Wednesday, 30 April 2008

It won't last...

I was listening to the radio this morning and they were discussing the release of Grand Theft Auto 4, a video game about crime, violence and prostitution, among other things. I have not played this game or any of the previous versions, but know people who have!

Anyway, the discussion on the radio turned to the thought that a lot of the men who are buying this game will be in relationships, possibly even parents. They posed the question for female listeners: What would you do if your partner started playing this game? The female presenter then went on to talk about a previous boyfriend who was obsessed with these sorts of games and the fact that his idea of a great evening was to play video games with his house-mate and ignore her completely! She decided that she did not want to continue with a relationship with someone like that, and good for her!

This got me thinking about general things that are instant put offs, and also what puts us off of people in a longer term relationship, not necessarily as boyfriend/girlfriend, of course.

So, 3 questions:

  1. What would you do if your other half turned up with a copy of Grand Theft Auto?
  2. Is there something that instantly puts you off someone?
  3. What is the thing that is most likely to make you end a relationship?

For the record, my answers are:

  1. I know that my wife would not let the game in the house anyway, but I would destroy it at the first opportunity.
  2. Smoking.
  3. Attitudes towards children.

Tuesday, 29 April 2008

Here comes the rain again...

The weather has been incredibly annoying today.

When I got up and looked out of the window, the sky was clear and blue - a beautiful morning! Yay! I almost put on shorts!

By the time I was ready to leave a ton of clouds had appeared and it looked like rain. In fact it started while I was putting my coat on! On the ride to work I got totally soaked in freezing rain. Not nice. I did, however, miss the hail that caught my wife while she was out walking Custard the dog, so I guess I should count my blessings :-/

This afternoon has been gloriously hot and sunny, my office is like a greenhouse, but I can see that as home-time approaches the sky is getting darker and the clouds are rolling in. [Sign]

Yes, the first drops of rain have just started to fall...

Monday, 28 April 2008

A long weekend

On Friday, my wife and I took advantage of our free time together to take Custard, our dog, on a long walk in the morning - this took us to a big combined garden centre/petshop, which Custard loves visiting. All of the food is out in buckets so you can have a good look at the stuff. Custard is unbelievably good, and has a good sniff but does not steal any of it! We bought him a huge hide chew as a reward.

On Saturday, I set off with Number 1 Son to go to play toy soldiers. To get there it time we had to catch the 5am train.

We were refighting The Battle of Poitiers, 1356, between the English and French, our age old enemies

The game went really well. Here are a few photos. The scenary is very spartan, but my excuse is that everything had to fit into my rucksack, so there was no room for anything too fancy! I did think the swamp worked rather well, though!

The French (left) begin their second attack - the first attack was over before I remembered the camera!

English longbowmen advance to meet the French as the treasure wagons at the back make their escape across the swamp.

The same scene from another angle.

After their second attack was defeated the French formed up for one final huge attack.

The English responded by jumping onto their horses and trampling them into the dirt. Our game managed to come extremely close to what we know of the original battle, which means we must have done something right!
On Sunday I had to stack the new delivery of hay for my mom's pony, Humphrey. In the picture above I was feeding him bits of apple.

What a sweetheart!

Thursday, 24 April 2008

Something for the weekend?

On Saturday I am having a day playing toy soldiers - recreating the Battle of Poitiers, one of the great victories of our local hero The Black Prince. Should be a lot of fun. Might have photos to show you all on Monday, if you will humour my nerdiness one more time.

I am off work tomorrow so that Carpet Fairy still gets a weekend of sorts. This will mean several hours of us on our own, while the kiddy-winks are at school, so I am wondering if she is making plans for visits to DIY stores, garden centres etc. We will see.

Have a wonderful weekend, everyone!

"The 6 dumb things about me" meme

I picked this up from Terri's blog, although I know I have seen others do it too!

  1. Link back to the person who tagged you. Sort of!

  2. Post these rules on your blog. Done!

  3. Share six unimportant things about yourself.

  4. Tag six random people at the end of your entry. Nah.

So, let me see!

  1. I am an incurable Air Guitarist. If there is music to be heard my fingers will be twitching as I play along. If there is no music to be heard I will be playing along with a tune that is in my head instead, Ally McBeal-style.

  2. Bath time is a big thing for me - I run the water as deep and hot as possible, chuck in a load of bubble bath, and settle down with a drink and a book. If this routine goes wrong for any reason I feel cheated and can't settle down to sleep afterwards.
  3. I am appalling at remembering people's names. Working at a University, I know the faces of all of the students in our department. I also know all of their names. There are very few where I can successfully put the two together!
  4. I often strike up conversations with complete strangers. Sometimes they look at me like I have just escaped from the local asylum. Sometimes I end up having amazing conversations.
  5. I have trouble nailing down ideas. For example, I have got about 10 half written songs rattling around in my head, most having a verse or 2 and a chorus. If I try to write them down it is like they don't want it and hide behind other stuff in my head.
  6. I am terrible for taking conversations off at a tangent - within a matter of a couple of minutes I can take a conversation from the difficulty of finding good bananas at the moment to how new research shows that your diet can effect the sex of your baby! I often find myself stopping and asking what we were originally discussing!
There, a little more light on the strangeness that is Rock Chef!

Wednesday, 23 April 2008


Please scroll down to find my latest post - Six dumb things...

Don't know how to move it up the list! Oh well!

Tuesday, 22 April 2008

Me topless? Nah!

This post was inspired by Claire at The Beauty of Bamboo and her post about her feet.

I was considered a bit of a lump when I was born. My older brother was early and weighed less than 6 pounds. When I turned up at 8 pound 3 my poor mom had trouble and I got stuck with my head out, screaming at the top of my little lungs, but the rest well and truly wedged.

In a situation like this they normally used the dreaded forceps, but in my case there was no doctor around to oversea the procedure so the midwife just grabbed what she could and got me out.

I have had no ill effects from this rough treatment, but I do have marks in the form of dents in my ribs! On the left I have a shallow indent about 6 inches across, while in the right I have a smaller, deeper dent - I think of these as the midwife's fingers and thumb respectively! They do not show up as much now as they did when I was a painfully thin teenager with not a single chest hair in sight, but I still do not like showing off my chest in public. Thinking about the chest hair, I only started getting that when I turned 40! Talk about a late developer! Ha!

The other thing about my chest is that I have 3 nipples - 2 normal ones and a smaller one below the left one. My wife says that I must be a Warlock, the 3rd nipple being to feed my familiar! Either way, it adds to the "interesting" look of my chest.

Monday, 21 April 2008

Blah blah blah

Had an interesting weekend.

I got a letter from McDonalds about my complaint that cyclists are not allowed to use the drive-thru. Their response was basically that they had made their rules by following the general guidelines of the Health and Safety Executive, so don't blame us, please come again. I will be keeping the letter as a momento.

I played Mariocart on the Wii against the kids, who had a great time laughing at my driving skills. I managed to come last in every single race, except for one where my daughter let me get in front of her right at the end. It is a great game, and I want to practice a bit so I can give them more of a run for their money next time!

We finished building a porch around our back door, which will be nice when it is raining. As always, my wife did the vast majority of this, with me only helping her to put the roof on as she couldn't reach.

Finally, I did a bit of shopping my phone which was very entertaining - my wife carefully guiding me around the shop looking for things that were not there. It was only when I got home that we realised why the things weren't there - I was not in the shop that my wife thought I was in!


Thursday, 17 April 2008

The Real Thing...

Earlier this week I decided that I would give up drinking "fat" Coke.

I went to the shops and bought a couple of bottles of Coca Cola Zero instead, knowing from experience that this is the least-bad diet cola - for me anyway.

The first 3 days went OK, I merrily drank my Zero with no apparent ill-effects. Then, last night, I stopped to buy dinner on my way to spend the evening at a friend's house. I bought a chicken kebab with garlic sauce and chilli sauce. Hm, going to need a drink to go with this.

I looked in the fridge.

There was all sorts in there.

But there was no contest - I grabbed a bottle of "fat" Coke, and that was it. I am back on the sugary stuff, I can't shake it.

Should I think about rehab?

Tuesday, 15 April 2008

Ah, I knew there was another reason...

for not taking the safe route home!

Last night, as I left work, the sky was clear blue, the sun was shining, with just a gentle cool breeze blowing. The short sharp storm earlier in the day was long gone. True to my resolution for the summer, I headed off to the cycle path, my safe route home.

I was well on the way, beyond the point of no return when the sun disappeared. Where did those clouds come from?

Then there was the first rain drop - a "drop" in name only, it was huge!

Before I knew it I was in the middle of the heaviest rain I have experienced this year - but hey, I am a Brit, so I soldiered on, my upper lip nice and stiff.

The rain only lasted about 5 minutes and stopped as suddenly as it had started, adn I zoomed on home.

It was only when I dismounted and looked at the bike that I remembered the other down side to the cycle route. It is made of packed sand and fine grit, which meant that I was now covered in the stuff, all damp and sticky. I must have looked like something from a 1950s horror movie - I certainly felt like it!

Or maybe I looked like this:

Still, it was only muck - I will live!

Monday, 14 April 2008


Late last week things started to get a bit worrying.

A whole swathe of little signs began to make us wonder of the Rock Chef clan was about to expand again.

Now this should not be possible! I had that little operation to stop any more little Chefs appearing, and according to the doctors the condition that had made them announce that my wife was totally infertile many years ago had well and truly taken hold.

But things happen, don't they? Men have had things re-grow and reconnect, and my wife's recent operation is just the sort of thing that can persuade a couple of dozen eggs or so that they can make a break for it. We were getting worried.

Surely, we were too old for that sort of thing, now? The sleepless nights, the endless poop everywhere, having to sterilize everything, then the toddling, potty training... How would we cope? How would my wife cope with pregnancy? Things could get really complicated.

At the weekend, it became clear that there would not be an addition to the clan. Phew! Thank goodness for that. We are spared the poop and sick and sleepless nights.

Would have been nice, though, in some ways, don't you think? Taking a little one for walks with Custard in a carrier, watching all those TV shows that the others are too old for now, the cuddly toys, rattles, mobiles, the wonderful feeling of cuddling a sleeping baby, or bouncing him/her on my knee blowing raspberries and pulling faces. And wasn't changing exploded nappies good fun in its way?

I guess we will have to wait for grandchildren now - they have the benefit that we will get to hand them back when they start to cry, I guess.

Friday, 11 April 2008

An evening stroll

On Thursday evenings, I take the kids to their weekly youth club, and then head off with Custard the dog for his evening walk. Thursday walks have become a regular visit to the local golf course, which has a public footpath running slap through the middle of it. Great for the public, undoubtedly irritating for the golfers!

As you can see, the sun was just going down as we got there.

When you reach the other side of the golf course, you have to use an ancient kissing-gate.

Custard likes having his picture taken...

Through the gate, you go along a narrow dirt track. The field to the right usually has horses in it, but it was empty last night.

Lots of exciting sniffs for Custard!

Then you come to something very odd.

This is a tunnel that runs under the by-pass, big (by local standards) 4 lane road. The tunnel is wide enough for cars to pass through!

Graffiti is up to the usual standard for England...

Out the other side...
and back to dirt tracks!

England is a strange place!

Thursday, 10 April 2008

I think someone is REALLY trying to tell me something!

After reading some of the comments on my post called "A lucky escape?", I left work yesterday thinking that I should ride home along the off-road route that I often use in the summer.

This route has a number of benefits - most of it is along a dedicated cycle route that was once a railway track, not a car in sight and it runs through some farm land and woods, so I get to see cows, orchards and, later on, strawberries...

The bad side is that it actually runs to the next town along the coast, not the one I live in, so when I get to the end I have to turn 90 degrees and do another few miles to get home!

As I headed out of town it was the bad side that won me over, so I rode out along the usual road.

I had only gone a mile or so when I heard sirens behind me, and a Police car soon hammered past me, lights flashing.


A couple of hundred yards further and another siren - this time it was an Ambulance, weaving through the traffic on the narrow road. Whatever had happened was clearly worse than the crash last week!

A couple of hundred yards more and I reached a road junction, where a Policewoman was diverting the traffic - nothing was getting past her, so I followed the cars until, guess what? I came to a point where the cycle track crossed the road we were on. Bidding the cars farewell, I headed off along the track, with the distinct feeling that this is where I was supposed to be, and feeling lucky to have the second chance.

Funny how you sometimes need someone to slap you around the head and double underline things before you really take notice!

Tonight there is no debate about which route I take...

Wednesday, 9 April 2008

A dull day...

Didn't really want to get up this morning - just wanted another hour or so snuggled in bed.

Breakfast was my new favourite, Weetabix with maple syrup, but I still wanted to go back to bed.

The ride to work was uneventful, even peaceful!

The day has passed with me doing some very routine stuff, e.g. scanning a 200 page document and then OCR-ing it, or installing a load of updates where the counter went backwards - 16 minutes remaining - 20 minutes remaining...

The weather is OK, but not nice enough for me to get excited.

I have finished the book I was reading about the Northern Crusade (the Teutonic Knights battling with the Poles, Russians, etc) and am now in limbo until I get a new book - hopefully tomorrow, as I have got one on order which is released tomorrow, but I am never sure if those dates are the "in the shops" date or the "on the way to the shops" date! The new book covers the Ancient Greeks (Athens, Sparta, etc) and Alexander the Great. Should be fun!

Off home soon for dinner, some time with the wife and kids, walking the dog, bath and bed - might be able to squeeze in an hour painting some toy soldiers! I have got a bunch of cavalry for Alexander the Great's army that I started painting a few nights ago, so I will try to make some progress with them.

On the other hand, lethargy might get the better of me and confine me to the sofa!

Tuesday, 8 April 2008

A lucky escape?

On Friday evening I was 15 minutes late finishing because I was helping a student make a map for her dissertation.

On the way home, I was going along those narrow country roads that I have posted photos of in the past and came to a spot where a car had spun off the road and into the trees. The Police were there, slowing the traffic while the remains of the car were dragged onto the back of a truck. No apparent injuries, I hasten to add, but I think the car was dead.

As I passed the Police I asked when it had happened. The answer? "About 15 minutes ago!"

Haunted houses

We have a TV show called "Most haunted". It features a team who visit haunted locations, filming in scary "night vision". They always make contact with the spirits there, sometimes being possessed by evil ones. In the worst one they were at a castle in the north of England and the psychic said he was talking to 2 English kings - Edward I and Henry VIII. Both pretty unsavoury characters to put it mildly. He asked them if they had a message for the people of England. The message was that they were unhappy with how things were in the country and that the people should stand up for their rights. Very rich considering that any commoner who tried to stand up for his rights during the reigns of either of these kings would rapidly have found himself dead!

I hate this programme and anything like it - TV psychics make me mad. I never feel that they are being truthful, I feel that they are playing sick tricks with people's minds and feelings.

Why do I get mad about this? Well it is at least partly because I believe in ghosts/spirits or what ever you want to call them and think that this sort of thing stops others believing in them.

The house I grew up in had a spirit in it. I heard it many times - there would be foot steps from the front door, up the stairs and going into one of the bedrooms. The first time I heard it (at the age of around 7 I guess) I thought it was my older brother coming home, so I went to find him but the room was empty. I told my mom and she said it must have been the ghost! After that I heard it from time to time but did not worry about it. During a period of extreme activity, with us hearing him on a more or less daily basis, my mom took to sitting in this room wondering if she would be able to see or hear more. After few days she saw him, a teenage boy. He gave off an aura of warmth and happiness. After seeing him a couple more times she held out her hands to him and he reached out to her, touching her hands with his. That was the last time she saw him, though he was still heard from time to time.

I wonder if the people who now live in that house hear him?

Thursday, 3 April 2008


Last night, as I headed to a friend's house for the evening, I came to a McDonalds drive-thru. Hm, I thought, I could do with a burger to keep me going.

Being on my bike, I decided to use the drive-thru part, rather than locking my bike to the railings (no cycle rack) and walking in. As I came to the order hatch the boy there told me that the manager had just told him not to serve me.


Company Policy. No cyclists on the drive-thru.

I was livid. I told the boy it was stupid. He agreed, but said he still could not serve me.

So, I locked my bike to the railings (no cycle rack) and stood in line until I could get the manager. He told me that it was Company Policy, for insurance reasons.


He could/would say no more than that.

I told him that in an age where we should be encouraging environmentally friendly forms of transport it was outrageous that a cyclist could not use a drive-thru. There is even a designated cycle route going straight past the place! It is a long time since I have been this angry, my blood was pumping so hard I had a twitch in one foot!

With a final "Outrageous!" I turned and stormed out. They could keep their burger!

This morning I emailed the biggest newspaper in the country with my story. Who knows, if the news is quiet over the next day or so...

Wednesday, 2 April 2008

X-treme Shed Building - Day 2

Welcome back to Day 2 of X-treme Shed Building!

Rock Chef and Carpet Fairy are back, just like Arnie, determined to finish the job.

And they are straight to work, drilling and fitting the main roof support - if fits like a dream! Now on to the roof panels - the first one goes on, a perfect fit! CF holds it in place while RC hammers in the nails with truly expert precision! We aren't going to see any squashed fingers tonight!

Here comes the second roof panel, one edge is not totally square but the team don't care, the light is fading and the dreaded flood light has been switched on by RC's dad. Again, CF holds the roof in place while RC drives home the nails. This is sweeter than Maple Syrup!

They only have the felt to put on now. CF has already expertly cut it to size, so it is child's play to fix it on the roof - on go the facia boards and, YES THEY HAVE FINISHED!!!!

RC's dad now reappears, he is giving the thumbs up! Job's a good-un! RC and CF are going to sleep well tonight!

RC and CF stroll away into the deepening darkness, hand in hand. As they reach the turning towards home, RC pauses.

"Damn, I forgot to say it".

CF looks at him.

"Say what?"

"When we finished, I was going to say 'Driver, MOVE THAT BUS!'"
(We have been watching lots of Extreme Makeover - Home Edition)

"You were planning to say that?"


"You're so sad".

"No I'm not! OK, I guess I am. But it would have been good wouldn't it. Driver, MOVE THAT BUS!"

"Yes dear".

Tuesday, 1 April 2008

Tonight, Live from England...

We bring you:

[Queue grunge metal music]

Tonight, Rock Chef and his wife, Carpet Fairy, will be attempting to build Rock Chef's Dad's new garden shed, in the dark!

Here they come, looking quietly confident, but little do they know what we have in store for them! Ha! Look at their faces! The instruction sheet is somehow soaking wet, making it see through! They can's make out what is on this side of the sheet and what is on the other side!

Undeterred, they have carried on, setting the floor in place and starting to erect the walls, things are going quite smoothly,but wait! RC's dad has just switched on his flood light! Bright enough to dazzle, bright enough to cast huge black shadows but still dim enough not to actually light anything up, this is a master stroke!

Now they have to hang the door - not something they were expecting, I am sure. The wet instructions are useless so they carry on regardless - YES, hahahaha, they have done the hinges wrong and the door won't open! This is what X-treme Shed Building is all about, folks! Carpet Fairy has started speaking in a quiet voice - our microphones can't pick up what she is saying, but Rock Chef is finding it very funny, which CF does not seem to appreciate! Now they are frantically unscrewing the hinges, checking what they did wrong and are now having a second try - YES they have done it! What a pair!

Now they have started taking a closer look at all of the parts - Carpet Fairy has found some parts that don't seem to belong, and she is right! The shed kit includes the parts for a window frame that the shed does not have a hole for! CF keeps her cool and quietly separates the unwanted parts.

Now, they have the last wall to put up. RC's dad, seeing that they are succeeding in spite of his flood light has found a new challenge - he has got a high power torch and is using it to help RC see where the screws need to go - no he's not, he is shining it in RC's eyes, totally blinding him, but RC is carrying on anyway, risking permanent eye damage, in the true spirit of the sport.

Oh, what a disappointment! The next stage requires hammering and it is too late for that! They will have to give up and try again tomorrow!

Be sure to tune it tomorrow for the grand finale!