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

A Short Break

You know you’re about to embark on short holiday to the North Coast when you check the weather forecast and it tells you that (a) it’s going to be blowing a gale and (b) the chance of precipitation is 100%. It’s hard not to laugh when we learn this evening that we’re also going to get some snow. I may take the knee-lengths out of the case.

Access to the interwebs will be non-existent in Ballycastle so there’ll be no more posts until Saturday at the earliest. As a heads up, here’s what will be upcoming over the next few weeks:

DIY: The Manly Way Part 2 – a weary tale of saws, hammers and bent nails.

Cheesecake – a dessert adventure.

Bring Back the House Party – more Noel Edmonds please.

Nobody Does it Better? – cover versions better than the original.

That’s yer lot for now. I’m going off to locate my thermals from the ironing mountain and I’ll leave you all with this.

March 29, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | | Leave a comment

DIY: The Manly Way Part 1

When it comes to making life easier for yourself, product promoters will try to tell you that having a gadget for a particular task should fit the bill. Our house has it’s fair share of technological and electrical gizmos, the majority of which are gathering dust somewhere. From onion shredders to power washers, the list is unfathomably long. From my point of view this lust for gadgetry derives from having a dislike of anything which requires manual dexterity or hard labour. Why give yourself wrist strain when you can use a cordless screwdriver instead? It’s a known fact that screwing something onto a wall will invariably involve twisting your body into bizarre contortions in order to achieve success. 
We’ve all had our fair share of DIY disasters. The clue’s in the name itself. If we wanted to expertly assemble cupboards or mount curtain poles we’d all have left school at 16 and became carpentry apprentices. Actually I’m being a little facetious here. A lot of people I know are extremely capable of a spot of DIY and look upon these tasks as a challenge to be overcome, usually with resulting success. It’s just me and my two left thumbs. Oh, and an inherent dislike of assembling stuff. Despite this, I have, as part of my responsibility as a houseowner and parent, have undertaken some “projects” about the house, with mixed outcomes. 
 Last Summer, the curtain pole in the bedroom decided to leap dramatically from the wall, spewing dust and various bits of masonry everywhere. The feckin’ thing took an age to put up in the first place and even then it always felt inevitable that there was going to be a disaster. So it was no great surprise that it did. Hateful a job as it was, I consoled myself with the knowledge that a case of rinse and repeat would correct the problem and the neighbours would no longer have to bear the sight of my bare arse as I changed my keks in the morning. I bet their Cheerios tasted funny during that time. To cut a long and painfully stressful story short, 4 weeks later we had a new curtain pole. Drilling holes in obstinate walls was never my forte but even I managed to create half a dozen of the bloody things, the unused ones now stuffed with parrotfood. B&Q did a roaring trade in screws, drill bits and masonry glue and the neighbour’s children now possess a vocabulary in various shades of blue. Remarkably it hasn’t fallen down yet although I’m not getting too comfortable just yet.
Despite being a drilling novice I once managed to attach a retractable washing line to the back of the house. Naturally it has since fallen down, but the blame for that rests squarely with the wee lass who had decided to train for the London 2012 Asymmetric bars. Honestly speaking, I’m not dreading re-attaching the line. For some bizarre reason I found that drilling into the outside wall was a lot easier than the one inside the house. One of life’s little paradoxes I presume, the dime bar of DIY. I wouldn’t recommend undertaking a similar project if you’re the owner of dentures. You could always use the masonry glue I suppose.
Every Summer when we, well I say we but really I mean she, as in the good lady herself, attempt to clear out the shed, it never ceases to amaze the alarming number of tools and gadgets we possess. The bright blue plastic cupboard on wheels, originally intended for the bathroom, is awash with screwdrivers, hammers, cheap Stanley knives and who knows what else. Yet when it comes down to finding the relevant item for a job in hand, the obligatory phone call to a neighbour is required. Either that or another trip to the father-in-law’s garage. A man dearly missed by us all, my father-in-law was Mr DIY and possessed every known tool available to mankind. IF World War Three had ever broken out suddenly we knew we could have relied on him to knock up a fallout shelter out of old furniture, some paving slabs and a few rolls of string. MacGuyver had nothing on him. No job was too innocuous nor too daunting and he had the equipment always at hand. There’s none like him and unlikely to be in the future as us males become more DIY deficient as the years go by. We’re losing many skills which were virtually essential amongst the older generations. I doubt if the latest iPhone has an application for assembling computer desks.
As the harshest Winter we’ve had for decades shows signs of disappearing and the trees, normally ablaze with blooming blossoms by now, showing new signs of life, the impending doom of cleaning up the garden approaches. Manual effort again, you see. The paths are manky and the grey muck of winter has splattered the outside walls. Time to produce the power washer. It’s in the shed somewhere.

March 24, 2010 Posted by | I Am What I Am | , | Leave a comment

A United Front

It’s ironic, in our current recessionary times, to know of at least 100,000 individuals who are wholeheartedly throwing their support behind a group of wealthy financiers and hedge fund directors. A small lump catches in the throat writing that sentence as I have previously tended to favour the public lynching approach when it comes to bankers. However, I’m not scribbling today about how they and their ilk have unapologetically knackered our lives for at least the next 10 years. We all have enough to think and worry about on that front. Today’s concern is about collective action in pursuit of a common goal and the case in point is Manchester United.
With full colours nailed firmly to the mast I’ll readily admit to being a Red of the devilish kind. United inspire devotion and loathing in equal measure. Recent years of phenomenal success have exacerbated that fact, which makes for many a lively conversation across dinner-tables and in workplaces the whole country over. The major question is though: could that loyalty and enmity come together with the aim saving the bleeding soul of English Football? It’s extremely unlikely but there are times when tribal feuding needs to be put aside to vanquish the foreign invader. It’s unfortunate that the blinkered attitude of many rival football fans will probably prevent such a groundswell of protest and action ever producing tangible results. Yet something has to be done and this week I offered my support to a group who are at least attempting to lead the revolution.
The Manchester United Supporter’s Trust (MUST) are openly recruiting fans, home and abroad, to sign up to their campaign to force the Glazer Family from their ownership of the team. IT’s common knowledge, that by buying the club in 2005, the Glazer’s have currently loaded over £700 million of debt onto Manchester United, a figure that will continue to rise. The potential ramifications are huge, of that there’s no doubt. Luckily, MUFC are a highly profitable sports brand and as such are currently buffeted against immediate financial collapse. IN the current economic climate nothing is certain and that’s the major concern. Vast sums of money are leaving the club, which ultimately will be detrimental to the team and the club’s legacy. There are many out there who would relish the collapse of United. Whilst I may be naive in thinking that this could solely be limited to affairs on the football pitch, it would be churlish for any opposing fan to wish for the total destruction of one of their most hated rivals. As a United fan I derive constant amusement at the obligatory “this is our year” jabberings from the Scousers every August but I could never countenance them disappearing down a financial black hole, a perilous situation which they also face. That’s a no-win situation for all fans of the beautiful game.
So on Wednesday I signed up to the MUST website and offered my support to the campaign. The process was relatively simple although I have to admit to being a little underwhelmed by the quality and functionality of the site. I imagine that their incoming web traffic must be causing some technical issues so I can understand any problems they may be experiencing. The main aim however to generate interest in the idea that through pressure and ultimately, financial backing, the Glazer’s can be returned to Florida, tails between their legs. The irony of this being, is if they do, they’ll be returning even wealthier, possibly through selling the club to the Red Knights. Whether the whole plan is feasible, plausible or credible is irrelevant at this point in time. The main fact is that enough fans of united come together to show their support for the initiative. Yes, United is a cash cow, and will be for any investor but surely it’s better for the supporters and the club that the investor’s are (a) well known as fans of United and (b) will not have the club as debt laden as it presently is. Is the grass greener on the other side? Well, I’d like the chance to find out.
An interesting sideshow to all this is happening in Liverpool. The Spirit of Shankly group is trying to force their own Yankee Doodles out of their club as well. I wish them luck although I was disheartened by the following comments made by their spokesman, Jay McKenna, with regards to mutual co-operation between the two organisations in respect to their campaigns. 
Angry as the group is though, there is little chance of them linking up with Manchester United fans, many of whom are equally incensed by the American ownership at their own club, when the two bitter rivals face each other at Old Trafford on March 21.

“It is a complete non-starter,” McKenna added.

“The idea that Liverpool and Manchester United fans will walk down the same road together is never going to happen.”  

Whilst I can understand the mutual loathing between the two sets of fans, surely the greater interest of both parties should take preference. The idea of two bitter rivals sharing a platform towards a common goal could only send a clear defiant message to the powers that be. Stranger things have happened although the police may have something to say about the feasibility of such a congregation.
Let’s just wait to see how things pan out over the coming weeks and months. 

March 5, 2010 Posted by | Sport | , | Leave a comment

Ironing: The Manly Way

Her facial expression said it all when I told her. It was as if I had announced that I had converted to Islam, or worse again, in her eyes, turned Prod. Not only had the evil Presbyterian temptress stolen her eldest grandson away from the all the innocent sweet Catholic colleens in the South, she was now forcing me to do the ironing. A man ironing!? Surely that was the job of the woman of the house. Before you know it there’ll be Famine, Pestilence, Death and War riding the apocalyptic Grand National. I was unleashing the destruction of masculinity upon the world, committing treason against what she had believed in for so long. All matters housework were not the responsibility of the man.
What she couldn’t comprehend was the fact that I said I actually enjoyed ironing. No word of a lie. Pop the telly on, get out me board and start smoothing. In an odd way it’s remarkably therapeutic, duvets and all sorts of bed-linen excepted. There’s little heavy thinking involved, unlike bloody DIY and a damn sight less strenuous. Those extreme ironers can pish off with their cliff-top extravagances and underwater starching. A good cup of tea and the 6 Nations is all I need. Hardly adrenalising but if I wanted that kind of buzz I’d run through a mosque eating a bacon sarnie and singing viva la Diva. A good life or death chase should always involve an Israeli transsexual and Friday prayers. I’d better patent that idea before Endemol do.
Aye, it’s not the worse way in the world to relieve some stress. After your first few efforts you do start to get the hang of it, finally succumbing to vanity when you’ve ironed the perfect shirt. To me that’s the pinnacle of ironing achievement. The Morphy Richards Prize for Smoothing Excellence. Feck, I should get out more. Though there’s no denying the pleased feeling you get when the shirt you’ve just spent 5 minutes on looks sharp and supermodel flat, with nary a bump or crease to be seen. To be brutally honest, everything is tailored to the situation required. NO need to worry over a garment’s smoothness if it’s going underneath another item of clothing. It’s the manly shortcut again I suppose. Why should it be ironed if no one’s going to see it? I’ll admit to ironing my keks mainly because they’re easy to do, a nice breather between the blouses and vests.
I took over doing the majority of the ironing mainly because we had run out of carpet to vacuum. The vacuuming used to be my main household chore when we lived in Belfast. Back then I played a lot of Final Fantasy and I had to earn my brownie points in some way. The same applies now, as I’m soon approaching my fifth year immersed in Azeroth. Ironing is my gaming currency. My interest in PC gaming led me a number of years back to build my own PC. Boys and their toys eh? Funnily enough when I set foot on my ironing path, I adopted the typical man approach of finding the appropriate tools for the job. Hence we’re now in possession of a board which no feckin’ cover will properly fit and a digital iron. Well if the job’s to be done right the tools have to be fit for manly purpose.
Like I have mentioned previously I enjoy this task. As long as there’s something to watch on the telly then I’m good to go. Next up? Learn to love gardening. That’s what.
Oh and I recommend for company when yer de-wrinkling yer jeans. 

February 22, 2010 Posted by | I Am What I Am | , | 1 Comment

Cleaning: The Manly Way.

The downstairs of our house has no carpet. You have to love tiles and wooden floors, although I would much prefer to partake in a spot of vacuuming as opposed to “down on the knees” scrubbing and mopping. There is, however, a solitary maroon mat in the family area. Right behind me now as it happens. It acts as the communal gathering point for rebellious crumbs and hooded cat hairs, the dust particle equivalent of the local park, only without the bottles of Lurgan Champagne. One minute it’s nice and Dyson fresh, the next it possesses a furry stubble. The damn cat’s the main offender. How she manages to open the packet of digestives I’ll never fathom.
Sunshine slashing through the window blinds usually exacerbates the problem, the same way it show’s just how much dust can congregate on your 32″ LCD. Today was no exception and for fear of the rug standing up and walking out of the house in open rebellion, I gave the Dyson its weekly outing. Two minutes is all it takes. Nice and simple, no nooks or crannies to negotiate and nothing that should worry anybody who has a talent at cleaning or housework of any sort.
Or so you would think. I do my fair share about the house but in a manly way. Not by wearing a loincloth and wrestling grizzlies kind of manly, but more like shuftying things about the place kind of manly. Think Phil Spencer and Kirsty Allsop. Think hunt the thimble. And more importantly, understand the male appreciation of the shortcut. In today’s case, the mat was easily and quickly sucked clean. As were the surrounds and beneath the sofa. By beneath the sofa I mean the first inch and a half the nozzle can penetrate. Robert’s christening is a few weeks away so the big spring clean can wait another day. What I shouldn’t have done was attempt to clean the computer desk the manly way. No need for a dustcloth or polish. Attack the fag ash and toast crumbs with the hoover, that’s the way to do it. Just be careful about items on your computer desk that have temporarily dropped by to say hello. Say, for example, a half drank cup of coffee. Or a fabric baby’s bootee.
It’s that split second when you know something’s about to happen, you know you should be doing something about but the connection between your brain and your reflexes blows a fuse. Whoomph! “Pants”. At least the camel and the eye of the needle idea could be proved if you had a large enough vacuum cleaner. Where had it gone? Well I can now honestly say I know how the extruding accoutrements of a Dyson are assembled. Meccano training as a 10-year-old has finally had its uses. Putting it all back together was naturally trickier than expected. That’s one of the predictable facets of life, rarely disproven by man or beast.
So what have I learned today? The bloomin’ obvious mainly. Sometimes it’s better to sacrifice the manly, shortcut method of cleaning the house and use yer paws. We men eh? We’ve all been there at some point, haven’t we? And does the hoover still work? Can’t answer that. The mats already been cleaned for this week.

February 12, 2010 Posted by | I Am What I Am | , | 1 Comment