Friday, December 21, 2012

It's not easy being me

I can't stand to fly
I'm not that naive
I'm just out to find
The better part of me

I'm more than a bird, I'm more than a plane
I'm more than some pretty face beside a train
And it's not easy to be me

Wish that I could cry
Fall upon my knees
Find a way to lie
About a home I'll never see

It may sound absurd, but don't be naive
Even heroes have the right to bleed
I may be disturbed, but won't you concede
Even heroes have the right to dream
It's not easy to be me

Up, up and away, away from me
It's all right, you can all sleep sound tonight
I'm not crazy, or anything

I can't stand to fly
I'm not that naive
Men weren't meant to ride
With clouds between their knees

I'm only a man in a silly red
Digging for kryptonite on this one way street
Only a man in a funny red sheet
Looking for special things inside of me
Inside of me
Inside me
Yeah, inside me
Inside of me

I'm only a man
In a funny red sheet
I'm only a man
Looking for a dream

I'm only a man
In a funny red sheet
And it's not easy


Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Photo's of 2012 - Joel

Here are a few memories of the year with Joel:

March 2012 and learning to feed himself
March 2012 and enjoying the grass before it disappeared
April 2012 and on holiday in Devon

July 2012 and reflecting on how great the garden now is!

September 2012 and about to be cheeky
October 2012 snuggling

November 2012 pause ...

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Photos of 2012 - Megan

Here are some photos of Meg from this year:
April 2012 - Easter time
April 2012 - On holiday in Devon
June 2012 and enjoying the new decking

July 2012 and an early Reindeer impression
July 2012 deep in thought
November 2012 - Aaarrgghhhh

Monday, December 17, 2012

Definitions of water

A puddle is a small body of water that usually contains rainwater.

A pond is bigger than a puddle and is something that holds water for four months of the year or more.

A pool is bigger than a pond and is something that is still water and can be swum in.

A lake is bigger than a pool and is an inland body of water that is big enough to have a windswept beach.

A sea is bigger than a lake and is something that takes at least a day to sail across.

Monday, December 03, 2012

My poor left hand

Well, my left hand has been operated on again. My little finger was locking in the curled up position so the surgeons have cut into the palm of my hand and cut the top of part of the tendon off to release it. I had the operation on Nov 1st and was supposed to be off for two weeks while my hand was in a bandage and out of action. As with all things hands and Dom things have not gone smoothly of course. The stitches were removed after two weeks, but the cut popped open shortly after I got home. The wound had not sealed up at all. I went back to the doctors the next day and they put some steri-strips across the wound to keep it together and encourage it to heal. Another bandage was put on the hand and I still could not drive or do much with my hand. A few days later I went back to have the hand checked and hopefully the strips removed, but it had still not sealed up enough.  So I was told to wait another 4 days and then take the bandage and strips off to finish the healing. I duly took them off on the Saturday, but still wasn’t happy with how my hand looked. So I went to A&E on Saturday evening and a doctor there checked it and said it looked to be healing, and it would do more harm than good to try and seal it anymore. I just had to wait and it would get better eventually. 

I ended up being off work for nearly a month, although I was working from home and trying to keep things under control. I don’t think my company had a huge problem with me being off, and it wasn’t like I chose to be really anyway. The surgery came about probably as a result of my injury earlier in the year. It was a tough month mentally as I enjoyed being at home a lot, and I think I bonded a lot with Meg and Joel. I took Meg to school and collected her everyday. Joel started to walk a lot more and by the end of my time at home we weren’t taking the buggy to school at all. I enjoyed playing with him during the day and seeing him growing each day. I think I also started to understand him more. While I’m at work I don’t get to see him too much so I struggle to know what the norm is and I never know when what he’s doing is normal or good or bad. It was lovely being home with Theresa and being able to spend some quality time with her. One of the big things was no waking up at 0500 which I seem to do most of the time or having disturbed nights sleep. I guess because I am waiting for the alarm to go off I never settle completely, but when I know it is not going to go off I sleep better. Consequently I did manage to recharge my batteries a bit. I think I could get used to a life of being at home most of the time. 

The negative of being injured is that there are lots of things I couldn’t do. Since I couldn’t go in the roof there was stuff piling up around the house which has frustrated me. My movements were very restricted so I genuinely couldn’t do anything about clearing up. The other main drawback has been being in fairly regular pain, especially if I knocked my hand or accidentally tried to pick something up. The pain is not crippling, but it is a background throb. It is very demoralising after a while and it has affected my mood and outlook on things. Most of the time I’ve been fine, but on a couple of occasions I have felt myself sliding into a bit of a rut. 

As I write this on Dec 3rd my hand is still not healed up. It is getting better, but I still don’t have full use of it. It is still causing me pain and frustration more than anything. I have been back at work for a week, but I still don’t know when it will be better enough for me to get back to normal life. I have still not washed it as I daren’t. The skin on the hand particularly is very dry and cracked, although not uncomfortable as you might expect. I can nearly extend my fingers fully, although it does pull on the wound uncomfortably. I don’t feel like it will be completely healed for another couple of weeks, although I hope that’s just me being pessimistic. I am driving, but this is quite tiring as I am shielding my bad hand as much as possible. I am seeing a consultant tomorrow and I’m curious to see what he suggests I do to get better. 

I just want to get better and for there not be pain anymore.

Sunday, December 02, 2012

Cinema trip

Meg at Gunwharf waterfront - Dec 2012

Joel and Theresa went to a birthday party today so Meg and I went to the cinema to watch Madagascar 3 together. It was a chance for us to have a bit of quality time together and it was really nice being out as father and daughter. We went into Gunwharf on one of the busiest Sundays of the year, but managed to get parked and into the film on time. She spent half of the film on my lap as the seats were a bit big for her and it struck me then that she is just a little girl really. I sometimes put too much expectation on her and I forget that she is only six years old. The film was good, Meg enjoyed the popcorn and snacks and we went for a quick walk along the waterfront afterwards. 

Meg in front of the Spinnaker Tower - Dec 2012
Despite both being tired at the end I think we did have a nice time and I would love to think we could do it again. Thank you Meg and sorry for snapping at you when we got home.


Wednesday, September 19, 2012

The back garden

The garden in it's original form
Early this year we decided to landscape the back garden. It has been a problem since we first moved in as it sloped quite steeply away from the house. This meant it was difficult to play in the garden. The garden is surrounded so is ideal for the kids, but it just wasn’t really safe for them. Especially with Joel being so young. The hard standing we had outside the back door was also just too small for us all to be able to sit out on the table and chairs comfortably.
We decided to level the back garden, build a planter at the bottom of the garden and then build some decking from the back door out over the current hard standing and into the garden a little bit. Then we would gravel the garden so we didn’t have to worry about grass anymore. The main thing this would all provide is a nice big flat area for the kids to play in, and also a wider area for us all to be able to sit out on.

We started work digging out the bottom lawn and then building a planter against the back wall. Then we dug out the top of the garden slope and back filled the bottom thereby levelling the ground. Then we built the decking out over the hard standing and onto posts sitting on concrete panels in the garden.

The planter area being dug and the rear wall painted

We started in early March, and discovered the digging in particular took a long time and was backbreaking. Theresa did a fair amount of it during the days when it was dry. We desperately wanted the garden to be finished before the Summer so that we could enjoy it this year. My aim was to complete it by the Easter week-end as I had a few days off work to be able to get on with the building. We therefore faced a race against time to complete the digging so that we could start the decking.

Alf and I building the frame for the decking - April 2012

After a month of on/off digging Alf, Theresa and I built the decking over the Easter week-end. It was hard work and long days, but I’m pleased to say we managed it. We then had the gravel delivered and got that on the ground in mid-April. Theresa went and found some plants for the planter and started turning that into a cottage garden type bed.

Unfortunately we’ve not had the greatest Summer, but the work has definitely been worth it. The children love playing out there and it’s reassuring for us to know that they’re safe.

Joel enjoying the extra space

Making the most of the decking with a rare family BBQ

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Goodwood 2012

Dad, Alf and I went to Goodwood this year and had a glorious time! The weather was outstanding, the racing good on the whole and the cars on show were quite unique and I can't see how Goodwood will top it really. the highlight for me was probably seeing the Silver Arrows cars from pre-WW2. It was the first time since those days that so many of them have been in one place at the same time, and all were driven round the track. To see them up close was very humbling and the standard of engineering on them was amazing. I can only imagine they would have been like seeing a UFO when they first appeared, racing against small nailed together garagiste machines of the time.

I can't help feeling whenever I go to Goodwood that everyone there is just having a good time and getting into the spirit of the event. We didn't dress up in period costume as I've done that before and it's not very comfortable, especially on a hot day like Saturday! It's amazing value as well as it's significantly cheaper than going to an F1 race for example and the access and racing are so much better.

I don't know if we'll go again next year, but it was great to be out with both dad's and I think we all found it relaxing and different to a normal Saturday.

Dad and Alf by the paddock

A line up of early Can-Am cars

£350 million of Ferrari 250 GTO's

Ford F3L from 1969 - the GT40 was developed from this idea

Dad and Alf by a Catalina with an appropriate name!

One of the Mercedes Silver Arrows on track

Early Silver Arrows Auto Unions on track

The Battle of Britain Memorial Flight on Battle of Britain Day!
The AC Cobra race on the 50th anniversary of the cars

An original Ford GT40 on track

Friday, September 14, 2012


Theresa is a very good artist and does fantastic pencil drawings. She has decided to start up a small business drawing portraits from photographs. She has setup a Facebook page and is trying to get her name out there to get commissions. She has linked the Facebook page to her own and through regular updates is trying to raise her profile among friends and family. Her new business is called RelationPix and the company page is

Theresa has piggybacked a friend of hers who runs a bridal accessory business. I have done quite a lot of printing for Mel for free and put graphics on her car so she is returning the favour. Theresa has a portrait and contact details up in Mel’s shop and is also on Mel’s distribution list of clients now.

Theresa is doing the drawing during the day when Joel is having a nap, or in the evenings before dinner. As she is doing more portraits she is getting quicker and better and her confidence is increasing most importantly. The kids and I have bought her a lightbox to work on as well which will hopefully help. Hopefully things will take off and she will get some commissions soon. She has had some good interest from people on Facebook already. Ideally if she could get 3-4 portraits per month to do then she would be busy without being snowed under, and would also get some good pin money. At the moment she is concentrating on wedding and children portraits, but I think she could branch out to anything else really. My parents have asked her to do one of their dog for example.

Another great side of this is that Meg and some of the other kids have seen Theresa drawing and have been inspired to put pencil to paper as well. I think that has been another nice result of this for Theresa as she is very inspiring, but doesn’t recognise it always.

I am very proud of Theresa for doing this and it’s lovely to see her motivated and putting energy into something new. I know she has it tough with the routine of the children sometimes and I think this is providing a welcome distraction. It would also be nice for her to be able to get some cash to do stuff that she wants. I think the independence that would bring would give her another boost mentally as well.

Our car before graphics

The graphics printed, cut and ready to be applied

As part of the marketing drive we’ve decided to put some graphics on our car. Since that is what I do it kind of makes sense. And with the amount of driving we do plenty of people should see the details. Hopefully some leads might come from it. I have printed the graphics onto a reflective material so they’ll be very bright during the Winter too. I just have to make sure that the car stays cleaner now. This will be stage one of the car graphics and we might do something grander down the line like wrapping part of the car with examples of her portraits. This will also give Theresa something else to post about on Facebook.

Graphics being laid up on the car 

The car now complete

Sloe update 3

Meg and I made our second jar of Sloe gin last night. I went out and picked some nicely ripe Sloes at lunchtime and then Meg and I spent a happy half hour pricking all of the Sloes and mixing them with the sugar and gin. The ingredients for this one are:

500ml Lidl Gin
300g of fresh pricked Sloes
225g of Sugar

This is now jar number 2.

Meg with the Sloe Gin ingredients - Sept 2012

Meg and I had a lovely time chatting about her day. She told me how she was play leader and was looking after some of the younger children. It's amazing that she's now in Year 2, the senior class of the Infant school! She'd been invited to a friends birthday party in a couple of weeks and she is looking forward to seeing Erica who's now back from holiday. It was lovely just being relaxed with her and chatting away like father and daughter. It's the way it should be really. It didn't feel like an effort to talk to her and be with her and I hope we can do something like this regularly. I think the key is probably to find something for us to be getting on with together. Theresa commented in the evening how nice it was to hear us both chatting away outside and that meant a lot.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

More cycle training

I took Meg out cycling again last night and she progressed hugely again. From the first launch she was cycling unaided and did the turns at both ends of the path pretty much by herself. She even tried standing up on the pedals and pushing harder at one point which was both scary and made me very proud. Theresa, Joel and Grandad came to watch which really made her evening I think. It was lovely for her and for the others to be able to see how much she has progressed. It’s just a shame that she’s not quite tall enough to be able to ride safely yet.

My attitude to it all was much better. I had a word with myself before we went out and was genuinely positive about everything that Meg was doing. I am very impressed with the quick progress she has made and I think if we can keep the practising going for a little while she will be well setup for when she’s a bit taller. I also enjoyed being out there with her and in a funny way it distressed me a little being with my daughter doing something.


Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Meg you are an amazing little girl

I took Meg out on her bicycle last night after I got home from work. I had promised her if she went to bed without fuss and did what Theresa asked her in the morning then it would be a treat. We went to the path at the back of our house and practised going up and down. Unfortunately the bike is still a bit too big for her still. She can’t put her feet on the ground properly and can’t pull the brake levers safely enough. Because of this I don’t feel safe enough to take her anywhere near roads yet or to let her cycle by herself. It’s a bit gutting as we used to regularly go out around the streets for a cycle/walk in the evenings. I hope that she will grow a bit over the Winter and come Spring we will be able to go cycling. My dream would be to go out on my bike as well and we can cycle together.

Meg picked up the cycling very well last night and after a few minutes was cycling unaided and even turning at the ends of the path without me holding onto the saddle. I found I was getting a bit frustrated with her at times though as she was trying to talk to me about other things and would lose control of the bike due to not concentrating. Thinking back on it now I feel a bit ashamed as I wasn’t fair to her. We didn’t have a fight or anything like that, but I wish I had been more fun and encouraging. Thinking back I think I was saying the right things and praising her, but it wasn’t enough from the heart. And I’m not very happy with myself about that. Meg needs to understand she is an amazing little girl. I need to understand and accept that too.

Theresa sent me a photo of Meg reading to Joel this morning and that makes me so proud of her. He idolises her and I want/need to make her life better so that she is happy too. I guess she is a lot of the time, but we have too many battles. For some reason I always look for the worst in what Meg is doing rather than the best. I need to learn to ignore the bad behaviour and encourage the good times. Ultimately I think I’m worried that Meg might turn out too much like me and be quite angry and negative about things. I don’t want that for her or for Joel as it’s not good being too much of me.

She was made play leader in her class for this week. For one of the youngest in her class she regularly seems to be nominated for awards and praise and that is fantastic. Why can’t I focus on that and phase out some of the other niggles?

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Sloe update 2

I received my four new jars last night and transfered the liquid and berries into one of them. I discovered I had some room left in the jar so I topped it up. The ingredients in jar 1 are:

350g of frozen bashed Sloes
240g of Sugar
450ml of Tesco Gin.

This new jar is watertight so I will be able to turn it and shake it safely. The plan now is to leave it sealed until near Christmas and then taste and adjust as needed. I will put a proper label on it shortly for reference.

As I have my new jars now I am going to go and pick some more Sloes one lunchtime and make another jar. I now know from this jar what sort of quantity will fit in a jar. My plan is to make four jars worth of Sloe Gin, which will give me about 1.5 litres in total. I will try and put different aged Sloes in each jar and keep the other ingredients the same so we can do a proper taste test at Christmas.

Saturday, September 08, 2012

Sloe update 1

The first effort was partially successful. The Sloes were taken out of the freezer and based to split them. I bought a jar to put them in and it wasn't big enough to take all of the Sloes, sugar and gin so I halved the quantities. The recipe for version 1 is:

300g of frozen bashed Sloes
200g of Sugar
350ml of Tesco Gin

It is all in a jar in the drinks cupboard, but it turns out that the jar is not watertight so I am planning to decant it to another jar when i receive the ones I've ordered online. I am going to keep mixing the liquid until I do this.

I went eploring again at lunchtime today and found some more Blackthorns, one of which was loaded with very ripe Sloes. I am itching to pick them and bottle them, and this time I think I will prick them fresh rather than bashing them frozen.

This whole project is exciting and frustrating at the same time as I want to know how I'm progressing, but I won't know until Christmas!

Friday, September 07, 2012

A significant day

For the sake of posterity and clarity I want to record this.

On February 1st 2012 at 1430 my life changed forever. I was cutting some vinyl with a scalpel when I somehow managed to stab the inside point of the joint on my second finger of my left hand. It didn’t particularly hurt, and it bled a bit. I cleaned the wound and dressed it and didn’t think too much more about it. I went home, took the dressing off and had a normal evening. The finger didn’t bother me unduly and I went to bed as normal.

In the morning it didn’t appear to be too different so I showered, dressed and went to work. About 1000 I realised that the finger was starting to swell up and become a bit uncomfortable. Thinking ahead I drove to the local Tesco to get some Ibuprofen in case it got worse during the day. While at the store I showed my finger to the pharmacist and she suggested that I put a cold compress on it and if it hadn’t improved in a couple of days go to the doctors. Somehow that didn’t sit right as it was now uncomfortable to bend the finger at the joint that had been stabbed. So I made the decision that ultimately probably saved my life. As the Andover hospital was pretty close to my route back to the office I decided to drop in there and get someone to have a quick look and put my mind at ease. While walking from the car to the hospital I had a chocolate bar.

The hospital in Andover is quite small and the nurse there was helpful, and mainly concerned that I couldn’t bend my finger flat. By this time (about 1100) it had swollen some more and was going a bit red. The nurse referred me to Salisbury Hospital as they had a specialist unit there that dealt with hand/joint injuries. So I drove to Salisbury General Hospital and waited in the reception area for about an hour or so. I went to the triage nurse who gave me some Paracetemol and Ibuprofen as my hand was now quite uncomfortable. It was now about 1245. By this stage my finger could not be straightened and it was tingly and was quite an angry red around the wound area, which incidentally you could now hardly see.

The triage nurse sent me back to reception and I waited for a doctor to see me. At about 1330 a doctor evaluated me and started talking about an infection. She kept saying that I had all of the symptoms of an infection, but they never set in to an injury like this for at least 48 hours. I went for an x-ray to check there were no foreign objects in the wound (there were none that could be seen). A consultant came to see me and they said they had to admit me to the hospital immediately and start preparing me for surgery. They couldn’t be certain, but they thought I had developed an infection from the cut, probably damaged/severed the tendon and the nerve, and that I could be in hospital for some time as this was serious. If I had done some proper damage I could be in plaster for up to 3 months and I might need several operations. I was slightly surprised, but also quite calm about it. I guess I had suspected a bigger problem at Tesco that morning and this was just confirming it. One of my first thoughts was that I had only put a ticket in the car for an hour and was in the short term car park. I needed to sort that out while I could still move and use my hand. My next thought was that I didn’t particularly want to be admitted to Salisbury as it was a long way from my family and my home.

I asked to be admitted to QAH in Portsmouth instead and after a bit of going back and forwards and initially refusing they agreed. My thinking was that at least I would be near home. So I got back in my car and drove home. When I left Salisbury my whole finger was red down to the base of the finger. It was uncomfortable to touch it and I couldn’t bend it. The drive got more interesting as it progressed and I was struggling with changing the gears towards the end. By the time I got to the house I had driven 140 miles that day. I went in, called a taxi to take me to the hospital and quickly packed an overnight back and changed into jeans and a t-shirt. The taxi came and I kissed everyone goodbye. I was smiling and playing things down, but a part of me was wondering if I would see them again. I got the taxi to the hospital and arrived at the A&E there at 1745. On arrival my hand had a red line all across the palm to my wrist running from the base of the finger.

Although I had been told the hospital had all of my details and were expecting me there was no bed in a ward available so I was taken through to A&E after a while (about 1830). I saw a surgeon quite quickly who explained that he would need to cut down my finger and hand to clean out the infection. Once that was done they would then look at the tendon and nerve to see what damage had been done and if it could be repaired. He said I basically had septicaemia and it was attacking me aggressively. If the operation wasn’t successful I may lose my hand, or arm, or life. Suddenly this wasn’t a small issue now. He gave me some more painkillers and they put a drip pipe in my good arm. He told me to keep my hand in the air as much as possible and to sit tight. As soon as a bed in a ward became available they would take me there and prep me for surgery. This would fall into the plastic surgery category. They never do emergency operations in that department, but in my case the two consultants would stay on to operate as it was very serious. One of them said this was only the second case this serious he had seen in his career. I was put on a bed in A&E and then pretty much ignored for the next 2 hours while they waited for a bed to become available. I was lying under an open window in a cold draught unable to use my arms to get up and close it. I was pretty cold and feeling slightly spaced out as well. I had not eaten since the chocolate bar that morning and had hardly drunk anything all day. In a strange twist this was good as you’re not supposed to eat or drink for a few hours before surgery. I spoke to Theresa a few times during this time and was making light of the situation. I didn’t tell her what the surgeon had told me as I didn’t think there was anything to gain from her worrying unduly. And I might need all of her strength in the coming days.

At about 2100 a nurse came to get me and said there was a bed now available, but no porter was around at that time to take me to the bed so it would be a few minutes more. Conscious that I was technically potentially getting closer to losing my life with each passing minute I suggested we just walk to the bed if she could carry my bag. She warned me it was a few minutes away, but we went for it anyway. I came alive again as we walked to the ward and was a bit surprised that you can find new strength when you need to. In the ward I changed into robes at the same time as answering questions for another form. As I lay in the bed the surgeons came in and ran through the procedure again and an anaesthetist started me on a drip to knock me out. I was taken to the surgery and don’t remember much else from that point. I think the drugs must have started to work immediately on my dehydrated body as I don’t remember getting to the operating theatre.

I came round feeling like I was sinking and completely disorientated. I have woken from surgery before and been fine, but this time it was horrible. I felt completely disorientated and had a slight panic attack. I later found out from my chart that I’d been given Morphine and I blame that for how I felt. The staff were really good and helped me as much as possible and I remember looking at the clock as I got back to the ward and it said 0200. I’d been in surgery for probably 4 hours which was a bit scary. I was attached to a drip with both arms and I had what I discovered later was a saline solution being pumped through my finger to clean it. I hardly slept that night and felt pretty horrible when the lights came on in the morning.

When I ‘woke’ I found I was in a ward with three others who had colostomy bags attached. They all looked in far worse state than me. The surgeon came to see me in the morning and explained that this was the only bed that could be found last night and plastic surgery don’t normally keep people in overnight. Theresa arrived at that point and it was amazing to see her and Joel. I don’t remember being so relieved to see a loved one in my life. The surgeon explained that I was by far the most serious patient in the ward despite appearances and that I was not out of the woods yet. I think that was when it hit home with Theresa that this was pretty serious. The surgeon said the operation had been successful and the drip was now cleaning out the wound, and they would need to have a look when that was complete. The drip would be in for 24 hours. I may require another operation if the finger didn’t appear to be clean. I had severed the nerve and cut the tendon about 25% of the way through. If it had been any more they would have had to reattach it and I would have been in plaster for several weeks. Luck shows itself in mysterious ways sometimes! The tendon would heal itself up to a point and the nerve might partially regrow.

The kids and I the morning after - Feb 2012

I ended up staying in the hospital for four days and was discharged on the Sunday. Over those four days the drip came off and I was put on some spectacular painkillers and antibiotics. I was checked regularly and my body started to heal. Theresa came to see me each day and I would look forward to the visits eagerly. In between visits I struck up a bond with the other patients in my ward and I think we kept each others spirits up through the ordeal. We laughed a lot about the food (which unfortunately was revolting and I can’t see how it would help you heal at all – poor effort NHS!), and generally passed the time. I read a bit, but spent a lot of time dozing and doing very little while trying to give my body a chance to start healing. It was a relief really when Theresa came to collect me although tinged with a bit of sadness at leaving people I’d become friends with still lying in bed with tubes coming out of them.

I spent the next few days bouncing between being in quite a lot of pain and spaced out due to the medication. Most of the time I lay in bed watching TV or reading. I was signed off work for at least two weeks and they seemed understanding enough, although they didn’t have much choice in the matter. The second week I started to do some work from home and tried to be useful. I couldn’t do much around the house and in a weird way the enforced rest did me some good. I had the bandages changed and got my first look at my hand which looked like it had been mauled. I had no complaints as their quick actions had probably saved my life, but it continued to hit home that I was going to have to adapt my life now to allow for this injury, and I was going to have to live with it for the rest of my life.

After a couple of weeks I started physiotherapy on the hand which exposed me to another type of pain. The ‘hand feels like it’s tearing apart, but in fact won’t’ pain. The aim of the exercise was to start to straighten my finger as much as possible. I was given exercises to do and went back each week. Gradually the finger got more movement and the swelling went down. The physiotherapist was happy with the progress I was making, and I was determined to be able to straighten my finger. However as things progressed I realised that I probably wouldn’t ever be able to and also there was still some feeling in the nerve. This meant/means that whenever I touch anything with it I get an electric shock up my arm. The physiotherapy would continue weekly for three months. After a couple of weeks I went back to work and normal life resumed to a point. Everyone was very sorry for me, but soon enough I became yesterday’s news. Unfortunately for me the injury didn’t go away with the interest and I have to live with a damaged hand.

As I write this seven months later my hand is still causing me problems. The nerve is still partially alive and still gives me electric shocks when I touch anything. I am very sensitive about anything being near my left hand and it scares me to put my hand near anything that might bang or trap it. I have bashed it a few times over the weeks and it makes my head spin and me almost want to throw up through shock sometimes. I am really wary of anyone or anything touching my finger. I am scared to be around knives now and even cutting a slice of bread makes me catch my breath. I get very concerned whenever I see other people using knives, especially if they’re being a bit carefree with them. I find I compensate for my finger whenever I do anything by bending it slightly higher than the other fingers to try and shield it a bit. I am hoping that in time my brain will make allowances for my finger and filter out the pain. I believe my finger is too sensitised at the moment and my brain needs to program itself to say that things touching it won’t automatically cause me pain. I am hoping that will happen, but I’m not sure I am convinced that it will. Part of me is angry that this has happened as I will now have to live with this problem for the rest of my life. In some ways I wish that the nerve had been completely severed so I wouldn’t have the pain. I think that my hand is part of the bigger picture of my head being a bit messed up at the moment. I am grateful to the doctors for saving my life and I’m pleased that I listened to my instincts and went to the hospital on the day rather than ignoring it. I appreciate how sensitive parts of the human body are and I will never take things for granted again.

Thursday, September 06, 2012

I am not well

Recently I have been struggling to stay on top of things. I’m not quite sure when it started or whether there is even a problem, but I feel like the force is not in balance at the moment. I’ve been thinking a lot, and I wonder if writing some of this down might be a kind of therapy.

I’ve not been sleeping well most nights for what feels like a while. When I go to bed I go off pretty quickly and soundly. However once I stir during the night I really struggle to get back to sleep and I often find myself watching the clock and waiting for the alarm to go off and the official start of another day. I’m trying to analyse what is causing this and why? Part of it is I think wanting to catch the alarm before it goes off so that I don’t wake Theresa up. My phone alarm is setup to turn on a minute before the sound of the alarm goes off and I think subconsciously I want to be awake during that minute as I can stop the noise and therefore not wake the house up. I can’t say if this is what stops me going back to sleep when I look at the clock and notice it is only 0400 though. The lack o sleep means that I am not always thinking clearly and I start my days with an already part depleted battery.

In February I had an accident at work and cut my finger quite badly. I’ll write about the story another time as it has an amusing element to it, but in the context of this post is not appropriate. What counts is that it is uncomfortable a lot of the time. Also I am now getting trigger finger in my little finger which is very painful. Basically my finger locks in a hooked position and I have to pull it to unclench it. I think this has woken me during the night sometimes. Worse though is that it does batter my morale. I just feel like my body is hurting all the time now and I am tired of it. It’s not real in your face pain, but is still a constant in the background which is quite draining. I have been back to the hospital about my hand and I am on the waiting list for an operation on my trigger finger. Hopefully it will be soon. This will be my fifth time in just over year that I will go into surgery and that is demoralising. It has got into my head a bit that I am falling apart and what will go wrong with my body next?!

A few days ago I had a horrendous night when I really felt like I was losing it. I was awake for what felt like the whole night and all I kept thinking about was killing myself. It scares me to write this and it’s bringing a chill on me when I think to how real those thoughts were. I have wondered in the past about dying and feeling like it wouldn’t matter so much if I did. But this night I felt like I could get out of bed and just end it. It’s hard to write down how real it felt, but I could actually picture myself doing it. It has never felt so real before. Part of my not sleeping was battling the demons and also being scared that if I was asleep I would not be in control of myself. I got up in the morning and felt pretty lost. So I called my GP in the morning and had a calming chat with him. He suggested the first route was to try and sort out the sleeping issue and prescribed me some sleeping tablets. I have been taking these for a few days now and am unconvinced they are doing anything as I am still waking up during the night sometimes and struggling to get back to sleep. I am feeling a lot better than I was, but I think this may be due to other factors more than the tablets.

I have decided to reassess myself a bit and try and improve things that I can control. One of those is my health and fitness. I have let myself go a bit over the Summer, but now is the time to get myself sorted out. Basically I am eating less which should bring my weight down a bit. I am also making sure I am going for a good walk each day, and sometimes going out with the kids on their bikes when I get home. Foraging is helping with this (even though it will lead ultimately to drinking and eating!).

Another side that needs dealing with is my relationship with the children, and Meg in particular. She is testing Theresa and I a lot and I am finding that I am getting angry with her a lot which I don’t like. I can feel myself getting wound up by her when she doesn’t do what I ask/tell her, but I can’t control and suppress those feelings at the moment. What I need to learn is to be aware of them coming on and use a different strategy with her. I don’t think I should suppress the feelings, but maybe pause them while I address Meg and then vent them after. Burying feelings has not been good for me in the past and I think will mess my head up if I do.

Theresa has found a website called Empowering parents ( which seems to have some really good articles and advice on it. There will be a lot of reading and learning involved, but mentally I am committed to developing this. A key seems to be to remain calm with Meg and walk away when she is having one of her tantrums. Theresa has been using this technique successfully this week. What I need to do is use this when I get home and hopefully we’ll both develop a closer bond.

Part of the problem I’ve been having is being very tired and wired at the end of a day. It varies a bit depending on how good a time I have in the office, but most days I feel a relief when I pull up outside the house. It’s almost like I’ve been running on adrenaline all day and then I get home and can breathe out and relax. Unfortunately I seem to get a massive down from the buzz and part of the result of this seems to be that I snap when provoked. This feeling lasts for a little while and mainly until I sit down for a few minutes. This isn’t new to the last few months, but I think it is contributing to my negativity a bit. Some of the time I am driving home thinking that I will probably have a battle for a while. Meg and I battling did seem to come to head when I used to put her to bed and she is very skilled at delaying and diverting from the task in hand. Theresa has stepped in for the moment and is putting Meg to bed which is giving me some space. I need to learn to ignore Meg when she plays up and start putting her down again as it is one of the few times I get to see her during the week.

One of the frustrations I have when I get home is that the place often needs tidying up. I have realised that I take comfort from order and it both relaxes and irritates me as I tidy. Starting to tidy annoys me, but completing the task relaxes me. I find I automatically start putting things away when I get home even when I am tired. Theresa gets annoyed as she wants me to sit down and unwind, but I can’t seem to get her to understand that it is part of my being home and getting ready for the evening. I also want to get it done when I get home rather than leaving it so that I can relax. I know the house will be a bit cluttered because the kids play with the toys all day and I really have no issue with that. I also believe that Theresa’s job during the day is looking after the children and not tidying up after them and that is part of our responsibilities after they go to bed. I am still trying to work out the best way to come home. I need to learn to let any irritations go over my head so that I don’t need to suppress feelings. And I need to learn to distract the children when I want them to do something else. A lot of help is available on the website above and I just need to find it and take it in.

Going forward I feel a lot more positive than when I had the bad day last week. I had a massage early this week and that also seems to have helped. I am going to finish the course of tablets the doctor gave me and then see where I am. Hopefully the date for my hand operation will come through soon which will also be a positive step forward. I think that I need more help than tablets and I think I will ask the doctor for some kind of counselling help or maybe Cognitive Behaviour Therapy as my gut tells me that could help.

This is day one of getting better Dom.

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Sloe Gin

I have decided to try and forage for some foods and experiment with making some things with what I find. We bought a foraging book a couple of years ago and have so far failed pretty much to use it for anything. We’ve had some ideas from it, but never really been brave enough to try recipes.

I am going to try and change that now and prepare a couple of things. I am a fan of gin so I figure Sloe Gin has to be a good starting point. Walking around the industrial estate where I work I noticed a Blackthorn tree which kind of set the idea in motion. We were also at some relatives recently and Mandy gave us some of her home made Sloe Gin to try and it was lovely, which cemented the plan. And now having noticed the Blackthorn I have begun to explore during lunchtimes and have discovered several more trees around. I have done some research about when to pick the Sloes and the tradition is to pick them after the first frost. But there is also a lot of info which says they are ripe when a deep purple colour and slightly soft to the touch. Some of the fruit I have discovered is soft to the touch and that colour so I thought I would pick some now. It’s been very therapeutic this week to go out and collect some of the berries and then take them home and freeze them.

In a couple of trips I have collected aver 500g of them and have put them in the freezer at home. I have ordered some glass bottles and printed off a Nigel Slater recipe. I have some sugar in the cupboard so I think we’re good to go. The bottles are being delivered today apparently and if so I think I’ll get started tonight.

My plan at the moment is to make one batch now. Then to wait another month or so and pick some more Sloes and make another batch, and when they’ve both matured at Christmas time do a bit of a taste test. If the frost hasn’t arrived by the time I pick the second batch I might even pick some more make a third batch later in the year.

Part of what has been fun at lunchtimes has been spying out the Blackthorns so that I can return in weeks to come. I will keep going round and looking at the trees to see how the berries are maturing, and also to see if the berries get taken or eaten.

The recipe I plan to follow is:

450g of Sloes
350g of sugar
750ml of Gin (Tesco own brand)

I have read that you should prick the Sloes before bottling to release the flavour, but this recipe says just bash them to split the skins so I am going to try that first.

I am taking some vinyl home to cover the bottles I fill as the liquid needs to be kept in a dark, cool place for 8 – 10 weeks. I am going to label each bottle with the exact ingredients and bottling date for the record. I’m going to put the bottle(s) in the drinks cupboard as the roof will be too warm and inaccessible I think. And then at Christmas time I will decant the mixture into new bottles and maybe use the Sloes to make a jam.

I guess I can adjust the flavour with more sugar or Gin if the taste isn’t quite right at Christmas time.

Fingers crossed this will work out.

Monday, July 30, 2012

London 2012 Olympics

We are into the Olympic games in London now. I can remember being in London when the games were awarded to us in 2005 and there was a real buzz about the place. Theresa and I watched the opening ceremony on Friday night and we both thought it was brilliant. So different to previous ceremonies, uniquely British and genius in places. Well done Danny Boyle and may the hightlights live on Youtube for years to come!

Friday, June 29, 2012

It's all about me - rest

The house - August 2009

One of the biggest results of me being made redundant in June 2009 was us moving to the South Coast of England. It had been our intention to move for a while, but we thought we would ride out the bad economic situation and then move when things got better. Our hand was forced by JC Decaux though and so we moved to a village just outside Portsmouth. We sold up in London and bought what seemed and idyllic 3 bed end of terrace house in a quiet cul-de-sac. The house was bigger than London, but the garden was smaller. However there are areas for the children to play in outside so it had good and bad aspects to it. You should never judge a book by its cover and that has proven very true with our new house. From the start we uncovered problems and over the past couple of years we have spent a lot of time, effort and money making the place safe primarily and in close second nice. It is now in a condition which we’re pretty much happy with, but the house just isn’t built very well and there’s very little we can do about that. However it has had (deep breath) two new bathrooms, been decorated throughout, had wooden flooring put down through the whole downstairs, had a new boiler, the front and back gardens have been landscaped, had new doors, new roof on the shed and recently had solar panels put on the roof (and breathe out). Amusing/worrying things include me opening our bedroom window to let air in on day one and having the window fall out of its brackets nearly taking me with it; discovering that the metal light fittings upstairs we not earthed and had someone touched them they would have been electrocuted; discovering that the previous owner did indeed have a freezer under the stairs, but that it had no power socket in the cupboard and therefore wasn’t used. Nevertheless it is now out home and I think we are pretty happy there.

I am particularly proud of Theresa for doing or supervising so much of the work while I’ve been working. This despite looking after one then two children all day. She is very much the homemaker and left to my own devices I would live a pretty minimalist life I think. Theresa described our London home as a show home when she first moved in and then proceeded to make it cosy. She chose the colour schemes and most of the furniture and equipment we have put in both houses. She is also the one who can accept the chaos that two young children bring and the associated stuff they need. While it does my head in sometimes I can understand that Meg and Joel need their toys around and they are not old enough to understand keeping things tidy. As well as why should they be expected to keep everything neat and put away as this will stymie them from growing and developing. Theresa will hunt online for the best deals and is very focussed on what she wants and likes. We have moved on from buying Ikea grade furniture to more expensive (although not as much more as you’d think) solid wood and leather pieces. These should last us for many years if not our lifetimes I would hope. They also bring a sense of individuality to our home as they are all hand made and beautifully simple and classic in their looks. I guess a good way of summing up where we live is that it has gone from being a house to a home.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

It's all about me - work

What has happened to me in the last three years? I did end up being made redundant from JC Decaux in London. It all got a little bit messy towards the end, but life turned out alright as I took up a job offer as factory manager at one of my suppliers. They were based in Portsmouth and was a printing and graphics company. I started with them on July 1st 2009 and ended up staying until September 2011. Maybe staying isn’t the word, surviving probably being more appropriate. The job was interesting and exciting to start with, but the longer I was there the more I learnt that it was a most bizarre organisation. It was owned by a paranoid manic depressive who was completely irrational. He steadfastly refused to invest in the company which meant that the machines were kept running by a combination of bodging and luck. The directors all hated each other and were regularly at war with all of us caught in the middle. The staff on the whole were competent and good workers, but there was very little motivation in the place due to the owners attitude.

I ended up doing several roles at the company (many at the same time) including running the factory and running accounts for Sunglass Hut and the National Trust. Those were enjoyable sides to the role as it allowed me to deal with people and solve problems which I’m good at. Looking back the experience was very tough and included me being accused of sexual assault by an employee I took on and then fired due to incompetence. However I’m very pleased I toughed it out until I found a new role as it has given me a very good and solid base from which to build my career. During my term there I learnt a huge amount about employment law, learnt to manage shop floor staff (whereas before I’d been used to London office staff), learnt to ignore unreasonable crap being thrown at me and toughened up a lot. Every job I had been in up to then was measured in levels of success. This job was all about degrees of failure. I think my percentage of failure was quite low and I am proud to have lasted longer than almost everyone else who historically did that role. In life what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger and that adage could have been written for Gardiner Graphics!

Staying on the employment theme I am now working in graphics but for a vehicle repair company. Once again I am running a part of the organisation, but this is one with a structure, a proper IT/MIS system, motivated staff and the resources to get the proper equipment to be able to do the job correctly. I am pleased to say that since joining the turnover has doubled and we are now consistently making a decent profit. When I joined it was a stated goal to achieve £50,000 per month in turnover and that had never been done (the monthly average was around £30,000). We are now consistently in the £60,000 + levels. Other elements of the company have been through a tough time in recent weeks, but we have been left alone which to me confirms we have done a good job.

The best aspect of work is that I am enjoying it most of the time. I have a long commute each day (80 miles), and that does wear me down a bit, but I look forward to work most of the time. This week has been a bit quieter, but this is the first time in 9 months that has happened. The people working for me are good and do a good job on the whole. I am still learning about this aspect of graphics and that is also motivating. The money is better and the potential is there to progress both financially and from a business perspective. I am not coming to work wondering who is going to be bullied that day and whether I’m going to be threatened with being fired again.

It's all about Theresa

Meg and Theresa - Sept 2011

Theresa and I are still happily married. Many things around us have changed over the past three years, but I’d like to think we are stronger than ever. Having Joel has been the icing on a very busy three years together. She won’t thank me for saying that she is turning 40 this year, but you wouldn’t know it to look at her in my opinion. Despite moving house, her mum dying, me changing jobs twice, having Joel and the stuff that just seems to fill up your day she still seems to keep everything together and be a rock in my life.

I don’t think it’s fair to presume thoughts and feelings from Theresa so this is a brief post to just say that I love her more than anything else in the world. I am honoured to be with her and I am looking forward to the rest of our lives together.

I am yours … always … and forever.

It's all about Joel

One of the most significant events in my life over the past couple of years has been the birth of my second child Joel. He arrived in the world at 04:45 on Monday December 6th 2010. It was a cold December night. We'd had huge amounts of snow in the fortnight before his birth and we were worried in case it carried on snowing when Theresa went into labour in case we couldn't get to the hospital. However everything cleared up the week before and it was dry on the day in question. Theresa started getting contractions around 21:00 so we went to the hospital. We were told everything was fine and to go home and rest. At about 00:30 Theresa noticed blood when she went to the toilet and realised something wasn't right so we went straight back to the hospital. Luckily it was only 10 minutes drive from us. We knew we were going to have a boy and had been discussing middle names for a while. We’d settled on maybe Adam so he would have the same name as me, but then on the way to the hospital at 01:00 I happened to mention that it was St Nicholas’ day and that when I used to live in Belgium all of the kids used to get treats on that day – in Europe December 6th is more significant than December 25th. We both simultaneously decided that if Joel was born that day then his middle name would be Nicholas. Weird how things work out sometime.

Joel in kitchen - May 2012

Joel and Theresa had a difficult birth as he was breached and she had to be rushed into surgery and have an emergency c-section. It all got a bit dramatic and Joel wasn’t breathing when he was born. It took the operating team 3 minutes to bring him round. I was concentrating on Theresa so much that I didn’t realise there was a problem until I picked up that I hadn’t heard him cry. As I looked round he made a noise and all was well. I went over to see him and managed to hold him for a minute before I fainted. I think the emotion of the moment, the fact that I hadn’t slept for 30 hours and that I could see Theresa had gone through so much just overwhelmed me. I’m not embarrassed about it and it kind of added to Joel’s arrival in the world. To cap it all the song on the radio in the operating theatre was The Black Eyed Peas with ‘It’s going to be a good night tonight’. That summed it up perfectly. Strangely he weighed one ounce less than Meg at his birth. We have consistent kids!!

After the birth I came home and took Meg to school and life assumed some kind of normality for a while. Theresa and Joel stayed in hospital for three days while Meg and I had some time to ourselves as well. We finished preparing the house and our lives for the Joel to come home. As he was nine days early there were still bits and pieces to do. Theresa was given her own room (perhaps helped by us giving the nurses on duty some drinks and cakes on day one!?). That time and quiet really allowed them to bond and I’m convinced helped Joel to have a tranquil start to life in the outside world. I took two weeks paternity leave so it was lovely to take Meg to school and collect here each day. I took Joel out for his first walk after he’d been home for a couple of days. Theresa concentrated on Joel a lot and I think we generally embraced being a family of four.

Joel and Meg - April 2012

Theresa’s parents came over on day two and Marnie in particular was so excited about having a baby boy. Sam came over on day three and then we had a steady stream of visitors when we got home. Everyone seemed really happy for us and Joel seemed quite happy being passed around. Early impressions were of a child who liked being held, was quite at peace with himself and ate and poo'd regularly.

The first few days were exciting and tiring. I’d forgotten how exhausting it is to only catnap as Joel needed regular feeds. He took to breastfeeding well. After the two weeks leave I only had one week back at work before the Christmas holidays so it really felt like we all had a long period to bond as a family which I’m sure has proven beneficial. Gradually we moved into a routine, I went back to work in January, Meg went back to school and 2011 started well.

How to sum up the last 18 months with Joel without writing a book? He is left handed, very blond haired and with brown eyes. He seems very determined and likes being outdoors. He makes plenty of noise, but hasn’t said a recognisable word yet. I think this may be because he doesn’t see the point of it rather than through a lack of ability. He started walking at 16 months and is very confident now. He has recently figured out going up and down steps as well. He loves pushing things around and tries to be outdoors at any opportunity. We have recently landscaped the garden and that has given him a large and safe area to run around in. Joel likes playing with a variety of toys and loves music and dancing; Probably more so than even Megan. He sucks his thumb and has a funny way of needing to clutch his sleeve with his other hand while sucking as a comfort almost. He’s not interested in a little blanket though. It will go as far as cuddling up to my t-shirt when I’m carrying him on my back.

From very early on he was quite thoughtful and even now will still take things in before launching into something. He is very strong and if he doesn’t want to do something then he will resist vociferously. Joel does seem to understand what we are saying though and if we ask him to do something I’m convinced he knows what we’re asking. Overall he is very content little boy and is a delight to be around. He is quite mischievous in an endearing way which I suspect will take him far in his life.

Joel asleep - June 2012

It's all about Meg

Meg in Dartmouth, Devon - April 2012

So what has happened since the last post. So much, but where to begin?

I seem to come back to the blog in June each time so that seems as good a place to start as any. Meg has just turned six. She has gone from being a little girl to a young lady. She is growing incredibly fast and it is very true what people say about them growing up before you know it. She is now in her second year of school and has taken to it brilliantly. She seems to be nurturing a strong reading and drawing ability and keeps earning recognition from her teachers. Theresa and I are so proud of how she is getting on.

She is still very active and loves running around and dancing. She is swimming every week and has been swimming unaided for nearly a year now. Saturday mornings when I take her swimming is one of the highlights of my week as I can watch her. I don’t think she knows that I do follow what she does and I probably don’t acknowledge it enough.

Meg’s character is well and truly to the fore as well. She is definitely a leader and not a follower. She is very caring inside and does feel others’ pain. That is masked by her gregariousness, but it comes out when someone is hurt or if you need something from her. The other side of her strength of character is she is very pig headed and determined to do what she wants. This manifests itself in stomping off when she doesn’t get her way or a proper tantrum. I worry that part of this (not sure how much of a part) is down to me expecting so much from her. I have to remember she is just six years old and emotionally she is still so young. I think because she does achieve such great things at times I expect that all of the time. I understand that is not fair and not right and I am trying to change to allow her to be a child. I find that if I don’t concentrate on letting her be a child sometimes then I start to expect the unreasonable.

Meg still has her beautiful auburn hair and beautiful blue eyes. She has managed to lose some of her baby teeth (one fell out, one got pulled out by me, two got knocked out by her brother!) which is again changing her appearance significantly and which she sees as a significant moment in her life. She is starting to get interested in programs like Hannah Montana so she is well on the way to getting interested in clothes, phones, etc.. We are trying to stop her from watching young teen American dramas as we don’t want her being pressured subconsciously into growing up any faster than she has to. It’s difficult though as the exposure is everywhere.

Megan is brilliant with her younger brother. We were concerned that she might resent him being in all our lives, but the opposite has proven generally true. Luckily I think the age gap has helped as Joel is not a threat to her and doesn’t want her toys. But she is playing very well with him. She can be heavy handed of course, but I am very proud of how she has adapted to him. And you can see that he adores her which is so nice.