Monday, 31 January 2011

The Emergency Plumbing Con

The other weekend I made the mistake of looking at the drain from my kitchen. Eeeeeeuuuuugh! Of course I don't have a "rod" and of course I'm not experienced enough with blocked drains to be sure I could clear it even if I had. How does a regular householder get that kind of experience? I have learned from previous experience not to use Yellow Pages, so I called my insurance company, who told me I was insured if a tree root had come through the drain, but not if it was just blocked. Then I called the Gas Board because I had some vague idea I might be insured through them, but I wasn't, though they did put me through to Dyno-Rod. Who quoted me some numbers which were not utterly silly and came round two days later. Sure enough the young man shoved the rod firmly on the water, cleared the blockage and also vacuumed out my sink pipes - all within a half-hour. No time-wasting with bogus investigations and surveys, no head-shaking and muttering about using fancy equipment. It's not the cheapest thing I've ever done, but I've had worse experiences. My drains are now clear and there isn't a nasty whiff when the washing machine churns out water. Worth every penny, though I will buy a "rod".

What wasn't worth every penny was what I paid the last time my drains were blocked - the previous experience I just mentioned. That time the main drain was blocked as well. When the Yellow Pages plumber took the lid off there was water with all sorts of nasty things that come out of the back of people floating in it. I was then subjected to what I later learned was the usual time-wasting fee-generating twaddle. Three hours later, he had run up a large bill and cleared the drain, telling me that I could recover some of the cost from the other people who shared the same drain. We're talking £800 here. Yes, I know. It's what one of my neighbours said when I went round explaining what had happened. I stopped out of shame after that. But like the ad says: when you need a plumber, you need a plumber. The same neighbour explained how the con works: that they spend at least half-an-hour messing around pretending to investigate where the water is coming from, not going to, where the drain is and where it joins the street, all of which is useless in nearly all cases. Then they get the equipment out, push the gadget down the drain and leave it in neutral for an hour or so while the bill runs up. At some stage under the pretence of "checking" something, they will go back to the van, turn the gadget on and within minutes clear the blockage.

Having heard this, I contacted a firm of solicitors to see if I could get some or all of my money back. Sadly, no. The contract was what it was, and of course I could not prove they were putting on an act.There's no way round it, except: 1) by your own "rod" for simple drain clearing; 2) talk to Dyno-Rod first, as they didn't have call-out charges and didn't mess around; 3) when the emergency plumber asks you for the credit card imprint before he starts, write very clearly on the card form "Valid only up to (say) £100." The lawyer said that sticks. Call the credit card company and tell them that. Of course the plumber will bitch and moan and want to leave. At this point, I suspect the following might work: you show the guy £100 in used £20's and tell him that's for him if he sorts the problem. He can tell his boss about how you played the raw prawn and he had to go. If you've got the nerve to do that, it has a chance of working.

So it's not just you. It's me as well. And someone else at the place I was working at the time. If this hasn't happened to you, don't be smug. Wait till you get a house and have to deal with all this stuff you leave to the landlord.

Friday, 28 January 2011

The Three Songs That Changed Pop Music

Given the utter nonsense that made it to Number One in the latter half of the 1960's, to say these songs changed pop music is maybe just plain wrong. What I really mean is that these songs changed what people who took pop music seriously expected from themselves if they were songwriters and from songwriters if they were fans. In fact, you could argue that these three songs created pop music as art. There are excellent articles on Wikipedia, which I am not going to precis. I'm old enough to remember when these songs first came out.

Like a Rolling Stone was like nothing I had heard before, but I got it instantly. I didn't even notice it was 6:03 long. What I noticed was the lyrics, the sound, the fierce condemnation in Dylan's voice. It was so far ahead of anything anyone else was doing, I don't think we compared it to anything else. It was just there.

And then there was Eleanor Rigby. I have a quiz question that goes "What Number One hit was sung to the accompaniment of a string quartet and was about the last days of a lonely churchwarden?" Put like that, you get the impact it had. Huh? String quartet? "All the lonely people / where do they all come from"? What kind of Number One is that? It would not get out of the studio today. When I heard it, the hairs on the back of my neck stood up. Still does. It's a punk-rock 2:09, with pace, sadness, tension and humanity. Suddenly "pop" music seemed capable of genius.

And then came Good Vibrations. 3:39 of multi-tracked, fast-changing, danceable love song about a girl he doesn't know who make him feel wonderful. Queen's Bohemian Rhapsody is a bloated piece of self-indulgence by comparison - and modelled directly on Good Vibrations. Everyone loved this song: kids, parents, hipsters, teachers and squares. The production values were way over anything anyone had done, the quality of the writing was clearly of a different order to everyone except Lennon and McCartney, the singing just flawed enough to be beautiful.

Yet it was the self-consciously weird Whiter Shade of Pale that convinced The Parents that pop music could be serious. The Bach samples, the references to Chaucer's Canterbury Tales and ancient Greece, the mystery of the lyrics and the lugubrious tone and pace.

The parents just didn't get it. Not really.

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

The Diet: Week 4

Remember that 1,500 calorie diet? Breakfast is Alpen and milk, with two eggs and one slice of toast or a small tin of beans and a slice of toast. Lunch is a sandwich from Pret or Fernandez and Wells on St Anne's Court, with a yoghurt in the afternoon. Supper is a toasted ham sandwich and a tomato. At home I nibble on sliced fresh pineapple or slices of orange - but I'm not at home and awake for very long. At work I cannot nibble at all. It's all about keeping the insulin levels down so the body can burn fat.

It is taking its toll. First, ask yourself how much room there is for roughage (aka fiber) in that, especially when you are eating lunch at the office and get home late(r) in the evening. Now draw the obvious conclusion and don't utter it while we're eating thank you.

Second, I drink lots of water because there are a couple of hours in the day - eleven to twelve and three-thirty to four-thirty - when I am really vulnerable to the temptation to have something sticky and sweet. Anything in fact. I can barely stand the sight of food in those hours. It calls to me like a Siren and I have to drown myself in cold water from the water cooler. Like that helps. On Wednesday I had supper with my sister at Bob Bob Ricard on Golden Square, and very tasty it was too. Pickled herring with apple and beetroot salad, meat pelmini as a main course and the chocolate glory (mark 2). I'd been looking forward to that all week. My weight did not sky-rocket. In fact, on Friday evening, I weighed 90.5 kilos.

You couldn't live like this all the time. The most I can hope is that I can wean my body off it's liking for chocolate. Yeah. As if.

Monday, 24 January 2011

This Week At The Gym: Week 9

Well, last week at the gym. For the first time I did not leave Cathy Brown's Thursday boxing class feeling like a complete klutz. I had an aching waist the next day, but that was because I was moving my torso with the punches, just as Cathy tells us to. It's something you have to do to understand just how much more power it gives you. It seems impossible that a swing of the torso and a little pivot on the foot could add so much clout, but it does. It feels way more aggressive as well: an uppercut that comes from the whole body feels like the nasty and dangerous punch it is. There's still no way I can do forty squat thrusts, and the hold-the-position press-ups (hold-ups?) had me collapsing at number six, but I'm okay with that. That's what I'm there for.

The real breakthrough came on Monday, when I did something that in October 2010 I would have told you I could never do. At lunchtime I ran two miles at 9.3 kph. I felt like I had distance to spare, it wasn't the painful effort that one-and-a-half miles had been the previous week. On the Wednesday lunchtime I ran 3.5 kilometres, which is just over two miles.

And three towels under my head, together with a class tutor who doesn't try to make us do advanced exercises, means that the Pilates class is now working. I have lordosis, so when it comes time to do the rolling bit, everyone else gets going, while I lift my chin and pelvis and any attempt at rolling stops at a flat spot in my spine ten inches long. I can do one of those rolling sit ups, but only if I have a towel in the hollow of my lower back.

Lordosis will also guarantee that you'll never have that flat, sleek footballer torso and that your tummy will never be truly flat. I'll be happy as long as it's not making my coats bulge out in front of me.

Friday, 21 January 2011

Reasons I Don't Do Fluffy...

We had an off-site meeting to talk about the goals of our little section recently. The first part of the exercise was a new-age-y fluffy thing about drawing pictures to tell everyone something about yourself without using words. Everyone else did primary-school houses and schools and The Bank's symbol and like that.

So this is one reason I didn't. A couple of years ago, in a distracted moment when I should have been paying attention to something more important, I wrote this down.

1959-60 Uplands Infant School
1960-61 Northumberland Park Infant School
1961-65 Belmont Junior School
1965-67 Erith Grammar School
1967-70 Hampton Grammar School
1970-72 Kingston College of Further Education
1972-73 Polytechnic of Central London
1973-76 Exeter University
1976-78 London School of Economics
1978-83 Freightliners Ltd / British Rail
1983-86 Hertz Europe
1986-89 Davis Associates
1989-90 Control Securities
1990-93 The RiverBus Partnership
1993-96 Unemployed
1996-97 Teacher Training
1997-98 Accounting Temporary work
1998-99 Global Crossing
1999-2001 AT&T (UK)
2001-03 Sonera UK
2003-04 Contracting
2004-05 Inclarity plc
2005-07 Contracting
2007-present The Bank

That's nine different educational establishments in nineteen years and fifteen different jobs or situations in thirty-two years! D'ya think there was a problem somewhere?

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Things I Saw Where I Lived and Walked: Part 27

Clear blue skies are rare in London now. When they arrive, it's an excuse to walk and take pictures. I may wind up just taking pictures of the blue.

Absolute Radio has its offices on Golden Square, which has been for a while the coolest single place in London.

Central London has cranes all over it. According to which economist you listen to, cranes are either a leading indicator of economic activity or a lagging one. In London, it's so hard to find development opportunities outside the City (which marches to a different drum) that building is basically random, more, I suspect to do with ego than economics.

Emerge from the ICA and this is the light that greeted me. Late afternoon winter. My personal favourite.

Monday, 17 January 2011

This Week At The Gym: Week 8

I may also have neglected to mention that I'm on a diet. That's because I want to lose weight, and I want to do that partly because lugging ninety-five kilos around at my age is getting a bit much, but also because I am vain - to the point where the only mirror in my house is in the bathroom and used for shaving. It's a door from a bathroom cabinet I threw away and it's not even attached to the wall. (Very vain people don't look in mirrors.)

The idea that you can lose weight by "exercising" is right up there with the idea that you can save enough money for a decent pension as one of the bigger bits of codswallop passed off as sensible advice. The human body is a very efficient machine which with training can run an entire marathon on a very large plate of pasta and some water. According to the tables, running at just over 9 kph for an hour (!) at my weight will burn 940 calories. So if I run for four hours, 36 kilometres or roughly a marathon, I will burn one pound of fat. So let's just drop this "exercise helps you lose weight" thing. It doesn't. What it does is make The Diet easier to bear, and I suspect it helps even out the blood sugar and stop the metabolism going into Low-Power Mode quite so frequently.

The US Army has a Weight Control Program which at Appendix C on page 41 gives you an idea of the kind and amount of food you can eat. It is also simple and smacks of common sense - also since the US Army can't afford to have its troops falling over from silly diets, I'm inclined to believe it. Of course this means I look at the calorie-count labels in Pret and other places. 540 calories for the Tuna Fish Bloomer?! 400 for the Chocolate dessert?! 350 for the Smoked Salmon? 500 calories for a bar of chocolate and 100 for a luxury biscuit?!

The Big Lesson is: stop eating the junk: the morning croissant, the afternoon bar of chocolate, the bag of crisps, let alone the three pints of beer and MacDonalds that you put away and I don't because I don't drink. Next is avoiding food that spikes your blood sugar and therefore insulin response: for me that is mashed potatoes, rice and Stockpot's apple crumble, amongst others.

So just after Christmas, I set out on this diet. 1,500 calories a day. No junk, no fast-action carbs. Basically, I eat what I usually eat, but in smaller amounts and without the extras. It is working, but by God am I glad I don't have to do it forever.

Gory details to follow.

Friday, 14 January 2011

Sir John Lavery's The Tennis Party

The other Sunday I had one of my days in town: the Glasgow Boys exhibition at the Royal Academy, lunch in Soho, Slackistan at the ICA, and afternoon hot chocolate, Love and Other Drugs at the Apollo Cinema and ending with a quick swim at the gym. Which is after all a hundred yards from the Apollo.

The Glasgow Boys exhibition was pleasant. A bunch of thoroughly professional painters making perfectly acceptable art. Nothing that makes you go "wow!" or makes you wonder if they would notice if you took it off the wall and hid it under your jacket. This one caught me.

It gets better as you look at it. There's the gate to the court, open as if to let us in. The way the figures seem to be caught in movement - especially how the central players. Then there's the way the dappled light points into the court, leading the eye, the light on the chicken wire at the back of the court on the right, the way the spectators are grouped, and finally the trees, forming a backdrop but not overwhelming the scene. That fence around the court is extraordinarily well-done: it's the same height all the way round - a detail that many painters would not bother with.

I found myself smiling after a while and was sure I could hear the sound of the match - shades of Blow-Up. It's a small painting of a small subject, but nonetheless charming for that. And there's nothing wrong with charming, especially when it's this well done.

Wednesday, 12 January 2011

Steppin Out to a Waterloo Sunset

Joe Jackson's Steppin Out is one of my all-time favourite songs. The original video tells a neat, yearning little story. And it's always reminded me of something, but I could never work out what.

And watching it again on You Tube, it suddenly hit me. It reminds me of Waterloo Sunset by The Kinks, one of the all-time great singles.

Set aside the difference in pace between the songs. Go for the feel. Both have a descending riff or featured phrase and the dominant direction of the tune is downwards rather than hovering round a central tone. Both have a downbeat feel, and both are songs about the romance of a night out in the Big City: the difference between the 60's passive loner protagonist of the Kinks' song, and 80's active, coupled-up protagonist of Jackson's song is somehow not as important as the fact that for both of them, the Big City beckons. Manhattan in Joe Jackson's song is as inviting and comforting as Ray Davies' sunset over Waterloo.

Monday, 10 January 2011

How Adults Make Moral Decisions: Part Five

If a morality isn't a set of rules and regulations that relieves us of the responsibility of estimating the consequences of our actions as long as we follow the right procedures, then what use is it?

I suggest the value of a moral code is not in its rules but in its concepts: what is important about it are the harms and benefits it identifies and what it says nothing about. Those concepts are realised and exemplified in definitions, examples, case law, novels, plays and films, in maxims, slogans, imagery, tones of voice and of course the disciplinary practices of parents, schools, employers, public spaces (from parks to restaurants) and individuals. A moral code is created, modified and kept alive by individuals, not abstractions. Of course, it is a trivial exercise to translate all this into rules and maxims, but just because we can doesn't mean there is any insight to be gained by so doing. Indeed, it's all the other way. If we persist in thinking of morality as principles, we will fail to understand why people behave worse and worse despite exhortations and legislations to make them behave better.

The concepts I'm talking about combine descriptive and evaluative content. The formal evaluative concepts such as 'right', 'wrong', 'good', excellent' and 'better' or 'worse' are not unique to morality. Concepts such as "greed", "charity", "honesty", "caring", "murder", "theft", "busybody", "thoughtfulness", "selfish", "selfless", "ambitious" and a thousand others, describe specific types of behaviour as well as carrying evaluative force. A number of them come in pairs: sharing descriptive content, one has negative and the other positive evaluative content. (This is the basis of the game of Declining Verbs, as in: I am focused, you are single-minded, she is obsessed.) Some languages don't have certain concepts, and their speakers have to import them directly: Yiddish has the concept of a mensch but try translating it into English without losing something essential. You can't. The English don't do being menschen. Middle eastern languages all have a concept of "honour" in the name of which you can commit actions with a clear conscience, actions which Western language-speakers would regard as so awful that they haven't yet wanted to import a word for it.

How do such concepts help us think about moral issues? When we describe a situation using them we get at least one evaluation as a consequence. It's this that affects what we feel because it triggers the release of certain hormones (or stops their release, or of course, does nothing if we don't have those links). The accompanying feelings literally tell is how we feel about the situation and if we are at peace within ourselves when we make moral decisions. Literally, we want to feel good about the decision. If we don't, we try describing it in other ways to see if that works. Or we may hear a description from someone else that make us feel differently, and changes our mind about what we can live with. Morality is properly about feeling, because that's how language has its impact on us: words are linked to feelings via the brain's links with the hormonal system. We are supposed to feel things: that's how we know we can live with the situation. Because we are intelligent, we can change what we feel by thinking: we can and do literally "feel better" about something after discussing it. Those links between the words and hormones are perhaps the best way to understand how our everyday (as opposed to existential) conscience operates. Our mind gives us the facts from the words, and our body tells us what we feel about those facts.

These feelings are messengers, not messages. Just because we feel, say, relief at the some news does not mean we shouldn't act entirely conventionally for the sake of social propriety. When someone has "strong feelings" about a something, that is literally what is happening to them: they are having a strong feeling. You don't argue with feelings, but you can try to change the way the person sees situation, to change, that is, the feelings that get triggered. And that is a delicate process best done with tact, a show of respect for the other person and gentle, non-confrontational language. Which is not easy to do if you are having strong feelings yourself. That's why we employ diplomats and negotiators, that's why some people are persuasive and others just cause more stubbornness.

This is why a moral code is more than just a bunch of dry principles and why moral decision-making is more than an exercise in logic. Emotions are part of how we experience morality and why we react to moral situations the way we do. The connection between words, concepts and emotions are the way that reason and the emotions interplay.

Friday, 7 January 2011

This Week At The Gym: Week 7

I may have so far failed to mention that I joined a gym recently. It's called The Third Space, it's right in the heart of Soho and a ten-minute walk from where I work, it's equipped to within an inch of its life, is up to its chin in classes and good fitness trainers, and has a very pleasant clientele - I'm guessing a lot of old/new media, design and some hedge-fund types, as well as a few ordinary office workers. No Sloaney girls or boys, no steroid monsters, no poseurs and no cruising. It's not cheap and it's a year's membership.

It took me a while to decide to join. I'd visited the place about four weeks before and decided, no, I didn't want to. And that remained my judgement right up to the moment I went back and signed up for the year. On 22nd November 2010, in fact. Which makes this the end of Week Seven. I didn't do much in the very first week except a swim on the Tuesday morning because I woke up early and couldn't get back to sleep again.

I've done the gym before, mostly weights and some half-hearted running. After ten or so years, it stopped being fun and I got bored, so I stopped. That was almost four years ago. So when I went for that swim, it was the first attempt at exercise I had had for about forty-four or so months. This time round I'm doing classes: Spin, Boxing and Pilates. Plus a swim and some running.

The big thing about my first Spin class was that I didn't fall off the bike with dizziness, though I did get cramp. I made it through to the end, looking very uncool and sweating a lot. Now, you are going to say that I should "work up to it", not dive right in at the deep end with a 45-minute Spin class. And I will retort that if you do that, you will never work as hard as you need to. You stop if you are actually hurting or feel nauseous, of course you do. But you don't stop just because you raise a serious sweat and have to breathe a deal more heavily than you've been used to. Spin is hard work, but it's rewarding and it doesn't take long before you stop looking like a prat.

Which is not true about boxing. After my first class, I felt humiliated. Not by the trainer or the other people there, who were supportive or quite properly not bothered with me at all. I couldn't stand properly. I did a right jab when it should have been a left. I couldn't move my feet at all. I had problems with the simplest combinations. As for being able to do ten press-ups or twenty squat-thrusts? No. Maybe, well, not many at all. The difference between me and the trainer wasn't just a matter of stamina and twenty-five years, as it was for Spin, it was the difference between a child and a grown-up. I realised that in a serious sense, I actually have no idea where my various limbs are and what they are doing at any given time.

On the commute home that Thursday, I realised that I could hide behind being never-you-mind-how-old and a tad overweight and get my ass kicked symbolically speaking, or I could proceed with serious intent, no self-pity and an understanding that I need to take a little more care than a thirty year-old not to show off and hurt something. I'm not the oldest guy there: there aren't many older, but there are some.

I tried climbing on their artificial rock face. I didn't disgrace myself, but climbing is for people with a slimmer, lighter physique than me. The two girls in the class must have weighed no more than eight stone (fifty kilos) and the guys probably didn't exceed ten stone. And that "where's my left leg" thing hit me again. As did the fact that if I tried putting my right leg there and my left leg there, I got a nasty stop-doing-that twinge in my butt. I may come back to it, but it's not for me now.

And though I know Pilates is good for you, I get nasty reflux half-way through - not acid, as I take Lanzoprosole. I have to sit up and burp quietly. It's uncomfortable and distracting, and the key to Pilates is the ability to concentrate on your breathing and control of your abdominal region. Plus I have lordosis, which means I cannot do those slow sit-ups or lie-backs, let alone the cuddle-your-knees and roll back and forward. I just stop dead on the large flat spot created by the lordosis. I'm going to use a towel or two under my head to help with the reflux, and we'll see.

Week Seven is the week that any new exercise regime stops being Fun and Exciting And New. It's the week you have to Show Up and Grind It Out. As is Week Eight. And Nine. There's this hump you have to get over. A lot of people don't, which is why all the public swimming pools and gyms with three months' notice start emptying out towards the end of February. We serious gym folk call those people "New Years Resolutions" and know they are amateurs who lack the required mix of obsession, vanity, genuine appreciation of feeling good and sense of pushing oneself to improve that drives the dedicated gym member. (As opposed to gym rats and bunnies, who have other problems.)

There's a wide range of abilities and experience there, but the members who are good are very good, and the fitness trainers are freakin' awesome. Which means that new starters like me can't hide from ourselves just how far we have to go. It is, however, working. I'm not as ache-y the next day, I've started to lose a little body-fat and I can now manage two sets of ten push-ups. (Before you snort, I weight 93 kilos, or 14.6 stone, so you try it.) I've gone public with my objectives, and so I can't back down.

But just because I know it's Show Up and Grind It Out time, and It Does Get Better, doesn't mean it doesn't hurt and isn't emotional when I can't even get the leg moves for an uppercut at all.

Wednesday, 5 January 2011

City - Had To Think Twice About This One

The other day, I got this...


I found your blog If I Thought You Were Listening, I'd Never Say A Word on Blogger and I may have an interesting proposal for you.
I work for the CityMedia foundation ( and we are currently offering relevant bloggers from all over the world a chance to become the administrator of their city’s video site; this is why I’m contacting you.

We created the [City].vi network, making videos of world cities instinctively accessible with this address model: “city name” followed by “.vi”
For example:,,,, etc.
The address model works for 68,000 of the world’s most important cities. Think about a city and try...

The objective of the [City].vi network is to become the leading resource for local video content. Our strategy: working with relevant local bloggers.

We would be pleased you become the administrator of and offer internet surfers a comprehensive video selection about London.
By managing your city’s video site you earn all of the revenues made from the site: ads, professionals registrations, links...
Basically, running consists of making the site known by locals, for they post and watch videos.

Come on the site, you will find the proposal in detail and the advantages to work with us and take control of your city's video site.

Thank you for your attention.

Vicki Karlin Manager, a tool by CityMedia Fdt

Go to their website and they have a nice line about how they were founded, how important this is, and how they think the Mayor's office of the cities should really run their sites, but if the Mayor won't, a local blogger (like me) will do. It's at this point my alarm bells go off. From the Mayor of London - one of the, what? top 100 political jobs on the planet? - to a blogger whose blog is intended not to be read is just a little bit of a come down. Anyway, bodies set up as a result of serious-sounding international conferences already have contacts into all the bureaucracies they need.

So let's look at that "Become this site's administrator". How do you do that? Why, by bidding for the position. In return you get all the ad revenue...

Whoop! Whoop! Whoop! Scam alert!

It's a good one. Someone spent a while putting together those sites - they are generic, but the sourcing the video content must have been some work. Some of it comes from You Tube, the London stuff from a site called Even if it's an automated search, it must be a fairly nifty algorithm. You'd think they must have better ways of making a living. In the end, the sites have an early-oughties feel to the design and that's a clue on it's own. So is the fact that Gmail's spam filter thought it was spam.

Monday, 3 January 2011

New Year's Resolutions

"January First. I gotta get in shape. Too much sitting has ruined my body. Too much abuse has gone on for too long. From now on there will be 50 pushups each morning, 50 pullups. There will be no more chocolate, no more bad food, no more destroyers of my body. From now on will be total organization. Every muscle must be tight." (Paul Schrader, Taxi Driver)

Okay. I'm not going to go all Travis Bickle on London, but in 2011 I will...

1. go to the gym every weekday - unless I'm going to a movie or the theatre
1a. reduce my weight to 87 kgs
1b. keep my body-fat below 26%
1c. do 29 - 38 pushups in one test event
1d. do 38 - 47 situps in one test event
1e. run 2 miles (3.2 k) between 17:12 and 18:30 in one test event
2. not eat chocolate late in the evening
3. take two week-long holidays abroad and at least two city breaks in Europe
4. read all the books I've bought and haven't read yet
5. not go home on the Chav Express more than twice a week
6. progress project Coriander (you're not supposed to know what that means yet)
7. continue to decorate my house
8. take some photographs with my new medium-format Lomo (!)
9. stop thinking I'm getting old and should withdraw from living
10. err.... that's it

These are, of course, all things I haven't done this year because I

1. didn't belong to a gym...
1a. got terrible constipation the when I weighed 89 kgs eighteen months ago
1b. have a body fat of 26% now - which means I'm going to have to lose muscle as well as fat
1c - e: didn't realise that doing these would score me between 70 and 80 in the US Army fitness standard for my age
2. have poor self-control and kept getting Emotions - which need chocolate therapy
3. didn't feel like going abroad on my own at huge expense when I could be on my own here on the cheap
4. kept buying more books
5. suffer from the timing of the trains
6. didn't have the focus or probably the courage
7. couldn't find the energy, creativity and organisation at the weekend
8. didn't have a Lomo
9. was obsessed with being over fifty-five and invisible
10. ....

Therefore I may need to...

1. get some "professional" guidance and support
2a. try to make my diet tasty
2b. not stay up too late, which is when I start craving chocolate
2c. nah, I have no idea what to do about having Emotions
3. think positive thoughts about holidays
6. feel the fear and do it anyway
9. work out what I want from "social life" and then go find it
10. err....

I know, the usual stuff. But this time I mean it. Really. Honestly.