Yearly Archives of: 2004


I Am A Reverse Vampire


It never ceases to surprise people that I can neither smell nor taste garlic. The thing that surprises me is how long it took me to figure it out.

You know when you’ve had some Italian food and the next day someone says “You were eating garlic last night weren’t you? Your breath should be classified as a deadly weapon”. Well a couple of years ago I started eating a particular brand of chicken salad wrap from a reputable supermarket and every day when I’d get home my girlfriend would accuse me of eating garlic and I’d strongly deny it saying she must be imagining it. Well one day she actually had the same thing for lunch as me and declared to my surprise that it contained rather a lot of garlic.

On that day I realised that I truly am a reverse vampire. Rather than making me cower in a corner, garlic has no effect on me at all and goes a long way to explaining why I never eat pasta when I dine out. You see I’m told that one of the main things that makes pasta taste great is the use of garlic. Since I can’t taste it I find most pasta dishes bland and flavourless. You may take for granted its potent taste but I can literally slice up a garlic, eat it, and not be able to tell the difference from eating, say, cardboard.

The worst thing is when I tell people of my affliction the first thing they say… No, the first thing they say is that I must be mistaken. When I persuade them I’m not then they tell me how delicious garlic is and what I’m missing out on. Sadly, nobody’s been able to explain the taste of it to me – flavour like emotions can’t really be described without resorting to other examples of the same thing.

Oh, to taste garlic. I could live 100 years and I never will. A man can dream. A man can dream…


Getting There


The following poem used to hang on the wall of the bedroom I shared with my brother when I was a kid. I didn’t pay much attention to it despite my father reading it a few times to us. However I must have read it myself because without realising it Kipling’s words have been etched into my psyche and they’re just as relevant to me today as they were when they were written nearly a century ago. Technology changes the world but it doesn’t change the human spirit.

‘If’ by Rudyard Kipling

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or, being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or, being hated, don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise;

If you can dream – and not make dreams your master;
If you can think – and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with triumph and disaster
And treat those two imposters just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to broken,
And stoop and build ’em up with wornout tools;

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breath a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: “Hold on”;

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with kings – nor lose the common touch;
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you;
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run –
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And – which is more – you’ll be a Man my son!

Looks like I made it after all.


Nice Days Do Happen



Just to prove that you do get the occasional nice day in Yorkshire, here’s the view from the hills above Rylstone. Not a cloud in the sky in any direction which means only one thing: it’s a John Conners nice day. Probably the first one I’ve seen in this country in over a year!


My California Road Trip


I just spent a couple of weeks driving around California with my girlfriend and brother and it’s taken me a week to put the pictures together. This is mainly caused by a combination of jet-lag and getting depressed looking at the photos and how wonderful it was!

We flew into San Francisco and stayed there a few days. We then drove up to Reno for a spot of gambling (we were planning to go to Yosemite but couldn’t find any accommodation so resorted to plan B). After a couple of days we then drove down to Ventura near Santa Barbara to a beach house for a week. Then we spent a couple of days in LA and flew home.

We covered a lot of miles but had a fantastic time. We also took a lot of photos and I’ve put a small collection of them here so you can get a taste of what we got up to…


John’s Law Number 2


This is the second in a series of articles to let you see my thought process. For what that’s worth!

Get A Bit Of Perspective

If I have a decision to make that isn’t a yes / no one (which would have been sorted out by John’s Law Number 1), I have a strategy that helps me make an informed choice.

I picture myself lying in a bed. I’m staring at the ceiling but I’m not really looking at it. I can hear people around me but I’m not really listening to them. I don’t feel any pain, in fact I’d don’t really feel much of anything. It’s probably the drugs. You see it’s decades from now and I’m lying on my death-bed. I know I’m on my way out and I’m running through my life in my head seeing what I made of it all.

I then find myself at the exact point of making the decision I’m about to make. Back to the present. I play out each possible decision in my head and see what the death-bed version of myself would make of each choice. The one that makes my grey, withered old self smile is the one I’ll do.

The way I see it, nothing much we do really changes anything in the grand scheme of things. We’re pretty small, living on a pretty small planet circling an insignificant star in a rather unspectacular part of an average galaxy in a near infinite cosmos filled with a near infinite number of galaxies. Once I have that perspective in mind I’m free to make an informed choice without being influenced unduly. It works for me.


John’s Law Number 1


This is the first in a series of short articles designed to give you an insight into my thought process. I’ve no idea where it’s going either so bear with me.

Do I Or Don’t I?

Law number one: If I ever find myself thinking “should I do something or shouldn’t I?” then I ALWAYS do it. Always.

I stick to this law because every time I don’t, it always turns out to be the wrong decision. It can be something simple like deciding if I’m going to take an umbrella out with me when I go to the shops (if I don’t it always rains). Or it can be something more major like deciding if I should charge my mobile phone before doing a long drive (the last time that happened and I didn’t charge it I broke down in the middle of nowhere and my phone’s battery went flat as I was calling the AA – long story). But whatever the situation, when I hear that little voice in my head asking if I should do something or not, I just do it knowing that it’s most likely the right decision. Luckily it’s not told me to kill anyone yet or I’d be in real trouble!


A Quiet Month


It’s been seven weeks since my last post. I guess I just needed a rest from it all. It’s like friends who move away – you don’t call for a couple of weeks and remind yourself to call them tomorrow. But you forget and then it’s a month, and then time goes on and you haven’t called them for years. Well I’m not going to let that happen to this site while I’m still paying for the hosting.

John the parentAugust wasn’t actually a quiet month for me, I’ve done plenty. I started with a fantastic few days staying in Lyon, France with friends. Lovely weather, lovely food and drink, lovely company and did I mention lovely weather? (far better than our so-called British summer time). I must confess to actually enjoying being around my friend’s children (but don’t tell anyone I said so, they’d think I was getting all paternal).

I turned 30, which was interesting. I must say I don’t feel my life is over or I’m suddenly very old. Although it’s a bit scary to look at 20 year olds who were born in 1984 and actually be able to remember the year clearly. Maybe I am getting older. Still, if I’m still doing this when I’m 40 then I’ll be allowed to complain (it’s all downhill from then on).

Hello. I'm a dragonfly.

I spent a week in Scotland where the highlight was seeing relatives and tidying up my father’s garden. Actually, on that point, to show how old I’m getting I was proud of the garden as one summer about 10 years ago I dug it up under duress to create some plant beds (it was all grass then) and planted trees, flowers and lots more. Cut to now and it’s an established garden and it looks fantastic. The low-light was seeing my father having minor knee surgery that was anything but (that damn hospital up there killed my mother and was doing its best to kill my father too – lousy NHS). But he’s on the mend which is the main thing.

Get out of the wayI even managed to fit in a day at the Leeds festival, the highlights of which were seeing Franz Ferdinand and The Libertines. Sticking to the age theme, it was nice to see all these sullen teenagers wandering around looking at their feet and wearing their trousers half-way down their arses. What’s that all about?

I’ve also really been enjoying myself at work. This time off posting has made me decide to write more about what I do at work as I swear that if I won the lottery I’d still write software. I’m just lucky that I get to spend my days doing something I really love. But more about that in the next article. In the meantime, it’s nice to be back.


The Spirit of Adventure


I’ll never forget my first holiday abroad. My friends and I decided to drive from Scotland to the French Alps and camp there. I was nervous with anticipation. We planned the whole adventure with the sort of meticulous detail that would make an Army General smile. We spent hours and hours poring over maps of the area we wanted to go to until we felt we knew it like we’d already been there.

Me and Mountains

I ordered my very first passport and was slightly disappointed that it wasn’t the black variety that James Bond had been using for years (in fact is was a much less cool dark red flimsy version). I’m sitting looking at my passport photo now and I see a guy who thinks he knows it all but I know that I’m just looking at some young kid who’s still wet behind the ears!

Anyway, the time came to leave and we kissed our parents farewell and began our long trip south. I’d driven to the south of England before and that seemed like a long way, but when we got down that far our drive had hardly begun! A short hop over the ferry and we were on our way – on the wrong side of the road. I don’t think we ever got used to driving on the right and managed to start every morning on the left and as a car came at us head-on we’d swerve over and remember where we were. Our plan was to get as far as Auxerre, camp there and head on to the Alps the next day. We were poor and young so we avoided the toll roads and stuck to the twisty back roads.

Scott at Lake Annecy

One friend was driving, another in the passenger seat and me in the back stretched out reading a book. I assumed it was a winding road as I was getting thrown around a bit and the driver was a bit of a nutter behind the wheel. When we arrived at our mid-way point he admitted that in fact he’d kept falling asleep at the wheel and was swerving to stay on the road! It was around 8pm and after a bite to eat we had a lie down in our tents, kids playing around making noise in a foreign language and we were asleep in minutes.

It’s hard to describe how I felt being in a foreign country where nobody spoke English by default for the first time. I felt like an outsider trying to figure out what was going on. Everything was different. But it was an adventure and I loved it. Next day we carried on to the Alps and we went from the flats of northern France to mountains as high as the eye could see. It was awesome.

We camped on the side of a mountain one night and got caught in a thunderstorm. Literally. I could feel the electricity in the air and although it was 11pm the lightning – that was striking all around us – made it as light as day. The thunder would clap as the lightning struck in sheets, then the thunder would echo all around us and the lightning would strike again. It was constant and I was both exhilarated by the sheer power of nature and humbled by how small I felt. Incredible.

Mer de Glace

We sampled the joys of French cuisine and it was superb. Even buying a simple baguette from the supermarket was a treat – their bread seemed to taste far better than over in the UK (and as I later found out, it really is). All these new and fantastic experiences blended into one. I was overwhelmed. We climbed up to a glacier above Chamonix and when we got there I looked out over the valley and asked “where the hell is it?” only to be told that we were looking at it! Of course, I was expecting a pristine white glacier like in the Himalayas but didn’t expect it to be covered in debris. I realised my mistake and was impressed, until a helicopter flew over the glacier and I got the perspective of the scale of the thing. The helicopter was a tiny dot – the glacier was huge!

It was a voyage of discovery from start to finish and we had the constant threat of my friend’s car breaking down at any minute (which it did actually). One of the most interesting aspects of the trip was experiencing different cultures. We went into a pub in a village we were passing through (we were tired). It was one of those places that when you walk in everybody goes silent and stares at you. We went to the bar and ordered a few drinks in our optimistic French. One of the guys at the bar asked where we were from and as soon as he realised we were Scottish suddenly we were everybody’s best friend! We played table football against some of the old guys – who completely hammered us, they could pass the ball around as if their plastic players were real people – and told them all about back home and listened to their stories. We left smiling.

Since that trip I’ve travelled quite a lot. I’ve been to America, Italy, Amsterdam, New Zealand, Antigua, Switzerland, Lebanon, Andorra and a few other places I can’t think of right now. It’s become very easy. Take Thursday for example. I’m flying to Lyon to stay with one of my friends for a few days. Lyon was one of the places I passed through all those years ago. We decided to do it a couple of weeks ago and I booked the flights over the internet. It’ll take a few hours and I’ll be there. But rather than having my wide-eyed anticipation and trepidation of travelling to France like I did in 1995, I’m just looking forward to seeing my friend and his family. They could be living in Cornwall (with better weather), the fact that they’re in a foreign-speaking country a long way from home makes no odds to me.

A picture of a very young JohnIn one way, I see the world as a pretty small place and think nothing of travelling to the other side of it. But in another way I’d love to have that feeling of adventure again. That innocence. That feeling of not knowing what’s around the corner. New sensations and feelings.

I guess that’s the price you pay with experience. You learn to know what to expect. But the picture on my passport is still of that innocent kid, and he’ll be coming with me on a trip down memory lane. It’s just this time Scott and Nick won’t be with me, but they will be in spirit.


Bitten By The King


I’d never paid much attention to Elvis Presley until I was flying back from New Zealand. I’d watched all the films I wanted to watch so I started flicking through the CDs (Singapore Airlines have an interactive system on board that lets you do that sort of thing) and I came across the Elvis compilation album 2nd To None. I put it on and started to listen.

Up until that point my only contact with Elvis’s music was hearing a thousand bad Elvis impersonators wearing white cat suits, sequins, big hair, big shades, hairy chests, medallions and singing “uh huh huh”. I’d also seen True Romance with frequent references to him. But I had never sat down and listened to his music – until I was on that plane. And I’ll tell you what, I was amazed.

My first thought as I flicked through the tracks was that this boy could sing! As I went from Blue Suede Shoes to Love Me I couldn’t believe they were sung by the same person – the range in his voice, not to mention how smooth his voice was – puts most modern singers to shame. Of course what I never realised is that Elvis impersonators tend to be caricatures and have nothing like the talent of the man himself. So I decided when I got back to learn a little more about the man and get some of his music and become an Elvis fan – albeit a mere 27 years after his apparent death. Better late than never.

All I can say is that I’ve been missing out all these years. He could act convincingly, he was a top live performer, he served his country like a man (no draft dodging for Elvis) and he must have blown people away when he appeared on the scene in the 50’s with his dashing good looks and completely different brand of music. What a guy. No wonder he’s managed to stay popular into the 21st century. Anyway, I must go, I’ve got more Presley lyrics to learn…

Update: Well if I’d known it was 50 years since Elvis recorded his first record, I’d have put more effort into this article. Ah well, too late for maybe’s and what-if’s.


Bank Error In Your Favour


I thought this was the sort of thing that only happens to other people.

I went to a cash machine at lunchtime to get some money to buy sandwiches. While performing this transaction I decided to check my balance – something I don’t normally do but I had the urge to break my routine for some reason. I noticed to my surprise that I had quite a bit more money in my account than I was expecting. I looked at my watch that correctly pointed out that it was the 21st of June and therefore nowhere near pay day. I took my money, bought my sandwiches and walked back to the office (I had a lovely coronation egg salad sandwich from Pret A Manger if you must know).

So I went on-line and checked my bank statement and lo-and-behold, there was a bank transfer of £1629.72 into my account with the mysterious description of “BANK CREDIT SA.”. Normally, when my salary goes into my account the description gives the name of my company so I knew it wasn’t that. I called my bank to ask them.

When I inquired about the transfer the guy said “That’s strange, it only has the text SA, normally there’s more than that”. He then read off the transaction number which meant nothing to me (something like 686960404596001X) and cross-referenced the code with all my direct debits – to no avail. He said he couldn’t find out who it was from. Weird. I was advised to not spend the money and if it was transferred erroneously it normally takes people about a week to realise and then they’ll be in touch – although he finds it a bit unlikely as they’d need to know my sort code and my 8-digit account code. He said if I heard nothing by then to ring back and they can do some more investigating.

I’m a bit perplexed. To my knowledge nobody owes me any money. I’ve spoken to anyone who’ll listen and they deny all knowledge. I sent in my tax return a while ago and even calculated it myself (I was bored) and reckon I’m owed about £30 so it can’t be from the Inland Revenue.

So if anyone out there knows who it’s from, let me know (although you’re not getting it back)! But should a big nasty company contact me and ask for it back I’ll say yes, as long as they give me a free coffee mug with their logo on it so I can add it to my collection. Or maybe I should ask for more?

Update (1/2/2005): It turned out that the deposit was from the Inland Revenue for overpaid tax. A couple of weeks later I got a letter confirming that fact so I got to keep the cash!