Birmingham craziness

Mon 26 June – Sun 2 July 2017

Generally dull and cloudy weather, such a comparison to the hot sun of the week before. The announcement of the dodgy Tory deal with the DUP so that £1billion blackmail money goes to Northern Ireland in return for their votes (each DUP MP costs £100million). The DUP step in to support govt and vote down ending the effective pay cut year on year for public sector workers including doctors, nurses, and emergency services staff. Corbyn whips MPs to oppose calling on the government to keep the UK in the Single Market; Farage + Katie Hopkins praise Corbyn. Trump posts on Twitter a video of himself beating up CNN. Germany legalises gay marriage and a great end to the current Dr Who series (is Missy really dead?) – glimmers of light in dark days.

Cartoon about Corbyn


Me and Dave went for one of our weekend breaks in Birmingham. We do this every so often simply to have time away from the routine in London. Birmingham is good because it is so close, only an hour and a half on the train. And we managed to get cheap train tickets as well as two reasonably priced nights in our favourite busy city-centre hotel by the gay area.

My love of cities

Selfridges BirminghamI love cities, their sheer craziness and the enforced living of people cheek by jowl. There is an interesting debate about whether Birmingham or Manchester is England’s second city. I would suggest they are equal. I like them both. Both are great because they have real industrial earthiness in the way that London has completely lost. Although Birmingham is more cosmopolitan with many different communities living together (plus slightly better weather). For me it is always city over the countryside though I do love forests.

Eek, a mouse

A good journey up on Fri lunchtime though I refuse to buy Virgin’s train internet for £5 when I am only on the train for 90 minutes. Euston was very busy and we had a snack out on the area that used to be just an empty concrete concourse. A nice afternoon snooze then pottering around town which mainly meant me basing myself in the cafe at Waterstones on the pooter. There was a mouse running around, I told the young woman in charge who said, ‘I know’.

Night-time when all the freaks come out

kebab in all its gloryFri evening, me and Dave went to our favourite Chinese restaurant which was wonderfully busy. Back to the hotel to chill in the hotel bar which was equally busy. Friday night in Birmingham is pretty crazy. We had the horrible spectacle of the police outside our hotel as someone was threatening to throw themselves out of an upstairs window. But because it was city centre, people and cars were still going about their normal business. And then I was accosted in the lift up to our room by a couple of large ladies who smelt of kebab.

Chillin at the museum

Saturday and the weather improved later such that I could put my shorts on. A day spent largely hanging around the wonderful Museum and Art Gallery. We love the Edwardian tea-rooms and spent time just drifting around the different displays. I forgot how good is the twentieth century art collection. No good temporary exhibitions which was a shame. Walking back to the hotel I witnessed a young man steal a pair of glasses and go tearing off with them through the Sat crowd skilfully keeping tight to people but swerving around them.

Saturday night escapades

In the afternoon I had a disco nap and in the evening we went to Cafe Rouge for dinner. An inept, loud, gay waiter fucked up our order though his much more efficient young female colleague stepped in to sort things out. Dave stayed in whilst I went out for some late night drinks (I complained on the way out about the family that had left a used nappy in our corridor). Cost me £8 to get into a club which seemed a bit steep for a non-London venue. But a decent night and I came back to our hotel around 1.30 am through streets full of drunk people to fall asleep with the usual sound of sirens and taxis blasting their horns. Sunday morning came and we got the crowded train back to London.

Health and efficiency


Good news last Mon when I attended the anti-coagulation clinic and found my INR was stable at 2.5. So 2 weeks before I have to go back again to check it is still OK. That chronic illness situation of constantly having to have checks to ensure everything is OK.


I have officially given up trying to do the Thurs morning session at work. It’s my day off and I have no wish to go to the office when I don’t need to. Why did I ever think signing up was a good idea? I did do the Thurs night intro session which was very good. I’m re-learning positions I had forgotten about and my enjoyment of the power of yoga is coming back. A very good teacher.

Gym but no jog-run

Gym consecutively on Thurs and Fri including treadmill / cardio on both days as well as weights.

Tech for Good

In the office two and a half days plus remote working at various points during last week meant lots got done:

  • Discussed with people in Northern Ireland about part funding their new Techies in Residence programme whereby not-for-profit orgs are palled up with local commercial tech partners to explore digital
  • Assessments on Tech & HIV need to be done and I have two to do plus about another three to sign off once completed
  • My colleagues ran the crowdfunding workshop in Manchester and we put the final seals on the invitation for projects to apply for a grant that they then match through using a crowdfunding platform. This all kicks off on Mon with our pilot group of projects.
  • Ongoing work to complete comments on and sign off of the M-ITI report on Social Tech Eco-Systems in Sub-Saharan Africa. Hopefully finished by end of July.
  • Work to get things ready for the 24th July wrap-up event where the current Tech for Good projects will present what they have achieved and learnt plus where they go from here
  • Meetings with individuals I hadn’t met before: Kirsten from Children’s Society who is leading on their innovation work, Tim from City & Guilds (formerly of DigitalMe) who provides a digital badging scheme particularly useful in recognising learning and training achievements, plus colleagues from NPC who are looking to develop a fund around using tech to support the economic development of girls and women in Africa
  • Talks with colleagues from other depts around internal organisational project groups centred on tech


I travelled over to see Nissa on Tues, my job-share colleague on maternity leave. We are in the planning ahead phase at work so I wanted to make sure her views are included in discussions. Especially as I have applied to be on sabbatical Jan-April though I won’t know if approval comes through on this until Nov when Nissa returns. She looked so much more grown up – I suppose that comes with the responsibility of having a child. But she is enjoying being with the little one and he was in a wonderfully quiet and sleepy mood. We went up to the Horniman Museum which was lovely to chill in though the weather was showery. Strange to think that in next to no time she will be back at work.

Social media usage

Personal development


Duolingo done every day bar one which was Thurs – must have been very busy. And a little bit of coding practice done.

Usual focus on keeping on top of my emails. I have a new norm which is to get all my work emails read and down to 100 in my inbox. Whilst for my personal emails it’s about keeping my unread to about 80.

Books and reading

‘Off The Rails’ by Christopher Fowler

Fowler is an extremely talented author I love. His daily blog site is always worth a (daily) browse. Have a read of it here. A daily blog worth reading is something I really emulate to achieve.

This book is the next installment of the adventures of Bryant and May plus their police colleagues at the Peculiar Crimes Unit. Two great characters especially the cantankerous Arthur Bryant. It’s all a bit contrived as they search for the escaped psychopath Mr Fox and simultaneously try to find out which of a group of students is a killer (and why). But Fowler has created a wonderful escapist adventure series, one I love falling back into every so often. Comparable in many ways to the Marcus Didius Falco books of Lindsey Davies and Sir Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series of stories.

Dr Who audio adventures

‘Project Lazarus’ (sixth Doctor Colin Baker + companion Evelyn Smythe and seventh Doctor Sylvester McCoy)

The raising of LazarusAn early-ish audio adventure I had missed so I went back and bought it on Big Finish. A good story based around a baddie called Nimrod and his base, the Forge. The first two episodes focus on Colin Baker’s Doctor and Evelyn trying to rescue their vampire friend Cassie. Then the next two episodes pick up on Sylvester McCoy’s Doctor going back to the Forge in the future. He finds the original Doctor still there but a clever storyline reveals all is not what it seems. A very good concise and clever self-contained story.

Looking ahead

So the week ahead:

  • I’m on holiday! Well, sort of. I’ve taken a day and a half off (Tues all day and Wed PM) to use up leave. Nothing planned, just pottering. But still in work Wed morning for an important meeting and a tech for good roundtable discussion on Fri AM.
  • A week of exercise with 4 planned gym sessions, yoga on Thurs night, and a jog-run at the weekend
  • DuoLingo everyday plus some coding practice and keeping on top of emails
  • Catching up with my mate Dom on Tues night and trying a new restaurant. Be good to see him as he had the sad news that his good friend Ruth died recently.
  • Going down to Brighton on Sun to stay over to see the old chaps. Although there is the threat of a train strike on the Mon, the day I would be coming back so we will have to see.

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