Tag: Humour

Lighter Fluid and Lava Rock

It’s thirty degrees in the shade, I’m sweating so much even my man boobs have started to cry, weeping endless tears into my Sports Direct vest. The inside of my underwear is now frankly like a war zone, it’s just chaos down there, everything is just smashed together, I have to keep lunging just to bring some peace to the region.

In this oppressive heat what can you do? Stay inside drinking ice cold drinks and wait for the rain to come? No, that’s a stupid idea, what you need to do is have a barbecue.

So, you spend three hours, on the hottest day of the year, stood behind an actual fire. Its absolute madness isn’t it? It’s the food you’re meant to be cooking, not yourself. It makes no sense, it’s like having a Cornetto in a snowstorm.

The only time you enjoy a barbecue is when you are a guest at one. If you’re on that grill it’s a miserable afternoon. Everyone else is sat there on the decking, sipping beer and having a great time. Meanwhile you’re stood at the end of the garden, totally engulfed in smoke, eyes streaming like you’ve just been tear gassed.

Occasionally one of the guests will come and check on you to see how you are. You think they might be concerned for your welfare, but all they are interested in is when those sausages will be ready. You are just the staff to these people now. If this was the Titanic, they are in the ballroom and you are downstairs in front of a boiler, shovelling coal into the furnace.

The reality of a barbecue is never as good as the fantasy. In Australia they are so casual and relaxed about it. A barbecue for them just happens organically, because they have the weather. In Britain, all ours are done in a panic. As soon as the temperature creeps above twenty five degrees, we lose our minds. You can hear the rallying cry being carried on the breeze, “go get me some charcoal briquettes Susan, today is the day to set fire to some meat!”

But if you’re not in that supermarket in the next twenty minutes your barbecue dreams are crushed quicker than the garlic in your marinade. You had big ideas involving kebabs on skewers, Peri Peri chargrilled chicken, fresh shrimps and organic lamb steaks. Unfortunately, so did everyone else. Is there anything more depressing in life, than the sight of an empty meat isle in a supermarket? It’s like the end of the world’s worst game show.

Now you’re facing the prospect of having to feed a family of four on a six pack of sausages and some king prawns that a so passed their best before date they have started to grow beards.

There is so much prep to do a barbecue properly, some people get really into it. “I’ve been rubbing this meat all morning with infused chilli oil” –  “Cheers Kev, nice one, I thought you were cooking it not giving it a massage!”

But no matter what happens, there is only one rule. You cannot, under any circumstances, switch on that oven. That is like an athlete taking performance enhancing drugs, it’s cheating, and it would bring shame on your family. If the cavemen only had fire and they still managed, well so can you.

It’s that hunter gatherer instinct that makes having a barbecue so exciting. It connects us to our primal ancestors. The only difference is we didn’t have to hunt anything. Many of us didn’t even gather. We’re stood there in shorts and flip flops cooking meat we’ve had delivered from Asda, we haven’t had to go out at daybreak and spear a wildebeest.

It does tap into something in the male psyche though. Ask a man why he loves to barbecue and he even starts to talk like a Neanderthal. His eyes widen and he goes all monosyllabic. Ranting at you with his top off, whilst rubbing a honey and mustard glaze on his nipples, saying things like, “MEAT” “FIRE” “BEER” “FIRE!”

Men and women do tend to act differently at a barbecue. The women tend to congregate together, they are interested in each other, the garden is alive with excitable chatter.

The men are huddled together around the barbecue itself, with cans of lager, like tramps gathering around a burning barrel. Conversation is stilted and awkward, with many of the men hypnotised by that powerful combination of meat and flames. Occasionally someone will break the silence:

“I think it’s hot enough now Steve, if I were you, I’d pop another bag of coals on there.”

Traditionally it’s the man who likes to be in control of the barbecue. There is nothing more manly than standing there in your own garden, lager in hand, just casually poisoning the rest of the family.

The misconception that women can’t use one is ridiculous. In fact, they are often better at in than the men and the food they produce is actually edible.

The hygiene always worries me. You can never get that grill clean enough. The first ten minutes of any barbecue is spent burning off the remains of the last one.

It always amazes me, some restaurants have been closed down because of their poor food hygiene practices, yet on a summers day, I’ll gladly tuck into an undercooked burger, served by some Dad I hardly know, who’s stood there next to the bins, with his hand down his shorts.

Barbeque models are like cars, some people don’t really care as long as its practical, but others get really passionate about it. You can see the men eyeing up each other’s cooking stations, they can’t hide their jealousy. “Look at him with his triple burner, who does he think he is!” “Was that hotplate an optional extra?” “How many steaks to the gas bottle does it do pal?”

I’ve been to barbecues where the guy behind it has so much kit I’m surprised he didn’t have to employ roadies. It was like Iron Maiden on tour. Hundreds of utensils dangling from everywhere, tables for the raw meat, tables for the cooked meat, separate grills to cater for the vegetarians along with oils and rubs of every description. This man was like a conductor in his own meat-based orchestra. He even had a meat thermometer, presumably so he could check if his pork chops were a bit under the weather.

The designers of the barbecues have tapped into this too. Even the names of them are very masculine. They are called things like “Beefmaster” “Matador” they may as well just go all out and release a model called “The meat Bastard 3000”.

The most impressive display of barbecuing I have ever witnessed was on a holiday in Sidmouth in Devon. We were sat on the beach and a man in a wetsuit walked into the sea holding a fishing rod. Five minutes and he had reeled in about three fish. He then went back onto the beach, arranged some pebbles into a pit, brought out an old grill from his bag and proceeded to cook the fish in front of us. I was so in awe I was almost aroused. He was like an aquatic Ray Mears. They only way he could’ve been more manly was if he had emerged from that ocean with those fish between his teeth like a giant grizzly bear.

Sausages are always an issue for me. They are a logistical nightmare on the bars of that grill. I’ve never made it through a full cook off with all my sausages accounted for. They just seem to have a death wish those guys. And there is no trauma like seeing a sausage give up and fall through the bars into the abyss below. This must be how a child feels when the top of their ice cream falls off, or they let go of a new helium balloon at the fair. There is nothing you can do to rescue that fallen comrade. It had so much potential, it was ninety five percent pork, but now it’s just one hundred percent ash. It looks like something found in the ruins of Pompei after the volcano erupted.

You can try and recover it, but it’s over. Because let’s be honest, there is nothing bleaker in life than having to rinse your sausage under an outside tap in front of your family.

Scott Bennett Comedian

www.scottbennettcomedy.co.uk

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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

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

Welcome to Waspton

There is a town in England you’ve probably never heard of before* which has a lot of similarities to Beeston…

It has the same number of residents, the same average household income, and is on the doorstep of a medium-to-large city, close to a campus university. The town in question is Waspton, and as well as having these things in common with Beeston, also has a lot of differences.

Demography

Like Beeston, Waspton has a mixed population of several ethnicities, students, young and old. However there is marked segregation in Waspton, with different groups of people confined to specific areas, with very little in the way of mixing going on. Students living in Waspton aren’t made very welcome, so tend to head into the city to spend their loans. There is a fair bit of racial tension, which is evidenced by graffiti which appears regularly on businesses owned by those from ethnic minorities.

Public transport

Despite being only 5 miles out of the city, Waspton is poorly served by public transport. A ‘service’ is run by one of the national bus companies, which is notoriously unreliable and stops at 8pm. The railway station only sees a train stop there every couple of hours, and a return ticket to the city is very expensive (over £7 for an off-peak return). This means that most people have to get around by car, leading to a lot of congestion. Even short journeys take a long time in Waspton.

Pubs

Waspton used to have many more pubs than it does now, just like Beeston. However, many more have closed and remained shut in Waspton. Most of them remain boarded up and are vandalised eyesores. The few pubs that remain are not very welcoming – all owned by big pubcos, lacking in character, charm and choice.

Eating out

There are a dwindling number of restaurants in Waspton, which are fairly bog standard and unimaginative – a couple of Indians, a Chinese, and an Italian. None of them get top marks for food hygiene, and one of them is known locally as ‘The Gut Gamble’ because of a reputation for causing food poisoning.

There are however lots of kebab and fried chicken takeaways in Waspton, which are blamed for a lot of anti-social behaviour and litter. Again, none of them get 5 stars from the inspectors, and are responsible for a lot of poorly digestive systems in Waspton.

Shops

Just as Beeston does, Waspton has a Lidl, a small Sainsbury and a big Tesco which opened in 2010. The effect of these large retailers in Waspton has been catastrophic for local independents. Within three years of the Tesco opening, Waspton town centre was almost unrecognisable. Now just a mixture of empty units, bookies, payday loan companies, cash for gold and other pawnbrokers, there is little to draw people in from Waspton itself, let alone the surrounding area. Quite oddly, the one business which seems to still do OK there is one of those places where people put their feet into tanks of fish to have the dead skin nibbled off.

Crime

Waspton has a fairly high reported crime rate – around twenty times that of Beeston. Noticeable trends over the last few years have been an increase in hate crimes, assaults, muggings and thefts from vehicles. Many people in Waspton do not feel safe in the town centre at night, and the police presence is virtually nil.

Schools

The schools in Waspton aren’t anything to shout about, with ‘Good’ being the best Ofsted rating for one out of the 7 primary schools, the rest all being rated as ‘Requires Improvement’ or ‘Inadequate’. Of the two secondary schools, one of them is plagued with problems such as bullying, drug-taking, unexplained absences, and regular fights – this just refers to the teachers.

Housing

Waspton is very similar to Beeston in that the housing stock is predominantly a mix of Victorian, inter-war, and modern builds. What differs markedly is the house prices, which are around 50% higher on average in Waspton. As mentioned earlier, the average household income is the same in the two towns which mean home ownership is out of reach for a huge number of Wasptonians. Rents are correspondingly high too, particularly since a number of private landlords starting buying up large swathes of property several years ago.

Famous people

Beeston’s most famous son is arguably the fashion designer Paul Smith, followed by the late, great actor Richard Beckinsale. Unfortunately Waspton has only produced a serial killer who murdered five prostitutes in the early 2000s, and Jonathan King’s former chauffer, who was jailed for several offences last year as part of the Operation Yewtree investigation.

All in all, Waspton is not a very pleasant place in which to live. There is very little in the way of entertainment, virtually no community spirit, locals are quite insular and mean-spirited, and incomers keep themselves to themselves as a result of the hostility they face. In contrast to Beeston, it is not somewhere that has a forward-looking feel. Inward investment is low, and a feasibility study into the building of a tram system was shelved halfway through due to local council budget cuts. Anyone who lives in Beeston who thinks that it isn’t up to much should spend a day or even just an afternoon in Waspton to see how good we have it just now.

*You’ve never heard of it because it is actually a made-up place comprising a lot of the rubbish features of Britain today.

JC & CT