Category Archives: General

The Missing Piece

We are all made up of our experiences. The pieces of us fit together like a jigsaw. Over time these pieces become the tapestry of your life. Occasionally they change, one piece is removed and replaced by something that you hope will fit the pattern more closely. It modifies the image of your life, altering the person that you are, giving you a new part of yourself to draw from.

We are never a complete picture. Our jigsaw is always changing and will only truly be complete at the end of our lives. As we take our final breath the last piece of our puzzle is revealed and only then can you expect to see the full picture of a person. But, as you build your jigsaw of life it is important that you don’t miss any holes along the way. We hear all the time of people who have something missing in their life, a piece of their jigsaw they have left in the box. Some even claim to have been given the wrong pieces of the puzzle and, by a cruel twist of fate, need to replace their image with whatever they can find. None the less, we all fill in the puzzle somehow. And let us not forget the human condition within all of this. At stages of our lives we realise that someone else might hold the next piece of our jigsaw. We hunt for those people and see if our images match. We might find that they do, or that two seemingly matching patterns can not line up when interwoven. Occasionally this will be an easy thing to rectify and breaking apart becomes an easy thing. At other times we find that the other pattern has already become intwined in to our own jigsaw to such an extent that parts of you are taken with the other jigsaw when it departs. But, we keep going. We find other things that fill in the gap.

What happens, however, if you have had a line of your jigsaw missing for as long as you can remember. The very edge of your life never squared off and anything you try and replace it with always leaving a jagged edge. You always feel as if there is something missing, as if life its self can never be compete. I have been like this for many years. The things that I have tried to replace my missing edge with have long since fallen by the wayside or become a part of the larger image of me. I had been resigned to never finding the missing edge in my life but it always nags at you and however happy you are it is always tinged with a sense of loss.

A little while ago I found the missing edge. As with all missing things it was where I would least expect it, like the place you put something for safe keeping that suddenly leaves your mind when you try to recall it. I couldn’t have found it any quicker because I wasn’t in the right place to find it. I had actually seen the missing pieces before and just not realised what they were or why they would become so important. Suddenly, there they were and I did everything I could think of to attach them to my puzzle.

I didn’t even realise what was missing before, or how it must have effected my life. It’s hard to be close to people when there is a part of you that just isn’t there. Suddenly I felt complete, for the first time in my life all of the edges were in place. I can’t describe with adequate verbiage the feelings that nurtured in me. Gone were the moments of loneliness and the empty regrets, insecurities and fears that I had carried for years were dissipated by the merest thought of what I had found. Sadly, I was not able to inhabit this revelry for very long. The pieces I had found did not belong to me. I hoped that they would, that there would be some chance to keep them at my side and I would have done anything to make this happen. Instead, before I could attach my new found edge, it was pulled away from me and the demons came back in to my life.

Now I am lost. It seems as if I have been in this situation forever but, of course, I have not. The pieces that seemed so right for me for the briefest of moments now seem detached, floating away from my life and nothing I can say or do can ever bring them back. Tennyson said “It is better to have loved and lost then never to have loved at all.” How apt that particular epithet but how hollow the sentiment when you once had a taste of all you could achieve, only for it to be denied to you. So, I keep going on. I don’t know what else to do but I so desperately want to find that again and I question whether I ever shall. If not, perhaps my jigsaw will always be incomplete.

How cruel a twist of fate.

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Coping With Decompression

Evening is the time when I come alive, or was for many years. Lately I have found myself suppressing natural tenancies so I am able to work properly during the day and it is really killing me. Not physically of course, that would be stupid, but intellectually the stimulus that I craved for many years that is brought about by the right time of day is missing and, with it, much of my creative drive.

I don’t know who originally told me this but I was once told that writing happens early in the morning. I think that is probably true. I have often seen writers up at all hours breaking away to social networks in order to comment on the progress of their work at two, three or even four AM. For me the writing process often starts at three in the morning because I have been awake long enough to make some kind of sense of the day and find my inner voice, the narrator’s voice. It’s not even the voice of the writer (which I currently seem to be using). The writer’s voice is the closest approximation I can muster to the voice of God. The narratorial equivalent is not the voice of God but rather the voice of the story which in turn is under the influence of the writer, the deus ex fabula if you will.

However this strange concatenation of literary expression is formed I still have an inability to contact this particular subset of my psyche. I have written a lot over the last couple of months. I have started and finished a novel in that time and contributed to a couple of magazines under various different pseudonyms (my fear of using my own name being bolstered by my flair for the dramatic which is not healthy I suppose). I have forced this voice out in to the world like a premature birth (fixed to the caffeine drip of the incubator) in order to bring in money, all the while taking ten hours a day up with a very stressful full time occupation for which I am being sadly underpaid. As well as that, other creative endeavours come to me, remove my time, wear me out until I am so tired that I am unable to participate in anything; any remnants of talent is ripped from my arms. This makes me incredibly sad. I have had times where I can not breath because of the weight of work and the world that I have to carry. I am sure everyone is the same but where as many will go to the pub or relax with friends I find myself unable to take solace in these simple pleasures because the one thing with which I have always defined myself is no longer there. As if a part of my soul had been ripped away from me I can only exist as a husk of myself until the instincts of an emotional vampire kick in and I try to feed. But I can only eat the simplest of meals. The McDonalds restaurant of television serves up endless soaps and reality shows leaving me with only scraps for sustenance. Inevitably it is not enough and I fret, I moan, I am unable to sleep. It’s then that panic sets in because if I don’t get a full six hours then… maybe I could survive on five hours but… I will be okay with only two hours if I… Just take a nap for an hour I can at least get through the day.

This is the wasteland where my mind sits day after day until at one point I am up at three in the morning and something clicks in to place and it sit and I type. For the briefest of moments the spark reignites and my soul is pulled together. I am a whole person. I can feel again. I will revel in that joy for as long as I am able but I know it is not forever and all too soon the story ends, I finish writing and I can see the dark clouds on the horizon.

I wish I had more three AMs.


Why the World Owes You A Living!

I really don’t like the BBC sometimes. I find myself thinking that on occasion and then hating myself for it because it has, in the past, been an employer, educator and bastion of all I hold dear about our society. It is such an important institution to us that we have a special tax that the people who use it pay… are meant to pay in order to use the service. I am also not naive enough to think that the entire BBC is there for my benefit. I understand the need to have Casualty and Eastenders as long as they keep bringing me programs like Doctor Who and The Fades. On occasion, however, I find myself appalled at some of the journalism. I think this mostly stems from the 24 hour news culture that aunty now has to adhere to. I found this with the recent coverage of the public-sector workers strike this week. Days before the strike actually happened we had reports from airports and train stations about possible disruptions in transport. I do feel that certain correspondents have taken it upon themselves to form an opinion on a subject before it has happened just so they can do a piece to camera and take up a few minutes air time. My problem with this is that I don’t believe that opinion and speculation are news and, until the event has actually occurred or is in fact occurring, we won’t see any actual, proper news at all. After all, news is meant to be the reporting of facts isn’t it? It’s not fair to just blame the BBC for this because every news institution around the world seems to do the same thing to some extent. Worse seem to be the 24 hour stations because they have a lot of air time to fill with not much content.  I will leave that thought there since this is not what I really wanted to talk about today but really what I wanted to lead in to the article with.

One of the things that has cropped up a lot in the strike coverage is a phrase that I have never been to comfortable with. It’s appears to be a thought that is bandied around by one of two groups of people

  1. Racists and the dispossessed. Generally, people who have heard the phrase before and are aggrieved that they are not getting something they perceive others are getting.
  2. Politicians and heads of large businesses who have reached the top of their game but have most likely got there because of connections with the right people.

The phrase is a simple one and, on the surface of it, perfectly acceptable.

“The world doesn’t owe you a living!”

This is a phrase that worries me greatly. I think it was meant to portray and mind-set that’s saying:

“We’ve got what we have because we have worked for it and you should too.”

It appears, to my mind at least, a platitude to explain why we’re cutting things. I’ve seen it used in the context of ‘British Jobs for British Workers’ banners. Most recently, I saw it on Question Time (back to the BBC but no sniping because I really do love the institution). The problem is, the world does owe you a living, more importantly, the world owes you the living that you have worked for.

The point of it’s most recent use on QT was in context with the strikes and saying that yes, there would be cuts but your not owed the money we are now not going to pay you. The problem is,in this case they are. It’s not the people high up in the public sector that will suffer over this range of cuts, it is those who are much lower down the food chain. Like dinner ladies (did you see what I did there?). What we need to be doing as a country is cutting the gap in spending power between the rich and the poor. I know re-distribution of wealth seems like a very communist (or perhaps socialist) attitude to take but it really is the best way to turn our economy around. I can do nothing but blame the politicians for the recent money troubles of the country. It’s all very well saying that there is a global crisis in banking at the moment, and we aren’t an isolated case by any stretch of the imagination, but we were in a similar financial state to France and Germany and we should have expected to be on equil footings with them in this recent ‘crisis’. Once again though, it appears that the politicians are not paying attention to basic economics. If you have people in your country who are earning a decent wage, the amount of money they can spend increases and the amount of tax that the government is given increases as well. Instead of trying to do this, looking after the little people, we have forced money towards the banking sector because there still seems to be some belief that they know how to solve the problem. But the banks are greedy. How much money did we need to throw at them until they started giving small businesses loans again? And it’s the small businesses that really are the backbone of the economy (and will do more to pull us out of recession in the long run). If we had put more money in to small business growth there is every possibility that we wouldn’t need the banking sector and could ignore their threats about them leaving for pastures new every time some sort of reform is mentioned.

So, the world does owe YOU a living because doing so it will benefit our government as well. You’ll have to pay tax after all and you’ll probably spend the money you get from that living, which is also taxed through VAT. The one proviso to all of this is that once you have that living, you’ll have to work hard at whatever it is you’re doing to get it. That’s not a bad trade off really. We all do the same thing.

I really do think that if we went in to these sort of debates with the attitude of “you are owed a living” we could very possibly come out of them with some very interesting insights. Instead of debating whether one group is getting paid more than another we could debate whether each group’s pay is suitable for the type of work they do. I wonder why we don’t hear as more about that? I suppose that it might be because we would suddenly start to hold a mirror up to the other side and ask if what they are getting paid is suitable. Lets face it, the last thing a politician would want is someone to hold a mirror up to them… or a news of the world.


A Macro-Micro Blog

This entry in to my occasional blog is an experiment in macro-micro bogging, a term that I have just made up. Basically, there are things that I wanted to talk about that are too small for a usual blog post but just that bit too large to post on Facebook. So, instead, I am going to write a blog post (the macro) encompassing much smaller (micro) subjects.

What’s the point in Social Media?

A friend of mine posted a blog regarding how he is agnostic about social media and the irony that those views are most likely to be seen by people who have found the blog through social media. I personally found it through Facebook where he posted the link (Take a look here). This just reminds me of something that I was told a long time ago. It doesn’t matter what you produce if no one can find it. That’s the real power of social media for businesses, musicians, writers and the like. But why is it important to post the same stuff across facebook, twitter, Google+ and whatever other network comes along? It’s all to do with the way people want to follow you. Some people don’t like Twitter or Facebook or might just use one of them. There has been an increasing move away from Facebook recently and many people on the Google+ platform have said they will give up twitter when plus is accessible to all their friends. If you make your content only viewable through a blog or only on Facebook you will alienate those people who don’t use one or other platform.

Take me for example. I’m on Facebook, twitter, MySpace… God, I had a Bebo account at one point but I spend most of my social media time on twitter because it’s just like chatting to friends (in a way that Facebook isn’t) and I get push messages to my phone. For me, twitter has replaced SMS for quick messages to friends and it doesn’t use up any monthly allowance. So if I want to find out about a comedian, band or product I am more likely to follow them on twitter than like their facebook page. It suits me better and that is the point I want to make:

If you have a business, produce something creative or just want people to read what you write online you have to make yourself accessible in the way your followers want and not try and force them down a path they might not want to take. If you do, you are alienating the very people you want as fans and customers.

Writing Comedy is Hard…

…So why haven’t I done it yet?

I know how difficult it is t get a 15 minute set together but for some reason I can’t bring myself to do it until I am under pressure to. I’ve done a few stand-up gigs over the past few months and my next two are coming up. It’s the next Comedy Showcase at Cafe Rene this week and they have heard my material before so I want to write something new for them. What have I got so far? A small story about going to the loo in the pub when you’re drunk and some songs that are 15 years old now. But I will write more, it’s what I do.

What I wonder is why I find it so hard to be funny unless deadlines are looming. I suppose it could be argued that the pressure you are under acts as a false sense of being on stage (that sweet spot when you are talking and what’s coming out of your mouth is just gag after gag). Perhaps that is it. Maybe it’s because as the hour approaches I spend more time writing without distractions although I tend to write short stories with the telly on and they are still selling all right. So, here I am with 5 days to go and I know that by Tuesday I shall have my 15 minutes. I also have the feeling that I shall scrap the whole 15 minutes on Wednesday night when I come up with something I think is better.

Friends With On Benefits

OK, not actually on benefits but there are a few people who I know who are doing some fantastic things and could do with getting the word out.

Packtypes Life

I almost want to call this game “Which dog are you?” and I’m sure that Facebook would enjoy an app like that. My strongest type is Mastiff, for example which means I’m big with an easy to care for coat that sheds terribly. To be honest, I think they go it right.

I jest of course. The game uses questions that you answer in order to determine what your personality type is. It looks really interesting and I’m looking forward to seeing what they do with it. They’ve got a very limited demo to give you an idea on their Facebook page. It gives you an example of what Packtype you are and what Packtype you look for in a partner. Personally, I’m looking for a fox.

Click here to see them on Facebook and try out a very limited demo

The Pride

There aren’t gay superheroes? These are men who spend there time in spandex and tights and there aren’t gay superheroes? Actually, there are but you would be forgiven for thinking that there aren’t. Marvel didn’t have an openly gay character until 1992 and even then he was Canadian so you’ve probably never heard of him. Over the last few decades a few characters have been outed as being gay but it has largely seemed like something crowbarred in to appeal to a specific demographic. Enter The Pride.Writer, Joe Glass, speaks about the project.

When I was growing up, and coming to terms with my sexuality, one of the things I always felt sad about was the fact there were no visible, openly gay superheroes I could relate to. Sure, there were one or two, but they lived in the background or were poorly reresented. Ever since then, I wanted to change that. And that’s what The Pride is all about.

It’s a really great project and they’re looking for a bit of funding to get a larger foothold in the industry and start distributing properly. Head over to there IndieGoGo page. You’ll get something for it. Every dollar helps.

Snappers

As I am writing this I am watching Kitchen Nightmares which has just had the best line EVER. “I can’t wait to try your snapper”. Just saying! 😉

Finally

Well, that’s about it for my experiment in macro-micro blogging. Did it go well? I think so. Might have to try it again sometime. One final thing before I go. Doctor Who is back shortly. Can’t wait.

Stay safe everyone and have fun 🙂


Putting Pen To Paper

Those of you who know me will know that I have been writing for some time. Actually it feels like I’ve always been writing one way or another.

My earliest memories of writing were in school. Now that I have written that last sentance I realise how silly it seems. Of course my first memories of writing were in school, that’s where I learned to write. I’m sure that everyone reading this will have similar experiances. My literary career didn’t start out well, however.

The first thing I remember was before I could write, before I could even read. We had been set the task of writing about windmills. Now, something is telling me that the class had been split in to two different year groups but that may be my brain trying to excuse me from any blame. The elder kids just got on with the job in hand. All I could do was sit there as the other children started to mill around. I had no idea what to do. I had no idea how the shapes were made or what the squiggles on the paper were. But salvation was in front of me and this salvation took the form of a card with a picture of a windmill on it.

Usually these cards were hung up but throughout this particular lession my classroom colegues had been taking them down, passing them between one another arguing over who was to have them next. I finally took my chance and managed to snag the windmill card, safe in the knowledge that this must be a card about windmills. After all, I was in the first year of my school life; everything with a picture on was about the thing that was in the picture. Not long after copying the contents from the back of the card down in to my text book I presenteed it to the teacher. I thought I had done well, after all my work was neat and I had all of the words about windmills from the back of the card in it.

This goes some way to explain my dismay when I was shouted at by the teacher. I had no idea what I had done wrong. There wasn’t a mess anywhere. I hadn’t bitten anybody (life was simpler back then and so was I). To my shame I was told, in front of the whole class, that the cards did not contain the content I had believed them to. The cards were actually spelling aids, the pictures on the front mearly an indication as to the letter the card was about. All I had managed to do was to copy down a list of words that started with the letter W.

My next memory is of reading. I can remember that I never had the Spot books when I was young, even though I always wanted them. I do remember reading the Hungry Catapillar but we learned to read with the books I can only discribe as ‘Jonny Red Hat’ books. With the cynicism of age that sounds rather like a euphamisttic name for a condom. I wonder if that is something I can get started at the pub?

“I met this great girl at the bar guys so I’m going to head off.”
“Hay, don’t forget to take a couple of Jonny Red Hats with you.”

Perhaps in years to come, barbers will be asking their patrons if they would like a Jonny Red Hat for the weekend. But, to get back on topic, my reading was hindered by my love of books.

I know that sounds strange but I was brought up with Wind in the Willows and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. By the time I was learning to read I was really in to the Famous Five stories and so I wasn’t impressed with the exploits of a youth whose single defining character trait was a penchant for rouge head gear. I found it a real struggle to learn how to read. In my mind, I was the worst in the class although I’m not sure that was actually right. But, I managed it and was soon reading the books I wanted to read.

Skipping forward a few years and a teacher asked my mum in to talk because she thought I had something wrong with me. I had started drawing little black squares all through my writing and mother was told that I should be taken to a psychologist because I was depressed. My mum knew right away, in that way that mums do, that the reason for the black boxes was me trying to correct the sentances I’d got wrong in as neat a way as possible.

And then my writing career was finally brought to an end at the hands of an unsuspecting comment.

I was a big fan of Doctor Who. I wasn’t the only one of course, a lot of the boys were and there was always a fight for the old Target novelisations when they cropped up at fairs and jumble sales. This was back in the days when Doctor Who was still on the telly. It wouldn’t be consigned to the scrap heap until my last year of Juniour school if I remember rightly.

The problem of course was that I was writing what I was interested in and that was always science fiction, no matter what task was set. I think it was my parents who relayed the message to me after a parents evening. I would be better at English if I didn’t write about space all the time. That was it. I suddenly didn’t want to write anymore and stopped trying.

I do wonder how many kids are stopped from taking a path they would otherwise enjoy by an offhand comment that would be perfectly acceptable if it were one adult talking to another. Children see the world in a more black and white way than we do. That particular comment made me think that I was no good at writing. So, I reasoned at the time, what was the point?

I started again in Secondary school. Of course, there was creative writing that was done as part of school but my yearning to write didn’t come back to me until I wrote music (after starting to play the guitar). At the time I was also getting in to comedy and wanted to be the person making the jokes so air started to write them as well. I wrote my first book when I was at school. It was rubbish but the ideas were there. I wish I had done some more actually. Learned a little more of the craft. The story took place at school where a giant whirlpool opened in the sky and sucked three friends in to a paralel dimention. Honestly, it was the Harry Potter of it’s time, without the literary ability. I had done what was always told “Write about what you know” which was basically school and science fiction. Something at that point made me realise that I could do it and years later, after writing comedy for comedians, performing myself and contributing to my first magazine, I felt confident when asked to ghostwrite for the first time.

I didn’t enjoy ghostwriting. The books did very well but since I didn’t get a choice of who I was ghostwriting for I found myself spending a lot of time with people that I didn’t particularly like. I got through it though and started writing more short stories. This time I didn’t worry about other people’s opinions. I wrote for myself. I wrote to excercise my own demons, partly for entertainment but mostly for the love of doing it. My work sold. I’ve never made a living from putting pen to paper but it has allowed me to explore my feelings on different areas of my life. It’s also giving me a little extra income once in a while, which is always welcome.

And so, today I start on my latest project. After spending some time away from the keyboard I am starting on a new novel. Once again, it is for no one other than me. I don’t know if anyone else will even see this. Somehow it doesn’t matter. For me, the point of writing is to tell a story that you’ve got inside you and once it’s told I can move on to the next one. I know that it will be set in London, in a 19th century world that has access to a more advanceed technology. I have to explore that world now.

It’s a start anyway, I had better get going on it actually. Now, am I sitting comfortably?


Just Not The Man I Used To Be

For the last few weeks Monday morning has been a time of great trepidation. I’ve been weighing myself.

I’ve had an odd history when it comes to trying to loose weight. I started my meteoric rise to obesity when I was still in juniour school and so, by the age of 9 I had already gone on my first diet. So young was I when the weight started to pile on that I can no longer remember what being thin was like. Somewhere in the back of my mind I can remeber running around and having energy but I just thought I had lost that by growing out of it. My parents certainly didn’t mind it when I slowed down. You have to remember that my dad was 55 at this time and he just couldn’t run around after me, even though he probably wanted to.

It’s very easy to blame my parents for gaining weight. Did they over-feed me, did they not make me excercise? For years these thoughts ran through my mind and somewhere in the back of my head I had always wondered what my life would be like had I not gained weight at an early age. I have since learned that it’s not their fault but more on that later.

I have always been one to buck trends. You say that the obese are lazy and eat too much. Well, I never did. Many times over the years I’ve eaten with friends who have asked if I was all right because I was seemingly eating very little. As a child, and right in to my 20s I was always active. I wasn’t obsessed with excercise like the youth of today (trist me, they are, I’ve met them) but we were always going out for walks on the hills or around the local countryside when I was young and at college I was dancing at least once a week. I didn’t take on a completely sedentory lifestyle until I started making websites tor a living but I was twenty stone by the time I left college.

My eating habbits haven’t changed much since I left school. I have been on a string of diets and excercise programs, each one promising to make me thin, each one failing horribly. You start a diet well. You put the work in but the fact is, to loose weight you have to eat so little and excertcise so much. As you get fatter this becomes more difficult. So you give up because it’s just too hard. Don’t take that to mean I was being lazy.

Christmas and Easter were the worst as you can probably imagine. If you’ve never been on a diet then you have no idea of the pain involved. There is the pain of being hungy, the pain of not reaching your target, the pain of seeing your friends enjoying themselves whilst all you can think about is your next meal. More important is the pain of your own weakness when you inevitably fail to keep up with the regiem you have set for yourself. Oh and the cravings, those bloody cravings that eat away at you day and night. You loose sleep, all for want of a bar of chocolate or packet of chrisps. I wanted to eat more when I was on diets than I wanted to eat between times. Food is like a drug. If you don’t eat what your body is telling you then you will start to experiance symptoms of withdrawl and that is exactly what I went through on these diets. The problem with obesity is that you can’t suddenly give up food.

So you start to begin every diet with the knowledge that you will eventually fail. You are expected to keep up with this diet for life. Forget about the government guidelines about taking in 2000 calories a day because I was eating less and I still put on weight. If that is the case then what am I expected to eat on these things? Certainly les than is recommened, which is already starving yourself.

As you can imagine, I have been pretty down on diets and diet books for some time, I don’t read them because experiance had taught me that they all contain the same matrial. When I first heard about Gary Taubes’ book “Why We Get Fat: And What To Do About It” I was more than sceptical. After all, the book promised a way of looking at my condition that no one has done before. How many tmes have we heard that? But I bought the audiobook version anyway as there was nothing else on audible that month I wanted to listen to.

I listened to the book in a day. It wasn’t what I expected, it referenced proper, peer reviewed studies. For the first time, I was reading a book that looked at the physiological reasons for weight gain and only touched on the psychological conditions to decry the use of them.

Taubes tells us that we have been looking at dieting the wrong way since the 1950s and that we wrongly attribute obesity to over-eating or lazyness. It is, he claims, not the cause of the disease but rather a symptom. People are overweight because the insulin level in there bodies is too high. This increase in insulin forces the body to store all foods as fat and only use certain sugars to power the muscles. These sugars are used fairly quickly but instead of the body burning up the reserve of food, it sends signals to the brain telling it that it needs more food to survive. So the obese patiant feels hungry again, even though they have just eaten.

This behaviour also explains the lazyness caused by being over-weight. A body starved of food (or at least not processing food properly) is less caipable of doing anything. As the individual’s size increases the more energy they have to expend in order to move around. This makes them more sluggish and hungrier at the same time.

For me this was a bit of a revelation, something I always knew was out of my control but the only medical opinions I could find suggested that I was wrong and it was something that I should be in control of. But, one of the things the book insists on is that you don’t take it at face value. So, I didn’t. I looked in to the papers listed in the Book and sought out current research on the subject. What Garry Taubes was saying seemed to be backed up by all of the available evidence.

Basically what was being suggested was a low Carb diet. Much like the Atkins programs Taubes claims this is the best and safest way to loose weight. I was sceptical at first as I had tried Atkins before and it didn’t work for me. But the advice in the book was slightly different to that of the more popular counterpart.

I resolved to try the steps in the book, taken from a study at Duke university. This was about five weeks ago and since then I have been loosing weight.

This brings me back to my trepidation at weighing myself. The last weigh-in saw me hit 22 stone 10 lbs. When I started, I was 24 stone, so I’ve done well so far although I didn’t loose any weight last week because of the comic relief event. It has actually changed my life doing this. I have more energy now, I have been told by friends that I am looking better but the real change has come from my attitude towards food.

Remember me telling you about the cravings that I used to get for food? Well, they’re gone. I can’t tell you what a difference it’s made. It’s the main reason that diets have failed in the past for me. My energy levels have shot up as well and I am actually sleeping better. That’s a big claim for something so simple as changing the type of food I’ve been eating. I’m not even eating less, if anything I am eating more but I am eating what I am now told is the right thing. This time, however, I am seeing results so quickly that I think they’re right. I’m not even talking about the weight loss. I had extra energy and felt more awake from about the third day in.

So, imagine the scene. Monday morning. I’m in the bathroom ready to weigh myself… OK you don’t have to imagine it that closely. I step on the scales and all of this flashes before me. This is the moment of truth. So many diets have failed on similar Monday mornings when my weight has yet to move for a second or third week. I’m not asking for much, just a little movement down. Just a pound. And, there it is. 22 Stone 4 lbs. That’s six pounds over the last few weeks. On average, I have been loosing three pounds a week. That’s exactly what the researchers at Duke university said I should be loosing.

For the first time in 32 years I truly believe I have found an eating plan that is good for me, easy to stick to and actually shows some results. I will be interested to keep track of my progress and I’m sure this won’t be the last post I make on the subject. Until then, happy eating.


Definitely Deficient

After the protests over the deficits, the government has said that it has no plans to alter it’s tactics and is planning more cuts. We all seem to decry this. I have done so myself. I do sometimes wonder, however, if they haven’t got the right idea.

The basics of the plan is simple. We have, for some time, been spending more money than the country earns. We have been doing this by borrowing money. We need to pay this money back and the only way to do that is to re-appropriate the money we already have. So, the government has been cutting the money it spends on things in order to re-pay some of the money we owe.

It should be pounted out that we are not paying back the whole deficite in one go, like a mastercard bill. Most countries have a manageable deficite so the chances are we will be keeping that expendature at some level. What we shall be doing is removing a good portion of the debt to reduce the interest we have to pay. In the lonug run, this is something thay will give the country more money to play with, without having to put up tax… or at least, not at the rate it would have had to increase otherwise. Ultimately, that is a good thing. It’s actually something that I had been worried about for some time under Labour so for me, this is a good change.

I completely understand why people are worried about cutting too much. It is a natural reaction to have when we start to see some of our services suffer. The thing is, I can’t see another way out of the debt that Labour left us in.

The one good thing that has come out of this is the proof that we are willing to take to the streets for something that we believe in, even if our reasons are less than altruistic. Let’s make no bones about it, people are only protesting because they think they are loosing something.

I’m not sure we will be loosing as much as is claimed. The government doesn’t seem to think we shall be loosing anything and the protesters do. I suspect that the truth lies somewhere between those two viewpoints. Actually most people agree that the cuts are needed and the only difference is the gornment want to make the cuts quickly and the public want some of thtle burden of cuts to be spread accross seberal years. To me, it doesn’t marter how these cuts happen, they are likely to happen anyway.

Please don’t take this as a comment that I am for the government in this topic. I am meerly saying that the cuts do seem to be giving us a benefit at the moment, all be it one that we won’t see for some time. Yes, some people are loosing their jobs because of this and that is a tragic thing at a time of resession. At the same time, it is not the job of government to employ the populous. Of course they will employ some people but employment should be coming from the private sector. We can’t pay for things that we can’t afford, surely?

Ultimately, if the government won’t back down then we shall have to wait and see what their policies do to the country. I hope that, in the long run, we shall all be better of. I’m sure we shal, unless big business gets too much of their own way, but thay is a subject for a new post.


Everybody needs good Androids

I might be blogging a little more from now on. I could make this a weekly thing or perhaps daily… OK I won’t go that far. If i can just find a little time to sit and concentrate, well that’s a start.

The reason for my extra bloggage is because of my new toy. It’s an Android tablet which is why I can…

Blog this bit from the privacy of my own loo. After all, what better place to sit and concentrate?

Now i could have done this with the iPhone as well and it’s true that I can’t take this tablet away from a wireless network and have the same benefits. Ipad owners among get you must be wondering why I prompted for such a device. Well the reason is simple really. I wanted an iPad but the damn things cost so much money. This Advent Vega from PC World cost me £250. That is around half the cost of the ipad and around a third less than the Galaxy Tab (which is a smaller device as well). After flashing the rom, I have access to all that the android has to offer with nearly as good a selection of apps as on the iPhone store. The major benefit for me is actually in the development.

When I first got my iPhone (actually it was when I got an iPod Touch) I loved the apps. I wanted to dig in to this world and make my own. So, I looked at how I might do that. If you are not a Mac owner then you are screwed. On top of the price of buying a computer you also have to buy a developer’s licence. I think the cost of that is around £100 per year. Expencive stuff if you are just a hobbyist.

Last year I thought all of my prayers were answered. Flash CS5 was released and with it the ability to write native iPhone applications. What happened? Apple decided that it didn’t like Adobe doing that and closed down there developer EULA so that you could only write apps in Objective C. What a waste of money for me and development time for Apple. With the android, I have none of those restrictions. I can make Alps to my heart’s content. Putting them on Marketplace is something I’ve not looked in to yet but (as I said before) I am a hobbyest first and foremost.

So, those are my reasons for going down the android route. It’s something I have yet to regret and I am looking forward to spending a lot of time working with the new tablet and making it my own. You should hear more from me as I can blog in the comfort of my sofa, bed, toilet or oven. It’s just like the Hitchhiker’s guide to the galaxy, and that makes me a very happy Steve.


Time for a Climate Change

I don’t want to be one of those people who smugly announce the latest thing that they’re doing to save the planet in the vein hope that it will, somehow, impress others. I say this because those who are impressed with such utterances seem to be just as venal and smug as the utterer. Having said that, I drive a hybrid. I didn’t buy it to save the world with. I bought it because it was meant to be cheep, although recent rises in petrol have meant that it now costs the same as my old car did to run and any savings I thought I might make are being eaten up by the three or four services it has to have each year… even though it is not old enough to warrant getting an M.O.T. I am now left with a car that doesn’t say anything about me. If a Ferrari is meant to be a penis extension, what on earth is a hybrid? It’s only real use is to save the planet, something that we now know it won’t do because a hybrid’s carbon footprint (or tire track if I am being pedantic) is greater than that of a petrol car.

Bugger!

So, the hybrid is a confused animal much in the same way that we are over climate change. The argument at the moment goes like this. We are either responsible for climate change or we aren’t. Those who think we aren’t also think that there denying of climate change means they are quite within there rights to go on living the way they have been all these years. Those who think we are believe that we, as the instigators of the earth’s altering, must do something to slow, stop or reverse the processes we started.

The one problem with this argument is that it is flawed on both sides.

There has been enough controversy around the theory that climate change is man made so as to cast doubt as to whether it is. From leaked emails suggesting faked research to alternate theories with similar amounts of evidence to back it up, at a glance you could easily be mistaken in to thinking that this is just something that scientists have got wrong. Then, there are the political lobbies and organisations like Green-piece who have been accused of over stating the argument for there own political gain. Knowing us humans, I am sure that some of this has been going on. After all, it is in our nature.

Similarly, the argument against tends toward the supposition that climate change is either not happening or not as serious as we have been told. Whilst there is certain evidence of the latter, the one thing that is left out in these debates is that most scientists know that climate change is happening. It’s silly to assume not when the physical evidence can be seen with our own eyes, like the polar ice caps retreating. That issue is not the point of contention. The problem is that climate scientists can’t prove that without our impact the Earth would be doing anything differently. This is largely because our very nature here disrupts the balance anyway, in a natural way.

Climate change happens. It’s not a bad thing… it’s just a thing. The human species, however, doesn’t like change and will do whatever it can to preserve the way of life we currently live. At a more macro level you can see this in the way that we raise our children. We want them to become miniature versions, not of ourselves, but of the people we think we should be. Part of this is to maintain a balance, keep the equilibrium between a world with us in it and one without. Our children will carry on for us. As a species we do this through setting up conservation areas and schemes to protect endangered species. We feel responsible that we are changing the world around us and (quite frankly) we want that to stop.

This is how the question of whether the changes in the climate has been raised. It’s either something we can do something about or something we can’t do something about, either way it’s something and when something is going on there is a tendency to try to do something about that something.

What I am going to write now may be a controversial thing to say but I feel it an important point to get accross.

NONE OF IT MATTERS!

Think about it logically. One of the following statements might be true:

  1. Climate change is man made.
  2. Climate change is natural.
  • If climate change is man made or there is something we can do about it, We should do that something.
  • If climate change is natural or there is nothing we can do about it, we can keep living as we have been.
  • The oil is running out and shortly we won’t be able to live as we have been.
  • The something we can do to make an impact on Climate Change will also help move industry down the path of removing our dependency on oil.

I’ve always been a little bit of a ‘climate-change skeptic’. For me, the evidence that I have seen does not necessarily equate with climate change being man made. I’m 100% convinced that it’s there and it’s happening but there is a big leap between that and saying we are definitely responsible for it. Far more worrying, in my mind, is the dependence that we all have on oil. Not only has this caused many horrible wars, and is likely to cause many more, but it is one of the reasons that our governments can’t seem to leave the middle east alone. The point is, we seem to be reaching the point of peak oil. When we get to that point, with every year there will be less and less energy available to mankind. What are we going to replace it with?

Hydrogen is a great idea and I’m sure, in car terms, that it will become the next big thing (as soon as oil companies understand they can make as much money as they are doing right now by making it). The problem is, to get that, you have to burn fossil fuels. Wind and power will give us some returns, and of course solar energy is becoming cheaper. It is still, however, not enough to feed our energy needs as a planet. Nuclear energy actually produces 75% as much carbon as the fossil alternatives, which won’t be around for long and, it’s not renewable. Renewables are the way forward. They have to be if we are to rely on having enough supply to meet demand.

Lack of oil also brings up other topics. How are we going to feed ourselves? The global economy is geared towards trade with other countries and many manufacturers ship across the sea. With no oil we will have no food apart from what we can grow, plant and barter for.

Our world is an oil based economy whether we like it or not. It is in everything we do. From the cars we drive to the food we eat and the clothes on our backs, our over-reliance on oil is going to be our downfall when it suddenly runs out. So, why aren’t we leading the way, beating a path to the new scientific revolution of cheep, safe renewable energy?

Because we’re human and we don’t like change.

Ironically, the changes that we would have to make to allow society to continue using an oil-less fuel system (whatever that may be) are the same changes that we are being asked to make now to combat climate change. So I put it to you that whether or not climate change is man made, we have to make these changes to ensure the continuation of our race, our civilization and our world.

Is that really too much to ask?


Make Your Dreams Come True!

I spent Saturday in London. Not the city, I skirted around that tremulous conurbation, safe in the knowledge that if something did go wrong, I could dip my toe in to the sprawling weekend traffic without having to pay the congestion charge. London (at least the outskirts) is a nice place, not the shabby rundown terraces or giant high-rise areas that we are used to seeing on the television. Of course, the stereotype does exist, how else would it have become a stereotype in the first place. But it is not the London that I know.

The morning was spent with an old friend of mine, Nick, who is a comedy writer, father of two and punster first class. We’ve written together before and we shall write together again in all likeliness. He’s doing very well for himself, working with an independent production company and generally doing things that he never thought he would to pay the bills. Not prostitution you understand. He wouldn’t stoop so low. Not after the knee surgery anyway.

After polishing off the majority of a roast dinner that his lovely wife had slaved over all morning we sat chatting over drinks. He had a cheeky little Italian Amarone Classico and I an impertinent Ribena in and cardboard box. I sucked it through a straw. Upon leaving, I was seized with the thought that my life could have gone down the same path as Nick’s. It might even have made me happy. But then I am fickle and realise that I will probably only truly be really happy when they release all of the Goodies on DVD.

The main reason for going down to London was actually to see another friend of mine who is actually from Cheltenham. Before someone points out the ridiculousness of traveling such a distance to see someone who lives only 15 miles away from me, I should point out that he was there for a reason. Way back in the mists of time (which is probably around July) Joe took part in a talent contest called Open Mic UK. The principal is simple. Musical acts from Open Mic nights all over the country compete in heats until there is only one left. Joe went in for it and it was no surprise to us when he announced he had got through to the second round. He’s good like that.

This then saw a group of us on the M5 one October Saturday, heading to Cardiff to support Joe in the regional finals. There were three acts from Gloucestershire. They were all awful apart from Joe but you could see that some of the competition was fierce and there were some really good acts who didn’t get through. Joe’s name was the first out of the hat when they announced who would be appearing at the area finals in Hayes, Middlesex. This is what brought me to London.

I arrived at the theatre to find the previous group coming out, an absolute mess of people huddled around the entrance and it took a minute or two to get inside. Actually, I had been listening to Derren Brown’s new book in the car. Part of me still wanted to be sitting in that same warm atmosphere, little happy bubbles of my vast lunch comforting me as I drove and a warm, friendly voice diverting my concentration from the rather important task of searing two tones of metal around. I do like driving, although it tires me. Once actually getting inside, however, things took a turn for the better and I met up with the J D Kelly party (that’s Joe’s public persona. Have a look, www.jdkelly.info, he’s a great performer).

It wasn’t long before the show began. The standard was much better this time although there were still a few duds that were obvious from the moment the music started. Tragedy struck when Joe came on to the stage, however, and the lead that was plugged in to his guitar failed. It happens to everyone at some point. It’s a shame it happened now. The crowed seemed quite supportive about it actually but at that point the damage could have been done. Joe went on to start his song again and I thought he did a good job, semi-grunge style lyrics blended with simple, yet articulate guitar playing. He got a good, solid round of applause at the end of the set and I actually thought there were some acts who he did much better than.

He didn’t get through to the next round. Sad to say, there were only 4 places open for the finals at the O2 arena. And, this is where my whole problem with the competition is brought to light. The four acts that got through on the night were all from Hayes in Middlesex. That’s right, the same Hayes in Middlesex where the competition was being held. Part of the decision was made through an audience vote. It occurs to me that perhaps those with a home audience (where traveling to the gig didn’t cost a fortune for example) might have had slightly better chances than those from ‘away’. I wonder if this was taken in to account when the judges were making there final decisions.

Now, I have to say, there were two acts who really should have got through, and they got through. And, I don’t really begrudge the other acts who made it through either. Or do I? Is it just a case of sour grapes (perhaps which were used to make an Amarone Classico that wound up in the home of a comedy writer the same day of the competition)? I do wonder. The thing is, I never really expected Joe to get any further than he did. This lies not with my thoughts about Joe’s ability but rather than my own experience with talent shows.

I’ve watched for years as in show after show the people who seem to have the real talent are passed over for the ones with the right look or the more commerciality and I always expect it to happen. My real beef with this prevailing attitude is that in doing so we have missed the real musicians. What happened to the next Billy Joel, Eric Clapton or Sting? Did they wind up in accountancy, only playing there instruments as hobbies. Did they give up all together. So, I expected what happened and the “Hayes audience effect” was part of that. It almost felt rigged. There were 18 acts from all over the south west. What makes Hayes a hotbed for talent? It just doesn’t make sense. If you were to impart a fare and partial judgement over all of the acts you would expect it to be a little more evenly spread, wouldn’t you?

This brings me on to another point. They were hardly Open Mic acts. I’ve been playing in open mic venues for the best part of fifteen years now and I have never seen acts like the ones that were on Saturday. We have a rapper called 2 Badda for a start. Honestly, I can’t remember anyone trying to rap whilst at an open mic night. They have generally been the purview of those who both sing and play a musical instrument. Yet, we heard from two of the ‘judges’ on the night who said that he was there favorite act. If that’s what they were looking for, perhaps they shouldn’t call it an open mic competition. Or have they just called it an open mic competition for the kudos of doing something like that?

Perhaps I am being too hard on the competition and what happened on Saturday. Maybe it is seeing a good friend of mine not get through in a competition where I thought he should have done much better. If it is, I can’t help that. I am only human after all. It still worries me, however, that we are less likely to support proper musicians than we are to push forward the next big singer who will release one single, perhaps an album, and disappear in to obscurity.

I think I really blame the music industry, but that is a rant for another time.

In the mean time, if you would like to see J D Kelly get a chance at playing at the O2 then you can text ‘Wildcard68’ (without the quote marks) to 84222. You will be helping to support a real musician get through in a competition which at first seemed to be designed especially to help people exactly like him.