In our house, we each wrap up our right foot on Christmas Eve and unwrap it on Christmas morning. It’s odd, I know, but it’s because a few years ago my sister hurt her foot very badly. It was bandaged up for months, and she couldn’t walk on it. But on Christmas Day she unwrapped the bandage to change it, and she thought it looked well enough to leave the dressing off. She managed to get herself around on both her feet that year, and even to take a few steps out into the crisp winter air. She said it was the best present she ever got. So the next year we all wrapped our feet up, as a joke, but when we unwrapped them we felt genuinely grateful. For our bodies, for our health. We’ve kept it up ever since. 🧦 In our house, we wrap up our right…
How I Wonder
Lying on my son’s bed as he fell asleep, I couldn’t believe quite how much the glow-in-the-dark star stickers on his ceiling resembled the real thing. Even so close, they evade your focus as a real star does from inconceivable distance. As the fovea dances around them and the eye’s blind spot flicks across the imaginary sky, they even seem to twinkle. At the edge, where the landing light spilled through the crack between door and doorframe, there was the last hint of sunset. He snorted, fidgeted, turned around to me and asked: ‘Daddy, what happens if you have a boiled egg?’ I gazed into the infinite blackness between the stars and answered him as best I could, and we drifted together, reassured.
My writing with Stories of our Lives
I write regularly as part of Stories of our Lives, a community writing and storytelling project based in Chorlton in Manchester. Sometimes I’m telling my own story; sometimes someone else’s; sometimes it’s something completely different. You can read my writing on toys, springtime, silver linings and more, along with lots more writing from the community, on the Stories of our Lives website. You can also support the project with a donation or by buying a copy of our first book.
The Magic Passageway
Go throw yourself into the sea
A few days ago, when the sun was out, I was walking back from the park, hat on head, sunglasses on face, engulfed in sunblock fumes and feeling just a little bit like I was on holiday, which is a treat of a feeling at the moment. As I got to the corner of our road and stepped into the full sun, tipping over instantly from a little warm to overheating, sweaty mess, a voice in my Henry Hoover screamed loud enough to make actual noise: ‘I WANT TO GO AND JUMP IN THE SEA’. As someone whose default setting is to stay home, the basic fact of lockdown hasn’t been much hardship to me: less an oppressive restriction, more an unhealthy indulgence of my instincts. But suddenly I was absolutely screaming sick of it, selfishly furious that the tiny round bastard was stopping me from jumping in the sea….
A note of thanks to Karuna the Panda
I have now meditated at least once a day for 134 consecutive days. This is no kind of milestone. I know it isn’t, because I understand numbers, but also because my meditation app has not sent me a little notification and is still telling me that my next milestone is in 7 days. It also tells me that I have, so far, reached seventeen milestones, which it helpfully lists as: 10 consecutive days; 10 consecutive days (again); 20 consecutive days; 30 consecutive days; 40 consecutive days; 50 consecutive days; 60 consecutive days; 70 consecutive days; 80 consecutive days; 90 consecutive days; 100 consecutive days; 110 consecutive days; 120 consecutive days; 130 consecutive days; 50 days with a meditation; 100 days with a meditation; and 150 days with a meditation. It is partly to spite my meditation app that I am writing this on a day with so little numerical significance….
This summer I took part in a fantastic new project called Stories of our Lives. Over four Saturdays, the project teamed up volunteer writers with members of Chorlton Good Neighbours, a longstanding community group for older people in south Manchester. The mornings were spent talking and sharing memories, and in the afternoon the writers composed vignettes attempting to capture those memories. The project was fun, fascinating and a real challenge. On both days I was able to make it, I finished the morning thinking This will be easy! They’ve given me so much to work with!, and the afternoon wondering how in the world I was meant to capture so many memories in so few words, let alone with anything like the charm and wit of the original telling. The stories have been compiled into a book, which is being launched at 2pm on Saturday 14th December at Chorlton Library….
There are some things that it’s next to impossible to remember, like the fact that ‘separate’ only has two Es in, the fact that I don’t have milk in my tea, and which way round longitude and latitude are. At least, I find it so: I accidentally put milk in my own tea sometimes, and the other two are particular weaknesses of mine. Latitude-wise (whichever -wise that is, I can’t remember), the problem is that most mnemonics aren’t very good. They encode something like ‘north to south’ or ‘west to east’ – for example, ‘lat’ rhymes with ‘flat’, and we naturally think of lines from west to east as flat. But are we remembering the line along which latitude is constant, or the line along which it varies? I can never remember. For a mnemonic to work for someone as thickheaded as I can be, it has to indicate that…
Colemak UK layout for Windows
This is a super-boring post that I’m uploading solely for the benefit of people who might be Googling for this specific thing in the future. If you don’t know from the title that this might be useful to you then there’s no point reading further. I’ve put together a Windows Colemak layout for UK keyboards, available here so that other people don’t have to go through the faff of doing it themselves. This won’t remap caps lock to backspace; I recommend SharpKeys to do that easily. It does, however, set the shift key to turn caps lock off when pressed, so that if you somehow end up with caps lock on you don’t have to change layout to turn it off again. This layout is different to the one you get if you just use Microsoft’s custom layout tool, because it will update keyboard shortcuts too. This might be a…
‘In our country, do we want to allow a means of communication between people which […] we cannot read?’ asks David Cameron. Well, yes. In the spirit of mild defiance, here’s my newly-created public PGP key, which you can use to send me emails David Cameron cannot read.