Come along for the ride!!

Saturday, November 29, 2008

“I’m not asking for 10, I’m not asking for 8 ….”

Our bargain hunter of a son woke up very excited this morning. No, not because it is Saturday and not because today is the day that he gets his Crazybones either.

No, today he was excited because it is the day of his school Christmas fair, the reason for Mufti day recently, the reason for my personally walking bottles of booze to school lest they should get broken. The exact reason for his excitement lay in the fact that he has an eye for a bargain and every time we have attended a school fair, he invariably walks away with something lovely/smashing/super for not a lot of wonga and he is keen to keep up this tradition.

But, first things first, and Saturday morning after breakfast means “Annabel time” or, to put it more accurately, ballet class.

Yes, Annabel and a small group of (mostly) girls of similar ages gather together in a small, cold hall at the back of a church to point their toes, hold the hems of their little skirts out to the side and do a little curtsy.

The teacher has unfortunately taken to confusing Annabel’s name with that of another child. This other child hasn’t quite got the hang of it …

(What? It’s true!)

… and when they were all practising their ‘point’, I was thinking to myself, “wow, Annabel is actually very good at this”. The other child was (not to put too fine appoint on it), utter rubbish (what!?!) but the teacher praised little Miss Other, albeit while looking at Annabel.

Even Annabel looked a little put out at this oversight and she looked down at her own feet, across at ‘the Other’s’ feet and looked over at me, frowning.

Obviously I had to stifle my laugh, lest she might storm off in an embarrassed huff.

Sweet Missy, pretty as a picture!

On with the show and hi ho, hi ho, to the Christmas fair we go!

I could go into lots of detail but i might bore you to death so I will summarise for sanity’s sake.

Joseph didn’t get the bargain of the day, well, not technically anyhow. That trophy fell to my good self thanks to me spotting a lovely girls bicycle hidden half under a table. After checking that it was in fact for sale and I wouldn’t get lynched when walking out with it, I relieved the proprietor of said bicycle for a meagre sum, much to Annabel’s delight. She now has a bike with stabilisers “just like Jou-Jou’s”.

Thankfully however, Joseph was blissfully unaware of this purchase as I had smuggled it to the car and therefore still laid claim to the find of the day. Unlike in the past when he has exhibited more than a passing resemblance to Arthur Daley (or Derek Trotter if you’re a bit too young for Minder), Joseph did not enter into a haggling war over this lovely, wooden boxed toy.

“I don't know. What do you think, £3?” said the woman on the stall.

“Co-o-ol”, said Joseph, reaching into his pocket to pull out the change he had earlier raided from his money box.

I was going to step in on his behalf but the damage had been done. She had seen his eagerness straight away and held out her hand. TO be fair, she did give him back 50p which never fails to impress Joseph. Hand over money and get a toy and some money in return?


I think my favourite bit of the fair however, was watching Joseph and his friends standing round in a huddle, comparing the bits and pieces they had bought for 10p from a bag of broken odds and ends. Joseph was proudly showing his peers how the car he had bought turned into a gun car, flicking down the front grill with one hand and soaking up the admiring “ooh’s and aahs”, smiling just a little too smugly.

Oh, to be a 6 year old boy again!

Friday, November 28, 2008

Hair today, gone tomorrow!

Growing up, I would always accompany my Dad to the barber's where there were two guys cutting hair all day, one with lots of curly hair and one very balding.

Jump forward 25 years and the barber's that I use has two guys cutting hair all day, one with lots of curly hair and one very balding.

Tell me, is having curly hair or no hair a pre-requisite to being a barber?

Anyhow, yesterday was Thursday which means Joseph has football training with his friends at school, so Missy accompanied me to get my hair cut. I know, I know, lucky her, I’m so selfless but as I always say, I am completely willing to make sacrifices for my children’s enjoyment!!

Yes alright, boring as it might have been, she was very well behaved and sat reading a National Geographic magazine that I found for her. Halfway through my ‘cut however, I heard her ask, “can I read this one Dadda?”, and I spin around to see her puzzled look at a copy of Nuts magazine atop a pile of other slightly dubious glossies.

After finding another more suitable read (not to mention smoothly side-stepping a multitude of awkward questions), the barber finishes my haircut. By this time the shop is filling up and I stand to let the guy 'brush me down'.

I walk over to Annabel and enquire what she thinks of my haircut. She looks up from her magazine (looking for all the world like a 50 year old), and she furrows her brow questioningly.

Allowing herself a comical pause she loudly asks, “is your hair falling out?”

Myself, the barber and the guy to her right let out a laugh, mine being only slightly forced!

"Heh heh ...... let's put your coat on so we can get out of here right now please"

See if I take her again!!

A rug.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

“Shut up and let me go”

The usual squabble takes place when we are in the car together, over what music we are going to listen to while we get from A to B (although I still cannot believe that my 6 and 3 year old children are as savvy as they are about band names and lyrics).

As impressed as I am with this however, Joseph and Annabel would listen to the same CD over and over again, day in day out and I don’t want John Peel turning in his grave on my children’s part, thank you very much!

“What do you want to listen to then?” I ask, knowing full well what the answer will be.

“We want the Ting Tings”, they answer, in almost perfect unison.

“Why don’t we listen to something different for a change?” I counter. “Why don’t we ….”

“No ….. NO!" interrupts Joseph. “We are not listening to the radio! I don’t like the radio!”

”Yeah, you say that now but when you get older, you’ll love the radio”

”Well then, I’ll listen to the radio when I’m older but now I want the Ting Tings!!”

Fairy snuff!


I can’t really argue with that can I?

"Imagine all the girls, Ah ah, ah, ah, ah, ah, ah, ah.

And the boys, Ah ah, ah, ah, ah, ah, ah, ah ...... "

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Dad NOT on a bike?

I’ve been thinking (stop the press).

As of the 31st of December, I will no longer be weaving deftly through the traffic on my trusty steed to work, but will be starting my new job early in the New Year to which I will be walking, along with my two children.

My bike will no longer be a commuting essential but will in fact be a luxury, used only on occasion as opposed to daily.

What will become of my babblings here?

Should I change the title of my blog?

If I leave the title as it is, do I need to sell my bike?

Should I continue to commute on the bike even though it is only a mile in distance?

One child on the back, one on the front?

Oh muvva ....

Decisions, decisions, decisions.

At least I won’t be greeted by this dreaded sign every morning!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Time to throw in the towel

I have admitted it in the past and I admit it again here today; I am my father’s son.

And, like my Dad, I like to think very carefully before disposing of anything that belongs to me, particularly when the object is an item of clothing or something of (even the tiniest amount of) sentimental value.

Today’s lucky winner?

A beach towel.

Ok, go on, laugh, mock me, I care not.

This towel is quite old I have to say – 18 years old to be precise – but it’s not just any old rag. This little piece of colourful history was purchased by my good self in the November of 1990. I had left cold, sleet exposed England behind and boarded a plane for New York, connecting almost immediately for LAX airport.

After several slightly scary nights of hostel living, we climbed down from our Amtrak train in Laguna Beach, California and marvelled at the beauty of the place, not to mention the heat and …..

Actually – I’ll stop there.

I’ll only waffle on for ages just so I can justify posting a photograph of my threadbare but beloved towel.

Farewell loyal servant.

Thou hast served me well.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

".. and fresh horses for the men. Tonight we ride ..."

Another year, another Christmas fair approaches and with it, the need to replenish the school’s scantily clad shelves with festive offerings.

In other words, Mufti Day. Let the children wear their own clothes in exchange for some booze! M’s mother very kindly offered some alcohol from her ageing drinks cabinet but we had already purchased some.

And who could resist one of the bottles that M had chosen;

Golden Mac, “a blend of fine British wine and Scotch whisky.

How about that, grape AND grain in the same bottle – an automatic hangover!!

MMMmmm …. sounds delicious!!

Anyhow, while I was politely declining the free booze from my mother-in-law, I saw that a rather splendid looking bottle of Greek 7 star brandy sat among the offerings.

“You’re giving this away?” I asked, getting more than a little excited?

“Why not? I don’t drink it” she replied.

I valiantly said I would take that particular bottle off her hands and brought it home before she saw the sparkle in my eye that said it would not be leaving my drinks cupboard so easily. As my own brandy decanter just happened to be running extremely low (coupled with my impatience at getting my new addition to refill it), I thought it only fair to drain the remainder into a glass and enjoy it before topping the decanter again from scratch.

As the Metaxa had clearly been sat in its glass prison for so long, I thought it only fair to sample that too (all in the name of professionalism, I assure you).

Before I even tasted it though, I could tell summat was up; it stank. I don’t know what had happened to it, it shouldn’t have gone “off” but something was definitely amiss, backed up by the tiny sip I took of it.

It is just possible that I let out a small whimper as I poured the lot down the sink but, in its honour, I have immortalised its image so that you too may whimper along with me.


Friday, November 21, 2008


I am quite good at multi-tasking.

"Too much" information

This morning whilst sitting on the toilet, I clipped my fingernails.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

"Get your bananas, lovely bananas .... "

We had an “extended family” lunch date at the weekend.

As I was driving (and therefore not drinking), it turned out to be quite an expensive way of having sausage and mash but having said that, it was wonderful to catch up with members of my family that usually only come together for weddings and funerals.

One of my many cousin’s had brought her 9 year old daughter with her and, thanks to the fact that she had a Nintendo DS with her, Joseph immediately latched on to her (he wants a DS for Christmas you see).

She was very kind really – most 9 year old girls wouldn’t have time for a 6 year old boy but that wasn’t the case this time around. He didn’t move from her side for the next two hours, patiently waiting for each time his “turn” came around. It was very sweet watching the two of them, talking and laughing, Joseph looking intently at her, nodding and smiling, wringing his fingers in that slightly awkward way that he does.

Joseph has been funny lately. He normally climbs into bed each evening and asks if I will read him a story.

Not at the moment however.

He runs into my room and almost immediately reappears, strolling nonchalantly down the landing to his bedroom, a copy of the Woolworths Store Christmas magazine tucked under his arm. By the time I go in to kiss him goodnight, the brochure is at the end of his bed, open at the Nintendo pages, great big black ink circles around the (numerous) items he wants to put on his letter to Father Christmas.

A silly joke of mine backfired on me the other night though.

Bearing in mind Joseph’s love of fruit, I said to him that with the global economic downturn, money was a bit tight and that he may not get the things on his list but I would get him a nice tangerine.

His eyes widened, he took his thumb out of his mouth and said loudly, “COOL!”

Statement made, he calmly put his thumb back in and closed his eyes.

' can’t wait to see his face on the morning of the 25th after I have taken the time and trouble to actually wrap the aforementioned piece of fruit!!

Heh heh heh …..

Er …. if you’re listening to this Santa, I’m only joking.

Sort of.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Be Pollock!

This is just too much fun not to share.

Whether you are wondering what picture or mirror to put up above your fireplace or simply want to give someone something a little different for Christmas, why not make a little piece of your very own artwork!!

I am not very inventive, so as an example, I just attempted to write the word "Dad" but you can write or draw anything.

Give it a try here and let me know how you get on!!

It's SO good!

Friday, November 14, 2008

A short life of misery and pain

"Mistakes have been made, NO lessons will be learnt!!"

Isn’t this what ministers and politicians should actually say?

Or, “Live and DON’T learn”.

“Oh yes, we know that we failed in the case of Victoria Climbie but we are reviewing our procedures and this will not happen again”.

Until the next time of course.

The next time being now, in the case of “Baby P”. The awful thing is that children everywhere are subject to varying levels of abuse, in some cases, stomach churning levels.

This week I have read this.

And watched this.

What do you do if a child is on the at risk register and is clearly suffering at the hands of their mother and whichever scumbag she happens to be sharing her drugs with at the time?

That's right, offer to send the mother and her boyfriend on a foreign holiday to "get away from it all", courtesy of the good old, long suffering British taxpayer.

Of course!

Don't pull their fingernails out with forceps for being a pair of sadistic bastards; send them abroad for a week (this is what we do here in England to spiteful slobs who can't be bothered to take care of their children).

Oh man, what is wrong with some people, what the hell is going on???

Years ago, whenever their was a news story on this topic, my Mum used to say, “I hope they get their just desserts in prison”.

Let's hope so Mum.

And if you’re still reading and you suspect a child is the victim of abuse – even if it’s just a nagging doubt – then pick up the phone and call Childline on 0800 11 11. Alternatively, call the NSPCC on 0808 800 5000.

Don’t spend the rest of your life regretting doing nothing!!


Go on then!!

(There is a Panorama special on this case on Monday 17th November).

Make sure you watch it.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

" The great enemy of clear language is insincerity "

Another week, another “must read” book .. erm … read.

Overall impressions?

S’alright I suppose. I’m sure that I should be more impressed with the writings of such a literary giant as Mr Orwell so I shall resign myself to saying that it is ‘the least great of all his musings’.

I was surprised at my own review of the book so I looked up what other readers had to say about it. Looks like I’m in the minority on this one – everyone else says you should read it and, as one reader eloquently put it, “you will not be disappoint”.


If you’re asking me, read 1984 or Animal Farm instead.

That is all.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

"In this proud land we grew up strong ..."

It’s got a certain ring to it hasn’t it?

The 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month; Remembrance Day (also known as Veterans Day, Armistice Day or Poppy Day). A day put aside especially to “commemorate the sacrifices of members of the armed forces and of civilians in times of war, specifically since the First World War”.

Of course, it isn’t enough to just pin a paper poppy onto your lapel for the day and go about your daily business. If your daily job has you being quiet for long periods at a time, it isn’t enough to say, “I wasn’t speaking at 11 ‘o’clock anyway" and claim you observed the 2 minutes silence.

It is a moment of quiet reflection. A time to actually think about and consider the sacrifice that ordinary people made all those years ago; people like you and me.

And while the 11th of the 11th relates specifically to the First World War (major hostilities with the Germans were formally ended then in 1918), it is also a time for unsung heroes that have died since WWI to be remembered.

As very important as I think it is to commemorate however, part of me can’t help but think that something is ….. missing.

At the risk of sounding like Bob Geldof or Bono, there are people dying all around the world in vast numbers, every single day.

Does the world stop to remember them?

Homes are burnt or bulldozed, families are butchered, individuals tortured to death.

Do we come together each year in their memory?

Some people die fighting for the greater good (according to the governments of the time) but many die simply because they believe in a different God or that they inhabit a land that another has laid claim to.

There are many places in the world where oppression is rife but a couple of notables are Africa (pretty much all of it at one time or another) and the Middle East.

I know, I have mentioned the Middle East several times before and it is (and has been since before I was born) a terribly troubled place, not to mention the hottest of political hot potatoes. Yes, I have an interest in the region and yes, I have got some very strong views about it, as have many others who have seen first hand what is going on there.

See here

And here

As mentioned in the past, thanks to the job I do, one of the perks I have is getting to meet and listen to various “faces” from television and radio. If I am remotely interested in their chosen topic, I hurry along to grab a seat and sometimes, a free sandwich (or three).

Now, who could possibly top everyone that I have ever had the luck of seeing up until today?

How about Jeremy Bowen, the BBC’s Middle East Editor?

Yeah, that’ll do nicely thank you.

So it was that I found myself sat near the front of a packed seminar room, too excited to eat anything. He spoke briefly about the Middle East as a whole before opening the room up for questions and almost the entire session was devoted to the Palestinian/Israeli problem and what could likely be done about it?

His answer?

Not much.

With Tony Blair as their spokesman, neither the United States, Russia, the European Union or the United Nations (collectively known as the Quartet), could offer anything that might hint at some hope of peace between the two warring nations, nor have they been able to in the year since Britain’s former Prime Minister took up the post.

But things happen too slowly in this part of the world to get too excited about a possible solution. See here for plaudits being given for an initiative for peace that was offered in 2002. It’s taken nearly 7 years to even be recognised, let alone be put into action.

Realistically though, peace is pretty far from being a likely outcome in such a hotly disputed land of such important religious significance to Muslims, Christians and Jews alike.

There doesn’t seem anything remotely divine about the images and news reports that come out of Jerusalem, Bethlehem and Hebron, otherwise known as the “Holy Land”.

But something has to be done.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Thank you ...

For everything.

See here

Monday, November 10, 2008

Yes, m’lady?

Let me cut to the chase – our weekend was terrific.

And now let me cut a little deeper.

I am so-o-o tired.

Our chums from Wilton came to stay with us for the first time and we had plans to do this and plans to go there but naturally, the weather had other ideas. As it turned out, things weren’t spoilt at all and we managed to have plenty of fun and laughs just the same.

In no particular order, our weekend went something like this:

Go to shops to buy birthday presents, welcome chums, cook breakfast/brunch (très tasty), back to shops with chums, accompany Joseph to first of two birthday parties, arrive home, drink ale with chums, let off some fireworks and sparklers in garden (much to children’s delight), begin cooking, welcome neighbours who are also joining us for the evening, eat, drink more ale/Guinness/red wine/delete as appropriate, go to bed late, wake up early, church for Remembrance Day service, come home to tidied kitchen & dining room (thanks guys), out for amazing carvery lunch here (delicious beef and fantastic horseradish sauce), over to the second of the parties, home to ours for one more teensy ale with chums before saying cheery bye, put children to bed, sit down to snack on leftover red wine and food (bliss) and go to bed relatively early at 11pm but manage to wake up feeling shattered.

We’ll be going to stay with them in

' hope they don’t expect us to tidy up their kitchen??

Thursday, November 06, 2008

“Was that the Italian boy Del?”

Yes, yes, ok, so I mis-judged the amount of traffic heading towards one of our local commons last night and yes, the fireworks had started before we actually got there but from the looks of it, half the population of SW London had also got their times out by a little.

As always, there was the general camaraderie as families made their way (on foot by now), towards the noise and the lights, the children once again aware that something special was happening by the mere fact that the sky was pitch black and they weren’t in bed!

Anyway, another whole year has passed since Annabel promised to be brave (but lost it on the first “bang”), but this year she did very well indeed. She asked for cotton wool to be put in her ears before we left home (which we duly inserted) and it wasn’t until halfway through the display that she noticed they had both fallen out.

She remedied this by sticking a finger in one ear and resting the other ear on her own shoulder. This way she could keep a tight grip on M’s hand.

Her little face was a picture though; “gritted teeth through fear” is how I think I’d describe it.

And it is to Annabel that the quote of the evening belongs (following a particularly loud bang) with her corker of:

“I wish my ears would be quiet”.

*tee hee*

Here are some pictures I took of the fireworks with the flash off and waving my arm around like a loon.

I think they're pretty darned special!

See more of my pic's using the My Flickr link on the right under my picture or click here.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Yes they have!

Well, America has spoken.

With a record turnout, Joe the Plumber (and millions of others like him who aren’t plumbers), have voted overwhelmingly to put the incredibly charismatic Senator Barack Obama into the White House.

In Chicago he gave his incredibly moving victory speech to a huge crowd and what a speech it was!!

I believe Obama’s chief speech writer is a man named Jon Favreau and he most definitely deserves a mention. When a speech makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand up (for the duration), you know they got it just about perfect.

And to round it up with that piece about 106 year old Anne Nixon-Cooper was inspired.

If you have 17 minutes to spare, watch the speech in full here.

If you haven’t got 17 minutes to spare, then make time.

Question: I know appearances and looks shouldn’t be important, but has their ever been such an attractive and photogenic family as the Obama’s residing in the White House?

Answer: Nope.

Congratulations President Obama; the rest of the world is waiting to see what your next move will be.

And we are praying it’s a good one.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

$1.5 billion later ....

Aaaah, another day, another opportunity to hear someone in the public eye speak in a Q&A session.

The lucky winner this week?

None other than Justin Webb, the extremely well informed BBC correspondent based in the United States and boy, is he a busy chap!

Amazingly, even at this very late stage in the US election campaigns, he was able to make a brief visit to Bush House in London for several meetings and our seminar before whizzing back across the pond for the final countdown.

Today being the 4th; I thought now might be the right time to proffer respect to Mr Webb for imparting his thoughts into what has been happening over the past 18 months as well as some light hearted insights into the antics onboard an aeroplane filled with journalists, as well as one of the men vying for the position of Most Powerful Human Being On Planet Earth.

It was informed, insightful and, at times, funny.

If he mentioned the fact that his book is now on sale once, he mentioned it half a dozen times. In it, he explains why he thinks that the British view of America (often a fairly dim one), is wrong and that we should try to understand what makes them tick a little better before passing judgement.

So; who's it gonna be??

You can read Justin's thoughts here and buy his book here.

Monday, November 03, 2008

A Land I’d like to Buy

We have just spent an all too brief weekend with my cousin and her family at their house on the Kent & Surrey border.

I won’t bore you in the same way I bored my cousin by stating how beautiful the house was (over and over), how amazing the views were (repeatedly) and how incredible the grounds are (non-stop) and ..... well, you get the picture.

And did I mention how lovely the house was?

It is rather lovely.

Obviously, me being me (and for the sake of anonymity) I will refrain from posting anything remotely full frontal here but will just leave you some little tasters of our weekend “à leur manoir” and let you make your own mind up.

Merci François, merci

Ooh, click on the picture of the glass of coke to see the bubbles dancing away. I am pathetically impressed with it!

We had a lovely time!

Sunday, November 02, 2008

We've waited patiently for 12 years .....

But we were finally rewarded!

Not only is Lewis Hamilton the youngest ever person to win a Formula 1 World Championship, but he managed to win it on the last corner of the last lap of the last race.

What you might call an exciting end to a race.

If you wanted to put it mildly!!