House of Cards

Snarky Tuesday Paul Millard House of Cards

Last Sunday morning, whilst trying to avoid my son (and yet another retelling of a dream he had about teenage turtles), I flicked on the TV and stumbled into the last five minutes of The Andrew Marr Show. On the receiving end of his shitty gaze and carefully rehearsed criticism was our much beloved Prime Minister, David Cameron. As I watched our glorious leader lie, spin and spill his stupid face all over my television, I was drawn into a brief moment of pressing enquiry.

First, I pondered the likelihood of a decent assassination attempt happening right at that moment, and whether the gunmen would make allowances and do Andrew Marr at the same time to really boost the ratings? Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, I wondered when House of Cards would return to Netflix.

As it transpired, no men in stylish balaclavas did bust onto my screen that morning. Marr and Cameron remained bullet-free and bullshit heavy, and I switched off the TV like all people with any sense should do when greeted with such dreck. I was, however, very pleased to learn that House of Cards is back in a few weeks.

Yes! Come the 27 February, we will all get the chance to watch another twelve hours of Kevin Spacey snarling at the camera whilst delivering a steady stream of disaster capitalism, and giving the likes of David Cameron something to truly aspire too!

Over the past two seasons, House of Cards has been nothing short of perfect. If savage political intrigue and intelligent dialogue is your thing, then I would first question why you are visiting this website… and with keener interest, whether your Netflix subscription is up to date.

The cast are beautiful, the production is sharp, and the plot is excruciating in its unfolding – and seemingly never afraid to take a few risks with its obedient audience.

Here now be spoilers!

The main protagonist, Frank Underwood (Kevin Spacey), is the embodiment of what all vile politicians should be – corrosive, calculated and arrogantly charming. However, rather than drive you into a bout of galloping diarrhoea (just as any decent politician should do), he endears himself to us with the same devil-like manipulation he has used to reach the Oval Office in the show.

His frequent addresses to the camera coerce you into his plans, and breeds compliance with his treachery. It’s a well worn cinematic device, but perhaps never has it been so brilliantly employed than by the mesmerising Kev!

Claire Underwood, played by Robin Wright, shares her husband’s panache for being a vicious shit-bag, and perhaps due to the soft-spoken delivery, and chic appearance, manages to outdo Frank in the truly despicable leagues. Withholding critical neo-natal medication from a pregnant former work colleague, in order to win a lawsuit, is one of my personal favourites!

In short, not since the event of Big Brother, and all those other gutter-level reality TV mutations, has a show continually revealed the lower echelons of what humans are capable of, only to then dance around in its own glorious filth and pat itself on the back for a job well done. The saving grace for House of Cards is that such demonstrations are by clever design and brilliant performance, rather than out of a crass need to pitifully debase oneself for the chance to “be on da telly.

But let’s move away from the bevy of performing idiot monkeys that reality TV provides us, and back to something good.

With the third season fast approaching, can we expect House of Cards to hold back on the shocking moments of unfortunate demise? Not likely. The first episode of season two delivered perhaps the biggest to date… and it still hurts!

The loss of Kate Mara was a personal tragedy for me (see below for a partial description of my reasons), and for a few moments I thought the death of such a key figure might be a total season killer. In fact, it spun the show into a new direction, and opened up a cyber terrorism subplot that may well turn out to be the eventual undoing of Frank Underwood’s master plan. Now tell me that isn’t inspired storytelling!

Honestly, the elegance of its spiteful narrative is more engaging than crack, and during its ten month hiatus, has provided the same kind of chronic withdrawal symptoms for those hopelessly addicted.

It’s no surprise that Netflix will be hyping this into the stratosphere over the coming weeks – and rightly so. With Showtime, HBO and AMC as the more familiar names when it comes to providing game changing programmes, it was a real coup for Netflix to steal a sizable chunk of that action and deliver such an astounding piece of drama.

I’m now impatiently waiting for that familiar logo to appear on my Netflix account, announcing the arrival of season 3. Like all good addicts, I’ll binge on it over an entire weekend, twitch my way through another 10 month detox, and wait for season 4 to hit the servers. Knock-knock!

Paul Millard 2015

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A Childhood Realised in The Suburbs

This is a piece I wrote several months ago, but couldn’t find the right time to drop it here.  Anyway, with the recent storms and crappy weather, is there not a better time to read about long summers, childhood memories, and an album that inspires me to time-travel.  Hope you like it.  Paul x

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Every now and again an album comes along, is listened too on a weekly basis, carried with you everywhere you go (thanks to smart phones, tablets and laptops), and four years on from its release still manages to surprise and expose the emotional edge of a scathing 42 year-old man.

Just like a plate of your favourite food, or a certain comedian that always earns your smile, Arcade Fire’s, The Suburbs, is an album I can turn to at a moment’s notice and feel immediately better for it.

It’s a multipurpose tool. I use it to wind away tedious train journeys, listen too whilst washing dishes, and perhaps most personally, reach for in those moments when I need to disappear and realign my soul to simpler times and safer places.

It’s an album that seeks out the gainful feelings of youth, conformity, falling in love, peer-pressure, friendship, and summer months that were spent outside – and once found, turns all those remarkable reflections back onto the listener, in the hope of finding some shared kinship. A recollected time to point too and completely own.

It certainly worked for me.

Throughout this album I’m taken back to one summer in particular in the early 1980’s.

Without going all Stand by Me on you all, I and a group of neighbourhood kids spent the better part of that entire summer building a camp within the forest my family home backed onto.

Passing through a gap in the wire fence, we all entered into a place that was away from any rule or parental order. You had freedom to take on shapes and guises, to explore not only your surroundings, but also who you were… and who you were to your friends.

These memories begin with the opening track. The steady movement of The Suburbs digs deep into the exploration of childhood antics and achingly familiar hopes. The entire feel of this song, and the faultless repetition of the hook, harks to visions of children running through their yards, hot pavement and cool grass, and the memories of hilarious screams and neighbourhood battles with those kids who lived on the other street.

These themes continue throughout – from the fast-paced, living in the moment, anthems such as Ready to Start and Empty Room, to the beautifully layered Suburban War and Deep Blue.

In fact, Suburban War is a real counterpoint, and bridges the middle section perfectly.

If the opening tracks take me immediately to those childhood memories, then Suburban War fills any gaps within my internal narrative. I can’t help but swallow a little deeper when I hear lines such as,

And my old friends, we were so different then”, and “This time’s so strange. They built it to change. And while we’re sleeping all the streets, they rearrange.”

The truth is we were so different then. The world-weariness of adulthood was unknown, and the future was made up of long anticipated birthdays, the mischief of Halloween and Bonfire Night, and the hope of winter snow and Christmas presents too exciting to think about.

I don’t remember a single day away from our construction project in the forest. With that morning haze lifting away from the landscape of soft earth, snaring brambles and the huge, muddy-coloured trunks of the oaks, ferns and sycamores; the afternoon revealed high temperatures, higher times and spectral breezes that softened under the jungle canopy as if they were barely there.

The album continues with further interludes of real inspiration. We Used to Wait is a track that trembles with a relentless piano refrain, and an urgency to keep the story unfolding. Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains), is a siren song, and is perfectly encapsulated by the gorgeous Régine Chassagne.

Only with such a remarkable collection of musicians can Arcade Fire tell their tales.

And with the end reprise of The Suburbs (continued), I’m taken to that time when the light is fading all too fast. Around 8.30pm, and your surroundings take on new forms. What was once so familiar and native now looks strangely different and somehow threatening. And in the distance, the clarion call to go home becomes sickeningly imminent.

Trying to rush through one last game of cricket or football, one last battle between the Empire and the Rebellion, to steal one last kiss from the girl you’re sweet on – just before the pain of saying goodbye threatens to crush the feelings you’re struggling to fully understand.

This is the glory of The Suburbs, and on occasion, its curse. When listened too during a reflective mood, it becomes all too painful to revisit those past times. And as one gets older, it’s harder to stem the onset of a few tears.

For the more sensitive of us, the aging process is not without these times of fragile inflection and reassuring smiles of joyous reminiscence. However, no matter how hard you try to keep a tight grip on that lingering memory; they always seem to trickle away and are swiftly replaced with the here and now.

For my part, this album has created new memories. The album’s release in 2010 was only a few months after the birth of my son, and shaped many a sleepless night. Rocking him to contentment, and all the while accompanied by songs such as Half Light I and Wasted Hours.

Thankfully, albums such as The Suburbs help retain those memories, and capture something no camera could hope to achieve. This album makes you long for youth, with a realization that it passes all too quickly, and once gone, can never be returned too. As Win Butler hauntingly whispers to us,

“If I could have it back.

All the time we spent wasted.

I would only waste it again.

You know I would love to waste it again.”

Paul Millard 2014

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Waiting to Grow

I have a birthday fast approaching – and with it comes the familiar realisation of something I have been lacking for a long time.

You see, with each passing year I’ve been waiting for a shift in my general adultness. I have a mortgage, a wife and a kid. I’m building up a nice collection of age-related illnesses, a rampant spring of nasal hair that must be harvested every two weeks, and I seem to be shrouded by a constant weariness that I’m guessing comes from having all the stuff I just listed.

Hell, I even have a few Coldplay albums that I keep hidden in the glove compartment of my 5-door family shitwagon. I’m not proud of it, but what else am I supposed to do with them!

But despite all my middle-aged credentials and impressive nasal hair, I have a terrible proclivity that stops me from going full grown-up. It’s an unruly kink in my otherwise flawless resume of noted adult competencies and worldly wise responsibility.

I am a father, I am a husband, I am a home-owner, but I’m also a mid-life gamer?

I started playing videogames over 30 years ago, and I’ll be honest, I feel no different towards them now than I did back then. I still get excited when a game of particular allure goes gold – that’s the term used to denote the final stage before manufacturing and shipping, and is only known by the truly pathetic and virginal.

I pre-order the titles several months in advance (this is getting embarrassing!), and I pour over every morsel of leaked details until the stupid piece of plastic arrives. In fact, only a gamer would happily pay £54.99 for a silver disc and a 6 page pamphlet that spends more time discussing the potential for epilepsy, than the actual game you have just forked out on!

I get a little panicky when I haven’t spent enough time with my current obsession, and I feel guilty if I start playing another game before finishing with the last one. In essence, I’m a neurotic, two-timing, scumbag that needs to spend more time with the game I’ve already committed too, rather than the sexy bombshell that just clicked her new heels and landed on my hard-drive.

It got a whole lot worse recently when I purchased a new laptop with a nice fat graphics card that allowed me to rediscover my love for RTS’s (real time strategy – please, keep up!).

Over the past ten years, the Total War series in particular has leached more of my life than anything else I can think of – and that’s without looking at other time-wasters such as Sim City, The Elder Scrolls, Pharaoh and online searches for pictures of Kelly Brook.

Ignoring Kelly Brook for a moment (not an easy thing for me to do), with the new laptop has come my discovery of Shogun 2: Total War, a game that I have become so close with I now simply refer to it as “my son’s samurai brother who lives in my computer”.

In light of this new arrival, and as a man with true family values, I need to ensure I spend quality time with both my children. It’s all about having the correct priorities in place. When I spend 6 hours playing with my beloved oriental son, I should at least make sure my other, more needy, son gets a quick pat on the head before I send him to bed.

And if that wasn’t time consuming enough, a copy of Total War: Rome II appeared in my Steam account – thanks to those kind people at Hewlett Packard. Upon this discovery I immediately renamed it as “my son’s flighty Italian brother who lives in my computer”.

I’m not kidding, with all these children I may need to get a nanny to help with that needy one who sometimes wanders into my field of vision and moans about being hungry!

However, in spite of these good intentions, every now and again I do get a twinge of doubt towards this gaming aspect of my life. Should I honestly be spending this much time playing with these things? Is it really appropriate that a 42 year-old man longs for the moment his wife and son goes to bed, so he can stick on a headset and kill zombie clowns with complete strangers, who have names that start with punctuation symbols?

I think I’ve come up with a cunning way of getting an answer.

You see, I have built a family in The Sims 4. They are called The Millards. They live in a 3-bedroom house, with a nice garden and two cars parked out front. Everything is ticking along nicely at the moment; however, I’m going to start placing Mr Millard on his computer for 12 hours each day. He will stop talking to his family, take all meals via a straw, and have a colostomy bag fitted to avoid unnecessary time away from the keyboard.

Within a few weeks I should have some indication on how this change in Mr Millard’s behaviour affects the household dynamic. I’ll then be in a better position to decide whether I should pre-order Total War: Attila… or as I intend to call it, “my son’s argumentative brother who lives in my computer.”

Paul Millard 2015

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A Slim Start to the Year

With Christmas out of the way, and most of the food now vanquished from the extra fridge I wheeled in a few weeks ago, it’s time to tot up the damage I’ve inflicted on myself.

I fear the worst, primarily because the warning signs are already flashing like a fat man wearing a crop top.

It’s my clothes; they don’t seem to be mine. Someone must have replaced them with exact replicas, but in a size more suitable for an Action Man figure. My socks seem a bit tight, my belt has run out of notches, and I have to hold my breath in order to put my glasses on!

I’m also breathing a little heavier and get tired when faced with simple exercise. I knew things were getting bad a few weeks ago when I spontaneously broke into a sweat whilst watching the BBC Sports Personality of the Year show! Now that can’t be a good sign.

My son frequently demands I do the truffle shuffle in order to enter the house, my wife keeps asking me what it was like directing Psycho, and I find myself bumping into door frames that I could previously pass through without getting grazed or concussed.

I need to be less… people. I know I stuck on a bit of weight over the Halloween season. Popcorn, hotdogs and an orchard of toffee apples found their way into my beleaguered digestive system. I tried to be good for November, in preparation for “pulling the pin” come December, but that didn’t work out as expected.

In short, I made Halloween last until the 22nd November, and then quickly adopted an American accent in order to eat my way through Thanksgiving. I even took Black Friday as an opportunity to purchase discounted tubes of Pringles and 2-for-1 chocolate bars – I even found a 55 gallon drum of used fat that my local chip shop had mistakenly left in their bin shed. Crazy!

I know that I’ve lived well over the past few months, and have gained more mass than a supernova, but now that January is biting hard, I need to face the music and head towards the last chance saloon. It’s time to visit my old, enormous, friends at Slimming World!

But it’s such a fricking drag. I don’t want to watch what I eat. I would rather just eat it and pretend I watched it before I ate it! It’s not fair. Why can’t I have one of those fast metabolisms thin people annoyingly complain about?

  ‘Oh god! I never seem to put on weight, no matter how many of these lovely, delicious, full-fat cakes I eat!’

  ‘Fuck off!’

It would be so much easier if I had the same ability to process carbohydrates as say, an ant! I would get a lot more done, and probably not feel the need to sleep in-between meals.

I always thought the “middle-age spread” was a term invented by Paul McKenna in order to sell more fat fighting hypnosis books, or a really grim pull-out section in the over 60’s version of Playboy Magazine. I was wrong, and not only is it real, but it currently resides around my midriff – like an oversized, fleshy bum-bag!

So, I now find myself beating a path down the syn-counting highway of gloom. No more chocolate covered things for me. It’s all red days, green days, and a couple of dry-arsed Shredded Wheat for breakfast (that will no doubt get stuck in my stupid throat and kill me).

Or, I could just embrace my inner John Candy and succumb to a sweet, sugary future of swollen ankles, being hunted by whaling ships and heart disease so chronic it spreads to my place on the sofa/day bed.

Let’s face it, that isn’t the most responsible life choice to make. Whilst eating everything would be very nice, and the heart disease probably curable by a Lemsip or something, dodging harpoons could become a real drag, and would blight my trips to McDonald’s and Krispy Kreme.

No, it looks like Mr Millard will be taking the slimming route for the next few months. As such I would expect a torrent of extra snarky posts, and a fair amount of subliminal references towards cakes and hamburgers!

Roll on Easter… and a chance to eat my body weight in Mini Eggs.

Paul Millard 2015

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Merry Christmas!

I’m sure you kind people wouldn’t begrudge me a week off, would you? I thought not.

I hope you had a cool yule, and enjoy a safe New Year.

I’ll see you all on the flipside!

Oh… I’ll probably be tweeting over the coming week, so join me over there if you fancy it: @snarkytuesday

Be good.

Paul

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Yuletime Memories

This week’s rhubarb becomes very self-indulgent and very soppy… very quickly! It’s certainly not in-keeping with the usual crap I write. So think of it as a lighter side to a usually Snarky Tuesday. You have been warned.

Christmas Stocking Snarky Tuesday Paul Millard

So, here we go again!

It’s that most wonderful time of the year. We all get a chance to take a break and unwind for a few days. In the company of good friends, bad family members and various dead animals – all cooked and stuffed with sage. Barracked into your sofa with a healthy supply of booze, snacks and broken stuff from China, it’s a time that is embraced by many, tolerated by a few, and sneered at by those too miserable to just go with the flow!

I’m a lover of Christmas, and make no excuses for it. Decorations are up the first week of December, experimentation with mulled cider begins in earnest around the same time, and jars of seasonal mincemeat have already been aging for a good few weeks before that.

It’s a strange juxtaposition towards the misanthropic shit-bag I usually am for the rest of the year, and the happy-go-lucky, spend-thrift that Ebenezer Scrooge becomes by the fifth chapter (yes, it’s actually a book, not a fucking Disney cartoon!).

I guess I have my Mother to thank for my “keeping of the season”. I was fortunate enough to grow up in a household that went all out for Christmas. Every room shone with gollups of tinsel and twinkle lights of all colours.

The ceilings were home to highly flammable paper-chains and slow-leaking balloons. And every mantelpiece and window sill was flourished with some kind of festive ornament or seasonal depiction.

Mum always kept the excitement building throughout the month. Secret shopping trips, and rumours of parcels hidden around the house, were common. Any chance I had to sweep the place, for a hint of what was to come, was taken. Think CSI Miami, minus the pretentious twattery and sunglasses!

A few days before the “big show”, and bowls of sweets would appear like little diabetic time-bombs of joy! Nuts, crisps, and the obligatory tray of dates, would all be laid out in readiness for any passing mouths.

The kitchen was in a constant flux of being used for some kind of preparation. Boiling ham, trays of mince pies, that glorious smell of a tea towel on fire, all was available throughout the day – and usually long into the night.

Christmas Eve, and the pace built to new levels of bat-shit insanity!

Relatives would come – some with the intention of staying for the entire duration.

Armed with suitcases and mysterious black bin liners, my grandparents would usually arrive on the 23rd December, and leave sometime after Easter! Nan and my great aunt would immediately slip into the guise of soux chefs, and my grandfather into the guise of a talking armchair.

At various points throughout the day, people would pop-in for a drink and a moan about how much they have to do. Sweet wrappers would be hidden, Christmas movies would be watched, and presents slowly started to appear under the tree – courtesy of said bin liners.

My sisters were unmatched in their skills at unpeeling selotape, and finding gaps just big enough to discover what lies beneath the bows and ribbons. For this reason, my parents became too shrewd to leave gifts under the tree anytime before Christmas Eve. As a result, the great Christmas present delivery all added to the tradition of the time, and excitement of the occasion.

A sleepless night later, and all hell was breaking loose by 6am!

My father marshalled the reams of torn wrapping paper, my mother contemplated the first Baileys of the day, and my Nan and Auntie looked on with a knowing smile, and words of encouragement… and for the record, my Grandfather had still not moved from the armchair!

It was glorious!

It was also a time before the arrival of affordable video cameras, and smart phones with HD recording. Sadly, only a few photos now remain of those moments. As a family, we often reminisce about Christmases past. It’s a conversation I’m always happy to start. I guess it’s an attempt to ensure the memories don’t fade completely.

Now I’m a father, and in the throes of making new Christmas memories. I can only hope to achieve the same levels of excitement and wonder for my own son!

I think I’m up to the challenge, and I’m sure that in years to come, my son will be able to write a very similar depiction to the one I have provided above.

Let’s be honest, I have a pretty good template to work from!

Thanks Mum. Merry Christmas.

Paul Millard 2014

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A Black Friday

I was compelled to write this week’s twaddle based on my mistakenly watching a 79-second YouTube clip. Yep, I really am that desperate for ideas! In fact, it’s going to take you a damn sight longer to read this nonsense, than it is to just watch the clip in question and come to your own scathing opinion on it.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F1YuOIfqr_8

If you bothered to click the link, you would have seen a glorious little piece of footage showing our polite, fair-playing, English reserve for what it truly is – a circus of despair, fed upon by that atavistic desire to survive at any cost, and fuck over your fellow human in the process.

And what did it take to expose this raw nerve of scum-bag arseholery?

Yep, you guessed it… the promise of a cheap TV.

Black Friday – the latest import from the county that gave us high definition war footage, pop twat Justin Beiber and Real Housewives that bear absolutely no relation to any real housewife I know – but then again, I’ve never been to Bognor (which I’m told is quite similar to Beverley Hills!).

Anyway. Black Friday. When did we Brits start engaging in Black Friday? Did I miss a meeting? I know our American cousins enjoy this annual plunge into horrific credit card debt, but I didn’t think we English folk were quite so keen.

In fact, I always thought the Boxing Day sales was more our style of shopping-assisted suicide.

By 5am you can usually find a nice queue forming outside the local Next, Primark or whatever place has been spamming our television sets with relentless adverts for the past 72 hours. An organised gaggle of neurotic, sleep deprived bargain hunters lay in wait. Every one of them clutching a fistful of gift vouchers, and keeping a beady eye on the poor fucker stood behind the shop door. Some 17 year-old kid who not only has the pleasure of working for minimum wage on a public bank holiday, but also opening the store before sunrise, so he can be stampeded by a gollup of wide-eyed insomniacs, with shopping lists longer than a Peter Jackson movie!

If I’m honest, I was staggered by the above clip. The savagery and greed on display was a bit sickening. It smacked of a vermin-like “Chav Olympics” – a plague of highly competitive rats, all fighting over a cheap kettle as if it were a mouldy carrot stick in a pub urinal.

I thought the chav culture had been eradicated by our impressionable children, who now aspire to be rich people from Essex, rather than hoodies from Benefits Street. Seems like I was wrong, and not only are they still breeding and keeping Burberry in business, they also love to shop.

Looking again, it also feels a bit fictional, like a deleted scene from The Purge. Picture, if you will, the entire green room from The Jeremy Kyle Show getting inside one of these massive superstores. Upon the claxon sounding, they proceed to kick the scratchcards out of each other in order to buy a stainless steel toaster with 20% off the tag price!

Now tell me that isn’t worthy of a trip to Asda? I’d go. If only so I could feel the world get lighter, as each “contestant” is eliminated, chopped up, packed into microwavable containers, and sold as discount cat food.

Also… take another look at the clip. Can you see the crap they are fighting over?

Since when did a Polaroid TV become a thing of worship and untameable desire? I didn’t even know Polaroid made TV’s. It’s like finding out that Pedigree Chum also makes spy satellites! Weird, and probably bullshit made up by that bloke down the pub who claims to be controlled by super-intelligent space ants.

In short, we are watching a bunch of mouth-breathers fighting over the chance to purchase a shit TV that will be sold for the same price a month from now in the January sales.

A throng of rocket scientists (just back from doing their community service), humiliating themselves in order to buy utter rubbish for a cheap price, and validating it because it’s the Friday after Thanksgiving… a holiday we don’t sodding celebrate to begin with. Brilliant!

Now whilst I may consider myself to be a reasonably competent, semi-functioning writer, I gotta tell ya, folks – even I couldn’t make this shit up! Not even if John Grisham asked me as a personal favour (not that I know John Grisham, or would do him any kind of favour without first discussing financial terms and movie rights).

In fact, the more I think about it, the less I have to add. Just watch the above clip, and think about how much worse it will be next November – when all these poor bastards squabble over the latest smartphone from Heinz!

Happy Thanksgiving… and God Save the Queen.

Paul Millard 2014

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You Oughta Know!

There are certain things a man is just expected to know, or do, without question.

Being able to stand up whilst taking a pee is probably the most basic one we get a hand on (sorry) at a very early age, and creates an immediate separation between us and the ladies.

For the most part, this divide only lasts until around middle age – by which time most blokes have realised that sitting down whilst taking a wiz is far more forgiving towards lighter coloured trousers, allows for the use of both hands when playing on your phone, and negates the need to mop up a piss-covered floor afterwards!

Fixing stuff is another one. In particular, the simple household bits and bobs that one day stop working, and without your skilled hand, might pose a risk to family, neighbours or the World Health Organization.

I’m talking about the shelf I put up six months ago that now hangs from the four nails I later pounded into the wall as a “clever short-term solution”.

Or the kitchen cupboard door that became so dangerous I decided to ignore it until it fell from its hinges, hitting my kid (who happened to be passing at the time), and damaging the kitchen floor. Joking aside, this could have been a lot worse… without my son’s head taking most of the blow; the floor may have been truly fucked!

There is also a large amount of redecorating that I apparently need to sort. I’ve gone so far as to purchase the paints, wood strippers, bags of render and new light fixtures to hang. All of which was received by walking into the DIY centre and having a typical “manversation” with the store experts on hand (mostly customers that have nowhere better to be).

I’m now just waiting on my lazy-arsed wife to understand her matrimonial responsibilities and get started on the hallway!

But without question, the biggest one I seem to run into frequently, and feel the most inadequate and spiteful towards, is the complete lack of knowledge I have on basic car maintenance. In fact, just knowing what car I have is sometimes an embarrassing mystery that real men have caught me out on.

For the record, I only started to drive a few years ago, and perhaps more remarkably, passed my test within six months of instruction. I bought my first car based on colour and that it had heated wing mirrors. With the stereo carefully adjusted to avoid Radio One, I took to the road with all the confidence of a goldfish riding a unicorn.

A year went by, and with it came the need for the car’s MOT. As with most men of my intellect and motor vehicle erudition, I asked my wife to book it in. A few weeks later I took the car to said garage and braced myself for a manly conversation. Swaggering into the office, a greasy mechanic in overalls that were clearly off the peg asked,

  ‘You the bloke with the Toyota for an MOT?’

I nodded in a nonchalant manner, as if I had been through this process a thousand times (and could probably do his job for him). I replied in my best bloke voice,

  ‘Yeah, mate. I’ve got the Toyota. She’s outside, innit… moosh.’

It was clear that my new best friend behind the counter recognised a fellow wizard of the combustion engine and that I was not some hapless knave, but a man well-versed within the art of the oily rag.

In short, I gave the impression of a genuine diamond geezer who recognized his big end from his sparkle plugs. Looking down at the paperwork (whilst I twirled my car keys with a jaunty, devil-may-care aloofness), the mechanic looked up at me with a smirk, and said…

  ‘You own a Honda, mate. Not a Toyota.’

It’s quite amazing how a man’s testicles can just disappear into his body!

I readjusted my cocksure attitude with hast, and with an awkward shuffle of my feet (making me look like a six year-old who needed the toilet), I uttered with broken voice,

  ‘Yeah… I have a silver Honda. Can you look after me it, please?

Pathetic and heart-achingly inevitable, I don’t know why I try to be anything other than a totally deconstructed male when faced with such endeavours.  What’s the point? I’m only going to be found out anyway, and be a damn sight more embarrassed than if I had pranced through the doors like a London dandy, and asked the bloke to ‘service my throbbing engine’, in the best Kenneth Williams voice I could muster.

If it’s a dirty stereotype that women don’t understand “motah’s”, why is it so readily accepted that blokes should? This bloke doesn’t, not even vaguely!

I know I need to water it with unleaded petrol, that the driver side window should never be opened, and that on occasion you can hear a funny vibration on the passenger side – I’ve not bothered to get it checked as I’m sure it’s just a squirrel trapped in the glove compartment or something.

I’m turning the tables on this whole thing. From now on, I fully expect all women to know how to fix my car, make kitchen doors less dangerous, re-plaster my carpets, and repair that tap in the downstairs toilet which seems haunted by Moaning Myrtle!

As for me – I’ll be on the sofa watching Downton Abbey and knitting a scarf. After all, that what you ladies do, isn’t it?

Paul Millard 2014

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Meanwhile… at the bookshop!

As an affront to all Kindles and tablets I decided to wander into a high street book shop yesterday. Yes, that’s right, an actual book shop made of bricks and wood and other stuff.

For those that might be a little confused, a bookshop is a place of business similar to an Apple store, only it sells books made from paper, and is staffed by people old enough to remember Kylie Minogue as a shitty car mechanic.

Nostalgia was rife as I pondered the rows of hardbacks, and islands of cardboard marketing stands promoting the latest bestseller about whatever. It was enjoyable and charming. I remembered the days of not needing an app for this kind of thing. Being able to touch before you buy, smell the ink of the manuscripts and dry-heave at the body odour wafted from the shop assistant.

Wandering past the current Top 20, I stopped to take a look at what the well-informed masses were buying. Perhaps I should pick up the new “must have” thriller so I can appear smart and relevant on the train ride into work. However, if what I saw was an indication of the reading habits of the educated and urbane, then I was happy to remain the village idiot of the 8.15 to London Waterloo.

Holy fuck! What an amazing display of obnoxious titillation and god-awful triviality. A veritable plague pit of celebrity biographies, celebrity cookbooks and companion pieces for crass TV shows. The selection appeared to be a wickedly insightful manifestation of what Jeremy Kyle’s audience like to read whilst taking a shit!

It’s strange. When flicking through the Kindle store, or surfing iBooks, you somehow miss the sense of awfulness you get when confronted by rows and rows of mediocrity, and unvarying dreck, in physical form. The enormity of just how much of this stuff is out there, and how much money is being paid to the celebrities selling their inner bullshit, is staggering.

Are we really that eager to read the life story of a 22 year-old winner of Big Brother, or stupid enough to hand over £25.00 to learn the backstage secrets of Britain’s Next Top Model? How about feeling inferior and worthless in light of what Jamie Oliver served up during his last narcissistic TV series?

All this shit seems to be fuelled by the celebrity worship that has become a fucking epidemic in recent times.  Honestly, how else can mediocre comedians, celebrity shag wits and obnoxious cooks sell so many copies of their fascinating life stories every year? How is that even plausible, much less possible, without a hungry and obedient audience of well-trained consumers?

In fact, the larger question of what is now deemed to be acceptable is nothing short of miraculous.

Consider the legions of 8 year-old girls inspired by the plastic people from The Only Way Is Essex, and encouraged by their parents to be just like them. It’s nothing short of a cultural ass fucking for anyone who can see past the light-hearted approach held towards these “role models”, and the lowering of standards that is being freely embraced by people that should know better!

My own parents affectionately laughed at a 23 year-old man not being able to tell the time during last year’s I’m A Celebrity, Get Me Out Of Here! In days gone by this would have been a cautionary tale in order to get more homework done.

  ‘Practise your times tables, or you’ll end up like Joey Essex!’

However, in these enlightened times of incentivised stupidity, ending up like Joey Essex seems to result in an 8-figure book deal, and a few million quid in your Halifax Junior account!

Based on the breeding ground for the exceptionally average I witnessed in my local Waterstones, I seem to be in a minority with this opinion. My bafflement towards what passes for an entertaining read is destined to continue and grow with each seasonal autobiography, reality TV exposé, and middle-class cookery worship – all lovingly (ghost) written and endorsed by the latest, factory fresh, celebrity dip-shit.

And by the time my own son reaches the age of illumination, I’ll be looking in antique shops for anything written by someone who doesn’t have a series on Channel 4, or their own perfume range in Asda.

In short, that’s the last time I go to a fucking high street book shop!

Paul Millard 2014

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The Young Folk

Snarky Tuesday Paul Millard Young Folk

I would love to be able to engage with the young people in my office. They always seem to be having so much fun and glow with the enthusiastic energy of a supernova. At times it’s like watching an advert for the upswing of a bipolar disorder.

They constantly chatter about something really exciting they have done, or are going to do. Or where they went the previous night, or are going tonight, and tomorrow night – and the night after.

It all sounds amazing and so much better than anything I’ve ever done. I listen to their lives with great interest and a yearning for a nice cup of Horlicks and an aspirin.

It’s almost embarrassing when they turn to me and ask how my evening was. Talk about awkward, they hang on my every word and pose difficult questions. In short; I’m sadistically interrogated by ISIS-trained One Direction fans.

It’s no joke! It’s also fucking tricky to keep making interesting shit up to tell them each morning. I can’t regale them with my tales of watching Coronation Street, finding a lump on my back, and retiring to bed at 8.30pm without having sex (again).

It’s now got to the stage where I Google ideas the night before, and rehearse my casual answers during my commute into work.

  ‘What did you do last night, Paul?’

  ‘Oh, I popped by an alternative lifestyle awareness event that was held at my local multicultural centre. I threw a clay pot, made a goat-skinned tambourine, and then I took my wife and son to get decorated with ethic beads crafted by blind, young offenders. How about you?’

Most of my colleagues are exceedingly attractive and sickeningly single. A lot of their time is spent talking about hair products, the gym, and whatever relationship they are trying to get into. I listen to their stories of being cheated on by this guy, or not getting a call back from that girl, or how the Rohypnol was so weak that Shelia is now having flashbacks towards getting into a cab with the weird bloke from Accounts.

If you didn’t already know, I’m married, and carry all the traditional hate-etched wrinkles and scars that come from a loving relationship with someone who would rather have you living in the shed (at your parent’s house).

In spite of this I’m pretty safe in the knowledge that my wife’s spirit is now suitably crushed enough for her to keep hold of me as a charitable cause. I take this as justification for not giving to Oxfam (after all, I’m one of them!), and enjoy the thought of never needing to play that syringe-littered “field” again.

To be honest, I wasn’t very good at it the first time around, and have a nice library of petrol-soaked photos of previous girlfriends to verify my crapness at being good relationship material.

The beautiful people in my office also keep asking me out with them, and it makes me feel wanted and relevant.

Only a few weeks ago I was asked to join a 5-a-side football team by what appeared to be a fitter version of the Wolf Pack from Twilight. These guys were gorgeous and healthy, and didn’t seem tired or bitter!

I smiled and explained I have a trick knee that stops me from being Lionel Messi. Without missing a beat they immediately suggested a few beers and a session on the Xbox. I took it as a friendly offer, made in light of my heavy breathing and sweaty response to their stupid suggestion of unnecessary exercise.

And get this… a couple of very cute twenty-something girls keep asking me to the pub, and always enquire whether I’m going to attend any of the relentless social events that are seemingly arranged by the hour.

They see my snarky demeanour and washed-up appearance as a challenge away from the obvious targets found within the Wolf Pack. I should take the bait one time and be surrounded by these angels in hot pants for a few hours. To feel all young and “fuck you” about everything would be a welcome change from just feeling “fucked off” and ancient.

And whilst I’m exhausted enough never to stray, it would be kinda nice to be the older guy with an alluring twinkle in his eye, and a smart-bomb wit that could weaken the most assured and desired of the gang.

It would be very nice indeed… but I always turn them down. I say that I need to be home for my 4 year-old son, and make apologetic expressions for being such a square!

Seriously, what would these heavenly creatures want with a 43 year-old bloke who always looks like he’s just slipped in some dog shit? In truth, I think they only want me there so they can sacrifice my baggy ass to the pagan gods that keep their bodies hard and breasts mesmerising.

And in case you were wondering, my son doesn’t really need me. In fact, he’s recently taken to calling me, ‘that guy that drinks beer in my house!’

It’s strange to be surrounded by gaggles of people who will only be in their 50’s by the time I’m shitting myself in a state-run care home, and being hosed down by a friendly Jamaican nurse who I’ve taken to calling “Dark Momma!”

It’s all simple mathematics: the older I get, the more people of a younger persuasion will come n’ mess with my shizzle.

I might never be able to feel comfortable with those that were born only knowing the remakes… rather than the originals. Nor will I ever get to a stage where I can match their lifestyles and daring accessorising.

Does it worry me? Nah! Age begets experience, wisdom and a calming acceptance for the person you are. And providing those young girls keep inviting me to their alcohol-soaked coven, I’ll continue to play the snarky bloke with the greying hair that keeps lying about what he did last night.

Paul Millard 2014

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