Edinburgh Trip 2015

If you read my last post then you will know that myself and my friends went up to Edinburgh for a short weekend trip. There will be a post coming about it with photographs, but for now I will leave you with this to give you an idea of what went on…

Our Trip: Edinburgh from matthewjdaniels on Vimeo.

Opening your eyes

Funnily enough, my fiancée was talking about this just last night.

Learning when to switch off
Learning when to switch off

Unplugging from everything is something that I hope to teach my children in the future. I’m not a doom and gloom person, I don’t believe that technology is going to ruin our children’s lives and make them useless as human beings. None of that. I believe technology is what it is – a tool to aid us and better our lives. There is no doubting that life has improved vastly for the majority over the last 30 years because of the huge leaps that technology has taken.

Yet.

I believe there is always a time to put it all down. Switch off those screens and un-crane those necks and look about yourself. The world is definitely a beautiful place full of interesting people and fascination, if all it takes it for you to leave your phone at home for a day – then you should absolutely switch off. I watched a short film the other day (link below) where a guy is hitchhiking to the sea. It’s not so much the story that hit me but the example of pure human interaction that is put on display. This guy – this hitchhiker – has no idea who these people are, he has no idea what their likes or dislikes are, whether they are in a relationship, what they had for breakfast or what their new favourite song is. All information which is readily available to us through various forms of social media.

This guy has to actually talk to these people, find out the natural way through conversation. I know it can be hard to cast aside prejudgment or even personal traits like shyness. But, watching that film, I felt envious. Envious of his confidence and his skill for small talk (Yes, I know it’s a scripted film, but still). It almost made me want to go and sit at a bus stop and just talk to the next person I see. But ,no doubt, that person would have their head bent over a phone screen and would not be interested in what I had for dinner.

This weekend myself and my friends are heading to Edinburgh for a short break away. I am taking my camera with me, will shoot some pictures and film some footage – but I want to stay away from the internet. I don’t want to broadcast every second of my trip with my mates to the whole world. I am going to switch off and all of you can hear about it when I get back. I don’t want to miss the real beauty of the city, or of the journey or even the company of my friends because I am updating a status or uploading a picture to Instagram.

I hope this way, I will be able to enjoy it more. I will be able to talk and fully throw myself into the Edinburgh life as so many who travel do.

I am super excited and I am even looking forward to the train journey at a ridiculous hour tomorrow morning.

I’m super excited to see something new.

Super excited to see my friends and super excited to open my eyes and enjoy some real life moments.

The Sea By Midnight from Isaac Ravishankara on Vimeo.

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Bloggers, Unplugged.”

Pushing Through the Fear

First time I've passed 5k on a run. Breaking down the fear of not being able to any further.
First time I’ve passed 5k on a run. Breaking down the fear of not being able to any further.

When trying to explain some of life’s weird situations I like to refer them to well-known stories or characters. With this in mind, let’s tackle fitness fear.


A LONG TIME AGO,

IN A GALAXY FAR,

FAR, AWAY.

Fear, I believe, is the greatest enemy of anyone who is trying to get fit. Now, I’m not talking about these people who are looking to get ripped or bulk up (although it could quite easily affect everyone). No – I’m talking about the people who are looking to improve their health and well-being, improve their lifestyle and maybe lose a bit of weight. In other words, people like me.

I started running as I felt sluggish, tired and washed out. Not a healthy thing for a 24 year old! So I decided to do something about it. If you have been following some of my other points, you may see that I dived in and signed up for a few races to give myself a deadline to work towards. This is a good tactic, and one of many that you can find to motivate yourself into exercise. A quick search on the internet will also throw up a number of ideas, so it is ideal that you find the one that works for you! The will to actually do something pushed me through my first couple of months of running. I felt great, the endorphins really do flow after a run and I had a bounce in my step for a few days after too.

Pushing my runs to the 5k provided me with my biggest hurdle.

The initial spark was now a sizzle and my will to run was pushed to the back of mind whilst thoughts of I only ran yesterday turned into I already ran once this week. Not good enough. I knew, somewhere in the back of my mind, that my progress was going to plateau if I didn’t up my game. I was pulling quicker times on my 5k with the aid of running with a running partner. A great one too! As he is quicker and fitter than me – it really pushes you to keep up (within a limit!). But without that extra push, I was never going to reach my 10k in time.

I started feeling a bit crumby again. Doubt started to creep back in and a new feeling finally reared its ugly head. I don’t think I wasn’t running out of laziness or lack of will – I think  I was holding back out of fear.

Fear is a mans worst enemy.

Fear is Darth Vader.

Fight your fears
Fight your fears

Right? Stick with me.

Darth Vader is a classic bad guy. Powerful, endearing and has a great time smashing people into non-existence. Fear is my Darth Vader, my sworn enemy and the beast I have to defeat to continue. Now – those who have seen Star Wars will know that in the end Vader isn’t all we presumed and this is where I make my point. Although initially, you may be worried – scared that you goals are out of reach, you need to harness your fears. Don’t think, “I don’t think I will be able to finish my 10k, so I won’t run this week as it’s pointless.” No, you have to take the fear, you have to beat Darth Vader and stand up and say “I am afraid I won’t be able to finish my 10k, so I need to up my game!” Only then will Darth Vader toss the Emperor into the depths of the Death Star. Only then, will you be able to use your fear as fuel and no longer be weighed down by your doubts.

A little green Jedi once described it as this.

Fear is the path to the Darkside.

Fear leads to Anger.

Anger leads to Hate.

Hate leads to suffering. 

And he was right. If you allow yourself to fear failing then you will become more annoyed at your lack of action to the point where you will hate  you’re in action. And that, friends, is a dangerous and harmful path to get on. You need to drag yourself up and get back to pounding pavements, treadmills, anything. It’s going to be hard, it’s going to be tough, there will be times when you might want to quit, but if you do it then your body will thank you, your mind will thank  you and when the zombie apocalypse finally does come you’ll have Rule One of the Zom-Apocalypse down already. But you have to do it. Only then will you succeed.

Back to the little green guy.

Do or do not.

There is no try.

Tell them Yoda.
Tell them Yoda.

Recommend a Scary Book: Ghost Song by Sarah Rayne

I follow Chuck Wendig’s blog and one of his recent posts has been to recommend a scary book that you have read. Now, I only got into reading horror recently and have probably only read 4/5 ‘horror’ books in my entire life time. But I’ll give it a shot.


Ghost Song by Sarah Rayne
Ghost Song by Sarah Rayne

My recommendation is for the book Ghost Song by Sarah RayneI read this a couple of years ago, albeit on a second attempt (the first time I wasn’t in the right frame of mind). I loved this story at it actually had me on edge throughout. I have read action books and thrillers where I can feel that a scene is intense and scary, but not really had any sort of physical response to what is going on, however, with Ghost Song – I definitely had a good reaction. There would be times when I would be 20/30 pages into a reading session, only to realise that I’d been sat with my back and shoulder tensed to near implosion as  flipped through the pages on after the other. It is, as they call it, a page tuner.

I won’t get into any spoilers or any of that palaver, but you will find a brief from Amazon about what the book entails below. What I will say however, if that is does really leave you with an eerie feeling once you finish the last page and makes you doubt walking through your house in the dark!

Check it out.

Ghost Song

The old Tarleton music hall on London’s Bankside is the subject of a mysterious restraint order that has kept it closed for over ninety years. When Robert Fallon is asked to survey the building, he finds clues indicating that its long twilight sleep may contain a sinister secret. Joining forces with researcher Hilary Bryant, Robert discovers the legend of the Tarleton’s ‘ghost’ – a mysterious figure who was first glimpsed during the time of the charismatic performer Toby Chance, once the darling of Edwardian audiences until he vanished suddenly and inexplicably in the early 1900s. After almost a century, the Tarleton’s dark silence is about to end. But there are those who find its re-opening a threatening prospect and, as Robert and Hilary delve into the macabre history of one of London’s oldest music halls, they both become menaced by the secrets of the past.

Weekend Update: Blackpool, Breakout, Derby

Getting chilly at Blackpool 3.10.15

Winter is most definitely coming.

This weekend we visited Blackpool with the kids and Laura’s family. It’s a place that I vowed to never return to the first time I went and upon a second visit, cemented my original views. I have no qualms about the city, its buildings, its streets or even the illuminations. But there is just far too many people for me. It’s too over crowded in tourist season and I get the general feeling of being unwelcome. Is that strange?

Walzers make me puke.

The kids had a great time on the rides, though we managed to avoid most of the arcades and after well deserved (and long-awaited) meal in a pub we headed home. Opting (mistakenly) to walk back. With Laura feeling under the weather we should have gotten the tram, but hindsight is a blessing after all.

Blackpool family pier , 3.10.15

Sunday was derby day, a big day in Liverpool where the two local football teams come head to head in the league. They play it twice a year, and this years primary fixture was at Goodison. We witnessed a hearty 1-1 draw in the raucous atmosphere of the Camp and Furnace where there was more beards than beer and the hipsters reigned supreme.

Break out rooms have become one of our favourite past times as a group of mates, and Sunday night we took part in a new(ish) one in Manchester. After taking way longer than expected to arrive, due to an anti-austerity march in Manchester.  We tackled the room, and although by the time the 60 minutes were up, we hadn’t got out. We were annoyed because we felt like we had solved virtually none of the room, only to find out we were one clue away from breaking out. Foiled again.

This week entails another lone sitting – with business as usual a week today.

Wedding Update: Hotel is booked!

Ten More Names: Commentary on the Oregon Shooting from a UK perspective

Ten more names to add to the long list of those shot within their schools on American soil.

Ten.


It has happened that recently, that the Police in Oregon haven’t confirmed who the shooter was or who the people killed or injured are. The insanity of the situation astounds me. I don’t want to talk about the man whose face is being plastered on the news as the potential killer. I want to talk about how. How has this happened?

This morning I saw this tweet:

And my attention was peaked. I clicked through the link and over the next 5-10 minutes scrolled through the hundreds of shooting that have taken place in schools across the US since the late 19th Century. I would just like to add, if you did click on the link, that this is just the schools. Not shootings in the street, or domestic shootings – just schools.

I was shocked, heartbroken and enraged that these shooting keep happening. I feel like the US is sitting on a sinking ship, watching the water come in and shouting “plugging the hole won’t stop it sinking!” instead they would rather throw people to their deaths and hope the load will get light enough that their ship will float.

That’s not how it works.

Gun control in the US is a hot topic – every single person has their own view. You have the big money powers like the NRA, you have gun control activists and then you have the average citizens. Everyone has something to say, everyone has the right to make their case but the urgency of the situation does not seem apparent to the US establishment. Whilst they sit and talk, debate and argue, more children and teachers are going to schools to learn and are never returning home.

What should happen then?

A good question. As someone from the UK it is hard to understand the political ideals of our brethren across the pond but here is my stand point. Gun control is essential. The constitution was written when the country was less populated, when men had to defend their land and their goods against all sorts. But, it was also a time when the most advanced personal weaponry could only fire a shot at a time. There was no automatic weapons available in the way they are now-a-days. An automatic weapon – in my eyes, is not for defines, it’s to cause damage and to maim and kill. Why do you need an assault rifle to defend your home? It’s ridiculous. It’s grotesque. 

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Some argue that if the everyday person can not arm themselves, then they will be over run by armed criminals in swathes. That’s not true. If you choke the supple of weapons into the country it not only makes them harder to get, but it will also make them more expensive. I am in no way saying that banning guns will stop people being shot – no way. But it will stop unnecessary massacres in your children’s classroom by someone who has bought an assault rifle on the high street. I think gun laws should be tighter – the NRA did a poll in 2013 asking their members their views on what should happen with gun control and it read as follows.

National Rifle Association[edit]

A member poll conducted for the NRA between January 13 and 14, 2013 found:[103]

    • 90.7% of members favor “Reforming our mental health laws to help keep firearms out of the hands of people with mental illness.” (A majority of 86.4% believe that strengthening laws this way would be more effective at preventing mass murders than banning semi-automatic rifles.)
  • 92.2% of NRA members oppose gun confiscation via mandatory buy-back laws.
  • 92.6% oppose a law requiring gun owners to register with the federal government.
  • 92.0% oppose a federal law banning the sale of firearms between private citizens.
  • 82.3% of members are in favor of a program that would place armed security professionals in every school.
  • 72.5% agreed that President Obama’s ultimate goal is the confiscation of many firearms that are currently legal.

Source: Wikipedia

This made for painful reading.

Strengthening mental health laws to stop massacres with semi-automatic rifles, instead of banning the rifles. Why not do both? Why not ban semi-automatic rifles and then have stricter mental health laws for hand guns?

I find it hard to believe.

I also find it hard to understand why they wouldn’t want to register their fire arms? Let’s put it this way, is a cop is called to an address where there is a domestic fight going on – wouldn’t he rather know that there could be a weapon on the premises before he walks in and is another name to add to the list? The second to last point I find hard to comprehend as well. Instead of taking the weapon from the hand of the man who is going to your kids school, to kill your children and their teacher, they would rather place an armed official at the school door to relay the assault. Your kids are going to go to school feeling that every day could be their last. If things are desperate that your children need armed guards just to have an education, then don’t you think that something has gone wrong? They will live with a permanent fear. If that has not already been instilled by the countries lack of action.   i don’t wish to dally on the political ins and outs of gun control in the US. I am a UK citizen and feel I am less educated on the subject that most, but what I can comment on is the media coverage of here in the UK. My friends whatsapped the news this morning that there had been a shooting like, no offence to them, it was every day news. Because that is what it feels like now. Many times I have heard a Brit say “Oh, another shooting” and pass it by. This is a serious issue people! We may seem out of the loop being so far away, but we are part of a worldwide voice that can happen a change.

Right now the BBC homepage looks like this.

BBC homepage 2015-10-02 at 11.40.27
BBC homepage 2015-10-02 at 11.40.27

The fact that a Tory MP has been nominated to be London Mayor is seemingly a bigger headline than the murder of nine people in Oregon. I for one, am an advocate of not publicising the name or motives of the shooters involved, as – especially with case – I believe a lot of it is to do with the attention, with the fame of being a school shooter. But, that doesn’t make the 9 people’s lives any less important. It should be reported. And, it is definitely more important than what the Tories are doing in their local politics. I feel like the UK can be a great ally for those fighting for gun control in the US, and I think it is potential that we should grab with both hands and do something with. In the end, this will no longer by a commentary on a crime in the US, but on the inaction of human beings to stop the murder of their own. Below are some links that you can use to find out more about gun control in the US. The first one especially offers a non-biased purely fact archive of information.

Gun Control – Just Facts (offers bare facts about gun control)

Gun Control Pro – Con (explores the pros and cons of gun control in the US)

Coalition to stop gun violence (Coalition seeking to end gun violence)

Moms Demand Action (Mothers against gun violence in america)

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Short Story: Collection Day

Beep beep beep beep.

What is that noise?

Beep beep beep beep.

There it goes again. Repeating. Reverberating around the blackness. A mosquito in the night.

I swat at it. Nothing happens.

Beep beep beep, VRROOOM.

My eyes flicker open as an engine roars outside my bedroom window. Collection day. How could have forgotten?

I tear the duvet from the bed and swing my legs off the side, my feet greeting the rough carpet with that early morning hyper-sensitivity that I always seem to get. The bed next to me is empty – cold, undisturbed. She never came home last night. I grimace as I stand, a pain in my side bursting through my nerves. I reach down to touch it, it’s tender – bruised.

How did that happen?

Beep beep beep, CLANG.

It’s collection day. Right.

I pull on my shorts and grab at a t-shirt but it’s wet. Soaked in fact, though I don’t remember washing it? It also never rains during a Californian summer. The room is dark, early morning, but I pick my way across debris and discarded clothing none the less. I must have been drunk last night. As I round the bed a lamp is lying on the floor, broken, sad. I liked that lamp. The height of the dresser it stood on matches where my bruise on my side is and I sigh, another drunken injury.

Fourth one this week.

The raucous lorry outside is getting closer, I can hear the bin guys voices now. They laugh, jeering, mocking. Crash. A bin is emptied. I make my way downstairs, the house is empty and the wooden rail on the stairs is cold to touch. Everything is quiet. As I make my way past the short runner with family pictures on and the oak bookcase – which was a little too large for the hall – I spot something odd. A pair of shoes. Her shoes. Lying, despondent in the middle of the hallway. They seem lost, abandoned – owner less. My head aches as I rack my brains trying to remember last night, but only a faint whisper of memory returns. Perfume. Her perfume? Maybe she was here last night.

Why can’t I remember more?

The empty bottles of vodka on the kitchen units offer an unwelcome explanation. Provided with the reason, my head begins to ache. Hangover. Ouch. The kitchen is a mess, bottles strewn across the side, vodka spilt and still dripping by the sink. There is all sorts on the floor. I follow the trail. Home phone, car keys, broken bottle, lip stick.. Lipstick? Hers. She definitely was here last night.

I slip. Floors wet. Grabbing out and steadying myself against the work top. My head spinning, as I reach up to cradle my pulsing temple I scuff my lip. Clumsy, but also sore. The skin is swollen, split on the left side. Did we fight? It would explain her absence and the state I am in right now. I’ll ring her. I’ll find out and we can sort it out once and for all.

But, it’s collection day. Can’t miss collection day.

Against my initial instincts, I continue outside and drag my bin around to the front for the laughing, mocking bin guys to collect.

As I enter the front yard one of them approaches. Just in time. 

“Morning”

I give a friendly little wave, feeling myself swaying from the lasting effects of last nights bingeOh. That’s right, I remember now.

The bin man approaches.

I remember coming in and her being here. Ready to talk, still in her work outfit. I had been in the bar since two am. Or was it pm? I have no idea.

The bin man raises his hand to wave back, but his polite greeting fades in his throat.

I was drunk, obviously. So she got angry. She hit me. My split lip.

The bin man stops where he is. Lazy, I think, as I begin to trundle my bin towards him.

She went into the kitchen. Then things get hazy. Fighting, arguing. Anger, so much anger.

The bin catches on something on the floor and falls side ways, it’s lid opens and it’s contents are cast out onto my lawn.

The bottle. It breaks when it hits her head.

I remember. 

Her body lies half in, half out of the bin. I look at the bin man, he looks at me. I then looks down at my hands. Covered in blood from my t-shirt. Soaked from cleaning her up, not from the wash. My feet as well, crimson ink splashed and smeared up my leg from where I slipped in the kitchen. I must have missed a spot.

I look back at the bin man – frozen to the spot. The others are approaching, wondering what is going on.

Well, this is awkward.

I kneel down and force the body back into the bin, righting it. The bin man still stands there – aghast.

I smile politely and nod my head to him and his colleagues.

“I apologise. Just recycling today, right?”