Sunday, July 26, 2009

Initiation complete

First cycling injuries
Oliver shows off his injuries.

Yesterday Oliver went through a rite of passage for all off-road cyclists. He had his first big crash.

He hasn't encountered many downhills on his pedal bike before, but on yesterday's otherwise pancake-flat excursion along the Middlewood Way, he rode down a slope from a disused railway platform and lost control.

It wasn't really that big a slope, but I think he picked up speed more than he expected and could see people potentially in his stopping zone at the bottom. Either way, he was too frozen in fear to remember to to pull on his brakes (which he didn't have on his balance bike) and instead went into a series of ever more violent swerves as his front-wheel went left and right. Eventually he went right over the handlebars, landing on his knee, elbow and face! Although he had a helmet on, it isn't a full-face affair and he smacked his nose in the gravel.

After the initial understandable shock and tears, he got straight back on his bike and rode on. I couldn't have been more proud of my brave little boy.

He had another much smaller tumble later but rode all the way to the end, with the exception of the same railway platform on the way back where he chose to walk down the far end of the platform rather than risk another incident (as once again some of our party where waiting in his stopping zone). Probably a good call.

While Oliver rode I was on foot with a friend whose son and daughter were also cycling along with Oliver. For us it was a brisk walk to keep up with the occasional short sprint to avoid possible collisions or tumbles. That section of the Middlewood Way is good for new riders but not ideal, as much of its length has a water-filled ditch just to the side, so there was occasionally the possibility of a watery crash come splash.

Nonetheless it was a pretty nice way to spend a summer's afternoon. We even stopped at our turning-back point (Middlewood railway station) and enjoyed an apple each, after which the kids chased each other with pieces of long grass, trying to tickle each other.

After we had finished the ride, Oliver and I went to a little park and playground nearby where he enjoyed the climbing apparatus, slide and swings (where he befriended a six year old girl).


After that we headed home. Once in bed, the little man fell asleep pretty quickly after his exertions, leaving me to go downstairs and watch the heroics of the riders in the Tour de France on the infamous Mont Ventoux stage. But despite the efforts of Contador, Armstrong and Schleck, there was only one rider this weekend to whom I gave a hearty "Chapeau!". Oliver, you are officially a fully initiated off-road cyclist.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Sunny Saturday morning

At last it stopped raining for a few hours, so I took the kids to our local park. We made up for lost time, staying there for a good hour and a half.

Lucy used the "proper" swing (no safety bars) for the first time (well the first time with me anyway).


They both had fun climbing.



Then after some running round on the empty tennis court, to my surprise they decided to lie down in the sun. So we all sunbathed for a good 2 minutes.


And to top it all off, Hayley came to meet us as a surprise. All in all a very enjoyable morning.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Refreshing breakfast

Yesterday at our local Somerfield, Oliver, not content with just his favourite Granny Smith apples, decided we should buy a melon.

And so it was this morning that with great import I chopped large segments of melon for the kids. Oliver tucked in with some vigour. (Please excuse the blurry images.)


Lucy less so, after an initially enthusiastic start.


Nonethless they both tried it and that in itself is always a success in my book.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

A short essay on time

Time is not linear.

Remember how long summers were when you were a kid? Long.
Now they shoot past, right? Right.

But that's nothing. If you want to see how fast time can fly, watch the clock in the run-up to your wedding. I reckon not even Einstein could explain how the time is disappearing so fast. And the faster it flies, the more there seems to be left to do.

Of course I can't complain as Hayley has done the VAST majority of the wedding preparations. Nonetheless I can't quite believe the wedding will take place a month tomorrow.

Anyway, tonight Hayley has been to her dress fitting. Then she went to the pub. Not sure what to make of that.

Tomorrow Oliver and I will be fitted up for our suits. Can't wait to see the little man dressed up to the nines!

And now I'm off to bed (before its time to rise and shine).

So long and thanks for all the rides

In an attempt to stem the gushing torrent of money that is flowing out of our coffers in the run up to the wedding, I have started a new policy of selling one thing a week on eBay.

This set me to thinking that as I say goodbye to some of these items, I should point out just how good they were lest anyone else would want to buy them.

Weeride Carrier

(I've sold this already and its recipient was very pleased with it I understand.)

Let an excerpt from my eBay spiel do the talking.

This Weeride carrier is ideal as a first child seat as it mounts in front of the adult, meaning that communication with the child is much easier, the child has a better view and you can see what they are doing at all times.

Once the mounting bar is fitted, the seat mounts onto it using a single thumb-screw bolt, so it can be easily mounted and unmounted in seconds.

I used this carrier occasionally over two summers (would probably have used it much more if we'd had better weather!) and I can honestly say that it was loved by parent and child alike. (Not to mention the smiles it brought to many a passer-by.)

And you know this is true because I blogged as much 2 years ago this month.

So a hearty recommendation if you are looking for a first child seat.

Strolli Rider


Again I'll give you my eBay pitch.

This Bibi Strolli Rider is is a great alternative to a conventional buggy board. Kids love it and adults will appreciate its ease of use.

It saw relatively little use with us because it did not fit our main buggy (a 2005 Urban Detour) due to the angles of the buggy frame.

Unlike buggy boards, the rider is next to the adult, not between the adult and buggy, allowing the adult to push the buggy more normally.
Minimal width means doors can still be easily navigated (unlike a double stroller).
Foot and hand-rests are adjustable in height as your child grows.
Quick release lever and bolt makes attaching and detaching easy.
Fits oval, square and round tubes.
Suitable for children from 15 months old and up to 20Kg. (Personally I did not start my son on this until he was 18 months old as the design does not include a seat belt.)

The picture above shows the Strolli Rider I am auctioning here being used by my then 18 month old son. (Buggy not included!)

Although we didn't use it that often because we preferred our main buggy to the one this fitted, it was great fun, very eye-catching and Oliver loved it.

So there you have it. My two recommendations.

BBC NEWS | Health | Stressed parents up asthma risk

BBC NEWS | Health | Stressed parents up asthma risk

I'm wondering whether the 2005 Ashes series would count as stressful?

But there's no point worrying, as that would make things worse!

BBC NEWS | Health | Obesity 'link to same-sex parent'

BBC NEWS | Health | Obesity 'link to same-sex parent'

I'm not sure what to say about this. Hayley has struggled more with her weight than I have and Lucy eats for England (as we say). But that's not to say we're complacent about Oliver's weight.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

The weather.... aaaarrrggghhhhh!!!!!

I know I shouldn't, because there are much worse things happening in the world than me not getting the weather I would like, but I'm sorry I just have to say it.

This rain is really starting to hack me off!

I mean it's July for goodness sake. Summer fairs and parties and outdoor events of all kinds are being washed out left, right and centre. It has rained every day this week. Don't even think about telling me climate change is a myth because this ain't how it used to be.

But do you want to know why I am really hacked off? Because a few weeks ago the BBC weather forecasters told us it is going to be a hot, dry summer. I mean these people are paid well for what they do, but I can look at the BBC site and see that my location is "Mostly Sunny" while outside my window it is raining and has been all morning.

Do you know what? I reckon I could do as well by looking at the Met Office data and then flipping a coin. In fact I might start a new site: Steve flips a coin dot com. Or better still, how about Flipping Weather dot com.

I used to feel well inclined towards weather forecasters, bringing us the good news cheerily or breaking the bad news to us gently. Nowadays when I see their smug televisual faces bringing me their latest flight of fancy I want to whack them in their warm front with a large isobar or two. That would create a depression. And quite possibly lift mine.

Finally, if the wet weather is getting you down too, take a look at this very funny video (brought to my attention by Dan over at AllThatComesWithIt), because sometimes it's just good to know you aren't the only sucker suffering.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Morning highlights

Saturday morning is a time I usually take the kids out leaving Hayley some free time. This morning I took them to Tesco for breakfast. On the way Oliver requested "his" CD, which is actually one of Hayley's "Best of the Eighties" collections. He sang "Walking on Sunshine" with such gusto and with a strong northern accent on the word "sun". So cute. (I have to catch him on video sometime!)

Next we visited Borders for some more books before heading off to Anchors Away, an indoor playground (previously known as Whalearound) which has been resurrected under a new owner after going into administration a few months ago.

Oliver made friends with two girls, both older than him, and spent most of his time running around the main "ship" area. Meanwhile Lucy decided to do some building. She managed to build towers significantly taller than herself by standing on other soft-play objects.


Of course she also ventured freely into the area that is nominally for 4-years-old and upwards and had no problem getting around any of it, though I always either watched her or went in with her.

Before both kids headed off to a party this afternoon with Mummy, Lucy came to the local shops with me to post a letter, bringing along her small red pushchair with one of her dolls in it. Just the cutest.

Big Bird


Today started with a loud thud. As I got Oliver dressed at 7am, one of Lucy's favourite birds, a dove, tried to fly into his bedroom but instead flew straight into glass. He landed on the flat roof of our porch under Oliver's window, looking a bit dazed.

After a few minutes he flew off, but before he did it gave Lucy a chance to observe her friend, "Big Bird", at unusually close quarters (given she wasn't hidden by a net curtain as she is downstairs when she watches the birds at our new bird feeder.) We even set her up on her own little perch to get a better view.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009


There can be few things in life more satisfying and good for the soul than having a good laugh. And as a parent, hearing your child's laughter is priceless. Here are a few examples of how I've been soliciting chuckles from my children lately.

Last night, as Oliver sat on his bed next to me I picked up his chosen bedtime reading, "Going on a Bear Hunt". As he took a drink from his night-time sippy cup, I deliberately mis-read the title aloud: "Going on a Beer Hunt". This so amused him that he involuntarily spat his water out leaving him coughing, spluttering and chuckling.

Later, we indulged in a regular bedtime ritual. When it's time for him to get into bed, he lies across his bed on top of his quilt saying "Is this how we get into bed?" I then say "Errrrrrrmmmmm, no" and tickle him. We repeat this several times for several alternative positions sprawled across his bed.

Lucy on the other hand loves to be chased. As soon as I tell her it's time to change her nappy, she chuckles, turns on her heels and runs away from me laughing. She will then hide wherever possible, under tables or behind furniture if necessary. The other time she runs away is if I want to give her a kiss goodbye in the morning. Both of them were playing that game this morning. Oliver then insists on wiping my kiss from his cheek, which allows me to start the chase again, much to his amusement.

Lucy also enjoys teasing me with her food. Most recently she offered me ice-cream then took it away and ate it herself when I went to eat it, leaving me with an expression of mock horror and Lucy chuckling away with a mouthful of ice-cream.

Finally, last night I found a new way to make Oliver laugh so hard he falls silent and has to catch his breath. I picked up his pyjama shorts and put them on my head "for safekeeping" while he was on the loo. Then after a few moments I pretended that I had forgotten where they were. Every time he pointed to my head I looked behind me at the wall or ceiling. Then when he said they were on my head I pretended to try to look at the top of my own head, ducking and weaving down towards the floor until I finally picked them off. I may only have a small audience for my comedy antics, but it certainly is an appreciative one.

Sunday, July 12, 2009


  • I have sent off for the necessary forms to change Lucy's name to be "Lucy Imelda Marcos Townley". She not only spends as much of the morning as possible putting on and taking off (and putting on and taking off and putting on and taking off) shoes, but also is building up a collection to rival that of the former first lady of the Philippines.

  • In the recent hot spell, Oliver developed a tendency to roll out of bed in the night. As his bedroom has a hard floor, I placed his old cot-bed mattress next to his bed. On more than one occasion after being woken by a soft thud, I returned him to his bed still asleep.

  • The average time a hair grip remains in Lucy's hair is 4 minutes 32.3 seconds. They are then expertly discarded, often never to be seen again. Buy shares in Boots. Consequently she can end up looking somewhat dishevelled. Not to be confused with an outright "bad hair day".

  • Oliver's love for music continues to grow. The other night as I got him ready for bed the unintelligible song he had been signing was suddenly revealed when he reached the chorus and he screeched "Walk this way! Talk this way." He has also developed a love of Abba thanks to me buying Hayley the DVD of "Mama Mia" and plays along with his uke.

  • Lucy currently loves birds, so we bought a bird-feeder which attaches to our sliding windows by the dining table. This allows Lucy to sit and watch them as she eats her meal, before shouting "birds" so loudly that they all fly off. Her favourite birds though are a pair of doves that are often seen sitting on neighbouring TV aerials. I suspect it's the same pair I feel like shooting when they wake me at 4 o'clock every monrning.

  • (Warning: nudity content.) In the current warm weather I have taken to sleeping "au naturel". Consequently, when I go with only one eye open to see why Oliver is shouting in the middle of the night (which is usually because his quilt won't behave exactly as he wishes), he ceases his shouting and asks me straightforwardly "Are you going for a shower Daddy?"
  • Sunday, July 05, 2009

    Gardening for beginners


    OK, so for Lucy "watering the plants" involved dumping the entire contents of her watering can onto a poor unassuming plant in one giant splash, but it's a start. WHat matters is she enjoyed helping her Mummy.

    Oliver's contribution was shorter but admittedly more measured in its delivery of water to the flowers. Quality over quantity I guess.


    A bike ride made for two

    Today, for the first time since before Oliver was born (Hayley assures me), we went on a bike ride: just the two of us! We had a babysitter for three hours so we headed for the Jackson's Boat pub a few miles down the Trans Pennine Trail with the intention of having lunch there.

    As it turned out, when we arrived we found they didn't open for another 15 minutes. Time being precious, we headed back and chose a pub closer to home, The Didsbury, where we had a well-earned and delicious pub-lunch.

    It was no mountainous adventure, but we both got a gentle work-out and the food tasted all the better for it. But most importantly, it gave us that bit of child-free time that is essential in a relationship to maintain something other than our identities as parents.

    Saturday, July 04, 2009

    La dolce vita


    There are plenty of reasons why I write this blog, but most of them can be distilled down to "for my kids".

    But that's a rather lazy description. I want the kids to be able to see themselves as they were, but also for them to see how Hayley and I were too. Perhaps that's a bigger part than I anticipated, because it's impossible to convey to your child just how much they mean to you. Maybe part of me hopes the blog will help convey it. I'm sure that when they do look back it will give them a few laughs, if only when they say "Crikey Dad, you used to have hair!".

    Life as a parent, whether at home or at work, can often feel like a lot work and little play. But, lame as it may sound, the rewards really do make it all worthwhile in the end. And today we got a lot of rewards.

    For a start, it was a beautiful warm day with sunshine and a gentle breeze. So we decided to take a trp to the park. It was such a nice day we ended up spending all afternoon there.

    While there, Oliver decided to ride his new bike for much of the time. This still needs me to start him off each time he stops, but it's a tiny price to pay to be able to watch him merrily weaving his way round the playground.

    I have to say I am more than a little proud of the little guy for riding his bike so young. He's the first of all his peers to be able to do it and so much younger than I was when I finally got going. Oliver doesn't seem to appreciate his achievement though. Other kids stabilizers seem to be invisible to him, so he just keeps telling me his other friends do it too, which is kind of sweet.

    And I can't comment on this achievement without pointing out that it's all down to buying him his "Rothan" balance bike (from the wonderful Islabikes).

    There was lots of time on the swings or playing with their friends who also joined us (Jack, William, Jessica, Dylan, Hannah, Andrew). At one point Lucy rather spookily insisted on giving the invisible child a push on the swing.


    Later in the afternoon, while Lucy napped, Oliver and I wandered off to another part of the park where we played all sorts of games of his making. I was a dog that he rode. Then I was a giant. Then we climbed a tree (really). Then we roled down a hill. Then we raced... It was a good hour or more of the sort of relaxed quality time playing with him that I never get chance to have during the week. It was so nice not to be watching the clock.

    Afterwards he was on his bike again and as he rode past some flowerbeds he sang a song about riding in the countryside. As a keen mountain biker, it struck me that here was my son enjoying exactly what I do: riding a bike amid beautiful scenery. It was a touching moment and served again to remind me how fast he is growing up.

    Eventually the skies started to threaten a late afternoon downpour after the heat of the day, so we headed home, Hayley and Lucy choosing the car, while I walked alongside the little man who, of course, chose his bike.

    Friday, July 03, 2009

    Blink and you'll miss it

    "zoom! - what was that? -"

    "That was your life mate."

    "Do I get another?"

    "No sorry that was your lot"

    * Basil Fawlty in "Mrs Richards", an episode of Fawlty Towers.

    Children grow up quickly, and not in a smooth linear way either.

    When we enetered 2009 Oliver was still sleeping in his cot-bed with the bars on and wearing nappies.

    Today, half a year later, he is out of nappies, sleeping in his full size bed with no-bed-guard and is dry through the night. He sees himself to the toilet and earlier this week surprised me by running up to a tree in the park, dropping his trousers and standing there taking a pee against it. (A proud moment for any Dad to behold, surely.)

    I've always called him "the little man" but day by day that's how he appears more and more.

    Of course, he's still my little boy too. The other day he told me, "I don't want to be four Daddy". I'm not sure why he said it, but I do wonder whether the weight of being the big brother is sometimes a burden for him. With such a tearaway sister as Lucy, we encourage him to set her a good example and the vast majority of the time that's what exactly what he does. But I try to make sure he knows he can be my baby boy too. I know that all too quickly he'll want to be a big boy all the time, so I treasure the few times he still wants to be my little boy, just as much as he was before the little lady came along.