Is happiness a lack of sadness or merely the ability to see beyond the pain?

I wrote this on a whimsy back in University days, when life was still powered by the achievable dream and everything was going to work out exactly as I imagined.

Life didn’t quite follow that path, but then it rarely does, and yet would I be any happier if it had?

An impossible question, but I expect contentment would be roughly the same, unless I’d decided to get involved with the mafia and was currently locked in a boot on my way to a deserted hill, but I’m fairly certain I’d be of little use to such an outfit; aside from my ability to make the perfect brew even though I don’t drink the stuff.

The decisions we make, the coincidences we bumble through, we shuffle and collide with existence in a manner no level of planning can take into account. The choices we use to bridge the gap of a moment stretch out and beyond, becoming the framework and base of the most influential aspects of our human CV. Looking back down the path we have walked, the horizon covers its beginning, but the most insignificant moments are truly the ones whose consequential tentacles embed themselves the strongest.

So don’t berate yourself for the perceived errors you’ve made, don’t judge life on the distance between your dreams and reality; don’t consider a lack of labelled attainment to be failure, and don’t fall into the trap that says happiness must be bestowed upon you when in truth it comes from how we choose to interpret the world we live within. We can only open the sail upon our boat and hold it towards the wind we wish to be carried on, where it takes us is defined by the currents and fluctuations that we encounter along the way.

As a dithering man, a friend once told me there’s no wrong answer; and in truth there’s no wrong life. As long as you can see the genuine pockets of joy that litter the everyday: that extra slice of bacon on your butty, a comforting touch without words from the person you love when you most need it, a smile from a stranger, a pair of heated socks on a cold morning; rather than scrabbling for the spectacular we’re tricked into believing are the only way of justifying our time here, then contentment is but a sniff away.

Refuse to be fooled by the expectations set by others, and shiny men wishing to make you buy futile objects, they’re an empty myth built upon a hollow shell. Build your own shell and fill it with the things you enjoy, as far as possible. There’ll always be gaps where frustrations creep in, where things go wrong, where life threatens to get the better of you, but those are the times that define us and teach us the most. In many ways they’re the glue that holds the pleasure in place.

It’s your choice which side you focus on.


Who set the world alarm?

Somewhere in time we were ruled by the dawn. Daylight allowed the majority of the species to function, to stay warm, to see the bear that would otherwise be hiding in your jumper, but even then there were folk that chose to exist a number of hours to the left, at a time when competition for berries wasn’t so strong, and the tasty rabbit could be caught having a nap rather than having to bound after it through a field, cursing its tail as it bobbed away from you.

So, what’s me point? I am part of these peoples’ ancestry. My body clock doesn’t agree with the world beginning at 8am, it never has. For many years I was forced to play along, sitting bleary eyed and useless in offices, sat staring at repeats of Panorama until three in the morning, with the added pleasure of a bloke doing sign language in the corner. Berated for wishing to sleep until ten, a perfectly civilised time to begin the day’s proceedings, because it’s out of synch with the norm. Well, the norm is in bed at ten or eleven, when my head decides to function at its best, and I’m not alone.

It’s time for a second vote. We have electricity. We can function at any time of the day without fear of the dragon lurking in the shadows. Nobody hears the alarm clock and bursts in to song, even all those stars of musicals. So let’s shift the norm and remove judgement of the man who sleeps past seven. Let’s campaign for a new dawn, slightly after the actual, literal dawn, or at least stop imposing the will of the early risers on everyone.

Equality for the sexes, the races, and the people who struggle to nod off in time to get a good kip before the Earth spins back into the path of the sunlight.

The Liebster Award Interview

1.Do you have an embarrassing crush on a celebrity? We all know you do, so who and why?

Supernanny. Jo, something. As a man who finds himself on the wrong end of a female berating more often than sense dictates, it may as well be by the best in the business, so why not get a relationship out of it at the same time?

2.Who do you write for? Yourself, an audience, someone special or just to vent?

No matter what people tell you about the untapped capacity of the brain, there are only so many thoughts that can fit in there before they begin dribbling out your nose. as a novelist primarily, this blogging malarkey is a pleasant way to vent without necessarily having to tie it in to a story.

3.Do you have a writing role model? If so, who?

Douglas Adams. You can read his stories from any point as they are an unparrallelled stream of wittering that loosely hang off a narrative trickle. Imagination rules the tale and is given every chance to flourish, and how it flourishes with hidden wisdom and flippant genius.

4.What’s the weirdest thing you’ve ever done? Ever.

Off the cuff, hitched a lift with a pair of Rock chicks in New Zealand, who proceeded to force me to roll funny cigarettes for them as they sped towards their ferry, forced me to inhale, then left me at the side of a road utterly confused on a bank of grass with a big bag of crisps and an hour to collect my thoughts.

5.If your friendship group, would you label yourself as something? (I’m the organised one)

I think the other people in the group should be the ones to award me such a label. I may be sat here thinking I’m the hilarious one, when they see me as the one they wish would sod off.

6.Do you have a life goal that is just downright silly?

To make the world realise this life business is all just a bit silly, and stress just ruins it, so be nice to each other, because it isn’t hard and it would have a massive impact on society.

7.What is one thing you simply couldn’t live without?

My thoughts, and they’re ridiculous take on the world that keeps me constantly entertained as I potter about existence.

8.What’s your weirdest high school memory?

Being told off for a mysterious chewing gum incident along with every other boy in the school, because apparently girls didn’t chew the stuff. according to the headmaster of the time.

9.Have you ever tried online dating? If so, how did it go? If not, why? It’s fun!

Yes. It’s funny because of how awkward it is, and there’s nothing as funny as social awkwardness, especially when it’s your own.

10.Everyone should have a life motto (or two, or three)… what’s yours?

Never lose your shoes; and the patient man always wins.

The Art of the Hangover

The mistake the world makes when it comes to hangovers is not to acknowledge they’ll be coming. Forget buying a new shirt, choosing which tracks to dance to while you waft perfume across your body, even showering is futile if you don’t place chilled water in your fridge, painkillers in the cupboard, and some form of easily eaten snack that requires no preparation beyond tearing open a wrapper.

Come the beginning of the aftermath, you may find yourself tossing and turning at an hour more befitting waking birds, trying to sleep without success. Stop fighting the hangover and call its bluff. Get up. Drink a pint of water. Sit in the living room. Ask it what it wanted so badly that you had to get up. It’ll be begging for bed again within half an hour.

When you do get up, don’t be fooled into thinking you’re alright. Hangovers love nothing more than pretending they’re not there; letting you begin your day before suddenly dragging you to the disabled toilet, useful for the added support bars and privacy, and forcing you to give back the donner meat and chilli sauce you insisted on taking from the world the night before.

Dress in stages, coax the true depth of the pain you’ll have to face, out. Stick a shirt/blouse on, have a lie down, pair of socks, five minute nap; take control, but respectfully. You both need to achieve something, and you can do it together. You have to carry on living, it has to make you regret having fun; why it feels this need we do not know, but some suspect it’s to do with the balance of the universe.

Of course, the ultimate test for any hangover is the brushing of the teeth. If you can cross this hurdle without vomiting, you’re free to do as you please, only slowly. Open the previously prepared snack and devour as much as you need, topping up with chilled water, but be on the lookout for any potential headaches and slap them away with painkillers at the first hint. Don’t be indecisive. Don’t wait to see how it develops. End it.

Best of all, if possible, sleep. Nap away the day, nibbling snacks and checking various social media for any hint of friendships you may have destroyed. Leave a message mentioning how drunk you were, and how clueless about the night you now are, then wait for time to pass. Drunken embarrassment and guilt is as much a part of the hangover as throwing up in your hair, but it fades and transforms into an anecdote within a week.

So, get to know your hangover, learn its little quirks and ways, then wave it goodbye until next time, but always respect it, and prepare. Ignorance may be bliss, but it rarely cleans up the puke it was responsible for.

The Humble Pint

A pint may be defined as a measurement of liquid, but we all understand it represents so much more.

Sharing a pint is not about the mutual experience of drinking barley, it’s about the excuse to sit together and disect the world, be that the wider scope of bickering nations or what goes on between the rooms within your very house. We can’t ask an acquaintance if they’d like to sit in the corner of a room of other conversing people and share their thoughts on their life, others’ lives, divulge their emotions on a variety of topics, share secrets they shouldn’t, debate the utterly futile, increase the bonds of buddydom, and then part with a hug and over the top declarations of feelings for each other; all with the added proviso that should anybody stray too far in their behaviour then it will be forgiven because we were having a moment. But you can say, ‘fancy a pint’?

For a nation that struggles to pour our emotions and true thoughts forth, the social lubrication of a pint is key to holding this farce of society together. Without it, divorces would rocket, marriages would never even begin, friendships would no longer be forged, we’d retreat to our own worlds and stay there, alone, only conversing through pictures on social media of the house we’re sat in, because there was no reason to go out and scream down the lens of a camera, in large, stumbling groups.

So pubs of our nation, in note of this, please reconsider the increasingly standard four pound pint. You are not only killing your business, but you’re massaging the heart of our country to a standstill, and destroying everything we built this great, but socially meek, land upon.

The Art of Skiving

People often mistake skiving for laziness, for doing nothing; they’re wrong. True skiving is an art form, a skill. It has to be nurtured, studied, and most importantly, understood.

Anyone can not do the work they’re supposed to be doing, but a skiver will do so without raising suspicion. As far as the watching world is concerned they’ll blend in to the background, lost amidst the effort of those around them. A true master of the art can even find themselves commended for the perceived effort they’ve been putting in, but before such heights can be reached you must grasp a few fundamentals.

If you haven’t been assigned a task, do not, ever, ask if ‘there’s anything that needs doing’? If you were free from duties then obviously there was nothing to do, but ask, and a plethora of futile tasks will appear. Now you have something to do that didn’t need doing. Simple silence would have kept everyone happy; however, in order to protect yourself from being spotted supposedly doing nothing, always assign yourself a job you’re in the middle of, just in case somebody asks. This can be anything. If you work in an office, position a pile of paper next to your keyboard that you’re ‘working through’. Turn a page every so often, and when the bottom approaches replenish the ‘to do’ pile from the ‘done’ stack. Nobody will care to notice. If you work in a warehouse, take a box with you everywhere you go. You’re eternally taking it somewhere. Can’t be bothered with a box, hide among the shelves, staring at one when people walk past in a vain search for that thing you need.

The point is, you’re busy, but should anything need doing make it a task you can finish in minutes and be ready to help the boss with anything they need. Perceived eagerness is infinitely better than the real thing.

Should you be given a task, find out what is expected of you and how long you have to do it. Once left to it, finish the job as soon as possible, then dismantle one simple step of your efforts and use the rest of the assigned time for your own enjoyment, or even just for a sit down. As the boss returns to check on your progress, hopefully at the end of the allotted time, re-complete the job as they arrive, wiggling various components and checking your work.

Reality is perception, so give off the signals of somebody who is doing their job and it will be presumed you are. Give off the signals of somebody who’s doing nothing and you’ll be spotted instantly, even if you are actually doing something.

Every job is different, but the fundamentals of skiving can be applied to any position. You don’t think anyone’s actually on the other end of Obama’s phone at 3pm on a Friday afternoon?