Saturday Waffle

I got a new job recently. I’m now the web and social media bod for the local churches. Which gives me something more to do with my days than browse Reddit and fail to do any hoovering. In the first week on the job I’ve already set up the new website.

And that’s got me thinking about what I’m going to do with this old site. I’ve had it for a very long time, going back to 2004 I think. Maybe even earlier. And while once it was buzzing, social media has rendered the personal blog somewhat redundant. Or has it? With the rise in bots, fake accounts and online misanthropy of all kinds perhaps there’s still a place to share one’s thoughts away from the toxic atmosphere of forums and comment sections.

I don’t let anyone create new accounts here so there won’t be any posts by Russian teenagers calling themselves Derek575736343 “Pro-Brexit, free speech, Won’t be silenced” etc. And given that I have a decent education and am not a baby-boomer this site is also free of idiotic nonsense support Brexit, cruelty to the poor or the wish to machine-gun immigrants. Nor am I in the pay of Vladimir Putin.

So perhaps I will just carry on making the occasional rambling post such as this and gradually developing this site more into the photography blog I’ve been considering for a while. In the meantime I’m well aware the site runs rather slow. This is down to my host Dataflame – a once good web host but in recent times seemingly giving up on performance and good customer care. I’ll be off to a different host in July when this contract ends, maybe even sooner.

In the meantime if you’re still one of the five people who pops along here occasionally to see what I’m up to, then hello. Nice to see you.

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 Best Worst Guitar

Epiphone 435i – a 1980s superstrat. HSS, with locking trem. I didn’t know anything about guitars. But I decided I wanted to play electric guitar. Mainly to fit in with some new friends at sixth form. But unlike any other hobby I picked up in my youth – this was one I stuck with.

I didn’t know what kind of guitar to buy. I just ordered one out of a neighbour’s Littlewoods catalogue. They sent the wrong one – a bass. Then sent the right one. But it was wrong too. Instead of the even cheaper guitar in the catalogue I received the Epiphone 435i that wasn’t even listed.

I had no idea what a locking trem was. Managed to break a few strings trying to tune with the locking nuts tightened. But this cheap HSS guitar with its skinny neck was the only electric guitar I had for nearly 20 years. Learned my first notes on it. Played it a lot live at university. In my late teens and early twenties I must have played for hours every day. I was never any good, but that didn’t matter. I loved that guitar.

It was also special because it was a gift from my mother, who would pass away two years after buying it for me. She encouraged me and listened when I learned something new. Telling me I sounded great, even though I knew I didn’t. At her funeral a friend of my mother’s told me mum used to stand quietly outside my bedroom and listen to me play. She’d told this friend I was really good.

When I met my first wife and we were getting a flat together I brought the guitar down to London and left it with her until I moved. It was the most precious thing I owned. She understood why I left it with her until I moved down. It was a statement of where my heart lay, of how important she was to me.

Within a year of our marriage my wife was dead, at just 35. After my wife died I didn’t think I’d play guitar again. I don’t think I ever wanted to play guitar again.

Until I met my second wife. She encouraged me to play again. We even formed a band for a wedding gig. And I started to practice again. My poor Epiphone 435i, now nearly 20 years old and played to death, wasn’t in great shape by now. The frets were worn flat. I’d filled the straplock holes with matches and glue more times than I could remember. And one day while practicing for the gig the whole locking trem disintegrating, the main metal weight sheering off the rest. And of course it would be a weird size and hard to replace.

My wife bought me a new guitar to do the gig. I still have a few pieces of that Epiphone. Not the whole guitar, but some bits. After a very hard life it pretty much fell apart.

It was guitar given to me by my late mother, held and cherished by my first wife who was taken tragically young, and was played again thanks to the love of the woman who picked up the pieces.

It was a shit guitar. It was the very best guitar.

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.

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.