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.

A Bit of a Catch-Up

It’s been a while since I posted here. I really must get better at updating. Sorry. Anyway, I thought I’d just say a little bit about what’s been happening. We’ve set a date for the wedding – 21st April 2013 – and have already booked the venue and arranged for the rabbi to perform a blessing. The very wonderful Camille O’Sullivan has agreed to play for us, as have my friends Eddy and Amanda and their ceilidh band. Juliet’s outfit is being planned, and I’m thinking carefully about mine.

We’re also just on the point of exchanging contracts on a three bedroom semi-detached house in Rickmansworth, thanks to Juliet’s parents, who have been incredibly kind and generous to me. Once it’s ours, the builder will be going in to do some essential repairs and then it’ll be up to us to fix it up and decorate it. We don’t plan on moving in until next year, so there’s plenty of time to do stuff. The place has a very nice garden, complete with shed and summer house, so we’ll need to keep that tidy too. And dig a vegetable patch. Of course.

It’s all very exciting and I feel unbelievably lucky.

Barclays Fail

Barclays Bank have just updated their online banking facility and I’m deeply unimpressed with the result. The problems I’ve faced so far are:

  • The site’s incredibly slow and often times out
  • The site claims that it’s possible to use either PINsentry or passcode and memorable word to log in but only presents the option for the former. Nowhere can I find out how to use the second option.
  • Even if by some miracle I manage to get logged in, when I try to view the recent transactions the system waits for ages and then presents me with an error message.

This is simply not good enough for an organisation of Barclays’ size and importance. Next time, people, don’t launch a new version of the site until it’s actually ready. Please.

Update: Juliet and I went into the bank yesterday (Monday, 2nd April 2012) to open a new joint account. The lady we spoke to there was incredibly helpful and explained how to set up passcode/memorable word login. I still think that it needs to be made more obvious and explained better, though. The other, speed-related, issues seem to have been sorted out as well now.

The Move Begins

Last Saturday Juliet and I headed over to my flat with the intention of making two or three trips back to her place with some of my stuff. We arrived in decent time but, as she drove up onto the neighbours’ parking spot temporarily to let someone else out, there was a loud bang and the left rear tyre deflated rapidly. So, being wimps, we phoned the AA and got on with packing some things while we waited.

A couple of hours later the tyre was sorted out but the spare needed some air so we jumped in the car and drove to the nearest garage. Which had no air, the machine being out of order. And the same for the next place we tried. On our way to the third garage, and getting further from my flat all the time, we spotted a tyre place and called in. Luckily they were able to sell us a new spare and inflate all the other tyres so, that done, we headed for home again.

By the time we’d got the car loaded up and driven back to Juliet’s, that was pretty much it for the day. Then, of course, it started snowing. By Sunday morning there was a thick enough covering that we clearly weren’t going to get any more moving done, so we resigned ourselves to our situation and did some sorting out of our new lounge before heading to the pub for a couple of evening drinks.

Not an unpleasant weekend, for the most part, but not what we had planned. It’s left us rather behind schedule with the move but hopefully we’ll get everything done on time.

The Light at the End of the Tunnel

Life is changing rapidly at the moment. After Juliet and I announced our engagement on New Year’s Eve, her parents very kindly offered to turn part of their home into a flat for us, in order to help me save up some money. After a little thought I accepted, so now the process of figuring out what to keep and what to give away/throw away has begun. On top of this, we’re organising two engagement parties, one for close family and one for our friends.

As a result of all this, I feel more optimistic about the future than I have for a very long time. Life’s been pretty hard over the last few years but this last year and a bit with Juliet and now planning our future together has really made a difference. I can see the light at the end of the tunnel.

Engagement

On New Year’s Eve Juliet and I announced our engagement. I’m pleased to report that our families have been really great and we’re both extremely happy. We’ve already started planning the wedding, even though it probably won’t happen until sometime next year. In the meantime we’ll be trying to save some money and generally sort our life together out.

This year promises to be hard work but great fun! I’m feeling more optimistic about life than I have in a very long time.

Bad Film Club

Last night Juliet and I attended Bad Film Club at the Jewish Museum in Camden Town. It had been a little while since I’d been to BFC, the last one being I Know Who Killed Me at the Barbican a couple of years ago. After grabbing a bite to eat we headed to the museum, even though it was rather early, so that we could have a good look around. We found the staff to be very friendly and the museum itself was well laid out and very interesting. I was particularly fascinated by the large trade union banner on display, one of only two Jewish union banners left in the country, apparently. I’d very much like to go back for a proper look at some point in the future. We even managed to have a quick look around the gift shop, which was at about the usual museum shop level, containing some interesting-looking books but otherwise a load of tat. They didn’t quite have “I *heart* my Jew” t-shirts, but it wasn’t far off.

When the time for the film approached we made our way to the auditorium where there was wine on offer. There were some extremely nice paintings on the wall, mostly of life around Brick Lane, any of which I’d be very happy to have on my wall. After a brief introduction, the film, Carry On Girls started. The commentary from the hosts was a little lacking, I felt, but the film wasn’t their usual kind of choice, so I think they can be forgiven. They still made a pretty good job of keeping us entertained through what is a truly terrible movie. I won’t bother to describe it – suffice to say that if you’re familiar with the genre you’ll know exactly what we got. I’ll definitely be going back to BFC again, especially as their next London showing will be Anacondas. Need I say more?

London Tattoo Convention and Alpacas

Alpacas

At the weekend Juliet and I decided to go and have a poke around at the London Tattoo Convention in Wapping. My friend Mark had let me know that he was going to be there and I was looking forward to meeting up with him. Unfortunately, thanks to the dreadful user interface in the car’s sat-nav, we were led way off course and had to spend hours struggling through heavy traffic. This meant that we didn’t get to see Mark.

On arrival, we discovered that the only cash machines were in the venue and we couldn’t use our debit cards to pay the rather steep £30 entrance fee, so we popped to a nearby garage to get some cash and have a quick and much-needed burger for lunch. Once we were in, we had a good wander around but, to be honest, weren’t all that impressed. Much more entertaining was sitting down with a drink and doing some serious people-watching.

The journey home was very slow, again thanks to very heavy traffic. At least we were able to break it up with a quick stop at the services to pick up some food and some milk.

On Sunday we had a nice long lie in before cycling into Rickmansworth for a spot of lunch. We decided to take the dog out for a walk in the woods, and were very glad we did. Not only was it delightful out, but we came across three alpacas, which were recovering from dog attacks. We spent quite a bit of time leaning on the fence watching them, while the dog just stood and looked faintly bored.

The evening was spent relaxing in front of the TV, which is a pretty good way to end a weekend, if you ask me.

Photography and Stuff

Pylon

At the weekend Juliet and I had a wander down to Walthamstow Marsh. I took the camera with me so that I could practice some photography and, although the results were a bit hit-and-miss, I did manage to get some shots that I liked.

On Saturday night we went out to a club in Romford. It was a pretty easy journey there as we were able to take the train, but the trip back in the wee small hours of the morning was not so much fun, involving as it did two night buses, a couple of longish waits in the cold and then a walk home from Walthamstow Central station in heavy rain.

As a result of being out so late on Saturday, we had a good long lie-in on Sunday, getting up at about 1pm. As is normal for me, though, I was awake at about 7:30am and was unable to go back to sleep, so by the late afternoon I was really struggling. This was a bit of a shame as we were out again and had to come back earlier than was ideal. On the plus side, I did get a nice rest and a good night’s sleep and so I’m pretty much back to normal.