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Wednesday, 31 December 2014

The 10 Resolutions Movie Awards 2014

Another year. Another Christmas gone – and hopefully you’ll have had a great time eating, disposing of said food on the toilet, drinking, playing games and being merry alongside friends and family. But now we move into a time of reflection and looking back at the year gone by - as well as looking at things that we would like to change moving forward.

We are in the bit of time where 10 Resolutions and Stories about Life was birthed 2 years ago. And as I’ve spent my toilet time over the last few days reading back over my journey over the course of the last couple of years I can see change in myself – both physically and mentally (a strong example is that I’m 2 stone lighter than when I started). But that is something I’ll come back to in my next post in a couple of weeks' time - as to be truthful I've got some stuff to process for myself before then. But now (as I mentioned in my last post) it’s time to look at my movie awards for the last year…. (A few TV, Game and Music highlights will also come around in the next post). So sit back, relax and if you are on the toilet - make sure you've got some toilet roll ready. It's time to strap in for some potentially controversial decisions......

The 10 Resolutions Movie Awards 2014
I’ve got a Cineworld Unlimited card – so basically it’s within my interests to watch as many films at the cinema as I can. This means that I’ll quite often end up watching some films that I wouldn’t normally go and see. Some of these films have been great. Others (as you can probably imagine) – have not. I’ve seen 40 films at the cinema this year which when you average a film at about 2.5 hours (including trailers) means that I’ve spent over 4 entire days of my year at the cinema. Which seems a lot – but I love films so it makes sense. I'll reveal my top 4 films of the year - as well as giving out a few special awards along the way. Obviously I’m only going to comment on the films I’ve seen - so here is the list:

Frozen, Saving Mr Banks, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, Anchorman 2, The Secret Life Of Walter Mitty, American Hustle, Jack Ryan, The Lego Movie, Robocop, The Wolf of Wall Street, 12 Years a Slave, The Grand Budapest Hotel, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Divergent, Noah, The Amazing Spiderman 2, X Men: DOFP (x 2), Bad Neighbours, Godzilla, 22 Jump Street, Edge of Tomorrow, The Fault in our Stars , Chef, Transformers: Age of Extinction, Begin Again, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, Guardians of the Galaxy, The Inbetweeners 2, Lets be Cops, Sex Tape, The Giver
What We Did on our Holiday, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Ghostbusters, Interstellar, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1, Black Sea, Bladerunner & The Hobbit: The Battle of Five Armies.

Best Sequels
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, Captain America: The Winter Soldier

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes completely blew me away. I really enjoyed the first one but the 2nd one was amazing and was fully deserving of all of the praise that it received (especially for the performance from Andy Serkis). It was an amazingly powerful story. Meanwhile Captain America took the Marvel movie universe and gave it a well needed shake up (something that was instantly reflected on Agents of SHIELD) in the most political and darkest Marvel film since Iron Man. The only thing missing in the Marvel cinematic universe now is a death to show the stakes of being a superhero. Comic readers however will know that following the path of the comics – the heart-breaking death of one of the main Avengers is just around the corner.

Worst Sequels
The Inbetweeners 2, Anchorman 2

I found the Inbetweeners 2 to be quite stale after watching the TV show and previous film.There were the obvious laugh out loud / cringy Inbetweeners moments, but unlike previously the dialogue wasn’t anywhere near as snappy and it missed the chuckle moments that led up to each major gag / set piece. It could have been much more – but it should probably have spent more time in the writer’s room. Anchorman 2 meanwhile just shouldn’t have been made (rather like the Twilight films).

Funniest Movie Moment of the Year
22 Jump Street

Whilst I loved the fact that 22 Jump Street mocked itself and it was pretty funny throughout (despite not being a great film), there was one scene in the film that had tears streaming down my face in laughter. It’s about halfway through the film in Ice Cube’s office as he realises that Jonah Hill’s character has been getting it on with his daughter. Absolute comedy gold – but the best thing about the scene is actually taking place in the background as you see Channing Tatum’s reaction….It’s a film worth watching for that alone. 

Worst Special Effects
The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies

How a film can have such a high budget with such sketchy Special Effects in places is completely beyond me (take the Legolas jumping rocks scene for instance). There was just far too much CGI and far too much green screen throughout - which is a real shame because generally I really enjoyed the film. The same series of films that showed Gollum and won plaudits for its Special Effects also created The Battle of Two Armies Sharknado quality Special Effects. Perhaps the budget had run out by the third film.

Biggest Guilty Pleasure

I’d read the reviews before seeing the film so I wasn’t expecting great things. But perhaps that is why I enjoyed TMNT so much. Don’t get me wrong – it certainly wasn’t a fantastic film by any stretch of the imagination, but it was funny, heart-warming and really good fun. And the alternate take on Raphael (changing from being a slight built ninja to a tank of a turtle) was really refreshing. 

Cardboard Performance
Anyone in Divergent

I’ll put this out there straight away – I enjoyed Divergent much more than I thought I would. You can’t move for Young Adult films at the moment but this concept at least was interesting (despite bearing similarities to other YA novels / films). And it’s a good job that the story is good here as the performances are dull and the actors don’t really bring any form of emotion to the roles at all (the males especially).

Epitome of Average
Black Sea

I liked the idea of a tense character driven submarine thriller and whilst Black Sea does try it's hardest, I walked out of the cinema not feeling anything for any of the characters who didn't make it through to the end. And considering there are only a small number of characters - that isn't great at all. It wasn't the worst film I've seen all year - but I won't be watching it again.

Gwen Stacey: The Amazing Spiderman 2

I didn't think they would do it. Honestly, I didn't think they would. But the moment they started with the set piece at towards the end of the film I knew it was coming - and it was done so well. The shot so you could see her falling was so well done and a really good way to show it - and then you just saw the slight bump of her head touching the floor. Heart-breaking - but I'm pleased they did it. Very few people in the Marvel Universe stay dead though (another spoiler alert) and Spiderman is in the much smaller Sony Marvel Universe - so short of another reboot they'll run out of ideas pretty soon (and Spiderman will join the wider Marvel Universe).

Unexpected Surprise
The Grand Budapest Hotel

This was a film that if I didn't have an Unlimited card I wouldn't have gone to watch. But I am so pleased I did. I didn't laugh out loud, but I chuckled all the way through. It looks beautiful and the characters are fantastic. Quirky is the word I'd use - and I can't wait to watch it again!

Cash grabber of the Year
The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1

I can see why the studio decided to do it (release the final book in 2 parts) - and whilst it wasn't anywhere near as pointless as splitting the last Twilight film into 2, splitting the final Hunger Games book into 2 parts was nothing more than a cash grab (very little happens whatsoever) - and it has damaged the reputation of the series as a result. 

And in no order (bar first place)....the top 4
Interstellar, the Lego Movie, Chef & Guardians of the Galaxy

Storyline wise Interstellar polarised viewers - but I completely adored it. I'm really pleased they didn't go into much of the 'how part' of the Earth getting like that - but more than anything else I loved how it looked and I loved that it was like something I'd never seen before. I watched it at the IMAX and I felt like I was in space. A good film should transport you to a different place - and Interstellar did just that. 

Chef meanwhile is a film that I thought I'd like - but I wasn't sure about how much until I watched it - and the thing I loved most was that it was so happy. It was such a simple story about a man rediscovering his passion and reconnecting with his son and it was brilliant (although it made me very hungry!). Heart-warming, funny, and really heartfelt - I really connected with it and it's perhaps the least known choice in my top 4 - but It's something I'd recommend to everyone.

What to say about the Lego Movie? You'll either love it or hate it - but if you played with Lego as a child (or like me - still do as an adult), you'll appreciate the humour throughout the film and how it was written with such love for its subject. As a bonus - the voice acting is great as well and I think I'm correct in saying that it made Chris Pratt the most bankable male star in 2014. It's not for everyone - but it was better than I ever imagined it would be...and that twist....!!!

Guardians of the Galaxy is the Marvel film to watch if you don't really want to watch any others or haven't started yet and want to jump on board. It's the film that you don't really need to know any Marvel backstory for. It's the film that takes a lesser known gang of Marvel misfits and puts them together on a space ship. And it is absolutely brilliant. It's also my favourite Marvel film and my film of the year. It's funny, dramatic, perfectly cast and leaves you desperate for more. And my favourite moment of the film is a 5 minute conversation between the cast which leads up to the final battle (because it is that well written). 

But now I'll open it up to you. Do you agree with my choices? What should I have watched? What have I missed? What films are you excited about in 2015? Let me know in the comments below, or by getting in touch via email, twitter or Facebook.

I'll sign off for this year by leaving you with a few things. Firstly, my friend Phil is a MUCH better movie critic than I am - so if you really want to know what to watch - check this out. Secondly, I've been really challenged this week by the message behind this post from my friend Si - so I'd really you to be challenged by it as well. And finally I'd just like to say thank you. Thank you for bearing with my slightly disjointed and random postings this year. Thank you for challenging me. Thank you for your feedback. And thank you for being there for me. I may not have loads of money. I may not have a massive house. I may not have a great car. Yet I feel rich because of my friends and family. Having you as part of my life and letting me be part of yours is a blessing and honour.

Have fun. Keep safe. God Bless.

I'll leave you with this (as it made me laugh). Happy New Year.

Friday, 19 December 2014

What would you do with your last £50?

As I start to write this post, I'm on a catamaran floating around Tenerife watching whales swim alongside the boat (glamorous I know). But as I sit here writing, there's a question tapping at the back of my head that I can't seem to shake (much to Cass's annoyance as we paid a fair amount for the trip). 

It's not whether England will beat Scotland tonight (my allegiances were split firmly between the two), it's not whether Arsenal will beat United (they didn't) or whether Wycombe will beat Cheltenham (they smashed them). No, as I sit here I'm not even hung up on the idea of "have I made enough of my life by my 31st birthday?" (A somewhat inevitable question for another post). No - the question that I can't shake is how I would spend my last £50.

The thought process for getting to this question was actually quite simple. No, I'm not dying (good news) and I'm also not on my last £50 (which is also good news). But as I sit here on this trip (which incidentally cost around £50 each) watching whales dive in and out of the ocean (some so close that you can feel the spray as the crash back into the water) it has dawned on me that whale watching is on a lot of people's bucket lists (something that so many people want to do / experience before they die).

I've never put much thought into a bucket list before. I'd quite like to go into space - but that seems a bit extreme and very unlikely to be affordable in my lifetime. I'd love to para-glide and I'd love to skydive - but I don't feel like I have to do them (if that makes sense). And if I had one, whale watching (whilst being amazing) would also not have made my bucket list in the first place (yet I'm grateful that I've been able to do it).

The same theory for me applies to travelling. There are places that I'd really like to go to (to see the Northern Lights for instance) - but I've been lucky enough to already go to some amazing places and see some fantastic things - so I don't think I'd really regret not travelling more. There is something that I'd like more than anything else in the world (I'll let you figure it out) but as it isn't something that I could buy or pay for, it isn't (or couldn't be) my right to have (and that's something else that I've been pondering recently) so in terms of a bucket list - I'm out.
But that still doesn't cover my £50 question. How would I spend it? What would I do with it?  

For this to work there obviously have to be some form of rules - so we will keep it simple and say that the money has to be spent by you. You can buy something for someone else, but you can't just donate your money. You also can't invest it or gamble it to try and prolong your time or borrow any extra money on top of your £50. If you choose to have other people alongside you for your final endeavour (whatever it may be), your £50 does not need to cover them as well. They can finance themselves. The £50 is yours (and travel to wherever you choose to be is on top of your £50 - so don't worry about that).

So what are you thinking? What will you do with your last £50?

Will you do something big that you have always wanted to do (and perhaps have been too scared)? Will you be selfless in your final act and buy someone something they really need? Will you live out your days playing through the video game you have been waiting for? Will you spend your £50 watching movies you've always wanted to watch? Will you go and see the band that you have always wanted to see live? Would you have a beautiful steak topped with a blue cheese sauce? The list could go on - and I'm sure that everyone has a different response. There are no right or wrong answers.

But how would I spend my last £50? Well even after thinking about this question for the best part of a month my answer hasn't changed and if anything my feelings behind my 'why' have been strengthened by a few things that have happened along the way.
I'd love to say that I'd be selfless and buy something for someone that they need - but if I'm being completely honest with you (and if I'm not this is pointless) I wouldn't do that. I think video games are amazing - but knowing my luck I'd pick a really bad game to buy and spend my last moments playing. I've already seen all of the bands that I want to see live and as much as I LOVE steak - I can think of a better way that I could spend my money.

I think that if I thought through my life and thought of my top 10 highlights, 7 out of the 10 moments (so far) have been spent with my friends and family in some kind of gathering (my wedding is at number 1). A number have been small affairs with just a few of us whereas some of the others have been massive parties. 

So how would I spend my last £50? Very simply - in the pub with my friends and family. It's sounds like such a stupid thing (believe me I know) considering how I could spend that crisp £50 note - but I love spending time with those closest to me (especially in the pub) and I can quite honestly think of nothing that I would prefer to do or anyone that I would prefer to spend my time with. I can't imagine life on my own and in truth it's something that I find pretty scary. But I can't think of a better way to spend my final moments than with those that I love. But even thinking about that has challenged me to think about the people that I spend my life with.

How often do I say thank you for what they have done for me? How often do I say that I really appreciate them? How often do I say that I'm grateful for having them in my life and that I cherish them? The sad unfortunate truth is nowhere near enough. So if you are reading this and you fall into that category - thank you for sharing your life with me and for letting me be a part of it. It's an honour.

It's very rare that these posts have homework - but today I have a double lot for you and it's really simple (please let me know via twitter, email or facebook how you get on). One is inspired from my response and one from whatever you chose. So here we go:
1. Take the time to tell someone how much you appreciate having them in your life.
2. Have you been challenged in any way by how you would choose to spend your £50? How would you spend it?

So, this is the final post before Christmas, but following on from a few posts that could have been a bit merrier - I'll be coming back with my films, games and albums highlights of the year (as well as highlighting some of the shockers). I might also touch on some of my resolutions and how we are looking going into 2015.....

Have fun. Stay safe.

I'll leave you all with this:

God Bless

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

How do you cope with loss?

Hi everyone! It's been a fair few weeks since my last post and I've got a fair bit to report.
I went to the beautiful wedding of Abbie and Chris (and actually stopped drinking quite early into the evening so as far as I'm aware I've got no embarrassing stories to tell), Arsenal are still rubbish and are lacking any form of defence, I've spent time with Amelia and the twins and may or may not have taught (a now nearly two year old) Joey to stick her tongue out at me (much to her mother's disapproval)
and Mel and Tom are going to have a son (I guessed right - smug face) meaning that I will have a Godson to guide through the journey of life (and I'm not sure who that scares more).

This last week however I've been occupied with two things:

1. Being ill (including any of the following symptoms possibly combined at any given time): a blocked nose, a chesty cough, a headache (including that really annoying type right behind your eye), vomiting, earache, sneezing, a sore throat, sneezing so hard that my body has hurt, unstoppable snot flurries, rapid fire toileting issues, “corked up” toileting issues, changing from hot – cold (and back again) in rapid time and those really weird dreams that you get when you are ill (including a really trippy one about me being a red train in Thomas the Tank Engine).
Yes, thanks partly to Andy Howson I've had a combo of the deadly disease known as man flu (you can read more about my past experience with it here) and the virus that I once mocked Hellie Brunt for having in front of 700 teenagers (perhaps delayed payback?). And no, I'm not going to even suggest that I've felt worse than ever before or a large number of female readers will mock me (even if girl flu is MUCH worse) – but I've just felt pretty rough and worn out.

2. The funeral of a friend. And with that in mind, Ive actually changed what I was going to speak about in this post (although I'm sure it will return at a later date).

How do you cope with loss?
From the very outset here, I have to make something very clear (no rhyme intended) and that is that (similar to the rest of 10 Resolutions) I do not have all of this figured out. (As shown in Chapter 9). This isn’t going to be a user guide to dealing with the loss of a loved one, because I don’t think that anyone could ever write and do that justice. It's not a one size fits all situation. Everyone grieves in different ways, so the only thing that I can possibly do is to open up and to tell you how I cope – and the honest truth (because if I wasn’t this would be pointless) is probably not very well.

I’m nearly 31, and I’m not sure about on average how many funerals someone my age should have attended. I’m honoured to be well above the average for weddings - but I’m not sure about funerals. But I think that how I cope now can be traced back to the funeral of a dear friend from college (I guess my first funeral as an adult) – Jim.

13 (ish) Years ago....... 

I hadn’t known Jim for that long, but in a class of 15 or so musicians you quickly get to know those around you. And being a couple of years older than me, Jim was someone that I looked up to and loved spending time with. I’d stay at his house once a week so that we could go to £1 a pint night at Wetherspoons in Ruslip (and on reflection the fact that I used to regularly go to another £1 a pint night in Amersham probably explains a fair amount now). But you get the picture. Jim and I (and the rest of the college class) were pretty close knit and that in itself was probably partly due to a serious car accident a number of the class had been involved in the year before. 
Early (ish) in the 2nd year a few of us (Jim included) had been working on an assignment together. On deadline day, Jim was coming in with the final part of the assignment, but as he hadn’t arrived by the start of our session I started to get angry (as he had a well known habit of oversleeping). 30 minutes of the session passed and I was getting angrier and angrier. 1 hour passed (and you can imagine how I was feeling by then). And then around ten past 10, our tutor came in and had us all sit down. Tragically, Jim had been walking along the street the night before and his brain had just given up. He had died there and then. There had been no warning. No warning signs that it could have happened to him or that he was even ill in the first place. The chances of it ever happening to anyone his age were slim (something that was of no comfort to any of us) but Jim was gone.

The next few days (/two weeks) are a bit of a blur. I was a mess and (alongside the rest of my class) was on a 2 week bender to try and numb the pain of loss and to try and stop the flow of tears. The only way for someone to prepare you for something like that is just to be be blunt and say that it will hurt - but everything had happened so quickly that no one had the chance to explain, so I continued to fight through the hurting by drinking to forget.

The day of the funeral arrived, and through some mysterious level of good fortune I wasn’t hungover. I put on my suit, filled my hip flask and went to meet everyone else. I’m fairly certain that the hour we all spent together before the funeral that day was the quietest hour I’ve ever experienced (and I dread to think how many cigarettes I got through). But how do you prepare to say goodbye to a friend? There isn’t a good way. No one should have to go through something like that so much that it becomes easy or second nature.

And then with smoky breath, a (frustratingly) now-empty hip flask and vodka tasting burps the funeral began.

Like most of the others, I stood at the back of the building, numb, as the service went along. I was holding back the tears desperate to be one of the strong ones who wouldn’t break. For the first time since his death I saw Jim’s parents and my mind starting drifting to how hard it must have been to say goodbye to a 21 year old son – and how real strength and real courage was being displayed by the pair of them as they held each other firmly in the midst of such a painful moment. I looked around and saw the tens and tens of people that had shown up to say goodbye to Jim and to show support to his family. And then my head turned to the person next door to me who was sobbing - and with tears in my eyes I put my arm around her as I started to remember all of the people who had held me (/held me up quite literally in some cases) and helped me through the previous weeks. I might not have been aware of what they were doing at the time and I probably hadn’t said thankyou (or if I did it was probably expressed with a slur or dribble) - but I had been supported by those around me. And that revelation (that must seem so simple), was something I took away from the day. There’s a beautiful Bible verse that reflects this in 1 John and it says ‘let’s not merely say that we love each other; let us show the truth by your actions’ and over those weeks that love was something I’d experienced beyond belief.

At the pub later we shared stories of Jim and our favourite memories of him. We played his favourite songs on the jukebox and we raised a glass (as I can’t remember getting home that night either there is a fair possibility that it was more than one) in his honour. He would have wanted a party not something depressing (and just fyi – just so it’s out there – when its my time I do as well) and that evening he had a great send off. The events of his death were heartbreaking and tragic and from time to time I still miss him - especially when I use a song we wrote together in my set (when appropriate!). I wish that I’d have spent more time with him and of course I’m sad that he’s gone. But at the same time I’m thankful for the time I did get to spend with him - for simply knowing him made me a better man.

I can’t and won’t pretend that I knew Sue Woolway (Auntie Sue) as well as I knew Jim.
But what I will say is that she was a massive ray of sunshine in our office and that she could (and would) always make me smile. She always asked how I was and genuinely meant it. And if you needed someone to talk to (even about something random) – she was there. Sue was gracious, cheeky, caring and funny all rolled into one and was actually quite inspiring because of it. I’m really sad that she’s not with us anymore but I’m confident that she is somewhere watching down on us now, having a party and laughing at all of the stupid stuff we do.

I’m sure that Sue had her flaws, as did Jim, as do you or I but I hope that when I go I am remembered for the best parts of me and that people say I was a good man. And I hope that you find the best way to remember those that you’ve lost.

RIP Sue - Gone but not forgotten  xx

So – in answer to the question - how do I cope with loss? Well, it’s more of a reminder list but:

1. Having strength doesn’t mean not showing emotion. Sometimes real strength is the opposite.
2. Grieve (however you do it), but make sure that you have someone to talk to.
3. Try and support and stand alongside those who might need you (If you can).
4. Remember the best parts of the person that is gone.
5. Be thankful for the time that you did have with them.
6. Hip flask.

I’ll be back in a couple of weeks after spending a week in Tenerife and after celebrating turning older. But first I'm off to the doc's.

I’ll let Sue play us out. 

God Bless


Tuesday, 30 September 2014

6 Months Until The Job Centre.......

So Scotland said no (just), the North London derby was a dire affair, another Tory chap jumped over to UKIP, Blighty is back to bombing Iraq and the Lion King has now overtaken the Phantom of the Opera as the most successful stage musical of all time (and has actually become the highest-grossing thing in box office history). And that there ends your short and sharp weekly news update from me (hire me BBC).

In terms of news from me - I've started a new diploma (and got 97% in the first assignment), I've started work on the second album (more on that at a much later date), Matt's album has started to go live (so check it out) and I've discovered that I am frankly no good at skittles. But what I really want to speak about in this post is something that I've mentioned (but glossed over) in the last few posts - and that is my impending jobless state / freedom (whichever way you choose to look at it).

With 6 months to go until you are unemployed, how do you feel?

Ok, I'll get to where I'm at right now, but I want to quickly start by giving you a bit of context (and answering an inevitable question) about the redundancy situation (because if I'm going to speak about this whole thing I might as well paint the whole picture). So here we go:

There had been talk of our office closing for a number of years, but on the 31st March I had a phone call saying that the plan was for the office to close (on March 31st 2015) and for the work to go to our office in Solihull (I've spoken more about what I was up to / got up to that day here). In very simple terms our current office has half of it free, and the building in Solihull where the rest (of my part) of the company works currently has the best part of a floor free. So the logic behind the plan is simple (and to answer the inevitable question) - yes, I completely understand it and if I was in the decision making shoes I would probably have made the same decision. Following that, we were all given the option to go and work in Solihull, and in the last month or so I (alongside loads of others) have decided that I won't be taking up that option (I've been helped along the way by knowing that my job doesn't exist in the new structure at Solihull and I would have to go for something different). So anyway, that's the background with that - but now I need to answer the real question. How do I feel?

How many truly life changing moments do you think you have had in your life? How many moments have you experienced where your life has taken a definite turn after a massive event (planned or unplanned)? The events of Chapter 9 last year were heart-breaking for Cass and I, and they were a landmark of our time together, but as far as I can work out our lives haven't taken a change of direction following that. But March 31st will be one of those change of direction days for me (and that's not just me building it up). I've spent over 10 years of my life working for this company (which isn't bad considering that I was only planning on a 6 month stint) and the very simple truth is that I have no idea where life will take me following that day (apart from hopefully on a big holiday!). I've got an idea about what I'd like to do, but that's not necessarily what I'll end up doing (in fact I'm fairly confident that it won't be). But the really bizarre thing for me is that despite the uncertainty over the future I feel completely at peace (and I'm not just saying that either). I've been reading back over past chapters over the last few weeks, and I've now started to realise that I've been getting mentally prepared for this moment for a while (see mentions of crossroads in previous chapters).

So, there you have it - the first part of my answer is that I'm at peace with the decision I've made (not to push for a job in Solihull) and I'm calm (and perhaps more worryingly a bit excited) about the future and what it may hold (cue brief January mini-meltdown). But that is only half of the 'how I'm feeling' part.......

Now I mentioned that I was only planning on doing a 6 month stint, yet I've been working for the company for over 10 years and I've (probably quite naturally) spent some time reflecting over the last few months on why I didn't do a runner 6 months in and go back to working in music (aside from the obvious answer that I don't think my liver could / would have coped). Now don't get me wrong here I enjoy my job (most of the time) and I've been lucky enough to have done a few different roles in my time with the company and learnt a fair bit as well. But would my actual job have kept me in the company for so long? Absolutely not. Next up is pay, and yes I'm paid quite well for what I do, but those of you who know me know that money is not a major motivation. What about facilities then? Well one of our toilets has been broken for at least half of my time in the office (not by me), and whilst we do have a lake (when it rains) in front of the office it isn't actually meant to be there and when you couple that with the fact that part of the roof leaks when the AC is on overdrive I think that facilities is definitely out (and I'm still bitter about the Northampton office having the bar taken out before we started working there!). Benefits? I've got a pension that I'm sure I'll be grateful for in later life and if it hadn't been for the company it's very unlikely that I'd have even started one by now. So that's all good - but it certainly hasn't kept me here. Job satisfaction? I've had some good days where I've left and thought 'I'm really satisfied with what I've achieved today' but I've also had some days (which I'm sure that you can all appreciate) where I've left the office and have wanted nothing more than to have a meltdown in frustration (which we would need to be followed by a beer). How about a lack of other options I hear you say? It might surprise you to know that I actually have had other offers in my 10 year stretch (and I've gone for other jobs but not got them as well) - but crucially I haven't come back to my job disappointed from not being offered something different, and if anything (bar an initial day of slumping) I've ended up being more motivated. And I still (unless I've just got back from holiday) don't get the 'bleurgh work tomorrow' feeling. SO WHAT IS IT? And the answer is without any question - the people.

The very first cast list in 10 Resolutions featured people that I work with and throughout the course of the 18 or so months that I've been posting I've lost track of the number of people from my office that have made the cast list. And they aren't just random mentions either, these are people that mean so much to me that they deserve mentioning in the cast lists as they are a major part of my life. But this goes far beyond just me (although I'm probably the soppy one), the difference between my office and 99% of the other offices in the country is that we aren't just colleagues - we are friends. We stand up for one another. We care for one another. We encourage each other. We have fun together. We fight for one another and when one of us is hurting we stand alongside them to help pull them through. We are a community and a family. And I could not be any prouder to have been part of it.

It has been a blessing and a complete honour to be able to work in a place with so many amazing people, and I'll be forever thankful that I've had the chance to spend time with people that have graduated so far beyond being my colleagues that they are now life-long friends (whether they like it or not they are stuck with me now......). So this post is for all the people of GCC, both past and present. Wherever I end up has an impossible act to follow (and yes I'll inevitably be coming back and reminding myself of my very high and unrealistic expectations for a new workplace on the 1st April). I have faith though, after all I was only meant to be at GCC for 6 months and look what happened. Who knows what could happen next.......
HoweHoHSo how am I feeling about redundancy?

I'm at peace about the future, and want to make the most of the next few months with my friends at GCC (and yes I could have just answered that in a sentence - but where would the fun have been in that)

Remember that you can keep in touch with 10 Resolutions on Twitter and Facebook - and please feel free to ask some questions that you'd like to know my thoughts on :)

Speak Soon. Keep Safe. God Bless.

P.S Congratulations to Tommel (Tom and Mel) who are now expecting their first little bot! Conversations to call it Andi however have not started particularly well (I have patience).......

P.P.S Does anyone want to offer me a job? :)

Thursday, 18 September 2014

My thoughts on Scottish Independence

It's been so long since we've last spoken that I can't exactly remember everything that's been going on or everything that I've been up to. So here is a brief update: I've lost a stone and a half, Arsenal won the FA Cup (to put me finally out of my Arsenal slump), my dear friends Tom and Mel (Tommel) and Leon and Hiya (Hion) got married, I had an amazing week in Portugal with Wifey, the 30th birthday party run was completed with the twins (Lewis and Chris), I became the Godfather to the beautiful Amelia, I've spend time with loads of great people (so many in fact that I can't list them all), RIVERcamp this year was phenomenal and it looks very much like I'll be being made redundant at the end of March (a decision I'm at peace with). There is obviously stuff I've missed out and stuff that I've forgotten about (that is probably really important), but that pretty much is the recap. I've also realised since we last spoke that I've got so far behind with 10 Resolutions and what has been going on that any new chapter in it's entirety would be far too long - so for the time being at least I'm going to focus on really short rambles, perhaps covering one question per post, with maybe a short update about life, the universe and everything in between thrown in for good measure. So not one to shy away from the big questions, here we go:
What are your thoughts on Scottish Independence?

Ok, to tackle this question I first need to make something very clear. I have no interest in politics. And before you start saying that I should be (as politics affect everyone) I'll continue by saying that that I have no interest in politics because of politicians. I'm not convinced that there is any massive difference between any of the major 3 parties and the idea of UKIP or the green ones coming into power scares me more than being stuck in a room full of Justin Bieber and his soon to be built clone army (so I still vote).

But the main issue that I really struggle with is that I can't relate to politicians. There is a general misconception that all politicians have gone to private school (which isn't true) however a sizeable number have gone to Oxford or Cambridge university or have been brought up in the very wealthy top end of society. I wouldn't speak about what it is like to be a millionaire as I've never been one (and probably never will be), so my issue comes when politicians start to speak about the poverty line and issues really affecting the working class (as the vast majority of politicians will never have experienced the problems that a lot of the people in the country face on a day to day basis). How can I relate to someone who has no idea about my situation? Now please don't get me wrong here, I'm not saying that I've experienced the problems that so many people in the country have, I've been so lucky to end up where I have (and I'm not scared to say that) - but what I am saying is that there is an ever increasing gap between the majority of people and politicians and until that starts to change, the view of politicians in the country for the most part will remain.

So politically, that's where I am. But what do I think about Scotland leaving? Well, if I'm honest, if I was in Scotland I think I'd probably just vote yes to cause a bit of chaos (as I'm convinced that some will). But I'm not massively convinced that anyone has really explained to the Scottish people what their vote really means (and I'm not entirely sure that the 'Yes people' have really thought through what will happen if they actually win and the consequences of that victory for both sides if they do). It's not like the general election where no matter who you vote for you pretty much get exactly the same moulded thing (No matter the brand, Corn flakes are in essence Corn flakes it's just that the recipe may be slightly different for each brand). This vote has consequences - and I'm not sure that enough people realise that (in England or Scotland).

My gut feeling is that the vote will go against the 'Yes' this time around (probably as there are too many question marks over what happens should Scotland gain independence). But I'd be very surprised if there wasn't another situation like this in my lifetime. And with a more organised approach it could well be that Scotland has a border control before too long.  

On the positive side though, imagine if Scotland gained independence and it came to the general election campaign trail and our clown of a PM was asked what he did in his time at the helm of our country......

I'll leave you with my favourite quote from the campaign:

"What are they going to do - invade?"

Speak soon

God Bless


Monday, 12 May 2014

Chapter 24 - A story about tattoos and Water Polo

In the really annoying piece of time between Christmas and New Year 2012 - someone asked me the inevitable question about what my resolutions were going to be for the coming year. And my list of potential resolutions was a big list. A very big list. I made 10 resolutions and stuck to some of them whilst I learnt about myself along the way. Some resolutions have now finished, some have been rolled over and some new ones have been added to get me back to 10. And yes – I am going to tell you all what they are. But not just yet......  

Welcome Back
Why hello there and welcome back! I don't really know why I've chosen this moment to start season 2 (I think there has been a lot of processing going on) - but for those of you confused we have had a 3 month time gap between the end of season 1 and the start of season 2 (now). I only mention that to make context easier for you – so with some stuff that was happening at the end of season 1 you might find that I’ve passed the decision point now and we are now in the aftermath of that decision (that explanation makes sense in my head). Or to put it another way - some of you may think that I occasionally make quite rash decisions (and you'd be right)....but what you are likely to see in this chapter is that if I was close to a decision on something in season 1 - the likelihood is that you've missed the rash decision part and my ranting about just now get the part where I've settled into my decision (and still rant about it). Still - the good news is that you have missed me constantly ranting about Arsenal - and let's face it - if you follow me on twitter you get enough of that anyway. 
Normally I'd start a chapter with your questions - but this time around I'm going to leave them for the next chapter as I'd like to tell you a bit about what has been going and what I've been up to as the chances are that some stuff that has happened (or that will happen soon) will have a strong influence over the rest of the season. So here we go (and no this isn’t everything that I’ve been up to…..)

The 31st March
On the 31st March we went to a funeral for a member of Cass’s family. Funerals are always sad – but what made the day even harder was that on the way out of the funeral I took a phone call from Rebecca at work (who never gets to make happy phone calls) saying that our office was going to close and that the likelihood was (and is) that our jobs would (will) be moving to Solihull. In honesty it’s something that I’d been expecting for a while – but even then something that you have been thinking about actually becoming a reality is a strange feeling (especially when it isn’t a good thing).
I’ve said throughout 10 Resolutions that I’m honoured and blessed to work with an amazing bunch of people and the moment I hung up the phone my reaction wasn’t one of fear about what I was going to do or what option I’d take – but actually more of sadness as I wouldn’t be able to spend so much time with people that had become so dear to me.
I then spent that afternoon in the pub with Naomi and Andy as we spoke about our likely options and reflected (don’t overthink that word – it’s just a better way of saying drank cider and laughed about / laughed at each other) on some of the moments we had spent together. Whatever happens with work now I know that at some point I’ve got a massive decision to make - and that within the next year I’m going to have a major change in my life because of the choice that I’ve made. New challenges usually excite me – but I’m nowhere close to being able look forward to that part yet. Does that make sense? 

My Arm
Late last year I bought a Groupon to get a tattoo (and one for Dan as well) and a couple of months ago we went to get them done. It’s hard to describe the pain of getting a tattoo – but what I will say is that they hurt. Without any question – they hurt (and anyone that says otherwise is very simply not telling the truth). I don’t have a particularly high tolerance for pain anyway – but at one point I felt like I was about to projectile puke over Dan, the tattoo man and all of the other people in the place. But I guess you want to know what my tattoo is?

In case you can’t read it – it says ‘fight the good fight’ and it’s taken from a Bible verse – 1 Timothy 6:12. The verse isn’t about physically fighting, but the good fight is living as a person chasing after God and about being a good Christian (and whatever that may entail). I fail so often at both of those things – but now I have a constant reminder on my arm to always try and be a better person. I won’t always succeed (I know that) – but I can try. I wanted a tattoo that wouldn’t become dated and something that I could always reflect on and that would always mean something to me. Every time I look at my arm now I’m both encouraged and challenged to be a better man – and that is pretty special. Something else that is true though is that once you have one – you want another…… (And I’m not ruling it out) – I can safely reveal though that whilst it was being done I definitely wasn’t thinking like that!

The Film Count
I have a Cineworld Unlimited card and because of that I need to try and watch as many films as possible in the space of a year to get the most value out of it. This therefore means watching all manner of films whether you would normally pay to go and see them or not. Some of the ‘extra’ films you go and see may be wonderful surprises (Saving Mr Banks and The Grand Budapest Hotel are two examples of this for me) whereas some films may actually be big bundles of donkey excrement (See Robocop and Anchorman 2 - which I unfortunately watched on the same day). Anyway – the challenge is on. I’ve watched 16 at the cinema so far and I’d like to hit somewhere between 40-45 by the end of the year. Favourites so far are the Lego Movie and the Winter Soldier whereas the best film I’ve seen is probably 12 years a slave (which is a prime example of a film that you know is brilliant yet is anything but enjoyable to watch)

Phil’s Birthday
(I obviously looked happier than this on Phil's birthday!)
A couple of months ago I headed down to the Homelands to take one of my closest friends Phil Slatter out for his 30th Birthday. A group of us made an agreement at the start of this (school) year that we would all go to each other’s 30th Birthday’s and Phil’s is one of the final ones. Phil is someone really important in my life as he was the first person I met in the Homelands. From the moment we connected we have been friends (even after I set fire to his wheelie bin) – and it was an absolute honour to be able to take him out for his birthday. 
In truth – I’ve really loved having so many chances to spend time with people that I love – and the more I think about it – the more I hate the fact that we almost need to find excuses to spend time with each other. Everyday life gets in the way – and it shouldn’t be like that at all. Part of me knows that it’s natural to see each other less – that is life and people say that that is what happens. But I don’t want to accept that. I want to spend more time with everyone – not less. 
In a strange way I think for a while I almost felt like I (for want of a better word here) abandoned my friends from the Homelands earlier on in life – and I felt guilty for a while because of that. I moved away when I was 18 meaning that we only saw each other on occasion – and because of that I missed a major part of us properly growing up together and I’ll never know what it would have been like to have spent those years causing chaos (although I can probably imagine). I’ll never be able to regain those years that I missed with my friends from moving away – but at the same time I know that it was without question the right thing to do (and that I’d make the same choice over and over again) - so I don’t dwell on those thoughts any more. I am forever grateful for the life that I have now and for the people that I have alongside me – and I know that moving was part of my journey. The years I missed with that group of friends were not ‘lost’ (as I once thought) - as they helped me become the man that I am today. My friends showed grace and forgave me for any feelings of letting them down by leaving them (if they ever even felt that way) as our friendships are now growing to become stronger than ever before and moving forward I’m going to make every effort I can to keep spending time with all of them (whether they like it or not).

Wedding Anniversary
The day after I took Phil out, Wifey and I left the Homelands to go and see my parental units in their new house in deepest darkest Norfolk for a few days to get away for our wedding anniversary. We’ve now been married for 8 years – and whilst it sounds like a complete cliché – I love her more than ever before. But please don’t believe anyone that says that marriage is easy though – very simply because they aren’t telling the truth. Marriage can be hard at times but I can say without hesitation that it is fantastic – but you have to work to get it that way. It’s also important to have a sense of humour – something that (perhaps unsurprisingly) departed Cass when I got her a dustbuster for Valentine’s Day and a new Iron for our anniversary…..
The good news though (and in news that will probably reassure you that I dont have a death wish) is that I did get her other lovely presents as well..Surprisingly though - I was amazed that a hoover didnt go down well either……(joke I really dont have a death wish).
Wifey – thank you for putting up with me for so long. I love you and can’t wait for so many more years together. And I’m still sorry for not saying how AMAZING you looked on our wedding day (note to Grooms out there….NEVER forget)

Writer’s Block
As I write this, I’ve got a track overdue for Matt’s album (which is starting to sound great by the way) – and I’m probably two tracks behind where I should be in writing my new album (Some more details about that will emerge at some point). I don’t want to rush anything (I think you can always tell songs that have been rushed) but at the same time it’s getting quite frustrating. Music seems to be coming quite freely – but lyrics just seem to be a garbled mess (if I could have a spell the other way round then at least it would match up). In the midst of it - I’m getting an increasing feeling that I just have to get back to basics and write for me again (rather than writing from other situations or for others). I honestly think that I’ve got a few great songs just waiting to come out but I think that I just need to take the time to step back into my heart (excuse the vile phrase).
In a strange twist though – I’ve had a couple of really good ideas for novels so the ideas are flowing really freely on that side. One of them especially I would love to properly write – and who knows – it may one day see the light of day.  

A New Church, Seek and Priorities
In late 2013 – I moved Churches to C3 in Cheltenham. The hardest thing about the change though was that because of work and being away for quite a few weekends I hardly got to go until early this year. But it’s been an amazing change and I’ve started to feel at home.
The Good Friday service especially was great but immensely challenging for me as it also set in motion an on-going question about priorities in my life and with my time (and reminded me of how often I get them wrong). I quite often (and I’ve mentioned this before) take the easy options with my time by doing things like spending too much time on the PlayStation or by watching too much TV. I honestly wonder how I could be spending that time better or how I could better focus on things. For a start I know that I don’t spend nearly enough time working on and building my faith or by perfecting my musical craft – and the honest truth is that I need to go through a real period of realigning what I’m doing. I’m excited about the end result and how it (and I) could look at the end – but it isn’t going to be a quick process. But it’s the right time to get started. 
Seek His Face meanwhile is growing and is becoming really exciting. Every month we are seeing new people join our ragtag congregation of worshippers and every month I’m blown away that people from so many different Churches come together to worship in such a way. It’s inspiring to be part of – and I don’t think it is done in many other places because of the simple (somewhat depressing) fact that Churches in general don’t work together. It’s a blessing and honour to lead but I’m still not sure how it ended up with me. Don’t get me wrong though – it’s an amazing privilege.

Last month, Wifey and I jetted off to Portugal for a week for a well deserved (I think at least) all inclusive holiday. It was amazing. The food was lovely (I lost track of the number of times I got the meat sweats), the drinks were lovely, the weather was hot, we met some lovely people and I even discovered that I have a love of beach volleyball - a love that may or may not (I’m guessing the former) have taken a dramatic increase due to the fact that there were beer taps available at about 50 places around the hotel. The most important thing however was the fact that we relaxed. Holidays are great and as 99% of people will say – you don’t want to come home once you’ve been away. I will however leave this chapter with one of my highlights from the holiday:

Picture a group of 4 people in their early 20’s. Most of them are sporty (/preppy) and nice enough people but increasingly throughout the week they’ve been getting a bit smug (one of them especially) because they’ve won every sporting activity known in a holiday resort. Rifle Shooting, Volleyball (probably not helped by me being on the opposite team), Tennis, Boules, Bingo, Darts….They’d won everything – but on the last day came the holiday favourite – Water Polo. At this point I should point out that on the last day of any holiday I try and get as much value as possible. I will do every activity, eat in both restaurants, take part in the evening’s ‘entertainment’, ‘borrow’ every toiletry item that I can get my hands on and try as many drinks as possible (the majority of which I have to leave due to them being vile). And by the time Water Polo came around – it’s quite possible that I had worked my way a third of the way around the bar. It also turns out that I wasn’t the only one with that plan (and in comparison I was the best for wear by a long way out of all of us). And remarkably the entertainment team decided that it would be a great idea to put all of those in the same situation as me together against the team of #championsofeverythingelse. But victory was not to be straight forward. We fought with every ounce of energy we had. We were like the Mighty Ducks against the other ones. We were the underdogs – and we started to gain a crowd watching us (and shockingly kind of cheering us on). We were putting up a real fight (despite not properly being able to see in a straight line- me due to a lack of glasses before you take that to mean anything else....). And then it happened. The smuggest one of them all broke free and was clear through on our goal. Two of us started chasing back but the smug one even had a chance to turn around and say something mocking towards us before we could catch up. He pulled his arm back to shoot and both of us dived to block the ball. I (perhaps unsurprisingly) missed the ball but my team mate got close – very close in fact. He got so close to the ball that in his Superman kind of dive for the ball he flew past the ball…….and his fist connected (with a crunch) into smug man’s nose.
It was a complete accident and something that he couldn’t have done again if he had tried a 1000 times – the timing was that perfect. Obviously for smug man the timing wasn’t perfect (and it might have put a small dampener on his last day) and we all helped him out of the pool before HIS lovely team mates decided that they wanted to play on. Anyway – it just goes to show that it’s important to stay safe on holiday (I struggled to get a moral out of that). Oh – and in case you were wondering – my team ended up winning……(but the entertainment team decided not to give us certificates – probably due to the manner of our victory I’d imagine).

Hopefully this chapter has given you a bit of insight into what I’ve been up to and kind of ‘where I am’ at the moment. I’ve got loads coming up as well – so I should have some interesting updates for you in the next few weeks / months. I’m also really sorry if this chapter has seemed a bit disjointed – it’s really just been a collection of a few thoughts and ramblings that have been written over the course of a few weeks. There has been mention of a couple of new resolutions though (thankfully none involving Water Polo) so start keeping notes. As ever – send me your questions and thoughts via email, Twitter and Facebook - and I’ll start answering them in the next chapter. Right – I’m off to do some song writing – and to work out what level of chilli powder is acceptable to put in chilli for a wedding reception (without leaving the congregation with toileting issues for the remainder of the evening)....I'll let you know how that goes....

I’ll leave you with this completely inspiring video.

God Bless. Keep Safe. Speak Soon.