Sunday, 20 October 2013

The secret to happiness

I was about to say it's the crack of dawn. But that would be a lie given that dawn hasn't arrived yet.

However, even at this ungodly hour, the entire Hapless household is up and about. Mrs Hapless has already gone to work. Female child is watching Peppa Pig. Male child is sat in his own filth making a noise like an aeroplane. A typical Monday morning.

I spend an awful lot of time moaning about how early I have to get up in the morning. In fact I'm now so used to getting up before 6 that, on the odd occasion when I sleep till after 7 I wake up in a blind panic feeling like I'm incredibly late for something.

This morning my daughter woke up early to try to see her mum before she went off to work. After Mrs Hapless left I explained to my daughter that, it was still incredibly early, so if she wanted she could go back to bed and get some more sleep. She!

As she answered something occurred to me that I've never really considered before. I always thought that young kids just didn't need as much sleep as adults, and that's true. However there is a far more compelling reason that your children get up early.

It's more fun to be up than in bed!!

I know. Read that sentence again really carefully. For small children, it is better to be up and about than in bed sleeping. That's why as soon as they stir awake they bounce from their bedrooms like the Tasmanian Devil on speed. For an adult that is a mind blowing concept to try to get your head around.

When I wake up I feel like a bag of spanners! However much sleep I've had and whatever the quality I always wake up feeling like I've only had 10 minutes sleep after a long night shift working in an abattoir.

The fact is, the life of a small child is an absolute hoot!! They get up early because their day is a great laugh from start to finish. For small children it is genuinely better to be up than it is to be in bed.

At this point I could get all Dalai Lama on your ass!! I could talk in terms of living in the now and seeing the enjoyment in everything you do! This is true of course. Young children live exclusively in the now. They also find the enjoyment in every single activity they do.

However I want to take things a stage further. I'm going to make an assertion which will explain how children are always happy and why, for most adults, life is going to be a massive pain in the arse!!

The secret to happiness is being as thick as shit!

That's right dear reader. The secret to having a happy and blissful existence is to be as thick as a whale omelette.

Now let me be clear at this point. Both my children are very intelligent.............. for kids. The fact is at their age they know absolutely fuck all about anything. Here are some examples.
  1. They don't know what day it is.
  2. They can't tell the time.
  3. They can't read or write, to any useful degree.
  4. They can't use a telephone, unless it's to phone the Fire Brigade by accident.
  5. They don't understand money.
  6. They believe in Father Christmas.
So, whilst they are very intelligent children, using a scale common to all they are in fact thick as you like!!

This means that in reality, young kids haven't got a bloody clue what's going on. If Wales was occupied by an aggressive foreign dictatorship tomorrow adults with half a brain would be scared witless. Small children and thick people would be starring out of the window excitedly looking at all the shiny tanks!

So being thick is a great aid to happiness. When you haven't got the faintest idea how shit things are it's much easier to have a smile on your face.

I'm going to take this a stage further. Not only are young kids thick, but they also have absolutely everything done for them. How much better would your life be if you had a team of domestic servants geared up to service your every whim at any time of the day or night.

This dear reader is the life of a small child. At home, at school, at friends houses, at their grandparents, everyone spends their entire time providing small children with exactly what they want whenever they want it. Imagine for a moment what this would be like as an adult. Imagine a world where waking up meant that someone would provide you with a day of activities designed to be fun for you, provide you with your clothes, help you get dressed, feed you, sing songs to you, read you a story, run you a lovely bath and buy you a hamster if you ask often enough.

No wonder kids are so bloody happy all the time.

So in summary, the secret to happiness is having the IQ of a sock and a team of willing servants on call 24hrs a day.

I guess that must be what it's like for the Royal Family.

I've lost my mojo

It's official,  I have lost my blogging mojo!

The question is, what's the best way to get it back? The answer: write about it.

When I first started this blog the objective was simple. To get my writing seen by as many people as possible. I was in a period of transition in my life. A rather turbulent period if I'm honest. My solution was to take my hobby, writing, and try to make a living out of it.

I sought advice from people I knew who were making money out of their writing, whether as feature writers or authors. All said the same thing. Get a blog up and running and get yourself on twitter.

It took me a while to get my ever more flabby arse in gear, but I got there in the end.

At the start it was all about the writing and all about the numbers. I began to develop a serious and crippling addiction to my blogger stats. I got more and more excited as more and more people read what I produced and, most importantly, seemed to like it. As far as twitter was concerned I revelled in every milestone. The first hundred, then two hundred, then three hundred followers arrived rather quickly. Every time I tweeted about a piece I had written there was a marked increase in page views on my blog. I got extremely excited when I reached my first 10,000 page views. I got some stuff featured on big web sites. I got some quality followers. I also made some friends.

So what's the problem?

Well, it's all to do with effort. You see whilst my twitter Avi is not actually a picture of me it does sum me up. I genuinely believe that any problem in life can be solved by sitting down and eating a biscuit. That's if the off licence is closed of course.

The thing is to take a blog from 10,000 page views a year to 10,000 page views a month requires significant effort. It is, to all intents and purposes, a full time job. You can't just post good content. That's not enough, it never has been. You need to work hard to get your writing seen by as many people as possible. Twitter comes into play here too. I have a very modest number of followers. To increase your followers into the thousands and tens of thousands takes an incredible amount of hard work. It becomes your life.

This is the first post I've written for some weeks. At the beginning I was posting almost every day. I certainly never posted less than three times a week.

This is definitely not an unusual situation. Bloggers losing their mojo is definitely a common thing. Just google it and you'll see plenty of examples of bloggers who are struggling with this or have overcome it at various stages of their blogging journey.

 People experience it for different reasons. Sometimes the effort of coming up with new, fresh material all the time can just get too much. Sometimes the high experienced when one of your posts gets a great response loses it's impact. Sometimes you just haven't got the time in your busy schedule to make the most of your blog.

For me, it's something different. I'm struggling to be clear on the point of the blog. Is it to make money? Is it to publicise my writing? Is it just for fun? Is it an online diary?

The goal of your blog will very much dictate your approach.

If you want to make money out of it you must have as many followers and page views as is humanly possible. It is your way of persuading individuals that your blog is worth using to publicise their products and services. To be honest I've never really been into that. I felt that using my blog for sponsored posts and advertising would limit what I wanted to say and how I wanted to say it.

My original goal was to get my writing 'out there' with a view to developing a freelance career. What I have found is that there is very little relationship between the two. Yes blogging does give you the chance to develop your writing to provide content that your readers will like. However, every piece I have had published was achieved via other means. No one from the Daily Mail has read my blog and offered me a column - I think they have enough lunatics contributing already.

If you blog for fun, it's much more straight forward. If your goal is simply to enjoy writing, the stats mean nothing and it doesn't really matter if no one reads it. This gives you an incredible amount of flexibility in terms of what you write and how often.

I think for me, that is the key. I started blogging in the first place because I simply enjoyed writing. It was a happy coincidence that people enjoyed reading.

For those of you who visit this blog on a regular basis I promise normal service will resume very shortly.

For those of you who don't read my blog, this sentence is a bit of a waste of time.

Hapless Dad.

P.S What happens to parent bloggers when the kids grow up and bugger off? Has blogging been going long enough for us to find out?

Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Party bags should contain smallpox..

My son turned 6 years old on the 22nd of September. I turned 41 a few days later. Birthdays are always a time of reflection, particularly when you are in the throws of a world class mid life crisis. You spend endless hours reflecting on how to trade your MPV in for a sports car, how to sew in a pony tail or whether those leather trousers look as good now as they did in the shop.

This year my son had a party with a friend and it was on a different day to his birthday, for ease of organisation.

On his actual birthday we had a fantastic day. There was much excitement in the Hapless household as presents were opened and Happy birthday sung to the rafters. We had a lovely lunch out, somewhere that really makes a fuss of kids and we went bowling with another family and their two children. It was a fantastic day. Kids and parents enjoyed themselves.

Then came the party!

I must stress this is not a rant about the nightmare that is kids parties. Everyone knows they are horrendous. If you are in any doubt ask some of your childless friends to come along and watch the excuses role in.

A kids party, particularly if hosted in a soft play venue is basically 'Lord of the Flies' but with extra sugar. What seems like hundreds of children are let loose on the set of Total Wipeout without any real supervision. Yes you are there but lets be honest the whole point of soft play is that your kids can be entertained without you having to do any work.

However there were a couple of things that really struck me this year which I hadn't noticed before.

Firstly 'the party season' involves you spending every weekend in exactly the same place with exactly the same children, exactly the same parents, exactly the same party food and exactly the same cake hastily bought at the local ASDA whilst en route.

The party will be a shared event between up to a thousand children who's birthdays are anything up to three weeks before or after the date of the party. All the parents will complain about having to spend another weekend in this madness.

Which begs the question, why don't we just have one party for everyone on the first of September? Nobody has the party on their actual birthday so what difference does it make? Until the kids are old enough to choose who they want to spend their birthday with you end up inviting the entire class, including all the arseholes. So why not just get it all out of the way in one go? Apart from freeing up every single weekend between now and July parents will save an absolute fortune as the costs will be shared. You can then spend the actual birthday doing your own thing which is what you would have done anyway, party or not!

The second thing that really struck me this year was the ludicrous party bag/present giving situation.

Lets start with party bags. What a shit idea that is!! Yes, by all means give each child a bit of cake to leave with but giving them a small bag full of complete tat as well is absolutely pointless on every level.

My house is literally bursting at the seems with the contents of party bags. Kids have enough toys and create enough mess as it is without providing them with their 400th bouncy ball and mini slinky spring. If they are in a party bag you can guarantee they are utter shite which means they will last about a minute. That's if they make it into the house at all and are not casually thrown on the floor of your car whilst driving back from the party.

What exactly is the purpose of a party bag? It is essentially a reward given to a party guest for attending!! When else in life does that happen?

Worst of all is party bag competition. This is particularly true in the more affluent areas where party bags have to contain keys to a Ferrari or the parents risk being totally ostracised in the school car park.

The only way party bags would increase in my estimation is if you could give decent presents to the children you really like and give a dose of smallpox to the ones you can't stand.

Then there were the presents. Now I must stress the presents were really good and we are extremely grateful. But that's kind of my point. My son now has a massive bin bag full of good quality presents. After the party, as we tried to peel him off the ceiling, he did open a load of them. Has he played with them since? No, of course he hasn't!! That's because he already has a house full of toys he never plays with. It would have been more useful to stick a fiver in a card. That way we could buy him a new telly so he could watch Johnny Test whilst playing the wii at the same time.

I guess the biggest problem for me on observing the ludicrous pile of presents was the inevitable thoughts about Christmas.

I love Christmas, apart from one little thing. The fact that it turns even the loveliest of children into an ungrateful little sod!! A child can cope with the first batch of gifts. After that, every new visitor baring presents is subjected to said child ripping open any offerings and then wandering off without a) looking at the present or b) saying thank you.

My children are young enough to believe in Father Christmas. The real magic happens when they wake up and find the stocking at the end of their bed covered in Fairy dust. As they go down stairs they find the half eaten carrot and empty sherry glass enjoyed by Santa and his Reindeer. It is pure magic. From then on it is a present ripping free for all where the sheer volume of gifts prevents interest or excitement in any one of them.

Every year in the Hapless household we talk about limiting the number of gifts but we never do. Every household is the same.

Watching my son's party has stiffened my resolve to make sure it happens this year.

Remember, less is most definitely more!!

Hapless Dad