Thursday, September 18, 2014

10th Birthday

This blog was 10 years old on the 12th September 2014.

It began at the end of a very bad period of my life; the early 2000s were not a good decade for me or millions of other people, particularly in the developed world.

I'd returned from the United States in 2001 just after 9-11 and surprise surprise I couldn't find work. 

When I did get a chance of something, it was to finish in second place in job interviews (often after a gruelling and expensive-to-reach second interview). This happened at least three times, perhaps even a fourth. 

Perhaps this process affected my mind - when I finally did get a job it ended in a rather nasty and brutal fashion, although rough justice was served by the office closing down a few months later. A period of desperate financial and personal trouble followed.

With savings gone and a couple of good friendships trashed in the process (can I ever forgive those people for not helping? If I'm honest, probably not). I was forced to take jobs that I normally wouldn't have considered - most of them were contract roles paying less than the salary I'd been earning ten years before. 

By the time I started the blog, I was doing the worst job I've ever had in a company I hated and despised. My immediate colleague was an eccentric but also kind enough if a bit cold at times. My immediate boss was a decent and kind man (coincidence: I knew knew his sister from university). But the boss above him was the one of the nastiest pieces of work I've ever encountered in an office - a filthy despicable piece of shit.

Of course I didn't know it at the time but life would improve within a year or so (See the Resigned entry for September 2005). I'd start a contract with a really good company really going places! Two good men I'd meet there would have an important influence on my professional life - one that extends to this day.

I still don't know why I started the blog - Work was awful and so was my life - perhaps it was a way of writing something I wanted to write rather than for the dreadful company I was in and keeping.

After the initial flush of enthusiasm I decided I would write one entry a month, and pretty much kept to that from 2005 all the way to 2009. Does the data from the web show those to be the peak years of blogging? Perhaps so - they certainly felt like it at the time. Undoubtedly the peak traffic for the blog and the only time it's been in the public eye was during the trial of serial killer Steve Wright. I knew one of his victims, see the entry for October 2005, which features a somewhat disguised Gemma Adams. I followed the trial from day 1 through the local press and actually went myself in person after doing a night-shift on one of the days. It was a fascinating gruesome business, not least because I'd been interviewed by the police four times during those crazy days of autumn 2006.

Since those days the blog has continued, albeit sporadically, and a recent article in the Guardian  wondered if blogging was dead. I suspect that author Onur Kabadayi may well be right - certainly none of the amateur blogs I used to link to and enjoy reading are still going, which is a dreadful shame. I miss the likes of David Young, Amy Knight and especially my great friend Dave Ramsey. I believe Facebook killed most blogs - it certainly put this one on a care and maintenance program, although Twitter played its part as well.

So what of the future? I find it hard to imagine this blog celebrating a 20th birthday, but for the time being I see no reason to shut it down. It's a wonderful record made up of snapshots of what seemed important on a given day between 2004 and 2014. It's an important decade for me, as at the start, at 39, you can just about persuade yourself you're still young - after all less than four years ago you were 35, which most people consider young. But today I'm 49, and within six months of being 50, which is no way young. As for the world, it covers the last five years or so of what Time magazine called The Decade from Hell. I wholeheartedly agree with Time - for me it really was a decade of broken dreams, getting older, having my confidence smashed by forces outside my control and not coping very well. 

Thankfully, meeting the lovely Mandy at some point in the Spring of 2010 made it all worthwhile. But by god I wish I'd have known that on some grim winter evening in January 2005.

And so much for all that. 

Thanks for getting this far, thank you for your interest in the blog and I hope that at least some of the entries have made you frown or made you smile.

- roGER 


Saturday, August 23, 2014


This August, Britain has been commemorating the start of the first world war, which began 100 years ago.

As part of the commemoration, 800,000+ artificial poppies have been placed in the moat at the Tower of London, each poppy representing one British or Commonwealth life lost.

It must have been the most devastating war to live through. What always strikes me travelling through Britain and France is how many names there are on each village memorial. Particularly as the villages were almost always much smaller in those days, at least in Britain. Some small communities must have lost all the guys aged between 16 and 35. Probably every family in Britain lost someone; mine certainly did. There was a brother of my father's mother 'shot while trying to escape' from being taken prisoner, which she seemed to find entirely in character. Then there was my mother's mother's father, who survived the trenches only to die in vile influenza epidemic that broke out during the last year of war and the first years of peace.

On my many travels I've developed a theory that Britain and America were actually quite similar in outlook up to 1914. There was an unashamed patriotism, and a strong belief in science and technology as agents of positive change. There was also quite a lot of religious belief expressed and publicly celebrated. Both nations, and indeed countries like France and Germany, felt they were special and unique and blessed by god, or at least good fortune.

After 1918, in Britain and Europe, many people felt that modern war had rendered such beliefs absurd. How do you believe in a technological utopia when science has produced poison gas, high explosive and the machine gun? How would any kind of loving god sit on his hands whilst Europe bleeds itself white, and then rewards the peace with an influenza outbreak that kills almost as many people who died in the war? How can one be patriotic, when patriotism has led to so many pointless deaths? Above all else why was the war fought and was the price in blood and treasure remotely worth paying?

Now I know America did enter the war (late as usual as British cynics would add). But although Imperial Germany felt the growing weight of American arms towards the final months of war, American casualties were, by European standards, tiny. Now don't get me wrong, 100,000+ deaths is awful - far greater than the numbers of US dead in for example, Vietnam. But from a population of 90 million, they don't have anything like the same effect as 700,000+ British dead from a population half that size.

So in the years that follow, the United States remains very religious (at least on the surface), supremely optimistic about science and technology, and unashamedly patriotic. European culture is the exact opposite; and I reckon it's because of the first world war.

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Monday, July 07, 2014

Roger Federer

We went to Wimbledon on Saturday for the women's singles final.

Disappointing as a match, it featured my favourite Petra Kvitova in Matrix like form as she destroyed Eugenie Bouchard 6-3, 6-0 in 55 short minutes. 

A couple of doubles matches followed, but for me the real highlight of the day was at around 11am when, acting on a tip-off from a kindly official, we settled into the tiny outside Court Number 4 and saw Roger Federer practise with friend and hitting partner Fabrice Santoro and coach Stefan Edberg.


Monday, June 30, 2014

The Best Week-End of the Summer is Over

This was a great week-end as it marks the highpoint of summer for me.

The reason? Wimbledon and Glastonbury coincide, this year along with a World Cup, although the less said of England's results in that competition the better. 

Glastonbury is the only time of the year I seriously pay attention to music these days, and I always make a list of artists that have impressed me. This year the list was:

The Horrors

The Bombay Bicycle Club, although M and I were impressed with them back in 2012 when we saw them supporting Blur in Hyde Park.

Ellie Goulding who comes from near Kington, a village I know on the Herefordshire border.

Kasabian who headlined Glasto this year in the prestigious Sunday evening top-of-the-bill slot.

* Strangely enough the performances weren't bad in a couple of the matches.


Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Holidays in the Sun

On Sunday we arrived back from a week in Benalmadena.

It was lovely to feel the hot sun on our backs, attempt some tennis and actually swim in an outdoor pool without flirting with hypothermia.

But work on Monday was brutal - I'd not sat at my desk for nine days and felt incredibly bored, distracted and miserable to be back. No change there then.


Saturday, March 29, 2014

49 Today

I can't believe I'm 49 but a fact is a fact.

It was a really beautiful sunny day and we went up to Norfolk to see a relative's paintings (lino prints, actually). But curses! 

The amateur community arts center only opens from 10 to 1pm on Saturday. So we left and found a cafe in pretty Woolpit and drank tea and ate cake instead.

My pressies included some wonderful Clarks Desert Boots, a belt, a tee-shirt, Hunger Games 2, Endless Summer and Gravity on DVD and money.

We've just got back from pizza and salad and it was a lovely day.


Thursday, March 13, 2014

Latin is Shit

Here's a brilliant blog post from Donald Clark. He's someone far more educated than me who argues that teaching kids Latin is a complete waste of time.

I concur.