Well – that’s it then. Thirty posts in the thirty days of November. I’ll be honest, I’ve probably enjoyed this series more than any previous one. We’ve covered a lot of ground over the past month : politics, surgery, book and TV reviews, unbelievably large animals and unbelievably cute kittens, my dad, my kids, and a few other things besides. There’s been some poetry, some satire, some serious comment and lots of less serious stuff. There’s rarely been a day when inspiration has been hard to come by, and there have been a few likes and comments along the way that have been encouraging and reassuring. At the end of every November daily post challenge, I invariably commit to continue regular posting as we move into December. And equally invariably, I fall out of the habit again. Perhaps that’s not such a bad thing. I have no doubt that some of you will already be fed up of me clogging up your Twitter feed and Facebook timeline. Whichever way it goes in the future, there will definitely be a short break now (at least for a couple of days) as I tackle the backlog of maintenance jobs that need to be sorted and (more importantly) as we put the decorations up around the house ready for Christmas. Thanks for reading this month; and see you again soon! In the meantime, a repeat of last year’s image that signed off the November 2017 blogathon, and that I suspect sums up the feelings of you, dear Reader, on this November 30th!
A new week begins
Once more unto the breach, dear;
Traffic choked M4
Cars, like ideas, move slow
Looking to break free
As the sun rises
Our hopes too dare to emerge
From gridlocked torpor
Slowly the way clears
The week ahead opens up
Hinting at promise
So – that’s it. Another National Blog Post Month complete. 30 consecutive posts throughout November. I’ve really enjoyed it this time, and I hope that you’ve found at least some of the posts interesting, amusing, or otherwise worthwhile.
But if you’ve found it all a bit of a chore (or, god forbid, even a bore) then perhaps this T shirt is the one for you.
Thanks for reading. I promise not to clog up your notifications quite so regularly for at least another eleven months!
Sometimes it’s the case
That however much you do,
You make no impact.
The only option
When I end up in this fix?
Go again next day.
It’s been two days of back-to-back meetings. Most of them have been productive and interesting, but not all. Some decisions have been taken, lots of information has been shared. Data has been pored over and questions raised. Projects have progressed – not always to the extent hoped, but they’ve moved on a little. I’m not one for talking a lot in meetings unless I have something worthwhile to contribute to the subject under discussion. In general, if I have nothing to add, I’m very happy to add nothing. It’s a function of my introverted thinking style and preference – I don’t need to think out loud and generally I’m not comfortable externalizing my thought processes. The Borges quote sits very comfortably with me, although I acknowledge that it infuriates those extroverts who work (and live!) with me. I do try to adapt my style sometimes, but I’m very happy with the silence.
The university that I work for is in the midst of a lot of change. Having spent much of the last two years working out where we want to be in the next five years, the pressure is now on to do the things that will get us there. There are some very large projects under way. A £300m plus new campus in the city centre; a £90m new library and learning commons building in the existing Clifton Campus; and new information systems to better manage student and financial data across the institution. Beneath these, there is a host of smaller initiatives running : new teaching programmes; small-scale improvements to existing buildings and facilities; process improvements to improve the service to students and academic staff.
All of this generates a significant additional workload for many of us alongside the ‘business as usual’ day job (which has to be done in addition to the sexy, project stuff). There are often days and weeks where there are simply not enough hours to get it all done, and this is where the Italian proverb comes in handy. It’s always worth remembering that a good plan well executed is always more effective than a perfect plan that never gets off the shelf. Implementation done well enough is always preferable to perfect intentions.
And finally, there’s this quote from the Dalai Lama. It’s a timely and necessary reminder that however busy things get, you must always make the time to live. When busy-ness gets in the way of life, then it’s time to review what really matters and to re-focus on what’s important.
This grainy image is the view from my office window as I sit wondering what I should write for this evening’s post. The camera on my iPhone (other mobile communications devices are available) has lightened the shot considerably, but it’s still possible to appreciate the atmospheric lighting effect on the first floor window sill. The highlighted ledgers standing somewhat drunkenly in the window appear almost Dickensian. And this allusion is reinforced by the fact that the building was originally a 19th century almshouse.
I have no idea who occupies the space now, but I like to think that there’s an old walnut desk under the window, where an ageing writer, probably wearing fingerless gloves, is bashing out histories and tragedies on an old typewriter – manuscripts that will be sent off to a publisher before being returned with a kind but ultimately final letter of rejection. Occasionally, a short story or fact-based piece will be accepted by a periodical journal, and the resulting cheque will allow my imaginary writer to supplement her meagre civil service pension and buy a bottle of port and some stilton. A fleeting moment of congratulation in an otherwise unappreciated writing career.
The ledgers on the window sill are the completed manuscripts of novels that have been read only by my writer; lovingly crafted accounts of the lives of a family that exists only in her head – and which she long-ago gave up any hope of meeting in reality. But occasionally, she takes them down and reads them through, thinking about what could have been. She is alone, but she is not lonely; and while her writing is a solitary pursuit, she still meets up with colleagues from the office. They reminisce about what was, and what might have been, and (sometimes) about what should never have been.
When she finally dies, a distant great-niece will come to the apartment to sort out the belongings and settle the estate. She will take down the ledgers and read the meticulously presented manuscripts (my writer never lost the skills gained in the 1980s typing pool), and she will reflect that there was much more to her aunt than ever met the eye. And my writer will look down and smile, and relish the fact that her memory will live on in the crisp pages of the window sill ledgers.
“More people are killed by teddy bears than by grizzly bears.” That was the Tweet that was first on my timeline when I woke at 2am this morning. I know that checking social media in the graveyard hours is a bad idea, but I’ll admit that I was shaken by this bald statement, put out by the folks @qikipedia with no further context. I was left with a vision of killer bears sitting around all furry and cuddly and like butter wouldn’t melt, before turning into frenzied murderers during the wee small hours in the first phase of the moon. (I had eaten quite a lot of cheese before bed, which may have contributed to this fevered interpretation).
Of course, on further investigation, the truth is much less fantastical. ‘Teddy bears’ in this context is used as a short hand for toys in general; and the deaths (which are not at all common) are usually the result of choking on the glass eyes or other plastic components that are sometimes used in their manufacture, or a consequence of trips and falls over toys left strewn on living room floors. Just for the record, 82 Americans have been killed by real bears in the last 89 years; and there are 22 deaths a year linked to toys in the US (most of these, children).
In researching this blog post, I came across a blog dedicated to recording unusual deaths from around the world. The accounts are helpfully organized by country. They are gruesome but fascinating reading. There is the death of a man from Croydon who consumed a litre of carrot juice a day for 10 days, poisoning his body with excess vitamin A, and destroying his liver. Another account that caught my eye was titled : The London Beer Flood of 1814 – caused when several large vats of beer broke simultaneously sending 600,000 litres of fermenting brew into the nearby streets, knocking down walls and destroying several houses and (ironically) a pub. Five people attending a wake at the pub were killed in the debris of the collapsed building. One that appealed to my particularly dark sense of humour relates the tale of a 67 year old woman in the north east of England who decided to feed her flock of sheep by tying a bale of hay to the back of her electric bike and riding around the field allowing the bale to unravel behind her. The sheep – presumably ravenous – rushed the bike as a flock, forcing both it and the woman over the edge of a cliff that formed the boundary of the field. Remarkably, the woman appears to have survived the fall, but was killed when the bike landed on top of her. I’m sure I’m not alone in recalling this classic scene from Naked Gun when reading this one.
Of course, each of these deaths was an individual tragedy for the people involved, But sometimes, it’s hard to respond with anything other than a shrug and the question : “What were they thinking?!”. This is where the Darwin Awards come in. The awards “honour those individuals who improve the species by their departure. RULES: (1) adults, who remove (2) themselves, from (3) the gene pool, in a (4) spectacularly clueless manner, that is (5) true.” There are some spectacular accounts of truly innovative and monumentally stupid ways of fatally injuring yourself on the website. Among recent entries are the two Mexican women killed by a landing aircraft when attempting to get a selfie of themselves on the runway; and the Colorado man who climbed a tower crane, attached a length of rope to create a massive swing, before leaping off, and arcing out, across the neigbouring street and smack into the equally tall building on the other side. If the impact didn’t kill him, the resulting fall to the pavement certainly did.
All of which serves as a salutary warning. Take care out there everybody – and watch out for those teddy bears!