Category Archives: Doing my bit

Me and my pull-ups…

I’ve come a long way in the seven years since I joined my fab gym. I can run, and more than the gasping 25 metres that I might have managed when I started.  I’m somewhere between reasonably fit and pretty fit. I can deadlift 10 kgs more than my body weight, and squat a bit more again. I’ve even got my my NVQ Level 2 in Gym Instruction! But can I do a pullup? Can I buggery. And this, dear reader, is a source of GREAT irritation to me.


Here’s a picture of me completely failing to do a pull-up, helped by the very patient Joe, who is probably listening to me having a go at him for helping me because I can  do it myself you know, it’s not like I need your help,  OH MY GOD DON’T LET GO WHATEVER YOU DO! (Like I said, he’s very patient).

I’m not sure why I want to be able to do pull-ups quite so much. I think it’s probably to make up for being the only kid in primary school that couldn’t climb a rope or do the monkey bars (because it is totes logical, at 42, to still be bothered about this). It’s probably also something to do with the fact that because I know I can’t do it, that automatically presses the button in my brain that says ‘should be able to do it’. And I guess a little bit because you know what? It’d be kind of cool to just knock out a few pull-ups, just like that. Vain? Moi?

Anyways, this has now become something of a mission. I even one-clicked a pull up bar from Amazon when my sister and I were a teeny bit pissed tired the other night – not that I can put the damn thing up anywhere because apparently, the Husband has an objection to inadvertently slamming his forehead against unforeseen pull-up bars appearing in doorways – who knew?

But despite this setback, and after this beer, I am on the case and while I’m at it, I thought I might try and raise a few quid for the Disasters Emergency Committee who work wherever in the world they are needed, but right now are focussing efforts on the Ebola crisis.

So here’s the deal. On January 31st I will make an absolute muppet of myself and get someone to video the one and a half pull-ups I will probably be able to do by then. And if I’ve raised, say £100, I’ll share it on the blog. Can’t say fairer than that…now, dig deep, you KNOW you want to see me doing one and a half pull ups!


The TTIP – what you need to know

Imagine how crazy it would be if business corporations could sue entire countries, for doing stuff that might mean they made less money. Like, say Marlboro suing the government when they banned cigarette advertising. Or Smirnoff suing them when they made drinking and driving illegal.

Crazy, right?

Imagine something even more odd. Imagine if these cases were decided by a bunch of unelected, paid lawyers. (For paid, read ‘have an interest in making sure the cases last as long as possible’). Imagine if whatever decision these suits came up with was binding and could not be challenged under domestic judiciary systems. Imagine if these cases cost each side around £5million, and the government had to pay the costs of the companies suing, whether or not they ‘won’ or not, as well as any compensation that the suits decided was appropriate.

Now that’s just too crazy. That means for example that when the carrier bag charge came in (keep up, we’re ahead of you in Wales) the Carrier Bag Making Boss could take the country to ‘court’, have all his costs paid for doing so, and then get paid compensation because the government had adversely affected its profit making ability. What the WHAT?

Yeah. Crazy. Except the UK are in the process of signing up to a deal which means that this can – and will – happen. The deal is the Transatlantic Trade Investment Partnership (TTIP), and it’s a bilateral trade agreement between the EU and the USA.

You probably haven’t heard a lot about the TTIP. That’s because the negotiations are being rushed through behind closed doors. There has been limited reporting of the initiative, and what there has been has tended to be about the TTIP making trade between the EU and the USA easier, which is generally inferred to be ‘A Good Thing’.

Is it A Good Thing? No, not for everybody. Not even for most people, actually. It’s certainly good for huge multinational companies, who will have unfettered access to a larger market (and let’s not forget the right to sue when things don’t go their way). It’s also pretty good for those who have investments in large multinational companies, so let’s assume that’s at least some of the rich boy Bullingdon set.

The rest of us? Not so much. Removing those pesky barriers also includes things like:

  • the EU dropping the Fuel Quality Directive (that’s balancing the benefits of fuel extraction against the harm caused by extracting it to you and me)
  • opening the UK up to US fracking companies
  • Making it nigh-on impossible to use regulation to slow climate change because of the threat of litigation – for example the Swedish energy giant Vattenfall sued the German government for introducing environmental regulations that made a planned coal-fired power plant “uneconomical”
  • The same goes for regulation intended to benefit public health – for example Philip Morris have challenged Australia’s decision to introduce plain cigarette packaging
  • Losing the standards we have in place for keeping foodstuff safe (chlorinated chicken, anyone?)
  • Force further deregulation and privatisation of the NHS in order to allow access to US healthcare businesses
  • Making it impossible for a future government to roll back towards a system of public healthcare – or public anything at all (we can but hope, hey) because of the risks of being sued

It’s all pretty scary stuff, unless you’re part of a multinational, or part of an organisation that makes money by betting on multinationals – no surprise that the City of London is rubbing its hands with glee about the prospect of all the juicy speculate-to-accumulate practices that will once again be allowed to flourish, thus threatening all of our financial stability All. Over. Again.

There’s so much more to write about on this, but I’m aware that dissecting the TTIP does not make the most exciting blog post, whichever way it’s skinned.  But it is important, and it’s happening right now, and if it goes through, it will give businesses, driven by profits, more authority over our collective decision making than our elected government.

But – it’s not a done deal – yet. Deals like this have been called off due to public pressure before, and so could this one be.

With a couple of clicks, you can write to your MP to demand transparency in the negotiations. You can sign the petition against the TTIP at You can respond to the EU’s online consultation (deadline 13th July). You could join one of the No TTIP Days of Action around the country taking place this Saturday.

Or you could read this, roll your eyes, and do nothing. Your choice. But right now, you have a choice. Whereas if the TTIP goes through, there’ll be an awful lot of things that you don’t have a choice on at all.

You can find out more on the TTIP from the WDM Briefing on TTIP, or watch this 4 minute video from 38 Degrees, both of which provided the source material for this post.  

Why I need to follow the Daily Mail

I love Twitter, for lots of different reasons.

I originally signed up back in 2008 because it seemed to take the bit I really liked about Facebook – the short status updates – and cut out the rest of the crap. Once I’d signed up I wasn’t really sure what to do – I only knew one other real life person on Twitter, so I followed them, and a couple of celebrities, and dipped in and out occasionally but didn’t really do much with it.  Six years later and things have changed – I spend a LOT of time on Twitter. I manage five accounts currently – three for work, one for the blog and one just for me.

Twitter is the place I go to for news, both mainstream and industry related; for something to read when I’m bored; to keep up with what’s going on in Cardiff, occasionally to have a rant; and often for a quick chat with a small bunch of folk who despite never having met, I quite like. It’s where I go to peek into the windows on different worlds that have always interested me – medicine, education, writing – as well as learn about stuff I’m interested in for work, or politically, or just because it takes my fancy at that moment. As such, I’d have said that using Twitter has made my world bigger rather than smaller – I get to listen in to, and take part in, conversations that I’d never be part of in my day to day life.

Because I generally filter work/blog people through to the relevant accounts, my personal timeline has become curated into a circle of people just like me.  Well, not *just* like me – that’d be a LOT of muppets. But people who have broadly the same outlook on life as me, or people with whom I’ve got something in common.

On my own timeline, I don’t tend to give people second chances – if someone tweets a racist comment once, they’re unfollowed. If someone advocates violence – unfollowed. Horribly sexist, or misogynistic? Unfollowed. Bully other people through twitter? Jump on the judging bandwagon about other people’s life choices? Behave in a generally ignorant way? Tweet something from the Daily Mail in a non-ironic or non-disgusted fashion? Unfollowed.

I get my current affairs fix from people who rail against injustice and stupidity. Polly Toynbee. Zoe Williams. Deborah Orr. George Monbiot. Owen Jones. Caitlin Moran. Fleet Street Fox. Jack Monroe. I follow people and organisations who are about making the world better – The Do Lectures. Nesta. The New Economics Foundation. UK Uncut. The World Development Movement. Fixers UK. UnLtd.

Well, this is all very lovely, isn’t it. My twitter timeline is like a lovely warm bath of me-ness.  And, relax.

But. BUT. I’ve only recently come to realise the problem with this. I have forgotten that once I get out of the bath of me-ness, there’s a whole other world out there. Because I follow the folk that are constantly raising awareness of how fucked up the UK is, I’m sort of of the opinion that there’s some hope. That, like me, everyone realises that the current political climate is about demonising the poor, about creating a subservient underclass, about creating myths to set the majority of us against one another, so we’re too busy scrapping to realise that our masters are rubbing their hands in glee at their ever increasing bank balances. Until recently, I genuinely believed that everyone knew and understood that, and I equally genuinely believed that because everyone knows that, our world would change for the better, and soon.

I had the shock of my life recently. I found myself idly wondering how badly UKIP were going to get trounced in the forthcoming elections, and how long it would be before they were a distant, slightly humorous memory. So I did some research, and whaddya know, they are actually on the up, and in a big and scary way. I mentioned this to the Husband, horrified, to be met with the reply ‘well, you spend all your time reading stuff, surely you KNOW that?’

No – I didn’t know that. I’m ashamed and a bit embarrassed to admit it, but I had no idea. My timeline is full of the Premier Inn YOU KIP poster, people tearing up UKIP flyers, and amusing and witty put downs of Nigel Farage. It’s full of people writing brilliant articles that have me nodding my head and make me furious along with the writer, and the mistake I’ve made is to assume that everyone else is nodding their head and is furious too.

I thought my timeline made my world bigger. In actual fact, I have made my world smaller.

I’m going to do some following this morning, of people that I would probably punch if I met them. Dishface. Farage. Littlejohn. The Daily Mail. I feel a bit ranty about adding to their so called standing in the world by following their gobshite, but if I don’t follow them, and people like them, then I’ll remain in my lovely bath of blissful ignorance, and that’s a bit too close to joining them rather than beating them.

Thanks for reading.