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On War

Why I Wear My Poppy With Pride

I’m sitting here on a Sunday morning, cup of tea by my side and TV on. Nothing unusual there. There’s also nothing unusual in what’s currently showing on my TV; the annual debate in the run up to Remembrance Sunday on whether war can ever be justified.

When I was younger I believed very strongly that war can never be justified. I was a total pacifist. These days, my view has changed. I still believe that peace is infinitely preferable and that war is a ghastly thing and should only be embarked upon as a last resort. I’ve read a lot about World War II in particular and it seems to me that, whatever the justification for other wars, both earlier and, regrettably, later, Hitler and the Nazis absolutely had to be removed. Perhaps the situation should not have been allowed to reach the point it did, and war could thus have been avoided, but having got to that point war was, I believe, entirely necessary.

Even if you think that wars should never be fought, there still remain the incredible sacrifices of those who genuinely believed in what they were doing, not to mention the losses of their families and friends, and the broader loss to society of talent and creativity. Whatever the reason, the sacrifices were made and we should honour those who made them.

So, I buy my poppy (actually, I buy two – one for my jacket and one for my coat) and wear it in remembrance of all those who have died as a result of human violence, willingly or unwillingly, in the hope that it will remind us all that war is truly terrible, that it calls on so many of us to give so much, and that it should never, ever be entered into lightly.

Autumn is Nearly Here

This time of year, my thoughts turn towards the coming of autumn with a real sense of pleasurable anticipation. It’s easily my favourite time of the year; it’s still mild enough out to be enjoyable, but without the blazing heat of the summer, and the colours are extraordinary. It’s no coincidence that I wear a lot of autumnal colours.

I’ve often wondered whether my birthday being in November has anything to do with how I feel about this season. It certainly has a sensation about it that I can only describe as ‘coming home’. It’s my mental year start and end.

There’s also something rather nice in being able to wear lovely warm jumpers and thick coats. Don’t get me wrong – it’s very nice to be able to wander around in summer with just a t-shirt and jeans but it gets old quite quickly. It’s also a real pleasure to have hot chocolate or mulled wine when it’s a little cooler out.

So, Christmas is still far enough away that I don’t have to think about it and the leaves will soon be turning red and gold and falling in huge, kick-through drifts. I can’t wait!

Keeping a Journal

I’ve struggled for years, on and off, to keep some sort of diary/journal thing. Every attempt has been a failure. I’ve tried regular dead tree diaries, Evernote, Google Docs and more. The latest go is via a piece of software for the Mac called Day One, which seems very easy to use. It provides a nice little title bar widget for quick updates and a lovely main interface which is attractive and clutter-free. So far, I really like it. The real challenge, though, will be to see if I can keep it up once I’m back at work. I’ll let you know.

A Quiet Night In (A Quick Catch-Up)

Juliet’s out tonight so I’ve taken the opportunity to have a quiet night in. I’ve fed and changed Max and put him to bed where, true to his usual form, he’s gone to sleep quite happily, I’ve eaten, phoned a friend whose birthday it is tomorrow, watched a silly film (Four Lions, if you must know) and generally had a pretty nice time.

Max is growing fast. I’ve heard parents say that babies change rapidly but this is the first time I’ve experienced that for myself, and they’re right. You turn your back (or go to work) for a moment and they’ve learnt to do something new. Something such as rolling over, which is of no interest whatsoever to anyone else but is utterly thrilling for the doting parents.

I’ve been reading Bad Pharma by Ben Goldacre in my spare moments and I have to say that it’s simultaneously horrifying and unsurprising to an old cynic like me. If you have any interest at all in how the medicines you take get tested, marketed and prescribed, it’s well worth a read. It helps that it’s also very easy going, considering the subject matter.

There’s probably more that I could be adding here, some of it possibly even interesting, but tiredness has now overwhelmed me and it’s time for bed. Good night, world.

Coming Home

Yesterday Juliet and I finally came home, almost seven weeks after the birth of our son, Max. The first week Juliet and Max spent in hospital, a period about which the least said the better, except to say that it was utterly horrible. When they were finally released, we went to stay with her parents, who only live a few minutes away from us, so that we could have some extra support. I must say, they’ve been brilliant, not only by offering the kind of extended family support that was once the norm but also by hiring a night nanny often enough for us not to get over-tired.

Having said all that, it’s still lovely to be home. I was getting rather fed up with living out of a suitcase and not having easy access to all my clothes and stuff. Not to mention the fact that sleeping in my own bed is, quite frankly, wonderful. Juliet is somewhat less happy, it has to be said. She’s extremely sensitive to sound and smell and our neighbours have a pond with a constant feed of fresh water running into it, the noise of which keeps her awake at night. It’s not a particularly loud or unpleasant sound, at least to my ears, but she finds it extremely difficult to deal with and, alas, keeping the window closed isn’t an option as she also needs plenty of fresh air. Perhaps we might try leaving the bedroom door open and opening a window elsewhere. Any other suggestions would be received with gratitude.

As an aside, because it was our first wedding anniversary yesterday, my in-laws looked after Max for the afternoon and evening and had the night nanny, Tracy, look after him overnight at their place, and he went for eleven hours between feeds quite happily. That’s very impressive for a seven-week-old baby, and way more than we can get him to do. OK, so she’s a sleep expert, apparently, but still – WOW!

Maximilian Andrew Jordan

Max Just Born

I haven’t had a chance to update here for a while because I’ve been a bit busy. On Tuesday, 4th March 2014 at 11:14PM my beautiful son, Max, was born, weighing 7lb 7.5oz. He had some trouble feeding at first, so was kept in the hospital for a few days. He and his wonderful mother were released last Monday and we all came home to my in-laws’ place, where we’re staying for a while for a bit of extra support.

He’s now feeding well and everyone’s very happy with him. I’m on paternity leave, so I’m able to spend plenty of time with him and Juliet, and it’s just lovely. I’m a very happy new dad.

Still No Baby

Apparently it’s quite common for first babies to be overdue, and ours is no exception. He was due to be born last Sunday, but so far there’s been no sign of anything happening at all. If nothing has happened by next Friday they’ll try to induce labour, but I really hope it doesn’t come to that as I don’t think that’ll be pleasant for Juliet or for Max.

I confess that I’m finding the waiting quite difficult. I’m kind of mentally prepared for the birth now and feel like my life’s on hold until it happens. I’m also looking forward to meeting Max and to looking after him. Of course, after a couple of weeks of sleepless nights and dirty nappies I may have changed my mind!

This Is Why I Love My Wife

A conversation we had this evening as Juliet was preparing to order an Indian take-away:

Juliet: What would you like to eat?

Me (feeling silly): Splorp.

Juliet (not batting an eyelid): Would you like the tentacles removed?

Baby Shopping and Bike Woes

It’s been a busy week one way and another. Work kept me pretty well occupied, but home life has been interesting, too. On Thursday evening Juliet and I went to her old school, the Royal Masonic School for Girls, to hear a talk given by Bill Bryson, an author we both really like. He was very good, if rather brief, but the sound system left quite a lot to be desired, making it quite difficult to make out what he was saying. On the plus side, we met a friend of Juliet’s there and were able to spend some time catching up with her.

I worked from home on Friday thanks to the throttle cable on the bike having snapped. Considering that the bike is less than six months old and it’s not the first problem I’ve had with it I’m not entirely happy. I phoned the dealer I bought it from and they’ve ordered a new cable and will be coming over on Monday to collect the bike and sort it out. I only hope that they bring it back again and don’t expect me to go to the shop to collect it, as I have no way of getting there before next weekend unless I use up my last day of holiday, which I’m reluctant to do.

Yesterday we collected Juliet’s mum and went shopping in Watford. We bought a pair of new pillows and a baby ear thermometer in John Lewis and spent quite some time looking at baby travel systems. There are so many things to consider, but I think we’re getting a better idea of what we want. Having said that, any advice or recommendations will be very gratefully received.

Today the plan is to do a number of bits and pieces around the house – there’s a fence panel down in the garden which I need to put back, and I have some heated over-grips to fit to the bike if I can. There’s also the usual mountain of housework, shirts to be ironed and possibly a nice healthy walk to fit in. Not to mention Formula 1 on TV if I get a chance to watch it.

Joining Up

I’ve been following the recent furore over comments made by Russell Brand, first in an interview with Jeremy Paxman and then in an article for New Statesman. I liked what he had to say and largely agreed with him, but then I read Robert Webb‘s reply to him in the New Statesman and found myself agreeing with him as well. In other words, the argument over whether one should vote and what it achieves is one of which I can see both sides.

As a soon-to-be father, I really want the world my son is born into to be better. I want him to have every opportunity to be happy and healthy and to lead a good and worthwhile life. I need, in short, to do something, to get involved. I have therefore decided to give the Labour Party a chance and have joined. I don’t yet know exactly how active I’ll be but I’d really like a chance to make things just a little nicer than the way they are now.

I last voted Labour in 1997. At first, I was delighted when they were elected and really believed that things might change for the better. How wrong I was. I joined the big demonstration against Iraq war in London and saw how little notice was taken of our protests. I saw how hollow were New Labour’s promises. That was the last time I voted for them. Now, however, I hope that things within the Labour Party have changed and that they can, once more, be a party worth supporting. Only time will tell.

A Walk in the Woods

I love me some Star Trek

I love me some Star Trek

Yesterday morning, after a nice Saturday lie-in, I got all togged up in my sexy new Star Trek t-shirt. What can I say? I adore ST. I particularly like its optimistic view of the future, in which humankind has solved many of its pressing problems (hunger, poverty, disease, war etc.) and is engaged in exploring and understanding the wider universe. It’s a good model for the kind of future I want my son to live in.

Afterwards, we wandered over to my in-laws for a spot of lunch before taking their dog, Lucy, out to the woods for a walk. It was really lovely to see the autumn colours and get a decent breath of fresh air. I’ve been feeling recently that I don’t get enough exercise, so it was good to do something about it in a small way.

We decided we’d pop into Watford to get me some new underwear and socks, but the traffic was oddly heavy so we diverted to TK Maxx instead, where I got some socks and a rather nice new shirt, which I’m wearing now. While at Juliet’s parents’, we also picked up our iron and borrowed their ironing board, so this morning I was finally able to get some of my shirts ironed and ready to wear.

I spent the evening binge-watching Weeds, a US TV series from a few years ago about a suburban housewife who takes to selling pot in order to make ends meet. A kind of gentle Breaking Bad with more humour and less darkness. Thank you, Netflix.

The Wrong Colour for Ensign Expendable

Yesterday I fell in love with these rather wonderful Star Trek: The Next Generation hoodies. Unfortunately, ordering from ThinkGeek is a pain because not only does it take a long time for the goods to arrive, but I get charged import duty, which isn’t cheap. So, to assuage my sudden longing for Star Trek apparel, I ordered an original series uniform t-shirt from Amazon, which arrived today. How awesome is that?

…And Then There Were Three

I haven’t really posted much here recently, but life’s certainly been busy.

In June I had a phone call at work from Juliet to tell me that she’s pregnant. Cue much celebration! The scans that she’s had have shown that everything is good with the baby as far as can be ascertained, and that it’s a boy. After some deliberation we’ve decided to call him Maximilian Andrew Jordan. The due date is currently 23rd February 2014, but I’m aware that babies are rarely born bang on when they’re due. We shall see.

Beautiful Baby Blanket

Beautiful Baby Blanket

My friend Catherine made Max a really lovely blanket, which was the first gift we received for him, although my mum is, apparently, busy knitting. We’ve also bought a few items of clothing for him, including adorable bunny rabbit slippers, which I just couldn’t resist!

Ante-natal classes have been booked for January with the NCT, so right now it’s just a case of making sure we have all the stuff we’re going to need and reading up on all the Dad stuff I need to know, of which there seems to be a frightening amount.

Moving to a Mac

Recently, after a sustained bout of swearing at my laptop, which I’d had for a good few years and which thus owed me nothing, I decided to replace it with a shiny new one. Something speedy and modern, I thought, but not too expensive. So, a trip to the shops was duly organised and I spent some considerable time comparing features and realising how little I wanted Windows 8 anywhere near me in case I caught something horrible from it. After a good deal of umming and ahhing (and shaking my head at appallingly low screen resolutions) it became apparent that I was going to have to bite the financial bullet and buy a decent machine rather than a cheapie. Once that decision was made it wasn’t too hard to pick the right machine – a 15 inch MacBook Pro.

The first thing to say is that the Retina display, running at a huge resolution of 2880 x 1800 pixels, is stunningly beautiful. Really, simply gorgeous. After only a couple of days’ use I couldn’t possibly use anything of a lesser quality. The monitors I use at work now appear decidedly ugly. The second thing is that, due to the 256GB SSD (solid state disk) and lack of a fan (as far as I can tell) the machine is utterly silent. You really notice the difference when whatever music you were playing to amuse yourself while you worked finishes.

On top of all this, the whole device is thin, beautifully simply designed and just feels right. The casing feels solid and the only vents are positioned in such a way that you don’t block them if you use the computer on your lap. Nor does it get too hot, so your thighs remain unburned and, if you’re male, your ability to procreate remains as it was. Even plugging the power supply in is a joy – it attaches with a satisfying magnetic click and a small LED on the plug (the laptop end, not the mains) indicates when the laptop is fully charged.

As for OSX, I’d used it before but not very much, but it hasn’t taken long to get comfortable with it. It’s essentially a flavour of UNIX, as was the Ubuntu Linux I was using on my old machine, but much, much prettier. No great surprises, just solid, easy to use and attractive, which seems to be the Apple way. I’ve never been a rabid Apple maniac and I’m still not, but I can see why some people are.

Back to Biking

A few years ago I gave my ageing and somewhat knackered but well-loved BMW R100RT to my brother and gave up motorcycling. At the time I hadn’t used the bike for a while and, as I was living in Walthamstow and using public transport to get about, I didn’t expect to be using it again any time soon. Since then my life has changed dramatically. I met Juliet, moved to Rickmansworth and married her.

For over a year I used public transport to get to work in Camden Town but found it unreliable and expensive. Then my father-in-law spotted a review of the Suzuki Inazuma 250 in the newspaper and suggested that it might be a good idea for me to get one. I read some reviews, did the calculations and found that it wouldn’t cost me much more to have a brand spanking new bike so, after a bit of hesitation, I took the plunge and bought one.

What a revelation! I’d forgotten just how much fun biking is! Not only do I get to the office more quickly, but the pleasure involved is immense. The Inazuma is light and nippy, as you’d expect from a 250, but feels like a proper bike. It’s comfortable for a reasonably tall person such as myself and pretty economical. What more could I want? I’m really glad it’s had its first service as I can now rev it a bit harder. Sitting on the motorway at 45mph was less than great but 60-65mph is just fine on an unfaired bike.

Improving My Writing

As anyone who actually reads this blog, and there aren’t many of those left, will be aware, I’m a terrible writer. The reasons for this are many. While I can string a sentence or two together and my grammar’s not (I hope) too unbearable, I’m unimaginative and overly averse to expressing opinions which might actually upset someone. The result, of course, is that nothing I write provokes much comment. It’s bland at best.

So, what to do? Well, I’m not entirely sure but I do want to do something. I really enjoy blogging and I want to do more of it. So I guess I’m going to have to step up and attempt to write more fluidly and about subjects that actually matter to me. I’d also consider some sort of creative writing class, I think, if I can find one that suits me.

No guarantees of improved quality, but it can’t hurt to watch this space for a while and see if I can actually write something that people want to read.

Sartorial Switch

Many years ago I had a succession of jobs for which I was required to wear a shirt and tie. I loathed it. I hated it with a fiery passion, as only a young man can. I swore that I would never voluntarily wear a tie again once I’d found a job where I didn’t have to, and actually claimed that anyone who wore a suit or tie when they didn’t have to couldn’t be trusted.

Oh, how things have changed. For the last ten years or so I’ve been able to wear whatever the hell I liked to work and, partially as a result of this and partially due to other factors, my clothes have become scruffier and scruffier. It eventually reached the point where pretty much all I had were black combat trousers, black t-shirts and black sweatshirts. I did have a brief dalliance with some nicer, but Gothier, outfits a few years ago. The one thing that this taught me was that dressing up and wearing nicer outfits made me feel good.

Fast forward to a few months ago. I desperately needed some new clothes as mine had become deeply tatty. On a shopping trip to buy some new underwear I was encouraged to buy a couple of pairs of non-black trousers, a tan pair and a green pair, along with a couple of shirts, and found that I loved them! Soon I was buying more and also branching out into a tweed jacket and corduroy trousers. Next came a hair cut and more accessories such as cufflinks.

Before I knew it I was wearing a shirt and tie to work, not because I had to, but because I genuinely wanted to. I’ve found that looking smart makes me feel so much better about myself, even if (and possibly especially because) I’m the only person in the office who dresses this way. I’ve discovered real pleasure in selecting and wearing nice things and, all being well, I hope to continue expanding my wardrobe for some time to come.

My current clothes are mostly in brown, green, tan and red but I have some blue items and hope to expand my range of blue and grey outfits, most especially with some decent suits, as soon as I’m able to.

The Engagement Ring At Last!

The Engagement RingOn Saturday Juliet and I went into London to get her birthday present and to try again to get an engagement ring. Pausing only for sushi we headed for What Katie Did and had a good look around. After trying on a few corsets Juliet selected her favourite. So, birthday present duly bought.

The next stop was Alfie’s Antique Market, a place we’d already been a few months ago. It didn’t take us long to find ourselves at what has become our favourite dealer and I was surprised at how quickly Juliet managed to select a ring. It dates from the 1920s and is, I think, absolutely perfect.

The evening was spent celebrating Juliet’s friend Una’s birthday at Camino in King’s Cross. I’d already eaten as I was really hungry, so I didn’t have anything there, but it was good to catch up with Una and meet her friends.

On Sunday we went over to the house and did some very necessary hedge trimming. The electrician is going in shortly and the builder will follow him in September, all being well. Having worked up a bit of a thirst, we headed to The Land of Liberty, Peace and Plenty, a nearby pub with an award-winning selection of beers. I was very impressed with the quiet, understated quality of the place and will undoubtedly be going back on a regular basis, especially as it’s a decent cycle ride from our new home.

House Update

The work at the new house progresses slowly. It’s proving really hard to find the time to get down there and strip wallpaper. Fortunately we have a free weekend coming up, so with a bit of luck we’ll get plenty of work done then. We did manage to mow the lawn recently, which really made a difference to how tidy the garden looks.

The builder has been in and has reported that the roof doesn’t need too much work and that the damp isn’t as bad as first feared and will be quite straightforward to sort out. On the other hand, the electrics are in a dangerous state and need to be ripped out and completely replaced. At least that means we won’t have to worry too much about the place burning down around our ears.

We managed to get a pair of blue leather sofas for free (thanks, Internet!), which we’ve put in the lounge. It’s nice to have something comfy to sit on when we take a tea break.

We Have a House!

Our Garden

Last Friday we completed on our new house, so it’s now ours. This is officially Very Exciting Indeed. On Saturday Juliet and I went round and spent some time poking about and deciding what to do. The garden was in need of a bit of TLC so we popped out and bought a lawn mower and strimmer, also picking up a cheap garden table and chairs so we have something to sit on. It was quite good fun strimming the worst areas while Juliet took some shears to the overgrown plants. Mowing will have to happen very soon too.