How They Danced, The Little Children Of…

Our youngest is studying the stone age at primary school at the moment. And it was suggested that over the half term holiday pupils should visit somewhere with a link to Britain’s stone age past. Given that our son had already made a Stonehenge cake it was obvious what we had to do.

A Swift blast up the A303 later and we were at the new Stonehenge Visitor’s Centre. And very nice it is too. It’s small – a shop, a ticket office and an informative but brief exhibition hall – but still worth a visit.

The ticket includes a short bus ride to the henge itself. This bus journey features a voiceover telling passengers about the archaeological features visible during the journey. And then onto Stonehenge itself, along with hundreds of other people from all over the globe.

The stones are a magnificent site. But on a bitterly cold and wet day such as this we couldn’t help but wonder what the many visitors from foreign climes made of the henge. We had only travelled an hour or so. If I’d been on vacation in London from China I might have felt the journey was a bit much for a pile of stones.

There was no lack of significance for me though. As this visit allowed me to fulfil a lifelong ambition. Yes I listened to Spinal Tap’s epic song Stonehenge on my phone while at Stonehenge. At what volume? Well what do you think?

Hey Look It Snowed

It may have have been brief. But it was the first proper snow we’ve had in our corner of West Dorset since 2013. The kids were really excite. Alas it wasn’t to last. While the fabled Beast From the East gave us one day of gorgeous powdery snow, the next day saw it covered in a layer of ice from freezing rain. So no sledging or snowman building for us this winter.

The Quest for the Alrightish Burger

Many years ago my late/first wife and I had a pet called George. We loved George, he was yellow and perky, ever ready to join us in our adventures. With his tail behind him he’d open up his jaws and hiss with delight every time we’d decide to eat with him. He wasn’t a snake though, he was a lean mean fat reducing machine aka a two sided grill. I’m not sure what happened to that George, his fate is lost in the mists of time that for me remains hazy – and not just because of the fat-coated steam that filled the kitchen.

Many years later I’ve returned to a similar adventure. Yes I bought a new George Foreman grill. Once again I can enjoy the delights of arguing who gets to clean the bloody thing and wondering how something can be so charred on the inside and yet so “never mind that’ll do” in the middle. I’m not sure how much fat he keeps from us, but George has proved handy for a variety of our regular meals. I think his contribution will likely be measured more in a slightly lower electricity bill than reducing waistbands.

Our favourite George related dish – for we are conservative in our approach to disappointing charred food – is the beefburger. On George’s birthday I also bought some Morrison’s Signature Scottish Beef Quarter Pounders – a title that drips off the tongue does it not? To be fair these were pretty nice and had surprisingly little fat in them anyway.

But I felt it my duty as this family’s housewife type person to provide for my family an even better burger. My wife is not a fan of processed food, which she equates to anything not given a once over by a bearded lady, who then doubles the price and wraps it in a gingham doily. So feeling I was doing my best for my family the next time we had burgers I went down the made by a butcher route. These were proper burgers – all slightly stuck together, not all the same size and in danger of falling apart. All the things that make middle class artisan produce what it is.

“I prefer the Morrisons burgers we had last week,” said Mrs Grumpyrocker upon sampling the butcher’s burger. She was right. These burgers were okay. Not bad, not particularly good. They didn’t really taste of anything which when compared to lots of supermarket food isn’t always a negative. I was clearly going to have to up my game, I’d already spent a small fortune on these burgers, a whole 75 pence each, yet I was going to have to spend more to get a better burger.

In Tesco this week I found what I was looking for. Tesco Finest Aberdeen Angus Frozen Quarter Pounders. These were surely the Holy Grail of supermarket burgers. They must be at 150 pence each. Six quid for four. Crikey, what a culinary delight these are bound to be. Alas my poor wife would be away when these paragons of miniature cow reconstruction would be thrown to George for him to perform his magic. The children and I would be the lucky recipients of this beefy bounty.

Imagine then what it would be like to sink your teeth into a charred bathroom sponge that sprayed a gallon of molten watery grease in all directions, including your face. Now you too can understand the dubious delight that I paid six quid for this lunchtime. 99 percent beef? Beef what exactly? If I’d wanted a hot beefy drink I’d have bought some Bovril, not tried to eat one of these nasty lard rusks with a cow Tardis full of beef piss inside. Six sodding quid? Well played Mr Tesco, well played.

So the quest continues for the most alrightish cook at home burger. I suspect though we’d be better off just going to Burger King.

New Parentmail “Upgrade”

The primary school our three children attend use a system called Parentmail. It’s simple and easy – we just get sent emails with information from the school – such as newsletters, parent’s evening appointments, school policy etc.

This worked very well. We can file the school emails and keep them together, star, highlight and keep control of the diary and information as one would expect. We parents are in control and can work with the information as we see fit.

Until now. Now the school has “upgraded” to a new PMX Parentmail system that seems like some throwback to the 90s. Now we receive an email that tells us we have an email. We then have to click and visit the parentmail site where we have to login to read the mails. There’s no way of storing these messages locally on our computer – instead we have to use this basic site.

Instead of being able to star and highling emails in my own gmail account, I now have what is essentially a whole other one-way email account that I can only access on the web. I used to be able to open pdf files from the school in my gmail, now I have to click through to this site, click several times more to get to the pdf then download it.

This of course also a waste of mobile data. Previously our phones would receive an email with all the relevant content in it. Now once your phone has receive the email telling you that you have an email – one has to use the app or site to then find out the information. It is so arse-backwards.

How on earth is this progress? It’s a very poor system and the previous one worked so much better. I would prefer a return to the school sending paper letters home than this very poor approach.

Contrasting Days

My twins were eight years old yesterday. Eight. I can hardly believe it. Those eight years have passed so quickly and so slowly. It seems such a short time ago that I held them in my arms for the first time. So short a time since Lanie and I cooed over Patrick as he breathed the open air for the first time. Pat had a slight issue with his breathing for the first few minutes and it sounded like he was saying “ello, ello”. Or as we waited an eternity for Kitty to show signs of life – silent, still, no signs of life for a few seconds. Seconds that seemed an eternity, then she burst into life with a lamb-like cry that had the whole room moved. The struggles of the previous year forgotten as we held our twin babies, our pride and joy. I have never felt as happy as that moment. To see the smile on Lanie’s face, the relief there and the love for our new little family. I shut my eyes right now and picture it. One of life’s most perfect moments.

That was the day we celebrated yesterday. A day very much to celebrate. The day I became a grown up. The day I became a father. A father of twins, no less. I fussed around during the day yesterday. I made them pizzas, I bought a little cake and some other treats. I helped with Lego constructions. I took photos while they opened presents and took in their joy for my own. These children are becoming funny clever people that are wonderful to be around. So today was worthy of celebrating them. I am so very proud of them.

But every year brings that bitter-suite contrast. The hangover. First we have the day of celebration, where I think of those moments when Lanie and I were united in our joy. Then comes the next day. The day of a less happy anniversary. It’s eight years ago today I held a one-day old Patrick in my arms and told the little pink bundle “I’m so sorry Pat, your mummy has just died.” The beginning of an unfolding nightmare of grief and the hardships of solo baby care. I think of Lanie often, I miss her every day. But the anniversary is always a day when I look deeper into the darkness in that direction. I try not to, but one can’t help it.

I’d love to offer some kind of resolution to this. Some kind of lesson here, but it’s hard over the anger that still burns. Hard to offer anything other than “Go fuck yourself Essex NHS”. I miss Lanie. I wish her babies weren’t robbed of her by laziness, negligence and stupidity. I wish a lot of things. Today is my self indulgent day, the day I wallow in it. I’ll be fine tomorrow, back to normal.

Should you be raising a glass today then please think of my twins, raise a glass to them. They are wonderful people. They light up my life. And raise a glass to Lanie, a wonderful woman, my wife, the kindest and funniest person I ever met – and the most wonderful mother that never was. I see her in the twins, I see her smile, her humour, a cheeky twinkle in the eyes. She’s never far from my thoughts. As the years have rolled by I tend to remember the happy over the sad, memories of her bring smiles not tears. Today is the day I allow myself a little self indulgence and wallow in self pity. She was a drama queen too, she’d understand, and allow her grumpy boy a grumpy day.