A short message from my sponsee

Samaritans have been nominated to be the official charity partner for The Football League in 2011.  This opportunity is worth a fantastic £500,000 for Samaritans! 

It is a public vote, so anyone can vote, and it’s quick and easy – please vote for Samaritans now, and encourage everyone you know to vote by following the link below.

Individuals are allowed to vote more than once, – after voting just click the refresh button on your computer.


You may ask ‘why the Samaritans?’:

1) We are the only support available in the UK 24/7, 365 days a year for those going through crisis, whether due to redundancy, debt, bereavement or any other source of distress.

2) The current economic situation means thousands more people are feeling the stress of unemployment, money worries and increased pressure.  Support now is more important than ever.

3) Samaritans helps people in your local community, people from your town, village or city. With 201 branches nationwide, a vote for Samaritans means the money you raise will help those local to you who are desperate for support.

4) A partnership with the Football League helps forge links locally with all Samaritans branches

5) Samaritans is run by 18,500 volunteers and Samaritans turnover is relatively small.  Less than 2% of our income is government funded so we need your support today.

The voting closes on 8th December.

Your vote could help Samaritans win £500,000 and deliver our life saving messages to people at risk across the UK.  

Thank you

PS Arsenal isn’t in the league, it’s in the Premiership so there’s nothing in this for the boys, in case you were wondering.

Reasons to be cheerful!

Mood boosters from the New Scientist:

  • Write a diary. Simply writing about a positive experience has been shown to increase people’s life satisfaction, with the benefits lingering for two weeks after the task (Journal of Clinical Psychology, vol 62, p 1291). A further study found that a group of subjects who wrote about their emotions for just 2 minutes a day, over two days, reported fewer physical health complaints four weeks down the line (British Journal of Health Psychology, vol 13, p 9).
  • Dispute negative thinking. This is a technique borrowed from cognitive behavioural therapy, in which you catch negative thoughts as they arise and ask: “Is there really reason to think like this? Can I reframe this in a more positive way?”
  • Meditate. Barbara Fredrickson and colleagues have shown that meditation can relax both your body and your mind, with many beneficial effects for well-being and happiness (Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, vol 95, p 1045). It’s not easy, however, and you may need some training before you get going.
  • Nurture meaningful relationships with family and friends. More than simply improving your well-being, it might just save your life. “Social resources and ties to groups are one of the key buffers protecting us against unhappiness,” says Fredrickson. A recent meta-analysis of 148 studies on links between the quantity and quality of social relationships and mortality suggests that being socially isolated is about as bad for your health as smoking or drinking excessively, and worse than being obese (PLoS Medicine, vol 7, p e10000316).
  • Beware consumerism. Buying more possessions won’t make you as happy as spending money on social activities or new and exciting experiences (The Journal of Positive Psychology, vol 4, p 511).
  • I’d add knitting and dogs.

    This post is brought to you by the letters i, P, a and d

    So the utterly unexpected happened and I have the uber gadget of extreme lustworthyness – as provided by work! (Although voluntary it is, of course, still work.)

    I shall not bore with attempting to reproduce the extraordinary levels of excitement this provokes. It’s awesomeness on a stick, not just because it’s a small object of extraordinary beauty but also (and mainly) because of what it can do.

    But let us start with the invention of which I am extremely proud. Obviously work provides the bottom of the range model without accessories and, it transpires, as with all Apple goods the accessories come at the usual exorbitant price. Protection was easy to provide – a padded envelope of suitable dimensions from the pile awaiting recycling.

    A stand looked like it might be rather more difficult, but inspiration struck. I took an old compact camera tripod (small, very light weight with extendible legs) and removed the head leaving only the three legs joined at the top with their feet encased in rubber “socks”. The addition of a rubber band at the top of each leg for added frictive stability and bob’s your aunty. A cheap, tiny, lightweight, highly adjustable and very stable stand. I’m sitting on an intercity train with the iPad on it’s stand on the flip-down tray and it hasn’t budged so far through any of the jolts and jouncings that it’s been subject to. I first called it the TRiPad, but maybe triPod would be better.


    The triPod is so small it (or at least one of its legs) fits in my bag’s pencil sleeve.


    The triPod ready for action on the table – note how the two “bottom” legs can be extended or retracted to provide optimum stability whether in landscape or portrait view and the “top” leg can be extended or retracted to provide the ideal viewing angle of choice.

    iPad on TRiPad with bluetooth keyboard on lap

    And here’s the iPad snugly on its stand, paired with the bluetooth keyboard (on my lap) and entirely ready for action.

    Since the iPad has wifi but no 3G working out how to get “stuff” onto the iPad from elsewhere and off the iPad and onto the iPhone (from where it can be uploaded via 3G if there’s no wifi available) is an ongoing subject of investigation. Obviously the ideal would be to have the pad tethered to the phone’s signal in some way, but I can’t see Apple allowing that any time soon. Certainly not without being able to make shed-loads of money from it.

    But a cursory search reveals an awesome app which twins the phone’s camera to the pad’s display via bluetooth, and the picture-taking and storage happen on the pad. Thus it is that one can achieve the mind-blowing (to me) recursive delight of ones reflected self pictured taking a picture of taking a picture using the phone and pad working in tandem.

    The bluetooth keyboard, which we already had, pairs beautifully with the pad despite not being the iPad-specific device the store recommends to use with it. However the experience isn’t entirely trouble free at present. I can’t tell whether it is the fact that the keyboard was rather vigorously cleaned with an unfortunately more-than-damp sponge or whether it’s just a dodgy connection. We are, after all, on a fast-moving vehicle surrounded by hundreds of other electronic devices which may or may not be interfering with the process. I tend to think it was water in the works since the very strange and intermittent phenomenon of the iPod (music player bit) randomly turning on and off again and blaring out music has ceased. Now what we have is the unpredictable arrival of the number 7 in varying numbers (usually around 30 or so) in the text. So the jury has still to be out on the keyboard connection due to a possibly self-administered spanner in the works.

    (We’ve just gone over an extended and very bumpy series of points outside Peterborough. I note that the screen of the MacBook belonging to the woman seated diagonally in front of me and on which she is watching old episodes of some non-House medical soap has been flapping backwards and forwards with the motion. The iPad has, by contrast, been rock steady on its fabulous triPod.)

    The other major discovery worthy of note has been the Opera mini browser. Lightening fast and – oh joy! – flash-enabled. This is particularly useful for work since the new web-based tools which I’m helping test and will be rolling out require flash.

    So what do I find myself using? Opera is the browser of choice for the reasons mentioned above, even though it’s half-size/pixelated on the iPad screen. Mail works like a dream, just as efficient as on the phone (once the difference is sorted out between one’s IMAP and ones elbow). This is being typed on Elements which syncs seamlessly with Dropbox. I’ve never been able to get to grips with Evernote, but that’s probably because Dropbox has done everything I’ve ever needed. Photos and videos move effortlessly between Dropbox and the photo library. And pdf files can now be opened (and thereby saved directly into) iBook. I’ve not listened to the iPod bit – that’s what my phone’s for, and why fill up the pad’s small disc? – but the interface is lovely.

    (Now involved in the aforementioned work, further adventures later no doubt.)

    So much fab, so little time

    There has been so much to marvel at, a surf and foam and froth and bubble and deep rolling waves of turquoise-tinged depths shot through with slanting columns of sun’s gold.

    A prelude to a “what I’ve been doing recently which explains mostly off-lineness” post. Which may well lack links and illustrations initially since it’s being constructed on the phone on a train heading to what is the last scheduled highpoint of this long and glittering summer of peaks. (There are now links and illustrations because of course it didn’t get finished while away.)

    Perhaps first was You, Me, BumBum Train to which the wonderful C (of seed swaps and piranha-populated garden centres and cuttings and wisdom) produced tickets. I’m not sure whether the prohibition on saying what it’s “about” is still in force so I shall merely say that it was a unique experience, exhilarating and challenging and thought-provoking in equal measure.

    Then there was Latitude with the brother of my sons and my heart, A, and the chaos-promoting provocateurs Hg and the flock of murderbirds. So much to see and hear and do.

    wisdom and truth

    Three highlights. The sight of b2 dancing on A’s shoulders listening to and, more importantly, seeing, Vampire Weekend, his face split in a grin so wide I wonder his cheeks didn’t crack. The opportunity to ponder how much letting go is an expansion and enrichment prompted by the evening-to-early-morning antics of b1 with A&J. And watching a giant bubble of rainbow iridescence drift through a deep blue sky, split into smaller bubbles and eventually burst to a spray of drops showering other upturned faces as the incomparable Mumford & Sons sang one of their heartbreaking, electrically life-infused songs.


    Cold is the water
    It freezes your already cold mind
    Already cold, cold mind
    And death is at your doorstep
    And it will steal your innocence
    But it will not steal your substance

    But you are not alone in this
    And you are not alone in this
    As brothers we will stand and we’ll hold your hand
    Hold your hand

    And you are the mother
    The mother of your baby child
    The one to whom you gave life
    And you have your choices
    And these are what make man great
    His ladder to the stars

    But you are not alone in this
    And you are not alone in this
    As brothers we will stand and we’ll hold your hand
    Hold your hand

    And I will tell the night
    Whisper, “Lose your sight”
    But I can’t move the mountains for you.

    And turning to A to see my tears in his.

    high up

    Then, after seven years or so of delighting in the online presence of the Thinkery‘s thinker I got to meet “Dr Krista” (for thus she is known in these parts, because of the scarf of course) in person. A triumphant vindication of the ability of the internet to connect one with the profoundly simpatico and for that virtual friendship to be confirmed and enriched by an encounter IRL. She took me to bits of London I’ve never seen before


    I took her to other bits I had (but hadn’t noticed)

    if you ever need the fur removed from a cherry

    and, best of all, my father took us both to Oxford to see bits neither of us had

    overcome by beauty

    That is not my father recovering from the strain. Just in case anyone was wondering. It might, however, be Christ Church Cathedral prompting Stendhal syndrome.

    It was in fact the summer of American Academics – Krista introduced me to the fascinating and delightful J who, I only later discovered, after not unearthing the fact despite 12 or so straight hours of gabbing, is the blogger I know as Momo. (See above re comment about bloggers IRL.) And the conductor of the Household Opera was in London too, wearing a handknit of such surpassing gorgeousness the pattern had immediately to be purchased and added to the lengthening queue of objects awaiting cooler, knitting-friendly, weather. Here are the three of us – K and A and I – on a London jaunt: two academics and an amateur (and it was too hot to keep the Pas de Valse on, if I’d thought I should have requested it. Bother.)

    two academics and an amateur

    Both Krista and Amanda have written about their UK tours – K here and A here, far more interestingly than I could. Particularly, of course, the parts of their trips for which – shock! horror! – I was not actually present. Suffice it to say we had a serendipitous city Sunday of varied delights.

    Then, at a brisk pace, the bs and I were off to catch up with more bloggers under the guise of having a beach holiday.  One, Lucy, I have known since the age of 10, so this hardly counted as a first IRL experience although since her move to France we’ve actually seen each other seldom.

    How heroic is it possible for one person (or rather two, since Tom was also central to the arrangements) to be? I merely announced the intention to camp and was, forthwith, presented with a shortlist of possible campsites. I chose. The one that it’s not possible to book in advance. So L&T arose at some ungodly hour on the day of our arrival, drove the considerable distance to the municipal site in question, prowled its purleius, located a group looking likely to leave the otherwise entirely chocka site, waited until they had fully departed and flung a pop-up tent onto the pitch in the apparently recognised and respected form of bagsie. Not content with this they then drove to the port to pick us up. Came back to the campsite. Helped put up the (ridiculously enormous) tent. Fed us. Watered us. Produced vital and enormous lengths of electrical cabling. Provided Molly as a Maizy substitute (she couldn’t come, I already missed her.) They only departed when it was too dark to do anything other than sleep.


    What an idyllic holiday. The golden-sanded barely inhabited bay of a beach two minutes in one direction, chilled local cider two minutes in the other. And moules and gallettes and crêpes. We swam in the sea. We burnt in the sun. We ate – abundantly and deliciously. We chilled when and where  and how ever we felt like. We laughed. We slept. We did it all again. It was absolutely perfect.

    hows that for a beach

    And we got to hang out with Lucy and Molly for a whole day. Which she (the former) may well have recalled here, under St Michel (the îlot just visible in the picture above and accessible only by a causeway exposed at low tide) which made me gasp and smile in recognition. We, the adults, so entranced and excited by the real. live. hermit. crabs. in teeny tiny shells!! and the boys, busy with some complex digging-and-damming engineering project, casting a polite but cursory glance over our outstretched sandy palms and attempting, and failing, concomitant interest.

    We also got to do our washing in a proper machine see Lucy and Tom in their natural habitat and meet Gillian too! and Porridge, who confusingly goes by another name when not bounding the blogosphere. Both were even more delightful IRL, should such a thing be possible. We ate and drank (of course). And walked in the Breton not-rain which closely resembles British rain, stopping to shelter under a tree only when it was deemed to be raining, a meteorological condition which would be known elsewhere as a monsoon. But cold. We learnt that in Brezhoneg the sky is not just “grey” but can be described by a plethora of words covering, well, the colours of rain-bearing and rain-producing clouds. In addition there is, apparently, no word for “blue”, the nearest being a form of “green”. Fortunately back at the beach the rain held off until the exact moment we had the inner tent spread out on the ground when striking camp, at which moment the heavens opened several sluice-gates over our pitch.

    Once back, while the boys went off for yet another holiday I went to Dartmoor with friends. Walking, mirth, stones, myth, talking, wool.

    Finally now the run down towards the new school term – uniform, shoes, stationary, a certain amount of nagging about homework and revision. The weather is glowering and chilly. I wonder whether the 100 or so tomatoes on the plant by the back door will actually ever ripen. Leaves are flung off the trees. Cycling into the headwind feels like late autumn, not mid August. And so the wheel turns.

    Very cute moorit things

    1. Maizy. Of course. But particularly cute because her coat has been lovingly hand stripped. By me.

    She no longer resembles a miniature highland cow. She now has portions of sleek, shiny, subtly brindled terrier outer coat. That would be from her border terrier mother.

    Elsewhere about her person, however:

    there are peculiar golden silky wispy bits which just refuse to be pulled out. They, no doubt, are part of the “travelling man” father’s heritage. Oh, and her tail is disproportionately bulbous because she won’t let me tug at it, not even for the freeze-dried liver treats.

    2. The Manx Loaghtan sheep which may, so various sites inform me, occasionally grow six horns.

    These three good-looking boys have only four horns apiece. Where on earth would another pair of horns actually fit on? And why, despite spending almost every summer of my first 14 years with family on the Isle of Man, do I not remember seeing such a beast? It’s an at-risk breed, which is sad, and makes me immediately wish to remove to the planned coastal retirement home and grow them in quantities along with other so-called “primitive” breeds. Like the seaweed-eating North Ronaldsay, for example.

    3. The yarn of the above (Manx, not Orkadian):

    I have 500g and am currently sifting through thousands of possible patterns on ravelry. None has yet leaped out as deserving to be knitted in this.

    And moorit? According to


    I’m glad I know that.

    Chelsea Physic Garden

    With K and J.

    Ripping, twisting, piercing, flapping, splitting, tearing, oozing, bursting, cracking, squelching, thrusting, rotting, spiking, furling, living, dying.


    I think the iPhone bindweed set is finished now. Presumably one of the reasons these delicately beautiful plants are regarded as weeds rather than anything more exalted has to do with the shortness of their season. A picture a day on the walk to (or from) school and in a fortnight they’ve gone from bursting budding to hollow husks.


    BIG BANG BIG BOOM – the new wall-painted animation by BLU from blu on Vimeo.


    an unscientific point of view on the beginning and evolution of life … and how it could probably end.

    direction and animation by BLU


    production and distribution by ARTSH.it


    sountrack by ANDREA MARTIGNONI

    many thanks to (in random order):

    xm24 bologna, csoa mezzacanaja, ericailcane, robert rebotti, andrea bagni, paper resistance, studiocromie, rifrazioni festival, sasso passo, sibe, festival de cine experimental de maldonado (uruguay), gianluigi toccafondo, orilo, maria de brea, bs as stencil, run don’t walk, franco fasoli, modo infoshop, pietro and icone festival, doma, cesare romani, popup festival and all the blu’s family

    Oh yes

    It all started inauspiciously enough – had to go back to feed the forgotten animals, walked to the wrong local station, arrived at the right local station to find no travel card, at journey’s end came out of the wrong station exit. Was this all a very ill omen or perhaps a conduit in the universal bad luck channel diverting some, at least, away from the Black Stars?

    Up in north London the evening sun was golden, an aroma of woodsmoke was fanned by the slipstream of the passing buses and the pavements raucous with the banter of sunning saunterers. So we missed the kick-off. Too bad.

    lucky belt

    At the door of the bar we realised just how bad. Ghana were one-nil up we were told by the jubilant young man outside. Already? Could this be true? Oh yes!

    hand clapping

    The bar was small and packed. An enterprising remittance company had produced free bags containing a castanet-type rattle in the team colours in the shape of hands which clapped when shaken. Subsequently every series of passes, every successful tackle, in fact pretty much any time a Black Star player even looked at the ball evoked a crescendo of plastic claques to accompany the flag-waving.


    Adversity, on the other hand, was signalled by silent stillness. Oh that penalty.


    That, however, was later. At half time we were still one-nil up and the break provided the opportunity for in-depth analysis

    half time discussion


    flags 2

    and that fervent fellowship denoted by the blaring of car horns

    iStreet 2

    I had to leave at the 73rd minute with the score still one all. The celebrations at the end of extra time were, apparently, spectacular.


    Roll on next Friday.