Monday, 31 March 2008

Long days and short days

As I explained in my last post, Saturday was my eldest son's birthday. We all got up nice and early, presents and cards were given (including a card from Custard our dog which featured the following joke: "How do you make a cat flap", "Throw him off a cliff"). He was very pleased with what he got, mainly a load of cash and some computer games. I then cooked breakfast of eggs, bacon, sausage, beans and bread rolls, which went down really well.

We could not really go very far because my daughter had hurt her back dancing at school, but the boys did not seem interested in going out anyway, disappearing upstairs to install games and expansion packs and then set about a day of global war - on their computers that is, not real life. Not yet, anyway.

The day passed with the kids appearing from time to time for snacks, with Birthday Boy making up the most wonderful nachos with salsa, home made cheese sauce and jalapinoes for those that wanted them. In the evening Arthur and I went for a walk with the dog in the hope that this would help us make space for dinner, and it worked. When we got home I went to the local Chinese takeaway and got a nice mix of things for us all to share, finding a couple of new favourites in the process.

Sunday I woke up to find that the clocks had changed to summertime, meaning that I had just lost an hour! I don't normally worry about this happening, but this time I felt a bit cheated. Perhaps it was because the Saturday had seemed so long and relaxing? Anyway, the day was pretty much a re-run of Saturday, without the Chinese food, but including my wife and I sneaking out on our own (shock, gasp!!) for a trip the the local DIY store for some new shelves for the boys' room which is about to be redecorated in orange and blue with Japanese cartoon characters on the walls. Should be interesting...

In the evening we watched the movie "Click". If you have not seen this movie, give it a try. I was dubious about it at first thinking it would be a fairly lame comedy. It starts off pretty funny but then takes a sudden twist and becomes very dark with a powerful message for all to see. I really enjoyed it.

Have a good week everyone!

Friday, 28 March 2008

Happy Birthday to...


Number 1 Son will be 14 tomorrow.

Our long awaited second child arrived 7 years after our first, after much to-ing and fro-ing to the infertility clinic, many horrible/embarrassing tests, being told to give up and finally being given an experimental drug that really seemed to kick things into gear.

He arrived 2 weeks early. The birth was tricky as he kept disengaging and going to sleep! We were finally given the choice of going home or allowing the midwives to force the issue. My wife let them force the issue - one pushing his behind while the other waited to catch his head and guide it into position. OUCH! He was born soon after but not until my poor, heroic wife had to stop pushing while they cut the chord from around his neck.

He was the smallest of our babies, just under 7 pounds. Long, with big hands, feet and head, but very thin in the body - he didn't even have any butt cheeks! Not to worry, a couple of weeks of breast feeding and he was like a cabbage patch doll!

He grew and developed quickly, crawling and walking earlier than usual. He was also fascinated by computers, learning to use a mouse before his first birthday. He soon loved playing Lemmings, as described in a post a short while ago.

He has grown into a great , um, young man I guess I should say now, very intelligent and polite with a strong sense of right and wrong. He once wanted to join the Police but this has given way to a general concentration on computers, maths and science and is now working his way towards getting into the best university he can, possibly Oxford or Cambridge. After than he is not sure, but that is not really a problem anyway is it? How many of us actually ended up doing what we had planned to do when we were 14?

Looking forward to a great weekend.

Wednesday, 26 March 2008

The T-Shirt Meme

The utterly fabulous Princess of the Universe tagged me for this meme.

Here are the rules:

1. Link back to the original post
2. Describe two t-shirts that you own.
3. If you design your own vanity t-shirt what would it say?
4. Where would you wear your vanity t-shirt?
5. Tag three of your best blogging buds. (I won't do this bit because it smacks of favouritism...)

My first t-shirt was bought for me on Father's Day 3 years ago. It is black with a picture of Homer Simpson on it. Homer has just painted "#1 DAD" on his own t-shirt. I wore it a lot while visiting my daughter in hospital during what was to be her last stay there so it holds lots of memories for me, both good and bad. I wear it a lot because the best memory that goes with it is when Sophie looked me in the eye and told me that I was the best dad.

My second t-shirt is one I bought last December. I was getting pretty frayed in the run up to Christmas and when I saw this t-shirt I just had to have it. It is dark green and the writing says "Desperately needing Christmas!" When Christmas finally came I got ill, so I almost changed the writing to say "Desperately needing ANOTHER Christmas!"

If I had a vanity t-shirt made it would have a picture of me playing a guitar on the front, with "ROCK CHEF'S GONNA ROCK YOUR WORLD!" written under it. It would come in a range of colours and I would wear them everywhere.

Tuesday, 25 March 2008

How it all turned out...

Well as predicted, the weekend did not turn out quite as planned, mainly due to the weather (very cold with the constant threat of snow). Another problem was that I had hooked our laptop up to Number 1 Son's PC, allowing the boys to play Empire Earth together...

Anyway, shopping on Thursday was a bit of a hoot - impending Easter holiday with most shops actually closing for a whole day on Sunday was clearly too much for some people. I got run over 3 times and also had to sidestep "Nasty Nick" from Eastenders as he pushed his way though the heaving masses.

On Friday no one wanted to go anywhere so I started work on some new scenery for my toy soldiers.

On Saturday we went to visit my mom and I woke up her cat, Bacon, for a photo shoot.

On Sunday the snow arrived.

This picture was taken at the height of the storm - look at all that snow! I bet you are thanking your lucky stars that this lot did not come down where YOU are! Luckily us Brits are tough and can take anything that the weather can throw at us. No need to panic on our behalf!
I also cooked Pork in Coke. It was wonderful, the best piece of pork I have ever done, maga tasty and juicy, although I am not sure where the Coke went to, it seemed to vanish into the juices from the pork. We had this with roast potatoes, yorkshire pudding and sweet and sour cabbage and carrots. Yum!
Of course, we all ate far too much chocolate over the weekend and I was a bit worried that I would run out of steam today, but I should not have feared! On my desk was a parcel from The Princess of the Universe which contained some amazing Canadian Maple Caramels. Mmmmmm! Thanks Princess!

Wednesday, 19 March 2008


I am about to finish for the Easter weekend! Yippee!

Tonight I am off to play toy soldiers with some friends - the first game since last summer! With everything else going on I have had to put games on hold, but I am getting back to fortnightly playing for a while to see how things go. Tonight we have Julius Caesar trying to conquer Gaul...

Tomorrow my wife and I are going food shopping while the kids are at school. We are hoping that we will beat the rush, but you can never be sure. We will probably get there to find the shelves empty...

Friday is intended as a day of loafing around in Canterbury doing a bit of recreational shopping with the kids. Nothing earth-shatteringly important, just looking at computer games with the boys, clothes with my daughter and the amazing art shop that I have just found with my wife. Should be good.

Saturday will probably just be a vege-out day while everyone plays with what they bought on Friday!

Sunday we will have our Easter Egg Hunt, which will include hidden treats for our dog, Custard. Can't leave out the baby of the family can we? Then it will be into the kitchen for Rock Chef to cook up a good festive meal. Don't know what it will be yet, I am hoping that I will be able to get hold of a nice big bit of pork that I can slow roast in Coca Cola.

Monday is too far away for me to think about, but if the weather is nice I will see if I can drag everyone out of the house for a walk along the beach.

That is the plan, anyway. There is a military saying that no plan survives first contact with the enemy. In my case, no plan survives first contact with the kids :-)

So have a great weekend, everyone, and while it is all happening don't forget the true meaning of Easter...






Tuesday, 18 March 2008

Only the good die young

A well known saying, and a great Billy Joel song, of course.

All this nostalgia has had me thinking about old friends again, especially those who are no longer here.

The first friend that I lost joined the Paratroopers when we left school. He was good looking, short and stocky - if he hit someone they stayed down. At first things went really well for him, he loved army life, got married and had a child. Then things took a bad turn - one of his squad was shot and killed by the IRA while standing next to my friend. My friend lost his nerve and was withdrawn from active duty which he hated. His family life suffered and they eventually separated. One New Years Eve, he decided he could not do it any longer and took his own life.

There was a small group of girls who took to hanging around with the band I was in. One of them took up with our self-styled mentor. The band split and we all lost touch. Then the girl (now a young woman) moved into a place down the road from us - she was heavily pregnant and on her own. We took to looking after her, fed her, my wife was even her birthing partner when she had her baby boy. A few weeks later she moved on and we did not see her again. A couple of years later we heard that she had committed suicide by setting herself on fire. This still haunts us - what could possibly have happened to her to make her do that? Her son is how grown up, I see him from time to time with his father. I doubt he knows that my wife was the first person to hold him.

My final lost friend was one of my best friends in my late teens. The title of this post is dedicated to him as it was him that introduced me to Billy Joel. This guy had a natural tendency to be a bit over weight, so he became fanatical about running, cycling, martial arts and playing badminton. Sunday afternoons were always spent with him and his brothers playing Dungeons and Dragons or similar games, after which we would head to the local pub for a few beers and then on to the Chinese take away for mega greasy pancake rolls. He was killed by a car one night while cycling home from playing badminton. I had ridden my motor bike along the same stretch of road only 10 minutes before.

Terri always seems to think that I have a positive outlook on life, so let me finish on this (assuming anyone has actually made it this far!). Readers who have been with me for a while might remember a post where I wrote about a dream I had shortly after I lost my daughter. In this dream I was in a place that, for want of a better word, must have been heaven. My daughter was there, and very happy. So were these three people that I have just written about. I take strength from that.

Monday, 17 March 2008

An evening out when I was 13

More distant memories drift to the surface of the stagnant pool of my brain...

When I was 13 I had a couple of friends that I regularly hung out with - one was someone I had known since the age of around 5, a major Status Quo fan, the other had moved into the area fairly recently and was a mega fan of David Bowie. We had also recently discovered Frank Zappa - at this time his songs were just strange and funny, unlike his later stuff which I disliked.

Anyway, the early part of an evening out would take place in the local park. We would sit on the swings and just talk a load of rubbish, singing songs badly, reciting Monty Python sketches, etc. Sometimes others would join us, including a few girls on occasion (never the one I had the crush on, though) but the 3 of us were always the main ones.

Then hunger would strike, so we would head off to the only shop that was open after 5.30. This shop was very small, very over-priced and owned by the most miserable person in the whole town, which is saying something in a town that seemed to import miserable people! We would invade the shop and clear his stock of cakes while one of my friends tried desperately to get the owner to crack his face in a smile. Mission Impossible, I tell you! Loaded with cakes, we would head back to the park, stuff the cakes and swing until we felt sick. At some point we would retire to one of our houses and listen to music. If we were lucky, one of my friend's brothers would join us - he was older than us and had the most amazing sense of humour. When he got going he would have us crying with laughter, clutching our stomachs, begging him to stop. I can only remember one of his monologues now - it was just after someone had been sentenced to 400 years in prison and he was imagining that the guy was actually left in his cell that long and finally discharged, no-one seeming to realise that he was just a skeleton now and had been dead for 350 years. Well it was funny at the time, I guess you had to be there...

Finally, it would be time to go home. If we left it too late, this could be a lot of fun as the street lights were all switched off at midnight - oh the number of times I sprinted home to get there without being plunged into darkness! I think it is a sign of how times have changed - I thought nothing of being out this late but would never allow my 13 year old out like that now...

Thursday, 13 March 2008

A day at school when I was 13

(This was prompted by some of the comments on my "talking back" post).

I never really liked school, but by the time I was 13 I had started to skip it quite a lot. So, assuming that on this day I was actually going, here is a typical school day when I was 13.

I walked to school, a trip of around a mile and a half. The school was pretty awful, the sort of school that you went to when you could not get into anywhere else. Interestingly, this is the same school that my kids now go to and it has totally turned around, people are desperate to get their kids into it and actually buy houses close to it to increase their chances!

On the way I met up with one of my few school friends and we ambled to the registration class chatting about the latest Frank Zappa album. At this age I was taller than most, thinner than most and had hair that came down to around the bottom of my shoulder blades. I guess I was a cross between a hippy and a heavy metal fan.

In registration I found a quiet corner and read a few pages of The Lord of the Rings.

English - This was one of my favourite classes. The teacher was a total nut but had such passion for his subject that I could not help getting hooked. Most of the other kids were not as kind to him, sadly. Today we continued our study of The Illiad, complete with dramatic demonstration of events by our teacher. He was totally wasted at that school.

Science - My science teacher was like something from a Frankenstein movie. I am sure that he was incapable of moving any of the joints above his waist. He walked into the classroom, talked for 5 minutes in a low, rumbling voice that verged on the limit of human hearing, meaning that most of us did not really follow what was said and then retired into his store cupboard while we copied writing and diagrams from the boards. Inspiring stuff...

Maths - This teacher lived only 2 doors away from me, and we got on really well. He kept telling me that I was a genius when it came to maths and one day he expected me to be a professor of maths. This was the top stream maths class and I always found the work terribly easy so maybe he was right. I had a great rivaly with one of the guys in the class, made worse a year later when I turned up after being off for weeks on end to find myself faced with a test. I got 96%, just beating him. Years later he remembered that and called me all sorts of names!

Sport - I hated this. Looking back now and knowing that I had dyspraxia it all makes sense. I could not run fast, I could not catch very well, I could not kick a ball very straight, I could not hit a ball with a bat, I could not climb ropes. When it came to picking teams I was the last one left. However, today we were playing hockey (on grass, not ice!) and somehow I seemed to be quite good - or at least the others were not a zillion times better than I was! I really liked hockey until the day 2 of us went for the ball at exactly the same moment and it shot up and slapped me right between the eyes, knocking me out cold. I never got my edge back again after that and hockey became just another sport I was rubbish at. Then there was the bit that was even more dreaded - the communal shower full of naked 13 year old boys. I always made sure I was really slow getting out of my kit, hoping to get the shower to myself...

Then it was off home at lighning speed - unless I managed to "bump into" the girl that I had a total crush on. Then I would try to get us to walk as slowly as possible. I knew deep down that she was only interested in older boys who were cool and had cars, but hey, when you are 13 and in love anything is possible!

So, what was school like when YOU were 13?

Wednesday, 12 March 2008

Talking back...

The other day, my daughter got a warning at school - for talking back to the teacher. This is very unlike her, she is normally very polite and respectful. We insist on it.

It went like this.

She had a cookery class, doing scones. Her teacher has a reputation for timing the session badly and to make up time she goes around turning up the heat on the cookers. Result? Food comes out burnt and/or uncooked in the middle. Hardly an encouraging result for the kids and certainly not something the should think is good practice in the kitchen!

Anyway, towards the end of the lesson around comes the teacher cranking up the heat. As soon as she has gone my daughter turns hers down again. A few minutes later the teacher returns and asks why the heat is still down.

"Because I don't want to burn my scones".

"Turn it up, they won't burn".

"They always do".

"No they don't".

"Yes they do. It happened to my cousins".

"Well it did happen once".

"And a lot of my brother's friends".

It was at this point that she got the warning for talking back. A touchy subject perhaps?

At the end of the lesson, all of the finished scones were put on display. Many were burnt in places or at least too dark to look appealing. Then the teacher pointed to one, declaring that it was easily the best one.

"Whose is this one?"

Can you guess who had the satisfaction of raising her hand?

Tuesday, 11 March 2008


This morning I was merrily cylcing along the road through the woods when suddenly I found myself being chased by a deerhound.
Yes, he was a big chap!
He chased me last week too!
Anyway, deciding that having a dog like this chasing you along a busy country road was not my idea of fun, I stopped peddling and got off the bike. The dog stopped and looked at me, cars swerving to avoid it.
Well, better get it back to its owner! I started walking back towards the dog, who retraced its path into a small clearing that is used as a car park by those who visit the woods. Another dog appeared, this time it was smaller but had a muzzle on it, evidently to stop it biting people as it proceeded to repeatedly nose-butt me in the leg and butt!
Finally the owner appeared. I told her what had happened and said that I was worried the dog would get run over and/or cause a car accident.
What did she do?
She more or less ignored me, loaded up the dogs her car (eventually, once they had finished running around barking at and nose-butting me), got into the car and drove off! To make matters worse, I actually over-took her a mile up the road and she still ignored me!
If it happens again I might lock up my bike, grab the dog and take it to the Police - a bit of a walk, but it might make the point. Talking to the damn woman is obviously not going to work!

The Great Storm of 2008...

Well it is all over now - top wind speed seems to have been 95mph in Cornwall - much less where I am on the other side of the country. Lots of trees down, cars damaged, a few houses with roof damage, including one where the entire roof came off in one piece, a bit of flooding. No injuries or fatalities that I have heard of either!

Thanks for your concern, I got home easily, just having to duck under or dodge a few branches that were overhanging the road. All in a day's work for the Rock Chef! :-)

Monday, 10 March 2008

The biggest thing to come out of Canada since Celine Dion

Yes, Canada has sent us Hurricane Force Winds, due to peak around lunchtime today.

I still managed to cycle in to work this morning, occasionally struggling against strong gusts of wind. I did manage to get extremely wet and cold too, but I have now dried off and changed clothes so I am all snug and warm again.

The journey home will probably be quite exciting as I expect there will be a few fallen trees, bit of fence and garden sheds laying around.

Thanks Canada! After all the great things we did for you!

That was a joke, by the way. When it is all added up I think Britain owes Canada BIG TIME! Dieppe for starters... Sorry, sometimes I just can't control the "inner nerd"!


Late morning saw some high wind and hail. Lunchtime was sunny with little wind. It is now mid afternoon and the wind and rain have returned. Seems the storm/hurricane has lost some of its ferocity on the way in, the strongest wind so far seeming to be 83mph in Cornwall.

Wednesday, 5 March 2008

Childhood - pretend play

When I was a kid, I must have watched just about every John Wayne movie ever made a thousand times. My dad is a mega fan of these movies and watching them with him made up the majority of our "quality time".

My summers were spent playing with my friends on a nearby field, recreating battles with Indians, storming Iwo Jima and having bar-room brawls. Bikes became horses and we would scream like Indians as we hurtled across the grass. No wonder the people who lived nearby hated us!

My oldest daughter suffered from Dyspraxia, a condition related to the development of the brain. This had a range of effects on her, the most obvious being poor motor skills - which she was able to largely overcome through her grim determination to do things.

Another effect was that she was unable to "pretend". I first realised this when we bought her one of these cars. I was pushing her around the house (her motor skills meant that she could not work out how to scoot it herself) and started saying things like "Here we go, into town, under the bridge". She looked at me and told me not to be so silly. We were not in the town, we were at home!

My oldest son has always been a whizz on computers. He learnt to use a Mouse before his first birthday...

For a long time his favourite game was Lemmings, which he was very good at by the age of around 3.

He became so obsessed with the game that he started pretending to be a Lemming when we were out - he would walk like one, build steps, bash through invisible walls and pretend to explode.

My youngest daughter loved watching The Land Before Time. Her favourite character was Sarah the Triceratops.

At the age of around 2 she used to crawl around pretending to be Sarah, head-butting anything that got in the way.

From an early age my youngest loved guns. At this point we did not have any toy guns in the house, so everything became a gun - sticks, Lego, you name it. So I bought him a toy AK47. Well if he is going to have a gun it might as well be a good one!

What did you pretend to be when you were a child?

Tuesday, 4 March 2008

Accidental Cooking

It all happened last Friday evening.

Hey, why has everything gone wobbly and out of focus?

It was the end of a long, hard week and I was cooking my traditional home made pizzas. The dough was starting off, everything in the mixing bowl but not yet mixed while the yeast got going, I was starting on the sauce and half way through my second glass of a rather nice red. Mmmm red wine... Foo Fighters were blasting away on the music system and somehow the entire family seemed to have congregated around me.

Anyway, I had a huge handful of basil that was on its way into the sauce, and I was trying to have 3 conversations at once (not a Man thing to do) and got just a tad "distracted". The basil went into the dough mixture. Oh crap!

Hm, ain't going to be able to pick that out, now, am I?

Herby pizza base?

OK, let's do it!

Garlic Bread Seasoning? Yep, some of that too! And a bit of oregano, some chopped garlic, yeah that should do it!

I mixed it all together, gave it a good knead and away it went. Delicious, the dough balls that I make with what is left from the bases were especially good.

So, next time you have a cooking disaster, think before you throw it all away. You might be able to rescue it after all!

When was the last time YOU made a huge mistake and turned it around? Please share!

Monday, 3 March 2008

How Much?!!?

Had a great weekend, celebrating my wife's birthday on Saturday and Mother's Day on Sunday. Chocolate Coissants for breakfast, presents, etc, all good stuff.

The title of this post derives from what happened when we went to the local DIY/Home Improvement store to buy some stuff for the garden - my wife's main present. I know, she is an odd one and I love her for it. She is planning her spring revamp of the garden ready for the summer...

So, she selected somethings that were to be delivered - mainly a pile of concrete slabs for extending the rear patio area. Total cost - around £50. We would be getting some more stuff in a week or so once this stuff was in place. When we went to order them it was pointed out to us that the charge for delivery had gone up. It was now £25. That is $49.6 (US) or $48.6 (Canadian) for a trip of around a half a mile! We changed our minds and continued our walk to the town to do some more shopping, loading up on Easter Eggs which are really cheap this year.

On Sunday we returned, loaded up a trolley with as many slabs as we thought we could manage and used the trolley to push them home. This was great fun, as the wheels in the trolley were like those in supermarkets and were constantly trying to steer us into the road or into a hedge. But we made it, and saved the £25 too, which we used to buy fried chicken for dinner. Hah, I bet Logzie is proud of us!

Sunday also involved popping back to my dad's new house to sort out a couple of new problems that reared their ugly heads, but this was quickly sorted allowing us to enjoy the rest of Mother's Day fairly peacefully, which was good as we were both dog tired by this time and in need of a rest.

Hoping for a nice peaceful week so we can recharge our batteries!