The best article I have ever read about work.
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.
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.
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:
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. 
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.
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!
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.
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.
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. ↩
In a fly-by of Earth on its way to Jupiter, NASA’s Juno probe took a short movie of the Moon orbiting the Earth. It’s the first time the Moon’s orbit has been captured on film.
Last night, I asked this:
Your suggestions please, for an epic middle name for our baby boy.
— Oli (@oli) November 29, 2013
The ones I can publish:
@oli Gwahir the Windlord
— Ed Mehen (@EdMehen) November 29, 2013
— Podders (@morris_oxford) November 29, 2013
— booyaa (@booyaa) November 29, 2013
— Mark O’Neill (@marxculture) November 29, 2013
I wanted to add my thoughts and reflections as part of the motley crew who organised the gig itself.
On Saturday morning we had no idea who was going to turn up. Nervous glances and awkward jokes were exchanged, and we were left wondering if anyone was really motivated enough to come along after breaking loose and partying the evening before.
Our fears were misplaced. People appeared in dribs and drabs. Coffee was made (and spilled) and hello’s exchanged. Briefs were reviewed and teams started to form.
I’ve learnt through painful experience that anything which requires a degree of facilitation can be very unpredictable. Coupled with the fact that I am considerably more shy that my gregarious overcompensation suggests I had no idea what I’d need to do during the gig.
Within 10 minutes of Gaz kicking things off and people really getting down to it I felt it was obvious we’d hit upon the perfect mixture of people. Heads were down, marker pens were squeaking furiously, and the four of us who first discussed this crazy idea back in July were left twiddling our thumbs.
Running one of these gigs is hard. GFN is great because its set up not to require formal leaders, but having spent months thinking and putting this together I felt a sense of responsibility to make sure everyone was getting something out of it.
It ends up this was one of the easiest things I have ever helped to facilitate. I felt a massive sense of accomplishment in being able to have an outlet for my technical and creative juices that I just don’t normally have 
Inspirational is a very over-used word. But there were a few things about last weekend that I think warrant its use. found what happened last weekend
Firstly, the fact that people decided it would be better to do work for free than stay in bed at the weekend. They were prepared to offer their skills to help something that benefits others. I don’t want to sound preachy, but that’s pretty inspirational to me.
Secondly, we had a fine mix of people. People who are used to doing this kind of thing for a living to people who aren’t used to speaking publicly or working in project groups. Everyone managed to contribute something and everyone was made to feel valued.
#gfncol is a perfect example of what can get done when money and politics are removed from a situation.
— GFNColchester (@GFNColchester) November 24, 2013
There’s often a lot of grumbling in Colchester. We can be a confused little town: often filibustering and worrying more about point scoring than Just Getting On. There are so many things that are happening in our little corner of Essex to be proud of — which show we’re a lot more than a poor Channel 4 series about one naff bar. I’m really pleased that GFN Colchester is a part of that.
There’s been some discussion today about a couple of videos produced by Colchester Borough Council: one about Food Waste Recycling, the other about ‘social media’. Given that I create online content for a living I thought i’d offer some constructive criticism, along with an offer of support to Colchester Borough Council .
The two videos:
First, things first, I think the fact that these exist at all is a good thing. It means CBC have crossed from talking to doing, and that is a scary step. It’s also really important to say that I wouldn’t have approved either of these videos for release to the public, for one important reason.
I don’t understand what they’re trying to get me to do.
Video is an excellent online medium, and it is seductively easy to feel like you’re doing something good with it when perhaps you’re not. Any content you create needs to answer a really simple question: “What’s the story I’m trying to tell, and what do I want people to do once I’ve told them it?”
The ‘Binlings’ video is a great idea on paper, but I know from bitter experience how expensive and time consuming it is to create something that involves good character animation and which feels warm and fuzzy.
I think an alternative might have been to show the real impact of not recycling our food, and what happens when we recycle it: think piles and piles of landfill contrasted with neatly rotting compost or biogas.
My real beef is with the ‘Social Media video’. This is perpetuates so many myths about the modern internet which are just false. Social media is not:
A social media strategy is not ‘post 3 times a day to Twitter’. It is thinking deeply about how you will use these immensely powerful tools to have a proper connection with the people you serve — in this case everyone in Colchester.
So, my offer of help: I’ll gladly donate some time to help CBC write a proper social media strategy, and to understand what it could actually do for them. Anyone else in?
 This isn’t the first time I’ve offered. Back in March myself and some other interested folks met up with the council, but sadly nothing progressed. I’d love to do more. https://twitter.com/ColchChronic/status/310012191849992192
The internet is great, but it can make it seductively easy to feel like you might be making a difference about something you might care about when you’re not.
Starting next week in Colchester there’s an opportunity to change this a little bit.
Good for Nothing is a national network of groups that get together to do good, for nothing. It encourages people to come out from hiding behind their screen, meet new people and make a bit of a difference. It is not about talking, but doing.
We are hosting the first of a series of weekend get togethers next weekend, bringing a group of interesting people together to look at real challenges being faced by local groups working to make our community better.
It’s a chance to spend a few hours over the weekend contributing (any) skills you have to helping a good cause.
The causes who are looking for help will be present what they need and you’ll have a chance to offer your support to any or all of them over the course of the get together.
We’ll be meeting on the evening of Friday 22nd November and during the day of Saturday 23rd November at the marvellous Waiting Room in St. Botolph’s, Colchester.
You may be a writer, designer or coder; artist, photographer or business owner.
You also might be none of those things. It doesn’t matter. You can help by wanting to share your brain power on how to solve a few problems for your community.
A few things actually: