The great man is he who does not lose his child's heart. (Mencius, Chinese philosopher 372-289 BC)

Sunday, 14 July 2013

Keeping Cool

The Weekend Picture No. 52

Splash Down!
As the UK basks in heatwave conditions we have been desparately seeking relief from 2 weeks of 25 degree plus temperatures.

We have experimented with windows open and windows closed. We have closed curtains in the middle of the day and dressed in outfits we wouldn't want to be seen in in public. We have even played havoc with the environment by turning on our car's disappointing aircon.

This weekend we went camping in the depths of Sussex. On the Saturday we visited one of those tree shrouded river banks that Mark Twain used to write about.

The Dubmeister and one of the Signs of Spring made use of a rope swing which appeared to have grown down from one the trees that shrouded the bank. The Dubmeister was particularly keen to fall from the swing into the water - doing it over and over again until his skin turned blue and his teeth chattered.

Tom Sawyer would have been proud.

Speak soon.

Friday, 12 July 2013

Ashes? What Ashes?

Ashton Who? on his way to 98 runs yesterday

The fantastic summer of sport that we are enjoying this year keeps rolling on.

First we had the British Lions beating the Australians.

Then we had "Sir" Andy Murray ending Britain's 77 years of hurt by finally claiming the men's Wimbledon title in a thrilling final 10 days ago.

Chris Froome is currently leading the pack in the Tour de France.

And now we have the Ashes.

The Granddaddy of Cricket Test series.

England and Australia battling it out with the Willow and the ball.

The series has made an epic start. We had 14 wickets tumble on day 1 and the greatest total ever posted by a no. 11 batsman yesterday when Ashton Agar scored 98 in his debut Test innings.

The commentators on BBC's Test Match Special are falling over themselves to tell us what a great sporting spectacle this is.

This is a sporting battle that should be gripping the nation. The boys and girls who were rushing out every playtime with racket and ball to re-enact the heroics of Andy and Laura on the Wimbledon grass should now be doing the same and flinging yorkers and googlies at each other as they re-live the previous day's play.

It's not happening.

A quick survey of my kids' schools indicates that there are still more children playing tennis than cricket in the playground. A quiz of my children's cricketing knowledge tells me that they have no idea who Ashton Agar is and can only name one member of England's cricket team (Kevin Pieterson) - and this at a time when the England cricketers are arguably our most successful sporting outfit.

The 2005 Ashes series genuinely did grip the nation. Children did take to the parks and streets to ape their white clad heroes and for 1 glorious summer we were cricket crazy.

Why is this not happening this year?

Why are my children not in the least bit bothered?

Why can't they tell their Alastair Cooks from their Graeme Swanns?

In 2005 the Ashes was broadcast by Channel 4. Ever since it has been live and exclusive on SKY. Since 2005 Cricket has been chasing the cash of this sporting behemoth. As a result they have had millions of pounds pumped into the sport but at what cost?

Sadly this pursuit has led to Cricket disappearing from the radar for millions of English children. If I were a cricket administrator with a view that extends beyond this summer's payday I would be worried for the future of my sport. I would question whether a big payday today is worth an obscure future.

Cricket is a difficult game for schools to run. It takes a long time to play and it requires a lot of space. As a result it has disappeared from the curriculum of many state schools. It therefore becomes even more important that it gets plenty of television exposure in order to build up cricketing heroes and establish cricketing dreams among the young so that they seek opportunities to play this game which we are currently very good at.

So, Dear Administrators of Cricket - please look beyond the size of your wallets and look to the future - or your sport will die.

Speak soon

PS Photograph courtesy of the Daily Telegraph

Thursday, 27 June 2013

You Can Tell They're Growing Up When ... You Worry About Different Stuff

When the Dubmeister was born he brought untold joy and excitement. We marvelled at his chubby little fingers, his gorgeous gurgling noises, his perfect skin and that indescribeable smell with which all babies are blessed.

It was one of the best days of our lives.

(c) Roger Hargreaves
But, when a baby enters your life he also introduces a whole new level of worry. You worry about everything - from the temperature of his bedroom to the number of times he feeds via the evil inferiority complex creating myths propagated by millionaires made rich by writing books about how to raise the perfect baby. 

We even worried that our cat would devote himself to finding an opportunity to go to sleep on baby Dubmeister's face. Of course he didn't as that would involve being in the same room as the tiny screaming banshee that we had introduced into the house which was obviously out of the question!

At the same time well meaning friends and family reassured us that the phase would soon pass and that as the Dubmeister grew so would the worries pass and life would become a worry free Disneyland where the sun always shone and Dubmeister developed at a textbook rate.

They were wrong!

When a baby grows up you cease to worry about the temperature of his bedroom and the number of times he feeds and you soon realise that the books written by childcare experts are designed to create a sense of panic in the minds of couples going through the most intensely stressful sleep deprived period of their lives. However, that does not mean the worry stops. It just means that the focus of worry changes.

What we worry about now

  • So now, rather than worrying about the temperature of his bedroom we worry about what he gets up to in there instead!
  • Instead of worrying about how often he feeds we worry about how often he sits down to do his homework. Is he doing enough? Could he do more? Shouldn't he be doing better?
  • Rather than fretting over an evil cat who is determined to kill him by fur suffocation we worry about the evils of alcohol and drugs and pick up leaflets from Doctor surgeries and school reception areas which raise the stress levels even further.
I remember as a kid noticing that, if you caught a glimpse of my mum and her friends when they didn't know anybody was looking at them, you could see a far-away, concerned expression on their faces.

Now I am a parent I know why they looked like that. They were parents, they were worried. The two states of mind go together. No matter what the age of your kids might be. Be they four months, fourteen or forty you worry about them.

Speak soon

Monday, 24 June 2013


The Weekend Picture No. 51

As you know I was honoured to be listed as a finalist in this year's Brilliance in Blogging Family Blogger Award. The ceremony was in London on Friday night at an impressive venue called The Brewery in EC1Y 4QH.

The ceremony came at the end of an afternoon's conference opened by the lovely Kirsty Allsopp and featuring hints and tips on all things bloggy. I had to go to work on Friday so I didn't get to see any of the bloggy hints and tips. Instead I missed the 5.00pm train into London in order to catch the 5.30 and thereby make my journey much more exciting.

I got into London Waterloo precisely 3 minutes before I was meant to be in EC1Y 4QH so sprinted across the concourse, swore at the lack of underground maps, found an underground map, picked a route and then leapt onto the slowest underground train in London which wound it's unhurried way to The Barbican, exactly 29 minutes after I was meant to be supping cocktails with the blogging glitterati.

Fortunately, I had my iPhone 3G with me with it's friendly red pin in the map feature. It led me out of the station and 200 yards down a wrong turning and a red faced sprint back to the correct turning and an interminable tunnel.

I finally found the red pin.

Unfortunately the red pin was nowhere near The Brewery. Instead, it had sunk itself into the middle of one of those non-descript council estates you find on the edge of swanky London districts. I wandered disconsolately through the estate craning my ears to catch the sounds of the clinking of glasses and the buzz of witty repartee but soon realised the error of my ways and sought solace in the presence of a friendly London cabbie.

I was evidently in the wrong bit of EC1Y 4QH and was perspiring gently by the time I crashed through the revolving doors of The Brewery, 50 minutes late, blinking into a world of bright lights, bright dresses and even brighter tans.

I expected everybody to turn, tutting towards me, tapping their tablets to tick me off. But Britmums Live was in full flow. The free booze was disappearing as quickly as booze at a blogging event and the volume had been raised to 11. A stray Daddy Blogger adrift in a sea of Mums was unremarkable and it was with a degree of relief that I sank into my chair to await my fate.

Speak soon

PS - No, I didnt win - hence the rather clever title! The Family Blogger 2013 is Mum In The South - you can read her brilliant story of a recent birthday party here. But I did meet some interesting people and would urge you to visit their blogs - try Mutterings of a Fool and Babberblog for blogs by Dads with toddlers, Best Dad I Can Be for some of the funniest writing out there and Life as a Widower - the winner of the Fresh Voice category for his incredibly moving recounting of life in the eight months since he lost his wife, the mother to his 2 year old son.

Wednesday, 19 June 2013

We Did It!

The CMN 24 Peaks in 24 Hours Team
This blog has been rather quiet the last few days. In fact ever since I ran through the third of 3 gifts to get your old Dad last Thursday Dad Etc has been marked by it's silence.

I hope you haven't worried.
I hope you haven't called the police to report a missing blogger.

The truth is that I have just been plain shattered since this weekend. A quick analysis of the times when I post will reveal that most posts (like this one) are published well after bedtime and the sad truth is that since this weekend my stamina levels have dropped below zero. Blogging has just not been an option.

Why am I shattered?

Well, I blame the mountains of the Lake District - 24 of which I climbed along with My lovely wife and 21 other lovely people over 24 hours this weekend.

The climb was to raise money for Caring Matters Now - a fantastic little charity which supports children like my youngest daughter who have a rare skin condition called Congenital Melanocytic Naevi. If you're new to Dad Etc or short on memory cells you can find out more about CMN here.

Taking part in this challenge has been such an amazing experience that it has been difficult to know what to type. How do you sum up the weekend in less than 500 words?

Do you share the 4am starts?
The scrambling across scree?
The companionship of newly made friends brought together by a common purpose?

Or do you talk about the aches and pains you acquired over the weekend?
The friends who battled through sprained knees/ pulled muscles and latent fevers just to be able to fulfill a promise?
Mention the fact that it still hurts to go up and down stairs and that some of the peaks were much much steeper than you expected?

Or do you emphasise the triumph of reaching that 24th peak?
Celebrate the fact that the team has almost doubled the target it set?
And urge your readers to keep donating as every penny counts?

Really what I would like to say is THANKYOU.

Thankyou to the friends and family who supported us by donating to the cause and looking after the three monsters whilst we walked up things. Thankyou to our close friends who joined us on the trek and thankyou to my lovely wife for persuading me that it would be a good idea after all.

And above all thank you to E, the smiley girl with CMN, who inspired us.

Speak soon

PS - I will be sitting nervously in the crowd at the Brilliance in Blogging Awards ceremony on Friday evening waiting to find out whether I have won the Family Blogger award. Thankyou again to all those of you who voted for me - it worked! Fingers crossed - I'll let you know how it goes.
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