Sunday, 30 December 2012

The Christmas night out











Two weeks ago I attended the “work’s do” as I have done each Christmas for the last 33 years. I’m not going again.

A Christmas celebration alongside work colleagues can be fun. Freed from the constraints of the office, a colleague often displays an alternative persona from the one on show 9-to-5, Monday-to-Friday. My most prominent memories of this annual bash include a senior manager and his secretary performing one of the more risqué scenes from “Last Tango in Paris” in the centre of the dance-floor, and a staid professional punching a stranger he accused of drinking his beer.      

This year, the evening started badly before I left home. Having prised my 15-stone physique into my best pair of silvery-grey trousers, I realized I had to pee before setting off for my bus. As any man over the age of 50 knows, the combination of a dodgy sphincter and pants too tight around the crotch should come with an official flood warning. My post-urination shake proved insufficient; upon returning Percy to his cage he dribbled a puddle into my boxers. As the sensation of wetness spread around my nether regions, it was a relief to note that my sturdy underpants had prevented any two-tone staining of my trousers.

I needn’t have worried. On my 10-minute walk to the bus-stop I had to negotiate   sleet lashing into my face and torso, along with six inches of slush around my feet. By the time my bus arrived (20 minutes late) my trousers retained a single band of silvery-grey around my knees, above and below radiating a darker, drenched shade.

I live in a rural area, or “up in the hills” as my city-dwelling work-mates call it. When I arrived in Manchester city centre, there was no slush, no sleet, no wind, only a fine drizzle. And thousands of people, a combination of late shoppers and Christmas revelers  most of who seemed to be thrusting umbrellas in my direction. Already late, I sped to my destination, dodging eye-removing brolly-spikes and mumbling obscenities about the recklessness of human-kind.

As I entered the Italian restaurant I suspected my lower half was emitting a noxious vapor, like a polecat that had let himself go. Nevertheless, I joined 15 of my work colleagues at a circular table, all in pristine attire, dry and (perhaps with one exception) younger than me. I ordered a pint of Peroni at a price that, should I consume my usual quantity, would require me to re-mortgage the house.      

I wear contact-lenses because I’m short-sighted and vain. Although improving my vision, in poor light they render me incapable of reading small print. Squinting, I held the menu so far away from me the lady seated opposite had to peep around it to hold a conversation.

After the meal, the tables were pushed back and the disco began to spew tunes, most of which were unfamiliar to me. People danced and drank. I sat and drank. Despite the high prevalence of alcohol intoxication, not one lady (nor man) made a sexual advance towards me. Around 11.30 pm. the one colleague of a similar age to me collapsed on the dance-floor and sustained a nasty head-wound. As I observed the paramedics attending to the poor lady as she laid face-down, skirt hitched-up to mid-thigh, undignified and defeated, she symbolized why the over-50s should stay away from the Christmas “do.” I’m not going again.      

          


I am participating in the Dude Write Starting Lineup this week where you can find some excellent posts by bloggers who happen to be dudes: http://dudewrite.blogspot.com)

        





Thursday, 13 December 2012

Fifty shades of Jones



I’ve been reading Fifty Shades of Grey to learn ways to ignite Mrs Jones’ sexual desires. It’s not gone well.

In case there is anyone not familiar with this book, Fifty Shades of Grey is the first part of a trilogy by E.L. James detailing the carnal awakenings of a 21-year-old virgin, Anastatia Steele, in the deft hands of mysterious dominant and millionaire, Christian Grey. An erotic fantasy that seems to be stirring the underbellies of women throughout the planet, I thought it offered a unique opportunity to glimpse the intricate workings of the female psyche.

Mrs Jones and I have been a partnership for over 30 years, sharing joys, challenges and beds. We are each aware of what the other is thinking and feeling. We know whether the other will like, or dislike, another person. We often finish off each other’s sentences. But as I read about the shenanigans of Anastatia and Christian, I wondered whether there was a rich seam of sexual craving deep within Mrs Jones’ loins waiting to be mined.   

I’m an affable sort of bloke. Perhaps this is where I’m falling short; maybe women yearn to be controlled and dominated?

A week last Thursday, around 10 pm, I was in bed pretending to read the latest edition of The Oldie magazine, while peeping at Mrs Jones who was sitting at the dressing table, removing her make-up. I shut my magazine and slapped it down on the bed-side table. “Get your sweet arse into bed now” I said, adopting my most menacing tone.
She glanced towards me, and then back at the mirror, continuing to dab her cheeks with make-up remover.
“Take off your night-gown and get into bed now; now I say!”
Mrs Jones stopped her dabbing, stood and ambled towards the bed.
I dodged the first swipe, but the second blow caught me on the back of my head. That night I learnt that (unlike Anastatia Steele) I don’t like pain.       

For the next few days I sought further guidance from Fifty Shades. On page 193 I read, he pops a fragment of ice in my navel … It burns all the way down to the depths of my belly. Wow! I pondered as to whether the secret code to open a woman’s sexual vault involves exposure to extremes of temperature.

Last night, having loitered to allow Mrs Jones to retire to bed before me, I raided the freezer-box. Climbing the stairs, ice-cubes in my hand, I tingled in anticipation of that raw female sexuality I was about to unleash. I entered the bedroom, undressed (not an easy manoeuvre with blocks of ice clasped in my hand) and slipped into bed next to the luscious, naked body of my beautiful wife. She was lying on her front, denying me access to the target area of her abdomen, and seemed to be asleep. I tried a couple of gentle nudges to encourage her to turn over but to no avail. Meanwhile, the ice was melting in my hand.

I was on the verge of aborting the assignment when she flipped over onto her back, eyes closed, still sleeping. In one swift movement, I leant over and dripped several drops of icy water onto her belly. Her body tensed and her eyes shot open. I braced myself for the sexual explosion. Her hand moved instinctively towards me and lingered, palm down, inches from my midriff. She then screeched the words that will remain etched on my memory for many years.
“Have you pissed the bed?”  

                                                                 **************




I am participating in the Dude Write Starting Lineup this week where you can find some excellent posts by bloggers who happen to be dudes: http://dudewrite.blogspot.com)

        



Sunday, 18 November 2012

A bar-room fantasy


A famous Leonard Cohen song has the line:

And all the rain falls down, amen
On the works of last year’s man.

After an experience last week, I know exactly what the Canadian singer meant.

Last Tuesday evening I attended a football (soccer) game and went for a drink with my 22-year old son in the pub directly across from the ground. Ryan reminded me it was my turn to buy the drinks so he sat down while I approached the bar.

Despite the pub being busy, I found a space at the bar and waited to be served. And waited, and waited. I repeatedly tried to make eye-contact with one of the four young women behind the bar but to no avail. I felt like the invisible man. Either side of me new arrivals were approaching the bar and getting served before me. Vexed, I stared expectantly at the nearest barmaid as she put cash into the till; surely I couldn’t be ignored any longer?   

A young man, with an ear-ring and bull neck, appeared at my shoulder and the barmaid immediately struck up a conversation with him, smiling and playing with a tress of her hair. Despite me waiting expectantly with my £10 note in hand, mouth open and fixed gape, she asked the young buck for his order.

“A pint of lager and a small coke, please” I interjected, loudly.

The bar quietened. The barmaid glanced at me, her face instantly losing animation. It was as if a vile smell had grabbed her attention. Grudgingly, she started to pour my lager (my son’s lager – I was driving) but continued to flirt with the young man at my side. So engrossed was she in the young buck, that she was handing my (son’s) pint to him, until her suitor pointed out her mistake.

Belatedly, I picked up the pint of lager and small coke (both in plastic glasses, for public safety reasons) and turned to look for Ryan. Inexplicably, I paused. An omnipotent impulse rose through my body, a desperate desire to wrestle back a morsel of dignity. In my mind, I sprung into action …

I turn and, with one sharp waft of my right arm across the bar, fling all the bottles and glasses onto floor. The tavern falls silent. I have everyone’s attention. I climb onto the bar-top and scream:
“I might be 53 but let me tell you a few things.
Drunken women have been known to make sexual advances at me.
I was voted the 3rd best-looking boy in class 6D at school.
My wife says I look a bit like Richard Gere.
Tina Cropper once said I was the best lover she’d ever had.
I was the captain of the Haslingden High School 2nd XI football team.
And I have a huge todger”. (That one was a lie, but hey I was on a roll).

But it was all fantasy. In truth, I skulked to my seat, handed Ryan his lager and proceeded, silently, to sip my coke out of the plastic glass. I consoled myself that my Leonard Cohen CDs awaited.  

                                                   ***************


I am participating in the Dude Write Starting Lineup this week where you can find some excellent posts by bloggers who happen to be dudes: http://dudewrite.blogspot.com)

        






Monday, 29 October 2012

Humiliation at the filling station



Last week, on my way home from work, I dropped into my local filling station to replenish the diesel in my Fiat Punto. Tank fully topped-up, I left the car at the pump and entered the payment kiosk, one which doubles as a mini-market, and joined one of the two queues. Upon reaching the front, I inserted my debit card into the machine to pay the £32.58 owing and tapped in my PIN number.

“Try it again” said the young female cashier, a hint of suspicion in her voice.

Dutifully, I removed my card and inserted it again.

“It won’t accept that card. Have you got another means of payment, sir?” Her manner had instantly changed. The warm, animated young female had transformed into robotic mode, no doubt regurgitating, word-for-word, what she had been taught on a recent staff-training event about dealing with a potential fraudster.

“It worked alright yesterday, and there are funds in the account,” I said, already becoming aware of how unconvincing I must sound, “Can I try it in the other machine?”

I was allowed to obstruct the flow of the other queue to try my debit card in another machine, but it was rejected again. My car was beginning to cause an obstruction on the garage forecourt, other garage users awkwardly manoeuvrering around it.

The girl sighed and, still in auto-pilot, said “You can try the cash-point down the road, but you will have to leave your car here sir.”

By now I was convinced that everyone in the mini-market listening to this exchange had concluded there was a con-man of ‘Robert Redford in The Sting’ proportion in their midst.

After some negotiation, the android behind the counter kindly agreed to let me use their own telephone, located on the counter within ear-shot of everyone in the mini-market, to contact my bank. It was quickly established there had been a block put on my card due to some “suspicious activity” on my account. I was put through to the bank’s fraud department.

The first set of security questions, to confirm I was the person whose name is on the credit card, were a breeze; full name, date-of-birth and full postal address, no problem. But when I was asked to name three current direct debits coming out of my account, my performance deteriorated.

“I don’t know,” I mumbled, “my wife takes care of all that. I think we have a mortgage with the Woolwich Building Society.”

“How much is it for?” asked the interrogator in the fraud department.

“Oh, I don’t know,” I said, it used to be about 770 per month, but I think it’s come down a bit.”  

“Do you know your National Insurance Number?”

“Yes, hold on I’ve got it on my mobile phone.” As I fumbled to extract the required number from the “Notes” section of my iPhone, the cashier helpfully put the land-line on speaker-phone so I could respond without having to hold the receiver. Of course, this meant that everyone within a three-yard radius could hear the two-way conversation. I sensed the young girl was beginning to regain some of her animation.

Satisfied that I was not an impostor, the man from the bank (after cautioning me that it is a serious criminal offence not to answer truthfully) began to announce the recent transactions on my account to differentiate the genuine from the fraudulent.  

“£250 to Nigerian Leather in Abuja on the 20th October 2012?”

“No, definitely not” I replied, sensing for the first time, that I might be gaining a morsel of credibility with my listeners. “That’s definitely not mine.”

“£38.75 to the Red Lion Public House in Liverpool on the 19th October 2012?”

“Yes that will be mine; we had a pub-lunch last Friday.” I didn’t want my acquaintances in the mini-market to think I was an addled drunk. I needn’t have worried about such trivial matters.

“£80.00 to Naughty America on the 17th October?”

“Umm, I think that might … it could have …”

“Sorry Mr Jones, was that a debit you made or not?”

“Yes it was.” By this point I was avoiding eye-contact with anything human, staring instead at my car left abandoned on the garage forecourt.  

“What about £90.00 to Viagra Online Generic Pharmacy on the 15th October?”

Identity established, they transiently lifted the block on my card to allow me to pay for my diesel and, head bowed, I sped from the filling station. My Fiat Punto's thirst for diesel will, from now on, be quenched at a different establishment.     

                                                   **************************



I am participating in the Dude Write Starting Lineup this week where you can find some excellent posts by bloggers who happen to be dudes: http://dudewrite.blogspot.com)





Wednesday, 10 October 2012

A rare visit to the dentist

                                                                      



















I visited the dentist today. It had been almost 15 years since my previous visit, at the time motivated only by a desire to set a good example for my two children. Since 1997 my ivories have been a no-go zone for everything other than my toothbrush and a twice-daily sliver of Colgate paste.

But over recent weeks, on three occasions, I have experienced jolts of discomfort when cold water has made contact with my pre-molars, ironically when rinsing my mouth after teeth-cleaning. I don’t like pain, so I decided it was time to make an appointment with my local driller and filler.

I dislike dentists. Although my aversion is not of phobic intensity, I still harbour bad memories from my childhood. During the 1960s I recall having 12 milk-teeth extracted in the space of a fortnight. I can picture the offending dentist like it was yesterday; unshaven, bad breath and a psychotic expression of Hannibal Lecter proportion as he pressed the gas mask forcefully over my nose and mouth. Suffocation in its rawest form; I can still smell the rubber mask as I squirmed under his weight, subsequently sliding into that slumber that must be the last stop before death. Even after the butcher had extracted his ivory booty, my ordeal wasn’t over. In the weeks following the teeth removal the gaping holes left in my gums acted as magnets for food which festered and gave off a sweet putrid smell. I was a solitary child.

Anyway, this afternoon I drove to the dental practice for my scheduled check-up and stepped into the surgery for the first time this century. The smell hit me straight away, not (thankfully) that of rotting gums but anti-sceptic mouthwash. At reception I paid the £17.50 fee and was given a medical questionnaire to complete. While sitting in the waiting room, completing the form and lying about my weekly alcohol intake, the pneumatic drilling sounds from the adjacent surgical rooms permeated the area. I listened intently for screams reminiscent of Dustin Hoffman in the Marathon Man.

“Bryan Jones?”

The young, fresh-faced dental nurse had peered around the reception room door and I dutifully followed her into the surgery. Standing in front of that iconic, black leather chair (the seat of as great a suffering as the electrical variety) was the  dentist in his blue tunic, face-mask dangling under his chin.

“So what can I do for you today?” he asked.

The question seemed disingenuous, falsely implying that I had control over the situation, the sort of question the medieval torturer would ask before reaching for the thumb-screws. I explained my recent teeth-twinges and the 15-year gap since my last visit. I thought I detected an expectant look on the dentist’s face that behind my jowls lay sufficient fillings and extractions to pay for his imminent house extension.

The dentist directed me to sit in the chair, and lowered me into the fully horizontal. I felt exposed and vulnerable; I stifled an urge to check that my zipper wasn’t agape. He prodded my gums with a sharp implement and proceeded to check each tooth in turn, while saliva trickled out of the corners of my open mouth. I then had to bite on a plastic gags (as if about be anally penetrated by a well-hung Turkish-prison guard) while my teeth were x-rayed.

Twenty minutes later I was recalled from the waiting room to hear the verdict. I half expected him to don the black cap before passing sentence. Multiple extractions required? Dentures the only option? Or, at best, numerous fillings needed to plug the pot-holes? Not one bit of it!

“Remarkably, all you have is a bit of gum recession requiring some resin filler. And we’ll give you a scale and polish while we’re at it. But overall your teeth are in good shape.”

I could detect a hint of disappointment in his voice.

This experience reinforces my life-long view that, for the sake of longevity, one should always avoid doctors and dentists for as long as possible!

              
****************

 

Monday, 24 September 2012

The company fridge

The Health and Safety brigade increasingly frustrate me. I know their aims are worthy in wanting to protect us all from harm, but they can often take things to an absurd extreme. The following examples, all derived from the last decade in the United Kingdom, should serve as illustration:

Prohibiting the throwing of sweets into a pantomime audience;
Banning the playing of conkers in a school playground;
The requirement that all November 5th bonfires be registered with the local council;
Forbidding the provision of pins with Remembrance Day poppies.

Last month at my place of work the Infection Control Nurse became concerned about the state of our departmental fridge. Whereas I’ve always revelled in the recurrent Monday morning kitchen pastime of “find the source of that iffy smell,” Nurse Starchy has a radically different disposition and has insisted that the milk bottle infiltrated by Danish-blue and the banana encrusted with the sticky-black goo of decay present hazards to the health of all employees. As such, it is now company policy for each item left in the fridge to be labelled with the owner’s name along with the date it was put in; the fridge is inspected at the end of each day and any item not duly labelled is thrown away.

The implementation of this policy has led to many mutterings of discontent, particularly among the male workforce. Of course, not one of us has been brave enough to challenge Nurse Starchy – she is a terrifying woman – so our protests have remained covert. Yesterday I discovered that someone, as yet unknown, had pinned the following picture and caption onto the kitchen notice-board. It made me giggle, although I’m not sure what Nurse Starchy will make of it.     




Thursday, 6 September 2012

Sexual angst of a 53-year-old man

                                                               

Mrs Jones and I have been a partnership for 31 years. During our 20s we creased the sheets with lusty regularity, fully immersed in the sensual pleasures of our smooth, lithe bodies. Everything happened naturally, without the need for introspection. This carnal abandon persisted throughout our 30s, albeit less often, the introduction of two children into the family unit acting to restrict opportunities for rumpy-pumpy. Despite the reduced frequency, my sexual performance remained top-notch (even though I say so myself - Mrs Jones might have a different view) apart from the occasional booze-related droop.

Then at some point in my mid-40s that sneaky bastard called Age started to wreak its own rancid brand of mischief. One evening, while stepping out of the shower, Age compelled me to inspect myself in the mirror. Horror! I was no longer a handsome young buck. Facial wrinkles, greying locks and an unwanted fold of skin hanging under the jowls like an over-used hammock provided damning evidence of my demise.

I lingered in front of the mirror, frozen by the creeping realisation of age-related decline. I had sprouted hair in all the wrong places, unsightly bristles spewing out of my nostrils and ears. My chest and abdomen were carpeted by wild, uneven tresses, an increasing proportion being grey; when I stared at my torso the pale bits seemed to spell out the message, “has-been.” There was even a triangular patch at the base of my spine, a kind of dorsal pubic hair.

This sobering realisation of bodily decay began to impair my sexual performance. Rather than being fully immersed in the act of making love, much of my mind was located on the bedroom ceiling, imagining how I would appear to a spectator. Where once I had envisaged smooth, iron-girder buttocks pumping athletically like Brad Pitt’s Achilles in the film Troy, the image in my head now more closely resembled Robbie Coltrane’s Hagrid getting to grips with Madame Maxime in Harry Potter.

And to add to my growing self-consciousness I became obsessed with the size of my manhood. In my younger years I had no anxieties in this department. As a teenager at school in the communal showers after a sporting event I was never the victim of the “tiny todger” jibes, unlike some of my more unfortunate class-mates. I had always assumed I scored in the average range for penile length and, when an occasional doubt intruded into my mind, would reassure myself with the mantra that size doesn’t matter. But now I was increasingly inspecting the size of my genitalia in the mirror, from every angle, but always with the same disappointment. Let’s just say my meat was shrivelling northwards while my two vegetables were heading south!

During this period of self-doubt about my sexual prowess, I read a magazine article in a Sunday newspaper describing how male porn stars shave off their pubic hair so as to make their willies appear longer. Cue weekly, hazardous encounters with my electric shaver – I’d defy any man to trim his hedge with the Power-Comb of a Braun Series 5 without drawing blood!

When I reached that sobering 50-year-old milestone, my declining self-image formed a devastating coalition with my internal physiology (something to do with the blood vessels losing their springiness) to produce an escalating number of sexual failures. All seemed lost. The Jones’s sex life seemed to be on a downward trajectory. That was before I encountered what is, without doubt, the pharmaceutical industry’s most useful contribution to the civilised world: Viagra! But I’ll leave my experiences of taking this drug for a future post.          


      
  


Thursday, 2 August 2012

A snotty son

The Jones family are currently riveted to the TV savouring the Olympic Games taking place in our home country. Over the weekend, my 21-year-old son and I were sitting in the living room watching the women’s beach volleyball – funny how we gravitated to that option given there were a dozen other channels to choose from – when an odd thing happened.

First, let me give you a bit more information about my son. Ryan is a great lad, bright, quick-witted and more charm than a cross-legged Indian who plays a flute for the snakes to dance to. He is, however, a bit strange in his ways. Since a child he has, for example, energetically refused to stand on a bath mat, protesting it felt “squidgy” under his feet. He is also overly alert to the risk of contamination; two years ago when I accidentally wore a pair of his new underpants he adamantly refused to wear them again despite them doing a couple of cycles of “boil wash” in our Bosch automatic. All-in-all, he must only be a foible away from being on the autistic spectrum.

Anyway, there I was in the living room sitting in my usual armchair, lap-top resting on my thighs, watching those lithe young female forms do battle at either side of the volley-ball net. Ryan was sitting on the settee, about two metres away, also transfixed on the TV. It remains a mystery as to what triggered my sneeze. I suffer with hay-fever so the precipitant might have been some air-borne pollen. Alternatively, sexual arousal can elicit sneezing (or so I’ve read – something to do with the co-location of the sexual and sneezing centres in the brain) so maybe it was the excess female flesh that stirred me. Whether it was dust or lust, what was clear was that I was beyond the point of no return towards a sneeze of nuclear proportion.

I fumbled for my handkerchief in my trouser pocket but a combination of ballooning middle-age mid-riff and sweaty thighs (from the warmth of the laptop) impeded my progress and I did not get it out in time. I tried to stifle the explosion rising within me by striving to keep my mouth shut and my nostrils constricted but all these efforts succeeded in doing was to narrow the barrel from which the sneeze was being emitted and thereby increase its velocity. 

AHHHH – CHOO! My sneeze reverberated through the living room, followed by an almost imperceptible thud, the reason for this second noise not at first being evident. I looked across at Ryan. His head was bowed, no longer ogling the beach volleyball, instead staring at the front of his designer t-shirt. As I squinted I could just about detect a green pellet of mucous on the white fabric front of his prized recent purchase. Holding the snotty part of his shirt away from his skin, Ryan jumped up and ran to the kitchen to show Mrs Jones what her “degenerate” husband had done. When he returned to the living room, still holding his soiled shirt out in front of him, I vainly tried to make amends by leaning over and wiping off the offending sputum with my (now retrieved) hanky.

“Are you sure that came from your mouth?” Ryan asked, his quivering voice suggesting he was still in shock.

“Yes,” I replied, “if it had come from my nose it would be crusty with a long tail.”

I expect to find a designer t-shirt in the trash-bin any time soon.                   

  




 

Saturday, 14 July 2012

A Spanish robbery


“We’ll blink, and they’ll be holidaying together in Ibiza” I said.

It was spring 1996. Mrs Jones and I had arrived at the crèche at the end of a working day to pick up Becca, our 2-year-old daughter. Engrossed in play with her best friend Millie, our daughter had yet to notice our presence. We quietly observed as the two toddlers walked away from us, hand-in-hand, their nappy-clad arses swinging in synchrony as they made their way towards the bouncy-castle. At this time, the prospect of my sweet daughter night-clubbing in the party capital of Europe 1,000 miles away from the safety of dad’s protective gaze was both implausible and disturbing in equal measure. Little did I know that my casual comment of 16-years ago could legitimately see me crowned as a modern-day Nostradamus.

At 2.00 am yesterday morning Becca, now 18 years old, set off for Manchester Airport at the start of her first independent holiday. Together with Millie (they had lost touch with each other for a while but re-established their friendship a couple of years ago) and two other close friends, their destination was not Ibiza but the neighbouring Spanish island of Majorca. A popular attraction for young Brits, their pre-booked accommodation was at the Mallorca Rocks hotel in the resort of Magaluf (or “Shagaluf” as it is colloquially referred to by our local youths). The knowledge that my sweet baby girl was en-route to a non-stop, 11-day party marathon was difficult for my brain to digest, resulting in only fleeting sleep on the night of her departure.

The following day was uneventful. I was aware that her plane would have landed in Majorca around 10.00 am local time. No news was good news – it is striking how a previously carefree man can become neurotic, with catastrophic imaginings of carnage, when his baby girl is 30,000 feet high careering at over 600 miles per hour in a steel container. At the end of her first full day on holiday, I retired to bed early, and slept soundly. That was until 3.30 am (4.30 am Spanish time) when the intrusive screech of my mobile phone rudely ended my slumber. Only partially conscious, I groped for the handset at the side of my bed and put it to my ear. At first, all I could hear was whimpering, and the sound of someone struggling to breathe. Then my daughter’s pained voice.

“Dad, we’ve been robbed!”

“What’s happened sweetie?” I asked, trying to sound calmer than I felt.

“We’ve just got back to the hotel - (breathless, whimper, breathless) - and we found our door open - (whimper, breathless, whimper) - all our belongings strewn over the floor - (breathless, breathless) - and they’ve taken all our money - (starting to weep) - I want to come home dad.”

A huge wave of sadness hit me. My sweet, petite princess, on her first independent holiday, had been traumatised and had all her hard-earned cash stolen on the first day of what should have been one of the happiest times in her life. I switched into consoling dad mode, while thinking how I would like to rip the heads of the thieving bastards who had inflicted such despair on my little girl.

“It will be ok darling. No one has died or been injured. Report the theft to the hotel and, tomorrow, to the police. We’ll put some money in your account. Things always seem worse in the early hours of the morning; it will feel different tomorrow.”

After a few minutes, Becca calmed and regained her composure. She reassured me she’d be ok, was going to bed (this time with the door locked) and that she would contact me again once she’d slept.



Several hours later she rang and sounded much calmer, albeit a little awkward. They hadn’t been robbed after all! The true sequence of events was broadly as follows. Four excitable young women fly to Majorca overnight and land, sleep-deprived, at their Spanish resort around midday local time. Eager to pose by the pool, they partially unpack and spend the afternoon languishing on their sun-loungers guzzling Sangria. Returning to their rooms they shower and begin the prolonged ritual of getting themselves ready to party, trying on and deciding against several outfits, while consuming more of the local wine. Having decided not to purchase a safety-deposit box, each of the four young ladies hides her money and other valuables in random places within their room and leaves without locking the door, intent on enjoying Majorca’s famed nightlife. Six hours later, 4.30 am, they return, intoxicated, to discover their door unlocked and clothes and belongings strewn randomly across the floor. As each girl’s initial search for her money and valuables is unsuccessful (hiding places long forgotten) they instantly conclude that their room has been robbed and ransacked. Drama, of soap-opera proportions, ensues as most of the hotel occupants are made aware of their perceived misfortune.

Oh, to be young again!                 
   


Tuesday, 26 June 2012

I'd rather be poisoned!


Picture the scene. Late for work, keen to leave the house and almost all self-care tasks completed, I skip (rather nimbly) up the stairs intent on a quick teeth-clean only to find there is no toothpaste. Returning downstairs I collect the new “pump action” tube only to be confronted by that increasingly common source of modern day frustration, impregnable packaging.

My initial attempt to twist off the large transparent cap makes no impression. Further inspection of the reason for this inertia reveals that the whole tube, from cap to base, is trussed in a synthetic strait-jacket. I scan the plastic’s edge for the indentation, the weak point in the ramparts that will allow easy access, only to find that the paler streak in the packaging is just a crease and as unrelenting as the rest of it. My initial, targeted offensive with thumb-nail is to no avail and soon deteriorates into random, frantic (but fruitless) probing.

A combination of teeth, neck muscle and associated growling succeeds in removing the upper slither of polythene, without appreciably taking me any closer to functional access. The subsequent frenzied assault with a kitchen knife loosens a couple more strands of polythene, and nearly costs me a couple of digits, before the defences finally yield. Toothbrush in hand, I pump expectantly only to be further disappointed when no paste escapes from the tube, the nozzle being welded shut by an air-tight seal of silver-paper.      

Since, some years ago, an inadequate personality disordered fellow put broken glass (or other similarly noxious substance) in some jars of baby food, the health and safety brigade in collusion with manufacturers’ neuroses about the prospect of future litigation have ensured that a range of everyday items are tamper-proof. Personally, I would prefer to be exposed to the unlikely risk of toxins in my toothpaste rather than the daily frustrations associated with unassailable casing. 

 

          




Thursday, 14 June 2012

A boy will always need his mum!

It was the brightness around the rim of the door that first drew my attention. The landing light, comprising three 100-watt bulbs, had abruptly clicked on sending intrusive white lasers into the darkness of my bedroom. Raising my head a couple of inches from the pillow I squinted to my right at the luminous digital clock on the bedside table; it was 1.05 a.m. and I had been asleep for over two hours. I glanced to my left where Mrs Jones lay, snoring rhythmically, while no doubt dreaming of a steamy liaison with Brad Pitt on the set of the film we had earlier watched, Meet Joe Black. I mused at the lightness of my slumber, in stark contrast to 30 years ago when as a young man I could sleep through the decibels of my mother’s vacuum cleaner as she cleaned around my bed in the middle of the afternoon.

Still holding the duvet under my chin, I strained to hear the nature of the disturbance on the other side of the bedroom door. I could detect faint whimpers, mixed with the occasional expletive. The baritone nature of the noises confirmed that the source was my 21-year-old son. Maybe he was having one of his occasional migraine headaches? Or had he had an i-Phone spat with his girlfriend? Curiosity finally outweighed my inertia, and I got out of bed to investigate. 

Ryan was standing on the landing, staring intently into the full-length mirror on the wall, prodding his face with his forefinger. Over 6-feet tall and weighing 13-stone, clad only in silk boxer-shorts, his face red and with droplets of sweat on his brow, he resembled someone who had done 10 rounds with Rocky Marciano.
“It’s driving me crazy” he said, once he’d noticed my presence.
“What’s the problem?” I asked, trying to instil some fatherly concern into my voice.
“There’s a friggin’ eye-lash in my eye. I can see the little bastard but I can’t shift it.”
I peered into his face. Sure enough there it was, a black lash about a half a centimetre long, still attached to his eye-lid but the other end buried in the aqueous mass of his eye-ball. My first reaction was to do what comes naturally to a 53-year old man in the depth of night and in close proximity to the bathroom – I went for a pee. My second reaction was equally instinctive, a response I have demonstrated many times before when one of our children is in pain – I went to rouse Mrs Jones.

As many men will know, waking a sleeping woman is a risky business. Indeed, it can seriously damage your health unless the reason is a house-fire or that one of her babies is in distress. I explained the nature of the current crisis and, once she had recovered from the disappointment of finding that the man mumbling to her in her sleep was me rather than Brad, she heroically swung into action. Armed with an eye-bath, a magnifying glass and two cotton-buds, Mrs Jones marched Ryan into the bathroom. I watched admiringly as she hung Ryan’s head over the sink, instructed him to hold the magnifying glass at the required angle, and doused his eye with a constant stream of warm water while stroking the target lash with the cotton-bud. I was in awe but, not wanting to crowd them, I (thoughtfully) went back to bed.

From the refuge of the bedroom, I could just make out the dialogue between my wife and son as the lash-extraction procedure continued for 20 minutes. Mrs Jones issuing firm but caring instructions, while Ryan responded with whines and the occasional expletive. Then it went quiet. I heard the bathroom door open and as Ryan returned to his room I heard him utter two words, delivered with absolute sincerity and gratitude.
“Thanks mam!”
Moments later, Mrs Jones appeared at the foot of our bed, struggling to contain a self-satisfied smile. “A boy will always need his mum!” she proclaimed.
Begrudgingly, I had to agree. Stifling a pang of envy, I turned over and tried to get back to sleep.

 

          




Friday, 1 June 2012

Don't do anything embarrassing

My 18-year old daughter, and youngest child, intends to pursue a degree course in the autumn. Last month there was an open day for Sheffield University (one of the institutions on her short-list) and initially both Mrs Jones and I were intent on accompanying her.
“You’re not both coming,” Becca whined, “I’ll look like a right retard!”
“Well go on your own then, if we’re such an embarrassment” I said, fishing for reassurance that my baby girl might feel a sense of pride at the prospect of having her old man by her side on this foray into alien terrain. She didn’t bite.
“I’m not goin’ on the train; I’ll never find my way from the station.”
As Mrs Jones had a competing commitment (shopping with her mother) on the day in question, I was nominated as chauffeur.
“Is that arrangement to my ladyship’s satisfaction?” I asked, not yet having given up on landing a minnow.
“Yes, thanks; but don’t do anything embarrassing.”

So 7.00 am on a Saturday morning we set off for Sheffield. I had hoped for some quality banter with my second-born on the outward journey, but it was not to be. The previous night Becca had been out with her mates (not just out, but “out out”) and had had no more than three hours sleep. Consequently, she adjusted her passenger seat to almost horizontal and slept. Two hours later I roused her as we drove onto the campus.

As we queued in the refectory to register our arrival, Becca eyed her prospective fellow students (She later informed me she was differentiating the “human from the geeky”). I took the opportunity to point out the future scholars who had brought both parents along and hadn’t, as yet, shrivelled with humiliation.

In a troupe of around 150, we had a guided tour of the university, taking in the sports hall, library, lecture theatres and student accommodation, during which I had a couple of senior moments when my mind travelled back 35 years to my own undergraduate days. Particularly poignant was the sight of an existing student in a hall of residence kitchen; unshaven, hair wild and uncombed, his eye squint suggesting light sensitivity, a tell-tale sign of the previous night’s over-indulgence. Ah, happy days! A period in one’s life when you feel invincible, bullet-proof, immortal – a time when that sneaky bastard called Age has curled up behind you to hibernate, outside of your awareness, for the next quarter of a century.

Following the guided tour we all gathered in a large lecture theatre to hear a talk from the course directors. At Becca’s request, we sat on the back row. We dutifully listened to the reasons why Sheffield is the greatest university in the world. PowerPoint presentation completed, the senior lecturer asked the audience of students and parents whether they had any questions. A parent on the front row asked about what specific topics were covered within the psychology module of the criminology degree. A prospective student (one that would probably fall into the “geek” category of my daughter’s sophisticated classification system) sought as to the possibility of switching in-year from being a straight sociology student to one studying sociology/criminology combined. A mother queried the closeness of the links between the Social Science faculty and potential employers.

Questions duly answered, there was silence in the large lecture theatre as the university academics awaited further queries. I raised my hand. To my right I heard a sharp intake of breath as all the muscles in Becca’s body hardened as if she’d glimpsed Medusa.

“How come there’s no Student Union bar on the campus?”

It was a long drive home.  



Thursday, 17 May 2012

Beware the TAMP!

I used to be a patient man. In my younger days I showed remarkable tolerance for the vagaries of others, remaining serene while those around me would rise to these everyday irritations. But things are changing. That bounder called Age seems to be extracting tolerance from my temperament in the same way as it has been extracting melanin from my once ebony-black hair, rendering me a miserable git (with grey, straw-textured locks).

Take last week. On a visit to the local supermarket it was my misfortune to encounter an increasingly frequent modern day irritant: the think aloud model parent (or TAMP for short). Typically male, and accompanied by at least two precocious children, the TAMP broadcasts a running commentary of his thought processes as if to demonstrate to all those within earshot (and there are many) what a great parent he is.
“Can I have some sweets daddy?” the son asks, in a manner that anticipates (presumably from past experience) the opening of a dialogue.
          “Oh can we?” echoes the daughter.
 The TAMP halts his stride, puts hands on hips and in a loud voice proclaims, “Toby and Isabella, you ate a full packet of chocolate biscuits at your Aunt’s less than an hour ago, and mummy will be very cross if you don’t eat your tea tonight,” looking around as if searching for recognition for his worthy insistence on dietary constraints. Shaking his head to indicate (to any onlookers) his tolerance in continuing to debate the issue, he carries on, “There is way too much fat in those… they’re full of calories, and they will rot your teeth.”

As I escape (jaw-clenched and simmering) into the next aisle, the performance continues. Two minutes later, inadequately shielded by eight feet high shelving, I can just detect his rhetorical, “Your nana is seventy years old next Tuesday… should we get her a birthday card?”  I skip a gangway to exclude the possibility of further encounters. 

I suppose I should be encouraged that parents are routinely communicating with their offspring as equals, and that they take every opportunity to pass on their knowledge and wisdom. Similarly, the increasing prevalence of such patient and devoted guardians of the next generation can only augur well for the future. However, these qualities need not be performed in public places. Outside the home, good parents should be seen and not heard.









Tuesday, 8 May 2012

A moth in my mouth?

          
My senses are on the wane. (Or maybe it’s just my sense?). As that bounder called Age tightens its grubby grasp on my faculties, my perception of the world around me is inexorably becoming less distinct. My senses of touch, taste, smell, hearing and sight are all in decline.

On further reflection, maybe this statement of global deterioration in all five senses is not strictly true. At 53 years old, I am not aware that my sense of smell is any less than it was three decades ago. (But perhaps I’d be the last to know if it was; unknown to me, I might be routinely emitting body odour sufficiently caustic to remove gloss paint). And age has yet to destroy my taste-buds. If anything my sense of taste has improved with advancing years, as evidenced by my recently developed appreciation of Rioja and Caesar salad drizzled in olive oil.

But my other three senses seem to be going west at the speed of the Lone Ranger on an urgent mission to rescue Tonto. Although not yet having resorted to a hearing aid, I regularly ask Mrs Jones to turn up the volume on the television. And on the rare occasions I am obliged to enter into conversations with people from outside my immediate family, I increasingly have to focus on the shape of their mouths so as to lip-read some of the more ambiguous words (such fixed attention typically giving me an expression resembling a psychotic stare).

My sense of touch is dwindling. As my nerve-endings atrophy, I commonly feel numbness in the tips of my fingers and toes. The sensitivity of other, more intimate, parts of my anatomy has dulled and they now require more prolonged stimulation to achieve a reaction (but more about that in a future post!).      

It is, however, my eye-sight that is my greatest concern. Short-sighted, I have worn contact lenses for over twenty years. At each annual check-up, the optician informs me that my vision has deteriorated a bit further and proceeds to over-power one eye and under-power the other so as to enable me to read and drive while wearing my lenses; with each eye performing radically different tasks I fear that soon each will go its own way, leaving me with a squint of monstrous proportion.

Most disturbingly, over recent months I’ve started to see things that aren’t there. Not true hallucinations (the only time that’s ever happened was over 30 years ago while on holiday with my mates in southern Spain when, after a gruelling week of alcohol abuse and sleep deprivation, I “saw” the long-bearded figure of Old Father Time, armed with scythe and hour-glass, squatting at the foot of my bed) but my eyes playing tricks on me. Take last Friday, for example. I was in the bathroom, 10.30 p.m., preparing to go to bed (I know how to party!). After cleaning my teeth with my usual vigour, I slurped a mouthful of water, rinsed, gargled, and spat out into the white porcelain wash-basin. As I dabbed my mouth with a towel, I glanced down into the bowl and was instantly paralysed with horror and disgust. There, in fearsome contrast to the brilliant whiteness of the basin, were the chewed remains of a reddish-brown moth. With a wave of nausea rising within me, I hesitantly groped for a closer inspection, grasping the soggy winged beast between thumb and forefinger. It wasn’t a moth. It was the skin of a kidney bean. Three hours earlier I had eaten a generous portion of Mrs Jones’ home-made chilli con-carne and this blighter must have been stuck like cling-film to my molars throughout the whole of the evening. Nice!       



Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Beware the willy shriveller!

         


I’ve never liked taking medication. The idea of swallowing tablets to remedy some assumed biochemical imbalance has always seemed silly to me. Thinking back 35 years to my biology classes at school, I’m sure I remember the science master telling us that one of the wonders of the human body is its inherent ability to restore balance; as soon as it detects that there is too much (or too little) of something inside us - be it a hormone, a salt or an enzyme – this biochemical miracle that we all inhabit immediately responds to restore the status quo. So it seems to me counter-productive to take tablets of any kind as it must disrupt this natural process.

Throughout the first four decades of my life I generally succeeded in avoiding these toxic chemical intruders. OK, I did imbibe copious quantities of alcohol (just to be sociable) and I assume that, as a child, the docs must have injected me with anesthetic before surgically removing my tonsils, but I did manage to avoid pills of any kind. I even refused to take over-the-counter painkillers for a headache, and goodness knows I suffered many of those.

But age is a sneaky bastard! The rot set in during my early 40s when cold and flu-like symptoms seduced me into more than occasional use of paracetamol in the form of blackcurrant-flavoured “Lemsips”. Shortly after, years of alcohol abuse took its toll and I developed excessive stomach acid that only a daily 10 mg dose of Omeprazole (or Losec) could quench.   

And then the hay-fever struck. For 49 years on this planet I showed no sign of this common allergy. But Age, in all its wisdom, determined from this point on that my immune system should view harmless tree pollen as if they were al-Qaeda terrorists. So each year, come March and April, I am afflicted by light-headedness, my nostrils streaming like two soda siphons and my eyes resembling those of a vampire after feasting on a fulsome virgin. Also, much to the annoyance of Mrs Jones and my two grown-up children, while sitting in the lounge watching TV my recurrent sneezing is extraordinarily loud and accompanied by my legs slowly rising into the air on the inward “Ah” breath only to flop onto the floor on the outward “Choo!”.  Unlike my family, I typically tolerate these symptoms, but last week they were accompanied by a general feeling of malaise and loss of concentration (an unhelpful combination when you are at work) and I reluctantly sought the aid of medication.

I took the anti-histamines on two consecutive days. The inflammation of my throat, nasal cavities and eyes noticeably eased. But I suffered a disturbing side-effect, one that there was no mention of in the accompanying leaflet: my willy shrivelled! Sadly, I’m not blessed with the biggest manhood to begin with, but after taking these anti-histamine toxins I was virtually concave. This medication should come with the warning, “Side-effects may include dry mouth, drowsiness and a tendency to invert the male genitalia.”





I am participating in the Dude Write Starting Lineup this week where you can find some excellent posts by bloggers who happen to be dudes: http://dudewrite.blogspot.com)

        









Monday, 2 April 2012

My children used to need me

My two children used to need me. For long periods of their childhoods if it wasn’t for me they would not have eaten, they would have suffered the agony of ulcerated groins and buttocks caused by prolonged contact with soiled nappies/diapers, and they would have had no means of transport to ferry them in “dad’s taxi” to football practice/sleep-overs at mates’ houses/school discos etc. Now aged 18 and 21, they are both young adults and, despite not yet having left the family home, the direction of dependency is beginning to change; I need them to rely on me, at least some of the time, for me to feel useful.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not an overprotective dad who strives to control my kids’ lives or to deny they are now grown-ups. On the contrary, I bristle with pride when I bring to mind my accomplishments (OK my wife may have also made a contribution, but allow me to claim the credit in my hour of need) in fathering two children, nurturing them through each and every day of their childhoods, and enabling them to become the two contented and decent human beings they are today (granted, my son can sometimes be an obnoxious bastard with both me and Mrs Jones, but he’s yet to bring the police to our door!). 

Anyway, last Sunday evening an image caught my eye that screamed, “Your children don’t need you anymore!” On Sundays I always cook the evening meal for the family (who said I wasn’t a modern man?). Traditional fare, of course, comprising a roast joint, Yorkshire puddings, roast potatoes and veg. As always, I’d prepared enough grub for four and dished up around 6.30 pm. In response to my text prompts that the meal is ready, my 21-year-old son texts back to say he’s still in pub and to put his in the oven so he can eat it upon his return. Simultaneously, 18-year-old daughter phones to inform me that she had recently returned from a spontaneous visit to McDonald’s with her boyfriend and wasn’t hungry, but she may have it later. So just I and Mrs Jones sat to eat at a table set for four, the symbolism of the two vacant seats taunting us that things will never be the same again.

But the image that resonated deep into my psyche confronted me four hours later. At 10.30 pm I entered the kitchen en route to lock the back door as a prelude to retiring for the night. As I glanced to my left the oven light illuminated the picture, framed by the square oven door, of two plated meals (each covered by another plate to prevent drying up) one above the other, like flying-saucers in outer space, each a zillion miles from home with no hope of returning to base. I sighed, turned off the oven and went to bed.           

          

Saturday, 17 March 2012

A different type of brew

Despite being born and raised in a rural area, surrounded by greenery and rugged countryside, it is only over the last couple of years that Mrs Jones and I have started hill walking. Striving for buttocks like iron girders and thighs of chiselled steal, each weekend (except for those times when I can’t be arsed) I tramp the peaks and dales of my locality.

Mrs Jones in the hills of Lancashire, UK
Last Saturday, nearing home in the latter stages of a 10-mile hike, I was heard to proclaim, “I’d kill for a nice cup of tea”. Yes, I was actually getting excited in anticipation of a brew! The same man who, 30 years ago, was a renowned piss-head who would regularly imbibe a gallon-and-a-half of ale on a drunken bender was now getting misty at the prospect of a cuppa. Oh, how things have changed!

                                                                 

Thursday, 1 March 2012

Bedroom Olympics

           
Maybe there was a time when I had more ambitious aims in the bedroom. Nowadays, I try to impress my lover in a different way. My good lady wife, my partner of 31 years, typically retires to bed earlier than I do so by the time I enter the bedroom she is sitting up in bed reading her Hello magazine. I stand facing her at the foot of the bed. Slowly, nay tantalisingly, I begin to undress, removing one item of clothing at a time and letting each drop to the floor. My good lady doesn’t look up, pretending to absorb the glossy-page splendour of Kate Middleton and Prince William. When clad only in my grey, partially perished, George underpants, I pause (a deliberate ploy to ratchet up the tension). Teasingly, I slide my briefs down to my knees and let them drop, but before they hit the floor I stick out my cultured left foot and lampoon them under the elastic waistband. Standing on one leg, with my boxers swinging from my outstretched foot, I bend forwards with my eyes closed and hands behind my back (have you got the picture?) and proceed to flip the undies high into the air. Rotating like a boomerang over my bowed head, without moving my hands from the base of my spine, I catch them just above the nick of my clenched arse.

What a lucky, lucky lady my wife is!

Saturday, 18 February 2012

Age is a sneaky bastard!

Age is a sneaky bastard! Throughout early childhood you strive for more of it, impatiently awaiting the next birthday to click another year onto your gauge and leave infancy trailing in your slipstream. During adolescence the desire to get older becomes more urgent. As a 14-year-old schoolboy I would dream each night about Janet in the Lower 6th Form (or Year 12 as it is now called), her moist breath on my neck, my hand stroking her silky thigh. But sadly it was all fantasy; as she was 3 years my senior I didn't stand a chance, her sexual desires apparently being satiated by a hairy builder in his early 20s who would often wait for her at the school-gates.
Around the age of 18 something remarkable happens. Age changes its position. Until this point you have been vainly chasing it, struggling in its wake, not quite being able to catch up with it. But as you enter the era of legal drinking, Age executes a devious manoeuvre. Imperceptibly, it allows you to overtake it before  crouching immediately behind you. Constantly in your shadow, you can't see it and are unaware of its presence. Through the next 25 years you rarely even think about it, complacently unaware of advancing years and the impostor on your tail sniggering silently to itself as it anticipates the great reveal   Then at some point, typically around your mid 40s, the bounder lurches from its hiding place, stands brazenly in front of you and screams, "You're old!" Stunned by this revelation you check yourself out in a full-length mirror. The bastard's right! The hair is greying, and receding a bit at the sides. Your smile reveals yellowy stumps where once there were sparkling pillars of ivory. Chest hair no longer shouts "this is a proper man" but is overly long and meandering, as if confused, specked with white, and instead seems to mumble, "has been". Emerging below this wild shrubbery, your gut swells like a giant, puss-filled abscess.

More intimate examination leads to further disappointments. You've lost your arse, your once steely buttocks re-molded into flattened discs so as to render any style of trouser baggy. Worse, your manhood resembles a slug that has endured three boil-wash cycles in your Hotpoint automatic. And as for your balls, they are swinging so low it is a wonder they don't mimic a pair of depth-charges when you sit on the toilet.

Yes, the passage of time is unrelenting. I am now 53 years old. But increasing age not only changes our physical appearance, it also impacts on our feelings and perceptions, sometimes making us experience day-to-day events in peculiar ways. It is these experiences I would like to share with you by means of this blog.

I will regularly describe specific aspects of my day-to-day life that seem indicative of that sneaky bastard called Age making mischief with my thoughts, emotions and behaviour. I hope you enjoy reading them. I would greatly appreciate your comments on anything that I write. Also, I would be delighted if anyone wishes to share their own experiences relating to menopausal man. Maybe you've found yourself reacting in a way  (to your wife, son, daughter, work colleague) that brings home to you the fact that you are getting older? Or perhaps you've experienced a surprising emotional reaction to a comment or situation that would, in your younger days, have been commonplace and benign? Please share them with me on this blog. Although the focus is on the male psyche, I don't want to exclude the female of the species. So ladies, please feel free to post your observations about the men in your life, their ways and idiosyncracies, that suggest that they've reached that "funny age."

Thank you for reading Bryan Jones Diary.