Diary Of A Part-Time Dad by Bernie Bostik
Right I’m on the ferry home to the UK and I’ve got four days to spend with my 5 year old lad, what should i do? Well first off I’m going to chill in my cabin for a few hours until the ferry actually set sails and enjoy a splabs and watch the first episodes of the M*A*S*H box set I’ve brought with me. Then it’s a quick nose bag in the rezzie accompanied by half a bottle of red, then another quick splabs out on Deck, before retiring to the bar.
Two pints of Stella later and I’m in the Casino. All alone I waft around, getting a feel for the place, the roulette table is full of half-wit cloggies and the Black Jack is chocca with a returning stag do from Donny. I retire to the bar again and replenish myself with Stella. The motions of the boat are making me rock and feel more drunk than I actually am. Considering this is the most I’ve drank in ages, I feel good. ‘Duuuum Dum Dum Dum Dum Dum Dum Dum Dum Duuuum’, The rubbish house band aboard the boat knock out a ‘Seven Nation Army’ stomp that has me back wandering over towards the casino side of the ship. I observe the roulette table from afar, then when a seat becomes available,I’m over there like a shot. I throw my fist full of yo-yo’s down on the table and the fit Asian croupier slides over a few towers of chips my way. I play the consummate professional, as I play with my stack and order them in pyramid fashion (something I’d seen Simon ‘Aces’ Trooper do many times on Late Night Poker on Channel 5) and then finish off by twirling one chip around my fingers ala David Blaine style.
I’d exchanged a 100 euros and the croupier gave me 70 pounds worth of 50p chips. I started off by throwing down a fiver each on two of the 2/1 columns. Now this method is ok as long as the ball keeps on landing in a number in one of your two columns. If it doesn’t and you take three to four hits on the run, your stack soon dwindles. I was lucky and my first ten bets came in with no loses (even a lucky dip come in for me when I threw a flim on 23 – Fowlers old number). After about an hour I was doing quite well and had a hefty stack in front of me – infact the bank had run out of the sky blue chips i was using so everytime I won, the Asian Babe was having to pay me out in 5 pound chips instead, which I was putting straight in to my back bin. Two more pints of loopy juice and I’m beginning to wobble. I’m counting my chips in my arse pocket and there’s 140 quids worth. A quick shoofty through the chips in front of me and there’s 160 quid worth there as well. I start betting mad on just Red/Black or Odd/Even, I take a couple of hits and win a few, then realise it’s time to do one, knobhead! Minus my booze money, I reckon I’m over a twoer up. Happy Days, as I do a Del Boy around my cabin and belt out “DOUBLE YOUR MONEY, TRY TO GET RICH” to the annoyance of the annoyed neighbours. With my keck’s still half on and half off and trying to blow the smoke from my doob through the ventilation in the bathroom, I’m sitting on the bog writing this shit while I shit.
Back on the bed in my cabin with the pillows performing there duty, I wonder what the next few days has in store for me and my son? This is how my spur of the moment trip is mapped out in my head, lets see if it all goes according to plan: Pick lad up – Drive to London – Get him his Christmas day rig out – The London Eye – a museum of some sort – Few more London sights – Dropped off back at his Mums………wish me luck!
How can people serve this pile of utter utter garbage on a plate and keep a straight face. The mong on the till took my tenner and didn’t give me much change. I need a hacksaw to cut through my bacon, an asbestos stomach to over come the under cooked sausages and to accompany those two delights I have a burnt hash brown, a pile of beans that look like they belong on Tommy Smith’s face and an unsnotty egg that wouldn’t look out of place in the pix’n’mix section in the shop next door. The only thing I enjoy is the cup of tea as I scan the back pages of the Mirror in this pit-stop somewhere on the M62 corridor as I head to the Northwest.
With the kid on board and strapped up in his kids seat in the back, we head for the Big Smoke. A few pit-stops on the M6/M1and it was during one of these stops when I sort out our accommodation for the next two days. I manage to get a nice little hotel close to Seven Dials in Covent Garden. I remember treading the streets around London as a youth, when I got on my bike to get a job and I was eager to find out what they looked like now, twenty years later – that boss little shop on Seven Dials selling Boxfresh stuff which I bought a lovely green checked shirt from once and the shop round the corner where I got a snazzy Nigel Carbourn shirt ( a blue velvet like texture with these mad metal buttons, it was last seen being worn by my old man about four years ago and now it has disappeared!), I wondered if the place would still be the same*.
*the shop is now a Fred Perry one.
I knew I’d made the fatal error the moment I mentioned it. He was sat there sticking his face in his chocolate muffin and asking about what we were going to do down in London. I went through the old spiel about going to see the Queen and the Changing of the Guard and all that but he looked bored. Then he hit me with “Is there any shops there?” and I went off on one about Hamley’s the biggest toy shop in the world and Harrods being the best shop in the world. That was it, all the way from Watford Gap to Brent Cross it was “When we going the toy shop?”. Then it carried on through Cricklewood, Kilburn High Road, St Johns Wood, Marleybone Road, Euston Road, Gower St and then finally it stopped when we reached the hotel in Covent Garden and checked in.
Bags dumped we venture out and hit the streets. It’s early evening so a quick scran (Burger King) and a bounce around the fair on Leicester Square – I win him a teddy on the darts and he has a quick spin on the Merry-go-round. He refuses to go on the Waltzers and I goad him about being a big girl and he gets a paddy on. I feel guilty and make up for it by taking him to the Trocadero, were he fleeces me of a score – which is gone in minutes on games he doesn’t understand – before I notice the old Two Pence ‘Waterfall’ machines. I nudge him towards them and he happily spends a good hour with a tub full of coppers.
We hop across the road and enter Lillywhites and I am aghast and then delighted when my son refuses the offer of a new Liverpool kit and demands a pair of boxing gloves instead. “Well in son” I proudly say as we climb up the stairs, he then fly’s like a butterfly over to the massive Rooney poster on the wall and starts stinging it like a bee with his fists as he shouts out “Bang take that Rooney”
Bargain! 9.99 reduced from 29.99 – a mini Lonsdale Punch bag and a pair of gloves. He shadow box’s all the way back to the hotel as I sing the Rocky Theme tune to him, then he drives everyone nuts in the bar with his boxing gloves while I quaff a couple of sneaky bottles. Then it’s a bit of sparring in the room…”Left hook……..right hook…… upper cut……jab…..jab”, a bag session and ten press ups before he hits the pillow and starts snoring worse than his mother. I enjoy a few slugs of brandy from the mini-bar as I write this garbage up.
We’re up and out early (half ten) and enjoying a brisk walk up Bloomsbury St, when we came across our first homeless man. He only had one shoe on and the other foot had a tatty old sock as he tried to get some sleep on his cardboard bed. I gave the little fella a lecture about how some people aren’t as fortunate as others but unfortunately it went in one ear and out the other, with his cry of “Will there be any homeless people sleeping outside the toy shop Dad?”
I pop back into old working establishments where I spent many a good year – hustling hotel guests into buying theatre tickets or swaying them into booking a taxi to the airport. The places have changed considerably but one or two face remain the same. Good old Colm in the Kenilworth was still there with the phone stuck to his ear ordering theatre tickets. 25 years service this man has done and we get chatting over old times. I explain to him about how the concierge in my hotel was unable to book me on the London Eye because I never had a credit card. Colm had me booked up on a Fast Track Ticket at 3pm and he even got the kid on for free within seconds.
Fuck me! How expensive are Hackney cabs these days? “Right Son, from now on we are tubing it Ok?” “What’s ‘tubing’ it Dad?” ” It’s some boss bullet train that goes at 200 miles an hour down these massive underground tubes”
We reach Hamleys and he’s in his own mad little world as he hunts out some stupid Japanese robot figure. I am quite proud of his politeness as he taps the shop assistants hands and says “Excuse me sir do you have Alex Andranoid from the 6th Generation of Astro Bots please” or something like that anyway. I promised him one toy and he had his heart set on this Alex fella. He was mortified when the nerd in glasses informed him that they had sold out. My heart felt for him, from the sadness in his eyes I recognised the same pain, the same pain I’d felt many years ago on a trip to Blackpool. I had my birthday money burning a hole in my pocket and I was after a set of walkie-talkies I’d seen the previous year. I ran to the shop window but the walkie-talkies weren’t there and after my Dad had asked the man inside he informed me they had none left and a tear rolled down my cheek. With a tear rolling down his cheek I reassured him that it didn’t matter and we can get something else. Then the shop assistant told us we would more than likely get it in Harrods. “Isn’t that Harrods the best shop in the world Dad? Can we go there?”
“Taxi……….Harrods please guvnour and don’t spare the horses”
He got his Alex Android thingy and then me and him spent a good few hours pretending we were in the film Big. Remote control cars/helicopters, Scaletrix, Train sets. Great. Then it was on to the food hall and as I sampled some delicacies he ran off to the sweet section. He got some chocolate Halloween sweets for his nieces and nephews, then we tube it back to the hotel to drop the shopping off.
We head over to Covent Garden and we stumble upon a balloon sculptor (what are they called? a fellow who makes sausage dogs from balloons?) anyway, he goes and drops a pound in the fellas hat and waits his turn for his balloon. Jasmin & Georgie who are before him in the queue both want a Lion because Mummy & Daddy are taking them to the Matinee of the Lion King show around the corner. My lad requests a gun! and when the Kiwi balloon whatever asks him why he wants a gun, my lad responds “so I can shoot people when I’m on the London Eye”
We traipse to Trafalgar Square and he is unimpressed by the Lions and Nelsons Column. I ask him if he wants to go and see where the Queen lives before we go on the London Eye but he refuses. so we cut through to Whitehall and have a look at the Guards in there uniform on horses but he also shows no interest and he’s only happy to stick his face in the chocolate muffin I’d given him for dinner. We pass the Ministry of Defence and he joins his Dad in mimicking an army salute ‘Benny Hill’ style at the two armed bizzies patrolling the door.
We finally make it to the Eye after crossing the Thames by bridge. We get fast tracked to the front and he hoists a pair of binoculars from a stall on the way. We enter the pod and I’m apprehensive to say the least – I’m not great with heights – I take refuge on the bench in the middle as he dances all over the glass windows and points out things for me to write down in his little pad. “Police car Dad and a boat and another boat, there’s the toy shop Dad and another boat and there’s another police car” I get a bit braver and stand up and start pointing out football grounds to him but he’s not arsed.
We stop near the Royal Festival Hall and he runs off to watch the skateboarders/bmx-ers strutting there stuff under the bridge. “Dad can I have a BMX for Christmas?” “No”. I relax and have a frothy coffee as I watch him geg in with the urbanites under the bridge and it isn’t long before he’s got one of the older kids to give him a go of his skateboard. He trudges back all made up. “Dad can I have a skateboard for Christmas?” “We’ll see lad”
We cross back over Waterloo Bridge and I spot the Office of Inland Renvenue in the Strand then start to boo. My son joins me and then asks why I’m booing. “See them son, they steal money from you……you go out and work and every week them shower of gobshi…….er idiots, take money out of your wages” “BOOOOOOO I don’t like them Dad” “That’s the spirit son”
We get back to Leicester Sq just in time to catch the early evening showing of the latest 3-D cartoon for kids at the Odean – the one about he man who pinches the moon. The kids all laugh at the slap stick gags and the adults chortle at the few adult based gags. My son spends half the film annoying the fella in front by first kicking the back of his chair, then he goes on a mad hunt under the fellas chair after he lost the cartoon character off the top of his special plastic drinking cup that cost my a flim! We stop off in China Town after the film as I get myself a take-away banquet for two. I say myself because the only thing my son will eat from a Chinese is prawn crackers. He’s made up with his bag of crackers and I’m ecstatic about my crispy duck. We get back to the room and I give him his Nintendo DS for the first time on the trip as I need absolute calm and tranquility as I demolish this bottle of Becks and Chinese meal. After half an hour his boxing gloves are on again and we have a quick trainning session before he gets an early night. I spend a further two hours consuming the mini bar and picking at a left over scran while typing this shit out with greasy fingers.
Up and out nice and early (half ten), I dump the bags with the porter and inform him we will be back about one-ish to collect them and the car. We then tube it on the Central Line to Bond St and after a breakfast of Muffins and coffee on the pavement, we stop off in some art gallery, that had a big Silver Back Gorilla made from metal coat hangers in the window. Then I have a heart attack while clothing my son in the Ralph Lauren shop. I knew I was going to pay top dollar for some of his clothes but come on, I seriously wobbled when I peeked at the price tags and had to do a quick assessment on the thickness of my wedge before carrying on with the shop. Cords, shirt and a knitted cardy/jumper with pockets and wooden buttons. Job done, in and out within minutes, none of the faffing around like girls do. It wasn’t hard after I’d noticed the cardy thing, all that was needed was to get a shirt and pants that matched. I would’ve loved one of them cardies myself – if they did them in adult sizes – but these are the sacrifices you have to make when you have kids, they are a hand that dips in your till incessantly. It doesn’t matter how high your stack is, with kids on board, that stack ain’t gonna last for ever.
We trog down to Piccadilly and nip in Fortnum & Mason as he buys his Grandparents some biscuits, then he buys his Mum a teddy bear from another shop. We cross Leicester Square again and this time he agrees to go on the Waltzers. Now the last time I was on the Waltzers must’ve been about 30 years ago when Silcocks was in Town and I wasn’t overly keen on them then – they made me dizzy and vomit! We get in and the thing starts off and at first it isn’t too bad, we do a few spins but nothing major. Then without warning we lurch one way, then quickly spin out of control the other way. The look of terror on the little fellas face was ace, just when it looked like he was going to burst into tears and start screaming for it to stop, we stopped spinning and he got his breath back and let out a few giggles, then we were off again spinning into oblivion as the look of terror on his face returned. When it stopped he wanted another go but his big sissy of an old man was feeling a bit queasy.
We returned to the hotel to collect the bags and car. We could’ve spent longer in London but I knew the roads would be murder driving back up North, especially on a Friday afternoon, so I wanted to get off handy. I drove up past Kings Cross and hit traffic jams straight away on Archway Rd as I headed for the M1. The traffic jams only stopped once on the way back and that was when I paid a fiver to use the M6 toll road. Bored of playing eye spy, I let him have his DS for a few hours as I got even more wound up whilst listening to TalkSport. Six hours later we reach our destination and say our good byes.
Tired from the drive I contemplate whether I should go out for a few drinks. I check the internet to find out which pub Vaughnies book launch will be taking place, then my mind was made up for me. Due to the old codger doing his leg in or something the party was cancelled. So I’m lay here in my Mothers spare room, on the bed, writing down this badly spelt and punctuated diatribe and missing my son like crazy already.