Monday, 8 October 2012

Podcasting

Hello.
It's been a while since I last posted, and I apologise for that.  My motivation recently hasn't been aimed toward writing (even though I have a story to write, poetry to compose, a blog to keep updating).  If I haven't been working I've been at home doing other things (like learning to play "Hard Time Killin' Floor Blues" by Skip James - twatting hard that).

Anyway.  One of the things I have been doing is thinking about 'pod casting'.  I wonder whether it's something I could do, if I'd enjoy it, and if people would watch it.
"What would you talk about?", I hear absolutely no one asking... well I think it would be along the lines of my more 'ranty' blogs.  I picture me, in front of my web cam, talking about something that I would normally put in a blog while recording myself, then posting it up online.

Those that know me know I loathe being seen in either video or pictures, so doing this would kind of go against that.  It's easy to write words on a screen and swear and shout (metaphorically) because there is a feeling of anonymity whilst sat in front of a keyboard.  But actually putting my face and voice to something, that's different.  Even though there wouldn't be a 'live' presence (although I do have the ability and the software to be able to do that) people would see it as actually 'me', rather than  just words on their screen.

I think my first couple of postings would be watched by quite a few people from my Facebook friends list - more out of curiosity to see how I look now rather than the content.  But beyond that, would interest be there?  I have no idea.

Maybe I'll have a go at it one night this week and see what I think of the results.  At the moment I can do that, and post it to the same place I store some of the songs I've covered so it would be easily accessible.  I don't know.  As I said, I've been thinking about it, so we'll see what happens.

Currently reading: "The Official Zombie Handbook : The Ministry Of Zombies (UK)" by Sean T. Page (and really hoping for a Zombie uprising).
Currently listening to: Bloodhound gang for the laughs, Seasick Steve for good slide guitar blues.
Currently eating: 60% cocoa dark chocolate with cherries.

Peace.

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

And so it begins

Following on from my previous post, last night I started writing my 'epic'. (Ha!)
It's a proper, novel-length story and I have a fairly clear idea of where it's going to go.  I think the idea is an original one as well, which I'm really happy about.
In my mind, I can see the story unfolding gracefully, like a film, and I realized last night the difficult part is going to be getting it all down in words.  Writing is hard!
I got in from work yesterday, grabbed a drink from the fridge and sat in front of my laptop.  "Right", I thought, "I'll spend a little while making a start, formatting the document etc." and then I looked at the clock and an hour and forty five minutes had passed!
I have made good progress on the first chapter, and even in the short space of time I spent on it I learned a few interesting things:

  • Writing in Wordpad is rubbish.  I need to get MS Office or something.
  • Proof reading / editing is important, but interrupts the flow of writing.
  • Deciding on, and sticking to, tense is hard. (i.e. telling the story as it happens, has happened, will happen etc.).
  • Writing is hard!

One of the main things I'm going to struggle with is keeping my motivation.  It's going to be a long hard slog, but I have to remain focused on what I want to achieve.  Those that know me know I flitter between obsession and complete lack of interest like a poncy butterfly, but this is something that will really suffer if I don't stay focused.  I spoke to my writer friend a little while ago and we agreed that taking on a project like this becomes like a second job.  Working on it half an hour here and there will never get it done.  I will need to properly invest time in it, in chunks of a few hours or more.  And I can't lie, that fills me with a low level dread...
Still.  If I give it my best, and I realize it's not going to come out as I want it, at least I've tried.
I won't be posting a lot of the work online for review / comments - I think that will be counterproductive.  But, I may post excerpts from it as I go, if I'm particularly proud of a scene or piece of the story.
Anyway, thanks for reading and I'll keep this blog up to date with how I'm doing.
Peace.

Monday, 24 September 2012

Now we see if I can really do this

Those of you who are regular readers will know I have embarked on a new journey, or project, of writing fiction. So far it's been a (very) short story and some poetry. (What's that? You want a link to the site? Oh ok then... Click me! Click me!). The feedback I've had has been positive and frankly I feel sometimes that I don't deserve the kind words I've received. However, the reason behind the whole thing is because I really would like to write a novel. I know a lot of people in the past have said something like that and believe me I know my limitations, but I just feel that my passion for reading good writing and captivating language will give me enough impetus to be able to produce something interesting.

So far the problem has been thinking of something that will a) keep my interest b) be interesting for other people to read and c) be something I can actually complete. The poetry has been an interesting diversion and I will try and keep that up but I have at last hit upon an idea that I think might have legs.

When I write, what triggers the whole stream of fiction for me is a clear image. Something like a scene, a person, a location that sits in my minds eye so clearly that I see it more often than I should during waking hours. I now have this as a start of a 'proper' story. I won't give anything away just yet, but one thing I can definitely say is that I've decided to NOT publish chapter by chapter as I go. I don't think, for a novel-length story, that format will work. What I think I will be doing is publishing the odd excerpt on my fiction blog, scenes I enjoyed writing or that I think will spark interest.
I hope those of you who have shown interest in my writing so far will stay tuned and visit my fiction blog. The most important thing, if you do that, is to leave comments. I won't learn if I don't get any feedback, good or bad. So do that for me, and you'll be wonderful, sexy, intelligent people. Well, more so than you all are already.

In other news: I just watched "Girl With The Dragon Tattoo". I've read the book which I enjoyed and now I've seen the film I'd definitely recommend it.
I'm currently reading "Blackout" by Mira Grant (the third book in the "Newsflesh" trilogy) and mostly eating duck l'orange pâté.

Peace.

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

First story complete

Hello.
So on my new 'fiction only' blog Experimental Fiction I have finished my first short story.
It's only about 3700 words long, three chapters each split into two parts, but I think it takes you from beginning to end in a way that isn't too hurried.  I can't say where I got the idea from (as I don't really know!), just that the images I had in my mind were very clear, and I tried my best to present them in a way that would let the reader spend a little time in this world of my imagination.
I spoke to my writer friend (I love saying that) and said to her that I wished I could see into peoples minds while they read the story, and see if the pictures that are being played on their internal screen are the same as the ones I saw - or how different they were.
So where next?  Well, I do want to continue writing, and I do have a few ideas that I'm toying with.  I don't know if the format I used (releasing each chapter when complete) will work for a longer story but I think I'll give it a go.  I have really valued the feedback I've received, especially from Jules Lucton (her website can be found here).

If you've not taken the time to go read my story yet, please do.  I should only take a few minutes of your time, and I would really love to know what you think of it, good or bad.  Is there something you would have done differently?  Would you have changed anything in the narrative? Any and all comments will be read and responded to.

In other news : not much.  Work and fatherhood are all that's happening right now.  No new music recently, and nothing on TV has excited me.  The only vaguely interesting thing is I'm toying with 12 bar blues on my guitar at the moment.  But you won't really care about that will you?

Anyway - without wanting to sound like I'm begging(!) please take a look at my short story on the link above, and let me know what you think.

Peace.


Thursday, 6 September 2012

Experimental Fiction

I've decided on what I want to do with my efforts on writing fiction.

I've started a new blog - Experimental Fiction - which will be a place solely for me to write and post fiction.
I've already put up the first chapter of a short story I've got in my mind, so please take a few minutes to go read it and let me know your thoughts.  I will be honest (that's what blogs are all about, right?) and say that I don't know how long this 'experiment' will last.  I may lose interest in it by this time next week, or I may get so hooked into it that my health suffers, I lose my job and I become a recluse who only interacts with the world via his keyboard and blog.

The types of things I will put up there will be short stories, ideas for chapters from a possibly larger piece of work, maybe even some poetry.  (Yes, OK, I know that sounds a bit weird coming from me... poetry?  wtf?  but I like the idea of writing something short but meaningful and I'd like to give it a go).
If there is anyone out there who has ever fancied having a go at something like this, and would like me to post up their efforts, get in touch and I'll be happy to post your work.  I can't say it'll get a massive audience, but I do have some very good friends who give good feedback and who knows, maybe in a few months I'll have a global audience in the thousands??  (hahahahahahahahaha!)

So when I post new work on my fiction site, I'll do the usual of alerting Facebook & Twitter.  There is a 'Follow' link on the blog so if you want to you can get email updates when I post new stuff.
No more fiction will appear on this site, it will go back to being about me moaning and complaining about the world and the people in it.

Of course you may not give a toss about all this and you've just wasted 2 minutes of your life that you'll never get back by reading.  If so, apologies.

Peace.

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

End of the experiment

I want to thank all of you who read, and commented, on my last three posts.  It was a personal experiment to see if I could actually write something that people wanted to read.  The feedback I received was very inspirational and it was very gratifying to me that I could write something that captured peoples imagination.

Unfortunately, I won't be writing any more about Janine and her late night visitor - partly because I'm not sure what will happen next and partly because I want to start thinking about the reason for this experiment.

Those who know me well enough know I am an avid reader.  I devour books at a stupid rate and I get an obscene amount of pleasure sitting with a cup of tea early in the morning and losing myself in a good book.  I have always been attracted to a good story, and I think I have quite a good way with words and language.  These things, coupled with the inspiration I have got from a writer friend of mine, have led me to think about writing my own fiction.  At the moment, I'm not sure what form this will take.  These are the questions I'm asking myself at the moment:
Do I actually have any ideas worth exploring, and are they original enough to be interesting?
Do I write a short story or two first, or do I jump straight in tackle a large piece of work?
Do I write something that is to be published, (as per Jules Lucton's book, which you can find out about here)
or do I write something in chapters on a blog?

I mention the last point because I really did enjoy getting instant feedback on what I'd written but I don't know if this format would work.

As tempting as it is to just start writing something and see what comes out of my imagination, I know this is a bad way to do things.  Not that I am an expert, but I think without a solid idea and a clear story path, the whole project would just fizzle out and come to nothing.
A writer asks something of his audience - that they invest something far more precious than mere money in the project they undertake.  He asks them to invest their time.  Do I have the imagination, and the ability to interpret those images, in a way that will make people want to spend some of their precious time in the world of my own making?  I don't know.  But judging by the feedback I received for my last little effort I think I may have enough to give it a go.

So - for those of you who are interested, I'll keep you up to date with what I decide.  At the moment, I'm leaning toward the short story route first, probably issued on a new blog so I can garner some instant feedback and comments.  But I'll let you all know what happens.

Thank you again all those who read and commented on my very first little effort.  And as always...

Peace.

Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Part trois

Click here for Some Fiction (part one)
Click here for Part Deux

                                                --------------------------------------------------
There were not many places that Janine felt she could completely relax, but behind her locked front door and entry phone she could finally shed the weight of the day and breathe deeply.  Her adopted cat, Fitz, would not go so far as to greet her with any great enthusiasm but he deigned to look up as she closed the front door and let out a sigh.
"And a good evening to you too,cat" she said, hanging her jacket on the coat hook by the door.
She really had surprised herself in the amount of pleasure she'd had tonight, but now that it was over she needed to focus on getting ready for another busy day tomorrow.  Preparation would consist of a long, hot soak, a last glass of wine and a catch up on emails that she would have missed between leaving the office and getting home.
Although Luke's arctic blue eyes had seemed to have taken residence in her mind, she decided that maybe she wouldn't be calling him as soon as she thought she might when she said goodbye.  He was a nice man, and although the 'dark and mysterious' type wasn't normally the sort she'd go for, there was something quite enigmatic and attractive about him.  However, she'd already taken a risk in agreeing to a drink with a complete stranger and to push that any further might be asking for trouble.

As the bath was running, she poured herself a glass of wine from the fridge and scanned her email inbox for anything that might need attention before tomorrows staffers meeting.  The usual nonsense about non-disclosure agreements being contested (which happened a surprising amount of times, more than the general public knew), missing deadlines and the latest corporate guidelines on what constitutes a 'good' story.  In short, nothing worth sitting down and responding to right now.  Janine went through to the bathroom, carrying her glass, and called to Fitz,
"Stay out of trouble cat, I don't want to have to get out of the bath for at least half an hour".

As she undressed in her bathroom, Luke's voice played out in her mind - the dark, almost syrupy, sound of a man who would never have to raise his voice to command a room.  The slightest chill scurried down her back and caused her skin to tighten as she remembered his cologne... something woody, yet spicy.  She had a good idea that her dreams that night would be more 'adult themed' than usual.
The water slowly closed over her as she lowered herself, wincing slightly, into the hot soapy water.  The moan she let out was almost climatic in its intensity and she settled herself back with the water closing up to just below her chin.
"If there's anything better than this after travelling on the underground, I don't know what it is" she thought to herself.
The heat, combined with the earlier alcohol, made her feel light headed for a moment and she thought she heard her entry phone buzz.  She stopped moving and held her breath, thinking "no, no, no not my phone, I really don't want to have to answer the door". Ten seconds... twenty seconds...
And yes, there it was, the strident angry bee like buzz of the entry phone by her front door.
"Shit!" she exclaimed.  With a sigh, she lifted herself out of the bath, grabbed her robe, and opened the bathroom door emerging from the steam like a magicians assistant from a cloud of dry ice.  She tied the robe around her and snatched up the handset from the entry phone.
"Hello?" she snapped, thinking that although that might come across as a bit rude, she was in the bath, dammit!
There was no response.
"Yes, hello, who is it?" she demanded again.
Still no response.
"Hello?!" she said again, slightly louder this time.
As she was listening she heard the main entrance entry phone buzz, and after a few seconds the main front door open and then slam closed.
"Wrong bloody house, you tit" Janine thought to herself.
She replaces the handset and turns back toward the bathroom.  As she starts toward it, and her cocoon of hot water and soap, she hears movement just outside her own front door.  Like someone dragging some cloth along the wall.  She stops, and tilts her head like an inquisitive dog.  Her brow pulls down into a frown as she waits to see if there is any other sounds forthcoming.

Suddenly, there is a large bang as something is thrust against the front door.  The door itself seems to jump in it's hinges and the letter box opens and shuts with a sharp clap.
Janine lets out a scream - she can't help it.  She doesn't think of herself as a girlie, lady-in-distress type but that noise scared her.  Another thump hits the front door, this time making Fitz the cat jump up from his perch on the back of the sofa and hurtle toward the bedroom.
"Who's there?" Janine demands loudly.  If it's the same someone who just mistook her flat number downstairs, she's going to be mightily pissed off.  But the next thing she hears sends a lightening bolt of ice and fear shooting down her spine.  Her letterbox is eased up and a voice, still dark and thick but no longer pleasant - more like hot tar than chocolate - speaks to her.

"I told you I'd see you again soon".

Friday, 24 August 2012

Part deux

The evening passed in a blur of butterflies in the stomach, blushing cheeks and slightly sweaty palms.
Janine felt as though she were in some kind of film with Luke as her co-star.
After taking the plunge and agreeing to jump off the tube with him to stop somewhere for a drink, Janine felt as though she had spent a couple of hours being the complete center of Luke's universe.  All he wanted to do was talk about her.  Did she have any brothers or sisters?  Where were her parents?  Did she enjoy her job?  What were her hopes, dreams, aspirations?  Against her will almost, she was flattered into a state of quiet arousal and preening self-promotion.  She wasn't always at ease talking about herself or her life, she was very much a private person especially with someone she hardly knew.  But Luke seemed to have a way of asking questions and looking at her that made her want to open up and almost boast about herself.
The only slightly strange thing was that whenever she tried to ask questions about him, or his life, he seemed to be able to answer without giving anything in detail away, and would artfully steer the conversation back to her.
Not that she minded.  When she was talking to him, his eyes would track hers as though magnetized and she had the impression he was drinking in her every word, to be analyzed and remembered fondly later. This was the reason her heart would keep skipping and her stomach would feel like it was made of water.  The heat that was slowly rising from between her hips was not unwelcome either.
When the time came, she found it hard to have to suggest she leave as she needed to get the last train home. Much to her surprise she could have kept talking for a lot longer, but she was wary of the fact that she didn't really know this man and the amount of wine she had consumed was more than she had realized.

"Listen Luke, I have had a really nice time, but I must get back to the station so I can get home" she said.

"Of course, I'm sorry, I didn't realize how late it had got.  I have to get the tube myself, so I'll walk you to the station" he replied.

"Oh, great, thanks" she said, as she gathered her jacket and handbag and headed toward the door.

As they walked toward the tube station entrance, Janine felt more comfortable than she probably should have done, and she put that down to a combination of the effect of the cold night-time air on her alcohol doused brain, and the proximity of Luke's body as he walked by her side.  It felt as though he was a buffer against which she could lean as the exertions of the day and the lateness of the hour began to have a tiring effect.  She didn't quite feel ready for any kind of physical contact, but she knew she would reflect on these feelings later at home and they would give her a warm glow that would follow her into sleep.

They arrived at the platform and their luck was in as the next train was two minutes away.  Luke pulled a piece of paper from his inner pocket.

"Here, here's my email address and mobile number.  I won't ask for yours, that way there's no pressure for you to call me" he said with a smile.

"OK, great, thanks!" Janine replied.  She then thought to herself that that was a nice way of doing things... no pressure on her, but it shows she could be interested by taking the contact information.  She had a feeling she would be at least emailing in the next day or two though.

"I had a really nice evening Luke, thank you" said Janine, "it's such a shame the night has to end right now".

As the train pulled into the station, with the usual cacophony of rushing air and screeching brakes, Janine could have sworn Luke replied "It's not going to, I'll be seeing you soon".

"I'm sorry, what?" said Janine, raising her voice above the noise.

"I said, I think so too, I hope I see you soon" shouted Luke.

The train doors opened and Janine stepped aboard, turning in the door to wave goodbye.

"Thanks again Luke, I'm sure we'll speak soon" she said with a smile.

She turned, and went and found a seat.  She sat with her back to the platform and smiled to herself, thinking that for a spur of the moment decision, the evening had panned out very well.

As the doors closed, she didn't think to look over her shoulder and see if he was standing and watching.  So she didn't see Luke suddenly sprint to the end of the train, and dive into the last set of doors.

The night hadn't come to an end just yet.

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Some fiction

Janine felt tired.  She often did on her journey home, but then working as a journalist in London wasn't an easy job.  It was demanding, all consuming and left little time for personal pursuits or meaningful relationships.  She had friends of course, a couple of close ones that she went to school and university with and a few Facebook friends but deep down she knew she was missing out on something important when her only affection came from the cat she had 'inherited' when she moved into her basement flat just off Ladbroke Grove.
She'd just completed another eleven hour day and was looking forward to nothing more than a long hot soak and some car-crash TV (the new series of Celebrity Big Brother had started the night before).  Not really nourishment for the soul, but it would enable her to switch off and prepare her exhausted mind for the next working day.
She wasn't really concentrating on the paper she was reading, just trying to avoid smelling the funny odor that was emanating from the Underground train she was travelling in, when she started to get the feeling of being watched.  Not unusual on the evening train home, but this felt...different.  Without wanting to draw attention to herself, she let her eyes wander around the carriage.  And there, opposite and two seats down, was the source of these feelings.  A dark haired man, mid-30's with a nicely cut suit and impressive looking shoes.  She caught him looking and although normally in this situation the man would look away quickly, embarrassed to be spotted staring, this man simply let his lips gently stretch into a half smile while maintaining eye contact.  Janine was the one to look away.  She was too tired, and being gawped at by people on the tube like this was just creepy.

"I don't bite you know" he said.

Janine heard the words but at first didn't register that they were meant for her.  The voice was quite deep, like she'd imagine dark chocolate to sound if she could hear it speak.  She looked up in mild surprise and said "I'm sorry, what?".
"I said I don't bite" he replied, with another slight smile.
Janine uttered a nervous little laugh and looked back down at her paper.  "What was this blokes problem?" she thought to herself.
"I'm Luke" he said.
"Blimey, he's not giving up is he?" thought Janine and looked back up at him.  She noticed his eyes this time. Something about the way the tube lighting shone on his face made them look like pools of ice water that had just had something thrown into them... shimmering slightly and alive with energy.

"I've seen you get this train a lot, and I thought it about time I worked up the courage to speak to you.  And now I have, it seems churlish not to ask you if you'd like to have a drink with me?" said Luke.
Janine was quite stunned - was he really being this bold?  Did he really expect her to say "Yes I'd love to!" to some stranger on the tube home?  But then something strange happened... she realized that she wasn't instantly turned off by the idea.  The voice, the eyes, and there was something quite sexy about the confidence he exuded.
"Is that right?  Well you're awfully brave just coming out with it like that.  But I don't know who you are and isn't that a bit dangerous for a woman on her own?" she replied with, what she hoped, was calm superiority and slight aloofness.
"Well as I said, I don't bite.  And I wouldn't have asked if I didn't think you were quite breath taking".
This made Janine blush.  "Breath taking?" she thought,  "Is he for real?"  But despite herself, she felt her heartbeat quicken and her stomach flutter.  Was she really going to say yes?  Was she really going to take a risk and see if that missing piece was sat opposite her right now, smiling like he knew how she would look in her underwear?

Agencies

I've very recently gone through the whole 'applying for a new job' process again.  There is nothing wrong with my current role, in fact I'd quite happily stay here for a while with no problems.  But what happened was that a 'recruitment consultant' (agent) approached me about a new possibility he was looking to fill, and in a skill search my CV was the only one that came up that matched what he was looking for within 40 miles of Manchester.  I took that as a good sign - I mean, surely that means I will be in demand, right?

I made it clear, from the first phone call, that I was not looking to move on and was happy enough where I was.  However as an I.T professional (yes, I am, don't argue) it's always a good idea to keep an open mind when a new opportunity presents itself.  So this agent convinced me it was worth at least having a conversation with the company who were looking to recruit and to see how I felt about the role and how they felt about me.  This was last week.

Well the call obviously went well, as I was invited in for a face to face with the I.T Manager and a couple of the developers I'd be working with.  This was yesterday.  This morning I received some feedback from the agent about what the company thought of me... I will quote some of it here (I shit you not, this is copied and pasted from the emails I received)...

"I spoke to [I.T Manager] on my way home yesterday evening. His feedback was positive, and [Lead Developer] and [Developer] also gave a positive recommendation after having met you.

All felt that you came across well, and that you demonstrated the confidence to be able to make a strong contribution and look after this project that they have planned. [I.T Manager] also commented that he felt he got on with you well, and could see you fitting in but also getting on well with the existing team. All in all, a very favourable review – they are quite fussy by the way "

I replied that this didn't seem as 'gushing' as I thought considering the impression I got during the interview, and so he then said...

"They tend not to go OTT on feedback, but for them to have no concerns, is almost unheard of. They normally have some reservation about people they interview, whether big, or very small, but with you there were none. So that’s a first for me and a big well done for you I’d say.

When I mentioned they would be likely to pursue, [I.T Manager] actually suggested job offer, but I didn’t want to state that in case it doesn’t work out and then you feel like you have been lead along.

So for them to have already come to that conclusion, an hour after having met you for the first time, is something to be proud of!"

I've changed the names of individuals to job titles, but apart from that, that's what I received today.  Sounds good doesn't it?  Very positive, and with the impression they are willing to offer me a job.  Awesome.

However, over email the agent and I then discussed what MY package expectations were.  Salary, holidays etc.  When I told him what I would need to be offered to consider leaving (again, reminding him that I am happy here and it would really need to be the right offer for me to consider it) he... how can I put it.  He seemed to throw his toys out of the pram a little.  It seems that it's been forgotten that I did not categorically say I wanted to leave and would take what ever they offered.  The next three or four emails I received from him were one sentence responses.  He's obviously not happy!

And now, that's made ME feel bad.  How's that happened?? I almost feel obliged to take an offer (if one is forthcoming) just to keep him happy and not annoy or upset him.  That's not right is it?  I know that if they don't offer me an attractive enough package, I will feel very guilty about saying no.  And no matter that people will say "Oh don't worry, it's the agents job" etc. I will still feel as though I have led him on or something even though I have maintained throughout this I am NOT guaranteed to accept any offer that may come my way.

Why can't I be more ruthless?  I am in the lucky position that I don't need to move on from my current role, so why can't I stop feeling like the agent is doing ME a favor by sorting this out for me, and if I say no to him why will I feel as though I've let him down?  Am I weird?

Comments to the usual address (the comments box below).

Oh and by the way - I've turned ON the word verification thing again.  I know it annoys you but as soon as I turn it off I get hit with spam comments so it's back on again I'm afraid.  Don't let that deter you from leaving comments.

Peace.

Wednesday, 8 August 2012

This is beginning to annoy me

Well, when I say 'this' I mean, 'I' - I'm beginning to annoy me.
I think I may have touched on this in the past, but after chatting with, and listening to the music of, someone I follow on Twitter (@nickyphillips) it's again brought it home to me.
It can be summed up in one sentence.  I wish I could perform on my guitar in front of an audience.

As some of you probably know, I play guitar.  Not brilliantly - I mean, I'm no Eric Claption or Slash, but I play well enough for my own ears and can often be found strumming to myself of an evening.  (OK, stop  giggling now).  It's only been fairly recently that I have got up the courage to sing out loud rather than in my head, and quite often if I'm alone now I can be heard belting out those songs that match my 'vocal range' (ooh, 'ark at me...).
I have sung in front of friends, but this is usually after a couple of glasses of vino when I'm more relaxed.  There have been a couple of disastrous occasions when I've had a little too much wine and sounded, quite frankly, shite - but on the whole it's been OK.
Now your friends are your friends for a reason and so I really don't think that if they thought I sounded awful they would say so.  They are too kind and wonderful and generous for that.  But I do receive positive feedback and it makes me more and more keen to want to try my ability in front of strangers.
First of all, busking is out. I don't like the idea of that.  I would want a 'captive' audience (God I'm evil), not a paying audience obviously, just some people who are there to listen to music and might appreciate my noise.
There are open mic nights - I think there is one in a pub right near me - but that kind of sends a shiver up my spine.  Playing to a group of people who could be pissed?  That could be a little scary.  Although, I suppose, if the vibe was right, it might be good.

Take a visit to @nickyphillps website.  There are two songs on there.  One on the home screen ("Chemical Reaction") and one under the Media link ("Sweet Rose").  This is actually a video and I watched it and thought "Yes - that's the sort of thing I could maybe do".  Go on, go have a look.  I'll wait...
See?  Good isn't it (and I think she's very talented by the way).
And this brings up another issue - I don't play my own songs.  I tried writing my own stuff some time ago that was honestly crap (well, some of the guitar playing was OK, but the lyrics... ouch).  Would people want to hear cover versions?  I play some stuff that people know (and are probably bored of) and some that they might not, and they sound OK.  I would imagine, however, that you'd be judged against the original and I would obviously be found wanting.

So I don't know quite where I'm going with this post - I would welcome your comments.  I know I want to do this, and I know I would probably absolutely love it after the event (if it went well, obviously), but I'm so annoyed at myself because I can't take that final plunge and do it.  I am very jealous of people like @nickyphillips who do have that inner confidence to be able to put themselves out there.  I've never had that.

Finally - this is NOT a plea for lots of "Oh but you're so wonderfully gifted Simon" comments.  I would honestly welcome peoples thoughts on this - have you performed in the way @nickyphillips does?  Do you know someone who does?  Have you wanted to do it and not had the confidence?  Send them all to the usual address (the comments box at the bottom).

Peace.

Update:  Here's a link to a folder on the ol' internet with some songs I did in it.  Have a listen, if you like.
My Music

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

What I learned on my first bike ride to work

So to fight the ever-increasing size of my waistline and to try and recapture some semblance of fitness I have decided to start riding my bike to work.  This morning was the first time I tried it and I thought I'd share some of the things I discovered.
First of all some facts:  The journey (according to Google maps) is 5.7 miles long and should take 33 mins.  I decided that rather try and find my way down back roads I'd stick to the A6.  It's not a big dual carriageway type road like the A40 in West London but it is still quite a busy road.  I left at 6.50am (about the time I'd leave if I were driving to the station to get the early train) and pulled up at the underground car park where I will store my bike at 7.13am.
Now some things I 'enjoyed' on the way.

  • Getting your body into gear before 7.00am is hard, especially at my age.  An early morning session of bedroom gymnastics?  Yes please.  An early morning session of physical exercise?  Ouch.
  • Maintaining speed is important.  Slowing down or stopping means you have to work hard to get going again. This is a problem when approaching sharp bends, traffic lights or pedestrians.
  • Pot holes, whilst in your car, are a minor inconvenience and may make you spill a little of your low-fat crapaccino latte.  Pot holes whilst on a bike make you flop around like an epileptic with a cattle prod up your arse and can throw you into the path of buses.
  • Speaking of buses.  They are bastards.
  • Roundabouts, especially multiple-entry dual lane ones, are scary places on a bike.  The best tactic I found was to check all entrances as you approach, (maintaining your speed as per above), scream loudly, point at your exit, and shut your eyes and hope for the best.
  • Levenshulme stinks.  (Rubbish, piss and industrial chemicals I think) which you don't get an appreciation of when sat in a car.
  • I didn't know one head could hold so much sweat.
  • Getting washed in a gents toilet makes you feel slightly grubby and weird.

Despite all of the above, I really did enjoy it.  As the days go by, I will get fitter (hopefully) and so the pain and discomfort should lessen.  I should also get into routine of what clothes to wear, whether or not an iPod is a good thing to use etc.  The only downside is now I'm here I have to work!  We'll see how the journey home is this afternoon.  It'll be busier, probably warmer, but at least I have a shower to leap fall into when I get home.  I guess I should also invest in one of those space-age looking cycle helmets.  I could wear my old motorbike crash hat, but that would make me look like a mental person.
I'll update tonight when / if I get home...

Peace.

Update: some more things I learned on my 25 minute ride home:
Buses really ARE bastards.
Taking the last exit on a busy, two lane roundabout is fucking terrifying.
There are more up hills coming home than going to work.
Catching my reflection in a shop window I discovered I look faintly ridiculous on a bike - hopefully this will improve as I lose weight.

As long as the weather is good again tomorrow I'll be doing the whole thing again.
Have a nice evening all.

Friday, 6 July 2012

Personal space

An interesting day today. Spending the weekend with my gf in Cleveleys which is a nice part of the world, but it's quite a mecca for those coffin dodgers who have given up the ghost and are just waiting for the grim reaper to make an appearance.
There are pluses and minuses to this. One plus is unless a group of them get whacked out on triple strength cough syrup and endless cups of tea it's quite quiet in the evenings. A minus is that they are fuckin' everywhere and insist on being in my way and invading my personal space.
A prime example today. I was in a well known supermarket purchasing some items to make my lovely gf something for tea. Behind me appeared Mr. and Mrs. Wrinkle. They were married I assume and were one of those couples that greeting card companies make a big deal out of, putting their image on the front of some tacky bit of cardboard with "True love lasts" or some such bullshit. Believe you me they would change their mind if they could have got a whiff of the interesting scent that the old fella was giving off.
Anyway, I'm a live and let live kind of bloke so didn't pay too much attention. Until the old fella decided that, rather than wait for me to finish bagging my items and pay the till monkey, he would occupy the exact same space as me. Honestly, if my jeans hadn't been as tight to my arse cheeks I think he could have taken the cherry I didn't ever want to lose. So me being the polite person I am, rather than elbow his ribs to breadcrumbs or push him over, I politely asked if he could move back so I could pay the till jockey. Did he move? Did he fuck. So I stretched past him, handed over my cash, and started bagging the goods.
This gave the geriatric old fart the opportunity he was waiting for and he shuffled even further forward. And I'm not kidding - my gf hasn't even been this close and intimate with me. As I was placing my stuff in a bag he was more or less standing in my own pair of shoes. Was I dead? Was I a ghost and didn't know and he really couldn't see me? I decided to test this hypothesis with a restrained yet growling "Are you in a rush old son?"
He didn't even look at me.
Shit. I am dead. This is my version of hell. Trapped forever in shopping-with-old-people purgatory. I stumbled from the shop back outside to where my lovely gf was waiting and her smile reaffirmed that in fact I wasn't dead, just visiting a town full of crumblies. Thank Christ.
Have a nice weekend all. Peace.



Thursday, 5 July 2012

Time for a rant

It's been a while since I posted a proper rant.  But I've just come back from the gents in this shared, serviced offices I now work in and I had to sound off about something.  Two somethings in fact.

Sharing a communal kitchen
A lot of us, at some point in our lives (work or personal) will have shared a kitchen.  Either with flat mates, partners, work colleagues, parents.  Now I'm going to disregard the partner / parent situation because unless you are very unlucky these people love you as much as you love them and are kind, considerate and pay attention to making your life as easy as you try and make theirs.
I will also (for now) ignore the flat mate situation.  I may return to this subject at a later date.  For now, I'm going to focus on the work colleague one.  I am not tarring everyone with the same brush here - I am sure all you people reading this are considerate, thoughtful, clean, tidy and otherwise proficient in cleaning up after yourselves and leaving things as you'd like to find them kitchen-wise.  I am going to talk about those ignorant, lazy, selfish, diseased bell ends who constantly regard the shared kitchen as their own personal space to fuck up with spilled liquids, rubbish, empty food packets and dirty cutlery.  I've lost count of the number of times I have gone to make a brew in the kitchen here at my current place of work, only to find spilled milk on the counter, or dirty cutlery scattered around the sink / jar of hot, washing up liquid'd water rather than IN the fucking thing.  Finished with that pot noodle?  Put the pot in the bin.  Finished with the milk?  Put it back in the fridge.  Seriously - are you that busy and rushed for time and important in your own little mind that you can't spare the  3 seconds (yes, 3 seconds - I timed it) to put the milk away?  The spoon in the dirty spoon jar?  And when making a coffee, try this.  Put the sugar in FIRST, then put the coffee in.  That means, no coffee in the sugar bowl for those of us that don't want coffee in their tea.  I dread to think what these peoples home kitchen must be like - or is it really only in a work place that these people feel the need to become uncouth, dirty, lazy fucktards?  Which brings me onto...

Male toilet habits
This is what triggered this particular rant.  And please forgive me if this makes you gag a little.
I can no longer speak of the habits of women when it comes to using public conveniences - not since the court case and subsequent adding of my name to some register.  But let me tell you, men are fucking disgusting.  The office I work in now has a gents toilet on this floor with no urinals, just three cubicles. And I swear, to some men, I think this is seen as a challenge to see who can make the most disgusting, fucked up mess in one cubicle in one day.  Luckily I've yet to see a dirty protest type situation, but just now I needed to visit one of these havens of pestilence and filth to ... let's say, 'drop a deuce'.  I entered one of the cubicles, looked down, and found that someone had considerately pissed all around the floor of the toilet, on the seat and on the cistern at the back.  Lovely.  So I went to the next cubicle (the third being occupied) and found another ring of piss colored puddles surrounding the toilet.  Think about that for a second.  If I wanted to 'evacuate my bowels' (to paraphrase Dr. Sheldon Cooper) I would have to lower my trousers and underwear into someone else's piss.  Fuck that noise.  Why are we, as a gender, so unable to steady, aim, fire at a target that's no more than a few inches away and wide enough for even the most overly-optimistically misjudged penile length? And OK, sometimes the initial spurt maybe a bit wild and inaccurate but please, for the love of all that's pure and decent, have the common courtesy to wipe up your own mess.

I guess both the points above come back to one thing - thought for others.  If we could all just spend a second, whilst doing anything around other people, to think about how our actions would affect those other people, the world would be a better place.  Yes, I know, trite and simplistic and probably wishful thinking but it's so true.  And maybe it would stop me having to wipe up other peoples piss.

Peace.

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Male PMS

I had to think for a little while about posting this, but in the end I decided that even if one person agrees with me or feels the same, it would validate my own feelings.  (Not that I need my own feelings 'validated', but you get the point I hope...).

I'd like to know if any other males go through an emotional cycle on a monthly(ish) basis. Yes, I know, some of my more low brow friends and acquaintances will now be shouting "gay!" at me, and wondering if I'm going through a trans-gender procedure but I can hold my hand up and honestly say I think I do go through this.
There has been some research into this - for example in 1929 a researcher carefully followed the moods of 17 men and it showed that they did go through an 'emotional cycle' every 4 - 6 weeks - however, I can only speak of my own experiences, and maybe see if anyone else out there feels the same.

I can't pinpoint the exact start and end dates of these feelings, but I do know that periodically I start feeling quite low, sad, fed up, bored. There is no cause, it doesn't happen because of any particular event, and quite often there isn't a lot I can do about it until the feeling passes.  Sometimes it lasts a day or two, sometimes nearly a week.  These feelings in themselves shouldn't be destructive in any way, but for me they bring on periods of self reflection and I tend to focus on the negative things in my life - which combined with the previously mentioned feelings make me feel even worse.  The logical part of my brain knows that I am very lucky in some ways (health, home, son, loving partner, family & friends etc.) but during this period of maudlin introspection I can't see the value in these things and tend to think too long on the negative - failed marriage, weight issues, money problems, isolation.
I lose interest in social media, I find that I want to cut myself off from people, and nothing seems to keep my interest (reading, TV etc.).
The company of my son, the support of my partner, the communication with my friends & family can help alleviate some of the depression but at the end of the day all I can do is ride it out.

I realize I could be opening myself up to some ridicule with this post - but you know what?  I've been bothered by these feelings for too long and I thought it time I see if I'm not alone.

So I throw the question open to anyone who still reads this blog.  Men - do you get these feelings?  If so, are you confident enough to be able to post in the comments about them?  Women - do you know / live with any men who seem to get 'moody' for no discernible reason?

As always - peace.

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

It's like making love

My attitude toward blogging, that is.
No, not sweaty, panicky and with mixed results.
I mean I'm hoping to start off slow (the odd post here and there over the next few weeks) build up momentum (a few more posts, more often) and then approach a massive messy climax (a post every couple of days).
I do miss writing things for my reader to read but my motivation and inspiration are like my hair - very sparse and fading fast.   What triggered another bout of desire to write something was just a harmless tweet from someone I follow (https://twitter.com/#!/cjade82).  We've had a couple of conversations via another mutual twitter acquaintance (https://twitter.com/#!/NotBanksy01) and she just happened to tell me she'd been "reading and enjoying my blog".
"So why don't I post more?" I thought.  There's nothing stopping me, when I haven't got no.1 son with me I have bog all else to do in the evenings... so why not get going again?

We can expect posts on subjects such as:
 - My attitude toward social media
 - How am I coping after my divorce (that should be a riot, that one!)
 - Fatherhood
 - Why I still can't abide the general, unwashed, ignorant, masses
 - My alternating mental state
 - Questions and subjects to spark debate and thinking among my loyal followers follower.

So stay tuned, if you're still around thank you for you patience, and please feel free to share this with others.

Peace.

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Try something new for 30 days

I was sent this link at work:

If you ignore the over the top U.S enthusiasm (as much as we love our U.S cousins, those of us that are British prefer something a little more 'reserved') the idea of trying something new for 30 days is actually a good one. I recommend you watch the video first (it's OK, it's SFW and is only a couple of minutes long) and then have a think about if it's something you could do.

I've decided that starting tomorrow, I will attempt the 'take one photo a day' one. This should be easy as I always have my (new!) phone on me, and the camera is frankly awesome. If I can stick at that, who knows what other challenges I could do?

Thoughts / comments to the usual address....

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Quality not quantity

Ok, so straight away I'm contradicting myself from yesterday. I've decided that I WON'T be posting every day (apart from yesterday and today, obviously). I think the problem I had before was that I would attempt to post something every day - even when I didn't really have anything to say. This led to an overload on my blog and me boring the pants off those of you that have been reading for a while. My better posts were those that were published with something to say or a point to make or a good ol' fashioned rant, and that doesn't necessarily happen every day. This decision will hopefully take the pressure off me a bit and make for a better blog. So this post is to explain that to you all. I will be trying to strike a good balance between nothing posted for ages and posting every day. I hope you can bear with me and will appreciate the quality over the quantity.

Aythankyou.

Peace.



Monday, 12 March 2012

New job, new start

Previously on iSimon...

Our hero started a job working from home, thinking it would lead to bigger and brighter things. Unfortunately, this was not the case and after also losing someone very special to him (not in that sense - they just moved away) he entered into a period of depression, misery and darkness, the only saving grace (apart from the periods spent with friends and family) being his no. 1 son. The job turned out to be a career mistake and our hero looked doomed. But faint heart never won fair lady and so after a few interviews and some serious talking to by his inner self, we find him embarking on a new career, with a surprising but none the less pleasant return of a former favourite...

That's a very flowery way of saying I'm back. I have a new job, and decided that I would try one more time to enrich the lives of those who read this blog. It will be the usual combination of observations, moans, confessions and nonsense. I hope that those of you who are still around will keep reading, (and thank you for your patience) and to those new readers... Welcome. I will make every attempt to update daily, so stay tuned.

Coming up - the joys of commuting into London, the new people I'm working with, and how much weight have I really lost?