Monday, 24 November 2014

Fantasy Cabinet, Square Dream and Dinovember

Tuesday
In the battle to get the Bairn to try new food we deploy a range of techniques. The latest, learned from a friend whose kid is six months older than ours, involves asking the child to put some food on a fork for us to eat. Not for the kid. Oh no. But what’s that? Something has distracted me and I’m forced to look away. When I turn back the food on the fork is gone. Call Columbo! Get Jessica Fletcher on her bike. It’s a mystery.

Seriously though, it’s a great technique and helped our Bairn pile through mince and tatties for the first time, including some sneaky peas!

Wednesday
News reaches us via a chance glance at Twitter that the Crushinator is to cease its destructive rampage in our street a day earlier than planned due to complaints from residents. The overnight road removal and resurfacing will only last four nights rather than five, begging the question of when it’ll be finished. Ominously the council statement says the work will be completed at a later date. This means that our town centre will look like a war zone as the shops prepare for their make-or-break Christmas rush. I can see even more folk than usual heading for the out of town chain store retail park. Nice job, local authority.

Thursday
To Prestonfield! It’s the Politician of the Year awards and I’m pleased to see recent Green convert John Finnie pick up a well deserved gong for his work on armed police in the Highlands. I’m also pleased to report I witnessed nothing else of consequence despite the juxtaposition of journalists, politicians and alcohol. No, nothing at all. Please move along sir/madam.

Friday
The new FM announces her reshuffled cabinet. It’s good to see gender balance in action, although disappointing that Fergus “Fracking Opportunity” Ewing remains Energy Minister, and frustrating that climate change remains a junior responsibility outside of Cabinet, indeed going to a third minister in as many years. Playing fantasy cabinet (come on, admit it - you were doing it too) I see climate change as too important to be tucked away. It should be up front and cross-cutting. Given the emissions from transport and housing I’d make both those posts full cabinet positions with a clear remit to pursue low carbon policies. Added to that an objective to improve affordability to reduce inequality. Imagine! A Cab Sec for Sustainable Transport. A Cab Set for Energy Efficient Homes. Heavens to Murgatroyd.

Saturday
Dad duties call and to the clinic we go to take up the offer of a flu immunisation. I keep calling it a jag but in fact these days it’s a nasal spray and is over in seconds. Our Bairn hardly bats an eyelid; other parents appear to face a bit more of a struggle. Mind you, I still live with the memory of taking our little person, when she was very little indeed, for an actual jag. The look she gave me! A look of: Why did you let that smiling lady do that you untrustworthy brute??!! Impossible to forget.

In other dad-type news I read an excellent report that the latest delivery scheme on offer is for socks. That’s right. Hot on the heels (see what I did there) of veg boxes, fish boxes, milk and, actually now I think about it, pretty much anything you click on while online, a firm is offering to send chaps regular parcels of plain black socks every few months so they need never worry about what goes on their toes. This is a genius scheme and I look forward to patronising it enormously.

Sunday
The tarmac is hardly even cool and dry before sad motorists start piling into what could have been a Musselburgh town square but will soon be marked out with white lines for increased numbers of parking spaces. At one point the area is empty and I witness a couple of boys playing kick about with a ball. Brilliant. I am sorely tempted to occupy the space with a couple of chairs, a table, a chess set and some bagel and coffee. We could watch the world go by like urban dwellers in civilisation. I could imagine it’s NYC and Newbigging is Broadway. Ach, the fumes from the First Buses to North Berwick are going to my head…

Monday
Happy Dinovember! Wondering what I’m on about? Click here. Our Bairn loves it. Who needs Santa when you have toy prehistoric creatures that come alive during the night! What will they get up to next?

Monday, 17 November 2014

Chips, Kippers and the Crushinator

Tuesday
The Bairn’s school phones. She’s looking wan. And some other bairns have been sent home feeling sick. Don’t panic! Everything’s under control. Although Wife-features is able to collect our precious potential patient from school I need to head home to be Doctor Dad for the afternoon to allow the missus to make a prior engagement. Pretty quickly the Bairn perks up, asks for chips and laughs out loud while watching Scooby Doo. Hmm. Has she pulled her first sickie?

Wednesday
Musselburgh CAB - which does a grand job in these austere times - has its AGM and out of curiosity I have a peek at its annual report. I’ve met the manager and finance officer so I know roughly the sort of casework they deal with but the annual report really underlines the extent of the chaos being caused by welfare cuts, crap jobs and crap wages. The CAB helped 110 clients over the past year with debts totalling £2.4million. That’s not a typo. Gulp.

Thursday
When I’m not banging on about bicycles I like a rant about railways. So much so I was recently invited to join the East Lothian Community Rail Partnership. These groups are springing up around the country, linking residents and campaigners with potential pots of money and the railway companies. The idea is for communities to have a greater say in the quality of local stations and services. Ahead of a public event next week I’ve chipped in some idea on connecting bike routes and bus services with East Lothian stations. I note Abellio, soon to take over the Scotrail franchise, is committing to create 10 Bike and Go stations with cycle hire schemes. I’ll be lobbying for one of them to come to East Lothian.

Friday
It’s not easy being Green, especially when there’s a first past the post election looming. Today I hear Labour politicians urging punters in Caroline Lucas’ patch to back Miliband, I hear Cameron pleading for Green votes to help him fight off the Kippers and I watch SNP folk congratulate themselves on opening up their candidate selection process to non-members who want to serve under the Nat banner. Call me a dangerous free-thinking radical but I think if you like Green policies and personalities you should vote Green!

Currently tearing up Musselburgh High St
Today I manage to get more details from the council about the imminent arrival of the Crushinator machine in our street. Five nights of road wrecking is indeed on the cards, although jackhammers should cease at 11pm, for which I’m expected to be grateful. Apparently the incessant beeping as lorries manoeuvre will be the main noise during the small hours of Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. A health and safety measure. Oh the irony.

Saturday
To America! Not literally but I read that Obama’s pledge to cut greenhouse gas emissions has prompted real foaming at the mouth by the burgeoning Republican movement over there. Tackling climate change will “crush jobs” they say. Whereas work will be plentiful when we’re fried and flooded?

More important than such fripperies as an ecosystem habitable by humans - scarves! I read in the FT menswear pages (stop sniggering at the back) that a trend is developing - chaps are ditching collar and tie with their suits for a crewneck fine guage pullover with a small scarf adornment. I can only dream of mastering such sophistication. Like most Dads I shun the idea of clothes that stand out, and when quizzed Is That Jacket New tend to reply I Found It In A Bin Bag At A Bus Stop, Honest.

Sunday
Helping the Bairn with her homework (She’s five! Why does she have homework?) I come across a couple of assumptions worth noting. She’s been set a numbers task - namely to draw on a door our house number, on a shoe her shoe size, and on a car our registration number. We don’t have a car. Wife-features suggests crossing it out and drawing a bus with a 44 or a 26 on it.

And there’s song practice. The “nativity” the P1-3s are doing mostly seems to be about animals but one song refers to Jesus and God, neither of whom get name checked at home. I make a mental note to discuss the topic at the next parents’ night.

Monday
My attention is drawn to research by boffins with nothing better to do who have examined hundreds of hours of conversation and compared the words we use now with the words we used in the 1990s. Apparently “fortnight, marmalade and cheerio” are out of fashion (I still use all of these) while references to love have gone from being about people and family to focusing instead on, wait for it… cheese, gardens and clothes.

Frankly, I’ve explained my meh attitude to clothes and I neglect my garden as it is. But loving cheese? What's crackers about that?

Monday, 10 November 2014

Back On The Blog With Bituminous Emulsion And Black Magic

Tuesday
Well, Mrs Miggins, at last we can return to sanity. The hustings are over, the bunting is down, the mad hysteria is at an end. After the chaos of an independence referendum, we can return to normal.

A bit of Blackadder to restore the blogging bug. I’ll come to politics shortly but first I should describe an exciting event of a less hysterical kind.

Wife-features and I just celebrated our ten year wedding anniversary by subcontracting parenting duties to my mum for a few days, in particular a weekend evening. The missus and I took in a show and knocked back a few cocktails like the hipsters we used to be. We don’t have a huge circle of relatives and friends handy for watching the Bairn but when it happens we always feel the benefit.

I’ve learned over the five and half years since the Bairn arrived to try to strike a balance between time as a family, time on your own and time with your better half. It’s also been good, if I’m honest, to have a brief respite from indyref campaigning! But with a membership surge and an election just a few months away, I’m going to have work hard at that family time balance.

Wednesday
To North Berwick! I address a packed meeting where jaws collectively drop at news of where the other political parties stand on fracking, the controversial gas drilling process possibly coming soon to a quiet field near you. The political spectrum goes from hardline drill-baby-drill Tories and Libdems through fudgy-wudgy Labour and SNP types who think it’s an “opportunity” to Greens like me who say Not On Your Nelly. I leave comforted by the sense that common sense will prevail and any frackers sniffing around this neck of the woods will be given short shrift.

Thursday
The local newspapers afford some local politicians a regular platform to pontificate. Today I notice my MP Fiona O’Donnell has signalled her support for pro-austerity, pro-Trident, pro-trickle down economics Jim Murphy. How this will rescue Labour from its meltdown I have no idea. Meanwhile the SNP’s Colin Beattie welcomes the lobbying by Scotland’s airports for air passenger duty to be cut, which would result in tens of thousands of tonnes of additional climate change emissions. Both these items scream business-as-usual when the mood of the nation is rather different. Will they pay the price? We shall see.

Friday
Bituminous emulsion news! This very sticky road surfacing material will imminently be applied to the street outside our house, I learn from today’s post. The council’s Executive Director for Services for Communities (no, I don’t know what this means either) informs me, and presumably hundreds of other local residents, that starting a week on Monday construction and resurfacing work will take place between the frightfully sensible hours of 9pm and 7am. For five nights. This is “to minimise congestion”. Because heaven forfend we disrupt Johnny Motorist on his daily commute - no, much kinder to have fifty hours of drilling and steamrollering right outside people’s windows as they’re trying to sleep. I shall be interested to learn what alternatives they considered. At the very least I’d like some earplugs in the post and few quid off my council tax bill.

Saturday
To the library! It’s awfy busy. We then end up in the big, evil, edge-of-town-centre supermarket, by accident. It’s really quiet. The world (at least the Musselburgh bit of it) has gone topsy turvy.

The library hubbub can be explained by the timing of the Bookbug session for wee bairns but the supermarket silence? Is the big box retail era over? Please tell me it’s over. Anyway, I was determined to get a copy of the Financial Times, which I haven’t read properly for ages but used to enjoy at weekends. Sadly, none of the paper shops in the town centre stocks it and I think I got the only copy at the supermarket. (Sorry, if that was meant to be yours!)

My instinct to restore the FT weekend habit is proved right. In a feature piece about “The Silver Economy” (ie, our ageing population) I note that Nestle has redesigned coffee jars to make them easier to open for ageing consumers, and they have reworked their Black Magic chocolate boxes by increasing the font size, reorganising the chocolates so they align with the pictures on the lid and - wait for it - they have widened the finger scoops. Yup, widened finger scoops in chocolate boxes. I may mock this right now but when I’m doddery and can deftly pop a coffee cream into my wrinkly gob I’ll be quietly thinking I Love Capitalism.

Sunday
Arg! Trauma. The Bairn is pretty confident on her wee bike. (Pedals and no stabilisers.) But I misjudged the size of the hill she was happy to career down on our walk/cycle from Musselburgh to Prestonpans via Levenhall Links. She slammed on her brakes, lost control and went tumbling. There was crying and hugging but in the end she was fine. I even got a laugh out of her later when I described my experience of learning to ride. (Plonked on a bike at the top of a hill. Given a shove by my dad. Caught at the bottom of the hill by my mum after scraping my sides on fences and walls on the way down.)

It’s a horrible moment when you see your kid coming to grief but hopefully when she’s older she’ll think back and laugh. She did manage a pretty professional “tuck and roll” when the bike came out from under her.

Monday
If I told you an oil baron called Algy Cluff wanted to set undersea coal seams on fire and catch the emerging gas you’d probably think I was describing a sequel to There Will Be Blood, starring Daniel Day Lewis. But no. Sadly it’s a real thing that has come forth and will affect the Forth. Pity the poor planning official at Fife (probably) council who has to handle the application. This will prove to be one very hot potato.

And speaking of delicious foodstuffs, it turns out school meals can be a real help in broadening the Bairn’s tastes. Some days she gets a packed lunch but today it was a school lunch and she tells me she had chicken with gravy and sweetcorn - things she’s been dodging at home. Peas remain the inaccessible pinnacle of the dinner table for her, both at school and home. Apart from whizzing in a soup, any ideas for how to solve this? All I ask is that she gives peas a chance.