Remembering how to write about something other than computer

Oceansize were my favourite band between about 2005 and 2010. Self Preserved While The Bodies Float Up was their last album, released shortly before they abruptly disbanded in early 2011.

The opening track, Part Cardiac, is honestly a bit heavy and sludgy even for me, but L liked it. Next up were SuperImposer and Build Us A Rocket Then…, which are in a variety of weird time signatures. At one point (which at the time I remember being in 11/8 but I can't find it now, so maybe it was “only” 7/8) she asked me to show her the actions for the song, which felt like a savage burn of my taste in music.

This was the first album where I felt uncomfortable about exposing a three-year-old to the artwork:

Cover art from Self Preserved While The Bodies Float Up

But L seemed completely unfazed.


The first two CDs L plucked from the box were Mogwai's Happy Songs for Happy People and Caribou's Swim. Neither lasted more than a minute before she bashed the ⏏ button on the PS3.

Happy Songs for Happy People is a bit of a slow-burner, so I'm not too surprised it couldn't hold her interest. Swim was a bit more surprising: it's got great artwork, and gets straight to the point.

But then we turned to Give Up. A classic! And three-year-old minds agree. We made it three tracks into this one, which I'm calling a success.

When she was small and upset, I used to sing her songs from this album, though for some reason it was usually This Place is a Prison which I've always wanted to cover. We didn't get far enough into the album to find out if she remembers it.


This weekend, my three-year-old found my CD collection.

I haven't bought CDs for a long time, and a few years ago I culled my collection down to 60 or so that I couldn't bear to part with: albums I still love, with some sentimental value, or with particularly nice packaging. So, it's a nice snapshot of what I was into 5-15 years ago, with some of the rough edges filed away. And “music from a decade before I had children” is, by definition, dad rock.

I don't actually play them, of course, but I did save our PlayStation 3 from last year's cull, so at least I still have something that can read optical media.

And so, when my daughter found three mysterious boxes lurking at the back of a shelf while we were tidying up, she wanted to hear what was on them. Whenever I've tried actively listening to music I like with her before, she's always lost interest within a minute and demanded that Alexa play something different. But she's older now; we don't have The Wheels on the Bus on a CD; and a friend happened to have sent me the lovely video below a few weeks ago; so, we gave it a go! More on what she rated in a future instalment.


My older daughter has a copy of Midnight Feasts, a poetry anthology curated by A.F. Harrold. We gave a copy to one of her friends for their birthday, too. I didn't only buy it because it contains This Is Just to Say but it may have been a factor.

One of the poems that has stuck with me is Trouble Came to the Turnip by Caroline Bird. It begins:

When trouble came to the village I put my love in the cabbage-cart and we rode, wrapped in cabbage to the capital.

Each stanza has the same form, with trouble coming to the place they fled to in the previous stanza, and the narrator and their love escaping in increasingly abstract or absurdist fashions. For example:

When trouble came to the nunnery, I put my love inside a prayer book and we repented, wrapped in prayer to the prison.

Honestly, it's a bit abstract for a three-year-old! But it makes this thirty-four-year-old want to build an homage using some word embedding toolkit to generate new parameters. Will I have time during NaNoGenMo 2020?

I've been watching Alice Fraser's Savage. (It's good! But don't expect a non-stop stream of laughs: it's about the more difficult aspects of life.)

At one point, she asks (paraphrasing) if you can remember what it was like to be three years old, eating an ice cream in the sunshine, shirt off with the ice cream slowly dripping down your torso. I can't – I don't have all that many clear memories of that part of my life. Fortunately, I don't have to remember: I can often see with my own eyes what it's like to be three years old and covered in ice-cream. Heaven.

I used to think I was a night owl who worked best late into the evening. Over the last few years, a combination of factors – a family member who wakes up early, nursery drop-off, working from home for a company whose prevailing time-zones are in the Americas – have taught me that I get my best work done in the morning, provided I make a plan and start promptly.

Then came the pandemic. With nurseries throughout the UK closed, my partner and I shared childcare and split our working days for the best part of three months. The prevailing time-zone of (my teams at) my company is on the other side of the Atlantic, so the only sensible way to divide the day was for me to start work after lunch. If I ever wanted confirmation that the morning is my best time for productivity, taking the mornings away provided it.

A cat on my doormat.

Now nurseries have reopened, and I have my mornings back for work. (Better than before, actually, because I cleared out most of my morning appointments.) The downside is that mornings were also the best time for playing in the sunshine.

The chorus of this duet between Neil Gaiman (vocals) and Ben Folds (piano) popped into my head the other week and just won't leave. Is it wrong to sing “And the people that she hated will be neatly bifurcated” in the presence of a two-year-old?


In 2013, Psapp released the album What Makes Us Glow. My memory is a bit fuzzy but I must have bought some pre-order bundle including a tote bag, poster, release party gig ticket, and sheet music for the title track.

The launch gig was great, but I must have not been in the right mental space to appreciate the album at the time because it never really stuck. I don't think I even opened the sheet music back then.

The other day, my daughter found the sheet music on my shelf. She's fascinated by it, in part because it has cats on the cover, but also because the idea that music can be written down, read back and played is astonishing to her (as someone just learning to read letters and simple words). So, we've listened this song at least twice a day every day this week, with me showing her how I'm following the music and singing along. It's really grown on me.

The days spilling into still white weeks
I was so tired I could not speak

#thisismymarmalade #psapp

On my phone, I have configured Digital Wellbeing to only allow me to use my RSS reader for 15 minutes per day. The timer resets at midnight. Last night I stopped work after midnight, and read some blogs to wind down. This evening, I discovered I'd effectively used today's allowance yesterday.

In a past life I used a timelogging tool to report what I'd worked on to my employer. It had a configurable “virtual midnight” feature which defaulted to 4am: work done before this time was considered to have happened the previous calender day. This was always super-buggy, but I came to realise the real bug is working late enough that it becomes an issue.

But, here we are again.


Every day I am reminded that it [Moby Dick] is part of our collective imagination: from newspaper leaders that evoke Ahab in the pursuit of the war on terror, to the ubiquitous chain of coffee shops named after the Pequod's first mate, Starbuck, where customers sip to a soundtrack generated by a great-nephew of author, Richard Melville Hall, better known as Moby.

Leviathan, or, The Whale by Philip Hoare

It seems so obvious now I know.

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