Counting Down the Hours

I have a couple of hours left at work before I stop for Christmas. Of course “at work” is a bit of a stretch – I really mean “sitting in the junk room in front of the computer”. I’ve been sitting here for eighteen months now.

I think perhaps of all the people I know, I was among the most suited to working from home. If I ever do pull the trigger and call Automattic about working for WordPress, at least I know I’ll have no problem with it.

(half an hour passes while I defuse an escalating argument with the kids)

Back again. I’m going to write a parenting guide book one day. It will probably have a single page, with some bullet points on it – among them:

  1. You will always be wrong.
  2. You will be accused of doing things you didn’t do.
  3. Very little you do will be appreciated.
  4. Do your best.
  5. Good luck.

That’s about it really.


On a normal working day I would have commercial radio playing in the background, but virtually every station on the planet seems to be playing back-to-back Christmas songs at the moment. There’s only so many times you can hear Perry Como before dark thoughts start to take over your world.

I signed up for a trial subscription to Amazon music a few moments ago – which will give me free music on-tap throughout the Christmas and New Year period. At the moment Lady Gaga and Tony Bennet are singing “Love for Sale”. I just need to remember to cancel the subscription before they start billing me.

My other half has shut herself in our bedroom for the afternoon – trying to get the majority of the wrapping done to avoid the usual 1am panic. Fingers crossed. At least now the kids are getting older, the pile of presents for each is getting smaller. In truth, they don’t really want for much, so presents have become a little more thoughtful, and useful. I was asked what I might like for Christmas, and apart from an instant reaction of “a day off”, I just said chocolate. You can’t go wrong with chocolate.

I think it’s probably coffee o’clock. If I don’t get chance after this to wish you good tidings, I’ll do so now.

Merry Christmas, all the hugs, and best wishes for the coming year. May I find you happy and healthy on the flipside.


Becoming Santa Claus

After a night of broken sleep – caused no doubt by the COVID booster injection I received yesterday afternoon – I got up this morning and set out on a rather important mission.

A little after 9am I entered the gates of the infant school in the centre of town, and was ushered through reception by the staff to a side room where a large bag awaited me. A large bag containing warm red clothes with white fur edging, an enormous belt, a huge floppy red hat with a white pom-pom on the end, enormous shiny black boots, a lustrous white beard, curly white hair, and a tiny pair of reading spectacles.

Five minutes later a member of staff returned to fetch the important guest, and the awaiting parent helpers gasped. Santa Claus himself had arrived in the school hall to take up position in a cosy armchair by the Christmas tree, surrounded by sacks of presents.

At this point the school fell into a well practiced routine that had been briefed several days previously. Santa Claus would be asleep in the chair, with an elf at his feet. The children of the infant school would assemble in the hall silently (to not wake him), and sing a Christmas song to wake him up.

Santa waited until the third line before rousing from my slumber, rubbed his eyes, blinked, and… oh my word. The power of several hundred young children’s faces smiling is really quite special. One or two of them waved secretly – peeking out from behind friend’s shoulders. Mr Claus waved back to delighted smiles.

Moments later there were sacks full of presents being handed to volunteers from each class – with very proud little ones marching forwards to receive them.

As the children filed back out to their classrooms they stole more smiles and waves – a steady stream of happiness, goodwill, and whispered excitement. After everything had died down, a young lady with special needs came forward to meet Santa on her own – hiding behind her teacher’s legs, and peeking out after a few moments to wave.

You know the funny thing? When I agreed to take this on, I really wasn’t sure about doing it. I don’t find being the centre of attention easy. And yet it WAS easy, because I wasn’t “me” – I was Santa Claus. I’m sure actors can write at length about hiding inside the part they are playing.

On the way home my daughter (who played an Elf, visiting from the North Pole with me) said:

“How did you do that Santa voice?”

“What do you mean?”

“Well it sounded just like Santa!”

“That’s because it WAS Santa!”

A huge smile cracked across her face, and we carried on along our way.


Long Time No Write

Somehow a week has passed since the last blog post. I can’t remember the last time that happened. I suppose I should really fall back on the John Lennon quote – “life is what happens while you’re making other plans”. I sometimes wonder if the quotes you commonly see attributed to various people are true – if they really said what people claim.


There’s not much to report, which perhaps indicates why there have been no blog posts. Work has continued as it always does, the chores have continued as they always do, and our family is largely surviving from day to day as it always seems to. I sometimes wonder if there might be some value in inventing a time machine, travelling into the past, and telling myself “one day you will have a family, and will struggle to make ends meet for several years in a row – but don’t worry – you’ll always manage it somehow”.

This morning my middle daughter took part in the 5K “Santa Fun-Run” around town, and then continued on to play rugby where she scored a try. I on the other hand stood in the cold to watch her run past while minding my younger daughter who is on crutches at the moment (long story – read the blog a few weeks ago). My other half wrapped up like an eskimo and waited in the park for middle daughter to finish the run. Our eldest holed herself up in the junk room at home playing a bizarre Manga inspired video game called “Catherine” about a guy having strange dreams about girls trying to kill him – or at least that’s what I could make of it.

The clock just ticked past 10pm and I’ve switched the dishwasher on for the second time today. In a few minutes I’m loading the washing machine for the third time today. It just seems to be like this at the moment. I get a few minutes – usually after getting into bed – to catch up with friends inside my mobile phone.

Hopefully the world will slow down soon. I woke up the other morning with a stiff neck, and a book propped on my chest.



After going into surgery to repair her broken leg on Monday morning, Miss 16 came home on Tuesday afternoon. For the next few days she has swapped bedrooms with her older sister – who’s bedroom is downstairs. While she can in-theory walk on the repaired leg, doing so is as much a matter of confidence as pain management.

She’s on the maximum dose of paracetamol and ibuprofen at the moment – taking them on a strict schedule throughout the day. As the days roll by we will be reducing them, then eradicating them entirely.

Most of yesterday was spent hobbling around the house on crutches – trying out strategies for doing things on her own. Simple tasks such as going to the toilet have become a logistical exercise that have informed clothing decisions in the interests of making life easy. Making a cup of tea is still out-of-reach due to the unexpected barrier of retrieving an opened milk bottle from the fridge and carrying it to the kitchen counter without spilling it (we have milk in glass bottles – we still live in the 1950s).

Yesterday evening, confounding all of us, she visited Rugby practice. Not to play obviously – just to show her face. I imagine there was a fair amount of attention seeking going on, but the reaction of the coaches and players was fantastic. Some of them couldn’t believe what they were seeing having witnessed the injury on Sunday – only three days before.

In other news, I bit the bullet late yesterday and started out on a task that I’ve been meaning to do for several years but avoided due to the drudgery of it – resetting all of my online passwords. I now have no idea what any of the passwords are for any of the services I use. I do however know the master password – not written down anywhere – for a database in the cloud containing the passwords.

It took hours. You really don’t appreciate how many accounts you accrue around the internet until you re-visit them all. I’m sure there are more – I used the browser as my guide. Most modern internet browsers can compare logons against hacked databases to tell you how many of your passwords are out there in the wild.


My coffee break is coming to an end. Time to post these words to the internet, and retreat back under my stone until tomorrow. In a strange sort of way the chaos unfolding at home this week has provided a wonderful break from all things related to the internet. A reminder that life exists away from the screen.


A Broken Leg

The last thirty-six hours have been something of a whirlwind. While playing rugby on Sunday afternoon my youngest daughter tripped, fell awkwardly, and broke her leg. The first we knew was that she was down in the middle of the pitch – then after a paramedic arrived that had been watching the game, we heard her voice – from 100 yards away. I’ve written before about knowing your own child’s voice in a busy play-park, and you also know the difference between a play-acted cry, and the real thing. My other half dropped everything and ran.

I’ll spare you the next few hours, which involved a lot of gas and air, syringe after syringe of morphine, and an ambulance. A helicopter was nearly involved. I went with her in the ambulance while my other half raced around London in our car to meet us. She beat the ambulance, much to the surprise of the crew. En-route, my daughter seemed most impressed that we had the sirens and lights on…

“Why do they have the sirens and lights on?”

“For you.”

She was pretty out of it on painkillers. Her memory of the accident was almost non-existent. Thankfully her memory of the sight of the injury had also gone. The crew let us know that might happen, given the medication they threw at her in order to get her on a stretcher. She was so brave. She nearly broke my fingers as they pulled her leg straight, but then I told her to do exactly that.

Several hours later we sat in a hospital north west of London – my other half at our daughter’s bedside, and me in a waiting room on the other side of the hospital – surrounded by the typically entitled emergency room time wasters you might imagine. One girl demanded to see a specialist about her headache – “I could drop dead right here, and it will be your fault”… She walked away from the unimpressed receptionist, murmuring “c*nt” to anybody within earshot.

We were sent home at about 10pm. Given COVID restrictions, and another story about her being checked into an adult ward that I also won’t expound on (they’re moving her tonight), we left her to sleep off the elephant tranquilisers they had hit her with.

Today has been somewhat less stressful. After being allowed to visit mid-morning and chancing upon the consultant while waiting outside the ward door, my other half and eldest daughter were allowed in to see her, and perhaps most importantly to deliver a bag of essentials (she had arrived at hospital with nothing). Of course, the most important belonging for a teenage girl should have been obvious – her mobile phone.

We’re home again now, playing the waiting game. Waiting for the call that she has arrived back in the ward after surgery on her leg. When the word comes my other half will race off to visit once again, and return late this evening. I’m staying behind to make dinner for the rest of the family, given that only one of us will be allowed to visit at a time.

I’ll write more as we know more.


The Magical Floordrobe

The rest of the household are home at the moment – the schools are on “half term”. You might think this would mean chaos, noise, arguments, and running battles throughout the house – and you would be wrong. I’m as surprised as you.

There must be a turning point with teenagers – where they turn from battle hardened procrastinators into somewhat reasonable family members. I say “somewhat”, because I discovered an entire rugby kit stuffed behind the upstairs bathroom door earlier.

I’m pretty sure teenage girls think the workings of the floordrobe is a miracle of the natural world – where clothes magically vanish from whence they are thrown, walk themselves through the washing machine, dry themselves, fold themselves, and arrive ready to wear once again.

I guess the floordrobe works in exactly the same way as the fridge, and the kitchen food cupboards. By magic.

Don’t even get me started with washing up.


Bank Holiday Monday

It’s heading towards 10am, and I’m still the only person up and about at home. It’s a bank holiday in the UK today – many people have the day off work. Of course the weather isn’t cooperating – while the sun is trying to break through at the moment, it’s forecast to begin raining at lunchtime, and get worse throughout the day. I imagine our house will begin floating away by dinner time. I better start fashioning some oars out of household implements later.

I’m struggling to wake up. I’m not sure why, because I slept like a log last night – and half remember a couple of crazy dreams. One of them involved accidentally transferring thousands into one of my daughter’s bank accounts, and then struggling to transfer the money back again before anybody found out. I wonder what that means?

It’s interesting how the most illogical events or actions become reasonable in dreams.

(many hours pass)

The better part of the day was spent pulling ivy from the shed in the garden, helping my middle daughter create a podcast (for her college course), and doing several runs to the rubbish tip. This morning’s weather forecast was wrong – the rain finally began to fall early this evening. It’s still raining now, and looking pretty much like the world might end.

After washing up this evening I checked my phone, and saw messages from several friends, sent hours earlier. Hopefully they will understand that life occasionally tramples all over me. It seems that “having friends”, “working”, “doing chores”, and “being a part of a family” never quite add up – and “having friends” always seems to be the first thing to fall by the wayside.

I saw a quote the other day from somebody famous (I forget who), noting that if you got run over by a truck tomorrow, your employer would replace you within a month or two – but that your friends and family would always remember you. I read it, and thought “yes, but if you don’t work, you have no money, your family lose their house, and you have no smartphone to stay in touch with friends”.

Nothing is ever as simple as a motivational quote.

Anyway. I only have a few hours until the “day off” comes to an end. I should probably go watch something rubbish on the television, and eat something I’ll feel bad about afterwards. It’s funny how that works.


A Day of Two Halves

The first half of the day was spent chaperoning my youngest daughter to a nearby town in pursuit of a meetup with several of her friends. This included waiting at the bus station for an hour while her friends first called to say they were on their way (a lie), and then called to say they would meet her at the railway station.

The original plan had been to meet mid-morning. The revised plan had already skidded to nearly lunchtime. Obviously making it to a bus stop by lunchtime was beyond their capabilities, so they lied, and lied and lied.

Eventually one of their parents dropped them a mile across town. If I hadn’t been there, I have no idea how my daughter might have found her way to them – short of walking the entire route while talking to me on her phone, guiding her at each road junction.

Yes, I’m annoyed.

You can imagine how amused I was (not)  when a story came out about having to go shopping across town because a friend of a friend couldn’t go into the nearest supermarket, because she had been prosecuted for shoplifting there.

Thankfully the central person in this mess isn’t carrying on to college next year – so a natural division will drive them apart. In the meantime we just need to keep our fingers crossed our daughter retains her sense of right and wrong, and doesn’t get coerced into anything untoward.

This afternoon was all about making runs to the dump with rubbish from the garden. While there we bumped into a co-worker, and on the way home posted a photo on social media of our “hot date”.

We know how to live.

While my other half retrieved our daughter late this evening, I walked into town and filled a bag with movie snacks. I imagine most of it will vanish tomorrow. Of course there are no new movies “of note” out, because most of the studios have ground to a halt during the pandemic. I would love to watch “Nomadland”, but it sounds like Disney+ has an exclusive on it in the UK – and I’m not about to sign up to yet another subscription service.


Turning into a Cat

I think I’m turning into a cat. You know how cats have favourite places to curl up or “be” that last for a few days at a time, before they move on to somewhere else? I’m like that with writing. For a while I was writing at Evernote, then a text editor for a little while, then Notion, and now I’m back at Google Docs, where I’ve been writing on-and-off for years.

Google Docs is the easy option for me. It satisfies the paranoid part of my brain that says “what if the computer goes bang in the middle of your Pulitzer prize winning blog post?” – because it saves every word as I write it. Of course this is predicated on the idea that what I’m writing has literary value (I’m humble enough to realise that I’m only a legend in my own lunchtime).

It’s Sunday morning. The clock is just ticking past 10am. I’ve been up for the last hour – emptying the dishwasher, clearing the kitchen up – the usual chores around the house. I didn’t have a shower this morning, and now feel grubby. I usually have a shower every morning – it helps wake me up. I’m not going anywhere or doing anything today, so thought “what’s the point?” – it’s not like I smell or anything. I will admit to washing my face with soap and cold water after brushing my teeth though – to try and wake myself up. It sort of worked.

I need to head out to the corner shop soon – we’ve run out of bread. It’s kind of difficult to make toast without bread – almost as bad as the time our middle daughter made a cup of tea for her Mum after we ran out of teabags. She didn’t let the lack of tea stop her – proudly delivering a cup of hot watery milk. She was only about seven years old at the time.


Time to go find my shoes and socks. At least it’s not raining today (yet).