Life, Death & Horrid Henry

Saturday afternoon, we sit at the dining table munching on various pieces of fruit. The ‘we’ consisting of the mentalist and I, ceebeebies blaring in the background. I try to distract her enough to change the channel and switch to the Come Dine with Me marathon.

As i try to distract her with fruit and topics of conversation, she starts to regale me with stories of her adventures. These stories constantly changing, and jumping from one place to another often involving her teddy buttons, some of her class mates and even dear old daddy.

It is when she starts talking about her dad she falls quiet. Lost in thought, contemplating and thinking over and upon her most inner thoughts. I watch and study her as she sits there, not really paying attention to the television, i await the inevitable… “Daddy..?” and there it is… The question! The question based upon her recent bout of thought and contemplation. “Yes sweetheart?” i respond, turning the TV to mute.

“Daddy… Are you going to die?” She asks innocently, I’m a little taken aback as to the nature of this 4 year olds questioning. I pause, thinking how i should respond… “What makes you ask?” I enquire, trying to decipher what is going on in her little head. She pauses, gives a shrug and asks again “Are you going to die?” At this point, I think back to whether or not ive contributed anything which may have encouraged this line of questioning, I don’t think I have?

So as she stares at me I try and formulate some sort of answer in my head. But is that the best approach, I ask myself. After a couple of minutes of silence I decide to answer with the truth “yes, I will die one day”. She looks at me thinking over my answer “But you can’t ? You’re new?!” This makes me chuckle, and in turn makes her laugh. As we settle down to continue our conversation I do tell her that we all will pass away one day, some sooner than others, that it’s all part and parcel of life. To which she acknowledges with a brief nod of her head and a request to watch horrid Henry !

Well that went well I think to myself as we settle onto the sofa, time to relax I think as we start watching Horrid Henry.

Well.. We manage five minutes of it anyway before the inevitable ….”Daaad….”

This is Mr J signing out


Life, Death & Horrid Henry

The Art of War

I sit contemplating my next move, surrounded by the remnants and ruins of the Great War. Beads of sweat beginning to form on my brow, streams of day light flooding into a once tidy bedroom reflecting off mirrored butterflies, light hitting me causing me to shrink away and adjust my seating position

My mind beginning to work overtime,
playing various scenarios in my head, thinking about the consequence of each path i choose to take.

Deciding the best course of action is not going to be easy, the air thick with anticipation and a hint of vanilla ( note to self must buy more perfumed diffusers). a sudden tranquility comes over me.. A peace.. The kind I haven’t felt in a long time (well a couple of hours at least ), I let it wash over me allowing it to calm my nerves and focus my thoughts on my next move, bringing forth some wisdom from the greatest war strategist of all time Sun Tzu.

‘The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting…’

I know now what I must do, I sit contemplating my move. Playing it over and over in my head (well for about 30 seconds) before I realise… I am no longer alone. I feel eyes upon me from afar, watching me, I close my eyes and listen.. Listening for movement, I hear soft steps, footsteps muffled by carpet. The steps are getting closer, eager to put my plan into action I restrain myself waiting for the opportune moment for I fear this may be my only chance. The only chance I will have to restore the balance in my kingdom, to return it to it’s former glory. To once again become the rightful ruler of my once beautiful and peaceful kingdom…

The steps begin to close in fast, the distances between the two of us closing. My eyes shut, my mind and body working as one to pounce and end this once and for all. The steps halt, she’s close and about to make her move I open my eyes to see her in mid swing, the fabled buttons the stuffed giraffe in hand coming close.

I react with lightning speed, grabbing her close and tickling her till she gives in and I am victorious! As my foe lays there smile on her face her cheeks glowing a bright red, I remind her of the terms of her surrender. The one who emerges victorious will be crowned king and will get to watch the iPad, the defeated will clean her room and put her toys and crayons away! I’m met with further laughter as my greatest foe rises in defiance and runs out the room ipad in hand !

I am left again surrounded by Lego and remnants of what was once a barbie doll… I think….

As I sit there I hear a faint giggle … I’m not alone …..

This is Mr J signing out


The Art of War

Conversations with a 4 year old

Weaving in and out of the crowds of school children, i am lead, nay dragged by an eager mentalist trying to beat her older brother to the car.

As she hops from kerb to pavement into various parents walking in the opposite direction. I attempt to engage her in conversation, “so, how was your day…” I ask as she continues to hop, skip and jump her way to the car. Oblivious to the various obstacles and people in her path, but she’s too focused to get to the car to give me a coherent answer.

I load them up in the car, strap them in and set off on our journey home. Whilst in the car, she promptly empties her school book bag and shows me the book we will inevitably be reading later that night. I try once again to get her to tell me about her day “so… My young mentalist, what did you eat during lunch? Bugs? With a side of monkey brain?” Queue some hysterical laughter ending with a shrug of the shoulders and a “I can’t remember?”. “What?!” I respond incredulously “how can you not remember??” At this point she stays silent looking out the window, as I verbally prod and poke for attention she gives me the old “I don’t want to talk to you anymore daddy… I’m thinking…” With that we drive the rest of the way home in silence (which takes around 5 minutes).

We get home, I let her out of her seat and she skips to the front door, swiftly followed by myself and her brother. As I open the door I ask “would you like a quick snack my dear mentalist? Some fruit? Lobster? A yoghurt maybe?” She looks at me with those puppy dog eyes tilts her head to the side to complete the effect and asks innocently “can I watch my ipad?” I give her my best ‘oh hell no!’ look. Which promptly results with the mentalist stamping into her room with a scowl on her face. Apparently (so sayeth the mentalist while crawling into her pop up castle) I never let her do anything she wants, nor do I ever let her watch anything she wants to watch…

I wait outside the castle patiently waiting to be invited in, she pops her head out and advises I should knock. So I oblige and I am invited in, not the most spacious of places I make myself comfortable. “Sooo… Do you come here often?” She giggles and I know I’m forgiven, so we sit, we drink imaginary tea and eat imaginary cupcakes. And finally we talk about school, what she’s learnt, new rhymes she’s picked up and what her friends have been doing.

This is nice I think.. As she talks about her recent painting endeavours, showing me her once white tshirt now covered in blue paint. But it’s at this point I can no longer feel my knees or my legs, I need to prep dinner I think and she needs to be fed a snack “so tell me again, what did you eat at school?” I’m met with a frown, crossed arms and a subtle response of “I’m thinking daddy…”, “okay well il leave you to it then my dear mental one ” as I crawl for the exit. “No daddy let me finish thinking ….” I sit reluctantly as I watch her think, dolls in hand having a tea party. I think to myself (as I try and retain feeling in my legs) whether I’d have to do the same again tomorrow, and how this castle ain’t big enough for the both of us…

This is Mr J signing out


Conversations with a 4 year old

Nativity Plays and Tablet Wars

Walking to the school is always a little different, you see a few familiar faces and the odd new face, bobbing and weaving past each other in order to get to the gates. To be at the front of the queue, to be victorious, to be first to claim their child and run for the hills, cul de sac or terraced home, some may even retire to their bungalows. But the question always remains, who will be first.. as there can be only one!!!

Anyway, this particular day is a little different, parents are flocking to the school at an earlier time. I see a lot of new faces. Some are dressed up, some are casual, some even carry cameras, smartphones and even camcorders… So what’s the occasion?

Well its that that time of year where people tend to be a little merrier, a tad more giving and tend to ooze a whole lot of Christmas spirit , so naturally its time for schools to showcase their creative talents and put on a Christmas play. I do tend to love these plays, each school tends to add a little twist to the whole nativity story, besides its one of the few times to see your little ones dressed up as a camel, donkey or some other object related to Xmas.

Ticket in hand I enter a vacant reception area, the other parents sheepishly standing outside unsure as to where to go. As I stand peering into the reception cubicle looking for some sort of sign or assistance, I hear a distant shout ‘This way…’ looking over I see an assistant gesturing in the direction I need to be moving, I give her a nod, stick my head out the door and call the other parents to follow me in if they’they’ve come to see the play. As we get lead in to the main hall, which isn’t really that big, but has been carefully organized to hold a decent stage and a sufficient amount of chairs.

As instructed I move to the next available chair in order to fill up the rows, now at this stage you always get the odd group or individual that tends to jump over the chairs and sit where they feel most comfortable (surrounded by empty chairs) or you get the odd individual that decides the whole outlay of the chairs is totally wring and decides to do a little reorganizing. I do have to admit it is kind of painful to watch because I know what’s coming… ‘excuse me, can you please fill up the empty chairs and rows… please do not move the chairs as the children will be walking up and around the aisles..’ queue the awkward shuffling as parents do what they are told.

As I try to fit my rear onto a hard plastic chair made for the smallest of children, I cast my eyes over the stage and the various other occupants, the staff, the parents and some of the children. It takes me back to my days in school, we didn’t have a play as such we had more… concerts… Christmas concerts… I think they called them, but I think that was more high school rather than my primary school days. But still, things have changed, fancy props, lighting, projectors, sound system pumping out glorious hymns and carols all in maxing out their 7.1 capacity. Back in my day … all we had was a gramophone a tambourine and a triangle! Okay .. okay I am exaggerating a little.. But I can safely say the younger generations do seem to be being exposed to and are embracing new types of tech which is a good thing!

Anyhoo as all the seats are taken, the audience has settled in… the show begins, the funny thing being as soon as it starts all the parents unpack and raise their recording device of choice. Now for me.. this is when the trouble starts, unfortunately for me the lady sat beside me unpacks a large generic tablet. So when the show does start, she decides to thrust the tablet directly into my face, as I try to manoeuvre myself away from the glaring screen and try to wave at my mentalist. I get the loud clicking the tablet makes when taking pictures in one ear and children singing in the other. So as any person would do I await the lady to take her pictures and settle down (5 minutes later) … still in my face… (10 minutes later) … yep still there. Now, at this point I can do one of a few things, grab her tablet and fling it to the other side of the hall (now this was a very viable option), ask the lady why she is using the tablet when her phone clearly has a better camera (I caught glimpse of the phone while she was taking pictures) and thirdly make her aware shes being utterly annoying to the people sat behind her and to myself).

In the end I kind of went for the third option, I turned my chair and just stared at her for a while as I exaggerated my attempts to look over her screen tutting every so often. Safe to say this did work and avoided any need for bloodshed! The lack of common sense in people is somewhat disturbing, the play itself was enjoyable, seeing my mentalist up there dressed as a star constantly waving to her daddys handsome face rather than a square media tablet. As I watched the mentalist on stage singing her little heart out and constantly waving, smiling and giggling it did make me think how fast she seems to be growing up. Now on the one hand I do realise how lucky I am to have here here with me after a major scare to her health when she was 2 (il save this for another day). On the other I just hate that she’s growing up so fast, I just can’t seem to keep up.

Now the day before the play, the mentalist and i did work on a few secret greetings she would use on stage when she saw me, I did wonder whether she would use these little salutes and waves and to my surprise she did! Now this was quite funny to watch.

The play itself was good, kids showing their love and fear for the spotlight, a lot of smiles, carols and laughter. All wrapped up with a little prayer.

All in all (apart from tablet wars) a good day ! Here’s hoping you enjoy your nativity plays!

This is Mr J signing out


Nativity Plays and Tablet Wars

Nanowrimo – The Aftermath

Well it’s been a bit of a hectic month, as well as doing the usual cycle of odd jobs, raising, feeding, chauffeuring, cleaning and feeding my brats. I decided to take part in National November writing month also know as Nanowrimo.

So what is this thing I hear you shout, enquire, ask, probe even. Well dear bloggers, (most of you will probably know what this is, so il keep it brief)… Nanowrimo is an annual project, allowing yourself to take on the challenge of writing a short novel to the sum of 50,000 words by the end of November.

I initially thought, hmm 50,000 words… Easy! I mean it can’t be that hard, Im sure I have a good story rattling around in my head somewhere or other. So that would be around 1700 words a day ‘pshhhh, you kidding me? Il aim to do 3000 a day, leaving me time to basque in my utter awsomeness and celebrate my victory’

Well that was the belief up until I actually started writing.. And oh my god it was hard! Firstly juggling work, kids, gym and all the other duties and errands that come with being a parent as well as finding the time to sit down and write, it just wasn’t happening.

I either didn’t have the discipline to do so, or something just came up… Family gatherings, some urgent DIY and let me say as the errands started piling up I almost gave up. See the amazing thing about Nanowrimo was the fact that every so often usually at least once a week, you would get a pep talk. A motivational push, a fresh slap of encouragement with a healthy dose of inspiration to get you through that rut, any disillusionment most importantly getting you through that week as a potential Nanowrimo winner!

Another helpful factor was the ability to have a writing buddy (just like a gym buddy .. but… yes for writers.. poor analogy i know ) as well as the availability and access to support networks via online forums, places where you can discuss any problems you may be having or just to brag about how much you’ve written and how you’re the wordsmith of a new generation the likes of which the world has never known!

So … Why? Why take part in national writing month? Why spend long laborious hours trying to write a short 50,000 worded novel? The answer… Why not, you’re a writer.. Why not use this challenge to write that novel that’s been rattling around in that wise and all knowing head of yours.

Besides this may just be the kick start you need in order to start that new novel ( saying that, nanowrimo has ended, but there’s always next year). For me personally this was exactly the challenge I needed, to get me motivated and put pen to paper ( well more fingers to keys, but you know what I mean ).

Anyhoo, as you can imagine I fell very much behind in the writing stakes. It was only until the last week of November I finally knuckled down and wrote and wrote and wrote….and…’ve guessed it …. Wrote!

So did I achieve the ultimate milestone? after much pain, sweat, tears and waaay too much coffee I did! I actually finished a short novel. Now I won’t say it was easy, because for me it was quite hard ( not being the best of writers in the world ) and keeping the pace and letting your words and story flow is quite difficult when you’re keeping an eye on a manic 4 year old vying for your attention every 5 minutes.

So what has it done for me? Well firstly I picked up some lovely goodies (some lovely banners and twitter backgrounds…have a quick peek at my twitter account ) and certificate from the brilliant people at nanowrimo. As well as providing a list of challenges and guidance in what i may want to do with the novel.

On a very personal note, it’s provided me with an overwhelming sense of achievement, the fact that I’ve written a short novel I mean how many people can say that ..right? And it got me out of the rut that I was in, so that’s always a good thing.

So definitely worth taking part, and if i managed to do it, honestly I think all of you definitely have it in you.

Now the next stage…what to do with this short novel…

Publish or not to publish … That is the question …

This is Mr J signing out


Nanowrimo – The Aftermath

The Phantom Pain

I make the usual trip to school, walking past the various groups and see the usual faces as I walk, waiting outside the school gates which holds the reception class. Awaiting the grand opening of the gates which allows the parents to enter the school yard, now this is a little fun to watch. Watching all the parents pile in eager to grab their children and leave, this seems to be getting a little aggressive amongst some parents. A little pushing and shoving to be the first ones in to grab their children.

As I wait for for most of the crowds to disperse, I get a little hand gesture from the reception teachers to come forth. Uh oh, I think… The mentalist has probably done something, as I walk and weave past the various parents my mind tries to come to some conclusion on what she may have done? Has her eccentric nature become a little too much? Has she said or done something to call my parenting into question?

I walk into class, I see the mental one sitting on the carpet. A grin spreading across her innocent face, I’ve seen this look before and recall the various times I’ve seen such a grin after she’s done something she shouldn’t have. So at this stage I know shes done something unruly.

Eager to know of her transgressions i quickly get the pleasantries out the way, I get asked whether the mentalist has been to the dentist lately? I respond with ‘yes quite recently?’ Apparently she’s been complaining about her teeth hurting…? I assure the teacher that the mentalist had had her teeth checked, I ask when exactly she’s complained about her teeth… ‘During lunch times’ was the response. ‘Ah!’ I exclaim, as the pieces start falling into place. I tell the teacher I will get to the bottom of the problem, as we skip to the car I begin to question her about lunch and what she’s eaten. I’m met by a shrug of the shoulders, hmm I think.. I ask whether her teeth are hurting and she says no she’s fine and can she have some chocolate ?

At this stage I pass this off as a one off incident, well up until the next day. Where I go through the same thing with the teacher, the mentalist is still refusing to eat due to her teeth hurting. After a couple of days the teacher takes her out the dining hall to eat in the classroom during lunch times, now in the classroom she seems to be eating perfectly fine the teacher putting it down to the noise in the dining hall. I’m not convinced…

So I make her favourite meal of fish cakes and coleslaw and sit with her asking about her friends and her days at school, we touch on a lot of things, with a few musical interludes. Until finally we get to the truth, the reason she’s been how she is. There’s been a dinner lady at school who’s told her off for not finishing her lunch, I can’t seem to get out of her whether this has happened on a regular basis. And I’m sure it’s not been said with any malice or for the need to cause upset (well I hope not). So I’ve relayed this back to the teacher, who has taken the mentalist under her wing during lunchtimes to ensure she’s eating, and eating in the dinner hall with the rest of the children.

So.. For me this begs the question, should i have caught this sooner? Am I spending enough time with my kids?

God I hope so.. There’s only so much peppa pig one can watch!

This is Mr J signing out


The Phantom Pain

The watch list – Ray Donovan

What’s it all about then, who is this Ray Donovan character, and why should You be spending your valuable time watching season 1 of this show?

Well as per usual lets go to IMDB for the plot :

Ray Donovan, a professional “fixer” for the rich and famous in LA, can make anyone’s problems disappear except those created by his own family. — IMDb Plot: Ray Donovan (2013)

Now I have to be totally honest with you, I was extremely reluctant to watch this series. I wasn’t so much a fan of Liev Schreiber who plays the fixer Ray Donovan, well up until I saw the first couple of episodes and I was hooked.

The story itself revolves around Ray Donovan a fixer who can almost fix and resolve problems for the rich, famous and often undeserving. From the outset Ray comes across as a strong, very put together, smart and calculating protagonist. But the more you watch the more you realise he’s not as put together as he seems. The story itself sets a dark tone from the beginning, even if it is based in the land of milk and honey, the glittering and luxurious surroundings of Los Angeles there is an underlying tone of darkness and filth

Ray Donovan centres around control and manipulation, the reins of control firmly in Rays hands, well up until his father mickey played by Jon Voight gets early release from prison.

As well as being a fixer, Ray is a father, husband and brother. We have the usual medley of problems that tag along with some of these relationships the school problems, teen angst and marriage issues.

The main focus is upon Rays relationship with his brothers, Terry a former boxer dealing with his injuries from being in the ring and Bunchy a disturbed individual suffering from addiction and sexual abuse

And it is this abuse that haunts this band of brothers, a past shared by all three being revealed as the show progresses. this past sprouting further problems that Ray tries to control.

These problems seem to amplify when their estranged father Mickey makes a
Surprise visit, causing a bit of a power battle between Ray and Mickey. The arrival of mickey unlocking a wave of bad memories and a horrible past

In essence the show can be categorised as a thrilling drama, a brilliant cast with some outstanding performances.

So is this worth a watch ? It is indeed, with a whole of stars, twists and drama I’d recommend this to most people who want to see the sleazy side of fame and fortune in LA.

Pros: good story, great cast with some good well rounded performances

Cons: some characters could have been developed a little more

9 out of 10

This is Mr J signing out

Tweet: @quest2publish

The watch list – Ray Donovan