Thursday, October 22, 2015

Because life can be cruel

Dear World,

Please could you stop being so harsh?

All around me I see pain.

I don’t want to see pain.

Hunger. Not the same kind of “I'm starving” hunger that my kids feel when they can see a packet of crisps on the side at three in the afternoon, and realise they haven’t eaten since lunch – real hunger. There are people in this world who are genuinely starving to death.

Desperation. Thousands upon thousands face the wrath of Europe’s xenophobes as they desperately try and find a home that is safe. All they want is to be free. This, apparently, is too much to ask.

Death. Starvation, Malaria, Ebola, floods, earthquakes and wars, these may be killing people far away but I look around and can see that Cancer is taking our loved ones here too. Too many lives are lost. Too many families ripped apart.

Too many.

And worse.

So much worse that all that.

Xbox. We don’t have one. We are, apparently, the only house in the world that does not. My kids are deprived. My kids are neglected. How can my children be expected to live without a games console? I heard that a group of people in a Syrian refugee camp had started a whip around to buy us some Argos vouchers – though that is unconfirmed.

So, World, please can you stop treating my children with such disrespect and sort them out a console? Then, maybe you could have a look at some of those less important issues – if you have the time.



Saturday, October 3, 2015

Bring on the Dancing Horses

Hello again – yes I'm still here – thank you so much for your patience.

I just couldn't think of anything to write about.

Until today.

I've said it before and I’ll say it again, I love London.

I really do.

Barring a three year hiatus, while banished to the UK’s West Midlands, I've worked in London since 1998, and it has never failed to lift me when I've really needed it.

How could it not? Look at the craziness of the contrasts in this Skyline…

Where else in the World can you stand in one place and look at so much history? Just out of shot is a piece of Roman Wall – so it goes back into the thousands of years. Thanks go to Google Streetview for the image..

It’s such a mixed up bag of old and new. So many cultural influences in one place; so many cultures, all of whom carrying a voice, all of whom considered equal. Well, theoretically equal, if only that were really true.

But it is a truly diverse city – full of wonder and full of joy – you just have to open your eyes and your mind.

It is also a city being rebuilt. Buildings are dying and being reborn all the time. Cranes are almost as much a fixed feature of the Skyline as the Shard is. Walk down any street for more than a hundred meters and you’ll find yourself walking next to some blue boarding. You know the boarding I mean – the safety net of the modern day builder’s yards. Behind these boards hides an uncertain future, climbing slowly towards the clouds.

You become numb to them. You stop wondering what is behind them.

Let this post be a lesson.


Less than a hundred meters from my office, a new tower has been going up for what feels like forever. The boarding long since became invisible. Until today.

I actually don’t know how long the boards have been down; my tube station is in the opposite direction so I haven’t walked along this way in a little while. Today I popped to get my haircut during my lunch break and nearly got myself run over by a bus when I stopped dead in my tracks half way across the road.

The boards have come down.

What they were hiding is beautiful.


Look at the space it is taking up – how much office space could be stuffed in to this same area? The financial pressure to use the space for the main housing building, which might make money back, as with the rest of the dour buildings that shade Leman Street, rather than wasting the space on art that will never recoup its cost, must be huge. And yet here it is. How brilliant is that? No sense, no logic, just pure imagination. The imagination of artist, Hamish Mackie, finding a link to the site's distant history.

I talked a while back of my private moment of beauty when I watched a Pigeon bathing in a fountain. This time I decided to get my camera out for you. I'm not specifically a horse person, I’ll have the occasional bet on them and (don’t hate me) I'm not totally against them turning up in my frying pan – but this blew my mind

Though not before I almost got myself killed again… I was so taken aback by what I’d discovered that I almost tried to share it straight away. A man was walking past, his head bowed down in the correct London fashion, deeply engrossed in whatever his earphones were telling him,  and I found myself reaching out to stop him. I wanted to show him. I wanted to give him the joy that I’d just found.

Just in time I remembered where I was – great city it may well be but talking to strangers is strictly not permitted, especially if you are laughing uncontrollably and appear somewhat over excited at the time….

I stood entranced, for far too long, considering I still needed to get my haircut, but it was time well spent.

There should always be time for joy.

Make time.

Open your eyes.





And if you ever get the chance, visit London. Come see my horses.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

The stupidest Selfie ever - and where to stick it

Celebrity Selfie off of Google

Those of us who have reached a certain age remember a lot of strange things.

For instance, I remember when my parent’s TV only showed three channels. Just three. I remember a time when you had to watch all of the adverts, because you couldn't forward through them and nobody could be bothered to cross the room in order to stand at the TV and flick over to BBC1 or BBC2.

These were dark times.

I also remember a time when you had to wait a week for your photos to come back from Truprint before you knew how well they had come out. And when they did come back, they were almost always of other people or things – rather than of you.

When did that change? When did we stop taking photos of other people and only start taking them almost exclusively of ourselves?

In the grey old Dinosaur olden days, whenever you went anywhere exciting and you tried to capture a photo of it, then you occasionally asked someone to take a photo of you standing in front of it – but mainly you just photographed the place / people / thing itself. And the really astonishing thing is that people believed that it was you that had taken them. They believed that you were there. Nobody doubted it.

This is apparently no longer the case. Unless you are actually in the photo then you weren't actually there. If you didn't post it to InstaBook at the time with the location digitally stamped in the forefront, then you simply didn't do it. Ensuring that random strangers, just as much as loved ones and friends, are unable to infer that you are faking your life is becoming more important than actually living the life, seeing the thing, or being in the place in the first place.

I believe I saw an example of this fact the other day, which firmly shows just how far down the evolutionary ladder the Selfie obsession is taking humanity. Be afraid, people, be very afraid.

I went to London.
The Shard - taken by me, but you'll have to take my word for that

Not to work, as is my usual habit, but to be a tourist.

10 of us in total. My family and our very good friends and their family, set off on an adventure in modern day exploration. We went to see the sights of our amazing capital city on a lovely sunny day, and I can secretly reveal that we had great day.

I love London. It is such an amazing mish-mash of time. Ancient, old and ultra-modern, sit side by side in a seemingly random, jumbled up, explosion across the land. Every country on Earth inspires it, everywhere you look you’ll see something that just doesn't make sense. So much history, so much future.

Love it.

Buckingham Palace, Big Ben, 10 Downing Street, Leicester Square, Covent Garden, Borough Market, The Shard, Tower Bridge, Tower of London,O2 Arena, Hamleys, the list goes on…

The kids went on the underground, the DLR, the buses, and even the Cable Car – What an experience, what a day.

Photos were taken – fun was had. Everything was seen, everything was experienced. The kids came away knackered but absolutely happy.

This is how it should be.

some soldiers passing by me - on foot

Now let’s go back to the start – Buckingham Palace.

When we arrived, the changing of the guard was in full swing. The crowds were gathered. It was shockingly busy. The Victoria Memorial was covered in bodies, The Mall was lined with people.
It was the place to be.

The band played, the people cheered.

And the Horse Guards approached, polished and grand. This was something to see – especially if you are a young child visiting London from afar. Our kids were enthralled.

I’d imagine seeing those horses strut past would be something to remember forever.

I’d imagine. Sadly another tourist who was there as well didn't.

Just as they approached, the random stranger in front of me, who had spent the last two minutes setting up his Selfie Stick, suddenly grabbed his daughter (I'm guessing she was his daughter - circa 7 years old), and spun her around so that she was facing away from the action and instructed her to pose with him; both of them together, smiling manically into the camera while facing in the complete opposite direction to the thing they were there to see.

And there they stayed, presumably videoing the whole experience.

The girl was not allowed to turn around until the Cavalry had gone past.

Her only memory of the event is in looking at the camera with her back to the action.

But she was there. She can prove it.

This is completely sick - and I don't mean in the way that my 13 year old son says it.

How can a parent be so completely stupid? To completely miss the point of giving your child this memory? She didn't see the guards, she never saw them. The only way she will ever see them is on the video.

And when she does – assuming she learns to speak English – then she will also remember me.

Because the camera, throughout the whole passing of the parade, was waving about next to my face. I'm afraid that what they were too self-focussed to realise, was that I was giving them a running commentary of how ridiculous and stupid her father is. Begging him to let her turn around and see it for herself.

It would be fun to be in the room the first time that video is shown to someone who speaks English.

Technology is amazing. I genuinely love how easy it is to take great photos now – how easy it is to share them. And I'm not against the occasional Selfie – why not? It’s fun. It’s nice to get a record of yourself at a certain place; and do you know what? – it isn't new! I remember taking photos of myself as a child, arms stretched out with a camera pointing at myself. Two weeks later you’d find out that only half your blurred face is on show – but you still did it!

But keep it real folks.

We all love capturing these special moments of our children’s lives on film, we have been doing that for well over a century, but never let doing that become the whole story – never forget to actually let the moment be special.