I’ve been working on this blogging business for about six months now. Ursula started hers (at a few days ago and already it’s funnier than mine, and getting more reaction than mine. I guess that’s the price you pay for being married to a professional writer.


Strange world

When my two new children are born at some point within the next nine days, they will emerge into a world that is similar, yet strangely different from the one I have inhabited for the past 33 years. It just occurred to me this morning, while watching the typical Saturday morning scene in my dining room (TV tuned to Cartoon Network, Jacob playing on his computer, Max playing on my iPod) that there are a few things that they will never know by dint of being born in 2009.

  • CRT TVs – every screen in our house is an LCD, and not just the TVs. Computers, iPods/iPhones, portable DVD players, Satnav. It’s hard to believe that just a few years ago, none of these devices were possible. But the idea that TVs used to take up so much space will be particularly weird to the children.
  • Analogue TV – when my parents told me they didn’t have TV when they were kids, it didn’t seem possible. And similarly concepts like only having 3 channels, having to wiggle the aerial to get a good picture, not being able to pause what’s on, won’t make sense to my kids. Children’s TV used to be an hour and a half in the afternoon. If you didn’t like what was on, tough. Now they have a choice of 30 or 40 channels dedicated to the stuff they want to watch, many of them for 24 hours a day.
  • Cassettes – video cassettes were always an awful idea. Massive great clunking things where the tape kept getting chewed up, the picture quality was awful, and it took hours to reach the bit of the tape you wanted to reach. I have a much softer spot for audio cassettes, because my various Walkmans (or should that be Walkmen?) were such an important part of my youth, and because I spent so many hours on my dad’s tape-to-tape deck making mix tapes. But music and video of anything other than perfect fidelity will be alien to the children. Even the modern replacements to cassettes are fasting fading into history. CDs and DVDs are still an important part of my existing children’s lives, but I suspect they will be significantly less so for the new arrivals. Everything is hard drives and downloads now. By the time my kids are teenagers, the idea of music and video being distributed on physical media will be anachronistic.
  • Dial-up – even I find it hard to believe that there was no Internet for the first 19 years of my life, so I can’t imagine what trying to explain that to my children will be like. But think back just a few years, and remember the lengths we used to go to the get on the Internet. That interminable screeching of modems communicating is indelibly etched on the brains of my generation, and if you were lucky enough to establish a connection that didn’t drop out, you’d then spend most of the night waiting, watching the snail-like creep of a progress bar, as you downloaded a few kilobytes of data.
  • Corded telephones – sounds odd doesn’t it? We still use regular, old-fashioned phones in our places of work. But in their day-to-day lives, the children wouldn’t recognise one if it hit them in the face. A phone is something you carry around with you, not put on a table and plug into a wall. Speaking of landline phones, the kids are unlikely to ever use a phone box, and one vital element from my youth they’ll never know about is the Phonecard. Remember those?
  • One non-technological idea that springs to mind is that they will have never lived in a world governed by Bush and Blair. Lucky buggers.

Anything else I’ve missed?

The name game

Something we said after Max was born, that I hadn’t thought about since, was that we’d better never have any more boys as all the good names are gone. Jacob and Max are obviously the best boys’ names in the world. And we very foolishly used two of the other names on our top five list for their middle names – William and Oliver. What is the point of middle names anyway? I never use mine, they will most likely never use theirs. They seem completely pointless and now we have two fewer choices available for the twins. And we don’t just have to come up with one name, which would have been hard enough, but two. I think we’re going to have a hard time agreeing on anything, so we might just have to stick with Thing 3 and Thing 4 after all.

When you’re having twin boys, you’re inclined to think of the names in pairs – like famous double acts.

Bert & Ernie
Wallace & Gromit
Woody & Buzz
Luke & Han
Rhubarb & Custard
Statler & Waldorf
Stan & Ollie
Derek & Clive
Jake & Elwood
Lou & Andy
Wayne & Garth
Bill & Ted
Chip & Dale
Ren & Stimpy
Fred & Barney
Asterix & Obelix
Nathan & Peter

I don’t suppose any of these will go down too well with the missus. But I might seriously work on her regarding a pair of names whch would result in the nicknames Izzy & Ozzy. How cool would that be? 

Suggestions welcome…

Totally gutted

This is nothing to do with twins or families or anything like that. I was going to write another post tonight because I’m getting stick from the Mrs for not having posted in ages. She likes reading this because she says it’s the only way to find out what I’m actually thinking. In fact the reason for not having posted for a while is because I’ve been laid low with a nasty case of tonsilitis for much of the last week. 

But anyway, I’m not here to talk about any of that. I just want a quick opportunity to vent my spleen at that disgusting organisation that is the FIA. I’ve just watched Lewis Hamilton win possibly the most amazing Grand Prix of his career to date (as a father with “family commitments”, I NEVER get to watch a race live. It’s always on the Sky+, and I rarely get to know the result much before midnight on a Sunday night) holding his nerve as the rain started pouring down on the last few laps in Belgium, while the chump Raikkonen planted it in the wall as soon as the track got wet. So there I was about to go to bed feeling all positive and pleased, and I thought I’d just quickly log on to to look at some reaction. And there to my horror I discovered that Hamilton has had a post-race penalty of 25s applied, stripping him of his win.

The reason? For gaining an advantage by cutting the chicane while trying to overtake Raikkonen. HELLO? STEWARDS? Were you watching the same race as me? 

  1. Hamilton made a fair move on a struggling Raikkonen into the chicane, and only had to cut the corner because Raikkonen (in my opinion) unfairly closed the door on him when Hamilton had the advantage. Had he stayed on the road, they would have crashed, taking them both out of the race. So cutting the chicane was the only thing he could have done.
  2. Hamilton IMMEDIATELY let Raikkonen back through, the only appropriate action when you’ve gained a position by cutting the chicane, whether legitimately or not. How can he be deemed to have gained an advantage when he deliberately eased off to let Raikkonen back through?
  3. Hamilton then had to pass BEHIND, and then back off to avoid once again colliding with, an all over the place and increasingly desperate Raikonnen, to take the inside line into La Source hairpin, at which point he regained the lead. 

WHERE WAS THE UNFAIR ADVANTAGE? Hamilton just drove better than Raikkonen.

Any suggestions that the FIA is not really biased towards Ferrari, it’s just circumstance that makes it look that way, are now well and truly dead. Independent panel of stewards my arse. Isn’t it amazing how, two weeks ago, when Ferrari released Massa into the path of Adrian Sutil in the pit lane, clearly in breach of the rules and the spirit of the sport, it was deemed not worthy of a penalty, and saved a lot of red faces at Ferrari and a lot of championship points for Massa. Yet in this racing incident, where nobody was hurt, no rules were broken, it was simply the case of the better driver coming out of tussle in the lead, the FIA immediately stomp on it, and who stands to gain the most? Ferrari, and Massa.

Now I’m not usually one for a conspiracy theory (well OK that may not be strictly true, but that’s not relevant to this discussion) but here goes. Ron Dennis, while not directly responsible, probably knows more about Max Mosley’s little Gestapo get-together than he’s prepared to admit. The whole thing was just the next battle in the war that escalated out of all control with the pathetic $100 million fine in the so-called “Spygate” scandal last year. Mosley knows it, and will stop at nothing to make Dennis’, and McLaren’s, life a misery. Mosley exerts direct control over the stewards, and this was his decision. The slimy fox will always be able to hide behind the veil of the rules – he only ever acts if he can see a chink he can exploit. The quicker Mosley is removed from the power-broking executive of this sport, the better.

Now I am happy to admit that much of this sounds like the ramblings of a lunatic, and it’s entirely possible, indeed quite likely, that I’m well wide of the mark. But the fact is that I’m absolutely seething about this utter travesty and injustice. I don’t think I’ve ever been this angry about something that doesn’t actually involve me. I go to bed an extremely upset and annoyed man, and I wish McLaren all the luck in the world in their appeal. Every time I think I’m starting to warm to Ferrari (which was starting to happen post-Todt) something like this happens. Grrr…

Anyway I hope to return this blog to business as usual in the next few days, so stay tuned.

Power Rangers P.S.

What I forgot to mention in my Power Rangers post the other day is what a disappointment this whole Power Rangers thing is to this child of the 1980s. I thought I had done so well when it came to educating them about fantasy action heroes. You can’t imagine the pride I felt as my 2-year-old and 4-year-old sons recited the entire scripts of Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi back to back. Or the tears of joy that run down my face every time I hear Max sitting in the back of the car humming the Indiana Jones theme tune.

But no. Now, given the choice between the magnificent creations of George Lucas (and no, this is neither the time nor the place to mention either Phantom Menaces or Crystal Skulls) and Operation Overdrive, you can guess which one my boys pick every time. It’s truly heartbreaking. I can only hope that Thing 3 and Thing 4 (now there’s an excuse to go back to Florida, just to get the t-shirts) have more taste.


Jacob & Max in their Dr Seuss-inspired t-shirts
Jacob & Max in their Dr Seuss-inspired t-shirts


It’s 7:30pm and I am totally shattered. Ursula is too – in fact I suspect if I went back inside on what is the first decent summer’s evening we’ve had, well, pretty much all summer, I’d find her fast asleep on the bed. And the scary thing is it really hasn’t been a particularly tiring day – just a typical family weekend day. A bit of pottering about in the garden this morning, dropped the kids off at my parents for a play at lunchtime while we went to do some shopping, then took them to a birthday party of one of Jacob’s friends this afternoon. What on earth is it going to be like when there are four of them? There will probably be at least one birthday party every weekend (if not more), four bikes to get out of the shed, and four people to push on the swings…(note to self – how do you get four children on a swing set that’s only big enough for two? Hmmm…tricky…)

Anyway, thoroughly enjoying this bottle of Chilean Sauvignon Blanc, and the fact that Ursula can’t drink at the moment probably means I’ll end up drinking the whole bottle. Again. And feeling rubbish in the morning. Oh the trials of being married to a pregnant bird.

Oh – a robin red breast has just landed on the trampoline. Cute…

Power Rangers

It must be a feeling shared by most modern parents of small boys. “Power Rangers – why? how? Huh?”

I’m sorry, Jacob and Max and all your fellow Power Rangers fans, but how can you enjoy this programme. It’s such utter rubbish. I understand that kids can’t tell the difference between an actor and some amateur who can barely read the words on the script, and are as convinced by a couple of old cut-up cornflakes boxes stuck to a toilet roll with sellotape as the latest state-of-the-art CGI when it comes to special effects, and Power Rangers is very much guilty in both these areas, but this doesn’t explain the appeal. It’s not funny, it’s not clever, the stories are stupid, and every episode looks exactly the same, whether it was made 15 years ago, or from the latest series, which I wish I didn’t know is called Jungle Fury.

But the kids love it, to the extent that every time we go near a toy shop, they automatically rush to the Power Rangers section. They know all the characters’ names, and every time they play, they fight over which one gets to be the Red Ranger. And horror of horrors, they’ve demanded a Power Rangers birthday party this year. (Their birthdays are just over two weeks apart, and now with the knowledge that we’re going to have to celebrate 4 birthdays every year, the boys will just have to accept the fact that they’re never going to have separate parties until they’re old enough to organise them themselves.)

Which brings me on to the main point of this post, which is the gender of children. We’re obviously very curious about the gender of the twins, and we have mixed feelings about all the possible alternatives. The last 7 Hirschkorns to be born – from my dad in 1949 to my nephew Louis in 2007 – have all been male. So it would be natural to assume that the twins are both boys. If they are, it would probably be the easiest as we know how to handle boys and they’d slot right in. But Ursula’s always wanted a daughter so in a way it would be a shame.

However if either one or both of them are girls, we’ll have to rewrite the whole script. I wouldn’t even know where to start with a daughter, and I think Ursula’s so used to having sons now that she would feel much the same. If it’s a boy and girl, will the girl feel totally left out in such a male dominated family? Or will she be so spoiled and fussed over for being the only girl that her twin brother will feel neglected? If it’s two girls, I guess it would balance out the family, but the concept of twin girls scares me the most.

I can’t imagine that girls will have any interest in Power Rangers, thank God, but on the other hand, what do girls like? Fifi and the Flowertots? Bratz? My Little Pony? Is it incredibly stereotypical of me to assume that girls would like “girly” things? And would I really be any happier if they did? The most experience I have of girly toys is of playing with my cousins’ dolls 25 years ago. How does a man go toy-shopping for a little girl? 

At least the boys are easy to buy presents for. Maybe the Power Rangers aren’t so bad after all.