Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Sad News

My mother in law died very peacefully, at home, on Monday evening surrounded by close family.

I am very sad to see her go. She was a great woman, and I grew to love her dearly once I had stopped being scared of her! Never one to be told, she lived for 10 years with a form of cancer that normally kills within the first year or so.

I will miss her.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Me and The Baby!

My daughter snapped me for a school project and I borrowed it. This bass guitar was made for me when I was 18. It has a few scars to show that it has been there and bought the t-shirt, but it is still a beauty. It is called The Baby.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

8 Things about me...

Terri tagged me to do this, so here goes!

1. I totally hated school and avoided it at every opportunity. This reached its peak when I was 14-15 when I went to schools so rarely that my mom was taken to court and ordered to make sure I went. Bad boy, I know.

2. When I was a child, my dad suffered from mental problems, with the result that he was constantly in and out of hospital and finally left us for good when I was 10. This instability affected me a lot and was the main cause of my not wanting to have children when I was older. I was such a miserable teenager that I was convinced that I would be a terrible father. Other forces were at work, though, and I don't think I do too badly as a parent. My dad now lives around the corner and we get on well - I understand his problems and know it was not deliberate.

3. I am not a risk taker. Growing up with Dyspraxia (although I did not know I had it at the time, I just thought I was weaker, clumsier and slower than everyone else in the world) made me naturally cautious. The last really dumb thing I did was to go sledging with a friend of mine. He had a wonderful wooden sledge and there had been a fantastic snowfall in the night so we headed to the steepest slope for miles around, sat one behind the other on the sledge and let gravity do the rest. After the fastest, most terrifying ride I have ever had, we found ourselves on collision course with a shelter, tried to steer away, almost made it and BANG hit the shelter with such force that the sledge smashed into pieces and we both thought we had broken our left legs (which took most of the impact). Our legs were fine, if a little tender, but the sledge was beyond salvage.

4. In my 20s I worked permanent night shifts in a factory that produced pellets of coloured plastic which were then sent off to other factories to be made into things. Although the money was good I detested the place and a lot of my colleagues. I would go home in the mornings covered in coloured dye, blue, green, red... Sleep was also very hard to come by as our eldest daughter was young at the time and I wanted to spend time with her and my wife. My sleep deprivation became so bad that at one time I was surviving on energy drinks and ginseng pills. Even then I would find myself falling asleep on my feet.

5. I used to own an Irish Setter that was totally mad. I walked him along the beach and at low tide he would chase the birds that walked around on the sand looking for food. He would often get so carried away with this that he would 'not hear' me when I shouted for him to come back. This would mean that I would have to chase HIM, often for a fair distance. The worst case was the day I chased him 5 miles along the coast to the next town before he realised I was there. He was a truly dumb dog, but great fun.

6. I suffer from terrible travel sickness in cars, buses and coaches, and as a teenager earned the nick-name "John the Puker".

7. After I stopped working at that dreaded plastics factory, I did a short course in office skills. It was great in that it introduced me to computers and led directly to the job I now have. One of the optional parts of the course was short-hand, which I decided to do for some strange reason and I actually got quite fast. The rest of the group were all women and I think they found it funny that I was there. I never got to use it in anger, though. And no, I did not do it so I could be in a class of women!

8. When I was a child, my mum worked in the local corner shop. As a result I ate huge amounts of sweets and was a rather fat child. I stayed like that until I was about 11 when I started growing upwards. I must have doubled in height without gaining any weight, as by the time I was 17 I was tall and painfully thin, gradually settling to a better weight during my 20s and early 30s. This put me in the rather unusual position of being far better looking (or at least far happier with my appearance) at 40 than I was at 20.

I am now supposed to tag someone - Chris? AmazingBrenda? Anyone else?

Monday, May 21, 2007

The Sleepover

My daughter's sleepover went really well, and the party bags were a real hit - one girl said that there was more in her bag than she got for her own birthday! They did not go to sleep until after 4am, and my daughter is already planning next year!

Friday, May 18, 2007

The next month or so

Rereading my last blog, I can see that things are starting to get to me again.

Life is getting a bit tough at the moment for a few reasons: my MIL will not be with us for much longer, we are coming up to the second anniversary of my daughter's death and other matters related to that (concerns regarding her medical treatment) are still nowhere near resolution. As a result, I may not blog very regularly for a while and if I do it might not be very entertaining reading.

So please don't think I have been squashed by a 4x4 if I don't post for a few days, OK? I am probably just taking time off to play mom, or just knuckling down to get through it all.

Love you all, please don't give up on me.


Thursday, May 17, 2007

John the Superhero

I was going to blog about what I would do if I could have a secret identity, but it has gone off on a slight tangent - I now have Superpowers, OK?

The first power is invisibility. This enables me to move around totally unnoticed, which can be great anyway, but specifically it would allow me to sneak into places that I would not normally get to, so I could find out things about people, influence events, etc.

My second, and final, ability is the real fun part. Remember the movie Liar Liar? Well I would have a mind control ability that forced people to tell the truth. Imagine the fun. I could sit, invisible, in Parliament or Congress and no-one could lie, not even the smallest white lie. I could hang around Police stations and courts so when a scrubbed up drug dealer tries to deny doing anything, out comes a full confession instead. I could hang around schools and when a bully started mouthing off about what he got up to with a girl last night he would tell what really happened - he did the washing up and watched soaps. You get the idea.

I guess my choice is because of something that is going on in my life at the moment - I just want the truth. Wouldn't the world be better if we had more of it?

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Birthday Preparations

My daughter will be 11 tomorrow. We have bought her a few presents but her main present is a load of cash to take out on a major shopping expedition. She is such a girly-girl it is amazing, and just loves shopping for clothes, make-up (she only wears a little bit but loves the way it makes her feel) accessories.

On Friday evening she is having some friends round for dinner and a sleep-over, with snacks, movies, face-packs, nail painting, etc. Should be a blast (for her and the other girls at least!).

My wife went out and bought the party bags yesterday. My daughter made it clear that there was not to be anything baby-ish about what was bought - she is a big girl now, OK? So my wife took the Hollywood approach - the party bag is a small handbag, and inside instead of cake, sweets and a plastic kazoo there is lipstick, nail varnish, a mirror, hair bands, a bracelet, etc, etc. My daughter was stunned when she saw what was going to be given out and she is now waiting to see what her friends think when they get them.

Right now she feels a cool as Hannah Montana.

Which reminds me of a comment my daughter made the other day. Hannah Montana (if you do not know) is a girl on a TV show who is normal most of the time, but is secretly a mega pop star. Hannah is played by the daughter of Billy Ray Cyrus, who also plays her father in the show. One evening, we were watching one of those "Top 20 [insert word or phrase here] Songs" lists on VH1. On came Billy Ray Cyrus singing "Achy Breaky Heart", complete with terrible hair style and even worse dancing. My daughter's mouth hung open in horror. Then came the immortal words:

"Oh, that poor girl! How terrible to have a father who is THAT embarassing! I feel so sorry for her."

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Favourite things from childhood

I enjoyed reading these lists by Terri and Logziella, so here is mine.

1. The way that summer never seemed to end.
2. A drink called Cresta - catchphrase "It's frothy, man".
3. Running through piles of dead leaves in the autumn.
4. Playing with toy soldiers. Oh, I still do that!
5. Trying to climb a huge tree near where I lived. I must have been the only kid for miles around that never managed it. Then it fell down in a storm.
6. Riding the large tricycle that I had. I was so sad when I grew too big for it. I was forced to learn to ride a 2 wheeler!
7. When my aunt visited and made her wonderful fruit cake.
8. The little bag of biscuits and sweets that my grandfather used to give us each day. He had suffered terrible hunger and hardship as a child and was obsessed with making sure we were all well-fed.
9. Building camps out of grass on a field near where I lived.
10. Trying to skip stones on the sea. I must have been 20 before I mastered that one!
11. Making pictures with those sets of rub-down transfers.
12. A small bear that I had when I was very young. I carried him everywhere until I was 3, and gave him to my grandmother when I was taken to say goodbye to her when she was dying of cancer. I remember telling her that the bear would look after her. It was the last time I saw either of them and no-one knows what happened to the bear. I like to think he was buried with my grandmother.

That is enough for now!
My Wargame Photos

Cynoscephalae, Rome vs Macedonia, 197BC

The Romans

The Macedonians

As you can see, the terrain is not the prettiest in the world, but it worked very well for the game, which is what my prize was for. Next year I will make sure it is mega pretty too...

Monday, May 14, 2007

The Grand Day Out, or DANGER DANGER, NURD ALERT!!!

Well they day finally arrived - the day of wargames that I have been planning for since before Christmas. All along it had been clear that I might not be able to get there due to my mother-in-law's illness, and in the week running up to it, my own sickness. It was only on Thursday night that it was finally clear that we would go. Oh yes, my eldest son had been volunteered to come along to help and play the game with me.

Wargaming is a hobby that involves using toy soldiers on model scenary to recreate historical battles. How the game progresses is controlled by a set of rules which determines how far the soldiers can move during each turn, how far they can shoot arrows, etc. The rules also allow you to calculate who wins and loses any fighting that takes place. Unlike Chess, the wargamer has lots of different sets of rules to choose from, ranging from the very complex to the very simple, each having their good and bad points. At this event, there were around 60 people and 12 games, each representing the same battle but using different rules. It is great fun to compare how the different sets of rules reproduce (or fail to reproduce) the same battle.

In previous years I have stayed over night near the hall where we meet, but I had not been able to book this year, so we got up at 4am to catch our train at 5.50. Our eagerness meant we were at the station at 5.05 and were horrified to see the large sign - DUE TO TRACK MAINTENANCE WE WILL BE OPERATING BUSES BETWEEN HERE AND FAVERSHAM. My heart sank. The bus would surely mess up my planned connections. However, the bus then arrived at 5.15, meaning that (thanks to our excessive haste) everything then fell back into place. Cool, I thought. Arthur, my son, had other ideas. This was just a lucky escape. Something else would be waiting for us further on.

And he was right! Getting to London, we headed down to the Underground trains to announcements along the following lines:


There followed a list of lines that seemed to include just about all of them. Except the one WE WANTED! (Chorus of angelic singing.) We zipped across the capital with time to spare, got on the next train and arrived safe and sound.

I had just finished setting up the scenary and soldiers when a small sea of smiling faces appeared in front of me. It was James and 3 of his absolutely wonderful children. The morning was spent listening to the introductory lecture and then playing our games, me and Arthur on one side and James and another friend of mine on the other, with James's children rolling lots of dice for us. It was great to see James again, he is such a nice guy and his children were an absolute credit to him.

James had to leave at lunchtime (working on Saturday night) so after lunch (a lovely Thai curry) we recruited another player and carried on. Arthur and I lost by the narrowest of margins, but it was a great game and we had infact reproduced history very closely, which was good.

As the event wound down to its conclusion, there was a prize giving and I was stunned and delighted to be awarded the prize for best scenary. I had intended to post a couple of photos here, but forgot to put them onto my USB drive. Maybe tomorrow!

Friday, May 11, 2007

A Joke!

Heard this on Boston Legal last night - love that show! I think it is a great joke, having deeper meaning than most jokes. Let me know what you think.

During a terrible storm, a town is being flooded. The last person awaiting rescue is holding onto the church spire, praying for rescue, when a man in a rowing boat comes along.

"Get in!"

"No, I am waiting for God to save me!"

The water rises higher, reaching the man's waist. A man in a motor boat comes along.

"Get in!"

"No, I am waiting for God to save me!"

The water rises even higher, to the man's neck.

A helicopter comes along.

"Get in!"

"No, I am waiting for God to save me!"

The water rises higher and the man drowns.

When he gets to heavan, the man goes to find God.

"Why are you here?" asks God.

"I was waiting for you to save me", replies the man.

"That's funny", says God, "I sent a rowing boat, a motor boat and a helicopter..."

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Potato Peelers

Many people seem to have an object that they have a bad relationship with. My daughter loses ear rings at an incredible rate. Some always seem to need a new watch while most of us only have fleeting relationships with pens before they either vanish or stop working long before they run out of ink. Mmy kids seem to have the same problem with memory cards for the PlayStation :-(

My personal problem is with potato peelers. I quite enjoy peeling potatoes but I like to do it sitting on the sofa, watching TV, with the peel going into a plastic bag that is on my lap. Like this I can happily work away doing potatoes, carrots, sweet potatoes, etc without feeling that I am missing out.

So what is wrong with this? Well, nothing really, until the NEXT TIME I want to do some peeling. I can't find the peeler, where is it? I search the drawers and racks in search of the peeler, but it is nowhere to be found. Then the light goes on. I must have thrown it away with the peel. So next time we go shopping I buy a new one, which, sure as eggs is eggs, I promptly throw away a week or so later.

Why is this? It is not deliberate, and I have done it so many times that you would think I would have learnt by now! But no. Sometimes I feel like Marilyn Monroe in "Some Like it Hot", where she keeps falling in love with saxophone players, even though she knows they will dump her and break her heart (again). I keep buying new peelers and then throw them out with the peel.

Any suggestions for a cure? Anyone else do something like this?

Hi, everyone. Thanks for the concern, I am back again.

Last Friday my eldest came home from school with a sniffle, not feeling too good. He spent a couple of days lounging around not doing much and was fine. By Sunday evening I was starting to feel feeble.

Monday (a holiday) saw me so weak I could hardly move with a thumping headache. I put on my Troy DVD, which was fun but I don't think much went in. A couple of times my wife asked about what was going on and I did not really know!

Tuesday night I had a raging temperature and must have sweated a couple of pints.

Wednesday I felt a little better, by the afternoon I was actually painting a few toy soldiers and cooked the evening meal.

Today I have dragged myself to work, still not perfect, leaving my wife and daughter ill at home. Not a fun week!

Thursday, May 03, 2007

A peek inside my head…

Thought I would pick this up from Terri!

1. What is the stupidest mistake you have ever made with money? Don’t know, I don’t normally get to do stupid things with money!

2. Do you think taxes are unfair or do you think it’s your civic duty? They are my duty, but I do wish they were spent more sensibly!

3. Do you take risks and possibly turn your life upside down for new opportunity? Nope. Steady and plodding, that is me.

4. Are you the alpha in your household? (Include pets) Absolutely not. My wife has final say in all matters.

5. Do you compromise with your significant other or does someone always get their way? If one of us feels strongly about something then they get their way. I don’t think we have ever had strong disagreements about anything, so compromise does not rally come into it.

6. What curse word do you use most often? Twat, usually directed at someone in a car.

7. Do you easily change your mind or are you dead set on most issues? I like to see the facts and make my own decisions. Once I have decided I am then quite hard to shift.

8. What famous person would you like to trade places with for one week? Bono. I would donate ALL of his money to ending world poverty.

9. If you could go back in time and tell one person off, who would it be and what would you say? I would go back and change the way the doctors treated my daughter’s illness.

10. Were you a good student or did you do just enough to get by? Varied, depending on how much I liked the subject and teacher, but I think I was reasonably good.

11. If you could give one piece of advice to someone just starting out on their own, what would you tell them? Find love and happiness.

12. Are people basically good and honest or are most people opportunistic and predatory? Sadly I think the majority of people are opportunistic and predatory, just out for themselves.

13. Is there somebody you wish you could go back and apologize to? No. Those that deserve an apology have already had it!

Hm, that dug deeper than I expected it to. Anyone else?

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Bad Ideas

A couple of days ago, I wrote that using a vacuum to suck up spaghetti vomit was the worst idea I had ever heard. (Sorry Terri).

On reflection, this is clearly a lie. There have been far worse ideas than that. Here are some that I thought of while walking my dog last night.

Pickett's Charge

This was the climax of the Battle of Gettysburg. By the 3rd day of fighting it was clear to all that the Confederates had lost and that any further fighting would just lead to pointless death. So did Lee pack up and go home? Nah, he got together those units that were still capable of fighting and sent them forward against the strongest part of the enemy line, which consisted of rows of cannons and men who seem to have had between 3 and 6 rifles each! The attackers died heroic but pointless deaths.

Pop Tarts

These little parcels of jam are a really bad idea. Eaten cold they are totally tasteless, eaten hot they are like eating a mouthful of napalm, guaranteed to strip off several layers of skin. Ouch!

Fusion Cooking

My personal theory is that this was dreamed up by a chef who had run out of things to make a real meal.

"Hm, I have got the ingredients for a load of stir-fries but no chinese seasoning of any sort. Yay, let's chuck in a load of Basil and Oregano. It will taste disgusting but no-one will throw up until after they have paid the bill! Kerching!"

Building Houses on flood plains

Despite increasing instances of heavy rain causing rivers to burst their banks and flood the surrounding areas, we are continuing to build new houses on river flood plains. Streets with names such as The Water Meadows or River View sound very quaint, but clearly the buyers do not seem to stop and wonder why they are called these names!

The London Olympics in 2012

When we won the race to hold the 2012 Olympics it was announced with great pride. Our bid put the cost at £2.5billion which would be paid for out of lottery funds and private investment. The cost has now risen to £10billion without a brick having been laid and the extra cost is going to be paid by the tax payer. Whoopee. The sad thing is that most of us are convinced that the whole thing will be a total shambles. The British are totally incapable of building anything on time. The rebuilding of Wembly soccer stadium ran over by a matter of YEARS and that makes the Olympic project look like a small DIY job. I can see events being farmed out to Wales, Scotland and, dare I say it, France! Still, at least London will get the fancy firework display!

So you see, vaccuming up spaghetti vomit was a comparatively GOOD idea!

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

100 Random Things

Having done a “day in the life of” for Logzielle, here are my 100 things for Ali!

1. How old will you be in five years? 48

2. Who did you spend at least two hours with today? My wife.

3. How tall are you? 6’2”

4. What do you look forward to most in the next six weeks? Playing wargames all day at the Society of Ancients Battle Day. My daughter’s birthday. Summer!

5. What's the last movie you saw? Terminator III.

6. Who was the last person you called? My friend Steve.

7. Who was the last person to call you? My wife.

8. What was the last text message you received? My friend Steve moaning about the NHS.

9. Who was the last person to leave you a voicemail? Don’t know, I never get them.

10. Do you prefer to call or text? Call.

11. What were you doing at 12am last night? Laying in bed reading about Alexander the Great. I guess that is rather sad.

12. Are your parents married/divorced? Divorced.

13. When did you last see your mom? This morning.

14. What color are your eyes? Blue-grey but if I wear green they look green.

15. What time did you wake up today? 6.30am.

16. What are you wearing right now? Short sleeved shirt, trousers, slippers – and undies of course!

17. What is your favourite Christmas song? Away in a Manger. My mom used to sing this to me when I was a child – even in the middle of the summer!

18. Where is your favourite place to be? Anywhere with the wife and kids.

19. Where is your least favorite place to be? The local hospital.

20. Where would you go if you could go anywhere? I would do the coast to coast tour of Canada.

21. Where do you think you'll be in 10 years? Not far from where I am now!

22. Do you tan or burn? Tan very slightly.

23. What did you fear was going to get you at night as a child? Things in the shadows. No I was NOT scared of Hank Marvin!

24. What was the last thing that really made you laugh? A really dumb sketch on Radio 4.

25. How many TVs do you have in your house? 5.

26. How big is your bed? Double.

27. Do you have a laptop or desktop computer? Both.

28. Do you sleep with or without clothes on? Without unless it is really cold.

29. What color are your sheets? Burgundy.

30. How many pillows do you sleep with? Four.

31. What is your favorite season? Autumn.

32. What do you like about fall? Blackberry picking, crunching through fallen leaves.

33. What do you like about winter? Getting through it without getting too cold and wet on my bike!

34. What do you like about the summer? Picnics, long family walks, sitting in the garden playing guitar.

35. What do you like about spring? Warm sun, blossom on the trees, longer days.

36. How many states/provinces/counties have you lived in? 1.

37. What cities/towns have you lived in? Herne Bay, Whitstable.

38. Do you prefer shoes, socks, or bare feet? Slippers.

39. Are you a social person? Sort of. I like company but can easily get along on my own.

40. What was the last thing you ate? A jelly baby.

41. What is your favorite restaurant? Burrito Amigo

42. What is your favorite ice cream? The white Italian stuff. Then I chuck all sorts of stuff on top.

43. What is your favorite dessert? Trifle.

44. What is your favorite kind of soup? Hot and Sour.

45. What kind of jelly do you like on your PB & J sandwich?

46. Do you like Chinese food? Oh yes!

47. Do you like coffee? NO!

48. How many glasses of water, a day, do you drink on average? Plain water? None. I do drink about 3-4 pints of fruit squash each day, though.

49. What do you drink in the morning? Squash.

51. Do you sleep on a certain side of the bed? I sleep away from the door, because my wife wants to be close to the door.

52. Do you know how to play poker? Vaguely.

53. Do you like to cuddle? Oh yes.

54. Have you ever been to Canada? No.

55. Do you have an addictive personality? Yes.

56. Do you eat out or at home more often? Home.

58. Do you know anyone with the same birthday as you? Not the say day, but 1 day either side.

59. Do you want kids? Did not want them until I found I was going to be a father. Now they are the centre of my life.

60. Do you speak any other languages? No, like a true Englishman.

61. Have you ever gotten stitches? Yes.

62. Have you ever ridden in an ambulance? Yes.

63. Do you prefer an ocean or a pool? Pool for swimming in, ocean to look at and listen to.

64. Do you prefer a window seat or an aisle seats? Window.

65. Do you know how to drive stick? How to what?

66. What is your favorite thing to spend money on? My kids.

67. Do you wear any jewelry 24/7? No. I used to wear a ring that my wife gave me but it got caught on something at work (when I worked in a factory) and my hand nearly got dragged into a chopping machine so I stopped wearing it.

68. What is your favorite TV show? Heroes.

69. Can you roll your tongue? Yes.

70. Who is the funniest person you know? Steve.

71. Do you sleep with stuffed animals? No in the bed – I have a couple of stuffed toys that are mine in the bedroom.

72. What is the main ring tone on your phone? Incoming. My phone is old.

73. Do you still have clothes from when you were little? No.

74. What red object is closest to you right now? My desk tidy.

75. Do you turn off the water while you brush your teeth? Yes.

76. Do you sleep with your closet doors open or closed? Who cares?

77. Would you rather be attacked by a big bear or a swarm of bees? A bear. Bears are cuddly and cute. OK, they are not but I think I would die much faster.

78. Do you flirt a lot? No.

79. What do you dip a chicken nugget in? Hoisin.

80. What is your favorite food? Mexican.

81. Can you change the oil on a car? No but I don’t have a car!

82. Have you ever gotten a speeding ticket? No, they don’t tend to give tickets to cyclists.

83. Have you ever run out of gas? Yes but a good Mexican soon fixes that!

84. What is your usual bedtime? 11pm.

85. What was the last book you read? The Campaigns of Alexander the Great.

86. Do you read the newspaper? No, I hate them all.

87. Do you have any magazine subscriptions? Yes, ones about wargaming.

89. Do you watch soap operas? No.

90. Do you dance in the car? No car and you can’t dance on a bike.

91. What radio station did you last listen to? InvictaFM.

92. Who is in the picture frame closest to you? My kids.

93. What was the last note you scribbled on a piece of paper? A phone message for someone who was out of the office.

94. What is your favorite candle scent? Not really my thing.

95. What is your favorite board game? Backgammon.

96. Have you ever screamed at someone (not words - just a scream) in a public place, just for the sake of it? No.

97. When was the last time you attended church? A wedding when I was about 18.

98.Who was your favorite teacher in high school? Mr Nicholson, my maths teacher who lived 2 doors away.

99. What is the longest you have ever camped out in a tent? 1 night.

100. Who was the last person to do something extra special for you? My wife.