Technical author?  What's one of them? 

Basically, it's the person who writes the instruction leaflet that flops out of the box when you open up a new product. 

You never read them? Don't blame me if you can't get it working, then.

They're incomprehensible? Good!  Please write to the manufacturer and say so.  Too many of them try to cut corners by getting unskilled people to write instructions - engineers nearing retirement who know the product but can't explain it; secretaries, "because they know how to do word processing."  Some industries have switched on to the need for skilled communicators - aircraft makers, pharmaceuticals companies - but there are plenty more that need us, did they but know it.

For a more considered outline of what a technical author is and does and how he or she became one, try the ISTC or the STC.

Proposal development? 

I specialise in writing proposals - responses to Invitations to Tender, not offers of marriage.  I find this the more interesting (not to say lucrative) end of technical authoring.  You have to take into account the emotive impact of what your write as well as technical accuracy and readability.  It's as close as you can get to writing copy for an advertising agency without having to grow a pony tail.

For more on proposal writing and allied trades, there is the APMP.

Selex ES 

Part of Italian giant, Finmecannica.  The UK bit was once part of BAE Systems.  We make things like radars for fighter jets and infrared widgets that can spot nasty missiles heading in their direction. Usually, we actually sell bundles of widgets, all working together in an integrated solution.  See the company website for more.




When you hear the name, you might think of genteel small hotels and grey-haired promenaders.  You'd be wrong, though.  There are more bars, pubs and clubs here than you can shake a stick at.  At last count, there were three lap-dancing establishments. (Perhaps that's why its also a convention town!)  Our girls moved here first for the night life.  We moved here a little later to be close to the grandchildren (product of that night life). 


But still in reasonably good working order.

I don't think the hare transplant was such a good idea, though.

Three angels

Nemea, the youngest daughter's girl, and the twins, Leila and Annabelle. 

The light of our lives.  If you've got grandchildren, you'll know what I mean.  They're growing up fast - well into double digits now, and acting like the first one was a '2'!  When they were at an earlier, more innocent age, I captured some of the gems that young children come out with.

When slightly older, Annabelle spoke up for herself in a most impressive fashion, making me particularly proud.




He's not quite so easy to handle these days.
  Six years after the angels, a littel devil came along: Charles James.

He got the grand moniker because when his mother and father were contemplating names, running through all the currently popular Waynes, Dwaynes, Liams and Niams, I mentioned the rule of thumb for classy names: can you imagine a king with that name.  They took me at my word and gave him a couple of regal handles.  It's just "Charlie" for daily use, though.





Air rifle

Why not a proper rifle? some of my friends say.  Because all the rules and regulations imposed on firearms owners by people-pleasing politicians pandering to a paranoid public make it a pain in the puttocks to own and use them.  (Did you know the number of handguns in circulation has gone up since the ban on them was introduced?  Obvious really: good guys obey the laws, bad and mad guys don't.)  Anyway, marksmanship, which is the buzz I get out of shooting, can be exercised just as well with a low-powered air rifle at short ranges.  (It's a pity for the Olympic pistol shooters, though; not being able to train.)

I specialise in ten-metre target air rifle; expensive rifle, stiff canvas and leather togs, Zen-like concentration, shooting at a pin-head sized target ten metres away.

I sometimes do a bit of field target shooting, too.  Field target shooting involves rifles with BIG telescopic sights, wanabe-gamekeeper clothing, shooting at animal-shaped targets that obligingly fall down when you hit them.  The targets are at various ranges, the knack being to estimate how far and consequently how much over or under the target you need to aim.  The telescopic sights can be used as a sort of range-finder; the bigger the better for this purpose. Some take it all very seriously, but for me it's just for fun: cheap off-the-peg rifle and shooting strictly between cups of tea.

For more on the target shooting and other small-bore rifle and pistol disciplines, try the NSRA. For field target in particular, there's the BFTA.


Archery is something I took up for a little variation on shooting.  The idea of re-usable ammunition attracted me.  The need to pull a bow and walk backwards and forwards to collect arrows also lets me kid myself that I am taking part in a real sport.  I don't compete much and so far haven't even joined a local archery club since moving to Bournemouth, but I get a tremendous buzz from the whole bow-shooting thing.  More on archery at the GNAS website.

My bow is a standard recurve type.  I've tried compound bows (think Rambo: First Blood II - without the explosive tips) but find them a bit too complicated.  When I have a bit more leisure time - i.e. when I retire, probably - I'd like to have a go at traditional longbow, too.  Less accurate, but longbow shooters have all the cool olde worlde gear; leather quiver, big knife, green canvas everything.


What is this hat thing?  I don't know.  I used to hate hats, having had to wear them as part of the uniform as a soldier.  Now in my more mature years, I just don't feel complete without a titfer.  I first took a shine to a canvas bush hat when on a rainy holiday in Scotland.  (I needed something with a broad enough brim to keep the rain off my roll-up.)  Then somebody pointed me towards Akubras, proper Aussie bush hats.  I ordered their 'Spirit of Australia,' complete with Olympic logo, and received it just in time to sit down and watch the opening ceremony from the Sydney Olympics. But that was definitely a high-days-and-holidays hat.  OK in the outback, maybe, but the brim is so broad it sweeps people from the pavement in this crowded land.  So I bought another, more everyday hat.  And then another.  And then another...     
And then one or two that took my fancy even though they weren't Akubras.  And a few flat caps that wouldn't blow off my head on the range or make me look too odd while on holiday in Yorkshire.  
I had to make myself a  hat-rack. (And rather nifty it is, too, even if I do say so myself.  The shapes are made with expanding foam in a mould of my own head. It looks like a collection of pickled brains on sticks!)  But even this is getting overcrowded now.  We may have to build an extension...





Did I mention my knife collection?


OK, it's bit 'boys own,' but hey!  Whatever life is really about, having a few toys can't hurt, can it?


Born again biker

As of the last few years, I've joined the throng of old men who ride ridiculously large motorcycles.

'Midlife crisis!' say the mockers.
'At our age, we hope so,' we reply, with a twist of the throttle.

I started with a classy black maxi scooter (Piaggio X8 400), then a shiny silver Honda (Deauville) for the longer journeys. After a couple of years, both were sold for a bigger shiny silver Honda (Pan European ST1300) since I was clocking up so many miles as to prematurely age the smaller bikes.

I missed the hope-on-and-go feel of the scooter, though, so I was very pleased to acquire the little 50cc Honda Sky that used to belong to my nephew. It now sits outside my back door for pops-to-the-shops and similar duties.

As the years and miles rolled by, I noticed that the Pan was starting to show it's age. With an inheritance from my mother (who always liked my motorcycles), a second cancer scare, and an offer on at the local Triumph dealer that was just too good to pass by, the big Honda was replaced with a shiny, new Sprint GT with all the trimmings.

Less than a year on, with yet another cancer scare prompting me to sieze the day, I snagged something I've been thinking about for a while; a Triumph Bonneville with a Watsonian Grand Prix sidecar. A modern outfit, but classically styled and a hoot to ride. Best of all, Mrs S, who finds a pillion seat to hard on her bad back, loves it. The Sprint GT is up for sale to cover the cost (though it's still in the garage at the time of writing).

A combination is for high days and holidays and lacks the zip-through-the-gaps convenience of a two-wheeler. The Sky has the latter property in spades but is too underpowered for anything more than trips to the shop. So to fill the gap, I decided another maxi-scooter must be found. The trade-ins section of my local triumph dealer came up trumps with a luxurious, low-mileage 500cc Peugeot Satelis. Some will say "it's not a proper bike." Some others will even say "it's not a proper scooter" (looking like nothing a self-respecting mod would be seen posing next to). But that all suits me fine.

There's more on where I've actually been on my two wheelers here.

Piagio X8 400. Great for school runs.

Honda Pan-European ST1300. The full monty.

Triumph Sprint GT 1050. Touring, but sportier.

Peugeot Satelis 500. On the right; comfort, convenience, capability, and no 'scene.'

Honda Deauville 700. A pint-sized grand tourer.

Honda Sky 50. Trip to Tesco's? Sorted!

Triumph Bonneville T100 with Watsonian Grand Prix. Retro splendour - and a happy wife.


'Mind n Spirit' stuff

Most mornings, or at some time during the day, I might be found doing what I call my 'prayer and meditation.'  I say 'might' because I do my best not to be seen doing it, and since I'm not at all sure about this god stuff, the 'prayer' bit should be taken with a pinch of salt, too.  But there is more to me than boys toys, I hope.  (And even if it turns out that Pascal was wrong, that there is nothing there, at least I had the toys, right?)  You'll find philosophy, psychology and new age babblings on my bookshelf as well as rifle user guides and draft proposals for 'defence' systems.  There's starting point here, but deep stuff is for face-to-face or at least one-to-one, so no more of that for now.  You can always send me an email if you want to swap reading lists or something.