Something that has occurred to me recently is that if the appalling rise in xenophobia in the U.K. continues, one of the major justifications that monarchists use for maintaining the royal family, that they bring in tourist money, disappears. After all, if the environment we have created here is so hostile to foreigners that they don’t want to come here for a visit, let alone to live and work, then clearly our whole tourist industry will suffer.
Incidentally, I don’t believe in the tourism justification for the monarchy. We have plenty of other attractions, and the whole unelected head of state thing is, in my opinion, simply wrong. It’s long past time we ditched massive hereditary privilege and focused on improving people’s lives.
Also incidentally, this is not an argument in favour of Brexit. I voted to remain in the EU and I haven’t changed my opinion on that.
Software Is Never Done
This is all too true. I’ve worked on a fair few different projects in my time and, apart from those that were only ever designed to be used once to produce some very specific output, not one of them has ever reached a state that could be described as ‘finished’. Even the small personal projects I’ve embarked on over the years, although to be fair that’s largely because I’m an inveterate tweaker and twiddler. I suspect that most programmers are the same.
I’ve recently been trying to cut down on the crap I eat and drink, and also to think more carefully about the ethics of the food I consume. To that end, I’ve been choosing vegan food quite often. It’s healthy, tasty and no creatures (cute and fluffy or otherwise) had to die to produce it. Of course, I know it’s not as simple as that. Intensive farming, mistreatment of labour and a whole raft of other dodgy practices can still produce food which is labelled ‘vegan’ but I’m doing the best I can with the information at my disposal.
Anyway, one very nice thing I’ve discovered is Pret’s coconut hot chocolate, which has more or less completely replaced the lattes I was drinking before. It’s unbelievably sweet, which appeals to me as I really go for extremes of flavour, but doesn’t contain the huge amount of caffeine that I was ingesting until recently.
So now some kind person is going to tell my why I shouldn’t drink it and I’ll feel bad. Right?
I’m staying at my in-laws’ place for a few days and I couldn’t help but notice that the airing cupboard in the spare room has a handle on the inside of the door. Maybe it used to be a room for a goblin.
How Lego clicked: the super brand that reinvented itself
Oh, how I love Lego. It’s easily the best toy for both children and adults. Endlessly creative and virtually indestructible. I can’t wait till Max is old enough to graduate from Duplo to Lego proper.
I’ve just been outside strimming my lawn. Most people, I know, use a lawn mower. I do have one of those but I quickly found, after buying it, that my garden is way too lumpy and bumpy to make it anything other than a real hassle to use. So, I have an electric strimmer that does the job much better. It’s never going to produce a nice neat lawn but, even if my garden was flat and the grass was uniform and of good quality and not full of ‘weeds’ I’m just not that interested. Besides, leaving the grass longer, rougher and full of wild plants helps to provide a good home for wildlife.
The only down side of using the strimmer is that the battery doesn’t last long enough to do the entire garden in one go. On the other hand, its running out usually coincides nicely with my energy and ability to continue doing the same.
A few weeks ago I visited my local garden centre and bought a couple of plants in memory of my mother, who died last year. She was always a very keen gardener, so it seemed an appropriate thing to do and I’m sure she would have approved.
One of the plants I chose was a gooseberry bush, because I have very fond memories of the one in our garden when I was little and because I absolutely love gooseberries. Anyway, it sat outside the back door for a while in its pot while I kept saying, “I really must plant that.” Then, one morning the urge became overwhelming and I did the dirty (well, my hands did get a bit grubby) deed.
This afternoon I went out to check on it and I was really quite excited to see that it’s doing surprisingly well. I am not, by any means, a gardener but I feel really, properly and unjustifiably proud of myself.
So, what piece of garden magic to attempt next? I’m open to suggestions.
For the few who care about such things, I’ve recently moved this site to a Virtual Private Server, which gives me a lot more control over how things work. In the spirit of change which this has brought on in me, I’m contemplating changing the WordPress theme to something a little more interesting and, dare I say it, modern. Hopefully it’ll encourage me to write here a bit more often.
I know I’ve said it before but I really do intend to post here more frequently. It just seems that life gets in the way sometimes, and then I’m so tired that it’s hard to find the mental energy to compose posts. If I had it in me I could, for instance, tell you about the KT Tunstall gig at the Barbican last Monday, which was fantastic, by the way, or the visit to the Harry Potter Studio Tour on Tuesday, which was wonderful and breathtaking and fun and just thoroughly enjoyable.
So, I’m going to try to do better. Promise.
This morning I was having a bit of a poke around online, as is my wont, when I stumbled upon Utilikilts. Now I think these look rather smart but they’re not cheap and, when you add in international shipping and duty I’m not likely to see much change from £300 for even the least expensive one.
That’s a lot of money to spend on something I don’t know whether I’ll be entirely happy wearing, but a bit of searching brought me to this. So, I’ve ordered one and am expecting it to arrive tomorrow. If I like it enough then maybe I’ll splurge on a more expensive one sometime. In the meantime I’ll try living with one for a bit and see how it goes. Photos to follow in due course.
My son, Max, who will be three in March, has decided that he’d like to see monkeys, so we’re planning to take him to the zoo tomorrow. This is the conversation I had with him about it.
Me: So, are there any other animals you’d like to see at the zoo?
Me too, Max, me too.
I’m becoming increasingly fed up with social media, Facebook in particular. All I really want is a reverse-chronological list of updates from people I know, together with some handy ways of filtering it. What I actually get is certain updates only, picked and ordered by an algorithm that doesn’t do a particularly good job. I see the same posts over and over again as new comments are added and miss others completely.
I can’t do a lot about that, but I can make things a tad easier for anyone out there foolish enough to be interested in the minutiae of my life and thoughts. I’m planning to start using my blog a lot more, even for very short posts. As a small bonus, it’ll be good writing practice for me, too.
According to this article, the Competition and Markets Authority want to set up a database of energy customers who haven’t switched providers in three years or more so that they can send them marketing material.
“It’s not spam, it’s targeted marketing”, Roger Witcomb, chairman of the CMA’s energy market investigation insisted on BBC Radio today.
Wrong, mate. It’s spam and I don’t want it.
This is wonderful: The Guardian: The laws you can get away with breaking (probably).
I have never knowingly handled a salmon in suspicious circumstances, but I confess I have been drunk in a pub.
Recently I’ve started receiving emails from PR companies plugging all manner of stuff – books, music, exhibitions, you name it. I didn’t sign up for any of this shit and I’ve been busily unsubscribing, but the flow continues unabated.
So, a quick message if you’re thinking of sending me any of your exciting ‘press releases’ or whatever: don’t. And if you have the gall to try to impose conditions on how, when or where I can use your entirely unsolicited content, please be advised that I shall do whatever the hell I want with it. I didn’t ask for it but you sent it to me anyway, so it’s mine.
I haven’t quite finished it yet but I’m still going to recommend that you read Furiously Happy by Jenny Lawson. If you, like me, suffer from depression and anxiety you’ll recognise a lot of stuff. Even if you don’t I promise you you’ll still find it very very funny. It’s a win whatever. So do it. Do it now.
Last night Juliet and I took Max out for a meal at his great grandparents’ home. It meant, naturally, staying out way past his bedtime but once in a while doesn’t hurt. He fell asleep in the car on the way over, which isn’t exactly unusual given his age (17 months) and was, consequently, quite quiet once we arrived. He perked up a bit once he got his mitts on a pickle (he really is a chip off the old block, bless him) and even more so once some more family arrived with their kids.
By the time we’d been sitting down to our meal for a bit he was running around the table with another child in hot pursuit and laughing like a drain, courtesy of sugary food and the inevitable excitement of playing with someone a bit nearer his own age than his parents.
When we left, late by Max’s terms but not really that late, he was pretty hyper, which kept him awake all the way home and me wondering whether he’d ever sleep again. As it turned out we needn’t have worried. Once we’d got him into his cot he went out like a light and slept until a tad after his usual wake up time. To be honest, it was so lovely watching him have a good time that I’d have been reasonably happy if he’d woken up early, but don’t tell Juliet that.
A while back I mentioned that I was going to try to keep a journal. I also said that I’d let you know how it went. Well, to be perfectly honest it’s been a struggle. A real struggle. On the plus side, I’m still doing it. On the minus side, only sporadically and without going into much detail – just a few notes about what I’ve been doing, now and again. This is not what I set out to do at all, so I’m going to have to make some changes. For a start, I shall try to write some entries about things other than recent activities, and if I’m able to produce anything that I think is worthwhile, I’ll post it here.
On that subject, I know I’ve said it many times before, but I’d really like to try and post here more often. I’m not a good writer but I very much wish I was, and the only way to improve is to practise, right? So expect a little more effort from me soon. I hope.
Why I Wear My Poppy With Pride
I’m sitting here on a Sunday morning, cup of tea by my side and TV on. Nothing unusual there. There’s also nothing unusual in what’s currently showing on my TV; the annual debate in the run up to Remembrance Sunday on whether war can ever be justified.
When I was younger I believed very strongly that war can never be justified. I was a total pacifist. These days, my view has changed. I still believe that peace is infinitely preferable and that war is a ghastly thing and should only be embarked upon as a last resort. I’ve read a lot about World War II in particular and it seems to me that, whatever the justification for other wars, both earlier and, regrettably, later, Hitler and the Nazis absolutely had to be removed. Perhaps the situation should not have been allowed to reach the point it did, and war could thus have been avoided, but having got to that point war was, I believe, entirely necessary.
Even if you think that wars should never be fought, there still remain the incredible sacrifices of those who genuinely believed in what they were doing, not to mention the losses of their families and friends, and the broader loss to society of talent and creativity. Whatever the reason, the sacrifices were made and we should honour those who made them.
So, I buy my poppy (actually, I buy two – one for my jacket and one for my coat) and wear it in remembrance of all those who have died as a result of human violence, willingly or unwillingly, in the hope that it will remind us all that war is truly terrible, that it calls on so many of us to give so much, and that it should never, ever be entered into lightly.
This time of year, my thoughts turn towards the coming of autumn with a real sense of pleasurable anticipation. It’s easily my favourite time of the year; it’s still mild enough out to be enjoyable, but without the blazing heat of the summer, and the colours are extraordinary. It’s no coincidence that I wear a lot of autumnal colours.
I’ve often wondered whether my birthday being in November has anything to do with how I feel about this season. It certainly has a sensation about it that I can only describe as ‘coming home’. It’s my mental year start and end.
There’s also something rather nice in being able to wear lovely warm jumpers and thick coats. Don’t get me wrong – it’s very nice to be able to wander around in summer with just a t-shirt and jeans but it gets old quite quickly. It’s also a real pleasure to have hot chocolate or mulled wine when it’s a little cooler out.
So, Christmas is still far enough away that I don’t have to think about it and the leaves will soon be turning red and gold and falling in huge, kick-through drifts. I can’t wait!
I’ve struggled for years, on and off, to keep some sort of diary/journal thing. Every attempt has been a failure. I’ve tried regular dead tree diaries, Evernote, Google Docs and more. The latest go is via a piece of software for the Mac called Day One, which seems very easy to use. It provides a nice little title bar widget for quick updates and a lovely main interface which is attractive and clutter-free. So far, I really like it. The real challenge, though, will be to see if I can keep it up once I’m back at work. I’ll let you know.