Scotty’s Soap Box: Halloween Special

Now is the time of year our streets will be teaming with youngsters, all wearing costumes and face paint, marauding through the local community, angrily making their demands. No, I’m not talking about the next protest from Extinction Rebellion; I’m referring, of course, to Halloween.

I’m baffled as to why it seems to be such a big deal these days? I think it’s the closest us Brits get to having an affinity with the Americans, apart from our growing obesity problem and embarrassment with our political leaders. It’s a major feature on the calendar now. The kids get excited like it’s Christmas and it nearly rivals Easter when it comes to the calorie count.

When I was a kid back in the 1980s Halloween wasn’t even a thing. I can only remember going trick or treating a few times. The first time was when I was about three years of age, a mere amateur in the game. My parents took a photo of the occasion. I was there sporting a massive black bin bag, with skeleton bones crudely drawn on the front in Tippex. I looked like a walking ISIS flag. I was wearing my father’s wellingtons as they were black and presumably, my Fireman Sam ones didn’t have the required scare factor. I was sat in my Batman go-kart and my poor dad was pulling me around the streets with a rope. I think I was the only Trick or Treater to be chauffeur-driven.

The second time I was about 12, which in trick or treater years is approaching retirement. I was with a friend and went trick or treating around his estate. It was a strange night. The only people to answer the door were his parents, his grandma and one of his highly religious neighbours, who gave us a little note of some bible scripture, warning us against dabbling with the occult. My mate ate it as he thought it might be some sugar paper, it wasn’t but he’s now a fully qualified vicar so it was certainly laced with something.

They even have zombie walks through town centres now. Hundreds of people, walking with a vacant stare, moaning and groaning. I’ve seen it in Nottingham many times, although not exclusively on Halloween.

I often wonder if trick or treating is different in really posh areas. The kids would probably only be able to do two houses as it would take half an hour to walk up the driveways. They’d all be dressed in designer Halloween costumes, a little off the shoulder gothic number by Gucci, with a swan slung over each shoulder and they wouldn’t say trick or treat, it would be “Hoodwink or delicacy?”

Unless it’s Green and Blacks 80% organic fairtrade chocolate, they’d not accept it and the tricks would be a little different too, something more in-keeping with the area. “I say sir, haven’t you heard, house prices here are set to plummet by 5%!”

I have two children, nine and three, strange names but easy to remember. They both love Halloween. At my eldest daughters’ school last year for Halloween they were allowed to go in fancy dress, she said to me, “Daddy I want to go as something really scary.” So I had a think about it and sent her as an Ofsted inspector.

We don’t send them out on their own trick or treating, it’s a different world now. So, we have to accompany them like a pair of weird bouncers. Waiting at the bottom of the driveways and mouthing an embarrassed “sorry” as they storm into our neighbour’s hallways to mug them of all the Haribo they have.

The street I live on really embraces Halloween, because the demographic is mainly young families. It started out quite low-key, a couple of pumpkins, maybe a cobweb here and there. A morning at Costa and a WhatsApp group later and its now Grand Designs meets Friday the 13th. It’s a competition in one-upmanship. We’ve got gravestones in gardens, smoke machines and spooky music on Bluetooth speakers. Last year one resident had the idea of putting a life-size dummy of a killer clown in the front seat of their people carrier. It was a nice touch until one child had a panic attack. I think they are still in therapy now.

I don’t know where this madness is going to end. I wouldn’t be surprised if my wife tries to convince me to bury myself in the garden, with nothing but a paper straw to breathe through. She’d tell the children I was working away and then on Halloween night, as soon as the first bars of Michael Jacksons “Thriller” are blasted across the garden, I would emerge from the soil like one of the Living Dead.

Towards the end of the evening, we tend to get the stragglers coming, to pick off the last of the sweets. These are the kids who are too old for the trick or treating game. The ones who have worn the tread on the tyres, jaded old hacks who should know better. The cut-off point is when The One Show intro music starts, everyone knows that. Once the pumpkin is extinguished it’s over. Yet they still come, all charged up on E-numbers, mobile phones lighting their faces like low budget ETs and hammer the doorbell. I expect the reason they were late is because some of them are old enough to be working at Subway and they needed to finish their shifts first.

The carving of the pumpkin is something I try to involve the children in. It’s a calmer, more traditional taste of Halloween. The kids try and carve, but ultimately, they get bored. They start off with such big ideas, “I’m going to carve Harry Potter’s face into this one Daddy!”, “I’m going to do a full-scale picture of Hogwarts in mine Daddy!” this all fades away at record speed when they realise how difficult it is to cut into and all we end up with is two pumpkins with a glory hole in them.

This years Halloween will be very different. I won’t be able to celebrate it as I am performing my tour show “Leap Year” (tickets available at www.scottbennettcomedy.co.uk/tour.html yes this is a plug) in Amersham, Hertfordshire.

Let’s hope that it’s a treat for me and not a trick where no one turns up. Or worse than that, one person turns up, in fancy dress as the grim reaper.

@scottbcomedyuk | scottbennettcomedy.co.uk Find The Scott Bennett Podcast on SoundCloud and iTunes.

The Yorkshireman Speaks #12

This month the Yorkshireman looks at how children are an inspiration

Pablo Picasso famously said, “All children are artists. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up.”

We recently went on a family holiday and I’m using the term “holiday” loosely. There is no such thing as a holiday when you have a young family, it’s essentially just stress on tour. You go from your house, where you all have your own space and comfort and go and live together all in one room, for two weeks, like the Bucket Family in Charlie and The Chocolate Factory. That isn’t a relaxing break, that’s like you’ve been temporarily rehoused after a flood. They shouldn’t give you duvets, just foil blankets, you don’t need room service you need the red cross!

You don’t realise how noisy your kids are until you all have to sleep in one room. How can a two-year-old snore? They are T-Total, have hairless nostrils, yet mine sounded like Gollum with a head cold!

Your bedtime is their bedtime too, that’s so weird. My wife and I were laid next to each other in the dark, all wired and awake, “I can’t sleep” she said, “neither can I it’s ten to seven, the One Show hasn’t even started yet!” People said to us, try keeping the kids up. No, we’ve tried that they go feral, they start fighting and crying, screaming at each other across the hotel lobby whilst people are trying to check in, it’s like a hen night without the gin.

“They are like dictators in Peppa Pig pyjamas.”

As parents most of your holiday is spent huddled in the bathroom, that’s like your own little apartment. It’s ten o’clock at night and you find yourself sitting there on the toilet, just drinking a box of wine, eating a buffet off the side of the bath. Rockstars chop out lines of cocaine in a hotel bathroom, I’m cutting carrot into sticks.

You get jealous of the childless couple in the room next door, “they’re loud aren’t they? I wonder what they are doing?”

“Each other probably, like we used too, remember that?” you both stare wistfully into the distance, imagining what that would be like, then one of you breaks the silence, “fancy another game of travel Scrabble?” “yeah, whose legs are we balancing the board on?”

We came back shattered too, because the youngest always came and slept in bed with us. She’d always say, “Daddy I’m scared, I’ve had a nightmare” I felt like saying, “So, have I mate, what’s yours about? mine started in 2016, looks exactly like you and it doesn’t end even when I’m awake. But why don’t you pop in here with us and for the next eight hours, just use my back as a treadmill. I love the way you position yourself just at the perfect height to kick me repeatably in the kidneys until the sun rises.

She’s doing so many miles on my back at one point I swear my wife started sponsoring her. I always know when the holiday is coming to an end because it’s the same day, I start to see blood in my urine, that first wee of the morning was like Darth Vader’s light sabre!

The kids just gradually take over the bed, it’s like sleeping with a military occupation. They are like dictators in Peppa Pig pyjamas. I spent the whole night clinging on to the edge of the bed. The only thing that kept me there was the suction from my own clenched arse cheeks.

It was on this holiday however, that I noticed this zest for life that the children have and it made me re-evaluate my attitude to things.

We had a key card for our hotel room door and this blew the kids minds. A simple plastic card, a door handle and a little green light, that was like Disneyland to them. Every day they had to take it in turns, one of them would take the card, we’d all have to leave the room. They then would approach the door, put the card in, we’d marvel at the little light, they would open the door, we’d all walk into the room, one child one give the card to the other one, we’d then back out of the room again and repeat the process again….six times a day. We spent more time in that corridor than we did in the room!

If you did this as an adult people would tell you to grow up!

I feel that they do need to reign in this excitement. Life is going to be such a disappointment. If they carry on like this, the first time they do drugs their heads will fall off and no doubt a plastic card will be involved there too.

I have realised the best way I can be a role model to my kids is to approach life with positivity and joy, what other choice do we have? As adults we need to be more like the kids with the key card, reconnecting with those experiences in life that make us happy. So, I’m making changes, tomorrow morning I’ll be up at eight, singing and whistling and marvelling at the majesty of that bin lorry from my window.

@scottbcomedyuk | scottbennettcomedy.co.uk

Find the Scott Bennett Podcast on SoundCloud and iTunes

The Yorkshireman Speaks: British Booze Culture

Congratulations, some of you reading this have almost made it to the end of “Dry January.”

A whole month without booze, there’ll certainly be a celebration when it’s over. Not just for you, but for the rest of your family too. They’ve had to endure a month of your miserable face sulking round the house, looking at all that left-over festive booze and moaning about not being able to touch it.

I think the British have a real issue with alcohol. As a comedian I often have to walk through city centres late at night and it’s like Dawn of The Dead. There are couples screaming at each other, men trying to pick up their mates in an impromptu show of strength, people rocking back and forth in the kebab shop hypnotised by a spinning slab of meat. Then there’s little old me, sober as Mother Teresa, trying to make it back to my car with my flask and tuna sandwiches.

Us Brits can turn any event into an excuse for booze. Wedding? Have a drink. Funeral? Have a drink. Finished the decorating? Have a drink. I was in an airport recently. Now that’s where we really go for it. It’s like everyone is on some sort of perpetual stag weekend.

You never hear this conversation anywhere but in an airport:

“What time is it?”
“Ten to four in the morning”
“Fancy a pint?”
“Why not? We are on holiday!”

No, you’re not mate. You’ve gone nowhere. You’re still in the East Midlands. What are you doing?

Surely the last place you want to be hammered is at 36,000 feet in a glorified tin can. What if you are the passenger who has to lead everyone off the plane? You’ve been drinking since 4am, it took you an hour to open that packet of crisps, how are you going to cope with an emergency exit and an inflatable slide?

We don’t do this with other forms of transport. You don’t see anyone drinking cans of Kestral at 6am before getting on the 38 bus to Long Eaton? Well you do actually. Sorry that’s a bad example, but to be fair if I had to drive that bus route too, I’d have a drink.

I do most of my drinking under the radar. I don’t mean laid on the runway. I mean when I’m cooking. Specifically Sunday lunch. I love cooking and drinking. It’s amazing. It’s like normal boozing but instead of a hangover you’re left with a slow cooked lamb shoulder and seasonal vegetables. Occasionally you have to chase the last few drinks with a shot of Gaviscon, but that’s as bad as it gets. To the outside world you’re a diligent parent providing a meal for your family, however in reality you’re smashing your way through that drinks cabinet like a teenager whose parents have left them home alone.

My night out starts at 10am Sunday morning. As soon as Andrew Marr says goodbye, I pour a sneaky glass of wine and tell everyone to get out the kitchen; I need space to create. It’s just me, Amazon Alexa and Delia Smith.

By half twelve I’m naked from the waist up, body shiny with meat grease, dancing around on the lino floor like Mr Blonde in Reservoir Dogs, ripping chunks of off the roast with my bare hands. At this point my wife always comes in. “I thought you were cooking?” I shout back at her, “I am, I’m doing a red wine reduction, I started with a full bottle and now it’s nearly gone.”

I start to get overconfident, experimenting with flavours. “You know what this mash potato is lacking? Vanilla extract!” I’m pioneering flavour combinations even Heston Blumenthal would describe as “a bit much.”

My portion control is all over the place too. “How old is she? 3? I reckon she’d eat a kilo of mash.” The alcohol makes you fearless, you start taking things out of the oven with no gloves. I once ended up with the Tefal logo burnt into my palm like Joe Pesci in Home Alone.

By two, I’m in the euphoric stages of the cooking binge. Most of the week’s shop has gone, I’ve got some Brillo pads browning under the grill and I’ve fried off my rubber gloves in garlic. I’ve used every single pan too, so I’m now having to boil the sprouts in a wok.

I rarely remember the meal itself, but I always think it went well. I’m often laid on the sofa, nodding in and out of consciousness. Behind me I can just make out the sound of smoke alarms and pans being scraped into the bin. “At least he tries to cook,” says my wife to the starving children, dialling the number for Domino’s, “and I reckon he’s onto something with that vanilla mash.”

Scott Bennett

The Yorkshireman Speaks: Approaching forty…

Flirting with forty

Next year I am 40. I can’t quite believe it. I remember my mum and dad being this age, I didn’t think it would happen to me. I hoped I would be like a Yorkshire Benjamin button, a pound shop Peter Pan, but here I am, clinging onto the remnants of my thirties like a terrified toddler clutching their mothers’ hand on that first day at playgroup.

Forty is a strange age, it changes how you feel about certain things.

I used to go to festivals, days spent in muddy fields with nothing but a can of Strongbow and a wet wipe between three of us. Festivals at forty are different, it’s hard to be “down with the kids” when you have brought your own kids. The youth arrive on the Megabus, you’ve come in a people carrier with a roof box. You make your way through the field, holding a cool box in one hand and some fold up picnic chairs in the other. You’ve got one kid on your shoulders, another is following behind you in badly fitted wellingtons and a cagoule, any cool factor you may have managed to muster up is instantly destroyed when your wife, who is weighed down with an M and S picnic, shouts, “keep walking love, it’s way too loud here” it’s as if she is saying, “I want to find a lovely spot, well away from any kind of atmosphere.”

So, you sit there with your other forty-year-old friends, huddled around the picnic blanket, holding a cucumber and dip, talking about school catchment areas whilst a band from the 90’s who weren’t successful enough to retire, massacre songs you never liked the first time around. There is a moment of excitement when one of the group brings out a hip flask, what could it be? Vodka, Whiskey, Jager? Nope….Gaviscon. “Scott I’ve got some acid” “really?!” “Yeah, reflux, that red pepper humous is really repeating on me!”

It’s really odd, I’ve found myself enjoying a garden centre now, we go most Sundays, it’s just an excuse to go out. We go to the café for a brew and scone then just come home, we don’t even buy anything, no other shop offers that facility, you don’t go to B and Q for a roast dinner?

I used to get frustrated watching my dad play Super Mario, he’d just be wandering around aimlessly, bumping into stuff and dying, that’s me now!

I have started walking differently too. Young people stride purposefully, hands by the side, or holding a phone, frenetic, on the move, propelled by hope and ambition. I’ve noticed I’ve started ambling, with my hands behind my back, like a pensioner on a bus trip looking in the window of an antiques shop. I’m like a geriatric Liam Gallagher, I’m literally saying my future, is behind me.

Subconsciously I’m already old, I always have been. Look at the car I drive, it’s the most popular model with pensioners. I bought it because it had seven years warranty, although don’t ask me what happened after that, because no-one has ever made it. Seriously, I reckon they have to finish the paperwork via Ouija word. I asked to have it modified, pimped up. They brought it back in a cardigan, with some Werther’s originals in the ashtray.

I used to love playing video games, that’s all changed. Not only do I not have time to do it, I’m useless too, it’s as if my reflexes and cognitive skills have gone, I get nauseous walking around Ikea, so after playing a first-person role-playing game, I’d have to lie down for a week. I used to get frustrated watching my dad play Super Mario, he’d just be wandering around aimlessly, bumping into stuff and dying, that’s me now! All this online gaming is beyond me too, I live in a house with three women, my self-esteem is already rock bottom without having my arse handed to me by an eleven-year-old French kid whom I’ve never met.

The games are so vast, some take weeks to complete, if you’ve got kids, you haven’t got time to play them.

A friend of mine he is married but he doesn’t care, he sits up all night drinking cans of Monster and playing games with his VR headset on. He told me he was playing this game the other week and it was so realistic that at one point a woman came into the room behind him, opened the curtains, told him to “Grow up” and left with his kids.

Physiologically your body starts to change, have you ever tried going on the swings at the park as an adult? Three swings and you are ready to vomit in a bin.

They should make some games that are more appropriate for people in their forties. Maybe things like “Ikea dash”, the idea is to get to the café before the meatballs run out and the argument bar is always on red, you might have infinite lives but every single one of them feels exactly the same. There could be a game where you have to punch other people’s kids in a soft play centre, bonus points if the parents don’t catch you. Finally, a strategy game where the main character eats a bit late and then has to ransack a medicine cabinet looking for an emergency Rennie.

Your tastes in the opposite sex change when you get older too. There is nothing more attractive to me now than a woman who can handle a double buggy, intercept a runny nose and crack open a fruit shoot with her teeth all at the same time. She’s got one arm that’s more muscular than the rest, where she’s been carrying around a toddler for miles at a time. You don’t have to waste your time with your pointless sweet talk too, she’s got bums to wipe. Get to the point and make it quick.

Physiologically your body starts to change, have you ever tried going on the swings at the park as an adult? Three swings and you are ready to vomit in a bin. It’s to do with the change in your centre of gravity, which is probably fortunate, otherwise we’d never want go to work. Offices would be empty and playgrounds would be full. You’d see them full of account managers in shirts and ties, lying on roundabouts and trying to skype a meeting with head office from the top of the snake slide.

When Douglas Barder, the successful WWII fighter pilot lost both his legs it actually enhanced his combat abilities as he could resist larger G-forces. That’s clearly the answer, if you want to enjoy the swings as an adult all you have to do is chop off both your legs, but then you’d not be able to go on the climbing frame, so it’s swings and roundabouts. Or in this case, just swings, with another adult pushing you.

@scottbcomedyuk
scottbennettcomedy.co.uk
Find The Scott Bennett Podcast on SoundCloud and iTunes

The Yorkshireman Speaks: Pensioner Pastimes

The man doesn’t give a pluck

I can’t wait until I retire. It can be the glory years. Just think about all the things you can do. The joy you can get from just paying the world back one day at a time for all the misery it’s caused you. I’d be getting up at 8am every morning, getting into rush hour traffic and then just getting in everyone’s way, towing a caravan behind just to annoy people further. Then I’d go home, listen to Gardeners world, before popping out at lunchtime to go a stand in the post office queue, clogging it up, just for one stamp, glorious!

With all this time on your hands you can discover new hobbies, like my dad has done. He is now the member of a Ukulele troupe! The Pontefract Pluckers! I don’t know what the correct collective term is for a group of Ukulele players, maybe Ukuleleurs, ukers, ukulelites, ukuleliers or maybe a twang of Ukers. Whatever they are it’s a group of blokes that meet in my parents kitchen every week to strum through a badly tuned version of the classic hit “I am the urban Spaceman” by the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band.

“It was like The Who playing next to a busker.”

Playing an instrument is a great way to lose yourself and relax, but it does depend on what type of person you are. There is a member of the group who is a bit difficult, a bit of an Axl Rose, from Guns and Roses type of character. If the band ever got their big break he would be the first one demanding he was taken everywhere on his own jet, saying he won’t go on stage without his psychologist, or until someone sorts him out a bowl of M and M’s with all the red ones removed and a bottle of Evian at precisely 0 degrees. He would be late to soundchecks and have the crazy artistic girlfriend who would stop him going to jamming sessions until his chakras were totally aligned and he had finished feeding his spirit animal.

This guy, let’s call him Brian, because that’s his name, has a reputation for being difficult. He has been thrown out of two other Ukulele groups. At one group the woman in charge asked him to leave because he was always plugging his amp in during practice sessions and drowning out the rest of the group. It was like The Who playing next to a busker.

Another group asked him to leave as he was turning up every week for the lesson but not paying, after a few months they confronted him and he said, “I’m not paying because you didn’t teach me anything I didn’t already know!” what a maverick!

Recently the group and Brian had a “gig” I say “gig” it was a gathering at some parish councillors back garden at a fundraiser for the local rotary club and I had the pleasure of going along to watch them. They “Pontefract Pluckers” were on a little veranda in the corner. Brian had printed out song sheets for everyone. However, when they started it was clear that they would only be background music, like a lounge singer in a hotel foyer. No one was paying attention, apart from the one lady who had a few too many glasses of prosecco and was clutching her song sheet swaying and singing, quite badly, into a breadstick. It was quite windy and the sound travelled but not brilliantly and they had no mics, they only had a little amp, provided by Brian.

They were doing fine but no one was paying attention. Then in the middle of Brian just puts his instrument away turns off the amp and leaves in a tantrum, stopping only to grab a scone from the table as he walked past. I’m surprised he didn’t kick over the amp, smash his Ukulele on the side of the veranda and try to get a riot going. He would’ve struggled to be fair, it was The Rotary Club not the Hells Angels.

@scottbcomedyuk
scottbennettcomedy.co.uk
Find The Scott Bennett Podcast on SoundCloud and iTunes

The Beestonian is: Scott Bennett – Yorkshireman

Beeston-based Stand-up Comedian Scott Bennett, writes the regular “Yorkshireman Speaks” column, normally from the relative comfort of his shed. Insulated, with three power points, electricity and superfast broadband, it’s been the perfect portal to broadcast his ill thought opinions on society.

Scott has worked as a writer for The Chris Ramsey show on Comedy Central and the BBC News Quiz on Radio 4. As a stand-up he has supported Rob Brydon on his nationwide tour. He also writes and produces his own pilots with his supremely talented wife Jemma. Their mockumentary “Caravan of Love” made the official selection for the Beeston Film Festival in 2018. You can also hear his actual voice on the Scott Bennett Pubcast on Itunes, with some other Beestonian regulars.

He’s an English Comedian of the Year runner up and can be found most weekends slogging up and down the nation’s roads, spreading mirth to places as exotic and as far afield as Hull.

Twitter: @scottbcomedyuk
scottbennettcomedy.co.uk

The Yorkshireman Speaks: Having kids

You’re stressed? Course you are, you’ve got kids!

There is a simple fact that children have a much bigger impact on your quality of life than say smoking or drinking. But when you buy those products there are warnings on the packaging for the consequences to your health. They should do that on the stuff you buy when you are trying to get pregnant, imagine walking into Boots, picking up a packet of Folic acid and on the back is a picture of a couple having a lie in, that would make you abandon the idea in an instant. There are probably other images you could use, but how do you capture in a photograph someone strangling your dreams?

Having children is stressful, there is no doubt about that. But you have to work very hard to not let that stress affect those members of society who haven’t got children and that’s easier said than done, because you despise these people. Watching them dance through their lives without a care in the world, it’s like looking at who you once were; free, happy and blissfully selfish.

“What shall we do today, we have no responsibilities, no ties, don’t you feel energised after that twelve hours of uninterrupted sleep?”

All you want to do is just take your pushchair and ram it into the back of their smug heels, just to release that tension, to bleed the valve on the pressure cooker that is parenting.

But there are many occasions where you can’t contain it, where it explodes, like some sort of social terrorism, here are some of my favourite examples.

The family meal out

Is there anyone who enjoys a meal out with the family? You do it because you feel like you should. The only meal out I enjoy with my kids is when I am in the supermarket, they are hungry and I open a loaf of bread and give them a slice, basically when I treat our kids like ducks, that’s a stress free meal out.

You have visions of that perfect Utopia, the children sitting there happily, with angelic faces, “We’ll eat anything daddy, you know us we are not fussy, order what you like, we are just thrilled to be all together.”

But that illusion is washed away in a tsunami of blackcurrant Fruit Shoot as soon as you walk in the place.

You see the other parents in their own private hell, holding phone screens up to kids’ faces, every time it’s pulled it away the kid starts to scream, it’s like a medic treating a wounded soldier on a battlefield.

There isn’t a table, it doesn’t matter. You find the people who are on their desserts and stand next to them and make them feel so uncomfortable that they speed up, “he’s just looking at that cheesecake, just move!” you help them put their coats on, you basically evict them from that table.

Once the kids are sat down the pressure is on. The first thing is to get the crayons and activity sheets, god forbid that the kids have to occupy themselves for five minutes. Why the obsession with stationary?!?

You may as well just have a picnic in Rymans.

When the waiter arrives you’re just angry.

“Are you ready to order guys?”

Course you’re ready to order, you were ready last Wednesday, you just wish they’d stop wasting time. You begin to lose your temper:

“When you bring the food, just bring the bill too, this hell needs to end. In fact, forget the cutlery or plates mate just get the chef to pop out of the kitchen with a catapult and fire the food directly into our miserable mouths!”

The waiter just stands there stunned, it’s all so awkward. This tension isn’t helped by the fact that you are so ashamed that you have left that table in such a disgusting state, that they only have two choices, claim on the insurance or set fire to it.

Find The Scott Bennett Podcast on SoundCloud and iTunes.

The Yorkshireman Speaks: The only daddy in day care

This month our Yorkshireman talks about being the only daddy at playgroup…

Recently I gave up my day job to follow my dream to be a stand-up comedian. Part of the deal of my wife going back to work was that we would share the childcare. This meant that I was launched into this new world of the playgroup.

I’ve realised that kid’s clubs and playgroups are a lifeline for modern parents. Like the soup kitchens for the homeless or Ikea for couples who like to argue, it’s an essential part of your life.

This is why there are so many kids clubs available, covering all sorts of weird and wonderful activities. You can take your baby for a massage, presumably this is because babies are highly stressed individuals. They probably are experiencing stress levels akin to those of a doctor in the NHS. Just look at their days, they only get 14 hours sleep, someone to dress and bath them, even dinner time is a high-pressure decision, will it be the right breast or the left one? No wonder their Chakra’s are all out of whack. To be clear I am talking about babies here, not doctors.

For the toddlers there is pottery class, painting, and even cake making. Although frankly if you are willing to eat a cake made by a toddler you’re braver than I am. Personal hygiene is never top of their priorities list, I’d rather play Russian roulette with a cat litter tray and a packet of chocolate raisins than tuck into Poppy’s Bakewell tart.

I’ve spoken to so many parents, with their children it’s all about killing time, an hour here, forty-five minutes there, anything to fill the days. This isn’t parenting, it’s the mindset of a prisoner on death row?

At the local playgroup I am the only dad there. My wife said to me before, now don’t you go flirting with all those mummies. Flirting? I’m in a church hall at midday with a hand full of wet wipes and poo under my fingernails, I’m hardly on my A game love.

I have realised that I have quite simply used up all my empathy on my own two children, so I find myself scraping the reserves for other people’s kids.

I found it hard initially. Kids would come up to me, “are you my daddy?” one of them just came and sat on my knee during the biscuit break, which incidentally is one of the most disgusting things I’ve ever witnessed. Children swarming around a plate of chocolate digestives like a pack of lions circling a wounded Zebra. Wet fingers claw at the chocolate, children put back half-finished attempts, with the coating licked off. Other children pick these up like biscuit batons and carry on munching. Within five minutes there is more DNA swapped than a corrupt copper at a crime scene.

What do you do when a random kid sits on your knee? I’m the only dad there and at the time I’d been there only two weeks. It’s a tricky decision, throw them off and look like a bully, allow them to perch there and look like something way worse.

I have realised that I have quite simply used up all my empathy on my own two children, so I find myself scraping the reserves for other people’s kids. I stand there just mentally judging other people’s children and brutally predicting their futures, it’s a game I call Pregnant or Prison.

There are some horrible kids. There’s this one, he’s got a furrowed brow, wears a neckerchief that catches his saliva, which I think is the bile and hate leaving his body. What is it with toddlers? These kids leak, they are like cullenders in dungarees. Some parents don’t attend to the nose, they just leave the kid as it runs into their mouths, recycling this ectoplasm fountain. They run at you and you panic, they may as well be holding a handful of anthrax.

They all fight over this one car. One day my daughter was in it, and this kid came over, the neckerchief down over his mouth, he looked like an outlaw in the wild west and he opened the door and shoved her out.

I was about to go over to this little carjacker, I was ready to bundle him through the window, like an American cop, but just then his mum arrived and gave him a pushchair with a baby in, it’s almost as if she was saying, there you go, you have responsibilities now, sort your life out.

Being at playgroup makes you realise just what a visceral and raw experience parenting actually is.

The place always smells of poo, it always does, I’ve been on nicer smelling farms. I’ve noticed that as a parent you can’t just go up and discreetly look in their nappy, this isn’t the way at playgroup. The correct method is what’s known as the lift and sniff!

I’ve learnt that the main thing to remember with this technique is to be careful not to do this in any doorways where you can bump their heads and secondly, make sure you are always picking up your kid.

You see parents everywhere holding their children aloft like Simba in the Lion King, taking deep breaths, then they put them back down “It’s not mine this time.” But parents develop those skills, they know when it’s the family brand, it’s like a fine wine, “Ahh, this is a 9.35am Farley’s rusk, full bodied, plenty of nose, baked for three hours under corduroy trousers in little tykes’ car.

Forget sniffer dogs to detect drugs at customs, you just need to bring Janice a mother of four from Ilkeston, she’d nail it in a second, she’d just lift up the accused, “The drugs are up his bum, next!”

One week I went, the smell wasn’t coming from the kid, it was traced to one of the Grandma’s, she’d just broken wind and they were just leaking out of her as he walked around the room, but no one had the guts to say anything.

Find The Scott Bennett Podcast on SoundCloud and iTunes

SB

The Yorkshireman Speaks

This month our Yorkshireman talks about the joys of being a young fogey…

Young fogey

Dear readers, its official, I am a proud “Young Fogey.” This body I inhabit is too young for me, don’t get me wrong I’m thrilled with its agility and thick, majestic blonde hair (my best feature by a mile) but the old guy in the control room is at least forty years ahead. I’m like a new model of Terminator, made from clothes collected from the PDSA charity shop, powered by Horlicks and pockets crammed full of Werther’s originals. This new model, lets call it the “T-with two sugars”, spends most of his time tutting about the younger generation and obsessing about all the trivial annoyances life throws his way. It doesn’t help that I’ve just bought a car primarily driven by pensioners. I didn’t realise this until I was in the dealership and I said to the salesman, “seven years warranty, what happens after that?” He said “I’ve no idea Mr Bennett, no-one has ever made it.”

“It’s strange to think that the younger generation of today will be in the old folk’s homes of tomorrow.”

Let’s look at the evidence for this “Young Fogey” phenomenon. Firstly, let’s take fashion. I always considered myself to be fairly trendy young man. The fact I’ve just used the phrase “trendy young man” would indicate that this isn’t probably true, but I find fashion today utterly baffling. I’ve recently embraced skinny jeans, much to my wife’s dismay. “All jeans are skinny jeans when you have legs like yours love, they just don’t look right, you’re thirty-eight and a father of two, it’s over, let it go.” She’s right of course, I can’t pull that look off. I was complaining the other day of pains in my calf muscles, I was going to book an appointment at the physio. I’d gone as far as to dial the number when it occurred to me to remove my jeans, instantly the pain stopped.

I’m just so confused by it all. I’ve seen the youngsters in their high trousers, with bare feet and leather slip on brogues. It looks like they’ve been to school, done a session of PE, lost their socks and put on their mate’s clothes by mistake.

Some of today’s fashion is so permanent, take tattoos for instance.  That’s quite a commitment to make, misjudge that one and you need lasers and surgery to put it right. More alarming than that is the holes in the ear lobes, stretchers they call them, plastic hoops forming gaping windows in your ears. I’m all for individualism but I think it makes your face look like a camping ground sheet, imagine what that will look like in your eighties? I suppose it’ll give somewhere for a nurse to hang a drip, when the NHS goes down the tubes they’ll be the ones laughing. I can’t talk to people with these things in, I just stare through these holes, I’m mesmerised and every time people are moving in the background, I think it’s the opening titles to a James Bond film.

It’s strange to think that the younger generation of today will be in the old folk’s homes of tomorrow. That’ll be an odd sight in that day lounge. They’ll be an old man, by the bay window, in a 3D printed wheelchair, with sleeve tattoos, vaping. The district nurse approaches, “Hi Jordan” Jordan?!? An old man called Jordan, a grandad called Jordan! “Jordan, it’s Sylvia the nurse love, turn down Stormzy and listen, I’m here to clean your nipple piercings.” This is only twenty years away from being a reality.

My grandad had stories to tell, he’d been on battleships in the war, he’d made it through seas with waves seventy-foot-high, torpedoes thundering towards them, what anecdotes this generation have to pass on? “I remember when I met your Grandma, remember her, Grandma Mercedes? We were doing zero-hour contracts at Sports Direct at the time, it was tough. I remember when we moved into our first house, last month actually, it took sixty-eight years to get on that ladder. I still recall our first date, her on her I-pad, me on mine, sharing videos on Lad Bible.”

Find the Scott Bennett Podcast on SoundCloud and iTunes

SB

The Yorkshireman Speaks

This month our Yorkshireman takes aim at our rampant phone use…

Not Engaged

As I write this article I am sat on a sun lounger in a Turkish holiday resort, where I am performing comedy to holiday makers (I know, it’s a nightmare isn’t it) and I’m doing one of my favourite things, people watching (being nosey). During my stay, I have been alarmed by the amount of people who won’t leave their screens alone. Bronzed faces fixated on tablets and phones, only breaking their trance every so often to lift up the red-hot device to prevent third degree burns to their genitals.

This week I’ve seen a real contrast in behaviour at meal times between the families of the locals and the brits abroad. In the case of the locals the air was alive with chatter and excitement. Some of the British families had the same routines every night, children were sat down, babies plonked in a high chair, the food was put in front of them followed by an iPad placed so closely, that their nose was almost brushing against the screen, some of them even had to lift the fork over the edge just to get the food into their mouths. Meals were eaten mainly in silence, before finally mum and dad joined in with their own phones.

The phone is now our priority, it’s an appendage, look how we can’t separate it from our lives anymore. Go to a live concert, people are on the phones, overtake a car on the M6, he’s on his phone, go out for a drink with a friend you haven’t seen in years and the phones sit there on the table, always in the eye-line, always tempting you, “go on, you haven’t touched me in a few minutes, I might have something you want”. It’s like being in a relationship with a rampant nymphomaniac who won’t leave you alone.

I know it sounds like I’m being deliberately over the top here, but I really think we will look back in years to come and recognise that the invention of the smart phone was the death knell for many things we used to take for granted. The art of conversation, creative thinking, day dreaming, the ability to relax and more crucially our ability to feel.

We are all constantly scrolling through that endless slew of information and not giving a second thought to how it affects us.

Social media is intertwined with your life, your family, and it always demands your attention. All these applications, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram are fuelled by likes, validation of your content, it taps into our love of being praised. Look at the terminology used, “followers” “favourites”. It’s a desire for approval that started ever since your mother put that first picture on the fridge. I suppose one of the main differences is that you never feel the urge to use a smartphone in the toilet. My dad always took a newspaper into the loo, it was useful as it was a barometer for how long he would be in there for. If he took in just the motoring section then you could hang about on the landing, but if he disappeared with the Sunday papers you’d have to hold until school on Monday.

Recently my eldest daughter uploaded her very first YouTube video. She’s obsessed with the game Minecraft and regularly will watch videos of other gamers playing and giving a running commentary. I don’t get it, as far as I can see it was like when you used to go around to your mate’s house to play his new video game and he wouldn’t give you the controller. As soon as the video went live she was beaming with pride, which was swiftly followed by a feeling of continual anxiety as she refreshed the page to see how many “likes” she was getting. This generation is utterly defined by how others think of them, the “like” has become the currency of validation, it’s the monster that started with the selfie and it will only end in tears.

We are a world of voyeurs now; the next generation’s emotions are all boiled down to a basic simplification. “Like”, “angry”, “funny” all represented by an emoticon. It’s only a matter of time before it creeps into a wedding speech, “I knew she was the one for me when she was the first to like my status” or even worse a funeral, “we will really miss you Nanna, *sad face* *tear emoticon* #nannagone #noflowersplease”

It’s no wonder we are so de-sensitized. One minute its some photos from a wedding, the next a corpse from a recent terrorist attack all finished off with an album of Kevin’s brand-new summerhouse. We are all constantly scrolling through that endless slew of information and not giving a second thought to how it affects us. I know it can’t be stopped, it’s too late now. The smart phone is like the Terminator, “It can’t be bargained with, it can’t be reasoned with and it won’t stop, even when you are dead”

Maybe we will wake up from this. Perhaps one day in the near future when the first baby is born with a screen for a face we might have a word with our selves. Either that or just take its picture and hope it goes viral.

Find the Scott Bennett Podcast on SoundCloud and iTunes.

SB

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