I remember the first time I ever got into trouble at senior school.

I went to an old-fashioned grammar school, which selected just 90 pupils each year from the whole of the Liverpool area. It sent a few people to Oxbridge each year, and had pretty good sports teams etc.

I must have only been about twelve or so, and a group of us were trying to work out nicknames for classmates. We had a guy in the class whose name was Meneer – this sounded vaguely like “manure”, so we decided to call this guy “horsey”. Real schoolboy hunour.

Unbeknown to us, this guy didn’t like this name, took it personally, and complained to a teacher. This chap never said anything to us – with hindsight this might have been enough, certainly a quiet word from a teacher would have been. It was the kind of place where pupils respected teachers, especially twelve-year-olds.

So, the next thing I know, I’m being publicly identified as the person calling this guy names. I can’t remember what eactly was said, but I remember thinking it was all so unnecessary, especially when the guy had himself been taking part in this game with us. It’s funny with the passage of time – you forget the details but remember the feelings. I remember being baffled, because this chap had said to us that he liked the name, yet had subsequently complained.

It’s funny, in seven years at that school, I never particularly got on with this teacher after that. I suppose I realised which way the cards were stacked.

Steady Joe’s

My mum died in early 2012, and my dad followed suit on Christmas Day of the same year. After mum’s death, I was concerned at how long the process of probate was taking, a mix between my reluctance to deal with it, with a solicitor’s uselessness, and the pace at which external things, over which I had no control, worked. When my dad died, I decided that, rather than renew my contract with my clients, I needed to take time out to get everything sorted.

I finally sold me late parents’ house a year later, in January 2014. It was a large three-bed semi, must have been twice as large as my house, and was full to the brim with “stuff”. Once the house was sold, I had money in the bank and followed my love of cycling (doing it as opposed to watching it, although I liked that too). Since I was able, I decided to try my hand at a change of career, and in summer 2014 was training as a bike mechanic (training which I subsequently passed). Dates tend to fade in our memories, but events…..I remember watching the 2014 World Cup final from my hotel bedroon over near the course in Lincolnshire.

Fixing bikes was far harder than IT. I knew even from the training that I was slower than my 20yo compatriots, but I was thorough and did a good job. Do you remember Lance Armstrong? At the time he was being talked of in terms of the “best cyclist of all time”, and he owned a shop in Austin, Tx called Mellow Johnny’s. I guess it is still going, although I don’t know whether Armstrong is still involved. Anyway, what a good name, I thought. So I tried to think of something similar. Steady Joe’s was the best I came up with. I don’t even know anyone called Joe! but it had a ring to it. In my ears, at any rate.

Unfortunately, repairing bikes was far harder than IT, just establishing myself as a business and getting regular clients. Also, most of the money in bike shops is on the sales side, and it was repairing them that interested me.

So, in autumn 2015, I had a long hard think and decided to go back to IT. I was, after all, pretty good. But I wanted to =work closer to home, I didn’t want to spend three hours per day on the train any more. It was slow and took a while, but the UK’s Ordnance Survey (the “official” UK map-maker) is based in Southampton, twenty miles away from me, and I secured an interview with them.

Unfortunately, the day the interview was scheduled, I’d been in hospital three weeks following the stroke. I never even found out that an interview had been scheduled until I went through my emails after I left hospital, in the middle of March 2016. Timing, eh?

It’s funny, because at one of my clients in London, one of the boss-ladies shocked me in a meeting once by saying, “if you see a gap in their CV, it means they’ve been in prison!” and it kind-of haunts me now that that’s exactly how my cv looks! As a consolation, I do have a City & Guilds certificate from the Bike Mechanic course, plus of course I have DBS (criminal record) certificates from the charity work I’ve done since the stroke.Honest!

Papal Visit

I’m in the UK. The pope is visiting Ireland at the moment. I follow some Irish feeds on social media, plus the UK media has a passing interest, so I’m kind-of aware that it is going on, although it is pretty much a passing interest for me too.

Certainly from the UK media, a lot of the coverage has been from the angle of “abuse by clergy”, many of these stories are now quite widely known. Not just in Ireland, although Ireland is certainly included. But I must admit I feel for someone like the pope, who has been very contrite about all this. I mean, I’m making an assumption that he had no personal involvement in any abuse, but really, all these apologies divert from his main aim, which is surely spreading the christian message. Make no mistake, it’s a great shame that some people have used the church as a cloak through which to abuse others, but really, these people are responsible for their own actions, it’s nothing to do with the church. If anything they’ve exploited the church as well, just by using it to get themselves into a position where they’ve been able to abuse people.

I mean, it is good that the pope says something, the abuse was wrong so it is the right thing to do as far as the abused are concerned, it also distances the church from the abusers, i.e. the church recognises that it was wrong.But, really, I don’t this he bears any personal responsibility here. Without doubt, The church could have done better, both in terms of its staff selection, and even moreso in terms of the subsequent cover-ups, but most probably, the guy who is now pope would have been some distance from all of this (both time and space).

I do see some parallels here with party politics. How many times does someone say or do something stupid, then someone else, who happens to be on the same team, is forced to try and defent them? How embarrasing must that be? And, of course, because politics is so tribal, they do attept to defend them, while the rest of us are sat there, thinking “what an idiot!” . Worse, in this case.

More Thought Required

My wife went for a hospital appointment yesterday, it was something respiratory so, before the appointment, she needed to get a chest x-ray. We got to the appointment and were immediately told to go to another department to get the x-ray.

When we got there, my wife was not on their list. Not even late, but non-existent! So there was a 30 minute wait while they tried to find out what was happening.

In the time we were waiting, three other patients arrived, all with the same story. All patients at this respiritory clinic, none of whom were expected by X-Ray.

So I’d I’d guess my wife and I weren’t just unlucky. I’d guess that this fuckup happens at many clinics, many weeks.

Respiratory and X-Ray appointments normally run hand-in-hand. So, you’d think their IT system would allow then to easily book both appointments at once. Apparently not.

I’ve got a lot of sympathy for the argument that our hospitals are starved of cash, but I don’t think cash is the only answer, there’s often just a basic lack of common sense.

It does make me wonder – I can’t be the only person who notices these flaws, and I’m not Brain of Britain. I wonder how many good people have gone into the NHS, have seen the problems and wanted to do something about them, and just been ground down by the system?


I must admit I feel a bit sorry for Jeremy Corbyn. He seems to have some dodgy acquaintances, but as far as I know there’s no evidence that he himself has ever been anti-semitic.

Having said that, I don’t think it’s enough for him not to be anti-semitic. It’s fine for somebody like me to be judged on what I say and do, but the only person I’m representing is myself. Corbyn, however, is representing thousands of people. So I think he needs to go one step further.

This then begs the question, what more should he do? Unfortunately I’m not sure there’s an awful lot he can do, except try to ride this out. I know there was a kerfuffle a few weeks ago about Labour not adopting the same definition of anti-semitism as pretty much everyone else. I think this was dumb, even if, as they argue, their version was better.

But in the last few days, I’m sure I read a story about an allegation that a Labour councillor had called for Jews to be….was it executed? Even if this was meant as a joke, it is pretty way-out. In the actual story, Labour seems to have done the right thing by suspending this councillor, but of course it must be very worrying for a political party that this person was representing you in the first place. Poor old Corbyn can affect the present, in terms of selection, maybe he will also affect the future, but he can’t really control the past, the people already there. And presumably this person was allowed to be a Labour councillor before their views on this subject became known. That’s why I think Corbyn needs to just do the right thing in terms of disciplinary procedures, and ride the allegations out.

I must admit to having a personal interest in this story, as my mother-in-law came to the UK as part of the Kinder Transport, in 1939. She was born in Belgium, and those members of the family who stayed behind didn’t survive. As a result my wife has very few family members on her mother’s side. I can totally buy that there must be a mechanism which allows somebody to criticise a state (Israel) without it being seen as criticism a religion (Judaism), but the flip side is that we all have a right to exist. It worries me when I hear people like Ken Loach (a film-maker whose material I generally like very much) talking about history being a matter of opinion, which appears to support holocaust-denial. Certainly for me, the holocaust was real.