We’ve had a lot of sun here lately. In fact over the last few days it’s been a bit too hot! I had trouble sleeping last night & had to keep the fan on, & I almost dread getting in the car for fear of being turned into a roast dinner!
And in case there are ever any doubts about my Britishness – I was after all born in New Zealand – here we are in the middle of a blazing sunny heat-wave, & I’m complaining about the weather!
(I love it, really…)
This being Wales though rain is never far away & this summer we’ve had our fair share.
Going outside in the wet stuff seems to bother me, & most adults, a lot more than it does my children!
During a recent shower Ellie insisted on going outside into the garden. And I insisted that she put on her raincoat.
Another creature who’s very fond of wetness is that little slimy thing beloved of all gardeners everywhere: the snail. We found millions of them! Mostly on the flowers, busily munching away of course.
We decided then that we would find as many of them as we could & put them in their new home.
We ended up having a lovely time! Ellie was giving each of her new pets their own names: first Daddy Snail, Mummy Snail, Jake Snail, then her friends, teachers, grandparents, cousins, aunts & uncles – anyone we could think of. It was a great little game!
She seemed really pleased with her little snail-house, full of her new pets!
I was also pleased that they were there & not eating up all the garden plants…
I really like Christmas. It’s sentimental, I know, but I just really like it.
I am hardly religious: I’d rather break bread with Dawkins than Desmond Tutu, to be honest.
And yes, I have all of the usual objections to consumerism, the commercialisation of an ancient religion; to the westernisation of a dead Palestinian press-ganged into selling Playstations and beer.
But I still really like it.
I’m looking forward to Christmas, ‘though I’m not expecting a visit from Jesus. I’ll be seeing my dad, my brother and sisters, my gran and my mum. They’ll be drinking white wine in the sun.
I don’t go in for ancient wisdom. I don’t believe just because ideas are tenacious it means that they’re worthy. I get freaked out by churches: some of the hymns that they sing have nice chords but the lyrics are dodgy.
And yes, I have all of the usual objections to the mis-education of children who, in tax-exempt institutions, are taught to externalise blame, and to feel ashamed and to judge things as plain right and wrong.
But I quite like the songs.
I’m not expecting big presents. The old combination of socks, jocks and chocolate is just fine by me, ‘cos I’ll be seeing my dad, my brother and sisters, my gran and my mum. They’ll be drinking white wine in the sun.
And you, my baby boy & girl, my jet-lagged infant son & daughter: you’ll be handed around the room like puppies at a primary school. And you won’t understand, but you will learn someday that wherever you are and whatever you face these are the people who’ll make you feel safe in this world, my sweet wide-eyed twins.
And if, my sweet babies, when you’re 21 or 31, and Christmas comes around and you find yourself 9000 miles from home you’ll know whatever comes your brother and sister and me and your mum will be waiting for you in the sun. Whenever you come your brother and sister, your aunts and your uncles, your grandparents, cousins and me and your mum, we’ll be waiting for you in the sun.
Drinking white wine in the sun, darlings, when Christmas comes we’ll be waiting for you in the sun, drinking white wine in the sun, waiting for you in the sun, waiting for you…
I really like Christmas. It’s sentimental, I know…
Not my words – I wish! – they’re by the brilliant Australian comedian / musician / all-round good-guy Tim Minchin from his song ‘White Wine in the Sun’. I’ve only editted them for repetition & a little personalisation, but I really couldn’t have expressed what Christmas means to me much better!
Women’s Issues have featured prominently in previous campaigns also & remain at the forefront of our thinking: The Gallery: Motherhood
Transport. Our policy of sticking cute twin toddlers on trikes & leaving them to it has had a few teething problems & is still in the formative stage, I will admit. Yes, mistakes have been made – but at least you know that your Candidate is an honest Candidate! And, rest assured, good people of Bloggonia: my team & I remain fully committed to our goal of getting more children on trikes as soon as is practicable.
Bringing People Together In Love & Unity is what we’re about here at the Whiskey For Aftershave campaign HQ! We admire & promote togetherness even from birth, & we encourage & highlight the importance of hugging & kissing – things we could do all do with more of, I think you’ll agree.
Overseas Aid. I have tried to highlight the needs of those less fortunate than ourselves & who have been affected by, for instance, earthquakes & famine & have tried to encourage giving aid where possible.
So, my good people, in Summary: a Vote for Me is a vote for Fun, a vote for Cuteness & Laughs, for Healthy Living Through Bubbles, a Vote for Hugging & Kissing & Spreading the Love, for Families & Music & Dancing!
And free Whiskey. Don’t forget the free Whiskey. For Everyone. Which you can even use for Aftershave.
Love & kisses from your friend & Candidate,
While I blog for fun & as a record of my beloved twins’ progress, it would be a nice bonus to at least be nominated in a category or 2, like Family Fun or Family Life. And today is the last day for voting in the MADS, so if you plan to vote you should do it now! Just click on the pic above 🙂
The meme is very simple: name your first / worst / best / last / dream gig, and select a song from each act to add to Musodad’s Spotify playlist. And I’m incorporating it into my regular Music Monday post, so I hope nobody minds my sticking some music vids on here as well.
I’m not entirely sure about this one, but I think my first gig was probably Split Enz in a small indoor venue in my home town of Christchurch, New Zealand. For those who don’t know Split Enz were a NZ art-rock band known for their glitzy outfits & quirky style. I loved them then & still do now. Their main man was Tim Finn, older brother of fellow band-member Neil who went on to form the more well-known Crowded House. The gig was televised & my main memory of it is watching myself leave at the end in my favourite & I thought oh-so-cool shiny brown vinyl jacket. Thankfully there are no photos.
Track added: My Mistake. I’m pretty sure they played it there, & it’s a great, odd little song.
My first big gig was probably the great Mr David Bowie at Christchurch’s QEII Stadium. It remains one of my all-time favourite gigs. At the time major international acts on a world tour would gig in Australia & if we were lucky do a night in Auckland, both of which were out of my young reach. Bowie – & he was huge at the time – was one of the few to venture south to smaller NZ cities & for this he will forever have my love.
Worst gig:Zero 7, Brighton Pavilion Dome Theatre
I struggled with this one. I don’t think I’ve ever been to a gig I would call bad. I adore Zero 7 & their music & they played beautifully here, from what I could hear. And there’s the problem: it was totally spoilt for us by massed ranks of drunken kids who did nothing but shout through the whole thing as if they were down the pub. Zero 7’s music is mostly quiet, slow, chilled, wonderfully relaxing & scintillating beautiful. It’s the very last sort of music that you don’t listen to & shout at your mates over. I really don’t know what the hell they were doing there. I asked the bloke behind me, actually quite politely, if they could be a bit quieter & I heard them plotting to ‘get me’ at the end. We asked to be moved but it was the same in the new seats. A gig my wife & I had been so looking forward to was utterly ruined for us.
Track added: The Space Between, 1 of my all-time favourite songs
Best gig:U2, Wembley Stadium
Yes, I know: U2, Bono, probably loved & hated in equal measure. They just happen to be my all-time favourite band, & I plan a post sometime about how they helped keep me sane in the 90s. I love their passion! So I guess this makes me very uncool – which is good as I’ve never tried to be cool. Apart from wearing haute-couture shiny brown vinyl jackets, obviously.
For me live music will never get better than this, & I will never go to a gig that rivals this one: this was once-in-a-lifetime, a dream come true. It was at the height of their Zooropa / Zoo TV tour, following on from the success of their great album ‘Achtung Baby!’. The opening acts Aztec Camera & PJ Harvey were worth the ticket price alone, & the set was astonishing. Huge, overwhelming light displays synched to the music. Massed banks of screens, many of which were screening live random TV, which Bono used during the show & which allowed a virtual duet with Lou Reed on ‘Satellite of Love’. A massive catwalk for Bono & the boys to prance around on & which was used for the more intimate, acoustic songs. Naomi Campbell guest-starring & filming with a hand-held vidcam linked to 1 of the big screens. A ‘phone call to Salman Rushdie soon after he had received his fatwa, who then answered from within the crowd. Fantastic, overwhelming, a concept gig! But most importantly, of course, the music. U2 are simply the best live act I’ve ever seen, & for me can’t be rivalled. If I had to choose 1 day to take to my grave with me – up until the birth of my twins – this would be it.
Track added: Where the Streets Have No Name. Probably the gig’s highpoint (along with ‘One’), & another of my all-time favourite songs.
Last gig: Faithless, Birmingham NIA
Still the only gig I’ve gone to since becoming a Dad, & a fantastic one, one of the best. Faithless are one of my favourite bands, & I had heard they were terrific live. So when I saw that they were gigging in nearby Birmingham I knew I had to try & go see them, even though the twins were only 9 months old. I did, & I wasn’t disappointed – they were fantastic. I did a rather gushy, slightly drunken review of the gig on my other blog, including scratchy live audio of most of it. I really should try to get out more!
Track added: Insomnia, 1 of their great dance anthems &, for me, the gig’s highlight
Dream gig: Pink Floyd
For this I mostly thought of regrets: gigs I should have gone to, or at least tried to get to, & didn’t: Dylan in 2010, Led Zep when they reformed for the Ahmet Ertegun Tribute Concert, Massive Attack when they gigged in Brighton & I somehow didn’t know about it. But the one that really got away & is still achievable, although sadly with a different drummer, is Pink Floyd, musical heroes since my youth. There’s never been anyone like the Floyd & never will be, another of the great live acts.
Track added: The Great Gig in the Sky. Well it had to be really, eh Musodad? The electrifying ‘song without words’, the last track of side one (yes, I had the vinyl LP!) of ‘The Dark Side of the Moon’.
This is the bit where I’m supposed to tag a few people to do the meme, but to be honest I wouldn’t know where to start – except I’m going to see if I can once again tempt the terrific Daddacool to break his meme ban! So whoever is reading this then consider yourself tagged, OK?
You must post the rules
The only rule of the blog memes is that you don’t talk about the blog memes
Thank the blogger who has awarded you and link back to them.
Post 12 (7) fun facts about yourself in the blog post
Answer the questions the tagger has set for you in their post and then create 12 new questions for the fellow bloggers you plan to tag
Tag 12 (5) people and link to them on your blog
Let them know you tagged them
It’s just possible that I might have made up 1 of the above rules
OK? Let’s go:
12 Fun Facts
1) “Fun facts about me” is probably an oxymoron
2) I like to use fancy-sounding, often obscure & sometimes completely made-up words to make myself seem more cleverer than I really am.
3) I like irony but I hate ironing
4) I have scars on my left forearm & left knee (bike crash*), right knee (surgery after a rugby injury) & the palm of my left hand (trying to open a can with a staysharp knife). It’s just occurred to me that my scars probably represent my life in microcosm…
5) Somehow, somewhen I my fractured left clavicle (collar-bone) & now have ruptured shoulder tendons as a result. I’ve had this for at least 4 years. It causes acute pain & restricted movement in arm & shoulder, both worsening. I was going to go into a rant about how shitty my local NHS hospital were in taking over a year in diagnosis & then – it appears – deliberately preventing me from having the op I need. And about how I think that this sort of thing is indicative of how the NHS badly needs radical reform, & how I have a deep, intense & entirely justified dislike of NHS Managers & some admin staff. But then I remembered the ‘fun’ facts thing. So I won’t. Although I was going to refer you back to fact no. 1…
6) I use ‘fun facts about me’ memes to have a moan about my bad shoulder & the failings of the NHS.
7) As well as my home town of Christchurch, New Zealand (yes, the one flattened by the massive earthquakes last year) I have lived in Chicago & Atlanta, USA; Brentwood, Essex; Wood Green, Green Lanes & Lewisham in London; Brighton in Sussex & Erdington, Birmingham. I am also about to move to south Wales from my current home near Birmingham
8) I regularly played club rugby with a bloke who went on to win the Rugby World Cup. Playing in my position, on the wing. And he wasn’t even quick back then! I’ve always thought that it should have been me. I’d hate him with a passion but he seems like a pretty decent bloke.
9) I sort-of hold the New Zealand 100m sprint record for under-14 boys. I always will as they changed the age criteria just after I broke it! 11.7 seconds, in case you’re wondering.
10) I used to write film reviews for a company magazine, & had my own film reviews website back when the word “blog” was just a twinkle in its creators’ eyes.
11) I once spent £100 on a taxi ride from London to Dorset. I was determined to visit my cousin & his family there for Christmas, I didn’t drive & I didn’t know that public transport virtually disappears on Christmas Eve. I think that may have been the best Christmas present that that cabbie ever had!
12) My 2-year-old son can Beat-Box. FACT
12) I am unusually anarchistic in my attitude towards numbered lists. And I believe that any number greater than 12 isn’t really worth bothering with.
*I’d say “bike accident” but it had more to do with stupidity than anything ‘accidental’. I was young…
12 Answers to 12 Questions
1) Where is the most memorable place you’ve ever been? Skinny-dipping with my wife on my birthday in a hot pool in minus 10 degrees on a mountain in Iceland
2) If you could change the end of any film, which would it be and how would you change it? Mamma Mia. The end should be scrapped entirely. As long as ‘its end’ is defined as starting exactly 1 microsecond after its beginning.
3) What would be your dream job? Getting to scrap the ‘ends’ of really bad films
4) What is your favourite smell? I love the smell of burning celluloid in the morning
5) What is your greatest extravagance? Cream in my coffee. Several times a day. Every day
6) If you could be a condiment, what would you be and why? Salsa. Because people like to say “salsa”
7) Where do you stand on the dunking of biscuits? I stand as close to the biscuits as I can, so I can eat them
8) My colleagues Lee and Fran are being cheeky; which one should I slap? I cannot condone violence of any kind in any way. But you could slip laxatives into their coffees. They are both really annoying
9) What is your favourite scary movie? Mamma Mia. Anything so utterly execrable & yet so popular makes me fear for humanity 😉
10) If you had to read one book from your school days once more, which would it be and why? My head says George Orwell‘s ‘1984’ but I think I’d find it too depressing to have confirmed how accurate were so many of its predictions for our society. I’d go with my heart then & reread ‘Puppet on a Chain’ by Alistair MacLean; because I remember enjoying it.
11) How much of your life did you spend on this meme? For this post I have carried out exhaustive research, both online & at the Library. I have searched my soul, wrung my hands & probed my conscience in anguish over & over again. I have lost track of the vast investments of time & energy I have made in the writing of these words.
12) Was it worth it, or do you hate me now? My life will never now be the same! And yes I do, but only on Mondays.
12 questions for the next victims participants to answer.
1) Would you describe yourself as a ‘glass half-full’, ‘glass half-empty’, ‘just grateful to have a glass’ or ‘why isn’t this glass chrystal? And full of Cristal?’ type of person? And why?
2) How important to you in your blog writing is correct grammar, punctuation & spelling?
3) Jedward: Evolutionary throwback or the future of mankind?
4) While writing this post I came to see that my life could be, somewhat crudely, summarised by my scars. Have you had any unusual insights into your life recently, & if so what? (That question almost sounds as if it could have come straight out of ‘Blind Date’. Sorry).
5) What are your pet hates?
6) What in your life most brings you joy?
7) Do you move around a lot, like me, or have you mainly lived in the same place?
8) Do you have a “It shoulda been me!” story? And if so, what is it?
9) What is your main claim to fame?
10) How long have you been blogging & what prompted you to start?
11) What is the most extravagant purchase you’ve ever made, not counting house or car?
12) If you were to enter Britain’s Got Talent what would your talent be?
If you feel that you have better things to do with your time I fully understand, & I apologise if you’ve already been tagged or even made a post for any of the memes that seem to be going around at the moment.
In the wake of New Zealand’s magnificent & long-overdue World Cup victory I’m delighted to see that my twins are getting into rugby!
They’re both doing well with their communication: Ellie’s very good at saying words & she learns quickly, while Jake’s pronunciation isn’t as good but he is a better over-all communicator & is really good at signing.
So Ellie can say “rugby” pretty clearly, whereas Jake has a go but can sign not only “rugby” but also “rugby kit”.
Ellie can catch a rugby ball (albeit from a height of about an inch); Jake can’t yet but is very good at throwing it. So between them they make a pretty decent player!
They’re both pretty good at picking up the ball & running with it, usually with the other in pursuit. I must admit though I’m not used to rugby players finding it all so hilarious & laughing hysterically as they run!
The ball-carrier often ends up on the ground, with the other piling on top: proper little rugby players! Although I usually have to penalise them for not releasing the ball or not staying on their feet…
All in all Jake & Ellie have made this rugby-loving Daddy a very proud & happy man.
The theme this week for Tara Cain’s Gallery over at Sticky Fingers: “Education”. Interesting one!
She’s had the brilliant idea (suggested to her by a twitter friend) of making a BLOGGER YEAR BOOK. Unfortunately I don’t have any old school photos; I think they’re all with my Mum for safe-keeping on the other side of the world. Probably just as well, for me anyway!
I do have this photo ‘though:
I’ve mentioned my Dad here before, how he passed away in 2004. He was born & educated in Northumberland, for all of my childhood & as a young adult growing up in New Zealand a place I knew very little about. I felt I knew very little about him as a young man & about his roots & his early life.
So when in January 2008 I found myself in Newcastle I took the opportunity to go on a Quest to find out more about the most important man in my life, my Dad.
All I knew was that he was the son of a Cornish miner who moved north to mine coal, that he grew up in Ashington & that he attended Morpeth Grammar School. After some asking around I managed to track down what used to be his school. Most of it had been rebuilt, & it was no longer a Grammar School. The staff there though were brilliant: when I told them why I was there they were fantastically helpful. They gave me full access to their archives, letting me stay there as long as I liked. After a lot of digging I came across the above, my Dad’s actual School Register, also School Rolls: fantastic! No report cards ‘though, unfortunately. It was so amazing to get a glimpse of his distant childhood, a time that was so important to him & that I knew so very little about.
From there I even got his house address & was able to zoom off to Ashington, to see the place where he was born & raised. I could almost see him there, it was so rich with history. I took so many photos that the current occupant got very suspicious & came out to ask me what on Earth I was doing. Can’t say I blame him, really!
I’m so glad that I was able to in some small way connect with him & his roots in this way! And all because I knew the name of the school where he was educated.
So who’s the teacher’s pet? Who’s been sent to the Headmaster’s office for a ‘chat’? For more educated Gallery posts why not head over to Sticky Fingers (click the pic):
Warning: this is not a cheerful post. Some people may find its content disturbing.
My Dad was English; he grew up in Ashington, Northumberland, a miner’s son. He emigrated to New Zealand when in his early teens, in search of a better life. I like to think he found it. I seem to have returned the Mother Country’s compliment: I hope it was a fair trade. He met my Mum there, a Dunedin woman of Scottish descent; her grandparents were Glaswegian.
They married, settled & raised a family – us – in Christchurch. Yes: Christchurch. That Christchurch, the one that’s been on the telly & in the news.
My home town. New Zealand’s 2nd largest city. Where I spent the first 25 years of my life.
It used to be “The Garden City”, full of beautiful gardens, parks & rivers.
It used to be known as a world centre of rugby: the dominant ‘Super’ rugby team, the Crusaders, were based there; it’s produced many many great All-Blacks.
It used to be known as the gateway to some of the world’s most beautiful scenic & adventure, & more recently ‘The Lord of the Rings‘, locations; & the main air-link to Antarctica.
Now it’s ‘that place where they had the earthquake’.
147 dead, including a 7-month-old baby, many still missing. There were people in that beautiful Cathedral spire: none came out alive. Much of the city centre is rubble; bodies lying, covered, in the streets as rescue squads concentrated on trying to save those trapped in the wreckage. Most of the city without water, much without power.
Flooding, landslides, houses destroyed by falling rocks. Many streets impassable due to cracks & liquefaction. Outbreaks of gastroenteritis due to poor sanitation. Hospitals overflowing, the injured flown to hospitals all over the country. Rescue squads flying in from all over the world, the military drafted in, tanks in the streets.
These things happen in ‘other countries’: China, Haiti, Bangladesh, Thailand. Not in quiet little old New Zealand, not in my beautiful home town, my Christchurch.
I feel as if a part of my life has been ripped away from me, forever; like I’ve lost a piece of my heart. And I have, really.
Kiwis, no matter where they are in the world, always retain a sense of place, of origin, an eternal identification with their home country. We will never forget the community spirit that NZ often enjoys, that is rarely found in older, bigger countries. My fellow ex-pat ‘Vegemitevix’ has expressed this far better than I ever could. Right now the whole nation is pulling together to help, regional differences forgotten.
As a school-boy I cycled past the beautiful Avon River 10 times a week for 7 years, past a much-used & much-loved old wooden footbridge, a local landmark . We used to hang out there on weekends. It was destroyed in the September ‘quake, then rebuilt. The may need to do it again.
When I left home & started work I cycled into work along the smooth well-maintained streets
then into work. (The red & yellow ‘Post Office’ sign on the left, below? I worked there for 2 years; my first job)
On sunny days, of which there were many, I’d often eat my lunch in the spacious & beautiful Cathedral Square, the city’s beating heart; many times on the Cathedral’s steps. Mostly rubble there now.
I used to love to visit a city landmark near my flat, even attending services there: the city’s beautiful Catholic Basilica:
So much destruction, so much death, so many lives ruined.
I’m just thankful that the friends & family I have there are unharmed. I’m also aware that many were not so fortunate.
A cousin’s son worked in the CTV building, until just a few months ago when he left to start his own business. Post-quake he was up all night trying to do what he could there for any of his former colleagues. There were no survivors.
I’m grieving for my devastated city & its people. So much of what comprised 25 years of my life: gone. And a part of me with it. Christchurch will survive, of that I am sure. But it will never be the same – and neither will I.
The New Zealand Prime Minister has set up an international Christchurch Earthquake Appeal. If you’d like to donate you can do so here
I’m sorry for the change of tone in this blog; I had to ‘get this off my chest’. Normal service will be resumed as soon as possible.