Thursday, 28 November 2013

My Hero : Part Three - My Dad and Holidays


My Dad loves his holidays and so does my Mum even though she finds the build up and organisation rather stressful. As a kid all our family holidays were in a caravan.

My earliest memory of being on holiday is in a static caravan in Rhyl. Spending the day time going for walks around the arcades and shops, going home for tea, then the evening at the funfair then back to the caravan and bedtime. I think i was maybe five or six years old.  Thinking back about that memory kinda gives me a feeling of excitement that is surreal in the fact that it almost makes me feel like an excited little boy again. It is a good memory, and its one I hope old age never steals from me.

By far the the happiest memories I have are of being on holiday with my parents and my sister and I don't believe I am special in that respect, but that doesn't make it any less true. I cant remember exactly how old I was when my parents bought our first tourer caravan. This would mark a long and happy period of holidaying for me and my family. My sister who is 7 years older than me used to come on holiday with us in the early days of the caravan, but she soon grew out of it. My sister started her family relatively young and had her own place.

The caravan holiday became the escape route for our family, any opportunity to drag the caravan off of the drive, hitch it up and tow it to a caravan park somewhere and we did. Yorkshire, Wales or the Forest View caravan park near Delamere Forest for the weekend. I remember some years my mum would say to me, we can either decorate my bedroom (formally my sisters room) and finally get rid of the wallpaper with the pink love hearts, or go to rhyl for a week in the caravan instead. I had that girly wallpaper in my bedroom for years, and it was my own choice.  As my sisters little girl got a little older my mum would bring her with us. On one little jaunt to Delamere Forest Stacy woke up at 2 in the morning and thought it was playtime, she was only about two years old and to her the caravan meant playtime. even at 2am. at about 4am we gave up trying to get her to sleep again, locked up the caravan, all went back home to the house and tried to get some sleep. We went back the next day and picked up the caravan.

Now we are all grown up, my Mum and Dad have not rested on their laurels.  My Dad finally took voluntary redundancy from the factory he used to work in to become a bus driver.  Aside from the shift pattern being really variable, being a bus driver offered something to my parents they hadn't known for quite some time which was job stability and a relative security.

As I said before, my parents make a good team when it comes to money. My Dad brings in the money, and my Mum puts it to work.  They paid off their mortgage a few years back, despite falling foul of the endowment mortgage failures meaning the endowment policy that they had on their mortgage that was supposed to pay off the balance after a fixed term and leave them with a nice lump sum too, actually left them with a substantial shortfall at the end of the mortgage term. After the initial shock and panic, they managed to sort it out.

Since I left home holidays have taken a much warmer turn for my parents and they have had a good dollop of well deserved Spanish Sunshine and Balearic Bronzing, all of which both have worked damned hard for.

Me and my Mum at the static caravan
Mum and Dad


Me in the Tourer Caravan ready for bed :)

Dad, my sister Julie and Me


Me and Dad at Swallow Falls
Me and Dad at Towyn Beach

My Dad in his late 20's


Me in my Late 20's


Final Word...

I could go on for another 10 posts telling you my memories about my Dad both good and bad, but I will keep it short. 

Dad, you are my hero.

Sunday, 24 November 2013

Not Forgotten!

Hi all

I have had a very busy week this week, I spent the majority of the week working in Wales and then My Wifey and I spent a very hectic weekend in London, a place neither of us has ever visited.

I will be posting and entry about our visit and I also plan to write and post the final part of the My Hero at some point before the weekend.

stay tuned folks

Chris

Monday, 18 November 2013

My Hero : Part 2 - Work

For as long as I can remember my Dad has been at work. He has been by no means an absent father whose work comes first, he doesn't have that kind of job, but if there is one thing that my Dad has done its worked.



My earliest memory I have of my Dad and work is when my parents used to work Alternate shifts, I think I was probably about four or five years old , around starting school age.  My parents used to work for the same factory that used to run 2 shifts during the day and one night shift.  The alternating shifts were my Dad would work 6am-2pm Shift and my Mum would work the 2pm-10pm Shift. The following week they would swap over shifts.  This meant that my parents on the whole saw absolutely nothing of each other 5 days a week but I had a 50/50 split of time in the evening with my Mum and Dad.



The week where I spent the evenings with my Mum were pretty well structured, Picked up from school, fed and watered, then she would clean the pots and pans, and when all the household jobs were done she had her well earned sit down to watch "the soaps" Mum had been on the go since 5am that morning and probably didn't get a rest until 7pm at the earliest. After the an hour or two of TV with my mum it was bedtime for me, and mum used to wait for my dad to come home about 10.15pm spend a little time with him then they would head to bed.



The week where my Dad was on the early shift at work and at home with me in the evening where pretty much the opposite of what happened with my mum, he pick me up from school, we would go home, we would bum about watching TV for a while, eventually we would have our tea, he would leave the dishes for my Mum and spend the evening watching majorly boring stuff like the news or Top Gear (before it was cool) and then bed time would roll around.  The exception to the boring TV was Star Trek. One of my best memories of this time was sitting with my Parents, albeit not together most of the time, watching TV. With my Mum it was the theme tune of Dallas coming on and I was allowed to sing along with the them tune as loud as I liked, with my Dad it was watching Star Trek, cuddling up next to my dad watching slightly too scary for my age interplanetary adventures.  My Dad trying to explain things I didn't understand as best he could to a very young me.



Now the above might seem like my Dad was a bit of a lazy arse, and at the time he kinda was, he very rarely did any of the housework, that was my mums domain.  Stuff like repairing the car, decorating the house, gardening and the like was down to my dad, but that was always more at the weekends.  My mum had the long days during the week, cleaning up after a family and working just as many hours as my Dad.



This wasn’t the case forever though, when I was about 8 or 9 my Mum had a problem with her back, which incapacitated her for about 18 weeks, with about 6 weeks of that in hospital, pretty much the rest she was bed ridden.  This later turned out to be degenerative arthritis in her spine.  This led to my Mum having to give up work, which also led to the work dynamic of my parents shifting completely. My dad became the sole earner with a new mortgage to pay and a family to feed. My dad switched over to the night shift because it paid more and started doing overtime whenever it was available.  The night shifts also allowed my Dad to pick up the slack while my mum was immobile stuck in bed, school runs etc. As soon as my mum was able she took over as much as she could and became the stay at home mum while my dad brought home the bacon.



During my secondary school years, my Dad continued to work nights until the company he worked for began to struggle financially. The first cut back was the most expensive shift, the night shift, this came with some redundancies too, some of my dads colleagues were made redundant while the rest where shipped back to the day shift with a loss of the shift allowance that made the night shift so attractive to work. This was not the last of the cutbacks unfortunately my parents spent a large number of years with the threat of further redundancies being made and worries about my dad being called into the office at work to be told that his name was pulled from the hat and was going to be made redundant. This didn’t actually happen in the end, and my Dad was one of the lucky ones where many were not so lucky.



Just because he avoided mandatory redundancy does not mean that the situation did not deteriorate, the factory was constantly suffering cut backs, the working week for my father spent a long time alternating between limited overtime available when special orders came in to being reduced to a four day working week with a loss of pay. In the work climate at the time, putting up with this uncertainty was better than the prospect of finding a new job in an already flooded labour market.
It was during these spells of four day working weeks that my dad got his second job working for a security company at the weekend, which meant that he would work four day shifts Monday to Thursday and then work two 12 hour night shifts on Friday and Saturday night, spend most of sunday sleeping, then back to start all over again on Monday.


For my Dad the work situation never really settled down until long after I left home.


I don't wish to give the impression that I had poor parents with little money who worried where the next meal was coming from, because that just isn't true. My parents made a damned good team, my Dad worked as much as he could to provide what he could, his wages went straight into the bank and that's where my Mum worked her magic. She scrimped, saved and juggled money, she found money for holidays, Christmas, birthdays and other things. I had new clothes and shoes when I needed them and sometimes there was money for extra treats, but that was down to my dad putting in the hours, and my mum managing the money.


I am looking back now at the way my Dad worked when I was growing up through an adults eyes, looking and seeing the sacrifices in time with his family and his wife, the constant cycle of sleeping, and working, and thinking back at some of the things I had as a child, and now realising the work that went in to getting those things by both of my parents, and I feel proud of them, and also a little ashamed that when I am having a bad day and feeling pissed off because work is getting me down, and then I think of my dad and how he did exactly the same all through my childhood. I cant say he did it all with a smile on his face, and a spring in his step, in fact sometimes he was a downright grumpy bastard with no patience, but now I understand why, because I have seen myself being him in my own life with less reason to do so.

I used to think as a kid I don't want to grow up and be like my Dad, but now I hope that I manage to be half the man he is.

To Be Continued.

Saturday, 16 November 2013

My Hero: Part 1 - Computers

I have wanted to write something about my Dad for a long time, long before I had even thought of starting a Blog. I have a lot I want to say about my Dad and if I do it all in one post it would be very long and probably be a victim of  "Too Long Didn't Read" so I will post it in several parts. So here goes.

My Dad is your typical working bloke, Born in Liverpool, moved to Runcorn at a young age and lived there until he met my Mum and moved to Warrington, and that is where my knowledge of his younger life comes to an end. You see my Dad isn't really a talker, unless its about his latest gadget. Oh yeah, he's a gadget geek too.

My dad being the consummate technophile, had bought me my first computer when I was just 8 years old. It was an Atari 65XL, it came with its own cassette drive. which was basically an ordinary Cassette player with a big proprietary plug on the end of it so it could only be used with the computer. This was the 80's in the age of the Amstrad, Spectrum Z12 and the Commodore 64, what is now in my opinion of the golden age of computing.  Games for these computers came mostly on the same kind of cassette tape that music used to come on.

Image courtesy of http://commons.wikimedia.org

Now my dad didnt take long to figure out that if you had a double tape deck, some blank tape and a friend with enough 8-bit technicolour games to give a donkey a small psychotic episode you had yourself a pretty inexpensive way of getting more games for your son who was a geek in the making. Yes, my Dad was on the frontier of computer game piracy.  this was the first of many computers that me and my Dad  played and experimented with through out my childhood, and if i ever messed up, broke or couldn't understand why i couldn't get something to work, my dad was the go to guy.


Fast forward 9 years...

Give my dad an old 8 bit computer with a dry solder joint on the power lead or a problem with the display output to the TV and a few hours he would have it back to you working good as new. Enter the age of the PC and the Dos/Windows environment

My first ever PC. It was an old IBM 386 machine with a floppy disk drive and a CRT monitor that could sink the QE II it was that heavy. This is where the roles were reversed on the computer repair front.  In a world of DMA and IRQ and third party sound cards, discreet graphics cards and drivers. In an environment where getting a game to work on a PC was more a kind of finessing and tricking your PC into thinking it was some kind of tropical iguana. My dad just didn't get it.
I was 17 and at college, and I bought the PC as a word processor and spreadsheet engine with the a little bit of gaming thrown in.  Wing Commander II was my Achilles heel, and so my education in DOS 6.22 and Windows 3.11 began.

I was studying at college every week day and usually didn't get home til about 6pm, My dad used to finish work at 3pm, and this was his meddling time with my PC. He would some how manage to go in to my room with a copy of PC gamer or some other PC magazine with a floppy disk with free software on it and reduce my word processor in to an expensive paperweight. I tell you this now, that software is NOT free, it cost me tens of hours of my life every week repairing the damage done to my computer by my Dad.  I would routinely come home to find my dad sat on the couch next to my mum looking rather sheepish, I would go upstairs to my room, to see the Blue Screen Of Death or worse a black screen with a flashing cursor and the realisation would hit me, my Dad has been tinkering.

Finding my PC in varying states of disrepair became a regular occurrence over the coming months, I think in some way he might have been trying to challenge me, sitting there fucking things up and with a satisfied look thinking to himself, lets see how long it takes him to fix it this time, or maybe not. Either way it led me to having an in depth knowledge of how a PC of that era worked, it was all Direct Memory Allocation addresses and Interrupt ReQuests.  It taught me that computers aren't really about switching them on and getting a nice "READY" message and a blinking cursor awaiting your commands.  It taught me that until the right software is installed, your nice shiny computer is really just i big pile of bits and bobs looking at each other via copper circuitry going "yeah, and?" I must have formatted and re installed that damned computer more times than I care to recall, but it set me up for a future of tinkering and building computers for myself and never ever having to buy a store built machine and my computing life has been richer for it.

To Be Continued...

Just some Family photos

My Girls

Daisy found my winter hat :)
My Boys Christopher-Jack (Right) and Edward (Left)

Daisy planting wild flowers

Daisy in her paddling pool

Daisy with her older brother and sister. Jess and Scott.

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

The first in a long line...

Ultrasound.

Today Ange and I went for the second attempt at a dating scan for our new little Webbo! I say the second attempt because first time the little peanut was tucked away in a nice cosy corner of Mummys womb and the Sonographer could not get the required measurements. Awkward little bugger!

I always get excited when it comes to having a pregnancy ultrasound, I think its amazing on so many levels. The very fact you can get a glimpse of the new life you helped to create, see the baby moving, swallowing and hiccoughing, while the baby is still within the first few weeks of its life. Having said that I am not the one struggling to keep a full bladder whilst being poked, prodded and even tipped upside down on an electric bed, so i guess its easy for me to see the romanticised side of the whole ultrasound scan scenario.

Ange has always found this particular stage of pregnancy particularly worrying for a number of reasons I wont go into here, this time was no different.  Along side the obvious worries that are abound in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy Ange has been struck down by the most awful early pregnancy nausea.  This added to the iron deficiency that has recently been identified via blood tests it has all added up to a pretty awful first trimester. Hopefully this successful dating scan marks the onset of a kinder and less stressful second trimester.

Here is the scan photo we got today.





The dating we were given is 13 weeks and 5 days today, which gives us a due date of 16th of May 2014. Happy days!

3D Ultrasound.

In the UK 3D scans are available if you are willing to pay for it.  Ange and I have always dithered about if we should shell out the cash for a 3D scan or not, but in the end we decided against it, not for financial aspect of it but for the fact that we think that its a bit of a gimmick. If you look at the price plans for the 3D scans that are available it ranges from reasonable(ish) for a scan and a photo to the stunningly expensive for scan with photo and a DVD recording of the 3D scan output with mood music in the background.
 
3D scans have their place in medical settings and as a diagnostic tool, but I personally find them a little spooky and a little bit of a spoiler. I love that moment when I get to see my new son or daughter and their face for the very first time and I feel that it is a little bit like shaking your Christmas presents trying to figure out what is inside.

Spoilers

Now talking of spoilers, I also love the guessing game of not finding out what the sex of the new baby is and also having to keep an open mind about names.  This is where Ange and I differ.  To say my wife can be impatient, is somewhat of an understatement! As such it has already been decided that when the opportunity arises at the next ultrasound scan we shall be finding out the sex of our new baby. If I am honest I don't really need much persuading when it comes to this subject, it gives opportunity for a bit of friendly butting of heads while guessing the sex of the baby.  I am voting Girl, Ange is voting Boy. Last time around with my youngest daughter Daisy I was convinced that my genes were going to give us a boy as I already have two sons from my previous marriage, both of which look like me, Ange was convinced we were going to be having a girl. My funnoisity of a daughter proved me wrong on the day of the second scan, and provided much smugness from Ange.

Downs Syndrome Screening.

Screening for Downs Syndrome is available in the UK and is offered to all pregnant ladies at the time of their dating scan usually at around 12 weeks. This is offered for a number of reasons, not least of which is to give prospective parents "The Choice". I am by no means anti-abortion and I make no judgements as I am truly a believer of women having the choice of what happens to their bodies. That being said we have decided to decline the screening, because the result would largely be irrelevant to us. Having a Downs Syndrome baby would undoubtedly be a challenge, but one i think we would be more than happy to cope with and enjoy.

Well folks hope you have enjoyed reading! Goodbye for now

Chris.

Tuesday, 12 November 2013

Hi there and welcome to my Blog!

Hello there!

My name is Chris, I live in a medium sized town in Cheshire in the UK.  I have been married twice and have been married for nearly two years to my beautiful wife Angela. I have a two year old daughter and one more on the way, and from my first marriage I have two sons aged ten and eight who live with their Mum in Scotland.

In my Blog I will be keeping a kind of (publicly) personal diary of my life but I also intend to explore things that catch my attention and interest me, make me happy, or downright piss me off. Please don't get me wrong this is not going to be a rant blog but I find myself grumbling at people i know having a rant about things over Facebook so if I am going to rant about anything it will be here and not there.

I will not promise to be interesting, funny or even well informed, but I will promise I will be honest. This is my Blog, and as such it is my opinions, from my viewpoint, and sometimes the language employed may be colourful. I don't expect people to agree or disagree with me or even care what I think.

A little more about me.

I am 34 years old, and in my head i feel like a 19 year old boy, now i don't say this to seem young at heart, i say this because its genuinely how i feel. Its not that i like to go out drinking and partying with my friends, in fact i didn't do that very often even at 19. Its more that a lot of the time i feel like i don't know really what I am doing. That in itself really doesn't worry me, its just how I feel. It makes me wonder how schools and educational institutions can expect 13-14 year olds to make decisions about their future and figure out what they want to do with their lives when I couldn't do that even now.

I love music, its one of the best things in life. I'm no hipster, I have never liked a band "before they were cool" in fact a lot of my musical influences have been openly stolen from what my friends have exposed me to over the course of my life, in fact most from one friend in particular. My friend Tim has been a big influence on the music I have loved and loathed over the years, in fact I started listening to Level 42 and loving the driving funky bass lines Mark King smashes out of his bass guitar with the aid of his thumb and some gaffer tape due ti Tim lending me his Walkman (yes the one that played cassettes) with a Level 42 mixtape stuffed inside it. I started playing guitar at college at 17, then moved onto playing bass, and in recent years I have dabbled with Banjo and Ukulele. I am not an amazing guitarist, at best I would say proficient, but I do like to think I am a musician.

I am a Geek. I like Sci-fi, fantasy and Radio 4. I like reading, playing computer games and listening to audiobooks. I LOVE podcasts, i think its a medium that is totally free, both in cost and content, but that is another blog post for the future.

Well that is all i can think of for the moment so I am going to say goodbye for now.

Chris.