Picture of the Day: Fairground Organ, Bloxham, UK [2018]

I love these things. Whenever I go to a steam fair or county show, I look out for them so I can film them. There will come a time when these things will fall silent for the last time and I fear generations to come might not care to preserve them as well as people today. 

Picture of the Day: Laburnum Arch, Unknown, UK [2015]

When I was a child in the UK, laburnums seemed to be everywhere. Trees in domestic and ornamental public gardens would bloom a vibrant yellow every year. The annual display looked lovely and would add further enjoyment of the garden to gardeners and visitors. 

Then, sometime in the mid-nineties, around about the same time as the campaign to identify all lone males as potential child sex pests began, a paranoid parent announced to the world that laburnum was poisonous and could kill little children. So began the terrible genocide and eradication of the laburnum in the UK and the lovely trees were cut down to make way for hot tubs, decking and patios – because having weird back garden sex parties in full view of the neighbours, drowning your sacrificial victim and burying them under the patio or decking is a much better alternative than having to tell little Johnny not to put the poisonous seed pods in their gobs. You wouldn’t want to hinder a child’s self expression would you? 

Years passed and with the thinning of the laburnum they became an almost unfamiliar sight in the UK to such an extent that when I saw one on my travels growing over a lovely pergola I forgot to enable my phone’s GPS and the location of the said laburnum has been lost to time and memory. 

They are lovely though.

Anti-citizen status approved.

animal blow flies bluebottles blur
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Having readied the Power Armour and renamed Quincy to Dogmeat, I find myself almost prepared to take on any post-apocalyptic scenario. However the thing I cannot be prepared for is other people’s inability to act rationally. As a result, supermarkets and deliveries in rural towns are both empty and virtually non-existent. I’m already eyeing up the dead fly which is stuck between the blinds and the window in the conservatory. It should increase my HP by +1 at least.

For months, on the run up to recent events, I have been saying to anyone that would listen (which is not very many people I must say) that we should be hiding weapons caches in the countryside, ensuring that there are underground networks of vital supplies and intelligence and preparing to fight the rise of fascism which, it seemed was clearly on the rise. Yet here we are, teetering on the dangerous precipice of civil liberty like a foolish Instagrammer doing the planking meme on a rotten piece of wood over a pit of hungry alligators.  Scary times.

man using light control panel
Photo by Clam Lo on Pexels.com

I am already using the amazing skills I spent £30k on getting during the late noughties to analyse the media and, as suggested by my tutors, question everything, look beyond the articles and read between the lines. I have been playing a nice game of predict the future :—

  • the end of cash (increase of contactless payment, enabling the state monitoring of your purchases)
  • the introduction of state controlled diets (rationing because of supermarket panic buying, easier to control what you consume)
  • the end of independent high street business (restaurants closing, people not buying stuff and the migration to online sales, again easier to monitor consumption)
  • controlled gatherings of 5 or more (closure and monitoring of people irresponsibly gathering possibly to discuss insurrectionary and treasonous topics in places they cannot be monitored)
  • the introduction of home monitoring devices (Google Home, Alexa, Siri etc)
  • Sweeping changes in the law disguised as “emergency planning”
  • Shut down of democracy on local level (elections and “non-essential” meetings cancelled)

Isn’t this the kind of state control akin to China, Iran and other places that we have been frowning on for the past half a century? Paranoia? Me being driven completely doolally because of isolation? Overreacting? I certainly hope so.

Meanwhile, I am going to go about my respectful business in a non-subversive way. I won’t be hiding caches of food, drugs, weapons or ammo in little boxes around the area, I certainly don’t have any bright yellow exclamation marks, nor do I have any quests for you to run for me. However, I do have to ask, Do you have a geiger counter?

Perfect Storm

2.jpgIn February, with tensions high in the sales office (heightened by a distinct lack of sales calls, the removal of temps, a visible drop in sales attributed to Brexit, the falling pound and poor high street sales), I was called to a meeting to be told that my and five other employee’s role was at risk of redundancy.
Now, I’ve been made redundant four times previously so, as you get more experienced, you start to notice the signs; Whispered meetings, lack of work, telling glances between senior managers whenever future plans are discussed. So it was no surprise that Az (my manager) laid out the company’s situation and plans in front of me. A month later, after playing all the silly redundancy games where they offer you a role clearly not suitable for you, meetings to discuss what you do and the passing over of duties to others, I was put on garden leave with a fairly nice redundancy package.
This was fine until a few days into my break from work, it became frighteningly clear that globally, something more worrying was brewing. Covid 19.
I’m now on the fourth week of my non-work period. I’m bored, feeling isolated and unwanted while still trying to stay positive, focussed and constructive. Sadly, with the whole virus thing going down, it seems that the jobs market is already starting to show signs of trouble.

woman wearing face mask
Photo by Polina Tankilevitch on Pexels.com

The business man in me says “Why would a company hire an employee now when the likelihood is that that employee could be forced to self-isolate and stay at home?”. Furthermore, why would an employer put themselves and their employees at risk by conducting interviews with complete strangers? (Which, if you think about it, is perfectly reasonable: An office full of people already immune to each other’s coughs and sneezes probably doesn’t want an unknown token carrying untold maladies being added to the mix).

I console myself in the fact that those people I left at my former place of work will no doubt face further challenges themselves: further drops in sales, lack of product being shipped from China, inter-office infections and associated absences and had I not been released when I was, I would be undergoing the same concerns I had then now.
But now the big smelly kipper. As long term readers will know, I have suffered from coronary heart disease for nearly 20 years now. I say suffer, that’s the medical term, I feel fitter than a whole Irish pub of fiddles. But by “suffering”, this allows me the grace of a free NHS provided annual flu jab. This, in turn, means that I fall into the “at risk” category which means that I need to engage with “social distancing” and potentially self-isolation.

pair of white dice on top of mirror
Photo by Skitterphoto on Pexels.com

Practically, I have been in self-isolation for nearly 4 weeks now. Apart from my Monday night Dungeons and Dragons session, the occasional trip to the shops, library and interview, and a trip to Liverpool to see the family, my social contact has been virtually non-existent. Then Mr Johnson says “Don’t go seeing people unnecessarily” which has put the kibosh on Dungeons and Dragons and with fewer interviews coming through I’m already doing a damn fine job of keeping away from the hordes of infected zombies out there. However, next week, it seems Mrs Gnomepants v2.0 is on leave so I will have someone else other than myself to drive up the wall at least.

2018

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Postie Postie Post me Post

New Year, new post. Not that I get much post these days. The very few sparse items that Postie posts through the letter box end up being either a bill or an appointment reminder. It seems that social media, computers and the social cancer that is Facebook have reduced the need for communication with distant peers to a series of likes and half-arsed comments. Gone are the days of writing a letter, sticking it in a postbox and waiting eagerly for a reply.

If you remember, I started last year with a Facebook abstinence with only a brief jaunt back there to promote holiday news. The return ended later in the year after someone found the name Gnomepants objectionable and complained. Thus ending a 15 year presence, and nicely timed too.
Since being Facebook free I have been able to choose and consume my own choice of content using a mix of Reddit (r/stegzy) and reading around subjects on Feedly, Wikipedia and of course LJ. Indeed, I have now also realised that Facebook is the new smoking.
Think of a time when lots of people smoked. A non-smoker might sigh, wag their fingers and tut, exclaiming: “You’re killing yourself, damaging your health, your lungs and heart. Stop it!”.
But the people that smoked would often just laugh, shrug and smoke a packet of Benson & Hedges at you out of spite saying: “Yeah, but it’s not killing me noticeably yet and I like it”.

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I’ll have 20 Facebook likes please mister

I draw the same parallel with Facebook. Like nicotine it is addictive in many respects, the serotonin reward from liking things, receiving feedback and narcissistic forming approval, I can see the damage it does to the self if not to society as a whole (like passive smoking!). Yet I can see and hear the people laughing, pointing their fingers and saying: “Huh, yeah sure it’s doing damage but I can’t see it in my nice little enjoyable echo chamber”
Meh. Nothing I can say or do will convince over 4 million people.
During my free time, while my mind repairs itself from 15 years of Facebook abuse, I’ve been thinking about the good old days of communication, in particular, the lack of mail (electronic or other) that I receive these days from “real people” as opposed to spam and junk mail. Then something my parents once said to me rang true: “The only way you receive letters is if you send letters”.
As a result, I have decided that 2018 will be my year of writing letters. I will send, via letter, details that I would have posted on Facebook to people who, in the past, I might have communicated with solely via Facebook. This, of course, limits me to those people whose addresses I still know (or can work out), but I think it will be an interesting experiment. I bet they won’t reply.
Other New Year projects include
Getting fitter, getting rid of some shite that I don’t need and trying to get my finances under an even tighter reign, but more of that over the coming weeks/months. Of course, I have just had 10 days off work, so I might just be a little ambitious in that regard!
Other things being enjoyed at the moment include:-
Netflix
  • Manhunt: Unabomber
  • Star Trek: Discovery (I see you Clem Fandango!)
  • Travellers
  • Wormwo0d
  • Mars
Steam
  • Stellaris (a Civ clone set in space!)
  • Cities: Skylines (a SimCity clone)
  • Mini Metro
  • Prison Architect
Computery tasks and Internettery
  • Reading lots of Reddit (using the fantastic Apollo app!)
  • People’s fascination with Tulpas
  • Creating backup drives using old SATA HDDs I’ve got lying around
  • Continuing to go through the vast amount of digital photographs I’ve taken and tagging them
  • Toying with the idea of maybe continuing the Music Project
  • Listening to lots of “Suggested” music via Apple Music on iTunes (https://itunes.apple.com/profile/stegzy)