Tuesday, February 20, 2024

Passing Patrons.

It's been almost eight years since I moved back to the UK. And where I live is quite different to where I lived in Australia. It's certainly quieter, slower and more laid back. I love the little village in which I live, and the city is quite beautiful.

People often ask me whether I miss Australia. I have moments, of course, but what I do miss most are my family and friends.

I have plenty of friends in the UK, and people I am friendly with, but I haven't really made any mates. Those who will drop over for a pint, or to watch the footy, or just to hurl abuse and mock you. As you get older, it gets harder to make new close friends.  I think this level of friendship occurs due to shared interests, experiences or through the mutual looking for friends. By my age, most people already have their friendship circle and don't need any more. I suppose it doesn't help that most of my interests seem not to be shared by anyone around me.

On the weekend, I was in another city for a conference. A splendid time was had, and during the dinner break I headed out to find some food. I ended up in a small Indian restaurant, and shared a table with another patron, someone not attending the conference.  I really enjoyed his company, and we seemed to have so much in common. We chatted about music (similar tastes), laughed, and generally had a good time. And then I had to leave.

I said bye, and headed out. A minute or so later, I considered returning to ask if we could connect on social media, but I figured that might be weird. It's unlikely we'd ever get to hang out due to the distance between our cities, and that's what I would have really enjoyed.

Maybe I should have. You never know. We might have ended up hanging out, somehow, somewhere. But if it's meant to happen, it'll happen. So Mark, if you're out there and somehow reading this, get in touch. 

Tuesday, January 30, 2024

Weird, Weird, Weird Year

It's been a weird start to the year. 

I know the past few years have been weird anyway, but I had expected that to have ended by now. On top of that, there have been a few events and circumstances which have created a weird vibe.

I have had a few moments where I have seen through the veil, seen a few things for what they are, and unburdened myself of a few things.  And that has been healthy. I've also taken on a few healthier aspects, made some decisions, and changed directions with some stuff. And don't read too much into any of this. None of this is huge, life-changing stuff, just a few minor things which have eased my mind.

I am awaiting some news, hopefully good news, which I will share when I can. Something which will feel good and validate some work I've done and decisions I've made. And even if the news isn't what I hope, that's fine. Disappointing, but understandable.

Ah yes, a completely cryptic post in which I haven't really said anything. And I know if I read this in a couple of years time, I'll have absolutely no idea about what I am referring to.

Oh dear. At least it will be a mystery to keep me entertained.

Wednesday, January 17, 2024


I've been thinking about reputations recently. People, places, companies - many have reputations for this or that.  For being friendly, funny, charming, authentic, honest. And sometimes they are, but sometimes they're not.

I recently visited a market town which has a reputation for being a place which delights foodies. It also has a reputation, and promotes itself as being charming, old fashioned, and some culture. I was rather surprised to visit and see none of that. It was rather disappointing, particularly as we had driven some distance out of our way to have a look.

Of course I recognise that we all have different perceptions, we all see things in different light. But apart from a small deli and a farmers market on the way out of town, there was no indication that this village had any culinary delights to offer. In fact I really only saw chain bakeries and supermarkets. Perhaps it is a hidden gem, which they only show to special visitors.

Over the years I've been invited to meet people with a reputation. One in particular was described to me (by several people) as being "very creative and imaginative."  We met, we talked, we exchanged ideas.  Their ideas were no more creative than those of the Year 8 students I was teaching at the time.  Looking back, I now recognise that the people who had described them as such were in a world which wasn't particularly creative.  I can say how comparatively, they might have believed this person was. The problem was, I think, that this person wanted to build this reputation, and to use it to get out of doing work.  When the team was doing all the hard work, they wouldn't go, and simply said, "I'm the ideas person."

More recently I was introduced to two people at the same time. The first used a term to describe themselves which is usually only used in newspaper articles, biographies and history books.  No one would ever use it to describe themselves. In the following discussion, they then use a word and said, "But you probably don't know what that means," and then went on to explain it. (I did know, but I didn't have a chance to say so!) Not to be outdone, the second person used another term to describe themself, and then out how clever and intelligent other people thought they were. 

We conversed for around thirty minutes on a subject in which both claimed to be specialists, but neither were particularly insightful, and indeed one was completely wrong on several counts. So much for a reputation created by and for yourself.

Many times I have taught students who had a reputation for being trouble and causing problems. I would always let them know at the start of the year that I didn't care what their reputation was, I would accept them based on how they behaved with me.  I can honestly say that with only a couple of exceptions, these kids were fine with me and caused little trouble.

Reputations are there to be tested. I don't ignore reputations, but I try to not believe them and discern what people are really like.

Sometimes, with a bad reputation, all we really want is to be proven wrong.

Sunday, December 31, 2023

Farewell, 2023.

This is the time of year where we traditionally reflect and review the past twelve months and anticipate and plan for the coming year.

 I'm not going to pretend it's been an easy year. There have been some disappointments, some stressors, some difficulties. I'll be glad to see the end of 2023. But in among all that, there have also been some amazing moments.

My brother and my sister-in-law came to visit from Australia, as did some old friends. It was wonderful to catch up with them. And to hear all the news from my other home.

I've found a new community, and started making new friends there. Unfortunately, due to distances, it's difficult to see them in person. And so it remains mostly online. 

I've heard a new Beatles record, discovered some new authors, read a lot of books. I've also written a lot of words - not fiction, and no one will ever see these, but it has been valuable. And will remain so.

And next year?  My only aim is to make it better than this year.

Happy New Year to you and yours.

Saturday, December 9, 2023

Just Like Old Times.

I did something last week I haven't done for a long time.  I sent a story out into the wilderness.

In the past few years, I haven't done much fiction writing. A number of reasons, including undertaking my Masters online and the whole Covid thing, meant I just didn't have the time. Or the desire. And then once you lose that momentum, it's hard to get back.

But I did a quick polish on a story and sent it off. I was also quite pleased to receive an acknowledgement within a few hours. A lovely one to boot.

I sent out a story about 11 years ago and never received anything at all. I queried a few times, and still nothing. Technically, I suppose it's still with them.  They did have a submission policy which stated I couldn't submit a piece to more than one place at a time, so please don't let them know I've since sold it. They might not be happy with me.

It was great to get another story out, and to have that anticipation.  Will they? Won't they?  You never know. I might even send out another one.

Friday, November 17, 2023

It's Just Like the Sixties to Me.

The Beatles and the Rolling Stones are in the charts. Last time I looked, Now and Then was number one on the singles charts, while Hackney Diamonds topped the album charts. Who would have ever believed that sixty years ago.

I've already written about how much I love the new Beatles single, and now I've had a chance to listen to the Stones. I like it, but I don't love it.

Remember when Voodoo Lounge was released, and everyone said it was the best thing since Some Girls? This is what they're saying here. And when was the last time Voodoo Lounge was mentioned? It's not hard to be "the best since" when everything else has been average.

The songs, for the most part, are fine. It's the album that is very overproduced, a wall of guitars. It's easy to get sucked in by the gospel infused Sweet Sounds of Heaven, but listen to it a couple of times and it's lyrically lightweight.  Their last great album was Some Girls, partly for the great songs, but also because it was just the band.  Space between the instruments, rough edges, and the guitars playng off each other.

I will listen to it from time to time, but I wish they had gone with an older sound. But we all have different tastes, and I know some will love it.


Monday, November 6, 2023

Now and Then.

I was in Liverpool last week for a work-related conference when I heard the new Beatles' song for the first time. I sat in my hotel room with a glass of red wine, and listened to it, as did many other fans around the world. 

And I wept.

I first heard this song more than 20 years ago on a bootleg.  Just John banging away on a piano, singing an unfinished bridge, and the TV on in the background. But hearing it with George's guitar (recorded during the anthology sessions before they abandoned it), and with Paul and Ringo's contribution, hit me emotionally. Likely the last time I would hear a brand new Beatles song.  It's not a masterpiece - it's not Strawberry Fields Forever, but I like it. And I like it a lot.

The next day, I watched the video and fell in love with it too. More tears, seeing the four of them together from different eras. I actually watched it just as it was released, standing outisde a train station, waiting for the minibus to take me to John and Paul's childhood homes for a tour. And so there was double triple meaning there for me.

But that's it. Let it be. Unless they find a reel of unreleased music from the 60s, we don't need anything new. This has been the bookend we needed.

Thanks Paul, Ringo, George and John.