I had a moment of creativity…

…and I just wrote this thought down into ello.co, but I know no one will see it there, so I am re-posting it here.


As I looked out over the glassy surface of the calm South China Sea, that was lapping at my feet, I was filled with an utterly profound sense of longing; to be free of the air. All I wanted was to be able to slip under the surface and explore the shallows and the depths without the artifice of technology or fear of pressure. The sea is beautiful and terrible, but we are no longer free to be at one with her, our bodies are not compatible with her depths nor can we breathe the oxygen that we need from liquid so we are air-bound, no matter what we might dream of.

The soft golden glow of the sunset was narrowing to a thin line of fire across the horizon as I turned away from the water and slowly made my way back up the thin strand and across the garden to where my family were crowded around the fire, waiting for flames to die to embers so that we could lay the day’s catch over the heat.

The sounds of conversation and the clinking of beer bottles trickled over the grass from the deck towards me, and the longing slipped away from me to be replaced by the warmth of the love I held for the people I was walking towards; my anchors in the air-bound world, but such wonderful enlivening ties to bind me here.

The BBC and Me and We…

Watching from afar as the recently minted 2015 Conservative Goverment (sans Lib-Dem safety valve) starts yet another ideological assault on a beloved institution, I find myself bewildered as to how they think they are ever going to receive popular support for their nefarious game, and yet it would appear they can spin it nonetheless.

Of course the BBC has her detractors, one could hardly claim the first “B” for British if there was not some portion of the population ready to whinge bitterly about the death spiral of moral, intellectual, artistic or political standards that are ruining Aunty. Let us not even dwell upon the thoughtless idiots who complain about the licence fee whilst failing to recognise that in return for less than fifty pence a day they are taking delivery of a unique public service broadcaster that is the envy of the World, when almost nothing else British, apart from luxury housing in London, is envied by anyone, anywhere. More than that, the elderly and the vulnerable in society are given a licence (currently) so that they may at least be informed, educated and entertained as the Tories slowly strangle the life out of them in every other way in the name of the neo-liberal conspiracy.

But hold on, didn’t “Our David” get in on the backs of the Radio Four audience, or at least the largest chunk of them? What’s that David, your base are devotees of the most diverse, innovative and familiar sound of Middle England? Hmmm, I do not entirely believe that they are going to be ok with you taking away Gardeners’ Question Time and Just a Minute. Perhaps the policy machine deep in the blackened heart of Conserative Party Central Office is hooked up to a Sky Dish and is mindlessly forwarding its real master’s agenda? Any comment Mr. Murdoch?

Now I know what you are thinking… You are smiling to yourself and thinking that your correspondent has form, not only as a dreadful Pinko Liberal, but also as a former employee of the BBC herself! Yes, I believe in the BBC and so much so that I worked for less than market rate in my field on three separate occasions to be a part of the organisation that has given us everything from Newsnight to Strictly, Last Night of the Proms to Eastenders and far more besides. In my last tour of duty I ran the engineering team that looked after the websites for The BBC World Service, a finer ambassador for the country of my birth would be hard to name if you ask me, but by working for World Service I got a flavour of the funding gap and it is not something that anyone ought to allow to grow at all, in any direction.

Consider, if you will, a possible future. Ten years from now the BBC is no longer funded by the Licence Fee or the UK Government in any capacity. There is a small income stream from fanatical supporters who buy a subscription to the organisation, a bit like the memberships offered by public sector, not-for-profit radio stations dotted around the USA. Aside from that, in true Tory style, the vast majority of the BBC’s radically reduced budget comes from corporate sponsorship; “The Archers, brought to you by Monsanto, shaping the World through innovation.” or “BBC News at Ten, brought to you by HSBC, The World’s Local Bank”, and while news programming is uninterrupted, entertainment shows are peppered with adverts every twelve to fifteen minutes. BBC Two is a distant memory, Radio Four barely has any original programming, but thank goodness for the Archive, and there are no black, disabled or gay people anywhere to be seen or even heard on the airwaves, lest the advertisers grow restless.

Sound like a legacy that you want to give our country, let alone the World? Do you want to explain to your children or nephews and nieces how there used to be unrivalled factual progammes about the fabric of the Universe on BBC Television, but now there are four different variants of Strictly Come Dancing crossed with The Voice and the worst excesses of Tabloid Television, because that is what Nestlé are hoping for when it comes to reaching the largest number of undiscerning purchasers for their new breakfast cereal, made from real African children.

There are those that say that the measure of a society can be made simply by examining the place that the Arts occupy in its culture and zeitgeist. What does it say about British Society that we are apparently okay with the Government of the day eyeing up the greatest and most respected guardian of the Arts anywhere in the World as a juicy privatisation plum, ripe for the plucking, perfect to sate their misguided, twisted appetite for austerity, as long as its the kind of austerity that hurts lefties and intellectuals and poor people and anyone who likes unbiased news coverage. There are no Tory Culture Vultures who are going to suffer if their party guts the BBC, they will gorge themselves on expensive tickets to the Opera at Covent Garden – now sponsored by Halliburton once the Arts Council has finally been given the old heave-ho with the follow through after punting the BBC into the tall grass – and congratulate themselves that they are supporting the cultural life of the country whilst consigning Radio Three and BBC Four to the fire.

What can we do? A Million marched against the Second Gulf War and not even a dent was made; we barely moved the needle. Please don’t think that there are a Million ready to march for Aunty Beeb, they are all so complacent; “The Beeb’s always been there and it always will be, it’s as British as afternoon tea, cricket and the Changing of the Guard. What are all these bloody adverts? I thought that Countryfile was on the Beeb!”.

We need to voice our displeasure, and keep on chanting over and over the refrain:

“Hands off our Beloved BBC!” (Feel free to add “You Tory Scum”, if you so choose; who am I to prescribe)

every time that the subject comes up. Write to your MP, write to your MP’s wife or husband, write to every party activist of every stripe you can get contact details for, and tell them that the very last British Institution, after the NHS, that should ever be mentioned in the same breath as the word privatisation is the BBC.

Not only that, write to the BBC Trust, the Director General, and anyone you can get contact details for at the BBC voicing your full-throated support for the BBC remaining publicly and adequately funded, impartial, non-commercial and OURS!

People often trot out the plattitude that politicians work for us, which of course they do, but for every whinging git that thinks The News Quiz is somehow evidence that the BBC is a nest of Communist vipers waiting to envenom society at a moment’s notice and that it should be burned to the ground for the common good, there are twenty, thirty, fifty, nay a hundred quiet, unheard voices that adore the BBC in their own personal, special and fabulous way. Whether it is The Goon Show or The Sky at Night, there is a good bet that there is something on the BBC that you love with all your heart that simply would not exist without the Charter, without the Licence Fee and without the Corporation’s unique raison d’être; to Inform, Educate and Entertain(*). Bear that in mind that it is not just something that you love, it is also yours, ours and utterly unique in the entire World.

Please, please, please do not let Cameron and his merry band of axe-men destroy something so utterly wonderful in all of its imperfect striving to be worthy of our love – you will so definitely miss her when she is gone.

Our Man in Makati..?

photograph of cup of coffee and plate of toast by a swimming pool

So, finally, after two and a half weeks of being here – a BLOG POST!

We arrived in the Philippines after a remarkably easy journey… Seriously both Lee-Anne and I were experiencing a considerable amount of anxiety over how the kids would fare with two eight hour flights back to back, but they were fantastic little troopers. There was one flash-point – what shall forever more be known as “The Abu Dhabi Incident” – but to focus on that would be to completely ignore how wonderfully behaved they were compared to our least terrifying nightmares.

Stepping off the plane, we could tell it was hot, but the corridor we walked into was air conditioned. It was leaving the Baggage Reclaim when we realised that it was in fact HOT. By the time I had turned some dollars into Philippines Pesos (forever more to be known as PHP, which will amuse a tiny fraction of this blog’s readership), walked twenty feet to the man running the official airport taxis and arranged our fare and I was praying that the taxi would have air conditioning.

It did, of course, everything is air conditioned here, even the lifts – or perhaps that should be especially the lifts? We found our AirBnB place – taxi drivers here do know their way around, but it’s not the same as “The Knowledge” in London, it’s more like a Private Hire cabbie in Basingstoke, you know? The place is small, but we expected that and had planned and packed accordingly. I can honestly say after two and a half weeks in the place that we love it; we’ve even toyed with staying in it longer, but I pointed out that as the kids get even a few months older we are going to need a little bit more space to enable us to escape, and to allow them to run about (more).

The first day I was hideously over-confident about the jet-lag. I was soon back in my place, having fallen asleep on the couch before 2100h (local), and thus began the horrific process of trying to recover from jet-lag while one’s own children are failing to recover from jet-lag. I tried to take the advice; swim (no really it helps), eat when you need to, stay up later than you think you should but not too late. I tried, I really did, but the day before my first day at work I woke up at 1400h; not “I stayed in bed until 1400h desperately trying to get some more sleep unable to get up”, I WOKE UP at 1400h.

During that re-adjustment period I did a little exploring, found the nearest thing to what I recognised as a supermarket, and as a family we went to farmers’ market on the park a block away from our condo. The rest of the time was spent sleeping, doing prep-work for my new job, playing Minecraft – I have dragged Lee-Anne over to the dark side and got her on my server, Mwahahahahaha – sleeping and watching BBC World News, oh yeah and swimming as much as possible.

Yeah, I know, “cry me a river” – there is a pool outside your patio, dude! Even so, I was very worried that my first day at work would be a season in Hell. So, I tried to go to bed at a reasonable hour – around 2300h – and I got up with plenty of time to have a swim (cold but genuinely worth the effort), and found my way to the office on the first try. Of course I was the first Westerner there, but that’s ok. I’m not suggesting that my Western colleagues are tardy, they most certainly are not, but they arrive at around 0900h and on my first day I was there by 0820h. A lot of the Filipino members of the team arrive at the office between 0630h and 0730h in order to beat the morning traffic in and to leave early to beat the afternoon traffic on their way home, whereas most of the Westerners are living so close to the office that none of us are driving here, so traffic is not an issue (more on driving in Makati and wider Metro Manila in another post).

Day one was a series of meetings and chats with various people and was over before I knew it. I wandered home, happy and tired, via the “supermarket” and then proceeded to collapse into a heap on the sofa – Lee-Anne was not best pleased. Of course, that was not the whole story, I perked up at around 2300h and then could not get back to sleep…

I am mostly back on a sane sleep / wake schedule now, and the kids are almost there too, but that first week was HARD and the pool + coffee, and the support and encouragement of my awesome wife are the only things that got me through it.

Work is, as I expected, a lot of plate-spinning, a lot of cans of worms to be opened and dealt with, decisions made etc. and I am loving it. It feels as though I am exactly where I need to be professionally, and the people I am working with are all pulling in the same direction, which is something I came to take for granted at the BBC, but am now quite sure that I would be unable to handle the absence of such shared purpose in this new environment.

The next couple of weeks are going to be very busy and very stressful – I don’t imagine that I am going to be able to blog about them because of time constraints – but in a month or so I think that I will be fully in control of the technical side of things, and I hope to be able to get us into a good groove in terms of adopting some good practices and improving on our approach to Agile working. There is a great foundation to work with, but we definitely need some fine-tuning and so that’s what I am going to be doing.

So, in the meantime, please be assured that there is more to come and I leave you with this thought;

"There is no greater stroke of genius, nor is there any greater enterprise of evil than to make it possible to have Burger King delivered to your door up until 2100h at night, that is until you realise that McDonalds deliver 24 hours a day here. Stay Classy, Makati!"

I hope that you are all surviving the extreme weather about which BBC World News has been almost gleeful in the telling, and that this despatch from the Orient finds you all in good health and good spirits. We do miss Blighty from time to time, and many of you far more and more often than the place herself, but it would be dishonest to say that we are doing anything but enjoying the new experiences and the new way of life that this adventure has brought thus far.

More to follow.
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EOT