Bless this mess

In the UK there’s a saying…”it’s like painting the Forth Bridge”. So it goes that said bridge takes so long to paint, that by the time you get to the end, you need to start again. Though this isn’t the case anymore as some clever bods have invented special paint that presumably lasts longer than it takes to paint the Forth Bridge. Nevertheless, this saying nicely describes our efforts (well, the OH’s!) to keep our house tidy, now that it is inhabited by two under 5s who have a penchant for experimenting with toy combinations. Or alternatively, making an unholy mess. Our kitchen island unit is a haven for crap. The floor of our back room is littered with lego, peppa pigs, railway track, balls, farm animals. If you can find it in John Lewis’s toy department I could pretty much guarantee you’ll find it somewhere in our house. The only time it’s properly tidy is if we’re entertaining. So we should probably invite people over more often. But then we’d spend all of our free time tidying up. And I kind of resent that. I reckon I get two hours a day during the working week with the messy monkeys. It could be a lot worse – luckily I have a job and an employer who is family friendly and doesn’t demand I work ridiculous hours. Even so, that’s not much. So maximising time at the weekend with them often takes priority over the cleaning and tidying, which is the time when it’s most realistic to make any real progress getting the house ship shape. But we’ve come to terms with this (well, I have…..) . We’ve both become used to navigating our back room like it’s an obstacle course. And getting clean clothes direct from the tumble dryer….etc.

So my theory, formed to keep me sane and comfortable in our mess, is that a messy house = more family fun 🙂

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Autumn = Hygge

I’ve noticed that the Danish concept of ‘Hygge’ seems to be increasingly getting talked about in the media (e.g. http://bit.ly/2eFMsYB). Aside from feeling a bit smug about the fact I knew what this was a long time ago (thanks to a Danish colleague rather than any other cultured reason), I have always in a roundabout kind of way, loved the concept. Autumn is my favourite season. I am one of those weirdos who likes it when the clocks go back, and it gets dark before you go home. It’s the perfect excuse to hunker down on the sofa, wear nice warm clothes (I may be asking Father Christmas for a onesie), eat comfort food (pies, roasts, stodgy puddings) drink red wine and watch endless box sets (we’ve just re-subscribed to NetFlix – Stranger Things is first on the hit list). It’s also the perfect weather for long walks with our dog – you can’t beat wrapping up warm on a bright, crisp day, and working up an appetite to eat the aforementioned pies. Since munchkins appeared on the scene, the long walks tend to be a bit shorter, and involve packing a scooter, snacks and other paraphernalia. And the walk will be punctuated with a stop off at an adventure playground or similar, as well as frequent requests from my daughter for a piggyback (“my legs are tired Daddy”). But lovely nonetheless. So I encourage you to partake in some autumnal hygee, and if I don’t see you out on a walk with our dog, I’ll see you in the Spring!

#Laterpost….Brexit aftermath

I realised the other day that it has been a while since my last post….prompted by an email telling me I have my first follower (thank you….you know who you are!). I also realised I had drafted a post in the days after the Brexit vote, but didn’t end up posting it. I read it again this evening. It feels like it was such a long time ago. And yet the sky hasn’t fallen in quite yet. Most, if not all still holds true. The curiosity about what happens next. The sense that I should “hunker down” (though perhaps slightly less so now). And the silver lining has materialised. Anyway, here it is. Almost 3 months later…..

It’s been a week since 52% of my countrymen and women voted to leave the European Union. It still feels weird. I often think about significant political events that I have lived through but wasn’t fully conscious of at the time…..Thatcherism, Falklands war, super high interest rates and the boom and bust in the 1980s, Poll Tax riots, the second Cold War, the first Iraq war, Black Wednesday, fall of the Berlin Wall…….What we are living through right now definitely feels up there with some or most of those. But it feels strange to be living through it and being fully aware of it, knowing it’s seismic. I can’t quite put my finger on why though. Perhaps it’s the not knowing what comes next – knowing it’s huge, but not knowing what the impact will be. I also feel an acute sense of curiosity – I can’t wait to see how it all pans out.

With a family to support, my natural instinct is to hunker down and ride it out – or in mafia speak, go to the mattresses (minus the killing). So where I might have been having thoughts about whether the grass is greener in terms of my career, they have been nudged back a bit. And those air miles that are burning a hole in my pocket will be staying right where they are for a bit longer. On the upside (I’m really desperate to find a silver lining in this situation), my mortgage might be cheaper in the next few weeks if interest rates are cut. And I’m pretty sure the flights I just booked to France were about £200 cheaper than when I first searched for them a couple of weeks ago, but perhaps that’s a happy (wrong word) coincidence. But I have a definite sense these are temporary (and in the grand scheme of things, pretty much irrelevant) and that the ripple effect will be felt in months and years, rather than in the weeks afterwards.

I’m also more aware than ever, about the privileged position I’m in. Good job. A house. An amazing family. Some people are in quite the opposite position, so I can completely appreciate why so many voted to Leave, because if you feel you’ve been left behind and are in a shitty place, perhaps a change is what is needed to make it better.

Where were you when….

Whenever there’s a major sporting event (World Cup, Olympics or European Championship) I usually find myself reminiscing about where I was and what I was doing during previous ones. Today on the train on my way to work, I went back as far as I could remember. I thought I’d share…..

2014 World Cup – strangely, don’t remember much. Apart from England being useless (pretty standard). My daughter was just about 2 so the OH and I were ‘thinking’ about a second….

2012 London Olympics – OH very pregnant with our first. Remember watching Super Saturday (when GB won a truckload of Gold) in bed cheering on Mo Farrah and hearing the roar from the Olympic stadium out of our window

2010 World Cup – again, nothing memorable from a football perspective. Apart from about a decent 10 mins vs Germany when Lampard scored, but didn’t, and watching it with our lovely neighbours. Was working in Wimbledon and had a horrible commute

2008 Olympics – just married 🙂 Had an epic summer of holidays including Devon, Vegas and the South of France

2006 World Cup – we were on the cusp of buying our first home and I was living with the inlaws

2004 Olympics – on holiday in Spain. Distinctly remember hearing really bad cabaret most nights from adjacent hotel. 

2002 World Cup – working at Ford in Essex. Remember several boozy lunches at the local Golf Club bar watching the games and then having to stay back late in order to be safe to drive home

2000 Olympics – Masters degree dissertation. Yawn

1998 World Cup – mid way through my undergraduate degree. Missed the Michael Owen wonder goal vs Argentina as I was on a flight to Spain with a friend, to stay with the Spanish Erasmus girl I was kind of seeing. At her parents place. And we hung out with her boyfriend. A lot. It was very weird. I did eat the best steak I’ve ever had at another girl’s parents place in the Pyrenees who my friend was also kind of seeing. But she also had a boyfriend. The trip in general was all a bit weird

1996 European Championships – what a summer! Had just finished my A levels. Had my first proper girlfriend. Britpop was alive and kicking. England were doing well and there was a real buzz. Distinctly remember watching the Scotland game at a friends house with several others, and going bonkers when Gazza scored. And thrashing the Netherlands. Good times. If only we’d beaten the Germans….

1994 World Cup – no England sadly, but had just finished my GCSEs, so managed to watch most games, much to the annoyance of my mum

1992 Olympics – David Coleman: “It’s Linford Christie!!! The British captain is the Olympic champion”

1990 World Cup – Two things – New Order’s World in Motion. And I cried after the penalties. That is it.

1988 European Championship – Van Bastan wonder goal. I was caravanning with the family and given we had a 7 inch black and white TV with awful reception, I didn’t get to see many games

1986 World Cup – had a bet with the builder who was building an extension at our house, that Argentina would win. The prize was a Mars bar. The morning after the final, the first thing I said to him was “where’s my Mars bar then”. I promptly got a clip round the ear from my mum for being so cheeky

1984 Olympics – this is as far back as I go. I was 6. I remember watching Daley Thompson in the decathlon. And being on holiday in Filey in an apartment where you had to feed the electricity meter with 50p coins.

This is the most riveting thing you’ll read today

That, in the world in which I work, is called click bait. An enticing headline that promises so much, yet delivers the opposite. So apologies.

I knew when I started writing this blog that the content wouldn’t be flowing and I didn’t want to post just for postings sake. I didn’t see the point. If I did this, it didn’t feel any different from the fairly frequently Facebook updates I used to post before calling it quits (though they keep emailing me to entice me back, plus my employer now makes me use Facebook at Work for internal comms, so I haven’t been able to completely escape Zuckerberg’s grip). I wanted something to be able to capture my ramblings, observations and anecdotes to an audience who wanted to read them, rather than inflict them on every person I’m ‘friends’ with.

So, with that in mind and in a bit of a journal style, this is what I’ve been up to since last posting….

It was my son’s first birthday earlier this month. That first year DEFINITELY went quicker than for my daughter. I reckon twice as quick, given we have two children whereas previously there was just one, meaning I’m twice as busy ergo time goes twice as quick. That’s sound scientific logic for you right there. The OH and I made a cake. One that looked like an owl sitting on a fence. It was awesome. And surprisingly easy. When you cover anything with that amount of chocolate icing, chocolate buttons, marzipan and Cadbury Flakes, it can’t fail to be a hit.

owlcake

 

I’m still on track with my 1kg a week weight loss, meaning I’ve lost 10kg in total since the start of April. 10 down, 10 to go (I revised the target down from 80 to 75).

10down10togo

The next 10 will be much harder, without a doubt. It’s very handy having a colleague at work who is doing the same and we can bore each other with “wow, look how many calories are in that tiny little piece of cake!!”. Weekends are my downfall though. Weekdays are easy. I have routine during the week, so sticking to the eating plan is merely an extension to that routine – 250 for breakfast, 500 for lunch, 750 for dinner. However at the weekend, it pretty much all goes to sh*t. Whether it’s eating out or a takeaway (or two), the calorie counting goes on hold. I definitely eat less than I used to though. For this reason I’m calling it the “Inverse 5-2 diet”, where the 5 = 5 good days and the 2 = 2 naughty days. I’ve also learnt bread is like the devil for the calorie conscious. And I love bread. Sad times. But on the upside, lots of people are commenting that I’ve noticeably lost weight, which means it’s working. Good times. I can’t see it myself, as the flab around the tummy is still there. I am noticing clothes are much looser though. Luckily, I won’t have to go out and buy a whole new wardrobe, as there are plenty of clothes in there that have been far too tight to wear in recent years, so not only am I saving money by eating less but I have effectively got loads of new free clothes. Double Yorkshire Tightness Win!!! Don’t worry – I’ll leave it another 10 weeks to bore you again with tales of weight loss and calorie counting!

And finally, I’ve been reading a lot about ‘Brexit’ (this Thursday, if you’re a UK resident, you get to vote on whether to remain or leave the EU). As I work for a well known financial news organisation (with a pink newspaper), it’s all a lot of people here are talking about at the moment. However, for me, the well renowned political commentator,  Jonny Vegas, summed it up perfectly when he was on Channel 4’s The Last Leg the other week: “Leaving Europe is like telling your parents you want independence and then you move into the garage”

We’re sorry…..but are we?

I work very closely with marketing teams in my job and take a keen interest in the marketing of competitors and beyond. This means whereas most people are inclined to check the box that says “Don’t send me any marketing”, I actively opt in to receive it, so I can see first hand what companies are doing with data, messaging and offers.

I’ve noticed a bit of a trend however – the rise of the “Oops, we’re sorry. We pressed send too soon!” type email. I know from my own experiences that this is entirely possible. I remind a colleague of the time they did this fairly regularly to wind them up. However, have so many who are responsible for hitting send, started developing twitchy trigger fingers? I suspect not, and I believe this type of email is another tactic to cut through the clutter of your inbox. My interest is certainly piqued if it looks like someone had made a mistake…and if I’m feeling mean, I’ll laugh like Nelson from The Simpsons. But I’m increasingly sceptical now….or perhaps it’s just me getting old!

Love. Don’t hate

I realised that two of my first four posts, that’s a big fat 50% (I work with data – can you tell?), were titled “I hate….”. I think it’s time to put things straight. Here’s what I’m loving this week…..

 

– How my local train station installed ticket barriers to curb fare dodging about a month ago, but they have yet to be turned on. Actually, I don’t love this. It’s hilarious. But then when I think about it, my fares have gone to waste installing them, so in fact, I think I actually ha….ooops

 

– Creative busking – walking along London’s South Bank one lunchtime, I came across a “Poet for hire”, complete with typewriter, who was knocking out poems for passers by. I tried to imagine what he’d write for me. An ode to sleep perhaps.

 

– Catching up with a former colleague/very good friend. It’s the sign of a strong friendship when they persist after you stop working together. It’s quite rare in my experience.

 

– Slips of the tongue – the family and I took a trip to Legoland today. On a Saturday. I know, we’re crazy. In fact, it wasn’t that bad, though we did buy a membership seeing as my daughter loves it so much, so I’m about to become an expert at queueing. We had tried going last Wednesday, only to turn up to find it was closed. I’ve never felt so bad in my life, seeing the look of disappointment on my daughter’s face, then her trying to hide it behind her Teddy 😢 Anyway, the point of this point….we were watching the puppet production of Cinderella. The storyteller had meant to thank the Prince when he offered him the glass slipper to try on. What came out was “Thanks for trying it on with me”. Cue a fit of the giggles and lots of sniggering from the adults.

 

– This correction from my employer….. “This article has been amended since publication. Prime Minister Morarji Desai drank his own urine and not cow urine.” 

 

– Eurovision. That is all. However, the OH has said she’ll be voting Brexit unless the UK finish in the top 5. Bet David Cameron didn’t think about that when setting the date for the EU in/out vote.

I. Hate. DIY

This weekend is a bank (public) holiday weekend in the UK. By rights, I should be completing the following list of jobs that need doing around my house: replace two extractor fans, reseal one shower tray (probably two), fit one blackout blind, attempt to find where bath and/or bath pipes is leaking, fill umpteen holes and cracks…..there’s definitely more.

 
The problem is I hate DIY. And hate isn’t a strong enough word. Attempting DIY turns me into a warped version of the Incredible Hulk. I just can’t do it. And I get in a worse mood when I think about the time that doing DIY jobs is taking up, and what other infinitely more enjoyable things I could be doing (clearing the bathroom plughole, for instance). But I’m too tight (see previous post) to pay someone to do the kind of jobs my brother in law takes in his stride. This results in an endless stream of jobs that need doing in our house. What to do?! I should probably do them, before any of them become so big that I have no option but to call in the professionals. Or Nick Knowles. The wife might like that though 😉

Hairy Dieter

My name is Mark. And I’m a pasty-holic. It’s been 2 weeks since my last pasty.

Confession time. I can’t resist a good pasty. Previously, whenever I didn’t take my own lunch to work, I’d normally grab a pasty. Not just because they are yummy. But they are cheap. And I am tight. My Yorkshireness well and truly kicks in when I have to spend £3 on a sandwich from M&S or the like. This however, didn’t make for a calorie conscious diet. Combined with a recent holiday to Devon, where copious amounts of fish and chips, pasties (of course), cream teas and fudge were consumed, meant I was nudging 15 stone on the scales when I got home. And I’m 5ft 11. This means I am well into the overweight category, creeping closer to Obese. Eeeek.

The Devon trip wasn’t just about stuffing as many calories down my neck as possible. A visit to a National Trust property that had a pop up book stall, resulted in the purchase of the Hairy Dieters cookbook (for £1 – I gave myself 8/10 on the Yorkshireness scale). If you don’t know them, the Hairy Bikers have appeared on several BBC TV series in the UK. They basically ride around places on their motorbikes, sampling and cooking local cuisine. Incidentally, it was the first TV programme I watched with my daughter after she was born, whilst my wife was recovering! Anyway, in the past couple of years, they’ve lost loads of weight and appeared in a series and wrote a book called the Hairy Dieters, where they share some of the healthy meals they’ve created to help them shift the lard. It was the intro to the book that struck me though…..that they realised they needed to get healthy not just for themselves….but for their families too. With two young children of my own, this really hit home.

Anyway, almost 3 weeks later, having sampled several of their dishes, and some others too, and cutting my daily intake to 1500 calories (from goodness knows what!) using one of those clever app things, I’ve lost 4kg (almost 9 pounds). And, to my surprise, it’s been pretty easy! I’ve set myself a target of losing 1kg a week, and to get down to 80kg (12.5 stone). I’ll let you know how I get on and perhaps share some of the more successful dishes I’ve tried!

I hate payday

Let me rephrase. I need payday as much as the next person. Mortgage, bills etc all coincide with it. But what’s left after all those boring things is what is known as “disposable income”. What I hate…… strong word, what irks me, is people who seem to live for it, so that when it comes along, a massive splurge ensues, resulting in a miserable final week (or more) of the month. If I were responsible for describing the meaning of sayings, this is what I would use to describe a Vicious Circle. Monday rant over.