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We Do Anything, Anytime

May 31st, 2020 · Posted by Skuds in Life

Some time between Christmas and the start of the lockdown I treated myself to the box set of the complete BBC episodes of the Goodies. I expected I would binge-watch it all in no time at all, but actually only finished last week. Partly this was down to me just not watching much TV this year, but partly down to not enjoying it quite as much as I expected to. [Read more →]

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All Killer – Mlah (1988)

May 25th, 2020 · Posted by Skuds in Music

I think I have mentioned that, in the list of albums I would consider to be all-killer-no-filler, debut albums are disproportionately represented, and this is another example. It is a very personal choice and probably not a favourite of many people, at least not many British people. At the time it came out, there was quite a buzz about Les Négresses Vertes in certain circles. They were cropping up quite a lot as guests on TV shows that I watched – late night stuff without a large audience like the James Whale show or Rapido. [Read more →]

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Becoming annoying

May 14th, 2020 · Posted by Skuds in Life

One by one, I am gradually becoming all the things that I used to find annoying, or saying things that used to annoy me when other people said them. It was bad enough when I started catching myself saying things to the kids that my parents used to say to me, but everyone with children or step-children has that experience (it must be a tradition or an old charter or something, as Robert Rankin would say). It is in other, more general, ways that I am gradually becoming somebody my 20-year-old or even 10-year-old self would dislike. [Read more →]

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Working from home

May 13th, 2020 · Posted by Skuds in Life, Technology, Work

For the last few months, like anybody else who is able to, I have been working from home. It hasn’t actually been a massive adjustment because I had only just got used to being back in the office full-time after either being on post-operrative sick leave or because of an immune system suppressed through chemotherapy self-isolating before it became fashionable. [Read more →]

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One in a million (and a half)

April 20th, 2020 · Posted by Skuds in Life

A couple of weeks ago I received that letter from the NHS that was, apparently, being sent out to 1.5 million people who are deemed to be vulnerable. While I don’t feel particularly vulnerable, I was not surprised to receive the letter, it was still a bit of a shock in a way because it made everything suddenly more personal. But it reminds me of something that has been bugging me: this whole “underlying health conditions” business. [Read more →]

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Passing the time in lockdown

April 8th, 2020 · Posted by Skuds in Life, Music

Some people are spending this period of lockdown being very creative, learning a new skill, taking up a new hobby, or catching up on books and TV they never quite had the time for previously. Others are bored stiff and looking for something to do. But some of us are fortunate (?) enough that they can carry on working full-time from home so that we are not bored. I’m not even getting back hours of commuting time each week, because my journey from bedroom to study is only five minutes shorter than my regular journey to work, so I still have the same amount of spare time that I always had.

It does mean that I am spared any feelings of guilt that might have come with not using this time for something constructive or educational. I know that I would not have embarked on some great bout of self-improvement. I would have played Age of Empires a lot, and got sucked into watching lots of YouTube clips of comedy or nostalgia. Instead I can sit and think about all the things I could be doing if I had been unable to work, and kid myself that I would actually have done some of them.

If there is anybody with time to kill, looking for something to fill those hours, here are a few recommendations.

Music

You could start with my lockdown playlists on Spotify! Skuds’ lockdown playlist #1 is a couple of hours of songs with titles appropriate to the current situation. Skuds’ lockdown playlist #2 is my global pandemic playlist. Nothing topical except for the fact that the tracks come from all over the world. Its about 150 minutes long and I don’t think that any country is represented more than once – apart from France because I could not resist starting it off with Tonton David’s Peuples du monde, which is about as appropriate as the list gets.

Apart from that, there are some interesting recent albums that are worth giving a shot at:

  • Hotspot by Pet Shop Boys
  • The Night Chancers by Baxter Dury
  • Jaime by Brittany Howard
  • Rejoice by Tony Allen and Hugh Masakela

Television/Films

I’m still working my way though the DVD box set of The Goodies complete BBC shows, after which I have a box set of the sitcom Shelley to look forward to, but I can recommend these if you can find them on one of the various streaming services.

  • Justified – an unjustly overlooked series with an endearing hero that makes you simultaneously want to live in Kentucky and very, very glad you don’t.
  • My Name is Earl – not as well-known as it deserved to be
  • Person of Interest – another show that got hidden in the late night schedules
  • Hanna – the film is amazing and gorgeous to look at. Absolutely brilliant composition and camerawork. The TV version of it is a decent remaking and expansion of the film. Both hugely enjoyable and violent

Books

I can thoroughly recommend Jonathan Coe’s Middle England, though it helps if you are a leftie remoaner like me to get the most out of it. It also helps to read the first two books (The Rotters’ Club and The Closed Circle) first, and there is plenty of time so why not?

With so much potential spare time its feasible to dive into some of those series of books with lots of follow-ups. Two that I recently got into are Rivers of London by Ben Aaronovitch and Jodi Taylor’s series of time travel books, the Chronicles of St Mary’s, starting with  Just One Damned Thing After Another.

If time travel is your thing, then The ’86 Fix by Keith Pearson is a cracking read, and perfect for anybody who was young in the 80’s.

For a bit of non-fiction you can’t do better than Danial Kahneman’s Thinking Fast and Slow, which really is a life-changing book, and then follow it up with Michael Lewis’ book The Undoing Project which covers the story of Kahneman and his partner Amos Tversky which really is a gripping story for a biography of a couple of psychologists. Alternatively, read the Michael Lewis one first and then you will really want to read the other one.

Podcasts

So much to choose from, but you can’t go wrong with The Bugle: a weekly dose of satire with a huge back catalogue to plough through. Still with comedy, Richard Herring’s RHLSTP (audio and video versions) also has a huge archive of celebrity interviews.

Plenty to keep anybody busy there I think.

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Its only money

February 7th, 2020 · Posted by Skuds in Life

The other day I came across a job. I wasn’t looking, it was one of those e-mails from LinkedIn that says “here’s a job you might be interested in” and I had a little look. It was a job that I could probably do, in my current field of risk management, in an industry that I used to work in. It was also an interesting challenge because it was a high-profile infrastructure project that I know from the news has had a lot of trouble with risk management.

Oh. And the salary was between about £75k and £90k which is significantly more than I get now, with a lot more holiday than I get now and a final salary pension scheme. [Read more →]

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Books, books and books

February 6th, 2020 · Posted by Skuds in Life

I seem to have my reading mojo back at last, which is making me very happy indeed.

Last year I had stocked up on e-books, expecting to be reading a lot while in hospital and afterwards in recovery, but it turned out that I really didn’t have the mental capacity to read anything more substantial than Twitter for a long time. It was an attention span thing really.

When I did read books I could only really manage books I had read before, so I got through all the Milligan war memoirs and some Robert Rankins. Then I built up to reading books by authors I already knew that I liked, but they were taking a long time to get through.

And then Jayne bought me a new Kindle Paperwhite for Christmas and I started dipping into the backlog, just to enjoy the novelty of the new toy, and it has been ramping up from there – fueled by the temptations of the Kindle deals of the day. So far in 2020 I have read half a dozen novels and four non-fiction books.

Most of the fiction has been Ben Aaronovitch. Amazon had a deal where the first 5 Rivers of London books were 99p each and books 6 and 7 were a fiver each, so £15 for all 7. The non-fiction was an actual paper book about the Seinfeld television show that I treated myself to after Christmas, an advance proof of a new history of Kraftwerk and another couple of Kindle deals of the day; Flash Boys by Michael Lewis and a psychology book.

The backlog does not seem to be going down though, because recently there have been lots of temptations in the Amazon deals of the day so although I may have read 10 books so far this year, I have bought 15. This is amost the sort of reading and purchasing rate that I used to have, and it makes me wonder why I slowed down for a while. Perhaps it is no coincidence that all this has happened after I stopped being a councillor? I know that reading a decent novel or book on behavioural economics is a lot more interesting than reading endless reports, agendas and minutes!

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2019 – Must I Evolve?

January 3rd, 2020 · Posted by Skuds in Music

Now we are firmly into 2020 (Happy New Year BTW) it is time to increment my 1962 onwards playlist by another tune.

Deciding what to put on there was a tough decision because there was so much good music last year, and I got to listen to a lot more music than I normally would. As I mentioned in an earlier post, what I listened to the most in 2019 was Hall & Oates’ Rich Girl, according to Spotify, but that is a bit of a red herring. There was so much more to the year, and to my experience of it, than that… [Read more →]

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Best Christmas ever?

December 26th, 2019 · Posted by Skuds in Life

It is possible that yesterday was the best Christmas ever. It went a bit pear-shaped after midnight when the dog threw up over the bedroom floor, but that was after midnight so doesn’t count.

It started with a bit of a lie-in of course. Nothing too excessive, but the sort of thing we could only dream of when we had youngsters in the house. Traditionally this is the day when its OK to have a chocolate selection box for breakfast, but I opted for corn flakes instead, though I did have a couple of Celebrations as a chaser.

The weather was absolutely brilliant. Lovely clear skies and bright sun. We went out for a long walk with the dogs and it was quite eerie to see the empty roads around Manor Royal but so peaceful without all those cars everywhere. Despite the quietness, the buses were absolutely packed out, no doubt full of airport workers coming off their shift.

After the walk we had roast leg of lamb, which was  also perfect – sprouts, parsnip, mint sauce, everything you could want. It was so good we couldn’t face having the Christmas pud that I went out to get specially the day before to replace the one we have had knocking around for about three years and never got round to eating before it expired.

During the evening I broke with another tradition, the one where I usually end up having no alcohol over the entire holiday season, and had a couple of pina coladas while watching the John Wick 3 blu ray with Jayne.

There is a lot to be said for living in an empty nest and being able to do what you want, when you want!

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