Sodden Santa

Greenpeace, you stole my thunder!  I had it all planned out.  Father Christmas lives at the North Pole, the ice cap is melting: great idea for a blog post I thought.  And then I get a video from Santa via Greenpeace complaining about the rising damp, and the sodden rug is pulled from under my feet.

So, I’m reduced to adding a little context and my own spin on the idea.

There are a few seemingly wildly different estimates as to when the Arctic will be ice-free and Santa will need to find somewhere else to live.  The 2007 report from the IPCC put the year at 2070, whereas studies are now indicating it could be 20-30 years from now, and some are saying it could be around the time of the next UK general election.  The rate of decrease of Arctic ice has been quicker than had been predicted, some due to the albedo effect, others due to soot.

This dramatic reduction in Arctic ice has led to the heavy rains and heatwaves we’ve seen in the northern hemisphere.  But things are altogether more serious for Santa.

So, what are we going to say to those kids who have been brought up thinking Santa lives in the North Pole?  We’d have to make a choice between telling them he’s not real, or saying he’s moved.  Apparently the North Pole was his traditional hang-out from around the latter half of the 19th century.  But he also had reindeer at that time, which can’t graze at the North Pole, so he moved to Finnish Lapland in 1925.

So, I guess we’ll just be saying he lives in Lapland.  Not so bad after all.

Although I’m sure he’d be disappointed to see his old home melt away.  “When I was a lad, all this used to be ice”, he’ll be saying.

Well, I have a message for you, Mr Claus.  If you don’t want your old home to melt, I suggest 1) you stop buying masses of plastic rubbish for a load of spoiled kids, including my own, and 2) you share the secret of your faster-than-light travel so we can get around without the pollution – assuming all that glitter and the tinkling bells are low carbon.

I’ll leave you with Jim Carter looking scary in a basement.

John Bell,

Ordinary bloke

PS – thank you for all the survey responses.  Still time to let me know what you think.  I’ll collate it all for a future post or two.


Quick thank you to government for making me happy

A quick post this one. Who would have thought it, but I do believe the Tories are making me happier.

I have just had an interview with a guy working for the Office of National Statistics. One of the sets of questions was about well-being, asking for scores out of 10 for how happy I was yesterday and that kind of thing. I’m looking forward to the day that we use a measure such as that to determine the health of the country rather than the blunt instrument that is GDP.

Anyway, I digress. One of the questions was to ask me on a scale of 1-10 whether I think I am doing the most worthwhile thing with my life. I confidently said “10” – nothing could be more important than securing the future of my family and the integrity of life on earth.

Later, while making myself a piece of honey on toast (thank you local bees via Cris Baker for the honey), I started to think about the question. If this well-being measure was being used to see how well a government is getting on, I’d be contributing to the Tories being able to say that people are getting happier. “Cheeky buggers” was my initial thought. It’s me that’s making me happy, not them – I’m happy and fulfilled in spite of them, not because.

Then I thought a bit more. Actually, I’d have nothing to strive for if the Tories weren’t so weak and being so short-termist and reactive to Daily Mail headlines.

It’s a bit of a odd, roundabout way of going about making me happier, but thank you Tories all the same.

I’d rather you sorted climate change out, though, if its all the same to you.

Kids taught me another lesson

Maddie reminded me again on Saturday how much I can learn from my kids.Kids in back of car

We had just spent a pleasant, lazy afternoon in town having a late lunch, exchanging books in the library* and buying marker pens for a gathering of Transition Towns the following day**.

I’m afraid to admit that we’d driven to town, even though it is walkable.  It was the lazy option, both mentally and physically.  You need to be organised to live a low carbon life.  We had no food in the house and had left it too late to walk.

We’d arrived back home, and Rowan was getting the buggy out of the boot, and I was trying to manage a little tiff that Maddie and Emily were having while still strapped into their seats in the back of the car.

Maddie was reading the blurb of the three Enid Blyton books she’d got out of the library.

“If you don’t give me one of those books, I’ll punch you again” threatened Emily.  She slightly lisped the “ch” at the end of “punch”.  “And if I ask you and you don’t give me another, I’ll punch you again”.

There followed a typical little exchange between the two of them where we established that Emily had indeed been the aggressor.

“But it was very lightly” Emily protested quietly.

To be fair, it probably was.  It’s difficult not to laugh when she gently closes a door in a fit of pique.

“You might need to go on the naughty step if you don’t say something to Maddie.  What do you think that would be?”

“Sowwy Maddie” she apologised.

“It’s not good to punch people if you want something.  Then again, Maddie, it would be good if you could share with Ems.  If she asks nicely for a book, maybe you could give her one?”

“Please can I have one of your books?” Ems asked, eyes turned downwards.

A book was handed over, Maddie hanging her head as well.

“I think that if you both treated each other as though you love each other you’ll both be happy,” I said, veering into preachy mode.

Still looking at her feet, Maddie said “Daddy, I think Mummy would be happier if you helped her with the boot”.

Game, set, match small people.

I got out of the car to help Rowan.

John Bell,

Ordinary bloke

* I took “Prosperity without growth” back without opening it – not had time – I’ll get it out again when I’ve finished “The Long Earth”

** 22 people from a dozen different local Transition Towns are gathering (have gathered by the time this goes live) talk about how we can work together.  In a classic example of “build it and they will come”, a friend Andrew Davies, author of the Future Café, had offered to host an event for me for free, on any subject.  The idea of getting the local TTs together came after we’d decided to have a meeting.  I’ll write a post about it soon.

100 things to do before I die

I’ve had a bit of fun delving into my inner self to figure out what I want to do with my life.  Not that death is just around the corner.  Partly it is to give me a sense of purpose, partly just out of interest.  I’ve surprised myself.

I’m writing it from the perspective of the me that started university, at the point that I started to know myself for the first time.

Which means I can put a few things on here that I’ve already done, so I can feel good about myself as I tick a few things off.

Here we go.

    1. Get a degree. DONE
    2. Get a job. DONE
    3. Get married. DONE
    4. Own a house.  I kind of do, but there is a whacking great mortgage to go with it, so that doesn’t really count.  UPDATE: Mortgage paid off a couple of years back, so now DONE.
    5. Have children. DONE
    6. Read the Bible and the Koran. DONE
    7. Accidentally slip on a banana skin. DONE Was a difficult one to achieve, ‘cause you can’t do it deliberately.  Happened outside Euston station one night on the way home from work.  How I chuckled.  Says something that it was the homeless that came to see if I was alright, even if they did ask for change when they saw I was fine.

Banana skin

  1. Write a book.
  2. Get a book published.  Makes sense at the moment – might need to revise that one in the digital age.
  3. Make a leap of faith.  I.e. Find God or decide He’s not there.
  4. Have a photo of a miniature I’ve painted printed in a magazine.  Yes, I still hold on to that obsession from when I was a spotty teenager.
  5. Play a musical instrument, probably a violin.
  6. Speak another language fluently.  Climate change jargon doesn’t count.
  7. Live in an idyllic house in the country where we can live off-grid.
  8. Write a list of 100 things to do before I die.  This is hard.
  9. Catch a thermal under a hang-glider.  To date, I’ve only ever managed short flights or ridge soaring with ropes attached to the wing tips.
  10. Parachute jump.  How I’m going to get up there without a plane I have no idea.
  11. Travel round the world.  Without flying, of course.
  12. Ride a bike with no hands.  I don’t mean the bike has no hands, I mean I haven’t got mine on the handlebars.  Of course.  Obvious.  UPDATE: Did this last year, before lockdown.  DONE.
  13. Run a marathon. DONE Fantastic experience.
  14. Swim a length under water.
  15. Get pecs.
  16. Go to a celebrity party.  Why on earth?  Shallow.
  17. Get a scientific paper published in a reputable journal.
  18. Patent an invention.
  19. Start a business (not a stupid one – see DONE
  20. Sell a business.  UPDATE: Sold Bellvedi April 2019. DONE.
  21. Cook a really good roast with roast potatoes like my Mum used to makes.  She still does.
  22. Win the treble on Championship Manager.  DONE Did it with Cardiff in the middle of the nights while looking after Maddie when she was a baby.
  23. Achieve Enlightenment.
  24. Reach 100 with full use of my faculties.
  25. Keep chickens.
  26. Become a doctor.  Non-medical, I’m assuming.
  27. Get some sort of award, like a MBE.
  28. Make a will.  UPDATE: Completing that now (Dec 2020).  DONE.
  29. Appear in a blockbuster film.  As an extra is fine.
  30. Hit a 180. DONE
  31. Become my own boss.  DONE
  32. Make a pot using a turntable.
  33. Walk up Ben Nevis.
  34. Walk up Snowdon. DONE
  35. Ascend Snowdon via Crib Goch.  Tried it once but left it much too late, and my brother was in a cast, so we sensibly turned back.
  36. Learn how to chop food really fast like a chef.
  37. Bake a moist, tasty fruit cake.  Maybe a Christmas cake.
  38. Make a timelapse animation.  Like Morph.
  39. Truly realise I don’t need to do any of these things.  Not just say so.
  40. Walk my daughters down the aisle.  If that’s what they want to do.

I’ll give it a rest there.  I need to leave room for a future me to think up a few more things.

And then I found an old list I wrote a couple of years ago, where I’d only got to number 26.  But it did contain some other things that aren’t in the list above:

  1. Finish The Hobbit BBC microcomputer game.  I am tempted to take this off the list, but can’t bring myself to do it.  How do you get past those pesky elves?
  2. Read the full works of Shakespear.
  3. Live in a house with a fireplace.
  4. Learn how to plumb.
  5. Learn how to do electrics.
  6. Go to the Globe theatre.
  7. Show a painting or picture in a gallery.

Which leads me to think of a few other things:

  1. Learn how to work with wood.
  2. Learn how to survive in the wilderness.
  3. Teach my kids some practically useful skills.
  4. This one just in.  Thank you Trevor.  Tell my son, in no uncertain terms, that he is a man, at the point that he becomes a man. And tell my daughters they are a woman.

John Bell,

Ordinary bloke

Tumtups & Pom Pom

In a departure from the seriousness of my usual posts, I thought I’d share with you the beginnings of a childrens’ story I’ve been writing.  I made it up over a few bedtimes with the girls after we had got bored of reading the same old Mr Man books, great as they are.  I’ll give you a snippet from the start – let me know what you think.

It’s great giving priority to time rather than money.

CHAPTER 1: Tumtups and the Shop with No Name

Tumtups was restless.  School was done for the day and the sun was still high in the summer sky,  so she decided to drag her little sister Pom Pom out of the house and walk to town.  On the way, they went via Alex’s house.  He needed no persuading that a jaunt outdoors beat watching telly, and came along with them.  Ethan took a little more coaxing, as usual.  Once he is comfortable on the sofa he is difficult to shift.  It is just because he is a little scared of the world, really.

So it was that the little group of four were walking along the street in town.  They took a slightly different route than normal, as they got distracted on the way down by the idea of a game of Pooh Sticks (Pom Pom won, using the old technique of throwing the stick under the bridge).

“That’s odd” exclaimed a bored sounding Ethan.  They all looked up and saw the object of Ethan’s uncharacteristically lengthy speech.  There was a shop looking down at them, one that they’d not noticed before.  The strange thing about it was that it didn’t have a name.  It was still an open shop, seemed to be clearly selling things, but it just didn’t have a name.  It seemed more somehow than the sign just not being there – somehow it just didn’t have a name, and the kids got an unsettling feeling that it felt sad about it.  They didn’t say anything to each other about this of course – they didn’t want to appear stupid.

Ever the intrepid explorer, Tumtups allowed her curiosity to hold sway over the unsettling feeling of the nameless shop.  She peeked in through the large shop window, pushing her long, straw coloured hair from her face to get a good look.

“I can’t see anything in there.  There is someone serving, but there doesn’t seem to be anything on sale.  The shop-keeper looks like he ought to be a jolly fellow, but he just looks a little sad, standing there alone behind the counter.  Shall we go in?”

“Oh, no” stammered Ethan.

“Well, I’m not sure” Alex announced decisively.

Pom Pom didn’t say anything.

Tumtups just shrugged her shoulders, and went in through the tall shop doorway.  Even the sound of the bell ringing as the door opened sounded forlorn.

“Hello, Mr Shopkeeper.  My name is Tumtups” she said bravely.  Pom Pom trotted in behind her, with the others sneaking part way in, trying not to be seen.

“Hello, Tumtups.  Pleased to meet you” replied the jolly-but-not shopkeeper.  “I used to have a name, but it’s gone now, just like the shop.  You see, the shop is a magic shop.  But it’s broken – everytime a magician comes in, something magically disappears.  First it was all of the interesting magical nick-nacks, which was bad enough.  But when they were all gone, our names started to go.”


I’ll leave it there for now.  Hope it’s left you wanting more.

John Bell

Ordinary Bloke

Small Talk

That was enough doom and gloom for a bit.  So how about a little bit of light-hearted fun for the weekend?  Emily, Maddie and I have recorded little videos of us describing three words (the same three words). The idea is that you post a reply at the bottom with your guesses as to what the three words are.

The twist (wringing hands) is that you only get the videos of Emily to start with – then in a while I’ll add the Maddie videos, and then mine. You need to guess after each set of videos is uploaded. Enjoy!

The first word described by Ems:

And the second word:

Then the third: