Archive for the ‘personal’ Category

Earlier on in this run, I wrote about skillsets some have for their careers that I don’t have, and that I wish I genuinely understood inside and out.

But of course there are other things – not limited to skillsets – that I either don’t understand and wish I did understand, or don’t understand and don’t really care that I don’t understand…

And then there are the subject matters about which people care hugely; they’re important to them in a way that not only are they not to me, but I don’t even understand why they are to people. On an individual sense, I mean.

Like fashion, say, but we’ll come back to that.

No matter what the industry, I’ll acknowledge immediately that they’re important to people who work in the industry. I couldn’t give a damn about the design of mass produced greetings cards, say. Not really. One’s the same as another in most cases, as far as I see. Except the ones you see, look again in disbelief, and then are terrified that someone actually got paid to design it.

But for those who work in the greetings cards industries, I quite understand why it’s important to them; to the government who collects taxation from the companies, the payroll taxes, the corporation taxes, etc. To those whose livelihood depends on that industry, yes, I get all of that.

That caveat needs to be up front and centre. Any industry is important to those working in it.

Like fashion, say. But we’ll come back to that.

Small – but relevant to what follows – diversion: this isn’t fishing for compliments, but I’ve never thought of myself as ‘good looking’. OK, I’ll admit that I’m better looking than I used to be (as the annually updated A Life In Pictures post proves) but… objectively ‘good looking’?

No.

Not at all.

I’m… ok, I guess. On a good day, I might qualify for a bit better than ‘plain’. Again – not fishing for compliments here.

But I say all that I have above in order to now recognise that even I, looking like I do, am vain enough to not like it if I have a crappy haircut, or have a spot appear on my face.

I stress the above to acknowledge that there’s some, small, vanity, on minor things before going on to say that in a major way, vanity has affected my choice in clothes.

I’m not sure who first observed that clothes form an inherent part of your identity. But of course they’re correct, both in how others see you and how you see yourself. But despite the above, I’ve never much cared about how people see me, only about what they thought of me, and even then only with some people.

Going back a few decades, I don’t really remember choosing clothes to ‘look good’ before I got married. (Yes, yes, that annual post proves it. I know.)

I wore what was ‘appropriate’ for the setting (work, synagogue, pub), and b) what I felt comfortable wearing… but not really more than that.

Wasn’t fashionable usually, if ever. Yeah, fashion. We’re getting there, I promise.

Then I met the lady who became my wife. Yeah, a lot of stories start like that.

Laura had, has, far better taste than me in clothes, and it wasn’t uncommon for her to surprise me with a top, or a shirt or a jacket… In all the time we were together, maybe twice, maybe three times, I didn’t like her voice. Every other time, it was great; it suited me; I liked it.

When we split up, I dressed all-in-black for something… and for the first time – genuinely, the first time ever – pretty much everyone complimented me on how I looked. (To the point that I briefly but genuinely wondered whether they’d gotten together to take the piss.)

But no. I dressed all-in-black at work; got compliments. Dressed all-in-black for a social occasion… same result.

Huh. Weird.

I’ve said before those who are good looking, have always been told they’re good looking, genuinely don’t have a clue what it’s like to not receive those life long compliments. No more than those of us who didn’t get them have the slightest comprehension what it’s like to get those compliments through your life.

So me getting compliments all the time for how ‘all-in-black’ suited me, how much better I looked, astonished me.

Even weirder was how I felt about dressing all in black: very, very comfortable, very… ‘me’.

Yes, there was good natured mockery, the ‘goth’ comments, the “DarkBudgie” silliness. (Remember: I’m a huge fan of silliness.)

So, lots of reasons for me to continue: I liked it, it was easy, people seemed to think I looked good in it, and I felt comfortable as hell wearing it.

And here we go…

At no point was I wearing black because, say, it was the ‘in’ thing to wear; at no point was I wearing it because ‘everyone I knew and mixed with was wearing it’; at no point was I wearing it to ‘make a statement’, or to ‘make a point’.

Which brings me to fashion. Both as a concept, and an industry.

I don’t get it.

I mean, leaving aside the economics of it…

  • dresses that cost more to deliver than to purchase
  • wages paid to those who make the clothes that make people blush
  • built in short term obsolescence

…the very idea of social acceptance or otherwise thought wearing what has been decided is this year’s Thing… I’m utterly mystified by the idea.

It’s not just the actual clothes in the fashion industry, of course, that mystify and puzzle me. The ‘you can’t wear the same this year/season as last’. I don’t get it. The ‘you must buy new and newer and different.

I don’t have many pairs of shoes; a pair of trainers, a decent pair of brogues, a pair of plain formal shoes. and I’ve pretty much replaced them with identical pairs. (OK, I could excuse that because I’ve a fucked up foot.) But that wouldn’t explain why I also have lots of identical shirts, and identical pairs of plain trousers.

Having multiple outfits for multiple occasions, mixing and matching – and purchasing stuff in order to do so… not being able to, nor wanting, to wear the same clothes repeatedly.

Fashion: I don’t get it. At all.

I honestly wish I did.

Yeah, this didn’t start out as a whinge. I’m sorry it turned into one…


Well, that didn’t exactly turn out as planned. To reward you for slogging through it, I’ll let you know about the single best mass-produced greetings card I’ve ever seen, in Bermuda, in the mid-1990s. Die cut, so the front of the card was slightly smaller than the back of the card. The front of the card had a typical 1950s detective or PI. Low slung hat, raincoat.

The front of the card read: “There are eight million stories in the naked city. Somewhere, someone’s in trouble. Somewhere, someone needs to stroke a small animal. That’s where I come in.”

When you opened the card, you saw the same defective, his raincoat now open with:

“My name’s Friday. I carry a badger”.


See you tomorrow, with something more interesting.

This post is part of a series of blog entries, counting down to my fifty-fifth birthday on 17th August 2019. You can see the other posts in the run by clicking here.

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[Oh, before I start, I got asked yesterday where I’m getting the photos from that I use for this blog. Other than ones I’ve taken myself, or have express permission to use, they come from an iOS app entitled Unsplash which supplies copyright free photos. Also on: https://Unsplash.com]

Had an entry all ready to finish today – subject matter, bullet pointed out, everything – but got caught up with other stuff that’s pretty much consumed my day.

And to be honest, with something that’s occurring tonight, I’d struggled to get my head ‘in the game’ to write anything serious.

So another entry already part-completed but planned for half way through this run is appearing, oh, a week and a half early.

Ain’t that always the way?

No?

Well then you’re substantially better at keeping to schedules than I am.

But it’s amusing to me how blogging changes. Before Twitter, I’d think nothing of sticking up three or four blog posts a day on Livejournal, containing this link, or that photo. Twitter, instagram, Facebook, Tumblr… they killed that kind of blogging, probably a good thing.

But on Livejournal, sooner or later everyone did one of those “Answer 100 questions with a single word for each” or detailed Q & A’s. They’d be of the

          Ask me five questions and I’ll answer honestly

type.

A couple of dozen people would play, and I’d have 100 or so questions to answer.

And at some point, when I’m doing one of these countdown runs, I’ll grab some of those questions, and answer them with today’s answers. (It’s part amusing, part horrifying, for me, seeing how many of the answers are radically different now, seeing how many are the same.)

So here’s a collection of questions asked of me through the years, from Livejournal, from formspring, from curiouscat with some up to date answers. All of the answers are the truth, and nothing but the truth. As always, however, rarely the whole truth.

Some questions, some answers

What is your middle name? Often surprises people that I don’t have one. Growing up, I wish I did, as I utterly loathed ‘Lee’ as a name. It’s no coincidence I grabbed ‘Budgie’ as soon as I acquired it. And as stated previously, I prefer to be called that now.

Why are you called Lee? I’m not. I’m called ‘budgie’. Ok, since you insist. I’m Jewish; we tend to name children after those who have passed on, who have joined the choir invisible. Who have died. I’m named after my maternal grandmother, Leah.

Where does most of your family live? My ex-wife and our son live in Barnet. I believe my mum is still in Luton, and a brother & his family live in Bushey. But we’re not in contact… which suits all of us just fine, thanks.

When was the last time you visited the street where you first lived? Well, I was born in Luton; very deliberately haven’t been back to the town, let alone the street, in years, other than to the airport.

Most memorable birthday? My 50th, in Edinburgh. Pretty much everything was perfect about the day: surrounded by friends, comedy, alcohol, presents, and much fun and laughter. Also the first few after Phil was born; there are few things as nice in life as your very young child singing Happy Birthday to you, and giving you a card he’s made.

So, what do you want for your birthday this year? Best wishes. That’ll do it, thanks.

Do you make friends easily? No, not easily at all. And I’m a lousy friend to have; fair warning.

But if you were another person, would YOU be friends with you? The temptation is to say “no”, but I don’t have a clue; I’m hopeless at judging myself objectively in any way.

Are you jealous of anyone? Still can’t top a friend’s answer when he answered this more than a decade: The usual raft of envy regarding other people’s good fortune, intelligence, academic prowess, family relations, published writing, and effortless ability to be likeable, but not actively and specifically “jealous”.

Do you vote? In elections, you mean? Every bloody opportunity I can, since 1987. In every election, even those where I’ve intended not to because I was pissed off with all the candidates. Turns out I can’t not vote. I’m a huge believer in, and advocate for, voting. And no vote is a ‘wasted vote’. If it’s for candiate who can’t possibly win, well, your vote might save their deposit. Or give them/their party confidence for next time.

1987? But you were 18 in 1982? Yeah, I didn’t vote in the 1983 general election. Was away studying and didn’t bother to register there.

What characteristic do you despise in people? Gratuitous intolerance. Everything I dislike in people (including, but not limited to, lazy thinking) stems from that.

Do you have any prejudices you’re willing to acknowledge? I stupidly, very stupidly – it’s a flaw, I know – tend to extend a good faith assumption that someone who’s intelligent in one area will be equally intelligent in others. Oh, and I’m unfairly biased in favour of intelligent people with interests beyond who got kicked off of Celebrity Big Brother last night.

Illegal drugs? Not right now, but thanks. But no; while I have in the past, I some time ago realised that I’m too old and my body too broken to tolerate even marijuana these days. The last time I tried… well, it didn’t go well.

Are you photogenic? Lord, no. But better than I used to be.

Do you like having your photograph taken? Generally? No, I really don’t like it. I don’t mind if I know it’s being taken, but I really, really hate and loathe it when I don’t know it’s being taken. The chances I’ll like the pic if I don’t know it’s being taken are miniscule. And if someone takes a candid shot, I’ll often ask them to delete it, or at least not put it on social media.

Is looking good important to you? [looks in a mirror]. Obviously not.

Do looks matter? Other than in “the Kingdom of the Blind?” Yes. Always, always, always, and anyone who says otherwise is lying.

Do they matter in terms of attracting you? I’ve always thought that looks are what gets you interested in someone, while everything other than looks is what keeps you interested. Well… me, anyway.

Which hurts the most, physical or emotional pain? Physical, every bloody time. I’ve been told “There’s something wrong with you if you don’t choose emotional pain”, a sentiment with which – when it comes to me – I wholeheartedly agree.

What do you think of hot dogs? The owners should be prosecuted for leaving them in the car.

Have you any tattoos? No.

Piercings? Hahaha. No.

Do you trust others easily? Hahahahahahahahahahahahaha. No.

What subject in school did you find totally useless in later life? Geography. I cannot truly express the heights of my disdain for geography as a subject, or at least how I was taught it. I left school wholly convinced that it was an entire waste of time unless you intended to use it as a future career. I’ve never been completely sure I was wrong.

What kind of hair/eye colour do you like on the opposite sex? No particular preference, but if the eyes are communicative, can send messages? I’m a sucker for that. However, even then, I’m hopeless at interpreting such messages.

What is the most pain you have ever experienced? Breaking my foot – felt like I’d plunged it into molten lava. Since then… still the foot, on a regular basis.

Do you have siblings? One dead, one still alive.

What are your weaknesses? Way, way too many to list here.

If you got to live for a prolonged period of time in any time period, which would it be? I wouldn’t. To visit? Early 1960s, maybe mid 2030s. But to live somewhere? No, I lack too many cultural references and background knowledge, let alone the language and social norms. And going back far enough, I’d likely die from this disease or that one.

First thing you ever got paid for writing? A short sketch on BBC Radio 4’s Weekending. As I recall, it was about Boris Yeltsin. Followed shortly thereafter by one about Michael Heseltine.

Ever have a near-death experience? Yes. Three, in fact.

Name an obvious quality you have. Well, according to several people, a very skewed perception of how I’m regarded by others. That’s their opinion of an “obvious” quality, not necessarily one with which I agree.

What’s the name of the song that’s stuck in your head right now? A Night Like This by Caro Emerald.

Would choose to sing at a karaoke bar? I wouldn’t. I can’t carry a tune in a bucket.

If you could suddenly get the skill to play any single musical instrument, which would you choose? Mouth organ – that way no one would ever ask me to sing. (Some years ago, friends bought me one. I started to learn, then put it down; I really should get back to learning it. I’d genuinely actually quite like to.)

Do you read your horoscope? No; if I want to read fantasy, there’s plenty of better written stuff out there.

Ever seriously questioned your sanity? Yes, on many occasions, though not for a while.

Have you ever killed your own dinner? Have I ever killed something and then ate it, no. Have I ever destroyed a meal I was making? Hell’s teeth, you’re asking questions of someone who could burn corn flakes. I’m a terrible cook. Abysmal.

What’s the longest time you’ve stayed out of the country/where? 1980, from mid-July to mid-August. On a BBYO/youth group tour of Israel.

And the furthest you’ve ever been from where you were born? Singapore. Flew there, stayed six hours, flew back. Long story. Not as long as the flight, though.

Why do you write? Either because I have a story I want to tell, or to meet a challenge, (self-imposed or external), or something occurs to me that I have to get down… in order for it to make sense to me.

Why do you always pretend you don’t know when someone’s interested in you when you obviously do? Erm, we’ve obviously never met. My not realising it has been the source of humour in the past to friends. Nowadays it’s a source of mild irritation, and sometimes not that mild.

Life lessons? Two:

  1. Learn from your mistakes; regret ’em, but don’t brood on them.
  2. Accept completely, and irrevocably, that life is an ongoing and consecutive series of ‘well, it seemed like a good idea at the time’.

Exam lessons? I’ve taken a lot of exams in my life. I learned these four lessons far later than I should have done:

  1. Don’t worry about ‘answering the question’; ensure you ‘get the marks’. The two are often only the same thing by coincidence.
  2. The first half marks in a question are always easier to get than the last half.
  3. KISS: Keep It Simple, Stupid; don’t assume the marker knows anything
  4. RTFQ: Read the fucking question

Who would you most like to meet? There are any number of people with whom I’ve corresponded online that I’d like to meet, including some that have become friends. Celebrities? Stephen Fry, Peter David, Jon Stewart, John Oliver, Samantha Bee… mainly so I can tell them how much I’ve enjoyed their work. And some celebrities, public figures, who have, the past few years, stood up to defend Jews against antisemitism solely because it’s the right thing to do. I’d like to meet them so I can just say ‘thank you’.

Would you ever consider running for political office? Not. A. Fucking. Chance. Ever.

Do you believe in ghosts? Nope, not at all. I think that those people who do believe in ghosts are… misguided.

If you were to be famous, what would you like to be known for? As the disreputable and slightly embarrassing father of a very talented son.

What’s your favorite black and white movie? Always have problems with ‘favourite’ questions, because I have different favourites depending on genre. But probably Casablanca as a ‘serious’ movie, and Duck Soup as a comedy. (Definitely not It’s a Wonderful Life. Can’t stand the movie. At all.)

What do you wear to bed to sleep? A duvet.

What song always makes you happy when you hear it? Not sure about ‘happy’, but Walking on Sunshine by Katrina and the Waves always makes me smile when I hear it.

Are you afraid of the dark? It’s never given me a reason to be afraid of it. So far.

What’s your favourite music to dance to? Even when my foot allowed it, I disliked dancing. Hated it. I’m too self-conscious; I cannot get it out of my head that everyone’s looking.

Do you think writers are too in love with themselves? Oh hell, no. I think many writers don’t like themselves very much at all.

Can you recommend a coffee? I always recommend a coffee.

Who is the strongest person you know? Couldn’t narrow it down to one person; so many people I know have triumphed – or are struggling to do so – against horrible things that have happened to them, that I couldn’t narrow it down to one person.

Favorite Number? 1729

Can you speak any languages other than English? The odd word of yiddish, but absolutely fluent rubbish.

Would you rather visit a zoo or an art museum? I’d rather visit neither.

Do you own a knife? Well, does a Swiss Army Knife count? If so, yes.

What did you want to be when you were little? Older… and taller.

Is there any subject that should be off limits for humor? No. None. However, just because a joke can be made about a subject doesn’t mean it should be made, or told.

Are you a hypocrite? Yes. Next question?

Just curious – what’s your type? Arial Rounded MT Bold.

If you were one of The Endless, which one would you be?
As a general rule though, never really feel like a character created by someone else. I’m more of a self-made person who has a healthy disrespect for my creator.

Why did you stop the fast fiction stories? Mainly because I’d written 700+ of them and I didn’t want to write 800. They may return at some point, if there’s a reason the format suits the occasion.


Something else tomorrow, something a bit more serious and a lot more sensible…

This post is part of a series of blog entries, counting down to my fifty-fifth birthday on 17th August 2019. You can see the other posts in the run by clicking here.

The final blog entry I wrote in the ‘2017 minus’ run was entitled: 2017 minus 01: A green light and dealt with my having quit smoking a month earlier… without telling anyone.

Spoiler: I then told people.

And I continued telling people. Just not here.

Because one of the consequences of not having blogged during the past couple of years is that, er… I haven’t blogged.

And a lot’s happened in the past two years; to me, to everyone, and I haven’t written about any of it.

Oh, I’ve commented about it, on Twitter, sure, but Twitter, even with linked threads, is by nature a concise format.

Some might try to get around that by writing dozens of tweets in a thread, but that’s not my tweeting style; threads on occasion, sure, but not long ones.

So while I a) gave up smoking, b) without telling anyone about it, and wrote about both in the entry mentioned above, I’ve not written anything long form on it.

There were lots of reasons for not telling people the first month, or telling very few anyway. primary reason being that this way there was no outside pressure; also, no ‘inside’ pressure. If I quit quitting… I’d ‘let no one down’. Was for once purely my decision to quit, and would be my decision to quit quitting as well.

But it’s now been more than two and a half years, and though I mention it every few months on Twitter, I’ve not had the opportunity to write about it properly.

So here goes.

When I left you:

  • I’d tried, half-heartedly, to quit before; never lasted. I missed smoking too much.
  • I decided this time… pretty much on a whim
  • Once I’d slept on it, I decided to have a proper go at it
  • I made a detailed plan to go from smoking to non-smoking in about seven weeks, with ‘targets’ along the way.
  • I kept to the plan
  • I’d quit smoking a month earlier, on 30th November 2016.
  • I was now using a Curv ecig

So for the next few months, I continued with the Curv. I quite liked it. It was easy to use, inexpensive compared to smokes, available in loads of places, and about the size of a cigarette, so I never felt like my hands had to learn something new.

I figured that, given the then-cost of starter vape kits (they’ve come down a bit since then) it was more sensible to stick with the Curv for a while; after all, who knew whether I’d stick at it?

For I’d tried before, don’t forget and I’d always missed smoking when I previously attempted to give up.

With the Curv? I… didn’t.

That was the oddest thing: I didn’t miss smoking.

Now, sure, to all intents and purposes, I was still smoking. I was holding something roughly the size of a cigarette, taking in nicotine, inhaling, exhaling with roughly the same amount of ‘smoke’ as I’d do with a cigarette…

And the Curv, while coming in several strengths, only had two ‘flavours’: tobacco and menthol.

So, with the exception of less crap going into my body, there really wasn’t that much difference to smoking. And it was cheaper, a lot cheaper. Not as cheap as vape would be, but well on the way.

Once I’d told people about it, people started saying three things:

  1. “You don’t smell of tobacco any more!”
  2. “Oh, you’ll feel so much healthier, and everything will taste better, oh, and well done!”
  3. “So when are you switching to a vape?”

 
To which I usually responded:

  1. “Thank you…?”
  2. “I don’t, it doesn’t, and thank you…”
  3. “When I’m convinced I’m sticking with it, and I find one that doesn’t look like a sonic screwdriver.”

 
Months passesd, I continued to very much not miss smoking, always faintly surprised at that. And I continued buying the Curv.

Until August 2017.

By then, I’d been saying for a couple of months that if I was still a non-smoker (I always kind of assumed I’d go back to it at some point) than when my birthday rolled around, I’d consider getting a vape kit.

Friends took care of that for me, and for my birthday that year, they bought me an Aspire K2 vape, plus half a dozen differently flavoured liquids.

I was both delighted and worried; delighted both because the startup ‘cost’ of vaping had been very kindly taken care of, and this vape didn’t look enormous, but slender, and easy to use.

Worried because as with any change, as with any jump-on point, there’s always the possibility that I’ll hate the change so much that I’ll just quit the entire enterprise, and jump off.

I didn’t, though. Quickly learned to use it, really liked it. Felt nice in my hand, wasn’t huge, didn’t feel like I was holding a sonic screwdriver, at least not a big one. (The only problem with the K2 was that it kept rolling off the table and falling to the ground. So I ended up buying a new tank every month or so… )

Soon, I was off to Edinburgh for a week at the Fringe… where I expected to have an odd experience; would be the first fringe I’d been to since quitting smoking.

And there was an effect, but not the one I was expecting. No, I didn’t start smoking again; no I didn’t miss it.

But after eight months of not smoking and it not having any deleterious consequence when out… When I was in Edinburgh – where I guess I always associated it with me smoking, and only associated it with me smoking…

every time I left a table, every bloody time, when leaving somewhere, when standing up from a table, I searched for my cigarettes and lighter.

Seriously, every time. The first couple of times were amusing. After three or four days, the amusement paled, and I was genuine annoyed with myself at it.

Hmm. Creature of habit, you see?

And everyhere’s uphill.

As you know, if you’ve been – and as you’ve heard, if you know anyone who has been – to Ediburgh, everywhere is uphill. Somehow, walking to a gig, you’re walking uphill. Walking back from the gig, you should be walking downhill, yes?

No. As Mitch Benn once observed, Edinburgh’s not so much a city as an Escher lithograph.

I was curious before arriving as to whether I’d notice any difference to my health, whether I’d find it easier going up the hills, the long flights of stairs… Sadly, no. No difference. Was just as out of breath in 2017 as I was in 2016.

November 30th 2017: a year as a former smoker.

I was pleased. I was fairly proud. I was, quite frankly, flabbergasted.

A few months after that, I lost my K2 vape. Got another, still Aspire but a PockeX, the one I’m still using now, and for the first time since I stopped smoking, I felt like “yes, this is the kit I want.”

And suddenly it was August again. And Edinburgh again.

And this time, in 2018, I noticed. I noticed the difference.

There’s a set of steps in Edinburgh that, for me, turned out to be quite literally the single best “huh, you are healthier, having quit smoking” measure.

This second pic shows the first half of the steps… there are another four ‘flights’ at the end.

And, for the first time, walking straight up them at decent pace, I ended up not being wholly out of breath at the end.

Huh.

I repeated the experience the following day.

Same result. Out of breath, but not wholly so, not gasping for breath and needing five minutes to recover.

I repeat: huh.

So am I now permanently an ex-smoker?

I don’t know. Genuinely.

I’m not a smoker now. I think that’s all I can say.

I’ve only twice missed smoking, only twice wanted a cigarette, in those two and a half years since I quit. On both occasions, I was surrounded by people who didn’t smoke. Had they smoked, would I have taken a cigarette? I don’t think so. I hope not. But I don’t know, and that scares me more than it probably should.

I should find my personal devotion to ‘habit’ a good thing in the circumstances. I smoked as a habit; I now don’t, as a habit.

But sometimes that’s not necessarily a good thing.

One more story, from a month ago.

Because it’s annoying when you have a flaw – one both you and friends resignedly agree on – confirmed, even if it’s for the most trivial of things. And this is trivial, I promise you.

I said I liked my PockeX, the kit, a lot. And I do: there’s not much vapour, so it does’t fill the room, and I like the taste of the liquids. Again, habit: usually a light lemon flavour. I like citrus flavours and have on the whole stuck to them.

BUT I’d started noticing the liquid was dark, dirty, at the bottom of the PockeX’s tank before I refilled it. I mean, really dirty. It didn’t affect taste but it… irked. It hadn’t been dirty before; it now was. I assumed the kit was faulty, or the I just had a bad batch but… it turned out to be something quite different: I’d been using the ‘wrong’ liquid for a year, the ‘wrong’ VG/PG balance.

The liquid I’d been using was, apparently, too ‘thin’ for the kit/atomiser/coil combination I had. As a result, the nicotine in the lemon-flavoured liquid – a pale yellow liquid – was being heated too high… by my kit.

So I was advised to change the liquid.

So I did.

Sticking with the same brand (well, same manufacturer) I changed to a 50/50 mix, but similar light citrus flavour. (I was warned up front that I’d have to get used to it; it’d take time, after a year of the other liquid.)

So… anyway, I bought three bottles & tried it.

I. Hated. It.

The closest flavours tasted horrible compared to the old liquid. And I really didn’t like anything about it: the feel of it in my mouth, the hit to my throat, not a bloody thing.

Hated it, hated it, hated it.

And the sad thing was that I knew that a part of it – how big a part is up for debate – was because I don’t like change, I don’t like ‘new’.

So, as I used my last bottle of the ‘new’ liquid, I’m was torn between toughing it out…

…or saying ‘fuck it’ and going back to the ‘wrong’ liquid – accepting the genuine annoyance of the dirty bit, and wiping it out – at the end of the tank.

No surprise that after a couple of night’s sleep, I went with the latter.

And yes, like drinking scotch with a mixer, there’s also an element of “I’m paying for the liquids, so I get to have the liquids I like rather than what someone else tells me I should have”.

But, yes, also, there’s a huge part of: ‘you’re a stubborn bastard, budgie; you’ve just decided you like things the way they were.

And when I told close friends about this, especially the ones who started me on this ‘quiting cigs, use a vape’ journey, they very good-naturedly sighed… and nodded. And smiled.


Something else tomorrow.

This post is part of a series of blog entries, counting down to my fifty-fifth birthday on 17th August 2019. You can see the other posts in the run by clicking here.

I’ve never been stalked in real life; And I’m not for a moment suggesting in the entry that follows that being stalked online comes even close to the horror and fear that accmpanies someone being stalked ‘in real life’, in person, in other words.

But I’ve been stalked online, and received what I considered to be genuine, credible, threats, and it’s not pleasant, to put it mildly.

It’s happened a couple of times – two where I’ve gotten the authorities involved – and in retrospect, what strikes me isn’t how surprising it was that anyone gave a shit about me – which should still be utterly shocking, lets’ face it – but how… genuinely vulnerable it makes you feel.

The following is about one of them, in the early days of my time online.

Back in the day, I helped run a couple of CompuServe’s Forums. One was the UK Current Affairs Forum, prevously the UK Politics Forum. Another was CompuServe’s Jewish Forum. I was a member of half a dozen Forums, but they were the only two where I actively helped run them.

On the whole, my experience in Forums were great ones: I learned a lot, made some good friends, and they were great introductions to the pleasures and pitfalls of putting opinions out there. Some of the friends I made as a result of my presence in CompuServe Forums are friends to this day.

(I recently joined Instagram, which is a flat out weird one for me, and when I went though my contacts, as to who to follow, some of them were people I first met back on CompuServe, some over twenty years ago…)

So, yes, most of my time on CompuServe was fun, and objectively beneficial.

But then there were the less pleasant aspects; take the time we booted someone from the Jewish Forum for persistent breaches of Forum Rules.

Every Forum had its set of rules. Some were simple: don’t abuse, don’t post sexual images, and… that’s about it. Some had long sets of rules, dozens of them, covering everything from “use your REAL name here” to the maximum size of images posted in messages.

The Jewish Forum, for example, didn’t have that many rules. But one of the biggies was no proselytising, no “you’re all wrong and should accept Jesus into your hearts!“. (For the reasons why a Jewish Forum would have that rule, see here and here.)

Now every Forum, every message board, had their idiots, their abusers, their ‘I have my rights!‘ crowd.

The trick was to control the harmless idiots and expel the harmful ones. Most times, I think we got it about right, most of the time. And when you don’t, when you over react, or under react, the lesson you then learn is possibly the most valuable of all.

And to be fair, when you did sling someone out, most of them just licked their wounds and either apologised… or moved on.

With some, who were thrown out of forum after forum, who joined merely to abuse and insult, you soon realised that their etire purpose was to abuse and insult in the hope they’d piss off people enough that they’d get thrown out. It was a wish I was more than willing to grant.

But even among this group, most were sensible enough to know that it was more sensible to try their luck in another venue, rather than try again in one they’d already polluted.

But there were some who would be so offended by our showing that there were consequences to abusing others… that they’d become determined to hit back. They’d be so upset, that their ‘freedom of speech’ to abuse and insult was infringed, that their determination to abuse and insult would be redoubled.

And one chose to make it his business to trash me and attempt to trash my reputation.

Among the more charming messages written to (or about) me on at least six other Forums, using one or more of his 18 separate IDs (!) were:

Alas we meet again.I’M glad YOUR brothers DEAD.Just remember I hate you,brit.

 

We know where you work.where you live.we hired a pi.the games are just starting.its all in good fun.i hope you continue to play along.i will win.you will lose.i’m going to help you lose your job.lets make a bet on it.

 

I hear your mother was a whore and you are really a nazi.i think its time for you to lose your job.lets make a bet that you will be un-employed in one years time. So many people hate that you don’t where or who or what is against you. Your mother is a coward and so are you. We made printouts of your photo and sent them to all kinda intresting places bitch.

 

Can i fuck your wife in the ass ?.your son can watch.

 
And the latest? Oh, this one will cheer all of you out there that read comics…

Why are you into comics ?The word around the office is that you use comic books as bait for meeting minors.

And remember, this was merely beause we threw him out of The Jewish Forum for abusing others, breaking the rules, and, not for nothing, proseltising.

I’ll admit to being slightly amused when he turned up on yet another Forum, with an ID of “GOPSenate” suggesting that I was a danger to American National Security.

As another member, commenting that he didn’t know how much of a danger to National Security I was: “After all,” he continued, “if you can’t trust a guy who shows up out of nowhere with a bagful of incoherent abuse and return address of ‘GOPSenate’, who’s left?”

His final messages before I’d finally had enough suggested that I was a paid up member of a pedophilia advocacy organisation, that I installed spyware on every forum member’s computer, and that the police were investigating taking my son away from me.

I was lucky, I’ll acknowledge. I had the resources, the anger, and the experience to do something about it.

So I did. I downloaded all the archive messages, and did a search for messages he’d posted in other forums…

It didn’t take me long to find the state in which he lived. It took me a bit longer to find, and confirm, the city in which he lived. It took me a lot longer, back then, to narrow it down to the suburb. I already had an idea of his real name. Even back then, once I had his location, it was relatively easy to confirm it.

And that, together with a small payment to their white pages, gave me his work and home addresses.

After that effort, it then took me only about five minutes to find the contact details for the local police department.

Given that the call came out of the blue, and the police detective they put me through was obviously – back then – less than familiar with ‘the internet’, he was great. He listened calmly, took notes, and asked me to fax through the ‘message… board… posts?’

I did, the following day, and that evening got a call back from a more senior detective. I still remember thinking that his voice didn’t so much express anger or upset through words but as an low, very low, but persistent growl. He was not happy. He was very, very not happy.

Not with me, he hastened to assure me, but that a resident of His Town (the capitals were implied) was

1) that abusive
2) that insulting
3) ‘that damned stupid’

The insulting he accepted was unpleasant, but… the nastiness was unpleasant but…

However, the going into the Jewish Forum and proselytising “well, now, that’s just not… that’s… no. Just, no.” And the stuff about children. “Well, now, that needs to… Stop.”

He explained I had two options:

I. I could make a formal complaint, it would go through the usual processes, and if charges followed — he was sure there was some law being broken — I’d likely have to come over to testify if it went any further.

II. I could ‘leave it with’ him, and he personally guaranteed I’d hear no more from the, he hesitated before saying the word, “…the man.”

I chose the latter.

I have no idea what happened next. I have no idea if – or whether – the senior police detective went to visit the resident of his town… no idea whether he put the fear of god into him, no idea whether he threatened him…

But after a year of constantly abusing, constantly insulting, constantly re-appearing and insulting and abusing, he… disappeared. He just stopped.

So, I’ve no idea what happened.

Well, that’s not quite true.

I’ve an idea or two.

See you tomorrow, with something else.

This post is part of a series of blog entries, counting down to my fifty-fifth birthday on 17th August 2019. You can see the other posts in the run by clicking here.

Every so often, I’ll hear a gag at a comedy evening and it’ll strike home for all sorts of reasons; often, just because it’s clever and funny.

I like smart and funny material delivered by funny and smart people. It’s therefore not a coincidence that my favourite kind of stand-up is that which makes me laugh and think… at the same time.

I could easily spend an entire entry writing about a half a dozen of my favourites… so I guess you can now expect that during this run, as well. (Honestly amuses me that every entry so far has had me scribbling notes on something else about which to write.)

But I was talking about specific gags and why they resonate with me. Sometimes it’s something that strikes at the heart of something that I care greatly about… occasionally, it’s just a throwaway line that reveals great truth.

This one, delivered by a comedian named Chris Stokes was the latter. Self-deprecatingly commenting about how socially awkward he is, he went on to explain that’s why he doesn’t like going for a haircut:

“let’s face it, it’s just small talk at sword point.”

It’s a nice gag, but it particularly hit home for me because my family was/is in hairdressing.

A grandparent, a father, an uncle, and two brothers… all worked in hairdressing,

As a result, I grew up surrounded by the culture of hairdressing: the jargon, the personalities, the superstitions, and the war stories. I learned the ‘secrets of the job’ at the same time I was starting school; some of them have even stuck with me.

And I heard about the type of clients that every salon has;:the client who brings in a photo and asks for that haircut, despite having neither the head shape nor hair type on which that haircut would look nice; the client who always complained that the junior never shampooed hard enough so would start washing her own hair…

Also, as a result, I never grew up with a fear of hairdressing, nor of having my hair cut. To me, and my brothers, it was just something that dad – and others – did; they cut hair. People cut hair, and people had their hair cut. Oh, everyone went to the hairdressers on a regular basis to have a haircut.

It was quite a shock, I remember, to discover that some people were scared of getting their hair cut, were genuinely worried every time they went into a hairdressers’.

And as I grew up, even I did a stint, working Saturdays and holidays; shampooing, sweeping up, ‘handing up’ perm curlers and the rest… for my dad and his staff in his salon; until, at 15, I – like many kids working for their parents – wanted to get a Saturday and evening job that wasn’t dependent on me being related to the boss.

I have many natural abilities and learned skills, but having grown up in hairdressing, and being surrounded by it, one thing I knew pretty early on is that it wasn’t for me.

For a start, it’s a damn hard job; I always joked that I took the easy way out by becoming an accountant, but it’s only half a joke.

And yes, there’s also something best illustrated by those two pics, over there, to the right.

Look, if someone had done that to you, you wouldn’t that keen on making it your career either. (Hey, I was a child in the 1970s; I didn’t get to express an opinion on my parents’ choice of haircuts for me in those days.)

And as for the social skills hairdressers possess, making each client feel as if they’re the only person in the world that matters right then… and doing that a dozen or more times a day? No, definitely not something that appealed to me.

But it’s the the small talk element that to this day staggers me. I am genuinely in awe of the ability and skills of a good hairdresser to have the same conversation possibly dozens of times a day, every day, and not show their boredom at the same time as making your client feel good about themselves. And – if it’s a regular client – hearing the same stories, the same personal complaints about the vicissitus of life, from the same client… every bloody time.

I genuinely don’t know how they do it; impressed the hell out of me when I was younger and it still does.

When I moved down to Richmond, it took me a while to find a hairdresser who could do three things:

a) give me a decent haircut
b) make me enjoy the experience
c) be someone I liked, an underrated quality in a hairdresser

Fortunately I found someone; was with her for a few years, and after she left on maternity leave, she recommended a colleague to take over. Knowing well the horror stories from people when a hairdresser they trust has handed over to someone they don’t… it’s a genuine delight to say that my current hairdresser – Taylor – is just as lovely, just as talented and just as able to make even me look good. I’m so pleased with her – and her work, and skill, that despite no longer living in the Richmond area, I stll go back to her, and the salon in which she works, when I get a haircut.

As I did this morning.

Slightly closer cropped than usual, but I like it…

This post is part of a series of blog entries, counting down to my fifty-fifth birthday on 17th August 2019. You can see the other posts in the run by clicking here.

The last time I had a surgical procedure, the last time a doctor took some kind of medical implement, inserted it into my body, and removed something, was more than a decade ago, when I had a navicular bone removed from my foot, about which I’ve written before.

And long time followers (and what a weird concept that is) on Twitter and other social media will know that I sometimes link to the post above, a post entitled Trouble afoot, in which I detail why I’ve got a fucked up foot, and why I whinge about it when it hurts like hell. Which it does, on a regular basis.

So, congratulations to anyone with an inkling of how my mind works for guessing that this post, with its title, is about the opposite end of my body.

And now, you see, I have a problem, the ever present problem for a writer of both trying to be honest – or at least not dishonest – but also attempting to maintain a certain level of suspense that accompanies the telling of a story.

Because I’ve already lied to you: the most recent time I had a surgical procedure wasn’t “more than a decade ago”; it was last year, when I had a couple of scalp biopsies to check whether I had basal cell carcinoma; skin cancer. On my scalp.

But, not to bury the lede – too late, I fear – the tests were negative. So, no, I don’t have skin cancer. But for a while, both the medical profession and I… thought I probably did.

This wasn’t the first time in recent memory that I’d had to have skin biopsies, either. Towards the back end of 2017, I had a couple – one just below my temple, a mole removed from my upper back – that turned out to be nothing, or nothing malignant, anyways. Both my GP and the dermatological team made it clear at the time that those biopsies were really ‘just in case’; sure, they could have been something nasty… but odds were they weren’t.

One turned out to be just… a mole that kept bleeding; the other was a patch of discolouration on my left temple that several friends had noticed was growing. Well, after surgery it was about a quarter of the size it was previously. So that was nice. And when they removed the mole, it stopped bleeding. Well, it may have. I mean, if it did, it’s in some laboratory somewhere, being examined by very puzzled lab techs, I’d imagine, while it metamorphises into something with… plans.

Best of luck sleeping tonight, folks.

But anyway, as I say, the first couple were merely to confirm that they weren’t anything nasty.

The second time, last year, no such comfort was offered. The consultant was “highly suspicious” that the spots… ok, lesions… that hadn’t healed since before August 2017 were carcinomas, and the doc who took the biopsies said she was ‘fairly confident’ they were as well.

And I appreciate that they were merely trying to prepare me for the worst, but… yeah.

However, that wasn’t the scary part…

The really scary bit about the procedure was when the doc told me “yeah, they tick almost all the boxes for basal cell carcinoma, let’s do the biopsies…” dig… “oh [beat] ok, there are the other two boxes ticked.”

So the procedure wasn’t so much ‘just in case…’ as they were ‘let’s just confirm…’

And then they were confirmed… as benign in one case, and just a massive infection in the other. But excising both seemed to do the job.

I guess, I suppose, that scraping a chunk of my scalp removed any of the infected tissue, because both scars healed very nicely, thank you, with no lasting ill effects, and not even a bald patch.

So I haven’t even got that excuse; any patches I have, or will get, on my scalp will be due to me just getting, y’know, older.

Now I want to be clear: if you’re going to get skin cancer, a basal cell carcinoma is the best one to get.

And that isn’t a joke, or a bit of self-deprecating relief. It’s so much better than the other kinds of skin cancer, it’s not even an exaggeration to say you’re lucky to get one of those.

The recovery rate is very high, especially at my then-age, and though there’s a decent risk of recurrence, at least none of them were near my eyes, nor my mouth. They were all on my scalp, the latter two on the crown, separated by about an inch and a half.

And this was last year, so why write about them today?

Well, the reason for this post today is threefold.

One: I’ve not blogged since the surgeries and I wanted to write something on it

Two: To relate what happened and how un-scary the whole procedure was, on the whole.

Three: To recommend that if you’ve any doubt, any doubt at all, about that spot that just won’t heal… go see your doctor.

OK, now since I’ve already dealt with One, by writing the entry, let’s move on to number Two.

I went to St Mary’s for the initial checkup and surgeries. They couldn’t have been more professional, more courteous more reassuring. Every one of the medical staff, the doctors and nurses, were professional, courteous, friendly and ‘judged’ the situation perfectly.

At no point whatsoever did I feel that they were over-egging the situation, nor trivialising it. They knew I was scared; they knew I was worriedand so they explained everything in plain English, in simple language. Jargon was used only once or twice and they explained to me its meaning so if I heard something during the procedure, I’d know what the hell they were talking about.

Their entire motivation, it seemed, was to ensure that I a) understood what was going on and what was going to happen during the surgery, b) understood why they were concerned, and c) was fully consenting to what was going to happen.

(On a lighter note, I’m 54 years old, have had lots of local anaesthetic over my life and have always, always, been told this will feel like a sharp scratch. My thanks to the anaesthetists on both sets of procedures because the injections administrated for my biopsies were the only times in my life, literally the only times, when the injection of local anaesthetic has indeed felt like a sharp scratch. Which was a pleasant surprise.)

I had punch biopsies, which… I have no idea whether that’s always the procedure or just what was appropriate for my procedure. I felt pressure, but was completely numbed… to the point where the only reason I realised I was bleeding was when I saw a drop of blood… drop.

The stitches pulled, afterwards, but even when they were removed, the entire process was – all things considered – pretty pain free. (Oh, that was one of the signs they didn’t like before, by the way… that the spots, ok lesions, were entirely pain free, even when a bit yucky and ‘nasty’…)

So, yeah, all things considered, I was pretty lucky.

But I might not have been. I could have had skin cancer. And even with a basal cell carcinoma, the high rebate of recovery from it, the easy removal, kind of depends on the doctors being, y’know, aware of them.

So, to number Three above: do yourself a favour. If you’ve any doubt, any doubt at all, if your friends have noticed that mole’s grown a lot, or it’s constantly bleeding, or you’ve a wound that just won’t heal… go see your doctor.

Yes, it’s probably nothing to worry about, but since they’re the doctor and you’re not, let them confirm it with the benefit of their professional knowledge, rathe than your usual ‘ah, I’m sure it’ll be fine.’

Something less serious, hopefully, tomorrow.

This post is part of a series of blog entries, counting down to my fifty-fifth birthday on 17th August 2019. You can see the other posts in the run by clicking here.

In August, I’ll have been in my current flat (ok, ok, ‘apartment’, for the Americans reading) ‪for two and a half years.

Two and a half years. Yes, that feels about right to me.

Which is… odd, because in the closing days of January, when it occurred to me that I’d been at the flat almost two years, it was quite a surprise to me.

It couldn’t be two years, it just couldn’t be. But it was. That meant two birthdays, two Christmasses, ‬two New Years… and while I knew it intellectually, it sure felt a lot less than two years had gone by since I left Richmond, Well, Ham, actually, but yeah, Richmond.

But now, this… two and a half years feels about right.

‬I’ve lived in London since early 1986, and while I can’t say it’s my favourite place in the UK, let alone the world¹, it’s where I’ve chosen to live since I was in my early 20s.

The UK. Ah, the United Kingdom. Four nations, four countries, yet I still think of it as one ‘place’, and I think of myself as British, not English.

On a related point, I don’t really ‘get’ patriotism, as a concept, I mean.

I can understand immigrants to a country being grateful to a country that takes them in, and ‘loving’ their new country because of it, sure. But loving a country merely because you were born there, thinking it’s the ‘greatest country on earth’, etc. Hmm, no, never understood that.

But I digress. Back to the UK.

While I’ve been to three of the constituent parts of the UK, I’ve never yet managed to make it over to Northern Ireland. I kind of regret that.

Wales I visited a couple of times in my 20s, and I dunno, once or twice a decade since?Scotland, I’ve only visited half a dozen times or so, all in the past decade, but only to the Isle of Skye, and Edinburgh. And my favourite place in the UK, I have to say, is… Edinburgh.

But, I should acknowledge, that opinion comes with so many caveats, I’m not totally sure it’s a fair view to express. For a start, I’ve only been to Edinburgh six times, each visit for roughly a week. In August. During the Edinburgh Festival, or more properly, at the Edinburgh Fringe. So it’s at least arguable that my favourite place isn’t Edinburgh per se, but that weird place named ‘EdinburghDuringFringe’.

Now, I could write several posts’ worth of content on the Edinburgh Fringe… which means, as you no doubt realise, that I probably will. I’ve always been curious whether I’d enjoy Edinburgh as much outside August, when every other door in the city doesn’t lead to a venue, when a walk along a street doesn’t leave you with pockets full of flyers, when the streets aren’t so packed they make London’s Oxford Street on Christmas Eve look empty.

I’m digressing again. Apologies. Back to London for a bit.

When I first moved to London, in 1986, it was to a flat-share near Ilford. Not one of my smarter moves, I never really enjoyed my time there; in part because what was originally just me and the fella who owned the flat quickly – a couple of weeks later – became me, the fella who owned the flat… and his new fiancée, who he proposed to. Two weeks after I moved in. And two weeks before she moved in. The flat was great for two, and awful for three… and after a month of that, I was looking again.

About my only fond memories of the flat are of the fiancée who was very sweetly embarrassed about the whole thing, and a beigel bakery that had just opened nearby.

So I moved into a flat in Highgate. I’d say that the landlady was the typical ‘little old lady’ who had a nice flat but just liked having lodgers but she was anything but typical. Managing Director of a thriving electrical wholesale business – she’d taken over after her husband died – she had a brain like a razor blade, was funny as hell, and… just liked having lodgers. I was there for a few years, and only moved out after she died and her family sold the flat.

I’ve many, many fond memories of the flat and of Highgate itself. Particularly of the people living in Highgate, and of one fella, named D’Arcy – never knew his first name, everyone just called him D’Arcy – who ran a coffee shop in Highgate Village. I’d wander down there at the weekend, and when taking a break while on accountancy study leave. And we’d play chess, and backgammon, and shoot the breeze about anything and everything. Lovely man; funny, a booming voice, and a fund of stories about his background, some of which might even have been true.

A couple of years in North Finchley followed, a house share, the only place I’ve lived in where I was almost ashamed to invite people back to. Awful. Six of us in the house, at any point three of us weren’t talking to another three. But there was a Canadian writer living there, and we hit it off… a playwrite, she was fascinated by British radio comedy…

I can no longer remember whose idea it was to write together, but we submitted some stuff to Radio 4… and soon enough we were both commissioned to write for Weekending. And yet that isn’t the prime memory of my life at the house. Because I’d met Laura… and started going out with Laura, and gotten engaged to Laura…

Oh, and I was still studying to be an accountant, so there was that as well.

The next twelve years was spent living with Laura, at a flat in Barnet, and then a house. They weren’t all fantastic years. But they were great places to live, with Laura and then Phil, when he came along a year or so after we married, and I can barely remember any of the bad times now; on the whole, they were good years.

A flat in Barnet for seven years after we split up; oh, I loved that two bedroom flat; just big enough for me to not feel crowded with all my stuff in it; small enough that it felt like ‘mine’. And Phil was regularly there which made it even better.

Career was going well, social life was great-ish, comics stuff was great, writing stuff was great. Flat was great.

Then…

Yeah… then.

I mentioned yesterday that I’d had some mental health issues, and I wouldn’t yet go into detail. I had, and I won’t. Suffice to say that I had a fairly comprehensive nervous breakdown, and leave it there… for the moment. Only reason I’m mentioning it here is to get to what came next: close friends said ‘come and stay with us for a few months… we’d love to have you…’

“A few months.”

Four and a half years. And I loved living there. In Ham, in Richmond. I discovered how much I enjoyed Richmond Park; genuinely never expected that. Until then, friends would good-naturedly rib me at my lack of interest in, let alone affinity for, nature and all things… green. But I loved the place. I rediscovered how much I enjoyed living in what’s effectively a village, but with all the advantages of a large town mere minutes away.

But, in early 2017, it was time to move on, and so I did… to my current place, in Abbey Road; as I said yesterday, very close to Abbey Road Studios.

Every place I’ve lived, I’ve some fond memories. Every place I’ve lived, there’s been oddities and weird quirks. Never expected, however, to find tourists asking me for directions every third day, or traffic being held up as other tourists pose on that bloody crossing… You’d think that’d get tiring, and the latter, yeah it does.

But the former, the asking for directions? Nope. After two and a half years, it’s still cute, and sweet, and genuinely lovely. Their enthusiasm, their ‘we made it half way around the world, but we can’t find something 300m away’? Yeah, honestly, that’s never anything but… nice. And their gratitude is politeness itself.

I’ve lived in London since 1986. Thirty-three years; three-fifths of my life; hell, almost all of my adult life. At some time in the future, no doubt, I’ll start to feel like ‘a Londoner’, to feel that “Maybe it’s because I’m a Londoner’ will apply to me. I hope so. Because really, I don’t. I feel like a welcomed guest, someone to who London has said ‘come on in, stay as long as you want, you’re always welcome here’.

And for the past two and a half years, that’s been in Abbey Road.

I wonder what the next two and half will bring.

This post is part of a series of blog entries, counting down to my fifty-fifth birthday on 17th August 2019. You can see the other posts in the run by clicking here.


¹ one of the best things about writing a blog is the ‘huh, I should write an entry on that at some point’ thought, so maybe a ‘favourite places around the world’ entry will appear later on in this run. Maybe.