Honestly, explaining where babies come from is the easy bit..!

rude_rat

I think I have most of the attributes that go towards good parenting. I make up fun bedtime stories, know where we keep the plasters, let them win at board games, fake interest in their PokemonGo progress, drive them to school in the mornings, help with the homework and bounce with them on the trampoline. I am hard when I need to, soft when I should be and always, without fail, up for a cuddle. What I am no good at, and have been dreading since their birth, is explaining where babies come from.

I had hoped the subject would come up when their mother was about and I was in the garage, or away, or out of the house. I had managed to avoid the initial preamble quite well, the standard ‘you came from you mummies belly’ had worked for a number of years. But then forces beyond my control started to up the pace of my son’s questioning. It began when he came to me with ‘Lizzie’, his pet lizard, cupped in his hands, a look of worry on his face. ‘Dad’, he said ‘I am worried about her, she’s all squishy and spongy.’ I felt her abdomen and he was right, something wasn’t right at all. We put her onto the table so we could inspect her some more and she immediately flattened her body, arched her head upwards and started lifting her feet one after the other. We both just stared as one by one, little white eggs started popping out. ‘That isn’t poop for sure’ commented my son before charging off to alert the rest of the family that they should all come quickly to see. The eggs survived a night before Lizzy ate them but this had opened up a whole new world of questioning. How had she gotten pregnant? How long had she been pregnant? And where do babies come from exactly? I was lucky in a way as the sexual antics of a reptile are a fair way off from humans, so explaining things felt easy at this point and thanks to Google we all learned things without me having to draw a willy. But I was to be tested just a few weeks later when the rabbit decided to give birth as well. An egg is one thing but a baby rabbit is an altogether tougher subject. Our rabbits spend most days humping each other and how we laugh at their antics, I’d never considered trying to explain why our furry pets jumped on each other’s backs to the children, the pet shop had told us they’d been sterilised so I never gave much concern that their constant attempts would lead anywhere so we always said they were just playing about having some fun. Now we had a problem. Now it looked like I was going to have to draw a willy after all. I hoped the burden of explaining sex would fall to the school and checked the class syllabus in the hope that it was coming up soon. No luck, it wasn’t due until next term and the lady of the house was firm in her belief that on most jobs, most, if not all things and subjects family related, she has the final say. Vagina’s, semen, where things get stuck, who does the sticking and why, would most definitely be my job and mine alone. Reluctantly I got my pencils out, opened my sketch pad and began my introduction.

I will skip the detail, it’s enough to say I felt my class was a success and not as embarrassing as I had thought, although as an illustrator my willy drawings were pretty rubbish. Job done now let’s go hit the trampoline.

So a month or so passes and my son comes rushing into the lounge urging me to come quickly to see what Snouty, our pet rat, was up to. We have two rats, both male and both incredible pets. Friendly, playful and always doing things that make me realise how clever they are. I can spend ages watching them play, watching them eat and enjoy their fearless curiosity as they explore their world in my office. So I was interested to see what was happening to excite my son so much. I wish now I had been somewhere else, anywhere, but not in the house!

We found Snouty sat like a human, his back legs in front, his bottom on the floor, like he was sat in a chair. Very funny position indeed. But shockingly, looking closer it was clear he had his willy in his hand and was giving it right good tugging. I thought explaining the act of sex was hard work and my basic sex education class had wrapped up any further explanations but I was wrong, my mind was now racing about how to explain masturbation. And what is a rat doing bloody well masturbating anyway! Snouty made the whole thing doubly complicated when his dexterity enabled him to reach down and pop his willy into his mouth. Things went further pear shaped as by now my daughter had joined us and, on witnessing this act of self-fellatio, decided mummy should come and see, we should take a photo and tell everyone else we ever meet what we had witnessed because it was for them, the funniest thing they had ever seen. I failed as a parent at that point, I was overcome by inaction, and from nowhere, out popped their devices to video and photograph our rat having a bit of a self indulgence. The rat was totally unconcerned at all the attention and carried on enjoying himself, only stopping when he reached climax. That gave us all pause for thought and for a moment there was complete silence and we all stared, mouths open at what was going on before the children burst into giggles and began asking me what had just happened.

I had managed to dodge questions about a lizard laying eggs, joke away humping rabbits and stumbled a little when the baby rabbit appeared, but now I feared I had a difficult task ahead of me to explain not only a masturbating, willy sucking rat but one that quite happily ejaculates onto his own stomach! Before they had time to bring up the questions I knew were coming, I declared it was time we hit the trampoline and ran off like a madman!

Advertisements

The secret to keeping in shape isn’t gym membership, jogging or a healthy diet, I should know. It’s a rabbit…

Image

The rabbit is still with us. It’s taken over the hearts of everyone and has become the cherished member of the family I suspected it would. I couldn’t get rid of it even though I gave it some considered thought. Everyone seems to think the rabbit, or ‘Rabbit’ as she is now called, has a fondness for me over everyone else simply because she tends to stick close and follow me around. I agree. If I was her I’d stick pretty close. My children squeeze her too tight, often drop her, tug and pull her about, chase her around the house, try teaching her the basics of skateboarding, have her playing in the doll’s house dressed as a mermaid and given a few unsupervised moments, would give her a new haircut with pink highlights. A no brainer don’t you think.

As well as keeping her safe from the death clutches of the children, I take her out into the garden each morning and put her in our rather dodgy, makeshift ‘run’. That way she can get some air and enjoy a bit of space as well as earn her keep by trimming the lawn and fertilizing the garden. She knows the routine, she also knows that any opportunity of making a break for freedom must be taken at the moment when I am making the transfer from my arms to the outside cage. Every morning then, we have this routine, a daily dance that goes something like this; I pick her up from the hutch in the garage and take her in my arms upstairs to the garden, she cuddles up to me, licks and sniffs me and generally comes over as all lovey and cute. Being soppy and gullible I fall for this rouse each and every day and it earns her some stupid baby talk from me and a nibble at a chocolate biscuit I secretly still give her even though the vet would argue against it but which, judging by the way she gobbles it up and pesters me for more, I can confirm, she absolutely bloody well loves em!

The trap set, she prepares to make her move. As I take her out into the garden she kicks off big time. Now believe me, rabbits have one hell of a punch and so with the flexibility of a snake and some serious kicking and wiggling she fights her way out of my clutches and somersaults away. Landing catlike on her feet, she’s off, full speed down the lawn with me being left with no option but to give chase.

Have you ever chased a rabbit..? Like plucking a pig, it’s pretty hard to do. Not that I have ever tried plucking a pig but someone who I know who has, told me how hard it was. This may help qualify the difficulty. In the North of England they have this event where they set two greyhounds after a rabbit (maybe it’s a hare but come on, they are pretty much the same thing aren’t they) anyways, it’s a cruel thing but often the hare manages to out- maneuver and out-run the greyhounds. Hare coursing with humans would be a very dull affair even with an experienced rabbit chaser like myself as a competitor. I have neither the straight-line speed nor the ability to change direction as swiftly as a greyhound so the odds are firmly stacked against me. I think that adequately illustrates the situation.

The next ten to fifteen minutes involves much swearing as she runs me around the garden, into the flowerbeds and between the trees. Sometimes she stops and teases me, nibbling at the grass until I manage to get close, then she’s off again on her merry way. Eventually it gets serious and out come the big guns. The pool net with extendable pole makes its entrance. This is the game changer, with the odds now in my favour, ‘Rabbit’ goes for cover in the rose bushes, if I am quick I manage to catch her and like an alligator wrestler, roll about on the floor forcing her into a position of submission. Suitably subdued, she gets put into her run and a now panting, sweaty dad makes his way indoors for a coffee and a sit down.

In the evenings the routine is pretty much the same only longer and with the winter nights closing in, it’s usually in the dark. This means a torch is often required which further complicates the whole thing as keeping yourself on your feet whilst running with a pool net and one of those chunky billion candle torches is not as easy as it may seem, quick changes of direction are particularly difficult and ending up face first on the grass is a common result, which leads to even more swearing.

This evening ritual is often performed with an audience. The family seems to take some delight in watching this exciting event. I think my eldest is possibly running a book, taking bets on the outcome, certainly it seems to offer them all immense amusement. Yet rarely do they help, preferring more to cheer on ‘Rabbit’ with whoops and cheers and ‘you go girl’ before Cartoon Network draws them back to the sofa. They return every ten or so minutes just to tell me to hurry up as my dinner is on the table getting cold or to show me what book they want me to read to them that night. It would be nice if they were to help, once or twice they have but their dive bombs at the rabbit, if successful, I fear would lead to more vet bills.

There is however a positive side to this course of events though. Since we have been in possession of the rabbit I have managed to lose enough weight to now fit back into my Mickey Mouse T-shirt I treated myself to back in 2006, I’ve no flat pack stomach by a long way but I fit into it without the bulge screaming out ‘Old Tosser’. My better half reckons it still screams ‘Old Tosser’ simply because she thinks at my age you’d have to be one to wear it. But I like it regardless. I’ve also developed thighs, rock solid ones! I’ve never had thighs before and rather like the fact that sudden bending risks ripping my jeans, just like when Bruce Banner morphs into the Hulk. It’s a strange world don’t you think, all this unplanned exercise means my old T-shirts now fit me whereas my month young jeans now do not.

A few more weeks of all this running about and I may consider entering myself into a half marathon or one of those mini iron-man things, come to think of it, I could even wear my Mickey Mouse T-shirt. My training regime may seem unwanted and unconventional, but it’s working wonders as, according to my pedometer, each day the rabbit runs me around for 2.7 kilometers and now I don’t even break a sweat.

So forget expensive gym membership you’ll hardly use, forget riding a bike or forcing yourself to go through the punishment of jogging endlessly up and down the road. Get yourself a rabbit. Oh, and get yourself a pool net for when it just isn’t that funny any more!

How to get rid of a pet before it becomes a cherished member of the family.

Image

I am an animal lover at heart, my whole childhood had me surrounded by all manner of pets. Cute little guinea pigs, chickens, dogs, a ferret, a frog once, goldfish obviously and even a stick insect found its way to my adolescent heart for a couple of months. However, as an adult I tend to enjoy other peoples pets. It makes for an easier life. No having to walk the dog, no animal smell in the house or clothes with hairs dotted all over them, no vet bills, no mess and no tears when it pops its clogs.

But, being an animal lover, my guard went down one day when an abandoned rabbit found its way to our house and the begging, trouser tugging and promises to look after it properly from the children made it through my normally steel exterior and I agreed we would take it in. That day, the family gained a new pet and my life took a change for the worse.

I was never really any good working with wood. My childhood go-karts tended to fall apart, often at speed and my attempts at skateboard ramps never quite had the curve that allowed for a smooth ride. So tasked with making a hutch for our latest family member was fraught with bruised thumbs, splinters and frequent cursing. The result was a slightly wonky but not too bad wooden cage that in fairness, may look a bit odd, but serves its purpose.

It’s gone downhill since then though. The promises given by the children have not been honoured. The messy business of cleaning up has become mine. Feeding and changing its water, that’s my job as well. Putting it out into its run each morning and bringing it back inside each evening. Me. Paying for the vet bills. Me as well.

And I’ve also discovered that rabbits are not the eating machines I guessed they were. Oh no, we got a stern talking to from the vet about our poor dietary regime. How was I to know what food is and is not okay to feed them. Bugs Bunny eats carrots. But real rabbits shouldn’t. Lettuce, sometimes, biscuits, chocolate, flowers past their glossy shine, no, no and nope. A cup of tea in a saucer. Idiot! Holdy on. That means we have to buy rabbit food from a shop. Madness.

Well, I have a lot going on in my life, work being the main proportion of my day and I am finding the rabbit takes up too much of my time. Like I said, I am an animal lover through and through, so in bad weather I let her hang out with me in the office, if she is outside, I pop out every now and again to make sure she is okay, setting up her run each morning is 20 minutes, getting her bedded down for the night is another 20, checking her water supply, food bowl, cleaning the hutch… Honestly, these things are not fire and forget.

So what are the benefits..? As far I can see, none really. The children get to kiss, cuddle and manhandle her each evening so they love this fluffy ball. I get to take care of everything else. Well I have been thinking how best to get shot of her. I need to do this pretty sharpish because I am becoming fond of the thing and if I don’t sort it out soon, I will be unavoidably attached and will be unable to inflict anything other than kisses and cuddles myself, Which brings me to the point. How to get rid of a pet before it becomes a cherished member of the family.

My line of thought could work for you as well, you’d have to adjust things accordingly depending on the size of your pet but I think you will find they are workable. Remember though that all attempts will need to be done whilst the children are at school. That gives you the time to do things properly and saves you from having to explain the blood stained axe, hammer, tiny noose, rifle or concrete block with little feet sticking out of it, or whatever, that you may be seen walking around with. So avoid the weekend, call in sick one day instead.

Contracting a hit man is a bit excessive unless you are filthy rich or have the right ‘connections’ as finding a hit man is pretty tricky, Google doesn’t help nor does Yellow Pages.  Plus, entering the underworld could prove dangerous to you personally. My advice here is to bite the bullet so to speak and prepare to do the dirty work yourself.

I’ve spent a number of hours sitting on the toilet pondering workable methods. I wont go into details here but between you and me, I am rather proud of what I have come up with. On reflection, I couldn’t read all my hand-written notes that well but the gist is that some are messier than others, as you’d expect, but importantly, none of them cost anything apart from my initial idea of attaching a hosepipe from the exhaust into a slightly open window of the car. Fuel is a costly pollutant and nowadays we should be considerate of the environment. A greener, more sustainable alternative is to rig up your bicycle so that the rear wheel is off the ground and it can be pedalled in the garage, fast pedalling for 15 or so minutes with the wheel connected to some form of static generating device could create enough electrical energy to knock out an elephant. And don’t forget, it’s not only reusable, cycling is a good way of keeping fit.

I’ll leave this particular subject at this point and move onto the next thing you will need to consider very carefully. Hiding the evidence.

Obviously throwing it into your neighbours garden won’t work, especially if it is a pet elephant, I’d imagine even a baby one weighs a fair bit and you’d do your back in something rotten. You could however sneak into their garden and bury it under the cover of darkness, although you’d need one of those torches that has a strap so you can put it on your head, it makes digging the hole quicker and easier (elephant owners may find a trolley stolen from the local supermarket helps with transportation, unless it’s wet and muddy, then I would suggest a sledge or something similar). But do remember to check the site during daylight hours, you’d be silly to find out the next morning you’d buried it in the middle of their garden leaving a somewhat conspicuous mound. Do your homework first!

My office shredder isn’t up to the job either and I don’t think it’s worth buying one of those top of the line shredders that can chop up a whole phone book in one go, they are too expensive, even secondhand on e-bay, and should it malfunction, my guess is you wouldn’t be covered under the warranty.

My recommendation, visit your local party shop and buy some balloons filled with helium. I have calculated, based on weight, that 22 party balloons filled with gas should provide enough lift to give a flight time of about 30 minutes, on a windy day that should travel a fair old distance. Buy a few extra balloons for the kids while you’re at it, they love things like that!

Having made good the disposal, the next area that needs to be considered is the touchy subject of explaining things to the children. Now obviously you don’t let them know the truth, come on, that’s heartless! No, you have to let everyone think it was beyond even your super powers to prevent things happening. A suicide note or letter from heaven could work, depending on the age of your children this could be a drawing, a text message or a video posted on their Facebook page. It doesn’t have to be that highly polished, just a letter saying bye bye, I love you, I am much happier here with my friends, blah de blah.

One common ploy is to tell the children it must have escaped. Then you can describe how it has probably befriended others and is, as we speak, probably enjoying the open fields and bountiful food natures larder provides, free of any cage, free of any worry. They like that sort of thing.

Getting Mum to do it is often a better solution. I should mention here that letting ‘mum’ in on your plan may not be such a good idea though, the chances of failure increase proportionately as the number of people involved in the misdemeanour increase. Loose lips and all that. No, ‘mum’ explains the loss of loved ones much better when she herself thinks the loss is genuine. Which is why hiding the evidence is the most critical aspect of the plan. Invest time into this and you’ll never have to worry about being rumbled.

At this point though there is a caveat I should add in. There is a real risk that because the children react so staggeringly bad to the news of their loss that the only consolation, the only way to mend their broken hearts, take their mind off things and bring some sunshine back into the home, will be that mum, without consent or discussion with you beforehand,  will purchase a replacement pet. Which puts you right back to square one and makes a repeat of things highly dubious.

I’m stuffed. From having the perfect plan I have found the flaw is Mummy. Taking her out of the equation is tricky. And it’s only a pet after all. Hold on though, I think I have something…

IT’S NOT A GIFT, IT’S A CURSE…

ImagePeople assume being able to draw is a gift. They see creativity as something bestowed upon the chosen ones. I guess I see their point but I usually disagree. I can’t think that being able to draw is anything other than the combination of desire, practice and opening your eyes to what you are seeing. As for creativity. Well for that you’d have to get into the topic of what exactly creativity is because when you look long and hard at it, we’re all creative. Explaining to my dad that I didn’t just crash his car, that I had in fact been escaping an alien UFO that was, I am sure, going to abduct me, is being creative. Baking a cake in the shape of woman’s breasts and decorating it accordingly, is also being creative. Making the company accounts look okay when actually all the time you’ve been fiddling the books is I suppose in some way being creative…  So it’s not a gift, it’s something you work at or something you don’t. I work at it and for my efforts it can sometimes become a bit of a curse.

Let me explain. Friends, apparently not wanting to take advantage of this so called gift, often ask me to ‘knock up’ a quick logo for them or take a look at their website. But the worst offenders of my good nature are by far my children. They take full advantage of Daddies abilities by wanting me to create the invitations and cakes for their birthday parties. When they were unable to walk properly the invitation was a phone call to friends, as they started to mutter words the invitation was a quick chat in the school playground with the parents, but as the years pass and their ability to think, talk and demand increase, they sit me down and brief me on what their expectations are, what the theme is to be for this year and what deadline I shall be working to. The terms are made clear at the outset. In return for my services, they will settle things up with a kiss and a cuddle, the shallow promise that they will share their Sherbert Dip with me and that I may come along to the party myself!!!

Now I may be thought of as greedy, that money is a major influencer, bills to be paid and all that, but the kiss and cuddle offer is far more attractive and although I am partial to the odd Sherbert Dip, experience tells me they’ll not honour that side of the agreement. Willingly I therefore accept the brief knowing in the back of my mind that this will be a difficult project from a demanding client and, as always, with very little time left to do it.

Squeezing time out of my day, running late into the evenings to meet the deadline I toil away creating the invitations. I try and unwrap the reasoning behind their temporary yet obsessive current love of things like Ben 10, My little Pony, Hello Kitty and Thomas the Tank Engine. I try and see the merit of the Nerf gun and wonder why an 8 year old and his mates would want to climb a tree and zip wire down to the ground, then do it again and again all bloody afternoon. My childhood feels so distant from theirs, Action Man was all I had, it was all I needed. Apart from my bicycle, Mr Potato Head and a game of Mousetrap rendered useless due to a few important pieces missing.

After hours of working late into the evening, countless sketches, hastily shot photos and a dozen drafts. A presentation is made. Usually at the dinner table, after they have done their homework of course! It’s a nerve wracking time, grubby fingers crease and curve the proofs, comments on choice of colours and typefaces used dominate the proceedings. Mummy points out the date is wrong and the conversation drifts onto what flavour cake, what colour and how many balloons will be needed and whose job it will be to blow them up the night before. I refocus the group and explain why a sans serif font is better suited, how the subtle elements in the image reflect the values of the host and the planned event, how the target audience will be seduced by the carefully considered mix of words and pictures and how a matching web page can increase response and make participation easier. I talk about distribution channels, print processes, delivery times and copyright issues. They must have taken this all in because what seems like thoughtful silence follows. I wait for comments, for approval that my efforts and skills have gone some way to meeting the brief, I want a ‘wow’, a ‘that is fantastic’, a sign that their choice of designer has exceeded expectations…

It never comes. The homework has been done, food has been eaten, I am now disrupting their vastly more important evening free time which takes priority over everything. So, meeting suddenly over, I am left alone at the table now holding proof artwork that has taken a toll on my life, that I have slaved over, been passionate about, has been thought about, re-thought about, worried about and excited about. It now sits in a little puddle of apple juice, has been torn a bit, has gravy stained fingerprints all over it and my daughter has kindly drawn a little picture of a rather too anatomically correct woman in the corner in pink crayon, her favourite.

Later that week I correct the date, modify the colours and reproof. This time, the night before, I just leave the print out on the kitchen table for them to look at. Come the evening I pick it back up, off the floor from under the kitchen table. It’s been torn, the fingerprints look like jam ones and my daughter has drawn a picture of me on it, in pink again, this time not very correct, I seem to have a beard, have what looks like boobs and am wearing a dress.

I try and get everyone gathered for a meeting to review the design but piano lessons, homework and the fact that I promised to read them a funny bedtime story means they have little time to give me on the subject other than a ‘yes it’s fine, go ahead’ which I take as a positive.

I arrange the printing of the invites, the matching t-shirts and the edible print that will go onto the cake. I build the web page, test browser compatibility, test the QR code and sit back with a coffee pleased with my efforts. The campaign will be over shortly and I will be able to pat myself on the back, knowing inside that I have given this project 100%, knowing that although the client, like all clients, won’t ever give me the full credit I would like, that for them, yes the design is important but they are dealing with many other issues and priorities, which is why they commissioned me in the first place, to let them get on with other things.

And that’s the point really. I can let real clients get away with all this, they’re paying me, the curse is that even though this is not a client and cuddles, no matter how big or how often, won’t pay the mortgage or buy the latest software update. The curse is I have no choice.