Snarky Essays

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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The Dead Don’t Work For Me

Snarky Tuesday Paul Millard The Walking Dead2

I’m already sick to death with February! The prospect of stupid Valentine’s Day will usually bring out a gollup of spiteful resentment in me at the best of times. But it goes a little deeper than that. I’m fed up with the dark mornings, the dark nights, and the dark rings around my scathing eyes.

Weather forecasters keep scaring us with predictions for Day After Tomorrow’esque snow blizzards; my winter weight gain has reached its zenith and I have now started to collapse into myself like a dying star, and the expensive garden I built currently looks like a perfect medium to grow rice in!

This black dog of seasonal depression always hits me at this time of year, and usually continues right up until Christmas. As a means of escape, and to avoid a messy divorce, I try to lighten my mood with a little TV. Last year I worked my way through five seasons of Breaking Bad, the year before was a gruelling three seasons of Boardwalk Empire. This year, I thought I would try the hugely popular The Walking Dead.

Well, I’ve done the first season, and I got two episodes into the second, and promptly gave up.

I’m a big fan of the show’s star performer, Andrew Lincoln, and a sprawling story about a zombie apocalypse is just my particular brand of tea – as it were. In fact, I did spend a lot of the first two episodes nodding my head enthusiastically, and thinking, ‘Holy jumped-up bald-headed Jesus palomino! I would be just like him!’

As Deputy Rick Grimes, Egg, sorry, Andrew Lincoln, does a stand-up job and gives a believable grimace to an unbelievably horrifying situation. The American accent is no worse than Dick Van Dyke’s cockney horseshit, and as the hero figure, he plays it low key and from an everyman perspective I like.

Trying to find his family while coming to terms with the new, bitey neighbours, the show got off to a promising start – with the tension becoming as epic as the production itself. The camera pulling back on an Atlanta city street, slowly expanding the view and revealing thousands of “walkers”, was a real highlight of that first episode. For such a wide shot, it felt utterly claustrophobic.

The supporting cast do a reasonable job, and deliver the dialogue with just enough commitment to stop it going full cheese… and it’s always a pleasure to see the bat-shit crazy Michael Rooker on our screens.

But this isn’t a review, because as I said a while back, I quit the show after the first season.

Why?

Because it was just too damned depressing! I was feeling gloomy enough, without watching a band of people under constant fear of being eaten by a bazillion bastard zombies! It was too much for me, and this is coming from someone who is a seasoned horror fan, and loves a juicy plotline to slowly work through. I did five seasons of Breaking Bad in a month… The Walking Dead should have been a walk in the park.

But it seems to me (and I know this is only after one season), the show might ultimately suffer from its own longevity. What I mean is that whilst Rick and his fellow survivors might encounter the occasional moment of light relief (precious little in the first season, and non-existent in the first two episodes of season two!), that constant threat of being swarmed by happy eaters is just too much of a buzz-kill.

Oh… and I have since learnt that our ill-fated troupe of walking ready meals frequently run into other humans who also want to do nasty things to them! No, no thanks.

In short, you can’t help but feel they are simply running from the inevitable – like One Direction does from their inescapable obscurity!

Again, I know this is a short-sighted view, and maybe if I worked through the five seasons currently available, I may be proved wrong. But The Walking Dead was a little too gloomy for me, and filled with the kind of existential horror I normally reserve for dinner with my in-laws.

… and it’s only the 10th February!

Paul Millard 2015

Snarky Tuesday Paul Millard The Walking Dead1

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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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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

Snarky Tuesday Paul Millard Kate Mara

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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

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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