Friday, December 30, 2005

 

Happy New Year!

As usual I've lost track of the time what with all the days off and holidays. I didn't even realise today was Friday and forgot to put out the garbage for collection, so next weeks taking out of the garbage will be a fun event!

It also means New Year has crept up on me. We have some plans and it looks like this weekend will be busy as a result.

My parents are in the process of buying a new TV, and I have offered to go with them to select something appropriate for their budget and size of their living room (ie small!). I want to make sure they can receive the free digital channels and hopefully have a means to record shows and watch DVD's either with their existing DVD/VCR or maybe new ones. So tomorrow morning I am getting up at the crack of dawn - which will doubtless please Dawn! ;-P - to go to Stratford to meet them when the shops open to see what we can sort out for them.

After that I shall be whizzing home and Martha, Audrey and myself will be packing our bags to go back to my parents house for New Years Eve. I understand Chinese takeway is on the supper menu, so hurrah to that! I'm guessing Audrey will not be making it through to midnight, and who knows what we'll be doing - playing board games maybe, or if they have their new TV I'll be setting that all up for them...

So we stay the night there and have been asked to remain for Sunday lunch! Yummy! My Mum's Sunday roasts are awesome in my humble opinion, so I'm always up for that.

We'll be leaving pretty sharply I'm guessing though to get back home. On Christmas Day we missed the Christmas special of Doctor Who, and Martha and I were gagging to see it - fortunately it's being repeated on Sunday night, so we want to get home in time for that...unless of course my parents new TV can receive it!!! Ha ha ha!

Thank goodness we have yet another Bank Holiday to recover from all of that on Monday...

So, this will be my last post of 2005. Happy New Year to all of you. I hope 2006 brings you all much happiness and maybe a few dreams come true...

Thursday, December 29, 2005

 

You can't take the sky from me...

OK, as promised back in the old days of my original blog I am finally going to write a short piece about Firefly and Serenity.

For the initiated, skip the next little bit, or if you choose not to, please do not pick holes in my limited knowledge of the show/film...for the uninitiated listen up, pay attention because you might learn something, and like me, fall for something that slipped under the television and cinema radar...

Firefly was a science-fiction TV show created by Joss Whedon of Buffy the Vampire Slayer fame...not being a Buffy fan theres not a chance I would have taken any notice at the time. Even as a dabbler in science-fiction it's unlikely I would have picked up on this show from the beginning, particularly as it was unceremoniously cancelled in the USA at the end of its first season, therefore making any chance of it finding its way to British terrestrial TV slim at best.

Now before all you non sci-fi people switch off - listen up! This is NOT your average science-fiction story. It doesn't get into inane dialogue about warp coils or other pointless jargon (sorry Trek fans!) and focusses on normal things like love, hate, violence - the techy stuff is entirely secondary and for the most part non-existent. Even the guns are pretty normal - no lasers here - we're real men and we use bullets! Added to this is the totally intended and rather interesting Western genre feel to the whole thing. We have people on the run from the law, renagades, vagabonds, misfits and a ships crew who live their lives stealing and bounty hunting. Add a dash of X-Files style government cover-up mystery to it, and I think that pretty well sums it up...

So how did I discover this little gem of a TV show? Well, the joys of the internet of course! Over time I gradually became aware of the Firefly phenomenon, and wondered what all the fuss was about. I also then became aware of a spin off movie called Serenity. A few blogchums then started to talk about it like it was the best thing since sliced bread, and I decided finally a month or so back to shell out a mere £20 for the DVD set of the entire cancelled series.

Over the period of a week Martha and I watched this little show with enormous interest and soon got swallowed up in the story, and when the 14th and final episode came to an end we were begging to see more! This of course meant seeing the movie Serenity which we'd already missed at our local cinema, so we had to wait for the DVD which came out in the USA a spit before Christmas - the UK version isn't out until February - for shame!

So, I preordered my copy and it arrived too late for us to watch it before Christmas...anyway, with one thing or another we finally got around to seeing it tonight and I have to say we were not disappointed. My only real reservation would be that someone who had not seen the TV series might not think the movie was all that good - I tried to think hard about how I would have felt had I seen it at the cinema before watching a single episode of Firefly, and I reckon I would have thought it was a good sci-fi film, on a par with some of the Star Trek movies, but maybe lacking some soul. However, its soul is right there, in the TV series. Once you understand the characters, how they operate and think, you then understand better why the movie plays out the way it does.

I understand there are some places on the web with petitions to resurrect Firefly as a TV series again, and it would be genuinely thrilling if someone rescues it...it has a strong story, good characterisations and what is lacking in some shows today, a sense of humour. On the other hand, maybe its better left as a hidden gem, there for people like me who get curious, to be discovered in years to come. Where something like Star Trek becomes a bit old hat and often a laughing stock for those who just don't get it, wouldn't it be nice to be told years from now by the younger generations that you were one of the "cool" ones who actually enjoyed Firefly and Serenity when it came out? Or would you rather see a 70 year old Mal or Jayne hobbling about laughably trying to save the universe? Although I heartily recommend everyone to see the TV series and the movie maybe some things are better left alone!

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

 

Half-Nekkid Glug-glug-glug


I was quite unprepared for HNT this week.

Thank goodness therefore that Osbasso once again decreed that we should leave it for this week and resume next week once everyone is back from holidays.

In its place he's suggested we all post our own favourite HNT post this year - you know, the one we're proudest of. To be honest this was a bit of a "no contest" for me, and it'll be fun to share it with people who may have missed it first time around - it is the first post I ever made to Blogger, but at that time I was still using Myblogsite (gits!) to host my blog.

The actual post can be found here with all the relevent blurb on how it all came about.

So here's a family photo - Happy HNT and Happy New Year!



 

Scotch Corner

I have mentioned before (although possibly not here on Blogger) that I do enjoy my whisky. Not to the point of alcoholism of course, but if it's on offer I'll usually be happy to have a glass, a dram, a shot etc.

I don't normally even buy the stuff - if I have it in the house it's usually because it's been given to me as a gift. I received a bottle in September on my birthday from my wife - a litre of Bushmills Single Malt, and since then to my recollection I have only had one other bottle.

My problem is, when it is in the house I drink it...I can't let it sit for weeks untouched...I have to have a glass of it every night until it's gone. I don't drink copious amounts in one go, so usually a bottle will last me a couple of weeks on this basis. Once it's gone, it's gone...I don't go out and buy another bottle and can go for weeks or even months without it (with the exception of the occasional dram when I visit my parents).

The thing is, I don't know whether this should trouble me or not. I don't get drunk - I don't drink enough to even get drunk - I've been there and done that and it's not a place I want to go again if I can help it. What bothers me more is that when it is available I will continue to drink it, albeit gradually. What if it was always there, "on tap", an endless supply - could I become dependent on it even on just one shot a day?

Anyway, I only bring the subject up because I received a bottle of whisky (Famous Grouse) for Christmas from my parents. I just cracked it open tonight - largish glass, 3 ice cubes - lovely! Even better with the Belgian chocolates I have sitting next to me right now too!

Maybe my concerns are unfounded - I know there are people out there with far worse problems where alcohol is concerned, and if I can stick to my ways I don't really see as it can do any harm. We'll see how long this bottle lasts me anyway and hopefully the next one wont be until at least Easter!

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

 

Can I stop eating now?

Christmas is over...done...finito! For another year anyway.

I'll be honest - it's had its moments - good, bad and ugly - but then it wouldn't be Christmas if it didn't would it?

Anyway, I'm not going to bore you with the d
etails, but will show you a few pictorial highlights with some descriptions and/or captions. I'm not going to claim these are all 100% accurate but I'm gearing this more toward fun than fact. There will hopefully be a few more in due course, but for now, here are 7 pictures to start you off...

Christmas morning and Audrey is finding out what's left inside her stocking, having already discarded a water colouring book, a Hoobs book, some chocolates and Noddy!

This is me seconds after being told that my sister was giving us caviar as an hors d'ouvre...


And this is me a few seconds after that discovering that there was also pate as an alternative!

Audrey with a new Pooh apron...

And finally, Dad bought my sister's boyfriend this electronic horse racing game. It's really funny. You set up the track, charge up the horses, tune them up, then they run around the track...here you can see the four riders under starters orders. The gates open electronically too and the sound effects and music (William Tell Overture) are hilarious!

Here are the two leaders heading down the straight!

Isn't it amazing how something this daft can amuse and entertain a group of adults for hours?!

Thursday, December 22, 2005

 

Merry Christmas Everyone!

It's Thursday night, although I'm counting this as a Friday post. Tomorrow should be a reasonably alright day at work - there's even a rumour we might get to come home at lunchtime if it's quiet enough.

Tonight we're packing our things for our trip to my sisters. We're spending a few days there over Christmas along with my parents and a menagerie of animals (my sister lives on a farm).

There's a lot to do right now - we've a couple of last minute Christmas cards to complete, and we need to be prepared so we don't have to worry too much about getting stuff done tomorrow.

Obviously, and I imagine like many of you, I wont be blogging for a few days. I'm guessing my next entry will most likely be on Tuesday. Hopefully with some festive photos to share.

Those of you that I have e-mail and snail mail addresses for should have already received cards, but for those of you that don't I leave you with a picture of it here.

It only remains for me to wish everyone reading this a very
Merry Christmas and well wishes for 2006!





Wednesday, December 21, 2005

 

Half-Nekkid Christmas

Osbasso has decreed that HNT is suspended this week but I had one all planned out, so you're going to get it anyway. Also he suggested we pick out three fellow HNT'ers and write a short article on what we would get them for Christmas - this is great because it fits in nicely with my HNT photo in any case.

My criteria for the three people I picked was thus - tiny strips of paper with the names of all the people who commented on my last HNT post picked from a hat. There's no room for favouritsm here, and I'm pleased that two of the three are people relatively unknown to me - it's more of a challenge!

Anyway, Tish, Blondie and Warcrygirl - I hope you all like what Bad Santa got you for Christmas! Find out what you got below the HNT pics!




Tish - Ho, ho, ho! Unfortunately I can't fit a full grown man inside my sack, but how about a government grant to start an official print run for the Daily Dump? Also, I think I could arrange for a modelling contract since you seem quite happy to post photos of yourself online without fear!

Blondie - Let me see....I had to have a quick skim through your blogs...I'm thinking maybe something fun for your fish, like a toy diver - one of those ones in the old diving suits with the huge helmets - or a model shipwreck for them to swim around in. Would that be sufficient? I thought maybe a clown fish would be nice as a gift too, but I'm not sure how he'd get along with the ones you already have...

Warcrygirl - I think you need a nice cookery book to go with that new kitchen toy...may I recommend Jamie Oliver (avant garde) or Mary Berry (traditional) cookbooks...also I've sorted out some sessions with a hypnotist to help you with the vertigo and arachnophobia. Just watch out that he doesn't brainwash you!

Special thanks to my wife for her great Photoshop work...I couldn't do this without you!

That's all! Hope you liked your presents and Happy HNT to everyone!!!!


 

Cold turkey rant

My name is Gabby and I'm an addict.

I've tried to quit but I can't get enough of the evil leaf. I can't make it through an evening without a hit.

Yes, folks I have fallen spectacularly off the wagon, and have gone back to drinking tea!

Well, what else did you think I was talking about? Drugs?!

It all started innocently enough - I allowed myself the odd cup of tea on special occasions, for example if we were visiting my parents. Then one evening I found myself wanting a cuppa and caved. Since then my evening mug of tea has gone back to becoming a ritual. It's an automatic reaction - I put Audrey to bed, and the first thing I say to Martha is "Fancy a cup of tea?". Of course she doesn't help because she's always up for one too, so it seems a shame to go to all the effort and not to make one for myself at the same time.

Since my fall I have found all the reasons I stopped drinking tea in the first place have returned...a nasty taste in my mouth afterwards, bad breath and a general feeling of bummed out mellowness - oh hang on, I'm like that anyway!

To my credit I still don't drink tea at work, but I can feel I'm on the slippery slope. I need to kick it again for my own good. Hopefully, by admitting my addiction here I can get my act together. I have no excuse - I need it because I'm weak!

Meanwhile, in a bid to finally push me over the edge, work continues to kick my butt. After the lull that was yesterday, I got a sound thrashing today in the form of the usual idiots who seem incapable of reading a simple fax message.

On Monday I had a delivery all arranged for today at 2pm, a slot which I had to book because the company policy is to make timed deliveries. Frankly I was already amazed that I had managed to achieve that deadline, and I think my customer thought that too - he was extremely happy with me on Monday!

So the fax to the person I'm getting to deliver this stuff says something like:-

"Please arrange for delivery Wednesday at 1400 hrs (if time a problem please let me know)"

Easy enough to understand huh?

Today at 3pm I get to thinking "Hmm, I wonder if that stuff got delivered" and call the place to find out. Imagine my shock and surprise to find that it hasn't been delivered at all...and worse still, an attempt to deliver it had been made at 8am (some 6 hours prior to the requested delivery time), to which the driver was told he would have to wait his turn (fair enough). In response the driver chose to bugger off and not bother delivering at all. Not a single attempt was made to contact me to tell me that this was going on. A phone call when he was there might have resolved the whole problem this morning, but our pea brained driver decided it was far more important to get to his next drop, doubtless thinking more about his next fag (cigarette) break.

As much as I can see the idiocy of not taking the goods as presented some 6 hours earlier, there were specific instructions given by me that were not adhered to. When I spoke to the girl I faxed it to (remember, I'm the customer now) I got a "damned if I care" response. I told her, "You screwed up...how are you going to put it right?" to which she responded "We can't now, not until after Christmas."

Well, gee thanks, thats going to make my customer so much less likely to come to my office and rip off my head! Like I said in a previous post, I don't make promises to my customers that I can't keep - if I do, something out of my control has to happen for my promise not to be kept. Here is one such example.

What really gripes me is there is absolutely nothing I could do to stop this from happening. I had done all I could do to get those goods to the right place at the right time. Someone else ballsed it up for me, and yet I am the one who has to take the blame from the customer. I guess that goes with the turf of being a middle-man, but I just wish both customers and the people we sub contract with would use a little bit of common sense. A phone call at the time the problems began is all it would have taken to have resolved this - as the middle-man it's my job to iron out the creases as they happen, but I'm only as good as the information I'm given.

I know I'm good at my job, but unfortunately it's one of those jobs where, if you make everything go smoothly, nobody notices all the work you've put into it. It's only when it gets screwed up that anyone comments, and then it's not usually too complimentary!

Sorry, rant over...I think I need another cup of tea....


Tuesday, December 20, 2005

 

It doesn't often snow at Christmas!

With Christmas looming Martha decided it was time to dig out the Christmas stockings.

Last year we got one made for Audrey - it was gorgeous, embroidered with her name, with some lovely scenes all over it. We took it to Canada for last Christmas, brought it back home and put it in the airing cupboard where it normally lives for the rest of the year.

Then we moved house...

Fast forward to last weekend and panic when we realise we have no clue where it is. Did it get packed or lost in the move? We even thought maybe we left it in Canada.

Martha wanted to search for the stocking in the third bedroom, something that struck me with sheer horror! Our third bedroom is a dumping zone for all our unpacked boxes and bags. I went searching for something in there a while back, and nearly never came out. I flat refused to be a party to this doomed mission. Audrey could use a pillow case or even our own Christmas stockings which had been surprisingly easy to find - she'd never know the difference!

But Martha was adamant - the stocking WOULD be found and last night she set to going through every damn box in that bedroom. I really did not want to be involved and pretty much left her to it, staying on the computer chatting to people on Yahoo, and occasionally popping my head around the door to see how she was doing.

I have to give credit to my wife, because after searching through almost every bag and box there she found it (why is it that what you're looking for is always in the last one you look in?), and when she presented me with the holy grail of Christmas stockings I had to admit it was worth the search. I had forgotten how gorgeous it was, and I realised then that it was going to be the icing on the cake for Audrey's Christmas this year.

I therefore want to apologise to my wife for not realising that it was a worthwhile venture and for not helping as much as I could have. I guess some things just have to be done a certain way, and I realise that this is one of them...nothing else will do.

Now all we need is some snow on Christmas Day to make Audrey's Christmas complete...where did I put God's phone number???

Monday, December 19, 2005

 

"And so this is Christmas!"

Well my worries about this week (see yesterdays post) were not unfounded.

It was all going so well at work up until lunchtime too. One big worry I knew I had, did in fact work itself out and was resolved by then, but the day was still able to kick my ass in the afternoon and it's not over yet.

Just before the stroke of 5pm I hung up on a phone call and looked over my shoulder at the post tray where I had put two very urgent letters for next day delivery. They were still there! Nobody had taken the post up to the post office yet, and normally they close off the next day delivery service at 5pm!

You have never seen me move so fast. I grabbed my coat, the post bag and the two urgent letters, and belted down to the post office. It's normally a pleasant enough walk down the main street of the town I work in - narrow and with nice quaint shops, but its not so great when you're trying to get to the post office before they close up and everyone on the street is seemingly there for the sole purpose of getting in your way.

Luckily, I did make it just in time, and was quite surprised that despite my 2 minute sprint I wasn't as out of breath as I expected...maybe I'm not so out of shape as I thought?!

What was weird about today, was although I was busy this afternoon, once I'd got back from the post office I discovered I had nothing more to do and could go home pretty much at the same time as I normally do. You see there comes a point in my work where you simply can not physically do any more until the next day. Sure, you can shuffle a few papers at best, but once you've faxed or emailed everyone there is to fax or email, thats pretty much all you can do. It's a weird feeling especially after being so busy - I felt like I was forgetting to do something, like there was unfinished business, but I rifled through my files and discovered I'd caught up! It kind of catches you off guard.

Anyway, more of the same tomorrow I have no doubt...

Sunday, December 18, 2005

 

"God *help* us everyone!"

The title of this entry is an intentional misquote from Dicken's "A Christmas Carol" and pretty much sums up how I'm feeling.

I have to admit I am absolutely dreading this week.

I don't know about other people, but in my line of work this week officially sucks every year. It's the time when the disorganised customers crawl out of the woodwork realising that they left it too late to ship their goods to arrive by Christmas, but still expect us to deliver them by Christmas.

Even last week I was telling customers that the chances of some of their imports getting delivered in the time frames they were looking at were likely not to happen. This doesn't sound like a great advert for my company, I know, but sorry, I'm a realist - I have over 10 years full time experience (and another 10 probably in part time work) in this field, so I think by now I should know how long things take. I don't make false or hollow promises to my customers, and if I do promise something and it doesn't work out there's usually a damn good reason for it.

The other thing about the Christmas season as far as work is concerned is you have to realise things like planes, ships and trucks do not stop just because it's Christmas. I have this standing annual "joke" (I say it that way because it's not funny) that I almost always have a ship with some cargo for us on it arriving into the UK on Christmas Day. More often than not this is actually the case but there's really very little you can do about it other than deal with it the first day back to work. I realise some people do work Christmas Day and any other special day of the year you care to mention, but I think sometimes people forget that the world doesn't stop just because a large chunk of the worlds population is chowing down on their Christmas turkey.

Anyway, today just started the week off well - we decided in a moment of utter madness to venture a shop at a local mall to find a few last minute gifts. By the time we got there Audrey was a sleep, and Martha was gagging to look at clothes for herself, so I opted to stay in the warmth of the car while Audrey napped. Three quarters of an hour and a large chunk of Placebo's album "Once More With Feeling" later, Martha came back empty handed and Audrey was still asleep (yes, through nearly a whole Placebo album!). I still wasn't keen to shop, so Martha decided to go look around some more. Of course five minutes later Audrey woke up!

I got Audrey into her pushchair and we took off to the store that Martha had said she would be in only to find, of course, that she wasn't there at all...so I waited....and waited a bit more...well, it was warm in the shop at least!

I wasn't too disgruntled when Martha finally appeared, so we decided to go look at some other shops. Bad idea...Audrey didn't want to go shopping, and played up something rotten. After trying to find a new swimsuit for Audrey, and failing, a couple of gifts for ourselves (from Audrey), and failing again, we decided to head over to the Early Learning Centre to get a few final small gifts for a few of Audrey's friends.

Of course once inside a toy shop Audrey was fine...we picked some bits and bobs up and decided to give it all up and go home - via my parents house. Audrey perked up there - she had a lot of fun but we only stayed for a couple of hours and a cup of tea before heading home.

So here I am trying to calm myself down...but as I'm hyped up about the week ahead as it is, I can't see that happening...why does Christmas have to be so stressful?! It takes all the fun out of it...

Thursday, December 15, 2005

 

Who watches the Watchmen?

This morning was bad at work. In an unrelated episode to yesterdays visit from Her Majesties finest tax collectors, I lost my temper with another Customs officer, effed and jeffed a bit at them, told them that as an outfit they were totally incompetent and was generally very disagreeable with them.

To the womans credit she stayed calm the entire time and just let me babble on relentlessly about what a shambles our tax collecters have become.

It's a long story, and not one I'll bore you with here, but it basically boils down to having been told by one offficer to do something a certain way, only to find that the information they gave me was completely wrong. If that weren't bad enough, this is now the second time it's happened on the self same job - the self same officer having now given me completely duff (although different to the first time) information twice!

Hello, but we pay our taxes to employ these people - I'd at least like to think they know how to do their job!

I wouldn't normally mind but for the fact that it requires me to resubmit the documents for a third time, which is a complete and utter waste of my time and energy, not to mention paper and money (which I am going to have to bill to my customer who is going to be less than impressed). All this considering that Customs have now received and somehow lost two sets of documents sent to them already which should have been more than enough for them to have completed the work they needed to do in the first place.

Anyway, I'll shut up now.

The rest of my day was much better thankfully, and when I got home I did something wild and reckless - I wrapped Christmas gifts! I was thinking how spoilt Audrey is - she's got a stack of gifts (none of which are from Martha and I!) - it's funny because I think no matter how hard you try not to spoil your child, you can still bet someone else will do it for you. Not that I mind - it means I don't feel obliged to buy Audrey games or toys - I can spend my money on clothes for her or tuck money away in her bank account - it's not like she's going to care this year if Mummy and Daddy haven't got her some huge ass present. Obviously that will all change soon enough, but I think while she's still of an age where she's unlikely to hold it against us, it's better that we see about providing the necessities for her, and looking at her future rather than lavishing her with toys. I'll leave that to her extended family!

Anyway, I realised I also didn't say any more about Audrey's birthday on Tuesday. We had a lovely day with her and she was well behaved. After opening gifts at breakfast time, we spent the rest of the morning at the local Wacky Warehouse where she was able to play safely and we got some nice photos. The big shocker is I now have one photo which, having been officially approved for publication, includes Martha!

After that we drove to our favourite restaurant - this was where Mummy and Daddy got to have their part of the days fun by having a lovely meal. Martha had her usual, and I had a game pie with chips. It was wonderful food, but I'm still picking the Scrabble letters out of my teeth (sorry, couldn't resist the pun).

At 3pm Audrey was booked to go for her first ever dental appointment (yeah, I know, on her birthday - how cruel are we?!). It went very well. Audrey sat with Mummy in the dentists chair and was very obliging with opening her mouth although she wanted to suck on that little dentists mirror more than anything else. For her trouble she received a Finding Nemo sticker which she seemed more interested in sticking on her nose than anywhere else.

Once back home we pretty much had a normal evening...I think a good day was had by all. Anyway, I leave you with the photo of Martha and Audrey inside the Wacky Warehouse - and there was me thinking I'd never see padded walls again...nurse, is it time for my medication yet?!




Wednesday, December 14, 2005

 

A Monster Half-Nekkid Thursday!

Continuing the theme of movies in an HNT styl-ee I have cobbled together, with my poor Photoshop skills, the following monster HNT post.

For a change (and to my wifes dismay) this is all my own work - even down to the photo which I took on a timer delay, rather than enlist her help.

It certainly wouldn't be the first time I've been called a hairy ape...now if I could just reach that itch on my back before the airforce arrives to knock me off my perch!

Happy HNT everyone!




 

Announcement, Birthday and going to Prison

This is a public service announcement...

A little while ago I was chatting to a fellow blogger and they asked me if I ever check their blog comments for replies from them to the comments I have left. Blogger is unfortunate in that it doesn't notify you if someone leaves a comment to your comment (are you following this?) unlike Livejournal which creates threads of comments, also a feature that Myblogsite used. This is a great feature and one I miss a great deal over here on Blogger.

Anyway, I do, wherever possible reply to peoples comments, so it is sometimes worth your while coming back to see if I have replied to you should you decide to leave one. The only time I don't reply is on HNT day - it's too much to reply to every single comment, and also I think it's not really the point.

Public service announcement ends.

Happy Birthday to my sister, Louise!

My my, what a week - two birthdays right after each other. I can't wait to see my big sister at Christmas - we have our ups and downs like all siblings, but I love her and I know I don't say it very often.

Christmas is looming like a great big looming thing. I think I'm just starting to get into the spirit, now that Audrey's birthday is over...we can finally put all our focus on Christmas now rather than going around like headless chickens with 100 things to do. We still have 100 things to do, but at least they are mostly related to the events of the next two weeks.

Today at work was pretty hellish in the morning. Apart from the usual catching up after a day off, I also had a visit from Her Majesties Customs & Excise (or Revenue and Customs as they now want to be known). Part of my job involves paying and accounting for the import duty on beers, wines and liquor for customers wishing to bring it in from European countries. Obviously this is quite a big deal for customs, so they make regular checks to make sure everything is above board and our papers are correct. I like to think I'm pretty meticulous with all of this, but even I make the odd mistake. The greater worry though is the authenticity and intentions of our customers, some of whom I am convinced are running some kind of scam when they make these imports. I have nothing to prove it of course, and don't want to get into trouble, so all I can do is make sure our side of the operation is completely squeaky clean. However when customs come a'knocking it's quite disruptive to my working day, and you do sometimes feel like it's the Spanish Inquisition ("No-one expects the Spanish Inquisition!").

Anyway, this time around it all went relatively smoothly. However, I could relate one or two scarier occasions. I don't think they'll be hauling me off to prison just yet, but I hope you'll all write to me if they do!

So off to formulate my HNT post! Can't believe its that time already!

 

"Bring out yer dead!"

I have contracted...

Asian Wombat Flu...A rare disease transmitted to humans by petting a wombat.


Find out what you've contracted!

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

 

Happy Birthday Audrey!


Two years ago today, December 13th 2003, our daughter Audrey Jane Kagan was born.

Doubtless you can tell from the amount I talk about her here in my blog that she is the biggest joy in my life. Back in university barely months after Martha and I had met, I remember doing a film studies course which looked at religion and philosophy in films, and one major point of note was that of conditional and unconditional love. Even though I understood the concept, at that point in my life I had never known the true feeling of unconditional love and it is only since Audrey came into my life that I now know how that feels. It is truly overwhelming and words can hardly express that feeling of giving love to and receiving love from someone no matter what they are like or what they do. It is an awesome sensation.

Audrey doesn't know it yet (and nor does Martha until she reads this) but she and I have a song - "our" song. It's something that at the time of her birth was apt and I heard quite a lot of, and on more than one occasion at around that time nearly brought me to tears.

A month or so before Audrey was born the Pet Shop Boys released a "Best of" album called "PopArt". Of course, being the fan that I am, I bought the album, and listened to it non-stop for sometime afterwards.
At about the same time they also released a new single called "Miracles" which not only was one of their best songs for a long while, but also touched a nerve with me at a time when our own little miracle was imminent. I remember listening to that song over and over in my car, to and from the hospital after Audrey was born - I was so elated, and the words just seemed to fit right in with my state of mind - nothing could get in the way now that Audrey was here.

Anyway,
I wouldn't normally post the entire lyrics of a song on a blog - if you're anything like me, you don't even bother to read them - but I want to share this as a tribute to my dear daughter. I give you "Miracles", by the Pet Shop Boys.

Happy Birthday Audrey! I love you!

Pet Shop Boys
- Miracles

Clouds drift away
when they see you
Rain wouldn't dare
to fall near you here
Miracles happen
when you're around
Somehow the grass is much greener
Rivers flow faster and cleaner
Being with you
no matter where
sunlight breaks through
and suddenly there's

A bluer sky
whenever you're around
You always bring
a bluer sky
a brighter day

Thunder is silent before you
Roses bloom more to adore you too
Miracles happen
when you're around
The sunset is deeper and longer
The scent of the jasmine is stronger
Stray dogs don't bite
Birds start to sing
Lightening daren't strike
You suddenly bring

A bluer sky
whenever you're around
You always bring
a bluer sky
a brighter day
Birds fly
even higher in the sky
Sun shines
It's a new day

Being with you
no matter where
sunlight breaks through
and suddenly there's

A bluer sky
whenever you're around
You always bring
a bluer sky
a brighter day
(Miracles happen)
Birds fly
even higher in the sky
(Miracles happen)
Sun shines
It's a new day
(Miracles happen)
Sun shines
It's a new day


Sunday, December 11, 2005

 

Babelfish

Anyone whose read Douglas Adams' "Hitchikers Guide to the Galaxy" books will know exactly what a Babelfish is and what it does. For the unitiated it is a small fish which when inserted into the ear becomes a universal translator for intergalactic languages. Good eh?!

Babelfish also happens to be a useful internet tool for making basic translations from and to various Earth languages. Not quite as useful but it has it's moments.

However, I bet Babelfish (the website) still doesn't translate Toddler.

Audrey's speech skills are what I would consider to be very good. Among her peers at the party yesterday I have to admit, even setting aside doting parent syndrome, she is able to speak clearly and in a way that can usually be easily understood. There were two three year olds at the party and I couldn't understand a word they were saying!

Usually with Audrey, if there's a word we can't understand, we can normally figure it out quickly using a process of elimination, looking at our surroundings, or getting Audrey to say the word again.

However, lately, one word has got us completely baffled. She's been saying it for some time now - I would say several weeks to my knowledge - and we still haven't managed to work out what is means.

The word is "Poutshout" or at least that's what it sounds like. Audrey says it totally clearly, and when we ask her what or where "poutshout" is she recognises the word and will talk about it. So far we know that various things and people can be "poutshout".

Audrey says she is "poutshout".
The bath is "poutshout".
Our childminder's daughter is "poutshout".

Equally, some things and people are not, according to Audrey, "poutshout".

We thought maybe this word could be literal, so tonight I asked her about "pouting" and made a few faces which she enjoyed seeing us make. She seemed to know the deal with pouting, but it didn't produce any breakthroughs with the word.

Of course I realise it could be entirely made up, but it would be the first made up word Audrey's ever come up with - anything else she says, even if it's not correct, usually holds some resemblance to the actual word she's trying to convey. That's why I'm convinced it means something. I also don't think it's anything bad - everything she deems to be "poutshout" she tends to like or enjoy.

It's almost as if it means "cool" or "fun" - Audrey's cool, bath is fun, my friends are cool/fun, but like I said, usually her twisted or mispronounced words would sound close to the correct ones.

I'm at a loss, and offer "poutshout" up to you to see if you have any ideas. Maybe we should just accept it and start using it in everyday conversation. Hey, if we all use it enough it could end up in the Oxford English Dictionary!

Hope you all had a poutshout weekend!

Saturday, December 10, 2005

 

Twitch, twitch

Well the party's over and we survived!

I don't think I'm permanently scarred either, but I don't rule out getting 'Nam style post traumatic stress flashbacks...

Everything pretty much went to plan, although we prepared way too much food, and the activity we had of the foam Christmas tree ornaments and glitter pens never happened. It didn't need to - the children just played and played, ate a bit, and then played some more. In the end Martha put some foam shapes in their goody bags and each one got a glitter pen. Their goody bags were bulging with stuff - I think we overdid it, but then we'll probably go down as the most preferred kids party hosts simply because you can bet the boys and girls will come away with a massive haul of free toys and sweets.

Audrey didn't nap today and as a result had a meltdown mid party, right when we wanted her to blow out her candle on the cake. The crying was a bit of a put on, but I'm not sure why since she was very much the centre of attention - maybe it was just too overwhelming for her?

Anyway, the afternoon whizzed by without any major incidents and once everyone had gone, my parents stayed back and treated us all to Chinese takeaway for supper. I have to admit to being at a point of not caring by then. I'm not sure if it was the beer I'd drunk that afternoon, or the fact I hadn't had a proper meal all day, but I was feeling pretty grisly - my stomach didn't feel right and I've stayed clear of further alcohol for the rest of the evening. Audrey stayed up well beyond her bedtime but as a result was sound asleep in no time.

So, my parents have now departed, Martha is calling her home, and I'm blogging...I guess its all back to normal again...although lately I'm not entirely sure what normal is...time for bed - I need some sleep!

Friday, December 09, 2005

 

Happy Happy, Joy Joy!

Today being, as it is, a Friday might be cause enough for celebration on its own. However, there's plenty more to be happy about out there than the fact that the weekend is upon us.

Tomorrow we are having a birthday party for Audrey, although officially she's not two until next Tuesday when I shall be doing an official birthday blog about her. To be honest, up until about half an hour ago I was panic stricken by the thought of seven toddlers running riot around our house tomorrow afternoon for two and half hours, but this evening Martha and I have been setting up, and just like decorating the Christmas tree, when it starts to come together you realise how exciting it actually all is.

The birthday banners are up, the balloons are inflated, the goody bags for the kids are filled. We got a lovely cake made in the shape of a 2, and we have activities ready for them to play with. For the parents the wine is in the fridge, the beers are outside (coolest place for them) and its really only the food that remains to be prepared.

Ask me again at this time tomorrow and I may eat my words, but right now I'm actually looking forward to this!

Another thing to be happy about, and something which slipped under my blogging radar is the very welcome return of the Angry Robot. Anyone who gives a remote damn about music should check out his site, and I've put him back on my blogroll to the left. Don't just read a couple of recent posts - get delving into his archives, run a search or two and see what you get.

His return is also making me think about how I might resurrect my music and movies sections that I enjoyed writing so much in my old blog - they weren't the most read sections of my blog, but to some extent gave me the most pleasure to write since these are things I am passionate about and like to air my views on.

Tomorrow is a busy day - starting with long overdue haircuts for the entire family, followed by swimming before coming back home to make the final preparations before the party starts.

I don't think we'll need it, but wish us luck!

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

 

Half-Nekkid Thursday - "Groovy!"

It's Half-Nekkid Thursday again! Hurrah!

I've moved from blockbuster movies to B list cult classics this week!

Ably assisted by my wife, Martha, who took the photo of me and did some Photoshop magic (I took the picture of her separately) we've recreated a classic horror movie poster for your HNT delight.

As before I've put the real poster next to it so you can compare and contrast...no toilet brush holders this week, but I do a mean bit of topiary with that hedge trimmer!

I don't think I need to say any more really except "Gimme some sugar, baby!"







Tuesday, December 06, 2005

 

"It's a, it's a, it's a...it's a blog!" - THE REMIX!

Martha passed her UK Citizenship test!!!! Hussah!

We don't know what she scored, but I understand there were
24 questions and she was given three quarters of an hour to do them. She told me she was finished in 6 minutes!

Anyway, the upshot of this is she can now apply for her British/UK citizenship and become dual nationality! This opens up a world of wonderful things, like getting through the lineup at the airport faster, that sort of thing. It also has its drawbacks, but lets not ruin the moment!


In other news we decorated the tree a bit last night - it's not quite finished but I got fed up after a while. Anyway it was done enough to impress Audrey - we got some video tape of her seeing it for the first time - at first she was speechless, then she started rattling off all the things she could see hanging from it! It's sooo cute! When I get my act together I'll post some pics of our tree - I'll do a before and after...


Speaking of photos, my HNT post is brewing nicely, but I need Martha's help both taking the pic and probably some Photoshop work...she doesn't know that bit yet!! Ha ha!


I noticed a few comments suggesting I do the nekkid Terminator Arnie...well sorry folks, not going to happen - I don't think my family members who read this will enjoy that too much, even if the rest of you do. Since when was HNT about baring all anyway?!

Myblogsite is STILL up and running...I have a list of expletives for them right now, but I'll get over it...I have to admit to feeling like my blog has lost its way. Now that it's somewhat more linear, I don't feel so inclined to write my thoughts on movies and music so much. I used to be able to tuck those entries away in their relevent sections, so those interested could go see it without subjecting everyone else to it. Without that I'm feeling rather stifled. I know I can create a sub-blog for these things, and I am seriously
thinking about doing that, but it's the general faff I have to set it all up that's putting me off.

Anyway, as a result I am going to get all excitable over the news that the Pet Shop Boys' new album is called "Fundamental" and has a provisional release date of April 17, 2006 and it will be preceded by a new single,
"Minimal"!

Now don't you wish I had put that someplace else?!


And here's the Remix - CHRISTMAS TREE PICS!





Monday, December 05, 2005

 

Sunday, bloody Sunday

Well, yesterday was a mixed day. I would have blogged sooner, but I was so tired, and went right to bed once my weekly dose of "Lost" was over.

We got up relatively early and headed out to get the lights for our Christmas tree. The first place we tried was crap - it only had white lights, and we wanted coloured ones, but we did pick up a few bits and bobs for Audrey's birthday party so it wasn't an entirely wasted trip.

After that we went to a shop called Hobbycraft looking for inspiration for activities the kids can do on Saturday. I'd been chatting online the night before to a blogchum about this since they have kids and I thought maybe they'd have some experience in the field, so to speak, and I picked up some interesting ideas. Anyway, this store stocks all arts and crafts materials, so it seemed like a logical place to start and with some new ideas in mind we were able to home in on some things quite quickly.

In the end we found some foam Christmas decoration kits - these contain pre-cut/moulded foam shapes (snowflakes, baubles, trees) and twine to hang them by, but also coloured glitter glue pens so the kids can decorate them how they like and then of course take them home to hang on their own trees. We thought it was pretty neat - lets hope the kids do too!!! We need a few more ideas, but so far we haven't come up with anything...anyone else got any thoughts!?

Fortunately Hobbycraft also had multicoloured Christmas lights! I kind of picked them up in a hurry without really looking, but whenh I got home to check that they worked was surprised that they have about 8 functions on them...not great if you're prone to epileptic fits, but fabulous otherwise!

Anyway, from Hobbycraft we went on to my parents for Sunday lunch. The traditional British roast beef, yorkshire puddings, vegetables and roast potatoes. Yum! We also bought a chocolate torte dessert which was lovely - totally wrong of course, but how could anyone resist!? Anyway, there was also quite a lot of alcohol flowing that afternoon too, and I did the very wrong thing of mixing my grape and my grain. I think a combination of that and my junk food from the day before just put my body into shutdown, and I started to feel quite queasy, and combined with tiredness and generally feeling tipsy, I decided it was a good idea to simply crash on my parents sofa for the rest of the afternoon. Even when we got home I didn't feel right, so I skipped supper and ended up having a cup of tea and a bag of crisps when "Lost" started.

The tree didn't get decorated which was a great shame, but hopefully thats something that can be achieved tonight or tomorrow. I did achieve however...Martha and I finally got our butts in gear and paid some money into Audrey's Child Trust Fund. We've been wanting to for a while now but never felt like we had enough spare money to do it, but decided before her birthday we needed to max it out - you see you can only pay so much into it each year, the aniversary being the childs birthday, so it makes good sense to max it out if you can, then you can start again for the next year...Government savings schemes! Just brilliant!

So now it's back to the grind...and build up to the big party event on Saturday! We have so much to do, and so little time!!!


Saturday, December 03, 2005

 

Shop til you drop...

Well, as anticipated, today was very busy...but I do feel a huge sense of achievement, and I love that!

We slept in a bit too, which wasn't entirely the plan - we had hoped to be up and have the grocery shop done by mid morning, so we could go swimming right afterwards, but it never happened. Instead we minced around the house until it was time to go swimming, and agreed that we should do the grocery shop immediately afterwards.

Swimming was great - at least I thought so, Martha was less impressed I think. Considering we didn't go last week Audrey was raring to go and right away, and for the first time ever jumped from a standing postion into the pool - previously she would only go from a sitting position. I was so impressed because she's finally catching up to the other kids in her class. What was even better was she couldn't get enough of it and must have jumped off the side of the pool half a dozen times in the whole half hour session! She got a bit tired and cranky towards the end, which is doubtless why Martha thought the session didn't go so well.

After our swim we headed to the supermarket, stopping briefly at a nearby Micky D's for a burger - McChicken Premiere and chocolate milkshake for me to be precise. The grocery shopping went well - we had to buy some bits and bobs for Audrey's upcoming birthday party - finger food, party favours and sweets - we seemed to manage to find everything we needed.

We then headed home and ditched everything we'd bought, turned tail, and went to a nearby garden centre to buy a Christmas tree! When we got married Martha and I bought a fake 6 foot tree which has served us very well over 8 years. It only sees the light of day every second year anyway, because we have always been in Canada for Christmas every other year and never really saw the point of setting it all up if we weren't even going to be there to enjoy it. However, this year we are in the UK for Christmas and Martha had requested that since Audrey seems to have already grasped the notion that Christmas brings Santa, presents and lots of other yummy things, that we should shell out for a real tree and make it extra special for her. I wasn't entirely for it to start with, but she didn't take long to persuade me using Audrey as emotional leverage.

When we got to the garden centre we were greeted at the entrance by Santa himself, who, obviously hard up for cash like the rest of us, was collecting money with a bucket. Of course it was for charity so we chucked some loose change in his bucket and he said "Thankyou" and googooed over Audrey. A while ago we taught Audrey that Santa says "Ho, ho, ho!" and she would dutifully repeat this if asked. Since meeting the man himself, she now responds to the question "What does Santa say?" with "Thankyou!"...gee, well done Santa, for not living up to your reputation. Next thing you'll be telling us you're not real!

Anyway, once inside the garden centre we found the Christmas trees and Martha started to check them out...I have to be honest that I wasn't really interested in being party to the picking out of the tree...I think Martha maybe sensed this, so kind of got on with it, occasionally asking what I thought. Eventually she found one she liked - I reckon it's pushing 7 or 8 feet in height - and we also bought a stand for it which is constructed from what looks like half a wooden cask with handles attached. Quite rustic and lovely I think.

So we made a quick exit - yes we did pay - and amazingly the tree fit into Martha's car (a Mercedes A Class) although we came prepared in two cars, and had removed all the seats from her car so it covered the floor pretty much from front passenger footwell to the back end of the boot (trunk to you crazy North American folk!).

Once we got back home we again ditched the tree and the tree holder, spun about and hit the road again for the big traders store Makro. We needed some extra decorations for the tree and more food and all the booze for the coming few weeks as requested by my sister. We filled a big shopping cart with everything we needed - I can't remember the last time I bought this much alcohol in a single trip - two cases of lagers, a case of bitter, a bottle of Baileys and on our earlier supermarket excursion a bottle of whisky. Anyone want to come round for a party???

Anyway, as you can imagine we came out of there somewhat poorer than we started, but I think we managed to get everything we need for the holidays, so we shouldn't have to venture out much for anything more than everyday groceries until next year!!!

By the time this was done and loaded into the car it was 6pm and Audrey's suppertime. Martha and I decided that, in spite of the fact we'd already pigged out on enough junk food for one day, we would head to the nearby KFC and get a bucket of chicken for the three of us. Back home Audrey had some leftover veg and pasta, so with some chocken strips and a few fries it was a done deal. As usual though I completely regretted it afterwards, and now feel like a fat bloater for eat nothing but crap all day.

Since we were behind schedule, we got Audrey ready for bed, and thankfully she went down quickly having barely had ten minutes sleep between car journies too keep her going today. That allowed me to unload the car of groceries since I'd left them there while we had supper, then get some fuel into my car down at the nearby petrol station. After that I set myself on the tree with a saw and some sharp cutters, to make it pretty for the stand.

Martha helped a little, but has been preparing for her UK citizenship test - yep, you heard right - Martha wants to become a British subject. It wont mean she renounces her Canadian citizenship, but that she would have dual nationality, which I think ultimately would be very cool. Anyway, the government just started running tests for people wanting to become British citizens, so Martha has had to buy a book which alleges to hold all the answers, and sits the test itself next Tuesday. I've been trying to surf the web for clues to what the questions might be like, and the closest I can get is this BBC quiz. Have a go yourself and see how well you score! Martha amazingly got 13 out of a possible 14 correct! As a "true" Brit I doubt very much I could have scored that well.

Anyway, back to the tree - it's up, and inside, but not decorated yet. I dug out all our old Christmas tree decorations but am buggered if I can find the lights. As already mentioned it's been nearly two years since they were last used, and I suspect with the house move they're packed neatly away somewhere completely out of reach. Therefore I've decided it'll be much easier to just go and buy some new ones tomorrow. Meanwhile gravity can take it's course on the branches of the tree which got a bit "upwardly" squished when it got packed with plastic mesh at the garden centre.

Tomorrow is another day, as they say. We are going to my parents for lunch, but not before we go get the lights for the tree and head out to a store called Hobbycraft to see if we can get any inspiration for an activity the kids can do at Audrey's birthday party...so another busy day I guess, and obviously will want to get home in time to decorate the tree tomorow and watch Lost!

Man, I feel exhausted just thinking about it.


Friday, December 02, 2005

 

Busy weekend ahead and health weirdness

This weekend is going to be busy busy busy!

Next Saturday (the 10th) we are having a birthday party for Audrey and we want to get all the stuff we need sorted this weekend. So we're talking party favours, party food, and stuff to keep the kids happy for 2-3 hours.

HELP!

Also we have a shopping list of things we need to take up to my sister for Christmas...this consists of things like alcohol, alcohol, and more alcohol...

Add to that the requirement for a Christmas tree, a swimming lesson for Audrey and a Sunday promise to go visit my parents and you've got a weekend where there's no chance of getting a moments rest.

Oh and did I mention I was up until 3am last night chatting to blogchums? Somewhat unplanned and deeply regretting it now because I am so tired...I know its my fault - I just don't know how to say goodbye!

Something interesting today - Dad just got a note from a cousin who has just been diagnosed with Dupuytren's Contracture. This is a disease which affects the fingers, drawing them towards your palm due to a thickening of the connective tissue in the palms. Surgery isn't always successful in stopping this from occurring or recurring. Obviously you can imagine the implications of such a thing happening to your hands and I understand it can be quite painful too. Initial signs of this problem can be nodules that appear on your palms often down the crease lines.

So here's the interesting bit - this is hereditory, and mostly found in people of Celtic origin - for Celtic read not just Irish/Scottish, but also Viking descendants.

So here's the weirdness - not only is my family on my fathers side of Danish origin, but only a few months ago I began to develop small nodules on the palms of my hands. Only a few mind, but enough to make me wonder what on earth they were, so I got Googling and discovered this stuff about Dupuytren's Contracture. It kind of freaked me out at the time, but I decided not to panic and see what happened to these things. Eventually they went away, and now my hands are totally fine.

Therefore imagine my surprise when Dad gave me this news today and imagine his surprise when I told him I knew about the condition and actually thought I had it!!!

So where does this leave me - I have a direct relative who has officially been diagnosed with the condition, and something freaky that happened to me a few months back which led me to the very same conclusion. For now my hands are 100% fine, but today just got me thinking. I doubt theres anything I can do - I have no visible signs of this any more, and unless I start to notice anything unusual there really isn't any point in seeing a doctor.

Doubtless I'll forget in time, and store this information in my archives...however, it did make me think long and hard today about what could be in store...

Thursday, December 01, 2005

 

My blog site...

OK, I'm very annoyed with Myblogsite today. November 30th was supposedly the big switch off for all Myblogsite accounts - the notice said no new posts will be permitted after this date.

So, I decided to check this morning, December 1st, and to my surprise there was my old blog still fully intact!

OK, I thought, maybe I just can't post to it, so I logged in, and there was the message reminding me of the big switch off. Then I posted an entry (you can see it if you like at http://kagan.myblogsite.com) and left the building.

So what exactly is the deal here, because to be perfectly honest, I never wanted to move from there, and if they're going to continue running, what the hell am I doing wasting my time here?

Someone suggested to me that it may have been a cunning ruse to get people to sign up for paid accounts...if it is, it's pretty low, and I'd sooner take my business elsewhere anyway, but that wouldn't make a great deal of sense. On the other hand, maybe their schedule of shut down is just delayed and my blog will disappear in the next day or so (if it hasn't already by the time you read this).

Really I just don't like being told something and them not following through on it. I went to the effort to move my blog and quite frankly, a lot of people have helped me to move it, make my decision and get it set up - it's not just affecting me, but them too.

Anyway, I hope they are just behind schedule, because if they remain online, I'm going to have a serious quandary on my hands. Although, I'll probably just stick with Blogger - if Myblogsite can't make up their minds, why should I blog there?

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