I’ve not written a blog for seven months partly due to apathy and ‘bloggers block’ but mainly because I couldn’t decide what to write it about.
I had grandiose ideas about all sorts of stuff none of it remotely interesting or funny and as ‘funny’ was the point of the thing in the first place I decided to not bother.
Initially I was going to write a blog about the magnificence of women both in general and through personal experience.
I was inspired by that story in January about the charity dinner held by ‘The Presidents Club’, an organisation which seems to be a bit of a plaything for toffee nosed tweed jacket and jeans wearing ‘Top Gear’ mouth breathers called ‘Bunty’ or ‘Nigel Sinjun Biffa III’. These are the men who can’t or won’t actually talk to women other than to request ‘bitty’ or engage in some perfunctory missionary position coitus before returning to a darkened room to write their memoirs of boarding school dormitory buggerings that made them the ‘men’ they think they are.
The event in question was exposed by a well meaning female reporter who infiltrated the waiting staff to see close up the gropings and ‘phnarr phnarr’ that occurred.
The problem was that it turned out to be a bit of a nothing story where most of the outrage came from the reporter rather than the staff in attendance who were clearly there for the money and seemingly in total control of this rabble of touchy feely strokers who are certain to to say things like ‘I could have shagged her y’know’ in the cab home when the possibility was only in their heads and more remote than your missus when you return from a stag weekend in Amsterdam.
I was going to wax lyrical about the strength of the women that I know and love and how that men are now the weaker sex resigned to beard oil, feelings, pale ale, Ed Sheeran albums, Jack Johnson wicker beach hats and jeans that don’t reach the loafers.
I’m the middle of writing this painfully earnest blog (earnestness being my most hated emotion as I always assume the deliverer is taking the piss) I noticed a Facebook post from a female friend of mine who lives abroad. This post appeared to indicate that she was in London and so in an attempt to call her bluff (as I didn’t believe it) I suggested that she meet me near where I work which is an undisclosed location near Holborn (it’s Holborn).
Within half an hour I was sitting with her in a coffee shop owned by dyslexic Brazilian serving such delights as ‘chess and picle’ sandwiches and piping hot ‘Lates’ having a lovely chat about the old times and the better times. She had called my bluff proving that she was still the funny, intelligent, magnificently gorgeous person I had met nearly 30 years ago.
We had a great half hour chat where we reminisced and caught up and just after she told me I had a ‘hard face’ (honesty, another great attribute) she asked me if I had a blog in the pipeline and so I told her of my plan to be the defender of womankind and to praise my sisters….
….it was at that second that I had a moment of clarity….
Who, and particularly the woman I intended on praising, would give an actual fuck what I thought? Why would anyone give a fuck? My arrogance was staggering.
I went home and consigned my 2,500 words draft to the ‘things that should never be made public’ file and rightly so.
Why would anyone want to know what a bloke with the body of a tin of beans, the vocabulary of a sailor with tourettes and the short fuse of a Doberman with an elastic band around the cobblers thinks about women? All the women I know are better than me on most levels excluding locations of headers I have scored and Van Halen knowledge.
I’ve reported to some outstanding women in my job who had less chips on their shoulders than the men of similar rank, my Mum was a better role model than my Dad, Jen is a stronger individual than I am and my Daughter is funnier than me. Unless there’s a war men are finished…. and even then most wars are carried out at arms length through technology and I’m certain women can press buttons in the necessary order or more importantly choose not to push them at all.
It’s over men, move on, it’s a women’s world and thats probably about right….. we blew it.
So, what to blog about?
My life supporting Arsenal and the kamikaze death dive of the arrogant Frenchman?
No one cares….. not even me…
This blog has limited viewings and is only completed to keep my brain active and to make its five followers occasionally chuckle. My opinion on the Arsenal would immediately halve my readership and would make the completed joke free effort even more or a waste of time.
What then? Ok….. standby…
This blog is about the absolute stinking shithouse that has been the last 9 years of my life.
I’m not talking for everyone, as some people have had a fuckin’ right laugh but I’ve found 40 – 49 to be a monumental catastrophe on a number of levels.
Deaths, illness, loneliness, friendships, work, social life, football, music (God the music). It stunk the place out.
(Hmmm… fear not sweet reader, these musings must have humour or I’ve failed so stay with me)
Obviously this won’t be in depth but merely a rapid ride down shit creek with a snapped paddle, a slow puncture and a half empty water canteen.
My 30’s were outstanding. Absolutely crammed with standout moments. It was the peak decade, football was great, the Arsenal were dominant, the music was legendary, I saw my mates every weekend. It was absolutely top notch and a fantastic laugh from beginning to end. My kids were born in that decade and so it’s the most memorable and importamt one to date.
I celebrated my 30th birthday with a house party where all my mates attended whereas my 40’s started with a low level effort in a pub. It was a portent of things to come. The start of the long slowdown into middle age.
The real trigger has been children.
Kids are great and I’d do anything for them but they become all consuming and change you and your lifestyle forever. It’s not even just you, the roll-on effect is total. You are housebound due to kids and so are your mates who have them. When you can socialise they can’t and vice versa. The bundles of joy are now in control and they can’t even speak. It takes about 14 years to free the shackles and even then you sit in restaurants in the brief moments of adulthood as a couple wondering if the kids are ok.
This, of course, isn’t the same for everyone. Normal people can rely on babysitters within their functional families. I couldn’t. My parents were engaged in a bitter war with each other and pretty much everyone else they came into contact with which included myself.
I was charged for childcare and babysitting for some reason even when my brother wasn’t and so eventually you just become resentful and don’t bother going out. I recall in 2011 only going out with Jen on our own twice that year and on the second occasion I was phoned after three hours and asked how long I was going to be…. pointless if you are staring at a clock pretending to enjoy yourself.
Now don’t get me wrong….I love kids. Kids enhance your life but in retrospect. They change your life in countless positive ways but they also have a detrimental effect on your relationship with the person you chose to have the kids with in the first place. Your relationship suffers as you are no longer a couple but become two individuals dealing with a complete change of circumstance… you lose each other in the carnage.
This isn’t a ‘woe is me’ story or a cry for help but just an example of how fuckin dull my 40’s have been through my own actions of impregnation.
I have a high proportion of friends without children and I now realise why they don’t. I’m not saying I’d want to go back in time as I’ve always wanted to have kids but their lives are infinitely better than mine.
I recall the freedom being incredible, the ability to do what you want when you want. It’s not even selfish as was once thought, it’s normal. Why would anyone really, deep down in the darkest parts of their mind want the drudgery of parenthood when they are free to properly live?
Of course the answer is the daily reward of being a parent. The smile, the laugh or the hug is enough to realise why you did choose it.
Then there’s the social aspect of parenting. In simple terms there isn’t any. Your mates with no kids socialise with your other mates with no kids, (who can blame them?) and you attempt to socialise with other people with kids but it’s almost impossible as calendars can’t be synchronised and even if you manage that, kids craving attention are still present. There is no possibility of stimulating adult conversation without some form of kid related trauma happening at some point so it makes the whole enterprise pointless and in the end you just stop arranging anything at all.
I still pop out for a beer with some hard core merchants but the great nights in pubs with Jen are seemingly long gone for now as is the ‘Band of Brothers’ you spent the previous decades creating.
Parenting is a lonely pursuit for the two parents. You and your partner have no time for each other and your mates dwindle due to circumstance. I’ve found the last 10 years a very lonely time due to an end to a vibrant social life and the inability to arrange stuff due to a lack of babysitting options and the demands of children…. maybe this is a ‘woe is me’ cry for help after all.
The other thing the 40’s brought me in spades was death, illness and misery. An absolutely fucking joyless decade in my life.
My Mother and my mother-in-law both died too early, the tramua of a seriously ill partner and three friends died (two of which were killed). Every year of my forties brought another massive personal hurdle to overcome in the head if not completely outwardly for the general public to view.
I know this happens with age and so expect it to get worse but this was the beginning of a life cycle for me and I’ve never really come to terms with any of it. I still don’t care much for remembering it, being reminded of it or talking about it in depth but I’m forever surrounded and haunted by it. It is my ghost.
I suppose I feel I’ve had my fair share for one life even though that is selfish and stupid as more tragedy will inevitably come.
So what is next, what does my 5th decade bring and will it be different? Are working and getting older all there is?
Of course not….well, I hope not.
There is always light beyond this faux middle class gloom which isn’t really gloom at all but is more the selfish, whining ramblings of a North London ponce. I have however been afflicted by the first signs of male aging.
There are many signs that age is upon you. The classic is not being able to last the night without a pee as the prostate slackens. I don’t suffer from that yet but I have reached the ‘dozing off at 9pm’ stage, the hairy pig-like ears needing constant attention stage, the ‘this drill is the problem’ phase and the purchase of the £25 Fiskars professional watering can stage for a ‘better watering experience’…..utter shit, all of it…. particularly the watering can which never worked and now sits idle like a totem of a lost decade.
Then there’s the clothing. I’ve never oozed sartorial elegance and never will mainly because I see it as irrelevant and my body won’t sign up to it. The best you’ll get from me is an ill fitting suit of maybe the ‘Dad classic’ of shirt with v-neck combo. Basically conservative candidate dull.
Outside of that, I’m usually found mincing about in the cruelly named ‘women repellent fleece’, t-shirt, jeans and some form of mountain climbing jacket for my non active, non mountain climbing life.
The greatest age definer comes in the form of denim. Jeans. At what point do you desist and jump the beige slacks train to certain death?
I’ve done all the jeans, the lot. All shapes and shades and none have fitted me due to my barrelesque carriage and hobbit legs which simply will not accomodate the hipster skinny efforts that don’t reach the ankle. I tried some skinny jeans on once, I thought the kids would die laughing. It was truly horrendous with my junk seemingly visible within them…. it scared me.
The hunt for new jeans is endless and recently culminated in me going full circle to buy ‘Wrangler’ which I assumed had been extinct since Tony Blair walked like a cowboy in the company of George ‘Dubya’ Bush in the 1990’s. Fucking ‘Wrangler’!!! No one wears these… next thing you know I’ll be wearing ‘Lee’ Jeans with a turn up, a capped sleeve t-shirt and some sort of satin finished blouson bomber jacket.
The end is nigh.
Then I engaged in the ultimate old man moment, the sign that you are on your last lap with the dangerous corner not to be taken at top speed.
It was a hot day and I was working locally to my house. I finished earlier than expected and so made my way home. I got off at bus stop which is directly outside a new low budget pub. For some reason I was drawn in to it like a pisshead looking for a chow mein.
I head that way and bowl in confidently and clock everyone as my job trained me to do.
The interior of ad hoc furniture and stainless steel doesn’t put me off and neither does the clientele which seems absolutely shitfaced at four o’clock in the afternoon and consists of men splattered in plaster and paint all drinking individually at a rollicking pace.
I am unphased by the random pensioners scattered throughout who appear to be here simply for warmth (even on a hot day), company and cheap fayre and head to the bar to peruse the options. A frosty pint of Kronenberg at a paltry £2.80 leaps out at me and the Jub behind the ramp delivers the goods.
I take a seat at a high stool near the bar with my headphones on listening to a book I’m too lazy to read in my woman repellent fleece (not a problem as no women are present) and my outward bound coat for my city based life, in my 1970’s shapeless Wrangler jeans and my top end urban rucksack containing fuck all bar an umbrella on a cloudless day and I watch the punters with a view to taking the piss out of them for my amusement.
And then it hits me.
I am one of them. I have become one of the lonely Wetherspooners even after only one visit. I have been assimilated into a world of cheap booze and low rank British curry within seconds.
This wasn’t a fact finding exercise or research, I actually chose to walk in this boozer for a beer….. on my own. I’m not waiting for a train, or killing time before meeting someone or even buying a pint to use the toilet (I won’t use a pub toilet without buying something…. it’s cheating), I seem to have walked into a pub on my own for a drink for no other reason than to have a pint. The Wetherspoon Paradox.
This is something I promised I would never do as it was the old man’s thing and therefore not my thing. I have always made drinking a social event not a solitary pursuit…. to me it’s about laughing and merriment rather than brooding, thinking and the need for booze. I have crossed the Rubicon into old age. Drinking alone with no excuse other than a taste for it is the starting point and may be for some but it aint for me. Next thing you know I’ll be standing at the bar, in a raincoat with a ball of corned beef for a nose sipping on Gold Label Barley wine complaining about everything being better ‘in my day’.
I finish the beer (I’m not completing insane), and leave. I can’t be starting all that shite yet, life must continue and be made to improve.
I see this as the culmination of the decade of dilution where you’re vibrant past is punished for having such a great time in previous decade.
As I said earlier the ‘Band of Brothers’ I was part of has effectively disbanded, through geography, parenthood and in some cases apathy to be replaced with a smaller ‘Specialist force’ operating in smaller theatres of war after work or at football matches.
This team is still gloriously effective and for that I’m grateful. Occasionally the old squad reforms for special events but it’s too infrequent for my liking and so weakens the memory of the glory it once had. An inevitable scenario maybe but I don’t have to like it.
Now this all sounds very grim and I know I sound bitter. I’m not bitter I’m just a bit sad the joy of parenthood seems to go this way, a sort of ‘Walking Dead’ lockdown where little gets in and you don’t get out much.
I wouldn’t change anything about being a parent directly to the kids other than them having to witness Jen being ill and seeing my Mum suffer, that’s was all too traumatic for small brains to take in. But if I could start again I’d insist on more fun for Jen and I as a couple as you lose each other in the job parenthood is.
The payoff of it all are the Christmas mornings or the Birthday faces and the smiles and cuddles, the school plays and the pride of watching ‘the smalls’ become people…..nothing could or has beaten those moments and nothing will. It’s a choice and we made that choice but it’s harder than you think if you havent done it, on a personal level.
And so now the 50’s loom large and I hope for a return to form. There is the possible return of a few troops from foreign fields and maybe a few sleeper cells might reappear from their entrenched nests for an airing on a few more occasions.
I will continue in my role as jester and coordinator and hopefully this new decade will be like when Stallone launched ‘The Expendables’ and new adventures suddenly opened up and extending careers untill knees creaked and the public got fucked off with the stupidity of it.
….and so another ramble ends. Next time I’ll be reporting from the South West where I’ll be taking on the Citizens of Kernow and I expect to leave dripping in tin and pasties as their King.
I’ll go with a joke I recentky saw…. seemed relevant given the length of this effort:
“A man was found guilty of planning a stream of consciousness novel.
He’s just started a 4 year sentence”
The Fiskars totem had me laugh out loud.
Many of my sentiments about parenthood chime with yours…from the time I heard a mate say…’fuck the little sleep thieves’ I knew I was in for a haul.
This is the first blog of yours I have actually read all the way through…I make no apologies, I have a short attention span for online content; I think “Ooh that looks interesting” start reading, get a couple of paragraphs in then check out how many there are left, then I think “life’s too short” and get on with my day (my loss!) – so what was different today? My train was delayed then cancelled…
A most enjoyable timewaster though! x
Cheers. Your commitment to my misery is outstanding. You’re in three of the others.