The attention seeking bit…

Life Lessons From the Words of Terry Pratchett

We all find inspiration from different sources that surround our everyday lives and as someone that has always harboured a hidden desire to become a writer, how could I write about anything else today after hearing about the sad passing of Sir Terry Pratchett.

In a digital world where the written word is slowly being replaced by the more visually appealing videos on websites and journalists or authors turn their back on writing due to the lack of financial motivation, but a true writer simply does not have a choice and has a simple desire to tell a story in their own natural voice regardless if there is a reward or not.

The prospect of Alzheimer’s disease taking away your own voice and how you communicate in this life is terrifying, but even in the face of adversity, the author filled with greatness that wrote over 70 books remained as philosophical as ever.

If I had been Terry Pratchett the farmer or Terry Pratchett the dentist, nobody would have paid any attention if I had announced I had Alzheimer’s. But there is something fascinating about an author losing the power over words.

There was something about those worlds he created that were full of misfit heroes that struck a real cord with me and there are so many quotes that we all know by heart that will forever inspire writers of all generations such as the line “If you don’t turn your life into a story, you just become a part of someone else’s story” from the Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents.

In his passing we have inherited his beautiful words that will remain long after you and I have left this world, but in the words of the great man “Don’t think of it as dying, just think of it as leaving early to avoid the rush”

Here are just a few of my favourite quotes that have come from the brilliant mind of a great man with a fantastic sense of adventure.

  • Goodness is about what you do. Not who you pray to
  • I have no use for people who have learned the limits of the possible
  • A man’s not dead whilst his name is being mentioned

Pratchett was so much more than just an author of fantasy novels and there are so many life lessons to be found in his words such as the book Moving Pictures that perfectly illustrates what this crazy life is all about.

The whole of life is just like watching a film. Only it’s as though you always get in ten minutes after the big picture has started, and no-one will tell you the plot, so you have to work it out all yourself from the clues. —from Moving Pictures

All too often we fail to realise the true effect we have on others in this life and whatever you background or outlook in life, I believe the most powerful line written by Sir Terry Pratchett is “No one is actually dead until the ripples they cause in the world die away…”

Have the words of Terry Pratchett inspired you? I would love to hear your thoughts and favourite quotes.

To Run A Half Marathon or Not To Run A Half Marathon…

So the Olympics is over, and I get a little rest before returning to London for the Paralympics, there is a certain amount of irony in working at the biggest sporting events in the world because they have actually slowed down my running.

Despite working 15 hour days, I have always made sure that I got one run a week under my belt and despite looking like one big sweaty mess at the end of my runs, I can now run for 10k  (6.2 mile) again without too many aches and pains the following few days.

The good news is that because I was walking 8-10 miles a day on the Olympic Park, my weight has stabilised under 14 stone, to be honest I had no idea how overweight I actually was until I saw a video entitled “Neil eats a cake” which was filmed back in January. This video alone gave me one of those infamous Gok Wan moments.

Seriously though, I feel so much better now and the fact that I actually enjoy going out for a run, is something that still baffles me to this day. Maybe it’s because I can combine my love of listening to music, iPhoneongraphy and being in the great outdoors. To be able do what you actually love and enjoy is a special gift in my eyes.

I ponder which of the 8,000 Olympic Torches this is…

My original goal when this self confessed gaming, geek loving couch potato started this malarkey way back in March, was to enter the Birmingham Half Marathon in October. Have I given myself an unrealistic target? Is a question that I have asked myself a few times, especially considering the huge chunk of my time that has been taken up by working away.

However, I can be quite stubborn and determined when I want to be, so my plan is to try and push myself to 7-8 mile over the next 10 days before committing to pulling  this off, but I predict there will be an entry to the half marathon with my name on it.

I am not interested in being the best of the best or getting a better time than anyone else that I know, this is something that I want to prove to myself and if an overweight geek with zero fitness that sits at a desk at work or an armchair at home can do it, then anyone can. The fact it has not eaten into any of my personal time and doesn’t require any expensive gym memberships either, really leaves no room for any excuses.

My first challenge came this week, when my 6 month free Spotify Premium trial from Virgin Media came to an end, but as my running playlist is my best friend, it was a very easy decision to make. I even dabbled with a playlist containing songs from the Olympic Opening Ceremony and A Message To You Rudy by The Specials set the scene perfectly for a summer run.

Neil’s Final Thoughts

For me the Olympics inspired so many and gave the nation something to be proud of again, for a moment this celebrity obsessed country forgot about The Only Way Is Essex, Geordie Shore, Big Brother, Kardashians and the X-Factor.

You cannot help but think that if the media promoted role models like Jessica Ennis and less of your Jordan’s or Big Brother contestants, maybe our children would grow up with more positive role models.

If everyone stopped watching inane, self-inflated people on that box in the corner of the room and realised that being famous for 15 minutes is actually quite a miserable and empty existence compared to the rewards gained by dedicating ourselves to good old fashioned hard work to achieve what we once never thought possible, then maybe just maybe this world would be a much better place.

Suddenly I hear myself talking like my Dad, so maybe its time to sign off, until next time, take care of yourselves and each other.

The Road To Recovery

Sorry for going a little quiet on you all, but I was getting really frustrated with the niggling injury in my left leg that has put me out of action for a few weeks. Every time the ball of my foot felt pressure I endured a nasty pain just below my calf but completely resting it and taking a break from my new regime was proving to be quite difficult.

After putting in the hard work and losing a stone and a half in weight, I was quite conscious of how easy it would be to rapidly undo everything; however I was also equally aware that if I continue to run on an injury I could end up being out of action for months rather than weeks.

On June 2nd, I got married and my troublesome leg felt a little better. At the wedding reception that night I was guilty of having a few beers, which ensured the sound of House of Pain’s “Jump Around” was enough to finally get me on the dance floor. Yes I jumped around like a crazed mad man for at least two minutes until I pulled up again with my now infamous bad leg.

It ached like a bastard all night, and I finally admitted that I have no choice but to rest it completely, but luckily I had the welcome distraction of my honeymoon, which was more than enough to take my mind off running for 10 days as we headed off to Italy for a mini tour of Venice, Florence, Pisa and Rome.

With no running in my life for nearly a month combined with indulging in the wedding buffet, copious amounts of wedding cake, beautiful Italian food and wine for a few weeks, I was more than a little paranoid that my belly would be carrying a whole lot more weight again. Maybe it was because our honeymoon was quite active (no rude jokes please) but luckily a quick weigh in still has me at 14.5 stone, which was a damned sight better than I was expecting, so this was the perfect time to get back into the swing of things.

I have returned with my leg feeling fully refreshed and raring to go and wasn’t about to let the wind, rain and cold temperatures stop me, so after seeing a little sunshine, I thought that it was time to quite literally give my dodgy leg a run out for the first time since May 25th. I was quite conscious of overdoing it and ending up having to rest for a few months so I opted for a nice steady run.

This self-confessed couch potato loved every minute of the run, and can honestly say that I have really missed not being able to get out there, leaving me to ask the question, what the hell has happened to me? it seems the running bug has well and truly got a grip on me.

I completed a 3.2 mile (5k) run in 32 minutes without any problems, which was a huge relief as my leg now feels fine. I then warmed down with a 10 minute brisk walk and lots of stretching so hopefully things will be a little better over the next few months. Maybe I have finally learned my lesson the hard way, that warming down and stretching are the most important aspects of running.

My fears of a very tough run after being absent for nearly a month were thankfully unfounded as everything went really well and it actually felt fantastic to be back on the road again. A glimmer of a British summer also made a rare appearance too, which offered a moment to take in the beautiful surroundings.

Blue skies and sunshine appear to welcome me back on the road.

On a separate note, there was a fantastic documentary on BBC 2 this week called “The Men Who Made Us Fat which is a fascinating look at just why our food is making us fat. We are, on average, 3 stone heavier than we were in the 60s. And not because we’re eating more or exercising less – we just unwittingly became sugar addicts says a must read article in the Guardian.

Anyway I digress, the important part of this post is that my leg feels much better and I am back running again. I cannot tell you how frustrating it was getting not being able to run at all for so long because of a pesky injury but hopefully things will only get better now warming down and stretching are taken much more seriously. Valuable lessons have been learned, after all everyday is a school day, no matter how old you are.

Travel Expert Simon Calder

Travel Chaos is something that the media love to exaggerate in this age of 24 hour news channels that have too much time on their hands so spend most of the time looping the same footage for hours at a time. However what has amused me over the last few years is that when a travel crisis hits anywhere in the world, there is only one man that will know the answers and that mans name is Simon Calder.

The name on its own probably means little too most of you but I can guarantee that you will know his face. It would appear if you a run a newspaper or TV Station, the name that must be in your phone is Simon’s number filed under “Travel Expert” and he will be in the studio before you can say “Volcanic Ash”.

It has been a source of amusement to me for sometime how he seems to be the only “Travel Expert” that we have so thought it was about time I delved into this man’s past to see exactly who he is and how is able to get the entire British Media eating out of his hand. (more…)

Snow, a nation of wusses?

We do not handle “weather” very well here in the UK, in fact despite what the 24 hour news channels and certain newspapers will have you believe, we never really have extreme weather of any kind. After many warm winters, there has been a generation of people that grew up without even seeing snow, so when the white stuff decides to make an appearance again as scheduled in winter, the nation seemed to get its knickers in a twist.

In February we were told that the killer snow was the worst in 18 years as terms such as chaos, arctic conditions, snowpocalypse and snowmageddon rapidly became the norm. Snow in winter who would have thought it? But gone are the days of winter weather being the norm, in fact in these health and safety obsessed times, Royal Mail bosses even stopped postal workers from delivering the mail due to the harsh weather conditions which were literally a few inches of the white stuff.

UK media stretches the truth a little.

So yes it may have been the worst weather in over 20 years but twenty years ago people just got on with things but now everything comes to a standstill which begs the question what would actually happen if we had seriously bad winters like they do in Eastern Europe or even the United States? (more…)

Conversation 16…A Modern Zombie Tale.

2010 could well be the year of the Zombie, with the fantastic Walking Dead TV show and my song of the year Conversation 16 by The National. If we look back at the original Dawn of the Dead movie,we can see that it was actually a satire on rampant consumer culture where soulless empty headed direction-less morons are wandering aimlessly about with no sense of purpose.

This seems to be more appropriate than ever before and any doubters simply need to look down from level 3 of any shopping mall in the world to the mass of real life zombies wandering aimlessly below.

The National’s Matt Berninger distinctive deep baritone voice singing of bleak landscapes and melancholy have been the soundtrack to my life for sometime now but the song Conversation 16 where he sings “I was afraid I’d eat your brains,’ Cause I’m evil” initially made me wince but after a little research for interpretations of the song, I was left gob smacked by the beauty of a tale about a man who is afraid of becoming a zombie in life.

Lines such as “You’ll never believe the shitty thoughts I think” and “fall asleep in your branches” are delivered effortlessly and would melt the coldest of hearts and easy to see why it’s my most played song this year.

It would seem that that character is going with the flow: doing what is expected of him, not disappointing anyone, reading the script of his movie, keeping his shitty thoughts to himself and only telling his wife about them after she’s asleep. His best efforts are making him turn into a “zombie” he’s becoming less enthused about life, he’s unable to express himself, going through the motions, becoming a “confident liar,” etc.

“You’ll never believe the shitty thoughts I think”

My favourite theory on the lyrics of Conversation 16 and why I love this song so much can be heard in the last verse where he states all of the anti-zombie things that he actually wants out of life. To be romantic, to believe, to be safe, to continue loving his wife… but he’s ultimately afraid he’ll “eat her brains”. He’s afraid that the ritual of everyday life will strip him of his appealing aspects until he’s unable to feel emotion (like a zombie) and cause him to do harm to the person he loves and wants the most (eat her brains). Because he’s evil. (more…)