Friday, 30 November 2007


Miche & I have been together for fifteen years gone November. Which is quite a long time by any standard. Fifteen years in which many things could (and have) gone wrong. Yet we're still together and rubbing along quite nicely. We're like a worn joint in this respect - painful from time to time, but regular anti-inflammatories keep things from getting too angry or inflamed.

The problem is - NSAIDs have a habit of irritating the lining of the gut. Once in a while you must stop taking them and cope as best as you can with the inflammation.

You'd think that I'd done something heinous, wouldn't you? Dipped the wick into another candle perhaps. But no - this inflammatory issue is external and outwith the influence of "us". Yet it still gets in the way all these years later.

Of course it's my fault, because in this black and white world everything is - for I am a man and fault is the default.

My "no emo blog post" promise is now broken...

Wednesday, 28 November 2007

Being Daddy

I've all sorts of posts in my head right now. Some of them are simple, some of them profound. One or two may be both.

For the time being though, I'm just being Dad.

Tuesday, 27 November 2007

Keep Left

I lament the attrition of my early childhood memories. What seemed so bright back then has been smudged and deadened by the passage of time. I'm left only with vague notions and fleeting deja vu as I stumble on through an adult's life.

This is one of the beauties of parenthood I guess - that we can relive our childhood memories vicariously through our children. Or perhaps that we can relive our romanticised version of our childhoods at least...

A close friend told me once of a magical parental moment that he'd had with his daughter, now grown up, on the top deck of a bus waiting at traffic lights in Glasgow. Out of the blue, his four year old said "Keep left". He was confused at first, but then noticed the road sign which commanded the driver to "Keep Left".

In this moment he was awestruck that symbols and glyphs that had previously been only shapes, had begun to take on a meaning for his daughter and be imbibed with metaphor.

This morning, as I checked my email, Meg nonchalantly walked past me and said "Google Mail" to herself.

Truly a child of her time.

Saturday, 24 November 2007

A warning to the foolhardy

If you find that your soft boiled egg is raw, do not, under any circumstance, be tempted to blip it in the microwave. Even if you've tapped the top off it to relieve the pressure, it will still explode with a satisfying whoomph.

Thursday, 22 November 2007


Stew tagged me, the bastard. Here's my "crazy eights";

Eight things I am passionate about:

Beauty. It keeps me alive, I swear. I love the fact that it's everywhere I look. As I get older, more and more things have become beautiful. Perhaps my senses are growing more attuned. It can be found in the most unlikeliest of places - the corners of mouths, under pebbles, written in between the lines of a poem or in the single note of a song. Whilst I know it has no inherent value and that it exists only within the eye that beholds it, it gives me meaning. Call me a Gaia junkie if you will, I couldn't care less.

Objectivity / Rationality. I have little tolerance for flim flam, automatic assumption, bigotry, blind faith or superstition. Frankly it boils my piss when I come across it. I guess it's an obsession of mine to reflect on my own automatic assumptions, faiths and superstitions so that I might understand what it is about our fuzzy senses that make us so susceptible to these falsities.

Family / Love. It's in the genetics I'm sure, but my family are the most important thing to me by a mile.

Person Centred Dementia Care. I manage a number of Dementia care units for people with advanced Dementias or who, because of their condition, behave in ways which would challenge more 'traditional' care units. This work is hard physically, emotionally and psychologically and frequently underestimated. The skills, knowledge and values required to to this job well are beyond the reach of many. Yet our government expects the bulk of this work to be done by low paid, under-trained, under-valued people. I try to do my best to engineer the most optimal circumstances for these people to give good care. I'll stop here, before I go on one of my frequent soliloquies on the subject...

Recovery focused mental health care. I'm also responsible for a number of services providing care and support to younger adults with 'severe' mental health problems. By this I mean psychosis, bi-polar affective disorder (manic depression) and such like. Since the dawn of Psychiatry, these conditions have been thought of as incurable and chronic. The system treat them with this assumption. It still does to an extent. With the rise of the 'consumer movement' and service users finding their voice finally, it has become clear that people can learn to live perfectly decent lives with these conditions, given the right circumstances. The lumbering behemoth that is the mental health system is taking its time catching on to this. I'd like to think that I'm amongst those that agitate for change. I hope I'm making a difference, modest as it may be.

The outdoors. I love my Northumberland for its wide open spaces. I try to be outside in it whenever I can.

Running. Well, it gets me outside I suppose. If I don't get to run at least once a week I get irritable and tired. Perhaps I'm addicted.

Technology. Yup, I'm a geek and a man. As such I like all things with buttons and LEDs. Despite my attempts to temper these nerd compulsions, I know that I'll own an I-phone by the end of the year.

Eight things to do before I die:

Run the New York Marathon

Write a half decent book

Plan my funeral

Drive the Nurburgring in a stupidly fast car

Have my children grow into adulthood and tell me that they're happy in their own skin

See the Amazon & Ganges rivers

Grow into adulthood and feel happy in my own skin

Say something really enigmatic, in my final breath, that people will wonder about for generations.

Eight things I say often





Oh, for goodness sake


Get down off the back of the sofa

No, I don't want double glazing, now fuck off.

Eight books I have read or am still reading:

The Wasp Factory, Iain Banks

Cider With Rosie, Laurie Lee

Thus Spoke Zarathustra, Friedrich Nietzsche

Is it just me, or is everything shit? Steve Lowe

Collapse, Jared Diamond

Metaphors We Live By, George Lackoff

Life of Pi, Yann Martel

A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, Dave Eggers

Eight songs to listen to over and over again:

This is a hard one, as it changes almost daily. So I will use only my last months listening as indicated by

Four Tet - She Moves Me

Bright Channel - Light Workers

Low - California

The Six Parts Seven - Now Like Photographs

Coaltar of the Deepers - Good Morning

Squarepusher - Journey to Reedham

The Arcade Fire - No Cars Go

Mystery Jets - Soluble in Air

Eight things that attract me to friends:

Tolerance - well, they would have to be...






Lack of pungent body odour

A present and working brain


I can't be arsed to spread this meme any further. If you want to be tagged by me then just tear off a slip from the bottom of this post

Wednesday, 21 November 2007

Always bring your camera

Driving to work this morning. Half an hour ago.

Monday, 19 November 2007

Dripping with caveats

The house of lords will soon be debating an amendment to the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill. The amendment is wide ranging, but includes within it the recognition of same sex couples as legal parents. It will remove the current requirement on IVF clinics to be sure that a father is involved in the upbringing of any child created after he donates sperm.

Forever the optimist, I'd like to think that the bill will receive a fair hearing and be passed by the lords. Perhaps predictably though, the Church has its objections. Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, the head bummer of the English and Welsh Catholic Church said yesterday that the amendment to the bill was "profoundly wrong" and undermined "the place of the father in a child's life". Given that the Christian church has a disproportionate influence in the House of Lords, my optimism may well be ill placed.

Yet for all my antipathy to this moral posturing, I do have some sympathy for Cormac's sentiments. Putting aside his half baked moral code for one moment, there is an argument for monogamous, mother / father relationships being the optimal circumstance for children to grow up in.

By any statistical norm, there can be little argument against the notion of the nuclear family. Children who grow up in stable families, with a mother and father present, do better on all measures than kids that do not.

Just look at me for example.

Hmn, maybe not, let's move on...

Our social world is built upon the premise that the Mother / Father / 2.3 child family is the norm. Houses are built to home us, the government taxes us with this assumption, holidays are priced for us in the same way that people carriers are designed for us.

Naturally, if our world is designed around this notional 'norm', then those that don't conform to this standard will be at a disadvantage.

It takes no imagination then, to see that the nuclear family has a distinct advantage. Conforming to these norms has a habit of being so. However, we should be clear what norms we're conforming to in the first place.

I'm sure we can think of anomalies; the single mother who raises an emotionally stable genius or the gay father who educates a state senator. And fair play to them for bucking the trend. However, despite my philosophical / moral relativist / slightly Marxist leanings, when it comes to my kids, I'm as conservative as they come.

That said, there is one commonality - stability. This I think, transcends all cultural and sexual boundaries. If a child is raised in a consistent way, with parental role models that are there and together, through good times and bad, then the mother and father roles become meaningless I think.

Love, stability and understanding trump the 2.4 median any day.

So let me make this clear - I support this amendment in as much as I support stable families. Gay / Bi / Straight is neither here nor there.

Saturday, 17 November 2007

Exploring the morning

We're a bit busy right now doing stuff and will probably be doing stuff for a bit. Normal service will resume soon enough...

Thursday, 15 November 2007

Sarcastic? Moi?

Came across this sign above a bin full of tea bags in one of our remote offices today. It gave me a chuckle.

Tuesday, 13 November 2007

Avoid mirrors

I've often wondered what it is to be an adult. You know - what it's supposed to feel like and whether I've got it right. Because quite frankly, it wasn't how I'd imagined it to be.

When I was young, being an adult seemed to be a great thing to be. I imagined life to be secure, certain, stable and predictable. Which is far from boring I assure you, as this stability provides a fundament upon which you can be who you want to be. I assumed.

As it is, adulthood is a wholly different affair as far as I can discern. Life is just as scary as it was as a child, farting remains funny (despite what the teachers say) and even worse, no one tells you what to do anymore.

Which is scary.

I guess there are two main differences;

1) The stakes are higher

2) Predicting the weather gets easier

By this I mean one's mental map of the physical and social world is more detailed than it was as a child. My sense of the 'other' and what 'might be' has become more attuned.

So it's with this heightened awareness that I've come to appreciate my childlike dependence on those around me, and of theirs on me. So one must choose well.

In this respect I must have grown up, as I've chosen and been chosen by some wonderful people. At the top of this pile is my beloved.

May we all continue to be children together.

Predict the weather.
Anticipate the storm, please.
Keep the rain in sight.

Watch out for the sky.
Let's not get struck by lightning.
Seek shelter for life.

By Murph

Monday, 12 November 2007

Happy Birthday, Sans God

Well well, my blog is a year old today. I had a special post in mind to mark this auspicious occasion. However, my Microshite Whindoze laptop has been infected with all manner of malware. I'd install Linux on it in a snap if it wasn't for work.

It's my own fault for being so nice. I offered to fix a friend's PC you see. Stupidly I connected it to our home network on Saturday to download some patches and her dirty, pox ridden, mangy little PC ripped through my poor laptop within seconds.

I'm restoring it as we speak to its factory settings. Which means a whole lot of fiddling and tweaking to get it to its pre-infected state. Bah, meh, fuck and bastard.

Incidentally, I fixed her PC and She didn't even say thank you when she picked it up this morning.

I am no longer the one who "fixes your PC". Don't even think about asking me, as I will swear at you and may even get violent.

Now, it's my party, so I'm going to cry if I want to...

Sunday, 11 November 2007

Remembrance Sunday

Every year for the past god knows how many, the same old man has stood outside our local shop selling poppies for Remembrance day. I'm pretty sure he fought in the Crimean War. Well, you would think so, given his country gent deportment and huge handlebar mustache, which is now completely white.

I bought four poppies from him last Saturday, one for each of us, before going into the shop to stock up on sweets for our long walk with Mcleod.

On my way back to the car he stopped me.

"Your dog's been good as gold you know" he said, "he's sat there the whole time just looking at me."

He followed me over to the car and gave Mac a thorough petting once I'd opened the boot.

"He's just like my old dog you know."

I could have sworn I saw tears well up in his eyes. He gave Mcleod a poppy.

Thursday, 8 November 2007


I’m a creature of habit. I sit down of an evening, having kissed the children goodnight and think “what can I write tonight?”

Ordinarily I’d have pulled up the footstool and laptop just so. My right knee would be laying against Miche’s thigh as she watches TV.

She's away tonight with the girls. So I shall do what I will.

M'off 2 b a boy...

Tuesday, 6 November 2007

Sign of the times

Came across this church whilst driving to a meeting in Newcastle. Gave me a wry smile.

Right here, if you're interested;

View Larger Map

Monday, 5 November 2007


The Telegraph reports today of an Indian family who have a two year old girl Lakshmi who was born with four arms and four legs. To be precise, she has a 'parasitic' twin that has fused with her. The twin is headless and undeveloped.

The poor wee mite.

Despite her mother believing that Lakshimi is "a miracle, a reincarnation", she said "but she is my daughter and she cannot live a normal life like this."

Lakshimi will endure extensive surgery to enable her to live a normal life. Her surgeon expects it to be successful.

Now this is an example of reason winning over faith to protect human well being.

I wish them all well.

A lump in my throat

So you're faced with the choice to accept a blood transfusion and live to care for your new born baby, or refuse it on theological grounds and die.

What's the morally compelling choice? To accept the treatment, despite your belief that it's a sin, so that you can raise your children and give them the love they need. Or, refuse the treatment and die, leaving your children bemused and motherless.

Emma Gough chose to die last week, after giving birth to twins, because the bible told her it was the right thing to do.

Honestly, my heart aches for those poor, wretched children.

Crystal Dietetics

Dinner party last night with people we hardly know. Nice lot, though still at the 'polite conversation' stage.

Yours truly let his mouth slip when the immaculately manicured trophy wife told the table that she's on a special diet and couldn't possibly eat the pasta.

"I had an assessment done by my crystal healer last week. He told me to cut out wheat, strawberries and spam."

"How did he do that?" another guest asked.

"Well, he swung [insert random crystal name] over my stomach and felt the 'energies'. I'm not sure exactly what he was testing for..."

"Gullibility?" I interjected.

She didn't laugh.

Sunday, 4 November 2007

Tree of Confusion

For the past two years this tree in our garden has blossomed in November. The flowers are wizened in comparison to the spring, but it's blossom nonetheless.

Is this normal? Or is it that pesky Global Warming monkeying around agin?

Saturday, 3 November 2007

And the award for the most ironic protest 2007 goes to...

Writing about the Westboro Baptist Church demonstrations the other day reminded me of this image.

Friday, 2 November 2007

Dropping Balls

Being a man, I'm not genetically predisposed to multi tasking. It makes me dizzy. Miche on the other hand, is a seasoned pro. Take this morning for example - whilst I was engrossed in helping Meg with her weekly spelling test, Miche was ironing school uniforms, texting her girlfriends whilst keeping an eye on the toast. Quite awesome really.

My problem is this; the rate at which I acquire books far exceeds my ability to consume them. We have book cases in the dining room, each bedroom, the hall and landing. I have a pile of them at the side of my bed that extends at least two feet under it.

Being a man, I should really only read one at a time, because I may very well disappear up my own arse if I take on more than that.

Not one to take one's own advice, I find myself with five on the go at the moment. To manage this burden, I've compartmentalised my reading into rooms. It goes like this;

Lounge: Family Matters, Rohinton Mistry

A wonderful, lyrical exploration of family life and of growing old. I'm reading this book in the same way that I read Cider with Rosie as an adolescent - tasting each sentence.

50% through. 4 / 5. -1 because there's too many characters, which confuses me.

Downstairs Toilet: Beyond Good and Evil, Friedrich Nietzsche

Amidst the various clenchings of pelvic muscles, I like to flex the cerebral. Nietzsche has been a toilet companion of mine for many years now. Perhaps this says as much about Friedrich as it does me; in that we both like to talk shite from time to time. Having said that, and in doing so, I'm reminded of my teenage philosophical debates when our pretentions got the better of us. We evoked Nietzsche as if we truly understood his 'philosophy'. Of course we didn't. Neither do I now, to be honest. But he helps me 'work things out'.

I'm now on my 4th read I think. 30% through. 4.5 / 5. -.5 for the odd punctuation.

Office / Office toilet: Inside Lives: Psychoanalysis and the Growth of the Personality, Margot Wadell

Perhaps there's a running theme here - toilets. There is something 'spiritual' about squeezing one out.

Now, I'm an empiricist at heart in my work. I like to focus on what is proven and what is shown to work. Which is why I don't subscribe to psychodynamic thought. That said, the metaphorical / interpretative approach that Margot describes attracts me. There is some truth in it, I'm sure.

I'm reading this book in 5 minute bursts right now, yet still I'm enjoying it. Perhaps I'll become a neo-freudian one day.

25% through. 3.7 / 5. Well written, though my fundamental differences in thought spoil it for me. Worth persevering though, for it's thought provoking stuff.

Upstairs Toilet: Is it just me, or is everything Shit? Volume Two, Steve Lowe

The perfect book for any British, middle class, white, middle income, middle aged, middle IQ, male misanthrope; a brief, hilarious and disgusting comment on what it is to be all of the above in modern times. Just long enough to read before the kids disturb you.

75% through. 5/5. For its ease of use and simplistic hilarity.

Bedroom: Meanwhile back at the ranch, Kinky Friedman

I love Kinky as he makes me laugh. This is a short book and I can see the end coming a mile off. I don't want to finish it, as he gives me a chortle at least every second sentence. And what better way to finish a day than with hilarity?

80% through - soo nearly there. 4 / 5.


Anyway, tell me - what is your critical mass when it comes to reading? How many books can you manage at once?

I've bitten off more than I can chew - two is my limit. Given that which one should I finish first and devote my time to, do you think?

Guy Fawkes

Conveniently, the children's school held its firework display tonight rather than on the more conventional 5th of November. Which was very considerate of them, as I can now go to this lecture by Zygmunt Bauman on Monday evening without any guilt.

Happy days.

It was a rather good show, as you can see.

Thursday, 1 November 2007

Rock your body

I've always thought that a sense of rhythm was peculiar to primates. It seems I've been wrong.

Freedom to hate?

The Westboro Baptist Church has just been fined $10.9 million for the hurt and anguish it caused the Snyder family when they picketed their son's funeral who'd died in action in Iraq.

You'll have heard of these nutballs I'm sure. They're the idiots who blame homosexuals for the death of soldiers. These idiots have been demonstrating at funerals for a while now under the false guise of 'free speech'.

What they fail to understand is the difference between free speech and hate speech. The families lawyer summed up sentiments well when he urged the jury to make their message clear - "Do not bring your circus of hate to Maryland again".

The Rev Fred Phelps retorted outside the court that "It will take the 4th Circuit of Appeals a few minutes to reverse this silly thing."

I think not, matey. The fine will bankrupt the church. Somehow I doubt it will silence these gimps though as they see themselves as the moral saviors of the US.

Was it Kant who first made the link between aesthetics and morality? You know what I mean - Art being hard to define, yet we know it when we see it. Equally, it's hard to define morality, but we know wrong from right when we see it.

The problem is - their sense of aesthetic morality is more felt tip than fine art.

To hammer home my point, check out their latest 'hymn'.

Honestly, it's not a spoof. FFS.