Many happy returns

In the beginning ...

Slouching towards Thatcham celebrates its fifth birthday today.

Yes, I know it seems a tad peculiar to be marking the birth of a blog, but in some ways this little corner of the internet is a bit like having a fourth child. It has had its teething troubles. It demands my constant attention. It frequently keeps me up at night. And when I look back on its early days, what I thought back then was a thing of beauty seems a bit, well, wrinkled and puffy.

That was then

During those initial faltering baby steps when I was still trying to work out what I wanted to be as a writer when I grew up, I wrote about anything and everything that occurred to me: current affairs, TV, my experiences of fatherhood, music, travel, technology and a whole host of other random flights of fancy.

In the beginning ...
In the beginning …

In those opening few weeks, I pondered the real and frankly terrifying prospect of the second most powerful job in the world’s most powerful nation going to the equivalent of a reality TV star, Alaska governor Sarah Palin, who believed that watching planes fly overhead counted as foreign policy experience. I also surprised myself by expressing sympathy for a genuine reality TV-created celebrity, Jade Goody, and standing up for Russell Brand and Jonathan Ross in the aftermath of the faux moral outrage created by ‘Sachsgate’.

I look back on those early pieces with equal measures of embarrassment and pride. They’re raw – with the critical eye of someone who has been editing other people’s blogs for a couple of years now, I can’t help but apply a mental red pencil to large swathes of my own text. There’s a fuzziness in style which speaks of a new writer struggling to find his own voice. Some of them just aren’t any good. But I can’t deny it’s fun to delve back into my own history, just like rediscovering a forgotten photo album or home video.

This is now

I’ve come a long way since then, not least the fact that I’ve progressed from having one crawling infant to three walking, talking children. The blog itself has come into sharper focus. It’s now very much written from the perspective of a proud and nostalgic father who isn’t afraid to live with one foot in both the present and the past. And my writing is of sufficient quality that I now have a nice little sideline blogging for the Metro website.

Along the way I’ve written a shade under 500 posts here: some topical, some deeply personal and quite a few about The Apprentice. Here are ten of my favourites, in no particular order.

1. Remembering Sam – Marking the first anniversary of the untimely death of an old university friend.

2. Travel memories #1: Tongariro Alpine Crossing, New Zealand – One of my favourite travel adventures, from a time before the kids arrived.

3. And then there were four – The day I delivered my own baby.

4. FYI: English language continues to evolve – OMG! – Examining the continuing evolution of the English language.

My second most-viewed post ever!
My second most-viewed post ever!

5. The iPhone holiday challenge – A photo-journal of eight images telling the story of our eight-day holiday in Tuscany this summer, all captured using only an iPhone.

6. In defence of bloggers: An open letter to Andrew Marr – An impassioned response to Andrew Marr’s condescending and inflammatory comments about bloggers.

7. Who’s really disabled – the wheelchair user or the person who abuses them? – Why people who abuse the disabled need to take a long, hard look in the mirror.

8. Analogue audio memories (part 2): Reel-to-reel and 8-track – Many of my most cherished childhood memories revolve around music. This is an ode to redundant and long-forgotten tech.

9. Pretty in pink – A boy’s obsession with everything pink.

10. Half a world away, ties that still bind – Getting a bit maudlin after a college reunion.

I’m not entirely sure where I’ll go next with this whole blogging lark. It doesn’t really matter as long as I continue to have fun. I’ll develop, adapt, spin off in whatever direction feels right at the time. Already Slouching towards Thatcham has spawned its own offspring, a TV blog called Slouching towards TV, which is a little over nine months old and just finding its feet.

I guess that makes me a proud grandfather. Oh God.