Monthnotes: May 2024

Life still feels pretty good at the moment, but it also feels like hard work. Part of this is that I was committed to giving three talks between May 28th and June 12th. I’ve also continued to feel like I was a little behind with everything. May brought two bank holidays and neither felt particularly relaxing. However, it was lovely to have lots of guests in the house during the month, including several visitors for Rosy’s birthday.

Walking continues to be a maintenance dose, with my target at 8000 steps a day. The daily average was a mere 10,489 steps a day for a total of 325,147 over the month. The highest total was 17,150 from my friend Laurence coming to visit, and being given a tour of the town. I’ve actually committed to an exercise programme starting in June which will hopefully get some control over my fitness.

My weekly writing on the substack continues, and I was particularly happy with Skin Fever, a piece I wrote for Wednesday Writers. I also released a zine, Once Upon a Time in Brighton and Hove, which is basically my sixth South Downs Way collection. I’ve not done very much promotion of this – I sent out some free copies, but these haven’t received much response. I’m pleased with how the writing is going, compared to where I was a year ago, but needs a change in approach to build momentum. The substack has been great for getting me to publish stories, but I want to focus on larger works. I’ve an idea about experimenting with novella-sized fictions, which can be shared on the substack as works-in-progress.

The local elections were at the start of May, and felt like an imposition as I’m not feeling particularly engaged with party politics. At the end of the month, the government announced the general election for July 4th. I’ve long expected that this would be closer than the polls are claiming but the shoddy launch suggests this will not be the case. The chaotic Tory campaign has been entertaining so far.

I watched slightly fewer movies than usual in May, and a couple were re-watches. I went to the Blackpool IMAX to watch Furiosa, which was bitterly disappointing. The best thing I saw was And the King Said What a Fantastic Machine, a documentary about the history of film. This was delightfully sprawling and full of provocative footage, a little like an Adam Curtis documentary, but without the overarching narrative.

I also watched most of Castle Rock season 1 before running out of steam. It felt a little too much like a drama, but it was interesting to see Stephen King done as an aesthetic. Dinosaur was a charming BBC comedy series. I tried watching Baby Reindeer. Despite it being a true story, I couldn’t believe that the main character would not immediately spot how odd/dangerous Martha was. The new Doctor Who series is good, but I’m taking time to settle into having a new Doctor.

My reading was a little less disordered than it has been, and I finished six books. Joelle Taylor’s The Night Alphabet was a patchwork novel, sometimes frustrating, but ultimately one I’m glad I read. Kathleen Hanna’s biography Rebel Girl was inspiring, but harrowing in places. I also read part of Annie Jacobsen’s Nuclear War: A Scenario but I’ve been taking it slow as it is so terrifying. Stephen King’s new collection You Like it Darker had some excellent stories. King has reached the stage of his career where everything feels elegaic. While some of the stories were simplistic and unremarkable, there were others that were moving.

Rory Stewart’s account of his time in government, Politics on the Edge was interesting. Stewart was undoubtedly effective as a minister, but the reasonable tone he takes against the idiocy of everyone else makes you wonder if there’s sometimges another side of the story. His portrait of Boris Johnson’s time in the Foreign Office is withering and suggests that the current system isn’t working.

I’m continuing to enjoy music, but I’m missing the music papers and the context that they gave context to upcoming releases. Nowadays music simply appears on streaming and I miss the background that reviews and promotional interviews gave. Among this month’s new releases was a Ghostface Killer album, but a homophobic slur made me drop that pretty fast. I also went out to a live gig when Zheani came to Manchester.

I’ve been mostly logged out of Twitter and Bluesky, having tired of social media’s current form. I’ve been posting regularly to my mastodon account, where I probably have more monthly posts than readers. But its good to return to the original feeling of microblogging. I’m completly ignoring Threads and Facebook. I have an account on the latter as I need to contact some local groups, but I am not adding anyone who’s not based in the valley. Given Facebook continues to allow problematic content, I want to give it as little support as possible.

On Rosy’s birthday, sat on the sofa with her and Olive, we went though the years of photos on my phone. It was a great way to to review memories – nights out, festivals, walks, hangover selfies – seeing us grow over the space of minutes. I think it’s good to have these sorts of archives. These monthnotes are another example.

I’ve no idea why there was a pair of peacocks on the houses opposite

The first of my three talks was for work, about Java on Serverless. I put a lot of work into it but, when it was delivered, it felt light and inconsequential. It could probably have had more technical details. Otherwise, work has been going a little better and I feel more on top of things. Consultancy means being busy on many simultaneous, unrelated projects, and I’m finding that doing tasks promptly is helping me to feel less swamped.

I finally got a decent photo of one of the local deer
  • Since Christmas, I’ve been wearing a beard, but decided to remove it this month.
  • I picked up a free sunflower from the station cafe at the start of the month, but it stubbornly refused to grow, despite me taking very great care of it.
  • Rosy and I discovered the Merlin app, and have been using it to identify local birds.
  • I made my first drive since January and discovered that I’d wrecked the car battery through driving so rarely.
  • On a drive later in the month, I had more car trouble. I am tiring of driving and wondering if train/taxi might be a cheaper combination for my rare journeys.
Rain coming in across the valley

Lists of advice on the internet can be trite, but I found this suggestion from Kevin Kelly incredibly moving: “When you think of someone easy to despise—a tyrant, a murderer, a torturer—don’t wish them harm. Wish that they welcome orphans into their home, and share their food with the hungry. Wish them goodness, and by this compassion you will increase your own happiness.” I love the idea of wishing for redemption rather than harm.

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3 thoughts on “Monthnotes: May 2024”

  1. “I love the idea of wishing for redemption rather than harm” – amen to that! This seems to be such a rare stance, but to be it’s a no-brainer. Seems to me that the logical conclusion of wishing harm on problematic people is sticking them all in concentration/extermination camps. I’d prefer not to.

    Reminds me… a while ago I listened to a podcast about magic mushrooms where they ask each guest who they’d like to trip with. On the episode I listened to, the guest chose Donald Trump, because she figured he needed it

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