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Life

The Dying of the Light

After noticing dusk had fallen a few minutes ago I wandered into the garden to get the washing in, and was met by a wall of cold air. While unpegging clothes and folding them into the basket I listened to the birds singing their twilight song, and smiled at the huffing of a hedgehog somewhere in the undergrowth nearby.

There’s something tremendously peaceful about the dying of the light, and the effect it has on the world around us. Darkness seems to fall like a quiet blanket over the world, and everything in it. Well – everything except the teenagers listening to music in their car several streets away.

I imagine older people will be complaining to each other about the music – forgetting they were young once, and also forgetting that the reason they sit in their car is because previous generations have systematically opposed any and all provision for young people in the town.

When I first moved here – twenty years ago – there were plans in place to build a civic centre with a bowling alley, a cinema, a club, and so on. The town planners rejected it – instead allowing a developer to turn the site into luxury apartments that stood empty for years because nobody could afford them. There were also plans to build a sports arena – they too were rejected because house prices of senior members of the council would have been affected.

They say coffee shops are an indicator of wealth arriving in an area. A portent of sorts. There are at least five coffee shops in the centre of town now – all within a single scooter push of each other. A town where you can buy any variety of international coffee bean in a cardboard cup, and yet you can no longer buy a washing up bowl, a mug, or a kettle. It has nothing to do with the internet – it has everything to do with wealth, property owners, extortionate leaseholds, and greed.

I can’t help feeling the town is going the same way as a town I grew up near. When I was young it was a busy, thriving place filled with young families. By the time I left it had become a single road lined with antique shops and restaurants, and an almost entirely aged, retired community.

I wonder what causes people to lose sight of everything and everybody around them? What causes them to focus on their own aspirations above and beyond anything else? Will they ever realise that their wish for “a quiet life” eventually means no young families, no parks, no shops, no social gatherings, and the eventual destruction of the town they once knew and liked?

For what it’s worth, I have the windows open, and I’m playing music. Music that somebody, somewhere will probably be complaining about.

In other news, after dinner this evening I sat with my eldest daughter and watched the movie “Freedom Writers”. I’ve seen it before, and I’m now wondering if some movies systematically take us apart – ripping away a different piece of us each time we watch them. Each viewing becomes more difficult.

Categories
Life

Rediscovering the Tribe

The last few days have served as a reminder of how wonderful the blogging tribe has become. I’m not talking about the niche food, fashion, or lifestyle bloggers – they can go fall off their marketing tricycle and graze their knees – I’m talking about those of us that have been committing our daily stories to the keyboard for the last twenty years.

The term “blogger” means many things to many people. By turns we can be autobiographers, citizen journalists, soap-box campaigners, armchair psychologists, social commentators, and even historians. The best of us don’t push a brand, a product, or a way to live a life – we tell our own story.

I have a quote by Norah Ephron printed on a piece of paper above my desk:

One of the most delicious things about the profoundly parasitical world of blogs is that you don’t have to have anything much to say. Or you just have to have a little tiny thing to say. You just might want to say hello. I’m here. And by the way. On the other hand. Nevertheless. Did you see this? Whatever. A blog is sort of like an exhale. What you hope is that whatever you’re saying is true for about as long as you’re saying it. Even if it’s not much.

She had such a way with words.

I sometimes notice others striving to emulate the style of their literary heroes – I’ve never done that. I tend to think we should find our own way – find our own voice. While it’s true that reading influences the style and selection of words we write, I have always admired those that say more with less.

I’ve distracted myself from the original intent of this post. It’s a skill. I’m good at it. It ranks right up there with walking into the kitchen to make a coffee, and clearing the sink, emptying the dishwasher, and taking the recycling out before switching the kettle on.

The tribe. Us. The writers.

We may be quiet, and we may be passed over by many, but we are here, we are numerous, and we persist. We will continue to wield our words against the world that shapes us, and we will continue to find each other at the most unlikely times, and in the most unexpected places.

We are bloggers.

Categories
Life

Asshatpocalypse

Lockdown has partly come to an end in the UK – not that some people took any notice of it what-so-ever. Pubs, restaurants, and shops re-open today, albeit with all manner of social distancing and safeguarding rules.

I think I’ll stay the hell away from town for at least another six months. I’m going to predict the third wave will happen, and it will be driven by the same asshats that caused the second wave.

It appears some people have a massive disassociation in their brain – where what they want to do doesn’t correlate with guidance, rules, or law. Their immediate wants or needs outweigh everybody and everything else around them. You might call them selfish, ignorant, unthinking, or just plain assholes. The pandemic didn’t create them – they were here all along – it’s just their blind self-interest didn’t affect others so much in the past.

Anyway. Deep breaths.

I have the week off. When I looked out of the bedroom window at 7am this morning, snow was falling. I grinned, and wondered if that was just nature’s way of sticking it’s fingers up at me. I imagine by dinner time we’ll have fire, brimstone, and plagues of something or other.

Categories
Life

Midnight

I started writing this at one minute past midnight on Friday night. I suppose it’s really Saturday, but I tend to count it as the day before until I wake up the next day.

I spent much of the evening reinstalling my middle daughter’s computer (the somewhat famous computer labelled “Trigger’s Broom”). It now has an SSD sitting quietly inside it. I had hoped to upgrade the memory too, but I need to do some research first.

It’s been a very, very quiet week here – helped by endless quantities of rain falling from the sky, and a somewhat enormous lack of enthusiasm throughout the house.

I’m still receiving endless follows on WordPress from business accounts. It kind of makes sense – WordPress has been heading towards the website hosting game for a very long time. Their page design tools lean heavily towards small businesses, and increasingly away from writers. I wonder if the Tumblr acquisition wasn’t quite so mad after all – if Automattic knew their plans for WordPress (obviously they did), they would have also known an exodus would happen when those writing journals or diaries became disenfranchised. Tumblr gives an obvious route away from the shop front.

I miss the way the web used to be – the way blogs were when they first appeared. All you needed was a small corner of your own, and support for RSS to help others follow a diverse spectrum of writers. Over time the various solutions turned into platforms, and then into silos. Slowly but surely they either pivoted towards the business world (WordPress), stagnated (Blogger), or died (LiveJournal). Granted, LiveJournal still exists, but it’s an empty shell of the mighty mindshare juggernaut it once was.

I know a lot of people hate email based journals, but I kind of love them. I wonder if the haters live quite happily within silos, and have learned to take advantage of their captive audience. It reminds me of Plato’s allegory of “The Cave”. Those that have only ever known the world of publishing platforms cannot easily appreciate the vast world that lives beyond their borders – that they might embrace it – that they might find kindred spirits out there. It’s hard work though – hiking through the paths less trodden. Existing within a platform is easy, safe, and comfortable.

Anyway.

I’m starting to sound judgemental. I don’t mean to be. I’m just emptying my head. Take no notice.

p.s. don’t even get me started about the race condition in the WordPress blog editor that has existed for at least two years now – where publishing fails, and can only be fixed by refreshing the page – losing your tags and photo selection in the process.

Categories
Life

Unused Holiday, Rain, and Fake Followers

It’s been a strange sort of day – and it isn’t over yet.

After a very strange dream that I can’t remember a lot about any more I slid out of bed at about 8am, had a shower, shave, brushed my teeth, got dressed, and wandered into the junk room to begin work. On Tuesday mornings we have an “all hands that can make it” video call – just to say hi to each other – to combat sitting alone at home for hours on end.

I made a comment about perhaps taking a few days off this week (it’s half term), and spending time with my daughters. Within a couple of hours of the call a holiday request had gone in – and by this afternoon had been approved. It kind of makes sense – there are projects afoot at work, and when they begin the chance for time off will vanish – much as it did for the last year, leading to the mountain of untaken holiday still sitting there.

It’s still raining. By my reckoning, apart from a brief bit of sunshine on Saturday morning, it’s rained pretty consistently for the last twenty years. I should really see about building a boat out of what’s left of the shed. I checked the weather forecast earlier – there’s a 60% chance of rain all-day every-day throughout the week.

It’s “pancake day” in the UK today. I’m not sure if the kids have found out yet. If they do, one or other of us will find themselves standing in the kitchen for an hour later, pouring batter into a frying pan, trying to look like we know what we’re doing.

I wonder who invented pancake day? I wonder if it has something to do with an overrun of milk somewhere, and a crafty scheme to get lots of people to use theirs up ?

In other news, a lot of people have started following my blog at WordPress just recently – 99% of them marketers and business owners. They follow, never read, and never comment. I wonder what they think they achieve when they follow blogs? According to the stats, across Tumblr and WordPress I have several thousand followers. In reality, I have about twenty regular readers, and of those, only two or three interact in any meaningful way.

It’s lies, damn lies, and statistics.

I read a post by somebody I know fairly well on Tumblr recently about being dropped and blocked by friends online. I used to really take it to heart when people either unfollowed or blocked me, but have slowly hardened up over the years. I suppose I came to realise that somebody falling off the radar is rarely about those they follow. I miss a lot of people who don’t post any more – more than they know. I sometimes wonder about reaching out, but then talk myself out of doing so just as quickly.

Anyway.

I think I might need to go and find the packet of cheap chocolate biscuits, and put the kettle on. For reasons.

Categories
Life

A Mental Health Walk

I walked into town after lunch with two of my daughters – a “mental health walk” – an escape from the walls that have been our prisoner for several weeks. It was good to get out of the house, if only for an hour.

We walked to the big park in town – mostly curious to take a look at the river that burst it’s banks last week. It’s receding now, but that hasn’t stopped the ducks and swans from taking ownership of a huge swathe of the riverbank. I quietly walked up to some of the swans, who showed no fear at all – walking slowly towards me as I approached. My eldest daughter backed away, making worried noises – she had a run in with a swan a few years ago while trying to take a picture of it.

The park was mostly quiet – predictable, given that it was a weekday – but also because it was so cold. After leaving the house snow began falling, and got heavier during the time we were out – beginning to settle on the ground. By the time we got home my face had become numb.

It was good to get out though. The cold weather seemed to remove the idiots that think the Corona Virus doesn’t apply to them. It’s strange how some people are more fearful of the cold than a deadly pandemic.

I found myself in an online debate of sorts with a particular kind of idiot last night, and something occurred to me. The people that complain about political bias, unfair reporting, and support conspiracy theories tend to do so because they have actively chosen to narrow the opinions they take notice of to those they agree with. It’s helped along by the very same algorithmic timeline they also complain about – because they fear missing out on anything. Figure that out – they fear missing out on the very same stories they don’t want to see.

Anyway.

It’s getting late, and I have a meeting first thing tomorrow. I need to sleep.

Categories
Life

And, Exhale

I watched the inauguration of Joe Biden as the new President of the United States yesterday evening, and then fell down an internet rabbit hole this morning watching Angela Gorman and Katy Perry on YouTube.

It feels like the United States has suddenly exhaled – and much of the rest of the world has too. While watching footage of the celebrations yesterday evening across America, I remembered news coverage of the election, and of a young mother celebrating in the street with her daughter as Biden was projected the winner – with tears streaming down her face.

It turns out hope is pretty damn emotive.

Of course it’s easy to think of those I know – who so wished for this outcome – as “everybody”. We have to remember that seventy million people voted for none of this to happen. I guess it’s their turn to suck it up. I do wonder if the Trump experiment will stop any sort of republican get into power for a very long time though. People have long memories.

Over here, after having a conservative government for many years, several generations of younger people eventually forced change, and we ended up with a socialist government for the better part of a decade. Of course now those younger people have gotten older, earned their money, and no longer want to share it – they have become conservative, and now don’t want any part of the socialism they pined for during their youth.

I remember my Grandfather once telling me that politics goes in cycles every eight or ten years – that history repeats itself again and again – that change is driven by the young.

I’ve never quite understood why people feel the need to take sides in any sort of debate. I sometimes watch political debates on TV, or read news stories, and wonder quite what happens to people – to fall in step with their “gang”. It reminds me a lot of people with faith in the various religions – being told what to believe, what to think, what to value.

What happened to people having their own mind? What happened to watching, reading, and deciding for yourself?

I think the most maddening thing I commonly see is people complaining that the news is biased – when what they really mean is “anything that doesn’t agree with what I think is biased”.

Anyway.

While writing this, a little voice perched on my shoulder, whispering “you shouldn’t really write about politics and religion, you know”…

Categories
Life

Loud Thoughts on a Quiet Weekend

It’s been very quiet indeed around here for the last few days. After a scare mid-week where my youngest daughter had to do a COVID test, we have stayed holed up in the house for almost the entire time. I walked to the supermarket last night to get groceries, but other than that we have gone nowhere and done nothing.

I’m beginning to understand what Stir Crazy really means.

Of course the huge distraction this week has been history unfolding in America – and I’ve been trying to do my usual fence sitting act – to read and watch a variety of news sources. It’s so hard – trying to have any empathy at all for those I know that think of themselves as republican. Their ideals and values pretty much go against everything I know – and yet I try not to say anything untoward.

While reading an interview yesterday expressing disbelief that so many people believe the stream of lies, falsehoods, and fraud coming from so many in positions of power, I couldn’t help thinking about all the religious people I know, and thinking how two faced everybody is. How is believing in election fraud any different than believing in a magical creator figure in the sky that gets credit for anything good, and is escaped from the argument for anything bad?

People believe what they want to believe, and there’s nothing we can really do about it.

The world is just tremendously broken. Perhaps we’re fortunate that it doesn’t go spectacularly wrong more often.

Categories
Life

Sushi

It’s our eldest daughter’s birthday today. Somehow she is 20 years old. I still think of her as the unsure 7 year old that walked through our door thirteen years ago, after two years wading through the endless red tape of the adoption process. We have found a sushi place that delivers, so have splashed out – I can’t remember the last time we had food delivered to the house.

In other news, the country looks like it’s heading back into lockdown – driven mostly by legions of idiots that don’t seem to be able to follow simple instructions from the government. The same people are complaining that the government are clueless morons. I’ve thought more than once about quietly pointing out that three quarters of those complaining voted for those they are complaining about. I doubt that would go down very well.

Sometimes it’s better to keep your mouth shut, and watch the deck of the ship you’re standing on get set alight by those around you. Of course it’s not everybody. The vast majority are similarly furious. It’s the old story – a small minority ruin almost everything for almost everybody.

Oh. I’ve gone back to using the Bullet Journal, after playing with a Filofax for a few weeks. It turns out if you’re working from home all the time, you don’t really need to plan anything that far ahead – but having a day-to-day record of what you did, along with thoughts and ideas is pretty useful.

Anyway. Coffee. I need a coffee. And some music. And some sushi.