Life, kids etc.

Mummy, cats and Robert Peston

Teach em' Young

Another child chooses to make an early start on learning how to write computer code after encouragement from Ofsted


MY YOUNGEST boy goes to a childminder on week days.
He is 18 months old now and loves it.
It helps that the childminder is recently qualified and therefore really keen.
Which means she has plenty of ideas for how to keep the kids (which is really just my boy and another toddler a few months older) busy.
They were learning about “the beach” recently so she took them to the seaside for a day. The petrol alone must have cost more than we pay her! As I said, she’s keen, and we’re reaping the dividends.
The little mite has come on leaps and bounds since he started going in September.
He knew two words back then: “mummy” and “cat”.
Now his vocabulary is huge, considering he’s still a baby. “Daddy” is in there at last. As is “more”, “rice crispies”, “please“, “socks”, “bear“, “pirate” and, oddly, “Chihuahua”.
Don’t get me wrong, he’ll still choose to watch “In the Night Garden” on Cbeebies rather than, say, BBC economics editor Robert Peston’s insightful analysis on Newsnight.
But the point is we’re really seeing a difference in the way he acts and interacts each and every day.
Sadly, it may have to stop.
Because Ofsted has suggested to our childminder that she could do more “child centred planning”. What that means is she needs to let the kids have more of a say in what they are learning about.
When she pointed out the kids are under two, they suggested – and this is absolutely true – holding a “brainstorming” session with the toddlers.
I’m not sure how you “brainstorm” with an 18-month-old child whose idea of fun is to pour porridge on his head, then scoop it up and put it in the fish tank. Then scoop it out and eat it.
But, God bless her, she said she’ll give it a go.
So her educational fun activities about the postman or growing vegetables may fall by the wayside.
Our educational leaders believe that perhaps the grown up with life experience may not always be best placed to decide on what a child should learn about.
The idea of giving our Jesse a say in his learning might be admirable on one level. But in reality it means the childminder is in for a long cold winter and her days filled with activities centred on mummy and cats.
Myself and Mrs Short know exactly how difficult this task is going to prove for the childminder. After all, we recently tried to give our older boy more of a say on what we do as a family at weekends. Sadly, while Bolton can boast a great many things, footballing robots made of chocolate that fire rockets at baddies is not something we were able to locate.
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Why setting fire to capitalist pig dogs is the only answer

English: Terrorist Banker - PortoCartoon 2009,...

More pennies for the guy (in the pin stripe suit)

TONIGHT, at Farnworth Cricket Club‘s annual bonfire, there will be no guy on the top, burning away.
Instead, organisers have decided to set fire to an effigy of a banker, complete with pinstripe suit and bowler hat.
I think that’s disgusting. Burning an effigy of a banker? What an insult.
They should be setting fire to the real thing!
OK, it might be a little traumatic for some of the smaller kids if they did that but wow, people would be talking about it for years wouldn’t they!
Plus, it might make some of our hopelessly amoral city gents take a look over their shoulder the next time they decide to take a decision entirely driven by self interest and greed instead of for the good of the economy and the country – which is the whole reason they are so highly rewarded in the first place.
A few FTSE 100 company directors and chief executives could also get piled on there for me.
The one national news story that made me bleed out of my eyes with anger this week was about a report by a pay research company which found directors’ pay for the top companies went up 50 per cent in the past year. Chief executives saw their pay rise an average 43 per cent.Directors’ bonus payments, on average, rose by 23 per cent to not far off £1m.
Blimey, some of those firms must have done really well to be allowing bosses to be so handsomely rewarded, eh?
They must all be expanding massively and creating thousands of new jobs. Companies such as RBS, which saw its shares tumble by 38.9 per cent in the last quarter. Or BAE Systems which announced it was shedding 3,000 jobs in September. In fact, FTSE 100 companies collectively saw a 13.7 per cent fall in their value in the last three months. And if that’s not a reason to give the bosses untold riches, then what is?
Where else is such failure rewarded so brilliantly though?
Can you imagine hospitals paying bonuses to drunken surgeons for carelessly lopping off perfectly healthy body parts; or ships’ captains being given a holiday home on a small Caribbean island, as a thank you for running their boats aground? No, nor can I.
Really, we should be more furious about this, as a nation, than we are.
If this was France we’d be setting fire to sheep by now AT LEAST!
But it’s not, so we burn a large sock-stuffed puppet in Farnworth instead. Or sleep in a pop up tent outside St Paul’s Cathedral for a few days.
That’ll show the capitalist pig dogs we mean business! Apart from the ones with shares in tent companies, obviously. They’ll more likely be rubbing their hands with glee. Which is sort of ironic really.
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All I want for Christmas is everything, Daddy

English: TOYS “Я” US (Toys R Us), Oxford...

I want everything in it and I want it NOW, Daddy

THE clocks haven’t gone back yet – I think that means it’s technically still summer.
We’ve not even had Halloween and Bonfire Night is more than a week away.
Yet on Wednesday, the same day the Toy Retailers’ Association released its guide to this year’s 12 must have toys for Christmas, I was presented with my son’s own festive wish list.
There are more than 700 things on it and it comes to roughly £35,000 worth of toys. He is four and I am not Donald Trump, so he is likely to be disappointed on December 25.
He only started school in September so his hand writing is not the best. It looks like he got a dog to do it for him, for a biscuit.
Which means his list was not written, but comprised of things he had cut out of a catalogue from The Entertainer toy store and stuck to several sheets of card.
For all the things he wants, he may as well have just handed me the catalogue and said: “I want all of it, Daddy.”
I have no idea how he managed to get hold of the catalogue, by the way. It’s fair to say he never goes out of the house alone and struggles to wipe his own bum properly.
Actually, I’m surprised he managed to cobble a list together so quickly. It was only Monday when he snorted with derision at his Mum’s suggestion that he put together a list of the things he wanted. And that was only to stop him pointing at the telly and saying: “I want that one,” like a little version of the Little Britain character, every single time an advert for a toy came on.
“A list??!!” he said.
“Can you not just send Father Christmas a message on your phone instead?”
He is full of questions, that boy. Other recent gems include: “Do footballers like waterfalls?” the classic: “Can horses bend over?” and of course: “Whose side were the dinosaurs on in the war?”
He’s actually been compiling his Christmas list, mentally, for months now. It includes, among other things, lots of Ben 10 toys, a Transformers voice-changing helmet, Star Wars lightsaber (that makes slightly different noises to the ones he already has), Power Rangers action figures, Toy Story writing bureau, a drumming Elmo, Disney Cars walkie talkies and Winnie the Pooh pregnancy testing kit.
I think the amount of branded goods he’s asked for shows just how suggestible he is when it comes to the TV adverts.
Luckily, me and Mrs Short believe we can turn that to our advantage. Our plan is to only watch the cookery channels on Sky when the boy’s around. Our thinking is that the ads might exert their influence on his young mind and make him rethink his list. It would be really handy if he decided he wanted a nice set of non stick pans instead of all those toys. Or a blender. I’ll let you know how we get on.
*Friday night film: Twilight: Eclipse. Grrr.
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Eat, pray, love, cry

English: A senior citizen while practicing his...

Getting fit can ruin your weekend

FRIDAY night used to be something to look forward to.
TFI Friday and all that. Party time.
Now, though, I dread the arrival of Friday night. And every seven days, a new one pops along to ruin my week.
I must point out that this hell is entirely of my own making.
It started innocently enough, just a couple of months ago.
Myself and Mrs Short decided we needed to lose a bit from the middle and do a bit more exercise. We’d both been thinking about it, independently, for some time.
But that Sunday afternoon, when I couldn’t pull myself all the way off the settee and reach right across for that last Fillet o Fish, we realised the time had come.
“What we need is some sort of challenge to keep us focused,” she said.
After half an hour of lively debate, we hit upon this: whoever loses the most weight at the end of the week gets to pick a film for us to watch on Friday night.
Granted, it’s not the most out-of-the box idea we’ve ever had, and to be honest I preferred some of the ideas we ruled out – loser has to lick batteries being up there with the favourites.
But at the end of that first week when my three pound loss crushed her measly one pound, it was time to choose. I plumped for Watchmen, a live action retelling of a wonderful comic book thriller, full of violence and fallible superheroes. I thought we’d both like that one. And at three hours long, there’s plenty to enjoy. Unwittingly, it was a declaration of war.
And ever since I’ve been spanked in the weigh in.
Ever since I’ve been forced to sit through some of the most syrupy, girly, rom-com tat ever made.
The thing is, she hates it as much as me, I’m sure. But each week I have to endure this very peculiar form of 21st century torture.
It come to a head last week when she bought – actually bought – a film called Eat Pray Love. It should have been called Worst Film Ever. The woman in the shop even warned her not to buy it. It’s basically two and a half hours of Julia Roberts trying to “find herself” by travelling the world after her divorce. No one she meets is remotely interesting. Nothing she does is remotely interesting. It’s pretentious (based on a book). And I’ve never felt less sympathy for a lead character in any film. And yes, I include Driller Killer.
Having said that, I did watctch the last five minutes of the directors cut on the DVD extras, just in case she got killed by Somali pirates as she sailed off into the distance at the end. No such luck.
Now the battle is on. I’ve ate like a rabbit ever since. A rabbit with an eating disorder.
I’ve also been doing extreme fitness DVD workouts each night, ditched the car to walk a couple of miles to work and back every day and even – may God have mercy on me – done pilates. Which ironically is the name of a kind of whale.
Still, she keeps on winning. I have no idea what her secret is.
She says it’s Bride Wars tonight.
I hate Friday nights.
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Pass the pureed petit pois, chuck

English: Bishopgate, a former slum area in Wet...

I'm proper working class, me

I RECENTLY went to a wedding where, for the first time ever, I found myself in the “posh” half.
Now I come from Burnley originally, so you can imagine how that came as a bit of a shock to the system.
Earlier this week, when I was telling this to someone at work, they turned round and said: “But why were you surprised? You’re so middle class.”
Now that comment hurt.
You see, all my life I’ve seen “middle class” as something I wouldn’t want to be.
Strictly working class, me. A Burnley lad with working class parents, parents whose idea of a good time was going to the local socialist club to hear Tony Benn play a few Billy Bragg covers about the evils of Thatcherism on a type of guitar made by a women‘s co-operative in Venezuela.
It wasn’t just my family either – my friends were working class too. When we were younger, one of them started seeing a clever girl who became a student at Cambridge. It was never going to last.
Especially not after he went to visit her and declared, at a dinner party full of her new, posh, friends, how “my chips taste funny”. They were parsnips. Parsnips. Officially a middle class vegetable. Needless to say, they split up soon after.
Anyhow, even when I ended up at university with posh, middle class pals, I was still working class.
When I started working as a reporter, I was working class.
Even when my Dad’s heart broke, because I wasn’t making anything “useful” with calloused hands, I was still working class.
I remained steadfastly working class even when I went to see performance artist Marina Abramovich at Manchester International Festival. And enjoyed it.
I have also considered guacamole to taste better than mushy peas and have listed Chekhov as one of my favourite playwrights for a number of years.
Despite this, I was still working class right up until Tuesday – when I started to think about my lifestyle in the light of my colleague’s light-hearted jibe.
So I devised a test. 10 questions designed to prove to myself whether I was, in fact, middle class. I asked myself things such as ‘Do you listen to Radio 4?’, ‘Do chips count as one of your five a day?’ and ‘Isn’t George Michael’s recording output as a solo artist far superior to that of his Wham! Days?’
At the end of the quiz, I was badly shaken. According to my own research, I was firmly middle class after all.
I immediately put Adele on the iPod and made myself a green tea to collect myself. I was devastated.
I felt like Charlton Heston does right at the end of Planet of the Apes, except with more organic vegetables in my fridge.
I had to accept it: despite my upbringing, I had moved into the middle class, alongside David Cameron and 59.9 million other Brits.
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A true wonder of the universe

The Hubble Ultra Deep Field, is an image of a ...

The Hubble Deep Field Image puts spitting in context


WHEN I hit my mid to late teens, acid house and giant, illegal parties were the thing. They weren’t known as “raves” for another few years. Cool, eh?
Hot on the heels of that came the Madchester scene – Happy Mondays, Stone Roses, The Hacienda, that sort of thing.
Needless to say, my weekends tended to be a bit crackers.
Last Saturday night I was back in a wet field late at night, joining a select few for a semi-secretive event under the stars.
But this time round there was no bouncing PA or police raid breaking up the action at dawn.
Instead, there were lots of people with high-powered telescopes who were really keen – I mean really keen – on stargazing. I am now officially a middle-aged geek. Cool, eh?
It was my first time out with an astronomy club – and it was an eye opener in more ways than one.
There were a couple of talks beforehand, on the life of a star and on the solar system. You know pretty-boy professor Brian Cox and his “Wonders of..” series? Well this was like seeing the covers band version down the pub.
But it was just as fascinating. You start to wonder about the miracle of our tiny blue planet teeming with life, almost alone in the vastness of space.
And there were enough amazing facts to make your head explode. Which, funnily enough, is exactly what would happen if you got a hole in your spacesuit it turns out.
But no fact was more remarkable than this one: we are all made of stardust. The dust and debris in the far reaches of the universe that collects to eventually form stars – well it’s fundamentally what we’re made of too. The things that made us came out of the Big Bang. In essence, we‘re all made of stuff that it 13.7 billion years old, give or take a year.
Maybe calling it “stuff“ is doing it a disservice.
Anyway, the amateur enthusiast who enthused about this fact ended his talk then informed us there was tea and coffee at the back of the room. So off I toddled to get a cuppa.
When the nice lady in the queue in front of me finished stirring her brew, she promptly turned round, smiled, then gobbed in the bin next to me before sliding off back to her seat.
So we‘re all made of stardust, eh?
I’ll be honest, I was a touch shocked at seeing a grown woman hacking a docker’s omelette at an astronomy club do, of all places. Although I suppose she had a bit of class – she flobbed in a bin.
I see so many people spitting in the street though.
I can handle bad habits. Lord knows I have enough of ‘em myself. Pick your nose? Bite your own toenails? Not bothered. But spitting? Gah. When did it become socially acceptable?
Yet when you pull them up about it they get a bit, well, shouty.
It amazes me. The fact that there are people going round who think giving strangers a chance to contract their Hep C is absolutely fine and dandy really is a wonder of the universe.
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Who duvet think they are?

English: A photo of a white duvet.

What on earth is a tog?

IS it still Summer? Or maybe Autumn?
The weather has been, as the kids say, minging.
Cold, wet and blustery.
Yet we’re still at the time of year when a roasting hot day could be just around the corner.
At the same time, it wouldn’t be too odd to see the first overnight frosts arriving to dust the car windows.
But, weather-wise, it’s always a funny time of year, this.
Which makes it all the more strange that it’s the time of year when we have to make that big decision: shall we take the summer duvet off and put the winter duvet on?
I’m not sure what a tog is exactly, but I do know they measure duvets in them.
And I’ve whacked a couple of extra togs on the bed of late.
Actually, I’ve whacked a couple of extra togs and a half on the bed – that half a tog makes all the difference you know.
It’s been an even tougher one to call than usual this year because of the relentlessly poor weather we‘ve been having.
The temptation has been to go too early.
Not me though, I’ve stuck to my guns.
Because when it comes to the big duvet swap (or BDS as I call it), I have a rule – go off the harvest.
Ahh, harvest time – when we traditionally “harvest” the old tinned peaches, pilchards in tomato sauce and out of date condensed milk from the back of the cupboard, for the kids to take into school.
It’s also the time, in our house, for the BDS.
Of course, being so rigid about it does throw up some anomalies. That year we had on holiday in Spain for example. The hotel manager couldn’t understand why I wanted a thicker duvet when it was 26 degrees at night. Still, it was harvest time in England and rules are rules.
To be honest, even these past few days haven’t been completely plain sailing for the BDS, despite the rubbish weather.
At the start of the week- as I have for much of this dreadful summer – I was shivering with cold at night.
Over the last couple of nights, with the winter duvet on, I’ve been sweating like a fat mouse in a cat disco.
Sweating so much in fact, I did wake up thinking I’d wet the bed at one point – although I’ve not done that in months!
It made me think though that maybe, just maybe, it was time to ease up on the strict regimen and just change the duvet when it gets too cold.
I could always change it back again if we hit an Indian summer.
After all, it only involves going into the loft and takes about 10 minutes all told.
I still don’t know what I’m going to do about it. Do I abandon tradition for common sense?
It is a question I’ve been boring my wife with for two whole days now. She says I am over analysing something that doesn’t need analysing at all and pointed out her patience is wearing thinner than our useless summer duvet.
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Oh, to be a man

English: Gents this way A nice bit of artwork ...

I’ve always wondered at what age the transition from boy to man happens. With the eldest child not yet five years of age, it’s safe to say puberty and eventual manhood are some way off.
Somebody ought to have told him that, though.
Picture the scene: we go for a traditional Sunday lunch at a local foody pub. It’s full of people of all ages tucking into roast beef and Yorkshire puds, with some of the more upwardly mobile couples sampling the delights of the specials board.
Dad has a pint of real ale – you know, for a change – and the place is just the right side of posh – the kind of place where you can just make out the faint hissing sound of mums and dads quietly, but threateningly, admonishing the kids for making too much noise.
One woman near us got up and moved to a table round the corner when our boys had the cheek to talk, albeit quite loudly. She must have never encountered children before, perhaps not even been one at some point in her life, bless.
When we did leave and walked past her new home I admit I had an inward chuckle at the fact she had jumped out of the frying pan and very much into the fire – the sort of family they make Channel 5 documentaries about (“Help – I can’t stop having kids!”) had set up camp all around her. She wept silently into her cream of celery soup. Ha!
Anyhow, back to the point – the food arrived so, naturally, Eli decided he needed the toilet and it fell to Dad to take him.
As we pushed through a big oak door, he read the sign aloud – “GENTS”. He pronounced it with a hard g – for “ggggreat “- at first. Then he asked: “Does that mean ‘gentlemen’?”
“It does, yes, clever lad.”
“So where is the ladies?”
“It’s at the other end of the pub. You have to walk down that long corridor,” I said, pointing into the distance.
“That’s well far,” he quickly worked out.
Then he paused for a minute. He slowly looked up at me and proudly declared: “I love being a man.”
I suppose we should really be worrying. In a few short years, he has already seen enough to know that the guys get the best deal in pretty much everything, even when it comes to pub toilets.

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