Is Postman Pat on a Zero Hours contract?

We need to talk about Pat Clifton, probably better known as ‘Postman Pat’.

Everybody knows his bright red van, black and white cat and ‘happy man’ persona. But despite Mr Clifton being such a familiar (strangely un-aging) face to so many of us, I’ve got the feeling that there’s a story just below the surface that nobody’s talking about.

For the last 30-odd years Postman Pat has been delivering mail, with the aid of his cat ‘Jess’, to the people of Greendale (and surrounding districts). A genial fellow, Pat has never been what anyone would consider the ‘perfect postman’ – or perhaps we should say ‘post person’?

Pat has the habit of, well, mislaying the very items he’s supposed to be responsible for. A strong and stable pair of hands he is not! This truth was apparent even in the earliest part of his career, when Clifton worked under the direct supervision of postmistress Mrs Goggins. The affable pensioner always seemed to look the other way as Pat, instead of delivering the large quantities of mail he was tasked with,  would spend an entire day chasing a single letter he’d mislaid. Many would say that it’s to her credit that Mrs Goggins saw Clifton’s benefit to the community, as a slightly hopeless helper, outweighed any true ability he had as a deliverer of mail.

Times sadly have changed and I’m now worried about Pat. He no longer works for Mrs Goggins, his role is now under the supervision of the privatized ‘Special Delivery Service’, which I’m convinced has him on a zero hours contract.

It’s a well known story of a new company coming into a previously public sector enterprise and squeezing existing employees. The ‘Special Delivery Service’ seems happy to invest in equipment – they’ve automated conveyor belts that must spend half of their time empty considering the tiny amount of post Greendale receives. They’ve also bought a helicopter, dune buggy, snow mobile and all manner of post vans.

But have they invested in Pat?

I think not.

Clifton is clearly on a zero hour contract, with no hope of career-progressing training.

Why do I think this?

1: Pat is always on duty. No matter what he’s doing, any day of the week, Clifton can receive a phone call from the Special Delivery Service and is expected to get to work straight away. Birthdays, outings and school plays have all been ruined by Pat’s un-defined working routine.  The strain this constant state of uncertainty is having on his wife Sarah and son Julian is clear for all to see.

2: Pat never takes his uniform off, nor has the uniform been updated. It’s my suspicion that he wears it all the time to save money on clothing. Pat deserves better than that!

3: Pat drags out deliveries for much longer than necessary. He seems to literally go all around the houses, getting into bother, rather than just delivering the items he is given. I’m concerned Pat is trying to up his hours (and income) by unnecessarily prolonging his work.

4:Pat’s mobile. It’s an old Nokia, clearly he’s not financially solvent enough to be considered for a smartphone contract.

We can only hope that things improve for Pat in the near future. A career in the postal service, a role that became such a big part of his identity, should have treated him better.



I’m slightly worried I’ve been watching too much kids’ TV!

Still Sinking…

The Out of Depth Dad


Going up in smoke…

People are going to hate me for this.


But, to be frank, I don’t care. I mean what the hell is going on?


What am I talking about?

People smoking around children that’s what! It gets me so annoyed!!!

OK, so I’ll lay my cards on the table. I’m a non-smoker. Never have, never will. Never even been tempted. I figure that if I wanted to ingest serious amounts of carcinogens, there are much cheaper ways of doing it – like sucking on an exhaust pipe.

So, from the outset, you know I’m not part of the pro-smoking lobby. My mum died of smoking related cancer, and frankly I think it’s a horrible habit.

Still reading?

There is, I understand, an argument that people should be able to do whatever they like to their own body, thank-you-very-much. I get that. So if you want to ingest crap, 40 times a day, then that really is your funeral (literally). Good luck to you.

What annoys me, is the people I see doing this around kids. Often, and this is really what amazes me, their own kids!

I’ve tried and I really can’t see how people process this as if it’s an acceptable thing. I can understand the argument of: “It’s only me that suffers” that people give about smoking by themselves. It’s a stupid argument, because frankly nobody, not even Jeremy Dyson, lives in a vacuum. Screwing over your body is going to have effects on your family & friends, not to mention putting pressure on the NHS (if you’re reading this in the UK).

What I can’t understand is the idea of “Oh, it’ll only screw over my kids a little bit, by making them inhale my noxious cigarette smoke.” That, I don’t get.

As parents, don’t we just want the best for our kids? I mean, isn’t making sure they’re OK, and have the most promising start in life our entire role? Isn’t that it? Isn’t that ‘parenting’? Correct me if I’m wrong? So why would anyone go: “I want the best for my son, but I’m going to cloud him in cancerous gases because, frankly, I have no willpower”?

I told you some people weren’t going to like this.

It seems to me to have got worse lately. Since the smoking ban (which it won’t surprise you to hear, I love) smokers now linger outside pubs and cafes – which is traditionally where children are too. Here we find people frantically chain-smoking, a bit like deep sea divers filling their lungs before a long period of oxygen abstinence.

In the midst of these huddles of asthma inhaler-bearing inhalers we find kids, slowly turning into human kippers. Why would anyone do that to their own child? In an age where some parents what to find out the entire family history of any chicken nugget before they’ll allow their precious one to snack on it, why would these parents say: “Fuck it, you gotta die of something?”

The other day I was on a park bench, with Sam my son, when a man sat down next to me and lit-up. I asked if he could put it out or sit somewhere else.

“We’re outside!” he said, in a tone of ‘How stupid is this person?’.

“I’m aware of that,” I replied, attempting to stay calm, “I just don’t want my baby breathing that in.”

He tutted at me, then carried on smoking – with an air of ‘What are you going to do about it?’

I think ‘Going Postal’ is the term Americans use, when people lose the plot and majorly go off the rails.

I considered this for a moment…

… then chose another bench.

You see, I decided that not succumbing to an urge of the moment and acting in a negative manner (taking this man’s tobacco and shoving it forcibly where the sun doesn’t shine), was a better outcome for my son.

Perhaps there’s some parallel with smoking here?

Thanks for listening. I’m off to quietly fume somewhere*.

*NB:Please note the difference between ‘fuming’ and ‘giving off fumes’.

Still Sinking. 

The Out of Depth Dad. 



Daddy Brain…

I’m not saying that pre-Sam I was some kind of intellectual super-power.

Far from it.

I’m the type of guy who gets quite smug after answering a few questions correctly on The Chase (my favourite Chaser, should you want to know, is The Governess. I don’t have a good reason for this. I probably should stop there).

University Challenge leaves me universally challenged.

As for Mastermind, I think I’d fall down on the General knowledge – I know nothing about Generals*.*

**That was what’s known in the trade as a ‘Dad Joke’. Since Sam’s arrival I am (officially) allowed to tell them – joy!

Anyway, despite not being a candidate for Eggheads, I always prided myself on having a brain that worked – kind of.

All that has changed since the arrival of our little monkey. I have a suspicion this occurrence is the result of a combination of lack of sleep (the standard parenting complaint) and being permanently unnaturally enthusiastic – unnatural for me, quite a monotone Northerner.

Together these elements have created what I like to call ‘Daddy Brain’.

I’ll give you an example of how ‘Daddy Brain’ manifests itself:

Yesterday I went to the loo. Quite a mundane activity, I’m sure you’ll agree. I won’t give details of whether this featured an odd or even number. Anyway, I did what came naturally and flushed the toilet. On doing so, for no good reason, I said out loud:

“There’s a good boy! Well done.”

I was on my own. Seriously. Sam is nowhere near being ready for toilet training. Why I said it is beyond me. Sadly, it got worse. For some reason, saying this caused me to roar with spontaneous laughter. Laughing by yourself in the loo is not (in our culture) regarded as a good thing. My other half called through the bathroom door to check if I was OK – all I could do in reply was snigger.

That’s Daddy Brain for you.

Another Daddy Brain incident happened to me when, at 7 in the morning I made my way to the kitchen to make a brew. I opened a bag of ground coffee and, rather than emptying it into a the jar, I emptied the whole thing into the cafetiere. Once more this triggered deranged laughter from me, and concerned inquiries from my other half upstairs.

The strangest incidence of Daddy Brain occurred to me today. I was going around the supermarket, alone, and without consciously being aware of it I was singing (loudly) “If you’re happy and you know it clap your hands!”

When I say that I was singing loudly, I’m not lying. In fact, I was singing with such gusto that, just as I passed the dairy section,  another customer joined in with my rendition.

Before, in my pre-Daddy days, this would have been so embarrassing to me that I would have stopped, dumped my basket and run home to hide. With Daddy Brain, that didn’t happen, We harmonized for a moment before I continued with my shopping.

It was all very strange.

So that’s Daddy Brain for you. I can’t wait to see what I do tomorrow, something weird, no doubt.

Still Sinking…

The Out of Depth Dad.


Isn’t it time some people grew up?

“It is a truth universally acknowledged, that an adult man in possession of any status must be in possession of a flash car…”

This tale began a few days ago, with a trip to the soft play. Sam’s mum was away and so I decided to take him to our local play zone for a bit of sedate fun. By ‘fun’ I mean sitting Sam on soft mats and letting him dribble on over-sized foam building blocks. It’s not for everyone, but he seems to like it.

I must give some context: I am not, I admit, someone who spends a lot of time thinking about his own physical appearance. This philosophy has spiked since Sam’s arrival. I now consider any item of clothing to be ‘clean’ if it has two or less drool / sick / baby-food stains on it. So I don’t think I was looking my best. To be fair, I’m not someone who ‘scrubs up’ well. I used to go to a lot of black tie events with my work and I always ended up looking like a security guard in a borrowed suit.

Such is life.

Anyway, I arrived at the section of the play area that is specifically meant for babies. I was, I’ll admit, a little frustrated to find it had been colonized by a group of much older children, under the care of a woman who I guessed to be their grandmother. These kids were running around in a very rambunctious manner, which I quickly saw might be dangerous for Sam. There is, however, an optimist deep inside me, this long ignored part of my psyche hoped that ‘Grandma’ would see my arrival, realize that their time was up in this area (that wasn’t meant for her kids) and direct them off to a more appropriate environment.

Of course that didn’t happen.

So I sat down in a corner of the area, with Sam on my lap – my body shielding him from potential collisions with screaming 6 year-olds on a sugar high. I smiled politely at ‘Grandma’. What I received in return could only be described as a glare. I decided to ignore her and get on with facilitating Sam’s drooling.

I was disappointed at this lack of solidarity between those of us involved in childcare. Disappointed but not surprised, many friends have described similar events on their ‘Daddy days’.

Yet, what happened next amazed me. ‘Grandma’ gathered her brood together, for what turned out to be a lecture of sorts. A lecture for my benefit. “Your daddy,” she announced, at a decibel level that bordered on screaming, “is a very successful man.”

Good for him, I thought.

“He’s so big and strong and successful. And that car he drives, what is it again?”

One of the children helped her out: a BMW.

“That was very expensive. He’s got a very important job. So important, he’d never have time to come somewhere like this during the day.”

I really couldn’t believe what I was hearing. Like some ancient schoolkid, this woman was putting me down.

Now I’m aware that I may have been wearing rather holey (in the non-ecclesiastical sense of the word) socks and still have the remnants of Sam’s breakfast on my shoulder. Yet, even so, I found the level of grandma’s presumption staggering. Clearly I was only looking after my son because of my abject failure in the rest of my life.

I’ve since spoken to male friends, in a similar situation to myself, who recount similar stories.

Isn’t it time we all grew up? Why are we, as a culture, hanging on to these outmoded views of success? I met someone recently who apologetically told me he was ‘a stay at home dad’, as if he’d somehow let the side down. His embarrassment really saddened me.

I don’t want congratulations for looking after my son, but equally being a child carer does not make a man of low status in society. What does that say about the women who for generations have selflessly fulfilled this role? My partner and I made the decision about how we would raise our son, it was what worked best for us. The thought process was not: “Oh he’s a failure at everything else, let him look after the kid.”

If you are someone who sees your success in life to be all about the car you drive, then frankly you need to grow up. I’m bored of all the one-upmanship that goes on with so many.

It really is pathetic.

Even if I had the money to afford a Ferrari I wouldn’t buy one, I wouldn’t be able to sleep at night knowing I’d wasted money on such a transparent self-indulgence when there’s so much poverty in the world. OK, that may sound preachy. Frankly I don’t care.

I had a good mind to tell ‘Grandma’ what I thought of her and her son. But I decided against it, such harsh realities seemed anything but ‘soft play’.

Still Sinking…

The Out of Depth Dad. 



Football Crazy…

I know why they do it. It’s meant to be nice. I know that. I’m meant to be thrilled and agree. But, frankly, I find it quite annoying.

Actually more than ‘quite’. I find it VERY annoying.

You’ll see what I’m talking about and many of you will think I’m over reacting. That I need to ‘chill out’.

Perhaps I do.

But, even so, hear me out. I do have a point.

Sam, at 9 months, is now an active little fellow. On the cusp of crawling, he’s a bundle of wriggly-ness (yes, I’m aware that’s not a word). Since the recent discovery of  his legs (which I’m sure must have been akin to when Carter unearthed Tutankhamen’s tomb -although this story only contains one mummy – Sam’s face lit up in a quizzical way that said: ‘These hadn’t been there all the time had they?’)  Sam’s been kicking them all the time – like it’s going out of fashion. And here comes the annoying bit.

“He’s kicking well there,” said an old lady, smiling at me. “Who knows? You might have a footballer on your hands!”

Now I know, in her mind, she was probably saying something nice. That’s what you say about little boys isn’t it? If they’re lucky, they might grow up to be footballers. It’s a social norm, an acceptable comment to pass on a baby. My frustration is not with the old lady. She is certainly not the first to have said it to Sam, and (I’m sure) won’t be the last. My frustration is with the aspiration that lies behind it?

Why are we limiting our boys in this way?

Sam may well grow up to be a footballer. But kicking a ball around a field and speaking in monosyllables is not the only way my son can achieve success*.

*At this point, I’d like to make clear that, whatever he does with his life, Sam’ll always be a success in my eyes (even if it is play for Manchester United).

Why can’t we start saying?

“Oh, there’s a good arm wiggle. Who knows? You might have a cardiothoracic surgeon on your hands!”


“He makes a good giggle. Who knows? You might have a polyglot on your hands!”


Well you get the idea. There are many, many, ways to ‘succeed’ in life.

For me being a nice, decent, caring person is the primary way this can be achieved. I’ll be far more proud of Sam if he looks out for the needs of others than if his face was available to stick into a Panini album (I’m talking stickers here, not sandwiches).

Our society is one screaming out for positive male role models. Wouldn’t it be great if a new generation was allowed to look beyond the football pitch to find them?

So, apologies to the old lady (who was I know meaning to be kind), but I’m not going to limiting my son’s aspirations. There’s a whole world available to our kids, success can take to many forms.

Next time you see a baby boy kicking/waving/smiling/screeching, why not say: “There’s a great kick/wave/smile/screech he’d make a great dancer/social worker/paramedic/teacher”?

Maybe I overthink things? But maybe, just maybe, I don’t?

Still sinking.

The Out of Depth Dad



Groundhog Day…

I feel like I may have written this post before. If I have, please forgive me.

It’s just at the moment, life seems to be one long familiar blur. I’m serious. I feel like I’ve done, seen and heard everything before. This must be what Enya feels like whenever she steps into a recording studio.

Monotony, I’ve learned, is not a board game where you try and buy up all the stations before your brother. In fact, if it were a game, ‘bored’ would be a far more appropriate spelling. My days seem like a never-ending treadmill of very similar events. I’ve asked around, I’m not the only parent who feels this way.

Let me take you through my Groundhog Day.

*I’m up, before I’m fully awake, around 5.30 to 6 am.

* Either my partner or I change a nappy. How one small boy could produce so much pee is beyond me. I marvel at the absorption abilities of the boffins at Pampers, wondering why they don’t get into the flood protection business.

* Coffee is made, and consumed like it is the antidote to some extremely potent sleeping poison. More is produced. I feel like Bono during his solo spots on U2 tours – glad to have taken off The Edge.

* Sam is fed. By fed I mean baby rice is smeared everywhere, with some (occasionally) landing in his mouth. We clean him up making a mental note to re-wallpaper at some point (we won’t).

* Our breakfast is bolted down – trying to ensure we’re out of the house by the time tiredness hits the boy. Tiredness has already hit us.

* We discuss whether or not Sam has poo’d. Much time is spent on this most fascinating of subjects. Size, consistency, colour are all mentioned. I feel like a sommelier for bowel movements (in this case pronounced ‘Smellier’).

* The day proper begins – a haze of walks, play, nursery rhymes and attempting to feed Sam – covering the walls again. Every day will include:

1) Sam’s mum or I commenting on how heavy Sam has got. It’s either that or our strength has left us.

2) A comment as we remove orange food from Sam’s face that we don’t want him to turn into Donald Trump.

3) A comment that it won’t be long until we can order ‘Babyccinos’ for Sam.

4) A discussion about whether there’s an ambient bad smell or it’s just Sam’s filled his nappy.

5) A whist-ful discussion about sleep.

6) One of us discovering the other has a snot/sick about their person that they haven’t noticed.

* Around 6pm the day hits critical mass. It’s downhill from here. Sam has his dinner – more punishment for the wallpaper – and it’s bath time.

* Bath time ends with me making a mental note to do something about my knees, which are struggling with all the kneeling down it requires.

* Story and bedtime. These are always accompanied by a comment about how expensive kids’ books are and how glad we are we either received them as presents or hand-me-downs.

* Dinner, in front of the TV. With one eye on the baby monitor. Silently praying we have a moment or two’s peace.

*9pm bed. Rock and roll eh?

* 9pm – 5.30am multiple disruptions, very little sleep.

* I’m up, before I’m fully awake, around 5.30 to 6 am.

So that’s my day.

It’s proving increasingly difficult to tell days apart. I feel a little like an actor who has performed a play so frequently he suddenly has no idea whether he said his next line already or if that was yesterday.

Essentially I living my entire life on the channel Dave ja vu.

Was there a point to all of this? Probably not.

I feel like I may have written this post before. If I have please forgive me.

Still Sinking…

The Out of Depth Dad


Rhymes against Humanity

I can’t be the only one, surely?

My brain feels like it’s melting and about drip out of my ear, like some kind of novelty candle.


Nursery sodding rhymes.

Really! Nursery rhymes!

If I have to ‘row, row, row’ my bloody boat down another stream, I think I’m likely deliberately crash it into the river bank and set the wreck alight!

I just don’t get it.

Why are they all so archaic?

Why are they all so dull?

Perhaps they were designed by a shadowy part of the government as a subtle form of psychologic torture to keep parents brain-dead during the early years? On reflection, this would be overkill – sleep deprivation is fulfilling that function quite nicely.

Don’t get me wrong, they work. I understand that nursery rhymes are like catnip for kids. Sam’s entire demeanour changes when he hears about the aforementioned watercraft and its oar-based method of propulsion. He can be fully on a one-way trip to the Dark side, I mean full Sith, and the mere mention of that boat will bring him back to a smiley state (for which I’m grateful). Yet, the thing is, I hate them! Nursery rhymes are driving me up the wall!

I used to be a thrusting young professional. Actually, I was never a thrusting young professional. To thrust in a professional capacity is a particularly niche occupation, but you get the idea. I used to be a man about town (also lies, I used to sit in pubs reading the paper mentally debating where I’d get a take-away from that evening). Anyway, whatever I was, it was infinitely more exciting than some of the rhymes I’m currently singing on a seemingly endless loop.

There’s ‘Old MacDonald’, who, as the rhyme tells us, is in agriculture. Good for him. Why I’m spending whole chunks of my day listing in inventory of his livestock and the sounds they make is beyond me. Sam seems to enjoy the experience, perhaps he’s pleased that these animals, half of which he’s never seen, are present and in good voice?

Another classic is ‘If you’re happy and you know it. clap your hands!” Sam can’t (currently) clap his hands, it’s a milestone we’re still yet to hit. I’m sure when we get to that particular promised land the song will gain a whole new meaning, but right now it feels like we’re going through the motions somewhat.

I mustn’t leave out ‘The Grand Old Duke of York’, who seems to have some kind of obsessive compulsive desire to walk his men up and down any molehill in sight. I can understand ‘Up’ being useful vocab for a child, as is ‘Down’. But ‘Halfway Up’ is probably going to be little used by any kid who isn’t obsessed with umbrellas.

They’re just so dull. I can’t be the only one feeling this, surely?

I also can’t be the only one who’s ‘adapted’ the lyrics somewhat. Nothing major, but enough to keep me from losing the plot.

Here’s a few examples:

“Old MacDonald had a farm, that supplied his burger business.

 And on that farm he had some cows, ‘cause it’s a cattle farm.

 With a moo, moo here. A moo, moo there.

Here a moo, there a moo.

Everywhere a moo, moo.

Old MacDonald had a farm and an abattoir.”

Another favourite is:

“Row, row, row your boat, over to the villa.

Don’t forget to put the prosecco straight into the chiller!”

A refusal to go to sleep, well past 9pm, after I’d cooked an elaborate meal for my partner’s birthday led to:

“If you’re happy and you know it scream and cry,”

If you’re happy and you know it scream and cry,”

If you’re happy and you know it and you really want ruin a meal that daddy sweated over for hours…*

If you’re happy and you know it scream and cry.”


I’m aware this doesn’t ‘scan’ correctly, but I feel that deficiency adds to the poignancy of the piece somewhat.

Perhaps you think badly of me, rewriting these classics. As far as I’m concerned, Sam just likes the sounds of the words I’m saying and doing it keeps my brain (mildly) active. Anything’s better than watching Judge Rinder on a loop surely?

If you have your own unique nursery rhymes, let me know! In the meantime I’ve got to go. I need to tell the tale of Incy Wincy Spider – a lesson in futility if I ever heard one.

Still sinking.

The Out of Depth Dad.