Friday 19 April 2013


Absolutely adore this new sculpture at St Pancras station...when I was small I thought it would be nice to walk on clouds

And these are the two people I adore the most

Thursday 18 April 2013


So Grandma in Cyprus not in Cyprus is once more Grandma in Cyprus.  She returned yesterday, just as the sun has come out.  It was lovely to see her, and it's a sadness to me that she's far enough away that seeing her more regularly is not really possible.

I went to see the funeral procession for Margaret Thatcher passed not too far away from my office, so it was an easy decision to make.  I was drawn as much as anything by the thought this was a national event of some significance, and the sort of thing that it is a good thing to attend....not just the pomp and circumstance, but as an historical moment  I was not alone...the streets were fuller than I've ever seen before.  The roads were empty as traffic had been halted all around the route.  The city has an eerie feel to it when it's like this...and the silence was appropriate given the circumstances.  It would be easy to say that the watchers were all city-boys who have prospered under Thatcher's monetarist policies, but the truth is you could see that the audience was made up of people from all walks of life.  I had expected the silence to continue as the cortège went past, but instead there was respectful clapping.  people had come to pay their respects.  Blink and you missed it, but I was glad I went along.

I was going to write a long post about Thatcher, but that seems needless.  The only thing I will say is that what is missing most from so much of the debate, discussion and commentary is context.  When she arrived Britain was the sickman of Europe, and perhaps her actions should best be measured against that.  Because of the ignorant commentary, it seems I've become a Thatcher doesn't feel good: many... most ...of today's problems in society and the economy are the direct result of her actions.  She is to blame.  She did many things in her 11 years as Prime Minister and many have turned out to be bad.  If you look at the greed, excess, selfishness, arrogance and lack of any sense of responsibility, the lack of humanity in society, these are all a direct result of her actions.  Her decisions.  Her responsibility.


But, I don't think she was a bad person.  She was like Pandora, and opened a box without understanding the consequences of what she had done.  I'm not sure it has been re-opened so that 'hope' could escape to, although interestingly one of the BBC commentators made a passing reference that suggested with her passing, there may be hope for change in the future.

Anyway, I took some photos in the crowds of the people watching the event:

 This was a cameraman who briefly put down his camera
 Most people watched it through a viewfinder
 Some worked in offices with a good viewpoint
 The crowds were so deep
 This lady brought a step ladder
 He saw nothing
 iPads were everywhere
Builders with a good view
 The police were everywhere
 One of the many international TV crews
 Some needed reviving
 A view of the cathedral
 Japanese TV presenter
 Ceremonial uniforms were everywhere
 Splendid fellow
 Who knew we had so many different uniforms
 He was a very pleasant man
 Plenty of medals on display
 He stomped around very officiously
Time for a chat

Wednesday 17 April 2013

Sometimes doing nothing is best

It's a curious week this one is.  For the first time, possibly ever, The Cat's Mother and I are not going out of an evening.  Not one single time.  For some people that's not unusual, for us it's something we've been craving.  We've over done it this year, on a merry go round of Bacchanalian pleasure, but we'd reached a stage of saying...we need a breather, we need a holiday.  Frankly, it's a bit silly when you get to the stage of finding an evening out a bit of a chore, and there's a risk you may just fall asleep.  So last night we watched the penultimate episode of Broadchurch...we've been watching it develop, and it's been a bit painful really.  It started off with critics hailing it as the British 'Killing', but meandered around without going anywhere, with some ropey characterisation hopeless sub-plots.  However, it's coming to the boil nicely now, and we'll see the murderer revealed next week...I just hope I'm not too distracted by David Tenants apparently dyed hair.

We were out with friends a few weeks ago, and we got to talk about the guy's father.  The father had left home many moons ago, and there had barely been any contact was interesting how the conversation evolved because although we continued talking about his father, in my mind was my own relationship with my father.  As the discussion developed I became more forceful in saying that before it was too late they should be reconciled. It was not that I had become estranged from my father, but in fact my brother had.  Whatever the rights and wrongs of their fall out, as my father lay in a hospital bed with his life spirit draining away I tried to get him to agree to my brother, his son, coming to see him.  He wouldn't allow it.  He was adamant.  Absolutely.  I was upset at the time...but I hadn't realised how upset.  Tellingly, very quickly after his death, I couldn't remember when he died...not the day, not the month, and soon not the year.  It was an act that I've found impossible to forgive.  In death, my father and I have become estranged.  I feel nothing for him.  My brother, interestingly, having spent a lifetime of under achievement and rebelliousness brought on I believe by fatherly neglect has flourished.  I think he is happier, more content and more fulfilled than he has ever been.  He has become the person he could have been fifty years ago...he's someone I'm very proud to call my brother.

Another epiphany moment occurred a couple of weeks was less of a moment, more of a long-drawn out thing.  For reasons yet to be divulged I was trawling slowly through photographs of the last twenty years...thirty five if you include the few that I had from my student days, before I got the bit between my teeth and would photograph anything that moved...or didn't.  It managed to intrude quite sharply into The Cat's Mothers and my week down in Brighton...many were taken in the days before digital photography, so I was having to scan in the chosen few...and turned into a mammoth exercise which carried on late into the night.  It was a remarkable opportunity to remember good times and bad, happy memories and sad...and perhaps with the addition of perspective give context and balance to the progress of life to date.  I came away feeling in my heart and soul a different person...more relaxed than I've ever been, a gentler person with a different view of the world.  Weeks on, I still feel the same...obviously you can't avoid the the antagonisms of daily life, but hopefully a more positive way of looking at things will remain into the future.

There's a fly in my ointment though, and I just don't know how to deal with it.  I have worked for a few years with the most interesting and exciting client I've ever worked with.  When you've worked as long as I have, that's a big statement.  They're a terrific bunch of people and the work they do is meaningful....they help change society for the better  I've worked hard, very hard with them and have achieved a lot for them.  I've spent time working for them, when I should have been doing other things.  But a few months ago they took on a new person - another external consultant like me -, and he has made the relationship difficult.  It's odd because we're not a threat to each other...and working more closely would benefit us all.  The first thing he said to me was that he was not here to review my performance in that meaningful way that suggests he was doing exactly that.  He's blocked giving me the information I need to operate, and acts as though he's my boss.  I've tried several times now to build bridges and make the relationship work by going out and chatting over coffee.  In one meeting he said "I know we all have to watch our backs"...which is something that had never occurred to me with this client before...I'd always felt that doing a good job was all that mattered...I still think that.  The last time, I was totally open about what I was doing, how I was doing it, why I was doing it...he wouldn't divulge a thing.  I said I was organising a meeting with someone else in the company to organise a way forwards for a project...he asked if he could come along and I said yes...but by the time I'd got back to my office he'd sent out a note calling the meeting, setting the agenda and suggesting it was his idea.  Duplicitous is the word that came to mind.

It has thrown me completely.  It's causing me sleepless nights.

Monday 15 April 2013

Secret Squirel

I've recounted on a couple of occasions my on-going battles with the local squirrel's turning into the Hundred Years War...or perhaps just the stalemate of the first three and a half years of The Great War.  It's almost enough to stop me being a Buddhist....

The consequence has been that even through the awful weather, we've not been feeding the birds.  The bushy-tailed rats had worked out that the easiest way to get the bird food is to hoick the glass dome of the feeder sending it crashing down onto the ground.  Sooner or later it will smash.

However, a few days ago in the spirit of generosity that I'm well known for, I filled up the feeder...and was quickly rewarded with the sight of birds on the table.  Beautiful.  Not surprisingly, the next morning, the dome was on the floor, and the food (dried meal worms that the squirrels don't even like) was spread around.  I didn't have the time or inclination to sort it out.

The dome isn't actually a dome, it's more of a narrow necked jar with a very wide bottom...inverted when it's on the table, and when it fell it ended up with the neck facing upwards.  It stayed like that for a couple of days, until this morning when I spied this:

I knew something was rushed out in my dressing gown to find this:

It's a hedgehog...and let's face it, if you've got to get stuck, in a jar full of food is not a bad place to be.  He was obviously quite happy there, but with the jar tipped up like that it may have become his coffin.  So, I carried it gently into the shade, tipped it on it's side, and sat back and watched:

After that, we finally put a bucket on the bird table in the hope it will stop the little varmints:

I'm taking bets on how long I've got the better of them....