Tuesday, 6 February 2007


I have had a cold.

Monday, 22 January 2007


Went out for what I was expecting to be a short lunchtime geocaching break on Thursday.

After a 20 min drive there I enjoyed a pleasant walk around the park, though the storm was building up and I was walking more and more bent over into the wind. I was hit by several small flying branches, but nothing more serious. Found the cache easily enough and wanted to explore further, but gave up in the end as the storm really was brewing.

On my drive back home I saw no fewer than four different large trees that had come crashing down across roads that I'd driven along just an hour earlier. Rather a sobering thought, which I had plenty of time to ponder as I kept getting stuck in queues and trying different detours to get around the blockages. Frustrating how powerless you feel when nature unleashes this sort of disruption with such apparent ease. (Shocked by the news later in the day of how many people had been killed and how much damage had been done.)

Finally got home to a power cut, which continued for several days. This was when I really did feel powerless. When this happens in the short, cold winter days, so much of what you take for granted is removed, abruptly and completely. Cut off from all means of communication apart from the phone, no-one can give you any real idea of when you might get power back again.

It's amazing how fast you restructure your whole day around daylight hours, and focus entirely on the basics of heat, light and food, discarding all the other niceties. Thankfully we have camping gear, and there is the initial novelty to living by candlelight, so it was still fun in a way.

Ironically enough I've just been really enjoying Call of the Wild by Guy Grieve, who broke away from "cubicle hell" to travel to the Alaskan wilderness, where with no experience but the endless generous support and advice of the locals he set about building himself a log cabin in the woods in order to spend the winter alone in it. (blurb: "Part Ray Mears, part Bill Bryson, Call of the Wild is the gripping story of how a mild mannered commuter struggled with the elements and himself but eventually learned the ways of the wild.") This may sound terribly macho, but in fact the appeal is not just the adventure element but also his candid honesty over his mistakes, the humourous asides, and the warmth with which he portrays the friends he makes - human and animal - and his constant longing for his family back home. Reading it by candlelight while wrapped in several layers to keep out the cold certainly added to its atmosphere, and made any problems I was suffering seem trivial by comparison.

Now of course the power is back on, and all the trouble it caused is rapidly forgotten. On with the blog, on with work...

Wednesday, 17 January 2007

My first Pinata

Back into the grind, with the holidays a happy but receding memory.

I've watched with increasing surprise as the kids get hooked on Viva Pinata, carefully tending their gardens and caring for all the new visitors. I love seeing their expressions of wonder as ever more exotic Pinata breeds visit and then decide that their garden is a nice place to make home. This is followed by hurried investigation of what does it like?, what does it need to eat?, can we build it a home?, etc. If only they showed the same concern for their parents' welfare.

I wonder if I had the same expression on when I discovered that this blog had attracted an unknown visitor, and that they'd wanted to stick around long enough to leave a message. So thank you ladawn for brightening up my day.

Friday, 12 January 2007

All I got for Christmas

Been a bit quiet round here lately. Which is good, as it shows what a great time we all had over Christmas and the New Year.

Having small children now makes us the centre of attention. This suits me as I get to cook and entertain a lot, and travel very little. Used to be the other way around a decade ago, but this way is more to my liking at this time of year. We managed visits by all members of both families, except Mick and Linda who had popped over earlier in the month for Antonia's Christmas concert.

On the big day itself every flat surface in the house was covered in presents and shredded wrapping paper long before anyone even mentioned anything sensible like breakfast. We're now past Twelfth Night and indeed Plough Monday (check out the photos on that site for instant goosebumps, and then "what people say about us" to feel normal again) and they are just starting to come under some sort of control. I hadn't heard of Plough Monday before, but that's just what happens when you start dipping into excellent unexpected presents like The English Year.

The one that caused the most interest was the Xbox 360 from outrageously generous Uncle Mike, who was over for a couple of weeks from Spain. I somehow managed to leave it in its box without "testing" it until he arrived on Boxing Day, a feat of self denial that somehow looks far less impressive than it really is when written down like that. The packaging didn't last long once the kids were shown it, mind you. I'd tried to choose games that were nominally for each of us, and all went down well:
  • Viva Pinata for Antonia, a rare example of a game where you create a beautiful garden and nurture the life that it grows and attracts, rather than generally killing and fighting anything you come across
  • FIFA07 for Alex, for when it really is too wet to go outside and play the real thing
  • Oblivion for Michaela, who likes nothing better than blood-thirsty mass annihilation of mythical enemies after a hard day at the office
  • Tomb Raider for me, erm, because I'm so fit and acrobatic and like archaeology and puzzle solving
  • PGR3 for everyone, back seat and front seat drivers alike. Of course I am the highest ranking driver so far, mainly because the kids enjoy crashing so much and don't seem to care when I point out it slows you down a bit
Aside from that I received several books by new writers (to me) that I'm looking forward to reading, and Michaela joined a health spa / gym that's opened up a few miles away. For the kids the list is simply too long to go into, but that doesn't mean they don't find time to enjoy and appreciate every single one of them. Until the next birthday comes along...

Sunday, 17 December 2006

All I want for Christmas

Well nearly all the presents are now bought, wrapped and under the tree. Only trivial ones to go - just those for me and Michaela. Somehow the kids can live with that uncertainty.

Meanwhile Alex's teeth are finally starting to fall out. He's been getting a bit frustrated that most of his mates have been losing theirs for a while, and several friends now dazzle you with two huge top front teeth every time they smile.

No amount of rationalising from us or the dentist seems to convince him that he's better off hanging on to his milk teeth a bit longer.

But now they are starting to escape. In fact every time I look at him he seems to be worrying the latest loose one, whatever else it is that he's doing at the same time - reading a book, eating his tea, playing a video game, they're all accompanied by that relentless fiddling and jiggling.

I guess I shouldn't complain - I'd be more bothered if his attention and finger were forever heading up his nose.

He has successfully helped out the front two at the bottom, and the top two are showing signs of giving up too. In fact one of them will definitely be out before the big day. It's hanging on by just a thread, albeit a rather red and sensitive one when I rashly offered to pull it just now.

So it looks like the photos this Christmas will be the ones with the gappy grin. He's already mastering the Mona Lisa with dangling tooth look, which he rather likes.

Thursday, 14 December 2006

Straight in at Number One

Well this little old blog has certainly hit the ground running. Only a week in and already the comments are coming in fast and furious, quicker even than I can make posts. A new media sensation is born.

Which limp blustering hides the fact that I only started this blog one week ago, and already I've had a week without a post. It's not for want of things to say, oh no; in fact I've had at least two or three interesting thoughts in that time, but sadly ne'er a moment to sit down, reflect and type 'em down.

And therein lies the dilemma, I fear. Am I condemned to only ever post when I'm not doing something interesting? Well, if so, here's hoping that one post a week is the most I ever manage.

One of the highlights of last week was Antonia's Christmas concert. She was of course the most talented child on stage by far. Actually, I did notice that her class were one of the few to approach something resembling coordination in their dance routines. When a dance basically involves leaning left, then leaning right, then leaning left, then leaning right, etc etc to a simple 4:4 beat, how is it possible to have fifteen kids moving in at least ten different directions at once? But not Antonia's class, who danced in rings and swirled around in circles beautifully. Apart from the couple of lost souls who just forgot everything they'd been practising over the last few weeks, and defaulted to standing still and staring blankly out into the darkness where a hundred video camera red lights flashed silently back at them.

This year Antonia's part was Snowflake #9. Remarkable lack of hissy fits about that (from her, if not from her Mum), given that last year in Nursery class she starred as the eponymous heroine of that modern masterpiece "Whoops-a-Daisy Angel". (To be fair - if only this one time - she was in fact remarkably confident and charming in the role.) Mind you, after sitting through this year's Nursery class performing the same thing, she merely shrugged and said "Of course it was sooooo much better last year." So a little thespian blood clearly does run in her veins, after all.

Photos to follow. Probably.

Tuesday, 5 December 2006

Here we go...

Well, I must say, this blog thing really is going rather well so far.

It's only taken me about a year of prevarication to set it up. But after being given a "just click here and you're off, how easy can it be?" ultimatum (thanks Lisa), I have finally taken the plunge.

Which brought me to the first real hurdle - what name to give it? After about ten minutes staring even more vacantly than usual at an empty text box, I really was called away to do something else more urgent.

One cleaned up mess and two calmed down children later, I was able to come back into this room. I decided that I would call the blog the first thing that popped into my head as I sat down. And so it came into being.

Of course I was now exhausted by that creative outpouring, so I headed off for bed before being confronted with the North Face of my first post.

But here I am now, a mere 24 hours later, with a few minutes to myself again. And already I have rattled off the blog description and this rather meandering first offering.

At this rate I may actually have something interesting to post by tomorrow.

I guess we'll just have to wait and see...