This Time is Different

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This time it will be different.

We hear the cries of people saying
Hope is dead. The End is nigh.
But we won’t listen to them.

For once, the path is clearing up
As old certainties drift apart.
The new way forward breaks the debris
From the countless insurrections, we have seen
The only alternative is right.
All the clever types are telling us.

A movement of hope against a project fear
There can be no question who will win between
Such choices. My mind is made already,
It is simple: cut or work out how to make

Life work. The way ahead is easy.
It has been the culmination of a group’s
Progress against the backdrop of a crash.
Thoughts like theirs caused the mess, we bring
Better ideas. Let us convince you

This time it will be different.

Here Comes the

 

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Recently I finished a read through of the great work of Alasdair Gray, Lanark, an astounding book that everyone should read at least once, and cannot help feeling like the titular character in one important area. The first and last thing he does in the book is look towards the sky.

First post of a new year and already it is turning into a shitshow of piss scandals, possible Russian interference in elections and collusion by the incoming POTUS, Theresa May leaning towards a Hard Brexit which may precipitate a second Scottish Independence Referendum, big things in Northern Ireland as a corruption scandal threatens the peace process, and other newsworthy events of colossal importance, but let me take a brief minute to instead talk to you about the sun. That big hot thing.

Several of my most important decisions are based on it. I remember when I first arrived in this city. Nothing to do but figure out how to get in touch with my friend, find my hostel, and map out the region in my mind. My first steps were all guided by where the light was. A choice between a sunny street and a gloomy one.

It’s easy to forget that it’s up there illuminating and radiating, but it fills me with hope that for at least a few hours a day we get some natural light. It’s especially comforting on cold days. While it’s often not great in the morning, either burning the day into existence or shrouded by dark clouds behind an impenetrable horizon, today it felt like some consolation that in my home town it would not rise for another half hour.

The sun is a great seasonal worker. It puts in 8 hours in Winter and 16 at its height. Inconsistent, sure, but it gets the job done. Unfortunately, our world is not set to maximise this time.

I remember the darkest days of Winter in Scotland. For some reason, I always ended up in especially dark places for work. On the shortest day of 2014 I think I maybe saw it for 15 minutes. 2015 found me in some huge warehouse style building for much of the day, maybe half an hour of natural light. Last year, by this standard, was a huge success. I must’ve seen the sun for an hour or more.

So, I hear you getting bored back there, what is the point of this all then? It’s a pretty valid question and I wish I could tell you but since I can’t, here instead is a take away offering: Find something important but mundane. Focusing on that will make you far happier than decrying all the bad shit going on. Bad shit will go on for bad shit seems to always go on. If you look at your mundane but important thing though you can at least sometimes acknowledge that not everything is terrible.

Love as you want; Grieve as you need

A Place to Get Lost

We can’t wait for this year to end.

It’s not your imagination. In the first three months of this year, we saw a huge increase in celebrities (“Notable people” as the BBC puts it) passing away (Source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-38329740). Admittedly the number has actually dropped back to normal levels, but the damage is still done.

And we feel sadness. For some, it’s serious – people have died who really affected us growing up, even if we didn’t realise. And their mortality hits us like a block of ice to the stomach. To others, it’s become a joke or a parody. “2016, when will you be satisfied??” But the joke has gone beyond satire, and suddenly everything is starting to seem a bit strange.

And between that all, you get people who can’t be bothered with it at all. “You didn’t know these people”, they say. “How can you be sad…

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Festive Seasons

Winter is a very popular time for celebrations, but I have a particular date of note in December – this one. On the 16th of December, 2004, I did not die.

To a lot of people, that’s no big news. Indeed, everyone over 12 has the accomplishment of not dying on that day 12 years ago. But not all of them were involved in, and I quote from my personal statement for entry to the University of Edinburgh: “an altercation with a van, which necessitated a 3-month stay in hospital”.

So, the story. 12-year old boy, fresh, new at high school, clever but a bit reckless, crosses the street behind a school bus. Standard practice, really. He and every other school goer went behind the bus at round about the same time. That day, he didn’t look quite hard enough, was standing too far to the left, and was struck by a white Ford Transit van.

That 12-year old was me. Got quite broken up over that. My left leg has the gnarliest scar you are ever likely to see in person. My right hand was somehow ripped in two – straight through the life line as a palmist would tell you, probably a bad omen but let’s shelve that for now. Add to that a stable fracture to the hip and an unspecified amount of brain damage – which hasn’t affected my ability to learn, process new information, or otherwise succeed in the slightest – yet I am totally fine.

it so funny how life takes turns like these. The true victims were my family, who had to sit around in anxiety hoping for some positive change in my condition. I do not envy them those 13 days of coma plus the months, even years, of worry about the rest of my condition. They are amazing people. This goes to my brother, who hardly let me lift a finger to get myself a glass of water in the first few months when I came home. It goes to my dad, who visited every night to bring me Frazzles bacon crisps and play chess with me. It goes to my mum, who was at my bedside every single day I was in hospital.

To finish, just a couple quick reminders. First, always cross the road safely as not everybody is as lucky to make such a perfect recovery a day I did. Second, make sure you let those you care about know you love them, a day you can never know when it’s too late. The worst that can come of telling people you love them is that the world will be a slightly better place for having more love in it.

Here’s to Vanniversary 12! Now over half a life away…

 

 

Brexit Poem

The consequence clear, I’ve called and I’ve checked it,

The people have gone out their way and they’ve wrecked it!

And no one is quite sure just how far to test it –

The English went out and the voted for Brexit.

Now Sterling has fallen, straight down to the floor,

It may yet fall further, it hasn’t yet landed;

It fell, and it dropped, and it’s falling some more.

It’s unprecedented, no one understands it.

In a final retread

Some have tried to fix it

But they’ve shit the bed!

They’ve gone and they’ve bricked it.

So, the old all went out, and they voted for Brexit.

Now Scotland wants free – a sexy ass Sexit.

Is Czexit or even Hungrexit to follow?

Drink up, for now there will be no tomorrow!


The Most Perfect Response to Perfect Responses

We have seen the most defining moments upon defining moments that anygwneration had seen since Adolf Hitler took power, but this is something else entirely!

in a bizarre flood of everyone speaking truthfully and correctly – with appropriate wit, humour, and charm –  the syntax Perfect, the medium and message in beautiful alignment… The most perfect responses ever given to anything!

Watch This Five-Year Old Destroy Racism!

Watch This World Leader’s Spark a Revolution!

Watch This Guy’s Perfect Response to Perfect Responses!

It’s all such bollocks.

Five-year olds may say some very clever things, beyond their experience, and towards some deeper truth. This, I own, is incredible and worth our universal commendation. But to see a five-year old destroy an entrenched system of privilege, which for years plagued academia, science, culture, day-to-day conversation, comedy, and art? Give me a break.

A five-year old said something you agree with, no need to get on some very high horse about how children are somehow omniscient creatures now. Are they omniscient when they say that the moon is made of cheese and it’s only rainy in the puddles?

Or if a world leader says something you think is laudable. They stand for something and they make their case. In driving. Pounding hard. Strongly worded. Deep seated. No-hold’s-barring. High-flying. Speeches?

Oh, so just like they have been trying to do for years but in this one instance they have managed to strike a chord you can agree sound a like a happy G-major! Well done. Have you considered their actions? Those actions, which are often anathema to your core beliefs about the Right and Wrong of this world. These politicians who will talk shit about something only so far as I think is not politically relevant to their particular sphere but then come back hypocritically begging the second it is of any use to them.

Behind closed doors, the strings they’ve got to manipulate. You better not pull that thread. They are dangerous people.

See, the internet has somehow made us all immune to actually reading stuff and thinking about what it may actually mean. Sometimes we take things too greatly at face value and sometimes we just discount it because it doesn’t fit with our feelings for it to be false. You know what? I’m kind of tired of clickbait titled articles and misnomer headlines leading us down rabbit holes which drive up our hopes and further degrade our expectations of anything reliable coming from anyone.

Authenticity is a crapshoot that won’t get us nearly enough likes of shares to make it worth our while so we are all left screaming into some obsolescent void which it turns out is already filled.

And you know what it is filled with? Hundreds of articles and videos which are titled with people saying their view is right and justified by something, but who must deep down know they are peddling nonsense for Ad hungry clicks. So, if you see something peddling perfection, look to see who is taking your wallet. What’s the source and has it been reliable to you before.

My always solution to every societal problem I’ve ever come across is simple. It goes thus: people need to be better.

Stop clicking around and do it!

+1 for Humanity

The numbers on the left hand side of his vision ticked up, repeatedly. Each number was a sign of some Good Deed – from smaller things like a door being held on a subway to the greater like saving a life with a transplant or by somebody putting themselves in danger to save another. On the right hand side was another number, ticking up slower but more grimly – the Dick Moves. These troubled Stanley, but it was an unavoidable curse to know bad things were happening. Some kind of sense was made by the system, where it balanced the knowledge of good things with the knowledge of the bad. It was heartening to see that on most days the good won, but he had no part in the numbers.

It was a day in October when he realised the affliction. It started with some eye trouble, a blurriness in his peripheral vision. Some black flakes glanced before his eyes. He chased them from left to right and he started to notice a pattern. He noticed the flakes would multiply and become like tally marks, before they faded and were replaced by traffic lights. Green on the left, red on the right, flickers of amber in the centre. Claire, his optician, informed him there was nothing wrong on the surface with his eyes. There was also no fault in his optic nerve, and nothing could be detected by retinal photography. His eyesight was no worse than ever. Stanley could not believe this. The evidence was before his eyes, why was it not within them? Claire recommended a psychologist but Stanley had no interest in knowing what was wrong with his mind. Some things are best kept private.

His eyes cleared after a week. He figured it was just a spell from his job as an office drone. Screen blindness. Old screens. Flickering halogen lights. But then he saw them, he heard them, the ticks and crosses of human endeavour. The numbers.

It was on the 24th of October. He had just gotten off a metro and saw a couple run down the escalators. They were too far to make it. It was a foregone conclusion. Poor suckers. But somebody held the door open for a second and they made it in.

+1 for humanity blazed across his vision.

This new understanding brought a change in outlook – life became about maximising good. Stanley opened every vein, he donated money to every charity he could, he reduced his own expenses to subsistence level to keep it up. He cut his own office hours to offer his time as a fundraiser for a children’s hospital, he had to bake a lot of cakes for their events. At every available opportunity he donated his own precious O+ blood that he may help somebody, anybody, who needed it. But he saw no benefit from his actions.

He felt appreciation in handshakes or in slaps to the back, he heard it in the kind words in his ear, but it made no impact to the scores. Nothing in the left hand or right hand column attested to his efforts. All he got were pins from the different organisations, and letters putatively written by orphans which he doubted as they all told the same story in the same language. These awards would have been sufficient if it hadn’t been for the fact that he could see the numbers, numbers which said he was adding nothing. They did not relate to his activities.

Stan was divorced from humanity.

Something had unstuck him from the general human experience. His actions were worthless in the overall picture. They were null, and so he became despondent. He maintained his course in the hope that something would change, maybe the numbers measure intention and because his intentions were to see them go up they stayed the same to spite him for dogooding as a kind of game. If he powered through, though, he knew the numbers may reflect his impact. How could he stop what he’d started when, regardless of the numbers, he knew he was doing something that must be a help?

Oh well, he thought as he woke every morning in the year since his awakening, back to the coal face of sympathy. Doing the right thing was not an easy job. It left him bereft of energy. He was low in money and in the physical things through which people judge their own progress. He had learned to live more simply and to find pleasure somewhere other than the acquisition of stuff. The people he worked with to try and do some good were a constant source of happiness. They all had their reasons for wanting to help, some had children who had recovered due to medical treatment and some had lost loved ones.

As he was putting away a cake stand at an event was approached by an elderly woman named Lynne, who was one of the organisers. They had not talked often as she was often busy with preparations but Stanley did not mind. The story he had heard was too awful. She had lost a child in very painful circumstances from an early onset degenerative condition.

“Hey Stanley.”
“Hi there Lynne, anything I can help you with?”

The question was not as helpful as it sounded in his head and he noticed it the second after it escaped his mouth.

“That’s alright, I just want to thank you for all you’ve done here. Your cakes are a real treat for the kids and have been a great funding boost.” She was becoming more sorrowful as she talked, “I’m glad we’ve still got young lads like you coming in to make a change.”
“Well,” Stanley paused, “It does feel good to do it. I wonder if I’m helping for the wrong reason.”
“And what are the right reasons?” Asked Lynne, “Do you think I just do this because I’m good? It’s a kind of therapy.”

Lynne began to tear up, “My poor girl, falling to pieces like that. This works helps me do something right, sure, it also takes me away from it for a minute.”

Lynne sobbed. Despite hardly knowing her, Stanley wrapped his arms around her.

“There, there.”

It was the best he could do in the situation. Somehow it was enough.

+1 for humanity.

 


So I mean the to do NaNoWriMo this year as I always forget, but I forgot to get started yesterday so I’m playing catchup already. This may have been a neater concept in my head and had a funnier ending, but perhaps I’all save that for another day. Watch this space!

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Almost Autumn

Ever been walking on a staircase in the dark and misjudge the number of stairs, your foot flailing in empty space? Such bumps are a necessary step in the revolution of the world.

I have nearly witnessed all 4 seasons of Prague. Having arrived in February, I grabbed Winter by the tail and saw the roofs lined with snow which fell in great clumps onto the street. Spring popped up quickly and was gone in an instant, replaced by Summer’s fires. Autumn feels a second Spring, cutting with a new found rain and colder air. At least the clothes I arrived with are now suitable attire.

The foliage is still green, but the leaves are turning. By next month it may be something to really write about and by the month after that they will all be dead. Funny how seasons still surprise me in my advanced age.

The city’s energy has become somewhat lethargic after the heat of August, but it has woken with a new calmer vibration. This marrow deep resonance reaffirms the wisdom of former choices and suggests delights are to follow.

Besides the chill and the damp, Autumn also brings my old frenemy – darkness.

And darkness beings with it richer scenes to study the interplay of architecture and society. Buildings that would be abhorrent in other circumstances take on a new life here, mingled as they are with past structures.

The ticking of the traffic lights beckoning one to wait continues, but it is no longer a stupid tune of my own devising. It is a harsh logic.

All in all, the adventure of life continues. Make sure to make the most of it, and stop once in a while to take it all in.


Nest month I intend to write and publish one short story a day, make sure to stay up to date as it happens!

Change and Chaos

This post contains 3 parts. If any part does not interest you, feel free to jog along and catch the others instead. The first is a poem, the second is about the current political state, and the third is a financial opportunity that may be worth some attention. There is something of a link.
Section I

The world is fucked, but so am I.
It spins, some win, some lose, and why
Commingling guilt and pleasure, high
Expectations make us comply
With regulation, then we die
Again. We persevere and try
To respect the truth and lies
In equal measure – man, alive! –
Because we see the ends to tie
It all together. Brains are fried
When all is done and conquered by
Irritating, annoying guys
On Glory’s path who go awry.
The world is fucked, but so am I.
Section II

Thank the heavens politics has become honest. Only some joke intended.

On the UStateside of the Atlantic, they are deciding between an actual villain and a politician for the highest office of the land. Oddly enough, some are keen to say they are both politicians and some are keen to say they are both villains. Hard to agree with the latter category as one of them is supported by racists and the alt-right, some of whom literally call themselves fascists. The mind boggles at how close they became in the polls at one point, though now they are diverging and the politician is on the up. Hopefully it continues and there can be one piece of good news for the world this year, even if that good news is just that the objectively worse person lost. American Revolution 2 would not go amiss, however, if that’s the best they can do. We all like sequels and reboots these days, so I think it has some chance.

Meanwhile, on the Old World side of the Atlantic, the Great British public, or at least the 52% known as Brexiters, are doing their best to send the nation along a very murky path. The most recent conference has Theresa May, the second female Prime minister, and substantially colder than the first one, claiming human rights lawyers are the enemy, and that the UK is being bossed around by elites. She’s damn right about the latter part. She’s in charge of a cadre of the richest, corruptest, powerfulest, scumbaggiest, self-servingiest, people in the U.K. Got to love a bit of honesty. She even went out and targeted human rights lawyers, a clear indication that she’s the villain of this particular piece. Every moral person on the planet should hold the maintenance of human rights as the highest aim of any one of us who call this place home. So glad she has identified herself as some sort of reptilian.

I hope there can be some unity among the non-horrible people to bring the elites of the Tory Party down. It’s bad enough that the PM is targeting humans rights lawyers, but then we have the Home Secretary borrowing some very questionable rhetoric and demanding lists of foreigners. Name me one good person who keeps list of people, I dare you.

And the Great British Public are somewhat more supportive of this than they are opposed. It’s all just the worst.

In other news, the currency continues on he way down, a nice kick in the teeth for the Morons who were talking a fortnight ago about a post-Brexit bounce as a possibility. If it is a possibility, it’s not coming anytime soon. In fact, the pound is set to fall to parity with the Euro and herein lies opportunity.
Section III

Ask any investment manager and they will say it’s a great thing to have a diverse portfolio – you don’t want to keep all your money in one place or one material or a sudden shock there and you fall. If you want examples of non-diverse collapse, consider the fall of the Russian rouble in 2014. Sanctions and a falling price of oil lead to a huge drop in it’s value against other world currencies. They had to resort to liquidating a huge proportion of their foreign currency reserves to stay afloat. It’s a very bad idea to be tied to one thing, as they were tied to oil. Similarly, it’s an awful idea to have all your money in GBP.

If you want evidence of the difficulty in maintaining your savings in pounds, examine the difference in the value of your savings now and at the rate four years ago. It is a very good idea to keep your money diverse, even if it’s something like just buying a stack of foreign notes every now and then as reserve.

So my suggestion today is a mid-term money-making scheme, but this advice will hopefully bear you more fruit later. I am going to detail what is happening with the Czech Koruna (CZK), and how you can profit from it.

The Czech Koruna has been pegged to the Euro, 27 crowns to 1 Euro, since 2013. Since then, the Czech national bank has had to repeatedly intervene to stop it from becoming too strong. The thing is, the economy is more buoyant in the Czech Republic than in other parts of Europe. The crown keeps trying to rise in value, but the central bank is keeping it down. I’ve seen it written that it will likely be forced to abandon the peg mid-2017.

Which coincides with triggering Article 50.

So, word to the wise, buy a bunch of Czech crowns and store them somewhere safe. When the drop happens, it’s bound to be substantial.

The Czech crown was at it’s most valuable in 2008, where it was about 23 to the Euro, 15 to the dollar, and 25 to the pound. If it rises while the pound plummets, which I strongly suspect with the noises from several European officials, then it could be worth substantially more.

Thanks for reading, safe travels.

Brown paper packages, tied up with string

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Happy World Smile Day

Today is one of those days that went right. Excellent classes, where I know the students learned something, wonderful conversations with my colleagues, and an incipient evening of Irish stew.

Additionally, I got a call from DHL to tell me they were delivering something at that moment and did not know which flat. I was confused by a Czech text message I had received the day before and thought I needed to pick something up, not that I was being forewarned of a delivery. Luckily, my flat mate was in and signed for the package. My love, who had turned up on the street during the call, meanwhile seemed in similarly high spirits. The world was good and I would handle the packages later.

Did I say packages? I meant packages:

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My favourite things

Both my condoms that actually fit AND my passport arrived on the same day from the same courier. A big hand for Her Majesty’s Passport Office. It took less than a month for an application made overseas. In addition, said application involved having the photographs countersigned, no easy task from abroad.

I’m full of praise today, and thought I might give some advice to the bepenised people who practice, or at least want to practice, safe sex. A miraculous invention, so simple it shocks the mind that it took as long to happen as it did, condoms that actually fit are available from several different places. You can purchase them at sex shops, probably best use a measuring tape first to get your size right, or online. The particular company I used, theyfit.co.uk, even has a handy penis measuring print out. If you don’t have a printer, they also have a “feel” quiz where you describe the sensation of regular condoms and they suggest an appropriate measure.

These things are particularly handy, geddit, and increase your pleasure manifold. Invest today!

Your brain is correct. This has been a Public Service Announcement lauding both Her Majesty’s Passport Office and TheyFit condoms.

Now, to quote my good friend Teddy’s favourite and most important question, what’s made you smile today?