|007| Grumpiness shifting

This week as it was to me

Especially the tail end of this week I have been feeling a bit grumpy and low, hard to put my finger on. I’m increasingly a believer in emotional climates, and it’s a week with a couple of high profile suicides. It could also be the post-singing hangover, which a few people have told me is a thing.

On the plus side I had a really nice weekend, hanging out with the new (and very cool) lady friend. Weather was great, and we spent Sunday at a lovely ecofair at a church in Durham. We checked out the transition town network, a time bank exchange system (sadly I live outside the catchment area) and some cool garden furniture from an organisation that employs disadvantaged people to build things using recovered and recycled wood.

Text that reads - Order taken - please ask - thank you! www.handcrafted.org.uk

The shape note crew did a short singing demonstration and the whole thing was a mix of jolly vicars and eco people. Plus I saw this text from my favourite saint.

Text that reads "god is all you need" Theresa of Avila 1515-82


This week I’m trying to get on top of my taxes, before the new job starts. So much to do.

Art and improv

Saw an uninspired show and played an uninspired show, one after the other. But one highlight was working with Will to do our mask format that we developed in Austin Texas, which is a kind of advice column where the mask meets with petitioners who bring to him sincere problems they would like solving. It was funny and moving and exactly what I want from this mask work.

Giving and receiving

It was nice to be at the eco fair, helping out at the sing as part of a skeleton crew of regular hands (and boy is it hard to take the lead for a part you’re not used to singing), setting stuff up, etc.


I watched Infinity War and I don’t have opinions, really. It was what I expected and done fairly well. Some of the villains were nicely creepy.

Branches outward

I need to take a look at this, maybe you do too: Grandma’s trauma – a critical appraisal of the evidence for transgenerational epigenetic inheritance in humans

Ditto, although Lomborg is a bit of a contrarian who is always undergirded by an uncritically pro-market perspective. So heads up. But the topic is pertinent to me. Do Children Cause Global Warming?

Jay’s talk in Rotterdam is online:

And a talk with David Holmgren on RetroSurburbia (see below):


RetroSuburbia. And it’s great. Really love the use of Aussie Street, a hypothetical set of neighbouring houses that see changes in occupancy, carbon emissions and above all land use over the decades, to paint what is possible as well as show how permaculture principles are often simply recapitulating what was done as a matter of course decades before.

Thinking through

Did this happen a) this week, b)  a decade ago c) neither, it’s fake news?

Picture of a fascist Italian with newspaper article

|006| Lung filling

This week as it was to me

I’ll keep it short, it’s only been a few days.

Had a great time at the Newcastle day singing on Saturday, and the bonus day on Sunday. Met nice people up from Oxford, down from Scotland, and over from Australia. We ended up on Sunday drinking outside in a pub and singing bawdily mispelt songs to the pleasure and bemusement of normal punters. Clearly I am becoming a shape note nerd. Current state of affairs: sing comedown, hoarse throat.


Church for Saturday’s sing.


I had a really nice date with a nice person on Friday. Yay.


Making some practical changes for how we ticket events and starting to turn our head to other business model stuff.

Art and improv

Besides the singing, we ran our jam night on Sunday, with a small but lovely group of performers up for jumping up into the unknown.

Mutual aid

The sing weekend was a lot about donating time, food and money to make the weekend work and I was happy to be a part of that.


Loving The Expanse atm. Still dipping into Kimmy Schmidt from time to time, which is real good too.

Branches outward

It’s the anniversary of Tiananmen Square. Photos.

Patterns of neuronal firing captured in gut, our second brain.

|005| Stuff shuffling

This week as it was to me

(I missed another weekend, gotta get this locked in a little!)

This was a pretty fun but hectic week. I spent a long weekend down in London, mainly to pack up all the belongings that have been squatting my mum’s house since… well since forever for some of it, but certainly a ton of stuff I brought over after selling my flat in 2010. Now it’s in here:

I also hung out with friends and took a fun clown course, and had an outstanding pistachio gluten-free vegan cupcake (I know). No pics, but it did happen.


Turned out this book required a crazy tight turnaround on the edits – you think that this could have been mentioned up-front, but no. So I have been trying to get that done – and an introduction for the book, also unmentioned until this week. So this has all had to be smuggled in amongst all my scheduled and deferred tasks, belongings-moving, etc.

I got some headshots done, which will be handy in all sorts of ways. Here’s one I like:

A picture of me wearing a maroon jumper

Also still grappling with identity-check hassles for the new job. With the train journey to the interview, overseas postage, German good conduct check cost and notary fee, it’s the most expensive job I’ve ever gotten.

Art and improv

Took a top-notch class with Deanna Fleysher, performing at the London Clown Festival as Butt Kapinski. I have done a bunch of clown stuff and I think she comes out as one of my favourite teachers: firm and no-nonsense, but keeps things light and rolls it forward. She was all about working from the body, mainly the torso and especially those “personal muscles”. As should be in any good clown workshop, I laughed a lot and at times made others laugh a lot. The purpose of the class is to put clown elements into improv, which is definitely a journey I’m already on and put some cool stuff in my toolbox.

Related: We did another Dreaming show, this time at the London Hoopla Saturday night show, and did a really fun set, although we were missing Alice, and Joe too. And got together in a pickup team at DDG on Monday, one of my favourite laid-back places to play.


This is just a note to myself that I can’t think of anything generous I have done this week. I’ve been affable but that’s really a cousin of being passive.


Just started watching The Expanse, which I’m late to the party for but what the hey. Really good. And The City and the City too, which is a great adaptation. Maybe I said that already…

Branches outward

I’ve been re-reading stuff recently:

Exiting the Vampire Castle; I read this ages back and didn’t clock it was Mark Fisher, nor did I know that he died. (Related: Understanding Victimhood Culture)

The Black Truths of Jordan Peterson: – one of the better critiques. (My take btw is that he’s too interesting to ignore, wrong on some issues, good on others, certainly doing powerful work in mass therapy. I like him least on politics. The weird non-materialist stuff he says that disqualifies him in most people’s eyes? That’s the stuff I come back for.)

The experimental evidence for parapsychological phenomena: A review. Paywalled but I’ll be covering this in the coming weeks.


This is pertinent to me this week 😐

The more we demand of ourselves, or the more our task at any given time demands of us, the more dependent we are on meditation as a wellspring of energy, as the ever-renewing concord of mind and soul. And – I could if you wished give you quite a few more examples of this – the more intensively a task requires our energies, arounsing and exalting us at one time, tiring and depressing us at another, the more easily we may come to neglect this wellspring, just as when we are carried away by intellectual work we easily forget to attend to the body.

The really great men in the history of the world have all either known how to meditate or have unconsciously found their way to the place to which meditation leads us. Even the most vigorous and gifted among the others all failed and were defeated in the end because their task ior their ambitious dream seized hold of them, made them into persons so possessed that they lost the capacity for liberating themselves from present things, and attaining perspective. Well, you know all this; it’s taught during the first exercises, of course. But it is inexorably true. How inexorably true it is, one realises only after having gone astray.

The Glass Bead Game

|004| Tide swelling

This week as it was to me

First off, I missed a week. I was going to squeeze something out a couple of days late, but the reason for missing last Sunday was the killer book deadline that I’ve only just passed, so it needed to wait.

So there hasn’t been so much to report until the last few days.  Had a nice roast ham dinner in the workspace we use for improv. Went to the Newcastle Late Shows yesterday and saw some random arty stuff. And had a lovely day out at Tynemouth today and did some more coast exploring.


Shipped the book on Friday. Already knee deep in revisions from the editor, but this is the lion’s share of the work done, and to contract. Phew! Feel like there is more I want to talk about soon regarding the writing process.

Art and improv

Singing at the Beamish Museum yesterday was a ton of fun. Got costumes and everything! If you want to give Sacred Harp a go, the UK resource page is here.

Also had a fun improv rehearsal this week where we introduced Annoyance Theatre-style catchphrases and gestures into the monologue work the guys had been doing in the past weeks.

Giving and receiving

Spent my celebratory night after finishing the book cheering up a friend cut up about relationship stuff. Was actually nice, I was too tired to do much else. And my flatmates had an barbecue yesterday that I swung by, and also mysteriously turned up at the late shows and gave me a lift home!


My mate Jayne I sing with also does cool electronic looping folk. She did her stuff at the Late Shows and it was great. Album crowdfunder here.

If you’re local to the North East and want a lovely harmonic barbershop quartet to charm you, Late Shows also introduced me to the fact that my mate Andy is in one and they are great.

Marvel stuff: Thor Ragnarok was really excellent. Black Panther was… ok? I remember being quite engaged at points but now I’m not sure why.

I’ve finally got the Key and Peele series on DVD and it does deserve the hype.

Branches outward

Scots believe they have met mythical creatures

Pat Kane on creative companions in an AI world, and work and play


Went back to start Origamy again (review here), as I left it a month and now can’t remember what’s what. It’s a science fiction book about circus-skilled reality weavers who travel through space-time and celebrate and protect life. There is a lot of science, especially heavy amounts of biology; the author is an academic of experimental architecture, which seems to involve a lot of chemistry and synthetic biology, so she knows her stuff and it shows.  It’s an overflowing, abundant book, fecund and alive; Sometimes I feel like it needs a stricter editor to cut down the proclivity for lists (over forty shades of black, 11 different kinds of material processed in this stomach, 9 in this one, etc etc) but I can understand that stylistically it feeds into the abundance vibe, overwhelming with richness and plenty. There is a question, of course, if that ends up grating for the reader; we’ll see.

Thinking through

Who this? Extended excerpts from a profile of an intellectual superstar, with gender and minor details edited to keep you guessing

A few years ago, XXXX was an obscure academic… and then, overnight, he/she was famous.

It’s a measure of how much his/her life has changed that during a whistlestop few days in Britain he/she has had a private leadership session with banking executives in the City, an evening in front of a capacity crowd at Alain de Botton’s School of Life, an all-day workshop … and a whole string of interviews to mark the launch of his/her latest book,

On the one hand he/she’s now reaching the kind of audience that most academics can only dream of. On the other he/she seems, well, a bit exhausted.

Later he/she told a friend how embarrassed he/she was that he/she’d opened up like that and how terrified he/she was that … “up to 500 people” might see it. Or, imagine, a thousand. “My life would be over,” he/she said. But a few more than that did – the video went viral.

XXXX: ‘I want to be brave with my work and I want to be brave with my life.’ People will find a million reasons to tear it down, so you have to be really sure about what you’re doing, because in the end, if you believe in it that’s enough.”

It’s quite a speech – both heartfelt and a bit defiant – and it’s a reaction to a series of questions I’ve asked him/her. Doesn’t it put too much onus on the individual, I ask. Given that many people have problems – such as being poor – which they can’t necessarily fix? And has there been independent research into whether his/her theories actually work? Because as well as the books he/she’s written, he/she’s also spun two companies out from his/her research.

And while it’s understandable that you are uncomfortable with “the cult of personality”, people are buying into your personality, aren’t they? They believe you can help them.

And yet… and I struggle to put this diplomatically, the presentation of his/her work seems pretty gendered.

XXXX: “I think it’s something I wrestle with a lot, because if you go to my talks the majority of the audience is men/women. Let me go on the record and say if you want to put me in an a room with AAAA, BBBB, or CCCC, I’ll take that date any day of the week.

|03| Gut muttering

This week as it was to me

Said goodbye to London and headed up to Nottingham for the BPS annual conference. Saw some of my colleagues there and took some photos together. Then up to Newcastle again. Nice to be back.

Over the weekend I’ve had friends up, Alice and John. It was really great to see them, but the experience was marred by screwing up my digestion, badly. For years I’ve avoided milk and gluten-containing foods which does a lot for my digestive health, but every so often I get slammed, in a pattern I’m starting to tie to alcohol and spicy food. So I’ve been a bit of a ghost for the last couple of days, that’s also the reason I’m late with this.

We did manage to make a day trip out to Belsay Hall, though, which was really interesting. The gardens are built into a quarry to produce a microclimate sustaining unusual plants for the region.

me alice and john standing in front of a flowring tree in front of a country house
The Dream Team at Belsay Hall



I’ve officially entered Beast mode for the book, as the scale of what’s left to do has become clear. As I write this section (Thursday) I’ve made 12 steps forward.

2 rounds of nothing to something

5 rounds of “something to first

3 rounds of “first to second

2 of “second to final

I can break this down in fact I’ve done it at this post here.

(Update: since writing this the beast has had a thorn in its paw, so I’m now behind schedule. Eek.)


Art and improv

Saturday John and Al gave back-to-back workshops on two sides of improvisation, “Explore and Exploit,” and it was really fun to take a class from my friends and see their philosophies given a bit of time to be spelled out. It was also really great for our students to have new people about.

The only touch of sadness I have is how few of the local performers / improv students with the other school seem to have appetite to take new classes with different teachers. I don’t think I’m unusual in always being hungry to learn new perspectives, and especially when this is the first class from out of towners all year, I would think that would be an exciting prospect…

We also did a Dreaming show as part of the Newcastle night we run, and we had a great time, everyone else did great, and it was a ton of fun.

Giving and receiving

Mainly family stuff in London, and also ferrying around an unexpected family guest from overseas back and forth from tube stations and to the supermarket to buy my mum a gift.

My Newcastle housemate was a lovely co-host for my guests, and we wouldn’t have made it to Belsay if it wasn’t for her volunteering to drive; (I was too zombified to be trusted in front of a wheel).

Branches outward

Hostile architecture: definition, example, podcast.

Blogpost on advertising industry. A few gems, including the importance of sleeping on it – Have you ever tried to have an idea. Any idea at all, with a gun to your head?” and  on the entrapment of creative types: The compulsion to create is unstoppable…Apart from the occasional severed ear or descent into fecal-eating dementia the creative impulse is mostly little more than a quaint eccentricity. But introduce this mostly benign neurosis into a commercial context.. well that way, my friends lies misery and madness.”


I don’t need to point you towards the Donald Glover video that’s trending everywhere, but it’s good. (rough in places.)

Stan Rogers:

Other than that, I started watching Outlander with Alice as sick day solace. First episode is slow but still involving. It’s got action, history and some ideas but is unashamedly a romance story, and it’s interesting to see how it differs from a more male-centric genre in how it plays with desire, love, and tension.


As per the last few weeks, nothing much beyond work reading (I’ve nearly finished Slime Mould too).

But I brought a bunch of books back from my mum’s house, including Philosophy in the FleshSuper Cooperators, and  my copies of EF Schumacher’s work. I have a feeling that I had a reason to re-read one his books for input on something I’ve been thinking about, but can’t remember what it was…

And also some books I inherited from my great aunt, including TH White’s The Once and Future King. So a big ole pile to get through.

Thinking through

I had a quick trip to Nottingham mid-week for the BPS annual conference, and sat in on an interesting late night session on open science and moving psychology forward. One proposal there was to move scientific authorship to a more horizontal approach, allowing people to build a scientific career without having to be first/last author on publications (which typically involves “having the idea”). Instead, people can use their strengths and participate as analysis design/delivery or method development. I wonder whether skilled science (or humanities) communicators could also take part in this process and gain academic credit for writing? Or can you be academically credible for putting someone else’s idea through its mathematical paces, but not for putting it into accessible and more understandable words?

From concept to submission: getting non-fiction writing done

I’m knee-deep in a big writing project with a really tight deadline. Perhaps during peak #nanowrimo I was banking more raw words, but this project is asking for a finished product rather than a first draft. I’m certain that for me this is a new level of text generation and re-tooling, and thought I’d share the process that seems to be working in getting it done.

Continue reading “From concept to submission: getting non-fiction writing done”

|002| Bone regeneration

This week as it was to me

Mainly been hanging at the family casa as my mum’s foot heals. This is probably the last week I’ll spend here, as she’s going to put it on the market soon. I moved into the house over 30 years ago, so that’ll be the end of an era.

Thursday I had lots of nice friend catchups one after the other, including a nice walk in Postman’s Park with Jay. (And Jay links into me from his roundup; I love how blogging allows this reciprocal, parallel linking and conversations that are easily visible but brush past each other rather than being one chugging chain a la Twitter.

A plaque denoting GF Watt's Memorial to Self-Sacrifice
Postman’s Park is awesome. Google it.

Friday me and Steve went for a dusk walk while it was mizzling, hopped the cemetery gate and having a good explore.

Today I had a fairly rare experience of my parents in the same room; they split up over 25 years ago and my dad has mostly lived in Spain since. It’s incongruous. It wakes up a memory of a life that feels a very long time ago, especially that the encounter isn’t in a wedding venue but the living room where we all used to live.

Picture of two people at a wedding
These guys specifically. Wedding photo from when they were cool.


In the fevers of book-writing. It’s a commissioned project, psychology told through a series of quotes. It’s the biggest popular writing project I’ve tackled, and working at this scale is gruelling but good. Also my writing is getting better. More when it’s done.

The improvisation festival I run in Germany also needed some energies, finalising our workshop descriptions and signing off on a bunch of decisions. It’s really a labour of love, so it’s great that they really are a lovely bunch of people.

Art and improv

Went to see my friends new improv comedy night, which was apocalypse bunker-themed and pulled off really well. It was nice to see London comedy folks I haven’t seen in years – some from the 2010’s era of weekly improv jams near Mount Pleasant, and also people from Edinburgh runs even further back. Nice to have that long history in this weird artform.


This week I’m trying to make sure I have change for homeless people and give it to those who ask without evaluation. It feels like the right thing to do.

Branches outward

Recommendations versus guidelines

6th C Constantinople theological rap battles

Rachel Armstrong – Architecture that repairs itself


A couple of guitar bands, moodier I Heart Hiroshima  via Jay

and fun The Lovely Eggs via Ran.

Other than that, I’m mainly listening to the same stuff over and over to work to. At the moment it’s Keith Jarrett.


Confession: Nothing this week, beyond speed reading for the book. I guess working my way through this humungous Janet Malcolm article, The Impossible Profession, might count as a thing I’m reading?

Thinking through

“Fuck those moon rocks. It’s always the same sort of people who get to go on the space missions, so I’m not prepared to pay attention to the things they brought back.”

Someone said

All ideology is toxic, because ideology is a kind of insult to the gift of human free thinking. 

Terrence McKenna

|001| what the days have provided

The plan is to blog regularly again, and to get me started (and keep me honest) I’m going to be writing a regular review of what the days have provided, narratively, imaginatively, experientially, in the spirit of many of the newsletters I subscribe to (and also Jay’s awesome blog). Right now it’s going to be a seven-day view every Sunday, although that might change. I’m going to play around with the regular categories, and try and be mindful of taking photos in the week a bit more as well. Some of the sections are there as little enchantments, to keep me doing the stuff I should be doing.

This week as it was to me

I’ve spent most of the past week down south, starting with a visit to our old seaside haunt before the extended family flat gets sold. Splashed around with my family in a swimming pool as warm as some people like a bath. My niece enjoyed ordering her dad and I to race it in laps.

A picture of the game Mah Jong being played on a circular table
Also Mah Jong. Hadn’t played in years, and the first round I got a score of 1536.


Mid-week I skidded up to Newcastle for a job interview. It paid off. I’ll be working in the NHS as part of my exploration of the therapeutic side of psychology (the thing people already assume I do when I tell them I’m a psychologist). I live in Newcastle now, which you may not know.

Back now in London; my mum just had an operation so me and my sister are doing nursing shifts at the moment. Cosy home atmosphere, TV and plenty of hot drinks on the go.


This site. A bit more about it here.

Also, my rss feed again. I used to be intravenously connected to Google Reader, and then it died, and the world of blogs seemed to be fading out, and now we’re stuck between the hellsite and the corporate NSA. That’s why I’m back to blogging, less consumption and more creation. But consumption is still needed, and it’s important to break the variable reinforcement schedule of thumbing through twitter for 15 minutes hoping for an article that might actually be satisfying. Curate your own feed and read stuff from people you find thoughtful, and come back to again and again in a reader relationship (or, you know, comment and shit). I’m using Feedly, but you got plenty of options.

Art and improv

I did a Dreaming show on Friday with John – Alice was ill, and Joe couldn’t make it, so it was a straight-up duo. Was super fun, it’s nice to have people tell you that you are showing them something new and inspiring.

One of the reason I like this group is that we come across thematic, meaningful stuff without deciding that we have something to tell. We played a scene as Tetris pieces, which was inspired by the positions we were lying on the ground and the bar-stools we were shoving back and forth rhythmically. After the show was done I realised that the scene became an allegory about being gay in modern Russia, but that just flowed out, it wasn’t the product of one person’s wish to demonstrate an idea. Ten years in, and I’m not sick of this artform at all.


Not so much. An improviser I met recently ask about tips for using music  well, and I told him what I had in my head. I might do what I did the last time and write it up as a primer in the spirit of this.

Branches outward

Sing Your Heart Out: community singing as part of mental health recovery


Time to Rise – Cli-Fi and the Responsibility of New Visions 

Why do we think of the future as being in front? New clues from study of people born blind (by me)


Ugly Delicious on Netflix. Jay recommended this food program and it’s great. History and fun facts interlaced with conversations about cultural ownership, a ton of enjoying food vicariously, with engaging hosts and real dialogue.


The Uses of Slime Mould, a collection of essays by Nicholas Mosley. Mosley seems in many ways to be an intellectual precursor of Jordan Peterson (whose 12 Rules for Life I read a couple of months ago). They have many of the same preoccupations with therapy, totalitarianism, the nature of religion and the Christian message, darkness, order and chaos. Mosley is less of the straight talker, which might just be that he’s English nobility, not the product of a Canadian prairie town, but I think it’s more about the complexities that Mosley met directly – his father was the fascist Oswald Mosley, which is quite the shadow to grow beneath.

His writing often dips into the psychoanalytic preoccupation with contradictions and tensions. This can be a bit hard going, and reminds me of how I abandoned Adam Philips’ Side Effects despite having the sense that there was something original in there trying to peer out at me. In Mosley’s case, I’ve been ready to push through the opaque stuff, knowing his writing can reward – although I did put aside his epic Hopeful Monsters meaning to return to it (and I should).  I read his Experience and Religion over a decade ago, when my interest in the topic was tentative and academic – something I certainly can’t say now – and that book played its part. Once I’ve finished this book, I might say a little about one or two of the essays.

That’s it for these days.


A friend of mine (+Tom Stafford) just tweeted this article which came out a little while back. It’s excellent. Some excerpts:

The fabric of social life is now a problem that is addressed within the rubric of health policy, and there is something a little sad about that. Loneliness now appears as an objective problem, but only because it shows up in the physical brain and body, with calculable costs for governments and health insurers. Generosity and gratitude are urged upon people by positive psychologists, but mainly to alleviate their own mental health problems and private misery. And friendship ties within poor inner-city neighbourhoods have become a topic of government concern, but only to the extent that they mediate epidemics of bad nutrition and costly inactivity.

The irony is that, for all the talk of giving and sharing, this is potentially an even more egocentric worldview than that associated with the market. The cornerstone of orthodox economics, dating back to Adam Smith, is that self-interest in the marketplace is ultimately beneficial for society. The era of social optimisation looks set to stand this claim upside down: being social in your everyday life is worth it, because it will ultimately deliver benefits back to you. The trouble is that our appetites for this new commodity can spiral out of control.

What we witness, in the case of a social media addict, is only the more pathological element of a society that cannot conceive of relationships except in terms of the psychological pleasures that they produce. The person whose fingers twitch to check their Facebook page when they are supposed to be listening to their friend over a meal is a victim of a philosophy in which other people are only there to please, satisfy and affirm an individual ego from one moment to the next. This inevitably leads to vicious circles: once a social bond is stripped down to this impoverished psychological level, it becomes harder and harder to find the satisfaction that one wants. Viewing other people as instruments for one’s own pleasure represents a denial of the core ethical and emotional truths of friendship, love and generosity.

One grave shortcoming of this egocentric idea of the social is that none (or at least, vanishingly few) of us can ever constantly be the centre of attention, receiving praise. And so it also proves with Facebook. As an endless stream of exaggerated displays of positivity or success, Facebook often serves to make people feel worse about themselves and their own lives.

What remains unquestioned by such efforts to redesign social networks for greater wellbeing is the underlying logic, which implies that relationships are there to be created, invested in and – potentially – abandoned, in pursuit of individual optimisation. The darker implication of strategically pursuing positive emotion via relationships is that the relationship is only as good as the psychic value that it delivers. “Friend rosters” may need to be “balanced”, if it turns out that one’s friends are not spreading enough pleasure or happiness.

How friendship became the tool of the powerful