Tai Chi on the Beach

Tai Chi on the Beach

News of your passing first quivers and beeps

in my pocket with initial innocuousness early

in 07. I read the generic notice of your death with disbelieve, punched

in to me by Sarah, in the short, sharp words of text speak.

Later I would learn the disease you harboured claimed

your last breath far quicker than you or your kin

would ever expect,  even though the prognosis

on diagnosis just a few weeks before was never good.

I pour a few too many Jack Ds and cokes, toast

your memory. The drink all too quickly becoming the muse

for our fleeting moments of  acquaintance evolving

into the nostalgic recollection of a drunken best friend.

My first memory of you was you tossing

an orange around a circle of bewildered students

-an icebreaker to learn each other’s names.

(Your IQ was high but your memory for names was never good.)

Once I sat tensely in your office, amidst

the hotchpotch clatter of precariously stacked  books

and boxes – no wonder you lost one of my essays-

while you critiqued one of my first pieces, with the dab hand

of a poetic ambassador, never actually saying the words this is crap.

Your eyes would light up at the sound of a great poem, with correct

stanza and iambic pentameter that scanned in all the right places.

and I knew then that you taught for the love of the art and not just

to fund your own habit, although you would remain a poetry junkie to

your final day. And once I even seen your eyes gleam a little

when I read a few lines, and I knew then that I had made an impression

and from then you remembered my name.

Then there was the moment I stumble on you stood

on a Welsh beach somewhere

with far too many consonants for me to remember. I raise my camera

zoom in till you fill the viewfinder, ready to take a shot

catch you for posterity, the poignancy now not lost to me.

The wind was tossing your kelp-like hair, billowing

your wax cotton jacket like the cape of one of the ancients

you studied and revered, spray dappled horn-rimmed spectacles,

giving you a Monet vision of where clouds merge with brackish sea.

You’re twisting your arms into graceful poses, lifting your legs

wax on wax off, facing the waves like King Canute, trying in vain

to stop the waves from advancing. I lower my camera

the moment fades and I walk away, but here now

in the cold light of day, I wish I had snapped you

and maybe then, in the picture at least, I would see

that you had stopped the tide coming your way.

Paul Campbell

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Why I changed the title of my blog.

Keener readers may have noticed that I have changed the title of my blog. I’ve done this for a couple of reasons. The first is I have two sites and I couldn’t always tell which one I could edit my blog on. This is because when I set up my blog it kept asking me to create several different profiles and being new I called them all the same thing, which now leads to a bit of confusion when I am editing my blogs. Even now I click on one site that says I have no blog posts even though I have written about 8 or 9. The second is probably more in line with the last few paragraphs- Oneandhisblogblog.com was quirkily title, but hardly original as I had throw the extra blog in. While Between the Lines isn’t a phrase I can claim original use of,  at least it is more accurate as to what this blog represents. At heart I am plugging away at my writing, both my novels and my screenplays, and this is literally between those lines.

I could tell you that this solely to make connections with other writers, and while that is true, it isn’t the entire truth. I have a stable job, I work from home, have flexi-time, good holidays, the pay covers the bills, I am relatively good at my job, but I don’t feel this is the job that I was born to do. So really, in a rather cynical move, but hey I’m being upfront about it, it’s to look more professional to any would-be employers. To show them my wares so to speak.

It’s a funny old game…writing.

I am a writer. That is a fact. Okay, I haven’t been able to make a living out of it as yet. Nor, if I look at my stats on here, have I made a huge impact in the blogging stratosphere. Nevertheless, I write and I am, by that rudimentary definition, a writer.

Us writers are a strange  breed of people. It takes a certain degree of arrogance to think anyone is going to be remotely interested in what we have to say. And yet, constantly fighting (heck, let’s throw a  hefty word in as I’ve always wanted to use the strike-through button) in juxtaposition to this is the self-awareness of that arrogance. This inevitably leads us to huge swathes of self doubt and inadequacy.  We swing wildly between thinking we are working on the greatest masterpiece ever written, to deleting it all in a flurry of  frustration (Even now I am looking back on that last passage and wondering if the juxtaposition was way too much!)

I have a friend from university who edits a fansite for a premiership football team. He has had articles published on the daily mail online. Football is an emotive subject and stirs up a lot of passion and opposing views depending on which team you follow. However, he once told me that it doesn’t bother him if someone tells him his analysis of the game is completely up the creek, as soon as they start to question his grammar, his heart sinks. This is the mark of a writer. He isn’t really concerned on how his readers view his take on the beautiful game as he knows that is subjective, but to question his writing ability, that’s a different matter entirely.

The etiquite of the internet

Hello,

I have been meaning to write  about this subject pretty much since I started blogging, but the fact I have held off has given me some more thought for pause.

Since the day SIr Tim-Berners Lee invented or, more accurately, discovered the internet and launched it into the ether like a tiny sparkling firefly, it has set the world ablaze with the exchange of ideas and knowledge. It is no cliche to argue that it has become one of the greatest revolutions mankind has ever seen, certainly the greatest I have seen and will probably see in my lifetime. His subsequent plaudits and knighthood would be no surprise to us sitting smack bang within this digital revolution, but could he have ever envisaged the huge impact this free gift would have on  mankind and ,moreover,  just what the world would do with it?

Kranzberg’s First Law of Technology states: “Technology is neither good nor bad, but nor is it neutral.”  Therefore, the internet, being no exception to this is merely a conduit of whatever the user wants it to be. Since mankind can fall within a wide range of spectrums from magnanimous saints to dangerous psychopaths, inevitable then that with all the cute pictures of cats and babies and reams and reams of helpful information littering the net, a deeply more sinister side  has evolved within its digital walls.

I first heard of the darknet while reading about the phenomenon known as bitcoins. This untraceable crypto currency was first created for some long outmoded game. a news article had reported that someone had cashed in on a small holding they had bought years ago and had become a multi millionaire through their sale on the darknet and the fact that their value had inflated at an incomparable rate. It then went on to say that due to their untraceable nature, it was the favoured currency on the darknet for criminals, terrorists and paedophiles.

This was news to me, as while I knew there were dark corners of the net where illegal or taboo subjects were discussed or even encouraged, up to then I did not there was a specific area with its very own currency. The darknet though is a very guarded area of the net, with invite by invitation only websites of people who are aware their activity is at best immoral and more often than not completely criminal. It is by its very nature secretive, but you don’t need to delve into the dark reaches of the darknet to stumble upon the darker aspects of the net.

A lot of times the tone of the written word can be misinterpreted. Social media is certainly no exception this. The trouble is human beings don’t just communicate with  words; body language and tone of speech are also key factors in reading what someone actually means behind what they are actually saying. Sometimes that misinterpretation is just that- no offence intended, which goes back to the point that not everyone ticks the same way. But there are times when it is quite clear that offence is the sole intention intended- Trolling.

Simply put, trolling is the act of eliciting a negative emotion by searching the net or social media and saying or posting something so outrageous that it raises a negative response in the vast majority of reasonable people which the troll can then capitalise on for their own and other troll’s amusement. The troll will very often state that they are a bastion for free speech, but the troll will shift stances on any issue to the one that will cause the most outrage.   Most of you will have come across a troll somewhere on line. Trolling can amount to anything from stalking online, visiting grieving family websites and posting distasteful or offensive comments, or even setting up sites themselves. Queen of the trolls in the UK is Katie Hopkins, a woman who has forged a career in being a celebrity troll, but she deserves a whole blog post of her own and I wont delve too much on here.

Recently the phrase “It’s only banter!” has come into popular phraseology. This seems to be a blanket term for any comment or post designed to cause offence, but not enough offence to elicit some form of legal action again the source of the comment. But those that bandy it around very often are not the best judge of what banter actually is. As I write, there was news yesterday that 6 members of HSBC bank were sacked due to re-enacting an ISIS inspired execution on a team building course. Banter? Harmless fun? They clearly thought so at the time, even posting it online before getting cold feet and removing it, but not before someone who did not find it in the least bit funny, saw and it ended up on the front page of a national paper.

These guys were probably not terrorists and were probably not have even been terrorist sympathisers, but their  banter was a very cliquey one that not a lot of people would find funny. It’s like when you watch the apprentice around about week four and some of the business brains suddenly think they can make a comedy video or advertising reel that will rival the Farley brothers in terms of humour and originality. Swept along by each other, and their growing bond, they seem unable to take a step backwards to see that what they are making is usually drivel.  Very often the first they know is when they show it to the prospective clients who sit stony faced while the team sniggers.Even then sometimes its only in the boardroom when Sir Alan fires the wanabee filmmaker that they realise they’ve made a huge error in judgement.

Simply put, in the anniversary of 7/7 and a few weeks after a massacre in Tunisia it was never going to end well for these HSBC staff. Their biggest mistake was in thinking that something like that online would not cause a  backlash at the best of times let alone when emotions are running high and 30 british holidaymakers are coming home in coffins instead of return flights.  Sometimes, we all need to take a step back, look at the bigger picture and lay our banter down for the sake of not causing offence. Then maybe the internet, at least the non dark part, would be a nicer place for all.

The Roots of the Greek Debt Crisis

Longreads

The crisis in Greece is getting worse. Its people on July 5 voted against the terms of the most recent bailout deal in a referendum, rejecting austerity. If a new deal isn’t reached soon, its government won’t be able to pay its debts and will run out of euros, which many expect it will mean exiting the euro zone. This 2010 Michael Lewis classic for Vanity Fair, “Beware of Greeks Bearing Bonds,” helps explain the current situation:

For most of the 1980s and 1990s, Greek interest rates had run a full 10 percent higher than German ones, as Greeks were regarded as far less likely to repay a loan. There was no consumer credit in Greece: Greeks didn’t have credit cards. Greeks didn’t usually have mortgage loans either. Of course, Greece wanted to be treated, by the financial markets, like a properly functioning Northern European country. In…

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Ten years of Thomas (where has the time gone?)

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In my last (first ever) blog, I mainly was testing out the format,finding my feet and waxing lyrical about nothing in particular apart from the fact that I had got round to writing a blog. Nothing wrong with that and to be honest if you’ve read the first one and thought yeah I’ll give the second one a bash, first of all thank you for showing an interest, and second expect more of the same in the future.

However, tonight as I sit here with the last remnants of a birthday cake emblazoned with the Man U football club logo ( a club I neither endorse or support) I find myself in quite a reflective mood and thought I would write a little bit about that. It was my son’s tenth birthday today. Obviously that is a bit milestone in his burgeoning life. I was telling him it’s the first time he gets to add another digit onto his age  and that he’ll have to wait another 90 years for the next one (I’ve only got 59 to mine!). He is also on the cusp of the looming teenage years which help shape the adult he is about to become.

Sunrise (1)

“Simba, everything the light touches is your future.” “What’s that dark place in the middle, Dad? That’s your teenage years, son. I’ll see you on the other side.”

I know that full well as my eldest child, my daughter Emma is slap bang in the midst of this and boy do we all  know it at times. it doesn’t take much to set her off. “Please clean your room,” can be met with an unfettered outburst of “I’ll do it later, Dad!” that could set off a sharp spike on the Richter scale. I blame myself. Or rather my fiery Celtic genes. I have to really. Her mother is the only person I’ve ever had to ask to speak up in argument.  Anyway, I’m digressing from my main theme and to be fair on Emma she shows signs of settling back into a more assertive older version of her younger self. So it’s all good.

The point I am heading for is, and I know this sounds a bit obvious, was Thomas’s birthday is actually quite a landmark for me too. You see, I was at uni when Thomas was born. In fact, I was at uni when we decided to have a second child in the first place. I remember the conversations we had about it. I went to uni just before I was thirty to chase the dream I had of being a writer. My wife Wendy was a nurse at that time working on the district. We already had Emma. She was a toddler at this point, and to me it seemed a bit crazy to have another child then. My argument was it wasn’t the best timing financially-wise. However, a woman’s biological clock isn’t always. And so we agreed to try at least and much to our mutual surprise Thomas was born slap bang in the midst of my second term.

While uni does involve intensive periods of studying, it is nowhere  near as time-consuming as having a full-time job.  I was happy to juggle looking after him and study at the same time while Wendy was working part-time. In fact, as a father it was actually a good time to have a baby then as it gave me more time with him than I would have had had I been working during that period.  I would often take him to our workshops in my friend’s Sarah’s house, or for a quick hello to my friends in the student bar.  My female pals all wanted a cuddle of him, while my bloke mates wanted a hold to evoke to the passing ladies their nurturing potential fatherly sides. My grades dipped a little, but not too much. I remember too talking to one of my lecturers with Thomas in his pram and talking about writing and finding time with having kids and him saying maybe once they have gotten a bit older I would find more time.

So while my first thoughts of Thomas are as his father and I love him dearly, his life is almost indelibly linked to the extent of my writing career. He was conceived, born and nurtured as a baby while I was at uni pursuing that course and now a full decade later, he is on the cusp of being a young man and I am still “trying to find time.” Not that I haven’t been writing in all that time. I have written nearly 50k words of a novel, completed one screenplay (though in hindsight it’s quite a naff story) and am working on another. But in ten years Barbara Cartland could have probably written a hundred novels. Fair enough, she didn’t write her own stuff and she’s dead now, so it would be ghost written in more ways than one,  so she might not be the best example. But somehow I have this sense of frustration. It isn’t from lack of ideas. I have them spilling out of me sometimes. They jostle for prime position. It’s just that little thing called time which is precious commodity.

There was a film on a few months back with Justin Timberlake and it was about people literally buying time. It wasn’t particularly good, but it was an interesting hook that would resonate with a lot of people.  A lot of things have happened in those ten years for us as a family. For instance, in the space of a six month period both my father and Wend’s father died and her mum had a severe stroke. It was intensely  heartbreaking, time-consuming period that changed my outlook, and  maybe even my personality, forever. But ironically, it brought us together like never before. Not in an immediately tactile way  as she was living at her mum’s house, but we found we needed to rely on each other more than we had ever done, even just for raising the children.  We realised afresh what it was we saw in each other again.  And we started to understand how each other ticked, which is no mean feat. At that point, writing had been on the back-burner for a while, but when brief pockets of time started to become available, that’s when I felt the need to just write something. I wasn’t overly worried about the quality, and that wasn’t always a bad thing as worrying about the quality stops you from writing anything or gets you hung up over where you should put your next and for 3 hours!

Maybe, in all this I am missing the point anyway. Writing isn’t necessarily all about getting published, though that is the end-game of most, if not all, writers. As I am beginning to find out writing can be its own cathartic experience. So now, as I eat the last slice of Thomas’s Man U football cake he had for his tenth birthday,  trying to stop the metaphoric  crumbs  of time from slipping through my fingers, I type, something, anything, with a slight smile on my face.