#17 Comic Relief

As a child, I loved my weekly comics and magazines. It all started with Twinkle “the picture paper specially for little girls,” and that was as twee as it sounds. Then I discovered Jack & Jill with its cutesy talking animals. Thank heavens I soon moved on to The Beano – sheer anarchy for kids.

But through my friends, I discovered the joy of girls’ comics with Judy, Tammy, Mandy and Bunty. These were populated with put-upon orphans and nasty stepmothers. I lived in fear of family tragedy from the ages of six to eleven. But the good always got their rewards and the bad their comeuppance.

The next stage was the young teen mags, with My Guy, Patches, Blue Jeans and the queen of the genre, Jackie. This one had it all: photo stories, fashion, make-up, how to get and keep a boyfriend, along with many warnings of the perils of going too far. Even kissing could lead to dissing and once you lost your reputation, life was over.

Then came Just Seventeen “everything a girl could ask for.” This blew my mind; the eternal quest for a boyfriend was laughed off the page and put in its proper place. It was goodbye to fluttering hearts, and hello to reality, career choices, and the real you.

Being nice to a boy meant no longer pretending to be a girly ditz who didn’t understand the offside rule in football. This came as a relief to me and my girlfriends, and probably the boys in our lives as well.

Just Seventeen gave you the facts of life, with no euphemistic crap creeping in. I swear the first time I saw the word penis in print outside of a textbook was in this magazine.

The moralising was toned down. With expert, but never patronising, advice given about everything from contraception to money management to dealing with bullies and angry parents. It even covered topical news issues!

Poor old Janis Ian’s protagonist in At Seventeen, imagine how her life would have been if only she had access to magazines not obsessed with notions of turning teenaged girls into beauty queens.

#16 Candles, Tons and Dead Men

Image credit: quotesgram.com

I can’t think of anything sensible to say about the number or concept of sixteen, so here is Sixteen Tons written by Merle Travis and performed by Tennessee Ernie Ford.

The poem Sixteen Dead Men by William Butler Yeats:

O but we talked at large before
The sixteen men were shot,
But who can talk of give and take,
What should be and what not
While those dead men are loitering there
To stir the boiling pot?

You say that we should still the land
Till Germany’s overcome;
But who is there to argue that
Now Pearse is deaf and dumb?
And is their logic to outweigh
MacDonagh’s bony thumb?

How could you dream they’d listen
That have an ear alone
For those new comrades they have found,
Lord Edward and Wolfe Tone,
Or meddle with our give and take
That converse bone to bone?

And the trailer for Sixteen Candles:

#15 Ruck’n’Maul

Image credit: www.sisodia.in

A foul-mouthed player from Bucks
Who excelled at lineouts and rucks
Let go of the ball
In a rolling maul
Then let fly with a series of damns


And here are Fisherman’s Friends singing the England XV anthem at Twickenham during halftime in an England v Australia match:

And for parity’s sake here they are singing for the Wallabies:

#14 Rules of Engagement

Image credit: pinterest

When I was a kid, my girlfriends would talk about their future husbands: How to find one and get him to marry you. But most of them never looked beyond the tossing of the bouquet and the cutting of the cake.

Jess’s marriage lasted five years. Marla’s went to nine. But Cass crashed out after three. Only Leila and I have made it to double figures. She’s been with her partner for eleven years, and I’ve been with Jerry for sixteen. We celebrated our fourteenth wedding anniversary last December.

When people ask how our marriage has survived for so long, I smile and say love and understanding, which is true. What I don’t tell them about is the shitload of planning aforethought.

Any fool can get someone to marry them, but it takes a lot of nous to stay married. And I’m not talking about the little rules you make up about handling arguments and the importance of giving space, etc. That is short-term nonsense. I always look at the long game, and Leila is one of my success stories.

She is following the pattern I set with Jerry. We met at a millennium party and dated for two years before we moved in together. There followed two years of easy living before he proposed, and we spent the next two years planning the wedding.

On our second wedding anniversary, we decided to try for a child. Sam was born three years later, followed by Charley in 2013 and then Leo in 2016. I was aiming for two to three years between each child.

Our marriage hasn’t always been sweetness and light, but our ability to talk things through, to negotiate and compromise, has weathered the storms. And by sticking to my schedule, we’ve never fallen into monotony or become so bored that we’ve looked for excitement in other people’s beds.

I confess this post-fourteen world is proving to be more challenging than I expected. Leila suggested another baby. I know Jerry would like a girl to offset the holy terrors as he calls our boys. But I’m not convinced that’s the way to secure the next six years. If we make it to twenty, we should be set for life because I have the Empty Nest Timetable to keep our marriage alive after the children leave home.

In the meantime, I may have to go the 50 Shades route. It bridged the gap for my sister. She’s been married for nineteen years.

#12A – Between Floors

A fear of thirteen
Triskaidekaphobia
Is all Loki’s fault

Yup, that naughty trickster didn’t get an invitation to a party at Valhalla. As the twelve lucky gods sat down to dinner, Loki gate-crashed the bash. Causing mayhem and murder and a fear of all things related to the number thirteen.

If you were wondering, the fear of Friday the thirteenth is friggatriskaidekaphobia. But don’t panic: The next one isn’t until May 2022.