Smirking From Home

Turning ideas into words.

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

Face-Painted Experts

Congratulations to Amy Williams, Great Britain’s first and probably only gold medal winner at this year’s Winter Olympics in Vancouver. Not only has she a shiny bauble to hang around her neck but she can look forward to having a lucrative career in television when she retires. I’m envisaging Celebrity Skeletons in the Closet on Ice, a reality show where a celebrity’s past catches up on them, slamming down an ice tunnel on a bin lid and crashing through a wardrobe door. It could be hosted by Jeremy Kyle, with Amy training those “skeletons” to slide accurately down the tube. She’d need to learn how to train a 4 person bobsleigh team for Katie Price’s obligatory appearance though.
You have to love the Olympics and other similar global gatherings, such as the World Cup and a G8 summit meeting. There’s nothing like a large-scale shared experience to prove our ability to instantly become an expert of what’s happening in front of us. This idea came to me the other night when I switched on the TV about 2am, in preparation to sit down and feed Robert. The sight of an 18 stone Canadian’s Lycra-clad arse staring you in the face sure as hell conjures up a few bizarre thoughts. It’s only natural that after watching the first few attempts in the two-man bobsleigh, I became an expert in what was required to achieve Olympic gold. “Oh no, he’s gone a little high round that bend”, or “he doesn’t have the muscle mass to produce a quick start”.  You find yourself knowing half way round that their efforts would be in vain. At least you think you do. You shout at the curlers to produce a draw shot and wake the rest of the house up yelling “sweeeeep sweeep” at the top of your voice. Speaking of which, I wonder if they’d entertain the notion of doing the luge on an ironing board. I’d fancy me chances.
I’ll draw the line though, at painting various parts of my anatomy in support of my favourite team. That’s one of life great mysteries. A great global sporting event comes into the public’s eye and all of a sudden we’re slapping painted flags on our cheeks. Why is that? Does it help Rooney dribble better? Will Massa’s car accelerate faster just because you’ve painted a prancing nag on yer forehead? Maybe it engenders a nationwide sense of community, a feeling which I would heartily endorse rather than smirk at. Then again I would argue that the reason for these bouts of communal frivolity is all wrong, or at the very least, should not be solely confined to sport. With a general election, one English team is guaranteed to win something. No more misplaced hope on that front. A nice red rose for Labour, a tree for the Tories and a compost heap for the Green Party. What better way to bring politics to the proles and get the kiddies involved. Gangs of northern voters could take their tops off for Gordon, their beer bellies slathered in oily depictions of miner’s helmets and the Southern toffies replicating with top hats for David. And like following the world cup, we’ll all become experts once again on our Gross Domestic Product*, knowing our macro from our micro economies.
Such blind wisdom isn’t necessarily confined to great sporting events or elections. Currently I am an expert on the Argentine Tango and Alexandra Burke just doesn’t have the same vocal range as Leona Lewis. Thanks to modern television we’re all opinionated geniuses and what’s more, we’re now allowed to air our views in varying shapes or forms, be they phone votes, Internet forums or as gullible consumers in your local supermarket. Never before has so much power been put in the hands of the ignorant and we are loving it. We crave it without realising that we are being manipulated. We design our Jedward placards and buy our DVB jeans, safe in the knowledge that there’s food in our cupboards and heat in our homes. I’m not intending to veer down the sanctimonious route of ethics and morals. We live our lives the best we can in harsh times. However, there is more to life than believing that Sharon Davies was under marked for her triple salko or painting your face to support those who genuinely don’t give a two hoots about you in the first place. You don’t need Simon Cowell to tell you that either.
I’ll admit that I’m as guilty as the next man. I voted repeatedly in this years Strictly for Chris Hollins, mainly for his honest endeavour and warmth. I will also vote in the general election in May, the only sad thing being we won’t have that option to choose from. Anyone out there fancy painting my face?
* Otherwise known in our house as Robert’s nappy.

February 22, 2010 Posted by | Ondatelly, Politics | | Leave a comment

Smirking From Home

Life as a government artist has its upsides and downsides. A major benefit is you’re saved from listening to the inane chitter from the office millies about the latest reality show or how Liverpool still have won more European Cups than United from the besuited plebeians. When you work in an office environment you are dragged into these cesspits of verbal diarrhoea whether you want to or not. It’s akin to being paddled with wet towels about the head, your brain eventually resembling that of a Hollyoaks scriptwriter. There was a numbing inevitability about walking through the office doors each morning that I no longer miss, now being a recipient of governmental generosity for the foreseeable future. And yet the grass on this side of the unwashed divide isn’t exactly a whole lot better.
Yes there’s no longer the endless commute to deal with or rubbery pasta from the canteen for my savoury delectation, but there’s also the undeniable fact that daytime tv is for the challenged of many varieties. Fancy a free holiday? Then pretend you want to emigrate to Australia. Pack your shiniest synthetic clothes and head off Down Under whereupon you’ll discover that you can’t buy a new house in Oz for the price of a wigwam and that the indigenous wildlife isn’t all resident in the local petting zoo. You’ll dream about having a pool to spend your sunfilled evenings by, not realising that at some point a friendly neighbourhood kangaroo or possum will probably deposit a few faecal fancies for your cleaning pleasure. Maybe you’ve only decided to emigrate because some spiv in a suit has told you that Great Aunt Bonjella passed away and as sole heir you inherit their estate. She was a lovely lady, always willing to play with you when you were a child you’ll say, conveniently forgetting you have no idea who this person was, apart from a vague recollection that your Da had an Aunt once who smelled of catpiss and lozenges. You then find out she had no liquid assets but had an attic full of 17th century bedpans and fat porcelain figurines. One auction in a room full of retired schoolmasters and carehome daytrippers later and you’ve made a few bob and you are ready to travel. A small word of warning though. Australia isn’t Scunthorpe so any complaints about the length of time travelled will not be tolerated. Oh and here. Here’s a DVD of your family saying how much they’ll miss you and how much they want you to stay. It’s mainly the grandparents of your kids to be honest and they’re easily bought off. A free taxi to the local auction house and a packet of firelogs and they’ll say anything. No point in telling the producers that they’re delighted to see the back of your hyperactive halfwits and can now enjoy retirement in peace and tranquility. No more Yu-Gi-Oh for them. 
All of a sudden your morning’s over and you have the joys of afternoon television to feather your tickly-bits. By now, however, you’ve hyperventilated enough from shouting at the magic box in the corner, that you need a  Rich Tea or some similar sedative. After scooping the soggy biscuit from the bottom of the cup with a teaspoon you then realise you forgot to pick little Kyle or Jade up from pre-school. Luckily for me, I have until 2pm so this mistake is easily avoided. I have the pleasures of BBC Newsline to enjoy at one-thirty, a fun-filled affair proving that prostitution must now be legal in the corridors of Stormont. For now there’s no five-dollah whoors in Ulster’s corridors of power, even Ian or Gerry hasn’t mastered the pingpong special just yet. One is waiting for the great baby oil split to happen anytime soon. It’s only a matter of time.
To kill this slow crippling poison that has invaded my life, I’m going to spout, spew and speculate about stuff from the comfort of my black swivel chair. A view from the welfare state, you might say. Well it’s your taxes after all so I’d better give something back.

February 9, 2010 Posted by | Ondatelly | , | Leave a comment