Keys to the kingdom

Well, I mean honestly, you wouldn’t believe what happened to me the other day.

I was driving my relatively quite nice car, which I can afford in part because of the many advantages with which I was born, down to the local shopping mall, which is clean, safe and offers a range of consumer items which, by global standards, is obscenely grand and convenient.

I parked and my son and I walked through the car park, past a couple of almost certainly ridiculously overqualified men swapping jokes in Urdu as they pushed an anaconda of trolleys up to the service entrance.

Inside — this is before the really shocking thing happened, don’t worry, I’ll get there — I strode by the brightly lit shops and attractions, unthreatened as usual by anyone on the basis of my skin, gender, sexuality, religion or class.

I know, I know, but I’m getting to it. Just wait, you’re gonna freak when you hear it. Seriously freak. GetUp email campaign freak.

I was there to get some keys cut for my investment property. Look, I know, I really do, but we try to be appropriately embarrassed about it and have determined to give the ludicrous tax-break money to a good cause, because we can.

Anyway, long story short: we passed loads of people of all colours, creeds and persuasions, all shopping happily and comfortably but still statistically likely to be treated less well than me by employers, the media and state, and reached the key-cutting booth.

The key-cutter, who on average would likely earn significantly less than me if I’d trained as a key-cutter, left her tiny lathe to take my keys and tell me no problem and return to start cutting.

Then she saw my son. Wait till you hear this.

‘Got the day off?’ she said.

‘Sorry?’ I replied.

‘Looking after your son for your wife today, are you?’ she said.

Well, I was boiling, I was. ‘No,’ I said coldly. ‘I’m his parent. I’m with him three days a week.’

Her eyes widened. ‘OH!’ she said. ‘That’s WONDERFUL! How BRAVE you must be!’

‘I beg your hand-delivered gilt-edged unconditional royal pardon?’

‘Well, I mean, it’s amazing that you stay with him like that!’

‘As opposed to running away from him, like normal? For my KIND?’

‘You don’t see many men doing the Mr Mom thing. It’s so lovely!’

‘Whereas you see loads of women these says doing the Little Miss Man thing and getting jobs in professions,’ I hissed through unpartable teeth.

‘Hang on a sec, love, this tiny lathe’s loud. I’m just about done.’

She returned with my keys. I paid her in righteous silence and stormed home, past refugee doctors pushing mops and people with disabilities struggling to reach jumpers on a trestle table I’d earlier blithely thumbed through, to fume amid the collection of books and consumer electronics which it’s statistically much easier for me to accrue than just about anyone else in the world to accrue, and tweet about how shocking and unacceptable it is, in this day and age, to experience genuine discrimination.


Originally published in the King’s Tribune, which you should definitely read even though its tiny-lathe coverage is slim at best.

The parable of Clive Blarsehole

My four year-old son comes into the room.

‘Sorry Dad, I spilled my drink.’

‘That’s okay The Boy. What happened?’

‘I bumped into the table.’

‘Well, that can happen. Not to worry.’

‘Yeah. But I feel like a bit of a dickhead.’

‘Sorry?’

‘A dickhead! I FEEL LIKE A BIT OF A DICKHEAD!’

And so, once again, I enter the parental equivalent of seeing someone start to fall in the street and feeling time stop while the urge to reach out and grab them battles the feeling that it looks like it may turn out to be a more than usually funny pratfall. Do I intervene like a hypocrite, or laugh like a monster?

My parents never swore in front of me. My high school best friend, born on the same day as me, had parents who swore constantly. His dad performed the George Carlin ‘Seven words you can’t say on TV’ routine for us when we were fourteen. So I found it shocking when my mum once yelled ‘fuck!’ after dropping a glass, and he found it shocking when his didn’t.

And here’s the point: we both now swear exactly the same amount, which is continuously and to an award-winning standard.

The Boy, it appears, is a natural. When he was eighteen months old and burbling random syllables, he once crawled over to me, looked up, clearly said ‘cuntface’, then went about his business. In my clumsiness I later inadvertently taught him to properly deploy the term he still thinks is ‘fuxake’.

So as far as swearing is concerned that horse has sailed. It only seems like yesterday he was in his crib, gurgling happily along with his favourite Derek and Clive records, but now he is four and a protocol must be agreed. I don’t want to teach him that any word is bad, but neither do I want to hear the phrase ‘effing and jeffing’ from a series of increasingly irate kinder teachers. Again.

‘Who taught you to say “dickhead”, son?’

‘Frank Woodley.’

‘Oh. Well, it’s funny, sure, bit it’s a bit rude. We wouldn’t say that in front of everyone.’

‘Okay. Is Frank Woodley a dickhead then dad?’

This seems as good a line to draw as any.

‘Yes, son. It’s definitely okay to say that Frank Woodley is a dickhead.’

So it’s possible I have a little Malcolm Tucker on my hands. And I’m fine with that. As long as I don’t end up with a Paul Anka. Or a Rex Hunt. Or a Clive Blarsehole.

Originally published in the King’s Tribune, which you should definitely read even though there’s hardly any effing or jeffing in it.