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

A new addition to the family

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

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

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

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

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

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

But I’m on the phone

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

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

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

Shhhhhhhhhh!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sneaky toddler

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

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

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

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

Scott Bennett

The Yorkshireman Speaks…on Trump, TV Dramas and kids clubs.

Top Trumps?

As I write this article we are about to see one of most potentially controversial presidents in living memory, being “sworn in” This is a term that is quite apt, as most of the world is thinking, “what the bloody hell happened there?” America has raised a star spangled middle finger to political elitism and voted for a man of the people.

Yes, to the rest of us he’s a figure of ridicule, a wig wearing toddler with a temper problem and a penchant for grabbing females in their unmentionables, but to many Americans he is a blueprint of the American dream. A self-made man, one of their own, you can see this in that famous family photograph. He, sat on a gold throne in a tailored suit, Ivana draped in fur and precious gemstones and his youngest son riding on the back of the lion.

In an eerie parallel with our own Brexit vote, I can understand how it happened. Poor opposition, campaigns embroiled in dirty tactics and lies and a desire from the electorate to regain control and kick out at the establishment. Americans have voted for change and this is much easier to sell than more of the same. It’s hard to tell what will happen when Trump takes over.

As a comedian people have said it must be a gift from the gods having him in charge. In truth, yes he is perfect comedy fodder, I mean which other president fires out tweets at four in the morning in a slanging match with an Oscar winning actress? He’s like an angry, drunken uncle with a broadband connection.

To be honest though I would prefer some stability in the world, comedians are not that masochistic, that’s like saying a lifeguard only does the job because they want to watch people drown. However I do think the world has changed. I hate the way that showing compassion nowadays brands you as a “lefty” or “snowflake.”

Since when was this trait categorized as a bad thing? I’m interested to see what happens over the next few months, Trump may trigger Armageddon, but I think they’ll be plenty of laughs along the way.

No more dramas

It was the finale of the series Sherlock last weekend and I must admit I am a fan. It’s all about that 9pm Sunday evening slot now and it’s a firm favourite in our household. I like to watch the Antiques roadshow first, because I’m basically a pensioner trapped in a 37 year-old’s body, Imagine, if you will a Yorkshire Benjamin Button. I like to watch it on catch up, that way you get the extra frisson of excitement knowing the items are worth even more.

Anyway I’d love to tell you about the series finale of Sherlock, I would, but I’m still utterly confused. There is an irony in a detective show being so baffling you need a degree in criminology just to be able to follow it. It appears Sherlock had a long lost sister, who had been dressing up as various characters and stalking him. It was like an episode of Scooby Doo. The final straw for me was seeing Paul Weller (of the Jam) laid out on the floor dressed as a Viking, I don’t know why and I don’t think he does either; utter twaddle.

Television drama is having a renaissance at the moment. Ever since the mumblefest that was Wolf Hall, I said ‘WOLF HALL!” it’s all about the feature length drama. Apparently people are writing in to complain about the lack of diction from some of the main characters in these dramas. I think they should have an interpreter, like they do late night for the deaf community. They could bring in Brian Blessed, a man who’s known for vocal projection skills so impressive they could start an avalanche. You wouldn’t be able to have your television volume above eight but at least you’d be able to follow the plot.

The latest hit is Taboo starring the intense and brooding Tom Hardy, (“cheer up son, give us a smile!”)  I haven’t seen it but my father-in-law offered a succinct but devastating review; “It’s all filmed through chair legs and mist.” They turned it off and watched “How stuff’s made” on Quest instead.

It’s not the winning it’s the taking part

It’s a natural thing for parents to think their child is unique and wonderful. It’s true some children will go on to achieve great things, future leaders, scientists who have moments of genius and cure diseases. However statistics dictate that some of them will reach the dizzy heights of middle management in an estate agents in Wigan and stay there until death brings the freedom they crave; but there is absolutely nothing wrong with either of those scenarios.

It’s in the environment of the kids club we see this competitiveness magnified. Parents of children in the junior football team, screaming at their first born from the touch-line “mark him” “spread the ball” and my favourite “let me live my dreams vicariously through you!”

In the case of my daughter we had to endure the nightmare that is ballet lessons. I’ve sat through hours of recitals and paid thirty odd quid a month to essentially watch her bow in pumps. She enjoys it but she’s not a natural, she’s clumsy, which is an issue for the ballerina. Yesterday she fell over on a lino floor, just collapsed into a heap like a controlled demolition, she’s passionate and enthusiastic but she’s no Darcey Bussell.

But it doesn’t matter, it’s all about confidence. I myself did karate as a child, albeit only for two weeks. I failed to see how doing my little routines up and down the floor of a working man’s club in Yorkshire, taught by a man who I’m convinced had just been recently released from prison, was going to help me in a real time combat situation. Imagine it kicks off in the middle of Nottingham, fists are flying, men wrestling each other to the ground, broken glass everywhere and then here I come, doing my little moves, “stop everyone, look at this, we appear to have been joined by an angry line dancer!”

I’m not worried about my daughter. She’s already an independent thinker. I realised this last week when I tried and failed to put the fatherly foot down. “Olivia,” I said, “if you don’t get dressed this minute, mummy, daddy and your sister will all go out and you’ll be left here at home all on your own!” She looked up at me from her My Little Pony magazine, thought for a moment and replied, “Okay daddy that sounds great!” “No!” I said, “that’s not how this should go!” She continued, “You’re right daddy, I need to be punished, I’ll just stay here in bed with my magazine and think about how bad I’ve been.” I tried again, the desperation evident in my voice. “This isn’t right Olivia, you’re meant to be scared!” “I think you’re the one that’s scared daddy,” she said smiling. ”It’s Sunday morning and you’ve got to go to IKEA.”

Mr & Mrs Christmas

Scott Bennett pays tribute to his mum and dad who love Christmas

Well the festive season is almost upon us, where families come together as one.  It’s the same every year; you’re welded to the sofa, unable to move due to the calories consumed, it almost become normal to hurt after every meal. Sitting there in an ill-fitting Christmas jumper wearing a pair of slippers bought for you by someone who doesn’t understand either you or modern fashion trends.

You cast a booze addled eye around the room and look at all your relatives; uncles, aunties, Grandparents, parents and cousins all in your house and you think, “aww, look at them all, sitting there, isn’t it wonderful, you know I reckon its time they cleared off. Come on then, one more game of charades Nanna, two words, sounds like “your taxi” times up old cock.”

Christmas is a strange time to be a comedian. We are all now familiar with the phenomenon of “Black Friday” a tradition passed to us from our friends in the US, which sees retailers bombarding us relentlessly for a week with offers on the cheap tat that has been sat gathering dust in their warehouses for most of the year. We have seen people lose their minds in this capitalist orgy, men punching other men for coffee makers, and televisions being ripped out the hands of a frail pensioner in the foyer of an all-night Asda.

For a comedian the term “Black Friday” is something very different. It refers to that Friday before Christmas where a comedy gig can quickly resemble a bad day in Beirut. People on a works Christmas night out, sat in wonky Christmas hats, drinking heavily just to blot out the resentment and anger they feel for their colleagues sat just across from them. Shows that start hours late because the venue has tried to serve two hundred people a three course Christmas dinner with only three members of staff and being heckled mercilessly by an accountant called Nigel who thinks he’s the office joker.

I’ve had a few experiences with Christmas gigs over the years and it inspired me to re-write the classic Christmas hit Happy Christmas (war is over) by John and Oko. I see this as a fitting tribute to my fellow comedy warriors venturing out to entertain the British public this festive season:

A comedy show at Christmas oh what have you done

Another show ruined, no ones’ had fun

Comedy at Christmas It’s not a bad idea

But the bellends, the pissheads, they’re here every year

A very Merry Christmas, let’s try again next year

Please make it a good one and stay off the beer

Comedians at Christmas (the shows not over)

We try to stay strong (get off your phones)

We’re here to entertain you (the shows not over)

And It won’t last long (please stop talking)

So Merry Merry Christmas (the shows not over)

We stand in the lights (you’re the office prick)

Ignoring the heckles (the shows not over)

And avoiding the fights (stop being a dick)

A very Merry Christmas let’s try again next year

Please make it a good one and stay off the beer

 

Now I like Christmas, but some people just love Christmas, and I mean LOVE it, my parents for instance. They embrace the festive season like no-one else I know and it’s truly a sight to behold. Every year since I can remember they have had a party at their house for Christmas Eve. There are games, a lucky dip tub of presents, and food galore.

My mum starts cooking early, normally mid-November, the party goes on late into the night and only comes to an end once dad is too drunk to make it up the stairs and mum gets out the Dyson for some festive hoovering.

When I was much younger, my dad would even dress up as Santa Claus himself at the party, to give out presents to the other children. At the time I didn’t know this obviously, I assumed it was the man himself, particularly when I was very young. However I vividly remember the Christmas where I found out the truth about these bizarre moonlighting activities. I was nine years old and, as had happened every year before, with the party in full swing and the guests settled, at about seven o’clock my mother would suddenly announce to my father, loud enough for everyone to hear:

“Oh look Roy, we appear to have run out of beer and you’ll have to go to the shop for more”

My dad knew his line and played along with this ridiculous farce to the confusion of the assembled guests:

“Oh no love, this is a disaster I will go now I’ll be back as soon as I can.”

I’ve often wondered for years whether my mother and fathers friends thought he was a raging alcoholic or just incompetent when it came to judging drinks quantities for a social gathering, but no one ever said anything. Then came the moment, my mum, right on cue would switch on the outside light and we’d all have to look out of the window into the back garden. “Look everyone!” my mum exclaimed, “someone very special is here!” We’d all press our faces to the window and there sat on the garden bench, on the patio next to the water butt was Santa himself, it was a Christmas miracle.

I remember one year when the snow started to fall, this was the mid-eighties before global warming, when seasons were still individually recognizable. With Santa Claus sat there it was like an image straight from a Christmas card. All the children would then take it in turns to go and visit him, telling him what they would like for Christmas.

Most kids are quite gullible and most were none the wiser, “Santa comes to your garden Scott, how cool are you” “Yeah me and Santa are pretty close” I’d say, enjoying the adulation, “we go way back” I had quite good patter for a nine year old.

Then came my turn. I walked down the garden path and approached Santa. “Hello boy, said a booming Yorkshire voice, have you been good this year?” “Yes I said.” “Well come a bit closer and tell me what you would like me to bring you for Christmas” I moved in towards him, he had a jolly face which was strangely familiar. I looked him up and down, the red hat, the white beard, the red suit and belt, and then I looked at his feet.

It was at that point I knew. Santa Claus appeared to be wearing a pair of knackered old Reeboks, spattered with magnolia emulsion that my own father would use for doing the decorating.

My heart sank, the game was up. “I know it’s you dad” he looked at me and whispered, “I couldn’t find me wellies son, don’t ruin the magic” “Of course dad I said, I know Santa doesn’t come till I’m in bed anyway, I love you”

I walked back up the garden back to the house smiling. We then all had to turn and wave goodbye to “Santa” and then went back to the party. At that point there was commotion at the front door as my dad blundered back in with six cans of lager, (he still got the quantity wrong) “What a nightmare, everywhere was shut, did I miss anything?” “Santa has been!” my mum shouted, “You missed him, like YOU DO EVERY SINGLE YEAR!”

Marvellous.

Scott Bennett

A tribute to comedy’s unsung heroes

Scott Bennett puts the spotlight on his behind-the-scenes supporters

When I first started stand-up people would often ask me if it was a hobby. At the time I couldn’t answer them. Now if feel I am more qualified to answer this question. Baking cakes is a hobby, playing golf once a week is a hobby, driving to Glasgow on a wet Wednesday night to perform to eight people at Bobby Wingnuts Cackle Dungeon, isn’t a hobby, it’s probably an illness.

Interestingly they never ask me how I do stand-up comedy, which would be a more revealing question. Much is said of the stand-up comedian, but the people behind the scenes often don’t get the credit they deserve. I’m not referring to agents, managers or producers; I’m talking about the unseen victims of comedy, the ones we leave behind to hold the fort and the ones who have to keep our fragile egos buoyant after a terrible gig in Glasgow. The sacrifices these poor men and women make are part of the reason we are able to get up on stage and show off for twenty minutes each weekend. I’m speaking of course about the silent partner in the double act and in my case it’s my wife Jemma.

I hope we never get burgled when I am away, as she would probably just wake up to ask him if he had a nice gig and then go back to sleep again.

When we met 19 years ago I didn’t do stand-up. We met at university, got married, had our first child and both embarked on proper careers, hers as a teacher and myself as a product designer. We both shared a mutual love for comedy. I knew she was the one for me when we both declared our obsession with Alan Partridge, her knowledge was remarkable, we would forensically analyse it for hours, like two tragic comedy geeks, it was marvellous. I still do it now, reciting bits of comedy, I’m weird like that, but often I’ll be told “not now love, can you take the bins out” things have inevitability moved on. As students would often sneak back home early on nights out, many people assumed this was due to unbridled lust, in reality though it’s because we fancied some toast and to listen to On the Hour.

I came to comedy quite late and although things are going well, it would have been much easier to have done it when I was in my early 20’s and living in my parents’ house, but I had nothing much to say when I was that age and certainly didn’t feel confident enough to know how to say it. Now, being married and having a family life is a sure fire way to create material. An expensive and stressful way perhaps, but it’s effective. Although, failing that, you can probably get away with people watching on the back of the night bus with a notepad; you could probably unearth some comedy gold without all that extra responsibility.

It’s always unusual getting back home in the early hours of the morning when all the family is in bed and the house is silent. I like my little routine, the bowl of cereal at 2am and back to back couples who kill on the investigation channel; marvellous.  I then have to sneak into the bedroom and try to find my way to my side of the bed using only the digits of my radio alarm clock as a rudimentary landing strip. My wife rarely stirs. I hope we never get burgled when I am away, as she would probably just wake up to ask him if he had a nice gig and then go back to sleep again.

I’m very lucky in that my wife has not given me an ultimatum, which does often happen to some comedians in marriages, but there have been times when the bank of goodwill has been low on credit, especially with the arrival of our second child this February. I have to always remind myself that Jemma didn’t tick the WAC box on the marriage form (wife of a comedian) and I’m dragging her along on this venture, but the support she gives me had been unwavering and I will forever be in debt to her for that. We are getting used to a different lifestyle as a family. We are learning how to make it work. Twice now have all gone up to the fringe together, once staying in a flat and last year spending the month in a static caravan. We could have probably gone to Disneyland for the same price and I was probably one of the only comics whose fringe experience closely resembled that of Alan Partridge, but it was great having them with me.

My six year old daughter has had some very cool fringe experiences; it’s the perk of having a dad who does comedy. When she returned to school after the summer break last year she had to draw a picture of something she did during the holidays. She proudly handed in a picture of her onstage with the Funz and Gamez crew, (her teacher corrected the spelling) she has met Bonzo the dog and Jim the elf, smashed an egg over her dads head and had a brutal staring competition with Phil Ellis; she still talks about it to this day..

I don’t know what the future holds for me in comedy, there are no guarantees. What I do know though is that if I am ever fortunate enough to have some success in comedy, it certainly wouldn’t have been possible without the sacrifices made by my family waiting back at home.

Find the Scott Bennett Podcast on Soundcloud and iTunes

Scott Bennett

Summer Lovin? – Not for this guy

We are now in full summer mode and although I can’t argue against the benefits of the much welcomed injection of vitamin D into my pasty white carcass, I must admit I’m not a fan of the summer months. Don’t get me wrong I do enjoy the longer nights, a beer in the garden (but that’s mainly because of the beer) a chance to give friends and family food poisoning at my own BBQ and that mood of optimism in the air; but despite that I don’t think the summer agrees with me.

In the UK we seem to have extremes when it comes to the weather. It’s always so unexpected, it catches us off guard. Snow that comes so heavy that everything grinds to a halt, floods that border on the biblical and days so hot and humid you feel like you’ve been parachuted into an oil field in Iraq. I find it hard to even think when temperatures creep into the thirties, small tasks seem as daunting as an expedition to Everest. On the hottest day of the year my wife and I had to change the bed, a task that makes me want to weep at the best of times.

After the first pillow case I was already wet through, the sweat was pouring down my back and running in between my butt cheeks like a river and I had so much sweat in my eyes I couldn’t see the buttons on the duvet cover.

The thing the summer does though is give us Brits something to talk about, our favorite subject; the weather. As the temperature increases our ways of describing it becomes more and more bizarre. “Ohh isn’t it muggy out there!” No, unless you’ve just being mugged, that makes no sense. “The problem is, it’s just too close” well yes it will be close, it’s the weather and it’s all around you. In Yorkshire they used to say “eeee its crackin’ flags out there!” meaning it’s so hot it’s capable of causing fracture to your patio slabs, quite poetic, but still sounds like utter bollocks. “It’s warm we can’t work; pass me a beer” that’s all the words you need.

Everyone has their own methods for coping with the heat; particularly at night. I’m almost used to falling asleep now to the gentle white noise of a humming desk fan. There is always that moment when you forget where the fan is and proceed to trip yourself up over the cable on the way to your 4th pee of the night.

I don’t wear my bed clothes in a heatwave, but I like a single sheet on me, there has to be a small amount of weight there. I can’t do totally naked, laid out like a human sacrifice, I feel far too vulnerable. Also the hot weather brings with it the increase in midges and blood sucking insects and the last thing I want is to offer myself up like some sort of human all you can eat buffet.

It’s normally the early hours of the morning when the heat subsides enough to allow you to drift off. You’ve then got at least 4 hours of fidgety, sweat soaked sleep before you are rudely awaken by that “summer soundtrack”. The buzz of a Strimmer, a lawnmower, the neighbour building yet another outdoor “project” that just seems to be him hammering the same nail in again and again for three straight hours, or a determined mosquito who proceeds to fly back and forth past your ear until you eventually declare war, put the light on and chase him round the room with a rolled up newspaper.

The daytimes are easier; you can always find relief in an air conditioned shop or supermarket. If you’re crafty you can spend twenty minutes in the frozen food isle leaning over some Aunt Bessies roast potatoes, wearing nothing but your underwear. It’s heaven and really reduces your core body temperature; the hour interview in the manager’s office and the subsequent court appearance is a small price to pay.

As a blonde haired white man, I burn like kindling in the most moderate of heat. I think we underestimate the weather in the UK, like the sun is somehow a different one to the one that you lie back and bask in on a foreign holiday. We seem to think nothing of doing a full day’s work in the garden, bear chested, without sun cream and with only the one cup of tea to hydrate us. “Its fine love, we are in Wigan on a Wednesday, it’s not going to burn me, this is British sun; best in the world!” the day after we are in agony, peeling sheets of skin of our bodies so large you could wrap presents with them.

In the summer months my hay fever condition announces itself with a new found anger and aggression, like a pit-bull on steroids. With eyes streaming like I’ve just been tear gassed, a nose itchier than that of a supermodel with a grand a day coke habit, hives and bumps on my skin a blind man could read as brail and body riddled with so many antihistamines I can barely stay conscious.  All in all it’s not a good “look.” They always warn you about not operating heavy machinery when you take antihistamines, which makes me feel sad, how many forklift truck drivers and welders are struggling out there? Unable to work because they have to walk that fine line between sleeping and sneezing.

Summer attire is also stressful. I am completely lost with the sock, sandal, plimsoll, deck shoe or moccasin etiquette. There are normal length socks, sometimes worn with leather sandals, which only geography teachers and bible salesmen are allowed to wear. There are trainer socks, which seem more socially acceptable, white socks though, never black, particularly if you are wearing shorts. Black socks with trainers and shorts looks like you’ve been doing P.E at school and forgotten your kit and had to rummage around in the lost property box. I find picking clothes for a heatwave is difficult. I never go commando though, I don’t care how hot it is, I still need some organization down there.

When it’s warm my testicles seem to be constantly in love with my inner thighs, I often have to peel them away from each other like I’m removing a sticker from a windscreen. It’s like a battle down there most days and both parties need to be segregated for their own good.

I can’t and won’t wear a vest and going topless isn’t something I feel comfortable with. The other day I saw a man with his top off, riding a ladies bike with a basket on the front. In the basket of the bike there was a pack of lager and a small dog keeping looking out; it was like a low budget version of the film E.T. It was 24 degrees and we were in a car park outside Lidl, it’s not the Algarve. Put your top back on.

It’s quite late now and the heat has subsided, I’m going to attempt to turn in for the night, or maybe the whole season? I might find the coolest spot in the house; black out the windows, fill my socks with ice, and survive on nothing but a freezer full of Magnum Classics.

See you in October

Scott Bennett

Trailer Trash: Scott Bennett on the cinema experience

Last month, one afternoon in Manchester I had time to kill so I did something I haven’t done before, I went to the cinema alone, and it was bliss.

Well, it got me thinking about some of the cinema experiences I have had, both as an adult and a young moviegoer. So here in no particular order are some of the most memorable:

Terminator 2 (1991) Wakefield ABC Cinema (Now demolished) Certificate 15

As an Austrian body builder with zero acting range, a cyborg that is unable to covey any emotion was the role Arnie was born to play. I remember the hype around this film, everyone at school wanted to see and there was always a lad at school who claimed he had already seen all of the blockbusters years before. He had an uncle in America who had a camcorder and sent back recordings to his dad hidden in the belly of a Care Bear on a British Airways flight into Leeds Bradford airport.

Of course this was in the days where camera technology wasn’t very advanced, they were massive for starters, they looked like something you’d win on Bullseye. Smuggling a family sized bag of Maltesers is one thing but a 3-foot Sanyo camera that weighs the best part of a sack of gravel would’ve been impossible. It was a false economy anyway; £10 to watch the back of a blokes head, and the awkward moment when he whispers that he needs the toilet and you are forced to watch him taking a leak.

Terminator 2 was a certificate 15. My dad took a friend and me, we were both 12, but he was lucky enough to have a face ravaged by puberty. Surprisingly getting me in was okay; I just tucked in behind my father, strode confidently and remembered to keep puffing on the cigarette.

Marley and Me (2008) Nottingham Showcase Cinema

Many films are classed as date movies, which often means a film which I have no interest in seeing but will see to appease my wife. Marley and Me was one such movie. Owen Wilson has all the charisma of a dish cloth and Friends star Jennifer Aniston frankly reminds me too much of Iggy Pop. It was a film about a family who buy a dog, the dog becomes part of the family and then the dog dies. Now we have never owned a dog, we’ve never wanted a dog, yet my wife was inconsolable. Even my offer of nachos or a hot dog (not the greatest suggestion on reflection) could distract her from her grief.

I’m not totally unfeeling don’t get me wrong. I understood why she was moved to tears. There are many films that often turn me into a gibbering wreck with puffy eyes, like Rocky 4. Sylvester Stallone’s’ heartfelt speech at the end, clumsily delivered, full of anti-Russian sentiment and blundering American pride, often makes me want to grab a US flag, order a burger and weep like a baby.

Saving Private Ryan (1998) Curzion Cinema Loughborough

When I was a student the local Cinema in Loughborough would offer a student night where you could go and see the latest releases for £2.50. Amazing value. One night we decided to have a night off from studying (drinking) to see Saving Private Ryan. We sat there passing down snacks, which we’d smuggled in, and then settled down as the film started.

Now those first twenty opening minutes are probably some of the most raw and visceral things I’ve ever witnessed, they took your breath away. I remember looking round at that packed cinema and noticing absolute silence, we were all spellbound and remained so for the entire film. That’s the power of cinema, a total immersive experience. I love it.

50 Shades of Grey (2015) Leeds Odeon Certificate 18

One of the most anticipated films of last year and nearly two hours of my life I will never get back. My wife wanted to see it. I was concerned. I’d heard Christian Grey converted his own basement into a dungeon. DIY isn’t my forte. It took me two weeks to put up some shelves. I think a dungeon is beyond me, and it’s not like I could ring my dad for help.

My wife said stop being ridiculous, we were all adults and that we were going to go on a double date with my brother and his girlfriend. We sat in couples to make things less uncomfortable, because the last thing you want during the sex scenes is to see your own brother.

Pulling off the Heimlich manoeuvre during in erotic thriller would have been awkward to say the least

I had another worry during the screening too. I get involuntary muscular spasms; it mainly affects me at night before I go to sleep. But we were at the concession stand buying popcorn. As I was about to pay I had a muscular twitch and chucked about £8 change into the popcorn. Things were tense enough. Now every mouthful she took I worried she was going to choke on a pound coin, and pulling off the Heimlich manoeuvre during in erotic thriller would have been awkward to say the least.

The film is dreadful and one of the most confusingly misogynistic films I’ve ever had the misfortune to see. The message seems to be if a bloke’s obscenely rich, good looking and buys you things, then happily sign up to be his slave. I’m sure the attraction to Christian Grey wouldn’t have been the same if he was a fat lorry driver from Wigan who took you to his mum’s when she was at Bingo to spank you on the bum with a Gregg’s Steak Bake.

SB

Coffee culture And my Addiction To that naughty Bean

I am currently sipping away at my 6th coffee of the day. This one has been made using my brand new coffee maker I received as a birthday gift. My kitchen is like a fragrant, noisy, caffeine infused version of Breaking Bad. I love coffee and in the midst of the sleep deprived rabbit hole that the arrival of a 10 week old baby brings, I need it.

Coffee is a passion; for me it’s a bit like a good bottle of wine.  I like my coffee to have a story. I’m not interested in some freeze dried, corporate, mass manufactured bastardization of that beautiful bean.  It needs to have a soul. I want my coffee beans to be exotic, to have been grown from seeds first passed through the digestive system of an ageing mountain goat at high altitude. It should have a caffeine content that borders on the illegal and a body smoother than a chat up line from an Italian waiter who has took a shine to your wife. It should be gentle with a finish so long that you could watch the Lord of The Rings box set and still be able to taste it.

Afterwards I want that lingering smell to permeate through my entire house like a plug in air freshener and every time you inhale you experience that magic all over again.

I heard recently that many university campuses now are dumping the sticky floored boozer and instead having a coffee shop. At first I was stunned by this. I mean how many student liaisons were nurtured near the jukebox in a sweaty union bar on a wet Wednesday night, where a snake bite and black was only £1?

I include myself in this group. I met my wife in freshers week and I dread to think what she would have really thought of me if all we had swimming round our bellies was a soya chai latte with a hint of cinnamon. However now I understand, coffee is big business.

Coffee culture exploded into the UK in the mid-nineties and we’ve never looked back. I’m old enough to remember a time before there was a Costa or Nero on every street. The Gold Blend coffee adverts, where viewers were captivated with a blossoming romance happening over a cup of instant coffee, showed how we regarded the drink at the time. We Brits weren’t seduced by the fancy coffee shop culture of our French or Italian cousins.

My dad still to this day secretly prefers the instant variety, he thinks the freeze dried granules are the nearest us mere mortals will get to consuming foods made for astronauts. He’s convinced that the best cup of coffee he has ever tasted was served in a polystyrene cup out of a van at a rainy car boot sale in a field in Doncaster in 1989. Although this may have something to do with the fact that it was 25p and came with a free Club biscuit.

During my childhood there were very few options for coffee enthusiasts. You had two main choices, a flask or a greasy spoon café. No one ever sat down and relaxed in a coffee shop back then. We were always on the move. We did go to a greasy spoon café on a Saturday afternoon in Wakefield before going to see an afternoon matinee at the cinema.

With checkered table cloths and a big plastic tomato sauce holder in the middle as a rudimentary paperweight, the place was a bit of a dive. It had a glass window with water running down it, I used to think it was quite a stylish addition, looking back it was probably a creative twist on a leaking condensing pipe. I would have a steak Canadian and a calypso pop (the E numbers kept you going all day) and my dad would have an egg butty and a cup of tea. Everyone seemed to drink tea back then; rumour has it that we won wars on tea.

My wife’s family are huge tea drinkers; my father in law was pushing fifteen brews a day when he used to “work” for the council. When he first met me he offered me a brew, I refused (as I didn’t really care for it at the time, I preferred Ribena) he looked at my wife as if to say, “not sure about this one love!”

A visit to a coffee shop is part of our family routine every weekend now. The people who work in these places are proper cool; I think I’m ever so slightly in awe of one of the dudes in our local establishment.

I use the term “dude” deliberately. They are like the kids at school who had a motorbike at sixteen, smoked roll ups and could play the guitar. With a quiff, a t-shirt with rolled up sleeves and those things that the youth put in their ears now which make the lobes look like the eyelets in a camping ground sheet. It’s the job I would have wanted when I was younger.

It’s interesting that the coffee shops never really suffered during the recession. It’s the one luxury we are not prepared to forfeit. I worked out recently that I’m spending on average ten pounds a week on coffee, that’s over five hundred quid a year on beans! Even Jack wouldn’t have gone with that deal and he got a beanstalk out of it.

But I don’t begrudge it, particularly if it’s going to support the independent guys of the coffee world. I won’t mention the corporate giants; let’s just call them “Tarducks” who attempt to make a connection with you by asking your name to write on the cup. It didn’t wash with me, I used to say “HMRC” and then quickly take my coffee and leave.

Scott Bennett

 

 

 

 

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