What You Learn From Writing Daily

“I want people to feel like it’s ok to create. It’s ok to not be boxed in. I want people to feel like, awesome is possible.” – Kanye West

This month has been a bit of a whirlwind. I have been working every weekday, my friend Cat visited with her girlfriend, and I have been writing daily. Finding any time available, I have written as much as possible and tried to keep up the quality. It all started quite organically, I published for a couple days, then decided to do a week, then decided to do a month. At first it seemed a gigantic ask. But when you split it into little bits it all comes together quite nicely in the end. It seems almost too achievable to be considered a success, but I am proud of what I’ve accomplished.

It took effort. I had to keep myself from sleeping when I’m tired. I’ve had to consciously make the choice to write instead of doing something more distracting. I’ve had to fit this into my regular responsibilities, as a teacher to my students, who must plan and do all the extra paperwork, and as a fiance to my fiancée, who must make sure my end of the housework is upheld. A massive thank you to my fiancée as I almost definitely fell a little short of my end this month. I’ve had to keep my self-esteem up on days when my reading figures were low. I’ve shaken off the flops, I’ve powered through the doubtful ideas, I have pulled out bits of me I thought I never would, and I have blown my trumpet like the loudest troubadour.

So here are the five things I have learned writing every day:

1. There are no angry mobs who will burn down your house for saying what you feel

On the one hand, there definitely are Internet mobs. The level of abuse directed at people for small things is truly abhorrent. The amount of misogynistic and racist shit is ridiculous. I have received some questionable comments, but I’m fortunately shielded from the worst bits by WordPress’s filter.

That all being said, there is no reason to clam up and not let your feelings out just because you are worried about what other people might say. Even coming from a supportive family and with loving friends, I have still kept some things to myself over the years. This month I had to push myself to write everything. I had to relive humiliation and dwell in some past pain to write certain posts, such as my take on Friendship, my love letter to Cigarettes, and my sappy words to my Fiancée .

Nobody has criticised me for any of it. It’s often said that men are socialised to not express emotion, but what I’ve learnt here is that this blockage is in the mind rather than in people at large. Be open. If you can’t be open, be honest.

2. I am not that bad

I mean this as a writer and as a person. Sometimes I’ve had problems with not feeling like I could be loved. This may seem ridiculous given the aforementioned supportive people in my life, but I genuinely had this thing in my brain that said I was not especially lovable. I didn’t even think I was that likeable and was pretty sure I was a horrible person and a poor writer.

Eventually, I came to understand my self a bit better. I started loving myself a bit more and criticising myself a bit less. It’s a struggle, but coming to terms with yourself is a daily challenge. Everyone fucks up, but because we are closer to our own chaos we think it so much worse than everyone else’s.

Writing daily has been an amazing experience. I have come into contact with so much more of myself as I dissect my thoughts and feelings and splayed them all out for the world to see. Maybe one day I’ll look back on it and feel a bit uncomfortable, but that’s okay. I am finally convinced I am not nearly as bad a person as I thought.

Just a tad dramatic and with a touch of Calvinism.

3. Time in the market beats timing the market

That line is from Warren Buffett, and he’s right. To the writer just setting out, it seems a lot more rational to try and strike while the iron is hot, get your timely blows in, then move on to the next thinkpiece. My view is that there is more room for nuance and reason than you’d think.

You can pause. You can wait till the dust has settled before writing about something. In fact, that may often lead to a better result. How can you write accurately right after something has happened? When emotions and running high, the worst parts of your brain can lead you to making some pretty terrible decisions.

In addition, going for timely thinkpieces all the time is a strategy that will lead to creating a bunch of shit that doesn’t outlast the week. There is no expiration date on good writing. The most important thing is to shut up and do it instead of waiting and staying. Find the bright places where boom bands are playing.

4. Poetry doesn’t sell

Writing daily has given me time to stretch out creatively while pushing me to produce and produce and produce some more. In this time, I’ve had to grab things I love and write about them. This includes Dr. Seuss and The Libertines. Both those ideas did sell, people were interested, because they were easy to relate to. We all have favourite writers and favourite musicians.

But some other things you may be interested in are harder to shift. Not everyone likes historical parallels between statues in Prague and statues in Charlottesville. Not everyone digs into Limericks. This is totally fine.

While pro writers may say to kill your darlings, the benefit of a personal blog is that you’re writing mostly for your own pleasure. People can like the stuff or they can dislike it. Your poetry might not sell, but fuck it, it’s YOUR poetry.

Sometimes it’s just nice to get some of it out there.

5. Mums love me

Having paid keen attention to my Facebook likes and who shares my things, I have noticed this incontrovertible fact: mums love me. This includes my mum, my fiancée’s mum, my schoolmates’ mums, amongst others. These are far from the only people reading me but they are an interesting group of ladies who share only one thing in common and that is that they have children. No idea what I have done to earn their interest but I am very happy to bask in their adoration.

If you or anyone else you know has a mum who may like this blog, be sure to send it along to them!

This is what I have learnt by writing every day of August. You are not a bad person and you should feel free to express yourself. There are other things, but these ones will do. Moving forward, I will be looking to write a lot more than I did prior to this month, even if not daily. Let me just leave by saying a massive thank you to everyone who read me this month and I look forward to thrilling you further in the future.

The writer of this piece is looking forward to enjoying a holiday in Croatia and may be somewhat incommunicado for the first week of September


The Hangover

Right, so it’s this post.

Pictured: A classier drink than I was imbibing last night

The Czech Republic has many great traditions. They terrify children in December and eat fish for Christmas dinner, which probably terrifies the fish, who live in the bathtub for several days before they are cooked. Their love day is the 1st of May and you’re supposed to kiss your love under a blooming tree. I did not this year because I was hungover. Today I saw a sign advertising “burčak” – young wine.

The young wine season is late August, September, and early November. You can find out more about it here. It’s a very exciting time of year as the drink is delicious. It tends to be a low ABV, about 4%, but it still has active yeast in it and so it gets more alcoholic in your belly. You are supposed to drink as much burcak as you have blood in your body, 5 litres, over the season. It can lead to some rough mornings.

Another tradition, more local than national, is sangria night at Bukowskis. Every Tuesday ladies can go and get free pitchers of sangria. They are not supposed to give it to men, but my fiancée loves me. Still, I also bought my own drinks last night to allay suspicions. Simply red, nothing fancy, it’s from a box. Still, the wine was better than the sangria, oakier, fuller body, and much better scent. Then again, you may have noticed I’m avoiding the massive element in the room – the huge elephant in the tomb.

The aftershock

Because, really, what’s is life but one long sesh punctuated by hiccups and hangovers? In the words of Jack Donaghy, “Men need alcohol. It’s the first thing every civilization makes, along with weapons and shelters to enjoy prostitutes.” I just had to look up what came first, domesticated dogs or alcohol. It may be a tie, about 10000 BC being an estimate for both. Man’s best friends. Fundamental though it may be, I worry.

I worry sometimes because my hangovers are particularly vile. It’s like my body wants to get away from my brain. It wants to sweat, piss, shit, and vomit. My thoughts go to funny places and I can’t control them. Some days I can’t stomach anything and can’t eat till the evening.

If I can’t fit in my kilt before I get married, I will ask for two litres of wheat beer, 48 hours, and 0 questions.

It makes me hate absolutely everything. Myself, people around me, the world. I’m not good to be around when I’m hungover. My demanding and angry side is given full reign.I often shout “cuddles or get the fuck out!” if I’m disturbed while in my pain. I repeat it if they don’t make a choice quickly and without fuss.

I really want the cuddles, by the way. So if I ever shout that at you, now you know. I want somebody to hold my body together.

Today was especially bad because I had to go to a government office. Government offices are uniformly terrible everywhere. Especially the ones which are designed for foreigners. It seems like it’s the government department that countries are least fond of supporting. There were loads of people and the office had only just opened. Compounding this stress is the fact that the workers in the foreign department only speak Czech. I understand this is the Czech Republic, but you’d think they’d have at least some other language skills given their job is almost entirely dealing with non-Czechs. Fortunately, I had a lovely freelance visa agent named Jitka Peterkova helping me, so I just sat dumbly while contemplating the meaning of suffering and she did all the talking, occasionally she handed me a bit of paper to sign. Additionally, she also got there early to get a ticket so we got in and out really quickly.

Love Cats

The best cure I’ve noticed for it was suggested to me by my mate Sam. He instructed me one morning to go to the kitchen and drink water. Lots of water. So much water you feel your stomach could burst. And then some more. This trick has worked for me a couple of times but it is by no means perfect. In fact, sometimes it just gives me more water to violently expel, more fuel for the fire.

I’m less worried about my overall drinking these days as I pretty much have it under control. I’m drinking roughly a third as much as I was at the same time last year, cheap bevy is great but dangerous. So I’m forgiving myself today. I don’t hate myself. My rage is conserved for slow walkers and standees on the wrong side of escalators. This hangover has been a timely reminder that I need to be careful. Sitting around and hating everything might be a good hobby for a philosopher looking to prove nihilism, but it is not conducive to a well lived life.

On the periphery between life and death, the writer likes long walks by the River Lethe and the Water of Leith. One is good to remember and the other to forget. Once the post hangover gloom has been vanquished by the breaking sun of recovery, the writer also likes writing imagery.

Wedding Planning

This post is necessarily vague as the writer is only somewhat involved in the wedding planning itself, preferring to content himself with planning for the marriage than the wedding. Furthermore, of the details he does know, he is bound to a strict code of secrecy as spoilers are totally not cool, guys. For more information on the wedding, check back with me in 9 months for my post-ceremony wrap-up.

Normally I’d write that kind of part at the end, but today it felt best to inform you of what you’re getting into. For me, the wedding planning has been extremely simple. There are nevertheless some pretty important things I can say about the process, being involved primarily as a consultant. Before we begin, there’s something you all need to know.

My fiancee’s family is a wedding factory.

That sounds a bit off, but allow me to explain. Her dad is a wedding photographer who personally knows other wedding photographers as well as other players on the local wedding scene. She is from a large family. Her cousins all seem to be, or be dating, people who provide various services for weddings and are willing to do favours for us. In addition, her mum and sister are very good at planning and details, and her other sister is quick to offer solutions.

They are an extremely fast family. Mildly joking here, but when we went on Skype to inform them it was a blast of “congratulations!”, then straight into “okay, when is it, how many people are coming, how much do you want it to cost?” Very useful people to have around, but while my poor parents were still coming to terms with their wee boy hitching himself to someone, her family had halfway planned the thing!

Very useful people to have in a crisis. Or in planning a wedding.

The really unexpected thing for me has actually been how much I’m consulted. It’s some prime sexist bullshit that the wedding day is “her” day and the rest of the days are “his”, really. But I was not expecting to have a near 50-50 involvement in the grander decision-making process. As it turns out, I’ve basically picked the date, part of the entertainment, and some aspects of the food. I’m quite involved with the music, though it’s a team effort, which is good as it balances out my desire to put on some pretty eclectic shit.

They don’t make ’em like that anymore. “Gay Bar” by Electric Six

Our cultures and our personal preferences are going to be represented throughout the service and through our dinner and after party. In addition, our separate clans can come together under the warm umbrella of an open bar. This is generally not the done thing in Scotland. The results will be interesting.

As I mentioned at the start, I am thinking ahead to the marriage itself instead of the wedding. Long term goals have become a recent hobby. However, in being asked my opinion so often about the planning and making several of the decisions, I cannot help but get really rather excited about the event itself. Here is a big party and family gathering which means so much and where we can announce ourselves to the world as a couple. I can hardly wait.

The writer is drinking tea, which he has taken as a new writing ritual, although it tends to get somewhat cold in the time it takes him to write.

Buckle up Buckaroo

“What do you mean you’ve never heard of Buckaroo?”

My fiancée shrugged.

“You’ve got this donkey, right, and you have to stack things on top of his back…”
“We have Jenga?”

Buckaroo is not Jenga. It looks like this.


It’s the sort of game you play once or twice when you’re in your mid childhood and then never see it again. At least, that’s what it was to me. But the adverts were everywhere and they got into our collective unconscious. In the UK it became an idiom.

If you’re carrying too much you’re like Buckaroo.

But no, the Americans don’t have it. And this surprised me. After all, it looks like it was inspired by the Wild West. Although some of the boxes look like they’d now reach into cultural appropriation territory, what with the Mexicans in sombreros and ponchos running away from this mad raving donkey. Maybe a little culturally insensitive.

But yeah, just one of these things. Growing up in Scotland I suppose I developed a top-cold-wet bit of an island mentality. With the wind up there and the wide open spaces it was sometimes hard to believe there was a world outside Scotland. It was hard to imagine a world where the weather was pleasant. I could tell TV was fake because it was always sunny. I think this sort of thinking really comes quite often in young people all over the world. We’re not especially thoughtful creatures, in spite of the fact that we are the only creature we know with entire industries based on thinking. Thankfully, people gain a bit of empathy and a bit of world knowledge as they get a bit older, but it’s still possible to get shocked by small things like whether the woman you love and intend on starting a life with has heard of Buckaroo.

It’s just weird.

Like the way she says ‘erbs for herbs. Or oh-RE-gano instead of OreGano. Margarine for a Scot rhymes with submarine. For an American it rhymes with tin. It’s like we’re speaking a different language at times. I get it and I know how some of it happened but it’s just different.

Then again, there are probably hundreds of bits of American culture I don’t get. Perhaps they have a similar game to Buckaroo, or something totally different. I must confess, I only know about a lot of American things because I spend far too much time on the internet.

I knew those hours on forums weren’t a total waste of time

I kind of wonder what type of things I will learn as we go on together. What are those essential but homely bits of American culture that we don’t get shown on TV? The global convergence of our entertainment culture can only express so much. It’ll be interesting to see what comes of us as the Scottish and American bits of our identities overlap. I hope the kids get some Scottish vowel sounds. Those are beautiful. I think I’d prefer my fiancées tonality though as I sound a bit dour sometimes.

Our children will get raised by the good doctors, Who and Seuss. My fiancée may not like tea, but I suspect it’s hereditary so I’ll make sure to provide it as an option for the kids from a young age. We will drink tea and play Buckaroo, but then we’ll also find out what’s the American version of tea and what is the American version of Buckaroo. It’s only fair. Hopefully my fiancée will also manage to understand the complicated rules of Buckaroo without too much explaining.

Confident that his fiancée will not realise he is throwing shade, as she doesn’t know the first thing about Buckaroo, the writer of this piece has become very cocky in his ability to get away with it. So cocky in fact that he has hidden it in plain sight in italic print which draws the eye. If you or anyone else you know knows of the US version of Buckaroo, do get in touch


This morning I stumbled upon something amazing. The BBC has a pidgin English section, have a look for yourself. It’s very interesting to read a few of the articles and see if you can work out how the language functions. But there’s always a lot more to it so I invite you to read on as I write a little thinkpiece.

Pidgin languages developed when people wanted to trade but could not communicate using formal language, as they didn’t have equal knowledge. They were missing important words or didn’t have the form. But money finds a way. Instead of not trading they developed a language which blended elements of their languages together. When used in a wider form this ended up changing the way language was spoken, and sometimes even became a ‘creole language’ when it became the native language of pidgin speakers children.

Evidently, West African English has its own unique grammar separate from English and hence they have their own section. It’s extremely interesting as it causes us to question what is English?

I don’t mean this in a whole nebulous “what is art?” kind of way, art is stuff people make, it comes from the word ‘artificial’, let’s move on. I mean how do we decide what is correct language and how do we decide what is incorrect? As an English teacher, this is an essential question.

The fact is that there are so many ways to use English, and there are many separate Englishes. Consider the difference between British and American. These differences arose from separation between the speakers, and because Noah Webster really hated the English (England English, not language English). Interestingly, American English keeps the u in ‘glamour’ because it came to American English via Scots. They drop the u in all other similar French root words because they came via English. These days, the rule in most writing and in most institutions is that either English is fine but keep it consistent. There is only a disagreement between British and American English in memes.

Still, Pidgin English has some detractors and a lot of people have complained about the BBC funding the service with British money. The fact of the matter is though that West Africa is on the up and will probably soon pay the BBC back in full through increased consumption. There’s nothing like respecting somebody’s lingo and voice as a way to get into their heart. It’s a very personal thing. Nigerians have spent year being told they need to speak ‘proper’ English. It must be very liberating to have institutional recognition for how they speak.

The truth is, proper English may not be all it’s cracked up to be. Mark Powell, a writer for the business English textbook In Company, wrote an article called ‘Unnatural Selection’, sadly paywalled, about how in the business world German type English pays dividends. While native speakers tend towards idioms, “butting in”, “talking at cross purposes”, “circling back”, second language speakers tend towards simple constructions which get the most results. Often these come from German-style noun phrases; “one solution is…” “the basic problem is…” “our proposal is…”. These phrases are very easy to understand, and it could be argued that business English is going in the direction of simple and direct communication. Business English is an English German pidgin.

Having read lots of poetry in Scots and Scots English, I can understand other spellings and styles of English a bit easier. It is a real difficulty to use the BBC pidgin service, but I think I will try a bit more. Trying to understand the different ways people use your language is an extremely useful skill. Whether that be their dialect or just how they reflect their mentality in speech.

The writer of his piece is somewhat shocked at the low response rate he got yesterday to what he thought was a banging post but understands this to be a marathon rather than a sprint.

Pigeon English

Changing the Time

History and memory are vital, interesting, and important. With all the talk of statues in the news thanks to the recent fight in Charlottesville, VA I want to the tell you a story about one such statue in Prague: the metronome in Letna Park. The metronome in Letna Park swings back and forth counting the seconds, symbolising the time lost to Communism. Long may it swing and remind people of the horrors of the dictatorships the city suffered in the mid-20th century. The story is far grander, however.

It swings…

And swings back

And swings again

See, that metronome was built in 1991 on top of the massive stone plinth, which had been intended for another statue – a giant statue of Stalin standing in front of some Communist archetypes.

Stalin standing in front of a worker, mother, farmer, and soldier

Locals called it ‘the meat queue’, due to the food shortages in the city after the war.

The statue was the result of a strong personality cult for Stalin. The cult was strong in Prague, with believers occupying several positions in government. They renamed a major street Stalinova, Stalin’s Street. They wanted to build the biggest statue of Stalin in the world, and they did. It weighed 17000 tonnes. It also took 800 kilograms of explosives to destroy.

In 1962, on orders from Moscow, the statue was taken down. Locals gathered to watch the rubble taken through the streets. One story says one of his ears became a bathtub.

Nikita Kuschev, Stalin’s replacement, had been very quick to condemn Stalin once he died. Kruschev made a speech in 1956, three years after Stalin’s death, where he said they had to change their approach to Communism and leadership. The Communists instituted a massive shift in how their country was run, a shift which included taking down some of the statues.

Stalinova in Prague was renamed Vinohradska, which to my untrained ear is ‘Wine Castle Street’. Far preferable to Stalin Street. Imagine hating a guy so much that you mashed a couple nouns together and added street to the end of it rather than kept his name on it. It’s be like having ‘Fan Sofa Street’.

So in light of recent events, what can we learn from the Communists here? Sometimes you don’t have to remember history through the lens of hundreds of statues or of particularly big statues. Sometimes you can remember history with plaques, artistic statues such as Prague’s metronome, or by picking street names that are less controversial – people have to live there, how would you like to live on Cunt Street?

It’s a fairly basic ask from those against the statues. Perhaps a better solution is to put up a sign beneath the statue with a list of pros and cons about the person, so people can actually have a debate about them and do some research. Still, sometimes you need to revise parts of your history. You can still remember things, and I hope you do. That we have grandfathers and remember more of our past is one of the key differences between humans and the other great apes. Maybe it is more important to remember the things that were true in the past which should be changed today instead of getting stuck in a rut, deifying stone or copper impressions of some dead guy.

The writer of this piece is probably preaching to the converted, and would now like everyone to turn to page 4 in their hymn book.

Love Shack

Besides food, a place to stay is the most important human need. On top of this, it needs to be more than just a place to sleep. It’s  not just important to have a place that feels like it’s yours; it is vital. It’s egocentric, but so much of the world is extensions of us as people. The way a person dresses is a physical embodiment of how they want to be seen. A person’s body language is their soul expressing itself through form. And a home reflects how a person wants to be in their free time, and how they want to live. Where you live, then, is an important choice. How do you want to live and how do you make it happen? Today I want to tell you what home means to me.

A painting from a Slovak artist, Gregor Dalecky, that I feel an affinity with

2015 was a truly insane year for me. I switched jobs three times and changed where I was living 5 times. In none of the places I lived was it possible to change much. I could move my stuff in, but the basic amenities were not mine to change. The cutlery belonged to the owner of the place. Most of the glasses and cups were not mine. The plates were all basic. For a time, I lived in my parent’s house, but I felt like more of a guest there. It isn’t my childhood home, since they have moved into the city, so I basically had the guest room there. It’s a room for their many friends and visiting family members. It was fine, but not mine.

My parent’s house is only a home insofar as my parents are there and I love them very much.

The year after was all change. My first two months in Prague I slept wherever I could, hostels, Roisin’s, Teddy’s, my fiancée’s (pre-relationship). Dossing around, practically homeless, but with the kindness of new found friends to house me. It took a while to find a place to stay and rent, but I got there eventually. It was alright but nothing special. A place to kip, listen to music late at night without disturbing anyone, and accrue mess. Everything was from IKEA. The kitchen was a bit of a nightmare as it had no window and even less counter space. I have no idea how that is legal. Kitchens need windows. When my fiancée agreed we should look for a place, it was my main demand: a kitchen with a window.

Finding a place was a challenge as the rental market is a bit weird, but when we eventually found a partially furnished flat in the centre of our favourite area with a window in the kitchen, we snapped it up.

Our kitchen window – Toaster from Tesco, Kettle from my mate Damien’s girlfriend Hanicka, Vase from Butler’s (a gift I got my fiancée), Candles from Tiger

We had a house, but how to make it a home? We had to make it colourful and beautiful and comfortable.

Our sofa, a bit beat up and second-hand but very cosy

“A house that does not have one comfy chair in it is soulless” – May

A home needs to feel comfortable and secure. It’s also important to have a way to separate yourself from the other people you live with. For though I love my fiancée very much, and she concurs, it is of critical importance that we have more than one place to sit. It was her idea that we should go for a sofa, and she found it on one of Prague’s buy/sell/trade groups.

Let me tell you, I know moving furniture. I have previously been a furniture delivery assistant and I have dealt with moving a sofa on spiral staircases before. Prague has hard twists. It was a good thing we asked The Little Van That Can man, Scott, to help us out. He’d moved this type of thing before and knew how to take it to bits in the right way to get it around corners. Still, there was a three story climb as there is no lift.

Ahh well, I am no stranger to slightly uncomfortable shoulders.

What’s nice about making a flat together is that we’ve both had ideas and have made suggestions. We don’t disagree on much because her taste and vision is very good. One area which is particularly nice is the kitchenware.

Where the magic happens

Implements and tray

Over a month before we decided we’d move in together I remember when she mentioned the cool knives she saw. At first I thought that a knife was a knife and as long as it was sharp I was happy. Then she showed them to me and I was especially happy. Why not have useful things that also look good? They are also very easy to spot in a sink if they ever get mixed in with the rest of the dishes. We haven’t found much use for the tray, but it’s cheerful so it’ll do.

“A home without books is a home without a soul” – Marcus Tullius Cicero

A subsection of our books

We both travelled here and hence don’t have many books. We both really like books however so have done our best to own at least a few. Real books are valuable because they have a whole other feeling to them than the e variant. While I rarely remember much prose anyway as I find it less memorable than poetry, I remember it even less when it is in ebook format. The books in the top left hand corner are my Dr. Seuss library, a modest collection but I began collecting later in life and Dr. Seuss is kind of pricey in the UK. In the top right, you can see two Slovakian books about bears. My fiancée is a collector of Slovakian books about bears. On the bottom shelf, there is an eclectic shelf of cook books, Lanark by Alasdair Gray, Franz Kafka’s collected works, How to Manage Your Slaves, and an Alien Encyclopaedia. We found that last one in a book shop in Edinburgh and she wanted it because she loves The X-Files.

Furthermore, that same tower has part of our souvenir collection.

Eclectic shelf

Collecting souvenirs is apparently controversial, as a lot of people think it’s not “real travelling” if you take anything back to remember it. This article very convincingly argues otherwise. We like to find things when we travel. They are cool reminders where we’ve been. In the above linked article there are some tips for how to find good souvenirs.

On that shelf, we have some Russian dolls, a wee Hungarian man, a couple of postcards and This is Prague, a book on the city’s history. Each of these objects is special, my fiancée spent time in Russia, we visited Hungary together, and our wedding invites are on postcards. Prague is where we met and live. This city will always be special to us, why not take things to remember it by? Why not display them here while we live here? We’re expanding our own personal history.

Making our flat together has been a wonderful opportunity to work together. We have shared responsibility for collecting and paying for items, even if I’ve done more of the physical lifting and she’s done more of the metaphorical lifting by finding them. We’re sharing a vision of what kind of life we want and what we are willing to do to get it. My wedding proposal may not have been the most planned or most romantic, but it was extremely honest. I proposed in our flat. The flat we built together. I told her I love her and want to continue building this life together.

The writer of this piece is, despite popular belief to the contrary, neither a puppy nor a cutie. His face is steely, as are his abs, and his eyes have a cool blue-green thing happening which completes the look.

Please find below pictures of other cool things we have. It hurts me that I couldn’t write about all our cool wall art and the meaning behind every object, but such is life. If you have any questions don’t be afraid to ask!


Cork collection, dated. Spare keys, a vase, and a picture frame with Czechoslovakian stamps 

Glassware and cups; bought, given, and taken

She has shown me Community and I like it

A ladder that we thought was a real ladder but makes equally good display shelves

‘Hlavni Nadrazi’ by Lukos Hey, he’s a good guy

Left to right, 1950s Russian theatre poster, a painting bought on Charles Bridge

A picture frame that looks like a theatre, made by my friend Cat as an engagement gift. Fairy lights bought by my parents also in shot.

Vintage Russian ‘days’ posters (“First day of school” “First day or holiday” etc.)

A fridge, looking homely with photographs, magnets, and a painting by my fiancée’s niece

Maintaining Momentum

“Momentum” by Brian Chambers

Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the pit, from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

Invictus, a tremendous poem to give your day a bit of pep. Today I’m talking to you about momentum; how to gain it and how to keep it. I will be flagrantly abusing scientific concepts because writing about it requires a degree in physics or vast simplification, and I haven’t got five years to spare right now. The point is, and I believe everyone will agree at some level, is that energy is created and used according to some pretty basic rules, but then as humans it is our job to damn all the rules and make our own existence happen.

Newton was a clever chap. He took getting a blow to the head from an apple and turned it into his three laws of mechanics. Most important for my purpose today is the first: an object will stay still or move at a constant speed unless another force changes its direction. So how do you get from being still to being in motion? You need a nudge, something to spur you onto greatness. A call to adventure.

Doing something takes work, and work takes willpower. It is a common problem across humanity that a lot of people do not want to put in any effort and just want the outcome. Many writers these days blame millenials and technology, but those guys are talking-out-their-arse hacks as it’s a repeated pattern throughout history, at least since the printing press made mass media possible. It’s a problem I’ve faced repeatedly. Left to my own devices I tend to atrophy and become a bit too inwardly focused. I always find an excuse not to do something.

As Nietzsche said, a paraphrase here, the greatest lies people tell are lies to themselves. I’d find all kinds of reason not to act and do and get up. I’d blame tiredness from studies or work, or simpy not having enough time, but this is bollocks. You can generally find time unless you are properly maxed out. Even then, it takes an honest appraisal of what’s going on to notice you can make time. Would you be more productive if you didn’t spend so much time on social media/mobile apps/emailing people/or TV? It’s quite possible to cut all these activities down by an hour in total and realise the potential you have for other pursuits.

I have cut several of these activities down heavily and found the time for writing. I think it’s fair to say this has led to some pretty great stuff.

So back to momentum. You gain momentum by starting from a high point, and you get to a high point from a supreme force of will which makes you work in the direction of getting yourself to a high point. In the meantime you have to focus very hard on your goal, while balancing your pursuit out with the need to look after yourself at some level. It’s painful. Here’s my story.

When I left my former job at the wigwams I was exhausted. I’d been putting in 60+ hour weeks as it was The Season, some of the days were especially active. After I left the wigwams, I had the twin shock of a number of friends having left Edinburgh and that rudderless feeling that follows leaving a job with no definite plan. I took a bit of time to myself, did a TEFL program, but then hesitated to find anything next.

Next steps are scary. They involve thrusting yourself into the unknown and seeing what happens. It’s very tempting to take more tentative timid tip toes to your next move. I tried to prepare myself to make a decision, but everything felt pretty pointless. I took a job as a temp waiter, had Winter days without sunlight, and was generally in a pretty bad mood. For me, it all changed by accident. I booked a flight to Prague for too long and it went exceptionally well.

I’ll probably be telling that story forever. It is the albatross around my neck.

It was just the kick up the chutney that I needed to get myself together, finding a job, a flat, and a serious relationship in short order. From this spark came momentum, but I knew this time what needed to happen, and here it is for you.

Keep running.

Don’t let the skateboard that you’ve pushed to the top of the hill go off without you! Ride that bad boy right down the hill and then keep pushing it up the next hill. Chase down the slumps and crest the next summit.

As the good Dr. Seuss said “Unslumping yourself is not easily done”, and sometimes people get caught in a rut they cannot unslump easily. The important thing here is to keep you chin up. Eat some food and remember to breathe. Energy comes from nutrients being broken down and it breaks down more cleanly if you breathe enough.

Building willpower takes effort, as with any skill or muscle, so try smaller tasks until you feel up to the bigger ones. by doing this, you’ll create the will to make the effort, to reach higher and race down the hills, to shoot up the next one.

If you need more tips to self-improvement, I’m hardly exhaustive, you could do no better than this article and “Fuck It” by John C. Parkin.

I will leave you with this. Managing momentum takes effort. It’s hard to build, harder to keep going, and some days you’ll just want to stop. Still, going back to Nietzsche a minute, life is suffering and survival is finding meaning in the suffering. Always love to end it on a happy note.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll;
I am the master of my fate,
I am the captain of my soul.

The writer of this piece writes like he talks and talks like a cunt.

Picking Your Favourites

A teacher’s note today but it has broad applicability for everyone who works with people. Read on, it’s a delight. Picking favourites is like picking your favourite orifices (ass, nose, ears, etc.); it’s frowned upon yet often done.

Pictured: A picking device

For me, I have three general criteria for deciding on which of my students are my favourites. It’s important to note that my favourite students are not always the best at English speaking objectively, but they are all very easy people to work with. Here are their virtues;


In all things, it is important to commit a certain amount. It is unfathomable to me that some people do English lessons without really wanting it, but I suppose everyone has different reasons for learning other languages. Some are there because their job depends on it. Some are there because they want to travel. Some people are genuinely interested in the language and culture.

Any of these people can be motivated or unmotivated. It’s all another mentality. If they are being forced they will often switch off. It can be trying to engage them.

People who are already dialled up and ready to learn are the ones who make the day worth it.


It seems like in many situations, such as in church or in an office environment, talkative people are not looked upon favourably. It makes some kind of sense, if you’re trying to focus on something background noise can be an issue, nobody wants an especially loud bastard right in their ear all day, like a pneumatic drill made of tedium. Then again, in a classroom environment it is very good to have someone with a bit of vitality.

To teach you need a lot of energy. Corporate English teaching tends to involve a lot of travelling between companies and one of the best ways to explain certain concepts is to talk with your hands or your whole body.

Pictured: An adult male teacher explains organic chemistry with his body

Having a student who is both eager to learn and very talkative helps to keep your energy levels higher. It is refreshing to have somebody who is actively involved in making their own language skills improve.

They may make a lot of mistakes while they are throwing out a million words a minute, but correction is the job.


Above all things, a favourite student should be considerate. This is to say that my favourite students are people who actually consider me as a human and not just a resource.

The type of student who notices when you are tired after waking up early and encourages you to go home and sleep rather than wear yourself down. The type of student who hears it’s your birthday and goes to fetch you a cake. The type of student who goes all out to help you in any situation.

Those guys are good. People who actually think about people.

Anything else feels like it’d be repetition at this point so just to recap – the ideal student wants to learn, tries to learn, and respects their teacher as a person.

The writer of this piece enjoys writing things and teaching English. He derives no money from one of these activities.

“Listen: Billy Pilgrim has come unstuck in time”

On Sunday I was in Dresden. It’s a city in Germany which was famously destroyed by allied bombing. It’s a good city to visit. There is a military museum there with a decent sized collection and a lot of interactive ‘discovery chambers’, essentially cabinets with small descriptions of particular items and themes, such as “the smell of war”. A lot of the collection seemed to be older than the World Wars but they did have a whole floor with both of the wars together. It grew exponentially more powerful when we went to the floor about the bombing of Dresden.

Levelling a settlement is already a pretty dickish thing to do. The Nazis did it to Rotterdam in The Netherlands, Potsdam in Poland, Guernica in Spain, Coventry in England, and Lidice in the Czech Republic, amongst others, but nobody’s standard for morality should be doing as the Nazis did but less often. In addition, Germany was already pretty soundly defeated by this point on multiple fronts so it just seems like revenge. An awful act, compounded by the fire storm that developed when the fire bombing got caught by the wind, kicking up a fiery hurricane of destruction. It’s a miracle anything survived.

Despite this awfulness, I found a city that was orderly, pretty and full of happy people, at a festival down by the waterside. Modern Dresden is like any other European city. It has grown past its awful history and really made a success of it. There are echoes of the past from time to time. As you can see in the photograph, the buildings do have what look like seams. It is as if they have been knitted together from the rare older parts that survived the chaos and reconstructed parts which were fitted to the old specifications. As a result of the city being old and new at the same time, there is a distinctly European energy to the town.

To be honest, nice as it was, I couldn’t help but imagine how awful it’d be to get trapped there when it was going on and what the aftermath would have been like. It must have felt like the world was caving in as they saw everything. They had known or cared about engulfed. Children woke up to find their mothers reduced to ash. Mothers woke up to find their children missing. The real human cost of war is utterly appalling. We never should have evolved from monkeys.

Though many people disagree, saying that nature is all good and can do no wrong, in actual fact monkeys have been known to genocide other tribes of monkeys. They can’t do much damage though because they can only arm themselves with rudimentary weaponry like sticks and stones. They do a lot more damage than breaking bones. Knowing that huge swathes of humans can be tricked into supporting such horrific things as indiscriminate bombing terrifies me.

Apologies for being morbid on what was supposed to be a fairly happy update on my travels, but now that it’s written it feels more valuable to keep it. I will dare to behold things as they are. And some things are sad.

All thanks must go to Cat who funded our trip, it may have been one of the most emotionally difficult trips I’ve taken.

I’d like to close with keen final reiteration. Killing Nazis is important, but a strict line of distinction should be made between ideological zealots, brainwashed idiots, and children. I hope in future that humanity does not kill civilians, but if we learn one thing from history it is that there are always new and more efficient ways to make war worse as history goes on. On that bombshell, goodnight.

The writer of this piece is not naturally morbid but is quite strongly affected by the thought of innocents just going about their business then being incinerated. Hopefully not a too radical thought for a broad consensus.