Email From My Brother: six month all clear and a hot hot Christmas

Hi Fay,

Congratulations on six months of being all clear. (Single fist pump, double bull horns with hands while spinning around, high fives, firm handshake).

This week I have been mostly listening to Christmas songs on the radio and thinking "it's not Christmas". This is mainly due to stores having Christmas decorations up here since the 1st of November so Christmas-is-coming has kind of blended into the normal. Then there's the fact that Sam's baby monitor currently says it's 29 degrees C in the bedroom. Seriously it's so wrong having Christmas when it's hot. You've got radio stations playing the sh*t out of every conceivable cover song of "Walking In A Winter Wonderland" and Bing Crosby dreaming of a white sodding Christmas and all these images of snowy Victorian London streets with big fat jolly Santas in them ho-ho-ho-ing at the snow and my subconscious is just saying "it's not Christmas, it's hot, it's still Summer". My subconscious is kind of a killjoy at the moment. I'm thinking of having it drowned in a keg of beer. I'm going to have to set a reminder on my phone for Christmas Eve otherwise I might miss Christmas all together.

Of course I'm joking but actually I'd love to be able to forget about it and really set a reminder on my phone because we've got so many Christmas presents to wrap for the kids that I'm going to be looking forward to Christmas Day like a marathon runner looks forward to the finishing line. I hate wrapping presents. It's miles and miles of crappy tissue thin commercial wrapping paper (ooh, twenty sheets for tuppence, bargain!) and great big industrial sized rolls of sellotape. Nothing says I'm wrapping serious stuff here than a roll of sellotape you can fit your your clenched fist through the hole. You have to find the end of the tape too, get a strip going, cut and then repeat, littering all the backs of chairs, tables and sideboards with as many pre-cut bits that you can possibly do without losing the will to live. You might need them all you might not, but it's really crappy if you get half way through a wrap and run out of pre-cut sellotape. And there's always one strip that says "I'm temporarily stuck to this chair am I? No half measures." and electromagnetically sucks itself onto the furniture leaving you to pick it off with your nail. The varnish always comes off with that strip too.

Then out comes the first present and I'm resentfully chopping the paper with the scissors so that the cut line isn't smooth and straight but jagged and ugly an industrial city skyline. I put the present on the paper and stick the first bit on and roll and stick and turn and complicated end fold and stick and turn and complicated end fold and finish. Hurrah! Now, what did I just wrap and was it for Sam or Eva? Sh*t. Repeat a thousand million billion times.

I'm just a bit worked up at the moment. First world problems I think they call them. You ever go to empty a dishwasher, open the drawer and find a glass has managed to work itself facing up so now it's full to the brim with brown dirty dishwasher water and you've got to empty it, swill it out and make a judgement call on whether to put it back in for the next go or give it a wipe down with the tea towel and put it away? When I find one of those I drop to my knees and shout "Noooooooo!" while raising both fists to the heavens.

Sam has become more and more increasingly willful about getting into his car seat. It's a good job we rarely have to go anywhere in the car. Oh, my mistake, we actually have to make three or four car trips a day. This means getting Sam in his car seat six to eight times in a day and it used to go like this; carry Sam to car, open door, pop him in seat, buckle up, go. Now it goes like this; convince Sam to get near car, lift Sam into car, Sam throw paddy about getting into the car himself, Sam gets into car seat, Sam gets into car seat, Sam gets into car seat (I'm not repeating myself, it just takes ages), Sam in car seat, buckle up and go. But he's taken to pretending to get into his car seat. How is this jolly jape achieved? He climbs up to the seats and then hunkers down in between his and Eva's car seats like a garden gnome. He'll then sit really, really still and narrow his eyes in the hope that I'll be fooled. Unfortunately I can't actually allow this and so we're back to reasoning with a two year old on the merits of car safety versus traffic laws every f*cking trip. It's hot and I just spend half the day sticking my head in the back seat of a car. You'd think he'd get it after the first dozen times. Exhausting.

Anyway, the news says it's the end of the world next week so I shouldn't complain. Maybe I'll put off the wrapping until after the 21st December in case we do all die? I think this is a reasonable way to go. I'll maybe put off emptying the dishwasher until then too.

Take care,
Love Mark xxx

Email From My Brother : fighting kids and other things

Hi Fay,

How's it going? I hope your holiday from the drug trial is going well. I've got to say I don't know if I could hold up as well as you. Today I'm having a really bad day just being a stay-at-home dad. Both kids today were fighting over a plastic waste paper basket. Sam wanted to wear the basket on his head while Eva wanted to put a load of cut pieces of paper in it. She was clutching the balls of paper and screaming that Sam had to put the bin down while I asked her to put the paper in the main bin as it was being scattered all over the house. She of course refused, Sam refused to give the bin back and in the end I confiscated everything and pushed the wadded up balls of waste paper into my ears to block out the stereo crying.

Every morning at the moment is a lesson in hearing the word "no" from the kids. Getting dressed, brushing teeth, brushing hair, putting shoes on it's like every request I'm asking them to come over and let me poke them in the eye with peeled onions. All that I ask is for complete unwavering obedience, is that too much to ask? Juliette's M.O. is to make things "fun" and "distracting" so that brushing your teeth is game where by you're puppies being groomed for the big dog show or something. Can you imagine doing that every day of the week? Can you imagine coming up with some new roleplaying scenario just so the kids put their shoes on? It's Tuesday, you've got to come up with a new game tomorrow, that's exhausting as f*ck. I've decided they've got their soft as sh*te parent with their mum, so I'm going to be the parent that's harder than granite shot through the cold vacuum of space. My commands run like a computer programme; you will do A by the time B happens otherwise expect consequence C. Bam, bam, bam. I'm going to be the dad that when the kids are grown up they'll say "you always knew where you were with dad" and they'll respect that... or they'll cut me out their lives altogether and I'll never see my future grandchildren. At the moment it's a price worth paying just to get them to put their shoes on. Hell, if the Devil is listening I've got a soul I could let go pretty cheap some mornings.

Also I'm firmly not a believer in smacking. I never have smacked and I never will. It's also against the law to smack to child in New Zealand so there's that too. However I can see the attraction in smacking. On the one hand you've got to sit down and try to reason with a small child who's developing the ability to reason in the first place and although you've put forward a logical argument as to why they must or must not do something the child is exploring their boundaries and can illogically dig their heals in. So then there's giving them a quick smack and "that'll learn you". It's the real life police officer who has to take witness statements, fill out paperwork and follow procedure versus the Hollywood version who just ramps cars, shoots suspects and has a shouting match with his black police captain. Am I alone in being a parent who never would smack a child but thinks "You are being a little sh*t so this would be soooo much easier right here, right now if I just punched you in the knee"? I think it's the same for murder. I wouldn't murder someone I'm totally against murder but f*ck me lady, you had ample time in the checkout queue to get your purse out why are you only know with everything bagged and the pleading gaze of the checkout operator looking in your handbag? Wouldn't it be easier if I just murdered you with this here bag of frozen peas and I can purchase my shopping with some degree of reasonable expediency?

Okay, so changing the subject somewhat because I put some time in on Google and don't want to waste the research. One thing I learnt from The King of Torts by John Grisham (may not have been that book, it could have been something by Michael Crichton ... don't judge me) is that drug companies come up with names and trademark them before they have a drug. So I did some research on Sorenifeb. Did you know that Søren is a Danish and Norwegian given name originating from Latin Severinus, derived from severus which means "severe, strict, serious". So you may be taking a break from strictifeb or seriousifeb or severeifeb? Doesn't everything make sense now?

It's getting late here so I had written a bit about if you're into Harry Potter and dig the Latin link to Severinus think of it as having a break from Severus Snape from kicking you in the verjayjay. I know some people might be really into having Alan Rickman in a black wig and teachers cape kicking them in the crotch but luckily I deleted that from the e-mail because to reference that is frankly just plain weird and unnecessary.

Take care of yourself,
Love Mark xxx


Today's another great day. Not only is it my beautiful and wonderful sister's birthday (a special one no less) but I've been given a six-month all clear!

I'm doing a little happy dance as I type. Imagine that in your head plus I'm wearing a wooly hat. Nice!

Role on the next three months, next deadline/milestone/all clear is 12th of March

Today's a Good Day

Image Credit
I've been preparing for this meeting for a little while now and entered the room thinking I would be taking a step back and watching from the sidelines, playing catch up and working out where I fit. Eight months away can do that to you. It saps your confidence, your ability to cope with stress, to juggle. I was expecting to be tired, to struggling with getting back into a routine. I wasn't expecting to feel like a shell, like a black and white version of myself, a lower resolution image. I've been playing catch-up, never quite in control, reactive not pro-active.  'They' don't tell you that.

I got into the room, some faces I knew, most I didn't. So I listened, nodded, made the right noises and then suddenly something clicked. I answered a question. My confidence grew, I heard myself taking part, asking questions, clarifying, contributing to the debate. I surprised myself. Not only did I actually sound like I knew what I was talking about, but I also felt it. No faking it, this was me, all me.

I came up with a suggestion. Now those people were nodding in agreement with me, a role reversal. People who've been part of this project for longer than me, eight months longer than me. A senior manager picked it up, liked it. As a group we explored it more. I expanded on the idea, described how I saw it working. It looked good, it felt right and it's now going to happen.

So today was a good day. Today was a brilliant day. Today is the first of many. The day I found My Voice.

My Reason To Be Cheerful

Email from my brother: What's pooping in his cereal bowl?

Hi Fay,

How's it going? I hope you've got over the blip with having to come off your trial drug and are feeling happier. It's a funny thing happiness I reckon. Here I am in New Zealand and it's still technically spring however the days are hotter, the grass has been cut in the fields around us and turned into hay which is lovely, bumblebees the size of two penny pieces are drifting around, the baby chicks are getting bigger and fatter, Juliette got a new job she wanted, Eva is looking forward to Christmas with their six week summer holiday and Sam's just Sam the Toddler, ever ready for random hugs and kisses. But what am I preoccupied with? What is it that's taking a poop in my breakfast bowl? Well I'm glad you asked, it's dyeing a cloak the colour green.

I wanted to make a medieval cloak so that I can wrap it around myself on cold evening in front of the camp fire at SCA events. I found some woollen blankets at the local charity shop, sewed them together, lined them, put buttons on and button holes and then had to dye the finished cloak green. I did it in the old bathtub and the results are a bit lighter than what was expected. If I wear the cloak to an event I'm going to requests to lie down on the floor so folks can have a game of Subbuteo on me. It's was like the least medieval green ever. I could wear this cloak as a high visibility jacket. So we gave the kids a bath tonight and Juliette's like "Mark, what's all this brown stuff around the bath?" and I'm like "er, it's some coffee ...", and she's like "what the hell is coffee doing in the bath?" and I'm like, "er... me and Sam were dying some, er, cloth brown." In reality I was baristaring the f*ck up in that bathtub with litres of instant coffee to stain the cloak darker. I'll find out if it's worked tomorrow. It's a real worry for me I can tell you. So erm, how's your cancer going?

That reminds me, here's a puzzler about coffee. Am I the only one that if I buy a latte from a coffee shop or what ever and add loads of sugar from those little paper tube packets and stir it all to hell it's only the last mouthful at the end that is actually sweet? It is just me isn't it. I don't have much luck with coffee. At the indoor play area where I take the kids I always get a coffee in one of those lidded paper cups and it always drips onto my jeans. I try to clean the coffee spot up with a wet wipe and end up clearing a clean patch on my jeans around the brown stain. So then it looks like I've got some sort of dirty fried egg on my leg.

Last weekend we rented a bach and went to Waihi Beach. Just for a moment I'd like you to say how you think Waihi is pronounced. If you pronounced it "why-hi" go back and try again. If you pronounced it "why-he" you'd were spot on, well done. If you're wondering that the heck a bach is it's a New Zealand term that originally meant a small beach hut. If you're wondering why my jeans are so dirty that I can clean a patch with a wet wipe you have to go back in the e-mails about six months. However things with baches have moved on and we rented a two storey three bedroom full on house for about eighty quid per night that was still termed a bach and was better than the hut we live in for the rest of the year. One theory is that bach comes from bacheolor pad and I'd love to have lived in that house as a bacheolor. Five minutes walk over some sand dunes to miles of white beach on the shores of the Pacific Ocean (yes, I did pretend to be C3PO on Tatooine while walking over the dunes - "Don't get technical with me" I said to Eva at one point just for giggles). There can't have been more than twenty or thirty people on that beach all day and we had miles of the stuff to spread out on.

We shared the holiday with Juliette's sister, brother-in-law and kids and the rest of Juliette's family popped up for a sort of day trip too. One of the the highlight of the trip was when a pod of Orca whales swam by us off shore and you could see the wave crests created by their dorsal fins and tails. Of course another name for Orca whales is "killer whales" but "Hey kids, look, Orca Whales!" induces fewer nightmares than "Hey kids, look, Killer Whales!".

Juliette's dad brought up some cheap (less than $3) plastic kites and the son-in-laws had a go at trying to fly them in lieu of the kids not giving a f*ck about them. They only had one string and tended to spiral around and hit the sand unless you got them high enough. I can say with some pride that once I got mine high enough I managed to unravel all of the light weight twine and got my kite to fly what looked like about a gazzilion miles up. Felix Baumgartner would have said it was high up. It was aces and skill. The only thing that bothered me was the design on the kite which showed the sun wearing sun glasses. I couldn't help but wonder as I unwound the Atlantic spanning length of string why the sun would wear sunglasses. To protect it's eyes from itself? It dawned on me that the only reason why the sun would wear sunglasses would be to protect itself from the nearest star to our solar system way off in Alpha Centauri. I mean that's like a tiny pin prick of light. So then it dawned on me that the kite was taking the piss out of the sun. The kite was designed to taunt the sun. I was going to get the kite to fly as close to the sun as possible like some sort of kite flying 21st century Icarus. Game on! Then Sam shat his swimming trunks for the second time that day and Juliette made me reel the kite back in and put it away. So that didn't happen in the end.

Actually I've got to tell you that before I tried to taunt the sun I had offered everyone a chance to fly the kite (as in "look how awesomely high I've flown this $3 kite, want a go?") and Juliette's mum said she had never flown a kite ever. I passed her the plastic handle, she asked if she had to do anything, I said no and then we waited about five seconds and she passed the plastic handle back to me with a curt nod. Awesome.

After the holiday on the way back we men dropped the wives and kids off at the Goldfields Railway. This is a restored charitable railway which runs between Waihi and Waikino along the Ohinemuri River. We had to drop them off and pick them up at the other because we had the two cars and it was a one way journey. So we dropped them off at the Waihi station then in the car park we debated long and hard about doing a runner but eventually drove round to the Waikino station and picked them up at the other end. The kids loved it as this was the first time they had been on a railway train. I joked that at the other end I was then going to then show other old time stuff like a a vinyl record player, a VHS recorder, a cathode ray tube television set, a rotary dial telephone and corporal punishment. The looks I got seem to suggest I had suddenly morphed into Phil Harding from Time Team and had suggested we all do some flint knapping. Up in the Maungakawa Reserve by us is an old outbuilding that's had people graffiting it for the last hundred odd years. Some of it says stuff like "Dave and Sue, Sep 1994", but some is from 1947 and the like so you kind of respect it. My favourite quote on it is "Nothing is as old as yesterday." Think about that one for a moment... nothing is as old as yesterday. That is deep. I'm going up there later to add "except the day before yesterday obviously. Mark 2012".

It also occurs to me that nowadays you post something now on an internet forum or what ever and chances are there's some sort of ratings system for it. So every now and again you can't but help pop back and check out if anyone thought what you said was any good. Usually it's "Likes" or green thumbs up or red thumbs down but there's nothing like that for graffiti at all. From now on I'm going to go into public toilets and mark each statement with random green thumbs up and red thumbs down. So you'd see "I have climbed highest mountains, I have run through the fields, Only to be with you, Only to be with you. I have run, I have crawled, I have scaled these city walls, These city walls, Only to be with you. But I still haven't found what I'm looking for, but I still haven't found what I'm looking for." (add six green thumbs up, four red thumbs down.) And then underneath someone could have written: "Have you tried taking your sunglasses off before you look Bono?" (add five green thumbs up, one red thumb down).

I think I'm in bit of a funny mood because my hands are still dyed green from the cloak (gives self two green thumbs up) so I'll say cheery bye for now. Speak to you next week.

Love Mark xxx