Sunday, 26 February 2012

On Starting

As Mark Twain once said, 'Never put off until tomorrow what you can do the day after tomorrow.”

Nope, that isn’t what I was looking for. Let’s try Pablo Picasso’s version, “Only put off until tomorrow what you are willing to die having left undone.”

Ok, that’s a tad morbid, but it’s more the sentiment I was after.

You see, I have some good people in my life who are out in the world following their dreams. They are my inspiration to try and follow mine.

One friend gave up his well paid, well respected job as an accountant to train as a pilot. Now he’s up there flying his Boeings.

Another friend quit her job in London to travel America and write her book. She’s soon to be a published author.

So you see. Dreams do come true.

But the thing was, they didn’t sit around waiting for lady luck to knock on their door. They started. They shifted from the static to the active. They knew that the only way things would happen was if they initiated them.

So what’s your dream? And more importantly, what on earth are you doing to make it happen?

If your dream is big, then teachers, career advisers and assorted know-it-alls will try to put you off. Do not to listen to them. Follow it. Be ready for the many setbacks and keep the faith.

I dream of being a writer. So I’m writing. I don’t know where this path will lead, but I have started.

I’m pretty confident that it’s impossible to overstate the importance of starting.

You should start too. Whatever it is you want to do, start it. Stop putting it off, and start in some small way.


And leave the ironing. I’m sure Picasso would agree that you can die with that left undone.

Friday, 17 February 2012

A Blue Confession

I’ve had a bit of a flashback. It’s not big, it’s not cool, but it probably is clever.

I've remembered I own a Blue Peter Badge. It’s a green one. I was awarded it, aged 10, after implementing a recycling programme at my Brownie Pack. And then of course writing to Blue Peter, with an accompanying illustration, to tell them of my efforts. 

God, what a pretentious-mini-eco-warrior. 

Although having a Blue Peter badge granted you access into all of the coolest attractions - science museums, galleries and the like - it also turned out that it didn't make you particularly popular. Seems no-body likes a swot.

And I fear a swot I was. I was good at maths, (ability long since lost) spoke properly (parents beat me for any hint of  Wolvo slang) and completed my own extra curricular homework projects. (It’s not my fault I owned a science kit.)

My advice to my 10 year old Blue Peter Badge owning self would have been: do what you’re best at, do more of it, and never worry about being behaving like a swot, because later in life you’ll realise everyone successful is slogging away behind the scenes whilst loudly pretending not to.

Besides, with a couple of exceptions, there is no such thing as adult swot. 

I would have additionally offered my 10 year old self the following advice:  do not have a fringe before you know how to blow dry, never ever shave your lovely dark eyebrows, and dressing like a Goth probably isn’t the answer.

But that’s a story for a different day.

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Drink up: Tune in

I’m not sure if it says more about Channel 4 or me, but I seem to be watching a lot of tv  dedicated to crime and social dysfunction at the moment.

Channel 4 passed the Big Brother baton on, and needed something to fill the airwaves. So they’re filling them with a specific side of British life, one where the majority of people are punching someone, vomiting somewhere or flashing something.

And I seem to be watching it all.

Last week, Bouncers was a documentary following the lives of a group of men with the unenviable task of ‘gatekeeper’ to the nightclubs of Newport, South Wales. They scanned, with a look of unexpected contempt, the unsteady gaggles of girls and boys seeking permission to enter these salubrious establishments. It is up to Joe, Jamie and Geraint to decide who is likely to be more trouble than they're worth and who still has the spending and drinking capacity to be let in. Only the trained eye can tell.

“Sometimes I have to bar people”, Joe confided. Really Joe, you surprise me. He goes on to recall the time he had kicked his way into a male loo to find a woman in mid-bowel movement simultaneously performing a sex act on her boyfriend or, at least, the man she happened to be sharing the cubicle with.

"She said to me: 'Am I barred?'" Joe tells us. "I said: 'I've just found you in the men's toilets taking a shit while you suck your bloke off. Of course you're barred.'"
I'm not sure that I needed to hear that anecdote. Still, I felt obliged to share it.
But it wasn’t all crude comments and short skirts, Joe, formerly a high-earning insurance underwriter until the recession hit the town, now has to subsidise his job as a bouncer by  working in a pawnbrokers. "It's a right kick in the teeth, of course," he said. "But there's always someone worse off." And he met most of them – pawning their jewellery by day and drinking the proceeds by night.
So, that’s drunk and abusive people in Newport covered, now to turn over to Coppers for drunk and abusive people in Nottingham. But don’t worry, because here the Coppers in question are the ones with guns. One member of the firearms team, Jim, summed it up, "Shooting guns is great.. It does give you that buzz … It's the Gucci end of the job"
But the thing about Coppers is that is somehow manages to be both funny and tragic. This week, for example, featured Barbara.
Barbara was arrested by armed response unit officers after turning up at someone's house and pointing a gun through the window. Most people, faced with four or five police officers with massive guns, might decide that a certain amount of diplomatic retreat was in order. But not Barbara, who’d had a fair amount to drink and believed that the police had turned up as her back up: "He's robbed my watch!" she screamed repeatedly, a picture of outraged innocence.
Even though she’d been caught pointing a gun through the window, she kept telling us all how she ‘didn’t believe in robbing people and hurting people.’  Until of course she remembered the theft of the watch and added, "but I'll kill that bastard!"
It turned out that the weapon was only a BB gun and Barbara rapidly sobered to be quietly mortified. As she told us of her past however, it was indisputably tragic.
And it’s a clue to the watchability of the show that the documentary makers leave in the jokes and flippant remarks made by coppers and robbers alike, and trust the viewer to understand that laughter does not imply a lack of seriousness.
Because we all know that comedy is what you pull on over tragedy if you want to insulate yourself from its effects.
And finally there’s Party Paradmedics, which I couldn’t make it through. This was a documentary which, for variation's sake, showed us drunk and abusive people in Kavos.
If you’ve never heard of Kavos, well from the 5 minutes of the show that I could stomach, I gleaned that it's a hangout in Corfu for British youngsters who want to screw each other, but not before getting absolutely paralytic. Every day.
I turned off, not because I’d had my documentary fill. No, rather because Party Paramedics was simply tragic, and for the first time in all of it, I felt embarrassed to be British.
Anti-social behaviour may be as old as history, but its brazen parade for the camera is a much more recent phenomenon. It's also one that Channel 4 appears dedicated to documenting.
To ‘enjoy’ my twitter documenting of such classic shows as #coppers and  #bouncers you could follow me @brownrach

Monday, 6 February 2012

A first world problem

I’ve got a problem. I mean I’m realistic enough to know that it’s not a ‘real’ problem, but it’s pushing me closer to the edge each and every day.

It’s the office printer.  I think it hates me.

I’m wondering if taking a baseball bat to the printer counts as gross misconduct...

I imagine when the printer was invented it was a revolution: life changing, time saving. It took seconds to accomplish in print something that took hours on a typewriter.

Or at least it would if the toner didn't need replacing, the paper wasn't stuck, the drawer wasn't empty, the tray wasn't stacked, the page wasn't duplex, the cyan wasn't empty.


Technology is meant to help us. Hold that thought..
Help! I’m jamming. I have 112 error messages. Imagine how much printing I could do if I didn’t have to deal with all these error messages.

My eyes are dim. My head hurts. I can’t focus. Every time I try to print something the red light starts flashing and I’m forced to check what’s stuck in drawer 2. Nothing is stuck. Again.

I could have written these letters by hand quicker.

What’s that? Be patient? BE PATIENT?

Patience, eh. If only there was an app for that.