Top 10 Christmas toys 2016 (part 1)

10) Norman Lamont’s Budget Simulator

All the rough and tumble of negotiating and agreeing departmental spending limits at an uncertain economic time with the added fun of projecting the public sector net borrowing requirement! Don’t forget to adjust for inflation!

Suitable for ages 3 and above

9) Hangry Hangry Hippos

Watch as your hippos get increasingly irate as you offer them small plastic balls which they mistake for food!

Contains one pair hippo handling mittens

8) Sit Around!

Set the timer and see who can sit in silence longest! Wake up grandad! 

7) Marcus Wareing’s My First Kitchen

Why not whip up a bolognese or maybe an apple crumble? Your little ones will love having their creations torn to shreds by the lifelike animatronic Marcus Wareing! One things for sure – they’ll only underseason the fucking carrots once!

6) Shelf on a shelf –

Remind dad that he really should get round to finishing off those shelves. Come on dad!

Positions 5 – 1 coming soon!

A beginner’s guide to CBeebies

Gone are the days when children’s TV was operated with a fixed camera in a broom cupboard with Phillip Schofield having to push his own buttons, talk to camera and operate a puppet at the same. We’ve recently begun to watch some children’s TV in the mornings so for those of you encountering it for the first time in a few years this is the Captain Poo Pants guide to CBeebies.

The new Gordon/Ed/Otis

Since the 80s a charismatic puppet has been a mainstay of CBBC presenting teams. Given the rich history, it is all the more concerning that the current iteration is this haunted taxidermy rat dog. I feel sorry for the rest of the presenting team having to pretend it is in any way charming particularly as it is clearly of an age where it’s unable to control its bladder.

Fetch the shotgun

Postman Pat’s Special Delivery Service

Postman Pat’s Shit Delivery Service more like.  Pat has had a promotion.  Instead of his straightforward round  in Greendale (population 11) he is now responsible for ‘special’ deliveries in a big town nearby where all the old Greendale residents now live (Greendale having been destroyed by the great earthquake of ’92).  He now has a zero hours contract and is at the beck and call of preening control freak Ben who lives in the postal sorting warehouse.  Pat has a mobile phone that he’s only allowed to use when Ben wants him for something.

“Hello, Special Delivery Service……Oh Hi Ben”

“Pat I don’t care if it’s the middle of the night.  You’d better get here right away or you’re fired. I need this thimble delivering next door in the next five minutes……..Yeah and bring me a f*cking happy meal.”

Ben has too many buttons undone on his shirt and probably tells women in bars that he works in logistics even though he spends his whole day in the warehouse going up and down in his lift, blowing off and thinking of ways to prevent Pat seeing his family.

Pat was a bad postman and he’s a bloody awful special delivery service guy.  In the past fortnight he left a big block of ice he was delivering in a field and drove off.  He accidentally fed a small child’s teddy bear to a horse.  He lost six eggs he was was literally holding in his hands and he floated a policeman almost to his death with some helium balloons he was in charge of (before rescuing him with his postal service helicopter – no wonder the price of stamps keeps going up).  Last week he lost a parcel before he even left the warehouse forecourt.

“Don’t worry, Pat always gets here” the villagers assure each other.  Sure, he gets there but it’s taken 10 people to help him and he’s blown 6 grand on helicopter fuel so you have to ask yourself whether it’s really been worth it.


Sack him now

Chris Jarvis

In Chris Jarvis’s loft there is a painting of a very, very old man. He was on kids’ TV when I was young, he’s on kids’ TV now I’m a dad and he’ll be on kids’ TV when I’m dead. I put his youthful good looks down to the fact that his job requires him to do nothing more strenuous than pointing at a cloud. His current gig is in a big garden where him and his mate Pui are joined by an inanimate cuboid named Stuffy to do not very much for 20 minutes. Then he probably buggers off to the BBC cafeteria to exchange mucky limericks with Huw Edwards over a big bowl of Golden Grahams before heading home for a snooze.


Look it’s Mr Tumble and if we just look under the flap of his spotty bag….it’s Reese!  Reese is 3 today.  Oh how very original, parent.  How long did it take you to come up with the flap/photo combo.  What a special card.  Birthdays are a mainstay of the children’s TV world but they have developed their own Overton window meaning that limitless creativity is possible within an extremely narrow spectrum of acceptable cards.  Hence flaps. So many flaps.  Oh look under this flap is Sally who’s 8.  WTF Sally why are you still watching CBeebies?  Why aren’t you at school?

Because the BBC can’t return any of the cards, what you don’t see just off screen is an intern throwing all of the cards onto a big fire and laughing.

Furchester Hotel

I honestly can’t tell you what’s going on with this one.  You know when John Cleese got his latest divorce and had to do all those adverts to pay for it?  That’s the only reason I can imagine for Elmo’s involvement with this madcap idiocy.  With the exception of the Cookie Monster, he’s the only recognisable face amongst a hoard of ‘seconds’ muppets (and let’s face it, the Cookie Monster is a fairly one-dimensional character – if the story isn’t about cookies then you aren’t going to get a lot out of him).  The show is nominally set in a hotel, not that it matters.  They sing a song about catastrophe every day and other than that the whole thing is too difficult to follow and is too colourful.

Justin/Mr Tumble


Keep off the grass

I didn’t realise that Justin and Mr Tumble were the same person until recently, particularly as my nephew had assured me that they were “just good friends”.  Mr Tumble lives alone in a nice looking cottage, dresses as a clown and is ordered around by the disembodied voice of a child.  He has an ipad and a bag and assists Justin to teach sign language, emotion and acceptance of difference.

Justin’s house on the other hand is considerably more exposed to weather conditions lacking as it does a front.  Justin lives with a sort of robot Michael Gove and a sentient ball of weed.  The show is about falling over and getting sprayed with water.

Mr Tumble might be annoying but at least I now know the British Sign Launguage for sandcastle.
Which shows have I missed?

So, you’ve got an old baby….

“I’ve got a new born at home”

“Awwwww how adorable”

“I’ve got a toddler at home”

“Ah I bet they’re keeping you on your toes”

“I’ve got an old baby at home”

“WTF are you talking about get away from me.”

Since Captain Poo Pants turned 1 a couple of weeks back I’ve been thinking about how having an old baby differs from having a new born.  Despite them being ostensibly the same baby and posing baby type challenges all of the good parenting you’ve learnt is now out of date and you have to learn some more. Otherwise you’ll end up like that guy from work that uses a spreadsheet package as a database. 

Having a hamster and having a budgie both count as having a pet but you soon learn that only one will flap round the lounge knocking your ornaments off.  And so here are the key ways in which having an old baby is different from having a baby baby to help you prepare.


Gone are the days when playfully batting a stuffed bear was an achievement worthy of a family wide telegram. Play now consists of 2 hours of shuttle crawls up and down the lounge followed by repeated attempts to topple a grandfather clock on top of themselves.


Have you ever tried putting a pair of trousers on a greyhound during the 2103 at Wathamstow? No? Oh well best of luck. I hope your carpet and walls are shit-proof.


Getting clean is no longer a playful splish on the gentle slope down to bed time but Total Wipeout style carnage where all of the water must be either drunk or splashed onto the floor and into your joists.


Now there is beef in their ears afterwards a lot.


Crying is no longer a way to let the world know you’re hungry or cold but a method to deal with more immediate and serious emergencies like being put down for 3 seconds or having some trousers put on.


They now have teeth which need to be cleaned. With the amount of time spent awake in the night getting these bastards through his gums we’re taking such good care of them that he’ll still have them when he leaves home. Just need to get him to stop trying to bite the head off the toothbrush.


Just gallons of the stuff. Getting that morning nappy to the bin needs the assistance of a team of locally engaged porters.

What have I missed?

Shared parental leave: You what mate?



I was on Radio 4’s Today programme this morning (you can listen here from about 02:45:45) responding to a report from law firm EMW claiming that dads are snubbing shared parental leave. I think it’s safe to say a small minority have taken SPL, and that’s perhaps not unexpected for something that has only been possible for just over a year, but I don’t think the data available to us at this point enables us to say whether the policy has succeeded or failed (not that this has stopped quite a few from doing so).  We shouldn’t be drawn into rubbishing the policy without a) good data and b) thinking seriously about what success would look like in this case.

Government will release official statistics in 2018 and even at that point they expect take up to be between 2 and 8%.  In Sweden where shared parental leave has been possible since the 1970s, 25% of families take advantage of it.  Does this count as successful policy?  If not, what figure would? From my perspective, data is interesting but the most important thing is that families now have a choice.   If my son had been born a year earlier, it wouldn’t have been a consideration; I would have returned to work and my partner would have done the whole 9-12 months of maternity leave. No options.  SPL isn’t perfect but for the first time it allows families a choice over how they approach their baby’s first year and that has to be a good thing.

The excellent Sarah O’Connor from the Financial Times has looked at the figures from today’s report here but whatever the veracity of the data, I think it’s difficult to judge the success or otherwise of a policy based on three months of data.  Full stop.

Reports in April based on research by the Women’s Business Council and My Family Care suggested that 1% of eligible men had taken shared parental leave. On closer inspection the data showed that in fact 1% of men at the surveyed companies took shared parental leave REGARDLESS OF WHETHER OR NOT THEY’D HAD A CHILD.  I’m not sure how much of this is down to poor analysis and how much is down to poor reporting from journalists that prefers to report a disaster than a triumph (less still an unclear picture that may have some light shed on it in two years’ time) but there have now been two reports and two rounds of media stories that claim the policy is a disaster and neither have been based on what I would describe as robust data.  I think this does real damage to the idea of SPL without the justification for doing so.

Lots of people won’t want to do SPL.  Lots of people won’t be able to make the finances work. The policy needs improvement to make it a real option for families.  Employers can clearly do much more to promote SPL and to make it a more financially viable option.   Quite simply SPL worked out for our family at the time and the aim for employers and government must now be to ensure that SPL is a realistic option for all families, no more and no less.  In my book, giving families that real option, not an arbitrary percentage take up will be the real measure of policy success.

19: We need to build a gate. It’s going to be a beautiful thing.

I’ve decided to carry on doing blogposts but probably not every week. This is therefore update 19 rather than week 19 ((which is week 23) which is technically week 45) (if you see what I mean).

Nursery is a place where small people with no immune system go to sneeze in each others faces. Consequently since starting nursery a few weeks back Captain Poo Pants has been off nursery ill more than he’s been there well.

What a business model. By mid-week the employees are probably sat with their feet up and a fag on watching Trisha; all the children having successfully been sent home ill.

I jest of course. In fact he’s settled in very well and is doing so many activities that spending time at home is now pretty boring in comparison. This is why he spends his time at home climbing on tables and pulling at dangerous wires.

When I picked him up from nursery last week he was sitting just waving a tea strainer round his head so as a dad who wants to give his son the best in life I treated him to a new whisk on the way home. Only the best for my lad.

An ill baby means an awake baby so we’ve spent several nights providing early hours comfort. CPP has taken to gently pinching the skin of my upper arm and pulling as he drifts back to sleep. By the time he’s actually sleeping through the night I’ll have one big flappy arm like one of those fat fuckers that’s lost 10 stone but now has to tie their skin in a pony tail.

I’ve gone back to work. That’s happened. Yup. Great. Loving it. Through the liberal use of working at home I’ve still only been into the office 12 times this year.

We need to build a gate
Who’s going to pay for the gate? MEXICO!!!


The big news is that Captain Poo Pants is now a professional crawler who moves faster over the ground than a cheetah that’s just spotted a vulnerable gnu.

We’ve had to begin the process of baby proofing and have imposed a wall both to protect CPP from falling down the steps but also to stop migrants from the kitchen coming to competently and cost-effectively perform service jobs in the lounge. It’s a beautiful thing.

Indecipherable lyrics
I haven’t got any major insights on parenting but I do have one recommendation for the manufacturers of children’s toys: if they play a song, please, please, please provide a sheet of lyrics for parents. Deciphering the lyrics from CPP’s pretend TV remote was possible only through searching obscure internet fora for confused parents on the DarkNet. Deciphering the song coming out of his truck however proved beyond the entire internet but came to me in the dead of night.

Carry vehicles around the town, load them up and roll them down. Driving, learning along the way. Learning’s so much fun today.

When we thought it was;

Carry me along Ipswich Town, loan me a cup and roll a clown. Diving, earring,  a longer play. Lemons, sonar, much fine toad eh?

Shows what we know, eh?


As Captain Poo Pants said earlier “it’s questionable whether the institutions of the EU can withstand a further eurozone or migration crisis but on balance the possibility of major employers relocating might be too much of a risk for some to take.”

Week 18: The Final Countdown. Dudu du du. Dudu du du du

Well that’s it – almost 5 months of shared parental leave is over and I have to go back to work. Can you believe the injustice? I am very much Peter Shilton in this scenario and Maradona is played by the notion of full time employment.

For our last week it rained, we both had colds and we had a tonne of baby related admin to complete. Cosmic.


Nursery drop ins
You might have got used to the low level moan of your own baby but the low level moan of 15 babies at once is something else. Getting louder as we approached the door to the baby room it brought to mind the original issue of DOOM and being a child of the 90s that put me on edge slightly. After holstering my imaginary plasma rifle we left CPP with some strangers for an hour, then two hours the next day. We had to PAY the strangers for preventing us spending time with our own child. What sort of madness is this?

We had to fill in a form with CPP’s likes and dislikes which was surprisingly tricky.

Likes: Sneezing, putting his hand in other people’s mouths.

Dislikes: Not being fed quickly enough.

Obviously leaving him was the worst thing that’s ever happened (for us, not him).

Health visitor
Our exciting last week was infinitely improved by a visit to the health visitor (the title sort of implies that the effort to visit should be made on their part rather than ours doesn’t it?) for a developmental check. In yet another example of the UK’s testing culture we had to set CPP a series of challenges and fill in a form before going.

1) Can he pull himself up from standing?
2) Does he babble using different syllables?
3) Can he pick up a piece of string?
4) Can he stroke a pigeon in the right direction?
5) Can he identify the Princess Royal from a group shot of Europe’s remaining Royal families?

If the situation requires it babies can produce a limitless amount of snot. Most of my remaining time this week was spent trying to get the snot off his face. His sole aim has been to keep hold of it resulting in a sort of mucusy tug of war.


Cleaning teeth
It is extremely important to clean your baby’s teeth. It’s also impossible. We’ve tried really hard at it this week and can confidently say that CPP has the cleanest lips and chin in town.

And with a whimper my shared parental leave came to an end. We spent our last weekend at the beach with some friends and then went for a walk in the sunshine as a family on the Sunday. It has been the best, most rewarding and toughest thing I’ve ever done and I wouldn’t have changed it for the world. We’ve been really lucky to have been able to split our leave, for both of us to have been able to spend long periods with Captain Poo Pants and to have had plenty of days to spend as a family.

On the downside, the extra meal a day I’ve been having for the last 5 months has taken its toll and I now look like Russell Grant.

I’m planning a post or two on shared parental leave and returning to work but let me know whether you think I should carry on the blog as a more general parenting type blog or just pack it in right now before someone gets hurt.

Week 17: Of shoes and ships and sealing wax

I’m all ears. I’m f*cking Andrew Marr over here
To the untrained ear CPP might sound like he’s simply added a couple of syllables to his stream of babble (ma and ba mainly) but I’ve been listening carefully and it turns out he actually said his first words this week!!

Marmara – As well as being a region of Turkey the Marmara sea joins the Black and Aegean seas splitting European and Asian Turkey.

Abada – a mythical unicorn type animal in the Kongo language. Its horn is said to be an antidote to poison.

What an advanced little sausage we have!

Either way it doesn’t look like spending the last 4 months together will result in him saying dada first confounding the pundits.

Cot cat nap nope
This week’s wildly optimistic challenge was leaving CPP to get himself to sleep in the cot during the day. He’s fine doing this at night but during the day it goes;

1) Settle him down lovingly with tenderness.
2) Look away for 3 seconds.
3) Sat up in cot playing face xylophone on the cot bars.

Talking of cot bars….as he’s now progressed to pulling himself up on things awkwardly and dangerously I’ve had to lower the cot to its lowest setting. Putting him down at night is now like putting the neopolitan back in your nan’s chest freezer. Careful you don’t fall in now!

Actually it’s pronounced ‘frazzles’
I’ve become one of those parents. Captain Poo Pants has some healthy snacks that look remarkably like popular maize based fried crisp treats so to avoid the judgement of bystanders I’ve taken to loudly asking;


All to avoid strangers thinking I’m feeding my baby cheesy wotsits.

It was my birthday this week so I got a lie in and didn’t have to deal with any of the 5 poos he did that day. Yessssssssss.

I’m slightly menaced by CPP’s bookshelf. Not sure I remember buying this book…..


I accepted delivery of the new car seat, went upstairs to change a nappy, came back down, forgetting about the car seat and almost had to change my own nappy because of this MASSIVE SMILING BABY THAT HAD INVADED OUR PLAY AREA.