Yearly Archives of: 2002


Harry Potter Rules!


I’ve just been to see the latest Harry Potter movie and thought it was excellent. All the fun, action and adventure of the first one carried on in the second and I’d see it again. It’s strange though, because the whole Harry Potter phenomenon nearly passed me by.

The first I heard of him was when I found out that my girlfriend was reading the books. I thought it was ridiculous as they were children’s novels and she’s an adult. I then saw on the news that she wasn’t alone. Parents all over the country (and later the world) were reading the stories to their children and then continuing to read the stories themselves after the kids had fallen asleep. J.K. Rowling was earning millions and everybody was snapping up her latest work. Being a well-educated adult I’d never dream of reading a children’s novel so I stuck to Tom Clancy and Brett Easton Ellis. But when the first Potter film came out I went to see it and loved it.

The storylines are nothing that children’s novels like “A wizard of Earthsea” by Ursula Le Guin haven’t done before. There’s nothing clever about the characters and the plots are simple, like all children’s novels and Star Wars films are. But the appeal to both adults and children is quite something. Children love to use their imagination and the Potter books allow them to explore that imagination (I certainly used to when I was a kid). Adults love the books because they transport them back to their childhood days when they had such wonder for the world and dreams of wizardry, spells and adventure. Everyone’s a winner.

So I went to see the first film when it came out and I loved it. I also saw the “Lord of the Rings” film at about the same time which I found extremely disappointing. Don’t get me wrong, it was a great rendition of the book, but as a film I didn’t feel it stood up well on it’s own. Films are always somewhat different to books and that’s mainly because the narrative in books cannot always be directly converted into a visual format. So filmmakers need to change things around and pad things out a bit so that they make more sense to the viewer. This didn’t happen in “Lord of the Rings”, it was a very accurate representation of the book. Unfortunately some of the subtleties of the book, for example the background of the characters, didn’t translate well onto the big screen and I found myself really struggling to care about the players. I also found the story incredibly slow and tedious. I’ve seen a lot of films over the years and I’ve never found myself in such a state of disagreement with most people, who happen to think it was great.

Still, at least we agree about one thing. Harry Potter Rules!


Ten Reasons I Don’t Vote


I remember the first time I was eligible to vote. I believe it was for the 1992 UK General Election. It felt great. I knew all about the generations that dedicated their lives to ensuring that everybody has a free vote and it would have been an insult to their struggles if I didn’t exercise that right. So I voted. And that was the last time I did. Begin rant…

You see, since that time I’ve lost all faith in politics in the UK. Britain as a whole is a pretty small country in the world scheme of things, except that it has a great deal of self-importance. Whenever I travel to other countries I almost never see a mention of Britain on the news. But when I come back I realise why. The news here is filled with tabloid stories like “Diana’s former butler in gay marriage claim” and “celebrity drugs and sex shame”. The only other thing that seems to get reported is political bickering and sleaze. It’s pathetic.

Okay, so I’m exaggerating and perhaps ranting again. But what I’m illustrating is the state of mind I have when I think about voting. I just don’t have any faith that if I vote for any party that life in this country will improve in any way. I’m not bothered about myself, I earn plenty money and have a pretty damn good quality of life. If I have to pay a bit more tax to see our health service improve, or improvements in education, then I’m not going to complain. But it doesn’t work that way.

In the years since I was eligible to vote I’ve seen no improvement to this country, all I’ve seen is degradation. When you come back from America or France or any other civilised country you really notice what a dilapidated place this is. The roads are clogged, in very poor condition, the health service sucks (don’t get me on that one, it gets personal), crime is on the increase (it is you know) and the summers are rubbish. Okay, they can’t do anything about the weather, but the government should do something about the rest. When the Labour party replaced the Conservatives nothing changed. There was a real sense of optimism after a single party had been in power so long. But that optimism turned to apathy with me soon after.

I guess my problem is with politicians. The trouble is that they’re human. I’m sure that many of them do what they do because they passionately believe in making the world a better place. They seek a position of power so that they can try to make a difference. But sadly a great many of them are not there for that reason at all. It’s all about personal power. Spin. Never answering the question asked but instead putting a political point across that may be related, it may not. Seeming to say and do the right thing rather than doing the right thing. About staying in power at all costs once in power. It’s not noble. And as the old adage goes “all power corrupts but absolute power corrupts absolutely”.

There is a great deal of research done when an election is upcoming to determine the cause of voter apathy. For example, more people voted on the series Big Brother than voted for the Labour party at the last election. Well, the reason for my apathy is simple. I have no faith in politicians making anything better. No matter who is in power I just don’t believe anything will change. To me political parties in Britain are all the same. They’re stocked with the same people. They talk the same rhetoric. And they achieve the same results. Very little.

All views expressed above represent those of the author. Okay?


My Old History Teacher


He was one of those teachers that you knew by reputation long before you actually saw him. Some kids nicknamed him “lines” because he had a fondness for the phrase “50 lines” as punishment for anything he deemed fit. He was an old-school teacher. He didn’t follow the modern rules new teachers learned in teacher training college. He did things his way and nobody, not even other teachers, would dare argue he did otherwise.

I’ll never forget my first contact with him. I was in second year (aged about 13) and our history teacher was off sick. So he filled in for the one hour lesson. And so it was that I met Mr. Tom Casey, one of the guys who made me the man I am today. He was perhaps in his early 60’s. Tall and slim. Grey, receded hair. Half moon glasses and a thin, hard face that would scare any school child (or teacher) into doing anything he said. I later discovered that he was an ex-SAS officer back in the days when “they didn’t officially exist” and he controlled a classroom the way an army instructor controls raw recruits.

He would pace around the room, making sure everybody kept looking straight ahead, and he’d ask a question. You were just sitting there praying that he wouldn’t tap you on the shoulder and expect you to answer. But quite often you would and you’d better be damn sure you gave the correct answer. I don’t really remember that first lesson because we were all in such a high state of alertness and concentration that nothing entered our heads except the sound of his voice.

You could easily tell the people in his class because they’d be the ones sprinting to get to him as quickly as possible. He reckoned you could get to his room from anywhere in the school in two minutes. So once the bell rang to end one class, you had to get to him as fast as you could. He’d stand by the door and peer over his half-moon glasses at you and, once two minutes was up, he’d close the door. Anybody who had to open that door was subjected to a lecture about punctuality and instructed to complete “50 lines” saying that they wouldn’t do it again.

When it came to choose my subjects to sit O Levels and the new Standard Grades in I chose to do history and it turned out I was in Mr. Casey’s class. It was probably the best thing that ever happened to me. I was a lazy student and never really tried very hard at anything, always happy to do the minimum. But for two years I endured his militaristic approach to teaching and I was scared all the time of not being able to answer his questions over the homework exercise, or turning up late to class (I’d just like to say that I never once had to do any lines for him). He made me work hard at what I did and take pride in it.

So when it came to choose my Highers (the Scottish equivalent to A-Levels) I chose history and made damn sure I was in his class. I originally wasn’t but I complained and ensured that I was transferred to him. He was just as hard a teacher as ever but was the one I most looked forward to seeing. Once you were used to the fact that you had to concentrate all the time and give it your all, you realised that he was truly passionate about history and loved to teach. I eventually got a B and for my final year at school I selected, amongst other subjects, to do SYS history (as in Sixth Year Studies, one step above Highers). Not surprisingly I ensured that I was in Mr. Casey’s class, and he was teaching 13th Century Scottish history, which was great.

But something changed. Mr. Casey wasn’t nasty any more. He no longer tried to scare us. He no longer lectured about punctuality. He didn’t pace around the room like he had a gun pointed at us. He didn’t try to menace us at all. He didn’t need to. We had earned his respect and he knew that we were doing SYS history because we too were interested in it. We did it because we wanted to, not because we had to. So he treated us with respect and earning that respect is one of my greatest achievements. In fact, he was an incredibly nice guy with a very sharp sense of humour. He didn’t teach us about the Scottish Kirk (the Church) because he didn’t agree with it, and he didn’t vote because “there was nobody worth voting for”. He was his own man and did what he thought was the right thing. And he was usually right.

That final year of being taught by him was great. He was a powerful ally and all the other kids couldn’t believe that he was such a nice guy – he wasn’t to them. The only thing I learned in school that I still remember today is what I learned of Scottish history in the times of Robert Bruce that year, and the six points of the charter championed by the Chartist movement of the 19th century (he drilled them into everybody’s head until you could recite them on command – in fact during my sixth year he’d occasionally demand that we recite it to see if we still remembered, which we all did). For your records, the six points of the charter are as follows: universal suffrage, vote by ballot, payment of MPs, equal electoral districts, abolition of property qualifications for MPs and annual elections.

He was the only teacher that former pupils often came back to see at my school. These adults would turn up who he used to teach and he’d chat away with them for ages, genuinely interested in how they were getting on, always offering advice if he could give it. And once I left school I was one of them. The thing I realise now is that he didn’t try to scare pupils because he was a nasty man. In fact the opposite was the case. He loved to teach, and nothing pleased him more than to see children grow up and become adults and maybe learn something of value along the way. He was the hardest-working teacher in the school and although he didn’t always play by the rules, he always got results. He didn’t punish those who couldn’t produce, he only punished those who didn’t try.

The work ethic I learned from his classes has stayed with me for life. I never realised until I thought about it last night what an impact he has made on me. Many of my personality traits bear a striking resemblance to his. I lost touch with him a few years ago after he retired and I moved to England. I don’t know if he’s still alive. But if I’m anything to go by, his legacy will live on in everybody who was lucky enough to be taught history by him.


Save Me From Shiny Kit Syndrome


A picture of a plasma ballI have to admit it. In many ways I’m just a stereotypical male. As the quote goes: “Human nature is what we’re here to rise above”, but I don’t always succeed. My Achilles heel, like many, is shiny bits of technology. I’m like a Magpie. I see something shiny and I want it.

I’ve tried to control this urge to buy high-tech gadgets for many years with varying degrees of success. I’ve got gadgets coming out of my ears: laptop, digital camera, photo printer, mobile phone, my own bowling ball, car with lots of fancy toys, mountain bike, a watch that I’m not even going to mention because you’ll think I’m insane for buying it and many more things that I don’t really need, but make life more fun anyway. It’s a terrible affliction really. Take my current obsession.

I’ve had various mobile phones for years and for the last year and a half I’ve had a Nokia 6210, which is a fine piece of kit. It synchronises with my laptop via an IR port and my contacts appear in Outlook for my convenience. The battery needs charging about once a week and it does everything I’d ever want in a phone. End of story? Not quite. Nokia have brought out a new phone that has caught my eye, the 6610. I first spied this one about six months ago and it was scheduled for release about now, so I’ve been waiting. It’s got a colour screen, polyphonic rings tones, FM radio, hands-free speaker mode (how cool is that?), is tri-band and you can run java applications on it (like games). But now that the phone is about to be released (in the next couple of weeks) I’m not so sure.

I’ve spent a lot of money lately on one thing or another and the price of the phone is going to be around 170 UK pounds. Which is a lot to pay to replace my current phone when there’s nothing wrong with it. My long-suffering girlfriend (who has good monetary sense) says that I shouldn’t waste my money. And she’s right. But the problem is that I’m quite impulsive and I know that within ten minutes I can walk into a shop and buy the phone. So this is a test. A test of discipline and mental toughness. She suggested I wait until after Christmas to see if the price has gone down (which it inevitably will) – and that makes perfect sense. So that’s what I’m going to do. Really.

But one of my friends has just gone out and bought an even fancier phone priced at around 200 quid. Playing with his phone reminds me of why I’d like to buy a new one, so my brain was constantly saying “can the Nokia do this?” and “can the Nokia do that?”. My imagination also wanders a bit and without realising it I’m visualising going to the shop, buying the phone, taking it back, plugging it in (you need to charge them for ages the first time), reading the manual, fiddling with all the new options and features, choosing my ring tone, messing about with photo messaging and adding all the swear-words to its internal dictionary.

I’ve got to snap out of it. I don’t need it. My current one works perfectly. And by buying a new one I’m just falling into the hands of all those evil marketing people out there who try to persuade you that everything is obsolete as soon as you’ve bought it. Everybody’s got to have a vice. Some people smoke. Some people take drugs. Some people smoke and take drugs. I buy shiny kit. Maybe I need some sort of support group. I could start a charity and call it: Support and Help for Idiots with Technology Engrossment (or SHITE for short)…


Who Says I’ve Got No Culture?


On Friday night I went to see the thoroughly action-packed film XXX. This 21st century James Bond with steroids picture was a lot of fun. The dialogue was cheesy, the stunts were ridiculous, the storyline implausible and the one-liners awful. Precisely what I used to love about the Bond films of the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s. So that was refreshing and it served as an excellent advert for what a beautiful city Prague is. I really must go there.

Saturday evening, on the other hand, was quite a contrast. I went to see the musical Chicago in Leeds. For those of you who don’t know (including me prior to Saturday night) Chicago is a musical set in, eh, Chicago. It’s a story of murder, sex, more murder, exploitation, the American legal system and also murder. More than this was that nearly every girl in the show was scantily clad and in excellent shape. And for the ladies, there were plenty of good looking muscular male dancers on hand. I really did enjoy it and, while the only other big musical I’ve seen was Phantom of the Opera (now that was superb), I do like a good show.

John Altman, who played Nick Cotton in the quintessential British soap opera Eastenders (about down-trodden life in the east end of London) played the money-obsessed lawyer and it must be said that while his singing was excellent, his American accent seemed to wander from English west country to South African to American. It was quite funny and only added to the performance. I’ve sat through amateur dramatics before and – while some have been great – I’ve also spent plenty time watching the second hand of my watch rolling around. But with this I was glued to it and enjoying of it from start to finish.

My long-suffering girlfriend’s brother’s partner (are you with me?) knows me quite well and couldn’t believe I was going to a musical. I suppose most modern stereotypical males aren’t supposed to want to do that sort of thing. While I’m not the classic lager-drinking post-modern lad (in fact I almost never drink), I’m not exactly the shandy-drinking, limp-wristed, over-sensitive wet blanket type either. I guess like most people I’m somewhere in between. I just do the things I like, and I like the things I do (I love those phrases, like “winners never quit and quitters never win” or “it’s nice to be important but it’s more important to be nice”, I know dozens of them).

Sunday was spent mostly loafing around and eating, with a bit of kicking a football around (which I like to do). I train Monday to Friday so it’s always nice to have at least one lazy day at the weekend replacing all those burned calories (at least that’s my excuse). But if you’re thinking of going to see a musical but you either can’t be bothered or don’t think it’s your style, then my advice is to go. It’s better to try and fail than fail to try.




I’ve been doing a lot of thinking since my mother passed away in June. I’ve come to realise that losing her is something I’m never going to come to terms with. I’ve had so many times where I’ve thought to myself “oh, I’ll have to tell my mother about that” or “my mother would like one of those”. My brain is having a hard time realising that I’ll never see her again. When I go back to Scotland to visit my father everything seems normal, except that she’s not there any more. It’s like a black hole, a missing piece of the jigsaw. It’s emptiness.

Memories are a good and a bad thing. They remind me of all the good times we had and make me smile. But they remind me that those days are in the past and I can never share a joke with her again. She had a characteristic booming laugh and whenever we’d have people over to the house I could always hear her laughter whatever room I was in. I miss hearing it. And there’s no consolation. But the point of this piece is not a negative one. I don’t need to bear my soul and I’m big enough and ugly enough to take care of myself.

My mother had a really good sense of humour and she’d appreciate some of the strange things that have happened recently. The first was on the morning of her funeral. To recap, I was setting up the sound system in the church to play – at her request – “All along the watchtower” by Jimi Hendrix. As I was speaking to one of her friends (who was arranging the flowers) I had this strange urge to switch the radio on. As soon as I did the line “cheer up sleepy Jean, oh what can it mean, to be a daydream believer…”, which is by the Monkeys. My mother’s name was Jean and I was surprised to say the least. If it was a coincidence that that song (which I’d not heard in years and haven’t heard since) should happen to play at the exact moment I seemingly randomly switched the radio on, then the odds would have to be astronomical. But that’s not the only such instance of strangeness.

My mother’s best friend and my father were having a cup of coffee in a local coffee shop. They were talking and she was telling my father how she really missed having my mother to talk to and that she was having a hard time. No sooner had she uttered the words “now that Jean’s gone I don’t have anyone to talk to” than the radio that was on in the background suddenly played “All along the watchtower” by Jimi Hendrix. Another coincidence?

Next it was my brother’s turn. And he swears this is true. He was lying in bed one night thinking about life after death. He, like me, is not religious at all so he, like me, worries that after life there is nothing. He was just going over in his head all the possibilities and trying to be positive, hoping that he might see my mother again some day. He said over and over in his head “give me a sign”, looking for hope when suddenly the idea popped into his head to turn the radio on. When he did the song that was playing was “Unchained Melody” by The Righteous Brothers. In case you’re one of the handful of people who’s not seen the film “Ghost”, that’s the song that’s played when the hero (Patrick Swayze) goes into the afterlife at the end of the film. A very emotional film it is too.

These thing could be considered to be coincidences. I walk into Morrisons supermarket and hear songs that my mother used to love all the time. But the significance of events like those I’ve described are more profound. I don’t believe in the idea of heaven and hell. I believe that when your body dies your memories and personality go with it (although not necessarily your soul). And I don’t believe in God. However I do believe that there’s more to life than this. There has to be. And the only thing I know more certainly than that is that I’ll never know what it is while I’m here. That’s as it should be. And that gives me hope. Some people get hope from religious faith, and I can understand that.

But with the sort of signs that I’ve described cropping up from time to time I feel like maybe I’m not alone. And I get hope. And life with hope is a mile better than life without.


A Weekend On The Road


I spent a good deal of the weekend sitting in a car. My long-suffering girlfriend, my brother and I did what turned out pretty much to be a flying visit to Scotland. My father lives about 270 miles north of me, so we drove up on Friday night to there. And then, dropping my brother off, we continued up to my girlfriend’s friend’s house (who had just given birth to a beautiful baby girl) a further 170 miles north. Later in the afternoon we went back down to meet my brother and father to go out for a meal in St. Andrews (“The Vine Leaf Restaurant”, 131 South Street – I’d highly recommend it).


So by the end of Saturday night we’d driven about 450 miles. A great deal of that on twisty roads in atrocious weather. So Sunday was a day of well deserved rest. But all too quickly we were back in the car again and driving back down to Yorkshire at break-neck speeds (anybody who says women drivers are slow should go for a spin with my girlfriend – she’ll scare the hell out of you).

My girlfriend and I are well used to driving for hours on motorways but my brother is not. He got bored pretty quickly (my attempt to sing loudly drove him to distraction). But it set me thinking about how I manage to stay alert when driving long distances. So here are a few of my techniques:

1. Way point counting. When I do a long journey multiple times I start to make a mental note of evenly spaced checkpoints (say every 30 minutes) so that I can count how many checkpoints I still have to go before I get home.

2. Mile countdown. I zero my car’s trip counter when I leave and knowing the total journey distance I can work out, at my current cruising speed, how long it will take to get there. I slightly vary my speed now and then to alter my ETA so that I can work out when I’ll arrive.


3. Gran Turismo mode. When I’m tired I start to view driving along a motorway like playing a driving game on a games console. Especially if it’s dark. I start to look at other cars and trucks as competitors and try to take the racing line along the road (so frequently changing lanes). This doesn’t usually last long as I have to remind myself to not die in a car crash at 120mph.

4. Learning a new album. I put a new CD into the car that I don’t know the words to. My mission for the drive becomes to be able to sing that whole album from start to finish. So I play it over and over, singing along, until I can accomplish this goal.

5. The cats-eye-aversion game. The little reflective strips that separate the lanes (between the painted lines on a road) are slightly raised to you feel a bump when you drive over them. This game involves aligning the car each time you change lane so that none of your wheels drive over them (i.e. you concentrate on driving over the painted lines instead), and counting how many miles you can “stay clean”. This can keep you amused for hours, unless you slip up and catch a back wheel on one and have to start over.

6. The one-two. This involved overtaking a car. Then you slow down to let him overtake you. Then you speed up and overtake him again. And you continue this until you spot a faster car to do the same to. Then the game begins again. This can be fun as people sometimes take a while to realise what you’re doing and then they sometimes join in on the fun and speed up too while you slow down and vice-versa (thereby making the gap larger).

7. The comedy name game. This requires a passenger. Every time a car passes, you have to think of a sentence to say that involves the car make or model, such as “you really need to get your life into Focus” when a Ford Focus goes past. The trick is to not let the passenger realise what you’re doing and you need to be pretty imaginative to succeed for long.

There are plenty more bizarre games that I play when I’m bored in a car, but they tend to be even more surreal (such as the “Most off-key singing game”) that you will benefit from not knowing. How do you stop yourself from falling asleep at the wheel? Do you get your passenger to read out article from John’s Adventures? I do hope not.


A Breath Of Fresh Air


Okay, try this. Close your mouth and breathe in through your nose. Nice isn’t it? Well, now pinch your nose so that you can’t suck any air in and then relax your grip slightly so that only a tiny amount can get in. Now breathe like that through your nose for a minute or so. It’s pretty annoying isn’t it? Just like having a cold. Frustrating and eventually you’ll want to let go of your nose or breathe through your mouth. Well, that’s what it’s like all the time for me. My nasal passages are pretty narrow and this means that I can’t really breathe through my nose at all – it’s like it’s permanently blocked.

This is the reason I never sleep more than 3-4 hours at any one time. My brain has worked out that my nose is useless and so when I fall asleep I automatically breathe through my mouth. This means that after a couple of hours my mouth gets extremely dry. And then it gets so dry that I wake up and take a swig of juice. I then go back to sleep again and the whole cycle continues.

A picture of a nasal stripTo be honest, this has never really bothered me and I’ve never really noticed it. Until now. You see I’ve found a way to breathe like a normal human being. I’ve discovered nasal strips. These are pieces of self-adhesive plastic that you place over your nose. They have the effect of widening the nasal passages and increase the oxygen intake of an athlete. Whether they do any good or not to athletes is questionable, but the change they make to me is incredible.

My long-suffering girlfriend happened to get a free packet of them and I decided to put one on just for fun. And as soon as I did it changed my life (I’m not exaggerating). I could breathe through my nose! I could suck in a deep breath without fighting for it! I could close my mouth and not suffocate within a few minutes! So I’ve worn them for the past couple of nights. My brain still makes me breathe through my mouth when I sleep (it’s tough to teach your brain new tricks), but the feeling of being able to breathe properly is like a drug – and I love it. Honestly, you wouldn’t believe how wonderful it is.

But come morning my dream wears off. I get up and wander over to the shower and realise that I’m going to have to take the strip off. I’m breathing normally with it on and I think to myself that “it won’t be that bad” and maybe my nose will be okay this time. But as soon as I remove it, my nose is back to normal and it feels like someone has put cotton wool up my nostrils. It’s terrible. Like Cinderella after the ball when her carriage turns back into a pumpkin.

So I have two choices: either I go and buy another box of strips and just wear them in the evening – removing them and coming down to earth the following morning. Or I could go and have surgery to widen my nostrils. I’m not sure I can be bothered with an operation, although my company offers free private health care so it’s tempting. I’ll persist with the nasal strips for now, as I can live without having my nostrils altered, but I just had to write down how wonderful being able to breathe is. So go on, spend the next ten minutes breathing through your nose only. I certainly won’t be able to without sounding like a vacuum cleaner or collapsing with asphyxia. But you can for me!


All Change At The Next Stop


A lot of people don’t like change. In all the 20 or so years that I lived with my parents in our first house we never once changed the furniture around in the living room. It was all my mother’s fault. She just didn’t like to change things and when she was happy with something, then that was the way it would stay. My brother and I certainly tried to persuade her to maybe move the TV to another corner and swap the sofa and armchair around, and maybe put the cheese plant over there. But she wouldn’t have it. So it never changed.

I, on the other hand, relish change. It’s not that I get bored of things the way they are, it’s just that I find changing things around can be refreshing. When my brother moved into my house we decided to shift some of the furniture around upstairs (the bedroom) to give him a bit more space and still leave an area free for me to use my weights. The space saved was pretty small but the psychological change made the room feel much larger and more welcoming. There’s no rational argument for it, but I suppose “a change is as good as a rest”.

So with this spirit in mind I’m trying to adapt to the fact that we’re moving rooms at work. When I joined the company for the first time (this is my second spell with them) over 3 years ago the development team lived downstairs in a large room alongside the managers and the customer engineers lived upstairs. Our company builds machines so it was decided that part of the bottom floor would be converted to do the assembly, the development team moved upstairs and the managers moved into a new room at the other side of the building. And that’s how things have stayed. And it’s been great. The upstairs roof is really high, with wooden rafters, air conditioning, large windows with views out over a wooded area filled with squirrels and the like. It’s fair to say that it’s lovely.

But change is afoot. We’ve had a couple of spells of downsizing and are half the size we used to be. So we’re rattling around in a huge office with enough room to each swing a grizzly bear around without fear of interference from each other (assuming the grizzlies don’t mind). So the company’s decided to sub-let upstairs to another company and we’ll move back downstairs again and things will be kind of like they used to. Except they won’t.

There two very large glass doors downstairs that used to provide a lot of light into the room and hide the fact that the rest of the windows are very small. Unfortunately, the room is now divided into two rooms with a wall and door in between. This means that the room we’ll be moving in to has a lot less light and ambiance than it used to. And doesn’t compare to the place we’re moving from. So some people aren’t happy about it. It’s not the dot com boom any more so people like us can’t just shake our rattles and get what we want (those were the days) so we have to make do.

But if I’m honest, I’m quite looking forward to it. Simply because it’s going to be different and therefore a bit of fun for a while (until the novelty wears off). I could be negative and say we’re getting the rough end of the stick (all the nice rooms are ear-marked for customer demos or constructing machines) and that by sub-letting upstairs we’re going to be a bit screwed if we want to expand again when the economy improves.

No. I’d rather be positive and say it’s a new beginning. The dawn of a new era (to use my favourite, over-used expression). I won’t have such a nice view out the window as I do at the moment (I’m watching a grey squirrel foraging for food right now) and the work will remain the same, but with some more lighting and some plants dotted around the place it should take on a character of its own. Only time will tell, and Friday is the day of the move. I might take pictures at 20 minute intervals and do one of those photo sequences where an empty room is transformed into a bustling office…


The Wind-Down To Winter


Well, it’s getting colder in Yorkshire. There wasn’t much of a summer by my standards (my criteria for a nice spell of weather is at least 7 days with not a cloud in the sky – haven’t had that for a few years). But whatever decent weather we had is on the way out. Just last week it all changed. Strong winds, clear skies and a large drop in temperature. The nights have been drawing in slowly over the past month or so, but it seems to have suddenly accelerated so it’s dark by about 6.20pm.


I know when Autumn is upon us because I find myself wearing different clothes (and before you laugh I’m not like Bart Simpson – I do change my clothes every day – I mean that I change the type of clothes I wear). During the Summer months I wear either t-shirts or light, long sleeved tops so that I don’t get too hot. But come Autumn I break into my large collection of sweaters and start to work my way through them. I’ve got everything from reasonably light cotton tops to the sweater equivalent of a Wooly Mammoth coat complete with too-long sleeves and a collar that needs to be folded over a couple of times before I can see out of it (I love that top, maybe I’ll post a photo of it).

But of all the seasonal shifts I must say that I dislike Summer to Autumn the most. Okay, you get to wrap yourself up warmly and snuggle down in front of the fire. For me Autumn is the pregnant pause before Winter, and it’s not much good for anything. You can’t go snowboarding because it hasn’t snowed yet, but you won’t get a suntan because it’s cold, although not cold enough to wear a toasty down jacket. Winters are pretty wet, cold, miserable affairs in Yorkshire and that’s about all you’ve got to look forward to at this time of year. It’s almost like the world is saying “right, you’ve had it easy, now prepare for several months of misery”.

Maybe I’m being pessimistic. And you’re probably right. I was just starting to get in good shape on my mountain bike, and along comes Autumn to make the days so short that there isn’t enough daylight to go out after work and it’s too cold to wear my fetching short-sleeved biking top. I suppose I’ll just have to hold on and bike on the weekends and wait until I can go snowboarding in a couple of months.

I know that us Scots are supposed to be hardy and not complain about the cold, but that’s not my point – I can take the cold. It’s just the in-between weather that does my head in. Give me two complete seasons. It’s either red-hot and not a cloud in the sky. Or it’s ice cold, there’s loads of snow and not a cloud in the sky. Am I being unrealistic? Probably.