Me, the Kids and the Doctor (part one)

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logoDoctor Who returned to the BBC 0n the 26th March 2005. I was twenty-nine years old, and worked for Aldi in The Worst Job I Ever Had. My son had turned three years old the month before the first episode aired and it would be another year before my daughter would be born. Since Joseph had zero idea who or what The Doctor was he wasn’t as excited as I was. In order to get home in time to watch the episode I had to get a taxi rather than the bus – an extravagance that we probably couldn’t afford. I bought a bottle of wine to share with my then-fiance (who also wasn’t very excited at the prospect of Doctor Who, but I blame that on her being born in the limbo years – she was only 4 when Sylvester McCoy hung up his umbrella) and got home with a few minutes to spare. We all sat down on the sofa, with me proclaiming to Joseph that he was going to LOVE this show although, like everyone else, I was a little bit worried that they were going to fuck it up.

9th Doctor and RoseI needn’t have worried. I had a smile on my face from the moment it started and, when the Doctor finally turned up, grabbed Rose’s hand and said “Run” I knew that my worry had been for nothing and that this was going to be AWESOME. I don’t think Joseph really knew what was going on, but he got scared in the right places, which is what matters isn’t it? When Mickey was abducted by the living wheelie-bin  he was suitably terrified. When the Nestene consciousness made its appearance he was, brilliantly, hiding behind a cushion.

For the next 13 weeks I did my best to make it home in time to watch it live. You know you’re a geek when you say to your gaffer “Can I finish early today so I can get home and watch Doctor Who?“. Substitute it for “football” or “go and and get pissed” and you’re perfectly normal, but because you’re an adult that wants to watch a show about a 900 year old bloke and his adventures through time and space you’re suddenly weird. Go figure.

Are You My Mummy?There’s probably not a lot that Joseph remembers about that first series. He loved it, but obviously Eccleston only stayed for the one year. However… even to this day if you look Joseph in the eyes and whisper “Are you my mummy?” he immediately screams “STOP IT!”. Seriously: It’s like Pavlov’s dogs. He now refuses to watch either “The Empty Child” or “The Doctor Dances”. It’s quite entertaining, really.

He found the Slitheen hilarious, learned how to fear the Daleks (which resulted in the “he’s not watching THAT again” conversation after a couple of nightmares. Six or seven at the most) and, over the weeks, fell in love with the Doctor, which made me one pretty happy geek Dad. He got a little confused when the Doctor regenerated, but I managed to explain it. Even at the age of three he was a smart-arse.

Despite Eccleston being his first exposure to the character, Joseph’s Doctor was David Tennant (from the age of four to eight) whilst Grace loves the new Doctor “because he’s bonkers”, although she continues to refer to him by the name her mother coined when she first saw Matt Smith: Mister Potato-Head.

Grace came along halfway through the second series, in the middle of the two parter “The Impossible Planet” and “The Satan Pit” – the latter being the first episode that she ever watched at the age of three days old. You can’t underestimate geek exposure, even at such an early age. She now regularly asks to watch the show and, unlike Joseph, is happy to sit down and watch the earlier Doctor’s as well.

10th Doctor and SJSThe second series had plenty to scare the now four year old Joseph: The werewolf in “Tooth and Claw” and the Cybermen in the first two parter of the year both had him covering his face or burying himself into my shoulder. The year that my daughter was introduced to the world was also the year that Sarah Jane Smith was re-introduced to a nation of kids that didn’t have a clue who she was. When The Sarah Jane Adventures began the following year Grace watched them with her big brother. When Elisabeth Sladen died in 2011 Grace was distraught. She cried her eyes out until she decided that Sarah Jane was now fighting aliens with Michael Jackson in heaven.

Unfortunately 2006 was also the year that gave us “Fear Her” and the Doctor carrying the Olympic Torch. Thankfully Grace was only a couple of weeks old at the time so doesn’t remember it and, like the Star Wars prequels and the fourth Indiana Jones movie, it’s something that’s rarely mentioned by me, unless I am making a point of mentioning Things I Don’t Mention. Which I probably do a lot.

Rose left at the end of the second series. Joseph was upset and Grace didn’t really give a monkeys as long as she was fed, cuddled and people laughed at her when she farted. I’m pretty sure it’s why she likes blowing off now – buried deep in her memory is the image of her parents going “GRACE!” whenever she let one rip, which would set her off giggling.

series5weepingangelsWhen the third series rolled around in 2007, Joseph was five years old. He was full time at school and despite my best intentions his Grandad had shared an obsession with football and a love of Formula 1. I still had Doctor Who, though, and whilst football would become Joey’s first love I still remember him watching what was, at the time, the Scariest Thing He Had Ever Seen, Ever. Stuck between the “Human Nature” / “Family of Blood” two parter and the return of the Master was a little episode designed purely to give David Tennant a bit of time off. That episode was “Blink” and Joseph was petrified. The Weeping Angels might have lost some of their terror-inducing menace since then, but that first appearance was an excercise in how to scare the shit out of a family audience. He loved it, although I think he actually only saw about 60% of the episode. For the rest of it he was looking at his palms, the back of a cushion or giving me a rather tight cuddle. He did not sleep well that night.

The episode aired two days after Grace’s first birthday. She was walking around at that point, bumping into things and getting into trouble. Quite possibly she giggled at Joseph’s terror. Despite her absolute love for her brother she does have a weird sense of humour. I have no idea where she gets that from.

Sadly, new companion Martha Jones only survived one year with the Doctor. The season was half weak and half brilliant. It might have had “Blink” and “Utopia” but it also had “42” and “Evolution of the Daleks”. It wasn’t Martha’s fault: Coming after Rose was a hard job and the writers couldn’t decide if she was as brilliant as the Doctor or the traditional thicko that needs everything explaining to them in case the audience can’t keep up.

– 0 –

I thought this was going to be a single blog post, but since I’ve passed the 1,200 word mark and I’m only up to the end of series three I think I’ll be splitting this up. Next time I shall cover series 4 and those pesky specials, and then move on to the eleventh Doctor.

I hope that you’ve enjoyed reading this, because I enjoyed writing it!

Classic Abbott and Costello

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My son, Joseph, was desperate to show me this when he got home from school:

New Addition to the Family…

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The one thing that’s been missing from my life was finally fixed a couple of weeks ago. After 8 months of living on my own, it finally seemed like the right time to make that commitment again.

I bought an X Box.

It’s been on “The List” (shit I WANT for the house, but have to justify the expense since I don’t really NEED it) since I moved in here, but whenever I had any spare money it was always on the month with birthdays or Christmas so it always got pushed to the back. At the end of January I decided that enough was enough and took the plunge.

My son, Joseph, has his own X Box at House #1 and, although he frequently brought it with him, it was a bit annoying for everyone concerned (apart from me) to keep lugging it back and forth.

I am not a Gamer, really. “Geek” covers such a multitude that one person couldn’t possibly do everything under the banner. It’s like saying you play “all sport”. It’s just not gonna happen. I like some games, but I’m not hardcore. It’s a rare occasion when I will buy a new game for myself, preferring to head to the pre-owned section when the fancy takes me. This usually means I am way behind the curve on what’s cool. The kids love games, obviously, but for me the X Box is my portal to watching the movies and tv shows that I have on my hard drive without having to burn them to disc or watch them on the laptop. The USB is a wonderful thing.

After wandering around Oldham checking out the prices I ended up in GAME. Since I work in retail and know how vocal people can be when they get bad service I’d like to point out that the guys there are excellent. Friendly, not pushy and smiling. I explained what I wanted, the guy helped me out, didn’t rip me off and I had a decent chat as well. I might not spend much money on games, but you can guarantee that I’ll be heading back there when I want to pick something up. He even managed to talk me into filling out an online questionnaire when I got back home!

So I bought the X Box and Joseph brought up all (which amounts to about half a dozen) of my games. He was happy just to have something new to play with, even though it’s the same as the old thing that he played with. However… it quickly became apparent that my daughter, Grace, didn’t have a lot of choice in the games that I own. She likes the Arkham games (well, she likes the running about bits, not the fighting – she’s only 6 so she gets her big brother to do that stuff) but hasn’t shown much interest in Aliens Vs Predator or Dead Rising.

I ended up buying Lego Batman 2: DC Super Heroes for them both, because A) Lego is cool; B) Lego games are awesome to play and C) they bought me Lego Superman and Wonder Woman keyrings for Christmas so I thought it was a nice circular thing.

Grace: Happy as a Klingon with a tasty Rokeg Blood Pie and a nice pint of Chech’tluth.

Joseph: “Lego games are for kids”. This is despite the fact that he loves playing with Lego. And he’s only 11.

It took a grand total of about 10 minutes of Grace playing the game before Joseph started paying attention to what was happening on the telly. Grace loves playing computer games, but she’s not exactly brilliant at them, particularly if there’s any form of problem solving involved. You could see Joseph gradually start to twitch more and more as he watched her play (it really IS a good game) and he really can’t stand it when he thinks that he knows what to do and Grace keeps running about, not really doing much, and bursting into fits of giggles whenever the character bursts into pieces. On Lego Indiana Jones she once spent a good 15 minutes repeatedly throwing Indy off a cliff as if it was the funniest thing she’d ever seen.

Eventually the ‘advice’ started. “Do this…” or “go over there…” or “you need to pull the lever and the gate’ll open”. It was quite entertaining to watch. Grace can only take so much advice and, in the end, launched the controller at Joseph’s head with a “YOU DO IT THEN!”. It also became apparent that Joseph didn’t really know what he was talking about, but he was methodical about not knowing what he was doing. They basically both had the same result.

It reminded me of the time I bought them Soul Caliber – Grace used to whup Joseph’s arse time after time because she was just smacking the buttons however she wanted, while Joseph was trying to do proper combinations. Some of the special moves she came out with were amazing. “How’d you do that?”; “Dunno”, and she would win 90% of the time. Poor lad, being beaten by the sister half his age.

Two weeks down the line and Joseph has admitted defeat. He’s started the game on his profile and is adamant that he’s going to get past Grace as quickly as possible. They help each other out, of course, but Grace’s version of ‘helping’ frequently involves pushing Joseph off a building.

Sleight of Hand video

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This. Is. Awesome.

I love magic, and the skill with which this guy does “simple” sleight of hand is staggering.

 

 

It wasn’t me that found this. Credit where credit is due: I nicked it from the Facebook of Christopher Teague.

The Contact Lens Story

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As well as getting my arse to the gym a few other things needed changing. My clothes, for example, were hanging off me. So I went and bought some new ones. I also decided to go for a bit of a change and get contact lenses, so I made an appointment at a major high street optician.

Now; I’ve had contacts before but the lady on the phone told me that they had a free trial going on, which was okay with me as who’s going to turn something free down? I had a few days off, which coincided with payday, so I had Big Plans for what I wanted to get done. On day #1 I bought a couple of pairs of jeans, some t shirts and clothes for the gym. I paid my bills and ordered the protein powder that I hope will help me get fit and then I had a fun and funky evening sledging with my kids.

On day #2 the plan was to get my eyes done (an eye test was also due), sort out the contact lenses, go and see my tattoist mate Ryan at his shop (Banana Juice Tattoo) and then head to the gym for a relaxing hour of sweating and causing physical pain to myself. I left my house that morning feeling pretty good about myself. I had on my new trainers, new trackies, a new hoodie (which was really comfortable and I regretted never having bought one before) and an awesome Pac Man t shirt. Fair enough; I was trying for a new ‘style’ but, seriously, there’s never going to be anything cooler than a Geek t shirt, is there?

I arrived in town and went for a wander as I had a little time to spare. I ended up buying Lego Batman 2 and Resident Evil 5, one of which was for the kids and the other was for me (I’ll let you work out which was which for yourself), and bumped into Gym Yoda who was quite stunned that I, in his words, looked “almost human” which I took to be a compliment.

There was slightly less success at the opticians…

The eye test itself went pretty well. The scanned my eyeball and showed me the picture, which is always pretty cool. Who doesn’t love seeing what the inside of their eye looks like? I went through the whole “which hot air balloon is clearer?” test, and the traditional letters on the wall, and then came the contact lens fitting part.

The woman that was instructing me on correct lens etiquette (you’re not allowed to wear them on airplanes, for example) was REALLY offhand with me. Her whole attitude stank. She talked to me like I was educationally challenged and had that sneery, looking down her nose thing going on that I hadn’t seen in a while

I was a roaring success at getting the contacts in an out. Seriously, with a little training I reckon I could be a medal winner at that. Especially taking them out. I am fucking AWESOME at that.

So we do the whole shebang – she tells me how to clean them, make sure they’re not inside out when I put them in, that sort of thing, and makes a follow up appointment for the end of the free trial. I’d been my usual nice self throughout the whole experience, despite her being a bit of a cow to me. Being polite, smiley and cracking a few jokes usually makes people like that at least crack a smile. I’ve had miserable customers where making them smile or laugh has become my mission, but this woman just wasn’t cracking. In the end I figured that I had lost the battle.

“Where do I pay?” I asked.

“It’s a free trial, that means you don’t have to pay,” she explained slowly so that I didn’t have to deal with too many words flying into my ears at the same time.

“Yes,” I said. “I know, but I had an eye test as well. I’ve got to pay for that.”

At this point she sneered, looked me up and down and said: “People on benefits don’t have to pay.”

For the whole of the experience she had been a bitch to me because I was wearing trackies and a hoodie.

“Um… I’ve got a job,” I said. “I’m going to the gym.” At which point she immediately brightened up, smiled and said:

“Oh, right! Well in that case if you want to follow me…” Her whole body language changed. Her face relaxed and her shoulders dropped slightly, all because she realised that she wasn’t talking to a doley.

I really couldn’t believe it and was in a bit of a state of shock. It’s not like I was wearing a sovereign ring or jewelery bought exclusively from Argos. I didn’t even have a baseball cap on! And when she called me from the waiting room I was reading my Kindle! Everyone knows that Scallies can’t read!

I suppose I should have complained to someone about the fact that she’d been like that but, really, the only difference between her and me is that I wait until the customer has left the building before I start slagging them off.

To make matters worse I never even made it to the gym that day.

GEEK DAD: 2002 was an amazing year

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My son, Joseph Marc Williams, was born on 7th February 2002. I was 25 at the time and working as the Assistant Manager of The Litten Tree in Rochdale. I’d been in Oldham since 1999 and was beginning to realise that the town wasn’t going to be a footnote in my life story but the most important part of it. All of the important shit that was going to happen to me was going to happen here. I’ve grown to love the town, despite the many, MANY problems that it has. It’s got a rich history and the people that live here are… unique.

This post isn’t about Oldham though, or me. It’s not even about my awesome son. It’s about the year that he was born. A trip down memory lane for me, if you like.

The highest grossing film of the year was The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers. Hard to believe that it’s that long since the film came out. The stars must have aligned that year as most of the top ten films were geek related. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets; Spider-Man; Star Wars II: Attack of the Clones; Men in Black 2; Die Another Day; Signs; Ice Age; My Big Fat Greek Wedding and Minority Report fill out the rest of the list. Those are some great films and might deserve a re-watch to celebrate his birth. Star Trek: Nemesis, the last of the Next Generation movies, also came out but some things are best forgotten.

Chicago won the Academy Award for Best Film, The Pianist took home a few and Spirited Away won Best Animated Feature. Basically it was a rubbish year for awards.

The number one single the day my son was born was “Hero” by Enrique Iglesias. It wasn’t the top song of the year, though. That honour went to Will Young with “Evergreen”. Gareth Gates had a couple of hits with “Unchained Melody” and “Any One of Us”; “A Little Less Conversation” from Elvis and JXL was a song that I loved and there was also S Club 7; Wheatus with “Teenage Dirtbag” and “Because I Got High” from Afroman.

Reality TV also started (I think) as Will Young won Pop Idol 2 days after Joseph came along. So some great things happened that year, and some should be regretted. “Popstars: The Rivals” began and ended, sparking a lifelong love for Joseph in Girls Aloud.

The Queen Mother died and Queen Elizabeth II celebrated her Golden Jubilee. “I’m a Celebrity…” began for the first time and the downfall of civilisation as we know it joined it.

The Osbornes wormed their way into the global consciousness and The Dead Zone debuted. A little show called Firefly also began and lasted only one year yet, somehow, is regarded by a vast amount of people to be the best SF show ever made. Ally McBeal finished, as did The X Files, Dharma and Greg and Lexx.

It was also the year of the World Cup, and the year of the only football match that I can remember enjoying. It was June 12th; England versus Nigeria. The final score was a goalless draw but they qualified for the knockout stages. I can’t really remember the match, but I had a delicious bacon butty. That sort of thing stays with you.

Despite all of these things, and the vast number of other things that happened that year, the greatest event that happened was the birth of my son. He’s the most wonderful kid and, although he’s getting to the age where he doesn’t really like it, I love cuddling up with him in bed on a morning. I know that he’s going to grow into a young man that I will be proud to call my son. I just hope that I can be someone that he’s proud to call his Dad.

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