Our Christmas Present Is A New Baby

The Mulrooney family meeting Father Christmas who has come on a sleigh to local streets.
Noah is quite clearly thrilled to meet Father Christmas! This is part of a mini Christmas parade that comes through our area every year. They collect money for Pendleside Hospice and hand out presents (Selection Boxes) to children. It was worth freezing our arses off!

Christmas 2022 was pretty uneventful for the Mulrooney family, which, at my age, is the way I like it. We did the usual stuff; Noah opening his presents, the Christmas day meal at the in-laws, being lazy on Boxing Day while also attempting to build Noah’s new toys. We did other stuff around it too, such as going for Christmas Eve breakfast at a local pub. Although, this turned out to be a bit of a nightmare thanks to the impatience of a three-year-old. It was standard stuff, but that’s perfect in my book. 

At the same time, Christmas this year felt unique. While we’ve spent time ensuring that Noah has a magical time, much of our focus has been on what comes after Christmas. Because, a few days from now, our new baby will have arrived.  

It’s odd knowing the exact date your baby is going to arrive, providing everything goes like clockwork. Because Alex has chosen to have a C-section, the hospital assigned us a morning slot in which to turn up. As long as we don’t get bumped down the list due to any emergencies, our baby will be into this world without Alex having to go through the stress of a natural labour (which didn’t happen with Noah either, not through lack of trying on Alex’s part). We’ve heard that a planned C-section is much calmer than the emergency C-section that happened with Noah, so we’re looking forward to the process being a lot smoother. Fingers crossed. 

Are we ready for our second child? I don’t think anyone is ever fully ready. We didn’t feel ready for our first child, but we coped and he’s a now a healthy little boy who often drives us up the wall! People keep telling me that a second child is a whole different ball game. While I’m looking forward to the challenge, I know that the job of being a parent is about to get much harder.  

Thankfully, my work has allowed me to extend my two-week paternity leave by letting me tack on two weeks annual leave so I can have four weeks off work. When you add that to the week I’ve had off for Christmas, that means I’ll be having over a month away from work.  

I wanted to do this for a few reasons. First, it’s going to be a lot harder to look after a new born when you’ve already got a three-year-old causing chaos around the house (he won’t be going back to our childminder until the second week of January). Second, Alex is going to struggle to do things while she recovers from a doctor slicing her open (she can’t drive for six weeks), so I want to be there to help as much as possible. Finally, I want to have as much time to bond with my new child as possible without the distraction of a daily job. I only had two weeks off when Noah arrived, and part of that was taken up by studying for an exam I’d been going to classes for. The plan is to be more present this time around. 

I know I’m in a fortunate position to be able to take so much time off work, and I’m super grateful to the company I work at for letting me do this. We’ll be hit on the financial side for a bit, which isn’t the most ideal situation when it feels like everything is going up in price, but we’ve worked it all out and we can get by on less for a while.  

It won’t feel real until I’ve got our new baby in my arms because, right now, I’m still a bit unaware of how much our life is going to change for the second time. I never thought we would be here again, especially after what happened the first time, but here we are. I’m over the moon about growing our little family, and so excited for what’s to come in the future. Although you may have to remind me of that when I’m attempting to survive the day on two hours sleep! 

If you want to read Alex’s thoughts on this, head over to her blog post.

The Songs Of My Life: U2 – Stuck in a Moment You Can’t Get Out Of

I wouldn’t call myself a U2 fan. There are certain U2 songs that I like, but I never go out of my way to listen to them. Yet in the year 2001 – long before U2 would annoy millions of people by putting their new album on everyone’s iPhone – when I was at the tender age of 14, one of their songs came to mean a lot to me. That song was Stuck in a Moment You Can’t Get Out Of.  

Released on 29 January 2001, I was the second single from U2’s tenth studio album, All That You Can’t Leave Behind. According to a Rolling Stone interview with Bono from November 2005, the song is about the suicide of his close friend Michael Hutchence, the lead singer of INXS. It’s written in the form of an argument where Bono tries to convince Hutchence that suicide is foolish. 

It’s a row between mates. You’re kinda trying to wake them up out of an idea. In my case, it’s a row I didn’t have while he was alive. I feel the biggest respect I could pay to him was not to write some stupid soppy song, so I wrote a really tough, nasty little number, slapping him around the head. And I’m sorry, but that’s how it came out of me. 

Wenner, Jann S. (3 November 2005). “Bono: The Rolling Stone Interview”. Rolling Stone. No. 986. pp. 48–67, 102–103.

As a 14-year-old, I was unaware of what the song was actually about. The original reason I fell in love with it was due to the music video released for the song. Three versions exist, and the version that I fell in love with was the original version (also known as the US version). It features an American football game where a placekicker keeps reliving a field goal he missed that would cost his team the game. The video ends with the linebacker, now a postman, as an old man. He kicks the ball and scores. 

This video captivated me and my brother. It used to play on either TMF or The Hits music channels quite a lot, and always around the same time of day. This happened to be not long after we finished school. When we got off the bus, we’d run towards our home to turn the TV on and catch it before we missed it. We’d then sit there with grins on our faces while we watched it.  

I’m not sure why we loved the video so much. Watching it back today, it’s well shot and the story it tells is relatable to us all. No, I don’t mean that we all go through missing a kick at school. But we do all go through something that went wrong that we keep playing over and over in our heads.  

The more I watched the music video and listened to the song, the more I came to connect with the lyrics. As a teenager, I suffered from social anxiety. I would repeat conversations I’d had with other people over and over in my head. I’d wish I’d said something different or been a bit more approachable. Like a lot of teenagers, I obsessed over how people perceived me, and I wanted people to like me. But my social anxiety prevented me from being the real person I wanted to be. It also meant that I could come across as unapproachable and disinterested in involving myself in social activities with others. I tried to avoid social situations because I got anxious thinking about them.

There were so many moments during my teenage years when I’d get stuck replaying the same situations over and over in my head, wishing I’d done something different. Wishing I’d talked to that girl, or wishing that I hadn’t gotten so pissed off at someone and ended up having an argument over nothing. I always seemed to be ‘stuck in a moment’ rather than forgetting about it and moving on with my life. The lyric ‘don’t say that later will be better’ was always me saying I’ll come out of my shell when I’m ready, rather than going and doing something about it right now. 

These days, I’m far better at dealing with and moving on a lot quicker than I used to. That social anxiety is still around, but it’s not half as bad as it used to be.  

This song reminds me of darker times in my life, but it’s a positive thing as I know I ended up getting through it all to achieve the great life I have today. It also reminds me of having a connection with my brother and bonding over something we both enjoyed. That’s why I love music. It reminds you of periods in your life and the connections you shared with others. 

The Chaos Of Twitter

a white and black text board
Photo by Jorge Urosa on Pexels.com

So, Twitter is complete chaos at the moment, isn’t it? 

To be fair, I’m not sure Twitter has ever been anything but chaos. But the Twitter that Elon Musk now owns is has entered a chaos that’s fascinating to watch, if only because the changes that are being made feel completely batshit.  

I feel for the thousands of Twitter employees that Musk mercilessly kicked to the curb, then subsequently tried to offer some of them their jobs back. Because, when you try and skip the proper process and get rid of a huge chunk of your workforce after only about a week of deliberating, you’re going to leave your company in a shit state.  

But a shit state is what Musk is seemingly hellbent on turning Twitter into. Whether it’s saying that ‘free speech’ is now back at Twitter (although it seemingly doesn’t extend to allowing people to take the piss out of Musk), making us all worry that he’s about to subject us to Trump’s inane ramblings again, or introducing a new verification system that was immediately shown to be useless. 

If you’re not clued up on the blue tick verification system, it’s basically used to show that the account is the official account of that person, organisation, company etc. In regards to people, ticks are generally reserved for people who are notable in some way. So, a celebrity will be verified, as may a journalist who has plenty of by-lines. It makes it easier for Twitter to stop people impersonating that person.  

In an attempt to raise money, Musk said that the paid Twitter Blue feature will give anyone a blue tick for the princely sum of $8 (£6.99 in the UK). This totally defeats the point of verification. If anyone can pay to be verified then it not only no longer makes it special, but what’s to also stop them pretending to be someone else? Apparently, nothing, as today has shown. You’ve got someone pretending to be President Biden lubing up, Mario flipping people off, Trump ‘coming back’, and even Jesus getting verified. Advertisers were pissed (EDIT: Check out this Twitter thread of some companies that were impersonated), and avoiding pissing off the people who make you money is Business 101.

Twitter tried to make it clearer by showing you why they were verified when you click on the tick; either it’s because they’re notable, or that the user has paid Twitter Blue (which then makes you a target of ridicule). But people don’t do their due diligence and will easily fall for a fake account, simply because it looks official and now has a tick. People fell for it before they had a tick, so it’s now even less obvious to those who can’t be bothered to notice that the username is wrong. 

It’s a stupid system, thought up by a person who thousands of cult-like followers think is some sort of genius. A genius wouldn’t have bought Twitter in the first place. It doesn’t make a profit and it’s commonly known as the ‘hell site’. Musk even tried to back out, which practicality forced him to take it on. I’m not sure he knows what he even wants to do with it.  

Apparently, he’s discussed putting the entire site behind a paywall. I don’t think Twitter is as important to people as he thinks. Once you ask people to start paying, they’ll leave the site in droves. There’s a cost of living crisis and a global recession on the way. I don’t think people really give a shit about paying to tweet when they’re trying to pay their bills. 

Maybe he knows he’s fucked up and is actively trying to burn Twitter to the ground. People who say this reckon that he can brush off the billions he’d lose since he’s the richest man in the world. Nah, I put it to you that he would have just paid the money that Twitter would have got if they sued him for pulling out if he wasn’t that bothered about losing money. Oh, and he also wouldn’t fire all those staff to save money. But, hey, I could be wrong. His leadership of Twitter so far is so chaotic that I have no idea what this dude might do next.

It’s sort of both fascinating and hilarious watching Musk’s flailing attempts to change Twitter over the last few days, and to read everyone’s reactions to it. I’ve seen some of the funniest Tweets ever, and I’ve probably spent more time on the site than ever.  

Will Twitter fall? I’m unsure, but I can’t see it being a business success anytime soon.

EDIT (Friday, 11 November): Elon Musk had his first meeting with Twitter employees not long after I published this post. Unsurprisingly, it didn’t go well. He wants staff to go ‘hardcore’, said the company might go bankrupt (smart move to buy it then, eh?), said remote work was basically ending, amongst plenty of other answers. Not long after this meeting, a number of key people resigned, so it doesn’t sound like they were impressed with what he had to say.

Anyway, you can read the full transcript of the meeting over at The Verge.

We’re Having Another Baby!

I’ve got some big news that I’ve yet to announce on my blog. We’re having another baby! 

While we did want another baby, it was still a bit of a surprise. We’d just taken the approach of ‘wait and see’ than actively focusing on it. Alex decided to do a pregnancy test because she was feeling a little different and, lo and behold, it came out positive. Given that it took so long for us to get pregnant the first time, which ended in tragedy, I didn’t expect another one to come so soon.  

Our baby looks to have a head as big as my massive noggin!

Our baby is due in early January, and I honestly can’t wait to do it all again. Everyone said that our baby boy would grow up so quick, and they were right. Now we get to experience all that again. By the way, we don’t know the sex of our second child, which is what we did with Noah too. Having a girl this time would be fantastic, but I’m honestly fine with either sex. 

However, I’m under no illusions that this is going to be easy. We currently have a boisterous three year-old who can be a handful at the best of times. Add a newborn baby into that mix, and I don’t think we’ll be getting any sleep for the foreseeable future. Although I’m hoping things will be slightly easier when Noah goes to school near the end of next year (I can’t believe that’s come so soon!).  

But all those tiring days are worth it when you look into the eyes of your little one and they smile back. Noah has been the best thing that ever happened to us, and our new baby will be the equal of that. It’s magical, and I love the feeling that we made a whole person with a cheeky personality.  

That said, remind me of this in about a year when I’ve collapsed from exhaustion! 

UK Energy Price Woes

Last week I received what I’m sure a lot of people dread to see these days – my new energy quote. I’ve been lucky up until now in that I’ve been on a fixed tariff since September 2020. My bill went up by £20 a month when I moved house, but I moved from a well-insulated new build into an older house that was built in the 1960’s, so I expected to pay a little more. But I don’t think any of us expected what’s happening in the energy market right now.  

I currently pay £100.51 a month, which is amazing compared to what a lot of other people are currently paying. If I were to fix my prices for 12 months, Octopus Energy, my current provider, will fix the price at a ridiculous estimated £542.59 a month, which is around the same as what I pay for my mortgage.  

If I switch to Loyal Octopus, a tariff that’s only available to customers who have been with them at least 8 months, it will go down to an estimated £519.12 a month. While a saving of £23.47 a month would normally be great if I was still paying £100.51 a month, it’s nothing when you get into these extremes.  

Finally, I can switch to the variable rate, which will be an estimated £217.81 a month. Obviously, this is the one I’m going to go for, but it’s still over double what I’m paying now, and variable comes with its own downsides.  

To be fair on Octopus Energy, they’re yet to announce what the prices will be now that the government has announced a cap of £2,500 a year for the typical family (and I like to think we use less energy than the typical family), so it will probably end up being a bit less than what they’ve quoted me. Still, it’s crazy expensive right now. 

While these costs suck up a chunk of my disposable income, I can still afford it. But there are millions of people who won’t be able to afford a rise like this, even when all the help from the government is in place. How does an old person on state pension afford to keep their heating on when the prices are this high? Deaths in the older generation are surely going to go up. I’m just hoping that the winter will be mild, but any cold weather affects older people far more than someone my age. 

While I’m glad the Tories have finally done something about this (let’s face it, it would have been political suicide for them to ignore it), there’s still a lot more they could be doing. Like a windfall tax on energy companies’ profits, or investing more in renewable energy rather than approving more oil drills as Liz Truss is gearing up to do. But Tories will be Tories.  

Musings From The Island Of Mourning

It’s been a crazy few weeks on this bleak little island. Firstly, you’ve got energy bills seemingly getting more expensive by the week, while the party who is supposed to be in charge of the country fights amongst themselves to pick a new leader and, ultimately, a new Prime Minister. The Tories appeared to be missing in action when it came to providing any kind of solution, while a few thousand of their members decided on who would lead the country for the next few years and do things that will affect the millions of the rest of us who didn’t even have a say. 

Then, only a few days after the new Prime Minister, Liz Truss, visited Queen Elizabeth II to receive the ceremonial offer to form a government, the Queen dies. Now, the Queen was 96, so her peacefully shuffling off this mortal coil is no great surprise. But, with the whole country already in chaos, it was a rather large catastrophe to throw into an already tumultuous mix.  

Now, I’m no royalist, but the Queen has been one of the few stable constants of the last 70 years of UK history and that has finally crumbled. It’s sad that the Elizabethan era has come to an end, but for me that’s mostly because the next era isn’t looking all that bright.  

I’m largely neutral when it comes to the Royals. I don’t have a hatred for them, but I would also never feel the need to practically worship a group of rich people that are only there through circumstance of birth. This country does pomp and ceremony extremely well, but it’s hard to be all that interested in it when large swathes of the UK population are getting poorer, while the rich only get richer. 

The country has practically been on pause for the last couple of weeks and, if you flick on terrestrial/satellite/cable TV, listen to the radio, or open any newspaper, then you start to get the feeling that the media is screaming ‘YOU WILL MOURN & BE SAD UNTIL SHE’S BURIED.’ The over-saturation of coverage knocked important stories like another devastating study on the effects of climate change far away from the public consciousness. Because, who cares about the future of life on our planet eh? It obviously doesn’t draw eyeballs, and that’s the depressing truth.  

Oh, and then there was The Queue. The miles long display of Britishness (we love a good queue) of people who wanted to pay their respects. It’s quite amazing what we can do when we come together and put our minds to it, I just feel like our priorities are often in the wrong place. We consistently come across as a nation that bows down to the ‘cult of celebrity’ when there are so many other important matters that we could be focusing our attention on. Accounts like GrieveWatch on Twitter have been interesting to follow, as they’ve been documenting just how mad this country has become since the Queen died.

Look, I don’t begrudge anyone wanting to pay their respects, or anyone who loves the Royals for that matter. I just think the media reaction to it all has been slightly over the top when there are far more important, and more immediate, crises going on right now. It feels like we’re being told to forget all that for the moment as this is ‘more important’. In reality, the death of a 96-year-old woman who had a pretty cushty life in no way affects the daily struggle that many people are going through in what’s supposed to be the 5th richest nation on Earth. 

But it’s over now anyway, and this brief hiatus from the mess that this country is in will be gone by tomorrow. The 24/7 rolling coverage of the Queen’s death will be replaced by the usual 24/7 doom & gloom that’s now a common staple of British life. So, maybe Diamond Geezer is right when he puts it far more eloquently than me that we may ‘just wish that the National hiatus had gone on a lot longer.’