You got a friend in me

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Earlier tonight I had one of those heart melting moments that only kids seem able to bring on. The kind that leaves you with a great big dopey grin that, even if you wanted to, would be nigh on impossible to wipe from your face.

“And what brought this on?” I hear you ask. Nothing more than the sight of our two girls wandering through the living room, holding hands and giggling, like the best friends they’ve already become.
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It’s fascinating to watch, actually, as Megan develops the social and language skills to really let her personality out. And a big part of that is played out with her older sister, who seems to be not just her best friend, but her absolute idol. Anything Heather does, there’s a very good chance Megan will copy it. And of course that goes for naughty things as well as nice. Which, to be honest can be a real pain, but we just have to get on with it.

Above all, there’s laughter, and lots of it. Probably my favourite sound in the world is the two of them laughing together. Even when the source of the hilarity is something they shouldn’t be doing, it’s hard to keep that big, dumb grin off my face.
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This will change of course. I’ve been reliably informed that they’ll be best friends until their teens, at which point they’ll hate each other before coming out on the other side closer than ever. I’m not sure I like the sound of that middle bit, but if they ultimately remain the best of friends then I guess it’ll be worth it.

But that’s all a long way off. Until then, though, I’m going to enjoy the smiles and the laughter. For as long as possible.

This autumn I'm running/cycling in a 30km duathlon and a half marathon, to raise money for Breast Cancer Campaign. You can read more about my challenge here or support me here. All donations, however big or small, gratefully received!

Stuck between stations

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Now, I know he’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but this morning’s news that Chris Moyles is leaving Radio 1’s breakfast show at the end of September saddens me, because I think it will mean me leaving Radio 1 as well. And unlike Mr Moyles, I don’t know where I’ll be going next.

I’m a music fan, and I like finding new stuff to listen to, something which radio is great for. That said, most of the music Radio 1 plays these days is balls, and has been getting steadily worse for a long time now. Or maybe it’s me getting old. Either way, I can’t think of the last song or album I bought because I’d heard it first on Radio 1, and maybe that should be my first sign that it’s not for me.

But I’ve kept on listening for a couple of reasons, which I’ll share now. Firstly, I really like the Moyles show. It doesn’t actually feature much music, and when it does, it’s less balls than the rest of the daytime Radio 1 output, because of relaxed rules about playing playlisted tracks. I don’t often hear more than a track or two, but the Golden Hour on a Friday is a great example of that.

As I’ve said though, the Chris Moyles show isn’t really about the music, it’s about the people and the chat, and that’s what keeps me tuning in. Three of the main cast of five (Chris, Dave and Dom) are around my age, and as such a lot of the banter talks to my life and experiences. Often I find myself laughing at things which I know will go way over the heads of Radio 1’s target audience of 15-29 year olds.

That’s what I’m going to miss the most.

So… what are my alternatives? Here’s a list of my FM radio options in the Glasgow area. Radio 1 is the only station that has “new music” listed against it. I’m discounting the adult/oldies/soft stations (I looked at Radio 2’s breakfast playlist from yesterday, and I really don’t think I could do it) , and I’ve heard enough of the contemporary ones to know that, like Radio 1, they’re aimed at a much younger listener than me. I don’t want talk or classical, which basically leaves me with Rock Radio.

Now, I do sometimes turn over to Rock Radio, and the music is usually okay, but the presenters are mostly terrible, a bit like the commercials. And it doesn’t play a lot of new stuff (it’s a CLASSIC rock station). And the reception is quite patchy as you cross the city. So not really an option.

What I’d really like is to listen to 6 music. Here’s what their breakfast DJ, Shaun Keaveney, played this morning – much more what I’m looking for. I don’t know all of it, I don’t like some of it, but it’s the sort of mix I’d happily listen to. In fact I quite often do listen to 6 music, but not in the car. Because it’s only available on DAB, and I don’t have a DAB radio in the car. And they’re bloody expensive. And I’ve heard reception can be rather hit and miss. So I’m not going down that route.

I’ve just heard that Nick Grimshaw – or Grimmy as he’s often known – will be replacing Moyles when he leaves. I’ve nothing against Grimmy, he’s certainly not Radio 1’s worst DJ, but neither do I want to listen to him every day. So I guess that’s it then. I’m officially cast into the radio wilderness, with no-one catering to my needs, Which makes me sad.

Maybe I should start a campaign, to get 6 music onto FM – I can’t be the only person stuck between stations, can I?

Or maybe I should accept that I’m a dad now, and as such it’s my duty to moan that they don’t play any good music on the wireless any more. What do you think?

This autumn I'm running/cycling in a 30km duathlon and a half marathon, to raise money for Breast Cancer Campaign. You can read more about my challenge here or support me here. All donations, however big or small, gratefully received!

Little old wine drinker me

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Gem was away this weekend, catching up with old friends, leaving me in sole charge of the little’uns. On the basis of my first full day alone with them, I must admit to being a little nervous. 

But I’m pleased to report that aside from a slight dent to my pride (Mummy apparently cooks everything better than me… which is undeniably true, but I don’t need to hear it after every meal) the weekend has gone without a hitch. And, more importantly, without any A&E trips!

So I’m now kicking back and enjoying a well deserved beer. Although if looks could kill, I might not be here to enjoy it. You see, according to at least one Sainsbury’s shopper, I committed a cardinal sin.

I took the girls down the beer aisle! And bought beer!

Picture the scene… I’ve had a look at the ales, picked out a few I’ve not tried, and am just putting 3 bottles in the trolley when Daddy Lion – they toy Megan loves more than anything in the world – appears in front of me. A fellow shopper had very kindly picked him up from the floor. “Thanks very much” I said. I might as well not have bothered, because what I got back was a stony silence, and a look of disgust which I can only put down to my being near alcohol with two small children. A simple “You’re welcome” would have been sufficed!

This reminded of a conversation Gem was having at the nursery gates a few weeks ago, about drinking in front of the kids. The consensus amongst the other mums seemed to be that this was a big no-no, although effing and jeffing in front of the same kids is apparently perfectly acceptable, judging by what happens ever day at those gates. Gem stayed quiet, not feeling confident enough to admit to enjoying a beer or two, or a few glasses of wine while the kids are about.

Oh the horror! Just imagine… drinking… in front of the children. You just wouldn’t, would you?

Well, actually, yes, I would. In fact, only last week I got myself in a conversation with Heather about how beer is made. A conversation which kind of petered out when she asked what yeast was, and the best answer I cold come up with was “magic stuff”.

I just don’t see what the big deal is – I know we need to encourage a responsible attitude to alcohol in our kids, but surely pretending that booze doesn’t exist is NOT the way to achieve that? In fact, I’d argue that seeing us enjoying a drink or two, without falling over drunk, is exactly the way to do things – lead by example, and show them that drinking isn’t all about getting as drunk as you can. Isn’t that how it works in other parts of Europe? Y’know, the parts that we’re constantly hearing don’t have problems with binge drinking and teenagers destroying their livers on a regular basis.

There are, of course, drawbacks to this approach… like the time Heather saw her first Coca Cola Christmas ad and said “look, Daddy, Santa is drinking a beer!” Cue hasty explanation that other drinks come in small bottles…

So is it us that’s wrong? Should we be pretending to our girls that beer, wine, whisky etc don’t exist? Are we setting the girls up for a future life that involves getting wasted on the cheapest booze they can get their hands on? I’d love to know what you think – the comment box is at the bottom of the page.

Oh, and in case you’re interested, the Sainsbury’s Taste The Difference IPA isn’t a bad pint, although it’s no Brewdog. But then, what is?

This autumn I'm running/cycling in a 30km duathlon and a half marathon, to raise money for Breast Cancer Campaign. You can read more about my challenge here or support me here. All donations, however big or small, gratefully received!

Stop me, oh oh oh stop me

Gem commented to someone the other day – it might have been my mum – that we’ve watched a lot of documentaries recently. And she’s right – The 70s and The House the 50s Built (both excellent, by the way) are series that instantly spring to mind, but I’m sure there have been others. And after reading about the controversy it’s generated in the US, I’m planning on watching Michael Johnson: Survival of the Fittest tonight. Who said TV was all dumbed down entertainment for the masses these days?

Last night we watched the second part of another excellent show, The Men Who Made Us Fat. If you haven’t guessed from the title, it’s an investigation into rising levels of obesity, and specifically the role big business has had in that. The first episode focused on high fructose corn syrup, how it had been added to everything as a cheap sweetener, and how in turn this expanded everyone’s waistlines, even those who were buying low-fat products (taking out the fat unfortunately also takes out the flavour, to be replaced, in part, by extra sweeteners!). Various researchers did try to point out that this was happening, but they were ignored and, even worse, suppressed by a food lobby who didn’t want to know.

This week was all about super-sizing, a practice that originated with a Chicago cinema chain. From a business perspective it makes perfect sense – customers who wouldn’t buy a second bucket of popcorn WOULD take an extra third or half up front, increasing sales by a similar proportion. It wasn’t long before the practice spread to fast food, which is what most of us think of when the term super-size is used. And once accepted there, increased portion sizes became a feature everywhere we ate, encouraging us to overeat at every turn. We literally don’t know when to stop!

The show also looked at snacking, and how cynical marketing in the 70s convinced us that adding a bar or two of sweet chocolate-y goodness to your daily diet was perfectly acceptable. Who doesn’t remember the Milky Way ads which told us that it was “the sweet you can eat between meals without ruining your appetite”?

But therein lies the problem. We don’t compensate at mealtimes for the snacks we ate earlier, we just go on and eat the same as we would have, and don’t account for the extra calories we took onboard earlier. And then we wonder about our expanding waistlines!

Certainly food for thought! (terrible pun, I know)

As parents, I like to think we’re quite strict with snacks, without eliminating them altogether. And we try to strike a reasonable balance between “good” snacks like fruit and “bad” snacks like biscuits or chocolate – trying to ignore the bad ones entirely is surely just saving up problems for later?

Similarly, while our girls are certainly not strangers to the likes of McDonalds, a visit to the golden arches is always presented as a treat, something special, rather than a run-of-the-mill regular occurrence. I don’t think they’re in danger of completing any Happy Meal toy collections any time soon!

I hope we’re doing the right thing by our kids. Certainly I think our generation is a lot more cynical aware of how advertisers manipulate our buying habits, and of how much crap goes into processed foods (something don’t eat much at home, largely because Gem enjoys cooking stuff from scratch, and that’s rubbed off on me too) and I hope that enables us to make the right choices, and teach them all the right things. Time will tell, I guess.

I read something recently where a teacher was expressing concern about the size of the kids in her class, and how they were all massively overweight or quite skinny, and there didn’t seem to be much in between.

With us constantly being reminded of the dangers of childhood obesity, I know which side of that divide I want my kids to be on.

ASIDE: Whilst writing this I got a text from Pizza Hut, telling me about their latest offer – any pizza, any size, for the price of a small pizza. Timely!

This autumn I'm running/cycling in a 30km duathlon and a half marathon, to raise money for Breast Cancer Campaign. You can read more about my challenge here or support me here. All donations, however big or small, gratefully received!

Famous Five

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Me, today. For comparison, like

Before going off on a cat-related world record attempt, Tom Briggs listed 5 celebs he’s been told he looked like, and invited others to do likewise. Now, it’s fair to say that over the years I’ve been likened to a LOT of people, some famous (like the list below) and some not so famous (like a guy who works at the National Museum of Rural Life, or – my favourite – the time my mum called me from Austria to ask if I was playing in the band outside her hotel window, despite the fact she knew I couldn’t play whatever instrument it was!) so I thought I’d join in the fun. Amazingly, though, it took me all weekend to come up with a fifth celeb.

So here, for your amusement, in ascending order of cringeworthiness, is my Famous Five:

Matt Malley (former Counting Crows bass player)

Matt Malley I think it was 1999 I first saw Counting Crows, and more than a few folks down the front did double-takes between me and then bass player Matt Malley. I can see why

David Baddiel
David BaddielProbably around the same time, I went to see David Baddiel at the Edinburgh Fringe. He opened his show with a video montage of “lookalikes” plucked from various newspapers and magazines. The gag was that he was “sick” and that night’s show would be performed by whichever of the lookalikes got the loudest cheer. And then Baddiel came on stage and launched into a routine about how anyone with glasses and dark hair, possibly facial hair too, was automatically dubbed a Baddiel lookalike. “I bet there are some of you out there who’ve been told this” he said. Then I caught his eye and I swear he was momentarily put off his stride.

John Thomson
John ThomsonI never watched Cold Feet, but a good number of people I worked with did, and at some point someone decided I looked a bit like John Thomson. Never saw it myself – for one thing, I don’t think he’s ever worn specs.

Al (from Al’s Toy Barn)
Al from Toy StoryThere was only ever going to be one “winner” in this poll, and sadly it wasn’t Al from Toy Story 2. He did put up a good fight though, particularly as the similarity was so apparent that Heather once commented on it! And if you’ve seen the movie, you’ll know Al isn’t someone you want to be compared to. Especially by a 3 year old.

Jeremy Spake
Jeremy SpakeWhen Airport hit our screens in the late 90s, “flamboyant” Aeroflot manager Jeremy Spake quickly became the star of the show, before moving on to crop up on pretty much every TV show going. Let’s just say I was glad when his brief career petered out, and he disappeared from our lives.

Looking back at this list, I’m noticing that ALL of the lookalikes I’ve referred to are from the late 90s. Which was either a remarkable coincidence back then, or a sign that while I’ve looked pretty much the same since the rest of the world has moved on – I suspect the latter.

So who have you been told YOU look like?

This autumn I'm running/cycling in a 30km duathlon and a half marathon, to raise money for Breast Cancer Campaign. You can read more about my challenge here or support me here. All donations, however big or small, gratefully received!