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the best way of meeting people + an evangelical magician

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Most of our beneficial interactions are unplanned and unintended. You just turn up to an event, not knowing a single soul, and then you meet someone you have something in common with. This was indeed the case in the Mendip Society ramble or walk which was on the Somerset levels on this occasion. We spotted it in the “Mendip Times” in the morning and it sounded good so we thought, why not?

our motley crowd
if you keep going you will get to the Bristol channel

Due mainly to the fine weather, 30 of us gathered together at 2 PM on sunny summer afternoon and after a brief explanation of the nature and function of the reserves over the millennia off we went. The good thing about guided rambles is that the leader has been round the course before so there is no question of wasting time on blind alleys and cul-de-sacs.

The walk, 5 miles in length, encompassed areas of the Somerset levels that had been occupied 3000 years ago by people who derived their living from this watery place that was once under the sea. Buried sea-shells to prove it.

You can say that rambles are self organising social clubs. You show up / turn up / pitch up/  rock up – take your choice according to the slang of your country on your own or with a friend. Whoever ends up beside you provides an opportunity to chat. If nothing much happens it does not matter as you can just drift off and talk to the next person. No hard feelings, no embarrassment. I would suggest this is the ideal way for a newcomer to an area to get to know people.

I met a chap who was obsessed by gadgets and we had a discussion about his multifunctional Ipad. It could identify various birds from the noises they made and would wake him up in the morning asking him if he wanted the radio on. Now, there is service for you.

I had another chat with someone who was the new Webmaster for the society and we discussed how to best handle the mailing list. I told him about Mailchimp and how easy it was to use I reminded him that it was free.

very helpful maps in the Visitor Centre (BA6 9TT)

I fell in with a lady by the name of Carolyn who was a performance artist and photographer. She goes to Colombo in Sri Lanka every year to give performances, and her daughter lives on the south-east coast. She is a fan of Instagram and posts photographs which people follow. This seems a very transitory environment to me as you follow someone based on the sight of a particular photograph. I think it’s entry-level stuff into the Internet and blogs but I don’t want to knock it in any way because good photography is an art form and it’s a lovely thing to share it.

I do want to spread the idea that everybody should write their own diaries and I have submitted an article to the local paper which hopefully should appear next Wednesday. Let’s see if it’s brings any response. By “response”, I mean visited the page.  I use a stats program on all my sites which means that I can see whether someone has viewed, roughly where are they are from, what pages they looked at, and how long they stayed on the site. I’m very thrilled that so far I have had two or three very complimentary comments from thoughtful souls. I don’t expect all that much from this geographical area in which I live because it has no literary heritage, being an ex-coal mining town and indeed a place where many large printing firms were based. Now it is mainly for commuters and retired people alas.

About analytics software if anyone is interested you always have Google Analytics and my own favourite statcounter.com which tells more about the visitor. Both free but statcounter gives limited historical data without upgrade.

With regard to my blog site, boringly, people have to register before they can post, otherwise the site gets invaded by thousands of robots and uses the opportunity to post something to advertise a sex site or a quick making of money offer and I don’t think most of my readers want that sort of thing.

We finished the day in the splendid Eco Friendly Shop full of good food and drink – homemade of course  – and I rested my sore back and drank a good coffee – a cafeteria – which the proprietor kindly supplied. Highly recommended. BA6 9TT in case you want to visit.

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I was invited by my local men’s group to come along as a guest to a supper evening in the local rugby club here in Midsomer Norton where there was an entertainer called Tom. He was from Stroud in Gloucestershire and hoped to become a full-time entertainer and evangelist in October. he came and joined us at our table for a meal. I found him transparent, unaffected, glad to answer details about his life and his faith, and able to listen.

I told him something about the program I saw on BBC four about Ken Dodd’s life and health care in felt at the end of free shows that he could have done better but he said, in spite of these doubts, “you just go on and do it anyway”. The Liverpudlian entertainer of 53 years experience said “You know that the audience want you to succeed”. he was asked if he ever gave performances with other people to which he said he did sometimes but when working on his own he said “I never give a solo performance; it’s me and the audience”. He says he much prefers working with a live audience instead of ‘staring at wires’ as he calls a studio performance

Tom was introduced and he went on stage to give his show which lasted about 50 min I think.  I give him 10 out of 10 for enthusiasm but only 5/10 for presentation. It is essential that self taught entertainers no matter how talented receive mentoring from an experienced person and if necessary pay for it.

The first problem was that he invited one person from the audience up on the stage called Melissa to help him with his various tricks. Although there were 40 people in the audience he called her up three more times which I almost considered an invasion of privacy. The idea is to involve the maximum number of people you can.

The second problem was of the microphone or rather the volume was far too high and he screamed into it deafening everyone. I had to retreat to the back of the room but even then there was no escape from the noise level.

The third problem was that he criticised in a joking way people who did not cooperate by saying “it’s my show”. You can make the same joke maybe two or three times but I think he did it about 12 times and it just wore a bit thin.

The fourth problem was that he asked people to applaud members of the audience who did the slightest thing such as standing up, walking forward, taking part in the simplest of instructions. “give them a round of applause” he shouted at full volume. The audience duly obliged but really it was going over the top.

The fifth problem was that the said of someone’s husband that they had a forgettable face. Even when said in fun, that could be really hurtful especially if the man was lacking in confidence as indeed he seemed to be.

His magic was good. He took someone’s mobile phone off them and made it reappear from a packet of Cringles. His humour was not off-colour and actually rather quaint and oddball and I found this attractive.

Halfway through, he invited people to fill in a card with their name address and phone number to say if they were interested in committing themselves to Jesus. I really don’t mind this because everyone came along knowing that it was a Christian thing. About 25 people filled in the cards. I wonder how appropriate it is to mix comedy and magic with selling your DVDs and asking to support children in Africa and encouraging people to commit themselves spiritually.

He drives all over the country doing his show and I think the sheer enthusiasm that radiates from him wins the day. He is going to speak to 500 Salvation Army people in Harrogate, and then do the same thing again with 500 more.

I shall write to him about these points and hope that he takes some notice though human pride tends to dismiss criticism as if it is some sort of insult on the persons virility. It’s just an observation mate – nothing more –  take it or leave it.

PS I visited his website and had a look at the contact page. As you can see, the contact form is almost invisible because the default font colour is a very light shade of grey. It is absolutely vital when making a website to find someone who is outside the field, intelligent, and not afraid to report what they find. It is called beta testing. They should go through every aspect of the site because as the old saying goes “a change is as strong as the weakest link”. The very people who need the service most may be the ones who are most timid and therefore most likely to be put off by difficulties in the website.

Ignoring warnings

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Thursday 5th May 1664. here is an extract from Samuel Pepys’s diary… So home to dinner, and to the office, where all the afternoon, and thence betimes home, my eyes beginning every day to grow less and less able to bear with long reading or writing, though it be by daylight; which I never observed till now.

How could they miss this one?

We read of extraordinary health conditions where someone has walked around with an operating instrument in them, someone has a 60 pound cyst, and we say to them “why didn’t they do something about it before?” This is a reminder to me of what we call the boiling frog syndrome. The frog sits in water which is gradually turned up 1° at a time. It does not notice it until it succumbs to the heat. If the frog were suddenly put in boiling water, it would jump out immediately.

The mind has a great ability to create normality out of chaos and this includes pushing away symptoms and signs of disease. The problem is that our bodies deteriorate over a period of time and unless the alert person looks out for signs, these warning indications will be ignored. How often have I heard of someone going to the doctor after their wife has been “at them for years” to attend to a particular situation and they have chosen to ignore it on the grounds that it will go away, or it’s not important, or I don’t want to waste the doctor’s time. This is in fact self abuse of the first order but it is not recognised as such. Perhaps we want to think that we are all immortal and cannot suffer from any deterioration. This is optimism driven to extremes.

Even with the limited ophthalmic knowledge available in 17th-century maybe we would have seen 10 more years of Pepys’s diaries had he sought appropriate advice earlier. The National Health Service is under great stress at the moment and that includes the General Practitioners. I tend not to trouble my doctor unless I absolutely have to. Better than that, I leave messages on my computer record via the receptionist asking for a referral on a particular subject and the doctor will call me back when he has a moment.

I think people who do not turn up for appointments should be charged say £25. Cancelled appointments probably cost more than this but the £25 would make a point. I would like to see respect of the medical profession and today’s promise by the Labour and Liberal Democrats to put more money into the NHS is welcome but in the event I fear that the Conservatives will eventually allow the entrance of predatory money grabbing American companies who see the human being just as an opportunity to make money. Currently in 146 hospitals, you have to pay £.50 to receive a call. You had to pay up to £5a day to watch TV. Were the NHS completely asleep when they signed the contract? Probably not. the Department were more likely seduced by the offer of a system installed without cost and who knows a couple of sweeteners on the side.

Today my computer is playing up and so I should be out of commission for the rest of the weekend. My wife will breathe a sigh of relief because she thinks I spend far too much time in front of the computer. In fact it is my umbilical chord without which I would find it very difficult to function creatively.  I shall have to make do with my wonderful tablet but having said that PCs can do a range of tasks that tablets cannot so easily do. I hope the computer can be rescued from its many failings and doesn’t have to go to computer heaven.

Having less than 10% of my hard drive free does not help.  it’s easy to get to the stage where you spend more on repairing the computer than buying a new one. You can pick up laptops for virtually nothing these days. I saw a new one with 1 TB of data but without an operating system it must be said for under £200.

Perhaps we would be better off with parchment and a quill pen.

On that rather nerdy note, I finish my diary for today and it’s only 7:55 AM