Once in a lifetime

Heather, ready for school

A momentous event took place yesterday, one that’s been a long time coming and that’s been greatly anticipated by all interested parties, every one of whom had their own opinion of how things would turn out, with most being optimistic of a good result.

No, I’m not talking about the England v Scotland game at Wembley, but Heather’s first day of school. Actual school. How did we get here so fast?

I actually had the chance to go down to London for the football, but didn’t take it once I realised the horrendous date clash. There will be other games against the Auld Enemy (hopefully sooner than the 14 years we waited since the last one) but Heather will only ever get one first day at school, and there was no way I was missing out on it. How could I?

Naturally we took a bunch of photos of the new schoolgirl in her new uniform, and I’m pleased to report that Heather even posed nicely for some of them. Some of them. One of my favourites is one where she’s holding up a sign saying what she wants to do when she grows up. Gem got that idea from Pinterest, and it’s a cracker – the idea being, of course, to do the same thing every year. Heather’s chosen career path, owning and running a toy shop, shows a certain entrepreneurial flair, and is definitely more sensible than my ambitions at a similar age (circus clown, if you must know).

Heather on her first day of school

After photos, we walked along to the school, where the playground was heaving with all the other new starts and their families. Heather spotted her friends from nursery and was off like a shot, sharing hugs and catching up on the summer. Not wanting to miss anything, Megan climbed out of the pushchair and ran off to join her, although it wasn’t long before she headed off to the other end of the playground, to play with some of the boys. I need to watch that one…

Once we got inside the school it was all a bit chaotic. The corridors are nowhere near wide enough for the volume of people who were there, and it was made clear that the kids were to be left as soon as possible. I never even got inside the classroom, staying in the corridor with Megan to keep out of the way. And… well, that was that!

We headed home one down, killed an hour or so, then went back to collect her. This time we got to spend some time in the class, which was good, not least because it’s very different to the classrooms Gem and I remember. One of the things I remember vividly from my own first day (aside from the boy who cried and wanted to go home) was having my name taped to the top of my desk, and thinking the boy next to me was called LAN. How was I to know that a “l” and an “I” might look the same, but are quite different things, and his name was actually Ian?

Handwriting practice

I’m not even sure there are desks for every child in the class (there are 35 of them! And two teachers!) but with activity stations dotted round the class and even a PC in the corner I’m sure finding somewhere to sit/play/learn will never be a struggle.

After that we headed off to Pizza Hut for a celebratory lunch (Heather’s call) and that was that. Day one over. Being me, I did some rough calculations, and worked out that there are roughly 2,500 school days before Heather leaves. So that’s one down, 2,499 to go!

It will be interesting to see how Megan adjusts over the next few weeks, without her partner-in-crime by her side. I guess this first couple of weeks will be similar to when Heather was at nursery, but when she full days start in a couple of weeks it’s a whole new ballgame. I think it will be good for her though, and will give her more space to be herself instead of copying everything her sister does.

And of course, it’s a big change for Gem as well – moreso than for me, because I’ve always been used to Heather being away from me all day, every day during the week. She’ll cope though, and getting to spend more time with just Megan will be nice too.

Last night, watching the football (which I don’t regret missing, and that’s nothing to do with the result) I realised something else – if it takes another fourteen years to stage a game between the two oldest footballing nations in the world, Heather will have left school before the next one.

Which was possibly the most frightening thing I heard/saw/thought all day!

The Mad House
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!

365 pictures: 1-10

On a whim at the start of the year, I decided that in 2013 I would take (and share) a picture every day. I’ve seen quite a few people do it over the last few years, and thought I’d join in – it looks like fun. Gathered here are my first 10 efforts, along with some words.


1. Crown and Anchor, Welby
New Year’s Day pint at my local (when I’m visiting the in-laws). Tetley’s Christmas Cracker, if you’re interested in that sort of thing. It was rather tasty!


 2. Ready for the off
Last day of the holidays and a long drive home. I’m not sure if Megan was happy about this or not


3. Back to work :(
Pretty self explanatory this one. NOBODY likes going back to work


4. All over for another year
It never seems like any time at all between the decorations going up and coming back down again. And of course there are always a few things that escape going back in the loft. This year: 2 ornaments and a Santa stocking


5. Peekaboo!
They say kids have more fun with the packaging than the toys. Megan was definitely loving this hanger from a Baby Annabel outfit. Last seen down the back of the sofa (the hanger, not the outfit)


6. Playoffs baby!
Last Sunday was all about the football – I was insanely excited about the Washington Redskins first home playoff game in 13 years. Read all about it here


7. NFL fan evening
Monday night was also about the football, as I was at an NFL fan evening in Edinburgh. And very good it was too. Read about it here


8. Out with the old, in with the new
I wrote about this one too – changing my wall calendar at work


9. Happy Mrs Chicken
Both our girls love technology – phones, iPad etc. By far Megan’s favourite game is Happy Mrs Chicken, featuring Peppa Pig. But she’s equally at home tweeting on my behalf from Tap the Frog!


10. Morning princess
Astonishingly for someone so outgoing and full of life, Heather can be quite camera shy. So when she says “take a picture of me Daddy” you have to grab the opportunity with both hands.

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!

When two tribes go to war

Chris Cooley Redskins jersey

Believe it or not, I was a relative latecomer to American football. Channel 4 were well into their fifth season of NFL coverage before I decided to see what all the fuss was about, but it wasn’t long before I was hooked.

This was sport like nothing I’d ever seen, and it very quickly ousted “our” football as my favourite. Of course it helped that my adopted team, the Washington Redskins, were rather good at the time. My first year as a Skins fan they reached the NFC Championship game (the Super Bowl semifinals for the uninitiated). In my second year Washington not only got to the Super Bowl, but won it in convincing style, beating a heavily favoured Denver Broncos team 42-10, and setting all sorts of records, many of which still stand. Good times!

It should, of course, be pointed out that I didn’t pick the Redskins just because they were good. I’m not saying it didn’t help, but the biggest factor in that decision was having family who lived near Washington. I can’t remember if gifts of team merchandise were the cause or result of choosing the Skins, but it certainly didn’t harm, and 25 years on I still have all manner of programs, collectibles and newspaper clippings from that Super Bowl run.

Back in those days, NFL coverage in the UK was very different. We got a highlights show on a Sunday evening, showing the best bits of games that has been played the previous week. There were other ways to find out the scores though. Telextext was one, and there were multiple weekly papers with game reports and other news, not just of the NFL but also of games played closer to home, in the various leagues springing up around the country. And for the really dedicated, there was US Armed Forces Network radio which broadcast live games on a Sunday night. Unfortunately the AFN signal was pretty weak, and it was common to lose commentary just as things were getting interesting.

Things are very different today. Sky Sports have been broadcasting 2 live games on a Sunday night, and gradually other broadcasters have been getting involved as well. Most weeks this season had 5 live games shown across Sky, Channel 4 and even the BBC! And of course the internet has made a big difference, bringing us Brits the same level of coverage as fans in the US. 10 year old me would never have believed it would be so good in the future.

This year I signed up to the NFL’s Gamepass package, allowing me to watch any game I wanted to, live or on demand, which for the first time ever has allowed me to see every game the Redskins have played. And I couldn’t have picked a better year, as Washington put 20 years of mediocrity behind themselves (those glory days of yore didn’t last) and finally appear to be a force again. It’s been a lot of fun to watch, and via the likes of Twitter to feel part of.

Tonight, the Redskins will be hosting their first home playoff game since 1999, and only their second since winning Super Bowl 26 in 1992. To say I’m excited would be an understatement – I don’t think 10 year old me could be more excited. Poor Gem is fed up hearing about RG3 (aka Robert Griffin III)’s knee, or the state of the Redskins secondary. But I can’t help it – to get this far after so many disappointing years just feels so good.

I’ve even got Heather singing along to the team’s fight song, Hail to the Redskins. Does that make me a bad dad?

The Redskins go into tonight’s game against the Seattle Seahawks as 3 point underdogs, and most experts expect them to lose. So my playoff joy may be about to end abruptly. But we’ve been surprising people all year, and the experts aren’t always right. That’s why they play the games, after all.

Me? I’m cautiously optimistic we’ll get the win. As a fan, it couldn’t really be any other way.

Hail to the Redskins!

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!