w/c 9th October 2023


I spent the last few days in Blackpool. I hadn’t been before and whilst its general outlines were roughly what I anticipated (“Weston-super-Mare, but big”) I’m embarrassed to say that the level of evident deprivation exceeded even my fairly well informed expectations. There’s a different feel to deprivation in towns to deprivation within cities, a difference that makes them hard to compare, so I haven’t been able to decide if Blackpool is the most deprived-feeling place I’ve visited. It may well be – certainly top 5.

Cool tower though, obviously.

The 4D cinema (the fourth D being… bubbles?) inside was not terrible.

And everything is improved by glass you can stand on.

My journey back was a classic British railways adventure, in which a direct service to Birmingham was deleted from the timetable, a minor delay to another service meant I missed a connection and spent an hour waiting in Preston, another minor delay meant I missed a connection and spent an hour waiting in Birmingham and two cancelled connections then meant I spent most of an hour waiting in Bristol.

I made it home eventually though, in time for the cat to fall asleep on me whilst we watched Ireland’s defeat. Thank you to our friends who kindly checked in on her whilst Soph and I scattered ourselves to different corners of the country.

Where the relentless faraday cage properties of trains allowed, I worked on a small side project¬† – a minimal web app to look up the proportion of pupils eligible for Free School Meals at English schools. It’s a statistic me and many I work with find ourselves referring to very frequently and I wanted a reason to experiment with building a live search function. Turns out building good search functionality is hard (or my Javascript is just crap, could be either) but I’m reasonably happy with the result.

You can find the app itself here:

Or I’ve also published the complete code here:

I’ve spent much of the week discussing events in the middle east with those I love and value the opinions of, as I’m sure many have. Whilst it might seem on one level an indulgence in incredible triviality to be concerned with how this has played out in the UK (especially because I do not share the assumption, that seems to prefigure many peoples’ thoughts, that the UK is at all a significant global power), in times like this the choice is often between that indulgence or allowing yourself to be suffocated by powerlessness as you stare into the void. This time around that choice has left me feeling like every piece of news has punched me in the chest twice: one on account of the events themselves and again for the cacophony that immediately follows of British politicians lining up to loudly express their support for war crimes.

I have no interest in trying to jump through the paragraphs of hoops that are apparently necessary to get out the way before you are allowed to actually speak. As far as the British media landscape is now concerned after all, no amount of clarifying the evil acts you consider evil or contorting yourself around meaningless catchphrases about the rights of states will ever in fact grant you that permission to say what must be shouted.

2.4 million people live in Gaza. Half of them are children. It is one of the most densely populated places on earth. There can be no such thing as a targetted strike, even if those dropping bombs hadn’t dropped any pretenses about them and adopted collective punishment as their official policy. What can cutting off water and power to over a million children as you attack them from the skies be other than a war crime?¬† And after all that the people of Gaza have suffered, if the years of siege end with their forced displacement, a second Nakba, it would be a catastrophe of unimaginable proportions. It must be stopped. If it cannot now be stopped, everyone who gave their enthusiastic consent for it to happen must never be allowed to forget that they did so.

Free Palestine.