On keeping it together

I’ve been trying to marshal my thoughts into some coherence for more than two weeks now, but I think I’ve been gripped by disbelief. I keep thinking that I’m going to wake up, and find that it has all been a horrible, disturbing dream, and that my country isn’t really a chaotic, directionless, leaderless, vicious, fearful, isolationist, xenophobic place. While I’m waiting for that to happen, I should really try to write something about it, and the way that coincidence has made me even more sensitive to the current situation. This isn’t going to be comprehensive, or even cohesive: it’s just a few of the things that have been circling around in my brain and making it itch over the past few weeks.

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De-cluttering

There’s not much that’s as satisfying as a good old clear-out is there? I don’t mean the kind of organised, mindful, zen-like exercise (like the KonMari Method, which has recently become flavour of the month), but the bin-bags-at-the-ready, frenzied-whirlwind of a clear out. The kind where you accumulate a small mountain in your ‘recycle/take to the tip’ pile, and can be occasionally heard to cry out in anguish, “Why did we ever think we needed TWENTY-SEVEN London Tube maps? Do they breed if left unsupervised?” That kind. I had one of those last weekend, and I am now enjoying the space and ordered efficiency of our spare room, before it inevitably succumbs to entropy, and those tube maps start breeding again.

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New New Street Station

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Those of you in the UK may have heard that the new, refurbished New Street Station (and the inevitable attached shopping centre) has now opened. It seems to have taken ages. New Street is one of the busiest rail hubs in the country, so there was no way that they could close the station while the work was going on. They managed (and I still don’t quite know how) to completely reconfigure the inside of the station while it was still in constant use. At times over the past couple of years, the experience of moving through New Street station has been a deeply disorientating experience. From one week to the next, corridors would unexpectedly change orientation, exits and entrances would be blocked off or open elsewhere, and spaces would abruptly change shape and size entirely. It felt a bit like being in a really low-budget episode of Doctor Who, only without the Daleks.

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Holiday highlights

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Last weekend, we got back from a week away in North Norfolk, staying in a gorgeous, tiny cottage in Blakeney. Since then I’ve been frantically catching up with work, to the point where it feels as if I’ve never been away. It was a wonderful holiday, though. Mr. Bsag had spent years trying to get me to go to North Norfolk. I was initially reluctant, as I spent much of my childhood being rather reluctantly dragged to South Norfolk for visits to an aged relative — an experience than inevitably coloured my impression of the whole region. Anyway, a few years ago, Mr. Bsag won his battle for the holiday destination of his choice, and I found that I loved North Norfolk. It will never supplant the Inner Hebrides or areas of Devon or Cornwall in my affections, but Norfolk is a great deal easier to get to from Birmingham. It’s very peaceful, beautiful, has lots of wildlife, and huge skies.

Here are a few of my highlights of the holiday.

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Slipstream renewed

Last weekend I finally got around to doing something with my short-form blog, Slipstream. In its last incarnation, Slipstream was running on Kirby, which is a very fine and flexible CMS driven by the filesystem rather than a database. It works well (and there’s a newer version 2 which has some great features), but I was struggling to make it do what I wanted it to do. My intention with Slipstream has always been to have a place where I can both pull together things I’ve posted in other locations (photos, reviews of books and films, snippets of text that I have posted to App.

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Skylark

It was the perfect day for a walk on the coastal path at Holkham in North Norfolk. The sun was warm, the sky a bright, clear blue, but the air was crisp and fresh and humming with Spring life. As we walked along the dunes backing the beach, closing our eyes occasionally to enjoy the warmth of the sun on our faces, we were stopped in our tracks by the song of a skylark.

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Favourite things

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How can it be 11th January already? I had a very relaxed Christmas and New Year, and recharged the batteries a bit, but apparently I’m still trying to wind myself back up again to normal levels of activity. I think I was really in need of a holiday, because — for most of the time — I slept like a baby and felt much better for getting all the sleep I needed.

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A wheel at each corner

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“Look! It’s a Hillman Imp!”1 We were visiting Hidcote Gardens while on holiday, and I was practically squealing with delight as I spotted the car in the car park. I took a photograph, and had I not been too embarrassed, I would have given the little car a hug as well. I’m really not a car person. Cars are a mode of transport for me, and if they are functioning adequately, I pay them very little attention.

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Standing to work

Like many people whose work is primarily office and computer based, I spend far too much of my day sitting. Not only do I sit at my office desk at work for much of the day (when I’m not lecturing and so on), I sit at the computer for long periods at home too. I work or do my own thing on the computer at the weekends and in the evening, and I often work from home for at least one day a week.

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Appreciating Kate

With all the talk about the opening of Kate Bush’s first tour since 1979, I’ve had her music occupying my brain more than usual. I watched a fantastic documentary about her on BBC Four, which included a lot of clips of interviews (given that she gives so few interviews, it was probably most of them) and also performances of her music. Now, I listen to her music a lot. I always have.

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