Friday, December 21, 2007

Joyeux Noel

Its my last day of work, then off until the new year. I won't be blogging so this last post of the year may ramble and rumble a bit as I muse. For the most part, its been a good year. LL, despite the frantic global markets, is feeling valued and enjoying her job. The kids are all happy and settled at school. I'm now well into the new job, and even with the inevitable surprises am really looking forward to next year. I'm about to have a week off traveling up to spend with my Brother in Law and family. Their kids are only a bit older than ours, and they all get along famously.

Yet, heading into the holidays I have this nagging feeling of trepidation. My wife's family all have fairly volatile tempers. This risk of family argument is high. Though I know well enough to stay nice and clear, there is always fall out. Kids to re-assure, a wife depressed or in a state of high dudgeon to watch for. From history, if it explodes it takes a couple days to calm back down. Its low risk this year, LL gets on very well with her Brother, and her parents will not be with us full time. The siblings with whom tempers run high will only be about a little. Yet the egg shells are still there.

It looks like we've found a builder to work with on the extension. We're going with a smaller independent team, and will effectively be acting as prime contractor ourselves. So, instead of having one big firm to have one contract we'll have to be more closely involved. That's not necessarily a bad thing, its up to us to keep costs in line, and the lead project manager we're engaging come very highly recommended. It just does mean there will be a bit more stress and bother to live with.

LL and our Nanny seem to have hit a rocky patch. NativityGate was a symptom of a broader issue brewing. In many ways our Nanny is good. She works long hours without complaint, she's picked up extra duties now all three kids are in school, and mostly remains cheerful and helpful. However, there is an undercurrent going on between her and LL. LL sometimes feels got at, like she's at fault on a host of little things, real or not. On the reverse, my dear wife has a long standing tendency to tell rather than ask. From personal experience, this can grate emotionally, and build up.

I have to find a way to defuse this, lay the ground work for a change, or there's going to be train wreck with hard feelings on all sides. It fills me with dread, because reconciling two strong willed women is no easy task. I also, personally don't want to loose her. However, I'm secondary in this relationship. Mother and Nanny have to work together and get along, if that relationship is broken, its broken. We have to be fair and reasonable, but if it ends in a change, it ends in a change. I just hope I can dig into it enough to get them both happy again.

There's also a cold wind economically blowing. Though I don't think either of LL or my job's are at risk, the one certain thing in employment is no thing is certain. We're OK financially, if one of us lost a job, we could batten down and not make huge changes. I'd just rather not have to go down that road, so its time to keep a close ear to the ground.

All those are worries, they are balanced by much hope and joy. The year, with luck and a little hard work, could turn out fantastically. In the end, living a life full and happy is the best one can hope for. My chances of that a very good indeed. Rough winds are blowing true, but I'm a good captain. The chance of making it to port is pretty damn good.

So, from this boy and his family to all of you. May the winds in your life blow gently and true. If a gale springs up in your life, may you find the strength and courage to navigate through it. Always remember, that in the end, life is good. You sometimes have to search hard for that, but never let yourself forget. Life is good.

Have a wonderful holiday everyone.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Gloria in Excelsis

Our parish church is one of my favourite spaces. Its not grand, or opulent or well known. In fact its rather simple. Plain stone exterior, whitewashed walls inside. The ceiling inside is basic oak beams and unadorned panels.

What it is, is old. Christ has been worshiped here since the 600s. The walls of the Lady's chapel date to Norman times. There have been extensions and extrusions since. Its had a number of fires, was bombed by the Germans, has been hit by lightening. Little of the furniture and fittings are aged (other than the stone baptismal font, which is very very ancient (all three kids where baptised in it)). Much is refitted and fixed.

Yet for all that it is a place that you walk into and relax. It has a peace about it that is hard to define. We aren't weekly parishioners, just do the high days and holidays. That doesn't stop me loving it.

Last night was one of my favourite services. It was the annual carol concert. The vicar organises it around 9 readings. All of the old carols are done. But its a bit more than that too.

For reasons I've never inquired too deeply about we have a... uhmm... sort of good organist. Why he isn't at one of the cathedrals I really don't know. I think it has a bit to do with the organ. Its only decades old. The ancient one didn't survive the Germans. We're a fairly well off parish you see, so the fund raising was pretty successful, therefor its a rather special organ. The church also has quite stunning acoustics. I think it all suites him. He teaches with the Royal College you see, and it is his personal duty to "have" a church I think.

Also, we have lots of old choristers living about, plus some of his students. At Christmas, for this service, they all come out of the woodwork. So, this is one of the times of the year when the master gets to play. Both modern and ancient are done, and there must always be a Vaughn Williams (he was local).

It rocks... Literally. That organ thrums through your body, and those voices fill the space in a way that you feel as much as hear. I love to sing, but don't at this point in my life have the time to do much (other than warbling at and with the kids (who warble back (we're a noisy household))). Last night I got to join in with some of the best, and listen to them too. Today I'm just content.

Monday, December 17, 2007


Have had the in laws down for a visit. They wanted to see the kids in the various xmas spectaculars. It was a thankfully easy visit. LL and her mother don't always get along nicely, but this time was OK. I always get along with my father in law, so it was good to see him again.

Princess had her play on Friday. She was a firework and performed brilliantly though sadly her ability to carry a tune doesn't quite keep up to enthusiasm. She does keep the beat though and I think we've got a dancer on our hands. It was all pretty cute.

Pirate Pete went off to his first Cub Camp this weekend. He's had a couple of sleep overs with Friends but this felt different. I felt quite emotional when I dropped him off. He, of course, was more interested in the football card trading. At pick up he was very tired, but seemed to have had a good time. He was a bit emotional later though, so the tired was very very tired.

All in all a nice weekend though.

Friday, December 14, 2007

I bring you good tidings

OK, a little hint into the boys life, not that it narrows him down much. The boys go to a Cathedral School. That means the school provides boy choristers. Ours don't, its a big commitment, and if I'm honest neither have naturally talented voices this requires. What it does mean though, is that they go to a school infused with music. So, the school has access to the Cathedral Choir Master, and also has a Head of Music as well as a mix of full time and part time music teachers. There's a choir, an orchestra (which Pirate Pete does do) and a whole host of smaller music groups.

It also means that at Christmas time the school gets to have a Carol Service at the Cathedral. Its apparently one of the most popular services of the year. Certainly the times we've been its been standing room only, and this is a big space. Its a funny building, I think qualifying as the only Arts and Crafts Cathedral in the country. The exterior is odd, tall unadorned brick walls, but the interior is glorious. Its all pure white local limestone, unadorned but beautifully built.

It also has good acoustics. So, when you have 150 boys processing in, all performing a Latin chant, it sent shivers up my spine. It was a piece for nun's, hence written for soprano and alto voices. Just stunning. There was then a mix of the boys doing readings of poetry (each class chose or wrote a piece), and both traditional and modern carols. What a confidence booster for the boys that get up and read a piece to over a thousand people? The music was grand too. The Head of Music is rather multitalented, so a number where pieces he had arranged. All in all it was a very enjoyable hour.

After that we went home, and the service marks the end of term for the boys. Pirate Pete thus brought home his report card. At the risk of yet again being nauseatingly proud, it was a good one. He was particularly proud of his best mark, which was an outstanding in sports. The fact he also did well in maths, science and history was just icing on his pleasure in being seen to be good on the fields... Boys, you got to love them.

Thursday, December 13, 2007


This study today, showing that social mobility in Britain are likely the lowest in the developed world. Combine it with another study showing that a lack of intimacy and love in very early years leads to a lack of development in the frontal lobes leading to well... poorer later learning ability (amongst other things). Final statistic is that a child in a lower class home is surrounded by a vocabulary of about 600 words as opposed to about 1200 in a professional middle class home.

What are we doing to this generation? Pretty clearly how a child is raised in the formative early years predetermines how he will succeed in later life. Just how do you correct that? How do you influence parenting in adults who very likely where pretty poorly parented themselves?

We have to break the cycle, must break it else it will never improve. The "suppernanny" idea scares me somewhat (for those in the US, there is a current Government plan to involve parenting trained social workers into high involvement with low income families, particularly in the first year post birth). The thought of direct social engineering intrusion into the home is repugnant. Yet how else do we bring best practice skills into people who've never experienced them.

I don't have any answers here, but clearly we've got an issue that as a society we need to debate.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007


Funny the things that cause domestic conflict. This Friday is my Princess' first nativity play. She is a firework, and has been excitedly practicing her dances and songs. However, her school has decreed that only 2 family members can attend. To be fair, they do have a small auditorium, but this is excessive.

My in-laws will be down visiting, plus the boys will be off school, and we have a proud nanny to contend with. I'm currently out of the country, so last night I got a hot blast in the ear down the phone line. It appears our nanny has declared UDI, and will be going to the Nativity. She feels the grandparents can babysit the boys, and one of us is always working so what's the bother?

This did not go down well with my dear LL. We'd both been looking to take the day off, as we do always try to have both of us there for these things. LL was going to have a go at the school to make sure we could arrive with a little more than 2, but I suspect muggins here will have to take care of the boys to keep family peace. I'd really love to see my Princess do her dances and songs, but harmony between my wife and nanny is of far greater importance.

Besides, I'm sure I can request a private performance...

PS, back in the UK shortly, so somehow will catch up on all this blogging that's been going on...

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Just one of those weeks

So, I was travelling Monday night, home very late Tuesday night due to BA, Last night I attempt to get home early, am thwarted by rain and slow trains, find the kids asleep and LL doing one of her rare late nights at work.

At least tomorrow I'm staying home to see Ali Baba's Christmas play. He has a lead part as an Ofstead School inspector, and how that relates to Christmas I'm very intrigued to find out. This weekend is social too with some friends coming over, so all is not desperate yet.

What does get me is blogging. I don't blog at the weekends, that's family time. Not usually a problem as all you lot don't blog much then either, so there's no major catch up Monday morning. Yet I find it hard to blog when I'm travelling, too much going on and often poor internet access. So I came back yesterday to find my blog role filled with posts! I can't catch up. Falling behind is such a chore, and this shouldn't be a chore. I'll catch up somehow, I'm sure I will, but just how do we keep this fun rather than work?

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Why I hate commuting, Reason 2,345

OK, so I'm not sure flying to Milan counts as commuting, but its work related, so the title stands.

I don't know what's going on with BA at the moment, but they seem in real disarray. I haven't had a flight with them in the past four months where something hasn't gone wrong. I've been downgraded, had a flight canceled, and have had stupid delay after stupid delay. I don't mean the unavoidable Heathrow pileups (which are inevitable), but weird things.

Take yesterday, the flight boards on time but an embarrassed sounding Captain came on and said the luggage loader had burst a hydrolic pipe and spilled oil all over the tarmac. Sure enough, out the window, it was a BA branded device. That meant waiting for it to be cleaned up, and for us to be towed before he could start the engines.

Which then meant we missed our take off slot, therefor our Heathrow Landing slot, and we had a 40 minute delay until we got a new one. Once over London, there was the usual wait to land, then once we landed a delay until they could find us a parking slot. Once we got to the parking slot the very embarrassed captain came on yet again to say he could move into the parking slot until someone turned off the "do not enter" transponder. It was also a tarmac spot, which meant being bused into the terminal.

All in all, a one and a half hour delay on the flight. Over the past four months I figure I've lost over 25 hours to flight delays, a whole day just sat in an airplane or airport not doing very much at all. Time that I could have had at home or in the office.

I'm not very happy with BA at the moment...