Dec 092009
 

Uncle Frank "enjoying" Cork on Ice It’s official… I still have all of my extremities. I know this because I’ve counted them. Two arms, two legs, eight fingers, two thumbs, and ten toes.

Three weeks ago it had seemed like such a good idea. My wife was browsing the Cork on Ice website and asked if I’d be up for going ice skating with the gang. Sitting at home in a warm living room saying yes had been easy. Now the day had arrived though I was feeling a bit less assertive.

Me, blades and a large expanse of cold, wet slippery stuff… not a good combination.

I’ve been ice skating maybe three times in my life. The first was as a child, when we were taken to a huge Ice rink in North Wales on a school trip. As with most unpleasant experiences, my mind has obscured most of the details. All I remember is clinging, white-knuckled, to the edge of the rink, making my way inch by painful inch around the perimeter. In my mind’s eye all I could see was images of bloody skate-blades and severed fingers. From the moment I stepped onto the ice I remember praying for the experience to end.

The next time was a friend’s birthday party. When I found out we were going ice-skating it was all that my parents could do to convince me to go. This time I was a little braver, and actually let go of the side. Big mistake… I spent more time spread-eagled on the ice than I did actually skating. Cold, wet and miserable I vowed never to set foot on an ice rink again.

Continue reading »

May 062009
 

They say that first impressions are important. That opinions are formed quickly, and, once formed, are very difficult to sway.

That’s as true when you’re visiting a new country as it is when you’re meeting new people. Your original experience of a place colours your perception of subsequent events. The better it is, the more you tend to enjoy your visit, and the better the impression of the country you take away when you leave.

Morocco and I had got off to a shaky start. The border crossing from Spain had been a nightmare-the worst I’ve ever experienced on this or any other continent. Then our accommodation turned out to be miles from the nearest town, in a moderate-to-advanced state of disrepair, and lacking most of the facilities listed when we’d booked it.

“Spacious, luxurious accommodation matched only by the warmth of the welcome” extolled the details on the web-page. They were right in one sense-the sullen, jaded staff matched the run-down appearance and atmosphere to a tee. “Shabby-sans-chic” was how I took to describing it as the week wore on. Continue reading »

Mar 052009
 
The Passage of Time
Image by ToniVC via Flickr

Time… there’s never enough of it these days!

You’d think, being linear, that time would be an easy thing to manage — sixty seconds in a minute, sixty minutes in an hour, 24 hours in a day, seven days in a week, 52 weeks in a year and so on. It’s steady, predictable, and one of the few things in this world that really is a constant. But the reality, of course is that managing time is anything but simple.

The human mind is an incredibly powerful piece of kit — and nowhere is that better illustrated than in the way it takes the steady, linear progression of time and warps it into a convoluted mess that leaves us wondering what day of the week it is.

Time stretches out…. time compresses… time stands still… time accelerates. Time is, indisputably, a constant, and yet our perception of it is anything but. It’s fluid, dynamic, and it drives me insane.

Take this morning for example. I have several deadlines to meet — this column, for one, and I can guarantee that because I have something I need to get done by a given time, this morning will zip along at breakneck pace. Hours will evaporating faster than I can tap keys on the keyboard. But if I was waiting for something then the tables would turn… each second, minute, hour would draw out to eternity.

Why can’t we just see time as the constant it is? What cruel twist of evolution instructed our brain to twist it so? To what end? How is it helpful in the slightest?

The one consolation I guess is that this happens to everyone. There’s never enough time when there’s something you need to get finished, and there’s always too much time when you’re waiting around for something to happen. It’s a universal illusion that affects the entire human race. Time marches along its merry way at the same pace regardless of what’s happening in our lives, but somehow knowing that doesn’t seem to help.

Our perception of time fluctuates enormously, and that’s never truer than when you have children. They imperceptibly steal huge chunks of your day: getting them ready for school, helping with homework, resolving the inevitable disputes and, occasionally, averting all-out-warfare all take time. Some days it seems that I only have to blink and it’s bedtime, and another huge chunk of time falls into the temporal black hole that is parenthood.

With work, jobs around the house and the inexorable demands of parenthood to deal with it’s little wonder that 2009 is disappearing fast. I hardly seem to have drawn breath since Christmas, and without warning it’s March. How did that happen? To say it’s been a blur would be an understatement, but the real issue looking back at the first two months of this year is that I can’t really remember spending quality time with the family. A stolen hour here, an afternoon there, but certainly not enough, and always with the distraction of a busy life lurking on the periphery of my subconscious.

I’m self employed and work from home… a conscious decision to give me the flexibility to spend more time with my family. Somewhere along the line the pressures of earning a crust and the duplicitous nature of time have contrived to steal that away. It ends here!

If you can’t make the time to go to the beach with the kids, to take an hour in the evening to read with them, to play the occasional mindless game just for the hell of it… to share in the boundless fun and enthusiasm of their childhood… then what’s the point? We can’t control time — but we can control how we make use of the time we have, and it seems that it’s time I re-aligned my priorities. How about you?

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Feb 142009
 
I Accuse My Parents
Image via Wikipedia

A report released in Britain recently suggests that the headline grabbing woes of a plummeting economy could be the least of our worries. What we really need to concentrate on, suggests the “Good Child Report”, is getting this parenting thing right. And according to the report, which was commissioned by the Children’s society, the British seem to be getting it oh-so-wrong.

Statistically Ireland doesn’t fare quite so badly on the parenting front, but looking at some of the questions the report raises I can’t help thinking that we can’t afford to be smug. Have you ever argued with your partner in front of your children? Do you ever take the easy approach and let them sit in front of the television instead of going for a family walk? Have you ever shouted at them for no reason other than the cumulative frustrations of parenthood? Do you sometimes give in when you really should stand firm?

Any parent would answer yes to most, if not all of those things. That does not make them a bad parent, of course, but all of those traits, if they become a dominant factor in the parent-child relationship, can lead down the slippery slope to parenting oblivion. Continue reading »

Jan 232009
 
Merry Christmas Happy New Year

Image by kajvin via Flickr

I was reflecting recently on the Christmas and New Year break.

Over the holidays I took some time off, like lots of people, but as well as taking time off work, I also found myself paying little attention to the various blogs I look after (this one included). Family, friends, children and the like took precedence… which is only right and proper.

So why did I find myself feeling guilty for not blogging?

As I pondered this question I had to ask whether a line been crossed somewhere in my subconscious. When had blogging taken on such a level of gravity in my life. How could I possibly feel even the tiniest twinge of guilt for choosing to spend time with my family instead of posting stuff online?

It’s a fine line… and while it’s obviously important to keep a steady stream of content flowing on the blog(s) there are many, many things in life that are far more important.

Sometimes I look at the flood of posts from prolific Irish bloggers like Damien Mulley, Alexia Golez, and others in my feed reader and despair. Between work, family and other commitments I don’t have time to read all this stuff, let alone write my own.

But then I realised that it doesn’t really matter… not in the grand scheme of things. Different people have different priorities, are at different stages in their lives and are blogging under vastly different circumstances. A missed post here, a sparse week there… so what!

I enjoy writing the blog – that’s why I do it – but feeling guilty for not posting isn’t an acceptable part of the equation.

I purposely didn’t make a new year’s resolution this year… but in hindsight I think I probably will take up a belated one: I WILL NOT FEEL GUILTY FOR NOT BLOGGING!

In 2009 I’ll post here and elsewhere when I can, when I want to and as time allows… without any guilt, remorse or regret for failing to maintaining a punishing posting schedule.

What about you?

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Sep 052008
 

Tomorrow is our 11th wedding anniversary and a card arrived from my parents with these stickers in:

DSCN7769

Thanks Mam and Dad!

The worst thing about it is the fact that it’s absolutely true. God I hate conforming to a stereotype.

The girls of course think it’s a great skit – and are going to make us wear the stickers all day tomorrow. Can’t wait!