Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Cloyingly sweet

The air in our house is becoming steadily more blue at the moment. The normal household noise is being punctuated by soft utterings like "Oomph. You little bastard" as the baby uses L's insides as a punch bag.

This raises the question of ownership of our child-to-be. Whenever it's kicking hell out of L's bladder or something then it's always my baby. Said in the right tone, "Your baby is being a little sod" leaves absolutely no doubt in my mind that the fault for this is entirely mine. I'm sure this is a pattern that will continue well after birth.

Blame does have its lighter side, however. In that sickly cute way that we swore we would never stoop to, the slightest hiccough is blamed on the baby 'bouncing off the diaphragm'. It's the baby rather than L who is hungry or tired when she is snacking on biscuits or yawning her head off. If she feels a little off-colour then it's because the baby didn't like what we had for dinner. This feels like the most natural thing to be saying, even if it has long since ceased to be funny. How we have managed to avoid giving it a nickname like peanut or alien, I just don't know.

Bile-inducing as this behaviour is when viewed from the outside, I think it actually plays several important roles in our new lives. At the most basic level, even though we may be disguising the truth in what we say, we are at least talking to each other about what is happening and that's definitely a good thing.

It also allows me to feel more involved in the 'physical' side of the pregnancy. It's too early yet for me to be able to feel the baby kicking or anything so these comments give me an insight into what L is feeling at the moment.

The most important effect that it has, however, is that it helps to create a bond between us and the unborn baby. The human characteristics that we are bestowing upon it by talking in this way engender a feeling of affection for it that wouldn't otherwise (for me at least) exist yet. That in turn makes you feel more protective.

So if, when you next see me belch, you hear me say "bloody baby" under my breath, please understand that I do it for the best reasons. ;-)

Monday, November 22, 2004

The Inmates Running The Asylum?

In his post about Friday night, NiC had a moment of genius that seems to have gone unnoticed by everyone else.

"If the group continues to grow we'll be taking over a whole pub soon", he said.

Now that's a bloody brilliant idea and it got me thinking. What would the perfect blogpub be like?

Well, judging by Friday's example, it would either have to have quiet, background music or a pair of wirecutters on each table but that's probably applicable to any pub, not just one for bloggers, so what other features should it have?

Obviously, one corner of the building would have to be sited on the convergence of several different lay-lines so that Witchy could play at spinning polos with unsuspecting blogpunters and it wouldn't be a bad idea to site it next door to a shoe shop, either.

It would have to be staffed with barmen who don't look at you oddly when you ask for a straight vodka with no ice and to keep me happy it would need to have a wide range of ales, so that I wouldn't have to repeat the same drink twice within any one evening.

A shelf of books full of obscure facts about London to inspire DG is clearly a must, as is a registration system so that everyone knows who everyone else is as soon as they walk in the door.

It would never close, merely go on hiatus every few months. It would serve cocktails on a Friday afternoon and coffee on a Monday morning.

And, of course, there'd be a pc at the bar where the blogpunters could post without ever leaving the pub.

Any other requirements that I have overlooked? And does anyone know of a suitable location?


Friday night saw me attending my second blogmeet, this time at the Green Man by Great Portland Street. It's definitely not the best pub in the world but the company more than made up for it. I arrived just in time to find Harriet, Elsie and dave at the bar and rapidly had the first pint of the night in my hand.

We found a table in the corner underneath the world's loudest speaker and tried to work out whether, working for the mayor as she does, Elsie had the authority to chuck 2 guys off a much larger table. We were still undecided when other people started arriving and pretty soon our number had expanded to include Mr D., NiC (and his better half), Steve and Invisible Stranger, who must have been in the pub for a little while before anyone at the table had worked up the courage to call out his name on the off-chance that it might have been him.

As seems to be becoming the norm for these London Blogmeets, Blue Witch had a nightmare journey in from the sticks and turned up once everyone else was already half-cut. We were definitely the liveliest group of people in the pub, making more noise than the party downstairs despite only having half the numbers. There was much laughter and great chunks of the world were put to rights before we all tumbled out of the pub around closing time.

For those of you I hadn't met it was great to do so and for everyone I had it was good to see you all again.

Here's to the next one.

Friday, November 19, 2004

Winter Wonderland

Since I haven't got much else to say, I'm going to fall back on that great staple of English Conversation; the weather.

Boy, there was a chill in the air as we walked to the station this morning. It was wonderful. We may not have had the snow that others have but it felt like a wonderful prelude to the season to come. I mean, it's only the middle of November and we've had snowfall in the southern half of England. Is this a sign that the people who were forecasting a harsh winter were correct in doing so? I hope so.

It's a long time since we had a truly cold, snow-filled winter around these parts. Granted, over the last couple of years there have been sudden cold snaps and heavy snowfalls that have caused our roads and rail systems to grind to a halt but they were short-lived.

What I want to see is a prolonged spell of cold weather with a lot of snow falling over a longer period of time. That way our travel network shouldn't be disrupted too much and we get to enjoy some wintry beauty, the like of which has been rarely seen in recent years. It would be wonderful to wake up one morning and open the curtains to see white rooftops marching down the hill and snow-covered hills on the other side of the valley, to open the door and be greeted with perfect silence, to feel the crunch of snow underfoot when you go outside.

To reawaken the memories of what winter is really like.

Uncharitable Thought

I have a grumble to make about Children In Need.

Some people wouldn't read that sentence and instantly become outraged at such sacrilegious behaviour, so let me make it clear that I'm not complaining about the charity itself, or the work that it does, or how it raises money or, indeed, anything of any importance.

No, my grumble is about all about dates and timing. This year's show is being touted as the 25th anniversary of the telethon. Everyone is saying that Children in Need has been going for twenty-five years and this just isn't true.

The first show was in November 1980. Twenty-four years ago. True, this is the 25th show but as such it is only the 24th anniversary of the first one. We haven't been celebrating the four-hundredth anniversary of the gunpowder plot this year, have we? So why do it for Children in Need?

In the grand scheme of things, of course, this is totally irrelevant and it shouldn't in any way stop you from donating but when it comes to dates and numbers, things like that just get on my nerves.

Thursday, November 18, 2004

We have a winner!

Congratulations, dear visitor!

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Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Brain Jam

I can't seem to get beyond the first line in any post I try and write at the moment. I start it, thinking I know what I want to say, but then the words suddenly dry up and the idea behind it disappears in a cloud of smoke. This is more than a little disconcerting.

I'm unable to organise my thoughts well enough for them to make sense when transferred to the screen and consequently the process of writing them out breaks down pretty quickly. Subjects that would normally inspire posts are passing by with barely a glance from the creative part of my mind. I'm hoping that this is 'just a passing phase, one of my bad days' as the Pink Floyd song goes (funny, I seem to have done this before...) and that I'll be back to normal any time now. Until then I intend to struggle on.

And so, in lieu of anything better, I am giving you advance notice that following a period of consultation (which will probably take place on Friday evening in a pub somewhere) into its merits and viability, I shall next week be announcing the next Clear Blue Skies blogevent.

Monday, November 15, 2004


Well, there's definitely only one of them, which is a relief. Though it would have made us an instant nuclear family, it would have been a complication we just didn't want.

The scan went very well. The baby was being a little bit shy and wouldn't show us its face but everything else was very clear. We could see it moving around, though most of the time it was sitting crossed-legged and zen-like on L's bladder. Of course, we came away with a couple of prints of the baby in the classic kidney bean-shaped profile. I've never been very impressed when I've seen other people with their ultrasound photos but somehow it's different when it's your own.

It's a fascinating process to watch. There were a load of measurements to be taken, such as the size of the head and the lengths of the thighs, all of which are used to give a better estimated due date. As each measurement was taken a small string of characters would appear at the bottom of the screen: 22W0D and the like, giving the current position on the pregnancy timeline based on that measurement. The lowest date I saw was 21 weeks and no days and a few of them were over 22 weeks.

Given that by the initial reckoning we are only just over 20 weeks (and we know that it can't be longer than that), I think this shows the baby is larger than normal, which is not at all surprising given that I was 9lbs 7oz when I was born and L was getting on for a pound heavier than that. (Cue wincing from my female readers). I may well joke with L about going for a record-breaking birth weight but that's just me taking it to extremes. I'm hoping for a big baby for more prosaic reasons - that large babies tend to be healthier than small ones.

L's got to go back in a couple of weeks for another scan so that they can check all of the bits they couldn't today because of the baby's shyness but I can't get time off work to go to that one. I'll have to wait until the new year before I get to see it again, more's the pity.

Friday, November 12, 2004

Shit Shoveller

Why is it that being successful at work often means simply being able to shovel shit faster than anyone else?

Sorry, work has been hectic the last couple of weeks but there are times when it doesn't seem like I've actually achieved anything. It has meant that I haven't really had the energy to think about what I want to write about.

Things will get better, I promise. There may well be another CBS blogevent in the pipeline and there's always baby stuff to post. For now, though, you'll just have to make do with this because I've got some work to do...

Thursday, November 11, 2004


Well, we're just now reaching the half-way stage of the pregnancy - only another 20 weeks or so to go!

Being 20 weeks in means that the first scan is coming up and I'm a little nervous about what we might find out. I'm not worried that we'll find out something's wrong since I don't think there is but we may well discover that we need to come up with more than one name come the spring. Twins don't run in either family so the chances of us having them are reduced but from my (admittedly limited) experience, I think L is bigger than most four and a half month pregnant women so you never know. We'll find out on Monday morning.

I haven't yet had a truly emotional reaction to the fact that we're having a baby and the scan may be the first time I do. The uncertainty about exactly how I'll react (since I know in general terms how I feel about the whole idea) is probably also adding to the nerves a little. Will I feel like a father by lunchtime on Monday? What does that feel like, anyway? I'll just have to wait and see.

In other news, I am still pretty wrung out a lot of the time. The couple of days off this week have helped a little but they were never going to be enough to make any long-term difference. What I really need to do is force myself to go to bed earlier and try to get eight hours of sleep a night over several weeks. Of course, that's easier written than done.

Our house is feeling a little bit more like the home we want now that we have finally got a bed in the spare room. We can now offer our guests somewhere comfortable to sleep, rather than an airbed on the floor. Not that we're expecting any guests in the near future because we're pretty well booked up. Of the six weekends before Christmas, we are spending at least part of four of them seeing family and we're jealously guarding the other two to keep them for ourselves.

The list of jobs to be done around the house isn't growing any smaller, mainly because I haven't had the energy to do any of them recently. The big job that really needs doing is to paint the stairs and landings. Given that our stairwell goes up two floors, the total area of wall to be painted is something in the region of 75 square metres. That's not going to get done in an afternoon. Then there's the bathroom to be done, and the nursery and the loft needs boarding and... The list goes on and on.

All in all, it was very nice having a couple of days just for me. I was under strict instructions not to do anything at all (apart from sort dinner out) so I spent them watching TV and playing on the Playstation. Not enough to recharge my batteries completely but it was certainly a nice break.

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Email Posting

One of the new features that Blogger introduced during the last revamp was the ability to post via email. All you have to do is send an email to a specific address (known only to you) and, providing you remember a few simple rules on how to set it out, your post should appear just as you want it.

Great, thought I, that will come in handy for posting while I'm at work.

Actually, it's not so great. Sure, the posts come out just how you want them to. They just don't appear when you want them to.

If I send an email to a friend who works in the States, I can get a reply back within minutes (assuming it's not the middle of the night over there. Why, then, when I sent the two posts below this one on Friday afternoon did one of them take 14 hours to be posted and the other take 26?

Not only that, they appeared in the wrong order. I deliberately left a few minutes between sending them so that hopefully they would be in the right order when they got published.

This isn't the first time I've had long delays when using the email system and that sort of performance just isn't good enough. If you use a system that automatically publishes the post you put into it, then you want the post to appear almost immediately. Certainly, you don't want them showing up over a day late.

Blogger, buck your ideas up!

Friday, November 05, 2004

Short Break

I'm sorry that posts have been a little infrequent the past week or so. I've been under increasing pressure at work, which has left me with less
time to think about writing anything.

I'm taking Monday and Tuesday off to try and recharge my batteries a little
(I'm so tired at the moment that I don't think two days is enough time for
a complete recovery, but every little helps, doesn't it?) and I'll probably
spend it on the sofa in front of the TV or playing computer games so it's
unlikely I'll post anything more until Wednesday.

Have a nice weekend.

Free Drinks

In the pub this lunchtime, I hit upon the perfect way to get free drinks.
All you need to do is follow these simple steps:

1. Go into a very busy pub that has too feww staff behind the bar.
2. Order whatever you want but make sure it includes one large glass of
red wine.
3. Watch as the barman catches the bottom of said glass of wine on the beer
pumps as he's trying to lift it over them.
4. Make sure that your arm is in the way of the ensuing wine spillage.
5. Put angry and exasperated look on your face.

And there you go, one round of drinks for nothing. To ensure the maximum
possible profitability from this strategy, wear a suit that you were going
to get cleaned the next day anyway.

I hope you have found this educational interlude helpful. Clear Blue Skies
will not be held responsible for any damage to persons or property through
following the above-outlined procedure.

Thursday, November 04, 2004

US Elections - An Analysis

So, that's that, then. Bush remains in the White House for a second term, another four years. The question that remains is whether the next four years will be the same as the last four or will Bush try and change the way he is running his country and treating the rest of the world?

Well, domestically at least, I think he probably will. If unemployment continues to rise and the budget deficit increases further, then I don't think the next Republican candidate (be it Dick Cheney or not) would have much chance of getting in in 2008, so he will need to do something about these (and other similar) issues.

However, US domestic policy doesn't have much direct impact on us (though if Bush happens to make the dollar strong again then I'm sure our export industries would be happy) so it's Bush's foreign policy that really concerns us.

Let's face it, The World Trade Centre attack was the making of George W Bush as president. Until that happened he had seemed a rather lacklustre guy, destined to be voted out after a single term. That Tuesday afternoon back in September 2001 changed all that. The resulting 'War on Terror' and the war in Iraq, which has been made to seem connected, have allowed Bush to fight this election by promising to keep Americans safe. That is a very powerful motivating argument and is a major reason why he came out victorious.

That's why I can't see his foreign policy changing that much. His tactics may change but the strategy remains the same and ultimately, I don't think that's good for the world.

So why didn't John Kerry win the election, then? I'm sure there are a myriad different reasons why he lost some states but I can see two reasons that probably apply everywhere. The first is his campaign focus. He always seemed to be talking about how bad Bush is for America rather than how good he would be. Negative politics like this can be effective but come with a hefty risk - people may not think that you are a good enough alternative and go down the 'better the devil you know' route. That may be what has happened with some of the new and swing voters that plumped for Bush over Kerry.

The second, more fundamental reason is that Kerry isn't a charismatic enough man. He doesn't naturally inspire other people to trust him. I don't think anyone would disagree that if the democrats had put forward a candidate more like Clinton than Kerry then the result of the election could have been very different indeed.

But it didn't happen like that and we will just have to see what happens next. There was one good thing about Bush getting re-elected, at least from a blogger's point of view - four more years for him in the White House mean four more years of easy material for us. We'd better start writing.

Monday, November 01, 2004

No Doubt

So far, I have refrained from posting anything about the US Election, mainly because it would just be one post among countless others on the subject and it probably wouldn't say anything new. However, I saw something yesterday that made me change my mind.

I was watching Jonathan Dimbleby on ITV at lunch time and he was interviewing all sorts of people from both sides of the election fight. One of the journalists Dimbleby talked to was Bob Woodward, who has had some exclusive access to the White House and the President over recent months or something. He talked about one conversation with Bush where he described how Tony Blair experienced doubt about what he was doing when he received hate mail. Woodward asked Bush whether he ever had any doubt and Bush immediately and vehemently replied that he didn't. Woodward said this as though it were a good thing. As if it showed Bush to be a strong, decisive leader.

I thought about it and it hit me that this was completely the wrong way round. There's a word for people who don't have any doubt whatsoever in their beliefs. They are called fanatics.

Far from being a negative feeling, doubt is one of the most important qualities that any leader can have. It changes your frame of mind and forces you to re-evaluate your position and question your judgment. Under that sort of self-examination, you have to persuade yourself all over again that you are doing the right thing. Therefore, it is a check and balance mechanism that is absolutely essential for good decision-making.

A leader who doesn't experience doubt isn't strong. Quite the opposite, in fact. It takes real strength to stick to something that you believe to be right despite grave doubts. Without doubt constantly forcing you to re-examine your motives and methods, you can easily end up following a path that will lead to trouble.

Quite simply, a man with no doubt at all is dangerous.

Poetic Justice

Seen this morning on the way to work: a man trying to start a white van. He tried starting it half a dozen times before we were out of earshot, all to no avail. What made it funny were the words written on the side of the van.

They said "24hr Recovery"

I wonder if he's got homestart cover...