After two divorces in the family, the fire at Windsor Castle and various revelations in the press, The Queen referred to the year 1992 as her annus horriblis.

More prosaically, Dave Allen said that he’d had an annus anus – it had been an arsehole of a year.

You can guess which one I identify with.

The first half of the year wasn’t too bad, all-told. My teamies bought be a new tie for my birthday (it has ducks on it). Work and other things were generally fine. I didn’t get a job I went for in May, but I was at least getting interviews again.

Then mum died – 4 July.

Then Kathi – my first proper boss, and also born on 20 March – died suddenly at the end of August.

Then a family friend died, then someone else I know through Squadron died. That’s four deaths in a little over four months.

And, despite five interviews between mid-September and mid-December I’m still unemployed.

Perhaps, not an annus anus, but a semi one at least. You know what I mean.

Once upon a time at home…

At the start of a new year we generally wipe the slate clean, make plans for how our new year is going to be different. In this respect I am no different to anyone else; although I can’t shake this nagging doubt that the start of 2019 will be just as bad as the end of 2018 (but with hopefully fewer deaths).

Apart from family, the only person I saw between Christmas and New Year was my Universal Credit second interview person. (Third interview on the 21st, if you’re interested.) I distinctly remember conversations in late-October with long-time drinking friends about meeting up, but having decided a few years ago to no longer be Mr Organiser (as I was generally free all the time, but dependant on other people’s plans) I didn’t feel the need to push it.

On the plus side, that meant I could finally watch season 5 of Person of Interest, despite 5USA not showing two episodes (found one – reversed, which made on-screen subtitles difficult to read – on Dailymotion, but not the other). Everything you ever wanted to know about artificial (super) intelligence, right there, across 103 episodes.

I’ve a good half-dozen jobs to apply for over the next four weeks. Mum’s house to sell (once we do the final throw-it-in-the-skip clearance). But, I need a job by February, as I won’t be able to afford the flat after March, which would put a crimp on things (and I can’t move into mum’s as we offloaded the fridge, freezer and washing machine earlier this month, and the heating doesn’t work properly).

Still, it focuses the mind somewhat.

And I’ve got my second year as an iprovision trustee coming up, and my first year no longer on the Yorkshire & Lincolnshire Committee, and the first of my final ever two years on CIPR Council coming up. All I need now is a job…

Happy New Year, folks!

Earlier this month, WordPress version 5.0 hit the stands (servers).

For several years, the numbering of WordPress versions hasn’t mattered all that much, they’ve just been sequential. Version 4.0 was just the next major release after version 3.9.

But Matt Mullenweg decided that what WordPress users were really crying out for was a new editing experience, which had to come in version 5.0 – which why the release before this one was 4.9.8. And if you haven’t updated to 5.0 yet, your latest version is 4.9.9, which has a security update.

In fact, the latest version as I write is 5.0.2…

The new editing experience is a ‘block’ editor, called Gutenberg while it was being developed. The idea of blocks on that you can drop different block types – paragraph, image, table, and so on – in as you type. It’s pretty much caused a schism within the WordPress community, and I’ll be honest it doesn’t work well for me.

It’s crap with tables, for a start. You can’t drag and drop text around.

In my case, it doesn’t matter which editor I use as I compose in Word then copy & paste into WordPress. And this is perhaps the point. No other piece of writing software I’ve ever used uses blocks, apart from PowerPoint. Word certainly doesn’t, and doesn’t seem to suffer for it.

Worse (for me, and many others), the block editor is going to become the basis of other parts of WordPress, including widgets and navigation menus. And it will affect themes in the future as well.

To me, that means WordPress is moving away from being hobbyist-friendly. Even part-timers like me can write or adapt widgets and plugins without having to learn React (JavaScript) or similar. Now, it looks like I might have to learn a whole new way of doing things with blocks, which might not be flexible enough.

Sadly (for me, and many others) the classic editor is only guaranteed to be around until 2021. And there’s no fork of WordPress in the offing. So I’ve a bit of leisure-time learning to come in 2019 as I get to grips with Gutenberg.

Not what I had in mind for 2019, really…

Update I just tried to publish this post, using the new block editor, to be greeted with a message “Publishing failed”. Yeah, thanks WordPress. Back to classic it is then.

Whisper it soft, but I have some, small sympathy for Teresa May.

The problem with trying to deliver a referendum result with absolutely no guidance to it means that whatever deal she created would be an absolute dog’s dinner, unpalatable to most. With most things, it comes down to a question of interpretation.

May’s position is that we’ve had a referendum, and now have to deliver on that result. To that end, second referendum or remain positions are incompatible with the outcome of the first referendum, which was to leave. So the only two options presented to Parliament can only be deal, or no deal. Norway-Plus is out as it doesn’t exclude Freedom of Movement.

Are you sitting comfortably?

Let’s say, then, that a referendum on the deal (or no deal) gets the go-ahead. Assuming we had to include some option that allowed the possibility of remain, you’d need three options:

  1. Deal
  2. No deal
  3. Something else

“Something else” can’t be “remain”, as I said before. The best it can be is a “stop the clock while we come up with something” option.

Three-option (or more) referendums are never ideal, as they rarely produce a clear outcome. In the example above, the third option would have to gain more than 50% of the vote, otherwise it could be inferred that more people voted for a ‘leave’ option, even if neither produced a clear winner (say by a 10% margin over the other).

Deja vu

The trouble is, “something” could well be a re-run of the first referendum.

You could run it as a three-option referendum:

  1. Deal
  2. No deal
  3. Remain

But then you’d get complaints that the two ‘leave’ options are split.

And if you ran it with a transferrable vote system, with first and second choices, then you increase the likelihood of the least polarising option – deal – getting winning.

So the safest way is to run it as “leave” or “remain”. Again.

It’s a cracker, isn’t it?

Somewhere back in my long-ago, just before Christmas, we launched @MetroTravelNews.

While trying to sort out the out-of-hours rota one day, I pointed out that, even though we were closed on Boxing Day and that MetroLine would also be closed, there would be a limited bus service running.

“This is Twitter,” I argued, “people will tweet us when buses don’t turn up, or to ask where they can find timetable.”

And they did (I ‘volunteered’ to cover Twitter that day).

As soon as any organisation goes down the route of having a social media presence you are expected to be online, all the time. And you’re expected to know all the answers, all the time. And to fix things to the satisfaction of your correspondent, or else.

But there’s an unwritten contract to social media engagement, and it seems to be ignored more than is respected. The positions of organisations and customers are becoming more polarised. Where there was once dialogue and discourse, good humour and the occasional ‘thank you’ there are now tin hats and tin ears.

The problems @NorthernAssist is facing are a prime example.

Passengers waiting for trains complain constantly … so they get banned. If you’re going to have a Twitter account to engage with people, then ban them for swearing or threats of violence (and report them) – but persistent whingeing isn’t a reason for banning. You can only answer the questions you can answer, and engage with people who are listening to you.

But equally, passengers waiting for trains complain constantly … to the wrong people. You’re not engaging, you’re venting to people who didn’t change the timetables or approve fare rises or who aren’t on strike and who can’t change any of those things. You don’t believe the answer you’ve been given, even though it’s accurate. You’re taking it out on the wrong people.

Calling the people manning those accounts “work experience students” isn’t helpful either. I’ve seen far too many catty comments from fellow PR people, journalists and other so-called professionals.

I’ve made no secret of the fact that I think Northern’s communications efforts over the last couple of years have been poor, to put it mildly. The bunker mentality helps no-one, and their reputation is shot to ribbons. I also use trains quite a bit, and I commuted to Sheffield for best part of a year through rain, hail, sleet, snow, strikes and heatwaves. Not always on time, in comfort or even arriving at the intended destination (it broke down).

But I’ve also been the person at the end of the Twitter account, including out-of-hours and on Bank Holidays. I’ve had the dogs abuse, and sometimes felt the need to call people out and fight back, which today’s better-trained people don’t do.

You can guess whose side I’m on.

  1. Him: “Has anyone every told you your “services” are fucking shit?”
    Me: “No. Has anyone ever told you you’ve got a potty mouth?”
    After which, the conversation went much better.

One of things I realised last year, while scanning in lots and lots of negatives, is how familiar a lot of the clothes I was wearing were.

It’s a problem faced by all people of a certain shape and/or size: we just don’t fit off-the-peg.

My work shirts need to be 16½” collars, which also covers the love-bump – but then the sleeves are inevitably too long. I have to shop around and hope.

Casual shirts, I can get away with a medium – really – because I don’t need to button up the top. But the sleeves end up a bit tight, I can only wear ‘classic’ fit, and it’s not always obvious on the label.

When I was in Canada in 2007 I bought three work shirts that I still use (they had a year off, remember), which fit perfectly although they are wearing a bit thin. Obviously, I’m the same shape as the average Canadian middle-age bloke.

I’ve a checked overshirt hanging up that I rarely wear these days. I took it with me to Egypt… in January 2002. It was a gift from Canadian relatives, so I reckon it’s at least 25 years old. It still fits… but then, anything I’ve bought on the last 25 years probably still fits as I’ve not grown up or out that much since 1990.

Suits you! Or not

I have a wool and cashmere blend jacket for work, which is certainly looking frayed around the edges. You can’t put anything small into the pockets as it’ll fall through into the lining.

This jacket’s so old it’s from C&A.

My dinner jacket/suit has long since paid for itself, but only comes out one or twice a year. In fact, I had the jacket taken in by an inch or two, a couple of years ago!

But this post was prompted by my ‘good’ suit, the Austin Reed one I bought in early 2004 to attend a formal squadron dinner. A mid-grey wool and cashmere blend (they do feel comfortable), adjustable waist straps instead of belt loops. Handy for important events such as visiting Westminster, weddings, funerals and – these days – job interviews.

The seat of the trousers has worn out.

You wouldn’t notice if I didn’t mention it, because when I’m not sitting on it it’s covered by the jacket; but as well as thinning out there’s now a sizeable hole in the material. I’m distraught – and just because I have a couple of interviews lined up before the end of the year.

For one thing, Austin Reed is no longer on the high street in the way it was when I bought the suit (there former store is now yet another Sainsbury’s Local); I’d have to go to a franchise in Holmfirth or Harrogate. For another, pretty much every suit I’ve seen recently in Moss Bros. and the larger department stores has belt loops, not the adjustable straps.

On the bright side, I could not pair the perfectly-fine jacket with a pair of black trousers and replace the aged charcoal jacket…

Me with the Rev Kate Bottley.

Small confession to make – appropriate, given the speaker – that I have never watched Gogglebox.

But when a notable (fellow) TASC alumni pitches up to give a talk with a Q & A session afterwards, you don’t say no. And it was actually brilliant, not least because everyone else thought so as well.

And I got to see the flashmob that started the whole thing off.

Now: obviously, respect the confessional. What happened in Horsforth, etc. But it’s worth noting Kate’s approach to her work, because I think it has lessens for us all

Is it on mission? Every communications activity should refer back to the strategy. Without a strategy (or mission) to guide you, what is it that you’re doing? And could what you do be detrimental to the mission (or brand)?

Is it on message? Every communications person should ask themselves that question when working on a plan, tactics and actions. What you’re doing should tie back to your strategy and mission, from which your messages derive.

In Kate’s case it’s the difference between things that are about her and that are about God, Jesus and the Church of England.

Pause for Thought

One thing that Kate said really struck home. After the initial media interest, and the five seasons of Gogglebox… what next? She took herself away on retreat to help her come to an answer. But whatever she did, it would be relevant to her mission – her calling as a Vicar.

We all face moments like these, and I’m no exception. Sometime after my birthday I began to question my own mission in life. After four deaths in five months – starting with my mum, back in July – that questioning has gained greater impetus. Some decisions have been reached and changes put into action; not the ones I thought they might be earlier in the year, but it’s always good to surprise oneself.

  1. Word order important here.

A couple of days short of its birthday (and yes, why didn’t they announce the news on 2 November?) Channel 4 announces its moving its national headquarters north to Leeds.

Hurrah!

The first show on Channel 4, back in 1982, was filmed in Leeds after all, by Yorkshire Television at their Kirkstall Road studios.

But to be clear; this isn’t a move similar to that of the BBC when it moved several departments to Salford. The BBC moved production up north – Channel 4 doesn’t produce much of anything. If anything. Is Right to Reply still on?

So there won’t be hundreds of media-related roles coming up at the JobcentrePlus in the next few years.

But, it will act as a catalyst, encouraging more locally-trained and locally-educated talent to stay in the region that trained and taught them, rather than drifting west or south.

We could see the growth of new media hubs in Leeds and Bradford, pooled production centres, more studios. All of these will encourage people to stay, and encourage national (and international) companies to open offices in the city.

Who knows? We could see a similar growth in small- and medium-sized TV production companies that we’ve seen in public relations agencies over the last 10 years or so. That’s got to be a good thing.

I’ve recently been enjoying a three-part series on BBC Four called Magic Numbers: Hannah Fry’s Mysterious World of Maths.

It reminded me of the Horizon programmes I used watch when younger – some of which I still have VHS copies of (shh!) – which covered the weird and wonderful world of mathematics, from Fermat and Bourbaki to Cantor and Hilbert. Probabilities, theorems… and sets which don’t include themselves.

Sadly, mathematics didn’t like me as much as I liked it, which goes some way to explaining how I failed my joint honours maths degree. Twice.

In fact, the only bits of the course that I truly enjoyed were the sessions on logic and, later, computability. I seemed to do way better with predicate logic, truth tables, modus ponens and syllogisms that I ever did with fluid dynamics. Or mechanics. Or statistics.

Dr Fry’s series posed the question: is mathematics a human invention, or is it all there waiting to be discovered?

I think of mathematics in the same way I think of communication: it exists. But in order for humans to express ourselves and our ideas we invent languages: English, algebra, Russian, calculus, emoji.

Mathematics, like ‘normal’ communication, only works if we’re working to the same set of instructions: the syntax and grammar. We generally accept that 11+1=12, but 11+1=14 in base 8 (octal), or c in base 16 (hexadecimal, beloved of web designers everywhere) or 100 in binary††. You have to set your parameters first. And you definitely don’t want to get your metric and imperial units mixed up.

So it is with communications. Choose your language, context and subject before you start or you won’t make any sense to your recipient. Although… if our politicians did this, they wouldn’t be very good politicians at all. Politicians are quantum communicators; the same words can be interpreted differently by two different people, yet make exactly the same amount of sense. What does “Brexit means Brexit” mean to you?

Our understanding of mathematics has evolved over time. We have the number ‘zero’ now, and negative numbers, and imaginary ones. Whenever we think we have a handle on it, something new comes up to disprove most of what we thought we knew already.

The first rule of mathematics then, and probably also of communications, is that there’s always an exception to the rule, which means we may never know everything. There’s a communications equivalent to Gödel’s incompleteness theorems waiting to be written… but the margin of this blog is too small to express it.

  1. I am more proud of that that I should be, I know.
  2. †† Although, base 12 is much more useful than decimal, since 12 can be simply divided by 2, 3, 4 and 6. The only factors of 10 are 2 and 5. But mostly we have ten fingers and thumbs, so that’s that.

What does your local newspaper mean to you?

For me, it was one of the ways I learned to read, and to learn about the world around me; we got a copy of the (Yorkshire) Evening Post daily in the 1970s. In the late 1980s and early 2000s they had become those things I read for cuttings as much for actual news.

But the newspapers of my youth are not the newspapers of today.

For one thing, the Yorkshire Post and YEP have the same news team. That means most of the non-sports news in your evening paper is the same as in your morning paper. Not only that, your evening paper is printed at the same time as the morning paper, because it has to be delivered from presses near Sheffield. If a story breaks during the day you won’t be reading about it in the paper on the bus or train home.

When it comes to weeklies, the Dewsbury Reporter has almost the same content as the Batley & Birstall News and the Mirfield Reporter, some of which you could have also read in the daily Yorkshire Evening Post.

The Sheffield Telegraph is a compendium of articles from the (Sheffield) Star. The Star itself is a collection of popular stories from its website, with user-generated comments from its Facebook Page. I could write a whole other entry on the problems I had with the Star during my stint working in Sheffield, and may yet. Good cartoonist though.

Yesterday, Johnston Press announced that it was putting itself up for sale. Johnston owns all of the papers I mentioned above, and more. The Guardian story about this says “over 200”; Wikipedia counts 135 across the UK and Ireland, but let’s not split hairs.

The point is this: lots of titles, but very little news that isn’t syndicated from elsewhere. Sharing content across the group is one thing, but a newspaper that is 90% the same as a sister title is just a waste of newsprint.

You could pull the YP and the Scotsman out as ‘national locals’, or newspapers of record, but not much else.

Newspapers never cover their operating costs from direct sales. They need revenue from advertising sales. When that falls they need to cut costs so they merge editorial teams, close smaller offices, use single printing plants to serve wider and wider areas.

Local news isn’t as local as it used to be. Evening papers aren’t. And I haven’t started on their websites…

If the sale of Johnston Press results is a model that better serves local readers, holding our local leaders to account, with timely, topical and relevant local content then I’m all for it.

I know. What are the chances?

  1. It’s the Dewsbury Reporter series, after all.

It wasn’t what I’d planned on doing this month, but once I got started I couldn’t stop. Not bad for eight days’ work, especially when you consider I have a bit of time to myself in the middle (friends and a funeral).

I did start to upload the files at 10:10 this morning, but it ticked over to 10:11. And I’ve amended a few since then, so I won’t stress about the date.

I’d started to make a child theme of Baskerville, then gave up and edited the files directly so that I could bolt on the bits that were there previously. The .css file has plenty of redundant calls, and I’m pretty sure some of the functions from the previous theme aren’t needed either, but the only way to check some of the work out was on the live site (bad form, I know), so I’ve swapped the templates over.

The new theme is called Acquis, although Frankenstein might be better…

Some things aren’t working properly – or at least, not quite as they should – so there’ll be a bit more editing to go. Some of the colours from the old theme don’t look so good in this one. The masonry script occasionally throws a wobbly. The thumbnails might all want resizing too. But, in theory, I’m ready for Gutenberg and WordPress 5.0 later this year or early next.

For the rest of the week, I would like to do anything but stare at a laptop screen until 1am… but next week is a different story. Refresh a former client’s site when she supplies the revised content; look again at the family tree website; and a proof-of-concept which may never see the light of day.

I really need a new job, don’t I?

My long-time friend Pam and I had decided to meet up in Liverpool… not realising that the Giants would be making their farewell tour the same weekend. We did our best not to let them get in the way but as you can see… the crowds were HUGE! Thankfully, we could escape lots of them by visiting Tate Liverpool…

Booking an Uber must seem a bit like being in Mr Benn.

You enter your details into the app and then, as if by magic… a car appears.

The thing with Mr Benn of course is there there’s only the one shop, and the one shopkeeper. Ubers, however, they are many. And they all wait outside my building for you to book them.

We’ve always had problems with Private Hire Vehicles parking up on the access road to Whitehall Quay, but since the rise of Uber it’s become an infestation. They narrow the access road by parking on both sides. They park in the residents parking bays. They park in front of the NO PARKING sign by the drop-off spaces, getting the way of deliveries. They park in the entrance to the underground car park. They park up at Whitehall Riverside a dozen at a time, including in the loading bay outside Whitehall Place. They come from Bradford and Kirklees and heaven knows where else. Don’t believe me? Look at the photos. I have loads.

There were four of them the other week when my brother came to pick me up so we could go bury our mum, meaning he couldn’t wait anywhere safe.

The Council and the site management do their best, but Ubers breed.

And all so that you can save a few quid getting home.

It’s your life, but…

So far, it sounds like a tale of entitlement. How dare these people park their filthy cars anywhere near my posh apartment? Right?

Well, consider this. The reason all these Ubers – and the rest – park round my way is so that they can quickly get to Leeds Station.

Except, they can’t. Or shouldn’t. There’s a No Right Turn at the end of the access road, just for this purpose. The road markings are pretty clear as well. They still turn right, somehow negotiating the street signs and traffic island, causing people to scurry out of their way when crossing the road. If you hear them, that is, some of these cars are electric.

Why would you get into a vehicle driven by someone with such a blatant disregard for the rules of the road?

Do you want to be in one of these things when the driver hits a pedestrian? Or when you get T-boned crossing a junction?

Is your life, or anyone else’s, really worth the few quid you’ll save?

One of the problems I face as a single person living alone – apart from the sympathetic stares when I tell people I’m single and live alone – is in buying food.

For example: I drink milk but not that much. This means that every four days or so I go out and buy a new single pint of milk to put in my fridge. The old carton gets washed out and thrown in to be recycled (or would, if we had a recycling point at Whitehall Quay. Let’s not split hairs).

All that recycling then gets taken away and, well, recycled into new products… including cartons to hold single pints of milk.

Scientifically-speaking, this requires ‘work’. Work requires ‘energy’. Energy requires power stations. Power stations generate heat and pollution as well as the electrical energy required to power the National Grid.

You see my problem.

Every time I buy one of those single pints I’m contributing to a process that uses more power, when all I want is a bit more milk.

Compare and contrast with water. We’re encouraged to refill plastic bottles of water rather than throw away (recycle) the ones we’ve drained.

So why can’t we do that with milk?

If we can create public water fountains, why not milk bowsers in supermarkets? They don’t have to be huge things, just the equivalent of, say 32 or 64 pints or whatever the average daily sales are for a particular store that we can then top up our existing cartons from.

That way, we cut down on plastic waste and reduce our energy consumption by reducing recycling as well.

And another thing

Something else crossed my mind about power generation the last few weeks.

It was a bit warm in the office recently, and the comfort cooling wasn’t working as well as it should. So we plugged in a portable fan. It was warm so we plugged in a device, the powering of which generated heat somewhere in the world, adding to global warming, etc.

Why aren’t there small batteries that charge up using sunlight and/or heat and then discharge to power the portable fan? Come to think of it, why aren’t shops full of solar-powered portable fans?

Possibly because the great inventor of our time is busy picking fights with cave rescuers instead…?

A long time ago, when the Internet was young, I started my first degree at what is now Leeds Trinity University.

It was a joint Honours BSc in Mathematics and Public Media. Mathematics seems simple enough but what, I hear you ask, the chuff was Public Media?

Well, it covered a multitude of disciplines. The first year was sort-of a taster year, where we had sessions on marketing, public relations, advertising, photography, studio recording, location recording, organisational communications, strategy, computing… the works.

In the second and third years you could specialise, but still do things such year-long courses such as video production (I did that in my first year in my spare time). Things I learned back in 1986 I still use today.

I didn’t do any public relations beyond that first year. I did do some marketing, in my third year. A module I failed. In fact, I failed the whole degree course. Twice. I might have mentioned that before.

The point is, I picked up a huge range of skills that have gone on to be very helpful in my career to date. The first time I properly studied PR was when I did the IPR’s Advanced Certificate, in 2002-03, when I was already working in a PR team.

Back to the future?

A common complaint from agencies and large in-house teams is that recent graduates don’t always have the skills needed to do the job. A common complaint from professional bodies and universities is that students don’t have enough of a theoretic background to push the profession on.

Why can’t we do both? Combine theory and practice in a three-year course (or four years if you want a full year working out in the field)? That’s what my old course did.

Rather than mourn the passing of the oldest undergraduate PR degree course at Bournemouth, or tut sadly as lots of other PR degree courses team up with unrelated disciplines such as journalism, I look at this as an opportunity to reshape undergraduate degrees – hopefully for the better.

Teach students about the value – and desirability – of ethical practice, of strategic communications, how reputation affects the bottom line. But also teach them the practical aspects of modern public relations practice. Get them to lift their heads out of their books and see how the world affects what they do – and vice versa.

And, if needs be, combine public relations teaching with marketing (but dear Lord no, not journalism, they’re not the same) and create an all-embracing communications degree, with specialisms in digital, internal, political and heaven-knows what else communications.

I wonder what we could call it…?

[Note: this isn’t the original post I made, but a best-remembered version, written after the server crash that took away the original before its time.]

I honestly can’t believe I haven’t written something about this before! As a marketing and PR tool, having your own ‘day’ is second to none.

And there are so, so many of them. Not that Yorkshire really needs a ‘day’ of course… every day is a day to celebrate Yorkshire.

Yorkshire Day has been around since 1975, the year after local government reforms swept away the ancien regime of shire counties… which have all been re-created or otherwise celebrated in the 40-plus years since.

‘Yorkshire’ is generally agreed to have started in 875, so the year below changes every year. The Declaration should also be read out at that time, so at 11:43 in 2018. Quite what happens in 17 years when we reach 11:60 I’ve no idea.

Declaration of Integrity

I, Gary Taylor, being resident in the West Riding of Yorkshire†† declare:

That Yorkshire is three Ridings & the City of York with these boundaries of 1143††† years standing; that the address of all places in these Ridings is Yorkshire; that all persons born therein or resident therein and loyal to the Ridings are Yorkshire men and women; that any person or corporate body which deliberately ignores or denies the aforementioned shall forfeit all claim to Yorkshire status.

These declarations made this Yorkshire Day 2018. God Save the Queen!

  1. Your name here, obviously
  2. †† Or the North Riding, or East Riding, or City of York
  3. ††† Current year minus 875

… I shall drink purple. This is called a Black Jack, a rum-based cocktail at Alchemist in Leeds. Pour over the ice, then squirt something out of a syringe onto it. Meh.

Extremely silly, but I do like this! The Stick Song it’s based on is good too…

Despite being as on top of GDPR, privacy and data protection as the next non-legal person (ahem), it wasn’t until version 6.1 of Jetpack from Automattic came out that I realised I might have a problem, when they announced new privacy tools for those of us with contact form and commenting open. It turns out that this has been on the horizon for WordPress for some time.

Fortunately, the latest version of WordPress (4.9.6 – don’t ask about the odd version number, you’ll cry) includes some tools to get your WordPress site ready… three days under the wire.

The problem is that it only gets you part of the way there. For example: visitors can now see what data I’ve ever captured about them, but there’s no simple mechanism for them to ask the question – that’s left up to plugins. This being WordPress, there’s a lot of plugins, all of which almost do what you want, but not exactly.

So now, the comments box has two tick boxes. One is the built-in one, an option to store your details in the browser (using a cookie, of course). The other comes from a plugin, telling you to agree to the way I handle your data… but with no link to my new Privacy Policy page, which seems a little slack of them.

And I’ve had to create a Privacy Policy page, linked to from the foot of every page (plus the Acquis menu – because I can). WordPress gives you some sample text to get you going, but given that my servers aren’t stored locally (same for most people) and I’m assuming that my plugins don’t do anything they shouldn’t although there’s no easy way to check (same for most people) there’s only so far you can go without taking a few wild stabs in the dark. But it does have the data request form, thanks to a second plugin.

I’d appreciate a once-over of it from anyone reading this though… is it utter nonsense, or am I just about there?

Churchill used to refer to it as his “black dog”.

I never understood that. People tend to like dogs for one thing, and it doesn’t actually describe his state of mind in any sensible way.

This site, when it was just a blog, was once called Eeyore’s Gloomy Place. That wasn’t particularly accurate either, as I’m often much more upbeat than Eeyore ever was/is. I do laugh, you just don’t see it that often.

Sticking with the literary theme, I quite liked Dr Watson’s description of Sherlock Holmes playing the violin with such melancholy… until he would catch sight of Watson’s face and immediately played something more cheerful and uplifting. That certainly strikes a chord (as it were). I like to make people happy, even if that means not being around those people because they’re happier when I’m not around.

Beep-beep

Anyway: a couple of months ago I had a ‘wobble’. One of those occasions where the only thing you can do is go to bed early, listen to Porcelain by Julia Fordham (a most dreadfully downbeat album, but lovely in its own way) and literally cry yourself to sleep. I’d felt the mood building up all day. My mind had started to dwell on those personal problems that were wholly of my own making and which I knew I would never fix. It happens.

It was while doing the aforementioned crying myself to sleep and struggling to put into words to explain to myself – if no-one else – what I was feeling that I struck upon a much better description than merely calling it a “black dog”.

For me it’s like those old Looney Tunes or Merrie Melody cartoons, where some poor sap is running along chasing after another character, then runs off the edge of a cliff – but doesn’t notice they’re defying gravity, so they keep on running. It’s only when they realise that they’re running on thin air instead of solid ground that they crash to the valley floor below.

And there is no better exponent of this than Wile E. Coyote from the Roadrunner cartoons.

His task is simple enough – catch a roadrunner – but he manages to tie himself up in knots by making the process as complicated as possible. Anvils balanced precariously on rock ledges, large magnets on tracks and metal pellets mixed in with birdseed. Never taking the simple option.

Sounds like me, doesn’t it? I can over-complicate anything from catching a train to asking someone out on a date (yes, I do do better with the trains, thanks for asking), and then the simple task has suddenly become one requiring lots of thought and anxious moments waiting for things to fall into place or emails to arrive. And frequently not happening.

But here’s the thing. Every time one of these silly schemes or Acme product fails, he picks himself up, climbs off the valley floor and tries again. And again, and again, and again.

And for me, that’s the point. I know that for all the potential success I might have I’m inevitably going to fail, to crash and burn at something. But I’ll always get back up. Come the morning I’ll be all cried out, but I’ll be damned if I’m just going to lie there and give in.