Archive for August 2011

Bad Parenting 101

I'm still furious about this so thought I'd share it with you all.

Yesterday we went to mothercare to take back something that was damaged and have a quick look around with Nanny G (i.e. my mother - Hi Mum). Emz was driving with Nanny G in the passenger seat and me in the back with the munchkin in her car seat. When we got to mothercare, which is on one of those retail parks, Emz found a parent and child space virtually outside and being the good driver she is pulled slightly past it to reverse in.

The following happened in the space of about a thirty seconds.

She started backing up and then slammed the brakes on. A small girl, perhaps 6 or 7, had run out behind our reversing car with a guy, her dad I'm presuming, a few steps behind. Emz gave him the 'stare of death' but didn't say anything as he walked past, and this is the bit that still has me fuming, he turned round, saw Emz staring at him and proceded to stick his middle finger up at her.

Needless to say Nanny G got out and had a few choice words with the chap.

I was stuck in the back of the car and couldn't do anything about this turn of events so had to sit it out.

Photo by Dennis Hlynsky 

Now, I often wonder what is happening to society and it is things like this that really make my blood boil. That poor girl is going to grow up thinking it is OK to run out behind moving cars and when she gets hit and seriously hurt or killed, the driver of the car that hits her will have a lifetime of torture, and no doubt will end up in prison and getting sued by the asshole parents who didn't teach their daughter right from wrong.

I think, and this is only my opinion, that it is time people were vetted when becoming parents and then schooled into how to be better parents (just think of all the employment this would create!).
After all, I go out of my way to learn how to be a better parent and give my daughter a better life, why shouldn't others?

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Wild Foods for Kids

As previously mentioned in this blog, I'm a little bit against supermarket 'fresh food' and I can't very well have a rant about how crap something is without offering an alternative. Well here is that alternative.

Here are three wild foods for you to forage for with your kids during the month of August;


Blackberry by Mark Skipper (
Everyone I know can identify a blackberry, and I'm not talking about the smartphone here. Yes, those small black fruits (actually not a berry but an aggregate fruit, which means it is made up of smaller 'drupelets') that are found in just about every hedgerow, woodland and in some gardens.
The plant these fruits grow on is the bramble and there are over 350 individual species.
This fruit can be picked and eaten from the bush or can be taken home, if you can stop eating them long enough, and made into a myriad of different dishes including crumbles, flapjacks, mousse, jam and sauces to name but a few. Whilst writing this post the woodland trust happened to put a link for a blackberry recipe on twitter, take a look - blackberry swirly whirly

Sea Buckthorn
This one is for those of you that live near to the coast, especially the coast with sand dunes. It has also been planted inland but I'm not sure if there are other ornimental shrubs that look similar so wouldn't recommend inland foraging for it.
It is very easy to identify the sea blackthorn by the seaside as it has bright orange berries that look like mini basketballs, thin grey/green leaves and big spiky thorns.
If the sweets in my local shop are anything to go by, kids will love this one as it is very sharp tasting. Not only that but in order to get at the berries you have to risk getting stabbed by the thorns and the berries also have a tendency to explode when you touch them.
The only useful part of the plant is the berry, or rather the juice from the berries, which can be made into all manor of sauces. It can be used as a very sharp cordial and I've even heard of it being used in place of lemon juice.

If you live anywhere near the countryside then you will have seen a hawthorn bush/tree. They dominate the landscape in virtually every hedgerow in the country and have a history of being a wild food. At this time of year they are covered in haws - the red berries. It is these haws you are after and getting at them is never a problem as there are always lots available to share with the local wildlife population.
You can do all manor of things with the haws from eating them raw to making jellies and jams.
If you have a chinese supermarket near you then you may also discover that they sell haws in the shape of 'hawflakes' which are crushed, flattened and dried haws sold as packets of sweets and they are delicious.

These three wild foods should be a nice starter for your kids next time you're out walking in the countryside but please do remember to get landowners permission before foraging and do not pick anything unless you are sure what it is (link below to some recommended wild food books).

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Ten Things You Didn't Know About Me

In some kind of strange blogger version of 'tag' I have been tasked with coming up with a list of ten things you didn't know about me. At first I was overcome with a feeling of absolute dread at this impossible task as the only people that read my blog are my mum and my wife. Then I calmed down and realised that maybe others might be fooled into clicking links to it and once here take pity on me and read it (if you are one of those people I can only apologise).

Squirrel by Dominic Alves

So, yes, ten things people don't know about me (not counting wife and mother).

1 - I am absolutely useless at coming up with 'top ten' lists. So there is a good chance this may fizzle out around four or five.

2 - I hate talking about myself and suffer from very acute shyness with a hint of lack of self confidence.

3 - I once trained as a chef but hate cooking. One has alot to do with the other.

4 - I can eat a multipack of crisps in a single sitting. I'm not talking six packs either.

5 - I really really really hate the taste and texture of tomatoes but eat them because they are good for me.

6 - Although I make various claims about being a hippy, I loved driving my wifes old Land Rover and miss it now that it is gone.

7 - Charles Darwin is one of my heroes.

8 - I'm scared of dogs, cows, horses, mice, birds and sheep. In that order. With many many other things coming next.

9 - I like the taste of squirrel.

10 - Of the 900+ macro moths in the UK, I can only identify about 20 (on a good day .. well, night. unless it's a day flying moth, but I can only identify one of them. I think).

There we have it, ten things about me. I'm surprised I came up with that many and I have to admit that I did struggle a bit at the end, as you may have noticed.

Now the bit where I get to pick on people *cue evil laughter*.
People that I would like to do this next are;

First time daddy

The Life and Times of A Househusband


BTW, if you don't read their blogs already then you should.


Thoughts on UK Riots

We all know what happened. We all know where it happened. These are just my thoughts on the UK riots.

The Government
Why oh why are people complaining about the government not doing enough? Yes it is crap that they made all the cuts that led to some of the problems but, at the end of the day there's nothing the government could have done in the last few days to stop the troubles.
Why were people booing Boris Johnson and Nick Clegg? It's not their fault.
Let them do what they do best, go discuss the problems, blame each other then make some crazy law.

As much as I hate the government I do not blame them.

The Police
I think the police have done an outstanding job throughout. They have had a difficult task these last few days. Back in the winter they came under fire for being too heavy handed with the student protests and the violence that erupted there (more on that in a bit), which I believe they were - there was no need to have a full on cavalry charge for example.
If they had gone in hard in the riots then they would've got themselves in trouble as they were overstretched and outnumbered, and they knew it.

The Army
Yes, I know they were not brought in and were not needed, but it is my opinion that all new army recruits should do a month or two with the police, in police uniform working on 'the beat', to get training in how to deal with the public. This would also swell the numbers of police on the street and not affect the police budgets. Then, if something like these riots happen again there are the numbers there to deal with it straight away.

The Rioters
Scum. No other way of looking at it. I've heard people go on about how the government cuts have taken away their communities but it was those communities they were smashing up.
I could go on for a long long time about how disgusted I am about all the things that have happened but there is no need.
As I said, more on the student protests in the winter. It is my very strong belief that those that incited the violence at the student protests were behind and involved in the recent riots in London and across England.

The News
I am getting tired of the selective reporting that goes on in the news. There were things that got shown only once and were not repeated (such as the woman running out of her flat above a burning shop then 3 yobs running in the door behind her to rob the place. I watched this live, no one commented on it and the only replay was the yobs trying to force open a window) and there were other things that got repeated for 3 days whilst there were other, more important, things that needed reporting.
I can understand why some things don't get reported, it could lead to more problems. But please news people, be honest with your reporting.

The Bystanders
What on earth did these people think they were doing? Standing around watching a riot and looting? Do they think that is normal behaviour? These people should of gone home, they were in the way and stopped the police from doing anything useful.
These guys, both the organisers and the people that turned up and helped out, are heros. They are the real community and need to be thanked by everyone. There is a list of causes on their website, please please go and have a look and if you can donate to one of these causes if you can.

What worries me more than anything is that my wife and I will be bringing up the munchkin in this country. We have to consider carefully how, and where, she will get her education and where we will end up living and bringing her up.

Lots of things to consider.

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Eeek, Name Change!

The more astute of you may have noticed that the name of my blog has changed (well done if you noticed). Now that you know it has changed, through noticing or being told, you may be asking yourselves why? There is good reason.

When I first joined blogger I knew I was going to be a dad and I knew my name was Neil but I didn't know what to call the blog and I didn't know what I would be writing about just yet so I just set up the url (imaginative eh?!).

When the baby was born and I had something to write about, which I still haven't written about but will get round to soon, I needed a blog name. Being a bit useless with coming up with names (we agreed on our daughters name within 2 minutes) I just thought about something that might be catchy and amusing. With this thought in mind I turned to Python. I was going to go with 'The Meaning of Dad' but then as I was typing it in thought 'well that's just being big headed, saying I know what the meaning of being a dad is. Especially as I'm a new dad'. So quickly changed it to 'The Life of Dad'.

I should explain that I was under the completely blinkered impression that if a blog name was already taken it would tell me. This isn't the case. It wasn't until this morning whilst looking for a graphic for the page header that I discovered 'The Life of Dad' was already taken.

Not only that but it's bloody good reading too.

It's my own fault for not doing my research first. I put it down to sleep deprivation.

So it is with this in mind that, for now, I've changed the name of this blog to 'The Life of a Hippyish Dad' and I will give full credit to 'The Life of Dad' and Brian Klems.

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Newbie Alert!

This was kindly used as a guest post by Tim Atkinson on his blog bringing up charlie, Which I insist you go read, if you haven't done so already. If you haven't already read any of Tims posts, why not?

For some reason, known only to the deepest darkest recesses of my brain, I took up blogging. I had thought about doing it in the past but never really had anything to blog about, but this time, this time was different. This time I was a dad. This time I had something to say.

Or so I thought.

Let me give you a brief overview of my writing experience:

* made to write some stuff at when I was at school
* I think I failed English, but I’m not sure
* I once wrote some poetry - it was crap
* The longest email I’ve ever sent was about 50 words
* I'm studying for a degree so have to write scientific reports

So I’m sure you will surmise from that rather short list that I have all the writing skills of a small Amazonian tree frog and you wouldn’t be far wrong. I’m giving it a go anyway.

So far I’ve only actually written four blog posts and to be honest they’re not that good*. But looking on the positive side, they’re better than the aforementioned poetry and they’re a start. Not only am I finding it difficult to put into words what I’m thinking (and to be fair with what goes on in my head it’s not surprising really) but I’m also finding it difficult to comprehend how big the world of ‘daddy blogging’ is.

I was aware of mum blogging as during my wife’s pregnancy we frequented the go to mums sites where there is a lot of advertising for mum bloggers. What there wasn’t, and as far as I can tell still isn’t, was the same thing but for dads. So I did some searching and found two forums and a couple of similar blogs. The forums seemed to be a dead end so I gave up on them; the blogs however were just the tip of the iceberg. From each blog I followed link after link to other dad bloggers, most of who are in the United States.

There was a whole world out there of people just like me! Well, not just like me, god forbid. The world would be a crazy, if colourful, place if the world was full of people like me. You get the gist though, I wasn’t alone anymore. I was part of something and that something was something big!

Natural progression took me onto twitter and linked me with lots of other dads. The thing is though, as a newbie who has no real idea how to write, I feel like I’m at a party where I don’t know anyone and I’m considering bolting out the front door. What I should do is make for the kitchen and grab a drink. So this post is me doing just that. Getting myself onto the dance floor and getting myself known.

So that’s about that then. I’ve used similes and metaphors, my punctuation and grammar are reasonable and my spelling should be perfect (if not, I want a new spell checker!). I’ve somehow managed to write yet another blog post and I have no doubt that when I read it back it will make little or no sense.

Hopefully this will get a few views and at least one comment that will include some tips or constructive criticism. From there I can only get better. Thanks for reading.

*When I wrote this my blog only had four posts. 


Fresh Food For Thought

I hate supermarkets.

They have all but destroyed the friendly local shops, they hold farmers and other producers to ransom, they buy up buildings they don't need just to stop rivals and they dictate our shopping habits to us - really, they do, did you need those 3 packs of sausage rolls that you got on the buy two get one free? Of course you didn't, and besides, they'll mostly all be out of date by the time you get round to eating them. - The list goes on.

Something I really hate about supermarkets is that now you have to shop in them. As I said, they've all but destroyed the local shops and those local shops that are still around cannot compete with the low supermarket prices because their rents are so high, most probably because a supermarket has moved in locally. Not only that but no one can afford to shop anywhere else, we certainly can't.

If there is one particular thing about supermarkets that really gets my goat, it is the so called 'fresh' produce they sell. You take it home and within a day it has perished and is inedible. So back when my wife was pregnant with the munchkin I vowed to grow my own veg. It was something I wanted to do anyway and having to eat healthily in pregnancy was a good enough reason for the wife to allow me to spend a little extra cash on gardening things.

So, as we're not allowed to dig up our garden due to restrictions in the rental agreement, we planted up all the containers and pots we could get our grubby little hands on and started growing like there was no tomorrow. We even invested in a 'mini greenhouse' to start things off in the cold months.

So far we've had some nice crops, if somewhat small due to the weather, and have saved ourselves a bit of cash. It is well worth the effort. Any food waste we have from the house all gets composted and the bits that aren't eaten by our resident bank voles will go back into growing us more veg. Everyone should do the same.

It really is a very satisfying feeling when you've nurtured a plant for a few months then you go out in the evening pick something that fresh and take it into the kitchen to turn it into the evenings meal.

Both the wife and I also have a knowledge of edible plants. We're not experts by any means and have a whole lot to learn but between us we do know enough to get ourselves free food, from the hedgerows, for a small feast.  (*warning* Do not pick and eat something if you don't know it is safe to eat. If in doubt leave it out!)

Free Food!
We don't have these small wild food feasts as often as we'd both like but when they do happen they brighten us both up. When the munchkin starts eating solids she will be given these same free, healthy foods. What makes these wild food feasts so good is that they are healthy, they are free and in order to get the food we have to go out into the countryside to forage for it.

What could be better than that for a health food?

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Mamas & Papas Littleland Baby Bouncing Cradle

Just before the munchkin was born we decided to buy her a bouncing chair but we didn't want to spend too much (seeing as how we're on a very tight budget). In the end we decided on the Mamas & Papas bouncing chair from Argos for £24.99 (going direct to mamas and papas will cost you another five pound and a penny!).

When we got the chair home it needed assembly and this was relatively easy when we had worked out which way up things had to go - unfortunately the diagrams for assembly were not that clear and it was a case of trial and error to get the parts up the right way.

Following the instructions we put the chair together and just needed to add the vibration unit but there seemed to be a problem. When we took the unit out of its box there was a heavy rattling coming from inside. I put some batteries in the unit and switched it on and it seemed to work so we thought nothing of it and, as we were not planning on using the vibration function, took the batteries out and added the unit to the chair.

Due to the possible safety issues I sent Mamas and Papas an email asking if it was normal for the rattling to be happening. I sent the email on the 27 May and to this day I still have not received a reply. Customer service in the UK has been sliding downhill for years now but I believe it has hit rock bottom.

The chair, or bouncing cradle as it is called, is well made with a sturdy metal frame and legs with a tough fabric covering that forms the seat. It comes with removable covers, a 'detachable head hugger' for newborn heads and a 'detachable arc' to hang toys from (not shown in above picture) but the toys do have a tendency to slip down the arc.

To try the chair out we handed it over to our semi-tame 3 week old baby who seemed to be nonplussed by it.  She looked reasonably comfortable with her head resting in the head hugger but this had a tendency of slipping down as she moved her head around. The safety harness was easy to do up and undo with the two plastic clips but I feel with continued use they may get damaged.

Over time we have come to realise that the vibrations of our car through the car seat soothe the munchkin. Due to this realisation I can see why nearly all of these bouncing chairs come with some kind of vibrate function and I could also see that it was time to try ours out.

The seat cover slipped off the frame easily allowing access to the vibrate unit which allowed batteries to be installed. Remembering that the unit had something rattling inside and being a little bit of a DIYer I undid the four screws holding the unit together and discovered that the weight that causes the vibration had come off the motor. This was easily slipped back on and the unit reassembled, inserted the batteries and replaced the seat cover.

Once again it was turned over to our semi-tame baby, who this time was in 'colic crying mode'. It had the desired effect of settling the munchkin, for a while at least, and she seemed unphased by the overall vibrating.

Overall this is a good quality and low priced product from a good company. Don't be put off by the customer service as hopefully you will not be needing to use them.

OK, so I'd better score this thing.

Cost - 9/10
Ease of assembly - 6/10
Ease of use - 9/10
Munchkin points* - 7/10
Customer service - 0/10

Overall - 31/50

This is not a sponsored post, I just felt like letting people know that although there may be some problems with customer service this is a good product, especially if on a budget.

* She has fallen asleep in it a few times and seems comfortable but has no interest in the toys.

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