Japan earthquake/tsunami…

I was shocked yesterday seeing the terrible images from Japan, following the 8.9 earthquake off their NW coast. I’m trying to imagine what it would be like if a natural disaster struck England, with similar casualties. We just aren’t mentally or physically prepared for such an event.

Anyway, one of the things which struck me was that two of the world’s biggest economies are located on or very close to major tectonic fault lines. Both California and Japan (ranked 8th and 3rd in terms of economic output in terms of world ranking) are in this position – strange situation and very unstable.

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Little Bundles charity…

I’ve been meaning to blog about this for ages. More than a year ago Claire setup a charity called ‘Little Bundles’ and it’s turned into a big success. It aim is to help families and pregnant women by providing much needed baby clothes, toiletries and other equipment. The families tend to be pretty desperate and the charity has just past the 100 families helped mark.

Claire’s been doing a brilliant job pushing the thing for ages and has managed to recruit a small army of volunteer mum’s. There are various jobs, such as collecting the items and distributing them (in pack form, made up of a range of needed items) to wherever they’re needed.

It must be making a massive difference to many people and i’m proud of her for taking the time and effort to set it up and keep it going. Check out the website and if you can, help them out.

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Car vs cyclist accident…!

There have been a few incidents recently which has made me grateful that i’m not on the road and travelling around more often. We’d just got both of our rear tyres replaced, as they had never been changed since the car was new, in 1994! The guy at the tyre place showed me the areas of the tyres which were basically perishing and it didn’t take much persuading to get me to part with my cash! The recent very cold weather might also have tipped them over the edge!

So anyway, it was actually on the way to the tyre place when I witnessed a cyclist getting hit side on by the car. The cyclist was half way across a roundabout when the car went over the roundabout from his left and went straight into him. I was approaching in the opposite direction to the cyclist and was almost literally about to enter the roundabout myself! I couldn’t believe it. The cyclist went up the windscreen then as the car stopped, he just sort of flipped and slid back down and then hit the ground.

He just lay in the middle of the roundabout with his shopping around him and his bike off to the side. I pulled over and went straight over to him. He seemed ok and was obviously a bit pissed (drunk) + he had a number of Special Brew and WKD bottles in his now broken and ripped bag! The guy who had hit him had pulled in and walked back to see if he was alright. The sun had blinded him as he approached the junction and it was obvious he hadn’t seen him.

So, we negotiated a £20 compensation for the chap, partly to replace some of the bottles which had been broken. The driver said he didn’t have any money on him (yeah yeah) then asked the cyclist if he could drive him to a cash machine!? He was Polish so might have meant something else but this is where I suggested he followed me to the nearest cash machine instead! So, he did follow me and he got to the machine and I just hope he got back to the cyclist and that he was alright.

So, coming back from Bristol on Thursday night, we went past 3 separate groups of accidents, where the poor driving conditions must have led to various multiple collisions. It was raining heavily and there was thick mist, making visibility very poor. Within the space of a junction was had passed the 3 incidents and I was so glad to get off the motorway.

To finish the evening off, we got back to our road and as we approached our house, there was a sign and barricade saying ‘road closed’. There’s some kind of water related below ground problem, so we had to park a short walk from the house!

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Looking back, having emerged…

We were talking the other day about looking back after getting out of a situation. It seems the phrase ‘can’t see the wood for the trees’ is taking on more and more meaning these days.

Since becoming almost completely veggie around the middle of 2009, i’ve steadily changed the way I feel about the whole issue, particulalrly the reasons for being veggie at all. It started off as an almost purely environmental thing, focussing on the massive inefficiencies and pollution that industrialised meat production causes. The effect on climate change is huge. Given the very finite resources of the world and the ever expanding population, this seemed like a big enough reason on its own.

What i’ve found in the last 6 moths or year has been the gradual shift from environmental reasons being at the base of the lifestyle change, to animal welfare issues. Having been veggie for a year and a half, it’s actually surprising that it’s taken me this long to fully shift my thinking onto this. I just can’t look at meat now as an acceptable food source, particulalrly given the wide range of plant-based foods.

As a society, we rank species in terms of their use to us as humans and disregard their right to life. A pig has the human equivalent intelligence of a 3 year old. It feels pain, fear and I just can’t accept the ridiculous ‘humanely killed’ arguments. It doesn’t matter how well you treat the animal if you’re going to take the ultimately most serious and final step of killing it – there’s nothing humane about killing.

The final step along the realisation journey has been a sharper focus on nutrition. This was actually more like the first one, but this dates back to GCSE biology and a general interest in this area. This led me to A-Level biology but it’s only fairly recently that the real focus has also taken in this element.

The idea is that plant-based diets are far healthier than meat-based diets, particulalrly in terms of saturated fats and animal protein, which has been directly and strongly linked with all types of cancer.

The other surprising result of being veggie is that i’ve started to eat less cheese! Given I love the stuff, this has been really surprising, but it’s the saturated fat and Casein animal protein which has persuaded me to alter my eating habits. The biggest thing has been to cut down a lot on the cheese and crackers as a late supper before bed!

So, having been away from eating meat (mostly, apart from the odd fish and chips!), for the past 18 months, I can now very clearly see the whole debate + I now have a lot more experience and knowledge.

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You are the traffic…!

Saw a funny / thought-provoking sign on the way to London on the weekend…

You are not stuck in traffic – you are traffic!

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Christmas list and the urge to spend…

We’ve recently been updating Christmas lists on Amazon and this led me to thinking about various things. Claire has just sent out our list details to various people for Christmas and meant we have to get a few things on the site.

I would say on the whole, it’s better to receive something you actually want, rather than an interesting surprise, which even though may be well meaning and thoughtful, might not be something you’ll appreciate. Having said this, it’s always amazing to receive any presents, partly because of the thought involved, but also surprises can be cool. Let’s face it, anyone reading this, or receiving presents, is in a pretty privilaged position in the world hierarchy.

I’ve just got out of the habit of even looking in shops, let along buying things, such as new clothes or records etc. Thinking about what I want to put on there, and indirectly what I would like to receive is a strange idea now. We’ve just had to be more tight with money since having kids and making things work with one job.

The way we’re spending has also changed a lot – much more on good food and the kids + some big house investment.

In a way it feels good to not actually want to spend money, because that leaves more for doing the house up and going places with the kids. But this doesn’t help with the old wishlist thing! I used to spend loads on vinyl records for mixing but now the spare time is seriously limited, but i’m still into the music. I want to get more into drawing and sketching + other artistic styles, but again, the time issue is still there.

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Mum and Dad’s day off…

While Claire’s parents are in town, they very kindly gave us the afternoon/evening off!

Wow, the last time we went out for more than an hour was for Claire’s birthday in February! So, we went out in the afternoon and got back about 7:30.

We went to Costa coffee to start the adventure off and just chilled out in there for a while. We then had a crazy idea of going to Stroud for an adventure, but the bus and trains weren’t going for an hour, so we knocked that on the head and just stayed in Gloucester – don’t want to get too excited!

So we headed to Cafe Rene for a beer and bite to eat, which turned into a full meal!

I ordered garlic bread with cheese, thinking it would be a good snack before a meal later. It was biggest garlic bread i’ve ever seen! Even the waitress said she didn’t know what happened there! For scale purposes, the glass to the side is a pint glass!

So, we then went to another bar, mainly to see the football – Liverpool v West Ham, which we won 3-0! We’re now only 3 points off 4th spot in the league and things aren’t looking so bad now!

Neither of us were up for a big night out so we just headed back for some more food! Anyway, a good chance to take a break from our normal lives and spend some time together.

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502 posts and going strong…

So, i’ve past the 500 post landmark! I was going to do a summary of the past blog experiences, as soon as the site got to either a certain number of posts, time (maybe a year since the start) or number of hits (maybe 10,000). Well, it’s been over 17 months since I started this blog (14/05/09) and have received over 9,000 hits.

Thanks to everyone who has taken the time to check out what we’ve been doing and I hope it’s been worth it! So far, i’ve really enjoyed taking the time to put it together and keep it going. I’ve been able to check back on various things over the months and it’s been cool to be able to show people what we’ve been doing. I know the various far flung family members also check both mine and Claire’s blogs, so it a good way of keeping in contact.

It’s also a brilliant family record of some of our major life events. The last few years have basically defined my life and it will be awesome to be able to show the boys some family snapshots from when they were still small(ish). I’m trying to put stuff on here which sort of defines me as well, so there’s things about all sorts of things – family, house DYI, sustainability/environment, politics, art/design/architecture, work things, Liverpool FC. I want to put more of the boys developments on here, particularly as we start/continue our journey into ‘education’.

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First fire…

It was a mild but wet day today – not quite the winter weather fit for the first fire but we pressed on regardless!

Jamie got into it and made his own little stick and string object, which he made without any help.

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Claire did a cool stick and string lattice with some nice shapes. I made a triangular box, with a leaf from the apple tree, a piece of fire wood and a tomato leaf inside. We also made a cat offering, with a fish leaf, tied to a couple of pieces of wood, with a long string. Claire also made a ‘Haslam’ family offering.

Nice to have a fire during the day, but it did have the effect of putting everyone to sleep! It’s also nice to have everything setup and ready for winter! Logs, new windows and insulated render on the way!

The new windows really keep the heat in and it already feels more even, with fewer logs needed to keep the heat coming out. The logs themselves also burn well and slow.

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1st fire / Samhain…

There are a lot of seasonal things going on right now – and not necessarily things which most people would be doing.

There are things in the garden, the piles of logs & kindling ready to be used, lots of autumn spiders making webs everywhere, the last of the fruit being picked, winter veg being planted, the wood-burner being cleaned out ready to be used, the house is being insulated against the cold and we are only 4 weeks away from the exterior of most of the house being rendered.

The colder weather and leaves turning is my favourite time of year and reminds me of sitting in warm pubs and going running in the rain when I was younger. It’s a time of experience, with different days and feelings, and changes all the time.

Given the approaching colder weather, the 1st fire is on the way and I thought it would be a cool idea to mark the occasion with some kind of fire ceremony. This is a strong cultural link to the season, particularly in Buddhist, Celtic and Pagan cultures, where the turning of the season towards the dark half of the year is a significant time.

Anyway, I was checking out a few links on the net for ideas and randomly came across the following site: Sweep the dust, push the dirt. Slightly bizarre stuff but some of it is hilarious! But, the basic premise is as follows:

‘In ancient times the fire sacrifice was an elaborate ceremony that could involve the sacrifice of horses, cows and goats, as well as gold, gems and other precious items into the fire. Today, a havan is a simplified ritual that rarely involves animal sacrifice or the placing of precious items into the fire. Instead, rice or a kind of popery is commonly substituted for these items, but still the basic meaning of the ritual remains.

This may sound odd or glib, but an easy way to think of the havan is as a symbolic “postal system.” The fire container is the postbox, fire is the postman, the items placed into the fire are the message and mantra is the means of address.

Another quote is great…

‘[Editor’s Note:  If you invite Pagans to your Buddhist Bonfire, make certain to state that no curses are allowed…also nothing that uses menstrual blood or herrings.  Take my word on that.]

[Editor’s Note 2: Don’t invite Cthulhu cultists to a Buddhist Bonfire.  They still use animal sacrifices but they do bring the best beer…it’s a coin-toss]’

Anyway… A couple of ideas for our fire ceremony tomorrow (yes, tomorrow!) include making a paper picture box, with images of my family, filled with important or significant items. I’m thinking a family photo with a single apple tree leaf inside, maybe with a piece of small wood and the top of a tomato. The message would be health and happiness for the family and garden (particularly the apple tree which we pruned back this year) and a mild winter or warm house. The kids might think it’s fun and might pick unique items which are special to them.

‘Our modern celebration of Halloween is a descendent of the ancient Celtic festival called “Samhain;” meaning Summer’s End. Samhain was the first day of winter, and the end of one pastoral year. It was the time when the night became longer than the day, the last apples were picked, and the year began again with its dark winter half. Also called Samhiunn or Hallowe’en. Originally a Druidic festival, it was celebrated on the eve of November 1 (October 31 – technically, either date is appropriate as the Celts measured the day from sunset to sunset.) The sacred fire.

This loss of connection to nature (and as a consequence our greater negative impact on the planet), is a really important issue, linked to basic principles of respect and sustainability.

So, we’re all going to make some kind of object to burn in the 1st fire, to kick off the start of winter (even if it is a month too soon – we just can’t wait!), if for no other reason than to become more aware and connected to the changing seasons.

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Joke…

Q. What is the similarity between a lobster and person of oriental origin with an elephant on top of them?

A. They’re both crushed asians!

The next one will be better than that, I promise!

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Breast is best…?

Ok, probably the first, and maybe, the last post on breat-feeding I’ll write!

Just saw an interesting Guardian article on an article in a baby magazine about feeding babies.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2010/jun/27/breastfeeding-is-creepy-outrage

Interesting stuff in there, but i’m more interested in the reaction which is reported in the Guardian article + the comments at the end of the article. The original article did sound a bit strange, but the author is entitled to her opinions.

‘Attempting to censor opinions other than your own is illiberal and infantile.’

‘After having pro-breastfeeding comments forced upon me like a forceful hot wet nipple into a baby’s mouth, its refreshing to hear a tongue-in-cheek alternative piece.’

‘She is a damaged woman to say such a thing, or, she is being purposely controversial to boost magazine sales. Whatever the reason her comment is stupid and she looks like a fool.’

A real issue to polarise opinions! The whole ‘breastfeeding = creepy’ issue seems to be one of the main reasons why women don’t breastfeed, or drop it quickly. It’s another example of people knowing that something is good for them (or in this case their baby) and still choosing to not do it. Other examples include eating healthy food and getting high intensity and regular exercise!

Looking at the issue from my ‘man’ viewpoint, breastfeeding is logically and scientifically the best way, by far. But what proportion of the general population would you say are logical and scientific, and actually consider much of what they do?

The article talks about only 1 in 100 mothers getting to 6 months of breastfeeding – even with all of the strong arguments for it (it’s free surely being a big consideration for a lot of people)!

At the end of the day (I hate that phrase!), this particular article comes down to freedom of speech and I would almost always support that!

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Malteser cake…

A friend of ours brought us a chocolate cake yesterday covered in Maltesers! None left now though!

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