Smirking From Home

Turning ideas into words.

Respect for the Ladies.

One month has passed and I’m utterly banjaxed. This looking after a baby malarkey whilst trying to keep some normal sense of tidiness about the house is the greatest test known to man. Which explains the title of this post as I cannot fathom how our mothers, grandmothers and their fore-mothers managed it without ending up in various lunatic asylums. It might explain why a lot of them are still rather religious and why they sought solace in the church. It was the only hours’ peace they had all week.

IF you’ll permit me, I’ll indulge myself in a spot of “woe is me”. Now those of you who know my situation will say, “but you only have one child to look after during the day!”, the other being at school, at least for the next 3 weeks. I’ll accept that as a valid reason for me not to have a gripe or three, especially since most if the afore-mentioned ladies raised screaming gaggles of greater numbers, but sod it. I’m a bloke, I get man flu and I’m allowed to waffle on the strain of raising one bairn, whilst my follicles rapidly resemble a badger’s arse and my ability to think coherently disappears off into the wild beyond. (I’m only going to partially blame this for my lack of scribbling in recent weeks)

Up front, I have to stress, that the wee fella is totally adorable and has a belly laugh on him that would make a sailor blush. If he could talk, with a laugh like that, I’m positive the air would be blue and the jokes would be filthy. Not for me a demure wee darling. Rambunctious all the way I say. He possesses all the standard wily ways of the wain, luring you in with sweet smiles and giggles before throwing a feckin’ great box of howling spanners into the false calm which was your life for those few minutes.

“Feed me ye big bollix!” “Remove this shite off me arse and use an unfragranced wipe this time, you insensitive tool.  Me hole stung like field of nettles after you used them cheap ones that smelt like a hoor’s handbag”. “What do you call this crap then? Apple and Blueberry Puree? Puree d’Turd more like”.

“Actually I don’t mind that one. What was that foul-tasting spew you gave me for breakfast? Oats? OATS!!? I’m a flippin’ baby ye gobshite, not a donkey”.

How he manages to fit this invective in amongst the howling yaps and crocodile tears I’ll never know. One minute it’s like he’s receiving electro-shock treatment, the next, full of joys of spring. They learn the methods of emotional blackmail early these days. “You’re not looking at me. Waaaaah!” “Not BBC News 24 again? Waaaah! Put on the Teletubbies and move yer fat arse out of the road so I can see what Po’s wearing today.” Where’s my bottle? Waaaaah!”

Christ on a bike. Imagine doing this with 4 of the wee feckers.”More Weight in the nappy, fat boy! Uuuhhhhhhh, Waaaah, gruuuunt! Waaaah.” Followed naturally with a huge smile and all the pleasantries of the day.

This is my day before lunchtime. In the interim I’ve taken the wee lass to school, tried to eat a slice of toast, maybe washed a dish or two and if I’m truly lucky, sterilised the bottles. Needless to say he charms the knickers off the mothers at the primary school before resorting to type and yammering for most of the remaining morning. Maybe he was expecting more at the primary school? They do grow up quickly these days after all.  I comfort myself in the knowledge that he’ll get a rude awakening when he’s 21 and it takes more than a wink and a smile to seduce the ladies. Mind you I’m no expert in that field so he’ll probably gravitate to his uncle for advice on such matters.

By the time Stella arrives him from work after 5pm I’m ready for joining the Foreign Legion. The dinner’s a half-baked concoction of something vaguely edible and himself is usually serenading me with Rage Against The Machine in the unholy key of Waaaaaaaah once more. The house could be tidier but it’s not as bad as it could have been. I like to think I’m slowly but surely discovering a method of persevering through the mayhem and madness and finding brief snippets of time achieve something worthwhile from my list of chores.

Respect to the ladies. It’s no wonder ye live longer than us. It’s your thoroughly deserved reward for keeping us all on the straight and narrow, right from the word go.


June 7, 2010 Posted by | Bringing Up Baby | , , | 2 Comments

True Colours

Raising kids is a young person’s game. Public disdain or not, at least teenage parents should theoretically have the energy to deal with a howling bairn. Which all indirectly leads me to the subject for today. 
It’s general election time here in the UK and Northern Ireland and this week we’ve been enduring the release of the various party manifestos. During my vain attempts to calm the wee lad down I’ve been satisfying my political appetite by having BBC News 24 on constantly. Despite being geographically unable to cast a vote in preference of a mainland party, I prefer to watch their shenanigans as opposed to the usual tribal claptrap we;re forced to deal with here in the provincial backwaters. It’s hard to get excited here in Lagan Valley when no matter who you vote for, the smug twat, Wee Jeffrey, will get elected anyways. There’s no counting for taste in these parts.
First up I’ll make no bones about what side of the fence I stand. I’m essentially a liberal/leftie who reads the Guardian, someone who firmly believes that God and the church have no place in political life. It’s the main reason why I could never trust Tony Blair, apart from other obvious fact that he was a lying hallion. Given his propensity for dishonesty and obfuscation, it’s no real surprise that he kissed the Pope’s ring. Despite his dour nature, Gordon Brown typified the Labour movement more than Blair ever did. His personality flaws may do him no favours but Brown does, I believe, have the genuine interest of the nation at heart and that secretly he must desperately regret the fact that New Labour became the lapdogs of Mandelson and his evil minions. He may put it right if he is returned to power but I’m not harbouring hopes for the immediate future. The seeds are sadly already in shoot.
The Conservative manifesto today was truly outstanding. The wee fella had calmed down enough for me to indulge in a post of ironing and I listened to Cameron outlining his vision for the future of the country. To the untrained ear he was describing a Utopic vision of Britain where we could all have a say in how the country was run. No longer would we be held hostage to Big Government. The little man could rise up and control his own destiny. We would have the power in our own hands. It was no wonder the wee fella fell asleep for those initial opening bars of Blue Dave’s refrains. All would be well in a Conservative Britain. And then the wee lad woke up howling the house down. Wheeeeeeeee…metaphor alert.
The calm serenity of the baby was a false dawn. He was only resting his eyes. Even he could see that it all was a sham and he took the opportunity, with full cacophonous vocals, to remind me as such. For the time being Robert is not in control of his own destiny, and neither, ladies and gentlemen, will you be under a Conservative government. Let’s look at what devolving power to the people really entails.
The most apt word I can find is shifting. Shifting responsibility to people means shifting the blame. We gave you the chance and you blew it. Or, we gave you the chance and you didn’t take it. Either way, it’ll not be the fault of the Tories. They’re telling us you can take control of your schools, hospitals and police forces. Heck you can even sack your own MP. Doesn’t it sound wonderful? Yet there were no promises made telling you how they would support you to do this. Here. Have some rope. In times of trouble, would a Tory government assist you in overcoming those difficulties? Hey, you had your chance. If it all sounds eerily familiar, cast your mind back to the 1980’s and the me, myself and I society, generated then, unsurprisingly, by the Tories. You had control of your own destiny then and what resulted was a Britain consumed by a voracious appetite for success and the expense of anyone and everything. LOADSAMONEY!!!!!LOOK AT MY WADGE OF CASH!!!! Beware the wolf in sheep’s clothing. 
What it really means is that there will be as always a select few, usually always the current elite, who will exploit the loopholes and advantages of such a policy and create an even wider equality gap. Create a new business and pay no tax/NIC for the first 10 people you employ? Just rename part of your company and move some staff around accordingly. Winner! Create your own school and select only the best from your area to attend. Maybe even charge some fees. No sink estate scum for little Henry to scoff at whilst chewing on his M&S prawn sarnies for lunch. You see, putting this bluntly, the Tories tell you will have the power but they know full well that the majority of people have no impetus to and are too lazy to seize this advantage. Yet they know that those who will avail are those who are already possess the good things in life. In reality there is nothing there for the great unwashed, no mater how they dress it up with fancy words and soundbites. An old work colleague of mine in the Prudential had the audacity to promote the Tory cause by bizarrely claiming that they seemed more educated than the present government and, as such, could only but do a better job at running the country. Educated? Maybe. Skilled in the dark arts of smoking mirrors? Definitely. I hadn’t the heart to tell him that I doubt there’s very few, if at all, anyone in power at the moment, who left school with no more than C grades in Maths and English.
By the end of the fancy rhetoric I have to admit to feeling nauseous. I’d a creeping sense of dread that we will soon be governed by the above-mentioned wolf, who will shed the woolly garb and metaphorically eat us for dinner. I can’t get Cyndi Lauper out of my head writing this now. And that main fear is borne from the grim reality that people will fall hook, line and sinker for it. They always do, even more so should they be readers of the Sun and Star. Like a sailor pissing into the wind, they will eventually regret it.
Tomorrow sees the launch of the Liberal Democrat manifesto. It’s the one I’m looking forward to most. I have a sneaky feeling that this year could be their year. Definitely not an outright victory but drawing enough support to throw a bloody great bull into the china shop. People should remember the last Tory government. We’re still suffering from it. Labour have, for the most part, bolloxed up their big chance. Vote for Change, Dave? Yes indeed. A vote for the Lib Dems would do it.

April 13, 2010 Posted by | Bringing Up Baby, Politics | , , , | 1 Comment

When YouTube was an Insult.

It’s Friday evening and I’m feeling nostalgic. Hey, you cannot deny it doesn’t happen to you too every once and a while. People say you shouldn’t live in the past. Well tonight I say they are talking from their rear ends. Things that make you happy should never be forgotten and should be revisited at any available opportunity.
What’s brought this on? Well every now and then I feel duty bound as a responsible parent to introduce the Wee Lass to my favourite music, both modern day and from times past. Oooh, some might sense an incoming warm front of self-indulgence but I ask ye to bear with me on this one. I’ll not deny that I’m a rocker at heart, a sucker for some riffing and twiddling solos that go on for longer than is truly necessary. This blog post is categorised under “I Am What I Am” after all. However there’s more to these bonding sessions with the Wee Lass than big hair and spandex trousers. I’m also rather partial to your old-fashioned, song and dance laden, Hollywood musical. It’s the drama student still refusing to shuffle from this mortal coil.
Yup! There’s more to film than Pixar and Disney and I feel obligated to inform the Wee Lass of this unavoidable fact. I’ll trade you my song and dance numbers for your CGI any day of the week. The ideal song or perfect routine in a movie will give you much more emotional bang for your bucks than any special effect ever will.
If it wasn’t for YouTube many of these memories may remain just that. I would venture the opinion that YouTube is the success story of the Internet. Maybe not from a business or legal angle but definitely (or should that be defiantly) from an emotional one. Through its medium we can relive those periods in our lives where we felt happiest or even just relive personal favourites from the world of entertainment and all its forms.
Over the next few weeks the plan is, via the medium of YouTube, etc,  to get people discussing what are their favourite moments in particular categories of entertainment. Tonight I’m going to start with songs and dances from the movies. I had intended initially to start with “cover versions” but I’m holding back on that one until I’m 100% sure what my own particular favourite is in that area. So dig yer tap shoes out from your closet and don your glad-rags for a trawl through the highs and lows of film musicals.
When navigating the vast expanse that is YouTube for snippets of tonight’s topic I’ll always revert to this one. Mainly because it makes me laugh. I never cease to be amazed at the sheer brilliance of what this man does and the inventiveness of the routine. It can be no coincidence that it’s also the one the Wee Lass always asks to see. Enjoy the clip below and include your own favourites in the comments. Let’s all reminisce and, I promise, the show will go on.

March 26, 2010 Posted by | Bringing Up Baby, I Am What I Am, Times Past | , | Leave a comment

Snooze Buttons

The only predictable thing about life is its’ unpredictability. One minute you’re splashing about in the pool having a whale of a time and the next you’re fish food. You spend ages mastering a skill or perfecting a routine task and before you know it the goalposts have been shifted, rendering all previous time and effort wasted. We’ve all been there at some point in your various employment histories. Nothing really prepares you, though, for whenever the guiding hand behind the metaphorical goalposts is a 3 month old chubby bundle of sleepy, hungry gowls.
For the past three weeks or so I’ve been enthusiastically regaling the other parents on the school run about how well the wee fella has settled into a sleeping pattern. “Aye, down at seven and sleeps right through”. “Well sure it means we have our evenings now, some quality time to ourselves”. “Nightmare!! Still not settling after two years?” Honestly speaking, I let people know about Robert’s new-found night-time pattern with a sub-conscious blowing of raspberries in their faces. I would even venture the notion that we all do it in some shape or form, the “isn’t my kid wonderful and yours is the spawn of Beelzebub” spiel. The sport of parental one-upmanship is played out in schoolyards and at coffee-mornings the nation over. Yet it’s not a deliberate, conscious series of actions. It happens without thinking in most scenarios, the notion that no matter what grey hair inducing, living hell they put you through in private, your kids are infinitely better than theirs. It’s an automatic reflex for a lot of people, a kind of parental Tourette’s.
Maybe I’m over elaborating the point here. I’ll readily admit to being astonished and proud of the newest little thing the wains have said or done and will happily tell other people as such. What riles this old goat is that there’ll always be another parent, usually a stay-at-home mother, who’ll tell you that her little Kayleigh or Josh learned to dump in a pot at 12 months whilst reading The Goblet of Fire. “Nice one”, I’ll say, wondering whether I should buy Robert a guitar and have him serenade Doctor Jab with Stairway to Heaven when he gets his MMR shots.
So there we were mooching happily along thinking Robert nicely attuned to sleeping right through when for a few days he decided to spice the routine up. 1am. 3am. Back to 1am with a leap forward to 4am the following night. The newest game in our house is guess the wake up call. Unsurprisingly and predictably we’re rarely accurate in our answers. Maybe that’s the joy of having children, the ceaseless variety in your life. Sure, if it’s during normal daylight hours. Just not in the dead of night with chilblains on me bunions* due to the frost outside.
We have two alarm clocks in our house. The digital one is permanently set to 07:30, a perfectly reasonable time to begin a long day of nappies, boke and yaps. Robert is the random alarm as you’ve no doubt worked out. No time of day is sacred and we’ve gone beyond the 28 days for a refundable return. Now if I can only just find the snooze button without resorting to a boink on the noggin, all would be a lot easier to live with. My star-signs are telling me I’m going to get some disapproving looks for writing that. A good friend of mine recently posted a sign on their newborns bedroom door, something along the lines of “The Little P.I.T.A”. When asked by his good lady wife what it meant, he was reminded that an attempt at humour where babies are concerned should come with a health warning. Somehow referring to a clockwork crying machine as the “Pain In The Arse” is not a source of amusement. Being of similar nature to the man in question, I chuckled heartily. Though I’ll remind myself to learn from his mistake. Always have a back-up answer, a get-away car.
Overall Robert been fairly generous to us in relation to his sleeping habits. Nocturnally at least. So no matter how much I appear to be having a good old moan about it here, I cannot really complain. On the contrary, I’ve discovered a few new shows on the telly at those ungodly hours. The Amazing Dermot is one of these. It’s the type of humour you feel you shouldn’t be laughing at but you do. I “roflmao‘ed” a lot actually. Then again, maybe it was the strangeness of the hour that did it.

March 11, 2010 Posted by | Bringing Up Baby, Ondatelly | | 2 Comments

Speaking in Tongues

People complain in this day and age about an increasing lack of verbal communication in society. Seemingly we are all to busy sowing the seeds of arthritis in our thumbs or rubbing the grammar police up the wrong way with our e-mails. Honestly speaking, I’m not entirely sure on which side of the fence I’d like to be situated. Sadly the option of sitting on said fence would be a painful one as it’s pointy and rusty with a likelihood of contracting septicemia.
Ah feck it. I’m going to nail my colours to the mast. I genuinely believe we actually communicate more these days than we’ve ever done before. This is mainly due the means we have at our disposal in order to be able to contact each other: to send and receive instructions; to arrange gatherings or to simply have a good old bitch about him, her and the neighbour’s parakeet. Some methods are electronic, others software based. All are fairly modern and the scourge of the letter-writing mafia. I agree it’s nice to receive a letter from someone but it’s a pain in the backside writing one when one has a Blackberry instead. Mind you, I am slightly saddened that the art of crafting a letter has died, mainly as it’s impacted on the quality of our e-mails as well. We’re losing the ability to remember where to insert a full stop instead of a comma. I’ve read opinions on numerous public forums where even commas were conspicuous by their absence. Comma Comma Comma Comma Comma Chameleon you might say. However, the quality of internet commentary from Joe Public is a topic for another time.
What inspired today’s choice of topic I ask myself, especially as it’s one which has more questions than answers. Robert was sitting on my lap the other day soon after finishing having his beak stuffed with powdered watery milk. As happy as a pig in the proverbial, he started his usual gabbling, using a plethora of squeaks, squawks, goos and gaas. Naturally I return the compliments using an adult interpretation of baby chat, with the odd raspberry thrown in. Hey, anything for a smile. Beats having a gowling Wurlitzer on yer knee any day. It occurred to me that this was verbal communication in its’ purest form. Okay, neither of us had a baldy what the feck we were saying but there was a mutual understanding that we were enjoying ourselves and as such we would continue blathering away to each other. The wee fella has had a cold these last few days and I fear he thinks he’s Welsh. That’s not a huge problem per se but I’m buggered if I’m going to help him with his spellings when he grows up.
The important thing about verbal communication is that once we’re finished relaying information, we can understand each other. Since I left high school my whole life has been about communicating with people. Yet, unlike yabbering away with Robert and Eloise before him, there have been many times when I’ve mentally held my head on my hands, wondering what the bloomin’ heck has just happened. For almost eight years, I was an employee of the Prudential, explaining to people as nicely as possible that they may have been mis-sold their endowment policy. The call centre I worked in naturally covered the whole of the UK and all its regional dialects. Source of the problem number one. I’ll freely admit to failing a few times in fathoming what a Geordie might have been telling me. Mind you, I’ve heard my own brogue played back on tape, and I can sympathise with anyone who I’ve spoken to in the past. A face for radio maybe, unfortunately not the voice. Yes, yes. I know that ultimately we ended up singing off the same hymn sheet but the journey was often fraught with tension and mistrust, mainly on the customer’s part. Apparently having an Irish accent meant I was going to either sell their policy details to the Russians or tarmac their driveways.
In spite of this, I have a profound admiration for those who work in call centres as it’s the most thankless task in this day and age. Long ago, if you worked in customer service it was face to face or via the mail. Nowadays, thanks to modern technology, it’s right here, right now or I’ll ask to speak to your manager. A no win situation. Damned if you do and action-planned if you don’t. Funnily enough, my approach 99% of the time was to whisht them with politeness. It’s a great weapon these days to be polite to someone. It can totally diffuse a potential argument at the drop of a hat. Even better, it can disarm an obnoxious buffoon, the type who believes that if you swear and shout loudly enough, someone would gladly bend over to help them. Sad really. The telephone is a wonderful tool to help people with their lives and yet many have no clue how to use it properly. It’s more than pushing a few buttons folks.
The problem isn’t the methods of communication at our disposal nowadays, it’s the language we use. Jargon is the curse of human kind. Performance Management is a good example, a euphemism for berating, motivating, psychologically manipulating, threatening, and then firing someone. In even simpler terms, buck up or yer out. Apparently it’s acceptable human nature to confuse each other with big words, terms and conditions. Is it so hard to simplify things? I’m not advocating we all speak in text lingo. We may as well have lobotomies if we go down that road. That form of language is not required to bring our communications to a more eloquent yet comprehensible level. As I write this I feel I’m opening a few cans of worms above and beyond what I had initially anticipated. Consequently I’m going to leave them for another day, to be addressed when my brain can make sense of it all.
I blame the baby talk.

February 17, 2010 Posted by | Bringing Up Baby, Communicating | , | 2 Comments


I may never view a chicken korma  in the same light again.
Robert arrived back in November and  we were pretty darn chuffed. We’d waited a long time for this little bundle of gowling pleasure and when he was wrenched from the good lady’s belly, there was a sense of a job well done. A gentleman’s family we were told, now with one of each. We’ve been lucky so far that the wee lass has fully adopted him as her little pet lamb of love, or so she keeps telling him, as she smothers him with her hair when we’re trying to get him to have a little nap.  
You do forget about the many intricacies of having a new arrival in the house. The timing of the feeds, the military operation that is the sterilisation and production of the bottles. However, you’re just not prepared for the delights and wonders of nappy time. I have to admit that first time round with the wee lass I probably wasn’t as hands-on with the nappies as I should have been. Being a potential househusband means that I need to get stuck in so to speak and so far it’s not really been a problem. All has been generally tame and if there’s been a nappy explosion, there’s usually been the two of us here to deal with it. Until yesterday.
Holy Mother of Jaysus! Imagine the finale of Bugsy Malone, only this time using the afore-mentioned chicken korma. This was worse. I knew it was coming. The puce face, the furrowed brows and the sly grin. Nothing to worry about, a routine change required. Squelch squelch, splurt, eeewwww. “Ah Robbie ye wee bollix. What are ye at?” Give a little love and it all comes back to you indeed. Tra la la bloody la la la la.
The wee lass had previously described his output as chicken curry and that seems to have stuck. A bit like yesterday really. Stuck everywhere and anywhere. Up the back? Tick. Toes? Tick. Under the fingernails? Tick. More ticks than a stray dog? Tick. How in the name of all that is pure in the world can someone so small produce  something so devastatingly putrid? Rumsfeld’s “shock and awe” had nothing on this. Still, at least he seemed happy at the delights he had conjured up, a beaming grin portraying his obvious pleasure at having created such a visual and nasal display of bowel prowess. Good on ye wee lad but could ye not have waited until your Ma came home. I don’t genuinely mean that but it was a moment when too many chiefs and indians would not have been a problem.
Fifteen minutes later and all was back to normal. I’ll not even bother to describe the intervening water display half way through. You have the admire the wee fella’s ability to remain so calm when all about him was a maelström of choice words and bewildered exclamations. He must get that from his Ma. Melodrama is a standard trait on my side of the family tree. There’s no instance or occurence that cannot be turned into a request for UN help. I’m not sure the Blue Helmets would have welcomed this rescue mission. For now all is calm and so far today, any expulsions have been confined to manageable proportions. Keep up the good work, wee lad.
I’m dreading the Italian Meatballs phase though. 

February 10, 2010 Posted by | Bringing Up Baby | | 2 Comments