Tuesday, July 31, 2007

The Perfect Lunch-break

It is lunchtime - my stomach feels so empty it must think my throat has been cut!

[Rumble, gurgle]

Time to head into town. It is a very nice, warm, sunny day, with just a hint of dark cloud on the horizon, just to make you even more appreciative of what is directly over head. As I leave work and walk past the walls around Canterbury Cathedral (a massive, spectacular building, a World Heritage Site, noless, that I rarely actually notice these days) I ponder lunch. There is just about everything you could possibly want within an easy stroll (except, possibly, sushi, but I don't like that anyway!). But as I draw closer the call of the Mexican becomes too tempting and I go in for my usual sit down meal - chicken quesadilla, cheesy natchos and a Coke. I slowly munch my way through this while reading a rather fancyful account of the Battle of Poitiers - the Black Prince's great victory over the French. This is very appropriate reading, as the Black Prince is buried only a couple of hundred yards away from where I sit.

Then it is time for a quick scout around the shops. Nothing very exciting except for a new 6 string bass guitar (most bass guitars have 4 strings). It is surprisingly nice to play, but I am not convinced it has much of an advantage over my lovely 5 string... (see photo). This guitar was amazingly cheap when I bought it but it remains one of the best instruments I have ever played, second only to the one that had the £3000 price tag!
Then I stroll back to work, sipping the last of my Coke, soaking up the sun and avoiding the gangs of tourists that seem intent on seeing everything at once, the odd cyclist that seems determined to get across town without touching his breaks and the ever present homeless drug addicts who lurk on the fringes.

Monday, July 30, 2007

The Week That Was

Last week was a strange one.

To start with, the weather went back to being awful with massive flooding in other parts of the country, but just enough to make things wet and miserable where I am. Custard the dog enjoys the wet, though, so at least he had a good time.

Monday night was spoilt by my being kept awake by an inexplicable pain in my right side. I have no idea what it was, but it was so bad that I vomited. A couple of hours later it went as fast as it came, leaving me worn out for the next day. As a result I spent Tuesday on the sofa being waited on, catching up on DVDs - Hot Fuzz was the best one, a spoof Police movie set in a quiet English village that has had no (reported) crime for years. See it if you get the chance.

Wednesday was my daughter's last day at Junior school so we went to the leaver's concert and then out onto the field (hey the sun even came out!) where they all signed each other's school shirts and memory books.

Friday to Sunday saw us loosen the strings on our daughter, who slept over at a friend's house in the town and (this is the difficult bit) travelled there and back on the bus with her friends. We found this incredibly hard to do, but she did really well and sent us text messages to keep us informed.

On Saturday I went to a friend's house to play a wargame. Four of us fighting a small battle set in the Sudan in Victorian times, with the gallant British fighting off the natives and saving civilization. Great fun.

Now I have to think about work!

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Summer is really here!

Well, perhaps our summer has finally arrived! We have had a couple of hot sunny days in a row and it has not rained too much!

I will be going a bit quiet for a while now, being off work for 3 of the next 4 weeks! I do not tend to go online much at home, but I will try to make the occasional entry on my blog and check what you are all getting up to.

See you all soon!

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

You can choose your friends...

My eldest son and one of my nieces are in the same year at school, both being 13 now. And we live on opposite sides of the same road.

My son is amazingly clever (he will be sitting maths exams at 16 that he should be doing at 18) and is great at anything that requires brain work. However, despite our efforts he has no interest in being cool. He is a happy geek.

My niece is not daft, but is not in the same league as my son, but she is a dead-cool tomboy, who does BMX, skateboarding, guitars, etc. Image is everything.

In other words, they are chalk and cheese, you would find it hard to find 2 people more different. Recently they have taken to gently teasing each other - "geek", "thicky", "wear something cool", "wear a dress". Hopefully it is clear who says what!

Yesterday things moved to a now level. My son had to make Bhangra head dress for Dance class. (See photo for an idea of what the head dress looked like - neither of these are my son).

When he took it in, he had to talk about it in front of 2 classes - his own and my niece's. At the end of the talk he was asked to select another child to wear the head dress. Can you guess who he picked? Can you guess whose "cool" has now been destroyed? Can you guess who hates my son? Can you guess who thinks it is all amazingly funny?

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

The Strangest Dream

I sometimes have strange dreams, but last night I had one to beat them all.

Ali had won a day flying planes at an airfield, so our blog-family had gone along to watch.

First off, Ali wanted to fly a Tiger Moth biplane. Zig said he was a trained pilot and got in with her. Off they went, looping loops and swooping low over the rest of us. Then it was time to land. Ali was at the controls and brought it down so hard the wheels ripped off and they skidded to a halt on the plane's belly.

We rushed over to the plane - Zig climbed out looking a bit shaky, while Ali tumbled out squealing with laughter and shouting that she wanted to fly a jet now. Zig opted out, deciding to sit with Alyssa who was in danger of having her baby on the spot...

So, Ali climbs into a jet - one of those small passenger jets that movie stars fly around in and takes off before the rest of us can stop her. More crazy zooming around, while Logzie and Terri try to stop Chris having a breakdown.

Suddenly there is a small explosion in the plane and a small dot can be seen shooting upwards - it is Ali. Then the rest of the plane explodes in a massive fire ball, the blast shooting Ali even higher. Surely she cannot survive that! The dot that is Ali starts to descend, gathering speed. Then the parachute opens and she drifts to the ground screaming with laughter. Her landing is not very elegant, coming down hard on her behind, which causes another explosion of laughter, while the rest of us collapse into gibbering heaps.

The dream ended with Ali wondering which plane to try out next, only to have Terri, Chris and Logzie pile on top of her, pinning her to the ground.

Now, if anyone can tell me if that has any special meaning...

Monday, July 16, 2007

The Weekend

The weekend was dominated by Sophie's party on Saturday, to celebrate what would have been her 20th birthday.

The party takes the form of an open house, with people able to come and go as they please with food (chosen to reflect what Sophie liked) and drink available when they want it. In addition, the kids run a tombola in the garden, with lots of small prizes - Sophie loved doing these at fetes, so it is something we like to include.

We had a good flow of people during the day, with the last, my 2 brothers, leaving at around 10pm. I can't remember the last time the 3 of us were in a room together, it felt quite strange.

On Sunday we were exhausted and did as little as we could, slobbing in front of the TV as much as possible. In the evening we had our balloon releasing ritual. This goes back to when Sophie was very young. We had been to a fete and bought her a really expensive (for us at the time) balloon of Winnie the Pooh (Sophie's favourite character). When we got home, just before going inside, she let it go - she did not need it any more! It was one of those defining moments. So on Sunday evening we released 3 (one for each of the kids) Winnie the Pooh balloons into the still, evening sky. They rose up into the air to an incredible height before hitting an air stream that took them off Eastwards.

Just as the balloons vanished from view the evening electrical storm started. It was stunning, I have never seen anything like it, so we sat in the garden and watched until the rain arrived, sending us fleeing for cover.

A great weekend, now we can relax a bit as the DIY is over for the moment - I hope. Just need to settle down and finish painting the soldiers for my summer wargames party, the Roman conquest of Romania (or not, as the case may be!)

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Crayon Box Survey

I borrowed this from Terri, who stole if from someone else!

RED = Anger

Are you currently mad at someone? Yes - reading my blog elsewhere will probably tell you who!
Which of your family members has the worst temper? Me.
Have you ever thrown something at anyone? No, amazingly!
Does your face turn red when you’re angry? Don't know!
When you’re mad, do you prefer to stare angrily or yell? I stare if angry with someone that I can see, otherwise I swear and stomp around.

ORANGE = Excitement

Has anyone ever thrown a surprise party for you? No.
Do you get easily excited? Yes, I am a big kid like that.
What’s something that you’re most excited about? My new guitar.
If you won a million dollars, what would be your first thought? Find a really good lawyer to deal with the people I am angry with.
If you could have anything right now, what would it be? My daughter.

YELLOW = Self Discovery

Name: John
Birthday: August 10
What’s your main goal in life? Happiness
Do you want to have children? Had 4, which is enough for anyone!

When do you want to die? Any time after my kids have left home and made a start in life.

GREEN = Opinions

Are you against gay marriage? Absolutely not!
Lower the drinking age? No, maybe put it up a bit!

BLUE = Love

Do you love someone? Yes
Do you believe in love at first sight? No, that is just lust! But Lust at First Site is a good start...


Q: How many beds did you lay in today? A: 1, I am not a tart.
Q: What color shirt are you wearing? A: Grey.
Q: Name one thing that you do every day. A: Read.
Q: How much cash do you have on you right now? A: £15.
Q: Look to your left. What’s there? A: A thank you card from this year's graduates.
Q: What’s the last piece of clothing you borrowed? A: Probably a sweater from my wife.
Q: What website(s) do you visit most during the day? A: Blogs.
Q: Do you have plants in your room? A: Cheese Plants.
Q: Does anything hurt on your body right now? A: No.
Q: What city was your last taxicab ride in? A: Herne Bay, not a city really.
Q: Do you own a picture phone? A: No, my phone was made in the Stone Age.
Q: Recent time you were really upset? A: When I realised that the UK's medical complaints procedure is totally powerless.

PINK = Last

Person you saw: Our secretary.
Movie watched in cinema: Pirates of the Caribbean 3.
Song you just listened to? Strangers in the Darkess by Gary Moore.
Person you talked on the phone with: My wife.

GREY = Today

What are you doing right now? Typing this!
What are you doing tonight? Playing wargames.
What are you going to eat? Something from the chip shop.

BROWN = Tomorrow

Is: Friday.
Goal: Get food for the party on Saturday.
Are you going to laugh? I certainly hope so!

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Life, Death and Beliefs

I guess today is a good day to ponder this stuff. My eldest daughter would have been 20 today. I had promised Terri that I would try to put my thoughts on religion into words, so here goes.


My general approach to how to behave in everyday life is based on my Christian up-bringing - the Ten Commandments give a good guide on how we should live.

The Bible seems to contain some contradictions - for example, in the Old Testament we have "an eye for an eye", while Jesus would have us turning the other cheek. For me they are both sensible options in different situations. In the time that Jesus was alive, everyone was trying to sort out their problems with war, which was clearly not working, especially for the Jews who were repeatedly crushed by the Romans. Taking a different approach seems only natural.

I believe God is here and will judge us when the time comes, but he is not stupid - he will judge us on the intentions behind our actions, rather than our actions and their results. We are human and make bad calls which have the wrong effect, this is how we were made after all. Merely putting on the trappings of being a good Christian does not fool him either. If we live life with the right intentions then God will judge us accordingly.


I believe that we are judged as soon as we die - think how long the queue would be if not! ;-) If we have lived a life that makes the grade we get to go to the next world, the place that I saw my daughter in during the dream I had and wrote about in an old post. If not, I believe we get sent back to try again. This is a bit Buddhist, I guess, but I firmly believe in reincarnation and do not hold with the eternal damnation in fire and brimstone that my grandfather told us about. My God is not like that.

I also believe that the barrier between this world and the next is fluid and that we can cross both ways. There are times when we can have a glimpse of what is to come (I am certainly not the only person that I know that this has happened to) and those who have moved on are able to visit us at times. I often feel my daughter's presence. I used to put it down to wishful thinking but have realised that it does not only happen when I am thinking of her. I guess this leads me to believe that "ghosts" are spirits that have decided they want to remain here permanently.

That sums it up, I guess. Not much but it works for me. Hope you found it of interest.

Monday, July 09, 2007

It's Tennis Jim, but not as we know it

On Saturday, I took the kids into town to do a bit of shopping. As the weather was rather good (certainly the best we have had for over a month) we took our tennis stuff and had our first session of the year. As we were just getting our hands in, we played what we have called "Diddy Tennis". This involves trying to keep the ball in the half of the court closest to the net and just keeping the ball moving. I guess the result is more like Volleyball, where the ball gets tapped around a couple of times on one side of the net before being passed over the the other side. It is great fun and totally uncompetitive, which I like. When Clare and I get on the court, it is another matter...

A Day to DIY for (or tackling the "Honey Do List")

Well the day finally arrived and could be put off no longer. We were going to close off our porch! This has been planned for 7 years (since we first moved in) and the parts have slowly accumulated over the years, wood, hinges, doors, locks...

In recent weeks my wife (who is just so totally wonderful that words do not exist to do her justice) had been cutting the wood to size and making the joints. All we had to do was put the pieces together, like a flat packed piece of furniture. Sounds so easy doesn't it?

Well, to my amazement, it WAS that easy! Carpet Fairy (thanks James, I think I will be using that name from now on) had done a really great job and a few hours later we were applying a coat of varnish to our new front door. This is really great, as it effectively gives us an extra room, where we will be putting our second freezer. We were going to put the washing machine there too, but last night there were hints that Carpet Fairy would be taking it over as an art room, as it has great natural light for sketching and painting.

A great weekend for all of us - my only regret is that I underestimated how hot the sun was on Saturday, so my upper arms got totally fried. Even now, they are bright red and extremely painful, regardless of whatever creams I put on. Now I remember why I gave up trying to get tanned!

Friday, July 06, 2007

Of Magic Carpets and Backing Tracks

You may remember that we had new carpets arriving on Wednesday. Well, by the time I got home I found that the one for the hall had magically laid itself! This was great news for me, as our hall is a nightmare shape, having a large recess under the stairs where my computer and the dog's bed is. But there is more! I got home after my wargames meeting last night (playing a jolly entertaining game of Roman Chariot Racing) to find that the living room carpet had done itself too! Wowee, this was even better as our living room is home to our rather substantial book collection, in addition to the usual stuff. I am now wondering if the kitchen/diner will sort itself out today! Amazing stuff this carpet! Wish I knew about it years ago!

Changing the subject completely, my wife must have upped her workout regime, as she has been really tired the last couple of days.

Meanwhile, in odd breaks over the last few days I have managed to have a play with a program that is on an eMac in the office. It is called Garage Band and I have used it to put together a couple of simple drum and bass backing tracks so I can play guitar along with them. I had a quick go with one this morning and it really works well. Might try adding in a bit of keyboard or rhythm guitar when I get the time. Wonder if anyone would notice if the eMac disappeared for the summer...

Thursday, July 05, 2007


With all this talk of Canada Day and 4th July, one thing that cannot be missed are fireworks.

Fireworks are something that I really quite hate, to tell the truth. Well it is not fireworks themselves, it is just people with fireworks.

The people of the town I live in seem to be addicted to them. Our big excuse for a firework display in the UK is 5th November, Guy Fawkes night, where we celebrate the failure of a bomb plot to kill our King. We shoot off fireworks and burn "Guys" (an effigy of the poor Mr Fawkes who was not burned in reality, but was hung drawn and quartered instead). Fine.

The trouble is, shops start selling fireworks to anyone who looks old enough from around mid-September, so we get teenagers shooting off rockets and letting off small bombs from then onwards. This is what I really object to. Has no one realised that these things are dangerous? Every year we hear about the nasty injuries that kids have suffered when something has exploded in their face or hand. If someone had just invented them and wanted to put them in shops there is NO WAY they would be allowed to do it, is there? The only ones that have been banned are some big Chinese bombs that were blowing hands off! Organised displays are OK, but putting them in the hands of teenagers is insane (as Terri's video clip clearly demonstrated). Maybe there should be some sort of license?

November 5th comes and goes and the shops still stock fireworks. Why? Christmas is coming! Yes, they have taken to having private firework displays on Christmas Day and then New Years Eve too - if World War 3 broke out at midnight 31 December no one would be able to tell! And of course, this means that the teenagers are still able to buy them too, so we get gangs of DRUNK teenagers setting off rockets etc.

Rant over.

I must admit that I do take the kids to displays. There is a great one on the seafront each summer that we go to, grabbing some snacks and drinks on the way and then finding a good view point for the event. At least it is usually warm!

At the last town we lived in the closest display was organised by the school that the kids went to. Sophie was always terrified of fireworks, but each year she would insist on going, with the routine going something like this:

  • The evening is absolutely freezing cold (November in the UK is not nice) so we wrap up really warm.

  • A brisk walk of around a mile to the school, pay to get in (it raised funds for the school), grab a hot dog and drink each and look for a good spot.

  • The start of the display is delayed for half an hour for some reason, so we freeze a bit more. Maybe a bit of icey rain adds to the joy of the occasion.

  • Whoosh, BANG!

  • Sophie jumps out of her skin and says she wants to go home.

  • We go home.

She must have been 14 before she could sit through a display, even then with big fluffy ear muffs and a thick hood done up tight.

So I am looking forward to the summer display on the beach, but not to the approach of Autumn and the general availability of explosives in the shops!

Wednesday, July 04, 2007


Today is not a very good day.

The weather is that nasty hot and humid sort that just makes you sleepy. There is also the constant threat of rain which does not help and there is just enough wind to annoy the cyclist in me.

Added to this, inspite of the fact that we did not do our DIY at the weekend, one of my legs has developed a nagging ache, possibly indicating the return of my sciatica, which is not fun. Better stock up on the pills I guess! New carpets and stuff arrive this afternoon and I get the impression that my wife is getting things cleared so we can start laying the stuff this evening! I know it seems drastic but we are having a party on the 14th and she wants to get lots of things done before then. Why does this bit sound like someone else's recent blogging? :-)

I spent the morning wrestling with the mapping program I use, trying to make the road networking functions work with my own data instead of the sample data that is supplied with it. Finally managed but not without a lot of muttered curses and mumbled threats to my PC. Don't you hate the way that instructions for computer programs only help once you know what you are supposed to be doing and are totally useless as a way of learning in the first place? I will find something more entertaining to do this afternoon. Not sure what, yet.

Hmmmmm..... Must stay awake.....

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Needed - more days like this!

Well for a start, the DIY did not happen. Due to more or less constant rain we were not able to even think about it, so the weekend was quiet and peaceful (once I got home from working on Saturday, of course). The only downside was that I got soaked each time I took the dog out or popped to the shop. Oh well.

Monday arrived. Now I may have mentioned this before, but every time my wife and I plan a day to ourselves while the kids are at school it all goes wrong - one of the kids is sick or we get where we are going to find it has closed for the day, that sort of thing. So we got the kids to school, walked the dog without getting rained on, then wondered what to do next! We had not expected to get this far. So I suggested we went to order the new carpet for the living room that my wife had been talking about for a while. So off to town (still no rain), found the carpet shop, they had everything we wanted, plus a few other things and we ordered the lot! Hm, this is going to be expensive I thought, but it really was not as bad as expected, so the day got better still.

Time for lunch. We had originally planned a visit to a Chinese restaurant, but but gave it a miss as we had take away the night before, so instead we went to a deli and grabbed a load of stuff.

Time to go home. As we came out of the deli a taxi pulled up, so we grabbed it and whizzed home with plenty of time to eat lunch and relax before the kids came out of school.

By this time we were getting a little paranoid - something must happen to ruin it all, but nothing. It was a great day off - now we have to get ready to lay the new carpets... At least the rain can't stop THAT!