Empty Nest Problems

The other week I popped in to Marks and Spencer, not to buy any more suits, like Lady Barton St Mary thinks I do, no; not even the rather fetching blue houndstooth one that was on offer, no, not even that one, because they didn’t have my size. I went in to purchase a new planner, as I do at this time every year.

His n' Hers - it's come to this. Only growing tomatoes awaits me...

His n’ Hers – it’s come to this. Only growing tomatoes awaits me…

However, as I entered the shop, I realised I had a bit of a dilemma. I usually get one that allows for at least four people, so that everybody in the family can write in what they’re up to. Except that our children, Miss Katherine and Master Johnny, are now both at university. Would they need a space on our calendar in the kitchen to inform/remind themselves of what they were doing?

No. Of course not, so I started to browse the calendars. I remembered Lady BSM saying that we wouldn’t need one at all, that we could use our phones instead. She’s right, but then I wouldn’t feel comfortable without a strip of card and paper nailed to the wall to write on; it’s  a tradition, like Christmas, Easter and gout.

As I made my choice, I wavered. University terms are incredibly short and holidays very long, surely the kids would need a space on our family planner. If I didn’t buy one, surely that sent out the message that they’d left home, had their own wall to hang their planner, that there was no need to record their comings and goings because they’d be coming and going somewhere else. Not at home. With their mummy and daddy.

It would be an admission that suddenly all those times listening to The Spice Girls or re-enacting scenes from WWE had disappeared over the horizon and I was the parents of adults. The sounds of my own name (dad-dad-dad-dad)  still seemed to echo around my skull but hadn’t been so insistent for several years. Suddenly I was that dad who had adventures long ago and talked about fine football players from long ago and gave sage advice on the best way to use gaffer tape or rod a drain. I was the dad showing delight at photos of my kids showing up on Faceache, counting the days until they came home again and I could regale them with my tales of football matches I’d refereed and my triumphant fixing of the toilet cistern.

I was my dad.

Which was not such a bad thing, I thought, standing in the calendar aisle with a far off look on my face. I sensed somebody close, in the black and green uniform of a Marks and Sparks employee. I smiled. She smiled back.

“Kids left home, then?” she said…

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Do It All Yourself

“Please,” said Lady Barton St Mary, gently stroking my cheek with the back of her hand, “Uncle Robin needs your help,” she said in her gentlest voice. I stiffened, swallowing hard.

“OK,” I managed to blurt, “I’ll go on Sunday”

It transpired that Uncle Robin, the wayward brother of The Marquess of Prestberries (Lady BSM’s Father) needed a bit of help in fixing his washing machine in his bachelor pad, since it was now flooding his kitchen. It appeared that the wild parties involving lots of romps in the whirlpool bath had taken their toll on the waste pipes, which I assumed had been blocked by jazz cigarette roaches and grey body hair.

Hence, his collection of tie dye shirts, cravats and kimonos were creating a sizeable pile in his boudoir, as he like to call it.

So, Sunday found me under the kitchen counter at Far Out Cottage, contemplating how to clear the blockage and fix the flooding.

“Can’t understand it,” said Wayward Brother Uncle Robin, leaning against the counter, wearing his best silk smoking jacket and munching a slice of buttered toast, “it never used to flood. I think the cosmic vibes may have been affected when Cameron visited the agricultural college. My pad reacts badly to the man,” he continued, waving his hand in the air to indicate the general atmosphere of the place.

” You need a spigot on your washing machine waste,” I explained, “I’ll have to go to B&Q and get it.”

“Groovy,” said Wayward Brother Uncle Robin, making a gun shape with his right hand and firing it at me. I took the appropriate piece for size and set off for the DIY store.

“Can you help me?” I asked the young gentleman wandering past me with a trolley full of products. He eyed me suspiciously. I checked his attire. Black and Orange polo shirt, white laminated badge with the legend “Leno” typed on it.

“I need to find a part to fit a washing machine waste pipe – I’ve looked, but I can’t find the right diameter.”

Leno blinked and looked over my shoulder, into the far distance, searching for an answer like a sailor, three months at sea, seeking land.

“Have you looked in Plumbing?” he enquired.

“No, I was looking in the aisle full of canvas prints of kittens, Elvis and Marilyn Munroe – what a fuckwit I am,” I nearly said.

But I’m English, so I just said, “Actually, yes I have.”

Leno studied the circular piece of plastic in my hand.

“It needs to have the same size screw thread as this part,” I explained.

Leno’s eyes suddenly came to life.

“Yes! Have you looked in the screws section?” he asked excitedly.

Oh dear.

My look was enough and Leno stared at the floor. “Erm, no perhaps not there,” he said.

We made our way to Plumbing, tearing open several packets to find the right piece before Leno admitted defeat and went back to his specialist area, whatever that was.

There was a happy ending. I cobbled together a few bits that I purchased from the DIY shop and fixed the flooding problem. Wayward Brother Uncle Robin was delighted, hugging me and handing me a biscuit tin full of his special cookies to share with Lady BSM. As I write, we’re sitting in the drawing room at Randall Towers eating them. For some reason, we both feel very relaxed. What’s more, the more we eat, the hungrier we feel …

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Doing things by half – the Cheltenham Half Marathon

As you may know, I’m a bit of a runner. One of those slightly eccentric people that likes to leave their house in a state of semi-undress, usually in bright colours made of materials better suited to super heroes and run myself to near exhaustion before ending up where I started. Somehow, this is classed as entertainment and is good for you.

This is how I ended up at Cheltenham today, to run the half marathon, an annual event that has grown in popularity since its inception 3  years ago. Actually, I didn’t enter until late on, encouraged by the other delivery staff at (almost) voluntary work, namely Little Andrew and Mrs Napier Brown Ellis Jones latterly of Leckhampton. It was Mrs NBEJloL’s first half marathon, after vowing that she would never do one 3 years ago. This is how runners evolve, like drug addicts. They start off small, thinking they can handle it and before they know it, they’re pounding the streets, spitting on the pavement and having their gait analysed. Little Andrew, like me, had run quite a few half marathons, so we knew what to expect.

But we didn’t. Arrive an hour before the race, the race booklet told us. You’ll be led to the start half an hour before the off. None of us took any chances. It’s a 20 minute journey from my house, so I set off an hour and a half before the start…

To find myself in the biggest queue ever to get in. Conveniently, they’d organised a schools’ challenge race on the same day. As I sat in the traffic queue, parents abandoned their cars on the side of the road and dragged their kids to the entrance. The poor sods would’ve been knackered before they started. Text messages were exchanged. Little Andrew convinced a lovely lady attendant that I was disabled and needed to park next to the start and that I’d be there in 10 minutes. It worked.

Just before the start Mrs NBEJloL texted

‘Still in traffic ffs’

Not very Mrs NBEJloL, to be honest.

Running around Cheltenham is always a pleasant experience, since they do so well to hide all the less posh bits. My half marathon times (in fact my running performances) have dipped considerably in the last three years. Maybe it’s my age, although others seem to go from strength to strength. My body, however, has come to an agreement with my brain.

“Look,” says body, “I’m fed up with being blistered, worn down, puffed out and bruised. Can you tell him?”

“Tell you what I’ll do,” says brain. “I’ll let him get all confident, then at mile 8 I’ll tell him to fuck all this speed nonsense. You just squeeze the lungs and make the legs go wobbly. It’ll work a treat.”

And it does. I’m now resigned to having to just enjoy the scenery and do very little uncomfortable efforts.

The volunteers and general public are very helpful. The water stations give you sports bottles of water rather than plastic cups, which tend to spill everywhere except in your mouth.

There is also a concerted effort to make you eat sugar. Volunteers trying to foist sugary sports drinks into your hand and special ‘jelly baby stations’. It’s as if the British psyche, scared that we’ll lose the one thing we’re top at, namely obesity, will be lost.

I plodded around, encouraged by the crowds and the local radio presenters, who set their speakers up 4 miles from the end.

“Yeah, come on, nearly there,” the young lady in a pink tracksuit lied at mile 9, ‘you’re all doing amazing!”

I flinched. Hopefully Mrs NBEJloL wouldn’t hear this terrible adverbial faux pas, otherwise she would have to stop and berate the enthusiastic media type.

By this time, a sub 2 hour finish was the best I could manage, struggling in at 1hour, 58 minutes and 43 seconds. I refused more offers of sugary sports drinks and jelly based confectionery. Instead, I spent the next 20 minutes getting all my internal organs back where they belonged and asking my legs very nicely if they would be kind enough to propel me back to the car to get a change of clothes.

I returned to the finish line, missing Mrs NBEJloL, who had gracefully completed with a royal wave of the hand and immediately changed into her customary high heels, I’d imagine. Instead, I cheered on all the other finishers and waited for Little Andrew.

“Fook that,” she exclaimed on finishing, “I’m not doing that again!”

Quite. I was in the same mood. I returned home, showered and languished on the sofa to watch the Champions’ League of Darts. If The Olympics can inspire people, so can darts, I

This could be me in the future...

This could be me in the future…

thought. Maybe I should take it up. I’m sure my nipples wouldn’t chafe. It wouldn’t make me walk like I’d shit myself. Perhaps the wild hairstyles would suit me, covering up or hiding the grey.

Then again, you couldn’t discuss the colour of your piss with your counterparts. Also, I hate wearing jewellery.

As I contemplated retirement, a Faceache friend posted her success at a 5K today.

“You should try Cheltenham Half Marathon,” I replied.

“I’ll do it next year,” she posted back, “but only if you do it with me…”

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I Sold My Soul to The National Trust

Hello Wordpretzels, it’s been a while. What with the way the world is at the moment, with everything in danger of being run by fuckwits, I’ve lost the plot when it comes to writing rubbish on my blogspot. But I’m back.

Last weekend, along with Lady Barton St Mary, The Marquess and Marchioness, we took off for a long weekend in Northumberland, with an overnight stay at cousin Cath and her husband Mark in Leeds. The journey was a long one: 3 hours to Leeds then another 3 hours to Northumberland. I realise that a lot of my American wordpretzels would wonder what all the fuss is about, since you’re happy to drive 200 miles for a haircut. But there we are, that’s Brits for you, anything over 50 miles is a major journey for us and involves stocking up on drinks and sandwiches.

Anyway, the whole experience was wonderful. We saw lots of stuff, starting with The Angel of the North, a huge piece of metal in the shape of an angel, situated on a piece of council waste ground off the motorway. This was followed by a trip to Cragside House, then Bamburgh Castle the following day and then Holy Island and Lindisfarne.

But I’m not going to give you a travelogue – rather something that happened to me that may have changed my life forever. I became a member of The National Trust.

It all happened so quickly. We arrived at Cragside House, the former home of Mr Armstrong, the first to have electricity in the early 1900s, which he produced with water wheels and a staff of many. I assume he needed it to power his television and wi-fi, which must have been amazing in those days.

Cragside House, once home to Mr Armstrong, who must have had the shining...

Cragside House, once home to Mr Armstrong, who must have had the shining…

Now, Cragside House is owned by The National Trust, so two willing NT workers were lurking at the entrance when we arrived. One of them approached our car.

“Good afternoon, modom, wilkom teou Caarsaid Heys,” he said. He was very, very posh. So posh, only Lady Barton St Mary could understand him.

“Air hair lair,” she replied, falling into her native language with ease.

“Hello Sir,” said the NT worker, acknowledging me. He’d obviously realised I didn’t speak posh, as he reverted to simple Hugh Grant when addressing me.

He returned to conversing with Lady BSM. After a short exchange, she turned to me.

“Do you want to join The National Trust?”

“Why?” I replied, incredulous.

“Well, we’ll be doing lots of visits this weekend, we could save some money.”

“Are we going to see lots of old houses that need renovating and are full of old furniture? Because I could do that by staying at home.”

Lady BSM gave me a look that showed utter disdain.

“I think it would be worth it,” she said emphatically, opening the car door and following the posh man into his National Trust shed. He interviewed her for 5 minutes in fluent posh before she appeared holding a brown box with the National Trust logo on it.

‘That’s it! We’re both members!” she stated excitedly, peeling the backing off the car sticker and adhering it to the windscreen.

The reality of it suddenly hit me. I was a member of The National Trust. The following day I was playing golf. Life as I knew it was over. I was only one step short of watching Countryfile and Antiques Roadshow on a Sunday night. It was time to grow a wispy beard, buy an oilskin cowboy hat, festoon myself with binoculars and a compass on a string and yomp around old houses assisted by two carbon hiking sticks.

National Trust - we're your friends now.

National Trust – we’re your friends now.

In a daze, we made our way to the restaurant, where I gazed upon my fellow National Trust members. Mainly grey, lots of dogs, but generally two factions. The oilskin/binocular wearer was one. The other was more surprising; a group of (mainly) men in loose fitting shirts, long flowing locks and little beards. I’m sure that at any time in a National Trust restaurant you could choose 4 characters, form a progressive rock band and record a concept album. As we all sat eating our broccoli and stilton soup, I distinctly heard somebody absent-mindedly whistling “Across The Universe”.

“We always stop at National Trust sites,” said The Marquess, “they do the best food.”

He’d also joined, using Lady BSM as an interpreter for posh NT worker.

I’m coming to terms with it now. There was something satisfying about marching through the turnstiles of other historical sites that weekend without paying a penny. At this rate, I may invest in a flask, a tartan car blanket and a small tin of travel sweets.

Whilst all this was going on, Miss Katherine and Master Johnny were at Bestival in The Isle of Wight. We hadn’t heard from them all weekend, but on the Monday, a message finally came through:

Have you really joined The National Trust?

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Olympic Cycling – Watch out for Kieron

Olympics – cycling. Lady BSM and I watched the Omnium(?) last night where cyclists seemed to have a race when they felt like it. I found it hard to believe that Mark Cavendish could ride his bicycle so very energetically while also calculating how many points the Danish and Italian riders were collecting on the seemingly random races in between the cruising around looking at each other. In the end the commentator got shouty (inevitably) and the Italian won, collapsing in a flood of tears, leaning on his mum and dad who were in the crowd. Mark Cavendish finished in silver medal position, which is good, but he seemed a little crestfallen.
Then, tonight, Master Johnny is watching another bike race. This one seems to involve a bloke called Kieron on a pizza delivery moped.

Kieron. Don't mess with him.

Kieron. Don’t mess with him.

Kieron must be a really hard bloke, because none of the cyclists, all finely tuned, testosterone fuelled athletes, are brave enough to overtake him. He holds up their race for ages before getting fed up and having a rest on the side. All the cyclists then have a good old burn up to decide who wins. Or something.
No doubt, somebody out there understands all of this. All I can say is I have no doubt that after the awards ceremony, Kieron is out the back flushing the cyclists’ heads down the toilet and nicking their medals.
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Age May Not Become You

Wordpretzels, earlier this year an organisation called OnePoll carried out some research for the website retiresavvy.com, obviously a digital world that will be closer to my heart sooner than i would wish for. 2000 people answered questions on when it was too old to do certain things. Based on the results, let’s see if I can give you some advice.

First of all, if you are over 38 years old, grow up. This is the key milestone for being a grown up, apparently. However, it would be perfectly respectable to wear slippers and own a cheeseboard.You’d also qualify for a sensible anorak (37).Anybody over the age of 38 should forget any idea of having a tattoo or a piercing. This one I can agree with. Ear rings are fine on people over 38, providing they are female. Men just look sad, desperately clinging on to their rapidly disappearing youth. Think David Essex, not in 1974 but 2016.

You could take a trip to the nightclub until 44, but I don’t know how. Anybody in a nightclub over the age of 35 always looks suspicious to me, being at least 10 years older than the majority of the clientele. Anybody over 50 wearing a Hawaiian shirt in a nightclub is likely to be on a list somewhere. In fact, the survey suggested that staying out after midnight should cease when you reach 52. I’d love to contest this one, but these days if I’m not leaving a dinner party by 11.30pm I’m likely to fall into a coma. I call this age related times – midnight for a 56 year old is technically 4am in ‘old grunter time’.

Fancy a holiday with the lads or lasses? Ibiza? Giving it large? Over 40? Give it a miss.

Do you know somebody who likes to show off in their car? Boy racers were judged to be too old at 33. If they lived that long, idiots.

It appears that we are becoming more childish. I know plenty of grown ups, some with grey hair and nearly paid mortgages, piles and loose teeth who go to see films like Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, Paddington Bear, Star Trek and Star Wars without a child. In fact, these days, they make grown up children’s programmes. I’m a grown up who enjoys watching The Walking Dead and Game of Thrones (basically Lord of the Rings with profanity and tits). I like to play video games and keep up with current music, which apparently must stop after the age of 42. My defence for music (I don’t have one for video games) would be the same as John Peel’s. As you age, you don’t stop trying new foods, so why do that with music?

Most of my friends don’t see it that way. Anything released after 1980 is regarded as screaming or weird people banging dustbin lids together. If music were food, they’d still be eating Vesta Curries and Angel Delight. They also like to settle down on a Sunday night to watch Countryfile and The Antiques Roadshow, before dozing off with a nice wildlife programme narrated by Sir David Attenborough. They won’t mind me saying this. Well, they would, but they don’t use social media, so are unlikely to read this. By the way, you’re too old for twitter at 47, Facebook at 49 and text talk at 36.

But despite this, my generation are certainly less grown up than previous ones. Take my parents, for example. They were old parents (born 1920). By the time they were 26, they were employed, responsible, brylcreemed, suited and booted (well, the men at least). They’d given up games when they were 12, in a job at 14 and possibly married 5 years later. They had all their teeth taken out for a 21st birthday present and only danced on a Sturday night after half a mild. In my parents’ case, they’d also been involved in a world war, lost friends and family and seen things no young person should ever see. No wonder they put away childish things. Goodness knows what they would think of skinny jeans (47).

Of course, I decided to do some research of my own and try and get some examples of the worst excesses of age inappropriateness in public.



Classic specimen. On closer inspection, age determined at 55-60. In flip flops (socks required over 50)  Maori tattoos on both arms (at least he’ll be dead before thinking why did I do that) and the old favourite – a Superdry t shirt, age limit 30. So, an image which screams David Beckham meets Jona Lomu mixed in with a bit of young farmer. Oh, he also had an ear ring. To emphasise this oldager, he’s also getting several packets of chocolate buttons. Do you think they’re for the grandkids?



Truly terrifying. Oldagers completely out of control. Predicted age 70 plus. Pink hair. Hawaiian style shirt. Funky Will.i.am spectacles. White shoes. But the one article that sums it all up, three quarter length trousers. These shouldn’t have an age restriction, rather a short prison sentence and a public burning of the offending article.

What do you think? I suppose these people are doing no harm. As kids they were probably told to grow up and be sensible. Nowadays, people probably look back on these reproaches and realise they can do what they like. Heck, all those things I would have been shouted at for doing as a kid. Then they go out, buy outrageous clothes, eat an entire packet of bourbon biscuits in one sitting and play candy crush on an iPad, asking the local headteacher/banker/solicitor/GP for extra lives.

Thanks for reading. Must go. Robot Wars is on the telly…

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Hello. Two weeks ago my laptop took a large drink via its keyboard and died, like many rock stars of the 70s. Hence until I have a new laptop,  I can’t guarantee a regular flow of unconnected balderdash. In the  meantime, the Pokemon craze has taken off in the UK to distract the  populace from the realisation that many people on our little island have voted to become a tax haven where large corporations can perform experiments on us. Being the rural spaceman, thus is what my Pokemon Go Map looks like from Randall Towers. A Pokemon desert.


Hello? ANYBODY???

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