Month: July 2018

Weekend Reading

  • Worcestershire from You’re Probably Pronouncing These 30 Food Words Wrong
    I’ll raise my hand, it’s not “kweynoah” (quinoa)

  • Elena Ferrante: ‘I used to devour news. Now, the uninterrupted rain of it feels like chaos’
    I don’t feel desperate to be informed about everything that happens in the world. As a girl, I merely glanced at the newspaper headlines and occasionally watched the TV news. But a growing interest in politics, which erupted when I was around 20, inspired me to amass information.
    Chaos is the word. Where is the truth and who knows it?

  • Bet You Didn’t Know These Animal Facts
    Vanilla flavoring comes from *what*?
    My favourite ice cream flavour just got complicated..

  • 34 years ago, a KGB defector chillingly predicted modern America
    President Trump was almost universally panned for the press conference that followed the meeting with Russia’s President Putin in Helsinki, Finland. Trump was seen as capitulating to Russia by refusing to confront Putin on the issue of past and present interference in American elections.
    I know, it’s a Trump article but if this is all true then holy shit have we been played.

  • ‘It’s the president we all want’: The melancholy world of liberals watching ‘The West Wing’ in 2018
    Paul and Shirley Attryde drove from Durham, N.C., to Washington this spring for a live taping of “The West Wing Weekly,” a podcast about a TV series that ended 12 years ago.
    It me!

  • The Dog Photographer Of The Year Award Winners Are In, And They’re Fantastic
    This week the UK’s Kennel Club named winners for its 2018 Dog Photographer of the Year contest. As you might have guessed, the winning photos are incredibly precious.
    DOGGO! DOGGO!! DOGGO!!!!

  • Stop Trying to Change Yourself
    You can’t change yourself, so don’t even try. I know that’s not what the infomercials and self-help seminars tell you. But fuck it. They’re wrong. You can’t change. Like a thirsty man in a desert chasing a mirage, or a fat man peering into an empty fridge—there’s nothing there.
    The gentle backlash against hyper-productivity and self-improvement continues. Hey, you, you are ALREADY AWESOME.

  • Gratitude for Invisible Systems
    One way to improve democracy is for more people to appreciate its complex technological underpinnings. Before asking the question of how technology can affect democracy, I’m going to ask: What is democracy for?
    So many things we don’t consider that are so crucial. Peek behind that curtain.

  • Users Sue Juul for Addicting Them to Nicotine
    Juul Labs, the San Francisco-based e-cigarette company, is under pressure from parents, schools, public health advocates, lawmakers, and the Food and Drug Administration for its popularity with younger users, who have gravitated to Juul’s discrete rechargeable vaping device and nicotine pods.
    Shocking. Not. A company with billions of VC money behind it is acting in a ‘not nice’ way?

  • Kareem Abdul-Jabbar: Hollywood’s New “Zero Tolerance” on Offensive Speech Makes Zero Sense
    ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ director James Gunn’s recent firing over old tweets and a Paramount TV exec’s dismissal amid racially charged comments only reinforce an “atmosphere of fear” and fail to account for the “totality of the person,” writes the Hollywood Reporter columnist.
    Not THAT Kareem (for NBA fans). Seeing a couple of articles about this, are we over-reacting? Are people not allowed to make mistakes and learn from them? Where is the line?

  • The Drone Photography Of The Year Contest Winners Are Staggering
    We at Digg dot com have a complicated relationship with drones. But roughly speaking, our views can probably be summed up as follows: drones that have chainsaws = uncool. Drones that take pretty photographs = very cool.
    Wow.

  • For the sake of fuck
    Just go read it.

  • Artificial Intelligence Shows Why Atheism Is Unpopular
    Imagine you’re the president of a European country. You’re slated to take in 50,000 refugees from the Middle East this year. Most of them are very religious, while most of your population is very secular.
    Stepping outside the bubble of my tribe is hard to do, my world view is not yours, etc.

  • What a musical conductor actually does on stage
    I love hearing people talk about how they work. In this quick video, conductor James Gaffigan explains what it is he does on stage and how different composers like Leonard Bernstein shape and enhance the performance of the musicians they’re leading.
    Learn something new every day. Fascinating.

  • Swedish student’s plane protest stops man’s deportation ‘to hell’
    Her successful protest, footage of which spread rapidly across the internet, shines a spotlight on domestic opposition to Sweden’s tough asylum regime, at a time when immigration and asylum are topping the agenda of a general election campaign in which the far right is polling strongly.
    Power is available to everyone if you are willing to stand up.

  • WW2 Spitfire pilot Mary Ellis dies
    The last living female pilot from World War Two, Mary Ellis, has died aged 101 at her home on the Isle of Wight. Mrs Ellis was a member of the Air Transport Auxiliary (ATA) and delivered Spitfires and bombers to the front line during the conflict.
    Actual legend.

  • Underestimating the power of gratitude – recipients of thank-you letters are more touched than we expect
    We’ve all been there: feeling so grateful to a friend or colleague that we hatch the idea of sending them a thank-you message. But then we worry about how to phrase it. And then we figure it probably won’t mean much to them anyway; if anything it could all be a bit awkward. So we don’t bother.
    Have I thanked YOU for reading these posts? THANK YOU!

  • Merry Clayton Tells the Story of Her Amazing Backing Vocal on The Rolling Stones’ “Gimme Shelter”
    Some of rock’s greatest singers have catalogs that stretch for miles, with B-sides and deep cuts as plentiful as the well-known favorites. We could rattle off handfuls of names that fit the description.
    Didn’t know this story, wow. Imagine that vocal not happening, which it almost didn’t.

  • Why the UK’s biggest lesbian archive is so important
    Glasgow Women’s Library is not your typical library. Finalists for this year’s Art Fund Museum of the Year award, the Women’s Library is part-library, part-archive, and the only accredited museum in the UK dedicated to preserving women’s lives, histories, and communities.
    Mon Glasgow!

  • Negative People
    “Stay away from negative people. They have a problem for every solution.”
    This quote. (that’s all the post is, don’t need to click)

  • The Queer Art of Failing Better
    Some things are just too pure for this weird and wicked world. That video of the golden retriever failing an agility test. Golden retrievers in general. Political science majors who truly believe they can change the system from within. And Queer Eye.  
    Not a fan of the show but might watch a few after reading this article. (Also, my fav ‘viral’ video ever? that golden retriever).

  • Sheffield topiarist ‘disgusted by drunk hedge sex’
    Keith Tyssen has maintained his “privet lady” at his Sheffield home since 2000, but is often woken up in the night by distracted passers-by. Mr Tyssen has considered putting up a sign or an alarm to curb the behaviour.
    Bush. *snigger*

  • A Person Can Instantly Blossom into a Savant–and No One Knows Why
    Savant syndrome comes in different forms. In congenital savant syndrome the extraordinary savant ability surfaces in early childhood.
    I’m still waiting.

The baseball

A few days ago a short video clip went viral, in the way short video clips do. It was taken during a baseball game and showed a foul ball (a hit that lands out of bounds) landing in the front few rows of the stand. A child scrabbles under his seat to get it but the ball rolls under his seat and a man sitting behind him reaches down and snatches it up, laughing, and then hands it to the woman sitting next to him.

Watching it and you can’t help but be horrified, a grown man, snatching a ball away from a child and LAUGHING about it.

Needless to say the backlash was swift and I re-tweeted it myself in a pique of righteous outrage. Who WAS this douchebag? Clearly a horrible person, and it wasn’t hard to plop him into the American stereotype; white guy, baseball cap, arrogant, careless, Trump voter, and no doubt an ill-educated, racist, sexist, right-wing asshole to boot. It’s not much of a leap, let’s be honest, given the lens we view America through at the moment but with a quick click of a button I could share my disbelief and mild hatred of this stranger with the rest of Twitter, along with several thousand other similarly gobsmacked people who also re-tweeted the clip.

Ohhh and it felt so so good. Justice has been served!! At least in so much as it ever is in a world where social media skips and bounces across the surface of the inane and newsworthy alike, why deep dive when you can pass judgement and move on to the next crusade. Dreddful times? But then I guess it’s not like we have to wait long before the next thing comes along, the next blip on the radar at which we can direct our moral judgement, all name of correcting wrongs and making the world a better place.

Baseball stealer, Brexit disaster, climate change, refugee activism. Click, click, click, click. And lo I have participated and the world spins easier on its axis.

That’s how the world works now, right? I have shared so I am part of the solution, I can now kick back, relax and feel good about myself. Isn’t social media WONDERFUL!

I know, I know, if only it were so.

One of the first things I ever published here, back in June 1999, was a reaction to another shooting in the US of A. It was the only social media platform we had back then; four years before MySpace, five before Facebook, seven before Twitter. It were nowt but fields but it was all we had, hand-crafted HTML and FTP uploads. Even back then, despite the paucity of blogs (or perhaps because of it) my blogroll was full of similarly minded people, liberal IT geeks. No doubt there were plenty of right-wing GOP bloggers but I had no need or desire to track them down. The news was my source of information on the wider world.

These days the news is a source, and even then I’m much more wary of trusting it to be reported without agenda or bias, and I look to social media to sense check what I’m reading. Which means it can be a vicious circle of lies and deceit that self-perpetuate. Clearly social media is simply heralding the downfall of what little humanity we seem to have left.

Which is complete nonsense, after all I wouldn’t have heard about many glorious things at all if it wasn’t for social media. It’s not like the news headlines are dominated by acts of kindness and love, is it?

I know my life is richer for social media in many positive and uplifting ways. Which is lovely. Seeing the good side of humanity is a wonderful thing and genuinely makes me happy and reminds me that the shit-storm that is plastered all over newspapers and TV banners is the worst tip of the shitberg. Dig a little (ewwww) and there are stories of care and compassion to find. Phew. What a relief. Except it should be no surprise that my personally curated and selected social media feeds bring me things of joy and beauty in this horrible horrible world.

At this point I find myself searching for an analogy, one that pairs manure with roses, perhaps, but I then I realise that like most analogies it’s easy to realise how flawed they are; sure roses like manure, but too much manure and the roses will be weak and lack vibrancy, not enough and they are stunted and dull.

Which is all just a really clunky and roundabout way of saying I don’t think I have enough manure in my social media, which is not a statement I thought I’d ever make but there you have it. Like most people my social media is within my bubble, it shares my world view, it reacts the same way I do, and it’s why it’s a key part of staying connected to my “tribe”. I know that not looking outside of your tribe is, in and of itself, a dangerously blinkered view of the world to have.

I think I need to be challenged more, to have my gaze shifted from time to time, or I’m in danger of falling into the same knee-jerk reactions that I see elsewhere, the ones I point at and laugh at because what kind of idiot reacts without thinking?

In the world of fake news this is all the more important. Challenge your presumptions, pause your reactions, find the other sides to the story, assess.

That baseball guy, it turns out, had already snagged one foul ball and handed it to the kid in front of him. Apparently he’s a nice guy and does that from time to time. Various tweets from people sitting near him during the game confirm this, calling out all those horrible people who’d hate-shared the video clip portraying him as some form of child-hating monster.

I was one of those people.

I’d been faked news’d.

And worse still, I’d reacted just like the morons I see do it over and over again – Trump is great, women need to know their place, immigrants should just go home – I see those idiots scream and shout.

And I sit by and retweet those who rail against them, comfortable in my quiet home, safe from any backlash.

Six by Nico: Mexico

Glasgow has quite a few good Mexican eateries (Topolabamba being a personal favourite) so I was intrigued to see how this wouldn’t just be a more refined version of the usual taco, burrito, and salsa we all know and love.

Looking at the menu set my mind at ease a little, although my dislike of bell peppers (not chilli) already had me doubting the third course, ELOTE.

  1. CHICKEN THIGH TACO – Guacamole, Strawberry Salsa, Whipped Creme Fraiche
  2. NACHOS – Heritage Tomato, Housemade Queso Fresco, Avocado Gazpacho
  3. ELOTE – Sweetcorn Risotto, Green Chorizo, Pickled Red Peppers
  4. SEA BASS CHILPACHOLE MIXTO – Mussel Escabeche, Crab Mole, Sikil Pak, Orange
  5. PORK CHEEK BARBACOA – Refried Beans, Tomatillo, Rainbow Chard, Crackling
  6. CHOCOLATE TACO – Tonka Bean Ganache, Banana Ice Cream, Chipotle & Banana Caramel

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🇲🇽 Mexico via @sixbynico

A post shared by Gordon McLean (@gmclean) on

As I was driving I had a sip of the Apertif, a tequila and cointreau based pineapple margarita which certainly hit the mark, and then, as always, SNACKS!

There is a theme developing for the snacks, sourdough and flavoured butter (paprika for this menu) with some olives, then the ‘theme’ specific snack. The menu on the website suggests we were getting Masa Fries, with Jalapeno ketchup and Sweet Ancho Chilli Popcorn, what we got was nachos. Well, they LOOKED like Nachos and tasted like nachos, with rich and vibrant dabs of pureed avocado, that ketchup too. A nice way to kick start the palate.

I felt a bit odd eating the next course, it was a Wednesday evening you see which threw out my whole Taco Tuesdays thing… but they were tasty enough. I’m not sure I got much from the strawberry salsa, and the guacamole was a little on the thin side for my liking but overall a nice way to start the meal.

Of all the dishes the next one piqued my interest the least. Tomatoes are not high on my list of desirable eating and unfortunately this dish didn’t do much to change that. A fresh and cleansing dish for sure but it lacked any depth of flavour, or much in the way of balance. All of the flavours on the plate were gentle but didn’t seem to combine to be anything greater than their parts.

The third course was the one I was least looking forward to. I am not a fan of bell peppers and wasn’t convinced that pickling them would help. So being told on presentation that the dish also included smoked peppers and my heart sank. Ohhhh how wrong I was. Easily my favourite dish of the menu, the sweetcorn risotto was delicious, the pickled peppers (which I presume were picked by someone called Peter?) were a revelation only topped by the smoked peppers. Belter of a dish with some good hearty flavours that complimented each other without being overwhelming.

Sea Bass next, always a sign of a hearty dish as it takes flavours well and also a first try of escabeche for me. The mussels were tasty and the sea bass well cooked but the crab mole was a bit bland, thankfully the orange and pickled vegetables helped add some flavour.

The next dish was one I picked out as being likely to be a favourite, Pork cheek barbacoa. Alas whilst it was well cooked and well presented, it didn’t really hit the mark. It wasn’t bad per se just underwhelming on the whole and it was at about this point in the meal that I realised something that had been missing. Heat. Specifically, chillis. Not one dish had offered any subtle hint to what I take as being a quintessential part of Mexican cuisine, but perhaps that’s because I was basing my expectation on westernised Mexican cuisine? I’m not well informed enough to know but this dish seemed to highlight the absence of spice.

And then dessert. A friend of mine was dining that night, and we chatted as she left. She neatly captured the essence of this final dish for me “Nice but a bit too banana-ey”. She was right, the ganache was delicious, and some hunks of banana bread on highlighted just how ‘banana-ey’ the ice cream was but then, finally, we got a little heat from the chipotle and banana caramel.

As always, all of the food was well prepared and beautifully presented but on the whole this menu doesn’t rank high. It might be down to personal taste (isn’t it always?) but there just didn’t seem to be enough variation on each plate, too many pureed, reduced, and smoothed sauces, not to mention a distinct lack of big punchy flavours. Chilli or no, that’s what I expect from Mexican food and I think this menu suffers from those expectations. Does that mean the food was bad? No. It just wasn’t all that great.

That said, it was a pleasure to eat and I was delighted to have my expectation flipped on pickled peppers. And at £28 for six courses of wonderful food, plus £5 for an apertif and £5 for snacks (between two) Six by Nico continues to be ridiculously good value.

Hat tip to the staff as well, always friendly, and were very quick to remedy a delay between a couple of courses (we hadn’t even noticed) with the offer of a free drink.

And yes, we are already booked in for the next menu.

Weekend Reading

  • An Honest Look at The Personal Finance Crisis
    Millions of baby boomers are moving into their senior years with empty pockets and declining choices to earn a living. And right behind them is a younger generation facing the same challenges.
    And the rich keep getting richer. Hello dystopian future.

  • 100 Best Movies to Stream on Netflix Right Now
    Some belters in here. Some I’ve never heard of, time to explore!

  • Leader comment: A denunciation of Donald Trump
    Donald Trump, due to arrive in the UK later today, is a racist, a serial liar, and either a sex abuser or someone who falsely brags about being one in the apparent belief that this will impress other men in a metaphorical “locker room”.
    I don’t do Trump stuff here often but this piece in the Scotsman is worth it. Water off a ducks back of course but 10/10 for effort.

  • Sacha Baron Cohen hits back at Sarah Palin as Roy Moore admits being duped
    The former Alaska governor and vice-presidential candidate called the comedian “evil, exploitative and sick” in a Facebook post on 10 July after he duped her into an interview for his new show Who Is America?
    Alas the reviews for the show are less than stellar. But it’s good that SOMEONE is doing something.

  • A Master’s Twist on Making Ice Cream in a Plastic Bag
    There is no easier way to prove that you’re a capable person than by making, from scratch and without special equipment, foods that seem inherently store-bought and expensive.
    Say whhaaaattt!

  • How to Tell the Bad Men From the Good Men
    When I moved down to London, on the morning of my 18th birthday, to become a young, idiotic, yet hopefully noble lady rock critic, I had a bin bag full of clothes, a laptop, a dog, and one terrible flaw — other than the tendency for my hair to assume an unflattering triangular shape…
    All those in favour of Mz Moran as PM?

  • Sisters in Arms
    Is the #MeToo “moment” the beginning of a new feminism? Coined by the civil rights activist Tarana Burke in 2006, the term took off in 2017 when celebrities like the actress Alyssa Milano began using it as a Twitter hashtag.
    Still a long long way to go.

  • ‘How we made Now That’s What I Call Music 100’
    The 100th edition of Now That’s What I Call Music will be released this Friday, featuring the biggest chart hits of the last four months. We went behind the scenes at Abbey Road as the Now team chose the tracks for the compilation’s centenary.
    I tapped out at release 67 I think, an institution?

  • The Power of Positive People
    Are you spending time with the right people for your health and happiness? While many of us focus primarily on diet and exercise to achieve better health, science suggests that our well-being also is influenced by the company we keep.
    As I get older I get much more selective, and give many fewer fucks if people don’t like it.

  • The French World Cup Win and the Glories of Immigration
    Those of us who have spent a surprising chunk of our lives rooting for—supporting, as they say in Britain—Les Bleus, the French national football team, have to feel a special exultation and delight in seeing them win the World Cup.
    How many of the English team came from immigrant families?

  • The Twitch streamers who spend years broadcasting to no one
    When John Hopstead first descended into the virtual world of Dark Souls in 2013, his mission was to save a decaying world.
    Awwww internet, never change. (except the shitty bits, hurry up and change already)

  • It’s Not Your Fault If You Can’t Get Anything Done in the Summer
    I can’t get anything done in the summer, which I’d long assumed was due to my body’s preference for the school-year calendar of September to May. Though I haven’t been in school for many years, I figured there was some lasting psychological impact which made my brain give up every June.
    Thank you science! (Now, about the rest of the year…)

  • Welcome to the Open Book
    35.3k Likes, 1,506 Comments – “Welcome to the Open Book. It’s a #bookstore in Wigtown, Scotland, that offers a literary experience…”
    People are wonderful.

  • Saoirse Ronan on Growing Up on Camera, the Changing Politics of Ireland, and Becoming a Queen
    Saoirse Ronan is describing the aftermath of her first acting job. “I went into this melancholic state for a few weeks,” she tells me. “I remember sitting on the bed with Mam next to me, and I was like: ‘I’m never going to have that experience again.”
    Massively talented and all round down to earth lovely person, how can you NOT admire her?

  • How the world’s last Blockbuster will keep the DVD dream alive
    Age: From the beforetimes. Or, 1985. Appearance: Dwindling.
    I, for one, do not miss the trips to the video store.

  • Biologists are bugged about the ant emoji
    Of the 2,666 emoji in the wild, there’s one symbol that really bugs a group of keen-eyed users. Tech companies can’t seem to draw the black ant emoji properly, as several ant enthusiasts have noted.
    “Several” enthusiasts? Is that the same as “all”? I mean, I like ants but still…

  • Telling Is Listening: Ursula K. Le Guin on the Magic of Real Human Conversation
    Every act of communication is an act of tremendous courage in which we give ourselves over to two parallel possibilities: the possibility of planting into another mind a seed sprouted in ours and watching it blossom into a breathtaking flower of mutual understanding; and the possibility of being misunderstood.
    Communication is so important and so very hard.

  • Look up at the moon every night—not just during the lunar eclipse
    On July 27, a blood moon will glow an eerie red ahead of the longest lunar eclipse that Earth will experience in the 21st century. For one hour and 43 minutes, the moon will disappear from the sky, entirely obscured by the shadow that our planet casts upon it.
    Amen. The sky (particularly at night) is a constant source of fascination.

  • 15 Podcasts That Will Make You Feel Smarter
    The French polymath René Descartes (1596-1650) lived after the Renaissance, but he personified that age’s interest in mathematics, philosophy, art, and the nature of humanity. He made numerous discoveries and argued for ideas that people continue to grapple with.
    Some new ones to explore. I can recommend Hidden Brain from this list, always great!

  • Is “Piano Man” The Greatest Song Ever Written?
    I realize this sounds absurd. “Piano Man” is not even my favorite Billy Joel song. Nor is it his. Joel appeared on Stephen Colbert’s late night show once and Colbert asked him for his top five Billy Joel songs. “Piano Man” was noticeably absent.
    No comment required. Move on.

A man I hate

Last Friday I had the great pleasure of going to see a man I hate. He was reading some of his essays.

It was wonderful but he makes me sick to my stomach whenever I read anything he’s written, but I’ve long made peace with my ongoing resentment towards him. Hate is such a strong word, as my Mother liked to remind me during my teenage ‘strop’ years, so perhaps I’ll tone this down a little and say I merely dislike him an awful, awful lot.

But no, let’s not tone this down. He wouldn’t, so why should I?

I hate David Sedaris.

If you aren’t aware of who he is then let me offer a description of the man. He is a slight, balding, bespectacled, man with a high octave voice, and the air of a lightly eccentric literature professor and, according to his own website, “With sardonic wit and incisive social critiques, David Sedaris has become one of America’s pre-eminent humor writers. The great skill with which he slices through cultural euphemisms and political correctness proves that Sedaris is a master of satire and one of the most observant writers addressing the human condition today.” (bio).

I can’t recall when I first had the misfortune to stumble across his work, nor what that piece was but since then I have read many articles and essays, listened to him talk on the radio, bought his books, and yet regardless of the medium he remains cuttingly funny and poignant all at the same time.

I do hate him so.

I’m such a huge fan.

When I found out he was coming to Glasgow I snapped up tickets the day they went on sale and we were not disappointed. Always forthright, hearing him talk about his brothers suicide brought a lump to my throat, yet never strays too far from humour and satire. And this is why I hate him. The way he balances his stories, the comic timing, the gentle misdirection and deliberate provoking of sentiment are expertly intertwined with some brutally dark humour and pinpoint observations that are so seated in our humanity that you are laughing before you realise it.

He is a ridiculously talented writer, less so a public speaker but as he tends to read his own essays that’s not so much of an issue but this is a minor detail. He is eloquent, funny, and that wry self-deprecating humour is exquisitely tuned, particularly to UK ears.

It was an absolute joy to hear him speak, a marvel to my ears as his finely honed word play washed over my ears. The talented bastard. I hate him.

Sporty sport sport

The World Cup is over. Wimbledon is over. Someone is quite happy about this.

I am not.

I bloody love watching sport, me.

I usually put this down to my Dad being a P.E. teacher and I always enjoyed learning about various sports when they were on TV (usually the Olympics). Equally my Mum loved the cricket (back in the Beefy Botham days) and gold, mostly because they are both sports you don’t have to pay attention to so she could watch them whilst knitting.

It’s the learning I enjoy and as sports broadcasting improves, so does the level of information available.

Many years ago, Channel 4 had the rights to a season of the NFL. I’d never really watched it before and in the opening couple of shows they explained how the game works; what is a first down? what does 3 and 18 mean? And so on. And the more you learn the more you appreciate why the game works the way it does, how skilled the players are and how hard it is to achieve success.

Thankfully Le Tour is still on the go (rest day today mind you) and, again, the ITV coverage continues to be superb. David Millar offers insights as a previous Tour rider, explaining what is going on when it’s not always evident; the tactics, the team hierarchy, the psychology, the mental and physical fatigue and everything else that goes with it. It becomes utterly engrossing (watching an entire team in a sprint stage, leading out their main sprinter is a wonder of power and precision which usually comes at the end of 100+km of cycling).

More recently I’ve gotten into UFC. I’m not a big boxing fan but the mixed-martial arts approach of the UFC is intriguing. It’s not, for me, about watching someone beaten to a pulp, but the expertise, the speed and precision that some of the fighters have. A split second takes you from standing to the ground, a few seconds later you are ‘tapping out’ as your opponent has you in an arm bar. Again, hearing the co-commentators/pundits explain what is happening, whether it’s grappling or striking based, helps me understand the intricacies of timing and technique. UFC is not just two idiots beating the shit out of each other, honest.

But it’s basketball where my heart lies. Largely because I was above average at it at school, and because of a VHS tape my cousin gave me which featured a man called Magic who played with a smile on his face and made the game seem fun. I was barely into my teens and looking back now at what he achieved and how he played the game, now that I know a lot more about the basics, it’s all the more remarkable. Unfortunately a guy called Michael Jordan turned up and the Lakers fell away, then Shaq and Kobe did their thing for a few years and all was good. And now the current ‘greatest player’ has joined so I’m stupid excited for the next few years as a Lakers fan.

I don’t play any sport these days (stupid knees) and it’s something I’m trying to figure out a way to get back into. Ideally basketball, but I’m not sure where I’d find a team of middle-aged, not very fit, average-and-below level players who’d invite me along… I’m still looking though!

I do love me some sport.

Weekend Reading

  • Did blogs ruin the web? Or did the web ruin blogs?
    Here are three essays that make very different arguments but are worth reading, and (I think) worth reading together.
    Introspective time for bloggers.

  • Why Women’s Friendships Are So Complicated
    When Deborah Tannen, a linguistics professor at Georgetown University, was in grade school, one of her best friends abruptly stopped talking to her.
    Genuinely offered without comment. Because I … just can’t.

  • HOW TO LOSE WEIGHT IN 4 EASY STEPS
    I’ve spent the past year losing 80 lbs and getting in shape. A lot of people have been asking me how I did it; specifics like what diet I was on, how many times a week I worked out, etc etc.
    Subtitle: Not what you think from the title. If you are in any way looking to get in shape, give it a read.

  • It’s Time to Admit You Love Muse
    Muse is one of the biggest bands in the world today. They’re also kind of a joke. A light joke. A ribbing. For a long time, I identified firmly as a Muse fan, then allowed myself to shed that label and to fade, but I was only kidding myself.
    Fuck yeah Muse!!

  • Inside China’s Dystopian Dreams: A.I., Shame and Lots of Cameras
    In the Chinese city of Zhengzhou, a police officer wearing facial recognition glasses spotted a heroin smuggler at a train station.
    1984.

  • You Feel Like Shit Because You’re Drinking Your Morning Coffee Too Early
    I spend every workday bouncing between feeling like I just shotgunned a gallon of crack water and feeling like I need a month-long hibernation period (normally only about an hour apart).
    Important information! Coffee is life.

  • Doctors Diagnose The Injuries In Home Alone
    Doctors explain every way Harry and Marv would have died in Home Alone.
    Brilliant! One of my favourite movies ever.

  • More Recycling Won’t Solve Plastic Pollution
    The only thing worse than being lied to is not knowing you’re being lied to. It’s true that plastic pollution is a huge problem, of planetary proportions. And it’s true we could all do more to reduce our plastic footprint.
    BIGGER action needed. Government level action.

  • Stanley Kubrick’s Annotated Copy of Stephen King’s The Shining
    The web site Overlook Hotel has posted pictures of Stanley Kubrick’s personal copy of Stephen King’s novel The Shining, which is normally kept at the Stanley Kubrick Archive, but has been making the rounds in a traveling exhibition.
    Peeking behind the curtain is always fun.

  • Use of ‘smart drugs’ on the rise
    The use of drugs by people hoping to boost mental performance is rising worldwide, finds the largest ever study of the trend. In a survey of tens of thousands of people, 14% reported using stimulants at least once in the preceding 12 months in 2017, up from 5% in 2015.
    Hmmm yes. On the rise. So much I’ve not even heard of any of these. Am I in the wrong circle of people AGAIN? Sheesh.

  • Why Does Every Soccer Player Do This?
    Goals in soccer games can be few and far between, which helps explain the delirious nature of most scoring celebrations. Some players yank off their jerseys or drop to their knees and glide across the turf in glee. They all often end up at the bottom of a pile of jubilant teammates.
    But what does it say about the players that don’t do this?

  • Nearly 400 years later, the fork remains at the center of American dining controversy
    When the fork was first introduced to the dining table in the US, it caused controversy. Fast forward nearly four centuries later, and the small-pronged utensil still causes international arguments over dining etiquette.
    Wonderful. Silly Americans.

  • Unicorn Hunting as a Widely Recognized Thing
    Wish we could find someone near [town], NV, there must be a lady out there somewhere that is looking for a loving couple. I see all the other comments from other couples looking for the same situation let me tell you there is probably more chance of you winning the lottery.
    Poly article: doesn’t cover being ‘unicorned’ too much but be alert! (our country needs lerts, hahaha!)

  • “Tsundoku,” the Japanese Word for the New Books That Pile Up on Our Shelves, Should Enter the English Language
    There are some words out there that are brilliantly evocative and at the same time impossible to fully translate. Yiddish has the word shlimazl, which basically means a perpetually unlucky person. German has the word Backpfeifengesicht, which roughly means a face that is badly in need of a fist.
    Have I linked to this before? I think I have but it’s deep in the pile of articles… hey is there a word for that?

  • On Semicolons and the Rules of Writing
    Kurt Vonnegut’s caution against the use of semicolons is one of the most famous and canonical pieces of writing advice, an admonition that has become, so to speak, one of The Rules. More on these rules later, but first the infamous quote in question…
    I am fond of the semicolon. But I won’t use one here.

  • Inside the Radical, Uncomfortable Movement to Reform White Supremacists
    One of Shane Johnson’s pals pushed through the front door of his trailer and announced that “a bunch of black guys” had just “said some shit to him.”
    Knowing these people exist is one thing, reading about them another.

  • ‘Find Your Passion’ Is Awful Advice
    “Almost all of them raised their hand and got dreamy looks in their eyes,” she told me. They talked about it “like a tidal wave would sweep over them,” he said. Sploosh. Huzzah! It’s accounting! Would they have unlimited motivation for their passion? They nodded solemnly.
    Personal take: those who follow their passion can afford to take that risk. Which means it’s about money (on some level) and emotional ability (on another).

  • A Complete Guide to Getting What You Want
    Note to reader: This is a long post – 2200 words – so bookmark it if you need to, but I think you’ll find it a worthwhile read if you apply this strategy even a single time. It’s not always polite to say it so plainly, but we all want things.
    All. Of. This.

  • The Intersection of Language, Gender, and American Politics
    What happens when the dominant, privileged voice excludes women, LGTBQ people, people with disabilities, people of color, and immigrants? It would be difficult to miss the fight over these issues currently taking place on the national political stage.
    Language is always important.

Weekender

As previously mentioned, one of my first vinyl LP experiences was the Queen album Jazz and though it wasn’t my first brush with the band it remains in my memory as the gateway to 30+ years of enjoying their music. Sure, it was probably the original Greatest Hits album that I heard first but as good as all those tracks are, it was Jazz that made me realise there was a lot more to this band.

I can remember where I was when Freddie died – in the car on the way to Hospital Radio Lennox – I can remember how it impacted me and how shocking it was. By then I owned all of their albums, and VHS tapes of every documentary and live show that had been released but the realisation that I’d never see them live weighed heavy. I mean, c’mon, YOU saw them at Live Aid, you saw him rise to the occasion and own the day, right?

With that in mind, it’s fair to say that I approached Friday evening with some trepidation. Yes, it was ACTUAL Brian May and Roger Taylor but was it still Queen?

First up, hats off to Adam Lambert. I have avoided Queen ‘live’ for many years now and whilst he is no Freddie, he is quick to acknowledge that and he has a fair old set of lungs on him as well (and is arguably more camp?!). It can’t be easy singing those songs night after night knowing that everyone is still thinking of Freddie so more power to him.

And those songs! They are so deeply ingrained in my memory I kept getting caught out when Adam didn’t match how Freddie sang them but ultimately, standing in the middle of Glasgow on a sunny evening with tens of thousands of other people belting out Somebody to Love brought me to joyful happy tears. Add in some ridiculous guitar solos, many many singalongs and as the closing gong from Bohemian Rhapsody rang out I headed off with a smile on my face.

All in Friday was a fun evening, Texas did their thing, I caught some of Gun’s set, and The Darkness were ridiculously rawk as always.

Saturday was my first Euro2018 Volunteer Training Day. I’ll be driving select individuals to their venues so it was mostly about routes and tracking software and the like. There was also the chance to drive the routes (which I knew most of anyway as I live here) and we even managed a sneaky visit to the Accreditation Centre and picked up our uniforms for the Games! It’s not as big a deal as the Commonwealth Games (which are the second largest sporting event in the world after the Olympics don’t ya know, and no the football World Cup isn’t even close) but I’m looking forward to being part of it for a couple of weeks.

Sunday and I headed back to TRNSMT. As I was there earlier it was a better chance to wander around, it’s a little smaller in terms of performance areas but as you can walk across the entire site in about 10mins I was baulking a little bit at some of the younger attendees claiming this was their first festival! Aye, go to the wettest Glastonbury, spend 2 hours slogging through mud to get from one side of the site to the other and THEN we can talk!

Friendly Fires were first up and played both tracks I know and were a pretty good mid-afternoon kinda band. Then it was time for two local bands, Franz Ferdinand were up first and are now definitely on the list of bands to see when they next tour; good tunes, good stage presence, and a good live act all round. Chvrches were next and to quote someone I overheard ‘for a wee lassie she’s got a fair set of lungs on her!’. Indeed, a great voice and some great tunes that had the crowd dancing.

And then it was time for The Killers and what a show they put on. I’m not a big fan so a couple of tracks weren’t that familiar but there is no doubting Brandon Flowers has stage presence and knows exactly how to manipulate a crowd, what a showman! Needless to say the biggest hits got the big cheers, add to that a cover of The Whole of the Moon by the Waterboys, an acoustic cover of Side by Travis (playing to the Scottish audience much?!), a guy called Tony getting called up on stage to drum for one of the songs and, from the opening ‘Hello Weegies’ welcome to the final hurrah of Mr. Brightside they kept everyone bouncing.

I’ll definitely keep an eye out for next years acts, the benefit of a city centre festival is getting home to your own bed each night, and whilst there was the usual share of drunken Glasgow bampots, I didn’t see any trouble at all as everyone was in such a good mood we were just laughing things off.

Needless to say I was pretty bust on Monday though but it does mean that I’m already on the countdown for Glastonbury tickets for next year, the festival buzz is back with a vengeance!

Weekend Reading

  • Knitting at the end of the world
    I love this picture of actor Nicholas Hoult knitting on the set of Mad Max: Fury Road.
    As do I. Contrasts are always interesting.

  • Trent Reznor Thinks Artists Should Speak Out
    “Bad Witch,” your ninth studio album with Nine Inch Nails, is the final record of a politically-minded trilogy you began in 2016.
    If you have a platform you must use it, now more than ever.

  • Now is the envy of the dead
    Do not lose time on daily trivialities. Do not dwell on petty detail. For all of these things melt away, and drift apart within the obscure traffic of time. Live well, and live broadly. You are alive and living now. Now is the envy of all of the dead.
    Trite? Possibly. But live in the now is something I’ve been trying to do more and more. There is nothing else.

  • Tessa Thompson models the season’s statement pieces in #PorterEdit
    Tessa Thompson’s nails are not her own. They belong to Bianca, her singer-songwriter alter-ego in the film Creed II, she explains, as she waggles the extravagant, pink-polished talons at me from across the table. She wrapped filming on the follow-up to 2015’s Creed yesterday, in Philadelphia.
    What a crap title for a great article with a quietly powerful person.

  • Is eating natural food the same as eating what’s healthy?
    What is a ‘natural’ food product? One common suggestion is that ‘natural’ things are not made of chemicals. But the whole biological world is chemicals! Another suggestion: natural products are not genetically modified (that is, a GMO). Alas, that won’t work either.
    Ahhhh food science. The cycle continues. Next up, use more salt, it’s actually good for you!!

  • Science Says That Redheads Are Super Resilient People!
    Redheads are generally maligned by society writ large.  Even though many of the biggest household names out there have red hair, including Prince Harry, Ed Sheeran, and Jessica Chastain, a great amount of conversation does revolve around their hair color.
    I will make a point of asking some of the redheads I know. Some of them are even natural redheads…

  • ‘Taps aff’: the native Glaswegians’ response to a heatwave
    A distinctive temperature scale seems to have evolved in Glasgow caused by recent extreme UK weather patterns. In other parts of Britain abnormally high temperatures such as those recorded over the last week or so are referred as a heatwave. In Glasgow we now call this “taps aff” weather.
    One for non-Glasgwegian readers (also, fellow Weegies, read for that last wonderful pun!)

  • Being Non-Binary in a Language Without Gendered Pronouns – Estonian
    To put it simply, choosing the right pronoun is a big deal. Half of millennials in the United States think that gender isn’t limited to male and female, and in the U.S., Facebook offers 56 custom options to select for gender.
    Ouch. I struggle with English at the best of times and it’s a very flexible language.

  • Not So Simple Living
    I’ve got to level with you. This simple living thing isn’t always so simple.
    I’m not quite at this level of simple living (if that’s what we are calling it today) but even getting to where I am was hard.

  • Your Morning Cup of Coffee Is in Danger. Can the Industry Adapt in Time?
    Howard Schultz wants to know if I drink coffee. The Starbucks boss is sitting on a balcony overlooking the company’s leafy farm in the Costa Rican province of Alajuela, where I’m told the coffee–harvested and roasted on-site–is a must-try.
    OMFG STOP THE PRESS!!

  • A Summer Reading List of Contemporary Books by Women

    No comment needed. I’ve added to my list (I’m currently about 20+ books away from even getting to the START of the list so Summer 2020?)

  • Should you shield yourself from others’ abhorrent beliefs?
    Many of our choices have the potential to change how we think about the world. Often the choices taken are for some kind of betterment: to teach us something, to increase understanding or to improve ways of thinking.
    My take: yes and no. I don’t need to know details of others beliefs but I do need to know OF them.

  • Why We Need to Stop Calling Women Crazy
    In Heart Berries, author Terese Marie Mailhot’s unravelling is rooted in a look. The moment happens not long after Mailhot orders breakfast while out with her boyfriend, Casey. When the food arrives, she discovers that the server has forgotten the toast.
    This ties in with my recent watching of Hannah Gadsby: Nanette (more on that when I figure out how to write it).

  • And How to Stop Right Away
    “Expectancy” is your belief in the outcome of the task you’re avoiding. Expectancy can be either too high (overconfidence) or too low. It looks like you have low expectancy for this task. Maybe you’re discouraged because it didn’t go well in the past.
    The URL helps explain a little. But this is a ‘tool’ to help you stop procrastinating. Posting for a friend, obvs.

  • Astronomers captured the first image of a baby planet
    Thanks to European Southern Observatory’s (ESO) Very Large Telescope, a group of astronomers have taken the first photograph of a planet being formed around a young dwarf star called PDS 70. The planet has been named PDS 70b.
    Awwww loookit, look at the ickle wickle planety… awwwww

  • The Nutella Billionaires: Inside The Secretive Ferrero Family

    Go on, grab a tub of Nutella, a box of Ferrero Rocher, dunk away and read this.

  • ‘It’s nothing like a broken leg’: why I’m done with the mental health conversation
    I am bleeding from the wrists in a toilet cubicle of the building I have therapy in, with my junior doctor psychiatrist peering over the top of the door, her lanyards clanking against the lock. Her shift finished half an hour earlier.
    Linked via many people. This is a hard but compelling read. Mental health is a motherfucker but we have to keep talking about it.

  • Sustainable Fashion: small change = big difference
    Sustainability is such a huge topic that it can be hard to work out what you can possibly do that will make a difference. It’s easy to become disheartened but, as Christopher Raeburn said at the BFC’s London Craft Week event, “We’re all part of the problem and part of the solution.”
    I am not fashionable but sustainability is definitely something I need to be better at.

  • Afternoon tea with Sir James Dyson
    It is rare but refreshing when a technology CEO can explain how their product actually works. Steve Jobs, the late Apple founder, was great at this — the pitchman who could explain deeply why a new device was special; the specific engineering or design trick that made it work like magic.
    Tech wise I like Dyson. Non-tech wise, he’s a bit of a douchebag, no?

  • Homelessness needs a radical solution. This Scottish village may have the answer
    Later this month, 20 homeless people will take up yearlong tenancies in a specially-designed community called The Village.
    Proud to be Scottish (and to have donated a little towards this effort). SO much more needed.

  • Academics Gathered to Share Emoji Research
    Two years ago, Sanjaya Wijeratne—a computer science PhD student at Wright State University—noticed something odd in his research. He was studying the communication of gang members on Twitter.
    [insert *shrugs* emoji here]

  • A Little Chaos with Your Coffee?
    Any serious coffee drinker can offer abundant anecdotal proof of the power of caffeine to boost our information processing abilities.
    Warning: You’ll need to have coffee before reading this. I’m still not quite sure whether I add the chaos before or after the milk…

  • This adopted woman scoured the country for the sister she never met — only to discover she literally lived next door
    Hillary Harris was adopted as an infant. She searched for her birth family as an adult, and after many years, her search was incomplete. She knew she had a half sister, and she knew the sister’s name from her adoption file, but she couldn’t find her.
    No way! Way! etc. Kinda lovely.

  • How Do You Make a Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwich? Twitter Has Opinions
    This simple sandwich just got divisive as heck
    First things first, do you add butter/margarine as well…. or is that just me?

  • Maybe We’re All Just Searching For Our Yellow Paint
    I once read somewhere that Van Gogh used to swallow yellow paint because he thought it would bring him happiness. He thought that swallowing something the color of the bright, shining sun would him feel brighter, his disposition shining. But it poisoned him, the toxins flowing through his blood.
    GAH! Baader-Meinhof strikes again. Read this the day before watching Hannah Gadsby… brain melt.

  • Private Telegram, Public Strife
    Telegram, a messaging app with more than 200 million users, is a company known for its rakish independence. Pavel Durov, who created the app with his brother, Nikolai, is a 33-year old from St. Petersburg, Russia, with a taste for dark suits and tax-free municipalities.
    I have Telegram but without more friends using it I’m kinda stuck with WhatsApp/Messenger.

  • Sublime colours brought back from oblivion – the exquisite effects of natural dyes
    This striking and almost entirely wordless video from the Victoria and Albert Museum in London beautifully conveys the work of Sachio Yoshioka, the fifth-generation owner of the Somenotsukasa Yoshioka dye workshop in Fushimi, southern Kyoto.
    Striking is the word.

  • Francine Prose: It’s Harder Than It Looks to Write Clearly
    If we are hoping to communicate something—anything—nothing is more important than clarity. The dangers of not being clear are obvious.
    Yes yes, I know this blog is evidence of this on a grand and long-running scale!!

  • “I Was Devastated”: Tim Berners-Lee, the Man Who Created the World Wide Web, Has Some Regrets
    “For people who want to make sure the Web serves humanity, we have to concern ourselves with what people are building on top of it,” Tim Berners-Lee told me one morning in downtown Washington, D.C., about a half-mile from the White House.
    But he has a plan to fix it.

  • Can the A.C.L.U. Become the N.R.A. for the Left?
    On the morning of Friday, June 22, the American Civil Liberties Union won a major Supreme Court decision in Carpenter v. United States, which was possibly, at least in terms of pure jurisprudence, the most important case argued before the court this past session.
    Doesn’t affect the UK. Right? Wrong. We will follow these trends, so the ACLU is more and more vital.

  • Google Takes Sides in the Scooter Wars
    Silicon Valley investors are somewhat divided over the viability of electric-scooter companies, two of which have now ballooned to billion-dollar valuations overnight. “I want no part in it,” one investor told me last month.
    Not yet spotted in the wilds of Glasgow, but they are appearing in London. One of my favourite muppets too.

  • The Rise And Fall Of CrossFit’s Science Crusader
    As the camera rolled, Russell Berger paced back and forth before a whiteboard in a dark gym. The CrossFit spokesperson talked in somber tones, wearing a shirt with the company’s logo over a pair of crossbones. CrossFit was under siege, he said.
    Definitely one of these expected surprise kinda things. ANYTHING that becomes a religion will have a darker side IMHO.

  • The best Mario Kart character according to data science
    Mario Kart was a staple of my childhood — my friends and I would spend hours after school as Mario, Luigi, and other characters from the Nintendo universe racing around cartoonish tracks and lobbing pixelated bananas at each other.
    I played my first game of Mario Kart a few weekends ago. I won. I’ve now retired. But this might be useful to you lesser players.

  • The Morpheus Hotel by Zaha Hadid Architects: The World’s First High Rise Exoskeleton
    Zaha Hadid Architects has a way of designing buildings so intricate and complex that the photographs look like renderings rather than completed architecture. Their latest unveiling is Morpheus, the flagship hotel for the City of Dreams resort in Macau.
    SUCH a talent, and good to see her work continuing. STUNNING building.

  • Dormio: Interfacing with Dreams to Augment Human Creativity
    Sleep is a forgotten country of the mind: A vast majority of our technologies are built for our waking state, even though a third of our lives are spent asleep.
    Yes. Because we need MORE tech…

  • ‘Everyone is breaking the law right now’: GDPR compliance efforts are falling short
    The arrival of the General Data Protection Regulation a month ago led to a flurry of activity, clogging email inboxes and flooding people with tracking consent notices. But experts say much of that activity was for show because much of it fails to render companies compliant with GDPR.
    File under: No Shit sherlock.

  • The People Are the Problem
    Drew Magary on how, at a rally in Duluth last week, Trump’s supporters showed that even in the midst of historical atrocities at the border, the president is still their guy.
    Yes. A Trump article, but it isn’t about Trump. Those ‘people’ are everywhere.

  • How To Grow Old
    “Make your interests gradually wider and more impersonal, until bit by bit the walls of the ego recede, and your life becomes increasingly merged in the universal life.”
    A quote worth living.

  • The heart-wrenching stories behind immigrants’ sand sculptures on London streets
    Sand Men is a distinctly different take on the artisan short-documentary genre. It follows Raj, Neculai and Aurel as they practise an unusual craft that has been passed around the Romanian immigrant community in London.
    A friend was asking why they were always dogs. Sad.

  • Summer of Rage
    It shouldn’t have been such a shock. After all, many of those most painfully poleaxed by the news of Anthony Kennedy’s retirement on Wednesday were the same ones who’d always understood the stakes; we knew that this was the risk, we’ve been scared for a long time.
    Once again, what happens in the US will filter across the Atlantic. The rage is building.

  • Trump ‘angry baby’ blimp gets green light to fly over London during president’s visit
    London mayor Sadiq Khan’s Greater London Authority has approved a request for the flight after thousands signed a petition and a crowdfunding campaign raised more than £16,000 to get the six-metre inflatable off the ground.
    A fun story. But I’m more bothered that he is being allowed to visit at all.

Weekender

Years ago I used to write up posts that recapped my “fascinating” weekend (that’s some ironic quote marks, just to be clear. I used the same title for these – Weekender – and all of them were written in a vague, pseudo diary style which I think fitted the purpose for which I wrote them; I have a crap memory so even now looking back at the last time I published a post titled Weekender I can recall exactly which weekend that was (4 years ago, time flies like a banana and all that) and exactly what happened.

When I sat down to write up my London weekend it felt very much like that, a post for me to remember what had happened and, after another busy, fun filled weekend, I find myself sitting down to write another.

Friday night found me wandering to the Hydro to see Roger Waters do his thing. A friend who works in the industry said he’d heard it was an amazing visual show and the first half proved that completely and utterly wrong. We were sitting up in the bleachers, off to one side and all I could see was the band and a massive screen behind them (admittedly a very high def screen) but… big whoop.

But the second half completely blew my mind. It kicked off with a large long truss that extend out the length of the audience (from stage to the back of the ‘standing’ section for those familiar with the Hydro), dropping down and down and down until it was all of 3 or 4 metres above the heads of the people below. It then unveiled itself to be a series of screens… and sitting side on we had a perfect view. That was pretty WOW but towards the end of the show (and it is a show) the REAL WOW happened.

The Hydro is a large space so the resulting laser prism must’ve been 60 metres on each edge. It then filled with rainbows before the final light beams emerged. A real life rendering of the cover of Dark Side of the Moon, it was stunning in both scale and beauty. Ohhh and the music was pretty fuckin good too!

There was a lot of political and anti-globalisation messaging in his show as well. He is not shy of voicing his opinion and has the same liberal leanings as many, and there was something gloriously uplifting about seeing the words TRUMP IS A PIG across that giant screen, countered by horrific images of war and genocide that had me in tears. I hadn’t expected such a range of emotions and it took me most of my walk home to unpack them.

Saturday, after the usual gym session and a quiet chilled out afternoon, and I was heading to a friends house to drive out to Whitecraigs Rugby Club. Why? To do a firewalk of course!

Firstly, to everyone who sponsored me, thank you. You helped raise over £9,000 which, after Gift Aid, will end up more than £10,000. That money will go to some uplifting experiences for some children who could well do with some cheer in their lives. My friend, who also did the firewalk, is one of the organisers and trust me, she will make sure every penny is well spent on giving the kids a great time.

Anyway, the firewalk was a great experience although I should, at this point, confirm that I have some blisters; about 4 in total, all small and not sore at all after the initial ‘stingy’ feeling faded. Ohhh and I have a small bruise on my neck but that was from something else entirely.

Before the firewalk we were prepped with motivational thinking, mind over matter ideas, and of course we snapped an arrow with our neck. Wait, what? Ohhh yeah, not mentioned at all in the build-up, the firewalk instructor (her actual job title!) casually dropped that into her chat. An actual metal tipped arrow using nothing but your neck. Riiigghhhtttt.

You’ll be pleased to hear, dear reader, that I did not end up with an arrow puncturing my throat as said arrow did snap (I still have the pieces!) and after that the firewalk was a doddle! Top tip, walk with both hands held flat and facing upwards out to your sides, like you are balancing two small trays of drinks and you’ll walk ‘lighter’ (try it, it’s true!).

I was a little nervous as we waited in line but before I knew it, my friends had done it and I was up next. A few steps on very hot embers and it was over. The aftermath was a couple of ‘hot’ spots and it really did feel just like walking on very hot paving stones, not comfortable but not unbearable. Go us!!

Sunday was a lazy day, not just because of the highly emotional couple of days previously, but because it marked the end of a two month walking challenge. I managed over one million steps and, frankly, was glad to NOT be counting my steps at all! Instead I headed down to my see my sister, my Mum and Dad, and the cheekiest little niece an Uncle could wish for. She may be in her terrible twos but one smile, or mention of ‘Unkie Gee’ and I’m putty in her hands (and I think she’s starting to realise it!).

It was a wonderful end to a wonderful weekend… and next weekend is shaping up to be just as good!