Tuesday, 25 October 2016

Thing 3: Managing your online identity

I discovered in 1998, via an online search (AltaVista in those days, rather than Google) that I shared my name with a Canadian musician and writer.  Googling my name alone tends to bring up material about him rather than me, but a search for Aidan Baker Cambridge drew material that I recognized very well from my own life. The online directory 192.com told me there were 21 Aidan Bakers in the UK.

A search of https://haveibeenpwned.com/ showed that two sites I use fairly regularly -- LinkedIn and Patreon -- had been compromised.  I have changed my password on both.

Thing 1: Introduction to '23 research things'; Thing 2: Getting your blog started

This blog of mine was begun in 2010, when I took part in the Cambridge librarians' 23 things programme.  So in using it for my coursework in the 2016 '23 research things' programme, I'm taking it back to its roots.

What do I hope to get out of participation in '23 research things'? Not a nostalgic wallow in the joys of the first time round.  Firstness can never be recreated, by definition.  Instead, my hopes are these:

  • to update my knowledge of things I tried in 2010 and didn't adopt
  • to get a fresh perspective and fuller understanding of things I've used, with greater or lesser enthusiasm, since 2010
  • to expand my knowledge of things I really ought to have adopted by now, and make myself more useful

In 2011, a second Cambridge series of  '23 things' was aimed mainly at people who'd not done such a thing before, but some extra posts were included for participants who were veterans of the 2010 round.  I confined myself to those extras.  Time will tell whether, in 2016, I follow the entire course, or blog only about those things that are new to me.

Blogging reflectively will be quite an exercise.  I managed it in 2010 and 2011.  But my most reflective writing since then has been in the log I keep for my MCLIP revalidation, and that is not public.

Wish me luck in this balancing exercise!

Monday, 10 October 2016

Street collection

This was my entry in the competition for the 2017 desk diary published by Rhyme and Reason, a fundraising arm of Rennie Grove Hospice Care.  The theme was 'Magic and mystery'.  My contribution is based, with minimal poetic licence, on an encounter my wife Clare had while collecting house-to-house for the charity Christian Aid.


The street's sunny side --
evens – housed one who opened
an odd-side door.
His reason for not giving
was his distrust of money.

His volunteer work
had ended when volunteers
fundraising called him.
"Data protection", I said.
He'd fit a children's story:

all those oddities, 
and he had a Gandalf beard.
Would you like to try?
Neither copyright nor -left
stops your riffs on an idea.

Money from the street
a magically large sum?
Something's redemption?
His peace with those volunteers?
I don't write for kids myself....

As in previous years, my poem won no prizes, but was among those published in the diary. £5 via this link.

Sunday, 9 October 2016

70 + 3

This was written in response to Radio 3's appeal to listeners for 3-line poems, to be read out on National Poetry Day in honour of the station's 70th anniversary.  I sent it to them via Twitter.  My poem wasn't read out, so far as I know, and the tweet has had a remarkably low number of. views.  However, the tweet amounted to publication, so the poem is now ineligible for entry in most competitions; it earns its place in this blog.  It's another recollection of my teenage mania for listening to foreign radio stations.

70 + 3

Learnt in my teens, the 1970s: 
short-wavers called good wishes 73s. 
At 70, 3, receive all mine of these.

Saturday, 24 September 2016



Camera, action.
Steep climb, slip, grasp stakes, barbed wire –
won't do that again.

Level streamside path,
climb, the half woods' length ridgeway,
nearing Byton now.

But we're going north,
shadows say, and waymarks gone,
no landmark certain,

no mobile signal.
Stumble on that steepest climb
we'd not do again.

Slippery, barbed wire
again down, walk unfinished;

back to start point. Wrap.

This poem was written for a project from 26 Characters, as were two pieces by me in 2015: 'Kirkconnel's bard' and 'The hang of the stones'.  The 26 Steps project behind the present poem was edited by Sandy Wilkie and Michelle Nicol.

26 Steps marks a hundred years since the publication of John Buchan's novel The thirty-nine steps.  The project identified 26 short walks in the UK between places whose names began with alphabetically adjacent letters.  I landed the walk from A to B, Aymestrey to Byton, a stretch of the Mortimer Trail.  Clare and I did this walk, partially, on Saturday 16 April 2016.  

It had its pains.  I take great pride in map-reading, and errors such as that described here are rare.  Also, since 1997, my feet have been happier cycling than walking; I took diminishing pleasure in a trek whose length was eventually some 12 miles.  But the weekend also led to my first visit to Tewkesbury Abbey, and lunch in Tewkesbury with friends and kin.  And some good tweeting from the train on the way home. 

The project has its own posting of 'Aymestrey to Byton', complete with photograph and sketch map.

Tuesday, 26 April 2016

Two haiku

These are a fruit of Haiku Poetry Day 2016: a response, during a long train journey, to stimuli received via Twitter.

Firstly, one about QR codes -- those things like crossword puzzles that you see on some notices or packages.  My take on them, from the 23things course I pursued in 2011, is at http://bit.ly/nFFqnz . Some maintain that the life of this technology is already limited, but you can follow http://bit.ly/1Vwl7sn for a story about the codes' use on gravestones.  My response was:

QR codes to stay 

on, enshrined by enshrining, 

half a life longer?

And then there was this.  http://bit.ly/1NJEZAr takes you to photographs of a royal train arriving at Brecon, in South Wales, in 1955.  Brecon Station closed many years ago.  One afternoon in 1975 or 1976 (I've checked both diaries; the incident isn't mentioned in either), on a family holiday in Brecon, my parents, my sibs and I mistook the disused railway track, as shown on the map, for a footpath, and followed it.  Despite that foundational map-reading error, we made it back to where we were staying.

20 years apart:

royal train, Brecon Station; 

brambles, barbs, no path.

Monday, 21 March 2016

Clare and the allness of all things


O little rondure, swimming at the gym,
your husband's not Walt Whitman so this image pleases him.

That couplet was written in 2001, taking its cue from Walt Whitman's 'The explorers' -- one of several Whitman poems set by Ralph Vaughan Williams in his Sea symphony.  My couplet's only claim to publication before this blog post is that I tweeted it on Sunday 20 March 2016.  I was led to do so partly by the fact that the Cambridge Philharmonic Society, in which I sing tenor, is preparing a performance of the Sea symphony, as it was when I wrote the poem.  Part of the score cover appears in the photograph above.

Clare, as many readers of the blog may know, is my wife Dr Clare Sansom.  The brooch in the picture is by Jane Bower, another Cambridge Philharmonic singer, and was made to commission as my valentine to Clare in 2002.

"The allness of all things" is my phrase for one of Whitman's favourite themes.  A classic instance is another Whitman poem in the Sea symphony, 'On the beach at night alone'.  In some moods one might say that the theme is instantly self-exhausting, but Vaughan Williams' setting of Whitman's texts, here and elsewhere, is very fine.

The Cambridge Phil's performance of the Sea symphony will be at 19:30 on Saturday 9 July in Ely Cathedral.