The Whinging Pom on Walter Palmer

Walter PalmerSo, a dentist shot a lion named Cecil. Not withstanding the cruelty of calling the king of the jungle Cecil, (‘Good news chaps, James Earl Jones has agreed to do the voice and Disney love it. Now are we sure we’re going with Mufasa? I have another suggestion..’) it’s obvious this was an abhorrent act, made worse by the fact that the animal killed was done so by luring him out of a protected area. The dentist, Walter Palmer, whose attempted justification for Cecil’s slaughter is so full of holes it could be used to strain spaghetti, has since gone into hiding.

As has been commented on in the media already, tragic though Cecil’s killing is, his legacy may just be the best thing to come out of it. Though Palmers vilification by the media is likely to subside and may even be forgotten with time, it is gratifying to see such a vile hobby as hunting being highlighted for what it is.

I could spend all day talking about what a despicable pompous waste of oxygen Palmer and others like him are but that would be to miss the bigger point as to why hunting in general should be blanket banned. What is more interesting is the psyche of such people. I find them quite fascinating; in the way one might find peering down a darkened tunnel to see the grotesque silhouette of a trap door spider lurking at the end of it fascinating. I have heard and read all manner of self delusional, sycophantic clap trap from these people and I thought it might be fun to comment on the twisted rational most commonly espoused by them. We’ll start off with my favourite-

1. Hunting is a sport:
No it’s not. Sports are both fun to watch and to take part in. Ricky Gervais has been quoted as saying ‘if you enjoy seeing an animal terrified or in pain you are a cunt.’ Shooting animals for fun does not make you witty or urbane or give you a story to tell at dinner parties. It’s widely documented that a great many serial killers began their exciting journey into murder and mutilation by the enjoyment they got from killing animals and yet given the opportunity I doubt John Wayne Gacy would ever have been a treasured guest on ‘My kitchen rules’. Accept you’re one step away from being the subject of a one-hour special on the discovery channel and take up golf.

2. Hunting is part of our heritage:
So unfortunately, in both this country and the US, is the slave trade. People who took part in or endorsed it were cunts. So are you: moving on.

3. Hunting is natural; it’s in our genes:
Unless you’re a pygmy warrior in Papua New Guinea, hunting is not, nor has it been for some time natural. The only natural instinct to hunt comes from feeding yourself. If your wallet contains a Tesco club card (or if you’re reading this in the US whatever the equivalent is for Walmart), it’s unlikely you’re ever going to find yourself poised over your local duck pond, spear in hand ready to skewer tonight’s dinner. Most of the pictures I have seen on the internet of some grotesque, shit kicking fat boy posing over a trophy game animal would suggest the majority could do with missing a meal or six anyway. From an evolutionary stand point, mans progress has been exponential over the last few thousand years and whilst most of us have now learnt to walk upright, or even to cook oven chips, grazed knuckles are only indicative of a low IQ not a need to revert back to bagging lunch with a crossbow or a trophy for your wall.

4. Hunting is a lost art:
Thank fuck.

5. Hunting with a gun requires skill and patience:
No it doesn’t. Hunting is not catching a fly with chopsticks. I have had occasion to fire one or two guns in my life and can tell you trigger pulling requires very little effort. When you consider how a significant number of discharges are accidental, indeed by children, you start to understand the skill level required to fire a gun. Of course you could argue the skill is in the application, which in turn is dependant on the theatre it is employed. I couldn’t agree more. The tactics that surround guns are what maketh the man, which is why I have the greatest respect for both the Military and the Police whose opposition are often just as well armed and trained and so are forced to employ admirable levels of skill and patience just to stay alive. However until God invents a bullet proof cheetah that can run at 400 metres per second I fail to see how shooting something that isn’t shooting back at you makes you anything other than a prick.

6. Aren’t some military dudes or cops into hunting?
Alas yes. Which is where my admiration stops. Regardless of how commendable your past may be it does not exclude you from fucking it up. We are not the sum of our past and there is any number of people in responsible jobs that have gone on to tarnish the good work they have done with their action in the present. Dentistry for example.

7. Hunting is traditional:
So were witch-hunts until we realised that it was bollocks.

8. Banning hunting is class discrimination:
Love this one. It’s true Walter Palmer allegedly paid $55,000 to be allowed to hunt big game in Africa legally, firmly placing him in the wallet bigger than dick category. But as recent events in the House of Lords have shown us class is not necessarily inherited, nor should the pastimes of those seen to be above us be indulged just because they cry discrimination. Unless of course wearing a bra and allowing yourself to be photographed snorting cocaine off a hooker is now acceptable. In which case hand me a rolled up fifty pound note.

9. Hunting is a treasured whisper of long lost glory (or some such shit)
Stop reading Wilbur Smith novels.

10. Hunting is humane; the animal has a chance to get away.
Unless of course you’re dug up out of your set like badgers or foxes or specifically bred on a farm like the canned lions of Africa just so some dickless wonder can prove his or her masculinity by carrying out an act that requires so little skill a five year old child could do it. Hunting is never humane. Against a hostile individual or group, the odds are always stacked against you and no matter where you hide sooner or later you will be found and torn apart. A fact I’m hoping, wherever he’s hiding, Walter Palmer has every reason to appreciate now.

Ryan Reynolds – An Inspiration

Ryan Reynolds tv appearance

So in a recent article poor Ryan Reynolds has come under attack from the parenting Taliban. Boo Hoo. If you haven’t seen it, please feel free to Google the story. You know the movie star Ryan Reynolds? He of the chiselled face, rock hard abs and wooden acting (I’m sorry ladies but do you honestly expect us to believe you go to see one of his movies because of the quality of his dramatic discourse?) Anyway it would appear Ryan has been caught strapping his baby into a child carrier incorrectly.

Okay, yes he has done it incorrectly. Yes that should be pointed out. Yes I suspect my wife would let me get away with strapping the baby in upside down and feeding it vodka from a sippy cup if I looked like him. That’s not the point.

The point is the level of back seat parenting. Let me state straight away I am not advocating child neglect. Since my son has been born I have become particularly vulnerable to stories of cruelty and neglect and would spend many happy hours turning anyone who intentionally hurts a child into a human piñata. But let’s be honest, within an acceptable range and with the best intentions possible, do any of us get it right first time? When first born, my son was as helpless as a turtle on its back. He wasn’t capable of getting into trouble because he was pretty much rooted to wherever we set him down. If I’m honest that was quite a desirable state of affairs. If my wife is honest she wishes that state of affairs was equally applicable to his father. It is however a state that is hardly conducive to my son’s development and so, with some reluctance, we encouraged him to become more mobile. His first trick was to roll onto his front. The problem with this is that before the age of one, as nearly every magazine and armchair expert will tell you, sleeping on their front is a possible risk factor for sudden infant death syndrome or cot death. This is a terrible and heart breaking phenomena with no real explanation. I wouldn’t dream of making light of it but there’s no doubt my son has taken a definite liking to sleeping in this position. Because my wife and I took to heart everything we’d read, we were frequently to be found sneaking into his room and turning him over onto his back. This advice has changed several times over the years with no firm conclusion as to what position it is safest to put your child in to sleep. Understandably my son has started to get the arse with this and who can blame him? Should anyone enter my bedroom whilst I’m asleep, and say for example, spin me up onto my head with my legs dangling in the air because the latest scientific research dictates this should be so, I might become somewhat perturbed as well.

Within minutes and with an admirable ‘fuck you’ attitude for a boy of his age, my son would spin himself back onto his front and return to sleep. After a few weeks of this we gave up. Not because we don’t care, but because truthfully you can only manage the risk to your child so much. As he gets older I’m accepting the parameters of that risk management become wider. In the first few months of his life my sons food was prepared with the same care you might approach victims of the Ebola virus. A biological suit was donned. Bottles were sterilised, boiling water was poured over everything. The three-second rule didn’t exist. If something hit the floor- dummy, spoon, my desperate hope he would sleep through an entire night- it was destroyed, placed in a biohazard bag and deposited a minimum distance of twenty three feet from the house in accordance with Department of Health regulations.

Then, gradually we stopped sterilising. His plate and cups were thrown in the bowl with the rest of the washing up. If his dummy hit the floor one of us checked it for hairs, put it in our gob and with a shrug handed it back to him.  So far nothing untoward has happened to him and so we have continued on but with each developmental stage more hazards have presented themselves. Recently he started to crawl. His progress, such is the speed with which he can now propel himself through the house and bounce off remarkably sturdy objects, is reminiscent of a competitor in ‘Takeshi’s Castle’. Stairs, cupboards, the corner of tables and on one memorable occasion, the lit candle of a birthday cake that Mummy and Daddy foolishly put in front of him before deciding that moment would be a good opportunity for both of us to turn away and get a camera, have all presented potentially dire consequences. And you thought Ryan Reynolds fucked up. The man is starting to look like parent of the month in our eyes.

Truthfully, we try our best but there is so much conflicting advice: and for advice read interference. I know books and articles on the subject of parenting mean well but if everything they said was correct I’m amazed the average baby makes it to the end of the day. For example, it is recommended not to microwave breast milk, not because it destroys nutrients- there’s little evidence to suggest this is the case- but because heating it up too much may scald your baby’s mouth! Wait a moment; so let me get this right: giving my baby scalding milk is a bad thing? And to think I was about to lend him the car keys.

I don’t want to get all Yorkshire here- and yes when my son gets an ipad for Christmas I will be reminding him that all I got for Christmas at his age was a lump of coal and that was just for Christmas dinner – but compared to how I was brought up my sons day to day routine is one wrapped in cotton wool. I was born in the seventies. My Mother is a good and loving woman but knowing that she smoked well into her twenties, past the age when I was born, I felt compelled to ask ‘Mum did you give up smoking when you were carrying me?’ Her reply ‘Mostly’ is somewhat disconcerting. Thanks Mum, I guess that means I’m ‘mostly’ okay, although my brain’s stunted development may go some way to explaining why I thought it appropriate to place a naked flame in front of a one year old.

All this is a round about way of saying what all parents know. It’s learning on the job. No instruction booklet, no guarantees. Ryan old son, don’t listen to anyone. Parenting isn’t easy and you’ve got nothing to be ashamed of.

Apart from for giving us ‘The Proposal’. Two and a half hours of my life I’m not getting back. My wife liked it though.

Daddy Day Care

Daddy day careSo after much consideration on my wife’s part and very little resistance on mine, it was decided that my time would be best served giving up work and being a full time Dad to our little boy- for the first year of his life at least.

This meant entering the exciting yet challenging arena of Daddy day care and trust me when I say this, it is not a job for the faint hearted. For a start it quickly became apparent I was to be an ethnic minority. Really, I’m not kidding. To illustrate what I mean please quickly ‘Google’ parent and baby magazines then press images. Whilst the title of many is commendably gender neutral (with a notable exception- ‘Mother and Baby’) of the first twenty magazine covers displayed, twelve show a Mother and baby, eight show just a baby and exactly zero have the image of a Father with said child. This is discouraging and yet slightly liberating. I’ve never been one of the under represented before. Straight away I have visions of me leading the beleaguered and silent minority of invisible Fathers to the steps of city hall where with fists aloft I shall highlight paternal ignorance. Granted trying to follow Martin Luther Kings inspirational ‘I have a dream’ with the slightly less punchier ‘I have a diaper’ is unlikely to have future scholars citing my work but every movement has to start somewhere.

I am exaggerating of course, I have absolutely no intention of acquiring a bad attitude, a can of spray paint and a map of the local ‘Mother’ care stores. I know it’s a slippery slope to joining ‘Fathers for Justice’ and I own neither a Batman suit nor a head for heights. Nonetheless, there is a point to be made. My schedule with my son Toby was a busy one. Monday was nursery rhyme group at the local library, Tuesday was baby sign (I’ll explain later) Wednesday was swimming, Thursday was free though was invariably taken up with pushing my son round the local supermarket and shamelessly using his innate cuteness to attract the attention of more women in an hour than I managed in over ten years of being single. Friday was baby gym. In all of these classes I was either the only Father, or possibly one of two, in which case we would always exchange sympathetic looks, not unlike two previously unacquainted death row inmates about to face the firing squad. In truth I enjoyed my weekly forays into these infant social groups but it was not without awkwardness. For a start I know the words to perhaps two nursery rhymes. These are not lyrics, until now, I have needed to refresh my memory with. I doubt most Mothers have either, but here is where they have the advantage. If as a Mother in a group of twenty women you get the words wrong, then it is likely your mistake will be swallowed up by the other voices around you: unless of course as a man you are the only one singing baritone in a room of sopranos. I can’t tell you how many times I sang- ‘One little speckled dog’ only to have all the other mothers, and I swear even my own son, look up at me with an expression that clearly said ‘You dick!’ I mean, how the hell was I supposed to know it’s about a fucking frog? Although the next line- ‘sat on a speckled log, eating the most delicious grubs’ should have been my starter for ten.

This was difficult enough when all I had to do was sing and not embarrass my child. Worse still when entering the confusing world of baby sign. To be fair it’s a terrific concept. In order to lessen the frustration of being unable to communicate what they want, it’s been found that babies can associate and indeed mimic sign language to convey their physical needs. Unfortunately its effectiveness is dependent on the baby’s dunderhead Father mastering the basic hand signals required to communicate these needs. Taking into account my already woeful knowledge of nursery rhyme lyrics I strongly suspect I have sat in the group and with desperately flapping hands communicated to my bewildered son everything from ‘Are you hungry?’ to ‘Sink the Bismarck.’ No wonder the poor sod looks confused.

Baby gym is another terrific concept- in theory. The title is slightly misleading. It’s not like I was ‘spotting’ my son on the bench press (‘Come on Toby, it’s all you! push, push, push!) but rather a custom built arena where parents are encouraged to flip, twist and catapult their children around a padded room in an attempt to build up their core strength. Again I don’t have a problem with this, other than the fact that due to my son being neither able to walk, nor barely crawl at this stage, his locomotion was generated almost entirely by me. I must have attended at least half a dozen sweating hour long classes before realizing my son was doing very little what I would call ‘gym’ work whilst Daddy was, as the phrase puts it, ‘breathing out of his arse.’ In truth I could actually warm to the concept of taking an older relative to the gym with you to do the work. I don’t suppose my Gran is likely to agree to a half hour on level twelve incline of the treadmill on my behalf but no pain no gain.

To be fair it is not the first time Toby has outsmarted me. When playing at home I sit my son on a small play mat so, should he vomit or pass any other bodily fluids it’s not onto our carpet. In order to encourage him to crawl I once placed his favourite toy at one end of the mat and him at the other. I then verbalised (not with sign language- there’s every chance he’d have left the room to get me my newspaper if I’d tried that) that he should crawl over to get it. My six month old son- and I swear I’m not making this up- then looked up at me with an expression that went somewhere beyond contempt, looked down at the mat and took hold of the edge before pulling it and his favourite toy toward him. Without moving an inch he then picked it up, examined it curiously and flipped me the bird. Actually maybe I imagined that. Or maybe he’s better at sign language than I thought.

Until next time.

Politics

Politician Lord SutchSo, there’s been a great deal said about the recent general election. Some of it well informed, some of it not so. The problem with entering the murky yet spirited pool of political debate is that there is a very real possibility of offending somebody. In my experience Political opinion stimulates the same part of the brain that is triggered during a road rage incident- the part that takes things far too seriously.

For example, when I accidentally cut somebody up, it would seem my car inadvertently activates one of those signs that Police traffic cars have in the rear window. The ones that say “Police – stay back” – in red flashing lights. Except my sign says – “I’ve just fucked your wife”- at least I’m assuming that’s what it must say to warrant the reaction some people have to a minor accidental infraction on my part. Apologising by a cheery wave, I’ve learned, just aggravates the situation: either that or the sign just adds “- and your mother as well.” My point is that after reading on Facebook, several of my friends’ rather vicious attacks on the main party leaders I was quite surprised. I had no idea they knew these people so well. After all, how else are you able to offer such a well-qualified opinion of an individuals personal traits.

Before I begin and lose the majority of what readers I have, let me say this. I am not advocating National Hug a Politician Day. Criticism and public flogging go hand in hand with the job, a downside I’m sure most have come to terms with. I do feel however some recognition should be given. As my other blogs detail I have a now 10-month-old son who has got me wondering what qualities to best instil in him as he grows. Which public figures, past and present best represent an example of what type of person he might aspire to be? This is tricky because I believe the best role models are not always the most obvious.

For example you might scoff at the possibility of any party political leaders fitting the bill but I disagree. For a start the clues in the title:- ‘Leader of…’. Not ‘Follower’, not ‘Agree’er’, not ‘Go with the flow’er’. Regardless of what your political beliefs are or whether their individual manifestos meet your personal needs, regardless of whether their vision is yours or not, these select few are definitely people who lead. As human beings we are not programmed to deal well with rejection, public humiliation, personal attack or failure, four factors that often prevent people from daring to make a change for the better in their lives and which leading politicians must be able to shrug off daily if they are to succeed. This is of course what most refer to as having a thick skin. I personally think of it as the ‘fuck it’ factor and is, as I will be teaching my son, an essential piece of mental equipment employed by the most successful people in the world who are undoubtedly so, not because they are the best at what they do, but because they refused to give up where others did.

Of course some will say Nigel Farage is not a good example for my son to follow but we should tread carefully there as well. Since my sons mother- and my wife of course- is Australian and therefore an immigrant herself I have more right than most to have issue with UKIP’s policies but it is not those I am highlighting. Since the parties inception in 1993 its profile has risen quite dramatically. Nigel Farage has not been entirely responsible for that, having only taken over at the head in 2006, but his leadership certainly hasn’t done them any harm, securing his party the third biggest percentage of the vote share in this year’s general election in spite of a hostile media campaign. Say what you will about UKIP, like Nigel Farage or loathe him, that sort of result takes planning, hard work and a dedicated strategy, all essential components for strong leadership.

But then leadership is a tricky thing because it is not always bestowed on the most righteous of individuals. I don’t think anyone could argue that Adolf Hitler was a terrifically wholesome individual and let me state for the record I will definitely not be proposing him as a role model for my son, but as any number of military forums still debate, his leadership style was something to be considered. Hitler was a determined commander, often making decisions throughout the war from one of several field headquarters near the front, as opposed to several hundred miles behind it as favoured by many other heads of state in wars since. He was determined to be involved at every level of military intervention and was famous for frequently overruling his much more experienced Generals for decisions he saw as strategically best. On an individual campaign basis, much more qualified people than myself can debate whether this was stupidity or balls to the wall leadership. In the end of course his downfall was initiating a simultaneous attack on the British Empire, the United States and the Soviet Union, but right up until that point this was a man who never shied from making the tough decisions. In a better person, would that such determination and belief in preservation of cause be instilled in some of our politicians.

Fast forward seventy years and I find it disappointing that in this day and age Evelyn Beatrice Halls famous quote- ‘I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.’ often sited to display the principle of free speech, seems to have been eroded to a quote on Facebook stating ‘David Cameron is a Cunt.’ It’s quite possible there are some people who actually know him, think he is one, indeed some people who know me might think I am, but then by knowing me they’ve earned the right to say that. In other words, by all means criticise policy, criticise a party’s political agenda but unless you want to come across as ignorant and misinformed might I suggest you post something a little more educated than a personal and vitriolic attack on a person’s character.

At the end of the day when running for election the leader of a political party is simply there to stand up and say ‘this is my idea, what do you think?’ and then stand and be judged at the ballot boxes. For that reason I have no problem with holding any of these people up as a role model for my son. Even if he grows up to join and advocate the principles of a political party I cannot stand, my objections would be dwarfed by my pride in his drive to see them achieved. In a day and age when reality TV pushes the kind of self-absorbed celebrity that believes fame is its own reward, I would much rather point at Cameron, Clegg, Miliband, Sturgeon and yes even Farage and say leadership is not always popular, not always successful but is always from the front.

Mortality

Carry on DoctorSo, on a brief diversion from fatherhood I feel compelled to talk about something a little more sombre this week; namely my own mortality. Okay, not the happiest of subjects but bear with me. I’ve arrived at fatherhood (okay, I’m going to mention it a little bit) relatively late. By relative, I mean that my own father was twenty-three when I was born, whilst I by contrast, am leaving the house patting down my pockets for keys, wallet, phone, dummy at the grand old age of forty one.

Not only are my sons, painfully blue eyes and unblemished skin a constant reminder that my body ain’t what it used to be- though in truth I can’t ever remember my skin being unblemished- but it’s fair to say if I was a car, the dashboard would be lighting up with ‘check engine’ warning lights pretty much most of the time.
I’m sure some will remember my blog’s about getting older, and I don’t want to hark on about previous health scares but whereas in your twenty’s, death and serious illness is something that happens to others, passing forty is a reminder that those others, now include you.

I am getting a little nervous about how conversations with other people of my age group have started recently. All too frequently they begin with, ‘oh you know John Smith, you know he’s just been diagnosed with a rare form of cancer; didn’t even smoke.’ or ‘do you know who’s dead?’ Now I am not making light of any serious illness but the frequency of its occurrence in those I know recently has had me checking for lumps and other biological hitch-hikers a lot more often than I used to.

The problem is that I am a panicker. And for panicker, read hypochondriac. A state of mind that twenty years ago would have been easy to quash. But in this day and age Dr Google positively encourages you to overreact. Recently I found an aforementioned lump on my person, not in a particularly sensitive area, but close enough to realise it was unlikely to have received planning permission there. Unfortunately I discovered it on Friday evening, which meant I had no access to a Doctor and so in the time honoured tradition of all hypochondriacs set about ‘Googling’ my symptoms in order to alleviate my fears over the weekend.

After half an hour, I was convinced I was going to die. When you enter a set of symptoms into goggle, no matter how vague or unremarkable, more often than not you are directed to health forums. These are websites- meeting places if you will- where other hypochondriacs attempt to outdo each other with how horrific the outcome of their particular symptoms are: –

John@325- Hi, everyone woke up this morning with a slight headache. I was drinking heavily last night-don’t remember how much- but I woke up, upside down behind the TV and my eyebrows shaved off. Should I see a Doctor?

Pete@overreact2- Hi John@325, it sounds like it could be something. Maybe nothing to worry about, but keep an eye on it.

Tedithinkimadoctor@999- Hey John@325, I agree with Pete@overreact2 but I think you should see a Doctor immediately. I had a friend with identical symptoms and he had memory loss as well. Your amnesia could be the result of a brain tumour.

Lucyimgoingtodie@111- John@325 get to the hospital immediately! This exact thing happened to me and at turns out I only had six hours to live. Ignore your Doctor as well! He insisted I just had a hangover but what does he know with his years of medical training, experience and lack of overreaction.

Rogereverythingsadrama@911- John@325, I’m afraid it’s too late for you! You should have gone straight to a doctor instead of talking to fuckwits like us! The loss of eyebrows is almost certainly because of a rare blood disease that affects only one person in ten million- if of course, you visited a rare tribe in the Congo in the last five years, and partook of a mating ritual not observed for thousands of years- there’s no other explanation I’m afraid. Act quickly and you might get a few more hours to live. I didn’t and now I’m dead.

In short allowing hypochondriacs to congregate on a website that encourages you to panic is like holding a meeting for those people with an acute fear of flying on an Airbus. Of course its much better just to have an open mind, not to panic and get yourself checked should anything untoward appear. Sound advice- if you can follow it.

My scare has prompted me to change my diet, eat more fruit and veg and drink more water. No bad thing, however a quick Google, has confirmed that scientists believe too much fruit can result in too much sugar. Too much sugar equals diabetes. Drinking two litres of water a day, the amount popularly believed to be the minimum volume required for the average male has recently been shown to have no significant benefits and lets face it, means a trip to the cinema involves at least two trips to the bathroom before the damn trailers have finished.

One of the symptoms for colon cancer I noted on a poster at my Doctors, warns patients to look out for ‘loose stools’. I don’t have a clue what ‘loose stools’ are but trust me on this, don’t ever Google it and definitely don’t press images. Another indicator apparently is blood in your stools, which isn’t always obvious. Blood, by the time its worked its way through your digestive system, tends to mix it in with the indigestible material you don’t want- a bit like the strawberry sauce in an chocolate ice cream sundae (I know, I’ve ruined summer time desserts for you) The result is a narrow range of colours that can indicate anything from too much Guinness the night before to stomach cancer. How you differentiate one from the other is anyone’s guess but marching into the toilet grasping a Dulux colour chart tends to raise the eyebrows of those you love.

And on that rather graphic note, I wish you all good health- until next time.

Dining Out

Carry on up the KhyberSo, I intended my most recent post to be the last one about becoming a Dad. However it would appear my Son has other ideas, regularly providing me with unequal opportunity to show just how often he outsmarts me.

The good news is that Toby (my son; I haven’t taken to interjecting random peoples names into the blog just yet) has now developed a whole range of facial expressions with which to receive me. This is both heart warming and crushing at the same time: let me explain –

Such is the mechanics of newborn development, it’s thought that up to the age of eight weeks old I appear to Toby as little more than a blurry outline (who inexplicably wakes him in the middle of the night to jam a teat in his gob before wondering why he won’t go back to sleep immediately after.) Now, at twelve weeks old his recognition is improving. I am apparently now a fairly clear three dimensional being (who inexplicably wakes him in the middle of the night to jam a teat in his mouth, before wondering why he won’t go back to sleep immediately after.)

Unfortunately children – in particular babies – are not born with an innate understanding of tact. Their facial expression represents very clearly what they are thinking. When I enter the nursery, Toby’s reaction conveys a fairly narrow spectrum of apathy ranging from, ‘Oh brilliant, you’re the one with the itchy chin and halitosis, if you must pick me up don’t breath on me fat man.’ to ‘Where’s the one with the tits? Would you turn up at a friend’s house empty handed? No? Next time bring a bottle.’

Okay I don’t actually believe my Sons thought process is that of a socially aggressive host but like most parents I am forced to resort to some pretty humiliating acts to get that elusive smile. I once caught myself in the nursery mirror pulling a face at him that was as close to Disney’s Goofy as can be achieved without actually being a cartoon dog. In short I’m finding that in order to communicate with my son I have to unlock the inner child in me, which is difficult because my humour is so intrinsically wrapped in an adults body. For example, I have recently taken to reading my son bedtime stories. One of his favourite (possibly his favourite: it’s not like we’ve started discussing the merits of Tolstoy versus Tolkien) is a book called the Velveteen Rabbit. Approximately half way through the Rabbit asks, “What is real? Does it mean having things that buzz inside you and a stick out handle?”

Yes I know I’m going to hell. I know I’m corrupting the child like innocence of a children’s story with adult smut. It’s gilding the lilly that the story also happens to be about a rabbit, but I haven’t managed to get past that line without giggling like an idiot. When I pointed this out to my wife, she glared at me with a look she reserves for people who take a microsecond longer than is necessary to pay for something at the till. It didn’t help that at the time she was preparing to breast feed Toby by putting on a nipple shield that makes her look not unlike a sado masochistic batman.

By contrast on other days I’m expected to think like an adult but from a child’s perspective. I find this hardest of all. Being half Australian, it’s likely Toby will soon be collecting air miles faster than Katie Price collects husbands and so it has been necessary to sort him out with a Passport pronto.

The problem is I was half entrusted to this task. I won’t tell you how far I got into town with Toby before realising that sitting him inside one of those photo booths might not be the best way of going about getting his passport photo. I suspect I would still be inside the booth twirling that stupid stool up to an appropriate height now had my wife not phoned to check on what I was doing. Personally I think the idea of a baby’s passport is ridiculous anyway. He’s gaining weight more rapidly than me at the moment (just) and am I really to believe that a keen eyed Australian immigration officer will be astute enough to stare at a photograph of him taken six months prior before declaring my son an imposter. I keep imagining Toby sat gamely one side of an interview table being expertly grilled during an episode of ‘Nothing to declare’. If he does, I guarantee his expression will give nothing away – other than to say ‘Where’s my milk?’

But it has to be said, my Wife and I have made progress and last week we decided to venture out alone with Toby to a restaurant for the first time. For those of you old enough to remember the movie ‘Carry on up the Khyber’ there’s a classic scene near the end where the British Officers of the Raj and their wives are forced to sit and enjoy a formal dining, apparently oblivious to the carnage going on around them during an attack by the local militia. I mention this now because it is that exact, terribly British forced indifference, to what is going on around you that is the only thing that gets you through a night out with a newborn. It started off so well. As is often the case Toby fell asleep in the car and I extracted him from the back with the same care bomb disposal units must do when removing a ticking fuse from its casing. Once successfully planted next to our table we had no sooner ordered starter and main than my son’s eyes flew open. I have now learnt that my Sons reaction to finding himself in a place he was not when unconsciousness took him is in four stages:

1. Mild surprise, conveyed by slow blinking. At this point his assessment of the situation ranges between where am I and where is my milk?

2. Mild suspicion conveyed by a flinty eyed look and slow scanning of the area. At this point his assessment of the situation ranges between who are we and where is my milk?

3. Mild irritation, conveyed by the realisation that his arms are pinned into the car seat because Mummy and Daddy couldn’t decide whether undoing his belt would risk waking him and neither was willing to take the can for it and after all we did that last time and he woke up and I told you not to; well you undo his bloody seat belt, see what happens, I’m not taking the blame: for gods sake woman can’t you just leave him alone and let him settle! So what if its not good for his back being in the car seat; going without sleep for five weeks isn’t good for us but I don’t see the little sod concerned about us.. Anyway at this point his assessment of the situation ranges between which of you is the one with tits? Where’s my milk?

4. Complete outrage, conveyed by screwed up eyes, screwed up hands, screwed up face and a massive intake of breath that, in the microsecond before he screams at a noise level similar to that of Concorde powering off the tarmac, appears to suck all the oxygen out of the room. At this point quite frankly he doesn’t give a shit. Mummy and Daddy are going to pay for not dealing with me sooner.

The time taken between stages two and three will dictate the speed at which food is consumed. This is the ‘Carry on up the Khyber’ moment, where Mummy and Daddy pretend that it’s perfectly normal to be eating food at roughly the same speed light travels and be out of the restaurant before stage 4. By the end we weren’t so much savouring our food as hurling it in the general direction of our mouths and shot -gunning our drinks like teenagers in Magaluf.
Unfortunately we failed anyway and spent the meal partaking in a little past time I call tag dining, where one of us sits inside enjoying the meal, watching the other pace up and down outside with a restless child until it’s time to come in and tag the other out.

Clearly we’re out of our depth, which leads me nicely into next week’s blog about swimming. (See what I did there? What a writer I am.) Until next time..

One man and a baby

The joy of sleeping babiesSo, fatherhood is upon me and I have learnt two things. You cannot, no matter how desperate you are at two o’clock in the morning negotiate, with a screaming one-week-old and that, contrary to what the movie Jurassic Park teaches us, it is not dinosaurs but in fact sleeping infants whose vision is based on movement. Palaeontologists will argue this fact but if you’ve ever tried to creep away from a crib, within which you have just tried to deposit a hard fought sleeping baby then you will know it to be true. It’s fair to say that I have what could be described at times as a stressful job, occasionally exposed to circumstances of a disturbing nature. I have not however yet come across anything as terrifying as standing at the nursery door and turning round to meet the cold blue steel of my sons eyes, that only moments earlier had been glued tightly shut and are now open wide, viewing me impassively with a look that says, ‘you thought you’d made it didn’t you father; so close.’

Let me state categorically that I am completely smitten with my son and from the moment he was born knew there was nothing I wouldn’t do for him. There are times however that his resemblance to an arch Bond villain is as close as can be achieved without him actually been sat up in his crib, sinisterly stroking a cat and saying ‘I’ve been expecting you father, come see what I have for you in my nappy.’

Since becoming a Dad I have developed the stealthy motion of a marine sniper, taking whole hours to creep the distance away from the foot of his crib to the open door of the nursery. I know wars that have been settled quicker. If by chance his eyes flash open in a scene reminiscent of the film Chucky, I have no choice but to freeze in mid-movement. My wife has on several occasions, after eventually noticing my absence, found me standing statue like in the middle of the nursery a cross between a Ninja and a sleep deprived Marcel Marceau as I desperately mouth to her save yourself.

I have since been told that two-week-old babies are not capable of simple emotions such as love, humour and laughter and that what we think is a smile is actually wind. I know this is not true because my son enjoys nothing better than playing a game called ‘lets scare the crap out of Daddy’ (copyright pending). This involves him late at night pretending to choke whilst asleep in his crib, precipitating Daddy’s frantic entanglement with the duvet as he catapults himself out of the bed, in the manner of someone being goosed with a cattle prod, only to find said son sound asleep with a mischievous smile spread demurely across his lips.

As mentioned previously, the NCT class for parents is deficient in mentioning a number of things and for the benefit of those about to become fathers I’d like to take the opportunity to mention them here:

1. Your child is born at a fraction of your own body weight and is slight in appearance. On being picked up he/she will appear, at first, light as a feather. Do not be fooled; after being held for anything longer than five minutes they will inexplicably gain the poundage of a Miami Dolphins line backer. Don’t be a hero and never try to style it out. Your child knows that Newton was wrong and that gravity acts five times more on a baby being held aloft by its father than on any other celestial object.

2. You think you’re being clever by removing a baby-boys used nappy then quickly putting it back because, as your friends told you, when exposed to the air, he is likely to pee. Unfortunately your boy knows this as well and can keep his powder dry, so to speak. He knows, to the second, how long it takes you to discard the old nappy, wet wipe his arse and retrieve a new one. The experience is not dissimilar to standing in front of a firing squad. Accept your fate and keep your mouth shut.

3. Midwives and other health professionals are highly trained but patently unable to agree on how best to ensure your child’s health. Advice can be conflicting, however they will all agree breast-feeding is best for your child – no argument. But fear not, contrary to what they might say if you do choose to bottle-feed your child, he/she will not become a serial killer. By contrast and despite what the NHS would have you believe, if your partner does exclusively breast feed it is no guarantee your child is destined for a Nobel prize and recognition for the saviour of humanity. At the end of the day its breast milk, not some magic fucking elixir from Hogwarts.

4. You will be told that a baby should never fall asleep with a dummy in its mouth. However, attempting to abstract it from an apparently unconscious child before he is ready is very literally tantamount to pulling the pin from a grenade. If you are so patient as to allow it to fall from his/her trembling lips before retrieving it, short of being lowered from the ceiling on a sling, mission impossible style, there is no guaranteed method by which to do so that will prevent his eyes flying open the second they feel the plastic leave their chin.

5. When feeding you only have two hands. One to hold your baby and the other to hold the bottle. It is guaranteed the second he gets a latch on you will develop an uncontrollable itch and an urge to scratch some far flung part of your body, forcing you into contortions that would have Cirque du Soleil gasping in admiration.

6. Google is both your friend and enemy. The same symptoms that describe trapped wind will, unaccountably, apply to those for Lassa fever or some obscure tropical disease not seen in this country for at least a hundred years. Hard to believe but it’s probably trapped wind.

7. If your wife does choose to express breast milk by attaching herself to a mobile milking parlour, addressing her as Buttercup in a West Country accent and bringing her a plate of grass for dinner will never be taken in the spirit it was intended.

8. Even if you have no experience of children, previously had no interest in them and really didn’t see what all the fuss was all about, you will, as I have done, fall head over heals in love with them. A sentiment I write in the hope that if my writing is ever one day recognised my Son might, when he’s old enough read this and know what he means to me.

Good luck all.

Fatherhood

Breast feedingSo, just over nine months ago I received confirmation I was to become a Dad. Since then my son has been born and I’m now typing this through eyeballs that feel like they’ve been put through the spin cycle of my washing machine.

They say nothing prepares you for being a Dad. That, however, has not stopped the NHS from trying to put together a course that does. Antenatal classes and their more expensive counterpart, the NCT course are a good idea in theory. Attempting to prepare individuals for the rigours of parenthood, they are however a minefield for fathers reluctant to be pigeonholed as responsible for the agony their spouse is about to go through. For a start, and lets be honest here, there really is very little men can usefully contribute. Patting your partner’s hand and saying ‘breathe’ whilst she attempts to pass a bowling ball sized person out of her body seems woefully inadequate. Like being reminded to duck just before a punch is thrown at your head.

What bothered me more was how inappropriate some of the lessons were. Recently I was required (for required, read ordered) by my wife to accompany her to a class on breast feeding.

“I’m sorry Dear, let me get this right, you want me to attend a class on how to breast feed our child?”

“Yes.”

(Looking down), “I can already foresee a problem with that my sweet. Possibly a couple.”

“You’re going.”

“Certainly, and perhaps after that you might come with me to the Doctors for a prostate examination. I believe they’re doing two for one.”

“Don’t get smart with me.”

If there is anything more ridiculous than holding a plastic doll to my chest pretending to let it suckle, then I don’t know what it is but alas that, along with seven other dutifully expectant fathers, was what I was to find myself doing shortly after.

Afterwards all the couples were asked to pour over a tabletop selection of photographs showing bare chested women from around the world breastfeeding their children. We were then asked to select a picture and sit in a circle before telling everyone else why we enjoyed that picture so much.

I started to sweat. Having a man decide, in front of his wife, which picture of a woman’s breasts he likes the most is like asking which mine in a minefield he’d like to have blow his legs off. Furthermore being asked why I like that picture so much seemed tantamount to marital suicide. This is where it is important to choose your

audience. Down the pub with your mates: stock reply ‐ ‘because she’s got great tits’‐ fine. In an antenatal class ‐ not so good.

Later on we were shown a cutaway diagram of the female form during pregnancy. We were then given a selection of magnetic stickers upon which were written the names of various organs, to be correctly located on the diagram: a sort of grim anatomical game of pin the tail on the donkey.

As mentioned previously I have a vaguely scientific background so when as a group we were asked to call out where we thought each one went, modesty forbids, but I was not found wanting. I regret however attempting to add some levity to the proceedings when upon being asked ‘What is the Fundus?’ I replied ‘I don’t know but they make great crispy pancakes.’ The look I received from my wife sat on the other side of the room is one I shan’t forget. Like I said choose your audience.

At quite an early stage of pregnancy the midwife asked me if, when my child is born, would I like to cut the umbilical chord? My reply of ‘not really’ was met with something of shock. How could I pass up such an opportunity? What kind of father was I going to be? Perhaps child services should be informed. I really don’t understand this and maybe it’s the Yorkshire grump in me but I fail to see how the severing of an anatomically defunct piece of equipment is such a momentous occasion. I have in the past had the misfortune of having my wisdom teeth removed and never felt the need to ask the dentist if I might have the honour of wrenching them out myself.

As we neared the due date it became apparent we were going to need a whole new catalogue of equipment. Having never really paid attention to the baby section of John Lewis, I found our visit exasperating. If you’re already a parent you will be aware of the bewildering array not to mention cost of some buggies on the market. The one we (my wife) eventually decided on was over a thousand pounds. For that price I expect to be able to travel in it myself.

The problem is that babies require a wide range of transport options. In the car a specially designed seat is necessary. One that offers side impact protection and air bags but that holds them so tightly as to cripple them if they stay in it beyond two hours (a bit like flying economy). So once they reach their destination they must be transferred to a much roomier pram that they can lie flat in. However beyond six months they are likely to outgrow it and require a more upright pushchair type device. If, like us, you have a hyperactive Springer spaniel that needs walking and no relatives to drop ‘said’ baby off with, you will need something more off‐road. This means abandoning the pram and depositing your offspring in a baby carrier, a sort of front facing rucksack that when modelled in the store affords you no dignity whatsoever. My suggestion that it might be less hassle just to hire a fucking Sedan Chair and a couple of porters did not go down well. The end result is that a day out in the car with my son is reminiscent of Apollo 13’s progress through the stratosphere, shedding one transportation capsule after another until all you’re left with is a frayed temper and a wife who doesn’t appreciate sarcasm.

And on that note I’ll sign off before I fall asleep at the keyb…

I’m not a Jaffa.

Jaffa OrangesSo events have moved on and some time ago, my wife and I decided to try for a baby. For my own part it was not a decision made lightly since, unlike other life changing moments‐moving home, starting a new job, getting married, having children is not a situation that can be readily reversed with the help of a good solicitor. One cannot divorce your children, move away from them, or seek employment bringing up more agreeable ones. (Though I know friends with teenage offspring who are not completely opposed to the idea.)

On paper the act of conception doesn’t look too hard (no pun intended). And on the grounds that I lack a uterus, I am not about to comment on the difficulty of nurturing new life within myself for nine months. Therefore at this stage I’m limiting myself to observations and of course whinging about conception from the male point of view.

Firstly and most obvious is how male fertility is so intrinsically linked to masculinity. Thanks to a particular TV episode in the 1980’s comedy, Only fools and horses, the term ‘Jaffa’ (seedless) has come to describe any man not ‐ how shall I put it?‐ firing on all cylinders. Let me state straightaway that being unable to have children is a devastating prospect for any couple. But there is no getting away from the fact that, in the early stages at least, sympathy between the sexes is dealt out somewhat unequally. Should a woman be confronted with such a possibility she will, by and large, receive encouragement and support from those around her. A loving circle of friends who will offer comfort and advice; will tell her not to give up; will tell her they’re all here for her and that soon she will be blessed with the offspring she’s always wanted.

A man on the other hand will be ridiculed for having empty bollocks and then receive an offer from a mate to step up and shag his missus for him. It’s for this reason men are hardly ever the ones to announce that they and their partner are ‘trying’. To do so is to start a mental stopwatch in the minds of his friends as to when it’s appropriate to start calling him a Jaffa.
Secondly is the advice given by certain websites to prospective fathers on how to increase the chances of becoming a Dad. Allow me to give you the first bit of advice. Don’t visit these websites. I have a vaguely scientific background but frankly I’m at a loss as to why some information is necessary. For example, possibly in an attempt to reassure, many websites describe the normal amount of ejaculate produced by a man as a teaspoonful. Bearing in mind this information is usually posted in response to specific questions, who on earth needs to know this? More worryingly who considers it necessary to confirm these measurements? Most importantly have I had a cup of coffee round any of these peoples houses?

Most men are aware of the usual advice given ‐ no tight underwear, no hot baths, no smoking, reduce alcohol intake. It is this last point that we have the biggest problem getting our heads round since it is thanks to excess alcohol that many of us have, in the past, already had an unwelcome brush with fatherhood long before we were ready.

After a few months of ‘trying’ ourselves, I decided I wanted to get myself checked. Not that I doubted my virility, but at a somewhat advanced age, and after years of hot baths, tight underwear and serious alcohol abuse I imagined my ‘swimmers’ more likely to be parked up on their sun loungers than considering the prospect of a channel swim. Any avid readers of my blog will be aware I do not relish meetings with the Doctor, as they are generally fraught with embarrassment and misunderstanding. This time was to be no different. Now, I’ve seen many an American sitcom and so was under the impression that the process would be a simple one. That I would be ordered to attend a ‘select’ but reassuringly clinical establishment. That the nurse would direct me toward a private room. That I would go through the wrong door and so initiate a highly amusing not to mention improbable confrontation involving me, my specimen tube and a Nun.

Little did I know that the process is even more comical than that. At the Doctors surgery I was presented with a small transparent plastic bag containing a specimen tube. I looked blankly at it. The Doctor looked blankly at me:

Doctor‐ ‘Is everything okay Mr Curtis?’ Me‐ ‘Erm, yes.’
Doctor‐ ‘Do you have any questions?’ Me‐ ‘Erm, no.’
Awkward silence.
Doctor‐ ‘Do you need anything else then?’
I looked around me. I’m not really used to having an audience. Me (toying with my belt)‐ ‘Erm, could I have a little privacy?’
Doctor‐ ‘You don’t produce your deposit here Mr Curtis, you have to phone up the clinic. The address is on the back.’

I then had the ignominy of walking through a packed waiting room clutching my ‘goody bag’ with ‘Danger, Biohazard’ written all over it. But my consternation didn’t end there. After reading the instructions (if there’s one thing men don’t need instructions for, it’s this, but it was in fact referring to what I do with the sample after) I realised that once I had filled the tube at home (with a carefully measured teaspoonful of course) I was to deposit my deposit with the nearest hospital within  a timeframe of 30 to 45 minutes. My nearest hospital, traffic permitting, is a good 30 minutes away. This, it seemed to me, was cutting it close. I considered my options. I have often seen motorbike couriers with the words ‘Urgent‐ Blood on board’ printed down the side, weaving their way expertly through London traffic. On reflection however I’ve never seen any printed with the words ‘Urgent‐ Man Jam on board.’ (I apologise to readers of a sensitive disposition, but there’s really only so many colloquialisms for sperm you can use, and we’re all adults here).
Therefore it seemed apparent that I was not going to be able to hang around if I was to make the deadline. My worst fear was being stopped for speeding. I envisioned myself standing by the roadside sheepishly clutching my sample bag whilst being reprimanded by traffic police for such wanton abandonment of the speed limit. I don’t know if my reason for doing so has ever been used as an excuse at Magistrates Court but I really didn’t want my specimen produced as exhibit A.

Thankfully however, such a prospect was adverted when, before I could book in a little ‘me time’, my wife presented me with a freshly tested clear blue stick that proclaimed she was pregnant. I was of course delighted. Delighted at the prospect of being a father. Of bringing a new life into the world. Of imparting my life experience and wisdom on a young and fragile mind. But most of all at being able to go down the pub without being called a Jaffa.

More to follow but till next time.

Getting old(er) 2

Getting olderSo, it occurred to me that last week I didn’t really encapsulate everything that bothers me about getting older, particularly since my technological ignorance is hardly a recent development. What I failed to mention was that, ironically, one of my first jobs was as a sales assistant for Currys Electrical, which is a bit like making Britney Spears head of the Bank of England. At the end of my four-week employment (I know, a proud inclusion on my CV) I had sold precisely zero electrical goods. It takes a special kind of sales and product knowledge base to stand in a technological Mecca and convince people that they don’t want to buy anything technological- especially at Christmas.

Anyway I digress. In truth there are much better or rather unfortunate side effects of getting older, especially since I have recently reached the big 4-0. One of the most obvious is injuring yourself. It’s a common misconception that as we get older we are more prone to injury, but this simply isn’t true. What happens is that we injure ourselves just as often but in a much less glamorous way.

I have at last count, received five separate bone breaking injuries in my life and as a twenty or thirty year old I wore those injuries like medals. They show a life lead less ordinary and of adventure and endeavour. I have five titanium pins in my foot, the result of a motorbike accident in Australia. Never mind that my mother could have overtaken me in a golf cart at the speed I was doing: in my mind, and certainly in the mind of others by the time I’ve blatantly embellished the story, I am Barry Sheen, put back together in the style of the three million dollar man; a hero in the making as surgeons sweated through the operation mouthing ‘We can re-build him- the clumsy tit.’

Likewise I sport a slight deformity on the back of my hand, the result of all the bones being broken during a lad’s holiday in Magaluf. What’s that you ask? During a fight perhaps? Or abseiling off some cliffs? Motorbiking again?

No, I got pissed and fell of a mechanical bull. Okay I appreciate it hardly falls into the adventure and endeavour category but what the hell. It was worth the pain, although filling out the accident claim form on my holiday insurance took some creative writing I can tell you.

But now as I pass 40, injury strikes when I’m least expecting it. When I’m least aware. When I’m least awake. In fact it’s whilst I’m asleep. How in Christ’s name I manage to damage myself so substantially whilst unconscious is something I’ve yet to establish. But I have in recent years woken up with injuries more akin to those involved in a serious road traffic accident. I have gone to bed feeling perfectly chipper only to wake up with amongst other things; serious whiplash in my neck: pulled muscles in my back: trapped nerves down my leg. On one memorable occasion my knee almost completely gave way as I walked downstairs for breakfast. It’s gotten to a point I go to bed viewing our thousand pound memory foam mattress like the octagon at the ultimate fighting championships. Short of setting up CCTV in our bedroom there seems no way of knowing what my body gets up to whilst I’m asleep but it appears to be having an awfully good time without me.

All this came to a head two weeks ago when I woke up with possibly the most degrading and it has to be said painful of injuries. I don’t want to be over specific but such an injury is likely to apply to only fifty percent of the population and meant I questioned my wife closely as to whether her threats toward me in the past had got the better of her. She swears not, though I’m beginning to regret not installing that CCTV.

For those of you not aware, testicular torsion (and that includes me until I awoke to a particularly painful demonstration) is a worryingly common phenomenon in men. However like most men, I only visit the Doctor when absolutely necessary, after all other options have been exhausted (principally, complaining to my wife about the pain and being told with little patience ‘Go and see a Doctor then’ to which for some inexplicable reason I turn into the worlds biggest four year old- ‘Don’t wanna see the Doctor!’). Anyway after my dear wife pointed out, via some hastily carried out research on the internet, that testicular torsion if not treated immediately can result in amputation, I was to be found seconds later bounding, somewhat awkwardly, toward the car demanding my wife get me to the hospital pronto.

It has to be said the hospital staff were mercifully professional, but herein lie’s the possible reason most men put off seeing a Doctor. We’re simply not comfortable talking about matters of intimacy. My GP must dread my visits since I treat them like a medical version of the game-show ‘Jeopardy’. All too frequently the conversation go’s like this.

Doctor- ‘What seems to be the problem?’

Me- ‘You tell me, you’re the Doctor.’

Doctor- ‘Mr Curtis, I need to know your symptoms.’

Me- ‘Things that cause a pain in my chest.’

Doctor- ‘I’ll take angina for $500.’

Okay I made the last bit up but you get the point. I think we make it too easy for Doctors anyway. Why should we do their job for them; let them do a bit of medical sleuthing; work for their money. I once suggested to my wife I go see our Vet instead, since at no point has our Springer Spaniel had to perch on the end of the examination table and say ‘You know what Doc, I’m getting terrible water retention round my paws, can you prescribe something?’ Needless to say like most of my suggestions it was met with a look of complete distain and grudgingly I picked the phone up to call the Doctor instead.

As a follow up I was asked to attend the clinic for an Ultrasound scan two weeks later. If like me you’ve confused an MRI scan with an Ultrasound let me set you straight. An MRI scan is a pain free and relatively mundane procedure whereby you are slid into a huge metal tube, which over a half hour period produces a detailed 3D image of your insides.

An Ultrasound is the one employed on pregnant women using a sort of hand held microphone to produce a grainy image on a TV monitor of the developing foetus. Having an Ultrasound of a woman’s baby bump is a beautiful, life affirming experience to be savoured and treasured for many years to come.

Having an Ultrasound of your bollocks is not.

Firstly like a prostate exam (I’ve not had that yet, but now I’ve passed 40 I know it’s coming- can’t wait) the whole experience is pretty degrading. Even though you know it’s necessary, you’re loath to do as you’re told and the Doctors instruction are prone to misunderstanding making the atmosphere even more uncomfortable-

Doctor- ‘Just drop your jeans and lie down on the couch Mr Curtis- no, your boxers as well Mr Curtis.’

Me- ‘Okay.’

Doctor- ‘Now I need you to grab yourself.’

Me- ‘Beg pardon?’

Doctor- ‘Grab yourself (miming action) here.’

Me- (moment for penny to drop) ‘Ah, I see.’

Doctor- ‘And pull up toward your chest.’

Me- ‘My ch-? I’m not Mr Fantastic!’

Doctor- ‘Toward your chest Mr Curtis not to it.’

You see what I mean? You then look across at the monitor to see a grainy image that I would imagine is very different to the one pregnant women see. It was at this point I noticed that the door to examination room had no lock and that anyone could walk in to see me pulling this grotesque pose. The thought then occurred to me that this was all part of an extreme adult version of ‘Punk’d’ and that any second someone would burst in with a video camera to shame me for ever.

Mercifully for all concerned that never happened and I was informed all was clear. And on that life affirming point I’ll sign off. I hope you enjoyed this weeks blog, especially since my recollections have forced me to write it with my legs crossed, and providing I don’t wake up with broken wrists next week I’ll have another written soon.