Mutterings of a Fool

Man, Dad, Runner, Chief dog walker

Category: Life (page 2 of 12)

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

Happy 4th birthday Bracken

First an admission, it ‘may’ have been Bracken’s birthday on the 18th and I ‘may’ have forgotten. But hey better late than never right? As I probably say most years when I write this post Bracken is our first baby and now we have him I can’t imagine not having him around the house.

He’s such a sociable boy and as I write this in my study at home he’s lying keeping my feet warm. Whenever I finish a conference when I’m working from home he comes running into my study, inevitably carrying something in his mouth for me and waggling his tail like crazy. In fact he’ll waggle his tail like crazy if you come back into a room having only been gone 30 seconds. Impossible to feel grumpy when he’s around.

Over the past year you can see the bond between him and Matilda in particular growing, she’s always giving him cuddles and loves snuggling up with him on the sofa to watch a movie. Matilda and Henry have also started the slightly disgusting practise of giving Bracken a ‘kiss’ before bed time which involves Bracken licking their faces. Just lovely.

He is of course also my running buddy, I ran 1000 miles last year and he did 95% of those runs with me which means he probably ran more lie 1300 miles! He keeps me company on the cold, dark winter morning runs and in fact is often the reason I get out of bed in the morning to run at all. Plus I’ve now seen at least 2 other people running on the Ridgeway with their Springers so clearly I’m not that crazy.

So Happy Birthday Bracken, you truly are a great dog and we love having you in our family.

A brand new start

“I’m gonna clear out my head
I’m gonna get myself straight
I know it’s never too late
To make a brand new start”

The lyrics from one of my favourite songs sung by definitely my favourite musician; Paul Weller and Brand new start. Sums up quite well how I’m feeling about this little old blog right now. Feels like 2013 was a year where I swung between feeling completely inspired by my blog and knew exactly what I wanted to write to feeling generally bored with the whole thing and not sure when I’ll write the next post again.

I haven’t blogged much at all for the past few weeks, no particular reason it just felt like the right thing to do. But I have been thinking about it a lot. I still love writing and blogging is the medium to do that for the most part, but after 3 years of writing this blog I think it’s time to consciously evolve it a little. Much like Paul Weller has reinvented himself (see what I did there?) it’s time for me to do the same.

In reality it’s nothing revolutionary or dramatic but more can be summed up in one simple sentence:

Write about the things that inspire you.

2 toddlers in a bike trailerSomething I think I do on the most part but there are some specific decisions attached to this. First no more sponsored posts; I really didn’t do many anyway but whenever I did it felt like a little bit of my blogging soul died and for the money it brings in it’s just not worth it so they’re gone. Reviews can stay but I’m going to get even more picky about the ones I do so that they are really worth the time and effort.

Second I want to capture more of Matilda and Henry growing up, that was the whole point of starting this blog after all and I think I’ve lost a little of that. So more posts like this one that capture a moment in time that will be amazing to remember. I don’t want it to become like one of those dreadful Christmas letters listing every single event or achievement but I do want to capture a few more of the little milestones.

Matilda and Henry readingThird, more books, I love love love reading books with the children and also seeing them read them themselves. We are rapidly needing more bookshelf space but getting them involved in books is a big passion of mine so expect to see even more of them on here.

Fourth and finally the outdoors, the outdoors is what makes me happy. It’s what makes the children happy and it’s certainly what makes Bracken happy. Given that it’s also likely to make the Lady of the Manor happy! Our regular afternoon thing at the moment when we’re fed up with a day indoors is to chuck the kids into their wet weather gear and head out for a tramp around our little street.

Matilda walking close to homeWe’re blessed with our location in the countryside so we don’t have to go far to find some puddles or cows and you can guarantee that 30 minutes later we’re all a lot happier. So expect to see more posts about our mini (and maybe not so mini) adventures.

I might even take the brand new start theme a little further and give this piece of the internet a fresh new look to go with my new blogging mantra.

With that I will thank you for reading my mutterings in 2013 and hope you will come back again in 2014 to share in some of the things that inspire me.

The one where I consider the meaning of life

I’ve been feeling quite emotional recently, not entirely sure why, money worries don’t help but there has been more than one occasion when I’ve suddenly got a speck of dirt in my eye. Maybe it’s the seemingly never ending news stories of abuse, murder or some other atrocity? Or watching an episode or DIY SOS and realising that for many people out there life really does suck. People who are just about surviving until that amazing program comes along and literally changes their lives.

Then there is the parent blogging community where there have been a number of heartbreaking stories this year, stories that make you go home and hug your family close never wanting to let them out of you sight so they can’t come to harm. It may be selfish but on more than one occasion I’ve had to stop reading a blog completely just for my own preservation. Sometimes those stories are just too raw or close to home and it’s hard to read those things regularly (Anecdotes of a manic mum in particular breaks my heart every time)

There are of course some personal reasons too for feeling this way, things that make life not so nice, but those aren’t my stories to tell.

So what’s the point in this? Beyond the therapeutic benefits of writing it’s also got me thinking. Like anyone not everything is rosy in my life, we may have to use a credit card to buy food occasionally but we have a nice house, happy children and generally enjoy our life. But our issues are small compared to some people, something you have remind yourself of sometimes. However do I really do anything to truly help others? I give money to a few charities every so often and have done some volunteering with work renovating a local preschool. Small things but not really impactful.

Like many I’ve had a few approaches through this blog to get involved with a charity. But so far I’ve done very little, the charities are generally the bigger ones and relate to problems in the third world. Really important issues but something I find hard to connect with so many thousands of miles away.

If I’m going to do something that has a bigger impact it has to be a cause I’m passionate about. Something where I can feel like I’m making a difference and maybe even see that difference happening? I think I need to spend some time choosing a cause to support and then stick with it for the long term. Maybe something connected to babies like Tommy’s? Or that helps children get active and in the outdoors?

Once chosen I can then figure out how I can help; I love running and taking on challenges so maybe some classic fundraising and a big challenge for 2014? There is of course the blogging and social media skills I now have that could be of use to a smaller charity in particular. Or simply finding somewhere to volunteer my time.

I know many of you are involved with charities so would love to know why you have chosen to support a particular cause and also how you help them.

Thanks for reading.



What would your grand design be?

Hands up who spends hours looking on Rightmove at houses they can’t afford? Or obsessively watches every property program on the TV including the repeats of Location Location Location? What about planning your own grand design?

Well it’s a yes to all 3 for me but the last one is the one that can really consume my time. In fact it’s often what I think about while on a long run to pass the time, a perfect opportunity to mull over all those big decisions. You know the ones; convert an old building or build afresh on a plot? quirky old building or modern glass box? wood frame or bricks and mortar? Architect or sketch on a piece of paper? 30 foot kitchen island or cinema room?

Of course there are a few decisions that are easy; hire a project manager (no one wants to be mocked by Kevin for doing it yourself) and if restoring a property don’t get rid of everything that is old. But what about the rest? What decisions would you make?

My current thinking (and let’s be honest it changes regularly) is convert an old building, there has to be a nice chunk of glass to let lots of glorious light in and a bath with a view so I can sit and soak while looking over a valley on towards a mountain. I’d take remote country idyl over hidden urban gem any day of the week especially if there is a lake or river involved.

The kitchen will of course be huge because I love it being the heart of the home where everyone gathers to drink tea and chat. Maybe with an Aga as it’s an old house and definitely with a big island in the middle. There’ll be at least one wood burner in the house and while the kitchen and dining room will be open plan there will then be a cosy lounge area for snuggling up in the evenings.

The lady of the manor will tell me we need at least 6 bedrooms to fit all the kids in because if we build this place then we’ll have obviously won the lottery so she can have as many kids as she wants. Maybe we’ll stick a granny flat on the side in case we need it for the parents one day, we could join it up to the main house in classic Grand Design’s style with a glass passageway. After all you have to make a clear distinction between old and new don’t you?

What you have in those last few paragraphs is the product of probably 10 hours of running, lots of debate needed to reach that vision you know. But I can do better than that, I’ve even found the perfect barn to convert which I spotted on one of said runs. Wouldn’t this make just the most incredible house? Set in the stunning Wiltshire countryside just a few miles from Marlborough. I love the lawn at the front, you could have a big long drive way leading up to the house which would be opened up with glass at the front.

Wiltshire barn

But wait, there’s more, I even have a Pinterest board to capture all the inspiration and ideas for this home that I’ll probably never build.


So what do you think? What would your Grand Design be like?

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