The Dad Diaries Chapter 1: In which 2005 arrives and a card is not sent to the Emperor of Japan

Thursday, 23rd December, 2004

My diary helpfully tells me it’s the Emperor’s birthday in Japan. If I’d realised sooner I could have sent a card. The shops have been full of Christmas cards for weeks so I probably missed the Japanese Emperor birthday card section.

More importantly, it’s Christmas Eve-Eve! Jack came back from the market with four new Santa hats to replace our rag-tag, scruffy collection. He’s a thoughtful son. We will of course now have to wear them for the next week.

Wednesday, 29th December, 2004

Bought a new pair of trainers and the ABBA Gold CD. They are so underrated (ABBA, not the trainers). Can’t believe it’s 30 years since Waterloo. Can’t believe I’m old enough to say it’s 30 years since anything. Well, obviously, I’ve always been able to say that; it’s just that now I can say it for events for which I was present, well, not present (since I wasn’t actually at the 1974 Eurovision Song Contest – although I could have been, it being held in Brighton and all) but, you know, alive at the time of the event which is now 30 (or whatever) years ago.

Friday, 31st December, 2004

Decided I will not wax philosophical about another year drawing to a close, where does the time go and all the rest. Instead, reminded Jack and Sarah that, once again, they’re in danger of failing to write their thank-you letters before the end of the year in which their Christmas gifts were received. Once again they argued that it doesn’t matter, that it’s not even a week since the said gift receiving and that if Christmas was in August it would be different. And besides (they continued), it’s holidays from writing and stuff (everything’s “and stuff” with them these days). I then reminded them that while they may not set great store by a £5 Boots gift voucher (which we will inevitably end up swapping for cash because they don’t want anything from Boots), Aunty Muriel and Uncle Norman were very kind to think of them at all and that ingratitude is just downright rude.

They adopted suitably penetant expressions and asked if they could do it after Friends.

Sunday, 2nd January, 2005

Played squash with F. but was rubbish.

Christmas wasn’t cancelled after all

Monday, 3rd January, 2005

Took the Christmas stuff down despite it being only ninth night. It now consists of six boxes and a bag. Reminds me of that episode of The Good Life where Margot declares Christmas as cancelled “because it couldn’t be delivered”. After all, we all know you don’t need tinsel and chocolate Santas hanging on an artificial tree to celebrate the birth of Christ. Although sherry and re-runs of Morecambe and Wise always help.

Wednesday, 5th January, 2005

Sarah and Jack finally wrote their thank-you letters. I suppose it’s because they’re back at school and are allowed to do “writing and stuff” once more.

The Dad Diaries are fictional. Probably.

Back up your WordPress posts with Export!

The other day my iPad blogging app got confused between a brand new post I’d written and an existing WordPress post on this site. Result: When I “published” my new post, it actually overwrote the existing post. Boo. It was a fascinating one, too (as are they all, of course). Having dried my tears, I came to terms with the fact that it was irretrievably gone. All my blood, sweat and tears, vanished in an instant.

Sniff.

Anyhoo, after telling myself to get over it, I realised I had fallen victim to a risk management failure (as well as a technical one). In my other life as an IT manager, it’s my bread and butter to ensure that data we don’t want to lose is protected – sometimes, in more than one place. In this case, however, since I don’t routinely keep local copies of my posts, I failed miserably to apply my own good principles. I am suitably ashamed.

WordPressExportA quick glance around my WordPress dashboard led me to the Export tool. This downloads my precious posts to an XML file suitable for re-import to any WP site. (But, at a pinch, the raw text could also be extracted.) So hereafter, I’ll download the file at least monthly so that in the event of further human or technical glitches I can recover.

Have a good day – and don’t forget to back up your data 🙂

Photo Post: Hatshepsut’s Mortuary Temple, Luxor, Egypt

Image

Luxor was incredibly hot, although it was only April. By the time our tour reached Hatshepsut's Temple we were fit to drop and fed up with being harrassed by sellers and “guards” wanting money for posing for photos with you.
It was, however, a spectacular place. And although the history was fascinating, it was the lines and shapes that caught my eye. This image breaks the “rule of thirds” but still draws my eye in and puts a rather self-satisfied look on my face. Maybe the more technically-minded photographers can analyse the composition in more detail but for now it's just one of my favourite holiday snaps.

 

 

Complacency in the outside lane: My almost-collision on the M25

70

Brake lights.

Brake.

65

Brake! Brake! Brake more! Harder! How can this be happening?

50, 40, 30, 20

Not enough. More! Not too much! Don't skid! Don't hit him! Still closing!

What's behind? No time. Survived. Fifth to second. 70 to 10 in no time at all.

Oh. My. Word.

Thank you Jesus. Didn't rear-end the Toyota. Didn't get crunched by the whatever-it-was behind.

Back to normal. Back to the middle lane. Grateful. Realising.

Back off. Avoid this.

It was the M25 on a Sunday afternoon. Heavy traffic from junction 10 to Heathrow and beyond. Variable speed limits. 60. 40. “Queue Caution”. 50. 40. 40 seems to be the lowest number the signs can display, even when you can't do more than 30. Finally we're out of the variable speed limit. We pass the junction with the M4. Into the outside lane. Finally we're moving properly.

I know the 2-second rule. You should keep a 2-second gap between you and the car in front. At motorway speeds, less than that is dangerous. Less than that and the equations start to look dodgy. How fast is the vehicle in front decelerating? How good are your reaction times? How good are your brakes? And if you can slow down fast enough, what about the vehicle behind you? And the vehicle behind that one? And…

So I know the rule. But I broke it. And, thinking about it now, not for the first time. Me and about 60% of all drivers, it seems. You just watch next time you're on the motorway. The middle and outside lanes are full of cars breaking The Rule. And most of the time they – we – get away with it.

Until they don't. At which time, they crash. Because the guy in front braked hard and the guy behind couldn't brake hard enough.

This time the equations worked for me – just. I was shocked but able to react fast enough. I knew I had to brake hard but was able to avoid locking the wheels. My brakes were good enough. And I really think the Lord himself spared us a nasty accident.

In our era of quiet engines, crumple zones, airbags and ABS I think we're lulled into a false sense of security in our cars. We assume we won't crash sitting 20 yards behind another car at 70mph. Or that if we do, it won't be that bad. But we're wrong. And I have just had a motoring wake-up call.

Let's face it: If we're going to hurtle around in tin boxes running on four bits of rubber we really ought to assume it's inherently dangerous. The fact that I've not been able to drive at the speed I'd like for a few miles doesn't change that. If I can't drive at 70mph without that 2-second gap in front, I shouldn't be driving at 70mph. The only reason I'll happily preach this is because I just came perilously close to learning it the hard way. The very hard way.

Here's a bit of perspective: My journey, without all those other pesky cars, could be done in about 2 hours 30 minutes. As it was, the sheer number of people inconsiderately wanting to use the M25 at the same time as me meant the journey was about 20 minutes longer. On that near-disastrous spell in the outside lane when I was pushing along at 70mph, 5 minutes doing 65mph instead would have lengthened my journey by less than one minute.

So – don't do what I did; don't get complacent in the outside lane. Slow down, back off – and get home safely.