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.

If wishing made it so…

I need to find a way to make the ideas in this video a reality for some of the awesome people I have worked with and do work with now.

There really can be profit and balance, growth and humanity – there is no need to work “every hour that God sends”, there is just a need to work hard while we are at work, and then not when we are not…

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.

Lera Lynn Bootleg…

I discovered this bootleg, and frankly I want you all to benefit from my good fortune, so please check this out – it really is fantastic!

Supergenius…

My brother, Edward, has been making music for almost as long as I can remember. As you may recall, dear reader, I have been a staunch supporter of his many adventures in music, and this latest venture is no different. G’Wan, give it a listen – I promise you will not regret it 🙂

Thought for the day…

“Life is in essence a series of decision points tied together with experiences; the trick is to make no decisions that radically diminish your sense of self-worth or compromise the core beliefs that you hold.”

C. Oliver Godby – 28th May 2015, Makati City, The Philippines

Pictures first, words to follow…

Manila Envelope

Well, it’s been a couple of weeks since I FINALLY got around to blogging about the experience of moving to the Philippines and so I figured it was time to add to the canon…

After five weeks in our AirBnB Condo on H.V. Dela Costa Street we spent Saturday-gone moving into our freshly found, permanent address, which is / was handily just across the street. I have always been intrigued by living in a high-rise and while I am not going to claim retroactively that this weekend’s transition has somehow fulfilled a lifelong goal or anything so grand, I have to admit that there is a certain wonder and excitement attached to our new environs that I was not expecting. For one thing, we can see the Ocean from our living room!

Work continues to be an exciting mixture of strategy and problem-solving with a large side-order of never-ending recruitment, and a smaller one of little bits of coding. Before you ask I most certainly am enjoying it. The rush of being involved in a growing and increasingly successful start-up is a drug I’ve been exposed to before, and it is no less potent this time around, but so far I am managing to make time to smell the roses as well, where I can.

I am starting to hatch a plan to take Lee-Anne and the kids to the beach in a couple of weeks time, preferably for a long weekend, and we are already talking in looser terms about exploring some of the more far-flung parts of the archipelago, with particular reference to Palawan and her white sand beaches and relative lack of people in general. I have heard people talking about Hundred Islands in the North and Mindanao in the South and it does appear that we might well be in a position to fill our free time quite admirably without ever repeating ourselves or actually leaving the country for some time to come, though the prospect of places like Singapore, Hong Kong, Kuala Lumpur, not to mention the Thai beaches and even Japan being so much closer than they have ever been before is all very tempting as well. Once our Philippines visas are through – they are being processed at the moment, and that may take “some time”(tm) – I suspect we will gad about the South China Sea quite a bit, given half a chance…

For now I need to get back to the recruitment grindstone – finding software engineers locally is a bit of a relentless process, at least finding good ones is, even more so than back in London, and even reaching out to networks back home bears the difficulty of persuading anyone that moving to the other side of the World makes for solid decision making. From what I have seen so far I am not only certain I made the right decision in bringing our family out here and taking this job, but I am already much more excited about the future than I thought I could be. I just hope that I can get some other quality people enthused about the road ahead, as growth is happening and I am going to need to feed that growth with more output and better output, one way or another. Don’t get me wrong, I’m certain that we’ll find people given a bit of time and a bit of luck, but there is no doubt that it’s the biggest challenge I have on my plate for the next couple of months.

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.
.
EOT

NaNoWriMo 2014 – Day 10

Richard looked around the room at the men on front of him. He knew all of them by name and reputation, but he had never before laid eyes upon any of them apart from his commanding officer, Colonel Chambers, the man who had been speaking and was now staring at him intently, clearly awaiting some kind of response.
“Colonel, I am in absolutely no doubt that I made at least two fatal strikes on the subject and that my third strike was also a grievous wound at the very least. The first was a clean penetration of the throat, bisecting the entire vascular bundle, trachea, oesophagus, carotid artery and jugular vein. That wound alone should have killed the subject in forty to ninety seconds at the absolute outside. The second wound was, at least as far as I could tell, an on-target strike to the heart and the blade easily penetrated that organ based on the power and angle of attack. The third strike was to the abdomen, a deep, downward thrust designed to perforate the small intestine. I would have been striking for the liver, but the target made a sudden move despite his injuries that left me no clear angle. The entire attack lasted a little over two seconds and the subject fell immediately to the ground. I observed his inability to speak, due to the severed trachea, and an amount of bleeding in the following ten seconds that led me to be convinced that the subject would shortly be dead. I was about to deal with the witness when I was surprised by other civilians on the street and so I elected to flee, reasonably convinced that I could not be identified, but that I was unlikely to be able to make my escape if I did not move before the bystanders reached me. My last look at the subject confirmed my previous conclusions, the subject was unconscious and lying in a pool of blood consistent with the loss of two to three pints of blood in what amounted to around twenty seconds. As far as I was concerned he was a corpse.”
The various other men at the table were nodding and making notes; there was a low hum of comments made to one another at a volume designed to ensure that Richard could not hear what they were saying. The Colonel spoke once more;
“Major Redus, your account is compelling and consistent, to the point that it feels like the truth rather than a crafted account. I think that we can assume that there is more than meets the eye with Mr. Foster and while this may mean that we cancel or perhaps merely postpone the action that you were tasked with it does not mean that you are finished with it. I realise that your main area of operations is in wet work, but I assume that you are up to date on surveillance, legend and data gathering as well?”
“Yes Colonel, in fact my previous assignment was all dry work.”
“Very well, in that case I want you to pick up the trail wherever you can and start unravelling Mr. Caine Foster until we know who and what we are dealing with. I am afraid that central surveillance has been unable to keep up with the subject because he rented a car, presumably assuming that we would have lo-jacked his personal vehicle, and unfortunately he has used a rental firm that we have not, as yet, compromised. As such he might be anywhere. We do know where the girl, Andrea Richardson, has gone. She has been using public transport and her credit card, so either she and Foster have assumed that she is not a target or she is bait. I suggest that you report to Lieutenant Colonel Braythorne in Surveillance for a full briefing on our current level of coverage on Richardson and Foster and then see if you can’t get into her life. We know that she has a return flight to the US in seven days from now, so you don’t have long. Still if you can earn her trust you may be able to gain access to her phone and thereby email etc. and with any luck get some clues from Foster about his location, assuming that they are still in contact. Of course if she’s bait, well…”
The Colonel tailed off and cracked a rather wicked smile that Richard mirrored back to him, after all the unspoken thought was clear and while he was clear on his duty he was also clear that it needed to appear that he took pleasure in it. He did not take pleasure in killing, but despite the fact that the Praetorians were supposed to be the sin eaters of all the Soldiers of Christ, and as such should revel in their bloody ways, so as to draw all of the sin onto themselves he found it hard to glory in something that he simply saw as necessary.
“Anyway, if there is nothing further, you should be on your way Major, much to do!”
Richard was almost out of his chair when one of the other men around the table spoke;
“Major, may I offer you one word of warning?”
The voice was coming from Brigadier General Lawrence Cummings, perhaps the most famous Praetorian of all time, and something of a hero to Richard. He snapped to attention and replied,
“Yes, Sir, I would be honoured.”
The grizzled old man leaned into the light and fixed Richard with a stern look, cleared his throat and then prodding the table with his index finger in the cadence of his delivery;
“Next time you are bothered about being caught, try to remember that you can always kill yourself in custody, so finish the job at hand and embrace the fate that God has in store for you.”
As the words slammed into him, making him experience them as the verbal beating that he had no doubt they were intended to be, he felt a chill advancing down his spine, as if an icy, dead hand were lightly brushing down his back and it took every ounce of self-control to keep his eyes on the General and not turn and flee. He managed to stammer out,
“Yes, Sir. Of course, Sir.”
before the General burst into fits of laughter and waved him away. Colonel Chambers put his hand discretely on Richard’s forearm and said quietly;
“Off you go, I will see you before you leave, come to my office after Braythorne has brought you up to speed and you’ve drawn your kit for the op.”
Richard nodded, saluted the committee and left the room.
“Bloody Hell St. John, did you really need to do that to the poor boy?”
The voice was coming from the corner of the room, from a high-backed chair that was facing away from the table and as such the occupant had been hidden from Major Richard Redus. The chair moved slightly and a tall, thin man of indeterminate middle-age stepped out of the shadows and walked towards the committee table.
“I’m sorry, Hugh, I did not realise that we were molly coddling the Praetorians these days? Besides, I think that he took it rather well!”
At this they all fell into laughter once more, an easy, genuine laughter between comrades and equals that went on for quite some time. Eventually Hugh, General Hugh Petherbridge, head of the military wing of The Soldiers of Christ outside the United States, brought them all to order and sat down at the table;
“The real question here, gentlemen, is what are we dealing with in the shape of Caine Foster?”


The air was cold on Nicholas’s face when he stepped down out of the van. He loved to be out in the countryside at night; he particularly liked being out at the fishing lake. His father had bought the plot when he was a boy, and all of his good memories of his father were being there with him, building the cabin, learning how to fish, taking his first drink. His mother had not wanted Nicholas to go out there with him, but once the divorce had become final and his father was granted weekend custody there was little that she could do to stop it. All he had needed to do was report back that they had stayed in and watched videos at his father’s flat and she was none the wiser. The moon was high, and as he looked out over the water his eyes adjusted to the moonlight. A big full moon like that one was almost as good as daylight once his eyes had adjusted. He could see clear across the water to the other cabins, none of them had any lights on, but then even if there had been anyone else around they were not likely to be awake at three in the morning. The quiet was loud to him, not in an oppressive way, not in a way that was uncomfortable to him. Far from it he welcomed it, he felt as though it was wrapped around him like a blanket, protecting him from harm. Out there by the lake, in the cold and dark before the dawn he was closer to God than he was at any other time. He could feel his presence, like a steadying hand upon his shoulder, calming his soul and reassuring him that he was there by Nicholas’s side. The boat was in good shape. Even though he had not been up for a few weeks the cover had kept the rain off, so there was no need to bale out before loading Mrs Foster’s body in. It was easy to get her out of the van and into the boat, but that was mostly because there was no one here to worry about, he did not need to hide the fact the he was moving a body, but then that was why he brought them here, that and the feeling that he was bringing them to be with God.
It only took a few minutes to row out to the spot where he had given each of them to the lake for safe keeping. The sense of peace and wellbeing he felt only increased the closer he got to the place where his angels were waiting for him beneath the water. It was deep out in the middle, deep enough that no one could see them, but he knew that they were there, standing in the depths waiting for him to come and see them. When he got to the place, he could tell by the sight lines he had on one of the cabins and two distinctive trees, he eased the weighted end of the bag over the side of the boat, slipping her plastic encased body into the water feet first. He watched her disappear into the inky depths and then he sat down in the middle of the boat and prayed that God would take her soul, that he had made shiny and new and spirit her up to Heaven to be with his other angels.