A time of renewal

Sheesh. A Long time.

But it’s that time of year again. That time of year when my out-of-kilter circadian rhythm tells me it’s time to do things. I wrote a letter to my mother recently about this (I write letters now and again) and found myself laying down in ink (yes, a proper letter) something I’d known for a long time: I do my planning when I should doing the doing, and, er, run out of time to do the do.

My mother’s a bit more of a hippy than me, and pays more attention to things like Chinese years. I’m a dragon. No, really, I am. I lurk in my lair and come out now and again to breathe fire before retreating to the sanctity and darkness. And this is how each year works: the winter passes in long, dark days and nights and I don’t feel like doing much. Then, the rush of summer is soon upon me as I impatiently brush aside spring, and I’m blinking in the sunlight, full of energy and no particular place to go. Before we’ve got going, we’re into the lament of autumn and the inevitable trudge back into darkness. The candle blew out and I didn’t get to make a wish.

So, right now I’m full of future plans: me, family, home and work. But they’re all summer activities, and it’ll soon be over. But rather than try to fight this rhythm, I’ve decided to embrace it. If I can’t think straight enough to plan through winter, I’ll enjoy sowing the seed and allowing it time to germinate, ready for the fresh burst of springtime and the lazy warmth of future summer days.

The first project is the house: time to be a grown up and have some money spent on it. Someone else’s money, no doubt, but what the hell. Now’s the time to plan it, and if I don’t think too much about the rhythm, maybe I’ll miss packing up too early and see it through. All the way through to a new summer….

A known known and a known unknown.

It’s funny how certainty and uncertainty are often one and the same thing. In the absence of thinking properly about one, we convince ourselves of the other. We ignore the unknown and fool ourselves that we know everything. That can only last so long. 

At some point, we have to recognise that Donald Rumsfeld had a point: some things are just unknown unknowns. And the future is just that. We just don’t know. We might like to think about how we’d like it to be, but the reality is that tomorrow never comes. 

And that’s OK. 

It wasn’t always OK. I, like many, have a need to know problem – I need to know everything. And, now I know more than I did, I know that I know very little of now, and nothing of what’s to come. I’m dealing with known unknowns. I’m dancing in the shadows.

There’s a certain sadness at facing up to the fact that life as it has been is unlikely to be life as it will be. And we all have to mourn our lost dreams. But we can’t wear black forever. Sometimes, yes, but only JR Cash could every really carry off that look on a long term basis. For the rest of us, a life in colour is so much richer an experience. Where we can have that, we should.

And I shall. It just requires a renewed focus on what’s a known known, and a known unknown. Or as someone put it more succinctly: 

Don’t let what you can’t do get in the way of what you can do.

A love of austerity – building happiness through less

This isn’t about politics. Though it might as well be. It’s about fountain pens. And right angles. 

Like many, I’m riven by conflicts. From the significant, to the inconsequential. Most of the time – somewhere in between – the stuff that occupies me feels significant enough to pay attention to. In this case, it’s about the place I live. My house. My home. The family home. The people in it.

And, most if all, how we use it. I’m trying not to say “the space” like the architect or interior designer I’m not, but I guess as we crave our own space we must recognize the need for others to identify their own. In this case, I’m thinking about nothing more than a single storey extension to a single storey building. 

But in that there’s a conflict: cash in the bank vs what we’ll need to borrow. Today’s income vs tomorrow’s outgoings. Today’s space vs tomorrow’s roaming. And who lives here. Who uses it and how. These are normal questions, and it’s the inevitable conflict within me and within my other half that’s important. More important still is the conflict between us.

The buildings we live in are, contrary to the TV soul-destroyers, not merely investments, not “properties”. They’re not just Corbusian machines either. They are places for people to live well. Changing them means we want to live beyond the way we do today. Not for the acquisition of kerbside status, but for happiness. 

And so we have to consider austerity to make ourselves happy. This isn’t just financial (since few have no concerns over such prosaic matters), but of paring back to the essence of what we want to achieve. From that, we build our individual and collective personalities into the structure. For me, creating that soul means stripping back.

It’s fashionable right now, but my love of the simplicity of early and mid-century modernism remains. The wilful drawing back of the reality to the essence of living well. I see right angles. I see light. I feel no weight. 

And fountain pens? Why, this of course, and barely a right angle in sight:



(copyright Lamy)

A weekend billed as “spending time among gentlemen” – something like that

One man’s brief recollections of 48 hours in the woods: 

8 hours in the car there (5 hours back).

The forty-five pound chair.


Paul Gadd’s twin. 

Meat. Lots of meat. 

Up Shi….

Chicken suit.

Neolithic monuments.



A blunt axe.

More ale.

More farting.

Carcinogenic fires.

Scaling the North Downs.


More nicknames than people. More nicknames than names.


Rat’s piss gloves.

This vaseline’s for professional purposes.

The Ponceometer. It spoke the truth. 

Herrings, cheese and the dirty paaahnt.

Snoring. Oh the effing snoring!

More fun than can possibly be repeated. Even here.

(Neither of these two are the stag. But they are gentlemen*)



*This may be a lie. You decide.

A difficult conversation with a great outcome.

We live in a world of inputs and outputs. We also live in a world of outcomes. And these outcomes represent the interrelation between our actions and others’ perceptions. None of us is an island. 

A colleague and I had slipped into the downward spiral of a worsening working relationship. We each felt the actions of the other acutely, and sometimes hyper-acutely. We had both become emotional and career islands. The spiral was set to full downwards spin. 

A third party has carefully brokered a conversation. The Big Conversation. We considered how it might happen, and decided a mediated option might work. 

Then, by chance, the Big Conversation happened anyway. It was cathartic and free. The more we went along, the more we learned and the more we understood. Each of our actions and perceptions of the other’s had badly clouded judgement and reality. We now know where each of us is coming from, and where we’re each going. The conversation was great. 

But there’s an interesting by product of this. We’ve pretty quickly gone from being miles apart, staring far away from each other, to getting each other’s back right away. Our goals are different, but complementary.

What we learned most of all was that it was circumstances and not an inherent dislike of the other that had brought us to a bad place. And the circumstances involve other people. Which now means that each of us now has another perspective of those third parties, and our respective relationships with them. 

Don’t you just love workplace politics?

A beating away from broken.

I’ve got a week off work next week. By god I need it. Prior to that, I have only had one day off in six months, and lost too many weekends and late nights to the intervening onslaught. 

The rest I really need is not really from work or the workplace (although it’s quite true that if I was independently wealthy, I certainly wouldn’t choose what I do to occupy my days). Sadly, I’ve yet to find a sugar daddy.

It’s the constant self examination in the spirit of contributing to the greater good. There are difficult conversations with colleagues to be had and, now, it seems, a shift in approach. I’m getting to the point that, if the vague hints at “a great career here” are true, I don’t know whether I need the aggravation.

But I know I want the upside. Wherever that may be (I can’t see where the future lies here, whatever the current promises are). So, to go through the downside is probably what I need to do to get a clearer picture of me and how components of my personality affect others. 

But right now, I need a break. Time to switch my head off.


A week or so on. Still a bit of a fatty. But a bit less.

Returning, as I am rather often these days, to the scene of the crime, a quick thought on my previous post.

  • First week was just following rule 1 (low GL with some tweaks). Some weight lost.
  • This week has added in rule 2. I’ve already survived two fasts, and plan another for tomorrow.
  • Rule 3 has yet to be broached. Maybe for next week.

Observations include the inevitable quick weight loss, as water stops binding onto stuff (with the instant feelgood “hey this is easy!”), and some extra. Whether it’s fat or muscle, it’s hard to say. I’m certainly not active enough to avoid muscle loss.

Non-weight observations: I feel better without starchy stuff, especially bread. Much less bloated. Need more fibre, however, so will seek out something suitable. Hunger during a fast is perfectly manageable, and water seems to take the edge of easily. that said, I am now pissing like the proverbial racehorse. The main side-effect is a revived interest in cooking and eating interesting food – that makes compliance with rules slightly less bitter than usual.

Drop so far? 6lbs/2.7kg.

A fat man in the mirror

I’ve had to face facts. But first I’ve had to face fat. The fat man in the mirror. 

I remember once sniffing at someone who stated that he’d let himself go until he was 35 and then repair the damage. “What a fool”, I thought. Now I’m that fool.

There are a host of reasons and justifications and genuine limitations that I’ve turned over a thousand times in my head and that means there won’t be a return to c200 miles a week on the bike. I’m glad I had those days, and I miss them, but I’ll come to accept that loss and move on. 

But the most direct way to address this is still within my control: what I consume. Previous attempts have shown good results from: 

1. The infamous idave diet – summary here, though copyright is with 
Dave Smith and RST: http://www.jamesrichmond.com/misc/iDaveDiet-RST.pdf 

2. Intermittent fasting – more info here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Intermittent_fasting

3. Exercise.

The plan:

1. idave diet six days a week. Cake blowout on the seventh.

2. Of the six days a week, two to be 600cal fasting days. 

3. For other reasons this is the biggest long term question mark, so I’d rather do more than I’m doing (nothing), but less than I did. I think I’ll do some walking. And maybe a little light gym work with the odd ride at the weekends. 

Target? 2.5st/35lbs/16kg. 

Timescale? Yesterday, obviously. Realistically, around October 2013. But that’s less important than the end result: thinner, lighter, healthier. I’d like to get to a place where I can relax the dietary restrictions a little, but still use them to maintain weight.

Why write what I already know? I need to go back to the genesis of a commitment and have it stare back at me, as the fat man did looking back out of the mirror.

A head filled with static – apparently, I’m “over thinking”

I used to think a lot. Then the world of work, and the prosaic realities of routine, sort of put paid to it. No longer were my thoughts ahead of the curve – neither were they behind it – they’d got off the bus and gone somewhere else.

Much has changed recently, not least in the last 12 months where the thoughts have started a gentle flow. More recently it’s been rather more torrential. 

And with the torrent has come some big challenges to my usual way of doing things: like trying to be more open and sharing what’s going through my head. Only, it hasn’t been met with quite the enthusiasm I hoped.

People are telling me I’m “over thinking”. I’m not sure whether that’s (a) possible and (b) really a reflection on what’s going on. I’m more inclined to see it as impatience for change. Change feels like it’s there, but tantalisingly out of reach and I just want to plough on and grab the future.

Or maybe I’m just over thinking it all again. 

A job worth doing – is worth having someone else do it

Or so the old adage ought to go.

I’m currently having some decorating done by a friend. He’s not able to work right now, so he’s doing a favour by painting a room I’ve recently had some work done to. Namely having the whole thing replastered to get the walls super smooth. So it’s hard to see my friend doing such a poor job. I’m fighting the urge to tell him to forget it. 

Let’s face it, having really high standards for everything and judging everyone by them is only ever going to end in disappointment. It’s such a loaded word – all passive-aggressive and wrapped in piteous contempt.

The same is true of work and careers. That desire – worse, the sense obligation- to ace everything every time, and with it everyone else’s job because they’re not up it, only leads to one place: disappointment city. And while I get to perfect what I’m already good at, there is no collective moving forward. I can paint better, but should I even pick up the brush if that prevents someone else getting good too?

I’ve spent a year at work building my brand at the expense of everyone else. This is quite unlike me, but I have learned some useful hings. Not least that helping people work their way to the same end result is no less valuable if we can all gain something from the experience. I get walls with paint on. Colleagues get to improve what they do on the next deal.

But sitting on my hands is damned hard work.