December 18, 2005

Five Random Facts

I've been tagged by Grumpy Teacher to post five random things about myself.

1. When I first moved away from home, I paid my keep in part by being the announcer on a 15-minute daily program for Christian radio. We recorded it a week at a time in a mobile home than had been converted into a recording studio. I worked from the drum booth.

2. I once stepped on the head of kitten and crushed its skull. We had 14 kittens at the time, as two of our 7 cats had litters of 7 each a day apart. A raccoon got into the garage and in my effort to shoo it out one of the kittens got under foot. It had been my favourite of the kittens. I buried it in the back yard. A wild animal dug it up and took it away.

3. I've read every book written by Bill Bryson. As I read them, I am filled with envy - not that he gets to travel the world and write about it, but that he does such a good job of it.

4. When it comes to playing guitar, I can't finger-pick. I've been playing guitar for a month short of 26 years and I've never been able to do this. Thus it has always been important to me to have a plectrum with which I am comfortable. I originally used the Fender .45mm, though I soon changed to the unbreakable Dunlop .46mm.

5. The first CD I owned was Medals by Russ Taff. I own three medals. One I got in the 5th grade for third place in a regional science fair with a project on meteorology. I think I got the other two at a speech tournament when I was in junior high. I can't be sure and they are in Texas so I can't check any inscription.

You're it: Michael, Philippa, Elizabeth, Luz, and Laura.

Posted by david at 10:18 PM | Comments (1)

December 11, 2005

Sudoku, Cosmology, and Theosis

They say it is addictive. I didn't try it until a few weeks ago. It hasn't become a compulsion yet, but now Mrs H has picked it up.

Sudoku is a very simple puzzle format. A 9x9 grid of 81 square divided into nine 3x3 grids. Digits 1-9. The goal is to put the numbers in the boxes so that every row and column has each digit and every mini-grid has each digit. Couldn't be simpler. Couldn't be more difficult. Mathematicians have calculated that there are 6,670,903,752,021,072,936,960 (that's over 6.6 sextillion for those who do better translating numbers into words) possible solutions to the 9x9 grid. The puzzle is set up when most of the numbers are removed from a solution grid.

On the Web Sudoku site, the average time for solving an easy puzzle is 7 minutes 42 seconds. I have gotten my time to usually under 10 minutes. I haven't even attempted anything rated more difficult.

The universe is like a giant sudoku puzzle. The grid is just a bit bigger than 9x9. That is why science will never have it figured out. (In fact, give mathematicians a 16x16 grid, and they cannot calculate the number of possible solutions.) They've been given just enough numbers to keep them working at it, because cosmologically there is only one answer.

Scientists have done everything from denying the grid exists to changing the given numbers in an attempt to rule out meaning and purpose. The do not want to be foiled by the simplest argument in the apologist's arsenal, that the existence of a watch necessarily leads to the existence of the watchmaker.

And is it too Calvinistic to say that our lives are like sudoku grids as well? Think of them as mini-grids in the fabric of time and space - a small part of the big plan. God gives a lot of the numbers we need, and knows all of the numbers and where they go, but we have to fill it in. And there's no penalty for looking in the hint book.

We spend our lives facing problems and developing solutions. That we don't solve them all doesn't undermine the underlying perfection of the grid. We'll see the grand solution at the Final Day. I'm sure we will be in for some surprises as we discover that, like cosmologists, we have tried to change the some of the givens to suit ourselves. This is probably one of the reasons we can't get the puzzle solved before our time runs out.

Posted by david at 01:34 PM | Comments (3)

December 10, 2005

I Coulda Been a Contender

First it was the professional sportsmen. I don't remember when first realised that I was older than almost all of them. Even now the oldest player in the NFL, the Eagles' Sean Landetta, is 43 and fewer than 40 in the history of the league have made it to 40. Virtually all of them have been kickers and punters, the only position that requires virtually no face guard on a helmet that is only there so they don't feel different.

Even in baseball, there are currently only 13 players who have reached their 40th birthday and only two others who are 39. Baseball's oldest player ever, Satchell Paige was 59 years, 2 months, and 18 days old when he played his last game. That's over a decade older than George Blanda, whose last game in the NFL was a month before his 49th birthday. But all of these are the exceptions to the rule. (In case your wondering, the oldest player in the NBA is Dikembe Mutombo at 39.) In real terms I've felt older than professional athletes for a long time.

However, when it comes to politics, we expect our leaders to have a few more years on them. Old is the rule, young the exception. Imagine how I felt when the Conservative Party elected someone younger than me to be their leader. Yes, the time has come when I could be younger than the Prime Minister. (Not the next PM, Gordon Brown, who is about to turn 55, but perhaps the one after that.)

I once had ambitions to be a politician. The closest I ever got was to be a GOP county chairman. Mrs H noted that David Cameron's resume was a catalogue of the sort of things I might have done with my life if I hadn't been so lazy. Had things gone a different way, I would have at least contended for a state legislative post.

In politics, over time, the cream rises to the top. It becomes clearer who has it and who hasn't. But it is true in other endeavors as well. People my age are the leaders in all sorts of areas. Some of the people. But somebody's gonna be the curd and somebody's got to be the whey.

I've lived an exciting life. There's no doubt about that. I've done a lot of things. Students and colleagues often wonder what life experience I'm next going to drop into a lesson or a conversation. Yet through it all, I've managed to maintain an astonishing level of mediocrity.

So enough of the personal impact of David Cameron's election as Tory leader. At some other time I will prognosticate on Cameron's tenure in that position.

Posted by david at 11:00 PM | Comments (3)

Sk8er Boi

Philippa wrote a couple of days ago about a song that transports her back to another place and another time. In her case it is "Nights in White Satin" by the Moody Blues. That's a song I didn't even know existed until I met my college roommate - a complete Moody Blues fan at the time.

I was going to leave a lengthy comment on her blog, but my computer decided to lock up at the same time, so I thought I'd just save it for here. It made me think of songs that transport me back to another place and time.

I suppose there are quite a few. I could think of Keith Green's "Asleep in the Light" and how I always think about the first time I heard that on a 8-track player in Ty Zeller's car. And even though it is in the CD player in my car right now, whenever I hear the opening to How the West Was One, with 2nd Chapter of Acts sings "Hey, Whatcha Say", I always think about cleaning the church on Saturdays in the former drugstore on Virginia Street and how I used to crank it up on the PA system. And how the mother-in-law of the florist next door (and who's brother was the local bank president and a friend of LBJ) used to come over and shout at me to turn it down. I don't remember her unleashing the sailor-like language for which she was famous.

But the one I associate with a social situation would have to be "Three Times a Lady" by the Commodores. This always brings back memories of my wallflower status when it came to the couple's song at the roller skating rink. I wasn't much of a skater, but it seems there was a period of time when a group of us seemed to go to the skating rink at lot. I wasn't a very good skater, so it was best that I was out of the mix at this time, but nonetheless being a total dweeb I spent all of my youth completely girl-less.

The Commodores were in their heyday with Lionel Richie's ballads and you knew when the lights went down, except for the spots on the disco ball casting their many-faceted mirror reflections on the ceiling, it was couples skate time.

I never did couples skate until I was in grad school. I was a church youth director in Fayetteville and I went over to Berryville to visit a Christian skating rink. I went over there with the previous girlfriend of the previous youth director. She apparently fancied me for the duration of the evening, so we couples skated. In fact, we couples skated even when it wasn't one of those couples songs. I don't remember them playing the Commodores.

Posted by david at 04:54 AM | Comments (1)

November 27, 2005

Many Years

Today is Mrs H's birthday.

She baked her own cake and is cooking her own birthday dinner, so everything will taste great. I know you were wondering why I didn't do all of that for her special day. Let's just say the contribution of my culinary skills would have made it just that little bit less special.

Posted by david at 01:14 AM | Comments (2)

November 25, 2005

Slip Sliding Away

Frost on the grass is one thing. Snow and ice is another. Today is the first day I had to really watch my step just getting out of the house.

After knocking a sizable amont of snow (and I used to live in the Midwest - I know about sizable snow) off of my car, I eased out into the street and turned the corner toward the main road into the city. Because I exercised due caution, I pretty much stayed pointed in the right direction. Just before I had started out a boy racer had not exercised the same degree of caution and plowed his Ford Escort into a lamp post.

Fortunately, the body of his vehicle stayed on that side of the road and sidewalk, so everyone else coud get by. When I got to the main road, it was amazing what a bit of traffic can do to get rid of the residual precipitation. It was smooth sailing all the way to school - until I turned down the side road. Then it was fish tail time again. That was until I got the street which goes uphill at about a 35 degree angle. I could have made it up the hill with the application of steady acceleration. The bloke in front of me couldn't. So I had to ease my way down in reverse, hoping no one would turn up the hill without thinking.

I made it down safely and informed a couple of people waiting at the bottom that an alternative route was advisable. This meant another slippery journey to the other side of the school and the main car park. I had to re-trace my route along the long icy side road to the main road, then take another main road, then back down a side street to get to the other side of the school. Then came the trecherous walk across to my room. I lost my balance more than once and almost fell, but managed to get inside safe and warm.

Now comes the journey home.

Posted by david at 01:12 PM | Comments (2)

November 22, 2005


This is the 200th birthday of my Great-great-great-grandmother Cynthia Burch Griffin, born in Stokes, North Carolina.

She is buried in the Burch Cemetary, in Martin Co., Indiana.

May her memory be eternal.

Posted by david at 02:16 AM | Comments (0)

November 21, 2005

End of Summer

Indian summer is well and truly over. We were basking in unseasonably warm temperatures well into this month.

Now there is ice covering the car every morning and looking out of the window, the park across the street has become a sea of frost. We have been told to expect an unusually cold winter around these parts.

This will probably mean an unusually high gas bill to heat our house. We've never had to heat this many rooms, so I'm bracing myself for the shock of it all.

Posted by david at 01:42 AM | Comments (2)

November 16, 2005

Fiat Lux

Mrs H persuaded me to meet her with the offspring in the city centre tonight to watch the turning on of the Christmas lights. So I arrived at the agreed spot outside M&S and waited. And waited. It was cold. Normal British weather has resumed.

The switch was being flipped by the Lady Mayor at 7:00, so we went and got something to eat before entering the throng around the stage. Actually, we got something to eat, then Mrs H wanted some ice cream. She got Aidan some as well. Ice cream in the bleeding cold night air. Of course I ended up having to hold Aidan's. Can anyone say "frostbite"?

So then Mrs H wanted some coffee to warm her up. Surprised? So we got coffee. This was something in which I was willing to participate. I had a cappaccino and Mrs H had a latte. Strange thing was, when we set them down and didn't know which was which, they tasted exactly the same. I think I got the right one back, seeing as I'm funny about that sort of thing.

Unlike most civic events, this one was running ahead of schedule. So we sat there while the MC and the Lady Mayor sang "We Wish You a Merry Christmas" and "Jingle Bells" over and over until the appointed time. The lights were not going on until the appointed time. The crowd couldn't be bothered to sing along, but it was icy cold, so they may have just been numb.

Since the place was heaving with people, I thought surely this must be quite a moment when the lights come on. We got to the count down.

The Mayor began, "Ten! Nine! Eight! Seven!"

Suddenly the MC shouted, "Wait! Stop!" Apparently the dynamite-style plunger was not actually connected up to the lights. Was there going to be another round of "We Wish You a Merry Christmas"? It was a close call. The word came up to the stage that all was ready.

The countdown started again at "Ten". I'm not going to count it all for you, since there was no further drama. She got to one, push the plunger, and a little square of suspended lights around the area of the heaving masses came on. A brief, half-hearted cheers went up from about a third of the crowd. Then as the master of ceremonies began a long list of thank-you's to various public and private sponsors, the crowds began to melt away. We melted into a new cheap bookstore that was virtually empty of products until the volume of people began to bear a reasonable ratio to the amount of footspace underneath.

I have now been to the famous turning on of the Christmas lights to inaugurate Wednesday late night shopping. Wa-hey.

Posted by david at 10:22 PM | Comments (0)

Pass It On

Whenever I have seen a meme before, it has been what could be described as Melchizedekian, "without father or mother, without genealogy, without beginning of days or end of life," so when Michael authored this one, I wondered how far it would go.

And like the Energizer Bunny, it keeps going and going and going. He only tagged me and his sister. I only originally tagged three and then added a fourth by inviting Luz in a comment on her blog and it is amazing how many people have picked it up from there. I have even seen it on the blogs of people I didn't tag because I didn't think they would pick it up off my blog (sorry Laura).

I've tried to follow it around the blogosphere, but it becomes too difficult to follow all of the trails after a while.

Posted by david at 04:44 PM | Comments (5)

November 12, 2005

Location, Location, Location

This is the sixth anniversary of my landing at Heathrow with my "leave to remain" stamp in my passport and my life crammed into three duffel bags. And remained I have.

Posted by david at 11:56 PM | Comments (3)

Another Preset on the Internet Radio Dial

I have found another good contemporary Christian station. CCM Classics plays tunes from the 70s, 80s, and 90s, whereas Jesus Music Oldies plays 60s, 70s, and 80s.

Since the 70s and 80s is the target sound for me, I will be flipping back and forth between them.

Posted by david at 11:20 AM | Comments (0)

November 11, 2005


My old friend Larry Henry sent me a link to an internet radio station that plays Jesus Music Oldies. In the last few minutes, I've listened to old John Michael Talbot (as in the pre-Catholic stuff - not that I don't like the Catholic stuff), Paul Clark, Sweet Comfort Band, Michael Omartian (from the White Horse album - anyone old enough to know that one?), Benny Hester, Servant.

The first time I pulled my back, I was volunteer roadying after a Servant gig. Those were the days.

Got this one bookmarked.

Posted by david at 12:00 AM | Comments (1)

November 10, 2005

Hats Off

I've just been told not to wear my baseball cap to work. Apparently there is a crackdown on students wearing baseball caps because it is reflective of an attitude problem.

My second choice would be a flat cap. You know the type. In fact, the first flat cap I ever owned I bought on my 16th birthday visiting the same city in which I now live. Mrs H is adamant that I will not wear a flat cap, as she think I look like a farmer. Why this is a bad thing I don't know. I could walk around saying, "I'm a farmer of the Shire!" with the local rural accent. I can't describe the accent other than to say that it is reminiscient of, though softer than, the Westcountry accent of Samwise Gamgee in the Lord of the Rings films.

No, Mrs H wants me to wear a beanie. A beanie. Right.

Whatever happened to a baseball cap being reflective of the attitude of liking baseball? Or perhaps in context and logo, of liking a particular brand of farm equipment? Mine just says "Wales" - implying that I support any one of the Welsh national teams. Hardly a radical youth symbol or gang culture accessory.

Posted by david at 08:51 AM | Comments (1)

November 08, 2005

It was Twenty Years Ago Today

It has been exactly 20 years since the first highway miracle. Looking at me, you would think that the accident in which I lost my leg, but not my life, would be the great highway miracle. No, it was just the sequel. Highway Miracle II.

Like Highway Miracle II, the evidence of Highway Miracle I was rather graphic. Fortunately it didn't include any blood, broken bones, or limb parts. Instead, my car was evidence of this event for several years.

To briefly recount the facts: I was driving north between Lockhart and Austin, Texas in the outside lane of a dual carriageway - or divided highway, as they are known in the local vernacular. I was driving along side a 18-wheeler, listening to Jeff Johnson on my walkman (as I could not afford a proper car stereo). I was just minding my business and he was minding his.

All of a sudden I heard a crunching sound. I said, "I'm having a wreck." I couldn't figure out how it was happening. What I didn't realise is that I had been sucked up against the semi by a combination of the draft off the lorry and a prevailing wind out of the southeast.

Suddenly I looked out my driver's side window and was looking at a grill. I was being pushed sideways down the road. I should have flipped and either rolled down the highway or chewed up under the semi. I remember saying to myself, "So this is what it's like to die in a car wreck."

Then suddenly I heard the grinding sound and just as suddenly I was free, spinning around in the highway. I came to a stop in a left-turn lane at a crossing junction, facing north again. I got out of my car and saw the tractor trailer had pulled over to the right shoulder of the road.

The rather shaken driver and his even more shaken wife said that I had wrapped around their cab. Sure enough, there was red paint from my 1978 Datsun B210 on the right lugnuts, the front bumper, and the left lugnuts. Looking back at my car, you would not have thought anything had happened. It looked untouched. But that was the passenger side of the car.

The driver's side of the car was chewed to pieces. Well, not to pieces, exactly. It was all in one piece - one horrible, ugly, damaged beyond the value of the car piece. Amazingly, I could have driven away from the accident, except that the fender had been bent too close to the driver's side front tire to allow it to turn freely.

Fortunately just down the crossing county road was a auto body shop. They came and towed it and pulled the fender out with a crow bar. The body shop was next to a church that was involved with the organisation for which I worked and they let me use the phone to explain my absence to my boss. As I remember, I drove on to work.

I never got the car fixed. I would love to be spiritual and say that I kept it like that as a testimony to the grace of God. Actually is was just because it wasn't worth fixing. And it just kept going. I drove it until I was in grad school in 1988. My traded to my dad for a slightly younger Datsun 310. The 310 was an endless source of trouble, culminating when it blew up on the way home from church in 1992. At that point the old B210 was still running as a ranch vehicle in West Texas. It may be dead by now, but I wouldn't bet on it.

I've been on borrowed time for the last 20 years. I remortgaged it 12 years ago in Highway Miracle II. The sequel was good, but I'll never forget the original.

Posted by david at 12:10 AM | Comments (7)

November 05, 2005

Son et Lumiere

Tonight is Bonfire Night, this year the 400th anniversary of the discovery of the Gunpowder Plot.

It is also Abby's first night away from home. She is staying at Nana's with Aidan. This is probably a good thing, because the neighbours have decided to be devoted Protestants and celebrate the capture of Guy Fawkes with vigour. Vigour, liquour, and lots of loud fireworks.

Even as I write they are shooting them over our back garden. I'm hoping eucalyptus trees aren't particularly flammable, because their sense of both direction and safety has been serious numbed by alcohol. I hope this doesn't go on all night. Fireworks aren't cheap - surely they are going to run out soon.

Posted by david at 07:37 PM | Comments (6)

Flagging Them Up

Aidan continues to be excited about countries, but now he has to know which flag goes with which country. His new Atlas has all the flags on the same page as the countries they represent. At first, after he identified a country, he would say, "Which flag is it?" Now he is starting to identify a lot of them for himself. Not all of them, but he knows quite a wide range including Portugal, Canada, Panama, Chile, Brazil, Argentina, Uzbekistan, and the Isle of Man.

He can now identify every country in Western Europe by simply pointing to them and naming them - no "show me where 'X' is or "What is that country?", he's learning more of Central and Eastern Europe - we still had to work on the Czech Republic, Austria, and Slovenia tonight.

He runs through the Central American countries and I still have to look over at the names to remember which one is which sometimes. We are working the opposite direction in South America, so we've done Brazil, Argentina, and Chile, recently adding Uruguay and Paraguay.

We haven't done all of the "stans" of Central Asia, so he's still just on Uzbekistan and the Indian Subcontinent, but East Asia has always be a easy area for him.

I haven't particularly encouraged all of this lately. The atlas is the one book he wants to have for bedtime. Apparently he just takes it out and looks at it at other times as well.

I used to do that when I was little, but I don't remember doing it much before I was five.

Posted by david at 12:24 AM | Comments (1)

November 04, 2005

Abby's Liturgy

Abby has developed an extensive bedtime ritual. We are all liturgical creatures by nature, after all.

She turns around to be picked up out of the bath into the towel. After she gets her pajamas on, she goes to our bedroom to have her hairbrushed with Mummy's brush. Then we read the same stories, though we have recently added one. We read, Poppycat Loves Rainbows, That's Not My Bunny, That's Not My Dolly, Farm Animals, and Goodnight Poppycat.

I started showing her the icon of the Theotokos that is on her window sill. I explained that it's Jesus and his mummy. It hasn't been mounted on the wall yet, so it is covered up when we close her curtains. Now I don't even mention it and when we finish with the stories, she says "Jeez!" and points at the curtain. When I take it out, she points at Christ in the arms of the Theotokos and says "Jeez" again. She points at Mary, and I remind her that she's Jesus mummy.

Then she kisses Jesus and pushes the icon toward my face for me to kiss it. Then sometimes she wants to kiss it again and push it to me again. Then we put Jesus and his mummy back on the window sill and she's ready for bed. I turn off then light and she says, "Bye!"

Posted by david at 11:55 PM | Comments (2)

November 03, 2005

Tagged Again

Michael has tagged me with a meme he has started. It's "MY TOP TEN (OR SO) GREATEST INFLUENCES, OUTSIDE OF GOD AND MY FAMILY MEMBERS."

This can be looked at in two different ways. There are those people who have had an impact in an interpersonal way and those who have had an impact in a purely academic way. Or in other words, those I've known and those I've read. Some of these people I may not agree with anymore, but in the course of my life they exerted influence. These are not in rank order.

1. Fr Alexander Schmemman - whose work introduced me to Orthodoxy and sacamental theology
2. R J Rushdoony - whose work was the foundation of my undergraduate education
3. David Davidson - the founder of the small liberal arts school I attended and whose home was the first place I lived away from my family
4. Fr Pat Reardon - who showed me that Orthodoxy didn't have to be quite so monastically ascetical and exhibits an extraordinary combination of knowledge and wisdom. He pastors a church, is senior editor of Touchstone, writes indefatigably, conspires with my wife in providing Christmas presents, and still has time to answer my emails.
5. Todd Tipton - my college roommate, friend, confidant, who introduced me to a whole new world of music, challenged me intellectually, and was able to tolerate living with me in a very confined space.
6. The other two Young Americans1 - the kind of friends that will be around for life, even if I don't see them very often at all.
7. Deacon Michael Walker - who managed the inner city coffeehouse where I volunteered, taught me to how pray, was one of the few witnesses to my wedding, and whose theosis is probably much further along than he would ever know.
8. Lee Wilson - friend and former Bible study and prayer partner and parishoner. Risked it all to follow a useless priest and has survived to tell the tale.
9. Keith Green - No Compromise. 'Nuf said.
10. Ken Hargreaves, MP - showed an evengelical Protestant that Catholics are not only Christians, but can be very holy people. The most humble man I've ever met.

1 The Four Young Americans toured Britain in the Spring of 1990 on a holiday planned out in detail by the one who is the present author of this blog, however the history of their friendship goes back to the early 80s.

I'm sure I have overlooked somebody obvious.

I'm tagging Elizabeth, Philippa, and David Ward.

Posted by david at 01:59 AM | Comments (4)

November 01, 2005

Genealogical Evidence of the Providence of God

Back in my preaching days, one of my favourite texts was I Chronicles 1:1-4. That's because the genealogies of the Old Testament served a very important purpose. They were a reminder of the Providence of God.

The thing about Old Testament genealogies is that they tend to be a single linear list. A begat B who begat C who begat D.... That is enough to show God's hand. After all, without A there would be no D. But in reality, genealogy is much more complex than that.

When I preached this sermon, I used to mention one particular set of great-great-great-great-grandparents, noting that the marital joys of that union were responsible my existence. However, the more I know the more marvelous my existence this becomes. It is theoretically possible to go back what would seem to be endless generations, mutiplying the complexity exponentially.

If I just go back four generations, the hand of God boggles the mind. It all started in 1849 in south central Kentucky. On the 21st of June that year, a 31-year-old farmer named TJ Phelps married a 17-year-old Cherokee girl names Clara Goodbread. They lived in Kentucky for another 15 years before moving to Iowa, Kansas, and Missouri having a total of 10 children, six of whom outlived them. They moved to Chicago just before TJ died and both are buried there.

Across the border in Middle Tennessee, in the 1850s, a orphan named Buck Holford became fond of Betty, the daughter of substantial landowner named James Eldridge. In 1856, 20-year-old Buck married 18-year-old Betty. War came to Tennessee five years later. Within eight years of their nuptials, Buck would be dead and Betty would raise four children on her own.

Not too far away in the same Tennessee county, and probably in the same year North Carolina native Sam Hampton married local girl Nancy Ray. They were a bit older at 26 and 22. Sam survived the war, though neither he nor Nancy would live to see 60. Their daughter Leticia married the oldest Holford son (named James, but known by his middle name Solomon), but would die even younger, at barely 43.

Two years later, but hundreds of miles away, on 13 July 1858, two substantial South Texas landowning families came together when 21-year-old Theophilus Harral married 14-year-old Martha Littlefield in Gonzales. Theirs was a fruitful union for the entire 22 years. Theo died just a month after Theo Jr was born in 1880. Martha was a widow for another 39.

1860 was a good year for me, even if the couples directly involved were hundreds of miles apart and would never be aware of each other's existence. The serendipity of these unions would not come to fruition for over 102 years. Josh Herring had crossed into Texas from Alabama, where he met a girl named Mary Elizabeth, the daughter of a local doctor. The new decade had hardly begun when Josh and Mary, both 20, got married in San Augustine County on the 2nd of January. They would eventually move to South Texas.

A little over a month later a young widower name Isaac Byers - he'd only been 19 when his first wife died, leaving him an 11-month-old son - married Sarah McWhirter in Greene County, Indiana. He had just turned 21. She had just turned 17. Eventually, they moved to southwestern Missouri. In the early part of 54 years of marriage, she would bear 13 children and was none the worse for wear, living almost 83 years at a time when the average life expectancy was 54. One of their middle daughters, Mary, would fall in love with young William David Phelps.

Over the next two years, the last of the fourth generation unions that resulted in me were brought together.

Immigrating to Texas from Missouri, having been born in southern Indiana, another widower, 32-year-old Hezekiah Griffin crossed the Red River into Cooke County, Texas. He would end up in south Texas, fighting Indians to keep his homestead on the frontier. He stayed on the Texas-Oklahoma border for about five years because he mat a young woman who had also travelled a distance. Mary Jane Stephens had been born in Tennessee and lived in Arkansas before coming to Texas. As an early Christmas present, God brought them together on the 22nd of December 1861 in Gainesville. In the rugged country of southwest Texas, their third son David would fall for the Herrings' younger daughter Tidy.

Finally in 1862, 29-year-old Confederate artillery officer Seth Cole married 27-year-old Huldah Simmons in Colcasieu Parish, Louisiana. He moved his family to Texas during the war. They moved to Gonzales County in 1870, a move which brought their son Seth into proximity with the Harral's daughter Georgia.

Time does not permit me to tell of just the few extraorindary events I know in the lives of these people, preserving them so that I would be here to write this blog. Suffice it to say that all of these combined unions related to each other and worked hand in hand with each other to the benefit and existence of three people on the whole planet: me, Aidan, and Abby. We are the only descendants of these combined ancestors.

Thus concludes the fourth generation of ancestors and a witness to the Providence of God.

Posted by david at 02:09 AM | Comments (3)

October 31, 2005


We live in a very mobile world. People often don't live in the same place for very long. I have previously mentioned how many places I have lived. But thanks to advances in technology and changes in pricing structure, physical addresses seem to change much less frequently than email addresses.

This has been particularly unhelpful in my genealogical research. The internet has made this work so unbelievably easier. Websites with GEDCOM files and family trees abound. Unfortunately when these are posted and the well-meaning poster even adds a note saying "Please tell me about anything inaccurate or missing" (or words to that effect), the email address is no longer valid. This is often true whether the stuff was left way, way back in say 1999 0r 2000, or even in the last year.

If something is posted somewhere asking for contact, it is important to keep one catch-all address valid. You might have a long-lost distant relative that is trying to get in touch.

Posted by david at 09:51 PM | Comments (0)

Digging Deeper

I'm all for using family names. I'm named after two great-grandfathers. I think I did fairly well.

Look through my family history I could have ended up with other traditional names. On my mother's side Hezekiah was quite popular as was Theophilus. On my father's side I have a two ancestors and an greatx4-uncle with the forenames Erasmus Lee and an great-great-aunt named Erasma. Solomon also runs through that family.

My parents used to say that they had considered naming me Solomon Hezekiah.

The discoveries continue. Tapping in a variety of family tree data (which is only as good as the research of those doing the compiling) it appears that I have found information on generations back to a great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-
great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great (that's 18 of them, if you can't bother to count) grandfather Simon Cusack. I have reliable-looking dates back 14 greats to William Aldrich born in 1421. Prior to this, I could only go 9 greats back to Claus N Ganshorn born in 1594.

May all their memories be eternal.

Posted by david at 05:49 PM | Comments (4)

More Songs

Abby is singing more songs. She still sings Balamory, but she also sings "E-I-E-I-O" or more like "lee-li-lee-li-o". She tries to sing "Bob the Builder/Can we build it/Bob the Builder/Yes we can" - mostly ir comes out like "Bob a bo/da! da! da!"

But when I'm changing a poo nappy, she's started singing, "Dirty deeds done dirt cheap". She's not familiar with AC/DC, but rather one Mrs H's favourite bands, the bluegrass ensemble known as Hayseed Dixie. Surely she is clueless as to the humour in her choice of this particular refrain.

She's made up her own words to the Big Ben chimes that are imitated by our doorbell. She sings, "Daddy, Daddy, Daddy, Daddy."

Posted by david at 04:21 PM | Comments (0)

October 30, 2005

Uncovering the Past

I thought I would get a lot more blogging done during this half-term break, but I have been absorbed in genealogy work the last few days. I'm well known in my extended family as the go-to person for genealogical information - it's something in which I have been interested since childhood.

I have been trying to get solid information across the board at least four generations back. Unil now I have been unable to get that information about my paternal maternal paternal great-great-grandparents. All I have had were names and a photograph. My great-great-grandmother is important because she provides my putative link to the Cherokee nation.

I have a first cousin who has been particularly focused on this set of great-greats. He made a breakthrough and the floodgates of information have opened. He found out that the name by which we knew her (Clara) was not her first name, but rather a diminutive of her middle name (Clarinda). History recorded no Clara, but of Nancy C. there is data in every census from 1850-1900. Unfortunately, nothing uncovered so far has corroborated the Cherokee link, though there is other family evidence in this regard.

I have also been continuing to uncover my family's sympathies during that Recent Unpleasantness, otherwise known as the War Between the States. Out of eight great-great grandfathers, I know of one that fought for the Northern aggressors and three that fought in defense of the South. One seems to have been a Yankee sympathiser who moved from a border state to union state during the war. Another family was so Confederate that some of them moved to Mexico rather than rejoin the Union, but I don't have any war records about my direct ancestor yet. I strongly suspect the other two were Confederate sympathisers if not soldiers.

The search goes on.

Posted by david at 11:17 PM | Comments (1)

October 26, 2005

Games Up

I stayed up last night to watch Game 3 of the World Series - the first World Series game to be played in the state of Texas.

Apparently this series has the lowest TV ratings of any World Series to date. I don't understand this. It is being played between teams in the third and fourth largest cities in the US. I don't know about Game 1, but Games 2 and 3 have been very exciting.

Well, Game 3 was exciting until I fell asleep in the 13th inning. It was nearly 7:00 am, after all. I had already taken out my contact lenses. I never should have stretched out on the couch.

I shouldn't be surprised that Houston lost in the 14th. They blew every possible opportunity to win. How many men can you leave on base and still expect to win?

So tonight may be the last game of the series. The 'Stros have played good ball. They have been competitive. They could have won any of these games. They just haven't.

I hope to watch tonight's game, but Mrs H might complain about my fourth all-nighter in a row.

Posted by david at 10:52 PM | Comments (0)

October 25, 2005

Are You Ready for Some Football?

A disappointing result to a very exciting game is how I would describe Game 2 of the World Series. Tonight is the night off for the change of cities, but that means I get to experience something else I don't get to see: Monday Night Football. Just because I prefer the Beautiful Game, also known as association football, this doesn't mean I don't like American football. And to make this possible, once again we have to thank the good folks at Channel 5.

I still don't understand why I like sports at all. I have never been particularly sporty. If anything I've always been the opposite. I was the puniest of the puny in school. You always hear about the kid picked last for all the games in PE? That was me. I had well-documented bad relationships with all of my PE coaches. I played one season of Pee-Wee league baseball, sat on the bench most of the time, and in my few at-bats never even swung the lumber across the plate.

In high school, the athletes were accorded a certain social status, which, given the usual seasonal statistics, was probably unmerited by any standard. They were the same ones who didn't pick me in elementary school and were not even in the same PE classes wth me in junior high (since they took "Athletics" instead).

Because I didn't live in a house with a telly from 1976 until 1986, I didn't see other than the occasional sporting event until I was into my 20s. Moving out to the western fringes of the Texas Hill Country, there wasn't must else to do other than watch the tube, so I became acquainted with accepted rituals of televised sports. I suppose boredom overcame resentment.

When I moved to Arkansas, I became ticket-buying crowd-participating fan of Division I college sports even though I had new bad experiences to put me off. During my first semester of grad school, I worked as a delivery driver for Burger Plus. The majority of our deliveries were to campus dorms.

I often made deliveries to the athletic dorm, serving up burgers, fries, and various other unhealthy fried foods to the stars of the hardwood and gridiron. On at least one occasion, the food I was delivering was stolen while the football players laughed at my attempt to discover which of them had absconded with it and exact any sort of payment. I remember that occasion because one of the chief culprits later became a big NFL star - a defensive player in the AFC West selected eight times for the Pro Bowl. I always enjoyed anytime I got to see him beaten by a wide receiver.

So I watch professional football knowing that most of the players, if not of such bad character as the aforementioned example, are at least the ones who treated the weak and the nerdy in their formative years with disdain and contempt.

I know that there are good seeds as well. There were at least one or two of the Colts who frequently the Christian bookstore where I worked in the early '90s. There are probably still some like Darrell Green in the league.

But all in all, there is not a logical connection between sports and me. And I'm not a fanatic by any means. Nonetheless, like Hank Williams, Jr., I'm ready for some football.

Posted by david at 12:13 AM | Comments (1)

October 24, 2005

Thank God for Channel 5

Being on this side of that great Atlantic expanse, I don't get to see many of the important sporting events that define American culture. However, flipping through the onscreen telly guide, I saw that Channel 5 was broadcasting a baseball game. 5 often shows baseball late at night (of course, given that we are five hours ahead of the Eastern time zone), but there is only one game going on tonight, Game 2 of the World Series. I have turned it on in the bottom of the 1st.

Being from South Texas, it is probably not a surprise that I am rooting for the Astros. I've never been a huge Astros fan, even though the first two major league games I attended were at the Astrodome (in about 1973 or 74, the first against the Giants and the other against the Big Red Machine). I've never been against the Astros in any way. However, I have no connection to the ChiSox whatsoever.

I have much less of an affinity for the Houston Texans and was perfectly happy that they were trounced by the Indianapolis Colts, taking the Colts to 7-0 and continuing the only unbeaten record in the NFL.

Posted by david at 01:56 AM | Comments (0)

October 22, 2005

Everyone is Happy

One source of conflict in our house has been resolved. Not conflict like fighting and arguing, but as in competing interests. We have gone wireless. At the same time there has been a reversal on the information about using my work laptop on a home network.

Now Mrs H and I can both surf at will. She can window shop (or should it be called it Windows shopping?), buy and sell on eBay, and whatever else she does, while I blog and browse fellow bloggers, read the endless news sources, edit Wikipedia articles, find lesson resources, and play online arcade games (have you been to PopCap yet?).

No more, "Can I look at my email?" This is Mrs H way of saying, "Even though you are really involved in something, can I now use the computer for the next three or four hours, so I can annoyingly laugh at funny links people have sent me or posted on my favourite forum - funny things I may occasionally let you see while you are sitting there watching the TV show about dirty houses (or fashion sense, or getting toddlers to behave, or whatever) I turned on that I'm not longer watching because I took the computer, but for which I have kept the remote seclude on or about my person."

Posted by david at 09:31 AM | Comments (3)

October 18, 2005

I've Been Tagged! I've Been Tagged!

I've always been out of the meme loop. David at Duc in Altum has tagged me to answer the following:

Five things I plan to do before I die:
1. Write a book
2. Finally get a Master's Degree
3. See my grandchildren
4. Visit Australia and most of Europe
5. Play in a band again

Five things I can do:
1. Play rhythm guitar
2. Teach people who want to learn
3. Turn a phrase (occasionally)
4. Write music
5. Sing

Five things I cannot do:
1. Keep any area tidy
2. Teach people who don't want to learn
3. Bookkeeping
4. Play any sports
5. Play lead guitar

Five things that attract me to the opposite sex:
1. Smile
2. Brain
3. Reasonably symetrical feature
4. The ability to do bookkeeping and tidying
5. Derriere

Five things I say most often:
1. "Excuse me, people!" (to my students to get them to shut up)
2. "Alright?" (to all the students who call out my name as I walk by, whose faces I can't place with names)
3. "Did I mention that I'm hungry?"
4. "Quick, like a bunny!"
5. "Come on, people! (after No. 1 doesn't work and before repeating No. 1)

Five Celebrity Crushes:
1. Reese Witherspoon
2. Katie Melua
3. Charlotte Church
4. Keira Knightley
5. Kylie Minogue

This has probably been around for a while, so I might be tagging people who've already been tagged. And I guess I better tag people that seem to some along here fairly regular, like:

Jim N.
Michael and

Posted by david at 01:34 AM | Comments (6)

October 15, 2005

Barry's Bio Blog

The internet filter at school can make very strange decisions at times. One of these is to block the website of Barry McGuire as pornographic. Now that I'm back on broadband, I remembered to have a look here at home.

Sure enough, as expected, there's nothing in the least bit unseemly. In fact, the main part of the website is down, undergoing a makeover. However, since July, Barry has become a blogger. Most of it is biographical stuff. The latest entry is the story of his biggest mainstream hit, "Eve of Destruction" in 1965. I was particularly interested in this, because very early on in my occasional outings as a performer it used to be a part of my set.

At the time it was released, many people thought of it as a protest song. Barry explains why this was never intended.

If you wander through the archive of entries, you can also read about how his mother and aunts blew up his house and more of what it was like to work on a fishing boat out of San Pedro (for those who are familiar with the story about the dolphins on To the Bride before he sings "Calling Me Home").

Posted by david at 02:08 AM | Comments (0)

October 12, 2005

Back on the Superhighway

The broadband is finally reconnected at the new homestead. Goodbye, dial-up. At the same time we have upgraded to 2MB, since it was the same price we were paying for 512.

My laptop had been in the shop for a warranty-covered repair, but after a week they still couldn't get the manufacturer to send the part. They've called and complained, but Acer haven't even responded to the complaint. Since it works okay as is, I picked it up until they let me know they have the part. Once they get it, the repair time is less than an hour.

Posted by david at 08:57 PM | Comments (0)

October 11, 2005

Playing Games

What do the words emir, knoll, mice, cuffed, dales, goth, signet, dimwit, aborts, hailer, carob, quay, and tiara have in common? They all appeared in the first game of Scrabble® that Mrs H and I played with our new set. This is the set we bought Saturday from Sainsbury before we knew that the £5 spent on plumbing supplies was not going to fix the broken toilet tank apparatus.

I had been wanting Scrabble® for a long time, but Mrs H wasn’t to be persuaded. Why she decided Saturday that it wasn’t such a bad idea I don’t know. Maybe it was the ⅓ of the regular price. She still won’t go for Trivial Pursuit® but there is still hope.

As someone of reasonable vocabulary I always felt I was a natural Scrabble® player. I did, however, suffer a famous defeat back in the early '80s playing against a Filipino with almost no formal education and English as a second language. I was also playing against an oceanographer contracted to the NOAA to measure tides, but he wasn’t the one who gave me trouble. We both lost to the Filipino.

In the game against Mrs H, I’m not going to say who won, because she thinks I’m only blogging about it to gloat.

Posted by david at 12:45 AM | Comments (2)

October 10, 2005

Flushing Money Down the Drain

I managed to break the toilet on Saturday. It’s the bit that pulls up when the handle is pushed down. This is the second broken toilet since we moved in.

The first one mysteriously stopped working while workmen were alone in the house. It was on a Sani-flow system that had to be replaced to the tune of £400. At least the first toilet needed a modern device. We can’t repair the other.

Mrs H went all around town to get parts. She found out that the toilet is at least 30 years old, because that’s the last time the model was manufactured. The parts can’t even be obtained from specialist dealers in London. All it needs is a particular little piece of plastic. I hope we don’t have to buy a whole new toilet over a little piece of plastic.

Posted by david at 09:05 PM | Comments (0)

October 09, 2005

Bring Back the Dreary Weather

I don’t know that it is global warming. The non-alarmist scientists seem to think these things run in long cycles and we are just in a warming trend. Whatever it is, it seems like this country has gotten more temperate in just the last few years.

Here it is pushing toward mid-October and I have only worn a sweater for the last two days. Even that has only been tolerable in the mornings. I really wore them more out of the convenience of not ironing a shirt when I needed to be out of the house in short order. I’ve worn my leather jacket to school on a couple of occasions, but both times it has spent the day on the back of my chair.

Yesterday we had a short time of typical autumn weather – grey, cool, and rainy. I like warm, sunny days as much as the next person, but it was kind of like the return of an old friend.

Posted by david at 02:11 PM | Comments (0)

October 06, 2005

More Perceptions of Time

Last night I pondered upon the realisation that there are already only two more days left in the work week. It's almost time for the weekend again.

With some particularly difficult groups, you'd think my perception would be that the week would never end. But it zips by nonetheless. I does have its negative side, as in, I can't believe I'm already seeing this group of reprobates again. And an hour can seem like an eternity. But the week is over quickly.

We are definitely past the autumnal equinox. The mornings are darker and darker, so that even if I leave late for work - as I did this morning - most cars are running their lights on full beam in town. Another winter will roll around soon, with it getting light about the time the school day begins and getting dark by the time it ends.

I should look forward to the light and warmth of next summer, except that it will be the summer of 42.

Posted by david at 08:50 AM | Comments (0)

October 04, 2005

What's the Story in Balamory

Abby likes music. Radio, TV, the doorbell - she doesn't care. She'll start dancing.

She's been singing the sound of the doorbell as well. It sounds like a grandfather clock just before the chimes begin.

Now she's finally singing words. For some reason she sings the beginning to the theme song of the BBC children's programme Balamory. She never watches the show. Even Aidan never watches the show. But he started singing the theme all the time and she's picked up on it.

So now she sings, very loudly, and over and over, "Ba-la-mo-ry."

Posted by david at 01:14 AM | Comments (3)

October 02, 2005

The View

The other evening at dusk I was looking out the window that is opposite the landing on the stairs. The view is across a large parkland, with the dog run in the foreground, stretching to the trees lining the river, with the cathedral in the background. It is certainly the most picturesque view from any place I've lived.

First I thought to myself that it better be, as it is the most expensive view I've ever had.

But more significantly I thought about the simple fact that I will be able to enjoy it relatively few times. I looked at my watch and realised that in twelve hours time I would be looking out that window at the dawn. Then I would get home from work and it would be dusk again. But even if I saw it every day, those days will run out very quickly. Even if I live beyond the expectancy of the actuaries who set the premium for my life insurance policy, I've got less than 15,000 days left.

If I counted to 15,000 at a very moderate pace of one number per second, it would take just over four hours. I can count out my days in four hours. And frankly, the days seem to go just about that fast. It's no wonder as I spin toward each new day and away from the previous at about 700 miles per hour.

And the wheels go round and round
The sun comes up and the sun goes down
On the trivial and profound
Like Ezekiel we all watch
As the wheels go round.

In the meantime, I'll try to get my money's worth out of the view.

Posted by david at 12:16 PM | Comments (2)

September 30, 2005


I never knew the medical term for it until now.

My mother is undergoing gall bladder surgery today. Your prayers are appreciated.

Posted by david at 10:32 AM | Comments (3)

September 25, 2005

The Shrouding Mists of the Past

I always check the recent deaths list on Wikipedia and I saw that Molly Yard died on Wednesday. Somewhere in the back of my mind I thought I remembered using her name in a song. That's when I realised that something.

I'm getting to where I can't remember the songs I've written. I never thought this would happen. I'm sure I imagined a day would come when I didn't play music regularly - I just never imagined I would forget the music I played.

Sure, there are a handful of songs I could probably get through without too much difficulty if I were to just pick up my guitar right now and run through them. A couple of my songs have remained as showpiece tunes - something to drag out at the spur of the moment if someone says, "Play us a song." It happens every once in a great while.

I used to have a repertoire of 30 or so to draw on. I would average 20-22 a show if I was playing solo - less with the band, since we would incorporate a few by my lead guitarist. I have the lyrics to 16 of them, because I used to have them on my old, old website and I still have those html files.

I don't have my opening number ("Hide and Seek"), or my closer ("Why Won't the World Look to Jesus?"), though I recently found a legal pad with my original draft of "Goin' in the Middle of the Night".

Amongst the 16 html files is the song that mentions Molly Yard. It contains some of the most controversial, explicit and suggestive lyrics I ever wrote - a blues critique on the blending of gender roles in society called "Androgynous Zone". Now if I could just remember how to play it.

Posted by david at 04:32 AM | Comments (4)

September 24, 2005

New Subtraction

Full-of-fleas is history. This required no decision making on my part. I came home from work on Thursday and Mrs H informed that the dog was going back.

He starting getting very possessive of Mrs H, barking and growling at the children if they were cuddled up to her. He peed in a few non-statutory place. He want kill the bunny. He started obscene humping on Abby. That seems to have been the last straw.

Before all this happened Mrs H had decided that she wasn't fussed about him one way or the other, and that's not a good way to start a relationship with a pet.

So Satan's Little Helper (as I started to call him) is gone.

Posted by david at 02:06 AM | Comments (2)

September 21, 2005

New Addition

We have added a new member to our family.

A couple of days ago, my father-in-law brought over a puppy with at least a strong strain of Jack Russell terrier. Mrs H wanted me to say whether I wanted to keep him or not. I didn't particularly want a dog, but I left it up to her. I noted that I already had a pet and if she wanted to feed, water, walk him, and have dog hair on her furniture, it was up to her.

Aidan and Abby chased him around the lounge and he chased them. I was surprised when she decided to have her dad take him home.

Yesterday when I got home from work, the dog was there. Mrs H had developed a change of heart and gone to pick him up. She's named him Malachy. I think she wanted to name him after the Prophet Malachi, but she found the similar name of the 11th-12th century Irish saint is easier to shout. This is also appropriate as St Malachy reposed in the presence of that greatest of holy dog namesakes, St Bernard.

Malachy is also good because it rhymes with "Full-of-Fleas", so he still knows his name when I call him. Mrs H applied some sort of flea killing substance to him last night, but I was still itching when I sat next to him.

I'm not denying that he is a nice dog. The child gate on the stairs has now become the dog gate. If we are all upstairs, he wimpers at the bottom because he is lonely.

He stayed in the lounge during his first night (this seemed safer than leaving him in the unfinished kitchen) and everything was intact this morning. He seems to have found his place on the couch. He didn't leave any presents on the carpets or anything. Fortunately, the dog run area of the park is right across the street from our house, so he will have easy access to toilet facilities.

Mrs H says this is a probationary period. If he's trouble, he goes back. Of course the longer he is with us, the more permanent he will become.

Posted by david at 03:31 PM | Comments (2)

September 20, 2005

Political Drift

I took the Politics Test, and at least on the US spectrum, I came out more middling than I would have expected. I'm sure if the questions fit UK politics, I would come out much further on the Right.

You are a

Social Moderate
(55% permissive)

and an...

Economic Moderate
(56% permissive)

You are best described as a:


Link: The Politics Test on Ok Cupid

H/T to Greg Wallace.

Posted by david at 10:03 AM | Comments (1)

Like a Rolling Stone

I was chatting with my top set Year 7’s yesterday, getting to know them while they were getting to know me. Of course my American origins are an endless source of fascination for them (and every year group, actually). One student asked me how many places I had lived. I clarified this to mean actually residences – addresses I have called my own.

I had to stop and count. I just kept counting. I got to fifteen before any of them were even born, and I didn’t count the three weeks I spent with a cousin in Kentucky when I was between places and looking for political work in the I-65 corridor. (I didn’t find any and ending up instead on the eastern edge of West Texas for over 15 months working at a KOA Kampground.) The total is twenty. They were amazed. So was I. Though this averages out to a change every two years, the first 19 years of my life were spent in just two houses, the one where we lived until I was 6 and the other from which I left home for college. One of them asked if I liked moving house. Remarkably, no, I don’t. In fact, I hate it. I don’t plan to do it again for a long time.

Posted by david at 08:50 AM | Comments (1)

Getting what you pay for, Part II

If you’re gonna sell something on eBay, you should be sure that you actually have the thing you are selling. For example, if you are selling dozens of discontinued stock Woolworths mini cooler tabletop fridges, then you actually have them stored in your garage so they actually get sent to the winning bidder, like mine did. It’s a bit loud, but now we can keep milk in the department and I don’t have to walk across the campus and up the stairs to the staff room for a cup of tea.

Likewise if you are selling hard drive enclosures, even if you are a regular retailer of such items on your own website, you should have the items in stock. This is especially true if you are going to charge way, way over the odds for 1st class Royal Mail recorded delivery.

Don’t just wait until I get pissed off after a week and send you a stroppy email before you write back and say that you didn’t actually have the item because too many had been sold and you are expecting some soon from the manufacturer. And don’t fail to send the virtually weightless flash memory stick for which you charged as much postage as price, because you want to drop it into the same package and rack up as much profit from postage as you possibly can.

Bad eBayer! Bad! Bad!

Posted by david at 08:49 AM | Comments (0)

Getting what you pay for, Part I

BT are supposed to change the wiring of our phone sockets for free. But I suppose this is one situation where you get what you pay for. As I have mentioned previously, I ordered the change of service on the 24th of August. The first available date for a technician was yesterday afternoon. That’s right, 26 days. I tried to ring Mrs H before I left school and there was no answer. Maybe she’s gone out, I thought.

When I got home, I learned that BT rang her mobile about 3:00 to say that they couldn’t keep the appointment and we would have to ring later to book another one! Fortunately, the number to ring and book is free. Unfortunately, it is only free from a land line, which of course is exactly what we don’t have! So I had to find a phone box, of which there are bloody few because everyone has mobiles so there is no money in payphones anymore.

As soon as the kids were in bed, I went to Tesco, where they have a phone across from the checkouts. Listening to the recorded message through all the racket behind me, I was able to make out that they only take calls from 8:00am to 8:00pm. So Mrs H will have to find a public phone today while keeping the kids quiet and occupied and stuck on one place for as long as it takes to get a hold of a live person.

Posted by david at 08:48 AM | Comments (0)

More than we bargained for

When you hire tradesmen, you never know what you’re going to get.

The person we originally got to put in the kitchen (because Ikea wanted more for the fitting than for the kitchen itself), measured it incorrectly by 15 cm (under which pretence we bought the units) and then never showed up for work. Fortunately, the bloke we found to do it was cheaper, could do more of the jobs the other would have subcontracted, and didn’t talk down to Mrs H like she was an idiot. It’s still not finished, but we’re getting close.

For the cabinets to fit along the entire length of one wall, an unnecessary gas pipe had to be removed. Mrs H called around. One man wanted £80 to cut and cap the pipe. Now to me, it didn’t seem like a lot of work and £80 (that’s about $145) seemed a bit excessive. Another could do it for £60, but it would take several weeks for him to get to it. We didn’t really have several weeks to wait.

Then we found someone who could get to it right away. He was CORGI registered and everything (both he and Mrs H had seen a recent episode of BBC’s Rogue Traders, so he showed us his CORGI card). Sure enough, the pipe didn’t take a lot of work. Five minutes or so. (That would have been £960 an hour with the first man.) Mrs H had already agreed to have him do the fittings for the new hob, so we didn’t pay him for the cut and cap on the night.

He came back last night to fit the hob. Our house was built prior to the reign of the present monarch, so the existing connections lacked a certain modernity and compatibility with the stove. This was not a five-minute job. There was sawing and soldering and I don’t know what else. It took about an hour. I would hate to think about what £80-man would have charged for this.

When all was said and done, both jobs came to just £50.

Posted by david at 08:47 AM | Comments (0)

September 19, 2005

The Curse of the Lingonberry

We used to love Ikea. Even not that long ago. Now it is difficult not to use a profane adjective before the word every time we say it.

We bought a kitchen from Ikea. Not the kitchen we ordered exactly, but a kitchen. They sent the wrong sized units and didn’t include the hob. They sent lovely solid beech worktops. We didn’t order the solid wood, but they didn’t fail to charge us for them. Lots more than we intended to pay for worktops. Worktops that must be oiled regularly and are not suited for standing water.

When Mrs H went to Cardiff to complain, they refused to have them collected and replaced. That was after she waited over an hour to be served in the customer service area. Okay, “served” probably isn’t the right word, because that implies someone does something for you. She actually had to go behind he counter into the stock area and shout at them to get them to do anything. The waiting area was full of customers. One man who was more patient had been waiting for two hours to be severed. They just couldn’t be bothered to get the stuff off the shelves.

Mrs H led a re-enactment of the Peasants’ Revolt. When she started shouting, the others gained the courage to begin complaining. The Ikea dependence upon the British “mustn’t grumble” attitude was, if but for a moment, undermined.

This was not he first time we have had trouble. Once when we were all at Ikea and had to get something from the customer services, Mrs H gave the girl her ticket. The girl said, “Yeah, okay,” and walked into the stock area. She never returned. When Mrs H finally found someone else, they informed her that the girl was on her break. When Mrs H explained that we had been waiting for some time, she was told that the girl was entitled to her break. There was no suggestion that perhaps someone else should take over the job in the meantime.

Ikea are simply big enough that they don’t have to care. They don’t need individual customers. They save more money using their methodology than they lose in making customers angry because of it.

This is so much different than the local shop where we bought dressers for the kids. I say local. They are actually located 30 miles away. The dressers were made to order out of solid wood, including the backs and bottoms of the drawers. They were delivered for £10 (the cost of the petrol). When they arrived, they were the wrong ones. The shop owner/delivery driver dutifully put them back in the van and returned a couple of nights later with the right ones. We then discovered that Abby’s had a little gouge in the top and rang him. He offered to have another one built and deliver it. We were just happy with a few pounds off.

The dressers were a little more expensive than something similar at Ikea, but we won’t have to buy another one. Ever.

Posted by david at 12:42 PM | Comments (5)

September 14, 2005

The Inbetween Times

Mrs H is handing over the keys to the old place even as I type. Because the phone won't be turned on at the new place for several days and because it takes another 10 days to get the broadbamd working (and my laptop refuses to connected by modem for reasons I cannot discern), I will have to post when I can from work - not during lessons, of course.

Things are going much better so far this term. I have a much better timetable. And with a permanent contract, I feel like I belong.

Now, I must use the remainder of lunch to get ready for Year 11s and everything they can find out about Allah from the first surah of the Qur'an...

Posted by david at 01:16 PM | Comments (3)

September 11, 2005

Weights and Measures

One in every £8 spend in the UK is spent in Tesco. Today I figured out how they make so much money.

I went into our local store to get some fruit for lunches this week. I saw the endcap of the fruit section had nice looking plums. I've been known to like a plum, so I thought this might be a worthy addition to my lunchbox over the coming week.

The plums were advertised as on special offer for 97p/kg in prepacked 1kg punnets. I picked up a punnet, but years of fruit buying caused me to instantly recognise that the weight was not commensurate with a full kilo. I turned over the label attached to the punnet netting and sure enough it declared a weight of 750 grams.

I took the punnet to the scales and weighed it. Sure enough it was just over 750g, which was as labelled, allowing for the weight of the plastic container. Then I took it to one of the price scanners located in a nearby aisle. The price: 97p. Not 97p per kilo, but 97p per .75 kilo. I was about to be had.

I brought this discrepancy to the attention of the young lady stocking citrus and she came over to confirm that what I said made sense. She did not have any idea what plan of action to take, so she brought this to the attention of her supervisor. To his credit, he immediately stripped off all price indication of 97p per kilo.

So how is it that Tesco made too much money? The endcap of plums was almost empty. Every other person buying plums off of it throughout the day and probably for as long as the promotion has been running (due perhaps to their lack of experience in the handling of fruit weights, but more likely to their blind trust in Tesco) has paid 33% too much. If this promotion coupled with the supply of plum punnets was used by more than just my local store, that's a lot of extra money.

Posted by david at 09:40 PM | Comments (2)

The Ashes

It is not very often that football season is in full swing and the public focus is on cricket. However, this year England have a chance of winning the Ashes and that makes everything different.

The Ashes is a four-inch terracotta trophy representing an biennial series of five international test matches played between England and Australia. The last time England "held" them was 1987. (The actually trophy never leaves the Marylebone Cricket Club Museum in London.) This year the series is being played in England.

Most of the time, I am only a casual observer of cricket, but I have also been caught up in the mania. I saw the last day of the test at Trent Bridge (the Nottinghamshire cricket ground) and I’ve watched what I could of the current match at the Oval (the ground of Surrey Cricket Club).

People have tried to make comparisons between cricket and baseball. Both use a small ball, a bat, and fielders, but that’s where the similarities end. In cricket, each team gets two innings at bat and ten outs in each inning. Two men are at bat at the same time. The bowler bowls overhanded – way overhanded, after running toward the batter from the equivalent of center field. When the ball is bowled, the batter doesn’t have to swing, though he has to keep it from hitting the wickets behind him because they have little pieces of wood balanced on top.

If the ball is hit, the batter doesn’t have to run. If he doesn’t like a ball, he can just ground it a short distance. The batters are in the middle of the field and there are no foul lines, so the ball can go anywhere. So as you can imagine, with the fielders spread everywhere and trying to catch the ball barehanded, there are a lot of runs. Especially as the distance travelled for a run is only 60 feet. It’s just a matter of trading places with the other batter. And to be safe, the runners only have to cross the line with the front of the bat, not their feet. It is very common for good batters to get 100 runs in a single at-bat. The record is over 400.

Here are a few more dissimilarities. Bowler also trade off after every six balls. Matches break for lunch and afternoon tea and are never played under the lights. Ground the ball out of the field and get four runs. Hit the ball into the stands and get six runs. Ten players have to chose from about 40 possible fielding position. These have names such as Silly Mid On, Short Square Leg, and Deep Gully.

So it’s nothing like baseball, really.

Posted by david at 12:00 AM | Comments (1)

September 06, 2005

Channels of Communication

We bought a bell for our front door. After the button is attached to the door, the bell bit can be plugged in anywhere within a 100 feet.

Recently people started prank ringing our bell. The amazing thing is that it would happen right under our noses. They would wait until one of us was actually outside getting in the car and would simply vanish. We couldn’t see them quick enough. How they could get inside the gate, up to the door, and vanish without being seen by either the person in the house or the person leaving was a mystery.

Then the other night I was unlocking the car from the doorstep and the bell went off behind me. Then I locked it, and the bell went off again. Our front door and our car are on the same frequency. So now every time anyone goes out or comes back in the Astra the bell goes off.

Posted by david at 09:58 PM | Comments (5)

September 04, 2005

Six Years

As of today, Mrs H has put up with me for six years. Last night she gave me the just-released book by Metropolitan Anthony of blessed memory. In true form, I hurried to Tesco and bought some chocolates and a few books that I thought she might enjoy.

I tend to do this with both our anniversary and her birthday. I remember it all year, up to the last few days before, and then my mind goes blank.

Posted by david at 12:26 AM | Comments (0)

September 01, 2005

End of Summer

I go back to work tomorrow. I am spending the day in the department planning and preparing for the year. All the teachers come in on Monday and the kids start back on Tuesday.

Always one to put a positive spin on things, I have already calculated that it is only 51 days until half-term break.

It seems like the summer has gone by so fast. It doesn't feel like autumn should be here yet. The summer temperatures are still here - it was a warm 68ºF today and we are expected a downright toasty 77ºF on Saturday. Practically a heat wave.

Posted by david at 06:16 PM | Comments (0)

Many Years

Today is the beginning of the Orthodox Church year. In the West, it is also the commemoration of Righteous Abigail, the wife of the Prophet and King David. However, since there seems to be evidence, or at least good historical reasoning, that this commemoration pre-dates the Schism, we have adopted it as the name day for our own Abigail.

We have told Abby that it is her name day, but she seems fairly oblivious to this fact.

May God bless his handmaiden Abigail and grant her many years. Oh, and may she not marry a fool like Nabal, "harsh and evil in his doing" (NKJV) or "surly and mean in his dealings" (NIV). Hopefully she'll get a David the first time around.

Posted by david at 03:05 PM | Comments (1)

August 31, 2005

Many Years

Today is the feast of St Aidan of Lindisfarne, so it is name day at our house. This is the first of two consecutive namedays, as in the Western tradition predating the Schism, it is the remembrance of Righteous Abigail tomorrow.

Aidan likes to pray before our meals. I normally chant the Lord’s Prayer followed by a few petitions in addition the usual blessing of the food. (In fact, if you have asked for prayer for anything, that’s your best chance of getting a mention in our petitions.) Aidan hasn’t learned the Lord’s Prayer yet (we’ve gone over it a few times, but he can’t say it by himself). He still likes to sing “Christ is Risen”. I’ve explained that we only sing that between Pascha and Pentecost, but that’s one he always sings. He muddles up the words a bit:

Christ is Risen from the dead
Trampling down death, death, death
Upon those in the tombs bestowing life

He really likes the “death, death, death” bit and it seems pointless at this point to explain the theology of trampling down “death by death”. It is still re-enforcing the importance of the Resurrection in his mind.

St Aidan pray for us!

May God grant his servant Aidan many years!

Posted by david at 12:07 AM | Comments (2)

August 30, 2005

Memory Eternal

Twelve years ago today, the first of my first cousins died – the first of my paternal grandparents’ grandchildren. (This happened just hours before the accident in which I almost lost my life and did lose my leg.) My cousin Mary was only 32.

Posted by david at 03:13 PM | Comments (1)

August 28, 2005

Hiatus Hiatus

Trying to the get the phone line moved to our new residence has proved more difficult that I had imagined. When I rang several days ago about this, I found out that there has not been a BT line in the house since 1998 and an engineer would have to come out (at no charge, of course) to update the wiring and sockets.

The first available date for an engineer was in the third week of September.

So the broadband has not been disconnected at the old place to keep us online until we give up the keys there.

This means that for a few days I may upload a few blog entries here and there.

Posted by david at 11:29 AM | Comments (0)

August 24, 2005


We are moving house over the next few days. What with moving the phone number and finding a new broadband provider (since I can get at least 1MB for what I'm now paying for 512K), and not being able to figure out why my computer now refuses to connect to narrowband, I could be several day without uttering a bloging word.

See you on the other side.

Posted by david at 02:26 AM | Comments (1)

August 23, 2005

Memory Eternal and Just Memories

My great-grandmother, and Abigail Leticia's namesake, was born this day in 1859. It was also a Tuesday that year.

This is also the 28th anniversary of the founding of the only overtly Christian Star Trek fan club, run out of my bedroom with members throughout the US and Canada. I edited and published a monthly newsletter, to which I also contributed substantial content. At one point I got threatened with a libel action for something I said about a fanzine. Is it any wonder I didn't fit in very well in junior high?

After sending out all of those newsletters, I still remember one complete address (2119 Brookdale Avenue, Parma, OH 44134) and one Canadian post code (J0E 2N0 - which I always read as "joe two no"), and of course the names of those who lived there.

The most famous of my members (at least around our house) was Ginny Summers. I mention her by name to enshrine her in Google, as she's not found there. I don't know if she is alive. She would be about 81 now. She was from SW Missouri and used to write long, long letters to me describing, inter alia, the various social traumas from her youth which led her to become a recluse. She also contributed most of the artwork to the newsletter. I met her once, a number years later when I was in graduate school just on the other side of the 36º 30' (she lived at 36°40'48" North and I was living at 36°4'35" North, for those keeping score at home).

Tonight I was going to look up the only person who knew her whose name I remembered (I can't remember if he ever joined the Christian Trekkers). I found him on the Net. Or rather I should say I found tributes to him, as he died of pancreatic cancer in 2001 at the age of 37. He had become quite a mover and shaker in the world of "DXing" pirate radio stations. So he was no help, and may he rest in peace.

The Christian Trekkers began to disintegrate while I was visiting the Shire with my family for the first time in 1980, as our house was buglarised during our absence and books and files were taken. (Yes, it would require a unique burglar to be interested in materials relating to a Star Trek fan club.) These included story manuscripts for a fanzine I was planning to publish. Threats of litigation ensued when potential contributors assumed I had absconded with their work.

Perhaps I was playing a little above my head.

Posted by david at 04:26 AM | Comments (6)

August 21, 2005

Bladder Control

Aidan has developed a tendency to pee outdoors. I have no idea why. He started by peeing in the back garden. As our back garden is surrounded by houses and can been seen from all of them, Mrs H was horrified.

Then early one morning, he decided it was too much effort to go upstairs and instead chose instead to drag a toy box to the the front door, climb up and unlock it, move the toybox out of the way to open the door, and liberally water the concrete outside. Mrs H was more than horrified.

Today we were kicking around the football in the common land across the street when Aidie decided he had to go, so he prepared to go in the wide open. I convinced him to at least find a discreet area in front of some brush. He just told Mummy what he did. I'll let you guess the reaction.

Our new house (if we ever get moved) has two loos, so perhaps this will help us keep him indoors.

Posted by david at 06:19 PM | Comments (2)

August 15, 2005

Back to the Bush

Yesterday, we went back to West Midlands Safari Park on our free return ticket. If the previous trip this season was underwhelming, then I'm out of adjectives of mediocrity for this one. I don't know what they've done between last season and this for it to go so far downhill. It was as bad as the Bristol Zoo.

It was a good thing that we didn't spend £2.25 for a little box of food, because there weren't enough animals to have used it up. I don't know if there's been a food shortage for the carnivores. Maybe they are sending antelope into the big cat enclosures to cut back on the steak bill.

About the most exciting thing was watching a family of chavs with two of their children riding on the back of the sunroof, even when the signs said to lock windows, doors, and sunroofs. The boys looked to be about 9 and 6 years old. The 9-year-old was wearing a sovereign ring and the 6-year-old was sucking on a dummy.

At one point, the chavs were looking over at us and laughing. Mrs H suggested they were making fun of our complete lack of Burberry. Or it could have been Abby driving the car. I let her sit on my lap and she took the whole driving thing very seriously.

This was perfectly safe, as we were usually travelling about as fast as she can go in Aidan's foot-powered car stuck at the bottom of the garden. I can't imagine how much petrol was burned as we crawled along the four-mile track. Even though it was free, it was a waste of money.

Posted by david at 11:57 PM | Comments (2)

August 07, 2005

The Godfather I and II

Mrs H and I became godparents today. In fact we became godparents for the first and second time on the same day. Our godsons are twins.

We were both very honoured that the parents of the twins, who are brothers of Aidie's friend Harry, asked us.

After the service an older lady came up to Mrs H thinking she was the mother of the babies. After learning the truth of this matter, the lady turned to the twins' father and asked if he was the father. He replied that he was. She queried further, "Of both of them?"

Posted by david at 11:22 PM | Comments (1)

July 30, 2005

Hot Off the Press

The latest Mental Meanderings is now available.

Posted by david at 06:39 PM | Comments (1)

July 29, 2005

Struck Down

The tummy bug has hit the Holford household. It started with Abby, who seems to have recovered. Aidie and I were in expulsion mode last night and still quesy this morning, and now Mrs H has succumbed.

Not my favourite way to spend the summer holidays.

Posted by david at 09:49 AM | Comments (2)

July 25, 2005

The Swedish Berry Conspiracy

The first Monday of the summer holidays is here and it was time for a family outing. In anticipation of a probable change of bricks and mortar, we went on an exploratory mission to Ikea in Cardiff in search of suitable furnishings.

While we found some things we might get and others that looked good in the catalog, but failed the multiple sensory test, the most importance thing about the whole trip was food. We always time our visits to Ikea to incorporate the Swedish meatballs and gravy with a dollop of lingonberry sauce.

Herein lies the true wonder of the world of Ikea: the lingonberry. Who had heard of it before? Okay, maybe except for Michael Peterson and other persons of Swedish genes who may wander into this blog. The lingonberry sauce with the meatballs is just the start. The meal must be washed down with copius amounts of lingonberry juice from the restaurant fountain.

Then on the way out of Ikea, there are various lingonberry products on sale. These include jam, which I am eating right now with peanut butter on bread. And there's cordial to make your own lingonberry drink.

Fond of cherry coke? Or did you grow up around a Dairy Queen that would make a vanilla rootbeer on request? Joining these elixirs is the lingonberry Dr Pepper. Just on a whim, I splashed some of the cordial into Waco's greatest contribution to the world and a new flavour combination was born.

The lingonberry is related to the cranberry, blueberry, bilberry, and huckleberry (genus Vaccinium). These all have something in common. They are false berries. Imposters. Scandalous. You think you're eating a berry, but no. And you've no idea until your hooked. Then there's no going back. As evidence, I'm now on my second peanut butter and lingonberry sandwich.

This whole false berry is much more widespread than you might imagine. There are false berries that are unrelated to the Vaccinium. These include the banana and the watermelon.

Posted by david at 11:11 PM | Comments (8)

July 22, 2005


At just after 6:00 p.m., I locked the doors to my classroom for the last time and drove away.

The kids left at 12:30 and it couldn't have come any sooner. My form were acting like animals - racing around the classroom, throwing chairs, climbing on tables, and paying no heed to anything I said. Of course there were the handful of good ones and I will miss them. Those were the ones who actually said goodbye to me when they left.

This was after my one lesson for the day. All they had to do was watch a film. Couldn't do it. Maybe half a dozen out of two and half dozen paid attention. I had to take a football off one group of boys while others played in the tunnels created by the tables.

If it wasn't for the student who brought me a card in which she had written that I was the best RE teacher she had ever had, it would have been a really bad day.

After the staff lunch that went on until 4:00, I went back to my room to finish cleaning it out. I am actually surprised that I got it done in just a couple of hours. Even with all the evilness endured this year, it was still with a little sadness that I closed this chapter of my life. Before I left my room, I prayed for all of my form (yes, even the ones I despise).

Now I have six weeks to get ready for the next chapter.

Posted by david at 09:17 PM | Comments (2)

July 20, 2005

Two Days

One lesson each day. That and a lot of cleaning up to do.

I filled the dumpster with miscellaneous crap today before I came home. I only scratched the surface. Tomorrow I will have it all distributed between the department offices and the bin, so I don't have to stay late on Friday.

Light at the end of the tunnel.

Posted by david at 11:31 PM | Comments (0)

July 18, 2005

When All Is Said and Done

Today I had my last lesson with 8F1. That's top set Year 8 in the French band. They are the only good group I've had this year.

We have been doing a unit on the power of words. I finished off the year with a lesson on reconciliation, using the Mike and the Mechanics song "The Living Years". At the end of the lesson, I gave my little farewell speech to them. I told them about my brother and how life is sometimes sorter than we anticipate. I encouraged them, amongst other things, to never leave unsaid the things that ought to be said.

About five minutes after the lesson was over and everyone had left, two of my particuarly good students reappeared at my door. The spokesgirl of them reminded me of what I had said about not leaving things unsaid. She said that they just wanted to let me know how much they liked me and how much they enjoyed having me as a teacher and that they were going to miss me.

Two periods later, when I was dealing with one of my particularly bad groups, I thought back on what the 8F1 girls had said and it made it all worth while.

Posted by david at 11:40 PM | Comments (2)

July 16, 2005


Mrs H hates t-shirts. Well, she hates me wearing t-shirts with any sort of writing on them. She says they are scruffy and refuses to be seen in public with me if I am wearing one.

I do have scruffy ones, like my Arkansas Razorback shirt that since 1990 has become more holes than shirt. Or even my Indiana Law shirt where the big block letters have faded a bit with time - I've had that since 90 or 91. But she even complains about my Indianapolis Indians shirt which I got free at an Indians game in the late 90s and is still is perfect condition.

If it is a proper t-shirt, not some sort of knit Polo-type shirt, it is not fit for public viewing.

Does anyone else have perfectly good clothing that they are prevented from wearing due to domestic pressure, or am I unique in this?

Posted by david at 11:43 PM | Comments (0)

July 14, 2005

Why PYO?

As I mentioned on Saturday, we like to pick our own fruit, but there didn't seem to be any PYO farms about. Driving up to the location of our Year 7 activity day, I passed a farm that advertised PYO, so I thought I would check it out on the way home.

This afternoon I drove down the long road to farm to see what they had. They we short of strawberries and raspberries, though they were expecting more to ripen at the weekend.

We had been used to paying about 60p/lb. Their price? £1.20/lb. No thanks. There doesn't deem to be any overall shortage of fruit. The farm shop had lots of punnets of already pick and packaged strawberrys, cherries, and other fruit. Perhaps its just the free market - they know they can get the prices for the picked fruit, so why offer the other at an attractive price?

Tesco is still their "value" cherries fairly cheap right now, so we been eat lots of those. But I still haven't had fresh strawberries and cream.

Posted by david at 05:21 PM | Comments (0)

July 13, 2005

The Heat is On

Tomorrow is Activity Day and then there are six more teaching days. Actually for me, there are only five days and one period, since we go off timetable after Period 2 on the last Friday and that's normally a free period for me.

It has been in the upper 80s the last couple of days. While that may not seem like very hot to you, bear in mind that my classroom has no air conditioning, no fans, and windows that barely open. Even without an additional 30 bodies, it can be quite stifling.

The heat also seems to get to the heads of a number of students. Yesterday I was involved in three violent incidents - two of which I witnessed and other of which I had to sort out the aftermath. Only one actually resulted in bloodshed.

I know of at least two other incidents yesterday. One was between two Year 6 students. Yesterday was new intake day, when the Year 6's visit the school and meet everyone in their new form (homeroom) and their new form tutor. It's their first impression of the school and the school's first impression of them. What a way to make an impression.

Posted by david at 11:31 PM | Comments (0)

July 09, 2005

Soft Fruit

The Shire is one of great the soft fruit centres of the UK. One of the great Holford family traditions is to go to one of the many PYO farms and pick sizable quanities of stawberries and raspberries. We have often done this several times during the picking season. With stawberries at 60p a pound or so, this was very much worth the effort.

This year there seem to be no pick-your-own facilities. Seems fruit farmers would rather pick their own and sell them in the punnets for £3. I found one PYO farm, but it is so far away that the petrol cost will exceed the savings.

It's already July and I don't think I've had strawberries and cream even once.

Posted by david at 11:07 AM | Comments (0)

Demon Spawn

Nine more days.

Yesterday I discovered that I was having my last lesson with one of my worst groups. There are two more school weeks left, but their lesson falls on Activity Day next week and the last lesson of the day on the last Friday - the day the kids go home at lunchtime.

I needed to get through 3 weeks of material in one hour and true to form they worked very hard at avoiding any learning. There were about eight in the group that wanted to learn, but the other 23 made sure that this would not happen.

I continue to be amazed at the depravity and immaturity (and isn't that a nasty combination) of kids I teach. They find it impossible to obey even the most fundamental of instructions. Each year group seems more immature than the one before. Apparently this year's intake from Year 6 is even worse than the current Year 7 was a year ago.

This does not bode well for the future of our society. Falling birth rates mean that there will be fewer and fewer people leaving school and entering the workforce. More and more of these are unemployable as anything other than video game testers. Thankfully many of them are apathetic about politics, and the last place I would want to see them is the voting booth.

Posted by david at 10:31 AM | Comments (0)

July 07, 2005

Far, Far Away

For all who have expressed concerned for our welfare in the aftermath of the London attacks, the Shire is 130 miles from the capital and we are fine.

Mrs H happened to turn on the telly this morning just as the blasts happened and watched developments live. I didn't hear about it until three hours later when a teaching assistant told me about it.

There are 38 families suffering loss tonight. Over 700 have been injured.

Lord have mercy.

Posted by david at 11:23 PM | Comments (4)

June 25, 2005

Telling Time

Aidan has made the transition from asking about the order of the days to being able to explain them. There's no more "What's after Tuesday, Daddy? What's after Wednesday?"

This morning he was going through the days and he got to Friday and said, "Then it's Saturday again! 'Round and 'round and 'round. It always comes back around." He just doesn't realise that at my age, it comes around just about that fast.

It seems just like yesterday that I was sitting here working on reports.

And Monday comes around just as fast.

But only four weeks now, Andrew.

Posted by david at 09:28 AM | Comments (0)

June 23, 2005

Working Hard for the Money

Because I don't want it to get lost in the comments below, I have decided to respond to a comment with a full post. In reponse to the post "Five Weeks" Andrew Duffin commented: Teachers - "half a day for half the year".


I'm expected to work 60 hours a week for £5,000 less than the national average salary. I get a total of 13 weeks of holiday per year. 39 weeks x 60 hours = 2340 hours per year. Compare that to 48 weeks x 37.5 hours = 1800 hours per year. That means that I work 1.3 times more than someone who works a statutory week with a statutory holiday. We'll set aside for the moment that I'm also expected to do marking, planning, report writing, etc., during all but my six weeks in the summer.

And then there's the 25 of those hours each week when I am trapped in a small room with anywhere from 20-30 badly behaved teenagers. That doesn't include break duty, lunch duty, after school duty, detentions, after school revision clubs, etc.

And then there's the parents evenings, open evenings, etc. Tonight was Year 8 parents evening. I arrived at school today at 8:00am. I left at 9:00pm. From before 6:00pm until 9:00pm, I met with some of the parents of the 120 Year 8s I teach each week, so they could discuss the report I wrote about their child's progress.

And I'll even ignore my own situation as an amputee criss-crossing a 14-acre campus many times each day, with most of the places I have go being upstairs.

Half a day for half the year?

Posted by david at 11:32 PM | Comments (4)

June 21, 2005


Today is the longest day of the year. There will be daylight outside until nearly 11:00 tonight.

At least the heat of the day is gone. I know it's nothing like the 104°F on a pickup truck mirror in south Texas, but we have had it about as hot as it gets here. Mrs H got rid of some of our junk at a car boot sale on Sunday and we were starting to get sunburned before we could even get set up.

We've been sleeping with the windows open and the oscillating fan has been going when Abby's asleep. Unfortunately, she is just tall and curious enough to get her fingers inside the blade guard.

Today there was a dip in the temperature, but it's headed back up over the next couple of days. Could reach the upper 80s again. And before you think about how comfortable that would be, remember that we don't have air conditioning for our bodies acclimatised to living at 52°N latitude. This is roughly the same as Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.

Posted by david at 09:56 PM | Comments (0)

June 20, 2005


Today I was informed that I have passed my NQT year. I can now teach forever in this country.

Last August, I briefly mentioned how becoming a teacher works in this country. If you remember, forgive the redunancy. For those who may be unware, Qualified Teacher Status can be obtained in several different ways. I got a Post-graduate Certificate in Education, or PGCE as it is known in this kingdom of endless intials, abbreviations and acronyms. With that came Qualified Teacher Status (QTS).

Someone with QTS must then spend a year as an NQT - Newly Qualified Teacher - and satisfy a local education authority (LEA), through the auspices of the induction programme at a school, that the NQT is suitable to teach. The difference is that one can get several bites of the apple when it comes to getting a PGCE, but the NQT year is a one-time-only thing. Either you make or you don't and if you don't you are forever barred from teaching at any level. So today was important.

Posted by david at 08:02 PM | Comments (6)

June 17, 2005

Five Weeks

It is now only five weeks to the end of the year. Then I get six weeks until school starts again.

I know we get more holiday time during the school year itself, but it would be nice to have three months of in the summer like teachers in the States.

Posted by david at 08:45 PM | Comments (2)

June 15, 2005


I think June is my favourite month of the year in the UK. Being in the final crunch to get all my books marked and everything else that has to be done has put a bit of a dampener on the usual euphoria, but nonetheless I like June.

I first met Mrs H in person in June a few years ago. It is a good month for meeting someone, because the days are long and warm. Good for long walks and picnics in the evening. There is daylight until after 10:00 pm. There seem to be more clear nights when the sky fades into purple and the stars come out.

As I write this, the current temperature is 87F and the heat index 94F in my home town, and that is only because the heat of the day has past. It appears that at its peak the temperature today was even higher than the heat index is now. The temperature today in the Shire was about 64F. By Saturday we will be in the throes of a heat wave with tempertures reaching 80F. Fortunately it will be back in the 70's by the start of the work week.

Posted by david at 11:08 PM | Comments (2)

June 11, 2005

My Other Website

I have updated my other website recently. Enjoy. The website, obviously - not the Red Lion.

Posted by david at 09:57 AM | Comments (2)

June 05, 2005

Home Invasion

We have ants. Everywhere.

We can't figure out where they are coming from. It's hard to tell where they are going. They don't seem to be carrying ten times their weight in food anywhere. They aren't marching in long queues. They just seem to wander aimlessly. Sometimes they are alone, sometimes in small groups. They don't seem particularly vicious, as there are no reports of bites or other attacks.

They just don't want to go away.

Posted by david at 12:37 PM | Comments (2)

June 04, 2005

A Hairy Situation

During the last week, I tried to grow back the full beard I had for about twenty years. I was only going to keep it for a few weeks. Just for old times sake. I made it through a couple of days before Mrs H figured out what was going on. After four days she refused to be seen with me in public unless I shaved.

Alas, I bowed to the pressure. Back to the goatee to which she begrudgingly compromises. She only agreed to that after we had lunch with friends in Texas a couple of years ago and all the men had goatees. They may have all gone clean-shaven by now, but it will be be so long before we see any of them again, I'm not worried.

Posted by david at 09:11 PM | Comments (2)

The Week That Was

We are back from our week in Cheddar and half-term is almost over. All that’s left is the remainder of the weekend and the scramble to get things ready for Monday.

On Friday, Mrs H and I visited two more of the attractions on our Explorer ticket. We started at Cox’s Cave, the first “show cave” developed in Cheddar. Mr Cox was the uncle of Mr Gough, whose cave we had visited earlier. Cox’s Cave was smaller, but prettier and more cave-like than Gough’s.

However, given its smallness, it seems the owner, the present Marquess of Bath (Messr Cox and Gough having been tenants of the 4th Marquess), or whichever of his minions is responsible for this part of the estate, has decided to enliven the experience a bit. One of the passageways and chambers has been stocked with waxworks resembling creatures from Lord of the Rings. Not only that, but the audio story completely rips off Tolkien’s work. There’s elves and men and a wizard with a staff (named Randolph or some such). The evil lord is named Mordor (strange idea to rip off the name of a person using the name of a place, but whatever). Then there’s a dragon (anybody read the Hobbit?) in a cave.

The best bit was actually a teenage boy in either a monk’s habit or a very long hoody standing perfectly still until people pass by and then jumping out at them an shouting, causing girls to scream and wet themselves. At least I assume he was a paid employee of the Bath estate. I suppose it is just as likely that he is a teenager with an ASBO and nothing to do over half-term.

After we emerged from the Middle-earth copyright violation, we went up the road to the Cheddar Man exhibition. This was mostly an advert for evolution mixed in with anthropological and archaeological speculation. Cheddar Man is the oldest complete skeleton found in Britain – dated at some 9000 BP. Never heard of “BP” before? I’m a trained historian and neither had I. It is a novel dating system meaning “before the present” or “years ago”. Whilst it serves the purpose of removing any reference to any person or Person of religious significance, it certainly has limitations. Very broad references to 9,000 years ago are one thing, but try referring to things more specific. After all, I was born in 41 BP. However, next year I’d have to change my birth date to 42 BP. History books would have to be revised every year. The Battle of Hastings may have occurred in 938 BP, but after October 15, it will be 939 BP. And how confusing will this be if one of my Year 7 students in five years time picks up a textbook?

Posted by david at 05:09 PM | Comments (0)

June 02, 2005

Underground Hymns

While the grandparents watched Aidan and Abby, Mrs H and I had part of the morning to ourselves. We bought explorer tickets for the Cheddar Caves and Gorge. This includes a number of attractions, but fortunately the tickets are good for ten years, if that's how long it takes to visit each of the sites.

After taking the open top bus ride up the gorge, we visited the largest of the caverns, Gough's Cave. While not exactly Mammoth or Carslbad, it was quite interesting. When we reached the last of the rooms, the audio tour told us about the discovery of this underground jewel.

Even though he broke through to it in the middle of the night, Mr Gough, being a religious man, immediately trekked the quarter-mile back to his house, got his familyout of bed, dragged them all the way back to the end of the cave (and it wasn't as easy to get back there as it is today) and they sang hymns until dawn. How they knew it was dawn, the audio guide didn't explain, but perhaps somebody remembered to take a pocket watch. Given the acoustics of the room, I'm sure it was a captivating sound.

Posted by david at 08:57 PM | Comments (0)

May 29, 2005

Out with the New, In with the Old

Well I may have a new job for September, but I have to get through all the responsibilities of the old one until July 22. Even though it is currently half-term break, I still have all these Year 7 reports to write (about 20 down and 35 to go) and I need to mark countless exercise books.

I am going to make some time for my family, especially with trans-Atlantic grandparents visiting grandchildren for the week. Tomorrow it is off to Aidan's favourite sort of attraction - a farm park. Of course as it is Bank Holiday Monday as well as half-term, the roads and the attractions should be teeming with the unwashed masses.

Posted by david at 10:16 PM | Comments (0)

May 27, 2005


As I mentioned in recent comments, I went for another interview yesterday. It took more than a day for them to decide, but I got the job. And this time it isn't a temporary job covering for someone else (though I'm grateful to have had that). It is permanent.

Though it is in a state school, with a lot of comparative religion (and in this case a lot of Buddhism, about which I know nothing right now), I really like the Head of Department and think I will get along well there.

I also hope a lot of the kids are like the ones in the interview lesson. They were quite well-behaved, especially for Year 8s (7th graders).

It is also a good school by reputation and situated locally. In fact, it is the best state school in the city and the only one with more that 50% A*-C at GCSE. It is better than the LEA average and this LEA is ranked 41st out of 148.

Posted by david at 11:45 PM | Comments (5)

May 24, 2005

A Good Teacher

In July 2003, I noted the passing of the first teacher I really hated. Today, in exactly the same manner as before, I came across the death of one of my favourite teachers.

Coach DeBruin's reputation preceded him when I moved from Madison Elementary to Travis Junior High. I'm not sure why he was so famous. It may have been that he was a firm disciplinarian - these were, after all, the days when a teacher could take unruliness in their own hands - or more specifically the unruly in one hand and a slim piece of wood in the other. Anyhow, I entered 7th grade science with a certain fear and trepidation.

I later learned that he enhanced his reputation by sometimes taking a miscreant into the hallway and then striking the paddle sharply against the sole of his shoe - resulting in a gunshot-like rapport heard throughout the Science Building.

Coach DeBruin didn't teach PE. He coached football and taught Athletics - the PE that football, basketball, and other jocks took between sports seasons. That I didn't have him as a PE teacher no doubt kept him in my good books, though no doubt the administration didn't take this into consideration when they put together his teaching timetable.

He was always approachable. I was quite into the sciences in my youth and especially into the creation-evolution debate. As far as I remember Coach DeBruin was theistic evolutionist. I'm sure I pelted him with a steady stream of questions to prise from him his views and disagree with them - a tactic which I was rapidly developing into a most annoying habit by that time. He always treated my questions and views with respect. It has been so long ago (29 years now) that I can't even remember any specifics - just lasting impressions.

I hope that 29 years from now - though hopefully I won't be dead - at least some of my students will have a positive lasting impression of their time under my tutelage.

Coach DeBruin briefly left teaching for industry, but within a couple of years he was back. I guess it was just in his blood.

I wonder how many teachers today were inspired by his example.

Tommy DeBruin was 68 when he died last week. May his memory be eternal.

Posted by david at 09:54 PM | Comments (0)

May 23, 2005

Too Catholic

While I'm in the middle of completing another job application, I should mention that I didn't get the job I went for on Thursday. What a strange experience. I was gutted.

In the Tuesday interviews I was clearly the underdog. On Thursday, I can't see how I could have been anything other than the front-runner. The other candidate was a very nice man, but I couldn't understand most of what he said. How the Year 9s he taught managed to do so, I don't know.

I took my lesson from Tuesday - the one rated Excellent - and following the advice of the headteacher from the Tuesday school, I used it. I did an even better job of it, despite having no prep time in the classroom and a dodgy connection from my laptop to the projector that was being worked on even while the students were being ushered into the classroom.

I even had the harder group to teach. They mixed up classes to make the playing field more level, but he had the top-set boys and the second set girls, while I had the reverse. Second set boys are inherently less well behaved that top set. Nonetheless, I got them involved and it was still a better lesson than last time.

In the very brief debrief I got from the Head of Department - since the Headteacher left the building after they appointed the other bloke - the poor quality of the lesson was sited as one of the reasons I didn't get the job. The observers (two of them, each watching half of the lesson) were not a part of the interview panel, but submitted an observation sheet. They gave it a 3 - Satisfactory - on the 1 to 5 scale. I was shocked.

Another reason given was that I didn't say enough in the interview about other religions. I was only given one question, which was whether I agreed with Pope John Paul when he said that Islam was a deficient religion. At a Catholic school I thought it would be safe to agree with the Holy Father. Wrong. While giving all the usual deference to other religions - the standard stuff about how they have elements of truth - I said that The Truth is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Too radical, I suppose.

I add insult to injury, I spoke to my Catholic priest reference for both jobs today. He had spoken to the Tuesday school on Friday and found out that I hadn't gotten the job. They told him I was an outstanding teacher. When he asked why they didn't give me the job, they said, "Well, the other candidate was local (she wasn't - but she was Welsh) and was looking to move back to the area."

Posted by david at 12:00 AM | Comments (5)

May 21, 2005

All in a Weekend's Work

It has gotten to where I only have time to write on the weekend and now I don't even have that. I have about 60 exercise books to mark and 50 Year 7 reports to write. Teaching isn't one of those jobs where you can just go to work at 7:00, get abused by teenagers all day, and get home by 6:30. If it was that easy, everyone would be doing it. No, we are expected to put in a couple of hours a night and a few on the weekend - otherwise where's the 60-hour week? Can't have teachers being slackers. After all, I get paid within £5,000 of the national average salary. If I meet my performance management targets, I might even earn the national average for a statutory 37-hour-a week job within the next five years!

It is also the parish mid-year meeting today, which includes an hour drive each way.

I need to complete more job applications (including the creation of lengthy why-you-really-should-give-me-this-job-no-really-honest-really letters), because I didn't get the job on Thursday either (seems having English as a first language and agreeing with the views of the Pope at a Catholic school were a bit of a disadvantage, but maybe more on that latter).

I'm actually writing this while I'm shovelling Shreddies into the human hoover that is Abigail.

Well, Abby's done, so I suppose I am too.

Posted by david at 08:18 AM | Comments (1)

May 17, 2005


I went for an interview today. I came in second. There were only two candidates.

Actually, if the post-interview debrief was honest - and I have no reason to believe it wasn't - I taught a better sample lesson. The headteacher told me that if I could use that lesson again in another interview situation, I should. The observers rated it as a 1 (Excellent) on the Ofsted scale of 1 to 5.

I lost out in the previous experience department when it came to particular things they wanted.

I actually think the successful candidate will fit the department better. She seem to hit it off very well with the head of the department. Also the head of the department doesn't like Benedict XVI. At a Catholic school.

Oh well. I have another interview on Thursday.

Posted by david at 09:53 PM | Comments (2)

May 14, 2005

It's My Party and I'll Cry If I Want To

That's what Abby did during much of her birthday party today. She's been fussy the last few days thanks to infections in both ears.

We had quite a crowd at our tiny place. Grandparents, godparents, and other various friends and family. Eight kids aged 3 years down to 3 months. Loads of food on the barbie. Loads of desserts. All done by Mrs H.

As best I remember, I had three chicken kebabs, a Chinese chicken thigh, pasta, garlic bread, salad, two pieces of Raspberry Royal (contains raspberry Angel Delight, double cream, swiss roll, gelatin, with raspberries mixed in and on top), one piece of cherry cream pie (sweet condensed milk, double cream, lemon juice, and a can of cherry pie filling in a cheesecake-type base), and one piece of white chocolate pie (white chocolate, marshmallows, dream topping, pecans, and glace cherries), and one piece of birthday cake (shaped and decorated as a butterfly).

I didn't eat any salmon, burgers, sausages, small cakes, party rings, or fruit salad -- though I managed a bit of the fruit salad a little while ago before Mrs H finished it off.

I'm still not hungry. I think I can fit in another piece of pie before bed, though.

Posted by david at 09:24 PM | Comments (1)

May 12, 2005


Could it be that Year 8 reports are done? Now I have to do Year 7 reports...

Posted by david at 02:29 AM | Comments (2)

May 11, 2005

Happy Birthday

Today is Abby's first birthday.

It is hard to believe that one year ago right now Mrs H was in the middle of a c-section and we were about to get a surprise as Edwin Dean was nowhere to be found.

Posted by david at 07:32 PM | Comments (3)

May 04, 2005

Another Memory Eternal

Today is the first anniversary of the death of Mrs H's very beloved grandfather.

As is the Orthodox custom, your prayers for the peaceful repose of Edwin are much appreciated.

May Grampy's memory be eternal.

Posted by david at 03:06 AM | Comments (1)

May 03, 2005


I have been marking Year 10 coursework on abortion until my eyes are more blurred than clear.

And I still have more to go.

Posted by david at 11:59 AM | Comments (2)

May 02, 2005

Memory Eternal

I don't think it's like this anymore. Used to be, no one under 12 was allowed upstairs in the hospital. At 5, I was very much under 12. I can still remember being taken up to the nursery area and looking through the glass. It was May 1969.

Today my brother would have turned 36.

May his memory be eternal.

Posted by david at 11:10 PM | Comments (3)

April 23, 2005

Countdown Continues

Only five weeks to half-term.

Posted by david at 08:19 AM | Comments (1)

April 16, 2005

Richard and Judy and the Faux Prodigy

I find it very irritating when some TV chat show like Richard and Judy finds some little kid that they think is so brainy and amazing and show him off. Last week they had a three-year-old who could name four countries, counted form one to ten in Spanish (with his mother saying each word before he said it), and he could name the letters in "Richard" and "Judy".

Why haven't they found my child? Aidan just turned three and he can spell out words and read them. He understands why "P" makes one sound and "Ph" sounds like "f". If I wanted him to count in Spanish I could get him to do it in a morning. And four countries? Four? We've stopped counting countries with Aidie. He can name six continents. He can identify all of the countries of North America (including all of Central America), some of South America, much of Europe, Southeast Asia, a few bits of Africa, and of course Australia.

Mrs H has insisted that I include a disclaimer that she does not approve of my boasting. In the same breath, she made sure I remembered that he doesn't need the map to talk about countries. He thinks about countries in terms of events and news stories. For example, if he sees big waves on the telly, he asks if that's Indonesia and comments that it is where the tsunami was and that lots of people died. He talks about which countries are next to other countries. He remembers what colours they are on the political map.

Just now, Mrs H said, "What's a red country on the map?" "Honduras." "Is the United Kingdom red?" "No! It blue!" "What's a red country that starts with Red Robot?"(the phonetic character) "Russia!" Then I asked, "What colour is Thailand?" "Brown." "What is between Portugal and France?" "Spain!"

Aidan started nursery school this week. At last he will start learning things. I forgot to ask the school about their world geography curriculum. I don't want him falling behind.

Mrs H won't let me ring Richard and Judy so they can have an actual smart child to show off to the British public.

Posted by david at 11:01 AM | Comments (1)

Numbering My Days

With the comments going on in a previous post, I should mention that these ages come from one of those inter questionaires - in this case The Longevity Game which I found over on Philippa's blog. I originally left my age prediction there.

After filling in the questions, it says I should live to be 82. By altering my answers, I can see what I could do to increase the amount of time Mrs H has to care for me in my dotage. If I'd eat more than five portions of fruit and veg a day, it would go up to 85 - did have five yesterday, so I'm going in the right direction. Don't tell Mrs H, but if I also lost 25 lbs, it would go up to 87. If, in addition to all that, I didn't have a speeding ticket in last three years - which would be the case in about three years, except for the continued proliferation of cameras - and could change my exercise from "Not Active" to "Somewhat Active", it would go up to 91.

So have a go, and leave youir predictions here if you like.

Posted by david at 09:46 AM | Comments (2)

April 15, 2005

The Countdown

It is now only six weeks to half-term.

As you can tell from my lack of posting, it has been a busy week. Now this weekend will be a combination of completing job applications, finishing Year 10 reports, and Liturgy.

Posted by david at 11:27 PM | Comments (4)

April 10, 2005

Back to the Chalkface

The Easter holiday has come to a close.

Tomorrow it all begins again.

Posted by david at 11:35 PM | Comments (1)

April 08, 2005

Place Your Bets

I still don't know which horse to back in the Grand National tomorrow.

The first year I placed my token bet, there was a horse called David's Lad. Given that Aidan was a little over two months old, and that the horse was joint second favourite at the start, this seemed the obvious choice. Unfortunately he fell at the 27th fence.

I'm tempted to put my money on perennial entrant Ad Hoc - a joint second favourite with David's Lad in 2002, and also brought now in the melee at the 27th, but this year an outsider at 40-1. Because this was the name of my band, it would appear to be the one with which I have the closest connection. But even though I bet for fun, I would like to have a chance to win. That being said, my traditional £2 on an each way single at 40-1 would yield a tidy sum. £100 by my calculation. (£80 on the win stake and £20 on the place - am I right?)

As you can see, it is very unlikely that I will follow in the footsteps of my late great-uncle Butler Holford, who was a professional gambler.

Posted by david at 02:04 AM | Comments (3)

April 05, 2005

Barren Plains

Today we returned for another visit to the West Midland Safari Park. Unlike our previous visit, I was not very impressed. This time we weren't charged by a rhino. We weren't charged by anything.

We bought a box of food to feed the herbivorous residents. Last time they were at our car from the moment we entered the enclosure. This time we were met by a lone member of a very large deer or cow breed - with these African animals you can never be sure which.

I'm not sure I'm happy with the idea of them charging me to feed their animals. Seems it should be the other way around. The tiny box of pellets we bought cost £2.25. That's right, on top of the entrance fee of £8 per person (aged 4 and over), we paid to do their job. And it's not like this rabbit food was anything special. We saw park rangers carting around wheelbarrows full of it.

Next time we will just take some generic pellets from the pet store. No one should say anything to us. After all, they didn't say anything to the people that were feeding whole unpeeled bananas to the giraffes.

Yes, they had giraffes, but only about three of them and they were at the end of the 4-mile, 90-minute journey. There were a couple of zebras as well. I can't imagine to where the animals from our last visit disappeared. It was like everyone was on holiday, visiting family in the Serengeti.

I was disappointed for Aidan, because he had been much younger on our previous visit - 3 months short of his 2nd birthday. He didn't even remember being there before. This time he had more of an appreciation for the animals - at least the ones that were there.

Every paid visit to the park comes with a voucher for a free return visit during the same year. If we take the opportunity to go back before November, when the park shuts for the winter, I hope there is a bit more excitement. By then Abby will at least notice what is happening and will be able to feed the animals, even if she will eventually forget the experience.

Posted by david at 11:16 PM | Comments (0)

April 04, 2005

Old News, Good News, and Renting Asphalt

I found out today that the Baltic States (Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia) are moving toward independence. They may soon be free from Soviet dominance. At least that's what the magazine in the waiting room at the hospital said. It's always good to stay abreast of current events while spending those last few minutes on the month-long NHS waiting list.

I also found out that the spot on my face is nothing to worry about, nor do I need to be concerned about a few moles that have popped up. I'm trusting this information was more up-to-date than the 1990 National Geographic in the waiting room.

Mrs H suggested that someone should arranged for more contemporary periodicals to be donated to the hospital instead being throw away.

I was late for my appointment because I couldn't find a parking space. I suppose if they keep the number of parking spaces down, then fewer people will show up for appointments. The NHS (or the local council) has given the car park to a private company. So, unlike other public car parks, handicapped motorists only get a concession if they are parked in the limited number of marked handicapped spaces.

Today I didn't make the cripple quota, so I had to pay to park. Of course being a cripple, I didn't think I needed to have any change in my pocket. So, late for my appointment before I even found a able body space, I had to get change for a fiver from the shop inside the hospital to pay £1.50 for up to three hours rent on piece of asphalt. As pay parking goes that's not a bad rate. I just shouldn't have had to pay.

Posted by david at 09:13 PM | Comments (0)

April 03, 2005

Many Years

Today is my father's 73rd birthday.

We didn't get cards in the post in time. I just hope the presents got there.

Posted by david at 01:32 AM | Comments (2)

April 01, 2005

Driving Up the Cost of Living

We got our new Council Tax bill yesterday.

Council Tax is like property tax, only everyone pays it, even if you rent. Properties are grouped in bands. We are in the second lowest band.

Though we have moved house a couple of time since we got married, we are in the same band as the first place we rented. In that time - almost exactly five years (for several months after we were married we lived in the rented room/house share that Mrs H already occupied) - our Council Tax bill (which includes separate charges for the police, fire, and local parish [a poltical subdivision, not the C of E church] has increased by 50%.

It used to be that Band "B" cost £60 a month. It is now £94 ($180) a month. The Shire's Council claim this year's increase is the smallest in history.

The only part of it that hasn't increased it the tiny parish charge. The £11.28 for the year has actually gone down by 33.4% this year. Strangely they've had to virtually shut down our excuse for a local library.

Posted by david at 12:36 AM | Comments (3)

March 27, 2005

Will Walk for Food

Abby could have been walking much sooner. It is clear to me now.

All the time we could have been using a version of the carrot and the stick. Yesterday I had a piece of banana and held it just out of her reach. Abby likes banana. A lot. She was standing in the middle of the room when I offered her some. Momentarily, her gluttony got the better of her fear as she stepped forward to get it.

So now all we have to do is lead her around the room with fruit.

Posted by david at 05:12 PM | Comments (0)

March 25, 2005

The Journey Begins

Today Abby took her first unaided steps. She has been cruising the furniture for months, but finally at 10 months and 14 days she set out on her own. Okay, it was only three steps, but it's a start.

It has only been an issue of confidence. She stands in the middle of the floor and dances. She will even walk with just the slightest touch on her hand or arm. It is the striking out on her own that she's been contemplating for so long.

Not that she has needed to walk to get around our tiny house. She can race on her knees from one end to the other in no time. She has also been climbing the stairs. Very rapidly. Closing the stair gate when going up stairs for even the quickest errand has become essential, or she will be following behind.

Still, it is a key development when a child becomes fully bipedal. They soon leave behind everything that made them a baby. They lose a significant part of that helplessness. It the first declaration of the independence they will grow into day by day until they finally leave home.

Posted by david at 11:47 PM | Comments (1)

March 24, 2005

School's Out

Thanks to the Western Calendar of movable feasts, my Easter holiday began at 3:10 pm today.

Now I have two weeks to sit back and relax. And mark Year 10 mock exams, Year 9 practice exams, write Year 10 reports, and whatever else is lurking in my bag.

Posted by david at 11:44 PM | Comments (0)

March 16, 2005

Birthday Haul

I'm glad my wife is much better with presents than I am. I generally do a terrible job of getting anything for her or anyone else.

I actually received my first presents on the 14th because Aidie couldn't wait any longer and I was then able to make use of them on my birthday. Before he went to bed, he came in with a package and said, "Here's your t-shirt and tie!" He calls all shirts t-shirts. It was a nice blue dress shirt and a very nice tie. I always need ties. I get tired of using the same ones over and over - I have about 30 or so, but there are a limited number that go with the shirts I currently wear.

Yesterday I got a book and four icons. Two of them are large, 8x10s of the Last Supper and of St Antony the Great. Two are little and are reversable, both with Christ on one side and St Christopher on the other. They came free with the othe icons. The icons are from Greece and from the same eBay seller from whom we have purchase icons in the past.

Now we just have to find a place for them.

Posted by david at 08:57 PM | Comments (1)

I Can Write Properly

Well, Huw did it and so did Philippa, so I took the English quiz to check my grammar and vocabulary.

My Result:
100% Beginner, 100% Intermediate, 93% Advanced, and 100% Expert!

Posted by david at 08:29 PM | Comments (1)

March 15, 2005

40 No More

Older? Yes.
Wiser? No.

Goodbye 40. Hello 41.

Posted by david at 12:49 AM | Comments (6)

March 05, 2005

Saturday of the Dead Cow

We made the regular Saturday visit to the city centre today. Aidan wanted to have lunch at "Marks Expensives" but I saw the specials board outside a pub and thought it looked cheap. It wasn't one of those pubs that cooks from scratch. Mrs H thought we would be better off as M&S with sandwiches, but relented without much of a fuss. After all was said and done, it ended up costing more, but you can't get steak and ale pie with a pint of GL cider at Marks. If I translated the cost of this pub lunch into dollars, you would be horrified, but that's the cost of living in this country.

For me, the focal point of the Saturday excursion is the purchase of Percy Pigs at Mark. They are actually probably made of pork, albeit the hooves. They are principally composed of a raspberry flavoured gelatenous goo pressed into porcine cephalic shapes.

Which brings me to the real point. Even though Percy Pigs do not taste like meat, they are not a fasting food, since they have been made from some sort of animal by-product. However, after tomorrow, I don't have to feel guilty about eating all sorts of faux-meat veggie products made from fungal sludge. Fake bacon, fake sausage, fake mince (hamburger meat), fake diced chicken, and the list goes on.

At the Orthodox coffeehouse where I used to volunteer, they used non-dairy whipped cream for Lent. Looked like whipped cream, tasted like whipped cream, but it wasn't really whipped cream. Often it seems that Lent is about the discipline of label-reading more than meat and dairy-abstaining.

Now I'm going to go have some more dead cow for dinner.

Posted by david at 05:34 PM | Comments (2)

From Inuvik to Tom T. Hall

I was listening to CBC Radio One - Inuvik in the wee hours, when I learned that Joe Carter had passed away. Not the baseball player, but the cousin of June Carter Cash. Anyhow, since I used to drive by the Carter Family Fold on the way to visit friends in Mendota, Virginia, I surfed over the to Bristol News and learned that amongst the pallbearers at tomorrow's funeral would be Tom T. Hall.

And that's how I found the world's most out-of-date website. I Googled for Tom's website and sure enough there is an "authorized" Tom T. Hall site, though it is quite to point out: "PLEASE NOTE: WE ARE NOT AFFILIATED WITH TOM T. HALL AND DO NOT ACCEPT CORRESPONDENCE OF ANY KIND ON HIS BEHALF". Why they then have a page full of letters written by fans, I dont know.

Now I don't know if Tom's been doing anything lately, other than serving as a pallbearer at the occasional funeral, because the Appearances page lets me know where he performed in 1997 and even 1996. And lest I get my hopes up too much, it clarifies "that Mr. Hall will not be going on the road in 1998, opting instead to stay home and write more great music!"

Now you may be wondering why I would be up in the middle of the night surfing and writing about Tom T. Hall. All I can say is that I suppose it has something to do with driving across the great expanse of the US on summer vacations, with my father doing endless a cappella renditions of the 1969 hit, "Homecoming".

Posted by david at 01:42 AM | Comments (0)

March 04, 2005

My Red States

Inspired by Philippa, I decided to create a map of the US states I've visited. It's possible I visited Georgia and maybe South Carolina when I was either 1 or 3-years-old, but I'm not sure.


create your own personalized map of the USA

As you can see, I have tended to stay away from the corners - though one day I would like to visit the northern ones on either shore. I have no particular desire to visit Florida.

I would have done a world map like S.F. Danckaert, but really not that well travelled. I've only been to Canada, Mexico, the UK, the Philippines, Greece, and Turkey.

UPDATE: I just received an email from my mother to reliably inform me that I visited Georgia on the way back from North Carolina and visited Idaho on the way from Yellowstone National Park to visit friends in Montana.

Posted by david at 10:28 PM | Comments (5)

March 02, 2005

Many Years, Memory Eternal, and Don't Mess With Texas

Today is my parents' 43rd wedding anniversary.

It is the 260th anniversary of the repose of my great-great-great-great-great-great-great-grandfather Johann Phillipus Gansshorn.

It is also the 168th anniversary of Texas' independence from Mexico.

Posted by david at 01:10 AM | Comments (1)

March 01, 2005

My Name Day!

Today is the feast of the patron of Wales, St David.

I'm glad we didn't have leeks for dinner.

Posted by david at 08:23 PM | Comments (5)

February 24, 2005

Memory Eternal

My great-great-great-grandmother Elizabeth McWhirter, born in the village of Arlington, in north Devon on the edge of Exmoor, died on this day 130 years ago in the town of Owensburg, Indiana.

Incidentally, Arlington is just off the A39. Also on the A39 just 43 miles away is the village of Holford.

Anyhow, having passed through the veil to the life where the passing of time has no meaning, may God establish the soul of my ancestress Elizabeth in a place of light, a place of refreshment, a place of repose, where all the righteous dwell.

Posted by david at 01:53 AM | Comments (0)

February 19, 2005

Hollywood and Heretics

Last night Mrs H and I watched the film King Arthur. We didn't get a chance to see it at the cinema - we don't get a chance to see much at the cinema - so we rented it. What a load of crap.

The acting was okay. The cinematography was good. The history was very suspect. The story was absolute rubbish.

I had heard that there was a little suggestion that Arthur was a Pelagian. The whole film is a glorification of Pelagianism. Pelagius is Arthur's substitute father. Arthur goes on and one and bloody on about the teachings of Pelagius and how they are superior to the prevaling theology (i.e., orthodoxy). Our father amongst the saint Germanus is portryed as underhanded, double-crossing, and pompous. Every orthodox Christian in the film is specifically cast as evil and despicable, enslaving the locals, while Pelagian Arthur comes to see them free, all the while going on and on and bloody on about his Pelagian views of free will.

The film is a series of heretical sermons interspersed with a few battle scenes to keep it interesting.

Merlin is depicted as some sort of Pictish king who woos Arthur over to the side of working for the blue-faced pagans rather than for the Christianised Romans. This Merlin proclaims Arthur king at his wedding to Guinevere, who has managed to wash the woad off her face, set in the middle of a mini-Stonehenge circle of standing stones.

I suppose I am more incensed than others because Merlin, the real Merlin, is the patron of my family. St Dyfrig, as the very orthodox bishop of Caerleon and the father of Welsh monasticism, crowned Arthur. Our father Dyfrig was surrounded by followers, but they were seminarians, not forest-dwelling pagan archers.

It was St Dyfrig who called the Synod of Llandewi Brefi to deal with the threat of Pelagianism and who resigned his archbishopric of what is now Wales in favour of my patronal namesake St David when the ground rose up under David's feet as he thundered against Pelagius.

So Merlin and Arthur and Pelgianism are all connected, but not at all in the way depicted by this film.

Posted by david at 11:51 AM | Comments (6)

February 17, 2005

Night Out

We had dinner tonight with Abby's godfather and his family. It is not often that we get out to visit friends for dinner. Good food, good wine, good conversation. Aidan entertained by playing with the big boys.

As we left, I received a copy of Darren's latest book, Sometime Love Makes It Through. It's his sixth book of poetry. (You can order a copy from his website.) He writes gritty stuff. Not exactly Hallmark card material. He is also being published this year in a variety of Orthodox and non-Orthodox periodicals.

Posted by david at 10:05 PM | Comments (0)

January 31, 2005

Memory Eternal

Today is the first anniversary of the repose of my brother Dean.

As is the Orthodox tradition on this occasion, your prayers are appreciated.

Remember as well my parents and my sister-in-law, for whom this has been an especially difficult year.

Memory eternal!

Posted by david at 12:00 AM | Comments (5)

January 26, 2005

Super Relapsarian

The bug just won't die. I went to the doctor to see about it and he suggested that I stay off work at least until Friday, if not Monday. This means I will still be working fast and furious, but on marking assessments and writing reports and Targets for Learning, which are all due on Monday.

So if you wonder why I'm hardly writing, it the combination of work at home and staying in bed as much as possible, with paracetemol and plenty of liquids.

Posted by david at 12:38 AM | Comments (3)

January 25, 2005

Many Years!

It was three years ago just about now that 56 hours of labour came to an end with an emergency c-section.


And now:

Posted by david at 01:27 AM | Comments (4)

January 18, 2005

Struck Down

Our entire family has been struck down by a mystery illness. It started after church on Sunday. We are all in respiratory distress, with added digestive issues, if I may put it delicately.

It is so bad that I'm taking the day off of school. I struggled through yesterday, nearly passing out in period 1. I came home to find everyone else in ever worse shape.

Of your mercy, pray for us.

St Dyfrig pray for us.

Posted by david at 08:15 AM | Comments (1)

January 17, 2005

Motivational Meteorology

If I ever wonder why I live in this country, I just have to check the weather. I see that it may be 40°F here and down to 32°F tonight with the possibility of a little snow or ice, but it is 11°F in Indianapolis with a low tonight of 0°F.

I didn't move here for the weather. It's just an added bonus.

Posted by david at 08:17 PM | Comments (1)

January 13, 2005

The Sinner's Prayer

It will hearten all the Evangelicals out there to know that last night Aidan prayed the sinner's prayer. Okay, it wasn't some sort of recent version developed during the Second Great Awakening or the Jesus Movement, requiring the mention of various elements of the "Roman Road". He learned the original, "Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner."

Actually, I was trying to teach him the Lord's Prayer, because it is that with which we open our evening meal prayers, but after one run through realised that it was too much for him. We were working on it during our time together while Mummy was getting her 3-stone sticker (and her usual "Slimmer of the Week" sticker) at Fat Club. I decided that developing Scripture memory and tools for a rule of prayer deserved equal footing with our usual Wednesday night fare of "doing countries".

Now you may think that something like Jesus Prayer might be lost on a child 12 days away from his third birthday. You would be wrong. The only definition we had to learn was that of a sinner. He knows about prayer. He knows who Jesus is. (He can even explain the Crucifixion and the Resurrection.) And he knows about sin, even if he didn't know to call it that. He knows we he does something bad, like disobeying Mummy or Daddy, it makes Jesus sad. Whenever he apologises to whomever he has offended on earth, he knows to go to the icon of our Lord and say, "Sorry, Jesus". (If it is the little icon he can reach, he automatically picks it up and kisses it as well, though he was never told to do this.) He also knows that if he doesn't take it seriously, he has to repeated it until he respects the gravity of his actions. He even knows he's not supposed to do it again.

Posted by david at 11:25 PM | Comments (2)

January 09, 2005

Beyond Tom Becket's Jurisdiction

Busy, busy, busy. Thanks to Year 11 reports, Year 10 coursework, lesson planning, and sorting out a new classroom, not to mention things at home, I have hardly had a chance to blog about anything. It's not that I haven't had things to say - just no time to say them.

Even as I am typing this, I am in the middle of putting together a lesson on Henry II and St Thomas Becket - oh, wait, 1170 is after 1054, so I have to call him just plain Tom Becket, I suppose.

Now even though the East and the West can't recognise each other's post-Schism saints - since of course being the real Church only that Church can actually glorify/canonise - I have always wondered if there are those on each side of the 11th century divide who are just a bit uncomfortable with the miracles attributed to the intercessions or relics of the other side. I know all the boilerplate answers, even going so far as the standard, "We know where the Holy Spirit is, but we don't know where He is not." (In other words, there are things we don't know that we don't know - this would be a great one for Donald Rumsfeld.)

I'm probably far too ecumenical for a lot of my fellow Orthobloggers. Someone may be piling up the kindling to burn me at the stake, but think both sides may be assuming too much in their ability and or jurisdiction to effectively declare the other lot to be outside the Church.

But since I deal with Becket as a history teacher and not an RE teacher, this doesn't affect my lesson planning one bit.

Posted by david at 11:41 PM | Comments (0)

January 04, 2005

Georgia on My Mind

The best thing to come out of Georgia in a long time (and I mean Tbilisi, not Atlanta) has to be Katie Melua. I got 2-disc special edition of Call Off the Search with the DVD.

Mrs H had to exchange a Christmas present for her brother on Amazon and if I ordered something the postage would be free. It was cheaper than just buying the CD in the shops.

What a voice. Okay, she's also gorgeous, but I really hadn't noticed that so much. Being the ascetical, otherworldly, almost saint that I am, such things just pass me by. Yeah, right. But what a voice.

Posted by david at 11:27 PM | Comments (0)

December 29, 2004

Surprise from Mrs H and Fr Pat

My journey to Orthodoxy has been brought to illumination thanks to three main influences: Fr Alexander Schmemann of blessed memory, Joy of All Who Sorrow Orthodox Church (especially Fr Stevan Bauman, Fr Dcn Michael Walker, Mother Macaria, and Mother Katherine), and Fr Patrick Henry Reardon. In fact, I met Fr Pat because he was speaking at the bookstore run by Joy of All Who Sorrow.

So it was with great thoughtfulness that for Christmas, Mrs H arranged to get me an autographed copy of Fr Pat’s latest book, Christ in His Saints. She bought it and then sent it to Chicago (where he is pastor of All Saints Antiochian Orthodox Church as well as a senior editor of Touchstone Magazine) to have it signed and sent back. At the same time she surreptitiously pulled Fr Pat’s first book, Christ in the Psalms, off of our bookshelf and put it in the international post as well.

If Christ in the Psalms is accessible to Christian readers across the spectrum of Evangelical, Roman, or Orthodox, Christ in His Saints is even more so. It is the sort of book that once you even begin to read it, you will put it at the top of your list to give to friends (friends who are worth $17.95, of course). Its 14 large chapters are divided into a total of 137 vignettes, each about a character (or occasionally a group of characters) from the Bible.

Fr Pat’s scholarship is, as expected, outstanding. He is a former professor of Old Testament at an Episcopal seminary because they found his orthodoxy and Orthodoxy entire incompatible with those things with which Episcopalians find themselves compatible these days. He is the principal translator of Exodus and the Psalms for the eventually-to-be-released completed Orthodox Study Bible. Yet with his many years of pastoral ministry, he knows how to reach his audience so they can understand him.

Posted by david at 11:29 PM | Comments (0)

December 16, 2004


Abigail has been chattering for a long time. Only recently has she actually begun to say identifiable words. Her first word was "Aidan" - or perhaps more accurately "Aaaaaain" - but still directed at or about him. Then a few days ago she started "Da-da-da-da-da", especially when I would leave for work or when I came home at night.

Only tonight did she say "Mum-mum", but then she has been delirious with a terrible cold and a touch of fever. It may be a fluke.

She is very poorly and hasn't slept for the last two nights, a condition that seems to be going around the blogosphere. I almost hate mentioning it, as if I were soliciting your prayer time away from much more urgent needs.

Posted by david at 12:37 AM | Comments (2)

December 04, 2004

The Queue for the Queue

I am on an NHS waiting list. But then again, I'm not.

One of my earliest blog entries had to do with waiting on the National Health Service. The Government now says that waiting lists are at their shortest since Labour came to power. What the Government hasn't been emphasising is that the waiting list targets are for treatment.

Like my experience in 2002-2003, I am on a waiting list for diagnosis. These don't seem to matter. I waited ten months then to try to determine why I had to be hospitalised with a bowel attack. Now I have a small growth on my face. The GP was immediately concerned when she saw it, but even though I heard her dictating the letter as I left her office, it will be up to 17 weeks before I can see a specialist. That's four months.

To make themselves look good, the Government have created a queue to get in the queue. By limiting the number of people who can get in the treatment queue, they can manipulate the figures to make themselves look good. It may cost a few - or maybe more than a few - lives, but it will keep Tony and his cronies in power. As long as this spot doesn't turn (or hasn't turned already) into cancer, I should be okay.

Posted by david at 03:06 PM | Comments (0)

The Other Kid

Sometimes I go on and on about Aidie's accomplishments so much, you'd think he was an only child. The other kid ain't doing so bad.

She is just under seven months old, so the academic subjects really haven't taken hold. She is sitting on her own, crawling, pulling herself up to stand, and eating like a horse. Every day her personality becomes more and more defined.

It is almost like I had forgotten about all these stages of development. Soon she will no longer seem helpless as she reaches that stage of going anywhere anytime. I think that's when they start to lose babyhood. That and the ability to communicate. Babies communicate in rudimentary ways, but you can't carry on an intelligent conversation with them.

With Aidan I can explain things he sees and he can remember. He grasps concepts and ideas. He understands, for example, that on the news we see trouble in the Ukraine. Abby doesn't quite grasp this yet. But we'll keep her anyway.

Posted by david at 02:11 PM | Comments (0)

December 03, 2004

Flirting with Fidel

Tonight I received the paper document that is my Postgraduate Certificate in Education. This was officially conferred in August, but this was the ceremony.

The educational institution from which I received both the training and the document is avowedly socialist. Not socialist in the sense of the current Labour government. No, we are talking proper socialist. It is run by an organisation named after a 19th century utopian.

In order to receive my piece of paper tonight, I had to sit through the most awful commencement address. The entire crowd sat there with a look of boredom. There was only slight relief when, after an interminable related anecdote setting it up, the speaker told us that he would not be speaking for 13 hours like "that great man" Fidel Castro. Fortunately he didn't, though he did spend about 20 minutes telling us about he would not be telling us about Robert Owen. Then he handed out the certificates. I never thought I would receive anything from someone who called Castro a great man.

Posted by david at 11:52 PM | Comments (0)

December 02, 2004

Geography and Death

Aidan the geography wiz is at it again. Last night I decided to count the countries or other geographical entities he can identify. Most of them he can point to and tell me what they are. A few I have to say, "show me"

The current list (in no particular order, with spotaneous comments in parentheses) is: Turkey ("I was in Mummy's belly"), Russia, Japan ("looks like a crocodile"), United States, Mexico, Brazil, Chile, United Kingdom, Portugal, Spain, Iceland, Italy, the Philippines, Galapagos Islands, Alaska, Taiwan, Thailand, Papua New Guinea, Australia, New Caledonia, Fiji, France, Greenland, Madagascar, Canada, Ireland, India, Ukraine ("that where the trouble is in the news"), Sri Lanka, North and South Korea, and China. He can also point out the tiny sliver of land where David killed Goliath ("he cut off his head with a sword"), but he doesn't remember that it is called Israel. We are currently working on Germany, Poland, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Botswana, Namibia, Mozambique, Argentina, Falkland Islands, Peru, and New Zealand.

The previous time we did "countries", he asked where the dead people are. He knows they are with Jesus, but that they are also in the ground, because we have visited the grave of Mrs H's grandfather several times lately. He knows that Grampy G is buried in the United Kingdom. He then understood that Uncle Dean was buried in the United States. He started pointing to country after country asking, "Is there dead people there?"

I explained to him that there are dead people in every country, because everyone dies. Now when we spread out the world map, one of the first things he says is, "There's dead people everywhere! There's dead people there, and there, and there, and there..." I made me realise that in one sense, the earth is just one giant grave.

Posted by david at 11:46 PM | Comments (0)

November 30, 2004

Eternity Knows No Time

My great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-grandfather Georg Wolf Gansshorn died this date 313 years ago. Perhaps those Orthodox scholars amongst us can advise me. How long should we commemorate the dead? We say "Memory Eternal", but is there a degree of descent/ancestry or passage of years/centuries after which we let bygones be bygones?

Not that I mind. As far as I'm concerned, Memory Eternal, 8-great-granpa Georg!

Posted by david at 02:16 AM | Comments (3)

November 29, 2004

The Game of Life

I work the biggest part of six days a week. Yesterday, I was spent most of the day marking GCSE course work and stayed up into the wee hours preparing lessons. The average secondary school teacher, without the added pressures of the NQT year, is reputed to work 56 hours a week. This seems a conservative estimate.

The average professional footballer trains a few hours per week to prepare for a game.

My preparation leads up to spending 20 hours per week controlling unruly teenagers and forcing them to do what they don't want to do.

Footballers' preparation leads up to 90 minutes on Saturday or Sunday playing a game. A game. Their audience wants to be there. Their audience is excited about being there. The crowd are doing exactly what they want to do and are paying a lot of money to do it.

I prepare the next generation to be adults, hoping my labour and sweat will result in some of them living productive lives. Especially in a society where so many parents can't be bothered to do their job, I have the responsibility to keep the wheels of civilisation turning.

Footballers run around on 5000 square yards of grass and try to kick a leather ball into a net.

I make less than £19,000 per year. Less than it costs to support a small frugal family in Rip-off Britain.

Some footballers less than half my age make more than £50,000 per week. For those of you keeping score at home, that's £2.6 million per year. For those of you keeping score in US Dollars, at today's exchange rate that's $4,918,940.00 for kicking a soccer ball for 90 minutes a week and splitting the work with 21 other men.

Something just ain't right about that.

Posted by david at 12:25 AM | Comments (2)

November 27, 2004

Many Years

Today is Mrs H's birthday.

Posted by david at 01:13 PM | Comments (2)

November 14, 2004


Today is the feast of our family patron, St Dyfrig.

Thou art worthily honoured as the Father of Welsh Monasticism, O Hierarch Dyfrig,
Labouring to establish true asceticism with thy brother in the Faith, Samson of Dol,
Whom thou didst raise to the dignity of the episcopate.
In thy pastoral love, O Saint,
Pray for us that despite our unspiritual lives
Christ our God will grant us great mercy.

That last two lines of the troparion must have been written with me in mind. This will no doubt be evident in my usual inability to keep a fast, Nativity or otherwise.

Posted by david at 01:26 AM | Comments (4)

November 13, 2004


Our church community had our annual general meeting today. One of the ladies in our group is moving in a few weeks time to the Exeter area. She brought a box of books that aren't making the trip and offered them to to anyone who wanted to give them a home.

Trying not to greedy, I took just a couple of them a first, giving everyone a chance to glean what they wanted. At the end of the meeting there were still quite a few left, so I took a few more. They are all in perfect condition.

I've listed some of the titles in my "Recent Acquisitions" in the right column. There's nothing like a stack of new books for free. Now it's just finding the time to read them.

Posted by david at 11:34 PM | Comments (0)

November 08, 2004

Miracles Should Not Be Forgotten

Nineteen years ago today, I miraculously survived a serious automobile accident. I survived it so well that I didn't get a bump, bruise, or scratch. I could have driven away from the scene, except for the fender that was bent a little too close to the tire to allow it full movement.

I was sucked up against an 18-wheeler whilst we were both in the middle of our respective lanes on a dual carriageway northbound on US Highway 183 outside Austin, Texas. The right lugnuts chewed down the driver's side of my little Datsun B210. I was then flipped around in front of the truck and pushed sideways down the highway, long enough to look out my side window, see grill and headlamp, and say to myself "So this is what it's like to die in a car wreck". I was then flipped around to the left side of the cab and the lugnuts once again chewed down the driver's side of my car. I spun free and ended up facing north again in a left turn lane.

An examination of the truck cab confirmed my impressions at the time, as there was my red paint on all three sides.

After my car was towed to a body shop and the fender pulled out, I drove that car until I was in grad school. The damage to the body would have cost more to repair than the value of the car, so it served as a constant reminder of that day.

It's good to be alive.

Posted by david at 11:02 PM | Comments (1)

October 29, 2004

Living in a Caravan

After a long half-term, I needed a change of scenery. Fortunately, we had planned ahead for this possibility and booked a holiday in Scotland. Admittedly, most people do not book holidays for late October in Scotland, particularly if they are hoping to spend some time in the sun. However, Mrs H had never been north of the border and I hadn't been there for 12 years, so it seemed like a good opportunity.

We had been made aware of a special offer in the Daily Express with British Holidays, who run caravan parks across the country. As this is not a common mode of vacation in the States, perhaps I should explain. In this country, there is a proliferation of holiday parks. They consist of a huge expanse of trailer houses ("static caravans" in the local parlance) which are rented on a weekly basis (or in cases of short breaks such as ours, four nights). It is a good thing that tornados are a rarity in the UK. The park also includes various amenties, such as children's areas and nightly live entertainment.

According to the offer in the Express, we could get four nights for £38. Wow! What a deal! We had to specify four choices of location in order of preference. We collected our coupons from the newspaper and sent off our cheque. We got all the information back about our allocated park, including all of the additional charges. There was the £4 per night for gas and electric. There was the £20 each for the entertainment passes, which apparently were required even if we didn't want to be entertained. We had to pay a deposit for linen. If we wanted heat in the bedrooms it would be an additional £60! We declined. We discovered that our promotional deal was the same as the regular off-season rate for the park to which we were allocated.

Eventually our £38 holiday became a £80 holiday and they kept trying to sell us more extras. £80 would only get us an old caravan. If we wanted a newer model that didn't have dog hair everywhere, it would be an additional £20. We declined. We were repeatedly assured however, that we would be given a handicap-equipped trailer.

The park office closes promptly at 5:00, so we were told that if we would be late, we needed to ring ahead to arrange to pick up the keys. We did and eventually tracked down the person with the keys and found the trailer. It was an interesting first night.

Despite our £4, there was no gas. The fire in the living room would light but not emit any heat. The gas stove wouldn't even light. Thus there was no means of cooking dinner. Not that you could really see to cook, because the light in the kitchen was out. The temperature in the lowlands of Scotland that night was in the low single digits Celsius. Not only was there no heat in the bedrooms - the covers were light summer duvets.

Then there was the bathroom. It included a shower with the deep lip on the door and no means of support. Not exactly designed with a cripple in mind.

They replaced the gas bottle early in the morning before we got up. When Mrs H went to complain about the situation, the woman was not particularly sympathetic to our plight. Despite representations on the telephone to contrary, handicap facilities are not available on promotional offers. Never mind that we were, in fact, paying the full rate. When Mrs H insisted that I at least needed a stool on which to sit and balance, they delivered an apholstered stool which must have come from the bar in the entertainment "complex".

I have to say that my first experience of a British caravan holiday (as opposed to camping with a motor home or travel trailer in the States) was enlightening. I'll have more to say about other aspects of our time up north.

Posted by david at 11:51 PM | Comments (0)

October 23, 2004

Comparing Education

One of my colleagues at school is also from the States. She taught there for five or six years before moving to the UK. We were talking yesterday and I asked her to compare the experience of teaching in the two countries.

The first thing she commented on was the amount of admin. Teachers in the US don't know how easy they have it, apparently. I've known American teachers to complain about paperwork and how it has grown over the years, but it would seem that for all the complaints the US gets about Kyoto, at least when it come to education, it is the more environmentally sound. I somehow knew that we were unconscionably burdened in England, but it is good to hear it from someone who has clear perspective.

I realise your mileage may very from state to state and even school district to district, but the general principles of education adminstration are roughly the same throughout the US.

The other contrast between countries was the level of resources. I think I may have mentioned this before, but students in this country for the most part do not have their own textbooks. I have classes where there is one set of books for all the classes of that year group. Sometimes they have to share two to a book. My colleague is an English teacher and in one case she has four copies of a textbook for the entire class.

Now before you start thinking lots of textbooks = lots of trees, let me introduce one word. Photocopies. The paper and reprographic industries are making a killing in British schools. Yesterday I was sorting through the mountain of paper on my desk and I filled up several large plastic trays with all of the copies that I had made for students that they didn't take with them as they were supposed to do. Every day I fill my rubbish bin with paperwork received from various sources.

But back to textbooks... It would involve much less paper to just issue them with textbooks. One reason they don't might be that the school would never get them back and if they did they might not be reuseable. British kids have absolutely no respect for property. Might be something to do with post-war socialism.

That lack of respect for property extends to my own supplies. Even though I taught every day during my training year, I was using someone else's equipment and supplies. Now that I have to manage my own resources, I have learned in the first half-term just how tightly I have to control access to supplies, especially marker pens. If they can get them, they will steal them.

Historically, I would have said that a British state education is superior an American one. Because students receive a qualification in each subject, they tend to have more expertise in those subjects. Because they specialise in three or four subjects between the ages of 16 and 18 and because this is not part of cumpulsory education, the education in these subjects is equavalent to at least the first year of an American university education.

Now the standards have been lowered and lowered and everyone is considered university material. The Government is now planning to change the current system to a single diploma. This will mean that everyone will need basic literacy, numeracy, and computer skills, but not much else.

Posted by david at 12:27 AM | Comments (0)

October 21, 2004


After the longest seven weeks of my life, I don't have to come face-to-face with stroppy teenagers for 10 days.

This doesn't mean I don't have to work. I've got essays and assessments to mark. I have to plan for the next half-term. ButI don't have to give a single detention, send anyone out of class, or deal with any of those unpleasantries than feature in my day-to-day life.

Posted by david at 11:57 PM | Comments (0)

October 19, 2004

On Again?

It seems the problem may have been my modem, even though the troubleshooting software denied it.

I'm back on broadband again. I hope it lasts.

Posted by david at 09:48 PM | Comments (0)

October 16, 2004

Driving Costs Up

I seem to be reading a lot about the price of gasoline in the US and how the average price may top $2 a gallon by this weekend. I wish I could be more sympathetic, but at over $5 a gallon here, I'm afraid you have a long way to go. The equivalent of $20 today got me about a quarter of a tank. I usually spend about $75 to fill up my small car. Combine that with filling up Mrs H's car, and petrol is one of the most significant portions of our budget.

The car insurance is now due for renewal. Thankfully, we only have to insure Mrs H's car. Due to my accident-free record for many years and my age, we only pay around $750-$800 per year on a four-year-old small family car.

Road tax is another $300 per year.

Operating a motor vehicle in this country is not cheap. Necessary, given the lack of public transport. but not cheap.

Posted by david at 02:43 AM | Comments (3)

October 14, 2004

938 Years Ago Today

There aren't many positives about teaching, but one thing I never imagined was that I would be teaching about the Battle of Hastings on the anniversary thereof.

It was in the Battle of Hastings and the life of William the Conqueror generally that I found my love for history. I was a year younger than the kids to whom I'm teaching it now. I discovered it by a combination of learning about my own genealogy and picking out a book in the school library at Madison Elementary. From that time I became a budding historian.

I'm sure that I will not be able to convey my excitement to today's group. I don't think I have done so to the three other groups of Year 7s so far. I wish I could. I wish I could light the fire.

That they only get half as much history as they do English, Maths, or Science does not send the message that it is a particularly important subject. That they got even less of it at primary school didn't set a good foundation. No, everything is English, Maths, and Science. That's the Government's holy trinity of education.

So, they can communicate and calculate. Big deal. They have no idea who they are. Science tries to answer that question by telling them they are really smart monkeys. But honestly, you saw most of the kids in a secondary school, you would be convinced of the Second Law of Thermodynamics. No, the only way they can know who they are is by learning and knowing history. They are both the products of it and the source of it for succeeding (or failing) generations.

This is just one more reason the future looks as grim as when Harold looked up and saw that Norman arrow falling out of the sky.

Posted by david at 01:21 AM | Comments (2)

October 12, 2004

On Again, Off Again

Yesterday was the activation day for our broadband service.

Given our past track record, I was pessimistic about whether it had actually been activated. I connected everything up and presto! we were running at 576K. I downloaded an MP3 for school and an updated version of WinAmp. Things were going so great. Internet the way it is supposed to be.

Then after about an hour, it just died. After spending hours on the phone with customer support, it appears that we are no longer in sync with the exchange for some reason. Virgin engineers will have to run tests on the line before it is handed over to BT engineers. A BT engineer may have to come to our house to test the line. I was assured this is a worst-case scenario, but I'm sure we are a worst case.

It could take more than a week to solve the problem, but I have also been assured that we will be compensated. Yeah, right.

Posted by david at 08:47 PM | Comments (2)

October 10, 2004

Short in the Tooth

The red letter days are coming fast and furious at our house right now.

This morning, Mrs H discovered that the bump on Abby's lower gum had finally broken through. She no longer has a toothless grin.

This is just in the nick of time. Forget the teaspoon of watered-down baby rice. Tonight she had five spoons of rice and 3/4 of a pear. She was so upset when the bowl was empty, Mrs H fed her the rest of the pear. She eats like she's starved.

Aidie was a good eater and now it looks like we've been blessed with two out of two. I know it is more expensive when they are happy to eat anything, but it is worth it not to have the food refusal struggles. Aidie has one friend who only ever ate expensive processed cheese for months on end.

Posted by david at 05:55 PM | Comments (0)

October 09, 2004

Wee, wee, wee, wee... all the way home

It appears that we may be making some progress on the potty training front. It is embarrassing to have a child who can do phonics, geography, and astronomy, but refuses to take off his nappy. Today, Aidie has been led to believe that we are out of nappies, so he has no choice but to wear underpants. He has pull-up naptime/nighttime nappies that look like pants, so we have been able to maintain the ruse.

We went through two changes of pants and trousers, and blotted up a few spots of the carpet, but otherwise had a successful day. He even did a proper wee on the toilet and was so excited he rang Papa in the States.

His intellect still continues to amaze me. Tonight it was clear that he was able to visualise the world map in his head, as without it he was able to tell me which countries were next to others. Mrs H was stunned when she walked in the room as I asked him, "What countries is next to Portugal?" "Spain!"

I have also started connecting his phonics programme (Letterland) with his geography. Peter Puppy says /p/ in words and he could tell me that countries which start with /p/ include Portugal and Papua New Guinea. Impy Ink says /ĭ/ in words and countries that start with /ĭ/ are Italy, India, and Indonesia. You get the idea.

I am just amazed at what a complete sponge his mind is, but even more so how he is able to coordinate and collate these facts into further learning. He is almost flawlessly articulate, properly using hexasyllabic words in conversation.

This does not mean that he is always understood. When my father answered the phone tonight, he had trouble understanding the shouting rapidfire English accent on the other end of the line, "IdidaweeweeonthetoiletandIgotaWinniethePoohchocolate!"

Posted by david at 11:57 PM | Comments (2)

October 07, 2004

The World Around Us

I have previously mentioned Aidan's inherited knack for geography. We continue to "do countries" on regular basis, mostly on Saturday mornings when Mrs H tends to stay upstairs with Abby while I keep Aidie downstairs and Wednesday evenings when she goes to Slimming World (or "Fat Club" as she calls it). The list of countries he can point to and identify without prompting has increased significantly. In addition to the US (including distinguishing Alaska), UK, Taiwan, the Philippines, Canada, Russia, Mexico, Thailand, and Australia, which he knew a couple of months ago, he now knows Turkey, Spain, Portugal, Fiji, and his favourite, Paupa New Guinea.

His favourite new country tonight is New Caledonia. As soon as Mummy came in the door, he insisted that she come in immediately and see New Caledonia.

Sometimes he still needs prompting with the initial sound for India, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, New Zealand, Brazil, Japan, France, and Iceland. He also can't quite say "Galapagos Islands", but we're working on it.

Posted by david at 12:56 AM | Comments (1)

October 06, 2004

The First Supper

Yesterday, Abby ate her first meal of something other than breast milk. It was baby rice in breast milk, but it's a start.

We were trying to keep her exclusively on milk until six months, as that is the received wisdom this year. Two years ago with Aidie, it was four months. As Abby kept trying to eat off of Mrs H's plate and denied this perpetually attempted to consume her fist, it was time to start the weaning process.

She got so excited by the baby rice that she was grabbing the spoon and shoving it into her mouth. I know she was wondering why it took so long to let her start eating and why we had kept this from her.

Posted by david at 11:10 PM | Comments (3)

October 04, 2004

All Things New

This week we have gotten new neighbours and a new dryer.

The former were a bit of a surprise. We had no idea the old neighbours were moving. Saturday there was a van out front and before we knew it, they were gone. It's not like we really knew them. We knew the woman's name because she put a note through the door one time when she found Bubby in her garden and returned her to her hutch. We knew her son's name from hearing her call him. We never knew the man's name. I always called him Hop-along because he is an above-the-knee amputee and doesn't wear a prosthesis.

By Saturday night, the new folks were moved in. They are an older couple from South Wales. And no sooner had they moved in, than they started digging a pond in the back garden. Since the fence between our properties is only about as tall as Aidan, this has immediately put an end to his unsupervised play in our back garden. From our patio, he could easily climb across. The new man told Mrs H that he would put a trellis on the top of the fence to keep Aidie from getting across, but we'll have to wait and see what happens.

Tonight I picked up our new dryer. We had been needing one for a long time. Our old dryer was very good at using electricity and not very good at drying clothes. It would take two hours for a moderate-sized load, unless it included towels. Towels could take all day.

With our new dryer, we have gone from an energy efficiency rating of "G" (and that could only have been when it was brand new) to "B". And it actually dries clothes.

Posted by david at 10:36 PM | Comments (1)

October 03, 2004

On Ramp to the Information Autobahn

I have applied once more for broadband. Since my last attempt there have been new assurances that it should be available to me. BT (from whom all companies must buy their bandwidth) always says this and then the engineer shows up and says, "Sorry, mate."

Tonight I was trying to listen to a song by Inuit songwriter-singer Susan Aglukark and all I could get was fits and starts. Thus I am left not knowing whether to buy one of her CDs. I can't take this narrow band stuff anymore.

I've gone with Virgin this time, so I hope their high-speed internet is more reliable than their high-speed trains.

Posted by david at 11:25 PM | Comments (1)

October 02, 2004


As I saw the giant yellow orb, partially occluded by clouds and slung low above the horizon, I realised that summer was well and truly over. Each morning on my way to work, the sun is just a little later getting up. Each day, it makes a smaller arc across the sky. Now that the equinox has passed, the days will race into winter.

The next time I see summer again, I will be 41. It will undoubtedly be a shorter summer than the one just spent. We get so few days anyway (though we should be thankful for each one, as we deserve none of them), so how insignificant are the number of those on either side of the solstice when the daylight lasts until nearly midnight and the birds begin to sing again around 3:30? I love those summer days.

But now I need to enjoy the crispness of autumn. It, too, will only be here a short while. Sometime around Mrs H's birthday, it will still be officially autumn, but really winter. One of the only regrets I have of living in Britain is missing deer season in Texas. I missed most of it whenever I lived in Indiana, and I haven't really hunted regularly since sometime in the 80's, I suppose. But now that the Great White Hunter, my little brother, is buried a few miles from the deer lease, I'm sure I would go more often just to attempt in vain to recapture the days of my youth. And I realise that this autumn is one more that will pass without so much as loading a 30-30 cartridge into the chamber of my Model 94.

I've never really liked winter, but I will hate to see it go, if for no other reason than I want to save up the remaining times that I see the new life of spring.

It reminds me of a song with which I used to open my solo shows:

And the wheels go 'round and 'round
The sun comes up and the sun goes down
On the trivial and profound
Like Ezekiel we all watch
As the wheels go 'round.

I don't know when the equinox of our perception of time occurs, but I can tell you that for me it has long since passed. I've been around the Sun forty times. I may not even have as many more trips left. The thing that amazes me is that as it revolves faster and faster, year on year, centrifugal force doesn't just spin it out of orbit.

As if I needed a further reminder of mortality, my brother's gravestone was set this week. The last of his possessions were distributed and my sister-in-law moved back to Indiana. To future generations, eventually we are a name and date carved into a piece of granite. If they are lucky, a few artefacts might survive to be passed down. The seasons will come and go for those still alive until they, too, give up their bodies to the earth and their spirits to God.

I know that we are to look forward to that day when for each of us death is swallowed up by life. Nonetheless, I will continue to appreciate each day I see the sun rise above the horizon and arc across the sky.

Posted by david at 10:32 PM | Comments (0)

October 01, 2004

Gatsos and Potatoes

The 30-mile commute to and from work each day is fraught with obstacles. There are two ways for me to get to work.

The main road between these two cathedral cities has temporary traffic lights as they put in permanent traffic lights. At the same place the lights are going in, there is a notorious speed camera. I know, because I got caught there about a year and a half ago.

It is not the only speed camera. To get from home to work using the principal route, I have to pass by three of the hated Gatso cameras. Even though I realise that the cameras will not issue a citation without at least exceeding the speed limit by the barest of margins, there is always someone else using these stretches of highway comtemporaneously who is apparently of the sincere belief that the cameras somehow lower the speed limit from 30 to 20. Invariably, a long queue forms as a consequence.

I've taken to the alternative route. It is a bit more winding, but there has been no road construction until a couple of days ago. The big problem has been the tractors. This has always been a hazard, and not unknown on the main road as well. Unfortunately, it is now time for the potato harvest.

Every day, especially on the way home, I get stuck behind at least two trailers heaped high with spuds. Whilst I know this is important for Mrs H (who works them into every meal) and every chip shop in the land, it takes the average speed of my journey back under 20 mph and increases my commute time by as much as 20 minutes. I'll be glad when the land is once again tuber free.

Posted by david at 11:04 PM | Comments (2)

September 14, 2004

Growing Up (or at least Sitting Up)

Continuing in her trend as a prodigy, Abigail sat up on her own today. According to Mrs H and all her books, this is suppose to happen around seven months. Abby turned four months on Saturday. She is 18 weeks old today. Aidan was advanced in these things and he only sat upright without support at 22 weeks.

Needless to say, Mummy was very excited about this when I got home form work this evening.

Posted by david at 11:13 PM | Comments (2)

September 12, 2004

Memory Eternal

I learned yesterday of the passing from this life of my first cousin Doug.

Being 20 years apart in age, we weren't particularly close when I was growing up. Being a nerd, I admired his academic achievement with a degree in nuclear physics from Cal Tech and a law degree from Harvard.

We really only got to know each other as I got older, at the occasional family reunion. Once, early in my own legal career, he came to Indiana to do a deposition for a case and I tagged along as local counsel. It also helped that I knew the location of the tiny town in southern Indiana where he need to go and could drive him there. I was glad it was a long drive, because it gave us time to talk.

Sadly, over the last few years, his mind was robbed of its brilliance through dementia and his body started losing to ALS. Though he was only 60, at least a merciful God released him from suffering.

May his memory be eternal!

Posted by david at 02:33 AM | Comments (2)

September 10, 2004

As Requested

I have created a page of photos from Abby's baptism.

Posted by david at 11:43 PM | Comments (4)

September 09, 2004


I have said I won't be blogging much about my job, but I have to say something to explain my absence over the last few days. The first week has been exhausting.

Because the school is so big - 14 acres - and I have to go up and down a lot of stairs, each day is quite a physical workout. It is taking its toll on my leg and I am having to devise strategies make my life easier. The school where I did most of my training was tiny in comparison.

The collective behaviour of certain classes is quite challenging as well. That's all I'll say.

I am glad to have a lot of very helpful colleagues.

And I'm look forward to the weekend, so I can spend the whole time planning next week's lessons...

Posted by david at 10:58 PM | Comments (2)

September 04, 2004

Another Milestone

Through the exercise of her extraordinary willpower, Mrs H has managed to stay married to me for five whole years!

I suppose I should come up with some way of showing my appreciation for her efforts.

Posted by david at 03:34 AM | Comments (4)

September 02, 2004

Losing My Profession

I'm beginning to realise that I'm not a lawyer anymore. Tonight I was following a blog trail, starting at a comment link on Not for Sheep, or as it is currently known, Legislating Gremlins. I went from lawyer blog to lawyer blog (or occasionally law student blog) and was amazed at just how uninteresting I found the law-related bits to be.

I have no doubt I could still find my way around an American court room. I'm sure I could even negotiate a plea bargain here and split up a family there. I could probably even present the evidence on behalf of some slum lord to show why his tenants, who've managed to make his hovel even more delapidated, should be put out onto the street. The thing is, I don't want to.

With three years of law school, the bar exam, all those pieces of parchment rolled up in tubes, and one-sixth of my life scratching out an existence from it all, I can't escape it entirely. It has made me part of who I am. And I'm sure there are things I've done as a lawyer that I'm proud of - I can't think of any off the top of my head, but I'm sure there's something.

It's been fourteen years since I sat through my first week of Torts, Contracts, Property, Civil Procedure, etc. Coincidentally, fourteen of the professors who were teaching when I was there are now emeriti, including some who didn't seem that old at the time. The scary thing is that some who did are still teaching.

When I entered law school, I had visions of a small town law practice in Kentucky and a seat in the state legislature. Never in a million years did I think that I would instead be teaching school half-way around the world. Half my students weren't even born then.

Posted by david at 11:17 PM | Comments (3)

August 30, 2004

Back to the Chalkface

Tomorrow I go back to work. I am gainfully employed for the first time since I got the sack by email on New Years Eve 2002.

That's not to say I haven't worked hard, especially over the last year when I was in teacher training full time. I had to teach everyday and do all the academic work as well.

This blog actually began as something to do while I looked for work. I was putting out Meanderings fairly regularly, but this gave me a chance to write every day. Until I took up teaching, it seems I was either unqualified or over-qualified for everything. A few times I got an interview and came in second to someone with specific previous experience, and they don't give out silver medals to the best loser in the job race.

Only just a year or two ago, the Newly Qualified Teacher (NQT) year was just a probationary year and nothing to worry about. Now the Government has made it much more onerous and almost like a second qualification year. The difference is that you can repeat the training year if it doesn't work out the first time. The NQT year is make or break. If everything isn't perfect, there's no second chance and the NQT is barred from teaching at any level forever. Pressure?

I haven't blogged about teaching over the last year and I probably won't mention much about it during the coming year. That way if any colleagues (including those in a supervisorial role) or students come across this site, they won't find anything that compromises their privacy. I think it is better that way. If I was going to blog about the NQT year, I would probably do it anonymously.

Posted by david at 11:17 PM | Comments (1)

Short Trousers

An odd thing happened this summer. I started wearing shorts. In public, I mean. (I wear them around the house, so I can easily pull down the silicon sleeve which otherwise keeps my artificial leg from dropping off.) I've never been one to go out wearing shorts. It has nothing to do with upbringing. My father has always worn shorts.

After I lost my leg, I suppose it isn't surprising that I wouldn't wear shorts, especially since I never had my prostheses padded and finished until I moved to the UK. It was included in the price - I just never had it done. I never minded showing people my leg, but I never fancied walking around in public with people seeing the steel pole connecting my stump and my shoe.

Now I just look like I'm wearing hose on one leg. This is because I am, in fact, wearing hose on one leg. That's what gives it the "natural" colour. It's not like I'm fooling anyone.

For some reason, when we were getting ready to go on holiday to Cornwall, I bought a new pair of shorts and I wore them. I even wore them when Mrs H was convinced it was too cold. I wore them everywhere. I thought maybe I didn't care because no one knew me.

Then the oddest thing happened last night. I wore shorts to shop at Tesco. Our local, just across the roundabout from us Tesco.

Maybe I am becoming my father and there is nothing I can do about it.

Posted by david at 02:48 PM | Comments (0)

August 28, 2004


One of the highlights of our trip to Cornwall was DairyLand Farmworld. We actually went there twice, because they give you seven consecutive days for the price of one.

Aidan was most impressed with the tractors everywhere. They were stationary, non-working models, but the steering wheel would spin on them. That's all he cared about. Give Aidie a large object with a steering wheel and he will stay occupied for hours. Once we got him inside the "Bullpen", the large indoor play area with giant slides and such, he really had fun, but as soon as we were outside it was back to the tractors.

The most interesting thing for Mrs H and me was the Cornish Heritage and Alternative Energy Centre - at least the Cornish Heritage part of it. It's the only adult thing in an otherwise children's attraction. (Otherwise, it cost £14 admission for us to supervise our under-3's-free toddler.) There were lots of displays of early machinery and implements. It was enlightening to see how people made a living in times gone by. By far the most resourceful seems to have been one Roger Giles.

And it wasn't all business. There was a spiritual side as well. I was surprised to see that Cornwall had anticipated one of the more popular aspects of late 20th century charismatic theology by 400 years.

The Alternative Energy Centre was a bit silly. All they had were a few little water pumps operated by little solar panels in a little patio area. A bit pointless, really.

Posted by david at 12:29 AM | Comments (0)

August 26, 2004

Public Transport

Yesterday, Mrs H and I took Abby to the US Embassy in London to get a Consular Report of Birth and apply for her US passport. We almost didn't make it.

Because of the cost of petrol, cost of parking, London congestion charge, and general chaos of driving in London, we decided to take the train. You can get from Hooterville to London by train via two different routes. One is cheaper than the other by £8, so it seemed reasonable to take the less expensive way. Wrong.

We had to change at Worcester Foregate. The train we were suppose to change to arrived at the station shortly after we did. However, to change platforms at Foregate with a pram requires taking a lift down to a subway and walking under and taking another lift up. The lifts will hold two prams. We were not the first in the queue for the lift, nor second, nor third. Our train left while we were still on the other platform.

Our appointment at the Embassy was for 2:00. Our original travel plans put us at London Paddington by 12:45. The next train to London didn't leave Foregate until after 1:00. But there was hope in sight. We took the train to Worcester Shrub Hill to catch the 11:08 Paddington.

Now we were going to be there at 1:30. A very tight squeeze, but we could still get there on time. Wrong.

The 11:08 doesn't go to Paddington these days, due to work being done on the tracks. We were told we should know that, because it had been posted at the station for days. The 11:08 now goes to Swindon, where we had to catch another train for Paddington. This put us at Paddington at 1:57. Not enough time to get to the Embassy by 2:00.

But this is the reason God gave us mobile phones. After an extended registration process to be able to put money on the phone, which took two calls, I rang the Embassy to explain our situation. After being put through to the US Citizen Services section, no one would answer the phone. It took ten minutes before anyone would answer. Fortunately, they didn't seem fussed that we were going to be a little late, but advised us to take a cab to get there ASAP.

It was Mrs H's first London cab, so I suppose it was worth the extra cost.

The experience at the Embassy was actually much better than we had with Aidan two years ago. Back then, it took all day. Because of the appointment system now in place, we were out of there in a couple of hours. We met a nice couple who are moving back to Wisconsin in four months. They will need to buy a snow plow. I didn't envy them.

We thought we might take the Tube to Paddington (since we had paid for it with our rail ticket). When we made it to the bottom of Marble Arch station at about 5:00, the trains were packed. An earlier disruption on the line meant that usually sardined Central Line trains were packed even tighter. There was no chance we were going to get on the Tube any time soon, so we ascended to the real world and wandered around Oxford Street for a while, sometimes in the pouring rain, thinking that we didn't need to be back at Paddington until the 7:18 to Hooterville.

We had a nice dinner at Garfunkels. We contemplated how we would get back to Paddington and decided to take one of the many buses with "Paddington" displayed. First we weren't sure which direction we needed to go, and the locals we asked were equally divided on which direction Paddington was.

Once we determined we were on the correct side of the street, we couldn't find a stop for the Number 23. Time started getting short. The 7:18 is the last train to Hooterville. We started looking for a taxi instead of a bus. Yet somehow, one minute there are taxis everywhere and the next there is not one to be found. Finally, we stumbled upon a bus stop for the Number 23. But you can't buy a ticket on the bus.

As the bus approached I found the ticket vending machine, which of course requires change. Digging around in my pocket, I found two pound coins - then the machine rejected one of them. The bus and it's very impatient Afro-Caribbean driver were waiting as I wrested the second ticket from the machine. We didn't know how irritable he was until later when someone tried to get on the bus when it was stopped but not at a bus stop. He shouted out a stream of sexual profanity, though it didn't seem to phase his London-hardened passengers.

We got to Paddington with moments to spare - or so we thought. When we walked in, there were too many people standing around for 7:15 in the evening. Then we found out that there had been no trains running for over an hour. Points failure in Southall. Fourteen platforms and no trains.

As trains started coming in and their outbound destinations were posted on the electronic boards, great masses of people rushed for them. Ours was the last of the trains in the backlog. We had to run from the area of platform 6 to platform 14. We made it in time and found seats. We should be able to sit tight all the way to Hooterville. Wrong.

At Oxford, we were told that we would have to move to the front three carriages of the train, as the back three would not be proceeding. So we bundled everything out onto the platform and up to the front of the train. Then they announced that in fact it was the back three carriages that would be going on. So everyone got up and pushed toward the doors to get off the train. But the doors never opened. Then they announced that, no, it was in fact the front three carriages. So everyone shuffles back to find seats. Finally, we left Oxford.

We got as far as Moreton-in-Marsh when they annouced that there had been a signal failure and we had to wait for the train coming in the opposite direction to pass us before we could go anywhere. It was about this time that we changed Abby into the last nappy we had.

They said it would just be about six minutes. They were wrong. Eventually we got to Hooterville about 11:30. The station was closed, so there was no one to open the gate to let us across the the tracks (we couldn't get the pram up and over the top). Fortunately the train driver had to turn the train around, so he took us up the track a ways and back to the nearside platform.

We had left our car at a nearby garage to get the MOT done, but despite the fact that it is just a short walk from the train station, Mrs H insisted on taking a taxi because it involved going down a small dark road into the industrial estate. So after two minutes and another £3.50 (10% of the cost of a train ticket all the way to London) we got our car.

It was a very, very long day.

Posted by david at 12:55 PM | Comments (2)

August 23, 2004

I'm Back...

Well, the computer never made it into the shop, as I didn't realise that they were closed on Saturday. However, we went to Cornwall on holiday in the meantime.

The day after we arrived, so did the flood that destroyed the village of Boscastle, just 10 miles up the coast from where we were staying. Boscastle is noted for its Witchcraft Museum. Mrs H and I were speculating that perhaps this flood reflected the judgment of God, but it appears that the museum was one of the survivors of the deluge. All of the cars in the car park, swept by the torrent down the main street and into the harbour, were not.

The only direct effect of the Boscastle flood was that we happened to be on the main highway in the area at the time and got stuck in traffic for two hours. Despite Abby crying her eyes out the whole time, our situation was not really comparable to the one up the road.

It was a rainy week generally. This limited some of our activities. Often we stayed inside expecting it to rain any minute or we ventured out only to get drenched.

Still, it was good to get away and have a change of scenery.

We stayed in the village of Port Isaac - not named for the biblical patriarch, but rather mutated from the Cornish word for corn - yzak. It is built on the side of a cliff, so as you might guess there is a lot of climbing involved in just getting around. The streets are so narrow that cars can only go one way at a time. However, they are so winding that entire queues of cars are travelling in opposite directions oblivious to each other until the lead vehicles come to an abrupt meeting. Even then, the occupants of cars further back in the pack may have no idea why things have come to a standstill - or stand off.

Travelling to other villages, we discovered this situation was not unique to Port Isaac, so each time we ended up in one of these queues we dubbed it a "Cornish situation". The one thing for which Cornwall does not seem suited is lots of visitors in cars. Unfortunately, owing to the natural beauty of its coastline, this is the one thing it possesses in abundance.

Posted by david at 11:47 PM | Comments (1)

August 09, 2004

Piping Up

I was praying before the evening meal tonight, chanting the Lord's Prayer in a fairly deep pitch. I never can remember the usual tune, so I find it easier to plain chant it.

As I was about far as "forgive us our trespasses..." when Aidan found something close to the pitch and started chanting, "Bless Daddy's dinner... and Mummy's dinner... and Aidie's dinner... and Uncle Michael's got a new bed..." Uncle Michael does in fact have a new bed, but how he worked that into the prayer, I have no idea. Suppose he just wanted Jesus to be aware of this.

Posted by david at 08:41 PM | Comments (4)

August 03, 2004

Where in the World

Aidie's geography skills are improving.

On his world map, he can now identify the UK (he knows that where he lives), the US (that's where Papa and Honey live and he goes there on the airplane), Canada, Mexico, Russia, Taiwan, the Philippines. Sometimes he can point out India, Thailand, and Australia, but we are still working on getting those 100% the first time.

It may be too ambitious to hope he will identify all of the countries of the world before he is turns three, but we have over five months to work on it.

Posted by david at 05:32 PM | Comments (0)

July 30, 2004

Half the Story

I was reading to Aidie today and after The Bad-Tempered Ladybird, Aidie got The Story of Moses from the Beginners Bible series. I started it but I couldn’t get very far. I had never seen such unbelievable tosh.

It is one thing to simplify the story, but to completely misrepresent the facts is another. First, Pharaoh decrees that the first-born sons of the Israelites would be killed, not that all baby boys would be slaughtered at birth. Moses’ mother, Jochebed, floated the basket down the Nile to Pharaoh’s palace. Then this made up out of whole cloth:

The baby was named Moses and even though he was raised in the Pharaoh’s palace, his real mother was always near him. And she taught him right from wrong. Jochebed also taught Moses that the Israelite slaves in Egypt were unhappy because they were not free.

Since his mother was only his wet-nurse, it seems he took a long, long time to wean. And what, Moses wasn’t able to figure out the unhappiness of the Israelites on his own? But it gets even less biblical.

One day, when Moses was older, he stopped an Egyptian from hurting an Israelite. [He stopped him, alright, dead in his tracks.] Of course it was against the laws for someone to help a slave [it was?], but Moses knew he had done the right thing [he did?]. He knew Pharaoh would be very angry so he left Egypt all by himself. His plan was to live in another land as a true Israelite [what?]; that way he would have to see his people treated to badly [or be done for murder].

Well, I’d had enough of that, so Aidie got out his Bible in Pictures for Little Eyes. This is where they take an entire story and reduce it to a paragraph and add a load of devotional comments. When he was just starting to look at books, Aidie always used to get this out and open it to the story of Solomon determining who was the mother of the baby. He loved anything with a picture of a baby.

Anyhow, I noticed that it jumped from Solomon to Elijah. So I leafed through paying closer attention and noticed just how much is left out of the stories included in the book. It’s not that it avoids all stories where bad things happen to people. It includes the earth opening up on Korah, Absolom getting his hair caught in the tree, and Samson pulling down the temple of Dagon. However, a lot of stories are missing, such as:

The stoning of Achan
Jael driving the spike through Sisera’s head
Ehud gutting Eglon
The Philistines getting haemorrhoids from harbouring the Ark the Covenant
The hanging of Saul’s sons and grandsons by the Gibeonites
Jezebel falling to her death and being eaten up by dogs

I think I need to start reading the stories to him straight out of the Bible. The only problem is that mine doesn't have pictures.

Posted by david at 01:12 AM | Comments (3)

July 25, 2004

Encyclopedic Knowledge

I looked for something on Wikipedia one time too many and now I am a confirmed Wikipedian. Yes, I'm a registered user and I'm writing and editing articles.

Editing is certainly nothing new to me. I've been editor on the Open Directory Project since February 2001 and a Meta Editor since last April. I've done over 34,000 edits there.

So I've gone from describing and listing websites to writing encyclopedia articles.

Encyclopedias and I go back a long way together. I got my first set World Book encyclopedias at Christmas of 1970. I got the 1970 edition because that was what was available. The 1971 set arrived a few months later. Even though the brown 71's were a year more up-to-date, I always used the red 70's. I read them cover to cover long before I ever reached double digits in age.

The problem with most encyclopedias is cost. They aren't cheap. I don't know how much the World Book sets cost in 1970, but their 2004 counterpart sells for over $1,000. That would be a very expensive Christmas present for most family budgets.

Of course you can get the same 2004 World Books on CD-ROM for only $23.00. It includes extra articles and all the multimedia bells and whistles. But this isn't an advert for World Book.

Why pay when you can get even more for free? That's the great thing about Wikipedia. Plus, it is unlimited in the number of articles it can contain or the subjects it covers. And anyone can create or edit the articles. Sure, World Book contains lots of maps and pictures, but does it have biographies of contemporary Christian music artists?

During my brief foray into Wikipedia, I have filled out the bio of Barry McGuire and created the entries for 2nd Chapter of Acts and the "band called David". I also greatly expanded the entry for Apollo 15 astronaut Jim Irwin.

Posted by david at 10:25 PM | Comments (0)

July 09, 2004

Britain's Most Expensive Mediaeval Experience

Mrs H had been wanting to visit Warwick Castle for ages. It's not a cheap ticket, so the ever-economical Mrs H traded in Tesco Club Card vouchers using a special deal they have with Warwick Castle and other attractions. Unfortunately, when we got there, the ticket people refused our Great Day Out vouchers because they didn't specifically say "Warwick Castle" on them. This despite the fact that Mrs H specifically ordered them for the castle. The castle folks blamed Tesco for sending us the wrong vouchers. I'm sure when we write to Tesco (and you can be sure we will) they will blame the castle.

Because Kelly had to go to the car and get the voucher cover letter from Tesco for the castle staff to photocopy and all of the rest of the hassle, they gave is student rate tickets, which were about £4 off. This wasn't as good as if we had brought the £5 off coupons we left at home.

Warwick Castle bills itself as the "Britain's Greatest Mediaeval Experience". It ought to be for the price. After next week (the peak season) the adult price goes from £13.50 to £14.50 (about $29.00). That gets you in the grounds, but not into everything. There are special ticketed events as well.

They don't charge for children under 4, but what they should do is give a discount to anyone with an under-4. It wasn't the best place to take Aidan. He didn't get a lot out of it and the need for constant supervision meant that no one else did either. By the time we got there, changed Abby's nappy, waited through the whole ticket fiasco, changed Abby's nappy, got some food, and yes, changed Abby's nappy, we didn't have a lot of time left.

The castle was set to close an hour early today because of a Cliff Richard concert on the grounds tonight. Thus we had to cram everything in before 5:00.

Mixed in with the usual school groups and American tourists were a lot of chubby ladies in the 50-70 age bracket wearing t-shirts that appeared to have been acquired from the hucksters at the last Cliff Richard concert they attended. Yes, Sir Cliff's groupies were out in force.

One of the centrepiece attractions at the castle is not medieval at all. It is the re-creation of a 1898 Royal Weekend Party. The Royal Weekend Party has been there since I last visited the castle in 1990. In fact, it has been there since 1982. All of the guests look unbelievably lifelike.

This is because Warwick Castle is owned by the Tussauds Group. They bought it off Charles Guy Greville, Earl of Warwick, in 1978. Yes, as in Madame Tussauds. In addition to the famous wax museum on Baker Street, they also own Chessington World of Adventures, Thorpe Park, Alton Towers, and the London Eye.

There are a couple of other waxwork attractions within the castle, one that focuses on the Restoration period (late 17th century) and the other that actually deals with something medieval - the household of the most famous Earl of Warwick, Richard Neville, the Kingmaker. I think that was Aidie's favourite bit, because he kept going into it and dancing to the recorded music.

Well, his second favourite bit. The most interesting things for Aidie were the bins. There was nothing special about them, but he wouldn't leave them alone. While he and I waiting for Mummy to - you guessed it - change Abby's nappy, he had an ice cream. When he finished it, he put the paper in the bin. Then he put other bits in the bin. Then found other people's bit of trash and put those in the bin. Then he got a baby wipe out of the pram, cleaned off a little spot of dripped ice cream and ran over and put that in the bin. Everywhere we went in the castle, he had to look in the bins. They were all the same, but he had to mess with them.

After Mrs H's knee gave out, she and Abby waited at ground level. Aidie and went exploring to greater heights. We climbed up into the gatehouse and barbican. It is a good thing that the Mrs was out of sight. Let's just say that winding spiral stone staircases without handrails have intrinsic health and safety issues. They weren't designed with 2-year-olds in mind.

We then went to the top of the Mound - the bit of the castle dating from 1068. We climbed and climbed and climbed, until we looked over all of the castle and lots of Warwickshire countryside. I think Aidie appreciated neither the geography nor the history. While we were at the top, Sir Cliff began his sound check.

The last trip we took was about as far down as the Mound was up. Aidie and I walked down and down and down to the Mill and Engine House. Unfortunately, he was too young to appreciate the various turbines and their function. I think it would have been very interesting to a child of 7 or 8.

At the Mill and Engine House we uncovered one of the great mysteries of Warwick Castle. There is no disabled access to the Mill. However, once we got down there, it included a disabled toilet and one of those little wheelchair mini-lifts for moving from one level to the other. Why?

This mystery unsolved, the time came to leave the castle. On the way out, we saw a bloke in costume doing an archery demonstration. He was very good. He could shoot 18 arrows a minute and shoot the skull off a dummy at 50 yards without aiming using a medieval longbow.

So our afternoon at Warwick Castle was at an end. As we were leaving, more Cliff groupies kept pouring in. We -you guessed it - changed Abby's nappy and headed home.

Posted by david at 08:38 PM | Comments (0)

July 08, 2004

Home Improvement

In an effort to reduce Aidie's use of the self-service kitchen in the middle of the night, Mrs H installed a new gate across the door. Because it cannot swing forward, thanks to the washing machine, this means backing up against the front door to open it and it is very difficult to exit the kitchen with hot food containers (whether this be saucepans, serving bowls, or cups of tea) in both hands as it swings open to block access into the lounge. The biggest problem may prove to be keeping Aidan from figuring out how to open it and hoping that the amount of pressure required to spring it open remains greater than his manual strength.

The other achievement by Mrs H today was the installation of a corner shelf for our first icon corner. In every place we have lived since we have been married, it has not been possible to install an icon corner. Instead we have used the shelves of various bookcases. I think Mrs H finally got fed up with them being strewn across the front of the books and saw this as a opportunity to consolidate them into one place. Well, not all of them, but at least some of them. I also moved our table-top thurible to the shelf. Now I just need to hang a lampada.

Posted by david at 04:46 PM | Comments (3)

July 04, 2004

Early Childhood Development

Aidie is drawing circles. Yes, I know, this seems like a simple thing to you and me, but for 2½ years old, this is apparently very advanced. According to the Denver II test, only 25% of children can do this by age 3.

Once I found this out, I thought I should see where Aidie is in the other test areas. Apparently he's also not supposed to be able to play card games, brush his teeth without help, prepare cereal, understand four prepositions, name four colours, know three adjectives, count five blocks, know opposites, or explain the use of three objects.

I looked for naming the nine planets, operating the VCR and DVD (the latter placed so high he has to do it with the tips of his fingers while standing on tip toes), knowing which primary colours combine to make which secondary colours, and feeding pets without help. Those don't seem to be included.

I'm sure that bragging about one child is bad form. Sometimes I just can't help myself. It doesn't make us love him any more than we would otherwise. It's just exciting to see him do these things.

Posted by david at 11:49 PM | Comments (1)

June 12, 2004

In the Air Tonight

It might be an addiction. I'm not sure. I know you can be addicted to substances, but is the breeze a substance?

There is something about the nighttime air in Britain in the summertime. I'm not sure what it is. I don't know if it anything to do with how little nighttime there is in the summer. It doesn't get dark here now until well after 10:00 pm.

I've starting leaving a window open at night just to get a hint of that breeze. I suppose it is also to release some of the heat in the upstairs as well. It can be cool downstairs and I can feel the air warm and thicken as I climb to the upper floor.

Sometimes while I am working into the night, I will step outside on the patio just to get a hit of the summer night. It is another one of those ineffable reasons I love this country. It doesn't matter who runs the Government, how bad public services are, how godless the population is, or any of the things I rant about in my Diversions. There will always be a light breeze at night in the British summertime.

Posted by david at 11:21 PM | Comments (2)

June 05, 2004

A Father's Arms

Aidan has survived his second (at least) near-death experience. The first was when an angry rhinoceros charged at his door of our car during a visit to West Midlands Safari Park. It swerved at the last nanosecond. Methinks it saw an menacing angel to which we were not privy.

Yesterday, Aidie was being silly on the stairs. I think I have mentioned before that he learned to work our triple-action stair gates rated to 3 years well before he was 2. Then they took a siginificant amount of time for him to manipulate. Now they don't take him any longer than they take us open. He was most of the way down the stairs when I stopped him and sent him back up. I can't remember why he wasn't allowed downstairs at that particular juncture, but that was the situation.

He decided he would go up the stairs backwards. He was advised against this strongly. Or to put it more accurately he was ordered in no uncertain terms to go up the stairs properly. He chose, however, to do it his way. Fortunately, I was coming up the stairs to address his non-compliance. As he reached the top, he didn't take into account the stair gate across the bottom of the landing, slipped, and like the walls of Jericho, he came a tumblin' down. I don't mean sliding down on his bum. I mean completely out of control like a rag doll.

Had I not been inside the bottom steel-framed stair gate, it would have stopped his fall. Instead, he slid into my arms head-first and I scooped him up to safety.

It was just one of those parenting moments when the shadow and the type - the temporal world and our human family relationships - makes more obvious the reality of God's relationship to his children. How often are we silly and do things our own way and think we'd made it to the top, just to come tumblin' down? And how often is God standing there to scoop us up just before we break our neck?

I know this isn't a deep theological insight. It wasn't something I (or you) didn't know already. Yet God reminds us over and over of the simple things - the basics. He must do this because we need it.

Posted by david at 08:48 PM | Comments (3)

June 02, 2004

Virgin Newspeak

Yesterday, Virgin said there would be "a slight delay" in providing broadband service. Apparently, "a slight delay" means "never". Once again, the BT engineer has decided that my line is too far from the exchange.

Even though I know people a comparable distance away who can get broadband just fine, I stuck in the slow lane. Whilst 99% of the country can get on the information superhighway, I'm still on the information B road.

Posted by david at 05:35 PM | Comments (0)

Updated Photos

I have finally fully updated the photo pages on the website and linked them together.

Beginning with photos taken yesterday, you can start here. I've tried to keep to the file size down for those who, like me (arrrgh!) are still using a Stone Age dialup connection.

Posted by david at 12:07 AM | Comments (0)

June 01, 2004

Promises, Promises

Today I was suppose to be getting broadband. First, the modem I ordered didn't arrive. It was supposed to arrive at least three days before the activation date. I rummaged around and found my old ADSL modem, from back when I had broadband at a previous address. As I was hooking it up, I got an email message telling me that the one I ordered was just now being dispatched.

I didn't matter anyway, because when I installed the other modem, it did not detect an ADSL signal. After trying to troubleshoot this for a couple of hours, I got an email from Virgin telling me that there would be "a slight delay" in delivering broadband service to me. The reason for this is "Line Quality Survey". I'm guessing this is what the BT technician was doing when he can around this morning as Mrs H was leaving (I was already gone.) However, no one at BT will tell me the result of testing my line.

The last time I tried to get broadband, my line was just barely too far from the exchange. Since then, they have extended the radius by at least half a kilometre. That should put me inside the zone.

I am getting very tired and frustrated with dialup. The best speed I get is 46.6 and I don't get that a lot of the time and sometimes have to dial up over and over just to reach that top speed. It takes ages to do anything.

Gimme my broadband!

Posted by david at 08:59 PM | Comments (0)

May 31, 2004

Back Home Again in... Wherever

I've lived away from Indiana for so long now that I forgot yesterday was the 88th running of the Indianapolis 500. For ten years, it was unavoidable. I lived just a couple of miles from, and on the same side of town as, the Brickyard. It is the focal point for the civic calendar during the entire month of May.

I had never really cared for motor racing, but upon moving to Indianapolis, I quickly learned the names of the perennial drivers and teams. I moved to Indy over a qualification weekend in May, so my baptism was preceded by a very short catechumenate. Reading the results of the race, I now recognise very few names - evidence of my apostasy since leaving the Circle City for the rolling hills of the Shire.

The downside of living in Indianapolis was that after all of the hype and whilst having to put up with all the extra traffic on the Westside, had to listen to the race on the radio. Apparently it isn't enough to have an estimated 750,000 people inside the walls of the Motor Speedway (estimated because the Tony George and the IMS never reveal how many tickets they sell). The television rights always include a blackout provision for a 90-mile radius. As far as I am aware, this hasn't packed more people into the infield, as it isn't a particularly good place from which to view the race.

Anyhow, it looks like David Letterman's joint venture with Bobby Rahal has paid off and good for him.

Part of me misses Indianapolis, not for the race, but for the friends, the familiar streets, and the days between the blistering hot summers and the freezing cold winters. I find that part of me misses everywhere I've lived since I left home - the coastal plains of Gonzales, the dry rugged hill country of Junction, the Ozarks of Fayetteville, as well as the sprawling small town of 1.2 million that is metropolitan Indianapolis. I've be blessed to have never lived somewhere I really disliked. In each case, except Junction really, I've been happy to settle indefinitely. I didn't dislike Junction - I just never planned to stick around.

Part of me has always wanted to put down roots and become an established and recognised member of a local community. My destiny has never allowed this. I'm sure I'm just a transient resident of the Shire. But at the end of the day, we are all just passing through, so I suppose it doesn't really matter that much.

Posted by david at 10:19 AM | Comments (0)

May 24, 2004

Twenty Years of Ignorance

I have had certain principal musical influences at different times in my life. There was, amongst others, my Keith Green phase, Eric Clapton phase, Van Morrison phase, and yes, believe or not, my Neil Diamond phase. Other than the 2nd Chapter of Acts, Neil Diamond probably inspired me more than any other in the art of the live performance. Not that I ever actually incorporated any of his style or skill, but inspiration can be more ethereal than that.

The first "secular" tape I ever owned was "The Jazz Singer". For some of my friends at the time this was a bit scandalous. (Just a year or so before, I had been scandalised by a pastor in Wales [who I will see tomorrow for the first time since then] who had records by the group War in his collection.) However, vaguely knew of Neil from my junior high days when we sang "Sweet Caroline" as one of our concert pieces in choir.

I later had a cassette copy bootlegged of a friend's LP of what I think was titled Twelve Greatest Hits or somesuch - the tape is somewhere in Texas and the record is long out of print - ecplised by half a dozen other greatest hits collections.

When I was living in Texarkana working as a political consultant in the summer of 1985 (I was involved in mobilising the Religious Right in a Congressional Special Election), I had no television in my little apartment on 13th Street above the second-hand furniture shop, so I listened to Love at the Greek and read Battlefield Earth.

Tonight I was listening to one of the few Neil Diamond CDs I have - his third live album recorded at the Greek Theatre in LA - Hot August Night II and after all these years, the light came on. Have you ever noticed (you Neil Diamond fans out there, and you know who you are) that "Song Sung Blue" is a happy song? This is clearly the reason I have never understood it until now. That's right. I just now realised that it should have a comma. It's about a song, sung blue.

Posted by david at 09:28 PM | Comments (0)

May 23, 2004

Food and Liturgical Rocking

I did two things for the first time tonight. I fed my daughter and I rocked her in the rocking chair.

In the first instance, I have not had the God-given equipment to feed heretofore. I'm not saying that I have that equipment now, obviously. However, Mrs H expressed some of that white infant libation to keep Abby from using a particularly over-used apparatus. The joy of the moment was brief. Even after a long feed, Abigail took the two ounces in that bottle practically in one gulp. Later Mrs H provided a further three ounces to supplement what should have already been a full meal and that, too, was gone in an instant. We have a hungry little girl.

She is hungry enough that I was sent out into the night to find some formula, should the need arise in the wee hours. I mentioned offhandedly to Mrs H a few days ago that with all the costs of raising a child, at least we didn't have to buy formula. Feeling I was not fully appreciating her contribution, it soon became apparent that I might continue to hear my remark repeated back with just that little edge of sarcasm until at least next Forgiveness Sunday. However, having now purchased formula at the recommended retail price, I'm not so sure I take back what I said.

I bought 4 little 250ml cartons for 43p (approx. 80¢) each. If this becomes a regular occurance, this is going to add up. We don't need additional costs. Mrs H recently calculated that our nappy bill right now works out to about £2000 a year. This is no doubt due in part to Aidie's reluctance to potty train. Hopefully he will soon reduce our outgoings by redirecting his.

On to that other thing... Rocking is something I experienced a lot of as a child. My father rocked me every night from when I came home from the hospital until I was about 8 years old. He also rocked my brother, but like Aidan, he never really took to it.

My father also made up lullaby songs using the tunes of invitation hymns from the Baptist Hymnal (the old green Baptist hymnal, to which he still remembers all the hymn numbers, even though neither it nor he have been used by the Southern Baptists for nearly 30 years). I would follow his example, though I'm not sure whether to use the tune to O Heavenly King, the Cherubic Hymn, or rather to just pick one of the Tones, or maybe rotate them weekly. (Should I start by chanting, "The Lullaby in Tone 4..."?)

We'll have to see how it all works out.

Posted by david at 11:58 PM | Comments (0)

May 20, 2004


Abby is now eight days old and she is doing all the usual stuff. You know, like lifting her head and rolling over.

Okay, so it's a little advanced for eight days, but then she was half-grown when she was born.

Posted by david at 12:07 AM | Comments (0)

May 19, 2004

Gainfully Employed

The months of searching are over. I have a job for the autumn.

Posted by david at 04:27 PM | Comments (0)

May 15, 2004


I had hoped to spend the days after Abby's birth rambling on about the glories of fatherhood and how wonderful it is to have a little girl and all that. But as circumstances would have it, I have been occupied with going to London overnight to pick up the paternal grandparents, retrieving them from the airport and driving back to the Shire, picking up Aidie at the maternal grandparents, and hundreds of little things that need to be done.

While I was waiting through a three-hour flight delay at Gatwick, I did work on a Meandering. When I will have a chance to finish it, who knows. There will be a link available when it actually comes out.

Must go. Need sleep.

Posted by david at 11:53 PM | Comments (0)

May 12, 2004


I'm sorry that commenting is still down, and in light of that I especially thank those of you who have emailed congratulation and well wishes.

Mummy and Abby are doing well. Aidie got to meet his little sister for the first time. As you can see, he took to her immediately.

Posted by david at 11:28 PM | Comments (0)

May 11, 2004

It's a Girl!

At 7:36pm BST, by emergency caesarian, Abigail Leticia Holford joined our family. She weighed in at 9lbs 12½oz and is 21½ inches long.

Daddy is very tired. Well, Mummy is too.

More later.

Posted by david at 11:08 PM | Comments (0)

May 10, 2004

Motherhood is Contagious

Mrs H is expecting to give birth at any time. She has good reason for such expectation, as she is rather evidently great with child.

Bubby is also expecting to give birth at any time. However, she has no good reason to expect this, because she has never "known" a buck. Nevertheless, she has built quite a nest in her hutch, pulling out her fur and lining it heavily. Bubby is experiencing false pregnancy.

Apparently this is rather common in unspayed doe rabbits. It also may give an explanation to her aggressive behaviour and her very territorial attitude toward her hutch. For a while it has been common for her to attack even when I'm giving her food.

The solution for all of this is for Bubby to have a hysterectomy. However, from what I have seen in my research on the web, the cost is significant. It averages between £50 and £80. I will be ringing around the area vets and shopping for the best price.

Like I need something else to do.

Posted by david at 12:43 AM | Comments (0)

May 09, 2004


Today is the due date for the little sprog still nestled in utero. Despite Mrs H's continuing discomfort and off-and-on contractions for the last couple of weeks, there has been no dramatic event to indicate imminent arrival.

We had a scan and visit with the consultant on Friday. The scan indicated that the baby is about 10½ lbs. The doctor indicated that this is accurate only with 2 lbs either way. So it is probably only 9ish, but to Mrs H is definitely feels closer to 13.

As it stands now, if proper labour hasn't begun by tomorrow, the baby will probably be born by c-section Tuesday or Wednesday. Induction is contra-indicated for Mrs H, as is an excessively large baby. Plus, Papa and Honey have already bought their tickets and we don't want them to come and go before the new grandchild has arrived!

Going into labour tomorrow would be rather inconvenient, as that is the day of Mrs H's grandfather's funeral. It is going to be a busy week for us!

Posted by david at 04:30 PM | Comments (0)

May 05, 2004

Restored Memories

In response to my moaning about only having one half of How the West was One, a kind reader and fellow Orthoblogger has been kind enough to provide a replacement copy of the first CD. I don't know if he would want me to mention him here by name.

As I have been listening to it, it brings back so many memories. Some are directly related to the album, others only tangentally so. I remember spending hours playing the songs out of my 2nd Chapter of Acts songbook on the old upright piano at the church. As I started listening to HTWWO I was playing quite a bit of air guitar. However, when it got to "Now I That I Belong To You" I started playing air piano, because despite my fairly modest skills, I could play all the argeggios and runs of the instrumental break. It was like my fingers still remembered the motions. At least it was much more authentic than my digital emulation of Phil Keaggy.

The CD also reminds me of the various times I saw 2nd Chapter and Keaggy in concert (separately, of course). One of the times I saw the latter, I arranged to do an interview for a book I was hoping to write (an ambitious project for a 18 or 19 year old). I must have the cassette tape of that interview somewhere. No doubt it is buried in the boxes and boxes of tapes in my parents' garage.

I think about the first time I saw 2nd Chapter. My parents took me up to Houston to a church, the name of which escapes me but it seems like it was somewhere around 12th and Shepherd (any ideas?), and sat in the back while I sat right behind Buck Herring's bald head at the sound board. I had no idea then that I would have breakfast with Buck and Annie in their home six years later. But that's another story...

Posted by david at 03:05 AM | Comments (0)

May 04, 2004

Memory Eternal

Mrs H's grandfather reposed in the wee hours of this morning. She was very close to him. This will be a difficult time for her, given the added burden that labour may begin at any time.

We ask for your prayers for his soul and his family.

Posted by david at 08:21 PM | Comments (0)

May 02, 2004

Memory Eternal

Today would have been my brother's 35th brithday. Please remember the repose of his soul and the grief of his widow and my parents in your prayers.

Memory eternal!

Posted by david at 05:09 PM | Comments (0)

April 28, 2004

38 Weeks +

For those of you who have been kind to enquire by email about Mrs H and her impended confinement (or at least that's what they used to call it), I can report that she and the child in utero are healthy and both are ready for the situation to change.

Though the blessed event could be sooner rather than later, Mrs H fears the latter.

We still haven't settled on names. Our discussions don't get very far when I begin suggesting perfectly good names such as Erasmus (not the after the humanist philospher, but rather my great-great-grandfather, 5greats-grandfather, and 4greats-uncle). She also doesn't like Cuthbert (seems like a good companion for Aidan). My parents once suggested I might have been named Solomon Hezekiah (the middle names of two of my great-grandfathers and perfectly biblical as well) so I thought it might be a possibility, but Mrs H wasn't keen on that either.

All of this assumes that it is a boy. We haven't given much thought to girl names.

Posted by david at 09:31 PM | Comments (0)

April 26, 2004

Half of One

Cleaning up the garage yesterday afternoon, I pulled a few more CDs out of storage. We don't have a rack for all of our CDs, but I wanted to get out a few more.

From amongst the stacks, I pulled out the greatest live album ever recorded. Well, actually half of the greatest live album ever recorded. Somehow in the move from the US to the UK, I managed to leave the first CD of How the West Was One on the other side of the Atlantic. I have the jewel case, but not the disc.

I have owned this in one form or another since 1978 - the year I discovered comtemporary Christian music and the year after it was recorded. As I reflect on it now (with the strains of Phil Keaggy's 9:35 version "Time" in my ears), it is the reason I wanted to have a band - something that wouldn't actually happen for another 14 years.

I remember having it cranked up on the PA system at church while I would clean and set up chairs on Saturday afternoons. It was playing out of mono tape player into a mono PA, but it was glorious nonetheless. The only down side was when the foul-mouthed aunt of the flowershop owner next door would come over and tell me off because they could hear almost as well as I could.

How the West Was One is still (or back) in print. I don't suppose they will let me pay $11.00 for just one of the discs! I just hate to pay $22.00 (plus shipping) when I already have half of it.

Posted by david at 01:45 AM | Comments (0)

April 25, 2004

So Close

I went to see Hooterville United play their last match of the regular season today. I was hoping it could have been the last match of the season, full stop. For our opponents it was, because they had already clinched the Conference championship. Their win over Farborough Town last weekend meant yesterday's match was meaningless.

We scored three goals and won 2-1. Chester City's only goal was an own goal by our team captain. We dominated most of the match. We dominated most of the season, except for a little slump in mid-winter when we relinquished the Conference lead. And that was enough for us to finish on 91 points and Chester on 92. Shrewsbury in third place has 74, so it was clearly a two-horse race.

So while Chester rest up for their re-entry into the Football League, we hopefully have four more matches. Those 91 points now mean nothing. Four teams have an equal shot at one remaining spot in the Third Division and they will be playing their hearts out. I will be at the home leg of the first round of the playoffs against Aldershot Town on bank holiday Monday.

Posted by david at 05:03 PM | Comments (0)

April 19, 2004

Independence Day

On her second attempt and after millions of pounds spent on lessons, Mrs H has passed her driving test. The Government may be trying to prevent as many people as possible from getting licenses (and randomly culling drivers from the herd wherever possible), but they didn't get her.

This is independence for both of us. My role as exclusive chauffeur is at an end.

Posted by david at 11:07 PM | Comments (0)

April 17, 2004

The Bottom Line

I have been away from the States long enough to have forgotten if the tin cans are shaped in the same way that they are here. I remember that they are cylindrical, of course. However, as we were shopping tonight, I noticed that it is only canned fish (as we were buying both tuna and salmon) that has a rounded bottom. Other products seem to have bottoms identical to the tops.

This means that while tuna and salmon are easy to stack in the cupboard, mushroom soup, corn, peas, and beans are not. With these items, the only way to insure fairly stable stacking is to place concentrically larger cans below smaller ones - thus placing all the beans on top of all the corn.

The appeal of the rounded bottom seems obvious to me. Why most canned food companies have taken their lead from fashion designers and gone for the uncurved model, I don't know.

Like I said, perhaps there are more rounded bottoms in the States. Unfortunately, as I still haven't solved the problem with the comments feature, no one can let me know unless they email me directly.

Posted by david at 11:42 PM | Comments (0)

April 14, 2004

Let There Be Dark

With the lengthening of daylight here in the upper parts of the Northern Hemisphere, it has been increasing difficult to get Aidie to go to sleep at a decent time. The curtain in his bedroom has fallen down due to a bracket problem and even when it is up it does very little to block the light.

Most two-year-olds need to sleep more than just from 9:00 pm to 5:00 am. The parents of most two-year-olds need for them to sleep longer. The 37-week pregnant mother of this particular two-year-old has been getting very grumpy due to this sleep pattern. At 37 weeks grumpiness is already an issue – we don’t need to exacerbate the situation.

We kept saying that we needed to buy a blackout blind. However, it appeared that all of them were expensive and none of them were of the dimensions of the window. Finally we found a cheap one. Last night we spent hours installing it.

First it had to be cut down to size. This meant a trip to the DIY store for a hacksaw. We had to go there anyway to get materials to repair the telly cabinet door that a certain in-law broke when we last moved and Aidie finally pulled asunder a couple of days ago. I never realised how cheap small hacksaws are. 78p. Anyhow, while Aidie and I played in the back garden, Mrs H carefully followed the instructions it cutting the blind down to size. It should have fit perfectly.

It didn’t. It’s amazing how significant a few millimetres can be. So we slowly hacked it down to size. Each time we shaved it a bit, we tried to mount it. Mrs H made the first efforts, but eventually the strain was too much. So she climbed down and I worked at it. A one-legged man with a bad shoulder standing on a dining room chair in an upstairs window trying to force a cardboard tube between two brackets. This was a disaster looking for a place to happen. That it didn’t is clearly an example of the mercy of God. How I ever got that blind in place I don’t know.

Aidie still didn’t get to bed before 9:00. It’s probably too dark in there for him to get to sleep.

Posted by david at 02:17 PM | Comments (0)

March 24, 2004

Hope for Bubby

As Bubby attacked me again this evening, I realised that she is no longer a feasible pet for Aidie. I just didn't know what to do. Thanks to a link on Serge's blog, we now have hope.

Posted by david at 11:02 PM | Comments (0)

March 23, 2004


Despite being recently given a brand new run and the opportunity to play in the back garden, Bubby has turned increasingly anti-social. In fact, she has become quite vicious.

When I attempt to retrieve her from her hutch to put her in the run, she actually growls at me. I did not realise that rabbits can growl and hiss. She does this before actually attacking my hand. I have to wear Mrs H's gardening gloves to protect myself. Then when it comes time to go back into the hutch, she hisses, growls, and attacks me again. On the way back to the hutch this evening, she kept aggressively biting the glove.

We had been considering whether to get her a friend so she wouldn't be so lonely. At this point, it seems that she might kill it outright. A guinea pig would stand no chance. I'm not sure that a large dog would stand a chance. I'm not sure Bubby deserves a friend.

I had been thinking about a nice rabbit stew. Now I'm convinced the meat would be too tough to eat anyway.

Posted by david at 10:22 PM | Comments (1)

March 22, 2004

Crazy Weather

I don't normally just talk about the weather, but it has been very odd for the last couple of days. It has been more changeable than Scotland.

Yesterday, it alternated between sun and rain, with the rain lashing almost horizontally in the heavy winds. Then, as we were getting back into town after the lunch following a chrismation in our community, there was hail completely covering the road and hail covering the cars we met. Apparently, there had been a sudden hail storm that lasted about 5 minutes, but coated everything north of the river.

Today was about as strange, with the alternating blinding sunlight and deep dark clouds depositing heavy rain. Once again, there was a brief hail storm.

Who knows what tomorrow may bring.

Posted by david at 11:37 PM | Comments (0)

March 20, 2004

Testing the Nation Again

Just as I did in December, I played along tonight with another installment of the BBC's Test the Nation. This time I played online, which has positives and negatives.

The questions are actually a little different, because there are extended video clips on the telly. You can't play along with the telly exactly, because as soon as a question is answered online, the next question pops up with just 10 or 15 seconds (depending on the section of the test) to answer. I think if I had just used pencil and paper like last time, my raw score would have been better. I was also taking it on my laptop using the touchpad with over sensitive buttons. Several time I brushed over the button while I was still moving the mouse to hightlight the correct answer.

An advatage of testing online is that the results are immediate. Everyone else is waiting until after the 10:00 news. A disadvantage is that sometimes it calculates the wrong result. The website told me I got 47 out of 75 correct. That was enough to be in the top 20%. When 10:30 came around and I actually marked my individual answers, I actually got 51 out of 75.

This time the test covered knowledge of the UK, in terms of history, geography, culture, and the like. You can go to the website and take the test for yourself. Feel free to post comments with your scores.

Posted by david at 09:59 PM | Comments (0)

March 16, 2004

Busy Birthday

I had hoped to send out a Meandering yesterday to mark my 40th birthday, but there was just too much going on.

I had to teach all day, Mrs H took her driving test, we had to return my babysitting brother-in-law back home, and then go out for dinner.

Mrs H failed her driving test, thanks to an idiot behind her on a narrow country lane. It would be too complicated to explain, especially given the vagaries of British road rules, but his aggressive driving has probably cost us at least £200 in additional testing fees and driving lessons to keep Mrs H fresh on driving a manual (as our car is an automatic, but if she takes her test in an automatic, she cannot drive a stick).

There were highlights to the birthday. Aidie sang "Happy Birthday" to me first thing in the morning and gave me a present, which I've no doubt he picked out himself, The Journals of Father Alexander Schmemann, 1973-1983. He must have known I'd wanted this for a long time, though I don't remember telling him.

While I was looking for the tie I wanted to wear, I opened a present from my parents and the tie matched my shirt perfectly, so I was able to wear my birthday tie to work.

For dinner, we went to pub out in the sticks which had been recommended to me - once several months ago and then by a colleague at work yesterday. I highly recommend the Three Horseshoes Inn in Little Cowarne, should you ever be out in the Shire. I dare say it will scandalise the Orthodox faithful if I mention what I had off of the menu to celebrate the Feast of Dave's Nativity which invariably falls within Lent. Let's just say that I let my 40 years trump the 40 days and gave little thought to the Canons. So bear in mind with my recommendation that The Three Horseshoes is the sort of place that may not be appropriate for Lenten fasting.

The Meandering is forthcoming.

Posted by david at 08:32 AM | Comments (0)

March 14, 2004

Profound Thoughts

This morning as I was washing the dishes I was supposed to do last night, I thought about my monumental birthday tomorrow and I was pondering the words of the great philosopher Steve Miller:

Time keeps on slippin' slippin' slippin'
Into the future
Time keeps on slippin' slippin' slippin'
Into the future

This is perhaps exceeds the profundity of his exposition on self-realisation:

I'm a picker, I'm a grinner, I'm a lover and I'm a sinner
Playing my music in the sun
I'm a joker, I'm a smoker, I'm a midnight toker
I sure don't want to hurt no one

This is perhaps because I gave up smoking at the age of eight and I've never been a toker, at midnight or otherwise.

I did take on one last bit of Millerian philosophy before I finished the dishes:

My grandpa, he's 95
And he keeps on dancin'
He's still alive

My grandma, she's 92
She loves to dance
And sing some, too

I don't know
But I've been told
If you keep on dancing
You'll never grow old

During the next 40 years, I'm going to do the best I can to keep dancing.

Posted by david at 11:19 AM | Comments (0)

March 13, 2004

I Had a Uncle Named Matthew

I thought of that opening line to a John Denver song when I looked at my family tree program tonight.

This Matthew was my great-great-great-grandfather's brother, a Prebyterian minister who provided me with lots of distant cousins, most of whom I'll never discover. He'd be 196 years old today.

On my mother's side, it is my great-great-great-grandfather's and great-great-great-grandmother's 176th wedding anniversary. Useless information, you say? Well, if it wasn't for that wedding, I wouldn't be here today.

The more genealogical infomation I have, the more amazing the Providence of God becomes to me. It took a lot of work to get me here.

Posted by david at 11:55 PM | Comments (0)

Take Me Out to the Ball Game

Today I went to my first football match in a couple of years. It's not that I don't enjoy going to football matches - I used to go to most home matches - I just couldn't justify the price. To see Hooterville United it costs £12 to sit in the stands.

I decided to go today for two reasons. First, it's nearly my birthday and I thought I would treat myself. Second, they were playing Accrington Stanley. Though it was one of the founding members of the Football League in 1888, Accrington had in recent years dropped all the way down to the Unibond League. With its fortunes on the rise, it is now playing in the Nationwide Conference. My interest in Accrington goes back to my time as an intern at Westminster in 1992. I worked for the MP from Accrington who was also a vice-president of the club.

I was hoping for a spectacular display of goal scoring by United, after their 9-0 drubbing of Dagenham & Redbridge. No such luck. For a long time I thought it was going to be a 0-0 draw. Then due to a nasty foul in the penalty area that resulted in a sending off as well as a penalty kick, the hometown boys managed a 1-0 win.

Despite the lack of goals, I had forgotten how much better live football is than watching it on the telly, even without instant replay. It might not be so good in the cheap seats at a Premiership match (I don't know, as I've never been able to afford the seats or the petrol to get to them), but on the front row of the stand - which is probably twenty feet above the pitch, as there is a terrace (standing area) underneath - I could see all of the action except for a tiny sliver of the pitch in the corner on my side at the opposite end from where I was sitting.

I'm planning to go back one more time before the end of the season. The last match is at home against Chester City. The scheduling couldn't have been more seredipitous. Who would have known last summer that United would spend the first half of the season in first place and the second half in second place, chasing Chester. All United need to do is make up the three of the five points by which they trail Chester in the standing - or even just two points if United keep their advantage in goal difference - for the final match to decide who gets automatic promotion back into the Football League.

Posted by david at 11:33 PM | Comments (0)

March 11, 2004


For months I have looked forward to Aidie speaking normally. Now that his vocabulary and grammar have increased substantially over the last few weeks, I kind of miss way things used to be.

We are no longer confined to repetitive two-syllable outbursts. Multi-syllable words and phrases are a bit easier to understand. Even when he slurs the distinct consonants, there is more context with which to work in figuring out exactly what he is saying.

Soon he will be using full sentences - at least as much as any child uses full sentences - and hopeful more than most teenagers do, when speech regresses to a series of grunts. I suppose every parent (at least of certain social classes) envisions that their child will grow in eloquence and rise above this tendency and peer pressure.

For now, he actually talks so much we have to tell him to be quiet.

Posted by david at 10:31 PM | Comments (0)

February 29, 2004

Nana's House

Last night was Aidie's first night away from home. Or more accurately, his first night away from Mummy. He stayed over at Nana's house.

With the new baby in a few weeks and depending on how long Mummy has to stay in hospital and how long Daddy can take off work and when Papa and Honey arrive from Texas, Aidie may have to stay over with Nana on more than one occasion. We thought it would be good to get him accustomed to the idea of going to bed without Mummy or Daddy and his usual routine.

I think Mummy was much more worried about it all than Aidie. We he saw us loading up the travel cot into Nana's car he wasn't keen on the idea, but when bedtime came around, word is he had no problem whatsoever. He slept through his usual 12 hours without waking up once. It was Mummy who called before and after bedtime to make sure everything was okay.

We did not have Liturgy this morning, so it was nice to actually have a real lie-in. Normally, even if we have no morning obligations, Aidie will wake up by 7:30 or 8:00 and either insist on going downstairs or get in our bed, which means sleep is over. This morning, Mrs H and I caught up on a lot of missed sleep.

I think Aidie should spend more nights at Nana's house.

Posted by david at 03:58 PM | Comments (0)

February 23, 2004

Ubiquitous Reminders

Since the passing of my brother, Mrs H has been emphasising our need for life insurance. She realises that I could go at any time, a fact that doesn't really need reinforcement in my mind. After shopping around on the internet, we found what seems to be a reasonable premium for a modest payout, but they wouldn't take our order online, apparently due to some of our answers to the health questions.

After a couple of gentle reminders from Mrs H, anticipating the possiblity of being left high and dry at any moment, I rang up the insurance company, only to be put on hold while they retrieved our internet application. To take my mind off the wait, I was provided with a little easy listening music.

No sooner had I been left holding the phone when the crooning voice of Frank Sinatra gentle reminded me:

And now, the end is near;
And so I face the final curtain.

It was a just a bit unnerving.

Posted by david at 10:53 PM | Comments (3)

February 21, 2004

Clean Trash

Any of you who have known me for very long know that I'm not exactly an environmentalist. After all, one of my most popular songs of all time is my anti-environmentalist anthem, "Throw Another Log on the Fire".

Thanks to Mrs H, however, I am now washing the trash. She has gotten onto an eco-friendly kick and uses the various coloured recycling bags provided by the council (by my council tax at who knows what expense). Since they only pick up the each bag every other week, we have to do something to reduce the pong.

Tonight we had cauliflower cheese sold in a little plastic tray with cellophane over it (Mrs H would normally make it from scratch of course, but we were pressed for time). So there with the dishes was the little tray. It's only going to go into the clear bag (textiles and paper go in the purple bag - I've been informed this includes ratty old t-shirts I never wear). But it's going in clean.

Posted by david at 12:38 AM | Comments (8)

February 18, 2004

Little Bodyguards

If I had any confidence while flying, it was that Aidan was there. I wasn't so sure that my days weren't up, but I was hopeful that my parents' link to the future wouldn't be severed.

Now with the second offspring coming due in a few weeks, I'm wondering if we should keep them separate, so that we always have an heir and a spare. This is kind of like when one member of the Cabinet stays away from the State of the Union Address, so if some sort of Independence Day scenario happens and the Capitol is blown to smitherenes - or if there is an overabundance of virgins (or raisins) in heaven and a hajj-like convergence of suicide bombers on the Hill - then somebody in the line of succession survives.

Alternatively, perhaps keeping them together at all times - and with me - is a sort of life insurance. Nonetheless, I'm not going to be happy getting on a plane, even with both offspring.

Posted by david at 10:10 PM | Comments (2)

The Abyss

The first part of our journey to Texas took us to the environs of Gatwick Airport. Because the flights to Houston leave in the morning, we had to stay nearby overnight. As is our custom, we searched Expedia for the best deal.

In selecting overnight accommodation, I forgot two important rules: price isn't everything and don't go where you've had a previous bad experience. When I picked up Mrs H and child at Gatwick in December as they returned from their trip to Texas, the best deal I found was at the Ibis Hotel, so I took it. Mrs H and I had noticed this before on Expedia but had stayed elsewhere. Mrs H isn't particularly good at deciphering the pronounciation of names and instead of calling it the /ī'-bĭs/ she called it the /ə-bĭs'/.

She was more accurate than we thought. The amazing thing is why I didn't remember this from my previous visit. I think my memory focused on the unannounced fact that in the morning is important to return the little folded piece of paper in which the credit card style key is tucked. Otherwise, the hotel guest is liable to be charged for a £4.75 breakfast which they have never seen. My serendipitous discovery of this small print and my complaint to the desk clerk became my principle recollection.

I forgot all about the bed. When we arrived, Mrs H's shock at the compact size of the room and the interesting character of the lavatory/shower facilities was superceded by her assessment of the bed. It appeared to have a little give, but she discovered that this was actually the duvet, not the mattress. In her enlarged condition, Mrs H has a difficult time getting comfortable on the best of mattresses. This would portend a sleepless night ahead.

I forgot all about the pillows. They were about as thick as my laptop, but not quite as soft. There was only one on the bed when we arrived, but I found that the staff had thoughtfully placed another on the shelf in the corner of the room.

We had requested a child cot when we booked the room. I had to go with the desk clerk to the storage closet on the next floor to retrieve the flimsiest infant travel cot I have ever seen and then set it up myself. This occupied all of the floor space in the room.

I'm not suggesting that Mrs H complained about the situation. However, it does remind me of a plaque we later saw hanging up in the hall of our friends' house: "If Mama ain't happy... ain't nobody happy."

You would think that the fact that at before 6:00 pm the hotel "restaurant" only had (undoubtedly microwavable) chicken Balti for £5.75 remaining from its list of five possible entrées might be another negative. Instead, the driver of the courtesy van from the airport warned us that the food was inedible and that we should eat at the pub adjoining the hotel five minutes walk down the road. He was right.

We may have had to walk in the cold and misting rain, skirting puddles and pushing the pram over uneven surfaces, but the meal was excellent. Certainly the highlight of the evening. The prices on most of the menu were a little stratospheric, but even the items down in the breathable part of the atmosphere were tasty.

I had the fish and chips, and just as I expected the barman taking my order initially thought I was another America tourist trying quintessential British cuisine. I assured him that I was quite an established resident and my selection was based upon affordability and not quaintness. Once my credibility was established I learned that we had more in common. We both have trans-Atlantic marriages.

Back at the hotel, and unlike Mrs H, I managed to get a few hours of sleep. We had booked places on the 6:30 am "courtesy" van (which, though free to the hotel, cost £2 each back to the airport). We arrived at reception at exactly 6:30 to watch the van pull away. The 7:00 trip was fully booked, so we had to get a taxi, thus eating up all of the savings we had from not staying at a hotel with mattresses.

The Ibis is a world-wide chain with 670 hotels in 36 countries. My advice: be safe and avoid any of them. I would recommend staying at one of the other chains also owned by the 4000-hotel Accor group, such as Red Roof Inns or Motel 6. After all, at Motel 6 they'll probably not try to charge you for a breakfast you haven't been served and you are almost guarranteed a mattress.

Posted by david at 03:35 AM | Comments (0)

February 17, 2004

14,583 and Counting

For all our days have passed away in Your wrath; We finish our years like a sigh.

The days of our lives are seventy years; And if by reason of strength they are eighty years, Yet their boast is only labor and sorrow; For it is soon cut off, and we fly away.

Who knows the power of Your anger? For as the fear of You, so is Your wrath.

So teach us to number our days, That we may gain a heart of wisdom.

Sometimes the days of our lives are not even half of seventy years. All the more reason to number our days.

This passage is from what was already my favourite Psalm (numbered 89 to the Orthodox readers, 90 to the Catholics and Protestants). I had looked at it as though my life was half over, if not when I turned 35, then next month when I reach 40. In terms of half a life, I have looked back with discouragement at how little I have accomplished. Or in the words of this Psalmist, Moses, the Lord has not established the work of my hands - no doubt due to my own failure to submit to that establishment.

When I look at it as another half-life of opportunity, the future is bright. When I realise that a half-life can instantly become a whole life, things dim just a bit. If I had to cash in my chips now, I'm afraid the house would be the big winner. Or to use a more Biblical reference, I have managed to parlay my ten talents into two.

The short whole-life prospect that came into focus with my brother's death was amplified by the requirement to journey to Texas and back in a large metal tube hurtling through the air, at times in excess of 600 miles per hour. I didn't really like flying before 9/11. I really don't after. It's scary enough worrying about the quality of aircraft construction and maintenance, without factoring in the machinations of Muslims with theological uses for plastique and visions of 70 (or 72) virgins (or white raisins, depending on your translation of the Qu'ran). I spend take off and landing praying the Trisagion prayers (with a heavy dose of extra Jesus Prayers). Zipping along at 39,000 feet I may be 7.4 miles closer to heaven, but I'd rather not use it as a shortcut.

My brother may have gone much sooner than most people in the developed world, but he went the way I would like to go. He went to sleep in this life and woke up in the next. I just hope I have seen my children's children's children first. Or at least my children's children.

Children's children are the crown of old men, and the glory of children is their father.

However you measure it, life is short. My days have numbered 14,583 so far. I hope the number a few more - days I have left in which I make a difference.

Posted by david at 10:53 PM | Comments (1)

February 16, 2004

Memory Eternal

About the time I was writing the previous entry about my mother's 70th birthday, my younger brother, my only sibling, passed out of this life and into the next.

I have only today returned from a very unplanned trip to Texas. We received a phone call at 5:00 am on the 1st and it has been a bit of a whirlwind since. I would have recounted the events on this blog, but for some reason it refused to cooperate with my parents' PC.

My brother and I were five years apart and of very different personalities. It would be fair to say that for most of his life we were not particularly close. Since the birth of Aidan, we had become much closer and he was a very affectionate uncle.

I suppose I never expected to bury my brother. The idea hadn't crossed my mind, other than when he had expressed his desire to be buried in Goliad. He had suggested he wanted to be buried standing up with his boots on. His request as to location was met, but as to posture was not. Even when he suggested his place and mode of burial, it was more an expression of his love for the place where we grew up hunting rather than particular interest in the family cemetary plot.

I still remember going with my dad to see him in the hospital nursery soon after his birth. I went with my dad to pick out the exact spot for his grave. In between, I was the best man at his wedding. Even if we weren't close, I was there for the big events. All of them.

It takes a while for it to all sink in.

In the next few days, I'm sure I will blog about various things that happened over the last few weeks. No doubt I will pour out reflections upon life and death and family. There is even humour to be found in the most somber of weeks.

May Dean's memory be eternal!

Posted by david at 11:45 PM | Comments (4)

February 01, 2004

The Feast of the Davidtokos

My mother is celebrating her 70th birthday today in Taiwan.

I'm not sure if we will even be able to give her a ring. Mrs H (my Mrs H, as that is my mother's name as well) left a few small gifts when she was in Texas and we sent a card. I feel bad that we can't be more involved in the celebration.

It was the same when my father turned 70 a couple of years ago. Not that he was in Taiwan. Rather, we weren't able to be there for the big party. Aidie was only 2 months old and were weren't in a position to afford to travel anyway. It occurred between their two visits to see us.

We also missed my parents' 40th anniversary a month and a day prior to my dad's 70th.

That's the only thing I don't like about being on this side of the Pond. Aidie is too isolated from my folks generally and we don't get to spend red letter dates with them and celebrate those noteworthy transitions in the stages of life. Admittedly, because of my parents' travel intinerary, we wouldn't have been able to join in the celebration today, but we wouldn't have missed some many others.

Posted by david at 12:55 AM | Comments (0)

January 25, 2004

Now We Are Two

Two years ago prior the very moment I am typing this, Aidan was pulled from the womb and his arrival announce to the operating theatre. After 52 hours of labour, Mrs H was subjected to an emergency c-section. It was an unforgettable experience. It was joy and fear at their highest levels mixed together because Aidie didn't want to breathe initially and the consultant paediatrician was called to theatre. However after just a few moments of attention, all was well. Within minutes after this, I put his first nappy and clothes on him.

Because the event is so unforgettable, it may seem contradictory to say that it is difficult to remember life before Aidie. It is like he has always been a part of our lives. I vaguely remember the 2½ years of married life when our schedule wasn't completely beholden to the needs of the child, but it is all in the dim and distant past. (That being said, Mrs H is convinced that I haven't broken free from the years of bachelorhood when my life revolved entirely around myself.) Or as we began to say soon after his arrival, "Everything is about Little Boy."

Mrs H's best friend just had her second child and as we were visiting them I looked at the newborn and realised two things. First, I would never name a child "Alfie". His name's not Alfred - just Alfie. Anyhow, second, so much happens in the first 24 months of post-natal life (not suggesting that extraordinary don't happen in the nine pre-natal months). Just two years ago, Aidie was as tiny (give or take a couple of pounds) and helpless as Alfie. Today, in some ways, it is hard to believe that he is only two.

I marvel more and more at the amount of information he has absorbed and the rate at which he is absorbing it. He may not be able to say a lot of complete sentences, but he has an amazing vocabulary. He has, for example, learned just about every unsanctified word in my repetoire. He has practically memorised his favourite books, not to be able to recite them, but he can fill in the next word wherever there is a pause in the reading. I thought this was limited to the current bedtime books he likes, which are quite short and simple. I learned from Mrs H that he can even do this with the more complex and tongue-twisting Cat in the Hat.

I've mentioned before that he knows the gist of all of the stories in his Bible story book and can describe the action in the illustrations. It seems like only yesterday that he was only looking for pictures of infants so he could point and say "Baby!" Not surprisingly his first favourite story was that of Solomon, the two mothers and the two babies.

Aidie is very far from being helpless. While I have been jealous of any of his contemporaries who can speak fluently (though Mrs H has tried to console me my suggesting that this is because they are abnormal), he has certainly excelled physically. He has very advanced fine motor skills, untying knots and opening triple-action stair gates. He is very strong (which is good for carrying the shopping) and can run very fast (which is not good for taking him shopping).

One of the down-sides of being an older parent is the perception of time. For a parent of 20, it takes just as long for a child to grow up as it does for a parent of 40 (or in my case, weeks shy of 40). However, having been 20, I know how much faster time seems to pass. In the blink of an eye, Aidie will be grown. The available days to pray for him to make the right decisions and follow the right paths are so few. The power of those prayers is so weak.

It is moments of realisation such as this that it is comforting to remember that we do not pray alone on this side of heaven. We have committed him to the prayer list of our fathers among the saints Aidan of Lindisfarne and David of Wales. It is doubtless through their prayers more than mine (and certainly more than from my example) that he loves Jesus like he does (and has good developing Christology, but more on that another time).

Holy Father Aidan, pray to God for us!
Holy Father David, pray to God for us!

Lord, remember your servant Aidan and grant him many years!

Posted by david at 12:49 AM | Comments (1)

January 24, 2004

And When You Pray, Say...

Normally when we pray at mealtimes, Aidie is already seated and strapped into his booster chair. Why we put the belt on, I don't know, as he often spends the rest of the time unfastening it and fastening it back again.

Today at lunch I was attempting to put him in his chair when he kept shrugging me away and saying "pray! pray!" He went over to the bookcase where the icons are propped up (awaiting to be fixed in the yet-to-be ascertained icon corner) and moved his hand vigorously over his chest.

He has decided that he should stand to pray like everyone else.

Now that he can count to ten unaided (twenty with help) and name the nine planets with only occasional prompts, perhaps it is time to begin on the Lord's Prayer.

Posted by david at 11:18 PM | Comments (0)

January 21, 2004

Night Moves

I remember as a child getting into my parents' bed in the middle of the night. I almost always got in on my dad's side. I don't know why. Perhaps because he was the heavier sleeper and there was generally a little sliver of mattress available. When my brother got to that age, he generally took the middle.

I am older than most of my generation in experiencing for the first time the other side of this universal parent-child phenomenon. Now that Aidie is in his big boy bed, he inevitably makes the trek to ours. If it is too early in the evening, i.e., before Mrs H can't be bothered to either cajole or drag him back to his room, he faces the threat of being moved into the cot. If it is late enough, he generally get his way.

He takes after my brother in insisting on the middle. This way he makes sleep difficult for both of his parents. He also doesn't understand that just because he is quite wakeful quite early, not everyone else is, so standing up and jumping around isn't always appropriate.

I'd like to offer some sort of deep spiritual analogy or devotional commentary at this point, like so many of my blogging friend would do, but I'll just leave you with the facts and you can do that bit for yourselves.

Posted by david at 11:52 PM | Comments (3)

January 16, 2004

Enlightener of the English

When we named Aidan, I explained that we named him after one of the greatest missionaries to the English. He is already living up to his namesake.

One of his friends came over today. While they were playing, Aidan got out his New Bible in Pictures for Little Eyes. He tried to show it to his friend, saying, "Bible! Bible!" In true English fashion, his friend wasn't particularly interested and preferred to focus on the toys.

Aidie opened it up to show him the pictures. It seems he wanted his friend to understand the consequences of rejecting God. He opened to the story of Korah, which shows the ground opening up. He pointed to the rebels falling into the gap, saying, "Men bad!"

Unfortunately Aidan displayed some of the worst characteristics of Evangelicals, as he tried to pull Harry away from jigsaw puzzle to listen to his message, a fight ensued. In the struggle Aidie fell to the ground and Harry banged his head against the wall.

Even though we are suppose to come as little children to the Kingdom of God, I don't think this means we are supposed to punch those we try to bring with us.

Posted by david at 11:28 PM | Comments (3)

January 13, 2004


Is there anything as good as tacos?

I had six tonight.

Probably the best tacos consumed in the Shire tonight.

Posted by david at 10:27 PM | Comments (1)

January 11, 2004


Bubby is to be deported. Unlike with asylum seekers in this country, Bubby’s removal from her acquired domicile will not be fraught with appeals. Nor will it cost thousands of pounds.

Mrs H and I have agreed that the Bubster is just not working out as a house pet. She has become very territorial about the bathroom. This means she urinates all along the side of the room and she bites Mrs H on the feet and legs. It appears she is trying to be the dominant female. We probably could have found a solution for the pee, but the biting is just a bit over the top. She also drops her pills everywhere. It is pretty disgusting.

I would have moved her out today, but we had a lot of cold wind and rain. I wasn’t particularly worried for Bubby. I just didn’t want to get drenched while trying to clean out the hutch in preparation for her occupation. I didn’t clean it out upon her brief immigration to the bathroom, so it is rather minging.

Posted by david at 10:36 PM | Comments (0)

January 07, 2004

Astronomically Speaking

While watching the live webcast of the JPL Mars Exploration Rover briefing with Adian (which is still ongoing as I type), I decided that having mastered counting from one to ten by himself, it was time to learn the names of the planets.

He got them the first time through. I realised the potential was there when I told him we were watching the people talk about Mars. "Mars! Mars!" I was surprised at how well he pronounced them, because he often has trouble with words of more than two syllables. Mercury comes out as "Mercur", Jupiter as "Jupit", and Neptune as "Neppa", but he seems to have an easy time with "Uranus".

He can't say them by himself, but can repeat them all. He hasn't turned two yet - I can only expect so much. He also doesn't really understand what a planet is. We'll get to that later.

Posted by david at 05:46 PM | Comments (4)

January 06, 2004

Growing Up

Aidan's new bed got here today. He probably could have stayed in the cot longer. He wasn't hankering to move out. However, with the new baby arriving in a few months, we thought it would be good move him to a big boy bed early. This way we hope he will dissociate himself from ownership of the cot, especially as he will have to share the room with the baby after a while.

We got him all excited about the move to the new bed. We were clapping and shouting, "New bed! Yea!" This afternoon he climbed on it and laid down on it. Tonight he hurried to finish his glass of milk so he could go to bed. Even so, the excitement faded a bit when it was time to turn off the light and be alone without the familiar bars of the cot surrounding him. He got up a few times, but finally settled.

This is just the first of many times in his life when he will have to adapt to new surroundings and situations. I hope tonight is a foreshadowing of things to come.

Posted by david at 10:18 PM | Comments (0)

January 04, 2004

Indefinite Leave to Remain

It appears that Bubby has taken up residency in our bathroom.

After her return from her extended excursion through the neighbourhood, she spent a few nights in her hutch. She was not well pleased. She just sat there and sulked most of the time.

As bad weather approached (though it ended up not as bad a predicted), Mrs H acquiesed to temporary residence for Bubby indoors. For the most part this has worked okay. Her potty training isn't perfect, but at least it is confined to the bathroom. As this is the only place she drops "pills" (as they are apparently referred to by rabbit owners), she seems to have decided that this is her territory.

I have been reading up on housetraining bunnies. This would appear to be more difficult that I had imagined, though easier the older they get. Apparently you can teach an old rabbit new tricks. Whether Bubby learns quickly enough to satisfiy Mrs H and keep her house privileges remains to be seen.

The thing working in her favour is that she has become a very personable bunny. She thrives on the social interaction with the human species, except perhaps with that demographic group known as toddler. Aidan cannot seem to get the message that Bubby finds it unpleasant to be carried by her fur. Bubby has been remarkably patient and Aidie has fewer scratches on him that I would have ever thought. Bubby just needs to remember not to approach Aidie for attention, but rather do the sensible thing - run and hide behind the toilet.

Posted by david at 11:23 AM | Comments (0)

December 28, 2003

He Just Keeps Growing

The photos of Aidan on the website were very old. They were from this summer, but at less than two years, a few months makes a lot of difference. So for those of you who have been waiting for something more recent, there are photos from his trip to Texas and from the last couple of days.

Posted by david at 02:01 AM | Comments (0)

December 25, 2003

The Return of Bubby

That Wascally Wabbit has been found. The notices that Aidan and I pushed through letterboxes worked - though indirectly.

After we finished Christmas dinner and Aidie went up for his nap, we received a phone call from a man who said, "I think I have your rabbit." He lives down, but on the other side of, the street. I didn't think Bubby would go that direction, so we didn't put a notice through his door. We did put a notice through the door of his brother (or brother-in-law, I can't remember which) who lives on the street behind us.

Bubby was actually found under a parked car yesterday. The bloke rang the RSPCA, and they told him they wouldn't come out and he would have to contain it. He couldn't catch Bubby. He must have mentioned this to his brother. Anyhow, I went up the street and sure enough, there was Bubby. I chased her around the courtyard from car to car. I ran home and got some lettuce and lured her out just enough to grab her.

You would think she would have been grateful that I rescued her and brought her back to the safety of her hutch. Instead, as I was walking home with her securely pinned against my chest, she peed down my leg.

When he got up from his nap, Aidie was pleased to see that Bubby was home. He just assumed she was home from work, so he didn't make a particular fuss. It was always life as normal as far as he was concerned.

Posted by david at 09:23 PM | Comments (2)

December 24, 2003

What Not to Buy

As we have been placing presents under the tree this evening, Mrs H has been relieved to observe that nothing with her name on it is the size of a paper shredder. Ever since I suggested that this would be a ideal gift for her, she has been afraid I might actually get it.

I just assumed that since she is very keen to manually shred all our documents before they go in the bin, she would find this a useful appliance. She would, but it's not the sort of thing she wants to open on Christmas morning as a show of my love and affection. Apparently, she prefers modest little metal and mineral baubles. I guess I just don't understand women.

Posted by david at 11:09 PM | Comments (0)

Texas Christmas in England

While I'm sitting here blogging away, Mrs H is working hard on preparing a Texas Christmas. I didn't ask her to do this. I think she is dually motivated by our absence from the Lone Star State and a desire to create/incorporate some Christmas traditions into our nuclear family.

The only thing she hasn't been able to get ahold of is tamales. Growing up, we always had tamales for Christmas Eve. That's because growing up my mother always had tamales on Christmas Eve. We are having taco soup, which was incorporated into my family at some point, though I can't remember exactly when.

Christmas dinner will be turkey and cornbread dressing, giblet gravy (or gut gravy as we call it), olives stuffed with cream cheese, fruit salad, layered salad, and green bean casserole. The turkey, dressing, and olives are the most important bits. We are also having pumpkin pie and my favourite cherry pie. The cherry pie is a bakeless concoction of cherry pie filling, Cool Whip (or in our present situation, real double cream), sweetened condensed milk, and lemon juice (as a setting agent). In this country the crust is made of digestive biscuits and butter, as you can't get Graham cracker crust. It is a bit rich. I could eat the whole pie. In fact, when I was a bachelor I occasionally made this pie for myself and it would last a couple of days.

All of the chocolate chip peanut butter cookies and pecan tassies have been made. There are other traditional cookies that could be made, but I have discouraged Mrs H from making too many, as she is already doing a lot.

I should mention I'm not just leaving Mrs H to slave away in the kitchen. Besides watching the sprog, and trying to keep him out of trouble, I did offer to cut up the green onions, but Mrs H refused my offer of assistance.

Posted by david at 12:18 PM | Comments (1)

Bubby at Large

Missing: young flop-eared rabbit - tortoise (dark brown/orange mixed) coat - if she wanders into your garden, please return to...

I can print five of those to a page.

Bubby has escaped from her hutch and headed off to parts unknown. It happened sometime in the wee hours. We haven't explained to Aidie that she is probably not coming back.

Posted by david at 11:30 AM | Comments (3)

December 23, 2003

Testing with the Nation

I kept a scorecard during BBC's Test the Nation 2003 last night. Unlike the original Test the Nation, this was not an IQ test, but rather examined awareness of current events over the last year.

If it hadn't been for questions about TV soap operas, I would have done better than my raw score of 53 out of 70. However, even with this score, I was in the top 10% of those taking the test online and by text messsaging.

So I may not know what is happening in Coronation Street, and couldn't remember where Dirty Den was for 15 years before returning to EastEnders (he was in Spain), but otherwise I seem to have at least as good a grasp of what's going on in the world everyone else.

Posted by david at 03:25 PM | Comments (3)

December 15, 2003

Jet Lag

What do you do with a two-year-old who is wide awake at 1:00am? After all, he thinks it is 7:00, normally bath time. Unfortunately, he had his bath at the real 6:45 and two naps on either side.

Mrs H and Aidie have been in Texas for the last three weeks. Aidie had not problem with jat lag going over, but it appears that the effects of the return trip will not be as smooth. Mummy would like to get back on the right schedule, but unfortunately Daddy has to be up early for work. On top of this, Aidie is having to go cold turkey with withdrawals from weeks of grandparent spoiling and attention.

We are fortunately that Aidie is only mildy exhibiting the terrible twos under normal circumstances.

Posted by david at 01:09 AM | Comments (2)

December 08, 2003

As Time Goes By

I was listening to Christian music radio on the Net this evening and it reminded me of the days when I first started playing coffeehouses and other small venues. It was the mid-80s and I was trying to break into the Austin scene. Though it was mostly me and the twelve-string, I had my first experience playing with a proper band. You know, drums, bass, and all that. Okay, there wasn't much "all that" - just drums and bass - but other people actually wanted to play my music with me. Okay, they only did it once, but I still remember that night. I even had an opening act. Okay, it was one of my college housemates, but still. I also still owe Wendell Fry $10 from his cut of the offering, so if you see him...

It's hard to believe that was almost 20 years ago. I still remember the outfit I wore. Green silk jacket with the sleeves rolled up. Green plaid shirt with red metalic stripes running through it. Thin red tie and my trademark red belt. Brand new trainers, though I can't remember if it was my Kaepa or Reebok phase. White trousers that even then molded to my skinny lower half. 28-inch waist. Ten inches smaller than I wear now. And it was fashionable. Honest. I had a bit of a reputation as a fashion plate.

It's hard to believe that I played some of those songs for years. One of the songs I wrote for electric guitar with my one-time bass player became the standard opening number for my acoustic sets:

What is love? Is it just a feeling
That's burning in my heart
No I think that It's something different than that
Ol' familiar spark
When you gave Your life as a sacrifice
You gave new meaning to old words
And now your has surrounded me
There's no place I can turn

I'm caught in Your love...

By the way, you can sing "words" and "turn" so it almost sounds like they rhyme.

Another song I debuted at that show was the opening number for just about every show I did with the ad hoc Band. I won't bore you with the lyrics. It's just hard to believe that it has been more than nine years since David Holford and the ad hoc Band turned off the amps and put away the mikes for the last time. The bittersweetness of nostalgia.

In my teens, twenties, and half of my thirties, I would have never envisaged a time when I didn't pick up a guitar on an almost daily basis. I wouldn't have imagined I would go four years without even changing strings. I've had a set waiting in the package in the case for over two years now. I used to have six guitars. Now I don't play the one I have.

I've had that guitar almost as long as I've had my oldest friends. I can't remember the exact month I got it, but it must be coming up on 23 years ago. It wasn't my first guitar, and it wasn't new when it was given to me, but it became my trademark. I can think now of the aspiring guitarists who bought twelve-strings because of it and me.

I've rambled on here long enough and most of you have stopped reading by now. I think I'll go upstairs and catch up with my old friend.

Posted by david at 10:46 PM | Comments (2)

December 03, 2003


Yes, it's the moment you have all be waiting for. A new issue of David's Mental Meanderings is out -- it comes with a special announcement.

Posted by david at 08:13 PM | Comments (3)

November 18, 2003

Get Tongue Untied

Mrs H and I had begun to worry a bit because Aidie seemed to have plateaued in his speech. We could see where it would be a social disadvantage if he never progressed beyond nouns ending in vowel sounds.

In the last few days, he has been moving ahead by leaps and bounds. It started with ending consonants. "Lie" has now become "light" and "tray" has turned into "train". He still can't get the "k" sound, which is invariably converted to a "t". I'm sure the "k" with come along and in the meantime we understand him. It is only embarrassing when he is identifying the many felines that live around us, because obviously he can't say "kitty".

The most amazing thing to observe has been the sudden emergence of counting. I wasn't expecting this before the age of two. He doesn't have true number sense, but he knows the order of the numbers in a verbal sense. He seems to have picked this up almost instantaneously. He knows the number names all go together, because when we do counting, he may stray to various numbers out of order, but he doesn't stray to random nouns. He can go to thirteen so far, though Mrs H prefers to concentrate on the first ten.

The boy may have potential yet.

Posted by david at 11:29 PM | Comments (1)

November 04, 2003

The (Not So) Good Ol' Days

I am a member of - not a gold or premium or whatever member. Not the one that costs any money. I just wanted to see what the people with whom I grew up were doing these days. Unfortuntely Classmates (and it's rival is a rip-off. You can't actually see anything other than names without forking out about $36.00.

I don't know why this frustrates me. I left my public high school after the 10th grade and finished at a little Christian school. I don't think that anyone was particularly bothered to see me go and in 23 years I've only met up with two of what would have been my graduating class of about 250.

I was educated with some of these people from the ages of 6 to 16 and some of them play shadowy roles in my early memories. Very few of them were ever friends. Even some of the ones I remember most from school and who provided the supporting cast of various birthday parties (and my mother always put together the best themed birthday parties during my elementary school years) were never really friends.

I recently found one of my school acquaintances of 33 years while editing the Open Directory. I even remember going to one of his birthday parties. We perhaps had even more in common now than then, as we are both Republicans (his grandfather, who was a friend of Lyndon Johnson, must be rolling in his grave) and lawyers. I let his website jump the DMOZ queue over about 300 others waiting to be listed and made sure he was double listed. I e-mailed him, but never heard anything back.

A small part of me wishes I could have gone last year to the 20th reunion of what would have been my high school class. The rest of me doubts that I would have had a good time, because I had no fond memories about which to reminisce. I'm sure everyone would have been much more civilized to me than they tended to be for those 10 years together. I doubt anyone would have called me "Professor" or "High Waters" or even hit me with a dodge ball.

I did get an e-mail from one of the organisers of the 20-year reunion. It was personalised in such a way that it fooled me. I got all excited and sent back a friendly reply. On second look, it was just a form e-mail to everyone on the Classmates database for that graduation year. I never heard back.

I've been listed on Classmates for quite some time now. That's where I watch information about the reunion come and go. What brought it to mind was a couple of nights ago when I discovered that in my recent long absence, photos had been posted of the reunion, and amazingly Classmates let me look at them without paying $36.00 for the privilege. I discovered that I didn't recognise most of the people. In fact, I'm only certain of one, and have a good guess about maybe three. I only recognised the one because I Googled him and found a picture of him after I found his website in the DMOZ queue.

So frankly, even if I came across them on the street I wouldn't know them. I may have brushed past several of them in Wal-mart or HEB on my occasional trips to my home town in years past.

Except for a few relationships from church, social life began for me in college. I guess I was actually accepted for the weirdo I was. I suppose it helped that we were all Christians, and of the same theological stripe. I've changed stripes, but I still have some of those friends, more than 20 years later. Some of them receive my Meanderings and occasionally comment on this blog. They still accept me for the weirdo I am.

Posted by david at 11:15 PM | Comments (1)

October 28, 2003

Everything the Bristol Zoo Wasn't

Mrs H had been urging me to set aside a day of my half-term break for a family outing. Today was the day.

Some of you may recall my blog entry about our trip to the Bristol Zoo. What a waste. Never go there. Not for £9 each. Instead, save a little cash and go to the West Midlands Safari Park.

It was our first trip to a safari park. Aidie was just about the right age to begin to enjoy it. He was able to feed all manner of herbivorous grassland animals, including so many species within the deer family that I lost count, plus zebras, a few different kinds of cow-like creatures, exotic sheep, and more. The only ones we couldn't get to eat from us were the giraffes, though they ate from cars all around us.

The only scary moment was when we were charged by a rhino. It appears to be coming straight for Aidan's door and I was boxed in with no place to go. I was hoping that we were only looking at a insurance claim and not a hospital stay. When I say that it was barrelling directly for the car, I am not exaggerating. It had become angry at the safari park workers in jeeps who were trying to move it to a different location. Only a the very last moment, and I mean very last moment, it altered its trajectory and thundered between our car and the one behind.

After that, driving through the lions and tigers and wild dogs was no problem. Even if the carnivores had taken notice of us and climbed on the car, I don't think I would have flinched. Tigers are not very big compared to rhinos. And they weigh a lot less.

West Midlands Safari Park also has exhibitions of reptiles and fish and sea lions. It made for a full day. The only downside was the very slow queue in the cafe and the overcooked fish. But again, this was not as bad as eating at the Bristol Zoo.

If we continue to stay in this area over the next few years, this is a place we can regularly visit as a family.

Posted by david at 11:23 PM | Comments (0)

October 25, 2003

Family Puppetry

As Mrs H and I were enjoying dinner tonight without either Aidie or the need to clean up afterwards, she explained to me the need for me to explain to the waitress a very complex thought concerning how and when our food should arrive. Sure, it would have been easier for Mrs H to have just expressed herself directly, but no, for some reason, had had to communicate it.

As I twice failed to do this, Mrs H became quite exasperated. I finally suggested that perhaps I should just move my lips and she should speak. I sensed a bit of frustration that her arm wouldn't fit up my back nor her hand fit around the inside of my jaws.

I suspect this is an affliction that is not uncommon in married men. As the mother says in My Big Fat Greek Wedding, "The man may be the head, but the woman is the neck."

And just in case you are thinking that I am speaking out of turn here, I assure you that Mrs H didn't approve of this blog entry. She suggested it.

Posted by david at 11:34 PM | Comments (1)

October 22, 2003

Bad Bad Bunny

Bubby became an endangered species today. As it was very cold outside, I let her in to run around. Then all of us, Aidie, Mrs H, and me, had to go up stairs to get ready to go out. No sooner were we headed up than Bubby hopped over to the telephone cord and began to chew vigorously. This is the cord of the back-up phone we are using while we are still trying to replace the power cord she chewed to the cordless phone.

On her way down the stairs, Mrs H threw a couple of Aidie's wooden blocks at her with great accuracy. As they bounced off the bunny, she continued to chew. Mrs H (who was the caboose on the train moving upstairs) bounded down to grab the phone cord, but Bubby refused to let go. She chewed as fast as she could until she had severed all but a little bit of the plastic casing.

Bubby will regret her actions. The coldest months of the year are upon us, but she has now been official and completely banned from the house. It's gonna get pretty chilly in that hutch. It really wasn't worth the fleeting pleasure of destroying a piece of wire, now was it?

When I went out to the supermarket this evening, there were three cats hanging out in our driveway. I told them there was fresh meat to be had in the back garden. But you know how cats are. They could't be bothered to go get it.

Posted by david at 11:41 PM | Comments (0)

October 12, 2003

Another Film Review

Now for another installment of Dave's Movie Reviews...

With Aidie at Nana's for the day, Mrs H and I took the opportunity to go to the cinema. To go twice within the space of three weeks is quite extraordinary for us.

Mrs H finally acquiesced to my desire to see Pirates of the Carribean. She was convinced going in that she wasn't going to enjoy it very much. She had a very good time, as did I.

I suppose bits of it were predictable. But unpredictability isn't everything in a film. It was 143 minutes of fast-paced entertainment, with lots of pirates and lots of fights, but lacked reckless high-speed chases, gun fights, and endless repetition of the F word like so many action films.

It's definitely worth the big screen experience, so don't wait for the video.

Posted by david at 03:15 PM | Comments (0)

October 10, 2003

Shhh... We're Hunting Wabbits...

Okay, at least I can identify with Elmer Fudd at this point.

Bubby had come very close to becoming rabbit stew. Expensive rabbit stew, but stew nonetheless. For so long I have had visions of a lovely gentle house bunny hopping around and then sitting gently one of our laps. Bubby (who has forfeited any claim to be named after a saint) has just chewed.

So far she has chewed through a pair of Aidan's trousers, a pair of my trousers (my favourite Dockers with the ever-important elasticated waist), the power cord (mild DC current unfortuntely) to the cordless phone base, bits of carpet, and who knows what unseen bits of furniture along the walls. Today on the patio, she was actually picking up the dustpan and flipping it around.

Except for limited supervised visits, Bubby is destined to be an outdoor bunny. We need to get a run for her, since exercise in the back garden means watching her every move so she doesn't get through a fence or attacked by a neighbourhood cat.

I never realised that bunnies could be so much work. I don't mind all the feeding and cleaning (my job, of course). It's all the human supervision that is required.

Posted by david at 11:50 PM | Comments (0)

September 22, 2003

New Member of the Family

Today Aidan got his first pet. We are still trying to think of a good name for her, so for now we just refer to her as Aidie does and call her "Bubby". He calls her this because no matter how had I try, I can't seem to get him to say "bunny". He can say "Bu" and "Nee", but he just can't put them together.

Traditionally in our family, pets need to to be named after saints, Old Testament, New Testament, or otherwise. The great exception was Humphrey the hamster, but he just looked like a Humphrey, so I don't think we really had any choice.

I had wanted to get a bunny for some time, but Mrs H wasn't keen on the idea. Then for some reason totally unbeknownst to me, she sudden decided that Aidie should have a rabbit. We had hoped to get one free from my mother-in-law's place of employment, but we found out they were only newborns and wouldn't be available for weeks. So it was off to the pet store. Aidie liked all of them and Mrs H didn't care which one, so it was left for me to decide. I think Bubby was the prettiest of the bunch.

Posted by david at 11:35 PM | Comments (1)

September 21, 2003

Nude but not Rude

Yesterday, Mrs H and I had the opportunity to go to the cinema, while Aidie spent the day with Nana. The last film was saw on a day alone wasn't that good, but this time we picked a winner. It won't be released in the US until December, but Calendar Girls is already being tipped for Oscar nominations.

It somewhat fictionalizes the story of the Rylstone and District Women's Institute fundraising calendar. The decided to do a calendar to raise funds to fight leukaemia, in response to death of the husband of one of their members. A nude calendar. (In the film the focus is initially on raising money to purchase a sofa for the visitors' waiting room at the local hospital.)

It features some of the outstanding British actresses over the age of 50, and stars Dame Helen Mirren and Julie Walters. The performances were outstanding. In a cinema also filled with mostly over-50's (and of them, mostly over-60's) Mrs H and I laughed and cried. Especially cried.

The film does contain nudity - most of it covered by things you'd expect to see in a WI calendar, such as baked good, jam jars, a piano, greenhouse plants, and a cider press - just like in the actual calendar. It will carry a PG-13 rating in the US (it's a 12A in the UK). I just say this to warn those who might find the sight of naked OAPs too much to bare -- er, bear.

I hope those of you in the UK will go out and see the film in cinemas now and those of you in the US will remember this review when you are choosing among the Christmas releases. It will be for a good cause, at least in part. All of the WI ladies who sold their stories for the film are donating all of their royalties to charity.

Posted by david at 09:19 PM | Comments (0)

September 13, 2003

Cats and Dogs

Moving to our new house, I have discovered that there are two types of neighbourhoods, cat neighbourhoods and dog neighbourhoods.

Back in Purgatory, we lived in a dog neighbourhood. There was the rottweiler and the sheepdog upstairs. There was a seeing eye dog next door. There were other canines roaming around the common area, both with and without accompanying owners. There was dog poo everywhere.

The new place is defintely in the heart of cat country. There are felines lounging around day and night. It's not uncommon to see four or five of them as I'm driving down our street. Whenever I pull up after dark, there is always at least one of them stretched out across our driveway and usually two sitting on the neighbour's car.

Where Aidan used to hear the dogs and constantly let us know they were out there by making his woofing sound (which is more like "huh! huh!"), now he always wants to go out on the patio to see if the cats are out. He stands at the sliding glass door and says "maow, maow, maow" over and over until someone pulls it open, then rushes over to the low fence to look into the neighbour's back garden.

The nice thing about living in a cat neighbourhood is that cats don't keep us up all night meowing ferociously at every person that walks by. And they generally find a discreet place to poo as well.

Posted by david at 01:26 AM | Comments (0)

September 12, 2003

Sporadic Posting

I figured I better add something to this blog before everything drops off the screen and the home page is left with just the links on the right side. Actually, if all the entries faded into the archives, the links would spread across the page, as they are still doing at the bottom.

Anyhow, the point is that I have left the ranks of the unemployed. As I have been on an induction week in my new situation, it has been extremely intensive with little time for blogging. In fact, this is really going to be an induction year for me, so I fear my entries here will be much more sporadic than they have been since I began in March.

I hope everyone hasn't just wandered away. If anyone is still reading, please raise your hand.

Posted by david at 11:43 PM | Comments (1)

September 08, 2003

Furniture Jigsaw Puzzle

This weekend has been taken up with the bulk of the move. I have been offline since Friday.

A big part of today was spent deciding how to arrange the furniture into the new lounge. With eight principle items the situation requires a considerable amount of attention. This is not a big room and somehow we have to fit the couch, chair, dresser, book case, TV/VCR cabinet, dining table, coffee table, and computer so that it doesn't look cluttered and still allows for room to walk.

Eventually we solved the problem. The only thing we can't do is use the computer and eat dinner at the same time. But then again, we shouldn't be doing that anyway.

Mrs H also made me take the top off of the computer desk, as it is rather unsightly. Unfortunately, I now have no place to put all the junk that extruded from the multiple cubby holes and dangled ungracefully fron the top shelf. We are already short of space for junk in this house, so I don't know what I'm going to do.

Posted by david at 02:22 AM | Comments (0)

September 04, 2003

Has It (Only) Been That Long?

Mrs H appropriated my last name exactly four years ago today. I alerted her to this fact first thing this morning. I didn't alert her that I still have to go get a card and flowers.

Even though I tried to explain it to him, Aidan seems oblivious to the significance of this event. He doesn't realise that if Mrs H had been in possession of more sense on that day, he wouldn't be here.

Posted by david at 09:30 AM | Comments (1)

September 03, 2003

The Transformation

The new house is actually starting to look like a home. We finished the painting this morning. Well, we finished all the painting we can afford for right now. The master bedroom, bathroom, and kitchen will have to wait. And when I say "we", I actually mean Mrs H, because all the painting that remained involved standing on a chair, which is not something I do very well. After all, I have a tendency to fall when I'm on the ground. (In fact, I did so last night, sustaining an injury to my only remaining big toe.)

The carpet is now down as well. This was the best part of home improvement, with a glimspe of how the other half lives. We went to the store an bought the carpet (not the kind of carpet the other half buys, but still) and told them the fitter would be there this afternoon to pick it up. We left for a visit with the inlaws and to pick up a few odds and ends in Mrs H's hometown and when we arrived back, our bare concrete floor had been transformed. Before we even walked in the house, Mrs H informed Aidie and me that it had become a no-shoe area past the entry hall.

All we have left is to tile on the kitchen floor and to put something on the bare unfinished wood of the bathroom floor. Oh, and moving the furniture and the boxes of stuff. That's the bit where inlaws come in very handy, especially as we found out today that no one, and I mean no one, rents transit vans with automatic transmissions.

Posted by david at 11:22 PM | Comments (0)

September 02, 2003


Moving in hard work. Too tired to write any more tonight.

Posted by david at 11:04 PM | Comments (0)

August 31, 2003

Many Years

Today is Aidan's name day. Unfortunately he had to spend most of it watching us paint. I had hoped we could have gone to church in Shrewsbury today, but we were running out of time to get the house painted before getting carpet down.

He got his presents first thing and then watched a Veggie Tales video while we got ready to go over to the new house.

I had wanted to get him a new Veggie Tales for his name day, as he is wearing out the ones he has. I didn't plan well enough ahead, so we'll have to get it some other time. It will have to be soon, as Mrs H is not sure how much more she can stand of the same songs over and over.

With all the new house prep, mummy didn't have the time or the memory to bake a cake for the day. Fortunately we had a sticky toffee pudding in the freezer which did nicely. Aidie deemed to enjoy it. So did daddy, though daddy had less of it on his face and fingers.

I pray Aidie has many, many more name days and that God will grant him many years.

Posted by david at 11:03 PM | Comments (0)

August 29, 2003

Escaping Purgatory

As those of you who have been reading this blog from the beginning may know, we have been living in limbo since our landlady of three years decided she no longer wanted our rent cheque and put us on the street. We were only supposed to be in our present accommodation for a few weeks. Five months later we are now moving.

Our new neighbourhood isn't far from this one geographically, but it is far removed sociologically. The police are not regular visitors. There don't appear to be an drug dealers. We haven't spent a night in the new place, but I doubt there will be shouting and screaming and fighting in the middle of the night. Best of all, this is a house and not a flat, so no more Stompy the upstairs neighbour moving furniture at 3:00 am.

The new house is unfurnished and I thought I knew what this term meant. I did not realise that in this country, a floor is considered a furnishing. I have never before rented a dwelling that did not have a floor. No carpet, no tile, no wood - nothing. Bare concrete foundation. Not even smooth concrete, as the foundation does not appear to have been laid with optimum care.

The carpet man is coming tomorrow to measure. We bought tiles for the kitchen and we are going to try to do that ourselves. After steaming away the previous occupants' fascination with paper borders, two shades of green are being turned into magnolia, albeit slowly as this is requiring several coats. The woodwork needs stripping from the multiple layers of chipped heavy gloss. The very modest back garden needs mowing and a general overhaul.

It's going to be a busy week, but our redemption draws nigh.

Posted by david at 11:49 PM | Comments (0)

August 24, 2003

Speak Now or Forever Hold Your Peace

While we were in Barry, we wandered into a local bookshop twice. The first time, Mrs Holford was stocking up on her supply of fiction (she is a fan of the John Grisham sort of stuff) and I was looking at the local interest collection.

During the second visit, she found several books on teaching your children Welsh. Aidie is at that stage where he can absorb two languages at the same time and be functionally bilingual from the start. The only problem is that I speak no Welsh and Mrs H hasn't studied it since she was about 12 or 13. She's really good at road signs and place names (all the road signs in Wales are bilingual), and can remember basic phrases, but that's about it.

She is now seriously considering taking an adult education class in the language so she can pass it on to Aidie. Wanting to be as involved as possible I bought Welsh in Three Months. However, as my schedule is about to get very busy learning other things, I'm not sure how much time I will have for a new language.

If I'm lucky soon I will be able to have such important conversations as:

Sut dych chi'n hoffi eich te, yn gryf neu yn wan?
Fel mae'n dod, Mrs Jones.
Oes digon o laeth yn hwn?
Oes, diolch, eitha digon.
Gymerwch chi fisgien?
Diolch yn fawr. Oes te ar ol?
Oes, llond tebot.

This is translated as:

How do you like your tea, strong or weak?
As it comes, Mrs Jones.
Is there enough milk in it?
Yes thanks, quite enough.
Will you have a biscuit?
Thanks very much. Is there any tea left?
Yes, a potful.

Aidie, on the other hand, will be able to get a job with the government in Wales, where any position advertised that requires working with the public invariably states that Welsh speakers are preferred. This is because there is an outside chance that the post holder could be required to meet with one of the half-dozen Welsh monoglots left.

He could also appear in any one of several Welsh-language soap operas on the Welsh-language TV station. From what I can tell from the little bit that I have watched, acting ability isn't essential.

Posted by david at 03:12 AM | Comments (0)

August 23, 2003

We're Back!

We have been away since Monday. I wanted to let readers know we would be gone and that there would not be any new entries in these Diversions until today. However, on the subject of publicly announcing our absence from home, Mrs Holford's position on this was, "Why don't you just tell them our address as well?"

So instead of an announcement, we just slipped away in the dead of night. Well, actually we left mid-morning, but you know what I mean.

As we have not been in a position to afford a proper holiday this year, some friends offered us the use of their home in Barry while they were away in the Southwest. So from Monday until today, we had a brief respite from Purgatory in relative Paradise.

The only thing we didn't have was internet access, so I have quite a few things to blog about. For today's entries, they will run from earliest to latest. Ignore the time stamping.

Posted by david at 11:52 PM | Comments (0)

Lions and Tigers and Bears, Oh Where?

On Tuesday, we went to the Bristol Zoo. It is a rather well-known attraction around these parts and we figured that Aidie was old enough to appreciate seeing in real life the animals he had seen on videos and in storybooks. When you go to the zoo, you expect to see typical zoo animals.

For £8.90 at the Bristol Zoo, you get to see lots of exhibits on conservation. You get to see displays of how much garbage there is the world. You even get to see the skins of dead animals that have been confiscated by Customs and Excise and they were being illegally imported. What you don't get to see are tigers, giraffes, elephants, rhinos, hippos (except a couple of the pygmy variety), chimps, orangutans, leopards, jaguars, antelope, zebras, or bears (except for one small red panda the size of a small dog that hid in the brush).

The total big cat population is one lion and one lioness. They were so boring that when the lioness actually got up and walked across the enclosure briefly, a small crowd of visitors formed to see this amazing spectacle.

The feeding of the seals attracted the biggest crowd. This was not because the seals did anything particularly amazing. They pretty much just showed up when someone arrived with a bucket of fish. Now I say they didn't do anything amazing. This is really only a guess, as we were forced back away from the fence by a family apparently culturally unaccustomed to the idea that it is rude to push in front of people. Apparently in their culture, the men force and opening in the crowd and then call in the rest of the family to quickly fill it.

I'm not denying that there are interesting things to see at the Bristol Zoo. I particularly enjoyed the meerkats. They behaved just as I had seen on a wildlife programme on the telly. While most of them dig in the dirt for a supper of insects, one of them is posted as an outlook. She sits on the top of a pole, turning her head in excess of 180° while her body remains motionless.

I liked the capybaras. As a long-time aficionado of rodents, it is nice to see a variety the size of small cows. They were hanging out with the more beaver-sized and energetic agoutis, while the capybaras were content to remain rather motionless.

Mrs H wasn't particularly impressed with any of it.

Aidan seemed mildly interested in most of the creatures, but was mostly keen on getting the attention of all the other small children. He is quite a social animal himself. He like the exhibit about the endangered species, but that was because he could touch the large stuffed gorilla. I'm not talking about a gorilla that had been stuffed, but rather a giant stuffed animal in the shape of a gorilla produced by a toy company.

Maybe we will try the zoo again when he is a little bit older. And I think we will try a different zoo.

Posted by david at 06:26 PM | Comments (0)

Feeding Time at the Zoo

Don't go hungry to the Bristol Zoo, or that's what you very well may do while you are there. We decided to stop at one of the eateries inside the premises for some "fast food." After all, it had all the hallmarks of a fast food establishment. There was a queue of people standing in front of a heavily acned adolescent. There were heat lamps atop sloping metal trays onto which cardboard boxes would occasionally appear and slide to the bottom. There was the sound of chipped potatoes frying the background.

I should have sensed trouble when I noticed lots of people standing around with rather gloomy looks on their faces. This didn't immediately register until after I had placed my order and moved away from the counter. Occasionally pimple boy would leave the till and go over to the stack of food behind him, call out an itemized order than failed to match the previously indicated desires of anyone in the room, shrug and go back to working the queue of victims.

At one point he called out the items I ordered and placed the requisite number of boxes on the counter. I lept forward and embraced them, then smuggled them past the glares of other would had been waiting much longer. When I got to the table Mrs H had been holding outside, we opened the cardboard boxes to discover nothing but chips inside. I returned through the huffing crowd and placed the boxes on counter declaring the contents were not what Spotty had called out. He said he knew this already. I was sorely tempted to query something like, "Why did you bloody well call out two chicken and chips and one child's sausage and chips???" Instead, I just involuntarily shook my head and rejoined the frowning crowd.

Finally the zitmeister had had enough of serving disgruntled customers, so he turned away everyone who had yet to place an order. Some had been waiting patiently for ten or fifteen minutes. He just declared that he would be taking no more orders for at least 30 minutes, so would everyone just please go away.

Sometime after this, Mrs H appeared in the doorway to inform me that our food had been delivered to our table by one of his able assistants. I'm not sure how this happened, but I didn't ask any questions. Each box contained an enormous amount of chips and sure enough, nestled in underneath them was a piece of chicken.

Posted by david at 06:25 PM | Comments (0)

August 13, 2003

The Weight of Bureaucracy

As you may remember reading, I have been trying for some time to get paperwork from the Government. I finally received it today.

My file consisted of a ream of paper (I'm not exaggerating), but they didn't send me the one piece of paper I wanted. The one that they could have just photocopied at the local office. The one that has a series of my signatures on it.

They spent £17.50 in postage, not to mention the photocopying costs, in toner, wear and tear, and employee time. All of this because I wanted to a copy of one piece of paper I still don't have.

Posted by david at 09:41 PM | Comments (1)

August 12, 2003

Return of the Creature from Space

Well, the Granada didn't work out. This is basically because the Granada didn't work. On Saturday we headed out toward Ross when it died. (What is it about trips to Ross-on-Wye? That's when the old crate died.) We didn't even get out of the housing estate. With six stop-and-starts we managed to get it back in front of our flat. It seems to be a bad fuel pump. Fords are notorious for that failure.

So it is back to the only other automatic, the Space Cruiser - hole in the dash and all.

Posted by david at 01:06 AM | Comments (0)

August 09, 2003

Consequences of a Growing Boy

I Meandered about it when I announced Aidie’s impending birth. I have blogged about it since. Shoes. Children’s shoes.

Aidie has three perfectly good pairs of shoes. Now they don’t fit. He hasn’t had them for very long at all. Even with his rough-and-tumble way, they have hardly a mark on them. But his time as a 4½ has come and gone forever. His 5½ feet just won’t squeeze into them anymore. I have no doubt that his new size 6s won’t last long at all.

And they normally aren’t cheap. Mrs Holford, being the bargain hunter and gatherer than she is, found Nike trainers for £12. We aren’t the kind of parents who want our child wearing name-brand accessories, but they were actually cheaper than more generic models available. (The ones from Clark’s are £25.) This isn’t the best she’s done. His last pair were Reeboks for £6. Her record was set in the States, when she picked up Winnie-the-Pooh trainers for $4.

Still, shelling out even these amounts over and over and over again, in intervals that can be measured in weeks, is significant. He’s only been walking since January and he’s had eight pairs of shoes. That averages one pair a month.

We got summer clothes for him in April as things began to warm up. (We had no idea then that it would get as warm as it has!) It’s now only August and he’s outgrown them all.

It wouldn’t be so bad, except that he is the first grandchild on either side of his family, so there aren’t any hand-me-downs. The only good thing is that as he’s grown out of them before wearing them out, they will be available for the next one. Unless we have a girl, of course.

Posted by david at 10:07 PM | Comments (0)

August 08, 2003

Can't Get It Out of My Head

Cebu... (cebu...) Cebu... (cebu...)
achoo moo moo, achoo moo moo, achoo moo moo, achoo moo moo, achoo moo moo, achoo moo moo moo moo

Aidie is only just old enough to sit through significant portions of Veggie Tales videos and too young to learn the songs.

Mrs Holford and I, on the other hand, were singing the Song of the Cebu all day.

Posted by david at 11:50 PM | Comments (0)

Trading Tanks

The Holfords have returned from our space cruise. I rang the rental company about the need to fix various defects on the Toyota and to renew for another week, since this was their only automatic. Providentially, they had an automatic come in as a part exchange for another car.

Now we have a car that locks. The fuel gauge even works, so we can see exactly how much petrol it is guzzling. Unlike the Space Cruiser, it even has a radio. It doesn't work, because there is a tape stuck in the cassette player, but at least there isn't a giant hole in the dashboard.

And just because it isn't seven-seater doesn't mean it isn't huge. We are now driving the just about the largest car in Britain - and H-reg Ford Granada with what is probably a 3-litre engine. We own the road.

Posted by david at 11:27 PM | Comments (1)

August 02, 2003

The Show Must Go On

Today the Holfords took the Space Cruiser to the Llanthony Show. Shows are a bit like country fairs, except that the latter usually last several days and have more booths. Shows focus on the local livestock and produce, combined with a bit of fun and games. Mrs Holford grew up going to the Llanthony Show and when we saw the sign advertising it a couple of days ago, I suggested that Aidie and I should share in its delights.

Llanthony is a wonderfully picturesque place to spend a day. As we sat on the side of a hill watching the various activities in the arena below, we also looked directly across to another green Welsh mountain, flanked on either side by the same. With the little Honddu brook running through, it is easy to see how St David thought this was the ideal place to get away from it all. So did William de Lacy 600 years later when he founded the monastery that gave the place its name. ("Llanthony" is a contraction of Llan Dewi Nant Honddu - the Church of St David on the Honddu.)

Today, Llanthony was also a very sunny place to spend a day. It wasn't unbearable hot and there were broken clouds, but sunscreen was definitely in order. Aidan was coated in SPF35 before leaving the big brown box on wheels. I wasn't.

It wasn't until about three hours later, during the three-legged race -- or was it the race for dogs under 15 inches -- that I noticed the pink shade on my arms getting brighter and brighter. I decided that expensive baby sunscreen or not, I was going to spread it liberally on my exposed parts. It was too little, too late. Or at least I'd hate to think what I'd look and feel like if I hadn't used it when I did.

By 4:00, I needed some rest and some shade. This is when I discovered that the locks on the Spacemobile had finally given up for good. I used the key in the manner prescribe (as outlined in yesterday's blog) and it turned the tumblers, but the lock did not release. So now picture in your mind this fat, crippled man crawling into the boot, over two sets of seats to reach an interior lock. Yep, that was me.

The culmination of the show, and Mrs Holford's favourite bit, is the Pony Rodeo, which as the name implies, is a bit of Wales meets the North American West. When these two cultures merge, a rodeo becomes a one-event half-hour competition. Wild mountain ponies are rounded up and brought down in a lorry. A sufficiently inebriated or otherwise reckless young man or woman (yes, there were at least three women) climbs onto the back of the pony and in typical rodeo fashion, the chute is opened. The rider (if you can even call them that) typically lasts about two seconds.

They only have about ten ponies, so after the first ten riders, they have to round up the ponies and herd them back into the truck. Watching the wild ponies in a pack and the men working them was like something out of The Man From Snowy River (the good original, with Kirk Douglas in two roles, not the sequel with Brian Dennehy). One of the poines was never ridden, because both times it reared up in the stall and wouldn't let a rider mount it. It looked like it was waving to the crowd.

A women actually had the longest ride (though admittedly the horse was disappointingly docile), but she hurt her back in her relatively easy dismount, so she couldn't ride in the final. Once they announced the winner, we headed home.

On the way, we picked up a man and little girl hitchhiking. They were from Germany and were camping in Llanfihangel Crucorney, the village where the Llanthony road meets the main Hereford to Abergavenny road. We had already passed his wife and son, but by the time we found a place to pull over, someone else had picked them up. They were hiking and camping along Offa's Dyke Path and heard about the Show. It was the first time I had picked up a hitchhiker since 1992 on the Isle of Skye. He was German, too.

I wish I had some great moral or spiritual twist to this incredibly long story. But sometimes it's just good to have a day out, even if you end up a bright shade of red.

Posted by david at 11:22 PM | Comments (0)

August 01, 2003

Lost in Space

In our search for a new family car, we have had to hire a vehicle so we could go looking. Not wanting to spend our entire budget with a name-brand rental company, we went to an old client of mine.

Those on the other side of the Atlantic may not realise that cars with automatic transmissions are not particulary plentiful here. My old client, who rents most cars for £40 a week, as opposed to the going rate of nearly £40 a day, has one automatic.

Most car hire establishments rent new vehicles. If they aren't brand new, they are at least on the current year's registration plate. We hired a D-reg. That's a 1987, in American-speak.

We can't complain about the roominess. The only automatic in stock -- ever in stock -- is a Toyota Space Cruiser. It's a seven-seater. Yes, we rented a 16-year-old minivan. It is a site to behold.

I'm not sure when the Space Cruiser went out of production. Actually, I'm not sure why it even went into production. You can find just about any hideous thing on the internet. The Space Cruiser is so hideous that just about the only place you can find it is on The Ugliest Cars in Britain website. And even in this fuzzy photo, it is evident that it is they used an improvement on the 1987 model.

After 16 years, one of the problems that seems to develop with the Space Cruiser is the functionality of the locks. When my old client Phil tried to get into the vehicle, he couldn't get the key to work. He went back into his office to make sure there wasn't a different key for it. Eventually he found that the boot was open and he crawled over three sets of seats to get to the front and open the driver's door from the inside.

Eventually we got the key to work on the driver's side -- but only the driver's side -- with a move down and a wiggle to the left before turning. And since the boot doesn't have an interior latch, this means that the boot doesn't lock. In this neighbourhood, having a vehicle that doesn't lock is not an option. Unless, of course, it is a Toyota Space Cruiser.

Posted by david at 10:24 PM | Comments (0)

July 30, 2003

Giving to the Lord

You may recall that a few days ago, Aidie had Peter Rabbit kiss St Aidan. He has advanced now to getting Jesus to drink milk.

He was carrying around our small Pantocrator icon as he went about the house getting into his usual mischief, chattering away in his usual gibberish. Gives a whole new meaning to "He walks with me and He talks with me..."

After ordering Aidan and Jesus out of the video drawer and away from the television, which must be thirsty work, they went over to the coffee table, where Aidie picked up his sippy cup and attempted to share it with the Lord. Rather than miraculous weeping, we had what looked more like a drooling icon.

Posted by david at 09:39 PM | Comments (0)

July 29, 2003

The Wait

I simply do not understand why medical professionals have no concept of time. Just yesterday and today I was in a doctor's surgery and a dentist's surgery. I had a 10:30 appointment with my doctor and didn't get to see him until after 11:00. Mrs Holford and child had a 4:00 appointment to see the dentist and actually saw him after 4:30.

Apparently the medical professional's time is worth much more than mine. I shouldn't mind just sitting there waiting in gleeful anticipation because they have actually agreed to see me and grace me with their knowledge and technical skills.

I might be more gleeful if I didn't have to sit there in utter boredom. The waiting room at my doctor's surgery is stocked with a small supply of cheap, non-glossy women's magazines. The dentist offers periodicals as exciting as "Country Homes", "Homes and Antiques". These are modestly entertaining to women who like to fantasize about furnishings they will never be able to afford for houses they will never live near, not to mention in. There were also copies of "Steam Railways" for the trainspotters. Nothing for normal people.

The dentist did also have a small selection of toys in the corner. Aidan was drawn to these immediately. Every unwashed child who has ever passed through the surgery must have been drawn to them as they were filthy. Keeping him away from them was pointless and after the half-hour wait, I was tempted to play with them as well.

Of course all of this -- the unreadable magazines, the grimy toys -- would be unnecessary if 10:30 meant 10:30 and 4:00 meant 4:00.

Posted by david at 11:41 PM | Comments (3)

July 28, 2003


We don't let Aidie have a lot of chocolate. The upside of this is that he doesn't get too used to lots of sweets and things that aren't good for him. The downside is that when he gets chocolate, he is very possessive.

He got chocolate today because it was vaccination day. Chocolate Buttons are a great distraction from big needles. While he was in the waiting room at the doctors' surgery an elderly man saw him enjoying his Buttons and said, "Oooh, what do you have there?" Aidie eyed him with suspicion. Then the man said, "Why don't you give your mummy one?" Aidie quickly closed the packet with his hand and pulled it close to his chest. He quickly went and sat in his pushchair to make sure they were out of reach of any possible poachers.

We have made progress when it comes to sharing most things. But as he has learned from his mother, chocolate isn't like most things.

Posted by david at 11:32 PM | Comments (0)

July 25, 2003

Growing in Soul and Body

Tonight at the end of our family devotional time, Aidie was excited as always to kiss the icons. He takes more time than he used to. As we get each one down for him, he looks intently, studying the person depicted before he kisses them.

After he venerated Christ and the Theotokos, we gave him St Aidan. He paused and looked at his namesake before kissing him. Then he did something totally unexpected. He went over to the shelf where his stuffed Peter Rabbit is, picked up Peter in one hand while holding St Aidan in the other, and kissed the icon with the rabbit. While this may seems strange or even funny at first, it demonstrated an new level of awareness of what he is doing as well as a new development in his imaginative ability. Not bad for a little boy who is 18 months old today.

Posted by david at 09:40 PM | Comments (1)

July 21, 2003

To the Junk Yard

It looks like the Holfordmobile has finally died. It had been making a bit of a funny sound lately, generally first thing in the morning but going away after a few minutes.

Today we were just going out to get out of the flat for part of the afternoon. Mrs Holford was driving and attempted to cross the main road turning right. We barely made it. She pulled over and I attempted to get us to the garage where we had recently had work done. We limped along, managing to hit every light wrong, so that every bit of momentum was lost. Finally, as we headed uphill where Commercial Road becomes Aylestone Hill, we again stopped at the light and that was as far it the car was going to go.

Mrs Holford and Aidie exited the car and walked the rest of the way to the garage to get help. I was able to borrow a couple of orange traffic cones from the kind manager of KFC, after cars kept pulling up behind the our little K-reg piece-o-junk oblivious to the hazard lights. Once the car and I got the to garage, we learned that this repair will cost at least half of what we paid for the car and it still needs at least two other major repairs we already knew about.

Time to go shopping for a new set of wheels. And the bits that go with them.

Posted by david at 07:30 PM | Comments (0)

July 20, 2003

What a Friend We Have in Jeejee

We now know that Aidan recognises Jesus. This morning he stood in front of our bookcase, where a shelf houses our icons while we are in temporary accommodation, and reached up asking for Jeejee. Mrs Holford retrieved the icon of our Lord Jeejee and gave it to Aidie, who immediately kissed it, just like he does at the end of our family prayer time in the evening.

Then he carried it around the room in some sort of procession, kissing it periodically as he went along. When he was finished he handed it to me and pointed back up the empty space on the shelf. He watched to make sure I put Jeejee back where He goes.

Posted by david at 09:36 AM | Comments (1)

July 19, 2003

Incompetent Government on a Personal Level

Today we went to see our Member of Parliament.

I have been having trouble with a certain Government department. They seem to be having trouble fulfilling a certain contractual obligation. When Government departments prove obstreperous, the usual course of action is to seek the assistance of one's MP.

It is always helpful if the MP can have all the documentation related to the trouble. That way, they know what they are talking about when they approach the department in question. Having been reminded of this by my MP's staff, I thought it would be a simple matter to request a copy of my file held locally. It's not a very big file. I've seen it. The whole thing could be photocopied in less than 60 seconds.

When I went into the local office of this government department, where they always have my file on the desk during my visits, I was refused a copy of any of it. I was told my request had to be in writing. They handed me a piece of paper and a pen and directed to a vacant desk.

In my best legalese, leaving no possible wiggle room for retaining any part, I requested a copy of my file. When I gave them the request in writing, I was then informed that it had to be sent off to the district office and that they had 40 days in which to respond. Until then, I'm not allowed copies of documents bearing my own signature.

We'll have to see if, without the paperwork, my MP makes any headway with getting them to fulfill their obligations.

Posted by david at 03:06 PM | Comments (2)

July 15, 2003

A Clear Case of Suicide

Tonight our microwave killed itself.

We were in the kitchen eating our tea when the microwave suddenly came on. No one had been near it. As the plate in the base rotated as if it had been started normally, but an electrical burning smell filled the room. Mrs Holford opened the door to stop it. She shut it and it started up again. The buttons on the front were unresponsive, so she opened it again and it kept going. She quickly pulled the plug from the wall.

Perhaps it knew its time was up. I've known cats like that. They have either refused to eat or just left and not come back. The microwave was getting old. The interior coating was peeling and the plate no longer rotated smoothly. Maybe it was just too tired to carry on any longer.

Not to be callous about its sad demise, but it looks like tomorrow we shall have to go shopping for replacement.

Posted by david at 10:17 PM | Comments (0)

Residual Prayer

I think we have finally ejected one of the last residual bits of Protestantism. Even though we've been chrismated for over a year and a half, I have still tending to pray over our meals seated and using the same formula I have for years. Some of you might cringe at the word "formula" - I could have said "liturgy" or some other word. It is still the same. Protestant prayers, especially mealtime prayers, are rarely spontaneous.

It has taken a surprising amount of effort and some stop-start jerkiness, like a learner driver trying to ease out the clutch and move forward in first gear. Now it starting to become comfortable. It is comfortable for Aidie, too. He knows that when we stand in front of the icon he should stop eating (as he invariably starts as soon as the food is in front of him). He watches attentively and still knows to say "amen." He recognises that the cadence of "Through the prayers of our Holy Fathers, Lord Jesus Christ our God have mercy on us" and that the sung "ä-men" is the same as the spoken "ā-men". After either one he says, "mā-men!"

Posted by david at 12:20 PM | Comments (1)

Plug in the Fan

It's another scorcher today in Hooterville. The forecast doesn't look as withering as the last couple of days, with temperatures on due to reach 30. That 86 for you folks playing the notes of the Fahrenheit scale. Yesterday it reached 93 degrees by that reckoning. Its like Texas, without the hurricanes of course.

Now this may not seem hot to some of you situated in various places between the Atlantic and the Pacific. It is quite uncomfortable here when everyone is adapted to cold and damp. The other disadvantage is that there is no air conditioning -- not in the house or the car or anywhere else.

Posted by david at 09:29 AM | Comments (2)

July 14, 2003

Dave's Veterinary Ambulance Service

I thought yesterday was going to be a quiet, peaceful day. I thought we would have Typika and my mother-in-law would come over to help Kel with her genealogy.

Instead, because Mrs Holford needed to measure the charcoal-burned carpet at Welsh Newton, where we borrow the church for Liturgy, and Welsh Newton is just four miles from Monmouth, we decided to go see my mother-in-law instead. We spent most of a hot afternoon in her back garden. I also met one of Kelly's uncles for the first time.

We thought things were winding down and I thought I would be home soon when Kelly's brother rang. His dog had been in labour and delivered four live pups and a dead one over the previous 14 hours. There were more pups inside and she needed to get to a vet. Kelly's father's car wasn't working, so we volunteered to take the dog. We had to drive to Abergavenny, leave Aidie with his Uncle David, and take a boy and his dog to Newport.

After getting lost trying to get to the surgery, we finally found it. X-rays indicated that there were four more puppies unborn. After three injections to induce labour, one puppy was born with great assistance from the vet but stillborn nonetheless. After my little brother-in-law insisted that he wouldn't pay for a caesarian, and consistently insisted that he knew better than the vet, we (not he) paid the bill and took the dog back to Abergavenny.

After we arrived, it became clear that the mother wasn't going to have the rest of the litter. She had given up. Knowing it was the only chance of saving any remaining pups, we took her back to Newport for a c-section at 9:45 on a Sunday night. In the end there was only one more pup inside and it was dead. (The rest we had seen on the x-ray were undelievered placentas.) The puppy hadn't been dead long and would have been saved had she had the section on the first visit. We got back to Abergavenny at 11:30 and back home at 1:00 am.

We never got to Welsh Newton and we never had Typika.

Posted by david at 05:57 PM | Comments (0)

July 12, 2003

Busy Saturday

Today was Mrs Holford's second craft fair. Again we were in Abergavenny. This may not be the best venue for Holford Country Crafts, as she only sold two items and didn't break even on the table cost. This was after the table cost was rebated by £5. Lots of people visited the table and oohed and ahhed at the stuff. They just didn't want to fork out for it. Overall, it seems there are very few sales for any of the stalls at this craft fair.

One stall that made a few sales to the shock and awe of all the other exhibitors was the bloke next to us. He had the absolutely worst watercolour paintings I have seen from anyone who has gotten beyond primary school. Every crafter that saw them would wait until he had momentarily left for a beverage or the bathroom and return to comment at how horrible they were. But he actually sold a couple. Not only that, he actually got a commission from an old lady driving on of those motorised cripplemobiles.

While we were manning the stall, Aidie got to spend the day with his grampy and uncles. After trapsing around town for several hours, seeing his great-grampy, great-great-uncle and great-great-aunt, the carnival, and who knows whatelse, grampy bought him a wading pool and put it in his (grampy's, not Aidie's) back garden.

Aidie had a very exciting day. The only down side is that he got sunburned, had no nap, and after he got out of the pool had no nappy. Grampy and the uncles didn't seem to understand that a nappy is important at all times. Since we didn't bring a change of clothes, we had to quickly go out a buy a new pair of shorts and new t-shirt on the way back to grampy's house, as you can imagine what happens to clothes when there is no nappy underneath for an extended period f time.

Needless to say, we shall henceforth be issuing copies of Childcare for Dummies to the men of Mrs Holford's family. I was quite proud of myself in that I didn't get overought about the situation as I learned the details. At the end of the day, no harm, no foul. The sunburn will go away (it wasn't too severe and they did come get sunscreen from his bag at one point) and he got a new pool and new set of clothes.

Posted by david at 11:19 PM | Comments (1)

July 07, 2003

Last Fruits

Sunday afternoon we picked the last of the summer strawberries. It was hard work because they were almost gone. It is also extra hard work for me, with my inability to crouch. However, true to form, I kept reaching down and picking berries even as my back was spasming and Mrs Holford was repeating that it was time to get Aidie home for his nap.

I froze a lot of them. Tonight I'm eating the last few fresh ones. I discovered to my dismay that my double cream had gone off, so I'm eating them with just a little sugar on top. As Aidie would whisper, "Tasty!"

Posted by david at 09:48 PM | Comments (0)

July 05, 2003

Learning Good Habits

I think Aidie is spending too much time with his mother. Today, he repeatedly went through the motions of washing the clothes. Since he could walk, he has always played with the knobs and pushed the buttons on the washing machine. Today he was pretending to put the clothes in the machine, close the door, get the powder out of the cabinet in the little measuring cup and pour it into the drawer, turn the knobs, and press the start button, all with expert precision.

After he finished pretending with the clothes, he swept the floor. Not just moving the big broom around as usual. This time, he got out the little dustpan and brush to finish the job.

He is paying attention to dad as well. He has started saying "Amen" at the end of mealtime prayers. Today at lunch, he had started eating his food but immediately stopped when I started praying and said "Amen" at the end before picking up his spoon again.

Posted by david at 09:16 PM | Comments (0)

July 04, 2003

First Haircut

Today was Aidie's first haircut. He seemed to enjoy it -- he always enjoys attention. He started to wriggle toward the end, because it is hard for him to stay in the same place for very long.

We took pictures of the event.

It seems we lost the vestiges of babyhood. He looks even more like a little boy now.

Afterward we discovered that there was a French market being held in High Town. All the vendors were real French people. I bought some raspberry shortbread bicuits and a bit of roulé. I love roulé on sesame and poppy seed crackers. In fact, I think I'll have some now.

Posted by david at 03:42 PM | Comments (0)

July 03, 2003

Peace and Quiet

This morning Mrs Holford and child went shopping in Worcester. It was the first time I had been alone in the flat for about two weeks. I could actually hear myself think. I was able to get some substantial work done on the Meandering due out shortly.

When they returned this afternoon, it was back to normal. Mrs Holford was on the computer in her eternal quest for cheap buttons and Aidie was racing around from danger to danger, only stopping in the middle long enough to demand that I read Farm Animals three times in a row. At one point the noise and frenetic activity was so overwhelming that I sat back in the chair just closed my eyes.

Aidie is now briefly corralled behind the baby gate while Kelly works on more things for her craft stall. This just means that he can play with all the electronic toys simultaneously, which will soon be partly drowned out the automatic weapon sounds of the sewing machine.

Now to finish that Meandering...

Posted by david at 04:42 PM | Comments (0)

July 02, 2003


Being Orthodox, I'm not supposed to believe in Purgatory. Now I'm convinced the Catholics were right after all. The only bit they got wrong was the time and place. It doesn't occur after death and it is located on this housing estate.

Last night while I was trying to get Aidie to sleep, some boys who should be old enough to know that they have no future in professional football were either using his wall as goal or had a very difficult time keeping the ball in bounds. Every time he would start to drift off, the ball would slam against the wall and he would wake up again.

Fortunately he didn't wake up a couple of hours later when somebody decided to let off firecrackers. It sounded like gunfire. It may have been gunfire, but I'm just going to assume for my own peace of mind that it was firecrackers.

Then our upstairs neighbours were entertaining until the wee hours. As I was laying in bed, I could hear almost every word they were saying when the music was between tracks. After their friends left, they were stomping through the flat in their usual manner. In fact, we've never learned the name of the woman. We've always just called her Stompy.

Other neighbours were going in and out of building, letting the doors slam over and over. At one point several of them were outside slamming car doors racing their engines.

It finally got quiet sometime before 4:00 am.

It's not hell, because it didn't go on forever -- it just seemed like it.

Posted by david at 09:43 PM | Comments (2)

June 23, 2003

Agricultural Emissions Up Close Today

Today we took Aidie to the farm park at Cwmbran. We had taken him a while back, but he was less mobile then and spent most of the time in the pram. This time, it was hard enough keeping him on his reins. He tried to climb in with the baby guinea pigs and little ducklings. He chased the chickens. He was interested in the two white male bunnies that were segregated from the rest of the population, but they seemed more interested in each other in a rather perverted way. It was a bit of an unpleasant sight.

In the dairy animal barn, it took a while, but he got the courage to feed the sheep and goats. You would think they hadn't had a meal in days. Anytime someone walked next to their pens, they all crammed up next to the fence, forcing each other out of the way for the chance at green pellets. They would head-butt, climb up the railing, anything to get an avantageous position.

They were all supposed to be in their pens, but a little goat trotted up on his own and followed us up and down the barn like a puppy. He climbed up on each of us, looking for a little attention. I contacted staff thinking the kid needed to be re-penned, but I was assured that sometimes they get out and this is no cause for alarm. Eventually the kid had a friend, but the new goat wasn't as extroverted. He wasn't as interested in Aidie grabbing and hugging him.

On the way out, we made one last trip to the rooms with the guinea pigs. I had never seen pre-weaned cavies. They were tiny and really funny. Perhaps when we get piggies again, we will get a breeding pair.

Posted by david at 10:37 PM | Comments (0)

June 21, 2003

Homemade Vestments

I frequently serve in the altar at our church. I don't do a very good job, but I suppose two extra fumbling hands are better than none. I have been using a server's vestment that was originally intended to fit our priest's young son. The first time I put it on, it was clear that it wasn't exactly my size. Due to those fairly predicatable growth spurts over the past couple of years, it isn't exactly Samuel's size either. He is as tall as I am now, though not nearly as big around the middle.

Our community priced the purchase of a new one at about £200. This seemed like a awful lot of money for a rather simple garment. Mrs Holford realised that with her burgeoning skills at the sewing machine, she might be able to do the same thing just a bit cheaper. She looked for days trying to find a pattern on the Internet. All she found were people selling vestments. At the prices they were charging, it was clear they wouldn't want the patterns to go public. She finally found what appears to be the only pattern book on the market.

She has just taken my measurements for a mock-up garment. Having never done this before, it is better to have a trial run with 99p/metre fabric before shelling out many times that for the shiny stuff. If this goes well, she is considering developing a subsidiary Holford Country Crafts. Any suggestions for a name?

Posted by david at 08:17 PM | Comments (6)

June 20, 2003


Today we participated in that venerable British institution known as PYO – pick your own. It is summer and time for fresh fruit. We were hoping to pick some raspberries but they aren’t in yet. We did pick about 1 ¾ kilos of strawberries. Last year at this time, Aidie was too young to participate. We had to push him in his pram from row to row. This year, he was more than eager to help.

He has bit of difficulty grasping the concept of only picking the red ones. Unfortunately, a significant number of strawberries will never live to ripeness as they were taken before their time. Of the red ones, he didn’t eat too many right on the spot.

At dinner, Aidan immediately took to fresh strawberries and cream, even though Mrs Holford made a point of buy single cream instead of double cream. I’m not sure what the point of that was, since this just means twice as much is required in the bowl.

By the way, Sainbury’s Single Cream comes with a health warning. You’re thinking something like, “Extremely fattening: may cause heart attacks”? No. It says “Allergy Warning: contains milk”.

Posted by david at 10:47 PM | Comments (0)

June 19, 2003

Discarding Superfluous Babies

Britain’s first designer baby has been born. The Jamie Whitaker was genetically engineered to be an exact genetic match to harvest stem cells for treating his older brother Charlie. The procedure had to be done in the US, because it was banned in the UK on ethical grounds. That something in the UK is banned on ethical grounds has to be a tip off that it is pretty bad.

This form of genetic engineering does not require manipulating genes. It’s really pretty simple. It is just a matter of creating a bunch of babies and then killing off all but the one deemed to be the best match. Eight of Jamie and Charlie’s siblings were killed.

What really struck me was what their father said on TV. He responded to criticism of the procedure by saying that no one should judge whether it is right or wrong unless they have been in his situation. How often have I heard this? It is situational ethics made to tug the heartstrings. It’s saying that when the going gets tough, the truth gets going.

I have no problem with donating the stem cells from one child the help a sibling. It doesn’t not justify killing, though.

Sweet Politically Correct Home

From my parents today, we received the video of Sweet Home Alabama starring Reece Witherspoon. Holford and Holford give it two thumbs up. The film portrays the redneck Southerners in a humorous and at least somewhat positive light, particularly when compared to New York City.

It was more than predictable that the soundtrack would include the eponymous Lynyrd Skynyrd hit. It is featured at least twice, including the segue from the last scene to the closing titles, performed by Jewel. Both times it is edited to avoid any political incorrectness. They got by with the second verse, since it would have been difficult to have played any significant part of the song without it. It would take someone with a bit of music history knowledge to understand the criticism of Neil Young.

The third verse is a different story. I suppose no one wanted to catch the sort of flack Trent Lott did when he said something nice about Strom Thurmond. Better not sound favourable toward George Wallace:

In Birmingham they love the governor
Now we all did what we could do
Now Watergate does not bother me
Does your conscience bother you?
Tell the truth

In its place, Jewel threw in a bridge about everybody getting along. Seems like a subtle move to undermine the actual theme of the song. Of course, since Jewel was born in Utah, raised in Alaska, and settled in California, she really couldn’t understand the song anyhow. But after all, all they really wanted was the chorus to fit in with the film.

Posted by david at 09:54 PM | Comments (1)

June 17, 2003

Today in Parenting 101

Living with a toddler is the most exhausting thing I've ever done. Okay, admittedly I have never gone out of my way to find exhausting things to do, but nonetheless, Aidan is a handful.

Today, we feared he was going to get a black eye. I don't know how many 17-month-olds get black eyes, not to mention in a self-inflicted manner. While we were in the supermarket, he demanded to hold a can of beans. This is not unusual. He generally demands to hold whatever is the first item retrieved from the shelves. Today it was Tesco Vinaigrette mixed bean salad. Being the active boy that he is, he was swinging it around and around, from side to side, up and down, and then whap! he beaned himself in the eye. Given his vast experience with canned goods -- particularly in removing them from the cabinets and caryying them about the house -- I was particularly surprised at this move. At the time of the incident in question, it appeared that there would be some swelling. However, any evidence of his self-inflicted wound soon disappeared.

Our new phase is knocking. It started with knocking on doors. If one of the internal doors in the house is closed, he uses this opportunity to knock, even if he can just reach up and open it. When we go outside, the first thing he does is race across the hall and knock on our neighbour's door. Fortunately, this has only once been loud enough for them to answer it.

Now he is using knocking as a way to get attention. If I am attending to something other than giving him my undivided attention, he will come up and knock on my arm. Or if I happen to be resting from a particularly long stint of undivided attention, he will knock on my chest or stomach or head. I have been afraid that when he goes to baby group that other parents might mis-interpret his intentions if he knocks on their little youngsters with his closed fist. He already didn't like him going around and hugging everyone.

We are still working on vocabulary at a heightened pace. My favourite new word is "beverage." How many toddlers do you know that can only say "dink, dink". Aidie doesn't ask for a dink. He clearly knows what he saying, because when we are eating dinner, I will often say "Do you want a beverage with that?" and he picks it up from his tray for a swig.

We've made advancements in the area of beverage containers. Sippy cups are okay for walking around the house for that drink on demand. However, at the table we have moved on to regular open-topped glasses. Well, plastic glasses. And there are the constant reminders to use both hands and the occasional spills when the reminders don't come in time.

That's today's briefing from Parenting 101.

Posted by david at 10:52 PM | Comments (1)

June 15, 2003

More on the Ridiculous Reshuffle

I missed blogging yesterday because after spending the day with Mrs Holford manning her stall at the Craft Fair in Abergavenny, and after she spent much of the evening looking for patterns online, I finally had a chance to write and the modem died. Late this afternoon (after Liturgy and the mid-year parish meeting) I got another from PC World and finally got it to work. I can’t use it with Windows XP, so I’m still limping along on my old hard drive and 98.

Holford Country Creations has gotten off to a slow start. That’s Mrs Holford’s new enterprise. She’s producing quilted wall hangings, embroidered pillows, smelly hot pads and coasters, and similar items with a handcrafted Americana look. Abergavenny was her first outing and it was plagued with extremely good weather, which kept people out of the Market Hall and out of town generally. Several of the veteran hucksters of this monthly event noted that it was the quietest day they had seen.

It’s time for reassessing which products will work best and at what prices. She is very good at this sort of stuff and the whole project has a lot of potential. Look for her website, hopefully sooner than later.

Descending into Chaos

Tony Blair’s reshuffle of his Government continues to be farce. He’s created a new post of Children’s Minister. He’s appointed the MP for Barking, which is appropriate because she barking mad. She’s the loony lefty who used to be leader of the Islington council, one of the local government boroughs of North London.

While Margaret Hodge was leader, Islington had quite a record when it comes to children. Newspaper reports indicate that at least 26 children were sexually abused while in the care of the council. “As far as services for children are concerned, we failed. I accept responsibility.” That’s what she said at the time.

Why did they fail? They were too busy focusing on other very vital issues. And official inquiry noted that the children’s department of Islington council was “paralysed by equal opportunity and race issues”. These including a ban on singing “Baa, Baa, Black Sheep” in nursery schools because of its racist overtones. And as the Shadow Education Secretary (the person in the Opposition who has responsibility for following Government policy in that department) said, “We can only hope her views have matured since she launched a booklet discussing a ban on skipping ropes, musical chairs and GCSE grades below C.”

The only good thing about this appointment is that she is no longer universities minister. Universities have accepted lower and lower and lower achievement at the secondary level as a prerequisite for admission. As a result, they are producing a worse and worse product out the other end.

Great Scot!

You know things are crazy when the Scottish Nationalist Party (SNP) wants to distance itself from the annual commemoration of the Battle of Bannockburn. The SNP Transport spokesman thinks it’s time to move on and get past the victory over the English 689 years ago next Tuesday.

I think that the Scots no longer have a need to celebrate that victory over the English when Tony Blair has handed them an even greater one, without even the need for bloodshed. The Scots have taken over English government.

The head of the English judiciary and legal system is Charlie Falconer, the new Lord Chancellor. He appoints all the judges in England and Wales – not Scotland, which has a completely separate judicial and legal system. In charge of health care in England is John Reid, yet Scottish health policy is controlled from Edinburgh with its own health minister. The same goes for Transport, where Alistair Darling is responsible for dealing with all the problems public and private means of getting from place to place. But only south of the border. Scottish Transport is the responsibility of a minister in the Scottish Executive. And where does Edinburgh get its lump sum of English money to spend as it chooses? From the man who holds the purse strings for all the UK, Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown. A Scot, of course.

With all this, who needs to celebrate Bannockburn?

Posted by david at 10:16 PM | Comments (1)

June 10, 2003

Better Days

As I was doing the dishes tonight I was listening to the Corrs, one of my favourite groups, as it often my custom. And I was jamming to one of my favourite songs…

We are so young now
We are so young, so young now
And when tomorrow comes
We can do it all again

And then it hit me: no we aren’t. They may be, but I’m less than a year from 40. If I live to my life expectancy, in the word of Moses’ only Psalm, “if by reason of strength they are eighty years,” I’m a middle as middle-aged can get. I’m crippled, fat, bald, blind, and half-deaf (from all that loud music when I really was “so young, so young”). I have seen better days. “Through the Lord's mercies we are not consumed.”

So I think I’ve got it bad, but then I think about the genealogy work I was doing the other night. I was spurred on by a question my father asked about his grandfather’s brother. Realising that he is the oldest heir male (i.e., person to carry the Holford surname) of his grandfather, he wonder if he was the oldest of his great-grandfather. I determined that he would appear to be the oldest heir male of his great-great-grandfather Holford. But that’s not the point of my story. I just thought you might find it interesting.

Anyhow, as I was looking at census records for 1870. I found the entry for my great-great-grandfather Holford’s family. He wasn’t listed, because he didn’t come back from the War Between the States. My great-great-grandmother was there, aged 32, having already been a widow for five or six years. Then there was my great-grandfather, 12 years old. And Uncle Don, 11 and with no idea whatsoever that he would be dead at 30. And little girls 9 and 5, the youngest born after the last time my great-great-grandmother ever saw her husband.

We have a picture of my great-great-grandmother Holford. It’s a rather well-known picture because she is so strikingly unattractive. If you saw that picture, you would think she is an old woman. A particularly ugly old woman. It was certainly taken late in life. But she died six months shy of her 50th birthday. (She died the same year as her father, who was 88.) I’m sure it had been a hard life.

She was only outlived by Uncle Don for 18 months. Aunt Mary, the little 9-year-old in 1870, would be dead two years after that, in the winter of ‘91, buried with her infant child. They are all interred in a mostly forgotten family cemetery that’s covered chest-high with weeds and briars most of the year.

I may not be so young, so young now. But I haven’t had it so bad.

Posted by david at 09:17 PM | Comments (0)

June 07, 2003


We have been experiencing a significant increase in vocabulary in the Holford house. Our favourite words are still “Papa” and “Honey” (or “Nunyee” as it comes out), but since we always tell him they are in Texas (so he will get down off the window sill), he can now say “Texas” (or more like a variation thereof that defies transliteration).

We seem to be doing well with the “T” words. Quite out of the blue, he’s picked up the word “tasty”. This is no doubt due to my overuse of my David Letterman dumb guy voice when I’m encouraging him to continue eating a food that he had tested and found acceptable for an additional bite. I invariably say, “Them’s a tasty treat!” and “Them’s good eatin’!” I suppose I should avoid overuse of the third person objective possessive pronoun, as it doesn’t actually exist in proper English.

Stuck in the Future Past

Do you ever get old songs stuck in your head for absolutely no good reason? I think we all do. Lately mine has been the "Cossack Song" by Tommy Coomes and released originally on Love Song’s Final Touch album in 1974. It is Hal Lindsey – or more specifically Chuck Smith -- eschatology from the same era. In part:

I wouldn't want to be a Cossack headed for that Palestine Road
Thinking about what's written in the Word of God
About the things that he's foretold
No, I wouldn't want to be there, down Jerusalem way
No, I wouldn't want to be there, headed for my grave
I wouldn't want to march with the comrades when they enter Israel
Headed straight into the fiery wrath of God
And finding no escape from, well,
I wouldn't want to be there, down Jerusalem way
No, I wouldn't want to be there, headed for my grave

Yep, the Russians are the baddies and they are going to attack Israel and BAM! God’s gonna get them. The thought pattern goes something like this: The Russians must be the baddies because them’s godless Communists. If there’s anything we knowd, it’s that Amairca is God’s country – next to Isrul, u’course – God loves us more spaisle than them. Heck, they don’t even speak Anglish, so how would they read the King James Version and get saved anyhow?

I suppose the fall of Communism has taken the gum erasers to some Bible prophecy charts and graphs, but Russia (or Gog as they like to call it) is still an indicator used in the Rapture Index. The Rapture Index is sort of Dow Jones of “Prophetic Activity”. The higher the number, the more likely the Rapture is to occur. There apparently hasn’t been a lot of activity in Gog lately, so it’s rating has been downgraded by one point.

However, there is a lot of activity related to the EU – or the “Beast Government” as it is called (a name I might prefer in a different context), so it is still rated at the maximum five points. In case you haven’t kept up with all this, the EU is the 10-horned restoration of the Roman Empire, because there are 10 countries in the EU. Well, there are a lot more than that, but that doesn’t matter, apparently.

Posted by david at 10:12 PM | Comments (0)

June 01, 2003

Congratulations to HM the Queen

Congratulations to HM the Queen on the 50th anniversary of her Coronation. Long may she reign over us.

Our Little Jamie Oliver

On the domestic front today, we got Aidie a play kitchen. He has a great interest in kitchens, both ours at home and the ones at the playgroup he attends. In fact, at the playgroup, all the boys are interested in the kitchens. Is it a coincidence that all the great chefs are men?

On a visit to the Early Learning Centre, a shop with toys for young children, Aidan became inseparable from the play kitchen, except when he would grab a plastic pan in one hand and a plastic utensil in the other and run for the door. The next time he went in there, arriving in his pram, he pulled and tugged to get free to play with it again. Unfortunately the ELC version cost £50. A little over our budget, that. So we got one from that universal purveyor of all things inexpensive, Argos.

I was a bit embarrassed carrying it out of Argos because the picture on the front is of a little girl. I didn’t want people thinking I was buying a little girl toy for my little boy (as he was there at the time). And then when we got it home and Mrs Holford started to put it together, it was immediately evident that there is a strong pink motif to the thing. It looks like a girl’s toy. Even Mrs Holford wants to paint it to make it look a bit more neutral. I think we have decided that the pink is going to become green.

And speaking of things in the kitchen…

Hot Hot Hot

We had tacos this evening – not unusual fare for us. Normally we use the Old El Paso taco seasoning, since it comes in a package with the Old El Paso taco shells, the only variety available on our supermarket shelves. However, as the package comes with twelve taco shells and one package of seasoning, it sometimes occurs that we have shells but no seasoning.

Not a problem. Mrs Holford just adds her own blend of herbs and spices. Because the meat had been in the freezer for a while and had lost some of its natural savour, she decided to go a little heavier than usual on the chili powder. We like things fairly spicy, but this stuff in our bottle of chili powder is dangerous. Just a little dab will do ya. Things got a little out of control and the taco meat was particularly potent.

The question naturally arose over dinner as to what makes chili and other peppers hot. We concurred that this was one of those answers that could no doubt be found on the Internet. And right we were. Have you ever wondered what caused the hotness – how something on your tongue could make your eyes water, your nose run, and perspiration to break out over your whole body? (If you don’t normally eat things that cause this reaction, you don’t know what you are missing – and you’re a wuss.)

It a chemical call capsaicin (pronounced cap-SAY-i-sin) a crystalline alkaloid. Facinating stuff really. It actually has no taste. It only acts on the pain receptors in your tongue and mouth. In doing so, it appear to block some of the taste buds from working. If strong at a high enough concentration, it can cause blisters in the mouth.

It does not appear to be lethal, however. In lab tests, scientists were only able to kill rodents by virtually drowning them in the stuff. Or by whatever method they are killed to autopsy them, thereby demonstrating that they weren’t killed by the thing with which they were testing them. One study did show, however, that an average-sized human might overdose and become unconscious by consuming half a gallon of Tabasco Sauce.

The hotness of various peppers are actually measured scientifically in Scoville heat units. This is determined by the amount of capsaicinoid parts per million. One part per million is equal to 15 Scoville units. To give you an idea of the scale, bell peppers have 0 Scoville units. Jalapenos average between 2,500 and 5,000. Habaneros, the hottest known pepper can be as hot as 300,000 Scoville units. Pure capsaicin have a Scoville score of 16,000,000. Potent stuff.

And finally…

Reliable Sources

Thanks to Josh Claybourn for the link to a Guardian article on why bloggers are dominating the search engine results over the established media. I don’t normally read the Guardian, so it good to see it’s good for something.

Posted by david at 11:04 PM | Comments (0)