Hello!

Light on blogging but writing a lot and making stuff happen, though currently in a Pimlico basement instead of the 7th Floor.

Just wanted to say, ‘cos I know there are lovely people who worry when I go quiet here :)

Reading… this is reading

[the title by the way will probably only mean something to travellers on the Great Western Railway]

Suw just commented on my tuttle post on open spaces that we might have a book-reading session, which reminds me that I was talking to Laura North the other day who is working on the National Year of Reading – yes, it’s now, it’s happening.

My first idea was to get people together to do some play reading – a comedy, preferably, probably something intellectually stimulating too. And short. The Real Inspector Hound for example, or maybe some Orton. I don’t know, anyway, I thought it would be fun and easy to do and eminently bloggable. Anyone?

Being right

I find it very productive to sometimes think “What if I’m completely wrong about this?” You know, “What if this tightly-held, well-evidenced belief is actually not true?” Even if it does turn out to be true, it can be an illuminating exercise to consider what the world would be like or what our experience of the world might be or what decisions we might make differently IF it weren’t the case. It goes as well for global situations “What if the world isn’t actually flat even though that’s how my senses perceive it?” as well as the more personal: “What if it weren’t true that everyone hates me?”

An equally productive development of this rhetorical exercise is to ask “what if, rather than believing that everything about this situation is wrong, what if everything were just right?” In effect this is asking “What if I’m wrong about everything in my life going wrong?”

That’s what I was writing about yesterday. “What if the innovation edge conference was actually perfect in every way?” What does that tell me, what can I learn about it, what might I do differently myself as a result of experiencing it and experiencing my discomfort?

So today, as I begin another day with No Fixed Abode and seeing other people’s fear and insecurity when I explain to them what’s happening and being tempted to fall into that spiral of panic and busy work that I well know makes for little progress, today, I ask myself “What if I’m wrong that not having a permanent place to live is the worst possible situation to be in?” “What if it’s absolutely right and perfect that I’m flat-sitting for a friend?” What might I do in response to that, how would I think and act, what might it mean about me? And why might I have brought myself to this place?

And as I reflect on all that, a paradox becomes clear to me. This week I have had the recurring feeling of being safe and at home – *wherever* I am. I was in Epsom yesterday and went to the Post Office and walked along the High Street and it was all lovely and suburban and I thought “Oh yes, this is home, perhaps this is where I should live all the time” and then this morning I was in Pimlico and walking around the gardens of St George’s Square and had *exactly* the same feeling.

From which I take that it was in order to fully appreciate that I really belong here, wherever “here” is, to fully understand that I’m at home wherever I am and that my physical location is purely a matter of choice, that I had to bring myself to this experience of “homelessness”.

So, phew! Having gotten that out of my system, I think I’ll choose a period of greater stability :)

Passing notes in school

Ugh I’ve had a kind of emotional hangover since about lunchtime yesterday. I feel rotten about getting stuck in a cynical snarky frame of mind. To blame twitter would be like blaming my exercise books for having blank sheets at the back that were perfect for writing notes to pass in class. To blame anyone at NESTA would be like blaming Mr Liberal for not being able to control his pupils. And to blame any of my fellow participants would be saying “they made me do it, sir”. Oh bugger, now I’ve got the Grange Hill theme running round in my head.

But anyway that’s what I did yesterday, I regressed into can’t-be-bothered schoolboy (the one who ended up with average O-levels and piss-poor A-levels), a role I reprised at university as smart-arse know-it-all (who had to pull far too many all-nighters to get a 2:1). People found some of my twittering amusing but it wasn’t really a productive use of my time to sit there snarking, steadily becoming more frustrated and in the end getting, well, a bit depressed really. In fact I felt just the same as when we had that backchannel hoo-ha at LesBlogs2.0. Stuck in a room with far too many smart people not able to say anything while some other smart people sat on the stage and weren’t able to say enough. But I have to recognise that that’s just how I see it, it doesn’t mean that everyone else had the same reaction.

The thing I can take responsibility for is that I went into it entirely unconsciously – I didn’t really look at the programme, as was evidenced by my shock on arrival at the scale of the whole thing. If I had thought about it, I would have known that I was likely to rebel against the keynoting and panelling and would have planned to do something entirely different and positive with the opportunity instead of sitting there and trying to disrupt it. The only bit I behaved in was Bob Geldof’s bit – he’s a great performer and I’ve loved him ever since he tore up that picture of John Travolta on Top of the Pops.

So I’m sorry NESTA for poking you with a stick. I’m sorry Jonathan Freedland for calling you names on twitter. And I’m sorry to myself for using up a valuable day so miserably.

Ho hum. On to better things. I’ve sat in similar events and said “We can do better than this” I don’t think that’s true – it was a great event, but the programmed content was not for me. What I will say is “We can do something other than this – in fact we already are” That’s where my effort’s going today rather than in trying to pull somebody else down.

Bonus Link: The bit that Geldof quoted from WH Murray

Cognitive Surplus at Conferences

It struck me that Clay Shirky’s lovely notion of cognitive surplus has another expression in these panel and single speaker conferences. Where sitcoms mask cognitive surplus, occasions like this NESTA Innovation conference amplify and magnify it. We have 3,000 smart people (ok not smart enough to not come, but pretty smart nonetheless) sitting in a room listening to 4 other smart people on stage. The weight of ideas, thoughts, inspiration and excitement is enormous, and for me anyway painful – we all rush out to grab food and talk rapidly before coming back in to listen to the prime minister. Gaaaah! Cue Desperate Housewives.

Tim Berners-Lee on web science.

Just a snippet. Cross not to have power supply.

Sir Tim says something to the effect of:

People doing interesting things fall between stools. The web has to be thought of as humanity connected, rather than an interconnection of computer systems. And you have to remember it’s big, very big and it’s complex. It’s not apparent yet what all of its characteristics are. We don’t know yet for example what the blogosphere is and how it will behave. We just don’t know – we can’t show that it’s stable. So we have to study it, we have to understand it better so that we can take care of it.

The Innovation Edge

Live blogging a bit from the Royal Festival Hall as and when today. No power in the hall at all, so currently on 53 minutes :P

We’ve got a whole bunch of big names talking to us this morning, TB-L & Bob Geldof with a rumoured appearance by the PM. First impression – it’s bloody huge! We’ve heard talk of 3-4,000 people. The hall is full and I think we’re just about to be moved out of the front-row seats we’d grabbed by being the first in. It was too good to be true.

Or maybe not. No, we’re sitting still Ha Ha!

What’s the web for?

A slow project this one. Ask as many people as I can remember to do when I’ve got my camera with me to answer a “simple” question – “What is the web for?”

I tried it out at the Tuttle Club a few weeks ago. This is what came out of the mouths of some of the Smartest People in Social Media (TM)





So there are two ways I want to take this forward. I want to do it with a more diverse group of people, and I want to edit a bunch of them together in a watchable way. Your thoughts on how to do this are welcome.

I have more. I will release them. Soon.

Crazy mixed up kid

Finally got round to uploading my muxtape. All are taken either from vinyl or from tape. None have been digitally remastered or messed about with in any way.

You won’t like it. I’ve spent my whole life thinking that sooner or later I’ll get into whatever music everyone else is into. Just realising though that it ain’t going to happen. This is the stuff that’s usually going round in my head when I’m talking to you, just so as you know….

Here’s some hand scrawled sleeve notes:

Temperance Seven – Chili Bom Bom
Must get a cardboard megaphone for busking with, although I suppose I’d have to attach it with elastic around the back of my head or something. Sometimes when I’m feeling very sick, my singing along to this morphs into a Jake Thackray impersonation. Wrong, but strangely right.

Benny Goodman – Ain’tcha Glad
I don’t know what it is about this one, I think it’s the corny lyric – “life is just a melody, in perfect harmony…” and singing style. Plus some hot Goodman hickory stick.

Ella Fitzgerald – Lady Be Good
Bang, into the fifties for the most modern sounding one on the tape! This is from a whole album of Ella doing be-bop scat numbers, some are a bit weird, but I like the bounce in this one.

Ray Foxley – Fudge No Rice
I miss Raymond a lot and this is my favourite of his compositions. He gave me enormous encouragement when I was a kid to get into the music. The last time I saw him before he died was at The 100 Club in about 2001 and he asked me if I was still singing. I said no, I wasn’t and he looked so disappointed and said “What a bloody waste.” I’m trying to make it up to him now.

Billie Holiday – Dream of Life
Life *is* sublime.

Bing Crosby – You Must Have Been a Beautiful Baby
This is more polished than his earliest Rhythm Boys crooning, but swings along beautifully and I love the verse.

Bessie Smith – After You’ve Gone
Knockout raw blues power in a Tin Pan Alley song (another lovely verse).

Zenith Hot Stompers – Someday Sweetheart
This is the band my dad played with for many years, but this was recorded many years before he joined them. 1966 to be precise – Tony Pipkin’s on trumpet with some belting tuba from Phil Matthews.

Me with Michael Law – When Somebody Thinks You’re Wonderful
The last time I was in a recording studio, probably 1988, which makes me feel ancient – one of the tracks on a demo tape. Really should do some more, I’m glad I’m singing again, but when I busk I do have to sing loudly – it’s much nicer when you can get right up close and whisper.

Halp. I needz it.

My personal heady mix of pride, stubbornness and avoidance combine to make this a difficult thing to write, but I need some pretty specific help over the next week.

I have to move out of my flat by next Sunday 18th May. I have a couple of options on where I can stay after that but none of them are ideal or sustainable for longer than a couple of weeks tops. I also have very little in liquid assets, which is why I’m not able to just walk into an estate agents and plop 10 weeks rent on the table for anywhere I like. Another bit of background is that I also don’t drive and don’t own a car.

So. In the coming week:

I need someone with a van to help take my bed from Pimlico to Wimbledon for storage. The double mattress of course is the largest part, but apart from that the headboard is 1.4m x 1.4m so I’m guessing most people carriers won’t be up to it, but am willing to be proved wrong.

More manageably, I need help getting all my worldly goods (in boxes) from Pimlico to my ex-wife’s place in Epsom where I can store stuff in the attic.

And I need somewhere to live for little or no rent while I get back on my feet financially.

People are kindly helping with getting work and cash flowing, but I expect it to take quite a bit more than a couple of weeks.

e-mail, phone & twitter are all great ways of getting hold of me.

btw – my chin is up, I am still breathing, and smiling, just in need of practical assistance :)

Update: Thanks for all the messages of love & support. You all rock. Am piecing together a plan from the various bits of help offered. I’ve had two people offer cars & driving, someone who’ll hire a van if I can find a driver and two offers of places to stay through the last week in May. Very grateful…

Oh yes and some careers advice from Adrian Phillips… thanks Ade :)