Tag Archives: Celebrations


2 Nov

Growing up Halloween was never a big deal for me.  Bonfire night was always something to look forward to but trick or treat would basically mean getting the gift of being told to ‘do one’.  I’m not sure if it is because now I am a father or if our culture is just becoming increasingly Americanised.  There certainly seems to have been a bigger push towards Halloween as a holiday over the past few years.

Last year Gryff insisted on dressing up as a witch.  Not a wizard.  He was very specific about that.  A witch or nothing.  I’m not one for gender stereotypes for my children so he was the best damn witch Tonypandy had ever seen!


This year, from absolutely nowhere, he has spent the past few weeks saying how he is going to be the flash this year.  This is a three-year old with no knowledge of the flash other than a supporting role in a few of his superman/batman books.  He is obviously a child that spots the minor parts and can visualise taking them centre stage.

So….if the Gryffalo wanted the flash the flash is what the Gryffalo was to get.


The boy is a diva mind so the flash was his day time outfit but there was a quick change to BuzzLightyear for the evenings trick or treating.


My little Llew cub is too young to be able to voice his preference which handily allows me and my good wife to be able to set the agenda for him.  For his nursery Halloween party he went as Frankenstein, or to be more specific he went as both a confused and somewhat sad Frankenstein.  Monsters have feeling as well you know.


Trying to instill pride in the Llew name (mind the pun) he went out as the Halloween lion.  He was Prrrrrrfect. (sorry)


Happy Halloween all.  Now we can truly start the countdown to Christmas.  I don’t care how cynical some of you may be out there. I cannot wait!


The Difficult Second Album

28 Aug


12 months of pure happiness

On Wednesday my little Llew cub turned one.  This is unbelievable to me.  I know it is a cliché to say that time flies but it feels like just yesterday I went on a family holiday as a trio to Tenby and came home a day early as a foursome after Llew decided to turn up a month before his due date.

In many ways the second child has been a lot easier.  You become a far more relaxed parent due to the experience of the first child.  There has been no second guessing every action.  Every cry isn’t met with a huge amount of panic but rather more of an understanding of what the baby wants.  What is more Llew, I’m sorry to say Gryff, has been a far easier baby.  He has fed better, slept better (in the day at least) and developed quicker.

On the other hand, you really don’t anticipate just how much harder having two is compared to one.  When Gryff came along I remember thinking to myself that I couldn’t understand what I used to do with my time now that my days were filled with child focused activities.  Now Llew is here I hark bark to the days of having just one son and think how easy life was.  With the second there just isn’t any let up.  When Llew is asleep Gryff is still there to be entertained, fed, developed.  That is brilliant of course, I love spending time with both boys together and individually, but it can be exhausting.


A usual ‘relaxing’ day at home. Double daddy attacks.  This will only get worse as they get older!

Time management has certainly become a crucial part of the day.  The importance of family structures and support have also been made abundantly clear to me.  I simply can’t imagine how people take care of children as single parents let alone without the amazing support I get from my parents and my in-laws.  Those people are incredible.

I don’t recall ever being as sleep deprived with Gryff as I have been with Llew.  I get up at 5:20am every day to go to the gym before work and my weekends are always determined by what time the boys get up.  The result of that is that I have probably not slept later than 7:30am in the last 12 months.  Having two means that you never get a late morning.  Added to this that there simply is no downtime and the accumulative impact is one worn out set of parents.

All this of course is the negative stuff.  The positive is that me and my good wife are amazingly lucky to have not just one, but two brilliant people in our lives.  The development of Gryff from having a brother has been phenomenal to watch.  He has radically changed, becoming more outgoing and interactive.  My fears that he could be jealous of a new arrival were instantly forgotten and there is no one that cares or loves Llew as much as his big brother.  Seeing them interact is fantastic and I think a large part of why Llew is up and about walking is down to the fact he constantly wants to chase after, and play with, Gryff.

Over the last three years Gryff has comfortably been my best friend in the world.  Llew is on a joint mantle with him now.  I don’t say that as a throwaway comment but because I genuinely mean it.  They both bring me so much joy.  It really is what life is about.


These two are becoming best friends

Llew turning one accompanies another Hathway family milestone as Gryff starts school a week Monday.  I am amazingly proud and terrified at the same time.  It feels like my boy is growing up too fast and I am genuinely scared that I can’t control everything he does to make sure he is always happy.


Just look at those shoes

I know that Gryff is going to love school.  I am biased but he is such a lovely, polite, likable and eager to learn little man.  My only fear is that he is too sensitive.  Gryff takes after his dad in that he is just too soft, bless him.  It is absolutely a quality in him I adore but nonetheless, it isn’t always the strongest attribute for the rough and tumble of school life.  In contrast Llew is as tough as old boots.  I’ve no doubt he will be the one sorting out any disputes involving the brothers in years to come.

Time is passing me by as a father and it upsets me a little.  They are quickly moving from babies to boys and I can already feel myself blinking and missing it all as they become men.  Still, at least then I could get some sleep!



The best baby present

15 Sep

I haven’t blogged for a while due to the birth of my second son, Llew Rhys Hathway.  We were fortunate to have loads of lovely gifts from friends but a batch of these carrot cake cupcakes may very well have been the best!



I will hopefully be posting a few education pieces up over the coming week to get back into the swing of things.

The South Beach Shack – Tenby

28 Aug

We went to Tenby for a little family holiday over the bank holiday. The plan was for one last trip as a trio before the new baby arrived. It is fair to say the weather wasn’t the best.

photo 4

Still, even in the miserable drizzle Tenby was more than picturesque.

photo 3

Fortunately we ended up having a really lovely first day as the sun eventually came out. The Gryffalo had the time of his life on what is a fantastic beach.


The Place

Location wise you couldn’t want for a better place. There was a lovely little cluster of facilities all together. Bar grill/ice cream parlor etc

photo 1

The view from the outside decking was spectacular even on this over cast day. I imagine it is second to none on a bright afternoon.

There ends the positives of this story however. Service seemed to missing the smile (and the please and thank you in fact) and there wasn’t much else to write home about in complimentary tones.

The Cake

No carrot cake available.

The Hot Chocolate

photo 2

As you can see the setting for the drink was very special. The drink itself…not so much. The hot chocolate was tasteless. There was no strong flavors and in general a real let down.

The Rest

I had planned on a few reviews from this trip. There was a real nice looking 1940s afternoon tea venue in the center of Tenby town that I was looking forward to trying. Llew (my new son)had other plans and decided to turn up 4 weeks early and say hello, thus cutting short our holiday at 2:30am on the first night.



So we went to Tenby as three and came back as a foursome. 

Time to give a little praise to the teaching profession

25 Aug

The last few years have been tough on those working in the education sector in Wales.  Polices have been implemented which conflict with the views of the profession, often with little regards for their expertise and input. Changes to the terms and conditions of teachers have left them continuing to work unsustainable hours but for less pay and pensions.  The narrative and language that has been used by Government’s at both end of the M4 has been highly emotive and not always conducive to supporting practitioners.  The perception of teaching has not been great.  The way teachers are reported in the media at times has fuelled this view.  All this has, unsurprisingly, lead to poor morale.  However, there is a sense that the tide is turning and we should start to demand a more hopeful view of our system.

There’s no doubt that the current Education Minister has set about renewing respect for teaching as a profession.  The fact that respect for the role of a teacher was a central theme of Huw Lewis’ first real keynote speech did not go unnoticed.  He has also backed that up with the language and thrust of his arguments about creating a new deal around professional development for teachers.  Now, that isn’t to say that this is all a silver bullet.  Let’s not forget that this ‘new deal’ has not actually been accompanied by any new money.  Talk does not necessarily equate to action.  Still, we should not underestimate the importance of the language that has been used.

We have also seen the introduction of the Schools Challenge Cymru initiative.  Now there is no denying that there has been an element of scepticism around this policy since questions were raised relating to the way in which it is to be funded.  However, it is still something that, for now at least, seems to have buy in from the sector.  A crucial element that has been missing from a number of Welsh Government policies in the past.

Perhaps the biggest shot in the arm has come from the excellent A Level results we saw recently which included the number of individuals receiving the top grades increasing and the gap closing with England. A week later there was more good news with our GCSE results  being pretty spectacular.  Not only has the attainment gap closed with the rest of the UK but Wales saw its best ever A*-C grade results.  This against a backdrop of changing specifications and the fiasco we saw around the January English exams.

The results were also a positive in terms of the next round of PISA testing which will focus on science.  While this cohort will not be going through that process the fact that there were improvements at GCSE Chemistry, Biology and Physics as well as in the percentage of individuals receiving the top grades at A Level in those subjects is something to take forward.

The focus given to the good news stories is not always comparable with the bad.  Sensationalism sells I guess.  While in other years my phone has rung off the hook on results day there were no clamours for me to do any radio phone-ins following these results days to praise teachers.

What we must do internally within the profession and publicly, is to acknowledge the positives we are seeing.  It is important to still identify the challenges and work collaboratively and constructively to address them of course, but there should be nothing stopping us all from saying well done in the meantime.


Maesmawr Hall Hotel

6 Aug
The place
It was my 4th wedding anniversary recently so while me and my good wife were travelling to North Wales for the wedding of some of our best friends I arranged to stop at the Maesmawr Hall Hotel for a spot of afternoon tea.


The drive in was home to a stunning entrance through a row of trees. The building itself was beautiful and secluded and made for a fantastic setting. The added bonus of having a quiet and sunny day made this a lovely place to stop.

2The staff was very attentive and were a real credit to the venue.

The Carrot Cake

Unfortunately there was no carrot cake on offer as part of the afternoon tea.

The Hot Chocolate


The hot chocolate came out delayed from the rest of the afternoon tea which was a slight shame. There was no cream as such but rather a was more frothy finish. The drink itself was very sweet. For some, perhaps most, people this may have been too sweet but to my pallet it was enjoyable.

The Rest

As it was afternoon tea we had a selection of other items.


The sandwiches were not the pretentious slices you can get with many afternoon teas. Instead we were treated to chunky and toasted bread. The fillings were very satisfying.

In one sandwich there was thick sliced beef, medium rare, with prominent horseradish flavour. The other contained thick ham with an abundance of cheese. No stinging on the content here.

The chunky sandwiches meant the rest of the afternoon tea was eaten for flavour and not out of hunger

The chocolate truffle was sadly a little too soft. There was a nice chocolate flavour but the texture was more akin to a mousse than a truffle and didn’t quite work.
The Bara Brith was excellent. It was moist with a punchy flavour. This was the surprise star of the offering and was worth the trip on its own.
The scone baked when ordered so very fresh. It came accompanied by quaint little pots of jam and cream.  My wife often complains there’s not enough cream and jam but there was a plentiful supply here. I found the scone slightly over if I’m honest but my good wife found the crunch excellent.
The bakewell tart had a strong marzipan flavour. Again, as with the Bara Brith, the cake was moist.  There was a good level of icing and good jam. A winner.


Overall this was a recommended little break on the drive from South to North Wales.

Happy Birthday

18 Feb

Today the blog is one year old!

While recently the posts haven’t been as regular as I would have liked overall I’m really pleased how the first year has gone.  I honestly started this just to write about hot chocolate and carrot cake with a few very irregular posts about education.  It has developed into an education blog punctuated with the odd cake review when I am having a diet and training crash.

I’ve been able to do some good thinking around education issues through the blog which has helped my own development and understanding a lot.  There is a lot of focus on education in Wales and some brilliant people reporting on it, but often, simply because of the 24/7 news cycle, there’s not a lot of time to really have a debate.  Hopefully in part this blog has encouraged some of that to take place.  I’ve had some really good feedback and although still in its infancy I am aspiring to see it continue to grow.

I’m particularly pleased that I started the audio blogs and I think they have provided another level of depth to some of the education discussions this blog has prompted.  With that a massive thanks to Simon Thomas AM, Aled Roberts AM, Angela Jardine, Gary Brace and Sian Powell who did audio blogs with me over the past 12 months.  I have a few more I want to pursue but please let me know if there are any names you think I should reach out to.

Sadly I’m not planning on leaving the office today but I am off to London with my good wife on the weekend.  I will make sure I review a piece of  birthday blog carrot cake to mark this occasion.

Home Made Hot Chocolate – Chocca-Mocca

24 Oct

Angela Jardine, who has previously featured on the blog in posts about education and carrot cake, has now successfully compleated the holy trinity of the carrot cake diaries by sparking a hot chocolate post.

As a congratulations for being a CIPR Young Communicator of the Year finalist (or perhaps commiserations for not winning) she was kind enough to present me with a home-made hot chocolate to try.

photo 1

She also gave me a glass to pour it into and an accompanying selection of caramelised almonds.

photo 2

To prove the NUT Cymru executive are sticklers for details she even remembered the milk.

photo 3

To do it justice I followed the directions pretty much to the letter and this was the end result.


This was quite easily the nicest hot chocolate I’ve ever had at home. It was extremely rich and very chocolatey. As far as a hot chocolate goes it ticked all the boxes. It was a comforting, ideal home-made hot chocolate in front of the TV. (I was watching The Tunnel to give you the true sense of place – not a patch on The Bridge).

The only thing missing is that it could do with adding cream in future.

Diolch Angela

Celebrate with Carrot Cake

4 Mar

It appears carrot cake is, rightly, the cake of celebration for 60th birthdays. One of the NUT Wales Executives kindly sent me the below photo of a 60th celebration she attended recently.


A bit of fizz and Carrot cake seem a perfectly sophisticated combination to me. Less sophisticated, but equally brilliant, was my own dear mother’s 60th birthday bash held on the weekend. Any party that has people dancing to both the Rat Pack and the Ghostbusters theme tune with equal enthusiasm is pretty special in my view. As part of the array of desserts was this impressive two tier carrot cake baked by my lovely aunty Diane.


I’m a long way off my 60th but with my 30th this month I’m sure a further carrot cake celebration will be had. It’s about time I baked one myself after all.