Wednesday 28 January 2009

What if...?

I can't cope with people I love being in hospital. I suppose that's understandable, especially for someone who's spent a lot of time visiting in the past.

This week was worse than anything I could remember. The distress verged almost on physical pain, tearing through all other thoughts like some relentless torment. You find your mind wandering, getting lost in the fearful daydreams, then waking to find that you can't shake free of the horror.

What if..? What if...?

My soul is a tiny, helpless figure, running around and screaming, deep inside me. Outwardly, everything becomes numb, quiet, but the screams still echo within.

And yet, I know it's worth it. The pain is proportionate to the strength of your emotional tie, and I wouldn't dilute it, no matter what.

Wednesday 21 January 2009

Regardless of colour...

Watching Obama being sworn in as President provoked a lot of thoughts last night.

Living in the UK, the issue of Democrat vs Republican seems rather vague - after all, there is now very little to distinguish between between the Right and the Left in this country. In that respect, the encouraging factor is change - someone from the other party holds the office now, and that brings hope that things don't need to continue down quite the same path, that things can be different.

Naturally, there is a lot of focus on the fact that Obama is the first African American to be elected President - a staggering event when you remember that black people were fighting for their civil rights just 50 years ago. Once again, it reinforces the sense of change, at a time when change seems so vitally important.

And yet, there's more to it than just "America elects black President". So many times, watching the campaign, it was clear that Obama was the better candidate - more in-tune, more statesman-like, more electable. The fact is, America chose the better candidate regardless of colour, and that is vastly encouraging.

For too long, vengeful minority groups have been obsessed with settling scores from 50 years ago, 100 years ago, or longer. Meanwhile, fear of this minority vendetta gives ammunition to the bigoted far-right and puts back the day when race is truly no longer an issue.

Hopefully, yesterday's innauguration is a major step on the way to real equality... to a day when a black, white, male, or female President is just a President... to a day when all discrimination, be it "positive" or otherwise, is a thing of the past.

Thursday 15 January 2009

Nouveau Riche

They say there's nothing quite so vulgar as "new money". You know the sort of thing; someone in a shell-suit who's recently "won t' lotto" and decided to enhance their 3-bedroom semi with a Steinway grand piano in the front room and a $117,000 classic Ducati on the front lawn.

First generation money may be bad enough, but a sudden windfall almost always results in a helpless spasm of gauche purchases. Cash is wasted in an arterial spray of spending, as the "newly-minted" try desperately to reduce their balance to an amount they can understand.

What is it that makes those-who-have-recently-come-into-a-lot-of-money blow vast sums on wonderful things that they are unable to properly use or appreciate?

Anyway, I hear that Manchester City are thinking of spending over £100Million on Brazillian midfielder Kaka...

Friday 9 January 2009

Toblerone Cappucino

Why did people in this country fail to embrace the great combination that was Kenco Cappio with Toblerone?

The convenience of an instant coffee drink, elevated out of mediocrity by the addition of numerous triangular chocolate chunks, should have enjoyed massive success. Released across Europe as "Cappuccino Specials", the makers added second variety, employing chunks of Milka chocolate in place of the Toblerone. Both proved epic...

...but not here. No, it seems we would rather cling to the misery of Tesco Instant Cappuccino (or, in areas of extreme deprivation, Nescafe "Italian"* Cappuccino) than that magnificent Toblerone infusion.

Before long, the product was gone, its shelf-space occupied by the sort of powdered-beverage-substitutes more suited to war-time rationing than 21st century consumerism. The unthinkable had occurred.

How did we let this happen? How many more great tastes must fall by the wayside? And did we learn nothing from the loss of Chocolate Pretzels?

They say that people get the politicians they deserve - I fear the same may be true of coffee products and, if it is, what a terrible indictment this is.
* we must hope that Italians never learn of the terrible wrongs done in their name

Thursday 8 January 2009


Someone kindly gave me some fabulous books on photographic history for Christmas. Leafing through one, I came across a long-term favourite image - Meudon by Andre Kertesz - and spent a few moments staring at it.

There's something that fascinates me about this image and it isn't just the composition or the technical issues. More than most, this photograph makes me think about looking through time.

Consider the photo. Here is a scene that no longer exists, a frozen moment from 1928, preserved for us to see today...

...but what if we look through the eyes of that man in the photo, carrying his parcel across that Paris street? Think about it. From his point of view, he sees the camera, but could he ever imagine that he'd be looking out at people in the future? At me, as I opened that book on Christmas day? At you as you read this blog now? There's a powerful connection that partly transcends time itself.

No wonder I love photography.

So the next time someone points a camera at you, take a moment to think about those unseen people in the future, looking back down the lens as the shutter clicks.

Sunday 4 January 2009

The drive of your life...

In a conversation today, I once again heard that someone had been turned off the whole God thing by a bad church experience. I hear that too often.

I completely understand how it can happen, and the analogy I'm about to make will sort of underline why, but sometimes it's good for people to remember the difference between God and the church. To illustrate...

Rather than 'God', let's pick another 3 letter name, such as 'BMW'. You might have a bad experience with the car salesman, but that doesn't change the fact that the BMW is a great car - it simply means you should find another showroom.

Of course, I appreciate that if a car dealer messes you around, you'll probably look for a different make of car, but I'd argue that people shouldn't make important decisions like choice of car (or choice of faith) based only on what one guy on the forecourt says - there are plenty of other BMW dealerships out there ;-)

Saturday 3 January 2009

Lord Of The Rings Online

I've spent WAY too much time on this game during the Christmas break. The problem is that my wife, my son, and my best friend all play the game too so it's a bit like being a recovering alcoholic in a free bar - temptation is never far away.
Today I reached level 50 - until recently this was the highest level in the game, though they've now added new content that goes up to 60 - and I was struck by the huge amount of time I've spent playing. Hour after hour, night after night, for months now, I've been logging on and playing this massively multiplayer game - all the time paying a subscription for the privilege. I've never spent so much time (or money!) on a game before.
Those who know me, know how much I love Tolkien's books, and naturally that was a draw at the beginning. Yet, months later, I'm still there, running around and doing quests... and why?
Perhaps it's all down to the fact that it's visually such a beautiful environment to play in. Look at the picture above - that's my character on the bridge by Sandyman's Mill in the Shire. It's a gorgeous place to spend an hour or so each day and, even though I might find myself having to go far away (it would take hours to walk all across the game-world map) there are always bits of glorious scenery to discover along the way.
I wonder how long the addiction (and my subscription) will last?

Thursday 1 January 2009


From what I've seen, many opening blog posts are somewhat awkward affairs - stuttering starts before the tone settles down. I don't expect mine to be any different, but as it's a little after noon on New Year's Day and I've only been conscious for a short while I do feel like I've got an excuse.

I've been thinking of running a blog for quite a while and thought that January 1st would be an appropriate time to start - it is, after all, sort of diary-esque. That's broadly how I think I'll use it - a record of random thoughts to inform and entertain my future self. And you, of course...

So, what are the hopes and dreams of 2009 going to be? Well, I work in the games industry which moves far too fast for prediction, but that aside I'm aiming to tick a few of the following:

Photography: I want to persevere with the stock photography but also want to start taking more pictures of people. Using family as models seems somehow inappropriate - perhaps I'll reach out via Facebook and see if any of my friends want to be a muse...

Writing: I think I will sign up for another term of Creative Writing evening classes. I met a number of inspiring people on the course and I value their feedback as well as enjoying their company. I've started writing a crime novel and I do want to push on with it, especially as I've now got a better ending in mind. Hopefully the act of mentioning it here will goad me into actually doing the work required.

Travel: In 2008 I was lucky enough to visit St Anton in Austria - I'd really like to do something equally mountainous this year. Of course, the chances aren't improved by a hysterical media determined to talk us deeper into recession, but you never know. I'm also ashamed to say that I didn't spend any time at all in Scotland last year - something I need to put right in 2009.

Birthday: This year there will be forty candles on the chocolate cake - a significant and alarmingly large number. I think it might be best to distract myself from this fire-hazard by doing something fun.

Well, that's enough aspirations for one day. My head is still a bit fuzzy and it's almost time to go and collect the pizzas. Here's hoping for a good year ahead.