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The BlogFather – The First But Certainly Not The Last

I’ve been wanting to do this for a while but just never got around to it.  Again, like I’ve said in previous posts, I have to start with a name and work from there and I could never think of a good name for this division of blogging.  Trying to think of witty titles comprising the paternal nature but without requiring much thought to figure out what the subject matter would be was pretty hard.

I started with a mental list and ‘The BlogFather’ was the first one.  I liked it.  I also figured it’d be something others must’ve coined.  I was right.  The next idea was ‘The Paternity Gauntlet’ – a play on Thanos’ coveted artefact, the ‘Infinity Gauntlet’.  Immediately after the idea, I was hit by the horror that it sounded more like a blog pertaining to the paternal pitfalls that no Jeremy Kyle show could do without – perhaps a blog about the antics of a misogynistic man-slut.  No, that won’t do.  After that, I had only one other name that seemed too obvious and just didn’t sit right.  ‘Family Guy’.  I couldn’t do the name any justice with my lack of comedic talent.  So, ‘The BlogFather’ it is.

This is not a guide to being a parent.  If anything, this is he exact opposite.  But it is the truth.  Growing up, the truths of parenthood were never made abundantly clear.  Perhaps it was ignorance due to the fact that it would be at some time in my future but ‘not yet’.  Perhaps it’s some sort of conspiracy to churn out additional workers-in-training to ensure the line continues – maybe ‘Children of Men‘ was a documentary from the future to prevent humanity ever hitting that point?

At the age of 24, I became a dad for the very first time.  I was excited yet fearful.  My then-fiancee and I had been together for about five years.  We had talked about and even tried to have kids and it seemed like it just wasn’t on the cards for us.  When we stopped trying (by that I don’t mean we stopped having sex, obviously) we slowly realised that our lives would forever change.  Neither of us knew what to expect and it brought about an evolution in our relationship.  No longer would we be able to just get up and go wherever we want whenever we want.  Although that last sentiment was never a consideration until afterwards.

No one can ever prepare you for what follows.  I’ve seen on movies and in TV shows, prospective parents having those dolls to simulate the experience and they don’t come close.  I’ve seen how labour is depicted in them also…Again, the reality is not captured.  To be fair, they can’t.  Who would want to watch the actors hang around and wait for the various medical professionals to come and go, wait for the epidural to be sited and play the waiting game counting seconds between contractions?  It’d be a fucking boring movie or show.  And it’s just as boring in real life.

I remember being called whilst in work to say she was going into labour and I raced from work to the hospital.  It’s normally just under a ten minute drive.  Like Winston Wolfe (Pulp Fiction) I arrived much sooner.  Without speeding, I might add.  It was surreal, the three sets of traffic lights en route were all green allowing me clear passage – something I have never experienced again since.

I was expecting a frantic situation where I rush to the labour ward to find her pushing/to have already had the baby.  Over eight hours later, our daughter was born.  I remember going out side every so often to have a smoke and call/text my family.  Being November, the air outside was bitterly cold and snow had started to fall.  Midwives clocked out for the new shift to begin and after an agonising wait (metaphorically for me, literally for her) things started to happen.

For the most part, I felt like a third wheel.  Think of that unnamed dance we do on the street when we almost bump into someone and we try to go to the right and they go the same way and there’s that awkward bit of banter before you can carry on your journey.  It was like that.  I was standing by her side, hold her hand [read: my hand being gripped by a vice] and the midwives would come and move stuff and I’d be shifting to allow them to pass/park the equipment.  I felt like I was more of an inconvenience rather than taking my rightful place by her side as she pushes out my offspring.

A lot of the details are a bit of a haze now but I remember her gripping my hand so tight I thought she was going to snap my arm like in the arm wrestling scene in ‘The Fly‘.  Weighing in at 7lbs 2.5oz, Seren flopped into the world.  I remember seeing her purple limp body being dumped onto my then-fiancee’s stomach after they cut the cord.  There was no noise and the way she was plonked down immediately had me panicking.  Is she alive?  Why isn’t she crying?

To make matters worse, one of the midwives left the room promptly and a couple of doctors came in.  They quickly picked her up and put her on some sort of heating table.  Eventually, after what seemed a stupid amount of time, her shrill cry echoed out.  Thank fuck for that.  There had been some complications during the labour process – they couldn’t attach the clip to her head whilst she was stubbornly occupying the womb that had housed her for around 75% of the year, she had stopped kicking/moving prior to my then-fiancee being induced.  She was 8 days over her due date.

By the time they had cleaned my daughter up and my wife had a shower and freshened up it was almost midnight.  I was allowed to escort them to the maternity ward which would be their accommodation for the night and I had a few chances to hold the little life that had just entered this realm.  After being told I had to go, I walked out to the car and had another smoke.  The snow hadn’t amounted to much, but the thin covering hid any sign of other people coming and going.

After walking across the car park to our Peugeot 107 which was all on its own, I came to realise the windshield had frozen over and I had no de-icer or a scraper.  I jacked the heaters up full blast and resorted to scraping the ice away with a CD case – ‘Westlife’.  Not mine.  Definitely not mine.

I remember driving home and feeling this deep sadness take over.  It was my first night alone in my house (except for the cat, Stewie).  I waited all that time for a baby that would forever change the course of my life and I got to hold her for less than an hour.  It was such a bizarre experience.  Nothing could have prepared me for that day.  Nothing could have prepared me for what would come next.

The Boy Upon The Stair Part 1

I was a boy upon the stair, I was a boy who was always there.  I was the boy again today; I wish, I wish I would go away.

As a child, I spent countless hours sat upon the third stair.  Every other Friday evening, just before 5 PM, I would sit there and wait.  My bag on my back or by my side, I’d sit there as was my ritual.When 5 PM came and there wasn’t a toot outside, I would continue to wait.  Sometimes until 6 PM. By that point I knew that I could gradually move backwards stair by stair until I reached the half-landing.  Once I got there, I would slowly walk back to my bedroom and unpack my things.

Life in a ‘broken home’ is something I wouldn’t wish upon anyone.  The term wasn’t something I would become familiar with until much later in life.  I was bullied because I only had my Mum.  Which wasn’t strictly true; I mean, I had HIM.  He was still around.  Sadly.

My weekends would be an alternating pattern of going to my grandparents’ and then. the following week, going to HIS.  I loved my grandparents and miss them dearly.  I’d spend a lot of time outdoors in the allotment across the road helping my Grandpa plant seeds and dig up potatoes and what-not.  I was a very outgoing, hands-on kid – I wasn’t afraid of getting my hands dirty.  Besides helping my Grandpa, we would often go for long walks – they lived in a cottage near a farm (Kerchesters).  It was a simple place – just a line of about 13 cottages punctuated with a ‘vennel’ between some of them to allow access to the rear area which was an expanse of grass where pigsties used to be and a row of coal houses.  A little beyond that, there was a steep embankment leading into the woods where, over time, people ended up dumping old washing machines and so on.  I never ventured down there.  I wanted to, but it was so steep that it’d be impossible to get back up.

Our walks consisted of going up by the farm junction and down towards the old railway line.  In the summer, there would be a line of haybales all along the old railway line and I would climb up them and run from one end to the other.  I would pick up spent shotgun shells, cool looking stones, feathers and cracked open pheasant eggs.  Those were good times and I wish for them again.  I wish my kids could experience it first-hand.  Perhaps I will delve into that side of my life more in a later post.

On the opposite rotation, I would wait for my dad to pick me up.  This was before mobile phones (well, except for those insanely large war-like monstrosities) and there was many a time I would sit patiently on the third stair.  Why the third stair?  Because my toes could just touch the floor and I liked to kinda kick my feet as I waited.  In my bag, I would have clean clothes, spare socks and pants (I wore Y-fronts back then – I call them ‘why’-fronts now, as in ‘why the fuck’).  I’d have Ted, my Koala that my Auntie Kay had made for me when I was born (he now belongs to one of the kids) and I think hat was about it.  On the occasions where he did pick me up, we would normally stop at the petrol station on Maxwellheugh where I recall frequently picking up firelighters, kindling or at a later stage, Calor Gas.  I would pick up Wheat Crunchies (bacon) and some sweets.

Once we got to HIS house which, bizarrely enough, was on the exact same street as we once lived as a family (my Mum, brother, sister and HIM) in Town Yetholm (Woodbank Road) I remember having to chop logs for the fire, drag coal in and eventually I would get to sit down and watch Thunderbirds on TV while I let the Wheat Crunchies melt in my mouth.  After Thunderbirds we would watch shows like Dad’s Army, Big Break, You Bet and other stuff.  In the summers/lighter nights, I would go out and play.  I had a good number of friends there; most of which lived further along Woodbank Road and they were the only reason I looked forward to going there.  As I grew older we would make wooden swords and shields and ‘fight’ in the field at the opposite end of the street after all the bales had been made up.  Amidst the swordfighting we would also launch crab apples and ‘stubble bombs’ (we would pluck the stubble from the ground which would have a load of soil attached giving a decent weight to be able to throw them with a hefty clout).

We would often head down to The Plough Inn, the local pub, and go in to get gobstoppers (the insane, proper sized ones).  I remember I used to collect the cards that came with them – some for going on your bike spokes and others that were just regular collector cards.  Sometimes we would grab some pickled eggs and fruit/tomato juice (in glass bottles) and we would sit on the bench/in the bus stop opposite and enjoy our well earned treats.  To be fair, there were a lot of good things I gained from my time there.  Building dens and going off on little adventures like a poor man’s Goonies.

It was this lifestyle that conditioned me into duality.  I had two families.  My family and HIM.  I had two sets of friends that ne’er the two met until high school.  Plus I’m a Gemini.

HE was a window cleaner and I generally went with him to various jobs.  At times, that was quite enjoyable too.  I got to meet lots of people and most of them were elderly and generous to the point they’d give me money or sweets.  I remember a house near or in Morebattle where this elderly woman had quite a large house and garden.  She had a dog who had three legs yet bound around the garden chasing me playfully as if the leg was just green-screened out.  Not that I knew what a green screen was back then.  Her garden had a lot of vegetables but the runner beans stick out in my mind as they were insanely long.  I had accidentally snapped one when the dog and I were playing and I hid it to avoid getting a row.

Fear was something that underpinned a lot of my behaviour.  Fear and shame is what took the outgoing, cheerful, sweet natured boy and turned him into a self conscious, anxious, self-hating mess.

There’d be times I would be left to just sit in the car/van while he worked and I would read or just gaze outside.  I sometimes wonder how I was so patient and able to sit quietly and contentedly when it’s a struggle for my kids to sit still for 5 minutes let alone a few hours!  But that was me – from a young age I’ve always been able to enjoy my own company.  Being alone was, and still is, when I feel best.

Alone was where I was safe.  There was no getting hit because I wasn’t listening.  No getting hit because I got the wrong thing.  No getting hit because, whilst play fighting, I’d hurt HIM.  No getting hit because I didn’t want to go with him and couldn’t wait to go back home to Mum.  After that, being alone was never as much fun as my mind changed.  The thoughts changed.  My head was no longer a safe haven.  A world full of imagination and creation.  In those early years, the Craig that I was meant to be died.

 

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Times, They Are A-Changin’

The art that was once communication is dying out.  Conversation is no longer the ‘in’ thing.  I must admit, I txt spk – not because I think it’s cool but because I’m lazy when messaging.  However, in conversation I don’t abbreviate to the degree that an entire topic can be discussed in five short simple responses with the odd grunt here and there.

I talk for a living.  I have to talk to others – I have, and always will, hate speaking on the phone (whether for work or not). I embrace the fact I must speak to people I do not know and may never speak to again but inside, I still hate it.  As a kid, I was outgoing and very chatty but during my teen years I regressed and preferred my own company to that of others.  As a result, my social interactions became stunted.  As an adult, I have had to adapt to situations I would have, if given a choice, avoided.

What I have recently started to feel and as days go by I become more certain of: communication is dying.  People don’t talk anymore.  People who are merely a few years younger than me seem to have lost the ability to converse.  Go even younger and the skill seems to just drop off a cliff like the poor, misguided green mop-topped Lemmings (a reference most ‘youngsters’ will not get).

To sum up communication now, if it’s outside of Facebook, Twitter or some form of digital communication you’re lucky if you get even a one word answer.  When I was pre and mid teen I was able to have a conversation with pretty much any age group – I’d spend hours talking to my gran or my mum as well as my brother, sister and friends.  I find it difficult to speak to people younger than me because their heads are so buried in the sand I couldn’t even pull a reference of something from ‘their time’ that they would get.

I probably sound like a grumpy old pensioner but if you stop and look around, I’m sure you’ll notice the same.  Technology, the highlight of my life in so many ways, is also the same curse we are all becoming or have already been afflicted with.  It has driven laziness and killed the ability to think for yourself.

The internet is a prime example of just a snapshot of offline life and how communication has devolved.  Look at a blog post or some form of online publication with the ability to comment on the post.  Instead of constructive thought, feedback, criticism or some sort of emotional response you will predominantly find most have that unavoidable and sad reflection of the times saying: “First!!!!”

Trolling has always been rife on the interwebs, as well as in real life but now it’s a free-for-all whereby shit kicks off over nothing just because no one has anything better to do.

Tie this in with my previous post where I know that my kids will never get to live the fruitful childhood I feel I got to live out no matter how much I try.  Kids these days have no appreciation for anything significant because everything these days is so readily available and if it can’t be achieved through some hard work it can be done via defrauding the system or some other form of illegitimate acquisition.

Ironically, technology played a huge part of my childhood.  I had shed loads of toys – soldiers, Batman figures, LEGO an so on – my imagination ran rampant and Itaking ‘d spend hours just sat playing on the floor and in some cases taking up the upstairs and downstairs of my gran’s house.  Usually leaving her to tidy most of them up…like I said, I’m lazy.  The other half of my time and as I grew up that time extended exponentially on my Amstrad, Amiga, Spectrum ZX, SEGA Master System, SNES, Mega Drive II and Playstation 1.

Gaming shaped and moulded my life and attitude.  Movies also did the same – I watched Nightmare on Elm Street when it was first released on VHS and over time, desensitised myself more and more.

I have experienced a lot of historical milestones in my short-ish life.  I have seen technological breakthroughs that, when looking back, don’t seem as significant but just think of that moment, if you experienced it, when you move from a Mega Drive to a Playstation or from one old-gen platform to next-gen and how awesome that transition feels.

Life was more simple and enjoyable.  There was less moderation in life – not so many conditions we had to abide by and I turned out fine (in my mind anyway) and most of my generation did.  Kids had stuff to do then – we climbed trees, made dens, had sword fights made from wood we’d nailed together and made shields to go with them, we’d go on ‘adventures’ (nothing to the magnitude of The Goonies).  Now, they hang out on street corners, vandalising property, accosting people…you get the idea.

I’m not saying none of that happened but it was never as big an issue or common occurrence.  That was a time when parents actually bothered with their kids as opposed to just shoving the TV on and leaving them to it.  I watched loads of TV and movies but only because I wanted to – it wasn’t used as a tool to give my mum peace and quiet.

I look at my little girls – one is 4 in November and the other is 8 weeks today – I fear for what they will be having to endure through what I class as their toughest years (school) and hope that I will be there to let them experience a mere fraction of what I did as a child as I’m sure they will be all the better for it.

If only every parent would step up to the plate – too bad most people just use kids as a means of income so they don’t have to work and sponge from the system.

 

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