Gender bull

Youngest cub has a favourite toy.

It’s a radio controlled car that my brother-in-law bought him for Christmas.

He loves it.

The car  is a 4×4, flippable, 360 thing that works whichever way up it is and can climb a multitude of obstacles.

We go through batteries like they were going out of fashion until I bought rechargeables, fearing that we may single-handedly destroy the planet. I didn’t want that on my conscience.

It’s really is rather good. That good, that big sister quite fancies having one.

I consulted Amazon.

Found it, or should I say, them.

Of the same theme but different sizes, colours and shapes. Result.

Then I found this one….

4girls……

Really.

So unless it’s got pink wheels and has ‘girly’ patterns, females won’t be interested?

I call bull.

My daughter just wanted an orange one.

BSD

Ps. clicking the above clicks will generate affiliate fees and may go someway to overcoming my anger towards blatant gender stereotyping and other bull. Thanks.

Can you dig it? yes you can!

Day two of half term, and I’ve got this covered.

Proper planning has led me to have most of this holiday covered. As I’ve stated before (probably to myself to be fair) proper planning prevents poor performance. Anyway, last week I found out that our local museum was hosting a fossil event, where for a small fee participants could engage in some palaeontology.

Right up my daughter’s street and my son is happy to play along too.

Being a proper planner, I allow an hour for us to get there. It’s a 5 minute drive so we’re stupidly early; oh well.

A quick wander around in the bleak mid-winter to find a cash-point sees us pretty happy to be back indoors and wandering around the museum. 30 minutes to go. You enter the museum through the gift shop; nice one folks; I see what you did there.

As we queue, my youngest slowly rotates, next to a display of plates and glass ornaments. I put a stop to that.

There’s a guy upstairs sitting behind a table of fossils so we stop for a chat.

He’s fascinating and has a real enthusiasm for what he’s doing. She’s enthralled. He eyes the gentleman up suspiciously, as only my boy cub can, and keeps his distance.

We’re reliably informed that there are more goodies downstairs, so we head for adventure, headlong into a cafe.

Nice going museum; I see what you did there. The fatal attraction of a fridge full of cakes draws them both in and they turn to look at me.

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What came over me?

Not sure what I was thinking, I let them choose whatever they want. She goes for a modest slice of cheesecake whilst he opts for a slice of chocolate cake. Not like the one above; oh no. there was no strawberry on his choice. Instead, the chocolate cake he chose was bedecked with sugar-coated sweets; the kind I bought for a penny in my childhood. It was almost as if the creator wasn’t satisfied with the sugar content of the plain chocolate cake, then decided to push the tooth rotting factor up to 11.

I bought it anyway as we had 20 minutes to kill.

I decided to share the cake with him, convinced that he would struggle with the volume and richness. I underestimated him. I think I had one or two forkfuls, but tired of the battle to wrestle it away from him after the second attempt.

To his credit, he managed to funnel about 90% into his head with 5% spread around his face. The other 5% appears later.

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And we’re in!

I hadn’t imagined quite how popular the event would be. One minute we were alone, the next we were awash with parents and children. It was nice to see so many people out and about and the collective excitement level was contagious.

There were four stations for enquiring minds to visit; an expert, a mask making station, a microscope bench and a simulated dig. I thought the latter looked like two cat litter trays but I kept that to myself.

They were straight in; the added bonus being that they could keep one of the fossils that they found. Four fossils each later (in quite a short time) we discussed the lesson of sharing and leaving some for others whilst reburying their three least favourite.

Advancing to the bench of microscopes for a close up of some minerals we queued behind a three deep moving mass of buggies and bodies. This was very popular, but not with us. As she has three microscopes at home, we decided to show our fossils to the expert upstairs and create some masks.

Home run

He was busy. I really underestimated this. No matter; we went to the masks. One Triceratops (her) and a T-rex (him).

With crayon, felt-tip, marker pen and glue stick it took an absolute age for them to colour in their choices. For reasons known only to her, she decided to use the finest tipped pen to embolden her creation. He was a bit more pragmatic and broad-stroked a fisted crayon across his picture. Not surprisingly he was finished in no time. She slumped further in her chair when I told her that she would have to do the other side too.

Staples, glue, elastic and a healthy dose of imagination later and the cubs were transformed into whatever dinosaur young are called. Happy.

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Unnoticed, we’ve spent two hours here. It’s been brilliant.

As we get up to leave, she notices a thick brown stain on the bum and leg of his beige trousers. She recoils and points all at once but before she can comment, I run my finger along the stain and then pop it in my mouth. I turn and tell her..

We have to go now; he’s done a poo.

I thought she was going to faint.

I do like chocolate cake.

BSD

Saturday’s adventure.

They wanted Seaworld. I wanted outdoors; the weather was too nice.

I did a quick search of places to visit with kids and up popped Millet’s Farm in Oxfordshire. We’d been before for various reasons but on this occasions their falconry centre caught my eye.

My eldest wants to be an explorer and as such, she is already a keen naturalist. My youngest likes Angry Birds and in particular ‘Mighty Eagle’  so win win.

Wrong

I herded them across the car-park and towards the separate entrance to the Falconry Centre.

In a touch of Pied Piper marketing genius, I had to walk them through a well resourced, adventure playground, a trampoline park and a merry-go-round to get to the entrance. By the time we had got there, sparks were coming off of the heels of the youngest and he was on the edge of tears.

Luckily, this was the view from the cash-desk..

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The bigger of the two birds, which I initially thought was a Golden Eagle, turned out to be a juvenile Bald (Mighty) Eagle.

A quick ‘Hey guys; look through there…’ soon gave rise to gasps of excitement. We went in. As is now the norm, the eldest got to take the photos, apart from the video below, where I tried desperately to catch the Eagle’s cry..

It turned away at the precise moment.

They have a dazzling array of Birds of Prey, including Owls and you can get quite close to them.

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My daughter got a little too close to this one; the resulting warning cry stopped her in her tracks.

She once stroked a Swan when we went to feed the ducks when she was three. It was pretty startled but as it was bigger than her and she had bread in her other hand, she was tolerated.

I’ll have to train that out of her before she starts encountering bigger animals.

They also have some other animals, such as Raccoons and Meerkats and we stood and watched a family have a close encounter with them (at extra cost).

The keepers were very knowledgeable and happy to answer questions.

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This Boobook Owl was on his way back from the flying field when this keeper got papped and then quizzed. It’s a lovely looking creature that has that look like it has just overheard the most profane of words.

boobook

file pic

As with any zoological institution, there was the question of morality. As we walked around some of the birds were naturally startled and flew to the furthest reaches of their aviaries, only to be met by netting.

To Millet’s credit, all of the birds looked healthy and the whole place was meticulously clean. Their conservation statement can be viewed here and what they write is promising. The decline in some species in the UK is worrying.

All in all, this centre is well worth a visit and pretty good value for money too. Even with one ride for all of us on the Carousel, the whole day cost just under £30.

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I’ve no idea what this is; the sign fell over.

BSD

This is not a sponsored post.

Blueprint for a grand day out.

We’re halfway through the summer break..

and I’m intent on making great memories for the cubs. As a boy, one of my favourite pastimes was fishing. I kept it up into adulthood even though I rarely make time for it nowadays.

I love the peace and tranquility beside a river or lake; being near water seems to wash my troubles away. I want to share that feeling and memories with them, so for my daughter’s birthday I bought her a junior fishing kit. She was ecstatic.

Balance

I had noticed her watching fishing programs beforehand, and it seemed to fit in with her desire to be outdoors. I leant her a couple of my fishing books, so she could learn a few techniques and some of the different types of fish. The questions weren’t far behind.

How do you catch them? how do they stay on the line? do you eat them? does it hurt them?’

I watched her face go through several emotions as I answered her, then she thought about it for a bit.

OK

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Rite of passage

There was no way on the Lord’s sweet earth that I was going to teach her to fish and keep a safe eye on the youngest cub on the waterfront so mum came along too. We made a picnic for good measure and off we trotted.

I explained to her that when daddy goes fishing, set up can take hours. ‘First you have to find a likely spot, then you have to….‘ I turned around and she had wandered off. The youngest had found a feather from a Buzzard and this was much more interesting.

I managed to get her back and we set up. She only got pricked by a hook once and was a little reluctant to bait up but she got on with it.

I taught her how to cast…

The bait sailed into the water and the bodycount stayed at 0. Success.

How long before I get a fish?

Well that’s the art my dear! you have to be…’

Her float dipped under the water.

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Unfortunately our adventure was a short one. This was only a taster session to whet her appetite and it had done just that.

My fish was bigger than yours dad!’

It wasn’t.

BSD

I really, really should listen to my body.

Yesterday was a training day.

What I mean by this is that it was a day that I go and see my Shiye (Kung Fu instructor when you’re a Sifu yourself) for a catch up.

I’ve been training with him for 30 years this year and he has led me to great success. I was a little late for this class so foolishly only did a small warm up.

A new guy was there and wanted to know some tricks to add to his own toolbox. We went to work. He learnt a new throw; he threw me; I landed correctly, then popped my knee getting up.

I couldn’t hide it and my instructor noticed.

The class ended and we had the normal catch up chat. I reminded him that I was 44 next week. He informed me that there was a competition coming up in the USA at the end of the year and that I wasn’t too old to get back in the ring.

Where do I sign?

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When your body talks…

You’d be wise to listen to it.

You may remember a while back I started a ’30 day burpee challenge’ where for 30 days, I would do 30 burpees per day. The clue was in the name. It all started so well.

Body talks..

After about 5 days, bits of me started to hurt. When you’re used to training and pushing yourself, this is nothing new, but this pain was new and unusual. I was beginning to experience some intense, shooting pain in the base of my toes and it didn’t feel good.

I expected pain in my quads and core but not in the base of my toes. That was just weird. 

Pain such as this is usually associated with poor technique so I checked mine. Whilst I was doing it it felt right but the pain was evident almost immediately. I stopped.

One thing I had noticed a long time ago (approximately 14 years) was that my body took longer to heal almost immediately after my 30th birthday. Decades of martial arts training had put my body under a lot of pressure and from time to time the inevitable would happen and parts of me would fail. Immediate injury management was necessary, followed by either passive or active recovery. Anything remotely serious could be overcome in around 6 weeks. Up until the big 30 that is.

The change was noticeable.

Fixing things just started to take longer. Clicks, creaks and groans replaced the subtle swish of my combat clothing. Ce la vie.

I spent a while fighting it but then I got smart.

The human body was designed to move.

Just be clever about how you do it. New pains that aren’t part of the muscle growth process should be taken note of. Adjust accordingly.

I haven’t given up; not totally.

I still need to add some serious CV to my routines. In the meantime, I have replaced the 30 day burpee challenge with the Men’s Health 500 rep challenge. When I can move my arms again I’ll make another video.

BSD

Ps, videos are new! I discovered an editing suite called Lightworks v.14. It’s free to use and comes with great tutorials. I will get better!

Sunday was supposed to be so good…

I had it all planned out.

It was my weekend with my cubs. We’d been a bit housebound so to stop us all getting cabin fever I’d planned a walk across the nearby fields.

My daughter had her eye on this stretch of land for a long time. It was at the edge of a football pitch and was fantastically uncultivated. Meadow grass, wild flowers, daddy height thistles and all the fauna to match.

My daughter had reliably informed me that it was the perfect environment to track down the creature that had long eluded her; the grass snake.

My daughter has found a hero (other than me of course) in adventurer/explorer/naturalist and climber Steve Backshall. She’s seen everything he’s done and hangs on his every word and that’s fine. I love nature and the outdoors and so she does too. She had earmarked this bit of land as her hunting ground.

I primed them both for the big walk on Saturday promising a picnic and some pioneering off of the beaten track.

The big day arrived

I was up at the usual 06:00 and the cubs weren’t far behind.

The problem was, they’d woken up tired. I’ve seen them like it before so we lounged on daddy’s bed for a bit and had a cuddle. My daughter then asked if we could watch a movie; my son was nodding in agreement so we watched a movie.

I must admit that I had a little snooze during the movie and felt better for it. I was also determined that we would go for a walk in the countryside.

After much prodding and persuasion I got them both washed and dressed. We had breakfast then packed my rucksack with various snacks and our raincoats; it was glorious sunshine now but rain had been forecast.

I shouldered my trusty D5000, with the intention of getting some good shots for a blog entry under the ‘Activities’ heading; the premise being that I would illustrate how quality time doesn’t have to be expensive.

Off we went.


The sun blazed down but spirits were high. Both the cubs were freerange as we made our way across the top of the pitch and up a beaten path into the meadow. Then it began.

Two stinging nettles were enough to convince my son that the safest place for him was in my arms. Instead of picking him up, I showed him how to stand on the low ones and circumnavigate the taller ones. In his defence, I wouldn’t be comfortable in 6 foot stingers so I cut him some slack. We pressed on.

5 minutes were enough to convince my daughter that she would never find a grass snake so she disengaged stealth mode to see if she could convince some other elements of nature to reveal themselves through the medium of undergrowth kicking.

I don’t remember seeing Steve Backshall kicking nature into plain sight!!

She agreed, before catching a grasshopper in her hands.

My son had run off ahead up the hill and was now proudly holding and waving something green and plastic at me. It was a cigarette lighter. The grass was tinder dry.

One daddy sprint later and disaster averted. I gave him a chocolate bar from my bag and told him not to pick things up off of the ground. We pressed on (again)

I saw my first photo opportunity in a macro of a thistle. I could foreground it with my son running up the hill behind it, blurred into the background. Genius.

I lined up me shot and pressed for autofocus before manually adjusting. The D5000 responded with the idiot bleep and the message No SD card inserted…’

My daughter held up the cigarette lighter and called out; ‘Dad; I’ve found this!’

We went home.

As we entered the park to reach the main road, she found two feathers. one appeared to be from a Jay and the other from a Buzzard. She turned to me:

Best walk in the countryside ever!

 

Here is a photograph of my camera. That’s all I have to offer.

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BSD

A lesson in humility.

I might have mentioned my keen interest in martial arts before.

Kung fu in fact. This has been my staple art for the last 3 decades but it wasn’t where I started.

These folk have a lot to answer for..

I do not own these images

Around the time of my 6th birthday I discovered Monkey and The Water Margin. The mere theme tune would get me hopping around the living room with glee!

Or this video

It wasn’t long before my mum had had enough. The twirling of the broomstick in the living room was getting out of hand. So was the imaginary battles with the imaginary warriors from the next [imaginary] village.

Off to Karate I went. I did that for a bit but didn’t take to it. Then Judo. Two gradings later, I left that. Then Tang Soo Do and Tae Kwon Do. They didn’t stick. I then discovered Muay Thai. That did the trick until I discovered traditional Kung Fu. My instructor was multi-disciplined in the Chinese arts and well connected (authentic lineage is vital in traditional martial arts).

Luckily the town I grew up in was rich with various styles of fighting arts as you can see.

I was 14 when began that journey. The training was hard and brutal; if you ever watched a Shaw Brothers classic you’d get my drift. It was great and I made lifelong friends with my instructor, his family and my classmates.

After a few years I took my knowledge into the ring (on to the mat). My first competitive fight was against a TKD black belt. Luckily it was semi-contact so the beating I got was limited.

I went back to the drawing board; more press ups; more sit ups; more kicking and more sparring. That did the trick. I entered the world of full contact fighting.

Competitions came thick and fast and I was doing well. The stars were falling into place for some title shots and I had performed well in team selections, well enough to get into the British Team.

Being 6’4″ and quite a big unit I found that most people in my weight category were more weight than style or strength. I used this to my advantage and quite literally walked through my opponents. I was fighting in two styles, Tien Shan Pai and Shuai Jiao and winning at both.

I won the British Championships with a TKO in 43 seconds. I won the European Championships in Milan almost as easily, after injuring my first opponent and the referee calling off another fight when my opponent fell over after kicking me in the chest.

That was it; I was through to the World Championships in Brazil, with ease.

Unfortunately my downfall was well underway.

I had little respect for what was needed to be a champ and because my preliminaries had seemed easy, I slackened off my training. I was convinced that the title was as good as mine and why not? the last two years leading to this moment had been a breeze.

I apologise for the quality of the photos that follow. They’re old, I didn’t take them and a friend took pictures of them on her phone in order to put them on facebook.

The team landed in Sao Paulo two days before the competition and checked in to our hotel. All the teams were in the same place and over the last couple of years we’d made great friends with the Italian, American and German teams. I was professional enough not to touch alcohol but I did keep late nights.

I did some light sparring in the courtyard but nothing major. Then the day before the fight I hit the hotel gym for some cardio on the bike.

Wake up call number one..

I selected a low resistance as a warm-up then got to work. And promptly stopped. I couldn’t breathe!

I had a drink of water and pushed on but had to stop again 10 minutes later. This time I had to get off, as my lungs were screaming, my muscles couldn’t support me. Not good. Back to the room.

Wake up call number two..

As the lift climbed to the top of the hotel, I felt dizzy and slightly nauseous. I thought I’d be able to sleep it off..





Two coaches picked us up the next morning and took us to the venue. It was 0800 and the weigh-ins began at 0900. Due to my size and weight my category was always the last to fight and depending on the field of competitors, this could take hours.

Wake up call number three..


The temperature in the venue was about 35ºc by 1000. I couldn’t get enough water down me and even through the light warm up – warm down cycles I felt poor and was leaking fluid like a damaged faucet.

Meanwhile in my head, I was still God’s gift to martial arts; the title was mine

I found an American fighter from my weight category and walked up to him whilst he was warming up. “I guess it’s you and me in the final” I said arrogantly.

I retreated to the stands to focus and lose myself in music. Eventually, I was called up.

Wake up call number four..

My opponent was a local fighter, disciplined in both Kung Fu and Muay Thai. At 6’1 he was giving away height but we weighed about the same.

I stepped up onto the Lei Tai and then it hit me; not my opponent but a wall of heat. The ambient temperature was augmented by the lights above the ring. Although the platform was only about 3 feet high, I can only liken the experience to getting into your attic on a midsummer’s day.

Boom; strength gone; energy gone; the referee dropped his arm. I hadn’t come this far to roll over and have my belly tickled so I went on the attack.

I threw everything at this guy; lefts, rights and when I could summon the strength, a couple of kicks too. Let me give you the real picture though; this wasn’t the stuff of movies, more like a town scuffle on a Saturday night.

He absorbed everything. 

I took a step back and we looked at each other. He was playing the classic fighting game of letting me burn myself out. That point wasn’t far off but I wasn’t quite done yet.

I only had one thing left in the toolbox so I threw it. It was a running, jumping knee strike to the chin; a surefire knockout blow.

I did it; he took it. Noticing my shoulders drop in disbelief, he moved in. I shut one eye.

Boom. It landed; a big right. This was the first time i’d ever been hit in the face! It hurt like hell but I was still standing!!

Not for long.

I opened my eyes to an incoming front snap kick that knocked the wind out of me, me off the platform and out of the competition.

I got back on to the mat but was injured. I kicked, he blocked and it hurt me! I went down again and this time I couldn’t get back up. I looked at the English ref and whilst counting, he mouthed ‘get up’… I looked to the side of the ring and one of the American ladies was gesticulating ‘get up get up’. I couldn’t. My fight was over; I was beaten mentally.

The lesson

I failed to prepare so was doomed to fail. I knew nothing about the country or it’s climate and the altitude. I knew nothing of my opponents even though the circuit didn’t really change and more importantly I knew nothing about myself.

Thankfully that has changed. I flew home with my tail between my legs. I received a world ranking of 4th, but there were only four of us in my weight category.

I learned a heck of a lot that year. Thank the lord there’s no videos of it.


Oh well; at least the beaches are amazing.
BSD

This afternoon’s workout!

Time to shrink the belly

Warm up:

Rowing machine – resistance 6 –

  • 2 mins steady then
  • 15 seconds flat out (and I mean flat out)
  • 45 seconds steady
  • repeat 5 times

Warm down:

2 minutes steady.

 

The work begins

More weigthsEach exercise should be done in sets of 4. Repetitions of 8,5,6 and 12

Chest

  •              Bench Press
  •              Dumbbell Incline Press
  •              Dumbbell Flye
  •              Cable Crossover
  •              Close-Grip Bench Press
  •              Dip
  •              Lying triceps extension
  •              Plank 3 x 1 min

 

That headline pic is me.

BSDWeights