Random Snarks

Elton vs. D&G

The absurdity of celebrities reached amazing levels last week. Employing everyone’s favourite method of witch hunting, Twitter, Elton John launched a scathing attack on cloth-cutters Dolce & Gabbana, encouraging the whole world to boycott their stupidly expensive clothes.

The reason – they said something mean about IVF babies and surrogacy during an interview.

Now.

I’ll be honest; I didn’t know Dolce & Gabbana were actual people. I thought it was just a name, like Burger King or Pound Land.

Furthermore, it seems they have an immense amount of power, enough to influence the entire planet. Well, Ricky Martin seemed to think so. He tweeted the following in light of Elton’s call to arms;

Martin Tweet

Putting aside Ricky’s astonishing talent for “text speak”, the fire didn’t stop there, and only a few hours later a crusader called Ryan Murphy lent his views on Messrs Dolce & Gabbana;

Murphy

Now here is a perfect example of outrage, à la social media.

Not satisfied with showing his upset at the interview, Mr Murphy gives a little fashion advice on the side. Not only are their views unfashionable, but their clothes are ugly. I’m guessing he went on to sing a song about how Mr Dolce smells of poop, and followed it by stealing several of Mr Gabbana’s Pokémon cards at playtime!

I followed this twaddle with genuine fascination. But it got to the stage where I couldn’t keep up with the amount of double standards and two-faced dreck being spouted by these people.

It seems animal testing and using real fur is fine… but not agreeing to couples in love having IVF babies all over the place? Now that’s a bridge too far! Boycott the bastards! How about we slag off their clothes (that we all used to wear and promote!).

Look, Dolce & Gabbana were offering their opinion – granted a pretty dumb one and not particularly well judged or informed – but an opinion all the same. It wasn’t a piece of legislation, or a change in government policy… it was just an opinion.

During the fallout, everyone seemed to forget a very important luxury we all possess – the ability to simply ignore this kind of horseshit and move on with our day.

I guess what interested me was the motivation that caused those to speak out and join the boycott?

Let’s put it this way. Exactly how many people do you think Dolce & Gabbana have corrupted with this interview? Are you going to tell me that a couple (regardless of sex) going through IVF treatment or surrogacy will read these opinions and become shamed into changing their minds?

If they do, then trust me, it has little to do with a fashion designer boring us with their take on things, and more about a larger uncertainty that was already there to begin with.

The inner thoughts of Dolce & Gabbana are not going to rock the world into criminalising IVF. Nor will they alter the opinion of those who already see the innocent and inherent joy surrogacy can provide those who ache for a family. So let’s all take a breath!

As for Elton John and his merry band of Twitter bullies – calm the heck down! Do you not realise how distasteful it is to gleefully engage in this social media “piling on” behaviour?

Elton had his children by whatever means suited him, not as a result of some endorsement from a fashion designer. And not for nothing, no one is calling your kids anything, Elton, but you are by rising to this rhubarb and lending a voice it simply doesn’t need.

You don’t believe me? Well, let’s see how many people are still talking about this nonsense a month from now.

And as for Victoria Beckham, John Barrowman, and all the other celebs that slithered out and bundled onto the issue like spiteful lemmings… can someone do the planet a favour, and destroy their smartphones!

Paul Millard 2015

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Arresting 4-Letter Words

I had a run in with the police a few weeks ago. Yeah… that’s right… I’m so gangsta!

However, if you’re expecting to hear about car chases, my time in prison with a big bloke from Norfolk who kept calling me Doris, or the witty repartee only an obnoxious police officer with a Napoleon complex can provide – I’m sorry, but you’re backing the wrong horse.

You see, my beef was with the internet police, and it happened on a Tuesday morning, at my desk in the office, whilst eating a delicious biscuit.

After publishing that week’s Snarky Tuesday over breakfast, I had taken my 40-mile wacky race into work and started the daily toil in earnest. After shuffling papers for a while, I grabbed a coffee and checked in on the website to see how the early morning traffic was looking.

With an entire Jammy Dodger wedged into my stupid mouth, I clicked on my website, and nothing happened.

Not one to give up that easily, I clicked on the link a further fifteen times, just to make sure. Nothing. I slammed the mouse on the desk and threw it to the floor… to check it wasn’t a particle of dust blocking the circuit board thingy. Still nothing. Just as I reached to unplug the screen (in order to give it a rinse in a bowl of warm, soapy water), I noticed a message:

This page has been blocked because of suspected offensive page content (fuck).

It seemed my website had been blocked because I had used a potty word! One single use of the f-bomb, within a 700-word, skilfully crafted, totally sexy, mind-bendingly funny, essay had gotten me disavowed from the internet.

Now.

I have an issue with this.

Let’s start with how many times you think that word appears on the internet? I’m not sure, but I’m guessing it’s more than once – and not always by me.

And how offensive is that word anyway?

It’s been employed within canonised works of literature for centuries, shouted a thousand times a day at most North London comprehensive schools, and by way of several variants, frequently used to describe every politician on the planet.

You’re telling me that Islamic State can jump on YouTube as a means of repulsing the world with their shenanigans, but due to 4 letters arranged in a certain way I can’t reach a two-bit website that gets the same kind of viewing figures Educating Joey Essex got (before being canned)? This is a joke, right?

I was curious. Who gets to decide what is considered offensive?

I spoke to the IT guy. I wanted to understand the justification behind being blocked in such a way. With nerd juice flying in all directions, he told me it was blocked by software used by the company that was based on a matrix of words and a particular set of algorithm’s that sets a redundant “cost” on something that I didn’t understand, at all!

I think he was still talking when I wandered off and bought a Mars bar.

Techno babble aside, surely there are repercussions towards this annexing of certain parts of the English language? It smacked of the overbearing result of a nanny state – one that seemed hell bent on indoctrinating a charter of unsolicited standards towards what is deemed acceptable and what isn’t?

However, at that moment of rallying my thoughts, and getting a bit political, I remembered a salient and very critical facet to all of this.

The computer I’m using, and the time in which I’m using it, is not mine. I’m at work for Christ’s sake! I should be, ya know… working.

In short, it’s all well and good to have lofty ideas towards how language is being embezzled by faceless censors with absolute power, but do it in your own time, eh!

Oh, and stop eating all the Jammy Dodgers!

Paul Millard 2015

Snarky Tuesday Paul Millard Blocked

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The Metro Online

I recently had a few pieces published in The Metro Online. Now you may think this is nothing more than a cop-out from this week’s usual rhubarb… and you would be right! However, I wanted to share the links here and ask you to take five minutes, have a look, and leave a comment.

http://metro.co.uk/2015/02/15/the-perils-of-a-mid-life-gamer-readers-feature-5062674/

http://metro.co.uk/2015/02/08/video-games-made-me-a-killer-and-i-feel-fine-readers-feature-5053020/

I’ll be back next week with the usual dreck.

Paul

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Comfortably Vexed

I used to be quite angry for a lot of the time, particularly when I was younger. In fact, when I was in my early twenties I had a permanent scowl on my dumb face – and for reasons I can’t quite remember. I think I wore it because I thought girls would think I’m edgy and a bit challenging. In fact, it just made me intolerable and annoying. I didn’t get much action back then!

I also used to have an opinion about everything! With my facial muscles seemingly frozen into that stupid, angry glare, I would spout utter horseshit about things I had absolutely no knowledge of. I rallied with such conviction and cool exasperation, anyone with half a brain overhearing me would have been driven to convulsions by my pantomiming and general arseholery.

But I believed in all of it – so deeply that I could have reached the earth’s core with my shit-bag opinions on stuff no one was interested in to begin with. What a prick!

These days I struggle to find anything to get that angry about. I’m too old and don’t have the energy to get worked up and punchy. Come to think of it, I would much rather reserve that energy for when Mrs Millard lowers her guard enough for me to sneak some love her way!

Also… what’s the damn point anyway?

Ok, so a bad result in N5 can get me a bit steamed for an hour or two on a Saturday afternoon. The aforementioned wife is no more challenging than any other form of mental cruelty, and with the exception of tearing my feet up on abandoned Lego constructions; my son is a perfect foil to almost all of life’s little attempts to water-board the shit out of me!

This is not to say that I don’t have some concerns and worries.

My ability to detect individual bacteria entering my circulatory system borders on the clairvoyant these days. Not a day goes by when I don’t feel a tinge of pain that requires a lengthy spell on Wikipedia or the NHS website for irrational idiots. Age seems to have delivered a growing trepidation towards mortality and good health – one that I can’t seem to dismiss, regardless of what Google tells me.

As I said earlier, my son is a miracle eraser towards those stupid things that would get me tight and a little vexed. However, the flipside to that coin is my newfound hysteria towards his well being and safety. I’m a crazy man when it comes to my son and heir. In fact, anyone calling themselves over protective clearly hasn’t walked a mile in my moccasins!

In short, my childrearing style takes the nurturing warmth of Mr. Mom, with the offensive qualities of a MOAB intercontinental ballistic missile. I can do the cookie-cutter shit, and I can also lay waste to a nation with the flick of the right button. That’s overprotective, my friend.

Anyway, maybe it’s best if I hold back on my parenting mémoire for now, and get back to the psychological profiling I’m conducting on his new school friends!

So, what else? You know… that’s pretty much it. Without wishing to sound like a psychotic who necks prescribed drugs like a member of the Jackson family, there really is very little I give an honest shit about these days.

Jobs and money always seem to come and go, and sometimes with very little in the way of forewarning. My extended family is an unreasonable monster that should be placed in a cage, and never fed after midnight. And everything else is slow moving traffic and minor train delays on a Friday night.

Honestly, what’s the point in getting all worked up over that? I guess the angry young man of yesteryear might have embraced such torment and drama as a way of attracting impressionable girls with a taste for the stupid. But the older model is far more interested in his raging cholesterol, and whether his son’s school teacher has a criminal record!

Paul Millard 2015

Snarky Tuesday Paul Millard Angry2

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Car-cophony

My car is making funny noises again. I thought I had this licked a few months ago when the nice man at the garage managed to fix that squeaky noise that I thought was a squirrel in my glove compartment. It wasn’t a squirrel, or any member of the Sylvanian Family for that matter. No, in that particular instance it was the heat shield thing coming away from the exhaust thingy. In all honesty, I pretty much knew it was probably the old heat shield thing on the exhaust thingy problem; I just like to test the mechanics.

More recently, my car seems to be a little slow when I accelerate and sounds really pissed off that I’m trying to move it in any direction. As a rule, this is usually because I’ve forgotten to release the handbrake… a simple thing to forget when you’re stupid and easily distracted by virtually anything that happens near you! However, this was not the reason for my current Autobot anguish.

I then thought maybe it’s because I don’t always select the right gear. However, an expensive trip to that nice man in the garage taught me that a 14 year-old Honda doesn’t like being gunned out of a parking space in 4th gear! So it can’t be that.

In desperation for an answer I spent most of Sunday morning poking around the engine. It was a total waste of sodding time… I couldn’t find the Flux Capacitor, or indeed any kind of time-drive that might be limiting the power to the Allspark!

Now, as you may have guessed, I wouldn’t consider myself an expert in the motor vehicle field. I’ll admit it; my wizardry with such things is akin to that dumb Irish kid in the Harry Potter films – I try my best, but it usually ends with something catching fire.

However, and as I have explored before, as an older guy a certain amount of wisdom is just assumed of me – usually by people who don’t know any better. I’ll give you an example.

A few weeks ago, one of those annoyingly attractive girls I work with asked me a car related question. I initially thought she had done it on a dare, or in an attempt to avoid working (not a bad reason in itself, but why involve me!).

Anyway, with a voice that could melt granite, and a flutter of eyelashes that made me forget I was married for a few seconds, she asked me what the below symbol on her dashboard means;

Snarky Tuesday Paul Millard Radiator TempI scratched my chin in a manly fashion, gave a knowing look as if I get asked this question all the time, and delivered my carefully constructed opinion to this damsel in distress.

“Does your car have a periscope? Because it might be that you haven’t lowered it or something.”

Based on the symbol, and my deep insight into Autonomous Robotic Organisms, I thought this was a damn good guess.

I later found out it has something to do with the radiator! Far be it for me to tell the car manufactures around the world their job, but that symbol is fucking stupid and looks nothing like any radiator in my house.

So, moving away from the office hottie with the periscope problem for a moment, what could my car be going through right now?

I know an engine is measured in horsepower, could it have a touch of foot and mouth? Is the battery connected to the accelerator pedal? If so, maybe I should stop flicking my hazard warning lights on each time I do a wicked bit of manoeuvring? (I do like to alert people to how good I am – particularly when you consider my car hasn’t been retrofitted with a hover system yet!)

Maybe the big end has gone? I’m not sure what any of that means, but I once heard Kenneth Williams say it in Carry on Cabbie.

What if I’ve bought one of those bloody Decepticons by mistake – and it plans world domination by limiting my ability to go 88mph down the A3?

Whatever way I spin it, I guess another trip to the garage is called for – and yet another conversation in which I try to disguise the fact that all of my car knowledge comes from an 80’s cartoon, Marty McFly, and mild sexual innuendo.

Paul Millard 2015

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Time to Unplug?

I’m in the midst of a tricky home entertainment dilemma at the moment. No, I’m not referring to the fact that my wife now refuses to juggle with chainsaws since the new wallpaper went up, but rather that I’m questioning whether I should cancel my various TV packages and go rogue.

Our American cousins call it “cutting the cord”, which gives a somewhat gory connotation to practices best left in the maternity suites! With that said, it’s also a pretty fair explanation towards what is becoming a very common practice for those who no longer wish to pay inflated prices for a few hundred channels they don’t watch.

Would it not be more in keeping with this modern age to be able to select exactly what you wish to view? To pay for only what you consume?

It’s quite a tricky thing to pull off for us Brits, as we don’t have the luxury of choice found in the US.

First off you have the BBC TV licence fee of £145.50 a year. This is only avoidable if you ensure no TV aerial is ever connected to your lovely 40-inch LED! It’s a tough one to avoid, and wholly impossible if you want to make use of their channels, or any of the free-to-air services provided by the likes of Freeview.

Sky TV (evil Galactic Empire, and headed by melty-faced shitbag, Emperor Murdoch), has a vicious stranglehold on the likes of HBO and most of the UK sports franchises. This chokes our ability to subscribe to a dedicated streaming service that could offer any kind of alternative… at least, nothing that’s strictly legal.

For years we have seen the rise of clandestine websites providing HD coverage of Premier League football – which is arguably the biggest and most sought after cash cow for British broadcasters. However, this small band of rebel websites has provided some means of evading the dark lord Murdoch… providing you are willing to bend the rules a little.

For the most part, Netflix and Amazon Prime have our movie and TV box-set desires covered. And should you need to watch Game of Thrones as it airs (in order to avoid some miserable bastard in the office giving away spoilers), well… let’s just say that other ways exist to source what you need!

In fact, HBO have publically recognised that their shows are immensely popular with the swashbuckling torrent sites. But rather than become bitter and shitty about their expensive TV shows being raped and pillaged by men with peg-legs and parrots, they see it as a flattering testament to the quality, and desirability, of their programming. I’m not suggesting the executives are jumping around in delirium and joy towards those who download, but it is a unique approach to the anti-piracy argument.

I also feel that HBO have learned a tough lesson on this front, and by tying themselves in with the likes of Sky, have only limited themselves to a select audience who are paying over the top prices for an ever expanding list of unwanted channels. Perhaps it would have been more profitable, and less restrictive, to simply release the HBO Go app to the UK market. Time will tell.

Perhaps it’s not so much a case of what is on offer, but rather what the viewing habits of the household are, and how these choices drive the decision to pull the plug on a particular service.

The only thing I watch on “live” TV is Coronation Street. Everything else is Netflix, various box-sets that I pick up on Ebay, and with growing frequency, the wonders of YouTube. My son has recently moved away from the Disney and Nickelodeon channels, and now spends more time watching Netflix Kids, the free-to-air CBBC channels, and a bit of YouTube (Play Doh movies for the win!).

Strangely, my wife is the heaviest user. Our TiVo box is home to an ever expanding list of series links, ranging from whodunits, fashion and home-craft, and those TV shows that carefully document people who don’t sell their house, don’t move to the country, or don’t complete their grand design on budget!

Not being without its limitations, I do believe a phone call to my supplier is not too far away. Looking at the above, it seems I’m paying a lot of money each month for stuff I could get on a £20.00 Freeview box.

But what of the larger question towards a true a la carte TV experience? Will it happen? I think it will, but we have a ways to go yet. In the UK, the BBC and Sky are still the key players in this media brawl, and control just enough to keep most of us in line… and on the books.

From this brave new world, questions towards the validity of the BBC licence fee spring up frequently, and seem to gather more support with each new cycle. Such a decision would certainly be a game changer, and carry monstrous repercussions for not only the UK audience, but also for the global BBC community. Whether it should happen is another question, and is one I have mixed views on.

In short, with the shift in our viewing habits becoming more pronounced, shouldn’t how we select and pay for these services also change?

Cutting the cord? I think I prefer the term, “Virgin Media… I’m outtie!”

Paul Millard 2015

Snarky Tuesday Paul Millard Virgin Media(I’m not taking any responsibility for the above “joke”… it was the only Google image I could find!)

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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

Snarky Tuesday Paul Millard Total War

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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

Snarky Tuesday Paul Millard

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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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