Friday, 1 November 2013

From Reggie Perrin to Alan Sugar

It's been a long time coming. But I have finally thrown off the shackles of employment and have taken the leap into self employment.

This prospect is a nerve racking one but at the same time fills me with a level of excitement that I haven't experienced in a while.

For those of you who regularly read this blog and follow me on twitter, you'll know that the last year has been a tricky one at Chateux Hapless. The arrival of two children, a period of significant ill health and redundancy for Mrs Hapless and significant workplace stress of my own has resulted in my very own "Annus Horribilis". Apparently this doesn't mean fat arse, it actually means a "crap year" in Latin. I nicked it off the Queen.

Either way, the last year has seen my own, hard fought, successful career go down the toilet due to my own health issues. This has resulted in significant uncertainty in the Hapless household and not a small amount of worry, to say the least.

The thing is every cloud has a silver lining. This may be an over used expression but in this case it's true.

Mrs Hapless, with the strength of a maternally outraged Gorilla, has returned to the workplace at the same level she was before having kids. Quite a triumph given the cut throat industry she excels in and her significant health issues over the last few years.

I have discovered that my health problems this year and my resultant career implosion was a blessing in disguise. It has forced me to really consider the person I am, what's really important to me and how I can make things work for myself and my family. This has revealed a few important things.

Firstly I do not give a rats ass about 'career'. I always suspected as much but I know for sure now. I do care about working and I do care about earning. The fact is I would spend my time shovelling shit if it paid me a good wage. I'm not interested in what people think about what I do, because it's not something that influences my own opinions of others. I judge people on who they are and how they behave, not what they do, or what they drive, or where they live. People who believe they are better than someone else based on such things make me feel very sad, slightly nauseous and I have the strangest desire to beat them around the head with a steak tenderiser.

I do care about success. I do believe whatever you do you should put in the required effort to be the best you can be. Success comes in so many forms. For some it is the right car in the company car park. For others it is the flexibility to spend more time with family and friends. You must decide what your definition of success is and do whatever you can to achieve it. The last year has helped me to clarify what I see as success. Not in the eyes of others, but in my eyes, because that's all that really matters. When all is said and done you have to look at yourself in the mirror every day and be happy with the person that looks back.

So what have I learned?

Well, and I think I knew this in my heart already, I'm really not very good at working for other people. All managers are shit, just in different ways. I know this because I have been a very successful manager numerous times and I am a complete arse. The fact is if you have a boss, whatever your relationship, he or she will make you do stuff you don't want to do. That is the basic function of management. Don't confuse this with leadership. Leadership is just a poncey way of saying you give people a load of extra work to do but then fuck off when it needs to be done.

The second thing I've learned is that if you have the right motivation and the right skills you can achieve anything. Since I have been ill I met a couple of young lads who had set up a business. I spent a number of years in sales and business management before I entered the teaching profession. So I agreed to help them out. I am really proud to say that the help I have provided has helped turn an idea into a fully functioning and successful business. More importantly it has given me the confidence that things can be done if you just go for it. These lads are inspirational in terms of what they have achieved and the hard work they have put in to make a success of themselves.

I knew I was enjoying helping out with this project but I never thought it would give me the tools to develop a business idea of my own. But it has!!

I am now owner and managing director (chuckle) of WeBlog4You. WeBlog4You provides outsourced blog content, sponsored blog posts and twitter account management to small and medium sized companies. All companies, however small, have a website. What I didn't realise was that good quality, regularly updated blog content can improve your rankings on search engines such as google. Small business owners have the skills to run their business but they may not have the writing ability and, most importantly the time, to run a blog. I, on the other hand, do. In a very short space of time I have secured a number of contracts to provide blog content and arrange sponsored posts. I wouldn't say I was earning enough to retire just yet, or even enough to buy brand name chocolate hob nobs, but things really are moving in the right direction.

So there you have it! From corporate slave to business owner as quick as you can say, "flat broke at the moment".

I may never make a fortune. But I know that everything is down to me, one way or the other. Some might find that rather scary. I find it empowering and exhilarating.

I will keep you posted dear reader.

Now, on with some paid work instead of chatting to you lot.

Hapless Dad.

I you work for a company who may benefit from my help or you are an established blogger looking for sponsored post opportunities follow me on twitter @WeBlog4You or visit the web site at

Sunday, 20 October 2013

The secret to happiness

I was about to say it's the crack of dawn. But that would be a lie given that dawn hasn't arrived yet.

However, even at this ungodly hour, the entire Hapless household is up and about. Mrs Hapless has already gone to work. Female child is watching Peppa Pig. Male child is sat in his own filth making a noise like an aeroplane. A typical Monday morning.

I spend an awful lot of time moaning about how early I have to get up in the morning. In fact I'm now so used to getting up before 6 that, on the odd occasion when I sleep till after 7 I wake up in a blind panic feeling like I'm incredibly late for something.

This morning my daughter woke up early to try to see her mum before she went off to work. After Mrs Hapless left I explained to my daughter that, it was still incredibly early, so if she wanted she could go back to bed and get some more sleep. She!

As she answered something occurred to me that I've never really considered before. I always thought that young kids just didn't need as much sleep as adults, and that's true. However there is a far more compelling reason that your children get up early.

It's more fun to be up than in bed!!

I know. Read that sentence again really carefully. For small children, it is better to be up and about than in bed sleeping. That's why as soon as they stir awake they bounce from their bedrooms like the Tasmanian Devil on speed. For an adult that is a mind blowing concept to try to get your head around.

When I wake up I feel like a bag of spanners! However much sleep I've had and whatever the quality I always wake up feeling like I've only had 10 minutes sleep after a long night shift working in an abattoir.

The fact is, the life of a small child is an absolute hoot!! They get up early because their day is a great laugh from start to finish. For small children it is genuinely better to be up than it is to be in bed.

At this point I could get all Dalai Lama on your ass!! I could talk in terms of living in the now and seeing the enjoyment in everything you do! This is true of course. Young children live exclusively in the now. They also find the enjoyment in every single activity they do.

However I want to take things a stage further. I'm going to make an assertion which will explain how children are always happy and why, for most adults, life is going to be a massive pain in the arse!!

The secret to happiness is being as thick as shit!

That's right dear reader. The secret to having a happy and blissful existence is to be as thick as a whale omelette.

Now let me be clear at this point. Both my children are very intelligent.............. for kids. The fact is at their age they know absolutely fuck all about anything. Here are some examples.
  1. They don't know what day it is.
  2. They can't tell the time.
  3. They can't read or write, to any useful degree.
  4. They can't use a telephone, unless it's to phone the Fire Brigade by accident.
  5. They don't understand money.
  6. They believe in Father Christmas.
So, whilst they are very intelligent children, using a scale common to all they are in fact thick as you like!!

This means that in reality, young kids haven't got a bloody clue what's going on. If Wales was occupied by an aggressive foreign dictatorship tomorrow adults with half a brain would be scared witless. Small children and thick people would be starring out of the window excitedly looking at all the shiny tanks!

So being thick is a great aid to happiness. When you haven't got the faintest idea how shit things are it's much easier to have a smile on your face.

I'm going to take this a stage further. Not only are young kids thick, but they also have absolutely everything done for them. How much better would your life be if you had a team of domestic servants geared up to service your every whim at any time of the day or night.

This dear reader is the life of a small child. At home, at school, at friends houses, at their grandparents, everyone spends their entire time providing small children with exactly what they want whenever they want it. Imagine for a moment what this would be like as an adult. Imagine a world where waking up meant that someone would provide you with a day of activities designed to be fun for you, provide you with your clothes, help you get dressed, feed you, sing songs to you, read you a story, run you a lovely bath and buy you a hamster if you ask often enough.

No wonder kids are so bloody happy all the time.

So in summary, the secret to happiness is having the IQ of a sock and a team of willing servants on call 24hrs a day.

I guess that must be what it's like for the Royal Family.

I've lost my mojo

It's official,  I have lost my blogging mojo!

The question is, what's the best way to get it back? The answer: write about it.

When I first started this blog the objective was simple. To get my writing seen by as many people as possible. I was in a period of transition in my life. A rather turbulent period if I'm honest. My solution was to take my hobby, writing, and try to make a living out of it.

I sought advice from people I knew who were making money out of their writing, whether as feature writers or authors. All said the same thing. Get a blog up and running and get yourself on twitter.

It took me a while to get my ever more flabby arse in gear, but I got there in the end.

At the start it was all about the writing and all about the numbers. I began to develop a serious and crippling addiction to my blogger stats. I got more and more excited as more and more people read what I produced and, most importantly, seemed to like it. As far as twitter was concerned I revelled in every milestone. The first hundred, then two hundred, then three hundred followers arrived rather quickly. Every time I tweeted about a piece I had written there was a marked increase in page views on my blog. I got extremely excited when I reached my first 10,000 page views. I got some stuff featured on big web sites. I got some quality followers. I also made some friends.

So what's the problem?

Well, it's all to do with effort. You see whilst my twitter Avi is not actually a picture of me it does sum me up. I genuinely believe that any problem in life can be solved by sitting down and eating a biscuit. That's if the off licence is closed of course.

The thing is to take a blog from 10,000 page views a year to 10,000 page views a month requires significant effort. It is, to all intents and purposes, a full time job. You can't just post good content. That's not enough, it never has been. You need to work hard to get your writing seen by as many people as possible. Twitter comes into play here too. I have a very modest number of followers. To increase your followers into the thousands and tens of thousands takes an incredible amount of hard work. It becomes your life.

This is the first post I've written for some weeks. At the beginning I was posting almost every day. I certainly never posted less than three times a week.

This is definitely not an unusual situation. Bloggers losing their mojo is definitely a common thing. Just google it and you'll see plenty of examples of bloggers who are struggling with this or have overcome it at various stages of their blogging journey.

 People experience it for different reasons. Sometimes the effort of coming up with new, fresh material all the time can just get too much. Sometimes the high experienced when one of your posts gets a great response loses it's impact. Sometimes you just haven't got the time in your busy schedule to make the most of your blog.

For me, it's something different. I'm struggling to be clear on the point of the blog. Is it to make money? Is it to publicise my writing? Is it just for fun? Is it an online diary?

The goal of your blog will very much dictate your approach.

If you want to make money out of it you must have as many followers and page views as is humanly possible. It is your way of persuading individuals that your blog is worth using to publicise their products and services. To be honest I've never really been into that. I felt that using my blog for sponsored posts and advertising would limit what I wanted to say and how I wanted to say it.

My original goal was to get my writing 'out there' with a view to developing a freelance career. What I have found is that there is very little relationship between the two. Yes blogging does give you the chance to develop your writing to provide content that your readers will like. However, every piece I have had published was achieved via other means. No one from the Daily Mail has read my blog and offered me a column - I think they have enough lunatics contributing already.

If you blog for fun, it's much more straight forward. If your goal is simply to enjoy writing, the stats mean nothing and it doesn't really matter if no one reads it. This gives you an incredible amount of flexibility in terms of what you write and how often.

I think for me, that is the key. I started blogging in the first place because I simply enjoyed writing. It was a happy coincidence that people enjoyed reading.

For those of you who visit this blog on a regular basis I promise normal service will resume very shortly.

For those of you who don't read my blog, this sentence is a bit of a waste of time.

Hapless Dad.

P.S What happens to parent bloggers when the kids grow up and bugger off? Has blogging been going long enough for us to find out?

Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Party bags should contain smallpox..

My son turned 6 years old on the 22nd of September. I turned 41 a few days later. Birthdays are always a time of reflection, particularly when you are in the throws of a world class mid life crisis. You spend endless hours reflecting on how to trade your MPV in for a sports car, how to sew in a pony tail or whether those leather trousers look as good now as they did in the shop.

This year my son had a party with a friend and it was on a different day to his birthday, for ease of organisation.

On his actual birthday we had a fantastic day. There was much excitement in the Hapless household as presents were opened and Happy birthday sung to the rafters. We had a lovely lunch out, somewhere that really makes a fuss of kids and we went bowling with another family and their two children. It was a fantastic day. Kids and parents enjoyed themselves.

Then came the party!

I must stress this is not a rant about the nightmare that is kids parties. Everyone knows they are horrendous. If you are in any doubt ask some of your childless friends to come along and watch the excuses role in.

A kids party, particularly if hosted in a soft play venue is basically 'Lord of the Flies' but with extra sugar. What seems like hundreds of children are let loose on the set of Total Wipeout without any real supervision. Yes you are there but lets be honest the whole point of soft play is that your kids can be entertained without you having to do any work.

However there were a couple of things that really struck me this year which I hadn't noticed before.

Firstly 'the party season' involves you spending every weekend in exactly the same place with exactly the same children, exactly the same parents, exactly the same party food and exactly the same cake hastily bought at the local ASDA whilst en route.

The party will be a shared event between up to a thousand children who's birthdays are anything up to three weeks before or after the date of the party. All the parents will complain about having to spend another weekend in this madness.

Which begs the question, why don't we just have one party for everyone on the first of September? Nobody has the party on their actual birthday so what difference does it make? Until the kids are old enough to choose who they want to spend their birthday with you end up inviting the entire class, including all the arseholes. So why not just get it all out of the way in one go? Apart from freeing up every single weekend between now and July parents will save an absolute fortune as the costs will be shared. You can then spend the actual birthday doing your own thing which is what you would have done anyway, party or not!

The second thing that really struck me this year was the ludicrous party bag/present giving situation.

Lets start with party bags. What a shit idea that is!! Yes, by all means give each child a bit of cake to leave with but giving them a small bag full of complete tat as well is absolutely pointless on every level.

My house is literally bursting at the seems with the contents of party bags. Kids have enough toys and create enough mess as it is without providing them with their 400th bouncy ball and mini slinky spring. If they are in a party bag you can guarantee they are utter shite which means they will last about a minute. That's if they make it into the house at all and are not casually thrown on the floor of your car whilst driving back from the party.

What exactly is the purpose of a party bag? It is essentially a reward given to a party guest for attending!! When else in life does that happen?

Worst of all is party bag competition. This is particularly true in the more affluent areas where party bags have to contain keys to a Ferrari or the parents risk being totally ostracised in the school car park.

The only way party bags would increase in my estimation is if you could give decent presents to the children you really like and give a dose of smallpox to the ones you can't stand.

Then there were the presents. Now I must stress the presents were really good and we are extremely grateful. But that's kind of my point. My son now has a massive bin bag full of good quality presents. After the party, as we tried to peel him off the ceiling, he did open a load of them. Has he played with them since? No, of course he hasn't!! That's because he already has a house full of toys he never plays with. It would have been more useful to stick a fiver in a card. That way we could buy him a new telly so he could watch Johnny Test whilst playing the wii at the same time.

I guess the biggest problem for me on observing the ludicrous pile of presents was the inevitable thoughts about Christmas.

I love Christmas, apart from one little thing. The fact that it turns even the loveliest of children into an ungrateful little sod!! A child can cope with the first batch of gifts. After that, every new visitor baring presents is subjected to said child ripping open any offerings and then wandering off without a) looking at the present or b) saying thank you.

My children are young enough to believe in Father Christmas. The real magic happens when they wake up and find the stocking at the end of their bed covered in Fairy dust. As they go down stairs they find the half eaten carrot and empty sherry glass enjoyed by Santa and his Reindeer. It is pure magic. From then on it is a present ripping free for all where the sheer volume of gifts prevents interest or excitement in any one of them.

Every year in the Hapless household we talk about limiting the number of gifts but we never do. Every household is the same.

Watching my son's party has stiffened my resolve to make sure it happens this year.

Remember, less is most definitely more!!

Hapless Dad

Friday, 20 September 2013

HDs guide to getting 'kid fit'

I've always been fairly fit. I wouldn't say very fit but certainly above above average. As a child I played a lot of sport. As an adult I have boxed, run marathons and trained with weights. I've even dabbled in a bit of yoga which has made me incredibly bendy.

Next week I turn 41. Still a young age in the grand old scheme of things. However I have started to notice a few subtle changes in my body as a result.

  1. I cannot even look at a chip without gaining a stone
  2. I am exhausted, constantly
  3. I find it impossible to run ten miles after consuming 2 bottles of Chateux Thames Embankment
  4. I now have to buy clothes in shops that can cater for a 68 extra fat crossed with a 12 dwarf
Many parents experience exactly the same thing. We all do as we get older. Add any number of crazy kids into the mix, plus lack of sleep, stressful jobs, money worries and a sex life that a monk would ridicule and you have a guaranteed recipe for an ever expanding muffin top.

Here at HD we are at the forefront of up to date advice to parents. Diet and fitness is no exception. The latest craze in the get fit quick market is to mimic the activity of toddlers and small children in an effort to lose weight and develop your fitness. This doesn't mean wearing a large nappy to work or attempting to breast feed 40 years too late, however tempting. 

The premise is simple. We are unfit and fat. Kids are fit and skinny. Therefore copy kids and get fit. Simples!! There are all manner of web sites, classes and fitness gurus providing advice on how to crawl around the house or incorporate games into your fitness routine to make it fun. Here at HD we can go one better, with our official guide to making kid fitness work for you.
  • What ever film or program you are watching, re-enact it. Don't just watch Gladiator. Pick up a toy sword and repeatedly hit your partner with it while pretending to ride a chariot. Alternatively, watch Kung Foo Panda and spend the day kicking lumps out of the patio doors.
  • Run everywhere. Don't use open spaces though. You must confine your running to anywhere inappropriate. Libraries, hospitals, funeral parlours and Tescos are good options.
  • Continuously throw things into next doors garden. 100s of calories can be burned just retrieving items from your neighbours.
  • Spread every item you own on the floor of the house. This takes an incredible amount of energy plus works the full range of muscle groups. In addition, as the parent, you'll have to pick it all up and tidy it away which doubles the benefits.
  • Have a fight. If you are having an argument in work repeatedly punch and kick your colleague. If possible create the argument over something extremely little and unimportant. I recommend something like, get off my chair!!! That's my chair!!! Muuuuuuum!!! Dave from accounts is sitting on my chair!!!!
  • Stuff your face with sweets just before bed time. This will give you an incredible energy boost. You can then persuade a friend or neighbour to try to force you into a pair of pyjamas while you swing from the light fittings.
  • Practice the rigid toddler pose. A strong core will help improve your fitness no end. When you get in the car ask your partner to put your seat belt on. While they attempt this raise you whole body 3 feet off the seat as stiff as an ironing board.
  • Install a toilet in your home that is waist height. Then consume 15 bottles of fruit shoot during the course of the morning. You will have to climb on to your toilet every 6 minutes through the afternoon. An incredible, full body, workout.
  • Have a fancy dress box. Run up stairs every 3 minutes to change into a new costume during the course of the morning.
  • Incorporate kid fit into your stalking routine. You may have a small telescope looking into your neighbour's bedroom window. Buy a trampoline instead and peer into their house every 2 or three seconds for hours on end during the summer months.
  • Hold your birthday party at a local soft play venue. To an adult this will be like two hours spent competing on an episode of Total Wipeout. It will burn approximately one million calories an hour. Plus you will be enjoying yourself so much it will be impossible to persuade you to come and eat the ludicrously expensive and calorie laden party food.

Hopefully this guide has given you a real insight into 'kid fit' and how to make it work for you. If you follow this program you can and will achieve incredible gains in fitness and lose a few pounds too. It is also possible that you will get arrested whilst running into the local post office brandishing a toy gun.

Next week: Get 'hamster fit' by buying a treadmill.

Good luck

Hapless Dad

Monday, 16 September 2013

I STILL can't hang weights from my penis but......

I did it. I starred the devil straight in the more bloodshot of his wonky eyes and I survived. I managed to get through an entire wedding weekend without touching a drop of gorgeous lovely booze.

I wrote a post last week explaining the greatest challenge of my life so far. I am on some medication from the doc which, if I drink alcohol, will make my arse fall off. Not a problem normally, but this weekend I had to face a two day wedding weekend booze!!

lets start with the most positive aspects of the weekend:

  • First of all, I made it. It didn't kill me. I'm not saying I came through the ordeal unscathed but I am actually still alive. I know this because I just spilt coffee in my lap and it really hurt.
  • Weirdly I got some perverse enjoyment out of having to abstain. Just like when I had a tattoo recently, for the first time, I found the process a little exciting in a weird way. I've always enjoyed a challenge, perhaps that's it. Or maybe there's an element of masochism somewhere in my subconscious. Tea total now, next stop gimp mask, a big nappy and an aggressive women who charges by the hour.
  • I felt a weird sense of clarity. Being in a room full of outrageously drunk people I felt clear and lucid. Every sense seemed to be more alert. Every smell, every taste, every sound, every sensation was magnified by 10. At 11 pm I stood in the fresh air outside the marquee. I noticed every single star and every single sound in the still air. I felt the cold breeze on my skin. It was quite magical.
  • The things I thought I would struggle with were not an issue at all. Conversation flowed naturally, I made people laugh, I made people smile. I enjoyed the interactions.
However there were some very strange results from my weekend of abstinence. I wouldn't say negatives as such, but there were clear themes that I had never been presented with before:
  • I got bored very quickly. When you are drinking, as opposed to having a drink, you have always got something to do. Once the first few glasses are sunk you are continually replenishing or, in my case, going to the toilet. Either way there is always something to do. When you are drinking soft drinks you tend to consume if you are thirsty rather than consume for the sake of it. Of course as you get more and more bladdered there are many more things to occupy your time. These include dancing, falling over, being inappropriate and laughing at objects that are shaped a bit like a willy. These are removed from your agenda if you are sober. Except the willy one which is always on the agenda.
  • By the end of the second day, every guest at the 200 strong wedding, knew I wasn't drinking and why. The word got round like wildfire. As I sat down to dinner on the second day someone tried to fill my glass. I politely declined at which point he said, "oh shit sorry mate, someone said you were on tablets". Bare in mind that I knew next to nobody at this wedding and after a few hours they all knew the contents of my medicine cabinet. This happened because everyone felt the need to 'excuse' the fact that I wasn't drinking. It wasn't enough to say that I wasn't, or indeed not mention it at all. It was such an outlandish concept that people needed a reason just to compute the information without their head literally exploding.
  • I was the only person in the wedding party paying for drinks. The wine was completely free. All the wine you could drink was available at the click of a finger. There was some elder flower cordial supplied for the solitary pregnant woman but I had to pay for anything that wasn't tap water. There is nothing more surreal than having to pay £2 for a ginger ale when the person next to you helps himself to 6 bottles of Chateux Arse Faced without having to pay a penny.
  • I went to bed staggeringly early. This may have been because I had just run out of stuff to do, or because I missed that period of boundless energy that keeps you going till the end when ur drunk, just before you fall asleep on the toilet.
  • I wouldn't say there was a stigma as such. However people were curious. The fact that I wasn't drinking was so alien that I was asked about it. I guess that must be what it's like being a vegetarian. So much so that people who know me well were actually worried about me. They know I'm a drinker and were genuinely concerned about my welfare without alcohol. How weird is that? They were more concerned about my welfare from not drinking that consuming 8 bottles of wine in one sitting. In fact one particular guest, no names and no details mentioned, drank all day and all night and got in his car at 1am and drove home. This seemed to attract less interest than the fact that I didn't have anything alcoholic in my tonic, ice and lemon.

Anyway. I got through it.

The fact is I still can't hang weights from my penis, but with my newly found masochistic tendencies, I might actually want to.

Have a great day one and all (raises glass of elderflower cordial)

Hapless Dad

Thursday, 12 September 2013

I can't hang weights from my penis... and other challenges!

I write this post with a feeling of dread in my stomach, sheer terror in my head and a cup of coffee (possibly with a cheeky bacon sandwich) in my hand.

This weekend I face, possibly the biggest challenge I have ever faced in my, soon to be, 41 years on this planet. I have jumped from a plane, fired a plethora of dangerous weaponry, completed bungee jumps, raced fast cars, run marathons and I once killed a shark with desert spoon.

This is something to do with kids isn't it? I hear you cry as the expected punchline comes thundering forth like a group of piss-heads in sight of a curry house. However you would be wrong.

Yes I am a dad. Yes being a parent is god it's hard. Yes my kids are not the easiest, what with their incredibly early wake up times and the ability to come to blows over a packet of crisps.

However this is more of a challenge than I have ever encountered.


I feel the need to retype that in order to emphasise the point. However I'm not sure I can bring myself to do it. To cut a long story short the doctor has put me on some tablets. Now, we all know that some medication is best not mixed with alcohol as it reduces the effect. We all do it anyway. This medication, on the other hand, clearly states that if I drink alcohol my head will actually fall off and be dragged down the street by a pack of rabid Alsatians.

Just for a bit of background, I do like a drink. I'm really rather good at it. All my socialising revolves around alcohol. All my relaxation time revolves around alcohol. All my major decisions are made in the pub. Every girl I have ever been with including the present Mrs Hapless was hunted down and bagged between the four walls of a local hostelry. To put it bluntly the only time I don't drink is when I'm asleep and when I'm in work. Quite a large part of my life.

I've been on the meds for about a week and so far it's ok, albeit a struggle at times. Most notably at the end of a stressful day when that first sip of Vicar's Scrotum (I like real ale) or Chateux Thames Embankment 2013 brings such blessed relief. I've made it through the week using a combination of soda water and lime and electric shock therapy.

However this weekend takes it to a whole new level. I'm attending a wedding. Not just a wedding. A two day wedding. Party on the Friday night. Blessing, grub, speeches and another party on the whole of Saturday.

Firstly let me make something clear. I fully understand that you can enjoy yourself without alcohol. I see people do it all the time. I just don't know how. I fully understand that a man can hang a sizeable weight from his penis without it coming off. I don't know how to do that either.

I don't even know what to order. On previous, one off, evenings when I haven't been able to drink I have been woefully short of inspiration. When Mrs Hapless was in the later phases of pregnancy I went out on a works do and drove just in case. I had 14 different types of drink, including a coffee and had run out of ideas by 10 pm.

I don't really do sweet drinks, which cuts out most of the soft ones. Non alcoholic beer tastes like rats urine and ordering tap water just makes you look like you've lost all your money at the greyhounds.

My biggest worry is the social aspects of being sober. Again, don't get me wrong, I can make small talk with the best of them. I don't drink for confidence. However alcohol helps you to let your hair down. If this wasn't true there wouldn't be such a massive 'weddings' category on 'You've been Framed'.

This particular wedding involves Mrs Hapless's best mate. Mrs H is a bridesmaid. The wedding will be full of friends and family of the bride and groom that I have never met but that my wife knows rather well. Therefore the following things will happen:

  1. Before the event Mrs Hapless will tell me how much she is looking forward to having a nice time with me. She will then proceed to leave me on my own for the entire day.
  2. Mrs Hapless will get blind drunk.
  3. Mrs Hapless and her friends will stagger around the dance floor like John Travolta after a hip operation. They will only stop long enough to come over, on mass, to loudly try to get me on the dance floor even though the most alcoholic thing I have had to drink that day is some cough medicine.
  4. I will be left making small talk with another unfortunate husband who has to drive home.
  5. Mrs Hapless will be annoyed with me because I'm being grumpy.
You may think I am being unduly negative and may cause these events with my mental attitude. All I can say in my defence is that this has been the outcome every single time so far.

I must also say that Mrs Hapless has had to endure the same from me on numerous occasions. Particularly through two pregnancies. I was once best man at a wedding when Mrs Hapless was 9 months pregnant. She went to bed particularly early on the Friday night to be fully rested for the wedding the following day. I 'helped' by arriving in the room blind drunk at 4am and throwing up until breakfast.

So dear reader, and that bloke from Taiwan who arrives at my blog by googling leather trousers, the challenge is set.

I'm hoping it'll be fun as I do love weddings. The happy and positive atmosphere makes for a great party. Lets see if I can make it through without succumbing to the temptation of beer, or drinking two gallons of Cilit Bang stolen from the cleaner's trolley at the hotel.

Wish me luck. I'll keep you posted.

Hapless Dad

Tuesday, 10 September 2013

HDs guide to schools and teachers

The final part of our back to school series is to look at the epicentre of parent related activity. The School. We've discussed the dads, we've discussed the mums. Now it's time to take a considered, extensively researched and totally spurious look at schools and teachers.

The type of school and the type of teacher will depend on where you live and the age and ability of your children. However there is some definite commonality across the ages and stages. Here are some general points to note:

  • Whatever the school 80% of the staff (including the Head) are on anti depressants or have to meditate in the stock cupboard before morning registration.
  • Teachers often marry other teachers. This is because they meet in college. Either that or they have torrid school based affairs or a bunk up on the French department trip to the Hyper Markets in Calais. This has positives and negatives. On the negative side work is always the hot topic. On the positive side they can hitch their caravan and disappear to the South of France for six weeks in the Summer. Don't talk about your job to a teacher couple. They will not have a clue what you are on about.
  • Schools with younger children tend to have mostly female staff. In schools with older children the balance is much more 50/50 and often has more men. There are any number of reasons for this including natural motherly instincts and men's innate inability to make use-able paper mache.
  • All teachers look down on other teachers. Fact. Secondary staff think Junior staff only play rounders. Junior staff think Infant staff only thread beads and play with sand. Infant staff think Nursery staff only clean up poo. Everyone thinks Special School staff don't do anything at all. Special School, Nursery School, Infant School and Junior School staff think Secondary staff just get the kids to copy off the board while they have a smoke.
  • Behaviour is the badge of honour. People outside teaching think teachers want to teach in 'good schools' and some do. However all other teachers will look down on you if you teach in a 'good school'. They will think your job is a piece of piss because you don't get bitten and the parents pay dinner money on time. They will not factor in that you have to teach calculus to year 1.
Lets take a look at the schools and the teachers in a little more depth.

Nursery Schools (pupil age 3 - 5)

Nursery school teachers are women. The school sometimes contains one ambitious man who feels he should teach nursery as part of his preparation for Headship further down the line. The parents will think he is a paedophile. Nursery teachers are nice because small children cry if you shout at them and make them do press ups as punishment. Everyone wears comfortable clothing to deal with sand, water, sick, blood and having to sit cross legged on a carpet several times a day.

Behaviour in nursery schools can be less troublesome because the kids can't pick up chairs. However if behaviour is bad it will verge on feral. Everyone cares about the kids.

You will drown in paperwork of the most ridiculous kind. Nursery staff hover around the children filling in masses of documentation in order to prove that Connor undid his trouser buttons BEFORE he pood himself. To be a nursery teacher you must be comfortable with chaos organised in minute detail.

Infant Schools (pupil age 5 - 7)

Again infant school staff tend to be women. There will be the solitary man. This will be the result of personal ambition (see nursery) or because his Junior School has just amalgamated with the infants school next door and the new Head has moved everyone around. This will be a shock to him. Appearance will be similar to nursery. Comfortable and baggy. Infant staff have terrible hair although this is true of the entire profession.

Infant schools are good because the kids are starting to achieve some independence. Behaviour is still not so much of a problem although kids misbehave at all ages. There is still half a chance the kids are scared of the Head or the naughty chair. However some will already not give a rats ass about anything.

By the end of the infant school ALL children are expected to be able to do complicated sudoku and read Dostoevsky in its original language. This will be expected by all external bodies even if the child was still barking and eating his own faeces when he left the nursery. Other infant teachers can be a problem. They only talk about curtains. 

Junior School (pupil age 7 - 11)

Junior schools often contain a mix of genders. This is because in the 70s and 80s you could specialise in infant/junior or junior/secondary. Male teachers chose the latter and may have secured a job in a junior school. They will teach in year 5 or 6 to sort out the older boys and coach the football. Now, you have to choose primary (3 to 11) or secondary (11-18) so the number of men in junior schools has dwindled. Many still train as primary teachers hoping to get a job in year 5 or 6 and then getting a shock when they are moved to year 2 (see infants). Clothing will vary. Comfortable and sick repellent is still required, however ambitious staff will wear shirt and tie (accompanied with fleece and winter boots for yard duty). Ill fitting 1980s tracksuits will appear on football days.

The kids are much more independent and, "if they are good", can stand out on the road doing traffic surveys. Some children start to get your jokes and inbuilt sarcasm.

Many kids are already completely disaffected by this point and demonstrate this by punching each other and possibly you. Like all primary staff you will be expected to be an expert in 12 subjects (13 in Wales). At any time you must be prepared to teach quantum physics, advanced pottery or the complete works of Shakespeare. In reality you will be good at teaching two subjects and blag your way through the rest. You will work your arse off for the kids to achieve the required standard. They will then forget this over the summer. This will outrage Secondary staff who will wonder why year 7 can't read, add up or walk in a straight line.

Secondary Schools (11-18)

Secondary schools have male and female staff but Secondary School teachers are subject not child focused. They don't care if Keanu is a fantastic football player. They only care that he can't count to 10. Art teachers are arty. PE staff wear shorts all year round and read Guns and Ammo in the staffroom because they've got no marking to do. Woodwork teachers smoke roll ups and stick to whatever name their subject was called when they left college. On the whole Secondary Schools are full of people for whom teaching may not be their first choice. The English teacher will have a part completed novel in her desk drawer. The music teacher will have a stack of returned demo tapes. The metal work/design technology/resistant materials teacher will be letting year 9 run riot while he works on his invention for Dragon's Den. 

Kids are fully independent and get themselves to and from school unattended. Unfortunately, or fortunately depending on the child, this also happens during lessons. You have a chance to do some incredibly exciting work with 6th form pupils who are able and keen on your subject. You get to see kids develop as young adults and fly the nest to work and university under your guidance.

Behaviour is appaulling. The kids are bigger than you. You might not think this matters. They do. Some kids are already lost to the system and your job is to prevent them killing anybody before they can leave at 16. The school is only results focused. The fact that Courtney has really developed her interpersonal skills means bugger all to a Secondary School unless she gets 5 A to Cs at GCSE.

Special Schools (pupil age 3 - 19)

Nobody knows anything about Special Schools except the staff that work there. Appearance is wide ranging as schools tend to cater for pupils from 3 to 19. There will always be a very cuddly nursery type, a Secondary PE specialist trained in restraint techniques and an ambitious staff member who has twigged that Special Schools pay their teachers more. The range of kids is huge. The school may cater for learning difficulties, emotional and behavioural difficulties, autism, profound and multiple difficulties, hearing impaired or visually impaired. Some Schools may contain a bit of everything.

Classes are small, sometimes as low as 2 or 3 depending on the needs of the child. There are many learning support assistants, which teachers love. Having an LSA means you've always got someone to talk to and you'll never have to do a display again. You have mini buses and can go on lots and lots of trips to 'make learning real'.

You will have to teach the same thing in fifty different ways over many years still with no guarantee that anyone will learn anything. You will be bitten by a very large pupil at least once in your career. All other teachers will look down on you, even if they are aware enough to know you exist. 

School Holidays

School holidays are without doubt the best thing about teaching. On the negative side it can send the press and other working parents in to an utter frenzy. Many teachers deal with this by being incredibly defensive and pretending they work all summer. The fact is the holidays are THE benefit of the job. The only other benefit in teaching is that if you die whilst breaking up a fight between two rival gangs of year 11 boys your family will get a good lump sum.

Some people have company cars, some people have good pensions, some people have big salaries, some people have bonuses, teachers have holidays. My answer to this question is always the same. If long holidays was that big a deal for you, you should have become a teacher instead of spending your summer in a bank. This is very often followed with the reply "Oh god no! I couldn't do that job!".

Here endeth the lesson.

Hapless Dad

Sunday, 8 September 2013

HD's guide to parents - The mums

Continuing our award winning (well I gave myself a chocolate hob nob as a well done) back to school series. Here is Hapless Dad's guide to parents - The mums.

Our back to school series is very much geared towards the 'ordinary school'. Schools are as different as people. Some schools are in deprived areas, some schools are in very affluent areas. The majority of schools lie somewhere in between with a little bit of everything.

These are the mums you'll see at an ordinary school. Learn the signs, pick your gang, know your enemy.

Jeremy Kyle Mum

Jeremy Kyle mum is............well, rough. Every class has one. Some schools only have this variation of the breed. Jeremy Kyle mum doesn't Skype. She catches up with friends and relatives by watching her favourite daytime show.

Sleeveless t shirt, joggers and hoodie. Visible tattoos, possibly on the face and/or forearms. Missing teeth. Fag.

Drags ever expanding brood into the carpark usually late. Brings Strongbow to school sports day. Small, equally toothless man in tow, joining her on the school run before going to sign on and heading to Wetherspoons. Sorts out difficulties between kids by battering the other parent (male or female)

Favourite phrase
Fucking hell Beyonce, fucking hurry the fuck up. Keanu, stop fucking hitting your shitting brother!

Having a Jeremy Kyle mum at school makes you feel marginally better about yourself. Gives posh mums somebody to complain about. "Her language in the yard is disgraceful".

Mostly keep themselves to themselves as they are already late for an appointment with their probation officer. Dangerous if you get on the wrong side of her as she tends to carry weapons.

Stepford Mum

Stepford mum is the yang to Jeremy Kyle mum's ying. Opposite ends of the same scale and just as horrendous. Doesn't work as husband is incredibly wealthy. Crucially, she looks down on mums that do. Actually she looks down on everything and everybody. Was the Alpha female at school and makes every effort for that to continue.

Hot, obviously, but in a, don't even bother trying unless you have a 6 figure salary, kind of way. Wears expensive clothes for school run even though she's not going anywhere afterwards. Drives Range Rover even though the roughest terrain she has to cope with is the carpark of Waitrose. Continually disapproving look as if everything is not quite up to scratch. That is until her Stepford Mum friends arrive whereupon she will be overly welcoming in a false manner.

Air kisses everyone. Glides into school with odious children following behind. That's if she does walk them in. May employ underpaid Latvian women to walk children from the car to the gate. Uses husbands connections to make sure daughter plays lead in every generic winter festival concert.

Favourite phrase
Chamonix is perrrrrrrfect this time of year.

None. Unless you are also a Stepford Mum. You may aspire to be one. However, you are or you aren't and they will smell your fakery a mile away.

Too many to list. You will secretly envy her and want to smash her face in with a 9 iron in equal measure.

Juggling Mum

Juggling mum is probably the most popular breed in the car park. Constantly juggling work, home, kids, pilates and her troublesome pet (which seemed like a good idea at the time).

Worries about her appearance constantly. Wants to make an effort but simply doesn't have the time. In reality, always looks absolutely fine but she will only be focused on the small circle of baby sick she has on the shoulder of her work suit.

Constantly rushing. To work, from work, to gymnastics, from oboe lesson, to kids party, from Tesco. Constantly craves time away from the kids thinking it will be bliss. When away from the kids feels guilty and wants to see them. Knows there is a husband in the picture somewhere but really doesn't have the time or the energy for all that malarkey. Feels guilty about it. Loves the idea of being a stay at home mum. When at home craves being back at work.

Favourite phrase
What a nightmare. Came in with 6 bags of shopping and Oliver screaming his head off to find the dog crapping in my favourite handbag.

Supportive, honest, funny. Lets the secret out of the bag that motherhood is actually hard work.

None to the mums. But if you are the husband or partner of juggling mum you may as well live in the shed or start internet dating.

Testosterone Mum

Decidedly manly in thought and deed but not appearance. Had kids because husband or partner wanted them. Married to stay at home dad. Works as tabloid journalist, sales manager or murder squad DCI.

Functional but attractive. Confident (at least in public). Feminine but in a no fuss kind of way. Hair that doesn't require any work. She hasn't got time for that due to 12 hour shifts investigating a serial killer. Possibly carries a gun, can definitely kill a shark with a biro.

Dinks scotch. Smokes like it's the secret to alchemy. Walks with a confident stride. Loves her kids but they come second to work. Volunteers to take her kids to all sport related activities, of which there are many. Has never changed a nappy.

Favourite phrase
Bollocks. For fucks sake man up!

Provides the male point of view in a female group which gives balance and lightens the mood. Uses the 'c' word on nights out to raise a laugh.

A short taxi ride away from alcohol dependency and a string of meaningless sexual encounters. Testosterone mum will be no help with tears.

Earth Mum

Earth mum is in tune with her inner self. Firmly believes in Karma. Possibly attended some sort of religious retreat. The religion will be Buddism, Hinduism, Taoism or scientology (or possibly all of them at some point). Wanted her kids to attend Montesori as she sees 'traditional school' as a barrier to her child's creativity. Tells everyone this even though she continues to enrol her kids in the local primary. She thinks yoga is about more than just getting bendy. Probably stay at home mum. If she works it will be in a job that adheres to the rules of Karma such as teacher, counsellor or traffic warden.

Tie-dye. Long hair, or totally shaved. Tattoo of Ganesh on her calf, Buddhist prayer beads on her wrist. Taoist symbol around her neck. Flip flops on her feet. Hash in the glove compartment. Industrial grade anti depressants in the medicine cabinet.

Softly spoken, smiley and caring. Has anything up to a 1000 children and lets them roam free to find their own path in life. Petitions the school regularly to abolish school uniform and allow individual expression. Runs workshops on meditation and leaf art. Plays the zither.

Hopefully you will have worked out which one you are. The rule of thumb is. There is an arsehole in every school car park. If you don't know who it is, it's you!

Next up. The teachers!!

Hapless Dad

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

HD's guide to parents - The Dads

With everyone back to school this week I thought it was time to pass on some advice. For some of you, parent politics is something you are more than familiar with. For those of you who have deposited your little darling at school for the first time this week there are some things you need to know.

You may think you have only brought your child to school. You'd be wrong. You are now very much back in school yourself, except your lessons are 15 minutes long and happen in the car park.

Fear not. Here is Hapless Dad's guide to parents. Learn to recognise the types so that you can make sure you are in the right gang and most importantly, get to know your enemy.

Let's start with the dad's first as there are only a few variations of the breed. I'll produce a follow up post on the mums.

Grumpy Dad

Overview: Grumpy Dad does the school run because there is no other possible choice. He has already tried to join a cult just to escape the ordeal but with no success.

Appearance: You cannot tell Grumpy Dad by his clothes, only by the look on his face which says "for fuck's sake get me out of here"

Behaviour: Runs into school dragging child behind. Throws through gate. Runs off. If forced to attend a school function or kids party he will bring a book.

Favourite phrase: Jesus Christ Harry will you get a shift on, Daddy's got to drive to Bristol.

Positives: You will NEVER be forced into a polite conversation with Grumpy Dad. He has no intention of chatting to anybody.

Negatives: If you are the wife of Grumpy Dad you will know nothing about what happens in school. He will not know any of the parents, the names of any of the other children, the date for Harvest Festival or who your daughter's teacher is.

Randy Dad

Overview: Randy Dad enjoys doing the school run on account of the female to male ratio. He suggested to his wife that he would 'shoulder the burden' to 'give her a break'

Appearance: Randy Dad may work or be a stay at home dad which can dictate his appearance. Either way he will put in a special effort before drop off and pick up. Possibly with a little too much Old Spice liberally sprayed around the groin area.

Behaviour: If he is being subtle he will bring cakes for the mums to share at the gate. If he's being blatant he will continually mention a voucher he has for a local coffee house that he simply can't find anyone to use and which runs out in an hour. "Can I tempt anyone?" Chatty, friendly, smiley and complimentary. He understands that most new mums self esteem is on the floor and knows that paying some attention can pay dividends. He also knows your kids names and will tell you how wonderful they are.

Favourite Phrase: Don't be so hard on yourself. You look in great shape. He needs to appreciate you more.

Positives: Randy Dad will offer to baby sit so that he can tempt you in for coffee.

Negatives: If he comes on a parent's night out you'll have to spend the night beating him off with a stick.

Dad's Dad

Overview: The Dad's Dad was one of the sporty ones at school. He craves the company of other dads and will gravitate towards them at pick up and drop off.

Appearance: Straight back, chest out, stomach in. Will stand with arms folded along with everyone else in the Dad's Dad group.

Behaviour: Loud laughter, as if from a 'special' joke that only the Dad's Dads know. It will feel like they are laughing about you. If he is not the Alpha Male he will gravitate towards him. Dad's Dads are pack animals and feel safest when protected at the flank. Only talks to other Dad's Dads.

Favourite phrase: Did anyone see the Spurs game?

Positives: Dad's Dad will welcome you into the pack with open arms if you are a Dad's Dad yourself. He will invite you for a beer or to watch some rugby.

Negatives: Will talk loudly about his weekend away on a rugby tour or stag do or golf weekend while you spent your weekend at four kids parties or steam cleaning the house after a bout of stomach flu.

Hopefully this guide will point you in the right direction. The mums will follow shortly so stay tuned.

Hapless Dad

Tuesday, 3 September 2013

1st day back at school

Twitter and the world of blogging has been alive this week with talk of getting back to school. I say alive....... of course I generally follow and am followed by parents. I suspect the rest of twitter's 465 million account holder's couldn't give a rat's ass.

Never the less as I approached the school gates this morning, and ran away rather quickly a few things occurred to me.

Firstly, this is the first time in 12 years that I haven't greeted a new class today. I guess from the outside you'd think the first day is quite hard for teachers. They've had six weeks off (looking after their own kids) and they've been thrown back into the hustle and bustle of a busy school. Yes it does take a little while to get up to speed. However, the first few weeks of a new school year was my absolute favourite time. I loved it!! Because it only has one objective - get your class to behave.

It doesn't matter what kind of school, good teachers know that it's all very well staying up till 2am making paper mache models of the Taj Mahal, but if you can't get the kids to sit down and listen it's all wasted effort. The early days are spent drilling the kids back into classroom rules, school rules and any little personal foibles you have as their new teacher.  One of my foibles was teaching the kids that if I gave them some free time as a reward, e.g. putting rugby games on during the world cup, then if anyone came in they had to pretend to be working. Job done! Every teacher has foibles but they are all as different as the staff themselves.

Either way it was a strange feeling to be on the other side of the gate at 9am.

The other thing I noticed was the different approach to the first day depending on which parent brought the child to school. Almost all the mums dutifully guarded their little treasure right up to the classroom door. Most of the dads slowed the car down just enough to let the child roll out of the passenger seat. My lad just ran in. If I'd wanted to say goodbye to him I'd have needed a loud haler.

It also struck me that when you are connected with a school, time stands still. Let me give you an example. If you went on holiday to Spain for six weeks, on return stuff would have happened. Life would have moved on at it's usual pace without including you. However, when school ends for the summer everything stops. When you return on the first of September nothing has changed. This is because the only thing that connects you all is school. You gravitate to the same mums and dads and talk about the same stuff you were talking about in July. The teachers slot straight back in to work mode and the kids pick up with all the friends they only see in school. Nothing in the school world has moved on without you. It's just as if six weeks of everyone's life has mysteriously disappeared.

I also learned a quick parenting lesson this morning. Our son has grown. That's what they do. So we bought some new uniform shirts. Unfortunately we didn't buy a new jacket. As such he wandered into school without a care in the world with his T shirt dragging round his ankles and the waist of his jacket up to his armpits. He looked like he'd been dressed by Jedward.

So there you have it. The first day is over with. We can all relax and...............................oh bollocks is it 3 pm already. Bloody hell that went quick.

*rushes to car*

Hapless Dad

Thursday, 29 August 2013

HD's guide for the new school term

Well, we made it. Hopefully I haven't spoken too soon. 6 weeks ago parents everywhere experienced a universal panic attack and now we are breathing a collective sigh of relief. In only a few days time our little cherubs will be back in school.

To make sure the new term runs as smoothly as a toddler with diarrhoea, here is HDs guide to getting back to school.

(notes: This post does not apply to teachers who have spent the entire holiday entertaining their own kids before beginning another 12 weeks of entertaining 30 stranger's kids.)
  1. Never ever tell any of the school staff what you do for a living. Unless you want to be building the barbeque for the summer fate, doing a talk on road safety, making leaflets for the PTA or running a pottery workshop keep that information to yourself.
  2. Never ever volunteer to help on a school trip. One of two things will happen (a) Your child will behave the way they normally behave for you, which will shock and stun their teachers and make you feel like a crap parent (b) Your child will behave the way they normally do in school, which will make you realise that they should be behaving much better for you and make you feel like a crap parent.
  3. Never ever dress up to do the school run. If you arrive at school looking poor and dishevelled, possibly with some sort of drug or alcohol addiction your child will be forgiven almost any misdemeanour. If you arrive in a Range Rover and Versace suit you will not be allowed any leeway at all. This will become painfully obvious the first time you don't pay dinner/snack/trip money on time or send your child to school wearing no underpants. If your kids go to the sort of school where everyone has a Range Rover and a Versace suit, just opt for last season's model.
  4. Never ever complain about anything. Parents in rough schools don't complain about anything - they are happy if their kids get home alive. Parents in posh schools complain about everything. You may think the teaching staff are simply an extension of your domestic staff. They are not. Also you may believe that the size of your wallet guarantees that your child is a gifted academic/linguist/football player/singer/astronaut and should be treated as such. Remember, as the parent, you are the person least able to make an objective judgement on what an absolute cretin your child really is.
  5. Never ever get a job in your child's school. This will result in a number of things (a) your child will have the piss taken out of the mercilessly for all your idiosyncrasies. This will be particularly true if you are too fat, too thin, too short, too tall, too ugly, too attractive, too smelly, too fragrant, too foreign, too local or have a big nose (b) You will be very disappointed when you realise your little genius has the nickname 'thicky Smith' (c) You will force the Head to brief all school staff that 'thicky Smith's' mum is coming to work at the school and to not speak to her at all for fear of incrimination.
  6. Never ever believe your child when they say what they've done at school. This is particularly true of boys. If you complain to the Head that your son always seems to do 'nothing' or has been taught how to make a bomb and you're not very happy about it you will be the laughing stock of the staffroom for some time.
  7. Never ever ask for more homework. Homework is a no win for everybody. Teachers don't want to set it or mark it. kids don't want to do it. If it's easy it's not worth setting. If it's hard the kid won't be able to do it without input from the teacher - or the parent will help by showing the child a method last taught in 1968 which may undo an entire term's learning. You may think that 8 minutes more homework will solve your child's chronic ineptitudes. It won't. Just play the game and sign the bloody homework diary when you have to and everyone can have the weekend free.
  8. Never ever become a parent governor. School's have to have them. The only useful parent governors are those that have a clue about running a school. Sadly those kinds of people don't want to be parent governors as they've been in school all day. You may think having attended school gives you some level of expertise. It doesn't. I've been to a massage parlour but that doesn't qualify me to become a prostitute. The worst kind of parent governors are those in senior positions in their day jobs. They want to have input and think everywhere should run like a bank. This is dangerous and will result in a number of things (a) you are guaranteed to upset half the parents and all the teaching staff with your ideas for extending the school day, free summer schools and lunch time homework clubs (b) you will force the Head into convening pre meeting meetings so that all important decisions can be made on the sly before you arrive. Parent governors should be like Cheryl Cole. Seen but not heard.
  9. Never ever brag about your child's achievements and school progress to other parents. There are a number of possible results (a) Other competitive parents will spend their time trying to out brag you (b) parents with low self esteem will worry that their own child is under performing (c) normal parents will think you have some sort of inferiority complex which you are trying to redress through your own child's perceived successes (d) everyone will think you are an arsehole.
  10. Never ever try to organise regular social events with other parents. Yes there will be people at the school gates who you warm to and will become genuine friends. You will spend time together out of choice and you will be able to rely on each other for child care, emergency pickups, borrowing of Christmas concert outfits etc. However if you stand at the school gates every morning desperately trying to arrange quiz nights, skittles nights, day trips to Alton Towers etc. a number of things will happen (a) some people will start avoiding you (b) some people will think you have no actual real friends (c) Some people will think your marriage is on the verge of collapse so you are trying to spend as much time out as possible (d) most people will think you are having an affair with Harry's dad who is the only male parent to attend every event. As a sub point here it is worth noting that at some point on a 'mums' night out someone will suggest organising one for the Dads. Don't! They won't want to go!

If some of this applies to you, you have a few days left to sort it out. If all of this applies to you then you are a lost cause - and in reality you won't be reading this as you'll be on a mums and kids trip to Caerphilly Castle or reading up on the latest National Curriculum changes ready for your first governors meeting.

To the rest of you. Read this advice carefully so that you do not make the same mistakes and you can carefully avoid those that do.

Have a great term and get cracking on that Badger's costume for the generic winter festival concert.

Hapless Dad.

Wednesday, 28 August 2013

10k page views - woohoo!

My blog has just reached 10 thousand page views. I know, for you established bloggers out there, you probably get close to this every day but for a newbie it's quite a milestone. I'm very pleased.

I posted a piece and tweeted about it knowing that I was close to the 10k mark. I figured maybe a quick post and a few well timed tweets would get me where I wanted to be. I was right!

I checked my stats during the course of the day and saw the target getting closer and closer. Exciting stuff. Or sad as fuck depending on your point of view.

I also started to think a little about blogging and how things have changed for me in the short time I've been getting my stuff 'out there'.

When I started blogging my aim was simple. To be a writer. I have a friend who is an author. A very talented lady by the name of Laura Kemp. Laura is a former editor at the Western Mail who now works on a freelance basis, writing a column here, selling a feature there and producing an amazing first book "Mums like us". Many of you will already follow her on twitter @laurajanekemp and may have seen her speak at Britmums live this year. You will undoubtedly have read some of her pieces in quality publications and the Daily Mail.

I had already been writing for some time. Mostly about parenting (write about what you know!) but also about many other subjects. I used it as a tool for venting my own frustrations in a positive way and clarifying my own thoughts. Like most blokes my head is a jumbled mess of naked pictures and quotes from Blackadder but when I write, things just come out in an organised way. These 'articles' sat on my laptop and had been read by Mrs Hapless and Laura on a number of occasions. I'd passed things on to Laura in the hope of maybe using her skill and experience to get something published. She was extremely positive and helpful and pitched several pieces to various people on my behalf.

This continued for a year or so in dribs and drabs. I didn't really pursue it with any determination. Mrs Hapless (a marketing manager) and Laura had already suggested setting up a blog and using twitter to publicise my writing. To be honest I was a little nervous. Not about people reading my stuff, but about being open and unguarded. If you met me you'd think I was a gobby little sod, and I am really. But I'm also extremely private and don't like people "getting up in my shit" (sorry I've been watching too many episodes of The Wire recently).

However I worked out a solution. I began blogging as an alter ego - in this case Hapless Dad. This seemed to help as I was comfortable with people knowing about Hapless Dad.

I set up my blog in the simplest way possible as I am utterly clueless when it comes to anything technical. I set up blogger, fiddled with templates etc and posted the first few pieces from my collection.

I was hooked from the start. I posted every day and sat glued to my stats. Very soon the bank of articles I already had ran out and I began to post real time. This was when my approach completely changed. Instead of the blog just being a place where I put stuff I'd written it became a place where I tried to put things that people would want to read. I followed parenting trends and stories and I kept up to date with various events and milestones in the calendar trying to put my own slant on things and maybe raise a chuckle.

During the early days Laura pitched one of my pieces to the Daily Mail and, bloody hell, it was commissioned. I hadn't even had anything published in the free ads and here I was about to have my own by-line in the Daily Mail. Interviews were conducted, photo shoots completed and payments agreed. I was absolutely elated. Sadly the piece didn't run, at least it hasn't yet (crosses fingers) however it was still a massive feather in my cap (plus I still got paid) and made me think it was possible to make some sort of a living out of something I loved. I was also getting some great feedback on stuff I'd put on the blog, both from friends and the online community.

The Daily Mail piece was the last thing I pitched and this was some time ago now. I haven't pitched anything since. The blog became an activity in and of itself rather than a stepping stone to something else. I've had a few posts shown on various web sites such as dadzclub and parentdish but nothing paid. I've also linked up with a few other bloggers which helped to reach a new audience. Although I haven't put anywhere near enough effort into this. It has sort of fallen by the wayside.

The thing is I'm now at a bit of a crossroads. I can't devote all my spare time to writing (who can?) so getting the most out of my blog, producing articles, pitching to the right people etc is quite a tall order. Not to mention the fact that if you pitch an article you can't put it on the blog, which effectively means you have to write twice as much.

I now need to decide whether to focus on this blog, get as many followers as possible and try to make some money from it or just blog for fun and get back to focusing on selling some stuff to make a living. I've even thought of writing a book of some sort (who hasn't!).

Anyway, I'll keep you posted. Thanks again to all of you who read this blog and keep coming back. Your support is very much appreciated.

Hapless Dad.

Boys and girls, guns and makeup.

We are very much an ordinary family when it comes to kids. We have two, a boy and a girl. When you start out as a parent you tell yourself that sexism won't come into it. If your boy wants to play with a pram then let him enjoy it. If your girl wants to kick a rugby ball around, encourage her to go for it.

The thing is, in most cases, boys and girls fall very neatly into gender stereotypes without any help from you. We didn't consider this until our girl was born. However, when she did arrive, the differences were so stark it was almost laughable.

The first thing we noticed was communication. My boy mostly communicates through grunts. This is interspersed with bouts of verbal diarrhoea. My girl on the other hand is, what can only be described as, a talker.

When I ask my boy what he did in school he answers the same way every single time. "I don't know". In fact, as he is now approaching the age of 6, he actually laughs when he says it. He is fully aware that he hasn't the faintest idea what happened ten minutes ago and he now finds this faintly amusing. However, ask him to describe his favourite TV show or Wii game and he can communicate all the finer points with a level of eloquence normally reserved for the Oxford debating society.

Sound familiar? Mrs Hapless often jokes that I wouldn't remember my own name unless it was written on my jumper, and yet ask me about Blackadder and I bet I could regurgitate an entire episode without too much trouble. 

My daughter on the other hand remembers everything. From the moment she could converse she could tell you who was where, who did what to whom, what happened last week, where she's going tomorrow and what Mrs Jones said to Bryn after he'd been stealing crayons from the nursery. When my son is watching telly you could sacrifice a goat in front of him and he wouldn't notice. When it comes to my daughter, she does not miss a trick. There are no secrets from her. You can guarantee that the staff room at my daughter's school is alive with all the gossip from our home life that she has passed on to the teaching staff.

The communication differences extend to other situations too. When grandparents phone, Josh's only contribution is a raspberry down the phone before wandering off scratching his balls. On the other hand, if Lucy get's to the phone first you'll be lucky to get your hands on it before the new year.

There are significant differences in the way they play too. When my daughter turned 3 we had 8 of her nursery friends around for a little party. It was eerily quiet. Everywhere you looked little girls were colouring, making things, chatting and role playing. But oh my god, the politics was worse than a government re-shuffle! Friendship groups changed twenty times in the space of a two hour party, and they were pretty ruthless about it!

The next day, still reeling from the quietness of the girlies event we had ONE of my son's friends over to play. Within five minutes of arrival they had decided to throw the entire contents of Josh's bedroom down the stairs. It was like a scene from the London riots. Some kind of mob mentality took over them as they got more and more excited about objects they could sling down two flights. It wasn't long before they were play fighting, with swords, guns and anything else to hand. This inevitably turned into real fighting, followed shortly by a bollocking from yours truly.

What about the choice of toys? Big differences her too. I served in the reserve forces as a young man but I have never knowingly promoted this at home. Josh has found guns all by himself. He absolutely loves them. Lucy, on the other hand, spends her time tending to her many 'babies' and enough push chairs to warrant their own garage. When she's not looking after her ever expanding family, she finds ways to steal my wife's makeup.

There are so many other examples. Take potty training. My girl merrily trained herself while we were still battling with Josh. Even now he's never happier than being sat in his own filth.

I could go on. The list of gender specific behaviours displayed by my children is endless. However I have learned that you cannot take this for granted. Take sport for example.

Josh is, and always was, extremely athletic. As a four year old he ran the sport relief mile in 10 minutes without walking a step. There are many adults who could not achieve that. He's also quick over shorter distances and has the agility of a cat. As such we have pushed him into every sport imaginable.

As the younger sibling, Lucy always had to tag along too. We never thought about her in sporting terms as, the big joke in our house is her clumsiness. She falls over 8 or 9 times a minute, on a good day. Both have been going to gymnastics since they were very young. Josh spends most of his lesson getting told off as he tends to get up to mischief when he's waiting for his turn on the apparatus. However, while this was going on, something else was happening that we didn't expect. We were approached by the coach of Lucy's younger group. She told us that Lucy was a natural and she felt she was ready to try out for the elite girls group over a year early. She tried out, and got in!

This was quite a wakeup call for us. We never set out to treat our kids differently based on their gender. They naturally gravitated towards gender specific behaviours all by themselves, with no help from us. The thing is, you shouldn't let this influence your thinking whether consciously or otherwise.

Josh will always be a 'proper boy'. This is reinforced by his goggle eyed reaction every time Jessie J comes on the telly. Lucy will always be a girly girl but she posses a rod of iron down the centre of her body that my son doesn't posses. For all his physical toughness, she possess an emotional toughness that could reduce a rabid dog to tears.

In short, let your kids be what comes naturally to them - but never assume anything.

Hapless Dad.

Monday, 26 August 2013

Confusing what you do with who you are.

Some people are incredibly lucky. They understand that work is simply an amount of effort in exchange for monetary reward. Some of us take things way too far and start to confuse what we do with who we are. I'm guilty of this. Unfortunately I'm now dealing with the consequences.

I'm sure that many of you see no problem with this. Work is undoubtedly a significant part of your identity. Whether you are a fireman, a nurse, a stock broker or a stay at home dad it gives people an immediate indicator of the kind of person you are. They may be completely wrong but people do form an opinion.

Some people find this very uncomfortable. Particularly if their 'day job' is not really who they are. Actors consider themselves actors even if they have spent more time waiting tables than they have treading the boards. Some stay at home mums and dads don't fully adopt this persona. They view it as a life stage before they re-start their career when the kids are older.

Some of us, on the other hand are incredibly guilty of confusing work with who we are. This is particularly true of those in 'professions' or jobs that could be considered a 'vocation'. Doctors, police officers, teachers, nurses - this is far from an exhaustive list but I'm sure you get my drift.

When you have adopted a 'vocation' as your way to earn money you inevitably fall into the trap of confusing your job with who you are. This stems from the in built idea that your 'job' is somehow more than a job. It is something you live, not something you do. I'm not suggesting these kinds of occupations are more important. Far from it. However, they are jobs from which it is very difficult to keep things separate.

So how as this effected me? Well, for the last 12 years I have been a teacher. I did any number of jobs prior to entering the profession. However, one of my main reasons for re-training was to get that 'identity'. Teaching gives you an identity immediately. It can define who you are in both your own mind and the minds of others............. if you let it. If you tell anyone you are a teacher their opinion of you will be crystalized from the start - whether positive or negative. Once you divulge that information you are seen as anything between a 'Florence nightingale' type creature giving up your time to selflessly mould the next generation, or a work shy control freak with more time off than Santa Clause.

I never had a problem with this. In fact, in a perverse sort of way, I quite enjoyed it. So what's the problem? Well, to put it bluntly, I had children.

To cut a long story short I found combing my life as a teacher with my life as a parent incredibly difficult. Most teacher's take it in their stride. Not me. I found coming home to children extremely hard after spending my days with them. More than that, having my own children began to effect my work.

My job involved teaching kids that no one else would teach. The majority of my classes included kids with severe emotional and behavioural difficulties. I loved it. I'm quite a combative character and I loved the challenge of whipping a group of un-teachables into shape. However this requires total confidence. If you issue an instruction you have to be 100% confident in yourself and your ability. Kids of any age or level can sense weakness in a teacher - we all remember the ones from our own school days - and they will punish you without mercy if they see a chink in your armour. With the kids I teach you can multiply this by a factor of 10.

However, having your own kids is different. They don't do what you ask them to do, at least for the first five times you ask. They behave worse for you than they ever would for a teacher in school. They answer back, they refuse to do things, they argue and they fight. All things that a teacher would and could never put up with in their classroom. There would be anarchy. I often joked that I was like a supply teacher in my own home. However this feeling started to infiltrate my working life.

I began to give instructions without truly believing they would be followed. A fatal error. As my confidence dropped so behaviour in some of my classes worsened. When you don't have full control in a classroom, teaching can be an extremely lonely and painful place to spend your day.

Over time, things got worse and began to have a significant effect on my home life. At which point I decided that, if my kids were to have the best dad I could be, I needed to wave goodbye to teaching.

This brings me to the crux of this post. For the first few months it was like the weight of the world off my shoulders and I still feel it was exactly the right decision for me and my family. However I've become aware of the fact I'm suffering from a bit of an identity crisis. When I'm asked what I do I sort of erm and ah for a bit not exactly sure what to say. I haven't felt that way in a long time. It's quite a strange and unnerving feeling for someone who has been defined by what they do. In fact, I even started answering this question with "well, I used to teach but now...........".

So where does that leave me? Well, sometimes you need to have a change in direction in life and this is an extremely positive and exciting prospect. It also leaves me at a crossroads. I need to find a way to separate what I do with who I am - something I've never achieved in the past.

Wish me luck!

Hapless Dad

Saturday, 24 August 2013

Top tips for a frugal bank holiday weekend

The bank holiday has arrived. We don't get many, and you can't bank on a member of the Royal family popping their clogs so you can have an extra day off. So you need to enjoy it as much as possible. However, budgets are tight for all of us these days but that doesn't mean you can't enjoy the bank holiday experience.

Here are HDs top tips for having a fantastic weekend without breaking the bank.

  1. Re create the experience of a day trip by putting your family in the car and staying on the driveway for four hours. You'll get all the fun of being crammed in a small metal box whilst stuck in traffic but without the expense of petrol. Also, instead of paying £15 for a cappuccino at a motorway services, you can just pop into your own kitchen.
  2. Give your kids the fun of a farm park by standing in a field. Farm parks are great fun, but expensive. Also, as it's a bank holiday weekend, they will be full of people who wear tracksuits but clearly haven't visited a gym. Find a field of cows or sheep near your house and stand in it with your children. They will get all the fun of seeing domestic cattle close up but without the ludicrous entry fee. Also, when the farmer spots you, having to run away will add an extra bit of enjoyment to the day - and it's great exercise.
  3. Take turns standing in the shower fully clothed. This will give the experience of the inevitable bank holiday downpour but without having to go anywhere.
  4. Find a Wetherspoons with a beer garden and play equipment. There is nothing better than getting steadily plastered whilst watching your children enjoy a slightly dangerous climbing frame. Also the beer and food is so cheap that it's more financially viable to spend the weekend there than to shop at Aldi. Not only that, the opening hours guarantee you can be fully occupied from 8am till midnight. There are some additional benefits. As we know, young children talk utter shite. This can be quite incomprehensible for a reasonably intelligent adult. If you position your family next to the inevitable table full of alcoholics who have been drinking Strongbow since breakfast, your kids will always have someone on the same level as them to chat to.
  5. Visit your parents. Grandparents enjoy spending time with your kids because they don't have to live with them. Pop in for a coffee and then ask them if they'll keep an eye on the kids for ten minutes. Disappear for the day.
  6. Re create a local church fate or family fun day in your own garden by charging your children to play on their own trampoline and only giving them 2 minutes at a time. Go the extra mile by setting up some tables and covering them with shit from your garage.
  7. Funfairs are a great option on a bank holiday weekend but they are ludicrously expensive. Give your children the experience for free by asking a man who lives in a caravan to stand next to them while they throw stones at next door's hanging baskets.
  8. The beach provides fantastic fun for kids and adults alike. However they can be extremely crowded on Bank holidays. Get the beach experience at home by pouring a little bit of sand into everything you own.
  9. Small children can't remember what happened ten minutes ago. This allows you to create fantastic bank holiday memories for free. Photoshop pictures of them in front of places of local interest such as Warwick Castle, McDonalds or the Taj Mahal. Show them the pictures every hour or so and talk about what a wonderful time you all had.
  10. Going abroad is an incredible treat but obviously costs a fortune. Give your family the feeling of this wonderful experience by visiting your local airport and reading a book for 8 hours while your children wreak havoc.
Follow this advice and you are guaranteed to have a pain free bank holiday but without spending a fortune.


Hapless Dad

Thursday, 22 August 2013

7 day detox - day 6

I have now decided to change the name of this week's posts to 'The 7 day Tox'.

Since beginning my detox plan 6 days ago I have eaten more rubbish and drunk more alcohol than ever before. So what on earth is going on?

I have a few theories. We are going through quite a stressful time at home. We have some money worries at the moment and the summer holidays is always a stressful experience as any parent will agree. I find that, on return from work, the idea of bland food and no booze has proved to be deeply unappetising. On the contrary, fatty, salty food and enough Pino Grigio to sink a battle ship has proved to be very appetising indeed.

I also wonder if my personality is a barrier to success in this sort of thing. I am generally quite a mild mannered chap, but the older I get the less and less I like being told what to do. In this case I'm being told what to do by myself but I seem to rebelling never the less.

Finally I'm questioning my motivation. If I really wanted to get my fitness back, this week would have been a breeze. The fact is I don't seem to want it enough to walk past the pizza delivery menu and break out the broccoli.

This presents me with a problem. At the end of September I am taking part in a 7.5 mile adventure race with a group of friends. Last year I completed the event with no specific training at all. My fitness levels were so good that I could take such an event in my stride (no pun intended). As it stands I can't see a way in which I can take part and not end up completing the event in the back of an ambulance.Am I bothered? Actually I'm not sure I am.

This brings me to the crux I think. I am a middle aged man and, as my twitter bio suggests I am in the throws of a world class mid-life crisis. Don't get me wrong I do not have an 18 year old Swedish mistress, there is no sports car/motorbike sat on my drive and I don't own leather trousers. However I am enjoying many other classic features of a mid-life crisis:

Firstly my career has gone completely down the pan. Up until the end of last year I was developing a successful career in education. I have other irons in other fires however my career as it stands is no more. This is not necessarily a bad thing and I am involved in a number of very exciting projects that may end up being more lucrative and fulfilling than the daily grind of employment. Taking a different direction has also saved my health. I have no doubt that if I'd continued in the same way I would have eventually done a Reggie Perrin.

I have suffered with depression, possibly since the kids were born. However this is a classic sign of someone who is not comfortable in their own skin and dealing with significant internal conflict. Depression is very often caused by anger and frustration turned inwards and I am a classic example of that.

I also seem to have divorced myself from the reality of daily life. I have pretty much stopped doing anything I don't want to do. Paying bills, putting together bedroom furniture, tidying the garden, household chores and making polite small talk have all ceased to be part of my existence. I constantly wear shorts and would rather staple my tongue to the floor with a croquet hoop than put a suit and tie on again. Basically I just don't care about much at all on a day to day basis.

So how does this all connect to my health and fitness and my failed detox program? Most people who are in the throes of a mid-life crisis spend their time trying to recapture their youth. Hence trying to improve their fitness, lose weight, buy new clothes (possibly a little too young for them), coveting flash cars and motorbikes which resemble a people carrier as little as possible, or finding themselves a little extra curricular activity with a younger model. This is true of men and women alike and should, in theory, give me the motivation for a detox.

The trouble is, during my youth I was a drunken, takeaway eating fool. I played sport in school and university to a decent standard but only for the social aspects. From the age of 17 to my late twenties all I wanted to do was sit on my arse either at home or in the pub. During my 30s I ran 7 half marathons and a full marathon as well as numerous other physical events and was possibly the fittest I have ever been. Now, it's like I've regressed to being 17 again. All I want is fun and pleasure. The attitude of a child.

Traditionally, when people reach middle age they start to worry about their health. I've gone exactly the opposite. I couldn't care less. I look at myself in the mirror every day as my newly flourishing belly strains to escape and I think to myself that I probably should lose some weight. In reality though, I have no motivation to do anything about it.

I hope this situation changes as middle age is definitely the wrong time to be adopting an unhealthy lifestyle.

I'll keep you posted.

Hapless Dad