As Easy As Pie Face!

In which our reluctant hero meets The Phantom Flan Flinger. Or something.

The little people very nearly got a game called “Pie Face!” (or “Pie Facebook!” – thanks, autocorrect) for Christmas.

OK, “very nearly” is a slight porky pie. The game was certainly in our house on Christmas Eve. Having completed his fifteenth trip down from the distinctly attic-like magical elf toy factory, Father Christmas sat down with Mrs Claus and inspected the box.

“Nah.”

So, unwrapped, it was banished to the attic, never to be seen again. Forgotten forever. Like Ceefax, Top Gear, and people turning up on time.

But the elves had other ideas…

At some point between Father Christmas going back to work after the holidays and last weekend, Pie Face! mysteriously reappeared.

By Sunday morning, calls for the overpriced, plastic, harbinger of doom and disaster (probably) to be assembled hit fever pitch. Ah, go on, go on, go on…

Having long since lost his festive “Ho, ho, ho!”, Santa held out for about an hour before resorting to that last desperate act of a broken human grown-up(ish) man desperate for five minutes peace. You know the one.

“OK. But just one game. And don’t make a mess.”

For non-breeders, and those who managed to keep their offspring away from Nick Jr or YouTube for the last year, Pie Face! is a simple game for simple people. It works like this.

  • Find a semi-responsible adult to set up the apparatus as per the serving suggestion on the box.
  • Spin the spinner.
  • Pop head through the head shaped hole and randomly contort face.
  • Turn the fiddly little handle thing the number of times shown on the spinner.
  • Adopt brace position in anticipation of getting a “pie” in the face.
  • Repeat forever. Then for a bit more.
  • Reminisce that the whole thing looked much more fun on Tiswas when it was Sally James getting a good soaking.

(One for the kids there…)

Pie Face! does exactly what it says on the tin. Sadly it isn’t a game of calculating the circumference of a round-faced person’s face by multiplying its diameter by Pi, as I had initially hoped.

Being about to be hit in the face with a pie is the perfect metaphor for modern-day parenting. You live in constant fear that something bad is going to happen and know that, in the blink of the eye, there will be chaos, tears and a shedload more clearing up to do.

With the pie-flinging machine assembled on the kitchen table, it was almost time for launch. But like an empty crust in a dentist’s chair, the pie needed a filling.

The options were a wet sponge – most likely unpleasant but not that messy – or squirty cream. There’s nothing quite like the smell of decomposing dairy products to remind you of a happy Sunday morning, so we went with that.

Pie loaded, there was no going back. Well, maybe there was. Mum was up first. Fortunately, I’m not quite as stupid as I look.

SPLAT!

In no time Pie Face! had delivered. Mum was covered in cream, the kids were in stitches and I was the proud owner of an amusing GIF of a fun family moment, preserved for future generations. Or to be used in an emergency social media post. Whatever.

The kids were next up, and they loved it… right up to the point where they got splatted in the face with a pie.

This, unexpectedly, took an age to happen. There was no SPLAT! during the first round of play. Our eldest dodged a covering with her first spin of round two also. By this point the tension was greater than Derren Brown playing Russian Roulette with a loaded gun on live telly.

Either me or the boy were getting it next spin. It was bound to be me. Or was it?

I spun another five. Bugger. Click, click, click, click, click… Nothing. Sorry son.

SPLAT!

Another round, another five spin bullet dodged by me. It was time for our daughter to get one in the eye.

SPLAT!

And that cue brought an end to the day’s play. No tears, a surprising amount of fun, and only one minor issue.

“Daddy. We don’t like the cream. Can we use the sponge next time, please?”

A Tip Top response. But a few days later, it was seemingly back to square one. Pie Face! was back out. So was the squirty cream. The children were there, obviously, but they looked like they had something to say.

And then it came. An unexpected Emergency Motion. Blimey.

An amendment to the rules was being proposed. An amendment that, yes, we would all play Pie Face! but only mummies, and daddies, were allowed to put their heads through the hole to get splatted. With cream.

An interesting twist, but like a badly aimed splat, it was, sadly, just pie in the sky.

Fin.

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Who Do You Think You Are, Boyo?

In which our reluctant hero considers his roots. And split ends. Or something.

With Christmas done for another eight months, I returned to work for a bit of a rest. I wasn’t keen on doing any actual proper work this early into the year, so decided to go through the “pretending to get organised” motions with a bit of a clear out.

After a little binning and shredding, I made enough space to safely lock my Toblerone away. With my most important task completed, I decided to call it quits and make a well deserved cuppa. Stupid Dry January.

During the holidays, I read an article that claimed it better to use a small mug at work than a big one. The logic is that, by doing so, you will become more active around the office and get that beach body that you deserve in six weeks.

My work mug resembles a builder’s bucket. My post-Christmas belly does too. Out with the new and in with the old and all that, I dusted off my Welsh, Woman’s Own approved size, mug. It won’t be long before I’m back in my Speedos. Sorry about that.

I have a Welsh mug because I am Welsh. I was born in Wales. My parents and grandparents were born in Wales. My grand… you get the drift.

I left home for University at eighteen, and permanently at twenty-one, so have spent longer away from my place of birth than I spent there. Like Clark Kent stuck in a queue at a phone box, the reappearance of the mug made me concerned about my identity.

I’m Welsh. I think that I feel Welsh. I’ll always support us in the footy and rugby. I still regularly throw stuff at the telly whenever John Redwood appears on it. I own a Shakin’ Stevens LP. I have a semi-nostalgic yearning to maybe go back one day, but realise that our children will, in the blink of an eye, be old enough be do what I did. Pack up and go.

I don’t speak the language asides from pidgin primary school stuff. If you ever need to ask if anyone would like to build a wall, I’m your man.

I also grew up close to the English (boo!) border, therefore avoiding picking up a noticeably regional accent to which other ex-pats cling. My accent has mutated over many years in Wolverhampton. I now sound like the lovechild of Michael Owen and Noddy Holder reading The Guardian out loud.

I love Tettenhall, but I don’t particularly feel much attachment to Wolverhamptonshire. Perhaps this will be different for the kids who are already showing signs of being hit with the Yam Yam stick? The fact that my little people were born in England still chokes as we could have easily dashed over the border with better planning.

Will they grow up to be proud Wulfrunians? If they are good enough, or lucky enough, to represent their country, which one will they pick? Should I force them up the A41 towards Whitchurch (hanging a quick left onto the A495) or down it towards Hemel Hempstead?

Instilling Welshness should be easy enough to manage with some subliminal messaging and a bit of subtle suggestion.

I could acquire Max Boyce style daffodil attire off eBay for a few quid. We could eat leeks with every meal and practise our close harmony singing to the Postman Pat theme tune at breakfast. Technology could also help.

“Alexa, play Harry Secombe.”
“Shuffling tracks by Sea Sick Steve.”
“No, not Sea Sick Steve. Harry SECOMBE.”
“Sorry, it looks like I didn’t hear you correctly. Please try again.”
“Whatever.”

Perhaps a better approach may be to look at the relative plusses of my current and former homes and Caerphilly compare them.

“OK, Google…”

Goodish things about Wales
Geography – With breathtaking scenery, mountains, lakes, exquisite beaches, steam locomotives aplenty and Britain’s smallest house all before you get to Harlech, where better to call the green, green grass of home?

Dialect – Wales has its own language. It’s not unusual. They speak it in Patagonia too.

Food Culture – Often simple, always delicious. Cawl, Welsh rarebit, bara brith, laverbread, Glamorgan sausages and good old roast lamb are amongst the traditional favourites. You can probably get a Taffy Apple if you want one too. Food to Dai for.

Musical Heritage – Male voice choirs, Shirley Bassey and Tom Jones. Need I say more?

Significant Landmarks – Snowdon, Pontcysyllte Aqueduct and about three castles for every child born.

Goodish things about Wolverhampton
Geography – It’s called the Black Country for a reason. Wolverhampton was named one of the UK’s most miserable cities in both 2015 and 2017, and the fifth worst city on the planet in 2015. Bostin.

These are actually huge positives for me and should help keep the riffraff away until we build the wall around Tettenhall. There’s some nice parks though, and more history around town than you would expect if you look for it.

Dialect – Wolverhampton also has its own language, all be it even less straightforward to decipher than Welsh, ay it?

Food culture – Grey peas and bacon are a local staple. With Mad O’Rourke’s World Famous Pie Factory also just down the road, this is a close call.

Musical Heritage – Well, there’s Slade, him out of the One Direction and… Babylon Zoo. Cosmic.

Significant Landmarks – You know that you’re nearly home when you see Tojo the Dwarf. A local reference for local people.

With all evidence in, my little boyo and girlo are going to have to be Welsh when they grow up, aren’t they? Tidy.

Fin.

All Wrapped Up

In which our reluctant hero wonders if he will ever learn? And why not?

Ebenezer Scrooge: You’re a little absent-minded, spirit.
Ghost of Christmas Present: No, I’m a LARGE absent-minded spirit!

(A Muppet Christmas Carol)

My belt is almost up a notch. That tired, sluggish, not quite with it feeling induced by having consumed Pringles and Celebrations as starters to every meal for a week has kicked in. The rest of the break may as well be sponsored by Rennies. Just how long is it since Christmas again?

Overindulgence amnesia asides, this Christmas has presented some new curious things to ponder. Perhaps they will provide useful knowledge for next year. Perhaps I thought the same thoughts last year. Who knows?

Packaging
The amount of packaging encasing modern stuff is spiralling out of control.

You would expect a Marks and Spencer apple to be individually wrapped in a polystyrene tray and about 250m of shrink-wrap in the olden days, but this was the exception not the rule.

I’m convinced that today’s manufacturers are challenging each other to make the most difficult product to open. And it’s mum and dad that suffer.

This year set a high bar with parents needing a minimum of two screwdrivers, pliers, a junior hacksaw, scissors, mole grips and a Black & Decker Workmate to open the average present on Christmas morning.

“This Christmas was brought to you in association with Tommy Walsh.” He must be laughing all of the way to the bank.

Surprise Batteries
Talking of being ill prepared, who knew that “C” sized batteries are still a thing? Not me.

After a brief panic, I managed to source four used ones, thus avoiding a Christmas Day incident with the Luvabella Doll.

Already tired and emotional after their previous life in a VTech toy, the batteries lasted a day, whereupon the perilous state of charge caused the doll to start talking in French.

Replacement Duracells cost a whacking £8.40 from the local Tesco Metro on Boxing Day morning. This is around £3.40 more than the price that my wife told me that most of the kids’ presents cost. Ho, ho, ho.

A.I. Is Just Creepy
Speaking of Luvabella, don’t bother getting one in the January sales if you’re of a nervous disposition. Within three hours of it appearing, I started calling it Chucky. I swear that it’s out to get me.

Food
It’s not just presents that get all wrapped up for Christmas.

Have you even eaten anything in the last week that hasn’t been wrapped in pastry, cheese or bacon. Or all of the above? I’m amazed that a box of “Heroes” has not yet been made in Wellington form.

Next Christmas, why not make a massive cheese, ham and Cadburys Fudge pastie on Xmas eve and plough through until New Year. All of the Christmas food groups in one and the same net result as every other festive meal. Am I wrong? No.

Away Days
Q: How much stuff do you need to take for a single afternoon or night away visiting family?
A: The exact amount of stuff to completely fill the boot of a Vauxhall Meriva, obviously.

Sadly, the only thing that I wish to achieve before I die remains driving somewhere and being able to see out of the back window. I fear that I may not live that long.

Today is…
Wednesday? Sunday? Nope, sorry. Not a clue.

Bins
Expanding on the above, have you any idea when bin day is? No, neither have the council.

The formula to calculate when to put your bin out over Christmas is so complex that the next volumes of work by Professors Steven Hawkins, Brian Cox and Green are all dedicated to solving it. Probably.

The excellent @mutablejoe off of Twitter got close to working it out a couple of years back;

“Reminder your festive bin collection day is given by the simple equation
d = (√x²-3π) – (∆y – √∆x) – (Gx/∆y)
where x/y are your lat / long”

Simples.

While there’s plenty of lessons learned, one mystery remains unsolved. Where do all of my Swizzles chews off the kitchen table keep disappearing to?

Fin.

Jingle All The Way

In which our reluctant hero can’t be bothered to write a proper blog post and figures that nobody will actually notice.

“IT’S CHRISTMAS!!”

Everybody has their favourite Christmas songs, and they’re all rubbish. Fact. Take this selection from the Mirror earlier this week.

  1. Fairytale of New York – The Pogues and Kirsty MacColl
  2. All I Want For Christmas Is You – Mariah Carey
  3. White Christmas – Bing Crosby
  4. Last Christmas – Wham!
  5. Happy Xmas (War Is Over) – John Lennon & Yoko Ono

Dreadful. All of them.

So, without further much ado about nothing, here’s my Christmas countdown of the best five Christmas songs of all time ever. Probably.

Don’t expect Slade in there mind. We live in Wolverhampton so it’s a given that it’s number one. Plus, it saves you actually listening to it. Again.

No 5.
The Cheeky Girls – Have a Cheeky Christmas

I read somewhere that Gabriela and Monica Cheeky were to noughties pop music what Agnetha and Anni-Frid Abba were to the seventies. Or something.

“Have a Cheeky Christmas” certainly shows a consistency of writing and performance as all of their other hit(s?)

Now you may not actually recall the song, but that is probably more to do with the other festive hit of 2003, “Christmas Time (Don’t Let the Bells End)” by The Darkness, taking up every available bit of air space. Think Joe Dolce’s “Shaddap You Face” vs Ultravox’s “Vienna.” It’s time to redress the balance, methinks.

I took one of them shopping once. I’ve no idea which one, but it got in the Express and Star. That’s top five for me. Enjoy.

No 4.
Paul McCartney – Pipes of Peace

Let’s face it, number five of the best five Christmas songs was a shoo-in. The tricky work starts right now. Help!

Fortunately, you can’t have a top five songs list without including a song by national treasure and top Angela Lansbury lookalike, HRH Sir Paul McCartney. It’s the law of the (Pepper)land. I’m sure that we can work it out.

It has been a remarkable career, spanning five decades, while effortlessly churning out some of the most iconic songs ever. Quite why the National Anthem hasn’t been replaced with “Hey Jude” remains one of life’s great mysteries.

OK, “Wonderful Christmastime” was awful (and don’t get me started on Mull of Kintyre) but this little gem from 1983 is the absolute bees knees. Do bees even have knees? I have no idea. I’ll bet Macca has a five-minute anecdote about them, though.

Anyway. Macca, football and Christmas, all packaged in three minutes and fifty-one seconds of loveliness. What more could you want?

No 3.
Frankie Goes to Hollywood The Divine Comedy – The Power of Love

It’s all getting a bit tense now isn’t it? Five and four were relatively straightforward choices. However, my selection for the coveted number three spot has two potential problems.

– I’ve picked a cover version.
It’s true. Frankie Says “look at the link.”

This is actually the less problematic problem of the two. Everybody knows that (nearly) all cover versions are better than the originals. The original artists are far too busy writing and recording their song than to worry about interpreting it properly after all. The only exception to this rule is Roxy Music’s version of “Jealous Guy”, despite what everybody else on the planet thinks. So there.

I’ve gone for a live version by The Divine Comedy for no other reason than they’re my favourite band. What other reason should I need?

– Is it even a Christmas song?
Ah. Let me open with the case for the defence.

“The Power of Love” was Top of the Pops in December 1984. It may even have been a Christmas number one had the “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” juggernaut not squashed it as flat as a leftover sprout pancake.

The video featured a sort of Nativity thing, the single cover was a picture of “The Assumptions of the Virgin” and, most importantly, the song reminds me of Christmas even if there’s no mention of snow, baubles or Jesus/Cliff. So I’m saying yes.

Case dismissed. Enjoy.

No 2.
Tim Minchin – White Wine In The Sun

Two. Zwei. Deux. Dos. Dau. So near yet so far. Close but no cigar. Second place in the Top 5 list that nobody asked for and nobody read. Ah, well.

For me, Tim Minchin is someone who I associate with the phrase “He was good on…” rather being that familiar with his work as a whole. Which is odd as he is such a unique talent that I can’t quite work out why not.

Wikipedia describes him as a comedian, actor, writer, musician and director. I can’t help but think that the word “songwriter” should also be segued in there somewhere.

“White Wine In The Sun” is a brilliant song. Occasionally funny, occasionally pithy, but a song with an incredibly warm heart. A song about cutting through the hypocrisy and recognising the things that are important. Which, I guess is what Christmas should be about.

No 1.
Chewbacca – Silent Night

After what has seemed like a more protracted process than the “Topsy and Tim Tie Their Shoelaces” feature length special, we’re there. Over the finish line, spraying cheap Cava over unsuspecting passers-by. The winner can be rightly pleased.

For brass players such as myself, “Silent Night” is about as bad as carols get. Too long, too slow, too low and usually involving a terrible arrangement that causes tuning problems that could strip paint.

So imagine my delight upon discovering this little belter last December. I initially assumed that it was a version of “Stille Nacht” in its native German. But then my ears perked up and I realised what was going on. After that, there was really no competition.

All you need to do is sit back and enjoy. Simples. Just remember, a Wookie is for life, and not just for Christmas.

Fin.

Frozen

In which our reluctant hero became the first person to actually want to build a snowman. EVER. Probably.

We had quite a lot of snow in Wolverhampton last weekend.

In the olden days, when “weather” existed instead of the constant churn of nothing, nothing, then absolute disaster, snow was a regular thing. Proper seventies snow too rather than the modern, dumbed down, Millennial stuff. Us, the children of the seventies, knew the drill.

  • Fifteen layers on at all times, even in the house, to negate problems of ice on the radiators.
  • Schools shutting each lunchtime (due to ice on the radiators) then a four mile uphill trek through a blizzard to get home, only to do the same again the next day.
  • Sledging on trays, coal sacks or bin bags off the greens at the local golf course.
  • Hastily denying sledging off the greens at the local golf course.
  • Quickly remembering that Parkas are to snow what Bounty (the strongest soaker upper… Boun-tee!) is to mysterious puddles on a kitchen floor.

At five and three, our children have barely seen snow and certainly didn’t remember doing so when it arrived. So, with Ice Krispies and Frosties finished, we ventured outside.

The first thing to do in the snow is, unsurprisingly, to build a snowman. In reality, it was the second thing to do, the first being throwing snowballs at dad’s ever increasing backside.

We started the build with shovels and dustpans before going old school by rolling a massive ball. The freshly rolled head, a virtual planetoid with its own weather system, caused a minor collapse that required much filling and patting down, but it started taking shape. I wasn’t sure what sort of shape, but definitely a shape.

Stick arms, a pinecone mouth and buttons, a carrot nose (snapped naturally, courtesy of the boy) and a fetching pink hat and scarf combo were attached, then… ta-da! A proper snowman. Or maybe a snowma’am. Or something.

It looked a little like the lovechild of The Elephant Man and E.T. but was not bad for the kids’ first one. It was possibly my wife’s first snowman too as she couldn’t remember making one before either.

Angels in the snow-filled Tettenhall Pool followed, although the children were too small to form theirs properly. Either that or their halos had slipped.

Olaf fever had clearly caught on, and the little people were back building little snow people in no time.

Kids being kids, there is always an “on/off” switch with every activity. This time it was the switch that flipped between having fun and being two minutes away from hypothermia. A hasty bath and warm soup quickly transformed the chill-dren back into children and kept Social Services off our backs.

Later in the week, a whole new level of fun was presented when my wife dug my old sledge out of the shed.

I bought the sledge in 1989, a half price bargain from Mr Bevan’s in Mold, a few years before I left home. Well, I think I did. The factual accuracy of pretty much anything that I have done at any point in my life before breakfast is questionable. I’m not even sure what I had for breakfast most days, if I’m honest.

Anyway, somehow the sledge was bought from somewhere. I’m more certain about the “when” as it was the exact time that the planet’s core temperature rose sufficiently for the sledge to spend the next 28 years or so stuck in a garage, then a shed. Until Tuesday.

The boy loved it, zooming up and down Lower Green like a low budget, middle-class Cool Runnings remake. The girl enjoyed it less, not appreciating that high speed crashes are all part of the “fun.” Whereupon she just moaned. Then had a meltdown. Honestly, take a chill pill.

My wife came up with a cunning plan to rid herself of the earache, jumping into the unguarded sledge and whooshing off down the hill. She would have earned £250 from Jeremy Beadle had she been any closer to the tree half way down the slope too.

“Who’s the best at driving, kids?”
“Daddy.”

Probably.

When I left the Rebel Alliance base in Wolver-Hoth-ton on Tuesday evening, ahead of a meeting with officials from the Galactic Empire, all was calm, all was bright. When I returned the following evening, there was barely a trace of snow.

A week after it drifted in, White Christmas is seemly over. If it’s another 28 years until the sledge comes out again it may well be for the grandchildren. Perhaps “Sled in a Shed” may also become a thing once everyone has binned their elves?

With the snowman collapsing, the final task was to take its accessories back inside, although the scarf seemed to be hanging around while the hat went on ahead. Snow joke.

Fin.

Much Ado About Nothing

In which our reluctant hero is lost for words. Or something.

Blog

Verb

  • Add new material to or regularly update a blog.
  • Procrastinate, overthink, panic, scribble, over edit, scrape self-imposed deadline, post it, hate it, correct typos, think it’s OK, forget all about it, repeat.

As usual, I’ve been putting writing this week’s post off until the last possible moment. This is not due to any particular will not to do it, more a feeling of there being nothing left for me to say. Let me explain.

The kids are in an almost perpetual weekday routine of breakfast, rehearsing their school nativity, cheese sandwich/school dinners, home, tea, not wanting to clean teeth, not wanting to go to bed, and not wanting dad to do teeth, bedtime or stories.

If you swap “nativity” for “harvest festival” then the list pretty much sums up my last eighteen months of scribbling. I surely can’t get away with mentioning it all in a post again. Can I?

Routine, dull as it is, is a necessary evil needed to maintain order. If only someone could tell the bus drivers, then everyone could calm down again. Having randomly sent buses anything up to ten minutes earlier than the scheduled 6:45 departure for two weeks prior to the timetable change, every single bus has been late since timetable change. All of them. It’s annoying as it happens every single year, which, paradoxically, creates some sort of routine. Or something.

But I can’t write about travel either, can I? That would be as tedious as writing about the weather on the day when the snow kicked in. Yes, I know that it’s snowing. My curtains are special ones that can be opened, and the cat wasn’t white yesterday.

This week’s variation to Groundhog Day is pesky Ernie the Elf, who has been making shoe trains, getting stuck on balloons and up Christmas trees, spilling breakfast everywhere, having midnight tea parties and dying our milk blue. The kids have enjoyed the madness, but nobody wants to read anything else about elves in December. Especially if they’re on Elfbook, as it seems to have become.

Elfbook did give me one source of potential gold, but I could find no way to mine it without creating a bizarre rant about how our five-year-old is developmentally three years ahead of some of her peers. Which she probably is, as my children are always going to be better than yours. Nobody wants to read a load of proud parenting guff either. Next.

People don’t have children in December, it’s more a time for excessive alcohol and clumsy conceptions, so there’s been no children’s birthday parties to moan about again. Another staple source of inspiration lost. Stupid selfish parents.

Even the boy demolishing the best part of two advent calendars with his little friend was more funny than annoying. Any writing about that would probably end up with the hashtag “#blessed” so that’s out too.

It’s four o’clock on Friday. A mere two hours until the blog goes up. The clock is ticking and I have nothing. Not even a sentence. Gawd.

I recently read something about there being nothing left for children to dream up on their own anymore. Perhaps that’s the same for grown-ups too? Perhaps I’ve hit middle age and have already thought every original thought that I’m ever going to have. If so, what’s next?

One most genius strategy could be to simply repeat the same old rubbish time after time and hope that nobody notices. I reckon it could just work too. The centre of the universe is me after all. Well, maybe not me, but you. No, not you you. Everyone else. And the only guarantee in this age of narcissistic self-indulgence is that nobody ever pays attention or listens.

So for now, I’ll hit rewind. I may press play again next week. Who will ever know?

Fin.

The Nightmare Before Christmas

In which our reluctant hero goes Christmas shopping to save Christmas. Probably.

“Deck the halls with boughs of holly, Fa la la la la, la la la la!
‘Tis the season of LOL Dollies, Fa la la la la, la la la!”

With just under four weeks until I finally stop playing Christmas carols and set fire to my jolly Christmas band jumper, I was sent on a mission. A mission almost impossible, no less. A mission to find a LOL Doll. No, me neither.

Every year, a must have Christmas gift magically appears. No sooner has your Cabbage Patch Kid, Tamagotchi or Hatchimal popped their little head up, then they’re off to Tracy Island to play with a Nerf Gun. All delivered by Amazon Optimus Prime.

It’s December 1st. Your little people will have already fibbed on their Christmas list, claiming to have been good all year. Their lists are essentially a series of ransom demands that Royal Mail’s Santamon 3000 machine will annoyingly promise will be met. Lists completed, you spend the next couple of hours on Google trying to work out what any of the stuff on them is.

“Plastic rubbish with a gazillion percent mark-up, you say? Sorry. All sold out, sir. You do realise that most people buy things before November?”

Stupid organised parents.

The boy’s list was relatively straightforward, if perhaps a little overly specific on the snake front.

  • Green and blue snake
  • Plastic slug
  • Toy Mummy
  • Toy Daddy
  • Toy Madeline
  • Toy Sam
  • Toy wine
  • Green dragon

There was something in the paper this week about children being exposed to twelve junk food adverts an hour. I’m assuming that exposure to toy related advertising must be ten times that if our daughter’s encyclopaedic knowledge of the Argos catalogue is any measure. Her list was far more commercially aware.

  • Cry Baby Doll
  • Lego Friends
  • Dress up clothes
  • LOL Doll
  • Pool table

I had unknowingly been sent to find a LOL Doll in Sainsbury’s on Sunday, but misheard and spent an hour trying to find a green Arabella Doll instead. The lack of such a thing in Google’s image search should have been a clue to its probable non-existence. It occurred to me later that “Arabella Doll” also sounds like a made-up adult film star, and I was relieved that my very public search didn’t result in an embarrassing social faux pas.

Mistake one cleared up, it was time for mistake two.

According to our five-year-old, the LOL Dolls are called LOL Dolls and not LOL Dolls. Obviously. I’m pretty sure that she’s wrong and they should be pronounced LOL Dolls and not LOL Dolls. I’m normally quite good at that sort of thing, unlike those idiots that pronounce scone as scone. Or bath as bath.

After Sunday’s predictably fruitless search, I found some mini LOL Dolls whilst on a lunchtime wander through Birmingham’s increasingly busy Bullring. The Entertainer had some. For a bargain six quid each too, which seemed a lot for something the size of a ping-pong ball. The doll inside presumably being smaller than a Lego figure.

I waved my arms around long enough for the store assistant to look up from Facebook and established that the shop usually sell bigger ones for a tenner, but were sold out of Series 2.

Series 2? Are the dolls actually off a telly programme? Possibly. The now unexpectedly enthused shop assistant was adamant that Series 3 would be arriving, but not until after Christmas. Helpful.

I bought two Kinder LOLs in a pathetic attempt to feel useful, and trudged back towards the office.

The phone rang. There had been a positive sighting. Of LOL. Apparently there were big LOLs (probably thumb sized) in Argos. Woohoo!

A swift reversal and I was off to hand over my hard earned tenner. Go me.

And so it came to pass that Christmas was saved. The rest of the more sensible purchases will be arriving in a big box courtesy of the modern-day miracle that is online shopping. Via Amazon Optimus Prime, naturally.

I’m predicting that most of the accessories, and at least one of the LOL Dolls will be missing in action by Boxing Day. If they’ve got any sense, they’ll most likely have fled the chaos and will be in hiding, possibly supping toy wine with toy daddy.

Fin.