How being a parent changes you (number 3348 in a series)

On arriving in a hotel near Geneva, one opens one’s washbag to discover that the bottle of conditioner has partly leaked. This has happened in the past when travelling and then it was a disaster of hair-pulling proportions.

However, having spent two years dealing with Tom’s “poonami” nappies, I now merely shrug and rinse it out over the bathroom sink. At least this smells quite nice.

Miffy at Versailles

Miffy at Versailles, February 2008

This is a very well-travelled rabbit. So far, she has been to Wales, Ireland, France, Belgium, The Netherlands, Germany and Italy.

Here she is at the Palace of Versailles, admiring the topiary.

M, not A

I’ve been accepted as a full member, sorry, Member of the Chartered Institute of Marketing. Which now means that I’m an MCIM, not ACIM.

I’ll not be rushing out to have my business cards changed.

Hold onto your hats, it’s the End Of The Year Post

Yes, once again we come around to the annual grayblog end-of-the-year introspection. I know you’ve been looking forward to this for at least, oooo, twelve months?

Firstly, let’s look back and get the resolutions thing out of the way. At the end of 2006 (the archives are over there, on the right), I said I’d carry on improving the things that I had starting improving in 2006. But who has time for that? The garden isn’t finished, I haven’t done enough exercise and the writings here have become ever more sparse as the year has gone on.

So, do resolutions have any value if they are so easily broken/ignored? Comments welcome on that subject. And, given my obvious feelings on the value of resolutions, you can set as much store as you feel is appropriate in the following:

  • to write here more frequently (not too hard)
  • to take more exercise (we now have bikes which spend far too much time locked away)
  • to keep my office in a more tidy condition (also not hard)

What else can be said about 2007? Well, at a professional level, things have generally improved through the year. I don’t think it’s a huge secret that I wasn’t terribly optimistic about the prospects for my business late in 2006 and was feeling pretty demoralized. Things have improved markedly since then and whilst it is still tough going, the light is clearly visible at the end of the tunnel and, if all goes to plan in 2008, I might be able to talk about my business and the “P-word”* in the same sentence without laughter. To a large degree, I’ve been carried along by the faith shown in me and my business by others around me – my backers and my clients. Even my bank has been supportive (although I’ve yet to ask them to dip their corporate hand into their corporate pockets for me, and hopefully won’t need to). The one person who keeps me from believing too much of what they say has been Hels, who frequently questions me and challenges me to test what I’m doing and show that things truly are going the right way. That is a good thing and has encouraged me to look hard at the business and the direction that it is going in. And I’m happy with it right now.

2007 has also seen us seriously (VERY seriously) looking at emigration to the Netherlands (or possibly just inside the Belgian border). Ultimately this plan has been shelved – we have decided to stay close to friends and family. We also can’t really afford it at this stage – if my business was making more money and we hadn’t been so crippled by not selling Hels’s flat for so long, then maybe it would have been different. Note that I say that the plan is shelved, not abandoned. It’s something that we will keep at the back of our minds and may return to in the future. And our love for Maastricht is undimmed, as you might have guessed from the number of Dutch-related links that I post.

The year has seen its usual bunch of travelling, this time including trips to the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, France, Italy and Poland. I didn’t get to a few destinations that I had in mind for lack of time and resources, but the opportunity is not lost, merely deferred. I do promise to stick some photos on here somewhen of some of the places that I/we have been to this year – feel free to nag me to keep to that promise. Highlights of this year’s travel for me included:

  • San Pellegrino in Alpe, Italy – breath-takingly beautiful and wonderfully peaceful (although I suspect it might be busier in high season)
  • Hamburg, Germany – drinking cocktails whilst standing in the rain on the morning of my birthday
  • Warnemünde, Germany – bobbing about in a launch on the Warnow river with Hels and Tom
  • Kanne, Belgium – getting the “I could live here – this just might work” feeling
  • A12, Netherlands – driving from Gouda towards Zoetermeer and marvelling at the sodium-lamp orange mist with enormous wind turbines looming darkly out of the gloaming and wishing my camera was handy
  • Tiercé, France – having possibly the best cheese board I’ve ever had or am ever likely to have in “Sarkozy’s restaurant”
  • Przydworzyce, Poland – driving through the woods and seeing locals who had gathered mushrooms offering them for sale at the roadside, often only a single punnet-full

Travel plans for 2008 are subject to change, but look likely to include Germany, France, Belgium, the Netherlands (no surprise there), Switzerland (2008’s first for me – 2007’s was Poland) and Italy. Maybe Spain. And maybe Ireland and Poland. Too many places to go to, for both business and pleasure, and too little time and money to do them all.

Of course, the true highlight of 2007 has been watching Tom growing up. He is fantastic, a life-changing element of existence. He continually amazes and surprises us. It’s impossible to feel down when he’s around. I’m looking forward to more in 2008. And more of married life with Hels, but I’m going to stop on the emotional family gushing now before your keyboard gets covered in vomit.

What do I think 2008 will bring? Goodness knows. If there is one thing that I’ve learnt, it is that you can never tell what the future will bring. I think politics and the economy will both be fascinating in 2008 (and might finally push crappy nonsense “entertainment” out of the headlines a little) although the ride might be a bit bumpy. My business will increase in strength and stature. Family life should continue to be splendid, particularly as we have settled on our home here for the time-being and should have fewer disturbances to routine (famous last words). And I might knock-up a decent duck à l’orange or two.

Thanks to the regular readers who keep coming back here – I know there must be at least half a dozen of you still braving the digital elements to come here. Happy, peaceful and prosperous New Year to you all.

* profit hahahaha!!


An “interesting” couple of days. I picked up some sort of virulent virus (is there any other sort?) at the weekend which resulted in me spending large chunks of the small hours of yesterday in the bathroom. It was so bad that I passed out, fell forward and headbutted the (slate) windowsill.

Two nice ladies in the local minor injuries unit (literally) glued me back together. They urged me to look out for signs of concussion (“dizziness and vomiting – oh, you’ve got those already”) and instructed me to drink flat Coke to settle my stomach (top tip – it works brilliantly).

Two things of note – in spite of all the commotion in the neighbouring bathroom, Tom slept through the whole thing. And, if it hadn’t been for Hels, I’d probably have ended up in a puddle of blood and unmentionables on the bathroom floor and goodness knows what would have become of me. “Above and beyond” doesn’t go far enough.

As it is, I look like I’ve been on the receiving end of a Glasgow kiss. This will undoubtedly enhance my reputation and do me the power of good as we enter the horticultural trade show season.

UPDATE (Wednesday): both Tom and Hels have now had the virus, although not as bad as me, it seems. So far, I’ve lost over seven pounds, but there are better ways to achieve that.

Thorny situation

  • 2.15pm – Monty walks into the house, limping
  • 2.16pm – I get scratched as I try to see what the problem is
  • 2.20pm – arrange 2.50pm appointment with the vet
  • 2.23pm – phone Hels
  • 2.25pm – dig cat carrier out of the shed
  • 2.30pm – phone childminder to arrange collecting Tom early
  • 2.32pm – leave home
  • 2.40pm – collect Tom
  • 2.50pm – arrive at vet
  • 3.00pm – go into examination room, juggling cat, son and Miffy toy
  • 3.02pm – vet extracts thorn from Monty’s paw, advising that if it had been left there would have been an abcess and general nastiness, and administers antibiotic
  • 3.05pm – nurse agrees that Miffy is suffering from Dirty Ear Disease and needs a bath
  • 3.06pm – nurse relieves yours truly of £32.41
  • 3.15pm – arrive home. Release disgruntled cat. Monty licks his wounds on his paw. I lick the wound on my wallet.

Life in bullet points

Just to keep Matt The Bakiwop happy, here is a genuine update:

  • I’m working like a mad thing at the moment. I haven’t even had time to update my work weblog, which is bad. Work is generally busy in a good way, though, so things are quite good. Just don’t mention the Germans.
  • We’ve been travelling a bit lately and I owe readers some photos from recent trips. So far this year we have been to Angers/Nantes, Utrecht/Maastricht/Aachen/Namur, Hamburg/Rostock and I made a solo trip to Vlaardingen/Aalsmeer. There have also been a few UK-based days out and there are some photos from those too. When time permits, I’ll upload some.
  • On the domestic front, I’ve been working on developing the front garden (although progress has been in fits and starts and has stalled again lately – I need to get the footings out for the retaining wall, but time constraints and the weather both conspire against me) as well as getting the side and back gardens looking good – I’ll try and sort out photos of that too.
  • I bought Hels a bike for her birthday and this has spurred me to sort out getting my bike restored after having left it in a shed for six years following the spectacular failure of the derailleur whilst bombing along the Avenue de Chartres in Chichester in 2000. Following a suggestion from Kate, I’ve taken it to Baker Street Bikes in Brighton for restoration and should get it back on Wednesday. All I’ll need then is to add a child seat for Tom and we’ll then be able to go out on family cycle trips (although bike mounts for the roof bars on the car would be good and I think I’d like to have the chance to dump the child seat so that I can get a few miles in on my own terms too).
  • We’ve started doing a bit more work to the house – currently, we’re remodelling the bathroom. Not a major change, just new paint, new taps and a new shower screen. We’re also eyeing the conservatory combine harvester (shhh, don’t tell Dave), which needs some major work – we’ve spied a couple of rotten timbers, which isn’t good. Repainting of the kitchen is also scheduled in for “somewhen”.
  • Tom has taken to refusing to go to sleep in the evening. We’ve just had him up for a 9.30pm snack, which he took whilst lounging in front of the telly in the living room – he has the makings of a good couch potato.
  • Finally, it’s the Garden and Art Event at West Dean, near Chichester, this coming weekend. I organise it. I’m seriously hoping that the weather improves considerably between now and then.

More updates. Soon. I promise.

April 23

Happy birthday to Mrs Graybo, who is [knows better than that!] years old today. Cake has been consumed (by me, at least).

Tom was most excited by the presence of paper, cards and gifts this morning, but less impressed that there was nothing in the way of gifts for him. It looks like he’ll be more aware of presents by the time Christmas and his birthday come around than he was for the last time.