Parking on a hard shoulder…

3 12 2014

Believe it or not, my shoulder is not a resting place for bags.

A lot of people on the 8am train to St Pancras, however, seem to disagree.

I’ve moaned before how my train can get quite busy.

But fortunately for me, there is nearly always a seat.

It tends to be an aisle seat.

So when the train gets busy people queue up along the aisle.

When the Thameslink trains where first constructed back in 1672, people were a lot slimmer in build and had smaller bottoms.

That can only explain the width of the seats.

By the time either two big bottoms or two people with a shoulder build of normal standards sit next to each other, one invariably spills onto the third seat leaving less space to sit down.

And in turn, you guessed it, my shoulder sticks out into the aisle.

So when people get onto the train with bags on their backs or handbags on their arms, apparently my shoulder becomes a convenient place for them to rest their load.

Stop it.

I’ve had enough.

I’m seriously contemplating putting strong magnets onto my shoulder to damage anything electronic in the bags.

Or perhaps Mad Max style metal spiked shoulder pads that would rip apart any unsuspecting bag at the slightest wriggle from me.

Or I’ll become a pirate (work it out).

These people also have the audacity to give me evils when I try to shrug the bag off my shoulder!

(Ok, maybe I should ask nicely next time.)

All this being said, it gets worse when it’s someone’s arse sat on my shoulder.

And when a man is leaning on me with his *ahem* personal bag, maybe I should give him a hard shoulder.


People are strange…

22 10 2014

As with most commuters that use the train in to London, I follow a boring pattern.

I arrive at the train station at the same time every morning.

I walk to the same spot on the same platform every morning.

I stand next to the same people every morning.


Everyone exchanges a little smile of recognition (or just stare straight ahead like a blinkered horse), but that’s about it.

You wrap yourself up in your own little protective bubble and sit in silence.

Chances are you’ll never know the people around you.

It’s a great shame.

But I’m not one for rocking the boat so I bury my head in a book and stick to the pattern.

Unless of course there’s a glitch in the Matrix and destiny says otherwise.

St Albans hosted its annual Beer Festival the other weekend.

A group of us went along to savour the delights of UK beers and revel in our mastery of the art as only Englishmen can.

As I was knocking back an ale from Warton, a neighbouring village to where my parents live, when something grabbed my attention.

I caught a fleeting glimpse of someone I recognised whizzing through the crowd in CAMRA type livery (shorts, polo shirt, sandals etc.).

It was Mr. X, a commuter I sit opposite to most mornings.

So I was confronted with a choice – ignore the fact I saw him and therefore not have that awkward conversation each morning when both parties just want to read the paper, or go over and introduce myself.

Being the nice human that I am, I of course chose the latter.

Mr X is now called Mark.

After an initial exchange of pleasantries on the first morning of travel post-beer festival, we will now just say “Morning,” or moan and joke about the tardiness of the trains.

I’m glad I made that initial introduction.

If we’re travelling together one evening after sampling more delights of the alcoholic variety, I might be able to rely on him to wake me up at my stop.

So maybe people aren’t so strange after all.

Perhaps it’s just me.

And I’m sure Wifey would agree with that.

The Glasses snatcher of St. Albans…

20 09 2013

I often look for signs of intelligence in my boy.

A fatherly fear that he might take after me.

The lights are on but nobody’s home.

So it was with great delight that he outwitted me the other day.

Not hard I hear you say.

For some reason JJ loves my glasses and thinks they are better off my face rather than on.

Beauty should never be hidden I guess.

I don’t wear them that much so he probably just thinks I look stupid and that he’s helping.

But you see, my OCD-ness can’t stand it when he touches them, leaving evidence of his last meal, snot, or saliva.

It means I ‘have to’ spend five minutes cleaning them to perfection again.

One day he was sitting on my knee and reached out to grab them.

I stopped him with a Karate Kid style side swipe, accompanied by stupid Daddy noises.

He found it hilarious.

Another grab.

Another swipe and more stupid noises.

This went on for a couple of minutes with him laughing more and more.

I leaned in to make it easier.

Then all of a sudden his face went serious.

No more laughter.

He went to grab my glasses.

I swiped.

But then with ninja like stealth his other hand came out of nowhere and took my glasses of my face.

Little git.

Little clever git.

Then he laughed again.

Mission accomplished.

As Depeche Mode once sang;

“The grabbing hands, grab what they can.”

More fool me.

Geek in the making.

Geek in the making.

A padded cell awaits young JJ every Saturday…

10 09 2013

There are many exciting destinations in St Albans that JJ enjoys.

Sainsbury’s to push the trolley about and generally smile at people.

Westminster Lodge to go swimming here, or at least do a very good impression of a plank of wood every weekend.

Verulamium Park is JJ’s favourite destination to watch the ducks, walk around the splash park and generally fall asleep in his pram.

The Maltings and general shopping in St. Albans offer’s plenty of opportunity to people watch and act all cute to grab attention.

And of course his time spent at Gymboree.

To the uninitiated among you Gymboree is a class for children of all ages that combines music, soft play, climbing apparatus, toys and mayhem.

I take JJ to the Saturday morning class, which is free time and not a structured class.

It’s also a melting pot of local Dads who probably haven’t seen their kids all week.

So of course it gives Mum’s the chance to stay at home and snooze.

Well at my house it does.

On arriving, JJ tends to motor off at the earliest opportunity suspiciously looking back over his shoulder to ensure he is truly free to roam.

He keeps me on my toes as he launches for ladders and anything he can climb up.

There are of course soft padded floormats and all manner of soft landings, but I’m sure JJ would still find a hard place to land.

It can be quite quiet for a while when the doors first open, giving me a chance to crawl around and chase JJ acting the crazy fool.

As more and more children arrive, the ensuing maelstrom of activity destroys what was briefly an oasis of tranquility.

Noise levels go up several decibels and octaves.

Kids start banging into each other.

“Don’t snatch,” echoes around the room.

Dads catch up, whilst occasionally breaking formation like the Red Arrows, as their kid readies for an Evel Knievel-esque stunt at the top of a climbing frame.

The crying begins.

Dads start to sweat.

Pools of dribble form around the room.

Dads find their inner child and let go of their seriousness of the week, acting the fool, pretending to be dogs, gorillas, ghosts, invisible.

It’s then that you realise that these padded cells are for the Dads more than the kids.

And then as quick as it has begun, peace descends once more as the little whirling dervishes leave to no doubt create more chaos at home, Westminster Lodge, Sainsbury’s and so on.

Gymboree is of course designed for the kids.

That’s why I love it.


JJ’s new mode of transport…

26 04 2013

As a philosopher once said:

“They see me rollin
They hatin
Patrolling they tryin to catch me ridin dirty”

JJ can now be seen ‘rollin’ about St Albans.


As you can see, he loves it.

He made his way to the park.

Looking all serious.

Low riding.

Taking in the jealous stares and admiring glances.

Yo, check me out.

You can’t touch me.

Like a boss.

“Oooooooo a slide, yyyyeeeeeeeeeaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhh.”



The sound of bad parenting…

27 07 2012

It was a beautiful evening last night.

We took full advantage.

Wagamama was called and an order placed.

JJ was plonked into his stroller.

We nipped to the nearest shop and picked up a few mixed berry ciders (living life on the edge).

Our noodles were duly picked up and we made our way to the grounds of the St Alban’s Cathedral.

En route, we walked over a cobbled path.

Our evening’s refreshment chinked away in the pram’s basket.

“That’s the sound of bad parenting,” said Abi.

Made me chuckle.

But it didn’t stop me having my cider while a muslin was gently placed over JJ’s pram to encourage a nap.

It probably hid his shame.

“I Can’t believe Daddy is drinking pink cider.”

That’s what lazy evenings in the summer are all about.

And it was one of those evenings that you just did not want to end.

Click an image to start the gallery!

The Smile Hunter Diaries: The anniversary week…

17 07 2012

A wise man once said:

“Three. That’s the magic number.”

Well I couldn’t agree more.

Today is my third wedding anniversary.

I took the day off and had a wonderful time with my family.

(still feels strange to say that.)

The third anniversary’s theme is leather so we had a little present swap in the morning.

Abi bought me a leather bookmark with “3 wonderful years” pressed into it.

I’m reading Shogun by Jame Clavell, which is an awesome book, so the bookmark will usurp a train ticket.

After getting up, we made our way to the The Waffle House for lunch, which was my first time there and certainly won’t be my last.

Walking off a burger on a waffle and an awesome vanilla milkshake, I stumbled upon two proud mummies.

On our way home I bought a sunflower for Abi, which is a little tradition we have as it’s a flower that she woke up to on the day of our marriage.

So after getting the J-man to relax, I set about putting him into my sights.

It’s been a while.

So this was the anniversary that saw two become three.