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!!

The Final Countdown – 4…

Welcome back. Did you enjoy the rest of your Thursday? Good. Because I predict that the rest of Friday will be almost exactly the same except for the spelling. And so it will go until the last miserable second of human existence.

Still… if you’re struggling to pass the minutes between now and your inevitable doom, you could do worse than to spend 10 of them with me.

Should I have worked in marketing, or what??

That intro made me seem rather bitter and twisted about things didn’t it? Well, I’m not. I just sometimes get carried away in the absurdity of language and… stuff. Shall we get on with our list of Things I will miss about Sweden vs Things I have missed about England?

What I will miss #4: Swedish Efficiency

SquirrelSnowman

Yeah. Sorry about the picture. It probably gives the impression that I am joking about Swedish efficiency, but I’m quite serious.

The Swedes know how to get shit done! It’s that simple really. In 1967 they decided to switch from driving on the left-hand side of the road to driving on the right-hand side… and they just did it. Actually, if it were possible to be arrested for oversimplification, that last sentence would have put me inside until apes had taken over the planet and buried the Statue of Liberty on a deserted beach where no-one could find it but Charlton Heston.

What? What do you mean “that’s not what happened”? I’ve seen the movie! How exactly did I miss the point?

Anyway… although I oversimplified things there a little bit, the switch from left to right was a very big step. New roads had to be built; old ones re-designed. And approximately 360,000 road signs were changed during the night. At 4.50am all the traffic in Sweden was stopped and moved over to the other side of the road. It started again on the right-hand side at 5.00am and has been there ever since. You can’t argue about the efficiency of a move like that, regardless of how much I exaggerate its simplicity.

You don’t really have to look back through history though, and quite frankly if you do, you’re likely to find more than a few examples of spectacular fuck-ups… so don’t! But, by comparison with most countries, the Swedes are extremely efficient folk, with no time for pissing around. Some countries are worse than others. I’ve recently heard it said that “Red Tape was invented in Italy”, but I’m just talking about Sweden vs England here, and can tell you in no uncertain terms who comes out on top in the efficiency stakes.

Take this blog post for example: It was written by an Englishman, and couldn’t be less efficient if it tried. It has taken well over 400 words so far, to say what most Swedes could have said in four – “England sucks! Sweden rules!” – and it even has a squirrel picture in it, because the stupid Englishman couldn’t think of a good image to demonstrate efficiency. But, I’m about as well known for word economy as squirrels are for chainsaw ice-sculptures, so let’s not dwell too much on that.

Swedish personal ID numbers are another example of what I’m talking about. Once you have one of these (which is similar to a Social Security number if you’re American, or a National Insurance number if you’re British) pretty much everything is taken care of automatically. There are no more forms to fill in; no tedious waiting for your information to be dug up by the system. You just give them your personal number and a great portion of your life-history just pops up on the screen. Some people will argue that this is a tremendous violation of privacy, and, having seen just how easy it is to get hold of information about people over here, I might tend to agree. But you can’t say it’s not efficient.

However, this particular example of brutal efficiency does have other drawbacks.

What I have missed #4: Flexiblity

SquirrelPiano

Perhaps these squirrel pictures work more with what I’m about to say than I first thought. See, if there were police for blog-posts, the Swedish ones would never have let me stick that image with this post because it doesn’t make sense. But we in the UK don’t much care about whether or not things make sense. If you don’t believe me, consider our ridiculous punctuation rules. See? People ask me how British children ever remember all the rules for punctuation. And the answer: We don’t. We just break them and expect people to work it out for themselves. My own ridiculously excessive use of the ellipsis (that’s this thing ) is enough to drive most punctuation Nazis insane, but do I care!?()*;:…?

That was a “no” in case you were wondering.

If you still don’t buy the whole Brits not caring about things that don’t make sense thing, consider Monty Python. I rest my case.

Alright… we’re not resting it quite yet. Allow me to elaborate a little on that subtitle:

While the whole thing with Swedish efficiency holds up for the most part, it does so because the Swedes have rules, and those rules are absolutely inviolate! In England, there is a little more flexibility.

Now, I’m not talking about big, important rules; the ones enforced by guys with police uniforms. I don’t think there’s much room for flexibility in murder for example. No. I’m talking about the little things.

The Swedish personal number which I mentioned above, for example. Everything moves like clockwork as long as you have a personal ID number. But, if you turn up for anything remotely official without one… no-one has the faintest idea what to do with you. There is no tedious bureaucracy to go through; they just don’t have any sort of system in place to deal with those who don’t have such a number.

I wouldn’t be surprised if there was no accurate Swedish translation of the phrase “Couldn’t you make an exception just this once?” because… NO. They can’t!

In England however, we don’t care where you’re from or how many official documents you have with you; everyone is treated with precisely the same level of incompetence and stupidity.

How does that translate into “making exceptions”? Well… where there are no rules, there can be no exceptions to them. Oh, sure… everyone you call at the insurance company/government agency/airport/bus station will tell you that there are rules. But if you don’t like those rules, just wait 10 minutes and call back. A different person at the same place will have a completely different idea of what the rules are. Do any of them actually know? I doubt it.

So you see, we need much more flexibility simply because we are so inefficient. I’m English, and I just wandered blindly through that blog-post until it seemed to end in roughly the right place. Did it make sense? I very much doubt it.

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!

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

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.

Pressed together

A big hello to my meagre handful of readers. Those of you foolish enough to read this blog on regular basis will know that my wedding is coming up in 9 days from now. This might be something you don’t want to hear very much about, in which case I suggest you go read another blog, and come back after the next 9 days are over…

Still here? Very well.

Since I met my lovely wife-to-be through WordPress (right here on her blog), I thought it might be appropriate to celebrate that fact by writing about it, in brief chapters, one every day between now and the big day. The chapters will be published every day at 14.30, because that is the time our wedding ceremony will be held, on the 27th of July. This means, that if you read them as soon as they are published, you will be reading the last one at exactly the same time as we are saying our vows to one-another.

Our story has one or two slightly odd twists and turns, so I hope you are at least mildly entertained by it. We’ve had what seems like a very, very long road to get here, and if any WordPress employees are reading this… thank you very much. We could never have reached this point without you.

A Friendship based on weirdness”

-Newfoundland to Lincoln via WordPress-

In 2011 James decided to launch a new YouTube channel, start his own blog, and attempt to get his novel published at the same time. On the other side of the Atlantic ocean, a young lady named Amkiram, had finally caved and decided to make a blog of her own. Both parties had chosen WordPress as their blogging platform. James, because that was the blog engine his sister used, and Amki because it was the one her friend, Janna used.

After several months of posting, under his old chat-room name “Sleepless Knight” James began to wonder if anyone was ever going to read his posts, and decided to take the advice of WordPress themselves, who suggested spreading the word about his blog by visiting other bloggers and leaving comments on the ones he liked, in the hope they would do so in return. He found one or two that were good, several that were simply “ok”, and then, by clicking on the tag “weirdness” in one of his own blog posts, he found himself on the page of a blog entitled “Only Human”, written by someone calling themselves “The Swedish Flowerpot”. The person who wrote this blog seemed to share many of his opinions about life in the 21st century, and her writing impressed him. He left a favourable comment, and moved on down the list.

When Amki read James’s comment, she visited his blog in return (just as WordPress had said), and found she liked his writing too. James was even more impressed with her writing once he discovered that English was her second language. The two bloggers continued reading the other’s blog posts and commenting.

Finding herself more and more familiar with how Sleepless Knight seemed to think as the weeks went by, The Swedish Flowerpot recommended that he visit a blog named “Hyperbole-and-a-half”, believing that it was just the sort of thing he would find amusing.

He did…

Stop 1

Back to the Future

The ironic thing about Narcissism, it occurs to me, is that if Narcissus was loved by more people he would probably not have been able to sit, staring into a puddle at his own reflection until he dropped dead. No; his friends would have wondered where he got to.

“Where have you been?” is a question I often wish more people would ask me, but when yelling into the next room is all that’s necessary to let all your friends know where you are, it’s rarely a question that pops up. However, in case anyone is wondering, I have been in Stockholm. I am still in Stockholm. By the time you read this, I will have been living in Sweden for 2 months. I know this because by the time I wrote this I had been in living in Sweden for 2 months. Such is my motivation for writing blog posts at the moment.

I almost wrote a blog post last month, whilst waiting for Amki at Stockholm University, but when you sit writing with a fountain pen, on actual paper, amid students at a large university, people look at you as though you should be wearing a loincloth and picking sabre-toothed tiger out of your teeth with a flint axe. I also almost wrote a blog post on the day before I left Lincoln, explaining about the many addresses I have had, and how this apartment in Stockholm is my 27th… but nothing came of that, for reasons I will not go into right now, so Lincoln never got a tearful goodbye. Then I nearly wrote a blog post after attending Richard’s wedding a couple of weeks ago (Oh… by the way… Richard got married a couple of weeks ago), but I got busy with other trivial little things like looking for a job and… well… making tea and stuff.

Frankly, it’s a little weird writing blog posts at the moment. You see, shortly after I wrote my first ever blog post, I met another new blogger who lived (at the time) on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean. A few months later we became more than just friends, and since those days a great many of my posts have been about The Swedish Flowerpot and the difficulties of our long-distance relationship… The thing is, that now I live with her, in Sweden, and she is stood beside me, dancing and writing an email at the same time (Yes, she is awesome). Living here has all become very normal for me by now but, for reasons I can’t adequately explain without the help of a psychotherapist, it all gets just a little surreal when I start writing a blog post whilst sitting beside her. So, here is my solution:

I will continue from exactly where I left off, right before I began falling in love with the beautiful Swede. Now, unfortunately that is rather hard to narrow down; I can’t begin in the middle of a sentence or say I will start from 3.17pm, November 20th, 2011… because love isn’t like that, but I’m pretty sure I left off about… here:

“…novel was eventually rejected by the lovely Victoria Marini, but we thank her for taking the time to read it and will soon start submitting it, once again, to British agents (I can’t help but hear the Bond theme whenever I say this now).”

Yes folks, it’s that time again, and this time I really mean it. I got sidetracked for a year or so but I’m getting back on course again, and it starts with submitting the novel to new and improved literary agents (with enhanced colour protection and summer-berry scent). If any of them show the slightest interest in my work they may well take a look at this blog so please be on your best behaviour on the off-chance that we are being watched from the timeless worlds of space (sorry… went for a Burton there). Let the rejection letters come! Keep your elbows off the table, don’t lick your knife, don’t stare into a puddle so long that you turn into some variety of daffodil, and don’t… whatever you do… under any circumstances… bend over for the soap!

I’m back, baby!

Three Sides to Every Story

It’s a funny old place, the blogging world. You never know what wonderful people you’re going to meet, or what kind of things will jump out from the shadows and grab you firmly by the tear-ducts.

Some people enter your life through the front door, with a firm handshake and a confident introduction. Others come to the party as a plus one… and I must say that, at least in my life, these have turned out to be some of the best friends I’ve ever had. Mike, Farnsworth, Richard, Kitty, Frank… I’m talking about you. There are occasionally those who enter through an open window, and you don’t even notice what good friends they’ve become until they tap you on the shoulder and say “I refilled your toilet paper and impregnated the dog. I hope you don’t mind. Here… I also got you a Whisky & Coke.” Arnie, JB, and Jess are such friends, and all you can do is laugh till you cry when you notice these lovely people.

Just once or twice in a long lifetime though, a person comes along whose presence begins as a bright spot in the corner of your eye that you can’t ignore. So you turn to look at them and your vision fills with a light so blinding it makes everything else around them look slightly dimmer by comparison.  Just two such people have ever entered my life. They both read this blog, so I hope they both know who they are. I think we all know by now that one of them is the lovely Swedish Flowerpot (who I may start referring to as Amki, because 1: It’s easier than saying The Swedish Flowerpot every time, and 2: Well… it’s her name after all).

The thing is, we’re always so preoccupied with our own little patch of ground, our own history and experiences, that when someone like this comes along we often overlook the fact that they have experiences and history of their own that began long before you were there and have nothing whatsoever to do with you; the same way my daughter believes that I popped magically into existence, like a big Yorkshire genie, on the very day she was born. We might even foolishly believe the reason that person was meant for us, is that we are the first one ever to notice just how brilliant and blinding they are. Sure, you swap stories of dangerous childhood experiments and old friends who held back your hair, or said “I told you that was a bad idea” as you watch a frightened hitch-hiker running off across the fields (don’t ask), but how often do we honestly get a real glimpse into the past life of a loved one?

As many of you reading this will now know, I first met my girlfriend through this blog, but we didn’t really start talking as friends until just about the time she returned to her Swedish homeland, after almost 3 years in Canada. I remember feeling badly that she had to leave that life behind, but Newfoundland’s loss is Sweden’s gain, I thought, and happily… mine. The thing about Amki though, is that she has that blinding light affect on pretty much everyone she meets, and a way of looking at the world which leaves even my skewed, childlike perspective hanging its head and feeling like Lou Ferrigno at the opening of the new Avengers movie. She alters the lives of everyone who gets close to her and leaves them a slightly better person for having known her, and never was that more clearly illustrated to me than in this blog post – and then later, this one – written by one of her best friends from Newfoundland. Sarah tells stories of their friendship that make me extremely proud to be a part of Amki’s life, but which also, rather oddly, left me feeling such tremendous sadness for them, and the gaping hole she left in theirs. As Sarah so beautifully put it:

“If there has been anything that pretty Swedish princess has taught me? Goodness wins. Beauty triumphs. Power is found in the one who believes they have it.”

Incidentally, the song Amki is singing there is one of her own.

It’s a strange thing to get such a painful insight into the empty space that would surely be left if a person you care so deeply about was suddenly gone.

As you may or may not be aware, the flat I now share with Mr. Farnsworth is my 25th address (Or is it 26? I’m starting to lose count), and as such I sometimes feel like a much more inept, and much less cool, Sam Beckett… Leaping from life to life, hoping not to put wrong something that was perfectly alright before I got there, and hoping each time that the next leap will have affordable rent and a place to hang the Greenscreen. My substitute for a wise-cracking, cigar-chewing hologram is a tiny cloud of very mild bad luck that rarely leaves my side, and my version of “Oh boy!” is a slightly less family-friendly utterance to say the least. At any rate, I never seem to stay anywhere long enough to make a lasting impression, and the only gaping holes I leave are those I have accidentally blown in the walls of buildings in which I was supposed to be teaching safety! (Again… don’t ask)

The way we have affected the lives of those around us so rarely gets back to us, especially if you move away before you can find out that the potted plant you peed in was a gift from a long deceased relative (OK… that one never happened), but most especially not in such a positive, life-affirming way as exists in Sarah’s posts. The people close to us deserve to know how important they are, and we should never let them forget that they are appreciated, and missed when absent.

If nothing else, it is a stern lesson in why you should never take those you love for granted. Because, as Don Henley would say: Everything can change in a New York minute.

Loss of Signal

Today I would like to give you a message of hope and optimism for the New Year. I would like to… but in all honesty, I feel lower than I have done for a couple of months. I have never had quite as much trouble writing a blog post. I have tried everything to avoid it, but there is apparently a limit to the amount of time you can spend updating your address with TESCO clubcard.

There are a couple of reasons for this recent bout of lethargy; the most obvious of which being…

January

The tinsel is down, you’ve cleaned the vomit out of the carpet and finally started thinking about recycling the wine bottles and beer cans that have been cluttering up the shower… the only thing that stands between you and 2012 is this pesky, bothersome month; so dreary that even the weather can’t be bothered to do anything interesting. It could rain fireballs or seagull anuses for all I care! At least that would be something, but no! The sky just hangs there, going “Give me a break man! 2011 just really took it out of me.” Admittedly, this year I have more reasons than usual to see this miserable month out of the way, but that’s just making it drag all the more. If you have to give the first month of the year a name, then let’s make it something more descriptive, like I-wish-I-was-anywhere-else-at-any-time-in-history-but-here-please-please-Sam-Beckett-make-the-next-leap-the-leap-out-of-here…uary.

Ordinarily, I have my muse to get me through these little hiccups; which brings me to this…

Communication

…or, in this case, lack of it.

The last century has brought us closer to people in so many ways. We can talk to people on the other side of the world with such ease nowadays. Phone, text, email, facebook, messenger, Skype… All make it possible to maintain contact, and even romantic relationships, with people too far away to touch, but what happens when the lines go down and the lights go out? I mean, what is the world coming to when the bored Guildford housewife can no longer exchange late-night tales of woe with the cross-dressing minister from Montana? It is surely only a matter of time before the quiet suburbs of Surrey run red with the blood of innocent TKMaxx patrons.

My own situation is far less dramatic than that, and far more likely – if I might so boldly tickle the testicles of fate – to end in happiness rather than mass consumer-cide, but that only makes it more difficult at times when you can’t see one-another.

We take our communication in the 21st century for granted. When it’s cut off, it can feel like losing an arm. Those guys over at Aperture, and Bartok Science Industries really need to get on this. Relationships are going to become ever more complicated until travel is as instantaneous as walking from one room to another.

Anyway… since I can’t appear behind my readers and whisper in their ears, here’s a little song from a company that are working towards that very goal.

Caution: Expect long-distance relationships to end abruptly, following this scenario

A word about guilt

Dear blog readers: Has it really been [insert number here] days since my last blog post? It seems like only yesterday I slumped over the keyboard and forced myself to write the last one.

Actually, I suppose it’s been a pretty good week, all in all. My family seem reluctant to believe that things are actually going my way at the moment; apparently assuming that I’m just keeping a stiff upper lip about things. What that says about my luck over the years… god only knows. This time however, it is the truth.

The only thing getting up my nose at the moment, is a “gagging order” which forbids me from sharing with you, a piece of really happy news from within the Sleepless Knight camp, so I thought it would be fun to have a bit of a guessing game. Here’s how it will work:

I’ll ask you to guess what the happy news could possibly be… and you will show your excitement in the usual fashion, i.e., completely refusing to leave comments or guesses of any kind whatsoever.

Deal?

I’ll take your silence as an affirmative, and continue thinking up tremendously witty things to fill the rest of the post with.

With any luck I should be able to treat you to a guest post very soon. That’s right; the ever loveable, Mr. J V Farnsworth has kindly agreed to write a guest post for this blog. When will it happen? Well… it probably won’t. But that isn’t going to stop me from trying to guilt him into it, by mentioning it here, since he does occasionally read this blog. And by “does occasionally read…”, I mean of course “Often stands over me and watches me write it” or “Reads it when he has run out of enthusiasm for tormenting the dog with invisible food, and empty crisp packets”.

Seriously though, the man has not only given me a temporary home, but is perhaps one of the most ingenious purveyors of almost-sensible-nonsense I have ever met, so goodness knows what is likely to happen when he gets his hands on the keyboard and breaks in here to addle your brains, but I recommend you start looking forward to it, since “looking forward to it” is probably all you’ll ever get to do.

In other news; we believe we have found a suitably creepy location for an upcoming video, and an injection of cash has meant we will finally be able to make the damn thing so, there’s something else for you to “look forward to”.

I think that’s all I have to say for now… at any rate it will have to be, as I burned my fingers today, whilst making a birthday present for an ungrateful wretch who doesn’t even like birthdays. There’s just no pleasing some folks.

Are these posts getting shorter or is it me?

Nope! I just checked, and I’m definitely not getting shorter. Perhaps it’s the light in here.