Friday, November 30, 2007

How the other half lives...

With the exception of a very small handful of individuals (The Queen, Bill Gates, Roman Abromivitch, etc) everyone has someone who is wealthier, better off, more powerful, etc., etc. Good healthy psyches aren't particularly bothered by this. If you enjoy your life, what matter what others have?

I know I live a fairly blessed life, and on the whole quite enjoy it. Just occasionally though I come across someone, or a circumstance, and just have to think what it would be like if... We went to dinner with LL's boss last night. Oddly, in terms of influence and authority I would weigh myself against him and come out rather well. He though, is in a highly affluent business (as is indeed my darling wife). He's been at it a while, and has done rather nicely.

Their house is nice, a bit larger than ours, but nothing that set me thinking. In fact given where it is I wouldn't want to live there (they share a lane with wealthy footballers). His children were no better nor worse than mine. His wife, though very pleasant, did not attract me in any shape or form as much as my own LL does.

Yet he started talking about the Chalet in Verbier... They are well off enough not to have to rent it out. They have a full time housekeeper there, who does double duty living with them in the off season months. Indeed she had cooked the dinner we ate, and would be heading back to Verbier next week as the snow was finally falling. When the go out it is with nanny (who also skis), so they get nicely taken care of. Its walking distance to the lifts, surrounded by good restaurants. In winter and summer they go out most weekends, and will spend Christmas and Easter there.

Not bad, not bad at all. My life will be no less fulfilling if I never have a Chalet in Verbier, but... I just couldn't help thinking that such a thing would be very nice indeed.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Health and Sanity

I went to some bits of a conference today(technology procurement, tres chic and oh so exciting). To my complete and utter astonishment a very nice lady stood up at the start of each session and did an airplanesque diatribe on where the exits where in case of a fire, how they would be announced and who to approach in case of a first aid requirement. I kept expecting her to pull out a life vest and mime how to blow it up (which I always find rather amusing).

Has the world gone completely mad? Do we really need to be told to exit through the doors with the glowing green running man in an orderly fashion in case of an emergency? Its bad enough getting it on and aircraft, does it honestly need to be done in a hotel conference room?

Oh, and did you know that a red "Exit" sign is no longer legal? The EU has decreed emergency exits must have independently powered pictographs of a running man who glows green. I despair some days, I really do.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Why I hate commuting, Reason 2,344

So, with the change of jobs I'm trying out commuting from a different train station. It literally saves a couple of grand a year, and is a bit closer to home, but is less flexible. The trains are only every half an hour instead of every 10 minutes. To catch the train that gets me into the office at the same time I have to be just that bit mor dilligent getting out the door. This morning I chatted with SN a bit as she arrived, and therefor drove into the parking lot just as the train was leaving. This left me cooling my heels on the platform for a half hour.

I love my job, and I love my family, but boy, if I could get rid of the bit in between wasting time out of my day I'd be a deleriously happy man...

Monday, November 26, 2007

A small moral dilemma

A non dilema to start. Friday had me meeting the lovely Z. She is as delightful in person as in print. These bloggy friendships are funny things, on meeting someone for the first time you know so much about them. Makes for easy conversation though!

On to the dilemma. We had some friends over for lunch on Sunday. Our kids had been at the same school until we moved ours away, and this was a first attempt to keep the relationship going. All in all it went well. The conversation flowed easily (as did the wine), the kids played well together.

We went for a walk, and their two year old daughter threw a bit of a wobbly. It wasn't a problem, just amused me that we were thankfully passed that stage. The day felt like a good one.

Just one small problem that we found out later. Their oldest daughter (aged six) had raided the boy's sweety stash. When I say raided I mean scoffed down the lot. These are the ones they buy with their own pocket money. They're really good about their sweeties, and can make a roll of wine gums last weeks only having one or two a day.

The boys were understandably upset and we promised to replace them. That cheered them up a bit as it means a whole role for a half finished one. The small child moral outrage is a bit harder to answer, but in a way its a good life leason. Even nice people do wrong things sometimes. The conversation with the kids was a good one.

The problem is what do we do about it outside the family? If one of ours did something like that, and we were told it would be hugely embaressing, but I'd be grateful. Problem is, not every parent reacts the same way. We'd like to see this family again and mentioning something small like this could stop the friendship cold. It could be perceived as being petty and spiteful at worst, at best the embaressment could many any future get togethers awkward.

What a shame, what a shame, and what to do, what to do...

Friday, November 23, 2007

Aural bliss

OK, enough hard on posting this week. Time for a bit of indulgent irrelevance. I used to have a pair of Bose sound reduction headphones (the first generation). I loved them, good sound quality and the ability to cut background noise was astonishing. However, I managed to leave them in a hotel, and even though I called the hotel a half hour after checking out from the taxi I was informed that "Absolutely not Mr. Boy, our staff have checked the room thoroughly and there is nothing there." Code speak for, "Yes we checked the room, and our cleaning staff thank you for the unexpected tip."

After much argument with the hotel from myself and my insurance company I got the pay out. For penance in being so bloody stupid I did not replace them. I've been working my way through many lesser ear buds and other small aural devices. They are less bulky, you do look a bit of a dweeb walking around with full headphones. Yet I've appearently got funny ears, and I've yet to find a pair that sits comfortably in my ears. The quality is never very good either, despite my trying some reasonably high end ones.

As I'm back travelling a lot I decided it was time to go back to some proper headphones. I was tempted to just replace with Bose, having enjoyed my previous pair so much. They are ruddy expensive though. Bose has almost a monopoly on high end sound reducing phones in the public mind and prices accordingly. Still I did my research and decided to risk something else.

I bought a pair of Audio-Technica ATH-ANC7 headphones. They are half the price of the Bose and have some excellent reviews. The risk paid off. These are truely excellent head phones. The sound quality is crystal clear. I borrowed a friend's Bose to compare, and there is a remarkable difference. Don't get me wrong, the Bose are still very good, but the A-T phones have been built by Japanese audiophiles.

The Bose have a softer sound, with an arguably better base range, but the A-T are crystal clear. Its the difference between listening to your music in a well padded and comfortable living room and in a concert hall. The Bose have a soft easy sound, gentle on the ear. The A-T are crisp, you get every nuiance of the recording. That's unforgiving in a poor recording, but very few pieces are badly produced these days. I have some old Classical recordings that you get some old hiss and scratch from on the A-T that you don't on the Bose, but I don't mind that.

I love Glenn Gould, and if you've ever heard his recordings off a good sound system you hear him humming and singing to the piano in the background. That just makes the music more real for me. I really love these phones.

They're not just for planes and trains. They cut out a fair bit of background noise in the city, yet let enough voice through to know when you're being talked to. They are also good for the home. In my house we have a noisy boiler, and these cut out that background that I had forgotten I'd learned to tune out. Highly recommended, though you'll still look like a dweeb walking down the street...

Thursday, November 22, 2007


Martin commented on one aspect, Dandelion another. As I wander through the blogsphere it seems many are waking up to faces of what our government has been up to. In New Labour we have a government of conviction. You can say that is no bad thing, but the problem with conviction is it rejects compromise. It knows better than convention and other wisdom and treads a path it knows is right. Sometimes that is necessary, only conviction can oppose conviction.

The problem is conviction doesn’t sit well with a modern democracy. Ours is a style of government based on checks and balances, on old old ways of doing things that ensure a middle road is walked, that safe routes are taken. It takes time, it compromises, it listens to opposing view points and incorporates bits and pieces. Both have their place. Conviction wrote the US constitution that is a thing of beauty. Compromise wrote the EU constitution that is a monster that destroys what it attempts to protect.

However, at the moment, we have had a government of conviction. It has alternatively tramped wholesale through opposition, then weddled and whined and spun to try to convince. It is a government that gets confused that “the people” don’t actually believe as it does, and as a result occasionally jerks in reaction to opinion with disastrous consequence.

One of the things that has scared me the most about our current government is its conviction that it has the mandate to change, well, anything. The British constitution, in a way completely different to the US one, is a thing of beauty. It is a combination of lore, precident, ancient and modern. It has given us centuries of stable safe government. It has enshrined the rights of the individual with balance and justice. Yet our current government believes it can change this constitution as it knows better.

Let me outline just a few of the changes this government has wrought:

So children, without quite realising, like the boiling of a frog, the body of law around us has radically changed. Radically. We have sleep walked into a state where what we believe to be our personal rights and freedoms are not really there any more. The term “Nanny State” is used humorously, but is none the less true. We do not have the control of our lives we thought we did.

Be afraid children, be very afraid. Conviction has brought us to a point where conviction may yet again have to rise to fight it. Freedom must be earned…

Tuesday, November 20, 2007


The so perfect job is not always so perfect. I was asked to lie yesterday. It wasn’t a big lie, just come up with an excuse not to take a certain meeting. We’re an operating company under a very small holding company. This creates odd politics as who is really in charge? My boss for the most part gets along well with his boss who runs the holding company (I don’t have a counterpart there).

Yet this meeting was with my boss’ boss and a few others. For various political reasons I was asked to dodge it, and lie about why to avoid a fight between my boss and his boss. So I gritted my teeth and did it. I didn’t like doing it, and it cost me political capital to look so disorganised as to miss it.

Such is life however, you occasionally have to recognise where your bread is buttered. In the scheme of things it wasn’t a big request, but it still sticks in the back of my throat.

Monday, November 19, 2007


It made me laugh, but a commenter the other day said she had come to the conclusion that my blog probably couldn’t be made up. With tongue thoroughly in cheek she said that just maybe, perhaps this man with perfect wife, perfect children in a perfect house was happening.

After making me laugh, it also made me think. Was I publishing too glowing a view of my life? Lord knows this life from the inside is far from perfect. Far far from perfect. However, I am naturally a half glass full type of person. My personality was firmly inherited from my mother. Yet… life is good right now. I’m in a job that I’m enjoying hugely, my wife is also happy in her career at the moment. Our problems with the house are more figuring out what next to do with it, rather than, well problems. The kids are all in a happy place mentally, and doing well at what they put there hands to. Life is not perfect, but, right now, it is good.

It hasn’t always been so. Oddly enough I started blogging after an absolutely helacious year. I’d changed jobs after spending two years working for what I can only describe as a professional bully. He took actual delight in belittling people. LL was equally hating her job. It would take a long time to fully describe, but as a woman working in a predominantly male career (financial trading), she had pretty clearly experienced subtle but persistent sexual discrimination.

Perhaps not too surprisingly our relationship suffered. At the time I actually thought we were close to a breaking point. My LL has a firery personality at the best of times, and she can criticise and attack when feeling knocked back. If I’m honest, my reaction was to withhold affection. We where in a relationship death spiral.

We had just earlier in the year completed 18 months of repair work on the house to correct a really serious water leak that every effort seemed to fail to find. Our builder had gone bankrupt without telling us, and needless to say the relationship him wasn’t good.

To top if off, my parents where in a car accident and both where hospitalised for months, my mother recovered but with brain damage, my father died.

It was one of those times in life when it feels like the walls are falling in. I wasn’t blogging at the time, and I’m not at all sure I could have. Maybe it would have helped, but when there’s that much pain around in your life your whole focus is on just carrying on.

Yet the coin turned. I changed jobs, we got the house sorted and the builder out the door. Oddly enough LL and I made a breakthrough while out visiting my parents. We started to talk, and the relationship healed. Which is a very good thing, as it meant I had a supportive spouse while my parents where in the hospital (they had the car crash a week after we visited).

There’s not much of a moral in this story, its just an aspect of life. Right now, for me, life is good. It was not always that way, and I rather expect some darkness may yet hit me in the future. When it does, I’ll survive, because you do, don’t you? If you don’t you miss the good bits, like life is right now. And the right nows are so very worth it.

Stop reading now

I promised myself I wasn’t going to go on so much about my kids, but hey, its my blog and I can brag if I want to. If endless self congratulation about one’s children bores you, please stop reading now.

We went up to the British Museum yesterday to do the Terracotta Warriors. Being a tad hopeful, we went up early to see if we could tempt the kids with some of the more interesting galleries. Well, it worked in spades. We had an afternoon of drifting from exhibit to exhibit, the kids often scampering ahead to see what delight was next. I was so pleased with Ali Baba, who’s just kind of cracked the reading thing. You know, that stage when they go from laboriously working out each word to suddenly getting it and reading. I lost count of the number of times he’d haul me over to tell me excitedly that this was a “Hand Carved Ivory Pen Case. Its fancy, but just like I have for school isn’t it daddy?”

Princess was enthralled with the gold sparkly things, but even her older brother was indulgent enough to let himself be pulled over to look at a set of rings. When I then explained what signet rings where, he then hauled over his brother to relay the info.

Yes, it was a museum, but it was fun. Both LL and I love our history, and being able to see that enthusiasm picked up is just such a treat. Having three kids actively enjoy looking in dry duty display cases, how cool is that?

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

To the moon

Trying to gain new business is a tricky thing. There are times when there is a clear process with the client. You have a written brief of what they want and how they are going to choose a vendor. Then there are times when it is vague. When the client knows they want something, and in particular want something fairly different and new. So they haul in a number of vendors and see what they have to say.

Just did one of those later types of presentations. We thought we knew what the client wanted, thought we had a pretty good idea how to do it, thought we where presenting good solid leading edge thinking and capability.

Thing was, they weren’t looking for leading edge, they wanted far out there bleeding edge. They wanted something so knew it hadn’t been done before, a rocket ship to take them to Mars. We showed them a rocket ship to take them to the moon.

The sad thing? They need a rocket ship to take them to the moon. It would give them huge benefit, and still put them at the leading edge of corporate development and marketing management. Mars is still achievable, but there are methods that get you to Mars from the Moon. Known technologies used in different ways, think of XXX. It still gets into space, but at a fraction of the cost of the shuttle.

Still, the client wanted Mars. Clearly someone had sold them a pup and said it would get them to Mars, no problem. Just give us the business and we’ll get you there, promise. I’m sure there was no deceitfulness, they had done there homework and were offering what they believed they could build. However, I know this space, what they want no one has done, and is highly, highly risky, and will take years, if not a decade.

Doesn’t matter though, we tried to sell a nice safe trip to the moon. Still risky, but controllable risk. Halfway through the meeting the senior client just stepped in, gave us a little lecture on him really wanting Mars, and after polite enough fair wells, said good bye.

Its nice being the client, you can do that. Not so nice being the vendor who’s spent a rather large amount of money building a plan the client pretty unambiguously didn’t want. Damn shame, we really got it wrong. Almost better not to have pitched, but sometimes you take the chance knowing you’ve got a good answer. Not this time though, we got it wrong.

Onwards, there are other clients who do want to go to the moon, and we know how to get them there.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

A board

Am abroad visiting the other side of the pond. Have just finished a 10 hour flight, had a meeting and a business dinner and feel distinctly like a board just hit me. Normal service will resume shortly...

No googling now, what possible company could I be visiting in Austin Texas?

Friday, November 09, 2007

My I

Okay, on this day of technological goodness, when the iPhone finally launches in the UK, I thought it appropriate to write my own view. Yes, I’ve had one a while. Yes, I know O2 and Apple hadn’t yet sold them in the UK. Yes, I’ve been bad.

So, to start, it is a thing of beauty. The one thing you have to give Apple is they know their potatoes. Its design really is spot on. Brushed steel back, chrome edging and a black lacquer front. A few discreet buttons, a few tiny punctures for speakers and mikes, and that’s it. Modern minimalist design at its best. I really, I mean really like the look.

But is its beauty only skin deep? My own view weighs mostly on the side of good, but its got a couple real crackers of faults. I have to say I love the total thumb navigation. Moving through the functions is intuitive and easy. You’re no more than three touches away from any other ability. Its all pretty faultless.

They have also put a huge amount of thought into how a phone PDA would be used. So, you move from one function to another, and your state in the previous function is preserved. Lets say you’ve got the iPod playing Madge, a call comes in, and Madge is held in her complete innocence to start up again when the call is over. If you’re surfing the internet and move mid way through typing a URL, its just where you left it when you come back.

Other cuteness is that the screen goes black when you hold it up to your ear to take a call. You might wrinkle your nose at that, but its very important on a phone which is navigated by touch on its screen. Other phones don’t and I’ve had problems in the past of the phone rubbing against my cheek causing odd navigation to go on while I’m obliviously on the call.

The applications provided out of the box are superb. The phone implementation of Safari for web surfing is by far the best mobile web browser I’ve used. Instead of “interpreting” the web page to simplify it, you get the whole web page. Yes, it comes up very small, but a jab at a certain aspect and it zooms up, or you can easily slide the screen around. Very very good. The phone also seamlessly switches between picking up a WiFi signal if your subscribed to one, or using GPRS on your phone carrier. Very slick.

The new iPod software is so smooth. The way the navigation changes when you shift the phone from horizontal to vertical is particularly swish, and I love flicking through the album covers to choose what to play. If you haven’t seen this, you must. It is a technology interface at its best. I love browsing my CDs to pick which pleasure I’ll listen to next. This evokes that wonderfully. The phone can get confused though and be slow to respond to the shift in factor, which is a nuisance.

You’ve got custom versions of Google Maps and Yahoo Weather. Google Maps is cute, but a bit of a gimmick, without satellite navigation its not much use (I hear you can enable that, but I haven’t). Yahoo Weather I use every day. Its set to my local town and has a neat function that lets you quickly flick through the weather in other locations. I find it quite comforting to know what weather my mother has in Vancouver. There is also a very simple clock function that lets you choose a number of time zones to display in analogue version. Again, I use that every day.

The phone function? Fine, very easy to use. It replicated with my outlook contacts and is probably the easiest contact tool I’ve used. Very easy to find someone, and a neat favourites function to keep your regular call list handy. There’s good sound quality from the handset and I’m told my voice comes through nice and clear. Really good long battery life.

But… and there are some big buts, its not perfect. From a corporate view they haven’t built a secure enough email function. I’ve had to ban their use in our company, its just not good enough. Nor is there any remote management functions to wipe the phone remotely if its stolen. Most of you won’t care about that, but it’s a disappointment, they could have done more, and the device would have slam dunked blackberry. I suppose they don’t need to control the corporate market though, so c’est la vie.

More important? It only has 8 gig memory for the iPod. I’m sure they ran out of space & power, but given the iPod functionality is one of the main reasons I desired an iPhone so I can loose an extra device from my pockets it’s a real loss. I can’t carry my whole music collection.

I also just can not understand why they designed the earphone jack the way they did. Its inset into the unit, and unless your plug exactly fits, it doesn’t. I suppose its an aesthetic thing, the pure white Apple jack fits perfectly in and looks good. I also suppose Apple gets a nice margin on follow on sales of earphones, but it’s a really crap bit of design in an otherwise excellent device. Two follow on quibbles. I don’t like the Apple ear buds, they don’t fit my ears. I’m continually having to fiddle or else loose sound quality. I LIKE my other earphones, and I can’t use them (I’m sure some cleaver clogs has invented an adapter I just haven’t found yet).

Second, and more important, the earphones supplied have a hands free mike attached. This sounds like a really good idea. When a call comes in, your music fades out and the call comes in seamlessly. However, the phone sound quality into the earphones is bizarrely poor. I don’t get it, its fine from the speaker in the handset, but just horrible into the earphones. I’ve taken to unplugging the earphones and using the handset for calls, which just defeats the purpose.

Like all apple devices the battery is built in. This is another thing I just don’t get. Everyone else in the world, and I mean everyone, does removable batteries. Apple doesn’t. Not only does it mean you will eventually have to send it back in to get them changed, but it means you can’t carry around a spare battery. For someone like me who travels a lot, that’s just a pain in the ass.

I also object to Apple’s tactic of only selling to one mobile provider, and then going out of their way to punish people who use it on other carriers. I completely understand the profit motive behind it, but they would have made just as much money, if not more, through a different sales route. It’s a corporate arrogance I find distasteful.

However, overall I really like it, a thing of beauty inside and out. The focus on usability is clear. It actually is a pleasure to use. There are just these few glaring faults, and the earphone jack one is just a real own goal. I will continue to use it though, some crosses can be borne…

Thursday, November 08, 2007


What is it about being a parent that brings on such feelings of pride and joy in our offspring? I know we can go on and on about it, but its almost impossible not to. I am an admittedly proud man, confident in my achievements, perhaps to a fault, but you know what? One of my kids doing the most basic thing right will fill me up with more pride than nailing that deal or landing that project just right ever will.

They are yet young, and their achievements small, but I am just so chuffed with my kids at the moment. First and foremost, the thing that pleases me the most, is they are happy. A happy child is just such a pleasure to be around, they make whiters white, bring out that bit of sparkle to life. They’ve got friends and each other, and life just seems sunny for them.

Yet there’s icing on the cake. Frankly, so long as they are enjoying their childhood, I’d be satisfied and content we where doing the right thing. It doesn’t hurt at all though that they all seem to be doing well at school. Over the past weeks we’ve had they necessary parent teacher meetings. Those little ten minute insights into how its all going.

My Princess was a simple meeting. She is the youngest in her class, and only just made the age cut off. We debated giving her another year, but she seemed ready for it. Clearly she was happy with school, but you can be happy and failing. There where no worries, far from it. Her teacher, who’s really lovely, just bubbled about her. There is no surer way to a parent’s heart than to compliment your child, and we were assured not only was she keeping up, she was giving her extra bits an pieces because she was so keen. So, one big tick then.

Pirate Pete was next. We’d already heard some good news when he got put in the advanced math stream, but the teacher meeting was equally good. It was coded teacher speak. Some never want to directly praise for fear of parental rivalry bringing on accusations of preference. It was all, “he’s doing fine, but I want to work with him on this,” and “if you could bring up these things at home it would really help.” LL was all worried, she heard all the negative. Then we got his report card a few days latter and it was brilliant. Clearly the coded speak was about how he could really fly, and she was willing to be there to help him on, and just wanted us along for the ride.

LL is at a conference in the states this week, so last night I did Ali Baba’s meeting on my own. I got there a bit early. These things are like the doctors, you have to be spot on time, but don’t be surprised if the doctor is delayed. Sure enough, the parents currently in had a whole half hour. To be fair their boy had a troubled start to the year. They’d just moved into the area, and had a horrible experience at the first school, so ripped him out a few weeks in and moved him to ours. Poor boy just hadn’t coped well, though the daily dispatches from the front (usually monosyballic grunts, though determined grilling sometimes gets nuggets out) had reported him doing better.

Any how, they had a long go. The next parents where in for fifteen minutes. I had rather figured she was just a chatty teacher. No, I was in and out in five. “You know Mr. Boy, he’s just doing really well.” She opens her note book, “Yes, he’s one of the furthest along in his reading. Maths is at a difficult stage, some boys need time to figure out money, but… No, he’s just taken to the concepts. Spelling… the odd one wrong, but frankly he’s got some of the best results. His handwriting is a bit cramped, but he did this today so I’m sure we can work on it.” She pulled out this sheet of lovely flowing script. His handwriting is cramped, if it kept on he’d be able to transcribe the bible onto the head of a pin, so the page she showed was a marked improvement. “I’m sorry, I really feel like one if supposed to say more and talk about what to work on, but he’s just a lovely little boy and doing ever so well.” She walked me around the classroom to show some of his work up on the wall, then we shook hands and that was it. How good was that?

So today the world could crash about my shoulders and I just wouldn’t care. My kids are happy, have friends, and are doing “ever so well”.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007


In case you haven’t noticed, I love to cook. I find it immensely satisfying when my family or friends enjoy what goes on the table. I also find the act hugely stress relieving. Nothing like puttering around the kitchen to drop my blood preassure.

I think I’m a fairly good cook. You can’t always trust the compliments your get, people like to be polite, but the kids tend to keep you real. They wolf down what they like, and pick at what they don’t. They are also used to being experimented on. I tend to work at a certain dish until I get it just right and can replicate it. Most things I get OK first time, but some dishes, like Rissoto, took a bit of work. Lordy, the first time I tried that it was a bad bad thing, a glutinous mess that didn’t taste right. Not any more, I’ve got that one down just perfect.

This blog is something of an experiment for me too. You may not know it, but I trial ideas here, use it to personally see how the internet works. Not so much on blogger, but over here. Some things I expected. A few early experiments with rude posts get a huge amount of traffic. I keep meaning to do more, but it’s a bit hard to write on the train next to a respectable commuter. What did surprise me is how popular my recipies are. They don’t get comments, but they do get traffic. I seem to have a small following out there. Don’t know who they are, but whenever I post a new recipe there is a (small) flood of traffic. The blog name, kitchenboy, gets regularly googled. Who knew?

Any way, here’s a few more. Thank you for reading, but do let me know how you get on with the recipies. If it doesn’t work for you I’ll go back to the chopping board…

Monday, November 05, 2007

Remember, remember... damn, done that before

You know youve been blogging for a while when you blog about any annual event and its not even your second go. Still, its a good one.

Bonfires. The village just south of ours puts on a doozie. Location? Perfect, the event happens in a lovely little glade. The bonfire itself is about four stories high. It gets built with a remarcably animated Guy. He rides boats, climbs walls and these year had a rugby football in his lap as he watched the telly (which exploded rather nicely when the fire got going).

Then there's the fireworks. The lads prepare for ages. They make their own St Catherine's Wheel's, at least one of which fizzles out and fails spectacularly. Then there is the skits. Little cartoons acted out with firework characters. They are brilliant, always hilarious as much as for the failures as the successes. This year's highlight, Johnie Wilkinson kicking a football which literally rocketed through goalposts which burst into flame.

Finally, the fireworks. I don't know who they source from, but they are brilliant. I've seen a lot over the years (I mean a lot, I'm a wizz bang junkie), and these are top notch ones. The finaly, set off way back which beautifully illumunates the woods, just made my jaw drop. Really something else these were. All finished with a sparkling waterfall of sparks strung up high between some trees and the woods illuminated by flares.

We go every year and the kids disect and discuss what they liked the best for days afterwards. I almost didnt mind the housework the next day. Almost...

Friday, November 02, 2007

Lest we forget

I bought a poppy this morning. I do every year, usually more than one as I often loose them. As a symbol it seems to be loosing a bit of prominence every year, is seen a bit less. I find that so incredibly sad.

To me it has deep meaning. Personally I feel that freedom is a privilege, not a right. One that is often earned with blood, and must be re-earned by every generation. The prosperity we enjoy today rests on so many shoulders that to count them can only result in tears. If we fail, if we forget, then freedom falls.

So every year I buy a poppy, and I thank the vetran who sells it to me. Every year I wear it to let the world know that I personally don't forget. Every year I tell myself the words I learned as a boy...

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved, and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

John McCrae