Changes: Josh Widdicombe
The audio version of this episode is available here.
Annie [00:00:04] Hello and welcome to Changes. I am talking to you from the end of the garden on a scorching hot day. It is boiling and it is beautiful and I hope you are getting a chance to enjoy the sunshine in some way, at the moment. I have a very lovely episode of Changes to bring you now. Something that is light and fun and thought provoking. My guest is Josh Widdicombe. He is a comedian, a podcaster, a TV personality, a writer. The Guardian called him an ace observationalist. You will have seen him on Channel Four's The Last Leg, and maybe you've heard him on the exceptionally popular podcast Parenting Hell which he co-hosts with Rob Beckett. They have a book now, a spinoff of the podcast, called Parenting Hell. The paperback is out at the moment and I had so much fun reading it. It's not often that I will literally laugh out loud at a book, but I was lying in bed last night chortling away at the book and I really, really enjoyed it so it's a very fun, very real, warts-and-all take on parenting. Josh is an exceptionally busy man, so I was delighted to have him on Changes. Let's begin... Josh Widdicombe hello, welcome to Changes!
Josh [00:01:36] Absolute pleasure to be here. Delighted.
Annie [00:01:38] First of all, you're a fucking rock star. Your tour is insane!
Josh [00:01:44] *Laughs* It was weird! D'you know the moment- because we did the O2 and Wembley Arena- but this is for the podcast Parenting Hell, and obviously I've done lots of tours with me doing stand-up but I've only ever done theatres for those, and I only ever will. I'd like to say that's through a creative choice but that's through demand *both laugh*.
Annie [00:02:04] I was thinking, he's got a lot of conviction in that statement!
Josh [00:02:08] That's an economic decision rather than a creative one *both laugh*. But the only bit where you really feel like, 'oh my God! This is like being in a band' is when you're in an arena and you walk from the dressing room to the stage and it looks like every documentary you've seen where-
Annie [00:02:28] You're in Spinal Tap? Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.
Josh [00:02:30] Yeah. Whereas when you're in a theatre in you know, Buxton, it's literally just- it's like how you imagine walking on stage at panto is *Annie laughs* rather than this is like what it must be to be- you know, you're walking through and there's a man with a torch showing you the way to go and like- and that's the bit where you go 'fucking 'ell'.
Annie [00:02:48] Yeah. You've just finished this tour right?
Josh [00:02:50] Yeah.
Annie [00:02:51] And it's a genuine arena tour, so this huge tour. Did you ever feel like Parenting Hell would get to that? Like it's the biggest a podcast can be!
Josh [00:03:02] It's yeah, it was mad. If I've learnt anything through my career, and whether I have or not is a different question I suppose, it's that like, you just can't have expectations. The two things I've done that will be mentioned in my obituary if I'm hit by a bus tomorrow, will be Last Leg and Parenting Hell and both were accidents really. Last Leg was meant to be ten episodes during the Paralympics in 2012 and it spun out to a decade. Parenting Hell was meant to be us talking during the lockdown and it spun out. And I think actually, that's a huge advantage to these things because there's literally no expectation on them. Both of them were allowed to grow organically and also I think the second thing that you get from that is an audience that finds those things that have grown organically, they feel much more loyalty to them because they're like, I remember seeing that- I remember when I was at university and I came home drunk one night and turned on the TV and there was an episode of Peep Show, and I was like, I didn't know what it was, and it was on 11:30 or whatever and I was like, this is incredible! And that's so much more exciting than going, oh, that's the thing that's on all the billboards that I've been told to watch by-
Annie [00:04:21] Right, yes. So you feel like you've come across it, so it's your own little journey with it. Yeah, so true.
Josh [00:04:26] Exactly. There's nothing worse than being told, 'this single you're about to listen to is going to change your life'. You'd much rather not think that because every time you're like- well it's under-promise, over-delivery? Is that the phrase whatever it is?
Annie [00:04:37] Completely. No it is. It is yeah. I totally get you.
Josh [00:04:39] I suppose all you can do is do things you want to do and then hope that people like them. The moment you try and second guess what's going to be successful, you're in trouble I think.
Annie [00:04:50] That is literally the essence of everything in terms of creative, I think. You know, from working in the music industry you can hear, you can hear when people do that, when they're doing what they want to do and they're truthful to them or when they're, you know, their song has been decided in a boardroom and by 14 A&R- you can hear it! You really can.
Josh [00:05:08] Yeah, totally.
Annie [00:05:08] Same with film, same with everything. It's there. It's just- it's authenticity, isn't it?
Josh [00:05:13] When you can also see it is erm, social media.
Annie [00:05:17] Yessss.
Josh [00:05:18] When someone's gone, I've got to do reels! Or like *laughs*
Annie [00:05:24] I loved your attempt at a reel by the way *Josh laughs* remind the listener what that was please.
Josh [00:05:31] What was my attempt at a reel? I can't even remember.
Annie [00:05:33] I think your first attempt at a reel, it was hailing in your garden and I think you got your wife or someone to film you.
Josh [00:05:40] Oh yeah, yeah, yeah!
Annie [00:05:40] You were gonna go and stand in the hail and that was going to be your reel and then you just opened the door and went, 'ahh! oh no!' and just closed the door again and that was it.
Josh [00:05:48] *Both laughing* I suppose the whole thing's a metaphor for my relationship with reels, right?
[00:05:51] *Short musical interlude*
Annie [00:05:54] So listen, we're here to talk about change. Adult change, change you want to see and childhood change so let's start with that. I watched a bit of your Who Do You Think You Are? That was really interesting. So I saw your parents and I saw your primary school where you grew up and all of that. But you've cited kind of a time when you were 11, that transition from primary school to secondary school as your big change. So tell us about that, please.
Josh [00:06:16] So my primary school, I mean, it's just chocolate box kind of village in Devon. 4 kids in my year, about 40 kids overall. So I had four years in my class. So, you know, the caveat of all of this is when you're a kid, nothing feels weird because you presume that's what everyone's going through.
Annie [00:06:36] Sure.
Josh [00:06:37] So I didn't realise that it's quite weird and probably challenging for a teacher to teach an 11 and a 7 year old at the same time.
Annie [00:06:45] *Whispers* oh my God.
Josh [00:06:46] And I was a big fish in a small pond, probably. I was the lead in the school play in the final year, that kind of jazz. Which isn't, you know, it was Robin Hood and there was two boys in my year so it was a 5050 whether I'd get to do it anyway *both laugh*.
Annie [00:07:02] And what kind of a kid were you?
Josh [00:07:03] I was obsessive. So I was obsessive about football from the age of seven when World Cup 90 happened, because obviously you don't have the Internet so I'd just read my World Cup sticker album again and again till I- I've got it here and I know it. Do you know what I mean? I still know it. I still recognise every page. I became obsessed about the charts. Classically I'd record the charts on tape, and I wouldn't just record the songs but I'd record the top 40 and then listen to the top- like learn the chart positions and stuff.
Annie [00:07:34] Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.
Josh [00:07:35] So I was a kind of weird, obsessive little kid, about things that I'm really glad I was obsessed about because they were really-
Annie [00:07:45] Still things you love now!
Josh [00:07:46] It's knowledge that's held me in good stead. Yeah, yeah, yeah. I love that stuff still. And so that's kind of what I was into and I was into TV massively, Neighbours and everything. I think because I grew up with not many people around me, I was obsessed with stuff, with television and music, computer games, football, like exterior stuff.
Annie [00:08:09] Did you have siblings?
Josh [00:08:11] So I had half siblings that lived in Cornwall, so I was basically an only child.
Annie [00:08:16] So in your house it was just you and your mam and dad?
Josh [00:08:18] And my gran lived in the other half of the house. My grandma was this incredible- she's probably the most amazing old person you could meet in that she was a- she used to be an actress. So our side of the house is my mum and my dad and me, and my parents are kind of old hippies so that was kind of messy, they had horses and stuff so there was like, you know, bridles hanging on the sofa or whatever that kind of thing. And then the other half of the house was like, you'd go in there and she'd be smoking silk cut and she'd be watching television and telling you about the actors and like stories about them and like, she was gregarious and she was funny and she was kind of, she was essentially my sibling if that makes sense.
Annie [00:09:02] Right. *Laughing* yeah, yeah.
Josh [00:09:04] I was incredibly close to her, and you'd go in and she'd just be entertaining and she'd drink nescafé and smoke silk cart and kind of hold forth.
Annie [00:09:13] God what a life, love it.
Josh [00:09:14] Yes. She was incredible. And so I felt maybe the combination of being the only child at home and the small class at primary school, I was very... Cocky is the wrong word but maybe, you know, confident and very-
Annie [00:09:31] Just comfortable in your skin. Yeah, yeah. It's like the opposite of being lost, isn't it? It's kind of like you're seen.
Josh [00:09:39] Yeah, yeah, I was very seen. Exactly. So the change was going to secondary school.
Annie [00:09:44] Right.
Josh [00:09:45] And I never thought, and I still don't, think that that was harrowing or difficult or horrific but it just totally changed who I was and it was really interesting looking back, how I adapted to it. So my secondary school had a thousand people in it. It was an unremarkable nice comp in a town on Dartmoor, but there was 200 kids in my year and I was used to four. I just disappeared and I did everything I could to disappear and blend in.
Annie [00:10:19] To blend in. Yeah, you say in your book, "suddenly the cash I had earned through being across every storyline in neighbours, possessing Rhythm Is a Dancer on cassette, and hosting a marble themed after school club seemed worthless. In fact, were the last of these facts to get out, it could have been actively damaging". So suddenly you're kind of looking at everything that you wear and trying to bury it.
Josh [00:10:38] Yeah, totally. And this is the weirdest one, so because my parents were hippies I was a vegetarian. Like, I couldn't let that get out because any difference was- and I think this is internal, it wasn't that I was in a situation where difference was exploited and you'd be whipped in the dressing room like I was at Eaton or something, you know? Said dressing room, changing room, that's 20 years in showbiz for you *both laugh*.
Annie [00:11:06] Just a little slip there, just a showbiz slip.
Josh [00:11:12] But I just- I don't know what it was. I had friends, but I was on the periphery of the group. I don't know. That is how I coped with this change and it wasn't- I don't even believe it was conscious. I'd gone from being the lead in the school play at primary school to the thought of doing anything like that was a million miles from what I would do. I would never have done anything that could have led to my name being read out in assembly in a positive or negative manner.
Annie [00:11:43] Yeah. So did that change how you were internally, do you think, or were you still able to be Josh at home as you were? Or do you think- I mean, obviously fucking puberty, teenagers like that- you are going through such huge change physiologically, hormonally, everything anyway, but do you think I suppose, did it manifest in some way? This kind of-
Josh [00:12:03] I think it made me internalise everything.
Annie [00:12:06] Right.
Josh [00:12:07] You'd never known it, but there was much more going on in there than I would be willing to discuss.
Annie [00:12:13] Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Josh [00:12:14] This even was still going on when I got into comedy, and through the first 10, 12 years of doing stand-up where I was like, I don't want to share anything of my life. And I kind of justified that to myself like, I'm not one of those people that's going to sell my life.
Annie [00:12:31] It's not going to commodify what goes on in my kitchen.
Josh [00:12:36] *Laughing* Yeah, yeah, exactly! But then when we did Parenting Hell I started opening up about stuff because you're just on a podcast and people responded incredibly to it. And it was like, oh my God, people are much more responsive if you're actually honest about yourself and you're actually open with yourself. And at the same time, I started doing therapy because I was feeling quite down, and that made me open up. Then it's just- it's like a snowball in the last few years where I've gone, fuck it's quite helpful to talk to people about things... Who knew? *Laughs*.
Annie [00:13:18] But it also must be so liberating as well, you must feel lighter. You must feel lighter kind of just to know that, I suppose it's just the essence of connection, isn't it? You feel less alone when you know that everyone else is going through the same shit you are.
Josh [00:13:32] Totally! Even doing this right, I would have been hiding everything behind jokes, I'd have been very surface about it. If I'd done this three years ago it would have been almost like- I don't even think it's consciously, but I think subconsciously I'd have been like getting through it without revealing anything.
Annie [00:13:56] Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, of course, of course. And you would have been really good at it because you're a comedian.
Josh [00:14:03] Yeah, you're kind of like, I can do that, yeah. I got through it, I was funny about some funny details about my primary school, or I did this or I did that, but there wouldn't have been any of- you wouldn't have got to know me at all through it.
Annie [00:14:15] Yeah. Yeah. Well, thank God.
Josh [00:14:17] Thank God.
Annie [00:14:18] That's great. So listen, we've had some amazing comedians on this podcast and I'm so fascinated in- so many comedians had proper jobs so Jimmy Carr worked for Shell, Romesh Ranganathan was a teacher, you were a sports journalist. Is that correct?
Josh [00:14:35] Well, very low level.
Annie [00:14:36] No but still, how did you get from there to comedy?
Josh [00:14:39] So I finished at uni in Manchester in 2004 and then I wanted to hang around in Manchester because all my friends were still there. I didn't know what I wanted to do with my life, no one really does at the age of 21. I find it a bit suspicious when they do. And so I got a job in Waterstones and worked there for a year and then I moved to London, me and my girlfriend moved to London because it felt like living in Manchester you were erm, you were slowly being the last people at the party, you know what I mean, and so get out before it gets three people left. And so we moved to London and I was just looking for jobs. There was one as an editorial assistant on children's magazines, and so it was Dora the Explorer, Angelina Ballerina, and Mr. Bean, and I went for the interview and I'd written a bit for like the student paper and stuff so I had that but also when I was at Waterstones I'd been by coincidence in the children's books department. That was my department. So I knew fucking loads about children's literature.
Annie [00:15:49] *Laughs* great prep for being a dad as well.
Josh [00:15:50] Yeah, exactly. Exactly. So I was like 21, 22 sorry, and so obviously I aced the interview because I knew so much about children's literature, got that job, and I was like, oh I quite like working in publishing and writing. I really wanted to be a writer in some way. So I did a journalism post-grad from that, got into the journalism post-grad from that, and then got a job at The Guardian like uploading, which is like taking the articles and uploading them onto the website. I didn't get much further, I was like a subeditor. I was never at football matches. I was never like on the phone to an agent going, Is this transfer move going ahead or anything, I was very low level. I wasn't very good at it and I wanted to be a writer of some sort. Me and my brother had written some scripts and sent them off to like Radio Four and stuff and got nice feedback and stuff but not got anywhere. And I was told if you do stand up, that is the way of getting in. If you want to be a writer of comedy, if you do stand up and you get somewhere, suddenly all the doors open up for you, suddenly someone will ask you for a script, you won't be sending it with a covering letter. And so I only started stand-up for that reason. I never saw it as the long term kind of thing. And then it just snowballed from there.
Annie [00:17:09] Fascinating, wow. And then how did you find being on stage- like starting stand-up was that terrifying? Was that I mean-
Josh [00:17:14] It was terrifying. You know what I did, I signed up to like, a beginner's comedy course.
Annie [00:17:19] Brilliant.
Josh [00:17:19] It was like below a pub on a Tuesday evening and you'd all sit round- and it was good, actually, because it wasn't about 'this is how you write a joke', it was a lot of improvisational games and stuff to get your confidence up to go on stage and find out what was funny about you and all that kind of stuff. I did that because I thought- there was a gig at the end and I was like, If I've signed up and I've paid money, I'll have to do the gig. That's the only way I'm going to do it. I don't know how I did it because I was never good at public speaking, it's like my voice would waver and I'd go red and I don't know how I did it really.
Annie [00:17:55] Yeah, but you must be pretty good at it, Josh, because you've got an amazing career out of it!
Josh [00:18:00] I suppose I was- I mean, not I suppose, I was good at it! Because obviously no one's good at it when they start but I was good enough, I carried on. Yeah, I really went for it because I was like, this is it. This is the thing I can do. This is something- I'd always loved comedy. I've always come at it from a 'I love comedy' point of view rather than a 'I want to be on stage' point of view.
Annie [00:18:26] Yeah. So you come at it from a fan perspective. Yeah, yeah.
Josh [00:18:30] Yeah definitely. And so when lockdown was going on and people weren't able to perform and there was some comedians that were like, 'this is my lifeblood, who am I when I'm not on stage?' and all that kind of thing, I was fine! I was writing my first book and I was doing the podcast and I was like doing a bit of The Last Leg from the attic and it was fine because as long as I enjoy the writing or the creating or this thing where you're chatting and you don't know where it's going to go, more than- I don't need the audience. Some comedians come to it-
Annie [00:19:08] They need the validation, right, yeah, yeah.
Josh [00:19:10] Yeah yeah. I don't feel like I'm like that. I've got lots of issues, but that's not one of them *Annie laughs*.
[00:19:14] *Short musical interlude*
Annie [00:19:25] So in lockdown, you sent a voice message which is transcribed in this book, Parenting Hell, to Rob Beckett saying, "I've had an idea, this is what I think we should do". And it's so interesting reading the book, like as someone who, like, has a podcast and, you know, it's just seeing your train of thought into what you thought you should do and how you did it and it just makes so much sense when you read what you sent to him. It's just like 'we should talk about being parents. We should be crap parents and we should interview other people about it and then people might like it. Like, I know it will be funny'. In my head, the best ideas in the world, creative ideas, are the really simple, straightforward ones. The ones that you don't have to overexplain, and that is such a good example of that. So relatable.
Josh [00:20:12] It's like that elevator pitch thing, isn't it?
Annie [00:20:14] Yeah.
Josh [00:20:17] Any good idea you can do in 25 words or whatever the kind of rule is?
Annie [00:20:21] Yeah.
Josh [00:20:22] Yeah, definitely.
Annie [00:20:24] And you cited your adult change as becoming a parent.
Josh [00:20:28] Yeah, although I think it's taken me years to deal with it in a way. My daughter's five and my son's two.
Annie [00:20:36] Right.
Josh [00:20:36] And it's not a 'and then the scales fell from my eyes and I knew what really mattered in life', *laughing* it's not that at all. I'll be honest with you, who I was when I became a parent to who I am now and probably, you know, I'll look back and go and I wasn't even- has been a really tough change over five years. And, I was ready to be a parent in the sense that I was- wanted to be a parent, but I wasn't- I hadn't made my peace with that other life that I had disappearing. Some people can just do that. And I found that really, really tough, I think. I didn't think I realised it at the time, particularly the first couple of years. And it was weird, I used to get so much FOMO and anger towards- we were the first people that had kids in our friendship group and it was fucking difficult being on those WhatsApp groups and people organising the things that you used to go to. It was really tough. I know that isn't the main thing, but that was something I really struggled with.
Annie [00:21:55] No but that is, I mean, your social life, your connections, your friendship connections, that is such a huge key to feeling fulfilled, you know, so that if that's taken away, it's a huge part of who you are.
Josh [00:22:07] Yeah.
Annie [00:22:08] How did you and your partner Rose like, how did you approach parenting? I suppose like, were you pretty 5050 with it? Did you, you know, how did you take on the burden of the fucking work? Because it is so much work.
Josh [00:22:22] Yeah, well at the start- the first few weeks, obviously, as the man you are- you've not got much, your role is doing everything to make the mum comfortable while breastfeeding or-
Annie [00:22:37] Yeah.
Josh [00:22:38] So that you're on toast duty. You're on huge amounts of water because obviously breastfeeding is incredibly dehydrating. You're on tidying the house, cooking the food, and in a way that's the easiest bit because-
Annie [00:22:54] It's purposeful, you've got something you can do.
Josh [00:22:56] You know exactly what your role is.
Annie [00:22:57] You can do it well.
Josh [00:22:58] Yeah, yeah, exactly. I can take the bins out all day mate. I'm good at that.
Annie [00:23:02] Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.
Josh [00:23:03] I suppose it gets more difficult when it gets- the lines get more blurred. And obviously in my job as well, you know, it's so random that in a way, I think it would be much easier if I worked 9 to 5 or 10 to 6 because I'd know every day, I get home and then I can do bedtime or whatever. But I could be away for four days and then I could come back. You know, you get back at two because you've been gigging in leeds or whatever, but you've been away 4 days, so you're not going to lie in, you want to see your kids. So it's really difficult. And there's the added thing of, I'm working within the house, so there's no real line between the two things.
Annie [00:23:51] Yeah, that's hard. Because even if you bolt the door shut behind you, you can still hear the screams and the horror movie noises coming from downstairs. And they physically, I mean, I don't know if this is the case for you but they physically affect me. Like when you hear your kids screaming, it's like, I can't just ignore it. Some people are better than others, but I can't do that. It's so distracting.
Josh [00:24:15] No, it's impossible. If I could hear my child screaming downstairs now, I wouldn't be engaged in this conversation.
Annie [00:24:23] No, you'd be picturing it.
Josh [00:24:24] And, that's not because I'm a superhero *laughing* that's because- I'm a great dad, guys!! If there's a child screaming-
Annie [00:24:31] *Mockingly* I'd be gone, in a second! *Josh laughs* Can I just talk about two of my favourite bits of you talking about the lead up to the baby coming? First of all, and anyone who's a parent or who has friends or family in their life who've had kids, you might be able to relate to this you know, the real blind optimism going into a birth, the bag packing. Can we talk about the fact that you brought Charles Dickens Great Expectations with you *Josh laughing* in order to finally read it?! While your wife was having her child!
Josh [00:25:08] Not during the labour, I'm not a monster!
Annie [00:25:12] *Laughing* the lead up! But, I mean, it's such a brilliant like, of all the books you picked The Great Expectations! So good.
Josh [00:25:21] I know, but I just had visions of she'll be breastfeeding- do you know what misled me? My friend said, 'when we had the kid it was during the', uh, I think it was during The Ashes or something 'and so that was on all night. My wife would breastfeed and I'd listen to The Ashes and she'd listen to podcasts and we'd watch The Soprano's' and none of this happened! I thought it was all going to be downtime. I thought it was going to be like, I don't know, like just us on the sofa like... I thought it was going to be like being hungover, d'you know what I mean?
Annie [00:25:56] *Bursts out laughing* I mean, sometimes it feels like that, you know, if you've been drinking tequila the night before. And then my other favourite bit is when you're talking about the emergency caesarean that your partner has to go through, Rose, and there's a line that made me nearly fall out of bed when you said 'all we are doing is staring at the divider, waiting for our daughter to appear like a high stakes version of Argos'.
Josh [00:26:22] *Laughs* yeah, it's like that. I don't know if I say that in the book, but like I remember the blood splattering on the curtain as well, and then she's just brought up and she looked livid. And there's, I mean, I've lost my phone, but there's still photos on my phone of- that the midwife took of her and it is- ahh its awful but it is like alien.
Annie [00:26:50] Yeah, I know it is.
Josh [00:26:51] Like, there's photos of a baby coming out of a stomach.
Annie [00:26:54] Being lifted out of a stomach and-
Josh [00:26:55] Being lifted out of a stomach.
Annie [00:26:56] And blood and gore and like- eugh.
Josh [00:26:57] Yeah.
Annie [00:26:58] Like weird bodily fluids that are blue. It's so like that.
Josh [00:27:03] And they're so- I mean, obviously it's, you know, in the same way you're like, is stand up scary? I'm like, how are these people not grossed out, but obviously it's so mundane to them. The second- cause we had an emergency C-section the first time, the second time we had to have a planned C-section because they just advised it because of how the first time had gone, and they were incredibly chilled, like it was like, they were just chatting to us like they were just serving you at a shop or- it was mad. They would just be like, you know, 'oh, so are you going on holiday or-' all this, like 'who's looking after your other kid?' literally like being in an Uber.
Annie [00:27:48] They're about to cut your wife open, literally, and take a living thing out of her belly *laughs*.
Josh [00:27:53] Yeah, exactly. Exactly. It was mad.
Annie [00:27:57] So tell me then, what else? Once your first kid was born, what other preconceptions were smashed to smithereens upon realisation of the world?
Josh [00:28:09] I think it was the sleep thing that was- now everyone knows the sleep's bad, right? Obviously. I didn't understand when it would be bad in the sense of I thought, oh it's going to be difficult getting through the days when you're tired, but actually I could get through a day on 4 hours sleep fine, do you know what I mean? The amount of things you've done in my life before that, and since probably, on a hangover, you can function on a day with no sleep. I thought that would be the bad bit, but the bad bit was the night, the unending frustration of the night compared to- and that feeling that the world is asleep, but you are not asleep. I'd say that was the kind of erm- that for me was the most difficult, that unrelenting fear as you approach the evening, that here we go again.
Annie [00:29:09] Yeah. Yeah. It's kind of exacerbated knowing that you could be and should be asleep. Like in the daytime it's easier just to get on with it isn't it being tired, because everyone's awake, but yeah.
Josh [00:29:20] Yeah. It's that feeling of the night and the isolation. That's when you have your 'what have we done?' feeling *Annie laughs*, that everyone has in the first 3 to 6 months, I think... Maybe longer. It was just an incredibly tough start but, I mean it's such a cliche, it's just so the best thing we've done in hindsight.
Annie [00:29:43] Yeah, I think the thing that is most underrated about having children is how entertaining they are. They're better than television. They're so- I spend 90% of my time laughing at my children.
Josh [00:29:57] Yeah, it's great. And you just go- I taught her to ride a bike the other day and you're like, this is brilliant.
Annie [00:30:03] Well, that's milestone parenting.
Josh [00:30:05] Exactly. And milestone parenting is usually a bit- I think the thing with parenting is the best bit is often the bits that take you by surprise or the bits that, you know, the first time they see snow actually is normally crap because they're freezing and they're crying or whatever and you just get a photo of them with a snowman or whatever. But actually that was one of the first milestones where we were like, oh, believe the hype on this one. That bit when she cycled off was incredible! And then she's just cycling around and around and you don't have to run with her or anything. So I'm just sat in a park on a bench with a cup of tea, watching her cycle around and around and you're like, this is as close to kind of, a zen, a joyful moment in my life as I can get.
Annie [00:30:52] As you can get. Yeah, yeah, yeah. I mean, you really have to spend a lot of time in parks when you're a parent of young children. I found in lockdown- I found that incredibly difficult because they closed all the public toilets. I have PTSD from my kid just having to shit on the trees in our local park. I'm honestly Josh- and everyone was at it because the kids needed to be in the park.
Josh [00:31:19] But it wasn't just kids, in Victoria Park they closed the park and there'd be- I mean, it's kind of- Victoria Park's a kind of middle class park now and a sign of that is like, no toilets in there but it's a blazing hot Saturday or whatever and there'd like be bush, but with like a queue *Annie laughs* like they were just queuing to have- *laughs*
Annie [00:31:44] Somenone decided that was going to be the toilet. That bush, someone made that decision!
Josh [00:31:51] I get you've got to close it, but I don't think this is as advantageous in the fight against COVID as the park thinks, in that you just move the pissing from-
Annie [00:31:59] Also, could I just say as an Irish person, that is the most English thing I've ever heard *Josh laughs* any chance for a queue! Oh we'll just queue behind those people because they're shitting behind a bush *Josh laughing*, 'yeah let's queue'.
Josh [00:32:12] You've got to see that when you're the park ranger or whatever and go, do you know what? I don't think this policy's working for us.
Annie [00:32:23] *Laughs* So quick question before we get onto your last change. So you, obviously this idea came to you in lockdown when you had one child, now you have two children. You are now so fluent in terms of being able to talk about being a parent and talk about your kids and the experience of bringing up kids, how has that changed you, I suppose? You know, making this thing that you're going through.
Josh [00:32:43] It's made me much worse company at dinner.
Annie [00:32:45] *Laughs* Has it?
Josh [00:32:48] Erm, I think it's exposing in a good way, do you know what I mean? In a good way. I'd be lying if I said I didn't at times panic that this was going to come back on me when they were teenagers. So I'm very careful to never slag them off. When you're talking about the negativities of parenting, you're talking about your own issues. Your own fuck ups.
Annie [00:33:10] Yes. Yes.
Josh [00:33:11] You're not going, 'my fucking child!'. And we have had guests who I won't name, who've thought that that's what it is and you're like, this is weird.
Annie [00:33:21] 'He's a fucking arsehole!'
Josh [00:33:22] Yeah ad you're like-
Annie [00:33:22] How old is he? Two.
Josh [00:33:25] *Laughs* okay, right, maybe you should think about yourself? *Annie laughs* I'm very careful of that, because I believe that that's the way to do it. And I don't believe that I've said anything that I wouldn't stand by and say, you know-
Annie [00:33:40] Yeah, when your daughter's 15.
Josh [00:33:41] But I do worry that that's going to be diffi- to discuss the semantics of the podcast, the things I've said on the podcast with a 15 year old might be. But I worry about lots of things, do you know what I mean?
Annie [00:33:53] Isn't that mad though? Like I've never really thought about like, you know, you think about how, you know, roughly what age we are like, what, 30's or 40's, and then we have our parents and you have your memories of your older relatives, mainly in the form of photographs, right. Sometimes video as well. Our kids or the next generation are going to be able to remember us through podcasts. Like, it's like an entire, like new way of documenting our lives. So it's kind of interesting isn't that like when you're old and decrepit and about to die, your grandkids will be able to listen to Parenting Hell and here these- this incarnation of you as a dad, it's kinda cool.
Josh [00:34:33] I think it's great in that sense. And obviously there's the same thing with photos on phones and stuff. There's so much more record of childhood now, particularly if you run a parenting podcast, that you go, you know, I don't know, is my son going to, at the age of 22 work his way through 2000 hours of Parenting Hell? *laughs* or whatever it will be by then, I don't know. But I know that my gran who I talked about earlier, I've got a scrapbook of all her stuff and I love that. And that's just a scrapbook of, you know, being in theatre and stuff. And I love that. So you'd hope that that's a really nice thing to leave your children.
[00:35:23] *Short musical interlude*
Annie [00:35:33] Okay. So let's talk about the final question then please, Josh. So the change you would still like to see, I suppose, to your own life or the world around you?
Josh [00:35:45] So I said I wanted to stop drinking. So this is day 50 of not drinking, today.
Annie [00:35:51] Wow. Congratulations.
Josh [00:35:53] Thank you. So I started that change that I hope will now continue for ever, I suppose.
Annie [00:36:02] Okay, so first of all, what was the incentive?
Josh [00:36:06] I think I had a problem with drink. I genuinely think I had a problem with drink. I don't- actually I don't think that I know that. And I think it took me years to make my peace with that and understand it. Not that I drank all the time or that I would need a drink to function, but if I drank I couldn't control it.
Annie [00:36:30] So it was all or nothing?
Josh [00:36:31] All or nothing. Total binge drinker. Just couldn't stop if I started, and I would find myself- just wouldn't remember what had happened.
Annie [00:36:43] Right, yeah.
Josh [00:36:45] And I was like, I've done this one too many times now.
Annie [00:36:49] With kids it really- that's hard.
Josh [00:36:51] It's not a laugh anymore, is it? The escapades of your twenties are the worrying and slightly sad things of your early forties.
Annie [00:37:02] Yeah. Yeah.
Josh [00:37:03] I'd say. So, I started, stopped, started, stopped, started again, as people do. And now I think I've got to, but I think I also, more importantly, I really, really am excited about not drinking. I've done loads of things since I stopped drinking in these 50 days.
Annie [00:37:25] I was gonna say. How hard was it?
Josh [00:37:27] The first thing I did was my 40th. Which is mental.
Annie [00:37:31] God, that is mental. Could have just started after.
Josh [00:37:34] I know! But there was always stuff after.
Annie [00:37:37] Course, you're right. There's always something.
Josh [00:37:38] There's always something. So I did my 40th, I've done the tour- the Parenting Hell tour, and I've enjoyed everything more.
Annie [00:37:48] Really?
Josh [00:37:48] Yeah. You know what's a real one? Is going to see bands. And this is not- I really hasten to add, I wish I could drink in the sense- not that day to day I go, 'I wish I could have a drink'... I would love to be one of those people that could drink.
Annie [00:38:04] You're exactly like my husband. He's exactly the same. It's all or nothing, he's stopped and he's like, 'I wish I could just have one pint of Guinness with you'.
Josh [00:38:11] I just can't. But that's fine. So that is what it is. I don't wish I could drink day to day. It would be lovely to be one of those people. And I'm not in any way. So the reason I say that is, God, I do- I'm not someone who's going 'everyone should do it because it makes your life better', no they shouldn't because if you can enjoy drinking, fucking do it! Right? It's not like 'this is better, everyone stop' it's like, this is better for me. And so, going to see bands has been incredible. I didn't realise how unengaged I was in bands when I was drinking. I didn't realise how much I was thinking about going to get the next drink, how much I was thinking about, have I got enough drink to get me to the end of the gig? I remember going to see David Byrne in New York and I'd gone to New York to see David Byrne, and I remember watching it and I had a glass of wine and my main memory of it is being worried the wine was going to run out. So pacing this wine throughout because for some reason when I stopped drinking, I couldn't not have a drink in my hand. And now you'll watch bands, I went to watch Blur, I went to a gig, I went to see a band called High School on Wednesday, and it flies by and you enjoy the music and you're in that moment and you're not in a different moment.
Annie [00:39:40] Mm hmm.
Josh [00:39:41] And that's a real change that I've enjoyed a much more- I not you- I am much more present in that situation.
Annie [00:39:51] How do you find socialising now?
Josh [00:39:55] I think it's difficult. I still find it difficult to turn up to things, I've always struggled to turn up to things. I think I started drinking, properly in a big way, to break down social boundaries and worries. I think the day I went to university was the day I started drinking in a bad way because it was a way of relating to people. It was a way of forming friendships. It was a way of forming bonds with people. And so I could go and meet people I'm close to and I'd be totally fine, but it's like a social situation with people I don't really know is still tough. Not tough in 'oh God, I want to drink', but tough in 'oh God, I wish I didn't have to do this' *laughs*.
Annie [00:40:43] I think that's very, very common.
Josh [00:40:45] Yeah. Yeah, it is.
Annie [00:40:47] Especially with men, I don't want to gender that but it does feel like women find that stuff a little bit easier.
Josh [00:40:54] Yes, definitely. But the things I miss aren't huge. My hangovers led to so much anxiety and feeling low for days.
Annie [00:41:03] Yes.
Josh [00:41:04] That I don't have that anymore. And suddenly each day is great. I'm not trying to get through the days. And I wasn't a like a regular drinker. Someone said to me, oh fucking hell when you stop drinking, it's non-stop buzz phrases isn't it? But erm *laughing* one of the good buzz phrases-it's like constantly- it's like following one of those annoying people on Instagram isn't it, but they said, I was like but I don't drink every day or whatever and they said, 'It's not how much you drank, it's how you drank'.
Annie [00:41:39] It's how you drank.
Josh [00:41:40] And that's a real- that is exactly what it was. I had a- and still do, you know, I always would, if I start drinking again I wouldn't be able to- I can't go back because I know I'll be the same.
Annie [00:41:53] Yeah.
Josh [00:41:54] But I'm not- I'm- for the love of God, I'm not someone who's going 'everyone should-' or but-
Annie [00:41:59] No, of course not.
Josh [00:42:02] But, for me it's such an important change I needed to make for years. And it's about being honest with yourself.
Annie [00:42:09] Yeah. Yeah. And Glastonbury you said is happening. I mean, you say in your book that- one of my favourite bits is your friend- when you told your friend you're pregnant, your first friend was like, 'does that mean you can't go to Glastonbury?'.
Josh [00:42:20] Well, fuck, honestly mate, erm-
Annie [00:42:23] Now you're going.
Josh [00:42:24] Yeah, but you know what? Get this, I'm going to enjoy the music! *Laughs*.
Annie [00:42:29] Yeah *laughs* why is that such a like, a crazy thing to say but I relate! My last Glastonbury was that like we- I went to the healing fields and the green fields. I had the best time! It's this entire different world that you could explore of, like, sober, lovely Glastonbury.
Josh [00:42:50] Exactly, yeah.
Annie [00:42:51] Listen, Josh, thank you so much.
Josh [00:42:54] Oh no, thank you. It's been a genuine pleasure.
Annie [00:42:56] No, it's been so fun. I've really enjoyed it... Do please rate, review and subscribe to Changes. It is so appreciated and if you fancy sharing it on social media too, that would be amazing. The more people we can get listening to these episodes, the better. We want to tell our stories far and wide. Changes is produced by Louise Mason through DIN Productions. Thanks for listening!