Hot, hot, hot – and a week off

Mon 18 – Sun 24 July 2016

hot hot hotTwo big things about last week. We had our first (and only?) blast of hot weather. Second I had effectively a week off work having to go in for just one day (Thursday). Where I work, the end of the financial / leave year is 31st July. Which means that July is the month for people to use up their leave or lose it. This was my situation. Fortuitously this coincided with the very hot weather. Tuesday in particularly was exceptional reaching 35 degrees. Being in the open air was like hot air hitting when you open an oven door.


Following on from the ‘art’ theme of my blog from the previous week, last week also strongly featured the arts. What else to do with time off work?

Summer Exhibition at the Royal Academy

Front of RA building Tuesday afternoon I went with Dave to the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition. This is always wonderfully eccentric and completely hit and miss. Far busier than I expected and very much a crowd of middle class older white people. One of the big failures of art today is in its lack of engagement with young people and those from BME backgrounds.

Overall the exhibition felt more contemporary than usual. Nothing wrong with a bit of modern art but it’s nice sometimes to look at a picture or a piece of sculpture that doesn’t look like it was knocked up in a couple of hours. Still nice just to put the headphones on and wander around absorbing the craziness of it all whilst listening to favourite music / Dr Who adventure.

Tate Britain

Turner paintingWednesday, after the gym, I went off to Tate Britain which is one of my favourite galleries in London and I like it more than its more famous sibling on the other side of the Thames (Tate Modern). I’m too tight to buy a ticket for the pay exhibitions and neither really grabbed me. But, like yesterday’ s Summer Exhibition, I just love wandering around with headphones in.

One of my favourite rooms is the sixteenth and seventeenth century. Some beautiful portraits that just hit you in terms of their mix of primitivism and modernism whilst demonstrating people 600 years ago were exactly the same as us. Also enjoyed the 1940s room with its depiction of a nation at war. And managed to squeeze in a quick tour of the Turner collection including some fascinating pictures by Constable. The final loveliness of it all was sitting in the garden and having a nice but expensive cup of tea.

Titanic the musical

Drawing of Titanic sinkingIn an artistic variation to my two gallery visits, on Tuesday evening I went with Dave to see the musical Titanic. It sound almost comedic but it was a fantastic show. We only went because Dave met someone at an event in Yorkshire whilst he was up there for work. She told him about coming to London and seeing this great show. So we took a chance, tickets were only £30 each and it was easy to get to and from taking place at the theatre under the arches by Charing Cross station.

Not a collection of stand-alone songs nor a vehicle for a select few singers. Rather a story told through song and music with the cast performing as an ensemble. Some poignant individual stories and the overall performance relays the tragedy of the whole event. 710 survived, 1514 died, and about 450 places in the lifeboats were not filled before the boats were released. A significant number of the crew members who died were the bellboys under 16. And very well done to the cast for carrying on despite it being such a hot evening.

Queer cinema

Rock Hudson picFriday afternoon I used some of my time off work to watch Test. This is a film that was first shown at Flare (the London Lesbian and Gay Film Festival) about two years ago. I had a ticket to go but had to give it up as I was needed at a work thing. It was highly spoken of then and is a very good film. It’s about a young dancer dealing with falling in love in mid-eighties San Francisco – the centre of the storm of the AIDS crisis. Wonderfully reminiscent of that dreadful period. Particularly the sheer confusion and terror around what was causing the disease and how it was passed on.

I suppose we survived that period and things are a lot better now around both being gay and being HIV. Woman with AIDSBut it was a horrible time, gay rights were set back by a decade (remember Clause 28) and many wonderful people were lost. Just think of some of the lost greats – Rudolf Nureyev, Kenny Everett, Rock Hudson, Keith Haring, Derek Jarman, Freddie Mercury, Klaus Nomi, Arthur Ashe. Plus various friends I lost who weren’t famous, just normal people. Plus we must not forget those still dying of AIDS who are not on treatment.


Saturday morning, after my good jog-run, I went to the ICA to see the film Chevalier. Good to sit in the cool dark cinema on another hot day particularly after my sweaty but exhilirating exercise. This flim was highly acclaimed at the London Film Festival and I had wanted to see it then. Basically it’s a study of a group of middle-aged Greek men on a yacht who have a competition to see who is the best one overall. Fundamentally a study in male competitivenss and its ultimate destructiveness. Not to say women can’t be competitive though. An OK film that took me away from everyday life. But could easily be performed as a play and had they same feeling of artificiality.

Health and efficiency


Old magazine coverFour times last week which is pretty awesome:

  • Tuesday: legs, core, and lower back.
  • Wednesday: upper body – chest, shoulders, upper back, biceps, triceps.
  • Friday: workout of all body parts (so everything listed above for Tues and Wed)
  • Sunday: all body parts and some cardio on rowing machine


Did my jog-run on Saturday. I really look forward to this every week now. It would be lovely to do it more than once each week. However I don’t think my joints would take it. Indeed my left achilles was aching a bit on Friday (apprehension?) but I took a chance and all went well. I pushed up the distance to 5.7 km. I am trying to do an extra 100m each week. Pace was slower than it has been but overall time was not too bad. My long-term aim is to be running 10 km each week in under an hour.

 Health: cold recovery and sleep

Health has not been too bad last week. Recovering from the bad cold I had the previous weekend has been the main issue. My worst bit is getting up in the mornings when I spend a lot of time coughing up crap that has collected on my chest. I know my coughing antagonises people but hey there is nothing I can do about it.

Some nights last week were ridiculously hot (particularly Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday) which made sleep really difficult. This wa probably also to do with the effect of my cold – night sweats. No decent full nights of sleep again till Thursday night onwards. This made me realise how important sleep is in setting you up for the next day.


Usually my digital stuff relates to work. However my main digital thing last week was buying a new laptop to use at mum’s. My old one was slow and needed replacing. Spent most of Monday afternoon setting it up. This is a much easier process than in previous times. Loading anti-virus and Office all went well. Main problem was mastering downloaded i-tunes and getting it to liaise with my ipod (bit old skool I know). People do rave about the design brilliance of Apple but this sometimes feels like it is based more on wishful thinking than reality.

Microsoft logoMy work day was Thursday and that centred on digital including a liaison session with the other funder that will be helping us to deliver the new Tech for Good grants programme. And also a meeting with a colleague from Microsoft. Great to keep such lines of communication open even if there is nothing definite to work on together at the moment. I am a great believer in the value of networking (and being nice to people) just in case opportunities to do stuff together arises in the future.

Learning and development

No L+D half day as I envisaged a few weeks ago. Despite having the week off effectively. However I have been doing DuoLingo regularly each day. And I have been watching YouTube particularly about JavaScript.

Books and reading

Picture of front of Borley RectoryCouple of books read last week. First was Neil Spring’s The Ghost Hunters. This is a fictional story but based on the life of Harry Price, the famous paranormal investigator active in the 20s, 30s, and 40s. It centres on his fictional secretary and particularly around the investigations of Borley Rectory, ‘the most haunted house in England’. It is never clear what happened there though my scepticism makes me think it was all made up. The book itself goes in some funny directions. But it is also intriguing in querying how far one can ever trust some people. And the extent to which some people will use others to get what they want. 

After ‘The Ghost Hunters’, it was back to a reliable author I really like – Christopher Fowler. His books are also steeped in horror and fantasy. Indeed, his recent writing has centred on the adventures of the detective duo Bryant and May of the Peculiar Crimes Unit. Think of The X Files set in London and crossed with Sir Terry Pratchett’s Discworld novels. The Victoria Vanishes is a fun crime thriller about a serial killer murdering women in pubs around London but with far more powerful things going on behind the curtain. The book is beautifully constructed and wonderfully engaging. A real treat. I would recommend the Bryant and May series to anyone. And as with most series, best to start at the beginning and work your way forward.

Doctor Who audio-books

sixties doctor who logoTravelling around London and not being in work allowed me to listen to a lot more Dr Who audio-books than normal. And shame to say that overall they weren’t a good bunch. Started with Three’s a Crowd. A good story where the Doctor finds an earth colony with the few survivors all living in separate spaces. Perhaps a reference to our modern world? But aliens are picking them off to use as a food source for their hatching young. This is similar the original Battlestar Galactica film.

Unregenerate stars the both intriguing and irritating seventh Doctor (Sylvester McCoy). It’s one of those stories that lost me. Something about asylums and people trying to create tardises. Too compex for its own good though perhaps, at some point in my lifetime, I will give it another listen.

drawing of eighth doctorSimilarly Scardey Cat came across to me as a story too clever. Or perhaps its just a crap story with lots of filler that I am being too generous. Something about the normally wonderful eighth Doctor (Paul McGann) finding a planet that had a huge crisis in its past that destroyed the advanced civilisation that existed on it. Somehow (it’s all a bit mystical), the spirit of a young girl from that time has survived millions of years into the future when the inhabitants are semi-savage.

Thicker than Water was a redeemer. Surprisingly it stars the annoying sixth Doctor (Colin Baker) and companion Mel. Both normally on their own can be bloody hard work. But this was an intriguing story where the Doctor went back to check on how his old companion Evelyn Smythe (a wonderful old bag) was doing on the alien planet she decided to stay on. A good story centring on the abuse of the aliens left behind who had tried to conquer the planet.

And finally, The Council of Nicaea. A good old fashioned time travel adventure with no aliens or monsters. Fifth Doctor (Peter Davidson) with Peri and Erimem travel back to the famous event where the modern church is established by the Emperor Constantine. The story sort of holds together despite being linked to arcane theological arguments. The portrait of the emperor as someone with only a fragile control on events is intriguing and not what I have always thought of him. I’ve always seen him as more of a manipulative chancer.

Don’t forget you can follow me on twitter @billydann1

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