Wednesday, May 31, 2006
The dynamic was incredibly organic, everyone just did what needed to be done when it needed to be done, no question, no one upmanship and as a result the whole place was spotless most of the time, despite the toys and meals tied to flat.
Each day was planned in 2 minutes, on the basis of someone making a suggestion, everyone agreeing and then going and doing it, no questions, no passing go, just up and out. We took turns to look after the kids when need be and despite absolutely horrendous weather we were out every day in wellies and water proofs and wind cheetahs. I don't think I've ever experienced less stress and certainly when there were so many things that could have been spark points. The weather alone could have meant we easily got cabin fever with a family who were more inert in their decision making.
And the kids were fantastic. I don't know why - maybe because we were all so chilled - but they got ready promptly, no arguments, no mucking. They were all in bed by 8pm, our two eldest shared a bedroom for the first time and they just got into bed chatted for 15 minutes and slipped off. Their daughter slept happily on the floor, because they'd forgoten the travel cot and Louis slept from 8pm to 6.30am for the first time since he was born, 3 nights out of the 4 we were there.
The nicest thing was to see our 2 boys get on so well. Considering the 2 year age gap there was scope for our friend's eldest to get very tired of Eben, but he didn't, they made each other laugh so much. Granted by the end they were starting to rub against each other a little, but frankly for littley's to spend so much time in each other's company and not fall out in a big way with each other was great.
I've rarely been sadder to leave, but we all felt like we'd been there weeks rather than days. As we left, my friend, said, 'we think you worry far too much about Eben he's absolutely delightful'. I said 'well the same goes for your two', which made her laugh. She was right though after three or four months of wondering if it was all going horribly pear shaped, Eben was absolutely delightful. We drove for the first couple of hours with him in the back and he had the broadest grin on his face, was joking about, until he eventually conked out.
I love that boy so much, his little brother's cracking as well.
Wednesday, May 24, 2006
Tuesday, May 23, 2006
I was going to include the following in my post below, but felt it deserved it's own post.
Anyone heard of the rather boringly titled Regulatory and Legislative Reform Bill? You may have seen me post on BBCFLUKN about it. But it's being sneaked in without us really noticing.
The bill is very likely to be accepted by the Lords, in it's amended form. Whereas, it would undoubtedly have rejected the original. Nonetheless the increased powers, delivered directly into the hands of MPs are dangerous to put it lightly.
I am going to wait to post more fully about this, as the bill is in limbo currently, but I will keep abreast of things. Problem with the bill is that it has slipped through so unnoticed so far that I have no doubt the original will be retabled at some point in the future. My personal worry is that thisaccepted amendment, simply provides a smaller step towards the original proposal.
The current government is a big fan of sneaking things in through the back door.
An update on SOCPA that I posted about last December. At the time Maya Evans had just been the first casualty of the bill's introduction. Since that time people have been arrested for holding banners in parliament square and ridiculously eating iced buns with the words 'love' and 'peace' written on them . To date there have been over 30 arrests within 1km of parliament and 11 convictions for what are essentially peaceful protests.
This kind of erosion of our rights to protest is just the kind of totalitarianism that is creeping in gradually throughout our legislature. What surprises me, is the lack of right thinking minds that are up in arms about this. Essentially laws like this are an errosion of individual rights, but at present it's the left that are championing the fight. A fight personified by Brian Haw.
Brian has maintained his vigil in Parliament Square for 5 years. His anti-war stance is an embarrassment to government. He has been called 'ridiculous' by Labour, he has had his nose broken 3 times, once by a member of the US embassy, who was mysteriously ghosted out of the country to never face charges and he is lambasted by the Conservatives who say his protests are disturbing people working in Portcullis House and 1 Parliament square. Poor babies, never mind that the head count stands at 30-35 a day at the moment in the country where there apparently isn't a civil war going on.
Initially it looked like there had been an error in framing the SOCPA legislation which meant that it couldn't touch any protester that had begun his/her vigil prior to the legislation's enactment. However in a challenge on 8th May ''Sir Anthony Clarke, Lord Justice Laws and Lady Justice Hallett overturned the decision and refused permission for him to appeal to the House of Lords.
Sir Anthony said: "Parliament intended to include demonstrations whenever they started.
"Any other conclusion would be wholly irrational and could fairly be described as manifestly absurd."
And so the clock was ticking on Brian's protest, the question was really when the police would move in rather than if.
Last night they came at 2.45am. There couldn't be a better metaphor for the way this government sneaks things through while people aren't looking.
As I write Brian is still there protesting, minus the confiscated banners and many of his personal possessions. It is only a matter of time before he is physically removed himself. It is likely to be 30th May or soon therefater when he has been summonsed according to the conditions now on his protest.
I posted about the 50 heroes of our time yesterday. Brian was my vote. He came 31st and the New Statesman quoted the following from a reader which I whole hertedly believe ''He stands alone, but he represnts everyone who regards this government as too repressive.'' Not only has he continued his protest against injustice in Iraq, but he is the largest shining symbol symbol of where this government has gone so wrong.
I would urge everyone I know to support Brian. If he goes, a small corner of our democracy goes with him. You can join his email list here if you so desire.
But is it a freak wave?
There would appear to be growing evidence to suggest that monster waves 7 or 8 storeys high are actually very common, but because they may be circling the Southern Ocean or the Pacific they simply never get reported. They rise from the ocean bed without warning and disappear just as quickly most often aided by bad weather, but this isn't always the case.
One of the reasons for this lack of reporting is that it's increasingly believed that they simply swamp boats, who go down with no prior warning. 200 supertankers — ships over 200 meters (656 feet) long—have sunk beneath the waves without warning in the past 2 decades. These are vessels considered sturdy enough to withstand the worst of weathers.
These waves are now being monitored by satellite and it is becoming clear that the freak wave is no freak. In one 3 weeks period in 2001, 10 rogue/monster/freak waves were recorded.
Obviously, these aren't events that get reported or photographed very often as often those involved don't live to tell the tale, but there are some extaordinary pictures out there.
This one was taken on the bridge of SS Spray in February 1986.
This was the data taken from the RRS Discovery of the coast of Scotland. If you click on the pictures section you will see they were hit by 3 successive waves in excess of 29 metres high.
This set show more graphically what is believed to be the major issue with freak waves. It is less the intial wave ride, but the drop into the trough behind and the subsequent hit from the following wave that are most likely to effectively snap tankers in half.
So, if you're thinking about a quick booze cruise this summer, beware.
PS - This doesn't mean I'm suddenly goint to start posting interesting links
Monday, May 22, 2006
The compromise of course was familiarity and amenities, however a year and a half on we couldn't possibly have made a better decision. The people in our neighbourhood tend to be that little bit older than us as it tends to be populated by people who have had their families and then moved to fit them in, rather than us who are planning to do it, but decide to set up camp now.
Our opinion was if we kill ourselves financially now, by the time we have numbers 3 and 4 (haha) then it won't be quite so painful. Anyway, we've got to know a lot of the people in our area and I can honestly say they are the most interesting bunch of oddballs I have had the pleasure of meeting in a long time.
The one uniting thing seems to be that they have all moved out of flats or small houses in Clapham, Balham, Battersea, Ealing, Chiswick and the more affluent areas of town in favour of unfashionable outpost Streatham, the other thing that struck me at the weekend was that they are fantastically proud under-achievers.
Living for so long in Balham and going out in Clapham and Wandsworth Common a lot, you get the feeling there is constant ongoing sense of disappointment. No one seems to have enough round there. Everyone works a million hours, earns a squadrillion pounds in the City and are currently digging out the second basement level for the 3rd Latvian Au Pair and her partner who's going to be the on site handyman.
Everyone's got a Bugaboo that was customised at the Aston Martin factory for their new born children. VW Touareg's, LandRover's and Porsche Cayenne's are the cars they choose to plough young children over with and the only way they can one up on the car front is by buying the nanny a rare VW GTI one off to run around in. The unhappiness is tangible, but funnily when you're part of it, you don't notice it. Well actually you haven't got time to notice it.
But Streatham Common, well different story all together.
We were at a party just recently with some neighbours; an Old Etonian who corrects his French Wife's french grammar; an ex-marketeer turned political speech writer in the Northern Ireland Office, who had recently had a speech read out which contained some extraordinarily wingy propsals which no one had checked because they were all too hungover, meaning he'd committed a minister publicly to £50m of spending that hadn't been signed off centrally; a doctor who'd given it all up to be a concert violinist; the head of one of the London borough's child protection units who was planning to bomb a developer's house (very seriously).
It was an absolute hoot, everyone was working just as hard as they needed to, to get by. There was a complete absence of converstion about, house prices, how the Poles were incredibly hard workers (and such good value), your job and much more about - the best way to get an Aerobie to fly through the crook of a tree at 15 feet high, how the best way to rid yourself of pigeons is to fill balloons with hydrogen, float them under bridges and then shoot them with an air rifle and last, but not least the art of never underordering from a local take away.
I think I've finally found somewhere I'm comfortable.
Even without Rooney we've got a bloody good chance.
Viva Stevie G
P.S. Sorry David
Aung San Suu Kyi
Well, they were voted the top 5 'Heroes of our Time' by readers of The New Statesman published this week.
The Top 3 are no surprise, No. 4 John Pilger I guess gets honourable mention because of his long standing relationship with the magazine and it's readers and this recognition is justly deserved for his pursuit of what he sees as the truth. Personally I find Pilger too dogmatic for his own good sometimes and he appears to suffer from a form of selective blindness on certain issues, however he has a great integrity in his reporting and has uncovered things, that some would dare not to. So congratulations are in order.
However, reading the 5 it reads more like an 'Odd One Out' than a 'What have they got in Common?' list. The inclusion at No. 5 of Maggie Thatcher I find extraordinary, but on reflection I guess it just proves what the passage of time can do for a reputation.
It's 16 years since she left office. Nearly a generation has passed since she bestrode the political landscape. I guess if the New Statesman had asked it's readers to vote for the top 50 villains of our time she probably would have featured very near the top as well. However, if you'd done a similar poll in 1990 you may have a had a severe case of flying pigs before she'd been deemed a hero.
My own opinion of Thatcher has changed over the passage of time. She came to office when I was 6 years old, when she left I was 17, thereafter it took another 7 years before Labour came to power. She dominated my early life. She and the tories were all I knew about British politics.
My mother was a real old school socialist. One of my strongest childhood memories was of playing in the playroom with my mother watching the labour party conference in full on the telly every year.
My father on the other hand is a born and bred entrepeneur from a long line of small businessmen, he's worked for himself in the music business since he left school. He was a roadie for a while, did a little bit of production and then became a publisher, something he still does today.
I'd like to say he worked hard, but during the 70s he got to work around 10ish, knocked off for lunch at around 12.30 and went to Locatellis in Marylebone and got pissed all afternoon. This basically went on until my brother was born, at which point he decided he ought to concentrate a little bit more and see if he could make a bob or two. The final nail was an order from my mother, following his arrival home from Midem the annual music business conference in Cannes. He and his business partners had picked up their annual royalties from the whole of Europe while he was down there. Normally this would have arrived as a cheque. For some inexplicable reason they were given it in cash, which between the 4 of them they managed to blow in 2 days. By all accounts they had a very good time, however there are obvious drawbacks. Like not being able to pay yourself for example.
By the time he hit the 80s he'd done the excess to death, so when the yuppies appeared and were blowing their paychecks on Champagne he hated them (probably because he wasn't really doing it himself anymore). He both hated and loved Thatcher, but it was mainly the hate that came through, as my Mother growled, whenever her face popped on to a screen. I guess all that hate rubs off on you, so that, combined with my age, translated in to a hatred of her.
In recent years however, I've altered my opinion.
On reflection I've come to thinking that economically she was the best thing that could possibly have happened to the country. You only have to look at France today to understand where we may be as an economic force had things carried on the way they were going in 1979. She pulled us up by our bootstraps and made us a world force again, she instilled some pride and we moved on through the stratosphere.
On the other hand however, socially she's left the country in a vacuum. Her economic reforms came at the direct expense of a very small underclass. She always knew that was the case. 5% had to be the casualty for 95% of the country getting up and stable on their feet. My opinion is she didn't spend enough time thinking how she could ensure that 5% were treated with the care they needed. She effectively just cut them off and sent them in to a spiral of long term poverty that would effect them for generations.
Why? Well my opinion is it's simply because the solutions were too much hard work. Easier to concentrate on the economic reforms and the 95% than worry about the 5%. I strongly believe the breakdown in respect and behaviour can be put down to the policy, when you consider the way this combined with her greater emphasis on the individual.
So, is she a 'Hero of our Time'?
If she hadn't come to power we'd be in the doldrums as a nation financially, the fact she did come to power has left the country a poorer place socially, but then how would we be had she not been around.
I'm undecided, maybe 16 years isn't enough time for me decide, I'll come back to you in 10 years or so
Saturday, May 20, 2006
When my wife was a child, she was helping her mother cook the Sunday lunch, a baked ham. Before her mother put the ham in the oven, she cut the end off, something she always did religiously. Innocently the my wife asked ‘Mum why do you always cut the end off?’ to which she replied ‘I don’t know. Your nana always did it. I’ll have to ask her’.
Next time they saw Nana, they asked her why she cut the end of the ham, to which the old lady replied, ‘I don’t know, mam used to do it’. Unfortunately she’d died some years previously, however her sister survived, someone they saw once a year. Duly, at their annual meeting, they asked the family matriarch ‘Do you know why, mam/nana/grandnana cut the end of the ham off?’
‘Well dear’ came the reply ‘she only had a small pan and the ham never fitted’.
So there you go. Moral of the story - don’t believe your family, or your children will go hungry.
Friday, May 19, 2006
I can have a debate about football for hours and actually sound really knowledgeable, but in reality it's all absolute bullshit. So why's this? Well from the age of 7 I played rugby.
I played mini-rugby on a Sunday and school rugby on a Saturday. When I was 14 I started playing for Surrey and Southern Counties which meant I was playing 6 times a week pretty much for 4 years. In the summer I competed in Athletics and watched my first love cricket.
In short, Football passed me by. You can tell because my Panini sticker albums of which I have 3, are only about 2/3 full. Now, any little boy worth his salt completes his Panini sticker albums, even if it's just to satisfy the male collector gene, so this just goes to show how far off my radar it was.
It's funny really, my uncle was a Chelsea season ticket holder, but I didn't actually know that until I was 23. My Grandfather was a huge Arsenal fan, but my Dad was and is a rugby man through and through. So we spent our lives down the club.
However, once I left school my rugby playing days faltered. I had a gap year in which I played very little and then when I joined my university and went along to the club there, I was completely put off by the rugby boy element of it all. Funnily my home club wasn't a really 'rugby boy' type of club. I think it was probably because it was a very 'working class boys made good' type of club rather than the public school type atmosphere you tend to get alot of. Well in North Surrey where I played you do. So, when I met this bunch of wankers, I just thought, 'Nah I'll put it off for a year'. It effectively saw the end of my career.
That year I met a bunch of lads in two different houses. One from North Allerton, one from Sunderland, two from Chesterfield and one from Preston. Across the town in another house were my other friends, one from Northwich, two from Norwich and another from Leeds and then there was me from Lahhhhndon.
All of them were good Northern lads and what did we do. We sat and smoked weed and talked football for 3 years. Oh and cricket in the summer. I spent hours listening and gradually, by osmosis became an expert.
My Grandmother told me a story once. Shortly after she met my grandather they realised they had a mutual love of music. She had trained as a pianist at the Royal college of Music, he was a sheet music publisher at Boosey and Hawkes and part time boogie woogie session piano player.
My Grandmother was the youngest of 7 and the most cosseted (I have a story about that which I'll write one day) and spoilt child to walk the planet - something she freely admitted. When she realised she had piano in common she decided to play for my Grandfather. Sitting down she began her recital. After just a few seconds, her performance was met by howls of laughter. She was completely shocked. She'd been used to people telling her how, utterly fantastic she was all her life and here she was courting with a man who cried laughing at her piano skills. Indignantly she asked what was so funny and he replied 'You sound like you're playing all the notes in the right order, but you left your soul at the door'.
I don't know whether finding out about your relative's passions is a running theme in my family, but until my father and my uncle were in their late teens they didn't even realise my Grandfather played piano, he'd given the session playing up when they were young, to concentrate on the music business - something they both followed him in to - but they found out when they were at a party and someone asked him to play. By all accounts he was able to pick up any instrument and play and as i mentioned was the most astounding boogie woogie piano player. Unfortunately I never got to properly meet him as he died when I was 6, but he sounds like an amazing man. I digress.
I guess, my football knowledge is somewhat like my Grandmother's piano playing. I defeinitely know where all the notes are, but I just don't get the intricacies. I put it down to never having played and therefore not truly uderstanding the game. I have to rely on summaries and match reports to understand, who actually had a good game, unless of course it's blindingly obvious.
My contribution to the great striker abandonment debate, currently raging is somewhat useless really. I know what the options are, I understand the potential formations, but frankly I've no idea why it's a crap idea to have Gerrard playing just behind Owen in a 4411 and playing Carrick at the bottom of a diamond with Lampard at the top. However, if I had to argue about it with a 'died in the wool' footie fan I could sound like I knew what I was talking about for hours on end and I reckon I'd have pretty good bloke credentials at the end of it all.
All I really care about is us winning and I really think we've got a good chance.
Come on England!!
(Shit I've given myself away, haven't I)
Wednesday, May 17, 2006
Tuesday, May 16, 2006
Having bought an inflatable goal on Saturday and spending most of the 3 hours prior to the cup final saving goals from Eben in the garden, I thought it was pretty much the best 8 quid I'd spent for a while.
Yesterday afternoon Nicky rang me and said 'What's happened to the goal the base is flat'. It looked like it had been mauled. It had 3 puncture marks from what I imagined was a fox, a deduction I made from the fact that it had taken a crap on our patio, which Eben had presented it to Nicky with the words 'look Mummy dog poo'. Fox crap is possibly the worst smell in the world, I know this from years of washing the family dog who seemed to seek the stuff out for entertainment.
Anyway, a quick and dirty puncture repair last night had the goal back up and running, before I went to bed and I chucked it back out in to the garden before retiring upstairs.
As Eben pulled his curtains his morning, I was greeted by a rather sad and dejected looking puddle of plastic and string. I mentioned it to Nicky as I was leaving for work and rather surprisingly, it turned out to be my fault for putting it back in the garden. I however, know the truth, that it is actually a bloody fox. I'm going to swing for the bastard.
I know exactly which fox it is, it swans around out street pillaging from every rubbish bin left carelessly half open. It craps everywhere, mainly because it survives on a diet of fried chicken pickings, which would give most people the runs when it's 'fresh' from the oven.
I hate the scraggy flee bitten git, I can't bring myself to like it. It's vermin, vermin that comes and pops my goal every night and craps in my son's hand (well kind of).
I'm going to stay up and catch the bugger in the act tonight.
Wednesday, May 10, 2006
In the event she was cut down at 40, following a horrific 4 year battle with cancer. What started out as breast cancer, resulting in a double mastectomy, finally morphed in to liver cancer.
Along the way she lost her dignity and bizarrely what hastened her death was a broken shoulder. A side effect of the cancer was brittle bone disease and when lifting herself from a commode she clean broke her shoulder. At that point her body simply said, 'enough's enough' and shortly after Chritmas 1987, she died.
I was 14 at the time and following 4 years of illness I moved on relatively quickly, I was devastated obviously, but I had a lot of support from my extended family, I was playing a lot of rugby and I threw myself in to sport, scouts and study.
My Dad moved on as well. Having been at the sharp end of the disease for so long, he'd undergone a lot of counselling before my mother's death and by the time she died he was ready to get on with things. He married my step mother, a year and a half later.
My step mother is the most wonderful woman. She was 30 when she married my Dad. I was 15. My brother was 11. It's not something that many women would take on, but she played it amazingly. She was a stand-in mother for my brother, but she acted more like a carer to me, a guardian, a guide, a rock. She always stayed in the background, she pushed me in the right direction, but imperceptibly. She also played the good guy to my Dad's bad guy, she pointed out what a hard time he gave me simply because I was older. She couldn't have possibly handled the family better, mainly because she never set out to replace my mum, but simply be what we needed her to be, when we needed her to be it.
My brother seemingly moved on as well, but we always worried about him and with good reason. He had little memory of mum before she was ill. When he met, his now wife, 8 years ago, things started to unravel. I had a call from my sister-in-law one night in early 2000 saying my brother was in floods of tears and she didn't know what to do. He'd had a bad journey home from work, something you wouldn't really see as a trigger point, but he got to thinking and by the time he got home he was all over the place. In retrospect I capitulated, I didn't really know how to approach things. It was 13 years after the event and I just felt there may be a whole can of worms there for the opening.
Finally, shortly before the wedding I confronted it, he was finding his speech impossible to construct, he didn't want to leave my mother out of it, but equally didn't know what would happen when he delivered the lines. We talked it through and at the bottom of it all was the fact that he'd never really talked it through. My father and I, had moved on so quickly. It wasn't that the subject was banned or taboo, it was just that things were happy and they really were very happy. He recognised that and indeed was happy in most ways himself, but I think as a young lad he didn't want to go spoiling that happiness.
What compounded things was that he had become so close to my step-mother that he felt guilt on several fronts. Was he being disrespectful to my mother by taking on another one? Was he being disrespectful to my step mother by mentioning my mother? Would he upset me or my Dad by going on about it? Things we talked through, cried through and eventually hit an even keel. And so the grieving was complete.
Until Eben was born.
The other day someone, completely unwittingly suggested that I ask my mum what my brother and I were like as kids to throw light on the difficuty we're having with my 2 now. Unfortunately I can't. I would love to.
I find myself thinking about her now, more than I've ever done. About a year ago I broke down, completely out of the blue. The trigger was jealousy. Jealousy of who? Rather shamedly it was jealousy of Eben, who was 18 months old. I suddenly had an overwhelming feeling of injustice. He had a mother and I didn't. Grief is a funny thing. It reduces you to the basis of your being, it can bring out your darkest thoughts and then trolling along behind, come your happiest memories.
The funny thing is, when she died I wasn't getting on with her at all, I had an enormous argument with her 10 days before she went and in retrospect she was so unbelievably frail, I can't believe I did it. But then I was 14 and disgusting and on top of that we were fundamentally different characters. For years I couldn't dredge up a good memory, only the arguments. She loved me of course, I could tell from the photos, but we didn't get on.
My dad said that if she'd lived we would have carried on at loggerheads until my mid to late twenties and then we would have got on like a house on fire. Oddly, it was around that time that all the good memories came back. Probably a coincidence, but nonetheless one I pin significance to. But, with the memories came more pain and a greater sense of loss. The older I get the more I remember the key dates. My brother and I went to the cemetary on the anniversary of her death 2 years ago; for the first time since her death. This year May 10th has loomed larger than ever. I'm hoping this isn't going to get any harder, after all she's been dead for more of my life than she was alive
So here I am. Happy Birthday Mum, I miss you loads. You really should be here, your Grandsons are wonderful and I'd love you to have met them.
Tuesday, May 09, 2006
Monday, May 08, 2006
I had come to view my online life and my offline life as two very different experiences. Although Ive been online for years, it's only in the past couple that I have developed dialogue with other users. In many ways some of my on line relationships are deeper than my offline ones, I know intimate details, intimate feelings. I have watched dramas unfold over months. However, the way in which I've visualised these online relationships is more along the lines of a book. Not real people, but characters or even charicatures.
I've been pretty honest in most of what I've posted. There are some embellishments and some small untruths, but none that I would be embarassed about if an offline friend logged on and read what I'd written and in fact I have a few offline friends who I know read this (Squills, post something if you read this and prove this is true, stop freaking me out every time I see you by saying, oo i didn't know that. How was the honeymoon by the way?). However, for some reason when I've read other blogs and posts on the messageboards, I've never really considered that what is written there was also true, it's more a development of a character as I've built it in my mind.
This perception has been completly sideswiped in the past few weeks. I've read quite a few admissions or real life nervousness, that has made me completely revise my opinions of how and what I should post. I guess what it's made me think is that i should be more honest in my responses and reactions to others' postings. Sometimes banter, or off the cuff witicisms isn't appropriate so from here on in I'll be thinking a lot more carefully before posting anything.
Thank you for those who have clicked on and added your thoughts to my blog and I'd like to make a back-dated apology for not treating these posts with the respect they deserve and making any inappropriate postings on your blogs, or in fact responses to board postings.