The Yorkshireman Speaks… on pets, audience etiquette, noise and sneaky toddlers

A new addition to the family

As a family of four my wife and I thought that two children would be enough. Our house is already jammed to the rafters with mountains of soft toys and plastic landfill; I had to circumnavigate a course of Duplo blocks this very morning just to relieve my bladder. This all changed however, when last week my wife told me she wanted another, and this time we decided to adopt.

It was a big decision but last week I found myself getting ready to welcome the latest addition to the family. We fell in love with him straight away, he’s from Beeston, he’s called “Squidger” and he’s a goldfish. My daughter desperately wanted a pet so naturally we started with Dog then gradually worked backwards until we compromised with a goldfish; it was either that or a worm from the garden. When I was a lad I remember getting a goldfish, I say getting I actually mean “winning.”

Whenever the fair came to town, I’d go out with a fiver, lose a filling on a toffee apple, throw up my burger on the waltzers and come home with a live pet in a plastic bag. No one really knew what they were doing; you just got it home, stuck it in a Tupperware, called it Alan and left it on the windowsill to die. Dad would then have to go out and replace him with Alan MK2, who looked identical and then pretended that nothing was wrong.

We had one for years, he was like some sort of aquatic Bruce Forstyth and he grew to a huge size. Frankly he was too big for the tank; it was like a human trying to swim in a foot spa. I half expected to come home one day to find Alan kicking back with his fins out of the tank, wearing a dressing gown, swigging brandy and smoking a cigar. Thankfully this has all changed; you now have to be assessed to see if you are responsible enough to allow Alan into your home.

I thought it was ironic that the human I was buying this fish for was less well planned than the fish itself, but that’s just the way it is. We set up the tank a week before Squidgers arrival. Gravel had to be washed thoroughly, the water treated and a sample taken back to the garden centre to be tested in the lab. We were asked questions about where we were putting the tank and told what meals to give Squidger and how often. I’m pleased to say we passed with flying colours and Squidger is settling in well. They’ve said we need to go back in a month to assess how he is “getting on with everything” but so far so good.

He’s not sleeping because he’s a goldfish, so the bedtime story drags on a bit, but apart from that he’s great. He loves the film Finding Nemo and has already got his 50M swimming badge after only one lesson. Sometimes it can get awkward however, last night we had fish and chips and had to eat them in the shed, it just didn’t feel right.

But I’m on the phone

As a performer I love being on stage, there in the moment, connecting with the audience. However over the years I’ve started to notice something, people are utterly ruled by their mobile phones.

It’s getting to the point where you have to make a decision as an act to stop and deal with it or ignore it completely. I will often look out into the crowd and you’ll see that one person, face lit up like a low budget E.T, as they paw at their screens in the darkness. If you do confront them, they can often look at you as if to say, “but I’m on my phone?” It’s a strange phenomenon.

I’ve been at the theatre and someone in the audience has facetimed a friend to do a live video. I doubt that Shakespeare ever dreamt that one day the majesty of the line “to be or not to be” would be punctuated by the beep of an iPhone and a tiny voice from Wigan asking someone to angle the screen so they could see Prince Hamlets Jacobean ruff. I watched some you tube videos of concerts from 1995 the other night, yes the sound and picture quality was poor but the crowd certainly wasn’t. They were all facing forwards, all united in that moment and not a mobile phone to be seen; pure nostalgic bliss.

Shhhhhhhhhh!

As I sit and type this article I am working my way through my evening bowl of cereal, a regular night time treat and my wife is scowling at me. It’s not the fact that I’m using all the milk, it’s because the chomping and tinkling noises I’m making are getting on her nerves.

I am considering suspending myself from the rafters, on wires like a scene from mission impossible just to make a brew

Since the arrival of the new baby, noise, or should I say, and I’m whispering as I do, the reduction of it, has become the number one priority at Bennett towers. We always argue about it, which we have to do via sign language of course, which often looks like two angry mime artists facing off in an argument over territory in Covent Garden.

I can’t eat an apple after 7pm, because I sound like a racehorse having its breakfast, I get told to turn the television down before I’ve even switched it on which is frankly impossible and all the creaky floorboards in the house have been marked out like a chalk line around a murder victim. It’s getting to the point where I am considering suspending myself from the rafters, on wires like a scene from mission impossible just to make a brew.

I’ve tethered cushions to my feet using the belts from my trousers and if I ever need to cough or sneeze I have two options, run into the garden and unload into the wheelie bin or reduce the outburst by plunging my head into the fish tank and letting it out underwater. The medical term for this is called Misophonia, which literally translated means “hatred of sounds.”

There really should be more awareness of this condition but probably no one would be allowed to talk about it. Interestingly my wife has no issue with our one year old playing a drum or the six year old stomping round the house in tap shoes blowing a kazoo and wearing a skirt made from bubble wrap, so I can’t help wondering if it’s just me.

Sneaky toddler

Our one year old is on the move now, bounding round the house like a borrower on speed. Every day is like a baby version of the film Final Destination, corners of coffee tables are missed by a whisker, and an open stair gate is pounced upon like a prisoner looking to breakout. Frankly it’s an achievement that we get her through a day unscathed.

The latest hobby she has is to take our essential items, house and car keys, watches, jewelry and scatter them throughout the house. We’ve found remote controls in the bin this week and I couldn’t get my trainers on today as they were full of loose change a wallet and a angrily chewed Duplo brick.

It’s like having a tiny gangster living with us who has been tipped off last minute about a raid from the drug squad and desperately shedding their stash of gear.

If I see my daughter passing small parcels rolled up in a bib at the next “tiny feet” play session, I’ll know something is going down.

Scott Bennett

beeston, comedy, family

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