About Me

I was born in Luton, known for hat making, Vauxhall cars, London Luton Airport and a great football team who once beat Arsenal at Wembley in a Cup Final, currently languishing in non-league football for the 4th season. I moved to Edinburgh in 1990 and now live in Leith, Edinburgh's 'waterfront'.

Married for 24 years to Louise (who is on day release from Fife), I have 4 children: Holly (aged 28) who's studying medicine at Dundee University, William (aged 26) at the Army Foundation College, Harrogate, Alice (aged 23) and Maddie (aged 16).

We live in a 226 year old Georgian house which we are slowly renovating. We once had a note from an artist posted through the letterbox asking if our semi-derelict house was available to rent as studio space. Things have improved lately; the stonework has been repaired and we have shiny new railings. Just the inside to do now then.

Current CNPS score: 999

Header Image: Richard Bloomfield

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    2000 Miles

    Last Thursday saw the passing of the 2000 mile mark since I started cycling to work in April. It would have been good to have been out on a nice ride but the event passed quietly somewhere along the North Edinburgh Cycle Path on the way to the office.

    Instead, I clocked up a few extra miles on Saturday morning, having dragged Maddie and Alice reluctantly out of the house on the promise of breakfast at McDonald’s. We headed off along my usual work route, Maddie on the tag-along and Alice on her own bike, stopping at McDonald’s in Corstorphine. From there we headed out to South Gyle and up to Cammo Estate near Barnton where we locked up the bikes and went for a walk around.

    The grounds of Cammo House were laid out in the early 1700’s and there are some lovely trees (including Edinburgh’s oldest Ash Tree). Everywhere you go there are interesting features like the former horse stables, walled gardens and a water tower/folly. The girls had a lovely afternoon in the sunshine; Maddie now knows where conkers and acorns come from.

    Creative Commons License photo credit: kyzCammo Tower

    Back on the bikes, we headed over to The Cramond Brig then down the River Almond into Cramond village for a drinks stop at The Cramond Inn where, incidentally, a pint is still under £2! We then followed the promenade to Granton, onto the Trinity Path and back to Leith along The Water of Leith walkway.

    A nice ride, almost exactly 20 miles, nearly all of which was off road. If you want to try it yourself, you can see the detail here.

    Jack of all trades

    Sitting here stressing out over the astonishing level of poverty we are currently facing, I couldn’t help thinking about how I ended up here. I’m actually pretty good at most things I do (apart from dancing) and therein lies the problem. I think I’m suffering from terminal perfectionism. But that’s perfectionism from my perspective, i.e. not very objective. Everything I do takes too long because I can’t just ‘let it go’, I have to get it ‘just so’. The thought of paying good money to someone to do a half-arsed job just makes me cringe. So, in reality, very little gets done. What does get done gets done pretty well, but there just isn’t enough time. I really, really, need to learn to delegate, to let go.

    This problem is part-and-parcel of working for yourself. Quite apart from the discipline issues of only having to answer to yourself if you go to the pub at lunchtime or take a day off at the drop of a hat, you just have too much freedom to take everything on yourself. It’s far too easy to work on the house for a day or, as is the case just now, to think you can take on childcare rather than paying hard-earned cash to a nursery.

    At times I look at workaholic fathers with their fat wallets with envy: other times I pity them for what they miss with their children. Those precious moments I have with Maddie while looking after her when she does something new and amazing, fleeting moments in her development which are utterly unique. All-in-all, this current poverty is a small price to pay.

    Sweating it out

    We’ve been awaiting some test results for Maddie.

    When she was in the Sick Kids with her recent bottom trouble, we were told that one of the remotely possible causes could be Cystic Fibrosis. This came as a bit of a shock, especially as we’d already had 2 tests done at the pre-natal stage. One involved both Louise and I taking a mouthwash test which they analise to see if we are carriers of the faulty gene, the other is one of the tests done as part of the amniocentisis analysis. You’d think that after being told both tests were clear that the possibility of Cystic Fibrosis was ruled out. Wrong.

    Cystic Fibrosis, we are now told, can be caused by any one of a thousand possible mutations of the gene. Mutations tend to prevail in population masses, i.e. the prominent mutation in Scotland is different to that in England or, say, France. The mouthwash test only looks for the commonest local mutation and therefore doesn’t rule the condition out completely. The amnio test, which I thought was absolute, also appears to test only for the more likely mutations.

    So, back to the recent test. Cystic Fibrosis affects the transport mechanisms for fluids in parts of the body and the main effects are a decrease in excretion of fluids in the lungs and improper function of the pancreas. The symptoms can be quite mild at Maddie’s age, so the main method of testing is called a sweat test. A large patch is stuck across the back and a mild electric current is passed through the skin. The electrolyte levels in the sweat then give a good indication of the presence of the condition. Maddie had this test on Tuesday.

    Yesterday the consultant’s secretary phoned and said the results were ‘reassuringly normal’. This still doesn’t mean she’s definitely clear, just that the odds on her having it are getting less and less. We have a meeting with the consultant on Thursday when I’m sure he’ll explain the situation further but I think we’ve reached the stage where we can stop worrying about it.

    These are my thoughts and perceptions based on our experience with Maddie and there may therefore be things I’ve written here which are not absolutely acurate. A thorough article about CF diagnosis can be found here if anybody wants the full technical stuff.

    Sweet smell of….

    You smell of sick, Dad“, William commented as we left the house the other day. “You wait till you have kids“, I replied. “You’ll be pleased if it’s only sick you smell of“. How do babies do it? They drink 90ml of the white stuff then manage to vomit about a litre back up all over you, or more specifically, your clean clothes which you’ve only had on 20 minutes. I suggested to Louise that she ask the midwife if Maddie could have bulimia.

    Then there’s the poo. I’d forgotten about the poo. It’s a miracle there is any, given that they vomit most of what they eat, but there most certainly is. And they always do it within one minute of putting a clean nappy on them. Then they grin at you. Secret Service interrogators should study babies for a week to learn technique. They’d crack any person in hours.

    Things have been pretty hectic (hence the fact that I’ve not written here for some time). Maddie has been in the hospital: The Royal Edinburgh Hospital for Sick Children to be precise. Bottom trouble. I won’t describe it in too much detail to preserve her dignity. She had blood in her nappies and they needed to find out what was causing it but it turned out to be not too serious. I started to crack a few ‘bottom’ jokes but I was quickly told to ‘shut up Dad, that’s just not funny’ by Alice. I was quite taken aback that a 7 year old would stick up for her wee sister like that. So no bottom jokes, OK.

    Madeleine Rose (aka Maddie)

    I think we must have read the 40,001 Baby Names book a dozen times: my Mastermind specialist subject is now ‘baby names and their meanings’. Finally we have chosen “Madeleine Rose”, although we’ll use the diminutive form “Maddie”.

    Madeleine has been slowly climbing in the top 100 names list having moved from 78th in 2000 to 68th in 2004, so it’s neither too unusual nor too common. It’s the French form of a Hebrew name meaning “woman from Magdala”, “high tower” or “tower of strength”.

    As Madeleine was born on St.Patrick’s Day, I was pleased to see a tenuous Irish link while checking anagrams on I Rearrangement Servant: “Mad Eileen” (Eileen is the Irish Gaelic version of Helen).

    Since they came home from hospital on Tuesday everything has been going very well. Eating, crying, sleeping and pooing are all taking place in roughly the right proportions (yes, mother and baby). Alice, Holly and William are all taken with the new addition and we’ve had no signs of jealousy.

    We went straight to Fife from the hospital so Louise’s father Bill could see Maddie: he’s too ill to travel much now. It was a joyous moment for Louise to see him hold the baby.

    It’s a girl!

    A beautiful, healthy girl, 7lbs 6oz, born on Thursday 17th March at 23.44 (St Patrick’s Day – just).

    Mother and baby doing just fine.

    More later.

    TV stars

    Alice and I have been on TV daily since 17th January, starring in the Northlink Ferries ad which was made back in August. You did spot us, didn’t you? Yes, that’s me crossing the background in the reception scene (50 milliseconds) and Alice in the bunk in the cabin scene (0.5 seconds).

    I mention this just in case you missed us because tomorrow is your last chance. The final ad’s appear as follows:

    ITV Scottish – ITV News – 18:58
    ITV Scottish – Coronation Street – 20:45

    I’m sure I’ll get a singing part next time.

    UPDATE: OK, so the schedule they sent me wasn’t complete. The ad is still running, in fact I saw it about 5 times yesterday. I hope we don’t get overexposed, we could get typecast.

    By appointment

    I know it’s a bit late now, but I must mention the official opening of the brand spanking new and very, very expensive Scottish Parliament building at Holyrood which took place a few Saturdays ago.

    Alice had been badgering me all week to take her to see the queen and I have to admit that I wasn’t over enthusiastic to say the least. The few times that I’ve seen the queen in my life have been on major occassions like Charlie & Di’s wedding and it’s no fun, is it? I can remember standing crushed against a barrier for hours, only to see the entire royal family flash past in a matter of seconds. I wasn’t keen to repeat the experience with a six year old on a freezing Scottish Saturday afternoon.

    However, come two o’clock when she asked again for the twentieth time, guilt got the better of me and I gave in. We got dropped off at Abbeyhill and made our way down towards Holyrood, pushing through the, er, almost totally absent crowd. I knew we hadn’t got the wrong day because we’d seen the queen on TV just minutes before we left the house, so where were the hoardes of royal watchers? We strolled right up to the main entrance and positioned ourselves on a concrete block about 6 feet from the barrier. I was convinced we must have missed her, the Royal Palace being a mere 100 metres from where we stood. She was probably back in her sitting room laughing at us from the window.

    But no. A sudden burst of activity as police lined the barrier and the crowd doubled in size, swollen by the mass of plain clothes security people: you could easily spot the little plastic curly wire running from the collar to the ear. And there she was, right in front of us about 8 feet away, dressed in shocking pink and royal waving as she strolled slowly past. Needless to say, Alice was ecstatic. I took a couple of quick snaps with the camera phone, no mean feat with a six year old perched on your shoulders while teetering on the edge of a three-foot drop into an icy pond. Unfortunately, the camera phone being a crappy little device, you’ll need to play spot the queenie. At least you can’t see how much makeup she had on. Absolutely plastered in the stuff.