Sunday, 21 February 2016

It's oh-so-quiet

Sorry I've not posted anything this week, it's been a busy one at work and we also had a sick toddler to contend with for the start of the week. I've got a few post ideas I want to get off the ground in the next few days, but just to let you know I haven't disappeared!

This is how ET spent most of Tuesday.


My Sunday Photo 21st February - sunrise over the Fort

The story of why I have this photo is extremely funny. K sold some Pandora charms on eBay and agreed to drop them to the buyer at their home late one evening. She was a little nervous, so I agreed to go with her. It was really dark by the time we arrived at the house and I said I'd 'do the deal', so I get out of the car, walk up to the house and see a woman in her dressing gown open her kitchen window and look at me cautiously. 'You got the charms?', I imagined her saying, to which I'd reply 'you got the money?', like some bizarre, middle-class drug deal. Anyway, she was pleasant enough, the 'deal' went without a hitch, with no PoPo in sight.

Cut to a few days later and Kelly has sold some more charms to the same woman. This time she asks us to meet her at the Fort Shopping Centre at 8am one morning. Sure enough, there she is, waiting for us outside W H Smiths. This time Kelly comes with me and does all the talking, so I'm just stood slightly behind her like an enforcer, or something. The woman hands over the money, we say our thanks and head to Starbucks to grab a latte (something I bet no drug-dealer ever did right after a deal) when Kelly notices the lady has shortchanged us. The woman has made it almost across the car park at this point, so I give chase and flag her down. She is understandably embarrassed and checks her pockets, handing over the missing cash. Once again I thank her and walk away. As I'm walking back to Starbucks, cringing at how embarrassing the whole situation has been, I see the sun cresting over the top of the shops and felt compelled to take this picture.

Kelly, who had been watching the entire ordeal from the warmth and safety of Starbucks and providing a running commentary with one of the Baristas, couldn't stop laughing at how dodgy the sight of me running across a car park, in my long coat and leather gloves, after a woman must look to anyone observing, and has taken to calling my gloves 'come strangle me gloves'...nice.

Anyway, I promise no one was harmed in the taking of this photo...


Sunday, 14 February 2016

#MySundayPhoto 14th Feb 2016

It's Valentine's Day, so what better photo than one showing the two loves of my life: ET and penguins...erm... I meant ET and my wife K, of course! Also penguins.


Saturday, 13 February 2016

Warcraft Weekender...I'm an altoholic

My name is Stephen, and I'm an altoholic.

Hmm...who to play today?


Wednesday, 10 February 2016

Warcraft Wednesday - Returning to the World of Warcraft

I've played World of Warcraft (WoW) since just after release. I'd not really played an MMO prior to that, apart from a quick go of Star Wars Galaxies (my computer at the time wouldn't run it properly) and a grindathon called Ragnarok Online. I don't know what made me suddenly sit up and take notice of WoW, either. Whatever it was, I remember it being sold out everywhere in Birmingham, but my brother managing to get us a copy each whilst he was working away from home on a training course. Since then, I've played for hundreds of hours (I'm too scared to look at my total time played), got one of every class to at least 90 and currently have four level 100 characters. I've raided, I've been casual, I've done PvP and I've never done a single pet battle, because screw that Pokemon crap.

One of my first and most vivid memories of that time is cresting a hill in Dun Morogh as a lowly Gnome Rogue, not having a clue what I was doing and just being amazed by how seamless and vast the world was. I saw the Dwarven capital of Ironforge, built into a distant mountain. I wondered if I could run all the way there; turns out I could, and so much farther.

Sadly I lost all my original screenshots of my early adventures


Tuesday, 9 February 2016

I went to Butlins and hated it

Butlin's has long been a holiday destination of choice for the price-conscious but, having visited for the first time last year for a friend’s 30th birthday, I have to say I was less than impressed. Now, I'm usually pretty easy going with this kind of thing and I'm certainly not a snob but, on this occasion, there were just so many things wrong that it made the whole thing seem that much worse.

Here are five things I hated:


Monday, 8 February 2016

Shave and a haircut

I recently decided to start shaving my head again. The reason for this is that genetics are against me and I'm slowly but surely losing my hair anyway. My hairline has receded and, in the last year or two, I've thinned on my crown, too. I always said that, should I get to the point where I started to get a bald spot, I'd just man up and shave the lot off. I read somewhere once that bald is a choice, balding isn't, and took it to heart. If I'm going to have no hair, I'm going to do it on my terms. I'd allowed my hair to grow for about 6 months and it was getting pretty long, all things considered, but I was so paranoid all the time about how big my bald spot was getting, or how much my hair was thinning.

K tells me I don't have a bald spot, but I've seen enough
photos like this to know she's just being nice...


Sunday, 7 February 2016



Sunday, 31 January 2016

#My Sunday Photo

A trip to West Midlands Safari Park this weekend yielded some pretty cool shots, including these two which I took:



A pirate's life for me!

We've been going pirate mad in this house lately. ET has had the ELC Happyland pirate ship for ages but, recently, he's been much more aware of pirates as a 'thing'. Now, I've been a bit of a pirate geek since I was a child (I even have a pirate themed tattoo!), so I'm happy to see my little landlubber taking an interest in the subject. I'm been (possibly over) encouraging this over the last week or so, so I thought I'd give you a roundup of what we'd been up to.


Tuesday, 26 January 2016

I hate Bing

Have you seen Bing? It's a newish CBeebies cartoon featuring a young rabbit named Bing who lives with a little stuffed animal thing named Flop who isn't his dad, but does sleep in the same bed as him. In fact, all of the 'children' are anthropomorphic animals and all of the 'adults' are stuffed toys. It's pretty weird.


Monday, 25 January 2016

Life's little worries

I regularly worry about whether or not I'm a good dad. I read somewhere that if you worry about being a good parent then you already are a good parent. There might be some truth in that, I suppose, but it doesn't stop me worrying.


Monday, 18 January 2016

Finally Finished...Final Fantasy VII

This is the first post in one of my new features, 'Finally Finished...', where I write about games I've finally finished playing. In today's hectic life it's rare I finish a game and that means some classics get left behind. Join me as I try to finally finish them.

It’s taken almost twenty years, multiple attempts across numerous platforms, but, over the Christmas period, I finally, finally finished Final Fantasy VII.


Game over - do you want to continue?

A friend got in touch earlier in the week. We haven’t seen each other in years (he moved out to Australia some time ago), but we catch up regularly to see how we’re both doing. Whilst catching up, he asked me a simple question: ‘do you still have much time for games?’. We’d known each other since we started secondary school, and gaming was an interest we’d shared ever since, from racing each other to see who could complete the original Tomb Raider fastest (and avoiding homework to do so), or going to each other’s houses to do link up Duke Nukem 3D on Playstation in the days before easy internet console gaming, to even running an internet cafĂ© together where we held local Unreal Tournament and Counter Strike championships (we always won).

I can still hear the theme tune in my head....and the screams of noobs as I wasted them


Sunday, 17 January 2016

Every day is a school day

Despite ET being too young to start worrying about this, people I know are currently running the gauntlet that is picking a primary school for their child. Little did I know just how difficult and stressful this could be, as children are categorised based on any number of arbitrary categories. Seriously, it'd be simpler and fairer to just give them a weapon and pit them against each other in a fight to the death, Battle Royale style.

Have you seen Battle Royale? It's like Hunger Games, only good.


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Saturday, 16 January 2016

Damn that bear!

Some time ago, and completely out of the blue, ET started telling us about 'We're Going on a Bear Hunt'. It was a book he didn't own (one of the few - he's a little bookworm), so we naturally assumed it was something they read to him at nursery. He mentioned it every so often and, over the Christmas break, we were lucky enough to go see a live performance for the 25th anniversary. ET loved it; he clapped, he (tried to) sing along and he particularly liked it when the cast squirted the audience with water pistols and super soakers (I was less impressed by that).

Yeah, you  better run! I'm soaked!

The Book People regularly visit my office. On Tuesday this week, as I went to leave for lunch, I noticed a rather special copy of We're Going on a Bear Hunt; it was a 'deluxe edition'. What this meant was that it came in a cardboard sleeve and the book itself was hardback, but that was about it. It only cost £4, so I felt it unwise to quibble over the definition of 'deluxe' in this instance, plus I was excited that we'd finally got a copy of this wonderful book, a book my son had gone on and on about for months now. I looked forward to reading it to him that very night as part of his bedtime routine.



Omar is a friend of mine, though we've not actually spoken in far too long.

Omar has an infectiously positive personality; his big smile and cheeky chappy attitude make him someone you want to hang round with, someone who brightens your day just by saying hello and makes you feel good about yourself on even your worst days. His almost encyclopedic knowledge of Simpson's quotes kept us laughing for ages.

I first met Omar in 2005; we were both working for Pertemps People Development Group (or PPDG for short) as Employment Consultants; he'd been there a while and knew the lay of the land. It was my first 'proper' job, fresh out of uni, so he took me under his wing and helped me learn the ropes. He taught me many, many valuable things: to never judge people at first glance; to always treat them with respect, no matter their background; to always believe in yourself, even when your path was beset by challenges. Omar used to put pictures of Muhammad Ali around his training room, featuring  inspirational quotes like 'he who is not courageous enough to take risks will accomplish nothing in life' and 'I hated every minute of training, but I said 'don't quit; suffer now and live the rest of your life as a champion'. I used to think they were cheesy, but I can't deny they were effective.

It was Omar that helped me get into training and helped me find a passion for helping others through my work - something that I still need to feel job satisfaction even now. I need to know that, no matter how remotely, what I do matters and is having a positive effect on the world and the people in it. Omar had a profound impact on my life and I've never thanked him for that.

I left PPDG in August 2008 and I've not seen Omar since, though we've spoken via Facebook a few times. We'd always make plans to meet and have a proper catch up, but life often got in the way and plans fell through.

Omar died on January 1st, 2016.


Daddy Day Care

Today I'm looking after ET alone as K has gone away to visit our friends up near Leeds. I joked we'd have a boys night, with pizza and movies and beer. Well, it was only partly a joke; we've got pizza for dinner, we'll probably end up watching Toy Story 3 for the umpteenth time and we'll be replacing beer with water. Yeah. We're hardcore.

Currently, as I sit here typing this, ET is sharing his Mini Cheddars with our dog, Watson. They're thick as thieves, this pair, and have been since day one. The living room floor wouldn't look out of place in a scene from Home Alone, littered as it is with various toys and books, each uniquely painful to step on barefoot. I ask ET to tidy some away and he looks about him at the chaos he has unleashed, shrugs and turns back to force-feeding the dog, who seems oblivious to the fact he's sitting on a small plastic Mickey Mouse figure.

On my rapidly-dying tablet I'm watching episodes of Community, a favourite show of mine. Having recently finished season 5 I've gone back to start from the beginning again (what better place to start other than the beginning?). I'd forgotten how relatively normal those early episodes are, particularly in comparison to later seasons. In fact, it isn't until quite late in season 1, the episode Modern Warfare to be precise, that you see the real craziness that Community always had running under the surface come to the fore in a glorious, action movie homage-laden slice of fried comedy gold.


The Working Dad?

Yes! Clever, right? I thought so. My wife Kelly has put a lot of work into her blog (the wonderful To Become Mum) and at first it seemed like a good idea to just name my blog to become dad. The more I thought about it, however, the more I realised that wasn't fair to Kelly and all her efforts and would just be me trying to capitalise on that, so I decided a slight rebrand was in order.

You're probably thinking that I must be a huge Walking Dead fan to choose such a name, right? Well yeah, it's okay, I suppose. I enjoyed season one, season two lost me, season three brought me back, season four I got bored and I've not watched any since. I've also read a number of the comics, but I wouldn't say I'm a massive fan or anything. In fact, my favourite thing about the Walking Dead is the fantastic Rick/Carl meme jokes...

But none of that should stop me rebranding to make use of a fine pun - and who doesn't love a good pun?


Woah there, ugly!

I'm new to this blogging thing, so please bear with me whilst I find my way around and, importantly, make this site somewhere you can visit without making your eyes want to vomit!

Why I've started a blog

Why have I started a blog?

There are a number of reasons why I’ve decided to start blogging: to help keep a record of what we’ve been up to as a family; to write about things that interest me; to vent; to help connect with other, like-minded people.

As someone who has actively used the internet since the late ‘90s, I’ve seen blogging rise from being a past time of the weird and the shut in (like most things on the internet) to becoming a genuine and wonderful way for people to connect, talk about things they’re doing or that they’re interested in and I have seen, first-hand, how passionate my wife is about her blog To Become Mum and all the opportunities it has afforded us since it began.

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