Escaping a Braying

A friend of mine recently created a lovely little video of my hometown, Sunderland. It’s the place we both grew up in, and the place we know as “home” no matter where we are in the world. The clip mainly follows through the countryside and coastal areas of the city- rather than the inner-city terraces that I grew up in – but I found it charming all the same, and it soon had me reminiscing of my past life there, and the many friends and memories I still deeply treasure to this day…

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Mind, that’s not to say that life there is always smooth sailing! And I think this story from the childhood archives should prove that! But you know what? You’ve got to take the rough with the smooth, and the good with the bad – and always, always make sure you laugh at the negatives later…

I’m going to stop my rambling and just get on with it, so without further adieu, here it is; ‘Escaping a Braying’:

          Every Wednesday without fail was “Mamoo and Grandar” day. So on days off we’d be there from morning to night, but if it was school term time then we’d have to wait for the bell to go…and it was only then that we could make our way to their home, and their sofa. You’d desperately want to be the first one there to get a proper seat, and dibs on the stuff we weren’t normally allowed; the stuff that rots your teeth and makes you fat – the stuff that other kids had in their lunchboxes every day – you see that’s the kind of stuff that was in Grandar’s biscuit tin. 

It was our little haven, just a few rooms that offered so much. You could have sugar in your tea as long as you kept it a secret, and if there wasn’t anything on the television Grandar would always have old cowboy films he was keen to show us…we could take or leave them usually, but he added a whole new dimension; giving running comedic commentary, and repeating the dramatic lines in even more dramatic voices…“DYAAAA FEEL LUCK-EE, WELL DOOYA – PUNK?!” He was, and still is – the funniest man alive, so sometimes I’d laugh so much at his little routines that I’d spill things on the floor – but it was never a big deal: “these things happen” they’d say. And Buster would probably eat it right up anyway.

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Eventually my Mother or Father would pick us up, and then we’d moan and ask to stay longer – so sometimes they’d sit to have a cup of tea and ask them how’s it going, but sometimes they wouldn’t. As we drove away we’d turn back and Mamoo would be waving us goodbye,  and she’d keep waving and waving until we couldn’t see her anymore. Mamoo is what we called my grandma, although we didn’t ever call her grandma unless we were talking to other people outside of the family…friends at school and others like that who would demand an explanation…it was just more bother than it was worth, so many why why whys and it always came across as weird for some reason. But to my siblings and I, she was undoubtedly Mamoo. Which is pronounced “Ma-maw” by the way…a baby’s mis-pronunciation that stuck forever.

 I remember one of the Mamoo and Grandar days more clearly than any other. I was walking over there, and was already late – probably detention for something that didn’t even really matter; laughing with friends, talking in class, not doing homework – something stupid,  that somehow  translates to a heinous crime at school. I was so late that all the other kids had cleared out from the streets and were nowhere to be seen; I was happy about this as I had to pass by another school to get to Mamoo and Grandar’s house and they didn’t take too kindly to St. Aidan’s lads, or Bent Aidan’s as they fondly referred to us as thanks to our all-male make up. Problem was there was no hiding my allegiance to this suspected homosexual club as the uniform marked me out…in black, white, and the gold stripes of my tie.

Anyway, I was late so hopefully nothing would happen this time arou-

“YA FUKEN BENDER!! OI…OI…OI, YA FUKEN BENDERR! OI!”

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Spoke too soon. There were three or four voices behind me, but I didn’t turn to look – all I knew was that they were advancing quickly, but some way away yet. “HEW! HEWWW! SCUSE ME?!” One of them suddenly remembered his manners, but I guessed that it wouldn’t change the possibility of him booting me in the face with his Rockport boots. “OI YA FUKEN BENDERR MAN!!” It was the same voice, but with a significant change in tactic. I hurried my pace, but didn’t want to run…if I ran it would be like attacks on those nature documentaries with the lions and the gazelles, running would encourage more running, and I was no runner. So I just moved a little faster, but tried to move my arms at a normal sort of speed so as not to arouse suspicion…perhaps it wouldn’t look so obvious and I’d be out of sight in no time! Or maybe if I got around a corner, then I could sprint, and just zigzag zigzag zigzag the streets in the hope of losing them? Well yeah, maybe. Maybe.

“ARNLY WANNA TALK TOOYA YA GAY FUKEN LIDL CUNT!”

I wasn’t so much in the mood for conversation, I just wanted to get to Mamoo and Grandar’s house – it was puddings in the corner day, and there’d probably be ice cream. I reached the end of the road and turned right…and started fleeing just the way I had planned – they didn’t seem to give chase, or if they did the adrenaline of sheer fear powered me beyond measure. I looped back around, and headed on a different route. When I’d caught my breath I took some time to reflect on how I could have probably taken them, and how I shouldn’t have ran – I mean, so what if they were older? I should have whipped out some karate moves, and used makeshift weapons out of things I could find around me…a brick as a hammer, a FOR SALE sign as a spear…I’d send them flying through windows – they’re lucky really, I let them off lightly. Next time they won’t be so lu-

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“WHYAYEE! LOOK HUU IT IS!! FUKEN GAY BASTAARD!” 

Shit. They were only a few feet in front of me. I span on the spot and belted away as quickly as humanely possible despite being knackered as it is. A glass bottle spun past my head and shattered on the jagged pavement – as a strong odour of cheap vodka temporarily filled the air. One of them grabbed at my shoulders with grasping heavy hands, but I shrugged free and darted across the road, not sure of where I was heading. But they were faster. I felt a heavy club to the head, not sure what – and then a boot up my behind. I pushed away in every direction, and one lost balance…falling to the floor in a pile, with a dumb expression stretched across his face. This surprised the pack temporarily, and spared me a few precious seconds…

I was still some way from Mamoo and Grandar’s. There was no way I could run all the way back without them catching up and slamming my head off a lamp post several times, or whatever took their fancy this particular day. So I made a split-second decision, to use this space for an impromptu theatrical performance…I really hoped they would enjoy the show and would refrain from heckling…

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I opened a stranger’s gate, and walked up a stranger’s pathway through a stranger’s garden, and then knocked at a stranger’s door. I heard the lads follow me, and caught a reflection in the front room’s window…they looked unsure as to what was going on. I rapped faster at the door and began Scene 1: “Maaaaammm! Maaaaam!” I knocked again, harder this time – “Daaaad! Daaaad!” Open the door man, I’ve forgot my key!” The lads were stood in the middle of the pathway with a shared puzzled look glazed over their faces. I moved to the window and tapped it while looking around the stranger’s house, it was pretty nice and well decorated – I wasn’t sure what I’d do when I met the actress playing my Mam, or the actor playing my Dad…but this was true improv, and I was out of options. “Maaaaaam, Daaaad! Can you open the door?” I shouted through the letterbox this time…catching a whiff of a scented candle as I peered in…

I felt a small rock hit my back. “FUKEN GAY BASTARD MAN, YA LUK-EE. Awer man…let’s go…” I guess he was the leader and had made a collective decision for the group.  Thank God. I carried on with my little one man play until I was sure they were out of sight…then I double checked the area before continuing on my way to Mamoo and Grandar’s house…

Puddings in the corner were waiting in the microwave, and they’d left me some gravy too. Later we had caramel Rocky bars, but I’d missed out on the ice cream. “Why were you so late?” they mused as the television flickered…

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“Detention” I muttered, as I stood up to fetch another cup of tea with two secret sugars.

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Arguments with Children

Arguments with children…I don’t know why I even allow myself to be suckered in – EVERY SINGLE TIME. Perhaps it’s some kind of vague ambition to truly educate, and make a difference…so that years in the future the now fully grown child reminisces and admits:

“He was right! I’m so thankful he steered me in the right direction at such a young age…I will have to find him and give him renumeration in the form of a cash lump sum…after all I am now a billionaire thanks to him!” 

Or you know, words to that effect. Basically I think there is a rather paternal instinct present in me which seeks to sculpt young minds in a positive way; perhaps impart some wisdom accrued from experience, and whatever else…I’m not saying I’m Yoda (after all my face doesn’t quite resemble a ballbag to the same degree), but I am certainly living with the belief I can create more Jedis than Sith…

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Yeah…what he said!

But it’s not as easy as all that. There are always curveballs with children – you can’t ever take anything for granted, you can never just assume ANYTHING; how did you get ice cream in your eyeball? Why did you put my sunglasses in the toilet? Why are you about to jump out of the window? Why did you…well the list is infinite, so I’ll  stop right there – hopefully you get the picture, which is that they are little maniacs at the best of time.

So how do you try and teach life lessons to those who would rather discuss smelly socks? Well with great difficulty, obviously.That doesn’t stop be from trying though, although it probably should – you see I have already had two separate arguments this week, each lacking in logic of any kind – but both ending in myself being ridiculed, and jeered for being an absolute moron (바보).

I had initially estimated both scenarios to be sterling opportunities to give some important guidance to the younger generation; the first being of the utmost importance (the plot of The Lion King), and the second a lot less pressing but still kind of necessary I suppose…(where babies come from)…

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Concerning The Lion King, we were looking at animals in my kindergarten class…and then having a bit of a debate about which animals we liked, and which we didn’t – some people were big fans of snakes, some enjoyed gorillas, others tigers…it was an all-inclusive zoofest up in that classroom! Until I chimed in…“My favourite is the lion! He’s the king of the animals!”cue tumbleweed, and bitter stares…should go without saying I immediately regretted voicing my stupid opinion.

“NO. LION NOT GOOD.” barked the entire population of the class…well, I was a little taken aback – but I reinforced my reasons which I felt were legitmate – “NO! NO! LION NO KING.” 

I calmly asked them if they had ever watched the film The Lion King – they all nodded that they had – “you see…the film is called ‘The Lion King’ – because the lion…is the king!” I thought that I had put it across in a simple enough way, that the kids could surely rec – “NO JOHN TEACHER, LION NO KING!”

I should have just left it. I should have…I know I should have, but I didn’t. I lost my cool – “RIGHT…in the film there is a big lion, yes? And he is the king. The film is called ‘THE LION KING’ – because he is THE LION, KING! THE LION IS THE KING OF THE ANIMALS!” they glared back at me, all four of them…until someone broke the silence; “the monkey is king. Grandfather king.” – everyone began to agree, and nod frantically before suddenly breaking into laughter, and sarcastically patting me on the back as if to say “you were wrong, but never mind.”

YOU SERIOUSLY CAN’T REASON WITH THAT SMUG LOT.

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The second argument came around today. And started off when for some bizarre reason a young boy asked me if I would rather have rabbits, or a rabbit. You get used to these seemingly inane questions when teaching kindergarten – and I find myself just answering without much hesitation or thought; “RABBIT! Just one…” As always with kids I was asked why, and I gave my reasoning which was that rabbits together have so many rabbit babies, and it can be like a mad house! Such a horribly boring adultish response, man I hate myself for even coming out with it, but nevermind.

“JOHHHHHNNN TEEEEEAAAACHER! SILLY, SILLY!” he crowed, in an imitation of the voice I use when they make a spelling mistake, or drop their snack on the floor. “BOY RABBIT, GIRL RABBIT OKAY! HAHA – JOHNNNN TEEEEAAAACHHHHERRR!” 

He went on to explain in detail how stupid I was, and why I was wrong in every way possible – I was under the false impression that daddy rabbits and mammy rabbits fall in love and then babies are dropped off by the stork, or whatever – but Daniel educated me in the truth and totally opened my eyes to the fact that rabbits are only trouble when you have the boys together – that’s how you get babies after all…

“But Daniel…you have a Mommy, and a Daddy…where did you come from?”

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His mouth fell open a little, and his eyes peered around in confusion…as I waited patiently for the penny to eventually drop. But it didn’t. 

Instead he shook his head and yelled…“JOHNNNN TEEEEACHER, SILLY, SILLY”…and wandered off to get his chocolate milk, whilst chuckling to himself.

There’s always next time…one day…one day…

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GET THE DADBOD!

Some words of advice from my Eastern European(?!) alter-ego…not sure where he came from but whatever – DADBOD! GET ON IT!

I’m silly sometimes, sorry. Okay…all the time…

If you have a video request you can leave a comment, or send me an email – if it’s a cool/interesting idea then I will get to it as soon as I can!

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A Day of Feelings

I have realised that we go through various feelings in any given day…at least I do…it’s very rare I have a completely ecstatically joyful day, or a terribly woeful one. There are patches that trip me up, and situations that most certainly help raise a smile…

…let’s have a little look at a few of them, shall we? 

1. When you have to battle to drag yourself out of bed in the morning…one side of you knows you should – the other half doesn’t care! But jobs, and bills, and rent – and all that – urgh.

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 2. When something doesn’t quite work out the way you wanted…the first sign of a not so perfect day…frustrating to say the least – can’t I just go back to bed and not deal with anything?!

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 3. When dealing with your first inexplicable idiot of the day…take a deep breath – in, out, in out…now drop the hammer you’re holding and keep walking.

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 4. When something goes right for you, and you feel more self-confident than Jedi Obama…

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 5. When the hunger pains set in…and no one is safe – NO ONE! Am I hungry because I’m bored, or bored because I’m hungry? I can’t remember…BUT GIMME THAT!

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 6. When your boss asks you to work late…you may smile brightly, and say “sure no problem!” But really you are thinking…

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 7. When you finally get out of work, and your time is now completely your own…you can do anything…the world is yours!

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 8. But…then you fall in love with a stranger on the commute home…

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Nevermind, there’s always tomorrow…

Well that’s my lot! Did I miss any important ones? Let me know!

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OLD PEOPLE…FIIIIIIIGHT!

A story about a FIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIGHT on the subway! People need to calm down, seriously – but anyway, here the tale is here! :

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Men are Dogs.

This may be one of those “is it just me?” circumstances…but honestly that just makes it more pressing that I get it off my chest! 

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You see I often find that…well…that I regularly…erm…okay. I do that dog thing, the instinctual spin before doing stuff. Not all the time, but it’s there for sure. Sitting down, standing up, bathroom time…the list goes on! Well, actually no. That’s pretty much it, BUT STILL!

Like I was on the subway yesterday, facing a little to the right of the map board…and rather than just turning, I did a moronic 270° turn! WHY OH WHY?! It was made worse because it was a pretty cramped train, as per usual in Seoul, so this little bout of lunacy was a terrific inconvenience for everyone…it is usually half way through the spin that I realise I am doing it, and that it is dumb – but as I’m already in the process I just have to curse myself internally, and finish up…

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Which is all well, and good when I am alone! But yesterday in that moment I felt eyes on me, inparticular a (now) rather unhappy looking guy surveying me up and down as if I was a scientific exhibit…

Naturally I tried to focus on the map, as if I didn’t have a care in the world, but the active trying to look cool thing just made me more aware of how socially awkward I really am. And as punishment my cheeks swelled with blood until stress droplets seeped from my forehead, palms, and everywhere else. I started to sweat profusely basically. 

I think it probably means that I am more caveman than most, right? That if we were in those times I would be the hero…the guardian of the clan – sworn protector of all…which is why my eyes never sleep, and I am always on watch! OR…well, hmmm…this isn’t as nice sounding – but I guess it could point towards me being far less evolved, basically a big lump who didn’t ever get past the neanderthal stage of it all – actually that totally explains the huge conk of a nose – but no, how come I can’t grow a beard, or thatch a roof using my excess chest hair?

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So many questions…so many questions…hmmm…

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Sugar Mommy

 Another day, another unexpected and definitely legitimate email…

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I googled the lady, as I was intrigued…and according to the very reliable Wikipedia, she inherited a fortune of $18.2 billion from some Walmart fella some years back. I’m shocked she would email little old me! I’m also shocked she can’t write properly, but never mind…

I wonder what her charity plans are…if she’s really teaming up with me, then maybe it will be a center for people who…erm…have often debilitating cheese addictions; CC we’ll call it – ‘Cheese Crack’. No…‘Coping with Cheese.’ Yeah, that’s more family friendly – we’ll go with that…that could be on a billboard, that could be on a commercial…‘Cheese Crack’ …not so much. 

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