Rod’s Trousers

Some months ago I read Rod Stewart’s autobiography. Which, as a side note, I really enjoyed.

From the book I learnt many things, and one of them was that, when worn correctly,  tartan trousers can actually look all right.

Fast forward to Boxing Day and I spot a pair in the sale for £10. Stocks were low but, fate intervened and one of the last remaining pairs was in my size.

So I bought them.

And, feeling somewhat daring, I wore them to work last Friday. Reception was good.

Oh… and no, I didn’t use my best Rod Stewart impression when I asked people what they thought:

“Do ya think I’m sexy??”

Anyway, as I walked home I passed a pub and a drunken patron lumbered i front of me. Luckily I had the dexterity necessary to navigate my around him but, due to his high levels of intoxication, he seemingly took offence to me being on the pavement at the same time as him.

A terrible crime, I know.

“Nice trousers” he bellowed, “you off to play a fuckin’ gig or something?”

With that he kind of jiggled and danced on the spot in the limp way that uber-drunk people often do – I can only surmise that, from somewhere far above, an invisible puppeteer was having a hand spasm while trying to control him.

“Yep,” I smiled, “I’m headlining”

This was met with a grunt of disapproval. He clearly wanted me to bite. Wanted a reaction. I could see in his eyes that he was gearing up for some Friday night confrontation.

But I walked on.

Perspective is an important tool. I could have looked at his comment two ways:

A) How dare he insult my trousers!

B) He said I looked like a rock star… which, for many 28 year old guys, is a pretty desirable thing to be/look.

I took it as the latter.

Perspective is a powerful weapon to have in your day-to-day arsenal. It’s a mindset.

When presented with a comment or a piece of information look at it from both ways before deciding how you should feel about it.

I’ll be wearing those trousers again.

Have you ever had an opinion on something?

In the last four weeks, I bet you’ve done at least one of these four things:

– Visited a restaurant
– Visited a tourist attraction
– Watched a film/TV series
– Read a book

(Unless you’ve been finding out what it would be like to live in a nuclear fallout shelter I hope I’m right.)

Okay, now answer this… in the last four weeks have you ever wanted to write but not found the time nor the inspiration?

If you’re reading this blog, I’ll hedge my bets that your answer is ‘yes’.

My apologies if you just said ‘yes’ aloud for no reason in a room full of people. Although maybe your fault for reading a blog at work…

A few years ago, before I started this website, I would frequently do all of the four things above and would also find myself wanting to write, but lacking the inspiration or ‘the time’.

Take one glance at a site like Twitter or the comments page on a newspaper’s website and you’ll be forcibly reminded of the fact that we all have an opinion. And everyone likes to share their opinion when they get the chance.

Just like everyone else, whenever I visit a museum, watch a film, read a book or go out for a meal I have an opinion on what I’ve just experienced.

So I decided to write about it.

Trip Advisor, Goodreads, Imdb, etc. There are so many platforms out there where your reviews can actually help people, as well as give you a chance to flex some words out onto a page.

I found myself writing a metric shit ton of reviews. Trying to make them as funny, interesting and entertaining as possible.

I found that the more I wrote, the more I wanted to write.

It brought back my creativity.

It brought back my inspiration.

And, in doing so, I realised that I actually did have time to write. More time that I knew. If I could find time in my day to write a 300 word review, I had time to write whatever I wanted to.

Try it. It’s the springboard that helped get me focused and writing again.

A Vampire on the London Underground

It all started with an early evening trip on the tube.

I was bleary-eyed from a long day and the overhead lights seemed a touch brighter than usual.

My temples were slowly starting to pulsate, hinting at the headache that was to come.

Suddenly my attention was snapped away from feeling sorry for myself…

… there was something of interest on the seat next to me.

And no, it wasn’t a copy of the Metro, City AM or the Evening Standard.

It was a battered, creased and yellowed copy of Bram Stoker’s Dracula.

After a quick check to see if it belonged to anyone I snapped it up and read the first page.

Fast forward a couple days and I’m three quarters of the way through.

Even though it was written many moons ago it still grabbed me and kept me up until the wee hours reading… as I’m sure it has done for many readers well before my time.

You could stop almost anyone in the street and ask them about Dracula. I bet they could roughly recite the plot.

But what they maybe couldn’t tell you is what actually happens, and how it unfolds.

Told in snippets of journal entries, diary entries and newspaper extracts it’s a truly gripping tale.

That’s why it’s a classic.

And that’s also why, over 100 years later in a world of much shorter attention spans, it still holds up.

When you set down to write do you think of it as a future classic or do you just set down to write without a thought of a glorious future?

If you’re interested in what makes a classic piece of work a classic piece of work, this book by Ryan Holiday is a decent read.

The 2 Minute Rule

I’m sorry I’ve not written for a while.

It’s not you, it’s me. I’ve been busy, life moved fast and I nearly forgot about you.

But here I am… back.

Tonight I’m going to share a tip that’s made my life a bit easier.

Time management is tricky.

Why?

Because it doesn’t technically exist.

No one alive can actually manage time (apart from the speaking clock) – but we can all manage ourselves AROUND time.

One of the things I hate the most is when loads of little things (e.g cleaning, life admin) all build up and you have to spend a big chunk of your precious free time sorting them out.

So I follow this magic rule… if something takes less than 2 minutes (and if I’m not insanely busy) I’ll do it there and then.

Washing up a glass, hanging up a jacket, updating a card for Netflix, sending a boring email… BAM.

I don’t let ’em build up.

I rattle them off like a human task-smashing machine gun and then when leisure time comes a-knockin’ I can fully enjoy it with no menial tasks circling round my head.

It sounds simple. Too simple. But so many people I know and speak to let things build up because they can’t be arsed and it ends up being a vicious circle that eats away their time.

Like an invisible Pacman slowly chomping away hours and hours of their lives.

Give it a go and see if I’m onto something here…

P.S bonus hack… when you’re parking your car just pull into the first decent (and vacant!) space you can see. Life is too precious to waste circling round and round a square of tarmac hoping to find ‘the perfect spot’.

Die Hard

I’m a film buff.

That’s a fact.

From arthouse to zombie horror to rom-com – I’ve seen a lot.

But, when someone asks me about my favourite there’s only one title that comes to mind. Which, as you’ve probably guessed by the title of this post, is Die Hard.

I’ve seen it more times than any other film. VHS, TV, DVD, Blu-Ray, Netflix, Now TV etc…

The other night however, I saw it in a new light. I managed to acquire some tickets to watch it at a pop-up cinema.

And there, in the darkness and with no distractions, I found that I enjoyed it a whole lot more. As did the friends I was with.

The jokes were funnier. The action was more thrilling. Characters more defined. I could go on.

It taught me a lesson about being more in the moment and how, even your favourite thing, can be better if you give it your full attention.

Perhaps the only way I could enjoy it more would be if I wiped my memory of Die Hard (like ‘Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind’) and watched it like it was the first time.

I’ve also found that conversations with people I like are even better when you give them your full attention. It seems obvious, but it’s so easy to find your eye drawn to flashing phone notifications.

Yippe-kay-yay.

A Halloween tale…

I wrote this several years ago and, as it’s Halloween, I thought I’d share it:

I have a confession to make.

We’ve all done things wrong, and we’ve all done things we’re not exactly proud of. But I think mine probably tops all of yours – I mean have you ever killed the one you love?

No?

No…I didn’t think so. To look at me, you’d never imagine that I could be capable of such a malicious, sorrowful deed – for I am perhaps one of the most humble, slightly-built older males you are ever likely to see.

It’s taken me a few days to collect my thoughts on the matter – a few miserable days, sitting in this cell – with only the faraway drone of the other inmates and the sparsely decorated walls to keep me company.

I’ll tell you the tale right now and I’ll pull no punches and spare no details, for I am
old now, with such little life left that there’s no point even attempting to preserve myself from whatever justice the authorities see fit for me.

You may feel sympathetic to me perhaps, but then you may very well agree with the majority of society and deem me a villain – one not fit to share the world with the other right-thinking folk.

I’ve been in love with someone before, oh yes I have! When I was much younger! She was a lovely lady.

Virginia Wright was her name.

And even now many, many years down the line I still think of that name in a rose-tinted light.

She was a few years older than I, and perhaps not the easiest lady on the eye – but out of all of her many suitors she chose me and our affectionate companionship slowly turned into a deep-rooted understanding and love.

I’ve always been too slow of head to be a well-versed romantic, but I’d have to say she was “the one”, and perhaps once I’ve been judged by the aforementioned forces of authority I may well be reunited with Virginia Wright in another life, somewhere far, far away from here.

The early days (honeymoon period) were my favourites – they stretch out before me even
now in a sort of effervescent movie montage.

The places we went together, the little quirks we both had that we learned to love so well, the people we met and of course those quiet moments that are shared between two like-minded souls, the quiet moments that no one else ever knows.

However as time went on and age consumed Virginia faster than I, it became more and more of a challenge to get by – at the start of things it was a pleasant challenge to keep her happy, but toward the end it was a struggle just to support her through anything.

Everyone tried to convince her to ask for extra care, care that I (being no spring chicken
myself) couldn’t really provide, but being the strong soul she was she was determined to
carry on.

And from that determination I will always carry inspiration.

I still remember the day she died in my arms like it was yesterday, her soft hazel brown eyes closing as life was finally taken from her. It looked more like she was asleep than devoid of life, but perhaps that’s all death is?

Just another level of sleep, one mortal minds can’t configure.

From a selfish perspective I was distraught at losing my life’s companion, but from a more senior, learned point of view I was able to eventually rest soundly to the oh-so-familiar tune of her “being in a better place”.

But alas, I’m getting off of the real point of my sin with all this talk of Virginia Wright –
perhaps I am more of a romantic at heart than I initially thought.

The lady of my confession goes…or rather went…by the name of Lily Swann, a pretty name I’ll agree, but hideously misplaced.

In the years following Virginia’s passing I had little or no connection with
anyone, Virginia’s family all lived away from the city and I, myself, was born of another
country and at my age I had no real way of getting back there.

So it was a lonely life I led, a life spent mostly traipsing to and from various shopping centres, markets and outlets – people watching.

If I didn’t have a life of my own I could at least gain some interest from what
others around me were doing, you can earn an awful lot from people and from my various vantage points I saw many dramas, conflicts and romances unfold.

Life has a simple algorithm, we just like to kid ourselves that it’s more complicated than it is.

It was while I was scanning the aisles of a second-hand store on West Street that I was
approached by a lady called Linda.

She must have noticed my lonely existence before, as I was sure I’d recognised her from somewhere – but when you reach my age all the names and faces seem to roll into one and it becomes harder and harder to decipher any countenance that isn’t common place in your life.

Linda was a weekly carer for a lady called Lilly, and she must have thought of herself as some sort of matchmaker as she arranged for a few meetings with us.

We didn’t really warm to each other at first, I didn’t feel I wanted her – and she felt she had no use for me, but the relentless matchmaking continued and eventually we fell into a mutual companionship.

I’ve always firmly believed that if you try hard enough you can learn to like, and who knows, maybe even love someone if you really want to make it work.

It was hard getting used to Lily’s hair-string temper and shoe-string budget but I settled into the idea that I would never find anyone else to love at such a late age.

That woman proceeded to wear me down – both physically and mentally. I’m not trying for sympathy now, I’m sure that perhaps I could have just upped and left somehow, but I just could never find the nerve.

She used to mumble to herself all the time, what she was saying I couldn’t decipher at times – but I knew it was nothing positive, her mutterings gradually changed to insults – mainly aimed at me. Useless.

Never has a word cut me so deep as that, through my whole life I’d been a hard worker – both at work and in a relationship, and to be constantly called this whenever I was with her or helping her hurt me in a way that you cannot imagine.

But as we grew to know each other better, and as we got older, words turned to actions.

The little things at first, nudging me out of the way when she wanted to hobble a short distance across the house, spilling the odd drop of boiling tea onto me without the slightest murmur of an apology and then slowly moving to the physical.

She soon fell into the habit of kicking me from the solitude of her own gnarled rocking chair whenever something annoyed her. As if I was some sort of worthless scapegoat for her pathetic frustrations.

Alas a few days ago the two of us had decided to head into the city for a day’s shopping, and this is where things came to a head.

Having your body fail on you is the worst part of old age, a body that you’ve grown so used to over the years – suddenly becoming rigid and hopeless.

We were a few yards away from the house when I felt a sudden pang in my creaking limbs, and before I knew it they’d stopped – locked up completely – I couldn’t go any further.

“What’s wrong with you? You’re useless. I want to be back in time for the soap operas”.
With that she straightened herself up and flung a leg at me, striking me a lot harder than I would have expected from a woman of her age.

“Useless. Useless. Useless. Supposed to be there for me. Useless”.

With each cry of useless her foot connected against my limbs, until I felt something rise
inside of me, an anger so sharp and so stunningly severe that I’d never felt it before. But an anger that brought new life into me and I found myself lunging forward at the old hag – we toppled to the pavement in an ear-splitting crescendo of shouts and screams- noises
of pain, raw emotion and rage.

Next thing I knew, all I could hear was a sickening, crack as the old lady’s head met the pavement. It was only then that I realised just what I had done.

Emotions. They often get the better of you in the end.

Oh…wait, what’s this that has broken my tainted string of thought? The cell door in front of me is opening, finally! It’s barely been opened since the day I was first banished here.

Two policemen appear in front of me – bored and tired in their dark blue, padded uniforms.

After a moment they fix their attention on me and the room, and I can hear the first
one speak: “Bloody impound lot gets more and more cluttered every time I come in here”, now he turns his attention to me, and me alone, “stupid rusty wheelchair, that can go to the scrap yard I don’t think we’re going to be needing that anymore.”
“That from the Swann woman investigation?”, asks his younger colleague.
“Yeah, weird one. Found her on the pavement with the chair on top of her, but no one could seem to find anything wrong with the chair itself, ‘cos she wasn’t even on it at the time. Almost as if it just got up got up and rolled on top of her”.

His colleague laughs.

I know my fate is sealed. The scrap man calls.

Virginia, I’m coming, I won’t be long now.

by Ashley Brown