The [passenger side] window in question - right above the door handle!

What happened after my van was broken into (or how you can harness a customer’s negative experiences for good!)

My van was broken into the other night.

Someone removed the front front side window, from the outside, without breaking the pane. They took a dashcam and walkie-talkie but kindly left the window pane in the gutter unbroken!

The [passenger side] window in question - right above the door handle!
The [passenger side] window in question – right above the door handle!
I’m ok, all is well but I had a problem:

  • I had a van with no front, forward, drivers side window
  • I had a pane of glass, and empty hole in the seals where it should be

What were my options here?

1) Fix it myself – if it just ‘came out’, it must ‘just go back in’ – how hard can it be?

Result: Had a go. Turns out, quite hard.

2) I drove to my favourite garage to get them to fix it.

Result: They were busy until Friday and I got the sense they didn’t really want to look at it.

3) I drove to my second choice garage.

Context: This is the garage that my parents always used to use, but recently the long-time owners retired and some new mechanics took over. I had no experience of them at all.

Result: When I arrived, the lead mechanic was busy doing an MOT, but told me that when his colleague got in in 15 mins time, he’d put him straight on it. I was happy to wait!

20 minutes later, with creative use of string, dishwasher fluid and elbow grease, my window was back in the frame where it should be. And I was standing there in awe, very glad to have outsourced that to the experts – and convinced it’d have taken me several hours of blood, sweat and tears to give up – without the same techniques.

I went to pay – happy to be in one piece again and be able to move on with my life.

But they wouldn’t take any money off me. The lead mechanic said “you’ve had a shit night – it’s nothing – I won’t take any money off you”.

I was floored. I was insanely grateful. Almost uncomfortably grateful. For the next half hour I kept wondering – how do you repay something like that?

Analysis: If we look at what he did through a business lens: They’re in a situation where perhaps they are re-establishing and want more business. The customer (me!) has had a poor experience – and at no fault of garage. The garage does something expected – and offers timely fixing – then does something unexpected – and does it for free. The customer is very happy.

But perhaps they also know that the customer will talk about that poor experience (everyone talks about getting broken into) and that for a relatively small cost (perhaps time that wouldn’t have been used anyway) they could position themselves, in that customer’s story – as the one’s who came to the rescue when things went wrong.

No-one tells their friends about an MOT they just had, but a story of how “someone stole all these things, but then the garage were so lovely afterwards” – that’s a story people do tell!

And from a human angle, it’s win-win too. Everyone loves the feeling of doing something that someone is profoundly grateful for – so it feels good too.


The garage in question was Fairways Motors on Arundel street in Glossop.

If you visit them, feel free to mention this story. I don’t imagine they’ll do the same thing everytime, but for what they did yesterday morning, I’m truly grateful.

Will they become my first preference garage? Well, at least now I’ll consider them. ;-)


I wonder where else you’ve seen this used? Do you ever have sad customers coming your way you can help? I’d love to hear more examples of this kind of thing – tell me your stories in the comments!

Manchester from above

What no-one will tell you about rocking employment fairs! (specifically the Manchester Digital talent fest)

All you need to know:

  1. Get a ticket
  2. Turn up.
  3. Talk to as many tech companies as possible to try understand what they do and how they operate

All you need to know to rock it:

Do:

  • Ask people lots of questions – especially about the area you’re most interested in. People LOVE anyone who’s interested in learning about how they do things – and this is what is likely most interesting to you. You can ask things like:
    • What technology does you use? What sort of tooling do you use on your frontend projects? What’s your backend architecture?
    • What sort of software development methodology do you use? What’s your process for turning requirements into code?
    • Is there anyone here who I can talk to about networking / programming / how you do project management / marketing etc?
    • What are the skills or technologies you feel most new graduates are missing that I can start familiarising myself with?
    • There is a question people love answering but students never ask: “What’s your background? How did you get your first tech job?” Ask it!
    • What’s it like to be a junior employee in your organisation?
    • How many women do you have in your tech team? 
    • What does your company do to help support minorities entering the world of tech?
  • When you hear something mentioned you’ve not heard of, consider asking “sorry, what’s X?” (Eg. “Sorry, I don’t think I’ve heard of Cucumber?“). It’s ok and very normal not to have heard of things, and asking about them will impress who you’re talking to.
    • When they start explaining, make a note of the name of the thing, and say something like “Thanks for explaining, I’ll look this up more when I get home“.
    • “Do you know where I can learn more about X?”
  • Personally take a note of everyone’s email address whom you meet.
    • You can easily get this “Do you have an email address? Mind if I drop you an email later if I have anymore questions about FooCorp or X technology?”
    • “Sorry what’s your name? Do you mind if I grab your email address?”
    • If they want your email, give it them – but insist on taking their name & email too.
  • Follow up afterwards with everyone!
    • After the fair, on the same day, go home and email, tweet every single company or person you spoke to. EVERY. SINGLE. ONE.
    • You can say “Thanks for explaining about XYZ at the event today.
    • You can say “@steve Great to meet you today Steve, reading up about cucumber and test driven development now – thanks for the pointers!“.
    • You can say if you don’t have a name of a person: “Just wanted to write and thank the Foocorp team for taking the time to explain about your project management process to me today – I’m reading up more about Scrum – do you know any good resources I could go look at?
    • You can ask “Great to learn a bit about Foocorp today, do you have any more info or links about that thing you mentioned?”
    • If you can find them on LinkedIn and you had a good chat, add them! (This is not an alternative to following up properly)
    • This is a general life pro tip. If you get good at sending a message after you meet people, you will be lucky much more often than you feel is statistically likely.

Don’t:

  • Whilst you’re there, you may see people “drive-by-CVing” where they’ll waltz past a stand, give their CV and run away. This is a time consuming method advanced method called “not getting a job”. Sure, perhaps someone has a story of it working, but a stopped clock is right twice a day.
  • bother asking about pay. Lots of people will tell you highs, lows, and averages – but they’re all pretty pointless. You’re most interested in learning what YOU will earn. No-one will tell you until they interview you and offer you a job.  And there’s so much more to your first job than pay – for example – whether you hate everyone you work with, or like everyone you work with. Tech salaries are good – there is a time to ask and think about whether what you’re being offered is fair – but don’t bother trying this part at the employment fair stage. :)
  • The employment fair isn’t about your porfolio, level of experience, CV, etc so I’d suggest not focusing on these things too much beforehand. It’s just not time well spent. If you want to help yourself, read the next section and/or consider making index cards of questions you could ask people.

All you need to know to rock it and be one of the wisest people at the event:

Do:

  • Before the day, Google each of the companies who are listed as coming. Make a note of those who you’re most interested in talking to, and least interested. Prioritise your time and chat to those you’re most interested in learning more about. The companies will be very happy if you know vaguely what they do already too.
  • Turn up early. I don’t mean on-time, I mean, be there 10-15mins early. There’s a lot of companies to talk to. Even if you’re not allowed in early, it’ll be worth it. If you are let in early, go talk to people who look mostly setup and ready.
  • Talk to the downtrodden, small, less grand, stands. They may be smaller, they may look the least organised – this may be indicative that they’ll more focused on doing the thing you’re interested in, rather than “professionally hiring people”. Be wary of flashy, well organised stands with lots of branded outgoing people. They may not be as representative of organisations that value all the things you value most. Give the small and large stands equal attention.
  • As well as real life, talk to everyone on twitter.
    • I get it – chatting to people is your worst nightmare – that was why I first started playing with computers too. Talking to people gives you a massive edge – even when you feel you’re pushing yourself to be the most social you can be. It’s not easy, and face-to-face is hard and scary. Fortunately there are tools that can can make it slightly less intimidating.
    • Ask other people on twitter who you can see who went to the event “@jane12345 I loved #eventhashtag too! Who were your favourite people to chat to?
    • [Before the event]: Companies who you want to chat to  “@foocorp Looking forward to chatting to you on Fooday! Will there be anyone at #eventhashtag who I can chat to about <specific area you’re interested in – eg front end, back end, java, project management, marketing, whatever>?
    • [After the event]: Companies who you
    • To the organisers: “@eventorganisers Thanks for organising #eventhashtag today – so great to chat to everyone – thanks for all the effort you put into making it happen”
    • Use the hashtag in all your tweets.
    • Keep a twitter search going for that hashtag.
    • Follow every who looks mostly relevant.
    • psst. I think the hashtag is #MDTalentDay ;)

Don’t

  • bother chatting to recruitment agents or recruitment agencies. They’ll be very good at talking. That’s their job. They’ll be very organised. This is their job. They’re also 100% less worth chatting to at this event than the companies who hire people directly. And if you get hired directly, you’ll probably work for a company where you’ll be happier, who’ll pay you more. And everyone will be happy about this. All recruitment agents will dispute this assertion, and suggest that they’re different from the majority in this regard.  My suggestion is only to talk to recruitment agents when you’ve spoken to every single other company at the event. If you find yourself in a conversation with one by accident, here’s some ways to escape:
    • Great to chat to you. I’m going to go mingle and make the most of the event.
    • I’m supposed to be meeting my friend now – catch you a bit later.
    • Sorry I’m not interested.
    • Thanks, I already gave you my info though!
    • “I’m not a student sorry!”
    • <speak in foreign language>
  • care about freebies. Freebies are dull. Competitions are rubbish. Get a job. Then buy yourself “freebies”. 10 minutes of your time at this fair is worth more than a mars bar.
  • go round in a group. Let your friends go round separate from you. You’ll be at an advantage on your own or in a pair.
  • Stop chatting to employers after you have one good conversation. Chat to as many people as you feel able to.
  • Pick up leaflets without talking to people. Find some kind of question to ask them. I’ve given you plenty – asking what technology they use is a good one. :)

What do you know about this? I got my first job through the precursor to this event and since then I’ve helped other friends meet their future employers at the event.

What other questions could be asked? What would you say?

Share your thoughts in the comments!


Used this article to get yourself something good? Consider dropping me an email or leaving a comment to say thanks!

The van

When I first thought about this, I worried I might lose friends, then I realised it was the right thing.

 

“Imagine that money wasn’t something you had to worry about – what would you do?”

Once you figure out the answer, you’re meant to head down the most efficient path there. Working ‘to get rich’ when you’re seeking to ‘have a happy family life’ may not be the most efficient route for you. It’s not a new concept, and worth reflecting on.

Today, I want to share with you how I’m answering that question.

The Plan

Parking the van at work
Parking the van at work

The plan is to buy a van, convert it into a live-in stealth campervan, and live in it. By June ~30th 2015.

Current status: I have bought a Mercedes Sprinter 2008 long wheel base 311 CDI 2.1 with ~150,000 miles – should go to ~300,000. It’s in fairly good nick.

This is my first car, and first thing I’ve driven on my own, so driving around Manchester is fun at times.

Instant FAQs

Where will you park it?

On the street, in different places – wherever we want to be at that point in time.

Will it have internet?

It’ll have 12V onboard electrics powering a 3G/4G wifi router. 25GB of data on EE these days is £30/mo on a one month contract.

What will you do about a toilet?

There will be an onboard Thetford c200 cassette toilet with SOG (so we won’t have to use chemicals). We will be using grey water from the sink for flushing.

What will you do about showers?

Not having them onboard. Showers exist in modern office buildings, swimming baths, sports centres etc.

Who’s going to do the conversion?

Me (with help from my girlfriend Clara).

What van conversion skills do you have?

Ability to read instructions, a nice powerdrill, blind optimism. You only learn when you try.

Why not buy a readymade campervan?

  • Most campervans are built for weekend trips away to caravan sites – where you get an electric hookup, and are never designed for constant use.
  • Parking up in a city, we’d prefer to look “stealth” – just like one of the unmarked white vans you saw today – that you didn’t give a thought to.
  • We dislike the 80-90s retro interior design of the campervans we’ve seen. The white/grey plastic makes me want to vom.
  • When you build something yourself, you value it more highly, so we think building our home will make us better appreciate it for what it is.

Why not buy a house?

You can’t drive a house to another place.

Why not build a house?

You can’t drive a house to another place.

Why not live in a canal boat?

You’re limited to canals, and travelling at about 8mph. So spending a week in the Lake District is kind of hard work.

What will you be doing about washing clothes?

Somehow, laundrettes still exist. Also, lovely friend’s houses. :)

What will you do about an address?

My parents live relatively nearby. That’s a good place to direct snail-mail to.

How will you power your electrics?

Initially, from leisure batteries and a split charge relay from the alternator. I’d love to have solar panels for charging the batteries, and as soon as I have time/money/energy, they’re on the agenda for the roof.

Once I can afford a Tesla Powerwall, and it’s easily available in the UK, it’s of serious interest to me.

Will you be on your own? (How will you ever get a girlfriend?)

My girlfriend Clara has been helping me with the CAD plans and seems open to living there with me.

How does she feel about it?

Clara says:

“*shrug* – it sounds like an adventure. If it’s not a fun adventure I will move back to my place in Sheffield. I’m super happy for my lovely boyfriend to do what makes him happy.”

How much will this cost you?

Hopefully less than a house, and less than rent, and more flexibility. I bought the van for £5,500.

I know someone else who’s done this!

There’s an entire community about it at /r/vandwellers

How did you get this idea?

I took some inspiration from VanDogTraveller and my friend Dan Woods who lived in a van during his University years in Manchester. I also listened to (and sometimes ignored) suggestions from Matt Bibby, Dave Crossland and others. I’m really grateful for their inspiration and advice.

In the ’50s, when my mum was little, she and her family lived in a converted double decker bus.

In the past I had an idea to travel around the country, spending a month in different AirBnBs. When I had the van idea, it felt more efficient and became the plan.

Won’t you be very cold in the winter?

Hopefully not. It will be chilly, for sure, and we’ll have to look carefully at how things are going as the temperatures start dropping, but we’re fairly optimistic that we can make it work. Staying warm in bed should be fairly straightforward, and one of the nice things about a van is that it’s a much smaller space to heat than the average house. We’re going to insulate it well.

Won’t you be very hot in the summer?

This could be an issue. The van is white and we’re planning to insulate it fairly well. The UK is hardly Morocco though. We count our very hot summer days, when it reaches 20C+, on one hand. If the van is unbearably hot we will go and enjoy the sunshine outside!

Aren’t you just demonstrating how incredibly privileged you are?

Yep. I’m a white well-educated, cis male, from a well-off background, with a great job and supportive family, in a first world country, with a social welfare system and a nationalised health service. I have to acknowledge that in almost everything I do. I have a lot of people to be grateful for, and I must be mindful not to take anything for granted and to do what I can to help those who’ve been less fortunate in the privilege lottery.

Aren’t you worried about what people will think?

In short, “no”.

I gave this some thought, I was worried my friends might instantly unfriend me. I realised that my friends don’t judge people by their living arrangements, but by what they’re like as a human being. I plan on being the same person, and anyone who wishes to pigeon-hole because of my living arrangements probably doesn’t know me.

Is this forever? Will you never get a house?

I may get a house in future. Who knows? Let’s figure that out when the future arrives.

I wouldn’t do this.

That’s absolutely ok!

Background:

Since about 2008, I’ve noticed that the internet has helped me geographically distribute myself. I noticed I didn’t seem to get homesick because the things I cared most about tended to be accessible via the internet.

(NB. This doesn’t apply to pets. I wish I could have emailed hugs to my dog, and got licks and snuffles by SMS.)

I realise about myself:

  • I love travelling when it seems like the right thing – I love mountains, outdoors, sea sides, long beaches, camping and exploring.
  • I also love technology, though perhaps that’s less obvious – I post fewer photos of it, try to avoid being relentlessly gushing about it – and yet, me and it often work hand in hand every day.
  • I’m fairly independent – I’ve never been in debt and I’ve been financially independent since I got my first job when I was 18, but I’ve been supported and effectively self-directed for sometime before then. For better or for worse, I don’t seem really be afraid of blazing my own path on my own, even if it turns out in the end just to be an interesting footnote.

Realisations:

  • I’m 24. I can make mistakes. I should make mistakes. I should make mistakes NOW.(I don’t seek to make mistakes, just be aware that they provide the most powerful opportunities to learn from, and that it’s easier to make bold decisions when you support fewer people.)
  • If this turns out to be a terrible idea, the downside is not fatal. It allows for learning. In the context of my life, it’s a small bet.
  • I feel that most of my relationships with my friends and family are location agnostic. Sure, I need turn up at my friend’s party, just like I should be at a family wedding – but the rest of the time? I’m not convinced physical proximity is super important so long as you’re there at ‘the right’ moments.
  • Being in one fixed location is less relevant to day to day job than it ever was. Most of my work is conducted over email and phone calls, and last summer I spent three weeks, working remotely from Bulgaria – more recently, close online collaboration in a distributed team seems to be working well.
  • I don’t want to buy a house, until I know I want to live there for ~10+ years. I don’t know where I want to be living in ~10+ years time, so I don’t want to buy a house.
  • There are two unfulfilled ambitions I think I have: one is to travel more, the other is to build something big.

So what’re the next steps?

I’ll be blogging, tweeting, facebooking about it as much as I can as we build it. You can also follow the github repo which contains the the CAD plans (or the cartoon simplified version) and things we’re working on.

The next step is for me to stop writing this blog post and insulate it! :D

The Van
The Van

I’d love to hear from you! Any thoughts? Any unanswered questions? Well wishes? Stories? Things I might want to think about? Let me know in the comments!

I love you Bess.

My darling dog Bess came to the end of her well lived life yesterday.

My best Bess
My best Bess

I tried to tell her many times, and I hope she knew:

I love you Bess.

Bess and me (2009)
Bess and me (2009)

She’s buried where we often used to walk her, above Glossop, where the pine trees catch the wind that sweeps across the moor and a single tree stands alone amongst the reeds.

Bess's view
Bess’s view

I’d be happy to visit her with anyone who wanted to make the trip out to Glossop and up the hill, to spend a few minutes with her.

I love you Bess
I love you Bess
BBC iPlayer, Defective By Design Protest outside BBC Oxford Road in Manchester by Matt Lee (CC-BY-SA 2.0)

I protested BBC iPlayer in 2007, and I don’t regret it.

During the summer holidays of 2007, I was a teenage sailing instructor who was volunteering locally, to teach younger teens how to sail (better) for a week.

On Tuesday, I skived off teaching, jumped on a train to Manchester and changed my life forever.


But that’s not the beginning… A few months earlier I was prowling the school library looking for anything to dull the boredom of actually studying when I stuck my nose in the computer section, and found that, for some reason, they had a copy of Free As In Freedom, a biography of Richard Stallman.

In the book, Sam Williams, the author, interviews Stallman a number of times, and explores the backgrounds to his principled stances with regards to software.

In spring 2007, I ran Ubuntu and Windows XP in dual boot and so I found it very relevant to my interests and persuasive.


One weekend, I was reading The Register, and I saw a headline…

Free Software Foundation plans protests at ‘corrupt’ BBC

The article explained that planning protests outside the BBC headquarters in London and
“outside the corporation’s Manchester offices on Tuesday, 14 August.”

My ears pricked up…


At this point, you might be thinking:

iPlayer? You protested against iPlayer? Why? iPlayer is awesome.

Let’s go back to 2007.

When the BBC announced iPlayer with a fanfare it was to be:

  • Internet Explorer only, Windows-based peer to peer service
  • where you downloaded a DRM’d Windows media file
  • and the DRM meant you could only watch it for 30 days.

To make the perception of a dotCom era Microsoft: “embrace, extend, extinguish” even worse, Ashley Highfield, the BBC manager in charge of delivering it was an ex-Microsoft exec. Small world eh?


When pressed about the lack of cross platform support, the BBC said:

“It is not possible to put an exact timeframe on when BBC iPlayer will be available for Mac users. However, we are working to ensure this happens as soon as possible and the BBC Trust will be monitoring progress on a six monthly basis.”

To be it seemed incredible, that in 2007, our national broadcaster could release a platform that I was unable to use without a Windows operating system and to exclude Mac, Linux and emerging mobile platforms – it just seemed such a massive strategic error on the BBC’s part.

And I kept thinking

“I really like the idea… Just not the implementation. Not this implementation.”


I barely knew Manchester, and even getting from Piccadilly Station to the Oxford Road BBC building seemed like a large challenge to me. I’d never been to a protest before, I’d never spoken to any techies who weren’t family, friends or classmates, and I was somewhat terrified. I had no idea what to expect.

The protest itself was actually relatively low key – the concept was that DRM was defective by design, and by extension so was iPlayer. So we stood outside the BBC in hazmat suits, with placards, and handed out leaflets to passersby.

BBC iPlayer, Defective By Design Protest outside BBC Oxford Road in Manchester by Matt Lee (CC-BY-SA 2.0)
BBC iPlayer, Defective By Design Protest outside BBC Oxford Road in Manchester by Matt Lee (CC-BY-SA 2.0)

Afterwards, we retired across the road, to the upstairs of Odder Bar; for me this seemed like the first criteria for success: it appeared that no-one had been arrested, or hurt.


The protest had been organised by Matt Lee with help from Noah Slater, and as a result I became involving in the first days of Manchester Free Software group, and started hanging out and demonstrating naive youthfulness in various related IRC channels.

The first talk I went to was about hosting and free software and was by Matthew Bloch of Bytemark Hosting… Hmmmm.


As a direct result of getting to know people, Noah first gifted me the tdobson.net domain, and Matt gave a xen VM on his Bytemark dedicated server to play with for a while.

I continued to debate BBC iPlayer strategy on the BBC Backstage mailing list, I made friends with Dave Crossland and Ian Forrester, and as a result, later on I ended up contracting for the BBC and living with Ian.. but that’s another story.

In addition, I started to discover the other emerging communities in Manchester, I remember dragging myself to the “BSD User Group” – essentially a drinking club with jolly good taste for pubs, Geekup, currybeer and my first barcamp of many more.


And BBC iPlayer?

After some drama where Ashley Highfield annoyed Linux users some more, and I suggested he talk to Groklaw, and he did, they quickly put together a compromise: a streaming solution via Adobe Flash.

By January 2008, the Register was reporting:

The BBC’s Flash-based streaming service has gifted a massive traffic boost to the iPlayer site since it went live in mid-December, independent figures have revealed.

It’s a remarkable turnaround for a project that was floundering a few months back. The DRM-timebombed and buggy P2P version limped into the limelight in summer 2007 after years of troubled development.

It had attracted consternation from Apple, Linux and Windows Firefox users, who were shut out by the use of Microsoft DRM, despite being the people most likely to be early adopters of new net services.

The cross platform iPlayer you know and love is the great grandson of this service.

I like to think my criticism of the implementation helped iPlayer achieve the success, just much like the BBC’s initially poor choice of platform, helped me find my feet in the world of technology.

Could we see a cyclist-friendly Taxi firm in Manchester?

I’m a cyclist.

My Pointer 5 Jubilarium
My Bike

But that doesn’t mean I cycle everywhere, all the time, I take the train, I take buses, I take trams and quite frequently I take taxis.

Taxis and cyclists don’t always get on, this doesn’t have to be: I take taxis a lot more often than if I owned a car.

The boss of London Minicab firm Addison Lee, sadly unaware of this clear relationship when he laid into cyclists in the capital last year, with a raft of stupid comments, which made me uncomfortable giving my money to his company, given the choice.

I’m no militant cyclist. I ride a 3 speed ladies bike. I stop at traffic lights. My dynamo lights work. I use arm signal when changing my position in the road. I acknowledge and thank careful drivers and drivers who let me out.

Cyclists and Taxis will always co-exist. Indeed, Cyclists will often be a taxi-drivers best customer.

So the question is this:

Is there a business opportunity for a taxi company to declare itself to be a special cyclist friendly taxi company? Clearly, Greater London is not a very competitive market, but Manchester on the other hand, has a large number of firms, all vying for position.

Could 2013 see one of them positioning themselves as the go-to firm for cyclists?

 

What being a victim of crime was like for me.

Since reading my friend Dan’s travel blog of his exciting day in South Africa where he talked/sneaked himself out of two muggings in a day, I’ve given some thought to how I’d try to handle these kind of situations.

What happened

A few months ago, as I was cycling into town after work, I was stopped at the top of an isolated pedestrian bridge by 4 induviduals on bikes and was told in no uncertain terms that I was being mugged. As one of them tried to reach into one of my pockets contains a phone, I held onto it, which brought a few punches flying in the direction of my head. Deciding at this point, that I didn’t really fancy parting company with the contents of my pockets (phone and wallet), I pushed my bike towards them (step-through frames allow for easy dismounting!) and sprinted back in the direction I’d come. After hearing someone say “after him”, I decided that now might be a really good time to start loudly and choosing the most appropriate word I could think of, I started shouting “help” and by the time I reached the original end of the bridge, I was met by a member of the public who called the police.

Since then, I’ve spent at least 6 hours of my life giving statements and doing identifits etc. for an incident that, at most, lasted 30 seconds.

Reflections

Considering that:

  1. I wasn’t seriously hurt (there were two minor and inconspicuous bruises)
  2. I wasn’t seriously missing anything (though I lost my glasses in the affray)

I think it’s fair to say that it went “about as well as an attempted mugging could go”. I didn’t lose anything to the robber and I wasn’t seriously hurt.

I’ve thought long about this. Could I have avoided any issues with them simply by dressing and acting differently? Could I have avoided any physical confrontation if I’d handed stuff over straight away? Could I have done things differently?

Ultimately, these questions will drive you crazy – the answer is “yes, probably”, but the fact is ‘shit happened’ and thankfully I came out of it pretty well this time, so that’s what I should focus on.

Immediately after the incident I was quite nervous, however, I’m very eager to avoid is demonising groups of people – young people growing up in the inner city are generally great people, and, in my opinion, more work needs to be done to help organisations like RECLAIM help empower young people in these areas.

Reactions

The most interesting thing about the incident now, is actually observations of how people’s reactions to the incident subsequently affected me and the impact that had.

The most prominent reaction has been a statement or something like “hope you’re ok”, which whilst being the easiest, and probably least likely to upset, response, is quite passive.

Interestingly, for me, the worst thing that happened was being asked “What happened?”, and forcing me to recount the details of the incident in detail. It’s not that it was particularly traumatising, but reliving the incident each time I was asked doesn’t really help put the incident into the larger perspective, both for me and the person I was telling it to.

Perhaps one of the less helpful responses was suggestions that I could have been stabbed and being told that I should have just handed over my phone. Whilst there’s certainly truth in that, it’s a really unhelpful perspective to suggest to the victim at that point. Clearly there were worse possible outcomes, however, with the bigger picture, the given response resulted in about as good as one could hope, with an actual guarantee that the suggested response would result in am objectively worse outcome (with still no guarantee it wouldn’t involve stabbing) than what actually happened.

One possibly interesting reaction was being told that they know how I felt, and that anger that comes afterwards is worse than the event – probably an incredibly clear indicator of how clearly personal people’s reactions to events like this are – I suspect they did not know how I felt, as the anger wasn’t forthcoming…

One reaction was to simply label the perpetrators as “manchester dickheads” – possibly objectively true – but still unhelpful, rather pointless name-calling – “Ahah, you almost mugged me. You’re a dickhead! Oooh. I said a naughty word!”.

I’ve had people say that they hope this won’t change my approach to the world – and for me this was the most well-received response – mainly I suspect – because I’d already decided that this had to be the case, within 10 minutes of the incident.

In my opinion, perhaps, the most empathetic response is to ask how the victim is feeling, then be quiet and let them do the talking.

Final Thoughts

In many ways, however, I suspect that despite people meaning well, I might actually have been happier to not publicise it so much. This may be partly related to my distaste for verbally repeating anecdotes a number of times, but I suspect is also to do with coming to terms with things actually being quite a personal thing, and whilst other people’s perspectives are obviously helpful to themselves, I can find them, at best, hard to relate to, and at worst, somewhat unhelpful.

I was a bit shaken for a while (aka an evening) after the incident, and there’s still the odd flashback or moment where I feel irrationally unsafe, but I’d had enough of talking about it within hours of it happening.

I’m “over” the incident – shit’s gonna happen, in the past and the future, it’s not surprising really, and I’m happy it went as best it could this time.

I’d really like to look forward in life for a while now.

The Bogle Ramble :: 26 miles across Manchester on foot

You can sponsor my efforts here on mydonate and let mySociety know how much you appreciate them!

The Bogle Ramble was an interesting challenge: throughout the day I made a video blog, capturing my thoughts, messages of thanks to my sponsors and other notable moments.

The Eighty Three Bus,
Overtakes me once again,
please let me ride you!

After we started, there was this guy who seemed intent on running it, but didn’t know his way to Oldham Road through the centre, so I jogged with him across the city centre to Oldham Road where I let him move onwards at an incredible pace, whilst I resumed walking to catch my breath. From there until Failsworth (Checkpoint 6), I only encountered one other Bogler – a lady who had also been jogging a fair bit.

Walking and jogging…
Staple bogle essentials.
Checkpoint seven soon!

On the stint between Checkpoint 6 and Checkpoint 7 I overtook a good number of clearly exhausted Bogle Strollers. One lot seemed to be limping so badly I jogged across the road and gave them a bunch of chocolate bars from my bag; their eyes showed their appreciation which they didn’t seem to be able to find words to express.

Crossing the River Irwell in Kearsley
Crossing the River Irwell in Kearsley

After Checkpoint 7, I noticed a lot more Bogle Strollers, many sitting on walls, comforting friends… or just plodding along. I’d been told that between Checkpoint 7 and 8 there were some hiking club strollers which I really wanted to catch up with. Once I reached “checkpoint” 7.5, I met up with them and found they’d dropped out. After stopping for a brief chat, my first snack and a friendly face, I headed on for Checkpoint 8 at Kearsley.

Shortly before Checkpoint 8, it started raining, which, given I hadn’t brought waterproof trousers with me, was unwanted, and quite depressing. Ultimately though, the rain broke away to sun and there was a DOUBLE RAINBOW.

Sunshine through the rain,
an inspiring sight to see,
a rainbow of hope.

Double Rainbow!
Double Rainbow!

From there on, I started to really notice that I was no longer up to short periods of jogging downhill and was it was beginning to lose it’s edge. I was largely walking following the signs the Bogle team had put up on lampposts and occasionally falling back to my map/route instructions for the bigger picture. Somehow however, I managed to completely walk past Checkpoint 9. From then onwards, then on, I suspect my average speed dropped quite a bit. I started to find people overtaking me, rather than the other way round. As I walked through Salford, I started to notice bunches of youths apparently eyeing me up and so I pressed on to checkpoint 10, just 2.5 miles from the finish line, and then onwards towards the finish.

The Bogle tired me in ways I hadn’t previously anticipated. I knew it would be a physically tiring time. I knew I’d have to tell myself just to keep going and that I was going to finish it. I didn’t expect the fatigue and stress of the previous few weeks to be brought close to the surface due to Bogle fatigue and for me to feel like I inexplicably was going to burst into tears. This, I was completely unprepared for.

I finished The Bogle at 17:57. About 8 hours, 37 minutes, 26 miles after I started – an average speed of about 3mph. There were no blisters or other injuries.

You can still sponsor me here!

Windsurfing at Glossop Sailing Club

Not so long ago I put together this short video of people windsurfing on a windy day at Glossop Sailing Club.

What do you think of it?

It’s pretty much my first ever watersports video that I’ve spent any time editing and I know I’ve still got a lot to learn…

How would you improve it?

If you think you know an answer, please leave a comment.


The music comes courtesy of Red Light Rippers, with their song “Addicted”.

Filmed on a Sanyo Xacti WH1 and edited solely with KdenLive


All content licenced under: Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0
Creative Commons License