12 December 2007

'Looked After Children' no more

My wife is a Social Worker and she told me last night that 'Looked After Children' are now to be known as 'Children that are Looked After' ...

'Looked After Children'
'Children that are Looked After'
'Looked After Children'
'Children that are Looked After'

??

Do they really believe it will make any difference?

Of course I'm sure there will be a cost associated with the change.

10 December 2007

Missed it again!

I have just realised that yet again we have missed The Royal Variety Show.

Some years Mrs Jenks and I happen to catch a snippet of it and we call our kids down to see the last few acts. Every year we say that we really must remember to watch it all next year; even just most of it ... this year we didn't even catch a snippet! I fear our children will be deprived of seeing the whole show, just once! What makes it worse for our poor children is that they often show flashbacks of the various acts at the end of the show - the acts that they missed.

Are we the only family that are unaware when it's on? I suppose this is the danger of selective viewing, you miss the adverts for shows. Oh well, will somebody please remind us next year, if not for us then for our children’s sake - I have this suspicion that next year this time ...

04 December 2007

Swans with shades

This might be obvious but we live near the Thames but not so obvious would be that our village has an assocaition with swans. Anyway, I heard that a crew was filming locally and made use of 'trained' swans instead of our local common or garden variety of swans (I'm not much of an ornithologist I'm afraid).

Now I have this picture in my head of swans with shades, reclining on director's chairs - do you think they have equity cards. Imagine the tantrums, you don't want to be near an angry swan!

(PS "Swans with Shades" is a unique phrase in Google and takes you to this post ... and I was hoping for a picture.)

Cheques and permission slips - grrrrr!

I'm fed up with writing out cheques for school and filling in forms. The other day I had to request another chequebook from my bank, the last one they sent us was at the end of October!

Piecemeal requests for cash, £2 for this, £5 for that - sigh. Permission slips. Newsletters. Bigger sigh. I just have so many better things to with my life than fill in forms, tell people that yes my son has had a tetanus jab, write out my address, email, telephone numbers over and over again .... and write another confounded cheque ... for £2!

I wish I could tell the school 'Yes, you can take my child wherever you think is appropriate (I trust you), email me the details, here's £100 (or whatever) - take out what you need, when you need it and let me know periodically if the pot needs filling and roughly where the money went.' Not complicated, less paper, less time and surely everybody will be happier.

I received a form yesterday that listed 'all' the contact details associated with my child that was held on record. It was 'all' correct but for some reason I have to keep writing out this information on forms! If I really have to sign a form, why not do a mail merge??? It's a closed loop system, parents submit details, parents check details - all records are correct and technology has helped save time and money.

Oh well. I feel a little better now, sorry.

03 December 2007

My bad timing and hairy chests

Hairy chests, another example of my bad timing...

I grew up being told that you're a real man when you get a bit of hair on your chest. That chest of hair was a sign of your arrival at manhood.

That was the 70s.

I remember one of the more serious swimmers at school shaving his body to reduce drag in the water - most of my friends were horrified, such sacrilege. What if the hair didn’t grow back??? So this thing about hair on your chest was really quite important – get the picture.

Enter a rather hairless teenager (namely me, not unusual for teenagers really) waiting for those hairs to emerge … waiting … waiting … waiting … hoorah!

Alas, arrival of hairy chest occurs just as it goes out of fashion.

Men now seem to shave, wax (ouch) or something? I can’t imagine they’re born like that and I’m not sure it’s ever discussed down the pub. In fact, I imagine most men would be worried if there was ‘no’ hair to remove. I think you notice a little confusion here and a distinct lack of research.

But my main point is that it is another example of my excellent timing. I might add that I am not planning on any shearing of my torso either – Mrs Jenks has said that she is quite happy just the way I am. Besides, it might come back in fashion ;-)

29 November 2007

Off to the Hellfire Club ;-)

I'm off to the Hellfire Club tonight. What is the Hellfire Club you might ask? I really can not say.

Hee, hee ... the mind boggles doesn't it?

Dull technical reports

I'm writing a fairly dull technical report and I fear my brain might implode. Dull ... dull ... dull. Any suggestions for shoring up said brain - it might be very messy if implosion arises?

Funny enough this is analogous to stars, nuclear reactions prevent the star from collapsing under its own gravity. When the star runs out of elements to fuse gravity takes over and (if the star is big enoug) .... bang! Supernova - the biggest firecracker in the universe.

This would suggest that the resulting mess arising from implosion correlates to how big my head is - hmmm. Back to dullness ...

Find that school ... Friends Reunited :-)

Schools - I think I went to too many of them. As a child we moved around quite a bit, we seemed to move house most years and often when we moved it was outside of the catchment of a school I was attending and naturally I changed school again.

I only went to one high school although we did move most years when I was there. We did actually move out of catchment but I convinced my parents that I could still get to the school on my own steam.

Until I was about 13 I was an only child so I don't have a anybody really to peg those early years to. My Dad died last year and my Mum has this year recovered from cancer. I realised that it would be good to track my earlier years while I can still remember them.

Trying to remember the names of schools - very difficult. Then I hit the jackpot, I discovered my old stamp collection that had loads of envelopes showing all our addresses. These addresses together with Friends Reunited and ... bingo! Well, almost ... I think there might be one or two schools I've forgotten particularly in England. Here is the list:

?
Radford Primary School (England)
?
Sapcote CofE Primary School (England)

Cardigan Primary School (Wales)
St Dogmaels Primary school (Wales)
Lamphey Primary School (Wales)
Pembroke Dock Junior School (Wales)
Cosheston Primary School (Wales)

Martin Primary School (South Africa)
Warner Beach Senior Primary School (South Africa)

Amanzimtoti High School (South Africa)

Of course I don't expect anybody to remember a transient child through their school but it has been good to be able to make contact with school friends from my last two schools.

My kids have a totally different experience, they all went to/go to the same primary school and will likely go to the same secondary school. Going to so many different schools has probably had an affect on my schooling but not as much as you might think it would. Parents today get so worked up over which school to send their children to and I think they forget how adaptable and resilient children are. I think I'm evidence of that ... although I'm sure a few of you would say how I might prove the contrary point :-)

Oh yes, and isn't Friends Reunited very useful - an excellent research tool.

28 November 2007

1973!! But ... but ... how?

James Blunt sings a song set in 1973 yet he was born in 1974! Am I the only person this irritates. Every time I hear him singing this song I think but you weren't even around in 1973.

It's as bad as living next door to Alice for 24 years ... waiting for a second chance! How irritating. What kind of guy was that?

Sigh ... I feel better now, I got that off my chest. I really shouldn't bother, I really shouldn't ...

In Facebook I am

I have a Facebook account - postings are rarely longer than a sentence, then you do a quiz.

27 November 2007

What to believe?

My mentioning of 'His Dark Materials' reminded me of how angered Christian groups are about the books.

This brings me to my religious beliefs? Oh dear, how this has caused me so much trouble in my life. Atheist, Agnostic, Spiritualist (a close family member was even a medium), Christian, even Missionary, Preacher ... what do I believe now? I'm not saying much about that right now - I've got to have learnt something from experience.

What's so surprising is that people who know me who read this posting are likely convinced I fall into any one of the boxes above, except perhaps the Spiritualist one.

The problem is my timing ... it's not very good. As an example, when I lived in South Africa at about 18 years of age, I helped arrange a beauty competition. It was quite a success and in particular I arranged a date with a beautiful model. The date went well until she brought up her beliefs over dinner. She was on the journey to becoming a Christian and I was not, in fact I was pretty much an atheist ... needless to say we didn't have another date. However, a few months later and we would have got on so much better - my lousy timing! Our beliefs were out of kilter. I do hasten to add that about six months later I did meet my lovely wife ... that was superb timing :-)

This is the main problem I see with religious beliefs (or lack of them) is that it polarises us. The only time it doesn't is when we say we just don't know - good old agnostics! That said, I don't really subscribe to the view that religion has caused a great deal of woe in the world. We're essentially tribal and it doesn't matter what the banner is we sit under we'll still fight and bicker with all the other tribes. But it does seem to me that when we sit under a religious banner that the vast majority of people go on to lead good lives. So religion seems to be a good concept and whether you believe that that is how God intended it or whether evolution has brought us to this point something seems to be right about it. By the way, please don't be offended by the tribal analogy - I am referring to everybody including me as being tribal.

But back to my religious beliefs, as you must concede that this posting had started out as a bit of oblique navel gazing. There are many reasons why my spiritual journey has been so eventful and I have some rather interesting tales. Would I have chosen a different path? No, I don't think so - often these journeys are more about finding yourself than a religion or even God. It would be such a boring world if we all believed the same thing and despite what I said earlier it would be no fun arguing with a world of agnostics. I am very happy to say that I have used God/religion as a crutch through significant portions of my life and why would that ever be a problem? If you have a religious belief then I trusted in God, if not then I tapped into my inner strength - the fact is it worked/works ;-)

Next year I'm continuing to study astrophysics - the universe is truly a strange and awesome wonder. The more I glimpse (this is about all I can manage) of the strangeness of the quantum world, other dimensions and the universe, the more I sense a chasm in our understanding. To read only in the last week of the suggestion that the hole in the universe detected by radio astronomers in August is the imprint of another universe is amazing. Then to read the theory that the act of 'observing' this might have affected the future of our universe is pretty startling. This is the strangeness, that merely observing at a quantum level has an affect, that something can come out of nothing, that I'm even here writing this in the first place. It is as if, through us, the universe is trying to understand itself, remarkable. I didn't intend that to sound so ... 'cosmic', but it did and it is - I guess. Incidentally, I think 'studying astrophysics' is quite good timing - for a change! So much is going on in this field at the moment that we seem to be discovering new information almost monthly, the chasm's still there though, there just seems to be a lot to discover.

Anyway, I could ramble on all evening and I daresay I've been talking to myself. I hope I've cleared up one thing - don't assume you know what my beliefs are :-)

What's in a title?

I enjoyed reading 'His Dark Materials' and I'm looking forward to the release of the film adaptation of the first book, 'The Golden Compass'. What I don't understand is why we have to have different book titles on different sides of the Atlantic? It must have something to do with marketing but does it really make that much difference?

I'm an electronics engineer and I have come across the view that products sell better in the US that have a number rather than a name! I've always found this hard to believe but what do I know?

I mean, why in the US would the title 'The Golden Compass' be preferable to the title 'Northern Lights'? Are other parts of the book changed as well?

All the same, I am looking forward to the film.

Mirrors and bodies

Mirrors. Mirrors everywhere! ... and I can assure you that I do not have an image problem but I can't understand why there are so many mirrors at our local gym? Stand in the right place and you see an infinite number of sweaty, puffing, red faced, straining bodies working and grunting there way to um ... perfection?

But such a fascinating place - all the interesting people.

You get those who bounce from piece of equpment to the next, playing a kind of pin ball. Have a go on this, have a go on that and bounce out the door again.

There's the couple of friends chatting away on the exercise bikes peddaling at a snail's pace ... on and on they go ...

The superfit granddads! So very impressive, I've a very long way to go before reaching such an enviable level of fitness, but then I've some time before becoming a granddad (I hope). Very inspirational.

Pot bellied body builders. They always appear to be hurting. They seem to spend hardly any time on aerobic fitness and load the weights on all the resistance machines.

The young guys flexing there muscles, looking in the mirrors checking this muscle, that muscle. So blatant and confident, I always reserved my body inspections for the bathroom. Glancing over at the fashionably dressed young ladies - trying to catch an eye.

The young ladies, I try not to look and definitely refrain from catching an eye. It's not good for me to talk about this group for obvious reasons but I do have to say that those mirrors don't help ... it's so very difficult to look anywhere without looking at somebody at the wrong moment.

It's a lot easier when I visit the gym with Mrs Jenks but alas she's not very well tonight so I shall head down by myself, gulp!

Why do I do it? We're trying to keep up with our growing boys, skiing in a month's time, general health, a bit of vanity too.

But a huge reason for me is that this year I've been introduced to a new asthma treatment and for the first time I can exercise without wheezing. You can't imagine how exciting this is for me. I've never been able to run long distance and it became particularly worse when I was about 14/15 when I had quite bad pneumonia. The problem was at school I didn't realise I had asthma so I just tried harder to get fit ... it helped but never quite worked. The new treatment 'is' working very well :-)

I must say that I don't have bad asthma just exercise induced asthma. This also includes coughing and laughing induced asthma - very irritating. That's about the level of it really, irritating. I just kept away from triggers which doesn't mean I didn't exercise, I just limited the type of exercise or extent, but now ....

Trouble is when I removed the asthma symptoms I was left with a lower level of fitness and that's how I started going to the gym.

Next year I'd really like to try some running.... Tonight I'm going to the gym and I shall ignore the mirrors, and the young ladies too - it's not too difficult as they ignore me too ;-)

What’s your experience of gyms?

17 January 2007

Puppy and Loft Conversion

So we have a dog now.

We had always said that we would get a dog but that wanted to wait until my youngest son was old enough. He's 9 now which we felt was 'old enough' but more importantly my eldest is 14 ... gulp! In just 4 years he will be 18!!! It was that realisation that prompted us to get a dog. We were concerned if we left it any longer then he would not have had the benefit and enjoyment of seeing a puppy grow up.

As I was saying, we have a dog now ... we also have a loft conversion that we are very pleased with :-)

Where am I going with this? Patience please.

We had the loft conversion done because I used one of the bedrooms intended for my sons as an office (I work from home). So, I now have an office and my sons all have their own bedrooms - very good and my three sons? :-) :-) :-)

When you get a puppy it is advised that you spend time with them and not leave them alone.

But:
My office + puppy = bad idea as puppies chew cables, books, in fact just about everything!

So ... I now work in the kitchen! I might add that the puppy is happy and contented ... oh well!

11 January 2007

Back?

Hmm.

Sorry about the dust that has gathered on this blog. So much for how therapeutic I find writing a blog!

Oh well, here I am for now. What happened?

A combination of things really ... I haven't mentioned it on my blog before but my Dad died of cancer in March last year. Then a few months later I found out my Mum had cancer and she has been undergoing chemotherapy. The good news is that a few weeks ago we found out that the cancer seems to have gone. My Mum is still receiving chemotherapy but the future is looking much brighter.

I didn't particularly want to discuss this on my blog but it was not all that easy to write about much else ... but that is only a suspected reason for no posts since September.

Other things?

I've been trying to make headway into a long story I am writing (it would seem a bit precocious to call it a novel) ... okay, I have to admit it's not very long yet ... but it will grow. Sadly, unlike plants, it doesn't grow very much when kept in a dark drawer.

Growth - reminds me of our puppy! We now have a Border Collie puppy called Fleet. Border Collie puppies are medium sized dogs, yes? Well our puppy's father was called Hercules!! :-s

More later, time for tea and bed. At least I've cleaned the dust off.