Showing posts from 2012

2012 - Hello and Goodbye

2012 has been a funny old year - but I guess that's true of every year.  12 months is a long time, and there are bound to be a lot of things to look back on during the year.  As I've got older, it seems that every year is less interesting than the last, but I'm starting to wonder whether that's just the cynicism of age rather than life getting calmer. For every "Hello" there is a "Goodbye" and the biggest goodbye I've had to say this year was to my Grandmother .  For as long as I can remember - that's over thirty years - my family has had three strands - my Mum, my Dad and my Granny.  Every birthday I had three main presents, every Christmas I had three phone calls to make and every holiday I had three presents to buy.  That has all changed over the past few years.  Two years ago, I lost my Dad to lung failure and this year I lost my Granny.  My family life will never be the same again, and Christmas just wasn't the same this year.  Of

Driving Home For Christmas...

I hate that song. I really do.  It's been on repeat on the music channels with its truly horrible video of B-list celebrities and T4 presenters faffing around with Lionel Blair whilst all wearing Christmassy jumpers. I've touched on the subject of "home" before in here, in fact I've written a blog entry about how grumpy I get at Christmas time before, too - it's here The Christmas grump took over me again this year, too.  Everyone trying to enforce happiness on each other as if we'd all stumbled into some hideous worldwide Disney Park where being "slightly grumpy" is banned and smiles are painted on for all to see. But Christmas is pretty much over now, and we can get the "cheering at an arbitrary number going up by one" out of the way at New Year and then everyone will return to normal.  I can't wait. I'm working between Christmas and New Year this year.  Whenever you tell anyone that, they usually respond with a mixtur

Sofie Seliger

Sofie Seliger was born in 1927 in a the small town of Leopoldsdorf on the outskirts of Vienna, in Austria to parents Heinrich and Bertha.  A nominally Jewish family, they farmed pigs, amongst other things.  Sofie had three brothers – Walter, Kurt and Robert.  They used to play in the fields around their home, and generally cause all sorts of trouble.  As the only girl, Sofie used to stick up for herself, and her brother Walter would later describe her as “a bossy sister”. They were part of a large family in and around Vienna.  Sofie was named after her Danish grandmother, who died before Sofie was born.  Sofie’s grandfather ran a watch-making shop in central Vienna and Sofie used to go in and help him wind up all the clocks. Life was calm and gentle. A  happy family in the middle of Europe. However, things were to change forever in the 1930s.  The advance of the Nazis into Austria saw the Seliger family lose their home and be forced to live in a tenement in the middle of

Sleepless in Seattle

There, I did it.  A crap joke about the fact that I'm in Seattle and awake at a stupid time in the morning.  I arrived here on Saturday, and applied my usual technique of "staying awake until a normal time on the first night, then going to bed really tired".  It's a technique which has always worked in the past for snapping me into the new timezone. However, this room has a real flame fire.  It's rather nice.  A little switch by the bed puts the fire on for a timed hour, meaning that you can fall asleep by the light of a roaring fire, and then it'll turn itself off afterwards.  The problem is, though, that a roaring fire makes the room warm.  And a warm room makes for a sleepy room.  And so yesterday afternoon, when I put the fire on to stave off the rain pouring outside, I found myself waking up quite a few hours later thinking "oh, bugger!".  And true enough, despite getting to bed at a sensible time last night, I woke up at 5.30am today.  "

20 Things I've Learned...

I've not written in here for over a month.  Mostly because I've been busy watching the Paralympics and visiting Edinburgh, amongst other things.  So, to fill the gap - here are a few things which I've learned in the past month. 1. George Michael isn't above plugging his new single at the Olympics Closing Ceremony 2. The National Trust have a strange lack of properties in and around Cheshire 3. Some motorways are really short and can be driven end-to-end in an hour 4. Tim Minchin makes a really good Judas in Jesus Christ Superstar 5. Fireworks can be synchronised to music 6. The absolute nadir of television has been reached with "Sing Date" 7. Southend Pier is indeed very long 8. Chester Cathedral isn't as big as I remember it being 9. Lady Gaga is really quite good live 10. Boron burns with a lovely colour

Ten Things I Love About The Olympics

Far too often I write in here about things I don't like - so in an attempt to redress that balance I'm going to write the positive.  London has been a genuinely great place to be the past two weeks and so I present - in no particular order - my 10 favourite things about the Olympic games. One Before the games, it wasn't uncommon to hear people talk about how they were escaping London for the games.  Transport would be terrible and they had no interest in sport.  Since the games have started, I've not met a single person who's said that they wish they'd left town.  So, the first thing on my list is the fantastic atmosphere that's been in London for the past couple of weeks. All around town, people are wandering around wearing their huge Olympic ID badges.  I chatted to some officials from The Bahamas whilst queuing for coffee at Waterloo in the first week.  Even gold medal winners have been getting on the tube. The atmosphere in London has been tangi

Saving The Surprise

So, I’m going to review the Olympic Opening Ceremony.  We were lucky enough to get tickets to the technical rehearsal last night, and so we got to see the show from the opening through to the point where the athletes will walk in on Friday night. The big theme of the night was #savethesurprise – we were all asked to not give away the surprises of the evening, so that it would still be a spectacular for everyone watching on Friday night.  This isn’t a case of The Olympic Brand ™ being protected, this is simply a case of not wanting to spoil the surprise of what is actually a specatular show. So, how can I review the show without giving away the surprise.  I’ll give it a go… So, we’ve all seen the publicity photos of the village green with people playing cricket.  That bit isn’t secret.  But then, loads of people come on and start ****** the ***** so that it changes into an ********** ***** with a big ***** which ***** out ***** with fireworks and turns into an ******* ****

In the SPA

I've spent the past few days at the SPA2012 conference at the BCS in London.  It's the first time I've been, and so I wasn't really sure what to expect.  It was certainly an interesting few days, and I learned a few things and disagreed with a few things - but it was all the more interesting for it. I'm not a developer.  I used to be, but I left full-time development behind quite a few years ago.  I still remember the rudiments, and still read code from time to time, but it's been a couple of years since I wrote code for fun, and even longer since I wrote it professionally.  When I was a full-time developer, C++ was the language of choice.  OO was the buzzword and Java was a newcomer.  Most of what was being written was being written in C++ and legacy code was in C.  I then moved onto Symbian, an unashamed C++ shop.  So C++ is where I spent the majority of my coding days. These days, the code at work is Java and Python.  There's a bit of C++ lurking in c

I'm not so good with heights

I'm writing this sitting in Starbucks. I've turned into one of those people.  You know - the ones who write things in Starbucks.  On a laptop. There was only a short queue this morning, away from the serving bit, along the counter.  There were three of us standing in the queue, and then one woman - who was American but that's not revelant - who stood in the middle of the floor vaguely near the till.  When someone in the queue pointed out that there was a queue she said "Yes, I know, and I'm in it".  She thus placed a moral obligation on those of us in the queue to remember her virtual place in the queue and cede our turn to be served when it came to the right moment.  Indidivually it's quite a hard task to remember her place in the queue, but we only needed to collectively achieve that effect - so individually we didn't need to remember her place in the queue, but simply remember whether she was in front of us or behind us.  Though not even that.  T

The Unwilling Patriot

As anyone who reads my Tweets, or has read this blog before, will know - I'm not particularly patriotic.  I don't feel any emotional attachment to the country I was born in.  There's no greater purpose which dictated that I should've been born in this country. But even my hard British heart has been melting slightly as we approach the Jubilee weekend.  On the TV, and sometimes on holiday, other countries proudly display their flags and we look at it and think "look, it's so nice to see the flags everywhere".  And yet for years, flying the Union Jack(*) was the sole preserve of The National Front and their equally odious successors The BNP.  But no longer. London looks stunning at the moment.  Every city looks great in the sunshine, but London is dressed up to the nines at the moment with the flags everywhere, and it can't help but put a smile on your face. It's a very British occupation to do things down.  To pretend not to enjoy things is vi

How to travel on the tube

I spend about two hours a day travelling across London on the tube. Westwards in the morning and then back Eastwards of an evening.  Usually without a seat, I stand somewhere out of the way, bury my head in a book and pass the time whatever way I can.  Yet the journey is usually troubled by other people.  Not those people who travel the same route every day and behave well; but troubled by those who stand in the way, swing bags around and generally provide an annoyance.  I am no expert on tube etiquette, but I offer below my ten rules for how to travel by tube without annoying me... 1. Let others off the train before pushing your way on Tubes are busy.  They are full of people.  Quite often the train will pull into the platform and it's natural to stare into the windows as the train slows and wonder just how any more people will possibly fit on the train.  The answer is, usually, that people will get off the train and you can squeeze on into the space they free up.  But they ar

Talent? Where?

Over the past couple of weeks, I've watched a few snippets of "The Voice".  The idea is that this is another talent show, but that people are judged on their voice alone without any consideration of their background or appearance. The concept sounds good.  Interesting at least. But every snippet I saw was awful.  Once the first selection of contestants had been made the second round was a sing off.  The idea being that contestants sing the same song, in pairs, and try to out-sing each other.  With professionals that could be bad enough, but with a group of people without stage experience whose idea of strong singing is to shout the highest note you can for as long as possible, it descended pretty quickly into a bellow-a-thon. So, I thought I'd watch the first live show just in case it got better. It didn't.  One performance (by someone called Jazz) was OK, although not really my kind of thing.  The others were shouty, out of tune and in a few cases, completely

At The Gym

I've been going to the gym for a few years now.  When I'm there, I tend to zone out and not notice other people.  I never watch other people doing their workout, just as I wouldn't want anyone to stand there and stare at me.  But there are some things which you just can't help noticing.There are loads of posts out there about the annoying guys in the gym who make lots of noise, drop weights, hog all the equipment and things like that, so I shalln't talk about those kind of things. The other day, I was in the changing room after a swimming lesson, and I noticed a guy using the hairdryer provided.  Except he wasn't drying his hair.  He was using it to dry his feet.  Not something I've seen before - but then again, I'm usually in my own little world, so perhaps it happens all the time and I just haven't noticed. Everyone has ways of timing the rest period between sets.  Personally, I just take a drink, stare into space and go for another set when I


Pride is a strange thing.  To have pride in something is to stand by it and say "I'm happy to be part of that".  But to say you don't have pride in something seems to be code for saying that you are ashamed of it. But for me, I'm "not proud" of pretty much everything in my life.  I'm certainly not ashamed of the colour of my eyes, but I don't have any pride in it either.  I like to believe there is a middle ground where one is neither proud nor ashamed of something. When I make something I'm happy with, or do a piece of work which I like, then I do have pride in it.  I had a loss of confidence in the middle of a sprint training session last night for instance, and I'm proud of the way I pushed through that and got the session back on-track.  That's something I did, and I can take the credit for making it good. What I lack is the sense of pride by association.  I am not proud to be British, for instance.  Don't make the mista

Le monde est plein de fous

"Le monde est plein de fous, Et qui n'en veut pas voir, Doit se tenir tout seul, Et casser son miroir."  (Thomas Love Peacock,  1831) Is starting a blog post with a French quotation pretentious?  Now there's a question.  But it's not a question for this posting...   The world indeed full of fools, and avoiding them is pretty much impossible.  On the tube, in the sports centre, in Waitrose, in the street - the word is full of people who do stupid things without even realising that what they are doing is stupid. Every Sunday, I have an hour of badminton booked at 9am at the local sports centre in Wapping.  The sports hall has four badminton courts.  The two near the door are in use, and the other two are behind a curtain and the space used for toddlers' football.  So, parents and kids come in through the door and walk around the edge of the badminton court to get over to play football.  Or most do. Of course, these are toddlers and so as so

Naked photos on the tube

OK.  So it's not that late.  It's only half past eleven.  But it's late for me.  It's certainly later that I'm usually on the tube.  I know that London has a second "rush hour" around 11pm at night, but it's not something I experience all that often. But tonight I was out with some work people over in West London and I headed off at a sensible time to make my way across town.  One of the joys of living relatively centrally is that cabs don't break the bank. In all honesty I'm not out that often, and so getting a cab home from the centre of town is so rare it's affordable.  But not tonight.  Not all the way from Shepherd's Bush. So I plodded my way through West London, Google Maps guiding the way, and ended up at White City.  I jumped onto the Central Line and grabbed myself a seat.  The carriage was mostly full of people lying along the seats, half asleep.  But opposite me was a guy with a funky hair cut eating a bar of chocolate.  

Expect the Unexpected

The company I work for (well sort of) has been sending out emails recently with the subject "Expect the Unexpected" and just containing a photo of something supposedly unexpected. One of the photos, for instance, was a young girl standing next to a tin of blue paint having daubed the walls.  Unfortunate, perhaps - but certainly not unexpected, surely? Life is full of unexpected things.  Almost every day contains something you didn't know was going to happen. And that's what makes life great.  Well one of the things.  BĂ©arnaise Sauce is another thing which makes life great.  Anyway, I digress. The other morning I was on the tube on the way to work and there was a guy opposite me.  Probably around 40 years old, he was a portly chap with stubble and a mess of unkempt hair. He was wearing earphones which were leaking sound so I could hear the tinny distant sound of a voice.  That voice was Susan Boyle.  Singing "I Dreamed A Dream".  The guy was mouthing al


It's nearly two years since the UK General Election result which left much of the country scratching their heads, thinking "what now?".  For the living memory of most of the people watching the results come in, UK General Elections delivered a clear winner.  Either the Tories or Labour would win the election and plod away with their own brand of policy for four or five years and then the whole process would be repeated.  An election which didn't give such a clear winner felt, to many people, unsatisfactory.  It felt as though there was unfinished business. That business unravelled over the following few days.  The Tories had won both the most votes and the most seats, followed by Labour and then the Lib Dems a way behind them.  The maths was such that Tories plus Lib Dems would be enough for a majority in the house; Labour and Lib Dems would give a total greater than the Tories but not enough for an overall majority. Just under a week after the election, David Ca