so alone…

My lovely wife has been saving the world this summer. Well, trying to anyway. One young person at a time. She’s been working with the National Citizenship Service (NCS) taking groups of 15 plus year olds on camp and helping them to do community projects and fund raisers for good causes. They’ve done a lot of good….BUT…

I’m a qualified Youth and Community worker. This country, the UK, used to have a widespread and effective Youth and Community Service well funded by government that made a difference to young people all over the country, where ever, who ever as long as they chose to be involved. Youth workers talked down young people who wanted to riot, stopped young people committing crime, started musical careers, helped families year in year out. Gradually the funding was taken away by successive governments. Youth Work wasn’t sexy anymore. Who would want young people to realise their dreams and take control of their lives?

The money? It went first to the (failed) Connexions service and now to the NCS. Hey, I’m all for young people contributing as active citizens but the emphasis on citizenship in this case is about conformity and tied to the notion of behaving in an acceptable manner. I can rant on for hours about this so I will stop now.

Young people rebel. it’s in their DNA. Only when people (whatever their age) decide that things need to change does our society advance. Human beings are amazing. we can invent and create and adapt. Every generation thinks the one before did something wrong or could have done something better. With guidance it’s possible to help young people make informed choices. That’s what a full time, well trained, Youth Service can do…and now i see friends and colleagues spending more time on raising funds for basic equipment or rent and taking only minimum wage because this high profile flagship which the young people and their families PAY to take part in has as much funding for 10 weeks as used to fund a whole year.

In the near future someone will come up with the bright idea that to stop the problems we see with young people there ought to be some kind of year round service that caters for them and youth clubs they can go to….

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My story

This is a friend of mine with a story you need to read


First of all just to say that none of this is for attention or sympathy. At 17 I’ve realised how little support there is for girls like me going through fertility problems at such a young age, especially when children aren’t your main priority in life. I just wanted to share my story.

I’ve always struggled with my ‘time of the month’. From starting age 8 it’s never been easy, despite frequent trips to the doctors everything was bypassed because of my age and we were told to be on our way. At 15 and in the middle of exams I got appendicitis, nightmare! While removing my appendix in alder hey they found a severe womb infection, this was completely stripped leaving the walls of my womb scarred and damaged. At this point it was all new to me, I was told there would be further investigation but nothing serious…

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Where ever we wander…

Lately we’ve both had itchy feet. It happens in the marking season and with two of us pencil in hand over a mound of paper we decided that this would be a time to put together a top travel bucket list. It’s short but here goes:-

See the Northern Lights, because they look so spooky beautiful in pictures. Angkor Wat, for the Tomb Raider in both of our souls. The Grand Canyon, to remind ourselves how awesom nature is. 

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Poppy Madness

London has been filled with visitors all looking into the dried up moat of an ancient royal palace. The poppies commemorate the First World War. It’s the 100th anniversary of the beginning of that war this year. This was the war that was going to end wars. It didn’t. The other thing last weekend was that it was my birthday. I wanted to see the poppies as an art installation. I was duly whisked off to the capital for the weekend.
There’s always a special joy in a spontaneous trip that never comes with too much planning. That said there were lots of things I wanted to see and we were going to make the best of this weekend. Number one on the list, Science Museum.
The new Information Age Gallery where the Queen sent her first tweet a week or so ago. From Babbage’s difference engine to the latest satellite through Macs and mobiles. Brilliant.IMG_6240
My real Kensington love is the Natural History Museum building. I was confused to enter into a darkened hall and ride the escalator through the core of the earth to a display on vulcanicity. We experienced the Kobe earthquake in miniature but where was the building?

A quick trip back to the information desk told us we’d come in by different entrance. Joy! That wonderful building is still there. Of course we climbed to the top.

Of course no birthday is the same without friends. This one was no exception with buddies in Greenwich putting us up for the night on condition that we would go to the fireworks on Blackheath. Why not continue to celebrate a (failed) plot to blow up the whole of parliament? What other country would allow people to explode tons of gunpowder every year like this? Still, if it helps people NOT to try again I guess they figure why not?

fireworks Blackheath 2014

A spectacular evening wrapped in the warmth and love of friends and family…with bangers and mash!
We followed a restful night with a very busy day. Up and pit to Greenwich park and a trip to the Royal Observatory where the excellent Doctor Geof (whom we had met at MCM Comicon and his steampunk chums had ‘punked’ the latitude story. The curator confided that some visitors quite believed the wild tales spun by the merry pranksters of miniature squid powering crazy machines and time travel in the courtyard.time machine
Of course time does start and end at Greenwich Meridian so with one foot in each time zone maybe its not so hard to believe.meridian

Onwards to the market for lunch.Then my long awaited trip under the Thames. Not on a train this time but on foot. Something about this place ties in with the Jack the Ripper mythos and yet, it seems, its a place to run, walk, commute. One Gentleman of the road Banjo Nick told us of his travels and how great the tunnel made the sound of his banjo.

Banjo Nick

And finally I stand directly in the middle of the river without getting wet.

Greenwich tunnel

Through the river tunnel and ever onwards and upwards we found ourselves close to the dome and thinking back on the last time we were here for the Paralympics. (I really need to post about that!) we wandered towards the DLR for a hop towards the Tower of London and the poppies. The tubes had been stopped because so many people were wanting to see this tribute tho the dead of WWI. There are poppies there one for each person killed in combat but 306 short because 306 men were shot for desertion and cowardice. Shot in effect for having PTSD.

Though it was a great art exhibit I cannot say I was moved as the crowds mad any form of reflection impossible and at the back of my mind was that once again war was being remembered as glorious rather that deadly. Sorry, if you want glorification of men killing each other for power and land you came to the wrong place.

We strolled along the Thames towards Blackfriars meeting a sponsored walk team en route. London’s church bells began to sing out Oranges and Lemons as we sought the underground for a couple of stops to The British Museum last refuge for dead Egyptian pharos and weary, tea seeking travellers.

sarcophagus IMG_6176

We made the evening train. I just wanted to thank Virgin Trains for a great sense of humour which made me chuckle after a nine mile walk across the capital….

loo lid

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Summer’s almost gone

Summer’s almost gone. Its been a busy one for the two of us. We took some time out to go somewhere we’d always wanted to go, Cambridge Folk Festival. A wonderful place despite being very white and middle class. You know you’re at Cambridge when they play the Archers over the PA on a Sunday morning. I could list the bands but that would be pointless. The link takes you to the programme and I’ll add some pictures for you.

Cambridge Folk Festival 2014


Completely brilliant to be there with friends and my lovely wife. So much excellent music and (generally) very lovely strangers. We behaved like total star tarts and joined the queues to grab an autograph or a master class where we could. To be honest we didn’t see the headline acts for the most part but did manage to snag a front row spot for the ‘mystery guest’ which turned out to be Kate Rusby aka English folk royalty. Out B&B was full of festival goers as was much of Cambridge. At this point I want to say, I love chairs and benches of all kinds and missed them like crazy all weekend. you know you need to sit down when you sneak put to the pub for a sit rather than a drink. FYI there were a few benches but most people brought picnic stuff. So very, British.




Arriving home I received a phone call. Congratulations you have won a private view at the Royal Academy of Arts! Be there next weekend, bring a guest. Ok, now how do we get to London and find a place to stay when we just spent up on albums and penny whistles? Nah, it comes out of the savings what the hell. Shout out to my Facebook friends and we were offered a place for the night. (Thank you, you know who you are).



No pictures allowed in side the Royal Academy but some amazing stuff from prints to architectural models and sculpture. Curated by Cornelia Parker, with exhibits from Tracy Emin, Thomas Heatherwick and Bob and Roberta Smith absolutely stunning but nothing in my price range (though I have to say prices started low but had sold out by the time we got there). My favourite was a sculptural comment on fat cats on the Afro Chinese axis. A figure in Nigerian print clothes with a stock market globe for a head and balancing toppling cakes on its back.

The train proved more difficult. This was the weekend they closed Watford Junction to upgrade the West Coast mainline. Not a through-train home could be had. A little lateral thinking brought us a two train journey with a ‘lunch break’ in Birmingham….it took over two hours from Euston to Birmingham. All credit to the Virgin Trains team who looked after use very well with free tea and coffee and regular updates. We decided to treat it as an adventure, and it was fun to see Euston so empty. It reminded me of the dance routine at the end of Slumdog Millionaire. There was plenty of legroom on the train too.

A bit of shameless self promotion then. You might want to check out my other blog. Its about games and nothing to do with our two step.


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Since that day….

Life has gone on as usual really. We have a couple of friends staying with us who found themselves between homes for a couple of weeks. That’s bee fun, like having the tidying pixies move in! My wife is worried that they’ve set a high standard and I might become used to it. Of course having people in the house means we have looked for alternative ways to spend time with each other so last night, even though it was a school night, we sneaked out to see a band.

My friend Carl from work has been posting on Facebook about his son’s band —Sugarmen— and how great they are. It took a while but I finally made the interwebs work and secured some E-tickets to get us into the Kazimier to see the guys. We arrived bang on eight and took in the scruffy but friendly atmosphere you come to expect from a punk gig. (Yes, you did read that correctly). We found ourselves chatting to a couple who, having older teens for children, had begun to venture out to random band nights and this was their favourite place. I’m beginning to think it might become a favourite of ours too. I guess you’d call it intimate. The official capacity is around 450 but that would be a tight squeeze. It’s a weird octagonal shape and has no ideas above it’s station. This is a place people come to hear music not to pose with their mates. Great crowd by the way.

Sugarmen were first up. I’ve never seen a dad look so chuffed. He was checking the sound and checking the crowd. I should say Carl is Carl Hunter, bassist with The Farm. As I’ve added the soundcloud link above you can check out the band for yourself. Their performance was slick and they are a tight unit. If you like the Clash you’ll like these boys…..and rumour has it there may well be a single out soon.

Sugarmen Chay Luke IMG_4628

Next up were Oxygen Thieves from the Wirral. A different feel and higher up the bill because they have some product out no doubt. The Fewtrell brothers at lead singer and lead guitar have that vocal compatibility that only siblings can achieve.

Oxygen Thieves

Top of the bill. Radkey. You may have caught them on Later with Jools Holland. Three brothers from Missouri who play punk. By now my wife, you remember she was here with me, seems to have lost her nerves about being at a gig. The nerves stem from a sad part of her history when an old friend was murdered and she didn’t leave the house for six weeks and when she did it was to a gig we’d had tickets to for months. These events still trigger that stuff so it’s hard. I have to say that Radkey helped her to forget all that.




They are loud and brash and all you would expect from a punk band. They are also, as were all of the evenings entertainment, politically active and politically aware. So great to see young people with something to say beyond ‘love, drugs, dance’ (though there was that too).

It was great to see my wife relaxed and enjoying life. I loved seeing Carl excited about his lad. All three acts were excellent and I urge you to get out and see any or all of them. In fact just get out and see some live performance, step away from the recorded materials for a moment. This felt like getting back on the horse I left a long time ago. Yes, there were fire exits to check and security and bar staff to watch, old habits die hard, but I left the gig with a tipsy and happy wife, and a card from a man who is trying to get young people into active citizenship. if I was to take on the #100HappyDays challenge this would definitely fit.


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Picture Perfect

Today’s little adventure into town was to meet the photographer and collect the wedding pics. It’s a small cd. Over two hundred images colour and black and white. They are stunning and we can’t thank Jazmin enough. Our new problem is deciding which to have printed!


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Hell on wheels

We got through the weekend. We went to the pictures, The X-men, Days of Future Past. (Wasn’t that an album by the Moody Blues?) and, for the joy of it, the roller rink.


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Hangin’ tough

It’s a Bank holiday weekend. For the second time this month the UK gets a three day weekend (except if you work in a shop, tourist attraction or service industry in which case you’ll be working overtime). I was brought up in a tourist area and learned very quickly that the traffic went south slower on a Bank holiday that it was better to stay in. Still many people will set out hopefully aiming for the seaside or country park and will spend a good chunk of time sitting in a traffic queue. My wife and I (it’s only been a couple of weeks and it still feels strange to say it) are having a weekend to ourselves.
It’s a weird one really. For one thing it’s a busy time of year for me son three days break is a godsend and for another we haven’t had moment to just be together since the ceremony but the kicker is that this weekend marks the anniversary of my father in law’s death. The first one. It will be hard on both if us.
Honestly I don’t know how this is going to play out.
There are events we can go to. Things to see. Maybe that’s what will happen. There will be photographs and ice cream. Maybe we will go out to eat. Maybe we will spend time in the garden pulling up weeds. It will be fine. We will get through this. I’ll let you know. In the meantime….

We will remember this man and raise a glass. Cheers.

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On a Tuesday? Someone got crystal glasses that needed using as a wedding present.


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