The Promised Land

I talk to the books I’m reading, or more specifically the characters in them.

If you put ten writers in a room and asked them what the key was to any story, you would probably get ten different answers.  I personally think there is no definitive answer to this question, there a great number of things that make a good story.  Whether it be a coherent narrative, likeable characters or any other of the dozens of things that make great stories when put together.

Any good story must be able to catch the writer’s imagination however, it must be able to make them laugh, cry or cringe.  We’ve all read books that have had this effect on us, we’ve cringed at a gory scene or laughed when our favourite character has done something only to then be driven to tears when they’re killed off in the next chapter.  We then sit there cursing the writer because they have cruelly murdered our favourite character, despite knowing that in a narrative sense it was the correct thing to do.

It never ceases to amaze me how the written word can fire our imagination in a way that no other medium can.  I personally think it’s because we feel a sense of ownership, we imprint our own idea of how things look onto these imaginary worlds and people.  How many of us have sat there decrying casting director’s choices of people to play certain roles in screen adaptations of stories; this guy right here for one.

This is not a bad thing.

Being passionate about fiction is a good thing, no, a great thing.  I talk to the characters like they’re real and that’s when I know a story has really got me.  If you need to remind yourself that it’s a work of fiction, well, you’ve reached the promised land of reading in my opinion.

Forgotten History

On November 6th 1865, a warship flying the flag of a foreign power sailed up the River Mersey and brought itself up alongside the British man-of-war, HMS Donegal.

Usually back in those days that was the sign that a great deal of violence and death was about to ensue as the two ships started attempting to pummel each other into submission.  But on this occasion, nothing of the kind occurred.  The ship was the CSS Shenandoah, a warship of the now defunct Confederate States of America and her captain had no greater intention than to surrender his ship to the British authorities.  It was the last act of a continent spanning civil war, fought thousands of miles away on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean, resulting in the deaths of over 620,000 American servicemen.

I’m not going to go into the strange quirk of fate that led to this nation defining war ending mid river of the River Mersey, that’s not the point of my post today.  The point of my post is this, until the other day I wasn’t aware of this.  Maybe everyone reading this knew the last combatants in the American Civil War surrendered ten miles upriver from where I live, but I didn’t.  It got me to wondering how many moments of historical significance have occurred right on our doorstep, things that have been forgotten to slow march of time.

So, keep an eye out when you’re out and about, who knows what little quirks of history you’ll spot.

People are awesome…

Well it’s done now.

I left my old job of eleven years on Friday, it did not go as planned.  I had always imagined my last day in that office to go something like this.  I was going to finish my last piece of work and then having managed to negotiate my last day I would leap out of the window, fireworks erupting all over the show as I cartwheeled off across the carpark to the train station and home.  I jest of course, but my last day was going to be something like that.

Not so.

I had asked my good friend Zog to not make a fuss on my last day, not to do a collection as is customary for someone leaving there so I could avoid a last-minute presentation as everyone gathered around to wish me farewell.  If truth be told, the nature of my job didn’t give me the impression that I would be popular enough to pull together much more than £5.  Despite that I suspected shenanigans, so I got in mind what I was going to say if it came to it, I’m manly enough to not get emotional I thought.

Zog had, as it quickly became apparent, pulled a fast one and collected some money together.  People started gathering around my desk, a fair few people it had to be said.  A short presentation from Zog later and it was my turn, I opened the card first, this was a mistake.  In the card, which was plastered with signatures from people wishing me well was a wedge of cash to the tune of £100.  It didn’t take long for my usual stoic façade to start to crumble, though it was nice it wasn’t the amount of money that got me, it was the gesture.

All I had to do was hold it together long enough to give a short speech and that was it, I failed.  To say I fluffed my lines would be an understatement, everything I had planned to say disappeared out of my head the moment I opened the card.  I mumbled a few words about much appreciated what they’d done and that sort of thing.  Frankly, I couldn’t tell you exactly what I said, my focus was to get through it without breaking my cool manly exterior.  I don’t think I succeeded on that front, based on how much my hands were shaking and how little I remembered I can say with certainty I didn’t in fact.

What’s the point of this blog post, if truth be told I’m not sure it has any deeper meaning.  I just thought it was a tremendous act of kindness from my former work colleagues that should be mentioned.  They are a tremendous bunch of people and I will always cherish my time with them.

In short, I love you guys, you’re awesome and your immense generosity never ceases to amaze me.  Stay awesome my friends.

The Arts: All Things To All People

The arts.

I think their importance to people’s lives is often underestimated.  They have the power to inspire, to give people the opportunity to escape or appreciate something beautiful.  For people such as myself who aren’t blessed with an overabundance of money, the arts provide an opportunity to see things and places that we may not otherwise see.  To bear witness to events that have long since passed from living memory, to see great and wondrous things that have long since crumbled to dust.

They allow us to order our thoughts and document our own lives, as well as the lives of others.  They allow us to see into the minds of great figures from history, to see how they viewed themselves compared to how their contemporaries viewed them.  They allow us to delve into the collective psyche of nations, to see how they developed and to follow their eventual decline.  They allow us to see the better side of humanity, whether it be music, literature, or any of the other methods of human expression, the importance of the arts cannot be overstated.

Having said all of that, it also allows us to see the ugly side of humanity.  For as long as the arts have existed, they have been used to inspire people to some of the most heinous acts imaginable.  People have used them to espouse hateful political ideologies, leading to some of the worst atrocities in human history.  They have been used to craft policies leading to the oppression and suffering of entire groups of people, for no greater reason than the colour of their skin, their religious and/or political beliefs, their gender or any number of arbitrary reasons of little, to no relevance in judging the worth of a person.

We can be unbelievable shits to each other sometimes, when inspired by a picture, a film, or a piece of music we can react in some of the worst ways imaginable to one another.  But we can also be beautiful, I have been privileged in my life to have witnessed some of the most touching acts of kindness from people in situations little better than the person they are helping.

People have tremendous capacity.  Whatever we choose to create and whatever effect it has, I’d rather have a world of boundless creative possibilities than the alternative.

My mind has been racing with thoughts such as these lately, so expect more such musings.  In the meantime, stay classy world!

A change is as good as a rest…

Life has a funny habit of springing surprises on you.

I think back ten months to last June and I remember how settled everything felt.  I was working in the same place I’d been working in for eleven years, working on the same job I’d been working on for eight years and working with the same group of people I’d been working with for six years.  There didn’t seem to be anything new on the horizon, everything seemed like it would remain the same for another year.  Indeed, despite my January resolution to be in a better situation at the end of the year than I was at the start, I looked on course to be worse off if anything.

From my viewpoint, everything seemed to start going tits-up* around the end of June.  My friend Chris, who had been my wingman for the better part of five years, announced he had gotten promotion and was going to be moving to a new office.  Now, being a man I did not do anything so unmanly as shed a tear, but when he eventually departed it did feel like my left arm** had been cut off.  Another of my colleagues left around the same time, a further colleague with whom I had worked for the last eight years retired at the end of December and now, this Friday another of my close friends is going to be departing for fairer shores.  Finally, to round it all off my team got moved to a new section, they’re all really nice people up there, but I was sorry to leave behind my old section as we were made to feel unbelievably welcome there.

Now you’re probably thinking something along the lines of how that’s a lot of change for one year.***  Well yes it is, but I’m not done.  As anyone who has been reading this humble blog will know I applied for a new job recently, well I got the new job.  So, finally it’s my time to move to something new and that was essentially what caused me to write this post.

It’s a bit of a corny and overused cliché oftentimes, but for me this is the end of an era.  Not all my friends have gone from my current team and I will be sorry to leave those behind who are still there.  When you work with the same group of people for so long you get used to their foibles, come to appreciate the peculiarities**** of your workmates.  I spent upwards of eight hours a day with some of these fine people and it is going to be hard to leave them, that’s going to be one of the biggest challenges I’ve ever faced in there.

Change, it’s never easy, but it’s not always bad either.  For me this has come at the right time in my life, I have so many things I want to do and for that I need to be closer to home, as well as have more money available to me.  This accomplishes both of those things.

All I need to do now is make it through the next few weeks without breaking my cool manly exterior.

*Gone wrong.
**I’m left handed, my right arm would have been easier to lose, metaphorically speaking of course.
***You’re probably not actually thinking that, but for the purposes of my blog you are, so shut up and think it!
****They are incredibly peculiar sometimes.  Not like me, I’m perfectly normal.

I’m at a loose end…

Having recently come into ownership of a brand spanking (nearly) new Playstation 4 and a copy of Uncharted: The Nathan Drake Collection, I found myself playing it over the weekend, now three games later and I’m done.

What’s your point, Tom?

Well it’s funny you should ask, I’m at something of a loss.  I don’t know about the rest of your but when I finish something, games, books, series boxed sets or series of movies I always find myself adrift.  Having spent so much time and effort into something I find myself unable to settle on anything, now it’s true that part of my problem here is that I’m currently awaiting the arrival of Uncharted 4 and so don’t see the point in locking myself into anything long term until I have played it to death.  But nevertheless, my feelings would be the same had I nothing new on the horizon, it’s like when I finish a story of any variety I find myself entering a period of mourning for the characters that I can no longer experience.

I have to fight the feeling to go back and play the game again, or fight the urge to watch the film again or whatever.  I don’t always succeed and sometimes end up running through the whole game or series again, or perhaps maybe just my favourite bits.  Which is fine to a point, but one must move on eventually.

I usually manage however, until I finish the next thing and I’m right back where I started…familiarity is a bitch.

My Time to Shine

It’s my time to shine.

Over the festive period and into the new year I had something of an epiphany, a moment of realisation that I hold in my hands everything I need to progress this year.  To push on, achieve things and make some progress towards the things I want in life.  I just need to be focused and not get carried away, set myself realistic goals that are achievable with hard work.

My list of goals (in no particular order) is as follows:

  • Redecorate and renew my flat.
  • Get my second book finished and published before the end of the year.
  • Hone my writing so that I’m better at the end of the year than at the start.
  • Be financially better off and the end of the year than I was at the start.

The first one is the most realistic and is the one that is most in my power to achieve.  Myself and my brother have been living in this flat for ten years this October.  Whilst we have done our best to keep everything looking fine and dandy around here, there’s no hiding the fact that the place is starting to look somewhat shabby.  Money has been an issue for some time now, there just hasn’t been enough to do anything but maintain our living space and I think this has contributed to a general malaise.  Our financial situation is better now than it has been in a long time and we’re now able to do something about this, or at least start doing something anyway.

As for my second book, well if truth be told it’s finished, it just needs editing and frankly that’s on me.  I have not been using my time most effectively and I need to get better at that, this carries the same in terms of getting better with my writing.  I need to make sure I split my time effectively between my books, my blog and my short stories as well as factoring all the other things in that I need (and want) to do.

Finally, the money situation, well that’s in hand.  I’m making efforts on several fronts to make my financial situation better and enable me to achieve my long-term goal, to own my own home.

Like I said, these are all things that are in my power to achieve.  I need to be focused, I need to be determined and I need to be hard working.  No more later, no more putting things off and kicking them into the long grass.  If something needs doing, then I need to do it now rather than later.

It’s my time to shine, prepare to be dazzled folks!

 

This was a daily prompt response.

Busy, busy, busy!

I never seem to have the time for things these days.  I promised myself that I was going to get back to blogging straight after the festive period and hit the ground running, it hasn’t really worked out like that.  Well not in the way I imagined anyway.

I’m not having a bad time or anything.  Do you ever have a time where for a sustained period of time your really busy and by extension of that really tired?  But it’s a good sort of tiredness if you know what I mean, it’s a ‘I’m getting shit done‘ sort of tiredness.  Whilst I would prefer to be relaxed and full of energy, feeling like I’m making things happen, really is giving me a warm and fuzzy feeling inside.  Last year was at times a fairly static year for me, so the feeling I might be making progress is a great feeling to have.

I can’t pinpoint when it was, but things just seemed to start happening all at once.  It was like I’d made a checklist and things were being crossed off it.

  • Look into buying a new couch and chairs for the living room.  Check!
  • Look into buying the things required to paint and decorate the living room.  Check!
  • Look in buying new lamps and light fixtures for the living room.  Check!
  • Look into putting shelves up to store our vast array of curios.  Check!

Everything identified and costed, all we need to do now is get it all ordered and set to arrive in the right order…what could possibly go wrong?

It’s amazing the difference a week can have.  Before Christmas I was worrying about how we were going to afford all the stuff we needed in preparation, we managed of course.  Now here I sit, a week later and I have a real sense of optimism for the year.  Did I have that last year, kind of, but not exactly like this.  So I’m going to ride the wave and carry on ‘getting shit done‘.

Oh, I wrote a blog post entirely by accident.  Woo hoo!

Happy New Year!

I know, I’ve been very quiet this last week.  Well I’ve been enjoying (a little too much some might argue) the whole of the festive period and found little time for writing amongst my revelries.  I shall be getting back to some semblance of normalcy in my posting schedule from next week.

I shall take this opportunity to wish you all a very Happy New Year, it is my sincere hope that you enjoy a most prosperous 2017.