Taking a sanity break

I planned to write a blog post yesterday. I don’t know why I plan anything any more – suffice to say, the blog post didn’t happen.

I’m trying to juggle too many things at the moment. I think perhaps the word to take notice of is “trying”. I shouldn’t try to do as much. Invariably I end up chasing my own tail in pursuit of other people’s expectations – which nobody will ever thank you for.

It’s interesting how we judge ourselves based on the presumed expectations of others, isn’t it.

I worked from a café this morning – the one where my eldest daughter worked, and where my middle daughter now works. She threw in her job at the pub – fed up with being taken advantage of by everybody around her, and walked straight into the new job.

It took two attempts to leave for the café. The first attempt took three times longer than I thought, on account of the growing OCD within me that cannot leave the house in a ramshackle state. Then after walking perhaps 100 yards towards the cafe, I realised I had forgotten my wallet. Yes, my phone can do payments – but it’s sod’s law that the day I don’t have my wallet, my phone will stop cooperating. I’m pretty sure they’re designed that way.

I got there in the end.

You don’t realise how loud the ambient noise is in a café until you try to join a conference call. I need to get some noise cancelling headphones. Also – best not turn your laptop around to show the café to everyone on the call – everybody in the café then looks at the faces peering from your laptop, wondering what the hell you’re doing. You don’t need to know why I know that – it’s not important.

Given the effort required in transporting myself to somewhere else for a few hours, I’m not entirely sure it’s worth it unless meeting up with somebody. All I really achieved was adding more hassle to an already chaotic day.


The afternoon has been… non-stop. I’m stopping for a few minutes to empty these words into the keyboard to maintain some sort of sanity really. Everything seems to be non-stop at the moment, and yet I know it’s really not. A lot of the non-stop stuff is of my own doing. My own idiocy. My own attempts to be everybody, do everything, and be everywhere. I’m not good at it.

I need to slow down, and reach out to a few friends now and again.

I just need to get these bits and pieces done first though…


A bookshop, a café, and an unexpected night out with friends

I took the day off yesterday, and invested some time in our eldest daughter – who hasn’t had the best time in recent weeks and months. We wandered into town together, visited a bookshop, and had lunch in a café.

I picked up a couple of books that whispered to me while noodling around the shelves:

“The Enchanted April”, by Elizabeth Von Arnim

The Enchanted April: Von Arnim, Elizabeth, Bowen, Brenda:  9781784870461: Books


A notice in The Times addressed to ‘Those Who Appreciate Wistaria and Sunshine’ advertises a ‘small medieval Italian castle to be let for the month of April’. Four very different women take up the offer: Mrs Wilkins and Mrs Arbuthnot, both fleeing unappreciative husbands; beautiful Lady Caroline, sick of being ‘grabbed’ by lovesick men; and the imperious, ageing Mrs Fisher. On the shores of the Mediterranean, beauty, warmth and leisure weave their spell, and nothing will ever be the same again.

“The People on Platform 5”, by Clare Pooley

The People on Platform 5: A feel-good and uplifting read with unforgettable  characters from the bestselling author of The Authenticity Project: Pooley, Clare: 9781787631809: Books


Iona sees the same group of people each day – ones she makes assumptions about, gives nicknames to, but never ever talks to.

But then, one morning, Smart-but-Sexist-Surbiton chokes on a grape right in front of Iona. Suspiciously-Nice-New Malden steps up to help and saves his life, and this one event sparks a chain reaction.

With nothing in common but their commute, an eclectic group of people learn that their assumptions about each other don’t match reality. But when Iona’s life begins to fall apart, will her new friends be there when she needs them most?

Later in the day – while contemplating quite what I might fill the long weekend with – my other half wandered into the room, and said “Did you see the message on your phone?”


I fished the phone from my pocket, opened the messaging app, and discovered a conversation I should perhaps have been a part of. Idiot. I had put the phone on “do not disturb” the night before.

Ten minutes later we arrived at the pub with drinks waiting for us on the table accompanied by smiles, stories, and laughter.

Before we knew it “a quick drink and catch up” had turned into “another drink”, “some chips”, and then a call home to tell the children to get their own dinner while we ordered food to share at the pub.

The food was pretty rubbish (remind me next time to buy lots of bread!), but it didn’t really matter – there’s a lot to be said for ending the week spending a few hours with friends – unpacking the stresses of the week, listening to each other’s adventures, and laughing at our own fallibilities.


Time to go carry on with chores. While my other half takes the kids to watch England Ladies play rugby today, I’m washing clothes, dishes, tidying up, and trying to get the house somewhere near tidy – or at least acceptable enough that visitors don’t think we’ve been burgled.

How’s your weekend looking ?


Burning the Candle

We’re heading towards the final half-hour of the working day, and I’m not entirely sure how I’m staying awake. After going “out out” last night – on a work night – I then stayed up until 2am when we got home – fooling around with the YouTube channel.

The night out was unexpectedly wonderful. I swear I’m getting worse at setting foot outside the door, but once out I was fine. I know more than one close friend would raise an eyebrow at that admission.

We went on an organised magical mystery tour of restaurants around the town – with each course of the meal being at a different location. The restaurants were kept secret until we arrived at each one – walking around the town in co-horts of perhaps 30 people.

It was fun. And we drank far too much.

Our final destination was a famous restaurant on the edge of town – on the bank of the River Thames. We found ourselves on a huge round table with people we had never met before – but soon tore any walls down and filled the final hour of the evening with stories, laughter, and new friendships. One lady in particular – somebody of note I think – remarked that our table had been the best of the entire evening.

After wandering home slightly the worse for wear, I drank a gallon of coffee and sat down in front of the computer. Some time critical content had to go out on YouTube – if I missed the window, I would miss out on a huge amount of traction for the channel. I’m starting to understand how the machinery of the social internet works.

I finally fell into bed at 2am – and then woke this morning to stratospheric numbers in the overnight analytics. It was worth it.

I feel like hell though.


The wit of the staircase

I’m not doing so well at the “almost daily” part of this blogging lark any more. “Every few days” doesn’t quite have the same ring to it as “almost daily”. Full disclosure – back in the mid 2000s somebody else used the name “Almost Daily” for their video blog. Amanda Congdon.

Now THAT is a rabbit hole. The beginnings of the social internet – vlogging, tumblogging, and so on. I guess a lot of it coincided with the beginning of YouTube.

Anybody remember Digg before it was sold, asset stripped, and befell the same fate as Yahoo? If you’re not old enough to remember (and quite frankly, few are anymore), Digg was a much better, much more popular fore-runner of Reddit.

Let’s see how good my memory is.

Kevin Rose was one of the founders of Digg, and co-hosted the Diggnation video podcast along with Alex Albrecht. Cali Lewis (Luria Petrucci) hosted “GeekBrief.TV”, Leo Laporte hosted (and continues to host) TWiT, and of course – getting back to our jumping off point into this rabbit hole – Amanda Congdon hosted first “Rocketboom” and then “Almost Daily”.

Oh – let’s not forget Justine Ezarik – “iJustine” – who continues to report on tech from her own YouTube channel. She appears to have become ageless – part of the internet firmament.

I wonder where some of the other luminaries of the early years of the internet are now? I gather Matt Mullenweg is still at the helm of WordPress. Tom Anderson – “MySpace Tom” – is still out there, although has nothing to do with whatever is left of his creation as far as I can tell. I don’t think Craig Newmark still has anything to do with Craigslist either.

We won’t mention Mr Zuckerberg. Famously private Mr Zuckerberg.

I think I may be the last of “my class” still writing on the internet. Back when I started blogging I crossed paths with a number of people who became distant friends. We took part in challenges, wrote in each other’s guestbooks, added each other to blogrolls, and built our own network of sorts – this was years before “the social internet” happened.

One by one they have vanished off the radar. Some are still out there – getting on with their lives – sharing occasional updates. Some have died. Too many have died.

Death tends to focus people’s minds – causes them to re-factor what is important. And then slowly but surely they return to the way things were.

While dancing like an idiot with a friend at my birthday party the other week, a “fuck it” switch got thrown in my head, and I shouted across the dancefloor words to the effect of “I love you!”. Close friends laugh now when I’ve had a drink and my walls come down. I invariably become a sentimental fool.

It’s better that friends know how much I appreciate them though, right?

There’s a saying in French – “Avoir l’esprit d’escalier” – that roughly translates as “the wit of the staircase”. It means to think of something you should have said or done after the fact. Regrets. Wishes that you might have been a little more brave, perhaps.

Perhaps it’s time we were all a little more brave from time to time.


Friday night

Its Friday night – or rather, Saturday morning now – and you find me perched in bed with a fire tablet propped on my legs. My feet are not gripping the bed sheet – so keep sliding away from me. Who knew writing in bed would be so precarious?


Where did the evening go? Where did the week go? It feels like I haven’t seen anybody or talked to anybody outside of my small circle at work all week.

I’m becoming a hermit.

Tomorrow I will busy myself clearing rubbish from the garden while my other half attends a movie awards event with a friend. She’s a scriptwriter – the friend – and all sorts of talented. She started writing during the pandemic, and fell in love with it. I’m so proud for her – and of course very biased indeed.

In other news, the little YouTube channel that could has raced through 14,000 subscribers this week. I’m not quite sure what to make of it all really. Its now attracting the attention of marketers, which is quite amusing I suppose. They seem to think the only reason anybody posts anything online is to make money. They really don’t understand that for me it’s all about the connection with people.

I’m such a paradox sometimes. While happy in my own company, if left to my own devices I invariably gravitate towards others – to help, encourage, support and involve them in whatever it is they’re doing.

Of course sometimes I feel somewhat forgotten or ignored – but I suppose that’s the same for most people. Hell- there are often times when I wish for no more than not to be noticed. None of it makes any sense.

I’m getting tired. Writing on the tablet is awkward…

Good night oh mighty internet of a million voices. I’ll listen for your whispers.


Before the robot overlords arrive

Apparently the army of corporate professionals (read: marketers) that use LinkedIn as their personal playground to spam each other with advertorial and inspirational nonsense — think sausage machine eating it’s own output — are complaining that people are starting to use LinkedIn as a — gasp — social network. I know. Amazing, right?

Life found a way.

You would have to have been blind not to notice Microsoft slowly pivoting LinkedIn from a glorified address book into a social network — because of course they don’t have one. Of course the regular users of LinkedIn have immediately jumped on the ability to post short updates to share personal stories and experiences, rather than regurgitate their employer’s message.

Relatable stories. Honest experiences. Everything the old world of marketing and sales knows they cannot replicate.

If there’s one thing the social internet has done — and this is the marketer’s own fault — it’s train everybody’s sense of smell. We can all smell an agenda from a mile away. We also stop listening as soon as the mansplaining starts.

The marketers are pretty mad about it.

Their pretend world is falling to pieces around them. You might think they would already have figured out that contrived, invented, dictated stories pale in comparison with the real thing. The data has always been there.

Perhaps the real change is that people don’t like being told any more — they prefer to find out for themselves. Maybe it has happened just in time — before our robot overlords arrive.

What do you mean, they’re already here?


Writing, Smiles, and Bravery

I’m being paid to write today. No, seriously. I can’t believe it either. I’ve been handed the reins of the company website – I’m writing content that will land on the front page over the next few weeks.

You know the weird thing? When I’m writing for myself, it’s fun. I’ve now discovered that when I’m writing to order, it’s not so much fun. I have to stay “on topic”, remain professional, objective, and all those other fancy words.

A close friend is a fantastic script-writer. I don’t know how she does it. While walking back from town together at the weekend I asked after the projects she’s working on, and she listed screenplay after screenplay. And here’s me – noodling around with maybe possibly starting to writing a novel at some point (I still haven’t).

I really should knuckle down and start writing something – otherwise I’ll just be one of those people you get introduced to at a party that rambles on about the novel they never wrote.


Lunchtime just happened. I ate leftovers from the fridge. I should really go for a walk – stretch my legs – but I’m writing this instead. I really need to start running again. My fitness is probably worse now than it has ever been.

I need to stop thinking in terms of “maybe”, “should” and “probably”.

I saw a smile at the party on Friday night that reminded me what it is to live in the moment – to share a moment with somebody you care about – to drop your guard.

Maybe I need to be a little bit more brave from time to time.

I wrote maybe again, didn’t I.


The day after the night before

It’s always interesting – the day after a party – piecing together the memories of the night before. The laughter, the stories, the friends, the music, and the many moments that stay with us.

So that party finally happened. A combined 18th for our youngest, a late 18th for our middle daughter, and a slightly-late 50th for me. We hired out a club in a nearby village, and invited friends and co-workers.

We arrived a little early – to be sure of being present as guests arrived. Somehow this resulted in me drinking as much as I might on an entire night out before anybody even arrived. I’ll blame nerves.

I don’t find big group gatherings easy at all. I put on a pretty good act of being charming, cheerful, and engaging – but it’s an act. I was bricking it before everybody arrived.

Of course then people did start to arrive – little by little – and before we knew it, we had taken over the entire venue. Every few minutes brought another arrival – another group – more smiles – more handshakes – more kisses – more hugs. I became a fish in a barrel for an hour – asking after people I had not seen for ages – and yes, being charming, cheerful, and engaging. Keeping up the act.

We hired a DJ to look after music for the evening. A young man that our daughters went to school with. He absolutely knocked it out of the park – filling the dancefloor with ease.

Half way through a conversation at the bar – mid-sentence – somebody grabbed my hand and pulled me towards the dancefloor. A wonderful, wonderful friend. Our arrival among the lights and music seemed to trigger an avalanche of sorts – half of the room followed us.

She leaned in close to me – “you’re doing fine”.

She knows me. She knew. I wished I could have given her a huge hug, but worried that stories would start. I think too much.

The music finally wound down at midnight and we called cars to get us home and filled the back of our car – left in the car-park – with the various presents people had brought. I didn’t expect any presents – and felt hugely guilty accepting them throughout the evening.

After arriving home I drank a considerable amount of water – a life hack I read about years ago – and fell into bed to sleep like a log – “the sleep of the just”, as my later father-in-law termed it.

This morning the radio-alarm-clock burst into life at 7am and brought the weekend into focus – with the sun shining, and birds singing outside. I fell back asleep for a couple of hours before waking with a start as my other half burst into the bedroom looking for clean clothes.

“Where are you off to?”

“We’re going for breakfast at the pub”

“Can I come?”

“If you want.”

An hour later six of us sat down for a cooked breakfast and lots of coffee. We shared laughter, stories, and recollections of the night before. We all had aches and pains, and those of us that ran a simulated marathon on the dancefloor tried to brave it out.

One of the memories that won’t perhaps dull for sime time was a remark one of my friends said as they said goodnight at the party. After giving me a huge hug, they said “thank you for making this happen – this is the first time we have been out since the pandemic”.

I suddenly found myself living the lines from A Christmas Carol – the interaction between Scrooge and the Ghost of Christmas Past:

“He has spent but a few pounds of your mortal money: three or four, perhaps. Is that so much that he deserves praise?”

“It isn’t that,” said Scrooge, heated by the remark, and speaking unconsciously like his former, not latter self. “It isn’t that, Spirit. He has the power to render us happy or unhappy; to make our service light or burdensome; a pleasure or a toil. Say that his power lies in words and looks; in things so slight and insignificant that it is impossible to add and count ‘em up: what then? The happiness he gives, is quite as great as if it cost a fortune.”

You really can’t buy happiness. You can’t buy time spent with friends. You can’t buy laughter and smiles.

Dickens was right.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to collapse somewhere quietly for a few days to recover.


A bit of Dolly

Our youngest daughter turned 18 today. How did that happen? How did the little girl who couldn’t walk so well and couldn’t talk so well get to be a grown up? Of course she’ll never be a grown up in my head – she’ll always be the unsure little girl hiding behind my leg at the school gate.

We have a party planned for tomorrow night. We’ve hired a hall, arranged food, booked music, invited friends – you name it. A combined party for several birthdays – mine, our middle daughter (who missed out on her 18th during the pandemic), and now our youngest.

I won’t deny it – I’m quietly bricking it.

I’ll be fine once I’m there – greeting people, catching up with old friends, and being the affable host. I’ll put on the friendly act and somehow get through it. The prospect of being at the centre of things is pretty terrifying though.

I’m sure I’ll be fine.

No, really.


We’ve requested all manner of cheesy music from the DJ. The play list had “a bit of Dolly” among the cheese. According to a wonderful friend you can’t go wrong with Dolly Parton at a party. I think I probably agree with her.


Time to sleep.