I think I’m officially decrepit…

The other evening I dropped in to the local Asda on the way home from the office in order to purchase the stuff that I was advised at my ‘Well Man’ appointment this morning to avoid; bread, danish pastries, sausage rolls…the stuff that makes life life and not existence…

Anyway, there is a problem with the way in which shelves in the fridge are filled up; they’re so tightly stuffed that it’s almost impossible to get things out. Whether this is a genuine problem with the shelving process or whether it’s a further symptom of my inability to cope with the modern world, I have no idea, but for whatever reason I decided that I could extract a a pack of Enchiladas one handed.

I realised that this was an error of judgment on my part when I managed to extract the Mexican fast food goodness…and break the front of the shelf off as well. I decided that two hands would be required to put the store back together before I was ejected for vandalism, and as I was putting my basket down to wrestle the 4 foot shelf facing back in to position, a young woman took the end of the shelf fitting that I wasn’t holding and started to help me put it back on the shelf.

Between us we managed to get the shelf re-assembled, with a little banter and chat. I thanked her profusely and she said ‘Well, it looked like you needed some help with it….’

There you have it; I’m 54 years old, a geek, and being labelled as unable to re-assemble a plastic supermarket shelf by a woman half my age.  At least she didn’t add ‘Things get more difficult as you get older, don’t they….’  I think I’m on the down hill slope to dusty death.

I encountered her a couple more times whilst I shopped, and whilst we acknowledged each other she didn’t need to check that I was able to manage the basket…

I have since decided to rescue my dented self-image by thinking that she may have been flirting with me. However, the sensible part of my brain suggests that that WOULD be the sign that I was losing it, and having delusions….

Now where’s my Werther’s Originals…

Michael Meacher – another of the old school leaves us

I was sad today to hear of the death of Michael Meacher, left wing Labour MP for Oldham West and Royton. He was one of the last of the ‘old school’ Labour politicians who showed true Socialist conviction, having been first elected in 1970 and serving under Harold Wilson, Jim Callaghan and Tony Blair, and was once even suggested as a possible Labour Leader.

I remember Neil Kinnock referring to Mr Meacher as ‘Tony Benn’s Vicar on Earth’, such was the latter’s support for the left wing firebrand. He was also a supporter of Jeremy Corbyn, being one of the Labour MPs who nominated and supported JC at the start of his campaign to become leader of the Labour Party.

That he died so soon after the election of a party Leader that he admired and supported wholeheartedly is a great and sad irony, but it isn’t the only irony around the timing of his death…

In late 1985, the BBC broadcast one of the finest thrillers they ever produced ‘Edge of Darkness’.  If you’ve never seen it, treat yourself and try and find it online or on a DVD – well worth 6 hours of anyone’s life, and still astonishingly relevant.  In it, a detective investigates the death of his daughter, murdered when she finds out that Plutonium is being stockpiled illegally in an underground facility in Yorkshire owned by a massive US energy company.

Meacher plays himself at a political meeting, speaking on environmental issues. And I’m sure he’d appreciate the irony of his death on the day on which the British Government allowed a foreign power to take a substantial degree of control over parts of our nuclear industry…



Mid-life crisis? Don’t mind if I DON’T…

I’ve recently concluded that I couldn’t handle a mid-life crisis.


Apart from the fact that I would have had to have had an arithmetically accurate mid-life crisis about 14 years ago, I just don’t think I’m cut out for the role and nor do I want to be, if this list of behaviours is anything to go by.

The NHS describes a mid-life crisis as follows:

“A male midlife crisis can happen when men think they’ve reached life’s halfway stage. Anxieties over what they’ve accomplished so far, either in their job or personal life, can cause a period of depression. In men, this usually happens between the ages of 35 and 50, and can last for up to 10 years.”

So in principle I still have time – I could start at 50 and not finish to 60!

To be serious, I probably had a mid-life breakdown in the late 1990s, picked myself up in late ’98 and then spent the last 15 years or so just getting on with life.  I have to admit that I’ve done a few of the things on that list, and would have liked to have done a few more, but I have to say that having gotten to 54 I’m delighted to still be alive, with a job, with a roof over my head and with most bits in working order.  I’ve occasionally joked that I’ve been kept on the straight and narrow through life by debt, a sense of duty, lack of imagination and laziness….but seriously, I actually LIKE how I’m turning out as I’m getting older!

I’m something of a fan of Jung, and he had wise words on the subject of aging:

“Jung’s view was that the second half of life must not be governed by the principles of the first half of life; that the afternoon of life is just as full of meaning as the morning, only its meaning and purpose are different.”

This has been a really useful approach for me to take – I have to say that from about 45 onwards I’ve been more inward looking.  There have been odd wobbles – I think like most people I sort of think that I might be missing out on more exciting stuff ‘out there’ (I’ve another blog post on that particular topic brewing, so watch this space) – but when I sit down and think about stuff, I actually realise that I am quite content. I’d like a bit more money, and a bit more security….but mainly so I can carry on peering inwards.

Well…peering inwards…and outwards.  I’m a trainee reader with the Church of England, and it struck me that I might actually be having my crisis after all. As Christians we’re told to cast our cares on Jesus – and maybe that’s what I’ve been doing.


Ideas mean shit…it’s doing it that counts!


In my last post I described how my mortality had snuck up on me and dumped a rather large poo in my living room in the fact that in 15 years time I’ll be pushing 70.  See here for my thoughts…they have some relevance to the origin of this post.

I carried on thinking about 30 years ago – and back in 1985 I’d just moved to Sheffield and was living a mile from where I live now; I was doing a lot of writing for various computing and electronics magazines – this was pre-Internet, and pre-Email for most of us. Writing and publishing articles involved wordprocessing the copy, adding a separate sheet with drawings or diagrams on – if you needed photos you had to get 10×8 prints, or slides, and then sending the whole lot off to the magazine editor (or if things were desperate, you faxed them…)  Some magazines were quite advanced – you could actually send stuff on floppy disc or cassette tape as well!

I just had a look through the magaines piled up here at Pritchard Towers and realised I was producing about 1 or 2 pieces a month for different magazines.  And those were the days when you got paid for writing…soemtiems the editors would ring up and say ‘Can you do 1000 words on xxxxx’ or ‘There’s a box going to be delivered to you tomorrow – it’s a Bambleweeny 350-Z with extra Zoinks – can you write me a review by Friday?’

I didn’t quite imagine my editors with bottles of scotch in the desk drawer, but it sometimes felt like that.   The odd thing was I never seemed to be short of ideas. I occasionally worried about not having ideas, but was usually able to deliver on demand.

As well as writing articles, I also did books, and by the mid-1980s I was producing a technical book at the rate of about 1 every 10 months or so – these were practical programming guides, and I was also writing short stories ‘for fun’. The ideas that I couldn’t use immediately got written down for future use.  And so it is that I have a yellow manilla folder in my filing cabinet drawer, dated 1986, that contains drawings, notes, chapter list, book outline, clippings, some photographs, photocopies…everything I need to get started on a book project.  And yet…despite the interest I had in that idea…I never got it started.

I must have opened that file up every 6 months for the last 29 years. I have seen 3 other books published by other authors with reasonable success that skirted the topic of my idea, and I watch the publisher’s lists for similar stuff. If I see anything, I get worried…but I still haven’t felt motivated enough in all those years to do something with this project.  I think that I’d like to do it, but clearly something stops me.

And it’s not just this one off; I have a little pile of half finished good ideas and at least one idea that had I taken it to market at the time I had it would have made me a fair amount of money.  Ideas have definitely never been a problem for me. It’s actually doing something with them….

I hope that my recent ponderings on my mortality will kick me up the arse and get me motivated!

Where did all the time go?

clock The other day I was sitting, drinking tea, thinking of nothing in particular when the following thought entered in to my head.

“In less than 20 years you’ll be 70 years old.  When did THAT happen?”

I guess the unspoken ‘other shoe dropping’ of that thought was ‘…assuming you live that long.’.  The thought that despite my best efforts the army of old age has put a small tank on my lawn is quite sobering.

I expect to live to my early 80s; I’m taking in to account my parents age at death, my own lifestyle, etc. Various online tests suggest that I’m right but that there’s a chance I might push it out to my 90s or so with more exercise and less pies. Unfortunately the usual vices of drinking, smoking, fast cars and loose women are not available for me to give up, so it looks like asceticism is going to be my way forward….

So…sobering thought…assuming I don’t get hit by a bus, have a stroke, get cancer, fall prey to all the ways that the modern age has of nailing you, I might have just under 30 years left.

Thirty years ago I had left my first job and was freelancing / writing full time. I was a successful magazine and book author, had moved from Nottingham up to Sheffield, and in those wonderful pre-Internet days had hobbies that were nothing to do with computers, although I was writing articles for the home computer magazines.  Looking at my radio listening logs, I did a lot of short wave radio listening in ’85 – something I rarely do now.  I also ‘tinkered’ with electronics and general ‘stuff’ more than I do now, and I’m only in touch with 2-3 people from back then…

I don’t recollect having any plans for my future then – which perhaps explains why I’ve rather ‘meandered’ through life and how I’ve ended up where I am now.  I was really happy doing a bit of freelance programming and teaching but mainly writing – it was the one time in my life that I earned most of my income through writing – good times.  It was also just before I started working for a few places where I met people I AM still in touch with…albeit with gaps in contact!

So…sobering…some insights, which I’ll probably be blogging on, and something of a kick up the arse.  I’m on the downhill slope, and I’m still not sure how I got here…



The Ring of Gyges and the cat’s backside


The Ring of Gyges is a magic ring discussed by the philosopher Plato in his Republic. It granted the wearer the gift of invisibility, and was used by plato to explore what would happen if an intelligent,  moral and upstanding man were to be given this gift.  After all, he’d be able to go anywhere, do anything, with the absolute minimum risk of being caught. Would such a man be able to stay morally and ethically upstanding, or would his morality stretch as far as “I can’t get caught, therefore it’s party time!”

In other words – would such a ‘gift’ corrupt even the most upright citizen.

Sounds familiar? Well, HG Wells’ ‘The Invisible Man’ certainly features this idea, and it’s been suggested that the ‘One Ring’ in The Lord of the Rings is a more forceful version of the Ring of Gyges – one that actually corrupts the wearer rather than allows the wearer to corrupt themselves.

I started writing this post – OK, I wrote the title – about 3 years ago, back in 2012, just before I fell away from blogging. Back then I was pondering whether the relative anonymity of the Internet was acting like a Ring of Gyges that was available to anyone online who chose to operate behind an anonymous account or an alias. At the time I was still recovering from spending a few years as Admin of an online forum with a few folks wearing such rings and acting like idiots.

What’s surprised me in the meantime – and what triggered me to finally write this post – was that it’s now possible to see people being total arses under their own names, often with a photo visible! Online anonymity in some places has fallen by the wayside, and I have to say that I expected people to behave more like they would in ‘face to face’ discussions.  It’s a sobering experience to look through the posts in discussion threads on Facebook – where real names are at least in principle required – and see just how belligerent, aggressive, and abusive some people are, even under their own names.

I have to say that I’ve been surprised. I’ve always used my own name when publishing online; part of this is that ‘once a writer, always a writer’, and I just love seeing my name out there, but there’s also an element of removing the temptation to behave badly!

So…is the Ring of Gyges an outmoded concept? Are people just more shameless? Do folks just not care when they’re being badly behaved and everyone can ‘name and shame’ them for it?

Or, is it what might be called the ‘cat’s backside’ syndrome? Just after we adopted our cat Jarvis he was quite nervous for a few days, and would try and hide in various places around the house.  Unfortunately, his approach to hiding was to hide his head so he couldn’t see me, whilst leaving his backside out in the open.  Not a cunning plan….

Maybe all these folks just think that because they can’t see us, we can’t see them?  And if so, just how dumb are they?

Back in to the fold

From the mid-1980s until 1995 I was a card carrying member of the Labour Party.

Not NEW Labour – old Labour – the Red Flag singing, Socialist leaning, nationalising party that I grew up with as a child in the 1960s and a teenager in the 1970s.  Warts and all.

I joined Labour in about 1986, after the Miner’s Strike and after I;d come to live in Sheffield. I did stints as Ward Chair, Constituency Vice Chair, District Labour Party delegate as well as learning the valuable skills associated with leafletting and typing Gestetner stencils to produce the Ward Newsletter.  this was in the pre-email, pre-social media days when agendas were delivered by volunteers through the letter box… I was proud to belong to one of the more Left wing Wards in Sheffield – which considering how left-wing Sheffield was in those days was quite an achievement.

I left when Tony Blair took over the Party and never expected to return, but have done so since the election of Jeremy Corbyn to be leader of the Party again. Actually, I signed up as a supporter so I could vote for him, so felt honour bound to join properly when he won.  I was pleasantly surprised that I wasn’t ‘blackballed’ as several colleagues from Occupy and other grass-roots groups were – I clearly haven’t been a bad enough boy in recent years…

I saw Billy Bragg on TV today commenting that he too had recently re-joined the Party after a similar long absence.

It’s nice to be back in the fold…I wonder if the protocols in meetings have changed much? Do people still call each other comrade? Or is that something I’ll have to try and initiate?