Category Archives: Life

A goal for 2011.

I’m not a fan of resolutions, they often seem like a reason to just harp on about things you wish you’d do, rather than real goals set with a thought. But it is new year, and this does seem like as good a time as any to do this.

I’m going to live without supermarkets – or at least, I’m going to try. I’m not going to boycott anything, nor am I going to go out of my way to make my life more difficult than it need to be – but i am going to be making an effort to use the shops that are on my doorstep. I’m hoping this will make me think about what I’m eating, cook more often from scratch and to get to know more people in the community I live in rather than the faceless self-check out machines that are increasingly de jour in my local big brand supermarkets.

I do however live in the real world, I’m not expecting this to be a 100% successful experiment initially, but I am going to be making a real effort, and hopefully saving some money along the way to – indeed I hope to save so much money that on the nights when traditionally a splurge of expensive ‘luxury’ ready meals might have been the order of the day that I instead use that money to wander down to a cafe or restaurant instead – once again, doing my bit for the community that I live in.

Well that was 2010

2010, what a year – highs and lows of amazing and awful proportion. On balance it’s a year I think I’m going to want to forget – not however that I’m going to want to forget the lessons from…

I don’t believe in resolutions, but I do have goals that I review weekly, monthly and annually – most of them are horribly mundane: my way of making sure the tasks of the day whether work or domestic get done – others are less so.

So in this coming year I want to

  • Settle down into a house that we intend to stay in for some time and looking at renting a place in Germany that we can consider a second home
  • I want to travel more, this means putting the car on the road and ensuring there’s a ready pot of ferry, petrol, hotel and food money stashed away for last minute urges to be on the continent.
  • I want to re-evaluate how and where I work, if there are new challenges now is the time to take them.
  • I want to make as much money as I did in 2008/9 – I know what I need to do this, so I just need to get on and do it.
  • I want to eat better stuff: I’ve had it with being a slave to the supermarket, from now on I’m going to buy local and regularly rather than in a warehouse weekly.
  • I want to digitise my whole audio collection – I’ve got tonnes of music on CDs, Tapes, Reels, Records and MiniDiscs, I want them all at the click of a button on my Mac.
  • I want to write a book – I’ve been thinking about it for ages, I know what I want to write about, christ I’m an expert in it! So I need to dedicate some time to making it happen.
  • I want to DJ more too – you’ll see a broadcaster page appearing soon with a showreel and links to programmes and shows I’m presenting or producing.

This isn’t a list of resolutions, and it’s not really a blog post, more a note to myself in a place I know I’m going to have to look at.

It’s so quiet.

So here we are, just after Christmas – I hope you had a good one. It’s been a little quiet on this front; a combination of work and moving house… so boxes everywhere, lots in storage, and a date not quite set for moving into the new place at some point in early January. I do however have a few articles that I’ve written while offline which I’ll be uploading this week.

Clearing snow is a civic duty.

I’m on Snow again, you’ll have to excuse this mini-obsession. The UK needs to stop treating heavy snowfall in the same manner it treats a dusting – and this time I’m not talking about the media. What I’m talking about is the physical way that we’re handling snow. Our obsession with salt, salt reserves and liberally throwing salt onto every highway and byway is bloody ludicrous! Salt only makes a difference if the temperatures are above -8, which in many places in the UK they’re not. Doesn’t matter how much you spread, it won’t make a blind bit of difference.

It’s refreshing to see more snow ploughs on display this year, but they’re not scraping the road anywhere near close enough to avoid humps of slush and we’re not following ploughs with standard road sweepers – they do this in almost every other country with heavy snowfall in Europe; and it’s this step that avoids the slush piles that so plague our major trunk routes. Councils actually need to train their staff to understand what is and isn’t appropriate in snow,  or any other severe weather, so we maintain some level of structural cohesion in our transport network.

Worse thatn that though, is the whinging, endless streams of people whinging they “couldn’t get to work” – “I couldn’t even get out of my drive“: yes dear, that’s because you didn’t shovel or brush it clear did you? You just stomped on the gas in first and spun the wheels till you were satisfied that you’d be going nowhere. Up and down the country people are sitting bone idle at home when a brush or a snow-shovel would have had them out onto reasonably passable roads in a matter of 10 or 15 minutes work.

Of course we do need clarification of the law in the UK to cover your personal civic duty, especially when it comes to clearing snow: elsewhere it’s your civic duty to clear your own drive and the pavement to your house, no fannying about – if the council find you’ve not done it, they’ll bill you for doing it themselves – the result, millions of people clear their own property and immediate roadways allowing gritters, ploughs and sweepers to keep major routes open rather than pootling around every estate with a gang of men salting pavements to ensure Mrs.Miggins’ doesn’t do her hip in.

Eight times in the last 48 hours I’ve heard Health & Safety dragged up as a reason for not clearing your own personal drive and pavement, and yes in the UK someone could sue you – but 1) why don’t you have personal liability insurance? and 2) to sue you, and win they’d have to contest that you maliciously salted or cleared, or  that you’d shown provable negligence in the way you’d done it. Tort law.  A law that’s almost always on your side… so come on, get off your arse, pick up a broom and a shovel and clear your drive, your pavement and the ramp to the road, you’ll be doing yourself and your neighbourhood a real favour.

So, yeah…

A few days ago I may have mentioned something about emigrating: it’s something a lot of people say when they’re fed up with a situation; many never mean it, others simply don’t follow through – that’s really not the case here: I mean it – I’m up, off, and outta here.

You see, I was fortunate enough to grow up in Europe, West Germany to be exact, it’s the place I’ve always thought of as home, the formative years when you form bonds, attachments and habits were all spent in Nordrhein-Westfalen, and having recently been back to my ‘home town’ of Gütersloh, I realised just how much I’d missed it – not just missed though, but how much I thought of it as a home town compared to Stamford, Peterborough, London or anywhere else.

It’s not just local attachment though, it’s a question of quality. The quality of life is significantly higher, the opportunities which are presented in that area for travel, new experiences, work and building a life are enormous. I’m sick of being couped up in the UK: I want to travel in Europe – I want the freedom to just jump onto the autobahn and go shopping in Dutch markets, go walking in the Harz mountains, go tobogganing in the Alps, drink in the culture of Venice, Salzburg, Wien, Berlin, Köln or just go to a different country without having to think of it as an excursion with passport clasped in hand. Let’s face it the only way to do those things in the UK is to start taking extended weekends or holidays, my job precludes being able to take that amount of time out – and I’ve just had enough of it – I want my life back, and moving to a place that makes it easier to escape makes a lot of sense.

Of course those of you who read the political posts will know where I stand on Europe – I really do roll my eyes at the attachment to the Pound, the constant interference in our daily lives of a thoroughly inept and at times disreputable civil service and government. The ludicrous and frankly luddite situation of having to enter Europe – a continent we’re all officially citizens of with a passport and customs control – and the sheer hassle of getting anywhere that’s remotely interesting without having to pay extortionate train fees for the Chunnel or having to slog down to Dover for my preferred choice, a leisurely P&O ferry and a decent car all take their toll on me. I want to be in the heart of Europe – not just personally, but professionally.

So the planning starts now… If there’s one thing I’ve learnt about moving in the UK it’s that planning is key, the more organised you are the better: and moving into a foreign country even with prior experience needs military precision; we know many things about what we want. We love Köln, right in the heart of NRW it’d make a great base: it’s got great shopping, a compact city centre with good public transport, a good gay scene and a busy ex-pat community. It’s close enough to the border to make the UK a not entirely tiresome drive and it’s got good links to all of NRW and the rest of Germany, a quick hop across the border to Holland or Belgium, and only a matter of minutes on the autobahn before you start to hit some really beautiful scenery.

So that’s the beginnings of a plan to emigrate. I’m looking at this as a long term plan, rent first see what happens and then look at settling down. I want to make the move this year coming: 2011 – disengaging from the rat race of ludicrous rents and house prices, rip-off britain, x-factor and all the other stuff that sets my teeth on edge, escaping to cheaper living in the heart of europe only a car drive away from mountains, glaciers, rolling hills, vineyards and more. Bring it on.

Third Chapter.

Well that’s it, I’ve somehow managed to reach thirty, the big three-oh, the start of ‘middle age’ – turns out, it’s just another day; and I’m glad to report that I don’t feel much different now than I did yesterday, the day before that or the day before that.

But it’s an interesting time to reflect: in the last ten years I’ve run three businesses, made and lost a fair bit of money, moved house a lot, found myself a wonderful partner, made and lost friends, made london my home, and grown a beard. What have I learnt, well turns out quite a lot more than I thought possible, and always slightly less than 20:20 hindsight dictates you needed – still I suppose that’s just life.

So this is the third chapter – what will it hold, who knows. I just hope it’s as much if not more fun than my twenties without the naive mistakes and occasional heartbreak: my cynicism thinks that’s naive, but my optimism thinks that anything’s possible when you put your mind and heart into it.

Life Change?

Life, life’s an interesting one – it throws you curveballs, it shakes you up and it spits you out; it’s even worse when you get stuck in your own rut, the change life chucks at you can seem even more difficult: that’s why I’ve always tried to make my own way; not fall into ruts.

At the moment it feels like a rut is forming, not just locally either – but the whole country, I’m not sure I want to get stuck in the UK while house prices are still unconscionably high, while living costs are still giving us the title of ‘rip-off’ britain, and while the UK still sits on it’s hands watching the rest of Europe come ever closer together.

I’m seriously considering just upping and offing – emigrating, leaving for pastures new… bring it on.

Winter is coming

Having just wandered home from Soho I can report that it’s freezing this evening; not just a little chilly, but properly cold – even in the centre of London, this on the weekend when central Germany has early snowfall over the Harz Mountains too, it is looking as if the long term forecast that Winter 2010 would be a bitter one might be true.

The trend of recent European Winters being distinctly colder runs in the face of all the warnings that we’d be getting warmer and wetter winters; we’re instead getting warm wet summers and cold snowy winters. Hopefully people will be a little more prepared this winter – I say hope – as I doubt they will, and once again come the first major snow fall we’ll have wall-to-wall news coverage of cars skidding around in circles and all public transport at a standstill as our cousins from across the channel mock most britons utter ineptitude at even the lightest winter weather.

This time last year I was up in the Alps, where they’d already had an unexpected early snow-fall; which ‘caught them out’ – I say that in bunny rabbit ears as that’s what they said when you asked about the snow; you couldn’t tell exactly where they’d been caught out, as even the highest roads were swept absolutely clear of snow, not a sight of slush anywhere, and certainly no ludicrous patches of black ice that bedevil the UK’s roads.

The City maketh the Culture.

Gilbert & GeorgeThis is reproduced from an article I wrote on the Vivid London blog – if you’re interested in design, pr or marketing it’s well worth bookmarking.

If you’re very blunt cities are just a collection of buildings, roads and infrastructure where people happen to live and work; they’re essentially just a theatrical backdrop to the daily dramas of each individual’s life – but i like to think they’re more than that.

Cities aren’t just backdrops, they define cultures and movement, some much more so than others. For years certain cities have grabbed their denizens shown them the lights, whether it be London, Berlin, Köln, New York, Paris or Florence the greatest artistic, political and cultural movements have sprung forth from the cities that spin their inhabitants like whirling dervishes into creative thought and action.

Take the naturalistic beauty of that Florence that inspired generations of not just artists, but real masters, you think of Florence and you think of the whole Florentine School cabal which amongst others gave us Donatello, Botticelli, Masaccio and Michelangelo. And to this day artists flock to Florence to be inspired, to take in the winsome tuscan countryside, the exquisite architecture and the delicate palette of colours, smells and tastes that float through every Florentine street and piazza.

Or consider the roaring seething orgy that still is Berlin – through generations this city has inspired biting satire, political activism and an art scene that could only be described as brutally honest portrayals of the world around them. Politically this is the city that saw the rise of Communism and National Socialism in the 30s, during the cold war it saw political activism like nowhere else with a plethora of strong protest groups and even today ferments real dissent and anti-government feeling with activists still keeping Angela Merkel’s coalition quite firmly on it’s toes. Artistically, this political melting pot drives the art scene, from the vicious social commentary of George Grosz or Kathe Kollwitz to the glorious revelry in the debauchery of the cocaine fuelled metrosexual nightclubs as portrayed by Otto Dix and more recently the free-wheeling poor but sexy Berlin as captured so marvellously in my opinion in the joyous canvases of Ann-Kristin Hamm.

London again twists it’s inhabitants, the driving ever-changing scene in London opens new doors every day; one person’s crap is another person’s treasure, from the decaying East End of the 1980   that inspired the mega-canvases of multi-cultural faces in Gilbert & Georges seminal work ‘Are you angry, or are you bored’ to the gawking polemic on Britain’s celebrity obsessed culture embodied so well in Damien Hirst’s ‘For the love of God’ (better known as the diamond encrusted skull). Over and over again London like Berlin or New York has allowed a level of expression that no other city in it’s shadow could foster. It’s taken in the waifs and strays and given them a canvas to play with: and that – that – is why we love our cities.

Vivid London – it’s not just a name: it defines us, the city we’re based in hones our approach. Life should be Vivid, and London inspires us. It truly is a vivid city, the cultures, languages, art, theatre, cinema, architecture, the whole simmering mass is exciting to be in, and because of that creative thought thrives.

Pride

It was pride yesterday, supposedly a celebration of all things ‘gay’. I hate it – I hate it more than words can properly express – a bunch of freaks, provicincial queens and people out to shock just for the sake of being shocking – all while at the same time bemoaning the unfairness of a society that doesn’t treat them ‘like normal’. Surely it’s about time Pride was retired, or at the very least remodelled, let’s see a proper celebration rather than this sad, commercialised, desperate piss-up that haunts the West End every year like some ghoul that just can’t be excised.