I don’t like pets.

Well, that’s not really true, perhaps I should say I don’t see the point of pets. I mean, what exactly are they for? They smell funny, they get under your feet all the time, they don’t talk, they can’t even manage simple tasks like turning the TV on or off. As far as I can tell they contribute nothing to the family unit.

Smiley’s sister often brings her dog over. Smiley goes all soppy over dogs and talks to them in a patronising voice that makes him sound like a simpleton. He’d really like a dog but every time he raises the subject the conversation always ends with the phrase “We have enough going on in our lives at the moment”. I don’t know what that means, but I don’t think a dog will be taking up residence any time soon.

Anyway, Sister Smiley’s dog is an enormous brown thing and pleasant enough in it’s own way, but I just don’t get it. It needs walking all the time or letting out into the garden and you have to follow it round with little black plastic bags and pick up what Sister Smiley charmingly refers to as ‘presents’. And it eats huge amounts of smelly food that it can’t prepare for itself. I’ve tried pulling its ears, pulling its tail, kicking it, grabbing large clumps of its saggy skin and even yanking its baggy, slobbery lips to provoke a reaction but it just stares at me with its big dopey eyes. Other people in the family have remarked on this as ‘A Good Thing’ in that the dog has shown remarkable restraint and intelligence in not biting my head off. I think it’s just extremely dim.

Frowny pretends to like dogs just to please Smiley and his sister, but I’ve seen the sideways looks she gives them. She and Flower Girl have a real thing for cats…. as if dogs weren’t bad enough! I mean, what exactly is the point of a cat?

We currently have two cats who stay well away from me. Quite right too, but even from a distance I can tell they’re a complete waste of space. At least a dog can fetch a stick or play with a ball or look at you as if it understands you… a cat never changes its expression, stares at you with utter contempt, sleeps for 23 hours of the day and expects to be fed as soon as it’s awake. If I behaved like that I’d… well ok, I do behave like that a lot of the time but that’s not the point.

By now you’re no doubt thinking that I’m a serial pet-hater. But you’d be wrong.

I was more surprised than anyone when Smiley and Frowny brought home a kitten one day. A really stupid looking thing even by kitten standards, with enormous ears out of all proportion with its head. It looked more bat than cat. And because it was bright orange it was immediately christened ‘Jaffa’ (Do you see what they did there? They were so pleased with themselves when they came up with that one).

This animal was mean and vicious. The previous owners had hinted at this when they’d mentioned it had had a few homes, each time lashing out with its claws and scratching whoever it came into contact with. Smiley and Frowny, gullible as ever, presumed they’d been exaggerating. And at first it seemed quite cute, sitting on Frowny’s lap it would latch it’s little teeth and tiny claws into her hand. But after a few days it became obvious that this thing was potentially lethal.

It would lie in ambush at the side of the staircase and shoot out a claw to slash at Frowny’s passing ankle. If Flower Girl attempted to go to the bathroom without shoes it would leap on her toes and attempt to kill them. Another of Jaffa’s party tricks was to lurk at the bottom of the bed or across the other side of the living room; like a coiled spring he’d sit in the pounce position and stare at you for several minutes with a crazed look in his eyes that would completely freak out the chosen victim. Poor Smiley’s hands were scratched to bits by this thing every time he had to separate it from someone’s flesh. Soon even they had to admit that Jaffa was a killer that could not be tamed.


For some reason Jaffa never attacked me. While apparently hating everyone else on the planet this cat would roll over and want it’s tummy tickled as soon as I came near. I lack the fine motor skills and temperament for that kind of behaviour, but it would still frolic and play with me and share the toys I liked. I have a large fabric tunnel that I used to enjoy crawling through, and Jaffa would play a game where he’d run in and out of the opposite end. He never once bit, scratched or hissed at me.

And then one day he was gone.

I overheard Smiley saying something about the fact that Jaffa had finally met his match in taking on a Range Rover but I’m not absolutely sure what this meant. Or what it had to do with the shoe box.


The Balloon

Ok, even I’ll admit that this is pretty gross, so anyone of a squeamish disposition should stop reading now…


Still with me? Oh well, don’t say you weren’t warned.

I once ate a balloon. It was one of those long ones shaped like an enormous, thin, curly sausage. That’s not so unusual in itself, I’ve heard of lots of kids who’ve eaten a discarded, deflated balloon that they’ve found lying about on the floor.

The impressive thing is that when it was retrieved (with a great show of consternation) from the contents of my nappy, this one still had air in it.

So the question is, just how much air did it have in it at the time I ate it? Could I really have swallowed it fully inflated? It’s an interesting picture isn’t it?

I’ll never tell.




A number of people have asked exactly why Frowny is called Frowny.

Well, Duh!… and they call me ‘slow’. It’s because 80% of the time she’s frowning. It’s not her fault, I think it’s because she concentrates a lot and forgets what her face is doing. The funny thing is that all those people who’ve asked why, haven’t needed to ask who Frowny is… so presumably they’ve noticed it too.

I’m not much of a one for names. If I’m told this person is Trevor or that one is Brenda they’re just nouns that don’t really mean anything and I forget them right away, but from what I hear most people do that. If on the other hand you throw a couple of adjectives in there and say “Scary Woman” or “Enormous Moustache Man” it’s very easy to remember people, even years down the line. You should try it.

Of course the reason for Frowny’s furrowed brow might be because she has a lot to frown about. There’s all the usual stuff like shopping, preparing the next meal, cleaning the house and co-ordinating everyone’s social lives, but I have to take my share of the blame and admit that I pile a lot of work on her with all the extra washing, repairing clothes, hospital appointments and feeding my daily drug habit (some call this ‘medicinal’ but I hope we understand each other well enough to know better by now).

She didn’t go to University for three years and have a proper grown-up job that she loved for another 12 to end up like this. And Smiley’s not much help, sitting in his shed at the end of the garden drawing his little pictures and writing his little jokes… I think he could do a lot more. Sometimes she cries at night when she thinks no one is listening, so it’s hardly surprising that she frowns a lot. That’s why I chose a photo of her where she looks really happy – it’s the least I could do. Everyone say “Ahh!”

More than anyone else, she looks after me: prepares my meals (she’s the only person who gives me the portion sizes I truly crave), makes sure I’m warm enough and diligently attends all those dull welfare meetings I have no patience for. If I was capable of feeling guilt I’m sure I’d feel bad about everything I’ve put her through over the years.

Yeah, whatever.

Anyway, biologically speaking, Frowny is absolutely, definitely, 100% my mother.

But… you could sense there was a ‘but’ coming couldn’t you?…  I’m not much of a one for the social conventions of the traditional family unit, I’m more of a moment-to-moment kind of guy. Some days Frowny, Smiley, Flower Girl and Curly Top are the centre of my universe – in fact there are days when I focus all of my attention on any one of them to the exclusion of everything else. But on other days they seem to be just going through tedious drudgery of everyday life and they’re no fun at all, so I ignore them completely. Some days I just ignore them anyway because, well, I’m easily distracted. People who don’t know me very well are often bothered by being ignored, but I think they need to grow up and get over themselves.

Besides, I don’t want to tie myself down too young in life, there are plenty of friendly, entertaining people in the world. If I take a fancy to someone new I’ll let them know; it could be a total stranger in the park or a person on a bus or at the swimming pool or at school, and if they’re being more convivial than the person I arrived with I’ll often attempt a hug. Some people enjoy this and take it in good spirits; other people are completely freaked out by it, which can be entertaining in itself.

I’ve been told not to do this (which is like telling the wind not to blow) and people who work with me have been asked not to do it either, apparently it’s not ‘appropriate behaviour’. I can’t help thinking that if more people behaved like this and were a bit less controlled with their emotions the world might be a happier place.

But for the time being I think I’ll stick with Frowny. She’s the only person who’s ever looked at me as if I’m everything she ever hoped for in life.

She really needs to get out more.



My hair used to be a lovely light blond colour, which with my blue eyes gave me the look of a young Steve McQueen. As I grew my hair darkened a little and people remarked that I had the look of a young Leonardo DiCaprio… presumably before he got fat. Lately I’ve been trying to project Daniel Craig, but people have stopped making comparisons so I can only assume that I look like me.

My hair grows thick and fast: luckily I seem to have more genes from Frowny than Smiley in this respect as his hair is getting thinner by the day and the very top part is disappearing altogether. Perhaps he has ambitions to be a monk. Curly Top – as his name suggests – also has a lovely crop of thick hair, which I often admire by yanking a tuft of it out. Sometimes there are tiny pieces of scalp still attached.

In my experience hairdressers are a pretty mixed bag. Those that have been lucky enough to work with me are often very young girls of a nervous disposition. They’ll start by tying a smock around my neck which, like most new things, I like to study in very close detail. If it’s of a plastic or rubber texture it’s usually worth a taste and I’ll follow this up with a test of the tensile strength with my teeth.

Bib abandoned – Boo! – she’ll start snipping away. Now I don’t think it’s very polite for people to start hacking away at me unless I’ve had a chance to examine the tools they’re using, so at this point I think it’s perfectly reasonable for me to grab the blades as they’re passing for a closer look. And when I say closer look I like to hold them very near to my eyes.

I always do this.

Smiley forewarns them that I will do this.

And yet they’re always surprised, sometimes traumatised when I do it.

Some girls have been known to give up at this point. One poor girl was reduced to tears – I really don’t think she had the temperament for hairdressing. This has become a problem: as long as the hair is out of my eyes I don’t particularly mind how I look but Flower Girl keeps telling me that it’s social suicide to go about with half a haircut. Sometimes a more senior hairdresser will appear and make the best of what’s been started and we make a hasty exit. Sometimes it’s made plain that we aren’t going to be welcomed in that establishment again and we have to find another hairdresser. I’ve been to a lot of hairdressers.

Aside from the need to inspect the equipment I’m afraid I also suffer with a short attention span, and the need to sit still for 10-15 minutes while someone minces around behind me with a pair of scissors is so Boooooooooorrrrrrrrriiiiiiing…

I try to amuse myself with a look around the shop but Smiley and the hairdresser seem to think this is a bad idea and try to get me to look at my own reflection. I can appreciate other people’s high regard for my appearance but I really don’t feel I can stare at myself for that length of time without appearing vain. So I’ll look down at the hair falling in my lap or on the floor, or if there’s a sink I’ll sit as far forward as possible to see if any water has appeared. Sometimes I’ll try to slide down in my seat to the floor, or tilt my head back as far as I can and take a look up the hairdresser’s nose. Mmm!

Over the years Smiley has developed a lot of techniques to entertain me. These usually involve hand-held mirrors (easily dropped), water sprays (which make me jump, with unfortunate consequences to the haircut) or toys which he’ll give me, then immediately remove when he realises the hair is sticking to them. If it’s a particularly dull session I’ll take a handful of hair clippings and give them a quick chew, though I’ll admit this is probably an acquired taste and not for everyone.

For the last couple of years we’ve been going to a big, smiley Northern man who tells rude jokes and waves at me every time I pass his shop. This is about as far removed from the cry-baby little girl hairdressers as it’s possible to get; although jovial and entertaining, he doesn’t stand for any nonsense. He gives me all the tools to examine before we start and he lets me sit in my own chair and do my own thing: as I look one way he swoops in and cuts the back. As I look up he swoops in and snips the front. He even lets me play with the buzzy clippers that he uses on the back and the sides (though last time I tried them on my tongue so we might not be doing that again). He is always happy when he cuts my hair – though he does sometimes work up a sweat – and I’ve never left with half a haircut.

He’s a professional, and I admire that.



The boy who ate all his clothes

Lately I’ve taken to eating my clothes.

Well, not all my clothes, mostly just my shirts, so the title of this piece is a gross injustice. Ok, I’ll admit that I do occasionally have a mouthful of trousers but I wouldn’t say it was every day. Socks don’t even count as clothes so I’ll chew on those whenever I get the chance. Actually now I come to think of it I also eat fleeces, vests, pyjamas, hats, scarves, gloves and shoes. But that’s it. Definitely nothing else.

Unless you count nappies. I don’t even like nappies, all that urine-soaked silica gel stuff tastes bleeaahhh!.. and it’s terribly difficult to get out of your mouth once it’s in there, but I just can’t resist the texture when you yank on a good handful and the thing explodes in a fountain of sticky gel crystals. Wonderful stuff. And surprisingly difficult to get off a wooden floor.

Anyway, the clothes thing is relatively new, at least on this scale. I’ve always been partial to a bit of nibbling but recently I’ve realised just how insubstantial a lot of modern clothing is (no doubt attributable to economies of scale and the exploitation of the Asian workforce, but as people keep reminding me I’m ‘special needs’, so wouldn’t know anything about that) and I can quite easily rip a shirt completely in half. Trousers are certainly more difficult but with a bit of effort you can usually get them to tear all the way up the seam of one leg. Sometimes they’ll put a hoody on me in the belief that I won’t be able to tear through something that thick. BIG mistake. I just regard it as a challenge and it makes their clothing bill much more expensive.

I do feel a little guilty about this: clothes aren’t cheap, Frowny and Smiley aren’t exactly rolling in cash and having to replace an average of a whole outfit each day must add up. Especially when they’ve taken the time to choose clothes for me. They quite like all this matchy-matchy stuff and I suppose I really should be taking more pride in my appearance at my age, but quite honestly I don’t care what I’m wearing as long as I’m warm enough.

And tearing up my clothes is just too much fun to resist; if you’ve never tried it you should… the sense of freedom and liberation is joyous.

In truth I don’t eat much of it: I usually start with my teeth before getting both hands involved and giving whatever it is a good old rip. Sometimes a large piece of the material comes away in my mouth and I’ll have a munch on that. Thin stuff like T-shirts and pyjamas are actually pretty good. Socks aren’t bad either, and the stringy stuff that comes off a one-piece bib is absolutely lovely, though it does get stuck in the teeth. But when it comes to the thicker stuff like denim or fleece material it’s usually too difficult to swallow so I’ll spit it out.

I originally started eating my clothes when I was bored but once I realised people had started taking notice I’ve found it equally effective when I’m hungry or when I feel I’m not getting the 100% attention I deserve. I also do it when I am getting attention, just to confuse people. I’ve had a clinical psychologist ‘observing’ me recently and this clothes-ripping behaviour is driving her nuts: just when she thinks she’s pinned it down to one cause and effect I’ll mix it up a little and do it for no reason whatsoever.

Frowny thought she could outsmart me by dressing me in ‘sacrificial’ clothes when she thinks I’m in a particularly destructive mood (things I’ve already partially torn, but also presents from relatives), so another good trick is to leave these totally intact and wait until she puts the good stuff on me.

Now I wouldn’t want you to go away with the idea that my tastes are exclusively in clothing. That would be ridiculous and hardly a balanced diet for a growing boy.

I also eat curtains, furniture coverings, cushions, duvet covers, duvets, pillow cases, pillow stuffing, towels, bean bags, plastic mattress covers, change mats, lamp shades, tablecloths, car seats, shoes, shoelaces, rucksacks, handbags, tissues, paper, plastic, leather, rubber, toenails, excrement…


Blue Badge

For those that don’t know, a Blue Badge is a parking permit for disabled people, allowing them to park in specially marked parking bays or sometimes have exemption from parking fees. The recipient of these badges is supposed to be “significantly impaired by one or more of age, illness, disability or infirmity.”

Blooming cheek!

I take exception to these requirements as I don’t believe I fit into any of the above categories. I’m not an old dodderer, I don’t have an illness, I don’t think of myself as disabled in any way and I’d certainly describe myself as firm (you should see my six pack).

So what gives? Well I heard them talking between themselves about this (I can never decide whether they’re just extremely rude or imagine I’m completely deaf) and they reckon I’m ‘difficult’ to get in and out of the car. Difficult? Me? That’s ridiculous… I’m always keen to get in and out of the car as quickly as possible. In fact when I’m getting out I like to run as fast as possible in whichever direction looks the most appealing. Usually that’s to wherever I see some food. Sometimes this is through a car park or across a busy road, which is nothing like as dangerous as people imagine as in my experience most cars can stop surprisingly quickly.

Frowny tries to hold my hand while she’s getting ready but she’s not very strong so it rarely slows me down. If Smiley’s there it’s a different story – he’s a lot stronger than his flowery shirts suggest – but I find the old ‘passive resistance’ trick of making my body completely limp means I can often flop to the floor, escape from his grasp and take off on all fours. Hard on the knees though.

Of course I say I’m always keen to get in and out as quickly as possible, but now I come to think about it there are occasions when I really don’t want to get in or out of the car. This is usually on days where the entertainment has been a bit thin and I’ve found making my body as rigid as possible can be side-splittingly funny if I do it when they’re trying to get me through a narrow door opening, into a car seat and fasten a 3-point harness as well as a safety belt. If I can get my feet in the right place and grab onto the roof rails I can also make a good attempt at climbing up onto the roof of the car. It’s even better when a well-meaning but dim Samaritan passes by and offers to help, then I can grab spectacles, hats, hair, moustaches, necklaces, breasts… you name it.

To double the fun you can also make this routine work in the other direction: if we’ve arrived at somewhere that looks pretty dull, a 3-point ‘Houdini’ harness (I don’t know who this Houdini bloke was but he wasn’t up to much if he couldn’t escape from one of these) and a safety belt have so many straps between them that you can easily thread limbs through them and tie yourself in knots surprisingly quickly. If things are going really well I can sometimes roll into the footwell, making it all but impossible to separate me from the car. For maximum effect this is best carried out when they’re late for an appointment.

So there you are, I think we can dispense with all this talk of needing to park any closer to the shops than anyone else as I have no mobility problems whatsoever. Frowny and Smiley are plainly just milking the system.

Ah well, good luck to them I say – they need all the breaks they can get.

PS  One of the requirements for the Blue Badge is that the recipient has to display a head and shoulders, face-on photograph. Frowny fancies herself as a bit of a photographer and thought she’d have a go. I tried, I really tried to concentrate while she was taking these, but I’m afraid my mind kept wandering. Eventually she gave up and Smiley said he could put two or three of them together with something called Photoshop.


Groovy Baby

My Birth was fairly normal.

Ok, two weeks earlier I hadn’t been moving around much inside Frowny, but then, why would I? I didn’t have any particularly pressing engagements and I was perfectly happy thank you. Besides, Flower Girl hadn’t moved much inside Frowny either – it’s not exactly cavernous in there – so it was hardly anything to worry about. Still, to be on the safe side they hooked Frowny up to a machine where she had to press a little button every time she felt me kick. If she tried that today she’d be black and blue and have repetitive strain injury from pressing the button – I’ve certainly made up for all the lost kicks since.

As for the birth itself, I was very glad to see they hadn’t gone in for any of that ‘natural childbirth’ nonsense… I mean, what’s normal about being dropped head first into an inflatable paddling pool as your first life experience? Smiley was there with the camera – oh the indignity! Naked and covered in afterbirth – would you want your photo taken like that?

But feeding? Now I knew something wasn’t right about this; I was absolutely ravenous but had the most excruciating heartburn and indigestion. I tried screaming the place down but no one paid a blind bit of notice because apparently ‘all babies do that’.

We stayed in hospital for three nights and then I was unleashed upon the world. And I can’t say I was particularly impressed. Well I didn’t actually notice much of it at first as I just couldn’t shake off the heartburn, then on my first night out we were invited to a barbeque of all things. Now I’ll admit that I was still fairly naïve at this age but I wasn’t born yesterday; even I knew that the world had progressed beyond the hunter-gatherer stage and that April in the UK was too cold to be eating outside. I was having none of it and cried all night. Frowny and Smiley were going to have to learn who was in charge sooner or later so they may as well start now.

As for all this bonding malarkey, I still reckon that’s over-rated. I could tell even from this age that people come and people go and quite frankly they’re all much of a muchness. Some are nicer than others but that’s as far as I’m willing to go with commitment. Besides, it was still very early in my relationship with Frowny and I didn’t want to commit myself too early.

Anyway a few days went by and I still had the heartburn. This couldn’t be right, so I tried displaying my concern with the only communication tools I had available to me: I screwed up my face as tightly as it would go, balled my fists, and screamed as loudly as I could the whole time. I managed to keep this up for several days – even I was impressed with my stamina – but unsurprisingly this also made me sick… what on earth did I have to do to get some attention? That’s when I first began to suspect that my so-called parents might have Special Needs. Either that or they were both extremely dim. I was beginning to hope I was adopted.

There was also a ‘Health’ visitor who came round once a week. I tried giving her the full routine every time but after each performance she’d say the same thing: “Oh yes, some babies are just a bit sick like that. And angry. And don’t sleep. It’s all perfectly normal”. Did she assume I was a hypochondriac? I could forgive Smiley and Frowny to a certain extent, they were young, had no medical training and only limited experience with babies. But this woman was plainly an idiot.

They kept up the shared ignorance routine for 6 weeks but I wasn’t going to be beaten this early in the game. Eventually I saw a different Health Visitor who decided that this… forgive me while I quote her technical medical jargon directly… was not right. Not exactly Dr. Kildare but you have to work with what you’ve got and at least she was on the right track. She sent us straight to the Casualty department (that’s The Emergency Room for my American readers who prefer more drama).

I was finally being treated with the respect I deserved and they prescribed proper medicines for Reflux, which is the fancy name for heartburn and throwing up. Not only that, but I was to return every week for a check up. I still suspected they might be holding back on the really good stuff so I kept up a bit of a fuss until I was prescribed with phenobarbitone to ‘calm me down’: apparently it’s the most widely-used anticonvulsant worldwide, but the important thing is that it also has sedative and hypnotic qualities. Groovy.

So at 3 months I became a happy, well-adjusted member of society and began my long career as a junkie – and all at the State’s expense… Ker-ching! The consultant said he’d never seen a baby laugh so much.

Well, wouldn’t you?


Pink Ball

I have a pink ball.

It’s my favourite thing in the world. There I’ve said it, I’m not proud of it but there it is. It’s not even pink; it’s actually purple on one side and orange on the other, but for some reason (probably due to the brain’s psychological response to colour opponency… but hey, what do I know?) everyone says it’s pink.

I’ve had teddies and rattles and light-up toys and things that glow in the dark and chew toys and bead runs and wooden trains and squishy things and rainmaker tubes and goodness knows what else, but while they’re fun for a few days the novelty soon wears off and I always come back to my Pink Ball.

I’ve probably had it since I was about two years old – I think it originally came as part of a TOMY set and I sometimes see one or two of the others knocking about but it’s only the pink one that does it for me.

I can’t explain the attachment, it isn’t based on a sentimental nostalgia for my childhood and it doesn’t remind me of my mother. Pink Ball is about 4cm in diameter and made of a rigid plastic, which is comforting to chew on and has the advantage of not deteriorating, but doesn’t particularly taste of anything. It looks and feels nice but it’s hardly an aesthetic masterpiece. It’s just the right size for my hand, but that’s irrational as my hands have grown considerably over the years. It makes a nice clickety-click plastic noise when it bounces, but you wouldn’t exactly describe that as music to stir the soul. It fits in and out of plastic cups and ball tubes in a really satisfying way but none of this can explain my emotional bond.

One of my ‘companions’ took me on a day trip to a Theme Park a few years ago. I was going through one of my Pink Ball obsessions at the time and Frowny gave her strict instructions not to lose it. We took a ride on the steam train but as soon as we were underway I thought I’d test her resolve by throwing the ball out of the window – I just can’t help myself sometimes – and this poor girl, possibly in fear of Frowny’s wrath, made the guard hold up the next departure while she and an engineer walked the length of the track in search of the ball. Now that’s devotion to duty.

Sometimes it goes missing for days, weeks or months at a time. It rolls under a cupboard or behind the TV or gets lost at the bottom of the toy basket and lies there. Waiting. Pink ball is, above all, patient. I usually turn the house upside down for a day or two in futile search but then move on; there’s an old quote that goes something along the lines of: If you love somebody, let them go. If they return, they were always yours. If they don’t, they never were.

And Pink Ball always comes back.

Today it’s looking a bit battered. There’s a crack on one side and part of it is starting to cave in (the legacy of a few too many trips down the stairs) but I still love it. I don’t know how much longer it will last.

Or what I will do when it’s gone.


Boy Bites Horse

So there I was, sitting on a horse.

Why was I sitting on a horse?

I don’t particularly like horses. I don’t think horses particularly like me. I can’t remember ever having expressed an interest in horses, looking at a horsey picture or playing with a horse toy. It’s safe to say that horses aren’t really my thing.

And yet there I was… around 7 years old and at something called Riding for the Disabled – a pejorative term if ever I heard one – but to be fair they seemed like really nice, friendly, if delusional, people. Their poster said they aimed to provide therapy, achievement and enjoyment to people with disabilities across the UK. And presumably to encourage a closer relationship with a large, furry animal. I just wish they’d done it with someone else.

I mean puh-lease… are we still living in the dark ages? Did the industrial revolution and the invention of the internal combustion engine completely pass these people by? Horses these days are purely a recreational activity and I can think of lots of things I’d rather be doing with my recreation time.

They’re all very well when you see them in fields or in cowboy films but the whole horse thing just isn’t for me; Smiley and Frowny had tried taking me once before and I was so bored I decided to have a lie down in the saddle halfway through the session. Everyone got very excited by that, but I just didn’t see the point of making me trot around on an enormous beast – it’s not as if they were going to let me keep it and I wasn’t going anywhere fast with two people holding the reins. I’m pretty sure the horse didn’t want to be there either – it looked perfectly capable of making its way round without any help from me and quite frankly I thought it had viewed me with a certain amount of disdain. Just like this one.

So: very uncomfortable saddle, very stupid hat (I was having that off at the first opportunity) and two very enthusiastic young girls to trot along with the reins… hello, they seemed to have added a third girl since the lying-down incident. And Smiley and Frowny weren’t there to rescue me this time, this was a school trip. Bummer.

I was hungry too, but then I’m always hungry. To make matters worse I could see a toddler in a buggy on the other side of the barn, eating what looked like either a digestive or a raisin cookie… it was too difficult to tell from that distance, but I knew she’d be easy prey if I could only get off the horse.

I was just working out an exit strategy involving a clever deception with the hat when one of the enthusiastic girls made an impressive clicking noise with her mouth and the horse set off at a gentle, strolling pace. Actually this wasn’t so bad. Ok, walking round a big barn in circles is a bit of a pointless way to spend the day but I’ve had worse experiences and the two girls holding the reins seemed to be enjoying it enormously. Where had the third one disappeared to?

Then one of them made another clicking noise and it all went pear-shaped as the horse broke into a trot. To say I wasn’t very keen on this would have been putting it mildly… it was g-g-getting a b-b-bit b-b-bouncy! The hard seat was banging me in the booty and the ridiculous hat was slipping down over my eyes so that I couldn’t keep my eye on the biscuit. I tried making a noise that I thought was a pretty good approximation of “Excuse me, but I really don’t care for horse riding” but one of the dim-witted girls made an incorrect translation and replied “Ah, listen, he really likes it!”

Time to bale out. I decided that stretching my arms out like last time and laying down backwards should do the trick. Hang on, what was this hand behind me? Ah, that’s where the third girl had got to; she was there to disarm the ejector seat.

Lying down wasn’t going to get me out of this one. I always find that a quick tug on someone’s hair gets their attention straight away – although this has stopped working on Smiley because he doesn’t have much hair left. I couldn’t reach any of the girls so I’ll thought I’d try giving the horse’s hair a good yank.

Nothing. Well, some ear flicking, but otherwise we were still trotting and now I was starting to feel quite nauseous. This was serious; I was running out of ideas.

Ah well, sorry horse… but emergency measures were called for. When all else fails I can think of only one more thing to do to get someone’s attention. A little nip with the teeth is all it takes. And I know this doesn’t really hurt because Frowny always makes an appealing yelping noise and does a little dance whenever I do it to her.

So I leant forward and sank my teeth deep into the horse’s neck. The horse gave a loud splutter and all the smiles on the young girls faces vanished simultaneously as if someone had turned off a switch.

Anyway they seemed to know exactly what I wanted because they immediately turned the horse around, lead him back to the little set of steps, someone helped me climb down and they removed the silly hat. Result.

My chair was brought – ah, the relief after that saddle! – and someone guided me back to the office. And while my school teacher had a good old ding-dong with the now somewhat less enthusiastic girls, I was close enough to the toddler to offer my help with the uneaten biscuit. Chocolate chip. Bonus.

As I munched on the biscuit I heard the oldest of the girls patiently explaining to my teacher that it wasn’t a case of my being ‘not quite ready’ for horse riding, but that there were never going to be any circumstances under which they’d ever let me near one of their horses again.

The horse looked as relieved as I was.