This morning I was having a bit of a poke around online, as is my wont, when I stumbled upon Utilikilts. Now I think these look rather smart but they're not cheap and, when you add in international shipping and duty I'm not likely to see much change from £300 for even the least expensive one.
That's a lot of money to spend on something I don't know whether I'll be entirely happy wearing, but a bit of searching brought me to this. So, I've ordered one and am expecting it to arrive tomorrow. If I like it enough then maybe I'll splurge on a more expensive one sometime. In the meantime I'll try living with one for a bit and see how it goes. Photos to follow in due course.
My son, Max, who will be three in March, has decided that he’d like to see monkeys, so we’re planning to take him to the zoo tomorrow. This is the conversation I had with him about it.
Me: So, are there any other animals you’d like to see at the zoo?
Me too, Max, me too.
I’m becoming increasingly fed up with social media, Facebook in particular. All I really want is a reverse-chronological list of updates from people I know, together with some handy ways of filtering it. What I actually get is certain updates only, picked and ordered by an algorithm that doesn’t do a particularly good job. I see the same posts over and over again as new comments are added and miss others completely.
I can’t do a lot about that, but I can make things a tad easier for anyone out there foolish enough to be interested in the minutiae of my life and thoughts. I’m planning to start using my blog a lot more, even for very short posts. As a small bonus, it’ll be good writing practice for me, too.
According to this article, the Competition and Markets Authority want to set up a database of energy customers who haven’t switched providers in three years or more so that they can send them marketing material.
“It’s not spam, it’s targeted marketing”, Roger Witcomb, chairman of the CMA’s energy market investigation insisted on BBC Radio today.
Wrong, mate. It’s spam and I don’t want it.
This is wonderful: The Guardian: The laws you can get away with breaking (probably).
I have never knowingly handled a salmon in suspicious circumstances, but I confess I have been drunk in a pub.
Recently I’ve started receiving emails from PR companies plugging all manner of stuff – books, music, exhibitions, you name it. I didn’t sign up for any of this shit and I’ve been busily unsubscribing, but the flow continues unabated.
So, a quick message if you’re thinking of sending me any of your exciting ‘press releases’ or whatever: don’t. And if you have the gall to try to impose conditions on how, when or where I can use your entirely unsolicited content, please be advised that I shall do whatever the hell I want with it. I didn’t ask for it but you sent it to me anyway, so it’s mine.
My new bike doesn’t have a centre stand and having one fitted is quite expensive, so I went for the cheaper option of a paddock stand. In order to make it easier to get the bike on the stand by myself I also bought a front wheel chock.
Problem: I can’t get the bike’s front wheel into the chock unaided and if I fire up the engine and ride it in I’m afraid I won’t be able to get it out again.
This year I turned fifty. We had a lovely family get-together a few days before the momentous day itself, at which we had a fantastic full-on roast beef with all the trimmings, especially parsnips, my particular favourite. After the meal I was handed a card by my in-laws. On opening it I was stunned to find a note saying that I was to present myself at a motorcycle dealership in Farnham the next day where I would exchange my old bike for a beautiful 2012 Honda NC700X DCT.
Needless to say, I didn’t sleep too well that night courtesy of some serious excitement. In the morning I phoned my insurance company and, after a bit of a faff due to their computer system having gone down (typical!) I arranged to transfer my cover to the new machine. I called the dealership and agreed to be there at 2pm.
Juliet decided to follow me down there with our son, Max, who loves motorcycles and constantly makes ‘broom broom’ noises while pretending to turn a twistgrip. A whole showroom full of bikes was a real delight for him. We soon had all the paperwork completed and, after a visit to the nearby supermarket for supplies and a bite to eat, I was ready to head back home on my new machine.
My first impressions were pretty favourable. The wide bars and tallish seat height made for easy steering and a good view, while the mirrors are, quite honestly, superb. The best bit, though, is the automatic gearbox, a first for me and very uncommon on motorcycles. It took a while for my left hand and foot to stop twitching as I approached roundabouts and wanted to change down, but I soon got used to it. Just cruising along, not having to do a great deal except take in the world around me is glorious. I never want to go back to manual gears. Ever.
The bike’s fuel tank is located under the saddle, with the filler cap under the pillion seat, which hinges upward to reveal it. Where a normal bike’s tank would be is given over to a large, lockable storage area, just about big enough to take a crash helmet and plenty big enough for a lock or two and the bag of bits and bobs I habitually carry around with me.
To say that I’m happy with it would be an understatement. It’s played a large part in renewing and revitalising my interest in motorcycling generally and given me a whole new reason to get up in the morning.
I haven’t quite finished it yet but I’m still going to recommend that you read Furiously Happy by Jenny Lawson. If you, like me, suffer from depression and anxiety you’ll recognise a lot of stuff. Even if you don’t I promise you you’ll still find it very very funny. It’s a win whatever. So do it. Do it now.
Last night Juliet and I took Max out for a meal at his great grandparents’ home. It meant, naturally, staying out way past his bedtime but once in a while doesn’t hurt. He fell asleep in the car on the way over, which isn’t exactly unusual given his age (17 months) and was, consequently, quite quiet once we arrived. He perked up a bit once he got his mitts on a pickle (he really is a chip off the old block, bless him) and even more so once some more family arrived with their kids.
By the time we’d been sitting down to our meal for a bit he was running around the table with another child in hot pursuit and laughing like a drain, courtesy of sugary food and the inevitable excitement of playing with someone a bit nearer his own age than his parents.
When we left, late by Max’s terms but not really that late, he was pretty hyper, which kept him awake all the way home and me wondering whether he’d ever sleep again. As it turned out we needn’t have worried. Once we’d got him into his cot he went out like a light and slept until a tad after his usual wake up time. To be honest, it was so lovely watching him have a good time that I’d have been reasonably happy if he’d woken up early, but don’t tell Juliet that.
A while back I mentioned that I was going to try to keep a journal. I also said that I’d let you know how it went. Well, to be perfectly honest it’s been a struggle. A real struggle. On the plus side, I’m still doing it. On the minus side, only sporadically and without going into much detail – just a few notes about what I’ve been doing, now and again. This is not what I set out to do at all, so I’m going to have to make some changes. For a start, I shall try to write some entries about things other than recent activities, and if I’m able to produce anything that I think is worthwhile, I’ll post it here.
On that subject, I know I’ve said it many times before, but I’d really like to try and post here more often. I’m not a good writer but I very much wish I was, and the only way to improve is to practise, right? So expect a little more effort from me soon. I hope.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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!
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.
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!
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?
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.