Monday, 31 December 2007

What a start to a new year

Well well, it's the eve of a new year again and here I am, dosed up on decongestants and paracetamol and enjoying that hour and a half respite from man-flu that they provide. Meh.

This past week has been a rather relaxed affair, as our children have been walloped off their feet with it too. We've nursed them as they sweltered quietly on their couches. Whilst we've fretted that they're ill, I'll admit to enjoying the peace a little, knowing that pretty soon I'd come down with it too.

Miche so far, has avoided this dreadful lurgy.

So, we've had a take out curry tonight to mark the occasion, which tasted like spicy snot, and a bottle of wine which I'm led to believe had quite a nose to it.

Of course, I'm not one for omens and portents, so this inauspicious start to 2008 has no significance. We will recover. Neither am I one for resolutions. If there's a time for sober reflection and serious commitment to change, then new year's eve is hardly the occasion for it frankly.

No, I like to look back over the past year and imagine how we were at the last new year. What I see pleases me - we're still all together for a start. Our kids have grown a little in height and massively in their personalities and abilities.

Miche is as beautiful now as she was back then, and I love her just the same. Which is good enough for me.

We change and grow with the years, though without our pasts what are we? In these uncertain times, and with that existential anxiety that middle age seems to bring, I'm all for a bit of stability.

So here's to the new year. May it be full of challenges, as each one tends to be, but I hope nothing changes too much. Things are nice enough as they are thankoyouverymuch.

Happy New Year.

Friday, 21 December 2007

Back from the brink

Apologies for the hiatus. Let me explain.

It's been somewhat of a mental week.

Meg ran into our bedroom at 2:30 Tuesday morning to tell us she had a sore tummy. Seconds later she barfed all over our bed, the floor and bedside cabinet. Miche got it in her hair. Which was nice.

Since then Meg has sweltered on the couch, refusing all but minute sips of water. Now, she's a lithe creature in the best of circumstances so after only three days fasting, her ribs are showing. Thankfully she rediscovered her appetite with a vengeance this morning.

Wednesday morning circa 1:30, Dom discovered that his Cardia isn't yet as robust as his sister's and he yawned in technicolour over the landing on his way to our bedside. I nursed my son throughout the night so that Miche could sleep the night before her birthday.

Work has been a blurry, bleary eyed carousel of slipping deadlines and half baked decisions. And of course, there have been Christmas preparations to make, so any spare brain cycles have been conserved by watching TV.

Today however, I woke up fresh from eight solid hours kip, our children are clamouring for calories and the office closes at 12pm for our annual Christmas knees-up.

I shall return home when I start to believe I'm a good dancer.

Friday, 14 December 2007


Just so you know, we took delivery of the last remaining Wii console in the UK this morning. Not that I'm bragging or anything.

Neither am I ashamed of buying into the latest consumer craze, as we're all going to have a wii of a time playing with it on Christmas day.

Ner ner ne ner ner.

Thursday, 13 December 2007

Santa, is that you?

As I walked through the church yard this evening, on my way to the local boozer for the village lads Xmas get together, the bell ringers were rehearsing. The ground crunched underfoot and my way was lit by the festive lights on the village green trees.

This is how it looked and sounded;

Religion aside, there's nothing better than medieval church bells on a frosty night to get the Christmas spirits flowing.

We've had a few pints of the best Guinness in the village before I had to leave the lads as they went to the Indian. Unfortunately I'm interviewing for a key post tomorrow so had to be boring and come home.

On the way back the ground was slippery underfoot. The hardening ice twinkled under the street lights like tinsel. I didn't pass a soul until the last corner when an old man, somewhat overweight and with a large white beard passed me.

He gave me a big smile and the standard northern greeting of "Alreet?"

And so I feel "christmassy".

Our tree is up, I bought the last of Miche's presents earlier today and our online grocery shop has been ordered...

I wish a happy secular midwinter celebration to one and all!

Wednesday, 12 December 2007

Brass Monkey

A rather chilly drive to work this morning.

Tuesday, 11 December 2007

A love story

Murph left my first comment on Sans God on the 1st December 2006. His question still reverberates in my head today.

What is consciousness?

Of course, neither of us have come close to answering this question. However, I'd like to think that in debating this and other things, we've become friends. Or as our wives describe us - 'pen pals'. See, Murph lived in Ohio until today and as you know I live in Northumberland, UK.

I met Murph at the same time that he and Holly were enjoying the full on, poetic rush of new love. A love that they were gracious enough to share with the entire world via their blogs - The Candy Store and What the Hell is a Blog. These ephemeral creations were instrumental in them meeting in the first place, as their relationship (as far as I can gather) was borne over the Internet tubes. Which was a good thing, as Holly lives in Canada.

They married on the 10th January 2007.

And now, Murph & Holly are having a baby! Robert Declan Murphy to be precise.

You may not know of the struggle Murph has endured over the past year to secure Canadian residence so that they can be a family together. Suffice to say, it's been a trial and a half. As of today, all the forms have been signed, consulates have been informed, tickets have been bought and Murph is in transit as we speak.

I wish you all the best Holly & Murph & Declan!

Tartan Paint

I came across a glassy eyed, slack jawed student yesterday as she poured over our policies on our intranet. She looked somewhat bemused.

“Are you OK?” I asked, “Anything I can help with?”

“Is it important to have a whistleblowing policy?” She asked me.

“Yes, it’s vital we protect service users from…”

“Ahh yeah, the noise will upset them I bet.”


“Well, you know, the whistles might scare them.”

It was my turn to get glassy eyed and slack jawed.

“Erm, have you read the policy?”

“No, not yet, but I will – it looks really interesting.”

Your life may be in their hands one day…

Friday, 7 December 2007

Buy one soul, get one free

Perhaps Pope (eyes of a murderer) Benedict used to sell carpets. Imagine for a moment, Benedict in a cheap tv ad will you;

"Roll up! Roll up! For one month only, if you visit Lourdes I'll cut your time in purgatory by 20%! Satisfaction guaranteed. (Deposit non-refundable. Terms & Conditions apply. Offer ends 12am 8th December)."

Surely he's taking the piss.

Monday, 3 December 2007

Driving to work

Pretty, but there's something unnatural about driving to work just as the sun rises.

Friday, 30 November 2007


Miche & I have been together for fifteen years gone November. Which is quite a long time by any standard. Fifteen years in which many things could (and have) gone wrong. Yet we're still together and rubbing along quite nicely. We're like a worn joint in this respect - painful from time to time, but regular anti-inflammatories keep things from getting too angry or inflamed.

The problem is - NSAIDs have a habit of irritating the lining of the gut. Once in a while you must stop taking them and cope as best as you can with the inflammation.

You'd think that I'd done something heinous, wouldn't you? Dipped the wick into another candle perhaps. But no - this inflammatory issue is external and outwith the influence of "us". Yet it still gets in the way all these years later.

Of course it's my fault, because in this black and white world everything is - for I am a man and fault is the default.

My "no emo blog post" promise is now broken...

Wednesday, 28 November 2007

Being Daddy

I've all sorts of posts in my head right now. Some of them are simple, some of them profound. One or two may be both.

For the time being though, I'm just being Dad.

Tuesday, 27 November 2007

Keep Left

I lament the attrition of my early childhood memories. What seemed so bright back then has been smudged and deadened by the passage of time. I'm left only with vague notions and fleeting deja vu as I stumble on through an adult's life.

This is one of the beauties of parenthood I guess - that we can relive our childhood memories vicariously through our children. Or perhaps that we can relive our romanticised version of our childhoods at least...

A close friend told me once of a magical parental moment that he'd had with his daughter, now grown up, on the top deck of a bus waiting at traffic lights in Glasgow. Out of the blue, his four year old said "Keep left". He was confused at first, but then noticed the road sign which commanded the driver to "Keep Left".

In this moment he was awestruck that symbols and glyphs that had previously been only shapes, had begun to take on a meaning for his daughter and be imbibed with metaphor.

This morning, as I checked my email, Meg nonchalantly walked past me and said "Google Mail" to herself.

Truly a child of her time.

Saturday, 24 November 2007

A warning to the foolhardy

If you find that your soft boiled egg is raw, do not, under any circumstance, be tempted to blip it in the microwave. Even if you've tapped the top off it to relieve the pressure, it will still explode with a satisfying whoomph.

Thursday, 22 November 2007


Stew tagged me, the bastard. Here's my "crazy eights";

Eight things I am passionate about:

Beauty. It keeps me alive, I swear. I love the fact that it's everywhere I look. As I get older, more and more things have become beautiful. Perhaps my senses are growing more attuned. It can be found in the most unlikeliest of places - the corners of mouths, under pebbles, written in between the lines of a poem or in the single note of a song. Whilst I know it has no inherent value and that it exists only within the eye that beholds it, it gives me meaning. Call me a Gaia junkie if you will, I couldn't care less.

Objectivity / Rationality. I have little tolerance for flim flam, automatic assumption, bigotry, blind faith or superstition. Frankly it boils my piss when I come across it. I guess it's an obsession of mine to reflect on my own automatic assumptions, faiths and superstitions so that I might understand what it is about our fuzzy senses that make us so susceptible to these falsities.

Family / Love. It's in the genetics I'm sure, but my family are the most important thing to me by a mile.

Person Centred Dementia Care. I manage a number of Dementia care units for people with advanced Dementias or who, because of their condition, behave in ways which would challenge more 'traditional' care units. This work is hard physically, emotionally and psychologically and frequently underestimated. The skills, knowledge and values required to to this job well are beyond the reach of many. Yet our government expects the bulk of this work to be done by low paid, under-trained, under-valued people. I try to do my best to engineer the most optimal circumstances for these people to give good care. I'll stop here, before I go on one of my frequent soliloquies on the subject...

Recovery focused mental health care. I'm also responsible for a number of services providing care and support to younger adults with 'severe' mental health problems. By this I mean psychosis, bi-polar affective disorder (manic depression) and such like. Since the dawn of Psychiatry, these conditions have been thought of as incurable and chronic. The system treat them with this assumption. It still does to an extent. With the rise of the 'consumer movement' and service users finding their voice finally, it has become clear that people can learn to live perfectly decent lives with these conditions, given the right circumstances. The lumbering behemoth that is the mental health system is taking its time catching on to this. I'd like to think that I'm amongst those that agitate for change. I hope I'm making a difference, modest as it may be.

The outdoors. I love my Northumberland for its wide open spaces. I try to be outside in it whenever I can.

Running. Well, it gets me outside I suppose. If I don't get to run at least once a week I get irritable and tired. Perhaps I'm addicted.

Technology. Yup, I'm a geek and a man. As such I like all things with buttons and LEDs. Despite my attempts to temper these nerd compulsions, I know that I'll own an I-phone by the end of the year.

Eight things to do before I die:

Run the New York Marathon

Write a half decent book

Plan my funeral

Drive the Nurburgring in a stupidly fast car

Have my children grow into adulthood and tell me that they're happy in their own skin

See the Amazon & Ganges rivers

Grow into adulthood and feel happy in my own skin

Say something really enigmatic, in my final breath, that people will wonder about for generations.

Eight things I say often





Oh, for goodness sake


Get down off the back of the sofa

No, I don't want double glazing, now fuck off.

Eight books I have read or am still reading:

The Wasp Factory, Iain Banks

Cider With Rosie, Laurie Lee

Thus Spoke Zarathustra, Friedrich Nietzsche

Is it just me, or is everything shit? Steve Lowe

Collapse, Jared Diamond

Metaphors We Live By, George Lackoff

Life of Pi, Yann Martel

A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, Dave Eggers

Eight songs to listen to over and over again:

This is a hard one, as it changes almost daily. So I will use only my last months listening as indicated by

Four Tet - She Moves Me

Bright Channel - Light Workers

Low - California

The Six Parts Seven - Now Like Photographs

Coaltar of the Deepers - Good Morning

Squarepusher - Journey to Reedham

The Arcade Fire - No Cars Go

Mystery Jets - Soluble in Air

Eight things that attract me to friends:

Tolerance - well, they would have to be...






Lack of pungent body odour

A present and working brain


I can't be arsed to spread this meme any further. If you want to be tagged by me then just tear off a slip from the bottom of this post

Wednesday, 21 November 2007

Always bring your camera

Driving to work this morning. Half an hour ago.

Monday, 19 November 2007

Dripping with caveats

The house of lords will soon be debating an amendment to the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill. The amendment is wide ranging, but includes within it the recognition of same sex couples as legal parents. It will remove the current requirement on IVF clinics to be sure that a father is involved in the upbringing of any child created after he donates sperm.

Forever the optimist, I'd like to think that the bill will receive a fair hearing and be passed by the lords. Perhaps predictably though, the Church has its objections. Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, the head bummer of the English and Welsh Catholic Church said yesterday that the amendment to the bill was "profoundly wrong" and undermined "the place of the father in a child's life". Given that the Christian church has a disproportionate influence in the House of Lords, my optimism may well be ill placed.

Yet for all my antipathy to this moral posturing, I do have some sympathy for Cormac's sentiments. Putting aside his half baked moral code for one moment, there is an argument for monogamous, mother / father relationships being the optimal circumstance for children to grow up in.

By any statistical norm, there can be little argument against the notion of the nuclear family. Children who grow up in stable families, with a mother and father present, do better on all measures than kids that do not.

Just look at me for example.

Hmn, maybe not, let's move on...

Our social world is built upon the premise that the Mother / Father / 2.3 child family is the norm. Houses are built to home us, the government taxes us with this assumption, holidays are priced for us in the same way that people carriers are designed for us.

Naturally, if our world is designed around this notional 'norm', then those that don't conform to this standard will be at a disadvantage.

It takes no imagination then, to see that the nuclear family has a distinct advantage. Conforming to these norms has a habit of being so. However, we should be clear what norms we're conforming to in the first place.

I'm sure we can think of anomalies; the single mother who raises an emotionally stable genius or the gay father who educates a state senator. And fair play to them for bucking the trend. However, despite my philosophical / moral relativist / slightly Marxist leanings, when it comes to my kids, I'm as conservative as they come.

That said, there is one commonality - stability. This I think, transcends all cultural and sexual boundaries. If a child is raised in a consistent way, with parental role models that are there and together, through good times and bad, then the mother and father roles become meaningless I think.

Love, stability and understanding trump the 2.4 median any day.

So let me make this clear - I support this amendment in as much as I support stable families. Gay / Bi / Straight is neither here nor there.

Saturday, 17 November 2007

Exploring the morning

We're a bit busy right now doing stuff and will probably be doing stuff for a bit. Normal service will resume soon enough...

Thursday, 15 November 2007

Sarcastic? Moi?

Came across this sign above a bin full of tea bags in one of our remote offices today. It gave me a chuckle.

Tuesday, 13 November 2007

Avoid mirrors

I've often wondered what it is to be an adult. You know - what it's supposed to feel like and whether I've got it right. Because quite frankly, it wasn't how I'd imagined it to be.

When I was young, being an adult seemed to be a great thing to be. I imagined life to be secure, certain, stable and predictable. Which is far from boring I assure you, as this stability provides a fundament upon which you can be who you want to be. I assumed.

As it is, adulthood is a wholly different affair as far as I can discern. Life is just as scary as it was as a child, farting remains funny (despite what the teachers say) and even worse, no one tells you what to do anymore.

Which is scary.

I guess there are two main differences;

1) The stakes are higher

2) Predicting the weather gets easier

By this I mean one's mental map of the physical and social world is more detailed than it was as a child. My sense of the 'other' and what 'might be' has become more attuned.

So it's with this heightened awareness that I've come to appreciate my childlike dependence on those around me, and of theirs on me. So one must choose well.

In this respect I must have grown up, as I've chosen and been chosen by some wonderful people. At the top of this pile is my beloved.

May we all continue to be children together.

Predict the weather.
Anticipate the storm, please.
Keep the rain in sight.

Watch out for the sky.
Let's not get struck by lightning.
Seek shelter for life.

By Murph

Monday, 12 November 2007

Happy Birthday, Sans God

Well well, my blog is a year old today. I had a special post in mind to mark this auspicious occasion. However, my Microshite Whindoze laptop has been infected with all manner of malware. I'd install Linux on it in a snap if it wasn't for work.

It's my own fault for being so nice. I offered to fix a friend's PC you see. Stupidly I connected it to our home network on Saturday to download some patches and her dirty, pox ridden, mangy little PC ripped through my poor laptop within seconds.

I'm restoring it as we speak to its factory settings. Which means a whole lot of fiddling and tweaking to get it to its pre-infected state. Bah, meh, fuck and bastard.

Incidentally, I fixed her PC and She didn't even say thank you when she picked it up this morning.

I am no longer the one who "fixes your PC". Don't even think about asking me, as I will swear at you and may even get violent.

Now, it's my party, so I'm going to cry if I want to...

Sunday, 11 November 2007

Remembrance Sunday

Every year for the past god knows how many, the same old man has stood outside our local shop selling poppies for Remembrance day. I'm pretty sure he fought in the Crimean War. Well, you would think so, given his country gent deportment and huge handlebar mustache, which is now completely white.

I bought four poppies from him last Saturday, one for each of us, before going into the shop to stock up on sweets for our long walk with Mcleod.

On my way back to the car he stopped me.

"Your dog's been good as gold you know" he said, "he's sat there the whole time just looking at me."

He followed me over to the car and gave Mac a thorough petting once I'd opened the boot.

"He's just like my old dog you know."

I could have sworn I saw tears well up in his eyes. He gave Mcleod a poppy.

Thursday, 8 November 2007


I’m a creature of habit. I sit down of an evening, having kissed the children goodnight and think “what can I write tonight?”

Ordinarily I’d have pulled up the footstool and laptop just so. My right knee would be laying against Miche’s thigh as she watches TV.

She's away tonight with the girls. So I shall do what I will.

M'off 2 b a boy...

Tuesday, 6 November 2007

Sign of the times

Came across this church whilst driving to a meeting in Newcastle. Gave me a wry smile.

Right here, if you're interested;

View Larger Map

Monday, 5 November 2007


The Telegraph reports today of an Indian family who have a two year old girl Lakshmi who was born with four arms and four legs. To be precise, she has a 'parasitic' twin that has fused with her. The twin is headless and undeveloped.

The poor wee mite.

Despite her mother believing that Lakshimi is "a miracle, a reincarnation", she said "but she is my daughter and she cannot live a normal life like this."

Lakshimi will endure extensive surgery to enable her to live a normal life. Her surgeon expects it to be successful.

Now this is an example of reason winning over faith to protect human well being.

I wish them all well.

A lump in my throat

So you're faced with the choice to accept a blood transfusion and live to care for your new born baby, or refuse it on theological grounds and die.

What's the morally compelling choice? To accept the treatment, despite your belief that it's a sin, so that you can raise your children and give them the love they need. Or, refuse the treatment and die, leaving your children bemused and motherless.

Emma Gough chose to die last week, after giving birth to twins, because the bible told her it was the right thing to do.

Honestly, my heart aches for those poor, wretched children.

Crystal Dietetics

Dinner party last night with people we hardly know. Nice lot, though still at the 'polite conversation' stage.

Yours truly let his mouth slip when the immaculately manicured trophy wife told the table that she's on a special diet and couldn't possibly eat the pasta.

"I had an assessment done by my crystal healer last week. He told me to cut out wheat, strawberries and spam."

"How did he do that?" another guest asked.

"Well, he swung [insert random crystal name] over my stomach and felt the 'energies'. I'm not sure exactly what he was testing for..."

"Gullibility?" I interjected.

She didn't laugh.

Sunday, 4 November 2007

Tree of Confusion

For the past two years this tree in our garden has blossomed in November. The flowers are wizened in comparison to the spring, but it's blossom nonetheless.

Is this normal? Or is it that pesky Global Warming monkeying around agin?

Saturday, 3 November 2007

And the award for the most ironic protest 2007 goes to...

Writing about the Westboro Baptist Church demonstrations the other day reminded me of this image.

Friday, 2 November 2007

Dropping Balls

Being a man, I'm not genetically predisposed to multi tasking. It makes me dizzy. Miche on the other hand, is a seasoned pro. Take this morning for example - whilst I was engrossed in helping Meg with her weekly spelling test, Miche was ironing school uniforms, texting her girlfriends whilst keeping an eye on the toast. Quite awesome really.

My problem is this; the rate at which I acquire books far exceeds my ability to consume them. We have book cases in the dining room, each bedroom, the hall and landing. I have a pile of them at the side of my bed that extends at least two feet under it.

Being a man, I should really only read one at a time, because I may very well disappear up my own arse if I take on more than that.

Not one to take one's own advice, I find myself with five on the go at the moment. To manage this burden, I've compartmentalised my reading into rooms. It goes like this;

Lounge: Family Matters, Rohinton Mistry

A wonderful, lyrical exploration of family life and of growing old. I'm reading this book in the same way that I read Cider with Rosie as an adolescent - tasting each sentence.

50% through. 4 / 5. -1 because there's too many characters, which confuses me.

Downstairs Toilet: Beyond Good and Evil, Friedrich Nietzsche

Amidst the various clenchings of pelvic muscles, I like to flex the cerebral. Nietzsche has been a toilet companion of mine for many years now. Perhaps this says as much about Friedrich as it does me; in that we both like to talk shite from time to time. Having said that, and in doing so, I'm reminded of my teenage philosophical debates when our pretentions got the better of us. We evoked Nietzsche as if we truly understood his 'philosophy'. Of course we didn't. Neither do I now, to be honest. But he helps me 'work things out'.

I'm now on my 4th read I think. 30% through. 4.5 / 5. -.5 for the odd punctuation.

Office / Office toilet: Inside Lives: Psychoanalysis and the Growth of the Personality, Margot Wadell

Perhaps there's a running theme here - toilets. There is something 'spiritual' about squeezing one out.

Now, I'm an empiricist at heart in my work. I like to focus on what is proven and what is shown to work. Which is why I don't subscribe to psychodynamic thought. That said, the metaphorical / interpretative approach that Margot describes attracts me. There is some truth in it, I'm sure.

I'm reading this book in 5 minute bursts right now, yet still I'm enjoying it. Perhaps I'll become a neo-freudian one day.

25% through. 3.7 / 5. Well written, though my fundamental differences in thought spoil it for me. Worth persevering though, for it's thought provoking stuff.

Upstairs Toilet: Is it just me, or is everything Shit? Volume Two, Steve Lowe

The perfect book for any British, middle class, white, middle income, middle aged, middle IQ, male misanthrope; a brief, hilarious and disgusting comment on what it is to be all of the above in modern times. Just long enough to read before the kids disturb you.

75% through. 5/5. For its ease of use and simplistic hilarity.

Bedroom: Meanwhile back at the ranch, Kinky Friedman

I love Kinky as he makes me laugh. This is a short book and I can see the end coming a mile off. I don't want to finish it, as he gives me a chortle at least every second sentence. And what better way to finish a day than with hilarity?

80% through - soo nearly there. 4 / 5.


Anyway, tell me - what is your critical mass when it comes to reading? How many books can you manage at once?

I've bitten off more than I can chew - two is my limit. Given that which one should I finish first and devote my time to, do you think?

Guy Fawkes

Conveniently, the children's school held its firework display tonight rather than on the more conventional 5th of November. Which was very considerate of them, as I can now go to this lecture by Zygmunt Bauman on Monday evening without any guilt.

Happy days.

It was a rather good show, as you can see.

Thursday, 1 November 2007

Rock your body

I've always thought that a sense of rhythm was peculiar to primates. It seems I've been wrong.

Freedom to hate?

The Westboro Baptist Church has just been fined $10.9 million for the hurt and anguish it caused the Snyder family when they picketed their son's funeral who'd died in action in Iraq.

You'll have heard of these nutballs I'm sure. They're the idiots who blame homosexuals for the death of soldiers. These idiots have been demonstrating at funerals for a while now under the false guise of 'free speech'.

What they fail to understand is the difference between free speech and hate speech. The families lawyer summed up sentiments well when he urged the jury to make their message clear - "Do not bring your circus of hate to Maryland again".

The Rev Fred Phelps retorted outside the court that "It will take the 4th Circuit of Appeals a few minutes to reverse this silly thing."

I think not, matey. The fine will bankrupt the church. Somehow I doubt it will silence these gimps though as they see themselves as the moral saviors of the US.

Was it Kant who first made the link between aesthetics and morality? You know what I mean - Art being hard to define, yet we know it when we see it. Equally, it's hard to define morality, but we know wrong from right when we see it.

The problem is - their sense of aesthetic morality is more felt tip than fine art.

To hammer home my point, check out their latest 'hymn'.

Honestly, it's not a spoof. FFS.

Wednesday, 31 October 2007

The Gutsy Gibbon

Forgive me for getting a bit geeky, but I had to show you this. I've just finished installing the latest Ubuntu distribution on our home PCs and have tinkered with them to my satisfaction. For those of you who are 'normal', Ubuntu is a replacement for MS Windows. It's based on Linux.

Perhaps more importantly it's free. Not only that, it's so easy to install you can do it blindfolded. I've installed windows more times than I'd like to admit, and this Ubuntu install beats it hands down. I didn't have to get 'technical' at all. Once installed, the OS found all the appropriate drivers & codecs for me and asked me politely if I'd like to install them.

Ahh, joy - it just works!

But up until now Linux has had an Achilles heel - frankly it wasn't as pretty as Windows. Particularly Vista. So, I thought I'd show you the eye candy that comes with Ubuntu out of the box these days.

Geek joy indeed.

Tuesday, 30 October 2007

Wooo? Meh...

What the hell happened to Halloween?

When I was young, I would have had a small turnip, barely large enough for the candle to carry around the houses. They were so dense that my Dad would have been whittling away at one since mid August.

This year we've bought a pumpkin twice the size of my head. Which works on more than one level I suppose. One quid from Tesco's - that's all it cost. One quids worth of tasteless, pumped up, over fertilised mush.

Easy to cut out though.

Tesco had two and a half aisles full of Halloween regalia - Hats, skeletons, wobbly eyes, brooms, capes & plastic pumpkin buckets for crap. The sexy witch outfit caught my eye.

I bought one.

No I didn't. I thought about it though.

Monday, 29 October 2007

A fifty pence - twenty pence moment

Earlier this evening Dominic & I were reading a rather good human anatomy flip book. We'd just got to the brain bit when we heard a blood curdling scream from upstairs. We bolted up them, two at a time, to discover Miche & Meg on top of a bed, clutching each other in terror.

This beast was hounding the poor pair - lurking on the carpet and taunting them. Waggling his mandibles. The bastard.

Of course, being the man, I'm the spider catcherer of the household. I kind of like the wee blighters to be honest. I catch them between my palms. Sometimes I even peek at them.

This one was a monster however. I'll admit to a fifty pence - twenty pence moment, if you catch my drift. It took all my effort, for the benefit of the kids of course, to kneel down and say "Cool! Come on everyone, lets look at him."

There was no fucking way I was touching him! Besides, he was a house spider and autumn is a particularly bad time for them.You see, they come out of their crannies to find a mate.

As this bull was huge and horny, I had no desire to have him hump my thumb like a dog with his nadgers still intact, thankyouverymuch.

You'll note that I resorted to the old glass & birthday card trick.

Sunday, 28 October 2007

Nothing much to say

So here's some pretty pictures from Sunday's crop.

Saturday, 27 October 2007

A is for atheist

Alright, I'll admit, I'm drunk right now. Ordinarily I can touch type. Right now it's poke & hope territory. The delete key is my friend.

The full moon looks great when you're half arsed. It looks good sober too, I suppose. However, drinking gives me an excuse to smoke, which for all my healthy living, still makes me go mmmn.

So I find myself smoking at the back door under a full moon. The only thing to do under these circumstances is to paint a scarlet A with a Marlborough Light against a long exposure shot of our satellite. Even though I find the notion of an atheist logo rather odd.

But, you're my best mates, you atheists...

Perhaps it's time for bed...

Bollocks, God's smoking again.

A new art form has been born - Google-oetry. The exterminator of No More Hornets was the first to write a poem, using only the keywords people have used to find his site. I came across this new aesthetic via Riker's fabulous Google-oem Efflorescent.

I thought I'd get mine in early, before this becomes a meme. I'd never noticed how creepily sexual many of the searches leading to Sans God are. The following is not edited in any way, save for the odd comma;

Bollocks, God's smoking again.

My wife needs shagging,
did I just say that out loud?
Well tell me what do you want to hear,
banana fingered god.

It's worth repeating,
my wife needs shagging,
but my diaphragm hurts badly,
need poo desperate toilet,
over egging the pudding?

The bean lord Jesus,
in the bedsit morning light,
smug bastard, silence please,
creating a fruitbattery.

Scooby Doo having sex,
Scooby Doo is God,
willies are sticky,
wife needs shagging,
where can I get endorphins?

A man's perspective on falling in love,
good breasts, god breasts,
Disney horror, bad breasts odour,
bury your wife under the patio.

By the hairs on his chinnychinchin,
there will be no miracles here,
nice breasts, good snaps,
Top 10 crematorium songs.

Metaphors for husbands,
like Grandmas huge belch,
what do you say?
sorry, my dear,
what culture needs to remove pubic hair?

The feline anus,
gods expression of idea?
Bollocks, gods smoking again.

Mucking about in the park

And Photoshop of course.

Wednesday, 24 October 2007

1st frost of the Autumn

That's what I like about British weather - one day you can be on the beach enjoying the sun, the next you find yourself amidst freezing fog and solid frost at 8 in the morning.

Tuesday, 23 October 2007

Working from home

Not stopped all day, honestly.

No such thing as a canon

I must say, I admire Jonathan Sacks - the chief Rabbi of the UK's Orthodox Synagogues. He's an intelligent and forthright speaker on national culture. Amongst his religious counterparts, he's the most erudite I think.

It goes without saying that I disagree with him on some fundamental points, however, my ears perk up when he's wheeled into Radio 4 as the religious pundit. Also, I take the time to read what he has to say in the press. He writes well and often makes me think.

Which says something about him perhaps...

His latest article in The Times however, has rather stuck in my craw. I expected more from him frankly. The piece, in my view, is nothing more than a middle class, middle aged diatribe of modern culture and all of its 'ills'. He has an obvious problem with multiculturalism, moral relativism and the democratisation of information that our digital age has provided for us.

I urge you to read it first, as he is a superb writer and thinker. Way beyond my amateur attempts... However, let me outline why he's pissed me off;

"Multiculturalism has run its course, and it is time to move on. It was a fine, even noble idea in its time. It was designed to make ethnic and religious minorities feel more at home, more appreciated and respected, and therefore better able to mesh with the larger society. It affirmed their culture. It gave dignity to difference."

" But there has been a price to pay, and it grows year by year. Multiculturalism has led not to integration but to segregation."

No, the multiculturalist policy of the UK has led to the largest natural influx of migrants in modern times. These migrants, by and large, contribute positively to our economy and culture, as they always have. Of course there are pockets of separatism where cultures do not mix. We read stories each day of racist crimes and discrimination. What we rarely read about however, is how the vast majority of us rub along quite nicely thankyouverymuch.

This got my shackles up immediately;

"But there was something else happening at the same time, of great consequence: the slow demise of morality itself, conceived as the moral bond linking individuals in the shared project of society."

In every age of humanity, there have been naysayers decrying the moral decline of decadent society. Even in the age of Plato. What makes Jonathan think there's a dangerous decline? I'll tell you - it's the decline of Judeo-Christian morality in modern culture, that's what.

"In 1961, suicide ceased to be a crime. This might seem a minor and obviously humane measure, but it was the beginning of the end of England as a Christian country; that is, one in which Christian ethics was reflected in law."

Damned right too, why should "Christian" ethics be the supreme moral order? I'm afraid Mr Sachs, you're simply afraid that the establishment you belong to is loosing its power upon us.

And so, he lets slip his moral absolutist sentiments;

"If there is no agreed moral truth, we cannot reason together. All truth becomes subjective or relative, no more than a construction, a narrative, one way among many of telling the story."

Ok, and the alternative is what? That we subscribe to an ultimate moral authority, formulated some two thousand years ago, in a culture where stoning was considered acceptable? Now I know that Judeo-Christian morality has developed, yet at its roots is the immutable, immovable truth of "God".

If morality comes down to a simple right or wrong, then how in the world are we to reason with one and other? I can only reason with you if we have an agreed moral truth? Surely not. How, if morality is relative, does this inhibit reasoned debate? Quite the opposite I say - if we appreciate that our own personal or cultural moralities are only understandable in how they're relative to another, then, and only then, can true 'empathy' occur.

"Right or wrong, one thing is clear: the new tolerance is far less permissive than the old intolerance."


" Ours is a transitional age, as revolutionary as the move from agriculture to industry. The growth of computing, the internet and satellite television will change life as much as any epoch-making development in the past."

Now he's making some sense.

"With the new technologies the idea of an autonomous national culture disintegrates. Until recently, national cultures were predicated on the idea of a canon, a set of texts that everyone knew. In the case of Britain they included the Bible, Shakespeare and the great novels. The existence of a canon is essential to a culture. It means that people share a set of references and resonances, a public vocabulary of narratives and discourse. Until the early 1950s a politician could quote the Bible and expect people to know what he was alluding to. No longer."

Now, this is where he really began to piss me off.

His notion of a 'canon' of text in which a nation shares its understanding is nothing more than a delusion of the ruling classes. Frankly, for time immemorial, the masses have not given two flying fucks about Shakespeare, the bible and the great novels.

Culture is what it is, and has always been - The masses consume what is palletable and easy to digest, whilst the ruling classes bleat on about culture and "required reading". This shared canon of morality existed only within a small section of society. The only difference today is that the culture of the masses is more visible than it's ever been, what with the TV, radio and the wonderful Internet.

Mr Sach's article reflects I think, the fear of the ruling classes of loosing their control over us, the masses. A canon? There has never been, nor will there ever be, a true canon of morality and culture.

Moral absolutes have got us so far. Now is the time that we discard them, for they limit our growth as a society. Contrary to the belief of Mr Sachs et al, we live in the most peaceful and tolerant times that human kind has ever enjoyed. Things are not getting worse. Mostly things are on the up.

Rant over.

Monday, 22 October 2007

What the?

This morning, whilst walking the dog, I came across this beautiful thing. It looks like some kind of seed pod to me. The plant had about ten of these inch wide pods, dangling from its straight green stem which was about 4 foot high. I can't say I've ever come across one before.

Do you know what it is?

Saturday, 20 October 2007

England 6: South Africa 15


As Meg said in the car tonight after Dom asked if he could play rugby with her,

"OK, I'll beat you up, then knock you over."

Pretty much what SA did ;(

Blown off our feet

The kids and I have been at a country fair today whilst Miche was working. The sprogs enjoyed it, though it was the usual "locally produced beef" kind of affair. We had a bit of excitement before lunch however, when Meg spotted a helicopter flying towards us.

"Dad! Look, it's coming here!"

It certainly was, the thing flew above the manor house and landed on the lawn right behind it. Meg and I chased after Dom when he shot off to see it close up. As we pursued him, we passed three paramedics running in the opposite direction. I realised it was an air ambulance.

By the time we'd arrived at the machine, the rotors had stopped turning and the pilot was stood nonchalantly at its side. Dom, being Dom ran right up to him.

"Man? Are you the flyer?" He asked, bold as brass.

"Yes I am, and what's your name?" he replied. I noted he had a posh, Scottish Highland accent.

"Dominic" he was told by my son as he started to inspect the wheels.

The pilot was obviously a father himself as he was a natural with my son. He took him round his helicopter and showed him all the controls. Dom quivered with excitement and for once was speechless.

We got to chatting as Meg held my hand, somewhat overawed by the whole thing. I'll admit to being awed by him myself. He was about my age, 6 foot or so, supremely fit, tanned, a chiseled chin and two day stubble.

Honestly, I would 'ave. I really would. And I'm straight...

The old grannies that had gathered around him obviously felt the same.

His radio buzzed, so he went off to the side to confer with his medical colleagues. When he returned he told me that they'd been called for a suspected heart attack. As we were in the middle of nowhere, the only practical way of getting someone in VF to hospital in time is by air.

"Looks like the emergency's over," he said "he'll be OK."

That was the last I heard from him, as the grannies had crowded me and the kids out.

We hung around until he fired up his 'copter, spun it around no more than 10 feet from the ground and sped off over our heads. I was quite moist, I must say.

We were unprepared for this, as none of us have been this close to a flying helicopter before. Me, being me, had my eye in the viewfinder as he roared past.

We were all, quite literally blown off our feet.

"Fuck me!" I let slip as I was shoved to the grass. Oops...

Meg was fine, as she was already sat down. Dom on the other hand, had been blown yards down the hill.

I caught him in my arms as he ran towards me in tears.

"Are you OK Dom?"

"Yeah!" he shouted, "That was brill."

The little lad was crying and laughing at the same time.

Bless 'im.

Friday, 19 October 2007

What's the point?

No matter how hard I try, I can discern no ultimate purpose to the universe, life, or anything for that matter. That's not to say I don't find life purposeful mind.

I'm a purposeful monkey, me.

A universal purpose is rather like this optical illusion. Our brains swear that there's two triangles, yet when we study it, we logically conclude there's only one. Yet we can't 'un see' the second.

We've evolved to intuitively assume a purpose to our lives. At its basis is the need to breathe. Though I'm convinced Bush's autocue tells him to "Breath in, breath out"...

The urge to continue living is primordial. To breathe, eat and procreate are our primary, instinctive motivations. It takes little imagination for me, to see how these urges are sublimated into an assumption that there's a purpose outwith our own, selfish needs.

It's like an itch that won't go away. Like the triangle that insists on being seen, we've evolved to expect a higher purpose. Perhaps even to expect a god.

I suppose believing in this 'higher realm' is rather childlike. Now, I don't mean to patronise people who believe, rather, I attribute child like belief in the Transactional Analysis or Psychodynamic modes. We all have elements of the child within us.

Imagine a lost kid in the supermarket, terrified that he can't find his mother. Rather than go look for her, he lies on the floor, curls into a ball and cries. He's helpless and without direction. He needs his mother to tell him what to do.

As adults we're no different. We all need external guidance I think. I certainly do.

However, as uncomfortable as it is, I'm drawn to look at the triangle, so that I can work out for myself the truth of the matter.

We're alone and lost. Each and every one of us. So let's stick together, eh?

Thursday, 18 October 2007


It's coming up a year since Sans God was born. Whilst there were many reasons why I started it, learning how to write was amongst my main motivations. You see, I had a book in my head. Pretentious, I know.

I quickly discovered however, that I was a shite writer. I had as much chance of writing the book as Dubya has of winning the Nobel Peace Prize. So I gave myself a year to muck about with Sans God. It's been quite a year, and enjoyable to boot. I've certainly learnt a great deal and met some really quite cool people through it.

Anyway, following a drunken IM chat with Murph the other day, I've decided to give the book another go. (Thanks Murph, by the way.) To this end, I've started a private blog with which I hope to structure my ideas more tightly.

I know that I need all the help I can get, so I've invited real life friends, family and members of my small but esteemed readership to come read it, criticise and explore the ideas with me.

Now, if you haven't already got an invite and think you'd like to join in the party then drop me a mail.

Tuesday, 16 October 2007

All my ducks in a row


He didn't hear a word.

Small men with big egos tend not to hear this non-verbal leakage. They find themselves much too interesting to listen to others, no matter how loud they're shouted at.

Save the wrist wank under the table, I couldn't have made myself clearer.

Yet this 'uber boss', divorced from the meat and bones of the real world by a multiple factor of arsehole, told us today that he needed to "understand the drivers behind the impetus to improve our practice."

He also wanted the "bigger picture", because he's so busy improving strategy, that the minutiae of improving lives "Isn't his business."

"I need all my ducks in a row" he said. Four times.

If I had hair, I would have pulled it out.

You see, his role is so complicated, so convoluted, that we couldn't even begin to grasp how hard it is for his poor addled mind to grasp the intricacies of our day to day work.

He has a mustache - this is significant. He dyes it the same colour as his hair. Pubic black I think. This makes him more important than everyone else.

Choking him with his neat, pretentious braces, would have been a pleasure. Instead, I smiled and leveraged his "management drivers in the right vector" so that we might maximise the health potential of the local population.

We got on with the real work once he'd left.


Sunday, 14 October 2007

The last embers of summer

Not to be too smug about it, but I'm left with a rosy glow from today. My legs are nicely relaxed as I had my first run in a fortnight early this morning. The sun was out and the ground dry so seven miles went by in a flash.

The weather was unseasonably good, frankly it was unnerving. If it wasn't for the orange leaves falling off the trees, I'd have sworn it was mid June today. If this is global warming, then perhaps I should be all for it instead.

So, to make the most of it, we packed a picnic and set out for the day;

to collect acorns,

to hunt fungi,

to entrap snails for them to be our pets,

to paddle in the river,

only to become utterly knackered,

Expect next week to be quiet, as I've a number of deadlines that have been woefully ignored. I'll be spending each evening frantically trying to catch up...

Saturday, 13 October 2007

Get in!


Eat yer heart out France. Chabal? Pah.

Finals here we come...