One of those weeks in grey January

Mon 21 – Sun 27 Jan 2019

I hate January. That joyful post Christmas/New Year feeling is gone. The weather is grey, shit and cold. Easter this year is a lifetime away – the end of April. Pancake day isn’t until March. πŸ™ It’s all about just getting through this period especially as we’ve got the Brexit train coming down the track.

Cold and dark

Books and Reading

‘H(A)PPY’ by Nicola Barker

Nicola Barker is one of my favourite contemporary writers. She has written some great books like ‘Darkmans’. She is a strange writer which is one of the main reasons I like her. This is her latest book but, to be honest, not one of her best.

The ‘story’ (I think) is set in a future world where people are joined to an inter-connected computer system. It’s a world that is more ordered than the current one but is it better because people’s lives are more controlled?

The system in one young woman seems to be crashing. And it is unclear if the people around her are trying to prevent this or actually to encourage it. The young woman’s control system also starts inter-acting with Paraguayan historical, musical and linguistic events – I told you she is a strange writer.

All very weird and the book is in addition a typographical experience with strange spacing, colours, and blank pages. This isn’t that new and the book doesn’t always feel too original – it’s reminiscent of ‘The Matrix’. But it is a book that you experience rather than focus on. Indeed, it almost demands skimming rather than reading.

Next – Pullman and Velvet Page

I have now moved onto Philip Pullman’s ‘The Book of Dust’. I remember reading ‘His Dark Materials’ and loving it. Dust is very reminiscent of the earlier book because it is the prequel. After that then I must switch to the Velvet Page book as we are meeting in about a fortnight.

Health and Efficiency


different form of jog-run

One of my favourite routines. Up early on Sat morning for warm-up coffee then out for my 10K jog-run. Surprisingly mild weather for grey January. Overall, pretty good in that I got my fastest time for a while: 1 hour, 5 mins, 15 seconds. What was disappointing was that the overall pace per km was 6.32 mins, OK in itself but for 2 one kilometre stretches my time was about 7.20 mins. Very achey legs afterwards for the rest of Saturday.

The problem bit

I know the problem, it’s a hilly bit that always slows me down. I’ve got to work on maintaining my time for that bit and it will bring my time down. Still no sign of my gym reopening and I could do with working more on my thighs and glutes.


A few blow out moments during the week but I did manage to have a good day on Thurs when I survived on just a yoghurt until we met our friends Patrick and Stephen for lunch at Joe Allen’s in the evening. Also lots of walking exercise particularly on my days off – Tues and Thurs. Details on jog-runs and weight can be found here.


Patrick and Stephen at Joe Allen’s

restaurant interior

Lovely on Thurs evening to see our friends Patrick and Stephen. Great company and very generous. We went to Joe Allen’s, the famous restaurant catering for people working in the West End’s theatres. A bit noisy but we had a fun time.

They are both OK though dealing with health issues as they get older, as we all are or will be doing. They had been to see ‘The Favourite’ and hated it – ‘there’s just loads of people walking backwards and forwards along corridors’. πŸ™‚ Me and Dave tried to see the film on Tues night but it was sold out. πŸ™


Another coffee catch-up with my mate who writes plays. And this time it was me who set the meeting up. πŸ™‚ Our usual conversation about holidays and life.

Innovation and Creativity

Dealing with where we are


The curse of crunch points has arisen. A busy and fraught time as we build up to a crucial period for fundraising. Perhaps inevitable but that didn’t stop my sleep pattern being affected over the weekend thinking about stuff for Monday.

Things feel worse this year with the uncertainty due to Brexit and criticism of international development work i.e. the ongoing attacks on Oxfam. I hope I’m just being too much of a pessimist.

What have we become?

I just don’t know – I have always thought the way forward is simple: to work together and co-operate; fight racism, colonialism, anti-semitism and xenophobia; and support the poorest people to have better quality, longer lives. That seems so out of fashion at the moment. Indeed we seem to be playing with neo-fascism and dreams of empire. What has happened to us as a country?


Busyness and internal focus means I’m really not getting to external stuff as much as I would like. I was supposed to go to another NESTA event last Thurs, one about looking at their innovation predictions for 2019 – details here. But it was my day-off and I had been walking a lot such that I decided to just have some time to myself before dinner at Joe Allen’s so I could read the wonderful Pullman book.

Good news – my Tech for Good baby lives on

Personal Development


All confirmed in writing, I am off April through to end of July. Apparently I’m not allowed another one. Not much of a problem as I’ve waited 10 years for this one and don’t expect to carry on what I’m doing now for another 10 years. I’m going to focus for those 4 months on exercise, losing weight, improving my coding ability, and learning languages. Everything I would do if I had more time.

I’m also thinking about some travel, probably after Easter so late this year. I may well focus on my beloved Iberia. I would like to visit Lisbon and Valencia, places I have never been. Plus it would be great to go back to Torremolinos and Sitges. I would love to explore Italy, the Greek islands and Croatia. So many places I still want to see in Europe never mind the rest of the world.

The usual suspects

Very poor last week on language learning and coding practice. πŸ™ I did sort of keep on top of emails. So looking forward on my sabbatical to the fact that I am not allowed to access work emails. πŸ™‚ A whole new space for doing other stuff will be opened up in my life. I had 252 work emails to deal with on Fri morning. πŸ™

Liberation from emails – try it

Indeed I did something radical over the weekend when I deliberately deleted a mass of personal unread emails I judged unimportant just to feel on top of things. And I did feel empowered and relaxed afterwards. If I’ve missed something that could have led to the cure for cancer being found then it’s too late.

The Week Ahead

  • Continuing to catch-up on the first series of ‘Star Trek: Discovery’. Still good though for a geek like me, you can see all the things that contradict what has happened / is to come.
  • Normal work days: Mon, Wed, Fri. I am pretty sure the tight feeling will continue.
  • Mon afternoon I am catching up with my old university friend Stephen Twigg MP now chair of the all-parliamentary group on International Development
  • Fri afternoon I’ve got to go to hospital for the first of two tests to be done on my liver requested by my HIV consultant
  • 10K jog-run again next weekend and focus on trying to gently lose weight
  • Finish the Pullman book and move to the Velvet Page one. Gotta visit the library to drop some books back next weekend.
  • Gonna try to do all my usual Personal Development stuff: learning languages and coding whilst trying to keep on top of emails.

And Finally…

Placard for a people's vote

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