... feminist, atheist, autistic academic and historic narrowboater ...
Likes snooker, beer, tea, rivets and solitude, and is strangely fascinated by the cinema organ.
And there might be something about railways.

Sunday 31 December 2017

Vinyl day of the year

I got a turntable for Christmas.
I'm not one of those people who is a massive fan of vinyl to the exclusion of all else; I don't think it sounds superior or anything. But I am one of those people who likes my music on the shelf, in physocal form, actually owned by me. Spotify and downloads just aren't the same; too ephemeral, never really mine. Not there on the shelf to catch your eye, take your fancy (although I do like a bit of a random shuffle, sometimes).

I replaced very few LPs with CDs, as until we moved onto the boat we'd always had a turntable (or three). Over the years I've been away though, they'd stopped working, or been adopted by someone else. Having inherited some fairly high quality speakers from my mother, and invested in a new amp to go with her CD player, a turntable seemed the next logical step - but it was still a splendid surprise to unwrap one (from Jim and Sebastian) on Christmas morning.

So I have now come back from Sussexd with a small selection of my vinyl collection, including all my Paul Simon archive, starting from the Simon and Garfunkel's Greatest Hits which I see from my carefully orange-inked note on the inner sleeve I received for Christmas 1980 and taking in a few rarities as well as both the British and US versions of Sounds of Silence and Parsley, Sage... (bonus points for knowing the difference). There are a few Bob Dylan, my Beatles Blue and Red, Lloyd Cole, Tracy Chapman - and Squeeze - all of which I haven't listened to for going on a decade now and some not for two and more (hmmm.. and where are Tanita Tikaram and Suzanne Vega?)

Whatever you enjoy, I hope you have plenty of it in 2018.

Wednesday 27 December 2017

Never knowingly

Just as Holly Golightly felt about Tiffany's, I feel that nothing bad could ever happen in John Lewis. I was a late arrival to this temple of middle class consumerism, and I knew instantly that I had found my retail nirvana.

Even today, during the sale, it was quiet and civilised (certainly a lot more so than Primark on any given Saturday). I had a very successful session of present shopping, and treated myself to a lovely new dress as well.

It was only after I got home and went to hang it up in the wardrobe that I discovered it still had a security tag attached to it. (Yes, how did I get out the door?)

So I now have to go back tomorrow to get it removed. And somehow - and this is the worrying bit - convince them that I haven't just picked it up off the shop floor. Yes, I have the receipt, but that could be for another dress, couldn't it...

Tuesday 26 December 2017


Jim has got on so much better than me today...

Monday 25 December 2017


How to tackle a box of Celebrations - especially if it's a shared one - is obviously the the question vexing the minds of the nation at this time of year. Should you pick randomly, or is it acceptable to root out the last Caramel? Or perhaps you should distribute them on an agreed basis - if such agreement can be reached.

I used to be an advocate of the random approach - it's as good a rule as any, but it wasn't necessarily maximising my Celebratory enjoyment. Then last year I hit on the audacious approach which I am still utilising - for as long as they are available I will eat all my favourite ones first, then once they are gone, my second favourite, and so on down the list, until we get to the Milky Ways, which I won't actually eat.  Other people's choices still introduce a random element - what will the top remaining choice be? In this way, the range of colours in the tub gradually diminishes and I don't have to mix my chocs.

And here is my personal order of preference:
1. Maltesers (the Celebrations 'Teaser' is much, much nicer than actual Maltesers)
2. Twix
3. Caramel
4. Bounty
5. Galaxy
6. Marathon
7. Mars
8. Milky Way

What's yours?

And talking of celebrations, I hope you're having a splendid Yuletide/Christmas, call it what you will, holiday. I posted a card through my new next door neighbour's letterbox yesterday, after some careful consideration... because she's a - apparently quite devout - Muslim. I selected a card with polar bears on - neither Christian nor Pagan imagery - and hoped to see her over the holiday and wished her a very happy 2018. Two ironies were not lost on me, however - the first that I have no problem at all sending 'Christmas' cards to the many fellow atheists of my acquaintance; and the second that my understanding is that most devout followers of other religions would have more respect for, and find more common cause with, a Christian than with an atheist.

Julian Baggini had a thoughtful piece in the Observer yesterday, and I thought this extract was particularly good:

   Atheists are not just people who don’t believe in God. Put positively, our belief is that the natural world is all that there is. Only by fully accepting this fact can we live good lives that are true to our nature. The marking of midwinter brings these truths home. It reminds us that the cycle of life and death turned for aeons before we were born and will continue its rotations for aeons after. It exemplifies the legitimate hope that darkness can be followed by light but not the false hope that we can ultimately escape the fate of all living things. In our feasting, we are asserting the value of appreciating the good things while we have them, while remembering that nothing is meant to last, for good and for bad.

I was talking at the work Christmas party last week to a relatively new member of staff who is a Christian (some of my colleagues were quite shocked that I just came out and asked him). Someone asked if I was a 'militant' atheist (I guess Dawkins has a lot to answer for). Where once I might have been, I decided that no, I'm not. Inasmuch as I'll fight for anything politically, in the public sphere, it's secularism - and my Christian colleague was happy to agree with that. However I might once have felt, now I see my atheism as a private belief. I don't need or even want everyone to believe the same as me. But what is, surely, vital is that we preserve that space where everyone's beliefs can flourish without threatening anyone else's.

Last Thursday I made a point of wishing everyone a happy Yule - I don't believe in Pagan gods any more than the Christian one - but I do think the Pagans have the best calendar.

Anyway, whatever you believe and whatever you are celebrating, I hope you are having an amazing time.

Sunday 24 December 2017

Today I have been...

...mainly procrastinating getting on with my first assessment for the new qualification - an MEd in Learning and Teaching in Higher Education - for which I need to write 6,000 words on my chosen specialist subject: the changing nature of mature students following changes in HE funding policy, and the implications for those of us who teach them...
And I have, effectively, four days (including tomorrow) to do it, because it's due in on the 3rd and I'm back at work on the 2nd and down in Sussex from the 29th to the 1st. All that advice I give students about starting in plenty of time...

Meanwhile, Jim is tiling the dining room chimney breast with the absolutely gorgeous 'teapot brown' tiles I eventually tracked down from the V&A collection. It's going to be breathtaking.
I have also spent some quality procrastination time in slightly rejigging the blog - new title photo! New self-deprecating words! - all part of a declaration of intent to blog if not better, then more frequently.

I spent a few hours last night setting up a new Twitter account, wondering if I really wanted to do that, then deciding that I didn't, but it's given me the idea of being a bit more Twitteresque on the blog. More fluff and folderol, on the basis that there's always something to write about.

Saturday 23 December 2017

Yes! I am here!

In answer to Enceladus Sarah's post - yes, I'm here. I'm not going to make it to 200 posts this year though (and to think I once had hopes of reaching 300).

A look at the posting record tells the story:
March 26 posts
April 30 posts
May 31 posts
June 29 posts
July 21 posts
August 20 posts

September 7 posts
October 2 posts
November 1 post
December - up to now - no posts

The thing that happened goes by the name of 'Semester One', which starts with Intro Week in the middle of September, and ended last Friday. Semester 1 is always hard work - new students, in ever increasing numbers every year; my heaviest teaching load and of course the shortening days, the cold and the dark. This year I've had bigger responsibilities too, a once-in-a-career (or at least I hope so) management issue to deal with, plus I've taken on studying for a new qualification, and all the time while trying to come to terms with the implications of my autism at work which has challenged my very sense of who I am and what I do (and how well I do it). So this has been a particularly tough Semester 1, and I've been in the office from eight until six nearly every day just trying to keep on top of it. When I left at three yesterday, it felt quite momentous.

I have done no Christmas shopping - although I did manage to get some cards done. I'm planning to go down south on the 29th, so hoping I can pick up some presents in the post-Xmas sales. We might just get some food planned and shopped today. Most shocking of all, my 50 year old advent calendar is still in its envelope, for the first Christmas ever. I forgot that I gave my little artificial tree to Oxfam last year, and now it's far too late to get a real one, so here are my Christmas decorations for this year:
I hope to get a few more posts in before 2018.