While making other plans

While sitting in the dark of the junk room decompressing, John Lennon’s words come to mind – “life is what happens while you’re making other plans”. Somehow this weekend came off the rails and never quite got back on them.

Somehow the entire weekend was eaten up with chores and disasters. A monumental quantity of clothes has been washed, dried, folded and put away. A ridiculous quantity of washing up has been done. Repeated rounds of washing up. It’s been relentless. And then we had a water leak. We thought we found the cause yesterday, and set about drying carpets out. This evening water started dripping through the lounge ceiling.

An hour later an emergency plumber arrived, and found not one, but three water leaks in the same location. We’re crossing our fingers that the rule of three applies here – that things happen in threes. Maybe it’s all hoodoo, but it’s something to cling to while everything falls apart around you.

In other news, I was supposed to go running today and didn’t. I woke up late, the sun shone like a furnace all day, and then the leak happened this evening – pushing dinner back to 8pm. By the time we had eaten and I had washed up (yes, another load through the dishwasher), it was already 9pm. I read online that you’re not supposed to run within at least two or three hours of a meal.


That’s what I think of this weekend.

Why is everything so rubbish at the moment?

Of course it isn’t really. There are good things happening too. A close friend I’ve mentioned in the past – a wonderful writer – had a film she wrote win an award. I’m ridiculously pleased for her. She will of course play it down, and I will of course play it up.


Let’s hold on to the happy things, shall we? Let’s forget all about chores, leaks, not running, and whatever else.


Yesterday Didn’t Happen

Yesterday didn’t happen. A few drinks with good friends the night before somehow turned into a take-away meal, many more drinks, and the sharing of stories until the early hours.

When I woke up yesterday it felt like I had been hit by a truck. I really can’t drink like that any more (or rather, I can’t get away with it). I still don’t feel entirely right today, but at least I’m functional.

I need another coffee…

(5 minutes pass while I wander into the kitchen, empty mug in hand)

I have the day off work today. A day to “catch up”. The washing machine is on it’s second load, the dishwasher has been emptied, the plants watered, the lounge has been tidied (somewhat), numerous boxes that were stacked on the upstairs landing have returned to the attic, and I imagine the vacuum cleaner will come out soon.

It never ends.

There are so many things I would like to be doing, but they tend to get pushed sideways by the things that will keep others off my back. I’m waiting for the garden waste to get collected – after that I can cut the grass in the back garden, and tick it off the list – then I can’t be accused of not doing it.

I bought ingredients to make spaghetti bolognese yesterday afternoon, and then got shouted at for buying the wrong things, for the wrong day. I can’t win at the moment.

At some point during the next hour my youngest daughter will arrive home from a sleepover (it’s half term), and ask about me going out on a bike ride with her. I have no idea where we’re going to go. I would much rather go for a run to be honest – I wonder if she’ll be up for that instead?

Over the coming weeks and months I’ve kind of promised to do Couch to 5K with a friend. I need to do something. I’m not sure if it’s about escaping these four walls, or doing something for me. While running is hard while you’re doing it, the endorphin rush afterwards is amazing. It makes you feel so much better about yourself – and I kind of need that at the moment.

Thankfully I have a few close friends that come out to bat for me from time to time. I hope I can do the same for them, when needed. That’s half the trouble though isn’t it – the whole Nanny McFee thing – realising when somebody wants you but doesn’t need you, or needs you but doesn’t want you.

I never realise that I need close friends until after they have arrived with hugs and smiles. It’s only afterwards the penny drops and I realise how lucky I am to have them.


The dilemma of “knowing”

We went out today.

My in-laws came over, and we went out for a walk. We had planned to wander around a country estate together, but ended up wandering around a big old house for a couple of hours then wandered home again.

Not just any big old house. The big old house where a British prime minister once lived – Benjamin Disraeli. We have visited the grounds in the past – and wandered for miles through the fields, hedgerows, and footpaths that weave around the estate. I had never been in the house though – not until today.

One half of the house was to be expected – filled with portraits of statesmen, politicians, and royalty. The other half of the house was far more interesting.

It turns out the manor house had been requisitioned in the war by the Royal Air Force, and all manner of secret goings-on went on within its walls. This was of course neatly erased from history at the end of the war – locked away, tidied up, and intentionally forgotten about.

In the UK we have a thing called the “Official Secrets Act” – kind of a “go straight to jail, do not pass go” set of rules.

The current owners of the house – and all modern historians – had no clue about the house’s true function during the war until 60 YEARS later, when an elderly man was wandering around with his grandchildren, and a guide overheard him telling them about his working there during the war.

A conversation was had – which led to further conversations – and further appeals for information from the public – and then the government. After much wrangling, provisions were made to release those involved from their obligations to the official secrets act, and the story was finally told.

During the war, the house had been filled with intelligence staff and artists. They had designed and hand-painted the maps used by bomber crews throughout the war to hit enemy targets – using special inks to be seen under red lights during night raids. The maps were sent to bomber command, and then shared with bomber crews up and down the country in utmost secrecy.

The thing I can’t get over? Nobody involved broke the secret for over 60 years. Not one leak (aside from the grandparent telling his grandchildren).

It reminds me of Bletchley Park – where a huge team worked on “Victory”, “Colossus”, and various other machines that came to be known as “computers”. Their inventors, designers, and manufacturers were kept secret for decades. Most of them had died by the time their contribution not only to the war, but to the rest of history was known. Without them the “computer” as we know it might have taken a lot longer to come into existence.

Modern retellings in Wikipedia, or hopeless movies such as “The Imitation Game” credit Alan Turing with rather a lot in terms of the breaking of Enigma, the creation of the machines, or the development of early computers. This was of course by design. Focus everybody on one person, so nobody even thinks to consider the rest of the huge team that he was a small part of.

It’s funny really. There’s an old saying that history is recorded by the victors. It’s only a version of history though – and while most people think it might be filled with propaganda, it may also hide all manner of knowledge from the general populace. We can only guess the reasons.

In modern history the easiest example might be the discovery of “little grey men”. Given the arguments that break out around the world every day about religion, belief, or whatever else – imagine what the reaction might be to learning either that we’re not alone, or that our various accepted beliefs, history, and understanding of pretty much everything might be wrong.

Perhaps it’s not always best to know everything.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I better go buy some tin-foil to fashion a new hat.


Weekend Stories

Here we go again.

Somehow it’s half past midnight again. Somehow I’m sitting in the dark of the junk room on my own again. Somehow I can’t think of anything to write again, but something’s making me do this – making my fingers work on the keyboard – making words happen.

Do I really need a subject? A story to tell? Perhaps I do have one though.

I went out today.

I took my daughter to a nearby town and we spent the day together. I promised to take her a few days ago. A trip to the second-hand video game store to pick up a Nintendo DS. She had the idea to help her combat anxiety. Something to absorb herself in when the world becomes too big and frightening for her.

After completing our various shopping errands we grabbed lunch at a pub, and she reminisced about being 9 years old again – making Mario jump, run, and shout as he punched coins and leapt between platforms.

I bought holiday clothes. We’re not going away until September, but if I wait the stores will be full of winter clothes, and I’ll be walking on the beach in walking boots and a thick coat.

We’re going to Tenerife. I don’t think I mentioned that before. It’s the last big holiday where we’re taking the girls with us and paying for everything. They’re growing up now – getting jobs – finding their own way – and won’t want to be tagging along with us for very much longer. So yeah – Tenerife in the Canary Islands for a week.

When we got home from town my middle daughter had received a parcel in the post. She’s been putting money away ever since starting work about a year ago, but never had any thoughts about spending any of it.

She bought a Nintendo Switch.

Of course now she’s lording it over her sisters – talking about the games she can play that they cannot. I don’t think they actually care that much, but she likes to think they might.

It was lovely to see her unwrapping it in the lounge – having bought it with money she earned. I remember similar moments when I started work, but still lived with my parents – suddenly having money to buy things that would previously have been impossible. It took me a LONG time to get used to having money in the bank. Several years.

We’re telling her to enjoy the money she earns before she has too many responsibilities.

On about respobsibilities, I need to lose some weight before we go on holiday. Get fit. That will start with running in the coming days. I have three months to get back into some sort of shape. I need to anyway – for my own piece of mind. Since working from home through the pandemic I’ve not looked after myself at all. I used to cycle to work every day – several miles in each direction. I used to run several times a week too. I’ve not done any of that for at least a year.

I wonder how unfit I really am? I wonder how long it will take me to get back to a state I’m happy with? We’ll see. If there’s one thing I’m good at, it’s stubbornly plodding on with the thing I know I should be doing.


It’s getting late. I should go sleep. We’re going for a walk tomorrow – to Hughenden Manor, I think. Or the valley around it. There’s an obelisk – it looks like a Victorian nuclear missile launch site. We’ve been before.

It will be good to get some fresh air.


Making Memories

We went to Wembley Stadium this weekend to watch the Women’s FA Cup Final – between Chelsea and Manchester United. Thankfully our youngest daughter’s team won – smiles all the way home.

Apparently the attendance broke the world record for a women’s domestic football match – the stadium was almost filled to capacity – 74,000 – mostly entire families as far as we could see. Quite the difference from mens games we have studiously avoided over the years.

Change is happening though. Manchester United have arrived in the top flight of women’s football, and their crowd were the only real downer of the entire weekend. We’ve taken the kids to numerous events over the years – several FA Cup Finals, the World Cup, and even the European Cup Final. We’ve never seen so much hate, booing, swearing, and abuse from a crowd before. It was awful.

After the game we found a bar to waste an hour before attempting to get home. The rail unions had picked the weekend (on purpose) to go on strike. I wonder if unions realise how much animosity they cause in the general population when they purposely set out to ruin events that many families will have spent many months scrimping and saving for?

Shortly after arriving home my other half arrived in the junk room filled with panic – with seven weeks to go until our summer holiday abroad – our first in four years, she discovered the younger children’s passports had expired.

Twenty four hours later, and we have re-booked the holiday – delaying it by two months. Two months to renew a passport, you ask? Why yes – because the union at the passport office went on strike for five weeks, and caused the biggest backlog seen in many, many years.

We almost thought we had lost half the cost of the holiday. My other half rang the booking agency, who said we would only receive 50% back on cancellation. She tearfully cancelled the booking online, and received back a credit-note for the full amount.

We didn’t believe it until we had re-booked.

At least now we know we’re not going to be doing a “credit card holiday”. I hate owing money to anybody for anything. We’ve spent so many years stumbling along at zero in the bank, it’s become a fear of sorts.

In the morning I need to cancel my leave in July, and re-book it for September.

I might need a drink tonight.



I can’t tell you where I am this morning. Let’s just say “a waiting room”. Waiting for my eldest daughter. I’ve written off work for the morning to sit here, waiting – I filled in my “out of office”.

She struggles to play a part in “the world” as easily as you or I might. That’s why we’re here. But we’re here – that’s the important thing. We hold on to every inch of progress.

It’s interesting how we all deal with the world, isn’t it. Everybody does it in different ways. Some people focus on themselves, some people focus on others, some people worry about everything they do – about how it will be seen – and others seem to worry about very little. I guess some struggle to figure out any sort of strategy, and that’s how we end up here.

I’m reminded of the Shakespeare quote – about each person playing many parts during their lifetime. We really do. Most of us wear many hats, and choose which one to wear depending on the company, and the situation. If we’re very lucky we know one or two people that don’t require a hat. Hats are exhausting sometimes.

I’m kind of reflective today. I think I know why.

Dooce died. Heather Armstrong.

I saw the breaking news story last night. Back when I was starting out with blogging in the early 2000s, I knew her a little bit. We were all kind of finding our way with this new medium – sharing thoughts, ideas, and stripping back the layers of acting. We were all figuring out what a blog actually was – how much you could share – what stories you could tell.

She had no filter. Her blog was a firehose of truth and honesty. She wrote wonderfully. She never set out to become famous, but she ended up atop the pyramid so many jealous citizen journalists constructed when writing breathlessly about her shared car-crash life.

I wrote recently – that too many people are dying. People I know. People I knew. It brings into focus that you really don’t get another chance at this. An urgency of sorts. A refactoring of that which is important.


While sitting here, various people are wandering past. They all seem kind. Perhaps I just tend to see the kindness in others? Maybe that’s my thing. I don’t tend to subscribe to having any sort of purpose though – and wonder if anybody really does. We’re all kind of making it up as we go along, aren’t we?

There are some posters on the wall in the waiting room – not really motivational posters – more mindfulness. One says “Kindness should become the natural way of life. Not the exception”. While I can agree with that, I also know that the real world is a good deal more complicated than a quote on a poster might have you believe. The counter is obviously “sometimes you have to be cruel to be kind” – which flies in the face of the first quote.

Why is it guidance always takes the form “always do this – unless that happens”? That’s not always then, is it.


It never ends

After a long and somewhat idiotic search over the last several years, I appear to have found a half-decent text editor for writing purposes that doesn’t annoy me too much. It’s called “Jotterpad”. I’ll let you look it up yourself, rather than go on endlessly about it. The world has enough mansplaining niche interest evangelists in it already.

I’ve always preferred writing in text editors. As whizzy and clever as word processors are with all of their gadgets, widgets, toys, and doo-dads, they always end up annoying the heck out of me. I’m never happier than when sitting in front of a dark screen with a blinking cursor.


It’s the Thursday before Easter, and I’m watching the final hour of the day tick down. We just had an enormous hailstorm pass overhead – bouncing pea-sized hail off everything in sight. The flat roof sounded pretty spectacular – like Animal from the Muppet Show had invited all of his friends round for an impromptu jam session.

My eldest daughter stood in the kitchen watching the mayhem unfold with a little bit too much enthusiasm. The prospect of the world coming to an end was apparently very exciting indeed.

I might have laughed a bit too much when she uttered C3PO’s famous line:

“We’re done for.”

Let’s hope an extinction event meteor strike doesn’t happen during her lifetime – she won’t be able to contain herself at all.

While all of this was happening my younger daughters were preparing to depart for Wembley Stadium – to watch the England women’s team play against Brazil tonight. I’m staying here – making dinner for myself and our eldest from leftovers. I’ve promised not to watch the match – I have a terrible knack of causing whoever I’m rooting for to do really badly if I watch them on television.


Fifteen minutes to wind up anything that needs doing before logging off for a few days.

p.s. I didn’t leave my desk all day again (well – apart from trips to the kitchen to make coffee, which turned into emptying the dishwasher, filling the washing machine, folding clothes, washing up, tidying up, and so on, and so forth…

It never ends.


Half past my bedtime

Somehow it’s almost 1am on Friday night (or should that be Saturday morning?). Where does the time go? I’m struggling to cast my mind back over the last few days – to find anything of interest.

Life has been a bit like that recently – dragging myself from one day to the next, and not really being able to put the pieces together afterwards. The weekend away at my parents seems like a long time ago.

I’ve been slowly moving towards content authoring at work – writing stories for the website and the various social media channels we’re starting to explore. It’s funny really – all the years emptying my head into the keyboard have resulted in some recognition at last that I’m not bad at it. I think the hardest thing to get across to those scheduling me is that writing takes time – it needs to be scheduled – it’s not easy.

Away from work the house continues to drag itself from one day to the next without completely falling down. We had a gas engineer visit this week to service our central heating. Upon finding out I immediately set about tidying the house from top to bottom – lest the engineer think we live in a house that’s just been burgled. After moving heaven and earth for a couple of hours, and making numerous trips to the bins outside with bags full of rubbish from teenage girl bedrooms, I collapsed in front of my work computer and waited.

The engineer didn’t check any of the rooms.

During the last visit the engineer had checked the radiators throughout the house – this time they didn’t. I might have said a few choice words when I found out.

At least the house got tidied up. Of course by the next day the teenagers had waved their magic wand again, and we’re back to where we started – but for a couple of hours the other morning – while I was the only one in – the house wasn’t half bad.

While I often rail against the piles of “stuff” all over the house – making it look untidy – in a strange sort of way I wouldn’t have it any other way. We’re all interested in different things, are involved in different hobbies, take part in different things, and so on. The house reflects that. I would hate if we lived in a spartan, tidy, empty house. There’s a story to be told about pretty much any corner of any room in our house – or at least the stuff stacked in that corner – or the other corner – or over there – or under that… you get the idea.


It’s getting late. I want to get up in the morning to watch the racing cars in Australia. The F1 circus has arrived in Melbourne. I know somebody in Melbourne – I wonder how she is? I should reach out.

I’m terrible at reaching out. With so many things going on all the time around me, I often get swept up in what everybody else needs, rather than what I might like to be doing. I’m trying to push back against that a little bit, but it’s hard – it’s not in my nature.


Watching for the Keymaster

Do you ever feel like you’re drowning in the various projects you’re involved in – but also realise that you started each project? I suppose you could say I’m terrible at saying no to myself.

I was supposed to go for a run this morning – to begin getting some miles under my belt ahead of a charity fun run in December. I woke up with the alarm clock at 7am, and then fell asleep for another twenty minutes (and had a weird dream – I seem to be having a lot of weird dreams recently).

It doesn’t help that I’ve been playing the “stay up late to avoid tomorrow” game – although the game seems to have transformed into “stay up late to do more things today”. I need to just stop. Slow down. Step back. An acquaintance who has been witness to one of the online projects I’ve been tinkering with asked “do you ever sleep?” – another friend chipped in with “he’s a robot”.


Today I’m going out for lunch. A group of us from work are gathering at a pub within walking distance of my house. It will be nice to see some of my co-workers – working from home is great, but it’s also a bit like a fish-bowl most days (a fish bowl that also contains laundry, washing up, and tidying up after the rest of the house guests).

Time is marching on. I should fire up my work laptop.

Did you see that Elon is going ahead with the acquisition of Twitter? Do you have a Twitter account? Are you now part of the angry mob with pitchforks? I will admit to not quite understanding what the big issue is – you know, apart from him wanting to open the gates of the underworld. If I see Rick Moranis stumbling around the internet in search of Sigourney Weaver, I’ll know exactly how it’s playing out.