Elongated Tuesday

MAN On Ledge has always been a science dunderhead, so this may take some untangling, but here goes. Today is longer than usual. To notice this lengthening, you need an atomic clock. Staying up until midnight is also a requirement.

On the midnight hour, atomic clocks will read 23:59:60 before moving to 00:00:00, or so I am told.

The elongated day has been brought about by the introduction of a “leap second”. The Earth’s rotation is gradually slowing, and the additional second will allow our planet to catch up with atomic clocks. What you do with this extra second is up to you. I’ll probably spend it trying to get to sleep. What’s one 61-second minute added to all those regular-sized minutes? The minutes become hours and the hours become a red-eyed nuisance, but there you go.

This bonus second is being added to keep official time in sync with night and day. But as we know, nothing free is without a cost, and so is proves with this bulked-out minute. It is feared that the extra second could cause computer calamity on trading floors and the internet. When an extra second was added on a weekend three years ago ­– boy, what a weekend that was, all that extra time ­– LinkedIn crashed. Now I am on that social website and it still seems to be its old, unexcitable self, so I won’t be wasting my free second worrying about that happening again. If it did I probably wouldn’t even notice. Also affected last time round were passengers at airports in Australia, where more than 400 flights were grounded as the Quantas check-in system blew a fuse or something. I won’t be there at midnight-plus-a-bit tonight, so I won’t worry about that either.

The science bit goes something like this (deep breath taken): we need leap seconds because official atomic clocks are more precise than the spinning Earth, which fluctuates and is in the long term slowing down – a bit like the rest of us, really – due to what is known as “moon drag”. While moon drag sounds like something a hippie might once have said on a smoke hazy night while looking skywards, it actually refers to the gravity of the moon causing tidal bulges on the Earth’s surface. In one report this morning, Dr Marek Kukala, public astronomer at the Royal Observatory Greenwich, is quoted as saying: “The tidal bulges act like giant brake pads.” If it’s good enough for an astronomer it’s good enough for non-astronomical me, and if you want further details, grab a passing astronomer.

Leap seconds are said to cause international difficulties, with countries being divided over whether or not we should play with time in this manner. The US and France wish to abolish leap seconds, while Britain, Russian and China favour wish to keep inserting these extra slivers of times. I am confident that the discussions on that will last for longer than a second and will perhaps include Vladimir Putin taking off his shirt and telling everyone else in the room that Vladimir can control time. Well, the Russian President does seize any opportunity to look manly. Vladimir is a few years older than me and already I prefer to keep my shirt on most of the time nowadays.

As for men going about the place shirtless on a hot day, that topic is best kept for a regular length day. Do enjoy your extra second.

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Monday

AMID all the reports of the horror of the shooting on Marhaba beach in Sousse, Tunisia, where 38 people were killed on Friday, including it is now thought 30 Britons, certain tragic details stand out.

In one report, in The Observer, a survivor, Tony Callaghan, speaking from his hospital bed, said: “To see what I saw, people lying dead in a corridor, two ladies in a pool of blood, a young man holding his dead fiancee’s hand.”

That final image truly is appalling, as too was the news on the front page beneath a picture of a young woman, Carly Lovett, a 24-year-old photographer and beauty blogger from Lincolnshire, who had been named as a victim.

It is always the human details, such as the man holding his dead girlfriend’s hand, that bring home the unspeakable nature of these terrorist attacks.

The headlines make a lot of noise, important noise, necessary noise, in bringing the immediate news. Yet away from the headlines, when the rumblings die down, ordinary people are grieving or suffering, often quietly, until an anniversary comes along. Such a date is with us now, as soon it will be ten years since the July 7 bombings in London.

David Cameron, writing in the Daily Telegraph this morning and on the BBC Today programme also, said the government would counter the threat posed by Islamist extremists with a “full-spectrum response”, and promised to show “unshakeable resolve” in the face of terror. He said, in other words, what was expected of him, and no one can blame him for that, although whether the forceful phrases translate into useful action is anyone’s guess.

One of the arguments in favour of renewing Trident, our nuclear deterrent system, is usually that this must be done to protect the nation from outside threat. Yet if one man on a warped, murderous mission armed only with an assault rifle, can cause so many deaths in one attack in Tunisia, it throws protection in a stark new light. No missile can guard against that scenario. That doesn’t necessarily wipe out the need for Trident, but it does put its usefulness in another light. Could some of those untold billions earmarked for missiles and submarines – some reports suggest renewal will cost £100 billion – be spent instead on other forms of protection?

The ease of tourism has made the world both bigger and smaller. A country such as Tunisia is a happy, commonplace destination, so normal and seemingly near to millions of tourists; and yet it is a long way off, too.

We went years ago and the people were friendly, and our daughter has been since, with friends who regularly visit Tunisia. On one of her trips, she was trapped in the country by volcano ash clouds following the eruption of Eyjafjallajökull in Iceland.

We went as long ago as 1987, not long after four homemade bombs exploded at hotels in the coastal cities of Sousse and Monastir, injuring 13 people. One of the bombs went off in the bar of the Sahara Beach Hotel in Monastir, which was where we stayed not long after, a little nervous but not unduly so. It was one of those mystery holidays where you booked at the last minute without knowing the destination; chance pointed us towards a hotel that had been bombed.

Whether tourists will return to Tunisia now after this atrocity is another matter, with thousands of tourists having returned home early. As for possible solutions to the tragic and sprawling mess of Isis, we can only hope that some of the prime minister’s robust words do the job.

Powerhouse unplugged…

IN THE long run-up to the general election, David Cameron and George Osborne were rarely out of hard hats and hi-vis vests, popping up all over the place like a Bob The Builder tribute act…

‘It’s what the workers wear, Dave, and we need to be out and about among the working people, especially in the north.’

‘The north?’

‘You know, Dave, that troublesome area between the bits we more or less own and the even more troublesome Scots, with all their belligerent demands.’

‘Ah, I see, George. So if we go around industrial sites and stand in front of trains dressed like this people will forget that we are a pair of southern toffs with a deaf ear to the north.’

‘Exactly, Dave ­– but you mustn’t forget that I am a northern MP.’

‘I’ve been to your constituency, George, and it’s just a bit of the south that somehow escaped north, isn’t it? Poshest bit of the north I’ve ever seen. Could even live there myself, so long as I could persuade the missus to uproot from Oxfordshire.’

George Osborne spent a lot of pre-election breath talking up his idea for a Northern Powerhouse. This concept is a little hard to grasp, but it does have its own Minister, in the smooth shape of Stockton South MP James Wharton. This is philosophically interesting, is it not, for how can you be minister for a vague notion of good intent? This is especially so as a mere two months after an election in which the Northern Powerhouse was rarely off the Chancellor’s lips, the most important part of the plan has just been dropped. This involved vital rail upgrades including the electrification of the London to Sheffield line and the upgrade of the trans-Pennine line, ludicrously labelled as HS3.

So the northern rail modernisation has been cancelled, and the government wishes to apologise for the non-appearance of this project. Anyone who feels upset at the cancellation of this grand promise can apply for vouchers for a free coffee on one of those trans-Pennine trains. Warning: hot coffee on rickety-rackety trains can be dangerous: please read the small print or carry a spare pair of trousers.

Cancelling something so much trumpeted before the election seems like an act of cynicism, although Transport Minister and Harrogate MP Andrew Jones told the Yorkshire Post yesterday that putting the projects on hold was “a pause, not a stop”.

But was it really, or is this just another depressing example of politicians saying whatever they like before an election, and then changing their mind afterwards?

The government is blaming Network Rail for this failure. Well, ministers always like to blame someone or other. It seems only the other day that the Tories were promising the biggest investment in the railways since Victorian times. It turns out it was just the biggest manipulation of the truth since the last time a lie broke free and skipped into the sunset.

There are many aspects to this affair, but here are two thoughts. One: did the Tories know this was an empty promise in the run-up to the election? Two: could you run this Northern Powerhouse thing past me again as every time I try to grab hold, it just slips through my fingers.

There are many great things about the north, and you can take that from a York-based, Bristol-born, Manchester-raised former inhabitant of London. Man On Ledge loves living in the north, but is a Northern Powerhouse based round Manchester really the answer for the whole of the north and what does it have to do with Yorkshire? Granted, it is at least better than all the money being spent in the Southern Powerhouse of London which is what usually happens.

But it’s hard not to see the Northern Powerhouse as a slippery promise, made with good intentions perhaps, but ramped up mostly for electoral purposes.

Not only that, but it sounds like the name of shop selling electrical goods.

On and off Friday

THIS week I have been on holiday, although I can’t say I’ve noticed, except that my wife has been around more than usual. How do you have a break when you don’t have a job? The week was booked long before I found myself standing on this ledge and peering over at the dizzying view.

Normally there is nothing better than a week off work, unless it’s two weeks off work. The worker says they are “off this week” and everyone knows what they mean, envies them a little perhaps, or feels slightly grumpy if they are left in the office to do extra work to cover for their happily absent colleague.

In a fairly long working life, this is the first non-holiday holiday I’ve had, the first off week when I wasn’t exactly on in the first place. But I have been keeping busy, posting on this blog every day, adding a tottering pile of words to the new novel, and exploring fresh opportunities.

Holidays are a wonder and being off makes a refreshing change from being on. At such a juncture it is tempting to comment about teachers and their holidays, the long weeks of “off” that will be coming along soon. But my son the primary school teacher might not see the funny side. Well, he sees the funny side of most things, to be fair, and he has already been exposed to a bit of family teasing about the long holidays. For all that he seems to pack an awful lot in when he is at work, as teachers do.

When he was growing up, we took teacher boy and his brother and sister on lots of holidays, mostly camping in France, nothing too grand, although there was one big family trip to Florida, courtesy of the grandparents/in-laws.

The French holidays continued a tradition, at least on my side of the family. My father was a teacher, later a lecturer, and we used the long summer holidays to travel to France. My dad has always been a full-on Francophile, something which dates to a French exchange when he was a boy.

We drove to France, two adults and three children, in a Mini-van packed with camping gear and food, and stayed there for nearly six weeks, sometimes reaching as far south as Bayonne, which my father had visited as a boy.

We stayed with the family sometimes for a while, and once my mother dragged us into the house in a panic, as Madame Ruffet (I’m making a stab at the spelling) was about to slaughter the chicken we would be having for lunch.

Other memories from Bayonne are fuzzy with time: meals that went on forever, pillows that were long hard cylinders, tiny darting lizards on a sunny wall, and my younger brother flooding the bidet.

This off week has been a time for flying visits (Newcastle, Knutsford), lunch at Bettys at Harlow Carr, with the post-prandial walk round the gardens rained off, decorating (one of the tasks my wife does she when is off) and taking part in a couple of crime-themed talks at York libraries (the sort of thing I enjoy, off or on).

Next week I will be on again which is to say off.

Thursday

I CHOSE my bank at random a very long time ago. Aged 18, I walked into a branch and arranged for an account before university. I still have the same account today, although it is now a joint account. The branch is, or possibly was, in Cheadle, near Stockport.

Everything has changed since that long-ago day, not least in banking and my hairline. Internet banking has so far escaped Man On Ledge, as I’ve only just got used to chequebooks being more or less extinct.

So the notion of mobile banking apps that keep track of you and your money is to me the stuff of dystopian sci-fi nightmares. Other people will probably find all this very normal. In the future, apparently, which could be as soon as a week next Tuesday, the way things are going, your bank will be able to use your GPS-enabled phone to remind you that you haven’t been in a certain shop for a while, and that there is just the sort of thing you like in there. Not only that, but your nagging new friend will advise you on how to save money on your broadband or gas – and switch suppliers without asking.

All this and worse will no doubt happen. But don’t ask me for advice. My track record as a futurologist is feeble, as I once dismissed the idea that anyone would want a camera on their mobile phone (bang on the money there, obviously).

And banks as something solid and reassuring, rather stern Victorian parents towering over you, are fast disappearing, and some banks don’t physically exist at all, preferring apps to branches. Well, good luck to them all. I might catch up one day.

Before anyone gets too excited, I recommend that they read The Circle by Dave Eggers. This fast, funny and troubling novel has at its heart a seemingly benign internet company called The Circle, a sort of amalgam of Google, Facebook and Twitter. This organisation runs everything in your life, keeping all your internet activity in one place. A keen young woman, Mae Holland, joins the company and her rapid rise from newbie to the face of an organisation with a sinister stranglehold on our lives races along like a thriller, but a thoughtful thriller, scary for being only a turn or two away from the truth.

And if panicking about the near future is your thing, tune into Channel 4’s creepily engaging new drama, Humans. This eerie affair concerns robots that seem too human, and in some cases may even be human to a degree (after two episodes, it’s all a little confusing, but in a good way).

These human-like robots, or synths, are gentle, ever-attentive and hover around their owners, ready to cater to their every domestic need. Some are designed to fulfil sexual needs and work as prostitutes, which was where last Sunday’s episode ended with a spot of excitement, some blue blood and a yanked-out microchip (or something).

Do we really want this sort of a future and is it too late to opt out? Certainly a bank that keeps track of your every move sounds like a bank that should take a flying leap, if you ask me. What Dave Eggers captures so well in The Circle is the way massive organisations with enormous power over our lives pretend to be our best friends. If we surrender too much to hi-tech corporations or anthropoid robots or banks that want to stick their electronic noses into every aspect of our lives, we lose part of what it means to be human and free to make our own mistakes, don’t we?

TO BEE OR NOT TO BEE: A footnote. The running socks had been airing in the conservatory. Before heading out this morning, I picked a pair and put my foot in the first sock. There was something at the bottom, so I took the sock off and shoved my hand in, thinking it was a bit of tissue or something. Then I shouted in panic (“What have you done now?”) as my hand was stung. There was a bee hiding in the bottom of my running sock, not, it has to be said, a bee-friendly location. The bee flew off after being shaken free, and the sting soon went, as it wasn’t the full bee treatment, merely a warning.

Could my bank have alerted me about that?the-circle-eggers

Wednesday redefined

CHILD poverty is a touchy subject for governments, as it should be. The Last Labour government rather grandly promised to eradicate child poverty by 2020.

On one level, this could be dismissed as a bit of political grandstanding. How could such a social blight be ended by a certain date? Isn’t that a little like the minister for weather, if such a title existed, declaring that he planned to abolish rain by next April. Well, that analogy can only go so far. Rain falls on everyone, whereas poverty affects only the less fortunate.

Remember, too, that Gordon Brown, when chancellor, boasted about having ended “Tory boom and bust” – shortly before the biggest bust in memory.

So politicians do say these things, it’s what they do.

Yet child poverty did fall from 3.4 million to 2.3 million between 1998-99 and 2010-11. Now a report due tomorrow from the Institute for Fiscal Studies, a body independent of political party, is said to suggest that such progress has been halted, with levels of child poverty rising to 2.6 million.

This is a sensitive topic for the new Tory government. So what is their first response? It is to say that we need to redefine poverty. The words jumped out from my Sunday newspaper and gave me a black eye. So here they are, but do watch your eyes: “The Conservative manifesto pledged to redefine child poverty.”

Now there are probably many shades to this, and I am sure that David Cameron has some emollient and meaningless words to hand to soothe the situation. He usually does. Here are some given to a newspaper today by his press spokesman, who said the prime ministers “wants the government to focus more on tackling the causes of the issues, rather than just treating the symptoms”.

You see, emollient and without meaning.

On learning about this tactic, it was hard not to feel a jolt. One interpretation of this strategy is simply this: child poverty is on the rise again, so we are going to redefine what it means to be poor – problem solved.

This handy technique could have many uses in politics and in life. The person caught speeding could say that they were redefining the speed limit and that they were within the new limit. Food manufacturers could redefine the size of a product while charging the same or even more for the “improvements”. Oh, sorry – that one happens already. And we could all stand on our bathroom scales and declare, on seeing evidence of rising weight, that we have redefined the personal obesity parameters.

All politicians have to rely on statistics to gauge poverty – or anything else – and statistics can be used in many ways. So there is always a margin for statistical massaging, but this use of “redefine” surely ought to worry us.

Ministers were said today to be remaining tight-lipped about the reported rise in child poverty. I bet they were. But through their tight lips they were no doubt mumbling about poverty being relative. And perhaps it is, but it’s rarely about the “relatives” in their case, is it?

Wealthy politicians wishing to redefine what it means to be poor sounds like an Orwellian joke, only it appears they are perfectly serious.

Travelling Tuesday

WE’VE covered some miles, the old car and me. It’s debatable who has more miles on the clock, depending on how car miles translate into man miles. Let’s just say the car is heading towards 140,000 miles.

Today will be another of those university journeys. Parents with student-aged offspring will know about these. Ours started when son number one went to university in Preston to study forensics. We trekked over there the first time with a car full of student stuff and parental misgivings. Our worries were not great, but seeing your first one leave at 18 is a pull. On the way back we had a tearful coffee at a soulless motorway service station, a suitable place to feel stranded between one thing and another, while our son went out and got drunk with his new friends.

Three years later, it was time for the last trip, the car groaning under the weight of the years and the beers (boys in our family put on weight in student years, no so the girl). Number one son returned home for a while, and number two boy headed off to Salford University. Hence three more years of loading and unloading the car, complete at times with massive speaker, amp and guitars in an old Volvo estate that once carried most of his band, along with their instruments. Last summer another final trip was made, before the middle boy eventually moved back to Salford to rent a flat with his girlfriend (one more final trip).

Now our youngest needs moving in Newcastle, in readiness for her last year. First the old car had to ferry her to student halls, and later back again, and then to a rented house, shared by a gaggle/giggle of girls. Now she needs moving to a nearby flat for a summer of working in readiness for her final year.

Once these dad tours-cum-chores involved lifts to Scouts, gigs, dance classes, parties at friends’ houses, leavers’ balls and so on. Then the distances grew, but at least ours have all been in the north and within easy enough reach.

I can’t say I’ve ever minded too much: it’s just one of those jobs that have to be done, and there is only one driver in our family.

So this morning we’ll head off early, do the switch-around, eat at the café where our daughter is working for the summer, then point the car towards home again. The university lifts are almost over, and this is a relief in a way. Yet Daddio, as my daughter alone calls me, has enjoyed the responsibility, and the time in the car with each child, heading backwards and forwards to assorted student locations. Often we have seen cars loaded with students and their duvets heading towards York. The drivers glance over, or so I like to imagine, and think, ah yes: we’ll have yours and you can have ours.

Footnote: today at 7pm at Dringhouses Library, in Tadcaster Road, there is a panel entitled the Fascination of Crime, as discussed by four members of York Authors. The quartet comprises Pauline Kirk (writing as PJ Quinn), Tom Harper, Adrian Paul Fayter and me. Tickets costs £5 and include refreshments. Phone 01904 552674, or email dringhouses@exploreyork.org.uk for details.

Monday

I HATE to mention the singer Taylor Swift and a foghorn in the same sentence, but no disrespect is intended. I know little about Swift, except that she seems smart and is certainly successful.

Her voice, from what I’ve heard of it, is pleasant enough, so why bring up the foghorn? I blame BBC Radio 4’s Today progamme. This morning there were two separate items in which sound was a theme. There was no connection as such, other than the fun to be had in spotting a possible link for these fleeting thoughts.

Swift is in the news for taking a stand against Apple, which will now pay royalties to artists during a three-month trial for its new music service, Apple Music. The singer is credited with being the tipping point in a row between independent labels and musicians and the mighty Apple. In a blog post titled To Apple, Love Taylor, she called on the company to drop its plans not to pay artists during the trial period. A man called Eddy Cue, who is Apple’s senior vice president for internet software and services (bet that doesn’t fit on a name badge at conferences) announced the U-turn on Twitter, saying that Apple would always make sure artists were paid, adding “We hear you Taylor Swift”.

Well, good on Taylor Swift. It’s good to see a superstar singer using her muscle to support others in her industry. She probably doesn’t need the money herself, but it is important that artistic people should be paid for what they produce. It’s never been easy for people who create things to earn a living from their art, and it’s even harder nowadays in this internet world. To mangle an old lyric from Dire Straits, now it’s: “Nothing for money and your kicks for free.”

After the trial period, users of Apple’s new service will pay a monthly fee to listen to streamed music. Now I have jumbled-up feelings about this, streaming being one of those modern things I haven’t got around to doing yet. I can’t see myself wishing to pay for that, when all I have to do is pull a CD from the shelf.

Yet it is thanks to Apple and my now-ancient iPod that I could listen to the Rolling Stones while out jogging (yesterday’s Man On Ledge) and can listen to music in our old Volvo, through a mock-cassette thingey that links to the iPod. And being able to cart so much music around in such a small device is certainly a marvel.

As for the foghorn, Hawsker Bull used to send out its mournful bellow from the Whitby foghorn station, but has been silent since the 1980s. The Today programme resurrected that sound this morning (forgivable as it was time to get up) in a report on a new National Trust initiative to record the sounds of the seaside to be stored in an audio archive.

What a great idea, as the seaside has so many sounds, from the gulls to the sound of the sea itself; from the wind in the riggings to the noise of a port, and so on. And then there was that scream. The one on a beach in Jersey, when a seagull swooped and stole an un-licked ice-cream cone from a woman’s hand, leaving her to cry out in shock and amusement.

Today people are so obsessed with taking pictures of everything from what they’ve just eaten onwards that it’s good to consider storing aural memories too.

The seaside noises will form an archive, and some of sounds submitted by the public will be used by Martyn Ware, a founder member of The Human League, to create a piece of music for release next February.

And Taylor Swift won’t be anywhere near it, I guess.

Father’s Day

I WENT running with Mick and Keith this morning. First time I’ve done that in a while. It was debateable who might stumble first, and Keith certainly looked dodgy at one point, but then he often does.

There has to be music when I run, and today it was The Rolling Stones, the compilation Jump Back, covering the years from 1971 to 1993.

The Stones seem to have been with us for ever. That’s because they have, more or less. It’s hard to imagine a time when they weren’t around, faintly ridiculous, totally marvellous, burnishing rock clichés until they glister under the sun.

I’m not exactly a full-on fan, but you can’t beat a blast of the Stones sometimes. So I ran with Start Me Up, Brown Sugar, Harlem Shuffle, It’s Only Rock’n’Roll (But I Like It) through to Waiting On A Friend and Wild Horses. But the time that last one came around, I could have done with one of those to drag me home.

I saw them once, ages ago, at Wembley Stadium. A skim of the Google pond brings up the tadpole fact that it was probably in 1982, although I couldn’t say for sure. The band seemed miles away, tiny rock Subbuteo figures, rolling around in front of a large screen on which their mammoth selves were projected.

Debates about whether one band is better than another belong in the distant past, and to a mop-haired student of my acquaintance who used to lead earnest discussions on why no one should listen to Genesis. Well, it was a long time ago and I can’t even recall the reason now. Sometimes people used to have the Beatles versus the Stones argument. My only contribution to that is to observe that the Stones were generally more fun, and they were certainly the ones with staying power.

Last Sunday was father’s day, in that we had my father over for a belated 83rd birthday party. Today is Father’s Day more generally. I am a father in between: my father above me, three more or less grown-up children below.

Our three are down in the kitchen as I type. On Friday, the younger two turned up as a surprise, one from university in Newcastle, the other from Salford (working, playing in a band called Sonic Bliss Machine) as they thought I needed a lift. The eldest, who lives in York, has just come round to help cook lunch: homemade burgers and home-baked buns. I should have suggested Daddies Sauce to go with the burgers, but only just thought of that. I’ll just have to add a bit of sauciness of my own, an old recipe. Crumble in an obvious remark or two, sprinkle over a corny remark, and then mix it all together, adding vinegar and salt to taste.

Saturday

‘My heart aches, and a drowsy numbness pains/ My sense, as though of hemlock I had drunk…’

Unlike poor John Keats, dead at 25, it is my head that aches a little, as though of one pint more than usual I had drunk. Last night there was another leaving do. This one took place at the Golden Ball, the community co-operative pub in Bishophill in York. This lovely Victorian pub is now owned and run by the locals, and what a top place it is.

The occasion was a farewell for two members of the National Union of Journalists, Tony Kelly and me. I have been a member since starting out, although with a gap in the middle for a few years, and with occasional ideological wobbles and differences. For now I am still paying the subs, but that may change, depending on what happens next.

What, if any, alternative union would suit me now? The National Union of Displaced Workers, perhaps. The National Union Of This That And A Bit Of The Other might do it. Or maybe the National Union of the As Yet Unknown.

Maybe I could form my own association, the National Union of Men Standing on Ledges. Women standing on ledges would of course be free to join too. Terms and conditions apply: there is only so much room on this ledge, after all; and the committee recommends taking out an insurance policy against a windy day.

Meeting friends and former colleagues was uplifting and enjoyable, and a little poignant. Some of those in the pub had left a while ago, either retiring, moving to other jobs or, in one case, having been made redundant a year ago. The spin-the-wheel redundancy game has been the thing for a while now. Sometimes the spinning finger of fate lets you escape, and then it doesn’t, and you are the one to walk.

Some readers on my old newspaper assume that I have retired. A letter from a kind and rather formidable reader was handed to me in the pub last night. This hoped that I would enjoy my retirement. I hope to do so one day, but not yet: too young for that, I’d say, and there are still the usual suspect bills to pay.

It was good meeting people and I certainly miss my old colleagues when I am sitting typing on this ledge. But once you have left a workplace, the old ties stretch and then snap. The relationships can continue, and I certainly hope they do, but your relationship with the job you once did is over. And that job is now being done differently by new people, or under an entirely new system.

Such are the ways in which one life disintegrates and another begins to take shape. That’s pretty much it for leaving dos for now, although a features desk lunch is still to come. Bit by bit, dusty atom by dusty atom, that which once had seemed solid now falls apart.