Friday, June 29, 2007

Having a bad day?

I found this pic and thought I would share it:

Gave me a good giggle, anyway!

The weather here is terrible, wind and rain seems to be settling in for the weekend.

Tomorrow is a University Open Day, so I will be here showing visitors the wonders of GIS (computer mapping, etc), including a lesson in where not to buy a house if you don't want the river moving in from time to time. Hm, and they are now building a couple of hundren new houses in one of the worst spots...

So sadly I will miss most of Saturday, but I get Monday off instead, which is pretty cool - except that my wife has got me booked up to do some major DIY with her that we have been putting off for a long time :-( Look out for the full story in next week's exciting episode...

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Tiger Tim Henman

You have got to hand it to him, haven't you? He has got a snowball's chance in hell of winning Wimbledon, but he sure can keep us on the edge of out seats. Did you see his first match? Stopped due to poor light with the score 2 sets each, 5 games each. Watching this had been pure torture as it see-sawed back and forward. I did not see the end, as I was at work but the final set went to 13-11. Amazing stuff. Pure entertainment and the stuff the British tennis fan lives for. We don't want an over trained automaton who demolishes the opposition in straight sets! No, we want to laugh, cry, cheer, shout in desperation, and finally lose as we expect sooner or later.

Tiger Tim gives us that without fail every year, and that is why we love him so much.


Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Friends and Friendship

Following a post by Mr Zig about friends, I have decided to share a few thoughts of my own.

I am not a person to have lots of friends. My main circle revolves around wargaming, and we meet up each week for a chat, beer and a game. These friends range from what I would call "very good friends", the sort that I would really go out of my way to help, to "just people I play toy soldiers with", and this sort has drifted in and out of our group over the years.

Then there are the "old mates". These are people that I was very close to a long time ago, but have more or less lost contact with over the years due to moving houses, etc. Meeting up with an "old mate" is great - these are the people that you know so well (inside, even if you do not know their current job/girlfriend/etc) that when you start chatting it is as though you only saw each other last night for a beer. The years melt away and the 2 of us are soon in our own little bubble, chatting away.

A rather odd group are the "people I vaguely remember from school". Usually these are people who wanted nothing to do with me or gave me trouble at school, but want to chat as though we were "old mates". I usually try to escape at the first opportunity...

I also have email (and now blog) friends, again often initially met through wargames discussion groups. A few of these have developed into really great friendships lasting for years, even entering the category of "old mates"! Some of these have been a source of great support and encouragement over the last couple of years. Please accept my thanks if you are one of them!

As a family we do not have many friends at the moment. We used to have a number of people we thought of as good friends, we would have barbeques together, look after their kids, help each other out with odd stuff, etc, you know the sort of thing. My daughter's illness changed all that. We soon found that a lot of people that we had helped out in times of need were nowhere to be found - they were happy to leave their kids with us, etc, but returning the favour was clearly not part of the deal! It was a bitter lesson.

One thing that did strike us, though, was that this was when the "old mates" seemed to step in, one group travelling hundreds of miles to be with us when we needed them - it was wonderful to see.

Friends? Yes we need them, but I wish we knew what sort they were going to be from the beginning!

Monday, June 25, 2007

I don't like Mondays...

Well that is not really true, but today is a pretty dull day and the weather ourside is totally mixed up, going from hot and sunny to pouring with cold rain in a matter of a few minutes and then back again. I keep looking out of the window to see if there is a twister on the way! That will probably turn up when I am cycling home, chasing me across the fields...

Oh well, better get back to work as I have nothing else exciting to talk about :-(

Hey, I do have something to talk about - a song I have been learning over the weekend. This is a nostalgia trip too.

Back in the mid 1970s there was a band called The Sensational Alex Harvey Band. They had a hit in the UK with a rocked up version of Tom Jones' song Delilah (My my my Delilah [daddle addle addle addle aaaaaah]) I loved it and have driven my wife up the wall with it - she really dislikes Tom Jones and does not remember the Alex Harvey version of this song. Eventually we came to an agreement - I can keep practicing it so long as I DO NOT START SINGING IT IN A TOM JONES VOICE. Me? Do a thing like that? How could she possibly imagine such a thing.


My my my...

Friday, June 22, 2007

The Longest Day

OK, I know that was yesterday, but today has just been never ending!

This morning I was working away, seeming to get loads done. Hey, I'm starving, it must be nearly lunchtime! No, it was only 10.30. Back to work and a packet of crisps.

Eventually lunchtime arrives, so off I go, look in a few shops, grab lunch at the Mexican place, back to work to find that I still have 20 minutes left! Jeez, this is getting silly!

More work, time passing, must be getting close to home time, I am starving again and want to get the pizza going. It is only 2.30! What is going on? Have I finally flipped and lost touch with reality? Hard to tell.

Anyway, the clock is now crawling round to 5pm, so I can think about finishing now! Woo hoo! Thank Crunchy it's Friday! My pizza will be so hot it will melt my face, but fear not, I have beer too.

Have a great weekend, lads and lasses, love y'all.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Rant time - do not read if you have enough problems of your own already!

Last Sunday was the 2nd anniversary of my daughter's death. We managed to have a great weekend, having our 2nd annual "Day out for Sophie" on the Saturday and then a really good Fathers Day on Sunday. I had begun to feel that the healing process had really begun for us.


As you may have gathered from previous posts and comments, we have a lot of issues with the way my daughter was treated during her illness, and we have been complaining through the proper channels, not looking for compensation but just hoping to bring deficiencies to light and stop someone else having to go through what we went through. There is a clear process that we are supposed to follow with different organisations around to help us and add a bit of clout if we feel we are not getting what we want. Sounds great, huh?

Events of the last couple of days have confirmed a growing feeling. The entire system is geared to the protection of the establishment (especially the consultants and high ranking doctors) and intends to string things out until we run out of anger and give up. We have been lied to. We have pointed out the lies, so they have changed them for new lies. It has been suggested that we somehow sabotaged the treatment (even though there is clear written evidence to the contrary. We have asked simple, direct questions only to have these questions sidestepped. There was an independent review of events and the report was totally damning of the hospital, but this has been taken seriously either. The organisations that are supposed to ensure fair play are paper tigers with no power. In 2 years we have got nowhere, while the people involved are steadily moving away to other jobs, making our complaint increasingly pointless.

As I see it, we have 3 choices.

1 - give up. This is the easy option but it may allow healing to start. Right now I feel as lost, angry and crushed as I did 2 years ago.

2 - go for private action, which could go on for a long time and might cost lots of money that we do not have. We are seeing if there are ways of doing it on no win no fee basis or getting funding.

3 - go public with it, but this is something that our daughter was against when we were thinking of complaining shortly before she died. This is probably not really an option.

Rant over, sorry about that!

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

The best laid plans of mice and men...

Well I guess we should have known it would all go wrong.

Our daughter had 2 things to do yesterday - a trip to France with her junior school, due to get back at 7.15pm, and an induction/interview at the High School at 7.50pm. She starts High School in September. Both schools are within easy walking distance of our house, although in opposite directions.

At around 7pm it started to rain heavily, with thunder and lightning rumbling on the horizon. I headed down to the junior school to find that the return trip was delayed - new ETA 7.50. DOH!

Tried to phone High School, but no one answered, so I headed off to tell them what was going on. They were OK about it and told me to bring her up as soon as she got back.

Back to Junior School. Coach finally arrives at 8pm, so a mad dash through the storm to the High School, to find that everyone else had been done, but staff were still there.

We then had a fast-track induction and interview with my old woodwork teacher, which was a strange experience for me, before making the final return trip home.

This was an amazing experience for us. The storm was all around us, and we took to walking in the road so that we were not TOO close to the trees. There was one strike that looked like it was only about 100 yards away, though I am sure it was further really. After that, I spent the rest of the walk trying to be shorter :-)

I love storms, but that one was a bit close for comfort. Our satellite TV system was completely out, so we spent the rest of the evening watching Star Wars videos, as the boys have renewed interest in this.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Father's Day

When I was about 15 years old, I saw a picture of Paul Stanley from KISS playing a guitar called an Iceman. It was in all of the guitar magazines, sometimes as a centre spread that made Playboy look dull. My local guitar shop had one that no body could afford to buy. It was beautiful, it was sexy, and I wanted one.

3 months ago, one appeared at my local guitar shop (not the same one, that closed down many years ago). It was second hand and the price was stupidly cheap. But I could still not afford to buy it, as we were cost cutting to clear a credit card. I went home and told my wife about it. The next day it had gone, clearly snapped up by someone who knew a bargain when they saw one.

Yesterday was Father's Day in the UK. The kids brought me my presents in bed - DVDs, chocolate and a new guitar strap. I needed the strap as I have 5 guitars and 2 straps, and this one was really cute - fluffy and brightly coloured.

Then breakfast arrived, with a note on the tray. This was the start of a trail of clues (including one from my FIL by phone) that eventually led me to the shed.

In am sure that you are all much quicker than I was...

Yes, Clare, my wife, had been the person who snapped up the Iceman and then kept it hidden for 3 months. It is beautiful, it plays itself, it has sustain that just goes on and on, even when it is not plugged in and not being played you can hear the B string holding that note...

Now I really MUST find a band to play in!

Friday, June 15, 2007

Loafing in London - how it turned out

Well for a start, the meeting went on far longer than expected, eventually winding up at around 4pm. This had immediately scuppered my loafing plans as written in my last post. However, things took a different, rather more interesting turn.

The meeting had been at the Foreign Office, located in an amazingly impressive Victorian building that backs onto Downing Street. After the meeting we were given a guided tour of the place! It was amazing. Huge stair wells of marble, intricate carvings and vast amounts of gold leaf. Halls and meeting rooms so richly decorated that it really did make me feel proud to be British, until you stopped to think that the money that originally went into building the place came at the expense of our Imperial subjects. Oh well.

We went into the Foreign Minister's office for a look around, seeing where some amazingly important decisions have been made.

We stood by the fireplace that Nelson and the Duke of Wellington stood by during their only meeting. The fireplace had come from a different building, for those of you who were wondering how these 2 could have met in a Victorian building :-) (Nelson died 70 years before the building was completed).

Then there were the paintings - some huge pictures of famous people from British history. The best picture for me, though, was a mural in one of the stair wells, painted just after the end of the First World War. In the centre was Britannia, looking proud and defiant as always, comforting a naked young girl, representing Belgium. On one side of her was a group of women, each representing a country that had been friendly to Britain during the war - the USA was depicted as a warrior maiden brandishing a sword. On the other side was a group of men, each representing part of the Empire that had fought for the mother country - Canada being represented as a handsome young stud, wearing nothing but a loin cloth made from maple leaves!

However, I think the thing that I will remember most was that when I had to pop to the toilet there was a window right next to where I was standing. Looking out of the window I could see the door of Number 10 Downing Street! How surreal is that?

After leaving this place, my boss insisted on buying us all a beer, which went down very well, and then it was time to get the train home, to find my wife waiting at the station with our dog, so we strolled home and chatted about the day.

So, as you can see, my plan came to nothing, but the day was great anyway.

And I still need a Roman catapult...

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Loafing in London

Tomorrow I have a day in London. We are going up for a morning meeting, which with any luck will leave the afternoon free for a bit of loafing around.

I love wandering around the middle of London, it fascinates me. The masses of people rushing around, the shops, the manic traffic zooming everywhere at ridiculous speeds, suddenly stopping for a red light and then zooming off again. The way the price of a bar of chocolate or a can of coke can double if you walk to another shop half a mile away.

If I have time, tomorrow I intend to:

Walk past Buckingham Palace. There is something wonderful about this place, the guards, the machine gun toting Police, the constant flow of tourists with their cameras. It is truly British.

Stroll across Green Park with its trees, and families and couples having picnics or lounging in the sun.

Wander along Piccadilly with its theatres, checking out what the shows are. A current big hit is "Menopause the Musical" - slated by the critics as unPC and terrible, it is a smash with its predominantly older female audience. While here it is best to stick to the main road, as deviation can quickly find you surrounded by Soho's strip clubs and sex shops (which, I guess, could lead to further deviation!). I know this from a long time ago when I tried to find a guitar shop in Soho Square...

I should now be near a great little shop that sells toy soldiers, so I might pop in and have a look around - maybe they will have a Roman catapult for me. I certainly need one.

Then it is about face time, heading back towards Hyde Park Corner and the many artists who try to sell you paintings. This can be well worth a visit, some of the people here are pure genius, while others have less talent than a hedgehog in a bag.

Finally, across Hyde Park, back past Buckingham Palace and onto the train for home.

Well, that is the plan. Watch this space.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

22 Years Ago Today...

my wife and I started seeing each other.

6 Years Ago Today...

we got married.

It is a shame I have to work today, but after all of my short days recently I did not have the cheek to ask!

I bought my wife yet another elephant ornament and a pair of silver elephant ear rings with tiny jingly bells hanging from them. She bought me a copy of the "Tenacious D and the Pick of Destiny" DVD, which we will watch tonight while eating fried chicken and drinking cherry coke, our nostalgia meal. We have not planned to go out for a meal as these never happen, something always goes dreadfully wrong, eg the place unexpectedly closes for the day :-(

So, enjoy our anniversary everyone!

Monday, June 11, 2007

The School Fete

On Sunday we went to the summer fete at the school that my 2 youngest go to. The weather was good for it, warm but a bit overcast so there was less risk of sunburn or heat stroke.

All the usual things there - knocking down coconuts, throwing things at crockery, throwing wet sponges at people, tombolas (we always do a lot of these in memory of our eldest daughter who absolutely loved them), etc. Oddly, everything we won (and we did do quite well) was girly (body lotion, foam bath, a coloured gel pen set, etc), leading to comments of "ooh, thank you Sophie". It is at times like that that I can actually feel her looking over my shoulder

We wondered around with the kids for a while, then our younger daughter was recruited to help out on the crockery smashing stall, so my wife and I sat on the grass, gave the boys money to go off and have fun, and grabbed a drink from the beer tent. What a great way to pass the afternoon.

The funniest thing of the day was when the boys threw wet sponges at each other. My eldest is rubbish at throwing - he tried hoopla, hitting coconuts, and smashing crockery with no success. His throwing was dangerously bad! Then it came to hitting his younger brother in the face with wet sponges - 3 hits out of 3 shots! He put it down to motivation. The coconuts had not given him any grief, but little brother...

Just for the record, little brother was also a very good shot, so they both got rather wet!

Friday, June 08, 2007

Just Chillin'

Well today is just one of those days you can't help feeling great. Life is back to normal, I have got a silly smile on my face (see previous post...), I have got a nice simple task to do today, nothing too taxing, I have got Amy Winehouse playing away on my computer and it is Friday!

Can it get better than this?

Yes it can! I actually get a lunch break today too, so I will be in the little Mexican place I go to most of the time and munching a chicken quesadilla with loads of jalopinoes and cheezy nachos. It has been a long time, over 3 weeks since I was able to do that and I can't wait!

Have a great weekend, guys and galls!

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Return to Normality

My wife returns today, after being away for nearly 3 weeks (I think - I lost track of time.)

Her mother's funeral went as well as these things can, and her dad seems to be coping well now.

I think I did pretty well while she was away - the kids were fed, had clean clothes, did their homework, didn't fight too much, etc, etc. I kept some "me time" to keep me sane, playing a bit of guitar and managing to almost finish painting 2 more armies (Dacian Wars, around 100 AD, Rome attempting to conquer what became Romania) and have kept things under control at work!

The thing that I am most proud of, though, is managing to count my daughter's calories successfully all this time. I have been terrified that I would mess up and that she might fail to lose, or even gain weight under my regime. No problem, though, she continued to lose a pound a week with no trouble. I'M BAD!

Tonight I will be cooking Chinese, with my home made, zero-calorie, sweet and sour sauce, which is one of my wife's favourites. Hey, I know what you're thinking, and you're right - we have lost time to catch up on!

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Rock Chef in the Kitchen

Logzie wanted me to post some recipes.

Unfortunately, I do not tend to work to set recipies, I just hit the kitchen and see what comes out!

If I am cooking Chinese, for example (not the ready done type that my Cashew Chicken was) I tend to cook some noodles and rice, some meat (usually chicken, sometimes pork) with something that I picked up at the oriental supermarket that is near where I work (a great shop with a truly naff name - Thais R Us!) raid the spice rack, etc, until I have something that tastes good. Finally I stir fry a load of vegitables with soy sauce, garlic (lots of garlic) and assorted stuff from the spice rack. The result is always different but always great - in my opinion anyway.

Probably the only time I follow a set recipe is when making pizza bases, but even this has changed over time, starting with white flour, then half white and half wholemeal, to entirely wholemeal - part of our healthier eating kick. My pizza topping recipe is gradually evolving, currently involving lots of garlic, fresh basil and oregano. Black pepper is calling me but I do not want to put the kids off by making it too hot.

So there you have it - Rock Chef has no recipies, he just jams it!

Friday, June 01, 2007

Checking in

Thanks for the messages. It is strange, isn't it, how knowing that someone that you have never met and who lives hundreds or thousands of miles away is thinking of you really does make life easier.

My wife is going to stay with her father until the funeral is over - she does not want to leave him on his own right now. This means that I continue to play mom and dad until the middle of next week. It is exhausting, sometimes frustrating (the thankless tasks of housework...) but generally great fun.

Take yesterday.

Got up at 6.30, took the dog for a walk, got the kids ready and sent them off to my mom's for the morning, went to work, worked until 1pm, went home, grabbed the dog, walked him to my mom's to collect the kids, walked them home, did some washing, took the kids food shopping (2 trolleys worth), put shopping away, took the older kids to their youth club, played Mario Soccer on the Wii with my youngest (nearly beat him in the last game, a big improvement on 12-0!), collected the kids from youth club, had dinner (sweet and sour chicken, cashew chicken(sorry Logzie it was delicious) rice etc) got the kids to bed, had a bath, went to bed, reading a bit of Band of Brothers before falling asleep mid paragraph. Phew.

Anyway, work calls. More next week, have a good weekend.