Such a perfect day

Anyone who’s been reading my drivel for a while, will probably remember last year’s Christmas production, The 12 Dads of Christmas. If not, go check it out now, and I’ll see you in a few minutes.

Ben from Mutterings of a Fool, who put that triumph together has only gone and done it again, this time featuring Perfect Day as a sort of tribute to Lou Reed. I say sort of, because normally tributes are, um, in tune.

My contribution is particularly special, because I completely failed to get the toy piano I was playing in shot, and consequently look a bit simple.

All that remains to say I hope that whatever you’re doing, tomorrow is your perfect day. And without further ado, I now give you Perfect Day by the Backstreet Dads. Merry Christmas!

Let’s get the party going, and we’ll party hard

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For most folk, the lead up to Christmas involves a party or two. Only the hardcore, though, can party every weekend, often on consecutive days, and sometimes even multiple times in the same day!

Believe it or not, that’s precisely how hardcore Heather is, at the ripe old age of 5. By amazing coincidence, a huge percentage of her school friends have birthdays in November and December, meaning that for the past month her social calendar would have worn out a Kardashian. And that’s before you factor in the Christmas parties!

Of course, somewhere in the middle of that was her own birthday, which featured no less than three celebrations – dinner with family, a soft play party with her friends, and an after party with our besties. As if that wasn’t enough we managed to squeeze in a cinema trip to see Frozen, which was ace, although we did have to schedule it around another birthday party. But of course.

Fortunately Heather’s birthday weekend went off without a hitch. Other families weren’t so lucky – one mum ended up in plaster, having broken her ankle at her daughter’s party!

Unfortunately I suspect that might be a preview of what we can expect in a few years. If Heather keeps the same group of friends into her teenage years and beyond, November and December will be carnage.

And that’s just the girls – I’m refusing to factor any boys into the equation.

Gude Ale: Sainsbury’s Great British Beer Hunt 2013

Sainsbury's Great British Beer Hunt 2013Given that the second round of Sainsbury’s Great British Beer Hunt 2013 finishes today, it might have made sense to write about it sooner. But it’s been a funny – and busy – few weeks round our way, and I’ve just not quite found the time to do so. What you gonna do?

For the uninitiated, the GBBH is a national competition, organised by Sainsbury’s, to find the best new beers the country has to offer. Starting with regional heats, now fewer than 156 beers are whittled down to just two – a winner and runner-up – whose prize is to go on sale for a minimum period in Sainsbury’s stores across the country. Now in its third year, the competition has unearthed a few gems such as Caesar Augustus by Williams Bros. and last year’s winner, Bateman’s Mocha (although the last couple of bottles I’ve had of that have been oddly diaappointing).

Each year that the competition has been running, my brother-in-law and I have joined in at the second stage of the competition, where the shortlisted beers go on sale for a limited period, and the best-sellers make it through to the final, by buying and sampling at least one bottle of each beer. This year, we were joined by our friend Andrew, who happened to be visiting for the weekend, meaning that we were able to sample all 20 beers in a single evening, rather than 2 or 3 as in years past.

If you happened to be reading my twitter stream last Saturday night, you’ll already know how we got on. If not, well I’m not going to repeat the beer-by-beer account here, but it’s out there if you really want it. Instead I’m going to summarise my thoughts on this year’s selection, which, unfortunately, I found a bit disappointing.

Don’t get me wrong, for the most part the beers on offer were tasty enough, and with a couple of exceptions (Barney’s Brew by Hilden and Serendipity by Bird’s Brewery) I’d happily drink any of them again. My problem, though, was that they were all too similar. In previous years there have been a wide range of beer styles on offer, but this year seemed to be mostly golden ale after golden ale after golden ale, and it all got a bit monotonous very quickly.

Porter No.6 and India Pale Ale by Harbour, Gonny No Brew That by Williams Bros.

My top 3 – in no particular order

No surprise then, that my top 3 were ones that broke the mould. Williams Bros‘ Gonny No Brew That was the tastiest of the golden ales, and definitely the pick of the Scottish beers. My other top beers were both from Harbour Brewing Co., a relatively new brewery in Cornwall, but one I’ll be keeping an eye on. Porter No.6 was sweet with a lot of coffee and dark chocolate flavour to it, while I found their IPA to well balanced and definitely more flavoursome than most of the beers on offer.

I’m not sure I could pick a winner out of those three – that’s for the judges to decide on Friday, assuming they all make the final in London – but any one of them would be a worthy winner.

Sainsbury’s seem to tweak the format of the competition each year, and while I doubt there’s much they can do to increase the variety of styles (the beers making it to the second round are selected by the public at a series of tastings) one thing I would like to see them do is limit the number of entries each brewery can have. This year, 5 breweries were responsible for 11 of the 20 beers on offer, which doesn’t exactly promote diversity.

But other than a few minor quibbles, I think Sainsbury’s are once again to be applauded for this annual celebration of Great British Beer. I look forward to hearing who the overall winners are in Friday’s final. And who knows, maybe next year I’ll make it to the regional heats and be able to shape what makes it through to the second round. Of course, despite my earlier moans, I reserve the right to vote for golden ales. :)

Here comes the sun

Gro-clock sun

The sun, this morning

I’ve written before about how much we love Gro-clocks. Megan’s hasn’t been quite the raging success that Heather’s was, but to be fair to her she’s only now reaching the age Heather was when we got hers, and I think she’s just about there. She definitely understands the concept of staying in bed until the sun comes up, she’s just not very good at executing it. But she’s getting better, and that’s all we can hope for at this stage.

Now, since I started cycling to work, I’ve developed a very fixed morning routine. It’s become a well-oiled machine, just like my bike itself: out of bed, pull on my clothes, visit the bathroom, put lunch in my bag, eat breakfast, and go. No room for dawdling, something which can sometimes be difficult with small people around.

This morning I was in the bathroom, doing… well, what one does in the bathroom… when I heard the pitter patter of toddler feet. Toddlers aren’t renowned for respecting privacy, so I wasn’t surprised when Megan appeared to tell me cheerfully that the sun was up. I asked her if it really was (knowing that it would be) and she said she’d go and check. What I wasn’t expecting was the next bit:

“Close your eyes… and no peeking!”

Now, when a 2 year old tells you to close your eyes and not to peek, what can you do but comply? So I’m not really sure what the banging, huffing, puffing and muttering that followed was all about. I think she had knocked her Gro-clock over in trying to turn it round, but I guess we’ll never know. Eventually, though, I was told I could open my eyes, and there was Megan, standing proudly beside her Gro-clock where the sun was, indeed, up. “See? Sun’s up” she said. And it was!

And then, just to add to the feeling of “aren’t kids great?”, Heather appears from her room to tell us we were being too noisy! 4 going on 14, that one.

Of course, all these goings on somewhat derailed my smooth machine-like morning routine. But in this instance I’m not fussed. I don’t get to spend much time with the girls during the week, so moments like this are absolutely priceless.

I just had to pedal a little faster to make up the lost time.