I don’t have the exact figures to hand, but there are approximately one billion blog posts offering parents sage advice on how to “survive” soft play. It’s certainly something to be endured (soft play is a misnomer; it’s fucking hard, gruelling even) but your survival is usually guaranteed. After all, I’ve never once entered a soft play zone to find a dad bleeding out on a crash mat, while a crazed toddler triumphantly pulls a bloodied trident from deep in his belly.
“What is a knight without a sword? This isn’t a riddle, by the way; this is a serious point. A knight without a sword is just a bloke clattering around a castle in cumbersome armour, sounding like a looped recording of a drunk trying to climb out of a skip full of aluminium venetian blinds. He may as well cart a plinth around the bailey all day, wowing children with a human statue routine, while occasionally retreating to the garderobe to daydream forlornly of battles he will never fight and quests he will never embark upon!”
Until he’d filmed a suicide victim hanging lifelessly from a tree in Japan’s Aokigahara Forest, I’d never heard of Logan Paul. If someone had mentioned his name to me, I would’ve assumed they were talking about a budget hair salon located on a traffic-choked high street between a 99p shop and a Dixy Chicken. I never would have guessed they were talking about a YouTube ‘mega-vlogger’ with more than 15 million subscribers and a hairstyle that sits somewhere between Farrah Fawcett and Flock of Seagulls’ Mike Score. But then, life’s a learning process.
I recently became a father again. Unbelievably, given that I’m a bit of a dickhead who tends to stumble through each day, I am now a father to two boys, tasked with keeping them alive and raising them to be kind, loving, thoughtful, intelligent, confident and empathetic human beings. It’s a truly daunting prospect.
I miss the olden days. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t miss black-lunged street urchins scurrying up hellish, carcinogenic chimneys. Nor do I miss the days of young cotton mill workers getting a vicious strapping for having the gall to complain about exhaustion and a degloved finger. No, I’m talking about a mere 25 years ago, which genuinely feels like the olden days.
My wife and I were at the park recently with our three-year-old son. He was playing on the swings and I was doing that thing that dads do, where I positioned myself directly in the way of his ascent so that he could kick me up the bum in a slapstick comedy style. After every carefully choreographed impact, I would then express Widow Twankey-levels of shock and surprise that even a pantomime director would ask me to significantly tone down. Still, it was a routine that was delivering lots of giggles, which is better than any drug in the world. (I had a toke on someone’s spliff at the Reading ‘95 festival and then had to spend a good couple of hours pretending that I found fruit hilarious – so it’s definitely better than that.)