Sunday, March 2, 2014


Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens
Bright copper kettles and warm woolen mittens
Brown paper packages tied up with strings
These are a few of my favourite things

Well, not mine. Maria von Trapp’s. They don’t really sound all that great to me, but then I have the advantage of not living in a country which has been invaded by Nazis. I suppose most things which aren’t wearing a swastika seem pretty awesome in those circumstances. I guess what I’m trying to get at is that favourite things are very personal.

If Cam had written that song in the last week, it would have gone something like this:

Milk in a bottle and painting on easels
Watching cBeebies, being whiny and tearful
Throwing my Playdoh and having a paddy
Plenty of mummy but NO! NOT DADDY!
Those three little words are all I’m hearing from my son at the moment. If it’s me who goes into his room first thing in the morning: “No. Not daddy.” When I come into the house after work and say hello: “No. Not daddy.” When I try to read him his bedtime stories: “No. Not Daddy.” You get the idea. I’m definitely not on Cam’s favourite things list just now. I’m a little worried by the timing. Since starting my new job I’ve seen considerably less of Cam. I don’t have a day at home with him anymore, and my day finishes an hour later than in my previous job. I also have a longer commute. I am also, now, always the one who drops him off at childcare, but never the one who picks him up. Does that mean he’s learning to associate me with abandonment?

The whole thing’s a bit rubbish.

Cam’s always been very loving toward both me and his mum, and I’m an over sensitive bundle of emotions masquerading as an actual human man, so this development has given me a big old dose of feeling sad.

I shrugged it off for a while, after all, toddlers are adept at latching onto phrases and repeating them ad nauseum. Before “No. Not Daddy.” came on the scene he could regularly be heard saying “no grandma, not the knife!” Out of context, that’s quite an unfortunate choice.

But “No. Not Daddy.” is more than just words. It’s deliberately avoiding eye contact for prolonged periods of time. It’s making do-or-die lunges from my arms towards someone else.

So, what to do? I’m hoping it’s just a brief phase, that one day soon I will walk into a room and be greeted with a friendly hug, or at least a cheery hello. But in the meantime do I ignore what he says and continue trying to hug him, play with him, read to him? Or should I let him spend a few days with (even more) minimal daddy input? Let him work out, hopefully, that I’m actually quite nice and he should want me to be part of his day?

Answers on a postcard. Or, more usefully, in the comments below.

Thursday, January 16, 2014


When I was made redundant in October I said, on this very blog, that I thought I’d be okay and find another job reasonably quickly. Thankfully, I was right. I start that new job in four days, and I’m excited.

I won’t go into too much detail about it, but it’s the type of work I’ve always thought I ought to be doing, but never quite managed to get into before now. There’s a lot of optimism in my mind at the moment, which is especially amazing when the job I left had done a pretty good job of grinding all that out of me.

But. There’s always a but. It’s the law.

I’m going back to work full time. My previous job allowed me to reduce my hours so that I could share in the childcare duties with Mrs L when she finished her maternity leave. That meant spending a whole day each week with Cam. Just me and him, father and son time. I’ve had that privilege for almost exactly a year, and I have loved it.

As of next Thursday, he’ll have an extra day at nursery, and I will re-join the full time working parent population. I will see him briefly in the morning, briefly in the evening, and at weekends. I will, I think, be quite sad about missing the developments he makes, and the things we get to do, and all the hugs and affection.

I realise that the time I have been able to spend as a part-time SAHD marks me out as one of the lucky ones. Most men don’t seem to have the chance to spend time with their children as they’re growing up. It’s a massive shame. As far as I’m concerned, the more equally shared the parental responsibilities are the better it is for all parties. I’d love to think part time work will be an option for me again sometime in the future.

Still, mortgages need paying; it probably wouldn’t be much fun having lots of time with Cam if we didn’t have a house to spend it in.

I’m immensely grateful for the time I spent as a part-timer, and to any other dad reading this who is considering it as a possibility I say this: DO IT.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

The A to Z of me

Well hello there. Long time no see. I wonder whether my little slice of internet has been feeling neglected? Perhaps. But now, because of being tagged in a meme by Lara, AKA @apluckyheroine, I’m popping in to drop an alphabet based compendium of me on you.

And so, without further ado, here goes; the A-Z of me…

A is for Atheist – I don’t believe in God, or any of the associated stuff. I don’t mind if other people do, as long as they’re not using it as an excuse to have a fight with someone who holds different views. One life is enough for me, I don’t need a sequel.

B is for Basketball – Tricky one this, because lots of things I really like begin with B. But I couldn’t think of a sneaky synonyms for basketball, so it gets to be B. Basketball is the only team sport I’ve ever enjoyed playing, and I didn’t realise quite how important it was to my wellbeing until I had to stop playing for a while (see K is for…) But now I get to play every week. And lose. Our team hasn’t won a game yet this season.

C is for Cam – Obviously. How could it not be? My little boy. The best thing I’ve ever had a hand in making. Hilarious, beautiful, considerate and clever. Manic, mischievous, infuriating and cheeky. He is more amazing than I have the words to express. I love him.

D is for Dad – This came as a package deal with Cam. I’m his dad. I tell him I love him and he says “thank you”, which is also what he says when I give him a dose of Calpol, or his Weetabix. Being a dad is a huge part of who I am now. The most important job I’ll ever have, and I love doing it.

E is for Eloquent – I’ve lived in the South West of England for almost my entire life. It would be entirely reasonable to assume I sound like a farmer. Thankfully, I don’t.

F is for Facial Hair (I know that’s cheating a bit) – Sneaky synonym number one. I have a beard. Someone once told me I should definitely never get rid of it or “you’d look like someone who touched goats inappropriately”. Now, I’m of the opinion that ANY physical contact with a goat is inappropriate, so I figure I’d better keep the beard. Also I quite like it.

G is for Grilling – Sneaky synonym number two. I don’t mean the function of an oven where you leave the door open. I’m borrowing American terminology. Grilling is barbecue. Proper, delicious barbecue. Slow cooked joints of meat infused with wood smoke and spices, tender to the point of melting in the mouth, slathered in hot barbecue sauces that have you licking the plate clean. If you want some proper barbecue, come to my house, I’d love to cook for you.

H is for Happy – I am, generally, pretty happy. I don’t think I need say any more on the subject.

I is for Ironing – Or, rather, not ironing. The only time I iron anything at the moment is if I’m attending a wedding, christening or funeral. That might all change if I get a job in an office where I have to wear nice shirts, but even if that does happen I’ll still think ironing is one of the most ridiculous activities we undertake as humans.

J is for Junk – I’m a bit of a hoarder of useless crap. Partly this is because I’m quite sentimental, and I attach memories and feelings to physical objects, which then makes it hard to part company with them. On the other hand, I have no such attachment to the Hippo Bag full of gravel which is sat in the lane behind our house, and has done for a number of years. Does anyone want some gravel? Free to collector. Probably contains some cat poo.

K is for Knees – I, like most people, have two of these. Wonderful joint, the knee, until it goes wrong. In 2008 I tore my ACL playing basketball. It’s a serious injury and means your capacity for lateral movement is almost zero. Irritatingly, it also doesn’t heal on its own. A very nice surgeon removed a piece of tendon from my hamstring, drilled a new hole in my tibia and fibula and threaded the piece of tendon through to make me a shiny new ACL. I love it, it means I can do all the things I used to do, but now I appreciate them a lot more. Thank you NHS.

L is for Lefty – I’m left handed. It has had no negative impact on my life, aside from an inability to use scissors, or write with a fountain pen. I am also, politically, left of centre. I like it over here, I think it’s where the nice people are (Disclaimer: there are nice people on the right too, I know some of them)

M is for Misanthropy – You disgust me. Not you personally. You in your capacity as a member of the human race. Sometimes I look at us all, collectively, and think “what the fuck are we doing?”

N is for Nice – I try to be nice to people whenever I can (even though it seems like a massive contradiction to what I’ve put for M). It’s nice to be nice, and it also makes you feel good. I wish more people would try being nice to other people, rather than only being nice to themselves.

O is for Overweight – I could do with losing a few pounds. I have recently dipped back below fourteen stone, which isn’t too bad for a six foot tall man, but I’d like to weigh a bit less.

P is for Pedant – I am prone to pointing out errors in people’s writing. Some people are grateful, others think it makes me a prick.

Q is for Quiet – I am quite quiet in person. It takes me quite a while (or a few quick drinks) to feel sufficiently comfortable to be really chatty with new people in social situations.

R is for Reading – I do like a good read. There isn’t enough time in the world for all the reading I’d like to do. Whether it’s the escapism of fiction or the joy of learning something new in non-fiction, I’m incredibly grateful for whatever evolutionary tweak allows us to have a language and to translate that language into a set of arbitrary symbols which other people can then understand. Wonderful.

S is for Shy - *goes all coy*

T is for Tired – Standard, as I have a young child.

U is for Unemployed – I currently have no job. To be honest, in the short term, it has been quite nice. I’m sure I’ll soon feel differently once the money runs low though. I’d like to work as a Communications Officer, so if you’re hiring one, do let me know…

V is for Velocipede - Bikes are ace. Bikes are fun. Bikes let you go twice as far as walking, for a quarter of the effort. If you ride your bike often enough, you can eat as much cake as you like, and still not be fat. If that’s not a good advert for them, I don’t know what is.

W is for Writing – I like writing. Words are my friends. When I was younger I thought I might be able to write for a living. That didn’t quite pan out, but who knows, maybe it will one day?

X is for Nothing – I know nothing doesn’t begin with X, but neither does anything about me. My car has Xenon headlights, but that’s not even slightly relevant.

Y is for Yet – As in, “I am yet to work out what I really ought to be doing with my life”. Tips on a postcard please.

Z is for Zzzzz – You may be snoring by now, having read all about me, but I’d wager you’re not snoring as loud as I do. Pity my wife. 

That was harder than I expected, but quite entertaining. Not only that, while I was writing it I thought of another blog post I could write, so that's nice.

Now then, who shall I tag to do their own version of this? How about: Ben @ Mutterings of a Fool, Sharmila @ Have Kids Still Tripping, and Markus @ misterdoctorbeckymark2

Thursday, October 3, 2013


It’s not a nice word is it? Redundant. Unnecessary. Superfluous. Disused. Outmoded. Unwanted.

All very cheerful terms, to describe a very cheerful thing.

I’ve been made redundant once before. In 2010, a couple of years after the banks all started imploding and collapsing in on themselves like dying stars, the resultant economic black hole had expanded from its beginnings in the City of London and reached such crucial financial outposts as Bristol.

Actual black holes are reputed to suck in everything around them. Nothing can escape. Even that speediest of speedy things, light, isn’t speedy enough to escape the clutches of the black hole. Its fiscal equivalent feeds on jobs. Thousands and thousands of jobs. By the time my job was “reviewed” and, ultimately, “rationalised”, the job losses at my company alone came to around 20,000.

I didn’t fear redundancy in 2010. I embraced it. Redundancy knocked on my door and I welcomed it in, made it a hot cup of tea and told it I would happily be made redundant. Because I was young. Because I was (in marital terms) single. Because nobody depended on the money I was paid. Because of course I would get another job, how hard could it be?

People who had worked at the company for decades were concerned. Their CVs had last been updated when MS DOS was but a twinkle in the pre-pubescent mind of Bill Gates. Some had probably been written on papyrus.

But I was convinced I’d be fine.

And I was, more or less, correct. I was unemployed for about two months.

Now, in 2013, the job I got after I was made redundant the first time is* making me redundant. Sorry, it’s making my ROLE redundant. A distinction I should imagine will keep my spirits resolutely afloat when I drag my arse into the Job Centre for the first time. At least I only have to go once every fortnight…

I'll have a new one of these soon. Mine won't be courtesy of The Telegraph though, like this photo is.

Anyway, yes, today I was formally entered into the consultation period which it is “more than likely” will lead to my exit from the company in somewhere between three and eight weeks’ time.

How do I feel?


Alright. Then not alright. Confident. Then scared. Sure of my abilities. Doubtful. It changes by the hour, by the minute, by the second. Changes when I look at job websites overflowing with “opportunities” which barely warrant the name. Changes when I think about the array of fixed costs I can do nothing to reduce, which zip from my bank account like electronic ghosts. Changes when I hold my baby boy and wonder whether, soon, he’ll be seeing a lot more of me than he currently does. Changes when I think about that black hole, which still no-one has managed to sow up and stop.

I’m trying to think of it in positive terms: a new beginning, a chance to do something I’ve always wanted (what have I always wanted to do? Nothing, I don’t think).

But it’s not always easy to be positive about something so overwhelmingly negative.

Pretty soon I’ll be jobless, and the best thing about it is going to be keeping my curtains closed all day and tweeting pictures of them to George Osborne.

*Almost certainly, although strictly it isn’t set in stone just yet.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Fiction: Love

Hello there. A person I know is running a writing competition at the moment. You can find details of it here: @DustandLove's Competition. Should you wish to enter, I'm sure that would make him very happy indeed.

Here is my entry to the competition. It weighs in at 300 words exactly, although it was originally quite a bit more. Apologies if there are now bits which don't make sense, though I think I've made it so there are not.


Brian, across the road, lives alone. His wife’s dead, and his son moved out long before we moved here. He doesn’t see him, or even speak to him. Hasn’t for years, apparently.

Like most lonely old people, Brian loves a chat. He doesn’t need much of an opening to tell you about his army days, or the many years he spent with his wife. The one thing he doesn’t often talk about is his son. The one time he did, he described him as “a little shit”, but didn’t say why.

There’s a sadness in Brian’s face, a permanent feature, sitting beneath the white beard and deep within the wrinkles. I wonder whether it was one specific thing which put the sadness there, or many. I don’t suppose I’ll ever find out.

Most evenings I watch the news. Tonight, the headline story is a violent armed robbery in the city, the CCTV footage grainy but dramatic; the perpetrator remains armed, unidentified and uncaught. Police advise nearby residents to keep their homes secure. Don’t allow entry to anyone you don’t know. I’m not worried, but I check the house just in case, it’s only sensible.

Later, as I’m going to bed, a car comes into the road at speed, its tyres barely maintaining traction as the driver hits the brakes. Peering out of my window I see a man emerge. He doesn’t look grainy now, even in the poor light. It’s the fugitive, and he’s approaching Brian’s house.

The old man comes to the door, and I’m terrified for him. Why open it? But the two men embrace, before Brian furtively ushers the man inside. He looks up, sees me. I drop the curtain quickly, but not before I’ve seen that the sadness is gone from his face. Brian is smiling.


I would love to receive feedback, good or bad, on the story in the comments area below. Go on.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013


Would you mind helping me out with something, oh reader?

I'm not sure how I feel about something, and I'd like to canvass some opinion. 

Here's the thing: every month, a direct debit for £89 whooshes silently from my bank account and into the coffers of NPower. In return for my £89, I have sockets which dispense electricity, lights which illuminate my family's home when we flick the switch, and toasty warm radiators when the temperature plummets in the winter months (for the record, it's not on yet, I've only got back into wearing trousers instead of shorts in the last fortnight).

A lot goes into that bill, you can see what proportion is spent on what by looking here.

Eighty-nine pounds. On the face of it, that doesn't seem too expensive for such a crucial product: energy. And it's not. When that bill lands on the mat, I groan, but not because it's really expensive. Just because it's a bill, and the only post I ever get is either telling me how much money is going into my account (not enough) how much is coming out (plenty) or how much is left (less than nothing, generally).

But we all need energy. Heating and lights are not things I would ever want to have to make do without (although there are those who do, and that's another blog post entirely). Energy is an essential. 

A socket, in my house, right now.

The thing I'm unsure of is this: do I think it's okay that the suppliers of our energy are making a shedload of money by selling it to us?

Today, Ed Milliband gave his speech to the Labour Party conference. In it, he said a Labour government would freeze the price of energy until 2017. Almost immediately, the Guardian (yes, sorry, I'm a bit lefty) comments section was full of people saying things like "it's a nice step in the direction of re-nationalisation" and others saying "re-nationalisation is just a return to the outdated politics of the 70s, when Labour fucked the country right up and there were power shortages".

Thing is, I don't remember the 70s, because I hadn't been born. I can well imagine that it was a bit shit, three day working weeks, strikes on all days ending in y, that sort of thing. But is there a reason, intrinsic to nationalisation, that the supply of energy couldn't be publicly owned? I don't know. What do you reckon?

What I see at the moment is a few, very large, companies who can pretty much charge what they want for energy, because what are we going to do about it? Unless we want a return to using candles to light our homes, to using an open fire to heat them, we can't decide we won't give one of the energy suppliers our custom. They can charge what they like, make as much money as they see fit, and we have very little say over it. That doesn't seem fair to me. 

But maybe it is. What do you think?

Friday, September 13, 2013

Fiction: Voyager

I wrote the following bit of fiction after reading about the Voyager 1 probe leaving our solar system, I'd love to know what you think of it, even if it's really bad (which it might well be, I've never written anything sci-fi-ish). Cheers.

A picture of Voyager 1, courtesy of

“Let’s start with a question: which single person is responsible for the greatest number of human deaths in our recorded history? Here’s a little clue, in case you’ve been asleep for the past few years: it’s not any of the first few names you’re thinking of. Hitler? Too obvious. Pol Pot? Ditto. None of those depraved motherfuckers managed to rack up as many corpses as this guy. Worst thing? Dude wasn’t even trying to be a killer, he was just an explorer.”

Ian’s finished, and he’s looking at me for an answer, his usual smug grin spread across his face. He knows I don’t know, and he loves it.

I shrug, “Man, you know history ain’t my thing, it could be Elvis Presley and I wouldn’t have heard. It’s got to be whoever you’re holding responsible for all this though.” I wave a hand in the direction of the armoured glass window separating us from the outside world. Earth, and that’s about all that’s left out there now. Barren and scorched, there’s nothing left of the lush, green world I grew up in. Everything’s grey now. At least it makes camouflage easy.

The grin gets wider as Ian soaks up this tiny victory, uses the feeling to nourish his soul for a moment. “Sorry man, trick question. No-one even knows the guy’s name. Whoever signed the order to go ahead with the old Voyager program. Death warrant for humankind that one, not that he ever could have known. Or she. Could have been a woman. Not sure NASA was much into the equality struggle in the sixties though. Leave that to the hippies I guess.”

So it’s going to be a Voyager day. Great. Ian’s favourite. I’ve heard it all before, more times than I can remember. Still, if it keeps the conversation away from some of the other great debates (Slayer or Metallica, Android or iOS) I’m not about to complain. Not that it would make a difference whether I complain or not; Ian is a great talker, but listening isn’t a strong suit.

“Anyway, mister or missus NASA signs the papers and Voyager is go. The scientists and engineers beaver away for a while and in ’77 the thing’s ready to be flung out into the abyss. Past Saturn and Jupiter, sending us the digital postcards as it goes. That big red spot on Jupiter? A storm big enough to envelope Earth, made of superhot gasses. I tell you man, that film Twister? Would have been a lot shorter if they’d been chasing that storm! But photos of Jupiter and Saturn were just the starters for Voyager, it’d been built to last, and the NASA boys wanted it to keep on going. So they aimed it at the edge of the solar system and away it went.”

I’ve got pretty good at looking like I’m interested in what Ian’s saying, when I’m actually keeping an eye on the monitors for any hostile movements outside, so these history lessons really just wash over me now. That’s good, as they tend to last a while. I don’t have anywhere better to be right now, or ever, and most of the time the background hum of Ian talking is preferable to the background hum of the micronuclear generator keeping this place going.

“It’s sort of funny when you think about it, some people worried about the gold disc on Voyager being an invitation to any megalomaniac aliens to come and get scrappy with us, in the end it wasn’t what we had to say that mattered, it was where we were saying it.”

He’s stopped talking, and is staring at the semi-automatic rifle he has in his hands. Before all this happened, he’d have loved to get his hands on something like that. Ian had been one of those guys who really enjoyed a bit of simulated war. Airsoft, paintball, Call of Duty online with a battalion of other players who were well off enough to know damn well they’d never be called upon to look down the barrel of a gun that fired something more real than a plastic pellet, thimbleful of paint or a collection of visually accurate pixels. Until now. And that same semi-automatic weapon, the pinnacle of human design, full of carbon composites and Computer Aided Death, suddenly looked like bringing a knife to a gunfight once the BHLs showed up.

That’s Beyond Heliosphere Lifeforms, by the way. Named after the theoretical limits of the Sun, our sun’s, influence on space. Once you’re out of the heliosphere, you’re really in outer space. You can also stop worrying whether you’ve applied suncream. A tan is the least of your worries though, because it turns out there’s a whole lot of other intelligent life in the galaxy, and they’re mostly just as capable of being nasty fuckers as we are.

The only reason we didn’t hear from the BHLs before is because of Interstellar Law. Any species with the capacity for interstellar travel is forbidden from entering another inhabited solar system, until such time as the inhabitants of that system send something physical outside of its boundaries.

Something like a 700kg, nuclear powered space probe called Voyager, with a gold disc attached to it which spells out just what galactic n00bs we are.

The rest of the universe gave us just over a year to get ready, and turned up on the same day that those cheerful, clever bastards at NASA proudly announced to the world that Voyager had left the solar system a year before. It was Friday the 13th too. Typical.