Monday, June 29, 2009

Gordon, Will You Stop Calling Me At Home?

You’d think Gordon Brown, our glorious PM, would have better things to do than to keep calling me all the time, especially when all he’s selling (by the sounds of it) is dodgy debt management facilities. But no, morning noon and night I’m plagued by his unwanted and unasked for telephone calls. I can guarantee that as soon as we get Tom down for a sleep or a midday nap the sodding phone will ring and the recorded message will kick in once more.

Recorded message? Yes...

See, Gordon isn’t actually calling live.

And, if I’m honest, it isn’t actually Gordon.

But the posh voice on the other end of the line is very keen to let me know that he’s calling from a “Government backed” debt management company, so Gordon Brown is definitely in the loop somewhere.

(Government backed? Makes me think of coups in other countries for some reason... hey ho...)

The annoying thing is if you hang up they just call back the next day. If you dial 9 as requested to be removed from their call-list you just know your telephone number has now been confirmed as “live” and other cold callers will start snaking their way through your communications defences. And dialing 1471 (caller ID) only presents you with the galling announcement that the originating number has been withheld.

So they get hold of my number to harass me but withhold their own number so I can’t trace them to complain?! Gits!

In the end I’ve had no choice but to bite the bullet and dial 9. So far so good. Nobody else has rung but it’s another black mark in Gordon’s copy book to my thinking.

All I need now is to find out that I’ve been charged for the bloody calls. I imagine it’s a great way to generate revenue.

Or maybe Gordon is paying for them himself on his expense account?

Now that, folks, is real debt management.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Highs And Lows And Somewhere Stuck In-Between

Apologies for the ragbag nature of this post but (to well and truly mix my metaphors) that’s the way the cookie is crumbling today.

First up on the blog podium is the news that I have at last been awarded my degree. I finally got my results yesterday and have come through over 10 years of part time study to be granted a good 2:1 honours class English degree from Warwick University. And many, many thanks to French Fancy who was kind enough to ask after my results yesterday when the rest of you had clearly forgotten all about them *sniff sniff* I mean it’s not like you have lives or anything...

Second up – and just because you’d have to be dead or in a coma to have missed the news this morning – it seems that reports of Michael Jackson’s death have not been exaggerated... though part of me, the cynical part, is wondering if it’s all a scam and he’s faked his own death.

Isn’t that awful?

I must admit, although it’s sad to hear of his death – he was after all hugely talented (though even a hugely talentless person’s death is sad news) – the news reportage and media accolades are cheesing me off something rotten. This is the same media that only weeks ago was joyously slagging him off for his financial problems and his dodgy history of alleged misconduct with children whose parents were keen to have their kiddie-winks associated with the self proclaimed mega-rich King of Pop.

I mean at one point you couldn’t move on the telly without every celeb going taking a pot-shot at MJ’s rumoured paedophilia. The air waves were full of jokes along the lines of: does Michael like The Backstreet Boys or does he prefer Boyz To Men? And comedians even now still wheel out an obligatory Michael Jackson joke during their many and varied routines. Because let’s face it, it’s easy enough to do.

Suddenly though, today, the media world is full of po-faced accolades and high-falutin’ laurels from all and sundry announcing with fine gravitas that The King Of Pop – the Legend – is dead. Sob. Sob.

Spare me.


Oh I don’t know. If I’ve nothing good to say, maybe I ought to just play it safe and not say anything at all?

Lastly, it’s been a weird old week. I managed to get myself stuck in a lift at work yesterday. First time in my life it’s ever happened. There I am at Council HQ (which thankfully is only 4 storey’s high) and the lift cuts out between floors 3 and 4. From out of a tinny wall speaker I could hear Stephen Hawking announcing that the lift was “out of service”. It was good to have that pointed out.

I followed the instruction printed on the wall. I pressed the button for the operator. I didn’t panic. I kept calm. I spoke clearly. And most important of all I didn’t speak while the operator spoke. The instructions were very clear about that. It seems that in an emergency – although I am the one trapped – what she has to say takes precedence. Well fine. I know my place.

Stuck in a metal box no wider than 6ft and suspended tens of metres above bone shattering concrete.

It wasn’t the best 5 minutes of my life, I must admit, but my work colleagues had me out in a jiffy before I could entertain too many thoughts of making Hollywood style elevator escapes. I was thinking Speed. I was thinking The Matrix. Both of which oddly star Keanu Reeves.


How to wrap this post up?

It’s obvious really.

The only way is up!

P.S. There is no spoon. ;-)

Monday, June 22, 2009

The Happy Moon Days

So. The moon landings. Did they really happen or are they one of the biggest hoaxes of the 20th Century?

This isn’t a random thought that has just popped into my head (honestly, my random thoughts would make scary reading most days) but has been shoehorned there by watching “James May On The Moon” on the BBC last night.

Alas Mr May was neither flying to the moon nor exposing his shabbily trousered butt-cheeks to the good people of NASA but was instead delivering a documentary about the moon landings. And a rather good one at that.

I have no memory of the original moon landing given that it happened 2 months before I was born but I do take great pleasure in the fact that I was born into an age where men had finally set foot onto another planet. The very idea of it – people walking around on the surface of a world other than Earth – even today astounds me.

And yet, in other respects, we are so blasé about the idea of interplanetary space travel these days (with the sheer volume of sci-fi entertainment available to us) that for most teens and twenty somethings the idea of visiting planet Zog to buy a lightsaber elicits nothing more than a shrug. The idea of it has become somehow just an inevitable progression of modern technology. It’s accepted that it might not happen in this day and age but one day it most certainly will.

It’s just going to happen, OK? It’s no big deal. It’s just a matter of when not if.

But it is a big deal.

May was fortunate to be taken up 13 miles – to the very edge of space – by the United States Air Force in one of their impressively humungous U2 spy planes. A plane that resembles a pencil with the wings of an albatross.

May was visibly moved. It wasn’t difficult to see why. Looking down on a jumbo jet that is as far below you as it normally is above you when you’re standing on the planet must have been a jaw dropping experience. And then to realize that the only people higher than you are the people in the International Space Station... well, let’s hope the toilet pump in the space suit May was wearing was working properly.

It must be incredibly humbling. To be that far up and see the curvature of the earth... Imagine then to be 384403 kilometres away on the surface of the moon and to be able to blot out the entire Earth with the palm of your hand – as indeed one of the astronauts actually did.

How fragile we all are. How small.

Which brings me back to my original question. Was it all just a hoax?

I don’t think it was.

I know the conspiracy theorists out there will always argue that the whole thing was faked but yah-boo-sucks-phooey to them.

It was real. You could see it in the faces of the astronauts that May spoke to – the wonder, the mind altering awe of having actually stood on another planet. It was as real as this ergonomically unsound chair beneath my iron-hard buttocks. I’d stake my very virtue on it.

Why then have we never been back? the conspiracists argue. The fact that we haven’t must prove it. We can’t go back because to get there in the first place is impossible.


What is there to go back to? Until technology has advanced far enough that we can export a whole construction site up there and build Moon World there is very little point spending billions of dollars and risking lives just to send men up there to leap about and collect another handful of moon rocks to prove a point that the conspiracy theorists still won’t believe anyway.

Sod them.

Let them mope about in their miserable “we’re stuck on this planet forever and can’t get off it” headspace.

My imagination is bigger, brighter, richer and infinitely further reaching for a having a suitcase packed ready for my imminent trip to planet Zog...

From up here the Earth looks wonderful. And the rest of the universe looks... well, excitingly inviting.

Houston. I’m ready when you are.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Umbrella For A Sunny Day

“Umbrella” because the two components of this post are completely disparate but I’m going to lump them together ‘cos today is the day for writing about them both. The first part is a family oriented kiddie post, the second touches on the reading aloud of poetry. Take your pick, dear reader, or read ‘em both.

The eldest boy is celebrating his 8th birthday today. He came downstairs this morning to find the sofa stacked with presents – presents that his dad hastily wrapped last night while his mum suffered beneath the vicious malaise of a horrible cold. Every birthday / Christmas Karen and I always say “this time we’ll be more organized and get the presents wrapped early” and every time we play present wrapping chicken and wrap them at the very last minute.

Not that Ben minded. He’s had a good haul – loads of Lego (naturally), a Nintendo game, the ubiquitous Pokémon cards and a digital camera amongst the new treasures.

Tom’s reaction was very interesting. Last Christmas he still didn’t fully understand this “present opening malarkey” at all though had good fun shredding the discarded paper and cardboard.

Today however was very much a different kettle of fish. He seemed as excited by the presents as Ben was – lots of cooing and ooh-ing and a few attempts to eat the presents whilst still in their wrapping paper...

But once the gifts were unwrapped they were far more intriguing than the paper.

I sense a shift in consciousness here. Gone are the days when we could have palmed him off with an empty box or a bit of glittery paper... now he wants product! He’s joined the consumer race at last.

To help avoid any displays of jealousy or feelings of neglect we bought Tom a little present too. His current love is bus spotting whenever we are out and about in the car. He just loves them. Every time we point a bus out to him we elicit a shout of joy and the phrase: “Dus! Dus!” which is Tom’s pronunciation of the word “bus”.

Hence Tom’s present just had to be a big bright yellow Lego Duplo bus complete with passengers and luggage compartment which, if it has been opened and closed once, it has been opened and closed a hundred times already. He loves anything with a hinge does our Tom.

He has refused to let the damn thing go and has taken it into nursery with him. Woe betide the staff if they ever try and separate them...

Anyway the upshot is, I think Tom has decided he quite likes birthdays. Doesn’t matter if it’s his or not. Any birthday will do. Just as long as he acquires a bus.

Let’s hope I’m not having to negotiate with Midland Red when he turns 18...

And now for the poetry...

Janete over at Writer’s Blog has embedded a small movie into her latest post featuring photos she has taken during her travels. The soundtrack is Janete herself reading one of her amazing poems. It’s worth a click and a few minutes of your time savouring the experience.

What struck a chord with me was Janete’s comment about not liking her own voice. I expect most people feel the same way – possibly because we imagine our voices to sound somehow different to how they really are... sort of the same but different. The same but improved. Polished. Authoritative. Silkier. Movie star like.

It’s always depressing when you hear your voice played back to you and you realize you sound like a bin man from Walsall.

Not that Janete does, I hasten to add. I actually think she has a fabulous voice – really lovely – and it suits her poetry perfectly. Go and listen to it if you don’t believe me.

Mine, however, does. Or at least I think it does. About 15 years ago I had the opportunity to read out some of my poetry on a local radio programme broadcast by Coventry & Warwickshire BBC. It was to be pre-recorded and would be broadcast a week later... so, lucky me, I’d be able to listen to myself in the comfort of my own home.

For some reason, even though I’m Midlands born and bred, I had a fancy to sound like Ted Hughes. I loved his poetry and I loved to hear him reciting it. Such a rich, dark voice. And the Yorkshire accent lent his words an expressiveness and earthiness that added yet more depth and richness to a grasp of language that was already immeasurably deep and rich.

Oh to sound like that! I would have turned heads.

Now, don’t think for a minute that, when presented with the microphone, I launched into an awful cod-Yorkshire “ee bah gum it’s cold oop North int it” accent. I wasn’t that stupid. I’m not good at mimicking accents though can manage a passable Scots if I put my mind to it (but as my dad is part Scottish this is only right and proper).

I merely tried to speak clearly and authoritatively. With feeling and passion. With an ear for the words and the music of my poetry.

I swear to God I sounded like a Birmingham fish monger reading William Blake. Not a great mix.

It affected me so badly I didn’t write anything for nearly 12 months and, bar reading a
3rd prize winning poem at Warwick’s 2006 Warwick Words competition, have never read my work aloud again.

Beauty might be in the eye of the beholder but the ear has its part to play also.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Playing Hide And Seek With The Neighbours

Our neighbours are many things but they are not nudists or naturists or given over to holding Druidic ceremonies in their back garden.

Which is fortunate as the fence that divides their good green earth from ours is (a) dilapidated and (b) only about 3ft tall even when it is upright.

We can see absolutely everything.

Every barbecue. Every attempt at sunbathing. Every sweaty session with the lawnmower.

And they of course can see us doing the same. With the exception of the barbecue as that’s an activity that Karen and I haven’t yet embraced (we’re quite capable of burning our sausages in the oven, thank you very much).

Now, our garden lives are quite innocent. Neither of us are growing marijuana or opium. Neither of us are burying hated relatives under the patio of even stuffing their decomposing body parts into green wheelie bins for the local council to take away.

We ain’t got nuffink to hide, guv’nor.

But a little privacy would be nice. A little privacy would be welcome.

We get along fine but I’ve noticed that whenever they are in their garden, sat around their Ikea table, we have only got to appear around ours for them to immediately disappear inside. Or if we’re in our garden playing with the kids and they suddenly appear we feel strangely inhibited. That entire side of the garden is somehow off limits for us to approach or even look at. Especially when Mr and Mrs Neighbour are stalking around in their very highly cut European shorts (they’re Polish) ‘cos let’s face it, a camel toe on a man is not a great look.

Instead we nod hello politely and one of us relinquishes their claim on the outside world and disappears back inside, no doubt grumbling a little.

It’s a ridiculous situation.

And one Karen and I intend to remedy as soon as possible once the money from my aunt’s will is divvied out.

The plan is to erect a good 6ft fence along that side of the garden. Previous quotes gave us a ball park figure of £1000 – which is why we are currently unable to ring-fence our little compound to our mutual satisfaction.

This will have the benefit of not only allowing nude sunbathing and gratuitous camel toeing without risk of causing offense or traumatizing the children but also prevent a certain rogue rottweiler* from invading both our gardens like a canine blitzkrieg.

We’ll effectively be erecting a Cuprinol enhanced Maginot line only without the watchtowers or the gun emplacements (though I’m hoping that these can be added at a later date).

Happiness, it seems, is a warm high fence and good border control.

Which sounds scarily like some kind of BNP manifesto. Gulp. But honestly, folks, it’s not meant to be. I just don’t want any more glimpses of my Polish neighbour’s man bush...

I just want to be able to enjoy my garden without being reminded of 1970’s editions of Health & Efficiency magazine.

Is that too much to ask?

*Re: the dog. We’re no further forward. The dog warden makes regular visits and the owners pretend to be absent. However, although we’ve heard the dog barking on several occasions we haven’t see it marauding or pillaging for a number of weeks now. But until the fence is commissioned neither us nor the Poles can fully relax our guards.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Out Of Africa

A short while ago – in zestful arrogance – I wrote a sarcastic email to some poor enterprising con man in Burkina Faso. I took the mickey out of his risible attempts to get me involved in a multi-million dollar scam and scoffed at the very idea that my Great Aunt Matilda could have enjoyed sexual congress with a tribesman of that region a century ago producing an off-shoot of the family tree that would, in 2009, name me as a the sole heir to his dubiously misbegotten fortune.

Of course I was aware of the scientific theory that we all ultimately descended from a single tribe in central Africa many thousands of years ago but ignored it in favour of cutting edge satire and a cheap joke about Kunte Kinte being my long lost cousin.

I now bow my head in shame.

Dr Alice Roberts (if my doctor looked liked her I’d become a hypochondriac) has investigated and, to my mind, proven the theory as fact beyond all shadow of a doubt. Her programme, The Human Journey, has been essential Sunday night viewing for the last 4 weeks.

And what a terrific gig for Dr R.

She got to sashay her pert little tush across every continent on the planet and got her hands wrapped around some amazing looking bones. Lucky girl.

But it wasn’t all sun screen and sultry pouts to camera for Dr R, Oh no. She worked bloody hard too. She risked a night alone in the African bush, fingered lots of ancient skulls in dusty museum store rooms and correlated and produced a work of such superlative televisual research that it stopped me mourning the absence of Lark Rise To Candleford.

It seems that we did indeed – all of us – descend from one single tribe that emerged out of Africa about 50,000 years ago. A tribe that gradually worked its way up into Europe, jogged across into Asia and Australasia and finally made the big leap into the Americas about 14,500 years ago – spreading its bounteous seed like wild oats as it went. Genetically the theory has also been proven. Undeniably. Irrefutably. The men in white coats say so. Their scientific barcode thingies prove it.

We are all of us related.

You are all of you – including the con man in Burkina Faso, including Dr Alice Roberts – my brothers and sisters.

Technically we’ve been inbreeding for years.

No wonder the planet is in such a God-awful mess.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Virility And Decrepitude

My visits to the dentist are becoming quite depressing.

While my dentist has become younger (and female), I’ve got older. And stayed male. Though the latter isn’t yet cause for bi-polar disorder.

My previous dentist, the wonderfully named Mr Twiss, retired about 2 years ago. He was an odd man. Physically he resembled John McCririck only without the be-chained spectacles and the penchant for bookie sign language – that would have been most off-putting while he was rummaging around in my mouth – we have a compacted wisdom tooth coming in at 5-1...

Towards the end he’d become rather portly and had trouble bending himself over his opulent belly. This may explain why my appointments with him were so brief and so pleasingly work-free. Of course his imminent retirement might have had a lot to do with the lack of commissioned dental work as well. He was just coasting along, doing as little as possible, trying to avoid topping someone with an overdose of Novocain or whatever it is they use these days. He was just happy to chat and scrape off the odd bit of plaque while I stared up at the impressive ginger topiary that sprouted forth from his nostrils.

My new dentist, Dr Hassan, is the complete opposite. Female, Arabic, nothing at all like the dreaded McCririck and her nose – from what I’ve seen of it (and I’ve seen quite a bit) – is mercifully hair free. As clean as the torpedo tubes on a Russian nuclear sub in fact. Thankfully she’s not launched any salvoes my way while I’ve been reclining beneath her.

Now there’s a line for a bodice ripper if ever I heard one.

The biggest difference though is that Dr Hassan is conscientious to the point of costing me vast sums of money every time I visit her. Mr Twiss would sting me for an average of £15 per visit. Dr Hassan finds enough work to do to cost me £50. Usually it’s a “scrape and polish”. Something that never bothered me much as a child but is now extremely painful due to the sensitive nature of my aged gums.

Yesterday she announced somberly that I’m beginning to lose bone.

I nearly replied that having my jaw clamped open while having my molars slashed with a mini chainsaw was hardly going to get me in the mood... but quickly comprehended that she was referring to my teeth...

Apparently I’m losing bone at the front bottom portion of my jaw. I’m still not entirely sure what this means. I’ve always had a weak chin... does this mean it’s getting weaker?

Anyway, the upshot is I have to be more brutal with my brushing regime. This will supposedly encourage my gums to “firm up” and hold on more tightly to my incisors.

It seems they are in danger of falling out next time I snap them down onto a Yorkie.

This apparently is just a normal sign of old age and general wear and tear. Nothing much to worry about.

But I do worry.

I miss Mr Twiss. For all Dr Hassan’s nose is far more pleasant to look up, Mr Twiss always made me feel young and robust.

Dr Hassan makes me feel like I’m crumbling away beneath her impressively blue aproned breasts.

It’s not a nice feeling. Especially when I’m being charged £50 for it.

Monday, June 08, 2009

The Shame

America elects its first black president...

For the last 7 days Europe and America has been commemorating the anniversary of the D-Day landings, a time when nations pulled together to stand against bigotry and racism. ..

And yesterday Great Britain awarded the BNP two seats in the European Parliamentary elections.

The entire nation should hang its head in shame.

I mean, who in their right mind voted for these BNP idiots? Anybody care to own up?

No. I didn’t think so. Which makes their election all the more puzzling.

How has it happened?

Is an economic downturn all it takes for people to lose their thin veneer of humanity and jump on the bandwagon of bigotry?

Can people not see the appalling danger in any ethos that has at its heart the xenophobic desire to “save [insert the name of any country here] only for me and mine and people who look like me and mine”?

Plainly not.

History is evidently an ineffectual teacher.


History is an appallingly ineffectual supply teacher. It means well. It wants to teach us really important stuff but its authority is completely lost on us. We just want to muck about at the back of the class, go out to break early, bunk the day off and then moan and blame other people when everything eventually goes tits up.

My wife’s reaction to the news was to wonder aloud if maybe it was time we got out of this country.

Mine was to opine that if the BNP got any more toe-holds people like us – proud liberals – might not have any choice in the matter.

From now on I’m going to be keeping one eye on the political landscape and one on the cheap suitcase shop at the top of town.

The reputation of the UK is currently staggering beneath the weight of a long knife in the back. I’d hate to be there if it ever topples over.

Friday, June 05, 2009

Squirrel Nutkin Must Die!

(Adopts 1940’s terribly proper BBC voice...)

People of Great Britain!

Your country is in peril!

Your country needs you to rally round, gird your loins and perform exemplary duties on behalf of your noble Prince, God save him.

Yes, the call has gone out by the glorious Prince of Wales to rid the land of the grey menace. Forget swine flu. Forget improper use of the expenses system by our doughty MPs. The grey squirrel is threatening the livelihoods of our most respectable landowners.

“The greys are doing immense and increasing damage to hardwoods all over the country and threaten to compromise all our efforts to restore native woodlands...” said the Prince in a beautifully crafted letter to the CLA (that’s Country Land and Business Association to lower class people of unprivileged education).

The Prince – ever mindful of ecological issues – also raised the point that “wiping them out” might be the only way to preserve the red squirrel – the native denizen of these shores who, if it could choose its own colour, would surely be true blue. God save the Queen!

A short advertisement for Izal toilet paper will now follow this broadcast...


So there you have it. A call to arms by Prince Charles no less.

Now, having bought my own house which comes replete with its own humungous garden I am technically a landowner. I might be stretching the point slightly but I bet I could get it to stand up in a court of law.

So I’m taking it as read that by Royal Decree I have been granted license to kill. Admittedly license to kill only grey squirrels but there’s enough of them around that I could make it a full time job. I mean, let’s be clear. The Prince is not suggesting we merely pop one or two of them off. He’s suggesting we wipe out the lot of them. Genocide. Total eradication.

It’s rather a shocking clarion call from our fuddy-duddy Goon loving Prince.

But what I want to know it: is he going to put his money where his murderous mouth is?

Is he going to supply me with the arms to carry out this mission? Hand me an antique musket emblazoned with the Windsor family crest and a bag full of lead balls? Buy me an AK-47 from Ebay replete with newly minted Russian ammo? Or just park a lorry load of cyanide outside my front door where the kids can gain easy access to it?

‘Cos I’m really not fussy.

Hell, I’d even give it a go with a bow and arrow.

I mean this is Prince Charles asking after all. Future King of England and all that...

But I do have one small concern. Where does it all end?

I mean, we murder the grey squirrel today... fine. Do we butcher the mink tomorrow? Do we move onto flora after that – start napalming great swathes of Japanese knotweed and floating pennywort? Because they shouldn’t really be here in the UK either.

Where does it all end? Or, perhaps more pertinently, how far could it be taken?


Puritanism of any kind is never a good thing. It inevitably leads to bloodshed. Or am I just reading far too much into it?

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

I Am The God Of Hell Fire And I Bring You...

Fire took us by surprise about a week ago.

It was invited into the house by some frozen sausages which we were mercilessly grilling (not Gene Hunt style) for our tea.

We’re not sure how it happened. We were being pretty careful and vigilant. Doors locked. Windows bolted. No cold callers signs all over the place.

But maybe that was our mistake?

This was a hot caller.

In the time it took us to take our eye off the ball great big yellow flames were licking their way out of the grill. It seems that the sausages went from being frozen to jetting gouts of hot fat onto the grill bars like a small time crim singing under the blows of police brutality.

The jets ignited immediately and fulsomely.

Weirdly my Corporate Fire Training (fanfare please) both kicked in and didn’t kick in.

I opened the grill door. Big mistake. The sudden in-rush of oxygen fed the flames and they got meatier. I’m not sure even now if this boded at all well for the sausages.

I shut the door again rather quickly but it was too late. The flames had taken the grill by storm and were now cooking the cooker.

I reached for a tea towel and performed the old “soak a tea towel and drape it over the flames” trick. Tick please. It worked. It took a few seconds - seconds in which Karen and I began to wonder aloud whether we should get the kids and the DVD collection out of the house for safe keeping – but it worked nonetheless.

The flames gave a last gasping flicker and went out. Possibly to someone else’s house. Possibly on the razz. I’m not sure. Given the mess they left behind I won’t be inviting them back again anytime soon.

And that was as close as we’ve ever come – and as close as we ever want to come – to having a house fire and burning down everything that we’ve worked so damned hard for.

It was a short lived but rather intense experience.

The cooker even now still looks petulant and sooty.

And the sausages, when we finally ate them, were undercooked.

It seems they’d kept cool under duress and refused to spill the beans...

Monday, June 01, 2009

Exam Fever

Just a quickie I'm afraid as I am off work today with my youngest boy who is poorly - a high temperature all weekend culminating in nearly 40 degrees last night and a huge hot rash on his hip and leg which didn't blanch beneath a glass. This was far too alarming for Karen and I to even dream of sleeping comfortably last night and we rang the NHS Helpline number and spoke to a very nice nurse who asked us lots of pertinent questions which - much to our relief - ruled out meningitis.

It seems a ridiculous conclusion to have jumped to now but parenthood and panic seem to go hand-in-hand surprisingly often.

Good old Calpol did the trick and brought his temperature down to a more acceptable 38.5 - but still too high. The nurse advised us to get him to the doctor today so I have stayed home to see that all can be done.

He at last seems better now and is asleep in bed having finally eaten properly for the first time in over 24 hours. His temperature has at last dropped back to normal. The medical conclusion is that he'd picked up some sort of virus.

Well, isn't this always the case?

I'm just glad it wasn't the M word nor swine flu which apparently (according the NHS Helpline recorded message) has now hit the East Midlands with a vengeance.

So. This post was originally going to be about the exam I sat on Saturday - the final one for my degree course - and was going to be full of erudite wit and breath-taking insight. Alas, I am not up for such games at the moment. I feel drained.

Suffice it to say I survived and answered the questions to the best of my ability. Hopefully the waffle versus fact ratio was canted in favour of me getting a pass at the very least. I should get the results end of June - and then, all being well, I will finally graduate on July 17th.

Hard to believe that after 10 years+ my part-time degree is finally over.

It's a huge relief but pales into insignificance compared to the relief I feel to see my son sleeping peacefully and contentedly in his cot...