Friday, November 30, 2007

Oh Christmas Tree, Oh Christmas Tree...

This morning I was laying in bed, in that half asleep, half awake state, half listening to the early morning radio show that we use as our alarm.

Suddenly, my wife woke up with a start.

"Wha! Oh I just had a horrible dream!" She looked visibly shaken by whatever it was - perhaps the old "being eaten alive by rats" one?

I hugged her, telling her it was OK, just a dream.

"But it was horrible. The tree. You decorated my tree and it was horrible!"

Notice "my tree".

The she went on to describe how I had decorated the tree in her dream. As she talked about the details I mentally ticked off items - yes, yes, yes, ooh that's a good idea, yes, yes...

"So, if I did the tree even remotely like that it would be bad, would it?"

"Well, in my dream I was trying to work out now much I could change it each day without anyone else noticing until I could live with it".

In the discussion that followed we came to the conclusion that I might have to give up my claim on the living room and be happy with the porch and hall - the thought of me doing the tree has clearly traumatised my poor wife!

I will still endeavour to take pictures, though...

Thursday, November 29, 2007

How many children...

Going back to the subject of children, I always find it interesting to compare people's reactions to family sizes.

As our family grew the reactions changed:

One child: Ah, that's nice. Have you thought of having another one to keep her company?

Two children: Yes, we decided to have two, any more and we would have to buy a bigger house.

Three children: How do you manage? It must be mayhem in your house.

Four children: Are you Catholic? No? [Thinks: "Must just be insane then".]

The strange thing is, in our experience, the amount of effort involved in having more children did not increase in direct proportion to the numbers. The second only seemed to require about half as much additional work as the first, the third half that again until the fourth just seemed to fit in without any noticable change! Others have probably felt differently, perhaps two felt like MORE THAN twice as much work as one? I would be interested to hear views on this.

[Hm, do you think that will distract them from the Christmas decoration thing? Will they forget about the photos? If I keep quiet I might get away with it...]

Monday, November 26, 2007

Christmas Decorations...

In our house we usually have 2 distinct types of decoration.

In the living room, my wife performs wonders of good taste - twinkling white lights, red ribbons, an angel here and there. It looks like something from a life-style magazine.

The hall and kitchen are usually where me and the kids are let loose. This is where the second tree groans under the weight of my older daughter's Winnie the Pooh decorations, where we have the singing Pooh, Tigger and Eeyore live, where the garish LED disco ball lights go, where the home made paper chains are hung, where the dozens of multicoloured mirror balls hang from the ceiling. In other words it is the absolute opposite of how our livingroom looks.

This year looks like being a bit different - it looks like I, that is ME will be let loose in the livingroom! Yes, the haven of good taste is going to be taken over by my crass, garish, wonderful decorating! The tree will not know what hit it! I have seen the amazing new tree docorations and stuff to string across the ceiling and - ooh I can't wait!

Hahahahahahahahahaaaaaaa!!!!! MERRY CHRISTMAS EVERYBODY!!!!!

Who knows, I might even post photos if you are really unlucky!

Thursday, November 22, 2007


Recently I have kept thinking back to when my wife and I were first together. My wife had been married already and was undergoing infertility treatment, but the basic message from the experts was "forget it, you will never have children". Here are a few of my strongest memories from this time.

It seemed that everyone else was able to pop out babies at will. "We are thinking of having another baby - ooh look, I'm pregnant". [Plop] "Ah, it's a boy!"

It seemed that the vast majority of parents wished they did not have their kids. We would be bursting with rage - why have them if all you are going to do is shout at them and beat them while you are doing the shopping? We only wanted one and these people seemed to have about 10 each that they did not want!

There were times when we had to stop ourselves stealing babies! I remember going past a shop with a screaming baby in a pram outside and no one in sight looking after it. I know that stealing children is a terrible thing to do, but we were THAT close, believe me!

Oh, and the tests! My wife went through all sorts of horrible tests as they tried to find out what was wrong. It was awful. Meanwhile, there was only one test that I could do and that wasn't too bad, just terribly embarassing! Once they asked for a sample that was less than 15 minutes old and I live an hour away from the hospital... Eeeeeeeeewwwwww!

The worst thing was the way the clinics were arranged at the hospital. We would be sitting in the waiting room, usually for over an hour because the doctors were always running late. In the SAME waiting room would be the families with multiple births - hordes of twins and triplets! It felt like they were all sitting there shouting "In your face! We got 3 in one go!"

Well, somehow we managed to produce 4 kids, much to the dismay of the doctors who still maintained that it was not possible! I think it was a combination of luck, prayer and good old fashioned HARD WORK ;-)

Wednesday, November 21, 2007


Kenady has kindly given me an AWARD:

I was really pleased to get this for a number of reasons.
Firstly it is good to know that people read and enjoy my blog.
SecondlyI love emus - they are such strange looking creatures with real attitude. If I had a big enough place I would have a pet one.
Finally, emus remind me of my childhood.

This is Rod Hull and Emu. I don't know how famous they are overseas, but any Brit who is older than around 25 will recognise them. At the peak of their fame they went on prime-time chat shows and repeatedly attacked the presenters - as a child it was amazing to see such pillars of the establishment as Michael Parkinson cringe in the face of a puppet:

before being physically assaulted:

Ah, they don't make TV like that anymore!

Now I have to give this award to someone else! Let's see:

Ali's blog is always one of the first I read each day, and is now compulsory reading as the Butterbean Countdown continues!

I always pay homage to the Princess of the Universe.

I also love reading Mindy Does Minneapolis, mainly because she continually fails to live up to the trashiness that she seems to promise!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Product Names

I have seen a lot of things over the years that discuss how a product name that is used successfully in one country has failed terribly in another country because the name already means something else in the new country. Examples of this are a drink whose name translated as "urine" or a car whose name translated as "small penis".

"Hey baby, you wanna see my car? I've got a small penis!"

No, doesn't work, does it?

Anyway, I was in one of the posher shops in town today when I was confronted by a huge display of these:

and their friends. Now I am not a coffee drinker and the smell of strong coffee makes me feel ill. So imagine my mirth when I read the name: GAGGIA.

Now where I come from, "gagging" is that feeling you get in your throat just before you vomit! What a great name! I wonder if they know that the name of their product suggests vomitting? Perhaps it is a marketing ploy aimed at models who are trying to fit into size 0 dresses?

Who can tell?

Monday, November 19, 2007


We were staying in a very large house with large, ornate gardens all around.

Suddenly there was a loud crash outside, so we all rushed to see what it was. There, right in the middle of what had been an ornate patio area was a large lump of some sort of rock. After a pause we decided that we had better have a go at clearing up the mess, but no matter what we did we could not move or break up the rock.

While we stood there thinking, someone appeared from the cellar with a bottle of something and poured it over the rock, which promptly began to melt in the way the expanded polystyrene does when you put the wrong glue on it. In a few moments all we had was a small puddle which we thought would soon evaporate.

Not so, it started to bubble and expand. Then it split and a man crawled out - a man who appeared to be made of shiny black stone. He then set to work lifting things out off the bubbling mass, statues of varying size - horses, trains, etc, which he proceeded to take into the house and arrange on shelves and in corners. We tried to stop him but he just pushed us aside and carried on.

Then Kirk Douglas came leaping over a wall, dressed as Spartacus. Sword in hand he attacked the man, but was unable to make any impression. Fearing that our hero would be injured, I rushed into the house, found a large sword that went with one of the suits of armour and went to help him. The sword did no damage but I was able to cause a diversion so everyone was at last able to get into the house and barricade the doors.

Then we sat down to decide what to do next. If it was a movie there would be a weakness that we could exploit to save the day. Looking at the bottle that the liquid had come from we found that it had contained some sort of bacteria. Ah ha! We had Anti-bacterial washing up liquid in the kitchen! A quick test on one of the statues that were in the house proved that this was the secret, so we all loaded water pistols, super soakers and squeezy bottles with washing up liquid and, following behind Spartacus, burst out of the house and destroyed the man that had come out of the foam.

Now was that a strange dream or what? The next night my dream involved nukes and Sean Connery!

Thursday, November 15, 2007

The Eight meme

Kiki kindly tagged me for this - here goes!

8 things I am passionate about:

  1. My family
  2. Playing my guitars
  3. Dogs
  4. Reading
  5. My work
  6. Cycling
  7. Food
  8. Um, "being married" if you get my drift...

8 things I often say:

  1. Quotes from The Simpsons
  2. Can I have a quesadilla with cheesy nachos and a Coke
  3. Did you HAVE to drive that close you *&%$!
  4. I am hungry
  5. Can I buy a new set of strings?
  6. Is it that late already?
  7. Where did the weekend go?
  8. Sorry I did not mean to turn it up THAT loud

8 books I have read recently:

  1. Bill Bryson, Down Under
  2. Stuff about the Black Prince and the Battle of Poitiers
  3. An alternative history about what might have happened if the Spanish Armada had succeeded in conquering England
  4. Stuff about the Polish army in the 17th Century
  5. Stuff about doing maps on computers, related to my work
  6. Something by Terry Pratchett
  7. The Penguin Dictionary of The Bible, with maps by me(!)
  8. Stuff about the Romans

8 things to do before I die:

  1. Play in a band again
  2. See my kids through to adulthood, hey maybe even see a grandchild!
  3. Take the coast to coast train journey across Canada, taking a few detours to visit people
  4. Write a book
  5. Write and publish a set of wargame rules
  6. Learn to play the piano
  7. Learn to play the drums
  8. Finish painting all of my toy soldiers

8 songs I could listen to over and over again:

  1. Strangers in the Darkness by Gary Moore
  2. Comfortably Numb by Pink Floyd
  3. Stormy Monday by The Allman Brothers
  4. While My Guitar Gently Weeps, as played by Jeff Healey
  5. The song that Ray Charles sings in The Blues Brothers
  6. Freebird by Lynyrd Skynyrd
  7. Helleluyah I Love Her So, as played by Humble Pie
  8. The karaoki version of Ebony and Ivory from the movie Undercover Brother

8 things that attract me to my friends
  1. A sense of humour
  2. Intelligence
  3. Similar interests
  4. Can't think of anything else - I just tend to click with people or not!

8 things I have learned in the last year
  1. How great blogging is
  2. That Doctors can do whatever they like and not have to answer for it
  3. How much my wife loves me
  4. Lots of stuff about maps and computers
  5. How little we really know about what happened in the past - so much British history seems to have been made up by the Victorians
  6. Lots of new stuff on the guitar
  7. I have got one particular, really good friend that I met a couple of years ago. This year I realised that we actually met once over 25 years ago, had planned to meet up again but never did until recently.
  8. I love bagels
Phew, made it! Anyone else want to try this one? I won't tag anyone because I am nice ;-)

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

The Little Guy...

My "Little Guy" is 9 now, and he is not so little, standing head and shoulders above most others in his class at school.

He is very into his "look" - skater boy hair, mainly orange and brown clothes, bead necklaces and wrist bands, skull and crossbones sweat bands. When he goes out he is a picture of carefully planned scruffiness.

He is also amazingly clever, doing a lot of school work 2 years ahead of the rest of his class, but he somehow remains Cool and is not a geek in any way. He was playing the Yu-Gi-Oh card game at the age of 5, and as a result learned how to do 4 digit mental arithmetic at that age. These card games can be VERY educational!

His name, Ira, is a nod to the Jewish blood that is in my family. Jews have a reputation, right or wrong, when it comes to money, and my Little Guy is VERY careful with his cash. He gets regular pocket money and always spends less than he gets, always on the hunt for a good bargain. He recently found that in Tesco he could get 2 large bottles of lemonade and 2 large bars of chocolate for around £1 - he admitted that it was not quite as nice as the expensive stuff but hey, at that price, he thought he was getting a good deal. His piggy bank currently holds around £80.

Of course, being a younger brother, his main aim in life is to drive Big Brother insane. For example a few weeks ago we were having a big fried breakfast with eggs, bacon, sausage, etc. The Little Guy had a big slice of bacon that he kept pushing to one side as he ate, hinting that he might not have room for it. Big Brother was hooked, waiting eagerly for his chance to claim it. Eventually, Ira speared it with his fork, lifted it up and asked Big Brother if he wanted it. Eager nodding followed. Then, in one swift, perfectly timed move, Ira stuffed the bacon into his mouth and it was gone, accompanied by wails of anguish from Big Brother.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Little Miss...

My daughter has got this odd, yet very cute, little pose that she does, usually in response to praise from me. She holds here hands either side of her face and spreads out her fingers, so she looks like a flower. She will then say something in a little baby voice that just melts my heart, and she knows it.

Yesterday lunchtime everyone else had already grabbed something to eat and she decided that she wanted to cook herself something nice. She worked really hard at it, choosing ingredients, chopping things up, whisking eggs, etc and ended up with a Chinese omlette, with ham, garlic, onion, baby sweetcorn, etc, in it. The smell was amazing, especially when all I had eaten was a peanut butter and jelly sandwich! I decided to try my luck.

"Mm, that smells amazing! It was so nice of you to cook it for me!"

"It's not for you, it's for me."

"No, I am sure I heard you say it was for me. Didn't you hear that mummy?"

"It's not for you, it's for me!"

"But you are such a sweet, kind, lovely girl-"

At this point she turned round, struck the pose I described above and said, in the baby voice:

"No I'm not!"

And sat down and ate the omlette.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Mr Diplomatic

My children are, generally, very nice and polite children. However, as my older son moves into his teens he is becoming increasingly outspoken, as you would expect.

A recent incident, which took place at the local youth club, still makes me both cringe and laugh out loud.

My daughter was with a couple of her friends and things had become increasingly tense between these 2 friends, with my daughter stuck in the middle. Eventually it turned into a shouting and pushing match, with both girls hurling horrible insults at each other about ugly they were. Finally my son lost patience with them, and stepped between them, pushing them apart.

"Can you two stop it, please?"

Isn't that nice? I was so proud of him. Then he delivered the punchline:

"We know you have both got real facial problems, so can we just leave it there?"

Do you think he may have a future in politics? International diplomacy?

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Smile, it's Hump Day!

I went into my usual place for lunch today, a Philadelphia Cheese Steak Sandwich - YUM! As I finished ordering the woman there asked how I was today.

"Oh, OK, I think. Things have been a bit difficult recently but we seem to be on the upward curve now."

"Well at least it is Hump Day" she says with a smile, "my husband and I like Hump Day."

I froze for a moment. My instant translation of "Hump" had been "having relations" and "being married" to use the phrases that a couple of you out there use. Was she telling me that tonight is THEIR NIGHT?! Now I know some couples settle into a sort of routine that fits with their lives, but surely you don't go telling people about it even if they have been regular customers for 3 years or more!

"Sorry?" was the best I could manage.

"Wednesday is Hump Day, didn't you know that?"


"Yep, once you are past Wednesday you are over the hump and the weekend is coming."

Gling! On came the light. Of course, it made sense now.

"Oh, I was thinking of a totally different meaning for 'hump'" came out before I could stop it.

Luckily she saw the funny side of it...

Monday, November 05, 2007

Guy Fawkes Night

Tonight is Guy Fawkes Night!

We don't have 4th July or Thanks Giving, but this is our big night for fireworks and jolly good it is too.

Guy Fawkes was a member of a gang of traitors who attempted to blow up the King and Parliament but was foiled at the last minute.

His fate was the usual for this sort of crime...

First off he was tortured - I mean REAL torture, the sort of torture that inspired men to smash their own heads in against their cell walls so they would not have to face it. This persuaded him to give the names of his accomplices.

Then he was executed. Again, we are talking nasty - he was hung, drawn and quartered.
Hung: not dropped so the neck broke for a quick death, but raised up so he choked, but did not die.
Drawn: the stomach was slit open and the insides slowly pulled out. If done properly the victim would remain conscious the whole time.
Quartered: finally, he was beheaded and dismembered.

Mel Gibson recreates this really well at the end of Braveheart...

Guy Fawkes night - the day we celebrate a time when the punishment really did fit the crime.
Have a good one!

Friday, November 02, 2007

The True Meaning of...

There has been a lot of talk over recent years about the increasing commercialisation of Christmas. It is all about the presents and parties, and not about the true intent of the festival. There is an easy explanation for this:

God: After careful thought I have decided that Christians around the world need a day when they can focus on the true meanings of Christianity, a time for love, peace and hope for the future. I will call it CHRISTMAS!!!!!

Satan: Hm, don't like the sound of that too much. I need something really BAD that will take their minds off of it all. I have got it, this is great, probably my best one ever! I will create CHRISTMAS SHOPPING!!!!!! MWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHHAAA!!!!!!!!

In revenge, God seems to have more or less corrupted Halloween - gone are the nights of witchcraft and talking to the dead and in comes dressing up as rabbits, Wonderwoman and monkeys :-) This is, of course, all good fun but far from the night's origins don't you think?

So, next year I think we should return to the true meaning of Halloween. The evening could run something like this:
  • Dress up in suitable witch and devil costumes.
  • Gather with friends in a dark, damp cellar or disused church.
  • Commune with the dead using Ouija boards etc, possibly becoming possessed by an evil spirit or two.
  • Sacrifice a goat and drink its blood.
  • Move on to nearby graveyard and dance around it anti-clockwise, reciting The Lord's Prayer backwards.
  • Have an orgy in the graveyard.
  • Go home for drinks and nibbles.

What do you think? If Satan gets Halloween back, maybe God can have Christmas back!

(PS you might have noticed that this is not totally serious...)