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.


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.


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.


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.


I never thought of that before

It’s been a strange few days.

My other half finished working at a local infant school on Friday. The end of nearly twelve years as “the lady in the office” – and apparently a huge figure in the childhood of hundreds of small children along the way. We’ve kind of gotten used to not being able to walk through town without somebody saying hello. She came home with armfuls of flowers, bottles of fizzy wine, and cards from staff, parents, and children.

Later in the evening she went out for a meal with the school staff, and I wandered along towards the end of the evening – not quite knowing what I might be walking into. I’m not quite sure how teachers do it, but they have a way about them – particularly infant school teachers. There’s a calmness. A kindness. It’s hard to put your finger on. They are without exception quite wonderful people, and I’m going to miss them tremendously – even though I only knew a few of them.

Promises were of course made at the end of the evening – to keep in touch – and to meet as friends rather than colleagues. It’s funny how that works. My other half did wonderfully well until the headteacher said goodnight – then suddenly the tears arrived – for both of them.

The new job starts on Monday, and no doubt dinner times over the weeks ahead will be filled with stories of new characters, new situations, and new challenges. We’re kind of looking forward to it – albeit somewhat apprehensively.

Today we’ve been pottering around the house – or at least we were until some good friend invited us to the pub for a drink. I often remark how lucky we are to have such good friends – and they now joke with me for saying it. Today in the middle of a pub garden on perhaps the last warm afternoon of the year they all sang out in unison “we love you Mr Beckett” (apparently I had told them I loved them all after the birthday party last week). I think they love how much of a colossal nerd I am, really – and that I seemed oblivious to the fact that I was at the pub with five women.

I’ve always found other people interesting. I could listen to other people’s stories all day (and all night, it often turns out – I’ve somehow become the person people talk to during struggles). I always remember standing on a railway platform with my eldest daughter in London when she was young, and pointing at the sea of people on the opposite platform…

“Look at each of those people. They all have their own hopes, dreams, and worries. They’re all perhaps looking forward to where they are going, or missing somebody, or have parents somewhere worrying about them, or children they’re looking forward to seeing”.

She looked at the sea of faces, and held my hand.

“I never thought of that before.”


Finally the Weekend

I’m having the quietest of quiet days today, and counting down the days until I stop work for two weeks. In-between all the usual household chores, we will escape to the coast for a few days to visit my parents. There’s something about the air at the coast – it feels different than at home. I’m guessing it has something to do with the sea breeze.

One more week to go, then we start filling bags with clothes. At least now the children are older we don’t have to take a world of toys and games with us – all they appear to need these days is a mobile phone.

We had builders in this week at home. A couple of years ago we had a leak in the kitchen – or rather in the bathroom above the kitchen – that destroyed the plaster around the kitchen doorway. Ever since fixing the leak we have been “going to get around to” getting the walls fixed. Now they are, of course we’re having to think about re-painting the kitchen.

While making a coffee I watched the plasterer re-skim the walls on Friday morning. There’s something about watching a skilled tradesman practice their craft – it’s like a magic trick – the result of thousands of hours or practice, skill, and experience.

Of course the builders blew a hole in our bank account that I’m once again trying to re-fill. I may well be hitting YouTube over the coming days with more pretend aeroplane escapades. An unlikely source of income that comes in handy from time to time.


Challenges, Westworld, and Spaghetti Bolognese

Today has been a difficult day. A work project suffered a setback, and while nobody in particular did anything “wrong”, you can’t help wondering if there was something you could have done that might have resulted in a different outcome. Hindsight is a wonderful thing.

I don’t typically write about work, so I’ll leave it there.

In other news, I started watching season 4 of “Westworld” last night. Somehow it’s production completely passed me by. I’m two episodes in, and wow. Just wow. One of the most intricate, clever plots I have seen in a TV show – it keeps the cogs turning throughout.

I’m writing this during a quick break from work – I didn’t really stop at lunchtime.

I’m making spaghetti bolognese for dinner tonight. Before that can happen I have to ask the kids to fold the clothes that are stacked across the dining room table. I wonder how much encouragement will be required to make that happen?

Anyway. Better get on.