Table tennis trauma

With my footy-playing days looking like they are finally over, I’m looking for a replacement sport and hoping table tennis will be the answer.

However, I’ve just started playing in a local league in Hertfordshire and the warnings from my friend (who’s played in the league for a few years) are coming horribly true.

I’m playing for my club’s B-team and deservedly so it turns out: everyone is playing me off the table. That has included one player who’d just celebrated his 80th birthday and another with two artificial hips!


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Mixed-race adoptions: Marlene’s story

It was the nicest possible surprise recently when I was contacted by Marlene Ellis, who was the subject of an article I wrote about mixed-race adoptions back in 1993.

I was working as a journalist for the Hertfordshire Mercury at the time and Marlene wanted to speak out on mixed-race adoption as a black child raised by a white family in Hertford.

Looking at the piece now (see link at top of this blog), what Marlene says seems reasonable enough, but it was brave of her to tell her story so publicly.

Marlene hadn’t read the article since it was first published 24 years ago but a friend recently sent her a copy and then she passed it on to me, thanking me for writing it with “such care”.

I’ve written thousands of articles and features over the past 30 years and it’s always rewarding to hear that the effort that goes into them is appreciated. Thanks Marlene!


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DIY stock market investing

Buying or selling stocks used to have to be done via a stockbroker – but now you can do it yourself on the www.

The old ways involved cumbersome exchanging of share certificates, contract notes and stock transfer documents. Investors had to pay commission to the broker even if an investment lost money.

But this year Vanguard launched a UK online investment product commanding a fee of just 15p for every £100 invested– and you’re in control of what you invest.

Finding out about all this was another journey of discovery for me as researched and wrote an article for the Chartered Institute for Securities & Investment Review publication. Read it online here or view a pdf.

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Predicting the future

Their job is to look ahead in time and tell us how we will be living, working and playing – they are the futurists.

What they do is not some sort of mystical crystal-ball gazing. And it’s something the UK government and multinational companies like IBM make use of to try to second-guess the next big techno thing that will transform our environment.

So being a futurist is a real job and there are plenty of them – as I learned in an article I recently wrote for wealth management company, Sanlam.

Featured in the Wealthsmiths magazine, put together on behalf of Sanlam by communications and marketing agency Wardour, the article explains how futurists examine techno advances and social trends and then explore how those factors might evolve.

So, what do they see for tomorrow? Artificial intelligence is what. Consulting futurist Nick Price says: “…potentially every kind of job that humans presently do will change because the nature of AI is so general. Some of us foresee a revolution around mid-century in which software isn’t just better than humans in particular specialist fields but is better than human reasoning in every field.”

At least, for the time being, we still need a ‘hack’ like me to pen these articles!

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Booze and sermons are why we vote on Thursdays!

Ordinary people disengaged with politics is a real concern – even Sex Pistol John Lydon has implored people to use their vote (see my blog last year).

Part of the problem is that aspects of our democracy don’t seem relevant in today’s world. Take, for example, the day on which we’re supposed to head down to the polling station –Thursday.

Why Thursday? Most of us have jobs to go to and so have to squeeze in voting before or after work. Why make it inconvenient? Most other European countries hold votes on a Sunday when there’s really no excuse not to find time to vote – simple and brilliant!

As with so much in British life, the reason why we vote on Thursday is a throwback to bygone times.

It has been suggested the tradition came about because end-of-the-week pay packets would lead to more drunken voters if a poll was held on Fridays and weekends. And having the election as far after a Sunday as possible would reduce the influence of Sunday sermons. In addition, many towns held markets on Thursdays, so the local population would be travelling to town that day anyway.

Talk about archaic!

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Weird beard fact

My wife hates chin whiskers but I don’t think she’d go as far as say she has pogonophobia: a fear of beards.

It’s just one of the phobias you can learn about at the OED’s excellent free online dictionary, – my constant language tool as I try to earn my living as a wordsmith.

Test your knowledge of phobias with the site’s fun quiz.

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It’s sad but I’m a fan of the apostrophe vigilante

Proof that I AM a saddo – a little part of me thinks that the guy who creeps around Bristol after dark correcting the misuse of apostrophes on shop signs is a hero.

Find out more about him in this BBC video.

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