Adam Bird


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Wednesday, 30 January 2008

Angels and Demons

In the middle of last year, sometime before the football season started I wrote about how Gravesend and Northfleet had changed there name to Ebbsfleet United and how wrong I believed it to be.

Well according to the BBC in this article, they were actually paid by the developers of Ebbsfleet to undertake this bastardisation of their name and confirms my feelings of distaste about what my home town club has become.

However, this blog posting, rather than rant on again about those so called "future-thinkers" from Stonebridge Road is regarding the main focus of the above BBC article.

Five artists have been asked to design a sculpture measuring 50 metres (165 ft) that will be visible from road, rail and air.

An estimated 40 million people a year will ride past it on trains and in cars, and the landmark must create a sense of pride and belonging for the planned new town of Ebbsfleet. Ten thousand homes are being built in the next 20 years as part of a huge regeneration project.

Now, initially that sounds quite exciting! I have driven past the Angel of the North, which has become an icon to the locals, as demonstrated in the film Purely Belter! Something similar a bit closer to home would be a great idea.

However, reading from the above quotation "the landmark must create a sense of pride and belonging for the planned new town", I couldn't help but think that the planning people, or powers that be may have got a bit ahead of themselves.

Ebbsfleet, according to the official development website, (which rather interestingly covers all aspects of the project) reveals that the completion date of works is not for another 20 years!

Does this mean that the planners want their designated designers to design something for all these new people who will be arriving over the next 20 years, and feel a sense of pride straightaway?

If I moved to Ebbsfleet when the new houses are built, would I feel that I was moving town? No. I would be moving to another part of Gravesend, no matter what a town planner would tell me. Like moving to Riverview Park, Denton, Singlewell or Painters Ash.

What about those from another area? If I was a Londoner for example, looking to move down to Ebbsfleet for whatever reason, would I feel a pride in the area? Not really I suppose. I would be living there out of a lifestyle choice, as a commuter most probably and my real ties would be elsewhere, and so my home, is just that, a place to eat and sleep.

Or is it for the locals benefit, those people who currently live in Gravesend, Swanscombe and Northfleet and are looking for something that we can all feel pride in, something that will celebrate the fact that 40,000 people over the next 20 years are going to be using our already cramped and busy roads, education resources, medical resources and take over our green spaces?

I realise that millions are going to be spent on additional medical, educational and business facilities, but can you imagine what Bluewater is going to be like with another 40,000 people next door?!

I am by no means a tree hugger, I think that the Ebbsfleet project is rather exciting, I just hope that there is money there for Gravesend, Northfleet and Swanscombe because there are areas in all three towns that are desperate for money to be invested for regeneration. Putting all the eggs into one basket springs to mind here.

The "Angel of the South", could be a good idea, could be a GREAT idea, but I do think it is somewhat premature. Placing it in a field next to a train station will initially attract the wrong kind of attention. But I guess by doing it now, 40,000 people are going to be moving to the area without worrying about the eyesore overlooking there property, rather than trying to get 40,000 people to agree on something that they will never agree on.

It will be interesting to see what designs are put forward, these type of things nearly always cause controversy, and invariably go wrong. One local example that springs to mind is Maidstones Sheep sculpture made from flowers or something and wasn't exactly welcomed by all!

Reading the BBC comments in response to this article makes for some interesting reading. There are certainly some strong opinions about, which is good to see, especially from local people opposing the plan, and agreeing with my point in which anything of this ilk should not be considered when compromising local resources for hospitals and education.

As to what it should look like? Well the Kent Invicta Horse would be an apt choice, especially as it is also part of the Gillingham FC badge - serving those fools from "Ebbsfleet United" right!

Alternatively, randomly pick someone from Gravesend, Swanscombe or Northfleet from the polling records and immortalise them as a 50m brass statue. It would be a completely random brainstormed idea, in fitting with most of the other ideas coming forth from the Ebbsfleet development team!

*There are more details, including the location of landmark on the official landmark site (which by the way, along with ALL of the other Ebbsfleet sites are in flash, and therefore not web accessible, another topic which I won't go into).

Tuesday, 29 January 2008

iWant iPhone

The iPhone, must have gadget for boys who like their toys (and Pastors apparently).

Having watched the full hour long podcast direct from Apple HQ back at the beginning of 2007 I was rather enthused and said "I must get me one one of those!". However, with the price and restrictions in contract with O2 and what not it seems that I will be waiting for just a little while longer.

However, this post is not all about the iPhone and its negativities, nor indeed the many highlights. Although it does have a damn fine camera, which brings me to my point.

I have taken just shy of 233,784 photos of Oliver since he has born, and not one of them matches the quality of the images which arrived in Stephs inbox last night.

Oliver had been staying with Steph's friend Cheryl, and apparently her iPhone owning boyfriend had taken some snaps. After a swift navigation through Hotmail Live's endless security protocols we were finally able to see the images Paul had sent.

When Steph said that they had been taken with an iPhone, I didn't quite believe her, but then she isn't one to exagerate on these things - although it must be noted confusion has abounded once or twice!

Having gotten myself completely carried away and marvelled at the shear beauty of the said images, I decided that I would have to make groovy little desktop wallpapers and share them with my friends and family.

Two resolutions are available: 1024 x 800 and 1280 x 1024, simply select the size you want, right click > save as and then use your control panel to do the clever part.

Donations to the Adam Bird iPhone fund are not compulsory, nor royalites payable to Paul the photographer, but they will be very much appreciated (disclaimer: Joke).




Tuesday, 8 January 2008

Party time!

Here is a short video of oliver having his own party at his nan's house!

Thursday, 3 January 2008

Remembering 2007

I wrote at the beginning of 2007 a reflective blog looking back at the year 2006, and in an attempt to keep consistent I will attempt to take a similar look back at 2007.

At the end of 2006 Oliver joined Stephanie and I into our world, and so 2007 was about nurturing, discovery and growth. It was also a year in which marriages took place, and a year in which Stephanie and I were given an opportunity to settle down our own roots.

It wasn't long after the arrival of Oliver that I had to go back to work, only having two weeks paternity leave entitled to me. Being a male, work felt more important after Oliver's arrival and gave me an extra sense of responsibility. Coming home to Stephanie and Oliver in the beginning was a real blessing each day and I was often left jealous of Stephanie's stories as she enthusiastically explained Oliver's latest new things to me.

That excitement was unfortunately shorted lived, as Stephanie herself ran out of maternity day's and was back to the harsh reality of Sainsbury's Crayford! Stephanie and I are constantly appreciative of how both my Mum and Auntie Marlene give up their time in which to care for Oliver whilst we are both at work. It was something that we were aware of during the pregnancy itself, but I am not too sure that either of us were completely prepared for the feeling of leaving your child in the hands of someone else all day, even if it is two amazing people in your close family.

It is something that, if we want to have another child that we need to address and prepare for correctly next time around. It is a big ask for someone to look after one child all day, but for two it would be a bit of a cheek! Incidentally, if anyone has any suggestions, answers on an email would be much appreciated!

If Oliver was unsettled by the lack of parental influence in his life during the day it was never obvious to either of us. In fact his development and changes both physically and mentally kept blowing us away throughout the course of the year. Stephanie's meticulous note taking and filling in of Oliver's various "baby books", alongside my rather adventurous year in the life project meant although we wouldn't actually be spending much time with Oliver in his first year, his would have certainly be one of the best recorded!

The year in the life project was certainly an adventurous project, but one that now completed has been immensely rewarding. Nanny Carly and I were talking on New Years Eve about looking back at the photos and trying to identify the precise moment in which Oliver stopped being a baby and became the little boy that his is now. Neither of us were able to do it!

I am certain that if we was able to perform a scientific experiment in attempting to find what Carly and I were looking for the conclusions would point to any particular moment in Mexico, where we went for two weeks in September to celebrate Steph's brother John's wedding to Nadine.

Stephanie and I hadn't been on a two week holiday since 1998 and before we left we wondered if two weeks would be too much! How wrong we were! We were gutted to be coming home and quite easily have stayed there for another eternity at least!

The whole two weeks were a godsend really, as we managed to spend quality time with Oliver, and Stephanie with her family. I don't know how she felt at seeing her baby brother get married in such idyllic surroundings, but it certainly inspired some thoughts in how I saw Stephanie I celebrating our own marriage one day into the future.

We had already enjoyed two amazing weddings by the time we flew out to Cozumel, with Mark and Nicola becoming Mr and Mrs Pattison, where Oliver took his first (of hopefully many) visits to the Rainham End at Gillingham Football Club, and my baby sister Jessica married James to become Mrs Shovelar.

Jessica wouldn't forgive me if I never mentioned her wedding in a review of 2007 as it was without any doubt the highlight of their lives, let alone their year! It was certainly a day to remember, and a day that I will struggle to live up to when I finally get around to getting hitched myself.

It was certainly a strange experience watching your baby sister getting married, and another thing that she did that I was traditionally expected to do first. I was certainly very proud of her and of Dad who ad-libbed his father of the bride speech to much emotion for us watching.

On behalf of Stephanie, Oliver and I, we would like to wish all three couples the very best for the future once again, and hope that you have more magical day's like you wedding days were.

All of the weddings in 2007, plus the engagements of Will and Liv, Stu and Aim, Tom and Jenny meant that a little more pressure was heading my way with a few "when are you gonna get married" questions.

Now, I understand that we have been together for 10 years in March and so people look at time as being a key factor, but I am looking at this from my point of view. We were very young when we got together, I was only 17! When we moved out together, I was only 23 which was younger than most of my friends when they started co-habiting. Besides which we have never really being rolling in money to afford the expensive diamonds and tiara's that Stephanie rightly deserves!

There is a religious part to my family, and I understand that certain eyebrows have been raised at the thoughts of pregnancy before marriage, which is fine for those who have those religious feelings, (the emphasise here being practice what your preach), but Stephanie and I are not religious and so therefore shouldn't be persecuted on those terms.

We made the decisions together to have a baby and it was the best decision we ever made! Of course in an ideal world we would have married before we moved out and conceived on our wedding night, but fortunately we live in the real world and we are doing things in the way that we see best and suits our personal circumstances.

One day we will get married, as both of us really want to marry, but we also want to do it in a way that we feel we will enjoy. After all we will only ever do it once, so why hurry?

It's funny though how this year has worked out, what with all the weddings and watching people build lives together and plans for the future. 2007 was meant to be a year in which we settled down with Oliver and find our feet and look at taking the next steps which for us was securing the flat so that we owned it all and wasn't reliant on shared ownership anymore. I was certain that by owning our our home would make it easier when we came to eventually move and maybe one day buy a house so that Oliver could have a garden in which to play.

When Mum and Dad said that they were moving I was a little upset as it meant the selling of the "family" home. However, nothing stays forever and so it was going to be cool seeing Mum and Dad in a new house, which would be bigger and better for Mum and Dad's growing army of grand children. But then did we want to buy the house off them?

It really was a bit like that, a bit out of the blue and not really something we expected! After a proper conversation about it and some investigation it was definitely something that we would be able to manage! And so it came to be!

We haven't quite got a ten year plan as sometimes verbally suggested, but if we did, we would be far ahead of schedule right now! We are so very grateful to my parents for their help and allowing us this opportunity to settle some roots, and I am sure that Stephanie will agree it is something that we never expected.

An opportunity has presented itself to us, and as we head into 2008 we are in a good place! We can plan for a more secure future and by learning from past mistakes we can hopefully make a success of things, settle into a nice home and make things our own. It would be a minor miracle, but we may even be able to save some money allowing us to have another baby and Stephanie some extented time out of work, or even an overdue wedding so that we can experience our own day like one of the three amazing days we had in the past year.

Then again, as 2007 proved, nothing can be planned or expected!
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