I found Roberta (1935) a bit strange when I watched it in my 20s (long fashion shows!), but now in my 40s it is adorable. The music is absolutely superb, particularly Ginger Rogers’ I’ll Be Hard To Handle accent and Fred Astaire’s routine for I Won’t Dance. A beautiful film.
Bought Matt Forde’s book on the strength of his excellent podcast. It’s like the ‘director’s cut’ of his backstory that has come up in fragments across the episodes. Finished it yesterday. Enjoyed it so much that I’ve bought a couple of copies for some friends.
Bought a second hand copy of this big book a while back. It dissects all of Astaire’s musical films one by one, from Dancing Lady (1933) to Finian’s Rainbow (1968), with commentary on all of the dances and musical numbers. It’s like visiting the NFT and reading the show notes.
Just watched Dancing Lady (1933). Spotted an early version of a turbo trainer when Clark Gable visits a gym. Fred Astaire’s first screen appearance, along with The Three Stooges and Joan Crawford. Very enjoyable.
Halfway through a two-week break from work for Christmas and New Year. I have always had an ability to switch off from work, which serves me well mentally. Our eldest boy had to self-isolate until Boxing Day, so we’ve largely been confined to the house.
A week in which I:
Keep hearing of more and more friends and family that have had a positive COVID-19 diagnosis. I hope that the statistics don’t see a large surge due to people getting together over Christmas.
Had the chimney swept. We don’t use the fire much but it had been a few years since the last sweeping and thought it was about time to clean it again. It’s been lovely to have a real fire in the evening.
Watched a live production of A Christmas Carol from the Old Vic in London. Nowhere near as good as being there, but as close as we could get to a theatre visit this year. It felt good to be supporting the theatre with our tickets and donation as well.
Played some BBC Micro games with the boys via an emulator. (I think they were humouring me, but it was nice that they did.) It seems that I haven’t lost my 8-bit keyboard skills. Arcadians is still superb.
Enjoyed a relaxed Christmas at home. The boys were very happy with their gifts and we got to enjoy a delicious home-cooked roast dinner. I don’t eat meat and the rest of the family don’t eat it much so it was unusual to have the oven on for more than 30 minutes. The boys decided themselves to stay off of the Xbox for the day and to join us for family video calls and board games, which was lovely.
Laughed through an online family quiz organised by my brother. I’d never used Kahoot! before, but it was perfect — getting immediate feedback on where we were on the scoreboard after each round kept it fun for everyone.
Haven’t been truly hungry in some days now. Other than Christmas Day I’ve been on the turbo trainer and/or going out for a run but I fear that the level of eating is far surpassing anything that I’m burning off.
Had a ridiculously muddy family bike ride. All of the bridleways around here are muddy swamps. We had one boy enjoying himself and wanting to get as muddy as possible, with the other not loving it one bit and wanting to get back onto the road.
Seem to have got into a routine of going to sleep at 1am and getting up late. I’ll need to fix this over the next week.
Next week: More time off, with literally nothing on the agenda other than turning 44.
Overjoyed to stumble across Have I Got 30 Years For You on iPlayer. Made me laugh out loud. Amazing to think that the show has been running since I was 13 years old. In retrospect, Angus Deayton being fired breathed new life into the programme and contributed to its longevity.
Been working my way through Buster Keaton’s short films. The Bell Boy (1918) is the first one that made me laugh out loud multiple times. It feels like two movies randomly put together as one, but this doesn’t detract from the incredible stunts.
A strange week where everything seemed to be on half power. Colleagues that were still working — including me — seemed to have one foot in the holidays, but we had to keep pushing ahead of what will be a very busy start to 2021.
A week in which I:
Completed my first draft of our ‘new ways of work’ document and published it to a few colleagues for review. I’m excited about changing how we do things. The challenge will be to hold ourselves to account by ensuring that we regularly review what is and isn’t working, and then adapting it further. I am still concerned about how (and even if) we slice the team into sub-teams to tackle the backlog, but we will work it out. As ever, Stuart Mann has been a massive help and I am very thankful for his time this week.
Attended an internal Brexit training course. To be this close to year end and to still not know what UK companies should be preparing for is shocking. This really is the most incompetent UK government I have ever seen in my lifetime.
Had my final Random Coffee for the year. I’ve had so much good feedback on this initiative from people across the firm. I’m extremely grateful for Chris Weston of the WB-40 podcast pointing me towardsthe idea. If we ever get back to being office-based I hope that these will continue face-to-face. We finish the year having had just shy of 1,000 coffee pairings between 99 different people since mid-May.
Joined our monthly São Paulo governance call. Sometimes I realise just how wonderful technology is — our CEO was out and about in São Paulo but still managed to join us on a videoconference via their mobile phone.
Ran another interview for our IT Infrastructure and Operations manager in Beijing. Hopefully we can have someone in this role in January to take a bit of pressure off of our Johannesburg team.
Reviewed some CVs for our Head of IT Infrastructure and Operations role in London and gave more feedback to our recruitment team as to why the role, and this team, is so special.
Met with the team that will run the back-end infrastructure implementation deployment in our New York office. We had to put this work aside earlier in 2020 due to other priorities, so it will be good to get going with it again.
Had a wonderful experience courtesy of the Centre Culturel Irlandais in Paris. They ran an event called A Song Just For You At Christmas, where 35 lucky participants joined a Zoom call and then were taken into individual break-out rooms, each with an individual Irish musician, for a personal musical performance. I’ve spent a good portion of my working life over the past four years on video calls, so it was wonderful to find that they can still be a source of delight and joy. I was so lucky to be paired up with Lauren Kinsella and Matt Robinson who played and sang four songs for me in the 20 minutes we had together. The music was so beautiful — a mixture of a 250-year old Irish folk song, a Snowpoet track, an acappella Gillian Welch tune and a rendition of Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas. At the end of the set we all got back together in one big Zoom room where some of the artists took turns in playing or singing a song for everyone. Music is so incredible.
Joined the WB-40 podcast team and WhatsApp group members for their year-end event, a ‘World Cup of Gadgets’. I was distraught that Clip-Its (Bevara for Ikea people) — one of my submissions — went out in the first round, with the ultimate winner being the original PlayStation. A total upset. Despite this, it was a fun way to spend an evening and a good way of getting to know some of the people that I’ve spent days and weeks chatting with on the WhatsApp channel.
Rounded the working week off with the latest Album Club. Always great to be introduced to an artist that I’d never heard before.
Watched the new Bee Gees biopic with my wife. I’ve been listening to a lot of Bee Gees ever since I heard that this film was coming out. It’s very well done. The only disappointment is that it is less than two hours long and seemed to just skim the surface — I would love to see an extended version (six hours might cover it) that goes into much more depth. The music soars, and Barry Gibb is clearly heartbroken by being the last of his family to survive.
Carried on with my journey through Buster Keaton’s early silent work by watching Coney Island (1917) and Out West (1918). Neither of them were anything to write home about, apart from the occasional pratfall or backflip by Keaton. Both were marred by racism, the first with a scene that was deleted from the end of the film quite early on in its life and the second where everyone in a bar starts shooting at the feet of a black kid to make him dance. Horrendous. The one good thing was the discovery of The Witching Waves, an early bumper-car type ride with wicker cars and a moving floor. Apparently these were installed in various amusement parks around the world. I had to go back and watch the scene twice as I couldn’t believe my eyes.
Next week: Two weeks off for Christmas, trying to relax and enjoy some time at home, whilst watching in horror as we punch ourselves in the face with Brexit right at the point where the pandemic reaches its zenith.