Friday 16 December 2016

#177 The force is strong with this one

"Is the dark side stronger?" "No! No. No. Quicker. Easier. More seductive."

Seduced, I was. Jyn Erso has all the trademark repressed seuxality of a true rebel leader but being noticeably more wide-eyed than the cold and scowling Rey, not to mention better dressed and endowed with something vaguely resembling a personality, our latest heroine is much more watchable over the two hours and thirteen minutes. This alone might be enough to make for some tough decisions between Rogue and Episode 7 when reaching for a DVD or let's be honest, a Putlocker link.

The visuals have come a long way since that Super Star Destroyer crashed into the Death Star and I'm not even talking about Tarkin, who probably deserves a paragraph of his own but might not get one because, well, he's a mean old bastard dagnabbit. The ships, shadows and scenery all compliment each other delightfully and the empire's flashy crib on what looks like the Dubai Palm Island was an ideal backdrop for some Apocalypse Now style jungle warfare, which nicely broke up the typical switch between sandy planet and grey spaceship.

Tarkin's colleague Director Krennic does a good job of leaving us wondering what kind of outburst or act of cruelty will pour out of him next. He's dastardly to the point of unprofessional, which irritates me. Still, he sets Vader up nicely, now that old Ani has matured from an impulsive and whiny Jedi into a more refined and graceful leader, no longer so torn between dark and light.

Less of a children's movie, Rogue One does have an annoying droid in it but he's so much less annoying than 3PO that he deserves some credit. I can understand why they left out R2. He might've overshadowed the appearance of another character. It seems possible that Wedge could've made it into the credits but I didn't miss him. The film is positively peppered with tiny salutes to the original trilogy, from the black-helmeted guys whose job is to stand surprisingly close to a planet-destroying laser, to their white-helmeted and equally useless plane-spotting rebel equivalents.

We get it. Asian people are all fighting monks. Are they really though? Putting another Asian dude with a large gun right next to the force-enabled mystic seemed to me a too obvious way of trying to offset a stereotype that needn't have been there in the first place. By all means use diversity in the movie but in a galaxy so far away and such a long time ago, does an Asian have to be cast as a spiritually-inclined martial artist?

One thing that Chirrut does achieve is to spew out a few religious remarks here and there. He's no Master Yoda but his words help to remind us that the rebellion's losses and casualties, while deeply painful and tragic at a personal level, are part of the natural development of a beautiful story. A comparable earthly example might be how the millions and millions of little chickens that humankind guiltlessly slaughters each year end up tasting inescapably marvellous once fried and smothered by the Colonel's secret recipe or drizzled with Peri-Peri. 

There's not much that the fans won't sit through for ten seconds of ATAT walking but I was entertained the whole way through this picture. As far as I'm concerned, it holds its own among the existing films and paves the way for some even more niche movies including the adventures of the rogue squadron itself or the antics of a younger Han Solo. With Disney bankrolling the franchise, armed with the ability to digitally re-animate key characters, it does indeed seem that the force might be with us, always.

Sunday 27 November 2016

#176 Manufacturing donkeys

"I heard you were leaving. Is it true?" read a message that popped up on my screen. "Yeah" I replied "I didn't think that many people knew yet".  Greg was a guy who'd left our team a year or two ago and had been helping to drive environmental changes in another department. "I also heard that you don't have another job lined up". "I feel like taking a month or two off" I told him. "It surprised me because you've been here for so long and I know recruiters are advertising a lot but obviously with Brexit there's a lot of uncertainty around". He seemed concerned so I walked over to where he was sitting to say hi.

We grabbed a meeting room. Greg was evidently quite unsettled by the idea that someone who had been at the firm for so long could just leave. He talked about how he'd needed a change not that long ago and had found it hard to arrange so he'd sent an invite to one of the partners, who helped him to arrange a transfer. He said he thought I was in a similar situation.

I never quite know how to tell people what I think.

Putting time in a partner's diary isn't something I'd normally do unless I needed to get something signed. What did I have to lose though? I'd never met this guy but he had a nice reputation and was supposedly good with people. I liked the fact that Greg seemed to care and I wanted to go with that. Who knows, maybe this guy would have something useful to say.

There was one half-hour slot in his calendar towards the end of the week. I knew he'd probably accept the invite. When you send someone an email saying you've been with the company for ten years and have just handed in your notice, they tend to get curious.

The partner was as nice as my colleague's description. He asked me to tell him a bit about myself, which I did. I told him about some of my experiences on projects in recent years. 

Greg had been concerned upon hearing that I was leaving but he hadn't managed to probe that deeply into why. He did ask me about it and even checked whether I agreed with his impression. I made some statements and showed enough agreement to validate him and maintain an easy conversational flow. The partner on the other hand had started in neutral. He'd never met me and had no preconceptions. 

He ended up surmising that actually a career break might be good for me as it would give me the time and space do some thinking and then go after a role that I really wanted. He observed that I felt quite liberated about the whole thing. "A bit scared too" I told him, so that he'd think I was normal "but yeah, no second thoughts". He agreed to let me know if he heard of any jobs that might interest me.

That evening I got a text from my sister. She'd heard there was an explosion in the city. She said she wasn't sure where so she just wanted to check.

"I agree" I told her. "You should check".

Sunday 20 November 2016

#175 The other law of attraction

It seems possible that I'm attracted to opinionated, outspoken people. Not exclusively but they often get the messages. The follow-ups. The attention. They capture my attention. Or I capture theirs, or both. It might not be because they like me more than they like people who are more similar to themselves in that way. It might just be because they have something to learn from me. People love to learn things now and then.

I was going to write the second half of that paragraph the other way around. It might not be because I like them more... but then I realised that it was equally applicable that they might not like me more than an opinionated, self-assured sort of person. Me, the reserved, polite and tactful one. Choosing to focus my attention on them. To learn how to represent myself better. How to assert myself.

It might be a genetic thing. Perhaps my DNA is lacking something that extroverted types have and vice versa. We'd argue and frustrate each other and create misunderstanding after misunderstanding, all because a part of us, a part that we're not even necessarily aware of, wanted to produce offspring with delightfully balanced attributes.

I'm aware of it though. At least, I'm aware of the possibility. It might simply be that most people are more outspoken than me and so when I take an interest in someone, unless they're particularly introverted, there's necessarily a contrast in personalities. I certainly find that with height. What if it's true? Are these people good for me or bad for me? What does it mean? What should I do?

Tuesday 15 November 2016

#174 I like your shoes

Lately, I've been trying to focus on the positive side of things in several ways. One is that I consciously try to make positive statements when answering questions, like if someone asks how my weekend was... and overall I feel like it was crap... I might think, before responding, whether any parts of it were alright and then say for example that I managed to have a good conversation with a friend I hadn't spoken to for a while.

It doesn't answer their question but if the answer to their question is a negative one then there's really no point in giving it.

Exceptions might be in situations where it's of practical importance to focus on the negative, eg. if a doctor asks "where does it hurt?".

Why do this?

Well, I'll admit that I don't have any proof that it "works". For either the speaker or the listener. Apparently a great deal of communication occurs non-verbally and so perhaps to change the words that are spoken is more hastle than it's worth. 

As much as anything else, it's kind of fun to practice developing some awareness around how I'm communicating. I imagine that deciding to add that layer of effort to some of my interactions came about due to the fact that I "overthink" certain things in general. Some people may focus more positively by nature. One thing I've found is that it can be strangely addictive.

It seems to me quite likely that if, for example, you see a post that you don't like on Facebook and comment on it to complain or even just to express your disagreement, what you're doing is spreading your discontent to the other person, who might then feel bad about the fact that you don't like their post.

What, then, are we to do?

Firstly, the potential to just keep one's mouth shut is absolutely mind-boggling. It's also, for some people more than others, incredibly difficult. I mean this in all seriousness. As much as some people fear public speaking enough to break out in a sweat, there seem to be others who are more or less incapable of keeping their opinions to themselves, whether they're good or bad opinions. I am not judging those people. I have enough of my own weaknesses and indeed I'm hardly some bastion of happiness and positivity.

It's the difference between controlling a pigeon population by ceasing to put out any more bread and controlling it by going around kicking the poor birds.

Am I supposed to just do nothing?

Let's say you don't like pigeons. You prefer crows. Well, then feed the crows.

Imagine for a moment, the number of people who will have spent a minute making a negative comment about Trump on social media, when they could have used that time to make a supportive comment about Hillary.

That might not be the best example but you get my point.

Sunday 13 November 2016

#173 A chocolate swirl brioche

Outside every supermarket in London, there's a homeless person. I get a lot of my groceries from supermarkets, so I'm always walking past those guys. What they usually do, as you'll know from your own encounters, is ask for some change. 

It's understandable that some people give them cash because afterall, they're presenting as homeless and not having a job, so if people don't give them money to buy food and however many hot drinks they have (if I slept outside, I'd probably want twenty cups of soup a night) then won't they, like, die, or something? 

On the other hand, I read that three quarters of them are on drugs and probably have free access to food and shelter if they want it but all they want to do is buy substances that could eventually kill them and by giving them money, the drugs are pretty much the only thing you're funding.

So what's the big deal? Just give them small amounts of money occasioanally. I call it uncertainty-adjusted behaviour. This approach might be viewed as inhumane and overly simplistic though because surely one must take a look at each specific homeless person. Use your eyes. Use your gut. Read some articles. Talk to people and become wise in the ways of charitable donation. Surely. Life is busy for many people though and making time to learn about such specific topics isn't always top of the list.

Giving food always seems like a good balance. For most people this is probably sensible. I eat so much crap though that I do find myself wondering, did that guy really need that chocolate swirl brioche? I mean my diet just about keeps me alive enough to sit around at room temperature, trudge back and forth to a desk job and write shit on the internet. Homeless people need to be on army rations. 

Imagine if supermarkets had a section dedicated to those sleeping rough and customers could donate at the point of sale to give them the things that would help them most. The supermarket could even be blatant about it and write "help get rid of the person sitting outside our store" and customers could leave small donations. Then when the donations reach a certain level, the person could be carted off to a hostel and given therapy and noodles and stuff.

I'm not saying that you can fix every problem with therapy and noodles, I just wonder if the supermarkets could be more "in your face" about what they're doing.

Saturday 12 November 2016

#172 Things I might do if I ever find out I have a kid.

1. Bring a tin of blue paint and a paintbrush every single time that fucker catches a train until they're ten years old and draw a line on the platform two metres behind the existing one for my kid to stand behind so that even if they fall or get pushed over, all they get hit by is a platform.

2. Ritualise the pronouncements over and over again that almost nothing is exactly how it seems, that there's more than one perspective to almost everything, that nobody really knows anything and that no one person's opinion or knowledge is in itself worth more than any other's or if that's too hard to chew, just that sometimes it pays untold dividends to show as much respect as can be mustered, or failing that just to stay silent, often at your own expense.

3. Cuddle that fucker like one of those orange and white rings they throw to people who fall off boats.

4. Provide it with access to a piano, a calculator, some paper and pencils, a globe, a history textbook, a football, a hacksaw, some baking ingredients and the main religious books just in case it ever takes delight in any of those things.

5. Troll the fuck out of any adults who my kid seems not to like very much, even if I quite like them myself.

6. Wear smarter, or at least cleaner clothes. Consider ironing my tshirts and occasionally washing my jeans.

7. Get a cat.

8. Read the Sunday papers.

9. Use the kid to talk to hot women who have kids.

10. Post crap family pictures and anecdotes that nobody else gives even the tiniest bit of a fuck about all over Facebook every day.

I'm just kidding about 10. I have no intention of ever becoming that normal.

Thursday 10 November 2016

#171 Pure Evil

Up comes the sun. Swipe through bitterness, taking the views in one by one. Holding my tongue. They seem so shocked, like the rest of the world has some how done them all wrong. Playing along. Making a joke, withholding my anger so that I can belong. Silence is strong. There's enough negativity out there, I don't want to be the one who's mindlessly egging them on.

A choice has been made. It might not be yours so don't take it from those that earned the right to have their say. This is not your day. So don't ruin it for the ones who came together and got their own way. It's tough but hey, if you're not in pain or sick, is there a need to express so much dismay? You're in your own way now. Watch your step or you'll trip over your educated shoes. True winners tend not to sulk so much after they lose.

What if I were to say that it's all a big lie? That the world isn't run by a man in a tie. It revolves around things that come out of your mouth and it goes out of whack when the comments turn south. I know you don't like him. I know that you care but the sooner you go back to taking photos of your lunch or your hair... instead of fuelling the media machine that put him there. This one's ok, it's creative, I'm not slagging anyone off. Oh ok, you saw through it, fair enough. Another level of garbage. I could swim in this all day, come take a seat. I don't plan on stopping typing any time soon.

Friday 4 November 2016

#170 Making up the guest room

From time to time, I go through a period of days where my dominant thoughts are of worry. It tends to be about my health, specifically, concerns about the future although it can be other things.

It's as though a short-lived flower of semi-demonic qualities suddenly sprouts inside my brain and occupies it for a while. Then eventually it withers as quickly as it appeared.

As far as I can tell, I inherited a certain level of, or inclination to worry from one of my parents. I suppose I might have been affected by an early experience or string of experiences. The rest, you could say, is on me.

The boundaries of a person might not be as rigid as they first appear. There's a little bit of you in my mind, a little bit of me in yours and any number of social mechanisms and complex hierarchies, some of which may be unknown to the people in them.

One theory is that a certain amount of negative energy exists in our collective consciousness and that some individuals effectively become dumping grounds for it while others, as if they were kings or queens are given the finest nuggets of uplifting messages and life-affirming humour. Some of this happens below the level of our everyday awareness. Some of it can be detected by observing our behaviour.

The worry comes and goes from my life. It's not something that has ever stayed. I don't mean to pretend that I'm the only person to have been visited by worry, that my concerns warrant it or that I wouldn't do better to handle it better.

What would happen if I demanded that my guest leave? Would it? Is that the point? Should we not welcome those who visit us and let them stay as long as they wish? A gracious host may appreciate that once we let something into our house, it says more about us to throw them out than it does about them. This depends how forcefully the guest entered and how it behaves while it's there.

Saturday 29 October 2016

#169 October

October. Saturday afternoon in the Wharf. Well, the sprawl of affordable housing just outside of it. I was sat on my bed playing Worms Armageddon. Between turns, I flicked through Tinder. 

"She looks cute" I thought to myself. Katie was a 24 year old Kiwi marketing manager for a lage tech company. Her profile read that she was travelling around Europe for work. "Too bad you're not here longer ;)" I told her. "Ha and why's that?" she wrote " you don't like short term fun?" "You're pushing all the right buttons" I wrote back "but I'm a little under the weather this weekend". 

I'd been feeling crap since about Thursday. How does a person even tell their boss that they kind of feel like they can't get as much done as normal but are still well enough to be at work? Actually that may well be exactly what I should have said but there's always the risk that if I said I was struggling to get it all done, they'd just suggest that I should have started it sooner. Or prioritised better. Or that I wasn't working fast enough. So I hadn't said anything. I'd made it to the weekend too. Alive. Sort of.

"Well I'm here 'til Wednesday" she said "and I made great bedside company when you're sick". "You'd honestly spend time with someone who isn't feeling a hundred percent when there must be thousands of healthy guys just waiting to be messaged?" I asked. "I don't know about thousands" she said. Maybe she hadn't had Tinder that long. "I would though" . "It's a flattering offer" I replied "but I'd feel too self-conscious, plus it'd be a shame if you caught this". She said she understood.

After the game of Worms, I headed over to Instagram for a browse. Fortunately, most of my favourite pasttimes can be done in bed with my laptop so being ill isn't exactly a handicap. The more I used Instagram, the more I liked it. I'd had it about a month. One of my tactics was to make comments on some of the most popular profiles so that lots of people would see them and might start following me. It was working ok. In fact I was somewhat surprised to be getting new followers every day. I only had like twenty pictures and until that point hadn't used a single hashtag. Maybe this is what people do in October now. Sit around on their phones looking for something they like the look of.

Thursday 20 October 2016

#168 The Hustle

"Have some more shrimp" the host said carelessly, dumping another ladleful on my plate. Did I even like seafood? I wasn't sure. Did anyone know the answer to that question?

The clock ticked on. I had some awareness that the time was passing as I sat there, shovelling mounds of the stuff into my mouth because I felt like it was expected of me. Getting some of it on my shirt and the floor. I'd be scolded later for my inefficient and untidy dining style as well as for not eating enough shrimp. I always felt full.

The sky outside grew darker, at least I imagined it had. I wasn't about to go to the window to check. In the pauses between courses, I told myself that I needed to rest, mentally as well as physically. Most of my friends had left the party. I hated the darkness. Who knew what was out there?

I continued to pretend to enjoy my food as best I could. I'd put on a little performace which involved staring blankly in disillusionment at the host when they asked if everything was ok. It had stopped being believable long ago of course but social etiquette, or rather their understanding of the extent to which it was safest and easiest not to make a fuss, dictatated that they remain silent.

"The host might throw me out eventually" I thought to myself for the millionth time. In the darkness, would I find my way home? Did I even have one?

Thursday 6 October 2016

#167 Energy

This post has been removed. It might be available on request. 

Friday 30 September 2016

#166 Some statements

It isn't completely shallow to appreciate beauty. The thought alone doesn't always count. Great minds sometimes think differently from one another. Being happy might not always be the most important thing in life. What doesn't kill us can weaken us.

The early bird might be too early, the first step might be the easiest, still waters can be shallow. Revenge can be sour. All that ends well is not all well.

It isn't necessarily rude to point or stare. Honesty can be a lousy policy. The pounds aren't guaranteed to take care of themselves. Our entitlement to our opinions is questionable. Conspiracies do happen. 

Sunday 18 September 2016

#165 Interference

On my way back from East Dulwich on Saturday morning, as I walked through the park, I noticed a conker sitting on the ground. Surprised by the beauty of it, I picked it up and carried it on my way.

After a time, the thought occurred to me that such a splendid conker should grow into a magnificent tree. Looking down, I saw a small hole, not much larger than a golf ball and about as shallow. "That place would be just right for my conker" I thought to myself. I placed the conker in the hole.

Nearby was a clump of muddy grass. "This grass might make a cover for the hole" I thought to myself. Nudging the grass with my foot, I moved it towards the hole until it covered the conker. I took a step back, surveying the scene.

Something wasn't right. The clump, which was mostly old grass, held together by very little mud, didn't quite seem like it would offer the conker enough protection and nutrients for it to flourish. Did conkers even need protection and nutrients?

I began to realise that I was out of my depth. I didn't know how or where conkers needed to be planted. Had I given my newest friend a head start or set him back in life? Should I try and bury it deeper? Maybe it wasn't my call.

I bent down and removed the conker from its hiding place. It was covered in dirt. I tried to get some of it off with a leaf but it wasn't proving effective, so I rubbed it with the front of my tshirt until it was shiny like when I'd found it.

It seemed quite possible by that point that nature knew better than me about what should happen to conkers. Realising this, I placed the conker back on the ground, in a similar place to that in which I'd found it.

Had I learned anything from what I'd done that morning? Had the conker? Did it matter?

Sunday 11 September 2016

#164 Curry

"Dhansak?" the waiter asked, completing the order that I couldn't quite seem to get out of my mouth. It was about nine o'clock and the couple of extra hours I'd spent staring at a screen could've been taking their toll but I also had my reasons for being hesitant. For one thing, Lime curry house on the Isle of Dogs doesn't have a great range of hot dishes on its menu.

No ceylon, no naga, nothing unusual. It you weren't up for a madras or vindaloo, you inevitably end up in boring old medium lentil city, so that was where I was headed. Or so I thought. The first thing I noticed when the food arrived was its colour. The chicken sat in a dark, heavy orange sauce, unlike the yellowy mixtures of other dhansaks I'd had. Curious, I took a forkful and started the meal.

Fire and sorcery. The peppers danced around my mouth, creating a simultaneous urge to reach straight for the lager and straight for another forkful. Beads of sweat formed around my brow and my attention turned to the other customers, to the waiters. Had they noticed? Would my battle with the chillies disturb them as they mindlessly consumed their tikka masalas, while talking about Trump and house prices?

I looked back at the dhansak. "Well nobody else is going to eat this" I thought to myself. I gave a nod to the waiter as he passed to show everything was ok. Dinner had been served.

Saturday 27 August 2016

#163 Two things

There are two things that I must do every night before I go to sleep. The first is to message some people online, to connect with them. The second is to write in my diary, to connect with myself.

If I haven't done these two things at the end of the evening, I'll stay awake until I've done them and won't get enough sleep.

I write down messages to other people and thoughts to myself during the daytime. I practically need to do it at the end of the day too.

Our need for connection is universal. If an infant is deprived of human contact for lng enough, its health will deteriorate and it may eventually die, even if it's fed and watered. We might say, it needs to be loved.

Can an organisation love? Can a computer? I like to think it's possible. Yet there's something about the care that passes from human to human that's as yet irreducible. Undetectable.

Maybe it's because we're so alike. When we're cared for by each other, we're reinforced by ourselves.

There are two things I must do every night before I sleep. It's because I'm alive. Life reinforces itself.

Thursday 18 August 2016

#162 Long tails and loud wails

I'd always thought that mice were those funsized things that scurried about, picking up crumbs, whereas rats were much larger, ghastly creatures that bit people and spread the plague. It turns out, at least technically, that the line is much more blurred. In fact I'm not even sure there is one. According to Wikipedia, there's no scientific distinction between the two.

I am happy to let the scientists use my distinction, while they figure out their own. The cute little fellow that I saw poking his whiskers out of the gap beside the kitchen plug sockets this week looked awfully mousey to me.

Upon first discovering the creature earlier in the week, my housemate's rather frolicsome male friend immediately dropped any ounce of composure that he possessed and let out a shriek of a nature such that my first thought was that he had spotted a burglar. Having little in the house of much material value, I scarcely looked up from my book.

He had been at the flour, the mouse, not my flatmate's friend and had trodden a white path around the worktop and up onto the corner of the microwave. There was no food up there and I can't imagine what fascination a rodent should have with radiative cooking. Perhaps he was simply exploring.

We're taking steps to keep them out. Taping over holes. Sealing up the food, that sort of thing, so I'm not sure when I'll see the mouse next. Still, it was nice to have a friend in the house for a while.

Tuesday 9 August 2016

#161 Data processing

"Sorry to bother you" said a guy wearing a pink tshirt as I walked into the canteen yesterday. He didn't seem sorry enough. "Have you heard of Yo Yo Pay? The app that lets you leave your wallet at home?" He asked. I shrugged in a way that hopefully emphasised how little I cared. Sometimes less is more.

Unfortunately the meme had found its way onto the cashiers' chests too and into their mouths. They're usually so authentic and pleasant. I'm currently searching for a cure for succeptibility to marketing. If I find one, I'll share details here in the blog.

Fortunately, the Yo Yo Pay sales pitch wasn't the only information that the world decided to share with me recently. At Kev's wedding, I received some free advice from Cookie and Sarah on dealing with uncertainty during the first few dates with someone new. I'm not sure if it'll pay off but it can't be any less helpful than their advice on dancing.

Handling the various pieces of information that are thrown at us every day can be difficult sometimes but it can also be one of the joys of modern life. Discovering something new. Sharing an amusing anecdote with a friend.

It increasingly feels like we're given more and more information and less and less time to process it. I especially noticed this after recently turning thirty two.

As a child, I often used to sit idly when travelling on a train or bus. As my hair gets thinner and my belly gets thicker, I'm more inclined to want to spend that time writing a blog post, or a note of things to do. Processing information, to make the time count, even in a small way. 

Sunday 31 July 2016

#160 Language reclaim

Don't tell me you're not a racist
Yes I know what that word means
It's obvious you don't throw bricks
through people's window screens
You're really quite a pleasant chap
and peaceful so I've heard
but I'd like to change the meaning
that attaches to the word

Let me give you an example
as that might help to explain
A cyclist has a racing bike
and takes it on the train
If he spots another rider
with a different coloured bike
it's unlikely he'll be violent
if it's one he doesn't like

Does a florist get aggressive
over different kinds of lilly?
No, that isn't what the word means
If it was, it would be silly.
Does a typist shout abuse
if something's not their favourite font?
I suppose it might be funny
and they can do if they want
but when recounting the tirade
I think it's better we resist
the urge to sum up their wrongdoing
with a small affix like "ist".

Now that's all well, I hear you say
but what instead then shall we use
when summarising a display
of inappropriate abuse
as if it's vital there exists
a word for this specific kind of hate
is it too hard to simply say
that criminal is not my mate?
Then leave the "ists" and "isms"
to mean what they elsewise would.
This might make our language clearer
at least I think that it could.

Saturday 16 July 2016

#159 Two beers and an orange juice

This week I met up with a friend of mine. Someone I've known for a good few years. It's the kind of friendship where I like her, I guess she thinks I'm ok, I don't really know. We'll message every now and then. Every so often I'll do something that pisses her off. We chat about it but then I'm wondering like, if we'll always be friends or if one day she'll decide she's had enough.

People ask me why I spend time with this person. Why do I do it? There are other people out there. If I wanted to. If I made the effort, I could probably find new people to hang out with. Why am I still hanging out with this person if it's up and down all the time?

So I say ok fine, what exactly is wrong with my friend? They might even suggest some things. They might say she's too feisty, cares too much about certain things, or that she just doesn't suit me that much. I say what if it's me that's the problem? Should I just try and hang out with new people anyway? What if I have the same problems? Besides I don't want to just go out there and try to make new friends, that takes effort, I don't want to spend my free time doing that.

If she's not the problem, if I'm the problem then there's no point. Building a friendship takes time. It means something. It's like an investment. That's what I tell them. That's what I tell myself.

This week when we hung out, I explained myself to her again, like I sometimes do. Why I did or didn't do something. What I think happened, to the extent that I could describe it. This time it feels like she actually listened to me. It doesn't make me right. It was a difficult discussion but I enjoyed it. I enjoyed being listened to. Having a voice. Bringing my thoughts to the table.

She said to me but if I ever piss her off again, we're done.

So that was something that happened one evening this week.

Sunday 10 July 2016

#158 Um... A record, record, record

The Examined Life (2013) is a collection of short, entertaining stories compiled by a psychoanalyst. The stories are of real client cases, although they're anonymised.

The central theme of the book is that the reasons underpinning some of our most significant behaviours are sometimes so obscure and contrary to expectation that it can take months, or years of conversations with a trained professional to figure out what they really are.

Would the whole process be quicker if therapists gave their customers a book like this and told them to read it? I'm not sure but if someone who knew pretty much every one of my dirty little secrets started recommending reading material, I'd probably want to take a look. There are some people it's not helpful to offend.

Sometimes the professional realises quickly what the cause of the behaviour or feeling is. At other times, both parties are in the dark for a while until it becomes clear. Some cases are just failures.

A typical example would be a woman concerned about her relationship with her husband who simply won't stop causing her anguish. She seeks help and after months of dialogue, works out that the husband is in reality very attentive and she's been directing towards him all of her disappointment at the mischievous acts of her child, on whom she couldn't bare to place any blame due to the way she was treated in her own childhood.

While such a case might seem rather obvious when explained, it's worth noting that the signs can be quite subtle and that the average human mind is a tricksy little bugger. To pull ourselves together on one level, we'll often weave together a fabrication on another level, which on yet another level has very little robustness to it.

Rather than being a unique characteristic of the minds of those sufficiently troubled or curious to try to unravel it, I am almost certain that such complexity, or at least a degree of it, is much more commonplace. As Scott Peck wrote in The Road Less Travelled, "Essentially everyone can benefit from psychotherapy if he or she is seriously willing to participate in the process".

Did you read that last part Mum, Dad, Seals, Ronan, Karen, Terry, Naino, Marc, Katie, Felicity, Fi, Keira, Lisa, Mark, Rich, Lisha, Liz, Tom, Rosela, all my other friends from home, school, the bus, uni and all my colleagues and extended family?


Tuesday 28 June 2016

#157 Interviewing sugar

I've sometimes compared using dating apps to being a kid in a sweet shop. This week it was probably more true than usual. Ada was an ex-adult movie star in her forties. She had some kids and some hobbies but her profile read that she was still involved in the industry. To demonstrate this, she'd put up several photos of herself wearing nothing but confectionary.

I explained off the bat that I wasn't really on the lookout for anything serious but couldn't help but admire what was one of Tinder's more original profiles. She thanked me for being honest and polite and seemed happy to chat for a while.

"You're a Muslim lady" I said, "how do you balance religion with your professional life?" She explained that it was difficult but that she was able to pray at work. I told her I'd been handed a free English copy of the Quran on Oxford Street earlier that day. "Will you read it?" She asked. "I'll take a look" I told her, "it can't be any more boring than parts of the Old Testament".

I asked how she was finding the whole online dating thing. "It's ok" she said "there are a lot of creeps obviously but I'm used to that so I don't mind it". "That's probably a major advantage" I told her. "I know girl friends who try it but give up because they can't stomach all that stuff, which is a shame as there are nice guys on there somewhere". "I don't mean me" I quickly added "I alternate between nice and creepy". She told me that her female friends were the same and that the ones with thick skin found it easier.

I was curious about whether the food in her pics had gone to waste or if anyone had eaten it but thought asking might've been distasteful. I hadn't come into cause a stir or to buy anything. I was just looking around.

Sunday 26 June 2016

#156 Powdered eggs and tripe

I met two upbeat people on Friday. Thinking about it, they probably did vote out but I don't know for sure. I like to think that one of them might just have been a positive pickle. They were saying things like "Well nothing's actually changed yet" and "you don't HAVE to be miserable about it". That kind of acceptance sounds like quite a smart attitude to have given the result. Perhaps some people will drift towards it over time.

One of my first thoughts as I checked my phone on the tube on Friday morning was "shall I buy some shares?" followed by "I wonder if this'll make people on Tinder more or less likely to want to go on dates". It's probably not the most important concern to have, even for me. When you've run out of 18 to 55 year olds to swipe within a 31 mile radius, who cares about the effect of Brexit?

Many care quite a lot though. I heard a friend's colleage was crying at her desk. Another guy I know has actually unfriended some people on Facebook over it. That's like the 2016 equivelant of egging someone's house. Thank God. Egg's a massive bitch to remove from brickwork.

Monday 13 June 2016

#155 Suma suma suma tiiime

This week has been unseasonably warm here in the UK. I say unseasonably because I'm pretty sure it isn't usually this nice in summer. What we're therefore experiencing is a heatwave. As a result, I've been turning up to the office more or less soaked from head to toe. I might've missed all the rain but it sure is hot on the underground.

The climate probably doesn't do the bucket shakers much good. Their prospective donors are now more aggrivated than usual and saving up for their summer holidays. One veterans charity has taken to reminding passers by that there are soldiers who have literally had their balls blown off in conflict. When it comes to the art of persuasion, it seems like they've pretty much nailed it.

I'm struggling to think of one single thing that has become fashionable this year, let alone this summer. Back in `14 the girls got into that luminous orange/pink coloured clothing. It surprises me that some kind of virtual pet hasn't taken the mobile world by storm. I suppose today people are too busy tending to their social networks to take care of eggsy. So busy in fact that making time to feed and water themselves is a game in itself.

Fortunately all commuters are aware of the importance of staying hydrated during hot spells, thanks to the posters put up last year by old goldilocks. I don't follow politics, which is good because if I did, I'd have arrived much earlier at the realisation that Osbourne might well be the next PM. You know, unless there's an election or something.

Monday 6 June 2016

#154 Extain

I have no idea whether Britain should stay in the EU or not. I don't really think there are too many imigrants and I'm concerned that large companies might be less inclined to invest in London if we go solo but I don't really know, you know? These are just my relatively uninformed suspicions.

When a friend of mine asked the question, I tried to blag it by saying what I thought a Dalai Lama style response might be. Which was fun. I can do his voice too. I think it would go something like this:

"When thinking about this question, some people look at what's in it for UK? What's in it for me? So we can make the decision without considering our brothers and sisters in other countries. If we're in a poor country, with very limited resources, this type of thinking is understandable. Also for some in the UK, I think also this. However, majority of people in UK, wealthy, by global standards. Isn't it? More wealthy than some other European countries. So, it can be helpful to think, not just what's in it for us but also what can we share?

I wouldn't go so far as to answer the question. I don't know the answer. So this week's blog post, in a way, is kind of pointless. I doubt it will come as much a surprise :)

Monday 30 May 2016

#153 Something More Tubular

Bakerloo I like you lots
Your old sofas hug our botts
Circle you are far too slow
You're not even round, you know
Jubilee where is your soul?
You're too tidy for a hole
Northern you're our trusted friend
That's unless it's a weekend
Vicky you might be quite nice
If you weren't so full of mice
District you are long aren't you?
That's what she said and it's true
Piccadilly, watch me go
From Cockfosters to Heathrow
Metropolitan you're mauve
Just for that, you're worth a rove
Hammersmith and city don't
think I'll ride you, cause I won't
Central Central I just wish
that we didn't have to squish
DLR you're such a geek
Plus you always howl and creak
Waterloo and city's last
you are small but you are fast.

Sunday 22 May 2016

#152 Fireflies

Friday 17 May. 9am. I was on my way to work. "Maybe if I watch one episode of House of Cards first thing, as soon as I get in and then turn the laptop off, I won't carry on binge-watching it later when I should be going to sleep" I thought. 

The idea didn't seem very exciting. Last night I'd tried watching it at my desk instead of on the sofa, to see if, once I got tired, I'd more naturally become less comfortable, close the lid and go to bed. It hadn't worked.

One of the partners at work had recently told us that his favourite book was The Art of War, the ancient Chinese military guide, which had been translated and picked up by leaders the world over. I wanted to get my hands on it. I felt that if I made Netflix seasons my enemy and planned the tactics carefully enough, I just might win the battle and be able to watch them in moderation. 

I looked up the Wikipedia entry for the book and read its description. "The text stresses that war is a very grave matter for the state and must not be commenced without due consideration." That didn't sound too appealing. I wonder what the most famous book on diplomacy is.

Luisa suggested that I was making myself tired on purpose. I told her that I thought it seemed unlikely, adding that at least I wasn't consciously aware that it was likely. I've been caveating levels of consciousness a lot lately.

Sunday 15 May 2016

#151 All change

"You just keep getting more and more irresistable" I thought to myself as I walked past the dining room mirror. It was a usual Saturday morning and my housemate Marc, who had become, for some reason, my only housemate, was out at a parkrun. I've never met a park and I don't know how he makes them run. He must be very scary. Most of the time, I'm just pretending to listen so that he'll give me food.

At some point later in the morning, once Marc was back, there came a knock at the door. You'll never guess who had the cheek to show up. It was RICH! I couldn't believe it. Rich. He obviously missed me a lot and had come to say hello but I wondered why. He doesn't often visit me.

I'd known for a while that some kind of change was coming. There'd been a lot of movements and rearrangements in the house. Dan had got me some treats, before he mysteriously left. Marc had been spending more time in the lounge. The girls had also vanished and taken all of their furniture. I hoped Marc wouldn't leave too.

Rich picked up the cat carrier and brought it into the kitchen. I darted. I hate that thing. It used to be quite fun to climb into but the last time I was in there, they took me to some dude in a white coat. It was all very embarrassing. I didn't want to go in the carrier but Rich picked me up and put me in it. He waved goodbye and then Marc put me into his car.

I've been in moving vehicles before and it's not the scariest thing in the world but it is pretty much almost the scariest. You have no idea where you're going or how long the journey will take. Imagine how that must feel.

Marc and Dan were chatting fairly casually. I meowed a lot to tell them I was apprehensive. Dan poked his fingers through the cage sometimes and talked at me. It didn't seem like the world was coming to end but I was still very nervous. I threw up in the cat carrier and had to sit beside it.

After a short while, we arrived somewhere new. They brought me inside and let me out. Two older people and a girl. It smelled like they had another animal. I walked out of the cage and said a brief hello to the people. Why was I here? I walked around, smelling things. I like having an explore. It was all very new and strange.

Dan stuck around for a while and the older people fed him. Dan usually feeds himself, or gets a man to bring him food to the house. They fed the girl and me too. They must have a lot of food.

I went to the window and saw there was a dog outside. I stared hard and gave a sharp hiss. The older woman heard it but didn't sound too concerned. When Dan had finished eating, the girl ushered him into her car. She started the engine and I heard the sound of the car driving away. I went back to my exploring.

Friday 29 April 2016

#150 Noah's Ark

On Thursday night I made my way to Kemsing to celebrate my father's stag night. There were a lot of men there and none of my age. Dad was, as usual, in good spirits, being close to draught bitter and people to talk to.

I was introduced to a fellow who announced that he would soon go to a Rolling Stones exhibition in London. He had booked the tickets six months in advance. In this I was uninterested, perhaps because I had never been drawn to their music.

Next I met a man who supervised a large warehouse. Dad beamed as he gave his name, remarking that I had once expressed an interest in a similar career. I listened as my new acquaintance recited the sizes and capabilities of the forklift trucks that he was licensed to operate. His friend, who stood beside him, was a cheerful bloke and they moved the discussion on to exchanging tales of finding unconventional routes along local roads in order to avoid traffic jams.

I was pleased to be in The Bell and more so when John the quintessential Irish pub Landlord appeared. He had a most gentle smile and was pleasant to be around. At one point I had rare occasion to talk for more than five seconds about the services of the department that I worked in, as there was an accountant there, with whom I chatted until it was time to move on to dinner. As we had begun to gather our things, a very old friend of Dad's from school appeared unexpectedly. He was elated to see him and we stayed for another drink before leaving.

The Taramind in Kemsing is a good restaurant with attentive staff. It was satisfying to see Chicken Naga on the menu as I had recently become fond of it, providing it was a shade less spicy than average, which it was. Several of us agreed that we would return, among them a close and more senior friend who had housed my Dad before he moved into his current home.

There are no queues at the bar in The Bell. There's no annoying dress code and as far as I can see, you're very unlikely to get into any trouble. Perhaps you might consider the village of Kemsing if you are in need of a location for your stag night.

Saturday 23 April 2016

#149 The Grand Inquisitor

The Brothers Karamazov is a philosophical and moral drama written in 1880 by, I think, a Russian named Fyordor Dostoyovski. I may have spelled that incorrectly.

I am not in the habit of reading fiction, let alone a book penned so long ago. The sequence of events that led me to finding it however seems anything but unlikely.

The story of my friendship with the Brazilian girl, my conversations with the Turkish paragliding instructor and the days I spent in south west London with a woman, who also happened to be Turkish, are well recorded in this blog. An outcome from that chain of interactions was that I discovered the Indian mystic Rajneesh, a man whose discourses I enjoy from time to time.

It would probably irritate me if my interest in a particular philosopher were misinterpreted as an indication that I believed in their views. Indeed, I have enjoyed stories from The Bible as much as the lectures of Shelly Kagan or the celebrity Dan Dennett, though they might seem at odds with each other.

An element of what fascinates me about Rajneesh is that he was relatively well read and would often compare a religious viewpoint with that of an alternative religion or an atheist perspective without leaning toward any one belief system. It seemed likely therefore that were he to find any one book remarkable then it would be something of an apex in literature. Indeed this is true of The Brothers Karamazov, which I recently heard him mention and decided to read.

For all I know, it's on the reading list of every GCSE philosophy candidate and sits on many a UK bookshelf. I'm not sure and am perhaps glad that I found my own way to it. I'm enjoying it so far.

Sunday 17 April 2016

#148 Brighton

Waterproofs advisable. 
Don't forget to bring smart shoes. 
You're gonna be sharing a room tonight. 
We haven't decided whose.
Cause our Tommy's getting married. 
Two weeks Sunday so we hear. 
It'll give him a week to sweat out the vodka 
and another to work off the beer.
Now I don't know if you've been to Brighton
but I've heard that you'd best watch your back
There are blokes that might fancy a lad like yourself 
so stick close to Tom, John and Rob Mac
but of course if the worst is to happen 
and somebody gets set upon,
we'll break the sod's legs off like matches 
and post them back after we've gone.
Young Thomas is getting married.
In no more than a week or two.
His only delight is that none of tonight 
will ever get back to Sue.

Shackles of iron can change a man, 
which in Tom's case would be a shame 
but he's seems alright at thirty one 
and we hope he stays the same.
What's in store for our brave younger brother? 
Will he get rich, have kids or go mad? 
All we ask is he doesn't forget us. 
No chance after the night we'll have had.

Sunday 3 April 2016

#147 If the mice took over

If the mice in our office fed and bred until they outnumbered the people. If they freely pranced about during daylight hours. If it got to the stage that the office should close and I found myself in the unlikely position of having been replaced by a great many rodents, what would I do?

I imagine that the first order of the day would be to revert to holiday mode. My holiday mode isn't like this: Excitedly stick a pin in a map based partly on where a lot of other people go and then six months later tell everyone how nice it's going to be there so that they nod their heads and agree that it's going to be nice there, moan about getting everything finished before going, plan a host of activities, exchange currency and actually care or remember which airline they're flying with. 

I typically get a takeaway and then lie on the sofa binge-watching something on and off for several days until the time comes when I pretty much have to think about somewhere to go, except I already know that there's nowhere I want to go, so I try to manufacture reasons to go somewhere (people are absolutely stellar, in general, at manufacturing reasons, when they want to, for just about anything. It doesn't always mean they get it right but considering they're essentially manipulating their reality, it's still pretty impressive) and sort of half-succeed and eventually pack and get insurance and tell a couple of people where I'm going, all in a hazy state of mind that has resulted from staying up 'til 3am watching Jack Bauer murder people. 

I spend the first half of the holiday walking to places that I could get to in a fraction of the time if I used public transport. I visit sites for little more than the purpose of convincing myself and others that I'd had a productive holiday, even though what I really need is an unproductive one. By the last two or three days, if I'm lucky I've readjusted to a more typical sleep pattern. The absence of Netflix and walking around looking at shit, even if I didn't completely want to do it, has meant that I have ever so slightly more energy and greater sense of wellbeing than before I left, Then it's time to come home. The journey tires me out, I arrive back slightly fed up but still slightly more rested than I was before I left. I go back to work and pretty soon it's like I never left.

Except I don't go back to work. Cause the mice are still there. I'd have to try to find a new office to work in. There are a lot of offices in the country. I wonder if they all have mice in them too.

Friday 25 March 2016

#146 With a pinch of salt

Light isn't real. What we think is light is a distinction made in our mind. We might say that light looks bright and feels warm. Without the mind and the body to sense these things, there is no bright or warm. So light is not bright and warm. We are bright and warm. Sometimes. Could this be related to what the yogi on Youtube was saying about a person becoming the lightless light or was he describing an altogether different phenomenon? It's rarely a good idea to use contradicting terms like "lightless light". No wonder noone could bloody understand him.

When God said "let there be light", he didn't say it in English. English hadn't been created yet. Do you think he said it in Biblical Hebrew? What would be the point? There was noone around to hear it. He might have said it to himself, I suppose. In Biblical Hebrew. I suppose.

Isn't it funny when someone writes an article about how scientists are trying to understand consciousness? I read that they're starting to identify certain areas of the brain that are used in being conscious. It's a start. Explaining qualia is much harder. What it means, what it feels like to see the colour green for example.

I think that the uniqueness of consciousness is what makes it hard to define. If we were all the same, then we'd all have the same experience and we could say to each other "you know, consciousness" and they'd be like "oh yeah, consciousness, sure". Actually we can do that already. So forget that idea. It's been suggested that what it feels like to see the colour green can't be defined because we don't have a language sophisticated enough to describe it. I quite like this idea. I find it romantic.

Imagine you've got a very old rusty tape measure and you want to know exactly how wide it is. You might have a guess but you're not completely sure. Your first thought is to use the tape measure. It's the only tool you've got. It's an old tape measure though. You've used it to measure lots of other things but it simply isn't possible to twist the tape around to measure itself. The tape would break before you managed it.

I had a conversation yesterday with a girl who'd signed in to 7 Cups of Tea because she was feeling lonely. Gave her a bit of a tune-up. How's your job? How're your finances? How're your hobbies? It turned out that she had some creative outlets.

Seven billion people there are. That's all. Just seven billion. It might seem like a lot but it's not really. Not one of those people has the same experience of life. Not one. Each one views the world slightly differently. Each one creates different things. Each one is able to associate different experiences with the colour green. By the time we can see the colour, we can associate an experience with it. Seven billion. Not one of them correct.

Sunday 20 March 2016

#145 Amexit

No dates this weekend. No dates. It's not unusual. I did feel in the mood for meeting someone new though. I made do with messaging some people instead. On the plus side, Marc and I get to meet up to a dozen girls over the course of the next few weeks, while we look to fill the Katie-shaped gap that'll be opening up on the second floor, in the haunted room.

I'm not saying that I'd date somebody that I live with but I won't be living with most of the applicants will I? Besides, despite not saying it a moment ago, I totally would date someone I lived with, if I liked them enough.

The departure of a housemate, if they're leaving on good terms, can be a chance for last requests. Katie knew that it meant we'd have to go through the process of replacing her, so she was quite apologetic about it. Bless her. I told her it was fine, as long as she told me how she made her chips.

My impression of Katie is that she is a bit of a "foodie". My understanding of the word "foodie" is that it's someone who gives above-average attention to the quality or variety of the things that they eat. I don't know if she'd be comfortable with that label but she's moving out so hakuna matata.

Katie told us to listen carefully and then she outlined her six stage process. I've made them four times so far.

Tuesday 15 March 2016

#144 James Beckingham

There's a guy on the train whose job is hard to explain, you'd have to Google his name and you really should.

He's known as a teaser and he makes the journey easier when he tells all these jokes that no other man would.

He's refined and he's kind, the network doesn't mind. Though, some of his announcements are misunderstood.

But if you heard the rumour about his use of humour, you'll know that he's good, a bit cheesy but good.

His accent is meticulous, his updates are ridiculous, he won't circulate the train, just stays in one place. But once you know he's witty and something of a genius you'll wish that you could meet with him face to face to face.

Backwards facing forwards, forwards facing backwards. Whichever way you travel be sure to listen in. He's comically disclosing to watch out, the doors are closing or that you should put your litter in the nearest waste bin.

Has anyone got any Veras?

A Great Philospher once wrote...

Ahaahahahaa. Wikiiiid.

This geezer could be the best announcer we've ever seen. Know what I mean? He created a vibe.

He brightens up the ride as if by design. The carriage ignites like it's comin' alive.

I've often missed my stop, while I'm hanging around to hear his sound, he's not around so I get mellow.
Then smooth just to prove that my evening can improve, he bursts onto the Tannoy with a sunny "Hello!"

Something like a national treasure, he makes jokes to bring you pleasure while reminding you to pick up all the things you could lose.

Extraordinary fellow, like Rubens Barrichello. Remember that our railway staff should never be abused.

If this guy's around when you're heading to the town, you can recognise him from his individual sound.

We're nearly at the station. Make sure you've got your shopping. It's time to mind the step between the train and the ground.

Got any Salmon? Sorted.

Friday 26 February 2016

#143 Hundreds of chalets

I was pleased. It was Thursday morning, I'd just gotten on a train and now I could spend the next hour and fourteen minutes just sitting there while the world flew by at 70mph.

The high points of the last twenty four hours at a work conference in Centre Parcs had been getting lost trying to find my villa and observing the small similarities of the resort to the ones that I went to when I was growing up.

Whenever I go somewhere new, I walk around and get a bit lost. I wanted to find my way to the villa, not the map's way. You can't find the map's way. It's already been found.

Centre Parcs was one of the places where I'd had some of my most fun times as a kid with my family. Now I was revisiting it in a smart casual dress code for training exercises and small talk. Still, it made a change from a regular day in the office.

I'd go back there. Not to Woburn. maybe Nottingham or Cambridge as they're larger forests. No keys, no cars, no wifi code. The villas are warm and tidy. There are trees everywhere. It seems like a nice place to spend a few days. I always liked the large L-shaped sofas too.

Saturday 20 February 2016

#142 Ultimate privacy: a fruitless pursuit? 

My sister and I were never allowed to have locks on our bedroom doors when we were growing up. That's not the least of the reasons why I lack the knowledge and experience to comment on the encryption row between Apple and the US government but it's one of them. Screw it though, I'm going to write a bit about privacy.

As it happens, I was quite a shy teenager and spent most of my time either watching TV or playing video games. I did occasionally have a girl over though. If I had been allowed to have a lock, I probably would have made use of it. When you're fifteen and trying to grab a girl's boob, that whole moment can be ruined when your dad walks in with a plate of cut-up apples and some peanut butter on crackers.

Our bathroom door, of course, had a lock on it. There are parts of the human anatomy that most people consider private. When it comes to terrorism though, even that kind of privacy flies out of the window. As the map scene from the movie Three Kings shows us, when the US military want something badly enough, they'll literally go into your ass to get it. Maybe Apple didn't see that coming. I'd be more inclined to say though, that the government didn't see Apple coming. They should have.

Companies will be companies. They'll do what they legally can to satisfy what they think the customers want. This type of hyper-security, where even Apple can't get into its customers phones might seem strange but people take time to trust technology. It's only quite recently that we digitised our shopping, our banking and our social dialogue. We're still getting used to it and while we do, there's bound to be some overreactions and under-reactions to cyber threats.

Compared to the old days though, your cash, your photos and your identity are all still relatively safe. The main reason for this isn't because they're well encrypted or in a safe, or guarded by a big dog. It's because the vast majority of people are decent and wouldn't dream of stealing from you. The exceptions are chocolate, most dairy products and the occasional item of clothing. What that suggests to me is that in the long-term, having a little black box that not even the government can find its way into, probably won't be necessary. It'll be an interesting story to follow though.

Sunday 14 February 2016

#141 Great minds think a little

I've always been a thinker. I get it from my mother. You might not notice that she's thinking something but she will be. At university, one of the other students wrote about me in our yearbook, "Dan often looks like he's sat there doing nothing but don't be fooled, he's constantly considering where the next free BBQ's going to come from".

At army cadets when I was sixteen, there were hourly fag breaks which were known as "naffies". I would observe these breaks and stand with the other teens, watching them smoke, joke and swear. I never opened my own mouth though, not for words or cigarettes. The other boys later confessed that they'd taken me for stupid, until written tests were sat and it became apparent that I wasn't.

When I was eleven, I attended a friend's birthday party where at one point, the other children were running around outside. It was a sunny day and I remember wanting just to sit quietly by myself on a grassy bank, which I did for a minute. My friends kept coming over though and asking if everything was ok. They couldn't understand why I was happy alone with my thoughts and I didn't feel like I could satisfactorily explain it so I got up and played with them.

A stream of consciousness is a curious thing. Raw. At times nonsensical. Relatively unedited. Sometimes I'll get asked what I'm thinking and I'll need a moment to try and work it out before answering. When writing or speaking, we do well to capture certain elements of our thoughts and to process them, as a manufacturer might take a mud-covered sugar cane and produce from it sweet, sparkly granules.

There are those who scarcely audit what they say or write. I'm not knocking that. Talk to such people if you want honest feedback, some of them seem not to be able to give any other kind.

Is thinking too much a bad thing? The question answers itself. A thinker's friends, family and colleagues will give signals if they suspect there's some over-thinking going on, which is useful... At least, I think it is... Probably... Is it always useful though?... How can we be sure?... What if it isn't?...

Sunday 7 February 2016

#140 Imogen

Blog blog blog.
Bloggety bloggety bloggety bloggety blog.
Blog blog bl-blog blog blog blog blog blog blog blog blog blog.

It's been sort of a quiet weekend. I say that every weekend of course. My life is fairly quiet. Usually. On Thursday I went to the dentist for the second time in a decade. This is not advisable, to go so long without going. My father tried it in the seventies and now his mouth is mostly metal towards the back. From what I can tell, toothpaste has improved so much since then that now it is fairly rare to need so many fillings.

I will be going more regularly in future. They might want to take one or two of my wisdom teeth. She said "let's talk about it when you come back" but I recognise a negotiation tactic when I see one. Probably charge me for it too. Can you imagine? If anything she should be paying me. A fairly common procedure from what I hear. I guess I don't need them anyway.

I watched a few Eckhart Tolle videos on Youtube this weekend. Never seen the guy before. I read his book but didn't know anything about him at the time. Bonkers by most people's standards. If everyone decided to go off and sit on park benches for years I hardly think it would improve global wellbeing. Seems like a nice chap though. I daresay he has some good points.

One thing I seem to experience differently from the spiritual brigade is that they tend to describe peacefulness as a state of awareness. When I'm feeling peaceful, I'd say I'm more tuned out. Switched off. Then again, I'm not a spiritual guru.

Or am I?

Sunday 31 January 2016

#139 Exposure

Yesterday evening, I was stood at Kemsing station, waiting for a delayed train to go visit my dad. It was about five degrees and some of the other travellers had decided they'd rather wait in the cafe than outside. I contemplated doing the same. In fact, I walked into the cafe and took a look at their wares. 

I felt guilty doing that. Had I thought more about my needs before entering the cafe, I might have been able to save the employee the trouble of wondering, as I suspect she might have, whether or not I realistically intended to buy something. I didn't. I returned to the platform.

It's not that I was completely uncomfortable using the warmth of the cafe despite not buying anything. Rather, I couldn't be bothered to weigh up the ethics of the situation. It was easier just to wait outside. After all, it was a typical English winter, not an ice age. Waiting for a train for fifteen minutes at a temperature above zero was hardly going to do me any harm. There were times when it seemed our house wasn't all that much warmer.

I am fascinated by the extent to which adults can become defensively accustomed to their living situations. I noticed it recently when I was tasked with helping to organise a large conference. I was got to observe the reactions of my colleagues when told that some of the accommodation had shared bathrooms.

The scenarios that my workmates were able to imagine and vocalise in response to the message were quite thought-provoking. By their thirties and forties, for many people, it's been a while since they shared any kind of living quarters with someone other than their immediate family.

Thursday 21 January 2016

#138 Vice

I got greeted by a street walker earlier this week. I didn't really think there were any in this city. I mean, have you ever seen one?

She waved at me first, smiling and then called "hey baby". I waved back but carried on up the road. I'm not always so courteous to strangers, especially when they try and sell me something.

Red lights in windows aren't particularly hard to find if you know where to look. Red sites on Windows Internet Explorer are more accessible and more legal. Red tights standing on corners? It's not as warm or as safe. I wonder what the rate would've been.

My parents don't own smartphones. There are banks that still use fax machines. Wimpy still exists. In a fictitious sort of way, a part of me found it quite quaint to be touted by a whore on the way from the barber's to the tube station.

We might be reassured by what the world's oldest profession has in common with the world's most overpaid profession. Past a certain age, most of them will be naturally be moving on to other careers.