Thursday, 23 August 2012

One of those days...

...when I remember what is good in the world.

My daughter, like thousands of other 16 year olds, got her GCSE exam results today.  2 A*s, 9As and 2Bs.

:-) :-) :-)

Happy and proud to be her parent day!

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Difficult Decisions or just Hypocrisy

Some stuff in the news recently has had me thinking... where are things just difficult decisions that the people who have to make them have a very tricky course to steer and where there is no real "right" answer overall and where is there just plain hypocrisy.

Today I read that Tony Nicklinson has died.  This poor man who was undoubtedly highly intelligent was left severely paralysed as the result of a stroke.  He had campaigned for the "right to die" - essentially the issue being he couldn't kill himself as physically he could not administer the lethal injection or take the pills.  Recently the High Court ruled that if he asked his family or a doctor to carry this out they could still be prosecuted for murder.  It seemed on face value an absurd ruling, this clearly intelligent man who had thought it all through and who was clearly suffering psychologically due to his physical condition simply wanted his wishes to be carried out.  If he could have killed himself he would have but he was unable to.  In the end an infection and his refusal to take food meant he now has passed away and his wishes regarding resuscitation have been respected as they should be and his death was by natural causes.  However I can't criticise the judges in this case - firstly they don't make the law, parliament does, they interpret that and adjudicate but murder is murder there was no blurring in their view.  I support the decision however painful for Mr Niklinson as I can see the issues it may bring up - ensuring that the person is fully compos mentis when they make that decision, there is no duress being brought to bear on the individual etc. etc.  If this is to be a "right" in future we need all those kind of things thought through and a public debate through parliament on whether as a nation we do agree with it or not.  Mr Niklinson's legacy may well be that we do indeed have that national debate, sadly you can today rightfully say that will be too late for him.   So this is a decision, in my opinion, where for the judges making it there was no "right" answer frankly - I'm glad I was not in their shoes.

Now Mr Assange - is it right for the UK to be sabre rattling over his being granted asylum in the Ecuadorian embassy?  Are the charges Sweden true or not?  Who knows, if we don't get a trial little chance of ever knowing the truth.  Is he right to be afraid? Possibly. Does he have the right to ask for asylum in the way he has?  Compare this with the Pussy Riot protest and trial in Russia and the condemnation that the UK government has levelled at the Russians about freedom of speech.   Just for a moment think on this... let us say that as a protest against the monarchy the Sex Pistols had reformed, stormed into Westminster Abbey and thundered out a performance of their 1977 anti-royalist anthem "God Save The Queen" on the day of the recent Diamond Jubilee celebrations.  Or more believable young black rap artist today jumped up on the alter of St Paul's performing an anti-government rap littered with obscenities.  Would we expect these people to be arrested and prosecuted?  At least with something along the lines of breach of the peace?  I doubt very much that nothing would be done.  Heck not that long ago St Paul's was in court trying to evict peaceful demonstrators in tents outside the building from its environs.  We shout for freedom of speech; we decry rigid clampdowns on anti-establishment protest in countries we have a historical philosophical beef with but seem in the next sentence to be similarly vindictive against people who lead protest against our own establishment.   Are these tricky decisions or just hypocrisy? 

Sunday, 19 August 2012

Holiday!!!


We've been on holiday... to the Cotswolds.  Finding little places like this.


Big places like this


And lots of things like this...  the girls weren't so keen on the trains for some reason!


An old fashion family holiday for us, although with the additional of Girlfriend-of-son-of-Furtheron (GOSOF - that doesn't work!).   We stayed in a farm converted into holiday cottages which was lovely but in the middle of nowhere, seriously to get a phone signal required gymnastics in the rafters.  I didn't realise how quiet it was until lying in bed this morning in our little quiet suburban street I wanted to scream out the window at the cars and planes and people on the way to the shop to shut the hell up!

I'd love to live in Bath I think, really lovely place.  Still back to the grindstone now...   Sorry I'll drop by blogs as I catch up with life!

Sunday, 12 August 2012

So proud

Last night like many millions sat, then stood and shouted and cheered as "little Mo" ran to victory in the 5km to get the distant double gold.  A fantastic achievement by any standards.  

However what makes me so proud was that Mo came to this country as a refugee and last night Britain showed our true side as a multi-cultural nation. As Mo knelt and prayed after his run and 80,000 cheered the roof off what more needed to be said.   An Islamic refugee national hero.

Britain - I love you.

Wednesday, 8 August 2012

It all seems to be 50... and what I am grateful for.

I turn 50 in just under 2 months.  But looking at the stats on the blog I have 50 followers, welcome to the 50th!  Also just gone through 50,000 page views.

I read a couple of blog posts about loneliness today.  Interesting isn't it that we live in a world where we can all stay connect much better than we ever used to - we were trying to explain to the kids how my wife and I kept in touch when we were courting... er we met each other!  We did luckily have phones at home, we got one when I was about 16 I think - honestly up until then I'd have to use the pay phone over the road on the little green.  But it is interesting that I think loneliness is on the increase despite all this.  My daughter have 100s of "friends" on Facebook and Twitter - but truth is she doesn't know hardly any of them.  On here many people read and comment and I have a blog roll I visit, people I find interesting or we have a common bound, sometimes music, often recovery. 

So what am I grateful for - my family for a start and my wife.  I'm never lonely as I have that basis for a start.  I have a load of friends in AA, I may not spend a lot of time with them socially outside the rooms (some do) but truly they are great friends. 

My wife has been organising a bit of a do for my impending 50th - in the end the venue moved from home to a pub she knows that has a function room.  There is a sense of irony that a recovering alcoholic has his do in a pub, but many of those coming can drink safely and sanely - although I almost guarantee the noisiest most boisterous lot will be the AA members there!  Anyway - the room has a capacity limit... near 50...  It is all 50 at the moment.

Friday, 3 August 2012

Gigs Galore

Right - the promotional tour for The Man Inside is underway... ok ok that may be stretching a point a bit but I have got some gigs lined up!

Several are open mic nights but I'm planning to get there early and get a slot and see how it goes.  Also I've been asked to play a Songwriters Showcase at Canterbury which I'm really looking forward to as it'll be my first gig as a 50 year old!

All up at my music site for info.

Book reviews - Code to Zero & Warlord

Code to Zero by Ken Follett

Super read this one. Great cold war thriller with some terrific twists in it and good characters as well. The novel starts with a man waking in a public toilet in a railway station in Washington in the late 1950's. He has lost his memory entirely. You follow him trying to figure out who he is. Once in learns that though soon he knows someone wiped his brain and is still chasing him. Soon figuring out friend from foe and why this is happening now is a complex picture.  It turns out he is a rocket scientist, one of the best and has been working on the USA programme to get its first satellite into space.  His amnesia must be something to do with this.  But what?  Is he the spy or it is the spy who has done this to him?  Throughout the plot in the present of him trying to find who he is and why this may have been done to him you are given various flash backs with the main characters allowing you to slowly piece his past together at the same time the character is trying to as well.

Top book well written, a good story line, characters & twists and a tense climax.  Complete double thumbs up on the FITUBRS scale.

Warlord by Angus Donald

The forth in the series of books inspired by the Robin Hood legend.  I've covers these in other reviews before here and here at least... I like these series of books and found Warlord being downloaded to my Kindle on the day of release automatically from my pre-order - clever that (I know I'm supposedly an IT professional, honestly though folks it is getting on for at least 20 years since I really did anything technical, but this new found stuff just amazes me at times!).  Ok to recap all books are written from the point of view of Alan Dale, he of the old legends who as a boy joins Robin's band of thieves and outlaws when rescued from the evil Sheriff of Nottingham.. yes yes you all know the stories.  However in Angus's version Robin becomes a knight of repute standing alongside King Richard on his crusade and now in this novel in his fight in France against King Philip for the return of lands taken from English hold.  By this book Alan is a full knight who is betrothed to his love.  However life isn't smooth for Alan, firstly he has to do as Robin and the King bid, largely gory battles in France and also the need to discover more about his heritage and his father's death.  He father was hanged by the Sheriff of Nottingham but he's died with only telling Alan a tantalising fact that he had been ordered to kill his father by a mystery man.  So when not slaughtering the French Alan is in France tracing his father's early life.  He discovers who is his nemesis and why and a good adventure all around follows, with excellent weaving of the fictional and legendary Robin Hood characters around the factual campaigns of Richard the Lionheart.  I also find out that Mr Donald had a similar childhood library to me - he recalls a Ladybird book about Richard the Lionheart - I remember that but think maybe my brother or a friend had it... however I devoured many times the Silver Arrow a Robin Hood adventure that was in the old book cupboard in our hallway.  I've looked on line and it'll cost me nearly £20 to relive my childhood now... damn should have held on to all that "tute" as Mrs F calls it :-)

I will say it is a double thumbs up on the FITUBRS scale again from Angus (have to be good - last time he came and sort out the review here!)  No honestly highly recommended if you love this kind of historical adventure.  Now stop reading now to avoid a serious plot spoiler!

My kids noticed a long time ago that many of the books I read had Templars in them or the Holy Grail ... often both.  To date this series has only featured Templars in the periphery as they were on the crusade etc. but this time they feature more heavily and guess what... the grail appears!  Hooplar!!! The kids were ecstatic when I told them - well er no actually their eyes rolled and some muttering about every book I read having these two themes... untrue... a good percentage maybe but not every one!

Thursday, 2 August 2012

Isolation vs Integration

Another blogger sparked off something in me that has really got me thinking...
So here I am in the "new" job...  I've put the quotes there as actually I've been here over 10 months now and rapidly it'll be a year so is it still "new"?  It feels it to me.  And there in lies a crux of issues that have been assailing me of late. Let me throw a bunch of things at you... culture, complexity, change, commitment, belonging...

A little history lesson.  I worked at the same place from 1991 - 2010 until I was made redundant, something I was happy about at the time, that old place was on a downward spiral and my mojo had decidedly left me and I found myself regularly the harbinger of bad tidings "We tried that three times before and it failed due to a, b, c etc.".   I needed to get out and get a change.  After 7 months not working I got a job with a small consultancy firm - I didn't mind the work and the fact that as a consultant you go into somewhere and can be extremely focused, most of the everyday stuff is just not relevant or of interest to you.  However I really really hated the life out of a suitcase not at home except at weekends flavour of life so after 7 months there I was looking for a local job, I found one with a respected company in it's field and was going to start there when another job I'd applied for just before the other one fell in my lap - I was stunned it is with a prestigious institution in the heart of London and frankly I never expected to get the job.  I took that job instead and here I am...

When I joined I knew that the department I'm in was in a massive period of change, essentially 2 or 3 departments all joining together and a root and branch organisational change under-way. I joined in the middle of this and it wasn't pleasant, the culture of the organisation is a bit "job for life", there is a relatively very low turnover of staff and due to a union dominated employer/employee relationship change takes a very long time and is frequently disrupted by the unions.  I understand some of why they do this, however it angered me at the time I joined.  Due to some logistical issues I was initially put in an office that was not with people I closely worked with, they were in another office block.   The reorganisation look longer than planned/hoped and it wasn't until April this year I was really in place in the job and we only located all together a month ago in a new office block.  The whole change process is still ongoing and much is still being said of transition rather than normalisation.

I realised - or rather I've been burying from my conscious focus! - through another blogger that my actions have been isolationist not one of integration.  I frequently lunch alone, reading books/blogs at that time - it has become "me time".  Maybe not a bad thing, but hasn't helped my feeling of belonging a part of here.  Also the institution is large, it doesn't have the normal structures you may be used to in a corporate world (where I've spent most of my working life) the whole thing is effectively a group of alliances to a brand but more on a sort of franchise basis than a wholly owned subsidiary.  This again makes understanding the politics, the drivers, the real objectives very difficult to grasp - a very senior may say something  about policy or strategy but really they have little direct authority to implement that completely they have to sell, cajole, entice others to that view point, all the time remembering that some of those they need to influence have the option of taking a large chunk of the organisations prestige, funding etc. with them if they decided that they didn't like that direction and would be better served in another similar institution.  The complexity is frankly baffling - I have found it a very hard environment to get my head around I can say.  The politics are just too complex to say and the lack of cohesive communications and conflicting prioritisations and decisions too numerous to keep track of.

So I find myself regularly faced with all the above and soldier on trying to affect some little part of my activities to be seen as a successful contributor to the overall.  I have to say though I'm struggling with the commitment to it, I keep thinking that the level of energy especially emotionally that I have to put in to dealing with the above is not worth the effort really. 

Now before people leap in with comments about leaving the job - I know all that etc.  I'm make one observation, my wife often says "You'll never be happy where you work".  Frankly, she has a fair point, I've always bitched about it, always taken probably too much to heart my need to be seen as this or that or the other and to deliver what I believe is the right result and my vision of my expectations it probably far too high to be healthy.   I come back to the AA thing about acceptance.  It is a good job, a very good job, with a very respected employer, in fact the place is pleasant to work in the majority of the time, the people nice enough it is just me wanting the unobtainable.

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

Best bit of the Olympics so far...

Ok London2012 fever is here!  My daily journey to work takes me on the train right through the park, underneath it in a tunnel apart from the station!  I sadly can't see anything but the traveling has been ok, I'm getting up earlier to get in by 8am so I can leave and get the train back before the crowds heading in for the evening events... the athletics start on Friday that may make life more difficult!

Anyway the best bit for me so far was the Men's 200m  Butterfly final.  Phelps beaten at his last meeting in an event he has not been beaten in for 11 years - and in the last few cms as well.  Amazing.   Then the BBC interview live with his overcome Dad was just pure TV gold, hats off to the BBC for doing that - I doubt a non public funded broadcaster would have taken the risk.

The BBC has a great story about it.  Watch the race then the interview which is on there as well...