Friday, March 22, 2013


Lunch breaks are an oasis of calm and time to myself during the working week. Some people don't take lunch breaks, preferring to work through and reach the end of the day a little quicker, but I don't. I need a lunch break (as, incidentally, do most of the people who "work" through theirs. I have often wished I had the sort of temperament which would allow me to shout "look, you festering arsehole, just because you haven't left your desk, doesn't mean you're not having a lunch break. You're not working, you're wiping the juices from your sandwich from your chin while catching up on whatever bilge the Daily Mail website has on offer today. Prick."), and I take one.

Unfortunately, lunch breaks don't always pass by in the calm and recreational manner I prefer. Sometimes they include things which leave me prickling with rage. Today was one such day. The reason? Shopping trolleys.

Shopping trolleys bring out the worst in people. Dutifully, they provide transport for our supermarket purchases, accompanying us down the aisles as we select the various foodstuffs which will sustain us for the coming days. Rarely do they complain; the occasional shake of a wheel in protest at their life of servitude, little more.

Such a loyal piece of equipment, you would think, ought to draw some respect in return? No. The car parks of the land are awash with discarded trolleys, their contents transferred to the boots of Fords, BMWs and Volkswagens and their naked, wiry frames left stranded.

I will say this just the once: if you are the sort of person who leaves a trolley in the middle of the car park and drives off I think you are a total, utter, absolute fuckbean of a wankstain.

This simple action, to me, says so much about who you are: you don't care about anyone but yourself, you are immeasurably lazy, you have no thought for the property of others, you may well have a shady sideline in tearing limbs off kittens for fun.

The trolley park is over there! *points* It is not far! Never more than thirty metres I would guess. How long would it take you to get there and back? Are you so busy and important that you can't afford that time? No. You are not.

What's that? It's raining? Boo-fucking-hoo. You poor, poor bastard. Are you the Wicked Witch of the West? No. You are not. In fact, you're already wet, so just go and put the trolley away.

Today, I saw a man about the same age as me (which is to say: not a member of the unfathomable youth) run a few metres with his trolley to gain speed before letting go of it and watching it speed away across the tarmac. He hadn't even pushed it in the direction of a trolley park. It very nearly made it as far as a parked car. Not that he'd have known, since he was in his car and away by then.

I would have liked to ask him this question: what would be your reaction if, upon returning to your car, a trolley had been pushed away and put a nice, big dent in your driver side door? You would want somebody's blood, I am sure of it.

But this behaviour does not stand alone. It is just one example of a vast array of twattery which occurs daily. Another example: people who use the last teabag in the caddy at work and don't refill it. WHY THE FUCK NOT? There are literally hundreds of these things, seemingly small, which simply serve to make me think that we are moving toward a society where we all just don't give a solitary shit about one another.

I try to live by a simple maxim: don't be a dick.

Sometimes I get it wrong, but it usually means I don't do things like leaving a trolley in a car park, or not replenishing the tea bags.

Life is far nicer if you're nice to other people. Be a citizen. Don't be an über-selfish muppet.

Am I overreacting? What are the tiny bugbears which will you with despair? Should I just stop giving a fuck and join in?

Friday, March 15, 2013


Since Mrs L's return to work, it is largely my duty to sort Cam out in the morning and ensure his timely arrival at wherever he'll be spending the day.

On the day I am not at work this is blissfully easy. I get up when he does, do the usual morning things, nappy change, feeding, playing, etc. and if I manage to squeeze in a shower for myself then that's great. If not, I hope that no-one gets close enough to smell me.

The main thing is; there are options. Flexibility.

On the days that both me and Mrs L scuttle off to our respective offices things are a little different. Mrs L catches her train at 7am, so needs to be up at 6am. There is little leeway in her routine, so sorting out Cam is pretty much impossible.

I get up at 6:15am.

We creep around, trying our best not to disturb the delicate slumber of our son until seven. A still snoozing son means I get to shower without fear of my shoe being thrown into the bath to keep me company.

The remainder of the morning routine is finely honed. Change the baby. Get the baby dressed. Give the baby his bottle. Make my porridge and leave it to cool a bit. Entertain the baby. Throw work stuff in my bag. Pack bottles into baby's bag. Eat porridge. Bundle baby into car. Leave.

Because I hate being late to arrive at places I know exactly what time all of the above things need to happen in order for me to drop him off and get to work on time.

But there is a problem. Sometimes, the morning throws a curve ball. Routines don't allow for curve balls, but babies show little respect for routine.

This morning, there was a curve ball. Cam had been given his bottle. I was about to start sorting out my porridge when a noise came out of my son. A noise which made me wonder whether perhaps he had somehow managed to swallow an eighteenth century factory during the night.

The sound did not indicate a normal poo. The sound made me fear for my nostrils. I contemplated grabbing the Marigolds prior to dealing with whatever was inside that nappy.

I needn't have worried, since there was as much outside the nappy as there was contained within it.

(Question: when putting on a nappy, do you pull the elasticated leg bits out as far as they'll go, such that the evacuated excreta has the maximum possible room OR do you leave them contracted, in order for them to act as a device to SLOW DOWN the brown projectile as it comes out? Answers on a clean Pampers please…)

You know there's been some significant evil force at work when the poo looks like a Korma and has escaped from both legs and the top of the nappy. When the answer to the (rhetorical, rhetorical!!!) question "has this leaked" is answered by finding a wet patch on each of the baby's feet.

Still. Shit ain't shit. I'm used to this by now. I wrote another post about poo almost a year ago.
The clean up operation is quick. Deftly dealt with. Clean the bits you need to hold first. Assess the cleanliness of the various items of clothing. Remove as necessary (all of them in this case). Don't spare the wipes. Suppress the wince as Cam's (brand new, from his great gran) soft toy is deposited into the nappy while you're not looking. Dry the bum. Apply the Sudocrem. New nappy. New clothes. Wash hands.

Of course, you'd expect this tale to culminate in me being late to drop him off at his grandparents, but I'm a step ahead of the game. I've got enough contingency time for TWO nappy changes built into my routine.

Which will be fine, until the day he needs three.

PS: One poo post every eleven months, that's fine, right?

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

I don't like Red Nose Day

This Friday is Red Nose Day, the biannual fundraising event put on by Comic Relief.

It is huge. Massive. Utterly enormous. A juggernaut of a good cause.

The last Red Nose Day, in 2011, raised a staggering amount of money. £108,436,277. That is a big pile of cash. You know that bit at the start of 80s kids' TV favourite Duck Tales, where Scrooge McDuck goes swimming in his mountain of coins? Well, it's more money than that.

A. Lot. Of. Money.

Which is good, because you NEED a lot of money to have a stab at sorting out some of the world's problems. Lots of money can do lots of good, and I'm reasonably sure that Comic Relief is doing lots of good with the money it raises.

Still, here I am, writing a blog post about why I don't like Red Nose Day (and, by extension, Comic Relief). Erk.

Let me first clarify something: I am not anti-charity. I am not anti-fundraising. I work for a charity. As a fundraiser. I have nothing but admiration for the efforts of people like Team Honk, who are traipsing all over the place and doing all sorts of challenges to raise money for Red Nose Day. Good on them.

But Red Nose Day bothers me for several reasons. Here are a couple of them:

1. Enforced jollity. I know some people have a "fun" switch, which they can turn on and off at will, and even without the assistance of alcohol, but I don't. Get all up in my face dressed as a clown and shaking a bucket and I will be as likely to give you a quick kick in the shin as I am to donate money. The trouble with the concept of doing something funny for money, is that most people are deeply UNfunny. Putting a red plastic prosthetic on your proboscis will not alter that. In fact, it will probably just highlight it.

I love fun. I just like it to be spontaneous and genuine.

2. Celebrity. Predictable of me, I know, but I can't help it. Seeing the Bonos, Geldofs and Henrys of the world earnestly pleading for a donation makes my skin itch. If I could reach into the screen and gaffer tape their mouths closed I would.

If a celebrity wants to convince me to make a donation here's how they should do it: "If you want to donate £1 to Comic Relief, text DONATELENNY to 80077. For every £1 received that way, I will personally donate the same, because I realise that I am rich as fuck and you, most likely, are not."

I appreciate, of course, that many of the celebrities involved are also giving their own cash to the cause. I'd just like to have it confirmed.

But those are nothing really. Personal gripes. Frivolous, self indulgent moans. The main reason I dislike Red Nose Day is this: it promotes uninformed charitable donations.

When you send that text, donating £5, £10, £20, whatever, how much thought have you given to where that money will end up? What causes it will support? What good it will do?

Not much, I reckon. You donate a bit of money because it's Red Nose Day. Because that's what you do on Red Nose Day. Because the aesthetically pleasing person on the TV screen encouraged you. Because the film of someone suffering affected you.

Sure, the money you donate will more than likely have a positive impact on someone. But you're not choosing those beneficiaries, Comic Relief is.

Here's (roughly) how Comic Relief works:

1. You and thousands of others donate your money to them.
2. They set their priorities for spending the money you donate.
3. They pool all the donations (less cost of raising them) and invite other charities to apply for a Comic Relief grant. Only charities doing work within Comic Relief's stated priorities are eligible to apply.
4. They choose which of the thousands of applications are supported, and the charity which applied does the work.

There are so many charities in the UK doing amazing work. In my opinion, as a potential donor, it is your duty to be diligent in your charitable giving. To research charities as you would research anything else you intend to spend money on. To find the charities which are doing the work which you feel the strongest about, the causes you truly believe in.

Once you've worked out which charities you like, make a donation.

Comic Relief is a shouty charity. It comes onto your telly once each year (they do Sport Relief in the years they don't do Red Nose Day) and makes lots of noise. It is backed by masses of people in the entertainment industry, people who are good at making their voices heard. It has a huge budget available to encourage donations.

Small, local charities will never be able to do the sort of high profile fundraising that Comic Relief does. In fact, even some of the UK's biggest charities couldn't hope to spend what Comic Relief does on raising money.

I'm not saying you shouldn't give your money to Comic Relief. I'm saying I hope you can resist the glitz, the glamour and the ubiquity of Red Nose Day and donate because you truly believe in what they're doing. The information is there, on their website, in their published accounts on the Charity Commission's website.

I don't like Red Nose Day because it lets us take the easy option in our charitable giving. Charitable giving shouldn't just be about supporting the most visible cause.

What do you think? Have I got it all wrong? Do I underestimate how informed the Comic Relief donors really are? Please, let me know.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013


In essence, my son is a healthy human baby. He was ejected from my wife with all the bits and pieces he was meant to have, and without any unnecessary extras. Everything appears to work as it should. I am truly, truly grateful for this.

But fucking hell, he is ill ALL THE TIME.

I reckon, during his short life so far, the baby has been completely free of malady or complaint for about three weeks.

Cholera. No, not that.
Projectile vomiting.
Non-projectile vomiting.

So many things. Nothing serious. But a lot of non serious things.

This week, he's battling with conjunctivitis. Ever had it? Probably. But just in case you haven't, the main symptom is a copious discharge of gooey eye-crud. The gooey eye-crud then hardens into bright yellow eye-crust, matted into the sufferer's eyelashes like some kind of naturally occurring cement.

Conjunctivitis is a fucker. A stupid, crusty, pain in the arse which stops babies from being able to open their eyes properly.

It is highly contagious, which means you can't go to the party you are supposed to attend, in case your baby rubs his eyes and then pokes another baby in the face, passing on the condition.

It means you have to go and see the nice, but slightly odd, pharmacist who tells you the same thing OVER AND OVER AGAIN FOR FIFTEEN MINUTES.

But the worst thing is trying to administer the eye drops which the slightly odd pharmacist furnished you with.

Here is my step by step guide:

It's a two person job. Or a one person with six hands job. If you don't have a second person available to help you, I suggest calling in a favour. Or collapsing into a heap, sobbing.

Maintaining the element of surprise is key. The drops should be concealed in a pocket for as long as possible.

Sing. Whatever song may prevent the baby from sensing the imminent invasion of his personal space.

"Yakki yakki yoggi, goo goo gee, bah bah bah, beep beep noo see…"

Feel wracked with guilt as your baby looks up at you with eyes overflowing with love (and eye-crud, obviously).

Have your assistant pin the thing you love most in the world down, holding his head still. Wonder how his expression manages to convey disappointment, rage and betrayal all at the same time.

Prise open his eyelids, which seem to be clamped shut with similar strength to that of a crocodile snapping at an unfortunate swimmer. Make a mental note to wear earplugs next time you have to do this.

Swear at whatever hateful BASTARD made the eyedrop bottle from such thick plastic that squeezing the liquid out is nearly impossible.

Feel relief as a drop finally lands in the eye, followed by dismay as it is immediately washed away by the flood of tears your baby is producing.

Once you've repeated the last few steps for the other eye, perform all your best parental distraction techniques in order to calm your irate baby.

Spend the rest of the day considering whether babies are susceptible to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Have I missed a really easy alternative method? Could I have cured the conjunctivitis with liberal applications of witchcraft and fairy dust? Will my baby ever trust me again?