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.”