What burns our thighs, wets your butt and strikes fear into their children?

Slides in kids parks / playgrounds were a hit and miss affair. In the summer they were too hot to go down, burn the back of your bare thighs. Rainy days obviously make them off-limits, many a wet butt was experienced. But the right conditions could make them especially enjoyable.

Sometimes they took the risk factor a bit too far with those slides in yer Wacky Warehouse type zones where there was a literal vertical drop pre-slide, which added significant velocity, but the fear, oh the fear before making the plunge. Always worth it though, especially with the ball-pool ecstasy which it was followed by.


18 things I do not regret my parents doing with me

Inspired by when Anti Catrin showed us that Challies article when he wrote the 18 things he doesn’t regret doing with his kids.

1. Praying with us before bed.
That was part of the everyday routine for us, and that’s remained into my adult life. Praying with Sibyl before sleeping goes along with brushing my teeth and putting on my PJs.

2. Giving us pocket money.
Dad borrowed a method from the de Jongs in our church; we would receive our age squared (in pennies), every Saturday. Enough to buy sweeties (or da da as we’d call them in Welsh), but we had to save some for collection in church the next day.

3. Talking with us about theology as we walked
On the way to the sweet shop every Saturday, Dad would ‘teach us diligently when we walked by the way’. I remember the freedom to talk about any theological concept, ask any question. “How do we know if God even exists?” “Who is the Holy Spirit?” “Can God sin?”

4. Playing us Christian songs.
I still remember every single Steve Green Hide ’em in Your Heart song, along with great family hymns like Holy, Holy, Holy. I was even helped when Dad tried to get us all to sing Keep on the Sunnyside from the Oh Brother Where Art Thou OST.

5. Leading us in family devotions
Not a day went by without us having a mealtime (sometimes breakfast, sometimes dinner) when the Bible was read to us. I’m indebted to those times for a huge chunk of my Biblical knowledge now.

6. Prioritising a family meal everyday
Leading on from that, we always ate together. I remember a school-friend moaning that his Mum forced them to have a meal together once a week. I remember thinking “Once!? Who else would you have a meal with the rest of the time?”

7. Feeding us amazingly tasty food
Yes, I’m dwelling on these mealtimes, but that’s because they were so good! Roast potatoes, homemade chips, roast chicken, sausages, turkey bake, quiche, tuna pie. And then there’s the puddings… chocolate brownies, chocolate pudding, chocolate bread and butter pudding, millionaire shortbread (with chocolate), little pastry pie things with brown sugary raisin stuff in them, fridge cake, flapjacks, cookies, and shop-bought battenberg was always a hit too.

8. Disciplining us
We knew when we’d been naughty and often had to learn the hard way. But those smacks could well have saved my life, they helped me honour my parents, and I know that that means I can now enjoy long life on the earth. However the downside is I do have a phobia of all wooden spoons…

9. Taking photos and videos of us
There’s a great VHS of me when I was a baby which is amazing to watch, and there’s lots of photos which I love looking at, people who’ve died that I now have images of to look at, memories of birthdays and Christmases, great stuff.

10. Taking us to church
That was just normality on Sundays. Morning and Evening. What’s come home to me recently is that I heard the gospel so many times before I listened to it, God gave me (literally) thousands of chances, and so much time, this helps me to have patience with others who have not grown up with that privilege, and who are not converted as soon as I tell them the gospel.

11. Sending us to schools
Firstly, the Welsh primary school solidified my contact with Cymraeg and Cymru, a language and place where much of my heart is with, so I’m thankful for that. As for the secondary school, I’m grateful for the socialisation and contact with the secular world that that gave me practice in.

12.Teaching us how to decipher what they were teaching us in school and the Bible
Dad would often ask us after school, “Did they mention God even once today?” The answer was usually no. I went to one of the most humanist schools around, but I’m glad I went home and was given the tools to engage with all of that.

13. Telling us to watch things critically
Along the same lines, these were the tools that we were to use when watching TV and films. Dad’s catchphrase was indeed “are you watching this critically?” And from speaking to my fifteen-year-old brother this week, he still says that.

14. Giving us time to play outside in our garden
Hours and hours and hours spent in our garden, mostly playing football, but also making a treehouse with our friends the Barnses, and also digging holes, even making fires sometimes! And the tree-swing was amazing too. And the climbing frame. And the paddling pool in the summer.

15. Encouraging us to do household chores
Lay the table, clear the table, empty the dishwasher, tidy your room… all things we were encouraged to do, but I must confess were very poor at even those few tasks. Poor Mam. I’m still working on that one. But I’m glad I was shown the importance of them.

16. Telling us how important books are
I was a terrible reader as a child, Dad at one point even offered to give me £2 for every book I could finish, it still didn’t work. He is a voracious reader, and that example has served me well as I’m slowly growing in my love for books. So even for the times I was forced to read boring Enid Blyton books about inane supernatural teddy bears, thank you.

17. Encouraging a love of music in us
There was more often than not music playing in our house. From Mam it would be The Carpenters and Lionel Ritchie, from Dad it would be Focus and The Beatles, and on Sunday we’d have Classical music. Did you know, I still love music?

18. Deciding to have loads of kids
I love having four brothers. It’s so fun. It’s also mad. But I can’t think of a better community to grow up in, one in which you are in a house with four other kids who all share the same parents and space as you, and are all so different from you, but also share so much in common with you too. That’s been great.

Early Days with Spaghetti Bolognese

I always ate spaghetti bolognese really quickly as a child. I remember it was always a source of pride for me that I finished my spaghetti bolognese before everyone else finished their spaghetti bolognese. 

It was always a dish of choice at Golders Hill Park café, perhaps a continuation of the Italian theme that was fostered in their over-priced ice cream corner. 

There was an unfortunate story passed on to me from Wibsy which involved the involuntary regurgitation of said dish, and the distinctive element to the tale was in the resemblance of the spew to the meal that had been digested just a few hours previous to this ghastly event.

Finally, a reminiscence of Uncle G cooking spaghetti bolognese in our house (he didn’t live there). I remember being struck at the simplicity and effectiveness displayed in the production of the nosh. We went to the shop and bought a tin of chopped tomatoes, and before I knew it the meal was made. What a hero.

Masquerading as a loom

When Sibyl writes up her lecture notes she types in key-words on Microsoft clipart and fills her document with pictures of little farmers. It makes the screen look like one of my favourite screen-savers of all time, something (or someone) called Bill Posters (geddit?) would come onto the Windows 3.1 screen and paste postage stamp-sized images all over your desktop. I thought it was amazing. I think it’s because I didn’t look at it closely, and I as a young child got the impression that he was a real man living inside our monitor posting illegal advertisements. That’s what I loved about computers when I was little, the possibility that an entire universe could exist behind the thick glass of that screen, all kept inside a CD-ROM. It was fuelled by a yearning for eternity no doubt, or maybe just a joy in seeing cartoons, and clicking on things that make noises and move. Those were always the best toys too, toys that I didn’t own, toys that seemed as if they lived, toys that had over forty different words and phrases, because they seemed real. So that is the task for you, software developers, toy makers and yes, you too, my old friends the advertisers… make worlds.

No one likes it

A week or two of discovering academia anew. Recalling how to read. Wrestling with theories. Singing the word phenomenology to the tune of Mah Nà Mah Nà. Waking up every weekday at 6:55 to get up the hill for early morning practice. That’s easier than expected. Having to go to bed earlier has not been fun though.

There was rain this morning, Sibyl doesn’t like having wet feet, no one likes having wet feet but Sibyl really doesn’t like it. I have assimilated this p.o.v. and get more grumpy than I did at previous occasions in my life when my toes become damp.

We were in a tent once and it was raining and I was having a nap and Sibyl woke me up saying “YOUR TOES IS WET!” I groaned. “YOUR TOES IS WET!” Why is she telling me my toes are wet, and why is she using the third person singular present of be when are would suffice? “YOUR TOES IS WET!” I’m angry now, my feet are not even moist and what are you ON about!? “YOUR A.W. TOZER BOOK! IT GOT WET IN THE RAIN! YOUR TOZER’S WET.” True story.

In 2009 I made a YouTube video where I had a white plastic carrier bag covering my hair. I had just been in the rain and I told the world that I had officially grown up, because I no longer liked rain. There’s another YouTube video of me dancing in the rain, but that was taken before the grumpy vlog, so maybe I was a child at that point. This morning I really liked standing in my doorway waiting for my Danish buddy and watching the rain and feeling like I was watching the roof of the church opposite our house in HD. The sky was white. I liked rain then, so maybe I was a child for ten seconds, but then I walked up the hill and got wet and became an adult once more.

Large Floating Mass of Ice

Sibyl and I got married three years ago today. Humans are such beautifully designed beings that you can spend a lifetime studying them. What a privilege marriage is. I can spend everyday with this one person and become so close with them that we become one. I can help her like no other person on earth can help her. She is my specialist subject, and I her’s. God invented that possibility, that’s very cool. Knowing a person on a superficial level is one thing, but once you know that this person has an eternal soul it becomes an entirely different matter. A lifetime together, I believe, will begin to touch the tip of that large floating mass of ice (couldn’t cope with the cliché so used dictionary) we’re only three years in, here’s to many many more. She enjoyed the audiobooks btw, we listened to the beginning, Stephen Fry is an excellent reader.

I’ve been telling everyone recently how impressed I am with my youngest brother’s modelling skills and I suppose I am interested in that because I too enjoy the creative arts (is the term creative arts a truism?). But I truly am inspired by the boy’s plasticine creations. They’re rather abstract or at least not figurative or perhaps they’re more impressionistic. He makes conical structures that he says are planes and he makes people that are modelled as minimalistic spheres. It’s the sort of thing you’d expect to see in a modern art exhibition, only the artist would be far more pretentious – Owain is quite the opposite –  he doesn’t like sharing his thoughts on his work, he has very much created his own private world.

When I was in school it was not possible for me to take both Drama and Art, we had to choose one art and one humanity (History & Geography), the bad thing was that it was possible to take both History and Geography, that isn’t fair. I hear they’ve changed it by now but I am quite glad I did Geography because it has given me an understanding of the countryside in which I now live near. We did coasts and I enjoy telling people about wave-cut-notches and long-shore-drift (lol it’s LSD). When we are by the river I tell them about ox-bow lakes and how a river gets deeper and wider and flows faster the more downstream you go. And I enjoy telling people all about a terrible Geography trip we had to somewhere in Herefordshire where me and my associate started a water-fight and felt bad so went to bed meanwhile the antics continued through the night and everyone got into massive trouble apart from us because we were in bed… score. So it was impossible for me to take art, but I could have taken History and I often wish I had done that. I picked Geography for stupid on-a-whim reasons, I think I thought more cool people took Geography as opposed to History because I remember hearing in-crowd types saying that History was ‘just remembering dates’. What a sheep. But I do love providence, so the regrets do not bother me. There’s always the library to brush up on stuff I’ve missed out on.

“I didn’t ask for your life story.” #10 – Very faint memories of a holiday in Derbyshire.

Like most people, I do not remember very much from early childhood. I’m not one of those idiots who claims that they can remember being born. I’m also not one of those people who says they can remember things, even though they’ve just seen those occasions in a photograph and they have made them up in their mind (most of the time anyway).

The earliest holiday I remember was to a place called Derbyshire. I seem to recall firstly that I was an only child at the time, and that we drove there in an old blue Austin (I’m sure parents will correct me on this). There was an older lady who welcomed us to the cottage, and seemed very kind.

I am able to recollect that early one morning, I badgered my Dad to come down stairs with me, as I hated being on my own. Then Dad said that I was a big boy and that I could watch TV on my own, and let them sleep for a while. Then Mam pointed out that it might have been because I had heard about the recent child murders that had taken place, I hadn’t, but this made me even more scared.

Dad got up with me, took me out, and introduced me to an old farmer who must’ve been the owner of the land. The farmer took my hand and said that we were going to see the chickens. We walked up to a large hut type thing which he unlocked and opened the door of. Out came about twenty flapping chickens, and they all gathered around my knees. I wasn’t scared by this at all, just in awe. Then he took me into their hut where we managed to find six eggs, which the chickens had apparently laid that very night! I boasted to my parents about it when I got back, they were very impressed.

I believe that one day we went to a place called Gulliver’s World, a theme park of sorts. I remember a gigantic statue of a man (I assume he was Gulliver) and Dad telling me that in the story he wasn’t actually the big one, the people were small. My parents took me to what I identified as a river, there was a dark brown wooden boat which we sat in and the seats were soaking wet. “Why are we sitting in a wet boat? Why is it moving?”

To which my Mam replied “We’re going to sort of go down a waterfall!”

“What? Hello? Huh? What!?”

“It’s like a slide with lots of water on it! It’s fun!”

“Will I get wet?”

“A little bit.”

I hugged up to Mam tightly, fearing my inevitable death.

Sadly, the actual plunge does not exist on my mental records, perhaps it was so traumatic that my brain deleted it for fear of nightmares. But parents, take note, do not take your kids to strange theme parks and tell them that they will then fall down a waterfall, they have watched to many cartoons and know that it is always a crisis if you’re heading towards the end of the river, you never do it by choice.

I also went with Dad on a Helter Skelter. I retain the thought of trying to say Helter Skelter and what a magical name for a twirly wirly slide it was. I also loved the fact that we had to sit on door mats. Amazing.

The last memory of that holiday is of me sitting in the car, in the front seat, with Mam in the back. We stopped to get some petrol and Mam asked if I wanted a swap. “What’s a swap?”

“You’ll see when you get out of the car!” she giggled.

Thoughts of a fantastical chocolate bar called Swap came to mind, Willy Wonka style. I stepped out of the car, she lifted me up, placed me in the back seat and did up the strap. This was followed by her sitting in the front seat with me left waiting for my treat.

“Can I have my swap now?”

“You’ve had it!”

“No I haven’t!”

“Yes you have, a swap is when you change places with someone.”

Harsh. Very harsh.