Thursday, August 16, 2007

Here and there 

I could never be a salesman, could I? That last post hardly gave any encouragement to anyone to donate to a worthy cause. My only excuse is that I’m suffering with a heavy cold which leaves with me a rather leaden brain, but if I hadn’t get something out there now it’d be too late as we’re off on our hols very soon.

My head has been somewhere other than the blogosphere for a while now – frantically trying to finish urgent work tasks, making last-minute holiday arrangements, anxieties associated with J.’s departure today for Afghanistan, and moreover all mental processes are now running as though the works are gummed up with treacle owing to this cold. Bleaurgh!!!

See you in a while, hopefully restored to better physical, mental and spiritual health.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Give us yer f***in’ money! 

Remember Live Aid? Remember Bob Geldof’s memorable use of the f-word on live TV?

I’m not as outspoken as (honorary) Sir Bob. Not by a very long way, although that’ll come as no surprise. Nevertheless, I am after your money, on behalf of disadvantaged children and young people throughout the UK. Early next month I’ll be setting out on a sponsored cycle ride to Amsterdam and back, to raise money for the BBC Children in Need charity.

To be honest, I never did understand this fundraising-by-sponsored-fun thing. True, there’s usually a personal challenge of some kind involved, but why should anyone expect people to donate money to charity in return for someone doing something which they actually enjoy doing and don’t need any extra encouragement to do? Or if the whole thing isn’t exactly hedonistic self-indulgence, then at the very least it’s doing something which imparts a warm inward glow of achievement to those taking part.

So, I wont pretend that I don’t want to do this and am only taking part out of the goodness of my heart in order to help raise money. To be brutally frank, I’m doing it primarily because I need challenges like this in order to keep proving myself, to myself. Don’t ask my why; I can’t answer that. But this will live in my mind as one of those experiences on which I can hang my hat.

Of course, it could yet turn out to be purgatory. It could rain every day and we could be battling a 25mph headwind all the way there. Then the wind could be perverse and switch direction to batter us all the way back as well; early September is after all only a couple of weeks away from the equinox. Or it could be calm and sunny. We’ll go all the same. And that, I suppose, is what makes it different from a few days holiday with friends. We have a goal to achieve, in a fairly tight schedule, and come what may we’ll achieve it, helping each other along the way.

In fairness, I should point out that BBC Children in Need is a UK charity, and all money raised - £32M in 2006 - goes to organisations to help fund projects that aim to improve significantly the lives of disadvantaged children and young people in the UK. Nevertheless, a child in need is a child in need, and if they’re not actually in your back yard it makes little difference if they’re 10 miles or 10,000 miles away. Either way, you’ll neither see their suffering nor share in their benefit. But if you want to donate, just click here.

Monday, August 13, 2007


I sometimes wonder if there might not be a hidden message in Google searches which send people to this site. Seems I'm #1 for What if I'm not chosen for voluntary redundancy?

Rumour has it that the same opportunity will be coming round again shortly.

Update: And now, of course, I'm #1 AND #2. Doh...!

Saturday, August 11, 2007


One - trees have grown so thickly together up at the more untidy end of the garden that they’re intertwined and giving so much shade the grass around them has given up growing.
But if we chop down the trees we’re left with a huge pile of branches to get rid of.

Two - both halves of the compost bin are full and one is ready for use on the garden.
But we’ve spread so much over the years that the beds are getting higher and higher and wont really take another six barrowloads of compost without overflowing.

Cut down the trees (an elderberry that never bore much fruit, unlike it's much more prolific neighbour down this end of the garden, and something else of whose identity I confess I'm unsure), clear the scrappy shrubby area beneath them, use sections of the thicker branches to make a suitably rustic retainer for the compost-enriched soil, plant the area with new shrubs, and chip the remaining smaller branches to make a moisture-retaining, weed-inhibiting mulch to spread between them.



Good grief! We are now an 8-PC household! That’s one for each finger. Isn’t that just a tad excessive? Well, there’s the main one in the study (on which I rarely get a look-in these days), the old Win2k PIII workhorse downstairs, then the kids have one each which they used/use at Uni. Plus there’s the laptops my wife and I have supplied by our respective employers (although mine’s rarely at home) and now my eldest son has just bought a laptop to take with him to Afghanistan. Oh, and now we’re wireless too, so my wife can sit out in the back garden doing her school lesson plans in the sun. Or the rain.

Travelled on the train to Southampton yesterday – an all too rare day out of the office. Sitting opposite and next to me were two guys both in dark grey suits and sober ties, both with files full of paperwork, working hard. Then there was me, casually dressed, not having worn a tie to work for years, reading Harry Potter or just gazing out of the window. Maybe working for this employer does have its benefits…

I saw some people on my travels yesterday. Actually saw them, almost. Saw the shadows of their souls as they flashed across my mind. Shocked at how rare an occurrence that is for me these days; too much hurrying, too much pressure, always focused somewhere else other than here.

And yes, I’ve finally succumbed to Harry Potter fever and decided I need to read the whole series start to finish. Started a couple of weeks ago, now on volume four. I have to admit they are rather good.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

A word of explanation, and some unusual colour 

Perhaps I was being just a wee bit too elliptical. Slip-sliding away – the title of the song Paul Simon sings in the YouTube clip in that last post – seemed like a fair way to describe where I’m going these days. Disconnected, losing touch, losing hold, on all fronts at once. With work, people, blogs; even with myself. Perhaps most of all with myself.

But it was different sort of slip-sliding I experienced this morning.

There I was, pedalling along enjoying the morning sunshine, minding my own business, when all of a sudden I became aware of a black shape coming from behind to slice the front wheel of my bike from under me. Before I knew what was happening, my shoulder was sliding along the length of the car as it bulldozed its way past me; then I was bouncing to rest in a heap of arms, legs and bicycle in the middle of the road.

Someone turning left off the main road into a side turning had decided to ignore the fact that I was occupying the piece of road which they needed to transit, and simply swept me and my bicycle up as they negotiated the junction.

No way did he not see me; no way was he not aware that he’d knocked me over. (10:1 it was a he – I’ll bet a woman would have stopped). But he just drove off without even slowing down. I guess he could see in his rear view mirror that the figure picking itself up off the tarmac, shaking its fist and shouting insults, wasn’t lying dead on the road, so that made it alright. Nothing to worry about. If he even bothered to look, that is.

I didn’t see what kind of car it was – by the time I’d picked myself up it was already speeding down the road and round a bend. Just something big and black - probably another bloody Merc; they’re always bloody Mercs – worst drivers on the road, bar none. The newer and flashier the Merc, the richer and more opulent the driver, the worse the driving. Far, far worse than drivers of white vans (although it was a white van which nearly repeated the incident later on my trip, with a cyclist 100 yards ahead of me this time). Arrogant bastards who think they’re above such plebeian matters as traffic regulations and common courtesy…

As you can see, the residual anger hasn’t altogether subsided yet. And that, I think, is because I haven’t had a chance to get rid of it. True, I shouted all manner of abuse at the back of the rapidly retreating car, but that hardly gave satisfaction. I feel cheated, denied my right to curse the bastard to his face. Although I got back on my bike and gave chase, it was probably as well that I couldn’t catch him. The one thought in my mind was to inflict violent physical harm upon him – a broken nose would have done nicely. Quite out of character I assure you and I’d undoubtedly have regretted it later.

The strength of my anger surprised me. True, I had entirely just cause – injury from a hit-and-run driver who was 100% responsible for the accident (you’ll have to take my word for that) – but even so, I don’t make a habit of playing out in my head scenes where I administer pugilistic violence on those who cross my path. Honest; trust me on that.

Strange as it may seem, maybe the result wasn’t altogether bad. The sharp and bloody connection of my elbow with the road at least connected me with some real feelings I could recognise; I haven’t experienced such undiluted, primary-coloured emotion for a very long time. Usually everything is tempered, controlled, balanced; bland even. I have a hard time making out the shape, the colour, the taste; I seem to exist in an emotional vacuum, filled only by a few occasional involuntary tears should a book or a film get under the surface and trigger an unexpected response.

Which brings me back to where I came in. Slip-sliding into emptiness, apathy. Perhaps I should find a less risky cure than jousting with motor vehicles.

Oh, and in case you were worried, thankfully – and near-miraculously - the injury was no worse than a grazed and rather bloody elbow.

Sunday, August 05, 2007