Stress purchase…..




We went shopping yesterday. Or, should I say, C went shopping yesterday and I went with her. We went to John Lewis’. We went shopping for knickers. For her of course. I only ever wear very manly underpants. Even in private and when no one is looking…

We went shopping for nickers and cosmetics – some kind of “mask thing” which never sees the light of day when I am home and comes complete with a “tool”. Don’t ask. A mask which, and I quote, “literally concentrates on absolutely everything”. That must be one very troubled mask. Just Donald Trump alone must be sapping most of its concentration…. But I am confident that my wife’s ever youthful and wrinkle free appearance (and the product’s exorbitant price tag) must mean that the said mask is doing what it is supposed to.

I really don’t mind shopping. I normally get a reward at the end, such as a pizza and a Peroni. So, I don’t normally mind shopping. Unless it is shoe shopping. I hate shoe shopping. Men get taken shoe shopping by their partners when they have done something really bad and need to be punished.

The author (for strangely it was a man) of Men Are From Mars, Women Are from Venus could have had a very successful sequel just analysing the different sexes’ approaches to the procurement of footwear.

When men buy shoes they go to the nearest shoe shop; select the pair of shoes which most closely resembles the pair they have been wearing for the last five years until they became so creased, scuffed and worn that the repair man who doubles as a key cutter refuses to go near them; try on said shoes; and, as long as the customary walk to the poorly located foot mirror doesn’t cripple you, buy said shoes. In and out in less than five minutes.

Unlike the female of the species…..

When women buy shoes they start at the shop furthest away from where we parked the car and then proceed to visit every shoe shop in town, selecting shoes which are an almost exact facsimile of at least three pairs that have been living under the bed at home without seeing sunlight for the last six months, getting distracted by handbags and scarves, before insisting that the first pair they tried on five hours earlier in the shop furthest away from the carpark was the pair that they absolutely must have.

But, thankfully we were shopping for knickers not shoes.

In C’s defence this was a very efficient shop. Apart from the brief detour to acquire the mask with tool we went straight to the underwear department. As with every other husband in the store I adopted the position – walking just two steps behind my good lady.

This slight lagging behind has significant advantages – your partner remains oblivious to the increasing look of despair on your face (it has been proved that 20 minutes of shopping drives men to the point of total boredom); you can sneak peeks at your phone to check out the latest football score; and, it provides just sufficient distance to perform a body swerve when your partner makes a random, unexpected change of direction when distracted by a handbag or the ubiquitous scarf.

I have even heard say that some men hang back so as to be able check out other women without their partner being aware. Well, I don’t know about that but I often give a smug look followed by a stern stare when I catch other men checking out my own lovely….

Upon arrival at the underwear section C suggested that I might like to choose a pair of knickers I would like to see her in and I was duly dispatched to make my choice.

Not only would I now be expected to make a fashion choice but one with sexual undertones (perhaps even overtones!). And, I had been let loose unaccompanied in the underwear department, where most men (note most….) only go to watch sexy women shopping for underwear, allegedly….. So I would have to make a stress purchase under the gaze of women who assumed I was a pervert. Thankfully Heidi Klum came to my rescue…..


Another male v female shopping difference – women try on underwear before buying! How is that hygienic? And so, while C took several pairs of smalls to the changing room, I went and sat in the chair of shame.

This particular seating area was quite different to most of the seating areas outside of non-sexy undergarment changing rooms. Normally men laden down with children, shopping bags and trolleys sit, avoiding eye contact, staring at their phones, with some, apparently, trying not to get caught checking out the prettier shop assistants or the wives of their fellow recliners, until their own wife surfaces at the entrance and asks “what do you think?” . Just watch the colour drain and be replaced by the look of terror as every man tries to guess what the appropriate answer to that most leading question might be…….

No, this seating area was in the corner, straddled by John Lewis’ own range of lacey undies, bras, basques, night attire and thongs. They were so close that they were almost flapping in my face as the shop assistants wafted in and out. The chair was strategically positioned so that I would have to squirm and shift my feet to allow every woman shopping for lingerie to pass by me. And they all did so with a look of “pervert” shot in my direction before I averted my attention back to my phone and the football.

But at least I got a pizza and a Peroni….

January 25, 2016 at 8:15 pm Leave a comment

2015 in review

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2015 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 47,000 times in 2015. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 17 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

December 30, 2015 at 12:11 pm Leave a comment

The aftermath of Christmas….

It is that strange time between Christmas and New Year. The time between the one celebration and the other. Where an albeit muted overindulgence is still allowed ahead of all-too-briefly adhered to resolutions.

The flood waters still cover much of the North and the weather reports warn of worse to come in the form of storm Frank. And with it the threat of more disorientated southern politicians venturing into the Northern wilderness with their borrowed North Face waterproofs, buffed Hunters, and a northern dialect translator talking to them in their earpiece. Everyone of those politicians is in need of a bedside manner , a combover, and a flood defence policy which is morse sensible and long term than “build the walls bigger” and “leave the floodplain and evacuate Yorkshire”. Imagine the misery that would inflict on the rest of the country. The politicians might want to consider planting a tree or two, and stop straightening the rivers….

By now the relatives have long gone. A few more needles and the odd piece of shattered bauble surround the base of a tree where once presents were piled.

Dustbins and recycling bins everywhere are overflowing with wrapping paper, envelopes, and enough food wastage to have fed an African village for a month or to give Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall nightmares for even longer. It is unclear when they will be emptied and they are now positioned as far from the house as possible, still attracting flies in this unfeasibly mild winter.

Indoors the house is infused with a heady mix of spent spiced candles, stale alcohol, the fading whiff of turkey leftovers, and dank, damp sprouts which still hangs heavy in the air. The fridge is almost empty except for the strong odour of blue cheese, an open jar of cranberry sauce, an unwanted pot of Gentleman’s relish, and a tub of brandy butter looking for a long-since departed mince pies.

It is only possible to determine what day of the week it is by cross-referencing the shows on the TV with the now well-thumbed copy of the Radio Times. And even that is an imprecise science and require a station-specific scrutiny due to the endless re-runs of Top Gear and the Doctor Who Christmas special.

And, the post-festive gloom is still aglow with the twinkle of fairy lights.

Despite the now compulsory obsession with our weight, thoughts turn to trips to the supermarket to replenish stocks of alcohol before the prohibition and good intention of the post-New Year period kicks in. Couples across the land are going into withdrawal, having finished their last box of Thorntons Classics Marvellous Mint Favourites and the Champagne Truffles from the hamper; and the tension is mounting as conversation will need to replace the safety and comfort of the box set, now that we are down to the last episode of the Man in the High Castle.

But it has been a good Christmas shared with family and friends in good humour, generosity and affection. And now, thoughts are turning to the challenges, possibilities, probabilities and opportunities of the New Year. A chance to change. A chance to improve. A chance to be better. I wonder where we will be this time next year…….?

Let’s hope it’s a good one!

December 29, 2015 at 5:49 pm 1 comment

Merry Christmas Everyone!


Tis the day before Christmas and the shelves of the fridge are straining under the weight of their mixed bounty of lactose free, and gluten free, and pregnancy friendly produce, and fizz and wine…..

Many more dairy products are awaiting the departure of our neighbour J, who is traveling to spend the holidays with friends and has kindly offered her kitchen, fridge and cooker as an overflow facility, which is much needed.

The presents are wrapped. The turkey crown has been collected – it is always a rather tense affair relying upon the rather disorganised but excellent butcher to have fulfilled the turkey order. And, already the kitchen is a flurry of chopping and smells of Christmas spices as C prepares the red cabbage ahead of time.

I have been banished to the sofa.

Outside a gale is blowing and the rain is lashing as Storm Eva looms every closer and I am slowly drying out after braving the early morning run to Waitrose and the aforementioned purveyor of fine meats.

It was not quiet the usual chaos, but the carpark was still a relatively tense affair as people who had perhaps had one too many the night before mixed with those enjoying a sugar hit after a breakfast of mince pies topped with brandy butter while trying to manoeuvre delicately into tight spaces.

There was the occasional trolley rage incident as spatially unaware pensioners clashed with hungover husbands who were in control of a shopping trolley for the first time since last Christmas. It was particularly fraught around the salad bay, where many a housewife stared in defeat and bemusement at shelves bereft of lambs lettuce; and as people fought to push through the ranks of those queuing to collect their pre-ordered dressed crab and turkeys.

The TV news is full of flooding in Cumbria, the fall of Sangin to the Taliban, the petulance of Louis van Gaal, and domestic violence. Radio 4 is trying to redress the balance somewhat with tales of toboggan makers, people singing festive songs, and a piece on strange places that people are forced to sleep when staying with relatives at Christmas – on the kitchen floor in front of the washing machine under a princess duvet is the best so far.

Peace on Earth and goodwill to all? Maybe not.

So, as I lounge here awaiting my turn in the kitchen to conjure cranberry sauce, while looking forward to the arrival of our first guests, I do a mental check of things still to do for this Christmas present; I spare a thought to Christmases past; and, I contemplate the prospects for all those Christmases still to come.

It is still quite early so I will raise only an imaginary glass to all my family and friends and wish you all a merry, merry, merry Christmas!

December 24, 2015 at 10:43 am Leave a comment

Memories of Christmas Past

Middle Man

Christmas dinner

I have always loved Christmas. Money was always tight but my parents and Santa always tried very hard between them to make my childhood Christmases very special.

My childhood Christmases were homemade. It was a family affair. Mom made her own mince pies and sausage rolls. Grandma made the cake, which my Aunty decorated, and my great aunt made the pudding. The rum sauce with it did not come from Waitrose in a plastic tub with either. Waitrose was not even a twinkle in John Lewis’ eye back then.

We even got our turkey from my mom’s cousins who were farmers. And, for much of the seventies at least, the sprouts, carrots, parsnips and potatoes were grown in the vegetable patch in our back garden.

My sister would be glued to Blue Peter and produce a variety of homemade decorations – chains of coloured paper and balls made from old Christmas cards…

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December 21, 2015 at 5:30 pm Leave a comment

The Day the Music Died….


At a time when the West is holding its breath, while rattling its nuclear sabres, as Brussels is in lockdown and Paris and Beirut are in mourning following horrendous terrorist attacks, it was a relief to find a gentile tranquility in the exquisite little cinema of Curzon Knutsford.

As part of C’s birthday celebration, we went to see The Lady in the Van.

Spectre it wasn’t. Star Wars it isn’t. And it lacks the political intrigue and tension of Bridge of Spies. OK, I have only seen one of those movies but I think that the ground I am on is safe.

The Lady in the Van is a period piece based on a true story and set in Camden, London in the 1970s and 80s.

It begins with a murder (not) and is a tale of Communists exploiting the literary gay scene of the capital; of police corruption; of nuns cast aside to live homeless on the streets of London. And, as Don McLean foretold, of a dystopian future/past in which the music died.

Starring James Corden and a Robin Reliant, this film is better than both cinematic heavyweights, Noah and Mad Max.

C and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

The experience was made even more special as we were surrounded by Cheshire’s blue rinse brigade.

We were the youngest there by a good twenty years.

The atmosphere was a heady mix of germaline and, aptly, talcum powder. Our viewing interrupted only by the occasional rustle of a colostomy bag and a Werther’s Original being gummed during a particularly tense or moving scene.

Loved it. Go and see it!

November 22, 2015 at 8:54 pm 1 comment

Lest We Forget……

Middle Man

In no particular order……

Joseph Hoolahan (1877-1915), Private, 2nd battalion Cheshire Regiment, killed in action in Flanders after just four weeks action – C’s Great Grandfather.

Albert William Jones (1893 – 1960), Sapper Royal Engineers, served in the Egyptian Expeditionary Force in North Africa alongside Lawrence of Arabia’s force, mentioned in despatches for gallantry in 1918 – my grandfather.

John Humphries (1912 – 1991), Lance Corporal Royal Artillery, served in Dover Naval Defence in World War Two – my grandfather.

William Henry Woods (1921 – 1943), Able Seaman HMS Quail, killed in action in the Adriatic when struck by a mine laid by U-413 – my great-uncle.

Les Wynne (1934 – 2011), Royal Marine Commando, 42nd Commando, served in Korea, Malaya and the Canal Zone – my uncle.

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November 8, 2015 at 10:32 am Leave a comment

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