Mad World?

MadWorld

The EU referendum is less than a week away; fighting (again) at the European Cup matches in Paris; 49 people shot dead at a nightclub in Orlando, a week ago; Donald Trump knocking on the door of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue… and 3 days ago Labour MP, Jo Cox, was killed outside a library in Birstall.

It’s tempting to think that the world is coming apart before our eyes. So, I have taken to these pages, for the first time in 18 months, in the hope of encouraging you to resist that temptation with every ounce of willpower you posses.

Yesterday, I noticed people posting and commenting on facebook statuses and memes, that the world is a dreadful place. In one instance I read that the world was “at least fifty percent terrible”. Now, it’s true that last one was in a poem of positive messages, but I still take issue with it.

Perhaps I should rephrase: There’s a tendency, at times like these, to believe that human beings are inherently bad. And, moreover, that violence is escalating; that the world is more dreadful than it has ever been.
My dear readers, this is simply not true. A look at any reliably sourced statistics on violence and war… hell, just a glance through a few history books, should be enough to convince you that this view of the world is nonsense.

Muslims are not all out to kill you… Gay people are not trying seduce your children/dog/mother/brother… Migrants are not about to take your jobs (if they have a monopoly on certain jobs, chances are they’re doing a job you would refuse to do, for pay you would refuse to get out of bed for, and consequently helping the local farmers you’re all trying to save, from having to pack it all in and work at Starbucks).

Now, it is certainly not my intention to devalue the losses we have seen in the news this week, nor to make light of genuine concerns about violence or government policy. I write because at times like these it is more important than ever to remember that, as useful an evolved mechanism as it can be in immediate life-threatening situations… spoon-fed by the media in exaggerated doses, fear is a recipe for bad decision-making.

Fear threatens to put Donald Trump in the White House. Fear threatens to break the UK away from Europe. Fear led Omar Mateen to gun down innocent patrons at an Orlando nightclub. And, fear played a large part in motivating Thomas Mair to shoot Jo Cox dead on Thursday afternoon.

I was going to go into the various reasons why I believe you should vote to stay IN the EU on Thursday, but I think common sense and a brief look through history should tell you all you need to know about that, so I’ll simply state something that has been said so many times before, and that I think anyone reading this is already aware of: The world is getting smaller every single day.

We will only make more progress by accepting that we are a global community. Breaking existing unions into smaller and smaller pieces is going in the wrong direction.

Fear, as I said before, has its uses; we would not be here without it, and sometimes it has been a helpful tool. But if you scare a man into thinking that the world might end, he is more likely to build a shelter and buy a gun to keep you out of it, than he is to try to stop it from happening.

We are not the only creatures on Earth to do damage to our environment, but we are the only ones capable of recognising that, and the only ones currently trying to reverse the damage. The English countryside is now dotted with wind turbines, almost wherever you care to look. More and more houses and office buildings have solar panels providing at least some of their power, and the number of hybrid and electric cars in showrooms increases year after year.

Violence is part of the lives of every species on Earth, but human violence has shown a steadily decreasing trend (with the exception of one or two very minor hiccups on the graph) for centuries, and humans have never been safer, or lived longer than they do at this point in history.

I am expecting another child in September, and that child is fortunate enough to have the kindest, warmest, brightest, most life-affirming woman that I have ever met, for a mother. I cannot hope to compete with that. But for my part, I will teach this child what I have tried to teach my others:

The world can be a dark and dreadful place. But closing your door and burying your head in your hands only ever makes it darker. There is hope and goodness in abundance, the world over. If you can’t find it, my guess is that you’re trying really, really hard not to.

A week ago, one man killed 49 people who were simply trying to enjoy a night out. On Thursday one man shot dead a kind-hearted young MP from West Yorkshire. In response to these dreadful incidents, the internet practically melted down as millions of people flocked to news websites, blogs and social-media sites to offer their sympathy, to share messages of love and hope, and to stand-up against bigotry and hatred.

The world is a better place than you give it credit for.

 

**If you really need convincing that humans aren’t so bad, I recommend giving this a read: “The Better Angels of Our Nature” by Steven Pinker

 

 

The Final Countdown – Zero

Well… that’s it. I’m leavin on a jet plane, and all that other Jonny Denver type stuff. As they say where I come from: “It’s all over bar the shoutin'” Of course, in this particular case, “the shoutin” involves packing my few remaining possessions; dragging 50kg of luggage (each) in 3 seperate cases (each), through the deep snow to the subway station; catching a train, then a bus, then a plane; being picked up from the airport, and living under someone else’s roof for the next week or so until my wife and I find somewhere to live. So if we’re gonna stick with the fighting analogies, I haven’t even spilled the other bloke’s drink yet. But it’s all over as far as the blog posts about my moving are concerned. I am writing this post on Monday the 26th, and it is scheduled for release at the exact minute we are due to land in the UK. Plane landing by sunrise So… once again, you must endure the anguish of my absence. At least for a little while. What will I be blogging about when I return? Your guess is as good as mine. Well… I suppose I could make a slightly more educated guess than you guys and say that it’s likely to be about my new house, and my new job (back to being self-employed now). I do have one or two things in the pipeline to keep you occupied until next we meet, and they have been a very long time coming. So, I will see you again soon. If you don’t believe me… take a look at this video. And the next time someone hears me say “Hmmm… I think I’ll kill myself off in this weeks video. I just want to try out this new effect!” STOP ME and say: “Jimbot… don’t do it. The storyteller in you is a perfectionist monster, and you know where this will lead.” Normally I sign off by saying goodbye, but on this occasion I will just say those 3 little words I have been desperately waiting to say for almost 3 years: I’m back baby!!

Staring at Goats

I started writing this blog as a record of my attempt to get my novel published whilst creating a successful YouTube channel at the same time. There was a very clear line of thinking behind the reasons for writing here.

  1. Writing a weekly blog will make my efforts public, and so urge me to keep my promises, and keep up with the submissions and videos.
  2. I may find some followers for the YouTube channel.
  3. It will keep me writing, even when I have nothing to write about.
  4. Prospective agents/publishers will have a wealth of my writing at their fingertips, should they wish to investigate.
  5. If, after a year or two, I have still not found a publisher… by that time I should have a sufficiently large YouTube audience to help increase sales of my book, should I opt to self-publish.

…On February 17th, it will have been 3 years since that moment.

I set up Sleepless Knight accounts on twitter, facebook and YouTube on the same day I started this blog. 3 weeks later I checked the stats… I checked them again today.

Followers

It’s fair to say that I got a little sidetracked.

As a direct result of writing here on WordPress, I met the woman of my dreams, and we are now very happily married… so it is tempting to say that this blog doesn’t owe me anything, and walk away from it. But I’m still convinced that I can make this whole thing work for me, and if there’s one thing my wife will tell you about me, it’s that I once I get an idea into my head it is impossible to shift it.

But that’s not really a good thing is it. I mean, it’s one thing to convince yourself that you can run through the wall into the next room because atoms are mostly empty space… but, as the very level-headed Dr. Ben Goldacre would no doubt have said to the poor, deluded Major General Stubblebine and his broken nose: I think you’ll find it’s a bit more complicated than that.

It’s no good repeatedly saying “I’b dot givig ub!” through your mashed and bleeding hooter, as you bounce off the wall for the 30th time in a month. Sooner or later, you either have to start using the door, or accept confinement by the men in white coats, in a room where the walls can’t hurt you any more.

There are many reasons why the plan I outlined above has failed. Some of them are no doubt still a mystery to me, but the more obvious ones are:

  1. You cannot hope to gain followers on twitter if you never use it!
  2. You cannot hope to gain followers on YouTube if you never use it!
  3. You cannot hope to gain followers on WordPress if you never use it!

Once again; it’s a bit more complicated than that. The twitter thing is no more complicated than that. I simply keep forgetting it’s there. The YouTube thing is firstly a result of my monumental over-ambition when it comes to making videos; where I come up with extremely simple ideas and then over-complicate the crap out of them. And secondly because my circumstances keep changing every 5 minutes, which makes it difficult to film things. It’s tough to make and upload YouTube videos when you’re computer blows up OR you have no access to the internet OR you have no camera because you sold it in order to eat OR your crew live in another country, because you left them behind for 3 years!

So now let’s address the WordPress thing, because if you’re reading this, the chances are fairly high that you have at least a passing interest in reading blog posts.

There have been more agency submissions since those first ones, and there have been more videos since that first one… but the one glaring problem with my blogging above all others, is that I don’t find one subject and stick with it.

Without doubt, the blogs that get the most visitors (and WordPress do tell you this when you first start blogging here) are the ones which have a specific focus. If you have one subject about which you write, and you write about it regularly, then half the work is already done. So, if I know that, what’s the problem?

Well once again, the problem is me. All my life I have deeply envied people who have one passion; one area of their life which dominates all others and decides the direction of their life as a whole. My problem, as I have stated again and again, is that despite many, many efforts to narrow my focus to one specific area… Storyteller is the best I can do. That is as narrow as I can make it. I love telling stories. I want to tell my stories and there are many! I can’t put the required amount of exclamation marks after the word many, because you would think I had fallen asleep on my keyboard, and I can’t make the word big enough without writing it on something much larger than the state of Texas. I have many, many stories which I want to tell; from the things that happen in my daily life (which has been much more interesting than you might think) to the many, many hundreds of story ideas which have been filling my brain, and dozens upon dozens of notebooks and scraps of paper, since I was a very young boy, and are still doing so on a daily basis.

The problem is that storytelling covers a lot of sins: Books, Films, Short Stories, TV Series, Plays, Screenplays, Stage-acting, Screen-acting, Voice-acting, Game production, Animation, Poetry, Blogging… there’s a lot of scope to it. The other problem with telling stories, is that unless you first have people’s attention, no-one really cares what you have to say. So I need to get back on track here, and start growing my audience, because I have made a decision to keep trying to find an agent for my book until I return permanently to the UK next year. If, in that time, I have not found a representative, then I will self-publish my book and let the chips fall where they may.

So I need your help. I realise I’m probably going to make myself look really stupid here, since no-one ever comments on this blog, but I’m going to ask anyway, in the hope that one or two kind souls have suggestions for me, and actually tell me what they are in a helpful way… in the comments section [It’s easy to find – Just click the speech bubble at the top of this post and you will be directed to the comments section].

This blog needs a permanent focus. Something very specific that I can blog about on a weekly basis, and then if I want to tell you other things, I can do so in a different section.

  • Movies – I love the movies. I always have done, and I still almost always end every day with a film. (but there are too many sites doing movie reviews already. Needs to be something new, or at least something that everyone and their grannies aren’t already doing)
  • Film-making – My biggest passion by far. This is my world, and the people who do this are my people. I love everything about it, and I do every single job on a movie myself, but my main areas of interest are:- visual effects, miniatures/modelling, sound design, film scores, set/prop design.
  • Writing – I have done this for a very long time, and I don’t think I could stop if I tried – check this post, to get a brief idea of my writing career –  but I don’t think the internet needs another website about writing. Everything that can be said has been, and by better writers than myself.
  • Bad Science and the proliferation of – It has become a bit of an obsession with me to fight back against the constant stream of bullshit which is posted, and reposted as fact on social-networking sites. The internet is a wonderful thing but it does let pretty much anyone state pretty much anything as fact, because the majority of us are too stupid or lazy to check the facts. The problem with this idea is a) Ben Goldacre and others are already doing it better, and b) I fear that my lack of medical/technical knowledge might actually do harm to the kind of intelligent professional debate run by much better qualified people than myself.
  • Astronomy & Space Travel – Another passion of mine since I was a very, very small boy. I am probably one of the only people in the world sad enough to have read the entire Apollo 8 mission transcripts (that’s everything that was said in the capsule for 4 days), when they didn’t have to. I love everything about the universe outside our little planet, but once again, I fear I am not really well-read or qualified enough to contribute anything of any value to a wealth of on-line information about… the universe.

I will leave you with those for the time being, since I fully expect to get no responses whatsoever that did not come from inside this apartment.

Web Success

See you soon.

Get over the rainbow

It’s not very often I get the chance to bash religion, homophobia and politics all at the same time, so I will join other bloggers, journalists and newsreaders around the UK in thanking the great and powerful Wizard of Oz (or whatever your particular religion calls him) for Councillor David Silvester of the UK Independence Party.

I consider myself thankful for David Silvester for two reasons:

  1. He gave me something more interesting to write about than the 007/Harry Potter fusion dream that I had last night.
  2. Because of the joy I felt in seeing virtually the whole of the United Kingdom, join together in mocking Mr. Silvester for being a bigoted, God-bothering, lunatic.

Before anyone reacts to my wording there, I use the term God-bothering because I am quite certain that if, against all suggestion of common sense, it turns out there actually is a God… I am quietly confident that he would be just as embarrassed by Mr. Silvester’s comments as was the leader of UKIP, Nigel Farage.

For the enlightenment of those readers of this blog, living outside the United Kingdom: floods are a fairly common thing in our country these days. It used to be that the only people over the age of five who wore wellies in the supermarket, were people with horse-boxes attached to the backs of their Land Rovers. Then, in July of 2007, Britain suffered its worst floods in 60 years… followed, a couple of years later, by the worst floods in… well, 2 years. After that it seemed to become a regular thing, and a pretty good reason not to live in Cornwall, in case you didn’t have a good one already.
Anyway, it seems that not all UK residents are convinced that Global Warming is behind the recent surge in flooding incidents. Councillor Silvester is entirely convinced that we would need far fewer umbrellas and inflatable rafts, were it not for the Prime Minister’s decision to legalise gay marriage.

For those of you not living in Texas, I’ll let the shocking 16th century-ness of that statement sink in for a moment.

Yes, you read it correctly; Councillor Silvester believes that God is punishing the United Kingdom for legalising same sex marriages. In a letter to his local paper The Henley Standard, Councillor Silvester said

“The scriptures make it abundantly clear that a Christian nation that abandons its faith and acts contrary to the Gospel (and in naked breach of a coronation oath) will be beset by natural disasters such as storms, disease, pestilence and war.”

He claimed to have warned the Prime Minister about such an unchristian move, and blamed him for the floods… saying

“…the lesson surely to be learned is that no man, or men, however powerful, can mess with almighty God with impunity and get away with it.”

Apparently “…everything a nation does is weighed on the scales of divine approval or disapproval…” which makes me wonder how we weren’t buried under an avalanche of fire and brimstone during the reign of Britain’s Got Talent, but I guess even The Almighty finds it difficult to take Simon Cowell seriously.

So, how does Councillor Silvester respond to allegations of homophobia, following this public denouncement of the Government’s decision?

Well, he told BBC Radio Berkshire in a recent interview, which can be found here, that he loves gay people enough to pray for them to be healed.

Once again… I think we’ll have a moment of silence while the monumental bigotry of that comment sinks in. Feel free to break something if you like. I’ll play some elevator music until you come back…

..*$??!!&*£?%!!**….

Are you ready to continue? It’s almost over.

The reason this blog post has only just been published; several days after Witchfinder Gene Councillor Silvester made himself look so very stupid, is that (as regular readers will know) I usually try to make some sort of cartoon to accompany my blog posts…

The problem with making memes/cartoons about bigoted stupidity of this magnitude, is…

Emergency

It’s so very, very easy.

Brokeback

And once I got started…

Birdcage

I found it hard to stop…

Moses

I had 2 or 3 more, but if I had carried on much longer, no-one would even have remembered David Silvester’s name by the time I got this blog post finished. So I suppose I’ll leave it there and allow you to stew over all that has been said.

In other news, Sleepless Knight’s entry into the 2014 Empire Done in 60 Seconds competition is now up on Empire’s website. You can find it HERE… If you live outside the UK, you may have to visit the jamesonempirediss.com FIRST, and claim to be from the UK by selecting it from the drop-down menu. Then either click this link again, or simply find The Lord of the Rings – Done in 60 Seconds (by James Moors), on the webpage. If ALL these thing fail, do not fear, I will post a straightforward YouTube link to it, as soon as it is up on the jamesonempirediss YouTube site.

Next time I will post about something much more fun. Until then… it occurs to me, that without the original context in which it was said, my customary farewell might always have seemed rather odd to my readers, and with that in mind I shall stop using it from today onwards. So, for the very last time: Whatever you do David Silvester… don’t bend over for the soap.

Back very soon.

A Game of Two Halves

There used to be 4 people living in this apartment, now there are only 3. My youngest step-son is now 14 years old, and my sister is 46. One of my very best friends is now in a relationship. A young lady who was once my step-daughter is now married and living in Germany. And, the smallest of our two cats has died…

All of these things happened in the time it took me to play through a video-game.

Now, it is true that I have a tendency to lose myself entirely in whatever I am doing; a new love makes everything else simply blurred, background noise; a new hobby can take away all my time and money, and if I’m editing a film the sun will rise and set so many times without being noticed, that when borderline malnutrition finally drives me toward the kitchen, I discover that my computer chair and I have formed a symbiotic relationship and can no longer live independently of one another. Nothing that 45 minutes and some 24th century sickbay wizardry couldn’t fix, but still, not good.

However, in this case, all the changes I mentioned above happened in the space of a single month. If that still seems like a long time to you well, that is how I like my video-games… but I’ll come back to that.

The point is that the world changes very fast these days. Perhaps it always did. Perhaps the fact that I’m turning 40 in February is colouring everything in mid-life-crisis-purple and the speed at which the world turns is starting to make me feel a bit nauseous (although that could be the purple again), but I rather think the world is changing in such a haphazard, erratic manner it is often really difficult to see how fast things are happening, or how far we have come unless you stop and really look around now and again.

When I was born, for example, human beings had decided that lunar exploration was old hat. We had been to the moon and returned often enough to have become bored of it, so naturally my generation had ludicrous expectations about how space travel would evolve in our lifetimes. What has actually happened? No human being has been anywhere near that far out into space for over 40 years.

On the other hand, people watching Star Trek in the 1960s thought that personal communicators, 2-way video conversations, electronic books, and tiny plastic data discs were the stuff of outrageous science-fiction… iPads, Kindles, and Skype are now part of our daily lives, and most of us have Gigabytes of data storage in our phones, on memory cards so small you have to be careful not to breathe too heavily whilst changing them.

The future is always closer than you think. In some ways we are far behind where we expected to be by now, but in so many other ways we are far ahead of where we expected to be in 200 years from now. Occasionally we get it more or less right (Volkswagen’s newest electric car looks EXACTLY like it came out of 1990s sci-fi movie)

xl1-exterior1

…but more often than not, we are way off the mark.

Predicting the future is a risky business, and few industries are worse at it than the very industry that is responsible for most of the changes that we see: the computer industry. Over the years, some of the world’s most ingenious computer boffins have given some of the most idiotic predictions about the future…

  • “But what… is it good for?”An engineer at the Advanced Computing Systems Division of IBM, commenting on the microchip in 1968
  • “Computers in the future may have only 1,000 vacuum tubes and perhaps only weigh 1 1/2 tons.”Popular Mechanics, 1949
  • “There is no reason for any individual to have a computer in their home.”Ken Olson (President of Digital Equipment Corporation) at the Convention of the World Future Society in Boston in 1977
My own prediction is that in just a few weeks from now, this cartoon will make no sense to anyone.

My own prediction is that in just a few weeks from now, this cartoon will make no sense to anyone.

We would be foolish however to completely ignore predictions from an industry so totally responsible for technological advancement… and one company knows it.

It’s no secret to those who know me that I am no fan of Apple products, but it may surprise them to discover that my reasons for this are many of the same reasons behind the company’s success.

One of the things that makes Microsoft products so mediocre is that they have their fingers in too many pies. They have tried to compete in so many areas and do so many different things, that they ended up doing none of them particularly well. Apple on the other hand have learned several important lessons… not necessarily about computers, but about PEOPLE.

Firstly, Steve Jobs knew that most people will pay 3 times as much for something, as long as it is shiny. I find this an upsetting philosophy for a computer company, but it is nonetheless true of all of us, myself included.
Secondly, and much more importantly, Apple have realised that predicting what the consumer will want/need is a mug’s game, and have decided that it is much simpler and easier simply to TELL people what they want.

Bill Gates famously said “Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning” Well… luckily for Mr. Gates he has a lot of them. It would have been easier to follow Apple’s business strategy:

  1. Tell consumers what they want.
  2. Make it shiny, so that they will feel like they always wanted it and it was their idea to want it.
  3. If people are unhappy because they want your product to do something and it won’t… simply tell them that it was never supposed to do that and that they are morons for wanting it to. If the product can’t do something, it’s because human beings don’t want that thing, and if any human being does want that thing, then that human being is wrong!

“What do you mean you want your watch to tell the time? You idiot! What you really want is a watch that enhances your sex appeal… doesn’t everybody?”

Y’see? It’s hard to argue.

But finally… if there is something an Apple product is supposed to do that you can’t MAKE it do… it’s obviously because you are too stupid, and probably don’t deserve to own our shiny, sexy product in the first place.

The most telling thing for me about Apple consumers can be summed up in the following conversation, versions of which I have had with several of them in the last few years:

“Why don’t you have the new iPhone yet?” (as though asking why your head isn’t on your shoulders where they keep theirs)

“I can’t afford it, even if I wanted one.”

“But it’s better for XYZ reasons!”

“But I don’t have the money.”

(roll of the eyes) “But it’s better!”

“Yes… but I – CANNOT – AFFORD – IT!”

“Why not just try it?”

“You’re not listening are you?”

…and so on.

As an old boss of mine used to say “You can’t take a sock off a bare leg”, but I have met very few Apple consumers who understand this simple concept.

Imagining for a moment that Apple is Ferrari and Microsoft are Volvo (an idea I’m sure Apple consumers will have no trouble accepting), take this fictional scenario where a Ferrari driver asks a Volvo driver in the pub why he doesn’t drive a Ferrari instead. The Volvo driver explains that he could never possibly afford a Ferrari, to which Ferrari driver looks puzzled. Changing tack, the Volvo driver says “Anyway, where would I put the children?” to which Ferrari man calmly but seriously responds “Just don’t have any children.”

Volvo man begins to tire of this conversation after explaining that he already has children, and no he can’t just make them walk everywhere, so he changes tack once again to avoid becoming enraged. “Look” he says “Even if I didn’t have children, and could afford a Ferrari, how would it manage to get me to work in the snow?” to which Ferrari driver responds “Elementary young fellow: simply move to a warmer country. I’m beginning to think you might be a little slow, old chap!” …a fight ensues and…

Well, I don’t think I need to pursue that line of thought any further. There is a class war going on in the world of technology, and as much as I dislike Apple and their army of unwitting recruiters, I honestly believe there is room for both philosophies, just as there is room for both Volvo and Ferrari.

So my advice to Microsoft is this:

Don’t try to make Ferraris. Don’t try to follow Apple… that’s what everyone else is doing. And certainly don’t try to be like Apple, because you suck at it!

I KNOW that a lower price means your product won’t be as shiny.

I KNOW that affordability means greater margin for things to go wrong.

I KNOW that the Sony Playstation can do certain things better than the Xbox, but it’s much more expensive and their customer service is crap!

Stop trying to compete with Apple on their own ground. You will lose!

Instead, be there for us; the ones who don’t like being told what they want; the ones who would like a company that listens to what we actually need and says “Okay… we’ll do our best!” Be there for those of us who know what WE want, and are prepared to wait while you try to provide it.
I am one of those people. It is why I don’t have a SONY Playstation. It is why I don’t have an iPhone. It is why I don’t have a fucking giraffe on my facebook wall this month!

So endeth the rant. Until next time… don’t bend over for the soap.

EDIT: Thanks to my awesome brother-in-law, who shared THIS VIDEO with me, because he knew it would make me happy… it did.

Pressed together: Pt VIII

 “The Terminal”

-Another on time flight from Ryanair-

For the larger part of 2012, James spent many nights on the hard floor of Stansted airport. On one occasion he had even enlisted the help of Amki’s friends and family to surprise her by turning up, completely unannounced, at the new home of her brother and heavily pregnant sister-in-law, while Amki helped them to move in.

James had picked that particular day because he knew that her brother’s new house was the last place Amki would ever expect him to turn up out of the blue. Tilda had provided James with a very, very thorough list of instructions to get there, and he had told Amki he would be away the next morning, visiting his children.

During the night, James had to tell Amki that he couldn’t call her on Skype because the internet was not working at the flat. In reality he was in the car-park outside Stansted airport, far enough away from the terminal that she couldn’t hear the airport announcements, but he still had to pretend he got cut-off, every time he heard a plane coming overhead. She bought the story, and was absolutely stunned when he turned up.

Amki had visited England several times, but James lived a very long way from the airport and was sleeping on someone else’s sofa at the time, so had nowhere for Amki to sleep. Consequently, it always made more sense for James to visit Sweden… and though the journey towards Stockholm was always full of anticipation and excitement, the journey back was long and lonely.

James spent so much time miserable and fed-up at Stansted airport, after leaving Amki in Sweden, that he named his suitcase Jerry, just so that he would have someone to talk to and share the journey with.

This situation looked as though it would last for another 3 years unless the couple could think of a solution…

Stop 8

Pressed together: Pt VII

 “An Interrupted Proposal”

-Midsummer Mosquitoes & Rings of Rosewood-

Fittingly perhaps, the only people besides Amki to meet James on his first visit to Stockholm were her sister, Anna (Maid of Honour), and her best friend and flat-mate, Tilda (Best Man).

By June of 2012 however, James had visited many times, met most of Amki’s nearest and dearest, and was getting ready to enjoy a Swedish midsummer festival with several of them.

It was during this visit that James had planned to ask Amki a very big question. It felt odd doing so without a ring, but visiting Stockholm every few weeks is a very expensive business, and it doesn’t leave much room for ring-buying. So… taking some elastic bands and the motor from an old Dremel power-tool, he built a very small, and dangerous-looking lathe, and used it to make an engagement ring from the rosewood fretboard of an old guitar.

After a crash-course in Swedish tradition, James asked Amki if she wanted to go into the night air for a walk. He had been online, and found out how to ask the question in Swedish, but realised the problem with reading the words on a page is that you can never be completely sure how it is pronounced. Obviously, this is one question you want to be sure to get right, so he opted for English, found the ring in his pocket, and was about to ask… when Anna came outside to see what they were doing. James motioned with his hands to Anna, when Amki turned around, but hastily improvised sign language proved difficult to understand and Amki began following Anna back inside, in an attempt to get away from the mosquito-filled night air. Thinking as quickly as his poor English brain would let him, James waited for Anna to go through the door, asked Amki to stop and turn around, got down on one knee and asked… in English… on the front porch of the house in which Amki had grown up… if she would let him be her husband.

-James later told Amki about the Swedish version… He would have pronounced it incorrectly after all.

Stop 7

Pressed together: Pt V

 “59 & 37”

-Bacon sandwiches, and a book full of tea-

As the end of 2011 approached, James and Amki had each become accustomed to seeing the other’s face, and, thanks to facebook, WordPress and Skype, had spent more hours talking about their likes, loves, and tales of happiness and sorrow than most couples do in a lifetime. James had written many letters (actual letters, with ink on them and everything), and would write many more over the coming months, but he and Amki were both keen to see if this thing would survive the harsh light of real-life.

James booked a flight to Stockholm and somewhere to stay, but his journey was still 59 days away. His flat-mate, Mr. James Farnsworth, suggested they make a countdown, and, on the back of a roadsign which Farnsworth had picked up on one of his late-night excursions, he wrote exactly how many days remained, as well as how many bacon sandwiches (Farnsworth & Moors’s favourite late-night snack), and cups of tea he estimated would be consumed by the date of departure.

James spent the few days over Christmas with his family, and upon returning to Mr. Farnsworth’s flat found a Christmas gift from Amki which had arrived in the post, with instructions to open it only on a certain day.

Inspired by one of James’s favourite films, in which the girl makes the guy a special road-map; full of music and tasks for his journey towards her, Amki had lovingly created an entire book with the words “37 days” written on the cover. On each of its 37 pages was a tea-bag, a different song, and a task for each day to keep his mind off the countdown. Her favourite of these daily tasks was designed to teach her one of the few things she did not yet know about the man she had come to love without ever meeting:

What does his face look like when he is truly disgusted with something?

Inside a little paper pouch, Amki had enclosed a piece of her favourite candy, along with an instruction for him to eat the contents only once she could see his face on Skype. It produced the desired expression of disgust, just as she had known Salt Liquorice would do…

Stop 5

Pressed together: Pt IV

 “A New Beginning”

-To Hell with it!-

James respected Amki’s choice to remain simply friends, but couldn’t reconcile her decision with some of the things she had said to him in their conversations. After twisting the puzzle over in his head, and discussing it with friends new and old, he came, rather uncharacteristically, to the conclusion that she may have been lying when she said she didn’t feel the same things for him.

The following week, during a friendly facebook conversation, James typed “To Hell with it!” in the conversation window. A few moments later, Amki’s phone rang… James was on the other end, and they had their first ever back-and-forth voice conversation. Amki eventually confessed that she hadn’t really wanted it to end there, and afterwards they found cheaper and cheaper ways to call one another, until Amki suggested the obvious alternative: Skype. And, late in 2011, the pair had their first face-to-face conversation, via video.

At the time… James & James (the other one was Farnsworth) were “borrowing” their internet connection from a mysterious open local router named “Eddie”. The problem with a borrowed internet connection was that you could never count on it being there, and Amki & James were often interrupted by severed internet connection. Sometimes for hours, sometimes days.

This was not the only problem. James could share his feelings and frustrations about the relationship with his friends. Amki however, had kept their relationship secret, for fear that “An older man in England, who I met on the internet” would probably not be an easy sell, where her friends and family were concerned. But, Amki eventually told her sister about James.

While Anna (maid of honour) had a fairly positive reaction to the whole thing, Tilda (best man) had understandable concerns, given that Amki had only recently returned from Canada. In light of these concerns, James decided that he must visit Sweden before Amki could visit England…

Stop 4

Pressed together: Pt III

 “A Beautiful Mess”

-From writings to recordings-

14 years apart and living in different countries. Amki referred to their relationship as “A Beautiful Mess” after a song by Jason Mraz.

The first recording that James sent to Amki, became the pattern for a new stage in their relationship. Night after night, James would walk beneath the stars in the autumn air of Lincoln, ignoring strange looks from passers-by, as he spilled out his feelings into a microphone. Night after night Amki would listen, and record a response.

J. Farnsworth (whose flat James was staying in), became used to the late-night excursions, and showed James how to send increasingly huge audio files over the internet.

Occasionally, Amki’s recordings would be interrupted when her flat-mate, Tilda, came home. Amki had no idea how she would explain why she was talking into a microphone, in English, late at night. How, after all, would it look to her friends and family if she told them that shortly after returning from 3 years in Canada, she had developed a relationship with a 37 year old Englishman she had met on the internet?

It seemed to Amki like an impossible relationship. They had no idea if they were ever going to meet, or whether they were both simply looking for something to fill the hole left by their previous relationships.

Worried that their fragile relationship might end without her and James ever getting to meet, or worse; that she would leave her life and education behind her, again, and move to England to be with him, Amki made one last recording; explaining that it had all been a bit of a mistake, and she just wanted friendship. It was a lie, but she figured it was the safest course of action for both of them…

Stop 3