Monthly Archives: July 2012

Big Brother?

Yesterday I rang my mobile phone provider to bleat something about ‘when am I out of my contract, please sir?’

The stern reply was not yet, but you could talk to someone to see what we could do, yada, yada, yada; blah, blah, blah.

I couldn’t be bothered with it, so I just muttered something about wanting shot of the Crapberry, thanks anyway, and hung up. My main beef with said item is it sticks on ‘O’ or ‘+’ and often times it is a battle to get something out there not full of ooooooooooooooooo s or ++++++++++++++++++ s. Plus it freezes. A lot. Oh and the camera is terrible.

Within an hour, I had an email from RIM, the makers of the Crapberry (apt manufacturers name, I think), imploring me to consider upgrading to the new SuperCrackCrapBerry.


You decide.

Exhibit Number 1

The Olympic Ceremony: where time and space and ‘I’ dimensions collapse

Well, they did for me anyway. At first, I was full of cynicism. Oh a green hill, and, oh, a hymn *shudders*. Then Kenneth Branagh doing Isambard Kingdom Brunel, whilst quoting Shakespeare, in a top hat and ‘scary facial whiskers’ (to quote my daughter) bothered my sensibilities somewhat and the grubby working classes, well worked… until, the five Olympic rings were forged before my eyes and raised above the stadium and then, you might say, we were all on the same page. That sentence took some writing. Not unlike the time (cubed) it took for me to catch up with the vision.

There’s no need for me to catalogue what came next is there? All I want to say really, is this. The time passed awfully quickly and when Muhammad Ali faltered onto the stage I cried.
I didn’t cry a little, I cried a lot. I have mentioned Ali on here before, mainly as a beautiful individual and a lyrical gangster. The night before the opening ceremony I had coincidentally waved his photo biography at a small audience and extolled his many qualities, lest they troubled to forget.

Then last night, as if by magic, there he was. He looks so different from his prime. It’s more than age, it’s the ravages of the cruel neurological disease that is Parkinson’s, a disease that afflicted my grandfather. Last night, I had to look and look again to be sure, ‘Is that Muhammad Ali?’ And then, when Ali moved to touch the Olympic flag, suddenly, time and space collapsed and so did I. In that Olympic moment I was a child again, watching Ali in black and white on the portable tv, listening to his patter and his press conferences. I was reading him, occasionally writing about or quoting him, over a lifetime. I was the age I am now, waving his picture to strangers and I was all I can ever try to be, somehow incredibly knowing shared humanity, connected through all our wondrous possibilities.

I am nothing to Muhammad Ali, and he is nothing and no-one and everything and everyone to me. How much easier for a man of his age, and frailty to stay at home out of the public’s gaze, than fly to London for a late night gig. But despite the disease, the age, the infirmity and confusion, he is the same as he ever was, because he was there. There, still fighting his battle, on the world stage. And to me, that is the Greatest Ever Inspiration any of us could wish for.

Muhammad Ali with his wife Yolanda Williams

He who is not courageous enough to take risks will accomplish nothing in life.

Olympic ideals for parents

The Olympic torch came through our town a few weeks ago. It was a wet day; the children were allowed time off school to see this once in a lifetime event with their families. I took my two girls, who were distinctly underwhelmed; in fact they spent a lot of time moaning.
It doesn’t matter though, they saw it and the youngest took the photograph of the torch bearer as she had the best view. I haven’t parented outside the 21st century so I can’t compare the job with that of my parents, or theirs, but I suspect every generation faces its own unique challenges, as well as some in common. I believe as parents, all that you can do, is provide the opportunity for them and let them make of it what they will.

I wrote this to myself as a reminder, for when things get tough, as they always do.

Foster aspiration

Make opportunities


You cannot have all of it

Use your wisdom

Let go of something, or something will let go of you.

At least if you take the former option you have the choice

Take photographs. You cannot have too many.
Whatever you hope to remember you will most assuredly forget

Do one thing at a time – you will get less done, better

If you’re in the room, be in the room

Make time to leave the room. Alone

Listen with your heart

Don’t live just in your head

Get in your body – it’s missed you

Guilt is the most pointless construct, until you commit a crime. If you are legal, ditch the guilt

Our best is all we have to give

Sometimes we think our best is not good enough – even then it is all we have to give

Give what you can

Take as little as you need

Notice everything

Stick your tongue out in the snow

Kick off your shoes

Take a walk in the rain

Wear holes in your socks

Let the light in

But know when to draw the blinds

Get muddy

Accept imperfection, it is your friend

Look them in the eye

Gaze into your soul

Mostly, stay hungry, stay foolish (via Steve Jobs)

Discover your purpose,

Persevere infinitely

And pass the torch on

My wind turbine

This year we’ve been up against it in the garden. First we had no water, and then we had too much, so I’ve not gone overboard with the annuals and gone for some low maintenance kitsch to inject some colour instead.

I reckon I could run my laptop off this windmill, if only knew how. Finding out how? It’s on my bucket list.

I might be giving a talk later, I’ll be taking my mate the butterfly to help me illustrate a point. I hope he’s been rehearsing ‘cos I haven’t; how do you rehearse what is already in your heart?

Down at the track

Lap 1

‘Oh yes, he’s fit enough.’
‘Is he doing it properly? He’s not is he?’
‘Oh yes, well… he’s just relaxed.’
‘He needs a straight back?’
‘Well, mmmm. Michael Johnson ran with a straight back and he did alright.’

I think, Michael Johnson ran like a duck but when you break world records it doesn’t matter what you look like.

Lap 2

‘Oh no, he’s not fit enough.’
‘No, he’s not fit enough at all.’
‘It’s good though, this physical exercise. Too much studiousness is bad for the boy.’
‘Is he doing it properly? She’s doing it properly isn’t she?’
‘He needs to watch what the others are doing.’
‘Look he’s not watching.’

Lap 3

The studious boy, who looks like he is running into a wind tunnel, comes over to the edge of the track and weeps.

An elite athlete sticks his head through the fence and throws up.

The man, who was once hit by a train, completes his lap.

Right, wrong, none of it is ever easy.

From The Telegraph: Usain Bolt on his home track by Ben Duffy

Seen & Heard: Tweeting @thebeach

Doing my annual King Canute impression. Aggregate score so far: Sea 42 – Me 0.
Unfair, as it always has the home advantage #time&tide

RT @DrDannyPenman
Cardiff University sewed kittens eyes shut in taxpayer funded experiments Like virtually all vivisection – pointless

Resisting the strong urge to tell the rest of the beach to sit down and SHUT UP.
Bet King C didn’t have to put up with sunseeking plebs.

Realise I am turning into my mother. I love her, but still, oh dear #notready

There is some eye-watering gusset action down here. Girls, check your rear view before leaving home, I beg you #southend

Lovers’ tiff. Man wearing sweater on head – she’s conducting face to face argument and tel con simultaneously. Multi-tasking emotions

She’s off phone, employing finger pointing tactic. He’s shouting, sweater still on head.
Bit early. #chill

‘It’s Southend – no-one cares. No-one is going to check you out’ #shockhorror #southend #Icare

‘Where’s the sea? Where’s the sea?’ ‘I’ll take you for a walk to find the water…’

Chelsea FC beach towel, Harrods carrier bag, deckchair hire, still arguing. Still wearing his sweater as a yashmak. Still #dre

‘You have to wait 20 minutes for your food to go down.’
Do you? Oh dear, I’ve been doing the wrong thing my whole life.

Illegal spaniel on the beach alert. Tut.

Stuck here now until the argument ends or the tide comes in, whichever is sooner.

Sweater removed from head: argument over. All smiles. Yay. Says he can’t swim.

Tide’s close enough now to see its line of scum. Doesn’t seem to put people off going in. Parents bawling at their kids behind me.

RT @paulocoelho
The danger of an adventure is worth a thousand days of ease and comfort

Argument man wears his black woollen socks in the sea.
Wet socks, caked in sand = interesting look

Wearing socks in the sea, now that’s an adventure.

Sea 42 – Me 1
Tide turns in my favour, for now. Another adventure.

A Rusting Hulk

Whenever I pass this marine skeleton along Paglesham Creek, I always wonder what it was.

I took this photo ages ago, back in the winter, but it resonates with me now because recently, as I have said, my brain just won’t work. My mind has been like a rusting hulk, run aground and of an unknown provenance. Now, I don’t want to jinx it, but it feels like the tide might have come in overnight and perhaps we are, once again, afloat. Perhaps…


Rudi Ribbons

I feed this animal about 4 times a day – I can never get a covering on his ribs. He always seems in good form though *touch wood*

He’s the third dog I’ve had; I’d like another smaller one. A walk’s not the same without a dog.

I didn’t take this photo – it was taken on a Samsung S2 mobile phone. Not bad at all.

The Peter Principle, or: c’mon lads, the game’s up

This blog has been a longtime critic of the government, mainly because they don’t seem to have a clue what they are doing. And when they do have a reasonable idea, they put in ridiculously short time limits to see results, so that they can claim the credit in time for the next election (I am thinking of the Work Programme and the pilot programmes for reducing re-offending here, where funding is dependent on outcomes, but also set within unrealistic time frames, equivalent to the lifespan of a flea).

Their one idea for the economy, the notorious Plan A, is dead in the water. It’s greatest proponent George Osborne is on the missing list, and he seems to have taken even deeper cover since the IMF wagged their finger at him yesterday. On all previous known form, he’ll take about five days to think about what he’s going to say next and since he’s not due an annual Mansion House speech for another year, it might be even longer. Then there’s Michael Gove’s new phonics based ‘reading’ test (actually an exercise in decoding sounds) which is failing competent children who read for understanding and meaning. Incidentally, Mr Gove, trying to teach the latter to adults is a tough gig, whereas the sounds – well those are child’s play… As for Theresa and Jeremy and Dave et al – well would you? Knowing what you know now? Dave’s autumn cabinet reshuffle is going to have to introduce Willy Wonka himself to to turn this thing around.

I suppose they were banking on the Jubilee and the Olympic summer saving their collective bacon and bringing back the feelgood factor to the populace (also on the missing list, probably in George Osborne’s back pocket), but the Gulf jetstream, the bus drivers, train drivers and Border Agency staff, not forgetting G4S, had their own ideas about that. Don’t get me wrong, I hope the Olympics goes off well, for the sake of the athletes and for the rest of us that have had to pay for the effing thing (just don’t think about Greece ok?). On the other hand, I can’t help but have a few reservations (still don’t think about Greece). Arguing about surface to air missiles on the roof, when god knows how many G4S uniforms have gone AWOL? It’s really not cool. I have a fantastic colleague at work, she’s from Hull and she’s a no-nonsense Northern lass who produces spot-on stuff, including colour-coded spreadsheets for everything. She’d have organised the Olympics, on budget, on time, with security, no problem. I think if she’d been in charge you might have even been able to get in wearing a Pepsi t-shirt…

And that’s my problem with the government, right there, in a nutshell. My colleague is operating well within her comfort zone, she has a lot more to offer, in fact. The government are collectively suffering from the Peter Principle – where employees rise to their level of incompetence. And the problem for us is that it’s not just one of them, it’s bloody well all of them. They are too young, too arrogant, insufficiently wise and lacking in substance to do the job properly. The facts are that they can barely run this country. Sadly, the default setting of desperate clinging on to power will probably see the coalition stagger on to the next election; the Lib Dems will be finished after that and the Tories will hopefully be chased back into their historical blue lands. I for one, cannot wait. And I’m hoping that Miliband et al have the sense to learn from the mistakes of others before they inevitably start making their own, as we all do.

In the meantime, whilst we suffer the horrors of the British summer, the mish mash of the coalition’s blue and yellow colour combo and also those pretty disgusting Olympic mascots Wenlock and Mandeville , I would really like to have Spitting Image back on Sunday night.
That would really cheer me up.