…To Be A Dad.

"Any man can be a father. It takes someone special to be a Dad." ~Author Unknown

…To Be A Dad. wedding day

The AV referendum

May 5th, 2011 · Uncategorized

Ok, I promised to write eloquently on this but I’m too lazy busy. So I give you three reasons to vote Yes today.

1. It may be “a grubby little compromise”, but AV is still more representative and therefore (in my opinion) more democratic than FPTP. Instead of electing governments for whom only 30% expressed a preference, representatives must now be chosen by at least 50%. Take this explanation I found today including its splendid dining out analogy!
“The point is everyone gets a chance to vote for a party that they are prepared to be governed by in the top 2 or 3 shoot out if they choose. I might love the monster raving loonies and wish they won. I can vote for them. I can also make a grown up decision and indicate if MRL can’t govern me who is the best of the rest that I would compromise and live with.
No campaigners like to focus on the running race analogy – too simplistic for me-  I’d like to think about it as 10 mates going for a night out.
3 want Indian

2 Mexican

2 Chinese

2 Thai

1 fish and chips
FFTP would mean you would all go Indian. It could well be the other 7 would rather cut off their left nad than get a curry but all 7 of them love Mexican*, it just so happens 2 like Chinese, 2 Thai and 1 F&C even more. In reality that group of mates would talk it through, compromise and go mexican – it’s the meal most of them would be happy to live with. Of the systems on offer AV gets closer to that result than FPTP.
* equally likely that enough of them like Indian enough for that to be the meal of choice too.”

2. It’s the only chance of considering PR at some point in the future. Vote No and the issue will be kicked into the long grass for at least a generation. Guaranteed. Because FPTP will be seen as getting a vote of approval.

3. Vote No and you can expect Tory governments much more often. Will Hutton explains better than I can.

If I haven’t persuaded you, there’s lots of good debate on the web, even at the font of all knowledge that is SingletrackWorld.com’s forum.

Hopefully you will find something to make up your mind. And hopefully to vote Yes.

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Quiet time?

April 6th, 2011 · bedtime, lucy, parenting, photo, sleep, tantrums

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Babies sleep. A lot. Older children also need a lot of sleep. The trouble is, they don’t always want it.

The 12 hours from 7pm to 7am should primarily be a time of quiet in our house. It is rarely so. OK, the kids do tend to be asleep not long after 8pm, but on some nights it’s not an easy transition into the land of dreams.

Take Monday evening. Lucy decided to defy my requests to get ready for bed, ignore my pleas to come and clean her teeth and eventually went for outright defiance when I asked her to lie down in her bed. “No!” she exclaimed, sitting up in bed with the posture of a prize fighter. At this point I decided it was best for everyones sanity to leave her to her own devices for a while to see if she would cool off… at which point she went ballistic. There were tears and tantrums. For about half an hour.

Eventually, she decided to “be a good girl”. I reciprocated by holding her hand as she lay in bed and singing her lullaby to her. Not long afterwards she fell asleep.

All was quiet then, until in the middle of the night, I heard her wake crying. I entered her room to find that she had fallen asleep with her sippy cup lying next to her but without having put the lid down properly. She was soaked.

We changed her clothes and bedding (thank goodness for zippable mattress covers) and after taking her to the loo settled her back into her bed.

Some minutes later I got up again to check her. She was awake but quiet and still felt cold to the touch after lying in the wet bedding. Feeling sorry for her, I picked her up and took her into the spare room to snuggle up with me in the double sofa-bed. This was entirely to her pleasing and she cuddled up on my pillow, her nose about 1 cm from mine, looking like a sleeping angel. Before she fell asleep, she suddenly said
“Daddy…”
“Yes, Lucy?”
“I love you”
“I love you too, Princess.”

With that, she reached out so her fingers could just feel my face. And finally, we both fell into a very sound sleep.

Happy slumbers
Lucy asleep on Daddy, back in the early days

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Overheard this morning

April 4th, 2011 · Uncategorized

At breakfast…
Oliver: “Lucy, why did the chicken cross the road?”
Lucy: “I don’t know.”
Oliver” To get to th smelly nappy.”
Lucy: “That’s not funny.”
Tough crowd.

As I left Lucy at her nursery…
Little girl playing opposite Lucy in sand pit: “Hello Lucy. [pause] You’re my best friend and no-one else!”
Lucy: [smiles]
I left smiling too.

At work…
Colleague #1 (to Colleague #2): “There’s a memorial bench with your name on it.”
Probably purely informational and not a mafia threat, but I’ll let you know if Colleague #2 goes missing.

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Out and about

April 3rd, 2011 · Uncategorized

My dabbling with Geocaching continues, primarily to get the kids out and about. Last weekend I took Oliver to a chache that I knew had some good stuff in it, only to find someone had been and taken most of it a few days before! A rookie mistake not to check the logs. Nonetheless he enjoyed the hunt and came away with a tiny water-pistol for his troubles. Oh, and got to go on the nearby funfair.

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Yesterday I took Lucy to hide the Squirrel “travel bug” that I picked up recently on a solo cache hunt. She was totally up for the trip, mostly as it was to be on the tag-a-long bike. In fact she was in a fabulously enthusiastic mood all day, a little bundle of excitement and joy.

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So while Oliver stayed home and coloured in some X-men pictures, Lucy and I headed off to the nearby “Baby Blues” cache on Heaton Mersey common. Once there, we sneaked to the spot where the cache was hidden – making sure we were out of sight from the uninitiated – and retrieved the cache. After inspecting the contents, Lucy placed our little squirrel friend inside and we replaced it.

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Then we took a leisurely ride home past the horses by the river and even found time to say hello to friends Lottie and Isabel before reaching our final destination: a rendezvous with Hayley and Oliver at Cafe Soleil for a tuna melt panini, which Lucy loved! All in all, an absolutely beautiful afternoon.

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And she’s off!

March 21st, 2011 · bike, biking, hayley, islabike, lucy, video, wheels

Last week, with a little help from Mummy, Lucy got straight up and running on a proper bike at the first attempt. She had been pestering Hayley all morning to let her have a go and when she got her chance she took it with some aplomb. So she is riding at exactly 3 years 7 months!

I’d like to claim this is down to my cycling supergenes or my matchless coaching skills, but no. It’s down to a combination of the excellence of Islabikes and my daughter’s downright determination and general tendency to want to do everything her big brother can do. She has been delighted and proud ever since the first exhilerating moments (captured above) and was so thrilled to tell her teacher at nursery today.

She has inherited her brother’s old Cnoc 14 and seems very happy with it, which is a blessing as I’d been planning on selling it to buy her a new bike. It seemed harsh not to buy her new when Oliver had new, but if she’s happy with it, I’m more than happy, especially in the current financial climate!

Well done little Lady. Now if I can just teach you to start and stop, I will no longer need to chase after you for the duration of every visit to the park.

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A very proud girl riding her bike.

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From Stockport to the Sea

March 20th, 2011 · local, nature, stockport

From Stockport to the Sea

My recent ride into Stockport to do some Geocaching took me to the source of the River Mersey. Better known as the river that is crossed by a certain ferry where it flows between Liverpool and the Wirrall, it actually starts in Stockport where the rivers Tame and Goyt meet.

The spot is marked by an interesting piece of ironwork. Prompted by my recent visit and Jessi’s comment upon it, I decided to find out a little more about it and take a few more photos. I discovered that it was erected in 1994 as part of a project by Mind Stockport and Lancashire Hill Residents. The wording on it reads: “Water is life and Heaven’s gift. Here Rivers Goyt and Tame become Mersey, flowing clear from Stockport to the sea.”

Beneath the words are presented a number of local images and visual references. I have attempted to describe a few below, guessing a few admittedly and wishing I knew the precise origins better. (If anyone knows, do tell!)

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The Victorian mills alongside the birds and other wildlife found along the river are the backdrop to a lone fisherman. The river apparently is now clean enough for salmon to be spotted in it.

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I can’t explain much of this but there’s a football player (reference to Stockport County FC) and an aeroplane – reference to Manchester International Airport 6 miles away or perhaps to the air disaster in 1967 when a plane crashed on the town killing 72 people.

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The town’s unmissable railway viaduct is depicted with a train atop. The hats represent the town’s long tradition of hat-making.

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Below the slightly unflattering depiction of the market halls, the twin tennis rackets refer to Fred Perry, a native of Stockport and the last Englishman to win the Wimbledon title.

I can’t write about the Mersey without saying that it is genuinely a welcome natural feature in the urban landscape and for much of its course (unlike where it originates here in Stockport town centre) it is proteceted by a corridor of greenery that can make you forget just how close to city life you are. I have spent many, many hours walking or cycling beside it. Oh and visited the odd good pub beside it too.

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Things to do with the kids – Paint a pot!

March 16th, 2011 · art, local, lucy, oliver, things to do with the kids

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For the recent half-term holiday week, Hayley took a much-deserved couple of days break with some girlfriends at a nice hotel in the Peak District. This gave me the perfect opportunity to get creative with the kids and produce a nice gift for her into the bargain. We took ourselves 20 minutes down the road down to Paint-a-Pot at the Bluebell Centre.

Hayley has taken both kids there previously. Firstly, Oliver visited back in 2006 (pictured below) and made a rather lovely tea-pot. Later, Lucy decorated a vase for her Nanny.

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Oliver's Tea-pot

This time, as they are older, rather than apply hand-prints and footprints, I decided to let them paint as they pleased. The item we chose to decorate was a tea-pot, not least because our existing tea-pot had developed a worrying looking crack.

Oliver took one side and Lucy the other. Obviously Lucy went all out for different shades of pink, occasionally being persuaded to adopt other hues, before finally reaching for the pot of black!
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Meanwhile, Oliver decided to offset the girly pink with boyish blue. He also managed to write his name on his side by himself. No mean feat using a pencil on a wet tea-pot.
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When our painting was done we played various games in the garden: tig, a “sneaking up on each other” game and also races round the gardens, taking opposite directions and seeing who got back first. The kids also enjoyed the little playground there.

We had lunch in the restaurant, which shares a kitchen with the pub next door apparently, so you can take your choice. All in all we spent the bulk of our day there and had a great time.

I was feeling quite pleased with myself for entertaining them so well until at bedtime Oliver told me his favourite part of the day: the car wash on the way home!

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I am not a geek (but I’m open to persuasion)

March 14th, 2011 · biking, health, things to do with the kids, walking

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Some are born to geekdom, others have to work at it. Despite writing software and wearing glasses, I assure you that I fall into the latter category. Here’s some proof.

  • Until I had Oliver to encourage me I had only watched the first Star Wars movie. And I never watched Star Trek after the first series.
  • I never did a Rubik’s cube. Never tried, never wanted to try.
  • I would rather change nappies blindfolded than read Lord of the Rings. (I couldn’t even get through the film, no matter how magnificent the scenery was.)

But I’ll confess to geeky tendencies, most recently when Dan’s article over at Ready For Ten prompted me to try my hand at Geo-caching. I won’t re-hash his rather decent introduction to this “game” that is played worldwide, except to say that it is a kind of treasure hunt (usually low-budget) using GPS.

Still lost as to the attraction? Well, for me it is a way to get the kids out and about. When you find a “Cache” of treasure you can swap items of similar value, such as toys. The kids can also get to learn a bit about geography and perhaps history, as some series of caches attempt to weave in a relevant local theme. It’s also an added incentive for me to to keep myself fit by getting out for a ride on my bike.

Some caches have no treasure, just a log-book to sign. I do find hunting these “micro” caches a bit too geeky. When pursuing such bounty, half of me enjoys the day out and the other half looks on with an expression of disgust and confusion in equal measure.

Even so, on a sunny Sunday afternoon such as yesterday, it maintains the interest to stop off every now and then to forage for a cache. Especially if it turns out to be one that I can secretly help the kids to “find” for themselves next time we are in that area.

I’m yet to take the kids out with me, but do check back sometime soon if you’d like to hear whether they were enthusiastic converts or just looked at Daddy like he was totally lame.

If you’d like to know more about Geo-caching, check out the Geo-caching.com website.

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Storytime

March 4th, 2011 · books, local, lucy, photo, politics, reading, stockport

Lucy had a story read to her today at the library. The reader was our Member of Parliament, Ann Coffey! Apparently Lucy turned up late to proceedings, dragging over a chair to sit right in front of Ann (as pictured). Hayley reported that Ann read the story very well and Lucy enjoyed it.

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On the up

March 4th, 2011 · boys, church, climbing, Fatherhood Friday, local, oliver, play, sport, steve, things to do with the kids

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It’s always good when the lazier elements of our household are persuaded to get off their bottoms and do something active other than watch TV. But enough of me, it’s also good for the kids to be active too.

That’s why recently I asked my friend and long-time rock-climber, Chris, whether he thought Oliver was too young to try his hand at the sport. I’ve seen Oliver breeze across small climbing walls in playgrounds, so perhaps it was time for him to climb vertically as well as horizontally.

Not only did Chris think this was a good idea but he kindly offered to take us both down to the Manchester Climbing Centre to show us the ropes. Literally.

Once the paperwork was out of the way, we were quickly changed and into our harnesses. Then it was only necessary to tie a quick knot and attach the belay before we could climb. We let Oliver go first. I could claim this was because we wanted him to get straight into the action, but Chris knew from experience of me scrambling over real rocks in the great outdoors that I have no head for heights and was undoubtedly relishing me watching Oliver climb way higher than I would manage!

First we let Oliver climb about 4 feet before getting him to practice his descending skills, which involved holding the rope then leaning backwards in his harness and walking down the wall. Instead, he chose to do what he had seen on Mighty Mites, and attempted to bounce down with two feet. This was semi-successful but did involve a bit of a face-plant when he forgot to keep his feet up. Not that he was bothered!

Then he set off again and we just let him climb, calling out encouragement and pointing out holds he might not be able to see. Pretty soon we asked him to stop to take this picture.

Oliver climbing

Pretty amazing huh! The fearlessness of kids can be a worry to parents, but in this situation it was just a joy to behold.

Then it was my turn. “Can we have a snack now” asked Oliver. “No, let’s humiliate your Dad first” laughed Chris.

I kid you not, I didn’t think I’d get as high as Oliver. As I climbed, at times I didn’t find it easy and I quickly realised that for Oliver, at half my size, his accomplishment was all the more impressive. Nonetheless, I did actually make it high enough to touch the top of the wall (the easiest wall in the place by the way).

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After that we did some more climbing on a sheer vertical wall and Chris showed me a few techniques whilst letting me belay him: my first time. The man’s a fool! The vertical wall was more strenuous than the first and after I had climbed it my hands ached, despite the fact I made a point of climbing it as fast as I could. Oliver too found it more taxing, though again he did well.

Finally we retired to the cafe for flapjacks and drinks, Oliver joking around as we overlooked the climbing walls stretching high from the floor below into the roof space of this magnificant building, a former church still resplendent with its stained glass windows.

At the end of the day I asked Oliver what the best bit oif his day had been. “The best was the climbing wall”, he replied without hesitation. I think we’ll be going back there.

Manchester Climbing Centre runs sessions for kids from 5 years old and up. See their website for more details.

Here in Stockport, Awesome Walls runs sessions for kids from 8 years old and up. More details on their website. They also have sites in Liverpool and Stoke.

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