Archive for the ‘life’ Category

2017 minus 01: A green light

Posted: 31 December 2016 in 2017 minus, life, personal

As I write this, it’s about eight hours until 1st January 2017. And, right about now, people are either making or reviewing lists of potential new year resolutions, and then removing items until they’re left with a couple they think they can keep.

I’ve never gone in for the whole ‘new year resolutions’ thing; I’m not sure why, especially since I spent a chunk of my life making To Do lists at work and taking inordinate joy in crossing off the items one by one. 

But new year resolutions? No. Not since I was a kid and maybe not even then; the memories blur with some things until I’m not sure what actually happened, and what I think might have happened.

(And no, it’s not the “it’s just an arbitrary noting of the calendar, and even the calendar is arbitrary” concept that stops me. Oddly, I’ve noticed that people who do say that seem to have no problem accepting birthday presents. And for my mind, you don’t get to celebrate your birthday, or someone else’s birthday, or even the annual commemoration of a death but then also moan about other people making a fuss about one specific day like New Year or Christmas. Not without being even more a hypocrite than we all are in our daily lives.)

I think with me it’s more that while I’m ok with self-imposed deadlines and time pressures, I am – these days – less eager to subject myself voluntarily to other people’s deadlines.

But people make all sorts of new year resolutions. Like saying they’re giving up drinking alcohol. Or that they’re going to lose weight.

Or that they’re going to stop smoking. 

As long as anyone I’m still in contact with has known me, I’ve been a smoker. I started around age 18 and notwithstanding a couple of half-hearted attempts, I’ve smoked pretty much ever since. And, given the above, it won’t surprise you in the least that I’m not about to give up smoking in about 8 hours.

To be honest, there’d not be much of point since I stopped smoking about a month ago, on 1st December 2016. Well, half an hour before 1st December 2016 to be precise. But the decision was made even longer ago, about six weeks before that.

In early October. While in Liverpool.

As I say, I’ve tried giving up smoking before; the last semi-serious attempt was about four years ago. I went ‘cold turkey’ with an e-cig… for a few weeks, and I hated every minute of it. I told everyone at the time that I was stopping, announced it on social media , made a big fuss of it; I thought that peer pressure would help me if I wavered, would keep me off the smokes and oh, I pretended I was ok with it, but close friends knew I loathed giving them up and it didn’t surprise anyone when I returned to the Silk Cut. For whatever reason*, it didn’t work. 

(*Qute possibly, it was that I didn’t actually want to stop smoking.)

OK, skip forward to early October 2016; I was travelling to Liverpool for the funeral of a close friend’s father. I picked up an e-Lites Curv, more out of curiosity than anything else (though I’m open to the argument that I’m post-event rationalising a desire to give up.)  I thought I’d try it out for 24 hours and see. Within 24 hours, I’d come up with a plan that I hoped would work. It was basically this: figure out what didn’t work last time and don’t do that.

So, for once, I was sensible, and set myself weekly targets: I’d continue to smoke, just cutting down the amount of time every day I smoked cigarettes and slowly, day by day, increase the amount of time I used the ecig. The aim was to cease smoking around the house – not in it but even around it – by November 11th, and to stop smoking, to smoke my last cigarette… the night of 30th November 2016.

And so it was.

And so it turned out to be.

Around 11:20pm on 30th November, I walked back to the house, lit my last cigarette, smoked it, stubbed it out as I got near rhe house… and haven’t smoked a cigarette since. A few people knew, and I told a few more over the past month, but I didn’t make A Thing of it for several reasons:

  • Who knew if I’d manage a few days, let alone longer?
  • I didn’t want to tell anyone until I’d gotten over the cravings for a cigarette
  • If I did ‘fall off the wagon’, I could easily self-excuse it if no-one knew, and I could restart the following day, if I wanted.

Well, now it’s been a month, pretty much, and not once during that time have I missed smoking. Not once.

Oh, I’ve missed some of the habits around smoking. Over the years, friends who’ve given up have told me they miss putting the cigarette out. With me, it’s been the opposite: I’ve missed lighting a cigarette. Well, I’ve missed lighting lots of them, but that’s starting to fade now, I’ll admit, as I’ve delevoped new habits, like changing the battery and swapping over a new ‘butt’. And checking the green glow to see if it’s blinking and if the battery needs changing…

Am I an ex-smoker? I honestly don’t know. I don’t feel like an ex-smoker, to be honest. I still feel like I’m taking a break, and merely waiting for the inevitable craving to hit me; there’s a part of me that is convinced I’ll succumb to the temptation. 

But I’ve been waiting for the craving to hit me and it hasn’t. At all.

But yeah, I’m not smoking at the moment, and haven’t been for a month… haven’t been for almost half the time I’ve been writing this series of ‘countdown to 2017’ entries.

So, that’s something.

Thanks for sticking with me throughout this countdown to 2017. I hope I’ve not bored you too much. Not sure if there’ll be an entry tomorrow but there’ll probably be something new on the 2nd.

Happy new year, people, however you celebrate it.


2017 minus 11: Things past

Posted: 21 December 2016 in 2017 minus, life, politics

While jumpstarting my brain writing today’s going cheep, a few things jumped into what I’m pleased to call my mind: things that were so obviously part of my if-not-daily-then-definitely-weekly life that no longer even peripherally impact me.This isn’t going to be a ‘things were better in the old days’; most often, they weren’t, and besides that’s the second most boring of these type of posts. (The most boring, of course, is that things are always better now‘.)

So, here are three…

Screen Savers Whenever happened to screen savers? Yes, I know they’re no longer ‘necessary’, but they persisted for quite some time after they ceased to be necessary. Then, in a quite astonishingly short space of time, they just stopped being a thing. Screen savers, for those younger readers, were A Thing. Not only A Thing, but A Thing about which you had to think quite seriously about. When someone saw your computer (never as many people as you thought might see it, by the way, sorry to demolish your ego), it was important for some reason or other that you had the right screen saver. Whether it was the flying toasters, or the never ending pipe work, or just a star field, you’d spend minutes – when it should have been seconds – choosing which of the screen savers you’d have on your screen. And – and this is true, I swear – if you were limited in the number of choices, I knew people who’d spend time figuring out how to get around the limitations… just so you’d have something on your screen that a) marked the computer as yours, and b) made you smile or at least didn’t piss you off.

One might suggest that it was solely the advent, and ubiquity, of flatscreen technology, and particularly the end of the cathode ray tube screens that ended the screen saver thing. I don’t agree. I instead wonder if what killed screen savers in the end was two things: firstly the rise of the laptop computer, and especially the immediate nature of the sleep/awake functionality. Suddenly, it didn’t take a minute or so to shut down your laptop, and another minute or so to start up, to resume, again. It was pretty much instant. So no need to leave the screen live; you could just shut the laptop and open it when you needed it. Secondly, and more importantly, the use of smartphones, and especially tablets. When batter power suddenly became the most important thing and genuinely instant access to a working screen/CPU meant that screens were never left on for more than a couple of minutes. 

Online psych tests Back in the days of Livejournal, it was a rare week when one of the memes doing the rounds wasn’t a psych test. You’d click on a link, answer anywhere between 30 and 100 questions and you’d receive an instant diagnosis of your mental state. No one took it particularly seriously, and as a consequence, people openly showed their results… because they were treated as a trivial thing, nothing more nor less important, nor more nor less accurate, than the “which Lord of the Rings character are you?” type things. Even if a result showed that someone was seriously ill and in need of medical attention, therapy and/or medications, readers of the results would usually assume that the result was flawed, or that the person doing the test had fucked around with the answers. 

Maybe it’s the lessening of stigma that has allowed people to be genuine about this kind of thing, and as a consequence, online tests seem to be ‘cheapening’ the work of therapists and psychologists and psychiatrists? I don’t know; I do know that I’m pleased it’s happened; the reaction in their presence, I mean, not the work of therapists and psychologists and psychiatrists. (For my my own personal issues with them, they do an important job, and I know many who’ve been=gutted from them.)

The Big Beasts of UK Politics At some point during my adult lifetime, UK politics ceased to have ‘current’ big beasts. Back in the days of Wilson, and Callaghan and even Thatcher, those who sat around the Cabinet table, and those who faced them across the House of Commons chamber, were acknowledged at the time they were doing it as ‘big beasts’, the powerbrokers in the parties, and in the country; people who through either force of personality or of accomplishment deserved to be regarded as such. At some point during Tony Blair’s premiership, that changed. Blair and Brown remained the big beasts but everyone else was a lesser species of politician. The Torres didn’t help matters in that respect by again seeming to reduce anyone who wasn’t leader – and in IDS’s case even then – to some lesser respected and lesser able category of politician. (I almost typed ‘some lesser kind of politician’ but that’s a bit too on the nose where Tory politicians are concerned.)

While this demotion almost certainly helps the leaders of the party, it does nothing beneficial for the country and indeed arguably damages it. While no one wants a cabinet or shadow cabinet riven with disagreement, torn apart by plots for the succession, by allowing the leadership to be seen as the only grown up around the table, it pretty much buggers the succession for years to come. And in the case of Labour now, the only big beast worthy of the name is probably the Shadow Chancellor. Certainly the leader doesn’t deserve the appellation, though he might do in a year’s time. But not yet.

Three things that it always used to be an article of faith that they’d be there. 

Today was “Things past”. Tomorrow “Things present”. You can try and guess what Friday’s will be…

This post is part of a series of blog entries, counting down to 1st January 2017. You can see other posts in the run by clicking here.

James Burke makes the point, fairly regularly, that the biggest crises happen when something that people are so used to relying upon that they don’t even think about it… stops working. Also, that when things do stop working, the assumption is that it will, soon enough, start working again. There’s irritation, not worry, nor panic. It’s irritation rather than panic because there’s a temporary inconvenience, not a permanent end to it.

Similarly, I think that the biggest non-recognised events come when people begin to not think how amazing something is, and start to accept something as part of everyday life. 

I used my contactless card to pay for coffee today. OK, yes, I’m still old fashioned enough that I prefer to pay for small items in cash, but that’s slowly changing. But, as I was queuing up, I saw people pay by four different methods:  one person paid by cash, another used NFC via Apple Pay on their iPhone, someone else used their ‘contactless’ bank card, and yet another used Chip and PIN. And as new methods come into play, older ones vanish. While cash remains a useful method of payment*, use of personal cheques in retail shops has plummeted. 

(*worth pointing out that intent out that in London at least, you can no longer use cash to pay for busses; it’s contactless or tfl’s Oyster card.)

But whereas even I thought it was ‘wow’ to use contactless when it started, now it’s just ‘how I sometimes pay for stuff’. It’s not even fair to describe my attitude as blasé, because if I did think about it, I’d probably still be a bit ‘wow’ over it. But I don’t. I don’t think about it, any more than I think about the genuinely modern miracle of constant access to… well, to everything, via the wonder of constant internet access. As Chris Addison puts it: it takes roughly thirty seconds for the modern miracle of the Internet to become, if it’s ‘down’, a basic human right. 

There’s so much I use and experience every day, from my iPhone and my iPad to my bluetooth keyboard, from text messaging to the large digital displays by the bus stop, to the fact that the London Underground keeps running, somehow. 

That’s something else I’m used to and don’t think about that often, if at all: the systems that keep working. Whether it’s the National Health Service (no matter how bad, I know I can turn up at Acciednt and Emergency and I will, eventually, be seen) or the street lights or – as I say above – the London Underground.

Those trains, hundreds of them, running roughly to timetable, thousands of drivers and staff just keeping them moving. And, when there is a problem, (the Piccadilly Line has severe problems at the moment… and will do so for some weeks to come) somehow, the system copes, manages. Except it’s not just the system itself; it’s the people who work there, working harder than anyone realises, but that’s the truth of most jobs: no one realises how hard any job is unless they’ve done it.

It’d blow my mind if I actually thought deeply on what it takes to keep the major infrastructure systems running.

But I don’t think about it.

I probably should.

This post is part of a series of blog entries, counting down to 1st January 2017. You can see other posts in the run by clicking here.

2017 minus 49: London Zoo

Posted: 13 November 2016 in 2017 minus, life, London
Tags: ,

When I started this blog, I’d intended to write some entries about the city in which I live. Yeah, things kind of got away from me, what with the… now, how does John Oliver put it? Oh yes…

That said, this afternoon I got to spend some time with birthday girl Greta Benn and family at London Zoo. I should say upfront that I’ve no strong views either pro- or anti- zoos, but that if you’re very anti- them, then this entry is probably not for you, and you should probably stop reading at this point.

Similarly, if you’ve a problem with looking at spiders, then, yeah… probably best you skip this entry and come back tomorrow.

While you’re deciding, here’s a nice video I took of a long necked turtle.

OK, still here? Good.

So, yeah, Greta, her sister Astrid and friends, together with us adults went off to London Zoo today. Was a fun afternoon, looking at various animals, learning a lot in my case. Seriously. Those little information signs outside the cages or glass fronts? I learned stuff I didn’t know.

I didn’t know, for example, that a rattlesnake’s ‘rattle’ grows with each shed of skin, and that baby rattlesnakes are silent, until their first shed. I didn’t know that London Zoo have a gorilla named after one of our parrots at home. (Yeah, yeah, you can say that it’s just a coincidence, but I know better.) 

I also didn’t know that the Slender Loris is one of the cutest animals on the planet. (It was too dark to get a shot of own, but this is a Slender Loris. Tell me it’s not cute; go on, I dare you.)

I also discovered that I’m surprisingly all right around big spiders, including a tarantula. I should note that friends took great delight in introducing me to this young lady, a bird eating spider…

Here, have some monkeys.

And a gorilla, a new daddy apparently. We could just about see the baby gorilla…

To show my expert zoological knowledge, I confidently identify the following as a bird.

Whereas, again showing off my knowledge of the animal kingdom, this one is… a bird.

This one is definitely not a bird. I’m fairly sure of that.

I’m equally sure that the smaller ones are recently born cubs. (Or midget tigers. I’m not entirely sure.)

Here, have some monkeys.

Yeah, here come the spiders…

I’m 90% sure this isn’t a spider.

I’m not convinced about this one, though.

And this one…. yeah, this one’s a snake. A big snake. A REALLY BIG snake. No, I’m not kidding, how fucking big is this snake? Run, for fuck’s sake run…

Huh. I was going to write more about the zoo, but you know what? You’ve got pictures.

More on… something else, tomorrow.

This post is part of a series of blog entries, counting down to 1st January 2017. You can see other posts in the run by clicking here.


It’s an important number, you know.

For example, you may or may not know that twenty-one is a semiprime number. Also that it’s a Fibonacci number. But were you aware that it’s the sum of the first six natural numbers (1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + 5 + 6 = 21), making it a triangular number?

It also has an important role in Blackjack.

None of which is particularly important today, or at least they’re of far less importance than the fact that today is my son’s twenty-first birthday.

Yeah, I know. Twenty-one. I’m having some problems processing that fact myself, and I’ll let those of you who’ve known him for some years take a second or two to do a mental brain-flip while you accept it.

Philip Samuel Barnett – known to almost everyone bar his mum as ‘Phil’ – was born on 2nd November 1995; at half past nine in the evening if you’re curious. And today, it’s 2nd November 2016.

In 1995, he was 8lb 3oz, and 21½” long. He’s a bit heavier than that now, and a whole lot taller.

Twenty-one years old. And engaged to his girlf-, no, his fiancée, Rhiannon, who – in one of those sparks of synchronicity that makes you wonder – is twenty-one herself, tomorrow.

Twenty-one years old. Wow.

I’ve said many times – and it remains as true today as it was the day he was born – that being a father is the most fun thing I’ve ever done, bar none.

Now let’s get it straight: anyone who says being a parent is easy is either ignorant, lying or a masochist. It’s not easy, far from it. It’s not meant to be easy, but it is a responsibility that I love performing and undertaking, and the reason for that is simple: it’s solely because it’s Philip who’s my son.

As I’ve witnessed, helped (and hopefully not hindered too much) his progress through life, from baby to toddler, from toddler to child, from child to young adult, alongside wonder, my emotions have been, and continue to be, those of pride and pleasure in the young man he’s turned into. The credit for an incredible amount of that must go to Laura; she’s a wonderful mother. And I’m constantly filled with justifiable hope and confidence for the adult he’s become, and the adult he will become in the next few years.

He’s currently studying at Aberystwyth University with Rhee, and I don’t get to see him nearly as much as I’d like. But fortunately, I got to spend last night with them both at The Distraction Club – which I’m going to write about more in a later blog entry – and it’s time I wouldn’t swap for anything… 

As always, however, I have no idea how he went from:







in what seems like an astonishingly short space of time.

‘Appy birthday, Phil. I love you, son.


[Feel free to add your birthday greetings and wishes here, or tweet him at @phik_vicious…]

This post is part of a series of blog entries, counting down to 1st January 2017. You can see other posts in the run by clicking here.

2017 minus 65: Q&A

Posted: 28 October 2016 in 2017 minus, life, personal

Haven’t done this for a lonnng time; I guess you could say it’s a thematic sequel though to “Who…?” from last week.

Here’s one of those Q & A ‘memes’, questions I’ve been asked over the years, with today’s answers.


Alcoholic drink of choice?
Single malt whiskey, neat. I can’t really afford that regularly, so a decent blended will do.

First thing you ever got paid for writing?
A short sketch on BBC Radio 4’s Weekending. As I recall, it was about Boris Yeltsin.

Ever have a near-death experience?

Name an obvious quality you have.
Well, according to several people, a very skewed perception of how I’m regarded by others. That’s their opinion of an “obvious” quality, not necessarily one with which I agree.

What’s the name of the song that’s stuck in your head right now?
A Night Like This by Carl Emerald

Favourite toy as a child?
Lego; boring, but true.  

When was the last time you visited the street where you first lived?
Well, I was born in Luton; haven’t been back to the town, let alone the street, in years.

Do you read your horoscope?
No; if I want to read fantasy, there’s plenty of better written stuff out there.

When was the last time you googled your own name?
Can’t remember; I set up a couple of google alerts way back when I had a reason to check; I get a digest every so often.

Do you like having your photograph taken?
Generally? No, I really don’t like it. I don’t mind if I know it’s being taken, but I really, really hate it when I don’t know it’s being taken. The chances I’ll like the pic if I don’t know it’s being taken are miniscule.

What time were you born?
11:10 pm

Ever seriously questioned your sanity?

How many phone numbers do you have remembered and can say off the top of your head?
Over my lifetime? Many, many. How many could I remember now? Half a dozen, possibly.

Have you ever killed your own dinner?
If you mean, have I ever killed something and then ate it, the answer’s no. If you mean, have I ever destroyed a meal I was making, hell’s teeth, you’re asking questions of someone who could burn corn flakes. I’m a terrible cook. Abysmal.

What phobias do you have?
Bees and wasps; spiders that are bigger than they should be. And to save you asking, spiders shouldn’t be any bigger than a quarter of an inch diameter.

What’s your ideal breakfast?
I rarely if ever have breakfast.

What book or movie title best summarises your personality?
What is the Name of This Book? by Raymond Smullyan

If you could suddenly get the skill to play any single musical instrument, which would you choose?
Mouth organ – that way no one would ever ask me to sing. (A couple of years ago, friends bought me one. I started to learn, then put down; I really should get back to learning it. I’d actually quite like to.)

Do you have any prejudices you’re willing to acknowledge?
I tend to assume that someone who’s intelligent in one area will be equally intelligent in others, and I’m biased in favour of intelligent people.

What’s the longest time you’ve stayed out of the country/where?
1980, from mid-July to mid-August. On a BBYO/youth group tour of Israel.

And the furthest you’ve ever been from where you were born?
Singapore. Flew there, stayed six hours, flew back. Long story. Not as long as the flight, though.

If you were another person, would you be friends with you?
The temptation is to say no, but I honestly don’t know.

Why do you write?
Either because I have a story I want to tell, or to meet a challenge, (self-imposed or external), or something occurs to me that I have to get down… in order for it to make sense to me. And sometimes, the format itself gets in the way. A story won’t work in prose, but it will as poetry, or only as a scrupt.

Why are you such a grouch?
It’s obligatory. Comes with my membership of the Curmudgeonly Club.

Why do you pretend you don’t know when someone’s interested in you when you obviously do?
Erm, we’ve obviously never met.

Do you think of yourself as “Budgie” or “Lee”?
These days? Always the former.

If you could change one thing about yourself whether it be physical or not, what would it be?
Physically? Full body transplant.
Mentally? An injection of “grow up” serum.

What is your favourite word?

Which writers do you find inspiring and / or influential?
I can’t think of any writers I’ve found inspiring as in emotionally inspiring, but ‘inspiring me to write’? Warren Ellis, Peter David, David Morrell, Irving Wallace. ‘Nagging me to write more’? Neil Gaiman and Mitch Benn.

Influential? Oh, a bit from everyone above, I think.

Please pass on an important piece of advice about life.
Two pieces of advice: (1) Learn from your mistakes; regret ’em, but don’t brood on them. (2) Accept completely and utterly that life is an ongoing series of ‘well, it seemed like a good idea at the time’,

Who would you most like to meet?
There are any number of people with whom I’ve corresponded online that I’d like to meet, including some that have become friends. Celebrities? Stephen Fry, Peter David, Jon Stewart, Jeremy Paxman, in the main so I can tell them how much I’ve enjoyed their work.

Would you ever consider running for political office?
Absolutely NOT!

What is the first thing you notice about people?
Their face. I’d like to say their eyes, but it’s their entire face. It’s their eyes that ‘get’ me though; I’m a sucker for communicative eyes.

Do you believe in ghosts?
Nope, not at all. I think that those people who do are… misguided.

Which is your favourite song that you would choose to sing at a karaoke bar?
I wouldn’t. I can’t carry a tune in a bucket.

If you were to be famous, what would you like to be known for?
As the disreputable and slightly embarrassing father of a very talented son.

Pretend you live in a world where everyone wears real, physical masks all the time. Halloween masks, masquerade masks, and so on. What would your favorite mask look like?
Completely blank, like that of THE QUESTION.

What do you do if you forget the name of someone you’ve just been introduced to?
I’ll usually apologise and admit it…

Tell me: One strength. One shortcoming. One plan of action. One goal. One fear.
One strength: determination, not stubbornness.
One shortcoming: stubbornness, not determination.
One plan of action: under no circumstances ever say ‘next year has to be better than this year’; I’ve been burned before on that.
One goal: make it through this series of blog entries relatively unscathed.
One fear: the confirmation of other fears.

What’s your favorite black and white movie?
Always have problems with favourite movies, because I have different favourites depending on genre. So I’ll say probably Casablanca as a ‘serious’ movie, and Duck Soup as a comedy. (And as we’re less than. two months from Christmas season, and as an aside, I’ll add that I can’t stand It’s a Wonderful Life. At all.)

What do you wear to bed to sleep?
A duvet.

What song always makes you happy when you hear it?
Not sure about ‘happy’, but Walking on Sunshine by Katriona and the Waves always makes me smile when I hear it.

Are you afraid of the dark?
Not at all, but then it’s never given me a reason to be afraid of it. So far.

What’s your favourite music to dance to?
Even when my foot allowed it (long story), I loathed dancing. Hated it. Not only cannot I not dance, I’m far too self-conscious – I cannot get it out of my head that everyone’s looking.

Do you think writers are too in love with themselves?
Oh hell, no. I think many writers don’t like themselves very much at all.

Can you recommend a coffee?
I always recommend a coffee.

Who is the strongest person you know?
Couldn’t narrow it down to one person; so many people I know have triumphed – or are struggling to do so – against horrible things that have happened to them, that I couldn’t narrow it down to one person.

Favorite Number?

Can you speak any languages other than English?
A smattering of yiddish, and absolutely fluent rubbish.

If you could live in any past time period, which would it be?
If I had to pick, 1960s, but I’d probably be enirely useless living there. I’d miss too many of today’s comforts, and tech, and the social norms? No, I don’t think I’d get on well, living in the past.

Do you dream in color or black and white?
Honestly, I’ve never noticed. Is that a thing?

Are you tolerant of other people’s beliefs?
I’d like to respond “as long as they’re tolerant of mine”, but honestly? Depends on the beliefs.

Have you ridden in a hot air balloon?
No, and I’m in no hurry to do so.

Which hurts the most, physical or emotional pain?
For me? Physical.

Would you rather visit a zoo or an art museum? I’d rather visit neither.

Do you have a middle name?
No, my parents couldn’t afford one

What medications do you take?
Anything that I need to. Other than that, nothing

Have you ever ‘done drugs’? Yes; smoked dope occasionally, never anything stronger, though I’ve been offered on many occaisons. Just not my thing.

What do you think of hot dogs?
I think it’s cruel, and the owners should be prosecuted for not leaving the car windows open.

Do you own a knife? Well, does a Swiss Army Knife count? If so, yes.

What characteristics do you despise?
Intolerance and arrogance.

Where in the world on vacation, where would you go?
Toss up between Bermuda, Antigua and New York

What did you want to be when you were little?
Older… and taller.

79. Favourite Candy Bar? Don’t have one.

Would most people say you look older than you are, younger or approximately the ‘correct’ age?
Younger, usually, which still always surprises the hell out of me.

What is your hidden talent?
I’m genuinely unsure whether I have one. I’m not usually one to hide any talents I have…

Is there any subject that should be off limits for humor?
No. None. However, just because a joke can be made about a subject doesn’t mean it should be made. Context is also important – where and when the joke is told.

Are you a hypocrite?
Yes. Next question?

Just curious – what’s your type?
Arial Rounded MT Bold.

If you were one of the Endless, which one would you be?
I think like most people, I feel like different Endless at different times… As a general rule though, never really feel like a character created by someone else. I’m more of a self-made person who has a healthy disrespect for my creator.

This post is part of a series of blog entries, counting down to 1st January 2017. You can see other posts in the run by clicking here.

2017 minus 74: Who…? 

Posted: 19 October 2016 in 2017 minus, life, personal

Some housekeeping and information before today’s entry. 

There are 74 of these entries to go and even I – who am not short of a few words on most subjects – would probably find writing 1000 or more words a day for this place a stretch; moreover, no doubt you’d like a bit of novelty in format, and subject matter. 

So, this is what I’m planning. To make it easier for me – and you –  of the seven posts a week, four will be brand new prose material, my thoughts on a subject or news event, or even some ‘slice of life’ stuff. One post – on Saturdays – will be deliberately lighter in tone, what I used to call “Saturday Smiles”. And since the name isn’t being used at the moment, I might as well do so.

Fiction for the two remaining days: one brand new story, one I’m pulling from the archives, from when I wrote for Elephant Words. I’ve linked to them in the past, but they’ve never appeared on the blog and since I have about three dozen to choose from, that most have never seen, I’ll put some of them up here. That ok with you? Good.

How do you answer the question “who are you?”

I’ve been watching the first few episodes of HBO’s Westworld and – no, don’t worry, I’m not about to spoil it for you, nor predict what’s going on. I wouldn’t do that without very heavy warnings.

But the question “who are you?” and its associated question “what do you do?” have always fascinated me. I mean, they’re not as daft as “how are you?” which, unless it’s a doctor asking you the question, is universally understood as requiring “fine, thanks” as an answer.

But “who are you?” 

It’s not a question that in and of itself informs you of the answer required. Instead, the circumstances in which it’s asked shape the answer required. At various times, I’ve been “Lee”, “Lee Barnett”, “Mr Barnett”, “Laura’s husband”, “Laura’s ex-husband” and, of course, most of the time over the past twenty or more years, “budgie”. And that’s ignoring the responses that cover “what do you do” equally well: “I’m the writer”, “I’m the financial director”, “I’m the lodger”, etc.   

But none of those are themselves good answers. They just give the person asking something to call me, something by which to refer to me. Fantastic tales notwithstanding, knowing someone’s name isn’t necessarily (I’ll grant you that caveat) giving you power over them. 

Who am I? I’m the result of millions of life experiences. I’m a firm believer in people being the sums of their own life experiences. (Also that life is a consecutive series of ‘well, it seemed like a good idea at the time…’, but that’s a diferent blog entry.) Change the experiences and you change the person. I lost a brother at 38. Had he been around for another ten years or more, my life experiences would be different, so I’d be a different person. Had I not married when I did, or had the marriage lasted shorter or longer than it did, I’d be a different person now. Better? Worse? No idea, but I’d be a different person for sure.

Who am I? I’m someone equally interested in the process by which a decision is reached as the decision itself. I like to know why things happen as much as how they happen. I’ve no interest in pretending they didn’t happen though.

Who am I? I’m a 52 year old man, who grew up in the 1960s and 1970s, using slang and colloquialisms that I now detest, cracking gags at school of which I’m now ashamed. That they were “of that time” might explain the causal misogyny, racism and homophobic attitudes, but it doesn’t excuse them. I have no distinct memories of me being racist or homophobic, but I can’t in all honesty pretend it’s not likely I was. And yet, those childhood experiences made me – in part – the person I am today. Change them, and you change who I am. 

Who am I? I’m a Jew who has faced antisemitism, has been called jewboy, kike and hebe, who has been described as vermin and as an infestation. 

Who am I? I’m the boy who was a coward at school, who was regularly beaten up by bullies, and didn’t believe the “they respect you when you stand up to them” then, and I’m none too convinced now. What stopped me being bullied at school was a combination of a) me growing six inches in height in my fifth year at secondary school, b) getting some upper body strength, and c) hitting back and knocking down a bully, the last of which surprised both of us equally. It stopped almost overnight. It was the combination that stopped it, not just the last.

Who am I? I’m someone who I hope has learned from my own experiences and from those of others. I’m someone who tries to think before they speak, listen before I interrupt, and acknowledge that others’ experiences are often not only more relevant than my own but carry more weight.

Who am I? I’m a former accountant who still thinks that that’s a worthy profession, that business is not inherently immoral, and that neither is that business making a profit.  

Who am I? I’m a physical coward who somehow got used to ongoing pain from a foot with a couple of bones dying inside it.

Who am I? I’m someone with friends who forgive me when I fuck up, and understand me better than I sometimes appreciate. 

Who am I? I’m someone who enjoys history but dislikes museums; who enjoys music but can’t play an instrument; who enjoys rhetoric, but loathes demagoguery; who doesn’t enjoy sport on the whole, but quite enjoys others’ enjoyment of it.

Who am I? I’m someone who’ll happily accept a compliment for what I do, but almost never for who I am.

Who am I? I’m someone.

So… who am I?

I’m me. 

Who are you?

See you tomorrow. With either some views on the US election and the debate, or an odd tale or two. We’ll see.

This post is part of a series of blog entries, counting down to 1st January 2017. You can see other posts in the run by clicking here.