Finding Time

As a few might have noticed, I’ve returned to WordPress. This had absolutely nothing to do with platforms – more about separation of concerns. I needed to use Substack for something else, and would rather have something of a dividing wall between my personal blog, and other endeavours.

So what have I been up to in my absence?

I started a damn fool escapade on the internet a few weeks ago, and it exploded in popularity – turning from a few minutes of my time into a full time second job. I’m doing it of my own volition though, so I only have myself to complain to.

I was up until 3am last night trying to find out what was eating disk space on a web server – this after going round in circles trying to find out why on earth something was failing – before realising the software was lying to me.

Today I spent the majority of the day at my youngest daughter’s school – running a second hand book stall to help raise funds for the school. I ran the stall for the better part of three hours – greeting parents and children and attempting to part them with their money. While I sold books, my other half ran the perenially popular “lucky dip”, and “hook a duck” games.

While setting the book stall up a man approached with his daughter, and spied a collection of perhaps 100 issues of a popular comic – obviously somebody’s entire collection. He initially bought 10 issues, before returning later to take a second look. I offered him the entire collection for quite a small amount of money, and he said something that made me smile – “I’ll never get away with it”. He wasn’t buying them for his children at all.

Anyway.

It’s nice to be back. As time allows, I will try to catch up with some of the blogs I follow – to find out what you’ve been up to.

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Midnight is my Friend

Here I am again, sitting in front of the computer in the dead of night, only too aware that I haven’t posted for several days. The world just seems to be getting away from me at the moment – I’m not sure if I’m just trying to be involved in too many things, or if I’m not pedalling fast enough.

I can’t help reminding myself of a message I’ve seen written by several friends recently – that it’s ok not to chase your own tail – that it’s ok to say no – that there is value in slowing down.

There are so many things I want to do though. I end up laughing at myself – I have always been my own worst enemy.

Last night we went out to a fund-raiser at the infant school where my other half works – propping up the “staff table”. It was supposed to be a quiz, but involved little or no knowledge. One of the rounds involved identifying the flavour of jelly beans. On the way home I opined that this is the future – whether we like it or not. Generations are coming through where the majority seem to have have no knowledge about anything much in the world. If they haven’t seen something on Facebook, Tiktok, or their friends haven’t texted them about it, they have no clue. The traditional subjects – history, geography, science, nature, art – you may as well be asking them to write out the equations of motion.

One particular table at the fund raiser stunned us by leaving a considerable amount of rubbish, empty bottles and food wrappers strewn across their table and the floor when they left. Because of course we were there to clean up after them. What is it with some people thinking the rest of the world is there to serve them? How conceited are they?

While walking home – furious with the many small slights that had mounted up throughout the night – I had to remind myself that none of it really mattered. Less than half a world away, a catastrophe is being discovered – with evidence that the retreating army of a superpower have massacred civilians en-masse.

I will admit that in recent weeks I’ve wondered what the point of it all is – this life thing – when you could be cut down tomorrow. Why do we strive, hope, dream, or even attempt to build when a hostile adversary can invade, kill, and destroy with wanton abandon? How do soldiers of any army reconcile their actions? How do they live with what they have done? Can people really be conditioned to such an extent that they become machines without conscience ? Sadly experience of conflict around the world seems to tell me they can.

Suddenly the method I use to get from one day to the next seems like a good one – putting one foot in front of the other. When the world seems a little too big, and a little too loud, concentrating on putting one foot in front of the other works well. It gets me from today to tomorrow – and tomorrow it will get me to the next day.

The real trick is finding somebody to walk alongside while finding my way from today to tomorrow. I’m lucky enough to count several such people in my sort-of-secret group of far flung friends on the internet. We might not message each other every day, but when we do, the world becomes a little bit smaller, and a little bit easier to survive.

Becoming Santa Claus

After a night of broken sleep – caused no doubt by the COVID booster injection I received yesterday afternoon – I got up this morning and set out on a rather important mission.

A little after 9am I entered the gates of the infant school in the centre of town, and was ushered through reception by the staff to a side room where a large bag awaited me. A large bag containing warm red clothes with white fur edging, an enormous belt, a huge floppy red hat with a white pom-pom on the end, enormous shiny black boots, a lustrous white beard, curly white hair, and a tiny pair of reading spectacles.

Five minutes later a member of staff returned to fetch the important guest, and the awaiting parent helpers gasped. Santa Claus himself had arrived in the school hall to take up position in a cosy armchair by the Christmas tree, surrounded by sacks of presents.

At this point the school fell into a well practiced routine that had been briefed several days previously. Santa Claus would be asleep in the chair, with an elf at his feet. The children of the infant school would assemble in the hall silently (to not wake him), and sing a Christmas song to wake him up.

Santa waited until the third line before rousing from my slumber, rubbed his eyes, blinked, and… oh my word. The power of several hundred young children’s faces smiling is really quite special. One or two of them waved secretly – peeking out from behind friend’s shoulders. Mr Claus waved back to delighted smiles.

Moments later there were sacks full of presents being handed to volunteers from each class – with very proud little ones marching forwards to receive them.

As the children filed back out to their classrooms they stole more smiles and waves – a steady stream of happiness, goodwill, and whispered excitement. After everything had died down, a young lady with special needs came forward to meet Santa on her own – hiding behind her teacher’s legs, and peeking out after a few moments to wave.

You know the funny thing? When I agreed to take this on, I really wasn’t sure about doing it. I don’t find being the centre of attention easy. And yet it WAS easy, because I wasn’t “me” – I was Santa Claus. I’m sure actors can write at length about hiding inside the part they are playing.

On the way home my daughter (who played an Elf, visiting from the North Pole with me) said:

“How did you do that Santa voice?”

“What do you mean?”

“Well it sounded just like Santa!”

“That’s because it WAS Santa!”

A huge smile cracked across her face, and we carried on along our way.

Ignoring the Thoughtless Idiots

It’s early on Sunday evening, the kids are hidden in various corners of the house – their noses inevitably buried in phones – and dinner is bubbling away on top of the cooker. Chicken curry this evening – designed mostly to burn the cold virus out of our youngest daughter.

We all went to a school fundraiser yesterday evening – a “Bingo Night” at our youngest’s school. I found myself torn during the evening between valuing the school raising funds, and one team in particular pretty much destroying the raffle for everybody else.

We arrived early – to help setup the hall. One of the school staff members asked if I could re-arrange the tables to make room for a group of 12 that were expected. Here’s where it gets interesting – most families that bought raffle tickets bought a strip of five tickets per person. The group of twelve bought at least five strips per person. When the raffle was finally drawn, the inevitable happened – with the big table winning again, and again, and again.

They kept on cheering.

I had to tell myself that the school had raised lots of funds from them, so nobody could complain, but for the children on every other table in the room it kind of destroyed any chance they had of winning anything – and that made me a bit sad.

I’ve seen it happen once before. Not long after our children started at infant school we went to a fundraising dinner, and a particular table bought most of the raffle tickets. As they won prize after prize they laughed hilariously at their cleverness. Thankfully that event didn’t include any children, so the rest of the room just rolled their eyes and quietly filed everybody at the table away as colossal arseholes.

Anyway.

Dinner will be ready in a bit – we’re just waiting for the rice to cook. I imagine the rest of the evening will be filled with writing, rubbish TV, and a few retro video games. I’ve resurrected the Raspberry Pi, filled with inumerable arcade machines from the early 1980s.

Anybody for a game of pacman ?

Quiz City

This evening I performed the role of “Quiz Master” for a quiz with the staff and families of the school where my other half works. We used “Zoom”, and I created a presentation for the quiz as a webpage – with controls to flick through the questions, and to turn the answers on and off. We had six rounds of ten questions, and a picture round for fun in the middle.

It went really well. So well, infact, that several people shouted out “let’s do it again next week!”, and I quietly groaned – because that means coming up with another 60 questions. I had not realised before how difficult it might be to come up with questions that covered both adults and children, and that would allow most people to get at least half to three quarters of the questions right.

I’ve done charity quizes in the past for friends where the questions were horrifically difficult – and by the end of the night you really didn’t care any more. I figured you have to let people do well enough that they don’t lose interest.

I think the questions were judged about right. I will admit to doing a dummy run through the quiz with a friend in Australia yesterday – just to double check it.

This evening I took part in “The Big Nerd Pub Quiz” on YouTube with the rest of my family. It seems during lock-down we have taken to doing these kinds of activities instead of watching TV. The Big Nerd Pub Quiz is run by a guy in Ireland, and he broadcasts in the evening – so lunchtime for the US – with various quizzes during the week. He’s doing a special Star Wars quiz on May 4th, if you’re interested – find him on YouTube.

Anyway. I’m all quizzed out. I’m going to go play some video games, then fall into bed.