You get great boxes. Let me explain…
The previous hicksdesign workhorse, a 17” ex-Dunstan powerbook, had to be sent away twice to be fixed with Applecare. Once to get the bluetooth module replaced, then second time to replace the screen (which was meant to be done the same time as the Bluetooth, but they forgot I think).
This left me with 2, very sturdy, boxes crammed with various foam & polystyrene packing bits. Until last week, they’d been sitting under my desk, waiting for some action. It finally occurred to me to take them home and get some children action on them.
So here’s what we did (or rather what ‘I’ did, as it did become a bit of a ‘Daddy obsession’). By taping the boxes together, and unfolding the ends of the boxes we made our very own pirate ship!
The bamboo cane mast, brown parcel tape and paper flag made by Samantha were the only materials that didn’t come from those Applecare boxes. The foam bags made great sails, and the pimply foam blocks looked like waves crashing against the boat. The whole thing took less than an hour, which could have been faster without Daniel leaping on top of me every few minutes. We haven’t tackled painting it yet, that might be a task too far.
Samantha and Daniel loved it (for a day at least), and it was strong enough for Daniel to lie back on the stern. The only drawback is that our house is not exactly spacious, and the boat takes up most of the free floor space that we have here!
The family Hicks have just returned from a week at Center Parcs Longleat. While it does have the feel of a Harvester restaurant thats overgrown and taken the ‘Forest Theme’ just that little bit too far, it was a damn good break. As we had taken 3 weeks off to go Australia back in January, we needed a smaller thing for a week that would be small-person friendly. Less travel, more fresh air.
Being able to have a holiday without needing to use a car is very good thing™. We spent the week on hired bicycles with Samantha & Daniel in a trailer on the back of Leigh’s bike. I have no idea how she managed to pull all that weight up hills – I just couldn’t do it! It was exhilarating to be cycling around the forest – a big change from the usual routine of sitting in front of a computer screen.
Being on holiday with kids and no babysitters means that evenings are spent IN. However, we had a very nice pad for the week, and having time to just watch telly was a real treat. We watched the whole series of Long Way Round, and I now want to get a motorbike!
While the setting was beautiful, and the weather on the warm and sunny side of Autumn, the main ‘plaza’ piped Robbie Williams and Dido. That should describe the intended demographic nicely. The other minus was the lack of imagination with childrens menus, with food being a little overpriced generally. No matter, we got a good break, and some fresh air and excercise.
One more thing about Center Parcs – does the logo look familiar? They’ve had it for longer, so I may have to change logos soon!
This line in my contact details often raises a smirk, usually combined with a sarcastic “Enjoy your day off”. The word ‘Part Timer’ is inferred, but never uttered.
So why is this? Do I just work a 4 day week? I wish it were true!
When I first took the plunge to go freelance, there was one thing driving it. Samantha had been born 6 months previously, and Leigh’s maternity leave was nearing an end. She managed to get a 4 day week so that she could look after Samantha on a Thursday, but we still didn’t want her seeing more of nursery than of us. Nursery is a great environment, they learn social skills, have more riotous fun than they could at home, and pick up enough illnesses to make their immune systems as tough as old boots by the time they start school. However, Nursery is not a parent.
I had been thinking about freelancing for a while, but this was the catalyst. So the plan was hatched – going freelance would give me the flexibility to help out. Originally I had Samantha for 2 days a week, but the work just wasn’t getting done, even though I was working weekends. After a few months, we settled in a routine of Mummy on a Thursday, Daddy on a Friday, and work weekends/evenings to make up time.
So there you go. If you’ve ever wondered what I do myself on my day off, I’m looking after the wee ones, a 2 year old and 4 year old and its a rewarding time without a doubt.
It all started with the Muppet Show. It’s their fault.
A while back we let S & D watch our Muppets DVD with the Stars of Star Wars special. They absolutely loved it (just as we hoped – anything that keeps them away from chuffin’ Barney) and Samantha couldn’t stop talking about Luke Skywalker, Derth Nader (Gonzo as Darth Vader) as well as ‘Mr Elton John’ (another episode).
This was really good timing, as Revenge of the Sith came out a couple of months later, and its everywhere, especially in their cereal. All the cool kids at nursery have their Kellogg’s pocket-sized lightsabers, and S & D are no exception. Samantha now knows a lot of the names of the characters, and has even drawn me a picture of Obi-Wan Kenobi for my office. A moment that brought a tear of pride.
You’d think for a Star Wars obsessed daddy, this would be a dream come true, but I do have reservations. First of all, I don’t want to be a dad that imprints his likes/dislikes on my children. If they like Star Wars, fine, but as long as its their choice. More importantly, S & D are only (nearly) 4 and 2 respectively – too young to be watching the films. Samantha has already had a nightmare about Darth Vader, and as for Daniel, he cowers at the sight of Ronald McDonald (mind you…).
I’d love to show them the attack on the Death Star in Episode IV, or meeting Yoda for the first time in Episode V. I have a box full of all my Star Wars toys, and I’m literally bursting to get them out and let them play with them. Alas, I think I must wait patient.
Playing with the wee lightsabers is great though, especially when Samantha rushes past me excitedly, shouting “Have you found Mace Windu’s?” in a high pitch voice. Thats my girl!
Why sheep hair should signify 7 years of marriage I’ll never know. It doesn’t matter of course, Happy Anniversary Leigh. I love you more than ever!
In some strange cosmic synchronicity, Samantha was born on the day we got engaged, July 2nd, and Daniel was born on the day we were married, April 18th (not literally you understand). So this is also a Happy Birthday to you Daniel, my little 2 year old cheeky monkey. Leigh has the real photos by the way…
So, this is me, sitting at Heathrow, waiting for my flight to Chicago (and then Dallas, and finally Austin). In about 15 hours I’ll finally be at the hotel, ready to crash.
While I’m excited to be going ‘on a jolly’ to SXSW, and meeting all those people I’ve only communicated via email with, nothing prepared me for the huge emotional wrench of saying goodbye to the family. Call me a 10 tonne wuss if you like, but I felt like crying bucketloads at thought of not seeing them again for another week. I’ve probably been away from Samanatha and Daniel for 3 days at the most since they were born, and this feels like a whole new challenge.
So I think it might be hard for me this week. If you see a lost-looking Englishman, wearing a bead bracelet (present from Samantha who made it for me at breakfast this morning), come and say hello, but please don’t mention the family. Unless your someone who enjoys seeing a grown man blub….
Of course! Thankyou Leigh, you truly know the way to my heart. By God I love this woman…
In the last 3 years since going freelance I’ve had at the most 2 weeks off a year, which just isn’t healthy. So having been on holiday since Christmas Eve, this was the longest I’ve ever taken off, and boy what a difference it made. To have been off work long enough to stop thinking about it was a strange but refreshing feeling. After having Leigh’s folks down for Christmas, we left the bitter of England’s winter for the summer of Sydney, Avalon in the Northern Beaches to be precise.
This was also the first time we’d been abroad since having children (Isle of Man not withstanding) and it was interesting how much it changed the whole dynamic of the holiday. Samantha and Daniel amazed us with how well they dealt with the 24 hour flight (and all the traveling and checking in at either end of that). Once there we really had to be careful of not pushing them too far, which would be easy with there being so much that we wanted to see, and doing it in heat that they weren’t used to.
Samantha on Palm Beach
Consequently, we spent a lot of time sampling the various Northern beaches of Sydney. Whale Beach won for its child friendly shady trees and play park, but it was all good. We did ‘do’ the Opera House of course, but as you get closer to it, you notice the all the white tiles, and it suddenly starts to look like a urinal!
In some ways Australia felt like a hotter, more colourful version of Britain, except for the activity in our host’s back garden. The first thing I noticed was the cacophony made by the Cicadas. I didn’t believe them when they said that you just get used it and block it out after a while, but sure enough you do. Then there were the various tame Cockatoos, Lorikeets, Parrots and Possums that would come begging for food. Now I know what Bill Connolly was on about when he said of his first time in Oz, “You would lie awake at night, listening to things eating the house”.
I was hoping to bump into one of the many celebrities that have chosen Whale Beach as their hideout (such as Billy), but the best we could manage was being at the restaurant table next to Warren Mitchell (although we did see Jonathan Price when we checked in at Heathrow).
Unfortunately, we ran out of time to meet John and Russ, but I did get a chance to meet Ol’ Creative Bastard and his lady Renae. The SegPub arcade machine was not finished as we’d been promised, so instead we went to Sydney Aquarium to appease the offspring. Samantha was in Finding Nemo heaven.
(Left to Right: The harbour, Jeremy Bogan, Jon Hicks, Daniel Hicks and ‘doggy’)
So now we’re back, and the work enquiries, requests for Firefox logos/logos that look like Firefox and unread RSS feeds are all waiting to be dealt with. One last thing – who can be the first to spot what the relevance is of this post’s title?
Just a quick update – this is my last night sunning my pale English body in the Northern Beaches area of Sydney. The family are alive and well, and I’ve barely touched the laptop since Christmas Eve. Its certainly the longest I’ve ever been able to go without email or RSS Feeds, but I will soon have to face them.
As well as ‘what we did in Sydney’, I’ve got the following blog posts in the slow cooker for sometime soonish:
- Textile preview in MarsEdit
- How to use NetNewsWire 2 as a Browser
- Skinning web sites in Safari with PithHelmet
- Looking for a link between Faith and Web Standards
- Textpattern Notes 5 – creating a Portfolio section.
And the usual browser stuff of course! I’ve also (finally) got my act together and organised flights and hotel for SXSW. I look forward to meeting everyone!
I have absolutely no idea why, but for some reason, my 18 month old son Daniel, has started doing this:
He’ll take himself off to some corner of the room, and just do it. There doesn’t have to be anyone watching, it seems to be just a little hobby of his!
There is nothing more noble in this life, (NOTHING I tell you) than pursuit of fine cheese. It just so happens that this weekend is the Great British Cheese Festival and it’s practically on my very doorstep in the grounds of the beautiful Blenheim Palace. Over 100 cheese makers will be attending, and I am so going to be there. Wish me luck in my search for Stinking Bishop.
Ilchester sir, its very popular round these parts…
A gaggle of Stinking Bishops
Later on : I have never seen or smelt so many cheeses, made by people who really care about cheesemaking. The roll call of cheeses purchased:
- Stinking Bishop (soft cheese, with rind washed in Perry)
- Oakwood Smoked (Creamy Cheddary, with strong smoked flavour)
- Goats Cheese with Chillies (Mild creamy, then goes very hot)
- St Dunstan (nutty creamy ‘alpine’ cheese), bought in honour of a missing countryman.
- Various cheeses from Ilchester Cheeses, such as smoked applewood, and abbeydale.
Also, we got some rather special Minty Lamb pies from the pie minister. Top notch. All we need now is separate ‘Cheese Fridge’, not least to contain the smell of the Stinking Bishop…
Even later on : The Stinking Bishop all went in one go – absolutely delicious.
Sometimes it just works.
Somedays, the little people don’t have to be negotiated with. Sometimes, Daniel doesn’t eat anything paper-based that he can find, and Samantha says “Please” and “No thankyou” in the best Grandma pleasing way.
Somedays start looking like the set of Bladerunner, but unexpectedly break out into glorious sunshine.
Somedays you’re feel that you’re caught up enough with the oppresive workload that you can stop fretting about it – for a while.
Today was one of those days. Hallelujah.
With this very much in mind, my thoughts go out to Heather and Jon.
In the first week of my holiday, I noticed a side-effect of my recent work overload. Suddenly, I started having vivid dreams again, which made me realise that they’d had been gone for a while.
While none of them have topped my dream about a colony of underwater helicopters with whale tails instead of rear rotor blades, they’ve still amused me, and I’m glad to have them back again. Here are a couple that I thought might mean something…
Dream 1: I am being flown over to the States for a meeting Doug Bowman. Was suprised to see him hunched over a tiny 10” white iBook. Not quite the fitting with the image I had of him.
Self-diagnosis: I’d like to think that the great and good use a less powerful powerbook than me. (“Hah! Well at least I’ve got 15 inches!”...that sort of thing.)
Dream 2: I’m watching a League of Gentleman style event (Dark and surreal). A man that spends his life dressed only as a white rabbit is driven from his home in a grim English town. His death is faked by the townsfolk, but a month later he returns to find his house turned into a gambling den. Angered, he takes a large shower head from the wall, and drenches everyone in the Great Hall until the house is his again.
Self-diagnosis: I’m worried about people taking over the house, but a job with the Flaming Lips is assured.
Happy 3rd Birthday my girly! I just can’t believe that you’re 3 already, it seems like only yesterday that I could hold you in one hand. You grow up far too fast, but I love watching it happen.
Go easy on the presents, try not to open everything in under a minute…
Today, my daughter Samantha created a model aeroplane out of lego – without any intervention from me (except for a few encouraging ‘You go Girl!” type comments). She also took time out of her busy schedule to explain the various elements of an aeroplane to me. I had no idea they were so complicated…
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