Mutterings of a Fool

Man, Dad, Runner, Chief dog walker

Category: Life (page 1 of 12)

Reflections

This is the first time I’ve logged into my blog in almost 2 months let alone written anything, the first time I’ve had both the time and the head space to be able to get some thoughts down in a remotely articulate way. It’s been a busy time; work has been tough, a busy time of the year and I’ve been trying to secure a job change that I’ve been working towards for a while, family life with 3 children and the daily school run routine is always hectic and I’ve been trying to build up my running before my first race of 2016. Combine all that with the festive season and everything that it entails it’s probably no surprise blogging hasn’t been on my radar.

But I do want to take a moment to mark the passing from one year into the next, New Years day is such an arbitrary moment in time, not really different to any other day yet still feeling like a great big reinforced oak door has shut on the prior year consigning to history everything that happened. I don’t do resolutions but I do like to take the time to reflect and remember rather than just hurry into the next year on the conveyor belt of life.

Continue reading

5 words of wisdom for 5 years of blogging

Two amazing things have happened today; first I’ve remembered it’s my blog anniversary and second I’ve actually found enough time to write a post about it. 5 years ago today I published my first ever post on this blog which feels like an awfully long time ago, a time where I was yet to experience the whirlwind life that is being a parent. I’m not sure I can even remember what it was like to be that person, I wasn’t even a runner at that point which seems weird on its own. Just look how much our family photos have changed (spot the teeny tiny Bracken).

Family photo at Padstow

Family photo at Dyrham park

What I do know is that I started this blog to document life as a dad and to find a more creative outlet, something a career in Finance really didn’t offer. I’d never been a writer, I always thought English wasn’t the subject for me and my strengths lay with maths and science. Maybe they did but I’m glad that I took the plunge to start this blog because I absolutely love the process of writing and expressing myself now. If you could have told my 15 year old self that I would receive an award for writing and it that it would be presented by Katy Hill I’d have told you to piss off. But somehow I did, even if the competition were required to have the same anatomy as me.

The life cycle you go through as a blogger has many phases, none ‘better’ than the others but very different. I loved the early days where parent blogging was growing all of a sudden and there was such energy in the community. In those first months as a blogger you could probably write everyday and not get stuck for ideas, you join in every Linky and meme going and spend as much time reading blogs as writing them. There was also lots of commenting on blogs, oh how I miss commenting. Doesn’t seem to be the done thing now, or at least people comment by tweeting you instead which is more instant of course but doesn’t quite feel the same. In my day…..

After that first frantic phase I think you settle down a bit and focus on the things you’re really interested in, still active but more focused. The only Linky I kept doing regularly was the Gallery I think, not least because I love the challenge and process of either taking or finding a photo that fits a one word brief. But it was as much fun seeing how others had interpreted it as posting your own, plus the lovely Tara is one of the good un’s in this parent blogging world.

The third phase is the ‘I don’t know what I want or what I’m interested so I’m not going to write anything’ phase, the soul searching period where you contemplate stopping. I think I might have hit that around this time last year. You feel a bit lost, many of the bloggers you used to chat with and read their posts have stopped, you’re not keeping up with the latest ‘trends’ (or want to for that matter) and it all feels a bit pointless.

But you come out of it and the other side smells like fresh cut grass, there’s a BBQ cooking in the corner and cold beer being opened. You’ve realised that the meaning of blogging life is writing about what you’re passionate about, whatever that is and by doing that people will read it because passion makes things interesting. You write at whatever pace suits you, you’re in charge of your blog rather than it being in charge of you. I think this is about where I am now, I still love writing I just don’t have much time for it. So when I do write I want it to be about things I love and am passionate about not things I think I ‘should’ be writing about. Family, the outdoors, good food, the National Trust, adventure, in fact all things that were probably in my original about me page when I first started capturing my mutterings.

The National Trust, outdoors, adventure. Perfect day out.

The National Trust, outdoors, adventure. Perfect day out.

Which brings me to my words of wisdom, things I think are important if you’re a blogger. But, here’s some wisdom for free, they’re precisely that, my thoughts, read them or ignore them it’s your choice.

  1. Your readers are the best support network you’ll ever find; for me this applies to parenting but no matter what your topic your readers are the best support and therapy group going. The number of times I’ve blasted a post out when struggling with one of the daily parenting challenges and immediately had constructive and support suggestions. The same goes for the happy moments, readers are there to enjoy them with you, so much so that if you do meet them in real life it feels like you know everything about them already.
  2. Don’t forget to capture the milestones; I love being able to search back through old posts and find little insights into the lives of Matilda and Henry. Things I’d forgotten even happened or when they happened. So much better than a baby book stuck on a bookshelf and forgotten about.
  3. Writing is therapy; I’ve written many posts that have never been published, ones where just the process of writing has got out of my system whatever stress was occupying my brain. Despite my first word of wisdom above sometimes you don’t need to press publish to find the answer.
  4. Blogging can bring some amazing experiences; if you want it to blogging can get you ‘things’, physical things or experiences. Not everyone wants this and I certainly don’t chase after it but along the way we’ve done some pretty cool things as a result of me being a blogger. We’ve been to Bluestone in Wale for a weeks holiday and had fab family days out at London zoo and the Sealife Centre, I’ve been to the Weber BBQ school and enjoyed pizza and beer with some other dad bloggers while testing out gadgets.
  5. The best thing about blogging is bloggers; I have met (in the physical real world sense) some fabulous people as the result of blogging. People who inspire me, make me laugh, wow me, challenge me and most of all bring me happiness. I love that some times people can go from being little faces in your phone to real live faces sharing a drink with you. People like Gemma (who it turns out starting blogging just a few weeks before me), Chris, Corinne, Ella, Sarah and Tom.

If you’re a reader either old or new then thank you, you guys rock. If you’re not a blogger and are thinking it about it then do it, you really won’t regret it.

Repotting and rats

This is the point in the year when my enthusiasm for gardening normally wanes, the enthusiasm of Spring seems a long time ago and for the most part we have yet to reap what we have sown. However this year the enthusiasm for gardening was almost over much sooner; having spent a fun morning with the children planting loads of little pots with seeds we went away for a weeks holiday. Our neighbours kindly watered every day but unfortunately during the week a small army of mice or rats got into the greenhouse and have a veritable feast of crunchy seeds.

Some seeds did survive but quite honestly it was a massacre, I almost threw in the trowel there and then. But we regrouped and decided that it was only mid April so there was plenty of time for more seeds to grow. In they went with a few carefully positioned rat traps around the floor (which incidentally are proving quite effective).

Tomato plants

Fast forward 6 weeks and we’ve now got real signs of vegetables coming; the squashes and courgettes are planted out and have the first few flowers coming, the runner beans are rapidly running up the canes and the first green tomato has appeared. The smell of tomatoes growing in a greenhouse has to be in my top 5 smells of all time, I can’t be the only one to put my hands to my face after picking out side shoots from a tomato plant and take a big deep breath through my nose much you like you do to a babies head. Simply divine.

We’ve thankfully managed to end up with a few different varieties of tomato which I love, it makes summer salads and meals so much more interesting. There are a couple of big beef tomato plants, some cherry tomatoes, some plum shaped yellow ones and also the standard tomatoes that Heinz sent us which might even be doing the best.

All of them are now potted on to bigger pots on the ground in the greenhouse with the help of my trusty assistant and we’re trying to be diligent in picking out the side shoots and generally keeping the plants tidy and growing upwards. I swear the plants grow a couple of inches every day, the do certainly seem to shoot up at this stage don’t they?

Henry planting seeds

Now all we need to do is to remember to water them each day, plant out the beetroot, put the seedlings into bigger pots, plant some more lettuce seed and tie back the raspberries. Easy. I have loads of free time of course so shouldn’t be an issue.

How’s your growing going? What’s the biggest success so far?

Spring time is planting time

Spring time is gradually creeping up on us, it’s getting a little bit warmer and last night the kids and I were able to go outside into the garden after dinner for a run around and play on the swing. I love this time of year as we gradually defrost from the winter and the expectation builds of what’s ahead. I love the newness of everything, the daffodils poking their heads out from the ground, the buds on the trees and all the birds appearing in the garden again.

It also means it’s time to venture into the greenhouse again to sort out the pots and the remnants of last years veg growing ready to start afresh with a new bundle of seeds. The clearing out this year involved removing a rather large (and very dead) rat from a pot which thankfully the children didn’t spot before I managed to dispose of it.

Filling pots ready for planting

The first job was to plant the tomato seeds that Heinz sent us along with the first cucumber, broad bean and beef tomato seeds. We’ve also put some garlic into the raised bed already which apparently likes a cold start to its growing. Matilda and Henry were fascinated with the different shapes and sizes of seeds and never turn down an opportunity to get their hands muddy. I did my very best not to shout at them if they didn’t put the seeds in the trays in evenly spaced rows even if it did push my OCD right to the edge.  After all what’s the point in having a rectangular tray if you aren’t going to plant rows perfect perpendicular to the sides?

We’ve covered them up in the propagators now and I’m crossing my fingers we don’t get a cold snap in the next few weeks. It is still chilly at times but there is enough sun around that in a week or so we should hopefully see the first shoots coming through and we can begin the game of thinning and transplanting to larger pots. I’m hoping the lady of the manor is going to do most of that given all the free time she now has with 2 children at preschool 2 days a week.

Planting seeds in greenhouse

There are of course lots more seeds to be planted over the coming weeks, my rule when deciding what to plant is quite simple; it needs to either be suitable for going on a pizza or being served with it. I’m planning on making full use of the pizza oven this year and will need a good supply of vegetables and salad to go with it, not to mention a few chillies to throw on top.

What about you, are you growing anything this year? What’s your favourite thing to grow?

Guess who got hold of my camera remote?

Guess who got hold of my camera remote?

Grow your own

One of my very favourite blogging campaigns that I’ve been involved in is the Heinz grow your own, we had great fun with it 2 years ago after we’d just moved into our new house and had a veg patch for the first time. So I’m very happy that we’re going to be taking part again this year.

This week we took delivery of this very awesome parcel containing the all important tomato seeds along with a wheelbarrow (which Henry has decided is most definitely his), a watering can and a fab colouring book. Henry has spent the past few days moving things around the garden in the wheelbarrow which is why I now have lots of little piles of stones dotted over the lawn. Matilda on the other hand would quite happily spend most of the day watering various things, mainly plants but also her trucker and my feet if I stand still for too long.

Heinz wheelbarrow and seeds

We’ll hopefully be getting the seeds planted in the next few days and then tracking their progress as they turn into seedlings and then eventually (we hope) great big tomato plants with lots of juicy tomatoes on them. So look out for more posts in the next few days and I’d love to hear what your vegetable growing plans are for the year.

If you’d like to get hold of some seeds of your own, you can head over to the Heinz Facebook page where you can use their app to win your very own seeds.

P.S. We’ve also made good use of the lovely wooden crate that the things came in, it’s now holding the firewood next to our log burner in the lounge.

The difficult 4th year of blogging

Everyone talks to their blogs right? I’ve been having a lot of “it’s not you it’s me” conversations with mine, trying to find the writing seam that flows and feels natural. Trying to recapture the feeling you have as a new blogger when you can’t get the words out quick enough. As I approach the 4th birthday of my little piece of internet real estate I’m feeling mainly confused. Maybe this is just a part of the natural life cycle of being a blogger? It would seem though that I’m not alone and some of my fellow parent bloggers who I believe started their blogs around the same time as me are also at this inflexion point. Sarah wrote a post this week called it’s so funny, how we don’t blog anymore she has at least been scratching her blogging itch elsewhere though. Tom started his blog almost exactly 4 weeks before me and continuing the relationship theme said his writing is currently summed up by “I got married to my job and now my blog is bored”.

The parent blogging world is really in a boom time at the moment and the number of blogs has increased at an incredible rate since we started blogging. But if I’m honest I feel quite detached from it now, I’m not really interested in taking part in Twitter parties or linkies (with the exception of Me and Mine), there are few blogging conferences I would consider going to and I’m definitely not interested in reviewing things every week. I do miss the community feel that I experienced in the first couple of years of blogging, reading back old posts I remembered all the great bloggers I used to ‘talk’ to via blog comments every week, some who I realised I haven’t even tweeted with for a long time. Have I just become a grumpy old man and am missing the community feel because I’m anti social or am I just now the uncool middle aged uncle who isn’t down with the kids?

I’m reading a really interesting book by the Japanese writer Huraki Murakami at the moment called “what I talk about when I talk about running“, it’s interesting because it’s about running which of course appeals, but it’s about what it’s like being a runner rather than the actual running itself. In the book Huraki talks about his theory that writers have a finite amount of writing in their bodies so he paces himself with his writing so that he doesn’t use it all up too soon. I quite like that concept and wonder if that’s what’s happened to us as bloggers. Have we done too much in the first few years as a blogger and now those rich writing seams are harder to tap into?

At the start of the year I set out what topic areas I was going to write about with the intention that this would help me focus on the things I was really interested and passionate about. I thought this would help me focus my creative thoughts and also give this blog some identity, a core set of things it stood for, for the most part I think I’ve done that but now find myself questioning it. I’m a big believer in writing about what you want (hence the plan at the start of the year) rather than what you think you’re reader wants. But that lack of community I mentioned shows itself in the low level of interaction I’ve experienced over the last few months. It’s great when writing a post becomes the start of a discussion but I see very few people commenting on posts these days either on this blog or elsewhere. I know people read what I write (the stats and subscriber list show that) but would love to know what they/you think also.

Is 4 years as a blogger the same as turning 40? Is this a mid blog life crisis? Answers on a postcard please.

Mad world

For someone who is quite happy on their own I really don’t do work trips very well. I very quickly end up melancholy and reflective, the downside of too much time to yourself to think? Travelling is always tiring which doesn’t help of course and I’m really not good at making polite conversation with people who I’m not really interested in. A life in sales definitely doesn’t await me.

This week I’m in Morocco for work, which while a very nice hotel (and most definitely not how the locals live) it’s not home. It’s not where my children are, it’s not where the lady of the manor is and unfortunately it’s also not the home of high speed broadband so no face time calls for me.

These trips remind me of the choice we as a family have made; I sell myself to capitalism and in return the lady of the manor can be at home with the children every day. Aside from winning the lottery so we can both be at home this is the perfect situation.

But sometimes being on this side of that deal doesn’t always feel so great. Sometimes the reality of that decision bites. Perhaps none more so than when visiting a country like this, the hour long transfer from the airport took us past run down buildings, people walking along busy roads and farmers herding hungry looking cows and sheep across fields. Whereas we drive into a nice resort hotel with pristine grass and as much food as you can eat. It’s here you realise the life choices you’ve made to get the lifestyle you want.

I feel very fortunate to have a job that allows us to live the way we do; sure we don’t have any real savings and the week before pay day can be tough but really we are ok. I also am proud of who I work for, while we may of course be about making profit we are also a very ethical company and one that does good things in the world with no profit motive like help educate teachers in the 3rd world.

So is this enough? Is it enough to offset the fact that capitalism has taken part of my soul? Right here and now it doesn’t feel like it. Getting home and seeing the smiling faces of my 2 monsters and giving the lady of the manor a hug it might feel a little better.

For now I will have to make do with a morning run along the beach. Perfect food for the soul.

Thanks for reading.

Moroccan beach

Older posts