Monday, December 31, 2007

Can you drive a train then?

Mick and I rode on a steam train today.

I was concerned when we arrived at the station because nothing had gone wrong.

Luckily as soon as we got out of the car I dropped my rucksack onto the sodden ground, instantly coating the part of the sack that fits against your back with a glossy layer of mud meaning that I couldn't put it against my ruck so I had to instead negotiate a handbag and an over excited two year old running at the trains as if he was on a mission. A mission of suicide. (For anyone who hates Mick - he did not die at any point during the day, you can stop reading now.)

It was like going on a normal train, only much slower and more uncomfortable and with no point to the journey and with a high proportion of men who look like this on the train, grasping protectively at their K1000's and looking scornfully at my 20D.

I plonked Mick in front of the steaming train and ran off to take a quick photo of him, hoping that he wouldn't fall down the tracks. I couldn't get the lens cap off the camera because I'd dropped it in the rucksack and bent the lens. Brilliant. I had a few seconds of blind panic and then managed to realign it by carefully pushing it really really hard with my fingers.

Upon boarding the train we were greeted by the sound of a three year old boy crying and crying and crying and crying and crying.

I looked over at another Dad with his three year old and we smiled at each other as if to say "Thank fuck it's not my turn to be humiliated publicly to the point of tears," (at least that was what I was thinking. He could have been thinking "I really want to kill my wife's new partner." for all I know) and said things to our children like "Can you see the Thomas engine?" every time there was a break in the incessant mantra of "I WANT THE THOMAS, I WANT THE THOMAS,"
Can you drive a train then?
I got talking to the other Dad when Mick and his child started playing Hide and Seek. As we watched the engine change over he told me that this was a bit of a busman's holiday for him because he works on the railways and that he was divorced.
Can you drive a train then?
To stop the kids from running back and forth and stamping all over the heritage leather seats I suggested that we sat together on the way back.

He explained that he had a new partner. I asked if his wife had a new partner too and he said "Yeah, that's why we split up." I did embarrassed laughing. He did well rehearsed eye rolling and humiliated yet accepting shoulder shrugging.

While I was nervously trying to think of what to say next he looked pointedly at me from the corners of his eyes and said "Every dog has his day."

I wan't sure what he meant. The only other person I have ever heard say "Every dog has his day," was Al Pacino in Scarface who said it just before trying to get off with his sister then inadvertently killing her then running around with a bazooka and a machine gun then being gunned down off a balcony into a fountain. (If you are doing a dissertation on Scarface and have found this information whilst doing research then it is an entirely accurate plot summary for Scarface. In fact, you don't need to bother referring to the film from now on, just cite this article.)
Can you drive a train then?
I did a bit of fake nose laughing and nodding then did looking over his right shoulder, out of the right hand window and across at my son, causing him to say "Every dog has his day. He's only 19. Bless him,"

I wanted him to stop saying "Every dog has his day," now because I wasn't sure what he meant.

I should have said "Do you mean you are going to kill your ex wife's lover or do you mean you are going to take loads of coke, t
ry to get off with your sister then inadvertantly kill her then run around with a bazooka and a machine gun and get gunned down off a balcony into a fountain?"

Instead I just kept doing laughing and shrugging and looking at the children playing and thinking "Oh dear, I'm really not sure what every dog has his day means but I think it carries quite violent and bitter associations and I don't really know you well enough to be able to ask you to clarify things. I wish that I could use another dog based idiom to respond to you but I'm not sure that "Walkies!" would be appropriate in this situation."

Then he said to me "Are you married?"

I said "Yes."

He said "Yes."

I said "My wife and I get on quite well though. Sorry."

We both had a little laugh at that.

Then he said "Yeah, me and my ex-wife get on quite well too."

"That's good." I said. "What about him? Do you get on ok with him?"

I don't know what the matter is with me. I should have said something like "
Can you drive a train then?"

"No, not really. not at all actually, in fact I nearly killed him once." He said.

"Oh dear," I said.

"Yeah, if it hadn't been for my son walking into the room, he would have been a dead man," He said.
Can you drive a train then?
"Can you drive a train then?" I said.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Say What?

These signs can be seen on the A10 to Ely.

I got home and typed "Say no to Mereham," into Google and found this brilliant explanation.

After reading this I have become very, very, very anxious x 100.

Obviously it is a disastrous idea for any housing to be developed around here because it will cause lots of accidents. Millions and millions of terrible accidents. In cars. On roads.

Whilst no-one in their right mind could ever argue against the wisdom of preventing any hateful outsiders from moving here, the sign is obscure, not to mention dangerous.

What if I suffered from imperative autistic disorder and lost control of my car in my helpless panic unable to process or fulfill such a vague command?

The sign itself would then be causing an accident.

I propose that the Mereham Anti Progress (in a good, safe way obviously) Committee adopt my revised poster campaign.

Another poster said "SAY NO TO MEREHAM, 12,000 MORE CARS."

That's loads of cars and don't forget, these aren't just any cars, these will be DANGEROUS cars.

However, some idiots will intentionally disobey very reasonable instructions just because they say "No" in them, so let's go for a loop of positivity - I think that this'll do the trick.

I'm ashamed that this post has taken me 1hr and 15 minutes of my life to write. What a terrible waste.

I could be watching the world's strongest man.

Happy New Year.

As if I won't spend tomorrow night blogging about how desperately lonely and self hating I am how much I hate New Year's Eve.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

If you’re reading this, I hope it doesn’t make you get old school.

I am standing in Borders.

Mick is shouting “GO UPSTAIRS, I WANT YOU TO BUY ME A BOOK,” only he is doing it in his new psycho voice where he screams so loudly that he has three separate voices, one from his stomach, one from his throat and one through his nose.

People are looking and not smiling.

I’m whispering “It’s OK Mick, please stop shouting, I just need to choose a calendar,”

I’ve been looking for twenty minutes which could be something to do with Mick’s explosive behaviour.

I am holding a calendar called “Tuscany” and seriously considering it because it has a nice picture of a Sunflower on it. Something inside me says “Definitely not cool,” so I head for the Beatles calendar, which is a much cooler calendar. The coolest of all calendars.

What kind of guy am I? The kind of guy who has a really cool calendar. How cool is that? Well, we’ve got the Beatles, who are cool, and then on top of that we’ve got efficient time management, the coolest thing ever, so add them together and you get me - double cool.

Last time I went Calendar shopping I got the Cheeky Girls calendar which Polly threw in the bin.

Mick has stopped screaming and is just sobbing mournfully now so I head over to the lift to take him to the kids section when I see the Cliff Richard calendar.

My heart stops beating. It looks perfect. I turn it over and see the most erotic photograph ever…

It IS perfect. Then I look at the size allocated for writing on it. TOO SMALL. I am gutted. These days I can’t afford to do a joke for half of £7.99. A little part of me dies. How many more little parts of me can die before old me is dead? And will I notice when the last part of old me does die? And is it a sadness or a relief?

I go upstairs and refuse to buy Mick a book. I say to him “Mick, we can’t afford Cliff, we can’t afford a book. I’m sorry Mick,”

He looks at me and nods his head sagely. “Go home Daddy. On the bus,” he says.

I pay for the cool Beatles calendar and push Mick to the bus stop.

As we wait for the bus I wonder what the next explosive tantrum will be, and at what point it stops being “He’s three years old,” and starts being

“Thanks for coming to see us about Mick today Mister Trent, please take seat.

Mr Trent, Have you ever heard of something called the Autistic Spectrum?

Mr Trent, Here’s a leaflet that explains it to you. in an easy to understand cartoon.

Of a boy.

As you can see Mr Trent, he is crying his eyes out and saying "My trains must all be standing up before you switch off the light,"

As you can also see Mr Trent he has 327 trains.

As you can also see Mr Trent they all have stickers with their names on them.

As you can also see Mr Trent, his father is slamming the door of the room and shouting at his wife that "WE'VE GOT TO PUT OUR FOOT DOWN AT SOME POINT.

As you can also see Mr Trent, his mother is crying."

Possible flashpoints whilst waiting for the bus include:

A bus arrives – This, apparently, is a perfectly good reason to act as if every human right has been forcibly removed from you. It doesn’t matter what sort of bus. If it is a double decker then it should have been a single decker and vice versa. If it arrives quickly it’s too fast. If it’s late it’s too slow. Why are we going on a bus anyway? I want to go on a train…

A blue bus arrives to take us home, not a red bus - This is a particularly cunning flashpoint as no red buses go anywhere near our house.

The concept of sitting upstairs - It doesn’t matter that Mick has never sat downstairs on a double decker, if a double decker approaches it is perfectly acceptable for him to scream “I want to sit upstairs,” over and over again in ever escalating anxiety until he is actually sitting upstairs.

We get on the bus. We go upstairs. Empty top deck. Result. We get the best seats (front, right hand Aisle). I sit next to Mick – this is another flashpoint – “NO, IF YOU SIT NEXT TO ME THEN I WILL CRY, I WILL CRY, NO, YOU CAN’T SIT NEXT TO ME, I HAVE TO CRY IF YOU SIT NEXT TO ME,”

Nothing happens. Mick is as obviously traumatised by the loss of erotic Cliff Richard this year as I am. I give him a cuddle to try and make it up to him.

At the train station four “Youth” get on. I hear footsteps and then a female voice shouts “SAMMY, MIA, MIA, MIA,”

“WHERE ARE YA?” shouts “Sammy”

“MIA,” shouts the woman whose name isn’t Mia. She is saying “I am here,”

I am really terrified by their loutish and loud behaviour. I don’t experience this as fear though, I experience it as prejudice and hatred.


“YAIRBRIRRIYANSEEKAFRINTAYT?” responds another youth.

“HAHAHAHAHA” they all laugh.

They are harmless and I think to myself “How nice, they are actually all really pleased to see each other and just having really really loud chat. Maybe it’s good that these uneducated youth are going to grow up to rule the country, it means that maybe people will start communicating with each other without embarrasment and hushed voices. Good for you youth. Maybe I’ll turn around and give you a validatory smile. Oh, you’re saying “Fuck” quite a lot - maybe I’ll just try to appreciate you quietly and hope none of you notice that I am on the bus.”

One of their mobile phones goes off. Except it’s not going off. It’s just playing a song.

Dizzee Rascal is repeatedly requesting that I don’t make him get old school. He is doing this over an old school hip hop beat therefore making his request rather redundant.

Dizzee, if you’re reading this, I hope it doesn’t make you get old school. I’m not sure exactly what would make you get old school anyway though, you’ve not specified that in your song – perhaps you could release a song listing very clearly the things that make you get old school.

If “Riding on a bus with your child sitting next to you, becoming increasingly embittered by a twunt playing my song out of a mobile phone,” is on the list then may I wholeheartedly express my apologies, but I’m afraid you will have to get old school.

The twunt only has a 30 second attention span, as the music then changes to somebody getting very excited about me watching him “crank it like a hoe”. I don’t like gardening at the best of times. This is utterly preposterous.

I don’t know what to do. I want to tell them to turn the phone off. I’ve been brave twice before in the face of anti social behaviour. The first time ended up with my suspicion that I may be a fat man who resembles a woman’s reproductive organs being repeatedly confirmed by 14 youth who then waited for me to leave the cinema until the police turned up to escort me to my car, and the second time led to this.

I decide not to turn around and say “I’m sorry, I think your phone is ringing, perhaps you should answer it?” Instead I make an effort to appear as if I am wholly focused on Mick who is demanding a move of seats.

When the bus stops we move across to the seats on the left hand aisle. As we move across I bravely glance at the youth for about two fifths of a second. They look a bit older than I remembered. I sit next to Mick.


“Sorry Mick,” I say, very calmly, staring straight ahead, “I have to sit next to you or you’ll hit your head.”

Mick goes into full blown psycho mode for the next 10 minutes.

I worry so much about upsetting our fellow passengers that I break into a sweat.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Sick Mick

"Come away from the telly Mick,"


"Come away from the telly Mick,"


"Come away from the telly Mick,"


Mick is standing about 4 inches away from the telly and is using two hands to excavate his arsecrack. He’s quite bored. He’s watched TV since nine this morning. It’s now ten to five.

Mick is sick. He has a temperature of 38 degrees. He spent last night in bed with me, heavy breathing through his nose like a peveret, hitting me and saying "I want to drink water please," every half an hour from eleven o’ clock last night until half past six this morning.

From half six until to half eight he added whispering the lyrics to "Ride a Cock Horse" and "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star" to his repertoire.

I said "If you don't stop talking Mick, you'll go in your own bed," sixty three times.

I wonder at which point he thought "Right mate, you say you'll put me in my own bed, but so far you've said that to me eleven times and not actually managed to lift your head off your pilllow. I reckon that's a pretty empty threat, now would you stop interrupting me, I'm trying to remember the words from the Iggle Piggle song to whisper in order to interrupt your sleep. You mug,"

Whilst I didn't get any sleep I enjoyed the experience because it made me feel like that man in the Athena poster from the 1986 called Man and Boy.

I always loved that poster and tried to get loads of girls pregnant in 1986 in order to recreate it, but sadly it never happened for me.

This was mainly because my seduction technique consisted of stealing £2.99 from my Mum’s purse and buying the picture disc of either “West End Girls” by the Pet Shop Boys, “Don’t Leave Me This Way” by the Communards or “The Edge of Heaven” by Wham, then giving it to Vanessa King or Kimberley Myers or Sarah Bayliss at lunchtime before inviting them to come with me to watch Luke Gale do “flobbing” into the biology pond.

And because I looked like this.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

The Number 100

"100," says Elly.

"What are you having?" I say.

"I don't know. I'm not hungry. I knew we shouldn't have had those cakes," Polly says.

"100," says Elly.

"What are you having?" says Polly.

"Steak and Kidney Pie," I say.

I feel sick. We have arrived at the garden centre restaurant directly from cakes and coffee at the bakery, but there's no way I'm backing down.

We planned to get the children's feet checked out at the shoeshop, then to go to the garden centre to buy seeds and have lunch, and that's exactly what we will do regardless of the fact that we added "Go to the bakers and eat a Chelsea Bun / Giant Gingerbread Man / Easter Basket" to the plan in a spontaneous moment.

The Number 100

A plan is a plan and anyway, I am going on an 8 week liquid diet from next Wednesday and this is part of my grand farewell to food.

"100, 100 Daddy, 100," says Elly.

"What are you having?" I say to Polly.

"I'm not sure," says Polly.

The Number 100

This is typical. We are in a queue. There are at least 32 people behind us. The queue has come to a standstill. The queue is hungry. It is a rumbling, ill tempered, slightly anxious queue, the type of queue where everyone seems to be under the impression that rationing is still the system by which everyday transactions occur.

"Come on Polly, there's a queue, what do you want?"

Polly frowns. I feel guilty.

"100," says Elly.

"What?" I say

The Number 100

"100." says Elly, pointing at the number 100 on the counter. It is in amongst all the other numbers, 24, 80, 78, 10, 100 14, waiting to be assigned as a table number so the harrassed teenager behind the counter knows which table to throw the gloop at.

"Yes, 100. What do you want to eat?" I say.

"100 Daddy, 100."

"Yes, you can read 100, you are a very special, beautiful, clever princess. Well done. I love you. What would you like to eat?"

"Ummm, Tomato soup please Daddy. Daddy?"


"Can we have the number 100?"

"Of course," I say.

"Polly?" I say.

"Can I have the ciabatta with mozarella and tomato?" she says. "And get the number 100,"

I tense my shoulders. That is such a bad choice. This is a garden centre. They are renowned throughout the county for great big stodgy meals that fill their customers to the point that they can no longer move. Rioting and anarchy at the tills are cleverly avoided by using the restaurant to create hordes of glassy eyed balding middle agers swaying, burping up tiny bits of gravy flavoured sick and gently wincing it back down.

I also feel as if Polly is taking the moral highground by her food choice. The only possible reason that she has chosen a fancy ciabatta with vegetables and no meat is to show me that my food choice is dangerous and immoral. I refuse to be defeated though.

"Hi, Can I get (since holidaying in Nepal with Anna Wolton I have always said "Can I get..." instead of "Can I have..." because it sounds very cool) a ciabatta with mozerella and tomatoes, a steak and kidney pie and a tomato and red pepper soup with two bowls," I say.

The Number 100

Elly is grinning at me, and pointing at the number 100. "100, 100, 100," she is saying.

"Sorry, we don't have the ciabatta with mozerella and tomatoes, we only have sausage and cheese ciabatta or chicken and bacon ciabatta,"

I am vindicated. This place can't even shift a single mozerella and tomato ciabatta. It is just on the board as a smokescreen for their cholestrol based crimes against the human condition.

I take one look at Polly's face and am filled with a deep fear. She has a look of disgust etched into her which says "I knew we shouldn't have come here for lunch, I knew it wouldn't work," Suddenly my vindication shatters to reveal the true nature of my position - terror. My lunch will be ruined. Polly is about to take the ultimate moral highground. I can feel an impending doom but I'm not sure what form it will take today I brace myself. I huddle my shoulders in anticipation. Here it comes...

"I won't have anything then," she says.

Oh no. This is a disaster. This is the worst thing that could possibly occur. What should I do? Polly doesn't want anything. This can only mean that she hates me.

The Number 100

I've been excited about this lunch since we first considered coming here on Wednesday night, it's the highlight of my weekend, that one landmark that has pulled me through the last few days of work, the 6 a.m. wake ups, the early nights, the bowls of cereal thrown across the kitchen, the rolling around the floor screaming "mooor tubbies, mooor tubbies, mooor tubbies," all this has been made bearable by the thought of this meal shining like a beacon, like a finish line, after which a new plan, a new goal, a new hope would have to be constructed.

This plate of food has been my comfort blankey. And now my comfort blankey is being pooed upon. By my wife. In front of at least 32 people.

"Oh please," I mutter.

"It's OK, David, just get your food, I'll have a filter coffee with cold milk, get the number 100,"

I know Polly has cold milk in her filter coffee, as many many times I have had to sit opposite her shaking gently and saying "Sorry, I forgot, are you sure you won't drink it, here, have mine, here, here's a knife, poke my eye out, here, here's a gun, please shoot my head off, anything, please don't leave me over hot milk."

"O.k. I've got it. Sorry, please can I just have the Steak and Kidney pie and the Tomato Soup."

The teenager taking my order at the counter looks at me as if I am her mum.

The Number 100

"Anyfing else?"

This is the point at which I should say "Yes, please could I have the number 100?"

Elly is beaming at me and pointing at the number 100.

Polly is holding Mick and pointing at the number 100. Mick has made her hair go in seven different directions and she has gone a bit red. Her face is saying "I knew this would be a fucking disaster."

I feel sad, angry, frustrated, humiliated, comprimised. All I want to do is make everyone happy.

The girl behind the counter is waiting for an answer. There is a look of pure scorn scrawled across her features.

This is where I'm supposed to smile ingratiatingly and say "Yes, one thing, I know this sounds a bit silly, but could I have the number 100?"

The Number 100

Instead I choose this moment to assert my independence and dignity, say "Nope, that's it," and I start to do Derren Brown mind control to influence her into picking the number 100. It works like this, in my head I repeat to myself

"Please give me the number 100,

Please give me the number 100,

Please give me the number 100..."

I watch her hand hover over all the numbers

"Please give me the number 100,

Please give me the number."

Her hand lowers towards the numbers,

"Please give me the number 100,

Please give me the numb.."

She grabs hold of a number, writes the number on the order, drops the number onto the tray and humphs off to the kitchen to put the order in.

Elly looks at me. Her lower lip juts out.

"It's nearly 100 Elly, look, it's a 10 - that's like a number 100," I say.

"Didn't you ask for the number 100?" Polly asks.

I cannot reply. What can I say? Yes? That's a lie. No? That's a death sentence. I just say "Wha?" and stare desperately at the doorway that the teenager has disappeared into.

Elly is crying. As if she had a pet pony and I have just killed it. She is sobbing.

I pick her up. She howls.

I look back at Polly.

Behind Polly at least 32 people look at me as if to say "You, are the worst father we have ever seen in our lives, not just a bad father, but also an overeater and a terrible human being. We all hate your guts. You are an idiot."

I know what I have to do. I do that varigated inbreath that holds back the tears and hold it until the sullen teenager gets back. She looks at me. The look in her eyes says "What the fuck are you still doing here? I've got at least 32 people to serve."

I grit my teeth and grin,

"Hi, could you possibly change this number for the number 100?" I say.

The Number 100

"The number 100?" she says. She is incredulous, then furious.

She looks at me, at my screaming child, at my harrassed wife, and back at me. Her lips dissapear. Her eyes narrow and she shakes her head almost imperceptibly. She reaches over for the number 100, slams it on my tray and walks back to the kitchen without a word.

I look back towards Polly. She is walking off towards the tables with Mick and shaking her head in embarrasment.

At least 32 people are all gesturing at me, gesturing at my family and shaking their heads in disgust.

The Number 100

I feel utterly alone.

I look at Elly. Her cheeks are decorated with perfectly formed tears. She looks at the number 100. She bites her bottom lip and smiles at me.

"Thank you Daddy," she says.

She cuddles me tightly around my neck and whispers into my ear...

"I love the number 100."

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

10 games to play that make you look idiotic but actually you aren't the idiot...

I lied about ten games, but putting "2 games to play that make you look idiotic but actually you aren't the idiot..." wouldn't be very exciting. That is what this post should really be called though. Sorry if you feel cheated.

1) This game is called "I expect a riot"

When something unpopular is being announced at work say "I expect a riot," and then really grin and nod as if you have made a cultural pop reference.

Wait for the person to say "predict". If they do you win.

10 games to play that make you look idiotic but actually you aren't the idiot...

If they say "actually" you win more.

If you can make eye contact, say "yeah, that's what I meant," not laugh and walk away without giggling you are a superwinner.

2) This game is called "expresso"

Walk into a coffee shop and say "Hello, I would like an expresso please," Keep repeating "expresso," as in "Yeah, so that's one super skinny latte, one cappucino and one expresso, actually make that a double expresso,"

Every time the barista says "espresso?" make sure you say "Yeah, an expresso please."

This game can be devastatingly effective when played with a partner who also says "are you sure you want an expresso? "

"Yeah, I love expresso,"

"But expresso makes you do too much wee,"

etc. etc.

10 games to play that make you look idiotic but actually you aren't the idiot...

You win if the barista smirks, frowns or makes any type of involuntary gesture when you say "expresso"

Monday, March 26, 2007


I am going to make my blog pop. Here is an interview with a key person from my niche.


Polly XXXX is a woman. She is married to me. She lives in a room in my house. She sleeps in a bed next to me. She keeps all her clothes in a cupboard on the left hand side of the room if you are sitting on the bed and facing the wall. She is quite good at computers and goes to work every day in an office. She wears smarter clothes at work than she wears at home.

I am in italics.

Sorry, can you repeat that please?

Can you take that lump out of your beard please?

Lump of what?

I think it is tomato.


Ok. Um, can you pass me a tissue please? OK Polly XXXX

I don't want my full name used in the blog


I'm a bit reserved about my identity being plastered all over the internet.

OK. Um, Polly X,

Dearest wife...

No, Polly X, Mick is crying again.

I thnk he wants you to go and give him a cuddle. He was shouting for Daddy.


OK...(goes off to get Mick to go back to sleep) (Arriving back) Night Night...(Massive burp to see what Polly will say. Polly just wrinkles nose and pulls a disgusted face) OK, ready for your questions Polly XXXX?

Umm hmm

Hello Polly, welcome to my blog, David Trent. Good. I would just like to ask you some questions.

I don't think it's going to hear you over there.

It will hear me. I would just like to ask you some questions. Is that OK with you?


If you feel uncomfortable with any of the questions I ask you, bad luck. First question...Is my blog probably the best blog on the internet?

Apart from Fenella's

What do you mean apart from Fenella's? Is that a joke?

I like Fenella's. I like yours.

But which one is best?

If I said yours then I'd be accused of being biased because I'm your wife.

Yeah, but which one is best?

Usually yours

Good. Why is my blog better than Fenella's?


Did you say my blog is the funniest blog you have ever read?

Probably, but I've only read 2 blogs.

Out of those 2, was it the funniest blog ever?


Good. Well thankyou for being interviewed for David Trent's blogspace. It has been a pleasure interviewing you and I hope to do it again some time soon.

Is that it?

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

It was just a happening...

I hate teaching Dance. It is my least favourite lesson.

Except for History. I hate that too. History, Geography and Dance.

And Games.

And Art.

And ICT – that’s not really fair, I love teaching ICT when it works, but our ICT suite is still totally unreliable so lessons inevitably starts off great as in “Right, today you’re all going to learn how to use publisher to make your own cartoons” (“HOORAY,”) and ends up shit as in “Right, what did we learn today about computers class?”

It was just a happening

“We learnt today that the when clip art manager freezes for the 27th time, Myrtle and Andrew start crying,”


Oh God, I nearly forgot. I hate teaching RE too.

However, dance is the worst of all because the dances develop into a scrum of 30 children running round and around the hall flapping their hands like John Inman on speed. For example,

“OK, listen to the tambourine, and imagine each time I tap it, you feel a little bit of rain, got it? Good. Off you go,”

The children walk around tentatively, then at the very first tiny shake from the tambourine their hands raise to shoulder level, the eyes release a pent up frenzy and they all, as one, flap deliriously round and around the hall.

It was just a happening

“Good, excellent try, but we all seem to be over-reacting a little bit to the tiniest amount of rain. Do you think we could possibly try again, only this time, when you hear the rain, try not to go running round and around the hall flapping your arms, that’d make a nice change. OK, ready?”

They start walking around the hall.

One tap on the tambourine – they all stop and look at each other, faces go red and screw up, their bodies tense up, they start shaking with the effort to hold it in.

Another tap and WHOOOOOSH, they’re off again, legging it round and round the hall, flapping and flapping, screaming, laughing, shouting “I’m getting wet, I’m getting wet,” and nodding their heads from side to side with their mouths open and their tongues hanging out.

Today was session 2 of our dance lesson.

Before we started, I shook the tambourine a few times then continued shaking it. This went on until I sensed the children had cottoned on to the fact that there was no hidden meaning to me shaking the tambourine, that I was just shaking the tambourine and seeing how long I could hold the children’s attention for before they got bored of me shaking the tambourine.

It was just a happening

Enrique had given it a good go though, standing up straight to attention for a bit, waving at the others to do the same, grinning at me for affirmation that this was the hidden message I was sending them by my tambourine shaking, receiving none and disappointedly sitting back down.

Just before I stopped shaking the tambourine, Mark sneezed.

“Good,” I said. “My magic spell worked,”

“What magic spell?” shouted Enrique, slightly inappropriately.

“Good question Enrique, but I wish you to raise your hand before you ask, so I am unable to answer you. Class, I know magic and I just cast a magic spell to make Mark sneeze. “Mark, did it work?”

It was just a happening

Mark’s eyes are nearly popping out of his head.

“Yes, it did work,” Mark says.

The rest of the class are muttering “No it didn’t,” and “That’s not true,”

”It is true,” I say, “Mark, did you need to have a sneeze before I started waving the tambourine?” I asked.

“No, I didn’t,” Mark says, shaking his head in disbelief like a punter at a Derren Brown gig.

“And all of a sudden, out of nowhere, for no reason, you suddenly did a sneeze – don’t you think that’s a bit strange?” I ask him.

“Yes, it is,” Mark says.

“Exactly Mark, I made you have that sneeze, by my magic…” I say, raising my voice and doing over the top hand gestures and spinning around on one leg.

Jamelia has her hand up.


“It was just a happening,” says Jamelia.

“Do you mean a co-incidence?” I ask.

“Yes, it just happened at the same time as you were playing the tambourine,” she says.

“How dare you? I have Magic Powers,” I say, mock indignantly.

“No you don’t,” she says.

“I do,” I say, genuinely feeling smug at my excellent plan that has fallen into my head, “I shall prove it to you,” I address the whole class,

It was just a happening6

“Stand up everyone” I say.

Now, I didn’t for one moment think that they would ever disobey me.

Obviously, I am an idiot.

“O.k. listen, I’m serious now, stand up,”


“Ummm, no, I’m the teacher, and you all have to do it, everyone, stand up,”

They all sit down and grin at me.

“Ok. If you don’t get up, I’ll put you in 12.30,”

2 or 3 children jump up, the rest are seated, a couple are springing up in the air like those rubber suction pad ladybirds. The class burst into excited chatter –

"He's just suggesting," someone says.

"He's trying to influence us," says another child and I am surprised by her sudden articulacy.

"It's just pretending," someone else says.

"He can't make us do it" someone else says.

Enrique is running around whispering in everyone’s ears and Myrtle is dancing anxiously from one foot to another.

I seem to have started a full scale mutiny.

I glance at my watch. It is now 2.17. We only have 30 minutes left to go and we’ve got lots to do.

“Right everyone, joking aside, we’ve got to all get up,” I say.

“NO, NO, HE’S TRYING TO TRICK US!” shouts Karen.

This is all my own fault. I glance over at my teaching assistant. She looks back at me, shrugs her shoulders, sneers and starts laughing.

The door to the hall swings open and the deputy head starts walking across, head thankfully buried in her clipboard.

“OK, so we are going to be looking at rain again today children, doing another…”

The opposite door to the hall swings shut.

It was just a happening

“Look, will you all just get up, please, please get up, I really need to teach the lesson,”

“No, you aren’t magic,” says Lottie.

”I know, I’m not magic, I’ve got no magic powers, shhh, shhh, listen everyone, I don’t have any magic powers and I’m not doing any magic on you whatsoever. Now, if you don’t mind, I’d really like to teach you the dance lesson that I’ve got planned, so could you please all stand up for me, please” I am pleading.

They all stand up.

I smirk. I open my mouth, but something in my brain says “Don’t do it, DO NOT SAY “SEE, I TOLD YOU I WAS MAGIC,”

“OK, everyone. I want you to all walk around the hall as if it has just started raining very gently.” I say.

Everyone hurtles around the hall and flaps as if their hands are on fire. Except for one child who approaches me tentatively…

“I’m confused, I don’t understand. You said you weren’t going to do any magic on us,” says Lottie.

"Don’t worry Lottie, I'm not doing any more magic. Now, I wonder if you can do what all the others are doing?"

She runs off.


Friday, March 09, 2007

I was only joking...

It’s too early to get up.

I was only joking

Polly gets up and I lie guiltily in bed. It is Friday. I wonder whether staying in bed today will mean I’ll have to get up early on Saturday. I calculate the possibilities and conclude that it probably does, but I am too tired to care.

I can hear Polly speaking to Elly as she changes Mick’s nappy. She is saying “Phoooar, stinky Mick, have you done a big poo? What Elly? Is he? Really? Did he really say that? A treat?”

I shudder.

I was only joking

Yesterday afternoon I picked Elly up from school and her very first words to me were “I’m hungry, I want something to eat,”

She says “something” with slow emphasis. When she says it like this it means “Buy me chocolate,”

“O.K, you can have a snack when we get home,” I say.

“No Daddy, I don’t want a snack, I want something from the shop,”

There is a corner shop with two walls of sweets just outside the school.

“Elly, I’ll get you a treat tomorrow, because tomorrow is Friday, but I’m not going to get you anything from the shop tonight,” I say.

“O.K. Daddy,” Elly says, and we go home.

Polly doesn’t like me to buy Elly chocolate or treats, because when I give her chocolate or treats they are bad for her. I have rebelled against this recently, but it has been a secret Friday afternoon rebellion.

However, thanks to my daughter’s lack of diplomacy my insurgency has been revealed.

“Elly, come here,” I call.

Elly jumps into my bed.

“Elly,” I whisper, “Mummy doesn’t like Daddy giving you chocolate, so we need to keep this secret. Go back and tell Mummy that you were only joking,”

“O.K. Daddy,” Elly whispers, nodding her head enthusiastically.

She runs out of my bedroom.

“Mummy, Mummy,” Elly says.

“Yes?” says Polly.

“I was only joking,” Elly says, with a convincing rising cadence in her voice.

“What?” says Polly.

“I was only joking about the treat,” she says, expertly emphasising the words “joking” and “treat” – the “treat” turns into a smiley giggly sound. She is very good at this.

“Right Elly,” says Polly, who is concentrating on keeping her hands clean.

Elly appears at the bedroom door with a smirk on her four year old mouth, then climbs onto the bed raises her hand.

I was only joking

“Daddy,” she says.

“What?” I say.

“High Five,” she says.

I am shocked. Elly appears to understand that lying successfully to her mother to protect our collaboration is a cause for celebration. What a genius.

We high five.

It is now 5.55 p.m.

Elly is colouring in a rainbow sunflower that we’ve been making for the last hour.

Mick is wearing Elly’s rabbit ears and running back and forth between the door and the chair with a look of intense concentration on his face.

I look over at Elly bent over her colouring.

“How were the chocolate buttons Elly?”

I was only joking

She turns round to look at me and smiles widely,

“Great,” she says.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

For two seconds everything is perfect...

"Polly, I am going to get Fish and Chips. Please don't ask why, just listen..."

"Fish and Chips? Why?" says Polly.

“Look Polly, I’ve only just walked in the door and we’re supposed to be going out in an hour and I’ve been driving backwards and forwards in the car since 3 o’ clock and there’s absolutely nothing to eat in the house and we’ve got to go out in an hour and I didn’t want to have to explain everything to you and I am extremely irritated and I did say please don’t ask me why and now you have and I don’t want to have to justify everything I ever ask you. All I asked is if you wanted fish and chips and all I want to know is do you want any fish and chips and what fish and chips do you want if you do want it and we’re going out in an hour and that’s it…”

For two seconds everything is perfect

There is a silence.

I'm really anxious and over excited about going out. It's the first time Polly and I have been able to go out together for ages and we're going to go to the comedy club at the Portland Arms.

I am excited for many reasons – Andy Zaltzman is headlining and I have heard him making jokes on a Daniel Kitson bootleg and he is a mate of Daniel Kitson so he will be absolutely BRILLIANT. Caroline Mabey is compering. She is my new favourite comedian and I've never seen her compere. I am meeting Steve Rosier for the first time, who is a local based comedian. Hannah Dunleavy who I run Basement Cracks with is also going to be there and she's going to bring the flier for this month’s club, so it's a big ol' comedy fest and I am anxious to be able to enjoy every single second of it.

"Oh. Can't we go to the Comfort Café?"

"Comfort Café is miles away Polly, I just want an easy evening, I know fish and chips is shit but I can't be bothered, we need to get the kids into bed and anyway we're going out in an hour and I just wanted to know if you wanted to have fish and chips. I just want to have fish and chips so what fish and chips do you want, if you do want fish and chips. Do you want fish and chips? Please? HELLO?"

I am totally manic.

"Just get me fish and chips," Polly says.

As I run around the house putting shoes and coats on the children, the phone rings.

"And Mushy Peas," Polly says.

For two seconds everything is perfect

"Yes, I know," I say and press the green button quite a bit harder than I usually do to switch the phone off. That'll teach her to patronise me, despite the fact that I've just rung her up and gone through a very agressive permission seeking scenario which would suggest that on a subconcious level I very much seek patronage.

I wrestle the children in to the car, drive straight to Polly's work and get her receptionist to call her. She can't be found so they page her. I always laugh when they page Polly Page.

Eventually she shows up.

"Come on, we're going to Comfort Café," I say.

"Great," she grins, and runs off to get her coat.

"I thought you were going to get Fish and Chips?" she says as she gets into the car.

"I was, but then I couldn't be bothered and thought I'd just do what you suggested for a change," I say. "Anyway, if it is a hideous disaster, I can just blame you for it for months and months and use it as ammunition against having to do anything you suggest ever again, not to mention that if your idea does fuck up, when I next want to buy fish and chips I can say to you "remember the comfort café?" and you will instantly back down and let me buy fish and chips."

"Delightful," says Polly.


"MEEEEEEEEEEE," shout the kids.

For two seconds everything is perfect

Halfway up Lime Kiln Road I screw up my face and say to Polly “Mmmm, what will you have to eat at Comfort Café? I don’t really know what I’ll have to eat there.”

“I was thinking of their pie,” says Polly.

“Oh yeah, you said about their pie, I’m going to have that then,” I say, and drive silently, thinking about the Comfort Café Pie.

The Comfort Café is probably the best café in Cambridge. This doesn’t mean it’s an excellent café. It is not an excellent café. It just means the rest of the cafés in Cambridge are SHIT.

For two seconds everything is perfect

We used to have an amazing café at the end of the road in Peckham. It did massive portions of greasy food for about £3.00. Polly and I often bemoan the lack of decent fry uppery in Cambridge.

The Comfort Café does a similar standard of fry up as the amazing café at the end of our road in Peckham, but it charges double the price, which, according to café logic, means that it drops in status from amazing to quite poor value for money.

Anyway, Polly sometimes takes Elly there for lunch if the two of them are going to the hospital for some skin wrapping advice. Last time she was there she came back raving about the steak and kidney pie. She said it was massive and delicious and real. This pie was so good that strangers were eyeing it up and walking over to her and saying “What’s that you got there?” and then saying to their partners “I’m having that for lunch,” whilst smiling the smile that is only ever smiled by those basking in the satisfied security of a truly comfortable decision.

Now, Polly does know her steak and kidney pie, but I still can’t believe that this café, which comes in as slightly above mediocre when placed in context of the price of their food, can possibly deliver the goods, but once again I am comforted by the fact that if the Steak and Kidney pie is shit I can blame it all on Polly and right now I am in need of that kind of assurance.

As we pull off the A1307 Polly starts to chant…

“What if it’s not open?”

“What if it’s not open?”

“What if it’s not open?”

For two seconds everything is perfect

The sliproad from the A1307 to the comfort café is about 200m long, but by the time we get to the entrance of the café we have made and rejected 4 contingency plans for what to do in the event of the café not being open.

We will not go to Burger King.

We will not go to McDonald’s.

We will not go to Little Chef.

We will not go to the Three Tuns in Abington.

If the comfort café is closed, we will go to the fish and chip shop on Wulfstan Way.

The comfort café is open.

“Hooray, it’s open,” I shout.

“Hooray,” shouts Polly.

“Hooray,” shouts Elly.

“Raaaaaaayyyyyy,” shouts Mick.

We all bundle out of the car and into the café.

This is brilliant – there are about 3 other people here. This is too good to be true. They must be closing. “What time to you close?” I say.

“8.30,” says the counter woman.

“Wow,” I say.

Polly orders while I take Elly to the toilet and we sit down at a table for 8. Mick has a massive shouting episode about where to put the high chair at the table and insists that we have two high chairs, but it doesn’t matter because no-one is bothered, everyone’s expectations are very, very low.

Mick starts pushing highchairs around the restaurant. It doesn’t matter. No-one bats an eyelid.

Elly sings “I’m going to pinch your bummy,” at the top of her voice, a song that she and I made up a while ago, but instead of singing “I’m going to pinch your bummy,” she is singing “I’m going to pinch your WILLY,” and laughing a lot. It doesn’t matter. No-one bats an eyelid.

We are in a restaurant, we are with the children and Polly and I are relaxed. It’s both exhilarating and shatteringly depressing at the same time.

Then the pie comes over.

For two seconds everything is perfect

It is EXACTLY as Polly described it. A massive brick of a portion - thick pastry, huge chunks of meat and gravy and veg and boiled potatoes.

The kids are happy. The food matches the expectation perfectly. Polly is relaxed. I am very excited about my food.

For two seconds everything is perfect.

I look at Polly. This was a brilliant idea of hers. I’m delighted that we’re here and not eating disgusting fish and chips around our dinner table. I’m amazed that the pie is so fantastic. That she has got it so right.

I open my mouth and say “How come you get to have mashed potato and I have to have these rubbish boiled potatoes?”

Sunday, March 04, 2007

The power of NOW

The door slams against the wall. Polly is standing in the doorway with an angry looking Mick on her arm. He is wailing. The sound of Elly sobbing from her bedroom is also apparent. Light floods into my bedroom.


“I need some help, please,” says Polly.

She is seething.

We passed each other on the stairs this morning at 9.30 and I said “Good morning, I’m going back to bed.”

I then lay in bed listening to the drama unfold.


The dull thud of Now That’s What I Call Fucking Annoying Children’s Music Vol. 237 penetrates the floorboards as soon as I hit the matress. It is really loud, and the children start screaming with excitement.

I lie in bed and think about the words to Knees Up Mother Brown, and wonder who Mother Brown’s son was? Some kind of psychotic, Norman Bates character – witness the following lyrics - “Knees Up Mother Brown, Under the table you must go, If I catch you bending I’ll cut your legs right off,”

The music suddenly stops and I can hear the children crying.

“Come on, upstairs, I’ll get you dressed,” I hear Polly saying, and they all stomp up the stairs.

I close my eyes and drift off for a couple of seconds, but soon wake up to hear Polly saying “No Elly, No Treats, No Chocolate, No Magazine, I’m not buying you ANYTHING,” and then Mick starts HOWLING.

I open my eyes, stare at the ceiling, hold my breath and count the steps as they approach the bedroom

The door slams against the wall.

“I need some help, please,” says Polly.

The “please” is venomous.

I am in very big trouble.

I lie in bed and watch Polly hurl the curtains open.

“Ok. You are in charge. What do you want to do?” I say.

“Choose anything you want. Whatever you would like to do, choose it and we will do it,” I say.

“We could drag the screaming children around the fucking park for an hour and then come home,” Polly says. She is in quite a bad mood.

I get up and walk into Elly’s room. She is sitting in just her pants and crying.

“Stop this ridiculous crying,” I say.

Polly comes in and starts reasoning with her.

I walk out into the hall.

I listen for a while. Elly is just crying on purpose now and every time Polly says something Elly turns up the volume.

“Polly, come here,” I say.

These are Polly’s favourite words. She doesn’t come here, she gets Mick dressed and then starts reasoning with Elly again, except she is just getting dragged back into an argument about how she never does anything Elly wants and how it is Elly’s worst day and how no-one ever wants to play with Elly and how Polly has ruined everything.

Eventually I walk into the bedroom, grab Polly’s arm, say “Come with me,” and pull her out of the argument and into our bedroom.


“Don’t grab my arm David, don’t pull me about in front of the children,”

“Polly, just let her cry. Let her cry for an hour if she wants to do that, but just let her do it and don’t keep trying to stop her,”

Polly sits down on the bed.

I have an idea. I go running off into Elly’s bedroom and grab four toys from the floor.

“Look Polly, this is Me, and this is You and these are the kids,”

“Fuck off David,”

“No, listen, it’s good, come on, this is me and this,”

“No, I’m not doing it,”

I pick up a horsey.

“I’m sorry that I went back to bed, I didn’t mean to annoy you,”

Polly looks at the teddy and says “You didn’t even put their fucking clothes on and you just went straight back to bed and you did nothing at all with the kids and you waited until they were right on the edge and they weren’t ready to do anything at all and you went straight back to bed and left me to look after them…”

“Get the bear to say it to the horsey Polly,”


Polly starts punching the horsey again and again.

This is very good.

I pick up the horsey.

“I’m sorry that I didn’t think to get the children dressed when you were sleeping in bed until 9.30 this morning. It was unforgiveable of me. And I’m sorry that I have no enthusiasm for anything and that I’m tired all the time and that I just want to go back to bed. I am so fat at the moment and just want to sleep all the time and feel terrible and sad all the time because I put on three stone in weight and can’t bear myself or what I’ve let happen to me and just want to lie in bed all the time and sleep and not have to face up to the work I’ve got to do to get back in shape,” says the horsey.

Polly looks at me and picks up the teddy bear.

“Oh, I didn’t realise you were feeling so shit, I’m sorry,” says the teddy bear.

“And these two are pissing me off too,” says the horsey, and he throws the other two toys on the floor.

Polly laughs. She is clearly no longer in a mood. This is brilliant. By being a vulnerable horsey, I have won. HOOOOOORAAAAY.

Polly takes the children downstairs.

I am on fire. I have the power. I should be a life coach. Live every breath. Say what you feel. There is nothing on earth that can’t be solved by communicating and I am an expert communicator. I’ve had an excellent idea. I run downstairs and grab the phone.

“What are you doing?” says Polly.

“Don’t worry, I’ve got everything sorted,” I say.

I run upstairs to ring my friends Jon and Jo. Honesty and openness will save the day. Their voicemail kicks in. I know that they will pick up today though, because today I have the power, the power of the present, of the moment, the power of NOW.


I say “hello” in a variety of stupid ways until Jon picks the phone up, as I knew he would. I squeeze myself inside the moment, seize it and positively mould it to my will with my newfound clarity and enlightenment.

“Jon, we’re bored out of our fucking skulls here, can we come over for lunch?”

“Sorry Dave, we’re going round to my parents for lunch,”

“No Jon, I think you mean “Yes, we’d love to have you over,”

“Ummm, No, sorry Dave, we’re going over to my parents. For lunch. They’ve got rib of beef,”


Never mind though, because I hear Polly shout up “It’s alright David, I’ve got a plan, we’re cooking down here,”

“Oh, don’t worry Jon, we’re cooking this morning anyway. Everything’s going to be O.K.”

“Right Dave,” says Jon.

“Right, yeah, everything’s going to be GREAT,” I say

"Good Dave…”

“BYE JON,” I shout

I bound downstairs.

“I was just phoning Jon,” I shout to Polly, putting the phone on the reciever thingy in the living room, “I thought we could go round for lunch, but they’re going to Jon’s Mum and Dad’s, anyway it doesn’t matter because you’ve got a brilliant plan now, you’re doing…”

I walk into the kitchen.


Two chairs have been organised around the work surface.

I see Elly walking from the toilet towards her chair.

I see Mick glance at Elly, then scramble off his chair, run and lurch towards her chair just at the same moment she runs towards it and screams “Oh MIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIICCCKKK”

He reaches towards her, grabs a fistful of her hair and pulls.

Simultaneous cries of outrage fill the kitchen. The sound is invasive, palpable.

I look at Polly’s face. She looks exhausted.

“…cooking,” I say.

A Number