Miscellaneous

Don’t feed the pigeons

This is a short story I wrote on the way back from London.  Let me know what you think in the comments below!   As he stepped onto the platform the low, persistent rumble of the train was replaced by an altogether more muddled and frenetic ambiance. London. Liverpool Street Read more…

By Matthew, ago
Miscellaneous

2011 round-up

Now that it's 2012, and I have a little spare time before I go back to work, I thought this would be a suitable opportunity to reflect on the past year and summarise what I've been up to.

Family

Ellie's operation

Ellie gave us a bit of a scare earlier this year.  What started off as just a niggling pain in the chest turned out to be gall stones, which was at times crippling and meant she had to avoid anything even remotely fatty for several months.  She found that change of diet difficult, what with not being able to eat cheese or chocolate.  Still, the operation went very smoothly and she was back on her feet and eating naughty things soon afterwards.  My biggest confession here is that I'm still ever so slightly jealous at how quickly she healed after her operation, compared to me and my hernia (which is mostly fine now, incidentally).

Peter leaving home

This year my littlest brother flew the nest, finding a lovely little church in Uffeculme to go and be a trainee youth worker at.  I went to his induction service, which was a great way to support him as he began his new ministry, and an opportunity to meet (albeit in passing) others like him and also the vicar he's working with, who seems very nice.  Unfortunately, despite booking a date in with him, we didn't get to actually visit Peter on-site this year (more on that later), so hopefully we'll reschedule that for early 2012.  It does leave Mum and Dad's house somewhat empty though; apparently their food bill has roughly halved now that Peter's moved out...Read Peter's blog.

France holiday

Apart from a weekend in Weymouth, we as a family have never had a holiday until this year.  Ellie and I have been married for 4 years, and that was all we had managed.  This year we took advantage of Ellie's Dad's holiday home in France, and had a lovely week with them.  We had a fantastic day on the beach, generally enjoyed chilling and not doing too much, and although it was short it was much appreciated.  The travel was an adventure - driving on the wrong side of the road isn't actually too hard at all, although the weather on our return journey made the ferry crossing quite uncomfortable (not that Samuel seemed at all bothered by that).

Samuel's visit to hospital

Not to be left out, Samuel also necessitated a trip to the hospital, following a very high temperature that caused him to have a brief seizure.  That was a huge worry for us at the time, but thankfully it wasn't anything to worry about in the end.  Apparently these things happen with young children, because their bodies aren't able to deal with the heat as well.  No lasting damage, I'm pleased to say.

Grandma's funeral

Ellie's Grandma sadly passed away this year.  It wasn't entirely unexpected, as she was very old and increasingly unwell, but it was still something unpleasant we all had to go through.  She had been growing increasingly senile, making conversation difficult, and although we'd managed to persuade her to move out of her bungalow and into a flat where she'd have people to help, she actually only lived there for a matter of weeks due to prolonged visits to various hospitals.  It was one thing after another, what with falls, blood pressure, infections, and so on.  In the end she had a fall while in hospital that led to a bleed on the brain which, in addition to everything else she was going through, was just too much.  Thankfully we happened to be visiting Ellie's Mum at the time, so we were on hand to support her through it.  A useful bit of planning on God's part, methinks.(more…)

By Matthew, ago
Miscellaneous

At the bottom of the garden

This is a short story I wrote recently.  I had the idea while on I was on holiday last month, and when I got back I let it write itself in a couple of evenings.  Hope you like it! 

At the bottom of the garden

Amber was the sort of person who truly believed there was a perfectly sensible answer to anything that appeared in the least bit supernatural.  She didn’t believe in monsters, or elves, or ghosts, or any of the fairytales she had been told when she was growing up.  She instructed her parents to stop telling her bedtime stories, informing them in a very matter-of-fact tone of voice that she was “too old for silliness”.In truth, she rejected the tales because she was afraid one day one of them might be true.And now it was her birthday, her coming-of-age.  And she hadn’t slept a wink all night.*****The day before had been fraught with tension, mainly her mother’s fault, fussing around making preparations for the party.  She was trying to be organised, but to everyone else it just looked like panic.“You’re not sweeping the floor properly, Amber,” she called from the other side of the room, “I can see streaks in the woodwork where you’ve missed bits.”“Well then,” Amber replied, almost to herself, “maybe you should get someone to sweep the floor who actually cares if it’s clean or not.”“Don’t take that tone with me, my girl,” her mother retorted, waving her duster menacingly in a nondescript direction, “this floor needs to be spotless for the party, and you’re old enough to know how to sweep properly.”“I never even said I wanted a party,” Amber complained.“That’s not the point, dear,” her mother replied, pulling a dining room chair into the sitting room to be able to reach the corners of the ceiling, “you’ve reached an important age and everyone wants to celebrate with you.  They’re expecting a party.  And that means we have to give one.  And that means you have to be here, so people can wish you well.”“But what if I don’t want to be here?  What if I just want some time to myself?”“Don’t start that again, child,” mother said sternly, “you’re old enough now that you should respect other people’s wishes before your own.”“Then maybe I’m old enough to go out and have my own fun, to be where I want to be, to see what’s at the other end of the garden...”“You are NOT permitted to go to the end of the garden,” snapped her mother from on top of the chair, “you know full well your father and I have declared that to be off-limits.“Fine,” Amber harrumphed, “I’ll just go to my room then.”And off she stomped.   (more…)

By Matthew, ago
Miscellaneous

Shiny and new (part 3)

Some may call it excessive.  Others may call it compensation for 3 months of inactivity.  Others still may call it boredom.  In any case, this is my third blog post in the last half hour.  And yes, it’s about something else that’s shiny and new. Today was my first proper Read more…

By Matthew, ago
Miscellaneous

That’s not my children’s book

That's not my carMy son Samuel, who is 9 months old, has a book called "That's not my car".  Each page has a picture of a car on it, with wording along the lines of "That's not my car, its windows are too shiny."  Each car has a different tactile surface somewhere on it, illustrating the point.  The final page rejoices with "That's my car! It's bumpers are so squishy."  Samuel loves it.  In fact it's such a fantastic concept (stolen, no doubt, from Terry Pratchet's Thud!) that children's book shelves are now overflowing with variants on this theme.  That's not my dinosaur.  That's not my train.  That's not my dog.  And so on.And it got me to thinking - what titles might I have suggested if I had been in the publishing company's board meeting when they were deciding to extend the range?  Here are a few possibilities, very few of which would have made it to print.

  • That's not my telephone bill.
  • That's not my tax return form.
  • That's not my computer.
  • That's not my underwear.
  • That's not my cup of tea.
  • (more…)

By Matthew, ago
Miscellaneous

Overdoing it

I love living in the countryside.  There is warm sense of satisfaction in seeing tractors parked in the Co-op car park, of hearing cows mooing in a nearby field early in the morning, of the pungent smell of fresh manure wafting from the farm down the road, of knowing that rush hour traffic consists of maybe 5 cars.  However, it's not entirely complete.  There are a few things missing.  The friends we'd made in Colchester.

So this weekend we made the journey to Essex, the car packed with all sorts of bits and pieces, mostly for the baby, to stay a couple of nights with some dear friends of ours who are still in Colchester.  Saturday was indeed the highlight for me.  We saw Phil and Jenny in the morning, we spent the afternoon in Wivenhoe with Phill and Phil and Anne-Marie and Sarah, and watched Doctor Who in the evening.  That in itself would ordinarily be enough, but in honour of this being our first visit to East Anglia with our baby, and having not seen people in yonks, Anne-Marie decided to make the barbecue one to remember for all time.

(more…)

By Matthew, ago
Miscellaneous

Grab your coat, you’ve pulled

Let me start by reassuring my readers that I have not been cheating on my wife.  I'm talking about pulling of a different kind.One of the great things about being married is that you also gain a whole new family, and whereas traditionally the in-laws are meant to be evil incarnate I'm pleased to say that I love my additional parents very much.  My father-in-law is one of those sort of people who has everything.  If you need a particular garden tool, he'll have three.  If you need to rig up some lighting for an amateur drama stage, he'll have more than enough cabling just lying around waiting to be used.  If it's raining and you didn't bring an umbrella, he has nine spares.  It does of course mean that going to visit is a battle of wills - if you even hint at not having something, it'll have been smuggled into your boot before you've left.And then he offered us a trailer tent.(more…)

By Matthew, ago
Miscellaneous

Lego Build Day 6

18-09-09_1721It's finished!  Hurrah!!  Well, at least as finished as it can be.  I've sort of run out of bricks.  So it's as finished as it can be given the limited resources with which I am lumbered.  I did have a brief look online to see what Lego was being listed on eBay, but quickly ran away from that idea - I know that once I start buying Lego I'll never stop, and then I'll be skint.  Of course, if people want to give/donate Lego to me, that's another matter...Anyway, back the point.  My car is complete.  It took a bit of doing, and a bit of redoing of what I'd already done, but the end result is pretty satisfactory.  If you remember from my previous post, the front suspension was already sagging under the weight of the car, so rather than trying to reduce the weight I opted to increase the strength of the suspension to compensate.  17-09-09_1953That meant doubling up the springs, using the ones I'd been using for the rear axle and transplanting them into the front subframe.  Of course, that was easier said than done, and I had to make a few modifications to make room for two springs.  But I got there in the end, and the result is a front suspension setup that is twice as strong as it was - still with plenty of movement, but it feels like it's actually capable of supporting the car now!(more…)

By Matthew, ago