Tuesday, 25 August 2009


I think my son Joe might support Liverpool. This is the worst crisis to rock my parent life.

When I was a kid I didn’t have a say in the football team I supported. My family are from Salford and the North West and everyone supported Manchester United ergo I support Manchester United. It doesn’t matter that I was born in Leicester, lived in Sheffield and went to school near Cardiff because I HAD to support Manchester United. To be fair though they’ve been an easy team to support, apart from the 92-94 green and yellow away kit and those hellish Ralph Milne wilderness years but lest said soonest mended as far as that is concerned, I think.

The fact remained though that I wasn’t able to support Leicester City, Sheffields’ Wednesday or United, or City’s Cardiff or Swansea simply because by the time I moved to any of these places I had already checked into the warm and rather fragrant hotel of MUFC. In fact, I was probably lounging on the kingsize bed in the Steve Coppell suite wearing my monogrammed pyjamas and wondering how many miniature shampoos I could pinch.

A couple of weeks ago Joe came downstairs while I was watching a Champions League match and asked if he could watch it too. Man United were playing and we cheered them on together. Truly it was a wonderful father and son moment, forever bathed by the warm, sepia sunshine in the garden of my happy memories.

The next day we were kicking a ball about in the garden and I said that we should pretend to play for Manchester United. All was going well until Mrs B came outside and said that she would play football with us only she wanted to play for Liverpool. Immediately Joe said the words that burned through my soul...

‘Daddy, I’m going to play for Liverpool too.’

Just in case you are unfamiliar with the lie of the land re: Man United and Liverpool then here’s the short hand.

The two teams do not really see eye to eye very much.

I wouldn’t call myself a die-hard fan by any stretch but supporting MUFC has shaped my life. I have a fascination with the number 7, a love of men called Bryan and, and I’m not proud of this I’m really not, a freakish, knee-jerk hatred of Liverpool FC (it is not hard as hell Mr John Barnes thank you very much).

I don’t know if you’re familiar with the nine circles of hell as depicted in the first part of Dante’s Divine Comedy. The Inferno begins with circle one, Limbo, where the unbaptised and those who haven’t accepted Christ into their life reside. Then we go from circles 2 through to 9 where the very worst of the worst of history spend eternity in perpetual damnation. Dante has it that at the bottom of the ninth circle, the very worst that humanity has offered, is Judas completely encaptured in ice and distorted in all conceivable positions. Then trapped beneath Judas is Satan himself. However, all Man united fans know that there is another, tenth layer beneath Satan’s buttocks where the most dismal creatures exist. Barely human these tenth circle hellhounds go by the name Liverpool supporters.

Now, so much Anfield poison has been dripped into Joe’s ear that whenever we kick a ball together I have to be Manchester United and he has to be Liverpool.

I realise I only have myself to blame because I’ve let things slide. Really basic thing too. Other Man Utd dads that I know already have their three year olds reciting United’s current first team, chanting songs about Scholes scoring goals, even reminiscing about that night at the Nou Camp in 99.

So realising that drastic problems call for drastic thingamajigs, I know now what I have to do. I have a plan that I must see through. It won’t be pretty but it just might save the boy that I love from a fate worse than death, namely having to support Liverpool for the rest of his life...

Sunday, 23 August 2009

Questions, questions

My son Joe asks a lot of questions and when I say a lot I mean thousands and thousands and thousands. In fact, if he were reading this it would be like this.

Frazzled (that’s funny daddy, what’s frazzled?) Daddy (oh that’s you, you’re daddy aren’t you daddy? I’m Joseph aren’t I? J-O-S-E-P-H that’s how you spell Joseph, isn’t it daddy?)
Dispatches (what’s dispatches daddy?) from the frontline (what’s a frontline? Is there a back one daddy?) of fatherhood (Who’s Farmer Hood daddy?)...questions, questions (what questions daddy? Daddy? Daddy? Why are you weeping Daddy?).

We were listening to the radio the other day and one thing led to another and before I knew where I was I had to try and explain why the radio sounds quieter the further away you are from it. He’s three for christsakes how does he know that physics is my Achilles heel..? How does he know that I could never ever, no matter how hard I tried, understand anything that Mr Kokinos said during physics class? Maybe if I’d had a teacher with as slightly less amusing and rude sounding name I might have done better, who knows. However, I didn’t and I didn’t and now my boy, my own flesh and blood is able to land such powerful punches on my already fragile and frazzled sense of daddydom. I mean what is up with that..? Oh god, now I’m asking questions.

So, the other day I thought I’d write down every question Joe asked in 24 hours.
Pretty soon I realised that I’d need more paper to chronicle this than existed in the world so I decided to write down every question he asked in one hour.

Then I got real and decided that a five minute period would be best.

Also please bear in mind that all these questions were interspersed with a sporadic rendition of the new Thomas the Tank Engine theme tune. If by some miracle you haven’t heard it then I hate you because in the annoying league it’s possibly only just pipped by the Wiggles.

FYI If you haven’t heard of the Wiggles then you’re reading the wrong blog.

Daddy is the bath ready? x4
Daddy, will you get in with me? X4
Why is the hot water coming out? (Pointing to the hot tap)
Why is the steam coming out?
Why is the hot water coming out?
Is the water going faster?
Can I get in the bath yet? X7
The following are part of a game we play in the bath where he asks me what I want for a specific meal while I try – very much like Dr Zarkov in the movie Flash Gordon – to think of happy thoughts, songs from the Beatles, anything to help get me through.
What you like for breakfast daddy?
What you like for pudding? (I didn’t point out that you don’t have pudding for breakfast, although I nearly did)
What you like for lunch?
Daddy, can you get me out of the bath?
What you like for pudding?
What you like for lunch?
After my sleep can we do the puzzle?
What’s Sam (my other son who’s eight months old) doing?
Is Sam going to roll over again?
Do you need your diary daddy?
Daddy where are your stickers?


The funny thing is that when there’s silence in the house or Joe stops speaking and asking questions for a moment I say, like one of Pavlov’s hounds, ‘you OK Joe?’.


Monday, 10 August 2009


Is it OK to shout at your kids..? Will you scar them for life..? What the hell do I know, I’m an idiot.

This weekend we were visiting friends, which necessitated an hour long car journey. From the off Joe started a lot of low level questioning about where we were going, who we were seeing, were we there yet, could he play cards (solitaire) on my phone, were we there yet, what does a red queen go on, no daddy there is no black king, were we there yet, can I go for a wee in the three lane traffic jam, no daddy I can’t hold on, were we nearly there yet, oh there’s a black king... you know the kind of thing. None of this was shouty or moany it was just the stuff that was coming into his brain. It just so happened that I was trying to navigate North London in rush hour whilst trying to keep tabs on just how badly England were doing in the fourth test and pointing out to Liz the flaws in her argument that England should have batted first (I mean what choice did Strauss have on that wicket, eh?).

Now I don’t think we really pay enough lip service to the levels of stress that this basic kid harassment can create. So, even though I didn’t raise my voice at all in the car it’s clear to me now that like a pissed off volcano I was building up to go flat out spazoid.

It all happened very quickly. We stopped outside our friend’s house. Liz and I busily collected crap from the car like phones and ipods and keys and papers. I opened the boot to get out presents for friends. Joe was in back holding shoes in one hand and small tin bucket in the other. In Joe’s brain the possibility of wearing the bucket as a shoe was just beginning to dawn. Liz opened Joe’s door and told him to put his shoes on. In Joe’s brain the reality of wearing the bucket as a shoe was being assessed as a genuinely achievable goal. Joe told Liz that he wanted to wear his bucket as a shoe. Liz told him that he could do that when he got inside friend’s house. Joe shouted at Liz that this time frame was not acceptable. I encouraged him to get in the house. Liz told him that she was sick of this and that he must wait in the car. I shouted at Liz and then at Joe. Joe cried and kicked the hell out of the back seat. I cried on the inside.

Within one minute and 4 seconds the family unit had imploded then exploded and then covered itself in petrol and torched itself to death. At this point Liz took Samuel into the house and I sat in back seat to deal with Joe. I had it all in my head how it would pan out. I would shock him into stopping screaming by using my stern voice just once, I would then tell him calmly but clearly that his behaviour wasn’t good and that he had been naughty. He would then sit quietly in the back for two minutes really thinking about what he had done. We would then embrace and join the others for tea and crumpets.

Obviously it didn’t quite work out like this.

I used my stern voice which, due to him not stopping screaming, escalated quickly into my insane, out-of-control, shouting-at-the-top-of-my-voice voice. He shouted back and hit me and I told him/screamed right in his face that he was the naughtiest boy in the whole world. Crucially, I had forgotten about the child locks in the back of cars. Believe you and me, you cede your moral high ground pretty blummin' quick sharp by having an irrational and shouty row with a three year old while simultaneously trying to exit a car by trying to climb out of the back. My legs are long and my car is small so instead of looking like the wise and mature father of my fantasy I ended up looking like a stupid, angry, sweaty, sweary clown. Why do the props of life thwart me so..?

So, I don’t know if shouting at my kids scars them but it sure as hell scars me.

Key: Me (Daddy), Liz (mummy), Joe (4 year old number one son), Samuel (8 month old number two son)

Let me know how much of an idiot I am or cheer me through your own inadequate parenting by emailing frazzleddaddy@hotmail.co.uk