Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Adventures in Fatherhood

Before the arrival of my little boy I was quite afraid. If the wife’s pregnancy and the upcoming labour wasn’t enough to keep me constantly on edge, then the advice from family, friends, work colleagues, the NCT group and random strangers down the pub about the post-birth after-life was almost enough to send me rolling down the cliff-side. All I had to look forward to from this point to the end of eternity was incessant mountains of poo, sleep deprivation, an end to all social activity and incessant mountains of poo (so important it needs to be said twice). Not to mention that if the little man had colic then I would effectively rise one morning after a month of non-stop crying as something resembling a shuffling brain-eating zombie.  

And for a time at the beginning of this new adventure I thought they would be right. At the birth, my boy came out covered in poo. Typical! He was also fairly ill for his first the ten days in the world, spending a short time in the hospitals neonatal intensive care unit (a really humbling experience) and needing a course of antibiotics to overcome the illness. The antibiotics had an unfortunate after affect. On his third day the little one would plaster my right arm with fiery orange liquid death that was fired like an Exocet missile from his tiny little bottom. It could have been a full-on chest shot except the squeak of a fart encouraged me to take a side-step. Most of the evil just arched across the room instead, destroying the wall on the other-side (a good nine feet away). I’d never seen anything like it. The tiny extra bit he squeezed out for simple chuckles after the main course still haunts me to this day. Walking into the nurses’ ward to ask for help I felt like the guy from Robocop who crashes his van into a tub of toxic waste. “Help me, I’m melting…”

Luckily, such early encounters with unbelievable amounts of baby poo have guarded me well for all future nappy changing events. Rather than freak-out like a complete goof, I made the decision that where the little one was concerned I’d simply suck it in (an intake of breath, not the poo) and get on with things. As such, I’m now a Zen master of nappy changing! More to the point it shows for all the stuff people tell you prior to the birth, you really don’t know how you’re going to deal with things until you’re actually in the danger zone. Thinking about changing nappies during the wife’s pregnancy made me feel icky; post-birth, what’s the big fucking deal!

Yes, he is a rubbish sleeper and my social activity has been reduced to virtually nothing; people were not wrong about that. I originally thought, rather naively, that babies arrived from the womb fully understanding the sleep process. Do. They. Bollocks! No, you have to train them how to sleep, which is pretty much like attempting to train a puppy not to lick their plums. Yet even here there are hidden bonuses. I’ve worked out I can survive through the day on just four hours of sleep and remain effective at work, rather than wander around like a perpetually clueless goon. Likewise, although my social-life has been stunted this has had a great effect on my physique. I feel more energised from avoiding beer, not to mention the weekend hangover has been vanquished, and I’m much thinner and fitter than before.

Which makes me question, why does no one tell you about these benefits before having a baby? Why is it always ‘covered in poo’, ‘you’ll be walking about like a zombie’ and ‘the first few months are hell’? Additionally, why does no one tell you about the wonderful things that happen as your child slowly grows into himself? Perhaps it’s down to the simple joy of letting you find out and experience the more amazing things for yourself, at undisclosed times when you’re least expecting it.

A case in point, the other week I was moving a suitcase which involved raising the metal handle into its full position so that it could be easily pulled along the floor. So, I raised the handle up, got distracted by something and slammed it back down into the hidden position. The little tinker was watching on and decided this was the funniest thing he had ever seen. The belly laugh and his chuckling were so infectious I did it again. And again. And again. In total I did this with the suitcase handle about 20 times and the little man’s uncontrolled joy never ceased; he just kept chuckling away like a gibbon. The action I was carrying out was not in the remotest bit funny, but in a child’s world it was a moment of wonder and sheer amazement. Oh, to be a child again, huh?

So, almost nine months of being a father have passed and he’s already standing himself up and cruising with the aid of furniture. It’s been an incredible journey so far. Here's to the next set of adventures as he grows into a toddler. Although, if at all possible, if you could avoid hosing me down with liquid shit again, that would be nice…!

Saturday, 10 September 2011

Where's Wall-E?

There is quite a bit of shit on the Internet. UFO fanatics, conspiracy theory lunatics, anti-vivisectionists with a God complex, vegetarians, creationists, white supremacists, Fox News and similar have caused cyberspace to become a minefield of mis-information, factoids and ignorance. I’ve encountered idiots that have summarised the complex societal and cultural factors that led to the Rwandan genocide as little more than ‘blacks killing blacks’; accidentally found myself on websites that believe Karl Marx’s ‘Communist Manifesto’ is really one of the ten most evil books ever committed to print; and regularly have to contend with Man Utd numpties that cannot deal with the fact that 18+5 is greater than 19+3! I feel sorry for the children that will grow up regularly using this resource without the necessary skill to identify bias and bullshit from the reality. And with fewer young people opting to take history at GCSE or beyond every year, a generation of unthinking simpletons that take the Internet at face value is all the more likely.

Anyway, I digress. Every now and then when trawling through a river of shit, you tend to locate a solid gold nugget of awesome. Cyberspace is no different. For every ill-informed opinion, there is generally something astounding to come across online that makes you think humanity stands a half-decent chance. My first encounter with this phenomenon was a simple online personality test (which, sadly, no longer exists). It was incredible due to its 100% successful hit rate. You simply filled in some details about yourself, answered some easy questions and though a complex algorithm the test immediately identified your personality type. No matter who or the details and answers submitted, the Windows pop-up generated at the end of the test was deadly accurate. ‘You are a cunt’ it would always say. Utter genius.

To this day it’s those little gems that keep my cyber existence sane. Lately it’s been the simple joy of a ‘Where’s Wally’ double page illustration, albeit supplanted with ‘Wall-E’ from the Pixar movie hidden amongst a host of other well known robots. It’s great! For a start, if you don’t like Wall-E then you obviously have no soul. Secondly, once you’ve found the little bugger (not really that difficult) you get the added bonus of attempting to name every single robot in the illustration. It’s a simple and effective yet highly entertaining concept that provides the same child-like endearment the original Wally illustrations provided. There’s Gort, Kryten, Twiki, The Terminator, the boxes from Terrorhawks, Bender, Tik-Tok, evil Bill and Ted, Robby the Robot, R2, C-3PO and many more. Try it. With your inner-child refreshed you can then look forward to tackling the jism-monkeys and skunk pussies of the Internet with renewed vigour…

Sunday, 4 September 2011

LARPing around...

So, what did you get up to over the bank holiday weekend? Pitch up a tent in a wet, muddy camp and stoke the fire-pit into action? Put on some light armour and tool up with a host of sword and sorcery weaponry? Teleport into a nefarious Liche’s tower? Hounded from pillar to post by undead monstrosities and ‘cleaners’ looking to feast upon your soul? Search for a phylactery and make your escape before being turned into a brain-eating zombie? Drunk a shitload of mead and had many a chuckle with like minded people, whilst maintaining a healthy fear of death?

None of the above? In which case the endless rain probably made for a miserable weekend of staying indoors and being bored stupid on the Internet. I pity you. If you haven’t already guessed, I spent the weekend in rather more enjoyable fashion. Investing some quality time with my inner geek! Since the August bank holiday of 2003 said weekend has been the one time a year where I kit out in ranger garb (medium armour, a camp underarm scout bag, latex sword and warhammer, hero belt, etc), forget about the real world and all its associated problems and look to survive the terrors the world of live action role-play has in store for me. 

No, not re-enactment; live action role-play. The difference is your destiny is fixed in re-enactment. In live action role-play you create your own character, make your own choices and decisions, build your skills slowly and hope to live through the weekend despite your own failings and foibles. I’ve been playing the same character for nine years now and am amazed to still be alive (although there have been some close calls). In contrast my brother attended his first event this bank holiday and didn’t survive the second day! Fickle are the Larping Gods (or duck next time you melon). In this time I’ve had a mage-bolt through the head for plastering Life of Brian inspired graffiti all over the white wall of some bastard at The Gathering; owned the only enchanted weapon in the Balrog system at the time – a shorter than short talking short-sword that’s about as much use as a chocolate fireguard when all the monsters use pole arms; and seen my old uni housemate grind out a pole-dance in front of a horny ogre in nothing but a red g-string. The retinas are still burning from that experience.

I also run about like a total loon for some reason. That’s probably down to the leather armour getting tighter and chaffing more each year, telling me that I’m turning into a right fat bastard and really should do something about it. So, faced against a heavily armoured merchant of death, who also happens to be an expert weapon user and has a gazillion hit points (to my five), rather than stand my ground and fight I’ll usually sprint uphill to tire the enemy out. For the exercise of course, not because I’m some kind of big girly wuss. And whilst I did return home thinner the real bonus of this tactic was the point where, just as the nasty beasty was about to finally take a swing with his sword and catch me, he instead stacked it and crumpled to a pathetic heap on the ground, much to the jubilation of my fellow warriors. That I turned around and got a couple of swift low blows in whilst he was getting back to his feet says more for my undead opponent than for my combat skills. Running about is tiring stuff (my thighs were still aching two days later from all the sprinting); when this character is finally killed off I’m going to grow old gracefully and replace him with a mage.

Still another year, another partially successful campaign! Although I entered the portal to escape the tower with my right arm knackered, my armour needing extensive repairing and my lungs lodged firmly in my oesophagus, a hero’s welcome would greet the party on our return to Passegem (a location in Yarm, of course). Except I forgot to think of ‘Passegem’ as I entered the portal. Instead, I was thinking of ‘water’ (all that running about is thirsty work). So, on the otherside I’m expecting to land in either a muddy puddle, the middle of a lake, or worse yet, a large expanse of water known as an ocean. Why didn’t I just think ‘tits’?

Anyway, I got back to work on Thursday and all I could think about is how thoroughly mundane the real world is. Oh well, only another 350 odd days left until I can unleash the full geek again (sigh)...