It’s the littlest things

January 18th, 2008

The walk into work this morning was rather depressing; cold and wet, with heavy cloud being marshalled across the sky by a blustery, persistent wind. But as I past a noisy building site and a busy road junction, I heard a beautiful sound. On the opposite side of the road, atop a tall lime tree, a song thrush was singing. Bouncing and swaying on his windblown perch, his rich, bell-like notes rang out clear and high over the din and roar of machinery, traffic and wind.

It was a small thing, but that small triumph of nature over industry lifted my mood and made me feel a lot better on a miserable day.

Child’s Play Family Photographic Services

July 6th, 2007

In a shameless bit of nepotism, I’ve added a link to Child’s Play Family Photographic Services, a new(ish) business venture for my good friend Damian Harty. Damian and I have known each other for over 20 years, and I’ve always been in awe of his knowledge and intellect. Until recently, Damian worked as an extremely successful design engineer, specialising in finite element analysis and other complicated mathematical jiggery-pokery. But in brave move, he recently decided to abandon the automotive industry and pursue his passion for photography full time. He has a great eye, a commitment to quality and a lifelong dedication to the important details that make for a great service.

I wish him all the best in his new venture.

Mad dogs and Englishmen

April 11th, 2007

Are we so starved of sun in this country that people go crazy at the merest glimpse? Although my Dashboard Weather Widget says it’s 17°C outside, the wind makes it feel a lot cooler. Yet I’ve just been walking through the city centre and from the way most people are dressed, you would be forgiven for thinking that it was the middle of summer and 30°C in the shade.

Admittedly, the sight of more women in mini-skirts and vest tops isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but at least wait until it feels as warm as it looks out there. Mind you, maybe it’s just me; the current Weather Channel report for Coventry says “feels like 18°C”.

An endless road

March 14th, 2007

I have been pondering the changes I’ve experienced in the last few years of my Aikido training. I’ve reached the rank of 1st Kyu (brown belt), and should be taking my Dan grade (black belt) in September 2008. I am now considered to be a “high grade” student, with a good knowledge of a broad range of Aikido techniques. I clearly have a better understanding of Aikido than someone who has just started training. Yet I don’t really feel any closer to knowing Aikido than I did when I started training 13 years ago. The problem isn’t what I know; it’s that my understanding of what I don’t know has changed significantly, and will probably continue to change for as long as I can train.

For example, there are two fundamental movements in Aikido that form the foundation for every technique; these are circular movements are known as “tai sabaki”, and in our dojo are termed positive (irimi tenkan) and negative (tenkan). When I first started to train, my tai sabaki practice focused almost completely on the placement of my feet, and getting my balance right. As I grew more confident, my feet started to “take care of themselves”, and I became increasingly aware of the placement and movement of my arms. Now, as my arm movement becomes more instinctive, I am conscious of how my weight is distributed as I perform the movement. Gaining knowledge and experience has simply opened up a new areas for me to try and perfect.

The realisation that I will never fully perfect my chosen art is what makes it so compelling; even if I practice the same movements and techniques for the rest of my like, there will always be something new to find in each of them. It’s a daunting prospect in some ways, but it’s also what drives me to keep training, to keep learning, safe in the knowledge that there will always be something new for me to try next time I step onto the mat.

<a name=”footnote1″”>1. Even though I started training in 1993, I’ve had a series of problems affecting my knees, and subsequently my hips, which have meant that I was unable to train for a total of six years within that period. Each time I’ve returned to the dojo after an extended absence has meant that I have had to train for several months, and most recently almost two years, to get back to the standard I was at before being forced to stop. This is why, after almost nine years on the mat, I am still only a brown belt; the path to Dan grade typically takes around five to six years.

Spirited defence

March 12th, 2007

Well done to everyone who passed their gradings with weekend at the Phoenix Aikido Club. The standard this time was very high; the 4th Kyu (orange belt) gradings in particular were very impressive. Not only did everyone perform the techniques to a high standard, there was also a really good, positive spirit that is really nice to see. Well done to John from Sensei Costigans Stratford dojo for a really superb grading – and to his Uke Paul, for taking about six Koshinage (hip throws) – and to my Mum’s husband John, who also performed extremely well (he even got an honourable mention from Sensei Moss).

There were only two disappointments; two of the guys going for 1st Kyu (brown belt) weren’t really ready. They’ll be fine next time though, and will still be eligible to take their Dan Grade in 2008.

And they wonder why we hate them

March 12th, 2007

So, those lovely people at the Inland Revenue have issued me with a nice big tax bill for the year ending 2006. Not only that, but they waited until the bill was overdue before sending me written notification of this nice big tax bill (I could have found out sooner if I had logged into their site every few days to check my statement). So now I have a nice big tax bill, and interest to pay because the payment is overdue.

Now I have to write to them to appeal against the interest charges, which is a time consuming pain in the ass, and something I wouldn’t have to do if the tax office had had the wherewithal to write to me in a timely fashion. Gits.

Gradings again

March 6th, 2007

Grading weekend again at the Phoenix Aikido Club on March 11th. Good luck to everyone taking their next belt, especially my Mum’s husband John, who will be taking his 4th Kyu (Orange Belt) on Sunday.

It’s nice to be approaching a grading weekend safe in the knowledge that all I’ll be doing is watching. I won’t face another grading until I take my black belt in September 2008. On the other hand, being the ridiculous height I am (6’5″), I am resigned to the fact that no-one is going to ask me to uke for them. Most people (sensibly enough) choose someone who is a similar height, or a little shorter. So unless the club gets a sudden influx of professional basketball players, I’m stuck as a spectator.

It’s a shame, because it’s very flattering to be asked to uke for a grading. At least I’ve been fortunate enough to get called up to uke for Sensei Costigan a few times in the last few weeks, which is very satisfying, if a bit nerve-wracking.

A collection of atheist quotes

December 6th, 2006

Chris Beach has gathered together a great collection of atheist quotes, including some of my favourites from Douglas Adams and Carl Sagan. Well worth a look.


It lives!

December 5th, 2006

Well, it’s been quite a while since my last post on this blog, or on my main portfolio site for that matter. A lot of things have changed, and it’s time to start writing about them again. I don’t expect that anyone reads what I post, or cares very much if they do. I have and will continue to use this site as a cathartic outlet; a chance to vent my spleen, or coalesce my thoughts. And no doubt it will continue to attract a ridiculous amount of comment spam that will, as usual, be flushed down the virtual toilet by the excellent Spam Karma.

Please, make it stop

May 17th, 2006

I am already so fed up of seeing football everywhere; TV ads for everything from Argos to Pringles featuring footballers, managers or commentators; football related gewgaws and frippery given away with every soft drink or breakfast cereal; bloody cars with those bloody ridiculous bloody England flags flying from each bloody side of the bloody roof!

Bloody hell, the World Cup hasn’t even started yet. What a great summer it’s going to be for football tyros everywhere. I so glad I have a decent DVD collection.