Match Attax are not Topps

the dreaded binder

What do Man of the Match, Hundred Club and Limited Edition have in common?

They’re the only answer I ever get these days to questions like –

“How was school today?”
“What did you do for lunch play today?”
“What did you choose for Golden Time this afternoon?”

Match Attax cards seemed quite innocuous when Ben first mentioned them. Blog Fodder reassured my nagging misgivings with persuasive arguments like -

“They have to swap cards, so they learn to negotiate; they talk to each other about the players, so they’re communicating; the cards are sport-related, so they might one day do the thing they’re talking about…”

I have spent time trying to learn my John Terrys from my Joe Coles, and I was beginning to have limited success. But then I had to move on to names like Fabregas and Anelka.

Not only do I have to remember them, I’m cruelly mocked if I don’t know which one is Limited Edition and which is Man of the Match.

“And is a Man of the Match a Hundred Club as well, or not?” I ask, keen to show an interest in my son’s new hobby.

“Mu-um, if he’s as good as (insert one of many names I never quite get) then of course he’s going to be a Hundred Club.”
And this explanation is generally followed by a silent but withering look, before Ben turns to his father – now basking in the glow of an admiring son who likes football.

I suppose it was inevitable that at some point my little boy would abandon his Mum in favour of his football-cricket-rugby-anything-with-a-ball-crazy Dad. But did it have to be while he was still living in the same house as me?

When I was growing up Grandstand was sacrosanct on Saturday afternoons. Ever since, I have always associated the theme tune with having to sit quietly “or go and play outside, Grandstand’s on.”
I was determined not to live with a sports nut, and for many years I managed it. In fact I achieved this one small ambition with all my boyfriends – except the one I decided to settle down and have children with.

This may add weight to the theories of those who claim we all seek out the familiarity of childhood relationships when picking a life partner.
But what it means for me is that Saturday afternoons are again a no-go area.

Grandstand may have sprinted to a happy commentary box in the sky, but sport still colonises our low-tech, 4-TV-channel house. And I have to be out, or in another room if I am to avoid two people – one large and one small – yelling at the telly and comparing notes on the progress of their favourite teams.

My one consolation is the fast-approaching end of the football season. This will see off the Saturday night version of Blog Fodder when his team has lost (make that most Saturday nights), and it will also see the end of this season’s Match Attax.

You’d think this would also mean the end of my football education.
But no.
Ben the football fan has now given way to Ben the entrepreneur.

He is insisting that I help him to sell each card, one at a time, on e-bay.

So I now spend my evenings typing names like Fabregas and Anelka, together with detailed descriptions of their match status, rarity and mint condition.

There must be a reward waiting somewhere – even for a non-believer.

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Blog Fodder tackles Darwin

Charles Darwin

What links Abraham Lincoln, Charles Darwin and Blog Fodder?

It’s not another lateral thinking puzzle, it is a real question with a truthful answer.

They were all born on the 12th of February – exactly 200 years ago in the case of two of them. The one that wasn’t born quite so long ago has been ruminating on Darwin’s legacy…

I think I’ve found the fundamental flaw at the heart of evolutionism. It’s not rocket science. Well, obviously.

No, I mean, it doesn’t take a genius to work out where Darwin got it so completely and utterly wrong.

In the introduction to On the Origin of Species he maintains that “any being, if it vary however slightly in any manner profitable to itself, under the complex and sometimes varying conditions of life, will have a better chance of surviving, and thus be naturally selected”.

If this is true, then surely the reverse is also true – and anyone born with the incredibly debilitating stupid gene, which so adversely affects creationists, would naturally be at a huge disadvantage.

So if Darwin’s theory were correct, then over the course of time the stupid gene would be bred out and those that believe in the literal truth of the Bible would not survive.

But they do, and worse, they seem to be flourishing.

Clearly Darwin was barking up the wrong evolutionary tree.

Footnote from Beta Mum -
Or, the stupid gene, far from being a disadvantage, actually helps those affected by it live their allotted span in a contented bovine state, oblivious to the brutal world around them – and thus they thrive.

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Nits, worms and verrucas…

lice and nits

Where do I start?
I haven’t even mentioned the rats yet, and I can only blame the children for them if I use the guinea pigs as an intermediary.

First – the nits.
I noticed them when we got back from Christmas holidays, and I immediately set to work on Hannah’s head with my trusty Nitty Gritty comb.

I don’t normally recommend products, but this is by far the best nit comb I’ve used, and I’ve tried a few.
a) It doesn’t hurt as much as the plastic ones (I could tell by a drop in the volume of whimpering)
b) It picks up the eggs as well as the crawlers
c) It’s got a great name

So as the basin of water filled with little specks of itchiness, Ben hovered in the background awaiting his turn and taunting his sister –
“Look, there’s another one, you’ve got loads, you’re infested.”

That was at the beginning of January.
It hasn’t escaped my notice that it is now the beginning of February, and we are still not free of the little critters.

At least, we have been free of them a couple of times, but they keep returning.

It makes me want to march into school with a bag of Nitty Gritty combs shouting –

“Will you comb your kids’ hair. Here, take one of these, they work. It involves a minimum of effort. Just once a week and you can save your offspring and mine from scratching – forever.”

But of course I can’t do that. And neither can the teachers. We just have to carry on combing and plaiting and groaning and scratching.

Ben has escaped the latest thrice weekly programme of scraping, presumably because he is always a kick’s length away from his nearest playmate, and his break-time involves no head-to-head exchange of secrets and whispers.

Poor Hannah has born the brunt of it, and she’s fed up of having her hair in plaits every day.

And then there are the worms.

At least we’re not on holiday in France. I once had to mime the condition to a bemused pharmacist in front of a queue of immaculately dressed French people.

Here, the lady in Boots could at least understand the terminology. So that should be sorted – for now.

The verruca was due to be zapped at bedtime – until I read the packaging.

“The freezing procedure will cause a painful, aching or stinging sensation that can take a few hours to fade”
Not an auspicious addition to the bedtime routine.
So that’s been delayed until the morning, if there’s time for an extra task in our daily parade of breakfast duties.

And what of the rats?
I saw one in the garden the other day. I thought I may have imagined it, but then I spotted a nest of holes next to the heating oil tank. They look like rabbit holes, but smaller. The size of rats.

I’ve delegated the problem to Blog Fodder.
He has been to the garden centre in record time and returned triumphant with something called Rat Killer, which “targets and kills rodents humanely” and is “free from poisonous chemicals”.

Presumably it’s not free from chemicals that are poisonous to rats, but perhaps it means we can rest easy when the children go out to dig in the mud.

And how can we possibly blame the children for these uninvited new pets?
Well apparently rats like to set up home near a source of rodent food, and our back garden contains a plentiful supply of abandoned guinea pig chowder, carelessly strewn ‘twixt shed and cage on its way to sustain Phoebe and Sandy.

And why do we have guinea pigs in the garden? Because we have children.

Ergo – the rats are here because of the children.

I rest my case.

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Hope for the future?

I’m a fan of lateral thinking puzzles, and now my children like them too.
You know the kind of thing – a man, a puddle of water and a measuring tape.

The children were reading them out to each other, when Ben was offered this little gem…

A man and his son are in a car crash. The father is killed and the child is taken to hospital gravely injured.
When he gets there, the surgeon says, ‘I can’t operate on this boy – for he is my son!!!’
How can this possibly be?

If you don’t know the answer, stop and think.

If you do…

I remember a time when I found this a tough one to answer.
But Ben (who’s ten) said –

“The dad’s dead, so the surgeon must be his mum. What’s so hard about that?”

What a star, unsullied by the preconceptions of a previous generation.

It seems my hard work and indoctrination has had some impact since the day he said on the way to school –
“But a woman can’t be prime minister.”

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A Day’s Work

other people’s breakfast time

Some people arrive at work feeling fresh and ready to face their e-mails with humour and enthusiasm, after a restorative evening of relaxation.

I imagine those people are not parents.
Not of my children, anyhow.

I arrive at work feeling I’ve done a day’s hard graft, ready only to sit, numb and glum, in front of a screen – with just enough conscious thought to be glad it doesn’t crowd me with complaints, arguments and unreasonable demands.

This morning, by the time I left the house at 8.15am I had: –

- showered, dressed etc
- made 2 packed lunches
- finished laying breakfast table after half-hearted attempt by Hannah
- practiced 10 spellings each with 2 children
- gone through 8 times table with Hannah
- found out that Ben had not brought his homework home – again
- checked contents of 2 PE kits and 1 football kit
- plaited Hannah’s hair (fruitless nit prevention tactic)
- supervised 5 minutes of violin practice (Hannah)
- supervised 5 minutes of piano practice (Ben)
- searched for lost glove (still lost, probably forever)
- grabbed pile of bills in the hope I would remember to deal with them at work

After that, driving to work on my scooter in drizzle and gale force winds was a welcome 20 minute hiatus.

Just me, a whining 50cc engine and a howling wind.


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Slacker Dad

nice work, if you can get it

Back to work for me.
Another day off for the children.
And that means back to sole supervision of the children for Blog Fodder - without the handy intervention of school to take the strain.

You may have heard of Slack Dad.
I think Blog Fodder has taken his parenting methods to heart. And I have evidence…

Today, having enjoyed 10 uninterrupted days with the children, and now feeling slightly guilty that I found them irritating on many occasions, I arrange to meet the 3 of them in town for a late lunch (me) and a final beady-eyed trawl through Woolworths (them).

The first thing I notice is that their hair has not been brushed. I try to let this slip, as it’s not the end of the world.

But then Blog Fodder slips away to spend five uninterrupted minutes circling Woolies’ denuded shelves in search of unwanted items at knock-down prices.
He leaves me to take the children for a milkshake. I glare at Hannah’s knotted spaghetti-string hair.
I can’t help myself.

“Did you brush your teeth this morning?” I ask.

“No,” they are unfailingly honest about teeth, “Daddy didn’t tell us to.”

Even they are becoming experts at blaming their father for their own failings.
I press on, unable to hold back.

“And what did you have for lunch?”

They look at each other, they look at the floor, they glance at me until they can bear it no longer and then they give in.

“We haven’t had any yet.”
“Daddy didn’t have time.”
“He only gave us ten minutes to get dressed, brush our teeth and get into the car.”
“So we couldn’t brush our teeth.”
“He said he’d take us to McDonalds.”
“He said not to tell you.”

I look at the menu. It’s just a cake shop – no broccoli, no carrots.
I look at them.

“And we watched 2 films on telly this morning,” adds Ben, trying to feign outrage.

I think about all the children whose school holidays are filled with improving activities, and I sigh.

“You must be hungry, do you want to choose some cake?”

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No, Minister

No, Minister!

Having recently metamorphosed into a civil servant, it’s sometimes hard to remember that this is what I now am.

Or, at least, that it’s what I spend my working hours doing. I do try to maintain some kind of out-of-hours life.

And now my daughter has shone a piercing beam of light onto my new life.

She was explaining to me the functions of her latest creation… multiple space vehicles made from carefully folded coloured paper, which all interlink and fire off rockets at Baddies.

“This is where they fire their rockets from,” she told me, “and this is how they fly as fast as light.”

And as she zoomed them around the kitchen, she explained why they needed to fight: –

“They’re working for the Civil Service War.”

An interesting take on my new life.

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Tackling Terrorism

Blog Fodder looks for his bag

In which Blog Fodder leaves the comfort of his own home and gets very cross…

It’s gratifying to know that the stable doors at Exeter Airport are still firmly bolted.

It’s more than two years now since they were closed with a resounding clang after British authorities arrested 24 people in an alleged plot to blow up US-bound planes using explosives disguised as common liquids.

The Jihad against lotions and potions remains as vigilant as ever at Exeter, as I discover while waiting to board a flight to Jersey.

The super-smart X-ray machine discovers a small cool-box in my hand luggage. The tiny freezer block inside is quickly confiscated because it poses a potential terrorist threat.

The tub of margarine represents another suspect device and it, too, is whipped away.

I am permitted to keep the bangers… calm down, it’s only a packet of chipolata sausages.

Blimey, I’m thinking, whatever next?

It doesn’t take much of a rise in temperature before a bar of chocolate becomes a gooey mess and therefore a potentially lethal device.

Still, at least I have the consolation of knowing that the hi-tech snooper apparatus isn’t really up to the job.

The other cool-box in my bag remains undetected.
Inside is the terrorist twin of my former freezer block, a half-pound of Sainsbury’s deadly unsalted butter and a fiendish packet of Frubes.

Despite the arsenal in my hand-luggage you’ll be relieved to know that the plane landed safely, although by then the sausages were looking a bit iffy.

Blog Fodder

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Children and Chores

hard at work

We’re back to the pocket money question.

It’s been more than a year since we first experimented with the concept, but we gave it up because Ben said he didn’t want pocket money any more, and Hannah was too young to care.

He claimed he no longer wanted it because “Daddy already spends too much on me”.

I suspect it was so we couldn’t dock it for bad behaviour.

But now, he wants it again.

He goes to a junior youth club on a friday evening and wants more of the readies to spend on Haribo horrors.

So I decide to come over all American, and demand chores in return for cash.

I know they should do the chores anyway, but we haven’t managed to insist on it yet and I think this is a good opportunity to move things in the right direction.

And I always find bribery much easier than the more time-consuming methods of persuasion.

So we discuss which chores are up for grabs and they agree which ones they’ll take on.

Hannah - laying the table for breakfast and washing up (meal unspecified)

Ben - clearing the table and sweeping under it (after tea)

Day 1
I come down to breakfast to find a grinning Hannah, standing next to a table replete with bowls, cereal, a pot of tea for Daddy and a cup of white frothy stuff which looks like milk.
For me.

I don’t much like milk. I drink coffee for breakfast, and I have shown her how to make it.

I enquire further and discover that the cup contains half cold milk and half hot water, carefully frothed up.
No coffee.

“I forgot about that,” she explains.

I show her again, and take Mike’s tea up to him before it goes cold. It is, apparently, delicious.

At teatime, Ben gulps down his food, removes his plate and then stands by the table, hovering over the rest of us enquiring – “Have you finished yet?” every time we swallow.

A minor eruption occurs when I make it clear he doesn’t get to claim the cash immediately after the first day’s chore is accomplished.

Day 2
Breakfast is ready again, this time with frothy milk and coffee.
I wonder how long this will continue, as it’s a step beyond our agreement.

Tea-time goes more smoothly, with Ben claiming he hasn’t fogotten to sweep under the table. He’s just waiting until we’ve all finished, otherwise he’d have to sweep up all over again.

My regular lectures about time management are obviously beginning to hit home; if not in relation to homework/getting dressed/undressed/ready to go out – at least in relation to something.

We’re onto Day 3 tomorrow, and by Friday they will feel they’ve earned enough sweets to rot not only their own teeth, but also those of every other child in the school.

Whether or not sweets will make up for many minutes wasted on tasks they’d rather sit and watch Mike and me do – we will doubtless discover.

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Jersey Drivers

how to park - in Jersey

I don’t suppose many people have spotted any similarities between Brixton (South London, not Devon) and Jersey (Channel Islands, not USA).

I’ve lived in both places (and quite close to the alternatives in Devon and USA too) and I can tell you there is at least one.

It’s not that Jersey’s beaches are replicated in Brixton market; it’s not the striking similarity between the Barrier Block (where I lived for a few months) and the Waterfront.

No – it’s the drivers.

If you were to take a short trip down Brixton Road, past the tube station and then along Stockwell Road, you may opt to indicate your intention to turn left.

Well if you did you’d be on your own.

Indicating in SW9 is a sure sign of a lack in the cojones department.
A sign that you’re a namby-pamby, lackey of the Peelers, who feels it necessary to signal your intentions.

It is not the Brixton Way.

No, the Brixton way is to lurch dramatically across the road in front of mere law-abiders, to pursue your innate right to swerve about all over the place in your BMW until everyone else gets out of the way.

The Jersey Way is not dissimilar.

There’s less lurching perhaps, and markedly fewer BMWs (the island’s drivers seem to prefer Porsches and Mercs) but there’s a comparable lack of indicating.

There is, on the other hand, a lot of pulling up short to veer onto the nearest pavement to pop into a shop, as walking more than five steps from car to retail outlet is anathema to your true Bean.
I know this, as it’s an impulse I have to fight myself.

There are, however, differences in driving attitudes – the main one being the average approach to a T-junction.

Pull up at a main road on any street in central London, and you sit there whistling until you decide to risk your bumpers.
You just have to grit your teeth and stick your car out into the oncoming traffic until someone is intimidated into letting you out.

It may seem foolhardy, but it’s the only way you’re going to get out of the minor road before midnight.

Drive like this in Jersey, especially with English number plates, and abuse is all you’ll get.

In Jersey, commuters motoring down main roads at a top speed of 40mph with 3 or 4 cars pootling along behind them, will happily stop to let out a motorist waiting at a T-junction.

Had the main-street commuter not stopped, the waiting motorist would have had to sit a mere 5 seconds longer before being able to exit the minor road without disrupting the journeys of 4 or 5 other people.

But this is another example of the Jersey Way.

It may not be logical, but it’s quite sweet – as long as you’re not one of the 3 or 4 motorists stuck in the queue, who are forced into politeness when you’d far rather bully your way to work.

And don’t get me started on parking.
I think the photo above speaks for itself.

I’ve blanked out the number plate to spare any red faces… although I’m not sure that Range Rover drivers have the capacity to feel embarrassed.

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