Monday, 28 February 2011

A day

A difficult day in some ways.

I have a beautiful little family that might be enough joy for anyone, but there is a sad weight in my heart. There is someone else I miss every day. Sometimes it's not so hard to live with, but like an old war-wound there are days when it makes itself felt, and I have to stop myself going to see her. I bumped into her the other day. We looked at each other and went out separate ways (me first for some reason) I tried not to look back. Eventually I did, and she was gone.

Now ain't that sad? "Don't get sentimental it always ends up drivel" says the song. It's trying to tell me something.  I guess it's being emotionally tired, as opposed to physically tired. I had little motivation, just a few tired dreams still knocking around in my skull. Everyone seemed bad-tempered today.

TinyBuddha is telling me to go with the flow. Not bad advice.

Saturday, 26 February 2011

Watch Micro Men

I seem to spend a large amount of my online time bashing the good old BBC. Forget their politics for a moment, and look at drama...

Micro Men is having a second showing and is available on iPlayer for a week:

BBC iPlayer - Micro Men

I urge you to watch it. If you remember the ZX Spectrums and BBC Micros that many of us (ahem) learned about computers from, if you remember the excitement of the time, you simply must see this. In fact if you've no interest watch it anyway  - wonderful fun.

We live in anti-patriotic times in the UK. When I was growing up there as still just an iota of the feeling that we might be growing up to achieve great things - at least in one of my schools. There the teachers excitedly showed us these new little contraptions, put together by eggheads like the strangely charismatic Clive Sinclair.

Micro Men tells the story of the development of these computers. It misses out lots of things, but there's thousands of little nods to bits of history the nerds will know about. Also actors from Blakes 7 and Doctor who in the early 80s are entertainingly cast as minor characters. Sophie (formerly Roger) Wilson, an important character in the story, makes a cameo appearance as a pub landlady in the closing shots*

Near the end Sir Clive talks about the boffin in his workshed being one of the things that made and kept this country great. I've mentioned this idea in discussions of the Industrial Revolution (earlier). Compare and contrast..

*If you think "who the hell is she", look up the ARM processor on wiki, and quite possibly inside your very modern phone...

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Sad days

One of the dearest friends of my life died a couple of weeks ago. She was 90, she was losing touch with the real world, her "quality of life" was atrocious with the pain of cancer, incontinence, depression, and the possible onset of dementia. In some ways her time had come and it was a relief that she was released. When I heard the news I was absolutely full of a bad head-cold. I'd been expecting the news for a while, and I felt a sort of numb sadness, but at the time (as since) I felt little else, though this counts as a major bereavement.

The lady in question looked after me daytimes from when I was 2 yrs old. I stayed in touch all my life. Her husband died in 1995, and she complained how much she missed him ever since. Our visits to her became more and more to be sad occasions, with her suppressing a tear at our leaving, and a long sad walk for us back home.

I wondered from quite an early age how sad it would be to lose her. Sitting at the top of a double-decker bus after saying goodbyes, I felt the lump in my throat one day as I realised there would one day be a time when she was gone. It was unusual for the 7/8 year old me to be moved by that sort of emotion, but it did happen from time to time. I phoned her on the anniversary of her husbands death one time - I was on a lonely, beautiful hill in the Lakes - and she rang off with "Love you" as she often did, and afterwards I cried on a bench in the middle of nowhere.

These past few years were slightly under the shadow of this inevitability, wondering how I would take it. And here I am taking it with a little sadness, but perhaps not facing up to my grief. I surprised myself - wondering if I'm somehow now completely numb. I suppose it will slowly come out. I want to write down my memories of my friend. (what I'm saying now seems so flat!) So I'll make a brief start in this entry.

Here was someone who loved children all her life, and they loved her back for it. She would "fall in love" with some of the children she looked after. Her house was often full of grandchildren, children she was nannying, or had nannied (?). It became a sort of social gathering place for quite a few of us. She'd want us to keep ourselves occupied quietly and sometimes we managed to, but not always - causing her some little stress. It was a strange set-up. But she and I remained on good terms for life.

She said I was like a "second son" to her. There was a way she had, of letting you know things - as a way of telling you you were one of the people she wanted to hear things - a kind of recognition of the place you had in her thoughts. I believed I had a special bond with her. Now, in a way, I like to imagine that she had such a bond with many others, just so her life would have been that much the richer for it. We hardly ever saw anyone on our later visits to her. How could someone of such experience, love and dignity seem to be so alone in her last years? I suppose I will never know the answer to this.

Wednesday, 9 February 2011


It can't be a new phenomenon for managers to try and play mind games with the people they supervise to get better productivity out of them. Must be the 3rd oldest profession, or something near :)

No doubt some managers (and there are too many of them) would read that sentence and scoff, thinking "Just try supervising people's work" (I have done so a couple of times, though not on a level of huge responsibility) They would argue that it is incredible how hard it is to reliably get people to do their work

Perhaps they might also secretly wonder at just how stupid some of the people they supervise seem to be (I'm just guessing here) I recently talked to a lecturer talking about his 1st year students - they were astoundingly lacking in initiative it has to be said, but they are just out of school, so ok. I envisage a manager giving instructions to someone - then disbelieving the level of misunderstanding that has occurred. 

Of course this is best done by email or paper, so everyone can check what was said and which side misinterpreted or whatever. Trouble is when a lot of management is done by word of mouth and it's hard to tell your manager he/she remembered that wrong!!!

But I get the impression of an army of managers in the UK all working on their careers and having a real wheeze organising other people's work. Apparently they can't be relied upon to organise themselves - we're all too thick so we need MORE MANAGERS to sort it all out, run our lives, decide where our careers go etc.

Why have we forgotten that giving people responsibility oft times brings out the best in them? rather than spending vast amounts of money on bickering, career-centred managers on an ego trip

rant over