Friday, January 26, 2007

Oatmeal Bread

As requested, the recipe for oatmeal bread

Was working very late last night and needed to give my poor brain a break...

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Bloggin Break...

I’m going to need a short blogging break. I’m in the final week before my big mysterious project goes live, so life is rather hectic. I’ll post if I can, but otherwise will likely be a bit quiet for the next week or so.

My weekend was quiet. We puttered about the house. LL and I did a lot of talking so our tiff of last week is made up and history. The kids are in fine happy form, though my Princess has yet another cold. Her immune system is building up very nicely! Pity she gets a bit grumpy when she’s snuffly. I did a fine stew, and have been experimenting with oatmeal breads. I don’t know why it doesn’t get used more commercially, as a 3 part white flour, 2 part oatmeal mix makes for a fine tasty loaf of white bread that still has a lot of health benefit.

Anyway, I’ll be out visiting as I can, otherwise see you in a week.

Friday, January 19, 2007


I’m not overly fond of this ageing malarkey. It has it advantages, the buckets of experience and a generally better working mind are not things I’d cast aside. I’m also glad I became a father later in life as I think I’ve been better at it, able to enjoy it more than I would have if it had hit younger.

However, this body falling apart thing… There’s some seriously bad design in the system. I understand that one generation needs to depart so that the next can take over, but why for heaven sakes can’t we stay nice and fit and healthy until some little internal clock kicks in and we keel over? This gentle slide into decrepitude just isn’t on.

My latest failing was diagnosed earlier this week, gall stones. I mean really! Gall stones! Talk about a bodily failure to make you feel middle aged. Been checking about and there doesn’t seem to be any history in my family, so why its hit me I have no idea.

I have quite a high tolerance to pain. Its not that I don’t feel pain, its just that I can generally ignore it and carry on. Drives LL quite mad, she’s convinced my stoicism and unwillingness to bow to pain means I let things go too far (based on a slipped disc some years ago when I just kept going until I needed surgery and was left flat on my back for a couple months). She has a point I suppose.

This one has only been mildly annoying until recently. Last week it stepped up a notch. There’s these attacks of intense fluttering pain, like an uber stitch, in my side. At first I thought it was my appendix, but when I finally pulled myself away from work to visit my doctor… gall stones. So, now it’s a serious of tests to confirm and plan the fix.

A bloody nuisance this, I could quite do without this right now. Just what does my body think its doing? Gall Stones?

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Jelousy, Cultural Clash or Racism

Working in the media industry I follow most trends. Though I'm not an avid watcher of reality television I make sure I watch, see and listen to what's happening. Curiously I did watch some of the second episode of Big Brother, I try to see a bit of the first shows of the major ones to know what's happening. I saw the scene where the "housemates" voted who would move to the slum house and who would stay in the big house. The bollywood actress was left in the big house. I turned to LL and said it was racism in action and there would be trouble.

Sure enough, there's trouble. If you haven't had the displeasure of watching any Big Brother (and I don't blame you if you haven't), you can get an update here. But, in summary, here are some of the phrases thrown at the Bollywood actress. I leave it to you to decide if these are jellous remarks thrown at a cultured, proud and attractive woman from those who aren't, a clash of working class British culture with middle class Indian culture, or outright racism.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007


I must have been prescient in my post yesterday. No, LL and I aren’t getting divorced, but Imperatrix commented marriage is sometimes very hard, and we had a very hard day.

I’m still not entirely sure what went wrong. Well, I have an idea, there was an incident earlier in the day, but I’m not sure how the connection was made to it being my fault. So I faced an evening of stony silence. No eye contact, none of our usual touching or cuddling. When some leaves where found broken off a plant, she went off on one. Thankfully the kids where asleep.

My LL has a temper see. 99% of the time she’s calm, cool and lovely. That one percent of the time, which has a casual correlation with that time of the month (ie, that probability of her temper flaring then is much higher, but its not restricted so). It is that time of the month, so I suppose that is part of what happened.

We went to bed in silence, nothing resolved, nothing discussed. I know I should have broken the conversation, got it into the open, but I was too tired. I’d had a hard day at work, and just emotionally couldn’t face it. So we broke that rule about going to bed angry. Needless to say I had a lousy night’s sleep.

If she’s still angry tonight, I’ll open it up. Face the music and talk it through. For the moment though I’m baffled, tired, and not a little bit angry myself.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007


I’ve actually got a seat on the train this morning, so have the chance to write a bit more. I’m in the final few stages of my major project, we’ve got a date and we’ll hit it. Home life at the weekend was busy, but good. Plus I actually slept a whole night through, so generally life is good.

My mind has been doing its usual, and tromping from topic to topic. Its been curious how one particular topic has been recurring at the moment. Divorce. The Sunday Times did an interesting piece around a survey they’d done. A large majority of married couples believed divorce should be harder. Z the other day, in her secrets revealed piece, soundly propounded that she believed good sex within marriage was an absolute necessity. Something I firmly agree with (God willing I fully intend to be shocking the other residents in the old folks home with LL well into our ninties). This morning the Today programme did an interesting interview with a couple divorce lawyers. One, quite surprisingly, stated he felt more women entered into divorce since the change to an equal 50:50 settlement of assets became law. That knowing they’d not financially loose out made more women feel divorce was an easier option than living through a tough time. Then, there was a research paper in the US that followed a large number of children after their parents divorced. It seems the first year is the toughest, but given the stigma of divorce is now gone, they lead happy lives thereafter.

So where has that all led my wandering mind? First, I firmly believe in marriage. I think children with two parents in love and supporting each other grow up with more self confidence and happiness. Second, that divorce needs to be possible. I have a sister who’s first husband turned abusive. No person should be forced to continue living with someone who is mentally or physically harming them. Full stop, no argument. I know of many similar examples out there, and the harm of staying in such relationships far outweighs the usually short term harm of returning to single life, or single parenthood.

However… I also know examples of people who get out of a marriage when it gets just a little bit rough. Relationships when one or both of partners think their own needs will be better satisfied apart rather than together. I’ve seen breakups that just make me angry. Where it’s the children or one of the partners who suffers when the other gets away scot free.

So, I do think divorce should be harder. Abusive relationships need to be able to end. There should be an equality of asset division, and if one partner bears the brunt of child care, the other must be made to provide adequate financial support comensurate with their income. Saying all that, it is still too easy right now. Divorce should be hard unless certain proofs can be made. Yes, adultery should be put back in as one of those proofs (did you know adultery was now irrelevant in divorce proceedings). No human system is perfect, and making things harder will mean some people stay in a relationship when they shouldn’t. Yet, it has to be worth something to get more people to put in effort and stay when they should.

Monday, January 15, 2007


16 Adults + 18 Children under the age of 8 + our home = Mayhem

Had a party at ours Sunday afternoon. Only suffered one broken plant pot, one damaged plant and only a few toys that had to head to the bin. No furniture stains, no broken bones and almost no tears (from the children or LL and I!).

A good time was had by all, but boy was I knackered last night...

Friday, January 12, 2007

The Truth

  1. Sorry to disappoint most of you, but this is completely true. I’ve done a lot of diving over the years, am a qualified instructor. One day many years back I was diving off the coast of Vancouver Island. My buddy motioned me over, and there to our mutual delight was a Pacific Giant Octopus. The beasts can have a wingspan up to 3-4 meters. They rather shy creatures, tending to hide during the day (though quite tasty). This one was tucked up between some rocks and appeared a monster. My mate reached out to stroke it, generally a no no, and not something I would have done. A tentacle twirled out and wrapped around his arm. They are actually fairly delicate, and mostly harmless so long as you don’t stick a finger up their beak. He reached up to start to peal it off when another tentacle twirled around that arm. Laughing I joined in to have tentacles wrap around my arms. Took us a good five minutes of pure comedy to get unravelled. It’s a very cherished diving memory.
  2. No one called this one out, you’ve clearly sussed out my alcoholic tendencies. It was a club at uni, with an annual initiation usually restricted to engineering students. A lot of my mates where geers, so I was invited along. I’ve got a pretty serious capacity, so thought it would be a doddle. Its one of only two times I can honestly say my memory blanked. It took days to recover from the hangover.
  3. I expected this one to be pointed at, but it too is completely true. In the dark depths of my past I was part of a historical recreation society. I played Knights in armour and it was good fun. Still got a well bashed suit of armour hidden upstairs. LL thinks it was a complete nonsense and just shakes her head when I talk about it. It was bloody good fun though, and I’m still a dab hand with a sledge hammer. I never miss my mark.
  4. Here is the porky pie. I grew up with a real fear of heights, couldn’t stand being in a glass elevator unless I was plastered against the back wall. I’ve overcome it, but rock climbing holds absolutely no attraction for me! In trying to get over the fear I did actually try rock climbing once, threw up about 20 feet up and had to be helped down. My mates never let me live it down as I had a reputation in all other things for trying anything once.
  5. True, but with a caveat! Those of you who’ve obviously done this before sussed the improbability out. However, I worked as a poultry butcher in my youth for a small specialist outfit that sold “quality” birds. With the right abattoir gear it is entirely possible. The plucker was a Heath Robinson affair, but it could de feather a bird in no time flat! I haven’t done this start to finish in a long time, but suspect it would take me 5 to 10 minutes if all I had to hand was a boiling pot of water and a sharp blade. Plus, you realistically do need to give the poor thing a time to drain, else the deboning is a grisly bloody affair.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Going with the flow

Greavsie did it, so did Katy, even DrunkPunk joined in. So, a meme...

5 things most people don't know. One is a lie, but which is it?

  1. I have wrestled with a giant octupus 40 metres below the sea. It was a draw, neither of us won
  2. I have the dubious honour of being a memeber of an elite Canadian club whose membership is defined by having drunk 24 beers in 24 hours. At least I'm told I am, I don't quite remember myself
  3. I climbed to the top of Mt Attlee in the Rockies, threw up and had to be carried down. I was not allowed to forget the disgrace for years
  4. I'm a Knight me, have jousted on horseback and fought with swords and all. A Queen even dobbed my shoulders and head with a sword to make it true
  5. I can kill, pluck, disembowl and debone a chicken in less than 2 minutes. I was tought by someone who was even faster

Tuesday, January 09, 2007


Have you ever noticed how technological change can be really really annoying?

I just bought a new computer at home. The old one packed it in, think it was a disk head crash. Most computers you could just swap out the disk, but I’d bought an eancy little computer, smaller than a paperback, and it was hardwired in. Hence, annoyance number one. Something that should be fixable, isn’t.

Fine, it gave me the chance to go computer shopping, which is a good thing. As it was just the main unit I need replacing all I was looking for was just that. I had a good monitor, keyboard, mouse, the lot. I did my usual, scanned the web, found some good options, then went shopping. I found a fine deal in the January sales. An HP Slimline Media PC, small form factor, but replaceable bits. I do try not to make the same mistakes twice. A stonking deal too, a high end AMD 64bit monster of a chip (don’t be fooled by Intel propaganda, AMD chips are superb and half the price), a gig ram, nice big hard disk, great graphics card for £300. Given this one would be used by the kids a fine all rounder. Plus a built in upgrade to Vista when it comes out (if you’re shopping right now, make sure that’s wrapped into the price, DON'T buy without it).

Quite pleased with myself I take it home. LL is happy I’ve found something small, the kids are just happy. I unbox it, put it on the table and start to connect the leads. Except… there’s no VGA plug for the monitor. There’s a latest and greatest DVI plug, but no VGA plug.

The technology has changed. Usually I embrace this. The old VGA standard is analogue. That means the computer figures out where all the pixels go, then converts it into wave form, like old style TV broadcasts. It shoots this down the VGA cable, then the monitor converts it from the analogue wave back into digital format to drive the LCD screen. The new DVI standard means the transmission stays digital. This means a cleaner signal, faster driving of the screen and better resolution. You can also drive audio down a DVI-A connection (which this is) All in all, a good thing, you reduce the number of cables and get a better signal. Right?

Except, the monitor I have doesn’t take a DVI feed, it only take an old analogue VGA feed. So now I’m shopping again. I have to buy a new monitor that takes a DVI signal. Change, which is good, means in this case waste, which is bad. What a useless palaver.

It does mean I can get a VGA high def wide screen though...

Monday, January 08, 2007

Its Pretty Cool to be Six

Ali Baba turned six last week, Sunday we had his birthday party. Life is good when you’re a six year old and having a birthday party. It doesn’t need much, just some space and the freedom to lark about. So the with the village hall, and my good mate from the next village with the bouncy castles (we’ve done a lot of bouncy castle parties) who provided a blown up dinosaur, a party is organised.

As a parent, it makes for a pretty easy party. Other than a watchful eye, you just let them run about. We had a few tears and some gentle worded warnings to the rougher kids (one with was Pirate Pete, sigh…), but it was pretty easy going. We did take a break for the party tea and tried a game of Grandmothers footsteps and sleeping lions, but mostly it was just the bouncy castle.

The tea was the standard fare, sausages, ham, cheese and jam sandwiches (not all in one, please..., crusts cut off), pizza (homemade, cut into the shape of dinosaurs, quite cool if I do say so myself, are we detecting a theme here?), fresh veg, and crisps. Then ice cream and jelly for pudding. The piece de resistance being a lemon sponge cake in the shape of a stegosaurus, LL doing her maternal bit, it looked a bit like a tortoise, but the kids loved it), plus gingerbread and fairy cakes (LL really put the boat out, usually she only has patience for baking the cake).

Ali Baba was buzzing with happiness, especially as he and his siblings got the bouncy castle to themselves for an hour afterwards as we tidied. Then he got to go home and start opening his presents. After a bath and a treat of watching a bit of Star Wars on a school night we put three exhausted but happy children to bed. Its pretty cool to be six.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Holiday Hours

So, keeping to the post holiday theme this week, how many of you were able to take the full holidays off? I both did, and didn’t. I didn’t go into the office, and for 90% of each day was off duty. I did a lot with the kids, got in some good long walks, cooked a lot, baked bread every day, drank through a sizeable portion of the wine store, generally did things one does in the holidays.

But I also worked. We’re close, so achingly close to the end of the project. I’ve got fatigues teams on three continents battering away with the requisite late project gremlins. I wished I could have given people a good break, they need it, but the business demands a delivery in January.

So I spent an awful lot of time on the telephone and trawling through email. When people are fatigued, they don’t think well. A lot of my time was spent talking through the issue, making sure untrod avenues of thought were walked on. Also a bit of arbitration when needed. Tempers got frayed more than once. Only once did my own temper start to get unchecked, but I reined it in.

Saying that, we slogged through what needed to be slogged through. We’re not exactly on time, but we’re close enough. It’ll be grand when we get there. I’m immensely proud of the project, and in particular of the work my team is doing. You don’t get people working through the holiday unless they’re passionate about what they’re doing. I’m not paying them any extra (well, it’ll be a good bonus year, but they don’t know that), and they put in hours way beyond the call of duty.

Now, I’ve just got to get through the next couple of weeks, then I can relax a bit. Not long though, I’ve already kicked off a new project…

Wednesday, January 03, 2007


When is there too much of a good thing? I love my kids, deeply, and I work hard so that they do not want and are set up with every advantage I can give them. Still, there's times I have to shake my head and wonder.

This Christmas, indeed every Christmas, the pile of presents under the tree is massive. It overspills, covering the floor. It makes for a very pretty picture, and the kids literally jump for joy when they see it. Yet...

Now, forgoeing my usual handwringing, we're affluent. Most of our relatives are affluent. Though in both my and my wife's family we've got tacit agreements on presents between each other (my family has a present draw, LL's has unspoken limits on how much can be spent), with regards to the kids there is no limit. When you take into account that both LL and I have three siblings, both of us have living parents, and there are various great aunts and uncles in the mix, plus godparents it makes for a lot, and I mean a lot of presents.

We keep lists and the kids all hand make thank you cards, so I know the exact total. Not including the ones to my mum, LL and I there where 42 presents under the tree (not including book tokens and little envelopes with cash). 42! For three kids! We actually spread the opening of presents over four days so they had a chance to look at, play and enjoy each one.

The house is literally litered with toys of every make and description, though lego plays a large part (and little lego bits make a larger part of the litter). The recycling bin was overflowing with wrapping paper and boxes, even after I used a lot as fire lighters.

Now I'm pleased as punch that the kids DID take time over each one, they didn't rush through opening the lot in 10 minutes. They've got restraint and discipline, even my Princess, and that pleases me no end. We've also had no complaints about doing thank you cards, all hand painted, and labouriously written in the case of the two boys (we make it a game, so its fun).

But still, its too much. The question is, how do you say to the mass of friends and relations to hold back, maybe club together? I know how good giving feels, especially if its something enjoyed. I don't want to withhold that pleasure. Yet I don't want the kids thinking abundance in the norm. It may not, likely not, be the case. I just don't know the answer though.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Xmas Roundup

So, the holiday is done. It was both very good and not so good. Work intruded a lot. A few disasters that required intervention and monitoring. We got through them, but only by the skin of our collective teeth.

My mother has been packed up back on an airplane to Canada. She was an easy visitor. No trouble to take care of, gracious and as helpful as she could be. It was a good visit for the kids getting to know her. Usually when we fly out there, it’s a bit of a whirlwind as we do holiday type things as well as visiting. This time, the kids where off school, so they got a lot of time together.

It was a bit of a melancholic visit for me, as the brain damage is pretty clear. Its not horrific in any sense. If you hadn’t know her well before you might not guess there’s anything wrong. She just a lovely old lady who’s a bit dotty. Thankfully, personality wise she’s little changed on the surface. Yet there’s change, her short term memory is awful, I heard a lot of stories three or four times. Her recall of words is pretty bad (this for a woman who got a first in English and has read a library of books over the years), and she sometimes stumbles over complex concepts. Yet she’s still my mum, and it was good to get a lot of time with her.

My nephew stopped in for a couple days as well on his way back from his Grand Tour. He was very happy and relaxed. Nice to see. We expected him on boxing day, but I got a call from my sister the day after saying he’d lost my number, was in central London with no money and could I help. Haven’t laughed so hard in ages. It seems he wanted to visit a woman he’d met travelling (Australian naturament), so he flew in Boxing Day and spent a night with her. Next morning he didn’t know how to get to me. Hilarious, oh to be twenty with no responsibility.

The kids where remarkable. Other than a few minor squabbles, they played well with each other, and more or less did as needed when needed. I spent a lot of time working with Pirate Pete on his saxophone, and I think we made good progress.

It was a lego Christmas, and they got loads! Both boys love making the stuff up, and we’re now at the stage where things are getting remade into new things. That’s the best stage, when its most fun for me. Pirate Pete though loves following the directions. His biggest present was the Star Wars Imperial Star Destroyer. Took his three solid days to build that and he was in heaven the whole time.

It was also a Star Wars Christmas. The boys have been really into it for some reason, so Father Christmas gave them the whole set (on sale at Wollies, don’t you know). Over the break we watched all six movies. I enjoyed that too. Brought back lots of memories. My dad and I had travelled three hours to get to a big screen cinema for the first movie back in the seventies.

There was lots of food, and more than a few bottles of wine. We mixed a jar of mince meat with marmalade (laced with a bit of extra whisky) to make a smashing set of tarts. The goose was just fine, and a Beef Wellington went over just fine, and there was loads of other grand meals. We did lots of visiting, did the requisite services at the church, puttered around the house, played with the kids and otherwise had a fine fine tim