Take the number 62 and deduct your current age.
This is the number of years you have left until early retirement. Of course, nobody retires early anymore. This number is a shock to most people. If you’re in your late 20s, you have almost 35 years of your career left. Even if you are 40, you are not even at the halfway pole.
I don’t quite know where to begin with this. If you aren’t shaking your head vigorously by the end of the article there’s something wrong with you.
“High On Hashtags” is described in the festival program thus: “Dazed and confused, consumers and brands alike are trippin’ on hashtags,” it read. They’re tripping on something, all right. “Who here lost a bet, and that’s why you’re here?” asked one of the presenters, Eric Bader. After that, he and his co-host said the word “hashtag” for an hour, pausing to take occasional questions.
Most people that I’ve told tend to deliver a one-two punch of excitement followed by a well timed upper cut of negativity. It’s like someone cooking you a beautiful meal and then serving you brussel sprout tarte tatin for dessert.
“Oh! That’s it then! Just you wait! Say goodbye to sleep!”
This is pretty much the first thing out of most people’s mouths once you tell them you’re expecting. They’re inducting you into a special club. Where the price of entry is a constant throbbing headache and endless scowling.
I’m not naïve. I know our life is going to change completely, and I know that is going to be hard. And painful. And difficult. I just find it curious that most people tend to focus on the pain rather than why you’re doing it.
“You’re doing what?!”
We are doing Hypnobirthing classes to prepare for our son’s arrival. Hypnobirthing is based around the idea that the body is designed to give birth. If you work alongside it rather than fighting it you can have an easier and less painful birth. It is not for everyone, but I think it is for us.
Giving birth is scary. It involves the two most precious things in my life doing things they’ve never done before. It can go wrong. We want to approach it by preparing for the best, and if the worst happens, handling it as best we can. Not the other way around.
I’ve never been more excited about anything than becoming a Dad. I’ve never been more scared about anything than becoming a Dad.
I think that embracing the former helps deal with the latter, I just wish more people did too.
I’ve had the fortune to go on some pretty excellent holidays over the last few years. Last summer we took the best trip of the lot, travelling from home in Colchester to Italy, Switzerland and France — all on a train.
We had a pretty good idea of where we wanted to visit  but no idea how to get there. This is where we stumbled upon the first thing I came to love about European train travel:
You can get pretty much anywhere in the world by train from the UK
Example: There are only 5 changes needed to get from Colchester to Vladivostok (yes, Vladivostok in Russia).
Deutsche Bahn’s bahn.com is simply outstanding for planning your route. It gives you chapter and verse on journey times, connections and so forth. Booking with them is a little tricky, but fortunately there’s a splendid solution for that particular problem.
These guys are simply fantastic. Once I’d worked out my route I gave them a call. Nothing was too much trouble. Every leg of the journey was booked with cost and convenience in mind. Tickets arrived promptly and with a clear itinerary.
Put simply, if you’re considering booking a train adventure, book with Rail Europe. 
When you’re there
I would thoroughly recommend getting the DB Navigator app. Its a great way of keeping a log of your day’s journey, and if you’ve got a connection it will usually tell you which platform you need to get to.
We settled upon a long first leg, heading straight from Colchester to Rome using the Eurostar and Thellio Sleeper service from Paris to Rome. We’d then go from Rome into deepest Switzerland and then back out to Paris. A vaguely circular route of around 2,500 miles.
The sleeper train from London to Rome on the Thellio.
If you’re going to take a lengthy trip across Europe on the train you’re pretty likely to encounter a sleeper service at some point. We picked the Thellio, which goes direct from Paris Gare du Lyon to Rome. Word is this service has recently been withdrawn which is a massive shame.
Paris was hot. 32c when we arrived. The train had been sat in the siding all day. The air conditioning was off and the windows closed. We’d booked a two ‘bed’ sleeper compartment. A step up from the couchettes which are little more than a bunk bed. The compartment was very comfortable, but don’t expect too much in the way of luxury. It was like camping but on a fast moving train.
None of this matters though, because less than 24 hours after stepping on a train in Essex we stepped off a train in Italy!
Swiss trains are the best
The goal of our trip was to visit Switzerland. My wife’s grandfather collected and built model Swiss trains, and we wanted to see them for real.
All the stereotypes about Swiss trains are true: On time, beautifully comfortable, smooth. Imagine the UK but if we’d never listened to Beeching.
One of the longest legs of our journey was from Basel to Paris. 3 hours on the TGV-Lyria. This is a French/Swiss joint venture and one of the most amazing trains I have ever been on. 300 km/h through the French and Swiss countryside, non stop, no signals.
Coming home: Eurostar and Liverpool Street
After Switzerland and Paris it was time to come home. On the Eurostar.
The Eurostar has always felt rather romantic to me. Where you can skid under the Channel and emerge in France in the blink of an eye, with the giddy excitement of different electricity pylons, louchely spoken French and the social acceptance of shandy as a pre-dinner drink.
That giddiness was burnt away quite quickly. Once you’ve tasted ambrosia anything else tastes like a shrink wrapped sandwich. Eurostar looked old. 1990’s decor and Parisien customer service.
Liverpool Street was even worse. I have the worst kind of pavlovian reaction there. 10 years of commuting has taught me to seek out Platform 9, 10 or 11 with laser guided precision. Its almost pointless to say that this was the only leg of our trip which was delayed. But we didn’t care, we’d just been to Europe and back on the train.
Let the train take the strain
Until last year, I’d never ever considered taking a holiday where I’d rely entirely on a train. Right now, I can’t think of a better way to vacation. One where you can enjoy the journey as much as the destination. Give it a go.
The gorgeous and largely unknown town of Arbon, in Switzerland. My wife’s family come from here. ↩
Granted it does take eight days, but that’s not the point. Its 5 trains. It takes 3 to get from Colchester to Thurso in Scotland. ↩
I’m not on commission. They are however, changing names soon to VoyagesSNCF as part of an expansion. ↩
When I am in a foul mood, I have a surefire way to improve my outlook – I build something. A foul mood is a stubborn beast and it does not give ground easily. It is an effort to simply get past the foulness in order to start building, but once the building has begun, the foul beast loses ground.
I don’t know what cascading chemical awesomeness is going down in my brain when it detects and rewards me for the act of building, but I’m certain that the hormonal cocktail is the end result of millions of years of evolution. Part of the reason we’re at the top of the food chain is that we are chemically rewarded when we are industrious – it is evolutionarily advantageous to be productive.
And we’re slowly and deviously being trained to forget this.
This is simply excellent, and exactly how I feel. It’s easy to get the illusion of doing something. It’s like junk food instead of real nourishment.
Watch this. It is excellent.
Christmas Hamper Day.
We spent a terribly stressful half hour deciding how to adequately file this wonderful excess of goodies.
Sweet biscuits and Florentines need storing differently to mince pies.
It is now Christmas
The Rolling Stones favorite American dish is something the band invented called Hot Dogs on the Rocks:
5 potatoes, or enough instant mashed potatoes to serve five
1 large can baked beans
Prepare instant mashed potatoes, or boil and mash the potatoes. (Use milk and…