Christmas 2016

Mon 19 – Sun 25 Dec 2016

glitter christmasAh, entry into that wonderful chill time of Christmas / New Year. Made infinitely better by work closing the office. Makes enormous sense. Staff only get extra three days off but everyone is mega happy because they’re off for at least ten days. A genuine win-win. So this lovely swirly time of year when everything is a bit weird but, ultimately, in a nice way.

Christmas Eve

Christmas itself was a chilled one. Dave has his mum down and I am staying with my mum. We’ve also got my brother and his slobbery dog this year. Christmas Eve I went to the gym and met up with Dave and his mum in the afternoon at Waterstones. Christmas Eve itself was generally pretty quiet in town. Ideal for wandering around and travelling on buses whilst people watching and reading. The evening me, mum, brother and dog were all in together watching silly soaps with bed around 10.

Christmas Day

A very nice night’s sleep and a little lay-in on Christmas Day. Up for a big fry-up cooked by mum as we were not eating till 3.30. Then opening up presents. Nothing major these days, just the little things mum buys us every year. I went for a long walk as the weather was pleasant. Quite busy out especially in Holland Park with posh people and their dogs. Found an incredibly expensive and busy cafe to have a coffee in. Up to the Union Jack Club (ex-armed forces place) for our 3.30 lunch. It went well though the usual slight confusion in the restaurant. Back to Dave’s with his and his mum for a chill before returning home around 9.30.

Books and reading

It is rare that my week is dominated by books and reading although this always plays a major part. But, this was not a typical week, and so non-normal things took pride of place.

seagull on a brighton railingMon I should have found myself in Brighton visiting my old chaps. However, that was cancelled due to the train strike. Mon the conductors were on strike which means I could get back to London but it could have taken me significantly longer with more inconvenience than usual. So I had an unplanned day off though I also felt as though I had a bit of cold. Spent the day therapeutically sorting through books and other stuff. In the afternoon it was up to Notting Hill Exchange to do an exchange on goods for vouchers. Picked up some new books but I am keeping majority of vouchers so I can pop into the Exchanges whenever and pick up stuff as I see it.

book exchange

‘The Immortals’ by S.E.Lister

Read on Kindle. Took me several weeks to read. I tried to read a bit in bed each night before going to sleep and was often too tired to read more than a couple of pages. An intriguing book that meanders rather than rising to a crescendo. The story of people who can travel in time as if immortal but actually die like normal people and die early due to the stress on their bodies of the time travel. What you are left with are sad and lonely people living amazing but short lives.

‘A Case of Knives’ Candia McWilliam

I often choose my next reading book totally on impulse. This was one of those. It is billed as a modern classic. However it took a bit of work to get into. But, once in, all went well (as is so often the case). A story told from three perspectives about a group of all quite awful people – damaged and frightfully middle, aspiring to upper, class. The knives are not only those that feature in the story in many different ways but the cutting nastiness of nearly everyone involved. Fascinating to read about the author on Wiki. An alcoholic who nearly lost her sight due to drinking. She hasn’t produced an enormous amount of books which might be explained by the drink. Though the pressure that comes from being successful might also be what drove her to excess.

Cup of coffee

Dr Who audio adventures

‘The Death Collectors’ + short story ‘Spider’s Shadow’ (seventh Doctor Sylvester McCoy)

No companion which is always a bit weird for these audio adventures. And two stories loosely inter-connected. They feel like they are placed very near to the end of this Doctor’s regeneration when he had no companion. There are lots of elements of death and restarting. Although these are not great stories. Death Collectors is the weaker of the two. It’s about a contagion that takes people into death though they are still alive and aliens that collect dead people. Weird but not as scary as it should be with not the greatest plot or script. Spider’s Shadow is more fun but takes concentration being about the Doctor caught in a time loop created for punishment.

‘The Doomwood Curse’ (sixth Doctor Colin Baker + companion Charley Pollard)

The second adventure featuring the sixth Doctor palled up with Charley who will be the eighth Doctor’s companion. But she needs to keep it secret from the Doctor to stop the time-line becoming polluted. In a way I don’t totally understand, the Doctor and Charley arrive in eighteenth century England which then becomes mixed with fiction around the story of Dick Turpin. In order to escape they need to absorb the fact that this is fiction. Fun but a messy story.

Personal development

One of my commitments to myself post-holiday was to daily do some language learning via DuoLingo. Ideally covering four languages (French, Spanish, German, and now Portuguese) but, at least, once a day covering one of them. I am very pleased to say that this week marked real progress on this with a unit of learning in all languages on all days bar one (and Christmas Day which is a holiday for everything). Unfortunately still not making progress on learning and understanding coding better. If only I had more time…

‘Uncle Howard’

howard brooknerAlthough Dave has his mum down, we crept off Fri afternoon to catch ‘Uncle Howard’ at the ICA. Usual story – it’s been on for a while but this was the last showing for us to catch before it disappeared. It is the story of Howard Brookner who was a film-maker who died of AIDS in the late eighties. I remember that horrible time when I had just come out and so many people I met were dying. Strange to think I carry the same virus but can keep it under control. Though it will never go away and does its damage just by being.

Aaron (who made this film) is Howard’s nephew and he manages to obtain the previously unseen films Howard made. This movie does bring the late seventies and eighties in New York to life. Though it is ultimately slightly ‘lazy’ being an amalgamation of other people’s films and a series of interviews.

Friends

I put friends under ‘Personal Development’ as I see it more than in just HR terms. I love my friends (both ‘real’ and ‘facebook’ ones). They give richness to my life and I learn from them. Family, friends, work colleagues – the bane but also the blessing of our lives.

Dom

Thurs night had a catch up with Dom, one of my oldest friends who I have known for about 30 years. His main role now is looking after his mum. We met in Victoria and went to the brilliant Korean restaurant I went with my friend James a couple of weeks earlier – Lime Orange. Lovely to catch up with Dom and just chew the cud about where our lives are. Danger is that we see the world now through the lens of then. For instance, we can both remember when London was cheap and creative – drag co-ops living in squats in Notting Hill. Though we are not glued to the past like some i.e. Brexiters and Donald Trump.

We are greater now than we ever were in the past.

Jamie

Then on Fri lunchtime, I met up with Jamie. He was a bit hungover which was funny. He’s got a nice new link-up with a drama school which should initiate him writing a new play. So talented. We talked about holidays as both our lives seem to be based on reaching the next one with our partners. Always good to catch up with J and it is admirable how he keeps in contact with people. I really need to be better at pro-actively contacting people.

Health and efficiency

Cold

Main health feature of last week was a heavy chest and cold that dogged me all week. I had an aching chest the week before which I put down to the massage I had the previous Fri (and hopefully not a minor heart attack). The aching went off but my chest continued to feel heavy with lots of phlegm and coughing. I thought it wasn’t too bad but people kept asking if I had a cold. Oh well, still alive.

Man flu - only the strong survive

No jog-run

I decided not to do a jog-run last week as Dave’s mum was down so I couldn’t run my normal course based on being at his place. Also my jog-run day would have fallen on Christmas Day itself. I have run on Christmas Day before and it’s OK because no-one is around. But it’s also Christmas which is about having a break and reviewing things so I’ve taken a couple of weeks off from the jog-run.

Gym and swim

I did not and am not taking off time from other exercise. I enjoy it too much and I am not sure what else I would do with my time. Gym twice last week and a swim once. I thought the pool would be empty (not of water as joked about on Twitter…) and it was with never more than half a dozen of us there on Fri morning. In a leisurely style I did 34 lengths over 45 minutes. Primarily back-stroke but also some front crawl which I am starting to feel more relaxed with. Gym on Thurs and then again on Christmas Eve. The latter was great because it was just me. Rowing machine and cycle on both days with concentration on upper body on Thurs and legs / core on Sat.

swimming pool lanes

Digital

Two days in work last week – Tues and Wed. My main thing continues to be getting everything sorted to go straight into the 22 Tech for Good assessments to be done during Jan. These need to be completed and panel papers produced by the start of Feb so it’s going to be busy and intense. Other things worth highlighting:

  • A really good discussion on the possibility of doing something linked to crowdfunding. The tech is there that makes this both easy and smooth for people to use and donate money. And it gives the ability for people to fund what they have an affinity with, increase that affinity, and even for charities to provide CTAs (calls to action) for giving the money. However, the risk is that only the professional and highest affinity projects will gain money. How still to enable money to go to deserving but small-scale and even unpopular things that need funding?
  • A review with my boss of how things have gone. All good and lots of thinking about the future. Main features are focusing on doing more Tech for Good in an international development context particularly in sub-Saharan Africa. A new area for me. Part of this might include civic tech (such as mapping and challenging corruption) which can be as important as poverty alleviation. Also need to think ahead to my job-share Nissa going on maternity leave in April and how we take on someone to cover for her.
  • A check-in with my colleagues at Wavemaker and fellow funder for it Nominet Trust. Wavemaker is a digital exploration and creation centre for young people in Stoke. It is doing well but demonstrating the classic problems facing any new social tech start-up. How to get the mix right between social aims such that benefiting society is at the centre of being but also generating money to ensure it is sustainable for the future? Hopefully they will get there but it is still early days as they’ve only been going for less than two years.
  • Said goodbye to our secondee from a big corporate partner. He had been with us for six months and done some really good work on surveying and interviewing grantees to find out more about how they wanted their work to be recognised. Yes, all charities want money. But they also want more than that from funders. Things like visits, media features, access to other funders, and placements all featured as things that could be used to build funder-fundee links and boost awareness of the projects’ work. I am really interested in the idea of how we can get more projects making videos and promoting themselves in this way. If my little niece and nephew can upload films they make to YouTube then why can’t we all?

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