Weeknote Sunday 24th July

“The hottest day of my life so far” is an event which should cluster in your childhood. I suspect that for the next few years we will see quite a cluster for most older people too. The long stretches of time when the weather stayed about the same and very hot days were exceptional look like they’re over.

It’s really been a week where, if you’re paying attention, you’re likely to get quite depressed about the state of the world. Climate fucked, politics fucked, climate even more fucked because the politics is fucked. War in Europe… Roe vs Wade in the US. You name it, it looks like humanity is in a bad shape.

Normally the best advice for the kind of depression all this engenders is to get into the outdoors and enjoy the sunshine. But when one of the reasons for your depression is the parlous state of the climate, even that advice is hollow.

It’s tough. The only thing to do is look after those close to you and do what you want you can for the world.

This week though we have at least had the pleasure of a dog’s company. Laika, who has now become a regular house guest when her owner is away, is a two year old spaniel, which is quite a contrast from our old dog Zoey, who was a sedate 16 year old rescue dog. There is much more licking of feet and (if she can get to them) noses.

Yesterday we went down to Folkestone to see a friend’s gallery exhibition. I like Folkestone: it has the same feel as Brighton had when I first started going there in the early 90s, and when I moved to it in 1998. Empty buildings, ripe for use for culture. Art thrives in the liminal spaces at the edges of things, which is why towns on the physical periphery of the island often end up full of art. Artists are the flotsam that the land washes up on the borders of the sea.

Meanwhile I have been transferring documents from the cloud on to the local drive of my ThinkPad. I have mixed feelings now about cloud services. It’s not that I don’t trust them, but when your documents exist only on a hard drive elsewhere in the internet they cease to be yours in some intangible but undoubtedly real way. I should write something about it: this is part philosophical, part political and part purely practical.

Weeknote, Sunday 26th June 2022

This has not been much of a week. I missed last week’s week note because I was sick: I had been coughing for a few days and generally felt tired and run down. I managed to work through it from Monday to Wednesday, but Thursday decided that I had to take a day off work in the hope that a bit of rest would set me back on my feet. In fact, Friday was worse. The cough continued and I felt absolutely exhausted.

This has been affecting Kim too and at one point on Friday we had decided that this might be something which only antibiotics were going to clear, and so we would call the doctor today (our doctor doesn’t work weekends, but there are emergency services in place). I even looked up what the symptoms were of TB. That’s how bad I felt.

On Friday night I had a terrible night’s sleep, unable to sleep until about 2am, but on Saturday morning I woke up and for the first time in a week felt vaguely human. I am still not entirely well, but I don’t feel the kind of levels of awful that I didn’t. I am still coughing, but instead of being a long, hacking thing it’s now, as the doctors say, “productive” – a sign, I’m told, of being on the mend.

And that meant that finally – after what seems like but probably wasn’t a whole week of being cooped up – I got to go out, down to Whitstable for a couple of hours. First coffee in Blueprint, which has both good coffee and the kind of tiny collection of well-curated books which makes me whimper with delight, and then to Harbour Books.

Harbour is probably my favourite bookshop in the world. Its collection is incredibly well pieced together, with particular prominence to women writers of all kinds. It’s the first general bookshop I’ve seen where there are more women authors on display than men, and that’s incredibly gratifying. What I love about it is that I’m absolutely certain to find a book in there I have not heard of but instantly want to read, often from a new author.

All this lead to a couple of hours of pleasure: sitting in the garden on a bright evening, with a cup of tea and a book to read.

My view from a garden chair (book missing)

Reading

Buyer Beware by Sian Conway-Wood. There are lots of slightly hokey books that I’ve read about consuming less. This is the first one which I’ve seen which not only tackles how to consume less, but looks at both the psychological tricks which manufacturers and retailers used to get you to consume more and takes a view on the way that capitalism itself is structured.

Next in the never-ending book stack is Julian Barnes’ Elizabeth Finch, which I’m actively having to stop myself from diving into instantly (“finish the book you’re reading first, Betteridge!”). You probably already know Barnes is a great writer, but if you don’t, then you really need to know it. There’s an old phrase from Clive James who wrote “all I can do is turn a phrase until it catches the light”, and although James was writing about himself (writing about himself was really most of what he did) it could have been about Barnes.

Writing…

Very much curtailed this week. Writing is one of the things which suffers badly when I’m ill, particularly when I’m trying to fight through it and work. If I work when I’m ill, which I did for the first three days of the week, then I don’t have any energy at all to write in the evening.

What I did manage to write on Saturday was a small wall of angry social media posts. The demise of Roe vs Wade in the US affects many friends and hundreds of millions of women, and it fills my heart with anger and sadness. It put me in mind of Peggy Seeger’s Song of Choice:

In January you’ve still got the choice

You can cut the weeds before they start to bud

If you leave them to grow high they’ll silence your voice

And in December you may pay with your blood…

The weeds are all around us and they’re growing

It’ll soon be too late for the knife

If you leave them on the wind that around the world is blowing

You may pay for your silence with your life

We – I – believed for far too long that the progress we had made on women’s rights, gay rights, trans rights, the rights of minorities was part of a forward march of progress which could never be revoked. Roe vs Wade is the first large-scale unwinding of that, the literal cancelling of a fundamental right for women. We didn’t cut the weeds of fascism early enough, and now we have to work harder to clear them before, as Peggy wrote, it’s too late for the knife.

Watching…

Pistol, Danny Boyle’s utterly brilliant and completely batshit story of the Sex Pistols. What Boyle has done is great: taken fragments of Steve Jones’ book Lonely Boy and turned them into poignant little moments in motion.

Weeknote, Sunday 12th June 2022

One of the many useful things about writing a week note is it give you a regular reminder that life is as much about doing as thinking about doing. But this week has been a lot of watching and tinkering: with WWDC happening and new releases of iOS, iPadOS and macOS, my inner nerd has emerged like a raging hulk.

Every year I tell myself I won’t race to install the first developer releases of all the new operating systems. Every year, within 24 hours, I’ve become too excited to wait until the public betas. This year was no exception, particularly because the new version of iPadOS offers the feature which I have been wanting for years: proper support for second monitors.

And Stage Manager for iPadOS really will be that most clichéd of things: a game changer, at least for me. I have preferred using the iPad as a device over the Mac for years. However, I haven’t been able to do use it as my main machine because it doesn’t work on a screen size that I’m comfortable using for a long time.

I’m not going to write in detail about iPadOS 16 just yet — I think it deserves a post of its own — but this year might be the one where I finally give up on having a Mac laptop and just use the iPad as my portable Apple device. There are drawbacks, even though the software is almost in the right place, but the advantages now eclipse those drawbacks.

Reading

I’ve gone back to one of my most annoying reading habits: being unable to settle on what book I want to read next, so bouncing from book to book without really feeling I’m achieving much reading. So this week I’m going to settle on A. L. Kennedy’s On Writing, which I have been flirting with for a while.

Writing

In a massively mediated society, understanding how media works is incredibly important if people are to avoid being controlled by what they read, see and hear. I have worked in publishing now for 27 years, which always feels weird when I say it, so I have picked up a lot about how media works.

This is why I’m on a bit of a mission to educate people more about publishing in general and reporting and editing in particular. It struck me when reading Twitter that most people don’t understand what an “editorial line” is and how it interacts with what you see and hear. So I wrote something on what an editorial line is, to hopefully help people understand it a bit more.

Watching

If you haven’t watched the first episode of Ms Marvel, you are missing out on a treat. I think of it and Wandavision as the opposite ends of the scale for how Marvel treats its TV shows. Wandavision was incredibly clever and genuinely frightening, with an impact across the whole of the MCU. Ms Marvel is funny, smart, and endearing. After the mess that was Moon Knight, it’s a great comeback.

Meanwhile, on the internet…

The situation at the Washington Post with reporters attacking each other on social media sounds like an absolute mess. I have an elementary rule about work and social media: I don’t talk about work on social media. I don’t even mention the business I work for on social media. Same rules here: I’ll never talk about my work.

Occasionally, that makes writing these week notes challenging! I spend 37.5 hours of every week working, none of which I will talk about here. That, at least, means I have to push myself to talk about the more personal side of my life.

Meanwhile, back in the real world, Londoners don’t particularly want to return to the office. I’m not surprised at all — the notion of going to a place to work is weird unless your work physical requires you to be there. For any kind of what we used to call “knowledge worker”, who spends their life on a computer all day, the internet makes that pointless. Rethinking the role of the office is vital, but the government can also play a part by improving and cutting the cost of public transport.

Weeknote, Sunday 29th May

Three days in the office this week! THREE WHOLE DAYS. Commuting is such an odd thing: spending an hour on a train to get to a place where you do the work that — mostly — you could also do at home.

One positive thing is that it means I get to cycle down to the station, which is both physical and mental exercise for me. The physical bit is when I come back –– uphill all the way –– and the mental part is mainly on the way down.

I changed the setup for my desk (again). Having a monitor in front of the windows on my desk is efficient, but it feels like I’m blocking out the view. And what is the point of having a window if you don’t enjoy the view?

Next weekend we are off camping with friends so obviously we had to go out today and buy about £200’s worth of camping equipment to replace the things we have either lost or broken since the last time we camped. That was for a festival… four years ago. FOUR WHOLE YEARS.

Reading

I finished Tripp Mickle’s After Steve,and I have a lot of thoughts about it which I’ll save for a longer post. It’s slightly strange reading history that you were there for.

Next is a change of pace: Eversion by Alastair Reynolds. Reynolds has been one of my favourite SF authors for a while, but the last couple of his books were a little disappointing, so I’m hoping this gets him back on track.

Writing

Mostly just journaling this week. Of course, I say “just journaling”, but it’s probably the most essential writing. So I’m happy with that.

Watching

The first whole week of no Sky TV meant that we watched a lot less TV, perhaps predictably.

We waited until today to watch the first episode of Obi-Wan Kenobiand it was a treat — I’m already looking forward to the next episode, which we can watch in a couple of hours.

Weeknote: Sunday 4th April

Bank Holiday weekends are traditionally the time when everyone piles into a car and heads for the coast, or has a big party, or has a barbecue with friends and neighbours. This time around of course things are different. Although we are out of the first phase of lockdown, there are still limits on how many people we can meet, and where we can meet them. The shops and pubs remain shut. The grand commercial part of our social lives remains under firm lock and key.

However, keeping traditions alive we piled into the car and headed for the coast, a few tens of miles down to Margate. For those expecting mass disobedience and bad behaviour, you’re going to be disappointed. It was quiet: compared to a normal Easter Bank Holiday it had perhaps a tenth of the number of people. With temperatures reaching the giddy heights of 12 degrees we didn’t stay too long, but long enough to remind me how much I love the sight of the sea.

This week has been very much like every other week over the past year, a long parade of working from home, being at home, focusing on the home and avoiding contact with the rest of humanity beyond these four walls.

Last week, though, I was vaccinated. I went along to the Odeon cinema, where I’ve seen many a Marvel epic, and in the spot where I’ve waited for a screen to open while chomping away on the world’s worst nachos I waited to be shown through to have AstraZeneca’s wonder drug injected into my arm. It felt incredibly emotional: not so much because the end of this awful pandemic is in sight, although I’m glad enough for that, but for the kindness of the volunteers, spending free time guiding us around, for the pharmacist who injected me underneath the disused Pick N Mix display. Because collectively, we have done a wonderful thing.

What Boris Johnson doesn’t want to say is that the AZ vaccine exists and was deployed successfully so quickly not because “greed is good” but when the government invested hundreds of millions of our money into making it happen faster. That we can do this kind of thing through collective action rather than fierce individualism isn’t a lesson that we should forget.

There are so many other challenges that need this level of attention, most notably climate change. The way of life we have “enjoyed” (in places) over the past 150 years is over. The kind of globalised capitalism that has spent the last forty years ignoring climate change and kicking the can down the road is over. Either we choose to change it, or climate change changes it for us. Things are not going to be the same.

Related: I’m currently reading Naomi Klein’s This Changes Everything. Klein, not to be confused with the COVID-denying conspiracy theorist Naomi Wolf, doesn’t pull any punches and that’s absolutely the right approach. The time for gentle remedies and the equivalent of soothing lullabies about how everything will be alright in the end is long past. It was long past six years ago, when Klein wrote the book, and it’s even more long past now. The nature of the catastrophe is us.

In more personal and less doom-laden news, I had another epiphany this week – I think it’s the time of year for them – in which I realised that I spend far too much of my time focusing on tools and apps and things and stuff rather than looking after my own wellbeing. So instead of the usual cavalcade of SMARTER goals I’ve decided to keep my attention on just two things: meditation, and re-establishing my practice; and morning pages, the three page long brain dump which clears my head of so much when I do it every day. That’s all. Just those things.

Anyway, that’s all for this week.

W/e 24 January 2021

I realised a few days ago that, apart from taking out the bins and refilling bird feeders, I hadn’t left the house for at least a week. Possibly longer. This is an era of strange hibernation, when I am constantly in contact with people every single day and yet see very little of the world.

That’s a shame (and it’s something I immediately started to fix) as this is also one of my favourite times of year. Every time that I feel the January cold on my face I remember being 17 and walking the three miles from my girlfriend’s house to home, late at night and freezing cold. Like the weather in Autumn – still my favourite season – winter is a time when I feel like anything in possible.

But not so much this year. If there was a word to describe January 2021 it is “waiting”. Everyone is waiting for something: waiting for their turn to get a vaccine, waiting for the shit to hit the fan about Brexit, waiting for signs that our government might be going the same way as that of Donald Trump. We’re all waiting for something, like the moment when the pub is closing and you’re waiting on the corner outside to work out where you go next.

Meanwhile, Kent is its usual self, a place that’s both conservative and radical. It’s also one of the places that is likely to feel the worst effects of Brexit, with parts turned into lorry parks and food prices on the rise. These are the kinds of things which disproportionately affect the poorest, and Kent has more than its fair share of poverty.


This week also saw the arrival of my Remarkable 2 tablet. For those who have managed to avoid the company’s endless adverts on Instagram (or is that just me?) it’s a thin, light tablet designed to be written on which has an incredibly readable e-ink screen. I finally succumbed to buying one after reading Rev Dan Catt’s review and then finding that Relly had bought one too.

My original thought was that I’d mostly want to use it as an e-reader, as a lot of my books are DRM-free ePubs which don’t really work particularly well with a Kindle. Actually, I think I’ll get a lot more use of it from the task it’s best at: writing notes. It is really nice to write on, much better than an iPad.

So given that I have a 12.9in iPad Pro, why did I buy this? Mostly it’s the same reason that I bought a Freewrite: I like devices which offer a distraction-free environment for doing one particular thing. Just as the Freewrite is really good at just hammering out a draft, so the Remarkable is just focused on taking notes. If I brainstorm and take notes on my iPad, even with Do Not Disturb on, there’s the siren call of doing something else. I could just check Twitter, or I could just check what’s happening in the news, or I could just watch one video on YouTube. On the Remarkable, I can’t do any of those things – and that’s a really useful brake on my level of distraction.

Like Dan, I do my best thinking by just scribbling something down in a notebook. That gets turned into something else, and copying notes by hand into the best format to take them further is a valuable part of the process – essential if I want to really understand whatever it is I’m working on. Adding the little bit of friction involved in moving from a single-purpose device like the Remarkable or Freewrite improves the work and makes it more considered.


This week I also realised quite how much I’m aching to travel again. Mythical places like Manchester, Oxford and Bristol, which I’m now convinced only exist in my imagination. I have a new rucksack that’s sitting, ready to be packed. I’d even accept a train trip into London as a valid piece of travel, rather than one of the world’s most dull commutes.


Like half the people I know I watched the first episode of It’s a Sin. Unlike everyone else, I’ve only watched the first episode, and I don’t know if I will watch any more. It’s clearly brilliant, but I am just not sure that I need to be taken back to that era, which is a time that I have enormously mixed feelings about. You should watch it, because it really is good, but it causes me too much pain.


This week we also watched Joker for the first time, and my feelings towards it were exactly as I expected (and why I had avoided it for so long): I didn’t like it. All I could hear in the back of my head was a chorus of emotionally under-developed men’s rights activists cheering that here was a character who was fucked up by women and took revenge against society. Against the background of where politics and society are right now, I don’t think that the movie’s joke really lands.


A couple of weeks ago Phil wrote that “I’m quite tired and feel like I’m plodding on through identical days until some unknown time when maybe things will be OK again.”

I think everyone is feeling that way right now. I know I am. But writing it all down helps. So here we are.

Weeknote: Sunday 27th December

This is the last week note I’ll write this year. So, how did 2020 feel to me? I’m struck by the similarities to space travel. We have endured stretches of boredom, unable to move from the safe havens of our homes. But underneath the ennui and routine of occupying our little ships there has been a constant level of background anxiety, as our limbic systems dealt with the uncertain future by levelling up our cortisol, cranking the alertness until we are left constantly fuzzy and tired.

We have all lived on the edge. For me, this year has been yet another one that has been a holding pattern. Since my father got sick and died in the latter half of the ’00s, for one reason or another our lives have been on hold. And now, a global event that has forced all of us into shelter, put a stop to movement both physically and mentally.

Of course that’s not the only major even of the year which has dripped anxiety into our lives. For anyone who understands its potential impact Brexit has been a constant source of concern, and — until the moment it became obvious he had lost — the prospect of another four years of Trump putting American democracy to the sword didn’t help.

And yet… you would have to be extremely unaware of yourself for this year not to have forced you into some reflection about yourself and what you find important. Times like these change everyone in ways that are unpredictable, but they also coerce you into a better appreciation of what is important what, possibly, you have taken for granted. For me, it’s the ability to travel, both within the UK and overseas, and once we’ve all been saved by science I intend to spend a great deal of time on the road.


Roam

I’ve been trying out Roam Research, currently the hottest note-taking application among the kind of people who like “personal information management” as a topic. It combines three concepts in a simple way to good effect: Daily notes; two-way linking between notes; and the ability to reuse blocks of writing anywhere in other notes.

What do I think of it? The temptation with a tool like this is to try and do too much too quickly. You could try and create the perfect Zettelkasten note-taking system, and try and impose too much structure, but I think the best approach is probably the most simple: Just write daily notes, creating pages for projects and topics as you go along. If nothing comes of those projects or topics, no harm done.

It’s definitely useful for putting together Weeknotes. All I have to do is write snippets during my daily notes, then pull them together with block embeds at the end of the week. No additional writing required. Of course, the only down side to this is I need to write my notes as if they were going to be published, or sharpen them up later (embedding is two-way: if I amend a block in the weeknote, it’s changed in the daily notes too).


Chore of the week: we finally swapped the old Prestcold fridge from the kitchen for a newer one which had been in Kim’s old flat years ago. This means we’ve exchanged a 60-year-old fridge, which was still working but tended to get iced up, for one that’s a mere 20 years old. Domestic appliances, eh? They really don’t build them like they used to.


The excellent BookTrack app tells me that I have read 23 books this year. I’m not 100% sure that’s correct — I definitely don’t feel like I’ve read that many books — but I’ve definitely been reading much more than I used to. That’s been one positive of 2020: there’s been so much more time available to read.

Weeknote: Sunday 22nd November

Writing this weeknote started out as a kind of training wheels for getting back into blogging. Having not written regularly for years I needed some kind of structure to hang my writing on, and having a regular appointment which summed up what I had been doing and reading each week seemed like a good idea.

Of course, this my weeknote and not anyone else’s and because such a lot of what I do at work falls into the category of “business confidential” that precludes me talking much about it. I spend a lot of my time managing people, and intrinsically that’s not something that I can often write about publicly.

This week though, I’ve had the pleasure of interviewing a bunch of young people who have applied to work on some paid internships we’re running, and it’s been incredibly rewarding. It’s part of the government’s Kickstarter programme, which is designed to help employed people to get work experience and training to give them a foot in the door towards a permanent job.

Doing ten interviews in two days is always hard work, but what’s been brilliant is just how fantastic and smart and engaged the people have been. None of them have been over 21, some have been graduates and some not, but all of them have been great. What’s also heartening — and I think important — is that all of them have honed in on the fact that we do a lot of campaigning and support for mental health in the workplace, and that diversity is an enormous and important issue for us.

I think companies need to think about this: these are issues that are important to young people in particular when choosing an employer, and if you’re not focused on them, you could lose out on talent. There’s a demographic time bomb coming down the line, as the lower rates of birth impact on the number of young people entering the workforce (exacerbated by Brexit), which means that companies will need to compete for new employees in a way they haven’t had to do since the era of full employment in the 1960s.

But most important of all: the kids are alright.

Meanwhile, of course my new M1-powered Mac mini arrived. I’ve written about why I got it a bit, and I’m not going to do anything like benchmarking (the world does not need another M1 benchmark) but I’ll write more about my experience this week. So far… well, it’s a Mac. It is incredibly snappy, and with one exception, every Intel-code app I’ve run has worked well. In fact, what code the app is running is basically invisible to you: after the first time you run Rosetta, when it asks you if you want to install it, it’s hard to even se what kind of code you’re running (you have to go and look in the Info for each app, checking if it says “Universal” or not).

The exception, sadly, is Elder Scrolls Online, which has been my favourite MMORPG since I stopped regularly playing World of Warcraft a few years ago. ESO is great if you love a huge, sprawling world with enough story to keep you interested for years, a lot of variety in play styles (any character class can fill any role) and a really nicely developed world.

Unfortunately, its developers have also said they have no plans to support the M1 Macs, which basically means that over the long term they are throwing in the towel on Mac development — in two years, all Macs will be M1. Not only that, they won’t support it running under emulation, which is a shame as other games which run under emulation seem to run, and run well.

I guess they won’t be the only ones: some developers, particularly in AAA games, could use this as a chance to stop supporting the Mac. And that would be a shame because ultimately, I don’t have much doubt that the graphical and game play capabilities of this new generation of Mac will be exceptional.

So… I think it might be time to go back to WoW. Anyone got a friendly guild?

Weeknote: 15th November 2020

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking over the course of the last week, some of which manifested itself as a post about a letter to my 23-year-old self which I published yesterday. A lot of the thinking has been about art, and writing, and how I’ve allowed the practice of my writing to lapse a little. Some of it was about the tools that I use, and considered what the right things are to inspire me.

I’ve been reading a book called Japonisme by Erin Niimi Longhurst over the past couple of weeks. It’s a book about Japanese culture and her relationship to it. Some of it is just about the cultural practices themselves, some about the attitudes which spawn them.

One thing apparent throughout is the Japanese understanding of the importance of tools, of choosing the right one for the job and of caring for them in the right way.

I have always unknowingly shared the late 20th Century Western attitude towards tools: disposability. And I’ve coupled this to the technologist’s approach to physical tools: there is always a better one coming out next year.

So much of how we approach technology is formed by the knowledge that whatever you use is outdated almost at the point you acquire it.

Because computers are so malleable they also invite constant change in how we work, too. The almost infinite flexibility that software provides means that we can change the process by which we create things almost at will. It also means there’s a temptation to fiddle with the way we create.

I wrote a review earlier this week of the Freewrite and I mentioned that the device is opinionated. Its lack of flexibility forces you into a particular way of working with words: first thinking, then drafting, then editing, with the role of the Freewrite sitting solely in the middle. You can’t edit on it, which means you have to adopt that draft to edit process. It forces you to codify the idea into a draft, then to use another tool to pare it back into something worth saying.

Compress fossilised trees for long enough, and you get coal. Compress coal for long enough, and you get diamonds. So much of what we write never gets beyond being coal: valuable, but not valuable enough.

The first couple of days of this week also saw me reestablish my practice of going for a walk in the morning before settling down to work. This is a very different lockdown to the last one. Last time there were almost no cars on the road. The parade of four-by fours taking children to the private school at the top of the road is back with a vengeance, leading to increased air pollution which, I have no doubt, leaves those middle-class parents wondering why their child has asthma. The cognitive dissonance which those kinds of parents manage to have never ceases to amaze me.

On Tuesday, I had the realisation that I’m 17 years away from retiring. That is exactly the distance between now and when I left MacUser magazine in 2003, and that feels like about five minutes ago. We live our lives on a logarithmic scale, inching forward like tortoises when we’re young and gradually learning to walk, then run, then sprint, until your later years start to pass by at an alarming pace. Life moves pretty fast…

Things I’ve been reading this week

Apple has some new Macs out, you might have noticed. This is a really sensible look at the new M1-equipped Macs and their implications.


A great piece of writing about the lovely new Raspberry Pi 400. Related: I am really glad the Chuck is doing actual proper blogging again. One of my favourite writers and he’s giving us more words!


A good strategic look at the M1 Macs from the fantastic team at TechPinions


It turns out that under-18s love books more than almost any other medium. How good is that?


Google has started charging for photo storage. Like Om, I think this is overblown, but also it should have been obvious that sooner or later Google would want more money. You don’t get owt for nowt, as my dad used to say.


Some really tips on how to write an article when you’re utterly bereft of inspiration. Which is about where I am now, so I’ll leave it at that.

Weeknotes: Sunday 1st November 2020

It’s hard to write anything meaningful at the moment without referring to COVID-19, and the prospect of another national lockdown makes it a subject that’s even harder to avoid. Everything is going to be dominated by this for the next month.

In the past week, I’ve done several things it won’t be possible to do for a while: walk around Whitstable and go for a meal out not once but twice. Visit friends, and have friends randomly drop in on us. Some plans we had tentatively made for the next month or so are now shelved.

The Stoics had a view of the world which suggested that you should embrace what fate has given you. Nietzsche, later, went further and encouraged you to actively love fate: “amor fati”. That means not just acceptance and acquiescence, but saying “no, I’m glad this has happened. I’ll take it.” Cameron, in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, comes to this perspective when he accidentally rubbishes his dad’s favourite Ferrari.

When you’re talking about a pandemic which has killed nearly 60,000 people in Britain and which — if we didn’t lock down — would be likely to kill another 85,000 people over the winter, that can be very hard. When you have lost loved ones that’s doubly true. It feels cruel and heartless, but as a way of living your life… I can see the attraction. It’s a philosophy which was honed in an era familiar with death in a way which we in the west rarely are.

Writing rediscovered

Probably the biggest personal thing this week was beginning to read Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way. I first picked this up in the mid-90’s, committed to doing morning pages for a while, then allowed it to peter out. I was a little busy being stupid.

This time round, instead of a chore I’ve found it something I am eager to do and to embrace. Writing three pages every morning longhand is a challenge, but it’s a good one: I’ve already rediscovered that I have a turn of phrase which doesn’t have to lapse into cliché. Some of it is going to take a little creativity to do in lockdown, but if you’re looking to rediscover your inner voice, then I really recommend it.

Meditation practice

The other thing I’ve rediscovered is the impact that meditation has on me. I’ve been meditating regularly for a couple of years, using the Headspace app, but over the past couple of months I had got out of the habit. I hadn’t stopped — but I wasn’t doing it every day, which is where you’ll find the most impact on your feelings and life. So, I’ve picked that up again, and already it’s making a difference.

Related to this, I’ve also picked up Bullet Journaling again with a little more seriousness. If you haven’t read Ryder Carroll’s The Bullet Journal Method I highly recommend it. It is, as Ryder says, “a mindfulness practice disguised as a productivity system” so come for the lists, stay for just making you more attentive to your life.

This week I’ve been reading…

Evan Dando knows he’s lucky. I can’t remember how I ended up with this year-old article, but it sparked many memories of the 90s. I saw The Lemonheads quite a few times, and It’s a Shame About Ray was one of the CDs in constant rotation. The last time I saw Dando, he was sat on top of a portaloo at Glastonbury playing his guitar to everyone queuing for a pee. I’m glad he’s still alive.

This Tory government smells of corruption. It’s not just that they obviously think rules aren’t made for them, it’s that they see things like procurement process as inefficiencies, but don’t see the millions they are throwing at their friends in wasted projects as anything but “fail fast”. You don’t fail fast when you’re doing it with taxpayers money. You just fail.

There’s so much stuff about at the moment designed to help you work more effectively from home. This collection of articles and books from Microsoft is excellent — not just for working from home, but also just working generally.