Reclaiming The Evening

Fairground At Night

Fairground Lights

Another of the reasons my blog turned silent for eight months was the fact that I didn’t have time to write it.

There we go, that’s a good enough reason, so let’s move on.

No, actually, let’s not. The reason was that when I got home from work, by the time I’d eaten, by the time I’d watched two hours of TV repeats I then wanted to catch up on some online reading, and I felt tired, so I thought “I haven’t got time, and I can’t think straight” and I went to watch some more repeats on TV instead.

Seven hours passed like nothing and the next thing I know it’s the next morning. A couple of months ago I finally made plans to do something about the cycle of believing that I hadn’t got the time, or the energy. Firstly the tiredness; I bought a new mattress as I thought that the old one (creaking all the time, springs jutting into me) might be disturbing my sleep. The new one is much more comfortable and combined with cutting down on excess light (I tried blacking out the window first to no difference then moved a bedside clock-radio) has made a difference, I feel much less tired and more energised than before in the evenings.

I have been eating Bananas religiously in the mornings which has possibly helped, although getting better sleep has similar benefits for memory, concentration and creativity so it could be either. The other dietary change has been returning to something I used to love when I was younger – a piece of toast and marmalade at supper time (9pm) as such carbohydrates eaten in the late evening can improve sleep some studies have shown.

Finally I changed my behaviour; I told myself to always go home at five o’clock, don’t think “I’ll just sort this out now”. It’s a little thing but it makes me feel that my life is my own as I’m going home to do what I want to do when I want to not when the job lets me, it’s empowering. I’ve also learned not to worry about work issues which drains you emotionally and leaves you feeling mentally exhausted.

I then told myself that I do have time to do stuff in the evenings and proved it – rather than watching a repeated TV show while eating and then watching the whole thing, the mental equivalent of eating one chocolate digestive and then thinking “what the hell, I’ll finish the packet” I told myself to switch the TV off after I’d finished eating then get on with the online stuff – reading, writing etc. Starting earlier gives you a buffer and once it’s done you’ve still got two or three hours left and can even watch a new tv show or two and listen to music or read before going to bed. There’s even time for decluttering if you feel like it.

As I’ve learned that new experiences and learning new information, exploring new frontiers even in an intellectual way can help with cognitive function I’ve also made space in my day for watching the late evening news, something I used to avoid as I felt that I’d just forget everything I’d seen – the side benefit to this is it gives you topics of conversation, something else I always felt I lacked.

I’ve rearranged things too, making tomorrow’s sandwich at the same time as I’m waiting for dinner to finish cooking, and the same with washing pots still in the sink. It’s about efficient use of the time available and the more time you have left over the better you feel, your leisure time feels less like a high-pressure job and you can enjoy it more.

So, right now it’s 20:54 (GMT), I’ll just finish this off and go and get a slice of toast.  Goodnight.


TV Dinners



Earlier this year I experienced something that made me think about how we appreciate food. I tend to watch TV while eating meals, I have done for many years and on this particular evening I was watching The Worlds Most Dangerous Roads while eating a pizza, suddenly I realised that the pizza had pretty much disappeared. I didn’t remember eating it, by which I mean I didn’t remember what it was like.  I did, however, remember the TV programme.

I realised that because I’d been concentrating on the events on-screen my mind had simply allowed the eating to be done autonomously, as though it were simply food for survival rather than enjoyment.  I felt distinctly disappointed as it was a kind of food I like to taste and savour.  For some people the TV is more important than enjoying food but not me.

There are restaurants where you eat in the dark and when I first heard about the concept, about how it enables you to appreciate the food more and experience all the nuances of flavour fully without even the distraction of seeing the food I thought it was just a fad, until the lost pizza.

Perhaps this is why we enjoy food more in restaurants or outdoors, whether it be a bacon cob or a picnic, with fewer distractions.  TV is often a constant stream of events, taking your full attention as opposed to having it on in the background, or listening to music, or having a conversation with family or friends at the dinner table like we used to – all of which let you pay attention to everything in turn, including the food in front of you.

The Speed of Feedback

Radio Daze

Radio Daze

Once upon a time if you wanted to complain about a tv show, or make a suggestion, enter a competition, or send in a drawing you’d done to Blue Peter, you’d send it “on the back of a postcard” or in a “stamped, addressed envelope” to the Beeb or whomever and after a couple of weeks you’d see or hear it on the telly.

Taking off my nostalgia hat and rose-tinted specs I return to today and find that as with so much media feedback or interaction is now lightning fast. Any live show on tv or radio will have email, text and a Twitter feed in front of the presenter so they can receive on the fly praise or abuse dependant on the subject and opinion of the viewer. Sports reporters carry tablets to field questions and comments.

The internet as a communication medium is making media more interactive than ever and allows faster access to those in front of the cameras – particularly useful when it is, for example, politicians being grilled in real-time; no more need to queue up for a place on a Question Time audience.

Of course it’s just as well that not every tweet appears on-screen, or on the speaker – as the Rev Richard Coles said on QI of his twitter feed for Saturday Live on Radio 4 he often received some less than complimentary comments, which I imagine could get distracting and even depressing while trying to present a programme.

The other aspect of course is public voting, though not a new idea (it was phone voting in the old days of course) it seems that everything has to have some public choice built-in rather than the decision as to who’s the best cook, candidate or singer being left to experts. One of the latest examples is that Formula E motor sport features the potentially race-changing Fan Boost, powered by online votes, by popularity, hmm. The problem is when the choice is made with the heart rather than an expert head. But at the end of the day it’s all just entertainment.

As we move towards increasingly connected, two-way tv, I can imagine that these features will become integrated into the remotes, new buttons to like or dislike and as for voting people off shows like Strictly Come Dancing, I’m a Celebrity or Big Brother then the Red Button could have a use metaphorically more like it’s Cold War namesake…

Many Soapboxes, Many Voices, Many Audiences, Many (Similar) Messages

Radio Dishes

Radio Dishes

One of the reasons I gave for abandoning this blog in my rallying cry to myself to start again was that I couldn’t say anything that wouldn’t have been said elsewhere so who would be interested?  Well, that’s the thing, you could say the same thing about TV shows, magazines, newspapers and even big, mainstream websites.

I’ve just read in Wired about how people have been using new social video streaming services Periscope and Meerkat to stream stuff that seems unusual, their fridge contents are popular, apparently.  The article is about how new technologies are enabling people to create and broadcast niche, innovative and compelling content.  The thing is that there are lots of people doing this, they generally have a small audience, but there are many of the broadcasters.

The same can be said of any media on the internet.  Perhaps it’s because I was brought up with four TV channels and a handful of newspapers, or because I have a natural tendency to dismiss my own creations as worthless (a whole other can of worms) but I’d not realised that not everyone reads the same websites.  In the old media magazines (whether they be computer, fashion or football related) would print the same news, tips and articles in their own way and the internet enables us to do the same, we might say the same thing as someone else, but we say it our own way to our own audience.  Like with old media different authors have different tones, different voices.

This is the joy of the internet, everyone can have a voice and an audience of their own, without the need to stand in their local park, shouting at the pigeons.

Why So Many Women Choose “Bad Lads”


“Tenderness” ©2012 by Andy Vickers

Do you know how painful it is to see someone you love, as in feeling a connection, a harmony, kind of love, with an ex-husband who she decided to go back to, someone who is weasly, scruffy, wiry, just plain nasty looking?  Then someone else who showed signs of feeling the same way as you did for her, who always seemed to be about to get a little closer but then backed away again, who you then see with an arrogant, self-centred man.  When you spend your life trying to be a good person, well presented, passionate yet caring and loving, it’s agonising.  And depressing.

This is when you also tend to hear the five words that plunge an icy dagger through the hopeful heart of any decent, good, romantic man:  “can we just be friends?”

I’ve spent much time thinking about the reasons, I’ve read psychological journals and books on philosophy, I have questioned whether there was anything inadequate about myself, I’ve compared myself to others in the same, sinking, boat.  I now have an answer to the question someone asked me last year – “why do women always want the bad lad types?”

This may take a while so I’ll wait for you to go and make a cup of tea.  You’ll need it.

I’m writing this particular paragraph after stumbling home from the pub so you’ll have to bear with me.  What happened tonight was not the first time nor will it be the last (and no, it didn’t involve sex, unfortunately).   I went out with friends, in one pub I was flattered that a woman behind the bar being chatted up by three showy youths looked away from them and smiled at me at the moment I happened to glance round at her – leading to the three yoofs to look round, evidently thinking “who the fuck is she smiling at.”  Ha, age and experience boys, age and experience, and being tall, well dressed and handsome helps too…

But…  later, after a number of women had been looking at me across a number of pubs then being distinctly uninterested when I was close enough to talk to them, I saw someone who I’d seen many times before, someone who was older than me, someone who was very attractive; not showy, but beautiful, well dressed, tall, down to earth.  She kept looking at me but I couldn’t get to talk to her because of the people she was with.  I thought, I’ll be able to talk to her, I’m sure of it.  She was talking to a scruffy bloke with a shaved head and tattoos but he was married, she wasn’t so I took it to mean she wasn’t actually with him.  Then it all fell into place, her friend was married to the bloke and her boyfriend, who was exactly the same kind of bloke had just walked in.  I had to go and find a place away from everyone else because I actually had tears in my eyes.  If she was with someone like that, loudmouth, arrogant, scruffy, probably aggressive by the look of his body-language, then what hope was left?  None.  I choked back what was left of my drink and went and bought chips.  On the way out of the chippy a very vulnerable looking girl of about eighteen smiled at me and thanked me for being a gentleman for holding the door for her.  I was certain that she’d be going home to a pratt in a tracksuit too.

Now back to the bit I wrote while not inebriated and teary…

The Disclaimer

Firstly it’s not “always” but today a lot of women do reject men who are compatible with them; that they have the kind of harmony with that forms the basis of a strong relationship; the man could even be spectacularly good in bed but she won’t discover that because she’ll be with someone else…  who will be a disappointment.  There are also many women whose compatible type is the kind of man who is either macho and arrogant or “showy”, they tend to be loud and showy themselves.  Finally many of the psychological reasons can apply to men who seek out women who are bad for them too, this article’s lean towards the feminine is due to the original question.

As for the rest there are a number of main reasons and theories:

The Genes

Firstly there is the idea particularly proposed by Arthur Schopenhauer that people always choose a partner based on a subconscious process he called the “will to life” which priorities seeking qualities that would create ideal children to further the species and that this usually precludes the chance of happiness, it’s either being happy or producing normal, beautiful, healthy and intelligent offspring – and the offspring always wins, which is why all relationships where the people are happy together fail and all marriages are miserable.  The idea is that, for example shorter women would go for taller men, slightly boyish women will go for feminine men and so on.

This doesn’t take into account men who are what most women would, even subconsciously, consider to be ideal baby-making material; average height, well-built, strong, healthy, intelligent, a good temperament yet are consistently rejected.  It also doesn’t account for women who meet, have kids with and stay with men who are likely by these standards to produce less than perfect sprogs.

I’m not convinced that it’s that simple and that the psychology of relationships is far more complex.

The Friends

There are many people who feel a powerful desire for approval from their friends and even strangers above all else, they choose a partner based not on compatibility, on harmony but on whether that person is someone other people will be impressed by, or someone who will make them appear attractive and successful by virtue of the fact that they have attracted such a popular partner.  Often they’ll be out with friends and they’ll see a group of men who are very self-confident, assertive, loud, popular.  Women tend to be attracted to that showy type when in situations like this, if their friends also fancy the same men then it will make the man more attractive to her.  The same is true for why some go for self-centred, arrogant but well-off men.

The Media

Films, TV, magazines and even adverts show that the rugged, violent, bad types are exciting and sexy.  These men are always good to the women and only use their aggression towards them to very exciting, sexy, orgasmic effect, throwing them around and turning them into breathless quivering wrecks.  They’re never selfish and fall asleep after sex, they never just want to watch the football, never hurt them and the women inevitably turn them into romantic, lovable rogues – who will still beat someone to a pulp if necessary.  According to Hollywood it is also only the stubble-adorned, chisel-jawed, tattooed, rough men who are, to not put too fine a point on it, well endowed.  After all, other parts of the body are bigger and stronger in aggressive, self-assertive, toned men why not their penis?  This is also a fallacy, if you’ll pardon the pun.  Any man, even a gentlemanly, considerate man can be good in bed – some women say they’re even better because they give the woman what she wants rather than taking what he wants.  But the myth remains – Good=Passionless,  Bad=Breathlessly unbelievable sex.  This is probably what one woman on a TV dating show meant when she said “I want a proper man, a man who knows how to be a man.”  Huh?

So many TV shows today are basically the same – Twilight (which was once referred to as “one girl’s choice between bestiality and necrophilia”) and the new Beauty and The Beast for example; the misunderstood “bad” male who is so sexy and exciting, the female character falls for him because she can see the good inside and has rough exciting sex too.  Vampires, werewolves; the ultimate bad boys.  Many women see that and want to live out the closest thing they can have to the fantasy.  Vampires don’t exist but sullen, rough, tattooed, violent men do.  Do I need to mention Fifty Shades?

Much fiction involves the romanticising of violent men one book on Amazon includes a discription of the man being so attractive because “he’s scary and hot”.  Song lyrics include “He has a black heart” “Daddy I’ve fallen for a monster/somehow he’s scaring me to death/he’s big and he’s bad/I love him like mad/momma he’s the best I ever had” (Stushi, Black Heart), “I need a man who thinks it’s right when it’s so wrong…” Lady Gaga – The Edge Of Glory and many more.

Of course the internet has much to say on the subject including articles of how to get the attention of a bad boy and advice for lads on how to be badass.

At the subtler end of things many adverts show women being impressed or smiling and giggling when her bad-boy partner is bad to her in some way.  This gives the impression that it’s fun and impressive to be selfish or hurtful, that it’s a desirable behaviour for men to demonstrate and for women to want, and is very different from just pretending to do such things, for a laugh.

The other end of the spectrum is of course the Sex and The City fantasy of being swept away by the rich, charismatic usually much older man who will give her everything she’ll ever desire.  According to Hollywood (and the Twilight-related Fifty Shades of Gray (Ok, I mentioned it)) they’re also amazing in bed too, apparently money can do that.  TV shows like that also perpetuate the myth that good, kind gentlemanly men are only desirable if you want to settle down and have a family (because although they can get you pregnant they can’t do it in any, you know, exciting way.  And it’s the babies the friends will be impressed by anyway, not the husband who is little more than a sperm bank.)  The only exception to this being comedy films where a woman can fall for a socially awkward but kind man but that’s just comedy, right?

The Show

Much of the time women will be with the bad type because they tend to be expert manipulators.  In a bar or at work they will be all well presented, confident, charming, funny and popular, they tend to be the centre of attention and in bars particularly women, studies have shown, tend to only notice the men who are creating the biggest show.  These men will be the ones who just walk up to women and start flirting, because they expect all women to be attracted to them.

Once a woman is with such a man he can revert to being untidy, selfish, violent or whatever negative traits he has.  Some women would walk away, some will try to change him, make him better, some are too afraid of being single again that they’ll stay and use confirmation bias to convince herself and others that the negative traits aren’t that much of a problem, that the fact that he’s so popular and exciting make up for it.  In the supermarket this morning I saw such a type – he was with a very attractive, well dressed girlfriend at the checkout, he was wearing a bright green vest and designer sunglasses, showing off his muscles and leaning on the till, chatting up the young sales assistant while his girlfriend packed the groceries.  She will probably have rationalised this by thinking that she was lucky because he was leaving with her.

The Culture of Personality

One contributing factor to the bad-lad preference could be that, as explained in Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain our current society has moved from a culture of character, where people were appreciated based on their unseen good deeds and good character to a culture of personality where the admirable traits are charisma and magnetism – traits that are common to extraverts and many of the bad-lad types do have that extravert nature, the ability to be the centre of attention, and as such they are seen as desirable.

The Past

There are those who have a predetermined idea of how things are going to work out, they live out a constant narrative, a negative fantasy of their own lives as a drama, they know how things end; they can’t have a decent partner, they always get let down.  This is the type who will say to me “I never meet any decent men” – this is why I’ve felt so inadequate for so long.  One of the reasons for this is that many people (men too) are terrified of getting what they really want and losing it, so therefore they choose a lesser option that would be less painful to walk away from.  Many expect to be let down and live out that narrative too – encouraged by songs such as the Taylor Swift one which contains the words “I can see it ending before it begins…” and the many other songs that come out on a weekly basis all following the same basic formula of being in love with but let down by a man who ends up being a shit.  You often see this in couples who argue constantly, the arguments confirm the belief and the drama and the achievement of the internal expectation actually generates a feeling of satisfaction or sometimes even (subconscious) pleasure in the mind.  The narrative is obvious when, for example, a woman says that all men will fail to complement how you look, or even myself slipping into thinking that all women only go for bad-lad types – I’m getting better, honestly, read the disclaimer earlier.

As explained in this article about what the author calls the wave the idea of someone good and decent, caring and available getting close to the vulnerable soul of someone who had been hurt previously causes a kind of unescapable panic that in turn makes the person (man or woman) to create a distraction, a ruse, to keep that person away like a bird protecting a nest.

This is the most complicated, psychologically, and the most baffling.  I knew a woman who firstly said that although we got on really well, could be good together, it would never work because I’d not had a family so could never understand that her son was the most important thing in the world to her.  I explained how I could understand that and it’d be fine.  She then changed her reasoning and said that I wouldn’t be able to keep up with her, that she was too wild for me, when I told her that wasn’t the case she then just became, over the weeks, more distant and eventually stopped talking to me.  Later I’d seen her out with the stereotypical loud, showy type who I’m sure would be a good family man, and then a year later I met her and she said “I’ve done nothing wrong, I don’t know why you stopped texting me.”  It was the other way round but in her mind, her narrative, I’d let her down, as she always expected to happen, right from the start, in reality and as I hadn’t let her down, she’d made it happen, blocking out the fact that she’d not replied to me.

This basic pattern has repeated a couple of times – I’ve said I wanted to spend more time with someone, then later she’s said “this isn’t going to work and you don’t seem to want to see me anyway” despite frequent invitations for nights out, cosy nights in and so on.   Then there’s the one who keeps you, physically at arm’s length, so that to even try to have any kind of contact you’d virtually have to rugby-tackle her  – she then says “you don’t seem interested in being more than friends, you’re not… physical.”

This type often make excuses not to get involved with you – like “these things always go wrong, you always end up in a rut” – in this case you say you don’t want to end up in the rut, tied down to a mortgage and kids either and she then, once you’ve proved you want what she wants, she still walks away, leaving you confused.  Then within a few months you see her with exactly the sort of man she once complained about, and looking miserable, she turns out to be married and in the exact kind of unhappy rut she described.  Which is what she expected to happen.

This type will convince herself that the media images etc above are true and that life will be more exciting with a bad type when in reality she’ll often simply be masking a hidden fear that she doesn’t deserve a man who is both exciting and good.  And yes, again the issue of who’s better in bed rears its head.

Being Comfortable With Now – Self-Sabotage

As this article in Lifehacker points out it’s often just that even though people want happiness they don’t expect to get it, it isn’t what normally happens to them.  People are often less comfortable with things happening that aren’t what they expect and are more comfortable with not getting what they want so they resign themselves to that fate.  Getting what you want means change and risk so people will self-sabotage themselves in order to remain in their comfortable current state even if that means, counter-intuitively, being sad.

The Defiance

Another type tells people that they are a strong, independent person and will often go for a type of partner that will challenge that in order to prove it.  This type will repeatedly go for the same bad-for-them type in a self-destructive pattern, and never be aware of it, some people reading this will be thinking “that’s not me.”  These are the ones singing along to “I am what I am” or “young hearts run free” loudly in bars.

The Unavailable

When I go into a pub with a friend who happens to be a woman all of a sudden women who in the past haven’t looked at me start looking at me with the shy smiles – this is the attraction of the unavailable (a form of negative pattern, the same as believing that they can’t have what they want or that they’ll be let down – by having a relationship with someone who’s cheating on someone else.)

The Reassurance

There are the ones who just want reassurance that they’re still attractive even though they’re either in a relationship with a bad-lad or other inattentive type or will go back to such a relationship once she’s put a decent man through the wringer.  This type makes a decent man think that she’s interested then walks away with an excuse such as “this can’t work out because…” “I need to stay with my ex for the children’s sake”, or “I’m just not ready for another relationship right now.”

The Negativity

Lastly there’s a type who have a preconceived notion in their mind of what type of partner they can have, they choose based on what they consider to be their level.  They have an idea of what they deserve based on their opinion of themselves.  This is one of the reasons why where I live you see so many attractive, well dressed women with scruffy, dishevelled, tracksuit trouser wearing, lank-haired men who always seem to avoid holding hands and often walk along with their girlfriend in a kind of headlock rather than an affectionate embrace.  This type of man is also often the target of women who feel that the only way they can be loved is by taking a misunderstood man who needs looking after and making him better.  These kinds of vulnerable women are also preyed upon by self-centred men so the pattern continues.  Some women will actually do the opposite of this and go for a very dull and sensible type for the same reasons.

I have noticed this effect in myself.  As your self-esteem and self-image improve the kind of partner you find attractive changes.  You can notice this in TV shows, people in shows you once said “I don’t fancy her” suddenly seem attractive.  This works both ways and for both sexes, presumably the person you didn’t fancy last year was someone you thought was either above or below your level.  You have no choice, it’s the subconscious (negative) ego that’s making the judgement.

It’s not a new phenomenon though, through history there have been examples of hibristophilia – women mainly who go for really bad men, like hundreds of women who are engaged to American men on death row.  Two Australian sisters left so-called boring marriages for men in prison, one was attacked by her new husband as soon as he was released with a hammer, the other’s husband tried to bite her ear off and pull out her teeth with pliers.

Utterly Facebooked

Another part of both the peer pressure and past narrative issues is the effect that social media has had.  There is a perverse pleasure which is posting on Facebook or Twitter that “yet again I’ve been let down”.

It goes something like:
“Sharon X… is really happy right now ;)”
“Lucy B…  why, tell us”
“Sharon X… Just am ;)”
a week later…
“Sharon X…  had an amazing night last night.   ALL NIGHT!!! ;)”
“Lucy B…  OMG!”
“Sharon X…  won’t walk for a week!!!”
“Milly C… You’re so lucky! ❤ xxx”
“Sharon X…  posted a link from YouTube – [insert generic love song here]
“Sharon X…  is in a relationship.”
“Sharon X… thinks Gary is the most amazing man  xxx”
“Sharon X…  Gary’s taking me to [insert club/restaurant/European city here]
“Lucy B…  Oh, you’re so lucky Shaz.”
“Gary Y…  Sharon’s the best thing that’s happened to me, I swear to you all I’ll never do anything to hurt her.”
Time passes…
“Sharon X… posted a link from YouTube – [insert generic heartbreak song here]
“Milly C…  OMG Sharon, what’s happened.”
“Sharon X…  Gary was with Susan last night. :(”
“Lucy B… His Ex? What a shit. xx  {{hugs}}”
“Sharon X…  Doesn’t need men, they’re all just bastards.”
“Sharon X… posted a link from YouTube – [insert generic “independent woman” song here]
Time passes...
“Sharon X…  Just wants a man who isn’t full of shit.”
“Lucy B… No such thing :(”
“Sharon X…  I know, I never meet anyone decent.”  Except the dozens who she has, in real life, been “just friends” with.
Time passes...
“Sharon X…  is really happy right now ;)”
Rinse and repeat.

The bits that are important are the approval of her friends when she begins the relationship with her hunky boyfriend and to a much greater degree the sympathy when it all goes wrong – another example of the dreaded confirmation bias.  The collective, virtual, hugs and “oh, it’ll be alright” feel good, if it’s also the expected outcome then that completion of the narrative also gives the same buzz as completing any other planned task, or a crossword, such events cause our primitive brains to deliver a dopamine surge – ooh, happy!

Sometimes all that people do is, without saying anything else, change their relationship status to “it’s complicated” and possibly then back to “single” just to elicit some kind of response from friends.  I even found myself thinking of doing that recently but didn’t.  I originally titled this blog post “Longfellow was in a complicated relationship” instead.

Another thing that happens is women on Facebook posting “inspirational message” images saying things like “having someone who loves you as much as you love him is everything” and saying “one day, I hope” which gains replies of “he’ll turn up soon hun x” and so on.  Usually this is what they say they want but what they believe they’ll get is often the opposite.  Getting the sympathetic comments is the main objective and this display of the desire for this fantasy reinforces the reaction when the “wonderful new relationship” turns sour.

The Aftermath, The Damage

I used to react to being let down/rejected by being annoyed, saying “typical, they always want the bad ones” but I’ve realised that it wasn’t them I was annoyed at but myself, I was feeling “why can’t I be attractive like those bad types”.  Now I know differently and accept that it’s not me that has the problem.  Unfortunately it doesn’t make the situation any easier to deal with.

What they don’t know is what damage it causes; the emotional pain of becoming deeply attached to someone, to feel the harmony, the empathy, the deep care for someone, the desire for that person, the unconditional and as such true love for them only for them to walk away with the only reason being that she expects things to go wrong.  You become part of her narrative, one of the good ones she lost, or you become forgotten, one of the good ones she never meets, or you are rationalised into history because you weren’t right for her, you walked away, you’re the one she scared away or the one who wasn’t interested.

You find yourself in tears at the slightest reminder because you loved her and she hasn’t done anything to diminish that love, walking away hasn’t changed the essence of what you loved about her.

But it doesn’t matter, does it, it’s not part of the script.

Blogging The Information Tidal Wave

Rubbish Tip

Rubbish Tip – Courtesy Serif Image Collections

That’s how it seems sometimes, the internet, that is.  Well it does to me.  In the earlier days of the net the media and politicians trying to look “with it” called it the Information Superhighway, a term bringing visions of an orderly flow of everything you’d need to know, four lanes of neatly arranged news and entertainment.

The truth today is a torrent of cat pictures, Facebook posts, Tweets, Instagram pics, blogs, oh and news, all coming at you via the computer, phone, tablet and TV.  It’s a cliché but to paraphrase a famous quote: Never in the field of human endeavour has so much data been available to so many to be consumed in so little time.

It is in the face of this wave that I stand and try to write a blog about modern life and therein lies the problem and the first reason I’ve been getting nervous tremors at the thought of even peeking at this blog editor.  The problem is called Information Overload.

If your blog has a wide remit but you have limited time to write it then information overload can be a major issue, there are so many outlets to find things that would be relevant to what you write about but you don’t have time to both read them and write about them, you feel that you can’t write about the first thing before the next thing turns up.  Another problem with overload is having a subject to write about and either not being able to remember to put in everything you had previously thought would be good in it, or worrying that you’ve forgotten something, before hitting the publish button.  Some people can process, order and retain everything they see and read, many of us can’t.

So what’s to be done.  Firstly you have to simply accept that you’re not going to be able to cover everything you could write about.   Secondly it’s best to find a time that is conducive to writing.  For quite a while I’d not been in the mood to consume any knowledge at all and as such I’d filled the Pocket add-on in Firefox with things to read later so for the last six months I’ve been trying to catch up.  This means that in the evenings I’ve set aside an hour or so to read regular websites but by the time I’d finished doing that my brain had become tired and I couldn’t think of anything sufficiently worth putting in the blog so I thought “I’ll do it tomorrow.”

The “tomorrow” in January became October 16th in no time at all.

So for me the solution is write early, when I’m in the mood, read later.

The other thing I’ve been trying to do involves organising the information I have and the ideas that pop up through the day.  I have two notebooks, one is A4 and I write long notes.  The other is A5 and contains one-liners by which I mean titles or brief ideas for blog articles, which can be quickly flicked through for inspiration.  In the small book this article existed as simply “information overload” and related notes also existed tagged with the same wording in Evernote – which is where everything from the big notebook ends up eventually.  I recently read an article on Lifehacker on how it’s a good idea to go through notebooks like mine on a monthly schedule to keep the ideas flowing.

So, how to cope with the overload; let it flow past you, take in what you can, and don’t worry about the things that pass straight past or through your mind.  Fishing boats don’t catch every fish, you can’t see everything on the electronic net either.

Electric Hands and Aluminium Kitchens


chisels (Photo credit: The Year of Mud)

I was watching a TV show which showed a restaurant and the customers kept talking about all this “home cooked” food, OK it was a family restaurant, owned by the same family for generations but I was sure that they just showed the food being cooked in a very shiny, very metallic, very up to hygiene standards industrial restaurant kitchen behind the counter.  Do they live upstairs?  I thought.  On other shows this pattern repeated, maybe it’s the decor that’s making people think “home cooked”, don’t they know it’s not the owner’s dining room.

Next up came the description of hand-made food items which again didn’t seem quite what I would call “hand”-made, although hands were involved in some ways, moving the ingredients, pushing the button, turning the handle.

“The meat is still prepared by hand” – the guy pushed a piece of meat into a machine.  No knife, no hammer.

“Hand-cut fries” – the guy pushed a potato into a device and pulled a handle.  Again, no knife.

It’s not just restaurants though, more and more (often expensive and exclusive) things are described as “hand-made” when they’re in fact made by a machine and assembled by hand.  A chair leg hand-turned on a lathe is still hand-made, the hand that guides the chisel, but a cabinet where all the joints are routed by a set machine rather than a hammer and chisel – is that still hand-made?

Eventually I’ve come to the conclusion that the term hand-made, along with home-cooked has come to mean the opposite of “made in a huge mass-production facility in China”.  TV shows have shown examples of some mass-production methods used by food producers, occasionally emphasising the less savoury looking aspects – the infamous “pink goo” – which doesn’t look appetising it’s true but restaurants don’t make food like factories, they mass produce just on a smaller scale, I’ve done a large spaghetti Bolognese at home but not enough for a table for ten at eight.

As well as that people know that fast-food or large chain restaurants have frozen food items shipped in nightly to be warmed up which are as such full of preservatives and evil whereas in a small restaurant the food is made properly, just like you’d have at home, hence home-made.  Even if the mass-produced stuff is 100% beef and the home-made one is just as bad for you if you scoff too many.

Maybe I’m being picky over semantics, again, but even home-made “home-made” food can come from a kit you buy at M&S these days.

In our world where just about everything is manufactured in a factory, see How It’s Made on TV, people are more often craving the hand made for its roughness, lack of uniformity – in things like cakes and chocolate bars, but if you phrase it differently “made by hand” or “hand finished by Barry” suddenly you can charge a fortune for it, whether it’s a watch or an Aston Martin engine.  The irony is that less than forty years ago Fiat ran a campaign for the new Strada expressing how amazing it was that it was Hand Built by Robots.

If you can market something as home-made or hand-made you can imply it’s more wholesome in some way, even if many of the ingredients still contain colourings and preservatives, when used deliberately this way it’s tapping into consumers’ resistance to “processed foods” which are full of salt, fat or MSG.  You can also sell to those following the current fashion of seeking out “authentic” experiences, like rustic furniture, timber sash windows, overpriced hearty bangers and mash or real ale at six pounds a pint – yes you read that right, a pub near here is offering an authentic real ale in a real pub experience for just six quid a go. Again they’re selling people the idea that the past was better, that retro is the way forward, so to speak.

I think I’ll stick to my real real pub across the town at half the price, followed by a decidedly not home-made battered sausage.


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Facebook Anxiety and Other Maladies


facebook (Photo credit: dkalo)

I haven’t been “on Facebook” for many months, apart from to wish Happy Birthday to people when reminded via emails.  I haven’t been on for a number of complex reasons I’m not going into now, though one is that over time the sheer volume of posts to catch up with grows to biblical levels and you fall into a “I’ll look at it tomorrow” mindset.   Not looking at it though has shown that I’m suffering from an anxiety about it, a Social Network Anxiety.

There are two forms of this anxiety as far as I can tell, firstly is the almost guilty feeling that because you haven’t religiously read people’s posts in months then they’ll think you’re ignoring them – you think you should go have a look, then you post something and you get silence – no comments, no likes, and it confirms your fear, despite being sure that your Facebook friends are reasonable people and wouldn’t take offence that you hadn’t been paying attention.

However it is true that many people do in fact think that because everyone they know on Facebook has the ability to see what they’ve said then everybody will have read it and those who didn’t respond in some way don’t care, especially if they’ve posted something particularly emotional.

This is the problem with distributed communication – if a direct email or text isn’t responded to, even if you give them a few days to pick it up, then you know that either they didn’t get it or something may be amiss but broadcast expressions may not automatically be seen by everyone you think it will be seen by.

The thing is that I’m not alone in taking a sabbatical from the New Big Blue (I remember IBM, as a child of the eighties), a survey by the Pew Research Centre has shown that over sixty percent of users have taken a long break from the site, most users saying that they don’t have time to dedicate to reading their news feed (as in my case) or basically just feeling that when they have they haven’t gained anything from the experience – that it was a waste of time.  How interesting or not your news feed is depends on how interesting your friends are of course, despite new features such as the Graph engine that is supposed to make searching for travel tips, recipes and other stuff posted by your friends easier to find.  The study also showed that young people were using the site less, possibly due to other ways of chattering such as Snapchat.

The same is true of most social networks – Instagram is famously regarded as a place for people to post pictures of their dinner or of themselves drunk yet also contains interesting pictures too; Twitter inevitably contains streams of verbal diarrhoea (if you’ll pardon the image) as well as pearls of 140-character wisdom and so on and people sometimes get overwhelmed by the volume of information, or have other things to occupy their time.

Eventually the ever evolving internet etiquette will include the fact that people won’t always be listening and as a Tweeter or Status Updater you have to live with that and not take a like-count of zero personally.

To finish this piece though there is the other social network anxiety: that if you’re not checking Facebook, Twitter et al every five minutes then you’ll miss something.  This can be caused by the first but is also a standalone anxiety for those who don’t care what people think but have to know what everybody else is doing.  Many of these people are those in the remaining percentage who haven’t dared to leave Mr Zuckerberg’s empire for more than five minutes.

These are the people who the marketers of smartwatches and personal heads-up displays have in their minds, the always connected, but that’s another story.

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What Do You Mean By Real Criminals?

Day 175 - West Midlands Police - Traffic Officer

Day 175 – West Midlands Police – Traffic Officer (Photo credit: West Midlands Police)

What do the drivers of any of hundreds of cars that pass me on the motorway every year and a man parked on single-yellow lines outside our shop yesterday muttering and throwing his parcel into his car have in common.  They all compalin that motorists are being victimized and targeted (as easy prey) when they’re caught by the fuzz.

For my non-British readership who may not be aware, single-yellow lines on the road are restricted parking, though many people think that parking across the yellow line, half on the road, half on the pavement counteracts these restrictions.  As does putting your hazard lights on.

So many people given speeding fines and parking fines will come out with the old classic saying “I ain’t doing nuffing wrong, officer, why aren’t you out catching real criminals” to the traffic officer whose specific job is catching traffic offenders, many of whom turn out to be real criminals as well, strangely – people who regularly break the law breaking the law, who’d have thought it.  The non-criminal types will usually accuse the police authority of using speeding, parking and crap driving in general as ways of generating easy revenue, without realising that that isn’t quite how police funding works.  Of course they forget that it’s the same traffic officers they’d turn to if they have an accident and need someone to pick up the pieces.

The thing is, if you believe that it’s all about the money then there’s a simple answer: don’t speed, don’t park on yellow lines, drive properly (you can still enjoy yourself) and look after your car.  Simple, no?

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Who Did The Work, Exactly?

Woman with phone screaming.How do you make someone feel like nothing more than an automaton, like some kind of puppet operated by an all-knowing master, how do you make someone feel like they’re pretty worthless?

I’ll tell you.  It’s happened to me, it’s happened to many people I know, it happened to my mum and her colleagues when she was a care assistant at an elderly people’s home.

As the staff member you spend much time finding out information, you carefully manufacture something, you arrange for some work to be done, you do all you can to make an elderly relative’s final months as comfortable as possible – add your own job role here.  At the end of the process the person who you’ve done all this for – i.e. the customer, the client, (in my experience usually well off, a business owner) doesn’t say thankyou to you but instead says, to your face, “oh, pass my thanks on to [insert boss/manager’s name here] and tell them I’ll owe them a bottle of wine for all he/she’s done.”

Well, you’re welcome, you think.  You may not be doing the job for the thanks or praise but a little of your soul gets worn down.


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