Dressing Up…

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Sometimes, I do quite silly things just to say that I’ve done them. It’s quite common knowledge among my friends that a good mate once found me inside my own fridge because I’d got bored and wanted to see if I could fit in the upper compartment once all the shelves had been taken out.

I was cold, but the look on his face was almost worth the discomfort, especially when I just climbed out and tried to carry on a normal conversation as if nothing particularly interesting had happened.

…but occasionally….I do stuff even I’m not entirely sure would qualify for a given value of normal.

A few years back, I went to a friend’s 30th fancy dress birthday party as Jason Vorhees, the mad murderer from the Friday 13th movies. The costume was basically a half-wrecked jumper, an old parker, a hockey mask and a machete. My mate went as a gangster and we had good fun with the somewhat weird difference in the characters as we arsed about at the venue….but the day following the party was a bit strange.

First off, I went to bed in the costume. I don’t usually do this, but I was either extremely tired or a bit drunk or possibly both….because I remember putting the mask back on and leaving the coat half on and actually sleeping on the plastic machete. My wife, who is used to me doing stupid stuff at least half the time, politely ignored me (after making sure I could breathe) and just went to bed.

The next day, after sitting bolt upright in bed and scaring the s*it out of myself when I saw my reflection in the mirror, I then proceeded to clean my teeth (raising the mask slightly but keeping it on), make my breakfast (wearing it) and – for reasons I never quite identified – then went outside with the bowl of Weetabix I’d prepared.

I stood outside my front door on Sydney Road in Ramsgate (where I lived at the time), looking like a demented slasher flick villain, holding the bowl and a spoon and just staring up and down the road.

During the five or ten minutes I stood there, three different people walked past. I knew all three of them, but none particularly well. The first guy to walk past just said ‘Morning Dave,’ as if I was displaying perfectly ordinary behaviour. The second chap gave me a quick glance but then put his head down and picked up the pace.

The third neighbour to cross my somewhat limited field of vision was a woman from two doors up who was carrying a big pack of toilet rolls under one arm. She actually stopped on my doorstep, looked up at me with a frown and said: ‘What are you supposed to be?’

I lifted my mask, nodded at the bowl and said ‘I think I might be a cereal killer.’

She didn’t laugh.

 

Stealing Cars

I tried to half inch this one at Disneyland Paris, but they'd welded it to the floor.

I tried to half inch this one at Disneyland Paris, but they’d welded it to the floor.

The year is 1991, and I am sitting in the manager’s office of Ramsgate’s old Pleasurama arcade, accused of trying to steal cars in the car park. My best friend, Russ, is sitting beside me: he’s accused, too. We have been in the office, waiting for the police to arrive, for around twenty minutes….but it feels like we’ve been there for hours.

We’re thirteen years old old, and we’ve never so much as stolen a pen, let alone a car. Unfortunately, the staff at Pleasureama are absolutely convinced that we’re responsible for the attempted theft because they’ve seen us trying to get into at least three vehicles.

Only, they haven’t….because nobody can find the woman who actually saw us trying to steal the cars. The staff are currently looking for her and, while they’re running all around the building between the arcade machines, we’re trapped in the manager’s office.

We went to Pleasurama every Saturday morning, mostly going through a routine of Pacland, Golden Axe, Rolling Thunder, Operation Wolf and Wrestler War. What we didn’t tend to do, being a couple of juvenile geeks in training, was to hotwire a few cars and go joyriding around Ramsgate in them.

Fortunately, I’m not that worried: despite their insane refusal to call either of our parents (we were young, and didn’t know this was totally against the law) my nan’s oldest friend works at Pleasurama and I’ve just told the manager to go and find her in order to confirm that I’m not the sort of kid who gets involved in stuff like car theft.

She arrives after what feels like an age, and then does something completely – COMPLETELY – unexpected.

She looks at me, this woman who has known me since I was born, and she says: “Well, I wouldn’t have thought – but – well, actually: you never know these days, do you? You just don’t know with these bloody kids.”

I stare at her.

To see if she’s joking.

She isn’t.

She just stares back at me, smiles sympathetically, puts her head on one side and says: “You just can’t tell.”

Then she leaves.

We sit there, in complete shock and silence, for another fifteen minutes.

Finally, someone finds the woman who is serving as an eye-witness to these attempted thefts. She walks into the room, barely glances at us and says: “Oh, no – they were much older than that.”

Then she leaves.

The manager doesn’t say sorry. He just takes us back to the arcade and puts twenty credits on Golden Axe for us.

We play for about two credits, and then we turn very quickly and walked out. My mate went straight home, and we didn’t really start talking about it until the following week at school. We were both scared, shocked and shaken up: I learned a horrible lesson about the unpredictability of human nature, and about how little people consider others when they’re on some sort of minor witch hunt.

Little things seem like big things when you’re young. To me, being accused of theft was horrific.

I assumed that they never actually called the police, but that threat – the threat of real trouble – hung over us every second we sat in that office.

We never went back to Pleasurama after that.

Personally, the experience and the unprofessional nature of the people who worked there was burned into my memory for years afterwards.

I was bloody glad when the place came crashing to the ground.

Disneyland Paris Top Ten Tips

Myself and my little dude on an early ticket for his 6th birthday at Disneyland Paris.

Myself and my little dude on an early ticket for his 6th birthday at Disneyland Paris.

Disneyland is a wonderful place where children pretty much see all their dreams coming true, and it makes the adults start feeling like children again. It is an incredible, breathtaking and magical experience for visitors, but it can also leave you broke, angry and utterly exhausted.

We have now had three very successful trips to Disneyland Paris: two holidays on our own and one with small children (aged 2 and 6). I’m going to break with my usual ‘Bloke Called Dave’ lunacy and actually give you what I think are ten tips that might very well save both your health and your money in the biggest dream park of them all. Here goes:

BLOKE CALLED DAVE TOP TEN TIPS FOR A HOLIDAY TO EURODISNEY

1. It’s a holiday for the children; not for you. If you want a holiday and you have small children, go to Centre Parcs: the kids will not have anywhere near as much fun, but you will get to relax in the evening. You will not get to relax in the evening at Disneyland. So my first tip is to only choose Disneyland if you’re not easily stressed by difficult situations, long queues and a lack of ‘couple’ time. If you’re used to this, go for it. If not, STAY AWAY from Disneyland: it may well kill you.

2. Keep your children up LATE….regardless of how small they are or how much you’ve paid. Listen to this one carefully: the better your hotel at Disneyland, the closer you are to the park. The closer you are to the park, the closer you are to the 11pm fireworks display. It is like nothing else on earth, and breathtaking to watch. However, if you decide to head back early to ‘put them to bed at a decent time’ you will be disappointed. If the explosions don’t wake them up, then five thousand people crashing back through the hotel at close to the midnight will. Trust me, I speak as someone who has stayed at the Disney Hotel, the Cheyenne and the Sante Fe. The rule still applies.

3. Be prepared to queue. In Summer, you will wait an hour to meet just about any Disney character, whether it’s Winnie the Pooh or Mickey himself. You should also magnify all ‘waiting times’ and add ten minutes to them in your head….otherwise, you will just get frustrated.

4. Prepare yourself for people who don’t think queues apply to them: they’re everywhere. The best tip is to make yourself wider and try to block the aisle. If there are more than two of you, fan out so that you occupy as much space as possible.

5. Fast Passes at Disneyland are a godsend, but don’t rely on them. Occasionally, the queue for a fast pass machine is just as big as the queue to get on the ride. Also, don’t be surprised if you get a fast pass at 10am and it gives you an entry time of 4pm: that’s the crowd for you.

6. If you’re going to watch the 5.30pm parade, ignore all the guides that say you should queue thirty minutes beforehand. If it’s Summertime, get there at least an hour ahead of everyone else, park yourself on the curb at the bottom of the ramp that leads to the Disney Castle…and DO NOT MOVE. If you get up to straighten your trousers, six hundred people will fight for the space you just left.

7. Get the early entry tickets. If you’re smart, you’ll pick up the early entry tickets. They will get you into the park an hour before everyone else and you will be able to go on at least three rides that will be impossible to get on later in the day. Definitely hit ‘Buzz Lightyear’ in Discoveryland as this really crams up later in the day.

8. Know your rides. Small World, Pirates of the Caribbean and the Disney Studios Tour all move incredibly fast and have a high queue turnover. Alternatively, Peter Pan, Ratatouille and Buzz Lightyear will take up half your day in waiting.

9. Walking. People are lazy, and the hotels are not nearly as far away as people think. If you’re staying at the Hotel New York, the Cheyenne or even Sequoia Lodge, the park is literally at the bottom of the road. I saw people cramming to get onto a bus that was worse than the London tube in order to the equivalent of a shop around the corner. One girl cried because she couldn’t get on, and I saw her looking actually astonished when she got to the end of the road and realised that the hotel was THERE.

10. Expensive. Disneyland charges a ridiculous amount of money for nearly everything. A bottle of water will cost you close to £3 and you will not pick up a decent doll for less than about £25 or £30. My advice is to show your children every shop, ask them to choose their favourite toy and then tell them that if it’s still the thing they want at the end of the holiday then you will buy it for them when you get home…..on amazon……for a quarter of the price.

I hope this helps you to have a great trip to Disneyland. If it does, please feel free to SHARE it on so that we can help other folks have a great time, too.

Sorry, Can You Say That Again?

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“It’s Davey from Blockbuster in Ramsgate: store code 260116. I’d like to place a large stock order, please.”

It’s a Thursday morning, rain is pouring over Ramsgate and I’m on at early shift at Blockbuster. I’m really miserable: I’ve had a terrible night with very little sleep, and I’m on my own for the first hour of the shift. The sky is dark, people are running up and down King Street trying to get out of the rain and there’s even a few rumbles of thunder suddenly being thrown into the mix.

The store lights are flickering, but the place is empty. Apparently, even the soaking wet customers are avoiding us now…

The girl on the end of the phone, a customer rep from T.H.E. (our stock catalogue suppliers) is tapping away on a computer and muttering something, but I’m pretty sure she’s talking to another guy in their office.

“Okay,” she says, eventually. “Go ahead, please.”

“35664. 1 copy.”

“35664: that’s Scream on DVD, 1 copy. Go ahead, please.”

“53677. 2 copies.”

“53677: that’s I know What You Did Last Summer on DVD, 2 copies. Go ahead, please.”

“76452, 1 copy.”

“76452…”

There’s a pause. Then:

“Can you repeat the number please?”

“Sure. 76452.”

“I’m not getting that one: can I have the title, please?”

“Yes: it’s…..er…….oh, hang on: bloody hell…..it’s the Eat Sh*t and Die Boxset?

Another pause. Then:

“Is this a joke, Sir?”

I look down at the catalogue page, but it looks the same as all the others in the book. I even flick backwards and forwards through the catalogue, in case I’m suffering some sort of hallucination…but it’s THERE.

“No. It’s no joke, but…wow….I just can’t believe it’s called that.”

“Did you say ‘The Eat Sh*t and Die Boxset?’ Is that what you said?”

“Yes. It’s right here in your catalogue. No. 76452.”

“That definitely doesn’t exist, I’m afraid. I’ve searched under ‘Eat Sh*t’ and there are no variations on that title.”

“Sorry. I’m really not trying to make your job difficult: it IS in here, I swear.”

“Okay, but still….”

“Can we go on?”

“Of course.”

She’s trying not to laugh now, but I feel like an idiot…and, even though she can’t see my face, I know I’m going red in the cheeks.

“53632, 1 copy.”

“53632: that is Labyrinth on DVD, 1 copy.”

“84622, 1 copy.”

“84622….”

A terrible pause. Then:

“Can I have the title on that one, too?”

I trail down the catalogue page, and I’m horrified when I find the title. In fact, I almost can’t say it.

“Sir?”

“I don’t believe this. I can’t-“

“Sir?”

“It’s…….Nine Inch P*nis : The Return.”

“Nine Inch…?”

“P*nis: The Return.”

“I think somebody in your store might have set you up, Sir. These titles are definitely not on our system….”

“Er….yeah, totally. I’m so sorry: this is really embarrassing. I’ll call back.”

“Shall I go ahead and order the other titles?”

“Yes, if you would. Er….thanks.”

I put down the phone, and it’s then that I notice – for the first time – that the entry has been made with meticulous print handwriting, exactly placed beneath the last line of each order batch. It’s the other assistant manager’s handwriting.

I’ll kill him.

War of the Rudies

I’m out with my young son, and I’m just arriving at the top of the escalator in the mammoth Tesco Extra when I see a truly extraordinary sight: the best looking girl I’ve ever laid eyes on. She’s in a cut-off biking top and she’s standing with her hands on her hips, looking really confrontational.

Naturally, my eyes follow her gaze…and come to alight on the second best-looking girl I’ve ever seen, who is standing directly opposite her in an identical outfit.

One is blonde, the other dark. One has cute freckles, the other a quirky dimple.

They look like they want to kill each other, and I’m assuming it’s because they’ve both spotted that they’ve chosen the same bikini top….

….but then I notice something that really makes me laugh.

One girl has an outie belly button; the other girl has an inny.

The writer in me suddenly creates a new World War based entirely on the human race being divided into Innies and Outies. I even envisage an interrogation room where a dude is held down and has his shirt ripped open to prove what side he’s on.

Crazy. But, anyway…..I’m watching these two girls when Bast (my son) suddenly shouts: ‘Daddy! This place is full of Rudies, and they’re giving each other THE EVILS. I can’t tell which one is going to win, Daddy! Which one do you like best?’

I freeze, because the girls are now both looking at me and they think he’s talking about them. He isn’t.

THIS is a Rudie (pronounced ‘Rudy’):

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The reason he thinks all mannequins are Rudies is because, when he was a baby, I once approached one – for a laugh – and asked it where the tills were: when it didn’t answer, I looked down at him and said ‘The staff here are all rude: they just ignore you.’

Bast then said: ‘They Rudies, Daddy?’ and I said: ‘Yes.’

Now it has swooped back to bite me on the a*se: both girls are smiling in that awkward way you do when something really embarrassing is happening to somebody else.

I quickly smile at both girls and nod over at the two mannequins, who are genuinely set up so that they’re pointing at each other.

‘He’s talking about the dummies!’ I say, now making a complete breast of myself. ‘He’s not talking about you two: I don’t know which one would win out of you two. You’re both LUSH.’

Then I realise I’m talking out loud, and now both women are busying themselves in an effort to pretend they haven’t noticed me.

Tesco SUCKS.

 

 

Bernie’s Chocolate Bar

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Bernie has taste. Just, for one second, forget the fact that she let me in and just focus on the style of that beautiful sign.

Last week, the Grimstones hit Margate, which is becoming a really lovely place to be for families (and this comes from one of the town’s least supportive voices over the past few years). It seems to me that the relaxed atmosphere and classy gloss of the Old Town is beginning to spread out, and I find that we’re wandering further and further from the middle each time we visit.

Along the seafront, we found a real gem: Bernie’s Chocolate Bar. Run by the eponymous Bernie and her team of happy, friendly staff, we were able to indulge our family’s greatest addiction: awesome chocolate.

I’m going to repeat that: AWESOME chocolate.

…because it really was.

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I’ve never been more happy…..or more ginger. This place rocks.

The menu at Bernie’s is like a chocoholic’s Bucket List, and nothing was too much trouble. I have a feeling that she’d have turned up at the table with a chocolate broccoli sundae if we’d asked for one. Here’s my photo gallery, currently filed under ‘Epic Secrets of Margate':

Attractive staff, walls of clean glass and a good view of the seaside. Win! WIN! WIIIIIN!

Attractive staff, walls of clean glass and a good view of the seaside. Win! WIN! WIIIIIN!

True, you DO feel guilt when you’re nom nom noming your way through delicious waffles, mocha milkshakes and more chocolate hazelnut pebbles than you’d need to smash all the windows in Buckingham Palace….but it’s only the guilt of pure, selfish food-lust.

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This place made Sebastian SO happy that he drew a picture. He never draws pictures….even when there’s a teacher pleading with him to produce one.

I’m not sure what happened to me when I had their mocha shake, but my wife tells me I actually stopped talking for five minutes and just started smiling at my shoes. Apparently, I even went into a bit of a song from the Johnny Depp version of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Sadly, my own two Oompa Loompas refused to join in.

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Evie was so impressed by the food that she actually decided to line-up a small queue of plates after she calmly declared ‘Choc-fings MINE’.

Overall Rating: I’d have to give Bernie’s Chocolate Bar the maximum Grimstone rating of FIVE LUSH DROPS: *****

Highly Offensive People

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I once arrived at Victoria Station to discover that I was No.1 in the National Bestseller List. This has only happened to me once, and I was so shocked by the sight that I immediately left the shop, sat down at a cafe and ordered a mocha. It steadied my nerves, and prepared me for the fact that I was due to be interviewed on Channel 4 in less than an hour.

Suddenly, a guy walked up to my table and just stood there, smiling.

I’m always grateful of company, and it’s nice when a complete stranger decides to make that approach. I notice the gentleman in question is quite morbidly obese, but I was very overweight during my teenage years, so I have a lot of sympathy for anyone’s struggle with that demon.

“Alright ginger,” he says.

“How’s it going?” I say, thinking: You FAT f*cker.

“Not bad. My dad had your colour hair.”

I smile. “That’s great.”

“Nah: he was a complete bastard.”

I don’t really know what to say to that, so I’m over the moon when my mocha arrives.

Then it happens. He shifts his enormous bulk into a plastic chair, points across the station floor and says “Look at that fat bitch, over there.” I follow his gaze, and focus on a woman who is at least three stone lighter than he is. “Imagine letting yourself go that far, eh?”

I stared back at him. “Yeah….imagine that.”

He shakes his head. “I bet she doesn’t have a bloke.”

I immediately think: I doubt she’d crawl over a rotting CORPSE to get to you, Jabba.

“What do you do for a living?” he asks suddenly, ignoring the poor woman on the platform and turning back to me.

“I write books.”

“Oh, yeah?”

“Yeah.”

“But nine to five, I mean?”

“I write books.”

“Oh. What? For a living?”

“Yeah.”

“My Uncle was like that: he won the lottery. He does f*ck all now.”

I actually take a breath at this point, because I want to hurt this guy. I look around for something pointy so that I can imagine threatening him with it.

When my publicist arrives to collect me, he’s complaining about Polish waitresses (the polite lady that brought out my mocha was Polish) and people with tattoos. I noticed that he had a faded looking tattoo of a playing card on his arm, but I didn’t ask about this. In fact, I never got around to telling the guy my name, and he never bothered to offer his.

I occasionally wonder if anyone can be as naturally spiteful as the guy I met at Victoria Station. Maybe he’s not like that at all: maybe it’s just an attitude that men of a certain type adopt when they come into contact with another man. Personally, I find the whole subject completely fascinating….but then I AM a ginger, pale, formerly obese, fat cheeked lanky ferret boy.

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The above chap was the most offensive character I met all year…..until I got on the Slap Loop from Ramsgate to Westwood Cross. I call it the slap loop because, quite frankly, I’ve never encountered so many people I’d happily nut out. I mean, don’t get me wrong: I’m all for spiteful, vicious, ignorant or psychopathically hardened criminals to be rehabilitated into modern society…but making them ALL bus drivers in Thanet really isn’t helping the community. I had literally just managed to wrestle my pushchair (I’m one of those irritating parent types) onto the bus when the farm animal behind the wheel says:

‘Hurry up or I’m goin’.’

I look at him to see if he’s serious. He is.

‘Thank you very much for your patience,’ I reply, wondering if the word patience might be a stretch for someone who still has half his breakfast of fruity pebbles gushing down his chin.

‘Do you go to Westwood Cross?’ (I’m not sure of the route, but this fact – as it turns out – makes me a real loser).

‘Every bus goes to that dump.’

Lovely. He obviously sees himself more as a man who drives AWAY from Westwood. Lucky Westwood.

‘Can I go there please?’

‘And?’

‘Er…..one adult, and a small child. She’s one.’

‘AND?’

I don’t understand.

‘Single or return? People are waiting.’

I look behind me. There is one old lady, but she’s walking PAST the bus stop: I guess he’s talking about the other passengers.

‘Er….sorry,’ I say. ‘I’m not used to taking the bus. Single, please.’ (mainly because I’ll be f****d and burned before I’m getting on another one).

On the bright side, I get to ink another name into my beautiful Book of Grudges: it’s nearly full.