Forza Horizon on Xbox 360

I’m not a big video gamer, but I do enjoy realistic driving games. Having said that, I haven’t played one for about ten years. Even then, it was Gran Turismo 4 (2004) on an old PlayStation 2. I loved the game though, and completed it a couple of times.

We were recently given a second-hand Xbox 360 and I bought Forza Horizon for £5 on eBay. Yes, it’s an old game on an old console, but for me it was a ten-year upgrade. It’s a superb game, and my driving skills hadn’t forsaken me, I finished 1st in my first two competitive games.

Freddy (7) was amazed, he thought I’d be rubbish. This 67-year-old dad has still got it. Cue smug face!

Parental Challenges in a Digital Age

Parenting has never been easy, but it was much less complicated in the 1980s and 90s (even more so for my parents’ generation). The difference is the invasive nature of the internet and technology.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m a geek, but it’s such a challenge setting boundaries and controlling age-related content. Balancing online safety with childhood curiosity and excitement can be a real headache. I’m sure other parents will agree. It must be even worse for technophobe parents. What do you think?

My Vocation in Retirement

Since my retirement in July 2020, I’ve been looking into ways of helping and supporting people. It’s a huge privilege to come alongside people, especially in times of family joy or sorrow. I’m continuing to fulfil my vocation as a Salvation Army Officer in new circumstances.

It’s one of things I’ve actively chosen to do in retirement to serve my local community, the other is being a school governor. The latter is pending but it’s on the horizon. I’m also learning Spanish with Duolingo, and I eventually hope to be able to use this to help others.

14/03/22 Update: I’ve rediscovered something special about my vocation as a Salvation Army Officer today, and in retirement it’s unencumbered by all the other mundane duties of work.

The Joy of Making Coffee

Since retiring (even with young children) I have more time to enjoy the simple pleasures of life, one of which is the the sheer joy of making fresh coffee with our coffee maker (a wedding present).

In the past, I often needed to make coffee in a hurry, sometimes resorting to coffee bags for quickness, but NEVER instant coffee!

One of the things I’m looking forward to in retirement is walking into the village, and writing in a coffee shop. Unfortunately, the coronavirus pandemic has largely put paid to this. But here’s hoping for the not too distant future, at least I can make proper coffee at home.

There’s so many ways you can make coffee, and it’s especially satisfying when you grind your own beans, although I generally use ground coffee. Taylors of Harrogate is a particular favourite coffee range.

The smell of fresh-made coffee is one of the world’s greatest inventions. Hugh Jackman

Three hundred years ago, during the Age of Enlightenment, the coffee house became the centre of innovation. Peter Diamonde

I enjoy the whole process of making coffee, even cleaning and preparing the coffee machine for the next brew is strangely satisfying.

Enjoying my posts? You might like to Buy Me a Coffee.

Football (like life) can be cruel!

Football is a microcosm of all human life: the best and the worst, the good and the bad, the ups and the downs, the triumphs and the sorrows, the successes and the failures, the ecstasy and the agony, the beauty and the ugliness. Love it or loathe it, you can’t escape it. You have to deal with it.

What better vehicle is there to teach our children human character, the value of working as a team, and emotional intelligence for their adult lives? And, in the light of the result, I would add the need to demonstrate graciousness in defeat.

Norton Signal Box

Party political leaflets that drop through our letterbox usually have a short journey to the recycling bin, especially the Conservative ones – but the local ones are more likely to be read, even the Conservative ones!

One of these Conservative leaflets arrived a few days ago, and because it was about local issues I saved it. One item of interest concernes the fate of the Norton Signal Box on Station Road.

The above photo is one I took in July 2020 on a walk with Freddy to explore our new area, having recently moved into our new house.

The railway line that runs through Norton, a short distance from our home, was one of the oldest stretch of mechanical signalling in the UK. Because of modernisation, the signal box is now redundant and face potential demolition.

The local Conservatives have been working proactively with Network Rail to retain this important piece of local heritage by looking for groups and organisations who might put this signal box to good use. The mechanical signalling will be dismantled and gifted to a railway heritage organisation.

The signal box has space that could be used in a variety of ways, it also has kitchen and toilet facilities. Hopefully, it can be put to good use. If you live locally, do you have any ideas?

A Year of Retirement

Today (1 July 2021) marks one since since my retirement, although we didn’t move to our new home until a week later because of all the difficulties related to the first coronavirus lockdown. It was something of a nightmare that’s best forgotten.

Where has the time gone?
How did I ever find time to work?

I’ve already written about how my retirement was never going to normal with three young children, but even so it hasn’t quite been the year I expected. Coronavirus has messed up everyone’s plans.

Overall, it’s been a good year, even if we’re settling into a new routine later and slower than we’d hoped. We’ve not been to an ‘in person’ Sunday worship meeting at a local Salvation Army yet, but having worked some Saturdays and all Sundays for many years, I have to admit I’m enjoying my weekends at home. Weekday mornings are all about getting Freddy and Matilda to school, so our weekends are precious family time. But I’m sure there are many Salvationists and church-goers who are reassessing their lives as the restrictions are relaxed.

Having said that, there are many positives. We’re very happy in our new home, even if there are still jobs to do, but isn’t that always the way? Pollyanna now regularly attends Parent and Toddler groups prior to starting nursery in September. Contact with family and friends is easier and more frequent now. Naomi is able to get out more and build links in the village. I’ve started running and language learning again. Both of us have taken up (or restarted) hobbies, and I’m hoping to be appointed as a parent governor at the children’s school as a way of serving our community.

I’ve also settled into posting something on my blog every day, with a weekly Sunday devotional.

So, here’s to another year to enrich our family life together, build links within our community, taking opportunities to reach out to others in Christian ministry.

To wear or not to wear?

Yes, I know children don’t have to wear face masks in the UK, but Freddy put his on recently and I’m really pleased with this photo!

Despite the UK government being very slow to mandate face mask wearing, it’s now become a feature of life. Of course, there are those who are exempt, but this seems to be widely abused. Also, many people have selfishly given up wearing face masks, forgetting that wearing one is a selfless act to protect others.

The lifting of coronavirus restrictions, although delayed, are now on the horizon, but it’s likely that I’ll continue to wear mine in certain situations – especially in the winter when coughs and colds spread easily.

Will you continue to wear your face mask after the restrictions have been lifted?

Mixed Fruit and Vegetables

Having moved away from the checkout at Lidl recently, I noticed two large boxes of assorted fruit and vegetables in the corner. They were out of the way and easily missed, but a bargain at only £1.50 a box.

I didn’t get one at the time, but I might buy one quite often as they’re such good value. Something to check out before shopping, rather than after. It’s good that food which otherwise might go to waste is being used in this way.

One blemish on an apple doesn’t mean you throw the whole apple away, as I keep telling my children.

Note: If you shop at Lidl regularly, don’t forget to get their app to save money and get great offers.

Parent Governor Vacancy

A parent governor vacancy has come up again at our children’s school. I missed the deadline last time, so I won’t make that mistake again. A great way to serve my community in retirement. Is being a school governor something you might consider? The following is information supplied with the application form:

Have you got:
• An interest in education?
• Dedication to promote high standards of attainment?
• The ability to work as a team to meet the school’s aims and objectives?
• An interest in using your skills to offer opinions and solutions to topics and challenges?

Then you could have what it takes to join the largest volunteer group in the country, working with others to get the best for our children by becoming a Parent Governor.

Governors are:
• Parents of children who go to the school
• People nominated by the Local Authority
• People appointed by the Local Diocese
• Teachers
• Support staff
• People connected with the local community
• Headteachers

What does the role involve?
Governor volunteers work alongside the school’s senior leadership team to set targets, formulate school policy and plan for future development. Governors do not manage the day to day running of a school, but they do set the framework which should ensure the school is running effectively.

The three core functions of a governing body are:
• Ensuring clarity of vision, ethos and strategic direction
• Holding the Headteacher to account for the educational performance of the school and its pupils, and the performance management of staff
• Overseeing the financial performance of the school and making sure its money is well spent.

Expertise needed?
There are no specific skill requirements for the role. However, schools do benefit and are increasingly interested in volunteers from the Finance, Legal, Business, Marketing, HR and Construction sectors. On appointment, governors receive an induction pack from the Local Authority who provide comprehensive training and support.

Term of Office
A term of office is for a period of up to four years. If the child of a Parent Governor leaves the school the governor can complete their term of office, unless he/she chooses to resign.