2014: Yearly Review

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Contrary to what you may have read on my Twitter or even this blog, this year had been one of the shitter ones of my life. A lot of friends have passed away this year, one of my siblings had a cancerous tumour removed, a lot of friends lost their jobs and had to move due to finances, I myself am still unable to find gainful employment, had to move out of my bedsit, had my bank account frozen, my phone cut off and debt collectors after me. With nothing on the horizon for 2015 I confess it all looks rather bleak.

However…

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I couldn’t be happier.

I turned 30 this year and frankly, in and of myself, I’ve never felt this good. I know a lot of you think that might be hilarious given what a grumpy son of a bitch I am but I have improved whether it is perceptible on the outside or not. More than anything else I’ve realised what I want to do with my life this year and realised how little certain things matter. Its amazing how liberating it is not caring what a lot of people think and realising its important to do what makes you happy. I had a rough time at school and never had many friends, was never popular or accepted but in the last year I feel totally different. I made more friends than I ever thought I could and they showed me a generosity I truly did not deserve. In case you hadn’t heard, my friends on the Vine app bought me flights to the USA to meet them all and I had the time of my life.

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I also, as ever, am reminded what a great family I have. Without them I really wouldn’t be here today and I am eternally grateful I was lucky enough to be born into this group of weirdos. As irritating as they all are I love them all dearly and being able to spend more time with them now after 7 years in another part of the country has been wonderful.

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Its all pretty hard to put into words so I won’t try but 2014 had little to offer in practical terms, took a lot away in fact, but personally it has made me more comfortable in my own skin than I have ever been. Part of that was realising what my actual problems were so I could fix them and, again, I figured a lot of that out while in America. I realised I actually have a real issue with spending time in company of people even when I really want to be there. After a long weekend I realised I had depleted any social reserves I had and ended up having to walk out on a group of friends to be alone and cry. That was educational in that I now know my limits and that I’m not just being “shy” or “reserved” it’s a genuine problem and I’m trying to fix that. Even if its just me being able to have a better store of social energy.

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I don’t believe in New Year’s Resolutions and have stopped trying to preempt a year by saying “it’s gonna be great” or “its gonna be awful”, it will be what it will be. The best I can hope for is that I can keep the wonderful friendships I have made this year and keep improving myself and stay as happy as I am. Its strange to finally be the person you’ve wanted to be for so long and wonderful to realise you have so many people to inspire you to do that. Its all very abstract and personal so I won’t go on about it or I’ll start sounding like a self-help book or a crappy tumblr post. In short: despite my life being in the pits right now, I’m actually really rather happy. I think its mainly a change in priorities; people not things. Armed with this I feel a lot stronger and more able to face the New Year.

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I don’t have much more to report but thank you all for your help this year. I’m so proud to call you all my friends. I feel like a new man and its your fault. Its amazing how far a little kindness will go. Happy New Year and here’s to 2015.

Time of my Life

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I got back from America a week ago.

I miss the hiss of white noise drowning out the clatter and clang of a bakery next door. I miss the disappearing horizon through a mist of wind blown sand. I miss a hug from a new friend and different person everyday. I miss the flatness and clean arrangement of the towns. I miss rotten apples on a window sill in opaque light. I miss looking up from my feet more than twice a day. I miss walking till my hips twitched when I finally sat down. I miss the scale. I miss how big everything was. I miss how big everyone’s ideas were, how big their hearts were and how big their generosity was. I miss feeling involved in something. I miss being part of a group. I miss looking into a sink full of dirty dishes and being shooed away. I miss aisles and aisles of alien produce and packaging. I miss Canada Dry. I miss sitting back and watching people interact without being ignored. I miss feeling like I was wanted somewhere. I miss smiling so often. I miss being amazed at every corner and being in awe nearly ever minute of the day. I miss forcing myself to be articulate. I miss being kissed. I miss feeling like I was having an impact on someone. I miss Fijit nosing me in the dark. I miss having something to do everyday, even when it was nothing. I miss watching people be so happy. I miss sand being fucking EVERYWHERE. I miss being silly. I miss the steam coming through the drains. I miss the golden hour when the sky became a grade and the lights came on and everything came to life. I miss the expectancy that hung in the air. I miss walking down 5th avenue arm in arm with two beautiful women. I miss the views. I miss the trees. I miss those goddamn noisy crickets. I miss getting in the wrong side of the car. I miss the Avenues that went for miles straight ahead like giant troughs of a tail-light stream. I miss not caring what time it was. I miss staring at piles of food bigger than my head. I miss holding a hand. I miss resting a head. I miss the smell of the river. I miss that fucking view from the Brooklyn bridge. I miss singing stupid songs along to youtube. I miss holding my phone at the ready 24/7 because anything could be around the next corner. I miss being in someone else’s Vines. I miss just trying out ideas. I miss being listened to like what I said matters. I miss hearing people dissect their thoughts and feelings instead of brushing them aside for later, private inspection. I miss people being forthright. I miss the friendliness of strangers. I miss their openness. I miss being exotic and new. I miss not being mocked as a way of formal greeting or “endearment”. I miss the guffaw. I miss the 8 year old in grown up body. I miss the wildman in a shabby garret. I miss the bubbling bear and his Goldilocks. I miss the BFG. I miss the steel woman. I miss the grown up tinkerbell. I miss the famous girl. I miss all the damn dogs. I miss people out. I miss my friends.

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I wish I’d said thank you more. I wish I’d had more money. I wish I could have treated people more. I wish I hadn’t got sick. I wish I wasn’t so grumpy. I wish I was more emotionally articulate. I wish I’d told everyone how grateful I was. I wish I could have repaid everyone. I wish people had realised how quick time was going to go. I wish I had spent longer with everyone. I wish I had finished that chocolate cake. I wish I had made a move. I wish I had held that hug just a second longer to let her know. I wish I had looked back. I wish I hadn’t got so grumpy when I couldn’t explain I wanted to spend more time with people or more time alone. I wish I was better in groups. I wish each party hadn’t taken so much out of me. I wish I could have explained how drained I was instead of walking out so I could go and cry on the beach. I wish I could have told them to stop being so fucking nice and understanding which was making me upset. I wish I could have told them how fragile I was without sounding like a prick. I wish I could have been stronger. I wish I could have endeared myself to more people. I wish I had been well enough to go on the ferris wheel. I wish smores had tasted better. I wish America had better chocolate. I wish I didn’t have to keep letting people pay for my whole damn trip. I wish I was a millionaire so I could do the same for everyone. I wish there was a way I could have bottled that night. I wish I could live by that river. I wish I had a bed like that one. I wish I could live those three days again. I wish I hadn’t freaked out and ran out of that cigar bar. I wish I had spent longer in the Farm House. I wish I had been there longer than a month. I wish I was more confident. I wish I could explain how much it all meant to me. I wish there had been a piano somewhere to play. I wish I’d stayed longer in the home without doors. I wish I didn’t have to write a stupid blog post in a list to tell them all how much I love them. I wish people could see what can be done if people give a shit. I wish people would stop decrying social media and start decrying humanity’s appalling attitude to its own species. I wish people would listen. I wish people took a broader look at the world. I wish we weren’t all so fucking stupid and self-centered. I wish we took care of one another like they all took care of me. I wish I was worth all of it. I wish I was still there. I wish.

I miss.

I wish…

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All Change for 30

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So as you may or may not know I turned thirty at the beginning of this month. Typically this was a time to take stock and reappraise a few things. What this revealed, in sharp relief, was that I think Manchester and I have come to the end of our time together.

I moved here in 2007 and I do not say this lightly: The years in between now and then have been my most formative. It is only now I feel I know who I am and what I want to do with my life and almost all of that was done here. I love Manchester dearly and am sorry to leave the place but the fact of the matter is, I have nothing to keep me here anymore. I have no job keeping me here, various creative outlets are (whilst enjoyable) only occasional and don’t pay, my room (whilst fantastic and cheap) is not a permanent residence and has the worst flatmate in history, work up here is scarce (we’ll come back to that), most of my friends have either moved on or away and whilst the friends I do have here are great, a lot of them have their own grown up lives that cannot be there to entertain the unemployed scrub. But most of all I have been completely unlucky in the dating game up here. My main relationship I had whilst here was with a girl living in Kent who had to travel and the only other relationship ended so acrimoniously I basically lost a lot places to go and acquaintances. Again I love the North and its populace but I feel like the Tories and pits of old, I have mined it of all its main worth to me so I’m ripping its guts out and leaving you to fend for yourselves. Or something I’m fairly certain I shall return however…

So what’s next? Well in the immediate future I have my super amazing jaunt to America in September which is going to be pretty fantastic by the looks of it but after that it looks like I will be heading for the big smoke of London. Now anyone who knows me will know this sounds like gross hypocrisy. And it is. I absolutely HATE our capital, not because its a horrible place but because its populace are rude, unpleasant, self-important dicks and its identity is equally self-important. The fact it is basically the only centre for industry and work for the whole of England frankly disgusts me. Having lived in the ‘provinces’ so long and observed the cold disinterest of the capital to every other city or town outside of it I have nothing but contempt for its self-obsessed indulgence. Unfortunately this also means its the place to go for work and particularly my chosen field of career, and probably also a liveable working wage. In short, yes I will be moving there but expect an awful lot of online chatter from me about how much I hate the stupid fucking place and its city boy twats.

My other rationale is that it is nearer my family in Kent and it will be easier to get back up North and down South quicker and cheaper so I can spend less time and money keeping up with family and friends. Who knows though? As people keep suggesting I may never come back from the states (this is unlikely but its an exciting thought) so there could be all sorts of changes ahead.

So that’s it really. Just wanted to say thank you to everyone I’ve met here in Madchester for all your help and support through the rough times and the good. Its still an amazing place and I would recommend everyone live here instead of London, largely because the water’s better. I’m hoping to be gone by the end of the month so if anyone wants to meet up before I go let me know but I’m going to have a pretty busy schedule between now and then so get in quick. Like I said, its here that coaxed me into being the person I am and that’s down to all the friends I’ve had here and all the really fun and cool things I’ve done. Its been a great 7 years and I shall never forget it. I’ll be back to visit, you can be sure and I’ll certainly let you know when I am. In the meantime I’ve got two weeks to get my affairs in order so I’d better get cracking!

…Said Stephen Blackpool.

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“Give Me A Reason. Please.”

The title of this post is a line from that classic of cinema, the Lost in Space film from 1998. Joey from Friends pulls a gun on Beethoven after he tries to do something dastardly and says those immortal words. I am metaphorically holding a gun to 2014’s head and saying the same thing.

Last year, it must be said, sucked. Overall it felt like a waste of bloody time so I’m determined to make something out of this one. I did accomplish some stuff: Read 50 books, got a poem accepted by Penguin, wrote a novel and a poetry collection; but more generally accepted ‘normal’, everyday stuff people have like: a job, money, regular meals, a permanent abode, a partner, romance, an active social life, remained elusive. Or non-existent in many cases. If I’m honest the best thing that came out of last year was the discovery of an app on my phone called Vine. I wrote a post about it in the summer but since then things advanced quite rapidly. I have three new best friends I talk to everyday because of it. The ONLY date I have been on in over two years was because of it (don’t get excited, it didn’t end well). I found a whole community and made some other great friendships and real, true-blue artists with some wonderful talent have encouraged me no end. Sadly they almost ALL live in North America. Like anything, particularly social media, its what you put in that you get out and Britain has most certainly NOT caught on to the wonders of Vine yet as we seem to lack the outgoing spirit required to show off for 6 measly seconds. And to be honest, I’m glad. I’ve been living something of a double life on there for the last seven months and it has been a breath of fresh air to get the “anything goes”, carefree ebullience of the American/Canadian way of thinking. Sadly it has its crappier side, like anything inhabited by humans, but unlike Twitter I restricted my intake and was rewarded for only following a small amount of people whom I actually liked. There is a growing British contingent but by and large they’re (for me) not that interesting/funny yet, a broader community will help but that’s a way off for the time being. Whatever, Christiana, Paulette and Ryan are three of my favourite people in the world right now and have been the most attentive and wonderfully kind friends anyone could want, whether they live in Massachusetts or not. I love those ladies. And I love Vine for introducing me to them and the other gaggle of friends I now have.

My novel is all but finished in its final draft form, it merely requires another full read through to spot any screw ups and we’re done. I’ve also cobbled together the best of the poems I’ve been writing over the last couple of years into a full collection (as opposed to a pamphlet) which is also pretty much done. This means, hopefully I can spend this year touting them around. I’m not holding my breath – keeping expectations low these days is the only thing that’s keeping my head above water – but at least I have ‘product’ to sell that I believe is good and finished to a submittable level which is more than I can say for other projects I’ve embarked on in the past. Last year showed me that writing is what I enjoy the most and what I am best at and that it is what I should be trying to do with my life so having these things “in the bag”, as it were, to send out is a considerable boon.

Instead of cramming books this year I’ve decided to give a few “BoxSets” a go, or at least watch a lot of TV shows online. On the list is: Series 4 and 5 of Breaking Bad, The Wire, Dexter, Mad Men, Broadchurch and basically the whole of 30 Rock (I know I know I know, I don’t watch TV). This doesn’t mean I won’t be reading this year, oh contraire, I have a little list planned. I shall endeavour to read some of the ‘Big Uns’ this year. As I read so many last year and only just managed my task I thought I might try my hand at the bigger, longer books. I am not going to be reading War & Peace or Clarissa because frankly I want to do something other than read this year but I am going to relent to pressure from various sources and give the impenetrable sack of words that is James Joyce’s ‘Ulysees’ a go. Numerous people have insisted I read it, especially if I want to ‘do’ poetry, so am relenting. I’m told the best way to go about it is to “dip in and out” and if its good enough for Marilyn Monroe its good enough for me. I really enjoyed The Dead last year so figure I might as well. Another task is to actually read the whole of Homer’s original Odyssey as opposed to skimming and finding the best bits like last time. Ovid’s Metamorphoses is on the list too for reasons that I shall elaborate on further throughout the year. A long held desire has been to read the unabridged version of The Count of Monte Cristo as I’m a fan of classical ripping yarn as I discovered last year so that’s on the list too. JK Rowling and her alter-ego’s books are also TBR for this year. Frankly I think that’s enough to be getting on with for now so I shall let you know how all that comes along as and when and my thoughts on them when/if I finish them. I may not finish Ulysees this year to be honest as I have read passages before and felt my eyes begin to curdle but never let it be said I shy from a challenge.

Beyond that my real ambition this year is not to be such a lonely sad-sack. I refuse to spend another year in its entirety, single. I am bored of being alone and tired of having not even had more than one date in two years. I have no idea how I’m going to go about this as all the things people REPEATEDLY tell me I should do I have been doing: I’m constantly out gigging and DJing in various bars and clubs (i.e. getting “out there” as is so often stated), I let friends introduce me to people, I try online websites (subscriptions fees limit the usefulness of this) and yes that includes Vine, I’ve gone from timid wall flower to just flat out asking women out, yet all to no avail so frankly society you can keep your “tried and tested” means to yourself. There seems to be no end of advice people who aren’t single have for you as a single person and frankly its all been twaddle thus far. I think the real reason I have remained single is that I don’t drink. That’s a major drawback when flirting/having no confidence. Either way I’m not a hideous troll, I’m not unkind or crass and nor am I an idiot so I think I deserve some sort of romantic entanglement. Christ knows I’ve earned it.

I’ve updated this here site as you might be able to tell too and will hopefully be posting more now I have my computer back and the internet. Thanks to those of you who have stuck around to read my ramblings, its nice to see the traffic figures continue to maintain a steady readership even if its not that many of you. In the meantime, Happy New Year and if we could try to maybe be a little nicer to everyone and stop killing each other or screwing each other over for financial gain, that’d be great. Thanks.

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I got 29 problems but Age ain’t One

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I turn 29 tomorrow.

I genuinely don’t care that I am getting older. In many ways I look forward to getting old and am certainly interested to see how 30 feels in a year’s time. All together though, its just a fucking number lets be honest. The amount of time a planet revolves and circles the nearest start is a pretty inexact and fairly arbitrary method of gauging time and could be easily thrown off by the slightest alterations of our planet’s axis.

What does depress me is my life I have lived in my 28th year.

I quit my job nearly exactly a year ago due to my desire for change and the fact I had accomplished little thus far in my life and had no future prospects. After quitting however and as money ran dry, predictably I had to move out of my lovely lovely flat in Manchester and began to sofa surf with some very patient friends. This lasted from November 2012 till February 2013 when I realised I could no longer strain my relationships with my friends any further and it was time to return to somewhere I might not be booted out of: Mum’s. To put this in perspective Manchester is in the North West of England and Kent is 200 miles south in the South East of England. So I left all my possessions, all the projects I had been slowly building and all my friends far behind to return to my old home town where I had not lived for any length of time in 5 years.

And here I have remained since.

I made a deal with myself however to return to Manchester if I was still here by this time. A deal I have adhered to. As such I will be returning north on the 10th. I am still unemployed and skint but you cannot just wait for change as you might be waiting a long time or else it will probably not be the change you desire.

In the last year the main thing that has kept me going has been the discovery of what I actually want to do with my life which seems to have been what this whole year of my life has been in aid of. After dabbling in Music, Acting, Photography, Directing and much more besides I realised where my real passion and probably my greatest strenght lay: I want to be a writer. Sadly I want to write poncey things like poetry and novels which it is very hard to make money from but the satisfaction that came with that discovery was no end of delight. Sadly this all seems to have come at a price. I have written non-stop since this discovery: poems long and short, a whole website, a novel, a couple of essays, several posts on here, a play and other sundry nonsense besides but other than this I have achieved nothing.

My friend referred to this as “an interesting experiment in social depravation” which I think is pretty accurate. I am unemployed, no home to call my own and living out of a rucksack, skint, no social circle to see, nowhere to go and single. There is literally nothing other than job-hunting to fill my days with so out of necessity I write. Whilst productive it is also pretty wearing. Humans need interactivity and being starved in this regard does funny things to you. The last few months have been quite a slog and in no way cheerful but in an attempt to form some sort of communication I started posting more regularly on Vine and became basically addicted to it as a result. You can see and talk to complete strangers who (generally) are very positive. I wrote a whole post about it on here that you can read.

So with something of a little bit more cheer in my bones I will be returning northward next week and hopefully 29 will mean greater things now I have stuff written I can tout/sell. The arbitrary line in the sand of a person’s age is less meaningful to me than the fact exactly a year ago I took a bold and not really successful step but I am still glad I did no matter how dull this year may have been or however many friendships and relationships therein I may have put under strain. I accomplished one great thing this year and hopefully next year I will accomplish many.

 

Summery Summary

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I have had a busy week or two and should follow up on the previous post but feel like there’s not quite enough of certain topics to fill a whole post so am going to amalgamate a few topics. As such, this will probably be a little scattered and disparate so apologies for that. Anyway, in no particular order:

  • Man of Steel

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I bloody loved this film. I have little more to say than that. It reminded me very much of Batman Begins and I think it was a great introduction to the character and world. Complaints about it being to action-ie I think are stupid. I would have been very disappointed if shit didn’t get smashed to crap in the modern age of CG etc. This is exactly the sort of film I wanted of Superman in this day and age. Wasn’t too deep, was perhaps a little too convoluted in places, but generally a blast from start to finish. A great set up for what is likely to be a stonking sequel if they focus on a battle of wits between Luthor and Kent/Superman. Excited already at the prospect!

  • Peppa and Picasso

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I have spent a lot of time with children recently and similarly a lot of time watching children’s television. One favourite is Peppa, its happy, bright and has a gentle yet warm sense of humour I really like. My main interest is its animation style though. It is an indication of the kind of absorbent culture we live in that can cherry pick from any of the arts in such a way that you can now have a cartoon drawn in a neo-cubist style. Bear in mind this particular style was massively controversial even fifty years ago. Picasso got hate mail and paintings were spat on for his, now appreciated, artistry that dispensed with vanishing point and perspective allowing for a freedom of artistic depiction that still adhered to the human eye’s recognition. And now the same technique is being used by a children’s cartoon for under fives. It never fails to amaze me how easily we have assimilated such revolutionary ideas into everyday life and mass consumerism. Futurism, minimalism, discord, avant-garde, pop-art, cubism and many other ‘schools’ of change that literally altered national perception within the given art forms are now on kids TV, album covers, films, soundtracks and coffee cups. As my spirit animal and cultural commentary guru once said “Only in a truly decadent society can you use the phrase ‘Standard Fantasy Setting’.” – Yahtzee Croshaw

  • Other Films

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I spent a week in Manchester recently to see friends and try and find somewhere to live but whilst there saw a massive amount of films (even for me). In addition to Man of Steel I saw: Silver Linings Playbook, Argo, Wreck It Ralph, Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist, World War Z and Behind the Candelabra. Uniformly they were all pretty excellent and I thoroughly enjoyed sitting through them. Silver Linings was a surprise as despite being a predictable Rom-a-com-a-ding-dong it was actually a good laugh and every character was interesting, my overwhelming crush on Jennifer Lawrence helped in this too. She is genuinely too good to be true. Her performance deserved every inch of that oscar and combine that with an honest appraisal of her job/situation in real life she is set to rule the world. Highly recommended. Wreck It Ralph was another surprise. Despite starting very similarly to the Toy Story movies and appearing to be nothing more than a collection of nerdy computer game in-jokes (one or two took even me a minute or two to twig) but about a third of the way in I suddenly got involved after a rather shocking moment. After that it was twists and turns at every corner resulting in a couple of genuine gasps from Stella and I. Will have to get that one on DVD. Nick & Norah was a bit paint by numbers RomCom but again it was the supporting cast that made it stand out a little more. The drunk girlfriend and the three gay bandmates were a real hoot and had a fascinating B Story. Also I fancy Kat Denning. Yes I am that shallow, deal with it. Argo was a surprise, I knew the story and am normally dubious of Oscar wins in many ways but apparently two for two as this was a real edge-of-your-seat thriller. It lacked any actual commentary on the politics which meant it was a little shallow for something that garnered such awards praise but it was an absolutely gripping story and I was hooked. Rob and I literally screamed at the screen for the last half an hour. Beautifully shot on old film too. Go with the directing thing Affleck, you’re much better at that. World War Z was also an enjoyable bit of fluff. It was basically an action movie and a Zombie film second. This was largely due to the budget and requiring bums on seats that an 18 rated film would not attain. You could tell it was taken from a book as there were lots of details and ideas you don’t normally see in a low budget zombie film: tying string round one another, taping magazines to arms to stop bites getting through, removing teeth, the ‘count to twelve’ bits. Sadly though there was none of the gore or real horror and they opted for “Runners” not slow trudging Zombies. It was great to see everything on a bigger scale though and the piles of Zombies and whole cities falling to the waves of undead was great. I also liked the finale which ditches the blockbuster nature and reduces to a few corridors and some nice tension. It was apparently a rewrite and it pays off admirably. Not much of a horror film but a great action flick. Pitt is still my favourite Hollywood leading man too. The only let down was Candelabra really. It isn’t for me though. I’m not a fan of the biopic and it did feel very much like a TV movie (HBOs presence I suppose), that said Damon and Douglas were utterly fantastic in their roles and the production was faultless. Just not my bag baby but I’d still recommend.

  • The End of the World

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Does anyone else think its more than just a coincidence we have two ‘Meta’ comedies about comedians and the end of the world? Since the millenium we have been served a cavalcade of disaster/apocalyptic movies, books and comics so that it now represents its own genre of “Apocalyptic Fiction”. I blame the Zombies. They started it with their dystopian, last-man-standing ideology but these days its anything from a virus, aliens, monsters, nuclear war, dreams, the weather or fucking TREES (yes you Shyamalan) that’s out for our extinction. Despite the fact this could not and will never happen (we’d either ALL die or more than 20% would live in the event of some of the more plausible catastrophes) It seems to imply something bigger going on. It does seem to be indicative of a certain zeitgeist at the moment though. Our postmodern society where we are cripplingly aware of all that has gone before to the point where everything created now is already something else; a desire for a blank slate seems to be prevalent in the art and popular culture we create these days. I have no solution for this and can expound no further other than “Look at that, isn’t that a little sad?”. I’m noticing it more and more at the moment and I’m kind of hoping we can move on from Post-Modernism now as I’m pretty sick to death of it. I watched Nathan Barley again while I was visiting Manchester too and it was genuinely frightening. It is less of a sit-com now more of a scary docu-soap. This has been burrowing around in my brain since reading Women in Love which feels like an early progenitor of ‘Apocalyptic Fiction’ and was a direct influence on the novel I just wrote which is also about the End of The World but more specifically about this idea itself, that perhaps an ‘Apocalypse’ (not a doomsday I should add) may in fact be necessary for culture to move forward. THE NOVEL WILL BE FINISHED SOON YOU SHOULD TOTALLY ASK ME TO SEND YOU A COPY TO READ. THANKS.

  • Gigs

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In the week I was oop narth I did three gigs and they were all a lot of fun. I played electric for all three and finally feel like I ‘get-it’ now. I normally wrestle against a certain inability to play guitar but I think I’m past that now. I’m still not a ‘Guitarist’ but I can definitely play the guitar these days. It also helped that I was playing Joel’s tear inducing ’77 Les Paul that not only looks the dogs doodahs but plays and sounds it too. I ran through my widdle Marshall for the last two as well and the two together are still a match made in heaven. You can see why the LP and Marshall combo was used by EVERYONE back in the day. They just fit. It was great to see some of the other old loons playing too and generally reminded me why I like living up there and much prefer the ‘scene’ allowing, as it does, me to play what I like with like minded musos to a receptive audience. Fun fun fun!

  • Manchester

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I somehow managed to cram in everything I wanted to do in the short week I was there: Lunch at Fyg, Art of Tea, Home Sweet Home and breakfast at Cafe Creme, book shopping, trips to the cinema, Fuel and One Lounge gigs, dinner and dates with all but a couple of friends, day out with the boys, Didsbury Arts fest and seeing Paul Magrs, in addition to long walks and trips on the new trams I even managed to squeeze in some bowling (not my choice I should add…). In short, it was a painful reminder that Manc is where my life is and I need to get back there ASAP. Such a great city and lovely people, miss it already.

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  • Shakespeare

Shakespeare

I am an unequivocal Shakespeare fan boy, particularly as someone who writes and writes poetry it would be foolish and impractical to dismiss him, and lately I have been spoiled by a glut of fine performances of the great bard’s output. I saw a production of Macbeth at my local amateur dramatics society which was a great variation on the original setting and was set during the first world war and featured some damn fine performances, particularly from a young Emma Thomas who gave a frighteningly assured performance as Lady Macbeth. I then got inside tickets to a touring version of the Globe’s all female cast of The Taming of the Shrew which was so much fun from start to finish and used the bare minimum of set and props to create an absolutely hilarious and fast paced update of what is essentially a horribly misogynistic and out of date story. The whole (very small) cast were all perfect, particular favourites were Petruchio, Kate and Tranio. If its touring near you SEE IT. Even if you don’t like Shakespeare the production is a riot. On Thursday I am also going to see the filmed version of Twelfth Night that starred Stephen Fry at the cinema in Ashford which will also be a treat I’m sure. AND THEN Mum and I are going to do our annual visit to the Globe itself to see the Tempest for my birthday. In short, ain’t nuthin’ but Bill lately. Fine by me, I at least know the script is never going to let me down.

And that’s all I wrote. Still no job, no home, no money and no girlfriend but to be quite honest I’ve given up on expecting any of the above anytime soon and am just doing what I’m doing and hoping something will come along. I can do no more than what I have been doing so I can only assume there are larger gears turning, the working of which I am not privy to. Hope you are doing well and I’ll see you soon with a long and boring post on poetry and the internet that I have planned.

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“Farewell! God knows when we shall meet again!”

Upon I Cut

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On the 29th April (a week today) I will be publishing a sequence of sonnets online for free at www.theanatomy.co.uk. I have been updating the temp page with videos of me reading some of the sonnets to whet people’s appetites and have basically set up the whole thing on my own. I had a bit of help from friends but all the programming, layout, editing, writing, testing, was done by me. Its been quite a bit of effort setting up the site and making the videos with no aim of reward. What I’m saying is; it would be really great if you could all be really nice and at least grace it with a tab in your browser at least once.

So what is it?

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After my last three poetry pamphlets which I had printed at my own expense and (due to my own lack of publicity) no one took any notice of, I decided three was enough.However over Christmas I had one of my notebooks with me and due to it being rather a quite one I ended up filling the whole thing with a poem per page in the space of about 2 weeks. Initially I had no plans for it as a sequence but when I noticed the first three I’d written were all sonnets I decided to make them all sonnets and slowly a theme began to emerge. Its a fairly loose theme but it basically became what could be perceived as my psychological make up. The memories, thoughts, feelings and associations I make. Due to this it felt like something of a dissection of my personality. An anatomy, as t’were. The word Anatomy is from the Greek ἀνατέμνω – anatemnō – literally “Upon I cut”. I also tried to vary the format of the sonnet form as much as I could because to be blunt, I don’t have the skills to have as wide and varied a vocabulary and as original imagery as the giants of the form do to keep it interesting. This basically meant I pushed the rules of a sonnet as far as they will go. Many purists (if any were to ever read it) may say a lot of these do not count as sonnets. That’s their problem. By and large I stick to the old rule of 14 lines and a ‘Turn’ at around line 8. As such, it became an Anatomy of the sonnet form itself in some regards. Some may decree this sacrilege from someone who is not a ‘great’ of poetry but I say the best way to know your limits is to test them. It could ultimately be unsuccessful and dreadful, I don’t know, one of the main reasons I am not charging for it.

Sonnets have a very long and boring history that is well documented elsewhere and that I can’t be bothered to go into here. Some of the best examples and explanations can be found in the wonderful collection ‘101 Sonnets’ by Don Patterson. To be honest though, the man who made them what they are today is the daddy himself. Shakespeare’s sequence of 154 is the gold standard for sonnets – and pretty much all poetry for me – and there are many volumes dedicated to the study of them, my personal favourite is by… you guessed it, Don Patterson. Sadly few of us living mortals can attain the dizzy heights of these marvels of literature but there have been other poets who have penned autonomous sequences of sonnets too: Edmund Spenser, Michael Drayton, WH Auden, Pablo Neruda but the most influential for my particular sequence was the German poet Rainer Maria Rilke. His sonnet sequence entitled ‘Orpheus’ was written in something ludicrous like 5 days and whose topics vary wildly but tend to centre around prayers to or tales of “the God with the lyre”. This sequence is highly regarded and there are numerous excellent translations but what really opened my eyes was when I read a ‘version’ of it written by the now ubiquitous poet in this post, yes Don bloody Patterson. Versions are different to translations, the idea being you take the essence of a poem and translate that instead, not the words. The subtlety of poetry lies in a familiarity with language, its nuances and connotations, something that a translator can rarely crowbar into another shape without losing something of its initial sense. Patterson’s version is a fantastic sister piece to the original but even then Rilke’s is still the superior and eye wideningly pretty. Read it, please.

So there is something of a heritage in the sonnet form and to be honest it doesn’t need updating to my ears as it is supremely useful in forcing you to wrench out what you want to say, yet small and digestible enough to be swallowed in one go. My sequence is modest in comparison to the greats that have gone before and, as I said, I doubt it is on a par but it was an attempt to get “raw meat” on the table on my part. What I loved about Rilke’s sequence is that he did it so fast, the editing and self-expurgation would have been practically non-existant or at least not as thorough as most poets like to think of themselves. It meant Rilke’s heart and mind is there, raw and bleeding, imperfect yet dazzling in every poem. I don’t claim my own is even close to this as I don’t have the skill he had but I do like to think its a first trembling step in that direction.

People might ask why I feel the need to publish everything I write. I would ask why you don’t feel the need to publish everything you write. Getting something finished and ready to your standard and then showing to others so it can be judged by their’s is probably the quickest and best way to learn I know of. There is no point spending years over something only for it to get lambasted as soon as its released anyway. Don’t torture yourself over whether people will like it or not and don’t let the idiot snobs tell you something that only took a couple months isn’t as good as something that took ten years. The reverse is almost always true. The Beatles made 14 albums in 7 years and every song of theirs is of a higher quality than most. I don’t know where the modern need to stagger everything out comes from. I realise time and patience will raise the quality but only to a certain degree. If you have anything you’ve been sitting on that you made that is finished but you don’t think is good enough, get it out anyway. You’ll learn more from that than you will just staring at it and asking friends what they think when all they will do is tell you how great it is no matter what the quality. Create, release, learn, move on.

Hopefully there will be a poem in The Anatomy for everyone but try reading all of it too. Even if you don’t like poetry I hope you can at least enjoy the site. Take a look at the videos in the meantime and I’ll hopefully see you all there on the 29th.

 

Office Hours

I’ve been toying with the idea of “Vlogging” recently seeing how well some people do it but with limited access to a computer and the internet, my videos are generally utter shite and I’m so horrifically self-conscious I couldn’t bare to have me talking on video for that long so ditched the idea. I’m still planning to do some poetry videos but later, when I have my computer back and can edit them. In the meantime you’ll just have to put up with these long and rambling data blasts. Sorry.

Despite living in a house that has broadcast television, radio and current papers for the first time in 2 years, I still refrain from any consumption of this type of media because frankly, it depresses the hell out of me. Living with a parent at an age that is approaching a third decade is difficult so I am doing my best to stay well out of the way. This basically means spending a lot of time in my Mother’s spare room reading and writing which is NO BAD THING as I may remind everyone I’m trying to “do” the writing thing at the moment and this is only a productive arrangement. I’ve been getting plenty of reading done and lots of writing too. So far I’ve written a 5000 word essay, a long form poem, 2/3rds of (yet another) album, and 25,000 words of the new novel. Unfortunately this all I’ve done. I haven’t got an interview or any jobs or money or, well, anything yet and seeing as I am merely subsisting on ‘Literature’ at the moment and absorbing absolutely no popular culture I figured the only thing I could write about was Writing.

Have been asked about the poem by more than one person, (no honestly!) so I shall elucidate slightly. It is called The Painter and is me trying to write a multi-tiered poem in sections in different styles and voices which is as easy as it sounds and it sounds like this. It is basically an attempt to see how far I can stretch my limited abilities within one ‘piece’. That’s was meant to sound less pretentious than it did. Second draft has been typed up and given to not-that-interested confidants to assess and fiddle with. Assuming that is done this year I have plans for a unique method of self-publishing it but this could all be a bloody long time in the works so I suggest for the time being you keep ’em peeled for information about the sonnet sequence I wrote at christmas which is far nearer ‘release’. I also have a poem featured in the forthcoming anthology from Puppywolf Press’ ‘Best of Manchester Poets’. So there.

The novel is mainly what is occupying my mind at the moment. Most of what I am reading for my #50in2013 challenge (that’s right I made a hashtag bitches) is revolving around the book I am writing. The working title is ‘To Broken Stone’ which is a quote from TS Eliot’s ‘The Hollow Men’. I am reticent to explain the plot but if I were to say I have been reading The Hunger Games, The Chaos Walking Trilogy, Lord of The Flies, Byron’s Darkness, The Road, Hard Times, The Waste Land and Hollow Men you can probably tie this all together to make a theory it could possibly be about an apocalypse. I won’t explain anymore but should point out there are no zombies in this book at all.

A lot of my plots I have in mind for books revolve around society disintegrating, the reason for this is manyfold. First, since I have been subjected to the seething mass of media outlets recently, my contempt for human civilisation (if it can be called that, eh Ghandi?) has grown somewhat. Being able to go home and funnel my cultural intake through a self-imposed filter so I can selectively absorb current affairs and trends is the only thing that keeps me sane whereas listening to the news and dreadful radio presenters and awful awful music etc just makes me despair and want to drown puppies. Our post-Modern society seems to have turned into Skynet from the Terminator films and become so self aware its is trying to destroy the human race but instead of nuclear weapons its more insidious plan is to make us destroy ourselves. Whilst that may sound hysterical I want you to remember this when we’re all fighting over the last loaf in the bread bin. Add to this the fact I was a kid who was bullied a lot and was (and still is to some degree) ostrocised by social groups, the idea of getting even with a society that adheres to the “biggest prick wins” rule is too good an opportunity. Nerds like me who got bullied a lot now run the major businesses and enterprises of today which is probably why there is such a prevalence of post-apocalyptic fiction and why it does so well. It is also an interesting commentary on a society that is now so bloated and practically crippled by its own over-development it cannot move for everything it has done before. ‘Everything has been done’ is the catch phrase of today and yet we still develop and create new things everyday but we still steep ourselves in our own history and ‘vintage’ accoutrements. Therefore the idea of having a tabula rasa is an enchanting one and a fantasy in which I relish.

I’m giving away major themes of the book now but put it this way; a world in which the despicable rapist and his accesories to his crime (there were many) in Steubenville can be portrayed by a major TV network as the ‘victims’ is not a society that is as developed and liberal and as intelligent as it thinks it is. It is certainly not as ‘aware of its past’ as it claims to be. Looking back on Django Unchained and its ugly portrayal of racism that has dissipated but not gone away, with its post-modern take on the topic, I wonder if we have circled ourselves so much we are reaching a singularity of some sorts: a cultural black hole. I don’t know but it certainly depresses me and makes me want to just stay in this room and let the world tear itself apart without my help.

On which cheery note you should totally be excited about reading my book!

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For those that care about the technicalities of my writing… : I tend to write in the evening and small hours as my mother uses the laptop for her own writing during the daytime which means I have to nab it to write what I can before I fall asleep. It is putting me in a very de ja vu situation as about 3 years ago (almost exactly) I did this when I was staying in this same room in a similar situation at which time I wrote the whole of ‘Welcome the Pigz’. I am hoping more will be done with this one however. My office is a peculiar one i.e. a bed with flowery covers but it does mean there is little to distract me. I am eating a lot of chocolate at the moment too, which, despite not making me any fatter whatsoever I do fear for my teeth. As Easter is looming though I don’t care, the festival of chocolate shall continue unabated!

In other news, due to Disney’s current promotion of 2for1 on DVDs Mum has been buying them all and we’ve been watching them. I’ve rewatched some old favourites like Lady&The Tramp but a few I have not seen before like Enchanted and 101 Dalmatians. If you’re very good I may do a collective review of these at some point soon.

Well I hope that slakes your thirst for knowledge, you rabid dogs of wisdom. See you soon!

“Recent changes to your circumstance…”

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Life’s been a bit mental lately so haven’t had time to give anyone any news or updates so will try and get everything out of the way on here. As such, this will be an ‘update’ sort of post so may not be of interest to many of you. So, buckle up:

Moved –

Due to continued unemployment and lack of funds I have been living off the kindness of strangers (good friends actually) of late by sleeping on their floors, sofas and sparerooms. Naturally then, due to my constant Catholic guilt I could no longer impinge on the goodwill of my friends so instead of running around and living out of a rucksack it came time to depart my beloved Manchester if only for a brief time. I hope. As such, I have returned to the bosom of my family in Kent and am living back in my old room at my Mother’s which is not ideal for either of us but I think we are all hoping this will only be temporary. This does however take the pressure off things somewhat and gives me the time I’d like to get more writing done and other stuff that is generally steps toward my fledgling “career”.

Maladies –

Predictably, due to me being such a runty little dweeb, just when I didn’t need any other additional setbacks I got some sort of horrible infection that is going around giving me a sky high fever and causing me to faint in my friend’s kitchen, this was further compounded by my own idiocy in breaking two of my ribs. All this was not ideal when having to move from house to house and sleeping on sofas. Ouch.

Mingling –

My good friend David Hartley invited me to support him for his launch of his collection Threshold at Fyg in a sort of tit-for-tat repayment for having him support me for my own launch. It was quite a stellar night and the place was packed with a very receptive audience. Sadly this fell at the same time as the ribs, the infection, a debacle regarding finances and being unable to get there on time and other personal issues that meant it was, only for me I reiterate, something of a shambles sadly. Everyone else seemed to have a great time and it was indeed a success but as always seems to be the case with me at times of great importance, things go quite specatcularly wrong. David and Ian did great readings though and it was great night. Fyg is such a lovely place too, go if you’re in Manchester.

Manchester Poets –

After my splatter gun effort of applying to every magazine and competition towards the end of last year one has actually stuck and I am being featured in Puppywolf Press’ “Best of Manchester Poets, Vol.3”. Its not that big a deal but its a small bit of recognition and I can officially say I am a published poet now, which looks good on the CV. The poem selected is ‘Anaesthetic’ which some of you may have heard and was noted by my pal Luke Kennard (a proper poet) as being of a good quality. The collection is due for release toward the end of March so I’ll keep you updated but you can check out their website here.

More Poetry –

I wrote a sequence of some eighty sonnets over Christmas (I was bored) and after initial interest from a publisher who in the end didn’t have room to publish it, I have decided to YET AGAIN self-publish it as a pamphlet. However, this one is slightly different… I will be publishing this collection digitally on a website I have set up with my friend Amelia. It is still being developed at the moment and not having my computer with me hinders its progress considerably but I am hoping to have it up in the next few months. It will be completely free and open to all and will have no other posts or pages purely the poems themselves. I will keep everyone updated however, so watch this space.

Media (Social) –

Due to being all over the place at the moment I am trying to stick all my media together so everyone can keep an eye on me. I have a variety of online presences and would like everyone to have a look at each one as all of the refer to something different. So if you want to stay abreast of my doings, comings and goings day to day check my twitter here. I have an iPhone so am always on it and check it regularly. I am on Instagram and Vine, of which I am also a “heavy user”. I have a music site over at leocookman.tumblr.com if you want info of that nature (there will be updates on there soon). I have a facebook page too that could do with a few more ‘Likes’ to be honest so head on over here. I’m also over at youtube with some silliness you can watch here. I also have another ‘comedy’ blog over at tumblr that you can have a giggle at here. Generally I am all over the internet so just google me and I’ll appear in some form or other.

Music –

I have two albums essentially written that I would like to record at somepoint in the near future and being back in the Bubble in Kent means I am back amongst the regular gigging fraternity so keep an eye on the mentioned social media for updates and ‘ting. If you can’t get enough I have two albums on iTunes and have my very own soundcloud which has B-Sides and demos galore if that’s your bag.

My True Love –

So I’ve had a crush on Jennifer Lawrence since Winter’s Bone came out and have weathered the storms of the fickle public through X-Men and Hunger Games hoping her fame would disappate and our non-existant love could blossom. Anyway, she just won an Oscar so that’s that crush ended because now everyone’s all like, “oh she’s so great”, “I totally have a crush on her”, blah blah blah. Yes I KNOW she’s dating Nicholas Hoult but that would mean nothing were we to meet. Obviously. Anyway, I’ll stick with Christina Hendricks then… WHADDAYA MEAN SHE’S MARRIED?!

That should keep you for the time being and I seem to be a busy bunny at the moment so must fly. Please do comment, subscribe and all that crap as I have big plans for 2013 and would love to be able to share it all with you lot. I will hopefully at least be visiting Manchester soon as my friends recently got engaged, some other friends have babies on the way and generally all my stuff and life is up there but if you live in the south please get in touch. I’m actually quite bored.

 

Necessity vs. Desire

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I’ve been unemployed for 6 months now. I have eaten through my overdraft, moved out of my flat, am living with friends, had to put all my stuff in another friends’ garage (all of which has probably frozen solid now) and haven’t even had an interview for any of the hundreds of jobs I’ve applied for yet. All around I hear of people in similar and worse predicaments. Shops and businesses are being closed down daily, unemployment is at quite a low, benefits are being brutally trimmed and everyone seems generally pretty pissed off. I have always been a miserable and grumpy person. For various reasons this works well as a defence mechanism, in short it makes the best logical sense to be pessimistic: Think everything is shit and you won’t be disappointed but you’ll be pleasantly surprised when the few good things in life happen.

What I’m getting at is, the fight has gone out of me. I woke up this morning after another crap week of bugger all without even the pretty snow to look at that everyone else got and realised that living off my friends’ goodwill is unfair and a job isn’t just round the corner. This is clearly a long-haul flight and I can’t keep moving between the cabins… if you can follow that metaphor.

My problem is this: Having, after 28 years, discovered what I want to do with my life and realising this is a challenging objective (but at least knowing the direction is a start) do I take the chance and jump headfirst into this and throw social obligation to the wind? Or do I get back on the treadmill of 9-5, get a room in a shared place and try to get all my reading and writing done in my free time? Convention, society, my friends, my family, logic and my bank manager say the latter. The little voice inside me says the former.

You need money to live in our current world. Society requires input on our behalf to function and by trade allows us to have our luxuries of warmth, comfort and indulgence. This means you need a job to help society run smoother so you can have money to pay for goods and services. Most of the planet does this. My argument is that I have no qualifications or experience that put me in line for a job of high standing or quality, and my temperament excludes me from most ‘interactive’ jobs. By that I mean I’m too thick for a good job and I don’t want a shit job. Most of what I’m told to do by well-meaning friends and relations is supermarket/sales/bar work. I realise this is my best option and should therefore do it to get the money, to get a place to live, etc etc. But I fucking hate bars, I don’t even drink for chrissake. I’ve worked in supermarkets and retail, I fucking hate it. I hate interacting with other human beings. If you want to see humanity’s true nature, observe how they treat retail assistants. The concurrent argument to this is that “it’s a job/work/money/etc”, as in “it may be shit but someone’s got to do it and its going to have to be you kiddo because you’re lazy if you don’t”. So for the last 10 years that is what I have done. Taken any shitty job presented to me because it “pays the bills” and because I don’t know what I’m doing.

And yet…

I know sooooo many people who don’t do this and no one gripes at them. I know more than a few people who have their rent/monthly budgets paid for by their parents and/or some other benefactor. My Mum can’t afford to pay for her living costs let alone her four children’s. I have, on many occasions, subsisted on the kindness of my friends but am now aware patience is running out. I know other people who simply have never had “a proper job” or at least when they have, have immediately ditched it for a better one, more in line with their career. I have ditched shit jobs before, I boosted from a cleaning job at a University after a day once, luckily I got a job straight after. I also know a small few who literally do nothing all day everyday. I’ve done this in the past for a brief stint. The other thing that bugs me about this is TV/Films/Books. Fiction frequently has a character who is unemployed and still manages to live in a nice flat and afford to live. Sure they have troubles and worries but they tick over just fine. For years. This is not a helpful stereotype to cultivate. Yet I know people in real life who achieve this. How do people do this?

The other problem is that being a white male between the age of 18 and 40 everything I have written thus far is moot as this all simply seems to the observer as an over privileged white boy whining about why he should have to work for a living. The obvious and correct logic being: “Shut the fuck up whining and go and work in a bar”.

This, whilst admittedly the case, is not entirely true. I have ‘paid my dues’, I’ve done shit jobs for 10 years and hated every second of it. I am now unemployed and homeless and that’s pretty shitty as well. However, I finally have a goal in my life and a desire to succeed and, most importantly, a passion for the work I am doing/want to be paid for. What I am saying is why not give me, and by extension – everyone, their ideal job they are best suited for? People would be more productive and general morale would be higher. I am not suited to dealing with people or anything that requires intelligent debate, thought or hard physical work. I’ve always been a miserable, ignorant runt of a man so why put me in a situation where it would upset me and everyone around me just so I can earn £6 an hour? Why not keep me locked away where I can write and read so I can contribute helpfully to society and my fellow man that way?

Because that is not part of our social contract. Get your job at Tescos, stack the shelves and shut the fuck up about it.

Great, what a wonderful world we live in. Dreams really can come true.