Thursday, December 06, 2007

On yer bike!

I don't normally pedal this kind of thing. Puns in the comments section please.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

But could he survive a weekend at our house?

Bear Grylls is talking about a potential series in which mere mortals get dropped into extreme survival situations alongside him. I can hear the call of the wild enticing me to apply. To hold out against some of the harshest conditions on the planet seems increasingly like an invaluable learning experience; I still haven't replaced B's kitchen.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Highly skilled workforce

Don Taylor's post on the our highly skilled workforce made me laugh. Which one are you?

Feed the fish

They follow your mouse. Lots more at abowman. I like the spider!

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Love is...

"If we were to win the lottery," dreamed B the evening before last, "I'd still want you to be around."

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Christmas play costumes are not good for my elf

"H has been given a leading role in the nursery Christmas play!" announced B, reading a letter she'd recently found at the bottom of his school bag. At last, someone to give Robert Powell some competition, I mused.

"He is to play the part of a Christmas tree," she beamed, overflowing with pride. Even Robert Powell had to start somewhere I reflected; uncredited in a 1967 film called Robbery apparently. "Oh, and we have to make his costume" continued B aloud, looking slightly less enamoured.

Not one to shy away from a challenge, over the next few days B got stuck into some serious research on the design and creation of said Christmas tree costume. Hours were spent trawling the Internet. Extended family, long lost friends and even complete strangers in Waitrose were consulted. In the end, she settled on a poncho design; a large circle of green felt with a hole in the middle for H's head. The outer edge was cut into V shapes, a similarly fashioned ruff was added to the collar and further boughs (made of green felt rings) were attached. The finishing touches would include tree decorations, some brown trousers and a conical green felt hat with a star on top.

"What do you think then?" asked B eagerly yesterday evening. "Does H like it?" I replied, temporarily delaying my feedback. "He won't go near it, but that will change when he sees the other children in their costumes," she said confidently.

"You don't think it makes him look like a leprechaun or a tree imp?" I enquired insensitively. "No!" she said unamused. B spent the next ten minutes helping me see the wood for the trees.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Come Alive

Grohl's glorious Foo Fighters are back. H loves Come Alive, the fifth track on the new album. Truth be told, he won't listen to anything else at the moment, least of all his parents. I suspected we'd lose him to rock music and loud guitars at some stage (he developed a marked penchant for No One Knows by Queens of the Stone Age whilst still in utero) but not at the age of 2.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

A balanced view

Ask any hypochondriac to determine the cause of a series of dizzy spells, and your next step will be to start thinking about life cover, appropriate eulogy material and who is most deserving of your CD collection. Such was my predicament over the weekend, blessed with a tendency towards over zealous self diagnosis and having experienced regular bouts of vertigo over the previous ten days.

B tried to reassure me. "Don't worry, you probably have a cold," she suggested. "Or maybe you need your eyesight checked?" she added. Clearly a second opinion was required.

The optician yesterday confirmed that my sight is fine. Armed with this evidence, I went to see the doctor, preparing myself for the worst. Then, fate showed her true colours. My GP was unavailable. I saw a very earnest medical student instead who took me on a journey through all the neurological possibilities that I had identified, in darker moments, over the previous week. He then relayed the steps he'd followed in making his diagnosis to the partner GP who was covering his work who, after what seemed an eternity asked, "What do you think it is then?"

"He has a cold," said the medical student, proudly.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Now we are four

On Sunday 8th April 2007, B gave birth to L, our first daughter. As when H was born, I'm not sure how much my presence helped B get through the event. Despite my squeamish constitution I managed to be largely present throughout, at times playing an active role in proceedings, without resorting to pain relief: during H's delivery I developed a dependency for gas and air but unfortunately the attending midwife on this occasion was much less liberal minded.

At birth, L weighed 6lb 8oz and has since rapidly gained weight, an ability inherited from her father's side of the family. As a newborn, she is proving marginally less noisy than her brother and has taken to feeding more easily (and more often). "All babies are different," goes the standard midwifery disclaimer. I can't help thinking that L is more at ease because we are.

H has thus far reacted well to his baby sister. His affection is expressed in a number of ways: crushing, poking, licking, squashing, tickling and nose wiping (his, on her). We're not sure whether he has acknowledged her as a permanent family feature as yet, but she generally seems to meet with his approval. He has welcomed the gifts and attention, showered upon him as facilitation payments to ease his suffering, like a corrupt government official in some developing country. The Rubicon crossed, future behavioural compliance will no doubt require equivalent or bettered levels of compensation.

Sleepless nights, semi-permanent exhaustion, frayed nerves and social isolation are once again lodgers in our home. Having, over the last few months, wrestled a degree of control back into our lives, B and I are now passengers once more aboard the new parent bus: where we are headed and how long it will take to get there remain, for the time being, unanswered questions. What will make this trip more enjoyable however is the knowledge that it's OK to feel like a passenger. Moreover, when you're not the one driving, you can sit back and enjoy the ride.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

The dynasty continues...

Captured forever, a moment earlier this afternoon when my father, my son and I were feeding the goats. I took the photo; on this occasion I'm not the hairy great ginger thing in the background.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Flab bends

...said my very gravid wife when I pointed out that despite my oversize stomach, I could still touch my toes without bending my knees. We'd previously been howling with laughter at her repeated and unsuccessful attempts to tie her shoelaces.

I had promised myself that I would lose weight, get fit and run a sub 4.00 marathon this year. With almost a quarter of 2007 already history, I today decided to take the first step towards achieving these personal goals. I joined WeightWatchers and went for a walk.

Having shed a few (read several) pounds and recovered fully from an achilles injury, I will start a structured training programme and chart my progress on fetcheveryone. The run will be in November or December; if anyone wants to join me please shout!

Friday, March 16, 2007

The empty CD case closed

Last year in walking the talk I eluded to the impact our newest family member would have on our finances come April this year. Well, he or she is now just a few weeks from bursting onto the scene, B has stopped work and we are in the grips of the spend challenge.

With this in mind, imagine how happy I was when I stumbled across Ash's Intergalactic Sonic 7"s in the bargain bin at our local supermarket last week. A CD rammed with anthems of summers gone by, that until the last year or so was among my most played. Strangely, about the same time as H started crawling, loads of my most treasured CDs disappeared from their cases, never to be seen again.

Here's the fantastic Burn Baby Burn. If I'd asked H to do this with my CDs, I wouldn't be writing this post.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Every organisation should have one - the Chief Happiness Officer

I can't remember exactly how I found Alexander Kjerulf's The Chief Happiness Officer blog, but I read it regularly and find his outlook on life refreshing. Modern living often feels like hard work, but you do only get one crack at it! Worth thinking about.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Harsh but fair

I was half watching MOTD this morning and half doing yesterday's crossword when I noticed my left hamstring feeling a little tight. "What did I lift yesterday that was heavy?" I pondered aloud, rubbing the back of my thigh.

"Yourself?" said my wife.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Old MacDonald had a cash cow

We took H to a farm at the weekend. He seemed to enjoy the experience immensely. His curiosity and excitement grew with every corner we turned, a huge smile beaming from ear to ear as the different animals grunted, scratched, sniffed, slept and stank their way into his consciousness. Piglets and ducks seemed the firm favourites, Shetland ponies were comfortable runners up. The goats and llamas however had to settle for an unmistakable look of indifference. After a couple of hours of completely absorbing fun, we trudged back through the sprawling car park, loaded up and moved out.

There must have been 100+ cars parked as we left. Each car I suspect will have spent an average of £25 on entry, drinks, snacks and the compulsory farm shop. In the height of summer, 750+ cars a day must pay a visit to this particular establishment. In the days of increased global competition and margins being squeezed by the all powerful supermarket buyers, it's comforting to know that this Old MacDonald appears to have found a way to protect his E-I-E-I-O.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

The engaging of an architect

We're going to do some work on the house. I wrote about B's morally and materially questionable funding proposal in a previous post. When we bought our home nearly 2 years ago, it hadn't been touched in 30 years and was in desperate need of modernisation. The intention was to completely gut the place; add a bathroom, extend the kitchen, rewire, re-plaster, decorate throughout and tackle the front and back gardens. At the time we thought this would take 3 months at most. Well, it's now nearly 32 years since our dream home has seen a lick of paint, and B has had enough.

B's approach to the project would be to start. To just start, with the kitchen initially and to then do the other things in an iterative fashion. My approach, more akin to running projects at work, would be to begin with the end in mind. To describe a vision of our family enjoying our living space. From this we could determine the things that are important to us in a family home. We could then develop a number of options that could deliver this Utopian existence, all at varying levels of cost, duration and quality of finish. Having consulted experts in various trades, we could then make an informed decision, giving us the best chance of ending up with what we'd envisaged.

A compromise was required. B conceded that her less than holistic methods might well end up taking more time and being more costly in the long run. But she also felt that I was being overly long winded with my 'front end loading' and insisted on speeding up the process by getting in a professional. We engaged the services of an architect, who came to spend a planning day with us last week. He arrived, I offered him a cup of tea and he began to explain how the day would run.
"I'd like to spend the first half of my time with you exploring a vision of how you want your family to live. We'll try and establish the values and emotions that are important to you when spending time with family and friends here at home," he said as he was sitting down. B suddenly sprang into action.

"Don't take your coat off," she blurted, grabbing his arm and pushing him toward the door. "I'm taking you to the kitchen shop."

Saturday, February 17, 2007

An alternative provenance of blogging

Standard dictionary definition for blogging: to write entries in, add material to, or maintain a weblog.

In my house the most peaceful room is the loo. Like billions of others, I find the time spent alone in the lavatory can often be hugely contemplative. This morning, locked in both the loo and a random day dream, I was half listening to the noise of breakfast being consumed; the kettle bubbling, spoonfuls of Weetabix bouncing off walls and the apocalyptic drone of Tragic FM. It occurred to me that if I'd had my laptop, a description of breakfast by noises alone might make a fun blog entry. Then it struck me that I'd effectively be in the bog, doing a log and writing, and that millions of people probably do this everyday.

An 'urban' definition for blogging: to write, whilst sitting on the lavatory.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Svetlana sucks lemons

At about 8.30am this morning, just as I was arriving at work, our office was evacuated. A suspect package had been found in the cafeteria; the emergency evacuation plan was implemented and we dutifully left the building and gathered at the designated assembly point. Within minutes, the police bomb disposal team were on site, doing what they do. We were then informed that the experts had requested a secondary evacuation, which involved moving the gathering crowd to another office further down the street. Once there, we congregated in the restaurant, drank coffees and chatted with colleagues as most of us had left laptops, phones, keys and even cars at the now sealed off site. At around 10am, we were told that if possible, the most sensible course of action would be to return home, provided we had a safe means of doing so.

The excitement caused by an opportunity to legitimately bunk off spread round the room like a virus. I got that warm feeling that I used to get as a schoolboy when, during the much harsher winter months of my childhood, our school would periodically close because of heavy snow. We get older, take on responsibilities and become parents ourselves and yet however old you are, when the Man (mum or dad, school, the doctor, the police or the firm you work for...) legitimises a day off, it feels great!

Predictably, we were told at 10.05am that the building was safe and that we could return to work.

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Friday, February 09, 2007

A brain dump

Last night I watched a fascinating documentary following the lives of some of Britain's most gifted children. Not your common or garden ‘top of the class’ kids, (every school has them - ours was also annoyingly cool, excelled at sport and all the high school girls fancied him), these were young minds in a completely different league; Mensa scores that were ‘off the chart’ at 3 years old; an 11 year old published children’s author who between cooking, writing his next novel and his education, was learning seven languages. I was half expecting one of these super brains to claim they could only see in algorithms like Neo from the Matrix.

This morning, over a cup of tea, I began to wonder whether my 15 month old son was a member of this elite cerebral minority. He’s a bright young chap for sure, but just how bright I began to ask myself. At that moment, he started to really study my face, as if he’d plugged directly into my thoughts. He had that look of focused concentration those sci-fi telepathists always seem to have. Excitedly, I told B her son was displaying signs of child genius.

“That’s his new poo face,” she said knowingly, passing me the wipes.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Simple messages are more readily understood

Earlier in the week, my mother-in-law offered up a very simple story with a very clear message.

We had just finished eating a fairly substantial evening meal. I mentioned that I was going to go and try find a biscuit (usually meaning half a packet of biscuits) to accompany my cup of tea.

"I knew a boy once who couldn't stop eating,” she proclaimed. “He got fatter and fatter and fatter and fatter and fatter. Then he died.”

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Theft or inflation proofing?

On the way to baby swimming this morning, B and I were talking about what to do with the growing pot of cash our son has amassed since he was born nearly 16 months ago. His small fortune is made up of birthday and Christmas gifts from relatives. It is not the product of hours spent grafting in the local sporting goods factory, lest there be any misunderstanding.

Currently, the whole lot sits in his piggy bank, and will soon be worthless (relatively) if inflation continues to rise. We discussed his state provided trust fund as an option, but then remembered it can't be topped up any further. A high interest savings account seemed like a good alternative, but then there's all the administrative headache that goes with setting one up and keeping track of things.

Later, as B was thinking about how she wants the new kitchen to be designed, she hit upon the perfect solution for inflation proofing H's savings.

"We should spend it on the house," she concluded.