4 Songs I Really Like by Noel Gallagher, and Another Which He Features In

Dear readers,

Well, who else am I going to write about? Anyone who’s been following this blog long enough knows I’ve something of a man crush (nothing sexual: Don’t worry, Pam) for this freak of a great song writer. I’ll be visiting his native Manchester this month; a place I’ve not been to for the best part of a decade. And I must say, being a native of Birmingham, UK’s official second city (much to the annoyance of Mancs), I have often looked north to Manchester with a stinging envy, in terms of the rich array of extraordinary musicians hailing from the city, as well as boasting two of the most successful football teams in the UK in the past three decades. Aston Villa, Birmingham City, West Bromwich Albion and UB40 don’t quite match up (at least our baltis are better).

I have written about my admiration for Noel Gallagher over the years, which as you can see is still very much alive. Oasis smashed the scene (quite literally) in the early to mid-90s, right in the epicenter of my teenage years and Gallagher’s music has been one of the constants in my life ever since, with songs representing different epochs of my life, whether it be moving to different countries, changing jobs, good and bad relationships, ups and downs, highs and lows. It sounds fanciful, romantic and absurd, but his music has always been there, like a crutch holding me up or a shoulder to cry on. Gallagher’s face donned my wall above my bed (much to the disturbance and paranoia of my wife) back at Southam Road, with the words Com’on Feel the Noise in back and white. He’s sat down close to a huge amp, strumming his acoustic guitar during the recording of the video for Whatever. It took me to move to Honduras before my mother removed it from my wall. I still think today the image is the epitome of cool.

He’s got the whole package as rock and roll stars go, and he markets himself very well, stamping himself into the hallway of British greats in the world of music. It’s a great hallway to walk down (while the rest of the UK crumbles to its knees in a big Brexit mess), one that boasts The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, David Bowie, Queen, Elton John, The Sex Pistols, Stone Roses…the list goes on well into the night, but Noel’s name is right near the top. He’s hilarious in interviews, a great story teller and one cruel dog at the best of times, especially to his younger brother, who seems to enjoy provoking a reaction too.

He has his critics (his biggest probably being Phil Collins), especially due to his behaviour which might be labelled obnoxious by many. Some criticize his music, calling it simplistic and unimaginative, while others use the same adjectives to describe his lyrics on occasions. People say he’s not as great a guitar player either, repeating the same few chords. I can’t say whether this is true or not; I’m not much of a musician. However, I don’t listen to his music for any Bowie-like artistry; I listen to his melodies to send me to a joyful or melancholic mediative state, depending on the tune. Supersonic thrills me while Dead in the Water leaves me in a nostalgic emotional mess. I agree, some of his lyrics are a bit throwaway, yet I feel he lies a bit when he says they are the last thing he thinks about when writing a song. Over the years, there have been just too many lines that are too tender and profound to have not have been thought of carefully. This is what makes him one of the best songwriters of my lifetime. Britain may be splitting at the seams, but at least we still have Noel, eh?

Desert Island Discs would be hell for me. There are so many important songs I have, just like everyone else, yet many of my best of songs would consist of Noel Gallagher tunes. I have loads of favourites, yet these three are probably my most important. I have included another which he features in, which you shall see below.

1. Listen Up

It is well known that many of Noel Gallagher’s B-sides are often more quieter, tender and profound than those released on albums. It’s where you hear his more sensitive side, away from the attitude and mayhem of the rock and roll lifestyle.

Listen Up is one of those. It appeared as a B-side on the single Cigarettes & Alcohol, released in October 1994. Very much an early Oasis song, sung when Liam Gallagher’s voice was more youthful and aggressive. Noel Gallagher has since sung it live acoustically, giving the song a more sensitive edge, rather than the rebellious original. In both versions though, the melody and lyrics are interwoven, which really spoke to me during my adolescence and teenage angst. You can see why from the lyrics in the first verse:

Listen up what’s the time said today, I’m gonna speak my mind,
Take me up to the top of the world I wanna see my crime,
Day by day there’s a man in a suit who’s gonna make you pay,
For the thoughts that you think and the words, they wont let you say.

Yet, the lyrics that impacted me, and still do today, appear in the chorus:

But I don’t believe in magic,
Life is automatic.

Seems simple, I know, and even Noel Gallagher in 2014 said in an interview that he too loved those particular lyrics but was unsure what it meant. For me, it says something agnostic or atheist, that the mysteries of God aren’t real and life just happens. Something of an innocent blasphemy. I’m saying this despite being Catholic. I’m going to have to go to confession for saying this. Maybe it doesn’t help to pray and hope on miracles or magic from an omniscient being, and maybe life has it’s own way of working itself out and we should accept life in a Stoic kind of way. Maybe I’m reading too much into it, and I’m upsetting religious folks reading this. But still, the lyrics mean a lot to me, no matter whether I’m well off the chart from their original meaning.

2. Whatever

It wasn’t released on an album. It stands alone and so it should do. It possesses a zen like rhythm, a proud melody and philosophical lyrics that send me to a happy dimension. It was released in December 1994 and I remember being impacted by the attitude of the video, Liam’s glares, Noel scoffing a cone of chips then shrugging it off, the band playing footy while they played their instruments and chased the orchestra musicians around the studio.

Yes, again it’s full of rebellion, but with a soft touch, freedom of expression, and still today it cheers me up on a bad day. It like a pacifist’s middle finger to the world’s naysayers and critics, which is what you need when you’re 15 and trying to make sense of the world.

I’m free to say whatever I
Whatever I like
If it’s wrong or right it’s alright.
Always seems to me, You only see what people want you to see,
How long’s it gonna be, Before we get on the bus, And cause no fuss,
Get a grip on yourself,
It don’t cost much.
Free to be whatever you,
Whatever you say,
If it comes my way it’s alright.

You can see why these verses would appeal to teenagers even today. It’s timeless wisdom, which made see sense while also challenge those who I disagreed with.

Here in my mind,
You know you might find,
Something that you,
You thought you once knew,
But now it’s all gone,
And you know it’s no fun,
Yeah I know it’s no fun,
Oh I know it’s no fun.

This verse I dedicate to all of life’s bastards. It’s that liberating feeling you have when you see someone who did you wrong in some way, and they realise they have lost the power to control you. It tells that person that you’re different, you’ve changed, and you’ve overcome the mental or physical barricade they put before you, for whatever reason.

And then the song signs off with the lyrics below, and the sweet rock and roll orchestra.
Whatever you do,
Whatever you say,
Yeah I know it’s alright.

Whoever said Noel Gallagher isn’t a great lyricist, it’s time rethink your own words, and your life.

3. Fade Away (Warchild version)

Oasis have two different versions of Fade Away. One was released as a B-side also on the Cigarettes & Alcohol single, but it is a rockier version, kind of crude and featuring Liam Gallagher’s famous whining vocals. I liked it, but the acoustic version sung by Noel Gallagher is more appropriate to the innocent soft charm of the tune. It was a B-side for the single Don’t Go Away, which was only released in Japan, while also appearing on The Help Album, consisting of songs from various British and Irish artists to raise funds for children caught up in the conflicts in the former Yugoslavia states during the 90s. Johnny Depp features on the guitar, Kate Moss on the tambourine and Liam Gallagher and Lisa Moorish on the backing vocals. I’m assuming it’s Noel who chips in with the naff “Know what I mean?” and Lisa and Kate pitching in with “Is that the vibe?” and “You know it!” at the end of the song. Why guys, why?

I think I’ve already stated what I like about the lyrics, about growing up and moving on, being responsible and letting go of childhood dreams. Maybe it sounds defeatest and of course it’s sad, realising the things you have not become which you thought you would as a child, which may echo thoughts of nostalgia in your own life. Yet sometimes it’s the thing the dreamers in life need to hear when reality bites and they need to do something more constructive with lives instead of procrastinating. That’s what it says to me, anyway, yet it’s done with the melody of soft advice, which is why I love it. Below is a sample:

When I was young
I thought I had my own key
I knew exactly
What I wanted to be
Now I’m sure
You’ve boarded up every door.
Lived in a bubble
Days were never ending
Was not concerned
About what life was sending
Fantasy was real
Now I know much about the way I feel.
I’ll paint you the picture
‘Cause I don’t think
You live round here no more
I’ve never even seen
The key to the door
We only get what we will settle for.

And…
Now my life has turned
Another corner
I think it’s only best
That I should warn you
Dream it while you can
Maybe someday I’ll make you understand.

To conclude, the song says that maybe you shouldn’t look for happiness in your dreams: maybe reality is a more constructive to start. It’s now the time to stop sleepwalking through life.

4. Do Yer Wanna Be A Spaceman?

Yet, another B-side. And there are still so many that I love. Masterplan, Going Nowhere, Half the World Away, Talk Tonight, Sad Song, Cigarettes in Hell, It’s Better People, Thank You for the Good Times (written by Andy Bell, apparently), Acquiesce, Round Are Way…will this list ever end? There are many A-sides too. Obvious classics such as Live Forever, Supersonic, Don’t Look Back in Anger, Wonderwall, Slide Away … again, the list goes on. Yet I had to choose this harmless acoustic charm.

I’m not saying this is the best song Noel Gallagher has written, but I love the innocent message about how dreams change when we’re young and how priorities change as we experience life, especially the following part:

It’s funny how your dreams
Change as you’re growing old
You don’t want to be no spaceman
You just want gold
All the dream stealers
Are lying in wait
But if you want to be a spaceman
It’s still not too late.

It’s similar to Fade Away in many respects, yet more simple and cheerful, especially the melody. The narrative makes me think of someone going back to the neighbourhood they grew up in after being away for some time, and catching up with someone who they had a strong connection with, either a friend or an ex-lover, and maybe that person did not fulfil certain expectations in life. Yet they still find common ground, a companionship, to get over life’s hurdles. Maybe I read into this stuff too much, but while growing up, this was a crutch on my bad days and my ecstasy on my good days. It’s kind of nursery rhyme for adolescents and adults who feel their lives aren’t quite going in the direction they imagined.
You can see why by looking at the first verse and chorus.

I haven’t seen your face round since since I was a kid
You’re bringing back those memories of the things that we did
You’re hanging round and climbing trees pretending to fly
Do you wanna be a spaceman and live in the sky?
Well, it’s alright, it’s alright
Who are you and me to say what’s wrong and what’s right
Do you still feel like me
We sit down here and we shall see
We can talk and find common ground
And we can just forget about feeling down
We can just forget about life in this town.

The song that Noel Gallagher features in – Keep What Ya Got by Ian Brown

I have loved this song for over a decade, yet I only found out about two years ago that Noel Gallagher was on the guitars. I found out by chance when I saw the video and I screeched like an excited teeny bopper. The fact that these two men, two personal musical heroes, was just too good to be true.

I remember when I found the Stone Roses. I’d known about them before when I heard The Second CThey had split up the year before. It didn’t stop me locking myself in my room listening to the likes of What the World is Waiting For, She Bangs the Drum (now one of my wife’s favourite songs) and I am the Resurrection, mesmerised by the blissful rhythms and thought provoking lyrics, I was in a happy new world away from the insecurities of adolescence.

It seems Ian Brown continued some of these characteristics in his solo career, although with more deep yet ambiguous lyrics and darker melodies. And this is song is just that. The main lyric of the chorus, Keep what ya got, by giving it all away. There are so many beautiful ways to perceive these words. For me he’s telling listeners to let go of material possessions, not to hold on to things that don’t matter, to improve your soul, or if not the soul, your spiritual and mental well-being. The words are almost Stoic or Buddhist, zen-like. There are other spiritual references in the song, about heaven’s gates not being far away and there being a place for those who pray. I especially like the second verse, talking those who drain us.
When your halo slips for good
You’ll have to wear your hood
Good to feel the breeze of fear on
All you cynics, I’m ya mimic
All you losers, all abusers
Wasting all my precious energy.

But the song really comes together at the bridge, where Brown gives us a monologue of advice which is poetry in motion (Brown is well respected, but still so under-estimated for his lyrical abilities; I rate higher than many dead and living poets). All the while, Noel Gallagher stands behind him in the video with his electric guitar on a street corner, probably somewhere in Manchester.

I’m not going to bore you with any more personal perceptions of the lyrics. They speak for themselves. See below. However, I will say that the first line of this monologue makes me want to get it tattooed on my forehead, but I might just make do with a t-shirt.
Remember where you came from
Sister, she told ya on a rainy day
It’s said that heaven holds a place
For all of those who pray
And if ya don’t believe in agony
Then ya don’t care anyway
Nobody or nothing’s ever getting in your way
Even as you cradle on but don’t feel you belong
No one’s gonna notice if you’re never right or wrong
And if you and your next neighbour, yeah, ya don’t quite get along
No one’s gonna notice if you’re singing anyway
Those not coming in for free will learn they gotta pay.

Are there any Noel Gallagher songs that make you weak at the knees? Any other artists who inspire you like Noel does for me? List them in the comments.

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“Bultos” in Tegucigalpa and Batman Fetishism

Dear readers,

Bultos are nothing new to me. I used to visit them frequently in the UK. To my understanding, in caliche Honduran Spanish, bultos translates as a type of second-hand shop. Some bultos label themselves as vintage and mark up the price by a couple hundred Lempiras (£7 or £8, in British talk), while others sell rags which I can only assume were intended for charitable purposes and given away for free from people who I can only assume hail from the US, but go on sale for anywhere between 20 to 100 Lempiras, depending on the type of garment i.e jeans or t-shirts. Obviously, the price varies on the quality, to an extent. Also, as you can expect from all second-hand stores, you often stand in awe at some former fashions, while sniggering at others and asking “what were you thinking?” at those who chose to wear it in the first place. You can also find t-shirts for bible camps or staff uniforms for random theme parts or fast food establishments, which gives you the feeling might never be sold, and nearly all sporting a sweaty, musky smell.

Like I said, I used to browse through British style bultos, especially in Digbeth, Moseley or Kings Heath in Birmingham. However, I was often hunting around the book sections for that unquenchable thirst for the written word. Now some bultos here do sell other types of second-hand junk, but the term bulto I believe is universally associated with second-hand clothes shops. And they have become something of a trend in recent years. And like any other second-hand shop around the world, success often depends on patience, timing, having time to wade through rags to find gems, and luck. These days, these four points I don’t possess much of, although my wife does; she’s a genius for spotting such items. She knows all the spots, from Kennedy to the centre of the city. She often treats me to a t-shirt or two, and I must admit, her keen and expert eye has brought me good fortune in the wardrobe stakes.

I have recently started a Saturday teaching job at IHCI (Instituto Hondureño de Cultura Interamericana), based in the academy in downtown Comayagüela. To those not in the know, Comayagüela is not safest corner of the world to go strolling around in, yet it’s close enough to reach from the centre of Tegucigalpa without having too much hassle. On that stretch of road one can kind quite a few bultos at the lower end of the economic scale. However, this doesn’t prevent my curiosity and I often take a look inside, especially when you see mannequins fashioning the below attire.

As you can see from the figurines in the window, it looks to be more of a vintage toy store. But just looking at this type of clothing, it does make you wonder of the bizarre merchandise pumped out when franchises like Star Wars or Batman hit the screens, and who on earth would design such a thing, let alone wear it, and also have the audacity to try and sell it? Surely, this particular garment is used for fancy dress, or by understanding, generous and open-minded (and no less unfortunate) girlfriends, who have boyfriends with an unhealthy Batman fetishism. If so, love really is blind. What I really struggle to comprehend is that, with all the problems in the world, ice caps melting, rubbish in the oceans, poverty, political issues, etc, and then someone has the time, energy and money to give such a piece of clothing a lease of life. At the same time, despite all my damning criticism, I am still fascinated by the absolute junk found in these bulto stores in that area, which become sources of curiosity and inspiration for blog posts like these.

Please, don’t pass me off as a complete snob; of all people I know that one cannot be picky when one needs to put food on the table. However, if any Tegucigalpa residents reading this are interested in such attire, you can find the store on the main road stretching between the Bellas Artes art school and the downtown Tegucigalpa area. And please excuse me if I offended any boyfriends (or girlfriends) with Batman or superhero fetishes in the writing of this article.


Being British and living with Brexit: a rant

Dear readers,

I will try and keep this short, sweet and uncomplicated: the exact opposite to the Brexit saga.

The Brits are good at sagas. Especially family sagas. The Royal Family has been one long living saga, and I was unfortunately born one of those Brits who doesn’t have the slightest bit of interest in that saga, yet I live a few thousand miles away where there aren’t many other Brits and people like to quiz me on it.

“Did you see the wedding last year?”

Nope.

“What were you doing?”

Polishing my tea cups.

“Will they last?”

No idea. Good luck to her.

There are many things I love about my country: the art, music, television shows, literature, sense of humour, roast dinners, pasties, chocolate, football, beer. Then there are things I dislike, such as imperialism, the bloody history, snobbishness, Marmite, tabloids, the class system, institutionalised racism, hooliganism, double standards and last, but no means least, politics.

I can sit in bliss reading Othello while listening to Let It Be one moment, then want to drop kick the TV screen when I hear that British politicians have yet again refused to come together to sort out what the f–k Brexit is, deals that don’t make sense, revoking articles left, right and centre, and we seem no closer to understanding the mess it is just a week or so before the EU deadline, which I hear has been delayed. It’s a tiny minority of people in power who are prepared to let the whole country look humiliated and weak before the rest of the world, not that the rest of the world gives much care anymore; unless you’re European and fearing a financial meltdown.

I don’t care who voted for what. It doesn’t matter. Is it a divided nation? No idea. You tell me. I live thousands of miles away. Collectively, on every side of the debate, the British people have been let down by the political elite, both on the right and left. Meanwhile, I read social problems worsen and the economy remains stagnant while indecision and bickering and bitching plagues the process.

Why? What good will come of this?

Just to think that the only reason there was a vote at all, on such a complicated issue, all because a certain David Cameron couldn’t resolve a party issue.

Either way, Brexit has severely damaged the reputation of the UK, and I don’t think blame can be pointed at the people: just those who represent them.

Rant over.

Now off for a cup of tea and to listen to Coldplay.


What are we supposed to feel about disgraced celebrities we once idolised?

Dear readers,

A fortnight or so ago, the premium cable and satellite television network, HBO, produced the documentary, Leaving Neverland, about the former King of Pop, Michael Jackson, which goes into depth about the child molestation crimes he has been accused of committing. Firstly, I must point out, I’ve not seen the aforementioned programme, yet I’ve noted the reaction from the mass media, as well as from fans, which is bordering disturbed to fascinating.

As stated, I’ve not seen the programme, so I can’t comment on the contents and whether I believe the accusers, as my thoughts would only be based on heresy and opinions I have read in the press. However, these child abuse accusations have been following Michael Jackson long before his death a decade ago, which damaged his legacy to an extent, yet the radio and TV networks still played his music and, on the most part, people had turned a blind eye to the accusations; or rather, listened to his songs a little uncomfortably.

I, like many in my generation, grew up listening to his music and there were seasons of my life when I did idolise him. Nearly all the boys in my year 6 class did. It was either him or the Liverpool forward John Barnes that we tried to mimic in the playground. I never got the hang of the moonwalk, but I remember asking my mum for one white sequinned glove, which she raised her eyebrows to. I grew out of it (without the glove, I should add), although I looked on from afar and admired some of his work: not all. His Jesus complex didn’t sit well with many, especially in the UK when he behaved a little bizarrely on stage during some concerts, and MJ was mocked a little more when the Pulp front man, Jarvis Cocker, entered the stage to do a little bum wriggle during a UK award show. The accusations began to surface which really made people question the man’s character, as well as having copious amounts of plastic surgery to change his skin from black to white. However, his musical talent couldn’t be denied.

Now, in the aftermath of the documentary, many radio stations have come out and stated they will no longer play his music. I must admit, I was in a taxi last week when the song Heal the World came on the stereo, and I too felt I’d been pricked by the mass media hypodermic needle as I listened on uneasily. On the other side, many MJ fan groups have come out in their thousands to protest criticize the show and labelled the accusers as liars, with two of the accusers facing legal action from fans in France for apparently “sullying” his memory.

Between the two extremes, many of us humble admirers in the middle feel a little unsure what to do. Are we just supposed to turn off the tap our nostalgic emotions and fight our conscious, or refuse to listen to him in protest and anger? There’s some soul searching to do, either way.

I feel in a similar way to Woody Allen and Kevin Spacey, and to less of an extent, Bono from U2. (My God, even Peter Beardsley). Their sins have been judged and scrutinised by the media, some more serious than others, which have left a black mark against their artistry, that make us feel a little uneasy about enjoying. Should we let the media control what we like and dislike? Should I feel bad about liking a movie by a man accused of sexual crimes? Are we breaking some moral codes by remaining to enjoy their work? Obviously, we should let our own consciouses decide. However, there are many shades of uncomfortable grey, and I no longer know what to think of people I used to idolise. What do I do?


WRITER’S TIP: How to Persevere when writing a novel

Dear readers,

Perseverance: It’s the lack of it that prevents most amateur writers from being professional. Coming to think of it, it’s the lack of it that prevents most from excelling in nearly all vocations. It’s not easy to build. Nearly all writers, professional or otherwise, have novels partly written and they’ve just run out of steam or lose momentum from not continuing with a certain habit, leaving it for a couple of weeks and then forgetting about the plot or characters. And all your hours of hard work fall into the hell of broken and incomplete novels.

I should know. I have a few.

It’s difficult. It’s true. We all have jobs, families, careers, problems, or commitments that take up our time. Then again, so have many published writers. But perserevance and commitment pulled them through. Take one of my favourites: Roddy Doyle. He was a teacher while he wrote The Barrytown Trilogy. It was only after his fourth novel when he gave up his day job. How on earth he managed to find time to write in a career that takes so much of you’re time and energy is beyond me. But he did it. Maybe it was the mental image of saying feck off to the little gob-shites that kept him ticking over.

This is a message to myself more than anything: don’t make time restrictions an excuse. And get off your arse and stop looking at Netflix.

I have read a couple of books on this to help me to build a writing habit. One was The 90 Day Novel by Alan Watt. On the whole, it’s useful. Watt charts out how to create characters, a plot and write the first draft, as you may well have guessed, over a 90 Day period. He waffles on a bit, but on a bit, but it helped me only up to a 60 day mark, and then I lost interest or his idea of a plot didn’t fit into my project, and I’d get bored. It’s a useful tool though. Don’t discount it.

I downloaded the programme New Novelist. Two versions I downloaded in fact. It gave great alternatives for different plots and characters, yet it still missed how to pace a book, how to build a writing habit. A great word processor mind, with great little add-ons and tools for developing ideas, but it only completes part of the process.

I downloaded the app Writeometer, where you start a project, put a deadline of an amount of words and it charts out a certain amount of words you must write daily. From watching various YouTube videos about writers telling of their writing habits, this is a common strategy. However, for many novices, it is often difficult to know how many words your project will be, and it is quite difficult to keep up if your app is expecting you to write 750 words or more a day. The pro to this app, as well as many like it, is that it helps you chart and keep track of your progress, which can motivate you during the vast marathon of a novel. If charting your word count floats your boat, great. Many of these apps are free. Some might have premium accounts, which I’ve never tried. Leave your comments below if you have. Any good?

By accident, in my many hours of procrastination, I came across the concept, Kaizen, which is designed for lazy people like me, who put off doing things out of fear or idleness. Fear? you say. Why fear writing? Surely there are more important things to be scared off, like nuclear war, terminal illness, natural disasters, financial disasters, little angry dogs with a Napleon complex. Yes. All very true. But after having a few meditative highs through practicing Mindfulness, I found that I had this strange complexity for not doing things I enjoyed out of fear, maybe because the thought of a novel was a project too big and grandiose for me to handle. This left me pissed off with myself: a mentality that left me in a cul-de-sac of zero productivity.

As life often does, it throws at you little ideas out of the heavens when you need it. And this is exactly what the Kaizen principle is: an idea from heaven, or more precisely, Japan. I’m no Japanese linguistic expert, but I can tell you Kai means change and Zen means good or wise. The concept requires a person to practice an activity for one minute every day at the same time. This then turns into a habit over time. It’s practiced in business as well as self improvement, and can be applied to many areas of life, helping to break down activities into minuscule chunks, making it much bearable to take on new challenges. It’s also useful for those who make a lack of time as an excuse for not starting something new. So, if word counts don’t do it for you, try Kaizen, or something like it, as this is exactly what I have done and it’s working a charm.

In my case, I have increased one minute to 20 minutes. Not only that, I usually find that I go way over 20 minutes, and by the time I’ve run out of creative steam and flow, an hour or so has passed and I’ve written three pages or more without even realising it. Agreed, it’s easier for me as most days of the week, I’m on the bus to work for three hours, meaning that all I need is a pen and paper, a colleague not to interrupt me and to ignore the crater like pot holes shattering the suspension and my skull against the window. If anything, all those things inspire me in one way or the other. Why 20 minutes? 30 minutes feels too long and arduous; 15 feels pathetically short. 20 minutes is my pain threshold for writing, as laughable as it seems, and it works for me.

Like Writeometer and other writing apps, you can find a habit app where you can input how much time you spend daily doing a certain activity. I use Goalmap. It helps you keep track of your averages and how many days in a row you’ve been doing something. Visuals and information like those below help motivate me.

As you can see, I actually manage 55 minutes and I am currently on a 59 day binge of writing. Kudos to me. Take that self-doubt and procrastination. It does make me wonder how Shakespeare and Miguel Cervantes et al managed to get by without all these tools, but history tells us they persisted through there own methods to write works of art that were groundbreaking and still have an impact on literature today. None of the methods above may appeal to you. That’s fine. You need to find a way that works for you and your personal situation.

After all, there’s only one wrong way, and that’s to not persevere at all. In short, to write nothing.


REVIEW: Know Your Limits…Then Ignore Them by John Mason

Dear readers,

I was recommended this book by a colleague. Why the person felt I should read this, I’ll never know, as I don’t know her very well. She said I should read this anyway, and so I did.

As stated a couple of times, I’m not really a huge fan of self help books but they keep coming to me for some reason. We’re currently living in an era where there is a book for everyone to improve a part of our lives in some way or other, whether it mentally, spiritually or a guide to tidy our home, finances or careers, or whatever. They are currently a huge trend as well, although they have been around for years. Some are practical, some repeat the same message and some are just so full of positivity it’s as though the writer has never taken a crap in their life. Maybe it’s just the insecure age we live in, and we’re chasing fulfillment because social media or our job doesn’t do it for us anymore. One thing for sure, it’s a genre that makes a lot of money.

This book is a funny one. The title suggests the latter, and in many ways it is. It consists of 101 nuggets of truth, as the writer labels it, which I suppose should be read one a day over a three month period. Each nugget is a page and a half long, and it is nice bite-sized fun. Due to that precise factor, it only took me a month and a half to read, as I would two or three at a time.

It isn’t the best written book in the world. The writer tends to repeat that he agrees with a famous quote or saying, and some of the advice comes across as contradictory. For example, in one nugget he says that we shouldn’t hold off things, then in another nugget, he suggests we should. Maybe he’s an indecisive self-help guru, I’m not sure, but I found it baffling, as well an endearing.

On the positive side, there is lots of inspirational advice, ways to look a life, that can enlighten your day in some way.

I give it four out of five stars. A harmless little read, but nonetheless an odd one.


Writer’s tip: Overcoming writer’s block

Dear readers,

I’m part of many writer’s groups on Facebook and other social media networks. I no longer really look at them because social media is very much a distraction for me, personally; preventing me from the vocation I enjoy most: writing. I don’t think I’m the only one either, as I have noticed a lot of friends choose to log on and do something constructive with their lives. Kudos. We all know how Facebook and co. are very good at keeping us hooked, controlling our dopamine levels.

Going back to the point of the post, one of the biggest complaints in these groups was about writer’s block. Now, I must be careful not to blow my own trumpet, because I don’t feel I have suffered too much from it. I’m possessed with a mind which is usually away with the fairies anyway, so I can conjure up ideas for stories from very little. My problem is often laziness, persistence and procrastination, which usually prevents me from publishing any of those ideas.

Despite that, whenever I have had writer’s block, I’ve always written about why I have it in a stream of conscious kind of way, that’s if I can’t find a prompt that inspires (it should do; there’s a million or so out there with you Google it). This can often lead to a short story or an interesting piece of work.

So, for argument’s sake, let’s pretend I’m sat in my writer’s chair at my writer’s table with my writer’s pen and my writer’s pad. It’s blank. Here I go:

It’s blank. Why is it blank? Are you a blanker? Are you a blanker wanker? No you’re not. You’re better than that. At least you think you are. What lovely blue horizontal lines across the page. Without them I’d be fucked. My handwriting is crap as it is. My teachers used to tell me. They were right. They said nothing would come of me for having shit handwriting. Thanks for the motivation, Mrs Nealian. You’re teaching wasn’t much better. I heard on the grapevine they fired you a couple of years later because you were shit. I must have been 11 when I heard and I remember how happy I was. Yes, Nealian, you taught me what it meant to be vindictive was from a young age. You stole my innocence. Knobhead. Let’s stay away from negativity. After all, I can’t talk about the qualities of being a teacher. I was barely the best either. At least I care about my student’s feelings. Discipline was my problem. Always has been.

Talking of discipline, the lines on the page. They’re light blue. Kind of like my eyes, people say. Sounds a bit narcissistic but I promise you I’m not. The blue also reminds me of the sea in Cornwall in the UK or in Trujillo in Northern Honduras. Cornish pirates came to Honduras at some point. I’m sure of it. I must have some ancestry here somewhere around the coast. Sounds romantic and contrived, but my soul was destined to be here rather than back in Brum, as much as I’m proud of hailing from Brum. I’ve never lived for long around the sea which angers me because I love water. I love the sea. I love bathtubs but they aren’t common here in Honduras. This is one of Honduras’s worst qualities in my opinion. They don’t like bathtubs. They’re perfect for this climate. Soaking in your own filth, reading a good book and seeing your hands crumple and wrinkle like an old person. Nothing like it.

Cornwall. The sea in Cornwall. The same colour as the lines on this page. Only in summer, mind, around the shallows. Still fucking cold though, no matter how lush it looks. It reminds me of granny, after grandad died. She loved to sit on the cliff tops, missing grandad, but it helped her come to peace with it, I think looking back. She was sad but full of happy memories. Full of mischief. She survived two husbands, both called Arthur. I like the Spanish equilivant of the name, Arturo. Pam doesn’t. She knows someone called Arturo who she doesn’t like. Someone from her past. I ask her what happened but she changes the subject. I don’t push it. She’s got an aggressive little side. Sometimes it’s fun to push her buttons. Sometimes it’s suicide. I guess I’m the same on occasions. Hit a nerve with me, well, one might regret it. Isn’t everyone like that? Human nature? Animal nature? Poking a tiger with a stick? Would you? Why do we piss people off? Why are people arseholes?

But Cornwall, and granny. I’d sit there with her, eating something, whether it scones and cream, pasties, sandwiches, ice-cream or Easter eggs. I was always excited to hear nan’s stories from her childhood. The world was different then. A lot more mysterious. Cornwall generally is. The names and ghost stories and people lost at sea. On sunset horizons, you can imagine seeing beautiful mermaids or hearing the bells of Atlantis ringing from the depths. Pam’s grandparents are great at telling stories. I should see them more. Life’s too short, after all. I’ll be back in Cornwall soon. Can’t wait. For the Easter eggs et al.

There we go. Finished. If you feel that writer’s block affects you, try the above technique. See how much ground I covered. I few outlets for potential stories. Let your mind roam. It won’t be perfect, but it’s fun to see what arrives on the page.

Try it.