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Small thoughts, observations, joys, worries, and cultural tidbits — posted almost daily.

8th July 2020 6:40pm

Call in the Crash Team

I’ve long been a fan of poet Simon Armitage, but when I heard the first single from his LYR music project, I thought his poetry sat uneasily with the music and dismissed it.

The album’s out now so I gave LYR another go — and I’ve changed my mind. Call in the Crash Team is an intriguing and often beautiful collection of evocative sketches. I feel now that the spoken word and music are intertwined, underpinning each tale with tension.

I also love recent single Lockdown, which originated as a pandemic poem about ye olde Eyam’s 17th-century self-quarantine. Recorded with additional vocals from actor Florence Pugh, the track was released to support Refuge.

BTW, Armitage’s podcast, The Poet Laureate Has Gone to His Shed, is great.

6th July 2020 11:40pm

A notable milestone

Standing on our finished patio

The grid of porcelain pavers has anchored our entire project; a source of truth for the straight lines and right angles we’ve defined. But for all their seductive grey-blue beauty, they merely rested in place, wobbly and vulnerable, and we dared not walk. As work continued around and underneath, I grew increasingly nervous about laying them.

This weekend, with weeks of preparatory steps completed, we finally fixed those sexy slabs, and a few hours ago, we grouted.

And so, tonight, something of a milestone: we stood on the lovely raised patio we created together and we hugged. There’s much more to do, but the dream of an enjoyable outdoor space now feels tantalisingly real.

3rd July 2020 8:00pm

Haus Band

Greg Wood, my pal and former New Adventures co-host, runs a zine + label called Pushkins Prefers and also makes fuzzy ambient electronic music as Haus Band. His excellent Insomnia Classics vol 1 is out today, and you should buy it on Bandcamp. I bought the “hip as hell cassette version,” obviously.

1st July 2020 12:50pm

And so to beds

When time and weather allow, we press on with our garden project. After at least fifteen full days of hard work, a sweet reward: we finally hit the nursery, filled the car with living things and planted the beds.

The big jobs we've been prepping for — the paving and cladding — will resume once the weather stabilises. But for now, yay plants!

A trolley full of plants
A car full of plants
Planted raised beds
Planted back bed

27th June 2020 1:00pm

Milton Glaser has died

The way this brilliant man spoke about art and design really caught my attention early on in my career. Two quotes in particular have helped me immensely:

A puzzle is better than an answer.
I move things around until they look right.

The first brings comfort when I can't see a clear path; the second allows me to trust my instinct. Thank you, Milton.

26th June 2020 4:00pm

Learn Eleventy from Scratch

I love managing content with Kirby, but it’s important to stretch my static site skills. And I’m finally investing in a ground-up understanding of the tech stack essentials I've often been required to use with little or no support.

This week, I started Andy Bell’s excellent and enjoyable Learn Eleventy From Scratch course. As well as being the perfect intro to the popular SSG, it’s an ideal Node and Nunjucks starting point and best practice refresher.

Course leaders — and developer colleagues, for that matter — are rarely as clear, considerate and present as Andy feels in these written lessons, but I expected nothing less. I’ve been a Piccalilli fan for a while now, and it typifies everything that is welcoming, supportive and good about the web community.

23rd June 2020 12:00pm

New work for Chad Dickerson

Chad Dickerson, the former Etsy CEO, asked me to design and build a warm and welcoming type-driven site for his new leadership coaching practice. Yesterday, he went public and kindly acknowledged my work.

My design partner for my new coaching web site was @colly & he was an absolute joy to work with. I couldn't recommend him enough!

If you need an outstanding leadership coach or wish to see Mr & Mrs Eaves somewhat tamed by a modular scale, check out Strong Back Open Heart. I’ve also published a detailed case study.

22nd June 2020 6:20pm

Jeanie and Jarvis

Rave In The Cave is a delightful discussion between two of my favourite people: filmmaker Jeanie Finlay and reluctant ‘national treasure’ Jarvis Cocker. They cover a wide range of past and present topics, trigger a cascade of memories and reference lots of places I know well.

20th June 2020 9:50pm

Coffee in the park

Coffee in the park

At last, coffee made by another human (it’s been three months). My homemade flat whites are decent, but we’ve definitely missed a pro’s touch. How good it was to see Annie and Josh at Økende.

With parcels to post, a trip to Bridgford was necessary, and the opportunity to grab coffee proved irresistible. Still, we were unnerved by the crowds along Central Avenue. Some strolled with plastic pints, others gathered on the grass. Most seemed unconcerned by proximity to strangers. Geri sums it up:

“We were pretty weirded out by things looking a little too normal. It’s hard to tell what’s going on in the minds of everyone around us—do they find it weird too? Who knows, but no matter what people are thinking, it’s pretty clear that the lockdown is over.”

I write these COVID-19 notes partly to protect myself from future scrutiny, should a second wave prove early easing to be a mistake — to make it clear that I gave a shit. I’m with Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett and her need to document feelings of dislocation and unease.

16th June 2020 4:50pm

Another happy client

I’ve just completed a rewarding project for a French client, whose SaaS assists leading political parties, NGOs, youth movements and solo campaigns. I was hired to design an ambitious service expansion, delivering fresh direction, reorganised content and a comprehensive set of components. The job was a pleasure from start to finish. Merci, Titouan!

Recent projects have been enjoyably diverse and quietly satisfying, each an opportunity to work directly with a thoughtful individual. Tomorrow, I begin a consultation exercise with a Boston-based client, critiquing his personal site and pair-designing the final stage before I port it to Kirby.

Can I help you? I’m available from late June if anyone out there needs an experienced digital designer. I’m very friendly and relatively affordable, so do get in touch.

12th June 2020 4:15pm

Course correction

Two months ago, during the weekly grocery drive, I was clocked doing 34mph in a 30 zone. A few days later, I received my first ever speeding notice — although from the tone you’d think I’d committed armed robbery.

A course seemed preferable to points, but this was a few days into lockdown, so an all-day, in person belittling was, mercifully, off the table. I would instead receive my correctional punishment online, and for just £89 that I absolutely didn’t need for anything else.

I expected it to be condescending and pointless, and that Microsoft Teams would be awful. Well, it’s just finished, and I was entirely wrong. The course was a good-natured refresher, explicitly designed for marginal offenders. I learned lots, and I’ll be a more aware and more patient driver from now on.

The other offenders seemed nice, except for Lee with his wobbly camera and chain-smoking. His best contribution was an unmuted “For fuck’s sake,” unconvincingly denied. He passed regardless. Great job, Lee.

11th June 2020 7:40pm

We can do better

Engineering that makes inclusion an afterthought is engineering that operates without morality and in doing so actively enacts harm. The fact that this kind of engineering is commonplace on the internet doesn’t make it OK. It just highlights that the way we have built the web is fundamentally broken.

Building the Woke Web is an incontrovertible call to action from Olu Niyiawosusi. We’re all guilty, and we can all do better. If you make things for other people, that means all people. No excuses.

9th June 2020 10:00pm

Nothing to do in Sheffield

Today, we went somewhere other than Morrisons or my Mam’s front gate. An appointment in Sheffield: Geri’s much-postponed visa biometrics. There was no queue and no waiting, because there were no people. It was over before it began, and there was nothing else to do in Sheffield except leave. We were home by noon.

8th June 2020 11:40pm

Protest is progress

Protest is uncomfortable, but we don’t protest enough. Scholars say our ‘convivial’ culture holds everything together, but that’s an idea based on common decency, which is in short supply. Things hold thanks to acquiescence, a lack of comprehension, and — where people are engaged — a taut equilibrium. Views are deeply polarised, and the two sides pull and push with such equal force that very little gives way.

But change is coming, and people should brace for more affronts to what they believe is right and proper. More slavers like Colston and Milligan will topple. Rhodes will go. Churchill may yet suffer more than a little spray paint. All that represents past and present harm will face scrutiny as we move forward.

We’re some way into a century of protest and change, but this feels like the start. Many feel increasingly lost, exploited by the establishment and undermined by an incomplete education. Their world will be pulled from under them because everything will change. But none of this is an attack on history. It is history. Protest is progress, and we can expect much more of it.

5th June 2020 7:05pm

Take some of the burden

We’re all making intellectual progress on issues of race, but that progress is entirely about ourselves until we act. We must use what we’re learning to confront systemic racism, whenever and wherever we see it, no matter how uncomfortable.

A couple of points that stuck with me this week:

If our actions as white people are devoted exclusively to our internal transformation, and not to actively interrupting racism & anti-Black violence, we aren’t actually showing up for Black folks. We’re showing up for ourselves.
White people—talk about race with other white people. Stop pretending that you are exempt from the day-to-day realities of race. Take some of the burden of racism off of people of color. Bring it into your life so that you can dismantle racism in the white spaces of your life that people of color can’t even reach.
— Ijeoma Oluo, So You Want To Talk About Race

Oh, and as I’m one of those people recommending books, I should share this: What is an anti-racist reading list for? by Lauren Michele Jackson.

4th June 2020 1:45pm


I learned that our local birds like sunflower hearts and they’re now feeding regularly, so I wedged an old Blink cam in the tree. Here’s the best of day one, featuring house sparrows, blue tits, adult and juvenile goldfinches.

3rd June 2020 4:25pm

Reading recommendations

Natives, Race and Class in the Ruins of Empire by Akala
So You Want To Talk About Race, by Ijeoma Oluo

I’m reading So You Want To Talk About Race, by Ijeoma Oluo, and Natives: Race and Class in the Ruins of Empire by Akala. I bought ebooks because physical books about race are out of stock everywhere.

Next will be Cross-Cultural Design by Senongo Akpem, which we’ve had on the desk for a while. Another book I already own but have yet to start is White Fragility by white author Robin DiAngelo. I’ve since learned that some consider her approach problematic, though many still recommend it.

For more reading recommendations, I like Victoria Alexander’s well-organised selection, and this UK-focused list.

3rd June 2020 2:40pm

We must teach black histories

Yesterday, I wrote to my MP, Nadia Whittome, asking she help block the export of police equipment to the US, and challenge government inaction regarding BAME Covid-19 deaths.

Today, I’ve written to Gavin Williamson, Secretary of State for Education, in support of The Black Curriculum, pushing to incorporate black histories in the national curriculum. The organisers articulate the importance much better than I could, so I used their letter template.

I didn’t learn anything about black history or empire at school; nobody does. Pretty much nothing between The Spanish Armada and World War II. Small wonder we grow up so blind.

1st June 2020 6:10pm

Black birders

Christian Cooper. Brittainy Newman, NY Times image
Christian Cooper (Brittainy Newman, NY Times)

My privilege allows me to take so many opportunities for granted. For example, in my teens I became a birdwatcher, and aside from getting mugged that one time, my hobby was without friction. So long as I didn’t trespass, nobody would ever call the cops on me.

It’s an entirely different experience for black nature-lovers. Last week, the everyday racism faced by Christian Cooper in Central Park made headlines. Poppy Noor’s follow-up, Being black while in nature, adds valuable insight, particularly the contribution from Drew Lanham.

Cooper’s experience directly inspired Black Birders Week, online until Friday. The event also stands as a response to the killings of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor.

31st May 2020 11:40pm

Silence is complicity

A third gruelling weekend reshaping the garden, with many more to follow. But with the world on the brink, we couldn’t entirely lose ourselves to the work. Checking phones during every break; frustrated, furious, shocked. Aware of my silence, I retweeted and regrammed some good advice for white people, but didn’t feel mentally capable of anything more. I felt guilty.

For a long time, I’ve felt helpless about the climate crisis, about Brexit and the Tories — and now, their shameful handling of the pandemic. However, I can do something about racism; small but essential things, as an ally. I can continue to educate myself; I can look beyond my bubble; I can challenge hatred; I can do more to recognise and amplify those who remain oppressed. We can all do these things because we must do these things.

It’s that or silence, and silence is complicity.