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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    “Come on, get to sleep now, you’ve got school in the morning and it’s very late”.  Maddie is offering her usual resistance to the bed time routine.  A movement catches my eye.  I turn towards the door and there is Guy, trying to sneak in so he can sleep in the girls room.  He stands motionless,   knowing he’s been spotted but still waiting for the confrontation.  “Out!”,  I shout, pointing back towards the landing.  He miaows defiantly and stares at me, standing his ground.  “Out!!”, I repeat, and this time he turns and walks slowly back out of the room, turning his head to briefly give me that ‘look’.

    I sit to watch some TV, attempting to eat a stir fry with a tongue and lip still numb from the dentist’s anaesthetic.  Thankfully Guy isn’t in the room or he’d be trying to climb all over me for attention and I’m just not in the mood.  The football ends and I watch some news but the anaesthetic has made me sleepy so I head off for an early night.

    Now, where’s that damn cat.  He’s not in his bed.  I check the girls room and disturb Alice but he’s not in there.  I check our room, he’s not in there.  I check the sitting room windowsill to see if he managed to sneak outside and is waiting to be let in but he’s not there either.  I feel uneasy not finding him but I go to bed;  serves him right if he has to stay out all night, he shouldn’t have gone out this late.

    I wake with a start.  A bleary eye tries to focus on the clock. 12.45, who the hell is that at the door?  I decide to ignore it but as my brain slowly rises from sleep I begin to wonder if it might be Roland on his way in from the pub, knocking to let us know that Guy is outside.  I wander down the hall and peer through to spy hole.  Nobody there.  Into the sitting room to check the windowsill again, see if Guy is there.  Nothing.  I go back to bed.

    Moments later, my mobile rings.  Robin.  What does he want at this hour, come to think of it wasn’t that Robin wandering across the road back towards the pub as I looked out of the window just now?  I answer the call.  “Tony. I’m sorry mate, I think I’ve got some bad news… ”   I dress quickly.

    Walking slowly towards the three figures standing over the dark shape lying in the gutter I pray it isn’t Guy, that he will come bounding over to me any moment.  As I get closer, the reality sinks in, with each step I can see more clearly.  My heart lets go of hope and crashes to the ground.

    Rest in peace, Guy.  You were truly special.


    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.

    In-flight Entertainment

    I’ve jumped on the ‘You Tube’ bandwagon and uploaded some of our family videos. I’ve embedded one in this post as a test and started a new category of links in the left hand sidebar called ‘In-Flight Movies’ which links to the individual movies.

    Click to continue reading “In-flight Entertainment”

    6 months later

    6 months have flown by.

    My father-in-law, Bill, passed away on 22nd November, so Louise and her mother faced a difficult Christmas. Louise misses him like mad of course. As does Alice. But, inevitably, life moves on.

    I’m now working full-time (as in PAYE, not on a contract). The company I was contracting for made me an offer I couldn’t refuse so that was that. The end of working for myself after 25 years. I have to say, it’s nice to know exactly what money is coming in and on what day and I don’t really miss the freedom as much as I thought I would. There is something quite reassuring to human beings about routine.

    I’m off to Frank’n’Stephs now to help with their wiring, then they’re coming here to help me plaster. And, no, before you ask, Maddie’s bedroom still isn’t finished.

    Make poverty history

    Here we are, almost a month on from the great march against poverty, and it simply hasn’t worked. We are still broke. In fact we are worse than broke: we have more debt than a small African nation. I have finally conceded that we are never going to win the lottery so the inevitable has happened. Tomorrow morning I take my packed lunch and slide gently back into the strange ritual of 9 to 5. I’ve got a job.

    It all happened rather quickly. Louise used to work in IT recruitment and last week she e-mailed the words “You’re a big jobbie” to several of her former work mates. Unknown to me, this is a secret cry for help in recruitment consultant circles and there was a swift response from one of her ex-colleagues: “Is Tony looking for a job?” Before I knew it I was suited, interviewed, tested and contracted, stitched up like a kipper by the recruitment mafia.

    I must admit that the part-time builder, part-time web developer, part-time house husband routine was not proving to be the most efficient way of tackling things. And, much as I love spending so much time with Maddie, she is starting on solid food now and this is usually a defining moment in the development of nappy content. I am probably stepping back from this one at just about the right moment. Unfortunately, we’ve only seen Holly and William for a few days this summer and there won’t now be an opportunity to do anything else with them before they start back at school in two weeks. Hopefully there will be enough money in the pot by October for a long overdue family holiday at half term.

    Today I am spending my last day of freedom with my builder’s hat on. Maddie’s bedroom still isn’t finished and Louise has warned me that she wants Maddie out of our bedroom before she starts bringing boyfriends home. I think she meant Maddie not herself.

    Eat the rich

    Eat the RichIt was lovely weather for a family stroll in the park today, although a little crowded when we got there.

    Of all the thousands of placards, this one had to be our favourite. Surely there’s a law against incitement to cannibalism?

    Maddie meadows (1)Maddie didn’t wear the official “Make Poverty History” white, but I still think she was suitably dressed. There certainly weren’t a million people there as Bob had asked, but it was all good natured – just one big carnival.

    We chatted with a couple of Police officers at Holyrood Palace on the way home – they’d stood all day totally isolated away from all the action. Apparently, Monday is the day they’re expecting trouble.

    School days

    I don’t think it can have been a very difficult decision for my parents. At the age of about 18 months, we moved to a new housing estate in the suburbs of Luton which had a newly built infant school (ages 5 to 7) about a quarter of a mile away. There was one primary school about a mile away and really only one secondary school about 2 miles away. So when it came to choose where my sister and I went to school, there really wasn’t much of a decision to be made. Here in Edinburgh and with my slightly more complex family structure, the choice of both primary and secondary schools is a much greater and the decision making process much more difficult.

    Holly was the first to go to school, closely followed by William a year later. Their mother, Clare, is Catholic, so she chose to send them to a Catholic Primary school. I didn’t have any say in the matter. In Scotland, if you have children out of marriage, you may as well not exist as a father from a legal perspective, but that’s another matter. Oh, with the exception of The Child Support Agency, of course.

    I have to say that initially I wasn’t too happy about this choice of school as I don’t believe Catholic (or any other segregating label) schools should be allowed. But their mother made the decision and I had to go along with it.

    Three years ago, Louise and I were faced with the same decision with Alice. However, the local primary school has a tarnished reputation to say the least, so, partly for convenience and partly because I had come to see what a good school it was, we chose to send Alice to the same school as Holly & William.

    The time has now arrived for Holly to move on to Secondary school and, once again, I have been largely excluded from the decision making process. During May, Holly sat entrance and scholarship examinations at a number of private schools, although Clare was apparently favouring the Catholic Secondary school, St. Thomas of Aquin’s. To cut a long story short, after a tortuous decision-making process which saw her change her mind more times than the Scottish weather in an average week, she has chosen a private school. Personally, I’m pleased with the choice, albeit still at loggerheads with some of my principals and beliefs.

    At primary school, I think children are still too young to be ‘labelled’ as different by attending a certain school and I don’t think that Catholic religious beliefs are forced upon them too strongly at that stage either. Certainly Alice only seems to be achieving greater understanding that differences between people do exist; she occassionaly attends Sunday School at the local Church of Scotland church, as well as attending the odd mass at the Catholic cathedral. I have greatest difficulty with Catholic schools at the secondary school level, when I think that it’s definitely wrong to isolate one set of children, especially on the basis of the religion they happen to be born into.

    However, I’m not very comfortable with private schools either. It’s still a sad world where opportunity can be ‘bought’ and not made available to everyone on an equal basis. Sure, private schools do offer the crumbs of a few token scholarships to the gifted, not only being seen to bring quality education to the less fortunate but boosting their exam result figures at the same time. It cannot be denied that here in Edinburgh it is important which school you go to, that the tie will open doors for you. I’m pleased for Holly of course, but I wish we lived in a society without these class structures.

    I’m not paying for the school by the way, it’s way above my means, Clare is paying and Holly receives a good bursary. Even if I could afford to send one child to private school, what about the other three? It’s likely that William will follow suit but it does leave me with a big problem in four years when it’s time for Alice to move up.

    Sun, sea and barbie

    Scotland has some beautiful beaches, a few of which are only a stone’s throw from home, but it rarely has the weather to enjoy them, Sunday being no exception.

    We were invitied on a day trip to Yellowcraigs, a lovely sandy beach about 20 miles away, by trusty neighbours Frank’n’Steph. In keeping with the cosmopolitan nature of Leith, the full party consisted of: Louise (token Scot), Me (Luton), Frank (Manchester), Steph (Canada/Germany), Mieche (Frankfurt, Germany), Mel (Darwin, Australia), Stuart (Belfast) and of course the kids (all natives).

    Despite the heavy cloud, it was warm enough and at least we didn’t have to worry about sunburn. Mid-afternoon the weather front finally crossed with a short downpour and people left the beach in droves. We huddled round the barbie and half an hour later and we were rewarded with some sunshine to round off a very pleasant afternoon.

    It was Mel’s first visit to a Scottish beach which she politely described as ‘different’. Hailing from Darwin in The Northern Territories where the temperature rarely drops below 30° C, she must have thought we were all bloody mad.

    By coincidence, my eldest daughter, Holly, was at her class barbeque at the same beach. She is just finishing the last year of Primary School (P7) and faces the daunting step up to a new school in August.