Come along for the ride!!

Thursday, September 27, 2007

The truffle shuffle

Several colleagues and myself recently discussed the need to get ourselves to a gym due to our “middle age spread”. I have also made several jokes at my own expense regarding the same thing.

This is unacceptable.

I don’t know where I’m going to find the time to actually get to a gym but I have to try, if for no other reason than the fact that I have 6 pairs of old jeans to use IF I lose a couple of inches.

Fnaar fnaar.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

mmmMMMmmm …… sweaty!

Following his exclusive, family only gathering last week, Joseph had his “proper” party and he wanted a party at his much loved soft play park.

2 hours of running around like a crazed lunatic with all his friends, necking tumblers of squash before sitting down to a below par lunch of fish fingers, pizza and (hard) chips.

It doesn’t matter though; he loves the place, and judging by the colour of his friends hot, sweaty faces, they do too.

Balloons, party bags and a fantastic cake as chosen (naturally) by M and there you have it; another successful and memorable birthday party.

Mine’s next.

Oh muvva!

Monday, September 24, 2007

Good-bye old friend

Although I couldn’t call myself a firm regular, I did frequent the New Piccadilly café on Denman St, just behind Piccadilly Circus whenever I passed nearby and last Friday, sadly, it closed forever.

It featured in a beautiful book called Classic Cafes and retained all its original formica topped table and booths, deco lighting and slightly camp waiters in navy-esque uniforms. The proprietor was a grumpy old bugger too but you could forgive him all that, such was the charm of the place.

Anyhow, I wouldn’t like the passing of a much loved place to go un-mentioned so here it is.

If you never had the chance to go, bad luck, you missed out. If you have an original local café nearby, go along and find out what you’re missing.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Stubborn, stubborn, stubborn.

It’s unbelievable really that someone so young could be so incredibly stubborn.

I have mentioned before that Annabel is like me in many ways (the poor lamb) and that she has mastered in 2 years what it has taken me nearly 4 decades.

(Blimey, is it really that long??)

As she likes to drag out the “going to bed” process as much as possible, it is usually left to me to go into her room – fingers wedged firmly in my ears – and say, “that’s enough now; go to sleep” to which she immediately replies, “mummy”, knowing full well that she can have M running in and out of her room indefinitely.

“No, go to sleep”

“Mummy”, slightly quieter than before, letting me know she wants the last word.

“Enough please”.

“Mummy”, quieter still.


“Mummy”, almost whispered.

I leave the room and almost before my trailing foot crosses the threshold to her room, does she burst into victorious song, singing (as she does) to her “babies” (dollies) at the top of her voice.

“I’ve won” she might as well be saying. “Don’t take me on ‘cos you’ll lose, tra la la la la”.

I smile as I walk along the landing, seeing M trying not to laugh out loud, having heard our familiar exchange and knowing what the outcome would be.

Annabel; one.

Dad; Nil.



Monday, September 17, 2007

The best things in life are free.

That’s right, the 17th of September in ANY year you care to mention, can mean only one thing; Joseph’s birthday.

5 years old today and he doesn’t look a day over ……… 5.

“Ooh, isn’t he tall?” people say, looking me up and down, reminding me of my very average height.

His birthday coincided with his first full day back at school. This has a sweet novelty about it right now, but I have a feeling that when he hits his teens, a birthday on the first day of school ain't gonna be received so heartily.

Anyway, we had an exclusive little gathering for Grandparents and uncles on Sunday and from a “how many presents did you get” perspective, he did very well thank you. He has spent much of his time zooming up and down the hallway on his new scooter, seeing how far he can stretch his Power Ranger Stre-e-etch without actually breaking it and throwing his Phlat ball across the dining room and going, “oooooh” when it narrowly misses a framed photograph or vase.

Keep going Poops, keep going my boy; you’ll hit one of them eventually.

Thankfully, I think Joseph would agree with me that the very best present of the day was something that money did not buy. Not recently at any rate.

In 1976, the year she died, my maternal Grandmother bought me a small desk and chair which I loved. It took a hammering over the years and I used it up into my teens when I literally outgrew it and it was replaced with cupboards. Thankfully, my Dad has never thrown out any item since …… um……. well, ever really, and so the desk was stored in the outhouse behind his garage.

Until Sunday that is when it was presented to Joseph, having been lovingly restored by my very clever Dad. It had been rubbed down, varnished and recovered in a red leatherette that was startlingly close to the original. The only bit not rubbed back to smooth was where I had engraved my name on the roll top, twice, and Dad chose to leave these which was very touching.

Initially, Joseph was more excited to play with the bright, colourful toys he had opened over the course of the afternoon. At bedtime though, he asked me about the desk and I told him the story of how I came to own it, how I used it for years, how I adapted it to house my CB radio (if you look above the drawer, you can make out two small burnt looking holes, where I had screwed two hooks on which my radio microphone sat), as well as keeping all my important papers (Beano, Dandy, Whizzer and Chips – I was a Chip-ite) in the drawer and lockable cupboard.

Like me all those years ago, he was delighted that he had his own key to this cupboard (in which is already stored some of the above mentioned toys). He is also excited that he will have his own space to do his “homework” each evening (although I'll bet that get’s old real quick!) and specific places for pencils, rulers and the like.

My Dad apparently disappeared out into his shed every evening (and most weekends) in order to transform my tired, sad old desk into something that his Grandson would be proud to own.

And it worked.

As I was telling Joseph about it, he sat in the chair, rolled the top back and ran his hand across the writing surface, listening intently.

My Mum and Dad said it was as much a present for me as it was for Joseph and I am genuinely delighted that it has been given a new lease of life.

The saying goes “it’s the thought that counts” but that’s not always true. Anyone can rush out and buy any old thing. If someone gives you something that is specific to your needs or wants then yes, the thought does count.

But when someone pours their time and love into a gift, that’s when you can say to yourself, "crikey, that’s awesome, thank you very much".

Dad? On behalf of Joseph and myself, what you did was awesome. Thank you very much.

We love you loads.

Friday, September 14, 2007

The miracle of life

A work colleague became an Auntie yesterday for the first time and as you might imagine, spent a great deal of time on the ‘phone, calling various members of the family spreading the good news.

Thanks to the marvels of that interweb thingy, several pictures were e-mailed to her within a few hours of her nephew arriving in the world. The pictures were of a very proud father, looking tired but overjoyed, cradling his first born in his arms.

It gave me a bit of a lump in my throat, thinking back to becoming a Dad for the first time myself.

The worry that Joseph looked like making an appearance 7 weeks before he should.

The stress of watching your spouse going through the pain barrier in the build up to delivery.

The unbelievable exhaustion of just being awake through the night, only being able to offer words of support or a hand to hold.

The genuine fear at what could go wrong.

All this, however is forgotten when you hear the words, “congratulations. You’re a father to a little boy”.

Your legs turn to jelly, you want to cry, you hug anyone who strays near to you, you fumble for your mobile so you can call the multitude of people you promised to let know the instant it was all over.

The tears of relief and happiness follow. An exhausted M was taken to rest and Joseph was whisked away to the neo-natal unit to an incubator.

I found myself alone, walking the corridors, all signs of tiredness gone and you ring your parents to inform them that they are Grandparents.

Looking at those pictures of another new life starting brought it all back.

I don’t know you mate but congratulations to you both.

It’s a truly amazing feeling isn’t it?

Thursday, September 13, 2007

"I cannae hold it cap’n ……."

Whenever we head somewhere new, Joseph always asks if there will be toilets at whatever venue it is. He often seems quite concerned by it.

And so, getting ready for his return to school where he will be in the main building as opposed to the nursery outbuilding across the playground, he asked his usual question.

After allaying any fears he might have, he went back to school for his first few days and yesterday, I remembered to ask him about the loo’s.

“Did you find the toilets then?”

Smiling, he replied, “yeah, but Dad? When I wee on the shiny tube (the urinal), it makes a loud noise and I don’t like it so I always go in the ‘poo’ toilets”.

I love it when Joseph’s random comments or explanations of things catch me off guard.

Cue much laughing and hugging.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Gee up Neddy, to the fair ….

On Saturday, we (sans M) went to Greenwich Park in south east London with my folks. When you’re sat in traffic in London, it’s easy to forget just how green the capital actually is and how many open, beautifully maintained green spaces there are; and Greenwich, which is the oldest of London’s Royal Parks, is no exception.

You can (deep breath) see a herd of deer, feed Canadian geese by a large pond, climb some weirdly shaped trees, pretend to play an instrument on the bandstand, run down some very steep hills, hire a boat or pedalo, play in the swing park, play in the sand pit, visit the observatory, marvel at the incredible views across London and even take a donkey ride.

Joseph jumped at the chance of a donkey ride and, as I always say, watching your children laugh is just about the best thing ever. With his sister snoring gently in her buggy, I walked a rather dusty old donkey by the name of Bimbo along a well trodden path. A very well trodden path actually, because there have been donkeys carrying excited children up and down the same patch of land since I was very young.

(I would say “poor things”, but it would be a little hypocritical seeing as I paid for Joseph to have a turn).

Anyway, no matter how hard I tried to keep Bimbo walking forwards, he stopped as and when he felt like, munching at the green grass on our route. This, Joseph found hysterical and, in his ancient riding hat which was almost as mucky as the donkey itself, kept on throwing his head back and laughing skywards.


After tea at my parent’s, we drove home to very loud music, laughing all the way and when we got home, they were both brilliant, getting ready for bed in half an hour.

Which helpfully left me with the evening to make a lasagne ahead of Joseph’s Godfather and his family’s visit for Sunday lunch.

I know what you’re thinking; “Eurgh, he made the lasagne the night before, gross. You wouldn’t catch me eating that” and so on.

Let me tell you, food that has been prepared the night before is ALWAYS tastier; I don’t care what Gordon Ramsay or Marco Pierre White say. It’s had hours to cool slowly, soaking up the juices and letting the flavour come through.

Everyone agreed it was very tasty and Ian (Godfather) had seconds so I knew he wasn’t telling whoppers.

I am, according to M, the “lasagne king”.

Well, you’ve either got it or you haven’t, right?

Thursday, September 06, 2007

And so you’re back ……

Difficult to believe but Joseph started at reception today.

Yes, a whole year has passed since he first went to the school where he will be spending the next 6 years of his wonderful, young life.

And last night we had a test run of his uniform, make sure he was comfortable etc.

It almost made me cry.

He stood there, arms pointing animatedly at the floor, chin up, back straight, as if he had a floorboard down the back of his shirt, not smiling, not relaxed and very serious.

I told him to chill, relax his shoulders, which he did.

He looked so handsome.

Standing there, the day before his first day and I wondered where on earth the last 4 years and 11 months disappeared to.

And this morning he jumped out of bed, asked to get washed straight away (unheard of) and could he put his uniform on?

“Yes, please do”, I answered, M and I exchanging a quiet smile.

M walked him to school and was worried how he would be, what with it being his first day back after the holidays.

Apparently Joseph saw two of his friends and he ran off, barely looking back, yelling, “bye Mum”, which obviously helped proceedings.

His new teacher saw him, told him how smart he looked and held his hand into his new classroom for the start of his new day.

Enjoy it Poops.

Well done.

And yes, you looked damn handsome.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Are you gonna stay with me?

As we near the end of the school summer holidays, Joseph and I had our last full day of each other’s company yesterday and, to cut a long story short, he wanted to go to Ikea (no, seriously), to play in the children’s ‘soft play’ area.

So we went.

It was full, there was a waiting time of half an hour but we were in no rush so we both settled down to watch Rugrats: The Movie until it was our turn.

(I can honestly say that I have no clue what Rugrats is all about by the way!)

When it was his turn to go in, we went over and I told him that I wasn’t allowed to go in and that if there was any problems, to tell the staff and they would call me on the tannoy and I would come and get him.

He was guided in by a lady who explained all the things there was to do and as he gave me an unsure look over his shoulder, I realised what conflicting demands we make of children. On the one hand we say, “don’t talk to so and so, don’t go off with strangers” etc, and here I am waving him away from me, to go somewhere new with someone he OR I have never met before. His slight hesitation told me I should probably hang around.

But I didn’t.

And so, I found myself taking a very leisurely stroll around Ikea – a shop I genuinely enjoy looking round but it is usually too stressful – but basically killing the designated hour until I was to collect Joseph.

I made it back there with about 5 minutes to spare and fully expected to see him clambering over something (or someone) and I would have to get the staff to drag him out.

Not so.

As I turned the corner, he was leaning on the counter, all alone, looking forlorn, lost and sad. I got within earshot and heard one of the staff members say to him, “come on Joseph, why don’t you come and do some colouring?”

He turned and sat down but I could tell he wasn’t happy.

I called him, he saw me and he came running, jumping up into my arms and burying his head in my shoulder. It turns out he had wanted me to go in with him or at the very least, stay and watch while he ran around.

He was a bit quiet after that.

Right up to the point where we got ice cream!

I don’t know if you’ve been to Ikea or not, but you buy an empty ice cream cone and take it to a machine (which has been mentioned on these pages before), place it in the slot and press your choice of ice cream and sauce. You then watch as your cone disappears and then re-appears with your request.

Bloody nice ice cream too!

Good work ice cream machine making people.

Good work.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Oh, grow up!

When Joseph was getting bigger, changing from baby to toddler, M would say, “it’s so sad that he’s growing up isn’t it?”

I would reply, “well, a little bit, but you wouldn’t want him to stay small forever would you. You want to see him grow tall, strong, see where he goes in life” and so on.

But I was wrong.

I realise now, seeing how quickly Annabel is growing up, no longer toddling but walking steady, her vocabulary getting bigger every day, that it is a shame; a part of you does want them to stay small.

But that’s just the selfish part of you saying that.

Joseph starts back at school this week and he has his blazer and school shoes ready to go and I cannot believe how grown up he looks. It’s while looking at them at moments like that, that the 'selfish you' rears up.

Each celebration at their next achievement is tinged with the sadness that they’ll never need your help with it again.

I remember Joseph undoing his first shirt button way back in March of last year and he’s never really needed my help undoing them since.


The day Annabel took the spoon out of my hand and (messily) fed herself was the last day she let me feed her.


But of course that’s the whole point of it right?

It’s no good asking your children what they want to do when they get bigger if you’ve got to go with them to feed them on their first day at work is it?

“Sorry I’m late but I was waiting for my Dad to do my shirt buttons up”.


The fact that I still get M to do my cuff buttons up probably speaks volumes.

Time to go.