Friday, 26 June 2009

The Song is Over

Michael Jackson is dead. I can’t believe it.

The whole world is in shock, the 24 hour news channels have interviews with every random person connected to Michael Jackson in any way, they may have only met him once or never at all, and they all say the same thing. What more can you say when someone dies? You talk about the positive legacy they brought to this world and your own life. We will all at some stage of our own lives experience the loss of someone close to us. A parent, a sibling, a loved one, a friend. What makes this different? Of course the answer is that most of us are not related to Michael Jackson and never knew him. We did, however, know his music, his shows, his performances, his moonwalk and his legacy.

Like most of the people who have woken up today into the surreal atmosphere of a world struggling to digest the news that the self styled King of Pop is dead I never met Michael Jackson and I never knew him. The closest I got was when he came to stay in the Luxurious Chancery Court Hotel in London, on High Holborn, and I was working in the office building opposite the hotel. Crowds of Jacko fans congregated outside the hotel entrance and at one stage a small circular, hobbit hole like window on the top floor apparently opened and a white glove could be seen waving to the screaming fans. Who knows if it really was Michael Jackson himself, but that is beside the point, What matters, and what matters to me specifically, is the reaction he invoked in those fans. How can one man, so far removed from reality and all our hum drum lives connect with such a diverse range of people around the world?

The legacy of Michael Jackson is that he was and always will be, in death as much as in life, a symbol of the power of art. Art has the power to inspire us, to excite us, to bring solace to our souls in troubled times. The people close to us, the loved ones we all need and may or may not have during our lifetimes, they cannot always be there for us. Art, however, is always there for us.

At the moments when we need to be lifted up from the spirals of depression or inner conflict, when we are down and need to be picked up, when we are lost and confused and need a force to clear our heads and help us find the inner strength to fight on, art has always been there for us. Art comes in many forms, and the symbols of art are all around us. They are more prevalent than we think. Religion, in and of itself, would be nothing without the symbols of art. The meaning of archaic words on a page need to be conveyed to us in a powerful way, one that that resonates deep within our searching souls. There is good reason why Medieval Europe tried to build cathedrals that were bigger, better, grander and more awe inspiring than all the other cathedrals in the world. The inspiration and awe that showers us at the sight of a mighty, glorious, beautiful cathedral, mosque, temple, museum, statue, pyramid tomb or any other form of architecture is a powerful force. I am not a religious person but the great Cathedrals of Europe have always inspired wonderment in my soul and transcended the petty dogmas, contradictions and vices of organised religion. The same goes for the magnificent Mosques of Lahore, Cairo and Istanbul. The great leaders and warrior kings who built them are long since gone but the power of these buildings and their hold over us, still survive. The symbols within them, the reliefs, the calligraphy, the blue tiled mosaics in geometric patterns, it all empowers the soul taking it to another level, one above the daily struggles that it is all too easy to get lost in. Music, from the choirs of those great cathedrals to the modern day pop beats of the mid 1980s, has the power to connect with a wide array of people and take them to a place within themselves that makes life greater than the list of daily chores and grind we all wake up to.

Bad was the very first album that I owned, my father having made a copy of it on cassette for me. It was the first album that I played on my new Sashio stereo that was my 8th birthday present. In 1992 I walked into the Kingston-upon-Thames Our Price store, and having spent hours flicking through the CDs and cassettes, I left having purchased my first ever album. It was Dangerous. Thriller was the video my mother went to a lot of trouble to rent from Seals Video Rentals on Coombe Road, back in the late 1980s, for the very first Halloween party we were to hold in our house. I remember the music, the dancing, the funky red and black plastic textured suits and how desperate everyone at the party was to see the video. Music, the visual arts, dance, the power chord riffs of Eddie Van Halen as Michael Jackson walked through the mean streets of some Hollywood set with the unforgettable expression on his face telling the world that nothing was going to keep him down. Whenever I feel low, and have been pushed and kicked down to the gutters of life I always run to my copy of Thriller and put on what I think is his best song, Beat It, and the power it gives me, the inspiration and energy that transfers from his words, music and the images from that music video, they pick me up and give me the strength to face the world and fight it head one. Nothing else ever has or ever can give me that power. Simply put, and this sounds odd to anyone who cannot relate to it, music helped me get through life, much more than anything else.

Just as that other great piece of art, the TV Show The Wire, was my guide and trusty friend through the recent rough patches of my life, and just as I connected to the themes in the show and they gave me energy, inspiration and a new perspective on life, it is not an exaggeration to say that Michael Jackson was a major part of the soundtrack to my youth. The first time I heard Eddie Van Halen on guitar was in a Michael Jackson song. The first time I heard rapping was on a Michael Jackson song. He transcended genres and races. From gangster rap to Star Trek soundtracks, from heavy metal to Mussorgsky, no matter how diverse the music got, Michael Jackson was always there in the centre of my musical universe.

For me, Music has always been the most powerful of all the arts. In fact it has been the most powerful guiding force in my life. I am not into sports, religion, and tribalism. I do not feel a part of any one community or culture, and as I wander in that odd place in the world, lost between different cultures and groups of people, I found a connection to the world, that was so alienating most of the time, through music. This is the connection that all the diverse fans of Michael Jackson also felt and still feel, that brings them together, even though they may have nothing else in common with each other. The power his music has to bring people together and fill a void in their life is the same as the power of following a football club and going to a home match where you connect with people you may never have met had it not been for your shared love of football. It is religious.

The different emotions and journeys music invokes in my soul are hard to express in words but, corny as it is to say, I can clearly make out a soundtrack of my life, and the music that has helped me get through the tough times. Music, more than people, more than any other form of art, and certainly more than religion, has always been there for me. When I prayed to God for help and he did not answer my prayers, it was to music that I turned. Music gave me the answer. It gave me the strength that corrupt, greedy mullahs and priests with their dogmatic, contradictory, ancient words could not. As my fatigue related issues got worse over the last few years I found it harder and harder to get myself out of bed and to wake up, even with copious amounts of caffeine. The only thing that manages to get the burnt out neurones in my head to start travelling and pull me out of my zombie like waking slumber is music. I need the radio on my alarm clock to pull me out of the world of my dreams and the radio in the bathroom to keep me alert enough to brush my teeth. If I don’t take my radio with the music blaring out to the kitchen I will most probably end up with my head in a bowl of soya milk and Tesco Malt Wheats. Music keeps me going. Art, from paintings, to films to great buildings or poetry, gives me the stimulation to push on through even the hardest of days. It connects me to the reservoir of hidden energy locked deep inside me. It keeps me going.
My taste in music is broad, and always has been. I grew up listening to movie soundtracks and classical music to begin with. This stemmed from my love of films. Michael Jackson was the first pop star whose music I really got into and connected with. I did not worship him like many adoring fans do and I did not even like every song he produced, but the songs that did connect with me have left an indelible mark on my soul. As I type this blog entry on a warm, muggy, grey, empty summer’s day all that I can hear swirling within my head are a myriad of Michael Jackson songs. There are the tunes that were there for me when I found myself in a dark, empty corner of a room wanting nothing more than to escape the harsh, brutal world that is so unforgiving. There are the songs that got me off my barstool and onto the dance floor in a dark, smoke filled, neon lit night club I was too young to legally be allowed in. I cannot get his songs out of my head. I have no desire to.

The world had its own opinion of Michael Jackson the man, and of his music. What still astounds me, a day after his sudden death, is how his music and artistic contributions to the human story seem to transcend his eccentric, mysterious lifestyle. That is the final proof of the power of art. Whatever he was in real life, as a man separate to his music (if one can separate the 2) it is the power of his art, his showmanship, his imagination, his performances, his dancing, his voice, his use of visual imagery and his songs that are his true legacy. Whenever I need to be picked up, or look back in time to my youth growing up as a confused, lost British Asian boy in Kingston I will always hear Billie Jean, Beat It, Wanna Be Starting something, Give in To me, Smooth Criminal, Speed demon and even Leave Me Alone, as part of the soundtrack to my own life.

Everybody knew Michael Jackson and everyone knew one of his songs. I can remember my father singing Leave Me Alone, albeit in a slightly mocking tone, as a joke to me and my sister when as grumpy teenagers we just needed to lock ourselves away and sulk, as hormonally charged teenagers need to do. Why, of all the albums at the time, would my Dad bring home Bad, copied from a colleague at work? It is Michael Jackson the artist who lives on, at the very least in the depths of some part of my soul, there when I need solace or inspiration.

For the last 10 or more years Michael Jackson the artist was more absent than present. His artistic legacy comes from the decades before this one. Pop music has moved on and although he inspired and influenced a wide range of our modern day music stars he himself struggled to find his place in the present. I would have loved to see him play one last gig at the O2 and it is a crying shame that he did not live to do what I always thought he would do, produce that one, last final album to silence all the critics and naysayers. I really thought he had one last great album left in him. He would surprise us and shock us all by coming out with something new and inventive. We will never get that final album or the comeback that so many were waiting for so eagerly, but the legacy he leaves us is awe inspiring enough. How one man could produce so many visual and musical imprints in History is amazing.

I rarely get touched or that shocked by the death of a celebrity. All death is sad but all death is certain. The finality of death is always something hard for minds attuned to living and survival to understand. Yet Michael Jackson did leave an imprint on my soul and whatever he was as a man, it is not the mystery that concerns me, it is the artistic legacy that helped me get through difficult times, that was the soundtrack to better times and that enriched the moments of my life that make life worth living.

If for nothing else, Michael Jackson will always be remembered fondly by me as it was to a Michael Jackson Song, “Don’t Stop ‘Till You Get Enough” that we walked in the Norbiton and Dragon Pub on New Year’s Eve 2004. The image that still sticks in my head and brings a smile to my face is of Sohail breaking into his unique style of funky dancing, attempting to snake his way around the small pseudo dance floor of the Dragon imitating the Moonwalk. No other song, no other dance move, no other artist would have inspired such an uplifting and joyful moment. I had walked into the pub distressed and full of emptiness yet within seconds I was elated and energised. I always remember times like that night fondly and will never forget what they meant to me, and how it was the music that lifted us all up.

Wednesday, 24 June 2009

Jump into the pool of Escapism

Everyday my To do list gets longer. Today I most definitely need to shave, take advantage of the clear blue sky and sunny weather and go for a long walk (notwithstanding my post exertional malaise fatigue symptoms), and mow the lawn in our back garden.

As you can see from the photo taken this morning my back garden has turned into a mini jungle, like something out of the set from that awful Rick Moranis movie “Honey I Shrunk The Kids”. I am pretty sure that new life forms are evolving at an accelerated rate in the murky depths of the months old grass cuttings that should have been taken to the local dump months ago. The snail’s have certainly taken a fancy to what has become of the externalities of the last tie mi cut the grass.
However, because the only way I seem to be able to endure reality and daily life is to escape from it, to the worlds of books, movies, WW11 Documentaries, Twitter and creating ever more exotic Weight Watchers friendly meals, I have ended up creating another blog in wordpress rather than even contemplate starting any of the aforementioned tasks.

Here is the link to my new blog, where I explain why I love to Escape from my reality and immerse myself in the thoughts, stories and creations of other fellow web obsessed netizens.

I also noticed the sign on our shabby asbestos lined garage and thought it was very apt considering everything that has been swirling and brewing within my troubled psyche.

Tuesday, 23 June 2009

Blog Updates

I have updated my Escape to Books blog with a new post:

I have also updated the Blog I started months ago about my battle with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, but ironically I lost the energy to keep updating it. I got my second wind after my appointment with the Consultant Immunologist today and so will update my thoughts, stories and share any useful links I find on CFS.

I also made a very quick and easy low weight watchers point pasta dinner tonight which I photographed using my iPhone and will post the photos and recipes for tomorrow.

Saturday, 20 June 2009

7 Points Fish Finger Sandwich

Recipie for a 7 WeightWatchers Point Fish Finger Sandwich:

2 slices of Medium Sliced Wholemeal bread – 3 points
2 tsp Vitalite spread (Diary free for you fellow Lactose Intolerant people) – 1 point
Fresh Baby Spinach – 0 Points
3 Birds Eye Cod Fish Fingers – 3 points

Total No. Of Weight Watchers Points: 7 points

Thursday, 18 June 2009

Dilemma - Fat vs Fun

My typing is atrocious. I spend a larger percentage of my writing time editing all the spelling errors and cutting down my typing diarrhoea than actually composing my words of wisdom (or lack of wisdom). I wish they could invent a decent piece of voice recognition typing software so I could just rant into a microphone and let the computer do all the typing and editing. Creativity is my interest, not editing.
That aside, here is my current dilemma.

I should be doing my weekly Thursday afternoon household chores, which involve dusting, polishing and hooverign the entire house, which seems to become strewn with loose bits of toilet paper and tissues and layers of thick, grey dust as soon as i put the trusty Miele Vacuum cleaner away. Point of interest. Fluffy Dusters, either the fancy one by Pledge or the cheap imitation from Tesco (not as good as the Pledge one) are a godsend when it comes to dusting. They save time and make the prison like chore more bearable. Anyway instead of being the househusband I am blogging and twittering away my afternoon as I bathe in the cyber rays of my LCD PC monitor. That, however, is nto my dilemma.

My dilemma is that I have no money anymore, even less than yesterday, when I had no money, and I will have even less tomorrow. One way to save money is to end my subscription to the local Gym as part of a ruthless cost cutting exercise. I would have no problem for this were it not for the fact that I still need to lose more weight and then tone up my flabby 30 something body. The camera is still projecting me as a burly, tubby fat man, even after 3 months of Weight Watchers. I noticed this when editing the photos from my recent trip to the British Museum.

I hate the gym, OK maybe hate is too strong a word, but I certainly do not enjoy going there and it is only for lack of other more enjoyable ways to exercise or tone up that I even joined the gym. I prefer running on a treadmill listening to Keith Moon thundering on his drum kit in the middle of Who Are You, than playing any form of team sports (I don’t do sports), but I would rather save the monthly fee and spend my time walking in Kew Gardens admiring their Japanese landscape (see the picture below).

Gently strolling along the exotic flora of the Royal Botanic Gardens does not firm up your Pecs though. I either need to win the lottery and buy a Chest Press machine, which I have no objection to using on a daily basis, or invent some way of exercising whilst on the internet at the same time. You see I get very bored at the gym. I lack the motivation, and the time, to go regularly. I now lack the funds.
My dilemma is that if I cull my gym membership i may start noticing that the recently toned up muscles in my upper legs are turning back into layers of cellulite. That would not be good. When I do get a job, and in this market who knows when that will be, I won’t have any time or motivation for gym visits. Until then, however, I really should be using this time to get my body into shape. Yet until I get a job I can’t justify the monthly Gym Fee.
What am I to do?

I think I will just Twitter my problems away in an exercise of denial, distraction and avoiding the problem. I won’t even dare to look at the sorry state of my dumbbells.

Monday, 15 June 2009

Tips and tricks to help anyone on a Weight Watchers Plan, or anyone interested in losing weight – Part 1:

• Buy lots of Weight Watchers BBQ Flavour Savoury Snacks crisp packets and Weight Watchers Chocolate bars from the weekly meetings. They are very low in points compared to normal well known savoury and chocolate snacks and are much better to run to if you just can’t avoid giving into the need to snack. I have managed to cut down my snacking a lot since starting weight watchers and my tactic is to always visualise an apple, which has a points value of only 0.5, sitting next to a Snickers bar, which I love, but has a points value of 8. The apple will fill me up much more than the Snickers bar and it even looks bigger and more appetising. And this is coming from a chocolate fiend. Imagine how many apples you could eat for just one Snickers bar? It is not worth it. If you have had the apple and are still craving chocolate into the night then it is much better to reach for a 1.5 point value Weight Watchers Caramel Whip bar than a Snickers bar or Mars bar. It is more about getting into the habit. You may think you will only have the snickers bar once, but that becomes a habit and all the 8 point bars add up eventually. It is easier to break the habit altogether and just go for lower points value snacks. Even healthier than a Weight Watchers Chocolate bar is a cereal bar. I buy the Tesco Light Choices Maple Bars, they come in packs of 6 and each bar is only 1 point. They are great when out and about and the hunger pangs attack. Most of my hunger is psychological and based on snacking habits, so having fruit or cereal bars around really helps.

• Start looking into and buying the low fat healthy ranges from the main supermarkets. Tesco’s have their TESCO Light Choices range, with everything from sandwiches to ready meals, and they all have the Weight Watchers points already calculated and labelled on the packaging. So do the ready meals for the Marks and Spencer Count on Us Range and Sainsbury’s Be Good to Yourself range. They have been a life saver for me. Sainsbury’s have their Be Good To Yourself range. Marks and Spencer have their Count On Us Range. Even if you are in a hurry, as I was last Saturday at Waterloo station, it is worth finding a Count On Us or Tesco Light Choices sandwich or salad and when you work out the points, as I did using my nifty little Weight Watchers Points calculator, you will really be amazed. My Marks and Spencer Count on Us Chicken sandwich was 4 points, whereas the Chicken sandwiches form the normal range were all around 8/9 points.

Iran: ‘The result is very very hard to credit’

Iran: ‘The result is very very hard to credit’

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Sunday, 14 June 2009

Troubled Waters - Art, Poetry, Chronic Fatigue and Job Hunting

As the days roll on and the hours tick by I am more aware than ever before that I will soon be tipping my toes into the bubbling troubled waters that I have managed to elude for so many recent months. The signs on the way to the lake steaming with the unresolved demons of my perpetually trapped predicament are not good. The symptoms of what may be Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, symptoms that I displayed vigorously last October 2008 and were the final push over the edge of the boat of employment, have come back in a sudden pincer attack from the left flank. I did not see them coming. After what must have been 5 to 6 weeks of a never ending cold that turned out to be hay fever after all I have been left drained of all the energy and possibilities I had worked so hard to build up during these last few months since the last days of my wife’s Doctoral Thesis and Clinical psychological course. I had endured the hardship of living a series of lies and coating myself in a brocade of thin facades that differed according to whom I was lying to.

The lies were over and so was my wife’s course, which I had quit my job to help her complete, whilst she battled against the opposing forces of motherhood and academic/ career achievement. Yet the problems that lay calmly floating beneath our newly polished edifice have started to boil again and I am being psychically reminded, through impossibly difficult and unpredictable bouts of fatigue and unexplainable lethargy, that my problems have been left unresolved in the period between leaving my last unhappy, soul destroying, painful job and the new job that I must now devote all my precious time and little energy to finding. I have no choice anymore. No amount of career coaching and soul searching or arithmetic gymnastics on colourful spreadsheets can hide the one simple truth that I am trapped in. I need to bring home over £2200 after tax every month for us to no longer erode our final tranche of rapidly diminishing savings, which, when they have gone, will never be replaced. Once the buffer is blown and the dam breaks our pseudo independent lives and being able to live in the house we struggled so hard to make a home will be put in jeopardy. This is a real drama, not some moral mind game created within the depths of my imagination and its machinations, twisting the lives of my protagonist and the tortured souls trying to find themselves in a storm of self destructive passion that will not leave anyone untouched or let anyone escape. The storms of my reality have come to get me, and the psychical strength and energy I had come to take for granted in the last few months, the renewed sense of vigour that I felt was my reward for months of balance dieting, eating lots of fresh fruit, vegetables, spinach, not drinking beer, avoiding smoking cigarettes, going to the gym and walking whenever a tiny gap in space-time appeared, all that hope is lost once more, and all the efforts were in vain.

I can barely find the energy to type. I struggled to go to the British Museum to take my wife and daughter to see the Shah ‘Abbas exhibition which closes tomorrow. I was out of breath, could not focus or concentrate, and kept bumping into doors, walls and tables. In the end, by the time we came back home, a journey made even longer by my procrastinations at the Marks & Spencer food store in Waterloo station, where I calculated frenetically on my bulbous silver weight watcher points calculator the calorific values of a wide variety of overpriced yet highly tempting high quality sandwiches In the end I realised my daily allowance of calories was a slow as my daily allowance of financial possibilities and so I picked the lowest value sandwich in terms of calories and fat and the cheapest priced one that I could find, Suffice to say it tasted like cardboard wrapped in a recycled cardboard package that ensured me I may be on a diet but that does not mean I have to sacrifice tasty food. Packaging always lies to you. The sandwich was awful and I do not wish to count on them or the “Count on Us” range any time soon. Being poor and on a diet is not fun. It is downright depressing, and maybe that final push into my constant dark brooding depression, that is permeating every part of my waking and sleeping psyche, was what made me fall asleep on the sofa at 4.00 in the afternoon, as if I were an old man who had come back form year s of war. I am 30 years old and I eat spinach every day. How can someone so young and with such a healthy diet be so perpetually fatigued? I only woke up by 7.30 because I wanted to have dinner and not miss the Waldemar Januszczak documentary on BBC2 about Manet, “The Inventor of Modern Art”. I have just finished watching that programme and as ever it was fascinating and Mr. Januszczak and his enthusiastic, rapid walking style managed to punch away the globules of fatigue trying to coagulate around my eyes, and I stayed awake.

The programme inspired me to fight my fatigue and at least try and write something. I find it easier to blog than work on the novels as at least a blog post will get published, whereas the novel will probably lie buried in the dark recesses of my rotting mind as my brain becomes worm food when I finally depart this arduous and petty world. What depresses me even more, and many things have begun to depress me even more, is that many of my blog entries are still unpublished. I have not had the chance to finish them, edit them, or even post them.
They are just blog posts. Little rants I feel the need to type and then post onto the binary sheets of cyber space because I have too few people in reality that I can be honest and open with. My wife started a new job recently and as ever is always too busy and stressed herself to take any more of my rants. They are not irrational rants. At least they don’t seem irrational to me, even if I am losing focus and perspective day by day. They are based on real life problems. Like the inequitable distribution of wealth. That may seem like high minded economic theory that should be reserved for great minds like Marx, but it affects me on a very personal level and daily basis. I have done nothing but give up every dream I ever had and force myself to study for and endure years of mind numbing number crunching so that I can earn a decent living and someone may want to marry me, to help me get out of the wretched emotional hell hole that was my childhood home. I never believed that a girl would take me seriously unless I was a qualified professional. Certainly all my in-laws respect me far more because I am a charted management accountant, yet my wife assures me it made no difference to her. Whatever the truth it certainly does make a difference to her whether I can pay the mortgage or not and that is where my problems link in nicely with the problems of inequitable wealth distribution. I will explain further in another blog entry, to keep this one from becoming as long as War and Peace.

I am typing this blog post frenetically and I am sweating. It is as if I will never get the chance to blog again so must let out as much of what is going on inside me as soon as I can. I have been job hunting and there is nothing out there I want to do. That is not exactly true. There are many cool jobs and careers out there but I am not qualified for them or they pay too little to cover my mortgage. All the jobs I do not want to do, but will end up applying for, do not even pay the amount of money I need to break even every month. I eat Tesco Value bread for lunch every day and I can find no more ways to squeeze the budget. When I do start working it will drain me of my already depleted energy levels so much that I will have no desire to do anything after coming home but fall asleep on my bed and be fed intravenously with glucose liquids. I know this to be true because I have no energy already and I don’t even have a job.

I wonder what the protagonist in Dostoevsky’s “Notes From The Underground” will end up doing to himself, considering that his life is so meaningless and painfully lonely. He sees only stress and pain when he looks outward so he decides to find solace through introspection and cutting himself off from the rest of society. I have a wife and child so I do not have those luxuries. As if there is some higher being listening to my typing and reading these electronic words as I type them, my wife bursts into the room right now, at 8 minutes past midnight, and I can hear my daughter wailing in the background. I need to help my wife put away the baby food she has just been cooking, late on a Saturday night for our daughter. Oh what a glamorous life we lead. I look into my wife’s eyes and as she apologises for interrupting my creative flow I sense she is resentful towards me. She denies this. I am getting more paranoid as the days roll by.

I work hard for my wife. I may not have a job but I pass my less fatigued hours in the days doing all the chores she would otherwise feel compelled to do. When I go back to work who will hoover the house, or sweep away the thick, grey layers of dust densely coated over the rows of unread books we dream of reading yet will no doubt become nothing more than family air looms donated to my descendants, to whom I hope better fortunes are realised.

The future is not sunny. It is bleak, and like a character in a Dickens novel I am in a miserably depressing predicament. I need to find a job. I have no desire to go back to the soul destroying jobs I was doing before, and I am still not healthy enough to even search for one. I am also job hunting in the middle of the worst financial downturn since the great depression. I can only offer potential employers less energy and motivation than every other candidate I come against, and I have no desire to beat them and get those jobs. What am I to do?

I do find a certain degree of solace in the strangest of places. Celtic Poetry. Certain long forgotten and cast out parts of my soul were highly stimulated and brought to life by the episode of “My life in verse” that I watched yesterday night. It involved ex Catatonia singer Cerys Matthews travelling around Wales, Yorkshire, Ireland and Scotland, tracing the influences on Dylan Thomas, Ted Hughes and the likes of Yeats. For some strange inexplicable reason I felt connected to the last stand of Celtic England as the brooding Windswept Dark Stone columns of the Yorkshire Moors stood alone as testament to the power of nature and its cruelty, be it in the elements or man’s actions, against anything that stands in its way.
I am standing in the way of Natures reality and it is battering me with daily bouts of IBS and Chronic Fatigue. I will have to go back to work soon, and when I do all life will be sucked away from me. No More blogs, no more novels, and no more psychological journeys into the minds of all the flawed heroes I have created. All that will be left for me to do will be to smile artificially and thank the gods that at least my exploitation and lack of opportunity to pursue my dreams comes in a more comfortable form than it does for most people in the world, many of whom live in the conflict zones in the land of my father.

It is not much of a consolation as I start slipping into the boiling troubled waters pulling me into their wretched domain.

Relevant links:

The Distribution of Wealth:

Karl Marx:

Dylan Thomas:

Waldemar Januszczak (Amusing and engaging Art Critic and TV presenter):


British Museum:

IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome):

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome:


Friday, 12 June 2009

Notes from the Underground

Just a quick blog post.

I have about 11 blog entries that I am in the middle of editing and need to post up. They mention my success at achieving my first WeightWatchers goal, the journey from being a fat, overworked, mad man to a slimmer, jobless madman, my forays into the worlds of CBT, Career Coaching, personality testing, Botanical Gardens and Iranian History. However, I feel the need to post something, so I will publish my current troubled state of mind.

Last night I decided to read. I love reading and were it up to me, and nothing is ever up to me, all I would do is sleep, eat, read and watch TV documentaries and films. I would also go bowling. I felt particularly depressed yesterday when I woke up and realised i had only 6 hours and a slew of household chores and soul destroying tasks to complete in that time. Do I mow the thick, overgrown carpet of lawn that resembles the jungles of a Vietnam war movie and trim the hedges that look as if they are auditioning for a par tint he next Honey I Shrunk the souls of my audience Rick Moranis movie? Should I let the forces of nature win today and instead dust and polish then vacuum the upstairs rooms in our house because I can see balls of black hair like strands coagulating together and fusing to form a new virulent life-force that seems destined to multiply in degrees of millions and take over the house if I do not nip it in the bud? Do I actually try and present myself as a normal decent human being who may get a job one day and shave off this 4 day old stubble. It is definitely thicker now that I have started using a cheap Tesco 3 blade copy of the Gillette Mach 3 Turbo razor, whose blades I can no longer afford? Quality does, it seem, come at a price after all. Do I try and sort out the mess that are the notes and unfinished chapter summaries for my ever growing first novel in the making, and feel guilty that I should be doing household chores not writing? Do I blog? Do I pay the newspaper bill before the bailiffs come round? Do I go and help my ageing parents with something, even though they rarely appreciate any help I try to give them? Do I even attempt to take part my daughter’s baby toys and put them in the loft? I try this to begin with but fail at the first hurdle. There are some oval shaped sockets that I thing I am suppose dot pull out yet i end up pushing them in so make the task of dismantling her baby walker even harder, some may say impossible. I give up and consign myself to the fate that I better hoover the house before I actually develop eh dust allergy I seem to have avoided so far and because we have a 14 month old child who lives in this house and any decent person would try and keep it clean.

So I hoover the house and feel depressed that I should be reading and at least attempting to finish the book I started 4 weeks ago and is so short any half capable reader would have finished it 4 weeks ago. There is nothing worse than having an unread book hovering around your literary conscious.
When I finish that household chore, I remember there are many more to attend to. By the time I make my weight watchers friendly breakfast and lunch (not at the same time of course) and note down every little detail of what I am about to eat, add up the points and bore even myself to a zombie like state, the hours have passed and I no longer have the will to live. So at 10.00pm after sorting out dinner and fighting my way through even more mind numbing household chores that finally make me realise I hate being a househusband. All I want to do is read and write. I even started jotting down the notes for a new novel. That is the last thing I need. Another novel idea. I just need to focus on the first one. I have trouble staying focused. Which brings us neatly to the point fo this blog post.

I picked up my half read copy of “Notes from the Underground” by Fyodor Dostoevsky. I don’t have the time to explain why Dostoevsky is the one of the best Novelists of all time, in my humble and unnoticed opinion, as I have to pick up my daughter form my parents in less than half an hour, and I also have to shower or else I will be mistaken for a tramp (because I am smelly, jobless and slightly dishevelled.) Suffice to say Notes From the Underground has so far been a great read and the only problem with it is that I relate to the main protagonist far too much. In fact the first half of the book is just the thoughts and ideas of a man who even begins the story by saying, “I am a sick man, I’m a spiteful man, I’m an unattractive man.” Nice. I may not be spiteful and now that my face is no longer a bulbous perfect ball shape I no longer feel unattractive, but I am losing the plot and I am suffering from a range of physical and psychological ailments.

The psychologically and philosophically fascinating rants of this alienated, lonely man who has disconnected himself purposefully from society continue throughout the book. The second half of the novel, which is where I picked up last night, begins to explain how this ordinary man became so disengaged from the rest of society. He charts the events that made him realise how he relates to no one around him, and never did, and for all his supposed intellectual talents he ends up becoming an underpaid, lowly, insignificant little blot of the face of humanity. He contradicts himself within his thoughts and by his actions and we come to see that he is driven by the anger and bitterness swelling deep within him and his conception of himself as being a superfluous man, relating to no one around him. He feels this gives him a unique perspective on things, and that is the point at which I start to scare myself. I relate to this man on too many levels. I think I am becoming more like him day by day.

I don’t want to spoil the story, but the problem I have is that I am already in a fragile state of mind and this may not be the best book for me to read late into the early hours of the morning. The protagonist does indeed become more spiteful and wretched as the story develops, but I can only sympathise with him and relate to him on a level that is not healthy. All the dark conflicting demons swirling around the gassy vortex in my gut began to wake up and take notice of this new force of confusion entering into the turbid depths of my psyche. The monster within has been awoken and I am not ready to face him just yet. He, however, has other ideas.
Wikipedia entry on Notes From the Underground:

Sunday, 7 June 2009

Election Fever

Saw the new Start Trek movie today but will blog about that later.
I am currently running high on Election Fever. No, not some time travelling relapse of the exciting elections in the USA form last November but the European Election results. It is fascinating to have an election for such a diverse range of nations and peoples. The only problem is the pro big business and pro free trade Centre-Right parties are doing better than they did in the 2004 elections. Given that I am no fan of de-regulated big business and powerful banks, especially since they got us into the mess of this financial crisis, I am aghast at their success. We need more rights for the poorer and weaker elements in society not more power for the groups that caused this financial mess! The irony is almost painful.

Anyway on a more technological and sociological point of interest, the internet is making a big impact on how the results are being followed and reported. My friend at the BBC is switching between the BBC’s Have Your Say comments website to twitter updates and text messaging me on my I Phone. I can get instant updates on a variety of media hardware and software like never before. Never has so much information be so freely available! It is amazing, if somewhat overwhelming.
Having been immersed in D-Day documentary programmes recently I have even more wonderment at the marvels of modern technology because all the Allied troops had to communicate with each other were dodgy radios that broke down in the end anyway.
For a good D-Day documentary programme watch D-Day to Berlin, narrated by Sean Bean.

For instant updates on the Euro Election click below:

Friday, 5 June 2009

Barriers to Blogging

This post should begin with me sneezing.

I plan to put some pictures up on the blog to make it more colourful (not of me sneezing) but sounds may be more appropriate. The sounds of my perma-cold/ possible dust allergy/ actually diagnosed as hay fever symptons are battling with the sound of the voices in my head dictating the blog entries I am so desperately trying to get posted, but failing miserably to do so. I also have the melodic pop sounds of the new Florence and The Machine song vying for space in my throbbing head.

I am struggling to complete the blog entries I start as I keep getting interrupted. It is one thing to have to stop blogging half way to go and vote in the European elections, or go to a doctor’s appointment to find out why I couldn’t breathe last night and felt like I was being strangled. It is another when i get interrupted twice just trying to type this short mini blog entry! I am surrounded by too many people in my life who use my precious resources of time, thought and head space. I need to lock myself away. Like that Hermit guy doing a project for the University of Manchester. This is the Guardian article about him.

His name is Ansuman Biswas. He is an artist. I lock myself away for hours in a small room but no one calls me an artist. They call me unemployed.

Anyway I think he has a blog. I will find it and link to it below.

Hmm, well it seems I can’t find his blog. There are lots of blogs by other people blogging about the fact that he will be writing a blog whilst locked away from humanity. Not one of them has a link to his supposed blog though.

This is the official website for his endeavours though:

Anyway, back to my blog barrier. I keep getting interrupted. I have only a few hours until I travel to Central London and the bastion of great Imperial Majesty, the British Museum. I am going to see the Exhibition: Shah ‘Abbas, The Remaking of Iran. Shah ‘Abbas ruled Iran from 1587 to 1629 and was a major figure in the history of that nation and indeed world events.

I digress. The point is I need to get my anti-Hay fever inhaler, shower, have a low points WeightWatchers lunch, complete my Career Coach Career Change Programme exercises, and try and finish editing at least one of my blog entries. The one I am working on is too long. It is about avoidance versus reality. I run away from life a lot. Not physically, that would be very difficult to conceive. I mean psychologically. We all do it. Immersing ourselves in escapism, be it TV, Films, Art, Books, Fantasies or online role playing games. I seem to do it too much. Moderation in everything we do is the key to a balanced, happy life. That is what I was told growing up, by people who were anything but stable, happy and balanced.

My efforts to blog about the journey’s I have taken into the worlds of WeightWatchers, Culinary adventuring, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, Career Coaching, Novel writing, unemployment and fatherhood have been scuttled by constant interruptions, badly typed overlong prose that requires hours of editing, and my ever hectic lifestyle. And I don’t even have a job.

I need to bring down these barriers, before I lose the thoughts and concepts flittering to and from my impaired memory, and you get bored of a blog that never gets updated. I need to either download my thoughts using some fantastic geeky device dreamt up by Philip K Dick is one of his drug induced paranoid Sci Fi short stories or find another method, in addition to typed blogging.

I think I have found a short term solution. A bridge between my lack of time to blog as fast as I think and actually posting something that makes sense onto the binary super highway that is my new Zen Garden. I have discovered this great new I Phone application that lets you use the I Phone as a Dictaphone. Actually my genius friend discovered it. This is a link to his article on the top 10 I Phone apps at the time:

The app is called Quick Voice and I have been more successful in filling up my I Phone’s memory banks with blog words, albeit peppered with violent coughing and sneezing, than posting the entries I am still working on. These range from regaling the story of my trip to Book Slam last week, when Denny and I saw “The Wire” Creator David Simon read from his 2 books, and I fell of the Weightwatchers Wagon by gorging on a large, freshly made juicy classic beef burger with chunky oil encrusted chips that I smothered with creamy white mayonnaise at 11pm in a tiny Gourmet Burger Kitchen on Portobello Road, to my actually achieving something in my fragmented life by hitting the 10% Weight Loss Goal set for me by my Weight watchers Leader (yes Leader, and No Weight Watchers is not affront for some strange new Christian Cult).

Anyway the I Phone rules and I am committing all my surreal, morally conflicted, inner turmoil thoughts and stories to the memory banks of my I Phone, so if I should be taken from this world before my time to shine has come, find my I Phone and listen to what the Quick Voice app has to say.

It is not easy walking around with all these voices and multiple identities in crisis, especially when you can’t eat as many burgers as you want.
Anyway I better go off and complete my Skills Audit or else I will never find a job.

A question for you, however, before I depart.

Is it strange that I need a blog to make sense of my life?
Answers on a postcard please.

In the Shadows of the Dust

To blog or not to blog? That is the question.
What is the answer? To not blog.
I was in the middle of editing my 5th blog entry, one that I had already composed last week, and which is the 5th out of 13 blog entries that I have composed, only 4 of which, before this Short, micro entry, have been posted. So this is Blog entry 5a or 4b or something confusing. Whilst in the midst of a sudden spurt of creative flow I was rudely interrupted by heavy bouts of dust mite provoked sneezing, followed by endless trickles of runny nose syndrome, which have resulted in my using up 3 boxes of Kleenex anti viral super soft tissues. I have used so many tissues that even the most over priced super smooth tissue on the market hurts my nose when I blow it. This is no ordinary cold. This has been going on for weeks now. It is not a fever or a full blown virus. Bad as they are at least they go away after a few days. I had one of those over Easter weekend and it cost me a Poker game. No, this is much more sly and cleverly paced. In the shadow of the dust, this virus is working slowly and gradually, like Darth Siduous, that 2-Dimensional charcter in the terribly dry and arid Starwars prequels. It is coming at me from behind and tearing me down bit by bit, drop by drop. It is working, as I feel dreadful and am walking around with a perpetual drip form my nose. I could get more graphic in my descriptions but that would stop even the low numbers of people who read this blog from continuing to read it. So I won't.
Suffice to say I had to sort out this perpetual cold/ possible dust allergy problem before it stopped my blogging altogether. So I took up the mighty sword of Miele and went with my trusty vacuum cleaner to do Battle with the source of the Dust Mites sustenance, the dust itself.
The battle of the dust was long and hard, both sides holding their ground and refusing to capitulate at any cost. The battle soon turned into a war of attrition that both sides stubbornly entrenched themselves in. There seemed to be no end in sight, but the end did come for I am here to compose this blog and recall the tale of how I ventured into the dark, cavernous depths of my baking loft and sneezed my way through to dump all the useless dust gathering furniture and 3 year old magazines in the furthest corner of the loft. I then had to clear up all the swarm of my daughter's many toys scattered around the hallway, left in a path of attention less destruction as I battled not just against dust and toys but time itself. I need to get this done before my wife and daughter come back home, as my daughter is scared of the mighty Miele hoover and we also only have a small window of opportunity to go and vote for the European Parliament elections.
Anyway that window has come, as have my wife and bubbly daughter, so I have to go and vote to ensure the greedy capitalists and the fascist BNP do not get the power they do not deserve.

Wednesday, 3 June 2009

New Links

It says something about me that I need a blog to keep track of my thoughts and to arrange all the over energised thought neurones crashing into each other in my frazzled brain.

I have added a lot of new links to websites and blogs that I wish I could visit and read more often. I always lose track of a good blog or website and it seemed easier to set up My own blog to permanently paste all the links I seem to loose in one place, than to create a new website.

So in the coming months be prepared to see more links that give an insight into what I am interested in and why I end up filling my mind with so many diverse ideas and thoughts that i end up even more confused and conflicted than before. It is all great fun though, and very enlightening!

Have a scroll down the right hand side and see if you find anything interesting there.

Click away!