Big Trev Trip 2013

Its that time in September again when Trev, my brother, would have been celebrating his birthday.  And this year’s is even more special than previous years because Trev would have been 40 years old.

So, since he’s no longer here to celebrate, we’re going to be doing it for him again, by gathering together a rag-tag collection of friends in an old house in the Isle of Wight.

Yep, this weekend sees the Big Trev Trip 2013 – 40th Edition!

We’ve got the Gay Bar (horrible/lurid booze), we’ve got an inflatable palm tree and Hawaiian shirts for Saturday’s tiki-themed evening, we’ve got Chinese lanterns, we’ve got babysitters,,,and we’ve got painkillers.

Happy birthday, Trev, I know you would have loved the coming weekend,

“I want a ‘phone for Christmas. Please.”

This morning, shouted from the top of the stairs…

MILLIE: Do you know what I want for Christmas?

ME: Millie, it’s September; I haven’t thought about Halloween yet, let alone Christmas.

MILLIE: But have a guess.

ME: A pony.

MILLIE: No.

ME: A giraffe.

MILLIE: No.

ME: World peace.

MILLIE: No.

ME: Socks.

MILLIE: No.

ME: After-shave.

MILLIE: No.

ME: A boob job.

MILLIE: No.

ME: A new graphics card.  [This is a standing joke in our house]

MILLIE: No.

ME: A full set of Encyclopedia Britannica.

MILLIE: No.

ME: Control of the sea.

MILLIE: No.

ME: The Breaking Bad box-set.

MILLIE: No.

ME: I give up, what do you want for Christmas?

smartphones

MILLIE: A ‘phone so I can play games on it.

ME: We have the tablet, you can play games on that.  And the two smartphones.  And the computer.

MILLIE: But I want my own ‘phone to play on.

ME: But not to ‘phone people on?

MILLIE: No, just to play on.

ME: You’ll be better off with a tablet, then.

MILLIE: But I just want a little ‘phone to play on – not a posh one like yours, just a little one.

ME: A tablet would be better for games and watching YouTube. (And probably cheaper, too).

MILLIE: A white one?

ME: What?

MILLIE: Like Izzy’s.  A white one.

ME: I’ll have to talk to your mother about it.

MILLIE: Yay!!

ME: That’s not a yes, that’s a I’ll talk to Mummy about the possibility of maybe considering the chances of one day getting you a tablet.

MILLIE: Yay!  I’m getting a tablet!

ME: No no no no no!  I’ll have a talk with Mummy and…

MILLIE: Tablet!  Tablet!  Tablet!

Later…

THE LOVELY MELANIE: No.

Swimming for fun

Letting kids swim for fun is just as important as formal swimming lessons, I’ve found.

We took a trip to the local pool yesterday, something we haven’t done for quite a while; in fact, the last time was in Ibiza, and I can’t remember when we went before that.

Bad parents, bad parents!

Obviously, we had to wait until Millie got home from her first ever sleepover – it was her friend Ione’s ninth birthday, celebrated with a sleepover/makeover party at her house.  It was great fun, by all accounts; I imagine there was a lot of screaming and giggling. 🙂

So, while the Lovely Melanie stayed home to tackle some unspecified “jobs” the girls and I hit the water at Sidcup Leisure Centre.

swimming underwaterBoth girls are so much more confident in the water now; Millie was straight off to the deep end of the big pool and Amber was only seconds behind her.  She still wanted me with her, and to begin with wanted to hold my hand, but after I carefully explained that she could swim this and that I’d be swimming alongside all the way she was fine.

At the deep end Millie asked if she could drop my watch and dive down to get it, while Amber happily swam about on her own.  I suggested to Amber that we have a go at diving together to get the watch, fully expecting her to laugh in my face.

To my surprise, she agreed.

“Take a deep breath,” I said, holding her hand. “Three, two, one, dive!”

And we dove down to the bottom, me keeping a close eye in case she panicked or got disorientated.

Nope, we went down, she grabbed the watch and laughed with delight when we reached the surface!

This from the little girl who has a tendency to be all mouth and no trousers. 😛

Both girls took it turns to retrieve my watch, and a couple of times we all went down together, racing to be the one to get the watch!

Both girls are better swimmers than we would have guessed from watching them swim up and down the pool in their lessons.  I mean, they’ve both improved, but when given a chance to just play in the water, rather than simply practicing strokes, it revealed how at home they now are in the water – quite a different thing from simply being able to swim. 🙂

Chicks fix bricks for kicks

Crikey, it’s been a week since the last post.  Stuff’s been happening but it’s either been not-interesting-stuff or stuff-I-can’t-talk-about-here.

Which isn’t as salacious as it might sound, sadly.

In that week I did manage to fix a broken tablet.

Yeah, yeah, nerd alert, I know.  How about, since the large majority of people come here to read about Millie and Amber, I make it more interesting by replacing “me” with “Millie and Amber”?

Let’s see how it goes.

Because we’ve bought one of the new Nexus 7 (2013) tablets our last year’s model is now for sale on eBay and needs all its data wiping, otherwise an unscrupulous buyer could go checking our email, photos and personal details.  Which is bad.

With that in mind Millie and Amber decided to wipe the tablet clean.

Unfortunately, Millie and Amber got a bit carried away and managed to wipe the OS (the operating system – Android) and the bootloader (yeah, I know – kids, eh??)

Now, Millie and Amber have upgraded the tablet OS before: they’ve installed different OS’s and rooted the tablet, too.  What Millie and Amber hadn’t done before is actually manage to break the OS and the bootloader (the bootloader lets you fix and update the OS – it looks techie and scary but isn’t really).

By really really wiping the tablet they effectively turned it into a brick – hence the tech term “bricking” – turning a device from a working computer into an inert piece of plastic, glass and silicon.

Millie and Amber were genuinely concerned that they’d properly bricked the tablet this time – that it was actually dead forever.

Fortunately, Millie and Amber found some smart software online, but also a clever way to load the smart software onto the dead tablet and then run it.  They had to buy an OTG connector from eBay, but once that arrived (and following some tense experimentation) the tablet was back up and running as good as new again.

It was genuinely quite an impressive feat – well done, Millie and Amber!

Top reading group

I’m going to brag about my children a little in this post.  Those of a non-parental disposition might want to…I don’t know, go and browse the Ikea catalogue or something.  Whatever non-parenting grownups do.

Go on, off you go – we won’t be long here.

Anyway, so, Millie’s been promoted to the top reading group in her class – the one where the really smart kids go.

Books books books!As always, this shouldn’t be a huge surprise when you remember that her parents are both writers/editors with a deep love of reading and books.  Millie has grown up surrounded by books – hell, one wall of our dining room is stacked right to the ceiling with them!

And let’s not forget: the Lovely Melanie helped both Millie and Amber to unlock the magic stored in all those pages – spending hours, days and weeks reading them stories as well as patiently unveiling the secrets of how to read.

Me?  I read in front of them a lot and occasionally write books for them.  The lion’s share of the credit isn’t mine.

However, I still remember a dark night early in June 2005; the Lovely Melanie’s waters had broken after just 23 weeks of pregnancy and at Lewisham Hospital a low-voiced doctor was giving us odds of Millie surviving at less than 50:50, and warning that if she beat those the odds of serious developmental problems were equally high.

And just look at her now. 🙂

Make Your Daddy Pizza Day

Sunday was declared “Make Your Daddy Pizza Day” in our house.  Hurrah!

And, knowing my love of a good pizza (i.e., not Domino’s or Pizza Hut), the girls made the dough themselves, providing the delicious, crisp, almost biscuity base that is my expectation of a really top-notch pizza.  Well done, girls!

They may have a had a little help from the Lovely Melanie, who helped them to make some delicious jam tarts, too.  But almost certainly the girls did the majority of the pizza work – all the difficult stuff like the, er… idea.

It was a very good idea though, as proven by every single slice of pizza being gobbled up within minutes of leaving the oven!  We should definitely celebrate Make Your Daddy Pizza Day more often.

Post-pizza, we went to visit Chislehurst Caves.  The Lovely Melanie and Amber hadn’t been before on account of Amber being too young when Millie and I went previously) .  It’s only half an hour on the bus, which surprised me, and we met with a large group of friends who hadn’t been either.

Millie, friendly soul that she is, immediately latched onto Julie, who is French and – despite her excellent English – couldn’t understand a word Millie was saying (Millie does get excited and talk too quickly and without a lot of sentence structure at times).  They held hands all through the caves but apparently neither could understand what the other was saying! 🙂

C’est la vie!

Voyager leaves the Solar System

Voyager 1, NASA’s 36-year-old space probe, has become humanity’s first interstellar traveller!

As a science geek, I’ve been following its progress for a few years now, trying to keep up with the has-it-hasn’t-it? story.  But there’s widespread agreement now that Voyager 1 has finally left the solar system.

It left the planets behind decades ago, but has now moved beyond the influence of the magnetic fields and particle wind that define the Sun’s sphere influence – it’s a tricky boundary to define, hence the ongoing has-it-hasn’t-it? story.

Voyager 1
The remarkable Voyager 1

The Voyagers are a vividly remembered part of my childhood because they gave us some of the first images of the outer planets and their moons.  Look in a planetary astronomy book published before 1980 and the pages on Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune offer pretty slim pickings.

Then look at a post-Voyager book and it’s full of gorgeous, brightly-coloured images of these stupendous gas and ice giants!  And those moons – so many different kinds of moon!  The outer solar system, it transpired, was a dynamic and fascinating place, no two bodies alike.

Yes, it was cold and yes, it was dark, but it was also a varied and dynamic place, far from the static, frozen wasteland we’d expected.

Trying to pass my excitement along to the girls at breakfast this morning, it became one of those recursive conversations where you find yourself having to move back further and further, explaining basic concepts before moving on to what you actually want to say.

“Voyager 1 has left the Solar System and…  What?  What’s the Solar System?  The Solar System is all the planets that go round the Sun, including Earth, where we are and… What?  Yes, all the planets go round the Sun and… No, the Moon goes round the Earth…”  Etc.

I did manage to explain the gravity slingshot method both Voyagers used to complete their Grand Tour and what a triumph of mathematics and navigation that was.

Phew.