Archives for posts with tag: upset



Last night, Saturday the 19th of April, I was unable to post on WordPress.

I have not really wanted to go into why I write this stuff or the ‘process of writing’, mostly because I don’t really have anything intelligent to say about it and I am not really sure.

Anyway, I woke this morning and was really disappointed.
I honestly felt like I had lost something.
Like my watch was gone or my wallet was not around or something.
I had not written some words on WordPress and it meant I could not go back to sleep.

I want to say there was a technical reason for not posting.
I want to say that the broad band dropped out or WordPress was playing up or my computer crashed but unfortunately none of these things happened.

Yesterday I went to visit friends and I started drinking before the boys went to bed.
We went to a bar with the children.

I don’t often visit pubs any more.
There was a time when I would go to a pub at least three times a week, usually five or more times.
I loved pubs.
I liked pubs for the warm, closed in feeling of good conversation and a bit of a cheeky laugh.
I liked the philosophy and the fencing with ideas.
I loved meeting complete strangers and somehow having a complete and unforgettable adventure with them.
I had favourite pubs in the same way people collect favourite hats or shoes.
I liked being in London and knowing twenty pubs I liked to drink in across town.
I liked finding new pubs and trying them on like a jacket.

I loved Sunday afternoons with all the papers and no reason to leave.
I liked Friday nights when the theatre staff all kicked out and I knew everyone in the pub.
I liked a quick pint in a loved pub.
I liked a pilgrimage to a particular place to meet particular friends and sit in particular seats to watch the world go by.

I just loved pubs.

The etiquette of buying a round and the subtle changes depending on which group I was with.
The flow of people through an evening.
The constant search for the perfect pint.

I felt bigger in a pub.
More confident.
I trained really hard to hold my own until I could last until closing time and still walk home.
I knew my limits (mostly) and I loved exploring them.

I felt it last night.
The Proles got a packet of crisps and a drink each in the snug and I sat at the end of the bar and surveyed the drinkers.
I had a pint and I could feel myself growing.
I drank a pint quickly, made sure the Proles were ok and went back for another.
I started to worry lees and less about them.
It was like being in the 1970s.

I was feeling more confident, I had missed all this.
The light from the beer taps, the feel of the beermat.
The smell.
I started to feel less like a parent and more like a man.
I could feel the warmth running through my system.
I remembered fighting and romance and working hard.
I thought about how long it had been since I had done this.
I suddenly became aware of my hand holding the beer glass and as I looked at it it seemed to come into focus and it surprised me because it looked so….right.

It got to half past nine at night.

That was a surprise.

I had had a few drinks.

I went to check on the Proles who were flopped on the sofa.
Prole2 was trying to build a nest in the coats and jumpers.
They should not be in a bar.
They should be in bed.

I was being selfish.

I could feel it all pouring back out of me.
I was slightly out of focus, I was slightly unsteady.
I could not have a conversation with my own children without it sounding weird.
I felt loose and baggy and I had to really concentrate to focus on what they were saying.

I was small.
Rubbish, useless and out of control.

And I needed a wee.

I don’t drink to enjoy myself any more, I drink to get drunk, it is the most selfish thing I do these days.
It is not about good conversation or company, it’s about getting drunk.
A drunk is no good as a parent.
Everything else was there, love, care, hope, dreams but the part of me that could guide my family safely was gone.
It was past bedtime and Dad was drunk.

I took them home and they sleepily went to bed.

I chatted with my friend for a bit and then I stayed in the house as he went back to the party.

I sat at the table looking at my hands.

Absolutely useless hands.


When I woke this morning I could not get back to sleep.

I did not write last night because I was drunk.

I don’t want to do that again.

I am not giving up drinking completely, not yet, but I need to see if I can stay in some sort of control and I hope I can keep posting here every day for a while to come.


While the Proles were at school I got the cuddly toys down from the loft.

In actual fact it was four bin liners full of cuddly toys.

Four bin liners full.

These are not the current population of the bedroom.

At present the cuddly toy level in both the Proles’ beds is pushing maximum density.

Prole1 has his in neat rows at one end of the bed, compressed into a block in height order, Winnie the Pooh at the back, the Hatty-fatners      at the front.

Prole2 swims in a soup of soft toys, tangled up in dalmations, monkeys, rabbits ducks and bears.

I have to sweep them aside when I put him to bed.
They spill across the floor and I occasionally find infestations of them behind the sofa or in a kitchen cupboard.
They lie helpless on the floor, staring glassy eyed at me as I try to sort the washing.
They appear in ones and twos, scattered down the stairs.
The cats make nests in them.

I always try to know the whereabouts of the Alpha toys, Eeyore and Teddy.
The rest are a plush, fun fur and fabric plague that could be anywhere at any time.
Tripping me up.
Getting stuck under doors.
Being trodden on.
Getting covered in what ever that grey fluffy stuff is under the sofa.

There is a certain amount of guilt that comes with all this.

I remember being six years old and trying to wish my toys into life.
I remember Peter Pan telling me never to grow up and promising myself through tears that I never would.
I remember Kermit the Frog singing that song about Rainbows and thinking “Yes Kermit, YOU speak for ME”.

And yes, I am a forty three year old man, but that was what I was formed out of.
Sentimentality does run through me.
I do have a squashy middle.

Not so much mind.
I remember when the building I was working in became a nesting place for pigeons and I was asked to clear them out.
The rest of the crew were supremely unhelpful so I ended up on my own.
Londoners hate pigeons.
This is well known and well documented.
‘Flying Rats’ is how they are often described.
In fact they are no more or less diseased than any other ‘urban animal’.
The population explosion of pigeons coincided with the post war Fast Food boom.
This was when Londoners stopped eating them and started hating them.

Being from Cornwall and living in or near the countryside most of my life  I approached the problem in a no nonsense manner.
The building had vermin.
My old geography teacher told us about vermin in his shed, he said that the best place to drown rats was in the sceptic tank.
It was a horrible job but it had to be done.
I cleared all the nests into a large cardboard box and, in the absence of a sceptic tank, tipped them all out into the Thames.

The Production Manager just stared at me.

Production Manager: You did what with them?

Me: I threw them in the river.

Production Manager: I said get rid of them, I didn’t mean…I meant….

He never finished the sentence, I have often wondered what he thought I was going to do with a box of pigeon nests.
Re-home them in Trafalgar Square I suppose.

The crew, made up of big people with bald heads and tattoos, barely said a word to me for the rest of the day.
Not all the nests had been empty.
Apparently this was considered bad form.

Anyway, it was with brutality like this in my heart that I mounted the ladder to the loft and pulled the bags down.

I grabbed a really big canvas laundry bag with a zip top.
I emptied the bin liners onto the floor and began stuffing them in fist fulls to the bottom of the bag.

I knew if I kept on going and really pushed them down I could get them all in.

These are the retired cuddly toys.
These were found in corners after weeks of being alone.
These were left in friends’ houses and forgotten.
These were cleared from the floor of the bedroom, corralled in shopping bags under the stairs until there were no more questions before being smuggled into the loft at night.
These were the ‘inconvenient’ toys, noisy, loud or not quite ‘fitting in’.
These were the toys from years of “everyone is a winner” tom bolas in town, interlopers that were rounded up within days of arriving and disappeared.

There were friends in here too.

Possibly the worst named toy in the house.

Blue Dad.
Named after me.

Buzz Buzz.
The Bee. Probably. Might be a wasp. Or a kind of fish. I am not making that up.

Bananas the orangutang.

Those three Aliens we bought from that hopelessly trendy children’s boutique in Peckham.

Polar Bear 3
Not quite as popular as Polar Bears 1 and 2.

Max the Parrot.
A good friend in the early days.

The Cuddly Rastafarian.
The one that played “Don’t Worry be happy” when you squeezed his bottom.

The Kiwi.
It is hard to make a Kiwi cuddly, this designer had failed like so many others.

The fish that looked a bit like a character from ‘Finding Nemo’ but wasn’t.

Green Bear.
Smells like lavender. Why?

There were snakes, monkeys, endless bears, elephants, fish, parrots and more.
A menagerie of fluff.

So I stuffed them all down in the bag and I tried to get the song “You’ve Got A Friend In Me” from the film Toy Story out of my head.

When Loz died the boys were given toys.
Lots and lots of toys.
Cuddly toys were great, both Proles regressed into more juvenile behaviour.
Soft blankets, lots of cuddles, snuggling on the sofa and tucked in with cuddly toys were the sorts of thing they bot responded to well.
I read that on a Widowers’ website.
I tried to make it happen a lot and the landslide of cuddly toys that arrived in the next eighteen months were great for that.

Tucking the boys up in bed, with a favourite toy was part of our ritual.

But the Proles are bigger now and those bin bags have been up there for over a year.

Time to go.

No time to be sentimental.

I will take them to the Proles’ old nursery this week.
I have seen Toy Story 3 as well but, as I say, I have no time to be sentimental.



I am hiding from the cat.

Sometimes at the end of the day, when I finally get the Proles off to bed, I sit down with a big sight and the cat jumps on to my lap.
Then it goes round and round in circles, shoving it’s bottom in my face, shredding my dressing gown with its claws.

I sort of want to throw it against the wall and shout “Stop sucking all the love out of me you parasites!” but the RSPCA take a dim view of that and anyway the cats are family or something.

Usually I just take it and wait ten minutes for it to settle, by which time I have to shift a bit because something is going numb somewhere at which point the cat jumps off and then five minutes later repeats the whole thing.

I have to be extra nice to the cat at the moment.
The cat is stressed.
I can tell because it has started pulling it’s fur out again.
We have new cats in the area. I think this is why it has started tearing it’s hair out.

It has done this before, a fifty pence sized bald patch on it’s side.
And its allergic to fleas, I have just de-flea-ed it but not before the tell tale scabs appeared.

That’s right, the cat is neurotic, part bald, scabby and prone to shoving it’s bottom in my face.

And I have to not make it stressed and cheer it up so it can get better.

So I am hiding.

I can’t say I blame it mind, I don’t know why but it has been one of those days.

Prole1 has a couple of bookings coming up for his burgeoning DJ career.

As gimmicks go, being in primary school and being a DJ has worked well.
I keep thinking he is going to get too old and not be cute as a DJ any more but so far he still keeps getting bookings.

He was playing through some odds and ends today.
Mr Brightside by the Killers.
I am often left cold by the Killers’ lyrics but they do make a right old glorious racket and suddenly I was in tears over the cooker.

This had followed a rather emotional trip to the pool.
Prole2 has been slowly, slowly convincing himself to join Surf Life Saving with Prole1.

When Prole1 started I just said “OK, in you go” and in he went.
If he had not wanted to go in he would have said “No thank you, thank you very much for asking” because that is what he says when he does not want something or is transfixed with fear.

Prole2 is a different kettle of fish.

I know swimming is nice once you are in.
I also know that Prole2 needs to convince himself of this.

Me: Do you want to go in?

Prole2: Yes.

Me: Off you go then.

Prole2: I am scared.

Me: Ok, don’t go in.

Prole2: But I want to.

Me: Ok, go in.

Prole2: But I am scared.

Me: You don’t have to go in if you are scared.

Prole2: But I want to go in.

Me: Well go in then, off you go.

Prole2: No Dad, no. I am too scared.

Me: Well…don’t go in or do go in….do something.

Prole2 But I am scared.

This went on for some time and when he finally did go in I had to have a quiet moment to get over it all.
Prole2 gets locked in uncertainty like that.
Prole1 would just get changed again.

I pulled myself together but by then some Mums had sat all around, and in one case on, my towels and coat so I sat at the end orf the row with some small girls doing colouring in. Them not me.

Prole2 walked past a few minutes later, splotch, splotch, splotch in a pair of flippers and a huge grin.
I was off again he looked so happy.

We finally got home and after ten months of asking we finally bought ‘Lilo and Stich’ and sat on the sofa to watch it.
Disney, not afraid to kill a parent or two at the start of the film to get you on side.

I should have known I would go again I suppose, ‘Toy Story 3’ hits the Achillies heel every time and even ‘How to Train Your Dragon’ has it’s moment.

I sat there sniffing on the bean bag while my scabby cat mauled more threads out of my dressing gown.

Prole2 has joined the Surf Life Savers.
I am so proud.

Excuse me.


At work today I used the last of the paper.

I managed to use a pack and a half.

What do they call packs of paper these days?
It used to be a ‘sheaf’ in one of the theatres in London.

Oddly archaic thing to be loading into a photocopier, a sheaf.
Pack these days probably.

These are the busy days at work, when all the answers need to be given and all the nerves need to be smoothed and a sheaf of Artists dreams need to be rendered into paper and scrutinised.
It took over an hour to photocopy everything and get it ready to go.
I used to email everything but bitter, bitter experience taught me to post hard copies as well.

It is very odd that nowadays we need to email and post.
Once we would have just posted but somehow that is not safe enough any more.
There was a time when there were up to three posts per day.
You could send a card in the morning and get an answer that afternoon.

I don’t hanker after time gone by as such, I just don’t feel so safe any more about the security of email.
Double nerves.

I don’t like losing people’s forms.

This is the third desk space I have had since I went back to work.
I got the job three months after Loz died.

I was in two minds about it.

Other people thought I should go back to work.
They all gave good reasons.
I was not so sure.

Sorting out our lives after Loz had taken weeks.
That is to say, sorting out the legal side of our lives had taken weeks.
It was to continue for five months after she died.
That was when we got the results of the autopsy.

Every day I would have a list of people to call.

Every day I would spend, minutes, hours listening to hold music.
I spoke to people all over Britain and in other countries as well.
Most were reading from a screen.
Most were very sympathetic.
Most got back to the script.

Some things never got sorted out.
You have to send off death certificates to certain places.
Things like banks, insurance companies, the DVLA, the bloody TV licence people.

I thought it would take a couple of weeks at the most.
It didn’t.

The DVLA swallowed a Death Certificate and then told me I had not sent it.
The lady on the end of the phone was the least sympathetic I spoke to.
She told me four times I had not sent them the Death Certificate because it was not on the system.

“You have not sent it.”

She did not say:

“I am sorry Mr Morrison, you may have sent it but I am afraid we do not have it on our system. I apologise for the inconvenience but is there any way you could send us another?”

She did say:

“You have not sent it”

Four times.

Swansea accent, if you are interested.

I decided I would try very hard never to do that to someone on the phone.
I don’t trust the post.

The next people who wanted the Death Certificate were the TV licence people.
A photocopy would not do.

Since the DVLA had my last one the TV people never got it.
As far as the BBC is concerned Laura Hardman is alive and well and watching telly in Redruth.

I hated that time.
I really did.
I hate the smell and feel and heart sinking gloom of hold music.

Hate is a really strong word.
I have chosen to use it and I stand by it.
I hated it.

The calls slowly dried up, or they slowed to a trickle, and instead I got on with being a full time Dad.

But Laura’s job had been advertised.

I was not qualified to drive a desk but I had seen her slowly construct her workplace and we had spent months discussing how what she had built might work.

Laura was not going to stay there full time forever.
She had aspirations in other areas but the job of building had not quite finished and things had not yet settled.

If I am honest I was terrified someone would take it who did not understand where it had all come from and just spin it out for a couple of years and then let it finish.

I applied and, with a lot of assistance from friends, I got the job.

Day one in the office.
Sitting at her desk.
The place I was to work.
The desk had been occupied in the interim but the only real change since Laura’s last day seemed to be a space cleared around the keyboard and a neatly typed note above the computer that explained ‘the system’.
The work had been continued since she had died but still, here was her pen, her diary, her memory stick.
He writing on everything, her files, her notes, her emails.
Letters and post, her chair, some photos in the drawer.
For several months I would get emails from the occasional person addressed to her.
Sometimes someone would call and talk about how sad it was.
Loz did not take my name when we married and often people never connected us.

Most people knew of course and we all pretended it was not weird that I had taken my dead wife’s job and was now sitting in her chair.

Not weird at all.

But there was method in this weirdness beyond wanting to continue her project.

The chair was probably less than forty feet from Prole2’s Nursery wall.

I would drop him in and cross the carpark entrance to the office.

Sometimes I could hear him through the window.

I would scoop him up in the early afternoon and we would go and spring Prole1 from his nursery at the school.
Twice a week Prole1 would be picked up by Prole2’s Nursery and they would both be waiting for me when I got out of work.

We would go to the cafe for a snack or walk back across the fair field and play on the swings on the way.

That was our new routine.
Walk to the school nursery and drop off Prole1.
Walk to the nursery by the office and drop off Prole2.
Be at my desk less than a minute later.

For a while, Prole2 and I would get days off together.
When he was old enough I began working four or five days a week.
If I work extra time I get the school holidays off.
How nice is that?

The job has moulded around me and the Proles.
I am very lucky, we have a great routine.

One of the nieces things, the thing that keeps me going on so many occasions, is knowing that all I am doing is running a little system that Loz set up.
She did it along side other very talented people but at the heart of it is a set of values and beliefs that she believed in.

I sometimes upset people in my job.
I work hard not to, I try and avoid it al all costs.
Sometimes it just happens.
That is life, getting upset, it’s how we know we are still breathing.

I was once on the side of Mount Sinai, climbing down to St Catherine’s Monastry in the dark and our guide suddenly turned and stared right in my face and said:

“What is your work, Jack?”

I muttered something about stuff and things.

“No” and he looked a bit scary “What is your work?”

And I had no answer for him at all.

I could not answer.

I am still not sure what my work is.

Perhaps the best I can hope for is to make the world a tiny bit better.

I think it is good to try just a little bit to make the world a better place than the one we came into.

If we can.

Even if it’s just being nice to someone whose forms don’t show up on your computer.


I have a painting on the wall from a well known American Artist.

I say well known, I had never heard of him.
In fact I have just been googling him to see who he is.

He has done a lot it seems.

This one is not actually worth anything though.

The man who digs the garden knocked the painting off the wall.

Actually he bumped it on the way up the stairs and it must have hung by a thread for half an hour before it fell.

We had been discussing the Smiths.
The man who digs the garden does not particularly love the Smiths, the band from the late eighties, but he does not mind them.
He sometimes listens to them.

I had gone so far as to saying I hate the Smiths.
Actually I just actively dislike the music.
In reality it is only Morrisey’s voice I don’t like.

It was something of a pain when I was young.
I hung around with many, many Smiths fans.
In the tribal way of teenagers I looked and dressed very much like my friends.
I looked and dressed like a Smiths fan.

I was not a Smiths fan.
It would have been easier if I had just pretended that I liked them I suppose.

This preconception of me and my musical tastes carried on and carries on now.
I still meet people who are surprised that I don’t like the Smiths.

Laura even made me a compilation CD (as one does on occasion in relationships) on which was “There is a light that never goes out”, a song I used to find particularly unpleasant when I was in my late teens.

However unpleasant I used to find it, nowadays it just reminds me that Laura loved it so much she put it on a compilation CD for me.

Nowadays I can listen to the Smiths and it just reminds me of all those friends I don’t see any more and how much of a laugh it was being young.
That is what Morrisey means to me now.
Thank you Morrisey.
Listening to your voice means something.
It means looking at the man who digs the garden, gnarled hands, bald head, bushy beard, and seeing him as an 18year old again.
I don’t play the Smiths but these days I don’t turn them off either.

Where was I?

The painting is on an old panel of wood inside a frame and it came down the stairs, spinning off the third step and crashed into the hallway.

It made a real racket and dinked a hole in the floor where it hit.

The painting cracked from top to bottom.

Right down the middle and a shiver of the panel came out.

It is an old panel of wood and very dry.

It comes from The Canon Emeritus of Salisbury Cathedral’s time as the chaplain at Marlborough School.
One of the students was leaving and gave the Canon Emeritus of Salisbury Cathedral one of his pictures.
He then went on to Art School and moved to New York where he became very successful.

The painting is from his time before Art School.

It shows a figure that looks like Christ sitting with his head in his hands, weeping.
He is seen through the ephemeral shadow of a Cambell’s soup tin.
Yep, Cambell’s soup can.
It was painted in 1968 by a school boy so we can cut the guy some slack.

Also, the use of the soup can is explained in a Latin inscription across the top and the painted note on the back.

The picture is called “The State of America, 1968″.

Being one of those things that a Clergyman might collect through his life it was eventually passed on to the Canon Emeritus of Salisbury Cathedral’s daughter.

Laura brought it with her when we moved to Cornwall together.

There were many casualties of our moves, we no long have the picture of ‘Donkey by Spanish Windmills” which used to be in Laura’s room when she was a child.
We did not keep the four foot high African fertility doll. Once Prole2 turned up that thing was gone.
We did not keep the 1930s arm chair.
The white chest of drawers went to a bonfire.
My book cases went to the charity shop.
At a conservative estimate about four hundred books went to new homes.

I sort of do and don’t like the painting.

When I first saw it I was not enamoured.
I did not actually dislike it as much as, say, the Smiths but I was not keen.
As the years have gone by I have mellowed towards it.

When I saw it damaged I was actually very upset.

It may be worth nothing to the art world and I don’t know what will happen to it in the future but I love the heritage, the links and the story of it.

I re-hung it and I know enough about these things not to attempt mending it on my own.

It now has a crack, a new piece of history, another page to the story.


Several exciting deliveries.
A new operating system for this computer.

Why won’t the italics turn off? Why is everything in bold?

It is doing nothing for the mood I am in.

Today the new shoes arrived.

When I went into a high street shoe shop up Truro and got the Proles feet measured but left without actually buying anything  the staff gave me wry, knowing and mildly pursed smiles.

I had been blatantly showrooming.


Showrooming is where you go into a shop, look at or try on items or clothing and then leave, go home and buy them off the internet.

I have friends who work in retail.
I don’t know what to say except the world is moving and when you have a part time job and two kids you have to move with it.


I don’t do this a lot and I certainly think it is risky with shoes.

All is well if they arrive, they are the right shoes, they are the right size and they don’t leave your children with deformed feet for the rest of their lives.


But the reward, in this case, was that I got shoes at a third the price I could have got them in the shop.

A third.


I do sort of feel dirty, the high streets across Britain are dying and we should be trying to support them if we can.


However I can buy the same shoes as I can get from a nation wide retailer at a fraction of the price.


I was ready to send the shoes back but they are really very good.



No moral high ground at all but bargain.

I got home with the Proles and I pulled the shoes out of my bag.

Me: Here, try these on.

Prole1: Oh, right, Brilliant. Ok.

Prole2: What are they?

Me: They are shoes. Here, try them on.

He took them off me and held them in front of him.
He stared at them like they were a pair of dead seagulls.

Prole2: What are they?

Me: They are new shoes.

Prole2: What for?

Me: For you to try.

Prole2: I don’t understand.

I was laughing a bit and Prole1 was smiling.
Prole2 looked at me in disgust.

Prole2: What are these?

Me: They are a pair of shoes. For you to try on. If they fit you can keep them as your shoes.

Prole2: What?

Me: Just try them on.

Prole2: Why am I doing this?

Me: Because they might be your new shoes.

Prole2: What?

Me: Just try them on for me.

Prole2: I really don’t understand. I will do it but I think it is silly.

And then I heard the slight catch in his voice.
It was the way he sometimes talks to his friends in the play ground.
It is the way he sometimes talks to Prole1 when he really wants to push his buttons.
I looked at him.
He was standing there, not putting the shoes on and staring at me like I was an idiot.

He was eyeballing me.

I learned that from An Officer And A Gentleman.
I did not really understand it at the time but it is a thing people do.

My tiny little boy was eyeballing me.
He was being the quintessence of disrespect condensed into the body of a small child.
Suddenly he looked vile

He is young.
Really young.
He is testing boundaries.
He is finding out the rules.

I know all this because I live with him.

I also know that I suddenly wanted to send him spinning across the kitchen.

I have never hit the Proles.

I really hope I never do.

I know other people hit their kids.
I just don’t hit the Proles.

Every now and then they do make me really angry.
I can squash most emotion down most of the time but it does boil over some times.

During the ‘terrible twos’ when Prole2’s emotions were all over the place, he was throwing one of his more unreasonable tantrums, which in turn meant that we could not go out and meet friends.

We were running late and when Prole1 heard this he began to cry as well.

There are only three of us, I might have been able to calm him down and get him out the door but I also had to wrangle Prole1 as well.
Even if we made it to the park there was no guarantee we could do this without a relapse or a double explosion from them both.

I would have to spend the time monitoring them and keeping a lid on things which would mean I could not have an adult conversation for more than a couple of minutes.

This also did not even begin to take into consideration the fact that I did not want to be anywhere near either of them by this point.

Prole2 had lost it completely and was screaming “NO!” in my face.

I could feel my hands go cold and my knuckles begin to tingle.
Everything started moving slowly.

I remembered feeling exactly this way during a particularly testosterone filled day working with a crew in London.
A big guy kicked off a bit.

He was much bigger than me.
Sometimes you hire crew for their size.
If you need a huge pile of heavy things moved form one place to another then sometimes you need a Brute Squad.

Big men who work cash in hand often have mixed feelings about being given instructions.

This guy had been playing up all day and things finally came to a head when he tried to push through me instead of walking round.

I remember thinking that I was not going to back down, I was not going to get out of his way and I was prepared to face it out.

It ended with some pushing and shoving and being pulled apart from each other in a vaguely unremarkable way, like so many testosterone fuelled moments.

It sticks in my mind because I just don’t do that very often.

I really don’t.

I hate confrontation.

The next male that made me feel that way was my two year old son.

That is when I learned to put myself on the Naughty Step.

I have not felt that way since but I do get worked up sometimes and the Proles know that if I am on the Naughty Step they should probably go and play with lego somewhere.

But today I was being eyeballed and somehow it went straight through me.
I looked at his passive aggressive stance and his pretence at incomprehension.
He wore a slight sneer and he gently started to shake his head as he put the shoes on.

I picked him up, shoes and all and sat him on the stairs.

Me: I am really very angry at the moment.

Prole1: Oh.

Prole2: Oh…dad?

Me: I want you to stay here on the stairs.

I looked at Prole1.

Me: I want you to go and find something to do for a bit.

I thought for a second.

Me: I am going into the living room.

Prole1 went and played with lego in the bedroom.
Prole2 sat on the stairs.
I lay face down on the rug in the living room and tried to gather my thoughts and calm down.

I had to find a way to explain about non-verbal communication, attitude, respect, empathy and general demeanor to someone who has yet to experience the tooth fairy.

Finally I was ready.

Proe2 had transformed back into a curly haired angel.
Little git.

Me: What are these?

Prole2: Shoes.

Me: What do I want you to do with the shoes?

Prole2: Put them on.

Me: Why do I want you to put them on?

Prole2: To see if they fit.

Me: Whose shoes are they?

Prole2: My shoes. If they fit. They are my shoes.

Me: OK. Good. Great. Now move over.

Prole2: Why.

Me: Because I need to sit on the naughty step now.

Prole2: I will go and play with lego.


I defrosted the freezer.

That’s a job I won’t have to do again for another eight years.

There is a strange sort of archaeology in the defrosting of a freezer.

Mine was not too bad by the way, it was supposed to be ‘frost free’ but I think after so many years it just gave up and took a break.
It is also quite small so the fall out area was contained.

The frost had really taken hold in the last six months.
A slight door malfunction had led to a lot of ice forming.
A slightly cracked drawer was probably to blame and being freed from the ice today meant I could clean and glue and slide everything back into place.

I do not have a hair dryer in the house any more and my fan heater is at work.
Actually my fan heater is now working for Cornwall Council somewhere, kidnapped in a chilly office move so I nicked theirs when they were not looking.
My fan heater is now probably in Truro, rattling away in some office.
I got it in Essex.
Well travelled, that heater.

I was not sure how to speed up the defrosting as the freezer is in the coldest part of the house.

In the end I pulled the tumble dryer out and pointed the vent into the freezer which worked a treat.

The ice melted, most of the water vapour from the dryer condensed in the freezer compartment and the towels dried at the same time.

I was feeling quite good about this small piece of lateral thinking until I saw the fluff that had blown out of the vent hose and all over the inside of my wet and now warm freezer compartment.
It came off easily enough but where it got in between the filaments it stuck, just out of dishwasher brush bristle length.
It looks black and mildewey.
Fluff and the aesthetics aside, it worked quite well.

I cleared out the stuff I could easily get to and waited to see what else would be revealed.
As the ice shelf receded, I found two vegetarian sausages, one fish finger, one frozen Yorkshire Pudding (don’t judge me, they were on special offer) lots of peas and a portion of Lasagne.
I also found the ice cube tray.
We used to make baby food by liquidising vegetables and freezing them in the ice cube tray.
At meal times you could turn out two cubes into a pan, warm them through and serve them up.
It was nice to see it again and be reminded that you cold fit three day’s solid food for one of the Proles in that tray at one time.
The ice cube tray was fortunately not full of baby food.

The Lasagne was quite old.
When Loz died people reacted in different ways.
While I am not really happy to make gender based sweeping statements I have to say that the men and women in my social group reacted in very stark ways.
There were people who talked.
There were people who listened.
There were men who got me drunk.
There were women who cooked me food.

Broadly speaking people fell into these groups if I ever saw them.
The one real exception to this was one of my friends who just mooched around my hose for a few days not saying much, watching telly with the Proles or throwing them around in the back garden and occasionally leaving cups of tea within reach. I am not sure we actually had any sort of conversation at all but it was kind of marvellous really. It was brilliant.

The talkers actually appeared before Loz had died.
On the morning they were to switch off the machines I was in the bed room getting dressed and my phone rang.
I sort of knew it would be a bad idea to answer but at the same time it was such an odd day to prepare for I thought perhaps some normality might help.

The nice lady on the other end of the phone said hello and then disintegrated into floods of tears telling me what a poor man I was on a day like today.
On the face of it I agreed with her but was a tad busy getting ready so I did have to politely cut the conversation short.
Grief is a terrible thing, it is relatively rare in our culture and so often hits people in an unexpected flood.
Most people who talked about it were experiencing shock, awe and panic in various sized doses.
So was I, so I had every sympathy in the world, even if the timing could be questionable.

The listeners were great.
I was experiencing shock, awe and panic and it was nice to try to make sense of it.
I sometimes made sense of it by trying to say it all out loud at once.
Most of the time I kept a bit of a lid on it but every now and then I would lose it completely.
I did feel myself reigning it in a bit when eyes became too wide.

Any how, gender specific reactions….

The men getting drunk thing was kind of to be expected really.
As a man who drank, it was a landscape I understood and I think I would have been the same in their shoes.
Lots of Gin, lots of beer, lots of rum.
I don’t remember us all talking about our feelings much.
Mind you, I don’t remember much.

It is unfair of me to insinuate that all women wanted to cook for me.
They didn’t.
But some did and they brought food round or cooked in my house or invited me to theirs for slightly too much pudding.
On one occasion I had to talk someone out of coming round with the ingredients for a casserole, all three of their children and their dog. It was an incredibly sweet gesture but I am not sure it would have had the desired effect.

I don’t remember any men coming round with a hot pot or similar, only women.
Make of it what you will I suppose but it is a phenomena borne out by the experience of other widowers I have heard from.
I actually started to put on weight.
Whatever the reason, I felt it was quite a primal thing and on occasion really very welcome.

The Lasagne was really lovely, I remember saving the last portion for a special day.
Well, I remember it now, and I remembered at the time, clearly there was a long time in the middle where I did not remember about the Lasagne at all.

I saw it today and I remembered all those people who came round in that first year.

All that time, all that care, all that love.

I never really got to say thank you to those people, thank you for the talking and the listening and the drinking and the food.
I won’t ever be able to tell them what that meant to me.
Because it meant they loved her too.

Anyhow, I threw the Lasagne away.
I am sentimental but there are limits.


I sat down to write a post tonight but it was not coming together.
It will I suppose.

I went and had a bath to clear my head and come back to it afresh.

I read a small booklet that Cardiac Risk in the Young had sent through the post.

I also got a copy of the same booklet from the Cannon Emeritus of Salisbury Cathedral so I thought I would give it the once over.
You never know when you might be asked questions.

It’s a small booklet but I would not call it ‘light’ reading.

It is full of stories about Sudden Cardiac Death. Each one of them could have been my story.

The nurse who last took my blood pressure asked if I had any pains in my chest.

‘Only when I think about it’ I replied and she laughed.

Because it’s funny when men in their forties worry about their health.

Emotional heart ache exists of course but it’s not a medical condition as such so we did not discuss it.

I did not tell her that some nights I can’t sleep because it aches so much.
I couldn’t tell her that a song or a smell or a word could trigger my heart to ache for hours.
Only when I think about it though.

I don’t have a heart condition but my heart aches often.
Painkillers don’t work of course.
Because it is all in my head.

I am not going to finish that other post, I was trying to describe why sitting on the sofa is more fun than going out.
I don’t feel morose about the subject and I was trying and failing to reflect that.
I should not have to justify it, my sofa is brilliant.

I am going to sit on the sofa now because when your heart aches you should do what feels right.


The absolute litmus test for how I am feeling occurs when I am watching the Proles swimming.

The early days of swimming lessons were mildly embarrassing things.
They began lessons aged four.
Prole1 was still quite rotund when he started.
With his tight red hat and over sized goggles and shorts he looked like a chubby, grumpy, bald owl.
His early attempts at co-ordination in the pool would often see him slowly going round in circles or inadvertently joining the next class by accident.
He was taught by a man who believed yelling as loud as you can at small children renders the best results.
He would bellow at the top of his lungs as Prole1 veered off into open water or slowly sank to the bottom.
Prole1 adored his teacher with every fibre of his body.

Prole2 was still a couple of years off lessons at this point and would spend the half hour waiting for his brother swinging on me, climbing on me and seeming to attempt to unscrew my limbs. We sang songs together, I bounced him on my knee, read books, played games and we generally annoyed all the other parents.

When Prole2 started lessons he was so skinny I could not find swimming trunks that would stay up on his snake hips.
Every time he got out of the pool his bottom was showing.
His teacher was a softly spoken lady who wore artificial flowers in her hair.
She showered love and positive praise on Prole2, even though he actually managed to go backwards in every stroke.
I am not making that last bit up.
He used to actually go backwards.
I would get a warm shot of pride if, during all the splashing and thrashing around, he managed to maintain his position in the pool, let alone go forward.
In return for all her kind words, Prole2 was mortally afraid of his teacher, it took several months for her to win a sliver of trust from him.

The Proles did not exactly rocket up through the classes, both taking the ‘wear them down until they cannot stand the humiliation of being unable to teach us and HAVE to send us up to the next class” approach.
Four years of lessons have been a marathon, not a sprint.

These days they take it in turns, Prole1 has his lesson and when he comes out Prole2 goes in.
This is the time in the week they officially get to play on my phone.
The spare Prole makes a small nest of towels and curls up for half an hour and crashes through their favourite games.
Some of these are universally popular with them both, Angry Birds in it’s various guises, Gravity Guy and Jetpack but then there is a definite separation.
Prole1 will spend at least quarter of an hour tending his Smurf Village, building houses, feeding the pets, checking in on the Smurfs and planting crops.
It is a bustling happy place where Prole1 can indulge in some civic planning and harvesting food for the population.

Prole2 has found ZombieSwipeout.
This is a game in which you dismember cute looking Zombies.
I know, I know, I should never have downloaded it in the first place and I should certainly have deleted it from the phone a long time ago.
Small children should not play with Zombies, it really sits ill with me but HE LOVES IT so I am waiting until he moves on into another phase and I can surreptitiously drag it to the waste bin.
Soon, and then I don’t have to listen to the awful chuckling that comes from him whenever he plays it.

So, one in the pool and one out playing games, quick swap, other one in the pool and the other one playing games.

This gives me the best part of an hour to stare at the water.

In the early days I though about nothing.

My mind was not a complete blank but there was not much going on. I would think about the trip home, which lane I might drive in. I would think about next weeks shopping a bit. I would stare at the water.

As the years have gone on I sort of think about more.
For a while there was a nice lady who would sit next to me whilst her daughter swam rings around Prole1 and we would sometimes chat.
She was divorced and sporty and wanted to get on her bike and take on the world.
I can only imagine that is what she did as I don’t see her any more.
A little girl from Prole1’s class comes over most weeks and we chat about school and shoes and little sisters and how far it is to travel to Cardiff.

When I have no one to talk to I just think.
I can tell a good day and I can tell a bad day by how I get on at swimming.

I can’t tell you what I think about on good days and bad days.

Seeing it written down is open to misinterpretation.
Suffice it to say it is the mind laundry for the week.
I can have a clear out and start the week again.

This is the time to think about what worked and what didn’t in the last week, how the Proles are changing, how our routines are evolving.
We are growing as a family and it’s hard, really hard, to let go of the things that have made us comfortable.
There is danger in complacency, things fester, things get stale, things have no room or grow disproportionately.

You must try to manage the danger in your life.

I don’t give this much time during the week and I shut these thoughts down at night time. I did not used to. I used to think all or nothing about it. Long sleepless nights of mind racing worry with the Proles about to wake at any moment or blocking everything out because it was all too awful and hung over me like a towering cliff.

Sitting by the pool and watching the water is a good place to rummage around in the back of my life and get some, little, tiny amount of perspective. It is not exactly tranquil in the middle of six sets of swimming lessons but it is a start.

Prole2 swipes out his Zombies and Prole1 builds his village.

I wonder what happens to all the odd socks…


Tonight I cooked dinner pretty much how I always do but took the weekly gamble on cooking for three instead if two.

When it works we all sit down to dinner and share a meal.

When it does not work we all sit down to dinner and I throw half the food away.

It is a bit of a gamble because the boys have hot school dinners.
I am occasionally asked for packed lunches, mainly so Prole2 can have cake every day and so Prole1 can take it with him to chess club.
Chess club is a big deal for Prole1. For Christmas he only got one present, a wooden games compendium which he places in his ‘special’ drawer.
He likes the moves, he likes the strategy and he likes talking about it.
Every Friday he plays chess in his class at lunch time and hot dinners means he is often late.

Prole1: I think I should have packed lunch because if I am going to be an athlete and represent the school at chess I need all the practice I can.

Me: I agree but an athlete needs a balanced diet as well, to be in tip top shape.

Prole1: I suppose so.

I don’t know how long that one will last but it has not come back on me yet.

The thing is, in my house I don’t force the boys to finish their dinner.
When they say they are finished they can leave the table.
It does not matter if they have not eaten a mouthful, if they say they are finished then they can leave the table.

I can pin point the moment I decided to do this.
1977, at the dinner table. We were all sitting round the table and my younger sister was being told off for not finishing her dinner.
My father said ‘If she won’t eat, let her starve’.
Naturally enough the attempts to get her to eat continued but I quietly thought this was the most sensible thing he ever said.
It made perfect sense.
My sister would be happy because she would not be forced to eat anything,
My other sister and I would be happy because there would be no more shouting.
My parents would be happy because they could eat their dinner.

After all, she might be right, she might be full.
Also, if she was hungry at the next meal, my sister would want to eat more.
Aged seven I decided that should I ever have children this is what I would do.

The Proles are never asked to finish their dinner.

There is a ‘but’.
The rule in my house is that if you say you are finished then there is no more food until the next scheduled meal/snack time.

 It goes against the grain but as long as you hold steady and weather the first storms the passage gets much smoother.

Prole1 has not eaten his dinner at all on one occasion.
It was a difficult night but I did not let him have anything except water until the next morning.
Breakfast was unusually early that day and he has never done it since.
Prole2 tried it twice.

Since then we have not had many arguments at dinner, at least about food.

The only thing I have actually FORCED the boys to try was Sugar Puffs.
I insisted Prole1 try one on the grounds that he liked all the constituent ingredients and therefore MUST stop being obtuse and didactic and try one.
After 25minutes he gave in, ate one, said it was very nice and NEVER ATE ONE AGAIN.

I feel awful about that.

Every system has flaws.
The way I deal with meal times throws up as many problems as it solves but it sort of works.
The Proles are a bit skinny though.

Tonight I cooked pork sausages for me and Prole2 and vegetarian sausages for Prole1.

As I was cooking I kept thinking I had done something wrong.
That feeling that I had forgotten something.
Just a little, you know, odd feeling that I had missed something.

I even dished everything up.
Put it on the plates.
Mash, peas, sweetcorn, broccoli, and sausages. Gravy on the side.

Prole2: Good one Dad. Food.

Me: Thank you. That means a lot.

Prole2: I love food.

Me: Good. Glad I can make you happy. What did you have for lunch?

Prole2: Roast. Roast potatoes, roast vegetables and meat.

Me: Good.

This is not good however, roast is a popular meal with the Proles and this means they probably would not eat all their dinner.
This is the downside to not forcing them to consume every scrap of food I create.
I end up eating it all as bubble and squeak at 11o’clock at night.

Me: How about you, the same?

Prole1: Yep. vegetarian roast of course.

Me: Of course….

Then I remembered that I had cooked the sausages all in one dish.

Prole1 was already tucking in to his vegetarian sausages, which for the first time had been cooked in pork fat.

I sort of watched him.

Prole1: What?

Me: Nothing. dinner ok?

Prole1: Fine. Nice. Very nice thank you very much for asking.

Me: Ok…good…fine.

That’s right.
I decided not to tell.
In the full and certain knowledge that at some point I will have to confess this to him and he will rack it up with Sugar Puffs as one of the great psychologically damaging food issues he will have to deal with for the rest of his life, I let my vegetarian son, a child who under his own moral judgement has been a vegetarian for 4 years now, Prole1, offspring of a militant vegan, eat those sausages.

And we finished dinner and the Proles ate the lot.