Lesley and I took the decision to home educate our Daughter after the state system failed her in every way - she was being bullied at the age of three and beyond into reception, whilst at reception she was forced to do PE (in her knickers because we'd forgotten her gym shorts) in the dining hall when there was left-over food on the floor carpet. She was left to sit in the 'reading area' with dirty cushions and even dirtier books, she was stuck in a classroom with no daylight because the windows had been replaced with 'vandal-proof' perspex which had yellowed with age and become opaque with scratches and graffiti, we were forced to stand with parents who turned up in their pyjama's and slippers, who smoked in the playground and spat and cursed as they waited for children they should have never had (and wouldn't have had if the benefit system didn't pay for them.) I could go on (and on) but I think you get my point.
And now the education minister has commissioned a Mr Graham Badman (apt name) to come up with a report (Read some of it here) which basically gives the local authority the power to enter my home to assess me, my wife, the home and worst of all 'question' (interrogate) my daughter ALONE - without her parents present, and all because someone thinks that if the state isn't educating her she has to be being abused in some way. If I don't allow them access I will be comitting a criminal offence and could have my child removed to a 'safe house' indefinately.
We found out yesterday that the government plans to set up another 'child protection agency' - the ISA (Independent Safeguarding Authority) which will quite simply criminalise anyone who cares for a child without being 'investigated and assessed' for suitability by the new agency. So if, as we do, you place your child into the care of another (family members included - so grandmothers, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles beware!) for any length of time they will have to be put to scrutiny by this 'independent' government agency and face a fine of up to £5000 if they do not agree to it. I'm all for safeguarding children - after all this is why I took her out of the state system - but this is an overreaction to a couple of doubtless very serious cases of child abuse (Baby P, Holly & Jessica et al) where you will find that it was the state, or state run regulatory bodies which failed the child/children in the first place.
Nanny State getting out of control and getting away with it - Matthew Parris' take in the Times puts it all into perspective - VIEW HERE. Here's a snippet:-
"The ISA scheme and its enabling legislation were a response to the Soham murders. Those murders would almost certainly never have happened were it not for the incompetence of the police, social services and education authorities. The result is that in consequence of the failure of three state authorities, a fourth state authority has been set up. "
I've never understood all the fuss around games and gaming. I never really 'got' Space Invaders'-style arcade games in the eighties. The most challenging computerised game I ever played was Atari Tennis in the late 1970's!
Last Saturday Lesley came home with a Nintendo DS console and the game "Professor Layton and the Curious Village". By Wednesday afternoon I'd completed 100 of the 120 puzzles in the game and solved the mystery of 'the golden apple' (there are actually 135 puzzles hidden in the game, but 15 are 'bonus' ones and quite difficult to find.)
Realising my growing fascination with the device, I ordered Dr Kawashima's Brain Training - the one Jamie and Harry Rednapp and Julie Walters and Captain Picard advertise! It arrived on Wednesday (just in time!) The game gives you various puzzles in an attempt to determine the 'age' of your brain. I won't tell you what age my brain was on my first attempt (72) but I've managed to get it down to 46 by constant use and wearing down the console battery four times!!!
I can't say I'm going to rush out and buy a Playstation or Wii but now I can finally see how addictive they are - plus Emily can use it to improve her maths (if I let her!)
I'm afraid Lesley hasn't had a look in! We may have to invest in a second one!
Old 'Denim' our three year old Ford Ka was beginning to look a little jaded and a decision was made late last week to look for another car better suited to a growing six year old girl (Emily) as well as befitting a man in the midst of a mid-life crisis!! Within an hour of the decision being made to look for a car we'd bought it!!
This is my mid-life crisis itch well and truly scratched:
Vauxhall Astra 1.6 Sxi - not the most sporty of saloons, but more sporty than the Ford Ka and a few steps up the insurance group scale - and a few steps down in the miles per gallon scale!! I have a strange feeling I might regret the purchase when the Bank of England decides to up the mortgage interest rate!!
I came across this photo whilst uploading a back-up disk during my recent computer problems, and it got me thinking of how the years have flown since it was taken. Emily was just three weeks old and completely helpless, my life as a father had just begun - a role I knew nothing about (having had no secure father figure as a child myself.) Without blowing my own trumpet too much, I think I've done a bloody good job of it! Emily is six now and with a real character and personality of her own, a mixture my sense of humour and adventure and her mother's looks and brains. We've all come a long way.
My sincerest apologies for not blogging much of late - I have been exceptionally busy with work commitments, I changed my broadband supplier, my computer died and was reborn (again!) and any number of other excuses for not updating - all of which are true.
A consequence of computer difficulties is this new layout / template which, as you can see has completely deleted all of my additional widgets / add-ons etc - so I'll be checking to see if I can get these back up today... and tomorrow ... and probably for the next week and a half.
Watched "In the Pursuit of HappYness" last night and have to say it is one of the best films I have ever seen and brought so much of my own life back to me.
In the film Will Smith and his son are forced to live rough whilst he is an unpaid intern on a training program - the outcome of which will see just one intern being appointed as a broker with one of America's leading stockbroker agencies. The film follows his trials and tribulations in the pursuit of happiness and is based on a true story.
The comparisons with my own life (and I suppose many more people's lives) were uncanny (apart from becoming a stockbroker that is!!) Shortly after leaving the police force in 1985 I thought I'd try to find work in London but failed to plan things properly and ended up in bedsit after bedsit after converted wash-house, and for a time I slept rough near Charing Cross - not being aware of the benefits system I didn't claim what I should've and ended up spending all of the little money I had staying in a 'guest house' near Hyde Park, (Doss House would've been a more appropriate description) However, eventually I found work as a front of house attendant at The Theatre Royal in Drury Lane during the evenings and weekends, and during the day I sold advertising on a commission only basis.
Having achieved my goal, and having had some life changing, eye opening and at times very scary experiences along the way, I returned to the North East and a 'proper job' in business support. I've been there ever since (barring a short time running a courier firm in the mid to late nineties) but I wouldn't change any of it - those experiences made me the person I am today (Yes, a miserable old git, but also a person who strives to be the best at everything he does and who doesn't expect life to give him anything without hard work and possibly a bit of strife along the way - it's the best way to be, in my humble opinion and it makes you appreciate what you have.)
I highly recommend the film - go and rent or buy it tonight, you won't regret it.
The rather diminutive figure crowded out by the imposing stature, not to mention kaleidoscopic colour, of the Berlin Wall is me, aged 21.
My visit to Berlin took the form of a weekend of booze and more booze, but in between drinking sessions I found time to take in the 'sights' of the then divided city/country - Checkpoint Charlie, The Wall, the underground where you would pass through stations last accessed in 1961 when the wall went up, but whose lights still glowed and whose posters and signs depicted a very different era. East Berlin - which was very easy to get in to, but almost impossible to get out of, Potsdam, where the surrender treaty was signed, Dresden - bombed beyond recognition during the war and seemingly never repaired, Spandau Jail, which at the time still housed a solitary, elderly inmate by the name of Rudolph Hess (who would commit suicide some three months after my visit - was it something I said?) the prison being demolished the following month to avoid it becoming a site of pilgrimage to Germans sympathetic to the Nazi regime.
Less than two years after my visit The Wall was overpowered by the will of the people to escape the past and Berlin was once more reunited.
A former colleague of mine (from the very dim and distant past) posted me a photograph of me meeting a certain British Prime Minister in 1986.
It was taken shortly after I left the police force and, looking at it now, I can see why I was asked so often if my mother knew I was out whilst policing the streets of Stockton on Tees. At the time the picture was taken I was beginning my career in business support, unemployment in the UK was approaching three million and Mrs Thatcher was definately NOT popular having recently dispatched the British Coal industry and Arthur Scargill to history - she had another five years before even her own party got sick of her.
Being a paid up member of the Labour Party at the time I made my own 'protest' by wearing a red tie!! Though I do remember thinking what a remarkable woman she was, and how, over the course of the ten minute conversation I had with her, she almost changed my political views - I had to slap myself!! Very persuasive lady. I admire her tenacity now more than I did then that's for sure!
Celebrity at last!! - Well, that's not quite true.
Yesterday, after much emailing and telephoning (and begging), The Hartlepool Mail finally picked up on the book and have decided to run a piece on our fundraising activities for Red Nose Day '09, which was nice of them. The story evolves in Hartlepool because of the obvious link with their own legend, but there are not-so-subtle differences - our monkey is German, the legend version was French and a spy. Our monkey talks, theirs didn't - that's why they hung it, but our monkey talks himself into being hung because of his poor grasp of the English language!
So, at lunchtime yesterday I had to explain myself and answer their reporter Mark Thompson's questions about why we'd written the book and what it was all about. I think I did okay, now I just have to buy The Hartlepool Mail for the next few weeks and hope nothing too major happens in the world to wipe our story off the front page (lol.)
A quick post today to apologise for not commenting on your blogs lately - I have been visiting some. I've got a major push on at the moment promoting the book in order to raise as much cash as possible for Red Nose Day 09.
It's surprising how many people (even up here in the North East) haven't heard the legend of the Hartlepool Monkey, how, during the Napoleonic War, the Crofters of Hartlepool recovered a monkey from a shipwreck and tried and convicted it of being a French spy - having never seen a monkey or a Frenchman before, and having been unable to fathom its 'language'. They sentenced it to death by hanging. Our book takes a glance at this legend and turns it into fictional truth - our monkey is a German speaking, seafaring, baboon trying to escape persecution of his kind in his homeland. It's a bit of nonsense for Red Nose Day and I want everyone to download a copy NOW!! (Nothing like being upfront and honest, is there?!!lol)
Have a look at the website and read the first two chapters for free - click here
Following the red sky in the morning, it turns out it WAS a shepherd's warning!! The snow has been falling thick and fast across much of the UK overnight and today - and there's more to come. Still, it makes for a pretty picture AND (if you don't have to drive or work in it) it's fun, fun, fun!!
This Red Nose Day - 13th March 2009 I/we (being myself and my co-writer Andrew Baker) have decided to donate the proceeds from every one of our books downloaded from today until 13th March.
Although available as a paperback the royalties from a physical copy of the book are much lower than that of an electronic download - something like £1.20 per paperback sold as opposed to £3.00 for every downloaded copy, so we've stuck to the most revenue producing element for our charitable activity.
So, a download of "The Baboon's Left Testicle (Part One of Two)" will cost you £4.00 of which £3.00 will go directly to The Red Nose Day Appeal. We've signed a Fundraising Agreement with the charity so we don't want to lose face by sending them a cheque for £6 - the proceeds of our own downloads - so apologies for the blatant appeal!!
If you've not yet decided how to support this great event which does so much for worthwhile causes across the world then this could be one way to relieve you of the burden of having to make a choice. Even if you don't like the book - just think of where your money's going.
If you prefer a physical copy of the book (and don't want to support the Red Nose Day Appeal) then you can now buy it from Amazon!
It's been a full week since I last posted! And what a week!
Emily lost her tooth, which was safely placed under her pillow and replaced by the unseen, unheard "Tooth Fairy" (Me) who left a shiny gold coin and some 'pixie dust' which resembled gold glitter. Needless to say Emily found the whole saga really exciting and promptly found another tooth loosening up - and getting more loose by the minute with all of Emily's frantic waggling! Best get the pound coins and pixie dust ready again soon! (And book a dentists appointment to check that everything's as it should be.)
Lesley has been unwell all week and unable to eat anything (so the food bill has gone down significantly!! lol!!) however, what we saved on food, we more than made up for on toilet rolls, if you catch my drift.
I've had a busy time at work - training course up at Seaham, clients all over the place and project after project to coordinate - hence the lack of posts.
"Why, oh why do they do it to themselves?" - that was the question posed to me by a colleague the other day as we observed a young girl standing outside our offices. I had no answer for him other than "Each to their own."
The young girl in question must've been around seventeen years of age, quite slim and possibly quite pretty (I say 'possibly' because no-one could ever decypher how she really looked for the inch of make-up plastered on her face and neck!) Her earlobes were 'adorned' with two of the biggest gold hoops I've ever seen - they were actually touching her collar bones. Above the hoops, for the full height of each ear and at seemingly non-specific points were a further six or seven hoops and studs. The piercing process had been repeated several times at various locations around her face - eyebrow, nose, cheeks, tongue. Around her neck hung enough 'gold' chains to keep Mr T happy for a few years, and on each finger of both hands (including thumbs)she wore at least three equally 'gold' rings. Each finger was topped with an enormous sparkling nail at least half as long as the finger from which it protruded. She was standing in a bus queue, raking around in her purse for change for the bus - she dropped the coins and her entire rucksack at one point, the coins were left where they fell.
She was wearing cut-off jeans and a red, sparkly 'boob tube' - this on a day when the temperature hadn't exceeded 5 degrees above freezing. Her feet were dressed in Dr Marten boots - green leather with approximately 16 lace holes - how did she lace them up with those nails???
She had no coat. What was showing of her legs was bright orange, tinged with blue, her chest, shoulders and arms were more a walnut colour, but only on the fronts, the backs of her arms and her shoulders were flesh tinged with blue, her face resembled one who'd been Tango'ed several times.
I always reply "Each to their own!" when posed with a question such as "Why do they do it to themselves?" and it's true, I really do mean each to their own - it would be a pretty awful world if everyone dressed and acted the same, but really, in this instance, in my head at least was the thought that somehow, somewhere, someone had told this young girl that she looked good. She certainly acted confident enough despite the obvious jaw-dropping of passers by.
I admired her bravery.
I was going to say that the youth of today have no respect for conformity, or tradition but then realised that that is what youth is, and has been for many years, a desire to make your mark on the world - the same can be said of Teddy Boys in the fifties, hippies and glam rockers in the sixties and seventies, punks in the eighties - remember how outlandish and ridiculed they were? Life goes on - and gets more and more outlandish with each generation I suppose. It's fun to watch.
Well, that's it for another year (I do seem to recall saying that very recently!) The birthday girl was suitably impressed with all of the gifts and cards from friends and family, and the well-wishings of bloggers too.
The party took three weeks to organise, the food took two hours to prepare, the presents took two months wages, and it was all over in 120 minutes!! The parcel had been passed, songs had been sung, presents had been opened, lost in wrapping paper, then found again, kisses all round, illuminated cake extinguished (twice - for some reason our family have decided that every child at a party should have the opportunity of blowing out the candles on the cake, so we did Emily first on her own, and then relit them for a group blow!)
Emily had a great time and slept like a log after all the excitement. At the end of it all Emily announced "Oh, that was great, I can't wait until I'm seven!" Ah, happy days.
Emily loves birthdays. Not just her own, but everybody's. Here she is excitedly posing with my birthday cake from last October. For weeks before it she was building up to the event - little 'secret' conversations with Mum about what she was going to get me, what she was going to write in my card etc. etc. She is the same with everyone - even the cat has to have at least two birthdays a week! And today is her special day as she reaches six.
We have yet to find storage space for the Toys R Us delivery she got for Christmas and today there will be another load!! What joy!
In my teens (and even before then) I was always an optimist. Always considered every angle and always looked on the bright side of things wherever possible.
As I grew up, and the world enveloped me, my cynical side began to grow to the point it is at today - "Grumpy Old Man!" Negative thoughts abound on the state of the world, how different it is now to how things 'used to be', how much better things are today in terms of technology - but how that negatively impacts on things like schooling and social development - the list can go on and on. I wear my grumpy old man label with pride at times and yet, occasionally, my more relaxed and open minded younger self will rear his head and try to counter the negativity. It is a welcome break and I enjoy seeing my old self every now and then.
But, there is one person in my life who positively exudes negativity - and as far as I can see always has. I'm talking about my Mother in Law - I call her "the Portender of Doom!"
The PoD is my wife's mother and she loves her dearly - but I can see how Lesley has been strongly influenced by the negativity of her mother over the years. I myself have been affected by her in the twenty or so years I've known her - to the point of depression.
A typical conversation with her goes like this:
Me: "Hello, isn't it a lovely day?"
PoD: "They've got snow in Cumbria. It's heading this way."
Me: "Well it's not here yet, lets enjoy the sunshine, catch some rays."
PoD: "It was on the telly about all the skin cancer. It's rife."
Me: "Pass me that razor blade, would you!"
Lesley suffers so badly with anxiety and panic attacks and we've been looking for a cause - her father's death when she was eleven? Being bullied at school? Well, yes, to an extent, but since these events she has lived with her mother and all the doom and gloom that seems to emanate from her - it's no wonder she's anxious. Even now, married for fifteen years and with a young daughter of her own, she is dominated to the point of being scared of her mother.
It's a very true story in a lot of households up and down the country - 'your parents screw you up!" My own Mother domineered me to the point of physically abusing me. She was a bully, still is no doubt but thankfully I broke free when I was sixteen - with my mother's blessing I might add. Unfortunately Lesley did not, and has not yet. What gets all of us, as offspring of crazy people, is that they often quote the biblical saying that you must "honour thy father and mother." and we try so hard to live up to this edict, that we end up being miserable old gits and hating them for it.
I heard this little ditty a good few years back and decided it might go well as a post title about my 'missing' birds (I Wonder Where the Birdies Is?) but it has always stumped me as to where it originates. Here's the ditty in full (as far as I can discover):-
Spring has sprung;
The grass has ris.
I wonder where
The birdie is?
There he is
In the sky.
He dropped some
Whitewash in my eye!
I am no sissy;
I won't cry.
I'm just glad
That cows can't fly!
My Googling has revealed that it was probably made up by either W.C Fields or Groucho Marx but most results show "origin lost" If anyone knows any different please let me know - it's driving me mad!!! (Or madder!)
BBC TV gave me the answer to the mystery of the missing birds (well the missing starlings at least) - apparently they're all off on their jollies in Rome - making beautiful cloud formations in the sky over the city before finding a place to roost for the night!
They also create a delightful 'carpet' over the streets below them - how charming!
Four days into the New Year and it's back in with the old!
Needless to say I have started myself back on a dose of 20mg Prednisolone steroids! So much for a new beginning!
Any road up - I thought I might solve the mystery of "where the birdies is" (See yesterdays post) by visiting my local park today. Sadly not. No sign of a spuggie anywhere, plenty of bigger birds but not one smaller than a crow. The plot thickens!
In answer to Crystal Jigsaw - yes, we do have a cat but I'm sure not even her presence could scare ALL of the (smaller) birds from the whole town of Middlesbrough!! I expect to hear a news item any day soon stating how Alfred Hitchcocks "The Birds" has been re-enacted by swarms of sparrows, tits and blackbirds in a town nearby! In the meantime my breadcrumbs, seeds and nuts will remain untouched.
Just had a strange thought. (It's not uncommon for me to have strange thoughts!)
I put some bird seeds and nuts out on New Years Eve for the feathered friends who visit our garden in abundance at this time of year.
They're still there - untouched by birdy beaks. And now I come to think of it, I haven't seen a single bird since before New Year. Not one.
There aren't any today either - oh, I tell a lie, a seagull has just flown by, but where are all the sparrows, and starlings, and robins, and tits, and finches????
I mentioned this to her indoors who said she'd just heard on the radio that a warning has been issued to visitors to Seaton Carew (a coastal resort thirty or so miles away) to take care as "the birds have gone a bit mental!"
So that's where they all are. Typical Brits on holiday - causing mayhem as usual and frightening all the Seagulls inland! Bless 'em!
We all think about what we can do to alter our lives in some way at this time of year - be it giving up a bad habit, taking up a new sport or hobby, eating less, doing more in the community or just being a more considerate person - and I am no different. I begin thinking about what I can do to change my life in the weeks leading up to Christmas and New Year and then BANG! here we are, and I haven't decided yet.
I could resume my favourite hobby of drawing and sketching - but work and family commitments will get in the way.
I could return to the gym and get fitter - but work and family commitments and my current state of health will get in the way.
I could be a nicer person, helping out at my local down-and-out centre - but work and family commitments will get in the way.
I could stop smoking (for the fortieth time in five years) - but the stresses of work and family commitments will get in the way.
I could read more - I love a good horror story - but my work covers long hours and family commitments will get in the way.
I could stop all medication and start thinking positively - but that would impact upon both my work and family commitments.
So much hope. So many choices. So much I can do to become a better person, but so little time. There's always something else to do, always something that gets in the way.
I'm not going to choose a single one of the above potentials. I'm going to do a little of it all.
"…Watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places. Those who do not believe in magic will never find it." (The last published words of Roald Dahl.)