Saturday, 1 September 2018

The Bad Place...

This is not going to be a nice update – if you are looking for my normal sarcastic or jovial self deprecating life updates, then go further back or sit on your laurels – because this is not one of them and they may be vacant for some time.

This is going to be the most honest I’ve been, probably with myself as well as anyone else in a long time. 

And as it’s going to be honest, I’m going to start by saying that I am an incredibly accomplished and proficient liar. In fact if there was a degree in emotional espionage I would have a masters degree, in fact, I’d probably be involved in writing the course material by this stage.

When I say lying, I mean in an emotional sense, my name really is Chris, I am a 31 year old writer/dreamer/card player and musician. I am quite funny, relatively handsome and can solve a rubix cube in under two minutes. 

So what do I mean I’m an emotional liar? Well let me explain...

Firstly I’ve been lying to myself since the start of the year that I am no longer suffering from depression – that, was and is a total fallacy. I am in fact currently at the lowest point I have ever been in my life.

Several weeks ago I hit absolute rock bottom one day in work and just couldn’t cope anymore, I couldn’t keep up the facade. 

See because I’ve not only been lying to myself, I’ve lying to everyone that I am happy, that I’m good, that I care. I am fantastic at feigning empathy – it’s like I’ve been wearing this ‘mask’ of the person that everyone thinks I ‘am’ – and that mask is made up of the person ‘I’ think I should be – but it’s not who I am. 

Wearing the mask I’ve learned the expected response to situations and I give these responses without much conscious thought.  The problem with this is that often, these responses are at my own detriment, and are not actually how I feel. Think about it yourself, how often on a daily basis does someone say “Hi, how are you?” with a smile as they pass and you respond saying something like “Good!” or “Fine yeah, you?”

Are you really fine? Are things really good at that very moment? Sure sometimes they will be, a lot of the time though the honest answer is “Well to be honest they’re not fucking great. I had an argument with the Mrs last night, got next to no sleep, the dog shit in my slippers, I poured orange juice in my cornflakes, the toaster blew up, the car wouldn’t start, the trains were cancelled, I got stuck in the lift, my system won’t load and I’ve got an absolute nutter of a client that I need to speak to that I’ve been putting off...oh, and I’ve got this weird rash appearing on the inside of my leg – how is your day going?”

And while we’re talking about this, do you actually give a fuck how the other persons day is going, like really? Or is it just another one of those people that you've got on facebook because they added you after a 3 sentence exchange at an office party six years ago? Do me a favour then, see if you don’t care, change your greeting. It’s one of the most hollow statements in the English language, right up there with the McDonalds staff saying “Have a nice day” in the same dulcet tones to customers one after the other minute after minute for their entirety of their shift not evening bothering to muster the energy to pretend they give a fuck whether you have a nice day or a crap one - just pay and piss off.

Why have we as a society developed this habit of fallacy, why do we need to hide how we really feel and plaster this fake “perfect life” all over social media? And why is everything in life geared towards telling me I have to improve or should be aiming for some perceived pedestal of perfection? Why can’t I just be me? What’s the problem with that? I do not need to be bombarded with adverts that show drop dead gorgeous woman falling over themselves to get close to the guy who's got the Lynx effect - even on a subliminal level, that's not how it works so why are you pretending it does? What's wrong with the tag line - "Lynx - it smells better than B.O" - my brain understands that! That makes sense to me!

I do not need to be shown image after image of food that will make me healthier or regulate my bowel movements while there is a woman who in the prime of her life, tip top shape,  smiling and jumping around being happy in the sunshine. What does she have to do with that advert? Seriously? Ok ladies, when was you last time you ate something that was sooooo good, that you just had to go outside in the garden, through your hands in the air and dance around with a stupid grin plastering your face? It's never happened? Oh right ok then. What a bowel movement, ever make you feel that happy? No? Then why the hell are these adverts done like this? Like there is some sort of tangible bridge from the product the advert is pimping to the person and people that are in it.

Nor do I not need to see the perfectly physiqued male, driving his ferrari, next to his super model wife up the driveway of their suburban mansion - then be shown a link to like that is what will turn me in to that guy. I don't want to be that guy. He works too hard for his body, the running costs on a ferrari are unreal, his house is excessive for two people (and there is a gated community charge that they never tell you about) and with a body like that his wife has no doubt had more one ups than Mario - why is that the perfect life we're all encouraged to shoot for? 
...a bit like that rant, I don’t know where this depression has come from, and trust me I’ve tried to work it out. My family and home life is fantastic, I have great friends who despite my constant failings and long absences have never turned me away. My colleagues and work are hands down, fantastic. Honestly the support I have had through this experience, while I’ve been wallowing in a mire of self pity and lethargy, has been far more than I would ever expected from an employer. Financially I am more sound than I have ever been, romantically I am so much ‘happier’ to be out of the long term relationship I was in and thoroughly enjoy the advantages and freedom that being single allows. I can talk to who I like, go for dinner with who I like, flirt like I'm a teenager again and and yet every morning I wake up - and wish I hadn’t.

I wish I could sleep until this depression has passed. I wish I could sleep period. It’s currently 3am, I’ve slept for about 4 hours in the last 48 and thats been my sleeping routine for the last 6 weeks since I started on these happy pills.

I have no motivation, no energy. So many people have offered to help me, but I don’t know what help I need – so no, I’m afraid you can’t.

So why am I writing this? Because for a long time I’ve ignored the problem, lied to myself that it wasn’t a problem. By acknowledging it I hope to finally start to work towards resolving it. I’m writing this because I want to start being emotionally honest with people, and let them know that right now, when they ask me “How are you?”. The honest answer is “I’m not ok.”

And that’s ok, it’s ok not to be ok sometimes.

But I will be. I won’t be in the bad place forever, but I’m there now.

So what am I doing? Well I’ve been prescribed different anti-depressants, which I can’t start until I’ve come off of the other ones. Apparently I have to wean myself off of them because there are withdrawal symptoms otherwise. Those start next Wednesday, so maybe that’ll work.

If it doesn’t I have some 1 to 1 counselling sessions which might help.

I’m exercising a lot – ironically I am physically fitter now than I have been since leaving the Merchant Navy. I cycle about 100 miles a week currently.

I’m playing a lot of poker, and studying a lot of poker. These activities help my brain to get engrossed in something. I’ve also started to write a kind of ‘how to’ manual on Poker which combines my love for writing with my love of the game, but I’m even struggling to find passion in them.

There is nothing funny about depression, it’s not kid on, it’s not fake, it’s a real legitimate illness, and like a broken leg or a flu, it needs to be treated.

So bare with me folks, I’m not ok – but I will be.

Thanks for reading,

And thanks for all those who have supported me as I try and deal with this, thank you so much.

Dare to Dream,


Sunday, 8 July 2018

Back in Business

It’s been two years since my last update (which is a personal record!) so suffice to say this is long overdue, and because it’s so long overdue – this will be a pretty massive post.

Life Changes
Let’s deal with the big stuff first.

I have a different job entirely, if you read my last post you’ll know that I was struggling with depression in 2016, I think the pressure of my work at the time was a massive contributing factor and when leaving the office for the last time it felt like a weight literally lifted off of my shoulders.

I am single, no longer engaged. After just over five years I separated from Toots in April of last year. I can honestly say it is the hardest conversation I’ve ever had to have, but there is no point denying it wasn’t working anymore. We were both stuck in a rut and I made the right decision. I hear she is doing really well, bought a house and is seeing someone new.

As for me I' dating, and for the time being am happy dating. I have no intention of getting involved in something as serious for the time being. Reason being I’ve re-discovered my passions and honestly cannot convey how much better I feel about life compared to my post two years ago.

I’m writing again, I’m playing music, I’m laughing and joking and travelling and playing cards regularly and enjoy getting up every morning and going to work. Ok, slight lie there. No one actually enjoys the act of getting up in the morning – but when I get vertical I am generally pretty happy to be so.

And that is a pretty convenient bridge to go on to talk about what I want to  talk about in this blog (so convenient it's almost as f it was planned!)

 Being Happy

I believe that the aim of anyone’s life, should pretty much be this:

“Do what makes you happy, and create something that outlasts you.”

From my early twenties I wanted a successful career, I wanted to climb whatever ladder I was on and strove towards being the best at every role I found myself in, I believed that this was what would make me happy. And for the most part I achieved this, I’ve never not been promoted in a job, I’ve never not been ‘the go to’ guy for questions and until 2016 I’d never found myself in a job that was ‘too much’ for me.

Then I started somewhere new, and as per usual I strove to excel at it. It was a new role, I had next to no experience and the learning curve was exceptionally steep – but I got shit hot at it within a year, earning several pay bumps as I did so.

But the pressure was mounting, and I wasn’t in control anymore. The business won two new contracts, hired five new staff to cope with demand – four of these guys left within 6 weeks because it was too tough a role, because the expectations were too high.

Suddenly we were dealing with 3 times the work with only one extra body. We had a larger work force to manage, more jobs coming in and a 40 hour week just wasn’t enough – but the business still expected results.

Some days I’d start at 8am and not finish until 10pm, eventually every other supervisor including myself had a set of keys because we were always the last ones out of the office. On two occasions, I fell asleep at my desk after 2am, and woke up there at 6am…and started working again.

And despite the effort and commitment, we (the supervisors) still got slated at weekly meetings.

So what did my job involve?

Well, in a nutshell, I put houses back together. We would deal with insurance claims for various insurers and assigned labour, ran jobs and organised materials to put those customers back to the position they were in before they made the claim. It sounds pretty simple.

But I shit you not the amount of work involved was astronomical. And the quality of the trades that we had was…questionable…at points.

Imagine grafting your ass off all week and getting to Friday at 3pm when the business closes early.

You get a call from a tradesman whose been on a job all week and the conversation goes like this:

Tradesman : “Hi, how’s your day going?”
Me : “Not bad, why weren’t you in for a van check? Did you get held up finishing that job?”
Tradesman : “Yeah – about that…we’ve got a wee problem here.”
Me : “…”
Tradesman : “See, the wee wifey said to me this morning she wanted me to ‘move’ the door – but I thought she said ‘remove’ and obviously there are two doors in the living room so I thought the other one must go in to the hallway or something like that…”
Me : “Right…so what are you telling me?”
Tradesman : “Well, I’ve kind of built myself into the living room – the other doors a cupboard.”

So to put this in perspective – this guy has spent an entire day taking down a wall with a door in it, re-built a wall without a door in it – went to leave only to realise that the ‘exit’ door is actually an ‘entrance’ door in to a fucking cupboard.

Tradesman : “What do you want me to do?”
Me : Numbed to Silence

If it wasn’t so inconvenient this would be hysterical but the problem I have is that margins are so tight – and time so precious that this has just fucked this entire job. He’s wasted an 8 hour shift (that I need to pay him for) – because this’ll now need to be re-done. The decorators who were meant to go in on Monday now can’t and I have to re-allocate their labour, if I can’t then their time and their costs also go against this job. I have to find an available joiner to fix the cockup (labour is booked about two weeks in advance, but I now need a guy on Monday), then a plasterer to plaster out the wall. AND I have to have a bizarre conversation with a customer to explain why her living room cannot be accessed – AND I have to do all of this, and still turn a profit.

Tradesman : “So…eh, what am I doing here?”
Me : “I’ve got no clue but it’s not joinery. Put a hole in the wall and get out of that room – make it tidy and get off of site.
Tradesman : “…no worries boss, sorry…will I eh, just put it down as overtime?”

I kid you not, problems like this were not as isolated as you would hope.

Another phone call mid-week from two labourers who had been tasked with stripping out a kitchen of units, worktops etc.

Labourer : “Alright mate, guess whit?”
Me : (Harassed as fuck)  - “No, I'm not guessing. What is it?”
Labourer : “Jobs done!”
Me : (Genuine surprise) – “Really? Wow, I thought that would take all day.”
Labourer : “Nah mate, was only a small bathroom and the new guy was getting stuck right in.”
Me : “That’s great! So you’re available to help Scott-...wait a minute, did you say bathroom?”
Labourer : “Aye, the wee wifey said she was getting a new bathroom installed, weird though cause the bathroom that was there was banging!”
Me : “And what does your job line say?”
Labourer : “Well the job line said kitchen, but we just figured since she was talking about getting a new bathroom that’s what the line was meant to say.”
Me : “…right. And you decided, all on your own – that the hand typed line was wrong. Despite it specifically saying remove worktop, dishwasher, fridge freezer and a whole host of other items not commonly found in your typical Scottish bathroom?”
Labourer : “…well aye. Showing initiative n’ that.”

Fucking brilliant. So these two guys have spent the first five hours of the shift ‘showing initiative’ and tearing out a bathroom that had nothing at all to do with the insurance work. Meaning that A) The kitchen is still in, I now need to pay more money to get this job started. B) Labour is now all out of sync because the guys going in tomorrow to repair walls, can’t because the kitchen is still in the way. Oh, and not to mention that I need to have a train wreck of a conversation with a customer about why she now has no fucking bathroom in her house.

Me : “Ok, this is a bit of a disaster. You’ve cocked up a bit. Have you at least still got the bathroom suite?”
Labourer : “Well aye…technically.”
Me: “Elaborate.”
Labourer : “We’ve got all the wee bits – but I mean we took it out with sledge hammers so cannae imagine it being able to get used again.”

Let me tell you this folks, there are few sentences in that line of work that make your soul sink to the same levels of terror as “took it out with a sledge hammer” does.

Just for the sake of completeness here – this customer had been talking to the tradesman that morning about just having had a new bathroom installed. When I spoke to her (well I say spoke, when she shouted at me for 20 minutes straight before crumbling in to a weeping mass of blubbering nonsense) it became clear that this bathroom had been her pride and joy – and I’d effectively called her on her way home from work to say we’d carefully removed it with a couple of sledge hammers.

And these issues occurred on top of all the ‘normal’ things to expect when you’re managing a work force. Sickness, no shows, lateness, van breakdowns and materials not being available. On top of  that – you had the ‘normal’ things involved in doing construction, additional unexpected works occurring on almost every job, tradesmen legitimately causing unavoidable damage etc. AND then you have the added juggling act of dealing with members of the general public – I legitimately had a customer who overdosed on pills and washed it down with vodka because the insurance company hadn’t arranged a close enough cattery for her pet cat, her fucking CAT!  She cornered the joiner and said she was going to keep him there until she died and the guy phones me asking what he should do. 

Oh! AND one of the supervisors was held HOSTAGE until he agreed to cover the customer’s claim, even though it shouldn’t have been covered! Literally locked in a room unable to leave – the poor guy had to climb out of a window and leap a fence in the garden!

I mean come on! I was hired as an Insurance Supervisor not a psychiatrist!

At one point I had 40 jobs “on the park” at one time – and my day literally consisted of answering my work mobile between 8 and 5 – THEN after that I could start actually doing my job.

Now some of that I realise will sound pretty funny, on hindsight I laugh at some of this too. Some of it will sound bizarre and some just down right unbelievable. I swear on whatever matters to you that this all happened.

And essentially, the pressure and the stress – it broke me.

See I began to realise towards the end of my time with that company that I no longer wanted to climb the corporate ladder. If it meant sacrificing so much of myself, then it really just wasn’t worth it.

There was a quote from an American TV show that I felt was apt at the time:

 “I don’t want to look back on my life thirty years from now behind the desk of my dead-end 9-5 and think about what could have been.”

So when my time there ended – I swore never to do that to myself again.

And this is what I want to highlight here. I am in a much happier place now. I am comfortable in my job. I could take better paid positions with more responsibility, and to be honest I’ve declined a few, and the reason I’ve done so is because to me now, it is more important to be happy in life, in the here and now than anything else. 

I spend my free time (which I had lost for years) working on my passions, writing, music and creativity in general. Sure I could be earning more money – but I wouldn’t be happy – and that’s what matters.

The Goals

So that’s a good bridge (again, as if by magic ;) ) to talk about the things I’m doing that matter to me.

As the dedicated few will know I’ve been doing pretty well at Poker online for the last three years – I’ve not had a losing year since I started tracking my progress in 2015 – this year I’ve started to play more games live with a view to building up a sufficient balance to take me travelling for a wee while. I’ve been to London 3x this year, Birmingham and Nottingham too as well as games in Edinburgh and Glasgow – and I am ahead (though not as much as I would have hoped at this point, but then I guess it’s called ‘The Grind’ for a reason”) 

I'm heading down to Nottingham in August to play for £250k (that's not a typo - legitimately a quarter of a million prize pool). Then immediately afterwards heading to Barcelona for the European Poker Tour where I am aiming to satellite in to the main event there. A final table at any of these tournaments, would be life changing.

After a long hiatus – I am writing again, really writing. Last month I churned out 117k words – an entire book, in five weeks. It needs edited, and the word count chopped down to around 90k but the spark was there and so was the passion.

Now the subject of the book is another thing entirely.

Have you ever came across something that just resonated so much with you that you couldn’t leave it alone? Well I have. And it happened when I was playing six tables of poker online at the same time and had a random ‘Murder Mystery’ play list on in the background.

What happened next was entirely unexpected – and may honestly have changed my life forever.

But that I feel, is a story all on it's own so more on that next time…

Thanks for reading

Dare to Dream folks


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

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


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 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,


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.


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!

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,