Lego Men Don’t Bleed

I suppose it’s a function of growing older that Remembrance Day should get more poignant with each passing year. This year a couple of conversations have added to that.

The first was a conversation with one of my daughters, who overhead my wife and I talking about visiting my dying grandad in hospital. “I’d like to see him before he dies,” she said. We explained that she would have to be very brave, because he doesn’t look or sound much like the great grandfather she had seen previously.

When we arrived, he was lying naked in his hospital bed with a tube in his penis and his lower teeth removed – he had lost them on his previous visit to hospital. He was covered in red splotches and his hands were a deep unnatural purple colour that had spread back along his arms. He was groaning slightly.

He became aware of us and reached towards his hand towards me, but was unable to focus or saying anything intelligible. I held his hand for a moment and told him I loved him. My daughter, who is only seven, could only stand by the door.

As we walked out, she said, “I saw a lot of sick people there, but nobody as sick as Grandad Bob.” (For that is what we call him, despite his correct title being “Great Grandad”).

How to best introduce children to death and dying is an area of some interest to me. In my first year of teaching I was in a school where a mother killed one of her own children, and the consequences of that act were deep and far-reaching. An elder brother, who was eight, survived the attack and I remember doing some research at the time (before the age of Google and Wikipedia) and finding out that it was between the age of 8 and 10 that children start to get a deeper understanding of death. It was quite possible, I was told, that the surviving brother would have had no mechanism for understanding the loss and its permanence until he was older.

This was backed up firstly by my own experience. My other grandad had died when I was 8 and it made no difference to me at the time, even though I had loved him dearly. When I was 19, I remember being in conversation with my father about that time and the sadness of that loss suddenly hit me – I was unable to hold back the tears. It was like grief caught up with me when I was ready.

When the 9/11 attack happened on the Twin Towers I remember well the differing responses in my school. At the start of the next day, September 10th, the Year 4 children – aged 8 – were talking about the people jumping from the heights as if it was some kind of computer game, whereas the Year 6 children, only two years older, sat in sombre reflection of the events.

The second conversation happened following my son’s first Remembrance Day Parade as a cub at the local church. We were talking about some of the stories he had heard, including the bravery of amputee soldiers in how they deal with life after tragic injury. We were reflecting that many of those soldiers are looked after in the same hospital were my Grandad Bob is dying. And then he said “I often get my legs blown off in Roblox.” For those of you who don’t know, Roblox is a website where you can play games created by other members, based on a block type system that looks a lot like Lego. The players in the game all run around like little Lego men.

A part of me wanted to scold my son – how very dare he be so insensitive on Remembrance Day!

But he’s just nine. To him death is something that happens in games just before you restart. He’s probably not developmentally ready to appreciate the permanent loss of death and the grief that goes with it, and if he isn’t I don’t want him to have to wallow in it.

But at the same time, I am concerned that the developmental stage of appreciating the finality of death might be being pushed back for our youngsters – especially in this age when we are so focussed on the playing of games in which each individual can succeed and we can all be winners.

It makes me appreciate the fact that we have a Remembrance Day – a chance to reflect on lives ruined through war and conflict. And someday I’m sure I’ll have the opportunity to educate my own children that real people do bleed, without being overly-morbid about it.

Langennith, Surfers and Whisky

It had been 28 years since I’d last visited the Gower and as I drove along the peninsular I wondered how much had changed. It was perhaps hard to think these thoughts as I dodged the surfers in their tiny, battered Peugeots hurtling down the country lanes… But when I got there it was like nothing had changed. Rhossili Bay was still at its magnificent best – amazing sand, great views, so big that you’d need a city worth of people to make it feel busy.

I was amazed at how undeveloped the place was. My idyllic childhood holidays were right there, ready to be re-lived. And now bringing my own family, they could be.

But why? Why was it still relatively undisturbed? It’s true that the road into Langennith was narrow and windy – it would deter some caravans I’m sure. But the natural holiday resources are all there for some big company to come along and commercialise it all. The beach is amazing. There are waves and mile after mile of sand. The dunes are pretty good too – probably enough for a golf course if you were that way inclined. There’s history too – hints of long-gone abbeys and iron-age hill forts around the place.

And then it hit me: the surfers. So near to Swansea, Rhossili Bay is a major surfing beach and I’m sure many hundreds career down the winding roads to catch a few waves whenever they can. I’m not a surfer, but I could see in the way they drive that waves are the only things that matter – they didn’t want to waste a single valuable second away from the sea. And good on them too – I’m sure they are the main reason why that part of the Gower is so undisturbed.

Meanwhile back at the Kings Head in Langennith I was amazed to see the whisky selection at the bar. Three rows deep and in alphabetic order it’s the best collection I’ve ever seen, and that includes the bars I visited earlier this year on Islay.

If you ask for it, they hand you a well-thumbed list, including tasting notes. I tried the Penderyn – a Welsh whisky that I hadn’t tried before. It was light and floral, with a honeyish feel to it – perfect for a Summer’s evening. Then I saw that the list had Port Ellen on it – a drink I learned about in Islay and still haven’t sampled. Unfortunately they had run out – so I’ll still have to wait a little longer. So I tried the peated Penderyn instead and I was a little disappointed. I guess firstly because I associated peated whisky more with winter months – so while it is my favourite kind, I had made a poor choice on this occasion. Secondly I thought it tried a little too hard – I felt the peatedness was a little forced and it detracted from the original Penderyn that I had so enjoyed initially.

Langennith for me has now transcended legend. It was a place that I looked back on with fond memories of idyllic beach holidays. It is still that idyllic place, but now it has whisky too.

Sleeping Dad Blues
Listen on Posterous


A blues that came to me this morning after a terribly disrupted night with a poorly child. Messed up the guitar solo a bit. Whoops.


Also, I got in a bit of a mess with formatting this audio file. Posterous doesn’t seem to like .aifc files. The .mov file above will play in Posterous, but is technically a video with no images. The audio only file is here:


It’s weird (from a technical point of view) that movie files are easier to deal with than audio files…

Applying some principles from #uppingyourgame

Applying some principles from #uppingyourgame


A few months ago I acquired a Kindle to test how it might be used in the school where I teach. My first purchase on said Kindle was Doug Belshaw’s #UppingYourgame. For 86 English Pennies I thought I couldn’t go far wrong.


And I was not disappointed.


It’s a few pages of common sense which refers to lengthier tomes should you wish to read more deeply. I didn’t.


I did read #Uppingyourgame. Then my wife did. We both enjoyed it.


That was at the start of the Summer Hols and as you all know, teachers do nothing over the Summer except lie on beaches taking in the scorching British sunshine. As a consequence I’ve not been able to put any of the principles into practice. I’ve had no game to be upped.


Now however, term is back into full swing and I thought I’d write a few posts about the putting into the practice of the principles of the Uppingyourgame.


One of the things that impressed about the book is that it doesn’t deal in specifics – what follows are my specifics – if you really want to up your own game a bit then read the book, not this blog.


So whether it’s me getting fit, or using lists, or using social media more wisely, be prepared to see how I’ve begun to up my game…

The bees are enjoying my aliums


Just by way of contrast with the Daily Mail article that showed that bees were all dying from us using mobile phones, I observed the bees all enjoying my aliums this evening.


There is a strong 3G signal in the area, most of my neighbours have wireless and we pick up a good connection to the local BT Opensone service. Oh, and I took the picture using my mobile phone.


That might not be very good evidence, but it’s about the same quality that the Daily Mail presented.

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