Remembering people we never knew

“They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old: 
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn. 
At the going down of the sun and in the morning 
We will remember them.”

Taken from “For the Fallen“, Laurence Binyon

My mother’s father had the unlucky fortune to be born at a time that let him serve in both the first and second World Wars. He died before I was born but I’m told the horrors he experienced were not something that he discussed – and who can blame him? A young man sent halfway across the world only to be shot in the muddy fields of Flanders. Watching his friends die as he lay in the mud in agony, waiting and hoping for salvation. Coming home wounded, recovering, and starting a new life, only to once more be sent far away from home to help secure the safety of the country and the commonwealth. It’s no wonder he didn’t want to talk about it.

And yet people cope with trauma in different ways. My other grandfather is a great example. He served in the Navy during the Second World War and some of my fondest memories are of the two of us sitting at his table as he regaled me with stories of the battles he had survived in far-flung places with names like River Plate and Guadalcanal.

While the two men differed in their ways of dealing with the past they shared a common element – they both survived. And so did their stories. Not just the horrible stories of war times, but the experiences that make up a life. Their childhoods, their days in school, meeting their wives, having children, working and retiring. But what about the poor guys who went to war and didn’t make it back? What happened to their stories? Laurence Binyon’s poem says We will remember them, but how can we do that when we never had the opportunity to get to know them?

“One of the group with tears shining in his eyes said ‘Can you tell me Sir why good blokes like Capt Roberts, Ben Morris and Bert Goodlands1 and that fine kid MacCauley should be struck down?’”

pg.295, The Relief of Tobruk, W.E Murphy

That fine kid MacCauley was my great uncle, Angus Alek, just 23 years old when his life was taken during the North Africa campaign, and that line is one of the few mentions I can find anywhere of a life cut short far too short. His generation didn’t leave a digital trail of photos on their Instagram or Facebook, and he was killed before he had a chance to marry or start a family to share his own stories. All we have is a couple of photos and letters, a few stories my grandmother told me about him as a young boy, and the knowledge that his body lies in a grave in Libya.

There were millions of Alek’s in the wars of the last century. Lives taken in their prime, stolen by cruel twists of fate. We say we will remember them. We want to remember them. But the sad reality is the people who made the ultimate sacrifice, giving their lives and never having the chance to experience a full life – they are the easiest people to forget. Because their stories were never told.

Introducing: GrowthJobs.io

I recently launched a side project I’ve been working on: GrowthJobs.io, a job board that features a curated list of the best jobs in growth. Growth is quite a broad term, but basically if the role would naturally fit within a growth team – growth marketer, growth engineer, product manager, analyst, head of growth – then it’s suitable for the site.

Growth roles in startups are in very high demand but existing job boards have signal-to-noise issues that reduce their usefulness. Job seekers using LinkedIn, Indeed etc need to search through hundreds of general “marketing” or “engineering” roles to try and find those few that are specifically growth-related. And from the employers side, posting to the large job boards and LinkedIn usually results in a deluge of unqualified candidates hitting your inbox.

I’m trying to solve these problems by taking a curated content approach. All jobs posted to Growthjobs are manually reviewed and will only be listed if they’re growth related. Each job must be for a specific company – I’m not posting jobs from recruiters or agencies.

The result is a higher quality selection of jobs, which provides a better range of options for job seekers and a higher standard of applicant for employers.

Technical

GrowthJobs is a static site that has been built using GatsbyJS, using Contentful as a CMS to manage the job listings. It’s hosted with Netlify.

A few of my favourite things – 2017

2017 has been a great year for me. Lisa and I got married in May, and we had our first child (a boy) in August. Add in extended visits from friends and family, work and the odd vacation, and it’s fair to say that the year has been also been a busy one!

Favourite Books

I managed to stay close to my goal of reading one book per week, although there was a definite dip in the months following the birth of my son. Of the 40 or so books I finished I found the following noteworthy:

Principles by Ray Dalio

Ray Dalio outlines the principles he’s used to help him build one of the most successful investment firms in history. Perhaps a bit longer than it needs to be but it contains a wealth of interesting ideas.

The Three Body Problem, The Dark Forest, Death’s End by Cixin Liu

This series was my first foray into Chinese science fiction and while I’ll admit I found some of the characters and dialog to be a bit weak, I enjoyed the story and it certainly made me think more about the potential dangers of contact with extraterrestrial life.

Favourite Podcasts

Unwound

As a huge mechanical watch nerd I’ve really enjoyed Seth Roberts and Dan Benjamin’s new wristwatch focused podcast. The episodes can be a little vintage Seiko heavy at times (and I’m saying this as someone who owns a couple of Seikos), but even watch fans who aren’t heavily in to Japanese watches should still find the episodes interesting.

Very Bad Wizards

Very Bad Wizards is a podcast where “a philosopher and a psychologist ponder human morality”. The hosts are hilarious, which has resulted in quite a few times where I’ve burst out laughing like a crazy person while listening to the show.

Favourite Tech Item <£100

 

Trezor Bitcoin Hardware Wallet

Cryptocurrencies have blown up in 2017, and while I didn’t buy a life-changing amount before the rise it’s still reassuring to know my limited holdings are kept safe and secure in a hardware wallet.

Favourite Apps

Oak Meditation (Free, iOS)

A simple, well-designed mediation and breathing app from Kevin Rose (of Digg fame).

SoundSleeper (Paid, iOS, Andoid)

A very simple concept, this app contains a collection of soothing white-noise type sounds to help babies sleep. I was skeptical at first but it’s worked surprisingly well for us.

Favourite Fitness Items

Undivided Massage Ball

Now that I’m in my thirties I’ve noticed my body doesn’t recover as quickly from intense weight training (the joys of aging!), so I’ve been making a conscious effort to try to keep on top of muscle tightness issues before they develop into anything more serious. Undivided’s Massage Ball has been a great help with this – the small size means I can keep it in my gym bag, and I find the the round shape to be more effective at targeting specific pain points than the foam rollers I’ve previously used.

 

Speed Skipping Rope

I decided to try skipping as part of my winter interval training sessions this year and it quickly grew to become one of my favourite types of cardio exercise. I’ve been using a Speed Skipping Rope from Beast Gear, and find the ball-bearing mechanism gives a very smooth swing which helps to get the rope moving fast for double under variations.