Saturday, 31 December 2011

Tide Goes In, Tide Goes Out

If you're really looking to change something in your life, why wait until the 1st January? What is this whole New Year resolution thing? I mean, shouldn't we always be changing and evolving and learning?
Seems to me that change is just what life is, just part of the package. Sometimes good, sometimes bad. And sometimes change makes the choices for us. And in acknowledging that we uncover our most persuasive illusion; namely this idea that we're actually in control of anything. Sure, make plans if you've got them, but do so in the knowledge that you're not truly at the helm. There are areas we can influence, and regions we cannot. It's useful to be mindful of this. If you're in any doubt about my claim think about 2011. How many of you planned to be bereaved, to lose a job, to win the health lottery and find yourself fighting a lethal condition? Life throws curve balls at us all the time, in both the small scale stuff and large. There isn't too much we can do to protect ourselves from some things, but we can use our minds to navigate a rough path across the seas of fate. I expect many of you have dreams; by all means chase them down. This is your chance after all. Besides, this is the stage on which the drama is played out, and today the lights are on us. 
On a personal level, 2012 has dangers and opportunity already built into the core program. There's going to be some change, and as always I want to be open to life's eclectic range of experiences.
For those of you who have interacted with me this year, thank you. For those of you that have made me laugh, made me think, made me hot under the collar, thank you for the role you've played. I don't often ponder how I influence others, but I hope at the very least I haven't bored you. 
Enjoy the turning of the year later today people. Just don't forget that the wheels of time never stop turning, and change is just a part of the gig.

Wednesday, 28 December 2011

The Monkey On My Back

You've done something wrong. You enjoyed it. You try to find ways to make it somehow less grievous, less damaging. Pick any number of transgressions, whichever weaknesses you're prone too, and then recall the games that took place in your mind as you tried to balance those books.
Don't do that. Own the misdemeanour. It's the only way you're going to overcome it. Actually, you might not ever overcome it, but it's still better not to self deceive. I hope none of this sounds like a sermon; heaven forbid I've got a vast wardrobe of flaws that I sometimes launch into. I speak from a position of abject weakness, but if I do have a saving grace it's my capacity to be honest with myself. I've been having to do a lot of this of late, and it's a sobering thing.
Which leads me into reflecting how our choices, my choices, rarely happen in isolation. Choices have consequences, our obsessions can cause a ripple effect that can damage those inside the blast zone.
One of my fears is causing upset to other people, specifically those close to me. It's this fear, a healthy fear, that's kept me from walking down more than one blind alley or two. I know that I have weak points, and I'm long resigned to having a life long battle with them. Ok, enough crap, my weakness is the fairer sex; always has been and will be until such time when my libido get's replaced by the desire to go crown green bowling and watch the antiques roadshow.
There. Said it. That was bloody hard. I'm fortunate enough to have an amazing wife who I'm up front with, and she's enough of a realist to know what she's dealing with.  I just love women. Absolutely adore them. I can find something attractive in almost every one. In one sense this is cool, but there's always the flip side that I can find myself obsessing from time to time. It's always been a part of me and I've never shaken it, and I almost don't want to. I relate to females really well, and I've always really enjoyed female company and I hope I have a reasonable grasp of how females think? 
I expect many guys who read this are nodding quietly to themselves. Perhaps I'm a fool to be so candid. Yet this blog is meant to record my thoughts, my angst, my lunacy, and if I hold back it's no longer authentic. Besides, I don't think it's a bad thing to admit to a few personal weaknesses, and perhaps this might encourage others to be a bit more honest with themselves. And here's the punchline; when we can be transparent with ourselves we put ourselves in a place of power. Yes our faults still haunt us, but they are in full view, which means they're not going to take us by surprise. I'm afraid that's the best I can do.

Monday, 26 December 2011

Black & White?

Is there any such thing as a black or white moral issue?
Your gut reaction is likely to be something along the lines of yes. It’s wrong to rape, wrong to kill children. We can probably conjure up a number of principles that we consider as absolutely carved in stone.

Ok then, travel back with me a few thousand years to the time of our ancestors. Some civilisations believed that in order to bless a new building they were required to bury alive a child in the foundations. To us now, this is an abject unquestioning horror, yet the evidence tells us that this was a practice that was indeed carried out. Similarly, children were sometimes sacrificed in order to ensure that the rains came, that the sun shone, and the very act of sacrifice was deemed for the greater good of the community.
Fast forward a few thousand years and we’ve learned that the robustness of a building is not dependent on a child being buried beneath it, or that the offering of infant body parts has no bearing on whether the rains will come or the crops will flourish. We have accrued good reasons to think that child sacrifice is an entirely unsatisfactory and profane way to achieve any such goal.

I’m not done yet. Let’s think about rape. Rape’s bad, right? Ok then, let’s journey back even further in time to when the human lineage dropped in number to as low as 50-60,000. Who’s to say that the prolific rapist didn’t actually ensure that you and I were able to exist? Would you rather he’d gone and made himself a nice cup of tea?

Today’s point? I’m challenging the whole idea of black and white, or this idea that there exists some moral absolutes that when transgressed, demand condemnation. Yes, we know now that killing children and raping indiscriminately do nothing to enable a society to flourish. The reason for this is accrued knowledge, our evolution from base primates into creatures slightly more advanced and reflective. Next time I build a shed I won’t demand that one of my daughters occupies a space beneath it, no more that I intend to rape a complete stranger because she happens to be in my company when I have an erection. If I tried to pull either of these stunts you’d rightly lock me up.

Humans learn. We move from the minus of ignorance to the plus of knowledge. It may be in years to come actions that we deem appropriate now are scorned upon, but today we continue to operate using the cognitive tools at our disposal. Imperfect us, wonderful us. Woeful us, remarkable us.

Saturday, 24 December 2011

The Year I Found My Voice

2011 has been significant for me. I've found my voice. I know where I stand. I'm on solid ground. For the most part this has come from distilling many of my thoughts and ideas, and then throwing them out there by way of this blog.
I started in April. A bit tentative, a bit uneasy, and over the past few months I've hit my stride and become increasingly able to be as candid as I wanted to.
This has sometimes caused offence. Sometimes provided a laugh or two. Above all, if the feedback I get counts for anything its got one or two of you thinking about things in new ways. And even if I haven't swayed anybody into changing opinion I've at least got folks engaging with a few alternative ideas. 
I've penned almost 240 of these now. I've covered a whole range of subjects ranging from religion, sex, obesity , riots, and even Kate Middleton's choice of hosiery. In every sense this blog is a thing of chaos, a reflection of the things I think about. I never went into this with a game plan or any particular agenda; I just wanted to think out loud and invite others to have a peep inside my world. You've probably noticed that's its disorderly and eccentric, and I expect the perception many have of me has changed. You'll know by now that I distrust religion whilst holding many religious friends in high esteem; or that I adore exploring sexuality and discussing taboo issues such as bondage, role play, and masturbation. You'll know I'm contemptuous of rioters without down playing the social morass that creates the conditions for them, and that I consider excess alcoholism and obesity to be real problems largely caused by individual life choices. My position on free speech is that  it's the one sacred thing we truly have, and I stand squarely against every last person who wishes to remove rights that have been hard earned, often in the blood and tears of incredible people. Perhaps above all you'll understand that for me evidence trumps faith every day, and science is the truest and most concise tool we have for understanding the world and our place in it.
As for next year, well who knows? I'm going to be starting a new job, and that's going to stretch me in new and challenging directions. The rest is all up for grabs. I don't know where the road is going to lead. Plans are all well and good but life can untangle them rudely, so whatever I do I'll never take a thing for granted.
Finally, I want to thank those of you who have taken time to read this. This blog has now received several thousand page views, and numbers appear to be gradually rising. Thank you for taking time out of your day to engage with this thing; I hope I've made you laugh and think and perhaps even shake your fists from time to time. The hunt for universal popularity is one of the most wasteful aspirations a human being can have, and I've long since decided that I'd take being interesting over being popular any day of the week.
I'll leave it to you to decide whether this year constitutes the proverbial mission accomplished.

Happy Christmas fellow denizens of planet Earth. And a happy new year.

Twilight Tedium

Perhaps 30 minutes isn't enough to form a full judgement, but I tried watching one of the Twilight films last night. As a cure for insomnia I can heartily recommend it, but as a piece of entertainment I would rather do a bungee jump with the cord attached to my nuts.
Didn't anybody teach werewolves and vampires to masturbate? That would at least have alleviated some of the sexual tension. The wolf could have used a cushion whilst the vampire; actually I don't know what the vamp could have done? No matter, the entire 30 minutes was spent waiting for something meaningful, for something interesting to occur. This was to be a wait in vain, however. I know, I know, I've just added to entire teen population of the western world to this list of those who'd like to see me tarred and feathered. Oh well, I'm always on the lookout to alienate a new demographic.
I initially thought my failure to comprehend this media phenomena was to do with my age, but then I simply decided that the story lacked drive, the characters dull, and the dynamic was turgid. This was bad movie making by anybody's standards; the film makers would do well to study the work of Christopher Nolan or JJ Abrams to learn how to spin a rollicking good yarn.
For goodness sake Mr angst ridden vampire and lamp post deprived werewolf; please please simply take a few moments to knock one out; I'm convinced that would have helped all concerned!

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

The Avenue Of Glass

Show of hands please? How many of you have been dumped, or divorced, or rejected for perhaps other reasons? Ok, hands down, I already knew I wouldn't be the only one.
I bet you can remember those feelings. I bet you can retrieve them as quickly as you could pull your mobile from your pocket. Probably faster. There are plenty of unpleasant events that happen in our lives, but being rejected almost always creates a deep and often profound wound. How quickly it heals varies from person to person, perhaps even depends on what came before. Like it or not we're all products of our own story, and sometimes the script that's churned out could have done with a second draft. 
So what happened after? Those first few hours, days, weeks? How long did it take to sink in, when you finally registered that the other person just didn't have the commitment, the desire, the love? 
I can't say for sure, but I wonder whether it's worse for women? I only say this because self image is a normally a bigger deal for them? When a man says I don't want you, I don't desire you, don't want to be with you does it hurt as much as I suspect? And what then? The emotional storm that ebbs and flows; perhaps an early numbness combined with notions of rising above it? Only then like quicksand we get sucked down, a curdling anger seeping outward and a sense, perhaps misplaced, of savaged pride. Oh by the way, don't underestimate the pride bit; you can bet that most of the negative feelings that follow will have roots that go deep into its heart. 
How long was it before you were able to move on? Have you moved on? How much damage has been done? Is it harder to trust, tougher to see yourself as desirable to someone else? It's a shocker how self image can tie us all up in mental knots. Only here's the thing; your past doesn't have to dictate your future. What was doesn't automatically have to be again. For most people there's hope and possibilities, even though imagining that is often near impossible. And another thing; don't expect anybody else to appreciate you if you're not able to appreciate yourself. And I don't mean self adoration, but rather just a healthy appreciation of your own self worth, a recognition that you can be smart, sexy, engaging.
The reason for this blog? Today I heard accounts of how people's lives had been eroded by the behaviour of others. I heard about the wounds, the waste, the fear that some perfectly decent people have to endure. It doesn't surprise me that there's evil in the world, and yet I do feel we need to resist it. And part of that journey means we should sometimes just look in the mirror and say to ourselves, "I'm ok. I have qualities."
We've all got to start someplace. 

Monday, 19 December 2011

Should I Apply?

I’m thinking of applying for the role of supreme leader of North Korea. As I understand it the jobs straightforward enough. The successful applicant receives God like status and his every word and deed is regarded as unquestionable and beyond reproach. So far, so good. The main criteria appear to be a commitment to dominating a population of millions, ensuring they are kept hungry, ignorant, and terrified. It’s also advantageous that they are regularly brainwashed into believing that the leader is actually doing them a favour by treating them in this way. Another fairly pivotal job requirement is to sporadically piss off the southern neighbours; they have after all succumbed to a rather nasty ailment known as democracy. Any money obtained from the bewildered populace, rather than re-investing in infrastructure and development can be diverted straight into a nuclear weapons program. Let the peasants starve by all means, but for goodness sake don’t build too few weapons of mass destruction.
In fact, I wonder whether I’m the right guy for this gig. Whilst I do a nice line in eccentric, I’ve little practical experience in being a despot. I’m also afflicted by a nasty malady referred to as empathy and compassion, which stops me doing stuff like eating babies and pulling the legs off kittens. I wonder whether my skill set would be best deployed elsewhere.

Saturday, 17 December 2011

The Problem With Pedestals

Is that one can only remain upon them for so long. In fact, the very act of being upon one is somewhat unnatural. Feels kind of awkward, and we have to be a bit too diligent, a bit too aware.
Happily, nobody of sane mind would seek to put me on a pedestal. And for the very simple reason that I, like you, don't belong there. Now here's a straightforward enough fact; during the course of our lives we're going to endear ourselves to some whilst alienating others. I'd actually argue that if you don't achieve this less than miraculous feat you're something of an introvert. For the most part this will happen easily enough; the real challenge comes from standing against those you counted as friends, speaking honestly about the things they might find hard or not really want to hear. This for me is when true friendship is defined; not in the times when the water is blue and calm, but when there's real tension and something is threatened. 
I've done this. I'm still doing it. I choose to.
Thing is, I've never knowingly done so from a point of moral superiority. I have too many faults of my own, too many idiosyncrasies, and more rough edges than I can venture here. No, as imperfect goes I'm as good a candidate as any, and nobody should treat my words as Gospel. Come to that, nobody should treat the Gospel as Gospel, but that's another gripe for another day.
What I'm advocating here is simply moral bravery; the courage to say what we feel for sincere reasons and in a clear manner. Now here's a strange paradox for you; one of the qualities I learned to hone as a Christian was the need to speak truthfully into all situations. It's a good discipline to nurture, yet here's the bizarre thing; it was this self same commitment that caused me to jettison religious belief. It had, if you like, taught me too well, and my faith became the proverbial caterpillar that evolved into a butterfly freethinker and skeptic. Funny how life sometimes produces odd outcomes?
Anyway, as I write this I'm going to try to take two things from the exercise. First, I'm never going to fit on that pedestal, and if I did by some absurd miracle manage to haul my carcass onto it, I'm convinced the whole thing would come crashing down around me. And second, I want to keep searching out what is true. Not what I want to be true, which is a quite different and utterly rancid thing, but what is actually true. 
So anyway about that pedestal; what say we just leave it empty? In fact, how about we use it to remind ourselves that we're not the finished article? That what we know today is nothing compared to what we could know, need to know?
I like the idea of that.

Friday, 16 December 2011

The Unmet Friend

Strange how it is possible to grieve for a man I was never fortunate enough to meet. Actually scratch that, I've met Christopher Hitchens through his written words and debates untold times, and as I write this I am actually reading his autobiography, Hitch 22, a searingly honest account of his life, loves, and journey's across this war torn globe. A brilliant man, a brilliant mind, an agile speaker with the ability to illuminate and transform with the power of language.
He was a contrarian, steadfastly refusing to sit in any pigeon holes people might ascribe to him. He challenged authority, stood up for injustice, and called a spade a spade in a way that few could. YouTube is rich with videos of him destroying his opponents; he possesses a formidable rhetorical armoury that few could match. He wrote numerous books, including a critique of Mother Theresa titled mischievously "The Missionary Position" which gave some hint as to his views on mainstream religion. His 2007 best seller "God Is Not Great" propelled him to literary superstardom and earned him the disdain of the evangelical right. I recall the first time I heard him speak I was either still a Christian or certainly in the death throes of my faith. Through listening to him, reading him, and thinking about his arguments I was able to cast off what he described as the mind forged manacles of religion. In full flow he really was utterly devastating, and his loss at the age of 62 robs us of a true great and a hugely influential thinker. There is so much I want to write about this man, but above all as I compose this the overwhelming feeling I have is one of gratitude.
His death may be the end of him in physical form, but his words and thoughts will be forever immortalised and hopefully shared from generation to generation.
We seem to live in a world where people think only of the trivial and the trite; I often despair at just how few actually ask big questions and engage with what it truly means to be alive. Christopher Hitchens was an open Atheist, so had to live out his final days absent the fear soaked comfort blanket known as religion. No snivelling death bed conversion for him, no inane cry for the priest to lessen the inevitability of our own destruction. He died as bravely as he lived, a feat I desire to emulate, although I fear I do not have his raw courage.
One final thing; don't think that I raise this man onto a pedestal that blinds me to his undoubted many faults as a human. Pedestals are lethal things and none belong atop them. No, today I just want to acknowledge an immense fellow human being, a fellow traveller, and mourn the loss of a man who lived life to the very full.
Christopher Hitchens; I salute you. Farewell my unmet friend.

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Wouldn't It Be Lovely?

If tomorrow, every Muslim father went to his daughters, lovingly lifted their veil and said, "You require this no longer. You are beautiful, and this is good"

If somewhere in Africa, missionary's renounced religion, yet continued to help the afflicted, for no other reason than it is the right thing to do.

If in America, politicians no longer had to play the religion card in order to stand any chance of standing for office.

If theologians acknowledged that verbosity does not equal veracity, smiled gently in the direction of the skeptic and confessed, "The game's up. I've been trying to square the circle for too long. Forgive me, let's stand as brothers and make this a world worth living on."

If Creation scientists came clean and acknowledged, "The Bible has nothing to say about science. I am wrong. Help me to understand how the world really is."

If the Christian woman, weighed down with heavenly self loathing looked skyward and saw only the sun and said, "I don't need this grief. I don't need to please a figment of my imagination. I am a good and decent person, and where I'm not I'll just try harder rather than ask a non existent God to help."

If the Christian man abandoned the daily battle to repress their perfectly natural sexuality, and instead just laughed and said, "Oh heck, this thing in my trousers doesn't half send me barmy sometimes."

If the religious parents of a sick child ceased to rely only on prayer and instead sought medical help, not fearing diving wrath.

If nations ensnared by millennia of religious in fighting said to each other,  "No, the light of reason must illuminate the way. We must not let doctrines of old poison us and reduce us to living in enclaves of fear and mistrust.

If the citizens of Africa were taught about birth control and condom use, ignoring the preacher or the Imam who insists that such practices lead straight to a fiery hell.

If young girls were spared the torture of genital excision; those performing the rituals hanging up blunt tools and saying, "My ways are evil and no longer will I mutilate and rip asunder."

And finally, if one day we could admit honestly to ourselves that whilst we are so imperfect, we are also precious and unique. And moreover, we are a remarkable chapter in what is perhaps the greatest story ever told.

Monday, 12 December 2011

Rick Perry - The Man Without A Clue

As things stand, Rick Perry's anti gay Christmas message on YouTube has now reached legendary proportions. It has received 697,000 dislikes, which takes some doing. Moreover, it has spawned a tsunami of parody videos, some of which are of formidable quality.
For the uninitiated, Rick Perry is a Republican Presidential candidate, and evangelical Christian, or at least that's what we had all thought.  He is about as American as Apple pie, and appears to be a male clone of Sarah Palin. Sarah with a dick, if you like. In all my years of watching Christians self destruct on the alter of inanity, I don't think I've ever encountered a more spectacular example. And trust me I've seen a few. I find myself wondering; if he had changed his mind about wanting to be President, why not just say so? Why create a video that so remarkably misses the public mood and instead taps straight into the femoral artery of the evangelicals? I can only assume it was a calculated risk, although whomever made the calculation really has something to answer for. 
These gays; scary things. They touch each other! They have a little tinkle with each others bits, and if you love Jesus this just won't do. Because if there's anything that makes the baby Jesus cry its penis's that get too close to each other. I've previously likened it to the scene at the end of Ghosbusters when the team argue about crossing the beams. It would be bad. Oh so very bad. 
Ok, let's ease off for a minute and consider just what it takes to even consider holding the kind of views that Governor Perry holds? What force of nature can create such fear of another demographic that it will actively campaign to deny them rights and privileges?
Oh yeah, Christianity. That didn't take much working out, did it? Good old Jesus worship, or zombie worship as I prefer to call it. Cos' lets face it, that's what we call people who rise from the dead isn't it? So let's gets this straight then, Rick; you were told by a zombie that when penis's or vagina's come too close together this will somehow bring about the end of the world? That people of the same gender cannot love, cannot feel, cannot be drawn to one another in the fullest possible way? You strange, sorry, uneducated man. What more need be said for either him or his followers today? Happily, the people have been sending him and Christian bigots a clear message since his video went viral, and the message goes thus; We're happy for you to hold any personal beliefs you want, and have no desire to make laws or legislate against you. We recognise and respect your right to be heard, and ask no more than you extend this same courtesy to other groups of people. If you do this we can all live harmoniously, and perhaps engage with some issues that we all consider pressing such as climate change, population, economic growth and human rights. 
Surely Baby Jesus is cool with that?

Sunday, 11 December 2011

Only Bad Guys Climax First

I think men who deliberately climax first should be penalised. Perhaps they should be required to go shopping with their beau, or forced to sit through a whole episode of X Factor? I really do feel that the punishment fits the crime.
I mean guys, it's all well and good you going off like an express train and leaving your long suffering partner high and dry, but ask yourself, is this showing love in any meaningful sense? And let's be honest, once we're done the enthusiasm is going to wane for us, and our minds are liable to turn to watching football, playing Call Of Duty, or taking the dog for a walk. Well I think we should put a stop to this malarkey and create a new law that prevents men from ejaculating first.
Seriously, I do find it hard to comprehend how a man could do such a thing? Perhaps it's just the way I'm wired, but I love giving pleasure and encouraging a partner to discover their sexuality. I've been this way for as long as I can remember, and would go as far as to say that I consider the other persons needs more important than my own. And here's the thing; when you do this you'll often find that this is reciprocated, and that intimacy goes to new depths, which is what it's all about, isn't it? You might be wondering what's got me thinking about this today, and no I'm not feeling frisky just in case you're getting ahead of yourself. I'm probably just doing a bit of cheer leading and encouraging a more outward looking attitude to sex and sexuality. It's such a potential gold mine of human experience I often think our failure to communicate on the issue constitutes a real missed opportunity, and I wonder how many couples are having an average sex life when they could be having a spectacular one? I've long since advocated a more open attitude, and think our minds and our bodies, when shared in an intimate relationship can open up levels of communication that transcend words. If you doubt this recall the most intense sexual experience you ever had; I'm confident that in those moments you were lost and caught up in something spectacular. As a man I want to facilitate this journey, to walk with my partner and help them find such experiences more regularly. And why? Well I love to see people fulfilled, to feel valued and cherished and understood. This is all the more important when we find it hard to express issues of sexuality without embarrassment or fear of scorn. Newsflash; we all have fantasies; they're all different. And so long as everything is safe, sane, and consensual then what are you worried about?
Once again, If you think I'm being a sexual zealot then too bad. I'm neither seeking your approval or fearing your disdain. I'm just trying to acknowledge what is a real part of our nature and bring it a bit more into the open.

Saturday, 10 December 2011

Another Day, Another Moron

According the Bill Donohue, head of the American Catholic League, as an Atheist I “Believe in nothing, stand for nothing and are good for nothing.”
I have to confess, I was not aware of this? He's got me thinking, though, so I figured I'd put his assessment to the test.
I believe in lots of things. Oxygen and gravity to name just two. I believe there's a reasonable chance the sun will rise tomorrow, that I will get out of bed, and have at least one thought of a sexual nature. I believe strongly that I'll dwell on that last one far longer than I probably need to.
In terms of what I stand for? Well I value truth and honesty, courage and self reflection. And I sure value living fully and passionately and being open to new experience. I also stand for challenging delusion in all it's forms, which as you might imagine keeps me rather busy.
And as for what I'm good for? Well he should ask any women I've ever gone down on.
Oh come on, you weren't seriously expecting me to spend long on this basket weaver, were you?

He's just too much!!

My best friend taught me everything I know about being open. By way of example, if she hasn't told you about the intimate workings of her womb and pelvic floor within the first five minutes of meeting it means she doesn't like you. Ok, that's marginally over the top, but I do owe her a lot for helping me out of my shell. I think I've probably earned myself a reputation for being candid, and the more you get to know me the worse it gets. For some reason, the subjects that society finds taboo I can't get enough of. So be it religion, sex, or whatever just bring it on. I should probably come with a health warning, something along the lines of "Exposure to Rob may seriously damage your social skills"
What I mean to say is that I do get bored very easily. I just like to go straight to the lively stuff, because at the end of the day that's where it's at isn't it? By the way, this also makes me a very acquired taste. Some people love the fact that I'm so socially inept, whilst others would gladly refer me to the nearest mental health practitioner without seeking my approval before hand.
Know something? I don't want to change. I like cutting to the chase, and similar people will be ok with that. I think I have sufficient discernment to know when not to dive in, but if you give me even the slightest wisp of openness I'm going to have your intellectual knickers off quicker than you can say jack flash.
Pet hates as follows; political correctness, lack of honesty, absence of genuineness. If you manifest these then I'm off. Got better things to do than to play games. And unlike most people I don't need a drop of alcohol to open up; the latch is already undone so you need only nudge the door.
Have I always been this way? Not so much. It's just that over the last few years I've wanted to project an honest image; I can't find it in my heart to play games or suffer fools gladly. I'm sometimes right and I'm sometimes wrong, and Lord knows the words don't always come out well. But if you can look beyond that, and if outrageous conversation is as fun for you as it is for me then we'll get along just fine.

The Lonely Highway

I was watching a video this morning from a former preacher called Dan Barker, who is vice president of the Freedom from religion foundation. He was talking about the plight of the many clergy that have lost faith, yet remain in their position and continue to preach. You might consider that these men and women are being grossly dishonest, and that it would be better for all concerned for them simply to walk quietly into the night and find a new career. To say this is to misunderstand the power of religion, and the way that it infiltrates every aspect of a persons life. For many of these closet atheists they were born and raised as believers, probably training at devotional college and forsaking other career choices. What to do then, when the penny drops? When the veil is drawn back to find that their lives have been built on mistruth?
An important caveat; that alone is a painful experience; leaving religion left me physically and emotionally damaged for some time, and I wasn't involved in the Ministry. Imagine you are pastor to hundreds, perhaps thousands of believers; added to which you have a believing wife and children born and raised to learn the "truth" of their faith on Mothers knee.  Take one thing from this blog people; those around you who shared your error can offer no support in the extrication process. The road is often walked alone, under incredible psychological pressure, with everybody around you imploring you not to do the one thing you know deep inside that you have to do. Nobody wants to discover they have been deceived, and I see people fight tooth and nail to cling on to faith, deploying all kinds of wild rationales to avoid the monumental changes that leaving religion requires. It's roots go deep, like the growth of ivy around a derelict building, choking and denying them a view of the real world. Religion is like a lens, distorting reality, making the unreal seem real, disabling peoples moral compass in ways that sometimes beggar belief. This is not to say that the devout aren't by any standards magnificent people; they are sincere and generous and almost always lovely. Which brings me to my own personal struggle; how do I live consistently as a non believer when in the company of the devout? The truth is, I haven't got a strategy, and have resolved myself to letting it unfold on a person by person basis. My blog allows me to share my views, whilst my published articles get my voice a little bit further afield. Yet on a personal level I tend to let my relationships develop or fade naturally. I have one or two Christian friends with whom I have an even closer relationship now, and whilst we disagree we do so with enjoyment and mutual respect. There are others that I expect remain a bit wary, and in these cases I only express myself If they ask me direct questions or say something I just cannot palate.
Going back to my original point, I don't feel we should be too hasty to condemn those who are trapped in the religious life. To leave is to pull the whole tree out of the ground root and branch, and it destroys many friendships and alliances on the way. And what does an ex-preacher do in this economy? How hard must it be to set the counter to zero and face the prospect of beginning again, often with nothing but a sincere heart and a good working ethic? No, I cannot condemn these souls; I understand something of their journey and the painful road underfoot.

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

A Christmas Verse

Into the shops searching for bargains, anxious store managers bemoaning low margins. Credit cards pounded as debts overload, the January debt causing homes to implode.
The Wii and the Apple are top of our yearning, no matter the scale or the scope of our earning. They fly off the shelves with invisible money the absence of which we now rarely find funny.
Yet this is the season where reason is flouted, our good sense torn grimly asunder. Our cash swapped for plunder whilst big banks go under, our common sense now but a cold empty tundra.
The money we spend we just cannot afford cos' we need to pay back all those big banks abroad.  The euro it crumbles with no end in sight, rich bankers hand wringing bemoaning their plight.

At home just for now it's a different story, the future put grimly on hold. The Christmas trees up and the gifts are all wrapped but the misery's yet to unfold.
Christmas day comes and then Christmas day goes, the frost and cold nibbling our toes. The house is alive with the drink freely flowing, yet deep in our gut our anxiety's growing.
The wrappings recycled, the bottles are gone, the music no more than residual song. The food that's been wasted, this ugly excess, we're fools to be poking at this hornets nest. And lest we forget in our rush to consume that there's no guarantee that bust leads to boom. We've all grown too comfy, our senses have dimmed as we spend and we squander anew, refusing to accept that we now face a different view. And January comes with a shape at the door, a postman amidst frosted glass. A rattle a thunk and the bills on the floor, the enemy silent, returning once more. So a new year begins as the old one concluded, our good sense long gone or perhaps just deluded? So onto the treadmill we climb once again, bemoaning our burgeoning debt.  One really has to wonder, "Ain't we got the message yet?"

Sunday, 4 December 2011

A Teflon Non Stick God

I stumbled across a Facebook status update this morning that made me smile. It went thus; "Church on a bike this morning. Creator God in the beauty of all he has made. Fabulous."
Reading between the lines, I’m guessing that the poster had seen lots of lovely things during the ride; perhaps a dreamy sky, some intoxicating landscape, children playing? I don’t know, I wasn’t there, but it was the underlying motivation behind the status update that got me thinking.
This person had seen something lovely. It made them think of God. I wonder then, what that same person thinks when they see something that is a bit on the unsavoury side? Perhaps other natural phenomena such as a dog turd? or images on television of a child stricken by a parasite that eats its way through the eyeball causing terrible suffering. The actual parasite I refer to is loa loa filariasis, caused by the nematode worm, and it only really does its business in the eyes of the stricken child; in fact it cannot do so anywhere else. Would my intoxicated Christian cyclist be so quick to give glory to the same Creator God, whom presumably created this wee beastie, and gave it the required skill set to perform its magic inside the eyes of children in sub Saharan Africa?
Confession; there was a time when a majestic sunset, or a summer glade or a frozen winterscape would have prompted similar thanks from yours truly. Much of the world is beautiful, and I’m often given reason to draw breath or shake my head in wonder. I’m not seeking to mock this person either; rather I just want to illustrate an inconsistency. When the world is at its best, when the sun shines, when that rebate comes through, when our child passes that exam then praise the Lord. Yet when sun turns the landscape to dust,or the inland revenue demand a chunk of money back, or a loved one suffers we seek to lay the blame elsewhere? I’m unclear why some of us do this so easily? It seems to me that their God can do no wrong? They appear to worship a non-stick God, a Teflon God, like those clever saucepans we can buy?

Saturday, 3 December 2011

No Casanova

I have always been spectacularly unsuccessful when it comes to dating. Thankfully I found a lady prepared to take pity on me and dive sufficiently far down the evolutionary ladder, sparing me the continued embarrassment of romantic failure.
I blamed this on being a slightly overweight teen. Puppy fat, but fat nonetheless; just enough to be crossed off the list of teenage desirables. I countered this, or so I thought at the time, by trying to be either funny or crass, and in so doing achieved the feat of being even less attractive for my efforts.
The odd thing is, I've never felt any discomfort around women. Quite the opposite. Having two older sisters probably taught me that these strange alien creatures were not that strange and alien afterall. I do recall, at the age of 12 having a crush on a certain Joanne Chapman, who for reasons best known to herself agreed to "Go out" with me. Going out, please note, involved standing around at break times, both having the excruciating feeling of having nothing to say to each other. To combat this I actually bought a box of Milk Tray one day which she gracefully accepted. A few days later however the same chocolates were handed back to me unopened via my then teacher. Happily, this was to coincide with Mothers day so the chocolate didn't go entirely to waste. Never let it be said that I cannot turn a negative into a plus.
I've always had a fairly self effacing attitude towards my own inadequacies, adopting the view that I may just as well be at the head of the queue rather than having to join it. I think that during my teenage years I just tried too hard, wanted to impress too much, and in so doing never really reflected who I was. Truth was, and still is, I'm actually a fairly gentle soul. Don't be fooled by some of my blogs; I'm deliberately contrarian when I write because it makes the whole exercise more fun to compose and, so I'm told, more fun to read. As I became an older teenager I lost the puppy fat, toned up, and became a marginally more attractive specimen, although I still had the brain of a walnut combined with the mouth of a planet. So still not exactly a catch, then. 
I was never the kind of guy who had a lot of girlfriends anyway. Beyond the bravado I was actually quite shy and largely clueless. It was many years before I learned that the only image worth projecting is an honest one, and that no amount of window dressing is going to make a person desirable in the long term. I do recall having quite a fear of rejection, possibly linked to some the abuse you get as a "fat" kid. Funny how the critique you get during those early years hangs around in the dusty vaults of our minds. A nasty little voice always ready to remind us of our lesser qualities. Still, in my case it was probably a good thing. Anything that curbed my arrogance was a plus. Again, how much of this was just a cover, just window dressing behind which the real man cowered?
Oh well, too early to think too deep. Suffice to say that I may as well just come clean and admit to myself that I never had the ladies falling over themselves to get to me. And even if they had I'm not sure I would have known what to do with them once they arrived?

Post Impact

It was strange contemplating the prospect of repeating a journey precisely 24hrs after having nearly killed myself on it the day before. An involuntary shiver passed through me as I was on my lunch break, which incidentally was at three this morning. I am aware now that I spent much of yesterday in shock without apprehending it. Shaking for three hours was probably the giveaway, but I hadn't put the pieces together at the time. I wonder how many inches differentiated between what was a side swipe, as opposed to a head on collision? I was lucky to experience the former rather than the latter.
So anyway, that's my car buggered. Royally, as it happens. Front wheel at some absurd angle, the offside door steadfastly refusing to close. The cost of the repair would likely flirt too closely with the actual cost of the vehicle, meaning that as they say, is that.
Still, could be worse. I could be in hospital. Worse, I could have hospitalised someone else. And this is the worst of it; I'm perfectly prepared to be the author of my own downfall, but to inconvenience and harm others is to me a horrible thing. And beyond the accident itself I now deprive my wife and children of the other car by virtue of my need to use it for work. Joy and I had talked about doing this, but I don't believe she had expected my decision to be quite so unilateral. You know something, that woman is spectacular. Between me making the call from the roadside and her appearing with warm drinks and biscuits was probably half an hour. In this time she'd got the girls dressed and dropped off at a good friends. And not once since has she been critical of me, preferring to express her gratitude that I walked away unscathed. I do not deserve her. I don't think I ever did.

Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Strike Out

What are we British made of? At what point did we decide to throw our toys out of the pram and nonce around like a bunch of immature children? When did the pendulum swing so far that we bleat and complain, when in global terms our cup continues to run over?
Times are, compared to the pampered years we've lived through, tough. But when we use this word do we have any real grasp of just how good we continue to have it? More than that, are we so ignorant that we choose to blame everything on the bankers when it's our addiction to credit and living beyond our means that partly  lit the touch paper? True, there are some greedy bankers in the world, but don't be so quick to project your infantile concept of the problem onto them. If you want to see the real pantomime villain then find the nearest mirror; you'll be eyeball to eyeball.
What was that? How dare he? Oh yeah I dare, and then some. If we had the self control to live within our means, or at least within touching distance we wouldn't be in quite the same mess. Granted, it wouldn't have cured the problem but at least it wouldn't have magnified it.
People of Britain (I deliberately removed the "Great"), the time has come to stop whining, hunker down, and get on with it. How's about we showed some grit, something like the courage that got us through two world wars? Times were orders of magnitude harder then, and the issues were life and death. In light of this, and as sad as I am that you cannot afford that 3D television you had your eye on, or that expensive handbag, or whatever. You are still in the lap of luxury, and if you doubt this then I suggest you try living as much of the developing world does. Day to day, hand to mouth, subsistence living. And their numbers dwarf yours, and they live in squalor and hardship and get to enjoy such delights as high infant mortality, starvation, and death from diseases that we in the west simply hand wave away.
In short, please by all means state your opinion, and bemoan that your pension isn't going to stretch as far and will cost you more. I'm sorry, but when you reap the harvest we've been cultivating for so many decades, don't be surprised when what you sow isn't quite as much as you hoped.
We're less affluent. We're not poor. And if you say otherwise, I'd love to see your evidence for this.

Monday, 28 November 2011

A Rapist In The Family - Further Reflections

Not so long ago I wrote a blog titled "A Rapist In The Family". It raised the rather uncomfortable fact that at some point in our family history, a male probably forcibly copulated with a female, impregnating her and ensuring his genetic code found its way into the next generation. Now if you ask the average non psychopath you can be reasonably confident that agreement can be reached that rape is a bad thing. Yet as a skeptic what grounds have I to say this? My ancestor, smaller brained and more brutish was doing no more than avoiding the Darwin award by reproducing, and he was following a natural compulsion.
So what changed? How can I transition and argue that rape is in fact bad?
Well I happen to think the answer is rather straightforward. And I think the key to it probably lurks in the evolution of language. When our species stumbled across this facet it was an absolute game changer; it meant that whole new avenues of communication were made available to us. One could argue that language is the thing that undergirds all sociobiological transactions in the modern world. 
Yet we still have rapists? And people of violence? 
I probably don't need to spell out the rest. What I do say is that it does put a pin in the balloon of any claim of objective morality, this rather tenuous idea that in order for us to know right from wrong we must appeal to some transcendent force, or as people commonly refer to as God. You see, it doesn't seem to move us any further forward? We have reasonable explanations for why we can say of a certain act that it is wrong or harmful, and to the modern world most of us have a clear understanding that rape is detrimental to the flourishing and wellbeing of its victims. We can say this despite knowing that we didn't always think this way, and we can acknowledge that we are the products of a long line of human ancestry. Now I chose rape as just a single emotive example to make a greater point; namely that our moral leanings are accumulated over time and are informed by many factors. Can a person still rape? Well yes? They can expect to find themselves subject to the laws we have established to protect ourselves, however. And how did these laws come about? Once again we can doff our cap at language as the conduit that made this possible.

The Secret Of Polite Conversation

Is not to bother. I'm serious. I mean what's the point? I know that silence can be awkward, and we kind of feel we should fill the blanks, but ask yourself, is it any more than white noise? Now I'm a quite down the line kind of guy, and I'd much rather have a discussion worthy of our time, or at least a joke or a quip; anything but uncomfortable musings about the weather or other rubbish that neither of us give a rats arse about. So let's cut the following deal; don't feel under any obligation to fill the empty space should our paths ever cross. It's not that I don't want to chat; it's just that I'd rather engage with you on a meaningful level, because that's when people connect and make real contact, and those episodes are always worth tuning into. 
It's a funny thing; over the last couple of weeks I've been chatting on and off with people that I've worked alongside for three years yet haven't spoken to before,  and it always shocks me how my initial appraisal of a person is so wrong. There's always more to them than I credit them for, some intriguing layer, something I just didn't expect to find there. This is about as cool as interaction get's, that moment when we have to re-calibrate and adjust our definitions of people. That's contact worth having. On the flip side, and if you're at all like me there are some people that it seems very hard to engage with, and thats not a critique by the way. Is it a chemistry thing? Have we allowed our pre-suppositions to get in the way of something more? I couldn't honestly say. 
When alls said and done I love nothing more than relationship building, forming alliances with people and learning how they tick. But I never force the issue; if something's going to flourish its going to have a natural element to it, which takes us full circle to just why I dislike this social convention we call polite conversation. It's just a hindrance as far as I can tell, and it's boring too. Do any of us want to waste the time we have? That's not to say we should be motivated by selfish intentions; if I see somebody looking a little flat or down I'll often ask how they are. If they are not in the right place to tell me, or simply do not wish to then lets fine. I've done my bit, I've reached out tentatively.
No idea why I'm writing this, by the way.  I'm just off on one.

Sunday, 27 November 2011

A Tribute To The Mothers Of The World

You do the hardest job in the world. You are amazing. If you take nothing else from this heed that.
For one thing you have to sacrifice so much. Once upon a time you were a carefree young girl, the world at your feet and your story all ready to be told. You could spend hours getting ready, afford those clothes, take that trip, get up late. And then one day that came to an end and the diary took on a different form. Suddenly it's a twenty four hour commitment to the wellbeing of others, a brand new little person wanting everything you've got and then more. The love you have for them, even when they are being a pickle is beyond anything you've ever known; a mothers love, deep and intense and sacrificial. That carefree girl get's put away and everyone else come first; I know how much you sometimes long for the days when your time was your own, or when someone would pamper and love you and put you on a pedestal and treat you like a princess, even if it's only for a while. Only the treadmill rumbles on, the conveyor belt of expectation never ending. And as those little people become slightly bigger people the demands seem to grow. You often have to balance so much, don't you? Work, child rearing, relationship building with your partners. And I know that sometimes it gets too much. This is why you're brilliant, why the term beautiful exists, in actual fact. Your sacrifice is the most noble, the most stressful, the most physically exhausting of them all. Demands from all sides, a constant stream, and the worst is that you get so little thanks. And then there's that guilt you feel, even when you do so much there are those days when you feel like you've let people down. You're expected to be Mothers, lovers, colleagues, organisers, transport, chef; that doesn't leave much time for you.
I'm going to say this again. You are amazing. No, you're absolutely bloody stupendous. I am in awe of you, you're doing the most important job in the world and there's rarely any time off. You have all those lovely clothes in the wardrobe you'd love the chance to wear, and what you'd give for an afternoon at a spa being pampered. I want to thank you for everything you do for the children and the fathers of the world, because you are the engine room, and without you the wheels would come off. I know it's hard, I know you struggle, and I have an even bigger heart for those of you doing it alone. Those days when you feel poorly you can't hand over, and at that time of the month you can't just curl up in a corner with a hot water bottle and a magazine. That's sacrifice, that's love, and if there are such things as angels they'd do well to take a tip or two from you. And when the days come when you lose it, when you shout and wring those overworked hands, don't be too hard on yourself. It doesn't make you any less incredible. It makes you human, fragile, and real.
Perhaps one day you'll get to reclaim that long lost girl that you used to be? Perhaps you can start thinking of yourself, indulging yourself, taking your foot off the pedal and discovering all those passions which you had to shelve for a while?
You're more than just a mum, you realise? You're a lady, a woman, and my hope is that one day, perhaps not so long from now, all your hopes and dreams will come true.

Thursday, 24 November 2011

The Tale Of Christopher Green

I don't think I ever disliked anyone more than I disliked Christopher Green. You know the sort; teenager of rich parents, best trainers, big mouth. He also liked to pick fights with people for absolutely no reason, and when your number came up he'd nag away at you until you snapped. 
Being a rather unpleasant teenager myself I was probably due my day of reckoning, and it was to take the form of a ferocious right hand that came out of nowhere and knocked me clean out. That was chastening; no bugger had ever done that before. Worse, it happened at the end of a youth club in front of all my peers. In fact scrub chastening; humiliating is a better fit.
A normal person would probably have skulked away and licked his wounds, surfacing sometime letter a better and more contrite person. I was therefore waiting at the school gate at the end of the next school day and boy did we give it some. I remember having hold of his neck and slamming five cracking right handers into his skull, and I expect he returned the compliment with a few of his own. The upshot; he never bothered me again. He moved onto new targets. For my part I'm quite certain that I'd have waited for him day after day until he'd got the message, but I was pleased that it didn't come to that.
This was twenty five years ago, and I have a sneaking suspicion that being on the end of that shot was one of the best things that ever happened to me. I was arrogant and full of myself; I needed taking down a peg or two. I wonder what kind of man I'd have become if that hadn't happened? More arrogant? More aloof?
As the years passed the real man hopefully emerged from that foolish teenager, and he's an altogether gentler spirit. The thought of me lashing out at anybody these days seems absurd to me.
At the age of 17 years Christopher was driving at high speed in a Peugeot 205 GTI, a vicious hot hatch which put way too much power through the front wheels. One day he left the road at insane speed and hit a tree, and it was later established that identification had only been possible via his dental records.
I vividly recall being called by my buddy Stuart. A voice down the phone saying "Greenies Dead"
Teenagers don't die, do they? We last forever, we're indestructible? At the end of the call I went up to my room, and I prayed for the lad. Prayed and really meant it, and from this emerged perhaps his final lesson to me, namely the sheer pointlessness of hating. What's the point? Who gains? And for what?
I can honestly say that he made me a better man, and I'm so sad that his road was to end so soon, and under such traumatic circumstances. Nobody should have to perish inside a burning car.

Monday, 21 November 2011

The One's They Leave Behind

I am parked in a gateway just outside North Marston. A low, late autumn sun cascades thin light through light grey clouds, the trees and hedgerows a forlorn combination of greens, browns, flecked yellow. I have just come from a visit to my father's grave, a practice I allow myself once in a while. Truth is, it's just a grave isn't it? An unremarkable piece of ground that served as the last resting place of a man fortunate enough to live a full, albeit slightly curtailed life.
I'm not one for deep introspection, and my visits tend to feel a bit anti climatic. The cemetery is set amidst pretty countryside on the outskirts of Winslow, a quiet plot of land marked by tall hedgerows and a black ornate entrance gate.
I tend not to think so much of his death, but rather of those left behind. My mother was married to him for 48 years, and I'm awed at how she has succeeded in creating something positive from the ashes of that loss.
That's all we can do, isn't it? Head down, move on, doing our best to make our lives meaningful? I expect all who read this have been bereaved at some point, and if not then be sure that's it's coming your way. But resist, if you can the urge to hurl yourself off the nearest bridge at the prospect, because you've got some living to do yet. There's a journey ahead that doesn't have to be bleak or morose; it can be beautiful and numinous and enriching. And we're all on the same conveyor belt after all, so don't let mortality bring you down too much. 
I'm parked  the gateway that marks the beginning of Matthews Walk, so named  after a young child who perished at a cruelly young age. I walked it earlier this year and it was memorable for both the company and the landscape I shared it with. I wonder whether we need to do more to remind ourselves that our glass is half full rather than half empty? Hell, it's worth reminding ourselves that we're even holding the bloody glass. Of all the people that could have been born you and I were; that's neither to be sniffed at nor taken for granted. So whatever road you traverse, and whether you're drifting through the meadows of relative comfort or scaling the jagged peaks of tribulation, do so in the knowledge that it didn't have to be you there doing it. You scooped the jackpot, won the main prize, and succeeded where literally billions did not.
Pat yourself on the back, kid. That's quite a victory.

Sunday, 20 November 2011

The Sex Inside Your Head

A few months back I wrote on the fun to be had in writing erotic fiction as a means of self expression.  I want to reflect upon the issue again because It really has opened my eyes to new levels of sexual identity and imagination. By the way, I know that most of you who read this will never admit to doing so; it's ok, I'm delighted to be your naughty secret. But anyway, I've been beavering away on the subject when opportunity allows and I've found it so liberating. It's a time when I can allow my natural creativity to focus on issues of fantasy, those ideas and compulsions that often form a sexual narrative in my head.
I've always maintained that the best sex begins in the mind, and if you can understand and find peace with that then I'd argue that it puts you in a good place to be an exiting and stimulating partner. The lovely thing is that our sexual persona is often the polar opposite of how we are on a day to day basis; a corner of our psyche, a bottom drawer that we get to open when chance allows. I really do feel that if partners could find a way past their own inhibitions and really share of themselves and with each other relationships would flourish more than they do. And I don't just mean the erotic aspect; the same could be true of when we find issues or certain expectations difficult. We all have different lines in the sand and a happy medium needs to reached. That said, I suspect that for some their background puts a psychological block on sexual self expression, perhaps negative family experiences, or a background attitude towards sexuality as something dirty or unspeakable. I acknowledge that these can be difficult discussions, yet I feel they are worth having. If I have one desire from this piece its that perhaps one person will think about the subject and perhaps reflect on their sexual attitude and appetites. I cannot say strongly enough that it's ok to explore the realms of your sexual imagination. Open up, explore who you are, find your zone and be open to new experience.
Anyway, I'm off to dress up as a French maid replete with stockings, basque, and 4" heels. Actually no, I'm going for the Batman outfit instead. I can even jump from the wardrobe again now that we've had it repaired.

Breaking The Silence

The Council of ex-Muslims is an organisation I want to stand firmly alongside, and if possible increase their visibility. What they are doing requires enormous courage, even though in reality none should be required.
A Muslim who leaves Islam is exercising a life choice, doing no more than saying I do not subscribe to this system of belief. Why then, should such a decision come with so much  baggage and fear?
It's easy. Islam has a lot to lose. For any religion, it's adherents are the oxygen that allow it to breath. Remove the oxygen and the thing dies. No wonder then  that those with the proverbial power often deploy veiled threats in order to keep the flock in line. It used to be this way with Christianity, but the enlightenment strangled it of its power to control in this way. Which brings me to the point I want to make today; namely to highlight the importance of dissent. I have posted a video on my Facebook and Tweet feeds which I encourage all of you to watch; it shows that as a species we are often scarily ready to conform, even when every piece of evidence we have demands a different response. My own journey has required me to stand apart on numerous occasions and will doubtless require me to do so again; something I am proud of. I do not want to be swayed by power of numbers and I do not desire to hang out with the herd. So whether it's my attitude to religion, or my promotion of deeper acceptance of our sexuality, or my commitment to put truth above comfort, I will continue to dissent when I feel it appropriate.
Not to showboat, nor to make a scene, but simply because I desire to walk this way. I just want to be authentic, because to do so is to live as a truly free human being, and that seems a good idea given that we're all on limited time.
So join me in being who you truly are. Not because I or anybody else dictates it, but because you are free and beautiful and, most important of all, because you can.

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Thank You, But No.

I'm almost impossible to offend. In order to do so you not only have to hit a raw nerve, but do so at the right time.  The last time somebody did this was perhaps four years ago, and to this day I've never told her just how clumsy her comments were. It get's a bit oblique here, but if you're interested stick with me.
It is a weekend and I am at home. A friend of my wife is visiting, and it is the early days of my apostasy.  Having rejected religion I was still damaged goods, trying to re-orient myself, trying to figure our how the world really was and form opinions that were not based on some ancient text. I was a few months into my job with the police, and for some reason the discussion turned to my faith, or rejection thereof.  I cannot recall the thrust of the discussion but talk turned to my new job, and this individual felt it appropriate to point out that people had most likely been praying for me prior to my successful application, which of course meant I should be grateful to the almighty for his (It's always a he isn't it?) providence. On the surface this is a genteel statement, the kind words of a kind and lovely person. The timing however was about as clumsy as two rhino's mating, the suggestion being that I somehow owed gratitude and acknowledge her God with due servility.
At the time I let it pass, but on reflection I wish I hadn't. In my position, those words were an affront, a dreary monotone from a lifelong member of the flock. I cannot say precisely why I felt so utterly violated; perhaps something to do with the fact that I was working so hard to forge my own space in the cosmos, far away from the false consolation of faith. Bare in mind that this would have been the same year that my father died, the same year that I was recovering from what had been two years of undiagnosed work related stress. My marriage wasn't great due to the whole religion thing, and I was being sporadically blessed with letters and e-mails from people urging me to reconsider my worldview. In summary, I was a bit fragile, which isn't a word anybody would normally associate with me.  So when a well meaning person tries to ascribe my hard work to secure a job to the providence of a being whom, if they did exist, exhibits all the hallmarks of a perfect shit, well it was never going to go down well.
As with most things, time heals. I rebuilt my life, formed my own perspective on a number of issues. Only in hindsight did I recognise that all forms of religious belief have a cultish air about them; this is why they are so hard to leave. And one only see's this from the outside looking in; in all the little signs winking away; the group think, the conviction that the brand of faith you hold is the best, the desire to win to souls of the lost and walk them to salvation.
Most of you who read this will wonder how I ever got involved? It's no real mystery; I was ripe for the picking. A credulous twenty something, single and good natured, open minded and prepared to give anybody an audience. I was a little lonely, too, so when I was surrounded by all these warm and lovely people it was just the best feeling, kind of like finding the home I'd always wanted.
Anyway, whatever point I was intending to make has flitted off somewhere. Suffice to say that this female has forever earned her place in my memory as a classic example of being sincerely and utterly wrong to project her infantile beliefs onto me. I'd served my time, thank you.

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

The Day The Gods Were Born

It is thought that our ancestors emerged from the cradle of Africa somewhere between 100,000 and 250,000 years ago. Of course our lineage goes back far further, but in terms of what we might delicately call modern man this is the time we are considering. Our descent from tree dwellers to savannah roaming hunter gatherers was a pivotal moment in our history. Without this astonishing event would our brains ever have evolved sufficiently to enable someone like me to be sat typing this?
Try to imagine those early years. The wonder, the adventure, the fear and mystery; an endless striving for life let alone flourishing. We owe these homo sapiens a lot. Now imagine the crash of thunder, the flash of lighting, or the onset of a flash flood or volcano or some other natural terror. What else can a fledgling mind do but ascribe these events, this phenomena to a higher agency, some power beyond their comprehension? And thus the Gods were born, back in our pre history, when we had the answers to precisely nothing. Gaps in our knowledge were huge, our brains, whilst in many ways magnificent, unable to grasp that these events could have a natural cause. In all cultures there are structures of belief, and it seems that it is a thing that comes quite naturally to us. But don't be deceived; in fact just consider what else would have come naturally to us back then. Rape was the favoured means of copulation, brute savagery route one to securing territory. Child and human sacrifice were also employed in many cultures, so to say that something is natural is to say no more than we are capable of it.
So the Gods are born. And as with all things they evolve. During those early epochs we worshipped them in all shapes and sizes, mistaking even the sun and the moon for looming supernatural forces. Yet as we become cultured and philosophical so do our Gods; and we begin to ascribe to them patterns and moods that run parallel with our own. Funny that.
Back in the midsts of time our many Gods fought for supremacy, disparate tribes marching forth under their banners of belief, conquering and spreading their own brand of primitive religion. You may have noticed that this strategy never really fell out of fashion, and to this day the variant religions also compete for resources, or as they might say, the souls of the living.
I'll conclude with a little arithmetic. As evidenced, we once worshiped many kinds of God. As time progressed the pool of possibilities narrowed and we find ourselves worshiping perhaps one God in particular. To quote the magnificent Christopher Hitchens, could it be that we are getting closer to the real figure all the time?

Sunday, 13 November 2011

A Clumsy Kind Of Love

It's entirely possible to be right in all the wrong ways. I know this because I've been guilty of it. And because I've been guilty of it I recognise it in others. You've probably done similar, unless you're a shrinking violet who consents to everything. Unless you fall into the later category you can likely recall times when, from a position when the facts are on your side you've perhaps pushed someone too hard, forced them into too tight a corner, causing them distress, anger, sometimes humiliation. You'll know when you've done it because you'll have mixed emotions afterwards. What could have been a point well made and a discussion worth having has been rendered a side dish amidst a more unpleasant episode.
There's someone in my extended family who's frequently been right in all the wrong ways, and often with the best of intentions. Even when what drives her is love and compassion, she poisons it all with an uncanny ability to be clumsy, thoughtless, and blind to the motivations of others. Down the years, and long before I knew her she was doing the same; seeking to control, unable to allow others room to breathe emotionally. The result? Nobody tells her anything, or at least not until later. And the moment she learns this, a hornets nest of agitation explodes within her and the cycle of clumsiness continues, noise and debris hurled in all directions.
For the record, I've always got on well with her; I've been largely spared too much discomfort by virtue of the fact that the very first time she tried it on she was left in no doubt that she was firing across the wrong bow. I'm a fairly gentle soul, but I'm nobody's punchbag, and when required I have no problem speaking clearly and directly into a situation. This is what I did with her, and the result has been a substantially easier ride. What I'm trying to ask is whether sometimes we allow those closest to us to fall into self destructive patterns that cause friction with others and harm to themselves? Do we sometimes take the easier road and remain silent when a few words spoken firmly and with love might have challenged the behaviour? How much of their conduct is the result of our failure to speak plainly? Can we do more? Should we?
What I'm not saying is that we should be trying to get people to conform to our expectations all the time. That's excessive control, which is a massive character flaw. What I'm wondering is whether the balance can be struck whereby we accommodate people's quirks yet also have the guts to stick our heads over the proverbial parapet when need be?
As always, I'm just thinking aloud. Publicly, as I'm apt to do. Just wanted to throw the ideas out and see where they landed.

Friday, 11 November 2011

A Tale Of Two Lives

Up until 4-5 years ago I had a lot of friends. Good friends, dear friends, people I loved dearly. If I was struggling with something I could bounce it off them, knowing they would understand, and that they would not judge.
I don't really have that anymore. It's my fault really. And it's the risk I knew I took when I decided to pursue principle over comfort. I'll spare you the details and this blog is anything but a pity party. It's a simple acknowledgement of what happens when you turn away from everything on which you frame your life.
My Christian friends are the finest people. Better than I, and better than they know themselves. To turn away from my faith was always going to mean distancing myself; again my decision. Having decided to leave the party it's rarely good form to hang around. It wasn't that I wanted to leave the people I'd grown to love and respect, but rather a need I had to make the cleanest possible break. I knew also that my rejection of the things they cherished would make for some awkwardness, and it was not my desire to subject them to that. You see, the problem with me is that I say what I feel, my heart is on my sleeve, and to remain in situ would have been fraudulent and dishonest. More than that, having rejected the pillars of belief how could I operate in a realm in which those self same pillars were the rock on which many lives were built?
So I distanced myself. I had no idea what came after. There had been no exit strategy; I just knew I couldn't do it any more.
These days I'm a more solitary creature. Of course I have a family and one or two close friends, but I'd be lying if I denied that a gap didn't exist. I'm sometimes subject to an inner loneliness, even when around others. I don't always feel I connect as I used to. I don't know why? My professional life also means I inhabit a strange kind of netherworld that seems to fall between two stools. Anyway, I guess what I want to say is that I chose my road, and the consequences are the result of those choices. If I'm honest, I'd love to form deeper friendships; the kind where you talk into the early hours, challenge and encourage, laugh and bemoan. Those experiences are few and far between, and I miss them so very much. Still, in so many other ways my cup runs over. Two beautiful daughters, a wife who's far too good for me, a family that accept me for who I am. I'm neither poor nor hungry, there's a roof above my head and I've got a great job. Funny how we're rarely satisfied isn't it? We can always find gaps in our drive for the perfect life, which of course is perfectly unattainable. My greatest strength and my achilles heel are one and the same; my need to pursue what is true, my addiction to knowing how the world really is. I don't expect this will ever change, and despite the empty space where I want close friendship to be I would do the same all over again.

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Before The Lights Go Out

Cast your mind back for me.  To before you were born. Any memories?
What? None? Oh well.
It's not a trick question. Just my way of pointing out that non existence isn't really such a big deal. You weren't uncomfortable, or lonely, or hungry, or sad.
In fact, you weren't anything. And then the lights came on; bright and brash and dazzling, and our eyes open upon a universe that defies all scale and beauty.
Being alive is quite something. I don't think we grasp this fully. Fact is, I think many of us take it for granted.
Bad idea. Very bad. And a real shame, too. For me a wasted life is an ungrateful life, a poor life, an affront to this incredible thing we call consciousness. As an aside, consciousness is something we know very little about. It eludes our efforts to understand it and leads only to further questions. All the same, we're conscious, and we have a finite time in this body and on this planet. I don't know how your journey is working out although I expect it's a mix of highs, lows, and meandering? Whatever the preceding chapters I think we owe it to ourselves to make our road as interesting as we can. 
I have no proof as to what happens when the lights go out. I strongly suspect it's like how it was before, which is to say not anything. Whatever views we hold surely there has to be some appreciation that this life needs living with passion and drive and a thirst to figure a few things out? I see people waste their lives terribly, just as I've seen others flourish and grow into incredible human beings. I have no magic recipe to ensure or avoid either outcome, but I think an open mind is crucial. That and a sense of wonder, a questioning spirit and a desire for new experience.
Life is a passionate adventure to be lived and cherished and valued. It's a raging river, a breaking wave, the flash of sunlight over the horizon. It's touch, it's scent, it's vision. It's every neural stimuli sucked in from the world around us. It's a dance, a leap, a dive and an embrace. It is to each of us something precious, a continuum of experience upon a conveyor belt propelled by time itself. Only time is a thief and the clock ticks ever downward, converging upon an hour when the lights may dim and the dance may cease. In fact there is no greater thief, for what it takes can never be regained. So faced with this certainty, armed with this knowledge, what are you going to do?

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

The Empty Chair

Mention the name William Lane Craig, and only a few people have heard of him. Philosopher, Theologian, professional debater. Recently he came to England to give a series of talks, which passed under the radar of almost everybody. Yet he is regarded as the planet's primary apologist for the Christian faith.
He seems a nice enough guy. Very skilled rhetorician. Of late however he appears to have developed something of an obsession. He has become, or so it would seem, fixated with staging a debate with
the evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins, who also happens to be author of The God Delusion.
Dawkins has ruffled feathers, you see. He has the temerity to suggest that it's actually ok not to have faith. So what, I hear you say? Old news in Western Europe. Not so the other side of the pond, however, where books penned by not only Dawkins but other prominent free thinkers have played a large part in freeing a great many from the manacles of religious indoctrination. You can tell that cages are rattled because you cannot visit a Christian website without hearing his name mentioned.
Why so? He offers only his thoughts, which one is free to accept or reject accordingly. Yet the obsession amongst the faithful is a very strange phenomena. Unless I'm mistaken they want to see this debate rather urgently, as if this somehow would settle the matter of whether or not we're alone in the universe. So then, what exactly is the issue?
I expect its a mixture of things. To be sure, Dawkins has stirred the hornets nest and has been a player in helping America break free of religious fixation. And those who have faith tend to get quesy when pressed.  Equally troubling must be the statistic that the fastest growing demographic is those professing no belief, so the ship appears to be a bit leaky. But anyway, Dawkins has consistently refused to debate with Craig, and recently articulated clearly his reasons why. You see, Dr Craig has some rather odd views on genocide. Simply put, if God should command the death of children, mothers, or anything else its automatically ok because apparently he will have morally sufficient reasons for doing so. So as long as God commands something it must be for the best and most perfect reason, and we can never hope to understand because we're all yucky and human and small.
Ok, I know the majority reading this recognise the absurdity and indeed the obscenity of that perspective. We're all innately able to know why genocide is a bad idea. And on that no more needs to be said. However, it is because of this that Dawkins refuses to share a stage with Craig. It would give Craig a platform, the oxygen of publicity. And the thing is, Dawkins is already oxygen rich in this department. So it really comes down to the simple fact that for one, Dawkins finds the views of his
opponent deeply unpleasant, alongside the brute fact that nobody outside evangelical circles cares what the good Dr Craig has to say. So for those who continue to clamour, I fear that you do so in vain. Until such time as William Lane Craig rids himself of his anti human views he deserves only the coldest of shoulders. And frankly he deserves no less.

Saturday, 5 November 2011

It's For Charity?

What's your attitude towards charitable giving? I ask because it's an issue that interests me. We all know how good we Brits are at the one off giving, the Children In Need and Comic Relief etc, but do these national events truly reflect the national disposition?
I'm going to suggest that this is one area where we can learn from Christians, because by and large I think they have a lot of things right on this issue. Whilst I jettisoned more or less everything when I left my faith, the one thing I kept is a thing known as the ten percent rule. It's actually not a rule, so no guilt trips are required. It's more of a recommendation that we try to give away ten percent of what we earn. Now of course not everybody can do this, but for those who can have you ever asked why you don't? I know ten percent is a lot, but every time I've thought about reigning it back I get to thinking about who loses out. I am incredibly fortunate; I can feed my family, clothe them, keep the house warm. I don't take this for granted, and I'm under no illusion that everybody can claim this. There's a part of me that wants others to have similar levels of comfort, and I don't think it's merely up to governments to sort this. My selfish side occasionally flares up when I reach the end of the month to find I can't afford something I wanted, and I've grumbled that the extra ten percent would have made a difference. But the moment rarely lingers; I know its selfishness of the highest order, and that the commitment we've made as a family is just that; a commitment. There's another risk in giving however; it's the potential for hubris, for looking at ourselves and being self congratulatory because of what we do. This is a terrible attitude, a really grotesque trap to fall into. You see, I don't thinking giving should be seen as any different than paying the bills, buying the food, or putting petrol in the car. I'd suggest regarding it as an extra is a category error; it should be front and centre of the monthly budget, simply something we do without fanfare. I have an immediate family who I want to care for, and a wider family that I feel I have an obligation towards. I don't pat myself on the back when feeding the former; so why the latter?
Charity, in my mind, just shouldn't be an optional extra, but merely a part of who we are as a species. Isn't it right to be outward looking, mindful of the bigger picture, and contributing  towards the greater good?
One very important caveat; a lot of people who lack financial resources give of their time instead. Fantastic, I say. An even more noble pursuit. What I'm trying to get us away from is the sense that, as George Michael sang, charity is a coat we wear twice a year. I don't subscribe to this position at all. Our ability to look outward is a very real reflection of the content of our hearts.

Thursday, 3 November 2011

What About The Children?

A couple sit beside each other, facing a class teacher on the opposite side of the table. Their body language couldn't be any more strained, shoulders and legs facing away from one another. During this particular parents evening they calmly announce that they are getting a divorce, and go out of their way to say that "The children won't suffer"
Four words. Just four. I wonder if it is even possible for a human being to say anything more idiotic?
The children always suffer. Often horribly, terribly, and over an extended period. If floundering parents can be honest about nothing else they should at least be honest about that. A mummy and a daddy are the twin pillars on which a child rests; the stability that they gain from a stable, nurturing and loving family environment has been proven beyond any reasonable doubt. So when those pillars crumble, to even contemplate saying something like the above is idiotic. The words are ugly because they are an affront to issues of child wellbeing, and surely indicative of gross immaturity on the part of those that would venture them? At the risk of incurring your wrath may I suggest that a good dose of reality is in order, along with an abandonment of many of the selfish impulses that may have fired us before? When we enter into relationships we must be aware that whilst we gain enormous amounts,it will also chip away at the edifice more commonly referred to as the self. We will, if we've any hope of success, have to accept that we won't be able to bring everything with us. Adjustment is essential, a re calibration of our expectations. And let's get the word selfish out of the way and accept that we need to lose some of that, too. And that's before children come along.
Seriously, if we can't manage this then please don't start a family, because when children begin to appear the erosion of the self starts anew. It has to, and if you expect to float along and maintain the equilibrium then cloud cuckoo land is your home.  I'm certain that selfishness and the unwillingness to re-calibrate is at the heart of many broken relationships. People  unable or unwilling to accept that some things have to give way; that they can't have their cake and eat it. I'm also certain that if people were less self serving then fewer relationships would fail, and more children would be raised in stable and loving homes. The thought of not having ready access to my girls sends a cold shudder through me,  and I've seen what it does to people who've endured this traumatic ordeal. It's still the kids that suffer most, though, because what you've robbed them of is something they can never get back. You've compromised their inner security, put their wellbeing in doubt, and sent out the message that what should be a place of refuge provides no real refuge at all.
Modern society is facing a holocaust of broken relationships, and broken children are being churned out into the world and causing the cycle to repeat.
As always, we as people have the power to change this. In our choices, in our expectations, in our willingness to accept that we can and must do better.
We owe it to our children, who did not ask to be born and had life thrust upon them. We need to be doing everything within our power to be cultivating the next generation of adults, and to ensure that the soil around them is moist, fertile, and not easily washed away.

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

This Thing Called Love

I don't follow the life of Kim Kardashian. I understand she's a model and has her own reality television show, which I've never watched. I was struck, however, by a news headline that greeted me this morning concerning the fact that her second marriage had collapsed after seventy two days.
That's just over two months. I wonder, how does that happen?
I'm in the realm of guesswork now, but something tells me that chemistry and unrealistic expectations are at the root of it. Chemistry because she was probably experiencing that feeling known as love, and was riddled with endorphins sending messages to her brain and libido that this was it, this was the one, the forever relationship. Powerful highs, to be sure, but misleading for a whole gamut of reasons. The "love" experience in those early days isn't meant to stay in that form; it necessarily matures into something deeper and more robust. If this confuses or disappoints you then you've some maturing to do. Those highs create the initial connection, but it's a false plateau, a window during which people need to get to know each other in order for things to progress. Think of it like the space shuttle taking off; the initial thrust of launch, the boosters jettisoned at a certain altitude to allow the craft to establish a safe orbit. Don't think for a minute that this has to equal boredom; that's the big lie society feeds you. It just means you've built a platform to really work from, a point where the relationship can head off in all manner of cool directions.
The 2nd point, false expectation, is caused by the chemistry waning, that stage where those endorphins don't fizz quite so crazily, when it's just that bit harder to get motivated. I suspect many people get caught up in immature thinking at this point, and once again this is where I'm going to cause offence.
If this is when relationships flounder for you, then you have a personality issue. You're not engaging with the real world, and you're falling away just when things might get interesting. I maintain that there is absolutely no reason why relationships can't grow and improve as the years pass; it takes honesty and genuineness and commitment. It means facing up to issues as and when they arise and being prepared to be vulnerable, candid, and open to accepting that on occasion you've got it wrong.
This thing called love, those feelings; I sometimes wonder whether they've been the source of more destruction than happiness? I don't mean to sound cynical, and I'm aware of the advantages. I just wonder whether our brains have been a bit slow to catch on to the need to reach beyond those chemical highs?

Monday, 31 October 2011

The Drinks Are On Me. Apparently.

Or so it seems. Don’t get me wrong, I’m my father’s son, and always happy to get them in. What I object to is when people filch money from my pocket and assume I’m going to pay. Let me explain; this is about scroungers. I loathe them. They rile me to the very depths of my being because they represent something I just cannot comprehend. I don’t get why some people think they can live at my expense?
There's an element within society that appears to be doing just that. A day’s work just isn’t for them, and they concoct all manner of reasons to avoid doing what the rest of us have to do. As with all deceit it often begins with a kernel of truth. Perhaps a medical condition, a genuine malady that has caused problems. Some manage to get registered disabled, yet miraculously remain downright athletic in their capacity to get to the pub, or to the party, or anything that constitutes leisure. I’m sorry, but given this miraculous healing I find it hard to believe that you can’t earn a living? Are you really unable to do any work? Or have you realised you’re onto a good thing and allowed yourself to become an institutionalised layabout? I fear that in many cases the latter is true, and people develop a mindset that cripples them more than any medical condition.
Please note that for genuine claimants I have your back. I begrudge you nothing and do not seek to tar you. It’s just that there are those fleecing the system and using the common man as their meal ticket, and this is what I deplore. I’ve said this before but it’s bares repeating; if you’re well enough to booze, you're well enough to work. End of. And one other thing; if you must be an idle, work shy arse I’d appreciate it if you didn’t plaster your exploits all over Facebook, because that's rubbing it in. Millions of hard working people have their noses to the grindstone, and not getting much in return. To those that seek to duck out of this I have nothing but contempt. You deserve neither respect nor tolerance, and if I could force you to work then I would. I’m funding your lifestyle, I'm buying those drinks. I cannot tell you how much I resent that. If you had an ounce of self respect, any sense of decency at all you’d quit asking what you can get and instead ask what you can give. Nobody’s demanding you do a 60 hour week, but some kind of contribution would be nice. Do you really want to live on the toil of others like some flea on the back of a dog? Is that what you aspire to? Are those your limitations? If yes then shame on you. You don’t deserve an ounce of respect.

Sympathy Bypass

I’m not a political animal, but one thing I agree with was re-enforced by Prime Minister David Cameron recently. His government is considering penalising criminals by deducting up to £25 from their benefits per week in order to pay fines they have accrued. This is an increase on the £5 they presently have deducted. In predictable fashion, many have thrown up their arms and claim this is unfair and will render many of them unable to live, and thus propel them into further crime.
I don’t care. I really and genuinely don’t. They are not victims. They are convicted criminals, and we shouldn’t shed a single tear. If you’ve any emotion I’d suggest you direct it towards those on the rough end of these peoples’ antics. I have a big heart for them because I deal with them professionally day in, day out.
They tell me how their lives have been eroded, their self confidence undermined, their fear heightened. If it’s all the same to you I’d prefer to stand beside the real victims rather than the phoney’s who bleat about poverty because of their own life choices.
Here’s an idea. It’s 100% assured to reduce the crime figures. It’s called not committing crime. How about we give that one a shot? If we can do that then nobody has to suffer, which frankly appeals to me a lot. We must understand that there’s a greater good that needs to be served here, and it’s the creation of a society in which nobody has to be fearful of or intimidated by anybody else. It’s a society where doors can be left open, trust extended, and honesty aspired to.  That’s of course a multi faceted project which begins in the home and not in the courts, yet we do need to ensure that punishment acts as a sufficient deterrent, which right now it fails to do. Low level crime carries little or no risk, and the penalties are minor. Offenders have very little reason to transition from their lifestyles, and so the cycle continues.
I’m not claiming society can be fixed overnight. What I do say is that we need to draw clear lines between who are the victims and who are the guilty. We’ve allowed ourselves to muddy the water, and that serves nobody.

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Gotta' Love The 80s

I am a child of the 80s. What a whacked out decade that was. For two thirds of it I was at school. This in no way implies that I was either given or actively seeking an education, but that's for another blog. My memories of this decade are a bit shallow, mostly movies and music, and vague notions of the fashion of the time.
Leggings. I mean WTF? Who's idea was that? And Flashdance wasn't even that good even if the song was catchy. Talking of movies, what about The Empire Strikes Back, ET, Raiders Of The Lost Ark, Terminator, Back To Future? Not to forget the thousands of low budget flicks that came out of LA. Special mention must also go to Don Johnson for giving the world the fashion of white canvas shoes with no socks, surely the most nonce worthy idea since they reduced the size of Wagon Wheels. And then there's the music, which to this day makes me laugh. Remember the rock groups? Whitesnake, Bon Jovi. Not entirely sure how you claim to be a tough guy when you have hair that would put Tina Turner to shame? And those trousers, the spray on leathers. I'd be surprised if any of those dudes fathered children having crushed their testicles quite so spectacularly. At least it would explain how they hit the high notes.
I left school in 1987, going to work with my Dad as a painter and decorator. We had the radio on most days, with Gary Davies, Simon Bates, and Steve Wright reigning supreme. Radio One was number one rather than just one of the pack, and the airwaves were filled with Soul To Soul, The Communards, Erasure, and The Pet Shop Boys. Mobile phones were just entering our consciousness, brick sized monsters with aerials like the antenna on Dodgem cars. Thatcher was creating an "Can Do" mentality, and Tory Ministers were having sex scandals as only they know how. I seem to recall spending most Friday and Saturday nights sloshed, and I often ended up in very obscure locations. Once I happened across a Scottish Kayleigh in the middle of the Buckinghamshire countryside, whilst I also snuck into a hippie commune on another occasion. And I wouldn't recommend climbing a 70ft floodlight during the early hours; probably one of my more stupid forays. I remember the girls I had crushes on; they were the same ones that didn't find me the least bit attractive, which was frankly a downer. I don't actually think I had a girlfriend I really fancied until the early 90s, but I do recall a few worthwhile snogs along the way.
I remember the George in Winslow, and Kebab shops in Aylesbury that never seemed to close. I recall a week at Butlins in Minehead with the lads, and being told that if you can't pull in a place like this you never will.
I never pulled. I did however manage to take a joy ride into a shallow lake inside a shopping trolley, for which I earned myself a few stitches and a scar on my hand.
Its all a bit of a blur. I expect I enjoyed it at the time.