favourite folk

Day 15 of Blog Every Day in November. Today’s prompt is ‘favourite folk’.

I could talk about my family. My friends. Coffee buddies. All worthy of the label.

Then I heard about Batkid.

From the BBC article:

Thousands of people in San Francisco have turned out to help a boy recovering from leukaemia fulfil his wish to be Batman for a day.

Miles Scott, five, participated in events across the city including fighting mock crimes and receiving an honour from the mayor.

Make-a-Wish Foundation, which organised the event, received pledges from more than 10,000 people to lend a hand.

Everyone who was involved in this, from the Make-A-Wish foundation, to the thousands of people who turned out or pledged to lend a hand.

Every single one of you.

You are my favourite folk.

You rock.

take note

The problem with flashes of inspiration is that, like lightning, they’re exciting, but too often and quickly forgotten.
~ bobbi

We’ve all been there, I’m sure.

You have a brilliant idea, remember something to add to the shopping list or think you should really book your car in for a service. You’ve just worked out how to get your hero from point A to point B whilst avoiding the giant snapping jaws of doom. A new idea for a blogpost presents itself. Sparks of inspiration.

You’ll remember it later, of course, because right now you’re at work or out shopping or just about to fall asleep.

People will say ‘oh, keep a pen and paper by your bed’ or (usually with a slightly smug air) ‘I always carry a notebook with me.’

As if that’s helpful. If I keep a pen and paper by my bed I’ll come to it days later to find that my daughter has discovered it and now it’s full of elaborate drawings of pandas or lists of people I’ve never heard of with slightly ominous ticks against their names. Usually in a rainbow of colours, and smattered with stickers.

Same with carrying a notebook. I’ll carry one with me for a while but inevitably I’ll need to put it down for some reason, immediately forget to pick it up again and well, that’s the end of that. I’ve got half a dozen perfectly lovely notebooks (mmm, Moleskine) and a selection of pens and pencils, but they get put down, they get forgotten, they get claimed by my darling daughter and filled with her joyous scribbles.

Just use your phone, I hear you cry.

Well, yes. I do, sometimes.

I’ve tried all sorts of note-taking apps – Evernote, Springpad, Google Keep, the list is ever-growing and never-ending. But I find writing on my phone slightly awkward – even with a great keyboard such as Swiftkey you’ve still got to actually fire up the phone, find the app, open it, transcribe your epiphany and save it.

That said, I find Google Keep really is pretty good – you can snap a photo with the phone camera, tag it and set a reminder. Useful stuff. But for capturing story ideas and plot snippets? Not so much.

So, dear reader. I’m throwing it over to you.

How do you keep track of your notes and ideas? Do you use your phone? A notebook and pen? Carve symbols into the walls?

Tell me your secrets. I’ll make notes, just as soon as I can find that pencil…


Today is World Kindness Day.

It’s somewhat depressing that we feel the need for such a day. As the Dalai Lama said:

“Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible.”

Today then, I’ve been going out of my way to do little things. Making tea for colleagues. Holding doors open. Picking up something that the barista dropped in the coffee shop.
Stuff I’d do normally, to be honest. I’m a huge believer in what goes around, comes around. Be nice to others, and others will be nice to you.

I also love random acts of kindness – many years ago I was surfing my livejournal friendslist and saw a comment on a friends blog by someone I didn’t know. I went to their blog, liked what I read and found that they had an amazon wishlist. I bought them a CD from the list, with a note which just (if memory serves) said: “A random act of kindness. Have a great day.”

I found out later that he’d been having a rough time and that random act of kindness from an unknown stranger off the internet meant more than I could ever have expected. We’ve since become great friends. And that random act triggered others across our mutual friendslists. People started doing random nice things for others. It’s the domino effect.

It doesn’t have to involve money though. A smile, as they say, costs nothing. Just be nice to others. I don’t have a motto (who does?), but if I did, it’d pretty much follow Wheaton’s Law:

“Don’t be a dick.”

It’s a great sentiment. Be kind to each other, folks. Not just today, but every day.

Life’s short enough as it is.

My hometown

Day 12 of Blog Every Day in November, and we’re talking about our hometown.

Tyne Bridge

Me? I’m a Geordie, born & raised in Newcastle. I left there in 1989 to go to university in Leeds, but always intended to go home after my three years there. But, life intervened, I got a summer job after graduation at the university library which turned into a year-long placement which got me a place on a postgrad course at Leeds Met which turned into a job…

You know the story. It seems I’ve lived in Yorkshire now for longer than I’d ever lived in Newcastle, but I’m still a Geordie at heart.

I love the city, from the bustling city centre to the Quayside with its wonderful array of bridges over the Tyne.

Millennium Bridge

Bridges over the Tyne

The Tyne Bridge was built by the same company who constructed the Sydney Harbour Bridge, but the Tyne Bridge opened a couple of years earlier in 1928, four years before its Australian counterpart. It’s a beautiful bridge, in my humble opinion.

I’ve run across it several times as part of the Great North Run, Newcastle’s famous half-marathon. The view is rather splendid, especially when surrounded by 40,000 other runners!

What else can I say about my hometown? I love its proximity to the coast, and the fact that you can get from town to the seaside in half an hour for fish & chips (and an ice-cream, of course!)

My family are mostly based up there too – there are a few of us who’ve moved away, but the vast proportion of them have stayed up in the North East. There’s a real cultural identity up there, and we’re all fiercely proud of being Geordies. Howay the lads!

We go up there on a regular basis to see my mam and the family, and one of my favourite sights is when you’re driving at night and pass the Angel of the North on the A1. The road curls away to the right and suddenly you’re presented with the millions of streetlights in the valley from Gateshead up to Newcastle. I know it’s all light pollution, but it really is rather brilliant.

Where are you from? Do you still live in your hometown or have you moved away?

Sign o’ the times

speed camera sign

Often, whilst out driving, the kids will ask questions. Oh, so many questions. Recently, they asked what that sign meant.

“Oh, that’s the sign for a speed camera”

It struck me that it’s a really odd sign. It depicts a old large-format film camera with bellows attached – a bit like a Brownie and to a person of a certain age, it’s immediately apparent that it’s a camera. To the kids? No idea. They’ll learn it as part of their driving test, of course, but it’s still weirdly anachronistic.

What makes it even stranger is Britain’s first speed camera was switched on in 1992.

Not that long ago surely that the sign needed to depict a vintage camera?

Have you noticed any other weird signs? Do you know why the speed camera sign features such an old camera?

Some others…

The sign for a level crossing without a gate or barrier features a steam train. Now, much as I adore steam trains (quite a lot, really), when was the last time you saw one?
level crossing

Slippery road. This one has always troubled me. The tyre marks crossing over just aren’t possible!
slippery road sign

And finally (as they say on the news), I discovered this. No explosives. Good advice generally, I’d have thought. Do we really need a sign for it?
no explosives


Day nine of Blog Every Day in November, and today we’re talking blogging.

Lego Tourist Guy

I’ve pinched Janet’s questions from her blogpost on the same topic – I’ve talked about blogging before on here a few times, but I quite liked these questions. She assures me that she doesn’t mind me using them. You should go over and read her post too.

How and when did you decide to start blogging?
It was back in March of 2003 – I’d always fancied starting some sort of blog and my friend Jon invited me to set up a Livejournal blog. Ten years and over ten thousand blog posts later, here I am. Livejournal used to be a real community place where the conversations in the comments were often more entertaining than the posts themselves. LJ is still going, but a lot of my friends on there have migrated over to Facebook, Twitter or Google+, or a combination of the three. Some have even ended up on wordpress or blogger. Some have, sadly, vanished off the face of the internet.

What’s the story behind your blog’s name?
I used to have a blog (actually, I used to have lots of blogs) called dakegra.net. That took a lot of explaining. Then one day I woke up from a dream in which I was drinking in a coffee shop called Espresso Coco, decided that it was far to lovely a name not to have, and promptly acquired the domain espressococo.com. I sat on it for a while, wondering quite what to do with it. Then I decided it was the perfect name for a blog, set it up on wordpress.com and here we are. I may link it up to espressococo.com at some point if I can find the funds to do so.

What’s the best post you’ve ever written?
In terms of pageviews, it’d be stationery geek, but it’s really hard to choose a personal favourite. I had huge fun writing the Bond Skyfall one and the one about the perfect movie length, and the top ten Discworld books post generated a load of discussion over on Twitter.

I’ve also got one in draft about the Sam Neil Haircut Theory, but you’ll have to wait for that one. #tease

What are your favourite and least favourite things about blogging?
Favourite things are easy – I love the process of writing and coming up with stuff. I found this with photography, noticing the little things which others might have missed. It’s great fun writing a post and setting it loose, generating conversations with new people and learning new stuff.
Least favourite? Spending ages crafting a lovely blog post and watching as it gets no comments, no mentions, nothing on Twitter. Wondering if it was as interesting written down as it was to me in my head…

Right. Question time. Tell me about your favourite blogs and bloggers. Bonus points for links!