Do some good

Well, that’s my good deed for the day. My evening spent doing my community service to an elderly gentleman convinced his websites had been hacked. They hadn’t been. On the first site, he’d just got himself into a pickle running multiple security plugins which decided he was a brute-force attacker, locking out his IP address. The second one caused by an ancient website theme stuffed with deprecated code.

Continue reading “Do some good”

Resistance

When I was young, I usually knew when something bad was about to happen. This wasn’t prophetic presidence, though, merely the fruit of experience. Some, I suppose, might call these events self-fulfilling prophecies.

One such example occurred in my final year of secondary school, as I headed for an entrance. We had two doors to choose from on that side of the school. One at the front, one at the side. The side door was closer to my ultimate destination, but I would always take the longer route.

That lunchtime, however, a friend caught up with me and insisted on us taking the short route. In my heart, I knew that was the wrong thing to do, but unheard in my opposition, I followed on. Sure enough, when we arrived, the waiting prefects would let my friend through, but not me.

Just then, like everyday, I was to be reminded that I was nothing, forever harassed for no apparent reason. A more benevolent prefect, knowing full well that I had every right to enter the building, intervened eventually to let me pass. At which point I swore at the first of them on my way through.

A second after that, I was sliding up the wall, his palm jammed against my throat, my feet off the floor, as he yelled at me about having respect. Yeah, I was wrong to call him a rude name. The first time I had ever been assertive, as it happened, usually timidly submissive in the face of harassment.

My friend, embarrassed, just wandered off. My assailant was one of his older brother’s close friends, so I suppose couldn’t intervene anyway. In any case, he probably thought I deserved it. I should’ve just let it pass, as usual. I’d eventually arrive at our classroom a few minutes after him, with thumbprints on my neck. We never spoke about that moment, but somehow I had been anticipating it.

In life, I have had a habit of taking long circuitous routes to avoid the conflict or intimidation that always seemed to await me. A habit which even remains to this day. Some would call this cowardice; I’d just call it avoiding trouble, knowing full well that I wouldn’t stand a chance.

But sometimes you have no choice. Once as a young adult I was confronted by youths with a knife on my return home one evening. I just had to push past them then, praying for the best. On another occasion, I was steamrollered into a wall by a crowd of bold youngsters, who knocked me to the ground to kick me in pursuit of my mobile phone and wallet. The excitement must have given them an adrenalin high. But for me: no, just more of the same.

Some, I guess, enjoy the thrill of dominating another. For others, it’s just a means of making themselves feel better about themselves, especially if they themselves have previously found themselves that lowly nobody, despised by society. Sometimes the bullied themselves become the worst bullies, convinced that their ascendancy depends on them trampling on others.

It seems that it demands a concerted effort not to become bullies ourselves. Maybe if I had been able to develop significant bodily strength or some kind of influence, I might have become one too, using my status to intimidate others. Fortunately, that wasn’t what I was called to.

I walk a path which say says remain humble, no matter how wealthy or influential you become. It says walk on the earth with humility. It tells us to respond, when the ignorant address us, “Peace!” In our tradition, the oppressed are not called to become tyrants. Certainly, the tyrannised are allowed to resist, but are also commanded not to transgress the limits.

Actually, the meek have a special kind of resistance, which the powerful will never understand.

Deficits

Mrs Green, my second-year Physics teacher, once declared, “There’s no such thing as dyslexia; it’s just an excuse rich parents make for their lazy kids.”

I think she spoke for most teachers there, frustrated that the school had allowed entrance to idiots like me, so clearly unsuited to such an esteemed seat of learning.

She may have been right, or wrong. What I do know is that the second part of this unqualified diagnosis came to define my entire youth and experience of education.

For me, dyslexia was never on the cards. It never came up. My Maths teacher once suggested dyspraxia, but that was midway through his standup comedy routine, deriding me in front of the class for a catastrophic piece of homework.

But the latter diagnosis — lazy kid with rich parents — was repeated so often by every adult I engaged with throughout my youth that I accepted it to be certain truth.

Even when I was diagnosed with a condition that might have made sense of those learning experiences, I chose at the time not to make those associations.

Plenty of research since then has determined that the presence of that extra chromosome, or the consequential hormone deficiencies, has a substantial impact on academic achievement for reading and writing in school-aged boys.

Parents of boys diagnosed prenatally or in infancy are nowadays recommended a range of targeted interventions to overcome known developmental delays, whether the acquisition of langage or subsequent educational challenges.

Such interventions were not available to me, but fortunately I had the rich parents unwilling to make excuses for their youngest son. Perhaps their high expectations were the next best thing, counteracting the worst of those deficits.

Pst

The powerful tend to claim to be champions of free speech. In practical terms, though, they are only interested in protecting vested interests. It is very easy for the powerful to defend absolute freedom when it comes to insulting or lying about disenfranchised groups. But the other way around? We witness daily that when the disenfranchised take on the powerful, their freedom of expression is rapidly denounced. Soon enough, the multi-billionaire’s free speech utopia will be exposed for what it really is.

Daily

Daily we are reminded that we are governed by the worst of people, who have no principles, ethics or manners. Daily we learn that those who wield power are mostly liars, hypocrites and bullies. Daily we are forced to ask ourselves: “Why do we let them get away with this?” Daily we wonder: “Is this truly the government we deserve?”

This nation

Our nation — like most nations — was built on migration. But many descendants of migrants forget that fact after a few generations, especially if they share the basic characteristics of the native population.

Were her skin a different hue, my mother would be classed as a second-generation immigrant, through her own mother, who emigrated from southern Ireland in her youth to work as a nurse in a London hospital.

Had neither my grandmother or mother married an Englishman, then I suppose I too would be considered a third-generation immigrant, and on demographic questionnaires would have to specify, “White Irish.”

What of the children of my mother’s sister, who married an Indian man? What do they become? Whereas I can confidently declare myself British, to some, the identity of the next generation of children will always be in doubt. My extended family is filled with complex identities, our various states of belonging predicated mostly on skin colour alone.

I personally don’t understand the current political discourse concerning migration, because across whole swathes of the economy we are in fact facing an acute labour shortage. My own employer has a dedicated team specialising in overseas recruitment, seeking to headhunt healthcare professionals and scientists from abroad, to make up for shortfalls in the indigenous skills pool.

I don’t know why our politicians don’t just stand up and tell the truth: that the nation is reliant on migrant labour, and always has been. Don’t like that? Oh well, get used to longer and longer waiting times for hospital appointments then.

If it is said, “We must increase wages to attract indigenous labour,” then do so, but make it sharpish, because at present we’re just playing cutting off our noses to spite our own faces. We’re both saying, “No more immigration” and, when contemplating unfilled jobs we might do instead, muttering, “No thank you!”

Migration has been a part of the human story for as long as we have roamed the earth, and research into the genome makes that clear. Genetic research reveals that we all trace our roots back to elsewhere, for as a species we have long been nomadic. A natural response to environmental and social factors.

But, alas, in this age of focus groups telling us that people want to see more Union Jacks, I suppose it would be a brave politician who would utter such truths. So it is that we must baton down the hatches instead, and pray for the best.

Parliament

The House of Commons reminds me of school. Members of Parliament, even at the most senior rank, behave no better than teenagers. Some of them are far worse, in fact, acting like entitled brats bullying the misfits. The latter, in this chamber, being those who advocate on behalf of the poor and disenfranchised. Egged on by the popular press and their rabble, they pour scorn on those losers, before braying crowds. I despise these hypocrites, ruling without mercy, concerned only about pleasing the cool kids. Gutter politics, the worst of the worst. May this nation deserve and demand better.

Pursue truth

I have the impression that some people enjoy being lied to. They seem to particularly like big lies which they can cling fast to, and help promulgate themselves, and dedicate their lives to with a zealous passion. I suppose that’s why they read newspapers published by billionaires, which tell them daily that the poor and disenfranchised are the cause of all their woes.

In turn, I suppose that’s how communities battered by austerity and now dependent on food banks and local goodwill come to believe that their best hope is to vote into power a party of millionaires which has presided over a decade of cuts to welfare provision, whilst simultaneously spending billions on military intervention in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Syria.

If their former prime minister — marketed to them as rebel leader, anti-establishment scoundrel, man of the people — is factually shown to be a pathological liar, the very same people do not care. At first they may claim principles, defending the man, calling the claims themselves lies. But in the end, they simply say: “It doesn’t matter; we rather like his lies.”

They like his lies, because they’re also their lies. They are the lies they want to believe in, and they will believe in them, regardless of the evidence. People like lies which make them feel warm and fuzzy inside. They also like lies which cause them hypertension, which cause their face to turn purple, and rant and shout at length.

More of those lies are bubbling to the surface now, the muttering in online forums becoming a clamour. Though we may once have laughed at the chap from Barnsley who told a Channel 4 journalist that he voted for Brexit to keep the Muslims out, now we realise that sentiment is widespread. Imagine the horror of those voting to stop immigration from the east waking up to discover they have an Indian prime minister.

I’m sorry to say this, but the bulk of our population does not have a sophisticated understanding of diverse identities. A Tory member might be derided for likening our new prime minister — a practicing Hindu — to members of al-Qaeda, but that is exactly the dynamic nowadays witnessed on school playgrounds and in the workplace everywhere.

Muslim, Islam and “Islams” — not to mention al-Qaeda, ISIS, terrorist and extremist — have become catch-all terms deployed to describe anyone of a non-white background. This is of course incredibly annoying for the Hindu or Christian with distinct beliefs and identities of their own, but the common racist really isn’t interested in the particulars.

Extreme fringes of disenfranchised minorities might now feel the need to make those distinctions absolutely clear, so there can be no doubt. “We’re not Muslims!” they chant, sick of decades being the target of anti-Muslim hate crime. But they have missed the point: racists aren’t intelligent people. They judge people based on the quantity of melanin in their epidermis. The term Muslim is simply politically-correct shorthand for the non-white other.

If you have spent the past two decades blaming the Muslims for your predicament as a brown non-Muslim, sick of being tarred with the same brush, you’ve missed the point. Many victims of so-called Islamophobia happen to be non-Muslims. That’s because anti-Muslim sentiment is simply a mask for good old-fashioned racism. Muslims are just people like anyone else, of whom some are good and some are bad. The fact that they are disproportionately presented as the evil other ought to give us pause for thought.

What is actually going on? Well, let’s see. One fifth of the UK population — 14.5 million people and 30% of children — now live in poverty. While energy companies reap gargantuan profits, millions of people cannot afford to heat their homes. Hospital waiting times are at an all time high. Pay has stagnated, while the cost of living is spiralling out of control. The nation is simultaneously being prepared for massive tax rises, cuts to public services and the prospect of war with Russia and Iran.

But never mind. We have lies, and the lies taste good. The lies are our kind of lies, which make us feel good about ourselves, giving us a buzz. They’re the kind of lies which mean we neither have to take our leaders to account, nor ourselves. They’re lies about insignificant people who have no real impact on our lives, who can be casually blamed for every ill of society, though they have little to do with it at all.

They’re lies that enable white males — whipped into a frenzy by a diet of unending lies — to embark on violent terror campaigns against the foreign other, and yet still not be labelled terrorists, nor receive wall-to-wall media coverage for weeks on end. We are living through incredibly hard times for so many, but we choose to believe the narrative set out for us by billionaire media moguls — amongst the very people who benefit most from the status quo.

The latter have reason to promulgate lies unceasingly. But what about the rest of us? Let the people be guided by traditional wisdom, whatever it is they hold fast to:

God will say: “This is the Day when the truthful will benefit from their truthfulness.” For them are gardens beneath which rivers flow, wherein they will abide forever, God being pleased with them, and they with Him. That is the great attainment.

Quran (Islam)

The highest faith is the pursuit of truth, and higher still to live truthfully.

Guru Nanak (Sikhi)

Nothing is higher than the law of righteousness. The weak overcomes the stronger by the law of righteousness. Truly that law is truth; therefore, when a man speaks the truth, they say, “He speaks righteousness”; and if he speaks righteousness, they say, “He speaks the truth!” For both are one.

Brihadaranyaka Upanishad (Hinduism)

There are six things the Lord hates, seven that are detestable to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked schemes, feet that are quick to rush into evil, a false witness who pours out lies and a person who stirs up conflict in the community.

Book of Proverbs (Judaism and Christianity)

Old photos

Looking back at photos of myself in my late teens, and seeing what other people saw, I realise I was so stupid to believe in all I imagined to be true. I toy with sharing such an image so that others might see what I mean, but they are so horrendous for me that I cannot bring myself to do it.

Here the image I almost published. It’s 1996. I’m aged nineteen. I’m standing inbetween two trainee priests at a theological college in central Tanzania. My arms are hidden behind my back — they always were, because they were like matchsticks. My forehead is disproportionately large compared to the rest of my head. My cheek bones are very pronounced. But then everything beneath that: narrow, pulled tight. Think Michael Jackson in his 1995 phase, only more gaunt.

I knew even then that I was odd looking, but I suppose I must have got used to it — or I avoided the mirror as much as I could. Fortunately, in those days we neither had smartphones nor cameras always to hand, so photos of me back then are few and far between. Nevertheless, I recall those moments well. I was most self-conscious about my arms, which I could see, so terribly emaciated.

But of course my face was my window to the world, so while I looked out and saw beauty, others looked back upon a freakish epicene form, to which the only response could be derision. To be charitable to myself, I could say that it was as if I had drunk the elixir of eternal youth. But that’s not really what I or anybody else saw. All of the harassment I encountered was because it wasn’t a masculine face, expected in a young man in adolescence.

Perhaps the photos from 1995/6 are more pronounced because that was my year of dark dejection, suffering from that desolate concoction of desire and despair, compounded by a deficient diet while living alone far from home. But nevertheless it wasn’t much different to the face that had accompanied me since the turn of the decade. It’s strange then that I let my imagination run away with me, believing in that call of my heart.

While I knew I had no chance wooing my primary longterm crush, the American actress Julia Roberts — in those days, the most beautiful woman in the world to my youthful mind — somehow I allowed myself to believe in other fantastical renderings of my imagination, misunderstanding glances and interactions at length. Only now does it occur to me how preposterous that was. All of the words once written down, the poetry once penned: pure make-believe.

And yet… some five years after that, I would meet a woman raised three thousand miles away who saw in me something she could embrace. Of course, my world had changed immensely in the years since that horrendous photo had been taken in the heart of Tanzania. Three years earlier, quite separately, we had both embarked on this journey of self-discovery, uttering our testimony of faith on the same Bank Holiday weekend. I guess our paths had been set to converge just then.

What did she see in me back then? Certainly my face was less conspicuous by that time. Still youthful, but not quite so anorexic. Perhaps all those curries fed to me by that old uncle had helped. Perhaps all those shishs from my kebab shop on the corner of Boston Manor Road had helped too. But perhaps it was just my time: an answer to a sincere prayer, patience rewarded. Maybe that’s one old photo I could share: of the day that turned my life around.

Probability

My parents were just telling me about miraculously bumping into a close friend of theirs from church while out and about seventy-five miles from home.

So we’re all walking that road, it seems, crossing paths, thinking to ourselves, “What is the chance of that?”

So much for those reflections a year ago, thinking it impossible that my path would ever again cross with people I once knew. Given the UK population is now above sixty million, I decided that was highly improbable.

But of course, in the intervening period that hypothesis has been shown to be completely false. What’s the probability of that?

Real

I disengage with any commentator, influencer, preacher, scholar, imam or community sage who speaks of real men or real women. Religious types tend to have an obsession with both, imposing their cultural archetypes on all people, everywhere.

I disengage, not because I’m a lefty-liberal snowflake (although that may well be true), but because I dispute the notion that there is such a thing as real or normal. We are all influenced by so many factors: environmental, cultural and biological. What one society considers the ideal man or woman may not be the same elsewhere.

I disengage mostly due to my own biology and its impacts, which cause me to fall foul of the righteous censors’ definition of manliness by default. About 1 in 150 babies are born with a chromosomal aberration. From a scientific or medical perspective, these aberrations are considered mistakes, as a result of errors in cell division. From a religious perspective, however, there are no mistakes.

Not even a leaf falls without His knowledge, nor a grain in the darkness of the earth or anything—green or dry—but it is written in a perfect record.

Quran 6:59

Contrary to the pontifications of the real men brigade, we are all created just the way we are, by design, by the One in whose hand is our soul. We are as we are, not because our mindset is at fault — because we refuse to conform to some golden norm — but due to biological and environmental factors completely beyond our control.

Some people have major life-impacting conditions as a consequence of having too few chromosomes. Others, like me, have milder manifestations, resulting from having too many. All of us, I suppose, with growing familiarity with the process of cell division stand in awe of the process of replication by which each new generation comes into being.

The idea of real or normal is very problematic from a religious perspective, wherein we believe God is the creator, originator and sustainer of all things. Believers, more grounded in their faith, once held fast to the idea of rida, wherein they would be found deeply accepting of divine decree. They were not agitated by their state of being — neither by the impact of their environment nor by vicissitudes of the self.

Throughout my life, I have been forced by societal pressures to deal with the idea of normal — mostly as a result of falling foul of those notions. From my earliest childhood, like many of the 0.2% of boys born with that extra chromosome, I will have been reminded repeatedly that I am unmanly. Muscles: too small and too weak. Character: extremely shy and sensitive. Energy: nonexistent. Confidence: completely lacking.

The Alt-Bro movement demands that a man is physically strong, athletic, aggressive, self-confident. Everywhere is this rendition of manliness promoted in our community, whether amongst the cuddly sufis or brash literalists. After the archery contests come the jiu jitsu tournaments, as the local ustad demands that young men man-up.

No wonder I have been greeted with so much suspicion by my fellow believers — both men and women — through the years. I long believed that I was anathematised by my brothers at a conference I attended in the months after becoming Muslim for sectarian reasons, but looking back now it seems obvious that it was my perceived unmanliness that was the problem. Twice I was called out for my lack of facial hair, and then completely shunned.

For both the scholars present and their disciples, my physical form and character was of more significance to them, than the fact I had embraced the faith three months earlier. For them, belonging was predicated on me having a big bushy beard, and strong muscular arms. This despite all of us having heard that well-known narration attributed to the Prophet, peace be upon him, in which he is reported to have said:

“Verily, God does not look at your appearance or wealth, but rather He looks at your hearts and deeds.”

Hadith recorded by Muslim and Ibn Majah

Throughout my life I have been judged inadequate by others based upon my character and physical form. Throughout my youth, it materialised in bullying behaviour at the hands of peers and strangers alike, which only ceased because I removed myself from those environments. But my faith — in my relationship with my Lord, if not community — enables me to move beyond those constraints, accepting that I am as I am because that is how I was made. How I am is not a mistake in the divine cosmos: it is what was decreed for me.

That my body does not naturally produce enough of the hormone necessary for brain development, strong bones, muscle growth, energy and so much more has naturally been deeply problematic in how I have developed as a person. And yet it has also bestowed traits which, contrary to the declarations of those leaders of opinion obsessed with notions of manliness, were traditionally considered commendable by believing men and women.

However much our talking-heads insist on emphasising physical strength, we must acknowledge that our tradition also extols the virtues of gentleness, mildness, good manners, shyness and speaking softly. It may well be that modern representatives of authentic manhood are brash, self-assured, loud, aggressive and straight-talking, but it remains the case that our Prophet — who is our guide — did not denigrate people, spoke quietly and praised modesty and shyness in both men and women.

I suspect that few of us on either end of the spectrum, whether men or women, are anywhere close to being real in terms of what is actually expected of us as human beings. Whatever we decide to be authentic will be a social construct, however we try to market it. Just as notions of race and racial supremacy have evaporated with increased understanding of the human genome, so too will other behavioural phenotypes. What is normal, for example?

In the understanding of our preachers and proselytisers, I am neither normal nor real. However, in my relationship with my Lord, I am content with His decree. I am content with the way I was made, and my innate nature, however much some people may dislike it. By virtue of having been born in the latter years of the twentieth century, I have been able access interventions that would have been unavailable to men in earlier ages. Thus has my physical form normalised a degree.

But beyond this, what can I do? I cannot be what I’m not. Nor are you required to be. Most of our vociferous guides, I feel, have completely missed the point of our faith. What we are called to be or become is far simpler than they make out.

Indeed, the Muslim men and Muslim women, the believing men and believing women, the obedient men and obedient women, the truthful men and truthful women, the patient men and patient women, the humble men and humble women, the charitable men and charitable women, the fasting men and fasting women, the men who guard their private parts and the women who do so, and the men who remember God often and the women who do so — for them God has prepared forgiveness and a great reward.

Quran 33:35

If we are to become real then let it be by holding to an equality such as that. Be obedient, truthful, patient, humble, charitable, modest, remembering God. Perhaps we might then be successful and, yes, real.

Pseudo

By curious happenstance, we find ourselves working amongst those engaged in the bleeding edge of scientific and medical research. Why then do we allow ourselves to be bamboozled by pseudo-science, knowing full well that it has no grounding in reality whatsoever? We’re there on the ground, supporting clinicians at the forefront of their field. We have a front row seat on this endeavor. Why then let the charismatic preach their peculiar anti-wisdom, to the detriment of all? Why listen to the rabble of pseudo-scholars and their disciples, who call us to throw out reason and thoughtfulness in pursuit of narrow, tribal agendas? “Use reason!” is the rejoinder of our Book, over and over. And so we should and must.

Good deeds

I suspect whatever your specialism, you will forever be on call to family and friends for “emergencies”. Plumbers, sparkies, gardeners, the man-with-van: attend social gatherings at your peril, lest you be pounced on to fix whatever is broken today.

It’s no different for those who make a living from that generic category known as “computers”. No invitation to dinner will be complete without an assignment to fix a laptop, recover data from an external drive, clean a virus-infected PC or fix a malfunctioning printer.

So to the latest: an elderly fellow emails in a panic, subject: “Help Please!” He’s locked out of his website and is sure he’s been hacked. He insists on paying, but I never accept payment for favours; a chocolate bar, maybe. I view these tasks as an opportunity to work on my patience and tolerance, required in oodles.

While I’m pretty hopeless at DIY or car maintenance, tinkering with tech is fortunately my forte. Glad I have one talent, enabling me to accumulate a few good deeds. For sure, I can use all I can get. Thus never do I decline such requests. I view them as a gift: an opportunity to expiate my sins perhaps, or rebalance my scales.

Let’s see where this adventure carries me…

Do what’s right

It’s time to reclaim the term honour from the dishonourable, who deploy it merely to deprive others of their rights, or to diminish them, or make them disappear.

The honourable are not those found threatening to smash others to pieces: a stranger, a spouse, a sibling, a cousin, an in-law.

They are those who treat their companions with kindness, cherishing them and holding them tight. The honourable is there for their spouse in their time of greatest need, a humble servant to their family.

Rarely have I seen any honour in those who speak so much about it. The truly honourable are merciful, nurturing and benevolent.

The true meaning of honour is to do what is morally right, or to regard a person with high respect. Perhaps the dishonourable can reflect on this.

Do what’s right for a change. Then perhaps you will be rightly held in great esteem.

Never the time

The spectre of an enemy beating at the door has been invoked for a thousand years to prevent us from taking ourselves to account. The present is no different. Now is not the time to speak of our own crimes, we insist. Which begs the question: when will the time be right? When will we decide to put our own house in order? Now, or never?

Shiny tech

There’s always that senior exec who insists on throwing out the old and bringing in the new, splashing cash on some new technology, sold to them with a swish marketing presentation.

Continue reading “Shiny tech”

Um…

Times are extraordinarily hard for so many. But it’s not a government bought by hedge fund managers that will take the blame. The role of scapegoat will be taken up by the usual suspects: the poor, the outsider, the unpopular. If governance has been taken over by the super rich, we would not know it. Instead, we will turn on each other. We’ve been sold culture wars to keep us busy. Who will now pause for thought?

Log off

I regularly work long hours, starting early and finishing late. Not necessarily out of heroism: I’m most likely just making up hours after being distracted by a thought or feeling mid-morning. So yes, I will regularly be found still working late evening, insisting to my family that, “I just need to finish this off.”

Still, I’m persistently amazed by the colleagues who insist on calling past five o’clock to seek advice and input. These are the new remote workers, yet to understand the boundaries between work and home. I have been doing this for a decade. While I value that quiet evening period for actually getting work done, it is not a time for communicating. Never send an email out of hours that might disrupt a colleague’s personal downtime.

Just because you’re a workaholic, it doesn’t mean everyone else has to be. Yes, we all have way too much work to do. But maybe it’s just time to push back and drop a few things, to send the message back up the command chain that they can’t keep expecting more and more for less and less, with minimal reward. Maybe they just need to prioritise differently, so you’re not forced to call a colleague after he should have logged off for the day.

Take care

In this time of council cuts and unrepaired pavements, take care. I just went flying through the air, landing on the ground with a thud, while collecting our daughter from an evening activity.

Fortunately, I’m just left with bruises, gravel-pitted palms and a cut knee. For the elderly, infirm or pregnant, though, it could have been much worse. Such a fall could easily have resulted in a fracture or concussion.

Happily, the most I have to contend with is the jovial response of our kids, who find it hilarious that I almost swore!

Tight as

At work, I run as frugal an operation as I do at home. Colleagues laugh that I’m a true Yorkshireman. Tight, they mean. I’d say careful, considerate, value-seeking. Mindful of where the money is coming from, and from what other needy cause it might have been diverted.

In my personal life, I don’t have a credit card. We don’t spend what we don’t have. We live squarely within our means. Sometimes that puts us at a disadvantage when it comes to desiring the finer things, but oddly, strangely, we somehow find ourselves independent, a slave to no man, except of course the tax man.

I suppose we have always been guided by that maxim, “I didn’t find a better wealth than contentment in a little.” Hard to achieve sometimes when the accumulation of stuff is everywhere pushed as being the primary goal of the aspiring. But certainly, contentment is the best aspiration.

The problem

What do those bods in IT know, anyway? That seems to be the question the budget holder asks at the beginning of March each year, as they charge ahead implementing some solution to a problem that has not been identified, with the sole purpose of utilising the capital underspend which cannot possibly be redirected towards actual need.

Continue reading “The problem”

Frivolous issues

If we spent as much time on core issues as we spend on the peripheral, perhaps we might progress. Why do we expend so much effort placing obstacles before those who believe — or who might believe — in defence of frivolous side issues? And, yes, I do say frivolous, regardless of the opinion of your esteemed teacher or school of thought.

Continue reading “Frivolous issues”

Curious insights

Strangely… oddly… weirdly… despite being the most insignificant of people… by virtue of simply being in the wrong place at the wrong time… I have been blessed in this life of mine to have known many a person of influence before they were influential… Thus have I never felt moved to respond to whatever they call to.

Continue reading “Curious insights”

New week

It’s one of those days when I’m just not going to be able to be myself. Myself meaning shunning crowds, keeping myself to myself.

Monday morning, 8.00am: “Really sorry, but can you deliver a presentation to the organisation this morning?”

Naturally, my first reaction is to run a mile. But my second reaction is to be the supportive team mate. And this time my benevolence wins out over my social anxiety.

10.00am, I’m presenting in front of seventy colleagues, voice quavering, familiarising myself with the presentation there and then. It’s a tough crowd, but I survive.

Next up, a director needs a favour too. Can I give some friends of his some technical advice? It’s a rhetorical question. “Thanks, Tim, you’re a star,” he says, before I can get out of it.

Not exactly the start to the week I had in mind, rising with a body full of aches from a weekend’s decorating. But maybe it will help me challenge myself to rise from my rut. Maybe it’s the kick I need.

False narratives

Who is responsible for the false narratives promulgated in the public domain? The authors themselves, who make up such tales, or the journalists who cover them, who go to print without checking the facts?

Continue reading “False narratives”

Pushback

Are people getting more and more lazy, or am I just becoming less and less helpful? Admittedly, I’ve built my career being excessively helpful to others, always offering support and advice when they need it. But these days I can’t help feeling that people are taking advantage of the kindness of their colleagues.

That’s why at last they’re getting pushback, that nice, helpful teammate all of a sudden gruff and assertive. Sure, I’ll train you. I’ll patiently support you. I’ll go above and beyond. But no, I’m not going to do your job for you. It’s time for a change of mindset.

I guess the drugs are working.