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.


Casting a Beautiful Net

Many moons ago I watched a television series called “The OA”. Without ruining it any more than I might (it’s a wonderful series, and you should definitely binge-watch it if you have not), I’m going to share a quote from it:

the biggest mistake I made was believing that if I cast a beautiful net, I’d catch only beautiful things.

Prairie Johnson

I often feel the same way about the internet – about putting my thoughts “out there” for anybody to find.

There’s always a fear of sharing – particularly sharing the truth – that it will be accepted without prejudice or malice. It seems somewhat counter-intuitive – sharing fear, trepidation, and uncertainty. Something tells me however that the more truthful a story, the more relateable and engaging it becomes – and the more sympathetic the audience.

Perhaps optimism is the key?

I’ve always been an optimist of sorts – preferring to look forwards rather than back. Where some might endlessly pick apart what might have been, I’m more about where we are, and where we might go next. Perhaps it’s an avoidance tactic?

I’m an amazing procrastinator. I’ve never connected it before. Procrastination is just avoidance in a different suit of clothes.


As you might have guessed, I’m procrastinating my way through lunchtime writing this. Avoiding responsibilities, and the world at large. Sometimes the world get a bit too big. In here I can make it small.


The serendipity of it all

After setting aside lunchtime to write a blog post, I’ve spent the last half an hour doing anything and everything except write a blog post. This is pretty typical behaviour. I’m amazed the distraction only went on for half an hour to be honest – in recent months my hands haven’t filled the keyboard with thoughts much before 1am.

Urgh. Where to start?

Life just seems to be such a trudge at the moment. Each day starts with vague thoughts of “what crap’s going to happen today?”. I’ve started writing down even the most mundane tasks in my old bullet journal as part of the “working day” – purely because ticking something off feels like I’ve achieved something. Achieved anything, really.

I’ve stepped sideways from much of the “social internet” in recent months. I still look in now and again – but quickly grow tired of the typically toxic advertorial highlight reel that many post. Yes, I get it – you like eating out – do you really think that’s what people want to know about though? Or is it just me that finds a continual torrent of “look where we are”, “look what we bought”, or “look how fantastic our perfect life is” gets really, really tiring.

I often remind myself that the internet is not everybody. I’m also fully aware of my paradoxical relationship with it – given I am posting these forgettable thoughts into the torrents of idiocy.

It comes back to the Norah Ephron quote, doesn’t it – this blogging escapade – that a blog post doesn’t have to say anything. Hello. I’m here. And by the way. On the other hand. Never the less. Did you see?

She called blogging an exhale. I’ve always liked that thought. An exhale that somebody, somewhere might take notice of. Before they know it they’re reading your most recent few posts, reaching out, and a friendship happens. Then months on you know more about each other than most friends or family – and yet you’ve never met.

I think perhaps that’s what I like most about the internet – about blogging – is the serendipity of it all. You never know when you fire up the computer what words you might share, what words you might read, who you might cross paths with, or how important they might become in your life.


After Midnight

Returning to WordPress and resurrecting my old domain name feels like pulling on a set of comfortable old clothes. It’s very strange.

Over the days and weeks ahead I’ll try to empty my head into the keyboard a little more often. Tell stories. Share thoughts.

It’s funny really – so many people have a niche, or a subject, or a target audience. I have never done that – I’ve always just written whatever came to mind while typing. I’m doing it right now.

I think it helps me, in a strange sort of way – this head emptying. It helps to organise my thoughts. To rationalise. It takes the edge off concerns, dulls the barbs, and flattens the bumps that life throws at me.

It’s somehow 1:30am already. I should be in bed. Instead I’m here – quietly tapping away at the keyboard in the dark.

The words only seem to arrive after midnight at the moment. I wonder why that is?


If you can’t beat them

After a year wandering through the internet wilderness, I’ve returned to WordPress, paid for an account, sat down heavily in the corner, and let out a huge sigh.

I’m done trying.

I’m settling for the easiest way out, and the most trustworthy place to just write, post, and not have to think about anything else.

Along the way I’ve tried out both Medium and Substack. Medium is full of people mansplaining how to make money on Medium (a story that gets old really quickly), and Substack is full of journalists hoping to monetise. I had hoped it might be more.

As you may have read yesterday, Tumblr deleted my account. I’m not sad about losing content – more the friendships and connections I have no way of recovering. I sent out a few private messages on Facebook this morning, but they were a small part of a once huge community.


I’ve paid for WordPress – for the next year at least. I’ve transferred my domain name back. They’re busy wiring up certificates and whatever else while I’m writing this – it could take anywhere from a few minutes to a few days. If you’re reading this, it’s already happened.

In other news, I had something of a nothing day today. I spent the morning doing chores before everybody else got up, the afternoon helping my youngest daughter find her bedroom floor, then cooked dinner, washed up after dinner, and am now up to my eyeballs in this blog re-engineering idiocy.

There’s a bottle of prosecco in the fridge with my name on it, but it’s already too late to open it. Fizzy wine should be accompanied by friends, stories, and laughter.

Right. I’m going to sign off for the night. If you receive this in an email, you’re already subscribed – not need to worry (not that you were worrying, but still…)

I’ll shut up now. I’m tired.


The one where Tumblr deactivated my account

For the last year or so I’ve been following the idea that it’s better to take your writing to potential readers, rather than try to bring them to your writing. With that in mind, I created mirrors of my personal blog at WordPress and Tumblr and cross posted entries into them.

I thought better of it a few days ago – and put up a message on both platforms that I was taking a step back for a while. I had been struggling with writing anyway, so it seemed like the right thing to do.

This morning I pulled the dust sheets back off both WordPress and Tumblr, and brought them both up to date – back-filling the last few days private posts.

And then suddenly the Tumblr blog wasn’t there any more. Or rather, I was suddenly logged out, and couldn’t log back in. After a little digging, I discovered the message “this blog has been terminated – contact support for further information”. I of course contacted support, but I don’t hold out much hope. Terminations tend to be very final.

I had been a member of Tumblr on-and-off since 2007. While not the place it once was, I had never quite summoned the courage to remove myself entirely – I had too many friends there. Too many memories. Back in the day – when David Karp was in charge – Tumblr had made a real difference to the world-wide-web community. It was always a bit scrappy, and a bit broken, but it was somehow better than the sum of it’s parts.

Of course I’ve lost the list of people that I used to follow. They vanished with the account. I’m going to miss them enormously. Strangers for the most part – but strangers sharing moments of their lives – much as I had. I *knew* so many of them – or at least felt like I did. And now they are gone.

I’m resisting the temptation to rail against walled gardens once again – and this time it would be valid. It will not surprise you to learn that I’ve spent the hours since it happened backing up every piece of writing I have shared. Having copies of everything you’ve posted since 2003 doesn’t sound quite so stupid when a place they were published suddenly vanishes, does it.

My concern now is that WordPress will go the same way. I have been publishing writing to WordPress for even longer – since the mid 2000s. WordPress and Tumblr are both owned by Automattic. The robot that undoubtedly pulled the rug from my Tumblr account could do the same to WordPress at any moment – and there will be no way of finding out why.

Substack has become a lifeboat of sorts. The list of email subscribers has become an escape route from the walled gardens that choose who, what, when, and where we can post excerpts of our lives.

I suppose if anything, this morning has re-affirmed that I am doing the right thing – trying to find a way outside of the walled gardens.

Back up your writing, folks. You never know what tomorrow may bring.


Struggle, Escape, and Marilyn

Somehow the entire evening has vanished from beneath me. I’m not quite sure how that happens.

I won’t lie. I’m struggling at the moment.

It used to be so easy – this writing lark. And then it wasn’t any more. It hasn’t been for a while. The words are not coming easily. I know they will return – they always do – but at the moment each sentence seems somewhat reluctant.

Perhaps it has something to do with not leaving the house, or seeing anybody outside of my direct family for days on end. Seeing co-workers through the computer screen isn’t the same.

I need to engineer some sort of escape.

I’m always being told I should arrange to go out for lunch with friends now and again – or to go for a walk. Perhaps I’ll do that tomorrow – go for a walk. Nowhere in particular – just make sure I stay out of the house for an hour.

How do you walk aimlessly without looking like a weirdo though? Perhaps only the person walking on their own thinks about that – the rest of the world have somewhere to be – they’re not worrying about who you are or where you’re going – you’re in their way.

While not working, washing up, putting things away, or whatever else, I’ve been wondering about starting running again. Doing SOMETHING. ANYTHING. Running is free, and will help combat the ridiculous sedentary life I’ve found myself living for the last few years. If I can get out to running 5K in pretty short order, I can start doing “Park Run” on a weekend.

A good friend refuses to run with me because she thinks of me as being much better at it than her. Ahem. Who’s been sitting on his arse for the last three years? I can’t remember being this unfit.

If you see a breathless post-run update in the morning, you’ll know that hell has indeed frozen over.


It’s getting late. Time to go read a book, and fall asleep with it propped on my chest. I’m good at that – it’s a skill.

I bought the book “Blonde” the other day – about Marilyn Monroe. It’s a fictional dramatisation of various parts of her life – it was turned into a movie starring Anna de Armis last year. I think I’ve written about Marilyn before – I became interested while doing a project at college when I was young and impressionable. She got inside my head – or rather other people’s accounts of her got inside my head.

As Elton sang – I sometimes wish I could have known her.

History has a funny way of untangling lies. Marilyn’s death created more conspiracy theories than the landing of little grey men at Roswell. One story in particular has stayed with me since I first read about it all those years ago;

Marilyn was fired from her final movie. At the time, 20th Century Fox claimed she was on drugs, drunk, or flat-out impossible to work with. The movie was “canned” – in the true sense. The existing footage was put into storage, and lost. For decades.

And then one day – in the early 1980s – somebody found a collection of film cannisters in a storage facility in the back-lot of Fox, and the following turned up:

There was nothing wrong with her. 8 hours of footage were found – including scene after scene that remind us what the world lost. The famous swimming pool scene was found in it’s entirity – arguably the first nude scene in a major Hollywood movie.

The true back story – that unraveled slowly – involved 20th Century Fox almost going broke. Cleopatra had gone massively over budget. Almost all other productions had been cancelled. Somethings Got To Give was one of the few projects green-lighted – a “Hail Mary” to save the studio.

And would you look at that.

After not finding anything to write about for days, Marilyn walks from the shadows and turns the tap on.

After buying the book last week, I walked towards the bus station with my daughter, and pointed at a huge advertising hoarding on the side of a building – a painted image of Marilyn laughing. We both smiled.


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.