This area is all about me. Well, me and my family.



I was born in 1968, in Paisley, Scotland, and have lived in Scotland nearly all my life. Claire and I married in 1997 and we have stayed in Houston ever since. In 2004 Cate was born and live has never been the same.



I have been working at BT in Glasgow since finishing university in 1989. During this time I've been involved in projects using C, C++, Java, Oracle, UNIX, NT and VMS. I was involved in writing the system that the operators use when handling 999 calls as well as 100 and 155 calls, which was a great experience. Recently I've been working on a project which moves data about using a tool called Ab Initio.



I am a Christian, and most of my non-Cate related social activities are related to this. This means I spend Sundays and some other evenings going to and helping at church meetings. We attended Gallowhill Adelphi Church in Paisley, until the numbers dropped to just us and we had to close. We're now going to Harper Memorial Church in Glasgow, and are sometimes involved with The Bible Centre in Inchinnan. When I have some free time I enjoy playing football, badminton, or any other sport, walking up hills, listening to music and playing computer games (I have a Wii, DS, Gamecube, DS, Jaguar, Lynx, Atari ST, Electron and ZX81).

I decided in November 2015 to record a journal of a typical week for posterity.

David's Journal - November 2015

One complaint about the likes of Facebook and personal web sites is that they tend to record just the highlights of a person’s life, giving a false impression. That’s pretty much true: I don’t post anything unless I think people will find it interesting, and put holidays up on my web page but never anything about all the other days: the days of work and ordinary home life.
So here’s a week-long diary, including all the banality of my everyday life. Who would want to read that, you ask? I have no idea. Maybe no one. In which case it has been an exercise in writing skills.

Monday 9th November, 2015

I rose early at 6:15, and caught the 6:30 bus into Glasgow. I like to read on the bus and so take my Kindle with me. At the Tuesday morning church meetings I go to we read one book a month, and this month’s book is CS Lewis’s Mere Christianity, so I try to read a chapter each bus trip. After this morning’s chapter I switched over to Tommy’s War, an account of a Glasgow man’s experiences at home during the First World War.

Getting the early bus meant I could start work at 7, which helps build up the hours for the week, especially as I get in late on a Tuesday. I normally have breakfast at work and had muesli this morning while catching up on emails. I work as a software engineer for BT, in a team which develops the systems that provide data for emergency calls. I normally start the week examining reports of unknown cell locations for emergency calls, so did this first. This morning I also had a request from our emergency services liaison team to check some figures which seemed to be saying the call handling figures had been bad for a recent day, but I was able to show there was a problem with the figures rather than the actual performance. I had some help looking at the message format of some messages between our systems and finished the morning off with a teleconference on the format of our Advanced Mobile Location message, which we’re trying to get put on as many phones as possible - it’s a mechanism by which your phone tells us where you are when you make an emergency call.

During all that I managed to get myself a cup of tea, with biscuits and some Aldi chocolate. I should probably cut down on the biscuits.

A sandwich for lunch and a walk, mostly through the St Enoch Centre. I try to get a walk at lunch time and sometimes in the evening, keeping track of distance using the Runkeeper app on my phone. I think some people get regular updates whenever I take a walk, which must be a bit annoying for them. When I got back I had another cup of tea and biscuits, negating all the good work.

Back to work and in the afternoon I did some coding. We have a web page that looks at the time it takes for emergency services to answer calls we put through to them. This has proved so popular that the people who use it want some extra changes put into it, which is what I did for the time up until 4. I printed out some worksheets for Claire to use in her kids’ class on Sunday, then headed off to get the bus home.

Dinner was chicken, cheese and tortilla chips with rice, washed down with fresh orange and lemonade. I hoovered upstairs, and took Cate to tae kwon do. It was too wet for a walk, so I came back home and had a few games of Bejewelled on the iPad before fetching her again.

Supper was a cup of tea and a bit of baclava while Cate finished watching Harry Potter on the telly. Claire and I take turns putting Cate to bed, and she still likes to be read to, so I read a chapter of Willard Price’s Underwater Adventure at bedtime, then down for a bit of reading myself and Clash of Clans before bed at 11:30. Willard Price was an author I read a lot of when I was young. He wrote books about two brothers seeking to capture animals and bring them back to their father’s zoo. They usually got into some deadly danger during each adventure.

Weather was rainy all day, very windy in the morning.

Tuesday, 10th November

I was up early again to get the 6:30 bus, with a quick bit of muesli to get me going. I walked from the bus stop to Harper Church for the Tuesday morning prayer and bible study meeting. We studied Isaiah 3 over a roll and bacon, with potato scone and a cup of tea.

I walked to work for 9:45, and started with another cup of tea. We met Paul, a new guy on the workstation team. He’s Scottish but for some reason could only be recruited into Adastral Park near Ipswich. One I’d caught up with emails I continued code changes for our statistics UI.

A sandwich for lunch, then I joined the centre CARE team meeting. CARE is the company’s survey to find out how people feel about their work, their boss, their work environment and so on. The CARE team is a group of peers set up to try and solve the problems we’ve already raised in the survey. Basically “You say it’s a problem, you fix it”. My part in the meeting is usually to point out that if could fix it we would and the problems we raised are for senior management to solve.

Back at my desk I finished investigating why we were recording calls without any apparent end times in the UI, and sent out a summary report. I caught the 4pm bus home, reading Dreadnought, a book about the naval arms race in the lead up to the First World War.

Tuesday nights are always busy. I took Cate to Total Soccer at the school, then back for my own dinner - BBQ chicken and rice - then picked up Cate and her pal Holly for bible club in Erskine, while we walked around Erskine, past Inchinnan Cemetery. Once Bible Club was finished we rushed back to Houston to drop Cate off at scouts, dropped Holly off home, walked home for half an hour then walked back to pick Cate up and drove home for bed.

I came down to read for a while. Cate came down at 1am and weed in the washing basket! That hasn’t happened before!

Weather: torrential all day but dry and calm in the evening. Quite mild.

Wednesday, 11th November

I worked from home so I could help at the school. Up at 6:15, breakfast was granola and a cup of tea, then I switched the computer on at 7. I started with emails and a chat with Deana, who runs our data team, responsible for ensuring the name and address data for all the UK is accurate. The computer wanted to make 75 security updates so I had a shower.

I started building an alerts screen for our monitoring tool, to spot certain events happening and store them. I then went to Cate's school to help with the technology challenge. They’re building a model vehicle with a small electric motor. One of my many impairments is that I have trouble recognising faces, which often makes social situations difficult. It was a bit embarrassing to enter Cate’s class and not be able to work out which of the girls was my own daughter. But I got there eventually and was hopefully of some help.

Back for a quick bite of toast and cheese and I continued with the alerts page. I finished work at 5 for dinner - chilli and rice - Cate had a piano lesson while I fixed her school bag then played Bejewelled on the iPad. Claire was away at Zumba. Cate had a bath, then we made a stop motion animation with Playmobil figures.

Cate was in bed by 9 and I got ready for my regular 5-a-side game at 9:30. I play with some local folk, mostly from the Linwood Gospel Hall, who go to the football after their prayer meeting. While it’s mostly Christians playing it isn’t always gentle. Home for a shower, and I watched the apprentice with tea and a biscuit, then off to bed.

Weather - dry in the morning, raining from lunchtime, happily dry by evening. Still quite mild.

Thursday, 12th November

Up and out for the 6:55 bus this morning, and I got to work at 7:30. Muesli and tea for breakfast, and I continued with my alerts screen. This user interface work we’re doing is written in Java using a toolkit called Java Server Faces. It runs on a web server and we access it using our web browsers. The main processing code we have is written in C++ and accesses an Oracle database. I was responsible for some of the original code written back in 2003. I had a call with our customer, John, the 999 product manager within BT about AML, and I talked Paul, the new recruit, through DSL, which is a scripting language for the workstation that handles the 999 calls, which I wrote around 1998. It’s good to know that my code has been working away for years, helping save people’s lives. Another call with the customer about no-end-time calls, by which time it was lunch - the usual sandwich, a walk, then and a cup of tea and the TTC. This is our technical team call which we have every week, where we go through where we all are on the plan and raise any issues we have. I have to bow out of the call early some times to get the 4pm bus home.

Left over chilli for dinner, and Cate’s football training was called off. Cate wanted to bake cupcakes so Claire helped her do that while I repaired the sealant around the bath. We watched a bit of Harry Potter while I played Bejewelled and I read a bit of Dreadnought before bed at 1am.

Weather - not too bad during the day but we were hit with storm Abigail in the evening and it soaked me on the walk up from the bus stop.

Friday, 13th November

Up at 6:30 for a shower and out in time for the 6:55 bus, which got me to work at 7:30. Muesli and tea while reading my emails and printing out the instructions for the STEM event at Stepps Primary School. A colleague, Edd, drove me there and we did two sessions teaching primary 6 kids how to code a game in the Scratch language, which is a simple, visual coding language with built-in sprite handling, movement and so on. Another colleague, Graham, joined us for the second session after taking the train to Shotts instead of Stepps.

Back at the office for 12:45, I had a pasta tub from the cafe (very unusual for me to get food from there) and joined the last part of the secure programming workshop. Then a cup of tea, a chat with Andrew, who had come up from Newcastle for the workshop, some analysis on calls with unknown cell ids and I did my weekly report and time booking. Plus I had a one to one meeting with Ian, my manager.

I caught the usual bus home at 4. I’d booked the Kublai Khan restaurant for Cate's treat after getting a good report at school. This is a favourite, a restaurant in Glasgow where you make the main course yourself, chasing from various meats, mixing in your own choice of spices and handing it to the chef to cook for you. It’s a great gimmick, and makes for a fun night out. We left at 5 but it took nearly an hour to get into Glasgow with the traffic. Anyway, we got to Kublai Khans and had a great meal. Cate loved the asian fish balls, and the baby octopus from the main course options. After a starter, 3 main courses (Claire only had 2, the wimp!) and a pudding, we rolled out to check the Christmas market for potential presents before driving home. Early start tomorrow so we were all in bed fairly early.

Weather - wet and blowy all day. Getting colder too.

Saturday, 14th November

Up at 6:45 as Cate's on the early match. Granola and tea for breakfast and out for 8:15 to go to Parklea playing fields in Port Glasgow. The Port Glasgow team were a bit brutal but St Mirren outplayed them for a convincing win (not that results are recorded). It’s worth pointing out that Cate is playing in a team comprised entirely of boys, plus her. This doesn’t seem to put her off at all. The teams we play against have the occasional girl, then there are a couple of all-girl teams. The Rangers girls team in particular are very good.

Home for a warming shower for Cate then off to Stevenston for lunch at Claire's dads. Irene and Sam, my sister-in-law and nephew, were there too. After a huge fry-up, cakes, a smoothy and a chat we left and stopped off at Decathlon in Braehead to get Cate a high vis coat for the school safety walk.

Getting home at 4:30, we had some sparklers left over from fireworks night, so tried them out in the back garden. I had a nice bath while Cate watched Back to the Future 2, then I read The Martian while the two of them watched Strictly. A bit of reading was followed by bed time. I came down for a while for reading/iPad/telly and sewed up Currant, Cate's toy beagle whose head had fallen off.

Weather - yep, rainy again.

Sunday, 15th November

Up at 7.30 with plenty of time before church. Granola and tea for breakfast, then I made Cate's eggs. Out for 10 as Claire is doing a class at Kids’ Church. I helped her set up, but stayed in the main service where we had our final sermon on the book of John, then I helped tidy up upstairs and set up for the fellowship supper.

Back home for the last of the chilli for lunch. Cate had piano practice, pantomime practise, note reading practise, then played with Lego while I picked the best of the year’s photos for a calendar. I’ve been doing a calendar with pictures of Cate from each month for the grandparents for a few years now. Cate came up to play Friv games on the computer and I went down to play Bejewelled (again). Then I took her through the Pong game we taught the kids on Friday, which she adapted for sharks and a diver; much hilarity ensued.

No dinner tonight, and we were out to church at 6, with Alan speaking again, on Daniel 9, followed by the fellowship supper, a traditional monthly sandwich and cake affair at Harper Church. Much cake was consumed.

Back home and Cate was straight off to bed. Claire watched the Strictly Results show while I read The Martian. Bed at 11.

Weather - torrential rain all day.

And that's it. A fairly typical week, though it was quite a busy one.


This page is all about Cate, our daughter. She was born in December 2004, and is a constant source of amazement, joy, fun, worry and tiredness to Claire and myself.

New Arrival

baby Catherine Ellen Meiklejohn was brought into this world at 9:34 AM on the 3rd of December, 2004. She was not keen to join the outside world, and eventually had to be delivered by a section. She weighed 7 lb 11 oz at birth, and took the earliest opportunity to make full use of her lungs. She quietened down soon enough though, and even remained docile during the visits of various odd people she will later refer to as relatives. Mother is recovering and has been quoted as saying "Never again!".

Week 1 - In the Hospital

Baby Claire and Cate stayed at the hospital for a few days after the birth. This was the easiest time for the father: turn up at 2, stay a few hours then home for a good sleep. We had some visitors and lots of presents. Mother recovered quite quickly, and baby did well with her feeding and not being sick everywhere.

Sleeping | Family

First Days at Home

Shoulder We brought Cate home on Tuesday 7th December, half expecting someone to run out of the hospital shouting "Bring that baby back". Now she's settling in at home and we're trying to get used to having her here, what with waking up every couple of hours during the night for a feed, crying for no apparent reason - and that's just me. Imagine what the baby's like! She still manages to be lovable enough for us to want to kep her around though.

5 weeks in and Cate has managed to guzzle her way to 9 lbs. She's had loads of clothes as presents, and it's not always easy to predict what will fit. Close Up

Eating and Growing

Dungarees I'm amazed by how fast Cate is growing. Not just in the amount of weight she's gaining but in the progress she's making. Every week brings a new ability. She's three months old now, and she's sleeping in her own room (the Moses basket was getting a bit small for her), sleeping through the night (hooray!), making a variety of noises and she'll now hold on to something if you put it in your hands. She smiles a lot, which is encouraging, and cries quite a lot, mainly because she's tired, but too nosey to go to sleep.

We've been on a few outings: including lunch at the Coach House in Luss, and visiting Priscilla's church in Muirhead, for her baptism (hi Priscilla!). We're going to Wales in the early summer and I'm wondering how we're going to get any luggage in the car when the car-seat, pram and bouncy chair are in.



Laugh We're started on solids now. Well, not really solids, more like runnies. Pureed apple, pear, courgette, carrot and sweet potato are all being met with an enthusiastic response. Latest skills learned are sticking out the tongue and lunging towards anything that looks bitable. We put a bumper cushion in the cot to avoid sore head type problems, with mixed results.

6 Months

Homer Cate is 6 months old now, and Claire and I can barely remember the days when we could lie in beyond 7am. We've had our first holiday, which went pretty well. It took a couple of days for Cate to get used to the cottage but she settled in fine after that. Latest tricks learned are shaking things wildly, holding the arms out and rotating the wrists, making pterodactyl noises and being sick into her father's t-shirt pocket. She's enjoying pretty much every type of food we throw at her, and especially likes her carrots.

Commando Cate


Four months since the last update, so what's happened? Well, Cate can now crawl, though she's eschewed the standard hands and knees type of crawl for more of a commando style, belly on the floor, crawl. She can now follow us into the kitchen, and play with the fridge magnets. She also tries to crawl off the edge of the couch, so needs a bit of watching. She's desperate to walk, as well, but seems to think the way to do it is to make enormous steps each time.

Clapping is now in the repertoire, as is demolishing towers of building blocks. She has also phoned for a taxi, which doesn't bode well. We can now put her down at night without getting her to sleep first (hurrah!), but she does sometimes have a fight with Winnie first.

Finally, the favourite trip out just now is to the swing park. Oh, and she has a new wee cousin called Samuel. Much bullying expected in the future.

1 Year!

Walking Cate is 1 year old. We had a few friends and relatives around for a party, and just so she could enjoy it a bit more she learned to walk the week before. I'd expected a couple of faltering steps and a lot of encouragement, but true to form she went from holding on to the table to wandering all over the living room in a matter of a couple of hours. She falls over quite a lot but seems to have a skull an inch thick.

This new-found freedom is revealing her character more. If I had to choose a single word it would be mischievous. If she gets into the toilet she comes out with the entire toilet roll in an Andrex puppy type of moment. She has also discovered the joys of throwing my clothes into the shower.

The Christmas decorations are up now, so we expect more destruction to ensue.


Fingers It's been 4 months since the last update, and Cate's been walking and running all over the place. She's run after cats, dogs and children, learned how to jump, spin round and climb the stairs. She regularly makes it most of the way down the aisle at church before Claire catches her. She also finds the leaflets at church very interesting.

All of a sudden, Cate gained an interest in her books. Now she brings them up and places them in our laps, insisting we read them to her. Once we've finished, she lifts the book up and places it back down again. This can go on until we've read the same book 7 or 8 times. She's also dead keen on the television programmes on the CBeebies channel, particularly Boogie Beebies. And so came her first real word used in context. One night she handed us the remote control. "What do you want?" we asked. "Boogies" was the plaintive reply.

The next one was even more unexpected. One day she handed me her book about what people like to eat. It has a picture of a girl (Hetty) eating spaghetti on the front. She placed the book in my lap and said "Baghetti". So now she can ask for the channel to be changed or order a meal at an Italian restaurant. Still doesn't say daddy (well not to me anyway) or mummy though. We've been teaching her lots of animal noises, too, but I wonder about the practical value of these. I can't remember the last time I used an animal noise in a conversation at work or with friends.

Adventures in the Woods

More about Cate's progress soon, but we've been going out for walks in the woods, and picking up leaves from the trees we pass. I've put together a wee page on trees from what we picked up.



Well, Cate is now 2. She's been learning words at an alarming rate, and copying the words and phrases we use without having to hear them more than once. She's coming along well with individual words, and stringing them together to make sentences as well: "See dog?", "I know! It's a window!" and our favourite "It's all right, it's just a dancing tree". She still manages to insert a whole lot of babbling in there, though, with requests such as "blabalabalaba juice".

The number of songs Cate has absorbed is amazing as well. I thought we'd have to teach her one song until she knew it well, then start on another. But she knows the tunes and some of the words to all the Boogie Beebies songs, a good few nursery type songs and some of the hymns from church as well. Shows how little I know about child development.

We had a holiday in the summer, with Irene, Colin and Sam, which was great, and we all went to junior camp this year, as well as camp reunion, and these were all a big hit. We also visited the zoo in August, which seems to have made a big impression on Cate. She sometimes mentions the zoo out of nowhere.

Cate had a good birthday, with family and friends round to visit, and we're now preparing for Christmas. She got a voucher from one of the staff at Asda the other day, for shouting "Happy Christmas" while being wheeled through the store. Better than a warning for disturbing the peace, I suppose.

Her eating habits sometimes leave a bit to be desired, but she eats very well, and sleeps well during the night. This makes up for the mad whirlwind of activity we get from her all during the day. It's going to be a fun 2007.

Big Girl Pants


Hmm, too many months since the last update. We're most of the way through the terrible twos now, and it could have been worse, I suppose. We had a few weeks of tantrums at the start of the year but it's died down now to just the occasional screaming fit. Cate is sly as a fox and will look for any opportunity to get up to mischief, immediately followed by an innocent "Are you happy, mum?".

The two big progress events were the bed and toilet training, and both went remarkably well. I took the bars off Cate's cot around April, turning it into a "big girl's bed". We tried to impress on her that she needed to stay in the bed at night, fully expecting regular visits down the stairs. Amazingly, though, she took to it straight away and stays in her room from bed time on. There are the occasional alarming bumps, but eventually we get peace and quiet until mum's bed time (about half an hour after Cate's).

The real biggie, though, was the toilet training. We waited until she was two and a half, and we had a few weeks without too many things to go to, and started on the "big girl pants". After a few poos on the floor ("not do that again") and a couple of weeks of occasional accidents (15 pairs of pants the first day) it seemed to click and there's been no problem since.

So apart from that we've been to the Sea Life Centre, sledging at xscape, Blairdrummond Safari Park, the Glasgow Art Galleries, nearly went to Turkey but went to Berwick instead and had a week of camp.

Cate got an animal book for Christmas, and loves to look at all the animals. Strangely, she's picked the dugong as her favourite. She loves going for walks to the park and going to see the horses in the field down the road: Henry and Tucker. She also continues to eat huge quantities of whatever food comes her way.

Cate's favourite sayings at the moment:

  • Exercises!
  • I want a cherry tomato.
  • I hit mum. Are you happy?
  • No! Not go for a nap.
  • Go see Henry and Tucker?
  • I wakened up now.

Shiny Stones

This Christmas I did my usual thing and spent practically nothing on Cate (when she was 1 I got her a cardoard box for her Christmas). She's been showing an interest in the few stones we have lying about and so I started her off on a mineral collection. Here's a page on what she's collected so far.

Nursery and Sharks

Folded Arms

At the start of this year Cate started at nursery school. She goes for the morning each week day. Typically for her she was warned on the second day there for strangling another girl. It took her a while to settle in, with regular reports of "I was crying for you, mum" but she's now quite happy there and comes back with an assortment of things created while she was there: pictures, hats and so on. Claire is delighted with 2 and a half hours of peace each day and has been hitting the swimming pool in her newly found free time.

Cate watches a lot of TV, mostly CBeebies, but she's been getting interested in films as well, and has periods where she watches The Lion King, Ratatouille or Wallace and Gromit every day for days on end. She likes Star Wars as well, especially when R2D2 appears.

Always having had an interest in wildlife (last year's Christmas present was an animal encyclopaedia which she memorised and declared her favourite was the dugong), Cate has decided to specialise in one or two areas of the animal kingdom. Deciding on the best animal for a 3 year old girl to study is never easy: puppies, rabbits and ponies were always an option; but she's settled on sharks. We now have a number of books on the subject and she has a pretty good record on identification between whale sharks, makos, great whites, tiger sharks, basking, cookie cutter, nurse, blue, white tipped, monkfish and wobbegongs. Ever the scientist, Cate has also decided on her own method of categorisation. This is based on the answers to two vital questions relating to a shark species: can you pat it? and does it eat girls?

We had a good Christmas and New Year, and we're just past Easter. Cate sang a solo at the Easter service at church and did really well. Next up is the summer holiday: this year we've booked up a holiday in Majorca, so here's hoping for no last minute hitches this time.

"I want to be a marine biologist"

Well, we had a great holiday in Majorca and a good time at camp. After the summer Cate started at a different nursery, at Houston Primary, where she'll be going to school. She settled in very quickly this time and we're getting a steady stream of pictures and paintings home. They seem to be very organised and even have football and french lessons once a week.

For Cate's fourth birthday we thought it would be nice to take her out for the day. There's a place near Lanark called Valley International Park, which does a Christmas train ride during December, so we thought we'd try that out. It turned out to be ideal: it was snowy in Lanarkshire and the park had a real Christmassy feel. We had the train ride, followed by a trip through some darkened caves with various illuminations to Santa's grotto, where Santa spent a good 5 minutes with her. After that there was an indoor play area to keep Cate happy until it was time to leave.

The nursery put on a presentation at Christmas. The children acted out and danced to a variety of tunes, dressed up as different toys. Cate and a couple of other girls sang a couple of songs with microphones, which Cate proceeded to sigh into, much to the amusement of the parents watching.

Once we got past the winter there have been more opportunities to get outside for walks. Cate likes nothing better than to get out for a walk and "discover a bit of nature", or just hang about. We normally come back with a stick or two and get to pat the odd dog on the way.

Cate's interest in sharks continues and her preferred future career is as a marine biologist. This has replaced her previous choice of a stunt woman. With the amount of nonsense she comes out with she may even be a politician: who knows?

This year we booked a week at Disneyland Paris. We had a great time and Cate was able to practise her French on the bus drivers. The nursery is due to finish soon and after the summer it's school!


The day has finally come. Nursery finished in June, we had 7 weeks of summer holidays, including a little trip to Anstruther, and then it was time for school to start. On Tuesday 18th August Cate got her Houston Primary School uniform on and we took the car to the school. We had to wait outside for a while but we were eventually let in and Cate found her desk. That's it! Something between 12 and 18 years of education lie ahead before a young, educated woman emerges.


Guinea Pigs

Birthday time is coming up, and Cate has been asking for guinea pigs for most of the year. Some friends were having to give their's up, so we took them on. They're dead keen on their lettuce and carrots, and though very shy at first, they're starting to get used to us.

School seems to be going well, and Cate's now onto her second word wall. We're getting to know Floppy, Biff and friends with a new reading book each week. She's also been getting involved in other ladylike pursuits.

Primary 1


Cate's been through a whole year of school now, and what a difference! Her reading and writing are coming on, arithmetic is looking good, drawings are much better and she can make any numbers of pictures out of dry pasta if she can avoid eating it all. Yes, the appetite's still there; 5 a day is more of a starting point than a target. Her only dislikes now are raisins and jam (except for her grandpa's blackcurrant jam, which she loves).

We had a very cold winter, so had a chance to use the sledge we got last year but didn't use, and we had a few interesting experiences in the car. Christmas was a double celebration: Cate's first tooth fell out on Christmas Eve, so the Tooth Fairy and Santa visited on the same night. Since it was the first tooth out and a special day, the tooth fairy left a big silver jubilee coin. I'm sure I used to have one of those; I wonder what happened to it...

The school did both a nativity play (Cate was an angel) and an Easter bonnet parade, with various fundraisers throughout the year. The barbecue evening was fun, and Cate had a chance to find out what a hamster feels like. She's doing fairly well with her swimming, with regular visits, and has been going to weekly Tae Kwon Do classes since starting primary school.

In the summer we've had a holiday to Scarborough and a week of camp. The stabilisers have just come off the bike, so Cate's been learning to ride without them. So far we're fine if the practise area is really big, but have yet to master turning, starting and stopping. Falling off has been fully mastered though.

Primary 2

Alley Cat

... and now we're through primary two. Landmarks this year: fairly fluent reading, swimming gradually improving, bike riding is now pretty much sorted and Cate can now tie her shoe laces (hurrah, one less thing for us to do). New skills learned: football (getting fairly profficient), badminton (just starting) , hill walking (made it half way up Ben Lomond) and archery (two shots at this in the last year).

At school she has loved being in P2, and the teachers look forward to reading her creative writing (e.g. a haunted house with a dancing skeleton and a dancing elvis). The Christmas play this year was the Wizard of Oz and the class also did a Vikings assembly in May. Cate was one of the narrators in both, and also got a chance to recite a Scottish poem, The Puddock, to the rest of the class.

We had another great winter, if you measure greatness by the amount of snowy days, so we made good use of the sledge again. For her 6th birthday we went to The Singing Kettle, a kid's show run by local talent which is very popular here. They invite a few kids up on stage at one point and her nibs managed to get picked, dressed up as a polar bear and run about to a song.

We've had a couple of holidays this year: a short week at a caravan park in Blackpool, which we enjoyed but was freezing, and a week at Centerparcs, along with Linda, John and Kyle. Cate had a great time and especially loved the falconry activity.

At the end of April Cate's grandpa Meiklejohn sadly passed away suddenly. We'll all miss him a lot, and fondly remember the times we would visit the house at Wemyss Bay, watch Cate out feeding the fish with her grandpa and go for a walk in the woods, looking for the fabled bouncy tree. We'd had the usual birthday meal for him in March at the Point in Greenock, where he used to like watching the boats go by out of the window, and he'd come, along with Cate's other grandpa, for a grandpas birthday meal on Cate's birthday.

Anyway, onwards and upwards. After the summer it's primary three. I'm sure there will be lots more to report at the end of the year.

Primary 3


Primary three was a great year for achievements. First there was the Burns competition for reciting a Scottish poem. Cate won first prize in her class for Wee Freenly Dug. Then there was Houston's Got Talent at the local agricultural show. We were a bit unsure about letting her take part, especially as some of the other acts were really well prepared and very precise. But she went up there and sang the Welly Boot Song and came second.

The class did a couple of presentations, the second of which was a circus performance. Cate and her classmate Sasha were chosen to be the ringmasters, and did a great job introducing all the acts. We had lots of positive comments from the other parents. And finally she won Most Improved Player of the year at her football training. This despite a major amount of hacking.

We had a nice, if very cold, outing in October to Nairn, in the north of Scotland. We had a good time and stopped off at an adventure park on the way home.

Primary 5


What happened to p4? Well, not much, except a lack of time and a good dose of laziness. P4 was less exciting in terms of achievements, but we did have a magical one day trip to Lapland in December, and it was wrapped up with a week at camp and a great holiday in Ibiza.

Cate has loved her year at school, with topics including the highland clearances, the rain forest, magical castles and space.

She took part in P5's Got Talent, and made it through to the final, playing her blues piano piece to both school assemblies, plus an extra one for Mrs Thomson. My suggestion of starting out simply and then bursting into life worked a treat.

This is Cate's last year at the Houston Soccer Academy, so we're looking for somewhere else to train and maybe get into some matches. The coaches have been great over the years and we have our fingers crossed for player of the year, mainly down to persistence for turning up in all weathers. I think she deserves a prize for forbearance, for not lamping the couple of kids who persistently gripe at her.

She's still attending Tae Kwon Do once a week, and had a change in instructor this year. The new instructor has been revising and honing all the patterns but she's now moved on another level and got her green-belt-with-blue-tag.

Piano lessons continue and Cate got a pass with distinction for her initial grade test. Grade 1 is in June. The practise tunes are at least nice to listen to.

We've been trying to go swimming as often as possible too, and setting a target for lengths has worked well. Last week she managed 42 lengths. Maybe we'll get a mile by the summer.

She's also been going to basketball and country dancing classes at school. Ironically, considering all her other pursuits, she doesn't fancy this next year as it's a bit too energetic.

She's also been to the GO Club at Erskine Church of the Nazarene, which is on Tuesday evenings. Her friend Holly has been going with her this year so it's been noisy in the car on the way there and back, but they both enjoy it and are going to camp again in the summer.

That sounds like an awful lot, and most of our evenings are filled with one activity or another, but we've managed to get time for the odd walk, lego construction, drawing or game of Minecraft too. Last year we managed to climb Conic Hill, by Loch Lomond, and this year we made it to the top of Ben A'an, near Loch Katrine.

We had an Easter trip, going down to london from Monday to Friday in the Easter holidays, and visiting the Harry Potter Studio Tour, Legoland and Whipsnade Zoo. This summer we're off to Jersey. Highlight of the year, though, will be looking after Indie, my sister's dog, for a week in the summer. We had a practice couple of days at Easter and Cate's really looking forward to July.

After all the school work and after-school activities, the night-time routine has stayed a constant, with a book before bed. Cate's been reading the Secret Seven books herself some nights but still likes to be read to, and we've gone through The Lord of the Rings and the David Williams books recently.

So it's been a successful year, but it's good to keep grounded, and Cate's been doing that literally, with many bruises testifying to her amazing ability to fall off the floor. It keeps the rest of her class amused anyway.

Primary 6

Woolly Hat

P6 was a good year for achievements. 3rd place in the photography competition, 6th place in the inter-schools road race, distinction at country dancing (despite her tights falling down during the dance), blue belt at tea kwon do, player of the year at the soccer academy, winner at mixed badminton and winner at the school sports sprint, then distinction at grade 2 piano. All that practise is showing rewards.

We had to find a new football club after graduating from the soccer academy, and the choice was mainly based on available nights and no Sunday games. We eventually found St Mirren Community Youth, and joined up with them. There was a bit of a scene just after summer when all the coaches resigned and took some of the players away with them, but we got a new coach and he started building the team up again from very modest beginnings. After some very depressing defeats they're getting better and winning some games. Cate has established a place in defence as a tough tackler but needs a bit of work on the rest of her game.

We had more drama last summer as half of the church membership left, leaving just me and Claire. We decided we couldn't carry on as a church and so finished up after the prizegiving service. We tried out a few churches during the summer holidays, and settled on Harper Memorial, in Glasgow. Cate has really enjoyed going there, taking part in the Sunday school, which runs during the morning service, and especially enjoying the third Sunday evening service, after which we usually have a fellowship supper. Recently we had a sermon on baptism and Cate has asked to be baptised. She's had some instruction and just needs to be interviewed before that gets arranged.

It was a good year at school, and the teachers seemed to be really good with the class. A decent report means we go for a meal out and so we had an evening at Khublai Khan's where you get to put together your own dish. As well as piano, Cate decided to take up the trumpet, and they also all got a recorder home, so it's been a bit noisy in the evenings.

We managed to get away for the three school breaks this year. We had a few days in Centerparcs in October, with lots of climbing action, a week in Skye in April, with lots of hill walking, and two weeks back at the Marylanza in Tenerife for summer, which was mostly spent in the pool, but also included a bit of parascending.

And so on to p7. There seems to be even more work to do, more responsibilities for the kids and a big trip in May, which Cate's very much looking forward to.

Last update: 26 September 2015 - 10 years old


I am a Christian. This means I have been born again and am a follower of Jesus Christ. It does not mean that am sinless, a good follower, or better than anyone else. It isn't just something I do on Sunday, either, but is part of my everyday life. I'm involved at my church, Harper Memorial Baptist Church, helping with kids church, secretary work and the occasional sermon.


Here's a summary of what I believe:

  • There is one God who created everything. He consists of three personalities: the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.
  • Every person has sinned against this God, condemming themselves to eternity in Hell.
  • The Son came to earth and took on the form of a man, Jesus, born of a virgin. He lived a sinless life and died on a cross. His death paid for the sins of all men.
  • Every person who accepts their own sinfulness, asks forgiveness and accepts Jesus Christ as Lord is born again spiritually, and destined for heaven.

You can visit my Bible Guide from here, or have a read of the sermons I have put online.

GO Clubs

Claire and I do voluntary work for a local Christian concern called The Bible Centre, near Glasgow Airport. In the summer we have camps for children, and throughout the year we are involved in monthly clubs for the teenagers and in Gospel Outreach (GO) clubs.

Gallowhill Club

We run a club on Monday nights at Gallowhill Adelphi Church in Paisley. It's been going for a good number of years, and here are some pictures from the past.

I'm Engaged

Yes, it's true. After two and three quarter years of courting, Claire and I were engaged on Saturday 16th November 1996 on the moor road above Dalry. The time was about 3.30pm, the weather was cold and windy, the scenery was beautiful and the pair of us are quite happy.



For all you girls out there, here's a picture of the ring:


The wedding took place on August 16th 1997. We went on honeymoon to Kenya and moved in to our new house in Houston, Scotland.

To celebrate the engagement, I bought doughnuts for my colleagues. Here's one of them:


My Work

I'm a software engineer. That means I write computer programs. Well, it means a lot more than that, but it would get boring if I tried to explain it. I work for BT, and my office works very similarly to the one in Dilbert.


I write a lot of stuff in C++ and in Java, with Oracle databases and over BT's intranet. The projects I've worked on include:

  • A network management system, written using C with some object-oriented style libraries.
  • A service management system, written using C++, though other parts used Oracle Forms.
  • A problem reporting tool, written as a Java applet client and a C++ server, accessing files or the data.
  • The system the operators use to handle 100, 999 and 155 calls. This is written using Visual C++, with sockets communications to server processes running on Unix machines and accessing Oracle databases.
  • A data management system. This uses a tool called Ab Initio to extract data from some systems, transform it, then load it to other systems.

Do I enjoy it? Mostly, yes. I like working with computers, and working in a team. I dislike corporate politics and pointless tasks. But mostly, I get paid for messing about with computers, which isn't something I had thought possible while at school.


I come from Scotland, a small country occupying the northern part of the British Isles. We may be small but we have a proud history, and we most definitely don't like being mistaken for being English.

Scotland Flag

We Arra People

Coming from Scotland means several things:

  • I'm used to wet weather
  • I like Irn Bru
  • I get frustrated watching my country play football (that's soccer to you Americans)
  • I look a bit pale (no sunshine here)
  • I speak with a funny accent (fast become a favourite due to Mr Connery et al)
  • I have worn a kilt (see my wedding page) but not every day

Like most people from whatever country, I have an inbuilt impulse to defend my country as "the best in the world", despite our small size, poor health record, tendency to ginger hair, etc. However Scotland does have a lot to offer, despite its seeming insignificance on the map.


There has been a lot of up and down movement in the past in the Scottish landscape, producing an impressive set of hills, mountains and lochs. A huge amount of rain falls on the country, keeping everything very green, so when there is some sunshine, the land can be very pretty indeed.

Loch Lomond

Loch Lomond

Glen Coe



Any good Scot will tell you that we invented everything. And it's true. Well, nearly true. Here's a list of just some of the inventions of Scots:

  • Television - John Logie Baird
  • Telephone - Alexander Graham Bell
  • Steam Engine - James Watt
  • Pneumatic Tyre - John Boyd Dunlop
  • Thermos Flask - Professor Dewar
  • Anaesthesia - James Young Simpson
  • Vacuum Cleaner - Hubert Booth
  • Penicillin - Alexander Flemming
  • Radar - Robert Alexander Watson-Watt
  • American Navy - John Paul Jones
  • Modern Economics - Adam Smith

I suppose we had to do something while it was raining outside.

Cate's Autumnwatch

Autumn's a great time to look at the trees, so I took Cate out for a walk to gather leaves and the like. I've never been much of an expert on trees, basically being limited to oak and conker. So when Cate successfully identified an oak branch I decided it was time to find out a bit more, if only to keep myself ahead.

Here are some of the trees and seeds that we found on our walk around our estate.


Oak Let's start with the easy one. The oak tree has wiggly leaves. It grows acorns, which sit in little cups. The acorns start off light green, but turn to brown and fall out of the cup in autumn. Find out more.





Horse Chestnut

Horse Chestnut The horse chestnut tree is easy to spot as well. It has great big leaves which are like hands with five long fingers. This tree is known well to all boys in Scotland as it is the source of the conker. Conkers are shiny, brown nuts which grow inside a soft, green, jaggy shell. The shell is easily split open and the conker is then traditionally kept in the airing cupboard overnight to harden it, with the hope that it will become at least a "sixer". Find out more.



Sycamore The sycamore tree is from the maple family, which is why the leaves look a bit like maple leaves. They have five points, with the two outside ones being smaller. Its seeds grow in pairs, and when they fall off their shape makes them spin round as they float to the ground. This is why they're odten called helicopters. Find out more.






Beech For ages I've wondered what these little, prickly seed cases were which littered our garden every autumn. At last, I've found out they're from the beech tree. This tree has an oval shaped, shiny leaf, and produces these beech nuts. They open up to spill out the seeds. Find out more.






Ash The ash tree has quite a light coloured bark, and long, thin leaves which stick out in opposing pairs along the stem. When it produces seeds these hang in little bunches. They are roughly similar to the helicopters on the sycamore tree and are known as ash keys. Find out more.






Hawthorn The hawthorn has distinctive leaves, which are a bit like the oak leaves, but with less wiggly bits, which are at more of an angle. It grows red berries in the autumn, which makes it easier to spot. Find out more.






Alder This is a tree I'd never heard of. There's one near the swing park, and it grows little pine cone style things, and it's this really which prompted me to try and find out a bit more about trees. The little pine cone things are the female seed pods, while the male equivalent are longer and thinner. Find out more.






Whitebeam Getting into totally unheard-of territory here. I found this tree with large, tough leaves, which are a bit furry underneath, and large bunches of red berries on it. It took me ages to find out what it was, but apparently it's a whitebeam. Beam is an olden term for tree, and this tree is referred to as being white because in the spring the furry part of the leaves make the tree look like it's in blossom. Find out more.






Hornbeam Here's another one I found and took a while to identify. It has leaves with a serated edge, and grows its seeds in a kind of cluster arrangement. Find out more.







Rowan Well, it's nearly a year later, and we're getting quite good at spotting the trees now. Which means that we've noticed a few that we're not sure about. This one was a bit confusing, as it looks similar to the ash, with pairs of thin leaves, but the leaves on this tree have saw-tooth edges. At the end of summer though, all became clear, when bunches of red berries appeared. It was a rowan. Find out more.





Willow The willow was a bit easier to spot. It has long, thin leaves which droop down making the tree look a bit like a fountain. Hence the name of one type of willow: the weeping willow. Find out more.





Silver Birch

Birch Here's another tree that started sprouting catkins in the summer. It obviously wasn't an alder, as the catkins were a bit different and the leaves were diamond shaped. The big clue, though, is the silver coloured bark, with black patches, which makes the silver birch easy to spot. Find out more.





Well, that's all for now. I'll try to see if I can still recognise these trees once the seeds have fallen, and maybe get some more pictures in the spring.

Cate's Stone Collection

We've had a few pretty stones around the house for a while, from various holidays we've been on, and Cate has always been interested in looking at them. So from Christmas this year we've started a wee collection. Here are the stones we've collected so far.



Amethyst is a type of quartz, coloured purple and often comes in "points" where the tip is purple and the rest is clear. Long ago it was thought to prevent people from getting drunk.


Blue Goldstone

This is actually a man-made stone. It's semi-transparent and if you look closely you can see sparkles inside. Normal goldstone is a gold colour, but this is a nice blue variety.



I forgot the name of this one after buying it and had to go back to the shop later to find out. The shop display says it's from china. This stone is a type of asbestos, but not dangerous unless you grind it into dust first.



This is a little nugget of copper, a metal which is quite heavy, easy to stretch without it breaking and which conducts electricity. It's used for making electricity wires and telephone lines.


Dalmatian Dacite

This spotty stone is a type of dacite, a volcanic rock. This type is cream with black spots, similar to the dalmatian dog and hence the name.



Geodes are like hidden treasure. On the outside they look like normal boring stones, but cut them in half and you find a miniature crystal cave. They're formed when a bubble occurs in a rock. Other minerals seep in and form crystal layers inside the bubble.


Green Calcite

Calcite is made of calcium carbonate, the same stuff that makes chalk. It comes in a lot of different colours and the one we have is green.



This stuff is iron oxide, one of the types of iron ore that we get our iron and steel from. It is a shiny grey colour and is quite heavy. You quite often get carvings made out of hematite.



Jasper is made from silica, which is the stuff that makes up sand and quartz. It's not transparent, like quartz, but has a nice smooth surface and a deep red colour due to the impurities (iron?) in the rock.



Malachite is a form of copper carbonate and the copper gives it the green colour. It is often formed in layers which are different shades of green, giving it stripes or swirls.



This stone is semi-transparent and is made up of layers. The light bouncing off the different layers give it a sheen which is the origin of its name.



Quartz is the second most common mineral in the earth's crust and there are a lot of different types of quartz. We have a bigger chunk of rose quartz, which is a pinky colour. Amethyst is a type of quartz as well. Our little quartz pebble is totally transparent without any colouring.


Snowflake Obsidian

Obsidian is a black glass that can be found all over the world. It can be chipped into very sharp pieces so was often used for arrow heads and the like. It's still used for surgical instruments as it can be made much sharper than steel. Our stone is called snowflake obsidian because of the little white bits in it.


Tiger's Eye

Tiger eye is made from a type of asbestos, which is made up of lots of little fibres of mineral. The fibres give the stone a sheen which changes as it is moved around, a bit like a cat's eye.



Fossils are formed when an animal dies and is covered with mud. The mud hardens and the animal is gradually replaced by minerals as they seep through the mud. Here's a shellfish, part of the family called nautiloids.



This fossil is a shellfish with a spiral body. I guess it's an ammonite as this seems to be the most common thing to be fossilised.


Shark Tooth

Another fossil, this time the tooth of a shark. Shark lose their teeth quite easily and others grow in to replace them so there are millions of shark teeth scattered about the bottom of the sea.



I didn't know what this was for a long time. It's a bit like turquoise but too blue to be turquoise. Claire bought it and remembered its name beginning with turq. Eventually I spotted it in another shop and found it is turqurenite - howlite which has been dyed blue to look like turquoise.



This is a lovely stone, transparent but with a deep red colour, which makes it look like a gem stone. Carnelian gets its name from the latin word for flesh, since it's sometimes flesh coloured. Lovely!


Peacock Pyrite

This stone has a nice iridescent sheen on it, showing up in different colours as you turn it in the light. The shop says it's peacock ore, our stone book has it as peacock pyrite or chalcopyrite, but Wikipedia's article for chalcopyrite looks a bit different, and bornite looks nearer to the mark.


Lapis Lazuli

Lapis is a deep blue colour, with little lines of golden pyrite through it, and that colour has meant it has been sought after for a long time. It comes from Afghanistan.



Gypsum is an important mineral because it is used for lots of things, including plaster of paris and blackboard "chalk". When it grows in crystal formations they are known as desert roses, and this one is the biggest stone we have in our collection.



Not much to say about this stone except that it appears that despite its name it doesn't actually come from the Amazon.



A nice brown patterned stone from the States. Our method of distinguishing this one is "it looks like a toffee".



This is a semi-transparent green stone.


Blue Lace Agate

This is one of many types of agate, and quite a popular one. It's light blue with lighter stripes along it.



A stone notable for its name, which sounds a bit like Coca Cola, but actually means gold-solder. Very odd.

We're going to add to our collection as time goes on, so this page should keep on getting bigger and bigger.


These are some web pages I have visited in the past and found useful, interesting or sometimes disturbing. I make no guarantees that the links are still valid.

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