Remembering/Forgetting/Not Forgetting/Ignoring/Not Ignoring

In the past, at this time of year, I have got up on a Sunday morning, put on my best suit, crisp shirt, black tie, shiny shoes. I have pinned metal and ribbon to my chest and walked down to the war memorial in the village.

Most of the rest of the village inhabitants would be filtering out of the church where they’d spent the last hour on their devotions.

We would gather in a sizeable collective around the war memorial where prayers would be led, and words would be said, by the parish priest.

There would be the raising and lowering of flags, and the laying of wreaths.

There would be the bugling of the Last Post, followed by a final hymn, a blessing from the priest and then I’d walk back home.

This year I didn’t

I am becoming more anti-religious as I age.

And I am becoming angry at the religious invasion of what should not be a religious event.

The remembrance ceremony at the Cenotaph in London has no religious flavour.

That, in my eyes, is how it should be.

I don’t need any religious undercurrent to make a ceremony of remembrance into a significant event.

In fact, I find the Cenotaph’s ceremony more poignant without any religious trappings.

I do wonder why we allow the Church of England or the Roman Catholic faith to hijack Remembrance Sunday.

It seems dishonest to transform a very human act – remembering the fallen, paying tribute to absent friends (whether we knew them or not) – into a religious ceremony.

The ceremony of remembering should, in itself, be tribute enough.

I’m sure we have all been to crematoria to see off people we knew and loved?

I have – and too many times.

I don’t remember any of those people with less feeling because those ceremonies had no religious aspect.

I don’t need a priest I’m only going to see once a year, to lead me (and a hundred or so others) in The Lord’s Prayer to help me remember people I used to work with.

I don’t need any of these things to help me pay respect to people who have fallen in the service of their country, people who I hadn’t had the opportunity to meet.

If there’s a benefit to having a religious figure lead prayers and hymns, why isn’t this role extended to all religions?

And to humanists?

Why, if there is a benefit (and to whom – because I have no idea who might benefit from it) in having a vicar or a priest lead prayers and hymns, is there no religious leader doing the same thing at the Cenotaph?

I don’t have an answer to any of these questions.

The more I think about it, the more I repeatedly come back to how idiotic it is to turn a remembrance ceremony – a commemoration of fallen humans who were, without a doubt, drawn from all religions (and a number of whom would have been irreligious) into a single-religion event.

That kind of thinking is dysfunctional.

It should be changed.

Until it is I shall no longer take part. I shall do my own remembering, on my terms. I shall pay my own respects. And I shall think my own thoughts, without needing someone to stand near me and speak words in which I have no belief.

Blogathon 22/14 – miles to go before I zzzz

It’s been a full day.

I’m in bed, falling asleep, but determined to get this post out to maintain Feb blogathon solidarity with Mr Masher.

Early this morning I rode the Daytona to that London. I took the cross-country route; down the A5, through Towcester and Milton Keynes (got lost there), and on down through Leighton Buzzard, Tring, Elstree, Hendon, Brent Cross, Baker Street, Oxford Street and finally to Buckingham Palace Road.

I met the very lovely S in Pret; we talked, then walked and talked and suddenly found ourselves on the south bank near St Thomas’ Hospital and run out of time because the hours had flown by.

I legged it back to Victoria, hopped on the Daytona and zipped through the London traffic along Embankment, to Borough Market.

The bloody lovely L arrived just as I had found somewhere to park; we went to a trendy eaterie and had something that was vaguely Spanish to eat. Almost straight away the hours had evaporated and it was time to go.

I navigated the Daytona across to Blackfriars Bridge, then north through Ludgate Circus, Farringdon, past Sadler’s Wells, Islington, Highbury, Holloway Road, Archway, Highgate,  Finchley, and on to the M1 at Copthall. then to Luton.

Mr Masher made all the right kind of noises about the Daytona, and then he made me a cup of tea. We sat and talked and then I was invited in to his Amazing Den Of Geekery (as it shall be known henceforth).

After a period of intense jealousy, I got back on the Daytona and travelled home.

And now it’s approaching 11pm and I’m tucked up in bed, thinking about a good day out with friends, an excellent day on a bike, and the wonderful, very distinctive noise that the Daytona’s triple-cylinder engine makes.

It goes a bit like this:


Not really making an end of year list

31st December 2013

Lists are popping up on Facebook. And on Twitter.

In both Real Life and Virtual Life, there are conversations that mention resolutions.

And changes.

And goals.

Some people have been looking back at the last twelve months and assessing what went well for them; what they’ll try to do differently in the next twelve.

This morning, on my drive in to work, I spent the time thinking about the year that’s ending today.

This time last year I said I would move house within the next 12 months.

Got that right.

I also said it wouldn’t be a local move; would be a significant move to a different part of the country.

Got that right too.

I said that I’d like to teach myself new skills, and enhance other abilities that I had some (but could be better) knowledge of.

I’ve achieved these things too; have become more immersed in building database functionality, become reasonably skilled at debugging other people’s problems, learned how to build forums and improve front-end usability (though none of my experiences/skills in these things come close to being on a par with Punctuation, who is just awesome).

I’m very lucky to have tapped in to the creative, but non-technical, nature of one friend in particular. It was her ideas that drove me to sit up well in to the night for a week or two, learning the technical things I had to get to grips with, to enable me to help her achieve her ideas.

I was also very lucky that my previous contract was in Oxford, half an hour from where I lived in Witney.

I’m unbelievably lucky that my current (soon ending) contract is less than half an hour away from where I moved to, and that I was able to start work the day after I moved here!

And I have *loved* my work so much, in 2013.

As far as other skills go, in the last couple of months I have been getting back in to writing and video production, through working on a series of very short scripted/staged character films.

I plan on shooting and editing these, just as soon as I have finished building the set. And that’s a new thing to attempt, too!

Video and audio editing skills have been revisited, through the randomly free-form HelmetCam edits.

So, what will the next twelve months bring?

Hmm, there are a few things that come to mind.

I’m going to continue building on, and improving, the breadth and depth of my technical skills.

There is a portfolio of tasks I want to be able to do, I’m not going to be content with having just a few abilities; I want to learn how to do the whole thing, not just a bit of it.

And I’m more than likely going to buy another motorbike; the Triumph Dayton 955i that I’ve been lusting after.

I may well move house again.

There will be a new contract, or possibly two (because that’s the nature of the line of work I do).

And I haven’t had a real holiday in two years; I love the thought of putting this situation right!

I like the idea of a road trip.

Maybe on the VFR. Maybe on the Daytona.

I need to think hard on this, but I do love the idea of a (relatively) leisurely motorbike trip down to Andalusia.

As I said, I need to think on this, but I do have a few ideas.

One thing’s for sure though, in the last year the kindness and limitless generosity of friends has amazed me.

And I have much to thank one particular friend for.

She has pushed, niggled, supported, carried, nagged, and encouraged me in so many different areas.

She has made my life a better place. And she has made me a better person. And she has made me smile a lot.

Who knows what 2014 will bring (spares a thought for the Mayan supporters who are now 24 months past the end of the world)?

But whatever does happen in the next twelve months, I hope you have a great year.

It’s going to be an interesting time, that’s for sure.

The cloak of vulnerability

I had a visit, earlier this evening, from a removal man. He’s going to give me a quote for moving the contents of this house from this town to Rugby.

That’s probably because I’ve found a house up there that I really like, and I’m trying to get it.

I seem to have had a row with a friend. I am confused and hurt by this, in equal measures.

My propensity for fuckups not withstanding, I thought this relationship was incapable of being damaged even by my trademark butterfingers approach to building strong bonds.

I’m a bit down, about this, to be frank.

No unfunny jokes about being Frank or Earnest, please.

Anyway, in other news…

This weekend I was having a slightly drunken conversation with a friend about people we know on Twitter.

And by that I mean people we follow on Twitter, not just people-we-know-in-the-flesh who are on Twitter.

We came to the conclusion that there are a couple of people we follow – who we have followed for a few years – that have changed.

And because they’ve changed, their Twitter voice has changed.

They have become someone other than the people we originally followed.

Their (now) strident and cacklingly intolerant voices are unpleasant.

They have become less pleasant people.

Less pleasant ‘to know’.

And also, they have become unpleasant to ‘listen to’.

Which is a shame.

They used to be nice people.

And now…?


But people change, right?

Things occur in their lives and, as a result, they become someone else.

A lot of things have occurred in my life.

Some pleasant, some unpleasant.

And yet I honestly believe that I’m still me.

Still true to me.

My beliefs.

My values.

I think I still retain the essence of the person I was ten years ago.

Twenty years ago.

I’m comfortable with my feelings, and this shroud of emotions and sensitivities still feels like a second skin.

I guess this is why I am confused and hurt.

Because I have had a row.

With a friend.

With someone I care about.

Blogathon 22/13 Decisions!




photo editor, can you change this picture please!






Tonight is, apparently, a ‘boys night out’.

There will be three of us. Two are due to arrive at my house at 7pm; we shall go out and eat and drink and be merry.

The two will stay the night at my house.

We could confine our activities to an evening in town, or we could get ourselves in to Oxford.

I’m thinking of an evening in town: Blue Boar, Company of Weavers, Hollybush, Eagle Tavern, and maybe The Fleece?

I need to make up the beds for my guests.

Or I could cancel – because of a crippling but temporary illness – and have a quiet night in with a mug of hot chocolate,  a plate of pasta and a DVD?


Decisions, decisions.

Blogathon 9/13 Morbid?

I’m going to update the list, below, as time progresses, and some items will get struck off, but remain as a matter of record, as I try to bring the list down to a manageable number of tracks…

In August 2011 I went to the funeral/cremation of a member of my team.

Grant Burke was a keen motorcyclist, a mad cricketer (in both senses of the phrase), and an online gaming weirdo.

He was also wonderfully sarcastic, bitingly scathing of our politicians, and he would support the underdog until he had no breath left.

Grant had the weirdest taste in music, coupled with an awesome sense of humour and, if you haven’t guessed yet, it was Grant who, over the course of a year of working together, encouraged me back in to motorcycling.

His funeral music included ‘Dreadlock Holiday’ by 10cc for his ‘intro’.

At the conclusion of the service we filed out to the distinctly (but pleasantly) jarring (given the circumstances) instrumental strain of the BBCs Test Match Special.

In between these two pieces, there were other – equally oddball – choices.

And there was dancing. And there was much laughter.

And there were tears.

My point is that Grant’s musical choices for his own funeral/cremation served to underline his larger-than-life (in a John Goodman kind of way) personality.

I hadn’t given the subject of funeral musical any further thought, until recently.

I was having ‘one of those’ deeply intense conversations with someone, recently, when she raised the subject of musical choices, for her funeral.

My first thought was ‘she’s clearly mental!’ (true), but then I remembered Grant, and recalled his musical choices, and what he had done for his friends, his family and his colleagues.

The smiles. The tears. The dancing.

She had a point, my friend, a similar point to the one that Grant had so eloquently made.

I made an effort to listen to her choices; there was much of her character in them.

And as I listened I started to wonder what my music might be.

Inevitably, I began a list.

It quickly grew in to a long list. I’m talking about a very long list indeed!

The first draft was:

  • Ennio Morricone, Per Qualche Dollaro In Piu (for the walk-in)
  • Aimee Mann, Deathly
  • The Winchell Riots, Kandahar Road
  • Missy Higgins, The Special Two
  • Muse, Hysteria
  • Norwegian Recycling, The Pachelbel Mashup
  • The Smiths, There Is A Light That Never Goes Out
  • Anemo, Heaven is Waiting?
  • Arcade Fire, Keep The Car Running
  • The Birdinumnums, Little Libertine
  • Buddy Guy, Feels Like Rain
  • The Candle Thieves, We’re All Gonna Die (Have Fun)
  • Dan Black, Hypntz
  • DJ Shadow, Organ Donor
  • Deer Chicago, Frozen Globe, Freezing Teeth
  • Deer Chicago, Quite Like A Tide
  • Elvis Costello, I Don’t Want To Go To Chelsea
  • The Epstein, Dance The Night Away
  • The Calling, Wherever You Will Go

To this list got added Phil McMinn’s awesomely beautiful ‘The House You Built From The Wreckage’.

And that, logically, led me to check that ‘Kandahar Road’ by The Winchell Riots had been included (it had, obv), which, in turn, led me straight back to the eye-wateringly, delicate and wonderfully fragile ‘Lavender Hill’ by (once again) Phil McMinn.

Now some of you might think that 21 tracks for a funeral might be slightly excessive, but from the first notes of the walk-in piece of Per Qualche Dollaro In Piu, I dare you not to raise a smile.

Particularly when you see the congregation dressed as American Indians.

(well, maybe not, but they are in my head)

And I haven’t even got any Pink in there yet.

Or Paramore!

The file-out piece, though, is likely to be ‘Comfortably Numb’ by Pink Floyd.

Because that would be apt.

Two brilliant guitar solos in one song.

It would be impossible not to wear a smile after that.

But tell me, despite my list being (currently) infeasibly long, if you were to choose the soundtrack to your own farewell…

what would you include?






So, the (almost) final list:

  • Ennio Morricone, Per Qualche Dollaro In Piu (for the walk-in)
  • The Winchell Riots, Kandahar Road
  • The Smiths, There Is A Light That Never Goes Out
  • Anemo, Heaven is Waiting?
  • The Birdinumnums, Little Libertine
  • The Candle Thieves, We’re All Gonna Die (Have Fun)
  • Deer Chicago, Frozen Globe, Freezing Teeth
  • The Calling, Wherever You Will Go
  • Lavender Hill, Phil McMinn
  • Pink Floyd, Comfortably Numb (walk out)

Ponies and stuff

Accompanying five attractive young ladies to the London International Horse Show at Olympia is just one of those, you know, ‘it’s a dirty job but someone’s got to do it’, kind of things.

So yesterday I took my bravery pills, drove to Oxford, jumped on a train and headed in to that London, to do that thing.

We had a giggle.

There was the inevitable amount of piss-taking (Clare and Tor taking the piss out of me, obv), and laughs and oohs and aahs and gossip (so much gossip!) and champagne.

We also got to watch some very talented ponies (horses) jump staggering heights (said someone who starts to get nervy above 1.25m).

And it was fun to meet up with a bunch of fiends friends and have a chuckle.

The time is now rapidly approaching 2am and I should be asleep but my head is still winding down.

So I’ll pootle about on the internet for a while.

And then fall asle……

The people closest, count the most

Human nature is a funny thing. We are, by definition, caring, deeply compassionate creatures.

We have the capacity to feel huge amounts of empathy for those involved in tragedies so far away.

Tsunami victims in the far east.

Mass gun crime victims in the US.

So many losses.

So many wasted lives.

Similarly, the annual Remembrance Day service affects a large number of us.

Every year, on Remembrance Day, I shed a tear for friends/former colleagues who are no longer around. I think of them, occasionally, throughout the year, but the poignancy of the Remembrance service somehow magnifies my emotions, and for a few moments I’ll get a bit teary.

However, no matter how caring, no matter how compassionate any of us are, unfortunate events closer to us have a much stronger impact.

This weekend my thoughts are with my friend and former instructor, William, his wife and their children, and my other, dear friend [name withheld]

William was recently admitted to hospital with minor pain. Investigation discovered massive amounts of cancer. He has had more surgery in the last few weeks than most of us will ever experience. He continues to cling on, but the latest surgery was to relieve spinal pressure. This moves his condition to a very critical level. I fear for him. I hope for the best for the family, but things don’t look hopeful. And I am sad for the inevitable.

My friend [name withheld] is going through a less terminal, but equally painful mental and emotional world of pain. The end of her marriage.

I wrote here a very long time ago that the end of a relationship is like a bereavement.

She has two small children, my friend, and a demanding professional life. Yet she has carried her marriage and her children almost single-handedly for years. She is afraid of the future, but the truth is that the future will bring her more freedom, not less. Though it is difficult for her to see the truth, right now. She can only see uncertainty, and the fear of the unknown. And emotional pain.

I sit here and think about these two people; people I know so well, people I call friends, people I love.

And my heart goes out to them and their families.

I wish I could do things for them.

I wish I could help.

Mental as

For a weekend that started off with no real plan, it has been a brilliant yet very active few days.

Saturday included the usual household/laundry chores, plus a trip to the tack shop to buy Vin a new stable rug, and a trip to Sainsbury’s to replenish food stocks.

And a trip to the cinema to see Gambit (3/5, awesome cast, baggy plot).

And long chats with my daughter.

And long, long, long chats with a couple of friends who are going through various transitions in their lives.

These things seem to be a bit like buses. Nothing for ages and then three or four relationship problems all at once.

One has been made trickier because I feel a great connection with one of my friends in particular. It was only a year ago that my own marriage failed. And I am sensitive to my friend’s predicament, and sensitive to this time of year.

I also spent some time firming up my plan to spend Christmas and New Year somewhere else. Anywhere else.  I just don’t want to spend Christmas and New Year here.

Sunday involved picking up a friend from Thornhill Park & Ride, taking a trip out to see (and throw carrots at) Vin, a quick flip back home to show off the palatial home (hahaha), and then a drive in to Oxford for lunch.

We ate at Brown’s in Oxford Market. Brown’s (sic) is the home of the misplaced apostrophe. Or the menu is.

After eating we walked through Oxford, gawping at people and getting a little culturish and vulturish.

I may have talked some deliberately misleading bullshit about one or two of the colleges. But that’s alright. They deserve it.

Oh, and no, Jesus didn’t actually go to college there.

This evening I’ve come in, unloaded the washing machine, tried and failed to deal with a couple of emails and talked to my daughter and two friends.

Fell asleep on the couch, briefly.

And now, like a dragon in his den, I’m out.

It’s a mini adventure!

One of these weeks I’m going to get a weekend that is peaceful, relaxing and, you know, involves doing absolutely nothing…

I’m working. I’ve been awake since 4.30am and up since 4.45am.

It’s a Very Big Weekend workwise, with stuff going on 24/7 from Friday evening up until Sunday afternoon.

Stress and sleep don’t fit together too well.

Anyway enough about that.

This evening I’m going to the premiere of ‘Shift’, a film made by the uber-talented Ash. Yes, I have work-related reporting milestones this evening too, but I’m confident I can juggle.

But, due to a couple of factors (1. the fantastic weather forecast for the weekend and 2. the film premiere being in that London), I have, at this late stage, decided to turn the weekend in to a mini-adventure.

Later today I shall pack my rucksack, jump on the Bandit and wend my way to London – on the backroads, not on the motorway.

After a couple of hours, I shall pitch up in the general area where the film is being shown.

I’ve booked a room at a nearby hostelry, so I may have a glass or two of lemonade this evening.

And tomorrow morning, head clear and fresh, I shall potter my way back to last Sunday morning’s venue – the Ace Cafe in north London – for another gargantuan All Day Breakfast.

Then get back home to crack on with the work stuff.

This is my plan.

I shall try to make it so.