Archives for category: General

Ever had food poisoning before? The kind where you wonder if you’ll ever get out of this black hole? It feels like someone is drilling you a new eye socket, while at the same time hitting your stomach with a baseball bat. Meanwhile the rest of your body has gone to defcon 3 and is ejecting whatever is inside you from both ends?

Ever had a brutal hangover? The symptoms for me are the same. You can’t control an episode of food poisoning, even if you’re careful, but you can a hangover, so I avoid them wherever possible.

Ever had a migraine? A proper one? Guess what, the symptoms for me are the same. Unfortunately, apart from avoiding certain foods like chocolate and cheese, you can’t really control them either. Besides, who wants to live in a world completely bereft of chocolate and cheese?

The cure for all three aliments is the same. It’s not medication. I’s not really hydration, though that helps somewhat. It is sleep. If. I. Can. Just. Get. To. Sleep. I’ll. Be. OK. It’s really hard to do it with all the pain and the upheaval, but if I can finally get to sleep, I can sleep it off and emerge the other side.

So, in case you didn’t know, you do now. Food poisoning, hangovers, migraines. Same symptoms, same cure.

Time flies when you’re having fun. It drags horribly if you’re bored.

Sometimes you need more time and it seems to slip away quickly. Paradoxically, I’ve found that the harder you work, the slower the time seems to go past. Let me offer an analogy.

When you’re running on a treadmill, and you’re jogging or running more slowly – perhaps in your recovery phase – the time seems to gallop past. When you run faster and really work on the treadmill, the time seems to crawl past.

When I’m up against a deadline I find that if I work harder it has the effect of slowing down the time. Now, of course, you could argue that the harder you work the more you can get done in the same time – just as you can cover more distance in the same time on the treadmill – but the point is you feel more in control of the time rather than it being in control of you. This approach also works if you’re bored.

So there you go, work harder to slow down time if you’re busy, and work harder to speed up time if you’re bored. You heard it here first. Or maybe you knew it already.

Boredom is an appalling condition for a human being. Can you think back to all those hours at school when you weren’t stimulated, when you were bored beyond belief? It didn’t seem to matter as much back then, probably because a seemingly infinite existence stretched out in front of us.

What about your job? Does your job bore you?Do you suffer boredom between 9 and 5? Does it have boring bits?

Boredom is a scourge of modern life. It is the most abject waste of our precious time. We have to avoid it at all costs. No-one should ever be subjected to it. What bores us is probably repetitive so we should automate it where possible.

As soon as I find myself feeling ‘this is boring’ I try to change something about it.

Yes, avoid boredom at all costs. It can lead to no good and is the work of the devil, if such a thing exists.

I’m all for brevity and impact. I’m sure you are if too you’re a regular reader of blog posts. It would be awful to fall foul of TL;DR syndrome, which is Too Long; Didn’t Read if you didn’t know.

My favourite exchange, the most brief an impactful example of dialogue I can think of, which could work for letters, emails, chat and so on, is the following:

From: Someone

To: Someone Else

Subject: Re: ?

!

(That’s it; this isn’t part of the exchange.)

In other words, to the question ‘how did it go?’, comes the reply, ‘It went great!’, in the most economical way possible.

Sometimes, punctuation can be so effective, it can be used instead of words, like this…

A child died recently in my local community. A young teenager. It’s hard to write this post, because even though I didn’t know the child, those close to me did.

The last funeral I was at for a young person was 20 years ago when a cousin of my good lady died aged 19. This recent event brought back all those memories.

The over-riding feeling is that of a sense of waste. A waste of a life not lived fully, a life that could have united with someone else to bring forth other lives. And of course a sense of deep loss and empathy for the family who will go through the kind of torture that will only marginally lessen over decades.

As you can imagine, the funeral was a desperately sad and upsetting affair, full of women and children crying, men with their faces set in a grim rictus. In other words, the kind of funeral for any premature death.

I could offer the usual platitude that this kind of thing puts our everyday troubles in stark perspective, which of course it does, but what struck me at this funeral were the words of the sermon at the funeral 20 years ago, delivered by the young priest.

He had one piece of advice, which was, ‘never forget, never forget them.’ Then he added, pointing to his heart and his head, ‘they live here, and here.’

I was helping my daughter bake a cake the other day. She wanted help measuring out the ingredients and then she got on with it herself. It was to be a cake for her Ladyship’s birthday, one of those two-sponge affairs with jam in the middle and icing on the top.

I haven’t baked in a long time. I was staggered at the amount of butter that was called for in the recipe. Half a bar of the stuff. Worse was to come. The required amount of sugar filled a desert bowl, heaped.

It reminded me how much of the stuff that we’re supposed to moderate in our diets goes into making the big 5 food indulgences: cakes, crisps, sweets, chocolates and biscuits. I also love the cake mix, the gloopy mass of ingredients before it goes into the oven. Not usually the one to make the mix, I would grab a few scrapes of the remains of the mixing bowl. I had forgotten how much badness goes into these delicacies.

I guess that’s why legislation insists on manufacturers explicitly listing contents of food and also showing the number of calories in a meal. This has applicability not just in the world of fast moving consumer goods but in the broader marketing of both B2C and B2B products. Sometimes we don’t want to know what goes into the making of something. Sometimes we do, so it’s good to have the option.

In the northwest corner of the Republic of Ireland, bordering Northern Ireland, sits the ludicrously beautiful county of Donegal. It has a long, particularly curly coastline and consequently some amazing beaches. A lot of them.

Some of these beaches are easily accessible from the main road, and easy to find, especially now the touristic powers that be have strengthened the signage and naming as part of the Wild Atlantic Way.

When I first travelled to Donegal, it was on a road trip with my brother. Somewhere in the county on a coastal road I drove past what looked like an interesting track down to what I thought might be the sea, though I couldn’t see it. We passed a couple of houses and then stopped the car before an unused sports field. The field was full of flowers and was so desolate that sheep were asleep on it and didn’t see us coming. Through the field was a saddle that bore onto the most deserted and prettiest beach I thought I’d ever been on.

I duly locked the place away in my head and saved it for a another time. That other time was a couple of years later when I was on a break with my good lady. I wanted to revisit the route the brothers had taken and propose on the beach.

Couldn’t find the damn thing. Had to revert to a plan B 3 hours’ drive away.

A couple of weeks ago, we were both back up there for a few days, the first time in 15 or 20 years. The roads had changed a bit, the place a little more commercialised. Still couldn’t find the damn thing. You see, there are a lot of coast roads and a lot of beaches, including the mystery Donegal beach.

I reckon I’ve narrowed it down though :-).

There’s more to come on this saga, I think, has to be…

Work and public transport don’t really play nice, do they? At least in rural Ireland, as I discovered to my cost the other day.

I needed to go and see the company that was doing the accounts for my limited company and for me and her ladyship as individuals. We only keep one car between us, and as MGL (aka My Good Lady) needed it to go further than me, into Galway city, I decided that I would use my legs, combined with public transport to go from my town, to the neighbouring town for the meeting, a mere 15km away.

Now I say town, but by English standards these would be 2 villages, with about 3 and 5 thousand people respectively in them. Although I don’t think there’s a bus service between the 2 places, on paper it was easy: walk to the train station, take a 10 minute train journey, and walk to the company’s office for a 2pm meeting.

I ambled down to my local station with the insouciance of a man on a day’s holiday, and collected my pre-booked ticket from the machine. So far so good. My train was an inter-city train, and my destination was the one stop before the train’s final destination.

The train was half an hour late. Apparently a train had problems earlier in the day and all subsequent services were backed up. This had the effect of depositing me at my destination station at 2pm, the time I needed to be at my meeting. This train station used to be located right in the town, but 5 or 10 years ago had been rebuilt in a new location which was – literally – in the middle of nowhere. It was laughable. It was almost as if the location had been picked precisely for its maximum inconvenience. No-one except those with oodles of time on their hands could do anything but drive to the station to use it.

A half hour’s walk later I was at the office for my meeting, 2:30 instead of 2pm. Fortunately it was a nice day, and double fortunately I was able to put my meeting back. What struck me, however, was how difficult it would be to work or run a business where I live without a car. Public transportation here is too unreliable and too skeleton, not does it make financial sense for the powers that be to lay on more of a service.

I don’t have the answer. I do have an answer, which is that work and public transport don’t mix well. Not until we move to a society where you can pick up a driverless car or a Coke Car locally, rather like a Coke Bike, and leave it at a handy communal destination. For now though, 90 minutes from door to door to go 15 km does not go…

600 up! Yup, this is blog post number 600. I feel like I should take a bow, but it’s probably you that should be taking one.

For a while I wasn’t sure I was going to get to 600 blog posts or 4 years of blogging first. It’s rather like when you’re on a treadmill, running at a pace that doesn’t make for a simple arithmetic calculation of your distance within a certain time. You don’t know if you’re going to hit your distance target before your time target.

I should have done a better job with my maths though. 3 blogs a week is 156 a year, and since 4 x 156 is 624, I was always going to get to the quantity target before the time target. Speaking of quantity, I hope that its opposite, namely quality, has been there as well, and that you’ve got something out of the posts so far. I’ve enjoyed writing them. They’re quite relaxing.

There is one thought that always returns when I hit these milestones. That thought is this: where has the time gone? Can it really be 200 weeks since I started the 3-blogs-a-week thing? Was it really 8 weeks short of 4 years since my first post?

It’s always a reminder that time moves quickly and you need to fill it with the good stuff.

It seems to me slightly unfair that in the main most of us have to work 5 days for 2 days off. Your working week and your weekend; one is longer and goes slow, the other shorter and goes fast.

It’s an evolution I suppose. In earlier times we were working 7 days a week, because we were hunter-gatherers, or we were slaves. We were literally working to survive. Then comes the industrial revolution and the factory existence and it wasn’t uncommon to be working 6 days and get one solitary day off to recover. A hard life, and one which I’m sure a good number of people still have to endure.

Starting from the other end, if you’re working no days or one day a week, you’re probably independently wealthy, or you can rely on someone else to bring in the bread. If you’re 2 days on and 5 days off, or perhaps 3 days on and 4 days off, then you work part-time in my book. Nothing wrong with that at all. It works great for many millions.

Which brings us back to where I started. 5 days of work and 2 days of play doesn’t feel all that evolved to me. 4 days working, however, and 3 days to yourself – well, that feels a lot more equitable. If your work situation is flexible enough that you can fit your working week into 4 days, or if you can get by on 4 days’ income rather than 5, then that feels a lot fairer to me.

There are 168 hours in a week, of which we’re asleep for about 58, leaving 110 hours left. When you factor in getting ready for work, getting to work, lunch, getting back from work and getting changed, that’s about an 11-hour day, or half of the 110 hours at your disposal if you work 5 days. Half the hours are work-related, so my feeling is the balance of days should be closer to half as well.

We simply need to have the right culture and make the economics work for the 4:3 work:play balance.