sea which was nice. Apparently the pilot did very well and he got a round of applause. I would give him six out of ten, possibly five for forgetting to do the Ryanair trumpet fanfare. Amateur.

As EU citizens, we joined the EU Citizens queue for passport checks. This proved to be the correct decision, the queue shortening as each person left the line to join the special queue for those who voted Brexit.

The border police lady raised an eyebrow at us travelling with a small blonde girl, disguised in a straw sunhat and huge My Little Pony sunglasses, called Madeline. We were eventually let through and she turned out to be a demon at bag spotting and grabbing on the carousel. With a bit of help from dad, we were out in minutes.

The transfer and check-in were smooth enough. It took about an hour and a half to get the over-exhausted little people to sleep at round about 1am. Getting up time would be in less than six hours, but I didn’t know that then. If I had, I would have packed whisky.

It’s Wednesday afternoon as I scribble this out and a nice time is being had by all. Yes, really. Was the travel as bad as I feared in last week’s post? No. Will it be during the 10pm reversal next Monday? Probably.



In which our reluctant hero prepares for a maiden voyage.

We’re off on holibobs in a few days time. Yay! The resort looks nice with things for the grown-ups and a few hours of entertainment to keep the little people happy. No 24 hour childcare facilities for us though – we’re doing it old school – which may be something that we come to regret in a week’s time. The food looks plentiful and should suit us all. Even BBC Weather indicates that the sun has popped his best sun hat, shades and factor fifty on for what looks like a glorious week. So far, so good.

But there is one tiny thing worrying me as we prepare for this journey into the unknown. Yes, we’re leaving these sunny-one-minute-and-minus-ten-the-next-even-in-June shores and heading abroad. On an aeroplane. With a two and four year old.

It may well turn out to be worry over nothing (it won’t.) I was always one for tutting at parents taking small children on aeroplanes but now I find myself about to take small children on an aeroplane. What could possibly go wrong?

The first potential concern involves “stuff.” You need a boot full of stuff to go to Lidl with two small children, let alone Spain which is on the other side of the world. Will we have enough stuff? Will we have the right stuff? Do they still have shops in Spain? If so, will we be able to afford anything if the British economy has collapsed by Monday as a result of this week’s General Election? Fixed-term Parliaments, my bottom.

You never fully concentrate with kids nearby as your subconscious is exclusively tied up preventing the next potential disaster – that’s why parents frequently forget or lose things. This is not a problem if just a spare changing bag left in the car rather than, say, passports. I may just gaffer tape these to my torso tonight to save the inevitable panic come Monday afternoon.

Assuming that we miraculously manage to check in, there’s the airport to negotiate. Airports are amongst the dullest places imaginable at the best of times, let alone with two children to entertain.

I suspect that you’re not actually allowed to knock children out like B.A. Baracus in every episode of “The ‘A’ Team”, so Plan A is to watch the other planes take off for a bit. Plan B is to take their tablets and enough Powerbanks to keep the National Grid up for a couple of hours in an emergency.

Alternatively, there’s always the option of eating to kill time. The last time that we flew we attempted to buy an airport breakfast with scrambled eggs as my wife was pregnant. A simple request you would think, yes? Apparently not, as eggs only come fried. I may give that a miss.

We’ve not booked with British Airways, and I’m sure that Ryanair have ploughed billions into their I.T. capabilities, so the risk of being stranded at the airport due to system failures is one less thing to worry about. Probably.

On the plane, there’s more to stress about starting with who gets the window seat. My wife allowed me to sit in the window seat on my first flight, but we’ve two little people on their first flights that will both want to sit there. There’s going to be a row, isn’t there?

Regular listeners may well remember that we started potty training last week. Unsurprisingly, this isn’t quite mastered yet. I’m predicting worst case scenarios of an accident in the seat or, more likely, the boy being sucked down the toilet and out of the plane after messing with the vacuum flush. Again.

I’m hoping that the children may fall asleep like they do in the car if strapped in for a couple of hours. This is probably a good thing for the flight, but if they remain asleep after landing, I’ll need an extra three arms to manage one of them and the four lots of hand luggage needed to fit the emergency stuff in. If they wake up, they’ll most likely be tired and grumpy which may be a bigger task. At least flying with Ryanair, we’ll land three hours ahead of schedule to the trumpet fanfare. You always do.

We’ve planned ahead and should be able to survive a few days should anything go missing en route. We’re always the last drop off during any hotel transfer, which may be a blessing if a few winks can be squeezed in. Then it’s the simple matter of checking in and bed, via returning to reception to fork out an extra €1,000 for the air conditioning and safe keys.

Refreshed from a good night’s sleep, it’s time for fun and relaxation. It should be easy from here, asides from keeping a fearless two year old and large outdoor swimming pool apart. We’ve packed armbands and a rubber ring just in case, but I’m still not sure I trust the boy. Pass me the gaffer tape again, por favor.

Oh. And the flight back…