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.

 

P.S.

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

Still Sinking…

The Out of Depth Dad

@Outofdepth_dad

www.facebook.com/OutofDepthDad

5 stupid things I am regularly asked…

I don’t want to sound like I’m moaning…

Nobody likes to be considered a moaner, really, do they? But, as a new SAHD dad, I find myself getting asked stupid questions on a far too regular basis. So, to set the record straight, here are 10 stupid things people seem to want to ask, again and again…

1:

Are you getting much sleep?

In my former life, as a live TV producer, I used to tell my presenters that they should never ask a question that they don’t already know the answer to. It’s a useful maxim to work by. Yes, it requires pre-interview research, but it stops your guest saying something unsavoury on air.

In real life, there are some questions that just don’t need to be asked, precisely because the answer is blatantly obvious. Every person who has ever inquired of new parents: “Are you getting much sleep?” already knows the answer they will receive. Nobody, in the history of mankind, has EVER replied: “Yes, yes I am, thanks for asking. In fact, I’d recommend that insomniacs get themselves a baby – they do wonders for the old beauty sleep.”

It’s not really a question at all, is it? It is, in reality, just a chance for a third party to point out, to your face, that you’re clearly not getting much sleep as you look like crap – something every brain-frazzled, zombie-fied parent is all too well aware of!

Please, for the love of all things holy, stop asking this question. Thank you.

2:

Is he a good baby?

How exactly am I supposed to answer this? I mean really? What a stupid thing to ask! What constitutes a ‘good’ or ( heaven forbid) ‘bad’ baby? I think the nub of the question that is being so ham-fistedly approached is probably “Does he cry a lot?” – but since when did crying have anything to do with morality?

I have, on several occasions, been tempted to reply in the following way:

“Sadly no, he’s not a good baby. In fact, we’re pretty convinced that he’s bad, very bad. We don’t have the evidence to prove it yet, but his mum and I think he was pivotal in the Kennedy assassination and disappearance of Shergar.”

If you’re not looking to be greeted with extreme sarcasm, then please don’t ask this question. Once again, thank you.

3:

Who do you think he looks like?

Once again, I understand that people are trying to be nice, but please stop with this question – especially if it’s asked in front of both parents. Newborn babies, I understand, are designed to look more like their father than mother, in order for the father to stick around. It’s one of nature’s little quirks.

Yet, asking a dad to point out that the baby looks a lot more like them, in front of the mum who has probably been up most of the night feeding said child is a little awkward to say the least.

I got around this question by pointing out that if we were honest, Sam looked most like Ian Hislop – which he did. As he’s got older, Sam now (in my view) looks like his mum and I equally – in my view her beauty balances out my ‘quirkier’ features.

Please stop asking this question. Thanks again.

4:

Are you still cycling / going to the gym / yoga / building models of the Forth Rail Bridge out of matchsticks?

Whatever it was I used to do to unwind, it’s highly likely that I’m no longer doing it right now. That’s just a fact of life. I’m a keen cyclist, I find it immeasurably relaxing, but please don’t ask if I’m getting out on my bike much. These days I feel like I’m winning if I get to go to the loo by myself. Being reminded that I have no free time, or being expected to make up an excuse why I’m not ‘making time’ for such an activity is annoying at best.

While I’m on this topic, will people please stop gong on about ‘making time’! I need to ‘make time’ for me, is advice I’ve heard. And how does that work exactly? Do I need a special watch? Should I call Doc Brown? If I could ‘make time’ I’d use it for sleeping, but sadly it seems I’m stuck on the 24 hours in a day model with everyone else. Who knew?

5:

When is number 2 on the way?

Assuming this isn’t a question about my bowel movements (which frankly, are none of your business), the answer is firmly “none your business”. It amazes me that people can ask such a personal question in the smallest of talk. What possible good do questioners imagine will come from harassing parents, knackered from the demands of the child they already have, by prodding them to have another?

I have no idea if Sam will be an only child or not. What I do know is that I won’t be rushing home to Sam’s mum, saying: “Mrs Brown at the Post Office says we better get a move on and have a second one, so we’d better take her advice!”

I’m quite content with my lovely family as it is, thank you very much. So please stop asking. Thanks again.

***

Sorry for a particularly moan-y post. I’m sure next time I’ll be all sweetness and light… mainly because (with a bit of luck) people might have stopped asking me stupid questions!

Still Sinking…

The Out of Depth Dad

www.facebook.com/OutofDepthDad

@Outofdepth_dad

 

 

 

What have wet wipes ever done for us?

Wet wipes, I’ve got drawer after drawer of the bloody things.

You can’t open a cupboard, unzip a bag or even clean down the back of the sofa (not something I do often) in our house without being hit by an avalanche of moist towelettes.

But, at the end of the day, what have wet wipes ever done for me?

Nothing. That’s what!

Except making changing nappies considerably easier than using toilet paper or cotton wool. We had to use cotton wool when Sam was in hospital, it was a nightmare – bits of fluff getting everywhere. It didn’t so much collect ‘matter’, more just move it around.

OK. So apart from making changing nappies considerably easier, what have wet wipes ever done for me?

Thinking about it, they’re pretty good at cleaning up sick too! They don’t dissolve into porridge-like goo in the same way kitchen roll can. Wet wipes are really good at holding onto chunks of matter that might be found in said regurgitation.

OK, OK. Moving on…

So apart from making changing nappies considerably easier and being pretty good at cleaning up sick, what exactly have wet wipes ever done for me?

Oh yes. They’re great at getting rid of snotty noses. Especially when the bogies are dried on and have the consistency of toughened concrete. Wet wipes remove snot much more effectively than the old spit and hankie technique my mum used to prefer.

OK. OK. That’s all well and good. But apart from making changing nappies considerably easier, being pretty good at cleaning up sick and great at getting rid of snotty noses, what exactly have wet wipes ever done for me?

*Wet wipes cleaned my glasses nicely after Sam decided he wanted to rub them with Ella’s Kitchen covered mits – not ideal if you’re just heading off to a driving lesson and aren’t allowed behind the wheel without eye-wear.

*They also provide a great distraction during nappy changes. I hand an unopened packet to Sam and it keeps him occupied while I get on with the messy business. In fact, wet wipes’ packets, with their crackling sounds, are treated by my son as if they are the world’s greatest toy. Nothing makes him happier, other than (perhaps) a sock that’s been newly liberated from his foot.

*They were great at removing all traces of chicken tikka masala from a new pair of brogues, when I slipped on a squeaky pig and sent my dinner flying.

*Wet wipes were also great at providing a substitute for a shower when I arrived late (long story) – sweating heavily – for an interview with a minor celebrity. The wipes were pleasingly refreshing , in fact they should write that on the packet!

*Wet wipes were also a great way of cleaning milk formula off my iPhone, when a certain baby knocked over an entire container of the powder – causing a mini snowdrift! Note: I wouldn’t recommend doing this, it probably invalidated the warranty.

*Four packets of wet wipes also provided effective ballast, preventing a picnic blanket Sam and I were sat upon from taking off, during a sudden windy period. We’ve had a lot of sudden windy periods since he started weaning…

But apart from making nappy changes considerably easier, being pretty good at cleaning up sick,  great at getting rid of snotty noses, polishing my spectacles, providing distraction during nappy changes, removing traces of chicken tikka masala from new brogues, giving a refreshing shower substitute, cleaning formula off my phone and providing effective ballast at picnics… wet wipes have never done anything for me!

At all!

Thank God for wet wipes.

I’m sure you agree!

Still sinking…

The Out of Depth Dad.

@Outofdepth_dad

www.facebook.com/OutofDepthDad/

BTW, take a look at this: Monty Python’s Roman’s sketch.

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.

@Outofdepth_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. 

@Outofdepth_dad

 

I only went and forgot the bloomin’ pram!

The case in my defence m’lud.

I’d just dropped Sam off at nursery. This job involves winding my way up a very inhospitable road, filled with dog poo, too narrow pavements and perilously fast driving numb-skulls. I’d handed Sam over and breathed a sigh of relief. Now my day was to begin.

I worked through the mental list of things I needed to do. By ‘mental list’ I mean a list in my mind, rather than a list of ‘mental’ things (i.e. strip naked and climb a lamppost – which I’ve never done, honest.) My ‘to do’ list was extensive, ranging from work emails, people to chase up and things to write, all the way through to ironing, hoovering and maybe a sly nap*.

* As a side note, naps are now officially my favourite thing. The idea of a quick, totally impromptu snooze is bliss. If only I could persuade Sam to take more of them!

Anyway, I was wandering down the road, avoiding the dog poo and hopping on and off the too narrow pavements when a the strangest of feelings hit me. I felt almost like I’d forgotten something. I did the usual patting process. You know the one… phone, wallet, keys…

They were all there.

As I don’t carry anything else of value. I came to the conclusion I was having anxiety about forgetting something for no good reason. It was probably due to sleep deprivation. I made the mental note to move a cheeky nap up my ‘to do’ list – I was clearly in need of one.

I got to the front gate, nicely sidestepping the massive poo left in the middle of the path by some kind local and their dog (I realise I make a big assumption here… but I hope there was a dog involved). I got my keys out, unlocked the front door and stepped inside. It wasn’t until I was halfway through making myself a cup of coffee that I had a pang that something was wrong.

I stepped into the dining room, where the pram is usually kept and was about to call out to Sam’s mum: “Where’s the pram?”

When I remembered I’d left it outside the nursery.

I’m glad Sam was at nursery, because, for a moment or two, the air was filled with the type of language that I’d really prefer that he didn’t hear.

Profanities liberally scattered around the house, I charged out again, avoiding the poo once more and wound my way up the awkward road to the nursery. As I walked I prayed that somehow I might retrieve said perambulator without anyone noticing. I’d grab it and head home, and no more would be said. No embarrassing conversations, nothing.

Is that what happened?

Of course it didn’t! The first person I met was the owner of the nursery. A lovely chap who grinned widely on seeing my sheepish return.

“You can leave that there all day if you like,” he said, kindly.

“It’s fine,” I replied, channeling my inner teenager. “I’ll take it…”

“Did you forget it?” the owner asked.

“Yes…” I muttered.

“Happens all the time.”

As I walked back home, winding along the awkward pavement, dodging the poos and recently lobotomized drivers – is 50 really a good speed to travel at on a road with a blind turn and no room for overtaking? – I comforted myself I hadn’t done ‘A Cameron’*

I mean I felt embarrassed enough forgetting the pram, how would I have felt forgetting Sam?

*David Cameron, ex-British Prime Minister, once famously left one of his young children at a country pub, and went home, forgetting them.

From now on I’ve decided to add a few items to my checklist: phone…wallet…keys… pram… Sam.

Luckily the last two objects on this list rhyme. Fingers crossed I can remember at least four of the five most days. Parenting, I’ve discovered, is all about setting yourself achievable goals.

Still Sinking

The Out of Depth Dad

@Outofdepth_dad

 

 

 

 

When the Sh*t hits the pram!

“I’ll get a stick!” I announced, to Sam.

But from where?

There’s never a stick around when you need one. I scanned the tarmac, discovering a used KFC box, an abandoned arm (from what looked like a Power Ranger) and assorted leaves at various stages of decomposition. There were no sticks, I was stuck with poo on the wheel of the pram.

Not for the first time.

I’ve discovered that dog poo is my absolute nemesis. Every move I make, every step I take, I’ll be treading in it (or rolling a pram wheel through it).

Don’t get me wrong, I love dogs. I’m very much a ‘dog person’. If I ever get reincarnated I’ll happily come back as a hound of some variety. Their ‘doings’, on the other hand, are as repulsive as it’s possible to be. Most of us share this opinion – don’t we? The only thing I find more repulsive than dogs’ mess are the people who don’t clean up after their pets. I just can’t understand how this happens. How does someone walk away from dog mess and think that’s OK?

It’s getting worse. Every day I take Sam on (at least) 3 long pram-based walks, in an effort to get him to sleep or give his mum time to snooze. I know this is nothing unusual, thousands of fathers up and down the country are doing the same thing, so I’m not looking for a medal. My frustration is these trips have become mini-assault courses through which I must weave, dodge and leap my way in order to avoid the little ‘gifts’ left by previous passers-by of the canine persuasion. It’s exhausting and I’m exhausted to start with. Lapses of concentration inevitably occur and I find myself with an unwanted fragrant passenger on the pram.

“Does the baby need changing?” my other half will ask, sniffing the air on my return.

“P.P.I.!” I’ll reply.

For the uninitiated, I’m talking about a ‘Poo. Pram. Interaction.’ This is usually followed by boiling the kettle, for hot water to wash the wheels – not my favourite activity.

I’d like to say that I do this in good grace, but I don’t. I stand in the front yard moaning to anyone who’ll listen to my predicament. I wonder aloud how hard it would be to collect the mess in a bag and put it in a bin. ‘Not very’ is the inevitable answer. Although bags aren’t completely the answer. There’s a new breed of dog walkers who collect the detritus in a bag, then leave the bag on the pavement. Either way, it’s someone else’s problem.

My plan would be to introduce spot fines. Dog walkers would be stopped on searched and those not carrying bags for their pet’s doings would be fined.

Too harsh?

Perhaps. I do have another solution, anyone not picking up after their animal would be made to stand in the town square. Don’t worry, I’m not thinking of bringing back the stocks. My thought is they would have buckets of hot, soapy water and be available to scrub my pram wheels. Sounds fair to me.

I’m sure this has ruffled some feathers. To those of you I’ve annoyed, don’t worry I don’t have any power to enforce my anti-poo ideas.

Yet.

In the meantime if you see a bearded man, with a pram, looking for a stick. It’ll be me, refusing to find poetry in motions.

Still Sinking…

The Out of Depth Dad. 

@Outofdepth_dad