Monthly Archives: November 2018

Please consider other users when using this planet

Contrary to popular belief there is still a lot of space, even in this Isle. For instance, I can walk across fields outside my back door for ages before encountering another homo sapien. Even when there are people around I can choose to zone out in a crowded place.

That said, some folk have a talent – let’s call it that shall we? – for invading ones space. Some road users do it. Some take up extra space on public transport. Some peg out acres of territory on Cornish beaches. Some people are inappropriately LOUD.

So whilst that’s in Blighty, clearly there is a cultural calibration to this. For instance, try traveling in India using British rules of acceptable personal space. You’d go potty within an hour of arriving. Somewhat ironically, in Texas walking within the same wide, corporate corridor as a colleague elicits an “excuse me” from them as if we’d physically bumped into each other. Aren’t they supposed to be a brash bunch? With loads of, y’know, space? (I had to check: no, it’s just a proximity warning mechanism/faux politeness. No reflection on m’corridor walkin’ skills y’hear.) Japan? Crammed and spacious all at once with weapons grade respect/politeness. There are in the region of 7 billion of us, rubbing along is surely a necessary skill.

A skill lost to some.

Allow me to transport you to a splendid indy cafe on the high street in rural Marlborough. This snug establishment serves good coffee and outstanding savoury scoff. The cakes are sublime too. By inclination am a keen supporter of the small business. This particular one offers a tip-top venn of delicious tucker, convenience, natural light, cosy atmosphere and independence.

Nursing a coffee on a autumnal Friday morning, relaxing into the vibe, a happy place away from it all. For a short while before the day’s list of stuff necessitates action. There are less than a dozen patrons, which makes it just-right occupancy: profitable for the proprietor, good service, nice lo-fi buzz. Bliss.

Then it begins.


[Quietly] “Good morning, which coffee did you want?”


[Engaged, patiently and cheerfully] “So that was one flat white and one cappuccino?”


I start. Before the first syllable of the above skirmish. It might be the caffeine. A quick self-inventory. Coffee, smartphone (silent), breathing in-out, haven’t farted, sat in solo-booth in far corner. Personal sitrep in a word? Unobtrusive. At this point I make a mental effort to analyse the sounds I can hear. There are tunes from the sound system – good volume balance between audibility of music/artist and easily spoken over – and several chats in progress. Traffic passes the window, but is barely a whisper. I can see lips moving around my neighbour tables and hear the gentle hubbub of voices. But these customers are choosing to converse quietly.

Ahhh, I get it: the breakfast partner of our foghorn customer is deaf?

Yet, somehow, I don’t think she is. The stream of noisy consciousness thus far wasn’t exclusively for the benefit of them. Our customer is stood at the counter loudly and plummily blurting a broadcast loud enough to fill a drill hall.

Am aware my chimp has moved it’s DEFCON setting up a notch without being asked. I sense it’s not alone in this now somehow more confined space.

The foghorn carries on. Am no longer ascertaining the details as it’s just a torrent of  posh noise with the occasional “DAHHHLING” thrown in. Apparently it’s a complex food order, despite the concise menu. I can no longer concentrate on my own serenity either. My chimp – helpfully? – considers standing up and yelling – by which I mean properly slowly, big jaw movement, shouting – “S….T…F…U.!

Luckily (?) my British human intervenes and I sit stock still.

Yes, yes, yes: quite the Victor Meldrew these days aren’t we Mister Beer?

Very probably.

When the verbal conflict of the order is over I am in mind of Stephen Fry’s unforgettable General Melchett. What might that character’s offspring/family have been like?

Momentarily a lovely atmosphere washes back in like a gentle tide. As quickly it’s gone as a new, now tete-a-tete, tirade begins. Be grateful that the gory details of this individual’s family’s complex medical issues are not repeated here. A whole cafe of people now know about them. Ewwww. Driven through a sense of repulsion, my Welsh underdog/inverted snob wanders into mind: I thought the toffs had stronger genes than us mongrels? Oh dear, my Celtic chimp is turning this into class war.

Then, a minor miracle of traffic wardenery.


[Exit stage right, slamming door behind.]

And with that dear reader, the noise is gone.

I stand up and proclaim “Praise be! … Praise be for the meter maids of Marlborough town!” The cafe bursts into spontaneous applause.

Well, that last bit didn’t happen. But we all quietly felt it. Being a real man, a true Brit, I drained my cup and left before the posh PA system returned. Discretion being the better part of valour and all that.

Am sure Brexit will sort all this out.




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Travel: Is it worth it?

Downloaded the BBC Sounds app. I listened with great interest to “Lynne Truss on travel: Is it worth it?” (from Radio 4. (Trusst – sorry – me it’s better than the mediagasm that the news programmes are having over Brexit today).

The first episode is a one-to-one is with Geoff Dyer who writes beautifully on – among other things – travel matters as befits a man who has spent much of his life on the move. (A man with a “wandering eye.”) With a smiling nod to my last post on criss-crossing, I note he’s from Cheltenham where we lived for almost a decade. Eloquent and with “a wagging tail” he referred to Annie Dillard who wrote;

“We are here on the planet only once and might as well get a feel for the place.”


Of course, I knew my own answer to the question in the headline before listening but it was heartening and fascinating to hear the take of another as if in conversation. And he put it better than I ever could.

Am looking forward to the forthcoming brace of episodes in lieu of any actual traveling…

BBC Sounds? It works for me, but check out this delicious Twitter exchange.

Jenny Eclair BBC Sounds

W1A: life imitating art? Or the other way around?

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Criss-crossing our paths

First born has recently returned from a trip with the Rangers* to Marlborough Massachusetts and locale. A child no longer.

Part geek, part concerned parent, part on-call taxi service I tracked the progress of her transatlantic flight as it made landfall heading to LHR.

(Several ways of doing this these days on the internets. I tend toward the easy to use – yet mind boggling – Easy to use? Just search for the flight by it’s call-sign (VS12/VIR12E on this occasion) and watch it make progress. Mind boggling? You can lose hours just randomly tracking flights to/from obscure locations just by clicking on the iccle aircraft avatars. Also, zoom out: so very many planes. I’ve heard it said that at any one moment these days, there are over a million people airborne. What a time to be alive. (Yes, a great work avoidance device too. Also, have you seen – OMaG –! My day wasted, right there…))

Criss-crossing #1

First up, the trip involved a spot of NYC which is where we were (en famille) this time 12 months ago. Lovely for Josie to find her way around Manhattan without Mom & Pop weighing her down. Riding the Staten Island ferry, mooching around Central Park. Cool.

Criss-crossing #2

As their Dreamliner (Flight VS12) made it’s into British airspace I noticed it went plumb overhead Auntie Susan’s pad in Mumbles, Wales. A beautiful clear autumn morn, where the locals wondered what a giant white hand icon was doing hovering above them. (The bluey line across the image shows the aircraft routing.)

VS12 routing

VS12 routing over The Mumbles and Wiltshire

Criss-crossing #3

Then the flight made a direct run across Wiltshire. Where Josie was following on the screen map – they are very good on the 787 – and took a photo out of the biiig window purportedly of Marlborough. Can you see us waving back?


That be Marlborough that be I reckon

Meanwhile, yours truly was leaning out of the loft window taking a photo of her.


Wot no zoom? VS12

Criss-crossing #4

As the flight was transferred to the guidance of the LHR tower it’s routing took it over Surrey (ultimately taking a big u-turn over the City of Laaaandun for a Westerly final approach to Heathrow). I even took a wee screenshot and clumsily annotated it:




  1. the hospital Josie joined the human race in September 2001: Frimley Park maternity unit
  2. the house we lived in then: 1 Cromwell Road, Camberley
  3. the flight she was currently on October 2018.

17 years ago, carrying a bundle of joy from 1 to 2 I didn’t pause to think she’d be passing by the front door. Especially not at 10,000′ clocking 330knots.

Criss-crossing our paths we jolly well go.

*Rangers? Bigger, tougher, more angsty, less manageable Girl Guides.


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