bookmark_borderStill busy

I know it’s still October (just) but I just wanted to say that I’m looking forward to Christmas this year, largely because it’ll be a holiday.

The sale of the house is complete, debts have been paid off, and all that is left for me is to change the address on my driver’s license, join a gym, and buy a few bookcases and a some bedroom furniture (I have other purchases planned but they’ll be Christmas presents to myself, before the VAT rises).

The past couple of months have been somewhat busy; packing, fretting, phoning, packing, phoning, signing, phoning, fretting, phoning, fretting, phoning, unpacking, unpacking, phoning, fretting, unpacking, phoning, celebrating!, unpacking, buying, paying, phoning, paying, phoning, paying, partying, not to mention working.

November is looking just as busy if not quite for the same reasons; Working, travelling, working, Working, gigging, working, gigging, Working, gigging, Working, working, Working, working. I’m attending three gigs in one week and a wedding in Bristol, I’m making a start on revamping the ISTC website, building a website for someone else, and all the while at Work we are planning ahead to 2011 and all that that entails (plans, spreadsheets, meetings and more plans).

December is a bit calmer but will soon devolve into the usual whirl of nights out, parties, and shopping until it hits Christmas Eve as from then, until the 5th of January, all I’ll have is food, drinks, good company, presents and copious amounts of sleep.

Which, if you ask me, sounds bloody marvellous.


In every walk of life, some people seem to exist just to annoy and piss off everyone else. Today I’d like to talk about lawyers.

Before I say anything negative, I would like to hold up a shining example of a good lawyer. So, if you are in the Lanarkshire area, I can recommend Stretford and Tulips in Hamilton, specifically Louise Johnstone and Linda Dick who provided exemplary service in a professional and friendly manner, keeping us up to speed with progress and making sure we knew what was happening as things progressed.

The lawyer on the purchasing side however, not so good. In fact he turned out to be the most pedantic, nitpicky and frustrating, nay unprofessional person (taking a day off on the day we hoped to finally, belatedly, complete the sale is a little ‘off’, wouldn’t you say?).

However, that is all in the past as, midway through last week, only five days after the agreed date, we finally concluded the sale of our house!

All it took was an extra inspection (from the Council Buildings department which took all of two minutes and cost ยฃ265) on top of the previous two inspections, one completed for the home report, one completed by the mortgage provider for the buyers, an indemnity policy to cover the appearance of any sink holes as per the terms of the Title Deeds (or in case anyone wanted to, you know, open a mine in the middle of a housing estate in Hamilton), and the issuing of a threat of breach of contract to hurry things along.

It’s all done and dusted now though with the final monies due to land into my account in the next couple of days.


bookmark_borderMechanics Weekly

You’ve heard of coincidences, right? Well sometimes when those coincidences are a little too unbelievable, our family (OK, mostly Mumsy) says they are “spooky”. So it’s safe to say that when I found out the name of our solicitor was Louise, that was just a coincidence, but when her legal assistant is called Linda (my Mum’s name is Lynda), well then, that’s just “spooky”. With me?

Look, this is my mother’s thing, I’m just relaying it.

That said, now and again there are some genuinely weird coincidences that can, and should, be correctly labelled as “spooky” or as I may have uttered on this occasion, “Ohhhhhh spoooooooooky!”.

This is a story of one such occasion.

A couple of weekends ago my family came over to help me move some boxes into my new flat. My Mum and Dad helped a lot but unfortunately my sister was taken very ill that morning but, bless her, she struggled from her sick bed to offer some moral support (and some vomit, which was nice).

Now, it would be unfair of me to suggest that her illness had any relation to the amount of alcohol she had imbibed the night before but I suspect that, and I’ll let the irony of this linger a moment, … it was just coincidence.

I digress.


See, I’m doing it again.

Now, where was I? Ohh yes…

Once we reached the flat and had unloaded both cars we decided to head to Byres Road for lunch. I noted that my sister perked up considerably after a large chicken burger but decided it best not to mention this. As it was a nice afternoon, if a bit brisk of wind, we took a post-prandial, and ended up stopping in on a junk shop I’ve mentioned here before. I bought a mirror, and my Dad, after much huffing and puffing about the place picked up an old car magazine (I think it was printed around 1967).

We departed the junk shop and wandering back to the car I asked my Dad about his purchase. He said it was a little bit of reminiscing on his part and also that he knew a mechanic that would appreciate it and anyway, it was only ยฃ2 for a wee trip down memory lane.

As he was telling me this he turned the magazine over to show me the price label and there, written in pencil along the top of the front cover was a name. I presume the magazine had been delivered when first published, or perhaps picked up in the local newsagent by the man who had ordered it, hence why it had a surname written on it.

I do hope that “Mr. McLean” enjoyed reading the magazine when he first received it all those years ago.

Say it with me now, ohhhhhh spoooooooooky!

bookmark_borderHow do you learn?

I was recently asked for some advice for people new to technical communications and I found myself reminded of the Curse of Knowledge: “when we know something, it becomes hard for us to imagine not knowing it. As a result, we become lousy communicators”.

I struggle to remember not only what I didn’t know when I first started out in this profession, but how I learned things on the way. Memory suggests it was a mix of trial and error, good advice and lots of reading of other documentation to see how other people did it.

I won’t give away the advice I passed on, it’ll be published next week, but it did cause me to ponder my own career progression and how I pass on the knowledge I have to the rest of the team.

Passing on a mish-mash of learned knowledge is always tricky and can be dangerous. A recent discussion about improving the quality of our indexing reminds me that the way I learned to do it was based on thinking that is ten years old and may, or may not, have been superseded by better researched methods.

So the best thing you can teach anyone is surely the ability to learn for themselves, give them space to make mistakes (everyone does, it’s an essential part of learning), and help them understand what questions to ask and when best to ask them.

bookmark_borderFirst World Problems

I’ve been in my flat for just over a week now, I’ve unpacked as much as I can until I purchase more bookcases and it’s starting to feel like home. The living room is a wonderful big space with lots of light, the kitchen is way bigger than my simple needs but allows me to eat at a table every night and the location is wonderful. But, there is one thing missing.

No, not the cat.

An internet connection!

It’s getting installed at the end of the month and whilst I have missed it I’ve gotten by quite well using my iPhone, although it’s fair to say any ‘smartphone’ would’ve done and it’s definitely saved my arse several times this past week as I’ve been organising new direct debits, checking addresses and names, not to mention the myriad of phone numbers I’ve had to contact.

I have gotten so used to having a permanent connection to the web that I’m still finding myself thinking “I’ll just check…” or “I’m bored I’ll see what’s online…” or any other of the many and plentiful (and usually pointless but entertaining) reasons for using the internet that it still catches me out. Suffice to say that, when you include the fact that for the best part of the first week I didn’t have any more than the five terrestial channels, the whole thing has been a bit of a culture shock.

It’s not like I didn’t have anything to do mind you, those boxes didn’t unpack themselves (and I won’t even START on the fiasco that actually selling the house has turned into… I’ll save that for another time), but did mean that my entertainment was largely confined to listening to some music, reading a book, watching a DVD or firing up the PlayStation.

Or tidying and cleaning and unpacking and building furniture and shuffling the last possessions between the house and the flat and far too many trips to charity shops and the local dump and lawyers offices and so on.

All in all it’s been an odd and jarring experience to have my access to the internet, and all the TV channels that I used to get on Sky, removed so abruptly.

Jarring but also quite liberating.

I’ve found myself much more productive without all of those distractions. I’ve hardly read any books yet as they are still packed in boxes, and I find gaming wears on me after a while, most terrestial TV is complete dross and so I either commit to watching a movie or spend 30 mins sorting through a box, or shuffling items between rooms. That 30 mins soon stretches to an hour or two and before I know it I’ve finished unpacking the kitchen.

I built my new desk and got my PC up and running and, despite having a fair amount of video content on there I found myself more inclined to pop some music on and do some writing (most of it complete tosh but I still enjoy the process).

All in all I’ve quite enjoyed that lo-tech week.

I’ve got freeview now, and a nice wee PVR system which uses the PlayStation (Play TV if you are interested), so at least I can record shows I want to see which should open up the TV a bit more, but I’m hoping that I’ll hold true to my plans and stick with a more considered approach. I’ll always be busy, it’s in my nature, but I’m hoping to keep the focus I’ve developed over the past week.

Mind you, I am looking forward to spending a weekend on the sofa soon. Yes. All weekend. Nothing but me, some movies and several boxes of Jaffa cakes.

bookmark_borderISTC West of Scotland meetup

The next ISTC technical communicators’ meeting in Glasgow will take place on Monday 8th November 2010, from 7.30 pm onwards. Come along to talk about latest news and trends in communication, or just to meet other communication professionals.

The event is free and open to anyone interested in technical communication, such as technical authors, information architects, internal communication professionals, report writers, marketing writers, web content writers and graphic designers.

Venue: Waxy O’Connors pub, 44 West George Street, Glasgow, G2 1DH. Please make your way to McTurk’s Room on the middle level.

For more information, contact westscotland_areagroup [at]