Thursday, February 27, 2014

Denim On Denim

About a year ago K, my youngest, gave me a denim shirt for Christmas. I don't think it was particularly expensive but I love it.

It's got that "aged" look, the one we all pay extra for because we can't be bothered to actually wait until our clothes really age. Which is only actually a few months as they're mostly made by young children in dodgy countries and cost less than the sandwich we eat for lunch.

It's been made to look as if one of its two breast pockets has been ripped off in its heavy lifetime, there are fake paint splodges in random places and it's faded like one of those old tattoos you see on proper working class fellows who had it done when they were in the Navy.

There are in fact hardly any bad things about it, though I wouldn't be in a hurry to wear it at a wedding or the like.

But, there is a problem, a fundamental one. It's denim, and for most of my life, when I'm not wearing a sarong, I'm wearing jeans. And I'm informed, by my Girls mostly, that wearing denim on denim is a no no.

It's on the same level of fashion disaster as slippers with socks or American tan tights or any number of those "new looks" I've seen Java Jones trying out on so many occasions.

So I rarely wear this shirt. It's not often I wear chinos or any other type of casual trousers and committing a fashion faux pas is something I try to avoid. And then last week I read something in a mens' mag. It was one of those deep and intellectual articles talking about denim, fashion and the latest in mens' wear and referred to the fact that to wear different denim articles of the same shade was the no no. But, by insinuation, it said that to wear denim of contrasting shades was entirely okay.

And of course that got me thinking. Can I therefore wear dark blue jeans with the lighter blue denim shirt?

Or would that still get me carted off in the fashion Police van?

Thursday, February 20, 2014

On Books, Tidying and Mindmapping

I've just signed another two year lease on my apartment and one of the things that cropped up in my mind as this was going on was the idea of a bit of a mass tidy up.

That's not to say my apartment is some sort of man's disaster area in terms of mess and dirt. Not at all, in fact I think I'm quite the new man. Just about everything has its place, there's not a vast amount of clutter and the general look is one that is fairly minimal.

But it has also become clear to me that I do have too much clutter and, in my five years in this place, have built up a bit of junk that needs sorting.

As with most of the good things in my life I started with a mindmap. I love a mindmap I do. In fact, excuse me if I've told you this before, I do a daily journal, have done for years, and for the last four or five years I've done it in the form of a daily mindmap. In the last three years I've used an app on the Ipad called iThoughts. Trust me, if you like mindmapping it's the best thing since, well, mindmapping itself.

I started a branch, or box for each room in the flat, there aren't that many, I'm not showing off here! And then I took a branch off for every tidyness issue I need to address in each room.

So, for example, off the "kitchen" box I had three more. They said "defrost freezer", "fix wood behind sink" and "go through cupboards, throw away rubbish". Cleverly this iThoughts allows me to set each of these as a task, that I can tick as I can complete which then gets greyed out.

The thing is, I don't want to sound like some kind of geek, raving to you about software, apps, tasklists and the like, that wasn't the purpose of this post. But when I did my "sitting room" box it became evident that one of the things I could do is to tidy my books.

Why, I hear you ask. For books maketh the man, women should never sleep with a fellow who has no books and all that other corny stuff.

Simply because I've built up a bit of a library, of books that fall into one of three categories:

  1. Reference ones, with nice photographs (often Sri Lankan)
  2. Fiction I've read 
  3. Fiction I haven't read yet, probably won't (for reasons I'll explain)

It's the fiction that bothers me. Truth be told I'm now a firm and dedicated ebook reader, the Kindle app on the iPad specifically. I know it doesn't smell like a book, I know one can't "feel" the pages and they don't have the whole tactile connection people talk about. I know that I run the risk of getting beaten by most authors for saying it, beaten with pencils that is, not stylii.

But goddammit it's just so easy and convenient. I carry around my whole library of books wherever I want. I can read just about anywhere, I highlight things in my work related self development and managerial books and go back to them and they're generally cheaper to buy. And, probably best of all for me, I can go on a plane without the need to carry three books and a couple of magazines. 

So I've decided to get rid of my fiction at home, with the exception of a small handful of titles. There's David Blacker's book that he gave me himself with a little message he wrote and a few that are by other Sri Lankan authors that, as far as I know, aren't out as ebooks (yet).

I'll keep the "reference" type ones, the marvellous Sansoni and SL architectural ones and a few others. The rest are going though. Of course not thrown away, I'll give them to a charity bookshop, but they're going nonetheless. 

I feel a bit bad, for emotive not rational reasons, but I'm going to live with that. You live once only as I always like to say. Or YLOO as the kids are fond of.

And once it's done it means I can tick the "Clear away books" task on that mindmap too. 

Here, can anyone tell me how to defrost a freezer?

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Keeping Things at Arm's Length

 I've noticed something in the last couple of years. Just about everyone I know, including me, has got to that "certain" age.

It's that certain age when our near vision starts to deteriorate, when we're all in denial and battling it. Which means that only a few actually possess reading glasses.

The rest of us, when presented with a page of print or something else to read, do the thing: the thing when we act as if our arm is an accordion, but quite a big one.

I was at a band practice the other day and we had to read something. Not one of us could hold it close up, we all had to strain our eyes and try to hold the piece of paper far away enough to read. But not too far, because then it just gets lost. I figured this might be the time to either join a younger band or get some reading glasses, perhaps both.

Reading instructions on bottles is a particular bane. I reckon they print them in tiny fonts just for a laugh. And kids rarely need medicines and stuff anyhow, so there's some kind of mad logic going on there.

Sometimes I mix with young people, like my kids, and they'll hand me something to read, presenting it to me about four or five inches away from my eyes. I have to move it away at the speed of light before the eye strain starts to hurt, causing a headache and rapid need to lie down with a warm drink.

Good God, what is wrong with you people?

Have you no idea?

Monday, February 17, 2014

The Rising Thames

The view from my apartment. The top picture shows the normal level of the Thames, though snow is a rare occurrence in these parts. The second picture shows the wate level last week. It's about four foot higher.
Thankfully it looks like it's settled a bit today and there's another four or five foot to go before it gets to the level of my floor.
But it's not great.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Hair Tomorrow, Gone Today...

Yes I'm vain. As are all my family to be honest. Anyone who know us knows it would be futile for me to even attempt to deny the charge.

And I've been battling my own mind on this for a while, but I've finally admitted it to myself; I'm bothered about baldness.

For the last few years I've had a decreasing amount of hair. Or an increasing amount of lack of hair.

It doesn't make rational sense. My rational mind knows that a forty eight year old bloke going a bit bald on top is no big deal, that hard heroic fellows like Bruce Willis, Jason Statham and David Blacker are responsible for making it look good and trendy.

My all encompassing and clever rational mind even knows that it's not that aggressive for me, that it's been a slow decline over the last seven or even more years and it's unlikely I'm going to wake up next Tuesday with an overnight total loss of hair.

But my emotional mind, the one that just feels things without having a need to justify them and back them up with logic and reason, thinks differently. It's bothered.

That mind feels that it would like a nice full head of hair, even if I then decide to wear it shaved. At least I'd be able to choose to grow some flowing locks. It would like to be able to use some hair product again, perhaps a comb, a brush or run my fingers through it.

My brothers and even my Dad, at eighty, have a full head of hair. Don't tell them but I do feel a bit jealous.

There's no baldness in my family at all on either side so I'm a bit pissed off with that. Maybe it's because I got the looks and intelligence and it's nature's way of evening things out, I'm not sure.

But I'm not just moaning and telling you some woes. I've decided to investigate a hair transplant. Seriously.

I've got an appointment booked for a "consultation" with one of these clinics in a couple of weeks' time.

I know that a "consultation" will more than likely be them trying to sell to me, but I'm sure I'll look into it in some detail before I make my decision.

Cost is of course a major factor, as is the potential outcome and even whether it's feasible for me at all.

I've decided on full disclosure, hence this post. I'm going to tell anyone and everyone who matters, though not to the point of boring you silly (I hope).

I just don't want to be one of those chaps who has a couple of days off sick, or a brief holiday, then arrives back with a previously undiscovered full head of hair, causing everyone to whisper and laugh.

Oh no. If I do it then I'll blog, tell people and be quite open about it.

Watch this bald patch.

PS - Happy Valentine's day to you

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Blog, Post or Blog?

I stumbled on this blog post the other day, seemingly telling us that the New Yorker deems it ok to refer to a blog post as a "blog".

"Aaaaargh" I say. It's one of my pet hates and has been for a few years. A blog is a virtual place that contains a collection of blog posts, an abbreviation of the word "weblog".

When I see fellows, usually those eternal social networking sorts, saying on Twitter that they've just written or published a blog it really winds me up. I'd even got to the stage of thinking that I need to chill out a bit. These things:

a - aren't that important

b - are not really set in stone anyhow.

So reading the aforementioned blog post made me feel a bit vindicated. It's clearly not just me, other people evidently feel the same way, though not the New Yorker.

It's a blog post when we're talking about one "article". Calling it a blog is like saying that a random page from a fellow's diary is a diary. It's not, the diary is the collection of entries.

Anyone else feel strongly about this too?

Besides, since when have the old Septics been experts on the English language anyhow?

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

The Consultant

So we've brought in a consultant at work in an attempt to sort out some issues we've been having and improve some other things.

By nature I'm cynical of consultants. Just the word makes me think of expense without return and people who swan around blowing hot air and theory but don't produce. I hope this chap will be different though. We've put considerable time and effort into our research and I hope we've learned from previous errors.

Perspectives and differing realities are, to me, a fascinating subject, one I've been thinking about as our consultant does his thing.

I've been observing people's reaction to him, how they behave and the impression they want to create.

Naturally they've all managed to go up a gear just because he's in the building. They're more friendly yet more serious, more hardworking and more smiley and friendly than they were a couple of days ago.

It's a recognised psychological phenomenon and I've read about it before. It's called the Hawthorne effect.

What I was thinking about specifically was that it must be the reality for these consultant types. In the same way traffic cops, if the only time they were on the road was when they were on duty, would think that most motorists abide by the rules just about all the time and always travel at about 1 mph under the speed limit.

I wonder how many of the consultants go into a company and think "what's the problem, they all seem motivated, eager and more hardworking than a Colombo 7 Domestic around the New Year."

Obviously there's a real life answer to this question. Good consultants know about psychology and good traffic cops, even bad ones actually, go out on the road when they're not on duty and know how people usually drive.

But it's bloody interesting watching people shift up a gear for no reason other than the fact they're being watched a bit.

Must rush, I can't let the fellow see me writing a blog post!

Monday, February 10, 2014

Kids And Connectivity

I got talking with some friends in Singapore the other about kids these days, their devices and their constant connectivity.

I don't know how well you know Singapore but every time I visit I'm struck by the total immersment in smart phones across just about every age group. Get on the MRT and you'll see teenagers, young adults and also old people with their eyes glued to the screen and virtual keyboard of their smartphone, more often than not playing a game of some sort.

Here in England, we tend to see kids glued to their phones, but it's far less the case with adults and old people, who are sometimes considered adults also.

Last week I was out for dinner with C and there was a table of five adults behind us. At one point I glanced up from my phone and looked at these people to see that two of them were playing games on their phones. Whilst out at dinner in a restaurant. I tell you!

But I digress. When I was chatting with these friends about the kids of today and their devices the general tone was one of dismay. You know that conversation; chap A says that kids today don't know how to converse, that instead of chatting about the weather and having proper social intercourse with people they only know how to update their Facebook status and send IMs to each other. Chap B then agrees, quoting that Facebook status he put up in which he says that when he was a kid he used to roam the streets with no sense of time, only to return home at dinner time and how, in those days, he frequently fell in pits full of used hypodermics which never did him any harm whatsoever.

Then chappess C pipes in and agrees, though she, as is the case with chaps A and B, has no kids. I must confess it does amaze me how wise non parents can be about raising kids, yet on becoming parents most of us are so busy parenting that we forget about the preaching to others!

Eventually someone asks me, the meek and quiet fellow on the table, what I think. It's a subject I've put quite a lot of mental effort into. I see my girls and their friends sometimes and they can be stuck to their iPhones as if their lives depended on it. I've even felt my own sense of relief and joy when I've been on a few planes recently which have had wifi, albeit at a pretty high price, one that I've happily paid just to retrieve my emails and see what's going on for a while.

My opinion is the same as my opinion on many aspects of life. This continual connectivity, this device dependency, this virtual permanent online presence, is a phenomenon that is full of positives as well as negatives. But the positives by far outweigh the negatives.

Yes there is a bit of this kids not being able to interract in the ways we used to thing. There's a bit of frustration when they're out with their parents and busy playing a game rather than chatting to some old Uncle and telling him for the second time that week what GCSEs they're doing.

Yet the access to knowledge and information, the smallness of their world and the ways they can connect with people regardless of geography are positives that I so wish we had when we were kids.

When I was at school it was the boffins who would go to the school library and put in the extra effort. The rest of us would merely pay attention to what our teachers told us (sometimes), read only the textbooks we were given and do the homework we had to do in order to avoid detention. There was no Google, no search engines and no internet. Hell there were barely any computers then and as It was our normal we didn't even feel hard done by; that was all we knew.

I look at my kids now and see their instant access to knowledge. I know how any of us, given the need for information, can just open our phone, tablet, laptop or desktop and search and within seconds we have more information than we can digest. And that ease of access to information feeds a desire for more information. It's not an option to think "I'll look it up next time I go to the library" or "I'll ask an expert next time I see them".

No, it's become a life where, if most people are unsure about something or want to find out more, the knowledge is a couple of clicks away.

And, as a divorced Dad, one who's in a long distance relationship, I also see the benefits of the connectibility in terms of relationships.

I get to have daily contact with the Girls and C in ways that I never would have done twent, or even ten, years ago.

It's not the case that I speak to the Girls when we have a phone call or when we see each other. We have a continual stream of iMessages open, discussing everything from what we had for dinner to the meaning of life and much in between. And we Facetime and stalk each other's Vines, Instagrams and whatnot. I know a few other divorced Dads, one who lives in a different continent from his son even, who I'm sure feel exactly the same way about all of this technology.

So, to those moaners, those who think kids these days would be better of twenty years ago I say stop. Technology is fantastic. It shrinks the world, it makes our kids learn quicker, deeper and better.

And it has a few negatives, just a few things that could do with some modification.


Thursday, February 6, 2014

Hey There.

Cerno put up a post, you know the way he creeps in quietly like a stealth blogger. And then fuck me if Java only goes and notches one up on the bedpost too. Well I'm not going quietly, so felt a need to add to the collection of old bloggers who rarely post these days but have written one recently. And don't do punctuation very well,

It's some months since I was last in the Motherland. C's now semi permanently in Singapore so most of my sojourns are currently to Singapore. I miss Sri Lanka though, with its laws of the jungle, devastating physical beauty and friends who I feel so, er, friendly with.

I got back to London on Tuesday from Singapore and it really does seem as if I've gone from one extreme to the other. Singapore is currently a booming country, positively brimming with economic vibrancy. Its problems are largely to do with how people can invest, how its growth will be managed in years to come, with a few issues about the lower classes and increasing gap in classes also.

But I flew from Singapore's climatic and financial vibrancy back to London's crap weather, a tube strike causing large scale chaos across the city and an economy that is pretty much on its knees, albeit arguably getting up onto its feet.

My cab journey from Heathrow to my apartment was interrupted by a phone call from my Mum, to tell me that it looks as if the dreaded Cancer has raised its ugly head again with my Dad. Turns out it seems to be so and he's started six months more of chemo from today.

Things like this lead one to thoughts of life, death, immortality and mortality, You know; about trying to get the most out of every day, doing that whole dance like no one's watching you thing.

I've invested a fair chunk of time in the last year or so trying to learn more about the workings of the mind and really feel as though I'm swimming through new depths of knowledge and discovery. It's amazing how one can steam through forty five ish years and then learn new things and realise that they make all the difference.

A, the eldest child, is at Uni these days, studying drama. I think the first time you met her she was about twelve and you were probably at University (not you Java!). K will be hitting Uni next year. All of a sudden I'm the Dad of two girls who are no longer kids. It's weird I tell you.

One of the things I've discovered about long distance relationships is that I can wear pants a long time before having to change them. I mean pants here, as in underpants, not the American trouser situation, and I mean I can wear them for a long time when I'm not with C. When I'm with her I almost always bung on a fresh pair every day.

But it's a much under publicised benefit of the long distance thing. I'm not in any danger of attracting the attention of any 'admirers' through a combination of my status and looks and I just have to keep an eye on skid marks.

Just thought I'd let you know that, a kind of public information announcement. I like to serve you know.