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

Friday, 28 December 2012

A Tribute to the 27th & 28th December

As my family doze peacefully upstairs and I sit in my pyjamas enjoying the silence, my thoughts turn to the joys of the bridesmaid period of the Christmas period - the days between Christmas and New Year. These days are so often dismissed as unnecessary interruptions between the festive periods of Christmas and New Year when workers have to return to their offices, party goers nurse interminable hangovers and children break their precious new Christmas gifts.

This morning I want to buck that trend and present you with the 5 reasons why we must stand up for these neglected days (so neglected they haven't even been given a name - they are merely numbers!) and shout that we must treasure these days as the oasis that they represent.

1. There is nothing you have to do!

After weeks of preparation for Christmas - the buying of presents, the cooking, the wrapping up, the incessant hoovering and dusting and polishing, the decoration of trees, writing of Christmas cards etc etc - and months and months of work - isn't it great to have a couple of days when you don't actually have to do anything! How often does that happen in anybody's life? No deadlines to meet, major meals to cook or shopping lists to complete.

2. There is loads of delicious food left  AND YOU ARE NOT SICK OF IT YET!

We still have ham, turkey, Christmas pudding, mince pies, Chocolate log, DOUBLE CREAM, wine, beer, real coffee AND AT LEAST 3 BOXES OF UNOPENED CHOCOLATES. Turkey sandwiches still taste good and the Christmas cake is only 1/4 finished. With the threat of Use By Dates hanging over you - nibbling is positively encouraged.

Picture from Liverpool Daily Post

3. There is loads of great Telly left to watch - and you have time to watch it

And you still haven't seen the programmes you recorded because you didn't have time to see them on Christmas Day. "Call the Midwife!" anybody? "Doctor Who?"

4. The kids still love their presents

The "Signs of Spring" were given the Sylvanian Family school this year. They are rarely out of it. The Dubmeister is now the proud owner of an iPod Touch - it's his new best friend. Cue plenty of familial harmony and lots of time for Mum and Dad to do their own thing; like build that IKEA chest of drawers that has been waiting patiently since the 14th December.

5. The days between Christmas and New Year were invented for family days out

Cinderella at The Rose
With nothing to do what could be better than a family trip out. We were at the Rose Theatre in Kingston yesterday watching "Cinderella" (fantastic and witty - highly recommended), there is The Hobbit and The Life of Pi on at the cinema, walks in dripping wet woods and the Christmas Decoration House which we still haven't visited. With no deadlines to meet and new gloves and hats to try out - why not?

Speak soon

PS - Many apologies to those of you who have to work on the 27th and 28th December - but even you must admit that going into work on those 2 days is better than using up 2 days of holiday which you can save for a long weekend in May.

PPS - If you are wondering why I have not included the 29th in this tribute post that is because by the 29th I am sick of all of the above and would rather eat rusty nails than another turkey sandwich washed down with Christmas Cake.

PPPS - Pictures above taken from and

Tuesday, 25 December 2012

A Sylvanian Advent No. 4


The Shepherds hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger.
Today's Sylvanian Family Advent picture is brought to you by E and features the Heavenly host on the roof of the stable, the Holy Family, shepherds and a very glamorous donkey. When asked why the wise men were not in the picture E explained that they did not arrive until later - which is absolutely right and puts Daddy in his place.

You can read the relevant bible extract here and view the other 3 Sylvanian Advent pictures here, here and here.

This comes with the very best of wishes for a truly wonderful Christmas.

Speak soon

PS The Secret Angel (as featured on Mumsnet's Advent Calendar) "Big Reveal" coming soon! Have you guessed yet?

Monday, 24 December 2012

A Sylvanian Advent No. 3


"And there were shepherds living in the fields near by. An angel of the Lord appeared to them and they were terrified."

This week's advent picture shows the night of Jesus' birth. M has re-created the scene in the shepherds' field above Bethlehem where the shepherds were visited by the heavenly host with wonderful news. You can read the bible story here.

Later on today, being Christmas Eve, we bring you the scene in the stable on the first ever Christmas day.

Speak soon

PS You can see the Sylvanians re-enacting the meeting between Mary and the Angel Gabriel here and the arrival of the holy couple in Bethlehem by clicking here.

Thursday, 20 December 2012

Who's my Secret Angel?

Clue Number 1

The Secret Angels have been busy already.

Found on my pillow last night. 
The angel clearly knows that I like History. They must be an intuitive, thoughtful person who has done their homework. They also have access to my bedroom.

Who can it be?

I successfully carried out my first errand without detection early in the morning. My "target" noticed - but is yet to guess who was responsible!

Who will crack first?

Speak soon

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Who's Your Secret Angel?

My lovely wife is a lady of many talents.

She is particularly talented at initiating new traditions. She started one such tradition last Christmas which we have decided to resurrect this year - The Secret Angel.

We run it like the draw for the third round of the FA Cup. We find a hat - this year it was one of M's bobble hats. We write our names on tiny slips of paper and then fold them up before placing them in the woolly receptacle.

We then take it in turns to solemnly draw a scrap of paper from the hat. The person we draw is the person for whom we are to be the Secret Angel in the days that remain of Advent. Our task is to run errands for that person in secret.

The big reveal is on Christmas morning.

Last year I got lucky. E drew my name from the hat. E was six last year and liked to express her love by leaving little notes for me like the one to the left. She cunningly disguised who she was by never signing her name. I loved finding her notes on my pillow, in my sock drawer and even in my briefcase and have kept a store of them in my bedroom.

I was the Dubmeister's secret angel. I was less successful than E - attempting to make his day by placing a chocolate bar in his blazer pocket only for him to wander around for a week without thinking to put his hand into his pocket. The chocolate bar melted.

So, the tension is mounting. Who is my Secret Angel? For whom will I be running secretive errands for this week?

Find out  more soon!

Speak soon

Sunday, 9 December 2012

A Sylvanian Advent No. 2


Joseph went from Nazareth to Bethlehem to register with Mary who was with child.
This week's advent picture is brought to you by E and features the arrival of the Holy Family in Bethlehem on the day of the census ordered by the Roman Emperor Augustus.

You can read the Bible account of the story here. Next week we bring you the night before the first ever Christmas.

Speak soon

Sunday, 2 December 2012

A Sylvanian Advent No.1

The Weekend Picture No. 29

"The Angel said to Mary - do not be afraid ... you will give birth to a son and he will be called Jesus."  

The Signs of Spring love the cute little animal toys "Sylvanian Families". They have so much of the stuff that we gave them a corner of the sitting room in which to display and play with it at the beginning of the summer. That corner has now grown into half of the room. In fact, if we want to access this hub of the home we have to knock first and then pick our way gingerly across the carpet for fear of kicking over one of the country cottages or stamping on the baker's morning work.

Dad Etc has bowed to the inevitable and combined the SOS's love of these creatures with the season of Advent. E and M have combined to create 4 tableaux to re-tell the Christmas story for you.

Today's picture was created by M. It retells the story from Luke Chapter 1 when the Angel Gabriel visits Mary and tells her that she will bear the Son of God.

Next week E brings you the scene in Bethlehem on the day of the census.

Speak soon

Sunday, 25 November 2012

The Weekend Picture No. 28

The Signs of Spring do London. August 2012.
I have chosen this picture as this Weekend's Picture because, as the wind and the rain batter the UK, I think we all need a bit of cheering up.

Do you remember last August?

There were a couple of weeks in the middle of August when the weather was fantastic and when everybody was hungry to talk Olympics to each other.

In the slightly unreal period between the Olympics and the Paralympics we took the kids up to London to take in the sights and absorb some of the heady atmosphere of the city at the centre of the universe.

The girls took a break as we walked alongside the Thames on that balmy summer's evening and I took the opportunity to take this snap.

Just to remind us all that the summer in the UK was pretty fabulous this year.

Speak soon

Sunday, 18 November 2012

The Weekend Picture No.27

So, that's what my house looks like!

I managed a rare feat on Friday.

I got home during daylight hours!

I am not very keen on the Autumn months because I leave for work before the sun comes up and I get home from work after the sun has had enough and gone down.

I find that as the weeks go by I have to try harder and harder to remember what the outside of my house looks like.

Hence my excitement on Friday when I got to leave work early and rolled into my driveway 3 hours before the dusk hit.

This weekend's picture is an artist's impression of Friday's excitement.

Speak soon

PS This weekend's picture is by Ivan Gregg and can be found on

Sunday, 11 November 2012

The Weekend Picture No. 26

Jack Sadler. (c) BBC
At the 11th hour on the 11th day of the 11th month every year we remember the fallen from the conflicts that Great Britain has been involved in since the Armistice that signalled the end of World War One. Every year we are presented with statistics of how many have died and we watch lines of men and women marching through the streets of our towns and villages to pay tribute to their fallen comrades.

It can be overwhelming to relate into our own experience.

As a result, let me introduce Jack Sadler. Jack was killed in 2007 when a land mine exploded under his land rover as he drove through the deserts of southern Afghanistan. He is one of 437 British servicemen and women to have lost his life serving in that conflict.

All of them have a painful story to tell and Jack's story is told by his father, Ian Sadler, on the BBC News website. You can link to the Audio slideshow here. I strongly recommend it.

After watching the video you may want to click here to visit the Royal British Legion's website and support the work they do with service personnel past and present.

Speak soon

Sunday, 4 November 2012

The Weekend Picture No. 25

Queens for a day

We have been on half term holidays this week and been on some great trips out.

Last Sunday we were making use of our Merlin passes and visiting Madame Tussauds and riding The London Eye.

On Thursday the Signs of Spring, my lovely wife and I were at Hampton Court to see the brand new replica of the Baddy King's (Henry VIII) coronation crown. And very impressive it is too. Although, not quite as impressive as the crowns the girls made during our visit.

It is amazing what you can do with some plastic gems, a handful of felt tips and a pritt stick.

Speak soon

Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Why I Hate Halloween

It's Halloween this week and all over the country little kids will be donning plastic masks, cheap costumes and fearful laughs in an effort to celebrate this horrible festival.

I hate Halloween. And these are my 3 reasons why:

1. I Hate What It Celebrates

Halloween celebrates darkness and evil spirits. It remembers horror and death. It lauds the apocolyptic image from Edward Munch's "Scream" painting and raises witchcraft and divination as role models.

It takes it's roots from pagan festivals of the dead which were adapted by Medieval Christians to remember the day when the souls of the departed has their last chance to take revenge on the world of the living before moving onto the after life.

Why are we celebrating that?

Even worse, Halloween has become an event for children. Why on earth are we encouraging our kids to dress in the costumes of those who practice black magic?

2. I Hate What It Has Become

When I was little my parents celebrated Halloween in an "Oh, look it's 31st October - let's have a little Halloween party with some neighbours" unprepared but spontaneous kind of a way. We did a bit of Apple bobbing, cut our fingers carving "Jack O Lanterns", turned the lights off  to play scary hide and seek and talked about what a big deal Halloween was in the USA - where my Dad grew up.

But, we spent no money, terrorised nobody for sweets and were not lulled into visiting a shopping centre because of it's Halloween decorations.

Halloween is  no longer like that. It is big business. A quick Google tells me that my local steam railway is having a Halloween special tonight (and yesterday and tomorrow), Thorpe Park is charging £45 entrance for their Halloween themed "Fright Night" evenings this week (£45!!!!!!) and your local supermarket has been selling jumbo buckets of Trick or Treat sweets since the start of October.

It has become another excuse for big business to make money out of us and when you consider the roots of Halloween (see above) it doesn't sit right with me.

3. I Really Hate Trick or Treat 

Above all, I hate Trick or Treat. Trick or Treat is a charter for bullies to intimidate their frailer neighbours into giving them sweets.

Perfectly respectable parents will encourage their children to don hideous disguises before accompanying them to a neighbours door and demanding sweets with menaces.

Would they encourage them to do the same on any other day of the year?

Are they hoping that the children will take this on as a life message?
Of course they aren't!

So this year, why not stand out from the crowd and reject Halloween as the superstitious nonsense it really is. Visit a Light Party instead, put up a poster telling trick or treaters that you are sorry but you are not being part of it this year, like the one above from Satffordshire Police, and save your money for Bonfire Night which is only 5 sleeps away after all.

What do you think?

Speak soon

Sunday, 28 October 2012

The Weekend Picture No. 24

In training for 24 peaks in 24 hours
As you know from my last post, my lovely wife and I are now in training for a major charity challenge. In June of next year we will be climbing 24 Lake District peaks in 24 hours in an effort to raise a lot of money (at least £1500 to be precise) for Caring Matters Now - the amazing charity that seeks to support families of children with CMN.

We leave in a beautiful county and have used our training sessions as an excuse to explore even more of it.

This weekend we visited Hascombe Hill (it has a peak!) and explored the iron age fort at it's summit.

We brought the kids along as well.

In this weekend's picture E is showing her brother and sister just how far Mum and Dad will have to walk next summer.

You can sponsor us by visiting this page.

Speak soon

JustGiving - Sponsor me now!

Sunday, 14 October 2012

The Weekend Picture No. 23

2 miles to go!
My lovely wife and I are raising money for a charity called Caring Matters Now.

Caring Matters Now is an organisation that works with people with a rare skin condition called Congenital Melanocytic Naevus or CMN. CMNs are large birthmarks which can cover up to 80% of a child's body. In addition to the obvious cosmetic impacts CMNs can also cause developmental delays and present a slightly raised risk of skin cancer.

Caring Matters Now works to support those with CMN, raise funds for research and raise awareness of the condition. It is a small charity that makes good use of every penny that it receives.

Our youngest was born with CMN and has gained so much from the input of this fantastic charity - such as the family weekend we attended last month.

As a result we have decided to take part in a challenge called "24 peaks in 24 hours" next June. This will involve scaling 24 Lake District peaks over the midsummer weekend - including Scarfell Peak.

We signed up a couple of months ago and have since reluctantly started training by scaling Surrey's mountains. We went for it yesterday - catching the train to Dorking and then walking the North Downs Way to Chilworth through the rain.

How did we feel afterwards?

Knackered and with legs like jelly.

We need a lot more training.

If you'd like to sponsor us please find out more by visiting my Just Giving page on the right hand side of the page or at the bottom of this post. More walking updates to come.

Speak soon

JustGiving - Sponsor me now!

Sunday, 7 October 2012

The Weekend Picture No. 22

Remembering April Jones. From the BBC.
I haven't been able to take my eyes off one news story this week.

The abduction of April Jones has broken my heart.

It is every parent's worst nightmare that your child should be taken from outside your home. I cannot imagine what Paul and Coral Jones must be going through now.

So, I won't try to.

Instead, if like me you would like to help but don't know how to, a fund has been set up to enable us to support April and her family. You can contribute by sending a cheque to MTC-April's Fund, Y Plas, Aberystwyth Road, Machynlleth, Powys, SY20 8ER.

A website will be set up shortly to collect contributions - I'll post that address once I know it.

Speak soon

Sunday, 30 September 2012

The Weekend Picture No. 21

This week has been the first since the dark weeks of May that I have not managed to blog between Weekend Pictures.

I have been struck down by "Man Flu" - exacerbated by a dip in the coldest Lake in Western Europe as part of the Raft Racing experience last week.

Hence, today's Weekend Picture.

I have suffered loudly and extravagantly and made the most of any opportunity to make my symptoms as public as possible.

It has been important to do this because my lovely wife, both of the signs of spring and even the Dubmeister have been suffering too.

Although none of them were as ill as I was and as a result, I was concerned that one of them may get more attention than I did.

Speak soon (hopefully!)


PS This weekend's picture is from

Sunday, 23 September 2012

The Weekend Picture No.20

Cap'n E - ready for the Great Raft Race
We have just come back from a great weekend away with lots of new friends at the PGL Centre at Boreatton Park in Shropshire.

We were spending the weekend with the charity Caring Matters Now which works to support children with a rare condition called Congenital Melanocytic Naevus and raise funds for research into the condition. Our youngest has CMN and she had a great time over the weekend getting to know other boys and girls who have it too.

We built and raced rafts, abseiled impossibly high walls, swung on giant swings, practised archery and quad bike racing and got to know lots of really nice people.

We are looking forward to the next one.

Speak soon

PS As part of our support for Caring Matters Now my lovely wife and I are about to embark upon a gruelling charity challenge - more information to come later this week.

Thursday, 20 September 2012

Why Mum Knows Best


In a break with tradition this daddy blogger has been carrying out genuine non-scientific research to prove that despite my protestations to the contrary - mum really does know best!

1. Mums never forget

Mums are born with a brain enhancement called the "store-all" by scientists. This gives them the ability to remember eveything they have ever been told.
  • Want to know when Sabrina's birthday is? Ask mum.
  • Want to know what grade W got for History 2 years ago last November?  Ask mum.
  • Want to know when M's follow-up appointment with the orthodontist is?  Ask mum.
Dads try very hard to develop the store-all - but it just ain't happening.

2. Mums are better at wrapping up

  • Want to give a present that looks good before it is opened?
  • Want to give a present that doesn't look like a monkey has been playing football with it?
Ask mum.
It is a scientific fact that dads can't wrap up - we just can't. Our presents always end up scrunched up rather than wrapped up. Whereas mums know what to do with ribbon and never lose the end of a roll of Sellotape. 

3. Mums have the better fashion sense

Not sure which colours go together?
Worried about making a fashion faux pas?
Ask mum.
Never ever ask dad or you'll end up with your tights outside your pants and/or a blue/brown clothes combination.
They say that outside appearances don't matter but when you have been dressed by dad, believe me they do!

By Liz Clayton. From

4. Mums know that carrots are better for you than chocolate

Looking to fulfill your 5 a day? Want to see in the dark rather than glow in the dark?
Ask mum.
Mums were born knowing that 1 leaf of iceberg lettuce and a glass of Cherry Cola do not constitute 2 of the essential 5.
They know about minerals, fibre and vitamins and do not fear them!

5. Mums smell nicer

This again is a scientific fact. Mums just smell nice.
Ask yourself this question: Who would you prefer to sit next to on a six hour coach journey?
If you possess a sense of smell then you know the answer as the lack of a "stinking after a curry" washed down with a pint of Old Thumper 3 days ago faultline within their genetic mixtape counts very much in a mum's favour.

Ladies, have I missed anything out? Chaps, is this fair?

Speak Soon

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

The New E-Bac: What's to Like?

E-Bac anyone?

It's official. GCSEs are on their way out - to be replaced by a shiny new qualification that combines a name that sounds like a virtual tobacco (The E-Bac anyone?), a stonkingly long  3 hour exam and the prospect of 18 year old lads in flannelette shorts sucking their pencils as they try to add an E-Bac to their GCSEs in 6 other subjects at the fourth attempt.

As the dust settles on yet another education reform passed by Britain's most popular Education Minister since Margaret Thatcher (aka the "Milk Snatcher") this is the Dad Etc 5 point take on this major overhaul of England's public examination system.

Sunday, 16 September 2012

The Weekend Picture No.19

The Signs of Spring on a Roundabout waiting for the Tour of Britain
The streets and roundabouts of Surrey have been packed this afternoon with spectators waiting for a brightly coloured glimpse of the Tour of Britain.

We took our picnic lunch to a local roundabout this afternoon to join the festival and cheer on the lycra clad cyclists as they whizzed past the end of our road.

We camped out at12.45, saw our first motorbike outriders at 1.10pm, the leading cyclists at 1.20 and the rest of the peloton at 1.23pm. Then we came home again.

We continue to have a very sporty summer.

Speak soon

Thursday, 13 September 2012

Do You Speak Your Partner's Love Language?

When I was a student I had the opportunity to spend a year in Spain. I had a fantastic time there but my experience did not have an auspicious start. I turned up in Madrid carrying the largest suitcase my parents could find in the loft with instructions to find one of Madrid's cheapest hotels, in one of Madrid's red lightest of districts. I remember dragging the suitcase along a dark side street, sirens wailing in the distance, desparately trying to find my hotel. I finally found it, blinking in the neon of the cinema across the street and dragged my suitcase up 5 flights of stairs before standing grinning inanely at my hostess as she ran through the rules of the establishment in strong Madrileno Spanish.

I gathered from her hand gestures that I was sharing the room with a stranger and trying to ascertain which bed I was allowed to sleep on I pointed at the one nearest to the window and asked her "Puedo, er, cantar sobre la cama?"

She smiled benignly as if to say "Si, you English idiot" before closing the door and giggling all the way down the corridor.

Sunday, 9 September 2012

The Weekend Picture No.18

The Dubmeister brings a little bit of Cornwall home with him.
 The Dubmeister was away for the last fortnight of August. He was camping with a brilliant Christian boys organisation called Urban Saints.

He went mountain boarding, wave jumping and hiking. He sat around camp fires, ate enormous breakfasts and bundled with his mates.

Mostly he had fun and came back a happier, more confident, and yet slightly dirtier person.

His tent was flooded out one night and he mostly wore flip flops around the sodden camp site so when he came home I just had to take a picture of his feet.

It's great to have him home.

Speak Soon

PS You can read about the Dubmeister's bedroom tidying exploits here

Thursday, 6 September 2012

The Magical Healing Powers of Paddington Bear

One of the Signs of Spring had a horrible urine infection last Friday evening. She was sick, had a temperature and generally felt uncomfortable and horrible. She wouldn't even eat the Lasagne I had made for her tea - she was seriously unwell.

She woke up in the middle of the night feeling bad enough for me to ring the out of hours doctor service at 2.30am. I was expecting a trip to a grimy doctors surgery with a feverish 9 year old dressed in a duvet and clutching her cuddly monkey. But that was reckoning without the magical healing powers of Paddington Bear.

Monday, 3 September 2012

The Weekend Picture No.17

Mounia Gasmi, Sliver Medallist in the Club Throwing
We were there yesterday at "Super Human Saturday" in the Olympic Park, or Paralympic Park as it is known now.

We were moved by displays of extraordinary courage and determination by athletes of outstanding ability.

We saw Oscar Pistorius look imperious in qualification for the 200 meters final, Jason Smyth ease to victory in the 100m and Liu Fuliang break two world records on the way to the triple jump title.

But my favourite sight of the evening was the bundle of smiles that is Mounia Gasmi, the silver medal winning club thrower from Algeria. Her face told you everything you needed to know about the pride, joy and dedication that goes into paralympic sport.

It will remain with me forever.

In the Olympic Stadium
It was a late night!
Speak soon

Wednesday, 29 August 2012

How To Help Your Year 7 Start Big School

The Dubmeister's first day at Big School
This time next week 11 year old children (or 13 year olds if they are starting at a very posh school) will be quaking in their squeaky clean tight new school shoes as they set off for their first day at big school.

Unless you are one of the coolest of the cool, big school is a terrifying prospect for any self respecting child. For the parent of next week's Year 7's (or Lower 4th's if you are starting at the aforesaid posh school) it is even more so! So in the interests of easing you into life as a parent of a secondary age child here is Dad Etc's guide to getting your Year 7 ready for big school.

1. Find out the name of your son/daughter's form tutor and Head of Year

One of the biggest changes for parents going through the transition from Junior to Senior School is the dramatic drop in contact time with your little darling's teaching staff. You will be lucky to see their form tutor more than twice in an academic year and are unlikely to see the Head of Year at all unless there is a specific issue that you need to discuss.
However, a friendly form tutor can be a great asset. So, I recommend that you make contact with them - nothing more than a brief note in the Homework Diary to say hello - so that you stand out as a friendly parent - it could prove helpful in the longer term.

2. Get to know the school rules

Secondary school is a minefield of rules and regulations for your young one. So, it is our duty as parents to do what we can to support the school and our child in the rules that we can affect at home. Most schools will have a list of rules in the Homework Diary/ Planner - get to know them.
Some of the basic rules that we can help our son/ daughter to keep to are:

  • Does the HW Diary need to be signed every week? If so, do it!
  • What are the uniform rules? Make sure you know them - very handy for the future!
  • What is the routine for absence from school? If they ask for a call on the first morning and a letter when they return to school - do it!

3. Keep on top of Homework

Homework is a fact of life at most schools. However, schools are not the fascist institutions that we believed them to be when we were 11 and 12. They do not expect our children to be working every hour that God sends to complete their graphs and essays. So, monitor their homework - are they getting any? If they are, how long is it taking? How long should it be taking? If it is regularly taking longer than advised then there is an issue - tell the school

4. Watch the Mobile Phone

The mobile phone has completely changed the experience for our children of adolescence. It is so easy for them now to keep in contact with their friends and research difficult homework tasks.
However, it has also come with Facebook, Messenger, Internet Porn and other nasties. 
Be very careful!
Watch what they are using it for and, 2 tips I was given by a colleague;
a) Never let them take their phones into their bedrooms at night - that way you have more of a chance of knowing what they are up to.
b) Insist that they make you one of their friends on Facebook.

5. TLC and Routines

Your little chap/chapesse is going to be absolutely knackered this term as they get into life as a little fish in an enormous and confusing pond. They will need lots of love and attention from you!
Get them to eat a big breakfast in the morning and get in their favourite food for the evenings.
Find a routine that works for your family so that they have some certainty in their lives.

Finally, on that first day, when you are sure that nobody is looking - give them a big hug and gulp back the tears until they are through the school gate.

Speak Soon

Sunday, 26 August 2012

The Weekend Picture No.16

The Signs of Spring and My Lovely Wife Kneading 
We have had a great summer holiday. We have holidayed in Cardigan, SW Wales and camped in Dorset. We have attended Olympic events, visited with friends and had family days out.

It has been a holiday full of memories.

Unfortunately, memories cost and as a result we have started a new austerity drive.

My lovely wife and the Signs of Spring are huge fans of "The Great British Bake Off" and have used their newly learned skills to bake bread - apparently you can make three loaves from 1 bag of bread flour!

We have used last week's courgettes to make cakes and risottos - delicious!

And, we have just flogged £239 worth of stuff on eBay!

More austerity updates soon.

Speak soon.

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Firsts and Lasts

My lovely wife's favourite weekend read is the Guardian Saturday edition. She particularly enjoys the Family section. They recently featured an excellent article by Jonathan Sale called "The final moments".

The strapline read:

We are all aware of family firsts - baby's first steps, first tooth, first time riding a bike. But what about the lasts?

It is a really thought provoking article. My youngest (the lovely E) has just finished her final year at infants school - our connection with the school which she and her 2 siblings attended has finally been severed. So we are very aware of "lasts" at the moment - last school plays, last summer fairs etc.

However, the article talks particularly poignantly about the "lasts" that slip by unnoticed.

I was especially touched by this:

You are always aware of a "first" when it happens. There are embarrassing baby-books with blank spaces parents can fill in, labelled "My First Tooth" or perhaps "My First Projectile Vomit". You know when a child produces its first painting, or splodge. You keep the artwork in case Tate Modern wants it for a major retrospective in later years.

A "last", however, can come and go without registering on the radar. I have never come across a "Book of Lasts" with sections to be filled in on final footy knock-about or ultimate nappy. There is no record of the last time I yelled: "For the last time, will you turn that television off!" Nor is there any record of the last time, perhaps years before, when anybody did obey that particular command.
On the evening when I read the last bedtime story to the youngest child, I was not aware that this was anything more than another instalment of a Swallows and Amazons novel.
"I think I'd like to read to myself from now on," she said politely when I appeared after bathtime the following day, Arthur Ransome in hand. And that was it. She had closed another door and, indeed, book. If I'd realised in advance how significant the previous evening was going to be, I'd have hired a brass band and got Michael Morpurgo in to do the reading, with a film crew to record it for the family archives

Reading to my kids has always been really important to me. When the Dubmeister was a baby I used to read at least 3 books every night to him - and each one at least twice. Rod Campbell was our favourite author. "Dear Zoo" is a classic of post modern Britain (arguably).

I still read every night to the girls - but the Dubmeister is an avid book consuming reader and he's 13 - so I don't read to him much, if at all, any more. Have I had my last "reading to Dubmeister" session? - has that phase passed into history? If so, then that is a great sadness.

But I guess that's what being a Dad and a parent is all about - it's not just the firsts, it's the last times too and it's making both firsts and lasts count.

Speak soon.

Saturday, 18 August 2012

The Weekend Picture No.15

"Dad, please can we have courgettes for tea again"
 Since April we have been the proud, and slightly uncertain, joint tenants of an Allotment.

We share our Allotment with two other families. Each family brings it's own gifts and talents to the farming of our small piece of Arable land.

One family brings expertise. Another brings a "can-do" attitude and the third brings up the rear.

I'll let you guess which family I belong to.

As you can see from this weekend's picture our allotment has finally started to bear fruit. Last weekend we harvested beans and the largest courgettes you have ever seen.

Most of the kids in our family like courgettes.

Speak soon

Thursday, 16 August 2012

A Levels are not as easy as they say!

From Discovery Education

As well as a Dad I am also a teacher.

I teach History in a lovely school with a supportive staff and well motivated students.

But there is one thing that gets me down about teaching and that is the constant sniping at GCSE and A Level results that you hear every summer, and now throughout the year. I first published this post in April when our esteemed Education Secretary Michael Gove was bashing A Level and GCSE results and the teaching profession in general (again!)

What I hate about the whingeing about A Level results in particular is that it shows a complete lack of respect for the students who have just gained these results and their teachers who have prepared them.

There cannot be many industries where results have been improving year upon year for over a decade. You would have thought that that would be a reason to celebrate. But no, in typical British style the media (cheered on by the politicians (or is the other way round?)) pick holes in their success. The exams must be easier, the exam boards must be corrupt, the weather must be differenter etc etc.

League Tables Are the Cause not the Answer

The sad irony is that the current situation is a product of the politicians obsession with measuring attainment within schools through league tables etc.

It works like this.
Mr Politician (or Ms/ Mrs etc) says "we must have a league table to rank schools by exam results to promote parent choice in education."
Mr Headteacher (or Ms/ Mrs etc) says "we must do well in this league table - so dear teacher what are you doing to make sure your results in History are better than the school down the road"
Mr Teacher says "golly gee, I must make sure that my students do as well as possible in the exam in the summer so I will find out exactly what the exam board are looking for and make sure that my students are fully prepared for this"

Results go up. 

Students now see that it is a lot harder to get into university etc so Master Student (or Miss etc) says "I must rely more and more on what the teacher tells me about how to pass my exam because I want to be a vet and to get into that course I need 2 A* and 1 A minimum"

(One example - the course I completed in 1992 now requires BBC grades - I got CCD) - I was very lazy!)

Result - much improved results, much harder entry requirements for university, much more focused exam based teaching, less independently minded students.

So please, today, when you will no doubt hear Michael Gove leading the assault on A Level (and GCSE next week) students whose crime will be to have done better then their predecessors - please buck the trend and to steal a phrase from David Camcorder "hug an A Level student" and say "well done"

A nice person hugging an A Level student and saying "Well done" 

Speak soon

PS - Despite what I have said above, don't be surprised if you see a slight dip in results this year as I know from hearsay that examiners have been asked to be tougher than before on students - another example of politics creating an unfair system and then (no doubt) blaming the teachers for the drop in results.

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Inspired by the Olympics - Be The Best

"Anything's possible ... It's just hard work and grafting." (Farah wins the 5000m)
Photo from The Sun
The Olympics is over!

For 16 days my family and I have been glued to the exploits of the athletes of the world as they have shown us just what the human spirit is capable of. We have oohed at the speed of Usain Bolt, aahed at the courage of the Boxers, Judo and Taekwondo players and welled up as the national anthem filled the stadiums over and over again.

The moment that hit home for many Team GB fans was the evening of the second Saturday as Somali refugee Mo Farah, gold medallist already in the 10,000m, pulled away from the chasing pack and raised his arms in startled jubilation to add the Gold in the 5,000 to his collection. Steve Cram, commentating on the race for the BBC summed it up in one word "Beautiful."

Mo's story is inspirational on so many levels. That a boy can come from nothing to be double Olympic champion speaks to anybody who has ever had a dream or has aspired to be better. He has always been a talented athlete but hit his peak relatively late in his career because it is only in the run up to the London Olympics that he has begun to make the sacrifices necessary to reach the top. He puts his success down to "hard work and grafting."

Inspired to be the Best

Now I am 42 I have finally admitted to myself that I may never become an Olympian after all. My days as a track cyclist are over, my dreams of sailing glory are unlikely (I suffer from sea sickness) and my loosening six pack makes the beach volleyball an unattractive proposition. However, I have been inspired by these Olympics and I wanted to log it here to remind myself - when the days get longer, the telly gets better and life gets harder (usually at the beginnning of November) - just what I wanted to be better at.

I have resolved to be the best that I can be.

The best Dad I can be.
The best Husband I can be.
The best Son I can be.
The best Brother I can be.
The best Friend I can be.

I think the key to this aim will be TIME - or rather the wise use of time.

I know that I waste time - on the internet, on TV, on displacement activities, on watching the world go by - so that will be the main area where I will need to make Farah- type sacrifices so that I can put more time into the people that matter most.

I will also need to put OTHERS FIRST - as you grow up and acquire more life roles it becomes more difficult to strike the right balance (particularly when you stir work into the mix) - and give those important people the time they deserve.

Finally, I also need to do stuff for MYSELF - which sounds contradictory I know - but when you want to give to others it is also important to give to yourself. I don't think all of us fathers do enough for ourselves because of the competing demands we face. So, I have resolved to get fit (9 mile bike ride yesterday) and get back in touch with friends I have lost contact with.

So, the Best Me starts now. I will let you know how it goes.

Have you been inspired by the Olympics? Do you face these same challenges? Do you have any advice for me?

Speak soon

PS - One of the most important legacies of the London Olympics has been for women in sport. For the first time ever, every country sent at least one female athlete to the games. It is particularly significant for Britain because of the superb performances of our female athletes. As a father of 2 girls I will be celebrating this SOON.

Sunday, 12 August 2012

The Weekend Picture No.14

On holiday - Poppit Sands, Wales
We have just had a fantastic holiday in the village of St Dogmael's near Cardigan in South West Wales.

We chose a week when the rain didn't make an appearance so we got to experience that corner of the UK in all it's glory.

We canoed on the Teifi River, went Dolphin and Seal watching from a bright orange powerboat, visited Castles and walked the hills that embrace this place.

The highlights for us were the beaches at Mwnt, Tresaith and Poppit Sands (pictured). Each of which is as beautiful as it is sandy, as unique as it is (relatively) empty, as intriguing as it is unspoilt.

This picture was taken as the sun was about to set on a barbecue evening at Poppet Sands.

Speak Soon

Sunday, 5 August 2012

The Weekend Picture No. 13

A Generation Inspired?
One of the the aims of this year's Olympics has been to "Inspire a Generation" to get out of their armchairs and try something new.

The younger generation within our household has been inspired to take on cycling. We were at the women's road race last weekend where we saw Britain's Lizzie Armitstead win Silver with a truly gutsy display. That experience has encouraged the two girls to head out on two wheels and pit themselves against the hills of Surrey.

E joined me on such a bike ride earlier this week, only in this case the hill defeated her.

Speak soon

PS - Coming soon ... more "You can tell they're growing up when ..." musings and I ask the question "Could you raise an Olympian?"

Thursday, 2 August 2012

Games for Long Car Journeys

We have just come back from a fabulous week away in a village called St Dogmaels on the coast of South West Wales. It was fabulous because it did not rain (AT ALL), we spent 4 days on beautiful local beaches - and WE SAW DOLPHINS!

Does life get any better than that?

The only thing that was not fabulous about the holiday was the journey there. 229 miles in more than 6 hours.

Now, I love my family very much BUT 6 hours in a glorified tin can on one of the hottest days of the year stretches things a little.

There are just so many rounds of Eye Spy that you can play and verses of Ten One Hundred Green Bottles that you can sing.

So, with that in mind, here is the Dad Etc Guide to Games for Long Car Journeys. This list is compiled by the Signs of Spring and the Dubmeister - and verified by me as non annoying for adults.

Sunday, 29 July 2012

The Weekend Picture No.12

Waiting for the Olympic Road Racers 
Olympic fever is sweeping this household.We watched the torch procession when it came to Surrey, the lovely wife and I stayed up until 1am to see the conclusion of the Opening Ceremony and we braved the rain and the wind on Box Hill this morning and afternoon to watch the Women's Road Race.

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

You can tell they're growing up ...When Dad isn't always right!

Taken from Centre Parcs website

Being the Dad of a small person can be very good for one's ego. I spoke last week about my promotion to DIY demigod in little Dubmeister's eyes. He loved to mimic me and work alongside his guru as he sought to learn from the master. You can revisit that post here.

The second reason why the fatherhood of the very young does wonders for one's ego is that in our preschooler's eyes we are never wrong.

Sunday, 22 July 2012

The Weekend Picture No.11

The 2012 Logo in toast crusts
I love my kids. They have many great qualities. But they are not perfect (an unusual thing for a parent blogger to say I know). One of their most annoying habits is their aversion to crusts. Every morning we have a mountain of crusts cluttering our kitchen table.

This morning, in a spirit of sporting endeavour, I decided to turn their food waste to good use and recreate the London 2012 logo through the medium of discarded crusts.

I hope it gets you in the mood.

Speak soon.

Friday, 20 July 2012

The Summer is/might be coming

Sandcastles at West Wittering Beach
I don't want to say this too loudly in case it annoys the weather gods or tempts fate to kick sand in our faces like a naughty boy at the seaside, but I think that the summer is/ might be coming.

Ever since Sunday when I posted a shocking photograph I had taken of a blue sky it has not rained really that much and in fact 2 days since the weekend have been completely dry.

So here are my THREE reasons for saying the summer is/ might be coming.

1. I have been to the beach

On Tuesday I joined E's class on a trip to West Wittering beach in Sussex. 90 hot and sweaty minutes on a coach were followed by 3 hours building sandcastle, digging holes, eating ice cream and getting sand in our knickers. There was no rain. It was a proper summer's day.

2. The weather forecasters have started smiling 

Throughout May and June the TV weather forecasters looked permanently uneasy - as if the weather was their fault. Those nervous looks have been replaced by confident Colgate endorsed smiles as they swagger across their weather maps.

3. We bought ice cream yesterday and they were too soft!

The signs of spring are good shoppers, particularly when they have been bribed. Yesterday, the bribe was not a nice hot cup of soup but an ice cream. The ice creams were too soft. They were not botulism inducingly runny but the chocolate casing chipped off and shattered on the floor and the ice cream inside went just a little too quickly. But still, WE WERE EATING ICE CREAM AND IT DIDN'T FEEL WEIRD!

So that's why I think the summer is/might be coming.

What do you think? Am I being hopelessly optimistic or might the summer be coming where you are too?

Speak soon

This post is part of a Bloghop celebrating the good things in life entitled "Reasons to be Cheerful." In these times of austerity there is no better investment than to spread a little happiness. Let us know what has cheered you up this week and harvest yet more good feeling by dipping into some (or all) of the blogs listed below. Keep smiling!

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

You can tell they're growing up when ... helping means helping.

Dad and little Dubmeister painting Baby M's room - 2002
When the Dubmeister was little there was nothing he liked more than helping his Dad construct or paint stuff. At the first sight of a set of tools he would roll his sleeves up, run up the stairs and return clutching his bright yellow JCB stickered tool box complete with saw, hammer and spanner.

He would then dive into the task, insist on doing whatever I was doing, make funny little noises and engage in builder type small talk.

They were special times. I particularly loved the deep respect he had for my DIY skills.

Monday, 16 July 2012

Win a Family Trip to Centre Parcs with Sudocrem Mousse

Set the Moose loose!

Sudocrem Mousse is asking you to take their Mascot, Bruce the Moose, on the tour of his life this summer, capture a moment on camera and share your funny or original picture with the community! Only 100 lucky applicants will receive a toy and make it to stage 2, then have the chance to WIN the grand prize of a trip to Centre Parcs up to the value of £1,000.

Stage 1 entry - For all entrants wanting to apply for their Bruce The Moose
To be in with a chance of receiving your Bruce The Moose toy
  1. Go to and ‘Like’ the page
  2. Click on the Bruce on Tour application, register your details and complete the sentence I am going to take Bruce The Sudocrem Moose to.....”.  Make it fun, make it original, and you could be one of the lucky 100.
  3. We will select the best 100 applications for a Bruce toy and send him to you to take on your travels over the summer.

Sunday, 15 July 2012

The Weekend Picture No.10

"Daddy, why's the sky blue?"
The significance of this weekend's picture will be lost on those of you who do not live in the UK. But for those of us who are unlucky enough to live in Britain the sight of a blue sky this "summer" is a rare one which causes us to grab a towel, a pair of shades and a good book and get in a decent bit of sun worshipping.

The UK had the wettest June on record last month and seems determined to surpass that feat in July as well.

I was so excited at the sight of this bit of blue sky that I took a picture of it!

Speak soon

PS - New series starting next week - "You know that they're growing up when ..."

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

The Night The Tooth Fairy Didn't Come!

E lost a tooth last night. She carefully placed the tooth in a sealed box which was placed lovingly under her pillow in anticipation of a visit from the Tooth Fairy.

The Tooth Fairy did not come!

This is E's take on why the Tooth Fairy did not come last night.

Speak soon.

PS Follow me on Twitter @MisterH14 to find out whether the Tooth Fairy remembered tonight!
I selected this post to be featured on Dad Blogs. Please visit the site and vote for my blog!

Sunday, 8 July 2012

The Weekend Picture No.9

Life doesn't get much better than this!
We have just come home from a great weekend with friends in the Derbyshire village of Hathersage. On Saturday morning we dodged the showers to take a walk across the hills that surround this beautiful place and stumbled across a flower filled meadow (above).

The sun was shining, the sky was blue and we were with some of our favourite people in the world. Does life get much better?

Speak soon.
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