Departure Daydreams

It’s been an interesting day – not least because the huge project that has devoured my life over the course of the last few months has gone live, and is suddenly becalmed – with thousands of people interacting with it, and hundreds more overseeing it. The world doesn’t stand still however – I’m already working on another project – facing another mountain.

A co-worker sprang a surprise on us all this morning – announcing that he has handed his notice in. He’s taken a job working in London – chasing a career path, and more money. While initially envious, when I started thinking about the commute, the cost of the commute, and the hit he will take on his life, I kept quiet. Good luck to him. I did it for a couple of years, and although I often say I miss it, I’m not sure I could do it again.

It’s funny – when somebody leaves that you’ve known for a long time, the conversation in the office falls in-line with the “if I won the lottery” conversation. “If I ever left, I would do this”, or “If I left, I would do that”. While this circular conversation went on, the focus fell on me, and I think everybody was somewhat surprised.

“If I ever leave, I can’t imagine I’ll work in IT again”.

My co-workers thought I was joking, until I explained that I’ve pretty much been there and done it now – I’ve designed and built software used by thousands, taught rooms full of people how to build things all over the country, flown back and forth across Europe helping various organisations to lurch forwards – and I’m kind of done with it all.

Sure, I’ll carry on plodding for the foreseeable future, but that has more to do with expectation and obligation than any sort of mission or aim. I need to pay a mortgage, put food on the table, and keep the lights on. My job allows that to happen. Sometimes I feel a bit trapped by it, but in the grand scheme of things it’s not the most terrible burden to carry.

When wondering what I might do if given a choice, I wonder about writing – or perhaps working somewhere that deals with writing. Given the near twenty year legacy of blog posts dragging behind me across the various internet platforms, it might seem natural that I would end up at Automattic or Tumblr. Perhaps one day.

I wonder if Matt looks out for posts like these?

In other news, the running shoes have arrived – they’re sitting on the floor next to the chair I’m sitting in right now. Miss 19’s running shoes arrived too. We almost went out for a run this evening, but the rain had other ideas. Of course the rain hasn’t stopped our bat-shit crazy little black cat from paddling into and out of the house all evening, leaving foot shaped puddles throughout the kitchen and lounge.

Making it to the Weekend

I’ve been sitting in the dark of the junk room for last last hour, with every intention of writing something, but instead tinkering with this and that, daydreaming, or just gazing into space. I can’t help but remember a stand-up routine by Mickey Flanagan – complaining that getting nothing done is a worthy skill that should be held onto. At least I know I’m good at something though, right ?

It’s been a week. Today was another slog – finishing a little after 6pm after working straight through lunch for the fifth day in a row. I wonder what it is about clients that causes them to occasionally forget you’re a human being? I’m probably being over-dramatic, but that’s how it feels sometimes.

Anyway. We made it through the week more-or-less unscathed. I’m still running myself ragged while my other half recuperates from accidentally putting a swiss army knife through her hand last weekend. It’s healing well – but she’s still in a lot of pain – surviving on a cocktail of ibuprofen and paracetamol. Tonight she has slept since getting in from work.

In other news I returned to using the bullet journal. I tried to get on with Google Keep – I really did – but ultimately I only seem to remember things if I’ve written them down. There’s something about a paper notebook too – a permanence, and a feeling of crafting something when putting pen to paper. People often comment about my handwriting, but I would typically counter by simply observing that I care about how my writing looks – even if I’m the only person that sees it.

I feel like I should be excited that it’s the weekend, but the overwhelming feeling seems to be relief. Relief that I made it to the weekend. Perhaps I’ll actually get a chance to catch up with blogs over the next couple of days – to repay the kindness extended by those that have followed my recent adventures, and asked after me.

The Barn Dance

Last night I attended my first ever “barn dance”. I think it was arranged by a group of local churches as a fund-raiser for two charities – one providing aid in Africa, and the other runs the summer camp my other half helps run in town each year.

Not having been to a barn dance before, I had no clue what to wear, but reading the event details on Facebook, it looked like faux Americana was being encouraged. I dug out my leather boots, jeans, check shirt, and the stetson that has been gathering dust in the corner of our lounge for the last twenty years. My other half and younger children dressed similarly – with plaited hair, check shirts, and jeans or leggings.

After arriving at the barn – converted from a livery stable for the event – I walked in and was greeted by a sea of similarly dressed people of all ages, some wearing stetsons. Rather than not feeling so much like an idiot, I settled into feeling like I wasn’t the only idiot.

After grabbing a drink, and finding a table with friends a “caller” made her way to the stage, and explained how everything was going to work – organising us into various groups throughout the evening, explaining the steps for each dance, and then cueing the music.

Hilarity, chaos, mayhem, laughter and confision followed. For several hours. You have never seen so many people dance so badly in your entire life. Where scenes of line dances in movies look perfectly choreographed, the barn resembled something closer to a busy market in Dheli – with people stumbling all over the place, walking into each other, pulling each other’s hands, and – this is key – laughing at their own antics hilariously.

We stopped after an hour or so for food and drinks – and I started wondering about the whole thing. Here we all were – dressed as pretend ranch hands from the American mid-west circa 1930 – and yet the music seemed to be comprised of mainly Scottish and Irish reels. Later in the evening the dances became even more esoteric – with the “Galloping Major”, and “Gay Gordons” being called out from the stage.

I get it – I really do – most of mid-west America was populated from european immigrants starting perhaps two hundred years ago, and of course they brought their traditional songs and dances with them – but if we were theming the night on the mid-west, where was the music of the mid-west?

And no – I’m not talking about the Ho-down from the Hannah Montana movie (although that would have been hilarious) – just some authentic numbers to tip the hat to the theme of everybody’s outfits.

I danced with my younger children for most of the night – although a few of the dances saw us move partners repeatedly – usually causing all manner of nervous laughter, and dropping of inhibitions. There was a moment of realisation during one of the dances that this was how people met back when barn-dances were “the” local event. Quite how you might form a relationship with somebody while being shouted instructions, and racing around a barn among a sea of chaotic people is something of a mystery though.

The Sleepover

At lunchtime yesterday a number of teenage girls – school friends of our youngest daughter – started arriving at our house for a sleepover in a tent in the garden. Because the school is a few miles from town, the only contact the circle of friends have had with each other all summer has been via the internet. We decided a to do something about that.

The number invited was more or less controlled by the size of the tent we have – an old family tent that saw us through numerous camping holidays when the children were little. We pitched it at the weekend, and then my other half does that thing she always seems to – turning something into a much bigger thing than it started out as. Suddenly it wasn’t just a sleepover – it was a slime making party, a sing-off, a barbecue, a chocolate fountain massacre, and an open air movie in the garden (using a projector we inherited from the infant school).

So far I’ve had to rescue one of the girls from a tree in the garden she decided to climb, cook endless burgers and sausages on the barbecue (my GOD teenage girls can eat some rubbish), cook pancakes for breakfast, and provide the WiFi password to numerous phones and tablets.

They are a good bunch though – despite chattering, laughing, berping, and screaming until 1:30am, and then starting where they left off at 5am. I squinted at the alarm clock this morning, and wondered what they had left to talk about.

I wandered downstairs at 7, and found them sprawled all over the couches in the living room in their pyjamas – phones in hands – quietly playing games, catching up with friends, and doing whatever else teenage girls do.

It’s been interesting to see how they interact with each other – who the ring-leaders are – who has a mind of their own. While we’ve known them all for several years, we’ve never seen them all together before.

Anyway.

It looks like I’ll escape for a few hours today – my eldest daughter wants to go shopping – the same shopping trip that was supposed to happen yesterday. Wish me luck!

Sunday Evening

Usually on a Sunday evening I would be making sure the kids have clean clothes for school, putting things in my work backpack, washing up, tidying up, and generally getting steeling myself for another week of mayhem. Only that’s not happening tonight – because the kids are still on their summer holidays, and I’m off work too.

There are plans to wander into a nearby town with our eldest daughter tomorrow – she has booked her holiday to coincide with mine. Somehow I think my arm will be twisted into buying her lunch at Nandos – she’s crafty like that. She also knows I like Nandos, even though we all know its really just over-priced chicken and chips.

Note to self – stay the hell away from Yo! Sushi, and Wagamama, because there is not enough money in the world for that. At least in Nandos you can order bottomless drinks and frozen yoghurt, even if you only make it through two each before feeling like you’re going to throw up spectacularly.

Beyond Nandos, I have no idea why we’re going. I suppose I could get some clothes for the trip to my parents – I’ve not bought any clothes at all since last summer. I need a new pair of trainers too – my last pair are so beaten up that the kids won’t let me wear them (yes, my teenage daughters have started to judge me).

Starbucks might figure in our plans at some point – it usually does – in a Winnie the Pooh “oh look, there’s Starbucks – we might just get a little something” kind of way.

Half the reason for getting out of the house for the day is because Miss 14 has invited a number of friends for a sleepover. We have pitched the family tent that saw us through numerous camping holidays in the back garden, and decorated it with fairy lights. If the weather is nice tomorrow night we’re also setting up an outdoor cinema – we have an old projector inherited from the infant school. I’m guessing we might need to apologise to the neighbours at some point tomorrow evening.

In other news I’ve been tinkering with a few things today. I rebooted my Tumblr blog. I still can’t decide how much effort to put into Tumblr – I’m tempted to use it as more of a life-stream than this blog – somewhere to post the smaller thoughts that aren’t really big enough for a “proper” blog post. I don’t know. This post is nothing more than a few random thoughts glued together, which kind of makes a mockery of it.

Anyway.

It’s already 10pm. An early night and a book for me (we know in reality I’m going to play chess, surf the web, and read online comics for the next hour, don’t we).

A New Chapter for Tumblr and WordPress

While cycling to work I typically listen to podcasts. You might think this a rather dangerous thing to do while cycling, but the reality that most non-cyclists don’t seem to understand is that you can’t hear a damn thing on a bike anyway. If you’re traveling any faster than about ten miles an hour, the wind noise is deafening. This is why you don’t typically see cyclists traveling two abreast – there’s no point – they wouldn’t be able to hear each other unless they shouted.

I digress.

While cycling to work this morning I listened to a podcast called “Grumpy Old Geeks” where two humorously cynical guys of a certain age go through the recent happenings on the internet and grumble about most of it. Sometimes – not very often – they express a small amount of enthusiasm in something that has happened. And that’s what happened this morning.

While lifting my bike over the chain at the edge of the estate that the office nestles in a sleepy corner of, my ears pricked up.

Tumblr was being sold to Automattic – the creators of WordPress.

Tumblr – the darling of the late 2000s hipster generation that democratized blogging in the wake of SixApart’s abject failure to breathe life into Vox – their second attempt at LiveJournal. Tumblr – the minimalist blog platform that had been seemingly built by a team that didn’t know how to build anything, but had captured the hearts and minds of a generation. Tumblr – the woefully mismanaged wannabe-goliath of web publishing that visited Fashion Week each year while millions of it’s users stared at a “Fail Whale” graphic.

You might think I’m being unfairly cynical, but the truth is it’s kind of romantic, in a twisted sort of way. Tumblr has continued to exist in spite of itself, in spite of it’s owners, and in spite of the people that built it not being able to find their arse with both hands. That’s got to count for something.

The one thing that has pulled me back to Tumblr over the years has always been the community of bloggers hidden away in it’s now empty halls. In amongst the countless rebloggers, recyclers, and pedallers of stolen content there have always been a small number of rebels – writing their thoughts, dreams, hopes, fears, failures, triumphs and various adventures – emptying their head into the heart of a failing system, and keeping going despite the fear that a sword of Damocles might fall on their platform at any time. That’s the thing though – they think of it as “their” platform – they always have.

I suddenly find myself hopeful for the future of Tumblr for the first time in years – and hopeful for the continued existence of the sort-of-secret community I have come to know. With Automattic at the helm, Tumblr might just make it after all – it might even flourish.

Fingers crossed.

Remembering Who I Am

It’s already Monday night. Whatever happened to the ENTIRE weekend? I seem to remember last posting a few words on Friday night, and not really having time to write anything of consequence – and now suddenly it’s Monday night. I don’t understand. Or maybe I do.

Early on Saturday morning I scraped Miss 18 out of bed, turned my cheerfulness up to 11, and escorted her to London for the day. She’s been having a pretty tough time of it just recently, so I thought a day away from everything might help. When I suggested a trip to London on Friday night her eyebrows raised, and she murmured something about buying a second pair of Doc Martens boots.

I KNEW she would end up buying a second pair. When she earned her first pay-packet, I took her to London on a pilgrimage of sorts – to buy a pair of Doc Martens boots. She bought a pair of decorative boots with red roses embroidered down the sides – flying in the face of my advice to get the classic boots. The result? She has rarely worn them because she doesn’t want to ruin them (I wouldn’t want to either, given how much they cost).

So – we made our way to the shop in Neal Street in the centre of London – just off Covent Garden – and she acquired some classic “DMs”. I was a little disappointed in the service this time – our first visit had been made pretty special by the girl that served us – who took time, was enthusiastic, humorous, and made the visit an experience of sorts. This time we got a disinterested guy in his mid twenties with greasy hair that did no more than fetch the shoes and then process the transaction at the counter.

We grabbed sushi for lunch, milkshakes from Leicester Square, visited M&Ms World, Forbidden Planet, and the British Museum. We hoped to make it to the Manga exhibition but it was fully booked. We did luck out at Forbidden Planet though – discovering a wonderful comic book artist called Sarah Graley signing books. I bought a printed book of her webcomic “Our Super Adventure”, and got it signed for my daughters – then read it cover to cover on the way home. You might know her from her work on Rick and Morty.

Sunday was an altogether different proposition. We live on the corner of a green – with houses surrounding it on all sides. For the last several years the residents have come together on a chosen Sunday and had a picnic together. You might call it a last gasp attempt at building some community spirit in the face of the internet. After a mad dash to the supermarket for snacks and drinks in the morning, and the construction of a coconut shy in the corner of the green (we borrowed it for a fundraiser, and still had 50 coconuts left), I was out there pretty much consistently from lunchtime, until midnight.

We played cricket, rounders (a mini version of baseball), drank cider, told stories, met new neighbors, drank more cider, told more stories… you get the idea. As the sky grew dark one of our neighbors brought out an old washing machine drum filled with wood – a wonderful down-cycled fire-pit of sorts. We gathered the assembled assortment of folding chairs around the fire, and put the world to rights for several hours.

I feel incredibly lucky to live near so many wonderful people. It’s easy to miss each other – to not even know each other exist – until we all take the chance to put a day aside and spend time together. Suddenly there are names for faces, funny stories, and laughter. So much laughter.

I’ve been SO tired at work today, but strangely happy too. My world grew a little last night – and spending time with old friends served as a timely reminder that there is more to life than work, chores, and worrying about money. In a strange sort of way I remembered a little of who I am.

A Summer of Song and Laughter

There was a moment this afternoon, while our house was filled with fourteen year old girls, that I couldn’t help smiling – even though they were thundering up and down the stairs like a herd of elephants, shouting conversations to each other, and had taken over the living room for the better part of the afternoon.

While most teenagers are written off as social media junkies that gaze into their phones for hours on end like soporific zombies, these were doing anything but. For an hour they played various versions of hide-and-seek throughout the house.

I wondered both if this is the summer we have in store (they all broke up from school on Friday), or if this was a one-off throwback to years gone by, before relationships, hair, and clothes dominate everything they do, say, and even think.

While making a coffee in the kitchen, I blocked my ears from a really very dreadful rendition of one of the songs from The Greatest Showman that was coming from the lounge. I screwed my face up as I looked through the doorway, and was met with cackles of laughter from the collection of girls strewn across the sofas and the floor.

I can’t help feeling that I’m outnumbered.

The Online Friendship Dilemma

We empty our heads into the keyboard, or share brief moments in photos and videos, and often come to know each other better than those that surround us in the real world.

And yet we surround ourselves with lines – with walls – with rules.

We see a photo of somebody feeling good about themselves, and wish we could tell them, but we keep quiet because we don’t want them or anybody else to think we’re hitting on them.

We read a story about somebody going through a difficult time and wish we could be there to help share their burden – but then we become overly cautious because we don’t want them or anybody else to think we’re exploiting them at a vulnerable moment.

Maybe we overthink everything. Maybe nobody is watching every move we make. But maybe everybody overthinks everything – and everybody is watching – and maybe that thought explains why the internet seems like such a barren ghost-town at times.

We are all out here – we haven’t gone away – we’re just all watching our backs, rather than taking any chances. I think that’s a shame.

Almost Getting Run Over

While cycling to work this morning I was almost hit by a car. I was busy cycling along, minding my own business, and about to pass a junction. A car approaching me on the opposite side of the road decided that his need to turn into the junction was far more important than my continued existence, so started out by driving across the road directly at me – causing me to skid to a halt – before turning violently into the side-road on the wrong side of the road. The best bit? As he did so, he made a hand signal to me that I’m not entirely sure about – showing me the back of his hand, and pointing his fingers in the direction he was going. He stared at me as he swept past my front wheel.

Where do these people come from? How have they managed to survive as long as they have? Is it any wonder that I ride so incredibly defensively with people like that on the road? After it happened, it struck me that I really should put the camera back on my helmet, and start recording. Of course it’s not every day that some ass-hat tries to kill me, but it feels like it sometimes.

It’s not just other motorists either – pedestrians are an absolute menace in the center of town – mostly because they cross side-roads while glued to their damn mobile phones. If you’re approaching a side road, signalling to turn on a bicycle, you can usually guess that people are not going to check back over their shoulder before stepping into the road. The really madenning ones are the parents with push-chairs, who push the child into the road before checking for oncoming traffic. How? Why?

I didn’t mean for this post to become a rant about everybody and everything. It just sort of happened.

In other news, I just watched the US beat England in the World Cup. Fair play – they were the better team. There was one moment that kind of ruined it for me though – when Millie Bright fouled one of the US players late in the game, several of the US players ran towards the referee, gesticulating for the referee to show her a yellow card. As far as I have seen, it’s the first time in the entire tournament that anybody has done that – and it’s kind of disheartening. The women’s game is SO much better than the mens because that sort of thing DOESN’T happen. There is usually no play acting, no cheating, no simulation, no dissent – the players generally just get on with playing the game.

I didn’t really watch the game very closely – I spent most of the time talking to friends, and tending a fire to make our friend’s children toasted marshmallows. There were worries for a few minutes that the fire might set light to the trees above, but I was only burning kindling and it died down after a minute or two. I didn’t eat any marshmallows myself – I don’t actually like them very much.

Anyway. Time to head to bed I guess. Another day of software development to come. Another day trudging up an impossibly steep and long mental hill. I need a holiday.