Posted in Updates on Thursday 29th October 2009 at 2:11pm

I've written in an only half mocking way about my "Octoberfear" here on many occasions. This all came about from the strange coincidence that bad stuff seemed to happen in my birth month. Not catastrophic stuff - nothing which affected other people unduly in fact - but things which just made me throw my hands up in despair and wonder what on earth would be thrown my way next. It's all a bit comic really, and to be honest it's generated it's own little routine which makes me come back with extra positivity to try to cheat the trend. Not something you'll find me doing often, but a useful exercise nonetheless.

This year, I thought I had it licked. A busy month of pre-planned and pre-booked events which would take me all over the place. A mixture of solitary trundles up obscure byways and more sociable trips in company. I genuinely thought I was in for a decent month - even the weather forecast seemed fairly benign. Then things began to unravel... As usual, not in a disastrous way - firstly a cancelled Pathfinder trip to Donnington and the Oldham Loop on it's last day. With another tour due to do Donnington soon, and with the loop covered in some style back in August, I let it slide. I came back with a trip to Glasgow and a curiously indecisive weekend - but I wasn't beaten. Then came the Severn Valley Gala - and just days before what promised to be the event of the year a steam engine spread the track at Highley. In the end it was a much smaller event with some frustrating aspects - but lots of Batham's Best and a philosophical approach made it feel better.

But then, things became really odd. During a very pleasant trip to York with Spitfire (which suffered it's own delays and curtailments sadly enough), I heard that the Western tour booked for 31st October was cancelled too! Western tours just don't get cancelled - bookings are always good, and D1015 is one of the most reliable machines out there. But sure enough, there was a letter waiting for me on the morning of my birthday telling me the new date next March. With a week off to avoid just the weltschmerz which was descending, I felt tired and stretched. Unable to do much except laze around the place, not bothered about getting all the useful jobs done I'd promised to use my week for.

And on the day I returned from the excellent Buffer Puffer tours, it all began to click into place. I felt a little weak and tired as I slogged over to Clapham Junction, and I found myself dreading the trek from the tube to the platform at Paddington. I had a little breakfast and soon settled into my comfortable seat for the usual snoozy trip back to Bristol. On arriving to my alarm I found walking painful and difficult, and it took me almost all the time I had to change trains. Another sleepy trip brought me home, and meeting someone to chat to took my mind off things. However, by 3pm it was confirmed - H1N1 was the source of my sore throat and sneezes over the weekend, and October had dealt me a cruel, painful and frustrating last trick.

And now? I feel weak, listless and frustrated. Staying indoors is the most tiresome bit, but I'm so aware of how at risk some of my family could be if they have contact with me. Tamiflu is a dreadful drug, which has given me the most vivid and disturbing dreams - but has, it seems put paid to the indescribable aches and pains in apparently random body parts which are perhaps the worst this nasty virus offers to those who suffer only the mildest symptoms. Oddly, as the flu departs I seem to be getting a cold - and strangest of all, I can't summon any interest in food at all. I can't recommend this to anyone - and I'll promise never to misuse the term 'flu' again. This ain't no common cold, that's for sure!

So, October passes once again and I'm almost amused at how a well-planned effort to stave off the 'fear' has ended up. Lets hope the decent weather lasts into November, even if the daylight won't.


Posted in Updates on Saturday 10th January 2009 at 2:33pm

I've just seen my first Atheist Bus and I confess to feeling childish excitement and, had it not been in the midst of Saturday crowds in Leeds City Centre, I might well have punched the air and done a little dance. Those who know me in real life will realise what an alarming and unlikely prospect this is - and thus just how important this first sighting was to me.

The bus ads were launched last Tuesday and have taken to the streets of London as originally planned. However, the overwhelming and heartfelt response to this refreshing campaign raised over 2000% more than originally planned - thus they can now been seen in Manchester, Birmingham, Glasgow, York, Newcastle, Dundee, Sheffield, Coventry, Devon, Liverpool, Wolverhampton, Swansea, Newport, Rhondda, Bristol, Southampton, Newcastle, Aberdeen and of course Leeds. The campaign has also been able to fund tube cards including quotes from notable freethinkers and large digital billboards in Central London. Unsurprisingly, Stephen Green of Christian Voice was irked enough by this national sigh of relief from the non-religious to complain to the Advertising Standards Agency that there was "not a shred of evidence" for the claim there is no god. Presumably Mr Green has his irrefutable sources all lined up for the inevitable theological showdown. It will be interesting to see if the recently highly political Drs. Sentamu and Williams will manage to keep quiet and dismiss this with a chortle as they have to date?

As pressure mounts on the BBC to review their refusal to let humanist and secular speakers participate in Thought for the Day and today's iPM show features ABC originator Ariane Sherine in a 'thought for the afternoon' segment, there has never been a more open debate about secularism in the UK. Typing this in a freezing Leeds station, I'm still grinning from my first sighting of the bus. It feels rebellious - I want to ask people what they think of it - but of course, discussing religion is impolite - isn't it?

Movebook Link

Posted in Updates on Thursday 25th December 2008 at 11:27pm

Back from a rather quiet, but warm and comforting day with the family. As ever in my Christmas Day posts, I must stress I don't find the time of year easy at all, and my instinct is to avoid much of the festivity. Given the changes which the family has seen over the years though, it's an occasion when I tend to reflect a little too much. The highlight of course was to get to spend the day with my two wonderful nephews, and to remember that last year we were all waiting eagerly for nephew No.2's arrival in March. It seems like a very long time ago now, and he took the day in his stride, his big brother looking after him and making an old uncle very proud!

It's been something of a watershed year for atheists, with positive press attention and genuine engagement with the mainstream. It's always a shame to see the rather foolish 'Mad Atheists banning Christmas' stories floating about, because I think along with a lot of fellow unbelievers, I value this quiet time of the year with my family.


Posted in Updates on Tuesday 21st October 2008 at 11:10pm

I caught up late with Ariane Sherine's piece on The Guardian website regarding religious advertising on buses in London. Frequenting railways stations as often as I do, these posters, including a recent Alpha Course campaign have become a depressingly common part of the wallpaper, and I chuckled at how close Ariane's views were to mine and cursed missing the chance to support the original pledge to raise money for an atheist bus advertising campaign. However, with the support of the British Humanist Association and Professor Richard Dawkins, the campaign rose again this morning and made national news - including the brazenly pro-religion BBC. The aim was £5,500 at which point Professor Dawkins would match the sum from his own pocket. I gleefully tossed in my small contribution and felt strangely cheerful. Later I checked the website in the hope that the target was increasing. It had, and beyond all expectations, the £5,500 figure was reached as early as 10:06, and the total now exceed this by many thousands of pounds! As I type this article, the donations stand at £46,512 and continue to increase. You can check the total and donate yourself if you wish here.

Why is this important - and perhaps more interestingly, why do people who don't believe in something feel the need to express this lack of belief? The simple answer is because the insidious and accepted view that religion is somehow privileged in our society. If this campaign persuades just a handful of people to re-examine their acceptance of a two-tier school system, of workplaces divided by inequality, of public money spent on pointless and often lengthy court cases brought by mischief makers claiming religious prejudice, then it has been a success. Notably, the comments people are placing against their donations are warm, funny, celebratory and often express great relief that such a high profile campaign is under way, and appears to be making an impact.

The only truly dissenting note comes from the predictable corner of Christian Voice. In their deeply sincere 'letters to the editor' style of offended harrumphing and appallingly poor political quippery, they make a few 'bendy bus' gags before insulting Dawkins' intelligence and claiming it doesn't matter anyway. We'll all be burning in hell anyway if Stephen Green has his way, so he'll be assured of a warm reception when he makes it upstairs! This is the rather trite and amusing side of a very seriously discriminatory, inflammatory and offensive organisation however, and whilst this time Christian Voice have just made the whole thing even funnier for all concerned, you can bet your bottom dollar they'll have some truly appalling campaign up their sleeves soon! Amazing how one simple sentence can provoke such concerned handwringing by supposedly respectable individuals and organisations.

An interesting note related to the wording of the ad - "There is probably no god..." (my emphasis). I understand that this was included to ensure that the Advertising Standards Agency would not uphold complaints that the advert was making assertions of truth on an untestable proposition. Ariane compares it to Carlsberg lager in her piece. I don't mind the addition at all - it's questioning tone is appropriate to the scientific principle, and it's seemingly casual lack of concern for the answer reflects the true atheist perspective - it doesn't actually matter what anyone else believes, so lets get on with the one life we've got!

I appreciate that not all my friends or casual readers will share my views. For the sake of empiricism I have included links to a number of views and thoughts on this campaign.

You can still donate to this campaign here.

Movebook Link


I've had a home on the web for more years than I care to remember, and a few kind souls persuade me it's worth persisting with keeping it updated. This current incarnation of the site is centred around the blog posts which began back in 1999 as 'the daylog' and continued through my travels and tribulations during the following years.

I don't get out and about nearly as much these days, but I do try to record significant events and trips for posterity. You may also have arrived here by following the trail to my former music blog Songs Heard On Fast Trains. That content is preserved here too.

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