A Self Cleaning Child

This morning Max was eating a bowl of Coco Pops and had chocolate stains all around his mouth and on his hands, in the usual manner of small children. He asked me for a sweet and I told him he could have one if he’d let me wipe him clean. He agreed and by the time I’d fetched the sweets so he could choose one he’d found the wet wipes, got one out and done a pretty reasonable job of cleaning himself up.

I know it may not sound like much to some people but I felt like such a proud father. Every little step he takes as he grows up has the same effect on me. Now, if we can just crack potty training…

Not Quite Vegan

I’ve recently been trying to cut down on the crap I eat and drink, and also to think more carefully about the ethics of the food I consume. To that end, I’ve been choosing vegan food quite often. It’s healthy, tasty and no creatures (cute and fluffy or otherwise) had to die to produce it. Of course, I know it’s not as simple as that. Intensive farming, mistreatment of labour and a whole raft of other dodgy practices can still produce food which is labelled ‘vegan’ but I’m doing the best I can with the information at my disposal.

Anyway, one very nice thing I’ve discovered is Pret’s coconut hot chocolate, which has more or less completely replaced the lattes I was drinking before. It’s unbelievably sweet, which appeals to me as I really go for extremes of flavour, but doesn’t contain the huge amount of caffeine that I was ingesting until recently.

So now some kind person is going to tell my why I shouldn’t drink it and I’ll feel bad. Right?

My Wildlife Friendly Lawn

I’ve just been outside strimming my lawn. Most people, I know, use a lawn mower. I do have one of those but I quickly found, after buying it, that my garden is way too lumpy and bumpy to make it anything other than a real hassle to use. So, I have an electric strimmer that does the job much better. It’s never going to produce a nice neat lawn but, even if my garden was flat and the grass was uniform and of good quality and not full of ‘weeds’ I’m just not that interested. Besides, leaving the grass longer, rougher and full of wild plants helps to provide a good home for wildlife.

The only down side of using the strimmer is that the battery doesn’t last long enough to do the entire garden in one go. On the other hand, its running out usually coincides nicely with my energy and ability to continue doing the same.

A Green Memorial

Gooseberry bush
A few weeks ago I visited my local garden centre and bought a couple of plants in memory of my mother, who died last year. She was always a very keen gardener, so it seemed an appropriate thing to do and I’m sure she would have approved.

One of the plants I chose was a gooseberry bush, because I have very fond memories of the one in our garden when I was little and because I absolutely love gooseberries. Anyway, it sat outside the back door for a while in its pot while I kept saying, “I really must plant that.” Then, one morning the urge became overwhelming and I did the dirty (well, my hands did get a bit grubby) deed.

This afternoon I went out to check on it and I was really quite excited to see that it’s doing surprisingly well. I am not, by any means, a gardener but I feel really, properly and unjustifiably proud of myself.

So, what piece of garden magic to attempt next? I’m open to suggestions.

All Change Again

For the few who care about such things, I’ve recently moved this site to a Virtual Private Server, which gives me a lot more control over how things work. In the spirit of change which this has brought on in me, I’m contemplating changing the WordPress theme to something a little more interesting and, dare I say it, modern. Hopefully it’ll encourage me to write here a bit more often.

I know I’ve said it before but I really do intend to post here more frequently. It just seems that life gets in the way sometimes, and then I’m so tired that it’s hard to find the mental energy to compose posts. If I had it in me I could, for instance, tell you about the KT Tunstall gig at the Barbican last Monday, which was fantastic, by the way, or the visit to the Harry Potter Studio Tour on Tuesday, which was wonderful and breathtaking and fun and just thoroughly enjoyable.

So, I’m going to try to do better. Promise.

A Kilt!

This morning I was having a bit of a poke around online, as is my wont, when I stumbled upon Utilikilts. Now I think these look rather smart but they’re not cheap and, when you add in international shipping and duty I’m not likely to see much change from £300 for even the least expensive one.

That’s a lot of money to spend on something I don’t know whether I’ll be entirely happy wearing, but a bit of searching brought me to this. So, I’ve ordered one and am expecting it to arrive tomorrow. If I like it enough then maybe I’ll splurge on a more expensive one sometime. In the meantime I’ll try living with one for a bit and see how it goes. Photos to follow in due course.

Back to the Blog

I’m becoming increasingly fed up with social media, Facebook in particular. All I really want is a reverse-chronological list of updates from people I know, together with some handy ways of filtering it. What I actually get is certain updates only, picked and ordered by an algorithm that doesn’t do a particularly good job. I see the same posts over and over again as new comments are added and miss others completely.

I can’t do a lot about that, but I can make things a tad easier for anyone out there foolish enough to be interested in the minutiae of my life and thoughts. I’m planning to start using my blog a lot more, even for very short posts. As a small bonus, it’ll be good writing practice for me, too.

Power Company Spam? No Thanks.

According to this article, the Competition and Markets Authority want to set up a database of energy customers who haven’t switched providers in three years or more so that they can send them marketing material.

“It’s not spam, it’s targeted marketing”, Roger Witcomb, chairman of the CMA’s energy market investigation insisted on BBC Radio today.

Wrong, mate. It’s spam and I don’t want it.

Make It Stop!

Recently I’ve started receiving emails from PR companies plugging all manner of stuff – books, music, exhibitions, you name it. I didn’t sign up for any of this shit and I’ve been busily unsubscribing, but the flow continues unabated.

So, a quick message if you’re thinking of sending me any of your exciting ‘press releases’ or whatever: don’t. And if you have the gall to try to impose conditions on how, when or where I can use your entirely unsolicited content, please be advised that I shall do whatever the hell I want with it. I didn’t ask for it but you sent it to me anyway, so it’s mine.

Stand Problem

My new bike doesn’t have a centre stand and having one fitted is quite expensive, so I went for the cheaper option of a paddock stand. In order to make it easier to get the bike on the stand by myself I also bought a front wheel chock.

Problem: I can’t get the bike’s front wheel into the chock unaided and if I fire up the engine and ride it in I’m afraid I won’t be able to get it out again.

Solution?

My New Bike

My new bike

This year I turned fifty. We had a lovely family get-together a few days before the momentous day itself, at which we had a fantastic full-on roast beef with all the trimmings, especially parsnips, my particular favourite. After the meal I was handed a card by my in-laws. On opening it I was stunned to find a note saying that I was to present myself at a motorcycle dealership in Farnham the next day where I would exchange my old bike for a beautiful 2012 Honda NC700X DCT.

Needless to say, I didn’t sleep too well that night courtesy of some serious excitement. In the morning I phoned my insurance company and, after a bit of a faff due to their computer system having gone down (typical!) I arranged to transfer my cover to the new machine. I called the dealership and agreed to be there at 2pm.

Juliet decided to follow me down there with our son, Max, who loves motorcycles and constantly makes ‘broom broom’ noises while pretending to turn a twistgrip. A whole showroom full of bikes was a real delight for him. We soon had all the paperwork completed and, after a visit to the nearby supermarket for supplies and a bite to eat, I was ready to head back home on my new machine.

My first impressions were pretty favourable. The wide bars and tallish seat height made for easy steering and a good view, while the mirrors are, quite honestly, superb. The best bit, though, is the automatic gearbox, a first for me and very uncommon on motorcycles. It took a while for my left hand and foot to stop twitching as I approached roundabouts and wanted to change down, but I soon got used to it. Just cruising along, not having to do a great deal except take in the world around me is glorious. I never want to go back to manual gears. Ever.

The bike’s fuel tank is located under the saddle, with the filler cap under the pillion seat, which hinges upward to reveal it. Where a normal bike’s tank would be is given over to a large, lockable storage area, just about big enough to take a crash helmet and plenty big enough for a lock or two and the bag of bits and bobs I habitually carry around with me.

To say that I’m happy with it would be an understatement. It’s played a large part in renewing and revitalising my interest in motorcycling generally and given me a whole new reason to get up in the morning.

A Quick Recommendation

I haven’t quite finished it yet but I’m still going to recommend that you read Furiously Happy by Jenny Lawson. If you, like me, suffer from depression and anxiety you’ll recognise a lot of stuff. Even if you don’t I promise you you’ll still find it very very funny. It’s a win whatever. So do it. Do it now.

A Good Night Out

Last night Juliet and I took Max out for a meal at his great grandparents’ home. It meant, naturally, staying out way past his bedtime but once in a while doesn’t hurt. He fell asleep in the car on the way over, which isn’t exactly unusual given his age (17 months) and was, consequently, quite quiet once we arrived. He perked up a bit once he got his mitts on a pickle (he really is a chip off the old block, bless him) and even more so once some more family arrived with their kids.

By the time we’d been sitting down to our meal for a bit he was running around the table with another child in hot pursuit and laughing like a drain, courtesy of sugary food and the inevitable excitement of playing with someone a bit nearer his own age than his parents.

When we left, late by Max’s terms but not really that late, he was pretty hyper, which kept him awake all the way home and me wondering whether he’d ever sleep again. As it turned out we needn’t have worried. Once we’d got him into his cot he went out like a light and slept until a tad after his usual wake up time. To be honest, it was so lovely watching him have a good time that I’d have been reasonably happy if he’d woken up early, but don’t tell Juliet that.

Keeping a Journal: Update

A while back I mentioned that I was going to try to keep a journal. I also said that I’d let you know how it went. Well, to be perfectly honest it’s been a struggle. A real struggle. On the plus side, I’m still doing it. On the minus side, only sporadically and without going into much detail – just a few notes about what I’ve been doing, now and again. This is not what I set out to do at all, so I’m going to have to make some changes. For a start, I shall try to write some entries about things other than recent activities, and if I’m able to produce anything that I think is worthwhile, I’ll post it here.

On that subject, I know I’ve said it many times before, but I’d really like to try and post here more often. I’m not a good writer but I very much wish I was, and the only way to improve is to practise, right? So expect a little more effort from me soon. I hope.