The more I think about the Voter ID laws proposed for the UK, the angrier I get.

I use the word “angrier” quite deliberately. This isn’t something that ‘upsets’ me, nor that ‘disappoints’ me. No, it angers me. It angers for me for several reasons that I’ll get to in a moment after a nauseatingly sweet story from more than a decade ago, from April 2004 to be precise, that I related once upon a time in another blog when it happened, but it’s too good not to repeat now.

So, April 2004, I’m reading The Times, and Philip – not even 9 years of age – is reading the headlines, getting me to help him with any hard words. Back then, I was determined that he’d have a decent vocabulary growing up, so we’d regularly read the front page of The Times together. On this particular occasion, he picks up on the story that the then Home Secretary was trying to get ID cards introduced, at first on a voluntary basis, but to be made compulsory in the next ten years or so. 

He’s mildly interested in this story even at 8 years old because he’s just got his first formal ID card: a library ticket with his name and his signature on it (!) He’s very proud of that, and I am as well.

So Philip asks a couple of intelligent questions about why ID is needed at all, and then we play a game about what ID he knows I already have. And then, after having examined my driving licence, he asks why it has a photograph on it. The following conversation takes place:

Philip: But even if you have a photograph, someone can still pretend to be you.
Me: Yes, but a photograph makes it more difficult.
Philip: But if someone really really wanted to, they could still pretend to be you, even with a photograph.
Me: You mean, someone would choose to be as ugly as me?

There’s a slight pause before:

Philip: Yes, you’re right Dad. No one would choose to look like you.

At which point I’m coming to the conclusion that they made a mistake when they stopped us parents sending them up chimneys.

But back to the government’s proposal, which have garnered some publicity the past couple of days since they announced them. Basically, what they’re planning is to trial the Voter ID system for the 2018 council elections (at the 18 councils identified as most open to electoral fraud), and then – if all goes well – introduce it nationwide for the 2020 general election. The piece in that link makes it clear that it’s already been introduced in Northern Ireland and it would be remiss of me not to say that a) I was entirely unaware of that and b) I had no idea how it’s working in practice.

That said, Stephen Bush of The New Statesman has written a piece on Facebook giving his views, and I’m struggling to find anything to object to in it; I’d go further: I don’t disagree with a word of it. If it was on the NS‘s site, I’d just link but since it’s Facebook, here’s the entire piece. It’s short, but worth reading.

The government’s plan to pilot the use of photo ID to cut down on electoral fraud has many on the left worried that the proposal is actually a ruse to decrease the number of Labour voters who are eligible to vote. Are they right?
The first thing to note is that while there is a very small number of electoral malpractice cases – fewer than 100 – some of which count as an electoral fraud, they involve matters unrelated to the wrong people voting at polling stations. The most frequent crime is putting false signatures on nomination papers, after that breaking expenses rules, and lastly making false claims about other candidates.

The most recent high-profile cases of electoral fraud involved false claims about a candidate (Labour’s Phil Woolas against his Liberal Democrat opponent in 2010), postal vote fraud (Birmingham, 2004) and bribery and spiritual influence (Lutfur Rahman, 2014).

In none of the cases would a stronger ID requirement have detected or prevented the crime.
Of course, some people will say “but what about the criminals we don’t catch?” The difficulty there is it is hard to see where this fraud is taking place. In all those cases, the result itself was a sign something was up. If someone is rigging results, they are doing so in a way that produces outcomes entirely in keeping with national swing and demographic behaviour. Other than the thrill of the chase, it’s not clear why someone would do this.

What we do know from the one part of the United Kingdom that has voter registration – Northern Ireland – is that it makes it harder for poorer people to vote as they are less likely to have the required ID. That’s why after their pilot (back in 2002) they introduced a free ID card.

There is, however, a strong argument that elections need to command a high level of public legitimacy, making the case for ID stronger. But there is a wide suite of measures the government could bring in alongside this change that would achieve that while lessening the impact of having an ID. They could, for instance, make it so you are automatically enrolled when you pay council tax, a water bill, a heating bill or any other charge that comes with a fixed abode. They could roll out a free photo ID for elections.

But as they are doing neither, it feels fair to say that at best the government is relaxed about making it harder for supporters of its opponents to vote and at worst is actively seeking to do so.

As I say, I can’t find anything to disagree with in there. The main point – that this is a solution for a problem that doesn’t exist – is made. But the final bit is what makes me angry though, takes me from upset to anger: it feels fair to say that at best the government is relaxed about making it harder for supporters of its opponents to vote and at worst is actively seeking to do so.

It does feel fair to say that; in fact, it feels unfair to look at it any other way. The government has seen how Voter ID laws have been used in the US, to restrict poorer voters from going to the polls and have thought “ooh, that’s a good idea, let’s try that here…”

Two things jump out at me regarding the proposal; well, one thing jumps out and then a consequence that I think is inevitable. But first let me say that I, as an individual, don’t have any huge problem with carrying identification. I already carry around several pieces of ID from choice, from my bank cards, to various forms of ID, including my driving license. And on occasion, when it’s been required, I’ve been more than ok with showing my passport as identification. That’s me. And if it was a purely voluntary identification scheme, with a guarantee that it wouldn’t be made compulsory, I’d sign up for a Voter ID in a heartbeat, as I would with any identification scheme.

But that’s the problem: it wouldn’t remain voluntary. For a start, any compulsory identification scheme should be free of charge to the user at the time of issue and usage. If the government wants voters to have identification, it should, amend must, supply that identifation, free of charge. (Yes, I know it’s not ‘free of charge’; taxpayers pay for it, but I’m quite ok with that. That’s why I said “free of charge to the user at the time of issue and usage”.)

Not only would it not remain free to the user – no government is going to pass up the opportunity to charge cardholders for it, and even the cost of a tenner would raise several hundred million pounds – but the UK government – every UK goverbment – has wanted to introduce ID cards for decades. This would be the first step into making identification cards compulsory for everything; it’s a very short walk from voter ID to prescriptions to claiming benefits to… what? You’d have to show your ID when applying for jobs? For exchanging properties? For renting? 

I’m often disappointed in the UK’s government actions; more often I’m upset by them. This proposal angers and disgusts me. 

This post is part of a series of blog entries, counting down to 1st January 2017. You can see other posts in the run by clicking here.

I meant to tell this story before Christmas, on the eve of Chanukah, but just plain forgot. But since it came up a couple of times over the festive break, I figured I might as well tell it now.

Oh, just before I get to that, Chanukah/Hanukah/Hannuka… which is it? Short answer: any and all. Thing is, however it’s spelled in English, it’s a Hebrew word, and transliteration from Hebrew is always difficult, in part because English doesn’t really have a single letter, or even pair or letters, to always denote the hard “ch” sound. I tend to use “Chanukah” because that’s how I first learned the transliteration. Americans tend to use Hannukah, or drop the middle ‘n’. Mark Parisi nailed it in the cartoon over to the side…

So… if you’re Jewish, and it’s Christmas time, sooner or later, you’ll be told that you should celebrate Christmas. Not only because it’s so far removed from Christianity, but because people – often from the best of motives – genuinely believe that Christmas is solely about peace and goodwill to everyone and who wouldn’t want to a) share in that and b) promote that to everyone else?

The problem is – well, one problem is – that Christmas is, well, Christmas. It’s functionally and mostly inseparable from the birth of Jesus, and while I share Mitch Benn’s view on the modern True Meaning Of Christmas (below) I’m Jewish; growing up in what is still at least nominally a Christian country has led to some… interesting experiences at Christmas. 

For a start, there were my schooldays. Unlike my lad, I didn’t go to a faith school, or at least not one that was specifically and solely aimed at one faith. I went to local junior and senior schools which while – again nominally – weren’t specific to any faith, we had C of E assemblies and the whole paraphernalia that accompanies that. And, of course, come December, we had the ritual of endsuring Christmas Cards. And yes, I sent them, and received them. There was, of course, a little postbox in class and everyone got the same number of cards. Everyone got 29 cards… and was delighted to get those 29 cards and you never really realised you only got those 29 cards because you were a child and there were 30 in the class.

Well, I say ‘delighted’. Even as a relatively small child, as a Jewish kid in a Christian country, whose classmates knew you were Jewish, you quickly discovered who were the dicks in the class. You might not know yet who’d be your ‘friends for life’ but you discovered who the dicks were. They were the kids who sent you Christmas cards with Jesus on them. 

There were plenty of cards you could have been sent. Some had Santa on them, some had a robin redbreast, some had holly, some landscapes of snow covered valleys and hills. And some had the baby Jesus. And there was a pretty much 100% correlation between those kids who didn’t like you and those kids who sent you ‘baby Jesus’ Christmas cards.

But, I digress. 

For some time, when I was on CompuServe, I helped run their Jewish Forum. For the main part, it was an enjoyable experience. Occasionally you’d get someone coming into the place merely seeking to cause trouble, often by attempting to proselytise but that was only to be expected. On the whole, Jews not only don’t proselytise, but take a rather dim view of those who do. We tend to work on the principle of “look, we don’t tell non-Jews they should be Jewish, so we don’t take it when non-Jews tell Jews they shouldn’t be, especially when in the past, the telling Jews they shouldn’t be has been accompanied by punishments, torture, screaming and, you know, killing us.

The lady I ran the Forum with was an teacher in the United States, but whose children attended a different school from the one at which she taught. (I’m embarrassed to say that I just typed “at which she teached” before my mind went NOOOOOO! and I caught it…) Anyway, moving swiftly on. 

Anyway… comes parents’ evening and C (her initial) went along with her husband to her chidren’s school where she was informed, rather disappointingly, by her child’s teacher that her kid “didn’t partake in the Christmas celebrations and didn’t want to take part in the nativity or anything!” C, assuming the teacher had just missed the point, said “well, no. She’s Jewish, and we don’t celebrate Christmas at home.”

Teacher: Well, maybe you should.
C: I don’t think so. As I say, we’re Jewish.
Teacher: Well, if you celebrated Christmas at home, she would fit in more at school.
C (now getting exasperated if not actually annoyed): As Jews, we celebrate Hannukah but…
Teacher: But Hannukah is just the Jewish Christmas, isn’t it?
C: Not really, no.
Teacher: Isn’t it?
C: No. Christmas is about peace and good will to all men.
Teacher: Yes, and…?
C: Hannukah is about picking up a sword and defending yourself against people trying to impose their religion on you.

C smilies sweetly.

Teacher: Ah. Oh. [pause] Right, so, let’s talk about her math homework.

And that’s how I want to respond every tine someone tells me Chanukah is the “Jewish Christmas”. Yes, there are presents exchanged, although Chanukah tends to be more about giving presents to children over the eight nights of the festival. It’s not exclusively about children, but the focus is more on that. So yes, it involves exhanges of presents, and it’s an opportunity – as many religions have, suggest and mandate – for people to kick back and chill out at the end of the year.

What Chanukah is not, most decisively though, is “the Jewish Christmas”.

See you tomorrow… as we near the end of this seventy-five day countdown…

This post is part of a series of blog entries, counting down to 1st January 2017. You can see other posts in the run by clicking here.

The last bit of fiction for you in this run…

As I’ve mentioned previously:

Elephant Words was a fiction site to which I contributed stories, on and off, for several years. The idea behind the site was simple, based on the old tale of several blind people describing an elephant based only on touch; one described the animal as a long snake, another that it was hard and bony, still another that it was like a tree trunk. Every week, one of the participants would put up an image, and over the following week, people would write a story inspired upon the image alone.

Occasionally, a story didn’t need the image to contextualise the tale, but I always tried to use it to the point that if the image wasn’t there, I’d have had to change something about the story.

Here’s another one of them; an image, and the story it inspired me to write.


EMPTY CHAIRS AT EMPTY PLACES

“Epsilon Theta Radiation.”

The words hung in the air for a long moment before the short, squat man sat at the desk swore, eloquently but softly. The captain rubbed his hand over his face. He was tired, too tired, but he lifted his eyes from the image on his desk to the man wearing the lieutenant’s uniform.

“How bad?” he asked the slim man, standing to attention before his desk.

“Bad enough to affect the best camera we had on board,” the lieutenant replied. “We tried scanning with different filters but there’s so many different strains in the air that… Well, that’s the best we could do.”

The captain glanced at the ship’s chronometer. The dial was orange. The poison even reached out into space, edging its way through the ships protection. An hour and the colour would be pink, and they’d have to leave. Three hours after that and it’d turn red. And they’d all be dead, whether they knew it or not.

“No survivors?” he asked, disappointed at himself for asking the question. If there had been, his crew would have told him.

“None,” the lieutenant confirmed. The captain listened for any contempt in the younger man’s voice and was mildly surprised to find none.

“What did you do with the bodies?”

“There weren’t any,” came the reply from the third man in the room, a lean saturnine faced man, sitting on a chair to the side, and suddenly the captain was wide awake. He stood and came around from behind the desk, staring down at his subordinate.

“Say that again, Commander,” he demanded, then repeated it before the other man could say a word.

“There weren’t any bodies, captain,” the man said, allowing just a trace of excitement into his voice. “Not just there, but anywhere. Not a single body on the planet.”

The captain turned and gripped his lieutenant’s arm. “Are you sure, man? Are you absolutely sure?”

The lieutenant struggled to keep his face impassive, somehow won the battle, and with a voice of stone, reported that his team had scanned, scoured and searched for eighty-six hours and they had detected not a single sentient life form on the planet.

The captain returned to his seat, and fell into it, his brow suddenly covered in sweat.

“They did it”, he whispered. “They finally did it. Those bastards in the science department finally came up with the perfect weapon – to eliminate all life forms, all traces of life forms and yet leave infrastructure untouched.”

He wiped his brow.

“How long before we can scrub the radiation and the planet can support life?”

“With the new anti-rad treatments?” the commander spoke aloud, leaning forward, his face crumpled in thought. “About fifty years.”

“Acceptable,” rapped out the captain, now all business. “Convey my compliments to the science department, Commander. Let Fleet Command know of the success and start transmitting the paperwork around the other ships.”

He smiled for the first time in months, and took another look at the static image on his desk.

Blue water, eh? He wondered briefly whether that was an effect of the radiation bombardment and whether the indigenous population had also been blue; he’d not bothered to check them out before ordering the attack.

He dismissed the other two officers and leaned back in his chair, his eyes straying again to the out of focus image.

Fifty years? Hell, maybe he’d retire here; it looked like such a nice place, after all.

© Lee Barnett


See you tomorrow… 

This post is part of a series of blog entries, counting down to 1st January 2017. You can see other posts in the run by clicking here.

2017 minus 07: Christmas Day

Posted: 25 December 2016 in 2017 minus
Tags:

Well, yes, it’s Christmas Day, and while I’ve deliberately not kept an eye on the stats for this seventy-five day countdown thing I’ve been running, I’m pretty sure that this entry will be among the lowest read. Quite understandable, of course; anyone likely to be reading this is almost certainly doing other things for most of the day: they’ll be with family, or out, or at friends, or on their own… point is that whatever they’re doing, catching up with this blog isn’t likely to be foremost on their minds.

Which means I can do anything. I can write anything, knowing that it’s not likely to be read.

Hmm.

Thing is, I have that freedom anyway. Not – I hope – for the same reasons as just stated, but because it’s my blog. I can write fiction, or express ideas, or just fill an day’s entry with repetitions of ALL WORK AND NO PLAY MAKES JACK A DULL BOY, if I didn’t mind stealing from a Mr Torrance of the Overlook Hotel. 

But since you’ve been so nice and stuck with me so far…






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Merry Christmas, everyone…

And here we are. One day before Christmas, eight days before the end of the year…

So something special today, as it’s Christmas Eve.

How The Grinch Stole Christmas – in six parts. The original, never bettered.





Jean Luc Picard gets into the holiday spirit

Most people have a classic as their first single ever bought. Mine? It was RentaSanta by Chris Hill.

And, finally, Tom Lehrer’s A Christmas Carol
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Tomorrow is Christmas; enjoy it as much as you can. There’ll be something here if you’re interested, but no worries if you’re not. 

This post is part of a series of blog entries, counting down to 1st January 2017. You can see other posts in the run by clicking here.

2017 minus 09: Things yet to come

Posted: 23 December 2016 in 2017 minus

The past two day’s entries have briefly looked at things past (things I used to do that no longer do) and things present (things I do now that I didn’t used to do). And as an homage to the time of the year, here’s something on things yet to come. 

One of the things that has most struck me as my lad has gotten older, and I’ve watched him take to new technology, new social norms and new societal structures is the realisation that all of the foregoing not only change from generation to generation, but Douglas Adams’ Rules apply far wider than to just technology.

Things that seemed new and amazing to me – both in society and technology – are just… ‘normal’ for him and his contemporaries. Things that were normal for me and mine – but were new to my parents’ generation – are not only ‘the way things have always been’ for him and his, but are old hat, so much the norm that it’s odd to think they were ever otherwise. That makes me wonder what things that to his generation are – or will be – ‘new’ will be regarded by future generations as ‘the norm. 

As previously, three or four examples.

Social structures In the past couple of years, equal marriage – such a nice and more accurate term than the previously derogatory ‘gay marriage’ by which it was previously known – has become accepted in law by so many more states and countries that it’s truly astonished me. The sheer speed at which its happened has blown me away. That’s not to say, nor to pretend, that the entire process from start to finish has been speedy; it hasn’t. But the decisions to make it legal, they’veseemed  the past couple of years, to come one after another after another… at a breathtaking pace. And, mostly, in one direction: making something that was illegal… legal. I’ve no sympathy for the arguments that if “this is the thin end of the wedge”, you’ll  end up with incestuous relationships made legal, or bestiality or any of the dozen or more ridiculous and ludicrous suggestions made. I have, though, some sympathy with the suggestion that once marriage was moved away from the description of “one man + one woman” to “one person + one person” that there’s an argument for extending it to “x person(s) + x person(s)”. I struggle to find a logical reason why polyamorous relationships and marriages shouldn’t be allowed, and I’d be surprised if, in the next few decades, that doesn’t come up for discussion.

Political structures (I’ll freely admit that I’m writing this before Donald Trump has taken office so who knows what the fuck the future holds?) The political systems – the makeup of executive and legislative branches of government as well as the judiciary –  we have were, for the main part, designed at least a couple of centuries ago, and maybe it’s a measure of how seriously regard them as fixed that they have hardly changed in that time. In the US, a system designed in a time when it took several days to travel, is expected to operate the same way when it now takes mere hours, when visual communication is to all intents and purposes instantaneous. The demands of elected representatives )not delegates, or nt yet anyway) have grown beyond all measure and beyond anything that could have been foreseen when the systems were designed. I have no idea what the evolution is likely to be, but I would be astonished if the political structures we see today can bear the weight of history, and of changing demands, for another two decades, let alone longer. 

Technology It was Arthur C Clarke who said that “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” He himself was not immune from this rule, as he once explained: while he would have believed anyone who told him back in 1962 that there would one day exist a book-sized object capable of holding the content of an entire library, he would never have accepted that the same device could find a page or word in a second and then convert it into any typeface and size from Albertus Extra Bold to Zurich Calligraphic”, referring to his memory of “seeing and hearing Lynotype machines which slowly converted ‘molten lead into front pages that required two men to lift them’”. So what technology in the future would/will seem like magic to me? The problem is that I’ve read – and seen – so much science fiction, I’m not entirely sure much would be ‘magic’ to me; I’d trust it to be science and be relatively ok with me not understanding the science behind it. I don’t completely understand the science that runs my iPad and yet I use it every day. I don’t understand the true difference between .mkv files and .mp4 files, but I’ll happily watch either. I’m not even sure I nowadays remember the science behind analogue radio, let alone digital broadcasts.

But, those caveats fully aired, what technology do I see coming our way? I’m not convinced by the idea of wearable tech other than that I’m pretty sure they’ll master Google Glass or something like it. A mixture of augmented reality and Heads Up Displays will allow us to overlay digital information on whatever we see. I’d be astonished if when meeting someone we know, there’d not be information presented for us: name, whether it’s their birthday, wife’s name, children’s names, job title etc. And similarly, when meeting someone for the first time, whatever information we already have plus an invitation to ‘connect’ digitally. I don’t see matter transportation – well, human teleportation anyway – coming for quite some time; I’d be surprised if it came during my lad’s lifetime let alone mine. And for that reason, I’d be astonished if we as a species ever ventured beyond Mars during my lifetime. The distances are simply too far for ‘normal’ travel. Will we get warp speed? Well, if the history of humanity tells us anything, it’s that if it does occur, odds are it’ll be developed by, or with the money of, the military. 

In ten years, we’ll look back at the current iPad, iPhone (other makes and models are available) and wince at the primitive tech that was inflicted upon us. (Don’t believe me? Think of how happy you’d be right now to be given an iPhone 4 or an iPad 1 as a Christmas present this year. And both were unleashed only six years ago. Ten years ago today, neither the iPhone nor the iPad existed.) 

About the only thing I can confidently predict about the tech that will be offered to us, say, in 2026 will be that it won’t live up to the concept videos that fans of the product will release in their “what do we want in the next version of [insert phone of choice]’ video holograms on YouTube, or whatever the video-hologram venue of choice is in 2026.

One more thing that’s worth throwing out there… the iPhone wasn’t he first ‘smartphone’ available for purchase by the public. It’s arguable that it’s the best smartphone, but only arguable, not conclusive. However, I think it’s fair to say that it was a game changer. Similarly, the iPad, while not being the first tablet out there, was definitely a game changer; it took the idea of a tablet from a niche item to a general item, something that wouldn’t be unusual to own. 

And that’s what I think will happen in the future; the secret to new technologies isn’t the technology itself; it’s the moment when an item (whether it’s a car, a telephone, a washing machine, a microwave) goes from being a concept, to something novel, to something everyone regards as unsurprising when someone else, someone you know, owns one. And the next big thing that’ll happen to I don’t know. I doubt many people know. But it’s a coming, and it’ll be surprising; what has changed, is he speed by which his process of innovation occurs. The concept to market prices has been sped up and whatever the Big Thing is in 2026, ten years from now, can’t be guessed at now, because it’s probably not even in the concept stage. But odds are, by 2027, you’ll want one if you don’t already own it.

People Take a good look at the people you like, the people you love, the people you admire. In years to come, some of them won’t be there. Some of them, it’s true, will still be around, or at least alive, but you’ll no longer like, love nor admire them; they won’t be part of your life any more, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. But some of them? Some of them will have died. Some will have died from old age (unless you’re very uncommon, some of the people you like, love and admire are getting on in years…); some will have from accidents, some from illness, some from choice. (And when I say ‘choice’, I’m a firm believer that voluntary euthanasia will be made legal in many countries in the next decade or so; whether you support it or not, what illnesses it includes or not; I think it’s coming.) 

One of the effects of social media recording and distributing public eulogies and thoughts on the departed is the much more often stated common phrases “I hope they knew how much they were loved” and “I wish I could have told them how much they mattered to me”. Of course, some of this is self-deluding; I don’t believe for a moment that big stars, very famous people, are unaware for a moment how much their work has mattered to people, nor that they haven’t been told so by many. Also, telling someone how much they – or their achievements – have mattered to you is as much for you as it is for them. But tell them anyway; In the same way as the old line about “no one ever dies regretting they didn’t spend more time at work” is in part true, no one should ever die in ignorance that they mattered to people: family, friends, people who liked them, people who lived them, admirers alike.

Something else tomorrow, for Christmas Eve.

This post is part of a series of blog entries, counting down to 1st January 2017. You can see other posts in the run by clicking here.

2017 minus 10: Things present

Posted: 22 December 2016 in 2017 minus

Yesterday, I wondered what had happened to some things that used to play a daily or weekly part in my life that, for various reasons, no longer do.

In some cases, they play no part in anyone’s life any more; in others, they were more personal. The choice of Livejournal as my then blogging platform led me into experiences and avenues I’d not have gone along had I chosen blogger, say. That’s not to say Livejournal was better or worse than blogger, or blogspot… just different.

But today, some things I do, or things I experience, that only ten years ago would have just… not happened. None of them are inconceivable; it’s just for reasons of time, technology and personal preference, I’d never have foreseen them happening to me.

Christmas Christmas was never A Thing for me growing up. I’m Jewish, and so it just never played any part in my life; the closest we had to a Christmas Tradition was the whole family going around to my maternal grandparents on Boxing Day. And then, a few years ago, now – 2010 – I got friendly with someone for whom Christmas is a genuinely good time. The comedian Mitch Benn is probably the single person I know who most loves Christmas. Not the religious stuff and nonsense; he’s got no time for that. But the doing up the tree, and the jollity and Christmas lights and all of that…? Yeah, Mitch loves that and somehow, over the past few years, I’ve started to enjoy it as well. He loves doing the ‘Elf on a Shelf’ for his kids; he loves the excitement his girls get at Christmas. And, he’s written more than a few comedy Christmas songs for The Now Show over the years. So, from around October every year, I’ve started to if not exactly look forward to Christmas, then at least not be entirely uninterested in the season.

Tech Yes, I know Douglas Adams’ rules still apply – or do they? But the tech I use, compared to even ten years ago, is so utterly different that I’d have looked at 2016 from 2006 and genuinely wondered how it could have happened in such a short space of time. Back then, I had a slim, slide-phone, a Samsung as I recall, and smartphones were… well, let’s just say they were some time in the future, a long, long time. My laptop was by no means that heavy, but the weight of laptops is measured in kilograms… Who knew that within a few years, I’d be using an iPhone, and have an iPad, the combined weight of which is maybe a quarter of the weight of the laptop alone, let alone the charger I had to carry around with me. And yes, the iPad doesn’t do everything the laptop did… but for what I need(ed) the iPad does fine. (I’m reminded of the line by P J P’Rourke about the 2015 Conservative victory: it wasn’t an overwhelming victory by any means, but a whelming victory would do very well thank you…) 

Messaging A corollary to the above; I speak on the phone a lot less than I used to. Part of that is due to me no longer being financial director of a company and therefore not speaking on the phone there. But its’ not uncommon now for me to go a day or two without speaking on the phone at all; instead, it’s texting, and WhatsApp-ing, and Skype-ing (occasionally) and… and… and… I type more than I speak, I write messages rather than communicate by voice. And, I gather, that’s happening more and more to more and more people. I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or not. Messaging gives you the opportunity to ‘craft’ your message more carefully, typos notwithstanding. But so much of communication is not merely the words used, nor the formal and specific order of them, but the tone, and tone is noticeabley absent – or at least lessened – in typing.

I saw Charlie tonight. 
I saw Charlie tonight. 
I saw Charlie tonight. 
I saw Charlie tonight.  

All of the above mean different things, and the stressing and emphasis by emboldening the word doesn’t begin to conver the full meaning. I genuinely never thought there’d be a time when talking to someone on the phone would not only be uncommon but an extreme rarity in my life.

An adult child Yes, I know, I saw this one coming, but not really. I knew this would occur, but not really. I’ve said before that I never realised what a daft question “What’s it like, being a father?” was… until I became a father. Now, don’t worry, this isn’t meant to make me special or suggest I have greater wisdom because I’m a dad. That’s an equally stupid suggestion. Neither are my experiences as a father necessarily even similar to other parents’ experiences. And yes, I know my lad has been getting older, year by year; that’s called ‘life’. But in the same way as when Phil was born, I didn’t really anticipate that one moment there’s four people in a room, and the next moment there’s five people in the room, what I didn’t expect, not really, was having an adult as a child. My lad, as I mentioned a few weeks ago, is now 21. He’s grown into a fine young man, and I’m very proud of him. But Phil’s a young man. He’s my child, but he’s no longer a child. And that takes some getting used to. Knowing that he drinks alcohol, and can handle it. Understanding that he has his own views about politics and the world, and that they’re not formed from naïveté, nor from ignorance, but because he’s thought about events and occurrences and come to a conclusion about them… That’s a weird thing to process. I mean, obviously he’s wrong whenever he disagrees with me, but then you – and he – would expect me to say that.

Tomorrow: Things future.

This post is part of a series of blog entries, counting down to 1st January 2017. You can see other posts in the run by clicking here.