It’s not my place

It’s gone nine a.m. and I’m in my dressing gown; I’m sort-of fixing breakfast for myself in the kitchen, behind me, sat on his high-chair, is the little fella. He’s worked out that the spoon is good for getting oat-based cereal out the bowl but hasn’t quite figured out the correct angle for the food to remain on the spoon as it approaches his gaping mouth. I discreetly watch him for a while, if I get busted the likelihood is that spoon and the bowl will wind up on the floor earlier than usual. The spoon and bowl always land on the floor. It’s the law.

I’m having another one of those ‘the fuck?’ moments. I get between ten and twenty a day when I suddenly see myself remotely doing stuff with my boy and wondering if it’s actually he and I: in nanoseconds, I’ll find my current predicament wholly unimaginable so my mind will attempt to imagine reality before actual reality returns with a ‘the fuck?’. It’s a wonderful feeling, sort-of like when you wake up thinking it’s a grey Monday when it’s actually a beautiful Saturday, sort of.

These moments aren’t just the product of my having a son, that I’m a dad, let me just write that again, I’m a dad (the fuck?) it’s also to do with the non-effective pressure of a nine to five world.

Thanks to technology most of us (note ‘most’, not ‘all’, so don’t write in) don’t need to be in an office anymore, most still get the job done despite spending the best part of their working lives dicking about with their mates on social media. When I was working the nine to five game I reckon I could’ve done my whole weeks’ work in a day and a half at most, so why was I wasting my time for the remaining three and a half?

From a very young age, our lives are structured around the nine-five-monday-friday model. Of course, there is nothing wrong in this per se but in the last twenty years or so it could be argued that this structure isn’t beneficial to an unspecified number of industries and could even be detrimental to them. I’d argue that being fresh and vital is of far greater benefit that winding up jaded and angry because you’re having to spend precious, spirit-sapping time with people whose lives are wrecked as much as yours… allow me to quantify that if you will, if you don’t like your job it’s not over the hill and far away to assume your colleagues aren’t exactly enamoured either. And if they are (i.e. do like crying in the loo) it’s fair to assume that, as far as you should be concerned, you’re spending valuable time with morons doing a job you despise. At some point I concluded that this wasn’t conducive to self-betterment, irrespective of the cheery salary, so I got out of the office game and began a working-from-home-job with a U.S. Employer.

I thought working from home as an employee would be a happy compromise but it’s almost worse. You may be working from home but that nine to five sod knows no bounds. Robert Frost said that, “home is the place where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in” but if you’re working from it (home) that simply reads ‘your home is a place where they can spy on you, you can no longer shut the door and leave’.

A few months after my son was born my U.S. employers gave me the boot. They’d started to monitor my work with such intensity it became effectively impossible to work for reasons cited aloft, but because I’d not breached any code of practice (and made them a considerable amount of money, I hasten to add) they had to pay me off. On the one hand, you could see this as a quite appalling act of barbarity bearing in mind my son was brand new, or an opportunity to take the writing work to the next level.

I don’t get paid for writing this, I do it because something within compels me to do so, but I do get paid writing XYZ for others, and it’s something I thoroughly enjoy. Better still, I just have to work off a deadline so I can manage my time as I want so, most importantly, I can manage time around the boy so we get plenty of time to hang out.

The fuck?

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Pain Gain

I got my nipple pierced in the final year of my twenties, stood-up in a makeshift tent with a smiley long-haired man who declared that I had nothing to fear with regard to the impending pain as he was ‘very fast’. On the word ‘fast’ he hastily passed a needle through my nip; a creaking-popping noise, a lightning bolt of searing agony then a wobbly rush of endorphins. Done. Gary next.

Gary and I spent the day walking about the Milton Keynes bowl with our right hands suspended over our smarting teats for fear of physical contact with a fellow reveller, there were dozens of other people striking a similar pose on account of their recent surgery, eye-contact would solicit a nod, a cheer, even a beer from one especially lubricated out-patient.

We’d made the trip from London with a few mates to see Black Sabbath, I’d never seen them live despite being a fan from a very early age, nine to be exact, after my friend Gavin* gave me a tape that he’d borrowed from his sister. I remember he was very amused by one song called ‘embryo’ so I’m guessing it was Master of Reality.

It was a big deal they were performing, I don’t think any of us thought we’d ever catch them live, so we’d brought along plenty of provisions to ensure we’d be suitably annihilated when they came on stage. Apart from flashes of us all laughing our heads off and one of us throwing up on the train journey home (it may have been me) I can barely recall the day, save noticing that I wasn’t the only one having a little cry when they opened with War Pigs, and my being pierced, of course. I still have the piercing, unlike Gary who, after jumping in a swimming pool in Turkey, learnt that the valve from some inflatable animal had arrived in between his jewellery and chest as he descended into the water. The ring was ripped clean out of his flesh and the pool had to be evacuated.

Until relatively recently I’ve never really analysed this desire to look a certain way, especially when it’s physically painful, and I suppose by looking a ‘certain way’ I (somewhat ironically) conform to a stereotype of what people expect a ‘headbanger’ or ‘biker’ to look like. On the one hand, it’s probably a sign of something insecure (of course, you don’t need to look like a rocker or a punk to be one) but it could just as easily be the reverse. Back in the 80’s, before Nirvana and Guns and Roses taught the prols to rock, people that looked like me weren’t just targets for the media, we had a more tangible threat: groups of young white men that liked to drink pissy lager and listen to jazz-funk. I was beaten unconscious on a night out with my girlfriend in a pub close to my parents by three bastards who starting smashing me in the face before I’d had a chance to pint my pint down, they pulled out chunks of my hair after I’d passed out for good measure.

I didn’t go out for a year after that, because it’d been an unprovoked assault my brain couldn’t process the right way to deal with why what had happened and I became really paranoid. But despite the huge toll it’d taken on me psychologically it had an uncanny effect of reinforcing my identity, it was almost as if I felt I’d earned the right to my long hair and black leather because someone had beaten me up, not for something I’d said but for the way I looked. If anyone was going to inflict pain on me, it was me.

A tattoo was somewhat inevitable. I waited until I was thirty before committing the design I’d been working on for five years to flesh. I guess that’s the difference between now and two decades ago. Tattoos are passé these days, people get ink for the sake of itself, some (but certainly not all, so don’t write in) want to be associated with the having of tattoos to the extent that the aesthetics are secondary; take the faux-tribal craze that took place relatively recently where you could have miles of ink slapped on in a couple of hours, right out the book. Once upon a time tattoos used to be the preserve of sailors, criminals and outlaw bikers, ink, by association, was with loaded with unsavoury connotations -not millionaire football player or that nice Ed Sheeran. Tattoos found their way onto rockers and punks and, as far as I’m concerned, legitimised them for the likes of me. The fact that I’m a devotee of all things ‘motorcycle’ it’d almost be rude if I didn’t have tattoos, mum.

I can no longer contain the ingredients of the stuff that makes up the self so the excess pours out leaving traces of ink and hair in its wake. And it’s not just ink, it’s the rest of the garb, the leather, chains, skull-rings, studs… And a pram with a beautiful little boy sitting there, watching the world go by with his proud dad pushing him along.

*Gavin died of a brain tumour when we were in our early twenties, around the time I got that kicking. A week after he passed, his mum came around to my parents’ house and wordlessly dropped off two dozen heavy metal tee-shirts for me, many from shows we’d seen together. It blew me to pieces.

pret-air-porter

I’ve turned into airport ephemera: I’m one of those nameless ever-present creatures you half-see tripping over the bags under their eyes as they joylessly chase an infant around tables and chairs. About every ten minutes your eyes will be drawn to the shrill sound of an escalating scream, and in the midst of that, I shall rise wearily bearing a small wide-mouthed child following its collision with a chair leg, a table, a whatever-it-was.

Of the half-dozen or so flights he’s been on this was the first as a proper all-singing/dancing toddler. We’d already anticipated being one of those people that you’ll see walking up and down the aisle of a claustrophobic 737 with a determined infant but the airport lounge, whose only reason for existence is to facilitate pre-flight boozing, was never considered for a moment, and had it not been an issue it’d have remained incognito. In Stanstead, for instance, the ease of finding a high-chair in The Windmill public-house before we departed simply buried the free-roaming agonies of the bar/lounge at Bergamot-Milan.

This is typical of being a parent. You think you have everything sorted and in the case of travelling everything, quite literally, in the bag; then something (probably something that you could have foreseen if you weren’t already existing on sleep detritus whilst making Formula) leaps right out at you and knocks you sideways.

Most of the time these are small things, such as forgetting the wet wipes or a bib, for an entire airport lounge to slip the mind is either an indication of the sheer quantity of other stuff there is to do when travelling with a baby or just plain old incompetence.

If this all sounds like a bit of a non-disaster, I mean, so what if you have to chase a kid about for a couple of hours? Consider this. I hate flying, I mean really hate it. I used to self-medicate diazepam until I discovered booze was almost as effective, available at 39,000 feet, and I didn’t have to pretend to be friends with some salubrious character at the pub in order to get hold of it. I’ve subsequently worked out that I need at least an hour and a half in the bar before flying to calm my shattered nerves and am prepared to leave early in order to facilitate my needs.

Putting this into some sort of context, terrified I’d miss allocated drinking appointment at The Windmill, the National Express driver refused to take me from Stratford to Stanstead on the way out for ‘gesturing at him’. I’d like to make it clear, as I did to the driver, that I wasn’t ‘gesturing’ at him at all, merely flinging my arms about because I thought he was driving off two minutes before the scheduled departure time when he was, in fact, parking the coach. I had to summon all of my strength and appease him with theatrically profuse apologies which he only accepted on account of my family; my appointment with at least two double G&T’s had been saved.

The three glasses I’d envisaged at Bergamo-Milan were wholly disrupted by my having to follow a small chortling boy about an airport lounge, though I was occasionally able to guide him back to our table where sat my unenthusiastic glass of cool-ish prosecco. Ultimately I managed my booze quota with a bit of help from the better half so by the end I was stumbling after my little boy in as much danger of crashing into tables, chairs, whatever-it-was, as he.

Once on board the plane, following our having to re-arrange fellow passengers because fucking Ryan Air charges you extra if you want to sit next to the mother of your child, and therefore, the child, we took off. I was sufficiently relaxed to face the two-hours of aisle-walking once we’d hit the required height, not that it had really happened on the way out save a couple of inquisitive sorties to visit the hapless staff floundering at the back of the plane, I’d even managed to get a glass of ball-shrinking vino down my neck.

Then something unimaginable happened. He just fell asleep. For the whole flight he slept like, well, a baby. ‘Well I never,’ I said to myself, ‘who’d have thought, talk about swings and roundabouts, eh?’

“Yes, thank you. A bottle of the ball-shri… The red wine, please.”

Chitty Chat

Lately, I have to stop myself from talking to the boy when walking down the street, and when I say ‘talking’ I mean indulging in voluminous and spontaneous one-sided conversation to the back of a pram. It’s not as if I mean to do it, even when my filter tells me to button-it the other part of my brain will take momentary heed before continuing to denounce spitting in public or twist ‘n’ go transport. The latter has become somewhat of a hot topic in my head because the little fella has now started to excitedly point at motorcycles which he’ll very occasionally confuse with some perfunctory git facilitator with the power of a hair-dryer and all the charm of colitis.

At seventeen months his development appears to have entered a new phase. Things change on a daily rather than weekly or even monthly basis, to the point that now you can even have some sort of rudimentary conversation with him. Fundamental questions, such as water? more? kiss? Will be answered, even if he’s not always on the money when it comes to the vigorous shaking of the head which can mean ‘yes’ as much as ‘no’. If he wants to go out he’ll bring over his coat, if he’s hungry he’ll walk to his high chair, little arms raised until lifted into position, and if he’s tired he’ll even lead you to his room after gesturing at the milk cooling in the kitchen. He also talks to himself like his dad (though I’m not as we’ve established), endless streams of excited chatter sustained by a remarkably varied vocal range from shrieking soprano to actual death grunts.

When not talking he’ll make impersonations of things around him, disregarding the learned animal ones (though he does do a good lion) it’s more the things he’s picked up on his own. He’s good at nonspecific engines noises when punting about on his ride-on toy car but it’s the drone of the microwave or the whoosh of the coffee machine that really indicate the seismic changes that are taking place. He even copies the Radio 4 pips because that’s all we listen to; I can’t do music radio, the so-called ‘rock’ stations are punctuated every five minutes by pyscho-inducing adverts leaving us with BBC Radio 6 which is so impossibly eclectic that after ten minutes my arse and elbow start to fuse.

So we’ve established that talking to the boy in the street, or oneself depending on how it might be perceived, could be seen as problematic to the casual observer, however, it’s an entirely different story at home. In the safety of these four walls, I’m at liberty to chat at my son to my heart’s content. But I don’t just chat, I gesture, cavort, and gambol with such abandonment I almost forget myself. Then I realise that I can be seen from the adjacent flats so I’ll excitedly lift my son up to the window so any curious neighbours won’t think I’ve gone insane.

I’ve not been sleeping at all well lately.

Pro-waiting

The boy is sixteen months old. We’ve settled into a definite routine which revolves around my flexible work schedule, the better half’s nine-to-five one, two days at nursery plus the contribution of the parents’ who have him for one night a week. Including the composite day on account of my parents’ that give me three solid workdays, if I’m overloaded I’ve early mornings, late nights and the weekend at my disposal too, so it’s all good. But if someone is ill, for example, the whole shebang falls down on its arsehole and being ill is nine tenths of being a parent.

Initially, I was resistant to the idea of my parents’ having the boy for one night a week, as much as I was anti the whole nursery thing. I suppose this was because that for the first nine months of his life we spent every waking hour together and, without realising it, had stepped into a self-perpetuating bubble of Fam. In hindsight it’s a very peculiar environment as everything is dictated by this new entity and one’s inability to deal with it confidently; everything is a learning exercise consisting of an indefinite, unspecified menu of challenges and rewards. This makes it almost impossible to be anything but introspective, aided and abetted by friends and family who’ll accept this new state of being unconditionally and do things like visit when you want them to, with wine.

I’d have remained in this bubble indefinitely if it wasn’t for the issue of money. Nine months after he was born the better half returned to work part-time and three months later she was back to the N to F. Now the parents/nursery role became essential factors in our schedule, so when the nursery closes for a training day or the parents can’t make it I suddenly find myself playing daddy day care to the point of saturation (don’t get me wrong here, spending time with my little boy is just about the best thing, like, evah, but I’ve got shit to do as well, like take an actual shit without having to keep a toddler at bay with a bog brush) as was the case when he was fifteen months old when I was responsible for my son for nine weekdays out of ten because the nursery shut for some training thing and the folks took it in turns to get sick.

It’s pretty obvious that everything you do when you’re in charge of a baby is baby-related, so if you’re not feeding, changing or weakly trying to make ‘em watch CBeebies so you can sit down for a couple of seconds, you’re preparing food, cleaning-up or taking another trip to the shops in the hope they might fall asleep. After four solid days of this, I realised that it wasn’t just the doing-of-stuff that was killing me, it was all the waiting-for-stuff in between the doing-of-stuff.

Waiting is insidious because it exists on so many levels it hides in plain sight and it’s one of the fundamental reasons that parents of young children are permanently shattered. You’re either waiting for them to get hungry, sleep or shit, or for them to stop eating, wake-up or shit again, and all the while you’re doing actual stuff effectively draining the parental battery at both ends.

Then of course there’s the waiting for the missus to come home, the folks to drop by, the nursery to start and finish and within that all the aforementioned elements of the sleeping and eating and so on so forth (and that’s before we’ve even touched on the waiting around inherent with freelance writing) coagulating into a continual never-ending bollock of horror. Nothing is achieved by waiting, it lurks in the background waiting to catch your eye and has the uncanny effect of making the doing-stuff pointless because as you’re doing it you’re waiting for the next thing to do… But there is a pleasant caveat.

Waiting is the mother of procrastination, a catalyst that fuels a creative spark, without waiting until bored the mind would never have a chance to wander into profundity or stumble onto unknown shores. It’s not just a useful device to inspire, solve or reconcile a bit of copy or a design, it’s great for inventing practical stuff too. Virtually all the safety devices around the house, things to stop stuff falling over or out onto a toddler, have come about after identifying an issue and the brain just resolving the matter while waiting for the washing machine to stop or the Naproxen to kick in. In most instances, I’ve been able to actually carry out the work with no more than a drill, a couple of brackets and an old bit of floorboard

I’ve become so efficient in using my waiting moments to procrastinate that nowadays I only have to feed a quandary into my mind box and, as sure as eggs is eggs, rewarded with a solution in a matter of hours, even minutes. Which is why I’m just about to attach a bass guitar to the wall of his bedroom with a length of shoelace.

Disc Go

I first rode a motorbike at Dave Taylor’s Trial Park over 40 years ago and haven’t looked back, though obviously I did just then, and while I’m here make a note of ‘back’ as well.

Dave, who for the most part has been consigned to history, was a prominent figure in the 70’s. He was a vociferous road safety campaigner having become famous for, ironically, pulling huge fuck-off wheelies; the dude even rode the whole of the TT course (37.73 miles) on his back wheel. My hero, though, was Barry Sheene. In the 70’s he was mega famous, and for most kids growing up in that decade part of the cultural landscape along with strikes, flares and Spangles. He was vivacious, charismatic and cool, he shone through the brown and grey of the decade and made other sports and their protagonists look prosaic and banal.

The 70’s was also the decade when the Japanese motorcycle manufacturers started to make serious headway into the UK market. As the British motorcycle industry dwindled to virtually nothing, streets and TV’s rung out with the scream of high-revving two strokes. In comparison to the British stuff, the Japanese bikes were faster, lighter and oil-tight. If the British bikes were Black Sabbath then the Japanese upstarts were the Sex Pistols and I loved both. My fate with all things motorbike was sealed.

By the time I was 10 I was doing motocross at a place near Slough. Dad got hold of a burnt out caravan that he converted into a trailer, onto which was loaded my stolen-recovered YB 100cc Yam [that my dad had] converted for off road use. It wasn’t really up to the job but I couldn’t have cared less, I lived for Saturday afternoons. Age 12, when my parents realised this bike-thing wasn’t a fad, and after dad convinced mum that I was learning important skills for when I was on the road, because I would be (he was right on both accounts, I could provide actual examples but this isn’t all about me) I got my first proper MotoX bike, a Yamaha YZ100e. The bike was pretty old by the time I got hold of it, they came with some stinking second-hand leathers that were so baggy around the arse that you could’ve fitted Hazell Dean’s chin in there, but as far as I was concerned I was living the dream, even when I broke my ankle on a post and wrecked all the tendons in my wrist after I hit the deck and a bloke on a CCM stalled and then started his bike on my arm.

For five, occasionally painful, years, I couldn’t have been happier than when I was riding my bike, until that day I was hit in mid-air by another bike, it knocked my front wheel south west so when I landed I was catapulted over the bar. I vividly recall hitting the ground and thinking ‘where’s my bike gone’ before it came crashing down onto my lower back. I don’t remember much after that save the hospital.

A month later I was back on the bike, as far as I was concerned I’d dodged serious injury and made a full recovery, but something had changed. Because the accident hadn’t been my fault I started to become wary, then paranoid, of other riders. I couldn’t ride with impunity as I was too busy checking to make sure someone wasn’t about to smack into me. One afternoon, after an hours riding, I rode into the paddock and told dad that I was done. Six months later the bike was gone. It was dreadful.

A quarter of a century passed, one totally normal day I was walking across the road with my bro when, all of a sudden, I went down like a sack of the stuff (I mean shit) and my bro had to scoop me up and carry me to the pavement before I was hit by an Iveco lorry. I was diagnosed with a perforated disk and required to hobble about with a stick for a while until a combination of the NHS, a chiropractor and some good old fashioned exercise sorted me out.

Until recently this was just fine, I had the measure of the condition and despite seizing up after Slayer at Sonisphere five years ago (my two dear friends had to drag me all the way out of the venue to get a cab, right in the middle of Metallica’s headline set) I’ve been pretty much okay.

But not all was well in lower-back land. The perforated disc was having an adverse effect on the disc below; having been charged with undertaking the additional task of managing a colleague’s injury it was somewhat inevitable that it would file a complaint. Sciatica isn’t as agonisingly painful as the perforated seizure (which would make a great name for a black metal band) but the constant pain running up and down the leg like a cow in heels wears thin after a while. I mean it never bloody stops and nothing over-the-counter relieves it apart from Co-codamol. The prescribed Naproxen merely manages the injury but it does cause agonising stomach cramps that the prescribed Omeprazole, designed to suppress the agonising stomach cramps caused by the Naproxen, fails to curb and all of this amounts to even less sleep than we weren’t having before the Sciatica kicked-in.

I ruminated on all of this lying awake one morning at 3.30 with my left shin and buttock on fire waiting for the umpteenth cody to kick in… Actually, this is bloody Dave Taylor and Barry Sheene’s fault, bastards, my innovative dad should’ve listen to my told-you-so mum and I should’ve stuck with Judo. Even if Brian Jacks was a monumental arsehole with the personality of a bread board.

Then I remembered, the only other time I wasn’t in pain, and this was true of both the perforated disc and the more recent Sciatica, was when I was riding my bike. Sure, I may have had an issue getting on and off but once there, the pain was gone. I guessed it must have something to do with the way the body is positioned on a sportsbike, you lean forward so the spine is relaxed, all the weight is taken by the limbs, bingo.

So there you go, another excellent reason to ride a motorbike.

Hey, I’m walkin’ here

The homunculus walks.

A new phase begins in three unaided steps; we will ever be the same again?

My mind is polarised with this development. On the one hand I’m delighted, it means things are all moving in the right direction, he’s fit, healthy, blah, blah, blah and whilst I know I shouldn’t take this for granted (believe me, I don’t) it’s not as if this advancement has come out of the blue, or it’s a huge surprise, his walking has been on the cards for a couple of months. But being the cup half-full kinda guy I am I’m feeling a bit weird about the whole ‘baby’ part. It seems to have shot by in a millisecond, which may well counter something I wrote previously about how time seems to have slowed right down. I dunno, I was probably tired as I am now so I who knows. Perception is as perception does so it’s allowed.

It’s not accurate to assume that I’m missing his baby phase in a way that tips the scales of any preference, it’s just that this morning he stood-up, leant against the side of his baby bay and kicked out his leg as if fending off an aggressive beggar. The baby that barely occupied half of the baby bay on which the boy now stood was no more than memories, it hit me so hard that if I wasn’t already actually lying in bed when I made this realisation I’d have to have had a lie-down.

In order to make some sort of sense of all this and, I suppose, as a way of acknowledging that the ‘baby’ seat is now owned by that of a toddler, I need some sort of totem, a fetish if you will, to allow my brain safe passage into the unknown. In one sense compiling a list of seven things a parent needs in the first fifteen months of life could be seen as both patronising and unnecessary. On the other, it’s not. It’s just a list of things you need have to have, in no particular order, before your kid walks.

Microwave. For sterilising stuff and re-heating half-drunk cups of tea and meals you’ve had to abandon because something has kicked off.

Digital Radio. Radio 4 will become one of your best friends, but occasionally a play or programme will infuriate you so much you’ll want to rip out your toenails. Relax, Absolute Classic Rock is one button away.

A lobby dustpan and brush. Note the ‘lobby’ bit. You can clean up dry and wet food (and actual shit if necessary) off hard floors without having to bend down or worry too much about spilling the contents whilst in the process of cleaning or en-route to the bin or bog.

Vileda mop, bucket and wringer. The most expensive you can get. The amount of post-food mopping you’ll have to do is unimaginable, don’t bother with cheap or you’ll regret it.

Curved or concave changing mat. Kids wriggle, this will help prevent them from wriggling into thin air.

Ikea high chair. Don’t bother with anything else, they don’t work properly

Baby Bay. I don’t know how we’d have coped without one of these, the fact he’s not used it in six months and I’m still in love with it must count for something.

There is one other, penultimate, consideration that didn’t make the list as it’s not quite as simple as just saying ‘baby-related Pharmaceuticals’ because there are other factors to consider outside of cotton balls and Calpol, though while I’m here, Tesco nappies are half the cost of Pampers and just as good. Top tip: Tesco deliver for free if your bill is over 40 quid so, if you buy in bulk, you don’t even have to carry the bastards back from the shop.

‘Baby-related’ pharmaceuticals apply to the parent as well. Since the little fella was born, and certainly since he was in the nursery, I’ve never been so ill. Diarrhoea, vomiting, cramps, lethargy, not to mention a knackered back and sprained wrists, require a well-stocked medical cabinet, and by well-stocked I mean it’s worth spending a few quid on some specific stuff. Get an electronic thermometer, you’re all gonna need it, most importantly, get loads of drugs starting with top quality painkillers. Co-codamol is the strongest over-the-counter ‘killer but paracetamol and ibuprofen are of equal importance, that doesn’t mean you can bypass cold and flu remedies (don’t bother with Lemsip, scotch, honey and lemon in hot water can cure cancer) and you’ll need all manner of stomach-related cures from Imodium to Buscopan, Ranitidine to Dioralyte.

Contracting a bug off a kid isn’t like getting something from that arsehole at the office who wears the same t-shirt every day. These illnesses come on faster than a line of celebratory sniff and before you know it you’re out of it so this stuff has to be at your disposal 24/7.

Finally, drinking.

Drinking.

That is all.