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Today was the budget, I am not sure that much is all that different. It was only a few months ago we had the last one. I am not really making a political point but it is odd that we have to have a new budget every few months. It used to be once a year, and now there is an autumn statement which is basically another budget and occasionally we have emergency ones too.

My big issue is that it seems the numbers are around what is going to happen in 2020, which is four years out. The aim seems to be have a zero balance in at the point. One a spend of £700billion spend and £1800billion national income even small differences in growth rates are going to translate into whopping variances(ie a difference in growth from 2.5% to 2% will be £48bn of income and £15bn in tax revenue).

I suppose it is all pure theatre. But it seems that tax and spending are better designed over a long time frame and not tweaked every couple of months.

Pre-Christmas Celebrations

Our work Christmas parties are always a bit tricky as...well I am not sure anyone is really that interested. We have a pretty small team and most of us simply want to go home early. We ended up with two in the end. The first was not so much a Christmas party as a reward and recognition meal. This involved me getting dragged along to a meal with a bunch of pretty senior people. We had a guided tour of the Tower of London which was cool, although it didn't start until quite close to closing time. After that we went for a meal. It was actually quite a bit better than it could have been, I seemed to be sat next to people I was able to talk too. Getting from East London to Reading was a bit of a pain though and it was too late when I got home, and it was on a Monday night. I guess you are old when your idea of a good Christmas party is one in which you are home quite early.

The second meal was a bit more low key I suppose and it was all done by 4pm. So it was lunch really rather than a party in any sense of the word. For some reason we had considered dozens of options. It had the feel of a place that was very much the cheapest we could find in the area. The portions were huge, I was already full up by the starter. But the taste was rather plan. Rather sadly I found out that someone I work with will no longer have a job. I feel for her as she has been in the company for 15 years at least, and has won various awards. It felt a bit weird that everyone seemed more concerned by what would happen next, rather than how she was feeling. But work is often quite a cold place. I did email her to thank her for her hard work and friendship. She seemed appreciative which is nice.

Rebecca has taken her first tentative steps. She can stand pretty well, and she can do one or two steps before launching herself as you. She seems to be very pleased with herself and is starting to develop a few more sounds that might be words. I think we are on the cusp of the toddler age, and will she will not be a baby for all that much longer.

It has not really felt all the Christmassy this year. Probably the lack of it actually being cold is part of it. I cannot say I love winter, so it is welcome and yet rather odd. Still we did the Clieveden christmas trail at the weekend, which got us out in the lovely warm air. It is a big National Trust place, and there always seems to be something new. The big surprise this time was a chapel which was closed before and had loads of interesting art inside. We also saw the Winter Giant which was a huge puppet that was marched down the streets of Reading. It was nice really as Reading often appears to be one of the least cultural towns in the planet.

The weekend before Christmas
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I feel Jeremy Clarkson has probably done it this time. I understand he is one of the few BBC stars that actually has a decent audience outside of the UK. But hitting your boss is never a bright move.

I am one of only twelve males in the UK who does not get Top Gear. It strikes me as an awkward, over-scripted and unfunny program. It is not really helped by the fact you have one presenter who feels he can keep pushing the boundaries of decency. Perhaps he thinks he is bigger than the show, but I am not sure where else he can go. He is hardly the young face of telly that ITV or Channel Four would be looking for.

Bottled Water

I hate the idea of bottled water. I am sure it has its place, less developed countries perhaps or somewhere where you are far from a tap.

But live in the developed world and the water supply is basically always drinkable. There are many people who don't have the luxury of clean water. One such country is Fiji where only 47% of the population have access to clean drinking water(source:The Guardian)

So for some reason you can actually buy bottled water from Fiji!

You can buy it for just £1.76 per liter from Ocado. Slightly more expensive than petrol.

Daniel's Pizza Express Party.

We were casting around for an ideal for Daniel's birthday party. The main one everyone seems to do is at Newbury Leisure center. Basically it consists of 30 minutes on a bouncy castle, 30 minutes of soft play and then lunch. It is a pretty well organised affair and they probably run several a day. But everyone seemed to do it. The other option was some sort of village hall/ entertainer but that is quite expensive.

WE have made pizza a few times with Daniel, and he seems to quite enjoy it. Laura found out Pizza Express do Pizza making parties and so Laura decided to book one for him.

Waiting for a late arrival.




Getting ready to add the tomato to the base.


Adding the toppings.



Making a wish.


It was a good idea, as the kids seem to enjoy creating something. It was also pretty good value. £166 for eight kids with some pizza and drinks for the adults.

I think we may try it again next year, it will probably be a different crowd as none of his friends are going to the same primary school as him.

It was a good idea, didn't involve messing up our house and was a little bit different from what everyone else seems to do. The kids were surprisingly good, they all seemed engaged and most of the parents said to help. I say most as one dad just left his daughter. We found that a bit odd as he did not know him or his daughter. I think at three it is a bit young to leave a child with someone you don't know. But perhaps we are over cautious.

Laura has a more detailed write up on her blog.

(no subject)

Apparently livejournal have a new owner and a new manager. They don't seem to announce it, and they have had a bit of a make over. I suppose the new look is ok, I am just not sure if it will really lead to an upswing in posting. Perhaps there is a niche for a blogging site focused on smaller audiences, longer posts and with tighter security. But equally it is very possible there is not.

Daniel is now four which is good. We went to Lego Land with Laura's dad. It was raining and a school day so the place was quiet. Daniel is over 90cm so he had the chance to do a lot of the rides.

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He pretty much enjoyed everything, and it was a fun day out. It was kind of expensive, but we managed to use vouchers to get in a bit cheaper. We completed the trip with purchases of a lot of lego, this is his new favourite hobby.