Do you own an item of clothing that makes your partner find you literally more unattractive?
They’re a pair of grey Nike sweatpants.
I don’t know how I came to own them. I think my Mum bought them for me in a charity shop about 15 years ago. They’re the type of clothing that just suddenly appears in your wardrobe without any funfair. A type of clothing that you look at and deep down know that somebody has probably died while wearing them.
Anyone who knows me, won’t be surprised that they aren’t stylish. But I don’t think it’s necessarily the design or style of them that she hates. It’s the fact that they simply do not fit.
You see, they’re oversized. But not in the cute way my girlfriend wears oversized clothing. She will walk into the living room wearing a stylish oversized shirt that makes her look like she’s walked straight out of a music video.
No, that’s not how I do oversized clothing. My sweatpants cover most of my feet but are just short enough to let my toes peer out at the world. Sorta like the way a tortoises head comes out. Except in this instance there is no cute reptile, just my wispy Lord of the Ring toes.
I’ll stop now before I turn everyone on.
I wear them all the time behind closed doors and my girlfriend despises them. As soon as her eyes meet me when I have them on, I can see that her face tells the story of a life full of wrong decisions.
When we were first dating she would subtlety try to hide the fact that she found them revolting.
“Don’t you think you should put some shorts on? Bit warm for those? No?”
Five years later, it’s very much a different tone altogether.
“ONE DAY I AM GOING TO CUT THEM INTO TINY LITTLE PIECES AND BURN THEM IN THE BACKYARD!”
I still haven’t plucked up the courage to ask her if she’s going to do this while I’m STILL wearing them.
Now, you might be asking, “If she finds them such an issue, why don’t you just get rid of them?”
There are two answers to this.
1) I’m a prick who finds them so comfortable I would rather ruin her day on a regular basis than dispose of them.
2) I’m a prick.
Without walking into the arena of stereotypes, my girlfriend is a very fashionable person. She is always getting deliveries of some sort and loves trying things on. So I see why it annoys her when I walk around in these monstrosities.
I get it.
I understand I have no sexual currency when I have them on.
I just haven’t got the heart to say goodbye to them.
Anyway, I’m off to put some socks on, my toes are freezing.
Despite life being meaningless and the overwhelming fact that we’re living on a dying planet, I’ve recently found myself in one of those periods in which for some random reason, I’ve been trying to self improve. This has mainly taken the form of me embracing the challenge of learning a new language. Well, I say, ‘learning a new language’, but all I’ve really done is download the Duolingo app and spent my breaks in work weirdly mouthing such completely necessary sentences as, “the dog eats rice” and “the rhinoceros has a horn.” Undoubtedly, these are sexual euphemisms that are only spoken in foreign climates by bored business men. In fact, if I’m ever abroad and hear someone utter a sentence about a ‘rhinoceros having a horn’, I’m sprinting to the nearest airport. Pronto.
Admittedly, I am still at the really early stages of using Duolingo so I don’t want to judge it too harshly, but the lessons are full of similar bizarre impractical sentences about ‘giraffes reading newspapers’ and ‘socks not speaking English’. I did initially wonder if I had accidentally chosen a setting in the app that was specifically for people with brain injuries. But no, that’s just how they do things in crazy old Duolingo world.
Now you might be thinking, “which language have you taken upon yourself to master, Paul?” Perhaps it’s a language of a country that you one day hope to live in? Maybe a country that you visit on a regular basis? On both of these assumptions you’d be incorrect. I simply went to my old friend Google and asked, “what is the easiest language for an English speaker to learn?” A couple of articles later and I am now a student of Dutch. My inherent laziness not stretching to the next five hundred articles explaining that it’s pretty much a waste of time because almost everyone in the Netherlands speaks English.
Upon receiving this knowledge you would assume that I stopped learning Dutch and found a more practical language to learn? Again, you’d be painfully incorrect. You see, whoever designed the Duolingo app ingeniously designed a streak system which once started makes it incredibly difficult to abandon. In fact, I’m currently on an impressive forty one day streak and now spend most of my days worrying about losing it. I can only imagine what my streak anxiety will look like if I one day make it to a significant three or even four digit number.
As I mentioned earlier though, I have been forced to sneak off on a number of occasions to a quiet area in work in order to fit my practice in. A couple of weeks back now, I found myself alone in the changing rooms with my headphones in and repeating back in English the sentences that were flashing in front of me. In hindsight, I was definitely doing that thing people do when they have headphones in and began shouting back the sentences at a volume that was inappropriate even at a football match, nevermind a workplace. Anyway, there I was screaming back in a mixture of English and Dutch when this sentence appeared, “Ik ben een vrouw. ” I confidently highered my speaking voice and bellowed repeatedly the English translation, “I AM A WOMAN, I AM A WOMAN, I AM A WOMAN.” Then out of nowhere, I felt a presence watching over me. Out the corner of my eye I could now see the shining bald head of the security guard slowly making its way around a corner. As our eyes met he dashed away, clearly thinking he had discovered a bearded employee who was in the courageous first steps of a gender transition.
I’m trying to better myself and there I was becoming a talking point at that man’s evening meal with his family.
Anyway, I must admit, I’m now five weeks down the line and my motivation is beginning to seriously wane. In the first week I downloaded the app I was averaging about thirty five minutes per day testing my new skills out and reading over Dutch newspapers. However, like most of my fads I’m decreasingly spending less and less time on it and before I know it I’ll be back to being a little Englander who slowly open mouths sentences to far superior people when ordering beers on a city break.
Does anyone know the Dutch for, ‘stop being an ignorant lazy fuck?’
Me and my friends joined the list of victims of COVID 19 last year when our long awaited “LADS” holiday was put on ice. We had planned to get away for a few days when the last of us reached the grand old age of thirty.
Our last summer getaway was unbelievably now NINE years ago when for our twenty first birthdays we flew out to the party capital of the world Las Vegas. Now to give you some idea of how unprepared we were for this, when we stepped off the plane, I had jeans and a cardigan on.
IN AN ACTUAL DESERT!
I enjoyed our week there. It was great. But in hindsight, I just don’t think we were the type of twenty one year olds that Las Vegas was designed for. We thought we would end up partying all night taking drugs and creating incredible stories that we could pass on to our children when we were grey and old. In reality, we mistakenly ended up at a burlesque show that was full of excitable young women and gay men and also fell asleep three quarters of the way through a cirque du soleil show. The remainder of the holiday consisted of us playing on ten cent machines and generally looking pale and uncool beside swimming pools. We even went the cinema twice. Twice. In one week. In Las fucking Vegas.
We. Knew. How. To. Party.
Almost a decade later and undeterred by a global pandemic, we decided that we would finally get away together again this year. With age on our side and self awareness now an attribute we had in our arsenal, we wisely decided that we needed somewhere that was a little less action packed.
We decided to go camping for the weekend in the Lake District.
Out of the three of us that had decided to go, it was only me who had failed to get the Friday booked off work. This sadly meant that instead of setting off early we’d have to wait until the evening to begin travelling. However, I had pre-warned my fellow campers that there was an opportunity that I could finish early and requested that they would be ready to leave when I contacted them. My friends assured me that this would be no problem.
You can imagine my excitement then, when at midday, a good four or five hours before we were meant to leave, when my manager tapped me on my shoulder and informed me that I could get an early dart. I shot up, quickly got changed into my holiday shorts and t-shirt and got straight on the phone.
“I’ve finished! We can leave now. We’ll be there before we were even meant to be setting off. FUCK YOU RUSH HOUR TRAFFIC!” I gleefully exclaimed.
The reply back could be best described as disheartening.
“Oh yeah. I have my lad. Can’t leave until his Mum gets back. Also, I haven’t even started packing yet.”
I couldn’t get dressed and go back to work. That would be ridiculous. So I did what any self respecting man would do – I sat behind a wall in the car park and drank lukewarm beer for almost three hours.
I WAS ON MY HOLIDAYS.
After four cans, three hours and a number of disapproving sideway glances from members of the public, my chariot arrived in the form of a Ford Corsa. The journey there was pretty uneventful, only stopping momentarily at a motorway service station Burger King for a fine dining experience.
But before I knew it, we had arrived.
As we walked from the car park to the campsite it became evident that none of us in our thirty years of existence had actually ever put a tent up. Panic set in. It was getting darker and we didn’t want to find ourselves in a field in the pitch black pathetically assembling a tent and being judged by our new temporary neighbours. Almost in unison as we walked the last few yards to the field we repeated our new mantra, “Don’t embarrass ourselves, lads.” We must have looked like maniacs. Nervously muttering to ourselves like we were about to commit a terrorist attack.
Our mantra didn’t help at all but after an agonising forty five minutes we finally had the tent up. Quickly however, we realised we had made a massive mistake. The tent was inside out. It had never occurred to us that the poles were meant to be on the inside. So as everyone else was having BBQ’s, playing music and making memories, we reluctantly began to rip out hooks from the floor as we sounded off about getting a hotel next time. The tension at times was unbearable but after another thirty or so minutes we had our new home in front us. Success.
With the tent now up and the last of the days sunshine dwindling we headed for an evening swim. The images we had seen of the campsite had shown holidaymakers frolicking in a lake just yards from their tents. The only pathetic lake we had managed to discover was ankle deep. There was no frolicking and it became quite clear quite quickly that we were just lifelong friends that were awkwardly sitting together semi-naked on barely wet rocks. After about twenty minutes of looking at my best mates nipples I suggested that it was probably best that we retire to the tent for a well deserved early night. All parties agreed and consequently disappeared into separate bushes to dry off.
The first nights sleep in the tent wasn’t as comfortable as I thought it would be. This was mostly due to my lack of preparation and my complete lack of knowledge at just how cold it would be during the early hours. I wrongly thought that even with our dismal summers in the UK, it would still be warm enough to get a toasty night’s sleep. Fast forward two hours and I was shivering under an old duvet surrounded by plastic bags full of empty cans of alcohol and uneaten sandwiches lovingly made by my girlfriend hours before.
We all awoke like the inexperienced campers we were. Our eyes filled with first world trauma after a disastrous night’s sleep. However, upon asking each other how we slept, our British conditioning of repressing negativity set in.
“Like a baby, mate.”
“Perfect. Nodded off straight away.”
“Best sleep in years.”
Sat on our soaked travel chairs we looked at each other in the eyes. Each one of us knowing that the man either side of us was a lying bastard. The weary chat then changed to a camp meeting about what our first full day in the Lakes would entail. I put forward the motion that we should head straight into the nearest village, find a pub and do absolutely nothing else. My motion was carefully considered by my campmates and then disregarded. Apparently, we must first earn the beer and climb one of the majestic hills that surrounded us.
I don’t mind walking on holiday if the walk has an end goal. And by ‘end goal’, I mean ‘a pub.’ I just don’t get putting yourself through all that physical exertion if all you going to get as a reward is a sense of achievement and stunning scenery. Some people would call me a moron for echoing that sentiment. And they’d be correct.
Anyway, despite my unwillingness to climb anything other than the stairs leading up to the bar, I quickly found myself panting half way up what everyone else was describing as a hill but what I will refer to simply as a, ‘fucking huge mountain.’ Much to my annoyance every human in sight was absolutely loving themselves. Like agile mountain lions, pensioners were manoeuvring through rocky terrain like it was nothing. Children were skipping and singing songs merrily on fucking high. I, however, had my hands in a bag of prawn cocktail crisp and as sweat cascaded down my face I refused to go any further. Stupidly, I thought that my refusal would mark the end of this walk and that we would now go and actually enjoy our holiday. Nope. My mates left me beside a rock and told me they’d be back shortly. With my fingers now full of crisp dust I sat there while other hikers passed me by. I can only assume that they thought I was waiting to be rescued or that I lived there. Either way they didn’t care and I sat there like I was told until my friends returned.
Thankfully our morning adventure soon came to and end everyone was now in agreement that it was time to find a pub.
Before we left, we decided that we would visit as many pubs as possible. We would do our very best to find the most authentic boozer and an atmosphere that screamed realness. Despite our best intentions, however, we only made it to the second pub and never left. “The Ambleside Tavern” was a brilliant little place. The price of the beer was reasonable and we had even managed to get a seat. Who needs authenticity when you have convenience?
For the first time this weekend, I now felt like I was on holiday and I spent the next few hours contently sinking pint after pint. I’d love to expand on what happened for the rest of the evening, but all I can really remember is semi-aggresively cornering the musician who was playing that night and telling him to make sure he let me know if he ever played my hometown. Enthusiastically he nodded along but my misplaced energy definitely scared him off ever taking up the offer to play within thirty miles of my city.
Unsurprisingly, the second nights sleep was incredible. As soon as my drunken head hit my pillow I was gone. Nothing and I mean nothing would have interfered with my sweet Z’s that night.
As often is the case with a drunken night’s sleep I awoke the next morning more tired than I have ever been in my entire life. The hangover hit me hard. Exhausted and holding back vomit I resolutely ploughed on. Sunday was our last day and after dismantling the tent we would squeeze the joy out of the remaining few hours left on our LADS holiday.
For weeks and weeks I had bugged my mates that on our last day we must visit the incredible picturesque ‘Bowness on Windermere.’ I had stayed there a couple of times with my girlfriend and had fallen in love with the place. True to their word my mates drove the forty five minute detour to only be turned away at every car park we reached. In sheer desperation we circled the place about three times in an attempt to find a parking place. Not a chance. With our heads spinning and the car holding that smell that can only exist when three unwashed hungover men occupy a small space we decided to head home.
Again, the drive back to Liverpool was uneventful and after about two hours and thirty minutes I found myself stood outside my gate. A gate that had recently been visited by what I hope was a dog and had done the biggest shit I have ever seen. With a roll of my eyes and a careful side step, I climbed over the dirty protest like one of those pensioners I had encountered just twenty four hours previously and made my way into my house.
My summer British holiday was now over – and I think we’ll wait until COVID goes away before holidaying again.
Something that I get accused of on a regular basis is that I over share parts of my private life in exchange for easy laughs. That instead of keeping things to myself like the mature adult I should be, I’ll instead eagerly blurt something embarrassing out in order to hit the comedy jackpot and bathe in the warmth of my easily earned laughter. With that in mind, please prepare yourself to read this weeks blog on the topic of me finding a brown growth on my penis.
It started a few evenings ago, when upon ending one of my usual visits to the toilet, I discovered a dark patch of skin just looking back up at me. Instantly, a mixture of panic and intense anger stirred deep within.
“Just my fucking luck. Of all the cancers to get, I get dick cancer. Nobody is going to do a cake sale for penis cancer…. ” I found myself muttering as I strode determinedly towards my poor girlfriend with penis in hand.
Greeted with the usual sigh and roll of the eyes that I have been accustomed to over the years, she rather wisely pointed out that it was probably nothing but it was best that I contacted my GP in the morning. This advice was by far the most sensible thing to do. I knew it was the route I should take even before she said it. Unfortunately, however, I am a silly man and as silly men often do I decided to ignore the sensible woman and instead spent the next two days unproductively comparing my growth to some of the most cancer riddled genitalia the internet had to offer.
Now there are some life events that are so important that people just know were they where when they took place. JFK’s assassination, the death of Princess Diana, 9/11. In years down the line when I’m asked, “At what point did your girlfriend lose all respect for you?” I’ll know in a heartbeat that it was on a Monday evening in July after leaning over to my beloved and asking her for the seventy fifth time to look at some random unfortunate penis on Google Images.
With a random mans penis just inches away from her face she snapped and informed me that she would finally end this nonsense. I awoke the next day to an email informing me that I would receive a call from my GP in the coming hours.
Today I was to face my fears.
And my health anxiety fears were raised to an all time high when in work my phone began to ring.
This was it.
I was in the last few moments of living in world where I wasn’t seriously ill.
I picked up my phone and walked past a colleague who I mouthed something about needing to take a call too because vagueness is king when you’re just about to go and stand in a corridor and attempt to privately discuss a potentially serious medical issue about your cock.
The phone call started as I expected it to begin. The bog standard questions about my general health and so on. Quite quickly, however, it became apparent that he would need to take a look at the marking and he politely suggested that I send him some photos. Reluctantly, I agreed and asked him what would happen once he had viewed the photos. His answer startled me.
“If I call you back it is probably something that needs more attention. If not, I’ll just text you.”
For some bizarre reason, he was adding jeopardy into this. Like some sort of twisted game show host he held all the power in his hands and I would soon become transfixed on my phone hoping to be this weeks lucky winner and receive the text that would confirm I could continue to exist.
Now I’ve had terrible starts to many working weeks, but very few have involved me sneaking off from work and taking pictures of my junk in the disabled toilets.
But there I was.
It was happening.
We live in a world ruled by identity politics. Almost on a daily basis I see people of all genders, sexuality, classes arguing between each other. However, I think we can all agree on one thing – dicks are disgusting. Even on the best day with the most flattering lighting, one hundred percent of them still took gross. But on this day, hidden in a disabled toilet with my foot up against the door I might possibly have owned the most disgusting of all dicks on planet Earth. The combination of potential serious illness and being discovered by a work colleague had made my little fella completely shrivel up. I genuinely remember pathetically shouting after my fourth attempt at capturing an image, “Just fucking work will you?!”
It was like the night I lost my virginity all over again.
But alas, I managed to take a couple of images that wouldn’t result in a lawsuit and sent them straight his way. I then lifted up my trousers, walked back into the office and sat down at my desk like the disgusting pervert I am.
Within seconds my phone buzzed.
IT WAS A TEXT!
“Thanks for the photos, Paul.”
What a weird start of a text I thought. Nobody is thanking anyone for those photos, doc. My girlfriend is the one person on this planet who *might* want them and even she would vomit instantly on sight of seeing those.
“Just looks like a pigmentation issue. Nothing to be concerned about. Please keep an eye on it and if there are any changes, please get in touch.”
The relief washed over me. I wasn’t going to die! Phew! I looked around and felt nothing but gratitude. Life was beautiful. Everything once again seemed possible. I was at one with everything and everyone in that office. I closed my eyes and took a deep breath…
“Those horrible photographs are going to live on the internet forever.” My internal monologue whispered into my psyche.
The panic was back. I then remembered that the ninteen year old me once posted a picture of his anus in a random forum online because he had convinced himself that his newly birthed haemorrhoid was anus cancer.
My naked body was all over the internet! At this point, I might as well start an OnlyFans.
With the cringe enducing memories refusing to vacate my mind, I slowly placed my head on to my desk in some sort of exhaustive embarrassment.
I had lived to tell this tale, but in that moment it dawned upon me – nobody ever really dies on the internet.
A few weeks back I went for a meal with the future in laws. I’ve been for many meals with them by now and this was nothing out of the ordinary. The usual nice bit of food, a few too many alcoholic drinks and the standard four hours of pure panic making sure I come up with enough small talk so they don’t think that their daughter is with a serial killer.
You know, all the normal stuff.
During my usual ‘make-sure-you-don’t-say-anything-too-weird’ pitter patter with the partner of my girlfriend’s mother, I wandered into my usual safe space of talking about football.
“Liverpool did well considering the amount of injuries we had this season.”
“England have got a manager in Southgate that will pick players on form rather than reputation.”
“If COVID has showed us anything, it’s just how important fans are.”
I was half way through my main at this point and things were going swimmingly. It seemed like I was going to get through another social event with my girlfriend’s family without raising any serious concerns that their daughter would end up chopped up in a fridge freezer.
It was at this point that the subject of ‘matched betting’ came up.
“You can’t lose, mate. I’ve been doing it for weeks and I’m a few hundred quid up.” He boasted while stuffing chicken wings into his gob.
Straight away my cynical side kicked in and I felt the urge to argue back.
“What you do, is you take up an offer on a bookies website that gives you free bets, match that on the bet exchange and then use your free bets to make profit. Simple.” He said like rain man at an all you can eat buffet.
Surely this is one of those things that are too good to be true I communicated with my girlfriend with one of those knowing looks. It’s sort of too good in the same way, when as a child, your slightly older loser uncle used to try and sell you adulthood. Pontificating with his wise words like an ancient sage while holding a can of Strongbow.
“You don’t have to go to school! You have your own money! They let you drive a car!”
Oh it all sounds absolutely brilliant Uncle Kev. Well, until you actually reach adulthood and then they surprise you with credit ratings, a volatile job market and haemorrhoids.
No, it’s nonsense. There’s no such thing as easy money I told myself. Next he’ll be telling me he’s an African Prince who needs money for his Mother’s operation or he’ll try to convince me that I’ve been in a car accident in the last twelve months.
I resolutely kept quiet and ate my vegetable biryani like the polite boyfriend I am.
However, it was when I went home that the problems started. If you have read any of my previous blogs you’ll know by now that once I get an idea in my head, I become absolutely obsessed.
And unsurprisingly, that is exactly what happened.
The following two days passed with my internal monologue incessantly daring me to give it a go. In retrospect, it was actually a nice break from the usual soundtrack to my life of thinking about death and the meaningless of absolutely everything.
On the third day, I decided that I would give it a go. As as a man with not much money in his bank account and absolutely no savings to speak of, all I had to lose was absolutely everything I had ever worked for. But how else was I going to find enjoyment in some Norwegian football game with two teams I had never heard of? Bankruptcy gets you excited quite like nothing else.
My girlfriend’s mother’s partner made it sound so simple, but what followed was three hours of watching countless YouTube tutorials and reading a million different blogs on the topic. Surprisingly, however, after an afternoon of PhD level research, I found myself with £8 pound profit.
Enough money to buy some paracetamol to cure this migraine from trying to work out how to bleeding do it.
Since then I’ve made about another £30 JUST from watching football and I’m totally sold on it.
It’s the closest I’ve ever felt to being a member of a cult and I can’t help mentioning it to everyone I meet. It’s only my social awkwardness that has stopped me from knocking on people’s doors like some sort of Jehovas Witness.
If you do hear a knock on your door though, please do answer. I might not be able to offer you salvation, but I can probably get you a tenner from watching Scandinavian football.
I’ve been thinking a lot about mortality this week.
I know, I know. I need to stop being so bloody positive and uplifting.
It all started earlier in the week when I booked an eye test. I’ve had glasses for as far back as I can remember. I was THAT kid in school who had an eye patch. It wasn’t enough that I was the shortest kid in my year and that glasses for children in the mid 1990’s were clearly designed for pensioners, so the adults then also decided that I had to stick on an eye patch.
And if that didn’t already make me stand out enough, someone then thought it would be a really good idea to put a rotation of brightly coloured stickers on the front of my patch. There’s nothing quite like being short, wearing glasses that were designed for your grandma and wearing an eye patch with a multi coloured zebra on it to quickly make sure you develop a decent personality.
I mean, it’s an absolute miracle that I wasn’t bullied. People kept telling six year old me that it was cool.
“It’s so cool. You’re basically a pirate, Paul.”
Now, I’ve watched ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ but I don’t ever recall seeing a miserable maritime adventurer sat in a children’s sandpit drinking out of a ‘Toy Story’ cup and lamenting the temporary loss of half of his vision.
On the day of my test the optician informed me that as this was now my first eye test in my thirties, they would have to carry out two new checks that I hadn’t experienced before.
GETTING OLDER RULES!
The first new experience was to test the pressure of my eyes. I didn’t even know this was a thing. I still don’t even understand what it is. But what the test basically entailed was a machine being thrusted in front of each eye and a puff of wind being directly blown into them. This happened approximately twelve times in total and approximately twelve times I reacted by jumping back like the absolute shithouse I am. There’s only so many times you can awkwardly make the same, “It won’t get me next time” joke to a stranger before they begin to wish blindness on you.
I was then told that the next part of my test would be to have a detailed 3D picture taken of each eye so they could potentially see if I was at risk from a series of unpleasant conditions. The lady then started reading out a list of potential things the machine could pick up on.
“Glaucoma… Diabetes… Tumour…”
It was like the world’s worst menu.
While the machine was then busy taking the necessary images, she attempted to make small talk.
“You going to make the most of the good weather after this?”
“Well that entirely depends on what this test picks up, love. I was expecting a relaxing Saturday, but there’s now an actual chance that I could be weeping the rest of my day away after the discovery of an inoperable tumour!”
I didn’t actually say that. I just muttered something about maybe having a pint and taking the dog for a walk.
Luckily, everything was ok other than the £30 charge and the consequent out of body experience of seeing myself reacting like my father whenever he his hit with a bill.
I also watched Russell Howard’s new TV show in which he visits a group of Australian ladies who make coffins for charity. An incredibly selfless thing to do for people who otherwise would struggle to meet the financial requirements when a loved one passes. I usually let these type of things wash over me, but as some geriatric lady from Sydney was doing a piece to camera explaining the decisions that went into making her creation, I found myself being overtaken by an overwhelming sense of dread. I was lying on my sofa drinking tea and sweating profusely.
“My god! I’m going to be in one of those one day! Everyone I love is going to vanish. Ambition is pointless. Achievements are just the egos way of keeping you in denial about the futility of existence. THIS IS ALL MEANINGLESS.”
That was all going on underneath. Deep within me. But like a good man entrenched in masculinity and a cultural British idea of not talking about fear or emotions, I manifested this to the outside world by quietly having another sip of tea.
The ladies then went on to reveal that they also make coffins for children. A camera panned across a selection of tiny coffins. Each one smaller and more harrowing. Despite this, my panic subsided as not even someone as short as I am could fit inside one of those.
Phew. Existential panic over.
Apparently, there’s nothing quite as soothing as the death of children.
My girlfriend often accuses me of not being spontaneous enough. Her idea of men absolutely moulded by a lifetime of watching Hollywood films in which the charming lead actor drops everything on a whim and flies his love interest off to Paris for the weekend.
I mean, I could do that. I could pick her up in a taxi straight from work on a Friday evening and be in France before sundown. I could be walking her down the Champs-Élysées with the evening breeze dancing in the air. I could treat her to the finest of breakfasts in some hip pretentious Paris cafe that has a bicycle on the wall passing off as art. Basically, I could whisk her off her feet and have the most magical forty eight hours she could ever wish for. It would be perfect. What wouldn’t be perfect, however, would be the following two weeks in which we fall behind on our mortgage and end up on the streets having to do unspeakable things to the genitals of strangers in order to get enough food not to starve to death. And all of this because she wanted to post a photo of herself on Instagram eating a croissant next to the fucking Eiffel Tower.
The point is, when you’re working class and money isn’t an unlimited resource, big financial gestures have to be planned to a T. I mean, there is also the absolute legitimate argument that I could save up and not have to make ourselves homeless in order to achieve this. However, that is an argument I don’t have the energy nor desire to entertain.
So last Wednesday, I took action. I decided I would shock her to her very core and suggest a romantic day out. I leant over and whispered into her ear the one sentence that all women want to hear, “Do you fancy going the car boot this Sunday?” A sentence only slightly more romantic than, “I’ve got us two tickets to the lawnmower museum” and “Fancy checking out this rash for me?”
Surprisingly, however, she was up for it. Granted, I don’t think it has changed her opinion of me as an unromantic bone idle layabout, but the mere suggestion of doing anything was enough to raise a look in her eyes that helped to remind her why she’s still bothering to build a life with me.
It must be noted that there was some method to my madness. You see, recently we have become obsessed with these auction/garage sale TV shows where people purchase items for a couple of quid and then sell them on for quadruple what they originally bought them for. Me and my girlfriend have this problem where once we both get an idea into our heads, we run away with ourselves and temporarily live in a fictionalised world in which life is brilliant. Often we get excited that we might be able to quit our jobs and finally establish control over our own lives. And as usual, in the days leading up to the car boot, this is exactly what we did. Our expectations blown completely out of proportion.
“I’m going to find a bag of rare action figures from the 1970’s! I don’t even mind if I only make a couple of hundred pound profit!” I loudly exclaimed like the village idiot I am.
We excitedly arrived at about 8am. Now, I don’t know what we were expecting exactly, but what we found wasn’t this bustling environment that was dripping with hidden treasure that would financially transform our lives. It was, if anything, quite aggressive. At one point, I honestly thought a pensioner was going to physically lash out at a seller for daring to sell a shitty toy campervan for a tenner. It was carnage. It was so far removed from the jolly TV shows where like minded people trade items for a bit of fun. I’ve watched countless episodes of ‘Bargain Hunt’, but I’m yet to see the episode where someone is called a cunt for refusing to take 50p for the 2004 film ‘Million Dollar Baby.”
My foray into flipping cheap shite landed me a ‘Only Fools and Horses’ box set and a special edition guide to ‘The Simpsons’. My girlfriend left empty handed and spent the rest of the day warning me to make sure I actually tried to sell them and not to leave them gathering dust in the spare room.
I genuinely believe that there is money to be made from the few quid I spent and I do have every intention of trying to sell them on. However, if I never get around to it, I might have to treat her to a romantic getaway to the local rubbish tip.
We all have our own indicators of ‘manliness’. Our own ‘things’ that define what makes a man. For some, it’s how many pints someone can sink in a single session, for others it’s how long an individual can ignore a lump before seeking medical advice. For me, though, it’s DIY.
Do you ever remember being a child and watching your Dad do DIY? You looked at him in utter admiration. “That’s what a real man is” you thought to yourself while he hammered a nail into something with no t-shirt on and a can of Carling in his hand.
Well thank fuck I currently have no children to watch me do DIY because this week I essentially cried in different parts of my kitchen while balancing on a step ladder.
You see, me and my girlfriend recently made our first ‘adult’ purchase when we designed and bought a brand new shiny kitchen. Now, I say ‘we’, but during our consultations I just sat quietly out the way while the proper grown ups did the talking. I was essentially a nodding dog with a credit card. A man just answering questions about types of sinks in a way that screamed, “WHAT DO I HAVE TO SAY TO BE ALLOWED TO GO HOME?!”
It’s not that I don’t care what my kitchen looks like, but for someone whose life philosophy revolves around the fact that we’re hurtling towards death and none of this has any meaning, it’s really hard to get passionate about marble kitchen counters.
The bad news was that there was some ‘prep’ work that needed doing. Nothing major. Just peeling all the wallpaper from the kitchen walls. A job that my Dad could have done in an afternoon.
When we got home I did the stance my Dad did, and any other labourer does when evaluating a job – hands on hips and blowing out cheeks like deep in thought.
“A couple of weekends that”, I said like a man with absolutely no experience in any manual labour whatsoever.
That was six weeks ago and a week before it needed to be done, it was still untouched, apart from a few ‘testing’ scratches I had done with a wall scraper about 30 days before. Consequently, I was forced to book a whole week off from work to get it ready.
The next seven days were hell. I spent hours swearing at walls and ringing my girlfriend telling her I couldn’t go on. A characteristically suitable response for me whenever something doesn’t go to plan.
A problem I have, is that I look like I might know what I’m doing. I look like a man. I have a significant beard which I pride myself on. But a beard used to mean something. It showed that you could put a shelf up or pleasure a woman. Not my beard. My beard says, “Can I have almond milk in that tea please mate?”
As well as peeling the wallpaper from the kitchen walls, we also had to empty the cellar of damp cardboard boxes that we had lazily thrown down there over a period of two years.
Simple job? You’d think so. But after accidentally stumbling over an article that revealed to me the dangers of damp, I flat out refused to go down there without a form of protection.
What happened next was that I found myself walking back and forth to the street bins with a COVID mask and pink rubber gloves. It was only thirty minutes into this that I realised how strange it looked seeing a man repeatedly coming out of his cellar with a mask on and pink rubber gloves up to his elbows. My neighbours now think I’m either a murderer or a sexual deviant.
Also, I must point out that I keep referring to my Dad in the past tense. He’s not dead. He lives around the corner.
And I think I’ll give him a shout next time I need some work doing.
My feet are smaller than I actually tell people they are.
Now I understand that you might think that this is quite a dramatic sentence to open with for something so incredibly tame. You probably thought that I was going to reveal that I have a liking for nipple clamps or I secretly enjoy sniffing people on public transport. But no. It’s my feet. My miniscule feet. However, the fact that I lie about something as insignificant and pathetic as the size of my feet is the reason I feel I need to get it off my chest.
You see, size six is the smallest size of footwear for adult males and anything under that is considered appropriate for children, so since about the age of 18 that’s the size of shoe I have decided to wear. It’s been a constant source of embarrassment whenever it’s been brought up in conversation and on a regular basis I’ve refused to honestly answer that I am in fact a size five. The reluctance to answer honestly probably comes from the usual mocking that I receive whenever I lie about my shoe size.
It’s usually quite an aggressive confrontation and the conversation usually follows a little like this…
“Size 6. Oooh. You know what they say about a man with small feet…”
“Yes. Yes I do Sharon. But I also know what they say about the link between three ‘Greggs’ sausage rolls on your dinner break and type 2 diabetes, but some opinions are best kept to themselves you intrusive bitch.”
I have lost count of the amount of times I’ve found myself awkwardly arguing with a stranger/acquaintance about the implied size of my penis.
Anyway, it’s safe to say that I try to avoid the topic at all costs and up until recently my denial was so successful that I had even forgotten my true shoe size. And by forgotten, I mean dementia level forgetfulness. It had completely, categorically vanished from memory and as far as I was concerned, I was a size six. However, as often is the case with denial, it can only last so long before it comes back to haunt you and my haunting happened a couple of years ago when buying a suit for a friends wedding.
I was 28 at the time and like all 28 year old men I had decided to go suit shopping with my Mum. Surprisingly, the suit purchasing went swimmingly and we were done and dusted within one hour. It was upon attempting to buy some formal shoes to match that I encountered my problem. We spent a total of about three hours stumbling from shoe store to shoe store as I was forcibly marched down the catwalk of shame in shoes that were so clearly too big for me. As the third hour creeped into the fourth and fatigue was getting the better of me, I genuinely questioned whether it would be acceptable to just turn up barefoot to a wedding like some sort of hippy Hobbit. I was now at breaking point and it was at this stage that my Mother took control and ordered me to visit a store she knew would be perfect for me.
I reluctantly entered the shop and instantly the shop assistant asked if I needed any help. My Mum obviously did all the talking because after all I was only 28. Before I knew it, I was sat down with my shoes off and a shop assistant with hands as cold as ice had my foot in her hand. Things had taken a turn for the worse.
My foot was now in some sort of metal contraption and the woman with the cold hands looked through me and offered some words up to my mother.
“Size 5 he is.”
Confused at what was happening, I mouthed the sentence, “I’m an actual adult in the middle of a mortgage application.”
My mother, ignoring my obvious breakdown, asked the lady if she had anything in the back that would be suitable for me.
The lady with the cold hands nodded in approval and vanished.
As she went to fetch the shoes, I looked at the wall behind me and noticed a massive sign. The massive sign simply read, “BACK TO SCHOOL RANGE.” To either side of me were two boys who could be no more than the age of twelve, and like me, because I had only just turned 28, they too were also accompanied by their mothers and were getting their feet measured in similar contraptions to the one my foot was in mere moments ago.
It was at this point that I remembered my life was a lie and I was the owner of a pair of child-like feet. I had hit rock bottom.
Now I’m sure we’ve all felt humiliated at some point in our lives. No biggie. But being humiliated in the childrens section of a shoe store surrounded by flashing Spiderman trainers and a shop assistant who clearly thinks you’ve brought your mother along because she must be getting some sort of carers allowance adds an extra sting to it all.
I was mortified.
After what appeared to be a lifetime, the cold handed lady came out with two pairs. A pair that would do, and unbelievably, a pair of fucking Velcro ones. VELCRO! I politely declined the Velcro pair, asked my mother to tie my laces and left as quickly as I could.
A couple of years have passed since this traumatic day, but if it has taught me anything, it has taught me to be comfortable with who I am.
With Halloween fast approaching, many people, including myself, are forced to pretend we care about a holiday that anyone over the age of 12 should be embarrassed to participate in. I strongly remember being a face painted child dressed in a bin bag promising myself I would never turn into one of these adults that completely disregards Halloween, but here I am, the man I promised the boy I would never be. There are fewer sadder sights as a man in his thirties than being around other adults celebrating Halloween and on the few occasions I’ve found myself in that situation, I’ve never felt that anyone in that room was scared or spooked, which is the whole point of the holiday in the first place. Usually, I’ve found myself drinking alcohol with the same friends that I usually drink alcohol with, but for some reason we’ve all decided we need to dress up as characters from ‘Stranger Things’. Pathetic. If I wanted to scare a room full of people in their thirties, I would just walk around handing out house prices in the local area and reminding everyone that they’ll probably never be able to afford to retire.
To put it bluntly, if you’re not grasping it by now, I’m not a fan of Halloween. However, I am in a relationship and when you’re in a relationship, at least 50% of your time is doing things that makes the other person happy.
That is why today, I’ve been pumpkin picking.
If I’m being honest, it was a hard sell for my girlfriend to get me to go and when she floated the idea, instead of just saying I would go, I of course reacted like the prick that I am.
“You mean, you want me to get up early and essentially spend my Sunday farming? SOUNDS LIKE A GREAT IDEA!”
I almost sarcastically suggested that we should ask our local ‘Wetherspoons’ if they’d let us spend the rest of our day off washing their dishes.
But Sunday morning did come and surprisingly I was looking forward to it. I think this was mainly due to that fact that I had spent the week prior seeing people I know on social media having so much fun picking their pumpkins. I had somehow managed to banish my cynicism about the whole thing and convinced myself that this would be great. I’d get some fresh air, I’d get to spend some time with my girlfriend and I could post cheesy photos of myself smugly holding a wheelbarrow so other people on social media would think that their life was shit in comparison to mine.
As it turns out with most things though, the expectation of the day turned out to be better than the reality. Our first stumbling block came thirty minutes after we had left the house, when we arrived at our destination to find an empty field and a sign that simply read, “NO PUMPKINS LEFT FOR 2020. SORRY.” I’d love to say that we took that sign in our stride, but we reacted like the stereotypical millennials that we are by blankly staring at each other and asking out loud why bad things have to happen to good people. After a good ten minutes of ingesting this injustice we decided to move on and try another place.
The second farm was another thirty minute drive. But at this point, it was pumpkins or death. There was no going back. On we drove. The drive to the second location was tense and the only noises that dared to fill the air was the automated voice of the sat nav and the music of ‘The Bee Gees’. After quite a significant amount of time internally singing, “How Deep is Your Love?’ and repeatedly praying that this farm would be open, we were greeted by a man. A man who could only be described as a power hungry pumpkin fascist. A power hungry pumpkin fascist that was repeatedly bellowing the sentence, “COMPLETELY FULL. NO ENTRY” and taking pride in every car he turned away in his ridiculous illuminous hi-vis jacket. Now you probably think it was at this stage that we gave up. No self respecting adults would continue wasting their Sunday going to yet another place. Surely?
Five minutes later we arrived at our THIRD farm. At this point, I’d like to reveal that I’ve never been to a war zone, but I challenge anyone to argue with me that this was any different. We were surrounded in all directions by people knee deep in mud and abandoned vehicles as far as the eye could see. As we silently debated whether all this was worth it, a woman who was struggling to get passed us in her car aimed a perfectly delivered middle finger in our direction while her kids cried in the back seats. It was at this point we knew we had been defeated.
So there you have it. What should have been a romantic Halloween themed Sunday morning with my girlfriend turned out to be a two hour tension riddled car journey in silence to three closed farms and a trip to our local supermarket to take advantage of their 2 for £1 pumpkin offer.