Jet Lag 3/3

The little boy seemed to positively thrive in his new home. Of course, he couldn’t care less if it was Christmas, Easter or National Arsehole Day, he was getting endless attention in an exciting new environment with his niece and nephew on hand to, er, to play with.

The nephew (six) pretty much gave up on his cousin from day one when he was on the receiving end of a slap in the eye socket followed by an arm-clawing, my son’s classic, opening. To his absolute credit, my nephew didn’t react to this assault with anything more than an expression of deep sorrow and spent the next nine days being careful to avoid a chuckling little boy determined to administer further abuse for his own gratuitous entertainment. My niece (eight) wasn’t exempt from the odd slap (or a bite for the ladies) but she countered his cheerful aggression with periods of intense affection, in which he’d be carried about like a Ken, before causing him unintended confusion by suddenly buggering off to do something else. This put the little fella on the back foot so for the most part his violence was replaced by curiosity.

While she may have got off lightly the two cats weren’t spared his devious attention. When he was very little, the sight of a cat would inspire him to go ape. He never minded dogs, he’s excited when he sees one even now, but cats have taken a while to come around to his style of thinking. For a while the cats were left to their own devices, a couple of days later he toddled over to where they were hanging to check them out. A few days before we left to go back to London he’d progressed to standing on their tails, dropping toys on their heads and attempting full-on body-contact wrestling moves that he never quite pulled off. Thankfully, in a fashion not dissimilar to my young nephew, the cats were more inclined to wearily move away rather than lash out, which could’ve had serious facial consequences.

It wasn’t just the people and cats he enjoyed hitting/interacting with. I’m loathed to admit that in spite of my previous imaginings that Bill Hicks’ negative opinion of the LA weather was on point (‘Only reptiles feel that way about this kind of weather. I’m a mammal, I can afford coats, scarves, cappuccino and rosy-cheeked women’) I think I’m happier in hot and sunny climes than a constant stream of pissing, cold rain. We were only a twenty-minute drive to Santa Monica (forty to Venice, hour to Malibu) and where lay endless, sandy beaches, caressed by a crystal-blue ocean that whispered under cerulean skies fading, it seemed, into the outer edges of fucking space. If we didn’t fancy driving to the ocean the apartment complex featured a private swimming pool which was far more decadent than it ought. The only downside to all this aqua-based entertainment was the ensuing tantrum when trying to remove the little fella from the ocean/pool; even when he’d turned into a shivering prune he insisted that he wanted to remain banging about in the water long after we’d all agreed to go for a much-needed drink.

On a couple evenings, when the missus was out with her sisters, my bro-in-law, bro and I had a chance to hang out as team, with the kids (when the bro-in-law and I experimented with a bit too much tequila in a Mexican place) and without at a Korean all-you-can-eat barbeque joint in which we, bros, stuffed ourselves rigid and drank ourselves silly. The better half and I got a precious night or two out, but mainly evenings were at home just talking, drinking.

These times were just as memorable as the drive through the Hollywood Hills or the rather profound visit to the Rainbow Bar and Grill on my 49th birthday where we drank in Lemmy’s bar as the little bloke ran in and out of his statue. Sitting here now, I’m missing that LA family stuff as much as I’m annoyed I can’t go downstairs right now and have a swim.

But the day that really sticks in my head was penultimate one when just DD and I decided to walk to Melrose Avenue and pay a visit to the LA branch of The Great Frog. The better half had ordered me a pair of cufflinks for Christmas from the London shop and I wanted to check ’em out, so while everyone was out doing other stuff, I figured a good walk would be of benefit, especially to my hangover from the bros big night out.

The boy and I set off, it was sunny and bloody hot, I decided en-route I’d get the boy a baseball hat because I could. I walked into a K Mart and spoke to a lady with way too much make-up.
‘Excuse me,’ I quothed, ‘do you have baseball hats for boys?’
‘Pardon, Honey… You wanna baseball hat for a bi-cycle?’
‘yes,’ I said ‘Yes. I want a baseball hat for a bi-cycle…’
‘I’m sorry, Honey, we don’t keep those here.’
‘Thank you,’ I said, and with that we left, unsure about everything.

The walk took us through a through a variety of neighbourhoods, all of which rung with that air of familiarity, now justifying itself from a first-hand perspective. One block was occupied by a gang of moody kids shrouded in a mist of weed. I continued through them with the pram, the little fella waved and they collectively softened and waved back, which was a good thing, really. A few streets later a couple of dudes on vintage Harleys (one definitely a Panhead) slowly turned right in front of us at an intersection. I could see the boy’s little legs rise up as he attempted to peer further into the shiny engine block. As they drifted past one of the guys called out to me, ‘hey dude, how you doing!’ I was just fine, thank you.

We left The Frog after checking the links and, after a quick chat with the shopkeep, headed back home, deviating slightly to see some different stuff. I took a dilatory pace, so I could drink in the sunshine and city sights, not taking a single step for granted. Tomorrow we’d be going home to London and the idea of leaving had begun to bite. As I walked the last few blocks back to the apartment I saw the better-half across the street as if it was the normal thing in the world. It didn’t feel like the end of a holiday, it felt like a chunk of my life was coming to a close; it was only a few days after we’d got home that I managed to figure out why.

That Christmas in LA had been unique, something that would be impossible to replicate on any basic level. More than simply the moment-in-time circumstances of our all being at an apartment in La Brea, it marked the passing of an age. The little bloke had noticeably entered into a new phase of his life. Whether this was on account of external factors, environment, family, circumstances, or just a coincidence wasn’t relevant, the little fella that left London wasn’t the same that returned home. The baby was gone, in its place was a little boy.

There was something else that had been bugging me too, I turned 49 in LA, my 50’s were less than a year away. LA wasn’t just about the sunshine, family stuff or even the little fella, a chunk of my life was quite literally coming to a close in a way that was neither profound or enchanting. And the jet lag was awful. Awful.


‘Sir!’ the security man at the airport boomed after me.

Fuck. What?

‘Sir!’ the man said again, I turned back to face a fat bloke stood next to the bag-scanner with a peaked-cap obscuring his eyes…

‘Yes?’ I said, very, very carefully, ensuring that it was a neutral ‘yes’ that erred towards the congenial and agreeable.

‘Did anyone ever tell you that you resemble one David Grohl?’

I tried to say something witty but conflated the one about not having his money and, actually, him looking like me, into a garbled mess that fell onto the floor and hid behind my dignity.

At least I was pissed.



A few months back he discovered that it amused him to slap people’s faces. This may or may not have had something to do with my theatrical overreaction to being slapped, specifically, pretending to have received a severe blow to the face in slow motion whilst going ‘noooooooo’. Either way, the expression on his face as he whacks one/anyone around is well worth the pain, to the point that the better half says I actively encourage him, which is ridiculous (I do).

What isn’t so adorable (if being repeatedly slapped about by a chortling infant constitutes ‘adorable’) is that now the slapping is part of a four-pronged attack -I’d just like to quickly add that I don’t ‘get off’ on being slapped, and especially not by a very-soon-to-be one year-old.

For the four-way assault to occur one needs to be lying down, so bed then. He sleeps in his own bed these days and we only bring him into the bed in the mornings when he wakes (around 7.00) for a feed (tits) so we can sleep a little longer.

After his breakfast he’ll crawl over to my side of the bed and after pulling hard on my hair -which is a coded warning that an attack is imminent rather than a first-stage assault- repeatedly slap my face. Until recently this was quite gentle and enough to sate his aggression, but now he’ll slap the face with force then grab it (lips, nose and eyelids are particularly vulnerable, and if his nails haven’t been cut for a week he’ll go through skin) head-butt it with a dead-eyed clunk and, worse of all, go for a bite. When he was small this would be no more than gummy pressure lubricated with dribble but since he’s acquired a top and bottom set of teeth it’s bloody, yell-out-loud, painful. Of course, for him my shouting-out in pain is entertainment par-excellence so the attacks intensify as new areas of vulnerability are sought out. Now the neck and arms are also fair game for biting, scratching, slapping and so on. At times it’s agony and if you’re not careful he’d genuinely have your eye out, but it’s also ludicrous, if not dangerous, fun.

No one tells you this stuff before they’re born. This time last year I couldn’t even imagine his existence, despite my better half bearing a space-hopper lump and clambering over all that baby stuff silently lying around waiting for god-knows-what in his purpose-built room.

To say life has irrevocably changed is stating the bloody obvious and I don’t just mean the sleepless nights or the bite marks. I’m looking at him now with yoghurt all over his face as he drops the water bottle on the floor for the 10th time because I’m typing and he thinks I’m not paying him any attention. There is no point describing how all this parent stuff feels because (most) parents will know already and those without kids couldn’t care less, which I get. It’s not like I’ve been a dad for decades, even applying the word ‘dad’ to me still feels a bit weird.

Outside the death of a loved-one, there are two invisible lines of knowledge. One occurs before and after virginity and the other before and after the birth of a child. All three lines are connected, notwithstanding that two lead to a third, but because once the line in question has been crossed the change is an irreversible and an ever present fact of life. In this instance that means being perpetually tired, having to constantly clean stuff and dealing with remarkably creative paranoia.

And that’s just fine by me, being a dad is fucking ace of spades.

Prequel Two

Some friends kindly gave us their son’s outgrown buggy/pram last Christmas. For weeks it was shoved in the corner of the hallway, in denial, in various bits. I decided to assemble it after imagining that the unborn child might like to see some outside shit only days before he was due to be in the spring.

After sorting out the basic components of the buggy, frame/wheels, base. Hood? And what was actually a car seat and nothing to do with the former parts, I got to work. An hour later and I’d managed to locate the mounting pegs for the top part and how to raise and lower the handlebars, or whatever they’re called, but that was it. I mean, it defied logic. Later that day I found myself in the park staring intently at kids’ prams in order to try and decipher the code of assemblage before concluding that checking this sort of thing on youtube carried a far lower risk of arrest. The youtube videos proved to be useless, some very suspect looking ‘dads’ from America extolling their own self-worth via the medium of how to fit a raincover as portentously as possible, was as unhelpful as it was infuriating. Eventually I realised I’d been deceived by how obvious it was from the off* and the new, complete, buggy was re-shoved in the corner of the hallway to await god-knows-what.

That had been one of a list of [hypothetical] dad-things I had to do. New room aside, I had to assemble drawers, cots, and shelves, fill gaps, drill holes, paint stuff, and secure a load of doors (cupboards and otherwise) so by the time the kid was the imaginary toddler I occasionally fretted about, he wouldn’t have access to dangerous potentials while he and his mother are in the pub.

I felt a bit weird about doing all those things. There is a very dark side of myself that feels that I’m somehow tempting fate. That aside, the hardest thing back then was the bloody wait. It was like waiting endlessly for take-off on a really shitty flight to somewhere you suspect will be quite nice.

By the way his new room -essentially, two stud walls and a door on one aspect of the lounge- is big enough to fit a double bed with a little bit of space to walk round two sides, and that’s about it. However, it’s superbly bright, airy, and has loads of space for pictures of motorbikes, skulls and Slayer. Obviously the better half had an opinion on this too, so only one wall has bikes on it (Barry Sheene, Carl Fogarty (signed, Carl and I, way back) and rather dubious ‘vintage’ metal plate featuring a café racer undertaking a fictitious run to Brighton at some haste) but I have managed to sneak in a skull/bones clock above the shelf, a bunch of heavy-metal stickers and Joey Ramone figurine illuminates when you turn the wall light on -I’m particularly chuffed with this act of progressive OCD.**

*In an age before laptops and smart phones, people were far more practical. I still don’t understand why there are so many bicycle shops these days, I mean how hard is it to change an inner tube or bolt-on a set of brake blocks -especially when, ironically, you can find out how to online. Another thing, despite a proliferation of cookery programmes, as a nation we now eat more takeaways than ever (we’ve more fast food outlets too) indicating that we’re not actually physically cooking anything at all but merely watching shit whilst eating it. My point is this, I expect things that require practical intervention to be bit complicated, a tad challenging, that’s how you learn, right? For example, I can dismantle and rebuild a 900 series MK1 carburettor for my 1976 Triumph Bonneville, the first time was arduous but I persevered and now I can do it with relative ease. I approached the assembly of the buggy in the same way, I pondered, mused, at one point going outside to smoke a pipe, but I still couldn’t figure out how the sod came together. It was only when I figuratively stepped back the penny dropped, it was, literally, deceptively simple. There is no point to this, by the way, outside of the one made in my opening sentence. I’m just explaining why I had some problems assembling a pram and providing examples as to why. As you were, then.

**Sorry, me again. People are inclined to overuse the abbreviation of ‘obsessive compulsive disorder’ these days. You’re not entitled to claim OCD just because you prefer to store baked beans on the top shelf of your cupboard and multipacks of crisps underneath. For a start, there is nothing funny about OCD, in fact, it’s bloody horrid, and I am on the periphery of the condition. For every tiny act of creativity that has resulted from my OCD, such as the Joey Ramone/lamp, there have been hundreds that have seen me up in the small hours, tired, almost in tears, because I can’t decide how I want to arrange drinking vessels on shelf. Yes, really. The worst aspect of it is that one act of OCD will inevitably lead to another. Take last night for example, all I did was move a candle from a shelf to a spot previously occupied by a recently disposed-of plant. This in turn led to the glasses episode resulting in a wasted two-hour freak-out as to how best arrange them. Initially I figured it should be aesthetic and then opted for practicality (i.e. which ones were used more frequently) which didn’t look right, so I tried to mix it up a bit and then one glass wouldn’t fit properly so I had to start over for the umpteenth time. And that’s just one example, smaller aspects of this will occur daily, some will last the whole day, some even longer, like the ones that have no conclusion offering the chance to return to the problem indefinitely. Of course, these all add up so you can have many ‘incidents’ running concurrently. Incidentally, did you know that an iphone has a spirit level? Go to the compass and scroll to the right, I found it by accident last week. It’s been making my life hell.


According to philosopher and post-Freudian psychoanalyst, Jacques Lacan, a child, between the age of six to eighteen months’, will enter the Mirror Stage; putting it bluntly, during this phase, the child begins to identify with its own image, not that it has any facility to put this into any rational context, of course. Prior to this the child is merely its mother, it has no sense of anything outside of this though, gradually, what Lacan called ‘The Real’ will fragment, a child will have awareness of erogenous zones via its being fed and cleansed and ‘the mother’ will disperse into a gaze, a breast, a voice rather than an entire entity. This is all well and good but what about his dear old dad, eh?

The truth of the matter is that dad isn’t really of much use in the first six months outside of ensuring the mother isn’t getting too shitfaced on Negroamaro. Sure, he can change the odd nappy and feed the odd bottle, but when the nappy winds up shit-side down at the end of the babybay and the bottle remains full following an hour of screaming tears, mother will gladly step in and help old dad out.

What he can do (when he’s not working) is push a pram and because he’s managed to sire a child who is healthy and rather beautiful, he can push the pram with a certain degree of swagger, even if he doesn’t look, well, responsible enough to have kids.

Of course I’m not the only man in the world to have long hair with a few metal/biker trimmings, it’s just that there are less of us than people with short hair without metal/biker accoutrements. To be honest if it was just the Motorhead Tee and a couple of skull rings I’d probably be able to slip in behind the dying breed of hipsters and posers that populate East London, but the hair (and to a lesser extent the beard, these days) is the assumption nail in the judgement coffin. Now it’s perfectly clear to all and sundry that this metal/bike shit is way out of control, therefore I shouldn’t be allowed to have kids because I obviously worship at the cloven feet of the Horned-One.

Whilst that may sound like an exaggeration in my neck of the woods, people will make obvious attempts to peer into the pram to make sure I’m not wheeling round bits of old bicycle or a dead pig. When they see a perfectly normal (albeit a rather comely) baby the expression of relief/joy on their faces is a site to behold, like they’ve just discovered it’s best to first remove the trousers before taking a shit.

Generally speaking, though, London is broadminded enough to cope with us. This was put into some sort of context on a recent sojourn to south Italy, people would stop and stare open-mouthed, some barely disguising visceral contempt. The lady leaving her seat on the plane is one thing, people getting out of swimming pools and changing tables in dining rooms is another. More than anything this sort of reaction was more tedious than unsettling, we returned fire with a ‘what are you fucking staring at’ attitude which obviously made things worse, though this ludicrous deadlock usually broke once we’d scooped the kid out the pram for a feed or a bloody good cuddling. You could read it in their faces, “maybe… maybe they’re like us after all.”

I’ve yet to test the good folk in these green and pleasant lands outside the capital, say Harrogate or Chipping Norton for the sake of argument, but I wouldn’t be surprised if I, we, were cajoled into a giant whicker haircut by bitter churchwardens before being lawfully immolated by racist Barristers as the townsfolk mistakenly chanted ‘kill the pig, bash them in’. Yep, that would almost definitely happen.

Born to Lose. Live to Wean

At the beginning of 2016, on a relatively infrequent visit to the gym, I was on the fast-walking-thing listening to Orgasmatron. Actually it was the running machine but I can’t run on it because of my hopeless lower back, so there I was, all sweaty, gently entering into that zone when the music and adrenalin converge and make about fifty seconds of the three quarters-of-an-hour session rather beautiful. My imagination, saturated with Motörhead and the impending birth of my little boy, suddenly found itself at the bedside of the Sposa just after he’d been delivered. What followed was a full-on daydream beyond my control, I gathered my son up into my arms and cried ‘he’s alive, HE’S ALIVE!’ and held him aloft to open skies against the din of the music blasting into my ears. Without warning all of the emotions I could’ve imagined conspired against my physical self and I slapped the emergency ‘stop’ button on the machine for fear of wobbling onto the floor in a state of projected distress. I felt like a right tit at the time but later that day, when I remembered what’d fleetingly occurred, I realised that if I’d been listening to Hootie and the Blowfish, say, that couldn’t have happened.

Music is a very personal thing to some people -I say ‘some people’, there are a vast number of weird folk who really don’t care what they listen to- and in my case my preferred music, my affliction, is a largely blinkered adoration of (very) heavy metal and punk (and occasionally R.E.M). This irreversible condition of ‘metal’ began at a very young age and has continued into the present. I’ve no doubt I’m sat where I am because of it, that if I’d liked Motown, Jazz or Limp Bizkit I’d be elsewhere; whether that be a good or a bad thing isn’t pertinent, it’s merely a fact of life, like if I’d not gone to school or chosen the guitar over the trumpet.

The simple fact is that HM (I’m going to call it ‘HM’ herein because it saves paper) has an effect upon me in ways not dissimilar to that of those found at the extreme end of the pleasure spectrum, most obviously drink, drugs, sex and to a lesser extent, pain. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that combining HM with these things can have explosive (and occasionally fatal) consequences, so let us just take HM in its purest, unadulterated form, for the time being at least.

I also know that the reality of physically giving birth, or watching it happen dad-side, isn’t anything you can imagine unless you’re actually there. And there is nothing you, or I, can do about that.