Wednesday 29 November 2006

R* Turns 11


R* turned eleven last month. Here's a picture of her with her friends at her laserquest party. K* scored the highest number of hits by camping in a corner and shooting everyone. Jenny played one of the games as its not everyday you get to shoot children!

I'm sure, like every other parent, when a birthday comes along you also reflect at how much and how fast your child is growing up. Some of her friends are almost as tall as Jenny and they're growing lumpy bits! Woah. At least they all still seem to think kissing is disgusting despite rumours about what happens on the bus. Nevertheless, she's gradually getting more independent.

R* recently quit St. John's Ambulance and instead has joined Sea Cadets. It's definitely more exciting and she's very enthusiastic. For a kid who's been raised in environments that celebrate individualism, it's been a bit of surprise that she's embraced the authourity, structure and discipline of Sea Cadets. I think part of it is the "grown-up" nature of the group. So we have a girl marching around the house now.

As for activities, she still plays the cornet and is in a beginners brass band. She's recently joined the school choir and she still has her weekly swimming lessons. I made her join a team sport and she chose basetball after unsuccessfully trying to convince me that chess is a team sport. We even had to consult the dictionary of the difference between "sport" and "game". But she's dropping it next term. She's not a sporty kid. Can't blame her with such pathetic role models as her parents.

She isn't into any hobbies in any big way. Between homework and after-school activities, she really doesn't get much time. She recently got interested in Warhammer and is collectiing a Dwarf Army. She likes fantasy world stuff and gothic jewellery. While not a girlie girl, she does like jewellery of all kinds. She wants a dog, laptop and mp3 player. No. no. maybe.

Friday 17 November 2006

British Museum

British MuseumLast month, K* had a day off school so Jenny and I took him down to the British Museum. He's been studying Egypt so we thought it would be good to show him the Egyptian collection, particularly, the Rosetta Stone.

I'd forgotten how long it's been since I last went there. It was before they did the big renovation which was years and years ago. It's quite a surprise to see the new interior. Very nice. The British Museum is a fantastic place and its reminded me I really should take the kids there a few more times to explore the other collections. K*'s attention span was good for about an hour and not a lot longer. The gift shop and the cafeteria can hold his attention for longer! Oh well. They will have to be short and sweet trips.

 We did get to wander around the hallowed Reading Room. It's quite awesome the number of famous people that have studied there but it does feel like a shadow of what it might once have been like. It has an air of a monument rather than a library.

Abdullah Ibrahim at the Royal Festive Hall

Monday night Jenny and I took my uncle and went and saw the jazz pianist Abdullah Ibrahim playing at the Royal Festive Hall. He was playing a solo concert as part of the London Jazz Festival.

He's a great musician. No doubt about that. He just plays continuously for the entire set without a break. Sometimes the music sounds more like classical than jazz; it's a fluid fusion that meanders between both and refuses to be boxed to any rigid style. I haven't heard anyone quite like him.  To me, it's a rather cerebral and contemplative style. Something you relax into rather than tapping your toe.

I'm impressed but in all honesty, I could have just stayed at home and played his CD. He didn't talk or interact with the audience. Yes, I go to concerts to hear the music but I also believe the performers should talk and personalise the event. Nothing happened that was much different than just playing a CD. A good CD on a very nice hifi.

Wednesday 8 November 2006

A Sad September

Rest In Peace

It was a sad September. My Aunt who had been suffering with lymphoma for almost ten years passed away. She was a lovely woman whom we'll badly miss.

But I can share a funny story among the sadness. The night before the funeral, Jenny hung her clothes on the closet door handle ready for the morning rush to get out of the house and into London. The clothes were brand new and very specially chosen for this most solemn of occasions.

We woke up to discover the most horrendous crime. The cat had taken it upon himself to bless said clothes with a generous and most accurate blast of pee! The clothes reeked right to heaven. Now, it's rare that Jenny gets angry but she literally hit the roof.  The wrath of a woman whose carefully crafted outfit has been destroyed is not to be underestimated. It's a good thing I chucked the cat outside. If Jenny had caught up with him that morning, there would have been another death in the family.

We have no idea why he did it. Maybe he didn't like the smell of the brand new clothes and thought he could improve on it. Certainly is was the worst possible timing. Unfortunately, Jenny didn't have a very good alternative outfit but had to make do. It's taken a while for Jenny to forgive the cat but he's still banned from our bedroom.

I can hear Yolanda having a good chuckle over it.

Monday 6 November 2006

Weekend In Berlin

So, as I posted earlier, I went to Berlin for the weekend with some mates. We picked Berlin as it sounded like it had a good mix of culture and nightlife. Since I had the time, I got saddled with booking flights and hotels. I picked a reasonably cheap hotel near the center of Berlin called the BB Hotel and booked it through There wasn't much availability as a big consumer electronics tradeshow was in town. Unfortunately, it turned out to be a very gay hotel in a very gay part of Berlin. I have nothing against homosexuality but given a choice, I don't want to be surrounded by guys dressed in leather and big boots. My friends were horrified and I'm never gonna hear the end of it.

Anway, I'm very impressed with Berlin. It's a very liveable city. I mean, I would consider living there. Transport was cheap and efficient. For 19 euro's each we had unlimited subway travel for three days including the trip to and from the airport. There's no one center to Berlin but there's lots of happening area's with their own things going on.

There first afternoon there, it rained so we went to the consumer electronics show. Hey, we're guys and it was a big toy show! The place was absolutely massive but there's only so many flat LCD screen's you can look at. Afterwards, we wandered down Skalitzer Straffe in the Kreuzberg looking for dinner and bars. Not a very good choice really.

The second day, we joined a Third Reich walking tour starting at the Brandenburg Gate. The guide was an American Ph.D. student who was studying the Third Reich. He was excellent. He showed us the plans for Welthauptstadt Germania and where it would have been built and told us lots of other stories. If you have any interest in WWII or the Cold War, Berlin is fascinating. We ended the tour at the site of Hitler's Bunker. There's nothing left and it's only recently that the location of the site has been acknowledged. Nearby is the poignant Holocaust Memorial. I wish we had had time to do some of the other walks.

That evening, we wandered around Potsdamer Platz where no man's land is being rebuilt into a metropolis and then went off to the Hackescher Markt where there's some very lively bars and restaurants.

Checkpoint Charlie Holocaust Memorial

The third day, we checked out of the hotel and had lunch on Unter den Linden - the famous street of old Berlin. We then squeezed in a bit more touring. First stop was the Jewish Museum. The building is shaped like a shattered Star of David and was designed by American architect Daniel Libeskind. It was worth the visit for better understanding Jewish culture and the long sad history of persecutions. Walking North we discovered the Gendarmenmarkt by accident. It's one of the grandest squares in Berlin. Not far away, we made it to Checkpoint Charlie and a museum there that chronicles the many attempts, some successful, some not, at getting across the wall.

It was getting late by then so we went back to the hotel, grabbed our bags and headed to the airport. There's plenty more in Berlin that we didn't see and I'd certainly be happy to go back a few more times. If you go, track down a copy of free guide called "Sandeman's New Berlin" which is a very handy English guide to the city.