Making the most of a new life

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The Word’s End

I had a bit of bad news today. Although no one has died or been hurt, my life will not be the same again. It was announced that The Word magazine is to cease production after its next issue. I dare say that most of you have never heard of this magazine (and that is no doubt part of the problem) and will be wondering what all the fuss is about; but to me it was the perfect publication.

I still remember when I saw the first issue on the shelf. It had the singer and writer Nick Cave on the cover and, looking back, I remember it as having a sort of glow around it. Of course it didn’t, but it was such a significant find for me that that’s how I still see it in my mind’s eye. Upon picking it up I felt that it had been put together specifically for me with a great mixture of music, film and tv, current affairs, books, and technology. It was intelligently written and both complemented and challenged my cultural life.

In addition to the magazine there is a complementary podcast that has accompanied me on countless train journeys and bus commutes. It was fantastic, like having a group of like-minded friends having a chat and a laugh in my ears. Around the magazine the editors (Mark Ellen and David Hepworth) built an amazing online community that put me in touch with others who were interested in many of the same things that I am; and all the messages of support and sadness on the Word forum and on Facebook are testament to how much it was loved. All in all The Word has helped me keep in touch with the sort of things I wanted to be kept in touch with, and I feel rather sad that it will no longer be there.

I’ve always been a fan of things cultural, and music in particular; and this was something I was determined to try to keep going when I became a Father. In fact a song, Changingman (by one of my favourite singers, Paul Weller), inspired the title of this blog. Paul Weller originally sang in one of my all time top bands, The Jam, which he split up in 1981. As a teenager at the time this seemed like a huge tragedy, I wondered how I would ever cope with life without The Jam. Of course life went on, and other great music came along too.

As life goes on we learn how to cope better with change, perhaps as we experience more and more of it. What led to us feeling utter desolation when we were young now seems like a minor aberration in the grand scheme of things. So while it’s sad when things that we’ve really enjoyed come to an end other things soon replace them, and I dare say that it won’t be long before I’ve found something to replace The Word. In the meantime it has provided me with great memories, and I think I will be having those 200+ podcasts on syndication on my iPod for many years to come.


The Flash of the Torch

The Olympic Torch Relay came our way this week. The Olympics aren’t something that I’ve got particularly excited about yet (although I am looking forward to going to an event in August) since they have seemed so far away.  Nevertheless I thought it would be good to go and see the Torch since it would probably be a once in a lifetime experience for me, and maybe even for Jake too: Sam probably being a little young.

And while it was over in seconds the whole anticipation surrounding its coming was well worth it, and it didn’t seem like an anti-climax after it had gone.

I wrote last time about memories, in relation to photos, and I guess that to some extent this post is about memories too. By going to see the Torch I wanted the boys to have this once in a lifetime experience because I remember so vividly some of the once in a lifetime things I did as a child: walking through the new Kingsway Mersey Tunnel and over the new Humber Bridge before they were officially opened to traffic; and watching some huge ships being launched at the shipyard close to where we then lived.

These and many other things remind me of being young and of how happy my childhood was. It also reminds me of the responsibility I have to make sure that Jake and Sam have a happy childhood too.  I don’t mean this in any idealized or indulgent manner, but in a way that is natural and spontaneous. This is often quite difficult as I also have things that I want to do: read a magazine of mine rather than a book to the boys, listen to some of my music rather than nursery rhymes; or stay just that bit longer in bed rather than building that wooden railway. Sounds trivial? Well maybe but culmulatively it has an effect.

I’m not sure that I fully appreciated this responsibility when I first became a Dad, and I dare say that there will be times along the way that will suggest that I still haven’t really got it.  There’s also the temptation to not think about it at all. After all it’s huge because bringing up children is a one shot deal (I know I’m not the first to realize it, but it’s still a pretty big bombshell when it lands) and that can sound very scary.

In the end I suppose it comes down to trial and error, a series of checks and balances that seek the best way forward, hoping that when all is said and done the boys will, like me, look back with fond memories of when they were young, and have an appreciation that their childhood has given them a good grounding for their lives to come.

So, like the torch flashing past, Jake and Sam’s childhood will race by and before I know it they won’t be my little boys any more. I need to constantly remind myself to make the most of it and enjoy it – and, for their sakes and mine, not waste it.



My Mother-in-law still uses a film camera. When she takes a photo her grandchildren look at her quizzically. “Why can’t I see the photo straight away?” they ask. What a bizarre idea that you take a photo and then have to wait ages to see it. This reminds me of when I was young when getting the photos back from the chemist, especially after a holiday, was a significant moment to look forward to; and often one for surprises – usually there were Christmas photos on that holiday film too.

While clearing my Dad’s house recently I came across our family photo albums. There were never more than ten pictures of me from any single year. These were usually taken at Christmas, on my birthday, and on our holidays; and these photos contribute significantly to my memories of when I was young. What’s more I have one friend who only has one or two photos from his entire childhood, his memories are much more sparse. Contrast this with the 5000+ that we already have of Jake and Sam, from around an hour after they were born onwards.

With smaller digital cameras and ever improving lenses on our phones the opportunity to catch moments has increased immensely, as has our opportunity to view them. Screen savers, digital photo albums, and the capacity of small devices to hold hundreds of images have meant that we can look at pictures most of the time. Indeed the first thing that Sam does almost every morning, after his initial cuddle, is pick up my phone and look at pictures and videos of himself. He loves the one of him and Jake on the “Thomas” ride the best.

There is every chance, then, that our children will have far more memories of their childhood to draw on than we ever did; and I want to make sure that my boys have plenty to choose from. So as part of my own development in doing this blog I’ve decided to try to improve my photographic skills. I’ve bought a new camera and will, initially at least, be posting a weekly photograph, probably on Sundays, as well as illustrating other blog posts from time to time.

Photos are so important to our memories and our appreciation of the people and environment around us. They help us to measure change, tracking the growth and development of our children and of ourselves. I hope you will enjoy the photos that I post, and maybe even notice a change in the quality of the photos as this blog progresses.


Father’s Day #2: My Boys

Last week was an exciting week. There were many whispered conversations between Karen, my wife, and Jake, my four year old son. These conversations were not necessarily secret because Jake hasn’t really perfected the art of whispering yet. Nevertheless things were at fever pitch. Just why did he need to take in four milk carton tops into nursery? And why was I getting knowing looks from his carers? Clearly something was afoot, otherwise Jake wouldn’t have been desperate to go into nursery on Thursday afternoon despite having to go and see the doctor that morning with his usual breathing troubles (more on this at a later date).

The answer when it came was so very touching. Jake had made me a car for Father’s Day. I think it’s a great car. It was made by Jake and he put so much work into it. Yes he’s brought pictures home for me before, but this felt different somehow. It was more deliberate and another step in his development, and our relationship.

I’m noticing the same with Sam (my other son, who has just turned two), who is at that amazing stage where he is noticeably achieving new things everyday: new words, new shelves reached, more sophisticated play, and more of a mind of his own. Our relationship is developing all the time too, but in a different way than happened with Jake: which in itself is amazing. They are VERY different.

Father’s Day felt different this year then. Not just because it was the first without my Father, but because it reflected the new things that I am experiencing with the boys. However, when the festivities were over we went off to the park and it became a ‘normal’ day again. But normal in the sense that everyday is different, and change is constant. Routines come and go, certainties disappear and new certainties arise. That is the essence of what I’m trying to do with this blog, reflect on change, think about how I manage it, and to celebrate old endings and new beginnings.

So one thing is for sure. Father’s Day will never be the same again and I find that very exciting!


Father’s Day #1: My Father

Father’s Day was something of a bittersweet occasion for me this year since my own Father passed away in November last year (2011). At the time I posted on my Facebook timeline that he was “the best Father that anyone could have hoped for”. He was always around and very committed to his family and, after my Mother died (in 1988), to my Stepmother and her family. I know that it was something of frustration to him that I spent most of my late twenties and early thirties as a student (for about ten years by the time I’d finished), but his support for me was always steadfast, once saying to me: “Whatever you want to do with your life I will support you”. He did not mean financial support but a moral and loving support which, to me, was priceless. I’m sure that this was not an easy thing for him to say, but it was an extraordinarily liberating thing for me to hear; giving me a real sense of freedom and ultimately helping me take risks which, in the long run, paid off.

Having children of my own has brought me many things, but perhaps the most important has been coming to realise what it means to be a parent, and in turn to appreciate what my parents went through: what they gave up and the extent of that unconditional love that only parents can have. Sadly I was never able to fully appreciate this before my mother died, but it means a lot to me that I was able to say ‘thank you’ to my Father. And I said a quiet thank you to him again this Father’s Day.

I still miss Dad. I miss ringing him up and telling him what the boys have been up to, and sharing a joke on the latest frustration of modern life (he loved stories about administrative ineptitude); and there is rarely a day goes by that I don’t think of him. It was important to me that he was part of this blog since he was so influential in many of the things that I have to say. That is why his memory is enshrined in the picture on the masthead, which is taken from the spot where we scattered his ashes on Derwentwater in the Lake District, Northern England earlier this year.

As you can see it really is a beautiful spot and I hope that it gives him the freedom that he so selflessly gave me.


Happy Father’s Day!

When I think back to the birth of my first child nearly five years ago it seems that my life has changed so much over that time; sometimes for the better, sometimes in ways that frustrate me, and often it is just different. I love being a Dad and wanted to write this blog to help me to reflect on this change, and share it with others. I wanted to think how it has affected other parts of my life: family, marriage, work, friends, interests, as well as myself as a person. So this blog won’t just be about me, it will also be about the people and places that I have experienced and how they have shaped who and what I am.

I hope that over the coming months you will build up a picture of my life, my experiences and what interests me, but to do that you need to know some basic details. I have been married to Karen since 2006 and we have two boys: Jake (4) and Sam (2). We live in West Yorkshire; although we are shortly going to be moving to South Yorkshire (change!) with Karen’s job. I took redundancy from my job at the end of 2011 (more change!), and am doing a postgraduate course in Executive and Business Coaching. I will no doubt be reflecting on what got me here in future posts, so watch this space.

Since this blog is about my life as a Dad, I thought that it would be very appropriate to launch it on Father’s Day. I very much hope that you will enjoy it, be inspired by it, be entertained by it, and contribute to it through your comments, which will be gratefully received.