Tuesday, 9 February 2016

The Fight Begins...

For those of you who have followed my blog in the past, you've probably stopped visiting by now - and I don't blame you in the slightest.

The last update was July and that was nearing eight months ago.

When I look back on my writing from when I first started I notice alot of differences between who I was then and who I am now.

When I started out I think "dreamer, writer, musician" was an apt way to describe myself. I loved to dream, brew, plan - pursue interests and see where they took me.

I loved to write about these plans, both the successes and the failures, and I loved  to pick up an instrument and have a go at tapping out a tune.

But I'm not like that anymore. Something changed.

Now at this point, I don't know what that something is, or even when the change occured, I just know that it happened,

And in September of last year I was diagnosed with depression.

It's bizarre, depression.

There's a part of my brain that just wont accept that that is what's happening, that everyone else is the problem. That my moods and irrationality are justified. This part of me, does'nt believe in depression, certainly doesn't believe it is something that I have.

Then there is another part of my brain that knows that is not the case - that everyone else cant possibly be wrong. That I am the common denominator in this complex equation that equals the sum of my life. This part acknowledges that depression is a thing, and that I have been showing symptoms of this very real thing for a long time and accepts that I am depressed.

And these two parts argue with one another on an almost daily basis. But the latter is slowly but surely gaining the upper hand and I find I have to accept the situation that I am in.

It's funny how it hits you. I could accurately be called lazy - but not through choice. Initially it was my interest in things that dissapeared.

Magic cards, music, writing, people. These are all things, like a good golf swing (which is something I definitely do not have, ask any bunker on any gold course and they'll tell you the same.) that have to be worked on to maintain. And I didn't - I had lost all interest in things that I had enjoyed doing for years and years.

So what did I do instead of this stuff? Well nothing is the honest answer. I felt, and still feel tired all of the time. Even now. Having caught some sort of flu/chest infection and been ill since Saturday I have spent all day in bed and even now feel tired, though I know this is impossible, it's what my brain is telling me.

This leads to the third and most difficult part of depression (for me at least) which is the lack of motivation. To go from someone who had such ambition, so much drive to chase down dreams and to try and inspire others to do the same - to someone who now comes in from work and stays prone for the rest of night, wasting away hours on crap television or irrelevant documentaries. Hah, to quote the condition, well it's throughly depressing.

And I can hear what you're thinking! Not all of your thoughts mind, but this as your reading this I'm sure you've already come up with the solution - "Why don't you do something about it?"

Well there in lies the crux of the matter. It's the doing part that poses the challenge. I jus't dont feel motivated to do anything.

Jeez I mean getting out of bed to wash the bedding today felt a mission before I actually started it.

Moving the spare wardrobe from one room to the other was a challenge I couldn't face. 

But you are right, I do have to do something. And I've been told this by everyone I've spoken to about it and can't fault their arguements. My boss, my fiancee, my mother and sisters, all telling me the same thing. It starts with me.

So this is how I've been feeling over the last few months, well in reality the last 6/9 months as it's just gotten progressively worse. I started on tablets in November and they seemed to pick me up for a bit before crashing back down again.

Today, for whatever reason I was in running a bath and really got annoyed with myself. (I seem to have a lot of lightbulb moments in that bathroom)

I mean I'm 29. Not yet hit my prime in life, not yet achieved half of what I told myself I would and I'm wasting away every hour that isn't spent working either lying in bed or sitting on the computer.

What the hell is that all about? I started asking myself "Have I peaked in life? Is this is as good as it gets?" and this annoyed me even more. (If you can envision me pacing quickly around the bathroom sending angry scowls towards the mirror every few minutes your pretty much on point)

Because I know it isn't. I know for a fact that life is this incredbile gift that we are all given to experience.

And that's what it is, a series of experiences that we get to have on this incredible planet we call home. Hell right now, someone somewhere is having the time of their life - there is someone kayaking down river rapids, climbing mount everest, swimming with sharks (willingly) skiing down a mountain, on an aeroplane to start backpacking across Australia. Someone is writing a best-seller, directing a blockbuster, recording a number one album.

Life is happening right now.

And I've always believed that it is what you make of it, not what it makes of you.

But that starts with a choice, a conscious decision to do something other than nothing, otherwise many years from now, when I'm lying on my deathbed looking back on my life, I'll be thinking of about the things I could have done, about the life I could have had rather than the one I did have. And that more than anything else is a situation I am unwilling to accept.

Now I don't have a ten step guide to follow, I refuse to watch the "Three steps to happiness from someone who knows" videos and the likes on youtube, but I am doing this:

I'm acknowledging that I am suffering from depression and have been in a bad place of late.

I'm apologising to the people who I've cut off ties with through no fault of their own.

And I am taking depression outside to go 15 rounds with it.



"I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul..." 

Thursday, 18 June 2015

The Big One

As the title suggests - I can see this blog post being one of my biggest to date, and I'll pre-warn you the subject matter might get a little bit 'heavy'.

And just to punctuate that point - Im going to start with dying. Sort of.

I've been off work since Monday with the same issues with my stomach I had a couple of months ago. Really severe stomach cramps, vomiting, nausea, lethargy. It's been pretty horrible, and my other half will tell you - I am not a good sick person.

When I went to the doctors with the first bout I was told it was diet related and duly started eating more regularly as instructed - however it's obviously flared up again so this time the doctors advised me that they would take some bloods and do some tests etc and I was put on a course of medication to help my stomach in the meantime.

Now I'm not one for being melodramatic and consider myself pretty 'happy go-lucky' with most things and never ever not even once, have I attempted to self diagnosis. However a lot of different scenarios were running through my head as to what could be causing this problem and the big C came up as one of the top hits on that doctor we all visit on occasion by the name of Google.com.

This (I think) is pretty absurd. But it did get me thinking not so much about dying, but instead about living life.

Apparently it takes 12 years to become a master at  anything (something like 10,000 hours).

Look at that number again. 12 Years to become a Master at anything.

At first, that seemed like a big number to me, but in actual fact, if you think about it - in the grand scheme of things it's not that big a number.

I'm 28. If I had seriously applied myself to anything at the age of sixteen then that 12 years would be up already. I mean think about what you could do if you had 12 years worth of time to do something, think of what you could accomplish, or more importantly, think of what you couldn't!

I'm going to put it out there now - I dont think there is anything, anything at ALL, I couldnt do if I had twelve years to do it and the dedication to see it through.

This idea got me thinking some more about life, time and ultimately kicking the bucket. The average life expectancy in the UK (for a guy) is 79.5 years (for women its 82.5, so you get an extra 3 years to become masters at something!). Now that's a hell of a lot longer than the twelve years it takes to become excellent at anything. In that time frame, you can become excellent at alot of things. If we assume you dont start trying to be  excellent until your 16 then there are five lots of 'mastery' to be obtained. Thats a lot of potential for one person.

So why dont we see more masters? I mean with a planet of people burgeoning on 8 billion souls each with an average life expectancy of at least, lets take an average and say 50 years, that's still a lot of dudes that could be becoming masters. But aren't

Michaelangelo was a master artist and sculpture (for the love of god I hope that isn't news to anyone out there) who died in 1564.

That was 451 years ago, in that time frame how many other people have come close  to his level of skill with a brush. Not that many. Yet there are billions of people throughout the world with all this potential time available to them and yet true masters of any craft are few and far between.

Bach was a composer who died in the  late 1700's some two hundred years ago and despite all of the musicians that have graced the planet in the time since his death - how many have reached his level of mastery?

And this isn't limited to musicians and artists, Archimedes the Greek mathematician and physicist died before Christ was born - and the guy, now wait for it...he worked out Pi.

Is it just me that that astounds? With no modern points of reference, or peers of equal calibre to coerce with he worked out that Pi was a constant, irrational number that stood for the ratio of a circles circumference to it's diameter regardless of the circles size - 2200 years ago.

That blows my mind.

But back to masters, and why I think these are fewer and further between in todays modern world.

In a word the answer is: Distraction.

Or possibly Variety would be more apt.

In todays world there are an endless amount of pursuits available to everyone at the touch of a button. If I search for 'hobby's' in google - literally thousands of results will be returned. As a result we often tend to find ourselves pursuing one interest until we become proficient (or give up) and then progress on to another.

Back then this didn't happen. Would Michaelangelo have painted the Sistine Chapel if he had an XBox to play, or a Kindle with half a million novels to read? It wasn't a hobby for these masters of the past that they pursued, it was a way of life.

Now I'm not saying that distraction or variety is a bad thing. I love having so much information and knowledge available to me and I'd like to consider myself as good at a lot of different things, but Im no where near a master in any area.

And to be honest I dont ever intend on being so. But the twelve years of time thing did get me thinking.

There is a lot I want to do with my life - a large part of it, I haven't even thought of yet. But the stuff I do want to do with it is going on a list. Call it a bucket list if you will, I'll refer to it as my 'To Do List'.

And what better time than now to start writing one.

In order to curb the size of this post somewhat I'm going to transfer the list to a tab once I've finished writing it up,

But in the meantime, seriously consider what youre doing in life right now, and ask yourself - what do you want to achieve in the next twelve years.

Because honestly you  can do or become whatever or whoever you want to in that period of time.

Good luck

Dare to Dream

SBP

Monday, 18 May 2015

One of those strange coincidences...

I have no idea what it is, but it always seems to me that whenever I log in to my blog, or find a journal in my bedroom, or pick up a chapter of a forgotten manuscript - that it's been a year (give or take) since I last looked at/worked on or thought about it.

I cant believe when reading through my last post that it was written almost a year ago and once I read it I felt compelled to give an update on how things are going with me.

I am in a love hate relationship with my job. I recall sitting in RDM having organised my tasks for the week and plodding my way through them how monotonous the task at hand was, god forbid I even remember having the audacity to feel bored! That alas is no longer a luxury I have.

The statement 'Not enough hours in the day' could not be more apt than when being used in my current role. Gone are the days of clock watching and packing up at 16.58, all the time silently praying my phone doesn't go in next two minutes and instead I look forward to the peace and serenity that 17.01 brings knowing that I now have some peace and quiet to get on and finish whatever it was I planned on doing at 8am that morning.

OK not entirely accurate most days I finish the thing I started at 8am before 10, but there is always something else to do, and as much as some situations have me wanting to tear my hair out - I find I am thoroughly enjoying my work. It's challenging and rewarding at the same time.

I imagine Clark's to be one of the  few employers who don't hide any aspect of the process from it's staff. If your on the Team  Clark's bus then you are on it from the beginning to the end. From the moment a claim is logged right up until I pass it for invoicing I have a direct impact on it's success, and that in itself is liberating, to be trusted with that responsibility. And as much as I may dread the prospect of what the day ahead holds, I leave most nights feeling that I achieved a great deal and that my actions throughout the day have at least aided some people on their path back to normality...all be it mine will be as mental as yesterday when tomorrow arrives :P. 

(All that being said, when the alarm goes off at 6am I definitely miss my 9am starts!)

So the work stuff aside what has been happening in my life? Well, to be honest I'm not nearly as windswept and interesting as I thought I would be when I imagined where my life would be at this point ten years ago. There are no BAFTA's, no statue's being erected and not a single condo has been purchased in Florida from the proceeds of my novels (though I did get a random payment of 54p from Amazon last month - so thanks to that ONE person who has bought my book this year, you bought me 9/10ths of a Mars Bar - I thoroughly enjoyed it!). I've not even became a millionaire yet!

It's funny (and somewhat cringeworthy) when I look back on where I thought I would be in my late twenties. Life isn't anywhere near as easy as my younger self believed, and a lesson I'm learning now that I wish I had then, is that yes, you do in fact get out of life what you put in to it. Amassing an extraordinary amount of debt at 18 is not a great plan for any aspiring adult and given the amount of time I spend looking at numbers now, I wish I had looked at, and known WTF an APR was, back then. And yet getting myself out of all that debt has taught me a lot about being a grown up, lessons I may not have learnt until much later.

Now although I'm not where my 15 year old self imagined (I've got less hair for a start!) - I am definitely in a good place right now, a great one in fact! As I stated in my last update I got engaged and we've set a date (albeit a couple of years away) in June 2017. When, despite my teenage self never imagining I'd find a girl that could love my geeky nature for more than a month let alone a lifetime, I will in fact be MARRIED!

Toots has just qualified as a nurse and has just netted her first job in an Optomology ward (that's to do with eyes...I know, I thought it was to do with Optom's too.) and we have just put down a deposit on our first flat together.

I'm excited about moving out, I know I've done it a few times before but it's never felt as right as it does now. Sure I know that learning to live full time with someone will take a lot of work, there's the cooking and the cleaning and the bad habits and the bills and the "it's my turn for the remote" conversations - but  Toots will be awesome at all of that.

Never before have I felt so invigorated at the prospect of a trip to Ikea at the weekend (wow, I am really am growing up), walking through the store I actually feel myself starting to get at excited at the prospect of building things! And putting that over there next to that other thing. It's great! Storage space was a concept that I didn't think one could lose hours thinking about and yet alas, I have.

So that is happening and it happens in less than a fortnight. As I write this I realise that I may have been overzealous in my packing having already dismantled my bed meaning it's a mattress on the floor for the next 14 days.

In writing and other news, there is little or nothing to report. I am playing a lot of magic the gathering (trying at least to stick to one of my new years resolutions) and trying to play at competitive level as much as I can.

I have started to write an MTG Planeswalker's Guide to competitive magic and have had permission from several of the big sites to use pictures and content from their sites in the book, but it'll definitely to be a work in progress as I'm still on a learning curve myself.

I've started to take a serious stance on MTG Finance (which for those who don't know what MTG is, it's a bit like the stock market - with trading cards being the stock) and am pleased to say that my collection's value is steadily growing.

Empire, my second novel is undergoing a pretty monumental plot change. I reached a point in the second installation of the series where I had one of those 'OMG that's a great idea moments!' that authors everywhere will have experienced at one point or another. The problem with those moments is that they often need to be set up, subtly, a long time in advance. So book 1 now lays the groundwork for the main plot of book 2, but you don't realise it at the time and then when it gets to book 3 the "Luke, I am your Father!' moment happens and it blows your mind...at least that's the plan.

Books 2 and 3 of the series have had a lot more time spent on the background stories and themes for almost every place, race or person mentioned which often means delving back in to book 1 to give the latter installations substance. It's great fun, but time consuming. Hopefully when they are done, I'll have a finished product I am happy with, regardless of whether or not they ever buy a condo.

Anyways, it's suddenly 00.40 and my alarm clock is ominously predicting a wake up call in 5hrs 20mins - time for me to get some sleep!

Thanks for reading,

Ill update more often (or if not, check back around about this time next year ;))

Dare to Dream,

SBP

Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Moving on and moving up...

How to begin an article or blog always tends to be the hardest part, especially when it's been almost a year since my last update.

It's amazing, now that I look back at the last year and try to summarise the events that have led me to the point I am at now - amazing and a little humbling, to think that so much can change in that period of time.

The biggest notable change is that I am no longer an employee with Resource Data Management.

Moving on and Moving Up...
For those who don't know (or understandably can't be bothered trawling through the numerous posts from last year) it was my intention to go in to medicine this year. I had done all the 'prep' work having went back to high school as a mature student to gain qualifications in Chemistry and Biology (an A and a B I might add :P) and also volunteering for St Andrews. I had even gotten an interview for the Access to Medicine course at Stow which I'm sure had I attended would have secured me a place on the course and placed me on a path to  Medicine.

But in the end it was going to cost too much. Waaaaayyyy too much.

Once again I find that my poor decision making as a teenager has hindered my options. Kids, don't do debt - nor squander your SAAS funding on studying for subjects you'll never use or areas you'll never work in.

So with Medicine no longer viable (until I win the lottery) I had to re-consider my career choices. As much as I would love to say that I am now a published author living the life of luxury from my condo in Florida - it's not the case (although if there are any publishers of Sci-Fi out there who would like to offer me a condo and the life of luxury feel free to drop me an e-mail :P).

I had to look at what I was good at (and this took some searching :S). In the end it was mother dearest who suggested I look in to other areas relating to what I was currently doing.

For some reason....this had never occurred to me. I must have searched the job sites for every other feasible job - except from the line of work I was currently in.

For those who don't know RDM have the maintenance contract for a leading supermarket. Basically if something broke in a store anywhere in the UK then it was my job to find someone to fix it and monitor the progress from start to finish. Specifically I was part of a team responsible for escalating jobs when things didn't go to plan (so you can imagine the lovely conversations I had with irate MD's struggling to juggle their resources to meet our clients demands - yeah, great fun!)

That being said - I did enjoy my job. There's something immensely satisfying about taking control of a situation and making decisions that lead to the resolution of a problem. Yes there were times when I wanted to tear my hair out (and I'm sure it's got a few extra shades of grey in it since i started - no book required). But those were the times when I felt I achieved the most.

Having never worked in reactive maintenance before, everything I know about managing time and resources, procedures and processes, escalations and KPI's. Everything I learned about the different trades and contractors, SLA's and ISO's and PPM's and quoted works. From logging jobs on a help desk to escalating to MD's to helping to run an entire region and participating in conference calls to review everything from problem jobs to contractor performance - RDM gave me the opportunity to experience it all.

In my first interview with my new employer amidst a torrent of difficult questions I was asked "How do you feel about your current employer?" I didn't expect the question and answered before I had time to fully process or think about it - I replied with one word.

Grateful.

Had there been more scope for promotion or the opportunity to progress my knowledge further within RDM I would have undoubtedly have stayed where I was - but alas the opportunities weren't there and so I began looking for something else.

I am pleased to say that I have found something that offers me both the opportunity to learn and the chance of career progression. It's in a similar field but not identical and a week and a half in I am very aware that there will be a steep learning curve if I hope to be on par with my colleagues whose knowledge and understanding as well as there management skills are first class.

In essence the job involves receiving a call or a scope of works (effectively a list of what has to be done to repair a problem). I then have to input this data in to the system, sequence the issues so that they happen in a logical order - eg, don't plaster a wall after you've painted it. Assign the works to multiple disciplines (types of engineer), order parts from multiple suppliers. Liaise between all parties and 'run' the job through to completion, all the time managing costs to maximise our margins (and minimise our losses). Once the job has been signed off I am responsible for the final accounts (billing - getting paid!).

If it was one job from start to finish it would be fine, but it's not. There are scores of these jobs being 'run' in any given week and each presents it's own host of challenges to be overcome. Needless to say at the moment there aren't enough hours in the day!


Writing
This unfortunately is the first bit of writing I have done since September last year. I could come up with excuses, not enough time, no luck with publishers etc etc. The reality is that my passion had faltered for a while. Then I came across the following short story - written by me which gave me tingles when I read it. I really like this piece, and it re-kindled a flame and a desire to write:




The Perception of Appearance
-By Chris Boyle-

“Did you know Santa used to be green?” the television blared in the corner. ”Hard to imagine that round bellied, white bearded, jolly faced man we all know and love in anything other than a cosy red jacket…isn’t it? You can see the kid’s faces now. When they step into the mall and there they are: the reindeer, the elves, and the round, bearded stranger clad in shades of emerald green…the red jacket kind of makes the man…doesn’t it?” The announcer continued as the screen flashed between traditional images of Santa and an unfamiliar figure robed in green.            “With us today is Doctor Handin Reeves, he’s here to talk to us about his new book ‘The Perception of Appearance’ which was released earlier this month and has already shot to the top of the bestseller list” the announcer continued as the scene switched to an older man sat cross-legged on an armchair with an extravagant moustache and eyebrows that curled at the corners.                              
           As a society, I don’t think we can deny that we are visually focused: we see things, and have an opinion.” The doctor began, eyes staring deep into the cameras lens. “That’s why marketing departments spend billions of pounds every year working on their product’s looks. I mean at the end of the day, the look of a product doesn’t change what it actually does.” He fiddled with the buttons on his Ipad and the screen behind him jumped to life
“If Coca-Cola came in a yellow can instead of a red one it would still taste the same. Or if it came in a tub instead of a bottle, it’d still do the same thing, right?” images that would make Coca-Cola’s marketing teams heads spin were scrolling across the screen behind him as he continued to speak. “Yet even though the look doesn’t alter the products abilities in the slightest, it’s the look, which sells the product.” He pressed another button and the screen blacked out.
The same can be said about many of the things we encounter in our day to day lives. Bright colours are used to attract us, to entice us in. They make us feel excited or happy. Sombre colours make us feel sad or lonely.” His hands gestured wildly as if compensating for the lack of visual aids by trying to paint with his fingertips.
“Did you know more attention is paid to a curved sign, than a square one? It’s more aesthetic to the eye, and because of this we pay more attention. But-and this is the big question-are we so attuned to appearance, so cosmically perceptive that when we look at someone we know nothing about, that we’ve never even met, assume we know them?” His hands relaxed as his face turned thoughtful “Do we label people?” Another dramatic pause as the good doctor stared into the camera with his fingers locked in front of his face. “Appearance is more important in today’s society than it has ever been before, whether you are judgemental of others or not…It seems not to matter, for you are constantly being judged...”

The voice droned on in the background as the girl danced through the piles of mismatched clothing littering her once tidy room. Her eyes lit up as she found the brush she needed and with a quick pirouette found herself face to face with her reflection.
“I am a confident, articulate, intelligent, OWW!” the brush caught in her hair as she practised her speech in the mirror for the hundredth time.  With an irritated gasp she threw it to the ground where it landed amidst the assortment of nail varnish and earrings she had put on and taken off, only to try on again a moment later.
She smiled at the absurdity of the situation as she stared at the mess at her feet, after all of the hoops she had jumped through to get to this stage: The early morning electives she’d taken, the late night lectures she had attended, the relentless reading and re-reading of case studies, and the harsh reality that was exam after exam after exam. And after all that, here she was fussing over her hair…her smile faltered as she let out a resigned sigh.
“…intelligent, funny, full of empathy…” She continued as she knelt down to scoop up the brush, careful not to crush the newly bought black pencil skirt she had protected from creases and stray cat hairs for the last week. She had seen it on the mannequin in the store window and new it was perfect; ‘Smart, professional, ready for business!’ It said everything she needed it to. The blouse and shoes were the same, she knew the outfit looked incredible, and for this interview it had to.
In less than an hour she would be standing before the panel of doctors who decided whether she got to pursue her dream of studying medicine, or whether it had been just that, another fleeting dream. Her stomach churned at the thought of rejection, she had worked so hard for this opportunity. She knew she deserved it.
Fixing her eyes on her mirror self she forced the fear of failure aside. She had passed all the exams, finished all the tests and in that outfit she would look great! Well almost great, once she finally got her hair under control.                                                                                              
  For the first time in her life she had fallen upon beauty magazines and YouTube videos with titles like ‘What does your hair say about you?’ and ‘The upside to wearing your hair down!’ She had studied them like she studied for anatomy, meticulous and precise. She had taken notes, bought all the right materials and was now following the instructions to the letter. Finally negotiating her way through the final tug she reached for clasp after clasp, bending the hair backwards upon itself the way the ‘Barbie girl’ prom queens on the videos had done.
Her fingers danced through the maze of hair with surgical precision and with a few more carefully placed clasps she stepped back to admire the end result. It looked incredible, just the way she had imagined it would. She allowed herself a satisfied smile, the same one she did when she knew she had ‘aced’ a paper then the alarm on her mobile brought her back to the present. She was late. Grabbing the outfit she launched herself into the bathroom and prepared herself for the most important day of her life.

 The city streets teemed with life as she walked through the sea of people on their sidewalks. It was only a twenty minute walk from her apartment on the east side to the universities medical centre where she would do her internship.
She passed the Starbuck’s cafĂ© where she had filled out the application form which was packed with ‘misunderstood’ writers sat with their tablet computers and hi-tech notebooks, their fingers dancing across the keyboard, frantically clicking away as they worked on the great American novel.
 Pretentious, arrogant and self obsessed. At least that had been her experience. All she had heard while filling out the form had been one writer’s story to another about how important they were and how big their next idea was going to be. Ego versus ego over a ventĂ© mocha latte. Pathetic.
                A man in a suit bumped into her shoulder knocking her to the ground and passed her by without so much as a second glance, his mobile phone glued to his ear as he disappeared into the crowd. “Wall street moron” she mouthed silently as she picked herself up and dusted down her skirt.
                Pushing Starbuck’s and the man in the suit to the back of her mind she turned onto 47th street and couldn’t help but smile at the scene that met her eyes. Where before the people had worn business suits and clutched black leather satchels they now stood like an artist’s pallet, an assortment of colour amongst the drab city streets.
The ‘Prada Princesses’ steered clear of the skinny-jeaned ‘emo’ punks, only the scowls of disdain each felt for the other spanning the ocean between them. She stuck to the middle, looking out of place amongst the designer shops and the fashion frenzied youths, careful to avoid the assaulting glares from either side. Finally after another quick turn the medical centre came into view, its green neon sign welcoming and friendly. She stood for a moment, flicked her hair, checked her watch and with one final tug at her blouse strode through the automatic doors.

The waiting room was immaculate white with the usual posters and notices pinned neatly to the board on the wall. The receptionist gave her that appraising once over she was all too used to, her eyes lingering a moment on her face before flicking down to the paperwork on her desk, her perfectly manicured nails rat-tat-tat-ing on the desk.                                                                    “Med interview?” she asked in a monotone drone that suggested it was the hundredth time she had asked the question. Without lifting her head or waiting on a reply she nodded in the direction of a free seat.
                Stomach churning she sat and watched as the two other hopefuls before her went in tense and came out terrified. The seconds ticked by as she tried to remember the answers she had prepared.
                I am confident, articulate, intelligent, funny and full of empathy and compa…’ the buzzer on the receptionist’s desk buzzed loudly and she jumped as it rang out through the now empty waiting room.
                “You can go in now…” the receptionist said with the same dry tone. Standing slowly and fighting back a wave of nausea she picked up her purse and composed herself. Finally after a moment’s hesitation she put one foot in front of the other and approached the ominous looking door marked ‘Interviews’.

The interviewers sat there in their pristine business suits meticulously groomed. None of them looked up as she walked awkwardly into the centre of the room; each with their eyes cast down, fervently scribbling notes about the boy who had just left.
                There was only one woman on the panel; she struggled to hold back her look of contempt at the ratio of male to female. Medicine was hard enough already without having to brave the battle of the sexes. One by one they raised their heads, their eyes darting from her chest to her face then back again, the same drawn-out look she had endured her entire life. And in that moment her chance was gone, their minds made up.
                The bulge on her cheek that caused the facial paralysis and the sharp indent on her blouse where her left breast should be were all their eyes could see. The congenital birth condition that had seen her bullied through high school and alienated in the work place, the source of her shyness and cause of low esteem.
“Let me help you sit down…” said the interviewer on the left as he rose and one by one the others lowered their gaze, pencils already scribbling.
I am confident, articulate, intelligent, funny, full of empathy and compassion towards my fellow man…” the words she had planned to say echoed in her mind “but, none of that matters. Because within a heartbeat of meeting me, my identity is lost…stolen away, forever forgotten by their perception of my appearance.”
The illusion of confidence she had created lay shattered around her, like slender splinters of glass from the mirrors she could not bear to face. The words from the television that morning came to the fore of her thoughts as she turned and hurriedly left the office, ignoring the confused look of the interviewer who had risen to help...  

“…Appearance is more important in today’s society than it has ever been before, whether you are judgemental of others or not seems not to matter…for you are constantly being judged...”



What do you think?


Personal life
Things are going well with Toots and I - we'll have been engaged for a year on the 21st of September of this year and that in itself is something I never imagined happening in my life. I never thought I would find someone that I could love more than I love myself (and I love myself ALOT - ask any mirror ;) )

We got back from our first 'real' holiday together in Blackpool (we went to PiperDam in January but it wasn't a holiday, it was a break lol!). We both thoroughly enjoyed it although there is now a horrific picture of myself plummeting 40 feet to the ground with a look of pure terror on my face (who decided to put a camera at the 20ft mark?!?!?!)

More updates to follow - I promise,

Thanks for reading,

Dare to Dream,

SBP

Monday, 23 September 2013

Wise men say...

...only fools rush in. But I, can't help, falling in love, with youuuuuu!

Ahh, whatever happened to UB40?

When it comes down to it, whatever happened to music in general?

Gone are the days when a piece of music was like poetry - Don McLean's - "American Pie", Billy Joel's 'Lullabye', Extreme - "More Than Words".

I mean COME ON! They just dont make tunes like that anymore.

It's something I've been doing a lot of recently is listening to the lyrics in songs. A lot of the time I think we hear them, but we don't really listen to them.

For this blog post (seeing as it's a special one :D) Im going to do something a little bit different. Im going to write a little about my life so far, and im going to start each section with a song title that really sums up how I felt at that moment...


Colin Hay - "Waiting for my real life to begin..."
Reason - Everything was fresh and new - the whole world was in front of me, I was just waiting on my time to come.

Just out of high school and eager to get started with life. I had big dreams. I was going to be a world renowned computer programmer. I'd be responsible for coming up with "the next big thing." It would make me millions and Id spend my days jet setting from country to country living the high life...seventeen I was, and at the time...working in McDs.

Rod Stewart - "Sailing"
Reason -  I was an explorer, adventuring across the ocean. The thrill of adventure saw me eagerly awaiting my first trip to discover wonders unknown.

Software engineering whiffed. It wasn't for me I had decided. Hours upon end spent staring at a computer screen trying to figure out why my sub-routine didn't like my array indexing. Or trying to figure out what the hell a "Protocol 4" error was.

Instead I was going to join the Merchant Navy and become a very windswept and interesting fellow who travelled the world.

And I did this, to a certain extent. I travelled to a lot of fantastic places, but life at sea is...well it's just that. It's life at sea!

I'd spend 5 weeks in the ocean, working 16 hour days and being on call the other 8 and then when we finally got to the port If I was lucky Id get 8 hours ashore before having to be back on board to carry out one watch or another.

David Alexander - "Working Man"
Reason - The reality of working life hit home and I began to realise that to get anywhere in life, you had to work hard.

The last foriegn port I visited was a port called Ponto De Madeira on the north eastern shores of Brazil. The tidal changes here meant that the winches had to be manned at all times. With a crew of 24 men and 13 two man winches we were short crew as it was. One of the cabin boys went ashore and never came back so we were down to 23 and that meant that every man on board was awake and on deck for the entire 64 hour stay in port.

It was really horrible. When people tell me now that they are tired, or when I begin to think it myself I remember how I felt finishing that shift and the fatigue quickly leaves me.

Frankie Miller - "Caledonia"
Reason - I love Scottish music at the best of times. But this song is guaranteed to give me those patriotic tingles that only music can make.

On the return journey to the UK we went through some horrific, and I mean force 9 horrific weather. The engine lost power in the Bay of Biscay and we were pretty much at the mercy of nature as we were battered about by the wind. I dont think Ive ever felt so humble, or helpless in that moment as I did then. I was and am too young to be a sad "lost at sea" story. I had no idea what I was going to do, but I knew when I got home I would not be returning to sea life.


Years passed. If I had to pick five songs to sum up those five years it might look like this:

Queen - "Pressure"
Deacon Blue - "Dignity"
Kenny Rodgers - "Gambler"
Van Morrison - "Just like Greta" (Pure poetry! - but don't listen if you're feeling sad :( )
Miley Cyrus - "The Climb"

although Im sure I could add another fifty and it would still not sum up those years.

Then something totally unexpected happened. And it all happened with a trip to the bathroom....

Idina Menzel - "Defying Gravity"
Reason - This song for me is about taking a chance on something. (It's actually about the wicked witch of the west before she was wicked). When the final bridge kicks in and Idina really opens up It makes me think of free-falling, pure excitement, adrenaline.

It had been a long day at work. One of those day when before it had even hit lunchtime I was looking forward to running a jacuzzi and getting my nose in to a good book for a couple of hours.

I had been working on a writing piece for a friends anthology about birth defects and medical conditions and disabilities in general which effected how other people perceived us. "Excuse me mister!" was the working title.

As soon as I got home I started the tap, put down the seat and started to read through the piece I had written again. But I'd lost interest. I had been reading it and re-reading it for days. I needed something different to look at.

Too lazy to leave the bathroom and go sifting through stacks of books I opened the cupboard and found the usual selection of "Hello" magazines and the likes, and there was also a copy of the local paper from the week before.

Not that I am not a fan of "Hello" (I mean who isn't?) but I picked up the Lennox Herald and flicked through the pages.

About half way through I came across an article about a local girl who had won a regional award and had been nominated for the national finals for being an inspirational person. The article mentioned the condition she had and a little bit about herself.

The girl was beautiful, but there was something else there. She just looked so...courageous.

Jacuzzi's ready.

I put the paper down, hopped in to the tub and chilled for a bit. Having run out of reading material I grabbed my phone and googled "Neurofibromatosis".

I was amazed by what I read. This girl, who was standing there so confident and proud had been through all of this. The penny dropped then. "She would be perfect for this anthology".

I asked about amongst friends and family but despite her being local, no one seemed to know her. Having almost given up on the idea (and I am sincerely glad I didnt give up at this point because it was a close thing) I was on Facebook one night and the thought occured to me that maybe I could search for a person using FB.

I sent her a message that night, it took about 10 weeks for a reply to come back my way, but it was the start of something I never really expected.

Disney - "Something There"
Reason - This song really sums up that kind of 'strange' bit in a friendship where neither person can figure the other person out. Both parties silently wondering if they should be holding hands or not. Or whether a kiss should be replacing a hug. Its about that little bit of doubt that creeps up in your mind, clouding the things that on hindsight, your eyes should have seen clearly.

Just after my birthday in January I knew that she was special. Sure Id had relationships before but I knew that this one was different. With Toots there was never a dull moment, always something interesting to talk about or place to go.

Like turned to love at somepoint over the next couple of months. Yes, you read that right...months!

The dating the romance the dancing, the beat your heart skips whenever your phone gets a text message, It was all amazing. I knew I had never felt like this before.

I cant pin point exactly when the transition happened. I remember a night in my flat and Toots started to feel unwell. Her vision was blurring her hands and arms cramped up, I was really scared. I phoned her dad and went with her and her parents to the hospital.

I sat in the waiting room for hours and then when we finally got to get through to see her I had this overwhelming urge to take her hand and just let her know I was there. Seeing her lying on the bed In that instant I would have done anything to cure NF2 and take whatever pain she was in away and make it my own. I would have swapped places with her in a heart beat.


A similar night when we were staying at the wigwams with a big group of her friends. Toots again started to feel unwell and the same symptons were happening. We were miles away from anywhere. We phoned her parents and for the next hour I just hugged her and kept her warm, doing everything I could to make her comfortable.

When someone you love needs you, you'll do everything you can for them, even if all you can do is be there.

Lonestar - "Amazed"
Westlife - "Flying Without Wings"
Reason - For the lyrics that some up an emotion, and for the countless dances around the living room.

Things with toots just went from strength to strength. Camping trips, DVD nights, nights out, nights in. I loved every minute I spent with her.

I realised at somepoint that my goals when I was younger were all wrong. Its not about the money youve got in the bank or the letters after your name. If you dont have anyone in your life to be in love with then its all just...well a bunch of numbers and letters!

On the 21st of September, the time felt right...

Shania Twain - "From This Moment"
Reason - Every single word is true.

Toots and I have been talking about getting engaged for the last couple of months. I had ordered a ring and it was due to arrive in the next couple of months.

Me being me, I had big plans. I was going to do it in December, an elaborate scavenger hunt that would have her touring places we had been on dates, taking part in challenges against her family and friends to win clues pointing her to the prize - me and a ring :D

Toots knew the ring was due, but not exactly when it was going to be there, and she had no idea about the grand proposal ideas I had in store.

All that went out the window on Saturday morning when the postman knocked the door!

I got out of bed and signed for this small un-assuming package and knew exactly what was inside. I think I stood for about ten minutes staring at the envelope thinking to myself, "What do I do?"

I didnt want to leave it downstairs to let nosy fingers open it or much more likely, the dog tear it apart. So with some quick thinking I covertly wrapped a pair of jeans around the envelope and went back up to bed.

"What was that?" Toots asked as I went in. "Whats with the grin?"

"Nothing" said the worlds worst liar.

"Aye right, what took you so long?"

"I was erm, signing for a card."

A skeptical look met that remark, a look that kind of said "Eh, do I really look that stupid?" without actually saying a word.

"Where is it then?"

"I left it downstairs" As I carefully placed the jeans on the floor and climbed back in to bed.

After another couple of comments about the daft grin I was wearing Toots turned to face the wall.

A good five minutes passed before she turned back around, 

"What are you grinning at?!"

"Nothing"

Then her eyes lit up as it all fell in to place.

"That was it, the ring!"

I dont think my face could have told that lie even if my lips had wanted to.

Toots then spent about twenty minutes coaxing me in to showing her the ring and just proposing there and then. I think she actually got a little frustrated when I said no and once again I found her back turned but this time with a pilllow placed between us on the bed, covering our faces.

UB40 - "(I can't help) Falling in love with you"

A good five minutes passed as I thought aboutt verything. Could I really do it now? What was holding me back? Finally I come up with the answer,

Nothing!

I tapped her shoulder and told her I love her, that the last year had been the best of my life and that I always wanted to be with her.

With fingers trembling I reached for the box the ring was in. Nicole had turned around but the pillow was still between us so we couldnt see each other. I opened the box and held it just behind the pillow out of view.

I tapped her shoulder, she kicked my feet.

I tapped again, this time she got my shin.

One more time, this time she went for gold and got me in the nuts.

The box was open, the only thing in the way was the pillow. I moved it and as I did I asked the question.

"Will you marry me?"

Nicoles face beamed in a way I've never seen. Her eyes literally lit up as she saw the open box and she heard the question.

"Yes!" She said and I know my face must have beamed just as bright.

And just like that, on a random Saturday morning lying in bed, my life changed forever :)

Aerosmith - "Amazing"
Reason - Like the song says "It's Amazing, with the blink of an eye you finally see the light, It's Amazing when the moment arrives that you know you'll be alright..."

It's Amazing!!!


Thanks for reading,
Dare to Dream,
SBP 








Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Where have you been!

Me : "Forgive me blog for I have sinned, It has been 3 months 13 days since my last update...what is the penance for this sin?"

Blog : "A bloody big update!"

The best laid plans 

Isn't it funny how despite our best intentions to do something, or to not do something, it always seems just a little bit harder than we anticipated? For a lot of people this sort of topic springs up around about New Year but in reality we make plans all the time, and I dont know about you guys but as soon as I make a plan the world seems to bend over backwards to make sure it doesnt happen.

...WHAM! Speed bump! And it slows you down or knocks you off course and then you find yourself on this downward spiral and miles and miles away from where you started, or where you thought you'd be.


I originally started this blog as a sort of writing outlet. Somewhere I could set targets and keep tabs on my progress towards certain goals. And at the time, my goals were, in my mind, modest..

Originally I was aiming for 1500 words a week. Remember in school when your English teacher used to say "Write an 800 word essay..." to which the reply was almost always a mass expression of exasperation from the class:

"800 words?! Itll take hours! Doesnt he know Ive got ten other subjects?!"

Well, (to anyone lucky enough to be studying higher English who may be reading) let me tell you, 800 words is easy!!! Hell 1500 words is easy!

The chances are that without much effort this blog post will be in the region of 1500 words and all Im really doing is telling you what has happened recently. It probably wont even take me that long to do, 45 minutes? An hour, tops.

But let me tell you this too. Its bloomin' tough to write 1500 words a week.

The 1500 word target (had I stuck to it) would have seen me sitting at 46500 beautifully crafted, lyrically listed, fandabuloucious words. For those who dont know, that's roughly half a novel.

For whatever reason, I have failed to meet this target, in fact Ive failed to reach 10% of this target.

The plan I had made failed to materialise, it didnt happen.

Am I upset about it?

No.

The reason I've not been writing about things I've been doing, is because I've been too busy doing stuff to write!

What's been happening

So what have I been doing that has taken up so much time? Well, loads!

Way to much to talk about in just one blog update (unless you've got about 6 months of free time to read about it all!)

There have been camping trips and wigwams and nights out and restaurants and cinemas and sailing, yes sailing...in an actual ship with sails! Bowling and mini-golfing, I've done fund-raising and watched some nutters (and I mean that in a nice way, you are nuts Connie ;) ) jump off of cranes with exaggerated elastic bands around their ankles. I finally played laser quest which I always wanted to do as a teenager!

Only this weekend I was on an inflatable gladiator joust getting beat up by my girlfriends dad! (*cough* I let him win. *cough* ;) )

And its funny, because looking back at my blog posts last year they seem so full of energy, so happy! But it's only now that I'm as happy as I am that I realise how much of life I was missing this time last year.

And the change in me is all down to one special person who I discovered so randomly. In the bathroom of all places! She is an exceptional person...

But before I go any further I just remembered a home-made bow and arrow, a flaming marshmallow and a "one in a million" shot resulting in someone being shot in the bum which I just need to have a rant about...

Technology

When did we all get so bloody smart? Eh!

The event in question happened at the WigWams I mentioned above, and dont get me wrong, it was hysterical.

And I knew it would be! In fact I was so confident that I whipped out my shiny new Nokia Lumia all singing all dancing Windows powered phone to record the occasion.

Then I laughed so hard I dropped the phone and the blinkin screen shattered!

Who, in the name of the wee man, decided to make mobile phones so fragile? I mean it spends all day getting knocked about in hand bags or trouser pockets. It's pushed and prodded and flicked and switched and shook and spends most of its day fewer than a few feet away from the rigours that we put ourselves through daily. And yet, the screen is so fragile that an unexpected fart threatens to blow shards of glass asunder!

Why is it that as technology gets smarter, and we rely on it more and more, it becomes so much more fragile?

Eh?

Answer me that Mr Big Wig mobile phone developer!

And its not just me (or the Lumia model). How many Iphones have you seen with a gorgeous big crack right up the middle of the screen, rendering the hand set useless because the new fancy-pants touch screen mode won't respond any more!

It never used to happen! Remember the original mobile phones? They were just a shade bigger than house bricks and weighed about as much as a Ford Ka.

If you dropped them there was no threat to the equipment! God help the paving slab you dropped it on right enough but thats a whole lot cheaper to replace!

And it doesnt just stop there. It may just be me but it seems that technology is getting so smart it's getting stupid.

I work in a business where I am, like most people, totally reliant on access to information. Id have been as well to buy a bloody Dictaphone and record the statement "The system has crashed." the amount of times I've uttered the words!

Honestly, go back twenty years, even ten! When did you ever phone anywhere and have someone tell you that "My filing cabinets have crashed" or "My paper isn't working today."

The worst that could happen would be a pen would run out of ink and at the time that was a disaster. Now we have corporate companies, banks, ISP's and even the MoD totally reliant on computer systems that in my experience seem determined to crash! One day humanity will evolve and we'll re-discover pen and paper.

Cheap, reliable, easily accessible and doesnt break when you hit it with a hammer.

And who the hell keeps moving page "HTTP Error 404 - Page not found"? Could you please put it back after using it because I am getting sick of having to change browsers just for the pleasure of reviewing it's contents!!!!!


......and.....breathe....

I feel better now. So back to it,

Toots

I always considered myself an independent person. I never really opened up to anyone, I certainly didnt rely on anyone and I never really imagined that meeting one person would be able to change my life in a particularly drastic manor.

Well boy let me tell you was I wrong.

For the first time ever I find myself not just thinking about my plans. But about our plans. Things we want to do and how things will effect us in the future.

I am happier now than I have ever been in my life because Toots is in it and even though my plan of 1500 words a week has not been met. My plans for life are so much bigger now and everyday spent with her they get a little bit closer!

The future is looking bright!


Thats all for this update,

I have recently started to write again so will be posting on the blog with a little more regularity!

Make plans, but don't be afraid to see them change,

Love life, be happy!

Hug a stranger!

Dare to Dream

SBP

Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Back to business!

Howdy all, It's been a while!

I know you were probably all wondering what had happened to me (it's been so long since I updated my blog) so to put your mind at rest I decided to give you a wee update.

First off, as those immortal words so clearly state on the front of 'The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy' : DON'T PANIC!

I have not been involved in any near death incidents, I've not been battling with a rare genetic disease that has prevented me from writing. I've not even been suffering from the common cold...

I HAVE however been very busy falling head over heels for someone very special.

Love is a pretty funny thing when it comes down to it. I mean as a writer, I can quite effectively describe every other emotion under the sun. From joy to hate, happiness to sadness...I can paint a picture of a character battling with ambivalence so readers of all ages can comprehend their conumdrum...but love is one of those things that I can't quite define. Lets just say that for years, and years, and YEARS - I only thought that I was happy.

Now that I've found this person I actually am happy, and can't quite fathom how I managed before I met her. She is fab! If you don't believe me, you can read about her here.

But, back to business. You'll all be wanting a little bit about what I've been doing over the last few months so here goes!

Medically
On this front there is not much to report other than the gold weight operation (the one where they put a little bit of *bling* in to my left eye lid) did not go well. In fact it went so far south the gold weight ended up coming out. It had started to pierce the eyelid (such was it's desire to be free of it's captivity) and I had to go in for a minor op to have it removed (the weight not the eye).

I have a couple of follow on appointments to get my right pec (boob) sorted but due to the surgically intensive year I had last year that wont happen until 2014 at the earliest.

Musically
I have been some what lazy on this front if I'm being honest. I have set my sights on "Just Give Me a Reason" by Pink and Nate Reuss - hopefully get it nailed on the piano over the next couple of weeks.

Writing
Now this is the biggie - yet there is absolutely nothing to report!

This - yes, THIS! Is the first creative writing I have done since the end of January. It's as if motivation just totally dissapeared.

I think this is pretty normal for writers. Not so much 'Writer's block' more 'Writer's cannae really be arsed at the moment' and I've been suffering from it for what seems like forever! Just the sight of one of my many notebooks which are bulging with that nine lettered swear word known as 'POTENTIAL' was enough to make me bawk. And then something fabulous happened.

I got rejected.

Aaaaaah! I can see the confusion on your face now. "Rejected? How can rejection possibly be 'fabulous'?!"

Well it is, and I'll tell you why. To writers there are two types of rejections:

REJECTIONS - Do not pass go, do not collect $200 and DEFINITELY do not think of submitting here again.

And then there are the other type:

Rejections - Good, possibly GREAT. We really liked it. But it's just not right for us at the moment. Do you have anything else? Please do consider us in the future as we would love to read some more of your writing.

See the difference?

Well the latter ended up on my doorstep a few weeks ago and It felt like someone had delivered a winning lottery ticket. I sent a total of 7 submission packages, 4 were promptly rejected and 3 asked for the full manuscript. After not hearing anything back last year I had all but given up on getting a response of any kind.

But with that letter it just made me feel like jumping about the living room shouting "qaaaaaaaaaah! So close!"

And all of a sudden the motivation was back!

So what to do now though? There in lies the question!

After talking to a literary friend whose opinion I value more than anyone elses. I have decided to give 'legitimate' publishing another shot. I feel as if the manuscript is sooooooo close to getting there that this time I will find a suitable agent/publisher.

I am going to focus on this for the next six months. Tightening the material so it is squeaky clean and as finely tuned as possible. And if at the end, I am no further forward than I am now. Then at least I can say "I took a shot" - "I gave it my all"..."Oh well, I'll just self publish and become an e-millionaire ;) "

In other news...
In non writery non musicky news. I am getting my chest waxed to raise money for BANA - my other halfs charity. They have supported her through an awful lot and every day help people suffering with acoustic neuroma's so I am going to take the plunge and get the carpet on my chest trimmed!

Now I'm not asking you for £10, or £5 (though if you want to donate that then it is much appreciated!)

I am asking you for ANYTHING!

Your spare change (yup, YOU, the person reading right now!) can have a serious impact on the quality of life and support that someone receives. It really, REALLY can make a difference!

That pound that's lying in the car, or the fifty pence that has been rattling about your coat pocket for weeks, or even the handful of coppers that have been multiplying in the kitchen drawer...please, donate them here.

And that is it folks!

Consider yourself up to date :D !

Until next time, dare to dream!

SBP