Friday, 31 December 2010

2010. MONTAGE!

2010 has been an eventful year. In January I was looking for a new job between trips to Scotland. Jack was going to Honeybuns nursery 3 days a week and Helen was well on her way to a managerial promotion. Now, Jack is in nursery school 5 mornings a week and a nursery 2 afternoons. I'm now a full time student and Helen is freshly unemployed. We spend a lot of time watching Ben 10 or Scooby Doo or going to soft play areas and lots of other childrens' activities.

I've lost count of how many times I've come to January and found little or no resemblance at all to it's predecessor. Once, a few years ago, I found myself in England. A few years later I had a 2 month old boy and was working in payroll and as a technical writer looking at a couple of very promising promotion opportunities. My mother once remarked on this aspect of my life when I was about 16. Since I was about 6 years old, my life has been nothing but continuous and dramatic changes. She wondered if I'd noticed and what I thought of it. I had noticed but didn't have an answer, I still don't have a good one. At least it's not boring.

Anyway, here's a quick pictorial montage of some of this years journey.

Jack had chicken pox. 10 days of itching and all that. It's certainly not the worst illness of the year, shortly afterward he had swine flu, which was fun. I don't have a picture of that... sadly.

X-rayed. Jack occasionally has very vivid dreams. He'll wakes up thinking things have happened, such as wetting the bed. This was the night he dreamed he swallowed a coin... That was a long night in hospital. To this day he still insists that he really swallowed that coin. While I'm writing this he's telling me I didn't dream it, it was real.

We made it to Utah, thanks to my being made redundant. Jack met much of my family for the first time during those two weeks of craziness. Looking back we really wish we'd stretched it for another week. There just wasn't enough time.

Jack talks continuously about returning to America, he misses all of his cousins and especially Grandma and Grandpa and Grandpa Bob. At least once a day he reminisces about the trip and begs us to go back soon... We're working on it.

While in America we took Jack out for his first cinema experience, Toy Story 3. We went all out and bought him his own popcorn, sweets and soda. He loved the movie and has now made going to the cinema a regular family activity.

Jack - center - also met his half-sister for the first time. Samatha - right - has not had virtually any contact with Jack, or me for that matter in nearly ten years. By some miracle my mother managed to arrange a trip to the aquarium for us. Jack loved meeting his sister, and her sister Austen - left. Samantha and Jack got along in no way like brother and sister normally do. They laughed and played together like best friends. So many aspects of their personalities are so similar it's was a little spooky.
Samantha and I now write each other as regular as we're able. It means so much to me I can't even tell you.

Jack's first attempt at a bubble beard. They're bubble mutton-chops really but the spirit is the same.

 Jack turned 4 this year, he's growing up.
This year Jack has had many different jobs.
He's been a fireman.

A drummer.

 A Pirate.

A Skeleton.

A Reindeer.

Buzz Lightyear.

 The skull on a pirate flag.

And a shepherd in his first school play.

So here we are now at the end of 2010. Jack is Ironman, Helen is looking for a new job and I'm just putting the finishing touches on my video game school assignment. We've had a lot of successes this year and a lot of firsts. We've fought illness and job loss, we've traveled, re-united family and re-established old connections. We've had good new and news so unbearably bad that I can't bear to even think about it.

In the new year we hope for more firsts and seconds and fifths (slight Monty Python reference there for those that may have missed it). We have 12 more potentially life altering months to get through, with the events of the last couple months we're already looking at a very windy road. God only knows if we'll end up in such an alien place this time?
- We shall not cease from exploration. And the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.
  - T. S. Eliot


Saturday, 25 December 2010


Here is a message from Jack aka Ironman. As well as some footage of the unwrapping process.

Happy Christmas everyone.

Thursday, 23 December 2010

End of Term.

I made it through my first term. It's been a pretty steep learning curve over the last 13 weeks, some classes have been easier than others, some teachers have been better than others. All in all it's been a good experience and I'm looking forward to the next term.

So far I think I'm looking at distinctions all around. One of the classes is a little iffy and another hasn't been graded yet but I'm moderately confident in both cases.

It's incredible how much we've all learned in just 13 weeks. Some of the lecturers have tried to point this out but I think largely it was lost on most the students. On one occasion around about week 5 we were shown a game engine that a student from another school had built, after class we all sat around in the SU for lunch and discussed (in depth) how each of us would go about building something similar, or how we thought certain effects had been implemented. Just 5 weeks before none of us would have even had the vocabulary for such a conversation let alone the know how. Similar discussions etc have taken place several times since then, it really is incredible how much we've learned already.

Generally I like most of my teachers, one in particular has really inspired me, sadly I have no classes with him next term. Most of the teachers got to know me pretty quickly, probably due to the lip ring, American accent and the fact I ask a lot of questions. I've found them all to be very helpful, however not always entirely knowledgeable on many of the subjects that I inquire about, and very approachable.

When it comes to my fellow students I'm generally at a loss. Being a student is great because you get loads of discounts and freebies. But going to school with them is a trial, I think in general they just puzzle me. Most of them are hungover at least twice a week. They don't sleep, some of them don't eat, many of them stink. The teachers use the term 'The Great Unwashed' when referring to the student body. I guess I just have a hard time remembering that they're just kids, still figuring it all out, I wasn't any different.

What gets me is all the students that don't take any of this seriously. Now this I get, I really disliked school and everything that came with it until... well... September this year. But lots of these kids are the same kids that miss two of three lectures, leave their work until the last minute and drink their student loans but then head out to London to protest the rise in tuition... I sat in a class test on the last day of term and looked around at the 80ish students, easily 50 of whom I'd never seen before and couldn't help but think that maybe there was more to the reason behind the change to a 9k limit and budget slash. I suppose it's just their level of maturity and experience when compared to mine... yup.

Things I've learned, outside of the curriculum.
  • There's great potential for ecological research in a University setting. Several of my teachers caught 'freshers flue' and catch it every year. Apparently this years was particularly bad.
  • The same strategy I use to relax before a gig works just as well when applied to presentation assignments and demos. Why mess with some superstitions?
  • When going to extra effort when creating a 3d animation, make sure that you have access to a PC that can actually render it when you're done.
  • Video games are surprisingly easy to make when you borrow a working framework.
  • The majority of academics, are nuts.
  • Always ask about student discounts, you'd be surprised what you can get. Free cheeseburgers for instance.
  • Universities should consider the resulting gender imbalance before moving all of their technical classes to their other site... or perhaps the did.
  • Always hand in your assignments the day before they're due. But have the finished long before that.

1 down, 5 (or 8 I'm not sure) to go.

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Change back to the Dylan flag


Jack told me this morning.
I miss Dylan, I think I'm going to change my flag back to the Dylan flag.

Lately Dylan has been a little neglected. New toys and teddies have been hogging the spotlight.

Bagpuss in particular has been the main contender for the top slot. This is a pink and white striped cat that we got Jack due to his obsession with another Bagpuss at his day nursery. He's had Bagpuss since October and we were starting to think that Dylan had been usurped. It seems though that Dylan is not out of the game. This morning Jack expressed regret that he's been giving all of his attention to the other teddies and that from now on, the true hierarchy would be restored with Dylan on top.

Today Jack has taken Dylan everywhere with us, making up for lost time he says, it seems that Jack intends to repair the damage to their relationship.

Today Bagpuss has only managed to make it downstairs, while other new teddies remain in bed, Dylan made it to McDonald's and then all the way to Stafford.

Monday, 20 December 2010


I'm planning some changes to this site over the Christmas break, new pages and such. I'm pretty much just going to make them as I have time. So make sure you have a look around from time to time.

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

The School Play.

I'm finally one of those parents for whom the highlight of the month is a school play.

Jack's very first school play came around. Helen and I were really looking forward to it. We bought our tickets early and counted down the days. We both made efforts to keep the whole day clear and planned a trip to McDonalds as a reward for performing well. We acquired permission to film it, though they explicitly said we couldn't post it on the web, sorry, and we went armed with the camcorder.

We were so happy to find out that Jack was playing a shepherd, partly because we already had a shepherd costume that still fit him, but we didn't like the idea of him playing a cow, or a rock. I didn't know a lot, or anything at all, about the play and assumed that the cows were more or less scenery and that the shepherds were a somewhat bigger role. It didn't really occur to me that these kids were only three and four years old... so things like role differentiation were not likely.

The school play was a recorded narration speaking between group sing-a-longs that roughly resembled the nativity. The kids all sang along to 5 or so songs that were popular songs (Disney related mostly) that had been adapted lyrically to include nativity related subjects. Sometimes they danced, sometimes they played along with air-instruments.

Jack did none of this, I'm not sure if it's because we were there and distracting him or what but for the whole ten minutes Jack did his own thing while most of the other kids followed the routine as best they could.

He fidgeted, and giggled, and talked to his neighbor Conner. A nearby teacher very patiently tried to encourage him to play along but he paid her little mind. At one segment all the kids had to sway from side to side then spin around a couple of times. Jack missed this all together, was then reminded by one of the teachers and spend the next 2 minutes spinning around. When prompted to stop he struggled to stay on his feet.
Some of the other children had similar things going on as well. One child was was pulled out of the group very early on when he burst into a fit of tears. Some of the kids shouted when they were certain of the words and then barely hummed when they weren't.

Jack spent the second to last song with the flaps of his hat wrapped up on his head like a turban, the teacher tried discreetly to pull them back down but this of course just encouraged him.
The last song is when he pulled his hat down over his eyes, he thought it was very funny.
I sat in the audience with my camcorder held high and proudly pretended that mine was another child.

Sunday, 12 December 2010


Here I am again with another battery powered bicycle trying to get to school for that fabled 12p per day.

I bumped into A.S. Bikes a couple weeks ago at the caravan and motorhome show, yes that's the type of thing that I do for fun... Anyway I had a long talk with one of the salesman/engineers that we running the thing. I told him about my experience with Batribike (I hadn't returned it at this point) and implied that I might be in the market for another one very soon.

So I called Friday to make a Wednesday, 1 hour, appointment, (as is their request) to see the bikes. Their showroom is only an hour or so away from me. I thought the appointment was a bit of a hassle at the time because they had very limited times available but in the end was glad to have done it that way.

The staff are very good, during my hour session I was given a complete run down of the bike including a training session on everything down to adjusting the derailleur cable. Booking the appointments lets them do all this for each customer on an individual basis.

The bike.

I've got the ElectroBike Plus which is basically their MK3 model with bigger wheels and wheel related things. I picked up the bike myself on Wednesday Oct, 10th.

It's a folding bike, which is great for me and I wish I'd given it more consideration the first time around. The bike folds down to something that you could sling over your shoulder and take on the bus, A.S. even sell a shoulder bag for this very purpose. It's great because it means if I ever get stuck somewhere and need to be retrieved via a combustion powered vehicle, it's not a problem, the bike will just fold up and go in the boot.

It's a dutch style bike which I've never riden before. The position of the handle bars to the front wheel is taking some getting used to but the seating position is much more comfortable. My shoulders and back don't ache at all after having ridden for over an hour.

On full assist the bikes is supposed to get up to 30 miles, this may very well be an under-rating. I've ridden the bike to Stafford and back (24 miles) using the throttle assist almost the whole way and still have over half power.

The specs:
It's got a 250W motor powered by a 36V lithuim battery. This is a pretty common spec I've found among the higher ranges. The bike weighs 24.75 kilos with battery, which surprisingly just a fraction lighter than the BatriBike. It's got 6 gears on a twist grip, meaning no buttons, you twist to change up and down. The power controls are a great deal more simplistic that many of these bikes, you've got a twisting handle throttle and a 3 position switch... that's it.
Further specs can be found on the website, those are just the ones I thought I'd mention.

The Ride:

The bike rides nicely, it's smooth and light. I mentioned that the steering is taking some getting used too. I can get all the way to Stafford and back having hardly broken a sweat if I want to and in good time as well.

The simple set up of the power assist works very well. The bike has three settings, Off, Economy and Assist. On the Economy setting the bike only gives assistance when you twist the throttle. The idea is that you pedal along until you want a little help and then twist. The assist mode I'm struggling with a little bit, only in that I can't actually feel it working. When the bike is set to assist mode the motor is going all the time, it's calculating how fast you're pedaling (not how hard) and then helping you along. I can get this to work when the bike it stationary and I can hear the motor engaging when I'm riding but I genuinely can't feel any assistance, I should note that in assist mode it's supposed to only assist up to 15ish mph so it may just be because I tend to drive around in the highest gear and am typically moving 12 mph+ everywhere I dunno...

Good looking, comfortable ride.
Great performance.
Fold-able which means cheaper insurance and more portability.
The amount of information you get when you purchase one of these, on things such as use, care, setup and maintenance is really nice.

Clearance. It's proving quite difficult keeping the pedals in a position where they won't scrape on the ground when I take a sharp bend at any speed... I'm really having a hard time with this because every time the pedals hit the ground I lose my balance, I've nearly come off twice.

I think I preferred the torque sensors on the Batribike, measure how hard your pedaling rather than how fast just seems more logical.

A.S. Bikes are only open 1 day a week. This is for a very practical reason though. A.S. Bikes are actually A.S. Toys, they run two businesses at once and simply have to balance their workload. When I arrived for my appointment I was greeted by about 100 or so puppets hanging around one side of the showroom, the other side had all of their display bikes neatly lined up.

Thursday, 9 December 2010

The Cuddly Room.

I've gone on an on about Jack's love for teddies in the past, but I feel compelled to write a little about it again.

Recently Jack has almost doubled his roster of plush toys and he couldn't be any happier with himself. But it also meant that his bedroom is a tad on the crowded side at night. One night while getting Jack ready for bed Helen noticed that she literally couldn't see the floor for the teddies. So Jack picked his favorites, Dyan, Bagpuss and a couple others and Helen moved the rest into the spare bedroom.

A couple days later Jack wandered into the spare bedroom after spying one of his teddies. He immediately started relocating every teddy he could find into the room so they could all have a great big cuddle in the newly declared 'Cuddle Room'.

Sunday, 5 December 2010

Y? Because we gotta?.. Really?

This time of year is what I've come to think of as the party season. Nearly all of Jack's friends from the play group, and many from school it would seem, were born within four months of each other. The result being a birthday party of some description virtually every weekend between October and December.
Last year I'd personally had enough after about the first three. I'm not hugely social and since we were seeing the same people in the same setting each week I quickly ran out of things to speak to them about.
We all hosted our respective parties in different locations. Some were at soft play areas where the were usually hundreds of children, parents, chaos and noise everywhere you looked. The organisation was weak and the food overpriced. The amount of money some paid for these parties was cringe-worthy when you got right down to it.
Some were held at homes where the only real problem was crowding. None of us have very big homes and once all 30 of us are there it gets hard to move about.
Generally the kids seemed to have had a good time which really is the whole point but I was glad when it was over. Evidence that I wasn't the only one has come through a little bit this year as much more effort seems to have gone into keeping the costs down and such and the parties short.
With that in mind this year has been quite different so far. The parties have been much more uniform mostly in that they've all been held at the same place, Fuzzy Ed's. Basically it's a wacky warehouse around the back of a pub but the kids like it and the parties are ok. One by one we all succumbed to the lure of Fuzzy Ed, mostly due to price, but the food is good, the parties are consistent, limited to two hours and the kids like it.
So far we're about three quarters through party season. We've had even more parties this year due to Jack receiving a few invited from some of his new friends from school, by some extraordinary coincidence they've also been at Fuzzy Ed's. It's an even better scenario for me as since I don't know anyone I have to get through it by being friendly, speaking when I'm spoken to and otherwise sitting in the corner writing my blog on my phone. I bet they're just thrilled that I came along. Helen does much better which makes up for it I think.

Sent from my BlackBerry® wireless device. Amazing.

Monday, 22 November 2010

The Straw.

We went out for a meal this week. When we came to order our food we asked Jack if he'd like some of the lemon drink (7up) that he's lately developed a taste for. It's a welcome change from Fruit Shoots.

When the waiter arrived with the drinks Jack was, at first, concerned by the size of the bottle his 7up was in. Wow that's huge, I'm not going to even be able to lift it. But the waiter was one step ahead of him and promptly stuck a bendy straw into the bottle. Jack loves bendy straws and he was fascinated at how the straw managed to float in the bottle all by itself so it was a good resolution.

About 15 minutes into the meal Jack started having a little trouble with his drink. It seemed that the more he drank, the lower into the bottle the straw seemed to sink. At one point Jack nearly lost the straw in the bottle. 'Not to worry' we remedied the situation by changing the bend in the straw so that it hung rather than floated. Jack was once again happy with the solution and carried on.
A few more minuted passed before I watched Jack lose the straw down into the bottle. He discretely attempted to retrieve the straw first with his tongue, then his lips then his fingers. Finally he gave up and sighed saying... So much for that idea...

Sunday, 14 November 2010

Little Monkeys Walking in the Hills


Jack and I try to walk the dogs as often as possible. Our usual trek is a three quarter mile circuit around Hednesford Hills just up the road from our house.

Jack isn't a big fan of the walks as you can imagine. His mood when the initial announcement of the walk is made tells of how much of a fight we're in for. He complains for the duration of the walk that he's bored or tired or more commonly that is legs don't bend in the middle.

Some days aren't so bad, possibly he's just resigned to his fate a little easier, these are the days we have our most insightful conversations. Sometimes we talk about hugely complicated issues such as school, autumn, hot-air balloons, the speed of sound, planetary alignment etc. Sometimes he just walks along in his own little world talking to himself or singing songs. Today he was singing.

Sent from my BlackBerry® wireless device. Like you even care.

Sunday, 7 November 2010

Reward Chart

Today we start the reward chart, we join all the other parents taking advice from the likes of the super-nannies. Jack is generally a very well behaved child, this is just intended to break a few behavioral habits. These are the little things with which we have trouble every... single... day. You can almost set your watch by them. This has been a long time coming.

There are four main habits that we're out to defeat.

Dinner time.

Since Jack's teeth came in we've had trouble at dinner time. I don't know what it is about that meal but he always puts up a fight when it comes to eating it. He'll gab, and fiddle and play about until finally resorting to just flat out refusal to eat at all. It's rare that dinner takes any less than an hour from the time we sit down and with bed time looming it can be quite stressful for us, Jack can't seem to get to sleep with a full tummy. We've tried all sorts of things to encourage him to just eat his dinner but it's never got any better. This is one of the main elements of the reward chart.

Dog walking.

Jack doesn't like walking the dogs and often will whinge and complain every step of the way. It makes the whole thing stressful for us and the dogs and normally we've not got a lot of time.

Whinging and generally talking back.

This is my big thing. Complaining is one thing, everyone's got their opinion and should be free to express displeasure but I cannot abide whinging. My self-control goes right out the window at the first whine.

Jack's also recently developed the charming little habit of talking back. We're trying to head this one off at the pass.


You'd swear he was deaf if you never said certain keywords like sweets or toys. Yes he's only 3 but it goes a little beyond that, I can handle having to tell jack something twice, three, or even four times, but it doesn't seem to really matter with Jack most the time. You can tell him something a hundred times and he'll still ignore you. Sure he's 3 and easily distracted but a lot of the time he's just plain not interested in what you're trying to tell him and if you do finally manage to get his attention he responds with a very teenage sounding, Alright fine Ugh!

The chart is primarily designed to promote good behavior though, at least that's what we've gone for. There's a lot more opportunity for him to move up the chart than down and the rewards are scaled and are very instant, starting with balloons and sweets and going up to toys. He gets rewarded for things like tidying his toys, whinge free events, eating his dinner. In the opposite spectrum, mis-behavior mostly leads to confiscation of toys and teddies.

So far he's going alright, he's earned 3 Spongebob (good) points and 1 Squidward (bad) point, which he earned this morning before we'd even put the chart up.

Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Batribike Part 4

It occurred to me as I drove the two hour journey to Lincolnshire that I was driving roughly the same number of miles that I estimate I got out of the Batribike, 208.

Today I returned the Batribike for a full refund. Two or so weeks ago I had yet another problem, just as with the first bike the pedal spindle, crank, lower bracket, whatever you crazy kids are calling it now-a-days developed 'play' in it. This resulted in an irritating clicking while pedaling and will eventually result in the bearings burning out and the whole thing seizing up.

While I'm confident that Batribike would have been able to fix this for me I'm thinking long term, what happens if every two months I'm having to drive 208 miles to get this fixed?

I spent my childhood riding a bike, right up until I was 16. I always had mountain bikes because I has a 200+ paper route for 8 years and needed the bike to be able to haul 80lbs of news papers 7 days a week. I also needed a bike that I could ride in all terrains because I did a lot of off road biking too. Throughout the years I can remember going through at least 4 bikes, one of which I broke literally in two within a matter of hours. Needless to say I developed quite a bit of know how when it comes to bike repair. I've broken every thing that's breakable on a bike including having bent the frame on two separate occasions and often had to fix them on the go. I've genuinely never managed to break a spindle, nor have I ever heard of one breaking and I'm not even riding this bike anywhere near that hard, not even off-road. Batribike are puzzled as to how I've managed to do this twice, there's not really anything breakable down there, its just two bearings around a metal rod and it's rated for 130 kg (I only weigh 85) but alas...

So, as this is likely the last installment in this review simply due to the empty space in my front hall where the bike used to be, my final conclusion is this.

I still wholeheartedly recommend Batribike, I can account first hand for their performance (battery-wise) and the customer service I received was top notch in fact as far as service goes I can't praise them enough.

As far as the actual quality of the bike is concerned I'm going with this. These bikes are designed to be driven, not ridden. By this I mean, if you're looking for a bike to ride on a casual basis, such as while you're out camping or just a little gentle non-impact exercise then look no further than Batribike. I wouldn't suggest the Granite specifically due to it's shear size and weight but certainly any of the other lighter models. In my opinion this makes the mountain bike styling of the Granite a little redundant, I went for it because of the look, not really thinking of my back.
If you're looking for a commuter bike (like me), or a work horse then Batribike are probably not up to the job...

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Balloon Representations of Objects Real or Fake.

I came home from school and was immediately met with a request. Jack loves balloons, he'll do anything to get one and he plays with them probably more than anything else. He's especially thrilled with the concept of tying a helium filled balloon to his hand he didn't know you could do that.

Anyway with the request came a little background. Jack had spent the day at a wacky warehouse where he'd received a balloon sword.
It's not a very good pirate sword.

One of my party tricks is balloon animals, I've done this for the kids quite a few times, so Helen reminded Jack of this and suggested that he ask me to make something a little bit better than a pirate sword. So I dug out my balloons and pump and readied for the challenge. 

"Ok what do you want me to make?"
I want green
"Ok, I have a green balloon here. What shall I make that's green?"
A lightsaber...

A few minutes later he was thrilled to notice that it doubled as a snake... Both my specialties in one.

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Blog on the run.

Here I am. I've finally run out of pre-written stuff for this blog. With school work and Jack work I've just not found much time to keep my buffer. I think the regular Sunday 9am update is going to stop for at least a few weeks.

So as a temporary measure I'm resorting to mobile blogging, basically I'm going to try posting things in a more real-time-like fashion, from whatever means I have with me at the time. There are likely to be some teething problems for a while as I won't likely have my usual access to things like spell checkers and I'm kinda doing this all un-rehearsed.

While this will certainly affect the quantity of material posted it hopefully won't affect the quality too much.

Sent from my BlackBerry® wireless device. Like you even care.

Sunday, 17 October 2010

On your Bike.

The Batribike is still up and running, so far so good I guess. I'm going out of my way to ride it at every opportunity, this is supposed to replace my car over the next 4 years while I'm living the life of a penny-less student. So far I think it's paying off. My monthly diesel bill is down a bit this month but with the incoming winter that's likely to be short lived.

Jack loves the Batribike, though he's pretty bummed that he can't have a ride on it by himself. Every now and again he asks me to help him sit on it. I hold him up while he stretches himself from the seat to the handle bars and pretends it's a motorcycle.

Jack has a bicycle of his own, while he likes to ride it he doesn't ever like to ride it very far. We've recently got a gator-bar that we can use to attach it to Helen's bike, he really likes it but were struggling to get a stable attachment. It's still a work in progress, I've made a couple of modifications for which I have high hopes but we haven't had a chance to test it out again yet. We do, however have a trail-a-tot chariot, basically a trailer for a bicycle. This was initially intended for the dogs but they really don't like it, so I've been using it for Jack instead.

The pedal assist makes towing him a lot easier than you might think. I think the sensors on the bike detect and compensate for the extra weight so aside from the hook-up, which is a bit of a process, it's not much trouble for us to go out for a ride. He really likes the chariot, he sits strapped in while we cruise around town. We take little rides down to the park and he screams as we go down the big hills and converses with me about whatever profound subject is on his mind at that moment. I think he likes it most because there are lots of pockets inside in which he can put whatever toy he happened to bring along. It's like his own little car. I think he also likes that everyone stares and points as we sail by in out little convoy. People seem to really get a kick out of the concept and Jack just likes people to be looking at him.

The winter so far has put the damper on any real bike rides, the constantly imminent rain is quite discouraging when you have a child that detests getting wet as much as Jack does. It's a shame that the bike wasn't sorted out earlier in the year. All the same I'm looking forward to next summer when Jack and I can ride more often.

Sunday, 10 October 2010



Jack and I play a lot of games together. Mostly it's things like hide-and-seek or chasing each other. Lately he's been favoring Bakugan and other battle type games.

Video games are a fairly regular activity. Generally he prefers to sit on my lap and watch as I play his game choices on the PSP. Sometimes he'll have a go himself, he struggles with the coordination required but he's getting better.

For the last couple of days he's been asking to play bowling on the Wii. He's no stranger to the Wii games, I think he likes them because he understands how to play them, he's tried them all but prefers bowling and boxing.

So today he asked me if we had time to play bowling before he went to bed. I agreed and we fired up the Wii. Forty minutes or so later we'd played through 4 frames and Jack was averaging 160. Now I know how to play the sport, I'm relatively well practiced and I only average about 180... I said I was practiced I didn't say I was very good. Out of the four frames played Jack beat me twice, all be it only by 5 pins or so each time but a win is a win. His highest score was 170, beating my 166. As I began to realize how well he was doing I flicked on my video camera on my phone and recorded a few of his shots.

I don't know how he does it, he just flails his arm about and the ball just gravitates to the pins.

Every father dreads the day when his son surpasses him in some capacity. We're forced to accept that one day our prodigies will clobber us, they grow bigger, stronger and older, and we just get older. For most fathers it's football or basketball. In my case it's more likely to be Mario Kart, Halo or Counter-strike and I fear that it may be sooner than I'd expected.

Sunday, 3 October 2010

Oh he is ssssllloow

Jack is having a sick day. He's got an upset stomach so we decided to keep him out of school in case it's something viral. It's just as well really because I need to take him to the dentist this morning any way, provided his stomach settles.

So, since I have the day off school, we spent the morning watching cartoons in our pajamas.
After one show ended Jack started behaving strangely. His antics seemed to be taking a great deal longer than usual, there was also a strange echoing ch ch noise.

Something happened to my video encoder, and I'm too lazy to figure it out, but not to lazy to type this.

This came about as the result of the Duck Dodgers episode that we had watched earlier on.
If you've never seen the new Duck Dodgers cartoons I highly recommend them, some of the humor in it is truly inspired and yes, that really is Tom Jones singing the theme.It's is a modern remake on the Looney Toons character. In this episode Dodgers was given a cybernetic suit that make him super strong and all that, the only thing with it is that whenever he did anything that could be seen as 'dramatic' it was always in slow motion.

Sunday, 26 September 2010

Her Story

Some of you may have noticed that I left Helen out of the New Beginning post. This was deliberate, Helen actually asked me to leave this out for a while.

That Monday was also life changing for her as it's the first day in the week in which she will learn her employment fate. She was waiting to hear about about a new job.

That's right, Helen in on the hunt for a new job. We found out a couple weeks or so ago that the contract her team works on is not being renewed. Officially she's got a job until December, then who knows. Fortunately she's not under any real threat of unemployment just yet. Her company has a few things going and there's few things about that she's more than qualified for.

As it stands now, she was turned down for a position for which she was a shoe-in but based on the feedback we've had from people who've interviewed for the company involved it's just as well. They don't sound like much fun. They turned down Helen (we think) because of where we live, they turned down a colleague because she wore green fingernail polish. The timing was a bit off too, it would have meet a possible 6 weeks away training and I don't know how Jack and I would have managed having both just started school. Still it's a bit of a downer, that job would have started right away and everything would have been right back to normal, after the training...

So it's all fun and games for us at the minute. Helen is quite stressed, looking for work is a full time job. She spends most of her time on the phone with agencies, updating her CV and such. She's relishing the chance to branch out a little but she's worried too.

Sunday, 19 September 2010

A New Beginning.

The day has finally arrived. Tomorrow Jack and I both start school. Well, Jack is going into school nursery but it's more school-like than regular nursery and it's at the primary school he will be attending.

For Jack it marks his transition from toddler into boyhood. From here on out he'll only get more independent, gradual though it may be. Jack insists that he doesn't want to grow up, he's going to be a boy forever but that doesn't seem to apply when it comes to school. He's been there for two trial days and he's excited to go back. We don't know much about what he got up to while he was there. When we ask him he just says, I'll tell you another day. We do know that he's made a new friend, Fin, who is a boy of frightfully similar personality. On the second day they both actively sought each other out for a game of chase.

I'm finally going to start university. I've got fifteen hours of week of lectures and for each one of those hours they estimate three hours of study time. My course is among the more demanding and difficult courses offered by the school and on top of that I've been out of education for 12 years and I wasn't a fan, so I'm in for a bit of a shock. Hopefully the ends will be worth it. In four years I'll have my degree and hopefully my foot in the door to a real job rather than the entry level stuff we un-edjumacated folk are forced to suffer. Lots of people keep telling me that degrees are useless now-a-days, there may be some truth to this but that's only because most people who say this have degrees themselves, the competition is fierce out there. Try being the person without a degree when looking for a job, let me know how well you do.

Today we're heading up to the school to finish enrollment and pick up all my student related paraphernalia. Jack is looking forward to finally getting a real look around my school and I'm looking forward to seeing again some of the students I met at Step Ahead.

So tomorrow marks a big day for our family. It's essentially the start of a whole new world for us, wish us luck.

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

Out of Nursery into the fire.

Thursday was Jack's last day at Honeybuns nursery. He's attended once a week since he was seven months old, twice a week for a while. For most of his life, Nursery was what he did on Thursdays.

Jack started out as a member of the baby group, then moved to Tweenie and eventually graduated as a Hedgehog... or something like that. All the different groups had names but they changed so often it was hard to keep track.

Jack's time at nursery has been turbulent. For months at a time Jack would cry and sob at the very thought of having to go. Other times he'd be Super Excited. We never got any explanation or really understood why. His experiences there have been mixed. He's been bitten, collided with, smacked and punched. For a number of months we had to sign the accident book to explain away all his various bruises and bumps. I always wanted to put down something like "he was talking when he should have been listening" as a reason just to see what would happen... He's come home with green feet, red hands and various other color/body-part combinations. He's learned colors, several letters, counting and learned several songs and stories. He loves the staff and speaks of them frequently.

Aside from that we don't know much about the specifics of what Jack actually got up to, not from his point of view anyway because he never wanted to talk about it. If we asked him he'd just say Let's talk about it another day. The only information we got was from the staff.

He's made quite a few friends, sadly none of whom we've ever seen outside of the nursery. He's leaving behind good friends such as Libby, Joe and Jack Salvi, none of whom appear to be going to his same school.

So on his last day Jack took in some treats for everyone, said all his goodbyes and now is off to pastures new, school nursery starts in a week.

Monday, 6 September 2010

The Movies.

Daddy you know last week when we went to America, we went to a biiiig tv, it was huge.

We went to the movies yes.

I want to go there again some day.


And you know what we can watch... Buzz Lightyear 5. It's the really funny one. They get dropped onto a big truck, then they get dropped into a playground, and then the playground goes *PEWM*.

We took Jack to the movies while we were in America. It was Jack's first cinema experience. We went all out and bought him the kids movie pack, which came with popcorn, sweets and a drink all stuffed into a little box. Jack proudly toted his box into the theater and chose our seats. Jack sat perched on a booster seat with Helen and I on either side and his grandparents behind him. As he munched though his popcorn I answered all of his questions about the theater.

When it's going to be on?

In a few minutes the lights will dim and the movie will start.

What movie are we going to watch?

We're watching the new Toy Story.

Have I seen this one before, last week at Nanny's?

No, this is a new one.

Where's the TV?

That's it right there.

Where I can't see it?

See that big gray rectangle in front of us. That's it.

Wow that HUGE!

Jack's excitement peaked when he noticed the light dimming. He stared at the screen in wonder all throughout the movie. He really got into it. He was sad when the toys got lost, scared when the new toys turned out to be bad, especially the baby, and he cheered at the end.

Helen and I had been worried about taking Jack to the cinema because he's got a very very short attention span. We hoped that the big screen and the concessions would take care of it, and thankfully it did. The concessions only making it about three quarters the way through the film, they only lasted that long because Jack spent much of that time staring open mouthed at the screen. The food being gone didn't make any difference other than him making his way back to sit with Grandma.

We've since tried the theater experience at home, we're lucky enough to have access to a projector. We even made popcorn. But it wasn't the same, about 15 minutes in Jack was off doing other things. I guess when it comes to Jack and the cinema, it's all or nothing.

Jack is anxious to get back to the cinema, he's expressed a lot of interest in seeing Buzz Lightyear 5 and Spider-man 5, those are the best ones apparently. We're just waiting for the next big kids film to roll by.

Sunday, 29 August 2010

Return of the D-word.

On Monday night we received a message from Nanny. Kizzy, Nanny's cat has been put to sleep. Kizzy was 20 years old, she had very bad arthritis, was going blind, deaf, and was very, very grouchy. It seems her kidneys finally gave out and it was all just too much. Nanny is both relieved and sad. Kizzy was becoming more of a burden by the day but she'd still been a member of the family for 20 years or so.

Considering how emotional Jack tends to get about this particular subject Helen and I thought it best to break the news to him before he got to Nanny's and started looking for her. Nanny was likely to still be upset. So we sat him down and explained that Kizzy was up in heaven now. She was very old and poorly and now she was better and happy up in heaven.
Jack took the news as we expected.
When will come back?
She's not coming back.
*sob* but I will miss her.
I know honey, we all miss her.
But I loved her.
Jack broke into a series of cries and wails that lasted for about 15 minutes. Kizzy! Kiiiiiizzzzzzy! I miss you, come back down.

The next morning Jack came into our room still thinking about Kizzy.
I still miss Kizzy.
I know you do. But we need you to be strong for Nanny.
I know you're sad hun but if you keep thinking about how much you miss her you'll just make yourself miserable. You need to think about how much you loved her and how happy she is up in heaven.
I was mizablee all night long.
I'm sorry hun.
Last week, Kizzy scratched me and I cried. I put my hand up and she went *swipe* and scratched me. Then I put my hand up and she went *swipe swipe* and she couldn't get me.
She was pretty grouchy.  Since Jack started visiting Nanny Kizzy made it clear that he wasn't welcome. If she wasn't hiding somewhere in the house she was hissing and spitting whenever he got near her.

But sometimes when she wasn't being grumpy, I petted her.
She was pretty fluffy.
In 5 years Dylan is going to go to heaven, and I'm going with him.
Dylan is a toy Jack, he'll never die. I think you've got more than five years hun.
Like, two fives?
Like 85.
85?! I'll be like a million million then!

I've said before that I don't like Jack thinking about death. I guess I'm happy that he's able to understand it on some level and able to cope but at the same time it still bothers me that he's got any concept at all. Jack is a very sensitive and sentimental child, he mourns everything that's lost. Just a few days ago he spent 10 sorrowful minutes telling me how much he misses his old bed. Every time he sees a picture of Grandma, Grandpa or any of his cousins, Adell particularly he's reminded of how much he misses them.

Wednesday, 25 August 2010

Batribike Part 3

The replacement bike arrived on Friday (20th of August). This is a little over a month after the other bike broke. I must admit that I was getting to the end of my tether on this one. I bought the bike to more or less replace my car over the summer and here the summer is now almost over. On the other hand Batribike did arrange delivery the moment the stock came in and they arranged another courier to pick up the old one.

I will say one thing that I noticed. This bike came with instructions... This is really funny to me because I mentioned before that the bike didn't come with instructions and I can see from my site analytics that someone from Beeston Nottingham (near Batribike's office location) has read my review. I don't know anyone in Nottingham. So is this an indication that Batribike have responded to my feedback? That being the case it would also be helpful if they included a 15mm spanner and a 5mm hex key as neither of these are hugely common in most amateur tool kits.

Now on to the bike.

The new bike rides completely differently to the old. It's much quieter, both the motor and the general rattling. It feels much lighter and smoother. The regenerative braking seems no where near as fierce as before, the mechanic did say that they were looking at lightening it up so I don't know if that's it or what. Even the motor responds differently, level 3 is much more patient and level 4 seems stronger when pedaling. So my conclusion is that the old bike had some real issues. I've taken the new bike out three times now, in total I've only ridden about 10 miles or so but so far I've beaten the average of the old bike.

So, I'm somewhat anxious about the coming weeks but I'm optimistic, not only in the bike but in Batribike as well. Earlier in the week, I'd just come home from a trip downtown when I was stopped by a passing bicyclist.
"How do you find the electric bike? I'm thinking about getting one myself."
I had to really think about what I was going to say.
We talked briefly about some of the issues I had and things I'd learned about electric bikes, including the costs involved, but I pretty quickly found myself spinning into a Batribike sales pitch. So I guees after all this, I'm still pro-Batribike.

Sunday, 22 August 2010

What Mommies Look Like?

We were at the park. Jack was enjoying a swing on the zip-line when we were approached by a woman and a 2 year-old girl. The two year old girl toddled up to the ramp where Jack was just about to land. I quickly stopped Jack in mid swing. Her mother, who to be honest seemed a little vacant, wandered over and gently guided the girl to a safer location.

Jack and I resumed swinging back and forth all the while I kept one eye on the girl. I've become used to this kind of thing at the park.

A few minutes later the little girl appeared on the other ramp, to which Jack was currently on his way with a fair bit of speed. The problem wasn't the little girl, she was far enough back on the ramp to be in no real danger. Her mother was standing in front of the ramp, right in Jack's path, sending a text on her phone. Thankfully after a fair amount of yelling I managed to get her out of Jack's way with half a second or so to spare.

The woman laughed at herself and waved at me while Jack launched himself back. She then spent the next five or so minutes texting on her phone while her 2 year-old teetered dangerously on the edge of the ramp. It was very hard for me to watch. Jack and I waited for them to leave the area before we resumed swinging but Jack was a little confused.

Daddy why did we have to wait so long?
I was concerned that we were going to hit that little girl, or the lady. I don't think she was paying much attention.
I almost runned her over didn't I?
Yeah you did, thankfully she moved in time.
I thought I was going to run her over I did.
Me to, sometimes you have to look out for the Mommies and Daddies just as much as the little kids.
She was a mommy?
I thought she was a woman.
She's a woman as well. She was that little girl's mommy.
She doesn't look like a mommy.
...What does a mommy look like?

This is what mommies look like. I don't get it either.

Sunday, 15 August 2010

A Hard Lesson

Friday we went to lunch with the baby group. We went to a local pub that we visit often as a group. They've got a section in the back that the kids can run around in until the food arrives. It's been a while since we've lunched there and they've been making a lot of changes over the last year. This time we were met with a brand new pool table in the back section. Straight away Jack and Alfie found the pool ques and noted their resemblance to swords. It wasn't long before one of the bar staff appeared and removed the queues and politely asked us if we could keep the kids away from the pool table.

About every 10 minutes we had to remind the kids to keep away from the pool table. As you can imagine, each time we got a little less patient about it. The boys in particular just couldn't leave it alone. Whenever they thought we weren't looking they'd roll the que ball or run their toys along it.

When, as we readied to leave Jack came up to me, Daddy can you get my car? I knew immediately what the situation was.

You put it down one of the holes in the pool table didn't you.

I then went into a rant about how I've told him over and over to leave the pool table alone and that I might not be able to get the car back. I wasn't hugely sympathetic because this has been the pattern of his behavior for the last couple of weeks and this may have been a good way to get a point across.

After a number of apologies he lead me to the pocket in which he sent the car. I took out my key chain light and examined the pocket. I spotted the car and set about various strategies of retrieval. After 15 minutes or so I'd had no luck, the pocket was too narrow and the car was too far in. Everyone, including the manager had a look but no one could think of a way to get it out. Finally I had to tell Jack that his car was gone.

Jack was devastated, he cried and cried and refused to leave the pub without it. I don't think that it had occurred to him that I really might not be able to retrieve it. After some comforting and coaxing he finally accepted that it was gone and sobbed out a goodbye car as we left. This car happened to be his favorite, he's now on a mission to find another just like it.

This isn't the first time Jack has lost a favorite toy. A year or so ago during a particularly bad wave of disobedience Helen and I tossed out a Woody doll. He didn't take the loss of Woody as badly, it was more of a general somberness than a fit of crying and pleading. To this day he still thinks about it, something will remind him and he'll reminisce about it. I used to have that Woody doll, it's at the dump now isn't it.

Moments like these are strange because as a parent you loath the child mourning the lost object but want the child to learn a lesson at the same time. Few things are more frustrating that watching a child suffer after not heading your warnings. You're never happy to see the child upset and you're reminded of similar occasions of your own childhood.

Later on we asked Jack what lessons he learned from this and he said Not to put cars in holes which I suppose isn't a bad lesson. I tried to remind him of the 'do as I ask' lesson but I'm not sure it got through. No doubt we'll be here again real soon.

Sunday, 8 August 2010

Magic this Please

Jack came up to me and handed me a 5 pence coin. Can you magic this Daddy? I took the coin and rubbed it into my elbow until it disappeared. Jack laughed and immediately looked in my ear where these vanished coins always seem to turn up. Now make it dirty.

Jack loves magic. On our last camping trip Jack carried around one of Phoebe's acrylic gemstones and used it to distribute magic powers to everyone he could find, there was a monster that needed defeating you see.

Magic is tricky with children because they don't get that it's a trick and no one wants to ruin it for them by explaining how it works. So like with a certain jolly gentile incarnation we play along until they yank on the beard.

The only problem is keeping the act fresh. Though Jack usually asks for the same tricks over and over again I like to mix it up now and again for the sake of my own sanity. I know quite a few slight-of-hand tricks and I've got a couple of magic kits that I've yet fully explore. So from a strictly research point-of-view I'm covered for quite a while. Saying that my repertoire has grown more due to the mistakes than anything else. Sometimes the coin doesn't appear in my ear or anyone else, sometimes it was in my sleeve, or on the floor, one time it was still in my hand. Jack asking me to make the coin dirty is the result of my dropping a particularly shiny penny during one show and replacing it with another of a lesser polish quality when he wasn't looking.

Sunday, 1 August 2010

One Step for Student.

I recently attended a program intended to give a taste of what student life will be like to those who might otherwise not know what to expect at my soon to be university. The program is called Step-Ahead.

I attended because I'm aware don't do well in a school environment. I'm lazy, impatient, anti-social and don't respond well to authority of any kind. I figured if I can get through these three days without killing anyone or myself then I have a chance at handling university.

The program is quite simple. You arrive on Monday morning and register. You're given an itinerary, various access codes and keys to a room in the halls of residence. You then spend the next 3 days living on campus with 125 others. We get to know the school, some of the teachers and student ambassadors and most importantly, we get to know other students on similar courses.

The itinerary was very busy and included a range of lectures, team building and various projects all about teaching us how to be effective students. The days were packed, from 8am to 730pm we've got somewhere we need to be. Personally I found the pace a bit too much, once a day they'd give us a 15 minute break, the only problem with this is that at a walking pace the lecture room that we were using was approximately 6 minutes walk each way from any of the break areas.

The evenings tended to revolve around the student union bar, no real surprise there. There were Wii games (Guitar Hero World Tour), a DJ or Karaoke, and cheap drinks. Those of you who know me know that I'm not big on the drinking scene but I'm pleased to announce I went out both nights and made an effort, in participating not so much the drinking. I even took part in one karaoke song after 4 JDs and a Sambuca.

I became reasonably well acquainted with several students while I was there, mostly because they all wanted a chance to talk to the American. I quickly became known as The American or Old Man on account that I've got 10 years on 80% of them. It may interest some people to know that I actively socialized with lots of people and aside from one anti-social break down I managed to keep the attention seeking behavior to a minimum.

The mentors, the group of people (all students themselves) that were leading the program, were clearly getting annoyed with us. We were a pretty raucous group. For example, in the middle of the night one drunken student set of the fire alarm whilst smoking in his room, then proceeded to rip the smoke detector off the wall, apparently there's more to that story but I wasn't told. Several of the students noticed that with each full session the mentors were a little bit angrier and more impatient with us than the previous. At the end of it the guy in charge said "I'd like to say that it's been a pleasure having most of you here." clearly we've not been the best group.

I managed to build somewhat of a reputation with security. I'd been on campus less than 24 hours and managed to accidentally break into 3 restricted areas. It seems that if there's a broken latch or someone forgets to lock a door anywhere on campus I'll find it. Security were clearly getting a little tired of seeing me by 5:30am Tuesday morning, the last conversation went something like, "I should have known it was you Derek. Here I'll show you where the library is, you can go there whenever you like." Sorry Sid, I couldn't sleep and was looking for somewhere outside of my room to be. They really should lock the doors if they don't want people in there.

All in all Step Ahead was a good experience. I think I've got a pretty good taste of how the next 4 years of my life are going to be. I'm actually looking forward to September when I will get to see everyone again.

Sunday, 25 July 2010

The Dentist

Jack has been to the dentist a number of times. Not just for checkups either. His molars are very weak and prone to decay, so at the age of 3 Jack has already had 4 fillings and still needs one more.

Jack isn't afraid of the dentist. He likes sitting in the big moving chair, seeing all the dentists tools and getting a balloon and sticker at the end. The only problem that Jack has with the dentist is, as he says He puts things in my mouth and they don't taste very nice.

Obviously Jack doesn't like the anesthetic needle. Our dentist takes the approach of hiding the needle from Jack and having him close his eyes while the injection took place. I've got no problem with this approach thought it's flaw came to light pretty quickly because Jack's curiosity got the better of him and he captured himself a glimpse of the needle. So the dentist still had to explain what it was in the most non-frightening way possible. He described it as some sort of cleaning sprayer, I'm not sure jack believed him. He had to give the Novocain in two sittings because Jack wouldn't sit long enough for the dentist to complete the injection. Pain is pain no matter how it's described.

Once the dentist was satisfied with the injection we struggled on through the rest of the appointment but came pretty quickly to the next hurdle. The dentist tried several times to start up the drill but each time Jack wouldn't let it near him. A number of tactics were employed, he explained that it's really only a special tooth brush and he's going to use it to brush Jack's germy tooth and that it wouldn't hurt, he slowed it way down and vibrated it against Jack's thumb which Jack really liked. After each stop and subsequent conversation Jack would calmly lay back and open his mouth only to jump up and start swatting once the drill got close saying Not so fierce.

It then occurred to me what the problem was. I explained to the dentist that Jack doesn't like loud noise. After a quick thought we came up with a plan. Jack sat through the reminder of the appointment with his eyes clamped shut, mouth open wide and both hands held tightly over his ears. I only wish I'd thought to take a picture.

Thursday, 22 July 2010

Batribike Part 2

Batribike part 2.

Ok so I've had the bike a little over a week now. So far I've taken it out four times and broken it twice. The first problem, we're putting down to shipping damage, was the pedal spindle having worked it's way loose. They sent out a technician, to my house, and quickly sorted the problem out.

I took the bike out again yesterday for a leisurely 8 miles or so when a real problem struck. Whilst engaging the regenerative braking system something happened. The back wheel more or less locked up and what movement I can get out of it was accompanied by a grinding noise. I dragged the bike home, 3 miles or so, and called Batribike. They're going to replace the bike, but they're out of stock so I'll have to wait a couple weeks... Not sure what I think about that.

Sunday, 18 July 2010


I've taken quite a bit of video of Jack over the last 6 months, mostly with the intention of posting them in individual blogs. But a lot of the time I either couldn't think of anything to write in relation to them, or I just plain never get around to it. So I'm just going to publish my whole library. I'm eventually going to make a separate page for this, but I'm to lazy right now, being unemployed and all.
So here they are in no particular order.

This is just him digging on a beach in Devon.

This is a different beach in Devon.

Same beach, about twenty minutes later. Check out the little strut he does at the end. I'd been trying to catch it on video for weeks.

I taught Jack the valuable life skill of rolling down hills. He swears that he doesn't get dizzy, you be the judge.

This one is just him playing with his water slide.

Thursday, 15 July 2010



Let me explain this review. I've recently purchased a Batribike Granite. I, like lots of people these days, have been looking for a way to save money on fuel. My situation is that my school is 12 miles away, so driving my car there and back 4 plus times a week was looking a little expensive. So my alternatives were; get a motorbike, get a scooter, get a bike, take the bus or walk. I looked into each of these options once by one and they were either just to expensive or not practical.

Eventually, I can't remember how, but I got to looking at power assisted bicycles. My wife and I spent weeks looking over electric bikes, any that we could find, I needed something that could consistently travel 25 miles or more on one charge. Very few bikes could do this. We came across a competition to win a Batribike so we looked them up. Their bikes promised nearly twice the performance that even more expensive bikes did. Was is too good to be true?

The thing that we couldn't find was objective reviews of the bikes, especially Batribike as they seem to be fairly new. Occasionally we came across reviews but they were either poorly spelled 3 sentence summaries or sponsored by the manufacturer. So I wrote this in the interest of helping another person in this situation make up their mind.

The bike.

The bike arrived needing some assembly, there aren't any instructions so if you're not familiar with bike maintenance I'd suggest that you take it to a shop for assembly. Most bike shops will be happy to help you assemble it for a small fee. Once built my first impression was "Wow, that's a big bike". My wife said the same thing but looking at it stood next to other bikes, it's no bigger. So if size is a problem for you, don't worry, the rugged frame makes it appear bigger than it is.

It's an attractive looking bike, I like the silver finish, I like the thick frame. Even the rack over the back wheel is sturdy and good looking, much better than those wire hanger contraptions you get on lots of bikes. The battery sits under the rack, with a pannier you'd never even notice it. The motor controls are on the left handle and a 7 gear changer is on the right, nothing is cheap looking or poorly placed. All the wires have plenty of slack where needed and are otherwise held neatly to the frame.

The bike comes with front and back LED lights and a bell and a big comfy saddle. The battery is Lithium Polymer that's supposed to have a life of 1000 cycles, it powers a 250W motor. 26" Wheels, and an 18" frame.

I'm not going to lie to you, it's a heavy bike despite the aluminum alloy frame, 24 kilo's (53 lbs) with the battery. My wife's mountain bike comes in at 15 kilos. Most of the additional weight is over the back wheel where both the battery and motor are. The bike isn't heavy enough to be any sort of problem, it's easy enough to life and maneuver, but it did concern me a little when I attached it to the bike rack on the back of my car, the whole thing tilted to one side. With a few adjustments I was able to correct it but I'm doing to have to rethink my bike rack solution should my wife get one of these as well. The center stand is a nice touch but I don't think a standard kickstand would be up to the job.

The Ride.

The first trip that I took was the 12 mile trek to school. This is by no means an easy trek, in fact I couldn't manage it on a normal bicycle, I tried once, after 40 minutes I hadn't even made it half way so I gave up. I admit that I'm not in the best of shape but 24 miles is a long way even on a bike. I wanted to be able to ride to school without having to train for a triathlon first.

On the Batribike I was there and back in 105 minutes.

Throughout the journey I just a mixture of power assistance level, I tried to favor level 1 and 2 but spent a fair amount of time on level 3 and 4 as well as I grew tired. When I got back the power remaining was somewhere between 1/2 and 3/4, which means that I could have made the trip possibly 2 more times. So it seems that the promise of 40 miles minimum pedal assisted might not be to good to be true after all.

The bike rides nicely, it's stable and comfortable. There are shock absorbers on the front fork and seat. I've never been a big fan of suspensions systems on bicycles but it really seemed to help smooth out the ride. The gear Shimano gear system is very responsive and easy to use, teamed up with the power assist it makes for a very consistent ride. The motor hums but isn't very loud, except when coasting down a large hill it sounds like you're dive bombing, don't get me wrong you'd be nuts to think you could fool the guys in the Tour De France but after little while  you stop noticing it.

The power assist on this bike has 4 stages, the first to are the ones I tend to use, they just help you to get up to and maintain speed despite any inclines you might come across. I've broken the 4 settings in to 2, on levels 1 and 2 the bike assists you, 3 and 4 you assist the bike. I found level 1 is great for just general riding where level 2 is better for hills. Level 3 is more for maintaining higher speeds, it doesn't seem to work very well in a stop/start scenario. As soon as you put any real pressure on the pedals the motor stops assisting. Think of it like gears on a car, you can stop start in 1st and 2nd but not 3rd. Level 4 is more for the throttle, it will work with the pedaling but it doesn't give you much more than level 3, it is a tad more forgiving though. Level 4 will take you to a higher maintained speed than level 3. 

The throttle is awesome, while on a bike ride my wife took great delight in throttling past me at every opportunity. On a flat surface the it will take you up to 15 mph in no time. The throttle works on all power settings, which is really handy when you're crossing dual carriageways or negotiating tight obstacles, but take your time getting used to using it. It takes a second to respond and even on level 1 it means business.

The regenerative braking is a new feature on the 2010 Granite and Diamond models. This is activated by pedaling backward, be prepared when you use it. It's designed to slow you down and that's exactly what it does. No matter how fast you're going it'll take you down to a crawl in roughly 2 seconds. It's a handy feature and no doubt it will become my primary brake.

The Service.
Through no fault of their own I've had to contact Batribike a few times already. I had special delivery instructions and they were very understanding and accommodating so I can't complain. They returned messages promptly, left messages when they missed me and have got to great lengths to resolve the issues. They even sent out one of their technical guys to my house. They're based 3 hours away! It's prize winning customer service no doubt about it.

Wednesday, 14 July 2010

To Utah and back.

We arrived back in the UK on Saturday morning. We're all jet-lagged and grouchy. Jack is struggling getting his sleeping pattern back to normal.

We had a great time. When we got there my Mom showed us her color coded activity calendar which Helen promptly re-arranged completely.

Our biggest concern about the trip was being able to keep Jack entertained on the plane. 13 hours trapped in a seat must seem like a lifetime for a 3-year-old. But wouldn't you know it, the little guy came through. He was patient and happy throughout the whole trip. He got a little grouchy in Atlanta airport, mostly because he'd fallen asleep at the end of the first flight and had been woke up to make the connection. But he even managed to get through that with the help of some snacks. At one point he looked at me through teary eyes and said, "I'm trying to be patient Daddy, I really am."

When we got to SLC airport he was asleep and had been for a few hours. I carried him most the way to the baggage claim before he stirred and asked to be put down. I put him down and gave him Dylan, he staggered about 15 feet, then plopped Dylan onto the floor and declared him a mattress.

We landed on Saturday night at 8:30. Jack was understandably grouchy after 13 hours on a plane but my mother was armed with a tootsie-pop which put him in a good mood for the drive. He chatted a little bit, but mostly sat quietly in the back seat. He fell asleep the moment we put him in bed.

Jack met all of his cousins on the first day, which was no easy feet, he's got 15. On Sunday the whole family set upon my mother's house for dinner, after dinner we headed out to the local amphitheater for a family photo. It became suddenly very obvious to each of us just how long it had been since we were all in the same place at the same time. I'm not really one to get all soppy about family but it's been 5 years since I've seen any of my brothers or sisters and it's likely to be another 5 years before I see them again, so even I couldn't deny that it felt special.

On Monday we went to the dinosaur museum with his cousin Adell. The two of them were just like old friends. They gabbed and played and fought just like brother and sister. We were joined by Fiona and Alison after an hour or so and the four of them took to the sand/excavation pit.

This was a trip of firsts for Jack, as well as Helen. We traveled into American Fork Canyon where we wandered around and explored for a while before we built a campfire and ate S'mores at 11 in the morning. Jack played in the river and reigned for a short time as King of the Trees...

We also took the opportunity to see Toy Story 3 as it was released in the US nearly two months before the UK. This was Jack's first time going to the cinema so we  went all out. We bought pop corn and soda had a great time. Jack loved the film, he sat entranced looking at his favorite characters on the big screen.

Jack was fascinated by all the drinking fountains but he never did quite get the hang of them.

He Saw his Grandparents, all 4 of them. His grandparents are the only members of my family that Jack had meet before, only it was when he was about 9 months old. Jack professed that he remembered them, but I doubt that he really did. He warmed up to the instantly, and after just a few minutes Jack was treating them just like grandparents.

The wave-runners on Deer Creek were the highlight of the trip for me as far as activities go, Jack didn't like them much. I managed to talk him into getting on it with me, but after only about 10 feet out he decided that it was too wavy and told me to take him straight back. He happily spent the day playing with the other kids in the sand while we blasted about on the wave-runners.
And he met his half-sister. We picked Sam and her little sister Austin and took them to the Aquarium. I was quite nervous about this particular part of the trip. I haven't seen my daughter since she was 5 years old, I know very little about her and wasn't sure what she knew about me. We knew that she'd been told all about Jack, so by proxy that meant me as well.

Sam and her little sister are very typical girls. Giggling and pestering each other endlessly. During the drives to and from the aquarium they took turns sitting the back with Jack and entertaining him. Jack had a great time playing with them.

I've come away feeling like I've got to know my daughter a bit. She's a very sweet and dynamic girl, frighteningly we have a lot in common, starting with independently locking distal interphalangeal joints... Much to my delight Sam asked for some details so that she could maybe write me and/or Jack a letter. My mother quickly provided her with everything she needed, including paper. So I also come away from Utah with the hope that I will have some contact with her.

So now we're home, the flight back was long and two of our suitcases were damaged. The house was still intact, the cat and dogs were alive and waiting for us, there was even a live pigeon in the fireplace as well.
It's the first time I've been back from the States since moving here that left me feeling homesick. Both Helen and I have already pretty heavily researched the job and housing market.

Tuesday, 22 June 2010

Off we go.

The day has finally arrived. This afternoon we're packing up and heading to Manchester for the night in preparation for our Saturday morning flight to the U.S. 13 hours confined to a seat on an airplane with Jack. How hard can it possibly be? We're taking movies, games, books, and everything else we could think of to keep him occupied, lets just hope it's enough.

This trip has been on the cards for 6 months. Jack has been getting gradually more excited, I think he's still pretty convinced that America is on another planet. He's looking forward to meeting Grandma and Grandpa and with any luck he'll meet his sister as well. I'm looking forward to him seeing his grandparents again and meeting all of his cousins, many of whom are of similar age. I'm looking forward to showing him all the things that I knew when I was growing up, like toosie-pops.

Jack is taking Dylan with him. We figured with the eminent jet-lag anything that would help Jack get to sleep should come with us. We've even gone to the trouble to get a teddy bear passport for him... Oh the things parents do.

So armed with his favorite teddy, a brand new Ben10 holiday bag that he's packed himself Jack is taking to the skies. America here we come. You would do well to stock up on lollipops.

I threw a little video together this morning as well.

Sunday, 20 June 2010

Jack's latest invention.

It's been hot in England for a change so we got out the paddling pool. We got Jack all geared up with water pistols and his swimming trunks only for him to refuse to get in at all because water was too cold. So we went to the local carnival for a couple hours instead.

After we got back from the carnival Jack decided to brave the water. So Helen stripped him down to a t-shirt and undies and let him loose. Jack had a great time, splashing, squirting everything in the yard, mostly me, apparently the rules said that he could shoot me but I would shoot him while he was shooting me, or refilling...

Jack eventually had the best idea that he's ever had. He called me over and gave me some very specific instructions. Here is the end result.

Sunday, 13 June 2010

Getting to know Jack

Here we are. Officially the count down to a long awaited trip to the US.

In 2 weeks Helen, Jack and I will be getting on a plane and traveling to Utah. This is the first time Jack will meet most of my family. Jack is very excited.

So, in light of the visit I'm making a guide to getting to know Jack.


TV Show: Ben10 - still, and they're making a new series as well...
Food: Ketchup. Puddings, desserts for those of you in America.
Treat: Lollipops.
Restaurant: McDonalds, chicken nuggets with a free toy.
Drink: Blackcurrent Fruit Shoot, the purple one.
Song: Tommy the Cat. This makes me so happy, you don't even know.
Band: The Gorillaz.
Game: Sackboy (LittleBigPlanet) on the PSP.
Movie: Scooby Doo 2, or as he calls is, Scooby and the Monsters.
Color: Green
Bedtime Story: Pooh is that you Bertie? (it's a book about farting...)


Loud noises.
Hand Dryers. Due to the loud noise they make.
Water on his face or hair.
Most dried fruits.

Speaking habits.

Jack's accent is somewhere between mine, Helen's and his Nanny's, usually it depends with whom he's spent the most time recently. Jack will tell you that he's an expert speaker but even so, he has a few speech habits that can be a little confusing.
V is often pronounced as B or W.
Sw is often Fw.
Very is pronounced Wervy

Listen out for Jack's excited voice, the big give away is the emphasizing eyes.


Pewmer. - Noun. A projectile weapon. He has called them since learning to talk.
-Verb - The sound a gun makes. Pewm! Pewm!

Intemnable. - Adjective. A synonym for invisible. He can say invisible I, think he just prefers intemnable.

Hiccamaccapoccamus: - Noun. A large fierce five-legged six-eyed creature with no nose but a big mouth full of teeth.

Doodle, Dooly or Doolydoo - Noun. The part of Jack's body used to wee-wee.
'To dab the doolydoo.'

Common Phrases:

'Yesterday' can mean up to three days ago.
'Tomorrow' means after Jack has been to sleep. This can be tricky because Jack sleeps with his eyes open...
'Last Week' means that whatever he is talking about happened earlier than yesterday.
'Next Week' adversely refers to something that it going to happen in the future, but later than tomorrow.

'Up in to the Sky' usually this is to where he punches monsters.

'All 'round the place' watch for the circling hands gesture.

'I used to be/have/live in/live near/drive/shoot/ one of those' Jack has lived many different lives.

You will occasionally hear Jack refer to 'his boys'. The context would be something like, 'I got one of those for my boys.' Jack's boys are a group of children that live on another planet, this planet is called Jack, and all the boys are called Jack Morrey... anyway they sound like a rough group.

Jack is prone to breaking out into song, more so when he doesn't think people are listening. Keep and ear out for these little songs, they're inspired. I've tried desperately to record one of these but haven't managed it yet.

If Jack is trying to get your attention longer than about ten seconds he will say, '(person's name) I need to talk to you.'

Jack is very righteous and will not hesitate to set you straight if you do something wrong, to avoid being told off here is a list of some of Jack's expectations.
  1. Always hold hands and look both ways when crossing the street.
  2. Don't wander off.
  3. Don't call people names, tease or otherwise do things that are not very nice.
  4. Don't play with your food at the dinner table.
  5. Don't take things from other people.
  6. No pounding.
  7. No dancing.
  8. No singing.
  9. Listen when you've been told something. Jack doesn't like to have to tell you something more than twice.
  10. Under no circumstances are you to forget to brush his teeth in the morning. Nanny got a grilling
It should be noted that these rules don't apply to Jack.

Jack is regularly possessed by a dog. Symptoms include; loss of speech, timidness, whimpering, panting, crawling on all fours and excessive exposure of the tongue. No treatment or exorcism is necessary as the condition usually resolves itself within an hour or so.