Come along for the ride!!

Sunday, March 29, 2009

"I predict a riot …."

I shall summarise this evenings points briefly.

Firstly, I love dancing (when I get the chance to do it) and see no reason why age should stop anyone from having a boogie. However, a covers band singing old punk songs doesn't mean you are actually watching the Sex Pistols for real! It is not a green light for you to jump about like you are 18 years old again (when you are 49), sloshing your Guinness everywhere (ie, all over me).

No it isn't!

Secondly, many happy returns to this blog who celebrates a happy 3rd birthday today. I am still very much enjoying spending time writing you.

You're worth more to me than a glass of Bowmore ’57.

Actually, make that a bottle!

Friday, March 27, 2009

"Ain't it the truth, AIN'T it the truth!!"

Well, today was a new experience. Mufti day at school from the staff side of things!

The theme for the upper school was the Wizard of Oz and as the newest member of the team, I was lumbered with the cowardly lion, whether I liked it or not.

With Joseph's triumph from almost exactly a year ago (read here) still fresh in my mind, we knew we had to pull out all the steps to show it wasn't a one off.

With M's eye for detail and me being a dab hand with a needle and thread, we got to work and we were still going strong at 11.30pm the night before D-day.

Annabel's Maisy Mouse was the easiest, Joseph wanted to follow in my footsteps and was the Tin Man and my outfit was looking good. We got up extra early to enable me time to get pinned into it, for M to put my make up on (hey, a man's gotta do what a man's gotta do), get my curly wig in place and off we go.

Naturally, Sod's Law decrees that the sillier you are dressed, the more likely it is that your neighbours come out at the precise moment you lock your front door behind you and they all had a good chortle at my appearance.

I was glad we made the effort as it quickly became clear that most of the school also put a great deal of thought into their costumes.

Not all.


As Mufti day had coincided with Book week, the teaching staff had to stand and hold up our favourite book, explaining to pupils and parents alike what it was about. After lunchtime, the pupils decided which book they liked the sound of the most and met in a pre-arranged location around the school to hear that teacher read them extracts from it.

Obviously I chose Paulo Coelho's The Alchemist and I was delighted to have more than a dozen recruits to read to after lunch. Of course, they might've come to my group purely on the basis of my electric personality and that I am a fun member of staff to be around.

Or I just could've pitched the book really well.

You decide.

Lent update: with more than a fortnight still to go, I haven't had so much as a sniff of the red stuff and during our visit to the British Museum, I consoled myself with looking forlornly at a worn marble frieze of Dionysos, God of Wine.

I know the whole idea is to go without something you like but next year I have already decided to give up cheese.

I can't stand the stuff!!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Onward and upward

Our usual procedure when arriving at school/work boiled down to my offering Joseph and Annabel a choice. They could either;

a) come upstairs to where I work, sit down and read a book or draw a picture


b) sit in the office and wait for the bell to go before I would come down and accompany them to their classrooms.

For the first month of my employment at the school it was always the first choice. Then they realised that climbing 8 flights of stairs to sit and doodle for a quarter of an hour wasn't all that it was cracked up to be and switched to the second choice.

Then Annabel wanted to come with me and draw again and, out of the blue, Joseph decided he would like to stay in the playground and play football with a couple of friends who also get to school early.

Today it was raining when we arrived and none of his friends were in the playground and so he begrudglingly decides to come upstairs with me, keep an eye on the weather and maybe he'll come down a bit later should he see any of his pals from a distance. After only two or three minutes however, he informs me he would like to go and play football with the Year 6 boys.

"Are you sure?" I asked him, knowing that the last thing the 11 year olds want is a 6 year old asking to play alongside them.

"Yes, I know such-and-such in Year 6. He lets me play with them".

Not entirely convinced, I told him to go and play and then walked along the landing to look down on the playground from our "far as the eye can see" vantage point.

I know, I know, it doesn't take much for my heart to be squeezed as far as my children are concerned but as I saw him skipping out to where the "big kids" were playing, he looked impossibly small.

I watched protectively (can you watch something protectively??) to see what would happen. He ran up to one of the Year 6 boys, obviously asking if he could join in. The big lad put both hands on Joseph's head (my heart thumping by now), ruffled his hair with both hands and then pointed his arm in the direction of a goal, clearly having told him the direction he would be kicking in.

Joseph's little skip was clear to see. What was harder to make out (but definitely there), was the smile on his face.

"Playing football with the Big Guys".

D'you remember how cool that felt?

Me too.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

I'm only doing it for the children!

There are several boxes that the school assemblies have to tick (on strict instructions from the Head). They must include dance & movement, singing, a parable of some description, as well as a modern equivalent.

This week it was the turn of Joseph's class and what can I say that I haven't already said about watching your own child in a small show with which you have no input? Something you are seeing for the first time?

It goes without saying that you realise not only how much effort is put into these short performances but also how much your children are capable of but for which you don't necessarily give them credit for. Without any help from interfering Mum or Dad, your child has managed to read and learn umpteen paragraphs, they have learnt the moves to a dance as well as the lyrics to a song they have pretty much made up. They know when to switch sides of the stage and when to collect their instrument as well as how to play it in time with their friends continued singing.

Children's ability to do this always amazes me, even when I see it on a more or less daily basis.

In the past when I have seen Joseph or Annabel perform, it has been perfectly acceptable to feel a bit choked and even allow myself to shed a tear. Being a member of staff now however, has changed what kind of an audience member I am.

Especially when half the school turns to see my reaction at one of my children standing up in front of us all and singing or speaking.

I had a lump in my throat, I could feel my lower lids filling up but I braved it out, I valiantly held them tears back.

Well, I can't have Joseph and Annabel being ridiculed for having a cry baby for a Dad now can I?

"Shake a tail feather kids!"

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Coming through!

You may (or may not) remember a programme in the 70's in which children sent long letters to a strange man on the television called Jimmy Saville, asking him to sort out weird and wonderful requests for them.

They included a trip to a factory to see how chocolates were made (bo-r-r-ring), a look around the Blue Peter garden and to help clean out the pond (even more bor-r-ring) and dare I even mention the girl who wanted to join a handbell ringing choir (hello??).

Well, reading those back, I admit that my requests were ever so slightly less likely to have been fulfilled (not that I ever actually wrote to Mr Fix-it), but they included a trip into space and a spin in a fighter jet.

Hmm.. as it happens, make that highly unlikely, but no matter; they were two dreams then and they remain to this day.

A more realistic one to add to the list however, is to be a police motorcycle escort. I have absolutely no hankering to be a police anything but you know the escort for the royal family where one bike rides ahead to flag down the traffic and his colleague goes flashing past, closely followed by HRH whoever? He then whizzes off to catch up and take over his friends position ..... and so on.

Well, the closest I've come to this was on Monday, when I assisted several colleagues in shepherding 90 school children on the underground to the British Museum. I would run ahead, stand like a scarecrow to warn traffic not to run me over, children would cross, I would run to catch up .... well, you get the picture.


Did I imagine I was a police motorcyclist with a do-or-die job to do, protecting the children, gotta get them from A to B?

Certainly not!

Ok, maybe just a little!

Friday, March 13, 2009

You sent me flying

Tonight was another evening hosted by our friends and neighbours across the street, this time in aid of Comic Reliefs Red Nose Appeal. As always, it was a very well organised 'do' with food and drink a-plenty. I was on the black stuff, what with me being off wine and all (not going too badly thanks for asking) and I think we raised about £300 in total, which isn't too shabby considering it was basically a quiz and a small raffle for immediate neighbours.

Anyway, upon arrival we were told to get into teams and my friends teenage daughter told us to make sure we had a variety of ages in each group due to the nature of the questions. This became more obvious when I saw one of the rounds was entitled, 'Generation Gap'.

So it was that I found myself in a team with the host of the evening as well as an ex-neighbour of a similar age to host and a friend of hosts daughter who I don't think was more than 19. Basically we had all the decades covered.

Well, it transpired that we won - just - but that's not what I want to say ...

*waits for applause to die down*

... no, what I wanted to say was this. I know I have mentioned once or ten times that I turned 40 the other week but on the whole, thankfully, I don't feel 40.

Tonight I did.

Some of the questions that were asked that I thought I knew, not to mention some of the answers I got right as well as this bloody teenager looking at me whenever she thought the answer lay with an 'oldie'.

The young scamp!!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Staying loyal to your roots

Different part of town, same old "what shall I have for lunch" issue.

I admit I am much better at actually taking packed lunch into work with me but this is far from fail safe; many a lunchtime over the past several months I have found myself looking through the windows of this food establishment or that food establishment.

The difference is that before January 1st of this year, I was working in the West End of town with a wide choice of area's and food types; Covent Garden, Strand, Temple, Fleet Street, Holborn, Piccadilly Circus and so on. Now I also have a choice, so long as it's in the immediate vicinity of where I work!!

I do still have a choice of foods though.

Yeah, I can choose from Indian food or West Indian food. (Hey, it's a choice!)

Only joking (sort of), there are far more choices than that but when the choosing gets too tough and my head is in a spin, I can always rely on that most staple of English meals, good old pie and mash.

I have to admit that our local pie 'n' eel shop is far from being the best I have ever tasted but when I need a quick bite to eat or an amble down taste bud memory lane, this little stop off does the trick.

As you can see, as I have always done, I opted for single pie, mash and licker which is usually followed by exactly the same again but, what with turning the Big Four Oh last weekend, I am watching my figure.

"Cor blimey, apples 'n' pears, leave it Grant, RICKY-Y?"

Sunday, March 08, 2009

"It's he-e-re!"

Even a stranger would've known that it was my birthday today for the following reasons.

1) I was still asleep at 7:40am

2) My children came into my bedroom happily singing instead of jumping on me saying, "get up and play with us".

3) The final give away would be that they happened to be singing 'happy birthday' to me, being closely followed by the lovely M carrying a cup of tea and crumpets, one covered in strawberry jam and the other in honey.

The stranger in my room would be forgiven for thinking that it wasn't my birthday as both children then proceeded to scoff both my crumpets and even managed to fall out over who-had-what flavour crumpet.

Dear, dear me, sibling jealousy, what a laugh!!!

My smashing wife had bought me time with a Michelin starred chef, to cook in his kitchens and basically learn as much as I can and yes, you'd be right in thinking that it's actually a present for her as she would be reaping the benefits from my new found skills (note to self; confront wife about her ulterior motives for this choice of gift) but even so, I am very much looking forward to cashing in this gift.

The rest of the morning was spent getting slowly ready before dining out at the Blue Elephant, a Thai restaurant in Fulham, SW6 which was just fantastic; very different, very extravagant and very delicious.

For all my sarcasm and tongue-in-cheek comments throughout the year, I would like to say a genuine thank you to my lovely wife for her thoughtfulness, her generosity and her kind & patient nature.

If you are very lucky in life you will get to meet someone as smashing as she is.

Just make sure you appreciate them when they come along.

Thanks again wif'.

You are luvvin'.

I will leave you with the front of what was probably the funniest card I received today.

But then, I have got a strange sense of humour!!!

Come on the 40's - I'm ready for you!!!!

Saturday, March 07, 2009

"When I die and they lay me to rest, I'm gonna go ..."

Y'know, it's funny how something or someplace that you see every day becomes mundane, and pretty quickly at that.

Take the Strand and the surrounding area in the heart of London, for example.

For nearly seven years I beat the pavements around and about the Aldwych end of the Strand and it was, frankly, dull. Yes, I know, there's tons to see and do but when all you have is a lunch hour with a maximum of half an hour in that direction before you have to turn back, there wasn't a great deal that I didn't discover at least once.

But what happens today?

Well I'll tell you. We all head into 'town' for the first of our birthday treats - I say 'our' because it is my monster-in-laws birthday tomorrow too (oh how M laughed when she realised she was dating a Pisces with all his faults as well as being brought up by one) and coming out of the underground station and stepping onto the Strand was familiar (obviously) and welcoming (less obvious perhaps).

Anyway, we were heading for the Adelphi theatre because M was taking us to see Joseph and his Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat. Yeah, I couldn't wait to see that Lee Mead, he was terrific in the search for Jos.......

What's this?

He's not playing the lead anymore?

You're kidding? Oh man, I was looking forward to seeing him ... who've they replaced him with, someone good I hope?


Gareth bloody Gates?? You have got to be joking??

Oh well, in for a penny, in for a pound I s'pose.

But guess what? He was pretty damn good!

I know, I was as surprised as you are! Not only did he hit most of the notes (the low ones eluded him completely) he looked the part, was convincing and I have to say, has obviously worked hard to get himself in shape as he was looking rather buff it has to be said. Mind you, if someone told me I'd be earning my keep for the next year wearing little else apart from a loin-cloth, I'd buff up too!!

I was thinking about young Mr Gates on the way home actually (not in his loin-cloth by the way) and I couldn't help but begrudgingly admire this young chancer who'd stuttered his way through Pop Idol just over 7 years ago and apparently sounded his own death knell by singing Spirit in the Sky (many have tried, many a career has ended) but not Master Gates (easy).

No, he clearly had his sights set for higher things, well done him.

Unfortunately, as good as the show was, the fact that the merchandise on sale all had the name 'joseph' splashed across it was too much to bear and Annabel was extremely upset (and tired) that Joseph was able to get a drinking bottle with his name printed on the front of it.

If you're listening Mr Webber or Mr Rice; please write a musical entitled Annabel so that she might be able to buy similar?


Friday, March 06, 2009

"Well I must say, I find that very touching!"

I can ignore the fact no longer; this Sunday is my birthday.

It is one of those distinctly detestable birthdays where the first number in your age increases by 1 as well as the second and no, before you think it (let alone ask it), it will not be a 2 changing to a 3 and a 9 changing to a zero, it will be a 3 changing to a 4 and a 9 changing to a zero (think about it).

Below is the card that the two classrooms of pupils I work with made for me today. Every one of them signed it with a range of messages (all polite, I promise you) but for some reason they have drawn me wearing a tie, a naff one at that.

I've a feeling the Head teacher requested that little detail as a sly dig at the fact that I don't wear one, but this is unlikely to change anything.

If you need me tomorrow, I shall be enjoying my last day as a thir ........ well, the (very) last day of my current decade.

Oh muvva!