Happy Birthday, George. You are two today and, as is tradition, Mamma and Da Dad have taken a look back at your year to remember what you got up to. Or, as you would now ask, “what’s been going on?”
Well, settle down and we will begin.
You walked not long after your first Birthday and you’ve been travelling ever since, forwards, and sdrawkcab,
and side to side.
And, in between reading up about dogs that don’t do ballet (or do they?), how to hide lions, and tigers who come to tea, you’ve been burning the night light at both ends. There was a Toddle Waddle, which tested you to the limit. The training was tough but you triumphed and raised £140 to help other babies living with the effects of Meningitis.
There’s been parties, parks, painting and plenty of paddling in pools. You and your penguin have even partaken in a spot of international travel to Portugal…
In case I haven’t made enough of a fuss or some of you forgot, I turned 40 last year. It happened and I was fine. One of the many things my lovely wife did for me was to make a slide show of photos from when I was a child with more recent ones of me and George. The sound track was ‘Hoochie Coochie Man’ by Muddy Waters because I sang it to George when he was in hospital, particularly the line ‘a gypsy woman told my Papa/before I was born/you got a boy child coming/he’s gonna be a son of a gun’.
She was pleased that I loved her choice of music as she had found finding a good song about being a Dad really hard. Her second choice was ‘Father and Son’ by Cat Stevens which a great song but is about a troubled relationship not a happy one. I started to realise I couldn’t think of any positive songs about being a Father or tributes to a much loved Dad. The first tunes that popped into my head were ‘Papa was a rolling stone’ (womanising thief), ‘Papa don’t preach’ (over bearing authority figure) and ‘Coward of the county’ (starts with Dad dying in prison and gets worse).
Finally, the first verse of ‘Kinky Afro’ by the Happy Mondays jumped into my head which has to be the lowest point.
Son I’m 30 I only went with your Mother cos she’s dirty And I don’t have a decent bone in me What you get is just what see, yeah
Where do we go from here? I need you, the people of the internet, to help me compile a playlist of songs about Dads. There must be some great tunes out there that I haven’t thought of. Post your suggestions in the comments below or tweet me your suggestions.
And I did. After most races I am left with the feeling I could have run faster if only I had trained harder, better and for longer. This year I set out to banish this feeling and finally smash my running goals as part of the list of things to do before I’m 40. I could build the drama by drawing out the story but I should probably skip to the end. I failed miserably.
I found out that all little obstacles to training harder are still there and don’t magically disappear because I am approaching a milestone birthday. Motivation is still hard if you are essentially lazy and life tends to get in the way of training. Having a baby adds new hurdles as well. The colds my darling boy brings home from nursery really punch a hole in my training and spending the night before a race trying to soothe him while he screams with the pain of teething is not ideal preparation. To really make it hard I even managed to break my toe four weeks before a race.
However, there were highs. Despite running being relegated to my third sporting priority behind cycling and rugby, I still completed five races including my first duathlon and logged over 250km in training. I introduced two friends to muddy trail races and got one of them hooked. Admittedly it took me three hours to nurse the other one round the Kamikaze Adventure Race leaving her exhausted, filthy and bruised but she can laugh about it now and that is a triumph in itself. I also raised hundreds of pounds for Meningitis Now (formerly Meningitis Trust) and get a great deal of satisfaction from doing it.
So what have I learnt? I may not have hit targets but I don’t feel like they are out of my reach now the big day is approaching. I am in good shape and am already planning next year’s races and challenges. Turning 40 is not a cut off and there is no reason why I can’t run faster as I rumble towards my 50s. I have also enjoyed the social side of running much more and loved the camaraderie of running with friends. I saw a hashtag trend on twitter last week that was something like #reasonswhyIrun. I didn’t join in because it is too hard to summarise in 140 characters. It makes me feel good for so many reasons and I am happy to still be running as I plunge into my forties.
Last year I made a list of things I wanted to do in the year I turned 40 and now I am on to the big one. I have assembled the fattest peloton in cycling history and together we are going to tackle one of the most iconic climbs in the Tour de France – Alpe D’Huez. This may not mean much to anyone who isn’t a fan of cycling so I will attempt to put in context.
Height – The climb we will be attempting to cycle has 21 hairpins, an average gradient of 8.1% (very steep) and ascends a total of 1,150 metres. That is the equivalent to cycling up Mount Snowdon, getting to the top and finding you’ve got another 65 metres to climb. I am training for this ride in the Chiltern Hills, highest point 267 metres.
Weight – Most cyclists are skinny and as you all know, I am not. In fact I am confident that I weigh as much as Bradley Wiggins and Chris Froome combined. I was considered asking someone to calculate how many watts of energy it would take to get me up the mountain but they would probably think I was taking the piss.
Experience – I have never attempted anything remotely like this before, have tendency to blow up when things get tough and I am nearly 40. I am being accompanied by three men who despite being my friends are idiots (they wouldn’t deny this). Not an ideal combination.
Why are we doing this? The primary reason is because we love the challenge but the secondary reason is because we want to raise some money for charity. Since George contracted Meningitis at birth I have been a supporter of the Meningitis Trust and the work they do to help families affected by this disease. George made a full recovery from his illness but for others the effects can last a lifetime. We hope you can support us and babies like George by making a small donation via our Justgiving page.
This month I passed my one year blogging anniversary or blogiversary if you will. So yay for me! I have been wondering about how I should mark this occasion as nothing seems appropriate. My first thought was to write about what I have learnt about blogging so far, but to be frank, my insights would not be particularly revealing. I may have found my groove but I doubt I have much of interest to share with the world.
I read through my first few posts, laughed at the memory of those early days and thought about how much had changed. It was only after reading an article on twitter that I remembered that my first post was written before I started this blog. It was titled ‘We are not always the boobs . . . . . and that’s OK too’and appeared on a site called ‘We are the Dads’. I wrote it after reading my first experience of well-meaning but ill thought out (and since deleted) comments about the benefits of breast feeding. Lactation may be beyond me but I remember how defensive and angry I felt at the time. It felt like a personal attack on my little family.
It is more than a year on and I have read similar comments, countless times while watching the debate rage away on the internet. Thankfully most people have a ‘live and let live’ approach and want to support all parents but the blinkered views never really go away. I wish I could wipe away the guilt my beautiful wife still feels about having to stop breast feeding as easily as the zealots make claims that ‘all you need is better support and education’. As I said in my original post ‘anything that makes her feel like she isn’t the most amazing Mum in the world should be vigorously rejected’.
All of this is taking my train of thought away from what I actually want to talk about as this isn’t really about me. We all know who the star of the show is, the reason why this blog exists and my number one obsession; it’s George. In the year I have been writing he has put his shaky start behind him and grown into the noisy, funny, caring, perpetual motion toddler I love with all my heart. I can’t begin to catalogue all he has learnt in the year I have been blogging but it certainly puts my development to shame. So this is for George, Daddy loves you little boy x
This weekend we passed another milestone with George, our first family bike ride. After inspiration from a post on the Babberblog and a few twitter chats I bought a Yepp Mini for my mountain bike. We took advantage of the sunshine on Friday afternoon and went for our first ride together. George loved being at the front where he could see what was going on and got very excited when his Mama cycled alongside us so he could shout and wave at her. From his vantage point he could easily spot the horses in the field we rode past although I think he was shouting ‘dog’ at them. I loved having George so close to me and he seemed to like stroking my leg as we rode along. I hope this was the first of many family outings.
This isn’t a sponsored post but if anyone is considering getting the same bike seat or similar then I would happily recommend it. When you put it on your bike it doesn’t look like you will have any room at all but it is very deceptive and George was lower down than I expected, almost like he was in my lap. I was also concerned about banging my knees or having to ride bow legged but that isn’t a problem either. I did have to keep my knees further apart than usual but it wasn’t uncomfortable at all. The only annoyance about buying this seat is that is designed for Dutch style bike with a long stem. I have a more modern mountain bike and need to buy a separate adapter which had to be ordered separately and took two weeks to arrive.
I hope this post inspires a few more parents to venture out their bikes and pass on the love of cycling to the next generation.
Dad fashion. What’s that all about then? There seem to be plenty of blogs dedicated to style for Mums but no one wants to talk about what Dad is wearing. We seem destined to wander blindly around shops without guidance, ignored by the fashion industry and mocked by the media.
It gets worse. As this excellent post on ‘Diary of the Dad’ points out, we live with tiny little style icons that have the clothes and attitude to outshine us whatever we do. A friend of mine has his t-shirts selected by his 2 year old daughter before he is allowed to put them on; he is on a slippery slope. So what’s the answer?
If you were to believe a post I read on ‘The Simple Dad’ the answer is to try not to be embarrassing. I always thought that embarrassing your teenage offspring was one of the perks of being a Dad so I have no intentions following that rule. The author goes on to list a series of tips that I could never agree with.
Don’t Wear Clothes Out Of Your Age Group – What does this mean? As I am no longer a toddler I don’t have handy age ranges on the label of my clothes and I’ve never seen a ‘going on 40’ range in any shop. Who wants to be pigeon holed like this?
Dress Neat and Slick – Why? I’m not at work. Don’t I get to chill out now and then? I don’t like dressing smart and I don’t think it really suits me anyway. My style is casual and it’s not going to change.
What to Wear
To counter this I have feverishly worked on what I think Dads in their veeeerrry late thirties are wearing this season. Obviously I mean me.
Hoodies – They’re comfy, they go with anything and they look vaguely sporty. And young people wear them, right? I do love my hoodies but I will be the first to admit I that I look a twat in this photo. I took it while I was bored on a work trip and I keep as a reminder to not take self-shots unless I have George with me.
Cargo Pants/combat trousers – Shortly before George was born I bought what I refer to as my ‘paternity trousers’ – a pair of green ‘combat’ trousers – and I have noticed several of my Dad friends wearing something similar. The attraction is obvious as they have loads pockets for random Dad stuff, they’re roomy and don’t show the puke stains too much. I do love mine but I’m coming round to the idea that they are not that stylish. Oh well!
Pub shoes – I’m talking about the sorts of trainers that have no athletic purpose and are only really any good for wearing down the pub. We all have our favourites and as retro styles are still popular I see no reason to kick out your Adidas Samba or Nike hi-tops. A few weeks ago I wore my Converse All-stars to a wedding mainly because I had broken my toe and couldn’t get shoes on but ended up with strangers complimenting my style. In my head I looked like Dr Who.
T-shirts with words on – In my late teens and early twenties I loved t-shirts with the names of my favourite bands emblazoned on them and developed an addiction to low quality bootlegs. Now I am older, I appreciate finer quality garments but can still indulge in all manner of geekery thanks to the internet. I am particularly fond of Last Exit to Nowhere and the plethora of geeky design on sites like Red Bubble.
What Not to Wear
When it comes to ‘what not to wear’ there are a few things we can exclude.
Boat/deck shoes – Do you own a boat? No? Well jog on, landlubber. Blazers – I haven’t won the Open Golf and it isn’t the 70s. Twat hats – Any hat worn to make a statement. Watch audition rounds of The Voice or X Factor for guidance. Crocs – We all know this one, right? Wrong! Recently I was forced to have a conversation with a man wearing leather fronted Crocs without screaming at him. So wrong.
I have no real conclusion to this post. Dads: wear what you like, don’t change your natural style because you have kids and don’t ever feel embarrassed. Let’s stick together and develop our own style. I’d like to thank Tom Briggs for giving me the title for this post and apologise to Han Smith for not making it a vlog where I sing Rod Stewart tunes while eating salt and vinegar crisps.
Even though both Warren Gatland and Stuart Lancaster tend to ignore our advice we are not going to be perturbed. George and I have put the underwhelming Lions selection behind us and have turned our attention to the England tour of Argentina. Although England have made great progress in the last year there are still question marks over the centre pairing, back row balance and counter-attacking ability of the back three. With this in mind we have highlighted three players we would like to see play in a developing England side for this tour.
Christian Wade – This isn’t a suggestion, he absolutely HAS to tour. Wade is easily the most exciting winger playing in the premiership, has scored 11 tries and a quick search on youtube will show how many were scorchers. His flat speed is impressive but his acceleration and ability to change direction in the blink of an eye is what sets him apart. You can’t watch him play and not think about Jason Robinson as he possesses the same fast feet and rugby brain. He doesn’t need space and has developed an incredibly knack of standing up defenders as they try to close him down. As he isn’t that big there will be inevitable questions about his defensive ability but I would prefer to have him in the side to coach that perceived weakness rather than leave him out.
Joel Tomkins – If common sense prevails and Billy Twelvetrees gets a decent run at inside centre then I would like to test some options outside him while Manu is with the lions. There are several candidates but as I’m a big fan of rugby league I’d like to see if Joel Tomkins can bring the quality of finishing he managed for Wigan to the England team. It takes a while to adjust to rugby union but Joel has played the majority of Saracens games this season, settled in well and even scored a few tries. He is defensively solid, fast and powerful which should appeal to Stuart Lancaster.
Matt Kvesic – Despite having a number of high quality back row players the one thing England lack is a specialist open side flanker. Steffon Armitage was largely ignored and I’m sure this is one of the reasons why he decided to play in France. Thankfully, Matt Kvesic has opted to play for Gloucester where I hope he will be encouraged to play with the freedom they love at Kingsholm. He is fast, links well with the backs and is powerful enough to be able to be a real handful at the breakdown. This clip from a recent defeat to Saracens shows him spinning out of a tackle before setting up the backs for a try then scoring himself from a more conventional forward route. I’d like to see England vary the team based on the opposition and having a player with Kvesic’s abilities certainly adds to their options.
My starting line-up for the first test against Argentina would be as follows
15 – Mike Brown (needs to be back where he belongs not stuck out on the wing)
14 – Christian Wade
13 – Joel Tomkins
12 – Billy Twelvetrees
11 – David Strettle (overlooked for far too long)
10 – Toby Flood (experienced player who can control the game and be a leader)
9 – Danny Care (should be first choice scrum half all the time)
1 – Joe Marler (big chance to show he can scrummage against formidable opposition)
2 – Joe Gray (more mobile than other hookers and deserves a chance to prove himself at international level)
3 – Alex Corbisiero
4 – Joe Launchbury (reputation took a knock in Cardiff and needs to show he can compete in big games)
5 – Courtney Lawes (opposite of Launchbury, needs to prove he is more than a thug)
6 – Tom Wood (captain)
7 – Matt Kvesic
8 – Billy Vunipola (injury to Morgan showed we need proven ball carrying options at 8)
I would take some of the more experienced players such as Morgan, Ashton, Foden and Haskell but I would give Chris Robshaw the summer off to rest. He may not be to Warren Gatland’s taste but he is a vital part of the England set up and has nothing to prove to anyone. I’d prefer to let him spend the summer on the beach and return to action fully rested.
All comments, thoughts and views are welcome in the box below.