Numbers and my Dad

As I write this I am in a relatives’ room at the hospital where my dad is being cared for. He has Pulmonary Fibrosis (scarring of the lung tissue) and pneumonia. Honestly, right now, it doesn’t look like he’s coming back from this. It’s three days before father’s day and I don’t think I’m going to have anyone to send a card to.


He’s been here for just over a week and his care has been first rate (don’t ever tell me the NHS doesn’t work, it’s brilliant). During that week I’ve spent a lot of time looking at numbers: blood oxygen levels, pulse, blood pressure, respiratory rate etc. All these give the medical staff an idea of dad’s status and after a while even amateur like me pick up trends: what’s a good reading, what’s not.

Those numbers mean little really though. They define my dad’s health status but not my dad. The numbers that define my dad are 82 years of age, 3 children, 4 grandchildren, 2 sons in law, 1 daughter in law, 49 years of marriage to my mum, 9 years without her. There are other numbers: nieces, nephews and other family members and a host of other people who have essentially either been treated as family by my dad or (usually and) treated him as family. Hundreds of people whose lives have been touched by this man with a big heart.

The overwhelming number I encounter when I consider my dad is 1.

1 Saviour, 1 Lord, 1 faith, 1 way. For over 45 years my Dad has been a follower of Jesus. It is something he, and my mum, have encouraged me and my sisters in. I know for some the idea of faith in Jesus is a mystery or even a joke but sitting in this room, waiting, I see my dad in a different light, through different eyes, eyes I cannot imagine not seeing him through. Eyes that see his long life and long life of faith and smile. For my dad following Jesus was never a crutch it was a choice and over time became a necessary part of his life. From the moment he made the decision to follow Jesus he did not compartmentalise his faith. Rather than create a place for Jesus in his life, he up and moved his life into Jesus. That may not make sense to you. That’s okay I’m not trying to explain it. It is just the best way I can describe my dad.

My dad has and ever will be the greatest example to me of being a husband, a father and a man and of being all that within being a follower of Jesus. I’ll miss him but that’s fine. I believe we’ll meet again. Even if you think I’m delusional it doesn’t matter because my life has been so enriched by my dad that he will always be with me. I choose to believe we’ll meet again not because it comforts me but because it’s part of my faith and I wouldn’t be without it even if I have to be without my dad, for a while.

Update: a few hours after I wrote this my Dad passed away. I am both sad and relieved and grateful for all the support and love being shown to me and my family.

Thanks Dad. Sleep well. Love you. Always.

Does the Co-op Christmas ad get the message across better than the John Lewis one?

Christmas ads, there’s always a lot of fuss over them. The fuss over the John Lewis Christmas ad has died down now and it seems everyone has commented. I tend to agree with the comments that say John Lewis kind of missed the idea a little. Better to invite someone to your home than send them a telescope to watch from afar.

Which Christmas ad says it better?

I recently caught the Co-op Christmas ad (it’s been out since 3rd December – a full month after the John Lewis one – but I guess I’ve not watched enough commercial TV) and I think theirs makes the “not leaving people out” point a little better. See what you think…

and here’s the John Lewis one (if you’ve not seen it)…

New poem: Roots


How deep do my roots go, how far do I let you reach?

Do they reach beyond my mind, do I let you roam in my thoughts?

Do they expand through my vision, do I let you show me you what you see?

Do they stretch as wide as my arms, do I let you guide my actions?

Do they burrow below the surface of my heart,  do I let you show me how to love?

Do they plunge the depths of my very soul, do I let you settle down and redecorate?

How deep do my roots go?

Far enough?

Strong enough?

Wide enough?

Long enough?

Can I ever make them that?

No,  but they only need to reach to you, to intertwine with you,  to become inseparable from you, to become part of you.

I am reaching towards you Lord. I am breaking my own barriers. I am stretching, knowing you go further and glad you got here first.

Roam in my thoughts, Lord. Show me what you see. Guide my actions. Show me how to love. Redecorate my soul. Make me part of you

New free sci-fi short story

I’ve posted a new, free science fiction short story over on my self publishing site.

Take a look here.

Crimpertoons: emails and my social life

There’s a new Crimpertoon out. I find this habit of putting text in a picture attachment to an email but not as text in the email body very frustrating.

Usual CC:By-SA-NC licence applies.

Cartoon of an email with an attachment containing text that could quite easily have gone in the body of the email. Cpation explains how frustrating this is.

As ever you can save this image by right-clicking it and selecting “Save image as” or similar.

You helped this lovely little boy sleep safely!

This is Gabriel, he’s a happy, smiley little boy who is fast approaching 3 years old. His parents, Scott and Melissa are friends of mine and he has an older brother and a younger sister.

Update : 18 Dec 2015 The goal for the campaign has been reached! Thank you to all who donated and promoted this.

Gabriel has a medical condition which means sleeping without coming to harm is hard but for £2000 his parents can get him a safety sleeper to help him do that. You helped them do that.

This is Gabriel, he’s nearly three and has a smile that melts hearts from 100 paces

When Gabriel was 3 months old he was diagnosed with Smith Magenis Syndrome (SMS) which is a disability caused by an abnormal chromosome. With the syndrome comes behavioural problems, cognitive impairment and self injury. As well as significant sleep problems. He wakes a lot throughout the night and for long periods of time.  Gabriel has never slept through the night and is unlikely to ever do so. Gabriel, in common with other SMS sufferers I believe, doesn’t really have the mechanisms we do when he gets hurt either. Where we may pull away or protest about pain, he will not and of course with that comes increased risk of serious harm to this lovely boy.

Your donations helped Gabriel be safe in bed by helping his parents get a safety sleeper. [See here for more].

As with any child approaching 3 years old, Gabriel’s parents will soon have to get him a bed. It’s a big moment for anyone to move from a cot into their first bed but for Gabriel it has a potential risk because of his SMS. Because he wakes every night and because he will be in a bed and he won’t stay in it his parents won’t have any peace of mind that he is safe.

The good news is that there are safety sleepers – like the one shown here – for just this kind of scenario and getting one of these would mean Gabriel can sleep safely and the family can even go on holidays because it is (reasonably) portable.

The bad news is they cost £2000 and that is money Scott and Melissa just don’t have but you might have. They set up a fundraising page to raise the money to help keep Gabriel safe at night. I know we all have a lot of draw on our funds at the moment but I want to thank you for giving something towards this. Your generosity will make a difference that my mere words could not begin to express. Thank you.

Melissa is a talented artist as well and so everyone who donated at least £10 will be entered into a draw to win a one-off painting by her. Regular updates on the progress of the painting, “a leopard sleeping”, will be posted on the fundraising page.

Thank you for helping this lovely family, I know there are a lot of these types of requests. This one means a lot to me because I know them and that my friends helped them means a lot to me too. I’ll leave the final word to his mum, Melissa:-

Gabriel is a beautiful little boy and I wish we could provide everything he needs but we [need help] for this special bed. We will be grateful for any contribution at all. Thank you for taking the time to read our story.


A new children’s ebook

As you may know I am a self-published author of children’s books and children’s ebooks. You can find out all of that at my publishing site –

The cover of the new Kindle Book

The cover of the new Kindle Book. Superb photo CC:By Dominic Bartsch

I published a short story on there called “Face to face with the gorilla king” on a part by part basis. It’s about a boy who goes to the zoo with his family and suddenly finds himself whisked to another world full of speaking animals who expect him to compete in a battle for them.

The full story has now been published and I just wanted to let you know that you can now get it on your kindle device or app. It’s around 12,000 words which equates to about 40 pages. The cheapest I can offer it for on Kindle is 99p* so I’ve set it as that. You can of course read it for free on the Crimperbooks website as well.


Colour blind: What do you do at traffic lights?

There’s been one of those chain posts going around facebook recently. In it you are challenged to post 7 things people might not know about you. I’ve not been asked and I doubt I could come up with seven (or would want to) but one thing I think a lot of people are not aware of is that I am colour blind. I have one of the more common forms of colour blindness called “red-green”.

An Ishihara test

Apparently this has a “2” in it. I can’t see anything except a load of dots

What does that mean?

First a few myths to dispel:

  • I can see colours, “colour blind” is a misnomer
  • I can see red and green and I don’t get all reds and green mixed up.
  • Whilst I struggle with some red/green combinations those are not the only ones I struggle with
  • I can see traffic lights just fine thanks.

On that last note (and with a nod to the post title) I once was asked so many, frankly, daft questions by someone about my colour blindness that I told them my driving licence allowed me to go through any traffic light regardless of colour (it doesn’t and I don’t but they were getting on my nerves).

My disability means I am unable to consistently distinguish certain colour shades. So whereas a “normal” person might be able to pick out the same shade of red as red regardless of lighting etc. I cannot. As a child I drove my mother mad when shopping for school trousers as I would consistently pick up dark green or navy ones instead of black. When playing snooker once I had to get my opponent to hold his finger over the brown ball as every time I bent down to take my shot the ball “disappeared” into the cushion behind it. My children used to have gresat fun asking me to “pass the orange” crayon and wait for me to pick up the light brown one.

I can’t explain it fully as I don’t understand it fully. I know it has to do with the cones in my eye and the way my brain interprets but to be honest the medical definition won’t help you much unless you understand the medical stuff.

Why am I telling you?

I am telling you all this because I have noticed an increase of text-on-images around the web. When text is text on a page I can adjust my browser to ensure I can see it. When text is embedded in an image I cannot and some of those colour combinations you use are literally making me nauseas. No I mean it. One side effect of my disability is that when certain colours/shades are next to each other my eyes struggle to pick out the dividing edge. The result is my eyes keep trying and failing to focus and this has a similar effect to vertigo or migraine on me. I have been known to vomit after seeing a red-on-blue poster in a shop (I did make it outside) and  I once feinted in a meeting because the person in front was wearing a green shirt with red pinstripes. So if you meet me and I say “Your shirt is making me sick” I may not be kidding or being rude.

I am saying all this to ask you to be more careful about the images you post. At best I (and the 10% of the male population like me) won’t be able to see it. At worst it will make me feel ill and I will either mention it or will just block you if you are a repeat offender. It’s not personal, it’s just that I’d rather not feel sick from reading the web (I make a point of not going to the Daily Mail website for the same reason).

You want examples don’t you. I can tell. Well I’m not going to give you any because to do so would mean looking for poor examples and that would make me ill. What I will do is point you at this website which gives you tips on making design – be it website, posters, flyers or images – more friendly to colour-blind people. I can vouch for the examples they give. Yes it’s American so they spell “colour” wrong 🙂

Tips for designing for colorblind users

It’s not just colour-blindness

Just for your information it’s not just colour blind people you can and should make allowances for. There are a range of visual impairments which people using the web may have. So posting an image without a text alternative (an Alt tag) will prejudice against some and posting text which has a low contrast with its background will affect others. Nobody is saying you can’t have that “cool” design (although I question whether all of them are indeed cool) but if your aim is for people to read, peruse and browse your work then you will exclude a significant proportion of people by refusing to allow for them. In certain jurisdictions it may be illegal to not allow for those with visual impairment under Disability discrimination acts and the like. Sadly colour blindness is left out of test designed to check against those laws but I am asking you – on behalf of all of us who walk around in a world of grey-shade (or not if you have been paying attention) to please include us or we will exclude you.

Quick survey: How do you feel that “God is watching you”

This is a very quick (3 questions) survey about the phrase “God is watching you”. I’m not asking for contact details, I won’t track you and I won’t pass any of your details to anyone else (mostly because I’m not asking for or storing them). I may compile the results of this survey into a blog post at a later date but for the moment it’s just a bit of anecdotal research for a talk I am giving.

I appreciate some of the questions may be a bit deeper than the simple answers I give but this is not a deep discussion just as quick survey on your gut feeling. I won’t be using this to suggest that “people” feel one way or the other but I will be using it to suggest that people who responded here answered one way or another. 🙂

The poll is now closed. Thanks to all those who responded. I will post results here soon.

Crimpertoon – Pumpkins

Crimpertoons began with a Hallowe’en toon so I feel obliged to do one each year. This one is about what to do with the unsold pumpkins your local supermarket will throw away.

Usual CC:By-SA-NC licence applies.

Cartoon: Various uses of unsold pumpkins incorporated into a church service: font, thurible, hymn board, drums, offertory plate

As ever you can save this image by right-clicking it and selecting “Save image as” or similar.