31 October 2009

What price honour?

I very rarely watch television these days. Anything I would have watched invariably clashes with The Boy's bedtime or worse, gives him nightmares; no more Doctor Who for you, Mummy. Might as well give up that idea right now. The internet has snuck into its place instead, until I find myself not even thinking of the television as an option. The noise irritates me, and I find myself looking for excuses to switch it off.

Since The Old Git comes home around his bedtime anyway, this has given The Boy that child's holy grail: control of the television remote. Subject to parental approval, of course.

He likes the Challenge channel, which screens wall to wall game shows, so up until now that approval has been pretty much automatic. Indeed, Ninja Warrior, which is the Japanese show Sasuke edited with a new voice-over, has been the subject of more than a few last minute sprints to the school gate. It sucks all three of us in over breakfast. It's hard to look away from with its mixture of cannon-fodder hopefuls and dedicated competitors pushing themselves to the limit on the assault course from hell.

What I love about it is the way they perform astonishing feats of agility and endurance pitting themselves against the course. Not against each other. If an all-star, a serious contender, fails, you see that the other all-stars are gutted for him. It's about making it past the post, not being the first one there or getting one over on the others. And if no-one wins... no-one wins. Train hard ready to try again next time.

I think it would be a wonderful example for British game shows, but somehow we seem to be locked into a cycle of beating the other guy at all costs.

Nowhere was this more apparent than when I saw for the first time another game show on the same channel, Goldenballs. All homegrown this one, and I am ashamed of the fact.

I watched competitors bluff and lie to each other to keep themselves from being voted off by the others and make it to the final, where the last two standing co-operated to maximise their winnings. I didn't like the arguments and the accusations of the earlier rounds, but fair enough, bluff has been the language of card games forever.

But then there was the last part of the game, where the contestants had to each secretly decide to split or steal the money. If they both secretly chose split, they shared the money. If one chose split and one chose steal, the stealer took it all. If they both chose steal, they both went home with nothing.

The sheer treachery of the outcome took my breath away. The successful contestant would promise to share, entreat the other to and then steal it all, to the horror of the other, more trusting, soul.

It celebrated the lowest of human behaviours and I felt soiled at the end. There will always be people who will lie, steal and betray, but I think making it into a prize tarnishes our collective souls.

Compare that to the honest endeavour of the Ninja Warriors. The Boy will not be watching it again.

Ninja Warrior

26 October 2009

Big things in disguise

Image by Free-StockPhotos.com
Sometimes big things happen that feel like little things. Sometimes it's the fact that they are little that makes them big.

Today I walked into a big meeting feeling calm and relaxed. I walked out feeling the same. Which in itself is nothing. Millions of meetings happen every day and no-one dies. Usually. I hope.

The difference today was, that's not me. Any occasion where my professional skills must stand on their own without back up or someone senior to defer to is preceded by insomnia, panic, shaking and nausea. Afterwards comes the adrenaline let down. It is fight or flight, every time.

So why not this time? The job was in a new discipline that I've only been doing for a year and a half, and I had to step up to the plate on the highest profile job I've done yet and stand or fall.

And yet... calm. Confident. Happy, even.

As I walked out without the hint of a tremor, I asked myself what had changed, and the answer is, my boss. My new boss.

He has built me up into someone new without me even realising it. Five years ago I made a career move that nearly broke me. It destroyed my confidence, my motivation and left me a self-doubting, responsibility-avoiding wreck. A lot of that was down to the person I ended up working for, for whom I could do nothing right. When I transferred out of his team and into a new role he asked me what made me think I could do the job if I couldn't even do the one I had despite holding a master's degree in the subject.

I went anyway.

And I found out that when you're walking the narrow bridge of your life, some people are the banana skins in front of you. Some are the cushions that break your fall.

Some are the trampolines.

And I am grateful.

19 October 2009

There's too much of him

The Boy and I are currently on our second re-read of the Winnie the Pooh stories by AA Milne. This works for me; it makes the bedtime story a laught a minute, and he's quite happy to carry on reading on his own until he feels sleepy.

Last night I read him the beginning of 'In which Tigger is unbounced' from The House at Pooh Corner.

One day, Rabbit and Piglet were sitting outside Pooh's front door listening to Rabbit, and Pooh was sitting with them. It was a drowsy summer afternoon, and the forest was full of gentle sounds, which all seemed to be saying to Pooh, "Don't listen to Rabbit, listen to me." So he got into a comfortable position for not listening to Rabbit, and from time to time he opened his eyes to say "Ah!" and then closed them again to say "True," and from time to time Rabbit said, "You see what I mean Piglet," very earnestly, and Piglet nodded earnestly t show that he did.

"In fact," said Rabbit, coming to the end of it at last, "Tigger's getting so Bouncy nowadays that it's time we taught him a lesson. Don't you thing so, Piglet?"

Piglet said that Tigger was very Bouncy, and that if they could think of a way of unbouncing him, it would be a Very Good Idea.

"Just what I feel," said Rabbit. "What do you say, Pooh?"

Pooh opened his eyes with a jerk and said, "Extremely."

"Extremely what?" asked Rabbit.

"What you were saying," said Pooh. "Undoubtably."

Piglet gave Pooh a stiffening sort of nudge, and Pooh, who felt more and more that he was somewhere else, got up slowly and began to look for himself.

"But how shall we do it?" asked Piglet. "What sort of a lesson Rabbit?"

"That's the point," said Rabbit.

The word 'lesson' came back to Pooh as one he had heard somewhere before.

"There's a thing called Twy-stymes;" he said. "Christopher Robin tried to teach it to me once, but it didn't."

"What didn't?" said Rabbit.

"Didn't what?" said Piglet.

Pooh shook his head.

"I don't know," he said. "It just didn't. What are we talking about?"

"Pooh," said Piglet reproachfully, "haven't you been listening to what Rabbit was saying?"

"I listened, but I had a small piece of fluff in my ear. Could you say it again, please, Rabbit?"

Rabbit never minded saying things again, so he asked where he should begin from; and why Pooh had said from the moment when the fluff got into his year, and Rabbit had asked when that was, and Pooh had said he didn't know because he hadn't heard properly. Piglet settled it all by saying that what they were trying to do was, they were just trying to think of a way to get the bounces out of Tigger, because however much you liked him, you couldn't deny it, he did bounce.

"Oh, I see," said Pooh.

"There's too much of him," said Rabbit, "that's what it comes to."

Pooh tried to think, and all he could think of was something which didn't help at all. So he hummed it very quietly to himself.

If Rabbit
Was bigger
And, fatter
And stronger,
Or bigger
Than Tigger,
If Tigger was smaller,
Then Tigger's bad habit
Of bouncing at Rabbit
Would matter
No longer,
If Rabbit was taller.

We read this part together and it suddenly hit me: This is our youngest dog in every way. Who knew? We actually have a Tigger under our roof, and his name is Buddy. I think the original Tigger must have been an unusually marked short-coat border collie. We rescued Buddy's original owners so we don't know anything about his family tree, but I'm willing to be that if you go back far enough there would be at least one ancestor with orange and black stripes.

You'll note that I say we rescued Buddy's owners. I don't consider our sweet bonehead of a Buddy to be a typical rescue dog like the others we have. When we went to see him, he was a good-natured, happy-go-lucky young dog without a scrap of trauma. No, it was his loving owners that had that 'bunny-in-headlights' look that accompanies the working dog trying and failing to be a pet.

I'd like to say that doing agility and going to work every day with The Old Git has helped, but in all honesty it has just honed his working instinct to a point like a laser. That is not the same as saying that he's had any success in agility competition. But he's trying.

Very trying.

We persevere.

Anyway, Winnie the Pooh. Every time I read the Winnie the Pooh stories I am saddened that they got the Disney treatment and were sanitised and babyfied. There is hardly a baby product out there that hasn't been merchandised with that familiar red jumper (which, incidentally, he doesn't wear in the original illustrations) and Winnie the Pooh is now seen by many children as something for babies, something they are too old for.

Having enjoyed the stories, we got on the Disney train and watched the cartoons, and they were too babyish and moralising to hold The Boy's attention.

But when we read the books, the sly humour of the stories comes out, and it's humour that a very young child wouldn't understand. The characters are occasionally pompous, and not above telling a lie to avoid looking bad. The jokes are dry. They are a delight, and at seven, The Boy is only just capable of getting them on his own. At six we had to point them out to him.

I am so glad we read the books before the cartoons had a chance to put The Boy off them. Winnie the Pooh is wasted on babies.

17 October 2009

That time again

Photograph from freefoto.com
Tonight heralded the start of the fireworks season. I know this because I heard a bang and suddenly I had two terrified dogs jockeying for position on my lap while the laptop teetered on the edge. Now starts at least three weeks of random, unpredictable pops, bangs and screams. Unpredictable is the key word here. Fireworks that can be predicted can be pre-empted by tranquillisers or escape to firework free locations.

I can't keep a dog tranquillised every night for three weeks.

I suppose it could be worse. I now have only one dog with firework terror instead of two (the second is just visiting this weekend) and where I live now is a hundred times better than Harrow where I used to live. Back then I used to send one of my dogs away to stay with a friend in central London for the whole of firework season. I was scared that he would have a heart attack if he stayed, and because I was scared, he was even more scared.

I hate fireworks since I became a dog owner. When I ran a dog warden service, we regularly got calls at this time of year asking us to watch out for pets that had panicked and run and were still missing a day later. A friend's son losing an eye to a stray firework was the icing on the cake as far as I was concerned.

I think we should have a day for Diwali, a day for Guy Fawkes, a day for New Years Eve, and they should be organised displays with proper safety precautions. The rest of the year we should ban the bloody lot of them.

09 October 2009

Um... oops?

The workplace mystery of who made 200 photocopies of the same map and left them in the tray of the new copier has been solved. Note to self: If you press the number keys and you don't get the 200% magnification you expected, you are probably about to print 200 pieces of scrap paper.

08 October 2009

So very sweet

Some moments were made to be savoured, and this is definitely one of them:

When you start a fight with the wrong men

I don't think I need to say anything really. Their defence lawyer said it all.

06 October 2009

Dee, I loves you this much

Okay, I don't have a picture to go with that statement. Dee will just have to imagine the rib-cracking hug I would inflict on her for fixing my title so that everything was in the right place. I love it very, very muchly. I now feel good to go.

However, it's nearly midnight, my time. Me turning into a pumpkin this close to halloween might be hazardous to my health, and my day tomorrow will be filled with numbers. Lots and lots of numbers, with many traps for the unwary and the sleepy.

So, just a tiddler then. My significant other, the Old Git, took this photograph a few years ago. Can you spot the dog?

03 October 2009

Oooh, shiny

So many new toys, so few computing skills.

This is my new home since I've decided that I've seen as much of those irresponsible 'magic bullet' diet ads as I can stomach on my livejournal. Time to take my flowery ramblings and literal shaggy dog stories to a place that doesn't promise dangerously fast weight loss and the miraculous return of lost youth. I plan to play with the features for a while before posting in earnest.

No doubt there will be random, nauseating changes in colour and continual tinkering with profiles, paragraphs and pictures until I get the hang of it.

And here I will stop, since the middle dog is giving me pleading looks that speak of starvation and neglect. It's all of four hours since he last ate, the poor waif.