And so tonight these long nights take their strongest turn of the year and begin to recede once more in favour of warmer sunny days. This year for us Brits has been a unique one – having one of the hottest Summers on record coupled with an extrarodinary performance from our lads in the world cup (making for great pub visits!), another Prince got married, a Princess got married, wildfires spread, we celebrated 100 years since the first world scuffle ended, watched in awe as offended levels grew to extreme new heights when someone uttered the words ‘stupid woman’ in Parliament, and some bloke swam around the entire UK, all whilst that dreaded ‘B’ word hung in the distance.
Now 2018 is drawing to a close, and many of us are quietly wondering what an uncertain 2019 will bring? Will our leaving of the EU come and go without barely a whisper? Will we be sent into wrack and ruin? Or will there be a second referendum happening, and bring the whole thing to a grinding halt? Who knows?
But whether or not our government proceeds with our first uneducated answer (seriously – the day we voted to leave, a friend of mine who’s British born, but whose heritage is Pakistani was screamed at in the street by and old man “We voted to leave, now get out of our country!” Get a grip and an education you dumb old shit!) we should still be optimistic.
More and more it’s doom and gloom being shown by the media, and thus it’s no wonder mental health problems are on the rise. It’s hard to stay happy when Theresa May acts like a broken guffawing record – “The people voted to leave, so we will deliver on that vote.” In other words “You asked for this shitstorm, and whether or not it’s what you envisaged, you’re gonna deal with it!”
But there is a light! More than ever, mental health awareness is becoming bigger everyday, and the words ‘Man-up’ are becoming less prevalent than ever. And rightly so. With over 200 classified forms of mental illness, it can reveal itself in many ways. As someone who has had loved ones deal with mental issues, it’s important to know and understand the signs before it’s too late.
So going into the new year:
- Be unwavering in your kindness to others.
- Give love and respect to everyone, even if they mistreat you. You have absolutely no idea what they are going through. Your kindess could be just the thing they need.
- Keep an eye on your friends and family. Notice usual changes in their behaviour, such as withdrawing from the world. Smiles can hide a soul screaming for help.
- Always have time for others. You have no idea what five minutes, a cup of tea, and a sympathetic ear can do for a person’s well-being.
- Recognise the beauty and colour in the world. Just because good things don’t get reported (an understatement if ever there was one!) doesn’t mean they aren’t happening all the time.
- Remain in the now – don’t fall into always remembering the past, or worry about the future. Only the ‘now’ matters.
- Breathe deeply and rejoice in the gift of life today. Tomorrow is not guaranteed to anyone.
- Don’t put things off. Forgive easily. Love with an open heart. And never leave until tomorrow what can be said today. You might not get the chance.
- Help others and give generously, even when they have no way of repaying you.
- And no matter what, take everything within your stride. I’ve seen people with the worst luck in their lives, yet they remain happy. It’s not the circumstances which determine your happiness; it’s your reaction to them.
I’m proud of my nation. In the past we’ve stood battered and bruised in the face of a supposedly undefeatable enemy and screamed defiantly we would never ever surrender. Now that enemy has taken another form and it’s coming from within. By raising each other up, we enrich the whole country, and make us stronger and more resiliant to this threat.
So as the days begin to get brighter, and Friday the 29th March 2019 grows ever closer amid the chaotic death knells inside the Houses of Parliament, we need to realise it’s us as a people that have the strength to carry on and perservere. To keep pushing on regardless of the outcome next year. Keep the peace alive, keep the hope glowing, and let’s remember why we have the word ‘Great’ at the start of out nation’s name.
Much love to you all.
Have an amazing Christmas (or Yule, or whatever you celebrate), and a fantastic New Year!
Footnote: This post pretty much came out of nowhere. I feel I needed to write about the worries of some of my friends and clients, as well as the impact it’s having on the mental health of people. This and the fact this unique year is growing to a close. I did initially start writing about my own experiences of this year, but felt that was a bit boring.
As the UK and other parts of the world continue to enjoy baking hot temperatures, lounging around on beaches and parks in the hazy glorious of the heat, it’s easy to overlook the dangers of such extreme weather.
Apart from forgetting to dab ourselves and our kids in Factor 50, the boiling sunshine can have more destructive connotations. Here in England only a few weeks ago we had grass fires dotted around the country — some of which a few firefighter friends of mine battled. But thankfully there was no loss of life (to my knowledge anyway).
In Greece though, things have taken a turn for the tragic. Several fires in the past day have caused a large loss of life as villages near Athens have burned away, with the inhabitants still present in them.
One very sad story involves a group of 26 adults and children unable to escape the blaze around them. In their last heartbreaking desperate measure, they embraced, and perished together.
It’s a stark reminder that tomorrow is never guaranteed. That today could easily be our last. Those people didn’t wake up on this final morning knowing it was the last time they’d see the sun rise. And neither will we when our time inevitably comes.
It’s true I’ve spoke about this before, but in the comings and goings of life it’s easy to forget our own fragility. We all need (including me!) reminding that each day is a blessing and that we need to make the most of every moment on this earth.
So never forget to tell people you love them. It’s the one thing you might regret one day. If you haven’t told someone you love them, or hugged your kids today, don’t put it off.
If you’ve a dream job you want to pursue, or a place you wish to visit, makes plans now accomplish it. You can’t do them from your death bed.
Give thanks everyday you wake up. As Morning Coach’s JB Glossinger would say – many people went to bed last night and didn’t wake up. Each day is truly a blessing.
Always strive for happiness. You may want riches and possessions, but ultimately it’s happiness we all desire.
Your own heart and mental well-being are paramount. Never put up with people or situations that hurt you or pull you down. Your gut feelings about things should never be ignored. React to everything in the best way you can and watch those things change.
Always have something to look forward to, and keep hope in your heart of better things to come. Ignore worries or fears.
Be kind. It is the biggest thing people remember about us.
Ultimately, we all will die one day and we want to know we’ve lived to our best potential, loved deeply, laughed loudly, enjoyed experiences, built connections, pursued goals, and pushed forward without hesitation or regret.
Life is beautiful. Truly beautiful. We just need to open our eyes to it.
Huge love to you if you’re reading this. You’re amazing. Never forget that. And I wish you an amazing today… and tomorrow. xx
It’s been quite a while since my last post, mainly because of my hectic work life. A poor excuse I know, but it’s the truth.
I had planned on writing a very different post in the near future but the events of this week have pushed me to type out some more thoughts.
For as you will you know if you’ve glimpsed even a shred of the news that it’s been a week filled with death; some events arguably more tragic than others. The scenes and images from the earthquake in Nepal which has claimed over five and a half thousand lives (and counting) as well as the many thousands more that have lost everything have made for difficult viewing, and my thoughts and prayers go out to them.
But strangely, it was the much publicised executions of the death row prisoners in Indonesia that included two members of the Australian drug smuggling nonet – the Bali Nine has probably affected me more than it should have done. Regardless of your stance surrounding these two and your probable disapproval of me for mentioning this in regard to the tragedy at Nepal (5500+ innocent deaths against the demise of 2 drug smugglers), the execution has left me reflecting on my own life a great deal.
I guess the reason for this is because the Bali Nine were arrested at a time when I was holiday in Turkey in 2005. Having followed the case for years, read the books, watched the interviews with them etc, I tend to think about my time in Turkey and how it would feel to still be there now if I’d done something stupid like be a heroin carrying mule, imprisoned, having never returned from my holiday. And now as two of them were shot to death I found myself a bit shaken having put myself in their positions.
It’s reminded me to enjoy the life and freedom bestowed on me, not to work so hard and be more aware of the passing of time.
To be in the moment is a tough thing to do, but it’s something we must do in order to remember our experiences later in life.
To really be aware of every sight, smell and sound.
To put away the mobile phone and not view the world through a five inch screen.
To say yes to as many opportunities offered to us.
To explore new places and meet new people.
To truly embrace this world and our short time upon it.
And to do all this with a heart full of wonder and gratitude, and with a smile adorning our faces.
It’s a sad fact that terrible tragedies and disasters like Nepal will continue to happen throughout our history. But if we can extract any kind of lesson from them, it is a solemn one to the living left behind, reminding people not to take life itself for granted, for it could quite easily end in a single heartbeat.
Keep smiling, and never let life pass you by.
Well it’s certainly been a while since I updated my blog so I guess I best put in a final post before the end of the year!
Firstly, my lack of posts is not due to laziness, or forgetfulness. In fact there have been many points in my life that I’ve desired to record here during the past few months but have simply been unable to due to a lack of time. I’m not annoyed though as I welcome the work that has kept me busy.
The past year has had it’s fair share of ups and downs, sadly beginning with yet another family funeral, followed by another near the end. But they will not be forgotten by any means. x
Aside from the sad times, there has also been good ones. Not only have I become a published author twice, I’ve also made plenty of friends and contacts within the publishing world, opening up many doors and avenues into future ventures. There have been weddings, births, holidays, and good times with amazing friends. I’m happy and grateful to have spent these times with my amazing girlfriend Wendy who also works hard to pursue her own dreams.
Which brings me to the point of next year. Gratefully the world did not end on the 21st of this month, but amazing things did happen on that day. Thousands of people gathered around temples across the globe, ushering in a spiritual union that transcended individual religions. Many have spoken about this time being a positive turning point in humanity’s history, that peace and harmony will begin to wash over the minds of every single purpose on Earth. I think you can already see these changes happening. Simply by the amount of positive quotes and verses placed on social networks, and the number of people talking of joy and abundance. Of course, many will say I’m simply being ridiculous, but it’s definitely something I’ve noticed recently.
Do I believe though that mankind is entering a more positive change in it’s evolution? Maybe. But of course it wouldn’t just happen overnight. I feel people will only be happy if they want to be happy. They will only live in peace and harmony if they believe peace and harmony exists. As I’ve moaned about before, I believe soaps such as Eastenders and Coronation Street damage the perceptions of living more than anything else. Viewers subject themselves to 30min of poverty, misery, and dysfunctional relationships every evening, ramming home this belief that life is just one huge struggle, and that it is ok to treat others with contempt and selfishness. And if these programs really do do this kind of damage, imagine what kind of suffering daily viewings of Jeremy Kyle brings! So my solution to begin healing Britain is take these programs off and replace them with repeats of Father Ted and Friends. 😉
Now as the New Year approaches, many people will begin writing out their New Year’s Resolutions. If you’ve ever made one you’ll know that they rarely work. Putting that much pressure on yourself is doomed to failure as we constantly think about them, discuss them with other people and weaken them, inevitably returning back to our comfortable way of doing things.
This is why if you want to make changes in your life, I suggest simply making them now. If you want to get in shape, go for a new profession, want to find a new relationship, find new ways to make money, or indeed write a book, then you shouldn’t wait until the start of a new year to begin these things. You should make a firm commitment to start them right now and imagine how you’ll feel when you’re fit and healthy, when you’re in your dream job, when you’re with the partner of your dreams, when you’ve got the healthy bank account you wanted, when you’re holding the hardback version of your book, and really feel it. Because it is that emotion you’ll feel that will fire you up into going for what you want. Then any objects in your way will seem to magically move out of the way. And their strength will remain if you keep them yourself.
In to sum up – it’s not the seemingly mythical turning of the calendar that will help you in changing your life for the better, not is the enticing dates mentioned by ancient civilizations on big stone tablets.
It is your own desires and beliefs that ultimately create your world.
Which leads to the two golden rules of living in happiness – no matter what pain and suffering you see in the world around you, whether in the news or in fiction, you must believe the world is inherently a good place, where beautiful things and great dreams come true, and that we all have the potential to live gloriously, without pain or misery. And of course – never ever giving up on pursuing what you want in life, no matter how many times you get knocked down. Shoot a thousand arrows at a target and one will eventually hit the bullseye.
Go for it now.
And never give up.
Today Amazon.co.uk has reported that they have sold more copies of E.L. James’ astoundingly erotic novel Fifty Shades of Grey than the entire library of Harry Potter books combined, making her their best-selling author ever.
No whilst I may screw my face up at the very notion of the book (to me it’s simply the premise to a porn movie), you can’t help but applaud James on managing to break open the barrier between traditionally published and self-published books. In fact she’s blown it wide open. Most critics will turn their nose up at any self-published book, deeming it inferior to one that has taken its journey through a well-established publisher. But does that mean it isn’t what the general public want to read?
To me the world of novel-writing has taken a bizarre turn in the past decade. Whilst it has always been difficult to get published, even more so now with the world’s economy, publishers have always looked upon each submission with such enormous criticism that they could only read the first page of an author’s prized work before uttering ‘Meh!’ and casting it into a rapidly filling bin.
Now this could dash the dreams of the less-determined writer, but the invention of e-books and e-book readers has allowed rejected authors a fresh chance to show their literature to the world. Of course this has its downsides – the market has become rapidly pumped full of stories that look like the reluctantly penned homework of a ten year old. And not only this, but the choice of books on sites like e-bay has become so vast that each author once again has little chance of getting their work to an audience.
It’s almost like being in a stadium filled to the brim with people all singing as loud as they can, in the hope somebody will recognise their talent above the rest.
So how did E.L. James manage to do so well?
Well since the book began as fan fiction for Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight saga, it already recieved a bit of attention. It’s overly erotic themes received a few raised eyebrows on the site she posted it, and thus it was removed.
She placed the book on her own blog before again removing it to sell it in e-book and print-on-demand paperback versions.
Then through the use of blogs and word-of-mouth she managed to get the message out. And suddenly the demand poured in.
For the rest of us authors though, with books that are tamer and less scandalous, trying to follow in James’ isn’t quite as easy. Even for those with novels of similar tones, the road to success may have been built, but it’s now crammed with traffic as copycat novels spring up.
I guess there’s no true way to find the big break. But I do feel there are things you can do to help. We’ve all heard the saying – ‘It’s not what you know, but who you know.’ I feel there is no truer statement. Which is why it pays to be polite and respectful. Whilst working as a barman years ago, I did my best to be friendly to every single person I served, no matter how disrespectful they were to me. I can truly say that this paid off. Not only did it lead me to my friend and business partner Bev, and my girlfriend Wendy, but it has also brought numerous friends and acquaitences in all professions on whom I can call on for help.
Stopping to help someone get their car started? Who knows if that person is an artist who will design you a book cover in the future?
Helping an old lady with her shopping? Who knows if that lady’s daughter is a marketing consultant that could be a great contact in the future?
Which is why I feel a true, genuine and decent etiquette must always be employed both online and offline. There should be no ego-strutting, no borderline narcissistic personality disorders, and certainly no angry retaliation when somebody takes the time to critique your work. After all, we are all trying to sell our work to ‘people’. Why shouldn’t we treat ‘people’ with decency in order to encourage help and sales.
I’ve just finished Richard Branson’s autobiography and one incident has stuck with me.
When Branson was in his twenties and struggling to build Virgin Records as a successful record company, he found he could escape certain taxes by falsely declaring purchased records were to be sold abroad. So with filled vans he would take records to Calais, get a stamp to show the stock was being transported abroad, then turn around and sell them in England. Of course authorities soon caught on to this, and in the dead of the night Branson recieved a telephone call from an unknown man who tipped him off about a coming raid on Branson’s shops and warehouses, telling him to shine a blacklight over all his records and hide the ones marked ‘A’. When asked why the man was helping him, he solemnly replied that Branson had spent hours preventing one of his friends from committing suicide years early when the future billionaire manned a phoneline helping troubled teenagers.
Whilst of course I don’t advocate evading tax, this story just goes to show that good deeds can and do eventually catch up with you. Who knows, the next time you retrieve a lost wallet for someone, it could be a very grateful Stephen King. 🙂
Long ago, when I was a nipper living in Leeds, the only way I knew how to contact my best friend Stephen was to run across the road and knock on his door and ask if he was coming out to play. It seemed so simple looking back now.
I wonder how different my life would have been if I had grown up with the blanket of social networking that dominates today’s youth. In many ways I’m grateful that my childhood was unaware of such inventions. The practice of door knocking was as common as climbing trees and going out on ‘Goonies’ style adventures.
These days though social networks appear to put huge amounts of pressure on today’s youth. Whilst the inevitable onslaught of cyber bullying is plain to see, I don’t think people like Mr Zuckerberg quite forsaw the impact social networking would have on our lives – positve and negative. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a huge fan of sites like Facebook; they’ve allowed me to contact friends I’ve not heard from in over twenty years, and allow me to get closer to family members who I can’t see often enough. One example of this is how I got to know my amazing late Uncle Mark. Although he passed away sadly last year, I was grateful that I got to speak to him more through Facebook in one year than I had during my entire life.
But there is also the bad side to social networking. People can see where you are, where you’ve been, and what you’ve been doing. If you’re a slave to the social network, then your entire life is up for scrutiny. And there in lies the rub. Just one badly worded status, one picture with a certain person, one ‘check-in’ at the wrong place, can spell trouble in your circles. And this follows on to the fabled act of ‘unfriending’ which can cause wars amongst groups. Let’s face it, deleting a person from your friend’s list speaks volumes, whatever the reasons. It silently tells somebody that you no longer care about them enough to have them in your life. Of course this may not be the case at all, but human nature is one that usually imagines the worst. And depending on the individual’s disposition, they can either become hurt, resentful, unmoved, or just plain pissed off.
Personally I don’t see why anyone would feel they have to delete anyone without a proper reason. ‘Cleaning up’ your friends list is not a valid reason. You can easily hide people without causing anamosity so why cause drama?
If you don’t speak to these people anymore, so what? I have plenty of friends I don’t speak to much, that’s the way life is. Friends come and go, they drift in and out, but we never forget them. If a person speaks to me after years and years I’ll still be their friend, no matter what. I don’t see why we need to devote huge amounts of time to message everyone we know just to prove that we’re still mates. It’s like juggling with a few hundreds balls, it’s just not possible.
Having a considerate approach to social media begins to make friendships almost business like. Watching somebody constantly put negative statuses about their life puts a label on them. They may be just using social media to vocalise some stress but if that’s all you see of that person, you can’t help but get a solid opinion of that person.
I can’t help but wonder how social media will evolve in the future, shaping our friendships and lives. We complain that the government wants too much information about us, but we will freely give it away more and more through social networking. Our peers will also know everything about us, down what cereal we ate for breakfast (if you don’t announce that already). Reviews of individuals could become the norm – it already happens in Twitter – ‘Add this person, they’re really funny!’
For now though, I’m grateful that Facebook came about when I was in my twenties – probably the best age for it.
I’m also grateful that I can check up on my old pal Stephen, living happily in Australia. Even though we rarely speak, I still consider him one of my longest serving best friends, and one day I’ll go knock on his door and see if he’s coming out to play (at the pub).