Friday, 25 March 2011

Cash for kids

When do children begin to get the first idea of the value of money?

My parents may well argue that they are still to find the answer to this question.

My boy hasn’t demonstrated a clear understanding in this area yet. When I let him go to the school disco alone recently, he recited an interesting take on how the money system works in his mind.

“Yeah dad, I know. I give them money, they give me what I ask for and some money back.”

Yes, that is how the tuck shop will operate, but he thought this was an everlasting cycle, and not that his money would eventually diminish to nothing.


Mind, I was very proud of him as, pleading poverty, he had got one of his friend’s parents to buy him a drink, and he still had 50p in his pocket.

The force is strong in this one.

But I’ve been thinking of how I may gently evolve his Finance 101.

The first thing I did was to take all his liquid cash, in his various piggy banks, count it up, then asked him to spend it all.

Obviously he enjoyed that process, but for me it was all about showing him that he had exhausted his funds, hopefully increasing his understanding, and maybe making him think more about his purchases in the future.

There was some pain in that, and I have perhaps over used the line “well if you had any money,” since.

I think I now need to introduce pocket money, and the possibility for him to ‘earn’ a little more if he wants to.

Despite my perceived benefits of this, I am also mindful of over monetizing life, and producing a child that won’t act to order unless he has negotiated remuneration.

I have a memory of my own folks introducing pocket money, in lieu of the simple yes/no system they were operating previously. We were also able to earn extra cash for doing certain things like mowing the lawn.

We were actually paid by the hour, which was another good lesson I learnt.

Never pay anyone by the hour.

I don’t plan on getting all stern on this, strictly adhering to him having to pay for everything he wants, I’ll let him continue to freely benefit from the food and water that I provide, but hopefully he’ll start to get the drift.


Wednesday, 16 March 2011

The Football League Awards

This Sunday the winners of The Football League Awards 2011 will be announced.

I know this, as I was invited to help them decide which Football League clubs should be short-listed for one of their prestigious awards.

Due to the last minute pull out of Floella Benjamin, or similar, The Football League were short of a judge for their Family Club of the Year award deliberations.

An invite to the judging panel duly came my way, one I quickly accepted, and I soon found myself presiding over which of the country's Football League clubs makes the best effort when it comes to making watching football a great family affair.

This is a subject of great interest to me. As a football fan, and I mean football fan, not the razzmatazz and perceived celebrity of the game's megastars, I was very interested to see what league clubs – including the one I support – were doing to encourage families to enjoy the experience of being football fans.

Like all other forms of entertainment, football has to recognise that it has competition. And not necessarily in the form of other sports.

The Football League clearly gets this as an organisation, and thus likes to recognise the efforts of its clubs in this area.

Going to watch football can be a brilliant experience for families. Especially now. The facilities today are greater than they have ever been, and clubs countrywide are clearly making an effort to make sure the experience is as enjoyable, economical, accessible and as engaging as it can be for families.

There were many great entries for this award, and it was very difficult to narrow them down to a short-list, but these are who we narrowed it down to:

Cardiff City

Dagenham & Redbridge

Huddersfield Town

Oxford United


Shrewsbury Town

If you've not considered taking your family to a game of football at your local Football League club you really should. They all have excellent websites, full of information, and you really should go and check them out.

Following a side as a family is great, as is making friends with people who are doing the same. Even when clubs are not doing well on the pitch the togetherness of fans and community is fantastic.

Going on your first away day, or any away day, can be a brilliant day out – even when ending in defeat.

I know football is not for everyone. And I as much as anybody am getting completely turned off by the glamour of the 'big teams', the Premier League and televised football in general. But going to a game, a good game, supporting a club close to you, that in turn are doing their bit to support you and your community, is something many can enjoy.

So, do you support your local footie club?


Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Am I a different person?

When my wife died I went to see a grief counsellor. If I am being honest, I went to see this person to add legitimacy to my prolonged absence from work.

I felt 100% unable to return to my employment as my mind was a complete mess, my focus was incredibly limited, and quite possibly I would have made decisions that could have put staff, if not certainly paperclips, in jeopardy.

However to add some science to this state of mind I took my GP’s advice to go and seek some grief counselling.

It was a process I reluctantly say I ‘enjoyed’. It was certainly of immense benefit, and I can’t praise enough the voluntary work of those involved with Cruse Bereavement Care.

My particular councillor was all about the tough love, telling me how it was, holding a genuine concern for my wellbeing, but zero interest in indulging any feeling sorry for myself.

An approach I admired.

With their help I came up with a plan of sorts, some principles that I thought would help me deal with the ongoing grief cycle.

One of those was letting go of the life we had, and not seeking a ‘replacement’ for Samanatha, not looking to replicate what we had or were on our way to achieving, instead to realise today was a new start, and tomorrow is for the making, my making.

That sounds like complete bollocks, but it’s true.

Attempting to identically replicate what I had previously is dangerously unhealthy in my opinion, and would effectively in part say that my life is some sort of real-life Aerofix with every part changeable or paintable, which is the real bollocks.

Samantha had an incredible impact on my life, not only physically, but also on my hopes, fears and dreams. She still does. To paraphrase Jack Nicholson ‘she (still) makes me want to be a better man.’

I am not saying I wouldn’t like to be with someone else, and that another partner has not been a possibility over these last five-and-a-half years, but I am saying that would have taken me in a different direction, not back along an old route.

They would have taken me their own way, and still may.

I have also become mindful of lazily putting myself back into other positions of comfort, in fact I am buoyed by the fact, that some previous comfort zones actually make me feel decidedly uncomfortable now.

Towards the end of last year, triggered by bumping into some old pals, I decided it might be enjoyable to rekindle my hockey-playing career.

Much as I owe my late wife for teaching me a lot, I also owe team sport a great deal. It teaches leadership, conversely being a team player, how to formulate friendships, how to behave in defeat as well as victory and many, many other things.

I could have picked the phone up to someone at my old club, but no, I decided to join a new club. Not only one more geographically convenient and with an excellent junior section my son might want to join at some point, but one forcing me through the process of having to prove my ability again as well as gaining the respect of possible new team members.

Some of my old teammates got wind of this, and reaction was mixed. There are those that clubs, even amateur local ones, are for life, and no matter what you should never turn out for another side. Then, there’s me.

I’ve been playing for my new team since the New Year, and this last weekend saw the inevitable happen. I played against my old club.

Yes, add ‘turncoat’ to my ridiculous collection of clothes.

Interestingly, even though I ‘knew’ a few of the opposition not one of them recognised me. Which could have something to do with long hair replacing spikey, and bum fluff now covering my giant red hamster-like cheeks.

Or am I a completely different person today?

In any case it was not a game I enjoyed. The opposition were not very well tempered and the actions of one (getting himself sent off for sustained petulance) ruined the game for everyone really.

I would have enjoyed it, as I have been since my return to the hockey field, and really it had nought to do with the personal significance of this fixture, or indeed me.

But all more support for my principle of looking forward with appreciation and not back longingly.

And who knows where it may take me, I am now certified for use in Europe after all.


Friday, 4 March 2011

I have 19 hoodies

I know this, as I have just counted them.

Apparently having a triple wardrobe, two double wardrobes and a single full of clothes can be considered excessive.

I should also mention my coat collection is currently sprawled across another double wardrobe in my hall, hooks in my pantry and my staircase banister.

Oh and a couple in the back of my car.

The clothes I do have are pretty well organised. Types are sorted, as in all my t-shirts are together, all my shirts are together – both segregated further by long and short-sleeve denominations- and all are sorted into colours.

All this and I still look like shit.

I don’t actually buy clothes all that often, but when I do I tend to splurge, get a tad carried away, and obviously don’t throw any of my older stuff away.

You may call me a hoarder, but I am clearly suffering from Disposophobia. It is a disease, a serious condition effecting literally me, and it has no remedy.

Well, I say that, but while I can’t glug pills for it, I could actually get off my sweet hind and just sort my togs out.

See, I do wonder what percentage of my clothes I actually wear, perhaps there’s my motivation? I could put all this data in a spreadsheet?

But no, I have come up with a simple plan, a practical exercise, and it is just acting it out that is proving a smidge unattractive.

My genius idea is to clear one of my wardrobes completely, and as I wash and iron clothes, that I have obviously worn, to then put them in this wardrobe.

I would then pick clothes firstly from my newly assigned clothes home, only going over into my excess garments area when I simply can’t find a stitch to wear, darlings.

Then after a predetermined time, I could send all the clothes not in the primary apparel zone to the fashion police charity shop.

Obviously I also need to add a 'seasons' factor, as I would be a complete dick if I threw all my shorts away prior to our inevitable blistering summer.

Or, most likely, I could do nothing at all and wait for one of my family members to get so pissed with me that they sort all my stuff out for me.

Either … or really.


Tuesday, 1 March 2011

Have you gone nuts?

For whatever reason I get a few invites and requests from various PR companies. Some of these are to events they are holding, product launches, round tables, that sort of jazz.

Most of which are inconvenient, many are of absolutely zero interest.

However a very professional, yet personal and clearly communicated approach, from a PR company organising a Nutella event was one I agreed to attend last week.

That and it happened to be held at Stockley Farm, which was very conveniently located half-way to where we were actually headed on our school holiday adventures that day.

Nutella is not a food stuff that I have ever previously consumed in this country. I type that as it is something I have had quite a lot when on holiday in Europe. On ski-ing holidays I particularly remember spreading it on various breads, enjoying it, but never seriously considering it for my diet at home.

But as I have only really regularly eaten breakfast in adulthood for the last 18 months or so I guess Nutella owners Ferrero will not be losing any shut-eye.

The event itself was very good. My son had a blast making new friends first thing over facing painting and what not, while us bloggers were giving our opinions as we listened to talks from a child development expert and a nutritionist.

All interesting if not devastatingly enlightening.

Then we were rejoined by our little treasures to prepare some Nutella including recipes guided by some bloke off of the telly.

We shared a table with the lovely Beckicklesie who came to my aid on more than one occasion when it came to complex world of spoon identification.

The milkshake and the tortilla wrapped banana we made were surprisingly delicious. I actually really like the taste of Nutella, but I'm not sure I'll get into the habit of eating it.

Not really sold to us as something you would have every day, but an option to add to your breakfast repertoire.

And if you are looking to cut out salt, and not concerned about adding more sugar to your diet, it is a definite winner.

What about you? Do you ever wake up to Nutella?

P.S. Nutella is not a 'chocolate spread' and is predominantly made from nuts, hazelnuts, a fact that had completely escaped me, despite its moniker.

P.P.S. I am that stupid.