Archive for the ‘stuff’ Category

Had a long, very busy, day, so while I used to occasionally do this as part of the Saturday Smiles, it can now be one of my ‘in case of emergency, break glass‘ posts, instead of doing another set of ‘fiction from the vaults.

I first learned of this site when it wad called Criggo. I have no idea why it was called that, but when they switched to the more understandable, it saddened me.

Luckily, the content did not.

Here’s a selection of things that have appeared in newspapers in the past few years…
It’s something to consider…

1978 was a big year, huh?

No mention of the pickled peppers, I notice.

Sometimes the signs aren’t good…

OK, now that’s a decent discount…

Vanity, oh vanity


There are second jobs, and there are second jobs…

I’ll take ‘the bleeding obvious’ for $2,000, Alex 

You can sympathise, be fair…

“I’ll need an upfront fees retainer. No, no special reason.,..”

Well, of course he did.

Damn, these hiding places are ingenious


See you tomorrow, with… something else.



Sixty-one days. Sixty-one posts. One 2022 approaching.

I’ve signed up to, so if you fancy throwing me a couple of quid every so often, to keep me in a caffeine-fuelled typing mood, feel free. I’m on

This post is part of a series of blog entries, counting down to the new year. You can see the other posts in the run by clicking here.

Like everyone else, I have various sites bookmarked in my browsers. Using one just now, I figured I’d share some of them with you today.

There’s no particular order to them, nor any particular “Oh, my gods, you have to use this one” to them; they’re just sites I have bookmarked that are, or have been, useful to me over the years.

So, here are three dozen or so such sites.

One of my favourite ‘pass the time’ sites: Radio Garden
Pick a spot on the movable globe, and listen to radio stations from that place. Fully searchable.

Library of British and Irish law case judgments
I’ve used this site more in the past few years than I ever thought I would. A bit clunky in design, but excellent resource.

Readers of the blog will know how often I rely on this site; superb renditions of maps but not how you’re used to seeing them; where the size of counties is linked to population, or coffee exports, or eduction, or age… or covid transmission.

Real Time HTML editor
Type HTML in the text area at the top of the page, and it will appear in the frame below as it would look on a web page.

An old favourite: The Wayback Machine
Look back at what web pages used to look like…

Talking of way back when, remember when you used to get emails that now, when you look at them, they have winmail.dat attachments, and you can’t no longer open them? Well, now you can, on winmail.dat

There are plenty of versions of this one, but this is the original: The Powers of Ten page
View the Milky Way at 10 million light years from the Earth. Then move through space towards the Earth in successive orders of magnitude until you reach a tall oak tree just outside the buildings of the National High Magnetic Field Laboratory in Tallahassee, Florida. After that, begin to move from the actual size of a leaf into a microscopic world that reveals leaf cell walls, the cell nucleus, chromatin, DNA and finally, into the subatomic universe of electrons and protons.

Movie and TV scripts library and Movie Scripts online
Many, many, many scripts available from both of the above.

That fictional movie they had inside that movie you were watching? That fake tv show they had inside the tv show you saw? It’s here.

TV and movie themes
Pretty much every tv theme you could think of. Useful if you want a new ringtone, say…

Quote Investigator
Don’t believe that quote attribution you’ve seen online? Check it out here.

UPI – Weird News
What it says – weird news from around the world.

Online PDF Converter
Useful for combining various pages into one PDF

Remove the background of any image; it’s very very good at what it does.

Phrase Finder
Useful for discovering the origins of English language phrases and idioms

Two for Parliamentary nerds
Erskine May
-The bible for the British Parliament’s rules and procedures
Hansard – the actual stuff said in Parliament.

Markdown Text
Useful for Discord and anything where you want to use Markdown formatting
Merge and crossfade two or more audio streams

Time And Date
Good for time and date calculations…

Oh Gods, You’re Getting Old?
…and to feel your age while checking those calculations

Ok, you’ve got Shazam for ‘what’s that tune that’s playing right now’ but if you want to find the song that played in that movie or tv episode. Welcome to TuneFind.

Useful site to check whether your login has been captured in a data breach

Not quite as comprehensive as it claims to be but still pretty useful most of the time; how to get through to actual people for customer service

Unsplash and Pixabay
Two useful sites for royalty free images. I prefer Unsplash, and it’s what I use most of the time for this blog, but Pixabay is pretty good as well.

A pretty good library of user manuals for tech; if you’ve lost the manual for your printer, tv, computer… this will likely have it.

OK, to end with, some very enjoyable – to me, anyways – wastes of time:

The Restart Page
A very silly ‘waste of time’ site: different operating systems start up processes

In the same vein: The Museum of Endangered Sounds
A place to play; oh, the sounds they have…

Or of course you could waste time with Bongo Cat.

And if you need something else, there’s always The Bored Button
Click and find something… new, something thats’s not… boring.

Of course, sometimes, you just have to Scream Into The Void
So do so.


See you tomorrow, with… something else.



Sixty-one days. Sixty-one posts. One 2022 slowly approaching.

I’ve signed up to, so if you fancy throwing me a couple of quid every so often, to keep me in a caffeine-fuelled typing mood, feel free. I’m on

This post is part of a series of blog entries, counting down to the new year. You can see the other posts in the run by clicking here.

Not for nothing is there a saying about ‘the straw that breaks the camel’s back’. Every so often something, usually trivial, something unimportant, will occur that speaks to something much larger.

Today it was a Tory MP explaining away calling another (now former) Tory MP a cunt.

Apologies to those of you offended by my use of the epithet, but – to be be honest – if you’re upset by reading the word, then – to be equally honest – this blog probably isn’t for you anyway.

Sidebar: I’ve always found it amusing those who explain their not liking the word ‘because it’s the mark of a poor vocabulary’. I agree with the comedian Nick Doody, who responds by saying that no it isn’t; he knows all the words you know plus the word ‘cunt’.

The Tory MP in question, one Christian Wakeford, Conservative MP for Bury South, apparently called Owen Paterson (he of the forbidden lobbying thing), and then he explained it by…

Now, obviously, in the larger scheme of things, it’s not a big story. It’s not. But yeah, it’s one of those straws.

Remember Roseanne Barr, and when she was fired from the restarted Roseanne? And why?

Racist tweets, which she then blamed on her taking Ambien, such a ridiculous claim that the manufactures of Ambien, Sanofi, issued a fairly caustic denial: “While all pharmaceutical treatments have side effects, racism is not a known side effect of any Sanofi medication.”

It surprised me for several reasons. First off, as I’ve mentioned a few times, I’m on fairly strong painkillers myself, because of the fucked up foot. That’s, as I’ve also mentioned, is not necessarily the technical term for it, but it suffices. And at no point has the fairly huge dosages of cocodamol ever made me want to be racist… nor has it ever made me racist.

Note: you can sometimes fairly, and justifiably, blame very strong painkillers for many things, including slurred speech and confusion, as Wendy Williams did in 2018. That’s purely to do with physical reactions to unfamiliar strong painkillers, and the side effects thereof.

That’s not the same as, say, Australian football club president Eddie Maguire using the same excuse in 2016 to explain his 2013 racist comments about a player.

It’s reminds me of Mitch Benn’s observation that… no, wait, I’ll come to that in a minute.

Because painkillers aren’t the only thing people blame, of course. There’s always the old favourite: alcohol. Oh, that’s been blamed for racism, antisemitism, misogyny, homophobia…

Apart from say, Rob Ford, John Galliano, theres Mel Gibson. You remember Mel Gibson? Yes, that Mel Gibson. The antisemite and abuser Mel Gibson. Yes, Mel Gibson. The Mel Gibson who blamed his antisemitic rant when he was stopped in a traffic violation on… oh, you guessed it, alcohol.

Now, it’s been pointed out occasionally that Cardiff University found that

alcohol makes make people racist and homophobic‘,

as Metro’s headline had it. But if you look at the piece, the research says no such thing. Indeed within the first few lines, it says that Alcohol acts as an ‘igniter’ to people expressing their prejudices in the form of violent hate crime.”

And now we come back to Mitch Benn’s observation that I mentioned earlier: After Gibson had his troubles antisemitically raged while pissed, Mitch observed that alcohol doesn’t make you racist nor abusive; it just stops you forgetting to pretend not to be.

i.e. alcohol doesn’t affect your beliefs, merely your filters.

I’ll end today by going back to the Tory MP I started this with. You remember, the MP who explained away his calling Owen Paterson a cunt by saying his using the word was a mix of anger and codeine…

So, just to remove any ambiguity at all, to make this as clear as I possibly can:

If I ever call someone a cunt, it’s never because of the heavy amounts of cocodamol I take on a daily basis.

It’s because they’ve been a cunt.


See you tomorrow, with… something else.



Sixty-one days. Sixty-one posts. One 2022 slowly approaching.

I’ve signed up to, so if you fancy throwing me a couple of quid every so often, to keep me in a caffeine-fuelled typing mood, feel free. I’m on

This post is part of a series of blog entries, counting down to the new year. You can see the other posts in the run by clicking here.

Have returned from Thought Bubble comic con, and find it hugely amusing that I had a night filled with nightmares.

‘Amused’ because almost uniquely, the nightmares ‘made sense’; they were about missing trains and having to make a speech in front of comics people and being crushed by shelves of books. So, yeah, they a) made sense, and b) were classic nightmare tropes… which are both very very unusual for me.

But I’m tired, so…

A longtime ago, I used to occasionally do this as part of the Saturday Smiles, but Saturday has long been reserved for videos, and since I’m still a bit tired, you get it today.

I first learned of this site when it wad called Criggo. I have no idea why it was called that, but when they switched to the more understandable, it saddened me.

Luckily, the content did not.

Here’s a supply of things that have appeared in newspapers in the past few years…

It does kind of make you wonder what happened exactly two weeks ago…

 No comment


You can, can you?

Nowhere else available? 

You’re looking good, Mary Ann… 

Fortunately, the bear didn’t have an AR15…

“How’s the locker room morale, coach?” 


Look at this charmong place!

Awwww, deer dancing! 

Good… guard dog? 

If you like your kids cooked well 

Yeah, that’s not gonna give anyone nightmares… 

Slightly… used? 

See you tomorrow, with… something else.



Sixty-one days. Sixty-one posts. One 2022 slowly approaching.

I’ve signed up to, so if you fancy throwing me a couple of quid every so often, to keep me in a caffeine-fuelled typing mood, feel free. I’m on

This post is part of a series of blog entries, counting down to the new year. You can see the other posts in the run by clicking here.

As I mentioned yesterday, I’m at Thought Bubble comic con for the weekend, so a shorter than preferred post today.

Something’s been running through what I laughingly refer to as my brain since yesterday afternoon, when I saw some comics on sale that seemed… off, somehow.

I’m not about to name/embarrass either the comic nor the creator but it took me a moment to realise what was ‘wrong’, to my mind anyway. That it took so long is probably a mark of how long I’ve been absent from cons.

The self-produced, A5 comic, about… well, no, I’m not about to identify that either.

But what struck me after a couple of pages was that I could see what the creator was trying to do, I think, but… the comic was about a dozen and a half pages. There were maybe 60 or 70 panels in total. And every panel was great, as a spot illustration; I could tell, in every panel what was happening in the panel, and what the writer/artist wanted to convey. Again, I think.

What it took a moment to identify was that there was no actual design sense to any page that I could see. The panels worked as spot illustrations but there was no context identified for each panel to its predessesor nor its successor.

There were, as I say, maybe 70 panels. But they were 70 individual illustrations, attempting to tell a story, but with no actual storytelling occuring.

And it took until this morning when I woke to remember that I’d encountered this before; not the lack of story telling per se but the

something’s wrong but it takes a second or two to realise what…‘,

and particularly the feeling in that precise moment.

Someone I know once referred to it as ‘the unreka moment’, the opposite to the “eureka moment”.

Anyone, in any job, knows the “eureka moment”; it’s that split second when due to your professional expertise, or your knowledge and experience in your chosen job, combined with the right circumstances at the right moment…

… something ‘clicks’: you solve a problem, you see where the error is, you come up with a solution that’s been bugging you and/or your colleagues.

(Picture House, MD or Columbo having a Eureka moment, and you know what I mean, right?)

It’s not luck, although luck sometimes plays a part. Arnold Palmer’s trite comment of “the more I practice, the luckier I get” is usually quoted at this point, so… yeah. (I think Palmer’s quote is daft by the way, but that’s besides the point.)

But the eureka moment: when it happens, it feels great, and back in the day, when I was staring at a spreadsheet and suddenly I saw it, or researching tax law for a relief or allowance from which my client could benefit, or even when the penny dropped and I saw a way I could explain something to train a junior memebr of staff so they’d get it, so that they’d understand.

The Eureka Moment.

So what’s the opposite?

And yes, my friend may call it the unreka moment, but it’s what I call the “naah moment“, which I’d define as that exact moment when you look at something and know that it’s not right, but for a second (or even longer) you don’t know why it’s not right.

It’s an accountant looking at a balance sheet and saying “Naah“, knowing beyond peradventure that something’s just not quite right about it.

It’s an artist looking at an image and seeing something wrong, but it takes a moment to see why.

It’s a writer, reading a piece of prose, saying it out loud, and just knowing that there’s a better way of putting it, but not immediately being able to reword it.

The “naah moment“.

But now what I’m thinking about, as I type this moments before walking into the con today, what’s really making me think is that all three of the above might involve different parts of the ‘thinking’ process.

And if it is true that different parts of the brain deal with different appreciations: the parts of the brain that deal with vision are different from those that process hearing, then does the “naah moment” originate in different parts of the brain depending upon who’s thinkin’ it?

Hmm – something to ponder.


See you tomorrow, with… something else.



Sixty-one days. Sixty-one posts. One 2022 slowly approaching.

I’ve signed up to, so if you fancy throwing me a couple of quid every so often, to keep me in a caffeine-fuelled typing mood, feel free. I’m on

This post is part of a series of blog entries, counting down to the new year. You can see the other posts in the run by clicking here.

Well, come on, be honest… this wasn’t exactly a surprise even before I said I was likely going to be doing it.

The moment I got more than half-way through ‘57 minus…‘, it was likely I’d go on to do a ’57 plus…’ And the moment I got more than half-way through ‘57 plus…‘, let’s face it, it was more than likely I’d go on to do a ‘2022 minus…’

So here we are, or at least here I am, doing a ‘2022 minus…’ And if you’re out there reading this, hello! Feel free to say hello down below. If you’re new to the blog, welcome. If you’re an old hand, welcome back.

This will be the [oh, I don’t know] umpteenth (?) countdown blog run I’ve done and I’ve long since accepted that it’s the only way for me to post on a daily basis.

Previous attempts over the past decade or so I’ve had this blog that progress without the countdown tend to… peter out after a week and a half; I have no idea how people writing general allpurpose blogs, i.e those without a a specific focus, do it. I really don’t.

It was easier back in the days of Livejournal. Mainly, I’ve come to realise, because of the absence of Twitter.

My previous blog is still ‘live’, in theory at least. It’s effectively archived, although every so often someone will stumble across it and reply to a post from 2006 or something. And I’m not even referring to bots or spam comments.

You may think I’m kidding… I’m not. A year ago, someone replied to a post from 2004.

Yeah. That was… surprising.

But for the most part, the previous blog exists for me to look something up or to find something I know I’ve written about previously. And of course for the ‘in case of emergency, post a Q&A’ entry, where I can grab a set of questions and answer them in 2021, as opposed to the answers I gave in, say, 2006.

Thing is, looking at that blog, looking at the entries now, in 2021, it strikes me that a good 25% of those posts wouldn’t these days appear on my blog, but would appear as single tweets or even as a thread.

And now, in 2021, it’d just seem flat weird to post on this blog an entry of only 50 words. Or to post multiple short blog entries in a single day. Both of which I did freely on the Livejournal blog.

But without that freewheeling nature on here, yeah, I need the structure of the countdown.

So, yes, a countdown to 2022, a year that I’m in some ways finding it hard to come to terms with. It honestly doesn’t seem that long ago that we were all arguing about whether the year 2000 actually started the new millennium, or whether it was 2001 that accomplished it.

(It was the latter in case you wondered, but it was quite right to celebrate the former. After all, no one cares when your mileage odometer clicks over to 20,001 miles. Everyone cares when it hits 20,000.)

But because

a) it’s been a couple of weeks since you’ve seen anything from me, and

b) it’s only been a couple of weeks since you’ve seen anything from me, I’m left in a bit of a quandary for this post.

There’s no point in me doing a reintroduction. I did one of those at the start of the ’57 minus…’ run. Neither is there really a point in telling what you I’ve planned for this run. I did one of those recently as well.

You don’t need a anyway, because both you and I know that it’ll likely be the same kind of thing, though with different actual content, hopefully, this time around: new fiction on a Thursday, fiction from the vaults, Saturday Smiles, and the usual slice of life and occasional ponderings, and various items of flotsam and jetsam.

One question you might have is why sixty-one days/posts. It’s a fair question.

I usually do a seventy-five day countdown to the New Year. But after this most recent blog run, as I said, I genuinely needed a short-ish break. And so I took one, for the back half of October.

A fifty day countdown? Well, I could do that, but I was honestly worried that if I took effectively a month off, until mid-November, then maybe that fifty-day countdown would get delayed and turn into a forty-day countdown and then maybe I’d put it off for another short while and then suddenly we’d be nearly December and I’d think it’d not be worth doing it at all.


Sixty days was the obvious compromise: enough of a break to recharge the batteries, but not long enough for me to get comfortable not blogging.

So I did the calculations, and realised that counting sixty days backwards from 31st December brought me to precisely… 2nd November 2021. Which was… awkward.

Because as anyone who’s followed this blog or the previous one for a while will know, 2nd November is an important day for me.

And I didn’t want to kick off the blog again with that post. So, you get something else today, then that post tomorrow along with the return of fiction from the vaults in another post. And since I’m seriously considering doing a set Twelve Days of Fast Fiction again for the first time since 2016, I’m also thinking about including some of those for the Tuesday posts. I’ve got more than 40 I could pick from, after all. Hmm.

I haven’t decided yet on either proposal.

What else today before I sign off?

Well, I’m going to be attending my first comics con in almost a decade in a couple of weeks, which at the moment feels very… weird.

I’ll go more into it before I travel up on the 12th, maybe while I’m travelling up on the 12th, but, at the moment, suffice to say that Dave Gibbins and I wrapped up the hypotheticals panel at 2011’s Bristol Comic Expo, and I only attended a couple more cons after that.

Partly that was because I – as I’ve previously alluded to in brief – cracked up; partly it was because it was a part of my life that felt… over. And whenever I vaguely considered attending a con after that, it just felt, I dunno, not… right. Not the right time.

And then of course, suddenly it was 6 or 7 years since I’d been to a con.

But towards the end of 2019, I felt that strong itch, that itch I hadn’t felt in years. People were talking and writing about going to cons, and for the first time since I quit going, I… missed them. Missed the people, missed the culture, missed the being around people I like, missed… everything about attending a con. Oh, and I missed being around comics people. I missed hearing about comics and talking about comics and… everything that makes comics enjoyable as well as reading them.

And, after a few occasions of this hitting me, I mentioned it. And a couple of people said ‘come to a con, we’d love to see you…’ A couple of people even said I’d been missed, which was nice.

And then… and then, of course, covid hit.

So I wrote off the idea of going to cons-that-weren’t-happening and the idea of attending one got lost in, well, got lost in the craziness and absurdity in which we’ve all lived for a couple of years.

And then they started up again.

And Thought Bubble started up again, a con I’d only attended twice, many years ago now, but which everyone praises as ‘a con done right’.

So I pondered, and thought about it, and I was driving myself mad; a short drive, you’ll appreciate.

So I booked tickets and travel, and accommodation. Not on a whim, but yeah. (Note: I’ve been out of the game for a long time, and while there are cons that I might have asked, cheekily, if there was any way I could be comped in… Thought Bubble is not one of those cons.)

So, yeah, I’m going to a comics con. That’s weird.



See you tomorrow, with… something else. Well, two somethings else to be precise, only one of which will be part of ‘2022 minus’…



Sixty-one days. Sixty-one posts. One 2022 slowly approaching.

I’ve signed up to, so if you fancy throwing me a couple of quid every so often, to keep me in a caffeine-fuelled typing mood, feel free. I’m on

This post is part of a series of blog entries, counting down to the new year. You can see the other posts in the run by clicking here.

An ‘odds and sods’ post today, as we run down towards the end of ’57 plus…’; There’ll be no valedictory post at the end, though, as I’ve effectively done a couple of ‘how it’s gone‘ already. I might do a housekeeping note or two, but not much else.

So, yes, a bit of a rambling post today, a couple of brief ponderings and a look back into the not too distant past. As I type this, I genuinely have no idea where or how this post is going to end up but, hey, they say it’s the journey that counts, and that it’s mostlypeople who own bus and train companies who say it is neither here nor there.

OK, first off, online criticism; it’s been around as long as online life has been. But, the past few years, the bitterness and venom and sheer nastiness that was once rare or at least not common has instead become the norm; it’s shot up, both organically and manufactured. And it’s easy. That’s the thing. It’s easy both to up the level of your own nastiness, and it’s easy, too easy, to assume bad faith on the part of someone who criticises you or something/someone you support.

It’s easy, too easy again, to impute the anger you feel at the message to the person who wrote the message; easy to see the stupidity of a message and extrapolate that stupidity to the person who wrote it. And thereby to assume or conclude bad faith intentions.

Whether it’s a political position or party, or a tv show, or a genre of art, or anything cultural you like, it’s the easiest thing in the world to dismiss the criticism as being dishonestly made.

I’m guilty of it myself, no doubt. There are times when I conclude that someone’s criticism is made in bad faith and that even a resulting ‘apology’ is not made nor offered in good faith. I put that word in quotes because as often as not the ostensible ‘apology’ is not in fact an apology; it may be an explanation, it may be an excuse, it may be an attempt to escape censure; it may just be one of those ‘I’m sorry if people were offended’ (sticking the blame on the offended/abused rather than the offender/abuser.)

But what it’s not is an apology.

Happened the other day; someone mocked the looks of a child who was killed by the Nazis in the holocaust. When they were… remonstrated with, they eventually ‘apologised’, claiming it was ‘Irish humour’.

A reminder that while an ‘apology’ might be offered, it’s never obligatory to accept it, especially when you – or I – don’t believe for a second that it would be, or is, offered honestly, in good faith.

(That was, by the way, why I never gave the slightest bit of weight to calls for Jeremy Corbyn to apologise for his antisemitic statements or his friendships with antisemites or his campaigning for and defending of antisemites. Any apology from him would be meaningless as it would neither have been honest, nor offered in good faith. As was shown when he did issue statements that his supporters called ‘apologies’. Not once did he accept his own complicity, nor any personal fault. More about that subject though later.)

And while it’s easy (that word again) to assume bad faith, what’s substantially harder is to put aside that often instinctive reaction, or reaction from experience, and take a cold, hard look at the criticism, to decide whether the attack has any justification.

That many attacks on Diane Abbott are racist in motive, intention and effect is beyond doubt. The vile cesspool that she wades through is and should be utterly and unreservedly concerned. I don’t like Diane Abott. I don’t like her politics, her associations, nor her denial of antisemitism. All of that said, if you’re racist towards her, I will utterly and unreservedly, without any mitigation whatsoever, spurn you, condemn you, decry everything about you.

That many attacks on Ash Sarkar are racist in motive, intention and effect is beyond doubt. The vile cesspool that she wades through is and should be utterly and unreservedly concerned. I don’t like Ash Sarkar. I don’t like her politics, her associations, nor her denial of antisemitism. And I think she’s as dishonest as they come.

All of that said, if you’re racist towards her, I will utterly and unreservedly, without any mitigation whatsoever, spurn you, condemn you, decry everything about you.

The undoubted racist attacks on both of the above, however, make fair criticism almost impossible, for two reasons: first, their supporters have seen so many racist attacks that it’s not wholly unfair for them to at least consider and often conclude that the motivations for any new attacks are racist in tone and intention. I can’t blame them at all for considering, and often concluding that.

The second effect is on the non-racist critics. It has become in many cases almost impossible to justifiably criticise either Abbott or Sarkar, in many cases, both because of the aforementioned assumption by many that the motivations are racist, and there’s a ‘she’s had so many racist attacks, why add to her load?’

I’m definitely guilty of the latter; there have been times when one or the other of them has said something stupid, or ridiculous or even given credence to antisemitic tropes… and I’ve just stayed silent. Because a) I know they’re going to get racist motivated shit and b) I know, from previous experience, that no matter how often I’ve criticised Corbyn, McDonnell, Milne, Jones… none of those criticisms will be considered before the ‘you’re just attacking here because she’s black/Indian/a Muslim/a woman…’ start.

I’ve more than once said that anger too often leads to certainty; the problem right now is that it’s hard to look around and not be angry; angry at the people who run things, and at those who make it difficult if not impossible to change that.

I’d say we need to find a way of being able to criticise where your motives are not questioned, but to be fair, a simple and justified response to that would be

“You first.”

And that strikes home harder than I’d like.

Not exactly tangential to the above: “Exciting.”

It’s a good thing, yes?

Well, sometimes. And sometimes it’s very much not.

The legal and constitutional commentator David Allen Green once observed that discussions about the constitution should, for the layman, be boring. If discussions about the constitution (he was talking about Brexit, but it applies more widely) was exciting, that’s a sign that something has gone badly wrong.

But still, ‘exciting’ is seen as something to strive for.

Take our current Chancellor of the Exchequer, a normally bright, intelligent man who I wouldn’t trust further than I could throw him,

He said



You know what? After the past five or six years, I’m more than ready for a bit of being bored stupid by real life. Those past five or six years in British politics, in US politics, around the world, in health, have all been ‘exciting’ I guess, but I’d quite like to be bored please.

When I mentioned this on Twitter, someone referred me to the attached. I kind of see their point.

One more thing, that I came across in my notes; I must have written it about three years ago, intending to do something with but I never did.

It was the speech that Corbyn could have made to puncture the poison.

I say could have because I quite like living in a world where friends write fantastic and fiction and science fiction… and the piece below definitely falls into one of them.

At the time I wrote it, I prefaced it with this:

I’m still of the opinion that there’s an astonishingly easy get out for Corbyn and Labour over antisemitism, a get-out that none in the Jewish community would like… but I recojon they’d live with. It’s such an easy get out, though, that the only reason Corbyn et al are not using it is because they know they and their supporters could never keep their end of ‘the deal’.

It’s this: Accept IHRA in full; Corbyn makes a major speech saying antisemitism is abhorrent and, in that speech, goes though the examples one by one identifying why each is antisemitic and explicitly saying Labour will view ALL breaches as antisemitic…

BUT… and here’s the kicker:

“This has been a long and arduous process, and I thank everyone who has contributed to the debate. Let us be clear: Labour has failed its Jewish members, and obviously there has been heated and intemperate language used by everyone involved. The very situation in which the party now find itself clearly demonstrates how opaque and complicated our rules have been.

Well, that stops NOW.

That stops TODAY.

As of [theatrical glance at watch] thirty seconds ago, ANY future examples that breach our code, and breaches the IHRA definition, and its examples, WILL be subject to the harshest disciplinary procedures. Antisemites will be expunged from the party we all love, and which has been our home.

And I say this to former members, those who left because of antisemitism: come back, we welcome you. You are welcome in our party.

And to those who would not welcome them back, you’re wrong. And it’s you who are not welcome.

But there needs to be a line drawn, and I’m drawing it today. We cannot spend the time and the effort we need to fight this awful government and its damaging and dangerous policies while also constantly reliving who said what, who praised who, and who reposted what.

The past is the past. We should leave it there. No party is perfect, no party is free from mistakes, but no party should give succour and comfort to racists.

Comments made years ago will no longer be considered for disciplinary action and all current disciplinary actions solely in respect of antisemitism are suspended.

Members who were expelled for bringing the party into disrepute… [beat] brought the party into disrepute. They are and will remain outside the party, as they should be. They can re-apply to join at the appropriate time, but if their behaviour and postings online remain the same as those they were expelled for? They will, and should remain outside this party.

Now, finally, I speak directly to our members. I believe in the essential goodness of our members, of the utmost good faith of all of you, no matter to what wing of the party you belong. And similarly, I have faith in your abilities, your intelligence, and your motives, that you can criticise the policies and actions of the State of Israel without being antisemitic.

Now, from today, from this moment, show me, show our political opponents, show the country, that you deserve that faith. Thank you.”

Yeah, fantasy is right.
See you tomorrow, with something else…
Fifty-seven more days. Fifty-seven more posts. One fifty-seventh birthday just had.

I’m trying something new with this run. I’ve signed up to, so if you fancy throwing me a couple of dollars every so often, to keep me in a caffeine-fuelled typing mood, feel free. I’m on

This post is part of a series of blog entries, counting up from my fifty-seventh birthday on 17th August 2021. You can see the other posts in the run by clicking here. (And you can see the posts in the run counting down to the birthday here.)

Last week, I started a Ten Things post, then the time and words both ran away with me so I ended it after five, always intending to complete it with the final five today.

So, here is the rest of the post I should have written last week; five more things I’m grateful for, right now. No sarcasm, no snide ‘yes, I’m really grateful for that’ while my expression could curdle milk at seventeen paces…

Just Ten Five More Things I like, and am grateful for, right this moment, with the usual Ten Things reminder… they’re not the objectively considered best things in my life, nor necessarily personal favourite things. They’re just, in no particular order, Ten Things I like… at the time of writing. (And why.)

Last week’s started with my son, comedy, comics, friends (very much including my ex-wife Laura) and… London.

And so…

It was only when I saw the last five today that I realised they share a theme, which kind of surprised me as I didn’t realise they did when I wrote them out last week.

The enthusiasm of others for things I don’t like or don’t understand
Not for everything, of course. I don’t understand, not really, enjoyment of mocking or decrying someone ‘because they’re different’. That doesn’t mean that I enjoy others’ doing it.

And I should say immediately that ‘not liking’ something isn’t the same as ‘disliking’ something. If I don’t like something, say, a tv show, then it just means that I don’t get enjoyment from it. It doesn’t mean that I actively dislike it. Some things I do actively dislike; some tv genres, for example. I actively dislike talent shows. OK, not the shows themselves, but everything that makes the shows everything that others enjoy. I dislike the auditions, which seem to me to be merely the current iteration of ‘laughing at the halfwits at Bedlam’. I dislike the judges pantomime reactions and their performative playing to the audiences. I dislike the blending of ‘quality’ and ‘popularity’, and their conflation.

But that aside… I don’t enjoy sports. There are some aspects I actively dislike, mainly due to my early experiences and for that you can blame a) my teachers at school, b) the prizing of athletic ability and my own weedy body as a youngster, and the general view at my schools that bullying while officially decried, was unofficially tolerated and encouraged.

So, no, I don’t enjoy sports, especially team sports, especially at the amateur level. It brings back too many bad memories. But professional sports? Something I have no experience with other than ‘not liking them’? So, so many of my friends do. And watching their enjoyment, that I quite like.

Same with tv shows. There are few (as above) genres I dislike, but plenty of critically acclaimed dramas and sitcoms that I merely ‘don’t like’. I don’t share other’s enjoyment of them… but I do like their enjoyment. There’s little enough in the world that brings unfettered enjoyment so when you find it, and enjoy it… I enjoy your enjoyment.

Another one: food. As I’ve mentioned before, many times, I’m not a foodie. The enjoyment of preparing, making and consuming food entirely escapes me. Honestly. If you could give me a pill that would give me all the nutrients, the feeling of fullness from eating a meal (and it didn’t taste like shit, that’d be nice), I’d take it without feeling like I was missing out at all.

My friends, every single one of them, Do Not Understand This, and most of them think I’m just saying it. I’m not. I would take such a pill. (Some have suggested the powder thing that does the rounds every so often, but to be honest, it looks so complicated to buy, measure out, use etc, I might as well stick to food…)

But I genuinely enjoy the pleasure other people take in food. Some friends love cooking and baking. I love that they enjoy that. Others are epicureans, enjoying the finest food they can… and their pleasure in that consumption is something that pleases me enormously.

I like that others like things, even if I don’t share that enjoyment, nor even understand it. If that’s odd, well, it’s not the oddest thing about me, now, is it?

The Internet
The comedian, actor and director Chris Addison once had a bit in his stage show that went, roughly:

The Internet is one of the genuine modern miracles. If I want to look up information, it’s there in a heartbeat. If I want to buy a book, or go to the cinema, or even watch a movie there and then, or even if I want to see what a traffic cam in downtown Tokyo is seeing right now, I can. At the click of a button. It’s incredible, it’s wonderful. It’s… a genuine miracle that we take for granted at our peril.

BUT… if this modern miracle, this wonder of our ages… if the internet goes down, it takes about thirty seconds for this wonder of our ages, this thing unimaginable to generations before us…

…to become a basic human right.

He’s right of course. The internet ceased to be something ‘new’ and a luxury item some time ago. Many things, certainly many interactions with the state, with national and local governments, or with your bank, can only be done online, or at least can only be done efficiently online.

And while I hugely dislike that, I do like the first bit. I was born in 1964, and discovered ‘the internet’ in my 20s. I discovered computers before that, sure; we had a teletypewriter unit at school, but ‘the internet’ I discovered in my 20s. But I didn’t ‘get online’ until I was 30. That was almost thirty years ago, and I was part of probably the last generation to think of the internet as ‘new’, and the last to still think of it as a privilege to be allowed to use the internet.

Today? I genuinely cannot imagine what life would be like without not only The Internet, but also constant access to it via phones, tablets, computers…

I like that I can, with a press of a keyboard button, or a tap on the screen, bring up the news of the day, or the weather, or a dating website (heh, yeah, not going to happen) or tv listings, or a site offering mental health advice.

Or that I can visit odd, fun, weird websites such as

See, how could you, or more importantly, I, not like that?

As I’ve mentioned before, I have a windows laptop, an Apple iPhone (currently an iPhone 12 Pro) and an iPad (currently an iPad Air 2019).

There’s nothing I can say about these that you don’t already know… except why I like them, especially the iPhone and iPad.

Simply, they do everything I need them to, and introduce me to new things that they can do that I didn’t know I’d enjoy.

Every phone I’ve ever had has had a camera.

I’ve not been able to take night photos like these on previous phones though.

I like that technology improves, and improved what you thought you needed, and what you thought you can do… which leads me straight onto…

Well, this one is cheating, because it’s not innovation I enjoy so much as the study of it by one James Burke. I managed to finally get ahold of videos of all three series of his wonderful Connections tv show, possibly the finest ‘science explainer’ of all time. Between that, and the books and the radio shows… no one has done more to explain to the interested public in a fun, sensible, clever, entertaining way how innovation works, why it works, and what it’s meant.

As he points out, history rarely happens in the right order, with Thing A leading to Thing B, leading to Thing C. What Burke does again and again, is explain how Thing A led to Thing Omega which led to Thing Woogahoomtamoof… which led to Thing Q. And not only that, that in some cases, the same destination could have been reached by another path or seven, while for other cases, that’s the only way it could have happened to get to that destination, for the destination was never been imagined when that first domino was toppled.

The final thing is an odd one. Because it’s this… this blog… or, more precisely, the opportunity, ability and inclination to just type something and see where it goes. Ok, you say, you know where it goes. It goes into an app, which when I hit ‘post’ pushes the content onto a pre-formatted page on the internet.

And that’s true enough.

But as often as not, I don’t know where the blog entry will end when I start typing it. And I don’t know how it will be received. And I don’t know whether it will mean something to someone, will spark an idea of theirs. I don’t know whether they’ll like what I write.

But someone might. Someone reading this might well like what I write, might enjoy it, might have thought “that was time worth spending in his words’ company”.

And THAT? That I like very much indeed.

If you enjoyed this Ten Things, I’ve done others… During the last huge blog run, I did a few ‘ten things’ I liked: individual episodes of tv shows, individual comic book issues, and pilots, and two on old movies ,then one on old-ish movies, and a couple about podcasts. And I wrote a series of Doctor Who posts, about each incarnation/regeneration, and my sometimes tenuous relationship with the show.

And in this run, I did one on things I’ve been watching during the various lockdowns plus others… and then Ten Columbo episodes I liked and Ten More Columbo Episodes I liked

See you tomorrow, with… something else.



Fifty-seven more days. Fifty-seven more posts. One fifty-seventh birthday just had.

I’m trying something new with this run. I’ve signed up to, so if you fancy throwing me a couple of dollars every so often, to keep me in a caffeine-fuelled typing mood, feel free. I’m on

This post is part of a series of blog entries, counting up from my fifty-seventh birthday on 17th August 2021. You can see the other posts in the run by clicking here. (And you can see the posts in the run counting down to the birthday here.)

Today is the 100th entry since I started these runs of ‘57 minus….‘ and ‘57 plus….‘ blog entries.

Well, ok, not quite.

A moment’s mental addition – 57 posts in ‘57 minus….plus 43 posts of ‘57 plus….‘ adds up to 100, fair enough. But that ignores the 57 plus/minus post I stuck up on the actual day of my birthday.

And since yesterday was a ‘fast fiction from the vaults’ day, I figure today’s as good a time as any to take stock again, and ask four questions

  • How’s it gone for me?
  • How’s it gone for you?
  • What have I learned from these runs that I didn’t expect, having done more than a few of these countdowns?
  • What’s next?

Especially since it occurred to me while setting up this post that we’re now only a couple of weeks from the end of this run of ’57 plus…’ blog posts. And I need to start thinking about that last question properly, rather than just shoving it off into the far distance, as I have done for the past couple of weeks.

OK, so let’s get on with it.
How’s it gone for me?
Well, I’m glad I asked. I mean, I’d say I’m glad you asked except that you haven’t, which we’ll deal with in the next section. 

I’ve found this run – the ’57 plus…’ run – a bit harder than the last run. Don’t think that’ll come as the hugest surprise to any of the six of you who are reading this.

I’m not entirely sure why, but yeah, this one;s been a tad tougher to do every day.

Let’s be fair, both to the blog and to me; There are, being sensible, three days a week where it’s… easy for me. Tuesdays long ago became the ‘fiction from the vaults’ day. And that’s just a matter of me reviewing some previous fiction, picking two I like, and slapping them into what is – for the most part – a pre-formatted post.

The Saturday Smiles are again, pretty much pre-formatted and it’s just finding three funny videos, one that I hope will genuinely make you smile (from a ‘awwww’ reaction or a ‘that’s very sweet’ reaction) and one song from Mitch that I particularly like.

Thursdays, the new fiction, isn’t… that hard for me either. Keep an eye out for a picture that sparks a story idea, and see whether that idea will turn into a story.

Which leaves Friday – the `Ten Things’ day, and only Sunday, Monday and Wednesday in which I need to come up with something discursive.

The problem has been, this time around, finding something I actually care about enough to write 1,000 words or more on. And that’s been the hard bit this time around.

Because what I’ve wanted to write about… I really couldn’t, either because it’s too personal and would talk publicly about stuff I’ve really not wanted to publicly talk about… or because it’s so jaundiced and cynical that the words would bore you. And I kind of figure I owe you more than that.

The other reason of course is that after the best part of a dozen of these countdowns since 2014, I’ve already said a lot on the subjects I’d want to talk about.

Yes, ok, the political situation is very different now than it was, say, in 2015. But there’s not a lot I can say that doesn’t rely on me making half the post “I said this, but now it’s that“. Again, not great.

My religion? Not something I actually feel that qualified to talk about that much these days.

Book reviews? Well, yes, I owe you all three differently reviews which I hope to get to.

Personal life? Yeah, not gonna happen. There’s a reason another term for personal life is ‘private life’.

So, yeah, I’ve two weeks left, and got that kind of planned out, but beyond that… well stay tuned.
How’s it been for you?
I have no idea. Genuinely. Not a clue.

As I said when I kicked off this latest run, I know that the days of people commenting on blogs – at least general blogs, not focusing on one issue – are in the long ago. In fact, I’m reminded as so often of L P Davies’ line that ‘the past is a foreign country, they do things differently…’

And while various readers are kind enough – thank you! – to ‘like’ the posts, and one or two of you link to the individual posts on social media… for the most part, I have no idea who you are, or what you think of the blog, or of individual posts.

(And the idea I had the other week of asking you didn’t exactly provoke dozens of replies. I’m very grateful for the couple of replies I did receive, but yeah, well…

As in that post, however, if you do want to say hello or express a thought or seven, you can comment in reply to this entry… or via email at or even DM me @budgie on Twitter.)

So I have no idea whether the fiction from the vaults entertains you, or bores you. I’ve not the slightest clue whether the new fiction on a Thursday fascinates you or irritates you. I have no real sense of whether you eagerly await the latest Ten Things, or just ignore them when they pop up.

And, possibly most crucial, I don’t know which of you are getting pissed off by this or that or maybe the other… and why.

I long ago ceased to trust the stats offered by WordPress within the site. So I’ve not even an accurate record of how many people are reading this thing; both the blog itself and/or individual entries.

If this continues, I need to figure out how to fix all of the above.
What have I learned from these runs that I didn’t expect, having done more than a few of these countdowns?
Quite a few things, but here are three. All of them fairly trivial, but they… irk when I think of them. which suggests to me that I might need to shake things up if this continues.

(i) If I haven’t started writing ‘today’s blog entry’ by 3pm, it becomes a chore. Odd, I know, but true. I need to start writing them earlier in the day.

(ii) After umpteen different methods of how to promote on Twitter, this one seems to work for me. I have no idea if it’s actually ‘working’, but it feels right. Tweet it once when posted, retweet at around half-11 to midnight; Schedule a ‘For The US crowd…’ tweet at 8:30pm Pacific Time, 11:30pm Eastern. And one ‘”ICYMI, yesterday on the blog…’ at 10:30am the following morning. And no-one’s objected to the multiple posts. But do I need to change that as well? I dunno.

Also, though, I’ve definitely noticed a drop off in reactions by not promoting it outside Twitter, other than on Tumblr. Again, if I want to get any traction, I need to think of something else to do.

(iii) Remember to use pictures (usually from my own camera roll or from Unsplash) in the entries themselves to break up the text. Even I wince at some of the long streams of text without anything to break the monotony.
What’s next?
Well, shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone who’s been reading for a while that there are two options: (i) take a break which is intended to last only a month or so, but ends up being a year or more, or (ii) take a couple of days break, or perhaps a couple of weeks, and run a countdown until the end of 2021 and the start of 2022. And then decide what to do.

Right now, I genuinely have no idea which of those two is going to happen. Of course, usually when I say that, a week or so later I’m telling you all when the next countdown is going to start.

But this time, I honestly don’t know. Partly because I may – if certain other ‘irons in the fire’ come to fruition, to mis my metaphors – have other calls on my time. Partly because I’m not entirely sure I want to continue writing these, and I’m equally unsure you want to carry on reading them.

Basically, I guess the single thought that occurs to me is… I have some thinking to do.

Fifty-seven more days. Fifty-seven more posts. One fifty-seventh birthday just had.

I’m trying something new with this run. I’ve signed up to, so if you fancy throwing me a couple of dollars every so often, to keep me in a caffeine-fuelled typing mood, feel free. I’m on

This post is part of a series of blog entries, counting up from my fifty-seventh birthday on 17th August 2021. You can see the other posts in the run by clicking here. (And you can see the posts in the run counting down to the birthday here.)

Hello, people who are following this blog!

Posted: 15 September 2021 in life, stuff
Tags: ,

Hello there.

Just wanted – outside the ’57 plus’ run of blogs – to drop a note to you, people who are actually following this blog, and people who get notifications when I stick up a new entry.

Jon Stewart said he thought of his show as a conversation with his audioence… and one in which he’d shamelessly monopolised the dialogue.

I kind of feel the same way. I know that the days of people commenting on blogs some time ago went the way of the dinosaurs. However, I’ll admit to being a little curious; curious about you, how you found this place, why you followed me, and – the most head-scratching I guess – why you hung around and still do.

So, please, I ask a favour. Drop me a line and let me know, eh?

You can comment in reply to this entry, or if you’d rather drop me a line via email at or DM me @budgie on Twitter.

I’m just curious about you all, and if you’ve your own blogs you’d like me to take a look at…

Anyway, once again, hello!

And see you tomorrow for the usual stuff…

I put something up on Tumblr – not on goingcheep , but on the rarely used but still extant budgie’s blatherings – , but figured I might as well record it for posterity here as well…

As I write this, I’m looking at my phone with a mixture of amusement, bemusement and mild irritation.

I just had my Twitter account locked, because I told someone who defended a tweet egregiously and knowingly falsely calling the jewish journalist David Aaronovitch antisemitic… to combine sex and travel, ie to fuck off.

David A had described the person behind an organisation as a shyster.

The organisation pretended – against every etymological sense – that this epithet was linked to Shakespeare’s Shylock, and was therefore exclusively antisemitic.

Of course it’s not. It’s not exclusively antisemitic. It’s not antisemitic at all.

And it never was.

But someone defended the tweet attacking David A as antisemitic. And once I said that it was bullshit – inaccurate, etymological nonsense and flat wrong – and they then continued to defend the original tweet calling David A antisemitic… I invited them to fuck off.

And every time he replied, defending his actions and comments, I repeated the invitation.

And – while leaving abusive comments on my blog; using different names, but all with the exact same IP address – he reported my tweets as targeted harrassment.

(Note for blog: all effectively anonymous comments are moderated, so they never went live, but I have them all saved in my ‘deleted’ folder should I later… ‘require’ them. Amusingly, they took me 1/2 a second to delete when they must have taken him several minutes to do each one.)

So Twitter has locked the account until I delete the tweets.

I’ve appealed, but we’ll see. I mean, I’m usually not that appealing in the first place, so it’s a tossup whether they agree or not.

In the meantime… ah well, such is life and all that.

EDIT TO ADD: Notwithstanding the tweets where I did, indeed, tell him to fuck off, I’m honestly bemused at these two prima facie judgments…

I’ll update this with the resolution, whatever the hell happens.

UPDATE: Twitter sided with the fuckwit. The same fuckwit who continues to leave abusive messages on here and on Twitter. Now, of course, with Twitter’s approval.

Oh, and I woke this morning to discover this:

Which, some might argue, is kind of libel-y; y’know, what with the reference to drug and alcohol abuse.

And Twitter saw no problem with it at all.

Oh. Fucking. Joy.

(There was, of course, no such apology. Like everything else from the fuckwit, that was unreserved, unmitigated, bullshit.)

Yes, yes, still on a break from the blog. As always, I fully intend to restart the blog, when I’ve got something to blog about.

There’s plenty I could write about, of course, but nothing springs to mind that isn’t already being written about by better writers who’ve got more to say.

So, yes, I’ll be back, at some point.

In the meantime, though, here’s something.

I went for a haircut today.

Under normal circumstances, of course, this would be a regular event.

And I use the word advisedly. I don’t mean ‘frequently’ but regularly, on a schedule. Usually, every couple of months, I’ll book an appointment and have my hair tidied up – and enough taken off – so it’s short enough that I feel comfortable with it.

Once I started going grey, in my early 30s, I had it cut shorter to ‘cut the grey out’. That didn’t last of course, and these days it’s more the case that I have the dark cut out.

I’ve been genuinely lucky enough to find good hairdressers the past few years. Currently, I have my hair cut by a young lady named Taylor, at Rush, Shepherd’s Bush. She’s superbly talented, friendly and genuinely… nice, a hugely underrated quality, I assure you.

But, as no one can be unaware, I – along with the entire population – have been unable to have a haircut for some months.

So, Operation Haircut, as I refer to it, has so rarely needed to be expertly planned, executed, and achieved. Fortunately, as I say, I have Taylor, who managed through her talent to transform me from Before:


To After:

I’d be lying if I said I didn’t expect to feel this much better afterwards; I did expect it. It’s nice, though, I’ll acknowledge, that the expectation was met so comprehensively.

(And, not for nothing, but it’s odd, knowing – when pics are taken – that they’ll almost certainly make it into this year’s update of A Life In Pictures.)


Posted: 20 May 2020 in housekeeping, stuff
Tags: ,

I’ve received a couple of messages asking why I suddenly stopped blogging in April, shortly after briefly restarting, and whether I’m planning on restarting any time soon?

Well, quick answers are

    Because it was becoming a chore


    I wouldn’t call it a plan; more of a hope

In January, I took a couple of months off after six months of daily bloggin. At that time, I fully intended to get back to the daily blogging, but it turned out when I restarted… I wasn’t enjoying doing so at all.

One of the rules I set myself when I restarted in 2019, after a couple of years off was not to check the blog stats, the readership.

Other than under very odd circumstances, when someone promotes an entry or something¹, I never expect a big readership. And the idea of receiving comments on individual entires – which several years ago was entirely expected – now seems to have fallen out of fashion, at least in this place.

Which is fine. But it means that I’m writing primarily for me, not for anyone else. And writing for me…? Well, I don’t need to publish anything on here to achieve that.

So, yeah, when I started again in April… I found that I really didn’t enjoy the experience of blogging and it astonishingly rapidly became a chore, something I did out of an imagined obligation.

So, yeah, I stopped.

And yes, I do intend to return… at some point, or at least I hope to. When I’ve got something to write about that a) I enjoy writing, b) I enjoy publishing, and c) I think other people will enjoy reading.

Until then, I’m slinging something up on goingcheep most days.

I hope all of you and yours are well, and that this nuttiness, this absurdity, in which we find ourselves, is soon over.

¹ Oh, by the way, for some reason I’ve been mystified by, one entry from November – this one – has had more than 10k hits since March… Someone put it up on Pinterest and it’s taken off. Weirdness writ large.

“How are you?’

“Hope you’re well…”

Two platitudes, two phrases – ok, one question, one wish – which have taken on a whole new level of seriousness and importance the past month or so.

I’m far from the first person to realise that, but it’s something that’s now pretty much universally accepted that there’s every possibility that the response to both might well not be what you were expecting to hear.

And that’s far from the only change in communications that’s arisen.

A telephone voicemail with merely “Hey, it’s [me/your brother/mother/dad]” and “call me” might previously have been just to save time.

Now it leaves, as a friend mentioned today on Twitter, an impression of trouble; you could be calling to let them know that someone’s ill, or that someone’s died.

Things that didn’t previously need to be said… now need to be said. Both to avoid confusion and to remove ambiguity… and also to reassure the other person that you are ok, that you aren’t unwell, that you don’t have bad news to communicate.

But that “how are you?” question. It’s being asked not only out of genuine worry and honest enquiry, but because most people don’t want to worry their family and friends, so unless they’re asked, they won’t say that yes, in fact, they’re feeling ill, or even, that they’re not doing so great, they’re struggling at the moment.

While we’re all still getting used to this new world in which physical presence is not only not recommended, it’s pretty impossible… we’re also having to get used to the poor substitute of video calls. Of Zoom and FaceTiming and WhatsApp and Skype and Hangouts… and any others of the dozen or so common video calling apps.

Now I’m not… old. For all my joking about feeling ancient, I’m 55. (That shouldn’t exactly be a surprise) But it does mean that I come from a generation to which video calling for the most part is not how we learned to communicate.

My son is 24. He’s been video calling his girlfriends almost since he had girlfriends. But, with a couple of rare prior exceptions, it’s only since the lockdown that he’s videocalled with his mother and me. We’ve had a couple of Zoom conversations, the three of us involved: him in Wales, my ex-wife in Barnet, and me in the flat in Abbey Road. They’ve been nice, exactly what they should be. But they’re still kind of new to me and his mum. (Less so to his mum, to be fair, since she’s been using Zoom for work.)

And despite the enjoyment we had in the chats, despite the similar enjoyment I had when FaceTiming with friends the other evening… I’m still not sure that I’m… ok with it.

Partly, of course, this is due to me being… well, me. I’m not a fan of me being on video. It’s even worse than having a photo taken.

Because, despite the annual A Life In Pictures post, I loathe having my photo taken… or at least I loathe having it taken where I don’t get to control what happens to the photo after it’s taken. There are lots of photos of me in that post. Not one of them is a photo that I do not want others to see.

I mean, I joke every year that I’ve been about as embarrassed over the decades’ old photos as I’m ever going to be, but let’s be honest: if I didn’t want the photos in the post, they wouldn’t be there.

And with maybe half a dozen exceptions, I knew each photo was being taken at the time What I detest is so called ‘candid’ photos. Because I don’t like how I look in them, although I’m frankly astonished if I come out looking anything other than horrible. Hell, I don’t like how I look anyway, but I definitely don’t like how I look in candid shots.

So you can imagine how much I ‘enjoy’ being on video when my face, with all its faults, is on display.


But much as the walk is worth the foot pain it’s going to cost me, so far – so far at least, being able to see friends and family is worth the dislike of being on video.

So far.

It’s good to see them, it’s good to see that they’re well. To know that when I ask “how are you?” I can see the evidence that they’re ok.

To anyone reading this, I hope that you’re well… and that you stay so.
Something else, tomorrow…

Sorry about skipping yesterday; I really wasn’t in the mood to write anything, let alone a blog.

I’m not wholly convinced I’m in that much less of a bad, melancholy, mood today, but after yet another crap night’s sleep, I kind of feel that if I don’t write something today, the blog will lapse into disuse again. One day off I can allow myself. More than that? No.

Because the past week hasn’t exactly been great for a lot of people, and that includes me.

Oh, that sleep reference? Well, this is what I wrote around 5 am this morning.

As for the rest, well, I can’t say that it suddenly hit me, the full absurdity of nuttiness in which we find ourselves; it’s not been sudden at all. It’s been growing day by day since before the harsh ‘lockdown’, but the last week has been rough.

And I’m one of the luckier ones. I mean, though I know people who’ve got coronavirus, I don’t personally know anyone who’s died. I know people who have lost people, and know of some others, but those who’ve died? No, I didn’t know any of them personally.

As far as I know, anyway.

That’s not going to last.

Six weeks ago, more or less, a friend predicted that in the very near future, we’d all know someone who’d died of this bastard virus. I can’t honestly say that I decried the idea, nor that I swallowed it unquestionably. But yeah, I was foolish enough to not wholly agree at the time.

Yeah, they were right, I believe.

And given the increases we’re now seeing – a reminder, those who are dying now, picked up the infection before the lockdown started – I suspect that horrible moment is going to come a lot sooner than even they feared.

Another friend of mine said, ages ago, that I’m ‘dangerously’ content in my own company. I’m not sure I’d agree with the adjective, but content in my own company? Oh, definitely. I’ve been very determinedly single for many years, and I haven’t been either the most social or sociable of people for more than a decade. I wish I could blame that on the mental health issues that became apparent almost ten years ago. I really wish I could do that, but it’d be cheap and nasty and self-serving to do so.

The truth is that I was never the most social nor sociable of people before that; the problems I had may have exacerbated it, but no more than that.

(Oh, by the way, you wouldn’t believe how pissed off I am whenever I see someone online suggesting that that those who live on their own and aren’t very social are handling it better… because I’m not. At all.)

What I have had over the past few years, though, to help me in my mostly solitary life, are a set of ‘safety nets’ .

One of them was grabbing coffee and having a regular catchup with my ex-wife, my lad’s mother. Laura’s lovely, and as I wrote at the end of last year:

Laura’s one of my favourite people on the planet. As well as being Phil’s mum, she’s been a part of my life for coming up on thirty years. We catch up for coffee every week or so, and if for some reason we can’t, there feels something fundamentally wrong with the world.

She’s a lovely lady; smart and funny. And I like her enormously. I’m very pleased she entered my life in 1992; that she’s still in it is A Good Thing.

I wouldn’t change a word of that. But who knew that when I wrote it, that the “…and if for some reason we can’t, there feels something fundamentally wrong with the world” would come to seem so prescient?

So, yes, Laura’s one of my safety nets.

Another is the Family Benn. I wrote about them as well in that post. But not being able to see them every week, to see Clara and Roger and the kids, to see Mitch… hurts. And I hate it. I truly hate that I can’t see my closest friends, and can’t share laughter and silliness and physical presence, let alone physical contact.

The other ‘safety net’ is one I’ve been well aware of for a very long time: being surrounded by people, usually at a coffee shop, who don’t know me and don’t give a damn about me (and it’s reciprocated in full, I assure you)… but it is being surrounded by… people. It eases the ‘yeah, I’m on my own’, just a bit, and highlights the difference between being on my own… and being lonely.

As I say, I’ve been single for a long time. And usually, mostly, almost exclusively, I like it. Or at least I’m fairly good-naturedly resigned to it. With occasional phases of being very bad-naturedly resigned to it, admittedly.

But never have I loathed it like I have the past couple of weeks. Never have I utterly detested my own company so frequently, so hugely, and so definitely.

Now, I shouldn’t need to say the following, but since every day there’s more evidence to justify the old saw”nothing is ever ‘needless to say’…”, of course I’m following the government guidelines/rules.

I’m only leaving my small flat for exercise (an hour’s walk), to go shopping, and occasionally for medical reasons, to pick up a prescription from the pharmacy or – as I’ll do in about two weeks – to donate blood. And when I return, I’m washing my hands. As I’m doing on a regular basis anyway.

(Not for nothing, but while I have no idea which songs you’re using to mark the ’20 seconds’ you’re supposed to wash your hands to, I’m using the first chorus of of (I’m) Reviewing The Situation from Oliver! That takes a little over 20 seconds.)

Other than that, I’m staying inside, I’m reading, watching tv… and struggling to do either for more than about 20 minutes at a go. I’m writing, a bit.

I’m going out for a walk… when the foot allows, and even sometimes if it doesn’t, knowing that getting out for a walk is – just about – worth the pain the walk will reward me with later that evening. I’m struggling with that balance as well.

“Struggling”. Yeah, that’s the word.

Especially since, yeah, as I mentioned above, I don’t really have anything to complain about… compared to many, many others. Others have people ill in their families, others have friends and relatives who’ve died. Others go into work in the NHS, working in horribly stressful conditions and, while protecting themselves as much as possible, look after patients seriously ill with this bugger of a virus. Others have lost their jobs, their income has collapsed, or they’ve physical problems that make my fucked up foot look in perfect health by comparison.

Me? I’m stuck on my own, and keeping myself to myself… which is what I’ve been doing for the most part for the past few years anyway.

So, yeah, you can add ‘feeling guilty about feeling shit’ to the mix.

I’ve been better.

Before I close this entry: a note of thanks, to everyone who’s currently using their time, either through their work or while they’re staying home, who are… making life better for someone else. Whether it’s singers and artists bringing enjoyment to others, comedians lightening the mood even if just temporarily, or those sharing their lives with others, letting them know they’re not alone, that everyone is finding it tough right now. Thank you. Thank you so much.

And, of course, thank you to everyone in the NHS, from the doctors and nurses on the front line, to receptionists, to those maintaining the equipment, to those managing the organisations… to everyone. Thank you…
Something a bit more cheerful, or at least less melancholy, tomorrow.

I’d planned to restart the Ten Things today, but to be honest, I’m not in the mood. And I’m not entirely sure what do a Ten Things about anyway. I’ll have a ponder and hope to return to them next Friday. Besides, which I’m still getting used to this blogging thing again.

And anyway, as has been mentioned the past couple of days, my foot’s bloody killing me.

So, instead, one more post about London in Lockdown, to do with health. My health.

My physical health, anyways. I may write at some point on how I’m ‘dealing’ with lockdown and social distancing and stuff. Summing it up, the post would be ‘not that well’. But no, I’m not writing that post today. (Edit to add: It might, however, go some way to explaining why this is a shorter entry than you might reasonably expect from me.)

I’m fifty five years old. I take a few medications every day, including drugs or cholesterol and high blood pressure. (Although to be fair, the latter is a very small dose, and both my GP and I were fairly astonished that it had such a huge effect, returning my at times stratospheric blood pressure to a ‘normal’ measurement almost immediately.)

But like everyone else, in every area of my life, things have changed.

Ordering a repeat prescription is as easy, as convenient as ever, using the online website. Going to pick up the prescription, however? Well, yeah, that’s a different experience right now. Along with the pharmacists wearing face masks that look like they’re from a science fiction movie, those same pharmacists look… weary. Not just tired, but bone weary, utterly and completely shattered.

The queue outside the pharmacists was one of the smaller ones I saw… only about a dozen and a half people, and in substantially less good humour than the shopping queues. These were – some of them – people in pain, people who shared their pharmacists’ weariness. And people who just wanted to get their medications and return home.

Let’s put it this way: I was one of the more cheerful people.

Two quick other points; a hospital follow up appointment is now going to be by phone… to be honest, I’m surprised and impressed they didn’t cancel it completely. And I’m due to donate blood (after not being able to donate for 14 weeks after a procedure) in mid-April. I’m still planning on donating.

Sorry; I’ve nothing else to say today.

Hopefully, something more cheerful and light tomorrow.

I’m an idiot.

I know, this doesn’t surprise anyone reading this. But I am.

I mentioned on Twitter a couple of weeks ago pre-lockdown that were I still to be living in my last place, in Ham, between Richmond and Kingston, I’d almost certainly have thought at some point during the weekend: you know what? It’s a nice day, I can go outside as long as I don’t go near anyone else… you know what? I think I’ll go for a wander in Richmond Park.

This was the weekend when videos of crowds of people in Richmond Park appeared on the news and online. This was the weekend when the temporary (?) idiocy of the British public was shown to the world. This was the weekend when I realised that I’m a fucking idiot.

Because of course everyone else would have thought the same. Because of course me staying the hell away from everyone else is no bloody use whatsoever… if other people won’t stay the hell away from me.

Now I didn’t go to Richmond Park that weekend, because I don’t live in Ham any more. I didn’t go to Regents Park, because although it’s doable for me to get there without much difficulty… it’s still far enough to make it have to be a deliberate decision, not something that happens on a whim. I’ve lived here three years and only walked there twice.

But I was reminded of my own idiocy today when I went shopping. The restrictions have slowly increased, the queues have slowly grown, fair enough. And it’s not like the shops instantly went from ‘everyone? Come in the shop, no distancing necessary’ to ‘full social distancing, and we’re limiting the number in the shop at any one time’.

But today was the first time it really sank in. When I walked to Kilburn from me, about a mile or so from the flat, it was to discover that every ‘decent sized food shop – Sainsbury’s, Iceland, Marks and Spencer – had a queue measured in the dozens, and in one case, there were over 50 people in the queue, all about six feet apart from each other.

And I’ve noticed that the shops have cut down the number allowed into their premises almost day by day. Shops that last week let 20 people in… are now letting in 5. Pharmacies are letting one person in at a time, if they’re letting anyone in.

That said, the politeness in the queues and the understanding that for once, we are ‘all in it together’ is a but heartwarming. What’s interesting to me, however, is how the rules of courtesy have changed.

Someone a bit older drops something out of their shopping basket, and two or three people near them go to pick it up… then stop… and merely point towards it, gesture towards it. Where once they’d have picked up the item and returned it to the older person… now the courteous thing is not to do that.

People working in shops are being thanked more than ever before (cf the busses post from yesterday), as are the people standing by the doors letting one person at a time out… and in.

What I definitely noticed today were the people with huge shops offering those picking up only one, two or three items their place in the queue. OK, that happens sometimes in normal times, but now? Happens a lot.

There are a lot of things changing, in the day to day stuff, the little things that matter… that I wonder – I truly wonder – how they’ll change back… or if they won’t, afterwards.
See you tomorrow with something else.

OK, after a couple of days of housekeeping, I now find myself with a blank screen.

And after writing, and deleting, three different posts for today, with each of which I ran out of words after about 100 of the damn things, let’s hope that this one at least gets written.

I’d intended to write something personal about how I’m dealing with the lockdown. I really did. But everything I wrote seemed, on review, to be a little more ‘personal’ than I’m comfortable being. I mean, sure, there’ll be something on that – spoiler: I’m not doing brilliantly right now, I’ll acknowledge – but I’m apparently not quite ready to write that post.

Instead, you get something about London In Lockdown, or rather: my London In Lockdown. I suspect you’ll get more in future instalments but you get something today about what’s changed.

For example: busses. Now yes I know that we should all avoid taking public transport unless absolutely necessary. I do know that. And, for the most part, when I’m just going for a walk, I do.

I took the opportunity the first few days to find three different routes to walk, all of which have the two things necessary for me to enjoy a walk: no even slightly steep inclines either direction, and some pleasant scenery along the way. So, I don’t get bored either with the route or the scenery.

But yeah, busses. Because sometimes I need to take busses. The combination of a fucked up foot (a purely technically medical description, you understand, about more of which in a second) and where I live means that although there are a couple of shops within easy walking distance and a decent size Sainsbury’s within… an ‘ok’ walking distance, if I want to go to A Big Supermarket, then it’s a bus. And to be honest, the past week or so, even if I want to go to the decent size Sainsbury’s, it’s a bus.

Why? Well, for whatever reason, my foot has been bad the past week, seriously bad. Whether that’s because it’s actually playing up more than usual, or possibly after years of putting it off, something serious is going on inside the thing at the end of my left leg… or whether it’s psychosomatic, or I’ve just stressed it more than usual with the hour’s walking…. or whether it’s a combination of all of the foregoing… I have no idea.

But it hurts like hell at the moment.

I’m usually very grateful anyway to whoever the hell it was who first had the idea of combining codeine in a decent amount with paracetamol and gave me the wonderful ‘take the edge of the pain’ medication known as cocodamol. OK, I’m also very grateful to the doctors I’ve had over the years who’ve checked me out, seen the MRI and then gone “yep, repeat prescription”. But I’m particularly grateful to both the past week.

As a result of their efforts, I can at least go for my government allowed hour of exercise outside the flat every day. OK, I say ‘exercise’; what I mean is that hour’s walk in what passes for fresh air in London.

The foot + cocodamol combination has meant that I can, for the most part, go out and have a wander for an hour, and then there are the busses for the other occasions.

I’ve noticed several things about taking a bus now that didn’t apply before ‘all of this’.

(As a side note, I wonder when this global crisis will get a proper ‘name’. Whether it’ll be described as “the Event” or “The Incident”… you know, as such things are always described in sf comics, novels, tv shows and movies.)

Sorry, back to the busses.

I’m not sure when ‘oh, most of the other passengers wearing a face mask’ became what I expected to see, instead of merely unsurprising, let alone the anomaly.

I’m equally unsure when seeing people sitting together was the exception rather than the rule; it’s as usual now as it is for children of any age to be well behaved. I can’t remember the last time I saw a child even boisterous, let alone misbehaving, on the bus.

Similarly, almost every time someone gets off the bus, there’s a ‘thank you’ or ‘thank you, driver’, called out. Again, the rarity is someone not saying it rather than it being said.

Finally… many busses have taped off the seats nearest to the exit doors. I’m not wholly sure of the reasons for that one, but I’d imagine it’s to do with reducing the chance of anyone standing by the doors coming anywhere near anyone sitting in these seats.

So, yeah, taking a bus these days is a very different experience to before all this kicked off. (Mind you, I could do without the dirty looks from anyone in the street when I exit the bus.)
Apologies to all, kind of. This blog entry has been a bit of a mess. It’ll get better.

See you tomorrow…