misc

New babies

Congratulations to Paul and Jude, whose new baby boy Timon arrived safely.

Also congratulations to my other friend Paul and his wife Awo, whose son Elliot (not directly named after me, but I still take it as something of a compliment he has the same name as me), was born about 10 days ago.

(I avoid putting birthdays online because I am paranoid :)

Poetry and other texts

Everybody writes some poetry, some time; usually when they're a teenager. I spent a lot of time writing poetry (I prefer to call them "texts") when I was at University. Was any of it any good? Mostly, no. But occasionally there was good stuff. I frequently toy with the idea of putting it online. Very few people have read it. At University I was part of a writer's group. We did a couple of public readings, and even released a tape of the group doing readings of their stuff. I spent some time compiling my poems into a set for submission, but have never got round to it.

Anyway, I thought I would put a few up, mainly for posterity, for myself. They say something about me, I think. They capture a point in time when I was quite confused about most things. I was (literally) nocturnal, and had a warped, self-obsessed view of the universe. I invented a whole host of characters for my fiction and poetry. I wrote it all very quickly, with very little editing, being heavily influenced by Dada and Surrealism, the whole stream of consciousness thing. Towards the end of my writing "career" I had moments of lucidity, where I would write something which seemed near perfect. There are hopefully a few moments like this in the stuff I'm going to put up here. My decision to do this is partly due to Chloe putting her poems online. You can ignore them if you want: just don't click on the texts link in the left menu.

In London

I have never liked London. There, I've said it. It smells funny (I think there's an open sewer near my hotel), the water is brown, the tubes are far too crowded, it's ridiculously expensive, everywhere is hot, and people rush around like the world is due to end.

Come to Birmingham, our water's lovely.

I'm at LinuxWorld tomorrow (in fact, in about 7 hours), so I'd better go to sleep now. By the way, I wouldn't recommend the Hilton: the "broadband" in the hotel is appalling, and clocks in at about 40Kbps. The reception on the TV is crap. I've only got one towel. There's no herbal tea! Breakfast better be something special...

Secret Fun Spot

Entertaining novelty toys, retro posters, and nostalgia. I particularly like this section, including a breakdancing book with Mr. T on the cover.

(This one's for you, sis.)

Haven Holiday

Over the weekend, we (me, Nicola, Madeleine) went on a Haven Holiday. I wouldn't normally, but we got it cheap by collecting coupons in the Sun (I don't read that, by the way, I just bought it enough times for the coupons. Honest.). It cost about £80 for three nights, and we stayed in a caravan on Presthaven Sands (in North Wales). It's a great holiday for children: they had shows for the children in the evening, an inflatable slide, trampolines, dodgems, merry-go-round, playground, soft play, indoor swimming pool, walking distance to the beach, amusement arcade (Madeleine enjoyed the machines where you flick 10p pieces at a moving conveyor belt covered with prize squares - land on a square, you win that amount). Bingo for the adults and cabaret (we didn't see it, but the first night Eastern Promise were playing). A most enjoyable time was had by all. Here are some pictures of characters from the shows (a slightly twee maelstrom of europop and miming by people in furry costumes, but Madeleine enjoyed it). Here's Greedy the Gorilla:

And here are the other members of the Tigerpops team, Rory the Tiger and Anxious the Elephant:

(Sorry about the picture quality: it was dark in there.)

I should have also mentioned: during the holiday, Madeleine went down an enormous water slide on her own. This wasn't our intention: Nicola was going to go down with Madeleine on her lap, but the lifeguard wouldn't allow it. Nicola asked Madeleine if she wanted to go down on her own, and Madeleine said yes. Nicola said she felt sick. It must have been about 15 feet off the ground, going round in a loop perhaps 45 feet, and with a foot of water in the bottom. I wasn't sure; I waited at the bottom of the slide. Madeleine started off on her back, and by the time she had reached me she was on her front, head-first. She went under the water and I scooped her out. But it didn't phase her at all.

She also went on an inflatable slide. Here she is on her way down:

As you can see, it didn't phase her in the slightest!

Certificate of posting

A tip for people sending off packages frequently (I do when I sell stuff on Amazon). Rather than pay for recorded delivery or the like, get a pad of Certificates of Posting from the post office (I get mine for free). These prove you posted something, so if someone disputes you did post their parcel, you've got proof you sent it, and it doesn't cost you anything.

Update: my sister thinks this is bleeding obvious, but if it took me 34 years to work it out, I'm sure there are a few other people in the dark out there.

Another update: here's a link to my sister's blog: http://www.peskyproductions.com/.

Inland Revenue

I am officially self-employed, and last week attended a workshop at the local tax office on "Becoming Self-Employed". It's worth a mention because it's a really good course which cleared up a lot of my confusion. I'm going to another this week on filling out your self-assessment tax form. They courses are free and available at all local tax offices, so if you haven't already, get along to one if you're self-employed.

Madeleine 2006-09-26

Madeline yesterday harvested her first crops: radishes. We bought the seed in Devon, she helped fill the pots with compost, she sowed the seeds, helped me water them, picked them, and washed them. Here's what they looked like:

There are plenty more, but those are the ones which were ready yesterday. Radishes are great: these took perhaps 6 weeks to mature (inside a cold frame outdoors), so you get quick gratification (useful for a child).

In grammar news: interesting to notice Madeleine is starting to pick up the irregular past tenses of some verbs. For a long time, she's been saying things like "catched" instead of "caught". But now she has started correcting herself, so she might say "I catched it. I caught it."

Another interesting development is that she is really getting into narratives, to the point where she will discuss what she is doing in the third person: she will say "She is putting her shoes on" when she is putting her own shoes on. She is also becoming adept at telling stories, and has grasped a lot about what makes a story.

Dr. Seuss is still popular on the reading list, but she has shown the first signs of finding something a bit spooky: there's a story about a pair of trousers with nobody in them (called What Was I Scared Of?). She doesn't like reading this at all, and one evening spent about 10 minutes worrying about it: "It's nothing to be scared of. It's just trousers." I think she was trying to convince herself.

Current favourite games: shopping is still popular, but we now also have a range of word games, such as:

  • Funny animals: make up an animal ("What about...an elephant with butterfly wings?"). My favourite of Madeleine's so far is "What about...Humpty Dumpty with a goat's eyes?".
  • Nice recipe/horrible recipe: Madeleine likes to start with nice recipes, and invariably starts off with "What about...beans on toast?". Horrible recipes might include "shampoo on toast", "porridge with fingernail cuttings sprinkled on top", to the more surreal "car with book on it".

Birthday

It was my birthday last week. Had a nice time, my favourite meal (vegetarian red enchiladas with black olives), a delicious lemon drizzle cake made by Nicola, got the first series of A Bit of Fry and Laurie on DVD (fantastic), Urban Gardener (book from Madeleine), a new top, some hazelnut-flavoured coffee, a book about being a writer, a pen radio, and some splayds. No, I hadn't heard of them until last week either. Here's a picture:

Very useful. I often bemoan the fact that the plaucer never took off (that's what I called it, anyway: a combo plate and saucer, useful for dinner parties: holds your drink securely and your food alongside; though you can get those cup-side drinks holders, I suppose). The plaucer and splayd together would be a mighty combo and turn anyone into a stand-up dinner party warrior.

Madeleine 2006-08-19

One of Madeleine's current favourite games is changing the first letters of words in songs she's singing. One of her favourite songs for this is the one that starts "Point to the ceiling, point to the floor, point to the window, point to the door...". Which she sings as "Boint to the beeling, boint to the boor, boint to the bindow, boint to the boor...".

The idea of "jokes" has entered her consciousness. Of course, she doesn't understand them or what makes them funny, but she still says "Let's tell jokes". Her first joke was: "Q: Why do cows have bells? A: Because their horns don't work."

She has invented a game called The Cucumber Game: she holds two fists out, unfurls the fingers of one hand, then the other hand; places her hands palm-down on the table; then claps her hands together horizontally (like a crocodile snapping its mouth shut).

A slightly perturbing advance is that she now makes the Sign of the Devil (holding out little finger and forefinger while folding middle two fingers in). I'm not sure who taught her this. Probably learned it at pre-school. Probably a rap thing.

She is now going through the night without wetting the bed (most nights), though we have to get her up at 11.00 to go for a wee (on the potty). Fortunately, she does this almost without waking up.

Madeleine watched her first film all the way through tonight (2006-08-19). It was called Madeline. It's not a great film, but OK (Frances McDormand is in it). Madeleine has the first Madeline book, which she really likes, and I think she realised the connection between the book and the film. I felt a bit concerned and protective as there were some scary clown scenes and moments of "peril", but she coped really well. At the end (at about 7.45pm, past her usual bedtime), she said "Can I go to sleep now?" and turned the TV off without me having to ask her. I think she enjoyed it. The Chocolate Buttons helped.

Has entered the "Why?" phase, and continually questions everything you do or say. Has also discovered saying "Owww!" when you tell her she can't do what she wants to.

Current favourite toy is Duplo. She likes making bunk beds, swimming pools, houses with stairs. She also likes playing shops. She really likes books (still), though for some reason she really loves Beatrix Potter books (in the original, long-winded, arcane-language form - I don't even know what some of the words mean - what the hell is "goffering", for instance? - [turns out it means "pressing ridges or creases into clothes with an iron"]).

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