The flea hopped its way down the train and landed on the back of my hand. I looked at the flea and the flea looked at me. At least, I assume it did. It is hard to tell if a flea is looking you in the eye.

I wondered how many times the flea had travelled from Norwich to London and back.

Then I thought about poetry. John Donne’s poem about a flea in particular. In which he attempts to woo a potential lover with the erotic notion that their blood is already intermingled in the belly of the flea, so what more sin could there be in a less intermediated mingling of fluids?

As a chat-up line this fails. She kills the flea with a sharp crack of her fingernails. As a rule I would recommend avoiding insect-imagery in verbal foreplay.

The flea lingered on my hand. Its belly bulging with the blood of my fellow travellers. It was not an erotic thought. I carefully lifted my other hand and tested the edge of my fingernail.

The flea… jumped.

Coach G. Seat 45.

I felt itchy all the way home.



“World faces global wine shortage” is a striking headline. It probably got more readers than “Wine likely to get more expensive”.

I predict (without the aid of Met Office-style supercomputers) that this crisis will not have a major impact on most people’s lives. In fact it might help the barley-growers of Norfolk if consumption of beer goes up to offset the wine deficit.

There were a lot of grapes on the vine in my garden this year, but the birds got them. Maybe there is a global bird glut.

Hey Jude


Whether you were affected by today’s storm or not, you can’t say that you didn’t know about it in advance. It was harder to avoid the storm warnings than to avoid the weather system itself.

This was not like the ‘hurricane’ in 1987 when the first I knew about it was when I arrived at work in Leicester that morning and someone mentioned that it had apparently been very windy in London during the night.

Since then I have switched the radio on when I drive to work.

I’ve been wondering whether the Met Office had to submit a detailed cost benefit case for their huge investment in computing power over the last two decades. Then I tried to work out whether a single event like today’s storm could prove that the investment was worth it…

…but I ran out of steam after trying to estimate the net saving from 15 million people delaying their travel plans rather than taking to the roads, buses, trains and planes and getting stuck / delayed / injured / killed / angry / stressed / tired versus the lost productivity when they didn’t appear at work minus the work that they managed to do at home between refreshing the news pages and looking at twitter #ukstorm2013.

Finally I concluded that it was best if storms occur when many schools are taking their half term break, but I’m not sure if that factor is included in the Met Office model.



iPhone screenshot showing no apps downloaded near me











Or perhaps my family and neighbours have better things to do…

Walls and Malls


Last week I was promoting our new business venture at a conference in the pleasant city of York, at a mediocre hotel overlooking the river just a hundred metres from a former workplace of mine.

Today Twitter, on our business feed, has presented me with a ‘promoted’ suggestion to “Invest in Perth”, Scotland’s newest city and another former workplace of mine.

It seems that my working life continues to follow some well-worn ruts.

I decided to follow @investinperth anyway. It is a very nice place and I did help open the wonderful concert hall there a few years ago, so I’d like to go back and see how it’s doing one day, although I’m not sure that the scale of our business will be sufficient to get @investinperth tweeting happily.

Whilst in York my colleague asked me why the city walls were in such good condition compared to the crumbling and incomplete city walls of Norwich.

I had to confess that I didn’t know. Is it because York was actively using its walls for defence for a couple of hundred years longer than Norwich? Or is it because the citizens of Norwich couldn’t be bothered to look very far for building materials and plundered the walls to build mobile phone shops and glittering malls? (York seemed relatively poorly provided with glittering malls). I was able to recall that the York city walls weigh 100,000 tonnes, slightly more than half a tonne per citizen, which is always a useful fact.

Does Perth have a city wall? Glittering malls? Is this an investment opportunity?



I’m not going to make any excuses for my recent failure to post. Instead I’ll offer you a link to another aspiring writer who is trying to make her way in the dying business of journalism in order to earn enough money to look after her ageing parents in the near future when they are no longer fit to fend for themselves…

You can read her latest work here.

Saturday afternoon. I went to pick some blackberries. Drove up a stony lane to the grassy field that serves as a car park for a typical Norfolk church. Flint faced, square tower, yew trees, windswept hilltop overlooking the grey North Sea and Europe’s largest gas terminal.

There was one other car parked in the meadow. A shiny BMW.  And a man standing in very smart suit with a red buttonhole and matching pocket handkerchief. He looked up expectantly from his phone as I swept around the corner.

He seemed a bit crestfallen when I got out of the car in my blackberry-picking clothes and fished a walking stick, heavy gloves and a couple of plastic boxes out of the boot. I think that he was expecting bridesmaids.

He turned back to his phone. But this was a not-spot where neither Blackberry nor Apple could show even a single bar.

It was just after 2pm. I hoped that the wedding didn’t start until 3 and he would have time to realise he was in the wrong place. There were at least two other bleak churches on hilltops within a five-mile radius. He turned back to his shiny car and his futile phone.

I went off to pick fruit and watch the deer watching me across the stubble.

When I returned ninety minutes later with purple hands and scratches there were no cars. And no wedding in progress.

I hoped that he was just the Best Man. Not the Groom.