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

The Yorkshireman Speaks on…camping

Pass me the tent pegs!

As summer approaches a strange phenomenon sweeps across our great nation. People of all ages turn their backs on their brick built cosy weatherproof dwellings and choose instead to spend their nights huddled under thin canvas sheets in the arse end of nowhere, on squeaky airbeds with slow punctures that leaves you with chronic sciatica. They do this bizarrely as a holiday, swapping everyday life for the stress of living like a road protester angry about the development of a new bypass. We’ve done it for years and these days it’s as popular as ever. A recent survey conducted by Go Outdoors revealed that 58% of Britain’s campers go camping more than three times a year. The same survey also revealed that given the chance to pick your perfect camping partner men would choose Ray Mears or David Attenborough whilst the women would go for Bear Grylls. I can’t help thinking that the men didn’t quite think that question through. I’m guessing that whilst the men would be off in the woods asking Ray to whittle them something from a tree branch, naughty old Bear would be in the tent with your other half, doing some whittling of a very different kind.

I have mixed feelings about choosing to holiday under canvas. “It’s a great bonding experience for all the family” was one camper’s viewpoint. I beg to differ; if things are tense with your family before, spending seven nights in a cagoule eating cup-a-soup in the Breacon Beacons frankly won’t improve matters.

These people weren’t born; they were grown in sleeping bags like caterpillars in a chrysalis.

Recently I took my six year old daughter camping for the first time. She was so excited, “it’s going to be great daddy, camp fires, falling asleep under the stars and bacon sandwiches for breakfast!” I reminded her that we were going to a field near Calverton, half a mile from the A46 and she should perhaps lower her expectations. Still, it was nice to have the enthusiasm. This expedition was part of the annual Beavers, Scouts and Cubs get away. It was our first time and it would just be Olivia and I representing the Bennett clan. My wife did suggest going as a family, but then I reminded her that having a screaming baby on a campsite would be as welcome as E-coli, so we decided against it. I was only just recovering from having taken the family on an aeroplane for the first time; it was learning experience, and I learnt that a baby is the only thing less popular on an aeroplane than a bomb.

Arriving at the camp I was confronted by some of the most naturally gifted campers (is that even a thing?) I’d ever come across. These people weren’t born; they were grown in sleeping bags like caterpillars in a chrysalis. Before I’d even reached for my rubber mallet, I was surrounded by perfectly pitched tents and the sound of kettles smugly whistling. I’d seen organisation like this before, many years ago when I went on my last caravanning holiday with my parents; two weeks in Morecambe, a chemical toilet and getting hammered on little bottles of Beer D’Alsace from Asda, which often took several days as it was only 2.5% a bottle. I remember watching a couple pitch up opposite, it was quite simply stunning. Him in his tan shorts, sandals, caravan club polo shirt and those shades with the flip up lenses; she was wearing the same. They barely spoke, just the occasional nod or gesture, as they glided around the pitch fetching water, lowering jockey wheels and putting up awnings. It was graceful, like watching Roger Federer play tennis. In no time at all they were both sat down on matching deckchairs, cup of tea in one hand, cigarette in the other, basking in an almost post coital level of satisfaction.

I finally attracted the attention of a scout leader who, once he had finished laughing, came to my aid.

My daydream was brutally interrupted as I realised, stood in that field in Calverton, clutching my mallet, that I hadn’t got a bloody clue how to put up our tent. I was, quite literally, for the first time in years, not able to put a roof over my daughters head. My wife suggested we do a trial run before we went, I suggested she was being ridiculous, “it’s a couple of poles and some pegs love, I’ve got a degree, I think I’ll manage, how hard can it be?”  Well almost impossible as it happens, “Daddy, why aren’t you finished yet? Do you need help?” “Daddy is just thinking darling” I was thinking, thinking about sleeping in the car. After nearly an hour, which culminated in me zipping myself inside the liner and my daughter hammering tent pegs into the ground at various locations across the site, I finally attracted the attention of a scout leader who, once he had finished laughing, came to my aid.

There are some people who scoff at us amateur campers. With our airbeds artic rated sleeping bags and pitching up within yards of a fully furnished toilet block. These people are the wild campers. These lunatics are like scouts on steroids, wherever they lay their groundsheet then that’s their home. They can read the land like Sherpas, all they need is a stream, a machete and a tree to defecate behind and they are as happy as the Kardashian’s on a shopping spree. They often live off the land; foraging for mushrooms with the chance that if you make a mistake you’ll either end up dead or hallucinating. I’m all for adventure but having to hunt your dinner and wash your genitals in a puddle somehow seems like a backwards step to me. A friend of ours had their cat bring back a half dead pigeon recently and they had to do the decent thing and finish it off with a house brick, it took ages,  imagine going through all that then sitting down to a starter.

Camping and festivals are well acquainted bedfellows. Recently at a festival I was performing at, fancy dress seemed to be the order of the weekend. There were a variety of weird and wonderful costumes on display. A gang of lads dressed as Superheroes; Spiderman, Batman, Superman and bringing up the rear, a Crayola crayon. He was shuffling his little legs trying to keep up. They were giving him a hard time, Superman shouted; “Kev, you look daft pal, what were you thinking!” “I didn’t get the email, this is all they had!” was his reply. I bumped into a rather depressed looking Super Mario brother by the Portaloos. Rather worse for wear and struggling to keep his makeshift insulation tape moustache adhered to his top lip, he was complaining about the state of the facilities, “These toilets aren’t right, there’s stuff leaking everywhere, it’s a disgrace, someone should do something about this!” “Don’t moan to me,” I said, “you’re the plumber son.”

Find The Scott Bennett Podcast on SoundCloud and iTunes

Motorway adventures, skiving, and quotes from my daughter

This month it’s late night motorway adventures, the joys of skiving and the best things my daughter said to me this week.

Running on fumes

As a stand-up comedian much of my time is spent behind the wheel of my trusty Sportswagon, thundering along the nation’s tarmac-topped arteries delivering a wide load of comedy gold to the good people of Britain. It can be quite lonely and there is only so much Smooth radio and late night phone-ins about alopecia that can be tolerated before one is consumed by madness.

As a result I and another fellow comedian, Dan, have started using this dead time to have late night in car chats; we are like two truckers on CB radios, we even start the conversation with the words “breaker breaker!”  It’s a great chance to talk about life before a gig and decompress after it. As any sort of social life has been sacrificed at the altar of stand-up comedy, this is the nearest we get to a chat down the pub. The only difference is that we are both behind a wheel, stone cold sober and going in opposite directions to the various comedy clubs strewn throughout this great island. Of course we have snacks, crisps between the knees or a cheeky packet of dry roasted, opened out into that underused alcove below the stereo.

Last night I performed at a function in a Bradford tennis club; smashing folk; everyone had a ball, well two actually in case they messed up the first serve. A special mention goes to the man on the front table who kept his back to me for the entire performance. It was like doing a gig to a taxi driver; I even gave him a tip at the end, which was to “face the front.” It was a steely determination to not participate that can only be admired. At one point I almost got him to rotate by ninety degrees. I wondered if he was a big owl and would just move his head round on the jokes he liked, but it was not to be. He reminded me of my father actually, mainly because he is often bitterly disappointed in me too.

After the gig I got the phone call from Dan, “Breaker Breaker!” We were so engrossed in our post gig forensic dissections that I failed to notice that I was running low on fuel and had just blundered onto the motorway without thinking. I knew I could be in trouble. Dan proceeded to stick with me like a wing-man; it was like a pilot being talked in for an emergency landing. “Stay at fifty six mate, just cruise,” he said. I was like the hero Sully Sullenberger who pulled off that famous emergency landing on the Hudson River. The car fuel computer said thirty miles to go, services were twenty eight miles away: it’s going to be close. Then the computer blanked out, I was without instruments, I’d lost an engine, I was, in aviation terms, flying blind. You can’t ring the RAC for running out of fuel like this, I mean you probably can, but they’ll just come out, call you a bellend and charge you a hundred quid. It was unbearably tense for the next ten miles. I was now rubbing the dashboard of the car and offering words of encouragement; like that scene in cool hand Luke where they feed him the eggs. It was man and machine working as one. At this point Dan was on his driveway, but being a true professional and wonderful human he stayed with me. “I’m not leaving till I know you’ve made it!” Fourteen miles to go. I passed a turning for Leeds city centre, part of me wanted to turn off. “You’ll not find an Asda,” said Dan, “stick with the motorway.” I now had just 4 miles to go. “Does the car feel light?” Dan said, “Yes,” I said, “think she’s fading.” One mile to go. This was agony, but at this point I knew I could at least attempt a manful power walk from here should I need to. The turning then appeared, Salvation! The markers for the slip road, “three lines, two lines, one line” we counted them down together, like a New Year’s Eve countdown coming live from Big Ben, I’d made it!

It was at that point I looked down from the fuel gauge, where i had fixed my stare for the last twenty five agonising minutes.

“Ah shit Dan, I’ve had the air-con on too mate.”

It was at the point my wing-man lost sympathy and hung up.

I skive to feel alive

The job of a parent is a thankless and relentless one. We live for those stolen moments, the respite of finally having some brief time to yourself. It can be like a little holiday: often you’ll just start to relax and enjoy it and then suddenly it’s over. So here is the confession, I, Scott Bennett, am a serial skiver. A shirker of responsibilities, a conniving, devious excuse for a man who will take any opportunity he can to kill time and bask in the solitude of his own company. This behaviour is addictive. Sometimes I will tell my wife I am going to put the bin out and just hang around behind the shed for forty five minutes. Sitting there next to the water butt just staring at wood paneling, it’s glorious. Whenever I feel low I think back to that special time and smile. On many occasions I’ve often hidden in the house itself, pretending to count the saucepans in the pantry. I can hear my wife on the baby monitor, desperately struggling with the two children upstairs and I think, “I’m going to have one more brew, then I’ll deal with that.” Shameful! On more than one occasion my wife has come to find me, red-faced with a baby under her arm. She asks what I have been doing: “I’ve been shouting for your help!” “Work,” is my reply. The reality is I was looking on Youtube at interviews with the surviving cast members of the 90’s sitcom ‘The Fresh Prince of Bel Air’: appalling behaviour.

My wife and I are as bad as each other. Only last week we found we had run out of nappies. As soon as it was announced it was carnage in that hallway; a race was on to see who could neglect their parental responsibilities the quickest. I’m trying to trip her up, she’s pulling at my sleeves, it looked like a fight in a prison yard; the children looked on in disgust. I lurch for my car keys, my wife grabs my wallet out of my back pocket, “You’ll get nowhere without this pal!” I shouted back, “You can keep it, I’ll steal them!” I race down the driveway still wearing my slippers and open the car. As I get in I can just make out her voice behind me, “on’t you dare be too long.” I drive away as fast as I can, which on that day was nine miles per hour. I put on some Enya, turn on the heated seats and congratulate myself on my victory.

I’m not saying I took a long time, but when I came back with those nappies, my daughter had grown out of them.

Things my six year old said to me this week

Upon asking how her day was at school:

“I think I accidentally ate some soap.”

When passing a discarded item of clothing on the pavement as we walked into town:

“Look daddy, a dead sock.”

Scott Bennett
Find The Scott Bennett Podcast on SoundCloud and iTunes

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