A Design For Life

“I was not; I have been; I am not; I do not mind.”

The ‘Epicurean Epitaph’, a quote attributed to the ancient Greek philosopher Epicurus, often now used at humanist funerals.epicurus-3

I found myself thinking about this yesterday, prompted by a Facebook meme.

It doesn’t just apply to a way of looking at death. It can also be a way of looking at life.

The basis of Epicurus’ philosophy after all, his lifestyle and that of his friends and followers, was looking for the things that make us happy and then as much as possible having those things in our lives.

Not in Hedonism: self-indulgent and unrestrained behaviour – a common misunderstanding of his ideas – but more in a satisfaction with life: involving moderation, respect for others and friendship.

“I was not; I have been; I am not; I do not mind.”

This could just as much be about happiness as it is a way of coping with the concept of our mortality. We all have peaks and troughs in our lives. There are times when things seem to be going well, when we’re making progress, when we’ve achieved some of our goals and are looking to continue onwards.

There are other times when life seems bleak, when nothing seems to work, where everything is going wrong – even to the extent that we give up hope.

Basic needs like food & water, shelter, safety, health, relationships. Simply said – not so simply achieved! Certainly not all at once. Sometimes we seem to have them all; other times none of it!

“I was not; I have been; I am not; I do not mind.”

‘A while back’ – I’m shocked sometimes when I think about just how long ago it was! – I was living and working in and around London, working in Finance.  I was “doing OK”, not great, but “OK”.

I met a girl, we moved in together. She was also “doing OK”. We went to restaurants, pubs and gigs: together and with friends. We travelled a lot. We moved to Brighton, then to Sutton Coldfield. We got married, then had children. Twins: Jake and Ellie. Great kids! Having been made redundant earlier I became their full time stay-at-home Dad: for 3 years, until they started pre-school in preparation for school proper. By this time we were here in Wales.

Now, 5 years later, we’re separated. I live alone, in a small house: fine just for me but nothing like our old family home. The children who were my life I see now just 2 days a week: most of 1 day on the weekend and 1 evening after school.  And to be honest I’ve struggled to pick up with my career where I left off. The industry is very tech-driven and seems to have moved on, irrespective of all my experience. My age counts against me too I think; having to start again as it were a lot of the jobs I am qualified for I think are taken by young people.

We had a big house, and a good lifestyle: travel, good food, fun. Now I sometimes struggle even with the basics. Then I spent nearly all my time with my beloved Jake & Ellie; now I often feel like I hardly know them, like they’re growing up without me.

It’s very easy to look back and think things were perfect though isn’t it? I know they weren’t, even then.

Further back –  in New Zealand, for instance, before I found my feet career-wise here – I sometimes struggled, financially and socially. Even after I moved to the U.K. there were difficult times: I got caught up in the mortgage interest rate crisis of the ‘90s, and leaving the somewhat extreme religious group I got mixed up in was necessary, but still difficult, not least as it meant cutting myself off from all my ‘friends’ & having to start again socially.

“I was not; I have been; I am not; I do not mind.”

I had tough times before, some good times, and now difficult times again. Life has its ups and downs. It’s just a question of perspective isn’t it? I’m trying to be grateful for what I do have. Great children who love me, food & shelter, safety, reasonably good health, friendships.

That’s more than millions of people all over the world can say. In many ways I’m lucky, despite what the reality of my life seems to be a lot of the time.

“I had not; I did have; I do not have; I do not mind”

I’m trying very hard to improve the things I can, while learning to accept and make the most of life as it is.

Thank you Epicurus: those are indeed wise words.

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Confession Time

There are an increasing number of stay-at-home & hands-on Dads – more power to them! There are many Dads of twins. And of course older Dads. But there can’t be too many who are all 3. That was one of the reasons I started this blog; in the hope that whatever experiences I had might be of interest to others: Dads, Mums, or those just looking.

How this all began.

It was supposed to be about me, me as a Dad, an unusual Dad, and how the experience affected and changed my life. I intended this to be a chronicle of an unusual parenting situation from an unusual perspective: my perspective, a bloke’s perspective. That’s actually what gave this blog its strange name. 1-DSCF3705

Best laid plans, and all that eh?

It turned out that it wasn’t about me – it never was, really – it was always about them: Jake and Ellie, my wonderful – now 8-year-old – twins.

I guess that’s one of the reasons I haven’t been too personal here over the years: not much writing about how I’ve been, how I feel, how all this has been affecting me, despite my blog’s stated aims.

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Another reason of course is that I am a bloke, and generally we blokes aren’t too good at that sort of thing: opening up about ‘feelings’, and ’emotions’ – or at least ones that don’t involve shouting at a bunch of other blokes as they run around after variously shaped balls.  In that way at least I’m what you could describe as a ‘typical bloke’.

And I haven’t posted much here, for a few years now; certainly nowhere near as much as I used to. In this blog’s heyday I was posting daily.  A lot of that of course is just due to the twins just growing up. They’re 8 and in school, and are very active in out of school groups and activities: I just don’t see them as much or spend as much time with them as I used to, so there’s just less to write about.

DSCF5334There’s another reason however that I don’t spend as much time with them as I used to, and as much as I’d like to. I’ve alluded to it here a few times but have never written explicitly about it. I’ve always meant to, but there never seemed to be a ‘right time’ for it. There probably never is. Also I’ve always tried to be positive here, and present my experience of parenthood as a positive one, which it largely has been, and this particular aspect hasn’t been positive. In fact it’s been bloody difficult.

“C’mon, spill it man: out with it then!”. Alright; OK then! That sergeant-major is still in my head it seems: more about that another time maybe…

OK, so (deep breath): we’re separated, my wife and I. Have been for over 4 years now,  since Christmas 2013, about a year & a half after we moved here to Wales, soon after the twins started school, just as we were all set to move into the new family home – which I’d selected mainly as it’s almost literally over the fence from their school.

I’m not going to lie: it’s been, and is, difficult. Any readers of this blog will probably know that the twins were, and in many ways still are, my life. They’re the only thing in my life that has ever given it any meaning, really.

The reasons behind it? I’m not sure I will or even should go into that here. And that’s partly because I’m not really sure. I do know that statistically there is a higher than average divorce rate amongst parents of twins: it can be very stressful! “Double the trouble, double the fun.”

As for the future: who knows? We’re still officially married, and we even actually talk sometimes: amicably, mostly. We should probably do more of that sort of thing.

So, anyway, that’s my News. It’s out of the way, it’s off my chest. It’s not before time that I ‘came clean’ here; I probably should have a long time ago.

I’ve gone on long enough already; I’ll write more another time.

Thank you for reading, if you’ve stuck with me this far. More later 🙂

 

 

 

My Sunday Photo: Horsing Around!

 

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It may not be immediately obvious from this photo, but this is from Jake & Ellie’s first horse-riding session!

We have been taking them to dance (ballet & tap), gym & music classes. They went over the age limit for Monkey Music, they seemed a bit bored with the gym classes as they didn’t seem challenging enough, & although Ellie enjoyed the dancing Jake seemed less keen.

So when they turned 5 we decided that they were old enough to decide what they wanted to do, rather than what we thought they should do.

Jake chose Tae-Kwon-Do! I’m not sure how we found out about it, but there’s a great session at our local YMCA, & they’re both loving it. (There’s a funny story about that: ask me later…)

Ellie was mad to do horse-riding. So we did.

It was great! Sadly my ‘phone’s battery ran out just before they got on their horses, so I couldn’t get any more photos.

It took a long time to get going, which is OK as you’re dealing with animals & you have to get the health & safety right. Then they all lined up in the field on their magnificent ponies, our 2 first-timers especially looking very pleased with themselves.

We thought they’d just plod around the field, but they took to the streets! They all rode around country lanes for nearly an hour, & even broke into a trot!

Jake & Ellie both loved it; they were so happy when they came back!

We’re definitely planning to it again; the main problem of course is that it’s not cheap. Great fun though 🙂

6 Reasons Why You Should Get Started on Your Dream House Today!

It is good to have dreams, but at some point you have to take steps to make your dreams come true. Whether it is a big home on a large plot of land, a flat in the middle of London, or a modest cabin on the edge of a nature reserve, now is the time to find your dream home. If you have been dreaming about the home of your future, why not take steps to make your dream a reality?
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1. If you don’t start now, you might never start.         

Sure, it’s easier to sit back and be content with what you have. Maybe you are renting and you are simply complacent, paying the mortgage off for your landlord. The time to start reaching for your dream home is now. You will never be any younger or more motivated than you are today to start the process of getting into your dream home. Start investing in your own future by finding a property you love and making it your own.

2. Mortgage rates are at an all time low.    

Mortgage rates are incredibly low throughout the world and in Australia, rates are as low as 2%. With the expectation that home prices will remain stable and economic growth will occur in 2014, Australia is a great place to find your dream home and make your dreams come true. With the help of 1300 Home Loan you can own the home of you have always wanted. The only place for mortgage rates to go is up and as rates go up, home affordability goes down.

3. It is still a strong buyer’s market.            

Prices are stable throughout the world and buyer’s still have an advantage just about anywhere over home sellers. The markets have enough supply unless you are looking in a city such as London, and with lower mortgage rates homebuyers can purchase homes that were once considered above their means.

4. Foreclosures are still going strong.

Homeowners are still trying to get out of bad mortgages and are unable to keep their large homes. You will be able to get a better home for your money, but not for long. The rate of foreclosures is expected to decrease as the market continues to stabilize and the economy remains in a pattern of growth.

5. Confidence in continued economic growth is high.

No matter how you look at it, economic growth is happening and is expected to continue. We’ve all been living in a period of economic decline for years and the economy is taking a turn for the better. Home prices are low and only expected to rise. Job security is strengthening for employed workers and most experts agree that now is the time to buy for the best return in your investment over the years.

6. DIY Home Restoration and Interior Design Is Easier Than Ever

Whether you are tuned into HGTV or regularly check websites like Fine Home Building, the knowledge is out there on how to do redesign projects and make the changes you want for your dream home. It will save you money, so if you’re holding back because of a few thousand dollars, you can make up the money when it comes to the design aspect of your home.

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My personal circumstances have changed dramatically recently – more on this later! – so this is particularly relevant to me at the moment.

Written in collaboration with David Taylor, a finance writer from Leeds, England, who also spends time in Melbourne, Australia.

Blackberries

DSCF3876For the first 2 years of your lives we all lived together in our big house in the Midlands. The “big old house”, with the big old garden.

You don’t remember it. I do.

I remember how I was your full-time, stay-at-home Daddy. For your first year with Mummy, and for your second year by myself when Mummy went back to work, with reduced hours.

034I remember it all so well. You don’t.
Continue reading “Blackberries”

Tired, scared, sore, smelly & frozen!

I’ve had an eventful December, especially the last couple of weeks! I’m just now finding the time to write about it.

In less than 2 weeks  I’ve been in 3 car breakdowns, having to be towed each time. The last one  – Saturday – was on the hard shoulder of a busy dual carriageway just ahead of a slip road, in the dark & the cold.

With Jake & Ellie.
Continue reading “Tired, scared, sore, smelly & frozen!”

Saturday is a Moving Caption Day!

We’ve moved! Finally.

We’re still unpacking & moving stuff between the house & the garage, unpacking boxes, rearranging: all the usual stuff. (By the way, does anyone actually use their garage for cars anymore? They’re just storage space now aren’t they?)

It must be great being a child sometimes: anything is an opportunity for play.

Jake & Ellie both love hiding away in any nook or cranny they can find.

As part of “helping Daddy” Ellie decided to shut herself in the bookcase & “play shopkeepers”.

It’s worth paying her a visit: you can pick up a tasty doughnut for as little as 2p. On the other hand one of her luxury ice-creams might set you back a million hundred pounds!

So what do you think? Can you give this photo a fun caption? As ever I’d love to see what you come up with!

Our usual hostess with the mostest Mammasaurus is on her hol’s at the moment so today’s SatCap linky is being hosted over at “Yellow Days”.  Just click the link to see more SatCap posts or to join in. And, as ever, have fun!

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‘Silent Sunday’ but not a ‘Silent Sunday’ as the photo wasn’t taken in the last week so posting this as a ‘Silent Sunday’ would be cheating