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Monday, 22 April 2013

Chapter 11 - A story about #leggewed and a question about time

It’s been a packed week that has included returning to the cinema for the first time in two months (incidentally that’s not a good enough record for a supposed film buff), a fabulous wedding, seeing OAP’s dance to Gangnam style, attending an amazing gig by one of my favourite bands, being part of loads of cool church stuff, taking a massive step towards completing the album, starting work on what (I think) could well be a great new track, writing loads of football articles (and realising that I’m not very good at predicting football scores) and “looking after” /  dealing with the wife whilst she projectile vomited pink chicken from a Chinese takeaway. As I said – it’s been a packed week (and on reflection – I should probably have written that as bullet points) But I’ll also probably go into more detail on all / most of those things in more detail at a later date.
But it’s been a week that has actually left me asking quite a major question. So taking a step away from the normal you asking me things (It’ll return next week – and yes I will finish the answer to the question I half answered last week) I would like to ask you a question. Hopefully in the comments section, or on the Facebook page or on the twitter you can all answer my question – or at least provide me with some advice……
The question I want to ask is actually really simple (but I’ll explain it properly):
“How do you find the time to do everything that you want to do”?
Now – before you all start getting smart and start suggesting things like disciplined time management schemes or recommending (probably a bit hypocritically) that I take less on in the first place – I’m not asking this question because of a problem I’m having. Well actually that’s a lie – because I do have a bit of a problem…but it’s (thankfully) a very nice problem to have. I’m rambling so I’ll now explain…basically when I’m at home on my own – I enjoy doing so much stuff and so many different things that I can’t find enough time to do everything that I want to do. I’ll give you some examples – and then hopefully you can start helping me out……

The first thing on my (in no particular order) list is writing. I love writing and find it really rewarding - and some of the opportunities that I’ve been given in the last 6 months have been amazing – but I don’t want writing to become a chore – something that I feel that I have to do. I don’t want to force myself to write – I want to write when it feels natural (hence these chapters arriving at irregular intervals). Writing constantly about football can be a challenge – but I’ve been really encouraged by a couple of the editors that I’ve been working for in that they like the way I write – and they are fond of my sarcasm tinged football articles (which more regularly than not mock my own football club – and Stoke. I can’t stand Stoke!) But writing has (in a very short space of time) become a massive part of my life. And for those that you have asked recently – yes I would love to write a novel – I’ve even started a couple in the past. But as with so many other things - my resolution 11 syndrome kicked in (See chapter 1) and I just kind of stopped. I think I’ve got a lot of stories to tell though – so hopefully one day. But it might end up being as a comic or graphic novel (or as a pop up book!)

I mentioned comics and graphic novels before so I’ll carry on by saying that these are the 2nd thing on my list. And before anyone starts saying that “comics are for children” – let me just say that no – they aren’t (but some obviously are). A fantastic example of this is Maus by Art Spiegelman – the only graphic novel to ever win a Pulitzer Prize (and an amazing present from my sister). However they are quite geeky and the stereotype of people (Big Bang Theory) that you would associate with reading them is worryingly accurate. In complete honesty though – I find it much easier to concentrate on reading a graphic novel than I do on reading a normal book. Sarcasm aside – the pictures do help! I often go through stages of reading graphic novels though- it just so
happens that I’m going though one at the moment – something that also coincides with the discovery of an iPad app called “Comixology”. I have lost track of the number of comics I have read in the last week or so – but I’ve also discovered some great ones that I would never have found without the app. It’s fair to say though that the amount of time I spend on an individual trip to the toilet has doubled. How long is justifiable to spend on a single trip to the toilet if a curry / chilli / beans combo hasn’t been consumed?

The next thing on my list is games. I love my Playstation and more than anything else I think – playing it helps me just to switch off and relax. I’m well behaved with it (ish) – in the fact that I won’t play on it if Wifey is around – but my Playstation is the thing that distracts me from doing stuff that I’m actually meant to be doing – or distracts me from other stuff that I could be doing. Interestingly – because I’m playing a part in the games – they hold my attention. A prime example of this is that I’ve recently rediscovered the Mass Effect trilogy and have found myself wanting to save the universe again (whilst causing some chaos along the way). I’ve already lost track of the amount of time that I’ve
spent shooting aliens – but I’m having loads of fun doing it. They do say however that you can’t really burn calories whilst being sat on the sofa. So I’ve had a think about this and have decided to invest in one of these. My legs are always moving and fidgeting anyway – so I thought this would be a good way to use up my energy and to do some good for my body in the process. If that works – then the master plan must surely be to place an exercise bike in front of the TV and to ride it whilst playing Playstation (has anyone got one that I can borrow?)…..I’m sure that there is an invention in that idea somewhere…….
Next up on the list is something very simple. TV. Now just so you are aware of what I mean by this – I don’t just mean putting on the TV and watching anything for hours….I mean falling in love with a number of shows and the characters in them and then watching how the stories develop. Finding a new show that you love is an amazing feeling – and whilst a number of my favourites have just finished (or are close to) finishing their seasons – new shows are coming along to replace them – shows like Defiance. TV is an amazingly powerful medium of storytelling and I love it – but when you discover that a show you love has been cancelled
you quickly become a bit heartbroken knowing that you will no longer see characters that you love (or are intrigued by) any more on the tellybox. Something that is almost as frustrating as a show being cancelled is when channels show episodes out of order. I’m a bit of a continuity nut – so this really winds me up. Cass and I have recently started watching something called “Ashley Banjo’s secret street crew” which I can’t recommend enough. The premise is simple – Ashley Banjo (the chap from Diversity) takes random people and in 3 weeks teaches them to dance. As I said – the premise is simple – but it is also completely inspiring as it takes people that have (more often than not) been hurt (not physically) in the past and gives them confidence in themselves. In times when there are so many negative and depressing stories being shown on the tellybox – it’s great that a network have had the guts to make a show like this for prime-time viewing – a show that has the ability to make you smile. The problem with TV is that too much time with it distorts your view of the world (and I don’t mean that you will start to think that a vampire is about to turn up). When watching the news – you could be completely forgiven for thinking that the world is close to falling apart and that everything is completely depressing. The news distorts the truth and manages to blot out an awful lot of the positive stuff that is happening. So if you start getting depressed watching TV – please change the channel – the world isn’t all bad – I promise.
Oh – and you might well ask about me watching films at home – but the truth is that the only place I find myself being able to watch a film is at the cinema (unless I REALLY want to watch it). Attention span strikes again. TV is much easier as the episodes are shorter….
On another note – I watched Oblivion at the cinema this week (to summarise – great story, poor acting) and I realised that Tom Cruise looks suspiciously like a Thunderbird puppet? Has anyone else ever thought this?

I thought I’d take a jump now to the two things that I wish I spent more time doing. The first one is music. Now I’ve mentioned this before – but I love listening to – and playing / writing music. It’s not that I don’t have the time to do it – as we have already discovered - I really do. It’s just that the sad truth is that a lot of the time I can’t be bothered. I should practice more, I should take the time to learn more new songs, I should learn to “just write” (What I mean by this is that some people can just kind of flick a writing switch – I don’t have that switch. I need to be inspired). Now you might think that after the events of Chapter 9 I wouldn’t need any inspiration – and you would be making a completely fair point. But the sad truth is that whilst I have ideas overflowing about what I could write about (I’ve already got a load of lyrics) – I can’t bring myself to write the soundtrack to that particular chapter just yet. As it happens (and as I mentioned earlier) I have started writing a new song (and I really like it so far) but theme wise it’s completely different (and probably a distraction) from what I should be building to write about. But still – I don’t spend enough time with music as I should do.
The other thing that I wish I spent more time doing is learning about and hanging out with God. For some of you – that could well sound nuts and like a really odd thing to say. So I’ll try and describe it a bit better.  Obviously I have faith – but the more time I spend learning about God and reading the Bible – the more I understand. The more I let the words sink in the more I grasp. Think of it like a relationship. The more time you spend with someone – the more you understand about them – and then the better your relationship becomes. I’ve been getting much better at this over the last 6 months or so - but I want to spend more time like this.

This is a bit different to the other things though…because I can easily start doing this – but I find it really hard to not be distracted along the way. Distraction that quickly turns to rage if the sound that just happens to stop me doing this (or in fact anything else) turns out to be the lorry that comes around with “annnyyyyyyy ollldddddd irrrroooooonnnnnnnnnn” playing out on full blast. The thing I don’t understand is that they are on my estate almost every day driving around for hours on end - when surely it would make more sense (and they would have more success) to try and cover a bit more ground (and annoy other people) over the course of a week. I’m thinking they didn’t take business (or common sense) studies. Anyway…

So as I said before – this isn’t a bad problem to have. I’m really lucky that there is so much that interests me and that keeps me entertained. But I’m still really interested to know your thoughts? How do you find the time to do everything that you want to do? Do you have any crazy suggestions on how I could perhaps combine a few things and do more than one thing at once? Does an “any old iron” repellent spray exist? Or could I create one? Am I the only one who has problems like these? Am I simply in my own little world?

I’ll share some of your answers (and new questions) next week - but please get involved as I’d really like to know what you think! Meanwhile – I’m going to sign off this chapter with a new music recommendation – so check out Lucy Rose. I’ll leave you with a picture that Howson sent me (that really made me chuckle) and a video of #leggewed. Normal service resumes next week - oh and if anyone wants to book me and Padley to do some covers at an event of your choosing...let me know. Have a good one.

God Bless


Friday, 12 April 2013

Chapter 10 - A story about family, spoilers and sandwich fillings

So here we are again. Before I start telling you what I’ve been up to, answering questions, chatting about resolutions and ranting about things – can I just say thank you from Cass and I to everyone that has been in touch since Chapter 9 with messages of encouragement and support. It’s been a really hard time but we’ve been amazed by some of the things that you have written for us - and some of the things that you have said have brought us close to tears. Thank you all so much.
It also creates a small issue in terms of a follow-up chapter. Chapter 9 was the most read chapter of 10 Resolutions so far by miles – so how do I / how should I follow that up? The simple answer is that I’m not going to. Chapter 9 was written just as much for me as anyone else. Writing it helped me put down in words exactly how I was feeling - and please believe me when I say that it helped me beyond belief. But I don’t want to dwell on the events of chapter 9 for the rest of 10 Resolutions. I don’t want it to become the overriding story arc for the rest of the season. I’ll mention it at points (of that I’m sure) but I don’t want 10 Resolutions to become solely about that event and the fallout from it.
I’ve also realised that if 10 Resolutions accomplishes nothing else along the way – at least I will have learnt to be more open about my feelings – and maybe in the midst of all of this I can set an example to others who struggle with stuff like that as we journey along. Who knows? But one thing that I can pretty much guarantee is that there are a lot of stories left to tell – both from the past and from what is yet to come. So – if you have joined 10 Resolutions after the events of chapter 9 – then thank you. And if you have been with me from the start - then thank you even more – and thanks for sticking with me (and please continue to laugh at my expense).  

As they lead me through this chapter quite nicely – this chapter is mainly going to be made up of your questions………..

What is your favourite sandwich filling?
Now this is a question with so many possibilities – but with all of the possibilities in mind it’s actually much easier to explain the type of sandwich that I won’t eat and I don’t like. And in translation that basically means NO SALAD. That means Tuna Mayo with NO cucumber, Tuna Mayo with NO sweet corn (incidentally something that leaves the body in the same form it enters should not be eaten), chicken WITHOUT salad. You get the idea. Meat and cheese = fine. Even some sauce (not mustard or horseradish though) or some crisps to mix it up a bit or to provide a bit of zing is completely acceptable. But NO salad. I can’t stand salad – and I wish that people would stop trying to convince me that “I should try it again”. I don’t like it! I am not a rabbit!

And with my salad rant over (sorry about that) I will now answer the question……

Everyday sandwich: Tuna Mayo
Posh Sandwich: Steak & Stilton

Incidentally - I can also warn you off a sandwich filling (and it doesn’t involve salad)

Over the last week I have been experimenting with bagels and have discovered that mixing bacon, HP sauce and soft cheese is as close to perfection as a filling can get. Combined with a lightly toasted bagel it is a fantastic and beautiful combination.
Yesterday though having run out of bacon – I decided to replace this (somewhat important) ingredient with Tuna. My reaction to this new taste sensation was remarkably similar to what happens when I have to take Covonia to try and fix a cough. I gagged (and ran to the toilet to quickly spit it out). My creation was completely vile. I’m not disheartened though. After all - Rome wasn’t built in a day.

If you had to listen to one song for the rest of your life – what would it be and why?
Now let me start by saying that this is not an easy question. I’m also not going to wuss out of answering it – because it would be really easy to say that it would be far too hard to name just one song…and then name 10 or something. But you’ll have to bear with me for a second so I can help you understand my thought process here.
Has someone ever overplayed a song that you adore? What changes in those moments whilst that song is played on a loop? The song loses its impact and if you are anything like me – the song gradually begins to take little nips at you. Like someone slowly pulling a fork across a china plate. It starts to grate. And in my case - I can name a massive list of songs that this has happened to for me. So therefore I can’t pick a song that I adore – because I’ll inevitably end up hating it (thus explaining why I can’t pick the song from the first dance at my wedding – Iris by the Goo Goo Dolls)

It’s also worth looking at the other side of the spectrum – because I find it possible to initially hate a song only to grow to love it over time / numerous listens (please note that this theory does not apply to bands in the style of new indie such as Kasabian or older stuff like the Kooks or the Strokes or generally any band beginning with “the”) An example of a song like this is something like HelloGoodbye’s “Here In Your Arms”. I used to absolutely hate that song but over time I would find myself just humming little bits until I had to accept that as much as I didn’t want to admit it – I’d grown to like it. Obviously I couldn’t pick a song like this though – because in some cases songs that I haven’t liked in the first place I’ve grown even less fond of on each listen (there is a very long list of songs in this category) – so I couldn’t take the risk on picking a song that I don’t like in the hope that it would win me over.

So – I’ve got to pick a song that I have already heard hundreds of times that I still don’t hate. A song that would probably be older (due to the number of times I’ve heard it) and a song that will repeatedly make me smile (let’s face it – If I’m going to hear it for the rest of my life – It needs to make me happy). The question isn’t “If I had only heard one song throughout my entire life what would I want it to be” – so I’m not tied to something that shows brilliant musicianship and shows music in it’s fullest. It just needs to make me smile and not drive me mental in the process. Therefore my answer (partly due to some of the fantastic memories I already have of the song) is by Huey Lewis & the News. The song I have chosen is “The Power of Love”.

Has anything annoyed you in the last week?
  1. Spoilers. I can’t stand them. On our way back from Norfolk earlier in the week Cass decided to point out a poster showing the updated cast of a show that we were both watching but were a bit behind on. One of the main characters wasn’t present in the poster – and when I realised this Cass decided to say “How do you feel about ******* being dead?” I looked at her in disbelief. As much as I can’t stand spoilers – Cass can’t stand surprises – so she had read ahead. Normally she’s really good and we kind of get around it by her just being a bit smug after a big event in the tellyverse has happened. On this occasion though our agreement seemed to have been forgotten as her response went along the lines of “Oh, I’m sorry – I thought you already knew”. We laughed about it – and then she started giggling away. Anyway - It’s not a big thing….but please people – no spoilers…….I can’t be responsible for what will happen….
  2. On Saturday it is Adam and Hannah’s wedding day (See Chapter 5) - and as they are my close friends I decided to push the boat out a bit to buy a new shirt from Matalan (instead of Tesco). I found my shirt (I actually ended up deciding to get two!) and got in the queue to pay. With one person in front of me – my friend Christine (See Chapter 4) text me to say that she was just leaving (to meet me for lunch) and that she would be at our lunch venue (across the road from Matalan) in 20 mins. What followed was the slowest example of anyone working at a checkout EVER.
    I have never seen anyone dawdle so much as the checkout staff in Matalan on that day. I could even perhaps excuse it if they were friendly and were taking the time to have conversations with their customers – but they weren’t even doing that .They were simply technologically inept, old and grumpy women! (Please note that this isn’t a sexist comment as the only people on the checkouts that day were women). I eventually arrived at the pub for lunch just as Christine was arriving. It had taken 20 minutes for the checkout people at Matalan to serve two people besides the people they were already serving. Never again. On the positive side though – lunch was good.
  3. I’m lucky enough to be a member of a great church. I’m really proud of the way that everyone within it cares so much for one another. The truth is that we are a community. I know so many other people that are in the same situation as me. Church isn’t just a Sunday morning thing for us. Church is much bigger than just the building. Church is a family that extends beyond each church wall. At this point you may well be wondering on reading those sentences and the description I’ve written what on earth I could possibly be annoyed about. Well this week I’ve been reminded of just how lucky I am to be part of the church(es) I’m involved with. On Saturday I was told the story of how one of my band members had been left completely alone by their church to deal with a number of painful problems that they were facing. It wasn’t that their church had withdrawn their support or help for my friend – it was that at the moment they started needing help – the support wasn’t even there. Their church had stopped caring for them. Their church had stopped looking out for them when they actually needed help. When the going got tough – the church had turned its back. Now I am the first person to say that the church in general is far from perfect (each church INCLUDING mine has it’s own flaws and quirks) – but hearing about this situation left me in shock. Looking after those in need and supporting people that need help is one of the most basic things that a church should be doing. I’m amazingly thankful that I’m part of a church that does this – and does it well. But I’m still completely dumbfounded by a church that would leave one of the members of its community with nowhere to turn. Looking after people in need was even mentioned the other day  by the Pope! A video that I regularly use when I’m asked to speak has the tagline “Jesus came to get messy”. He came to be amongst the hurting, the poor and the broken. It’s clearly about time that some churches woke up to and remembered that fact.
At this point I want to say that if you have been to church before and have been let down when you really needed someone to stand alongside you - I apologise. Please believe me when I say that not all churches are like that. Some are much different.

I’d also just like to give a special mention to the church (Elim Micklefield) where the band and I spent Saturday night leading a service. I’m so grateful for the generosity, grace and hospitality that you showed us and I am so proud that you are on the frontline – helping everybody in your local community (in stark contrast to the church I ranted about earlier).

Apart from the obvious distinction that family are related through blood and marriage- when and how do friends become family? And how and when do family become friends?
Now this question is going to require a bit of background information to provide you with a bit of context. It’s been asked by my sister on the back of us all spending a fantastic week in Norfolk with my Dad’s side of the family. 29 out of 30 members were present and it was the first time that as a family we have attempted anything like this. Even the Australian clan were in attendance and we had an amazing time. As a side-note – I have discovered a couple of things along the way (not family related)….

  1. Once you have seen a Sea-Life Centre in Blighty, you might as well have seen all of them.
  2. Once you have seen a bad condition castle in Blighty, you might as well have seen all of them (my opinion on this is probably slightly biased as I’m still haunted by visiting what must have surely been a world record number of castles in the space of a week on a school residential trip in year 7)

Anyway…back to family. Even though the people that I was away with are my family (just to clarify – from this point on when I mention family it means all of my Dad’s side of the family) – we haven’t spent that much time together over the years. I mean – we have obviously seen each other and spoken along the way – but the distances between us have meant that we haven’t seen as much of each other as we might have liked. Still – I’m amazingly lucky in the fact that I get on with my family and I think that our relationships with each other have improved dramatically over the last 10 years or so (I mention the last 10 years because before then I was a bit of a handful). I’m blessed in so many ways – and my family is one of them.
I should now probably look at answering the question – but to do that I’m going to take the question apart and split it into two (I’ll answer the second half next week):

Q.   How do family become friends?
Last week we had some amazing moments together as a family hanging out in groups just talking (including a fantastic conversation about Dirty Dancing) or playing games (Articulate, Uno and the After Eight games spring to mind – FYI most games also involved wine...) At other points some of us went shopping, some of us went to the to the fair and some of us went to Star Wars exhibits (yes – one of them was me). We laughed together and for a week became our own little community.
It was in some of those moments together that I realised that there was no one else that I would rather be spending that time with. Those moments we spent together were really precious. Those moments were really fun! So that’s the first part of my answer – Family become friends when you are having so much fun together that you don’t want to be anywhere else.
The second part of my answer involves necessity (thank you spell check). But I’ll get to that in a minute. You can’t choose your family members – that is the long and short of it – so from that - the assumption that family members are automatically friends is wrong. If anything, the line between family member and friend is a harder barrier to cross than the line between someone you don’t know and them then becoming your friend (even though you might not see it) because of something called necessity. Because we were going away together and I didn’t want anything to be awkward or for anyone to put their foot in it – I told my family about the events of chapter 9 earlier than anyone else. What followed was message after message of kind words and support for Cass and I. The words that were being spoken were not being spoken out of necessity but out of love for us. I knew that my family were my friends (and great ones) before that moment – but that moment really summed it up for me. So – family become friends when they speak to you not because of some form of necessity – but out of genuine love. I’m amazingly grateful that my family really are true friends to me as well. And if I've let you down in the past I'm really sorry! That is something that will be changing..... and thank you all for an amazing time away FYI Eve - I'm thinking of a stringed instrument that is not a violin.....

Those on resolution count – I think I've only mentioned two – but they are big ones....Meanwhile 10 resolutions will be back in a bit more of a normal format next week – but please feel free to send any questions you may have about life,  the universe or anything else to or ask a question on the facebook page.

Just before I go – I’d love to say a big congratulations to Flik and Tom Foster (not related to me) who tied the knot last week and to my Auntie Chris who's 60th party is tomorrow. 

Right - I’m off to prep for Adam and Hannah’s wedding tomorrow – for some reason they have decided to leave me responsible for their evening entertainment. Just call me DJ FozzyBear. If you have any song suggestions....leave them below.....

On a serious note – thanks again to all of you for helping me and Cass get through the last few weeks and for all of your thoughts and prayers. You mean the world to us.

I’ll leave you with this had me in stitches......

God Bless.