Thursday, February 25, 2016

Growing Pains #2

It’s just after Christmas. I don't see my son and daughter 'as much as I would like' so I’m overjoyed to be home with them after an eleven-hour round trip to collect them from their mother, who inconveniently lives four-hundred miles away. Of course, we’re in our local chip-shop. I'm not fucking making dinner after all that.

Chip-Shop Lady: Eeeh well was Santee canny ta yee pet?

My daughter looks at me with panic in her eyes.

Me: Was Santa good to you this year?

My Daughter: Oh. Right. Yeah. Totally spoilt.

She looks at me. I nod my approval. All is well and she receives some free stuff.

Some time later.

My children are on the upstairs landing of my house. I've taken a spare moment from removing tissue-paper from the pockets of their discarded jeans before I put them in the washing-machine.

Favourite Son: Is Daddy really going to make us watch that Stars Wars or whatever film with us?

Favourite Daughter: Dunno. We’ll just tell him he can watch it on his own and we’ll go shopping and have some lunch and get the bus back to his house if he’s still in the cinema. We do it at home all the time.

FS: Yeah. He’ll be all “Ok son”. With his accent.

FD: God it’s not as strong as most people around here. Remember that lady in the chip-shop last night? I had no idea what she was saying.

They’re unaware that a two-up two-down terraced house is not the place for private conversations. I go back to putting their dinner on plates.

And decide that maybe they’re a bit too old for me to be still holding their hands when we cross the road.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Work Night Out.

Methodical Marketing Mike, Unfeasibly Young Zak and I are suffering. It’s a work ‘Christmas Do’. Consisting only of us and unwanted Boss.

Boss has given us each a Christmas card that contains a bonus £100 in cash. It’s out of character and we’re surprised.

We are eating in an unbearable restaurant that serves mountains of smoked meat of doubtful provinence on metal trays – without plates – accompanied by big glasses of beer in handled glasses that inexplicably have jam-jar tops making them almost impossible to drink from. It's the choice of our Boss, as it's cheap and he believes it to be 'hip'.

I’m already irritable and the clientele of twenty-something men sporting full beards, immaculate side-partings, sleeve-tattoos and check-shirts loudly discussing the forthcoming evening’s “bants” is not helping.

We retire to a nearby bar for cocktails as beer is no longer an option - all of us feel sick and bloated following our consumption of tourist-bait hipster food. Boss has to return to the office for ten minutes to check ‘something’.

We decide to ‘do one’ and lose him, because we have become fifteen year-olds again and that’s what we now do. We're not proud of ourselves but the man is unbearable.

Boss rings Zak who promptly bottles it and reveals our location. MMM and I are furious. After a while Boss joins us.

"Trying to lose me were you?" He loudly says, jokingly.

Silence reigns. Zak, Methodical and I glance at each other, our shoes and our phones.

We stand with Boss and look out of the window of the bar and watch a Twix wrapper float by and discuss the outrageous changes in confectionery prices over the years until Boss finally goes home out of sheer boredom and the three of us begin to enjoy ourselves.

Come January we examine our pay-slips and discover the £100 wasn’t a bonus and had merely been a cash advance that had been deducted from our normal salaries - money we could all have made use of after Christmas.

“I’ve got to find a new job.” I think to myself.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Black Hole.

April last year, and my son and daughter are staying with me. What is of special significance is that it is my son’s birthday. He NEVER stays with me on his birthday so this is a big thing. Fuss is made. My mother, brothers, sister and I make a big deal of it.

And it’s great. But I’ve something more up my sleeve.

The Black Hole was the first film I ever saw at the cinema. I was taken there for my birthday. It was bloody amazing. It was in space and everything. There were robots. And a gravitational anomaly. It was superb.

I explain this to my son, and that I’ve bought the DVD of the film so we can watch it together, what with it also being his birthday. I think that this will be a significant father-son bonding moment he will always remember. Favourite Daughter has a pre-teenage ‘thing’ of disappearing to her room and not emerging until she’s hungry or thinks something may be happening without her. So we have the living-room to ourselves.

He glances at the front of the hard-to-find DVD case and methodically examines the back of it. He then hands it back to me.

Favourite Son: Nah. You’re ok.

I'm devastated.

Some weeks later I recited this story to my Mother as a tragi-comic tale.

She explained to me that I must have imaged the whole thing and that no member of my family ever took me to the cinema to see that film.

Friday, February 12, 2016

Conversations With My Boss.

I’m at work. Methodical Marketing Mike and Unfeasibly Young Zak have gone on their usual lunchtime burrito quest leaving me alone with my boss.

It was once a bustling small office with ten people. It’s not now.

In the awkward silence my boss mutely and invisibly resides opposite my desk behind the unfeasibly large screen of his Mac wearing earphones and watching youtube –as he does all day in the rare hours he deigns to come into the office.

I have a tiresome business telephone conversation.

Me: [Clanking-down the phone after the other party had hung-up] Prick.

Boss: [Not as involved in youtube as usual] Had that client actually hung-up?

He fixes me with his best steely gaze. Or he does with one eye. The other one gazes at the door of the server room. It sort-of ruins the overall effect.

I look at the eye directed at me.

Me: Of course.

Boss: Let me tell you a story. Some years ago – I was running a recruitment firm in London – I had an executive who thought he’d hung-up on a client and called her a bitch. She heard. I had to fire him. She was a good client so I had to go over there and eat her out.

I say nothing but stare into what I believe to be his good eye.

He shrugs and makes a ‘harumph’ noise and grins.

Boss: That’s not true of course.

I continue staring.

Boss: I actually had to go the whole way and fuck her didn’t I. Bloody good client.

I say nothing. He says nothing more but gives me the double-gun air-fingers and disappears back behind his monitor.

“I’ve got to find a new job.” I think to myself.

Tuesday, February 09, 2016

Ghost Of Christmas Past.

I’m in the back-seat of my mother’s car. It is nine o’clock on Christmas morning. She, her husband and I are driving to see my youngest brother, his wife and their two sons for an hour.

It’s their turn to spend the day with the family of my brother’s wife.

My Mother: Mind, your Aunty H may drop in as well, but your Dad won’t be there so it’s alright. Your brother asked him along but he said “Whey I’m tae busy for that, man”.

Me: Mmph. Sounds about right.

I’m hung-over and disorientated by the light and warmth of the balmiest Christmas day on record. I’d been up late wrapping presents for my children – neither of whom I’ll see for another two days.

My Mother: You’re ok with H though?

Me: No problem.

Save for a brief confrontation at Younger Brother’s wedding five years previously I’ve not spoken to my father in over twenty-five years due to mutual astonishing stubbornness and animosity. I don’t expect to see him ever again. His sister – my Aunt H – and I had ‘words’ at the same event but parted on good terms.

We arrive at Younger Brother’s house and exchange gifts with all concerned, including my nephews who, despite not being old enough to speak, are ridiculously charming and handsome. Tea is offered and I sit and amuse the children in lieu of doing so with my own.

My mother looks out the window.

My Mother: Ah here comes Aunty H. Oh…

A moment later.

My Mother: Aaand your Dad.

My younger brother freezes. His wife looks at me in horror. My mother – who has not seen my father in far more time than I – does not look content. Her husband – who has never met my father – does not look like he is having his ideal morning.

Me: [Clapping my hands and rubbing them together whilst putting-on my best ‘game face’] Well. THIS will be FUN.

My mother, her husband and my brother’s wife discretely retire to the kitchen. I entertain my nephews alone in the front room. My father walks in, sees me and stops dead.

Me: Merry Christmas.

I’m smiling. After a split-second my father's shoulders relax and he grins at me.

My Father: And to you.

He sits down on the sofa opposite the armchair I’m in.

My Father: Aye I’m bliddy shattered me, like. Up till four this morning.

Me: Christ, what were you doing?

My Father: Y’knaw, wrapping presents and that. The young’uns didn’t even get to bed till midnight so by the time we’d had a chat and a bit cup of tea and wrapped presents and stuff….

Me: Yeah I was up late doing the same for my children. I’ll see them in a couple of days.

His hair – which was always grey – is now snow white. I don’t know how old he is. Maybe in his seventies. He has a lady-friend who has grown children who still live in their house. As I discovered later. And we chat like normal people. Because it’s Christmas morning.

After awhile I go outside for a smoke. My father and Aunty H leave the house a moment later on their way to their own festivities and say goodbye to me on the front lawn.

My Father: Here. For the bairns.

He puts a bundle of cash into my hand. I check it later. One hundred pounds.

Me: Thanks J…[I nearly call him by his Christian name] ...Dad. I’ll make sure they have fun.

He nods at me and walks to his sister’s car. I put my cigarette out and walk back into the house.

Everyone looks at me.

Me: Well. That was odd.
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