Friday 19 September 2014


Well, the voting is over, and the result is in. Obviously I'm disappointed with how it's gone, frustrated that we're now essentially stuck with a lot of what's not working in politics just now, and a little concerned that we've missed both a great opportunity and chance to protect ourselves from the direction that Westminster seems to be travelling in. However, we have to respect how the majority of people voted and move on. A similar number would have been disappointed had it gone the other way. Thanks to those of you who already expressed sympathy or commiserations to me. I'll be fine, really! God's in control.

A couple of thoughts as I wind down on all this. I really hope that this morning's offers of real change ahead do actually come to something, particularly for the thousands of people who voted for the first time in their lives to make a real difference. The noises of backbench conservative MPs and the appointment of an unelected Lord to oversee the changes aren't all that promising. I'm also not all that keen on the various statements about "what a no vote means" this morning: I reckon lots of no voters will have had lots of different reasons! (as with Yes voters too) However, I'm happy to give them a chance - maybe they will surprise us and to be fair, at the moment there does seem to be a real move for change. After all, we still all need to live together and work out the best way to make our country work.

I mentioned yesterday that I was quite taken by the huge numbers of new voters - equally inspiring is that such a large number of people then turned out to vote: 84.6% of all the people on the register. It was over 90% in some places, and nowhere was it below 75%. Remembering that the register is usually a bit out of date (it includes people who have moved away, died or or become ineligible to vote in the past few months) and that it includes the over 300 000 people who registered since 2010, this reflects unprecedented participation levels for this country. I hope that this level of engagement can continue, because the country works much better when everyone has a hand in saying how it should work.

Of course, life goes on. We were quite amused yesterday that Naomi dug out a book that's been unread on the shelf for months:

Our girls continue to have perfect timing!

Yesterday was an interesting one. I ended up doing two things. Quite amusingly, I was assigned to help in Bannockburn, and our base there was Wallace Street! As someone who is (in the main) a Yes supporter for pragmatic rather than patriotic reasons, I felt a little irony in that. For the first couple of hours I was at a polling station. Mostly this is just so that Yes had a presence to allow for last-minute questions and to serve as a human face to that side of the vote. There is also a need to keep count of how many people are turning out to vote, so we can target areas for door knocking. There were a couple of other Yes people there as well as a couple of no's - and although there was some debate at points it was really very friendly and there was some great banter there. We all knew we weren't going to convince the other side, and we're all humans with in interest in what's going on, so we got on well. My experience of those in politics at other times has been similar: while there are a few in it for the wrong reasons, I'd say that most of them do it because they want to make a positive difference and are genuinely nice people. Remember too of course, God loves us all equally! The other thing I was doing was door knocking, which is just visiting houses and reminding people that the vote is on and checking if they need help to get to the polling station. This is quite pleasant because the list we have is all people who said they'd be voting Yes: consequently there was a lot of hand shaking, offers of drinks (none taken - must remain compos mentis), people asking how it was going and general encouragement. This was great fun, but very tiring! I also have a lovely blue hi-vis YES jacket to show for my efforts. No, I don't have a picture. :)    I was also interviewed by that bastion of local record, the Stirling Observer, on why I was helping Yes. I'm sure they asked lots of people so I might not appear, but I said it was simply that I thought Yes was the best way to achieve the kind of country I want my daughters to grow up in. While I still think that's true, I suspect that they'll do just fine with things as they are, because they are amazing.

On that note, I think that's all that needs said (probably more). Since this has all been a bit heavy (great Scott!), I conclude with a Llama saying "yeah".

Thursday 18 September 2014


As the adage goes, vote early, vote often. Well, okay, don't do that, but today: those of you who are eligible, please do go out and vote, whichever way you've decided to go. Polls close at 10pm, so you have plenty of time, but the doors really do close bang on 10, so don't leave it to the last minute!  If you're genuinely still undecided, try to bring it back to the basics of what kind of place you'd like to live in long-term. There are genuine "heart" and "head" arguments both ways, so ultimately it boils down to which parliament you trust to make the right decisions for you. This is simply a vote about how we're governed, not about who are friends are or our geography.

Whichever way it goes, I at least have been happy with this whole process. For all the media has tried to conjure up images of division and arguments, the true story is far better. According to the Grauniad a record number of people are registered to vote in the referendum - 97% of all people eligible - including people who have never voted in their lives before. Hundreds of thousands of people across the country have taken part in town hall meetings, discussions and debates. We've discussed changing the way we're governed without the use of bombs or bullets, and little violence of any kind. Most of the ill-tempered side of things has been on the internet, where you'll find people getting far more worked up about far less important topics any time you care to look for it. I certainly haven't met anyone who's "fallen out" because of it. I won't naively suggest that it's been trouble free, because there have been some folks spoiling it for everyone on both sides. However, on the whole it has been civil, and this is extraordinary for something that so many are so passionate about.

I won't go over my arguments for voting yes again, as I'm sure you're all looking forward to the debate being done. I've had a good few conversations with people off the back of that blog post and some people have expressed their thanks for putting it together. Thank you to all who took the time to read my ramblings on the matter! I hope it was helpful. Today I am doing my last bit for the campaign - what's called "knocking up", which is simply contacting all those in the area that said they'd vote yes, and making sure they remember to go out and vote. Seeing how the whole campaign is managed, with hundreds of volunteers in Stirling alone, has been fascinating.

Finally, those of you who pray: pray for voters to have wisdom to make the right choice, that the whatever follows the result is good and positive for all people, and that ultimately God's will is done. There are some good words and more points to pray for here, here and here. This world is temporary, and all we can do is make the best of it we can while we're here. "And this world is fading away, along with everything that people crave. But anyone who does what pleases God will live forever." (1 John 2:17 NLT)

Tuesday 16 September 2014


This is what happens when Naomi figures out how to work the camera on her daddy's phone!

Monday 15 September 2014

Scrunchy Crunchy Chicken

Naomi loves cooking/baking/helping in the kitchen and in the name of encouraging this behaviour I try to let her, although, if I am honest I find it all a little stressful and would rather just get on with it by myself!

Today's dinner is "scrunchy crunchy chicken" from Naomi's ever useful "I can cook" cook book (thanks to Auntie Liz for getting it for Naomi, I'm not even being sarcastic!)

Here she is chopping up some bacon, she chopped some cooked chicken the same way

Here she is popping the stalk out of a pepper, she then tears it up into pieces the right size.

Here she is making the sauce (we just made it in the cream pot to save on washing up later!), cream, flour, a stock cube, pepper and sage

Using a pastry brush to "paint" the filo pastry with melted butter

Before scrunching it up

And proud of the finished article (well apart from when I cook it later on)

Sunday 14 September 2014


A couple of weeks ago I made yet another excursion for work purposes. This time it wasn't quite so exotic - sunny York - for the PATAT conference. I had a talk on the last day of this one and if you're really interested you can see my slides here - it's about planes so there's at least some nice pictures!

The conference is about the Practice and Theory of Automated Timetabling, though it's much more broadly about any problems related to scheduling, including transportation stuff. It's actually the first academic conference I'd ever heard of, back in 2004 when I was doing my honours project on genetic algorithms for timetabling - which for some reason has recently been cited a couple of times. Most of the group from Stirling was there, along with some other very good people, so it was very good for the old networking.
Obviously much of my time was spent doing this.

Somewhat excitingly though, one of the conference dinners was at the National Rail Museum. Excellent! This is me with a replica of Stephenson's Rocket, one of the most famous early steam engines, 

Dinner in a train shed.

The view out of my hotel window - a bit greener than Beijing!

Some Yorkish stuff.

The River Ouse, viewed from a place that took two hours to bring lunch.

The hotel was right next to York Racecourse - here's the hotel garden set up for the conference's opening barbecue.

Saturday 13 September 2014


Another quick veg update. We're busy harvesting now. Another batch of peas is on its way soon, but I was really impressed by the courgettes. We've had three now, with more coming:

Also, more carrots! Yum.

Thursday 11 September 2014


In July we made a visit to my parents for a few days. We've already shared the beach trip with you, but now we catch up on the other activities.

It's just weird seeing the girls playing with my old toys. Quite nice that they enjoy them so much though.

Here are the girls with pretend umbrellas. Really.

My parents are thinking about a downsize of house at some point, so part of the trip was an exercise in sorting out some of my many things that are still stored there. This is the model railway that my brother and I put together - it's about 20x6 feet so doing anything with it is a mammoth task! In fact you can probably tell it's still not quite finished. We've made a start on sorting out some of the unused bits that will hopefully find a new home quite quickly.

I've also started sifting through my old drawings and school stuff. I'll probably post some more gems at some point, but I quite enjoyed this comment on something I wrote in P7 (so age 10-11). Good thing I dropped the crazy ideas :-)

A wee bit of golf at Fraserburgh with my Dad and Ian. To give you an idea of the skill level involved, a good trip is one in which we come back with more balls than we left with.

Something for the non-Scot readers - a sea haar coming in. The scourge of many an otherwise fine day.

Lots of fun with a cartie in the garden...

Also a bit of help for Dad, who in retirement is catching up on all those maintenance jobs. Fun with scaffolding ahoy!

I was quite impressed with how good a picture my phone camera seems to manage.

The main reason for the above picture though was to show you what Miriam was so fascinated by...

Finally, my parents have a clematis growing on the front of their house. It produces the most brilliant seed heads - I was trying to work out who they most reminded me of - what do you think?

Tuesday 9 September 2014


With the impending arrival of child #3, we've moved the girls into a bunk bed. Words cannot express how exciting bed time became for the first few weeks (just what's needed when trying to sleep!), nor how long the time between going to the shop to look at the bed and actually receiving it and putting it together felt.

When it first arrived a couple of months ago, we felt that Miriam still wasn't quite ready for a big bed, so she stayed in the cot. My Dad was here at the time and he helped put it together, making the bed even more exciting. The first few nights it was just set up as a single (the bunk really being two single bed made to be stacked). Here's Naomi enjoying her first night...

Soon enough, I managed to finish the other bed and Naomi took her place at the top of the castle. She helped put the ladder together (really well as it happens) and is very good about climbing up and down carefully. The only issue is that now she's got ready access to the light switch.

A few nights ago, Miriam made the transition to big girl bed. Here she is enjoying a book on one of the last nights in the cot:

And here she is getting in to the big bed for the first time...

Naomi is now very happy to be sharing with her sister! Miriam was very good at not trying to escape, and both were very good the morning after. Long may it continue!

Sunday 7 September 2014


Jay and I have been doing the "traditional" anniversary presents since year 1. On the face of it, this can be quite fun, though some years it gets pretty interesting. I also suspect that now we're in to double figures it might get expensive too, unless some careful application of imagination is made! To make life easier we occasionally jump in to the US present list - you can get the gist of it all here.

This year was steel (11). Having already engaged the private services of a foundry to cast me something for the iron present, I felt that I'd scale back a little for this one. On the "boring" side, I got Jay a very big steel pot for the kitchen (something she's been after for a while). To make it more of a present, I went for a bit more thought on the card, which comprised a host of celebrity endorsements...
Here we have: Remington Steele, Lord Steel of Aikwood, the man of steel, steel magnate Andrew Carnegie, and the Krustyburglar.

Jay's contribution was on somewhat similar lines, although perhaps better thought out...

Comedy gold. Except that it's framed in steel.

Okay, we think similar things. Better get married or something :-)

Saturday 6 September 2014


After something of a busy summer with few blogposts, we've got a lot to catch up on. We'll make a start with a few assorted pictures that I've gather over the past couple of months that you might like to see. It's possible one or two will have appeared before but they're all good, so no matter. I've got a few other blog posts lined up - they should appear on a schedule over the next few days. Let's make a start...

As Naomi is a little older, we decided that we could replace the much-missed sunglasses that survived all of about five minutes last year.

Of course, Miriam latched on to them before long. Fortunately she does look after them pretty well for her big sister...

Jings crivvens help ma boab!

Jay and I made this for date night a few weeks ago. Yes, it was really good - thanks for asking!
I've helpfully added a teabag for scale. 

At the start of June I was asked to help with the MAF Big Picture by one of the people at our church. An afternoon of button pushing, who could resist? Unfortunately it was a tad wet that day, so the makeshift desk was set up in the boot of a car! Much fun.

Yes, another shot of the nice view from my office window.

No comment.

Naomi made this for her Auntie Fay's birthday. Both the girls are ridiculously good at crafty things (in both senses...)

Naomi en route to the shops.

Naomi has recently started a ballet class. Those who know her well will be very surprised to learn that she was somewhat happy about this situation:

Also, I just really like this: