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On the turning away…

I doubt this is the first post you’ve read today on this subject and I’m sure it won’t be the last, so maybe that means I shouldn’t even bother.

You might even see what it’s about and scroll on past. After all, I’m sure you all have busy lives and you only have so much time to spend on the internet.

“Compassion fatigue”, I think that’s the phrase somebody once coined to describe the phenomenon.
In a world so filled with tragedy and injustice, we, as a society, merely the more fortunate spectators of other people’s distress, become hardened and inured to their suffering, somehow managing to push them to the back of our minds, just another unpleasant statistic.

But the situation in which Europe finds itself today is not something we can turn our faces away from, the sheer weight of human destitution and degradation that plays out on our television screens daily cannot be ignored or shrugged off as “not our problem”, not when we are all supposed to be part of the same global community.

The refugee crisis that now faces our world is second only to the evacuation of civilians during the holocaust of the second world war, when millions of people were tortured, murdered and persecuted under the Nazi and Soviet regimes.
During that time, public opinion was so strong that a huge mobilisation of aid began, culminating in the formation of the Kindertransport, a series of humanitarian rescue missions which brought up to 10,000 children across war-torn Europe to the safety of the UK.
These innocent victims, many of them Jews who had escaped extermination by Hitler’s death squads, had already suffered terribly at the hands of the advancing forces which had invaded their homelands and the majority of them would never see their families again, their parents murdered in places with names that will forever live in international infamy;  Auschwitz-Birkenau, Belzec, Chelmno, Majdanek, Sobibor, and Treblinka.

The children, most of whom arrived by train at London’s Liverpool Street station, were welcomed by a charitable nation, now itself at war with Germany, were clothed, fed, educated and cared for, staying with volunteer foster families or at hostels which were set up in hotels, farms and schools around Britain.
Not only were these refugees given respite from the suffering they had endured in their native countries, but after the war they were allowed to remain here permanently and were given British citizenship, or relocated to Canada, Israel, America and Australia where they were finally able to make new lives for themselves, albeit as orphans from the most destructive conflict in human history.

Fast forward seventy years and look at how far we’ve come since those days:
We no longer live in the blitz-ravaged and impoverished post-war nation we inhabited back then; despite the minor inconvenience of enforced “austerity” brought about by the worldwide financial meltdown of a few years ago, we are still a prosperous country which benefits from all the material trappings of western civilisation; our lives, for the most part, are comparatively easy and trouble-free, our needs catered for by a welfare state that so many brave men and women died to protect from those who would enslave us.
And yet the spirit of global charity and accepted duty of care that we once showed to others less fortunate than ourselves seems to have declined exponentially in relation to our increase in wealth and prosperity.

At least that would appear to be the case if some of the right-wing press and hate-filled posts on social media are to be believed.

The number of vitriolic newspaper headlines, status updates and rabble-rousing political speeches denouncing displaced migrants and refugees as “lazy spongers”, “scroungers”, “benefit cheats” and, paradoxically, undeserving recipients of “British jobs” grows every day, despite the compelling evidence that a great many of those requesting asylum are fleeing persecution, incarceration, torture or even death in their own countries.

The weasel words of politicians and journalists, who claim the country is “full” and therefore unable to accept a few thousand extra members into our already rich, multi-cultural society, most of whom are simply looking for a safe place to work hard and raise families, make me almost ashamed to be British sometimes.

Many of those children who were rescued by the Kindertransport in Europe’s darkest days not only went on to become valuable and hard working members of society, some actually volunteered for the armed forces and died fighting for the country that had taken them in during their hour of need.
Any of those that survived, looking at their adopted country now, must despair at the neglect and misanthropy shown by some that share the land they swore to defend.

It seems that only in the last few days has the enormity of the crisis sunk in to the national consciousness, and then only at the price of adding one more innocent life to the toll of those needlessly sacrificed, this time on a beach usually thronged by holidaying tourists.
Aylan Kurdi, a three year old boy who travelled to Turkey with his family to escape ISIS and the brutal situation in Syria, drowned in his father’s arms, along with his five year old brother and their mother, when their small boat capsized on the final leg of a journey that should have saved them from a life most of us cannot imagine.

Only the heartbreaking photo of an aid worker carrying Aylan’s lifeless body away from the spot where he was found, washed up on the shore of a foreign land he knew nothing about, now seems to have galvanised our unforgivably slow-moving government (finally bowing to an increasing public outcry) into taking action.

Too little, too late.

It has once more fallen to private citizens and charity organisations to take on the responsibilities that we would usually expect to be shouldered by the state; many UK families and local authorities unilaterally offering places for refugees to stay and settling up collections of basic essentials, to be distributed amongst those still trapped in the transit camps, both in the middle east and Europe.

{The problem isn’t only in Europe, see a report on another disturbing story HERE}

The next step should be doing something about the estimated 11 MILLION empty properties, enough to put a huge dent in not only the current refugee crisis but also the domestic homelessness problem that has plagued many countries on the continent for years.

In the seventy years since the end of a war that decimated whole countries in Europe, I don’t believe that the charitable spirit of the British people which demanded the humanitarian rescue of holocaust victims has deteriorated to the point of not caring about displaced and persecuted refugees, but the continuous drip-drip-drip of negativity in the press and the rise of bigoted hate groups, especially on social media, has had the knock-on effect of making us question the legitimacy of genuine claims for asylum, no matter how horrific evidence to the contrary may be.

It’s a sad day indeed when it takes the hopeless grief of a broken father, burying his entire family in the full glare of the news media, to make us remember that we need to remain human and compassionate, despite the inescapable fact that, if not for an accident of birth, that could have been you or I, paying the ultimate price for the sake of freedom.

I will leave the last word to Pink Floyd and the song from which I borrowed the title of this post: “On The Turning Away”.

[Should you wish to assist in the aid effort, please consider donating to The Red Cross or to the independent charity Calaid, set up to help refugees still caught up in the transit camps in Calais.]

 

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Spring windup and the persistence of The persistence of memory…

Yesterday…

As is predictable for an English bank holiday Monday, it is now grey and raining outside, but the rest of the weekend has been very pleasant indeed, not least because we had an unexpected guest on Thursday evening.

Old friend and co-star of my Wales watching… posts, (about our pilgrimage to Portmeirion, the home of psychedelic, spy-paranoia fixated cult TV show, The Prisoner) Trevor arrived on the doorstep not long after I got home from work, ostensibly on a short break to try his hand at some fishing on the rocky North Devon shoreline, but as with many weekends that I’ve spent with Trev, plans tend to be rather elastic.

While I went off to work on Friday morning, after a late-ish night of catching up and reminiscing, Trev went in search of a suitable fishing spot and somewhere to pitch his specially purchased tent.
When I returned home at lunchtime however, Elaine had already put him to work in the garden and there were a few more jobs lined up for us too.

Obviously there were some memories to be mulled over, some bollocks to be talked, some cider to be drunk and some pool to be played along the way, so what with buying and fitting a replacement for our suddenly defunct electric shower, fitting a new ceiling light in the bathroom, drinking some more cider, laying a couple of paving slabs, making and consuming a pan of,..ahem..herbally enhanced Hyena Soup, (enabling you to make a “laughing stock” of yourself) repairing our front door, reading all the e-mails and blogs I’ve got behind with, and drinking some more cider, I haven’t had a lot of time to do any blogging.

And Trevor never did go fishing.

The upshot of which is, this post is like one of those cheap-to-make TV episodes which recap a character’s back-story for no discernible reason.

Except this is really interesting.

Honest.

Ok, now I’m worried I’ve built it up too much.
All I was going to do was give you a bit of an update really, nothing earth-shattering.

{Note to self: comparing posts to crap tv show formatting is not sensible or effective blog promotion}

Back in February I had a bit of a rant about the rise of stupid nomination challenges on social media and how it would be nice if people used the same communication technology for doing something positive for a change, suggesting BlogNominate as the way forward.
As with a lot of these things, there was plenty of support for the idea but I’ll be honest, I hadn’t really considered all the logistics of the plan and it kind of fizzled out.
But not before two friends at work had rebranded the idea as EggNominate, the idea being that people would contribute either cash or Easter eggs to the appeal, to eventually be distributed among the residents of Little Bridge House children’s hospice and the local children’s cancer ward.
The final total was over 150 chocolate eggs, which were delivered personally to the children, and nearly £200 in cash to be donated to the hospice.

But one event I probably can shoehorn into the “Random act of kindness” category is the fundraiser we held at work, whereby myself and the two erstwhile EggNominators, Mike and Shane, challenged ourselves to raise the modest sum of £45 between us on the Friday of Breast Cancer Awareness week.
There was a catch however; should we reach our target in the two hours or so before our morning break, we would allow a couple of our female colleagues to give us a makeover (our version of the “make-up-on selfie” that became a popular male response to the campaign of women posting photos of themselves without make-up on social media to promote breast cancer awareness) which we would wear for the remainder of the working day.

It seems as though there is an unhealthy urge for people to see grown men made up like the world’s least convincing transvestites, (although a disturbing number of people told me how good I looked as a woman) because by ten o’clock we had raised nearly £130.

Ok then, let the plastering begin…

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Me, getting a bit of slap on, courtesy of Gemma, one of our volunteer artistes.

…and yes, apparently I have to let my hair down..

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That “Cher / Max Wall hybrid” look in full.

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“The Sugarblokes” – Shane, Mike and I, with our make-up artistes Gemma and Naomi.

Possibly the most worrying part of the day was, having driven back from work in full make-up, with my hair by now a tangled mess, I stopped at our local shop on the way home and……nobody batted an eyelid.
Which only struck me as strange until I remembered that over the past few years I’ve walked in there dressed as a cowboy, Elvis, a native American chief and a pirate, amongst other things, so perhaps it wasn’t that strange after all.

(additional makeover photography by Vernon Smith, cheers Vern)

And finally in this random round-up of stuff that’s occurred to me this Spring, I have a puzzle for you;

What is the connection between a 1931 surrealist masterpiece by Salvador Dali and a blog post about the horrors of war?

Well, this is The Persistence of Memory, a painting by Salvador Dali…

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..and this is The Persistence Of Memory, a blog post by dalecooper57.

I pinched Dali’s title because it went with the theme of remembrance and the importance of keeping memories of terrible events alive for future generations to learn from.
I was pleased with the post and I got some good feedback from it.
Ok. Happy with that.

(At this point I should say that my previous best day’s traffic on the whole blog was 269 hits, and that was on a day I posted three times. Very rarely do I get anything like those numbers, especially on a day that I haven’t posted anything)

So imagine my surprise when, over a week after publishing the post, which got a respectable 100+ hits on the day, I suddenly got 385 hits on that post alone, ending the day on an astounding 409!
Now this was amazing enough a month ago, but ever since then the same post has been getting many more hits than any other, to the point that on one platform alone it’s passed the 2,000 mark, something I doubt anything else I’ve written has come close to.

All of which would be fine except for one thing.
No comments.

Not that I’m saying nobody commented on the post originally, several of my lovely readers made valuable contributions via that little box at the bottom of the post (the one so many of you seem scared of. Come on in, I won’t bite) but after the avalanche of traffic began I haven’t had one single word of feedback and that does strike me as odd. And not just because I’ve had a lot of spam get past my filter recently either.
(Note: Before you ask, none of the search terms for the post were mistaken searches for Dali’s painting)

So if you’re one of the allegedly thousands of people who have read The persistence of memory… in the last couple of weeks, let me know.
Because much as I’d like to think that it was a moving, heartfelt, brilliantly researched and potentially award-winning piece of journalism, therefore attracting inordinate numbers of (very shy) new readers, I can’t help thinking that something maybe amiss.

Please feel free to prove me wrong.

Oh, and while we’re on the subject of new readers, I’d like to welcome the flurry of new followers I’ve been honoured to receive in recent weeks (Diary of an Internet Nobody now has 320, thank you all) I shall attempt to justify your interest in my continuing total failure to find a theme.

Since I began writing this post yesterday, I think that I should now wind-up my Spring clean of the odds and sods from the blog and I shall leave you with two views of another fabulous Devon sunset from the weekend, along with the rainbow and ethereal clouds that appeared opposite it.

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{See, that was better than a flashback episode of Star Trek wasn’t it?}

 

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The Movemberists – ‘Tache for cash…

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Every November there is a marked increase in the number of male faces sporting hirsute growths about the upper lip area.
A veritable plethora of furry philtrums in fact.

This outbreak of creative shaving is in support of the Movember Foundation, set up in 2004 to raise awareness of prostate cancer and to raise funds for the research and treatment of this and other men’s health issues.

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Participants start November clean shaven and collect sponsorship to grow a moustache for the whole month. The ‘tache can be any style but must stand alone, unconnected to any other facial hair such as beards or sideburns.

This will be the third year that we have got involved at work, prone as we are to looking silly for charity. This was last year’s model…

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..I went for the dignified Brigadier look.

This year I’m going to try the upside down horseshoe of hair that is described by the Movember style guide as the “Trucker” but I prefer to think of it as the “Villain” or possibly the “Bandito”.

On day 2 there is barely a hint of what’s to come, but it’s early days yet..

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I have set up a page on the Movember site for people to leave donations and where I shall post update photos so you can see what you’re getting for your money, so to speak.

THIS GREAT BIG, REALLY OBVIOUS LINK WILL TAKE YOU TO MY PAGE.

Thank you, every little helps.

 
21 Comments

Posted by on November 2, 2013 in Charity, Personal anecdote, Social comment

 

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Saying F.U. to the big C…

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Movember is almost upon us again, raising money for men’s health in general and prostate cancer in particular. 
We shall once again be participating at work and I would encourage those of you with the ability to grow the requisite facial adornment to take part too.
So expect all manner of fabulous face fungus to start appearing on a top lip near you soon.
You can donate here.

Which brings me rather neatly to the topic of this Diary entry.

Once again I am writing in response to a post by the ever-reliable Adam Pain who has bestowed a great accolade on me. More about that later…

First I’d like to share an expanded version of the comment I left on Adam’s blog this morning, the subject of which is losing loved ones to cancer;

I clearly remember my brother in law turning up on the doorstep at our new home in Devon at 4.30am, having driven the 300 miles from the London hospital where Dad had been taken after collapsing at a business function due to the unseen and spreading tumours in his lungs, brain and spine.
We raced back there, thinking we might be too late, getting there just as he regained consciousness.
As it turned out, he lasted long enough to be given the news that my sister was pregnant with his grandson and for us all to have a last chance to say goodbye.

Seeing the rapid and merciless way the cancer had devoured his usually imposing frame, it was hard to believe this was the same upbeat and positive man who had told me “Oh, don’t you worry, we’re going to beat this” only a few weeks previously.
Unfortunately, this wasn’t my first taste of dealing with the most indiscriminate of killers.

I was just nine when Mum was struck down by a brain tumour, forever leaving me with the image of her dropping to the floor in convulsions, incoherently repeating a bizarre litany made up entirely of numbers.

A frightening experience for a little boy, as you can imagine.
But not as frightening as the look on Dad’s face a few short months later (which with hindsight I now know to have been helpless grief) as he came into my room and, kneeling next to my bed as I roused myself from sleep, told me that he was sorry, but mummy had “just got weaker and weaker, until she couldn’t hold on any more and she died.”

He was sorry.
As if he could have done anything to save this wonderful, gentle woman from the treacherous mutation of her own cells.
Even now the irrational, impotent anger I feel towards the nebulous and malign enemy who took my mother from my sister and I can return unbidden, when I see her in old photos or hear a song she liked on the radio.

She didn’t smoke, she had an active, healthy lifestyle, and yet she was just as helpless to defend herself against this attack from within as any twenty-a-day tobacco fiend.

We were all lucky enough to have a final, carefree French camping holiday with her in the months following her initial illness and operation, when it all seemed like some sort of terrifying bad dream, only to lose her to subsequent complications when the tumour returned.

So many people’s lives are touched by cancer, hardly anybody is unaffected in some way.

Elaine and I spent many days caring for Elaine’s father (with the help of the extremely dedicated Macmillan nurses) as he became increasingly ill, his eventual passing being all the more painful for Elaine as we were so far away at the time.
And we lost a very dear friend only a few years ago who was, shockingly, younger than me and had always instantly been the absolute life and soul of every party she walked into.

Cancer doesn’t give a toss who it takes, it doesn’t care about your feelings. We’re all potential victims and should therefore take whatever opportunities are offered to join the fight to defeat the silent killer.

Well I’ve done a fair bit in the past to raise money for charity (although like all those saintly celebrities, “I don’t like to talk about it”) and I’m about to get involved in something just as worthy, but a lot more fun than lumbering around the moors in the middle of the night or dressing up like a gay Native American at work.

I am incredibly honoured to reveal that I am to be attending the Golden Face Palms, Adam Pain’s award ceremony for the über-numpties that spoilt everyone’s year by stubbornly continuing to exist.
The deal is that I go to the event, (ticket details to follow – you too can attend this prestigious occasion) accept the award for the particular dullard I nominated for inclusion, and mumble a few short words of acceptance through the haze of alcohol, jostling paparazzi and groupies. (at least I’m reasonably sure that’s how these things go) and try not to fall over on the way back to my table.

Adam has written a very poignant and touching article to accompany the announcement of the ceremony and I would take it as a personal favour if, having taken the time read my post, you also go to A World Of Pain via THIS REALLY BIG, OBVIOUS LINK and see what he has to say.
That is where you can find details of the Golden Face Palms themselves.

(You can also donate to the Macmillan Cancer Care Trust via the Macmillan link above)

 
12 Comments

Posted by on October 27, 2013 in Awards, Blogging, Personal anecdote

 

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And the winner is: Charity…

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As many of you may remember I, along with a few friends from work, have a habit of volunteering for various charity events, not least of which is the annual Rotary Club Startrek night hike, in which we have taken part for the past four years.

This year we had an initially triumphant, but ultimately farcical night under the stars of Woolacombe which you can read about here, and today I had the opportunity to go along to the presentation ceremony to see just how badly we fared in the final rankings.

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Elaine and I arrived just in time for the ceremony (my fault, I’d been watching the end of the thrilling British Formula One Grand Prix) and found there was a good turnout of walkers, organisers, and charity representatives in attendance.

After the outgoing three year veteran Startrek organiser had given his address the prize-giving got underway.

Winners of the actual trek itself (determined by a combination of speed and points from clues) were “Time Team”, multiple winners of the event who have been participants since the very start in 1992.

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  Time Team – Worthy winners.

They also scooped the category of highest fundraisers for the umpteenth time, having raised over £4,000 this year alone and over £50,000 since they started competing.

Over £35,000 was raised overall, with the main beneficiaries being North Devon Chemotherapy appeal, and both North Devon Hospic and Children’s Hospice South West, all of whom received cheques for £8,000.

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The three main charities collecting their cheques.

Other deserving organisations that benefited from this brilliant event…

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…and their grateful representatives.

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The winners gallery, and a call to walkers for next year’s already-finalised course…

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…and I finally find out our finishing position, oh dear…

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Joint 48th out of 59.
Hmm, it could have been worse I suppose (by 11 anyway) but like we always say, the real winner is charity.

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That route in full (our detour not shown)

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That all-important team photo – (note the satisfied expressions of those who have yet to receive the bad news)

And of course there’s always next year…

 
2 Comments

Posted by on June 30, 2013 in Blogging, Personal anecdote

 

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To boldly go (for a walk)…

For the previous three years  a team of us from work have taken part in the Rotary Startrek Night Hike, usually held on the vast expanse of Exmoor National Park, to raise money for local charities (Hospice Southwest, Children’s leukaemia care, etc).

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This year was no exception.
Although initially the omens didn’t look too promising.

We generally field a team of between four and six, and this year we had four of last year’s squad lined up to take part – myself, Mike, Shane, and Brett.

As usual, my old friend James had provided one of his trademark cartoons for our team t-shirts, which I duly had printed.
This year, as it was the event’s 21st anniversary, we thought that we’d go for a Star Trek theme, and James had depicted us all as various characters from the Next Generation TV series.
Our team was to be called Make it Slow in tribute to Captain Picard’s “Make it so number one” catchphrase.

I was cast as Data, Mike was Picard, Shane was transformed into Worf, and Brett was to be Commander Riker. (see Random Photos page)

Unfortunately, soon after the shirts were ordered, Brett found that he had to attend a martial arts show in Birmingham on the night of the hike, leaving us a team member short.
Since teams are supposed to be a minimum of four, we needed to get a new recruit fast.

Asking around at work served only to encourage more people to form teams, increasing our competition and leaving us no better off.
Then we had a stroke of luck. One of the other teams at work had a couple of people pull out, so we combined our resources, gaining Steve and Paul, and adopting their team name as they had an earlier start time.

So, we were now officially called Brian’s Nemesis, a reference to the super-competitive captain of the fourth and final team from work, whom we had always previously been thrashed by.

We were also all competing together, so to speak, for an inter-company trophy, which our firm won last year;

The next thing that caused a change of plan was the fact that the weather had been so bad for the previous few weeks, the moors were waterlogged, so the location was moved to the coastal town of Woolacombe, an area of rugged natural beauty, steep slopes, cliff paths, and windblown hilltops.

And last night, it was finally time to go hiking.

We met up in the car park and registered our team, got our first clue sheet and compass bearing, and off we went.
It didn’t take long before we caught up with our supposed main competition, Brian’s team, and overtook them. This caused a massive boost in morale, and from then on we set a steady, fast pace, arriving at the first checkpoint ahead of time.
We had also got most of the clues in the first section, and were feeling very pleased with ourselves.
Purely by coincidence, I’d been to Woolacombe a couple of weeks before with Elaine, before we’d known the hike would start there, and taken a photo of what we believed was the answer to the clue, “Three forces in granite”, a granite war memorial dedicated to  English, American, and Canadian troops…

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…along with some of the rock formations we ended up clambering over…

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After having completed the longer, second leg of the first of the two loops in the figure-of-eight route, we came into the main tent to register our time, much to the amazement of the stewards who weren’t expecting anyone back so soon.

At this point, I was approached by the man doing the Twitter feed for the event, and he encouraged me to supply a quote.
Well, considering our team name, it seemed too good an opportunity to miss, so I got him to post;
“Brian’s Nemesis beating Brian already”
to which he added
Come on Brian, you can do better than that.

(which, with hindsight, probably didn’t help)

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Halfway point.

So, egos bolstered, we set off on the second part of the course.
This turned out to be tougher than the first leg, featuring several killer hills, really taking a toll on the legs, and prompting the annual thought of “Why do we keep agreeing to do this”

Still, once we got to the final checkpoint, spirits rose once more as we determined there couldn’t be much more “up” to get back to sea level.

The final triumphant stroll down the hill back into Woolacombe was very pleasant, with the clear, starry sky above us, a slightly pissed female hotel guest asking if we’d “found the pot of gold in the hills” from her balcony, and the knowledge that we were once again ahead of schedule.

Arriving at the base, we found that we were the first team back, leading to much smugness and talk of how Brian would react to us beating him for once.
We posed for our souvenir photo with the head of the Rotary Club, downed a quick complimentary pasty, and made the drive home satisfied with our achievement.

                Epilogue.

Whilst unwinding at home with a drink in front of the TV at about 2am this morning, (and after having put a rather smug post on Facebook about our victory over Brian), I thought I’d check out the Startrek feed on twitter, to see how other teams were faring.

I shall allow you to read the following thread for yourselves, as I haven’t the heart to write it down.
(click the link)

This is what it said.

Ah…

We have still to have all the facts confirmed, but there doesn’t seem to be much doubt that we will be hearing about this for some time to come.

As a friend commented on my hastily deleted post on fb (I may be smug, but I’m not stupid)
“Pride cometh before a balls-up”

Very true. Next time, we won’t let the red mist of competitiveness get in the way of what the event is all about, winning at all costs charity.

Thank you to Brandit printers for their usual fine job on the t-shirts.

 
9 Comments

Posted by on March 3, 2013 in Blogging, Personal anecdote

 

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Talking ’bout a resolution…

So, its that time of year again.
The arbitrary point in so many people’s lives when they decide to give up something they previously enjoyed without guilt or shame.

But the beginning of a new circuit by our little rock around a distant ball of superheated gas – and the best efforts of the advertising industry – heralds the arrival of a month or so of broken promises and enough good intentions to pave the way to hell and back several times over.

The number of TV commercials, billboards, newspaper ads, and spam e-mails that we get bombarded with at this time of year almost qualify as an industry on their own.

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Whether it’s adverts featuring shock tactics to encourage people to stop smoking, choreographed musical numbers starring actual members of Weight Watchers, demonstrations of unfeasibly complicated exercise gadgets, or just plain, good old comedic abuse, we’re surrounded by a gigantic corporate guilt trip for the first few weeks of every year.

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Followed, of course, by another month, one where the small ads pages of local papers all over the country will be stuffed full of bargains for the genuine fitness fanatic – unwanted rowing machines, cross-trainers, treadmills, exercise bikes, and those giant inflatable balls that cause so much unintended hilarity – all originally bought with the genuine intention of initiating a new regime of health and wellbeing.

How much of this hand-me-down gym equipment turns up in the classified ads due to conversations along the lines of;
“What do you mean you got me an exercise bike for Christmas? Are you trying to tell me I’m fat?!” is difficult to say, but I’m betting there will be a few well-meant presents relegated to various garages already.

Now, I’m not saying that everyone will fail in their resolve to better themselves, and if you succeed, then I take my hat off to you.
But we don’t all have your willpower.

There are however, always the more vague, less easily defined resolutions, for those of us who want to be seen to be committed to a new start, without actually having to change our life at all.

Read more Kafka, that’s a good one.

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Franz Kafka – “Who, me?”

I mean, who’s going to risk a long, involved discussion on the pros and cons of Orson Welles’ adaptation of The Trial, just to check if you’re keeping up your end of the self-imposed deal.

Give more to charity is another winner.
The “I do a lot for charity, but I don’t really like to talk about it” line takes care of too much detailed interrogation on the subject, plus most of us will chuck some spare change into a tin when it’s rattled at us (although rattling of charity tins is now discouraged, following claims that it is intimidating) so it’s quite easy to stay faithful to.

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Indeed, there is certainly no shortage of organisations collecting money on our high streets at the moment, even prompting complaints that they may be driving away shoppers.

If I was going to recommend anything to try more of this year, I would reiterate the advice I gave previously, to watch more Scandinavian TV. Which you can resolve to do right away, as the second series of Danish political drama Borgen starts it’s UK run this weekend.

Another idea, what about adopting an aardvark. Everyone loves an aardvark, am I right?

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Baack by populaar demaand.

Finally (and predictably) how about making it your resolution to follow Diary of an Internet Nobody if you’ve not done so yet?
It really is terribly easy, just click on the follow button, and you’ll get an e-mail whenever a new post goes up.

If you follow already, thank you, but how about resolving to leave a comment now and then. I love getting feedback, and being able to interact with you always gives me a sense of connection.

And it goes without saying that if you all made it your resolution to share the blog with just one other person, and got them to follow too, well, I’d obviously be delighted.

Having said all that, I hope that your year is going as well as can be expected after all that relaxing was cruelly interrupted by the harsh reality of returning to work once more.
It already seems as if it was all some big comfy dream, but never fear, I’m sure the coming months will bring many new things to enjoy.

I, for one, resolve to keep on telling you stuff in order to entertain and/or amuse you, and I hope that you’ll stay on board for my first full year of ramblings.

See, that was easy, one resolution made already…

 
12 Comments

Posted by on January 5, 2013 in aardvark, Blogging, Films

 

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Charity begins at work…

I’m a sucker for fundraisers.

Um,… I don’t suck things for money, that’s not what I mean, let’s clear that up right now.

Ever since discovering the power of fundraising activities as a simple and effective way of getting people to part with their money when I was still at school, I’ve always had a bit of a weakness for doing daft things for charity.

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Back then, it was sponsored walks for the school, “Bob a job” week for the scouts, and once, (that was enough) an army assault course for the British Heart Foundation which very nearly resulted in me having an ironic heart attack.
That was a good few years ago however, and it hasn’t been until relatively recently that I’ve renewed my involvement with more direct, hands on activities, so to speak.

All of these events have taken place either at work, or with friends from work, and take the form of a lot of walking around in the dark, or dressing up like idiots.

The one annual event that takes place outside work is the Rotary Club’s Exmoor Startrek Challenge, a 16-18 mile nighttime orienteering hike across Exmoor national park, and not, as the name suggests, some sort of nerdy Sci-fI costume adventure for the Devon Trekkie Association.
A team of 5 or 6 of us have taken part for the last three years, and it’s no walk in the park let me tell you.

The event is extremely well organised, and has now been going for twenty years.
The people who go out and set the course each year clearly think along the lines of, “Ah, yes, but that gate over there has a two foot deep, impassable lake of liquid sheep shit in front of it, send them out of the field that way instead” and, “We’ll make the clues so cryptic that they’ll need to be Times crossword champions to work out what the bloody things even mean”

Because it’s not just a nice stroll around the countryside. In the middle of the night. In March.
No, you also have to be able to find, and then work out, a series of hidden clues, given to you at each checkpoint on the figure-of-eight shaped course. All of this, and having to finish each leg by a given time in order to not lose possible points.

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This year’s dream team. Knackered.

We discovered fairly early on that the later the hour, the less inclined you are to try and work out that the six letters you have collected make up the word “Enigma”, which somehow ties in with an obscure reference to “deciphering” a clue, which in turn will gain you an extra hundred points, and the more likely it is that you’ll just get on with slogging through the mud/fog/rain/pain barrier in order to get it all over with as quickly as possible.

It really is quite amazing how fast the human body can forget the discomfort that we put it through sometimes. Every year, you find yourself thinking “This is bloody awful, why do we do it”, and yet, the next day you’re telling everybody that’ll listen how brilliant it was, and what a great team you’d had, even though you did get lost in the fog and had to scale an unnecessary bracken-covered near-vertical slope at one o’clock in the morning.

Some teams –  nearly a hundred usually take part – take it very seriously indeed. Despite the fact that both the map reference for the starting point of the course, and each team’s start time is a closely guarded secret until just a few days before the event, some unsporting types have been known to take a day off work to go and scope out the terrain’s most likely routes as soon as the details are released.

We have a more relaxed attitude to the “race” element of the hike. A good thing really, as, due to our slightly lacklustre attempts at the clues in the latter stages of the trek each year, we have not manged to come in the top fifty placed teams.
Although we usually are among the fastest

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The official team photo. Note custom made t-shirts. (Lady with chain of office not in team)

It doesn’t help when they make a mess of the directions of course. Last year, starting in the insanely steep village of Exford, we came upon an instruction that said “Take a bearing of 150° and continue until you reach a stone bridge” Now, a bearing of 150° is pretty much going back the way you came, which we duly did. Two or three times. Each time, we met other puzzled-looking teams, coming back the other way.
Eventually, using our initiative, we ignored the bearing, finding the way on our own.
Sitting in the marquee with a coffee and a bacon roll, a few hours, and several gruelling miles later, we met a bloke who told us, “Oh, when we got there, there was a sign saying to ignore the bearing on the sheet at this point, as it was a misprint”

Nice to know.

Anyway, we never take it too seriously. After all, as Smashey and Nicey always said It’s all for charidee mate.

One thing we do take seriously is dressing up, which us why we have a bespoke team shirt each year, artwork courtesy of James, an old friend of mine.
Here is this year’s Star Wars themed design. And yes, ok, I am princess Leia;

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…and here’s the original rough draft of the artwork and caption;

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©Ho

But our most entertaining money making efforts are done at work, on randomly chosen Friday mornings simply by spending a few hours dressed up like fools.

Here are a selection of my favourites.

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Elvis day. Thangyouverymuch.

…and

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Village People day.

…and

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Nautical care in the community day. (possibly)

Most of the money collected goes to either the fabulously deserving North Devon Hospice, and in what I can only think of as sensible forward planning, given our propensity for stumbling around the wilderness in the dark, Devon Air Ambulance Trust.

So, unless you’re the bloke at work that said, in all seriousness, “My new years’ resolution is to not give anything to charity this year” then click on the links and see how you can join in.

Thanks to Brand it in Barnstaple, for printing the t-shirts.

(Honourable mentions for Mike Gill and Shane Gregory, both of whom appear in all events)

Update
17/01/13

Bob, (second right, back row) our shy and retiring quality inspector shyly retires.

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8 Comments

Posted by on September 21, 2012 in Personal anecdote, Photography

 

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