My vote

Tomorrow it’s the General Election here in the UK, and the first under the new fixed-term parliament rules. Millions of people will take the opportunity to exercise their democratic right not to vote. In the UK that’s a valid option, but not one I agree with.

I’m not here to say why you should vote, but here’s why I do.

The right to choose whether to vote is precious. Millions have died to have that right and millions more live under rulers who deny them the opportunity to decide their country’s direction. My irregular trips to the polling station are a small way to honour those without a voice.

We all have opinions. Mine are left of centre, someone else’s are right of centre. A third person’s will be to the extreme of one side or the other. I don’t know who these other people are but I do know I’m gifting them my vote if I don’t use it myself. Because they will go to the polls, and they will have a say in the running of my country.

As with many things, it’s easy to be cynical about voting and politicians. And they certainly do much to encourage cynicism which leads to people becoming disenchanted with democracy and their personal ability to change things. Governments are run by by people who want power, and what concerns them is losing that influence. In our system it is elections which give the opportunity to remove that power. It’s what politicians fear and those in charge should live in fear to keep them more honest

This are my reasons for voting. Until a better, more representative way for the public to wield influence comes along I’m sticking with them.

Posted: 6 May, 2015

The neverending journey

Today I’m a father. Actually I became a father weeks ago but today is the first opportunity to write about it. Becoming a parent gives you a great deal, but what it doesn’t give you is opportunity.

If you’ve a child on the way here is a suggestion. Take 10 minutes to sit down, grab a piece of paper, and note everything you want to do with the baby once it’s born. Sketch out those first few fledging weeks then take the paper and place it somewhere safe in a drawer or on a shelf.

In 12 months you’ll accidentally find the note and laugh yourself silly at how naive you were, thinking you’d have time to do anything.

From the first cry (a heart-melting moment) everything you do is now governed by someone else. Your need for sleep and subsistence are secondary concerns. Squeezed into fleeting moments when your new ruler decrees you may nourish yourself in order to continue to serve them effectively.

It isn’t just priorities that change. Everything sight, every sound, every situation is now filtered through the prism of potential baby harm. Is that light too bright? Is the room too cold or too warm? When visiting local cafés you’re acutely aware of those with pram-friendly doorways and those which are now off-limits.

Adapting to a new a baby is like hanging onto the back of a runaway train. Cry, eat, sleep, cry, eat, sleep, and so on, and so on, and so on. Every 2 hours without respite. Three in the morning? Cry, eat, sleep. Eight in the evening? Cry, eat, sleep.

Four days in I sat on the sofa at two in the morning staring at my daughter, who was refusing to sleep in my arms. I suddenly realised I couldn’t remember her name. Sleep deprivation had claimed me. My partner had already gone to bed, attempting some much-needed rest, so I couldn’t ask them. After a frantic few minutes going through a mental address book of every name I could think of I resorted to opening Facebook and looking her name up.

This goes on for weeks, endless weeks. A pattern that never quite gets comfortable.And then something different happens. One day your child looks at you with a smile. Not the fool’s gold facial muscle contortion of trapped wind, but a real smile. One that says ‘I know you, and I know you like seeing me smile.’. Then, like during that first cry, your heart melts all over again.

Posted: 26 February, 2015

Go Duck Duck

For the last few years I’ve been using Duck Duck Go as my preferred search engine on the desktop. The results are relevant and their privacy policy is designed to keep you anonymous.

Last week Apple released iOS 8 and one of the new features is the option to have Duck Duck Go as the default search engine in Safari. If you have concerns over the privacy implications of sharing your search history with Google so they can build an advertiser-friendly profile then make the switch on your iPhone and iPad.

Posted: 23 September, 2014

The Rorschach scan

Ultrasound scan image

We’re having a baby. It’s wonderful, exciting and scary. The child (gender remains unknown and will stay that way till the birth) is due on Jan 1st. A new life to see in the new year.

As is standard in the UK, we’ve had a collection of ultrasound scans to check on the baby’s development (bless the NHS). Truly these scans are a breathtaking example of how medical technology has developed. To have a window into the womb and see something so small, so unknown defies description.

I do have a confession though. When you’re sat looking at the light and dark shapes on the screen it isn’t easy to see the the true image. An expert is trained to see the real picture. Me, I just guess.

“You can see the heart beating.” says the ultrasound operator whilst Clare and I sat nodding. Then they point at a completely different part of the screen to where I was concentrating.

Like the proud would-be dad I am, I show the 12 week scan to a friend.

“What’s that?” he asked.
“Er, the nose?” I replied.
“Bloody big nose.”
“Maybe it’s an arm then.”

The truth is, an ultrasound scan is in some ways a Rorschach image. The viewer projects onto it what they think they see, not what is there.

Not just the physical development of the featus. Emotions, expectations and ideologies are all extended onto that small picture.

Some people look and see a person, waiting to join the world. A kick of the leg and they’ll be a sports star. A roll onto their side and they’ll be someone who enjoys a snooze on the sofa “just like their father.”.

Some don’t see that They may see something with the potential to be a person, or they may see nothing at all. Just patterns of light and dark.

I’m not here to judge what people see. For the record, I’m for a woman’s right to choose what happens to her body. I just find it interesting how the same image can be viewed in different ways, and how much of our own outlook we project.

A baby scan tells us much about the development happing in the womb. It tells us just as much about the people observing.

Posted: 31 August, 2014

The real ice bucket challenge

There’s a lot of videos going around of people doing the ’ice bucket challenge’ in which people have a bucket of ice poured over their head, make a donation to charity and nominate three others to do the same.

To those pouring perfectly drinkable water over themselves, can I suggest they instead take the money they would spend on ice cubes and donate it to Water Aid instead.

Posted: 25 August, 2014

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