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July, 2010

  1. Your thirties; the wilderness years

    July 22, 2010 by admin

    Is it just me or does everyone find their thirties a bit odd? At 34, I’m not fully qualified to comment but I am in the midst of a strange era of my life. Apart from the lack of questioning these things that comes with being in your early twenties, there’s a decade which needs little explanation. Your twenties are a voyage of discovery which you start as barely an adult and end supposedly having found your niche. Careers are decided, started, tweaked and then developed, ‘life partners’ are found, tweaked, moved in with and perhaps married and for some kids also start arriving.

    Your twenties are so busy, there isn’t much time for introspection; it’s the decade where midweek partying and hardwork don’t need to be mutually exclusive. Old enough for responsibility but young enough to be cool. Not yet old enough to feel the judgemental eyes you’d get a decade later. Not yet fully laden with cynicism, still optimistically naive. Preferring to crash on a mate’s floor than fork out for a cab, being bothered to go to the coast on the one hot day a year, doing stuff on a whim. All luxuries simply afforded yet rarely appreciated. At the time at least. When your thirties (and kids) come along, you appreciate the freedom. Rose tinted appreciation, however; you can easily gloss over the hangovers, the skintness, the bitching.

    We often ask why we didn’t do more in our twenties before Jake came along, when our best mates lived 50 metres away and the world was our oyster. Then we realise. We didn’t go on shopping sprees at the drop of a hat as we couldn’t afford the hat. We didn’t drop everything to party in Thailand for the same reason. I don’t know why we didn’t go to the cinema more though! The point being is that we have more money now but everything we want now costs £500 or more.

    So, you get over the whole turning thirty thing, you get married, move house, have a kid and then what? It’s difficult unless you have a trail blazing career which demands most of your time, to settle into being content with a quiet life. I can see that I’ll be happy doing very little when I’m older but not just yet. When you have teenagers tearing about the place, I can see why you always tell people you want peace and quiet for Christmas. It’s because you’re knackered. But I’m not knackered yet. I play footy, squash and walk to work so I’m active. I’m tired because Jake doesn’t sleep much but other than that, I am in my prime. So it’s probably understandable that I’m struggling a bit to know which way life is supposed to go from here. I understand that the craziness of the last decade has been archived and what I’m supposed to do during the mellow later forties onward but what now? Perhaps it’s because of uncertainty with my job which leaves me time to think but I find myself ever looking forward. To when the loft conversion is ready, the next holiday, the next baby etc. What of now? Why is it that we struggle to just be? Always questioning our and other people’s motives for each and every action. I envy people who seem to take it all in their stride but I also realise that they’re probably not as blissfully content as they appear to be.

    I’ve always been too much of a brooder, far too analytical. Maybe that’s what the rest of my thirties is for. For chilling out and for not trying to solve non-existing problems. Time to accept that life is so much easier when you don’t care if you’re cool or not. Time to enjoy children growing up. I’m sure in ten years’ time I’ll look back at this period as my kids are smashing the house to pieces, as a peaceful time which was so much easier!

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  2. Sense prevails

    July 16, 2010 by admin

    Growing up I had a fascination with serial killers. So much so it worried my parents. I think a lot of us are drawn to the macabre, lured by a lack of understanding as to how certain people can do certain things. I don’t think it was unhealthy. After all, a fascination with serial killers isn’t on the usual list to which criminal profilers refer. Like arson and abusing animals as a child or an obsession with martial arts and hardcore pornography. Or living with your mother above a pet shop. I don’t know exactly why I found such awful people so interesting but I do know I found the dead ones or those whose crimes were decades ago more exciting – if that’s the word – than those still alive and certainly more than crimes which happen now. Perhaps that’s the last bit which separates me from the nutters.

    For instance, whilst the Raoul Moat saga unfolded live on TV last week, I was nothing like as into it as when I first read about Richard Ramirez, the Night Stalker, who was killing in the 80′s when I was just a little boy. I guess it’s the infamy that death (or the awaiting of a death sentence in this case) brings. It’s more that writers have investigated, that psychologists have tried to explain (often without conclusion) which makes me read on. When I was 13 or 14 I subscribed to a fortnightly serial killer publication and have both binders. Since the dawn of the internet I’ve re-read stories about all of my ‘favourite’ serial killers. It sounds sick to say favourite; I don’t mean it as in, I like or agree with what they did, more that their particular stories intrigued me most. Those twisted souls, so deranged, misunderstood or just plain evil who did things so unspeakable, so foreign to the rest of us, they make you glad you’re nothing like them.

    To make the lives of those hunting them that much more difficult, they are not all cut from the same cloth either. Compare Dennis Raider, or the BTK killer (Bind, Torture, Kill), a man who killed at least 10 people over 16 years, caught at last in 2005 whilst president of the local congregation, with Pedro Lopez, the Monster of Andes, who molested and killed over 300 children. Raider’s story appeals more to me; it’s not the headcount which is interesting (clearly Lopez is utterly deranged), it’s the way BTK slipped in and out of regular society, holding down good jobs, positions in society, Something drove him to kill and kill again and whilst he could stop, sometimes for years at a time, his compulsion to control and take life always allowed his demons to return. By the way, in the end, he was caught after sending a floppy disk goading a local newspaper which contained meta data identifying him directly – a classic case of police having to wait for technology before getting their man.

    I could go on (and on) about the various men I’ve read about but the Yorkshire Ripper was one which particularly gripped my attention. Pre-dating Ramirez, he was arrested in 1981, convicted of killing 13 women and eventually sentenced to a minimum 30 years meaning that he could be released next year aged just 65. His initial plea was not guilty to murder but guilty of manslaughter due to diminished responsibility on account of his killing prostitutes as an act of God (despite not all victims being prostitutes).

    At 65, most men can still kill. However rehabilitated, anyone who’s killed 13 people – whatever their defence – will always pose a threat. The risk would never be justified let alone the public outrage. Should Sutcliffe, or Peter Coonan as he is now renamed, ever be released he would surely never be able to return to society without significant disguise and 24 hour protection. Lynch mobs would certainly form. Some may say that’s what he deserves, however I believe, for the worst criminals at least, that a life rotting in jail is the only way to truly punish.

    Glad then I am, that today, a judge ruled that no parole date will ever be set for the ripper. He will never be a free man again. I like to think that this ruling is based on his crimes more than on the outrage should any other course have been taken. His was the highest profile of any such investigation of the last century and any other eventuality than his dying in prison would only serve to make the families of his victims suffer more.

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  3. Jake’s third visit to Spain

    July 13, 2010 by admin

    There can’t be many kids who’ve flown eight flights before their second birthday but Jake is lucky enough to be one of them. Only possible thanks to my dad’s hard work in building two places abroad that we can get to fairly cheaply. These last two flights were potentially the trickiest in terms of keeping Jake quiet as he’s so much more aware now than he was on previous trips. Last year we went to Spain twice and Italy once and he slept a lot of the time; too small and feeble to fight his natural urges. Now, however he is all over the place and certainly doesn’t get the whole having to wear your seatbelt thing. To be fair to him he was pretty well behaved both out and inbound having only the odd melt down.

    As Clare was already in Spain on a girls’ weekend, I made sure I had literally everything I could think of to keep him calm. Bob the Builder on a portable DVD player, all of Shaun the Sheep Volume 1 as well as painting and flash cards apps on the iPad, a sticker book, The Hungry Caterpillar, grapes, raisins, corn snacks, puppy 1 AND puppy 2 and in all he did o.k until his ears popped. Rage ensued, perhaps understandably. I ended up carrying him sideways from the plane to the car hire place as his epilepsy neared its climax. Luckily I had lots of friends to help with luggage and he eventually dropped off en route to the villa. Clare took over as soon as we arrived and I’d survived the 3 day singleparentathon. It was actually easy in the end and we had a real laugh together. For all his new tantrums and frustrations at being not quite communicable he’s so much more fun now. Speech is developing at break neck speed and we can have a conversation of sorts.

    He absolutely loved the pool and I had one of those moments on the second day that all new parents wait for. It basically involved chucking Jake as high into the air as possible and catching him again after a good dunking. The look on his face each time and his constant ‘maw, maw, maw’ followed by ‘pweese, pweese, pweese’ entertained all of us the whole week. Over stimulation came at a cost however and both going to bed and staying asleep proved testing. After 7 adults had spent all day taking turns to keep him laughing the last thing he wanted was bed. Bedtime was later just because everything is later in Spain and then actual sleep was later still owing to the screaming and I think this contributed to earlier wakings too. Most mornings I would wake up to find him in our bed (having slept through his crying and subsequent transfer by Clare), so we made do on about 6 hours’ sleep a night. Not enough to come back relaxed. Especially when you factor in the wine.

    He’s also fallen for me much more than before. Maybe it’s the endless games of football I play with him or the time in the pool, but it’s always been Clare he went to. Now we share his adoration and I’m glad it’s more balanced. Having someone think you’re the bees knees is pretty awesome even if you’re not!

    All in all though, it was a brilliant week and he and I bonded like never before. I think it’s taken me a lot longer than lots of other dad’s to get this feeling but it’s all consuming now and I’m really pleased about it. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve loved him to bits since we got the news about his cleft but with the operations and countless sleepless nights and all the other frustrations of becoming a father for the first time, it is easy to focus on the negative. The might sound harsh but it’s my honest truth; as I’ve said plenty of times before, it’s my blog and I’ll write what I want!

    Spain won the world cup and we were all in town to celebrate. Probably the only time I’ll be on the same soil as where the winners come from!.

    Photos of the trip here

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