Work To Do

I have a post-it note stuck to the bottom of my monitor at the job. It says ‘SIT UP STRAIGHT!’ It is an old resolution that was semi-successful, and even though the year in which the resolution was made has since past I have left it there. Good posture is timeless. And post-its, at least in my life, are invaluable. My latest addition comes from a tweet a good friend of mine posted the other day, and it asks a simple question: What are you working towards?

The actual tweet reads: Be honest, what are you working towards? And honestly, when I thought about it, the answer was not much. Yes there are things in my life that I am getting done, there is a mortgage to finalise, and then once that is completed there is the task of redecorating. The mortgage part is proving pretty insurmountable but I trust that eventually it will be done, as will the decorating. There are also big things on the horizon in my personal life, and I find myself looking at a future that appears to be approaching a lot sooner than I intended. I am not doing these life tasks alone though, and so I am still left with the question: what are you working towards?

Since pulling down the shutters on ABM Fans I have more time on my hands. A break was necessary, it is no easy task to be Editor-in-Chief, writer, photographer, designer, and marketer, particularly when you set your bar high. I have caught up on the hours of viewing I had saved up, read chapters of Harry Potter and can even look to moving onto the next one in the hopefully not too distant future; and even, dare I say it, reading the comics I have stockpiled. There is still much for me to do, yet all these things seem superfluous. I may derive pleasure from being lost in magic worlds or vicariously moving in the shadows as I save a city from itself, however they are not my life’s work.

At the moment there is still the half-finished graphic novel adaptation that I started as a gift and then realised that in order to do it properly it needed more time than my deadline provided. So that project was shelved, to be completed at a later date. There is the new blog that I really need to set myself regular deadlines for because that seems to be the only way I can get myself to write. There are other websites that I don my “Intrepid Ace Reporter” hat for that I owe articles to. So there are words to be written, but none of these are my project. No, I have much grander aspirations.

After years of looking at different mediums from a full-length script, to short stories, to comic books, and more recently even perhaps a webseries, I think I may have found one that I am comfortable with. More importantly, I believe I have found a story I can tell. That has been the one thing that has eluded me the most, whilst I have toyed with how I want to tell my story, I have never been truly convinced about the story I was telling. There is still much work to do, I have to think about characterisation and an overall story arc and setting and everything else that makes a story worthwhile. For the first time in a long time I am excited at the possibilities this writing journey may take me.

So, what am I working towards? I am working towards feeling like a real writer again. I am working towards expanding my imagination. I am working, towards being me again.


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Step By Step

The week before last I had a birthday. I am at that age now where if someone said the number I would think, without knowing anything else about their life, that they were a grown up. It’s a very grown up number. Then last week I went to the concert of the band whose album I remember receiving on my 10th birthday; on tape. I am not trying to recapture a lost youth, because going to concerts for boy bands wasn’t part of my youth. I am trying to enjoy my life though.

At the concert whilst I was watching these heartthrobs up there dancing and singing the songs I still knew the words to I was reminded that it has been 25yrs. I am pretty certain that the people on stage did not think that this far down the line they would still be singing the exact same songs, or even still performing. And in that moment I became very aware of something.

These guys were in front of an adoring audience of thousands, who were still going crazy when they went into the crowd and were in touching distance. All those years ago they probably thought by this time they would be too old for this, sure they would still have fans, but they would never be able to pack out a venue that has a capacity of over 20,000. Yet here they were.

My life is not what I thought it would be. Every single day I have now is one I did not expect, and even if I had, I still would not have a plan. I have some idea of where I hope to be in 25yrs time, but as I hear the songs of my youth and sing along to them, I know that even if we do not end up where we perhaps expected we would, that does not have to be a bad thing.

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“The time has come…”

In my mind, this poem has a line that goes, “The time has come to talk of grown up things.” It actually reads, “To talk of many things: Of shoes – and ships – and sealing wax – Of cabbages – and kings.” That sounds a lot more interesting than the things I’ve been talking about lately.

On the eve of another turning of age I feel more grown up than I ever have. That’s not to say I necessarily feel older, although I have counted more grey hairs lately than I would have liked. Sharing the elevator with one of the more senior ladies that live on my estate who shares the same birthday with me, I was reminded that I will never be as young as I am right now, again. As much as I may bemoan the fact that I am truly a 30-something, she is a 70-something. No contest really, but I feel very much a grown up now.

I have tried to deny it for some time, and I think I do a pretty good impression. I wear t-shirts with Sesame Street characters on – there will be one worn tomorrow. The concept of saving was a thing I sort of did and would do once I got the important fun stuff out of the way, like spending weeks in the jungle looking for apes. I have a grown up job but know that eventually I will get onto the real business of writing. The impression isn’t as good as it used to be.

I am waiting to complete on a mortgage – my grown up investment. I am making plans to settle down – I was told by my friend that she wanted us all settled by 2013, she may get her wish. I am postponing trips, saying that I’ll make them in 20…10…okay 5yrs if I cannot hold out that long, and having to actually save for a vacation – my grown up budgeting. When did that happen? It is not where I thought my life would be, even at the start of this year. Life proves to me once again that I should not count on making too many plans. I certainly didn’t plan on being this grown up.

To be honest, for the longest time I have believed my 32nd year would be my last. It isn’t a morbid death wish; I have just never been able to see me past that age. I am completely uncertain about what the year ahead has in store for me. All I have is that one constant – things will change. For the first time in so many years I feel myself having a touch of the mean reds. That feels very grown up.

I will meet this next year, and whatever it brings, the only way I know how, head on, knowing that I do not face it alone. I told a friend that I realised that I need the people I have chosen around me. He beamed at my realisation; finally I am starting to get it. I wish I could say it was my resistance to accepting that he is right, but I think it is more that these are lessons we have to come to in our time. I am still learning.

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Pack Up the Moon

I could pack a box, an actual box, not just a metaphorical one. I could put in my notebooks, my business cards, my interview chart, all of it. I could pack up every last bit of ABM and seal it in a box waiting to be looked at in later years when I’m sorting through things I can throw away. I could dust it off and open it up and look at the ancient pieces of me and say, ‘I did that.’ I was the Editor-in-Chief for a fansite for that show. Damn, someone should have realised how good it was. Someone other than me. Someone who could have done something.

When it was time for that “See you soon” moment with the actress, she looked at me and I could feel my heart breaking as she said, “You’re the last part of ABM I’m saying goodbye to.” She slays me. It has taken me a while to say my own goodbye. I am not sure I have completely, or that I ever will. I wrote the (last) update for ABM Fans last night. A review and a farewell. It took me two weeks to put those words to paper, I hope they were enough.

I will probably never be able to adequately say what ABM has given me, only to say that it has given me, me. It has brought people into my life who make me better, and who make me want to be better still. It has given me back a city I thought I had lost. It has shown me that I can still write, that my soul does not need to be tortured to create something that is honest. It has proved that I can be more. It has taught me that I cannot be, and do not want to be, Anyone But Me.

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This year I was considering whether or not I should have a resolution. I sort of had one last year; well I had a post-it telling me to sit up straight. I say I might have been successful half of the time. Not a great success rate when considering whether I should take on a yearlong promise. However, circumstances led me to a resolution that I should be able to keep. Not because it is an easy resolution, but because if I am to be who I want to be, then I need to do this.

Originally, I had decided that my resolution was to be kinder. There are simple things like smiling to people when you inadvertently catch their eye rather than immediately looking away as though one of you has done something wrong, willingly holding the elevator for someone you know is running to catch it rather than pressing that close button as fast as you can, helping people you know are lost but are too scared to ask for directions. Simple decent things that often when you live in a city you close yourself to because you’ve got places to go and things to do. Living and working right in the centre of London it is so easy to block even the most smallest of human interactions out, this was the year that I was going to stop. And then it dawned on me.

Being kinder would not be enough. Yes, it would be a big step. I think those basic acts of human kindness can’t help but change you. They may seem small but it is easy to forget how much an unexpected smile can change a person’s day, particularly when it has been a long time since your day has been changed in that way. If I was going to try and be kinder, to be a better human being to others, then why not simply make that my resolution – be better.

So there it is. In everything I am and in everything that I do I will strive to be better this year. No small undertaking. There is a lot I do that I can improve on, not least of all my writing. That is one area in 2011 that I did not work on enough, and whilst I can say that I wrote every day, I am not able to say that what I wrote every day was of any substance. I will be better. I will be a better writer. I will be a better friend. I will be a better reader. I will be better with my finances. I will be better keeping in touch with people. I will be better with deadlines. I will be a better godparent. I will be a better person.

I hope I remain this resolute.

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The Year that Was

What did you do in 2011 that you’d never done before?
Most recently, I trekked through virgin rainforest, gave a leech a hearty meal of my blood, cleaned out Orangutan and Sun Bear cages, sat behind a tribal Chief as we went through the Borneo rainforest. I’m sure there was other stuff I did in the year but it all seems so long ago now.

Did you keep your new years’ resolutions, and will you make more for next year?
I still have the post it note on my desk saying ‘SIT UP STRAIGHT!’ I sometimes kept it. Mostly I tried. I’m not sure about next year.

Did anyone close to you give birth?
I think we’ve just had the one birth this year. My cousin (of sorts) welcomed a baby boy, Roman, to the family. Hopefully I get to meet him soon.

Did anyone close to you die?
My godmother, I have more than one, but she’s the only godparent who’s ever had a real presence in my life.

What countries did you visit?
European vacations dominated this year with trips to Barcelona, Paris, and Copenhagen. True to form, there was a trip to New York, however there was also a trip to a brand new place with an Ape Adventure in Malaysia rounding off the year.

What would you like to have in 2012 that you lacked in 2011?
More of my own words. I wrote something every day but I think I got lazy on some days, I need to be better, or at the very least as good as I used to be.

What date from 2011 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?
I really can’t think of one date. December 18th perhaps, I stepped back without going backwards.

What was your biggest achievement of the year?
Making it out of the jungle, and being brave enough to lose it all.

What was your biggest failure?
I’m not sure this was a year of failure.

Did you suffer illness or injury?
You know I was probably pricked with a needle more times this year than any other. All in the interest in preventing illness though, they seem to have worked.

What was the best thing you bought?
Honestly, my iPod Touch. My first and only purchase of that type of fruit, I finally gave in. It kept me entertained in the jungle and since downloading Jenga and the Game of Life it has kept me entertained out of it as well. There truly is an app for that.

Where did most of your money go?
To the jungle! Perhaps not whilst I was in it, but certainly getting there.

What did you get really, really, really excited about?
Getting to see a friend on stage, I’ve seen her in things before but seeing her on stage, well that’s something to get excited about.

What song(s) will always remind you of 2011?
Pretty much anything Adele. That voice, it will be timeless. If we’re going for one song then ‘Someone Like You’. Also, Christine Perri, ‘Jar of Hearts’ and its juxtapose, ‘A Thousand Years’. They may not remind me of this year specifically but they will remind me of the feeling.

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What is Guy Fawkes Night?

We don’t have too many historical holidays in the UK. There aren’t any presidential birthdays to remember or independence days to celebrate. Even in England we don’t have any big celebrations on St George’s Day, and he is the patron saint of our country. So it is little surprise that when we do get a “holiday” – as the Americans put it, that we go all out. Guy Fawkes Night is that historical moment that allows us to set off some fireworks and warm ourselves by a huge bonfire, although most of the world, and maybe some Brits, probably don’t know why.

Quick history lesson (in case you have no idea about British history), after Queen Elizabeth I died a lot of Roman Catholic Britons hoped that her successor, James I, would be more tolerant of Catholic worship. He wasn’t. In 1605, in answer to the continued oppression 13 men, the most famous of these being one Guy Fawkes, decided that violence was the answer. The exact answer being the Great Gunpowder Plot to blow up the Houses of Parliament, where the King, Prince of Wales, and several politicians that they weren’t particularly fond of would be as well.

So these 13 men stored barrels of gunpowder under the House of Lords (one of the sections of Parliament). If you’re wondering how then there are several tunnels underneath Parliament, lots of lascivious rumours about politicians sneaking in prostitutes are often used as a reason for why the tunnels were built – but that’s another story in itself. Some of the men however began to worry about the innocent people who would be killed, and it is rumoured that one of the men sent a letter advising one of the Lords of the plot. Being a good Lord, he of course told the King, who promptly arranged for the men to be captured.

On the 5th of November Guy Fawkes, who was unfortunate enough to be in the cellar with the gunpowder, was caught when the cellar was stormed. He was sentenced to that most British of deaths for high treason – hung, drawn, and quartered. This involved being drawn by horse to the place where they were to be executed. Hung until almost dead. Then “emasculated” and disemboweled before being cut into quarters and distributed to the four corners of the kingdom – just like William Wallace (Mel Gibson in Braveheart). Guy Fawkes was smart though, and managed to break his neck by jumping from the gallows so he didn’t have to go through the rest of the execution.

So why the fireworks? They, along with the bonfires that are lit, are supposed to be a celebration that the plot to blow up the king failed. Effigies of Guy Fawkes were made and thrown onto the fire. Lots of kids still do this today and can be seen wheeling their “Guys” in shopping trolleys asking, “Penny for the Guy.” The money they get is normally spent on buying fireworks for that night, and then the Guy is thrown on the bonfire during the night’s festivities.

I like to think that it’s British humour, that we mark a plot to blow up the seat of government and their monarch by setting off fireworks and lighting huge fires. It tells people that we do not take ourselves too seriously and that centuries on, the man who got caught trying to blow up Parliament is still remembered. Every child in London, if not England, knows who Guy Fawkes is but probably couldn’t tell you who Sir Walter Raleigh was – and he’s responsible for bringing the potato to these shores! Guy Fawkes has become a symbol for every person that wants to stand up against what they believe to be a tyrannical system. Just think of V for Vendetta, who do you think that mask is modelled on? I think it only fitting that we mark the day he was caught by lighting up the skies over the city he left such a mark on.

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