Archive | February, 2018

Absent-mindedness at the self-service tills, part 2

My supermarket-space-cadet story wasn’t quite finished. After a couple of days, I went back to the supermarket with a certain degree of self-consciousness – if not minor embarrassment.

I got off to a bad start by unloading my small trolley on a till that was broken. The screen said to call for assistance, so I did, and the supervisor who usually works there said, in a no-nonsense tone.

“No love, this till isn’t working you’ll have to find another”

I feared this till had been broken all morning, and I would have saved a bit of hassle if I had looked at the screen first, but I was too preoccupied with thinking about my previous week’s absent-mindedness.

On finding a working checkout, I put my shopping carefully through, making sure I didn’t fade out into the land of daydreams and brain-fail. Continue Reading →


Bird-watching from the window

I have a new hobby – bird watching. From my front window, I get a bird’s eye view of sparrows enjoying my feeder. It’s a fairly busy road with not much vegetation, so only the most social birds venture into this domain of city life – the odd robin and blackbird, but mainly the sparrows.


I think we subconsciously look down on the common sparrow – they are not the most beautiful bird in God’s Creation – a rather common brown plumage and their sheer ubiquity can make us a bit dismissive of their real charm.

But, from my front window, I have grown to enjoy their song and friendliness – Don’t judge a bird by its looks.

I enjoy watching sparrows in the front garden, so I got another feeder for the back garden. Surrounded by trees and garden, there is a greater variety of birds that fly through here.


Again I’m indebted to my old enemy the Hazel – a good vantage point for birds flying through.


I’ve seen more birds in the back garden, but not particularly on the feeder. I was rather suspicious of the speed with which nuts and seeds were disappearing until I spied a squirrel red-handed – stuffing his gulls for his larder. I feel I should be equally charitable to all wildlife, but there was a part of me that felt the squirrels were taking the micky – if not daylight robbery – it wasn’t what I intended. I moved the feeder further from the fence to make it more difficult for the squirrels.

It’s not quite ‘Rear Window’ a la Hitchcock, but it is interesting to see which wildlife comes along.


I used to do intense cycle training but now I often just amble around Oxford on the bike. Even in the hustle of the city, I’ve noticed how beautiful it is to hear the birdsong all around the city, you may not see the birds, but you can definitely hear them. I don’t know why I’ve not noticed so much before. Sometimes the beauty and wonder of life is hidden in plain sight.


Absent-mindedness at the self-service tills

When shopping at the local supermarket, I tend to choose self-service tills – anything to save queuing. I go in most days on the way home from town. Over the years, I have got to know the lady who usually works there overseeing the tills. I try to smile and say the odd greeting.


Sometimes things get blocked, and the supervisor has to scan their clearance. Today everything went through, except the last item a plant. So she came and cleared it through. As I was walking out of the supermarket, lost in my own world of thought and putting my bag on the bike, the lady came out and said ‘Can you come back and pay please!”

Can you believe it, I had put all the items and through and forgotten to pay at the self-service till!

I felt very embarrassed and went back in. Fortunately, the lady seemed to trust I had made an honest mistake of absent-mindedness and she didn’t feel the need to call the police! Plus it was hardly like I was trying to sneak things under my jacket. I think I got confused when she cleared the till. It was extreme absent-mindedness that could have ended up in a sticky situation! Good job I wasn’t in an unforgiving foreign country! Continue Reading →


Inspired by sleeping disciples


Thomas had been following the spiritual life for many years – when outer circumstance left him in poor physical health. Previously he used to get tremendous joy from running and becoming less active was quite challenging.

With more time on his hands, he took to trying a bit more meditation during the day. After a few weeks perseverance, he felt a real sense of newness and joy in his meditation, and it started to fill the gap left by the end of his outer running. Encouraged by the glimpse of inner joy, he made greater efforts to focus on his meditation. For quite a few months he strived to deepen his concentration and awareness – though, on his own, progress could feel slow. Continue Reading →


A visit to my old school

I was recently invited to my old school – Bradford Grammar School – to give a lecture on economics.


Mike Simpson (my former politics teacher) looking as young as ever, and me (with quite a bit less hair than last time I was there)

It was very interesting to return after a gap of one quarter of a century. (And it feels wonderful when you can start counting your life in decades rather than years.) In terms of my all round education, I have to say the school was probably as good as it gets, and am grateful for my time there, even if I don’t think about it too much these days. It was a formative time in my life, especially the sixth form where my outlook on life began to mature, change and develop.

I think my lecture on the economics of austerity was well received, in that I just about managed to keep the students awake and stave off any pre-lunch rebellion. As part of my invitation and introduction, the school had dug into its archive of old cross country races to find the results of a certain young Mr Pettinger. They proudly pointed out I used to beat a certain boy (now the Deputy Head) before the tables were turned and he started beating me. After that date I disappeared from the archive results, never to return.

I found that amusing because I remember that race very well – a defining moment in my sporting life because I actually came dead last and vowed never to do competitive sport again. I reasoned if you come last and got beaten by the likes of Mr Darcy (now deputy head), you obviously don’t have the genes for competitive sport. I slinked away from running through muddy fields and put my trainers in the cupboard. Continue Reading →


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