Posts

DIY Projects: Getting Creative and Making Stuff

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This is not a drill. Time for a bit of "show and tell". In this post I share some of my DIY projects and creative moments.  I love to create, repurpose and upcycle things. My wife is cut from similar cloth, and together we embrace it. Our house is full of creative pieces and practical DIY projects. I suppose we are habitually built this way! The purpose of this post is to throw out some ideas and get you thinking. The Internet is a fine place for creative inspiration, such as sites like Pinterest and Etsy. Creativity exists in us all, it just needs coercing out. How To Get Creative Many people claim they lack creativity, but I don't buy it. Dismissing your creativity, is falsely declaring you don't possess ideas. We all have ideas and we all see opportunity. Us creative types just act on it and follow it through.  Dismissing your creativity, is falsely declaring you don't possess ideas.  Ideas should not remain ideas, get them out and share with the world. I love

Learning Guitar: How And Why You Should

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We rock tonight! I have played guitar for years and once again, my six-stringed friend is keeping me sane. Studies have shown that playing instruments can prevent diseases like Alzheimer's, by boosting cognitive abilities. Guitar is effectively brain training, and a way to sharpen your reflexes. Progressing through the early phases of learning is hugely enjoyable. Nobody turns into Jimi Hendrix over night (or ever), but with consistency, a decent standard is possible in six months. As hobbies go, it doesn't have to be pricey. I own a few expensive guitars, but there are brilliant guitars under £200 ($275). If that's too much, explore the second-hand market where bargains are plentiful. Mental Health Benefits My early twenties were perhaps the more challenging moments of my life. My family had moved back to Essex and I felt a little lost in the world. I was stumbling through temporary jobs, not knowing what I wanted from life and lacking motivation. This period lasted a coup

Why We Should Embrace The 'Staycation'

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I won't be needing this! I didn't get a summer break last year. The Algarve in Portugal was booked, but plans were soon obliterated by Coronavirus. I felt cheated, because I was deserving of a break and it was cruelly snatched. In the UK, foreign trips are illegal (at present). That's correct, you can be jailed for taking a package holiday. Imagine it,  "Sir, I am arresting you on suspicion of sunning yourself in Spain, you do not have to say anything but,..........nice tan".  I get it, I understand it, I just don't like it! Realistically, foreign travel won't return for a while. Summer breaks are important, because people need something to look forward to. It has been a tedious year of lockdowns and chaos. If you stayed sane and didn't lose your mind, you did well. Faced with fewer options, what is the answer? Staycation obviously! Deciding Where To Go My wife is meticulous when it comes to researching summer breaks. She'll scour the review sites

Vinyl Records: A Hipster Dad's Tale

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Glorious 12" vinyl! Vinyl records continue to surge in popularity; as eager buffoons embrace the musical frisbee, and nostalgic traditions. Sales are up a staggering 30 percent across the UK, to the delight of audiophiles and hipster twats everywhere. Experts predict that vinyl will outsell CDs this year, for the first time since the eighties.  Have we all gone bonkers? Perhaps we should start wearing shell-suits and listening to Phil Collins? What time is the 'A-Team' on? So, what is behind the trend? Well, basically, nostalgic old vinyl lovers like me. But younger people are buying into the trend too, because vinyl is a "new" experience. For the young, it's their chance to own physical music, instead of renting it from streaming services who (allegedly) "rip-off" artists. The appeal stretches beyond the music, because vinyl is collectable too. I own 109 records (according to Discogs ), including rare ones, signed ones, coloured ones and some limit

Fashion Advice, For The Maturing Gent

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The mature gentlemen! Many men lose their fashion mojo in middle-age, or after becoming fathers. Just like the 'dadbod', it can slowly sneak-up on us. This is a tragedy, because men often look at their best, during their 'James Bond' years.  In truth, anyone can dress badly, at any age. At forty, I have entered the classic 'danger period' of middle-age. Women are not free from risk, but Gok Wan solved a lot of their problems. We don't have a 'Gok Wan'........we have no-Wan! I have always recognised the need to mature my look over time. It can be difficult adapting, adjusting and upgrading the wardrobe accordingly. Some men lose the plot with clothes and never recover, it should not be like this. Men can age like a fine wine, if they want to. It is great for our mental health, because evidence shows dressing well boosts confidence. However, it can be confusing to understand boundaries and the 'cans and cants'. I find it tough, because I still

Mother's Day and Lady Stuff

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Mum's had worse days! Monday was 'International Women's Day' and today is 'Mother's Day' (in the UK). Our moment comes later in the year, with 'Father's Day' and 'International Men's Day' respectively. "Every day is friggin' men's day!"  my wife would say. Mother's Day gets tricky with small kids, as effectively your are stung twice! I can hardly make my 2 and 5 year old, visit the card shop and florist alone. So the burden falls on me, along with gifts for my own mum. They should rename it 'Wife Day' or 'Valentines 2', because if you have small children, that's your reality. This morning we enjoyed a McDonald's takeaway breakfast, something different. It goes against my healthy living, but hey, it's a special day.  Today's gifts include flowers (standard), Charlotte Tilbury make-up (pillow talk?), chocolate truffles (yum) and a small bottle of Sauvignon blanc (pisshead). I'll

Seven Lessons Learned In Lockdown

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At peace with life, and pink! I've done a lot of growing over the past twelve-months, and not just the period where I got fat! ( read here ) By growth, I mean the personal and self-development variety. The kind where you experience epiphanies, clarity and new perspectives on life. So much has happened, yet so much didn't happen!  German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche said "what doesn't kill you, makes you stronger" (or was that Kelly Clarkson?). In short, setbacks help us to grow and improve. Forgive me, I am about to go all Zen. I present to you, my seven lessons learned in lockdown. 1. Avoid The 'Comparison' Trap Social media has revolutionised the way we connect, I love it. The problem is, we often consciously and subconsciously compare ourselves to others. Too easily we become envious when the grass appears greener. Don't get caught in that trap, focus on your own purpose! People rarely have perfect lives, and believe me, many battle their own dem

Being A 'Working From Home' Dad

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Another day, another dollar! I look back with fondness, on my former office life. The office was my solace, the quiet place and the break I needed. Then Coronavirus came along and ruined it for me. Two enjoyable parts of my life were suddenly merged. Now I'm stuck working from home, whilst simultaneously parenting our two boys. What a long and arduous journey it has been. All things considered; I've done well, but bloody hell, it's been tough! In the news recently,  Goldman Sachs boss David Soloman branded working from home as an "aberration".  I think I'm with Dave on this one! Give me a 'kid-free' day in the office any time!  No generation of 'working parents' were ever tested like this. Pat yourselves on the back mums and dads, you've earned the stripes. The 'Working From Home' Myth Right, lets set the record straight! All employees expect a certain degree of productivity, so when you work from home, you don't "get away&

Get Focused, Making A Spectacle

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The handsome geek! I have worn glasses, on-and-off (literally), for about twenty-years. I am a reluctant wearer of the spectacles. Glasses are a social stigma (or astigmatism in my case!) that has never sat comfortably with me. I can't be alone in this predicament? In optometrist terms I sit around -1.75D, which makes me slightly short-sighted. According to the NHS website, anything under -3.00D is considered mild myopia . It is more than mildly inconvenient; I can tell you that! Without glasses, I can struggle through TV, unless it involves reading. My vision gets progressively worse when I'm tired. This forces me to squint, much like I'm holding a fart. Which is ridiculous right? Who holds a good fart? Even for the Queen. I'll try to keep this post mature, please bear with me.......... All I Want, Is 20-20 Vision I first noticed my sight was failing at secondary school. In classrooms, I would sit at the front. The teachers mistook it for youthful enthusiasm, but in tr

Surviving Valentine's Day, In A Pandemic

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Always remember the card! Happy Valentine's Day to everyone.  Once again, the pandemic obliterates our happiness. No fancy restaurants or dates tonight. No chance of packing the kids off to Nana's. No peace and quiet. Thank you Mr Covid! In these dire times, be grateful to have retained love in a pandemic. According to latest sources,  the pandemic has caused an International spike in relationship break-ups .  Sadly, it doesn't surprise me. The present strains on parents and relationships is next-level. Tonight I seek solace with a "Dine In" meal from  Marks & Spencers . Where no doubt, as usual, we'll find ourselves drunkenly reminiscing about the night we met and stories of early dates.  Contrary to popular belief, men enjoy the occasion too. Even exhausted dads like myself! So if you can, for one night, embrace Valentine's Day and park the bullsh*t to one side. Chill, relax and treat the better half with some gifts. Read on, for my views about love

How To Save Money For Your Children

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Show me the money.....Dad! Are you saving money for your children? If not, I would urge every parent to get organised and start building a nest-egg now. If you have started already, great, but read on.  I have saved for my two children since they were born. A modest direct-debit goes out each month. Already I have four-figure sums saved for them. By the time they hit adulthood, I would hope to have grown this more. I am not doing anything ground-breaking.  You would be surprised, how much you can grow money in an eighteen-year period. The power of compounding (more on this later) means you can leverage time, by saving regularly and growing a decent return. In this post, I'll show you my approach and what I believe parents can do to save. I am no financial advisor, just a parent, trying to save for his kids. However, this approach would also work for parents wanting to save for themselves. These tips are aimed mainly at British parents, but some of the principals can be applied univ

Dry January and Alcohol-Free Beers

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Many people committed to 'Dry January' last month. The annual event where people (try to) go alcohol-free for January. Recent events made this one tricky!  Look at me, I'm alcohol-free! The pubs may be closed, but the lockdown stress is real. A day of home-schooling can transform many parents into seasoned boozers. And  according to the British Liver Trust, there have been a 500% rise in calls regarding alcoholism. Aside from two days, I abstained from alcohol for most of January. I managed 29 days out of the 31. Having killed off dad-bod last year ( see here ), I was desperate to avoid slipping back into the kingdom of Dad-bodsville. Don't get me wrong, I still enjoy a drink, but the health benefits from sobriety outweigh my enjoyment of it. At my age, a hangover feels like I've done 12 rounds with Tyson Fury. I need all my spare energy, to play with the kids. Right now, life is overwhelmingly stressful. It is easy to reach for booze. I don't judge anyone and I

How I Said "Goodbye" To Dad-bod

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Fifty Shades of Dad-bod! The global pandemic was disastrous for my waistline. The stress of the situation led to some serious gains, but not the welcomed kind! I soon amassed a spare tyre and was heading for oblivion. Many have gained weight during the pandemic, but you can reverse the damage. The reality is, I'll be homeworking for the foreseeable. But home-working requires great self-discipline. Many home-workers are now considerably less active than they were pre-lockdown. Too often I was raiding the cupboards, for biscuits, sweets or whatever I could find! My wife has a proper job in the real world, so she wasn't home to motivate me with encouraging words like "stop eating you fat b*stard!".  Shamefully I gained 2 stone (12 kg) between March and July. It wasn't just the food, I started drinking more alcohol. Partly  through boredom, partly through pandemic-stress.  Proudly I fixed this situation and here is my journey out of planet dadbodsville. The Realisatio