Friday, 24 December 2010

Let's Go Round Again

One last chance to get the fingers on the keys before I get away to see my family.  A couple more presents to buy, a train ride and then three days of reacquaintance.  At this time of year I always find myself weighing up how the year has gone for me.  In terms of the blog, I got my question answered - I can't write for a living.  Perhaps I wasn't trying hard enough.  But for all that it was a pretty good year.  I travelled 3 times and got paid to do so (ok, twice, but the trip to Texas was definitely worth it, even if it didn't bring in any cash).  I got a couple of coverlines and I met more than a few interesting people as a result of this blog - there'll be an interview with one of them on here in the New Year incidentally.  The big highlight was the completely unique, unlikely ever to be bettered experience of inadvertently getting married in Ghana.  I'll get to do it all again, English style, this year.  Personally, it has been a challenging year and it looks like there's going to be a few more potholes in the road in 2011.  But I'm a London bike rider - I'm good at avoiding potential disaster.

So here's some good stuff that I found this year.  I found a few websites that I really like - it was nice to have some choice as my default sites are usually Twitter, Facebook and the BBC, in that order.  Platform and Sabotage Times should provide you with some distraction, should you get bored of sitting in front of the box in the next couple of days.  Always entertaining, best bloggers around are He Said, She Said and Pitchy.  Things are going really well for Pitchy it seems (despite being ill and living in Surrey) - hope he holds it together and becomes the success he deserves to be in 2011.

There are quite a few people I need to thank for helping me have a pretty cool year. A journalist that wrote back with useful advice was Rosie Swash - her podcast with Alexis Petridis is good if only because it illustrates how intensely passionate they both are about music.  Given that I no longer pore over the pages of NME, it's also a good place for me to find new music.  Journalists I need to thank for giving me the chance to write for them this year: Marie Claire Dorking at Company, Terri White at Shortlist, Duncan Craig at The Express, Matt Weiner at Sabotage Times, Martin Deeson and Mark Hedley at Hedge and Square Mile (and Eugene Costello for all the help and support he has given).   Lucy Land at West London Living.  Also Rachel Johnson at The Lady, perhaps the most surprising place I found myself this year.  The Lady also wins best office award; it's got character in abundance, lovely people and Coco the dog wandering around.  Thanks too to Jenny Wood at Look (now Buzz) and Andrea Thompson at Marie Claire.  There's bound to be someone that I've forgotten so if so, apologies and please feel free to write and berate me.   Eat, drink, be merry and we'll do it all again next year eh?

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

Sociable Networking

As much as I gripe about always having to look at a screen (monitor at work, Iphone on the tube, TV if I'm weak when I get home) one positive thing about social networking is, if you want to, you can get to meet some of the people that like your stuff.  In the case of @40before30, she started following this blog, then I started following her on Twitter and the other night we got to have a drink together.  Nothing dodgy about it (I've put on here that I got married in any case), it's because I think she might be good for a column I read regularly in a magazine.  I thought her job was pretty interesting (she gets to fly all over the world for a living) so even if the mag I've got in mind isn't keen, the interview will probably end up on here.  I mention the meet up because there are lots of features popping up stressing how lonely social networking can be.  You know the sort of thing; people have 376 'friends' on Facebook but they can't think of a single person to call when they're feeling a bit pissed off or they're on Chatroulette because they've formed an umbilical cord to their laptop and can't get out to the pub.  If you want to read a good blog on how the enjoyable social aspect of work has been removed for one bloke, you could do a lot worse than read Chris Floyd's blog on it here.

As I've never been formally taught how to pitch stories (does that happen?) and I was getting frustrated at not having placed a story that I had in mind, I went on Susan Grossman's 'Pitching to Editors' course.  If you've googled those keywords and you've ended up here, you're basically wanting to know if it's worth the money.  It is.  Susan breaks pitching down into a few very simple rules, you're left with a template for future pitches and her energy and enthusiasm is infectious.  Plus it's likely that she'll be holding the course at RIBA, which is a beautiful building that you've probably never been into (unless you're an architect).

Lastly, I'm ending the year with a bang.  The commission that I mentioned in an earlier post is out now, in Square Mile magazine.  Not only that, but it was their cover feature.  Ideally I wouldn't be defending fat cats in print but the truth is I enjoyed the challenge of writing about someone whom I knew nothing about when I took the commission.  Proved to myself that I could do it.  Lastly and for no good reason you should check out the wonderful, Burial produced 'Night Air' by Jamie Woon.  I'm hoping if I it gets into your head, it'll come out of mine.

Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Buy my friend's book

I go to the Marylebone Writers Group on a Monday night.  Someone reads 3 pages of their work and then everyone else offers constructive criticism.  One of our lot has only gone and got herself into print so this week the blog is given over to her.  As well as being good enough to publish, she's obviously also some kind of marketing whiz - she's got 450 bloggers, mates, whatevers helping her to do the below.  Given that I'm working at Marie Claire this week it seems kind of appropriate to plug some chick lit.  May I just add that there is nothing in this for me except for good karma.  And obviously the pint that Talli is going to get me next time she makes a cameo appearance at the writing group.  Right Marsha?

Help Talli Roland's debut novel THE HATING GAME hit the Kindle bestseller list at and by spreading the word today. Even a few sales in a short period of time on Amazon helps push the book up the rankings, making it more visible to other readers.

No Kindle? Download a free app at Amazon for Mac, iPhone, PC, Android and more.

Coming soon in paperback.  Keep up with the latest at


When man-eater Mattie Johns agrees to star on a dating game show to save her ailing recruitment business, she's confident she'll sail through to the end without letting down the perma-guard she's perfected from years of her love 'em and leave 'em dating strategy. After all, what can go wrong with dating a few losers and hanging out long enough to pick up a juicy £2000,000 prize? Plenty, Mattie discovers, when it's revealed that the contestants are four of her very unhappy exes. Can Mattie confront her past to get the prize money she so desperately needs, or will her exes finally wreak their long-awaited revenge? And what about the ambitious TV producer whose career depends on stopping her from making it to the end?

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Carping Contemplation or Money, Money, Money

Big gap since the last post - I've found it hard to write, to have ideas, as it's been a gloomy month.  I wish I had something insightful to share with you but if you read on, this is more of a personal post than usual by way of explaining why I haven't written here in the last few weeks.  It's a lot to do with the writing too though.

The operation I had on my leg on 16th September coincided with a particularly bad patch in my relationship.  Convalescing at my parents house seemed like a good idea, both because my partner wouldn't have to run around after someone she wasn't particularly liking very much at the time and because we thought a break might do us good.  It seemed to - we missed each other and it was good when we were reconciled.   A month without work meant no money though and the double whammy was getting hit for a lot of charges to do with a freehold purchase.  Though my partner has supported me in this experiment to see if I could write for a living, enough was eventually enough.  We're at the tail end of our thirties, this city is expensive and if we're to have all those things that normal people have, like more than one bedroom, a garden and a car, I was going to have to earn some money.  The lack of it and my lack of appearing to want to take care of my partner caused some problems to say the least.

I've been moaning and bitching to everyone I know about money in the last month or so - it's become my number one preoccupation.  It feels like without money in this town, you're no one.  Comparison with everyone around is inevitable but foolish, especially where I live in Notting Hill.  The constant parade of expensive cars, the free magazines that come through the door filled with property porn, the restaurants that surround us that are full of people drinking endless cocktails - it's all a little hard to take when you haven't even got enough for a pint of Guinness.  The stupid thing is I have never believed that money will make you happy.  It's just that I've got someone else to think about now.  To be selfish or selfless?  Some thoughts on that might have made for a better blog.

When I got given a shit load of money last year after being made redundant from the Mail, with hindsight, maybe I should have done things differently.  Writing the first draft of a book while living off the redundancy now seems like a massive indulgence - I enjoyed the summer, free of being trapped in an office for a change, I lunched with friends, I started this blog and I started hitting up everyone I could for writing advice.  I was pretty happy, because, essentially I was free to do what I liked.  I bought us a holiday and an engagement ring.  Maybe what I should have done is a proper journalism course.  Maybe I should have done as much picture research freelancing as I could and used that money as a deposit on a place for us.  Instead of which I'm still in a one bedroom flat and contemplating going back to a place I didn't like because I need the money.  On the positive side, writing has bought a lot of magical things this year: writing for national newspapers and magazines (including a cover-line), opportunities to travel (including an amazing 5 star trip to Texas), plenty of encouragement from peers and exposure to many interesting, funny and engaging people.

But what I've learnt is that I don't need to be resentful of a job.  There are lots of fine examples of people doing their 40 hours a week and doing the thing that they love outside of that.  James Mullinger, Picture Editor of GQ by day, is a gigging stand up comedian by night.  On top of all that he writes for GQ online and I believe, has just recently become a new Dad.  How does he fit it all in?  The point is that he's doing something that he's passionate about.  So, the place I've arrived at is, get the job if I can (it's by no means a foregone conclusion), write as much as I can outside of that, save some money, try to get ahead.  After all, that's what everyone else is doing isn't it?

Sunday, 17 October 2010

Platform for a Good Mood

I've been feeling a bit down recently and when that happens its a godsend when you find something to cheer you up.  The feature that put a smile on my bleeding miserable fizzog was some sage advice on how to have a long term relationship.  It's very wise, honest and funny.  By the time you get to the end you almost envy the understanding he has with his other half.  There's loads of good features to read on Platform and it'll definitely be my first port of call next time I get the blues.  The reason for my gloomy demeanor?  Money or rather lack of it.  I haven't worked for a month - partly because there was none of the bread and butter work that I usually do being offered (picture research), partly because of my bastard knee, which as been slow to heal and bloody painful at times and partly because I haven't been able to flog the feature that I think is really good (see last post for details).

I'm up to five rejections for the thing now, which may not seem a lot, but when you're lying there with your leg up just hoping for a little ray of sunshine, another 'thanks but no thanks' can feel like a real kick in the teeth.  Of course just because I think its brilliant, doesn't mean to say anyone else will but the rejections are making me really determined to place the thing.  Maybe its true that pitching is a bit like gambling - some you win and some you lose.  You're probably as sick of hearing me bitching that people won't take my story (how very dare they?!) as I am so here's the bit that's like the feelgood story they do at the end of the news about a really cute kitten or something.  Actually that's the story that usually makes me want to gag but anyway, I had an email last week ACTUALLY ASKING ME IF I WOULD WRITE SOMETHING FOR THEM IN RETURN FOR PAYMENT.  I got a commission and after a year of banging on doors asking for a chance, someone has actually come to bang on mine.  All I need is a couple of those a week for 48 weeks of the year and I'm laughing.

The fact that I tagged Lisa Edelstein as one of the people in the story from the last post prompted Daphne to get in touch from Virginia in the US.  So I know who she is and where she's from.  I also now know that if you tag your blog with celebrities, you'll get a lot of hits.   Daphne was a mad Lisa Edelstein fan who, reading between the lines, likes her so much because she's an actor herself (how come no-one is an 'actress' anymore - is that sexist too?) and admires her work.  Anyway, it was cool to hear from someone in a different country who read the blog and know why they were reading it.  I've no idea how the rest of you got to this blog though.  Yeah I'm talking about you in Russia and you in Denmark.  Come on people, get in touch.  I've got a lot of questions about, ooh I don't know, why Vladimir Putin was always showing his muscles while fishing and how come Helena Christensen is still so damn hot.

Friday, 1 October 2010

Who are you (and where are you from)?

Blogger has a tab that I've only recently discovered called Stats - I'll admit to being a bit slow on the uptake.  I was relying on Google Analytics for a while but for some reason its stopped recording traffic and I'm not enough of a nerd to work out how I can fix it.  Initially that was depressing as I thought absolutely everyone (even mates) had deserted the blog but then I was getting reactions to posts via Twitter, Facebook and the rest.  I'll get to the point - in the last few days theres been a real upsurge in hits and from countries where I dont know anyone.  This is both heartening and intriguing and, if you're reading this from a country outside the UK, please get in touch on the email address above.  I'm curious as to what you're reading and if you're finding it interesting. In particular I'd like to hear from anyone from UAE, Canada, Germany, China or Belize but wherever you're from, write.

The numbers going up has been a real boost as otherwise, its been a bit of a crappy week.  I wanted to write truthfully on here so if that's the case, I should write about the times when you're not getting anywhere with your pitches to magazines.  I have a really good story about Ben, who was the in-house photographer at a New York club in the mid 80s - his photos are choc full of celebrities, most of whom are at the beginning of their career.  Lisa Edelstein is there, 20 years before 'House', Russell Simmons, hanging out with Scorpio from Grandmaster Flash, young artists Keith Haring and Jean-Michel Basquiat, Rick Rubin and the Beastie Boys, BB Buell (Liv Tyler's mum)...the list goes on.  Specifically, I was hoping the Saturday Telegraph magazine would take it, just because they are great at giving space to both words and pictures for photo-stories.  They've turned it down though, as 'there isn't enough narrative'.  Frustrating, as I think the narrative would come from a finished piece once commissioned.  Also, to 'fess up, there were a couple of typos in the pitch - who's going to commission a sloppy writer?  Very embarrassing.  I'm going to push on with this one to other magazines and papers and if no one bites, you'll see it on here.  I also pitched something to Short Cuts in G2, but no joy with that one either.

On top of that my leg is fecking killing me but I'm determined not to whinge as it was my own bloody fault!  To leave you with something good to read, here are a couple of links to features on Rachel Johnson, sister of Boris and editor of The Lady.  I wouldn't pretend to know her very well though I've worked for her in the office and she ran one of my pieces of course, but my feeling is The Guardian feature gets her spot on and to my mind, is a great interview by Zoe Williams.  A great phrase Zoe uses is 'superior conversation-management' - its something I wish I had.  First read Rachel's boss saying 'You can't get her away from a penis' here and then the Grauniad one here

Friday, 24 September 2010

Perfect Pitch and Porno Post

I thought I'd start this week by bigging up a couple of other good writers out there.  Of particular interest to all you magazine people should be Pitching the World.  He's strayed off the subject a bit, but the original idea was to pitch ideas to all 642 magazines in the Writers and Artists Yearbook.  Along the way there has been alcoholism and the breakdown of his relationship, none of which sounds very funny, but his latest post 'Journalists I'd like to kick fuck out of' should, if we share a sense of humour, make you laugh out loud.

A really good journalist (and a thoroughly nice bloke to boot) is Jon Wilde.  I first saw Jon's name up on a framed magazine cover in the old IPC building - he'd interviewed Paul McCartney for a music magazine.  Later I got to meet him in my former incarnation as a Photo Editor when I was at a shoot with John Thomson (Fat Bob, Jazz Club on the Fast Show).  He's got a great dog too. Jon, not John.  Anyway, brilliantly bonkers interview that Jon did with Keith Floyd is here.

I'm laid up in Sussex convalescing after having my cruciate ligament in my left knee reconstructed. Before I went in last week my mind delighted in torturing me with the possibility that I might wake up mid-operation to see a couple of surgeons yanking stringy ligaments out of bloody holes in my leg.   Hardly the discovery of the century but I'm happy to report, however, that anesthetic is extremely effective.  Although they told me that it should take me about 20 seconds to go down, I don't remember anything after they put the mask over my face.  Next thing I knew I was waking up in the recovery room with Lucozade in my right hand. 

It's a funny thing, being back at your parents.  I'm in the same room as I was when I left, except now there's a flat screen TV instead of a Commodore 64.  It's a bit like a writers retreat.  The routine of my semi-retired parents consists mostly of afternoon naps, doing crosswords, watching the telly and in the case of my Dad, getting pissed.  None of which holds much interest for me, so I've just been doing loads of writing.  Or telling myself that I have.  In actual fact I've been clearing out my inbox and trying to get the Telegraph to take a photostory that I think would be great for their Saturday magazine.  If you haven't seen the photographs of dogs they published last weekend, they are, seriously, worth a look here.

Two more things to share with you and they're both in the section on the right hand side (Stuff I've Written).  The commission that I got for the Lake District got printed in The Lady and Sabotage Times took a piece that I wrote about threesomes (sort of).  If you read it, you can see if you agree with James Brown, who thinks it reads like a letter to a porn mag.  The Lady, Sabotage Times and Razzle; come to this blog for diversity and you shouldn't be disappointed.

Friday, 3 September 2010

Knocked Up

It was impossible to relax until this thing was done. In Ghana, there's a lot of hanging around and time weighs heavy on your mind. To make our engagement official in the eyes of her family, my fiance Karen had arranged for us to have a traditional 'knocking' ceremony, in which the groom (me) formally asks for the bride's hand in marriage in front of her family, friends and well wishers. For some reason, I hadn't done the thing that I normally do with anything I have no knowledge of: Google it. Karen had asked her Auntie Gladys if we could do something to mark the occasion as we were travelling to Ghana to celebrate her Grandmother's 100th birthday. Given that was a such a momentous landmark, I think I didn't expect our little ritual to be anything other than a small token gesture.

In any case, it had been underplayed. The information I'd received was that I had to imitate the sound of knocking on a wooden door ('ko-koh-ko'), state that I had seen 'a beautiful flower' and that I had come to pluck that flower, offering whisky and schnapps as compensation for the loss of the bloom. With all the knocking and plucking, my biggest worry was fluffing my lines. Since we'd arrived in Accra, it soon became evident that a couple of bottles of booze wasn't going to cut it. Each day, Auntie Gladys would ask us if we had brought another thing, 'Have you bought the cloth?', 'How much money are you putting in?', 'Have you got the engagement bible?' We had spoken to her before we travelled and she hadn't mentioned any of this - I began to suspect that the old girl was testing me. The goods were to be gathered in a suitcase and presented on the day of the 'knocking'.

Heathrow is a big airport right? Bound to have schnapps there. Uh uh. Have you ever tried getting schnapps in Accra? Even a savvy friend of the family that agreed to try and help us out had to squeeze his 4WD through several teeming streets while chickens and children disappeared scarily beneath the horizon of his bonnet before mercifully appearing unscathed grinning (the kids, not the chooks) on the other side. The third shop eventually unearthed a bottle housed in a box that looked like it had mildew, but it would do. Getting hold of an 'engagement' bible (who knew they existed?) proved similarly elusive. Our driver scratched his head as he headed up and down Oxford Street as the shops were putting up their shutters, stopping at a party shop (which turned out to be a supermarket) and a chemist before we realised he didnt have a clue where to find one either. In the end a cousin who'd grown up in the city and was getting married a couple of weeks later came through for us when we'd arrived in Abetifi, 3 hours drive North of Accra in the mountains. The village had a church at its highest point, a few tarmac roads dotted with potholes and shops in shacks. Best of all were the cool breezes that made the climate more comfortable than in Accra.

When we arrived for the 100th birthday celebrations, no one seemed to exactly know when the knocking would be. After two days of celebrations on the Friday and Saturday of the weekend, no more mention was made of it. We were asked to turn up to church on Sunday but it was so full we headed back to the guest-house and lolled around for another hour. This was when my butterflies started fluttering. Each successive person would say something like 'Today's the day eh?' with a sharp intake of breath and a pitying grin. After numerous photo-calls with all of the 148 attending relatives of Mama (as the grandmother was known), I was taken aside by Aunty Ophelia, who said, 'Dont worry; I'm on your side.' It was on. Another car scooped me up and onto a life changing moment.

Arriving to a forecourt filled with a couple of hundred people on either side, I was shepherded past them into a wood panelled room with family portraits on the walls, as family members filed in behind me. 'They're going to hide Karen. You have to convince the brothers to help you find her', somebody said to me as we went in. Mischief was evidently big in Ghana. It had been a hot day anyway, but suddenly it felt like there was no air in this room My palms secreted a glaze of sweat. At the front of the room sat Uncle Alex, the eldest son, with Aunty Gladys and Aunty Joanna alongside him, all of them resplendent in kente robes of bright orange. To my right sat Karen's Mum, Cecilia. As the service was mostly conducted in the Twe, a Ghanian language I didnt speak, Aunty Ophelia was to represent me. A call from outside the room came of 'A-yeh!' (basically, 'Get out of the way!') and she marched in, accompanied by other female members of the family. Barbara, Karen's sister, was put in front of the trio and asked if she was free to marry me. 'No Uncle, I'm not free. I'm not Karen!', she answered to hoots of laughter and whatever the Ghanian version of 'wa-hey' is. After the chuckling had died down, Karen was brought forward and asked the same question; when it was determined that she was free to marry, Uncle Alex wanted to see the goods. A hitherto unseen bottle of wine was presented, then the schnapps, followed by the whisky. The crowd heckled – it wasn't enough. They wanted to see the cash. The larger denomination notes we'd included in our suitcase were absent, in their place Ophelia held up a fistful of 2 Cedi notes (just less than a £1 each). A bunch were proferred to my future brother in law, Mike. Up to that point in the trip, we'd been getting on great. His face suddenly took on that of a mechanic about to fleece you. Aunty Ophelia offered a few more notes with a brow like thunder and mindful of that brow, Mike consented, at which point a rowdy cheer went up. My nerves had all gone by this point: this was pure theatre.

As the brothers had consented, so the family was happy. Uncle Alex then related a story of a man that was looking for a plantain. He went into the field and turned the plantains this way and that, inspecting them in turn until he found one that met with his satisfaction. Once he had found the perfect plantain, related Uncle Alex with a wag of his finger, there was no need to keep checking out the other plantains. 'You are now accepted into our family' he said, with a broad grin as the applause and wolf whistles exploded. I'd been waiting for my turn. Assuming it was expected of me to say something and with reference to the flower I had now plucked, I thanked him for his words of advice and assured him that I would do my best to take care of this 'rare and exquisite flower'. More hoots and clapping. After being told who everyone in the room was and greeting them with a handshake or a kiss, we were lead into the courtyard and presented to the crowd with Uncle Alex at the microphone. It's probably the closest I'm going to get to feeling like a celebrity.

After that the music kicked in and the caterers removed the metal covers from the food, letting spicy smells quickly mesmerise the people into forming a queue . Seated at the front of the dancefloor like Charles and Camilla when they visit a foreign country, we were congratulated by person after person, the most memorable one being the MC, complete with a triple size bottle of Scotch and shot glasses. Though I'd come to mark our engagement, I'd ended up a married man (in Ghana at least). My new wife and I took to the dusty courtyard floor and fell in with the rhythm of everyone else, our smiles never fading as the party continued into the night.

Wednesday, 18 August 2010

Coverlines and Moral Dilemmas

I inadvertently got married since I last posted.  My partner and I has asked to do something to mark our engagement with her family before we travelled to Ghana a couple of weeks back.  We were going out there to join in the celebrations for her grandmother's 100th birthday.  Bit of an eye-opener for me in a couple of ways - I'd never been to West Africa before and I got to meet more members of the family I was going to marry into than a person usually does.   Mama Ntim (the grandmother) had 11 kids, all of whom have since spawned their own.  I lost count of the amount of cousins I was introduced to but, when you meet your in-laws, you don't expect to meet around 150 of them in the same sitting.  Nor did I expect to have offer compensation for their loss of Karen to me in the form of whisky, schnapps, money, cloth and an 'engagement' bible.  That's another story (one I'll post here another time), but suffice to say there were lots of firsts.

Arriving back to Heathrow, I spotted my first coverline, on Marie Claire's September issue.   A PR who had helped me out with the Company story I wrote (thanks Sade) told me of a case study she had.  Jasmia Robinson had been on Britain's Next Top Model and her career was on the up until her neighbour stabbed her boyfriend in the stairwell of the building where Jasmia lived.  Her boyfriend survived, thankfully.  It was a challenging interview given the sensitivity of the tale - would it be awful for Jasmia to live through the story again as she related it to me for example?  Her PR assured me that she wanted to tell it as an example to others that you can live through terrible experiences and come out the other side to carry on with your life.  She's brave - the story is on p133 of the September issue of Marie Claire. 

The interviews with Jasmia went well and for the most part, she was very strong.  The copy got submitted and I felt like I'd fulfilled the brief.  As I read the magazine in Heathrow, the story bore only a passing resemblance to what I'd written though.  It had been sensationalised - there were words in the story that are not on the tape.    I've asked for feedback from Marie Claire but haven't had anything yet.  It made me feel firstly that I'd let Jasmia (and Sade, the PR) down, that I'd misrepresented them, although I got a mail today saying they were happy with it.   Less importantly, it made me feel like the writing must have been a load of shit for them to change it so much.  My conclusion was that I'm still young in my writing career and I have to experience a lot of different things before I know the kind of writing I want to concentrate on.  The truth was that I needed the money (and the byline) for that story, but perhaps I should have put my morals first.  It can be a grubby business sometimes.

Monday, 26 July 2010

Commissions, Connections and Canine Affection

Haweswater Lake.  And some sheep and rain.
July has been busy.  First the good stuff.  I got another commission out of the Express after the Peak District travel piece I wrote for them - this time I had to write about the Olympics and it should be appearing tomorrow as it will be two years until the Games begin.  Hedge magazine commissioned me to write a feature about crowd funding, for which I had to interview Charles Taylor, who decided to crowd fund his business after Patrick Wolf did it.  On the back of that commission something very cool happened that involves me doing something at the end of August but I'm not sharing until I'm actually on the plane.  Lastly I've just written a travel piece for The Lady about the Lake District.  It absolutely pissed down with rain most of the time I was there but it was still beautiful.

So how did these come about?  It's who you know.   I'd been following Martin Deeson on Twitter as I'd liked his writing ever since he did a feature about begging.  It was at the time when all the papers were full of stories about beggars making a small fortune and in my hazy memory he tried it for eight hours in the freezing cold and made about £1.57.   Since then someone else I know has suggested that he may not actually have been there all that time but whatever; I thought it was a breath of fresh air against all the outraged bile filled rubbish that the papers were printing at the time.  Where was I?  Oh yeah - I found out that an ex-colleague of mine was working with him, got Martin's email address, did the pitch, added a couple of Twitter nudges and then he got back to me saying go do it.  Hats off to my ex-colleague Eugene Costello, who I think supported my cause by mentioning my email to Martin, probably one of several hundred he gets every day.

The Lady (you have to say it like Walliams don't you?) thing came about because I've done some freelance picture research in there.  Amazing building to work in.  A member of the family that owns it lives in the top part of the building and there are gilt framed portraits on some of walls.  Rachel Johnson's dog, Coco, wanders around whilst you're working and I think every working environment could benefit from a canine presence.  A quick head rub makes everyone feel better.

Three commissions earned me £690 so the answer to the question at the top of the page is, currently, no.  Unless any of you lot can survive for a month on that.  The only answer is more commissions.  Must work harder.  Until next time...

Sunday, 27 June 2010

Peaks and Troughs - slight return

You've got to love England in the summertime, right?  Absolute smasher of a day this sunny Sunday and I've woken up to my first national newspaper byline (page 79 of the Sunday Express today).  It's the travel feature about the Peak District that I wrote about in the original 'Peaks and Troughs' post on this blog.  It's a good feeling - feels like I'm getting somewhere.  More importantly it part answers the question that this blog was set up to answer and that is, if only for a few days, I can write for a living.  There certainly needs to be many more commissions for it to be a viable proposition though.  Two of those a week could keep me pretty well.

The story behind it is that I met Duncan Craig, the Express Deputy Travel Editor a couple of years back when we were both invited to go up in the Stella airship.  Duncan, being a proper journalist and someone who was in a position to give them a plug, had a perfect right to be there.  Not sure why the PRs had thought I should be: I was a Deputy Picture Editor.  So, bit of a blag really.  Anyway, we got on, swapped business cards and when I decided to see if I could write, I mailed him asking for ten minutes of his time.  Surprisingly, given how busy he is, he said yes.  After some good advice, I added him to the mailing list for the blog and I think it might have worked as a regular reminder to his inbox that I was still here waiting for an opportunity, which he eventually gave me.  The other major factor in getting a full page in the Express was attending Peter Carty's Travel Writing Workshop.  Now, enough with the laptop.  Sunny English days like this are rare, so I'm off out.

Wednesday, 23 June 2010

Fear and Loafing

As a freelancer, one of the things I'm finding hard to learn is knowing when I can enjoy time off.  The whole point of being your own boss is that you can work when you want to, right?  Only true if you're in the happy position of being offered so much work you can pick and choose...and maybe not even then.  Most freelancers would agree that you take the work when its coming your way.  Enjoy getting fat feasting as long as you can before the anxiety inducing famine arrives.  You can't complain if a constant flow of work knackers you out because you'll only be cursing your own whinging when the phone has stopped ringing.

A new feeling I've encountered is freelancer guilt.  On a day like today, when the Scottish lady from breakfast TV is promising 28ºC (28!), you'd think I'd be justified in going to sit in the park for a bit with a good book and a bottle of something cold wouldn't you? I mean, how often do we get days when its 28º?  Maybe, in 365 days we might get, what, 10?  In the office where I worked full time it was actually a blessing that we were positioned under artificial light, quite far from the window.  If my terminal had been closer I would have spent most of my day staring out of the window wishing I was outside and wondering how all these other people seemed to be able to enjoy it.  Didn't they have to go to work?

Even worse was the lunchtime break.  Kensington Gardens was always full of dozy picnickers, unhurried and languid, who could stay in the sunshine as long as they wanted.  My lunchtime hour always flitted by super quick, as if some Time God was looking down guffawing every time I checked my watch.  Often I'd wonder what would happen if I just stayed in the park and returned to a bollocking which I could keep in perspective.  It always ended the same way - it just wasn't worth the aggro.  I would return sulkily to the office, still dozy from prolonged exposure to a happy sun to slump over a terminal and clock watch until I was released into the seemingly endless light of the summer.

So now I'm my own boss (to an extent) and given that we don't get many sunny days like this one, I'm off to the park, which I'm going to try to enjoy without thinking about the state of my bank account.  There is support out there for those agonising about loafing.  If this post has rung some bells with you, take comfort from The Idler.

Thursday, 3 June 2010

The Trouble With Women

Sometimes its suggested to me that I should write something for a certain section (not generally by commissioning editors unfortunately).  A journalist who I met last year was kind enough to tell me that she'd enjoyed reading something on here and that I should write something for 'The Trouble With Women...' which is a section in the Times Style magazine.  Eva, this one's for you.  No feedback from The Times yet.  Do you think I went too far?

'The Trouble With Women is...They Insist on Giving You Gory Birth Details'

I’m overjoyed that you’ve given birth to your child.  Really, I’m made up for you.  Remember how you were stressing that you had left it too late?  We’ve known each other since, like, forever.  We sailed through our 20’s drinking and dancing and there was that that time when we had that sort of thing before we worked out that we were better off as friends.  And now I love having you as a friend, I really do, I’m still amazingly fond and though I’ll never tell you, probably still a little bit (a tiny bit, not even worth mentioning really, maybe about 1%) in love with you but its cool.  Harry’s a great bloke and anyway, we would have been a disaster.  It’s great that we’re still hanging out all these years later and I even get a weird sort of buzz when my mates tell me they think you’re gorgeous after meeting you.  We are close; I love you so I’m happy that you’ve got the thing that you always wanted. 
You’re a Mum!  How strange is that?  You’ve carried that little mite around for the best part of nine months and now you have a beautiful, curious little being that can make you melt with one tiny contortion of its perfectly formed fizzog.  Yes, of course I want to know what its like to give birth!  Tell me!  It’s an experience I can never have and although women have been doing it for thousands of years, it’s still the most visceral, primal, sort of unbelievable thing.  I mean, another human being came out of you. Like, really?  That is just too mind-blowing. 
However, what I really don’t need is the image of you on a birthing stool (which I didn’t even know existed before you told me) that looks like half a toilet and how the midwife put a mirror down there so you could see the head emerging out of the part of you that was once the source (if I’m honest) of quite a lot of longing and curiosity on my part.  And thanks to you I now know, with all that pushing (it happens a lot you say) that you did a poo in the middle of it all and how you didn’t even need that many stitches for the tear as it was only a little one and Gemma’s was much worse and she was in surgery for 2 hours.  I really don’t want to think about your fanny being torn.  I do love you, honest, but, please, not that.  Dear God no.

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

Peaks and Troughs

After weeks of posting examples of writing on this blog, I thought it was about time I returned to the original question. Make sense wouldn’t it? Currently the answer is, I’m starting to. There have now been 4 commissions. Might seem like a small number to you but to me, each one is a little episode of joy. It means someone out there thinks I’m good enough at writing to pay me for it. I’ve thought of working hacks who might see a couple of commissions a week and take it for granted and I hope I never get like that. What’s better than doing something you really like and getting paid for it? I'm not trying to come across like one of the X-factor contestants who, in a desperate attempt for votes when they’re plainly shit, plead into the camera ‘THIS IS MY LIFE’. Writing isn’t like that for me, it’s just the only thing I’ve ever done that I really liked.

To anyone that’s reading this and is wondering how I got the commissions, I have to say the mere existence of this blog has helped. The blog goes out to a mailing list of media contacts that I’ve built up in the last year or so. Ridiculously, since I’m not normally superstitious, I’m wary of naming names before the words are actually in print (plenty of time for minds to change and features to get killed). Suffice to say that the man who offered up commission number 4 is from a national newspaper and is on the mailing list. Don’t worry I’ll be shouting it from the treetops when its in the newsagents. My guess is that the continuous hammering of his inbox with alerts to this blog kept me present in his mind. When he found something he could let a relative novice have a go at, I got the call. So now I’m up here in the Peak District being a travel writer. I’m staying in a cottage that was a former pigsty and I’m happy as the former inhabitants would have been rolling around in their own muck.

Tuesday, 27 April 2010

LCD Soundsystem, Brixton Academy, 24th May 2010

If frontman James Murphy follows through on his stated intention to make LCD’s next album the last, the world will be poorer for the loss of a band that works hard at pulling off the best kind of gig: a cross between a party with your best mates and a rave (complete with a fog of dry ice and lasers). It’s Saturday night and it seems everyone’s been invited: 40-somethings mix with 20-somethings and no one feels weird.  Given it’s essentially a farewell tour, what we get is a greatest hits show, from the first single ‘Losing My Edge’ to ‘Daft Punk is Playing at My House’ through to the new single ‘Drunk Girls’.  You can draw a musical evolutionary line back from LCD to two other influential New York bands.   Lyrically they’re close to Talking Heads, musically closer to disco-era Blondie.

From the opening ‘Get Innocuous’, drummer Pat Mahoney powers everything, keeping time as precisely and tirelessly as a machine.  It’s immensely satisfying dance music that builds and builds, adding layers of rhythms until you find yourself locked into a chugging groove before its all broken down again and the next track starts up. ‘Yr City’s a Sucker’ is one such example.  Given Murphy’s love of cowbells and various other members of the band hammering bongos or yet more drums, at times it smacks of the relentless funk that was Go-go.

In a recent interview with The Guardian, Murphy said he succeeds at making ‘dumb body music’ but the biggest cheer of the night went up for the opening bars of  ‘Someone Great’.  It’s one of the greatest songs ever written about heartbreak and loss, about carrying on with the trivial minutiae of life (‘there’s all the work that needs to be done…songs to be finished’) when you’re dying inside.  If any doubt still exists, it proves that dance music can be as much about the heart as the feet.  Murphy sings it mockingly at first, as if it doesn’t matter, before the obvious love of the song’s sentiment by the crowd obliges him to put his heart into it.   A 4 song encore ends with ‘New York, I Love You but You’re Bringing Me Down’ which comes over like a cross between a lovely lament from the drunk at the end of the bar and a musical show tune.  White balloons then tumble from the ceiling like it’s closing time at Studio 54 and with that, they’re off.

Wednesday, 14 April 2010

Snow Business

ACL is one of those initialisms which is referred to in uneasy tones by snowboarders, as if the existence of the thought of it will have an influence over the course of events on the mountain.  The snap I heard from my knee as my board wedged in a thick pile of snow and my body gave into inertia was conclusive enough for me.  Grands Montets at Argentiere (near Chamonix) had been blessed with the best snowfall of at least a month and riding through it had been beautiful until that noise.  The only silver lining was the experience of being rescued.  Able pisteurs strapped me into a sledge and took me down to a point on the mountain where I was hooked onto the back of a skiddoo.  Then it was onto the cablecar for the final leg down to ground level.  As they saw me waiting to get loaded in, boarders and skiers alike looked at me with my leg in a splint before grimacing and turning away, not wanting to let the black worm of the thought that it might happen to them eat away at their brains.

Two weeks and two days later, an MRI scan has confirmed it: my anterior cruciate ligament is ruptured.  It's not until something happens to one of them that you realise how much you use your legs.  For a fortnight now there's been no more cycling into the city, no more running for a bus and nothing so easy as just nipping to the local for a swift pint.  Pints I can still do but 'nipping' is definitely out.  Exiting the front door of the building (once I've reached it) brings Groundhog Day.  Along with my first intake of the best air of the day, there is inevitably a smug looking cyclist with the sun on his or her face, enjoying the peaceful streets of Notting Hill as salt is  slowly rubbed into my wound.  The GP thinks it will mean surgery but is sending me off to the knee doc just to make sure.  Meantime I'm trying not to think about what is ahead of me.  Some say six months before I'm back to how I was but one friend wrote to say that he's just at the point of being signed off by the doctor 11 months later.  In the meantime there is no choice: the patient must learn patience.

As a footnote to this, I'm glad I booked insurance.  In Euros, the rescue cost 360, the doc 150, the leg brace and drugs 90.  The insurance company also booked out three seats for me on the plane to put my leg up on and a car the other end that delivered me to my door.  I've previously had a rant about insurance companies not being fit for purpose so respect where its due: thank you Flexicover.

Wednesday, 31 March 2010

Success and Failure

If you find yourself in a newsagents this week, have a flick through this weeks copy of Look or the May issue of Company Magazine.  In Look you'll find an interview that I did with the Salad Club ladies Rosie & Ellie, who run a pop-up restaurant.  It was the second time I'd interviewed them, the first being for the blog initially, but then the South London Press liked it and subsequently ran it and then NFT picked it up for online.  I did pitch it to Look at the time and they passed...but then they thought of me later when they had an appropriate umbrella to put it under: pop-ups.  You know; restaurants, shops, bars.  Wish I'd thought of that as a group.  What I did think of was how crowdfunding is gaining pace.  It's a way of financing your project, whatever it is, by asking the online community to pay for it.  In return they might get shares in your company or a share of the profits but often they get nothing at all: they just want to see the project completed.  One of my case-studies, Kate Madison, tantalised Lord of the Rings junkies so much with the prospect of another film, they chipped in £17,000 so they could have another hit of the orcs and elves saga.

So I'm writing for a living (a small one).  How did I do this?  Jenny Wood, the Features Editor at Look let me work with them unpaid for a week.  It was easily worth it for what I learnt.  From the outside Look is all clothes and celebs but have a look at the real life stories and think about the research and persistence it takes to get them; that's what they taught me.   Crowdfunding came up the week I was there.  I got to know my subject and secured half a dozen case-studies.  As they were all women, I pitched it to women's mags after Look's Editor had passed on it.  Three more turned it down before Company picked it up. It's a good feeling when someone says yes to a pitch.

One little bit of me has failed though, a bit of my body to be exact.  I'd be pretty happy this week if I hadn't got myself a suspected torn anterior cruciate ligament whilst snowboarding in Chamonix last week. If my Doctor ever calls me back with an appointment for an MRI scan, tune in in next time to see if 'suspected' has become 'confirmed'.

Thursday, 11 March 2010

How Gaga's diction can help you win at Scrabble

One can learn any number of things when ennui leads to search engines. Claiming he discovered it in a bored moment at work searching results for diminutive words, a friend recently told me of his discovery of the continued online speculation about Lady Gaga’s gender.  I tried it and it works; if you type the word ‘if’ followed by a space, Google’s predictive guesswork throws up the top search as ‘Is Lady Gaga a Man?’ with over 41 million results.  The rumour started at last year’s Glastonbury, where a short red dress revealed something pink flapping about between Gaga’s thighs, although the Youtube footage displayed by and numerous others is too grainy to be conclusive.  With so many people apparently wondering, the question has been put to her on a couple of occasions.  Initially deadpanning that, ‘It's just a little bit of a penis and really doesn't interfere much with my life.’ she went onto say ‘I’m sexy, I’m hot. I have both a poon and a peener. Big f*cking deal.’  It’s at times like these that proves its worth. ‘Poon’ is the shortened version of poontang; ‘peener’ is the hybrid of penis and wiener. 

Urban dictionary can bring a whole new dimension to your Facebook Scrabble playing and there’s one word I’m hoping to get in the next time my boss’s back is turned. Big time US interviewer Barbara Walters asked Gaga if she was ‘part man, part woman’, a question that was interpreted by many online speculators as asking her if she was ‘intersexual’ (104 points on a triple word score if you’re wondering). The dictionary defines this as ‘being intermediate between male and female’. For the record, Gaga gave a definitive answer about her gender, a very definite ‘No’. Surprisingly for such an astute self-publicist, Gaga missed that opportunity to label herself as alien in the same sense as Ziggy Stardust, the alter-ego of her idol David Bowie. If people are speculating about you, why put a stop to the continuing free publicity by issuing a confirmation or a denial? Realising this, she backtracked a little by saying 'That's really quite a story! But in a sense, I portray myself in a very androgynous way, and I love androgyny.’ Despite having killed one rumour, the sheer number of the search results suggests ongoing interest, perhaps because one question remains unanswered.  What was that thing flapping around between her legs at Glasters?

Wednesday, 3 March 2010

Haircut 100

Do most men resent having to get their hair cut?  It's a knife edge experience for me.  On exiting the hairdressers I'm either elated and surprised that its gone so well, trying not to check my reflection in shop windows as I go, or angry and frustrated that I wasn't able to articulate myself sufficiently so that the guy with the scissors could understand me.  On those days I don't much care to see my barnet in a window as it's either going to be too short and I'm looking like I have some sort of wasting disease or I've got some crazy new 'do' that's too young for me which has left me looking like something out of Nathan Barley.

My first problem is describing what I want - embarrassing for someone who wants to write for a living you might think and you'd be right.  'Shorter at the back and the sides, a bit choppy on top, you know?' used to be my usual hopeful refrain before I noticed that every man around me at the time had more or less the same thing, with amounts and type of 'product' being the only real difference.  My other tactic was to find a picture of someone I thought had a cool haircut and take it with me.  This never works.  Brad Pitt, along with his other aesthetic qualities, has good hair and good hairdressers.  Brad's hair is like Brad himself - tough and thick.  It can be coerced into just about any shape and it WILL ALWAYS LOOK GOOD.  Usually because, on a handsome man, any old chop will.

Most of my mates have got to a haircut that suits them and stuck with it.  The classic is of course the skinhead or crew cut.  But what is a crew cut?  We have here a problem of definition.  The dictionary describes it as 'a very short haircut for men and boys'.  With this sort of vagueness its no wonder that its hard getting your hair cut the way you want.  Anyway, you know the cut I mean if you're a bloke.  Your hair might grow out curly or you've given up trying styles that don't work so you just get the barber to do a grade 4 clipper cut.  Or you bypass the whole barber bit, you've got clippers and you do it yourself.  If you're balding, this is definitely the haircut you should have.  Other blokes I know do the choppy thing that I described above even though it feels about 10 years old now.    Away from these two styles you're into fashion territory and that is a step too far for me.

I got to the hairdressers 15 minutes early thinking I would look through a few mags and find something that suited me.  You're right, we're back in 'show the man a picture' territory.  GQ was nearest to hand and I trawled through endless adverts feeling more and more desperate, only distracted briefly from my quest by Anne Hathaway looking like a sexy Morticia Adams in boudoir attire.  In the ads there are a lot of geeky looking slicked parting type things and worse still, there's a lot of 80's styles that are apparently beloved by Ralph Lauren, D&G and all that crowd.  I looked like a geek when I was 17 (some would say I still do), I don't live in Hoxton and I'm not gay so they were all out.  Giving up, I told Giovanni my dilemma.  'I never know what I want', I said 'Can't you just cut something that suits me?'  I was his first client of the day and he looked like it was a bit early to be creative.  'Let me have a look...' he said, initially buying time before getting to work.  He did his best.  My hair looks a bit like it did when my Mum used to take me, asking the barber for 'just a trim'.  No 'product', natural, not too daft but in truth a bit boring.  Not exactly cool but something I can live with.  And yes I did do the shop window thing on the way home.

Tuesday, 2 March 2010

Save BBC6Music


Dear Sir or Madam

While the recession means times are tight for all of us and I understand that the BBC is answerable to the licence fee payers, please don't axe 6 music.  I'm 37 years old - too old for most of Radio 1 except for the stuff that's on in the small hours (thank you iPlayer) and too young for Radio 2, which is too middle of the road for me and most of my peers.

6Music is good because it's a place where I can listen to new music when I want to (Marc Riley, Tom Robinson), can occasionally be assured of a classic from the days when I was mad about music (morning Shaun Keaveny) and be entertained by fantastically daft stuff in between (hello Adam & Joe).

You only need to surf Facebook or Twitter for a while to realise how much the station is loved and revered.  At it's best, its truly a station in the mould of the BBC's greatest ever DJ - John Peel.  It supports new bands, lets you hear them live and raw and is discerning in broadcasting older, mostly pretty cool music that you might have missed first time around, thus opening it up to a new audience.

The BBC is something I'm proud of as a Brit.  I love watching David Attenborough as much as I do Dot Cotton.  Similarly Mary Anne Hobbs does it for me as much as Desert Island Discs.  But without 6Music, there will be a big empty musical hole in my life.  Don't force us to listen to all the other rubbish commercial MOR stations like Absolute.  Keep us stimulated.

Please keep 6Music on air.


Lee Mannion

PS If you need to make cuts, get rid of George Lamb.  He's not bad on the telly, but just because a bunch of mates have a laugh when they get together, it doesn't mean everyone listening will if you broadcast it.

Friday, 26 February 2010

Smile or Die

The answer to the question that I set myself is yes, this week at least.  I'm writing for a living.  I got my first commission to write something for a magazine and it pays a weeks wage.  Of course I was happy (its what I've been working towards after all) but I've noticed some strange things about myself as a result of it.  The most significant is a kind of superstitious paranoia.  I thought about naming the magazine on here but then I thought that if I did and the feature ended up getting killed, I'd end up looking really stupid and no one wants that right?   Which means that I've somehow got to the point of thinking what I write here in the blog would have some influence over future events, which is of course plainly ridiculous. I've been reading about a similar sort of thing recently in a book called Smile or Die by Barbara Ehrenreich.  The tagline to the book is 'How Positive Thinking Fooled America & The World'.

As someone who is naturally cynical, I was drawn to it.  Someone suggested I read this book called 'The Secret'.  You might have heard of it.  Its a compilation of various theories of positive thinking from what you might call self help books.  One of the major theories they put forward is 'the law of attraction' which suggests

'that you can have anything you want in life by focusing your mind on it.  The universe exists to do your bidding if only you can learn to harness the power of your desires.  Visualize what you want and it will be attracted to you.'

as Ehrenreich herself summarises it.  The obvious answer to this is that there are an awful lot of people in the world who, for example, probably visualize having access to clean drinking water.  The reason why they don't have it, according to the law of attraction, is that they just don't want it enough.  Rhonda Byrne, the author of 'The Secret' stated that disasters like tsunamis can only happen to people 'who are on the same frequency as the event'.  In other words, they brought it on themselves.  You're probably getting what I think about 'the law of attraction' and 'The Secret' by now.

Don't get me wrong, I'm a positive thinker - I'm definitely the glass half full bloke.  I think like that because I have travelled.  I've seen beggars in India with grotesquely out of proportion limbs through elephantiasis.  In the same country I saw a yellowed corpse surrounded by flies dumped by a river, probably there (I was told) because the family couldn't afford a proper burial. Maybe it was more sinister.  I was told not to go the police in case they tried to pin it on me and extort money.  So I know that I'm lucky by comparison.  Food in the fridge, roof over my head - life is pretty good.

But to get back to the (frankly bizarre now I come to think of it) point, I've had to write the blog this week to convince myself that what I write here does not have an influence over the events of the universe.  Actually last week's blog proves it.  Kimberley Walsh has not been in touch.

Friday, 12 February 2010

Something Kinda Ooh

I've just woken up from a dream where I was having a sneaky kiss with Kimberley Walsh.  Pretty nice dream you might think.  The only problem was that Cheryl Cole and Nicola Roberts knew my fiance and I was terrified they were going to grass.  Guess it was guilt that woke me up.  Any Freudian analysts out there want to offer their thoughts?

Now I'm wondering why it was Kimberley I was fantasising about.  I always thought it would be Cole, despite those bloody awful L'Oreal ads.  Now I come to think about it Cheryl saying 'Weak? Limp? Lifeless?' is a bit too close to the idea of a fantasy going awfully wrong for my liking.  Imagine actually getting the Geordie sexpot to the point where she's up for it and having those words ringing round your cranium.  Not exactly going to fill you with confidence is it? 

But Kimberley, why her?  I think it's because Cole is just too damn showbiz these days.  She's thrown her lot in with Cowell and pretty much elbowed Posh out of regular appearances in the red tops.  It's probably not long before America will fall at her feet, if they can understand her accent.  Kimberley seems a bit more relaxed, not so fame hungry and most important of all, she's got the kind of figure that suggests she doesn't have an eating disorder: she's got hips.  And lips.  Yum.  Coyle's too bony and lets face it, if Jesse Metcalfe's not handsome enough for her, my fizzog ain't going to cut it.  Harding's going to outdrink you and be funnier than you in the pub - no bloke wants that.  And Nicola, well I'm not going to say the thing that everyone else says about her.  I've never been out with a Ginge but I've definitely fancied a few.  Its her accent that does my head in but that's probably down to the fact that I'm mentally scarred by working with the Art Director at Live magazine.

So: lovely Kimberley.  I was going to write something about Valentine's Day this week but we've all played the 'Who Do We Fancy Most out of Girls Aloud' game haven't we (or if you're a girl, 'Which One Would You Have as a Mate?' - its usually Harding)?  I've got a good story about Valentine's which involves me thinking it was alright to meet a female friend of mine on the day as my girlfriend had given me the impression she thought it was all a load of Hallmark rubbish.  Oh how wrong I was.  Boy I learned a lesson that day.  But I'll save that for another time.

Wednesday, 27 January 2010


So far I've resisted the lure of the iPhone, even with all those sexy apps.  It would just be one more screen that I would be required to look at in the course of a day.  If one good thing has come out of the requirement for modern day workers to perform their daily tasks at computer terminals, it might be, if they're anything like me, that they watch less TV.  Sometimes I just can't face the goggle box after a day in front of several other screens. Its BBC Breakfast for me while I'm spooning porridge or eggs down my gullet, then a monitor for 8 or so hours at work if I'm freelancing for someone.  Then it's the laptop when I get home for a bit to deal with all the emails I swerved during the day, for Facebook and Twitter, for this blog and others.  Depending who is online, it might also be time for a Skype or MSN.   Then there's always the lure of 'Enders or the 9pm movie on Film4 and Family Guy is always hard to resist, right?  Even in the pub I might find myself looking into someone's photos on their phone or a video of them goofing about.  If it's not on screen, does it even exist anymore?

So the release of the iPad is just another gadget that will add to my paranoia about the amount of time I spend looking at a screen.  Sure I want one; if the success of the Pod and the Phone are anything to go by it seems inevitable that in a couple of years you'll find me on a train running my finger over the screen of one more tenderly that I would a new lover.  Damn them if the bods at Apple haven't found another way to eat into some of the rare non-screen time I had left.  Shitty weather makes me happy as it gives me an excuse to forsake my bike and get on the train, which means I can read.  Old fashioned paper with words printed on it: a book, a newspaper, something tangible in my hands.  Even reading a restaurant menu these days provides me with a thrill, albeit relatively minor. How long before I'm tapping on the table to order and the job queues are full of ex-waiters?

And in other news, the answer to the question this blog poses recently was yes - I ended up writing for Shortlist.  Now I'm off to get on the laptop to find out how long it is before they release the iPad in this country...

Wednesday, 6 January 2010

He Said, She Said

One thing I have never done on this blog is big up another writer that I like so it's about time I addressed that.  If you've never read The He Said She Said Review before you should if only because people, it's January.  The cold breeze of winter is blowing up your trouser leg and you're considering long johns even though you previously thought they were for old people and the very fact that you're considering wearing them has got you worrying that you're middle aged already and you haven't even done anything with your life yet.  That combined with the lack of light in the day and not being able to go out because you're skint after Christmas and because its buggering freezing (did I mention the weather?) is getting you down.  You need a laugh.  Therefore you need to read Chris and Emily's gig reviews.

They shouldn't be funny.  Basically the two of them seem to get pissed, muck about, not really know what to say to the bands and occasionally have a fight.  We've all done that and usually when we relate that sort of thing to our friends, they do a sort of fake guffaw or maybe a nose-blow of a laugh and pretend like its amusing in a supportive kind of way.  Realising your hilarious story probably only seemed hilarious because you were inebriated, you change the subject and move on.  So I don't know why even though most of their posts are pretty similar, I still want to go back and read each new one.  I think its a bit like watching the Royle family - I'm laughing because its holding up a mirror to what is familiar.  Just like I've sat around a telly with my family and, if I 'd thought about it later, it would have made me smile, so hesaidshesaid feels like I've done that or I've seen people doing that and plain and simple, human behaviour can be very funny.  Treat yourself and hit the link.