Essay

Suicidal Gardening

Snarky Tuesday Paul Millard Gardening

Around this time of year I like to consider myself an expert gardener. With whatever know-how I have gleaned from YouTube that morning, I stride into the wilderness of my backyard, and start killing things with dangerous chemicals and gardening implements I’m too stupid to use safely.

The grass is looking particularly haggard this year. Winter months of harsh weather has taken its toll, and my once green and pleasant land now resembles my Father’s head – bald, lumpy and would benefit from some decent drainage.

In all honesty, my fireworks display from last November didn’t help much either – with more than a few bare patches remaining from the ignition sequence of a dozen rockets I launched at the neighbours.

That, coupled with a clowder of stray cats that take turns to shit all over my lawn, has led me to get my house in order, and return my garden to the suburban oasis I think it is (so my son can enjoy destroying it over the summer months).

One of the YouTube videos suggested I rake the thatch out of the grass and aerate the soil with a fork. It looked quite straightforward… almost easy… the kind of thing you can get done in a spare hour.

It turns out YouTube is full of shit and lies to people.

Honestly, the raking alone ensured each disc in my spine felt like a poorly placed Jenga brick! I hobbled back into the house, looking like I had messed my favourite gardening pants. Simply untying my shoelaces felt like a torture process lovingly employed by the CIA on people who look a bit terroristy and foreign!

I admit it. I’m not built for such manual labour, and have in fact been known to break into a muck sweat just by standing still. So the sight of my pathetic form attempting to be horticultural can only result in a trip to the chemist for a vat of Deep Heat, and enough Ibuprofen to stop a team of wildebeest in its tracks.

Anyway, after a week of convalescence and the third season of House of Cards taken from my sickbed, I felt strong enough to do a little more groundwork.

Not one of my best ideas.

If the raking sent my body into shock for a week, the forking of the ground (every 6-8 inches to ensure any winter compaction is alleviated), was enough to have me reconsider the benefits of pouring concrete over the entire sodding area and painting it green!

Oh, and that’s just the first stage. Once I’ve watched the entire first season of Better Call Saul from my sickbed, I have to reseed the ground – this will require a few bags of compost, grass seeds that I can’t smoke, and preferably an experienced gardener to do it all for me.

Ok, so the garden will look fantastic after all this hard work, but how am I supposed to enjoy that from the confines of my iron lung!

Paul Millard 2015

Snarky Tuesday Paul Millard Gardening3

Snarky Tuesday Grunge Black Banner opposite

 

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

Snarky Tuesday Grunge Black Banner opposite

 

On Fatherhood – Part 2

  “They fuck you up, your mum and dad.”

Wise words from Phillip Larkin there, and certainly applicable when talking about my own levels of neurosis towards my 4 year-old son.

Let’s take the latest issue being faced by my stupid psyche. It’s certainly a biggie, and one that I have feared for some time now (well, just over 4 years!).

You see, back in September of last year, my little bundle of lithium starting school.

Not an issue in itself. Thousands of kids do it each year. Well, this is the first time my kid has done it, and to put it mildly, I have my own shitty hangs up.

In short, I hated school… every poxy second of it!

With the exception of a few mates, and a wicked English Literature teacher who scared me into learning stuff that was actually helpful, absolutely nothing else about my entire educational experience was enjoyable. The day I left was like receiving a get out of jail free card – hand delivered by a team of Playboy Bunnies.

The educational establishments (loose term) that I occasionally attended were truly dreadful, and acted as nothing more than state-sanctioned hurt lockers for aspiring criminals and future cast members of Benfits Street.

The pupils didn’t give a shit about the school, the teachers didn’t give a shit about the pupils, and I didn’t give a shit about most of it.

As a result of this breathtaking daisy chain of crapness, from Sunday night to Friday afternoon I pretty much plotted ways to avoid the school bell.

I hoodwinked my mother into time off with tales of various germs entering my frail body and laying waste to my immune system. I played truant with my friends in the local town centre, hiding in various café and perfecting my ability to eat cheese toasties whilst playing Paperboy and Bubble Bobble.

And when I had no choice but to attend, I spent the entire time doing anything other than what I should have been doing. For the most part, I concentrated on trying to make the girls laugh whilst avoiding the roaming bullies, droogs and other members of the faculty staff that were employed to keep order and maximize fear.

It was a bad time for me, one that I wouldn’t wish on my favorite enemy – if I had one.

And so it comes to pass that my son now enters the British educational system. The most precious thing I have is being handed over to who knows who, for six hours a sodding day! When else would a responsible parent do such a thing? Do I throw the keys to my house at a complete stranger each morning, and say, ‘I’ll be back in six hours, try not to break anything!’

I feel like I should fight against this apathy. I need to challenge the arcane doctrine we all seem way too willing to accept as normal. And yes, I’m also terrified that his experience will be just as shit-awful as mine!

However, it would appear that underneath my painful attempts to redirect my fear, I have miscalculated one very important aspect. One fundamental element in all of this ridiculous expectation and self-created scaremongering:

My son is not me!

Honestly, I can’t tell you how much of a blessing this is for him. Actually, if you’re a frequent visitor to this site, you probably know all too well just how lucky the kid is for not taking after his father.

Whilst it’s fair to say that being skeptical, a little introverted and a tad standoffish is good for business, it isn’t always helpful away from the keyboard. It’s also pretty obvious how this aspect of my nature (albeit a younger, more toned down version), would ensure my time at school be nothing short of a glorious picnic of red ants and curly Spam sandwiches – covered in dog shit!

I really don’t want to get into a whole diatribe about Paul Millard: The School Years, and recount tales of woe and misery-soaked bollocks. It really wasn’t like that. I’ll freely admit to a little poetic license in this tale, but do not dismiss it as nothing more than a complete fiction. My schooldays were far more Carrie than Tom Brown. Trust me!

Anyway, these days I’m more transfixed with the hope of seeing such potential horrors vanquished from my son’s future experiences. The thought of him having to deal with some of the shit I went through is enough to have me follow him around each day, disguised as a text book, and ever ready to jump out and protect my little angel from weird teachers and fat kids with personal space issues!

Well, he is now into his third term at school. His teachers are glowing towards his efforts, he already has more friends than I have managed to accrue in 42 years on the planet, and he seems to love every aspect of the school experience.

In short, I think his experience will be just that – his experience. No need for me to muddy the waters with my bullshit. I should take a breath and have a little faith in my son.

The fact that he was recently caught in the girls toilets trying to make the chicks laugh, will be put down to a rogue strain of the Millard personality seeping though!

Paul Millard 2015

Snarky Tuesday Paul Millard The Breakfast Club

Snarky Tuesday Grunge Black Banner opposite

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

Snarky Tuesday Grunge Black Banner opposite

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!)

Snarky Tuesday Grunge Black Banner opposite

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

Snarky Tuesday Grunge Black Banner opposite

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

Snarky Tuesday Grunge Black Banner opposite

 

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

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Snarky Tuesday Grunge Black Banner opposite

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

Snarky Tuesday Paul Millard Car

 

Snarky Tuesday Grunge Black Banner opposite

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

Snarky Tuesday Paul Millard Books

Snarky Tuesday Grunge Black Banner opposite