Adam Bird


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Sunday, 25 September 2011

Ready for Launch

Baby Bird 2

As the months roll by and we head into October, we become ever closer to finally meeting Baby Bird II, who has slowly been growing within the confines of Stephanie’s womb and will make an appearance when he or she deems themselves to be perfectly ready - in or around their due date of November 3rd.

As pregnancies go, we have been fortunate with this one, no precautionary overnight stops at the hospital or worries about minor things that first time around seem like major obstacles. It is generally perceived that the second pregnancy is easier for parents to cope with and fortunately, so far that seems to be the case. If anything, the only real worry that Stephanie has faced, has been having to cope with the baby’s sporting process. It’s a bit of a footballer apparently with Stephanie’s inside being kicked, booted, twisted and pulled on a regular basis, which anyone who knows and has seen this in action will testify to being quite a sight!

We have also spent the past eight months of so deliberating about names and I think its fair to say we have our final choices now. It has been a difficult process. Names that either of us have liked, the other one hasn’t or in most cases, we’ve both liked it, but have a close friend who has a dog or a cat which shares the same name. It might sound a bit silly, but take the name Millie for example, which both of us like. A friend of my Dad, he had a dog called Millie and it was the ugliest four-legged creature I have ever seen. I still remember it, even though it has been dead for a number of years. If you are going to choose a name for your child it needs to be the right one! As to letting the readers of this blog know what we’ve chosen? Well, you will have to wait a month like everyone else!

Other final preparations have also been made, the nursery has been given a spring clean, with my Stephanie’s sister-in-law coming around later this afternoon to specially clean the carpet (anyone need a cleaner - let me know, I’ll put you in touch) and we’ve got down all the original stuff from Oliver’s birth washed, ready and recycled. The only thing that we’ve not done is got all the blue stuff down yet as not knowing what we are having there isn’t much point!

Finally, to round off the Baby Bird news and to give us that huge sense of impending excitement a rather large holdall sits patiently by the front door, armed ready with all sorts of lotions, potions, contraptions and the vital necessities required when going to the hospital ready to give birth. If we weren’t sure quite what we were letting ourselves in for, the bag acts as a constant reminder - as if we could ever forget.

Sunday, 18 September 2011

A Great River Race

Oarsome Foursome crew

Yesterday afternoon, west of here as I write this, six hardy souls boarded a Clayton Skiff, or a boat between you and I - and rowed it twenty-one miles from Poplar Rowing Club to Richmond in West London as part of this years Great River Race, passing under twenty eight bridges and passing sites; the Tower of London, Houses of Parliament and the London Eye to name a few, that tourists only ever really see from the safety of dry land. They did it despite rain not since biblical times, which threatened to sap the energy from them and ruin what is meant to be a fun afternoon on the river. I was one of those fortunate six - and here is my account of the race yesterday afternoon.

I had originally been pencilled in as being passenger, which all entrants are required to carry - but due to issues within the crew a vacant spot for cox became available. I received a surprising text message only 78 hours before the race from Will, who is skipper of the Oarsome Foursome crew informing me of my unexpected promotion. I didn’t really mind about taking on the role, although some pre-warning and explanation would not have gone amiss! My main worries were the vocal energy needed to keep the crew in rhythm as I’d already mentioned previously in the confines of this blog, steering is relatively easy and felt confident about that, but shouting madly at people isn’t really my forte.

My race preparations were not really in keeping with the amateur sporting code, instead I’d spent the afternoon prior to the race with the people from work on a “team building”, exercise which was another term for alcoholic revelry. We spent the majority of Friday afternoon at the London Cocktail Club learning about mixology and sampling various potent concoctions which left me slightly worse for wear on Saturday morning. I received a call from a worried skipper early Saturday morning ensuring that I was fit for purpose and that I hadn’t suffered absinthe poisoning or the dreaded alarm clock pass-out - which I have done on previous important occasions (my own stag do anyone?).

Fortunately for me Cox’s are not required to submit a mandatory breathe test, so had no worries on that part. Instead I was more concerned about suitable attire for the afternoons race. The weather looked okay to me, nice sunny skies, but I remember last year feeling a bit chilly towards the end of the race, so decided to play it safe after some advice from the skipper, wear jeans, take a waterproof jacket and wrap up warm. I decided to take some shorts as well and another change of jeans just in case the ones I was wearing got wet - the ability of foresight being a blessing as this particular story unfolds.

After I’d demolished a pre-race meal of a rather large McDonalds, again violating any sporting code but satisfying my post alcoholic appetite we made our way via a PLA water taxi to the beach at Poplar Rowing club, where preparations were made to Magog, our Clayton Skiff vessel for the day. Stuart and Keith were screwing, bolting, sawing, drilling, gaffer taping, clamping an array of cushions, flagpoles, refreshments kiosks for each rower and an assortment of other bits, which had we known what was coming; central heating, damp proofing and a roof would have been a better alternative.

Once however, final preparations had been made, I took a look at the weather, was feeling rather warm and a touch sweaty, so decided to change into my shorts; which at the time was a great idea! Even as the race got going, leaving Poplar at 14:07 on the dot, keeping in line with the military organisation as the cannons went off around our ears and crews began earnestly rowing as their lives depended upon it, I felt quite comfortable and steered our fine Magog through the early traffic with calm and confidence.

Now coxing for me is like driving. You have good drivers (me) and bad drivers (everyone else), it’s the same upon the river. As Stuart, Keith, Foordy and Will made haste and Anthony, youngest of all Foords counted loudly, keeping the pace which compensated for my lack of vocal encouragement I was left to avoid the bad and even worse of other cox’s. None more so than a hulking great viking boat which had a crew of about twenty, all rowing this heavy great boat with oars that were four meters long and going at a rather pedestrian pace. We are allocated arches for each bridge that we are meant to go under, miss them at your peril by all accounts, so it was important that I made each bridge correctly. As we were rowing considerably faster than the Viking boat, I took us around the left hand side (bow side for coxing enthusiasts), who were themselves overtaking someone else, but we all needed to swing right and through the archway furthest to the right of the bridge - else we’d miss our allocated arch. As we were alongside, I expected, like any right minded individual would, that the boat alongside us would move over, but it didn’t until I gently moved closer and was forced to bully them out of the way - mission accomplished which was gratefully received by the crew, maybe not so much theirs!

After this little scuffle, we carried onwards as the clouds grew darker and the water grew choppier. We had already hit some big waves passing the docklands and a tourist boat had sped by causing the water to ruffle wildly in it’s wake. Poor Anthony, youngest of the Foords who had stood in at the last minute as my replacement as passenger. He was the one who received the full weight of the waters wrath as he was perched delicately on the front of the boat. A pair of wet trousers never hurt anyone but as we approached the House of Parliament, the weather took a turn for the worse. One of the benefits of coxing is that you can see what is approaching, as opposed to everyone else who is facing the other way. It was quite surreal watching the rain ahead, like a brick wall that we were about to hit with force and face the circumstances, which in this case was a right royal soaking.

This was BIG rain. Huge, heavy and stinging. I managed to get my waterproof jacket on and camera bag covered up before I was too wet, but with the water acting like a volatile, spoilt child ensuring the boat was straight with just one hand was a near impossible task. The rain continued at its heaviest for nearly and hour, and it only really stopped fifteen minutes from the end. But coming up to each bridge, the applause from the spectators really gave the boys a lift and as we passed underneath we were given a nice five second respite from the rain that seemed to grow colder as we went on.

Towards the end, when the four oarsmen were at their most physically tired, the knowledge that they had nearly reached their goal inspired them to new heights. The counting returned from the front of the boat, Stuart bellowed “ROW” loudly in rhythm with the oars and our worn out Magog was forced up a couple of gears until the finishing line passed by with a cannon salute and the sound of musketry ringing once again in the ears.

The end of the Great River Race is normally a time of celebration. Champagne corks pop amidst the carnage of getting the boats out of the water. Beers are sunk and backs are slapped as everyone congratulates everyone else on a job well done. But this year was a slightly muted affair - at least for us. I cannot talk for everyone as we had already left. Attempting to get the party started Stuart ordered beers, but the two Foords and I stood there, with a pint in our hands I could barely bring it to my lips as my hands were shaking too much with cold.

By the time I got home, my clothes were just a damp mess, right the way through to my underpants which I could still have easily wrung out. But snuggled on the warmth and comfort of the sofa I read a Facebook status from Anthony, youngest of the Foords, which read “worst experience of my adult life” and I laughed, it could have, should have been me. But whilst his afternoon was particularly unpleasant, as ours all were, we are left with the day after the night before syndrome where things are put into perspective.

Not many people get an opportunity to row up the River Thames, some of these boys have done it at least four. But rowing up the most famous river in the whole world which is bathed in history, viewable the entire length of the route by artifacts and reminders, during weather conditions that need to be written and described to be believed is something that I will always remember. Worst experience of my adult life? Maybe, but one of the most memorable, almost certainly!

Sunday, 11 September 2011

Mr and Mrs Bird - A Redux


Exactly a year today, Stephanie and I married at the Little Silver Country Hotel in Tenterden. I could sit and write about the whole day, how much it meant to us to be surrounded by our friends and family and having them enjoy the day with us. Or the romance, or the fear and nervous excitement in the build up. But then, pictures sometimes speak louder than words - here is a selection of photos that tell the story of a day we'll never forget.

Saturday September 11th 2010

Saturday September 11th 2010

Saturday September 11th 2010

Sunday, 4 September 2011

Celebrating September

Wedding Day

I am naturally one of these people who has a fondness for the past, things that I've done, good times, looking back feeling nostalgic and reminiscing about holidays, occasions, friendships and the way things used to be. It's not actually a trait that I am particularly fond of, it makes me feel older in mind than I should necessarily be. If I'm like this now, what will I be like if I ever make it to a ripe old age?

Nevertheless, now that we have entered the month of September, I can't help think back to this time last year, to my stag party, my wedding day, the feelings that were evoked of finally "coming of age" and now, even further back, the ten year anniversary of my first boys holiday to Malia and even further still, the twentieth anniversary of starting secondary school, which coincides nicely with my first child starting school next week for the very first time.

Another one of those traits which I dislike about myself is thinking too deeply about things. Rather than saving it all for when I've drunk too much and wallowing in the bottom of an empty glass I tend to do it quite regularly, in quiet times, sitting on the train coming home from work, or more recently when I'm out running (I told you exercise was bad for you). But thinking about this post as I was running this morning and the content for looking at all things that have happened in September, I remembered something that should have, but never did - my birth.

I was due towards the end of September but being the impatient soul that I am, I decided to fight my way out eight weeks early, so was born instead towards the end of July.

It is a question that I have thought about often; how different would things have been had I been arrived on time? Had I been born when I should, I would have been a year lower at school, would have made different friends, might have passed the eleven plus, so might have gone to a different secondary school etc etc etc. All 'what if' questions and maybes, I know, but as I say, what if questions in which I have pondered over in more reflective times. Ultimately none it matters and none of the answers have ever given me cause for regret - how could they?
Instead, September is a month in which, particularly now as the memories of last year are so fresh and that there are always photos now which act as reminders - even the dodgy ones, of the wedding, the surprise honeymoon and at the beginning of the month, the three day stay in Ibiza which fulfilled so many dreams for me and have spent the last twelve months wondering just how the hell I can go back.

Since the first of September, I kept thinking to myself, this time last year I was dressed up in a Tweety Pie outfit flying to Ibiza, this time last year Will and I were at Es Paradis with Foordy and Shove having the "best night ever ™". And so it continued, with the depressing realisation that a year ago I was dressed up in a pink tutu, bikini and fluffy boots as a women with a face caked in make-up walking down the sunset strip and dancing - squashed up with thousands of sweaty clubbers in Amnesia. The little moment I had with myself as the sun went down on the last night of our stay in Ibiza and as I sit and write this we would have been making our way home, ready for me to begin a week filled with nervous excitement at the wedding only seven days away.

Everyone says "your wedding day, it's the best day of your life". I remember speaking to previous couples who had been married and asking them how they enjoyed it and that they would say the same things as the famous saying that everyone says. I would think, "oh that's nice", perhaps patronisingly or condescending, but only because I hadn't experienced it for myself. But looking back, after Stephanie and I had gone back to our room on our wedding night and we were tucking into a midnight buffet that the hotel had arranged for us, talking about the day that had just passed, the excitement of finally finding out where we were going on our honeymoon and that we would be going to Hong Kong in just a few days time. The panic over what to pack and the amount of time we had to do it - and I stopped for just a moment, said to Stephanie, "I couldn't ever relate to people who have been married and said that their wedding day was the best day of their lives, but I can now, that was amazing!" and it was! Whenever I go to a wedding now, I have so much envy for the bride and groom as they are going through what we went through that I want to do it all over again!

It would seem that I'm not the only one with a fondness for anniversary's. The BBC website had an article last week looking back at the Germany vs England game where we beat them in Munich 5-1, which is so still vivid in the mind, despite the graininess and appearance of age in the photographs. It was ten years ago that happened, which meant ten years ago that us boys went to Malia, today in fact marks that particularly anniversary! We were all so fresh faced and young, just like the boys from the film Inbetweeners

Our anniversary next Sunday, the day that Stephanie and I married last year, also marks the tenth anniversary of our arrival back in the country from our Malia trip as mentioned above, but on a global scale, that day will always be significant to the events that happened in New York on the same day, when terrorists struck at the heart of democracy and tried to add fear into everything that we believe in, but ultimately failed. It saddens me that we are, as a global nation still fighting those battles, but are starting to win the war, finally and one day we can look back and say that it was all worth while - but until then we're just looking at the clock and remembering those who were sacrificed.

It's funny how so many things have happened this month, through coincidence or design. That's life I suppose - with plenty more left to go. I just hope that there will be plenty more to celebrate and look back on when all's said and done.
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