bookmark_borderModel Parent?


A few of my colleagues here at work are expecting babies in the next few months, so being the man (father) of experience I have been passing on my fatherly wisdom. When I took my first born to the crèche he wouldn’t stay there, he clung to my leg like a limpet mine and I’d have to shake him off and run like hell before the crying started. There was this game the staff and I played – distract First Born and whilst he’s distracted slip away…  Of course it’s nice (I think!) to be suddenly wanted + + + but I had to go to work and at the time children and Intensive Care Units did not mix.

So I resolved, after lots of tearful mornings and guilt trips about being abandoned in crèche from First Born, that I wouldn’t make the same mistake twice. When Second Born appeared and was ready for crèche I built it up, I told him how exciting it was going to be, he’d get to play with all the toys, make a mess and have great friends, I made a big big deal of it and when the first day came for crèche he was so excited and looking forward to it. I dropped him off and he ran away to play…

Problem solved and I patted myself on the head.

Or so I thought.

About two weeks into his time at the crèche the manager pulled me aside one evening and said the following “You know, I’ve worked in this crèche for 15 years and your child is the first one, in fact the only one, that’s ever cried when his parents come to take him home…usually it’s the other way around, they cry in the morning but your child runs into this place and doesn’t want to go back home……………” she said this rather suspiciously….

Damn. It looks like I had overdone it. She looked at me like she ought to be reporting me to Social Services… I explained what I had been doing but still… I think she never stopped being suspicious of me… So the lesson here, dear friends who are soon to be parents, you can’t win.


But you can get even….

Leaving your kids off at school is always interesting, during the first few years they always cling to your legs and make you feel bad but then at around year five it suddenly becomes uncool to walk to school with your dad and suddenly they start to run ahead before you actually reach the school. At first it’s just at the school gates, a quick snatched ‘bye dad’ and off they run but then as time passes they run ahead at increasing distances from the school gate, anything to avoid being seen with dad..

And then they start secondary school. Here something remarkable happens. On day one you take your ‘relatively’ sweet and innocent child to school, all presented neat and tidy, school uniform worn correctly, shirt tucked in and top button done up, tie worn correctly, hair nice and neat …and somehow there’s is a remarkable transformation over the first day. You met them at the school gates and you don’t recognise them, they look a mess, like they been in a car crash but the big big transformation is in the voice – suddenly that sweet innocent childish tone has gone and now it’s all deep manly grunting.

In the previous June they were kings of the castle in junior school, everyone was smaller than them and childish but suddenly in secondary school they are surrounded by some really big bruisers and they desperately want to fit in. So out goes talk of collecting Dr Who cards and in comes talk about rap music on Youtube and the most unsavourly computer games. From now on you know the shirt will always hang out of the trousers and the tie will never ever be done up properly, you know that ‘street creed’ is now hugely important and talking about Telly Tubbies or even Action Man is verboten because they are in a rush to be men.

Of course, being somewhat mischievous of nature, I look upon this as an opportunity to reek revenge on all those years of clinging to my leg like a limpet mine and all those guilt trips from First Born. Now when I drop the boys off at school or pick them up I make a point of calling them ‘darling’ in a very loud voice, especially when they are with their friends. It’s great, it’s even more fun if you try hugging them in front of their friends and telling them how lovely it is to see them..  This ‘probably’ is quite evil of me but I’ve been doing it for a few years now and when it’s pouring out of the heavens I make an effort to drive there and pick them up, their joy at seeing me is tempered by the knowledge that I will indeed called them darling very loudly and they will cringe..

However, their school mates have started to cotton on to my little game and they all realise that really I’m just doing it to embarrass them, they look upon my boys with some sympathy and tell them “your dads a lunatic, isn’t he?”

So now I’m starting to think what else can I do to play with them at school, they are nearly always the last ones out through the school gates – too busy chin-wagging with their mates and leaving me standing there…  So I was in Sainsburys the other day getting some shopping and I saw some really nice ‘daddy’ slippers, you know, those checked ones… and it suddenly occurred to me – what if I was standing outside the school gates in my slippers… I wonder just how quickly they would appear..I reckon they would be first ones out in the entire school…I’m VERY tempted…

You see, why get mad, when you can get even… 🙂

bookmark_borderCrimes and misdemeanors, number 17

Recent photo.

When I was growing up money was tight and as 12 year kids we were always on the lookout for ways of earning a few extra pennies. One of my friends heard that the local scrap-man would give you money for old lead so we struggled down the country lane with this huge (to us) car battery and he gave us 10p (big money those days) for it. We were well chuffed and headed off to the sweet shop to spend our ill-gotten gains.

However, there was a definite shortage of old car batteries lying spare around the streets and although the local church roof had lots of lead lining neither of us wanted to risk eternal damnation for a few pennies, a couple of quid and we might have been tempted though!

Next evening I’m sitting with mum, six brothers and two sisters at dinner table when I thought I’d ask them as they are all older and might know where there’s a stash of lead and so I says “does anyone know where I can get lead?”

Sudden silence descended upon the table and everyone stared at me in disbelief and then burst out laughing.

It took me an awfully awfully long time to understand their reaction.. DOH!

(for those of you that don’t get it, lead and laid sound exactly the same in our mother it again 🙂

bookmark_borderCrimes and misdemeanors, number 16

The Irish have a reputation for being big drinkers. This is not helped by the fact that in 1914 Guinness was producing 2,652,000 barrels of beer a year, barrels that is, not pints and by 1930 it was the seventh largest company in the world. When I was growing up it just a natural step to start drinking and in my youth I drank a fair few pints but as I got into my twenties I stopped drinking almost completely. There are a couple of reasons for this, I was always designated driver as I was the only one with wheels but also my drinking previously had been as under-age and had a certain rebelliousness about it but once I was legally allowed to drink and the fear of being caught disappeared so did the thrill of drinking. In Ireland the police came into the bars frequently and would ask your age and chuck you out if they thought you were too young – and then proceed to sit down and spend the rest of the evening getting well-oiled with free drinks at the bar.

However, the main reason I stopped drinking was because I made an idiot of myself on more than a few occasions and realised that I can’t hold my drink. Friends of mine could drink copious amounts of beer and walk home but after one or two pints my higher brain centres shut down and I became a embarrassing slobbering idiot.

Someone once told me that when you start a new job then it’s important that you don’t show your true personality for the first six months and it’s good advice, keep your cards close to your chest. In 1984 I started a new job in a large factory and as it was near Christmas time I was invited to the Christmas party. I had been there a few weeks and was friendly with a few folk and we all headed to the hotel were the party was being held. I had a few drinks and chatted with a very nice woman whom I didn’t know worked in the factory with me and found out she lived roughly in the same area as I did. I suggested we share a taxi back and then I went off and mingled but towards the end of the evening realised I was wilting and needed to go home.

I went out to the reception and there was my friendly woman and she said “do you want a lift back with me?”. I said “yes, love to” and we both jumped into a mini-cab that had just arrived. I sat in the front and I tried to fumble with the radio because it was playing some dreadful turge, the taxi driver told me to leave it alone and gave me the worlds dirtiest look..Oops.. so instead I went into flirt mode with the woman and thought I was being funny but was most likely being obnoxious. I didn’t like the look of the taxi driver one bit and as I was getting out first I said to her “make sure you call me when you get home, I want to make sure you get home OK… “ and then added in “of course if you want to get out with me and stay for breakfast…” The taxi driver glared at me and we stopped at my place, I staggered out of the taxi and fumbled in my pockets for all this loose change to pay for the taxi but she waved it away and told me to get inside the house, she would be fine. I looked at the taxi driver and told him in no uncertain terms to make sure she gets home and no harm comes to her..and returned the dirty look back at him, “I’ve got your number mate” I said to him..

I collapsed in bed and as it was the weekend had two days off but went into work on the Monday morning and hunted out my woman friend to make sure she was OK (and flirt some more). She was with a group of other woman, all chatting and laughing away but as I approached they tried to suppress their laughter but were giggling away. I thought they were giggling away because I had tried my best to chat her up and I said to her trying to sound concerned “Did you manage to get home ok, I didn’t hear the phone ringing..?” and she said “yes, I got home fine” and I said “I really didn’t like the look of that taxi driver, I was worried he was going to try something on, he was very shifty looking..” and she said to me “Oh..didn’t you realise, that wasn’t a mini-cab…it was my husband come to pick me up” to howls of laughter from all the woman…

The story spread around the factory like wildfire.. I was mortified and hide myself away in my office for weeks and then left as soon as possible.

That’s why I rarely drink. The shame…

bookmark_borderCrimes and misdemeanors, part 15. Oh Baby..

During my previous career training as a nurse I had to work a few weeks on the Labour Ward, I absolutely loved it, probably because it was so intense and (excuse the pun) so hands on – or in this case hands in.

The Midwives were great and very down to earth and most of the mothers were great too, it’s a time of great excitement and beaming smiles – once baby had popped out of course! Most mothers were on their first or second births but occasionally the midwives would come across someone who’d been there more than a few times. One Sunday afternoon I was working with Margaret (name changed to protect the guilty!) and a mother came in straight from A&E (ER for our American friends), she was about to pop and we got all the equipment ready and asked the mum to remove her pants (obviously!). Mum asked Margaret did she recognise her and Margaret said no, not really – she wasn’t really paying attention trying to get everything ready but then when the mum had undressed and Margaret started to check how many centimetres she was dilated and had her fingers half way up her jacksie she suddenly said “Oh! NOW I know who you are!!”

My mouth fell open and I gave her that look, you know the one, the one that says “YOU recognise people, not by their faces, not by their voices but by looking at their jacksies?!?! …”   She realised what she had implied and tried backpedalling but it was too late – I was going to tell absolutely everyone in the coffee room that evening!

(But between thou and I, I wonder, if Margaret was ever called up to one of those police line ups and had to identify some crook, would she be asking for everyone to drop their pants or else she wouldn’t recognise them… ?)

I told that tale to one of my friends, he said he knows how she feels, he says there are some folk he only recognises by looking at their jacksie too – and he’s not a doctor..just a bad bad lad!

One weekend I had a mum with a big ornate gothic script “EDDIE” tattoo on the inside of her thigh and Eddie was there, holding her hand and doing all the right things. For almost 12 hours, we soothed, cajoled, encouraged and cheered on this lady. I brought Eddie into it: “Look at Eddie, he loves you and the baby so much, breathe with Eddie, keep going, Eddie, you hold her hand” blah, blah, blah.. 12 hours of sweat and tears, near exhaustion and trying my best to involve Eddie and make it a brilliant caring sharing experience for both of them..

Close to the end and I start to realise that something’s up, Eddie’s got more and more stony-faced and silent throughout the day..

He’s actually glaring at me now.

A thought strikes me, “Ummmm, is your name Eddie?”

With the most hateful glance, he grunts, “No!”


PS I probably should explain that at that point I had been in England for only two years and my accent was as thick as treacle, so when I asked him at the start ‘are you Eddie?’ he thought I asked ‘are you ready..?’ and said yes ..Doh.


bookmark_borderCrimes and misdemeanors, part 14

Works for me.


This blog entry is crimes and misdemeanour’s by proxy; I want to share this with you to give you some insight into the way the Northern Irish mindset works.  It may outrage a few readers but what the hell, it’s how we view life.

I have a good friend from Northern Ireland, I’m going to call her Mary for the sake of this blog and she’s a bit of a wild girl. She’s been doing the whole on-line dating thang and been telling me about it. She arranged to meet one bloke at a bar a while back and when he came in and introduced himself she simply looked at him and left, didn’t even  say hello to him. She told me what a fucker, he looked nothing like his photos, he was shorter – MUCH shorter than he said, older, fatter and just slimy so she couldn’t even be bothered wasting her breath telling him was a fuck-wit he was, she just left in a huge strop. She went into a bar near Leicester Square and proceeded to get totally plastered with a bunch of young guys there and next thing she knew she was waking up Sunday morning in some strange bed with a complete stranger beside her.

He was about half her age and as she stumbled blindly into her clothes – actually as she searched around the apartment for her clothes he woke up and said to her can he see her again. She said back to him “that’s EXACTLY the right thing to say to a woman after last night, well done!” and then as she was walking out the door she said “of course you need to get yourself a girlfriend of about half my age but thank you for last night and good luck, have a nice life” and she walked out of his life.

So the night wasn’t a waste after all and she had a good time.

Then a few weeks later she went out to meet some other date in central London, this time she managed to stay there for a whole 10 minutes before walking away, I asked why and she said “the fuck-wit spent the first 10 minutes telling me about why he and his missus had split up, instead of talking about me or even himself, I met his wife by proxy, I wasn’t having any of that and I walked, little fucking bastard wasting my time..!”

So she hit another bar, and got plastered but there was no talent around so she got on the tube back home. However, on the tube back there was this bloke checking her out. Thirty minutes later she’s in his flat in Streatham and he’s playing hide the sausage with her.  Next morning he’s comatosed and she walks..staggers out and calls me on the mobile. “I don’t know where I am..” I ask her to give me a street name..she does and I google-map it, she’s in Streatham and I tell her which way to the train station and I go back asleep.

Four nights later she’s at my place having dinner with my erstwhile part-time flatmate and myself and drinking + + wine. She’s having a good time chatting away and by 11 we are both bushed so I tell her I’ll walk her to the bus stop as that’s how she usually goes home from my place when we’ve had a few skinfuls. So we are waiting for the bus but in the fresh air she’s suddenly come alive again and raring to go. “Hey! Let’s go to a bar and pick up some talent and par-tay…!!”   I says nope, I can hardly keep my eyes open, I’m zombie-fied and need to zzzZZZ but she’s raring to go and says “I know what, I’ll go see that bloke from Saturday night in Streatham..” and gets her mobile out.

She calls him and says “Where are you?”
He says it’s 11:30pm, he’s in bed..
She says “Stay there..I’m on my way around…”

And hangs up

And then calls him back.
“btw, what’s your address…?”
“and name..?”

And off she goes towards the taxi rank.

I wait for the taxi with her and says to her so what does this bloke look like and she says, to be honest I don’t know, I can’t actually remember, all I can vaguely remember is that he had funny eyes, I think he was Chinese…maybe .. and I’m curious to find out when I’m (relatively) sober..

The taxi arrives and off she goes.. I shake my head and go back to the flat.

A few days later she pitches up…so how did it go I ask..?

She sits there and tells me it was awful and I ask why.

“Well, I got there and we got down to the dirty deed right away, was good and we fell asleep afterwards, then at about 3am I woke him up and we did it again and fell asleep again. Then at 7am I woke up and had to go home to get clean knickers before going to work but before I went I poked him in the back, woke him up because he was snoring and asked him if he would like to do it again, ..and do you know what he said…he said no, he was too tired!!! Well, that was it, I exploded, I called him all the names under the sun and give him an ear-full! THAT was NOT the right thing to say, HOW DARE HE!! If a woman offers herself then he HAS to oblige and do the dirty deed, how DARE he refuse” and she cursed and swore at him and called him every dirty name she could think of as she got dressed and he cowered under the duvet not knowing what a screaming dervish he had let into his apartment. Eventually when she had insulted his manhood enough she went storming out of his flat into the street in a huge strop but five minutes down the road she realised that she had left her mobile on his bedside table! So what does she do? Well, she does the one thing all Northern Irish woman would do, she stomps right back, rings the doorbell, bold as brass! He opens the door and almost shits a brick at seeing her again, she stomps BACK into the apartment berating him again but even worse and grabs her mobile, heads for the door again and practically screams in his face as she leaves again, cursing and swearing at him as she storms off down the block hall.

I laugh.

I suspect he’s going to need a LOT of expensive therapy after that and when you think about it I reckon Mary has done a lot of woman a service because I doubt he’ll ever pick up a strange woman on the tube ever again.

Now you see, I’m tell you all this for two reasons, the first reason is that by Northern Irish standards I am actually very ummm ..subdued, I try telling my work colleagues this and they all snort and say that’s just bollocks and shake their heads as I am easily the most crazy one in the University and the only one who’s got the balls to take on …well everyone.

But the other reason is deeper and it’s a cultural thing, you see, if I had some depth then I’d think that life was all about learning lessons, growing through mistakes and probably knowing God or the Creator or some other bollocks, however, whilst this is true for folk with some depth, for folk with real depth ie the Northern Irish, we know that the purpose of life is not just that but the real purpose of life is to be happy and have a HUGE amount of fun doing it. So, this is how we Northern Irish view life, we don’t keep it at arm’s length, nope, we grab it, we hold it tightly and squeeze as much life out of it as possible. So don’t shout at us or roll your eyes when we go off and do crazy things, we’re simply doing what comes naturally.

bookmark_borderCrimes and misdemeanors, part 13

Closer to the truth than most realise

So, think this is crimes and misdemeanours number 13 and it would seem I have a lot to confess to..  I’ve had a job ever since I was 11yrs old; from delivering milk before school to a paper round after school and since the age of 16 and a half when I started working full time I’ve done just about every job except barman which I kind’a regret because it’s a handy skill to have when you’re trying to establish yourself somewhere new.

Anyway, things I really need to fess up to…

When I was sixteen I spent one Christmas holiday working on the production line of the Cantrell & Cochrane factory, we made bottles and cans of lemonade and it was the second most boring job I ever did. However…  the nightshift used to be fun for a couple of reasons, first of all most of the staff came into work to sleep, as a general rule if you didn’t sleep the first night then you slept the second night, it was the unofficially rule and a lot of the staff had part-time day jobs like Firemen and so when they got called out to a fire during the day then they would come in and sleep. And there was a lot of trading to and fro, if you were feeling really rough then you’d swap sleeps with someone and s/he would sleep the next night. Management didn’t know about this because the foremen did the exact same thing and management always knocked off at 5pm.

So, that was a nice little earner, on the nights when I was watching the production line I was busy and kept awake because I was doing the work of two but the next night I slept but got paid for it. Excellent. It was a nice little introduction to shift work and when I worked as a nurse there did seem to be a lot of nurses sleeping in the cupboards during the dead of the night, not for the full shift but some staff would take extended breaks and when the matron in charge came around you told her that the missing nurse ‘had only just’ went for break a few minutes ago.

The other thing that was good working for Cantrell & Cochrane was that we produced cans of own brand Coke and there was an interesting trick we could do (and did) on the line. What would happen was that the cans got filled with coke and then went into a huge machine that rammed on the aluminium tops to the cans, but the operator could slow the line down and this meant someone could make additions to the coke.. So, the party trick for most of the staff there was to top up a couple of dozen cans of coke with vodka and then once the lids went on collect them on the other side and take them home. Then next time they went to a house party they already had pre-mixed drinks. This proved particularly popular at events like concerts because the bouncers would quite happily let you in with cans of coke but would confiscate any alcohol… little did they know..

Cantrell & Cochrane was the second most boring job, the most boring job was working for Canadian Tapes in Bangor. I did that for about three months before I had to leave or slit my wrists, it was that mind numbing boring. I spend almost three months working in a lab doing mind numbingly boring repetitive work a trained monkey could do (better).

However, even here there was the opportunity to mess around. We made sellotape, day and night, the production lines never stopping – except for two weeks in the summer when all factories in Norn Iron shut down and Bangor emptied due to the mass exodus of everyone to Benidorm or Tenerife, the ‘July Fortnight’.

I, on the other hand, was too poor to go to Spain with all the other plebs so I would carry on working and that meant spending two weeks cleaning the factory.

Now, the thing to remember is that sellotape is tape covered in glue and Canadian Tapes had LOTS of glue…effing huge vats the size of houses for mixing up the glue and gradually over the months these vats would get a thick layer of glue slowly building up inside them. Eventually someone had to go into the vats with big scrappers and scrap the glue off the walls and floor of the now empty vats and that job fell to summer students and yours truly.

So, myself and half a dozen other kids would spend a few hours in these vats breathing in glue fumes. I don’t know if anyone else has tried nitrous oxide aka laughing gas but spending even a few minutes in one of these vats basically gets you high for free, in fact we actually got paid for it. This was in the days before Health & Safety became such a major concern, so for two weeks we scrapped and hacked the hardening glue off those walls and we spent practically the entire two weeks splitting our sides laughing. Seriously, it’s what I imagine it’s like to smoke really good weed, we just got the giggles from the moment we walked into the vats until we got home, someone would just burst out laughing for no reason at all and that was it, we were all practically ROFL in hysterics, I honestly haven’t laughed so much in my whole life and I think I would have done that cleaning job for no pay. I couldn’t understand why all the other factory workers didn’t want to do it, it was excellent. What I couldn’t also understand was, why didn’t the management give us gas masks, we could have cleaned those vats out in two days rather than two weeks if we could stop laughing and saved them a lot of cash..

I was told that the effects of the fumes wouldn’t have any long term effects. I’m not so sure, twenty five years later and I still burst out laughing with minimal prompting,  I suspect because of my two weeks working in those vats that my brain is now just hard-coded to find humour in just about everything, my long suffering work mates despair with me 🙂

bookmark_borderHonesty is the best (privacy) policy

Some folk just can't take a hint.

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bookmark_borderHatch’em, Match’em, Dispatch’em

An Irish FUNeral

Many years ago I watched a documentary on the telly about meerkats in the Kalahari Desert in Botswana. They would go off in little groups foraging for food and at the end of the day they would come back to the main nest and the groups would be all over each other, sniffing, greeting and getting reacquainted again and the social structure would be re-established.

I was reminded of the meerkats yesterday; I was at a funeral and once we left the graveside and came back to the convent where the reception was being held I witnessed much the same behaviour that the meerkats did. There was a great coming together of the extended family and close friends and everyone seemed to know absolutely everyone else, there was much sniffing, touching and even the pecking of cheeks and I could see the bonds between each member being renewed and strengthened.. And then I noticed something else, the matriarch of the clan was gone and I could see the younger females all subtly moving up the ladder one step, taking over roles and jostling/manoeuvring into different positions of authority within the extended social circle. There were an equal number of men there but they all seemed oblivious to this, perhaps it’s because I’m an outsider and I can step back and observe, I have no vested interest who becomes the next  matriarch.

There’s many similarities between weddings and funerals, for example, it’s really only on hatch’em, match’em, depatch’em occasions that I get to wear a suit these days. Funerals are aberrations as far as I can tell, funerals are not for the dead, they are for the living, the dead are past caring. We have this idea of the funeral being focused solely on the one who’s passed away, with moving tribute’s but that’s not what I witnessed yesterday, yes, the church service was solemn (actually it was dreadfully boring and full of religious clichés that I doubt even the priest believed) but as soon as everyone got into the reception then it was like “ok, that’s that out’a the way, now to chinwag with Arthur, I haven’t seen him for years..”. Just like a wedding really. It reminds me of the old joke about Irish weddings and funerals; what’s the difference between an Irish wedding and an Irish funeral? There’s one less drunk at the Irish funeral…and there’s many a truth told in jest, I’ve been to funerals before where fights have started, of course this was in Ireland and that’s pretty bog stand behaviour.  And it’s no wonder, even the word ‘funeral’ starts with those other three favourite letters of mine ‘fun’ and we Irish take this attitude of fun to our hearts and raise our glasses to the dearly departed, it’s a celebration of life, not a mournful death but I’m always relieved when someone is delivering a eulogy at a funeral and I realise I’m actually listening to it.

And there’s something else that both funerals and wedding have in common, we all get dressed up and put on our best clothes and some of us even get invites but it’s important to read the dress code instructions carefully, ‘somber’ while only 2 letters apart from ‘sombrero’ is a world apart in tone. Apparently.

And one more similarity, when I was much much younger I used to go the wedding and the old dolls would poke me in the chest like witches and cackle “You’re next!” but now I’m 50 I go to funerals and poke them in the chest and cackle “You’re next!” Is that evil of me? Am I going to Hell? Too effing right I’m going to Hell, care to join me?

bookmark_borderThe French Mistress

Perpétuent les stéréotypes .. moi?

After three years of learning how to survive in the sprawling jungle called Bangor Boys High School I was expected to buckle down for the last two years and actually start studying for our ‘O’ Levels in Mathematics, Physics, Chemistry, English, Technical Drawing and Wood/Metal Work. You will note there’s no foreign languages there and there’s a reason for that, you see, in Fourth Form Miss Wylie started at the school to teach French and her classes were immediately over-subscribed. It’s not an understatement to say she was the French version of Marilyn Monroe, she had big hair, the most perfect nichons imaginable and butt cheeks that adhered to her skirt like two water melons covered in cling-film. When she reached down to pick something up 32 pubescent boys swooned in unison.  She would come over to us and breathing heavily in zee French axe-scent would talk us through our pronunciation.. at this point the recipient of her attention would just melt into a puddle onto the floor. We had pupils, obviously sick and on their death beds happily drag themselves in for just French and then plead illness and crawl home.

One day she caught two of the guys cheating in a test and for punishment she kept them in for detention after class for an hour to practice French with her. Jammy buggers. They came to school next day with huge grins on their faces, a one-to-one with Miss Wylie wasn’t punishment, it was the stuff of dreams. Next day everyone cheated.

We had Miss Wylie for a whole month of heaven until suddenly and unexplained she left and we got Mr Murrey instead. You can’t imagine our disappointment. He was as different from Miss Wylie as chalk is from cheese, not only that but he had a moustache, a cane, a leather strap and a nasty habit of throwing zee wooden blackboard cleaner at you if your attention wandered for more than a millisecond.

He spent the first lesson talking to us in complete gibberish, a language one would think the London Leprechaun would be fluent in but sadly not when he was fourteen. He was actually talking to us in French at the level he expected us to be at but it turned out that during the past month we had absorbed not one iota of French from Miss Wylie apart from useful phrases like ‘tas de merde’, ‘c’est un vrai con’ and ‘bite, couilles’ and obviously ‘nichons’. Mr Murrey wasn’t impressed at all at how little French we had actually absorbed, ‘you pile of shit’ and ‘he’s a real arsehole’ wasn’t ever going to feature in an ‘O’ Level exam paper, though to be honest if it did then the entire class would have achieved 100% pass rate. Perhaps the examination board should review the syllabus and include a few more dubious phrases, that way we’d enjoy it and the pass rate would soar.

I went to Paris in the autumn and missed the last train back home so I found a hotel for the evening and wanted to use their computers to book another train home in the morning. Their computers were absolutely merde so I complained to the sneary concierge who simply shrugged his shoulders and said ‘Je n’aime pas, monsieur’, it’s a shame that neither Miss Wylie nor Mr Murrey taught us proper French sign language because I know just from his shrug that this  translated into “I don’t care, life is indeed a pile of shit but tonight it’s not my pile of shit, it’s your pile of shit..” and with that he went back to inspecting his fingernails, you see, it’s all in the shrug.. I, of course, replied with ‘Tá tú chomh tiubh is leath aoileach ach amháin mar atá úsáideach’ which roughly translates from Irish as ‘you are as thick as manure but only half as useful’ and shrugged my shoulders too.. who says entente cordiale is dead?