All Posts Filed in ‘From The Heart


Brother In Another Country


My brotherSeveral years after the low of living with me in Yorkshire my brother (right) has finally hit the big time. To be fair, things went really well after his ill-fated stay with me. He’s spent the past year or so living in Edinburgh and making the most of the rich and vibrant night-life. He got a great job that’s much more interesting than mine (i.e. it’s not writing software) and he’s been having a whale of a time.

He stayed with us this weekend for the last time because he’s moving to California. San Francisco to be precise. I’d normally say he’s a lucky git but to be honest he’s worked hard and deserves everything that’s coming to him. If I were a betting man I’d have said that I’d have been more likely to move to the centre of the software world before he would but it’s funny how life surprises you some times. And how settled I am living in Yorkshire!

For one thing, I’m going to miss him. He’s my brother and my best friend. Barely a few days go by that I don’t speak to him, so for him to be on the other side of the world seems a long way away. However with modern technology like Skype we’ll be able to talk just as much as we do now. It also means I now have a holiday destination for early next year. We did a California road trip a couple of years ago and loved it and I can’t wait to go back.

So to my younger brother Jamie, good luck, all the best and stay off the burgers! 🙂


4 Weeks To Go


Exactly 4 weeks from today I'm getting married.

The process of planning a wedding hasn't been exactly what I expected it to be. I knew there would be pressure and I was fully expecting to battle it all out with family members as to who was cut from the list. I knew that lots of people would be saying "well they invited you to their wedding 10 years ago so you should invite them" even though we'd not even spoken to them since.

But I was wrong. That part turned out to be pretty straightforward. What I wasn't prepared for was spending time thinking about the wedding and not about each other. I guess it's easy to forget that you have to work at relationships and you can't keep burying your head in the sand. If I'm honest I was starting to look at the wedding as a chore, a formality to get out of the way and everything would be fine once it was over and done with. But that's no way to approach a wedding.

After much soul searching and low points, we both realised that we'd stopped communicating, stopped spending the time together we should have, stopped doing the fun things we used to do and had slowly slipped into a rut. We were wondering if we should even carry on with the wedding at all. But once we realised what the problem was we picked ourselves up and starting doing things together rather than her watching TV, me going on the computer. We started being a couple again and we're much happier. Suddenly we both remembered why we wanted to get married in the first place!

When I was younger I always assumed that relationships between people who were meant to be together just worked. Everything clicked, things never went wrong and there were never any lows. But that's ridiculous (well certainly after the first couple of years – prior to that it's all a honeymoon period). All relationships have their ebbs and flows – when things are good they're great, but when things slip you start to notice all the flaws, all the negatives and can easily get consumed but it.

I remember watching a program about relationships a year or so ago. They had a young couple who'd just met, a couple about to get married, one that had been married a short while right up to a couple in their 70s who'd been married forever. What I found most interesting and endearing was the elderly couple. They said that the secret to their staying together so long and being happy together was that they knew that they had to work at their relationship and would have their ups and downs, but to always keep in mind what brought them together in the first place. They said that all too often these "young folk" hit hard times and gave up to easily – hence the high divorce rates these days. They may have been in their 70s but they were still young at heart with their outlook on life and sense of humour. And after all these years they were still very much in love – seeing photos of them when they met you could still see the sparkle in their eyes now. They were really lovely.

We know that once we're married we've still got to work at it, and if we stop doing that we'll end up right back in a rut again. So often couples come back from the high of a year of wedding planning, the perfect wedding day, an awesome honeymoon to the reality of their former lives. They're under the illusion that the rest of their lives will be like their wedding day, but of course that's not the case. As that elderly couple said, you've got to keep working at it!

But in the meantime, I've got a party in 4 weeks to look forward to! If you want to buy us a present from our wedding list, my good lady has put one up on Debenham's website – just search for my name! 😉


A Weekend At Home

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I spent the weekend up in Scotland. Normally my girlfriend would go with me but she deserved a few days to herself so for the first time in a long time I got to spend some quality time with my father talking, taking photos and reminiscing. It was one of the nicest weekends I’ve had in a long time (and the sun was shining – something I haven’t seen in Yorkshire for a good while).


I’ve been thinking about time a lot lately. I look at my girlfriend and know that I want to spend the rest of my life with her. But I realise that much though I’d like to stop the clock and stay as we are forever, it ain’t gonna happen. Time will pass, we’ll age, get old and eventually die. It’s an inevitable aspect of life that I’m all too aware of but sometimes it saddens me. Youth is wasted on the young and wisdom is only earned by the old. Oh, to wind back the clock! Having said that, sunsets are the most beautiful parts of the day:


There’s no stopping the march of time, only making the most of it. The trouble is, most people don’t truly understand it until it’s too late.


Getting There


The following poem used to hang on the wall of the bedroom I shared with my brother when I was a kid. I didn’t pay much attention to it despite my father reading it a few times to us. However I must have read it myself because without realising it Kipling’s words have been etched into my psyche and they’re just as relevant to me today as they were when they were written nearly a century ago. Technology changes the world but it doesn’t change the human spirit.

‘If’ by Rudyard Kipling

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or, being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or, being hated, don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise;

If you can dream – and not make dreams your master;
If you can think – and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with triumph and disaster
And treat those two imposters just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to broken,
And stoop and build ’em up with wornout tools;

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breath a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: “Hold on”;

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with kings – nor lose the common touch;
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you;
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run –
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And – which is more – you’ll be a Man my son!

Looks like I made it after all.


PMT For Two


For many couples, there can be nothing more stressful than the female of the species suffering from monthly mood swings, hot flushes, irrational behaviour and did I mention mood swings? That would be PMT (Pre-Menstrual Tension). For us males it’s a time to show patience and support and ride the storm (it won’t last for ever). However, for most couples there’s something that is even worse. And that’s the sudden absence of the above. I’m referring of course to a missed period.

More often than not it’s harmless and nothing to worry about. The contraceptive pill can play havoc with the menstruation cycle and missing a pill can totally mess the cycle up altogether. A missed period can throw up all kinds of things that you don’t give a second thought to normally. Thoughts like: “I’m not ready to be a father”, “I’m too young to be a father”, “well there goes my fantasies of sleeping with other women – I’m going to have to get married” and of course “my life is over”. There may even be some positives but I’ll dwell on the negatives for now as it aids the narrative.

The first time this happened to me (well, to my then girlfriend of course) was when I was about 19 (making my girlfriend about 17). I was absolutely terrified. It’s one of the few memories I retain from being that age and I remember thinking things like “if it’s negative I’ll never have sex again so I never have to feel this scared again”. Fortunately it was a false-call and I quickly forgot the fear and blind panic.

But this month my girlfriend missed her period. And my reaction was not what I’d come to expect. First of all, I started joking about the whole thing. I’d send her text messages saying I was off to Mothercare to look at infant clothes. I ask her if any of her relatives had any prams / cots / sterilising equipment they didn’t need any more. Of course my dry wit soon made her a bit tense so she went off and bought a home pregnancy test. While she was away getting it I thought seriously for a moment about how I’d feel if she tested positive.

IMG_0762_2And you know what? I decided that I didn’t mind either way. We’ve spoken about having kids and how we’re knocking on a bit and if we’re going to start a family we want to be doing it soon. But we’d decided that – selfish as we still are – we’re just not ready to do it. And to be honest, we didn’t know when we ever would be. But we’d still love kids.

But it became clear to me while I was waiting that we aren’t going to be just wake up one morning and decide that we were ready. It would have to be forced on us and we’d have to deal with it and make the switch to putting ourselves second in our lives after our kids. And this could be it. This could be it being forced on us. And the scary part was that I wasn’t scared at all. I thought to myself “if she’s pregnant, then I’m going to be a father”. And I felt fine about that. I really did.

And as she took the test and came up negative, I swear to you I felt a pang of disappointment.

Maybe it’s because I’m rapidly approaching 30. Maybe it’s because I’ve been spending time with my girlfriend’s family including two nephews (even the Easter weekend). Or maybe I’m coming to realise that there has to be more to life than this. Still, the test kit claims only 99% accuracy. Which means 1 in 100 results are wrong…


New Shoe High


A photo of my old VansI don’t know about you, but I tend to wear the same shoes most of the time. I don’t have to wear a suit to work so when I get up in the morning I’ll normally reach for the same shoes day after day after day. If I go out for a drink or two, I’ll wear those same shoes. If I go to the cinema, or drive to a friend’s house to go biking, or go shopping, I’ll wear – you’ve guessed it – the same shoes. I like to call them my Default Shoes. That’s because they are my default choice for almost all occasions. Sure, when I need smart shoes I’ll wear something else, or if I go running I’ll wear running shoes, but 9 times out of 10 I’ll lace up my default shoes when I leave the house.

The problem is that no shoe lasts forever. When any pair of my default shoes start to wear out I’ll start looking for a replacement. I’ll buy the replacement and gradually wear them more and more until I just stop wearing the old ones and throw them out. Thus I have new default shoes and the circle of life continues. I have just passed through such a transition period and as a mark of respect I’d like to tell you about my old shoes.

I bought them in Las Vegas a couple of years ago. At the time my default shoes were a pair of brown Adidas Gazelles and they were past their best. I figured I’d go for a pair of black shoes next, my motivation being the shoes Richard Ashcroft wore in the video to Bittersweet Symphony (which happened to be Clarks, by the way). I had a look in a few shops until I eventually came across the Vans you see pictured above.

We’ve been all over together. I’ve taken them half way around the world. Been drunk in them. Driven thousands of miles in them. Played football in them. Had job interviews in them. They’ve been ever-present in my life but it was time to move on. They were falling apart. I was on my third pair of laces and the soles were wearing through. So it was with a heavy heart that I started to look for a replacement. And I found them, courtesy of my brother (who’s my clothing consultant – he has more style in his small finger than I’ll have in my whole lifetime).

A photo of my new shoesThey’re a pair of customised Adidas running shoes and they’re pictured right. I’m not going to link to where I got them from because I don’t want everybody out there wearing them – I want them for me! Oh, all right then, you can find them here. And although they look pretty loud, I love them. I’m looking forward to a long partnership with them and if I have half as much fun wearing them as I did with my Vans I’ll be doing well. It’s the dawn of a new era.


About Bloody Time


Way back in September 2002 I wrote about the fact that my younger brother had decided to quit his job and come and stay with me while he found himself a new one in beautiful Yorkshire. What I didn’t do was tell you what happened next.

It all started off fine. I stayed next door at my girlfriend’s house and he stayed at mine. I’d come around and watch satellite TV and we seemed to be having a good time. The trouble was that this was simply the honeymoon period. Reality eventually settled in and the strain of having two grizzlie bears living inside a 6′ by 6′ cage eventually proved too much for us. I snapped and he moved out. We started the best of friends but, by the time he moved back to Scotland it had all gone horribly wrong. I’m disappointed I let that happen but it just goes to show that no matter how good a person you think you are, you can still be a complete c*nt when you want to be. Let that be a lesson to all of you out there.

Fortunately, after a short while we buried the hatchet and get on just as well as we did before (a 300 mile gap, occasional visits and frequent phone conversations seems to be about the right balance). However, he still didn’t have a job. He struggled to get the job he was after due to intense competition and most probably more bad luck (he’s been on a run of bad luck for the past 6 years without a broken mirror in sight). Eventually the unemployment benefits agency recently forced him to take a call centre job which wasn’t exactly the marketing executive role he was looking for but – as is often the case with call centre jobs – it was a stop-gap measure until something decent came along. Of course as soon as he got that job the interviews for marketing jobs started to roll in (something like waiting for a bus).

Until finally, last night, he got offered the job he deserved. It’s a role he finds exciting in an industry he find interesting in a city he loves for a decent salary. I sincerely hope his run of misfortune is over and, as I say, it’s about bloody time too! In spite of having the obvious handicap of me as a brother, it sounds like he’s going to do all right after all.


A Year Adrift


Exactly one year ago today my mother died from cancer. In many ways the year has flown by. And in many ways it’s been the longest of my life. I’ve spent months trying to write this article in my head.

I originally thought what I’d do is try to explain what the past year has been like. I’d write about how hard it is to carry on when one of the fundamental constants of your life has gone. I’d come up with some clever analogy that would go some way to give those who haven’t experienced losing a parent an idea of what it’s really like. I’d mention the things you’re never prepared for, like the vivid, recurring dreams where I can talk to my mother about losing her only to wake up and realise it was only a dream and she’s really gone. I was even going to discuss some of the triggers that would mean I’d be fine one moment and extremely down the next. I might even have delved into how it’s changed me inside and how I now view life and the future.

But I’m not going to do it that way. Instead I’ll veer off on a tangent if I may and you can read into it as you wish.

My mother always used to get me to give her foot massages. She’d use flattery, threats, logical reasoning, bribery and any means at her disposal to persuade me to do it. After a few minutes on each foot she’d beg me to give “just one more minute on each foot” with my “magic hands ” (told you she used flattery) and of course I’d relent. Anyway, one thing she would often say was that although I might think it was a chore “I’d miss doing it when she was gone”. How right she was.

But her spirit lives on because I have inherited her love of foot massages and I’ve found myself saying exactly the same things my mother used to say to me when I try to persuade my girlfriend to do my feet. Like mother like son. The circle of life continues…


My Disappointment Defence Mechanism


One of the facets of my character that drives my girlfriend mad is how I deal with something normal people (like her) would get excited about. Let’s take an example. A couple of years ago my brother, my good lady and I decided to go on holiday to Las Vegas. My girlfriend works for a travel company and so managed to get us a deal so cheap that it felt as though they were paying us to go. Anyway, rather than talk to me about the holiday in the weeks prior to our flights, she rang my brother and enthused with him. No, it’s not because she was having an affair with him behind my back, it’s because he gets excited about things and so does she. But I don’t.

I didn’t really notice this habit until it was pointed out to me but it seems perfectly rational to me (as most character flaws are to the people who harbour them). Put simply, I never try to tempt fate. To avoid feeling let down when plans fall apart, I work on the assumption that something won’t happen, until it actually does. So if I’ve got a kick-ass holiday coming up I work on the assumption that it’ll happen, but prepare myself for the eventuality that it won’t. I feel that if I start to look forward to it then the evil fate monster will decide to snatch it away from me just to piss me off. I guess you could call me a pessimist – but I’m not. I just don’t like surprises.

When I was preparing to buy my fancy BMW (which I’ve already managed to put a dent in by opening another car door onto my own – there’s karma for you) I would run through in my mind everything that could go wrong so it wouldn’t take me by surprise when anything went wrong. The finance deal could fall through, I could crash my previous car therefore losing it’s trade-in value, I could be made redundant and not be able to afford it any more, and so on. I like to call it “scenario visualisation” and I’m told it’s a predominantly male characteristic.

I suppose I must have learned this defence mechanism at some point in my past and it’s no doubt as a result of some bitter experience I’ve had and felt let down by. Perhaps I was so gutted that I’ve blocked it out of my memory (which is why I can’t pinpoint it just now). Or perhaps it’s the result of many incidents that have snowballed over the years. Whatever the cause, I’m making a concerted effort to stop thinking in this negative, defensive way, because it sucks all the fun out of everything, and it drives the people around me crazy.

But it does explain one other part of my personality. My impulsiveness. I can walk into a bike shop with the intention of buying a pair of gloves and come out with a new bike. One of my tenets is that if I have a “do I or don’t I?” question in my mind, I always do it (in the long term it always works out to be the right choice). I like to live in the moment rather than waiting for things to happen. I’m a control freak. Simple as that. Anyway, you must excuse me, I’m off to think up the worst-case scenario for my drive home from work.


Bye Bye Humbug


Dscf0151This has been a sad weekend. Humbug (pictured right) was one of my neighbour’s cats. I’ve mentioned him before. He was no ordinary cat. Originally destined to be a show cat (if you know the breed then please let me know), he was born with a slight defect that meant one of his eyes wept from time to time. His modelling career was over before it began. So one of my neighbours got him as a kitten and he became a member of the community from then on.

When his owner went away on holiday another neighbour looked after him. But when he returned, Humbug decided he was happy where he was and opted to stay put. He’d chosen new owners, but that wasn’t a problem. Humbug was an opportunist and would go from house to house accepting food from whoever would give him any. With no fear of going into other people’s homes, this was where I got to know him.

DSCF0461Day or night, if I went into my house and Humbug spotted me he’d sprint at me and follow me inside. He’d then proceed to roll around on my floor (pictured right). He’d stroll around my house as if it were his own, maybe fall asleep in a corner for a while and then move on when he was finished with me. He did this with most of the people around me and he was one of those friendly cats that you could just pick up, throw over your shoulder, and he be as happy as Larry. Everybody loved Humbug. Even my girlfriend, who claims she doesn’t like cats.

Sadly, he was run over a couple of streets away on Thursday morning. He’d disappeared and nobody had seen him. His owners are away on holiday and another neighbour was looking after him, so she was distraught at his disappearance. When she found out what had happened she went door-to-door to pass on the news. It goes without saying that he’ll be greatly missed. It’s amazing how animals like cats manage to worm their way into your heart and how they get you into their routine. His unique personality and behaviour is gone forever. It’s a shame and it further reminds me (as if I need reminding) of how shit life is. There’s no rewind button, what’s done is done and there’s no going back.

humbug portraitWhat’s even more sad is that I was the last person to see him alive. Late on Wednesday night I came back from my girlfriend’s house and Humbug was sitting on her doorstep. I went over to my house, he followed me and I stroked him and went inside. I didn’t let him in as he’d been in earlier and I knew I didn’t have any food for him, plus I was going to bed. It’s a shame, I would have liked him rolling about on my floor just one last time. But like I said, there’s no rewind button. I’ve printed out my favourite picture of Humbug (left) and framed it for his owners for when they return. It’ll be scant consolation for them but the whole neighbourhood is in mourning. You may be surprised by the impact Humbug made on our lives, but if you’d met him you’d understand.