Come along for the ride!!

Monday, March 29, 2010

Dad On A Bike sleeps with the fishes ....

Hmmm... that can't be right. He's starting with a picture?? And what the heck does "JAM" mean anyway??

Also, for the observant amongst you, you will notice that the date stamp for this post is the 29th March; the 4th birthday of this blog. Strange then, that I have not "posted" it until now; the 3rd of April.

Hmm ... what's going on 'ere then??

Relax, o' faithful reader, all will be revealed. I just wanted to briefly mention a couple of things before I get to my main point this evening.

The other night, Joseph and Annabel asked for a 'snack'. As I may have mentioned in the past, this can mean anything from a piece of fruit to a full blown, mini-buffet-on-a-plate and the problem is, I don't exactly know which one until I've placed it down in front of them. Well, to avoid any confusion or argument, I merely ran through a couple of options until their eyes lit up.

"How about some malt bread?"

All eyes lit up, closely followed by them both repeating "malt bread?" as a question and in perfect unison, which led me to believe that I had hit on the perfect choice.

How funny. Just saying the words 'malt bread' brought memories flooding back.

Sunday evenings as a boy would mean one of several things. An early bath, then downstairs in your pyjamas and dressing gown to watch TV with my parents, sandwiches, crisps and a drink. My brother would always have cheese and pickle sarnies with salt and vinegar crisps and I would have peanut butter with cheese and onion crisps. We both had milk to drink.

Our parents would often have whatever seafood was leftover from the day before (usually prawns), but we all had a piece of Mr Kiplings Bakewell Tart for dessert. Not some piddling little piece either, but a quarter each!!!

Stick that in your tooth decaying pipe and smoke it!!

Jumping forward, and I was reminded again the other day, how lucky I am to see the things I see when I'm at work. From the vantage point I have at the top of the school, I look down into Joseph's playground and Annabel's separate playground. Both of them were with their friends, totally oblivious to the other, playing in their own little worlds. Joseph was playing tag (or IT, or catch, or whatever you want to call it), while Annabel was pedalling a tricycle with two friend's on the back, round and round in a tight little circle, both clearly enjoying themselves and without a care in the world.

Which is just how it should be, right?

7 and nearly 5 years old; you're not supposed to have a care in the world.

Anyway, I watched them running, watched them cycling, watched them laughing, watched them hugging their friends, and it made me think of my own friends at primary school. Don't get me wrong, I can barely remember that time, my memories are sketchy at best; I only have snippets, flashbacks almost, of school aged 10 and before.

How times have changes in a generation.

From "mostly caucasian with some non-caucasians" to a complete reversal of the status quo. I almost envy my children, that the world has come to their doorstep, rather than the other way around. My school friend's names (regardless of colour), were Terry, Steven, Alan, Sandra and Suzanne. My children have friends called Wiktor (Polish), Thivaya (Sri Lankan), Sacha (Russian) and Emile (French Guyana). Their school carnival days are full of food I never experienced until I was in my 20's.

In many ways, this is far better - it has made the world smaller for my children. However, I can remember the excitement at travelling abroad and being given spending money in a totally "foreign" currency. Will the Euro hold the same fascination for them as Spanish pesetas, Italian lire or Greek drachma did for me?

I'm thinking not.

Regardless of the size of the world however, I wanted to discuss something altogether different.

For some time now, I've been troubled by something fairly significant, at least as far as my writings here are concerned; my name.

Dad On A Bike.

Hmm .........

I often read back over what I have written and, usually, what I have written makes me smile or at least satisfied that I have managed to get across what I initially set out to convey.

Dad On A Bike; he obviously writes about being a Dad, right? Probably writes about the achievements of his children, how they're doing at school, what it's like watching them grow up.

I read back to the very first posts I wrote; I wasn't sure what I was writing about; anything and everything if truth be told, before I honed it down to what the title of my blog stood for - my life as a Dad, a Dad to two children who were growing up and discovering new and exciting things in the most simplest of places; doing up their first buttons, having a ladybird land on their finger, writing their first letters.

I've been so sure during my writing about it all, that I never stopped to think about it. I just got lost in the fact that I was preserving the seemingly insignificant little milestones for my own failing memory, with the added bonus that people I'd never met, were interested in what I was writing. You've left comments, you've emailed me, you've told me that what I had written had jogged your own memories, that you too remembered this or that as a result of what you have read here. Strangers, as I used earlier, is not a word I honestly associate with many of you.

The problem is, I'm more than just Dad on a bike. The bike rarely gets used anymore anyway but apart from that, I always felt guilty whenever I strayed from the topic matter of being a parent. I know if I go looking for for a food blog and see one with a foodie type title/name, I am less than impressed if it turns out not to be about food at all but about something completely different. How dare they waste my time getting me to look at their inaproppriately named blog!!!

Well, I'm the same.

I'm more than just a Dad. I'm more than just a parent. While being a Dad is the most amazing thing I've ever done, it alone doesn't define who I am. At least, I'm pretty sure it doesn't.

I want to write about other things without feeling bad for my reader. I want to talk about random stuff and not feel I have to justify it by linking it to a story about my children.

Don't get me wrong, I have enjoyed writing every single one of my posts (all 509 of 'em) and, reading back over them, this blog will have served it's purpose perfectly; to remind me of the little stuff I could so easily have forgotten.

There is, however, another reason for me calling time on DOAB. Although I am planning to resurface in another guise, I need to take a break from blogging. Not a long break of course; my future self would regret not having the brilliant memory markers which my blog provides. I already have another blog named and ready to go, more generic than this name, allowing me more freedom to write without guilt when I stray from the topic of parenthood. It's already sat there in my profile so go check it out when you're ready. I just can't promise when I'll make an appearance. Not so long that you get fed up and leave for good though, trust me on that.

The thing is, I need to take a break because I've been promising, promising, promising myself to knuckle down and try to ......... well ... never mind that now. I can always report back at a later date depending on how things go.

As you can now see, for the past week I have being doing what I am best at; procrastinating. Procrastinating over how best to approach my last ever post as Dad on a Bike. I have agonised over how to start it, what title to give it, how to end it, and frankly, I still don't know that last bit. I have peppered enough posts with film quotes over the years to know that the title, for all you Godfather fans, could mean only one thing.

That this ends tonight.

So as to not leave any of you too confused, the JAM in the picture at the top of this post is simple; an acronym for Joseph, Annabel and Mar ....... nah, I think I'll leave M as mysterious as I always have; JAM is enough.

I will leave you with a picture that I have already used once before (shock, horror). I took the shot and used it
here way back at the end of July 2007 but it means SO much more for what I want to say right now.

From the left, the shadows are my good self, Annabel, Joseph and M.

I know perfectly well that the lives of parents and their offspring are never straightforward and hopefully, the lines of communication between my children and me will always be open. Regardless of what the future brings, hopefully Joseph and Annabel will read these pages one day and see that their Old Dad thought the absolute world of them. They might even admire the fact that he sat up on his keyboard and relentlessly typed, with his permanently cold hands, something that was really quite beautiful in it's simplicity.

I'm not really sure what else I can say. I appear to be procrastinating even in my saying goodbye.

But it's tough. Letting go of something special, that you know you won't be seeing ever again.

Still, I know I've got to be strong, be proud, be a man about it.

If you've stumbled across these pages briefly, thank you for stopping in, I hoped you enjoyed your time here. If you've been reading with me for a while, however, I guess this is it.

I would like to say a quick word of thanks to my smashing kids. Thanks guys!! You have provided me with the material to sit and write for hour after hour, week after week, year after year, at a dull computer screen. It was even entertaining enough for people we don't even know to sit and read!!!

A very quick thanks also to the lovelier than lovely M, who never once batted an eyelid when I uttered the immortal words, "I'm just gonna blog for a while love", before disappearing upstairs for anything between 15 minutes and the entire evening.

Goodbye Dad On A Bike; we've spent some quality time together. Wish me all the luck for the future ol' chap!

"Like tears in the rain ........ it's time ... to die".

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Jamie Cullum? Your days are numbered!

Many people around the world - boastful people - shout to the entire world of their small, insignificant achievements. They want to bask in their own glory of mediocrity, to force their pathetic triumph's down the throats of those less able, less successful, less handsome than themselves. To triumphantly trumpet their talents to all who will listen.

The conceited fools.

On an entirely different note, I have (rather brilliantly), completed my first book of piano lessons already, in record time no less, according to my teacher at any rate. Actually, he never said any such thing, but I'm positive no-one else out there can have gotten through it as quickly as I did, for crying out loud!

Did I not mention I am learning to play the piano? I'm sure I must've mentioned it once or half a dozen times already, no?

Regardless, I have finished Book 1 and have enjoyed every single minute of moving from being a complete novice, to being able to coax real music from my most favourite instrument of all. To think that I waited 40 years before doing something about it, ignoring a real, bona fide yearning.

Oh well, every journey starts with a single footstep, as they say.

What was funny, was that my very clever teacher (with his fabulous Russian accent), turned to the last page and said to me, "umm ..... I can see there is only one certificate, so umm ..... (uncertainty in his long pause), so I think we will keep it for Joseph, rather than give it to you, is it right?"

I laughed out loud, which he obviously took as agreement.

I mean, as if I'd want a silly certificate at the end of a book, thus depriving my son of it, heh heh.

And anyway, I can always tippex out Joseph's name at a later date and put my own name in!!


Tuesday, March 23, 2010

"Here they come. A-a-a-a-a-and there they go .....!"

It's official; I am a super recogniser.

Okay, when I say "official", what I really mean to say is, "I have decided ..."

Scoff you may, but I am telling you, as I read the above page (and other web-pages like it), I thought to myself that I could easily be classed as one of these 'recognisers'. Names I do fairly well with but with faces, I would say I remember 99.9% of every 'face' I've ever met, however fleeting.

I sometimes wonder, however, about faces from my very
distant past?
People from my primary school, for example. Would I recognise them confidently as I think I would? When I see Joseph and Annabel interacting with their friend's at school, I find it difficult to imagine that there will come a point where they won't remember those same children in years to come, with whom they spent day after day, learning with, playing with, arguing with. Of course, Annabel is too young at the moment but Joseph is the example I'm focussing on here.

I remember only brief snapshots from my time at primary school.

I can remember squirting water from a drinking fountain once, squirting it ar anyone who retying to walk past me and into the playground, finding it hilarious. What I didn't find so funny, was not seeing my very large Headmaster walking up behind me and seeing everything I'd been doing. Not did I see his enormous arm swing his enormous hand round in an arc until it connected incredibly hard with my backside, actually lifting me off the ground!

"I'll stop squirting it now then, shall I Sir?"

I remember getting extra pieces of cake after lunch from one of the dinner ladies with whom I walked to school. (There was no down-side to that little treat, let me tell you!!)

I can remember playing that wonderful game of kiss chase, running ever-so-slightly slower for certain girls to catch me, not to mention running like hell when other certain girls were within grabbing distance.

These brief memories came flooding back today, courtesy of seeing my kids from my usual fantastic vantage point; out of the main window on the top floor of the school.

Annabel was being chased by her little train of female friends in her little sectioned off corner of the playground, screeching with delight that she was pretty much the centre of attention.

I watched Joseph playing football for a short while before striking up a conversation with two of the girls in his class. Thanks to the school being involved in a healthy living project, lots of children are wearing pedometers and this was obviously the topic being discussed.

Joseph lifted his shirt, the three of them looked down at where the little machine was hooked on his trousers and then Joseph broke into a comedy run, arms pumping, head thrown back laughing, the two girls chasing him.

Thankfully, there was no kissing involved. I could just see the Headteacher calling me down for a "chat".

"It's about your son ..... "

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Sultan of Swing

Is there anybody out there who actually likes being a beginner at something? I'm not talking about the thrill of learning or doing something new - that in itself is amazing.

No, I'm talking about actually standing up and saying, "erm, not entirely sure what this is all about I'm afraid! ' not all that confident on the topic matter."

Nah. Me neither.

But please note, if you will, the word "beginner" on the image below (pause to scroll down for a look and ...... welcome back).

Personally, I don't like being the 'new kid on the block' when it comes to just about anything but thanks to one man, I perused many a shelf in the Oxford Street Virgin Megastore (yes, yes, a while ago) before purchasing this CD.

I knew pretty much none of the names of the artists on the CD, ditto the names of the songs, but buy it I did. My reason for this blind faith purchase was simple; a person I didn't know had played several similar songs (similar insofar as he played songs from the same continent which I admit, is rather vague when talking about somewhere as vast as Africa or Asia) on his radio show which I happened to be listening to.

And this person made these strange recordings sound so colourful, so exotic .....

so .....

so .......

so desirable .....
that I just had to get in on the act, I had to learn more about our world of music.

Well, that CD purchase was quite a while ago - early 2003 - and I am pleased to say that my world music knowledge has come on somewhat and, as is often the case, one's early foray into an unknown world seems a little embarrassing which, I admit, is probably just plain conceited; we all have to start somewhere, right?

And if you're anything like me, you always feel slightly indebted to the person who introduced you to whatever it was, however long ago it was.

With that in mind, I would like to pay tribute to BBC Radio 3 and World Service presenter Mr Charlie Gillett, who died in the early hours of this morning. (read here) (and here)

At the risk of sounding condescending, "y' done proper good, lad".

Y' done proper good.

Oh, and thank you for making it all sound incredible.

Sweet dreams Charlie.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Vacancy - only the resilient need apply!

It's a (bloody) tough job, but someone's gotta do it.

Better make it a woman then!!

Happy Mother's Day to the lovely M, my Mum and my Monster-in-law!

I s'pose you do kinda deserve a day of doing nothing!!!

I s'pose.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Roll camera and ... cue tumbleweed ...

I think I've been scarred for life. Not physically, but mentally.

I sometimes think back to last year when a rotten, long-lasting cold resulted in me losing my sense of smell and taste and it put me in a kind of mini-panic.

Can't taste??


When the cold finally cleared up, I entered a brief honeymoon period where I savoured every flavour I encountered, appreciating the fact that I could indeed, taste food and drink again.

Ooh, it were 'orrible!

The thing is, although I've grown to love and enjoy food, I don't consider myself to have a particularly refined palate. Sure, I know what I like, know what tastes good for myself, but I don't possess the taste buds to pick out a subtle flavour of something in a large dish of something, if you see what I mean.

I only have to watch TV at the moment, with it's plethora of foodie programmes, to have this fact rubbed in my face.

M on the other hand, does have the palate for this task.

So does, it seems, my children; Joseph in particular.

Of course, I love the fact that they have my cooking, which I would class as "typically European" as well as, occasionally, M's mother's cooking, which is typically Middle Eastern.

Thankfully, they love all food but I am also pleased that, in the multi-cultural society in which we live (not to mention the very culturally diverse school which they attend), their understanding of food is not limited to meat and two veg'.

This love of food was borne out in a little game that Annabel told me her and her friends played last week. They were playing the "A .. B .. C .." game of food and each took it in turns to say a food that began with the letter which corresponded to their turn.

Although Annabel only told me her choice of food, I imagined that the game went something like this.

Friend 1 says "A is for apple"

Friend 2 says "B is for banana"

Friend 3 says "C is for cake"

Friend 4 says "D is for dumplings"

Annabel says "E is for eggs"

Friend 1 says "F is for fish"

Friend 2 says "G is for gingerbread"

Friend 3 says "H is for ham"

Friend 4 says "I is for ice cream"

Annabel says "J is for jadara"

(screech of brakes) "An-n-nd

(All heads turn to look at Annabel)

Apart from the fact that she has misunderstood the name of the dish, no-one in her little circle of friends would know what she was talking about.

As is often the case, middle eastern dishes (thanks to being written in Arabic), are often open to personal interpretation when it comes to:

a) their spelling and

b) the cooking process.

The "m" at the start of mujadara, whilst not exactly silent, is used more in the "m-m-M-M" sense of the word, as opposed to the "m" used in "mud".


Anyway, poor thing, she went on to explain that no-one knew what she was talking about, even though she clearly explained to them exactly what it was.

This was a brave thing to do, in my book, as their are few things as unattractive to the unfamiliar eye, as a bowl of chilled mujadara.

Puréed lentils, rice and caramelised onion, left to warm up after an afternoon in the fridge doesn't really make for a pretty dish.

This does not, however, stop it form being my favourite meal of all time.

Closely followed by the above 'bachelor-type' meal of kibbeh lahme, mankoushe, olives and a nice strong, Belgium beer.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Art attack (part II)

Each morning, depending on the time, my smashing children have the enviable task of deciding whether they want to go straight to their classrooms to see if they can 'help their teacher', or come to the top corridor with me and draw a picture while I get ready for my day ahead.

More often than not they choose to stick with me and draw a picture. Many of these pictures are dished out to various colleagues of mine as 'gifts' but, perhaps obviously, paintings by my children don't exactly have the same meaning to them and they do to me.


Anyway, I have had a little pile of them building slowly but surely on my desk and, after removing the rushed ones and the 'wasn't really in the mood to draw' ones, I thought I'd post a few here for your viewing pleasure.

Underwater scene

Jungle-ish scene

Annabel's robot

Annabel's volcano

Joseph's robot (I love the fact that it's a happy robot)

If you ask nicely enough, they might even make one for you!

Monday, March 08, 2010

"I know, it's only rock 'n' roll ... but I like it"

As if Saturday wasn't overflowing with the beautiful sounds of choirs singing, yesterday was shaping up to offer much of the same, albeit in a very different environment.

Joseph (and his fellow choir mates) had been invited to contribute to a Christmas CD due out near ... erm ... Christmas, believe it or not. Apparently, some chap had approached the lady who oversees the choir and she was more than happy to accept.

So it was that we all found ourselves driving over to North West London to the world famous
RAK studios, where they sang three carols and got to hang out" in the recreation lounge in true rock star fashion. There was a pool table (which, I admit, the Dad's commandeered), a full size table tennis table as well as a full buffet lunch for the eating of. I took the liberty of taking a peek in the fridges, fully expecting to see champagne and beer but all I found was fresh coffee, orange juice and a pack of organic butter.

What an opportunity. Not many people get to see inside a place like that, let alone record in it!

The nice bit was seeing all the framed gold discs on the walls with artists and songs I knew very, very well.

The not-so-nice bit was seeing the years in which those songs were released.

Oh boy, I am getting OLD!

Well, old-er at any rate. Today marks the passing of yet another year for my good self.

Happy birthday to me, hip hip hoo-bleeding-ray!!!!

Saturday, March 06, 2010

"Oliver Cromwell lay buried and dead ..."

Firstly, there was karate (which I seem to remember being rather good at).

Then I tried boxing (which I didn't enjoy so much - who in their right mind likes getting biffed in the face repeatedly??).

Finally, there was football and running (in case the first two options failed).

None of these sporting past-times ever lasted however. I seemed to enjoy most things as a child until it meant taking it to a competitive level and that's when I would go off the idea of continuing whatever it was that, up to that point, I had enjoyed doing wholeheartedly. My nerves would get the better of me and I would back out, excuses at the ready. Unfortunately, my nerves have pretty much been getting the better of me ever since.

Of course, I can get up and talk in front of a large group of people - like a class of 40 kids for example - but even when I'm doing that, I'm painfully aware that I'm not a natural speaker. It's different if I'm acting the clown or saying something funny/silly/pointless though - I always feel comfortable if I'm in the limelight for that reason.

I also remember playing the drums in the school choir. I loved playing the drums even though I was only ever reasonably ok at them. Apart from a couple of very minor parts in various school concerts however, the worry about being in the spotlight made me shy away even from those.

All of the above pursuits usually ended with me looking like the proverbial rabbit caught in the headlights of a very heavy and fast moving vehicle; rooted to the spot, unable to move or function properly, heart beating hard in my chest, hearing my own blood coursing through the veins in my head.

Time is, as they say, a great healer (or maybe it's just that as you get older, you forget more easily) and those heart-stopping moments seem to hardly have happened at all but, if I screw my eyes up tight and really concentrate, I can remember how crippling and debilitating that fear was.

Of course, I now know it was my body going into "fight or flight" mode and, as much as I hate to admit it, I spent pretty much my entire childhood in "flight" mode; I never really confronted anything. It was easier to walk away and start again.

With this is mind, you can understand how proud I was this afternoon and evening when the small choir that Joseph has been singing with, was invited to sing in a concert of other local choirs and chamber music. I had the foresight to get to the venue early and get settled with a great vantage point (the equivalent of the German's getting the poolside loungers early, I s'pose) and from where I was sat, I could look down on the front pews of the large church, to where Joseph and his fellow singers were sat.

As the church filled up, I was joined by M, her Mum, my parents and Annabel, all wanting to see where Joseph was and how he was feeling. And, pride or no pride, I could tell something was very definitely "up". Looking back I should've picked up on the fact that he was nervous. He had asked several times during the day about his songs, what time were we leaving for the concert, would he be there alone, would I be staying with him and so on.

I could see him fidgeting, looking round and up, scanning the gallery for me and even my smiles and waves back to him wasn't helping. It wasn't until a few minutes later that I realised that he was crying and one of his little female friends next to him was trying to console him.

I ran along the maze of corridors to get me around the church and down the old, dusty stairs to him to find him quite upset, worrying that the final song that all the choirs were going to sing together was fairly new to him and he didn't know all the lyrics.

We spoke and I made him laugh, explaining that sharing the stage with 349 other singers would practically ensure he could stand there picking his nose and no-one would notice, let alone missing a few song words out!!!

He seemed calm (er), so I made my way back to my seat.

The running order stated that his choir would be on second, so I relaxed into my seat as the first choir marched smartly onto the stage. As they were about to start singing, I saw Joseph get up, struggle through to the end of his pew, past his friends, and rush off stage right, heading for the toilets.

It took me a couple of seconds of thinking, "should I go or let him just make it to the loo and back" before I took off, out of my seat once more and along the (by now) familiar corridors and stairs.

I had to walk right through the church, albeit along one side, and I slowed my slow run to a respectful walk, all the while, wondering if I wasn't over-reacting and that surely, Joseph would be absolutely fine.

As I rounded the corner to the toilets, I stopped, completely unprepared for what I saw.

There, door open, sat on a toilet and pulling his T-shirt up, all the while sobbing almost uncontrollably, shoulders jumping and his face red with tears, was my beautiful son, more distressed than I have ever seen him.

I ran to him and knelt down, hugging him and trying to soothe him at the same time.

He had tummy ache (I could see he was scared, nervous), he didn't know the words to the final song (sob), he needed a poo, needed to get back out the before his friend's went on stage (sob), had he missed his turn, he couldn't be too long (sob) .....

He managed to calm down (and he really did need a poo!!) and we rushed to the side door to hear the previous choir still singing. They finished, we went out and sat in the wings, waiting for his choir to be called.

M, it transpired, was scanning the scene below, wondering where (and what) on earth had happened to us both but, as the name of their choir was called and the majority of them strolled out, she saw Joseph join them, perfectly released at just the right moment by yours truly.

And Joseph did himself proud.

You could tell he was one of the newest members; whereas most stood perfectly still, I could make out a slight side to side "rock", his eyes fixed unwavering and unblinking on the conductor. But no matter; he sang, he got all the lyrics right and by their second song, he'd hit his stride and he clearly enjoyed himself.

As I'd promised, when it came for all the performers to sing, you could barely make him out at all, which I think suited him just fine.

But I'll not forget the look on his face when I rounded that corner, not in a million years.

I hope I always make it to him for those times.

But I guess that won't be possible.