Borrowers

cheers

EBL enjoys her pretend champagne

Yesterday I told you about how things were going with the Great Project. Well, in summary it all went live on schedule and by 17.20 I was settled in front of the television with a glass of pretend champagne and a sense of doom and futility as England decided that the best team to win the Six Nations was clearly the Welsh. As the pain of supporting a team so hopelessly erratic washed over me, I reflected that I would rather my project was successful and England not than the opposite, with all due respect to Stuart Lancaster. I’m sure he would say the reverse about me.  Admittedly I won’t rest completely easy until we get through Monday with real humans trying to break the system for a day.

However, now that the Great Project is over (or is it really? Conspiracies abound!), I find myself turning to thoughts of reintegrating with the rest of humanity.

I have my own pet projects of course: learning Anglo Saxon, getting back to my guitar, becoming Mistress of the Universe, one planet at a time, crushing the human detritus beneath my tentacles, and knitting. Always knitting.

It was the Anglo Saxon I was contemplating the most though, when a thought came slicing out of the dull, grey March sky and slapped me round the left ear. Anglo Saxon is mostly just English with different spelling and a bit of an accent. The next observation that tends to follow this is that all the common words, especially around labour and production of food, are A-S while the posh words around cooking and eating are French. Comparisons usually resort to Cow (A-S = Cu) and Beef (Fr. = Boeuf).

The use of foreign words in English is what makes it so interesting, to me anyway. Rara’s recent PromptForThePromptless on Schadenfreude was another example of the gay abandon with which English adopts and integrates words from other languages rather than coming up with a new word itself. I think it’s fabulous, very cosmopolitan, pragmatic and efficient. There are loads of these words, admittedly reflecting our colonial past as much as our open dictionary policy. So we have words such as bungalow and pyjamas from the Indian sub-continent, Schadenfreude as mentioned above, haute cuisine and nouveau riche, alcohol and algebra from Arabic and so on. These words are often called “borrowed” words.

And I thought: “Borrowed? Really? Really?

I mean…

It’s not like we’re going to give them back. It’s not like they’re shoved at the back of the shed along with Jim’s hedge trimmer and Jane’s camping stove that we borrowed that time because we thought we were going to have that big summer party with all the kids from Brownies staying for a sleepover in tents on the back lawn.

Do we expect M. Hollande to come knocking at the door of Number 10 asking Dave if he’s finished with the boeuf yet, because he’s got a few friends coming for supper and not a thing in the house to offer them. Dave might suggest he’ll hand to over in exchange for the “five o’clock” or even “le camping”, if Francois is going to be like that.

What if Dr. Manmohan Singh decided to take back all the bungalows next week? We already have a housing crisis here, and a crisis in care for the elderly, who tend to be disproportionately engaged in bungalow habitation. It would mean grannies on the streets and grandpas sleeping on park benches in all weathers. Madness, my dears, utter madness.

Certainly as a nation we are indelibly wedded to the enjoyment of Schadenfreude. Take away our joy in others’ misfortune and you take away our joy. Let’s face it, without it there is only so much soap-opera tragedy we can take seriously before we hear the Archangels sounding the trumpets for Judgement Day and the pits of Hell open beneath us. We are not psychologically equipped to handle joy for its own sake. This isn’t The Waltons, people, this is real life.

Let’s not even think about alcohol. We are a nation of drinkers. Any town centre high street at midnight makes that clear. And while uisge works north of the English border, and win is a good A-S word, along with beor and alu, I fear they all need a basis upon which to ferment. The withdrawal symptoms alone could destroy the NHS.

So here I sit, listening to the rain on the conservatory roof and wondering if we will ever see Spring sunshine, and wondering what to do without a Great Project, and hoping against hope that common sense will prevail and we can stop talking about “borrowed” words, acknowledge that we have pilfered them for good, that possession is nine-tenths of the law, and that after all we live in a global society. Really we have taken them as our own. I might not steal a car / handbag / television, (although I think the summer riots of 2011 may suggest otherwise for a percentage of the population) but I’m more than happy to copy and re-use a word or two. No one gets hurt. It’s a copy after all. Information wants to be free.

And that, my dears, in a nutshell, is why fighting media piracy is such a challenge. It all started when William invaded and murdered the rightful king.

Namaste.

Blogging as a means of remaining sane

My dears, those of you who read regularly may recall that I have referred obliquely to my Great Project at work. It’s tedious for those not involved, I realise, but in summary I am trying to move a large database from old kit to new, including an Oracle upgrade and so on and so forth (just insert the Martian of your choice here). Obviously I am not doing this alone and have been accompanied in the Grand Tour by a wealth of brilliant and talented people to whom I owe my very sanity. If ever they track down my little rambling corner and work out who I am talking about, then know I love you all and am proud of you. I do also say so to them in the real world, well, at least the bit about being proud. “Love” is the kind of word that can result in restraining orders if misunderstood. And suppliers can get a bit twitchy if you tell them things like this, and start wondering if the contract is worth the candle.

Well, this weekend is the acid test and we are mid-migration as I type and preparing to start testing in the next couple of hours. Last night we had a conference call about an hour before shut-down and were all giddy as toddlers in a thunderstorm.

Have you noticed how kids get excited in stormy weather? Someone told me it was the ionisation of the air. It’s also why people sing in the shower or like sea air. To which I say “Wotevva!” and splash in puddles.

Anyway, the call was slightly hysterical with excitement because we have been working on this for two years and the big moment had arrived. I admit I cried a little when we finished. It’s a strange feeling. Next week I expect I will be doing bereavement counselling for the team – in fact I started last week as we began to recognise the end was nigh. When you have been working on a large project for a long time, ending it is a big loss.

I have just had the checkpoint call from the supplier to say we are ahead of schedule, so I have given the testers the green light to head into the test centre. Hopefully they are racing down the street right now, checking bus and train timetables, getting into the car, picking up their pack-ups and working off the adrenaline rush with frantic movement.

I sit still at home, trying to conduct the orchestra remotely, and have no such outlet. So I decided to blog through it, to try and keep sane. Trust me, meditation is not going to cut the mustard at the moment. I am not very good at it. I can type drivel for England though, so here I am.

What I was planning to blog about was Sigoth’s mighty sacrifice. Last night was also Red Nose Day. Sigoth and I have been keen supporters since the inaugural RND 25 years ago, when  I wore a red nose on the packed commuter train into London and was stared at so hard by everyone that my face ended up as red as the nose. But we like the pragmatism of the projects they run, and the split between home and abroad, and the focus on the positive. It may be more usual now, but back in the day it was more common for charities to be utterly patronising and show you nothing but desperation. I like to see the joy engendered by successful projects.

So Presentation1Sigoth decided to make the ultimate gift this year, because we can’t donate as much money as we have in the past. He shaved off his beard. He has had a beard forever. He may have been born with it, although the photographic evidence suggests not. In any case, he had it when I first met him in 1980, and has only been nude on the face for an occasional day since. He managed to raise £500 though, which is more than we could manage to donate by miles, and is my personal hero today. As soon as the beard has grown back he will also be himself again. So big shout out to the Wonder that is Sigoth, and to all the other people who did something funny for money.

 

Meanwhile, the project should conclude at 17.00 tonight, just as England kicks off against Wales in Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium. Any elation I will be feeling will soon be depressed by watching England. They have a knack of winning in the most ungainly way or losing spectacularly. It’s painful supporting them. I also support Wales, given that I can sing the Welsh National Anthem in Welsh; possibly the most useful thing I ever learned at school, so the England/Wales match is always a difficult one. And it’s the final one of the tournament this year, deciding the winner. At the moment England can win the overall title – but only if they win this match. How much stress can I take today?

I like the Millennium Stadium. I have never been inside it, although I would love to go. I remember the season it was being built and Wales were playing their matches at Wembley. I lived near Wembley at the time and there was an International against the mighty All Blacks scheduled. As we had been over to New Zealand the previous year, I was quite keen to see them play again, so I rounded up friends and relations to make a party of it. My friend agreed to sort out tickets, and called the stadium.

“Any tickets for the match between Wales and the All Blacks?” she asked, crossing various extremities, and mentally reciting the Haka.

“No, sorry,” replied the ticket office person.

My friend was downcast, although not surprised. We had left it a bit late.

Then the ticket office person added, “I can do you tickets for Wales v New Zealand though. Is that any good?”

My friend choked a little and said “OK, that will do…”

So that was the day I saw Jonah Lomu belting down the left wing towards me with two Welshmen hanging from him like red flags. It was glorious, simply glorious.

I hope your Saturday is glorious too, and I hope for my sanity that my poor little project has a glorious result tonight.

Namaste.

 

Afterlife

It has been a busy couple of evenings so no posting for EBL. Time to catch up, because I have been reading some posts and thinking about what to post and generally going a bit postal (largely due to the extra hours required if I am ever going to get finished with The Project).

Thursday night I was at a School Governors meeting and discovered to my amazement I had served eight years. Honestly, you don’t get that for murder. There is wise advice about not serving too long, and stepping aside to make way for fresh insights. So I am starting to think about a New Life after the end of this school year.

On Friday we were at the village quiz, and Sigoth was telling me about some of the questions he had been writing. We write the quizzes each month, and this time I had to leave Sigoth to it because of workload. Sometimes one of us has to do that, it makes the quizzes a bit more interesting actually. Oh look, EBL, stepping aside again!

The thing Sigoth was telling me about was that because the 1st February is the anniversary of the space shuttle Columbia Disaster, there are a lot of astronauts coming up on the 1st February date page in Wikipedia.

columbia astronautsIt made me think. I didn’t think about the astronauts so much, although generally I am sorry for the loss in that slightly disconnected way in which we recognise tragedies at a distance. What Sigoth noticed was that they all had Wikipedia entries.

I pictured the heroes arriving in Valhalla on the wings of that terrible explosion, and the fuss and confusion and awe of their entrance, followed by a slightly embarrassed silence during which Thor hissed loudly “Who are they again?” and Odin said “I’ll just check them out on Wikipedia…”

I wondered, in the event that there turns out to be an afterlife after all, whether I would finally have time to read the sum of human knowledge as embodied in Wikipedia; and how long it would take, as when I finished I would have to start again in order to pick up the new articles; and if, in fact I would ever finish.

Will the souls clustered in heaven, of whatever flavour they choose, find their Wikipedia entries a comfort, or a source of one-up-man-wiki? Or will they shriek and moan at their editors, pointing shaking, misty fingers at prose riddled with factual inaccuracy and misconstrued meaning? Is Wikipedia in fact setting us up for the Great Demonic Infopocalypse, in which the souls of the dead, maddened by falsehoods, typos and misconceptions, storm and rage the length and breadth of cyberspace in order to re-establish the truth. We will see endless wars of information updates, malicious hacks and outright libel, discussion forums flamed and bleeding, servers brought down under the weight of change and counter-change.

Oh, wait, are we there already?

I was thinking of starting a New Life. Now I’m wondering if I need to plan my New Afterlife instead.

Namaste.

Snow Dalek

Yesterday in breaks from decluttering, I sat and sipped tea and read. Sigoth, however, is a man of action, and went outside to play in the snow.

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It looked more sinister after dark!

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For those of you with snow, I hope you manage to have some fun with it too!

Namaste

 

 

Dr Seuss helps EBL de-clutter

Some of the things we found in the loft today (and some we didn’t, but are included just for approximate meter and rhyme)

Oh say! Can you see the clutter and the clatter in the attic up the ladder?

Grandma’s clocks, and crocks in box

Hats and gloves and scarves and socks

Captain Kirks and Mr Spocks

All go in the charity box

Pins and bins and cans and pans

Fans and pens and rocks and smocks

All go in the charity box

I can pack with my eyes shut

Crate it up and take it out

In the snow the rubbish must go

In the car to the dump

Bags and boxes, flump and crump!

Out with dust! Out with rust!

Clearing, clearing is a must!

I do not like all this clutter

Why did it stay? I was a nutter!

Now I prance and dance and smile

Now I’m living minimal-style!

Namaste

 

To boldly brew

My dears, I have been thinking about tea and Star Trek.

To be fair, as a proud daughter of Albion, tea is my default position. It is, as we like to say, a truth universally acknowledged that a person in possession of English identity must be in want of a cup of tea.

This latest iteration of tea-related cogitation was occasioned by Victoria Coren’s rant regarding the inexplicable re-branding of Assam to “English Breakfast” (she was also ranting about American colonialism, so apologies to US readers if that feels a bit uncuddly. We love you really, and traditionally are only ever rude to people we like). It was a long time before I realised that this had happened. Assam was my preferred brew, and when I couldn’t find it I did start drinking the new blend instead. It was, and still is, quite inconceivable to me that anyone would change the name of Assam for marketing purposes (as I suppose they have done – I’m still not sure why).

Tea marketing, if you will bear with me, inevitably reminds me of Jean Luc Picard and the Earl Grey phenomenon. When Star Trek: The Next Generation was a regular feature of the TV schedules, his fondness for “Earl Grey, hot” saw a consumer boom in purchase of the tea. Each to their own, I say; Earl Grey has its place, although I tend more to the view of Sam Vimes that if you can see the bottom of the cup, it isn’t proper tea.

However, Jean Luc, for all his other perfections, always irritated me with the “Tea. Earl Grey, hot.”

Firstly, what is a Frenchman (even one from Yorkshire) doing drinking Earl Grey at any temperature? It’s the embodiment of the nobility and it’s tea, albeit of a particular kind. Have you been to France? Fantastic coffee; if I was looking for coffee, after Italy, I might try France. Tea, on the other hand, is less successful on the Gallic side of La Manche. It tends to be Lipton’s Yellow Label, which the UK exports to the Continent as the French export their least popular wine to the UK.  Liptons, in my personal experiences, produces a drink that is almost, but not quite, entirely unlike tea. In mainland Europe it tends to be served with hot milk or UHT milk.

Secondly, why does he have to specify the temperature? It is possible that a couple of hundred years from now everyone will be drinking cold tea in some kind of perverted corruption of best tea drinking practice. To which I say, don’t. Earl grey is to be drunk hot, unless otherwise specified. It would make sense, for example, for Jean Luc to say “Tea. Earl Grey, iced” to differentiate from the norm. The “hot” is completely redundant.

Thirdly, why does he have to specify his preference for Earl Grey anyway? Voice recognition, anyone?  The computer systems on the Enterprise regularly identify him, and indeed other crew members, for all kinds of reasons: initiating self-destruct, finding lost people, firing on his mark, bringing up medical records, playing his favourite music. If they can pick music they can certainly remember what kind of tea he likes at what temperature and advise the replicators accordingly. He commands the whole ship by voice; if it knows who he is, it can certainly know how he likes his tea. Unless the French accent is a problem for the catering circuits.

Which brings me to: fourthly, why is it not “Earl Grey, chaud”? For once I am on the side the L’Académie française with regard to the use of the French language.

I suspect some of you will be shaking your heads in sorrow, and saying, “EBL, old thing, you’re just over-thinking it. Go and have a lie down.”

To which I replay: tea is too important to be brushed aside like that. Respect the leaf, people, respect the leaf!

Namaste.

 

Slip Sliding Away

Those of you who have been kind enough to spend time in my corner of yon t’Interweb may remember that I often catch the 6.55 bus to town in order to transfer to the 7.23 train. Usually this is a seamless process and I tend to be half asleep as I am transported to the delights of Head Office.

Today I awoke to the shock news that it was winter and that there was ice on the roads. In this part of the country the council is very efficient at gritting. We are the leading Winter Olympic Team in Laughing at the Soft Southerners Who Can’t Cope with a Bit of Frost. We chortle at London’s hapless attempts to keep trains running after a millimetre of snow, and snort at their feeble cries that it’s a really, really hard thing to do. (Note for those not familiar with English geography: for the purposes of identifying a Southerner, anyone living in the Southwest counts as a Northerner when referring to snow, ice and gritting.)

So this is a shout-out to North Yorkshire County Council who spectacularly failed to grit the lane last night. It is unusual, to be fair. The consequences, however, were entirely predictable and underline why they should grit the damn lane as a matter of course.

The 6.55 bus was a little late. Three of us were waiting at the bus stop: myself and Sigoth, and our lovely neighbour, Marathon Runner with Diabetes. We were stamping our feet and puffing into our hands and talking about the owl we could hear, badminton tournaments and Christmas parties at work. It was convivial and we were not surprised the bus was a little late because clearly the roads were not in peak condition. We had all slithered precariously across the glacier at the roundabout so we knew it very well and were considering Writing A Letter to the Council to voice out displeasure.

As we waited at the bus stop a car fishtailed round the roundabout because he was going at more than one mile an hour. We all ducked into the shelter to avoid being walloped.

The bus eventually appeared about 15 minutes later, chugging along very slowly as befitted the conditions. We all dug out our passes and change and watched him inch his way round the roundabout. Our stop is at the end of a lane and the buses come up, go all the way round the roundabout and head back to the main road again. It confuses the hell out of tourists because you can’t tell so easily where the bus is going (north or south) after that. There’s a trick to it called “reading the destination on the front,” but this is not always possible because it scrolls and you have to catch it at the right moment.

Anyway, this was the bus we wanted. It slipped as it approached the roundabout and slowed down even more. Then as it started to go up the incline and round the edge it lost all grip on its rear wheels, slid sideways and stopped. After a couple of minutes it was obvious there was nothing for the wheels to grip and it sat there, hazard lights flashing and one road junction completely barred.

An oil lorry came along behind it and skidded into the verge. Eventually he got the vehicle under control but couldn’t get past the bus.

The bus inched forward slightly then slid back. It began to spin a little. The woman in the upstairs front seat displayed true Yorkshire grit by sitting calmly throughout, no matter how the bus danced and pranced. It was like dressage for motor vehicles.

Time went by and the sky grew lighter. Cars and vans came along, skidding and sliding too. They had to go the wrong way round the roundabout to get to their exit. The bus inched forwards a little more. After 20 minutes it had got round the first quarter of the circle. We cheered and stamped our feet and Marathon Man posted pictures on Facebook. Sigoth tweeted the Council to let them know about their dangerous and inept #FAIL.

After another 20 minutes or so it was clear the driver could do no more. A small van arrived from the bus company with sand and a shovel. The bus driver got out and apologised to us for the delay and offered us some of his coffee from his thermos. The man deserves a medal.

The rescuer used up all his sand and the bus began to skate towards the third quarter leading back to the bus stop. A large oil lorry slid into a hedge, recovered and carried on down the other exit. As the bus crawled towards us the man with the sand pushed the left front wing to guide it along its way. It was so slippery on the road that this actually worked.

The driver got the bus to where we were standing and appeared to stop although he was moving slightly without volition.

“Jump on!” he said, voice tight with stress.

We hesitated at the thought of imminent disaster, then jumped on and sat down and everyone on the bus said hello and smiled. We wobbled off down the lane, crawled over the hump-backed bridge and lurched towards the main road. Traffic on the main road roared by. The main road had clearly been gritted. Cautiously we felt our way onto the carriageway, although it was hard because our lane was very icy at the junction too so we had no power.  

It was an hour late, but we were on our way. By the time the kids come down for the school bus I hope the ice will be in retreat and they will be safe.

I understand that some drivers get frustrated when they are caught behind the slow moving gritting lorries. They are idiots. Those lorries are absolutely vital and you don’t know how much until they miss you out.

So here I sit in the station café with a steaming mug of tea, waiting for the next train 2 hours after my usual one, and wondering what it will be like when I come home on Friday.

Namaste.

 

Away from it all

I am away from home for the rest of this week because the world will end if I don’t spend more time in Head Office. You will have heard about the Prophecy; this is what it is really about. Well, I like to think that, but in fact it’s more a confluence of meetings all in one week, which at least gets them out of the way and means I can then tidy up at home before the family arrive for the festivities.

So much for the housekeeping announcements. If the fire alarm goes off, it is not a test and you should follow me to the nearest exit.

This preamble was intended to continue and state for the record that, if I get any time in the evenings, I would quite like to use this opportunity to write. I won’t be posting here probably; limited access to yon t’Interweb may preclude it. Unless you hear from me, of course. It’s all a bit speculative.

I don’t know if you travel away for work. People who don’t, seem to think it’s a marvellous perk. Those who do, generally agree it’s like having your soul eaten by the anthropomorphic manifestation of dreariness. If it had a face it would be the girl from the BBC test card, sitting with the creepy clown doll and playing noughts and crosses. She would smile at you and devour you from the toes up as you lay helpless in the beigeness of the hotel room, deadened to life and laughter by the total neutrality of the décor and the blandness of the food, served earlier at your neat little table for one in the darkest corner of the restaurant (for the business woman of taste and discretion – the sub-text being “and no friends”).

That test card was presumably supposed to imply fun things kicking off; in practice it was stultifyingly boring. She sat there for hour after hour. She never moved or even blinked. I know because I used to watch her when I was a little kid. For ages and ages I watched, but nary a flicker. Sometimes the picture would lose its quality and there would be dots and lines crawling around the screen. If the horizontal hold went you had to fiddle with a button at the back and if that failed, thump the TV. The youth of today will be looking at these assertions blankly (a bit like test card girl in fact) because I really can’t remember the last time I had a TV that acted like that, but it was before they invented colour. Now the digital switchover means that everything pixellates when the pigeon lands on the aerial, but that’s different, plus we have BBC iPlayer to overcome such misfortunes.

Hotel TVs don’t get any kind of decent reception as far as I can tell. I don’t watch much TV but I do like to have it on when I am away to add some noise and movement to the blankness of the room. This is how I found out about CSI, and it’s a real balance to decide whether to put up with that or look at the neutral décor for the evening.

What I mean by all this moaning is that being away for work is utterly boring when falls the eventide. Hotels aren’t fun unless you are on holiday. There are only so many hours I am prepared to soak in a bath. Being alone in a hotel room is solitary confinement that has somehow crept under the radar of the Geneva Convention, and allows companies to seclude their staff in a very special kind of purdah (in the segregation sense, not the election sense). You get a Gideon’s Bible and then you are left to it, without even a Red Cross parcel or Amnesty International postcard to provide hope. It is particularly a problem for lone women working away from home; you don’t want to get me started on hotel bars. So obviously I fill my time by doing extra work.

Except this time I have a cunning plan: I am taking my knitting and my novel and looking forward to some me-time. Hurrah for me. It can work quite well, because I have tried the knitting thing in the past. I haven’t tried the writing though, so we shall see how the environment affects the Muse. At least it will be quiet. Although I could go to the bar as typing on a laptop is almost as good as wearing a sign saying “Hello, I work for the Inland Revenue and am particularly interested in cacti as my hobby.”(Although there are probably websites even for that.) I don’t have anything against cacti, of course, nor even the Inland Revenue, so long as they have nothing against me.

Enough rambling. It’s time to go and pack. I hope your week is filled with joy and friendship. I hope mine is filled.

Namaste.

Once upon a time….

Before I was seduced by the glamour and promises of glittery, shiny, popular NaNoWriMo, I found it hard to write every day. Other things happened to get in my way, like work, family, friends and basically having the attention span of a …

Sorry, back again now. Where was I? Oh yes.

Then it was like a miracle. I decided to do the November writing shuffle and try to meet a 50,000 word target. I wrote almost every day, come hell or high water. We have had flooding here so I’m not joking. The Hellmouth thing was hushed up though. It’s all true, but they hunt you down if you try to talk about it. I’ve probably said too much already.

Where was I, again?

Oh yes, the miracle of writing. Prior to NaNoWriMo, when capitals were at the beginning of proper nouns and sentences, I struggled to write regularly. I tried the fifteen minutes a day rule, I tried prompts form various places, like Plinky, or Daily Post. I tried doing those 30 days of Whatever lists. I tried, my dears, but I did not succeed.

You know what they say, of course. No, not that, the other thing. If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again! Honestly, do keep up!

So I tried NaNoEtc and I succeeded. Now it’s December and all those anti-writing, word-hating, finger-deadening, mind-swallowing, ideas-munching demons are back and I can’t write every day. I have done a little bit of work on Da Novel, but not as much as I would like. I have started a few posts, but they have been pretty shambolic. The least shambolic have been posted up for good measure, just to show willing.

Is it the post-NaNo stress? Did I just hold life back, but now it’s overwhelmed me? Did I win the battle, but lose the war? Is Santa to blame – because I would be doing better without his shenanigans, I can tell you.

I’ve been having fun though, visiting Offspring in the West, knitting a very little bit (that’s another target for this weekend: to finish a gift by next Tuesday), reading all the great blogs I found in November, as well as those I already followed, trying to restart the yoga now my eye is getting better, and also dealing with life’s harsh realities.

Must be off now though – quiz to print for tonight’s episode at the Village Hall.

Thanks for dropping by.

 

A day in the life

What is it like to live in a small rural village in the early 21st century? Well, my dears, draw closer and I shall reveal to you a day in the life of a typical village resident.

The alarm goes off at 6 am. It isn’t a surprise. I have been lying awake for at least half an hour. I have two old fashioned wind up clocks that chime, usually a minute or two apart, and I heard them strike the half hour. If I listen carefully I can hear the church clock too, slightly off set again. It’s easier in the summer because the bedroom window is open but in the winter the sound is muffled by the double glazing we had installed about 3 or 4 years ago. A woman in the village is responsible for keeping the clock going and no one knows what will happen when she is no longer with us; she is quite elderly now and not in the best of health so it is a pressing matter, but church attendance is very limited. Only a handful of villagers attend the services, and these are spread between a number of churches which are the responsibility of the local priest. I am not an Anglican so I do not attend but I am sad to think the church may not be able to continue.

Sigoth gets up to make a cup of tea and we stumble through our early morning routine, in and out of the bathroom, dressing and getting ready for the day. We both have to travel today and need to catch the bus which comes at 6.55. The next bus isn’t until 8.55 and it is about 8 miles to the nearest town or train station.

Downstairs we put the breakfast news on so we can keep track of the time and I download the newspaper to my e-reader to read on the journey. After the local news and the sport it’s time to go. I have to travel to Leeds to go to head office for a couple of days. Tomorrow I am going to visit an Offspring overnight before heading back to Leeds for an afternoon meeting.

Sigoth and I find our way carefully down the street, slip-sliding away. It is a good thing there is a moon not long past full to light our way. The streetlights here are further apart than in the town, so it is dark. There has been a heavy frost, or perhaps light snow, and the pavement is white and slippery, and we are the first to tread along it. In the distance a barn owl is hooting, and we crunch the frozen leaves which have fallen from the horse chestnut. In the summer we are serenaded by peacocks as we wait for the bus, but in the winter it’s the owls. Sometimes there is a cockerel, but today he is too cold to shout.

When we reach the bus stop we look at the stars and moon and feel blessed. Sigoth has an app for identifying stars and we find we can see Mercury, Venus and Saturn towards the east, all in a tidy line. It’s very kind of them to queue up to be viewed.

We often meet a neighbour at the bus stop on his way to work, but today he must be working at home. It’s just me and Sigoth waiting in the freezing darkness, and the bus is unusually 10 minutes late. I worry I might miss my train, and Sigoth worries he might miss his connection to another bus.

The bus usually connects quite well, but last week there were problems because of delays on the journey caused by diversions around flooding. The late bus still gives me 5 minutes to lurch across the road in the dark and ice and reach the platform just as the level crossing comes down to announce the arrival of the train.

I scramble into my seat in the last of 3 coaches. My ticket is pre-booked so I can reserve a seat but the regular commuters are not so lucky and it can be difficult to find somewhere to sit as the journey progresses. Quite a few children use this train to get to school so it is noisy and boisterous.

By the time we reach Leeds about an hour later the train is crammed with commuters standing in the aisle and their bags all end up in the face of whoever is sitting nearest to them. Luckily I have the window seat today. Most of us are playing with gadgets: e-readers, smart phones or tablet PCs. There is no phone signal for much of the journey however, so blessedly few loud conversations. We have to travel through the Howardian Hills which block signals, but which are home to rabbits, deer and foxes if you are quick to see them, as well as fields with sheep, horses and cattle. When it is light there is a lot to see, but at this time of day you can only see your reflection in the glass.

I have put my suitcase in the overhead rack for the journey. It is difficult to reach it when we are ready to get off in Leeds because the press of people trying to leave the train prevents me standing up and reaching it. I have to wait for a gap and then get it down by which time the people on the platform have surged forward and now I have to fight past them all with the suitcase, my laptop and handbag. At the same time I am clutching my ticket in hand ready to negotiate the automatic barrier to get out of the station.

I stumble onto the platform and manage to find my way to the escalator, trailing my suitcase. An eager commuter rushing for the train trips over the case and we both apologise to each other, then hurry on our separate ways. I go up the escalator, across the bridge and down again to the exit, juggling bags, tickets and crowds.

By the time I reach the barriers the main crowd had already gone through and luckily no other trains have arrived so the way is fairly clear. Just the last few stragglers like me.

Now I have made it through the first hurdle I head for the hotel where I will be staying tonight. I leave my case with the concierge, exchanging a few cheery words as we now know each other quite well. I am a regular, which affords me certain privileges with the staff. I set out for the office with laptop in hand, already running late for the 9.00 meeting. I make a point of stopping on the way to pick up lunch; there won’t be a chance later.

Arriving at the office the lift isn’t working so I use the stairs, carrying laptop, handbag and now a coffee and lunch as well. I swipe my ID card to open the door, sign in and take my lunch to the fridge. Already colleagues are asking questions about the new release, the issue with the system and the workshop we are holding at 10.00. I find my way to a hot-desk where I can check emails in the 5 minutes before I have to dial in. I need to speak to Finance about the capital budget, and plan to do so at 9.30 after the teleconference.

The rest of the day is a whir of meetings, questions, emails and discussions in odd corners. A colleague and I have to take part in a telecon in the first aid room because there is nowhere we can go to dial in that is quiet. I fail to speak to Finance because the gap I had planned is taken up with a more pressing crisis. I eat my lunch in one of the meetings, along with other colleagues on similar schedules.

My last meeting is with a colleague who has had a busy day too and we decide to go for a pint of beer to recuperate. It’s great to have an hour or so to talk about something other than work. I check into the hotel properly at about 8 pm but they are so busy that I end up using the restaurant instead of room service for dinner.

Eating in a hotel restaurant on your own is very depressing.

When I get to my room the heating has broken down. It’s December in the north of England, so not very warm. The staff rush up with heaters for me, and I begin to thaw out as I type this story.

I call Sigoth; his buses ran fine and he got home at a reasonable time. I also call Offspring to be visited, and agree where we will eat tomorrow night, assuming the weather does not prevent my visit.

Tomorrow is another day, and I plan to head west across the Pennines after work. Who knows what adventures await? I will cross Saddleworth Moor, the site of appalling murder, and also the highest train route in England. Or I may use the Leeds – Settle route across some of the most beautiful scenery in the country (although it will be dark). I will visit a medieval cathedral city which isn’t York, the site of the gaol where George Fox, father of Quakerism, was imprisoned in the 17th century.

What will you do today?