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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My Sunday Photo 3/7/16: The Champ!

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OneDad3Girls

Magic

Sharing in the pure excitement, the joie de vivre, that Jake especially shows when he discovers a great new toy.

Magic.

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The look of ecstasy & elation when I compliment Ellie on her art, & tell her “You’re an Artist, Ellie!” as she responds” Really?! I could be an Artist, as a grown-up?!”

Magic.

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A parrot, & a mermaid in the sea: by Ellie (with some finishing touches by Daddy)

Jake repeatedly telling me: “I love you Daddy. You’re the best Daddy in the world. You’ll always be the best Daddy in the world.”

Magic.

Watching both of them grow, develop & mature, in so many ways.

Magic.

Hands-on, devoted parenting is really hard work, especially – if I may say so – with active, outgoing boy-girl twins.

But these Magic Moments are the pay-off: what all the hard work is for, when you realise it’s all been worth it: raising these two adorable, capable, wonderful children who I love so very much & who love me in return.

Magic. Pure Magic.

For more Magic Moments just click the pic:

Shhhh!

Jake, to me, 1 day last week, in hushed tones:

“Daddy, I love you both: I love Mummy too – but I love you the best”

😀

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Wot So Funee?

The Story Behind the Photo

Jake & Ellie, balloons, a clown, the seafront: that was my Silent Sunday Photo yesterday, & a lovely one too I think.

What is it they say? “A picture paints 1000 words”. There are definitely a few words behind this one!

The town we live in was having a ‘Seafront Festival’ , promising rides, stalls & entertainment. There were plenty of stalls alright, & good entertainment, but only 1 ‘ride’ – a sort of long soft-play bouncy castle. Probably just as well actually, as it was £2 for 5 minutes, & of course with us everything is x2!

After an oom-pah band the entertainment was this clown, a Mr T Ricks. He did a great show: he was funny, had great rapport with the kids, made some balloons then did a great ‘Punch & Judy’ show. The twins, & the many other children there, loved it.

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We then wandered off for an over-priced lunch in a nearby cafe, then it was back to the seafront where Jake & Ellie selected their promised “1 treat & 1 toy” – both small! – each, the deal which had been thrashed out in earlier negotiations.

Jake found an ‘Angry Birds’ Pez ,which he loved, & Ellie a slurpy licky sugary juicy thing, which she didn’t. They both decided on loud horns for their toys. Oh goody…

I’d forgotten my earplugs! They sounded a lot like Vuvuzelas.

I hate Vuvuzelas!

After getting ‘tattoos’  – free from the lovely Mr Ricks – they decided they wanted to see his show again.

We’d grabbed a couple of (small!) balloons on the way – Jake a Spiderman one, & Ellie an Elsa & Anna one from her beloved ‘Frozen’. They were helium but were wrapped around their wrists so they wouldn’t fly away.

They were sitting down enjoying the show when their balloons become tangled in the wind. I stepped in to untangle them but somehow in the process Ellie’s came loose & flew off up into the sky!

She was very upset. She cried!

The lovely Mr T Ricks noticed, & actually stopped his show for her! He called her up, & made a special balloon, just for her! It took quite a while, & all the time he was making a fuss of her. And it really was a special balloon – a green-stemmed big white flower with a red love-heart inside the petal!

She still missed her ‘Frozen’ balloon but was very happy with her new one. Mr Ricks sir – you are a star!

We then walked back ‘home’. I was leading the way carrying Ellie’s flower balloon, Jake his Spiderman one, & they were tooting on their horns nearly all the way. We were like a mini-parade, & I was a little surprised all the children within earshot didn’t try to fall in line with us! We certainly got noticed!

We paraded all the way to – strange but true – the Library!

They do a weekly reading & crafting session there, 1 of the twins’ favourite activities. They made sparkly fish, & did a ‘monster-hunt’ treasure trail, & really enjoyed it all.

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Some trees we prepared earlier!

A great day, including a real Magic Moment, courtesy of a very kind clown!

For more Magic Moments just click the pic:

Magic Moments

When they see me they are often madly excited. They run up to me shouting: “DADDY! DADDY! YOU’RE HERE!”.

It’s often difficult to park the car; I have to wait until I can herd them away. They want to touch my hand, greet me.

Jake especially is fond of telling me: “YOU’RE THE BEST DADDY IN THE WORLD!”

He’s quite fond of telling other people too!

More often than not they’ll insist on saying goodnight or goodbye with a big kiss & a big hug.

These indeed are the Magic Moments that make this parenthood thing worth it 🙂

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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”

The Gallery: New

New.

Where do I start?

We’ve had lots of ‘new’ here lately!
Continue reading “The Gallery: New”

A Special Treat

1-1-DSCN0762Usually the Mummy takes Jake & Ellie into pre-school in the mornings on the way to her work, but last Thursday she had to leave early so I was on duty.

They were fine; it was fine.

Walking up the alley towards our side-gate, Ellie turned & said to me “This is a treat!”

“Me taking you into school?”

“Yeah!”

She knows how to make her Daddy happy…

In the evening Jake independently drew his first letter: a big ‘C’ on the chalkboard, inspired by Clever Cat from the Letterland programme at pre-school!

I like to think he had extra inspiration of course from the “treat” of having Daddy take him to school…

For more Magic Moments just click the pic:

School, Work & Me

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School – even pre-school – changes things!

In April Jake & Ellie started pre-school on a trial basis for a few hours & a few days a week; this term they’re there for the full 5 days.

We’ve been exercising our option of taking them out at 1.15 rather than the full day to 3.30 but now they’re actually asking to stay on!
Continue reading “School, Work & Me”