Monthly Archives: November 2016

And so, the end is near…

Of National Blog Post Month (NaBloPoMo) that is! 30 days of blogging comes to an end today. I can’t believe how quickly the month has gone by. I hope that there’s been some posts during the course of the month that have amused, interested or educated you; and that if one or two have irritated or bored you, then I hope you’ll forgive me.

This is only the second time that I’ve successfully completed NaBloPoMo. It’s been a struggle at times. There’s been a lot going on in work and personally. But paradoxically – and entirely in keeping with the reason for starting doing this in the first place – blogging really has been cheaper than therapy!

I’ve surprised myself at the amount of novel content I’ve been able to generate this time; and I’ve only had to ‘steal’ stuff on a couple of occasions during the month. It’s been good to get back into the habit of researching and writing again, and I hope and intend to keep up the habit (although probably not EVERY day), as we move into December.

Thanks for reading (whether occasionally or – and you deserve a medal if this is you – daily). Thanks too for the comments and ‘likes’ that serve as a helpful incentive to keep on posting. I do this mainly for myself, but it’s nice occasionally to find that somebody else has found a post interesting or useful.

Until the next time – thank you and au revoir!

 

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The good, the bad and the ugly

I love sport, in pretty much all its guises (although I struggle a bit with boxing and snooker). I remember distinctly where I was and what I was doing when Liverpool won their first European Cup (as it then was); and watching Botham and Dilley flaying the Australian attack to all corners of the ground in the astonishing win at Headingley. My heroes are largely drawn from sport : Beckenbauer and Moore; Lendl; Leo Fortune-West (although Leo is probably a bit niche, to be honest).

But while sport has given me some great memories across the 50 years of my life, it also never fails to cause me distress and pain through its ability to do stupid things. This week is a microcosm of that lifetime of experience.

To start with the good – the revelation of the nominees for this year’s Sports Personality of the Year. Sixteen women and men who have excelled in a year of sporting excellence that arguably has never been surpassed in the UK. The celebration of British sport on 18th December will culminate in one of the 16 receiving the top accolade, but (cliche though it is) they are all already winners.

Now the bad. The disclosure this week that tens (and possibly more) of young footballers were subjected to the most appalling physical and emotional abuse at the hands of the coaches into whose care they had been entrusted. To compound the issue, this has been known about in football circles for many years but it has only been taken seriously due to the incredible courage of one man who waived his right to anonymity to talk about the abuse that he had suffered. The FA and the football clubs involved come out of this looking clumsy and ineffective – but there’s no great surprise there.

And finally the ugly. The series of tweets from former professional darts player Eric Bristow that managed to display both astonishing insensitivity and complete ignorance in condemning both the victims of the abuse, and conflating paedophilia with homosexuality. I’m not going to dignify the tweets themselves with a link from this blog, but you can find them easily enough if you really feel you need to.

Bristow has already paid for his stupidity and has lost a punditry contract with Sky Sports. Whether the FA will be able to ride out the storm of criticism that is heading in their direction, remains to be seen.

 

 

Box A, Box B or both boxes?

I’m up against it a bit time-wise today, but thankfully the Guardian has come to my rescue with a humdinger of a logic problem that has all sorts of philosophical implications.

The link to the problem is here.

I’d love to know what approach you’d take and why, so please don’t be shy – leave your comments below!

Better by design

There was a fascinating programme on BBC2 television last evening, reviewing the design innovations of Sir Kenneth Grange. Across an astonishingly diverse career, Grange has been responsible for the design of the Kenwood Chef, disposable razors, and the InterCity 125 locomotive. It was great TV and the sort of thing that the license-fee funded BBC can do, but which would probably be almost impossible to get commissioned on a commercial channel.

Prompted (I guess) by the programme, there was a feature on product design and marketing in today’s Guardian newspaper. Alongside a discussion of the Kenwood kitchen aid and an old style telephone handset, there are features on lip balm (some contain chemicals that actually make your lips dry so that you end up using more of the product!); and Heineken beer (with the smiley face ‘e’s that are deliberately designed to create a sense of happiness and fun in the branding.

Good design is critical to the success of products in a consumer-driven society; but it’s also important in terms of the quality of our lives on a day-to-day basis. Another story in the news today focuses on nature deficit disorder. This is the term being used to describe the impact of lives that are increasingly mediated through technology (television, computers, smartphones, tablets), and where many people spend virtually no time in the open air and green spaces, simply ‘being’ in nature. There is an emerging body of evidence that this is bad for us both psychologically and physiologically. Actually spending time in a green space looking at plants and trees, watching squirrels and birds, is good for our bodies and minds. And denying ourselves these simple pleasures can lead to physical and mental ill-health.

Mindfulness has gained something of a cure-all reputation in recent months, and there is (probably rightly) some cynicism about the extent to which it can really have all the positive effects that are claimed for it. Nevertheless, at the most fundamental level, creating space to simply be, focusing on the here and now in the physical world and concentrating on really experiencing the world around you as it is, seems to offer one route to addressing the damaging side-effects of an over-reliance on technology and indoor-living.

Perhaps we all need to think about designing in some time to appreciate the natural world around us as much as the wider, virtual world accessed through our screens. Have a good week everybody.

Didn’t we have a lovely time…

The day we went to Chester. There has been a settlement on the banks of the River Dee at the place that we now know as Chester, since the Romans established a fort there in the first century AD. Much of the land and key property around Chester is part of the Grosvenor Estates, the company that manages the holdings of the Duke of Westminster. The ancestral home of the Grosvenor family is situated at Eaton Hall on the outskirts of the city.

Our visit today was in part to see the Christmas market, focused around the Cathedral in the heart of the city, and in part to catch up with Dan, Bex and Bex’s parents before Christmas. The market layout is well planned, allowing large numbers of people to move leisurely through the stalls without ever feeling that the place was over-crowded or uncomfortable.

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Christmas market stalls with the Cathedral behind

In truth, on this fifth Saturday before Christmas, Chester was unsurprisingly very busy; but there was also a fantastic buzz about the place, helped by some of the most talented street entertainers that I’ve witnessed for a long time.

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Play the violin? Check. Singing? Check. High wire balance? Check. Bonkers?? Probably!

One of the great things about Chester is the architecture, drawing on styles from the city’s two thousand years of history. On a crisp, sunny, November day, the city looked magnificent (even through the lens of my smartphone).

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The only challenge today, was actually finding somewhere with six spare seats for lunch! There can’t have been many pubs in the city centre that we DIDN’T walk into in the vain hope that we might find a place to sit down and get something to eat. In the end, we opted for the loiter and stare technique, snaffling some space at a table in a JD Wetherspoon’s establishment just when all hope was almost gone!

A lovely day, followed by a glorious drive home as the sun sank behind the hills to the west.

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The positive impact of worrying

I used to have a poster on my bedroom wall which read : ” Don’t tell me that worrying doesn’t work, most of the things I worry about don’t happen!”

The reality of this has been brought home to me this week, when a number of potentially stressful situations – sources of severe worry at different times – have all been negotiated more or less successfully. Of course, the psychologists will point to the fact that a moderate amount of stress is a necessary precursor to successful completion of difficult tasks. We need to be ‘up for it’ and ‘on top of our game’ to be able to perform to our full potential. That has been true for me this week, but to be honest, it’s also quite wearing. There is a need to balance the stressful times with some rest and relaxation. Batteries need time to recharge. Stress enzyme levels need to be rebalanced. It’s not possible to keep operating at full speed all of the time.

So – sorry – no : there’s no chance of me making any progress on that list of jobs in the flat this weekend! 😉

Danny Dyer – simply a legend

So – tonight’s planned post has been usurped. I’ve been completely absorbed in the new series of Who Do You Think You Are on BBC1. Tonight, it’s Danny Dyer – and he’s basically a legend. The clash of cultures between the East End wide boy and the ‘old money’ that he shares an ancestry with is brilliant television! If you missed it, do try and catch up with it on the BBC iPlayer. I promise that you won’t be disappointed.

Back to more substantive stuff tomorrow!