Category Archives: Blogging

Not just a whole new human life

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In the pre-dawn light, I sit with my new-born, my first-born child. He is curled like a wrinkled cashew nut on my belly with his hands tucked up under his chin. He gurgles, a bit of milky vomit drips out of the corner of his mouth, and he smiles as he lets out a little fart. He is, in his father’s eyes in these grey hours of the night, the image of perfection.

For the last three weeks, I have been on paternity leave. This time has been invaluable. It is time when I spend hours cuddling my boy on the sofa feeling like I can never be close enough to him for long enough. I know this time will never be repeated and so I breath in every moment we spend together. It absorbs my every being as I consciously and subconsciously devote myself to him. At this stage, it seems to take my all just to respond to his basic needs but I daydream as I hold him. I daydream about supporting him through his life ahead, helping him shape his own future, live his own dreams, fulfil the potential of this whole new human life that sits in my arms.

The moments not taken up by cuddling, nappy changes and feeds are spent with a never-ending rotation of domestic chores. The clothes washing cycle never stops, the house is seemingly never tidy and the babygrows at hand are always too big or too small and need sorting by size. These domestic rituals though add to a profound sense of connection as everything I do somehow feels connected to his wellbeing.

I constantly search for the balance between being caring and just common sense. In one moment, I find myself crouching down on the cold tiles of our kitchen floor. Seconds later in a tired daze I find myself still staring at the new array of washing powders in my cupboard wondering if you really need different washing powder for babygrows?

I still have no idea. There is a lot I still have no idea about.

The last three weeks have been an unprecedented learning curve for me but one that I feel somewhere deep inside me that I have spent 30 years preparing for. It feels natural to be so out of my depth – a billion first time parents all lost at sea.

I imagine first time parenthood as something that equals us all as we all wallow in this strange mixture of cluelessness and powerful natural guiding urges. We stumble through the late nights following snippets of information we garner from friends, family, and increasingly the internet as we continue to learn from our mistakes.

I realise that before anyone has children (time I now refer to as B.C) nobody tells you that a ‘Newborn’ babygrow by one brand might be bigger than an ‘Up to 3 months’ babygrow from another. Why would they? Thus, I now find myself fumbling around for a clean babygrow in the middle of night after he has invariably spilt a bodily liquid or two on his last outfit. I curse the ridiculous, baffling array of poppers that fail in their very specific raison d’être of making it supposedly easier to take a babygrow on and off.

Nobody tells you how are you expected to work all this out without caffeine?

But my wife and I muddle through. As most parents eventually do. And after the nappy has been changed and as the scrunched up ball of tears in my arms goes from a rolling boil of cries to a gentle simmer it feels like he finally starts to forgive my mistakes. He soothes his way into silence as he scrunches up his miniature fists and turns his body into mine. His weight sits lightly as he head nestles into the crease on the inside of my elbow and he gurgles softly and dribbles down my chest.

In these moments when he is fed, clean, and happy he moves into my body like the missing piece of jigsaw that I never knew I was missing. In those early hours when no one exists in the world except for us, I see how he completes me in a way I didn’t know I needed.

I realise as I sit in the early hours of the morning holding my baby boy, that he isn’t just a whole new human life but something that makes me twice the man I was before.

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The simple satisfaction of cycling into work along the River Frome into Bristol

My daily commute follows the River Frome into the centre of Bristol. Or I should say, as close as the modern infrastructure built around the river allows. Every day I pass the same weir, the same log spanning from one bank to another, the same bridge where the river finally disappears below the concrete centre forever from sight.

There is a simple satisfaction in observing how the river responds to the weather and countryside that feeds it. After heavy rains the weir can almost disappear under surging dirty brown water washed from ploughed farmers’ fields. A few days of no rain later, and you will be left with a clear trickle struggling to make it down its shallow path.

On days like today, when the temperature drops below freezing, this slow flowing river begins to freeze over altogether leaving sheets of ice floating in the river’s eddies.

Wrapped in thick coats, scarves and hats, the red flushed faces look out as the dog walkers crunch over the frozen muddy puddles. On one section of path, just south of Broom Hill the puddles perpetually sit never normally fully draining. Today though, they are iced over leaving a crisp brown path slicing through the centre of a frost filled field. The small wooden picnic bench which normally sits opposite a small outcrop of limestone perfect for some climbing in warmer months is today frozen white.

About 2 kilometres north of the city centre the River Frome emerges from the steep valley in which it has been travelling and my commute cuts up through the open expanse of Eastville Park. In these winter months, the sun rises directly to my left, beaming gently through the historic horse chestnut trees that cast long shadows over the frozen ground.

As the river fights its way through the monstrosity of modern out of town shopping my route slips alongside the equally awful piece of urban engineering – the M32, the first real reminder that you’re heading into a major city centre. From here the river dips below concrete in places and the off-road cycle route weaves between skate parks, railway bridges and underpasses.

The embedded heat in the concrete on this stage of the commute means that despite the air temperature being close to minus 4, nothing is frozen. The concrete is grey, the grass green and the sky blue.

Nothing of the surroundings for the last bit of this commute gives any hint of the weather or countryside that surrounds the city. It is then that I feel a huge sense of privilege to have such a commute. Also though, I feel a sadness that for most people, even those whose daily commute is outside of their cars, most people in Bristol would not have seen the frozen field that I cycled through this morning.

As I arrive in the office buoyed by the beauty of the seasons, I can’t help but to wonder what impact it is having on us as a society for most of us to never fully experience or appreciate the changing of the weather, seasons and nature that will always sit beyond our control.

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The end

It had to come at some point. It just did.

I feel sadder than you can imagine writing this. But this is, for now at least, the end of Hynd’s Blog.

A couple of months ago I wrote about how I hoped to fit blogging into my new job and life back in the UK. It was an ambitious plan that I really wanted to make work because I have, in an odd sort of way, grown to really love this blog.

Sadly though, despite the optimism (something that I like to think optimises the last 5 years on this blog), despite the support from so many friends, family and complete strangers, despite the very best of intentions, I just have not been able to implement this plan.

A number of factors have forced me into this situation. There are two that spring to mind.

Firstly, not having enough time to research topics that are close to my heart has pushed my writing closer and closer to either the descriptive or the repetitive of others opinions. Descriptive and repetitive are two adjectives that act as nails to an analytical blog’s coffin.

Secondly, the metaphorical biting of my virtual tongue that I referred to in my previous post has, sadly, pushed the content on Hynd’s Blog closer and closer to the mundane. Again, not the best adjective to be associated with a blog.

A little about the second point:

I am no longer just having to worry about my own reputation – something that it is easy to be flippant about – but also one of an elected Mayor. Most civilised readers of this blog would find it hard to comprehend the level of sinister attacks some are willing to make against the Mayor. I have little doubt that some of those attacking him would happily do this through personally attacking his staff. It is the opposite of the old adage playing the ball not the player.

It has already got to a stage where not saying something online leads to quite unpleasant personal attacks.

In an effort to not fuel these trolls I realise that I have moved beyond the cautious and into the utterly mundane. With the odd exception, I have not written anything of any particular interest in the last few months.

For someone who is surrounded by inspiration, innovation and interest and who is driven by intrigue into it all, this realisation profoundly saddens me.

I cannot see this situation changing and so part of my decision to end Hynd’s Blog is based on a desire not to see it limp on for the coming months.

Looking back though, Hynd’s Blog is something that I remain profoundly proud of. It has dipped in an out of the top 100 influential UK political blogs, it been visited by hundreds of thousands of people and most of all, it has, on the rarest of occasions, succeeded in convincing people to change their minds on a given subject.

I am proud beyond words of what Hynd’s Blog has grown to be and I hope that at some point, it will have a future.

With all this in mind all is left to say is a huge thank you to you for coming along for the ride – it has been a blast!

Steve

PS – I plan to cross-post anything I publish elsewhere so stay signed up if you want to be notified of when I post these occasional articles!

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