Exciting, heartbreaking, and sometimes scary…

Last time we met, I was planning for the new arrival.

I wrote a heartfelt love letter to my unborn son, explaining what the world was like and how I hoped he would find it.

He arrived a few days early, and so far we’ve been having the time of our lives…

This month, I will let him write an account of what has happened since.


A week before I was due, my folks still hadn’t settled on a name. My mum said I could be give an Everton related moniker and all dad’s friends & family assumed I’d be a little Dunc. They considered Aldous – too close to ‘Aldo’ for our liking – Sebastian, Henry, Theo, Leo… None of which sounded quite right.

Henry, apparently what my sister would’ve been called if she was a boy, in particular felt wrong because of the Red Sox owner.

A week before I was due, my dad went out to his club, a last hurrah he (rightly) thought, they still weren’t sure what I’d be called and the match, plus those few memorable pints, did little to help the confusion. The impressive turnaround could have offered Gareth, Seamus or Yannick / Romelu as possible options, but thankfully none were given second thoughts and so I sit here as none of the above.

Still, my dad says, the match offered renewed optimism that the tide was slowly turning, and when I eventually came along, we were sitting pretty in second.

I remember clearly that dad spent the previous night marking books, then they watched another episode of ‘The Night Of’, an excellent series I was hooked on within the womb, and a clever commentary on America as it approaches a real crossroads. The programme harked back to other whodunit type productions of yesteryear, particularly Murder One, which similarly made viewers question whether the accused was in fact guilty or if it was his lawyer, the investigating officer… I won’t spoil it for anyone who’s halfway through.


Anyway, then Mum’s waters broke at 3am.

Dad panicked, as it was both a school and a match day, but then he was a little bit relieved as he would normally have got a ticket but had ultimately decided that, so close to the birth date, he would have been foolish to go, and for once wouldn’t regret missing the game.

He tells me that he’d had a dream that same night that he was lining up in a tunnel alongside Zinedine Zidane and he went up to him and hugged him, conversing in French about their hatred of the police and their joint love of La Haine…then he was taking selfies with Thierry Henry in theplayers’ lounge, but before he knew it, in reality he was unblocking the toilet and holding his breath both physically and metaphorically…


Thinking I might be on my way, he took my sister into nursery and put on an Everton t-shirt so that if I did come along, the first thing I would see, would be the badge.

Labour wasn’t much fun at all, and as the countdown to kick off arrived, Sky Sports News was switched off and the pool prepared because I was to be born at home.

He was in the middle of sending e-mails to colleagues; his new role and responsibilities meaning he didn’t want to leave anyone in the lurch. However, things took a serious turn and he realised that there was only one priority now – everything else could wait.

Dad was a bit worried, he always had been about a home birth, but went along with it because he was so confident in Mum’s knowledge and preparation. With the help of grandparents the hose, the pots and pans, the kettles boiling, did their job and thankfully, as predicted, my mummy was wonderful so, after a difficult afternoon I arrived in time for tea.

I was a little tongue tied, but a good weight and my folks were elated.


Funnily enough, my sister had been born a few hours before a game against Norwich three years ago, Martinez’s first game in charge in fact, and Dad’s last league game was the 3 0 win against them at the end of last season, so they clearly have a place in his heart… Still, I hate them after they beat us on the day I was born. My dad wasn’t too bothered, for once, but couldn’t even follow the game as the midwives were here doing paperwork for hours due to complications after my birth; still, there was always the following Saturday.

I slept through the next game completely… And they lost, so it was probably for the best. Still, the chance would come again the following Friday!

It was his birthday in between. He got his haircut and got told a funny, if rather homoerotic, tale by his barber, about one of our players’ behinds, having seen him in a food hall the previous day and likened it to a curvy celebrity’s rear. Maybe this explains his up and down form (the player’s, not the barber’s)

Back home, despite the gin, the wine, Cruyff and Iniesta autobiographies, I was definitely his best present, closely followed by those two halcyon hours my parents had in bed drinking prosecco and finally watching Stranger Things – something he’d been told about months ago but was too busy preparing the house for my arrival.


It’s well worth the wait, and transports you back to late 1983 with such accuracy, even the cinematography and opening credits are so of the time you feel like it’s from then, and the surreal twists hark back to a great time in Science Fiction (and, I believe, the dawn of a great era for our football club; maybe it’s a good omen) all in all, another incredibly addictive series I’d wholeheartedly recommend – it’s exciting, heartbreaking, and sometimes scary, so a perfect parallel to parenthood – we’re watching an episode a day together, proving that a week without pay, has its perks.

It’s back to school for him this week, though. He sang me a song from his youth about it:


Two weeks’ paternity isn’t enough, I believe, especially when there’s another (very lively) little one and a fatigued Mum for him to look after as well, plus the plethora of well wishing visitors, but thankfully we bonded well during that time and he taught me a bit about the Blues. A crazy paternity leave with dad ended with my first televised game against Palace and, after a welcome couple of pints for him wetting the baby’s head, in that club he keeps telling me about and can’t wait to take me to, he came home to sit with me and watch it together, before getting an early night.


How things have changed!

Parenthood second time around is different, harder… and better, Dad says. I overheard him on the phone and he said to a friend that it’s impossible to explain but just feels right, and us going out along the beach today, as the sun shone, summed that up quite nicely. He also said he didn’t think he could be more proud and grateful, and couldn’t believe how much more love people can give and receive after weddings and B’s arrival.

We had fun today; I visited a sensory room for the first time…


And Dad took us to where they had their wedding reception. It looked lovely.


The good news keeps coming – friends have disclosed their own pregnancies, and we wish them all the best. Even though none of us know what the future will bring, it’s a nice feeling right now, and we all feel very lucky.

Especially Dad.

Lucky to have my wonderful mummy, and our family.


And just as much – I can tell by how many photographs he’s taking – proud of us.


Thanks for reading… I hope to meet some of you soon.

Elijah Jude, October 2016

The 17th

I write as I continue to reflect on an incredible first three years as a father. B celebrated her third birthday last week, a great day was had by all, and then again at her party. These few days – and the impending new arrival – gave a timely opportunity to consider just how much has happened over the last thirty six months.


Her actual birthday was in the week, but the all-important party – bringing with it the all important costumed guests, the party bag debates, the sleepless nights over the adults’ buffet – signalled the real watershed and moving on, because now things have changed.

You see… Everything seems to be 0 to 3.

What I mean is that many toys, some food, activities, even play centres seem to discriminate against the under threes. There’s that ‘forbidden’ sign which has an unhappy face on it… Now that we can ignore that which was once an obstacle, and embrace yet more opportunities for her development, we need to realise that a lot of things change and the minority stands still where parenting is concerned, so passing a milestone of threenage kicks is an important one.

I say this because those long lovely days of summer are approaching their end once more and it seems natural to enter a period of introspection before things change again, into a contradictory cycle of knowing but not knowing what to expect. It’s been great: we are so fortunate to have the quality time we can enjoy together, and made the most of it with lots of play, reading, watching, dressing up, counting, craft… talk. And, nursery has started well, to further educate and inform.


My ideas about parenting and the notion of what is good and bad, has been exacerbated this summer, not just by the approaching changes in priorities and others’ FB status updates but also some of the cultural points I have been able to access what with all the free time after spending warm summer days indoors, doing the DIY and home improvements and any spare time neglecting painting and documenting but instead, attempting to relax and watch films and TV which might come in useful before ‘getting our sleep in’ as experts suggested.

My one night out of the holidays was an unforgettable Morrissey concert… More of which later.

How parenthood changes your ideas about sleep, and especially, lie-ins. I was talking to my barber about this, and the notion of watching non-Disney TV and films in a relaxed state, because he constantly marvels at the amount of holiday we get and I justify it my recounting those many, far off places of heavy marking evenings when real life seems far, far away.

This holiday we’ve been concentrating on the house and getting things ready for the little fellow I will be blogging about very soon. Come the evening time, the usual routine is followed then, what with my better half being addicted to the horrendous yet strangely unmissable CBB on every night, we made the much better choice of box set to fall in love with, but just before that began, it was all about ‘The Wolfpack’, a strange old documentary about a rather dysfunctional, yet close and loving, family whose lives are largely spent inside a Lower East Side apartment in Manhattan, recreating films they watch together.


The Angulos’ special needs on show are obvious and a little concerning, but it still has very touching moments and made me question how much TV / film we show our kids…

Talking of which, I was put on to ‘Stranger Things’ which I am looking forward to, but had to first complete what turned out to be perhaps the greatest TV show I’ve ever watched.


I kind of knew I would love ‘Gomorrah’ because I love the city it is set in: my amore affair with Old Napoli has been regaled several times but the headlines are that I visited as an impressionable fourteen year old, went back as a married man on my honeymoon, semi support the football team- even at Anfield in 2010 – and feel an intense attachment to the city, an affinity, largely due to the similarity to my now home city.

Gomorrah itself is an incredible piece of storytelling, it’s so compelling, tense, gripping, powerful, gruesome at times, exciting, gritty, that I don’t want to reveal too much for those of you who might be swayed to cock a snook themselves… or, the more literal of you, might prefer to notice the similarities with the real life stories of Roberto Saviano by reading the excellent book which I’ve yet to finish as it’s so harrowing to read because it’s so real.

Compare that – which we watched every evening for twenty three nights continuously – with what we also watch for the magical number of 23 (but seemed like more) evenings of Celebrity Big Brother, and the depressing content therein. Drama, bathos, characterisation, intensity.. all the advantages of the summer we have been able to enjoy.


Oh, there’s been lots more – and still, more to come. Morrissey gave what was a wonderful performance and despite the travel issues and tiredness, I felt I couldn’t miss the night for anything as the feeling persists this could be the last time. Some of his song choices caused debate, but twas ever thus; he is the real and proper poet laureate, one of the biggest inspirations and influences on my life, so can do whatever he likes as far as I’m concerned, and if this is the end, there is always a light.

Also, there was an expensive and fun trip to IKEA – another symbol of change. A move for, and re-ordering of, the bookshelf, also reflecting growth and development. The meeting Disney princesses, the baking, the stroking of pigs and feeding of lambs at farms, play dates with friends, nice lunches out, Afro Supa Hero at the Slavery Museum and various treats.

Plus, there’s the ice cream factory to celebrate B’s birthday – and the socks we had to buy to enter the play centre – the random sightings of ex-Everton keeper Carlo Nash and Sky Sports commentator Rob Palmer, barbecues, painting walls, changing sockets, the visits to the centres of the Liverpool Biennial which I would describe as much of a muchness.

And now – the football coming back, a romantic interlude with a free night’s stay in a plush boutique hotel, GCSE results, more playground visits, lollipop meltdowns, swimming improvements, lesson planning, midwife visits…


She’s grown up a lot in those 0-3 years, now articulate, numerate, confident – sometimes too much – and independent. Birthdays and photograph memories often take us back to when things were so different. We welcomed her into the world and thank God every day, and it’s been a wonderful journey so far.

We were very lucky.

But, on the 17th, we reached a turning point, with all the gratefully received birthday gifts and princess dresses, best wishes and lovely comments on self indulgent selfies.  Because the container, after being re-filled, is now indicating it’s ready to join the dual carriageway. This time we know what’s inside, and a bit more of what to expect: it’ll be busy but we are ready for the ride.

Nizza Wonderful Life?

Five years ago today, I graduated with distinction from my MA and, simultaneously, started a project to collect the rain which fell, and document all the ice cream vans which I saw, over the next forty days and nights.


The reason for this was that both events took place on St. Swithin’s Day, and, later in the evening, I was barred from a painfully cool city centre concept pub for attempting to steal a tankard. Not my proudest moment, no – that had come a few hours earlier when my (now)wife gave a little speech in my honour.

It included this quote by Andy Warhol:

“An artist is someone who produces things that people don’t need to have but that he – for some reason – thinks it would be a good idea to give them.”

Microsoft Word - 130515_PM_Warhol.doc

She realised that he had summarised, in one sentence, what I’ve basically been doing ever since, odd sounding little projects which entertain some, confuse others, all the while, telling you about it on this oft-virused little blog. Recently, a tempestuous Twitter spat resulted in one of my followers telling everyone how boring the site is, how it sends people to sleep. It was a little disappointing that my heartfelt tales and sentiments were being belittled, especially when life dictates that this can be my only creative well to dip into.

But, whilst everyone’s a critic, no publicity is bad publicity, and it’s not all bad, as I’m off to see Morrissey again soon, and my creativity and literacy this week won me a little promotion: ergo, whilst other new arrivals mean that more than one ‘change is gonna come’ in September, I will be more keen than ever to keep up with my writing: honest reviews; those obsessions, the narratives, the comments on the flotsam and jetsam which fill my life; explanations for the strange photos I sometimes share, and ultimately, my thoughts.

More than just a stream of consciousness, not quite a confessional – but cathartic, in that it helps me rationalise, helps me deal with things, helps make sense of it all…

Which is why today, I felt compelled to write something a bit different.

Normally I try to avoid discussing controversial contemporary issues on this site, but, without detailed analysis or condemnation, I simply needed to write out a reaction to what I saw on the news last night.

There have been some terrible news stories in recent times, many of which inspired an interesting article in the guide a couple of weeks back about whether or not times are actually particularly bad or if we’re just over reacting. Certainly, though, terrorist attacks and other catastrophes seem much more frequent than usual in 2016, and what with the political hot potatoes being thrown around Europe and just Westminster, many of us have concerns about where the world is heading.

I wrote a letter to my beautiful new born nephew the day after he was born – referendum day, in fact – and explained to him that, whilst some might say this is not a good time to be bringing new people into the world, I’d prefer to stay optimistic and believe that actually it is, because what the world needs now, is love and hope – particularly today. We echo that sentiment.


We went to Nice three years ago, to celebrate our first wedding anniversary. Fell in love with the place. When we arrived we walked down the Promenade des Anglais and had a great pissaladiere at one of the cafes on the front. On the twelve month birthday of our wedding, we had a wonderful meal at the Negresco, and I had great conversations with Franc, our waiter.

Even had a photo taken with him, to remember the moment forever.

Hope he’s ok.

After everything that happened in Paris in 2015, I felt saddened, because I’ve loved every trip to the city of lights that I’ve taken. I felt grief, relief, fear… but a confidence that the very diverse community would pull through and reunite, regardless of Marine Le Pen’s intentions and motivations. Then, Euro 2016 would bring joy to the nation, and even if it was a disappointing tournament on the pitch, and ultimate heartache for France, it passed without any major incidents and it felt like the nation had won its pride back.

Of course, there have been many other atrocities further afield; elsewhere in Europe, the Middle East, Asia, Africa, America… not many people bothered as much…

After everything that has gone on, I felt equal sympathy for those victims, but a detachment, because many of these were far off places I had never been to, and never will.

However, seeing Nice, the one place we holidayed in whilst expecting; happily explaining to every bar man and waitress that L was ‘enceinte’ and somewhere we planned to take the two of them back to one day soon, to that same stretch of the promenade… to see it last night, the same stretch cordoned off, that ominous white lorry riddled with bulletholes, stood motionless, people running for their lives, children… enjoying fireworks… really shook me.

Becoming a parent makes you more sensitive to things, admittedly, but you don’t need to be a father to be so upset by the notion of ten children dying whilst marvelling at a fireworks display.


You don’t need to have children to be sickened and scared at the horror which unfolded on Bastille Day. It’s especially scary when you have plans for your kids to go away to study a language, somewhere like Nice, where one of my best mates did for six months, and you wonder what you’d do if the same was to happen then. How you’d feel, what you’d think… Not selfish, just empathic for what some parents might be going through now.

You don’t need to just share a picture or tweet a hashtag, you have to talk about it, because only empathy and understanding can eradicate the black cloud which hover above Nice, above France, above us all right now.

‘The night is darkest just before the dawn,’ said Harvey Dent in a recent Batman film, and I concur. Things might seem bleak right now, but we have to keep the faith that things will get better for us -and the next generation.

Sorry if this was boring; it just needed to be said.