Solutions that cause problems

Sometimes I come across some things that just haven’t been thought through… like this…

You’re in bed, but you can’t sleep because the street light outside is too bright. So you send a text and minutes later its turned off. Problem solved.

Controlling street lighting, right down to individual lamps, could soon be possible thanks to intelligent lighting systems.They use wireless technology to control lights from a central management system. It means at any time lamps could be adjusted in response to weather, circumstance and individual need. Sensors, texting and email could be utilised to convey the information.Dark blue areas have least light pollution

“The potential is enormous,” says Jacob van der Pol, product marketing and business development manager for smart lighting, NXP Semiconductors Netherlands.

via BBC News – Light pollution: Is there a solution?.

Sounds great, right?


There’s a street light outside our house. It’s also outside my neighbour’s house.

Imagine I text to turn it off and 5 minutes later they text to turn it back on? What happens next? I turn it off, they turn it on… continuing until one of us gave up or the dawn came.

Or one of us turns it off and the neighbour the other side of us gets mugged in the darkness?

I’m all for eradicating light pollution but giving the average Joe the ability to switch on and off street lamps isn’t the answer.

Making Lists

Somebody once described me as having an enormous piece of kit in my head. By that they meant I had the capacity to think quicker, smarter, and remember more than your average bear.

In my 30s I was running multi-million pound companies and departments with most of the data in my head. I refused to write things down as it took too long. Instead I relied on raw brain power alone.

Three years into a divorce and my brain no longer functions in the same way. Couple that with the increase in age and it’s easy for me to see that I’ve slowed down. The SQL queries take longer. At first I simply put it down to lethargy, to just getting a bit older and slower, but recently I read some stuff on stress, both work related and divorce related.

Everyone deals with things in different ways and it seems my mind’s way of dealing with the huge amounts of stress over the last few years has been to file things incorrectly, to clutter up the pathways to clear thought, and to make recall of data and information harder and slower.

So I’ve been looking for a coping strategy that would work for me.


Yes, I know lists are the bane of everyone’s lives. I hate them too. Like many people I suspect I hate them for similar reasons. You make a list. It’s a long list. And you never ever seem to get to the end of it. There’s no satisfaction, and sometimes the list itself can seem so daunting that just looking at it puts you off doing anything on it.

That is until today. Today I found a useful tip that redefined list making.

It starts by telling you to make two lists: a Today List, and a Master List.

First, chuck everything you can think of on the Master List. If stuff is urgent or date dependent then highlight it, otherwise just keep chucking stuff on there. Put everything down, from cleaning the kitchen and putting the kids clothes away to paying your credit card bill and writing a letter to your bank manager. If any of the list items will take more than say half an hour, break them down into smaller chunks or components. Put each small chunk on the list.

Then, pick a couple of things that you know you can get done and write them on your Today List.

Forget about your Master List, you won’t need it until tomorrow.

Now, pick something on your Today List and just do it.

When you’ve done it, tick it off, and pick something else to do next.

A waste of time? Not for me. I started today with 10 things on my list. To give you an idea of what was on my list today they included emailing people, signing an NDA, registering for a healthcare thing, and strangely… “Going for a walk”… I say strange but it’s important to put these things down, and also because getting out in the fresh air with a bit of exercise thrown in can be helpful with clearing the mind.

Writing a blog post wasn’t on my list for today, but having completed all 10 things I feel better, like I’ve achieved something, and instead of sitting in the house tonight worrying about all the stuff I need to do I’m content that now it’ll all get done, and I don’t feel guilty at all about taking 10 minutes to write this.

The stuff on my Master List will all get done now.

Just not today.

And that’s ok.


Name The Animal

Here’s the thing.

Can you remember learning to draw?

Sure, you probably had art classes at school where your art teacher would try, mostly in vain, to get you to understand perspectives and lighting and convey them onto paper using all manner of pens, charcoal, and paint, but seriously, before that can you remember when you learned to draw the basic things like stick men and animals? No? Neither can I.

Kids, it seems, learn to draw in stages. I read an interesting article recently on the different stages children go through when they’re learning to draw.

In Tring, where we all live, we’re lucky enough to have what is affectionately know as the Dead Animal Museum or the Dead Zoo, not to be confused with Whipsnade (the Live Zoo) which is just up the road. It’s one of the largest collections of stuffed animals outside the Natural History Museum in London.

In a mini-experiment type thing, took the kids up there last week, handed them each a clipboard and a pile of scrap paper alongwith some pencils and turned them loose to draw animals.

I posted some of the images on twitter over the next few days with the hashtag #nametheanimal to see if people could guess correctly what the kids had drawn. The answers were quite an eye-opener. It’s different watching your child draw an animal (badly) where you know exactly which animal they’re drawing, to seeing a picture that a child has drawn and trying to guess what it’s supposed to be.

This was the first one I posted:

It is of course a Lion. Interestingly though, it didn’t start out looking like the finished article above. I didn’t take any photos of the stages, and I wish I had done, but after The Boy (aged 6) had started drawing it I started giving him some helpful tips of things on the actual lion he should look at properly so he could draw them more accurately on the paper. The lion’s tail for example (bushy at the end), the way the lion’s paws look bigger and wider than his legs, with claws at the end, the way the lion looks sad…

By the time he’d finished the Lion and moved on to other animals he was looking and working out things for himself, and replicating them in his drawings.

Weird, but surprisingly satisfying.

Now though I feel like I’ve interfered a bit with his drawing learning curve. I’m left wondering how long and how much he’d have gone on drawing more stick like animals rather than starting to look at the detail.

If you have kids, or if you have nieces and nephews, ask them to draw you something and watch how they do it. Then give them a photo of an animal, or maybe even take them to a stuffed animal museum and let them loose.

But watch them. Watch them with both eyes.

Because what they do, how they think, and what they see is magical, and one day they’ll never draw like that again.



Public Sector Workers

Here’s the thing.

We’ve heard a lot recently about Public Sector Workers and their strikes and demands for pensions and pay rises, especially in the face of the cuts being made across the board.

At first glance I was of the mind that they should face the same harsh realities as the rest of us. There’s a bloody recession on, we’re all having to tighten our belts, and they’re no different to us in that regard.

Then I realised something.

When we talk about Public Sector Workers we’re actually lumping a whole load of different jobs and people into the same box, and that’s wrong. That’s why the argument has become so polarised. On the one hand we agree that there isn’t enough money but on the other hand I think the majority of us sympathise with the Nurses, the Teachers, and the Police, and others of the same ilk, who let’s face it, get quite a bum deal as it stands, never mind with the cuts being talked about.

I propose therefore that we adopt different terminology. That way we’ll be clear on the people who society should support and we’ll also be clear on the lot that should be treated the same as us.

I’m not sure what terminology we should use so I’m open to hearing your suggestions, but to my mind there’s a huge world of difference between a Teacher or a Nurse who we entrust with the education of our children, and our health and wellbeing, and the jobsworth who sits in some faceless bureaucratic council office shuffling paper and getting in the way of our lives.

When the chips are down, when our house is on fire, when we’re almost drowning, when we’re trying to educate our children, there are Public Sector workers we need, we rely on, we trust. They’re the silent few, who (mostly) don’t complain about their lot but when that phone rings, when the doors of the A&E department are banged open, are there, ready to help. They deserve our utmost support and as much funding as we can give them. Not just whilst they’re working, but also when they can no longer work. When they’re frail, and helpless, and need someone to wipe their own bums for them. That’s the respect we should show them.

The others? The ones who have no idea what it’s like to live in the real world, the ones who distract us from recognising the ones we should be recognising? They should be treated as they treat us. With disdain.

So the next time you hear someone on the news banging on about Public Sector workers and their rights and what a hard life they have, ask them to clarify which ones they’re talking about.

And give them a name.



Here’s the thing.

Sometimes posts on this blog are very negative. It’s the nature of divorce. Yesterday’s post and the one earlier in the week were probably the most negative posts I’ve ever written. That’s not to say everything is negative though, and I wanted to redress the balance.

To show that out of despair can come hope. That for those going through or starting down this path that it isn’t all bad.

So to do that I’m going to tell you about a few of the good things.

My son.

I have a son. He’s six years old, almost 7, and truly believes that he can do anything and everything. He’s absolutely amazing, and the absolute apple of my eye. He has the innate capacity to make the whole world laugh, or to make me want to pull my remaining hair out in handfuls.

He’s obstinate, stubborn, single-minded, and wilful. He’s also got the most infectious laugh, understands the subtleties of humour and sarcasm, and has recently developed a love of music. He has all the makings of a superb rugby player but can be distracted by a passing butterfly. He, like me, believes that people are fundamentally good, and that evil only exists in books about dragons and giants.

I’d give my life for him, and not a day goes by where I don’t miss him terribly, or wish that he’d never learnt to talk, all in equal measure 😉

My daughter.

My daughter was quite obviously sent to pay me back for all my ex-girlfriends, for my mis-spent youth, and for my belief that children should be set firm guidelines. She’s only 3 years old but already she can melt my heart with a glance and twist me round her little finger within a heartbeat. She’s beautiful, and lovely, has a laugh like a hooker, and thinks about everything before she acts.

She has a mean right hook, and an even harder headbutt, but I’d give everything I’ve ever owned for a cuddle and a kiss from her. She’s amazing, and as each day passes and I watch her grow I fall more and more in love with her. She has no fear, but retains an air of caution, and will stand her ground against any and all comers.

She can talk now, and sing, and even dance, and one of these days she’s going to marry someone and boss him around like she does with me. I can’t wait. I’ll walk her down that aisle and I’ll kiss her goodbye, and then I’ll shake his hand and wish him the very best of luck. He’ll need it 🙂

I love her more than life itself.



I’m not going to name them but let me tell you this. When the sh*t hits the fan you find out who your friends are very very quickly. Quite often they’re the unexpected ones. They’re people who you never knew cared. Others though have been friends for years and they take this opportunity to stand up next to you, shoulder to shoulder, and they take the heat, they cloak you in their shields and they protect you from as much as they can.

I have good friends. I have great friends. I have friends without whom I would never have lasted this long. They’ve made me tea and coffee, the’ve covered my car payments and lent me money, they’ve bought and cooked me dinners, they’ve taken me away, they’ve been there in the darkest hours. Some have done all of that despite the turmoil in their own lives.

And that’s a debt that can never be repaid.

Life goes on. Think happy thoughts.

Chicago Style Divorces

If you’ve read any of this blog you’ll see that I have always advocated a fair and reasonable approach to handling a divorce. Things should be divided equally, and fairly. Children should be put first. Both parents are equal.




But here’s the thing.

If you’re going through a divorce, then don’t, whatever you do, follow my advice. Yup, you heard that right… DON’T follow my advice.

You want to know why?

Because nobody else will give a shit about whether you’ve been “fair” or “reasonable”. Nobody. Not your ex, not their family, not your family, not your kids, not your solicitors, not your lawyers, not the Judges. Nobody.

And you know what else? Don’t come crying to me at 3am after a day in Court because you’ve tried to be fair and the entire system is weighted against you.

Fuck them. Fuck them before they fuck you. Because they will try. God, they’ll try anything and everything, and it is no good you bleating on about what’s fair when it happens. What’s that line from “the Untouchables”?

“If they pull a knife, you pull a gun. If they send one of yours to the hospital, you send one of theirs to the morgue”

Take the gloves off. Get down and dirty and fuck them over every chance you get.

Give no quarter.

Show no mercy.

Kick them when they’re down, then stamp on their faces and laugh.

But think on this:

If you can do all of that to the other parent of your own child then you’re a shit excuse for a human being, and you’re certainly no friend of mine.