You Looking for me?

Where have I been for so long? Just logged in and looked over my blogs and comments and they’re all from so long ago! Where have I been?

There are a few reasons which all add up to the total picture.

In no particular order:- the football (proper football my American friends) season started. As I coach this great game all the spare time I thought I had disappeared – Poof.

Our youngest son was diagnosed with Asperger’s. Coming to terms with that has been really difficult. The amount of misunderstanding surrounding it and how we are having to work much closer with his school and sports clubs is phenomenal. So many of the “difficult” occasions we have had to face with him – especially with authority – have become a lot clearer. Just need to find a way/strategy to stop him telling his teachers that they’re stupid!

I have had a really difficult time at my job. The landscape we work in is changing and everyone is trying to protect themselves – finding out a few friend-colleagues (yes I’ve just invented a hyphenated word, do I have to patent that somewhere?) are in fact the opposite.

And finally, and this is in order, I have had to work out why I wanted to blog, what was the reason? Has this long hiatus actually been the start of the end of my writing (Grammar police I’ll let you jump all over that!) or would I return as it was such an important part of my life?

Then a few weeks ago I got a crazy idea in my head. One of those ideas that is there all day, you dream about it at night and then it’s there immediately you wake up the next day. I blame my youngest daughter. She loves those make over programmes and especially “George Clarkes Amazing Spaces”. A programme all about small spaces and clever design and I realised the shed at the side of our house had a small 1.5mx1.5m bit of space in front of it. If I could “box” that space in I would have an area to escape to and write within.

The Writing Room

My Sanctuary

And so The Snug was conceived, planned and if you look at the photo…..built! LOL

So watch this space as over the next few weeks I write about the family, me and most importantly The Snug.

I’m looking forward to sharing it all with you.

(Tweeting @1966colinblog)

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To gift or not to gift that is the question

Or Blogging 101 – inspired by Greeting Cards

The blog I mention above is all about whether to send a greeting card or not and it inspired me to write about gifts. There is a good reason for this as our family have just entered the “birthday zone” where there seems to be a birthday every week through June, July and August. What happens in October and November in my family!

So for example my sister has two boys and each year they ask for money to put towards something bigger and this year in particular I realised they are both earning more money than me……so why do I keep sending them money (with a cheap greeting card which goes back to the blog above). They are in their 20s so when do I say sorry I’ve got to stop. It’s the same for the other family units, children I don’t see from one year to the next – don’t judge but I have no leisure time don’t you read my blogs? And my dad reminds me “Remember it’s Nathan’s birthday!” Dad, Nathan is 35 years old…..

My mum was one of five and each aunt and uncle had at least two children but in the main three. So all the aunts got together and said that eighteen years old was the ceiling as it was much too expensive to keep giving. But no one seems to want to say that in the present. How ironic that I struggle with presents in the present!

I wouldn’t mind if they thought about me but all I get on my birthday is their name added to my card from their parent. They don’t even write it themselves as they no longer live with their parents. Oh happy days.

Dave Gorman captured it nicely the other day on his programme “Modern Life is Goodish” when he drew up the gift tree. His gift tree was mum, dad, brothers and some nieces and nephews – about nine in total. His wife on the other hand had family and then old school friends and work colleagues and the antenatal group and teachers at their children’s school and neighbours. Her number of gifts was in the 30s!

So where do we draw the line? How do you get everyone on the same song sheet? And most importantly how do you up the number of gifts you get yourself!!! (Tongue firmly in cheek)

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I want a refund!

Or Blogging 101 – day, to be honest, somewhere between day 5 and day 14.

When I was younger it was a time of only three television channels, watched on such a small screen size that you wouldn’t even have it in your bedroom now. There was no way of recording the programmes let alone watching them on demand. If you missed it, you missed it.

Music came on vinyl discs that you put a diamond needle onto, to pop and fizz and bring you a warm sound from a gramophone machine that was bigger than your sofa and you had to warm it up by turning it on a few minutes before.

Washing was carried out in a twin tub. A machine where you had to physically pull the wet and steaming hot washing out of one tub into the other tub to spin it out. And beware your mum if you forgot to hook the drain hose over the edge of the sink. I remember the days when mum and I would stand in the garden and wring water out of the jeans by each turning in a different direction.

Cameras used film and you had to wait days for them to be developed only to find you hadn’t taken off the lens cap or every head had been cut off.

Bedding was sheets and blankets, that foreign invention the duvet was an European thing just like bidets and Edam cheese and German beer festivals. Our freezer was small as everything was bought fresh every few days, milk was delivered to your doorstep and get this, dustmen actually walked up and down the paths of Britain collecting bins and returning them empty. And chocolate was a treat and your nan kept a tin with Club biscuits and Viscounts in that only came out on Sunday. Oh and the shops! The shops were shut all day Sunday and half of Wednesday and you walked and cycled everywhere.

Weekends were spent going to watch football on a Saturday, after my dad had worked his Saturday half day shift and then later gather round the radio to get the full time scores. Dad sshhing us all as if he missed them he wouldn’t get them again until Match of the Day. Then the “Pools” which is why dad needed to hear the scores – we could be the winners of £100,000.

Everything was paid in cash. You saved for everything and accepted that if you couldn’t afford something you couldn’t have it. We rented our television for years and then when my sister and I started work we rented a video recorder. With remote control mind you, nothing cheap….except the remote was on a wire!

(Please feel free to comment with memories below in the comments section of the late 70s, early 80s – the past really is a different country)

Those were the days and I didn’t realise this blog would go in this direction. Which brings me to the title “I want a refund!” For years in the late 70s I avidly watched Tomorrow’s World. A fascinating science programme that showed the leaps in technology, the space race, Jacques Cousteau and all the electronics starting to come out of the Far East. One of their big things was that as our machines evolved (dish washers, tumble dryers, electric lawn mower, car washes, bigger faster aircarft) was that we, the humble man and women in the street would have more “leisure time”. Their picture of leisure time was said man and women sitting in deckchairs drinking some sort of liquid with an umbrella in it whilst a robot lawn mower made its way up and down their garden leaving perfect stripes and not hitting them.

Well that’s why I want a refund. Where is my leisure time? Where is my cool refreshing liquid with its umbrella? Where is my perfect striped lawn and my house maintained by a simmering army of robots? Why am I continually tired and rushed off my feet? Why do I have to watch my television programmes on a tablet, through an on demand service whilst cooking or cleaning or waiting for the kids to do their athletics or to come home on the train from school?

I want a refund. I have been sold a pig in a poke, a pup, a fantastical vision of the future that I fell for hook, line and sinker! Welcome to cliché corner!

We probably do have more leisure time. Time in which we are outside of our jobs but we have managed to fill every spare moment of our days. My kids don’t go and play on old bomb sites or run through the woods. They are more active than I was but they attend structured activity where I have to get them there and then sit for a couple of hours before driving them home. I’m sitting at athletics now writing this. (On my old tablet with wired keyboard) Two of my four get either a train or a bus to school instead of walking. We have to drop and pick up from the station every day. I coach a football team twice a week plus games at the weekend. My wife runs an athletics team which is twice a week and then a whole day of the weekend. My son’s football team plays and trains a distance away. We have family and friends to visit but also to keep in touch with via our social media responsibility……interestingly I’m ok with not going on social media every day whereas my wife really feels she’s letting her friends down if she doesn’t, ergo we all have a social media responsibility)

Taking part in Blogging 101 has made me realise all this, as I started well, writing each day with each new challenge and then I’ve got stuck with committee meetings and running kids around and trying to coach and running trials for our team for next season and my blogging has slowed to a “‘quick I have five minutes before the train arrives – write!”

So Tomorrow’s World, I don’t have a deckchair, there is no liquid with an umbrella in it, I don’t put my feet up and I definitely don’t have a robot lawn mower – I WANT a refund!


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Travel the World

Or Blogging 101 – day nine (absolutely sure I’m back on track now!)

The lesson today is very interesting and asks that you write about another person’s post and use their pages as inspiration. So I’ve had a nose around again and thought I’d see what Expedition Hobo would bring to mind. (And I may even have added a link without too much trouble – such fun)

The immediate thing that draws you in are the little quotes – “don’t just see the world, see yourself in it” and “I consider myself a citizen of the world, a Hobo waiting for the next train and wondering its destination.” And I want some of that. I want the “have a backpack packed (that must be bad grammar!) and ready to go” attitude, the “where does the wind blow me today” attitude. I want to wake up and the dream I’ve been having is actually real – I’m walking a glazer in Iceland, I’m watching whales off the coast of Cape Cod, I’m walking the historic sites of England that I keep promising myself I will do.

And then….then reality bites and my thoughts turn to a wife, four children, a dog (Peppa you all must know about Peppa – ooh another link), bills to pay and a job to keep. So reading Expedition Hobo’s brilliant and beautiful to view blog is inspiring but at the very same time raises questions. How do you keep your job? How do you afford both the trips and to live? Are there dependants? Why can’t I be carefree and live for the now? Why am I held back – am I just making excuses?

Should I just start by buying that backpack – the bills will be here when I get back, right? And do I take any of the hoard? I think Peppa is a good travelling companion but she won’t be able to peel the potatoes so will have some limitations.

And maybe at the end of the day I’m satisfied with my life. I live the life I want and I can enjoy someone else’s life by reading blogs like Hobo. I can be there without being there. I can admire and be thrilled at the same time.

Anyone want to buy an unused backpack?

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Passing Comment

Or Blogging 101 – Day Eight (I’m pretty sure it’s day eight….I think…)

Comment on at least four other posts they said, easy they said! Well it’s a bit like being the last to sign the birthday/wedding/leaving or get well soon card that’s going round the office. Every part of the card is full with Happy Birthday; Another year; Congrats on your big day; here’s to you and your husband to be; Good luck in your new job; sorry to see you go; hope you’re back on your feet soon; sorry to hear you’ve not been well…..and so on.

How do you write something unique, fresh, different? I do like to turn the card up the wrong way and then you stand out because it’s upside down but you can’t really do that with a comment. It has to be something different from “Love your post”; “Keep writing”; “Hi!”; “Wish I could write like you”. And then it struck me you have to actually read more than one post. Get a feel for the site, see what they’re about, hear the voice.

With that in mind I have tried with these four…..just no one go and check…ok, deal!!

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A walk on the wild side

Or Somewhere between day 4 and 7 – Blogging 101

If you’ve read my “About Me” section you will know that I’m an older gent who has lost his way in life and the meaning of the “who, why and what” of his own universe. Part of my recovery is the bond I have with our dog Peppa (yes she appears on my “About Me” page). Now there are several things you need to know about Peppa.

  1. I did not want a dog! My rules were simple – I will not walk, feed or clean up after the dog. The other five aliens with whom I share my life all responded with “No dad of course we’ll do all that, you will never have to get out of your chair.” You know when your brain and heart both scream the same thing – “DON’T!!!” and you really should listen. So why didn’t I listen? Five years later we have the most wonderful dog and I walk her every day, I feed her every day and I clear up after her every day. But I really don’t care as I love her to bits and I know she sort of likes me. And
  2. (Did you forget there was a 2? I definitely did and I’m writing this thing) She is an absolute pickle! She’s as strong willed as anyone in the house and has me round her little finger…..erm…claw.


Recently I found a new walk near us that goes across the fields. We live a very urban life – 4 big supermarkets within 5 minutes, 3 different retail parks, roads, traffic and people. I think the county of Essex is one of the most densely populated in the UK. However there are parts where you can find a bit of peace and quiet. Being able to walk for over an hour, just me and Peppa, is bliss.

Where's Peppa - look closely, she's there!

Where’s Peppa – look closely, she’s there!

It allows me to think, it allows me to de-stress and it allows me (on occasion) to scream, shout and cry. Peppa knows. She’ll just wait for me to finish and then we’ll go on. The great thing is that those days, the screamy, shouty days are getting few and far between.

The majority of my walk is taken with meeting the wildlife, feeling, smelling and looking at the plants, the crops growing there in front of me. I don’t care if you think science is responsible or if you feel your God created it all – life and nature is marvelous. Watching the rabbits up ahead playing in the sun, butterflies skimming around, the crops moving in the breeze, the wind rustling the trees, birds singing their little bits off.

Even when there is rain you can see the way the plants gather the precious water, how puddles form and how the clouds move and how the wind hurries them across the sky. There is surely nothing better. Everything else goes from your mind and you can just be you.

And on Saturday we finally had a new friend come over

New Friend

New Friend

That’s the beauty of being out in nature, anything can happen but it also really grounds you in the now, the here and makes you realize that actually sometimes the “who, why and what” don’t matter a hill of beans.

I hope you like my photographs – all taken on my smartphone – A Motorola E

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Old Gadgets, New Life

Or Day four – Blogging 101
I mentioned in one of my previous blogs that I was using an old 7 inch Android tablet and had stripped it of superfluous software and apps to create a lean, mean writing machine. Of course the very next day I found that the charger wasn’t really charging it correctly, the onscreen keyboard left a lot to be desired and the browser…..don’t even ask me about the browser!

So I threw it back in the drawer, well shoebox of gadget stuff that may come in handy one day.
Does everyone have a box, drawer or shed full of gadgets that may one day become useful? I have wireless routers, mice (yes more than one mouse), car radios, scanner (only has parallel link and all my current computers only have USB), printers, old PDAs (you must remember the PDA?), phones (mobile and not so mobile) and enough cables to open a cable shop. Ok it might be bigger than a shoe box, although you haven’t seen the size of my shoes, and might actually be several boxes in several rooms in several houses – I think my dad has forgotten the box I left in his loft.

This all indicates to me the change in pace in technology. I can’t give the stuff away. No one wants it because it is such old tech, even though most of it is less than a year old. Who foresaw the rise of the personal computer, the move to laptops, the smart phone, the tablet? The World Wide Web, the Internet, Blogging, Vlogging? People earning a living sharing their lives, their passions, their imaginations? I guess someone did otherwise we wouldn’t have all that stuff but could people really have seen the speed with which it has changed, improved,  stressed us, inspired us, enriched our lives and created box upon box of….erm….waste!


However let’s roll back a bit to where I was talking about how rubbish the 7 inch tablet was proving to be for writing. I’ve sat at work today thinking through my options and most involved money. Well it doesn’t grow on trees and as far as I can see it doesn’t grow in my bank either. I realised I could probably charge the tablet through a USB to my laptop – I could. That I could probably find an external keyboard – I could. That I could try a different browser – I could. So I’m all happy again, charging, tapping and browsing. Just need to find an app that will make my cup of tea without leaving my chair.

Which leads to a question. Should we start to lease tech? When I was younger we used to lease/rent our television and our VCR – kids that was a machine that taped TV onto cassette. This was because the objects were so expensive but you could pay monthly and have the latest gear and then when it became obsolete you got the shop to give you a new one and take back the old one – I’m talking Radio Rentals, Redifussion and DER for people of a certain age. But is our tech, our 21st Century tech cheap enough that we’re happy enough to throw it away (or keep it in multiple boxes) and just go and buy a new one?

Has life changed so much that a person from the 1970s, 1980s really would not recognise what we have become? To paraphrase The “Go-Between” – the future is a foreign country, we will do things differently there!

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