The Final Countdown – 6…

Welcome, welcome, one and all… Come in; fix yourself a drink; grab a t-shirt from the selection by the door; pull up a bean-bag; take a muffin from the counter-top.

Okay, we have none of those things. But we do have a list of things I will miss about Sweden when I away from it in 6 days time, measured against things I have missed about England! 🙂

Wait… where are you going? Surely you didn’t just come here for…

To hell with them! Let’s get on with it shall we?

What I will miss #6: Working as a Stockholm Tour Guide

A few of my lovely guide colleagues

A few of my lovely guide colleagues at Nynäshamn, during the 2013 season

Just to be clear: I am not in this photograph. Many of my guide colleagues are, however, and it is them I will miss as much as the job itself.

Yes… we are those people sitting at the front of a bus, or a boat, or walking you through the streets, or losing our voices as we attempt to be heard above the crowds in a busy museum; listing endless dates and telling stories about the history and happenings of Stockholm, and, more generally, Sweden.

We have hearts and lives… If you prick us, do we not bleed? And if you wrong us, shall we not REVENGE!!??

Yes. We Tour Guides are all about the revenge… Especially the Italians. In fact I may have earned a messy and untimely death just for mentioning that. But it is difficult to stay angry for very long, when you work as a Tour Guide in this beautiful city:

Stockholm Harbour

Stockholm Harbour

Of course, some of us manage it. Particularly on days when you have an all too familiar conversation such as this one:

“What is that enormous building?”

“That’s the Nordic Museum… as I mentioned on the bus.”

“What was it originally?”

“The Nordic Museum… as I mentioned on the bus.”

“No, I mean what was it built for?”

“The Nordic Museum… as I…”

“No, you don’t understand. Who lived there when it was built?”

“Nobody. It has always been a museum. It was built for that purpose… as I mentioned on the…”

… and so on.

Alright… to give a little credit to the guests, it’s an understandable confusion when the building in question looks like this:

Nordiska Museet

Nordiska Museet

But that doesn’t make it any less irritating when you are having this conversation for the 3rd time in as many days. Sometimes, it’s a good idea to trust your Guide. Likewise, when we tell you to be back at the bus by a certain time, it is not because we are anally retentive weirdos who measure our lives by the amount of seconds we waste in futile pursuits such as eating… It is because 1000ft long Cruise-Liners, weighing over 100,000 tons, and carrying more than 2,500 passengers, cannot usually afford to wait while the charming couple in cabin 6211 buy fridge magnets with Vikings on them.

Constellation

The job, like any other, comes with headaches you can’t really understand unless you’ve been there, but for the most part, you can’t ask for many better jobs than showing people around beautiful cities and museums for a living.

I will miss the sights, sounds and smells of The Vasa Museum in particular. Not a lot prepares a guest for the sight of an intact 17th century warship, greeting them as they walk through the doors of a pretty ordinary looking modern building. I will miss those gasps of awe that really made the job worthwhile, and the thanks you get from those guests who have really appreciated their trip and the job you have done.

realvasa

More than that though, I will miss the people in that first photograph. I have worked in more than 20 different jobs, spanning a dozen different industries, and it hasn’t been very often that I could honestly say I really liked those that I worked with. I will miss them all, and pleasant conversations with them in the warmth of a Stockholm summer.

But, I’m going home, so we need one of these…

What I am looking forward to #6: Working as a Voice-Over Artist

Not MY Iso Booth

Not MY iso booth

Now, the eagle-eyed will have noticed that I changed the title of this second section slightly, from “What I have missed” to “What I am looking forward to”, because this one is a bit of a cheat. You see, although I now work in voice-overs, I have never worked in England as such. This is something I have only ever done here in Sweden. However, since that is what I am going to be doing once I return, I figured it balanced quite well with the Tour Guide job I am leaving behind.

I have wondered about being a voice-over artist since reading Stephen King’s Rose Madder back in the mid-nineties, and several of my tour guests suggested I might consider it as an occupation. Still, my first job doing this sort of work was pretty much of a fluke, as I was called by an Argentine/Norwegian director and asked to be the narrator for a documentary. And that might have been the end of it, had it not been for another fluke, in which I discovered a job thanks to my good friend, Hector (who is in the guide photo at the top of the page).

I went in to read for an audition, and started work as an audio-book narrator a few weeks later. Since then I have recorded several books (a few audio samples of which can be found here), and had a competing audio-book company try to recruit me. So I started thinking “Huh! Maybe I do have what it takes to do this sort of work after all”, and have spent the last few months researching possible opportunities, and gathering together the necessary equipment (though I should stress that my own iso-booth is not nearly as shiny as the one in the photo).

So you just never know where life will take you if you let it. It brought me here, to a wonderful wife; a great job, and then another great job. Now it’s taking me back to England, and what I hope will be a career.

But that’s in 6 days time. Lots more writing between now and then. Hopefully the rest will be more interesting to read, and a little less flat than this one seems to have been now that I read back through it. I guess we’ll see tomorrow.

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The Final Countdown – 7…

Welcome back. 7 days to go. Shall we continue?

So if you’re just joining us, I am writing a list of things I will miss about Sweden (which I am about to leave behind). But, in order to be fair to England (which I am about to return to), I am also adding a “thing I have missed about England” to each one. Now, just 7 days remain.

Today… public transport.

What I will miss #7: The Stockholm Subway

Västra Skogen Subway Station - Blue Line

Västra Skogen Subway Station – Blue Line

It’s important to note that I am not ordinarily a fan of public transport.
The attempts of governments worldwide to get us out of our cars and onto public transport have variously failed because few people are willing to give up the warmth, comfort, convenience and privacy of a little island on wheels which almost always takes you directly from door to door, in order to share the confinement of a large steel tube with herds of angry, impatient commuters whose wishes, needs and emergencies are so obviously far less important than yours.
It’s crowded. The air (if it can be so called) is often unpleasant mixtures of urine, stale cigarette smoke, body odour, the coughs and sneezes of the guy next to you who is unwilling or unable to cover his mouth while he sputters out the most recent strain of flu, and the kind of perfume/aftershave that only sells by the litre and is usually applied in similar quantities.

But we don’t all have cars. Some of us don’t even have homes of course… but that’s a different discussion. Those who ordinarily drive have times in their lives when it simply is not practical, financially or otherwise, to own and/or drive a car. And, here in Sweden, it has never really made any sense for me to drive. For one thing I simply couldn’t afford it. For another, I live in a city whose public transport network is extraordinarily efficient. Now, as I usually explained to my tourists (see tomorrow’s post), I am English… so it’s fair to say that I am probably quite easily impressed by the efficiency of public transport in other countries, but be honest; how many of you can say that your subway stations look like this…

Solna Centrum station - Blue Line

Solna Centrum – Blue Line

Or this…

Tekniska Högskolan - Red Line

Tekniska Högskolan – Red Line

The Stockholm Subway System has 100 stations covering almost 66 miles. More than 90 of those stations have been decorated in various ways by more than 150 different artists. Some are fairly subtle, such as my own local subway station at Vårberg, on the red line:

Våberg - Red Line

Vårberg – Red Line

Some, such as the one (below) where I have been working recently, in the north of Stockholm, are innocent enough in the daytime, but when you finish work late at night and find them deserted… they take on an entirely different character.

Duvbo - Blue Line

Duvbo – Blue Line

DuvboFaces

Harmless enough for those not especially nervous about deserted subway stations. Not so much for those who watched An American Werewolf In London when they were children.

Particularly when the walls are decorated with creepy faces such as these.

Still… since I grew up around the Yorkshire Moors I suppose it makes more sense for me to be scared by this sort of thing…

an-american-werewolf-in-london-moors

…than it does to be scared of this…

An-American-Werewolf-in-London-Ken-Taylor-poster-variant-mondo

Anyway… as usual I have wandered so far from the point that I have fallen, bruised and scratched by thorns, into a deep ravine and awoken to find myself in a fire-lit hut, painted with a foul-smelling paste and waited-upon by strange little creatures whose rudimentary sign language leads me to believe that they think I am a god.

Back on Earth meanwhile… I was explaining that the Stockholm subway system is an interesting place, and I shall miss travelling on it. And I shall particularly miss my favourite station at Kungsträdgården:

Kungsträdgården - Blue Line

Kungsträdgården – Blue Line

No ordinary station this one. It is full of plants, sculptures and relics from the old city; including a working 400 year-old fountain. I was first there with my wife on my second ever visit to Sweden and have loved it ever since. Here she is at this subway station, looking like a tiny little Alice (she’s 5′ 9″), on our second date:

Amki In Wonderland

Amki In Wonderland

I have loved this subway station… and her… ever since.

However fascinating the artwork at such stations might be though, riding on public transport still sucks harder than Ben Affleck in a wind-tunnel, trying to empty a swimming pool with a drinking straw while acting out scenes from his latest movie about selling vacuum-cleaners on a rapidly de-pressurising aircraft.

And that’s why…

What I have missed #7: Driving a Car

PORSCHE-911-DRIVING-EXPERIENCE-2

Alright… so it’s fair to say that the above image misrepresents my personal driving experiences in much the same way that “acting” misrepresents whatever it is that Ben Affleck does when he gets on screen. I have driven a Porsche 911… once… about 25 feet… and I was in a company car-park at the time. But I do think the image represents what driving can feel like. And to those friends and colleagues of mine who are about to say “Hah hah! But driving in England can’t possibly be like that!” I say…

Take THIS!

642x336xOopnurthring-642x336.jpg.pagespeed.ic.9ip1jRrjMQ

And THIS!

Mam Tor-PkDistrct

And one of these…

TdY_0001

And that’s just a small selection from around the Peak District, close to where I will be living. I didn’t even include other beautiful parts of the UK.

Driving comes with a little more danger than does public transport; whatever the cause of the accident when travelling by train, you can be fairly confident, as you lie in your hospital bed/coffin that it was almost certainly not your fault. But the next time you find yourself sitting on the train, searching for an answer to one of the following:

“What time is it… *sneeze*?”

“What are you looking at?”

“What is your problem, mate?”

“What are those bats doing on my tin-foil hat?”

Consider the peace and tranquillity of that tin death-trap we call the auto-mobile.

That is all for today. More tomorrow.

The Final Countdown – 8…

So, with only 8 days remaining until I leave Sweden and return to live in the UK, we come to number 8 on the list of Things I will miss about Sweden vs Things I have missed about England.

I couldn’t really call myself an Englishman if I didn’t talk about the weather, so here it is…

What I will miss #8: Stockholm Summers

Midsommardans

A Swedish Midsummer festival

It’s funny how the memory plays tricks on you. I remember the winters of my youth being much more snowy, but my mum assures me that I’m imagining things. Still, she also recently told me that Santa wasn’t real, so… that goes to show how reliable her information is. But I’m pretty sure I can say with some confidence that British summers (though pretty much world famous for their moisture content) did not used to be quite so wet, and I’m fairly certain I would have the support of most meteorologists, climatologists, and just general scaremongers on this point.

Y’see the Brits are famous for “drizzle”; that kind of slow, drifting, sanity-melting mist that makes you dress inappropriately for the season and can warp the fabric of space-time by making a 10 minute walk to the chemist seem like an endless, hell-inflicted trudge, and leaves you wondering if your children will even remember you whenever in hell it is that you finally drag your drenched, sobbing carcass back across the threshold of that fondly remembered, warm house in deepest Crewe.
But in recent years, the rain in the UK hangs above you in low, threatening clouds the colour of nightmares, and then goes “FUCK IT!! YEEEEAAAAHHHH BITCH!!!! YEEEEEHAAA!!!” And you suddenly know what it feels like to have the entire contents of the Atlantic Ocean emptied into your shoes in the space of 30 seconds.

So, yeah… it’s wet.

In Stockholm (I can’t really speak for the rest of Sweden since I have only seen one or two other parts of it), the summers are, for the most part, warm and dry. The Swedes will tell you that the last few years have been wet but, frankly, they’re fucking amateurs! The kind of shower that makes English folk glance upward to see if someone just wrung out a dishcloth, is the sort of thing that has the Swedes throwing sandbags out at their front doors.

Frankly, there were so many pictures of British rain, it would have been difficult to choose a single one. So here… have 2, and laugh from the comfort of your home in the California Hills (he said; so very drastically misjudging his target demographic that you wonder if he has been smoking banana skins out of the composter again):

car_2270215b

rain-weather-460_790478c

But we’re not here to squirm over photos of crappy British weather… I’m supposed to come up with something that I have missed about England. So, with that in mind…

Things I have missed #8: English Spring

7098753447_a051cb4130_z

British winters aren’t proper winters. Our snow is infrequent, light, and when there is enough of it to make a snowman… it will usually be an unhealthy looking grey snowman. Our summers are usually a washout, as previously stated. And our autumns (that’s Fall, for those of you that live pretty much anywhere else in the world), are pretty, but they are so incredibly windy that if you don’t go outside within 30 minutes of the leaves changing colour… it’s too late… they’re all in Norway already.

However… a British Spring really has to be experienced. It is by far my favourite season and, unlike a Swedish Spring, usually turns up in March (y’know… when it’s supposed to).

Y’see although those Swedish summers are spectacular, the other 3 seasons, which for the sake of expediency we’ll just call  Winter, are pretty cold and very, very long. I have often, in my capacity as a Stockholm Tour Guide, told my guests that Sweden has 2 seasons: Hot and Cold. But, that’s a little unfair. There are subtle nuances of cold that only the Russians and Eskimos understand better than the Scandinavians. We can call those Spring and Autumn if it makes you feel better.
But you only have to endure one  Swedish winter to understand why the Swedes party harder than Robert Downey Jr. in a recently liberated Ewok village when the sun is out. The Winter is cold, the sun just doesn’t even bother to look in occasionally and make sure everyone is okay, and it sure as hell isn’t over by March!

So, as much as I will miss those happy Swedes, and their warm dry summers. I think the English Spring is more than enough compensation thank you.

See you tomorrow for number 7.

The Final Countdown – 9…

And so, we continue… there are 9 days remaining until I return permanently to the land of my birth, and I am listing 10 things I will miss about Sweden (more specifically Stockholm), against 10 things I have missed about England.

It’s very short and sweet today, since I am actually in Skåne, and bringing you this through the miracle of “setting a timer”.

What I will miss #9: Flamin’ Hot Cheez Cruncherz

i_07340005401031

See… the reason this particular post will be short and sweet is that there isn’t much that even I can find to say about junk-food. It is what it is. And wot cheez cruncherz is, is Deelishusss!
I have often sat crunching away on these whilst watching some god-awful tripe at 4am. Making every attempt not to wake my wife through the flawlessly logical process of “crunching more slowly”. Easy innit. By the way, if you’re wondering why talking about junk-food has made me go all “teenager” wiv ma spellin… keep on wondering. I’m wondering the same thing.

So what junk food is sold in England that can possibly content with the immovable might of Cheeeeez Cruncherrrrrz!!!???

I give you: Chilli Heatwave Doritos

8845148782622

I’m not going to waste your time explaining why Chilli Heatwave Doritos would kick the asses of Cheez Cruncherz up one side of England and down the other. I’ll leave that to historians. I’ll just say: See you tomorrow.

The Final Countdown – 10…

 

See what I did there?

No?

Good. It means I don’t have too many Europe fans reading this (Virginia… if you’re reading this, I’m sorry). The short version is that the rock band, Europe, are Swedish, and I’m moving from Sweden back to England (*cough* where real bands come from), and I’m going to do a countdown.

Right. Now that you’ve seen the irrefutable genius of my opening gambit… here comes the long version.

In 10 days from now, I will be returning to my home country permanently. Well… I’m sure I’ll visit Sweden often, and hopefully see much of the rest of the world but, you get the idea. And I will really miss this place. ABBA and IKEA are not the only things to come out of this great country, and although most of the things I will talk about might seem to be of little significance to anyone else, they matter to me.

So over the next 10 days, I will list 10 things I will miss about Sweden, offset against things I have missed about England.

Get the picture?
No? … …Go home Richard, you’re drunk.

What I will miss #10: Swedish Bread

22jan23_185603415

Seems simple, right?

Wrong!!

The Swedes know how to make bread. Now… that isn’t to say that the English don’t know how to make bread, but we don’t know how to make it well. And we certainly don’t know how to make it interesting.
There are some places in England where you can buy really great, really tasty bread… but it certainly isn’t the norm.
Over here in Sweden you can buy 30 different varieties of wildly different tasting breads in every supermarket. And that’s before you even GO to the bakery. I’m talking about the kind that comes pre-packaged. This one is rye; this one white; this one has carrot; here’s the same brand but with sea-salt… with lingonberries… with syrup… oats… olive-oil… sunflower seeds… barley… cardamom… flax seeds… poppy seeds… sourdough… hard bread… soft bread…

Perhaps you’re not a very big fan of bread. But I think a love of bread is in my genes. I remember my father telling me, yet again, that some problem I had was due to lack of sleep. Now, that’s not at all surprising in my case – unless you honestly thought I chose “Sleepless Knight” because I like taking late-night walks in steel pyjamas – but he said this to everyone… “Lost a finger? Lack of Sleep” “Fell down a well? Lack of sleep” “Shot in the face by a gun-toting psychopath? … that’ll be a lack of sleep!”
When I challenged my father about this he laughed, and told me that my Grandfather had always blamed everything on “not eating enough bread”.

Anyway, I digress… as usual. Basically the Swedes kick our asses at bread making!

So how do I counter this? Well…

Things I have missed #10: British Sausage

5-types-of-sausage-006

There is no polite way to put this… The Swedes can’t make sausage for shit!
Okay… there were probably a dozen polite ways to say that, but I have really missed the good old British Banger and that’s the kind of shit that will make a man take politeness and jump up and down on its balls until it stops being polite.

So… like the bread… Swedes can make sausage. The Germans taught them. Doubt me? Don’t make me go all “Swedish Tour Guide” on your asses with stories about the Swedish sausage and its ties to the Swedish copper mines. Just trust me on this.
Still. I can imagine the little conflab between the German miners:

“So… if we teach the Swedes to make sausage our lives down here in the dark might be a little more bearable, but if we teach them the really good stuff, how will we ever face our countrymen again! No… I say we teach them that really crappy, boring recipe that we give the kids when they misbehave.”

So, yeah… the Swedes have several different types of sausage, but I’m damned if I can tell you the difference in taste between one and the other (much like British bread).

So I’m looking forward to getting back the British Banger! Tomato sausage… pork sausage… beef… sausage with apple… sausage with Stilton…. sausage with Garlic and Rosemary…. Lincolnshire sausage…. Cumberland sausage… the list goes on and on.

See you tomorrow!

Interstellar: exploration or extinction

It has been a long time since I visited these pages… far too long.
I had when I last wrote here, many varied and detailed plans for a new, brighter (ironically more regularly updated) blog site. And I hope that eventually I can return to those ideas and make them a reality, because I really do miss this. But, as those foolhardy enough to have been reading this blog since early 2011 will know, my mind has the boundless energy and restlessness which so many tracksuit-wearing gym-goers seem to have applied to their physical bodies, but which has long eluded my own decrepit husk of an excuse for one.
As such, new ideas, new games, new books, new addresses, projects, toys and adventures are ever vying for an audition to stand, however briefly, on the crumbling stage of 3 minute farce which is my attention span… before being kicked out into the wings to make way for a man on a Segway, juggling flaming sea-sponges.

So, why now?

Well, I will give you a brief update on my ever-changing circumstances (many of which will relate to – and serve as updates for – previous blog posts) a little later. But, more importantly, I want to talk to you once again about a subject very close to my heart. An issue far too often ignored or dismissed, but about which I nonetheless feel very strongly indeed.

It should be made clear that, although I have had the itch to return and update you on progress several times over the last 2-3 months, this post was prompted by several coinciding events which, each in their turn, brought this issue once again to the front of my mind, and I thought I might quiet “the voices” by listing those events here.

The first is that, by the end of today, my wife and I will, more than likely, have an actual definitive, unalterable date for our permanent return to England… though I should more properly say: My permanent return, and my wife’s (hopefully) permanent migration to.

The second is that sleeplessness (what else?) has compelled me once again to the pages of the various works of Dr. Carl Sagan; not only one of my favourite authors, but (in my opinion at least) one of the most enlightened and brilliant men the 20th century ever gave us.

The third is that in 4 days from now (Nov 12th, 2014), one of the exciting firsts of human space exploration, which Dr. Sagan foresaw and wrote about at length but sadly did not live long enough to witness, will actually happen. The European Space Agency’s Rosetta Spacecraft, after travelling 4 billion miles over the span of 10 years, finally caught up with comet 67P/C-G in August, and will send its Philae lander down to the surface on Wednesday.

If you wish to follow the event live on Wednesday, you can do so at www.esa.int. In the meantime you can watch a wonderful short film, inspired by humanity’s first landing on a comet, here.

The fourth is that I have been playing extensively, and making many YouTube videos about, Elite: Dangerous over the last 3 months; a game for which I waited 3 decades, and about which, more later (if you can’t wait until later… more here)

Lastly, and perhaps most poignantly, this week sees the release of my most anticipated film of 2014: Christopher Nolan’s, Interstellar – which I wrote a brief preview of at the beginning of this year, in my 2014 film preview (it might be interesting to revisit my previews and see how accurate I was in my predictions).

The reason I say “most poignantly” is because, although I will not be going to see the film until next week, I understand its central theme to be the very concern which drove me back to these pages. A subject on which I have touched several times before; that of Interstellar travel, and the absolute necessity for it.

Amongst the above listed reasons are my personal heroes. From the realms of astronomy and space exploration: Carl Sagan; filmmaking: Chris Nolan; and video-gaming: David Braben. All of them – Nolan, apparently; Braben, so far as I can tell; and Sagan, definitely and outspokenly on many occasions – share/d my concerns about space exploration; namely that the necessity for it does not seem to be widely accepted or understood.

That’s the second time I’ve referred to it as a necessity (actually the 3rd or 4th if you read my earlier blog posts. Particularly this one), and I absolutely, whole-heartedly and as loudly as the internet will let me, refuse to apologise for doing so.

Again and again I have heard the same tired old arguments against spending large amounts of money on spaceflight and space exploration…

The first comes most often from that percentage of the human population who seem not to concern themselves with life outside the confines of their local pub, or the studios in which their favourite reality TV show is filmed, and it usually goes something like this:

“What d’ya wanna go t’space for? I mean what’s the point?”

The second is usually (though not always) from the demographic I think is most diametrically opposed to the first; those intellectuals who concern themselves almost entirely with metaphysics, and start conversations with such openers as “Wasn’t it Sartre who said…” and so on. Their argument goes something like this:

“Why should I care?”

The third comes from those of a religious disposition, and ranges from:

“I just try to be a good Christian/Muslim/Jew etc.”

to

“Accept Christ and you will all be saved.”

and at the more extreme end…

“HERETIC!”

The fourth group constitutes perhaps the largest and most often encountered percentage of space-exploration naysayers, and their argument at least tends to be the most rational. It goes something like this:

“Aren’t there far more pressing concerns right here on Earth?”

To answer each of these groups in turn, in the fewest words possible, I would have to say…

Group 1: “Are you a moron?”

Group 2: “Do you think I’m a moron?”

Group 3: “Are you a Mormon?”

Group 4: “No.”

However, since brevity is as foreign to me as a second anniversary is to an iPhone, I shall now give slightly more carefully considered responses.

Group 1

G1: What d’ya wanna go t’space for? I mean what’s the point?

SK: Have you ever looked up at the night sky? Did you know that all those little twinkly bits in that really big black thing above your head are gigantic nuclear reactors… many with their own system of planets? And did you know that, though we can only see about 10,000 from Earth, with the naked eye, there are actually about 400 billion of them in our galaxy alo…

G1: …

SK: Are you texting?

G1: …

SK: Can’t you concentrate on what I’m saying for five m… wait… are you texting ME?
What does ‘UR borin m8’ mean?

G1: …

SK: Oh for crying out loud! Go on inside then. X-factor starts in 5 minutes. Here’s a ball of string to keep you occupied during that long wait.”

So… no help there then. What of group 2?

Group 2

G2: Why should I care?

SK: Fair point. But all the great art and literature you DO care about (or claim to) will be lost if SOMEONE doesn’t. No humans will remain to read  and appreciate it. All the Peruvian yoghurt farmers you are always banging on about trying to save will perish anyway when the planet is inevitably over-populated, or the magnetic field which protects them (and us) from the intense radiation of the sun is decimated by a coronal mass-ejection.
Still don’t care?

G2: Nope

SK: Okay. Can’t say fairer than that. I don’t much care about  homoeopathy, and locally grown, organic gooseberries to tell the truth, so I guess we’re both content.
By the way; I found a brilliant article about how to get Quinoa out of your beard while I was looking up Quasars on Google. If you’re having trouble reading it… take off the ridiculous fake glasses! Your eyesight is fine.

Never mind. To each their own. I figured it was a losing battle, but there might be some hope for that group as fashions inevitable change.
Onto group 3… I guess… *sigh*

Group 3

G3: I just try to be a good Christian/Muslim/Jew etc.

SK: Er… yes but…

G3: Accept Christ and you will all be saved!

SK: Erm… okay… I’m not entirely convinced that’s true, but let’s say that it turns out you’re correct, and there really is a magical being who created everything… doesn’t the endless space, full of countless worlds and wonders make your creator seem even more magnificent than you first thought?

G3: …

SK: No? You want your magnificent God to remain confined to this tiny, tiny, insignificant corner of the universe?
Y’know… I think that’s probably for the best.
Incidentally, I will be celebrating Christmas, and my love of it has everything to do with cosy happiness and goodwill, and nothing to do with your god, beyond both his and Santa’s shared love of beards.

By the way… I found this great article on how to get Quinoa out of…
…what’s wrong?

G3: HERETIC!

SK: Get your foot out my door. I have Satan on speed-dial

Oh well. I didn’t expect that one to end well, if I’m honest. Man, am I gonna look stupid when the Tribulation comes.

I think there is hope for group 1. As long as we start setting our reality TV shows on space stations and asteroids, they’ll sell the idea for us, and tell us it was their’s in the first place. And as long as we put a Starbucks up there, selling organically-grown coffee… group 2 will turn up whether we want them to or not.

But let’s turn our attention to Group 4.

“Aren’t there far more pressing concerns right here on Earth?”

I stand by my original, simple answer: NO!

But allow me to expand upon it…

Are the starving of the world more important?

Not if they are wiped out by asteroid strike, coronal mass-ejection, super-volcanic eruption etc. before we figure out how to feed them all, no.

Shouldn’t we be trying to put an end to poverty, rather than pursuing science-fiction?

Absolutely we should! But you can do both at the same time. In fact, the answers to many of these earthly problems have been, and are still being, addressed by the human exploration of space and its derivative technologies.
Besides… what’s the point of saving people from poverty if we ignore all the very real dangers which could wipe us all out at any moment?

It’s too dangerous!

It certainly is dangerous sometimes. Last week alone there were two accidents (it’s worth noting that this was the single busiest week for spacecraft accidents in the history of human spaceflight); Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo crashed, killing one person and injuring another… and an unmanned Antartes rocket exploded as it left the launch-pad. However, although I wouldn’t even risk spilling my beer to stop a bar-fight, I would risk my life without question to advance human space exploration. And judging from the 200,000 or so applicants who signed up for the chance to earn a one-way ticket to the Red Planet, with the Mars One project (this project plans to send people to Mars, starting in 2023, but will not be bringing them back), it seems that plenty of other people are willing to risk their lives too. If you’re not, stay at home. No-one is forcing anyone to risk their safety. All the people who have so far gone into space have jumped at the chance, in spite of the risks.

It’s too expensive!

Yes, it certainly is expensive. But the US military budget is approximately 30,000 times more expensive.

We need to put a stop to war!

Definitely. And I can’t think of a better way to do that than focussing the attentions (not to mention the money) of humanity on something much bigger, brighter and more exciting out there.

We need to stop over-population!

How?
Other than sterilising the whole of humanity, and dooming it to extinction anyway, how exactly are you planning to police such an action? That snowball is already out of control folks. There are twice as many people on this planet now as there were when I was born, 40 years ago.
On the bright side… they call it “space” for a reason.

The tools of human spaceflight are bound to be perverted into tools of war and destruction, or have some other long-term negative consequences for humanity!

Yup. Very likely. Wernher von Braun’s rockets were used to bomb London during WWII, and there has been fear and speculation for some time in the world of astronomy, that the technology necessary to deflect earth-bound asteroids could just as easily be used to push one TOWARDS us.
But here’s the thing… the technological developments of humanity have often had un-forseen consequences no matter WHERE they come from. In fact many of the solutions to the very earthy problems this group confronts us with, end up being the things that group 2 sit in their coffee houses complaining about a generation later.
2 solutions to the problems of world hunger and food shortage for example, have resulted in 2 of the biggest scare-stories in the modern era.

The need for cleaner, non-toxic refrigeration technology led to the development of Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs). Considered completely safe because they were non-reactive… we later discovered that it was precisely that inert property which led to them destroying our protective ozone layer (a problem, I hasten to add, which was only discovered – accidentally, and with the support of NASA – through studying the atmosphere of Venus).

The development of GM crops… an ingenious solution, or so we thought, to the problem of world hunger. Here were crops that thrived where others could not; allowing millions of acres of food to be grown on land which would previously yield none… but people gathering outside the headquarters of Monsanto with catchy slogans and placards would probably tell you that didn’t work out quite as we had planned either.

The advancement of technology often has drawbacks… but it has so far saved millions more lives than it has cost (sorry, Group 3, was I staring?).

So, what of that final, tired old argument closer:

You’ve been reading/watching too much science-fiction?

For this one I shall simply answer tired old rhetoric with tired old rhetoric:

Science-Fiction writers have been writing about visiting comets and landing on them for well over a century. On Wednesday, you can watch it happen.
Right up to the late 19th and early 20th century, most physicists believed that rockets could not function in a vacuum.

Look… we can argue backwards and forwards all day long about “what ifs”, so let’s stick with something that we can guarantee.

At some point in the future, an asteroid or comet big enough to wipe out all life on Earth WILL hit this planet.

This is not speculation. It is a mathematical certainty.

Less than 2 years ago, Russia had a near miss of underwear-changing proportions when a meteor just 15 meters across exploded over Chelyabinsk. This happened in the same week that astronomers were busy watching how closely we had been missed by the very much larger Asteroid, 2012 DA14. Twenty short years ago, Jupiter was hit by Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9, leaving a scar the size of our entire planet on its surface.

Asteroid & Comet impacts are just the most likely threat. Super-volcano eruption, Coronal mass-ejection… pick your apocalypse. I’ve said it many times before: Mother Nature is a cold-hearted bitch! She cares not one iota what the human-race has struggled through, or how much history would be lost.

Dr. Sagan, in Pale Blue Dot, reckons:

“There’s something like one chance in two thousand that [a globally catastrophic asteroid collision] will happen in the lifetime of a newborn baby… for commercial flights the chance [of crashing] is one in two million.”

He puts it better, and certainly more succinctly, than I ever could when he states the case for space-exploration by simply stating:

“Exploration or extinction”

So make your choice. Every single day that passes without such a global catastrophe brings us one day closer to the day when it DOES happen.

I hate fear-mongering, and I am not suggesting for a second that we all build bomb shelters and tell your Priest/Psychiatrist/Chemist that you have secretly always had a fetish for Eskimo-porn before it’s too late. Living in perpetual fear of what MIGHT happen is no existence at all (I can hear my wife laughing as I write that). There is one group that I left off the list, and it is populated by those people who live in a constant state of disappointment; constantly whining about how evil humanity is and how we all deserve to die for the things we’ve done to penguins. I left these people out because there really is very little point in arguing with them. Yes, we have done, and are still doing shitty things all across the world, and yes, some humans would undoubtedly continue doing shitty things on other worlds, and in other times. But let’s not throw the baby out with the bath-water… just try to be one of those people who does nice things, and to discourage others from doing bad ones.

My own interest in space travel has little if anything to do with the threat of asteroid impact, mathematical certainty or not, but if that doesn’t sway you, just go outside on a clear night and spend half an hour with your phone turned off, looking up at those twinkly bits. You may surprise yourself.

xl1XYq8

In other news…

I am nowadays working as an audio-book narrator, and will be pursuing similar work when returning to the UK next year.

I have made several Elite: Dangerous gameplay videos for YouTube in the last 3 months, and will continue making more, as the BETA stage of development draws to a close, and the game approaches its retail release date: 16th December, 2014.

braben
This game has exceeded all my expectations so far, and there are grand plans going forward from release. One of my videos was featured in one of the game developer’s recent newsletters. It should go without saying that I was very proud indeed, and my wife and I had a lot of fun making it. If you’re a fan of either Quantum Leap or Elite: Dangerous, you should check it out, HERE.


That’s it for now. I will try to be back soon, but given how this post started, and considering that I will shortly be relocating to another country, don’t be surprised if you don’t hear from me for a while.
You can still keep up with developments by watching my videos, or following me on TWITTER or FACEBOOK.

Until then (although this may make little sense to those who do not regularly read my posts) consider this:

Bending over for the soap would not be necessary in zero-gravity

Live from Earth

I know I said there were going to be no blog posts for a while, and that is still almost true. However, in light of my hearty agreement with this blog post, which I read this morning, and the recent airing of Live from Space on UK TV, I felt a sudden urgency to repost the following, er… post. (it also ties in quite well with the new blog site, as you’ll see at a later time)

Some people may take issue with what I am about to say. Some of them may also laugh derisively as they tell me that I’m am being petty, but I ask those people to consider carefully the following:

  • Have you ever mocked the musical tastes of others, because you played an instrument in a band from time to time, so you feel you know better than they do?
  • Did you ever grit your teeth because a small child in a Jar-Jar Binks T-Shirt said to you: “Do you even know what Star Wars is?”

I’m sure some version of the above has happened to you at some point in your life, and I’m quite certain that almost every person I know has been guilty of something similar, so relax and try to absorb the message… or don’t.

You see, I am a space travel nerd. A real space travel nerd. I have sat all alone in my little room for days on end, reading through the transcripts of the Apollo 8 mission, and been ridiculed for it. I suppose you’re asking for a little ridicule when you spend your time reading through transcripts containing every single word that was uttered inside the command module during the 6 days of Apollo 8, but it is my favourite of the Apollo missions. You can keep your Apollo 11… I have a soft spot for Borman, Lovell, and Anders; the oft forgotten astronauts who saw the surface of the moon up close, 7 months before Armstrong and Aldrin even got there.

Now, I suppose the fact that I am exactly the sort of dork who has a “favourite Apollo mission” in the first place, deserves a little ridicule, but when you have watched people shake their heads and roll their eyes, every time you start to bang on about the history of, or advances in, human spaceflight… If you have found yourself alone at a dinner table after everyone gets up to leave when you start talking about the Kepler array… If you have fumed as some trendy but clueless teenager – who can tweet and apply make-up at the same time, but needs to check their passport if you ask them to write their own name – says: “I don’t geddit! Wots intrestin baht spaaace?” If you have been the source of many a giggle because of your passion for, or obsession with, space travel, and the universe outside the living room… it does get to you a little bit when some of the same folks that ridiculed you start discussing how they are “becoming a total space geek”, because they watched a TV program about life aboard the ISS.

The post from The Good Men Project, which I linked at the beginning, made me think once again about the social media driven world we now live in. The self-styled life gurus, reposting memes with such tired rhetoric as “Today is the first day of the rest of your life”, or those all important likes by which bloggers like myself measure internet success.

This and the observation that seeing the International Space Station on TV seems to have elicited untold excitement from my home across the water, have encouraged me to repost the following, from August 28th, 2011.

Remember those painful times during your school days… when life was just one long popularity contest?

Thank God those days are over, huh?

They don’t have roads but they have facebook

Life, it seems to me, is a series of moments between here and there. Most are completely insignificant:

  • Pouring milk into your tea; opening the mail; sitting  in a chair, etc.

Any one of those, at any time, can become a moment of significance:

  • Pouring too much milk into your tea; resulting in a spillage which destroys your laptop, along with your formula for a new spot-cream.

The significance of a life overall, is dependant upon whether or not these moments are significant to others:

  • Pouring milk into the tea of a work colleague, whose allergy to milk, though previously unknown to you, causes anaphylactic shock, and a trip to the hospital.

…or perhaps even the entire human race:

  • 2 days later, the work colleague, whilst doing field research in the rainforest, experiences biphasic anaphylaxis (It’s OK to look this up. I had to) and dies, 3 days short of completing their cure for cancer… Oops!

Now… this is certainly a “glass is half empty” viewpoint. I could just as easily have said that you had discovered a cure for cancer but, in the interest of continuity, I thought it best to stick with the milk analogy, and couldn’t think of any way that would translate into your saving the world.

I have had many significant moments; most of them significant only to me; a few of them significant to others. I suppose the two most significant moments in my life have been my birth and the birth of my daughter. My daughter will inevitably go through a period of resenting me for her birth, and my big sister has never really forgiven me for my own (and not without justification, if I’m honest). Still, I like to tell myself that my birth was responsible for that of my little brother, if only because I imagine my father spending a few months with me before he felt it necessary to see if he could get it right next time.

Ultimately though, I have had no moments sufficiently significant to result in my name being sung through the ages by descendants of the little nerdy kids, who survived the nuclear holocaust because playing Fallout taught them how to make bottlecap mines, and kill Radroaches with a pool cue. The only way I could realistically make ripples in a big pool would be to work at Water Meadows, operating the wave machine.

However, through the sorcery of social networking, we can now share moments of personal significance with the world and see if they turn into moments of ever-so-slightly-greater significance. I recently had the opportunity to share one of these moments, and, to be fair, I genuinely thought it was a pretty big one. I hadn’t just “had a random nosebleed 😦 ” or “seen my reflection in a spoon 🙂 LOL” or anything quite so mundane. I had been tweeted… by a robot… in orbit, aboard the International Space Station!! Now, OK, it’s the astronauts who actually operate the robot, but human exploration of space has always been a really important subject to me, as can be seen in this post, so to say that I was excited is an understatement of “I think these horseless carriages might catch on” proportions. I mean, who wouldn’t be excited to receive a personal message from the first humanoid robot in space? Well… pretty much everyone I know as it turns out.

It is, to say the least, slightly depressing to post what might be the coolest moment of your life so far, in your facebook status and receive not one single response, whilst “LOL. My belly button looks like a face” has received over a dozen. Are you f**king kidding me? I just received a personal message from a $2.5 million dollar piece of hardware, aboard a f**king space station! I actually did find it rather impressive that my sister in-law killed 27 flies at work the other day (Congrats on your multi-kill skills, Sal), but come on…

ROBOT!

SPACE STATION!

And so… social networking gives us a new perspective on moments of personal significance; allowing us to see the level of our importance as clearly as if it had posted on the stock exchange. Jocks and
geeks are no longer separated by the length of a football field, but by how many status responses they get on facebook. The popular kid posts about an extremely loud fart he did in geography class and becomes a hero, while the geek who successfully replicated the origin of life in the chemistry room gets a facebook wedgie in the form of: 0 Likes – 0 Comments. I wonder; if the Apollo Moon landings had happened in the era of social networking, would Gene Cernan post: “Leaving the surface of the moon now. No human being will return here in my lifetime.” Only to find that he sank to the bottom of the facebook wall because his mate in Arizona put his trousers on back-to-front and everyone thought it was hilarious.

I simply haven’t yet got the hang of social networking. I mean, all joking aside (yes… for a few moments I will try to be serious), I am not a facebook friend collector. I only add people that I am actually interested in talking to. Any status update is unlikely to elicit many responses when your circle of friends doesn’t stretch all that far into the double digits but, in the 21st century, we depend on social networking when we’re stuck indoors, and our view of the outside world is confined to that which we can see through our office window. And, since I won’t be leaving the house until I have finished MAKING THIS MOTHER-FU…. sorry. Count to ten…

…I meant to say that I will be busy for another couple of weeks yet, so please enjoy the cartoon, and, to all of you – particularly those lucky enough to have a view that changes whenever they have the time to untie the moorings – don’t take my comments to be anything other than a flimsy pretext for a blog post.

I’m going now. Enjoy what’s left of your day, and I’ll see you on the network.

 

Fantasy League #1: 007 Villains

After this post I am going to disappear for a few weeks to concentrate on the new blog site, and a video which has gone unfinished for far, far, far, far too long. I will check in on comments, and I may even write a post here if lightning strikes me, but otherwise, since I won’t be back for a few weeks, I thought we’d have a little bit of fun. If this sort of thing proves popular I may do more of them in the future, I may even move the idea across to the new site as a page on its own, but let’s see what you think of this one before we get ahead of ourselves.

I have often talked of movies in this blog. Indeed, at one point during 2011/2012 all my blog posts had to have titles taken from movie lines. And I must surely have made clear by now that my favourite genre is Science Fiction. I have very little time for spy movies in general. So it may surprise you (well… some of you at least) to know that the film franchise I am perhaps most knowledgeable about is 007. With Bond 24 now confirmed, the rumour mill is in full swing, and there are several questions everyone usually wants the answer to when a new 007 adventure is on the horizon.

1. Who will play Bond? No mystery there, Daniel Craig has already confirmed he will once again wear the tuxedo.
2. What will be the title? A great deal more mystery here as the title at the moment is the less-than-evocative Bond #24. 
3. Who will be the Bond girl/girls? Once again, no idea.
4. Who will be the villain?

It’s this last question I want to talk about today. Who do you think would make a great villain? Why? Where’s your evidence? Do you think a particular person should definitely not be allowed to stroke the white pussy (sorry about that. I couldn’t resist)? So, I hereby declare the first Sleepless Knight Fantasy League… open! Today: Bond villains.

I have tried to add a mixture of people I’m not so sure about, in with people I would give my right arm to see playing Bond villains. When it comes to listing movies they have starred in, some of them are obvious choices; some are their best movies; some are their worst. Most of the time I have tried to pick at least one movie for each actor which demonstrates their ability, or inability to play bad guys. Ben Kingsley’s is an example of the latter. Lastly, each of the “Blofeld says” quotes are from one of their movies, with the eponymous Mr. Bond pasted in where I thought it appropriate. Consequently I have often tried to pick a quote from one of the movies listed on their card, but this is not always the case.

Off you go! Have fun. And if you can’t read the cards very well, my apologies, but just click on them to enlarge.

Ben Bond

Gary Bond

Ed Bond

Chiwetel Bond

Cate Bond

Michael G Bond

Sir Ian Bond

Frank Bond

Angelina Bond

Benedict Bond

Djimon Bond

Sam R Bond

Sam N Bond

Jude Bond

Charlize Bond

Cillian Bond

James F Bond

Paul Bond

Ken Bond

Michaell F Bond

Michelle Bond

Marion Bond

Bruce Bond

Derek Bond

 

Rachel Bond

John Bond

Carrie Anne Bond

*Fun Fact: I only discovered whilst checking IMDb for movie release dates for this post, that one of the characters I really hate, from the Mass Effect games series, was voiced by Carrie Anne Moss.

Forest Bond

Philip Bond

As has so often been the case during this past month or so of “experimenting” I enjoyed this far too much. I started coming up with all sorts of ideas on what to do next… The New Doctor fantasy league… Bond Movie Titles fantasy league… Star Trek villains… Superheroes… it just kept going. But, reluctantly, I must tell you that’s it for a few weeks, unless I suddenly think of something so important to say that it can’t wait.

Now it’s your turn to vote. Philip Seymour Hoffman has been left out of the vote below, mainly so that voters wouldn’t be influenced by the recent loss. But everyone else is present and correct. There is no time-limit on the vote, so I guess I’ll just take a look at it, and announce the results when the new Bond villain is officially announced.

Until I see you again (with more details of the proposed new blog site), Sleep tight,

Sleepless Knight

Loose ends

The post which was supposed to appear here this week, turned out to be yet another of those occasions when I start off thinking “Oooh! I have a great idea for a post. And it will only take me 30 minutes to write!” but the situation quickly escalates out of all control, to the point where it might have been easier to chisel it into the rock of Mt Sinai. Obviously that’s a slight exaggeration, but I find it amusing to exaggerate.

What usually holds me up on a blog post is not the writing, but the images. When I first started this blog, 3 years ago this week, I read through all the little things that WordPress recommends you do in order to increase traffic, and make your blog more interesting. Most of it was piddling insignificant stuff like “Let people know where to find it”, “write regularly” and “Make sure people know it exists”. Of course I paid no attention to those, but I did take 2 of the things they said to heart with rather more enthusiasm that the situation perhaps required. And these were…

“Visit other blogs; leave comments, and make friends.”

Which resulted in my moving to Sweden and marrying one of the bloggers that I met through doing exactly that. And…

“Try to use images to enhance the look of your blog posts”

This second one has been the main reason I don’t write more posts. I simply must include images in my blog posts, and since I cannot draw I began digging through my old CDs of clipart, and using photoshop to throw together an image which more or less approximated the one I had in my head. This takes me forever, but people soon began telling me they particularly liked the the little cartoons I made, and that cemented the deal… I simply had to put one in every week. This week, I once again got carried away with producing the images, and considering the next post will have about 30 images in it, you can see why it wasn’t ready in time.

Since I will soon be starting a new blog, on a new site, I though I might have a bit of a clear out. Sort of like moving house; you start digging through all the stuff you haven’t seen for ages.

So… this week, for your amusement, and in no particular order, are some of the posts I started but never bothered to finish. I invite you to guess what the post was going to end up being about.

Let’s Measure! – (started 10 June, 2013 @ 21:08:33)

As I write this my day began with a phone call from my computer doctor, telling me that my machine is quite old, and although he had done everything he could, perhaps the kindest thing would be to put it out of its misery. It went from bad to worse, as many of my recent days have, when I learned that I was unable to report my work hours because of a spectacular effort of combined fuck-uppyness on the part of the Swedish tax and migration services, and the administrators at my job, who have one of those systems which is clean and easy if you have all the right numbers and things… otherwise useless. Then it was a simple matter of an unexpected bill at the worse possible time, and two work assignments which I have not trained for and have absolutely no idea how to do, to push me pretty close to the edge of insanity.

Now… I’m well aware that if there are any of my original readers out there, who stuck with me through the long silence of early 2013, they may well laugh at the thought of me being pushed any closer to the edge of insanity, but I never said which side of the sanity/insanity line I was on in the first place.

I can actually remember what started me writing “Let’s Measure!”, and why it was never completed.

Limbo – (started 7 September, 2013 @ 23:33:01)

Amidst all the talk of moving to a different country; being struck down by kidney stones; breaking my wrist; getting married, and dealing with bureaucracy, it occurs to me that I may never have mentioned what my job actually is. If I have mentioned it before please accept my apologies.

I am a Stockholm Tour Guide. One of those guys who greets passengers as they get off cruise ships, counts them all onto a coach, and talks all day about interesting things that happened here, and why they should pay very careful attention to the time whilst walking around town buying fridge magnets with Vikings on them.
It’s a pretty good job, all things considered. You see the same things day after day after day, and each time you have to make them sound as interesting as they were the first time you saw them. But you do get paid for showing tourists around beautiful places, the pay is fairly good, the tips are occasionally good, the job is rarely boring, and for the first time in my life I am working at a place where I actually LIKE spending time with my colleagues.

There are irritating things about being a tour guide, like any other job I suppose: It baffles me for instance why some guests just don’t seem to understand that if I tell them to be back at the bus at a certain time, it isn’t because I’m an anally retentive freak who thinks we live and die by the clock… but because their ship will LEAVE without them if they are late. There are also places that (as a colleague of mine pointed out the other day), no matter how many times you explain what the building is, they just keep asking the same question in different ways, hoping they will get a different answer. The Nordic Museum is one of these. People just don’t seem to want to accept that it is simply a museum. Such an impressive looking building must surely be the fortress which guards the entrance to Mordor or something.

Anyway, the job is great… while it lasts. I’m sure it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that Sweden does not get very many cruise tourists when it’s -15 degrees, and the harbour is a solid sheet of ice. Consequently, we must all find alternative sources of income during the winter months.

Now, I have no problem with the work drying up for 2 very important reasons:

1. In 2 years time, Amki and I will be returning to the UK permanently, and to do so smoothly and efficiently will require that we have a reliable source of income which will move when we do. So we MUST figure some way of making our living that is not tied to this city. A lack of work through the winter is a superb motivation for finding just such an idea.

2. No matter how much I enjoy a job, I really hate working for other people

If you compare the date of the post you just read with that of the next post, it becomes a little clearer what the problem was that day.

Intellectual Viagra – (started 7 September, 2013 @ 21:35:12)

I have thought long and hard about this blog post today, and all I can say is “Aaaaaaaaaaaa!!!”

Restlessness has penetrated my bones like a pixelated miner; scraping away at the insides because someone put 50p in the slot and all they know is that the points go up when they break stuff!

Somewhere deep in my brain, I just heard a voice say “This is why we should never let him out.”

Restlessness for me, is not a time when things get done. You might think that if I can’t sit still I might be able to apply that energy to something constructive. Instead, I start doing something and my legs begin to itch. I lose my patience half-way through doing something, and I simply have  to get out of the chair. I pace around for a little, maybe make some tea, return to the computer and start writing… but the things I want to say are not coming out. So I go back to making a logo in Photoshop… or I start editing video… but after 5 minutes I want to tear down the walls and smash things! I hop backwards and forwards from one task to another, giving none of them the attention they deserve, and slowly, minute by agonising minute, another day rolls toward its end with nothing having been achieved, in spectacularly unimpressive fashion.

If anyone out there wants to jump in right now and say “Wow! I know exactly what you are talking about! This is how I dealt with it….” that would be helpful.

I have the most ridiculously over-active imagination. I have a thousand ideas a day… but my brain has filled up with them until it is cracking under the strain, because I simply have neither the intelligence nor the necessary skills to implement any of them. I imagine the frustration level to be equivalent to something like crash-landing on a planet full of nymphomaniacs and discovering you have chronic erectile dysfunction.

This next post was started exactly one week before I moved to Sweden, so it isn’t difficult to surmise what it was going to be about, but it is a perfect example of why a writer of any kind should never START with a title.

The Long Road Home – (started 22 August, 2012 @ 22:01:38)

Hands up who remembers

Yep. Told ya… Never start with a title.

Misery Loves Company – (started 10 May, 2012 @ 2:45:11)

Patrick Kavanagh said “I loved too much and by such and such is happiness thrown away”, and boy did he know what he was talking about.

I’m not sure this only applies to love though. Perhaps you panic more than others, and feel even more lost when everyone else seems completely calm about that noise that just came from underneath the plane. “Whaddaya mean; LANDING GEAR? No, no, no… that was an engine falling off!” Perhaps you can’t understand why no-one else is quite as angry as you are about the gigantic new superstore that will surely reduce the sleepy village you live in to a smouldering pile of ash in the space of three years. Maybe you have a very specific fear of Sabre-toothed tigers, which, whilst irrational and slightly crazy for someone who lives in 21st century Chippenham, seems perfectly normal to you.

Whichever emotion you are cursed with an over-abundance of, surrounding yourself with people who just don’t get it always makes the problem worse in the short term. If you are scared or nervous, try relaxation techniques or take a Vallium. If you’re always raging about something, try an anger management course… If you are terrified of Sabre-toothed tigers… try to stay indoors, and as far away from the Pleistocene Epoch  as you possibly can.

We’ve all seen movies where the critically injured man has to have his gangrenous leg amputated lest the infection kill him stone dead.

I thought that one had promise… but I know exactly why I stopped writing it. Do you?

You don’t care really do you?

A Day to Remember – (started 22 April, 2012 @ 00:18:?)

I want to talk to you about paranoia, but I have to do it fast before those goddamn CIA assholes find out what I’m doing.

Did you ever give much thought to the things that affect your mood?

As I write this, dear reader, it is almost midnight, I have no internet connection (so I’m writing this in WORD), the flat is empty (for a change) and freezing cold, and I have been staring off into space in complete silence for over an hour. My better-half is presumably busy with college work, since we would normally be talking at this hour; my flatmate has retired rather early, presumably because my conversation of late has been about as stimulating as a staring competition with Lego spacemen; and I daren’t call anyone for fear that I will either wake them up or unwittingly send them into an entirely too permanent state of slumber. It isn’t easy to be miserable on your own, and it isn’t advisable to involve others, lest you encourage them to seek alternative companionship.

The weird thing is that my ups and downs seem to make no sense whatsoever. To give two closely linked examples

I have absolutely no idea what those 2 closely linked examples were, but it’s perfectly obvious (at least to me) why I stopped writing at that point.

But, Oooh! Look… I found the rest of that single sentence post, lurking in an old Word document. What I can’t figure out is why it’s dated EARLIER than the single sentence one.

Are we there yet? – (started 15 August 2012 @ 04:43:?)

Hands up who remembers being a kid, waiting for Christmas; for that moment when you could get up in the morning and find out what the jolly fat housebreaker had left underneath the 6ft tall dying plant in the middle of your living room?

OK, put your hands down for crying out loud. I can’t see you, and you look like idiots… probably. But you know what I’m talking about… right? Time seems to pass much more slowly when you’re a kid. Once you’re in your 30s, you spend all your time saying things like “What? Christmas adverts already? I only took the decorations down last week!”, while your children sit in the corner feeling as though they have lived an entire lifetime between this Christmas and the last. Well I’m here to tell you that isn’t specific to children. Time is relative depending on circumstance.

Why am I talking about this? Well… at the time of writing this, I have misplaced my phone… To clarify: I know exactly where it is, I just can’t get to it at the moment. I have another phone… but it only allows me to call 3 carefully pre-selected numbers in Sweden, and for my fiancée to call me. Now… I am currently trying to move my entire life from England to Sweden for a minimum of 3 years. As you can imagine, this takes a lot of planning. I have doctors to call… immigration services to contact… driving licences to change… Things to sell… things to put into storage… Flights to book… Jobs to find… Healthcare to arrange… Phone tariffs to re-arrange… All of this takes a lot of effort, and almost all of it, requires a phone! This may seem like nothing to most of you, but consider that I am living on someone else’s sofa, in a house with no phone, and I currently have exactly £5 to my name. I am out of contact with family members, I am unemployed until finding gainful employment across the water, and I have no transport of any kind whatsoever. So every day, I check for jobs, and apply for those I am qualified or otherwise placed to do, and then… nothing. There is nothing to do but sit and wait, and look at a computer screen, check my emails (roughly 5-6 times an hour), check facebook (roughly 11-12 times every hour) and wait… and wait… and wait.

I should explain at this point that my love is currently entertaining an old friend from the other side of the Atlantic, whom she hasn’t seen for over a year. This friend will be there from now, almost right up to the time I arrive in Sweden. Now, we both miss each-other… we are both feeling time slowing down as this big moment approaches… but she has a good friend, whom she loves, to keep her entertained for the next two weeks, whereas I keep watching the calendar to check on the remaining days, and I have now become convinced that time, in these circumstances, can not only slow down, or even stand still… but can actually appear to go backwards! Seriously… I could swear that I looked at the calendar 2 days ago and worked out that I was half-way there. Today I looked at it and saw that I would be half-way there in another 2 days! WTF, father-time? Are you taking the piss?

I could re-submit my novel for publication, if I had a printer (yes, 95% of agents and publishers still do not accept e-mail submissions). I could print the novel off at a library or stationary store, but 300 pages is a whole lot of paper and ink, and consequently a whole lot of money, which, as previously mentioned, I have in very short supply. I could write something new, but I’m finding it very hard to concentrate at the moment… this is the first flash of inspiration I’ve had in the last 5 days, and it’s hardly “A Tale of Two Cities” is it. I could sleep more, but if my nickname and title of my blog didn’t give the game away, I should point out that sleep and I have never had the most harmonious relationship, and this situation has turned me from a man who gets less sleep than he needs, to a man who gets less sleep than the average housefly. Don’t bother looking that up! If you won’t take my word for it, I refer you to the stain on my wall, which used to be a housefly until it made the mistake of dive-bombing me all night during one of the only occasions in the past week when I was actually in danger of slipping into unconsciousness. Trust me: they don’t spend a hell of a lot of time in slumberland. Christ… if you had no eyelids and a shorter lifespan than a carton of pasteurised milk, would you waste your time sleeping?

INTERMISSION – Are you bored yet? Here is a teaser from the next blog post, to break the monotony.

Ben Bond

Excited? No? Ah well… life is full of disappointment. Here’s another half finished post, which probably depressed me because of its dreadful title. Even my place-holder titles are usually better than this.

Computer Depressive – (started 11 August, 2011 @ 22:20:?)

I’m beginning to suspect that my computer might be a manic depressive. There seem to be days when it can handle large text documents, upload videos to YouTube, operate 3D animation programs, and update facebook all at the same time. Days when if one of the children comes into my office with a skinned knee, you almost expect the computer to say “Step aside! I’ll handle this!”

The next day it’s: “Open Email?? Awww… come on!! What Am I… a fucking wizard?”

Doesn’t leave you with many clues as to where it was going, does it? Still, at least the next one has a catchier title. Doesn’t mean I know where it was going.

Harry Potter and the Inevitable Reality of Adulthood – (started 11 March, 2013 @ 04:46:?)

JK Rowling’s boy-wizard famously appealed to both children and adults. The difference between these two sharply defined demographics was that kids loved imagining they too were a wizard/witch, whereas adults loved imagining they were a child, imagining they were a wizard/witch. For the taller, hairier variety of human, escape is often just that simple; we don’t need to be whisked away on a magic carpet – by our mid-thirties most of us have realised that getting out vomit stains with a tub that says VANISH on it is about as close to magic that anything carpet related is ever likely to get – we just know that things were simpler when all we had to worry about was how to tell mum that as a result of an unfortunate chewing-gum experiment, the dog would now have to be shaved.

This next one was a very recent post, which I thought I had completed and posted, but it seems not. Pity really, I thought it started out with some rather keen insights. Perhaps you disagree, but in order to tell me that you disagree, you’ll have to leave a comment, so I’ve got you either way.

Promises – (started 25 November, 2013 @ 00:26:03)

Creativity, it seems to me, is like electricity; it’s bright and exciting; it can shock and illuminate; it can power an entire office building, or turn all your hard work into a blackened, unrecognisable husk in a single blinding flash!

Some creative people learn to harness, and focus this energy; channelling it so that it can be put to good use, boiling your kettle, powering trains, or even lighting up entire cities. We will call these people: Power Stations
Others however, cannot control this energy. We will call them Thunderheads. A thunderhead is the kind of cloud in which thunderstorms are brewing. Inside a thunderhead it is noisy, dark and chaotic, with occasional bright flashes which usually do more harm than good.

You hear thunderheads in the distance. They make a lot of noise, but often there is little to show for all the rumbling. Occasionally, if you are looking in the right direction at the right moment, they produce a beautiful bright flash which connects them briefly to the earth. And the few people who have seen it will sometimes go “Ooooh! Pretty! Do it again!” but of course a thunderhead cannot. Its flashes are random, uncontrolled, unpredictable, unreliable, and utterly useless to anyone except white-haired nutters with a knowledge of the future, and enough cable to connect a car to a large, doomed clock-tower.

Regrettably, I am a thunderhead. My head is busy with creative energy. It is full of flashes of light, which keep me from sleeping, and fill notebooks… but ultimately, though they may look pretty from a distance, that rare and random flash you saw through your kitchen window probably just blew-up someone’s TV, or killed a middle-aged golfer.

Ironic then, that the very thing that led me to write this blog post, is a problem I created for myself, when I manufactured a flash of lightning in a computer program, to blow myself up in a video… which caused my newly discovered creative focus to grind to a complete, gear-shredding, ear-shattering halt.

A tiny part of this next post actually made it into a completed post from February 2012, so presumably I left my desk and didn’t like what I read when I returned a few days later. I dunno.

Rain Stops Play – (started 30 January, 2012 @ 03:58:17)

For most of my life, I have been a victim of what my sister colourfully refers to as “The luck of the seven blind bastards”. This is not the same kind of bad luck you have if you lose limbs, or are stricken with a terminal disease… It is rather, the kind of bad luck that is considered socially acceptable to laugh at. You know the kind I’m talking about.

Take today for example: Yesterday, I lost my phone. So what? You might think. Well… in 3 days from now, it will be the only way I have of communicating with anyone. Now… my back-up plan was to order one from the only company that can replace it in that amount of time. Unfortunately, they are an internet company, aaand… guess what? My internet went down and has been down for the last 2 days… so far no sign of it returning. As if that wasn’t enough, I have only 2 days left to finalise travel plans, which must be done… yep, you guessed it… over the internet! And it doesn’t end there. Over a month ago, I was given a book by my girlfriend, with several tasks in it; one for each remaining day until we can see one-another. Now… bear in mind that – at this point – she is the ONLY person I am still able to contact. So imagine my joy when I turn the pages to find that today’s task is to ignore her for 24 hours! Here in the flat where I live, we have run out of bread and milk… there is a small chance that I have enough money in my bank account to buy one of those items, but I would have to check the bank first, to ensure I don’t accidentally incur a bank charge. Well… it’s Sunday, so the only way I can do that is by internet or by phone… which brings us more or less full circle.

I’m sure you may think I’m inventing some or all of that, but I can PROMISE YOU it is all true… my luck really is just that bad.

Luck, you see… is a little like Christianity, or Reality TV: It exists, whether you subscribe to it or not, and shutting your eyes will not make it go away. This is all OK if the kind of luck you have is good, but with good luck, as with money, the kind of people who say it isn’t important are those who have plenty of it. So you can’t expect sympathy, because those with good luck will simply think you’re exaggerating, and those with bad luck are too busy trying to outrun tornadoes in cars with flat tyres to care what’s happening to you.

Well… that’s it. You can open your eyes now… I SAID YOU CAN OPEN YOUR EYES NOW!

Next week I have a very exciting post for you: lots of image type things, and even a voting form if WordPress will let me make it long enough.

Still no news about our entry into Empire’s Done in 60 seconds competition this year. We should have found out by now, whether we made the cut, but their website shows no updates on the matter that I can see.

The idea behind the new blog site is almost fully formed and polished now, I just have to start making it all very soon; which unfortunately means leaving this site behind for several weeks, but I’ll keep you updated on that.

Until next week…

Sleep tight,

Sleepless Knight

40 Years of Planet Earth

Life Begins

This Friday, my life began… so they tell me. And I don’t want to speak too soon, but it certainly seems to be an improvement on last year.

2013 saw me with kidney stones, glandular fever, an exploded computer, and a broken wrist, all by the end of March. 2014 is looking a lot better so far. I have written more than usual for the time of year. I have a new and exciting plan for the next 12 months, which starts with a new blog (about which, more later). I entered the Jameson-Empire Done in 60 Seconds Competition, and was flown to Norway earlier this week, for my first professional voice-over work, in which I was the narrator of a documentary about Maria Falconetti; star of the 1928 movie, The Passion of Joan of Arc.

So that’s 2014 so far… but, since Friday was my 40th birthday, how has the world changed during my lifetime?

I was born in the same month as Peter Benchley’s: Jaws. The same month in which Patty Hearst (Grandaughter of publishing magnate William Randolph Hearst) was kidnapped. In a year which marked the end of Richard Nixon’s career, and the beginning of Stephen King’s; whose first novel, Carrie, was published in April of that year… while the above mentioned, Ms. Hearst was holding up a bank with her new “friends”; yelling and pointing an M1 rifle at terrified patrons of the Hibernia Bank, at 1450 Noriega Street in San Francisco.

15 of 007’s 23 (official) outings have been released during my lifetime. Mr. Bond himself has had 4 faces in that time, while The Doctor has had 9.

648 episodes of Star Trek (including movies and animated episodes) and all 6 Star Wars movies to date have been filmed since I took my first steps.

1974 saw the opening of the ill-fated World Trade Centre in New York, as well as the birth of Rubik’s Cube, the VW Golf, Bar-Codes, Dungeons & Dragons, Hong Kong Phooey, Connect Four, Hello Kitty, Bailey’s Liqueur, Happy Days, The Six Million Dollar Man, The Little House on the Prairie… and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Quite a combination there.

Muhammad Ali reclaimed the World Heavyweight title; defeating George Foreman in the eighth round of the famed Rumble in the Jungle. And while Ali was knocking Foreman on the ground in Kinshasa, Anthropologist Donald Johanson was busy discovering the 3.2 million year old fossilised remains of our earliest known ancestor to walk upright; 2000 miles away, in the Afar Triangle of Ethiopia.

The world has seen a lot of changes in my lifetime… it’s had to. Most of the things that govern modern life nowadays didn’t exist in any real sense when I was born; mobile phones, personal computers, the internet, video-games, GPS, and social media. Technology moves so fast now, that many of the things first used in my lifetime have already become obsolete: The Space Shuttle, Floppy discs, VHS tapes, CDs… Concorde.

There are twice as many people on this planet now than existed when I was born. Some of them that were born in my 20s now have driving licences for crying out loud… but I’ve been lucky enough to have seen the dawn of a new millennium. We have telescopes now that can detect far off worlds, orbiting distant stars. And whereas most believed in 1974, that of the stars in our galaxy, only a very few would have planets, it is now known that roughly 1 in every 5 stars has a planet capable of supporting life in some form or another. No human being has walked on the moon in my lifetime, but there is now an International Space Station, and commercial organizations all over the world now plan to have human-beings on Mars in the next 10 years.

Our planet got a great deal smaller during the last 40 years… but the universe got bigger, and I for one can’t wait to see what happens next.

Now, since that all went a bit serious for a second, I threw together something a little bit more fun for you; especially those who used to collect Top Trumps card sets when they were younger, as I did.

I thought it might be a nice 40th birthday treat to see how I would measure up against other things my age. So here, for your enjoyment, is the Sleepless Knight “Born in 74” Top Trumps series.

Jaws + Jim

Golf + Cube

C4 + Baileys

HKP + UPC

Lface + Kitty

King + D&D

In other news… the new blog should be appearing over the next couple of months. I have had trouble narrowing what I talk about down to a single subject, but I have managed to narrow it down to a single theme, so the new blog, when it arrives, will be exactly that: A new blog… on a new site.

I will keep you updated on that as things progress.

Sleep tight,

Sleepless Knight