Journey to the End of the World

Just a quick post this time.

On Saturday afternoon/evening, I drove down from Oxfordshire to deepest Cornwall for a week of relaxation. While on the A30, an accident occurred up ahead, the severity of which, was enough to completely close the road in both directions for about two hours. I took a picture.

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As you can see, it did feel rather like a scene from The Walking Dead, including a ‘walker’ ambling around in the empty carriageway.

Thankfully, the road was eventually cleared, and nobody got eaten.

Happier with Less

I read a lot of blogs, I enjoy the insight they give in to the reality of being human. It’s true that some people blog in a very censored manner, afraid to fully open up and share who they really are with the world, but others, (my favourite types of bloggers) write very honestly about their lives, their ups and downs and the emotions they experience throughout the trials and tribulations of life.

In the past, I have tried to write ‘no punches pulled’ blog posts, tweets and Facebook updates, but I always found they made me sound moody, ungrateful or even down right depressed. At times, I suppose I was. My biggest problem has always been, trying to be someone I’m not. I didn’t do it in an attempt to impress others, I did it because I didn’t really know who I was and found myself constantly trying to fit in, to conform in the right ways to appear ‘normal’. Recently a few bloggers have really helped me to climb out of this rut, and take a fresh look at the world and my place within it.

I now, officially, couldn’t care less what other people think of me or the way I choose to live.

So, who are these bloggers, and what are they writing about that has been such an eye-opener for me? Well, they are people who take a ‘less is more’ approach to life. Call it what you will, simple living or minimalism. Suddenly I woke up and realised I’ve been on the verge of such a lifestyle for much of my life, but felt it was temporary, just while I was figuring out who to be and where to settle. Finally, in my late thirties, I’ve finally worked it all out. So what if I don’t want to earn the big bucks, get married, buy a house, start a family. There is actually nothing wrong with that, or me.

The blog I have enjoyed most (on this subject) is Minimal Student, written in an upbeat and intelligent manner by Jessica Dang. Okay, so she is in a different phase of life to me, why shouldn’t a student live an exciting, carefree lifestyle? But minimalism isn’t an option exclusive to the young. As I’ve stated to friends and family on numerous occasions, if I have very few responsibilities, why should I behave as if I have many?

So there you go, this is me, renting a room and living with so few possessions that they fit into two easy to carry bags. Not worrying about tomorrow, because I haven’t finished enjoying today. With a few small changes, I will find myself becoming wealthier financially, and healthier physically and mentally.

Future posts will all relate to my new minimalist lifestyle in large or small ways. Stay tuned!

Ladies and Gentlemen of the Class of ’91

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1991 was an important year for me, and not just because it was the year I left school. At this point in my life, I had an amazing group of friends, every weekend was party time and music was changing for the better. Guns n’ Roses may have lost much of their raw edge, but we still went to see them at Wembley Stadium and enjoyed every minute of it. Although, if I’m honest, the support acts really stole the show, Nine Inch Nails were excellent and Skid Row were nothing short of awesome. Then in September, Nirvana released their incredible ‘Nevermind’ album!.. 1991 rocked!

It was one of those periods that, if you had stopped and taken a look around for a moment, you would wish your life could stay that way forever. But of course it doesn’t, and from where I am now, I’m glad. Looking back through the years that have past and the things I’ve seen and done, I much prefer who I am now to the 16 year old version of me. I would not give up those following years and experiences for anything, and with friends as good as mine, I don’t need to.

Whether it’s our commitment to each other as friends, or the fact that our generation benefits so greatly from social media like Facebook and Twitter, whatever the reason, we have all stayed in touch. Our group of friends have been spread across the country, at times, almost from Lands End to John O’Groats. But every now and then, we come back together.

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Terry, Jen, Sarah, Steve, Sam, Lucy, Neil, Andy, Giles and Julie. (Rob is missing and I took the picture)

It had been quite a few years since so many of us were together all at once, but thanks to Jen and Facebook (and everyone’s commitment), 9th May 2014 was the best night out in years!

In this age of the ‘selfie’, I made sure to take one with each attendee.

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Some of us, who live locally, see each other regularly. But the next time we ALL get together again, it will be Rob and Dana’s wedding.

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Rob and Dana

Bring it on!

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Thanks to Lucy and Jen for some of these pictures.

How to be Dead [Funny]

HowToBeDeadI finally got around to reading How to be Dead, a novella by Dave Turner. Frankly, I don’t know why I waited so long, and now I want to read it again. But before I do, I would like to tell you a little about it. I don’t often write reviews and I’m not sure that is really what this is, I just felt the need to share this experience with you. And when I say ‘experience’, I don’t mean the act of reading the book. For me, the road to this novella has been long, but by no means arduous, quite the opposite in fact.

I first stumbled upon the humorous writing of Dave Turner on Twitter a few years ago, back when he used the name @ArmyOfDave. He also wrote a blog under the same, Army of Dave, title… Hang on, now I recall that maybe I discovered the blog first, then followed him on Twitter. Anyway, it doesn’t matter. Dave’s tweets and blog posts were an endless source of amusement and one of the reasons I found Twitter so compelling during my early (late to the party) usage. It was when Dave created a secondary Twitter account that things got even more interesting. His new account carried the username, @Its_Death. Through this account, Dave tweeted jokes and observations of the human race from the point of view of the Grim Reaper. Some of those tweets have been written in to the book, reworked to give insight into Death’s unexpected personality and mood.

After a while, twitter’s 140 character limit just wasn’t enough to fulfil the potential of the comic persona that Dave Turner had created for a being usually feared rather than used as light hearted entertainment. At this point Dave took @Its_Death, with its 20,000+ followers, as his personal twitter account (changed to @MrDaveTurner) and began writing How to be Dead in its very own blog space.

The success of How to be Dead was clear to see, although I must admit I didn’t actually read it all at the time. I’m now pleased that I didn’t find enough time to keep up to date with it online, it made the book much more exciting to receive.

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When Dave Turner announced on Twitter that he was starting a Kickstarter campaign in order to self publish How to be Dead, I don’t think he realised just how popular it would be. Within a truly staggering 58 minutes, it had exceeded the £400 required, and possibly even more amazing was the final total… £4043!

Shortly after we (the Kickstarter backers) had received our copy(s) of How to be Dead, it was then released on Amazon’s ‘Kindle’. Many reviews began to appear on Facebook, Twitter and Amazon.  I noticed people claiming Dave Turner’s writing style and humour was similar to that of Douglas Adams, the acclaimed author of Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Surely, I thought, these people are just being overly kind because they have been involved in financing the project.

So, I finally got around to reading it…

Once I had picked this book up (well, my Kindle) I honestly could not put it down. Luckily, How to be Dead is relatively short (as novellas are) so reading it in one sitting will not cause you to miss work. It might cause you to miss your train station/bus stop, so be careful. I almost never say this, but this book actually did make me laugh out loud in places, but perhaps more important, it kept a smile on my face from start to finish. I swear, my cheeks ached when I got to the end!

But really, does it feel like you are reading the work of Douglas Adams?.. Yes, yes it does. For me, Dave Turner’s style is also reminiscent of Rob Grant, not so much in the Red Dwarf novels, but if you enjoyed ‘Incompetence’ and ‘Colony’, you will love How to be Dead.

You can buy ‘How to be Dead’ for your Kindle HERE.

Visit Dave Turner’s ‘Aim for the Head’ site HERE.

Follow Dave Turner on Twitter and Facebook.

Ian Goes Electric

On the first day of 2013 the landlord of my local pub, and one of his regular customers, both stopped smoking and bought electronic cigarettes. The decision to stop smoking is one I have previously made, many times. It doesn’t matter which quitting aid I try, the result is always the same. Even if I get past the worst of the cravings, I really miss the physical act of smoking. It is something I have done for over 20 years and I feel lost without it. I viewed the ‘E-Cig’ option with the same scepticism. If I were to use this currently popular method to wean myself from my Nicotine addiction, I knew that as soon as I felt comfortable enough to put the electronic cigarette away, I would miss smoking again within hours. But that is because I assumed the E-Cig was intended to be a short term replacement for smoking. However, other people have taken a different approach.

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The pub landlord and his customer have remained successfully smoke free for almost a year now. The reason for this is that they have never attempted to quit the Nicotine filled vapour of their E-Cigs. For a while, this was a situation that I criticised. I felt that they were kidding themselves. After all, it’s plain for all to see, their addiction to Nicotine is as strong now as it was when they smoked. But it seems my opinion of the electronic alternative to smoking has been a somewhat narrow view.

If we compare traditional smoking against using E-Cigs, the benefits are plain to see. Obviously, ‘vaping’ is far more healthy than smoking, but it’s the financial aspect that really makes the case clear. Using myself as an example, let’s see exactly why my pub friends are not actually kidding themselves at all, but are in fact getting the last laugh.

I smoke 20 cigarettes per day, at an average cost of £7.00. However you look at it, it’s a lot of money.

  • Daily: £7
  • Weekly: £49
  • Monthly: £213
  • Yearly: £2555

Now, using a rechargeable electronic cigarette from 10 Motives for example, let’s take a look at the cost of ‘vaping’ instead of smoking. If we ignore the one off cost of the rechargeable starter unit (£10.99-£13.99 depending where purchased), a pack of 5 refills usually costs £6.99 and should easily last a week for a 20 a day smoker, like me. So, to make the maths easier, we will call it £7 per week. Hmm, real cigarettes: £7 per day, E-Cigs: £7 per week. You can see where this is going.

  • Daily: £1
  • Weekly: £7
  • Monthly: £30-£31
  • Yearly: £365

It kind of puts things into perspective doesn’t it. There I was, dismissing people’s claims that they had quit smoking, because their addiction was still as strong as ever. But completely ignoring the facts. The pub landlord and his regular customer are healthier than me, richer than me, and still enjoy the act of smoking. Plus they don’t have to keep going out in the cold and rain like I do!

Using this example, set by people I know, I am making a few changes to my own smoking habits. I have no intention of committing myself to a completely smoke free life, I enjoy smoking and will continue to do so. However, by using my new electronic cig in place of many of my usual cigarettes, I might save a few quid, and who knows, maybe I will gradually drift in the less smoky direction.

Worn by ‘Last Exit to Nowhere’ Heroes

A few months ago, I was followed on Twitter by a new t-shirt company. This is not surprising. Those of you who follow me, or actually know me in the real world, will be aware of my love of movie based t-shirts and the fact that I tweet a picture every time I buy a new one. It is due to such tweets that I (along with many others) was targeted as a potential customer when Worn By Heroes began their marketing campaign. Initially, I was very interested in the arrival of a new movie t-shirt designer, after all, you can’t have too much of a good thing. I reciprocated their Twitter follow, in order to keep up to date regarding the progress of Worn By Heroes and in anticipation of the fantastic designs they were promising.

As the weeks past, Worn By Heroes tweeted about their plans, answered questions and at one point, asked me to ‘Like’ their Facebook page. I politely stated that, until they produced a product, I could not choose whether I ‘liked’ it or not. They seemed to understand this. No problem. I may have missed a tweet or two, but I didn’t realise they intended to use Kickstarter to fund the launch of their company. I have nothing against Kickstarter, I have happily funded people’s projects via this method, I was just surprised, and also startled at the £15,000 target amount that Worn By Heroes were requesting. Another thing that shocked me was an article which included the following quotes from Worn By Heroes:

We love movies. We love TV shows. And we love showing off our intimate knowledge of a film or show with an awesome t-shirt which only our fellow hardcore fans will recognise. There’s nothing like that moment of recognition on a strangers face as they clock the reference on your t-shirt.

Sounds good so far. However, I don’t feel that putting down everyone else’s products is the best way to promote your business, but that’s what they do with the next quote:

We’ve got a huge collection of movie t-shirts from loads of different stores. Whilst the designs themselves can range from bad to awesome, we’ve found the actual product itself is always lacking in quality. The t-shirt is tough, scratchy and ill-fitting. The prints themselves are heavy slabs of plasticy inks that weight the shirt down and start to crack after a while.

I’m not sure how established t-shirt designers like Dark Bunny Tees and Last Exit to Nowhere will feel about that description.

Now, although unimpressed by their designs, I am not in a position to pass judgement on the quality of Worn By Heroes products, having not bought any. What I would like to do, is offer an element of balance. I buy a lot of movie t-shirts, never ones that simply have the film title across the front. Mostly, I buy shirts from Last Exit to Nowhere. Like Worn By Heroes, Last Exit designs are influenced by the products and companies that feature within the movie, so only fans of the film will make the connection. Unlike Worn By Heroes, Last Exit produce designs of beauty and style, they are immensely clever and the depth of detail is unrivalled. As for quality, I have never known better than Last Exit to Nowhere, some of my Last Exit shirts are several years old and still in great shape. To be honest, I don’t follow the usual guidelines for t-shirt care, I even tumble dry them (not recommended), but so far none have succumbed to a premature demise.

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A few favourites from my Last Exit to Nowhere collection.

At the time of writing this post, Worn By Heroes’ Kickstarter campaign is exactly half way through its funding period and has reached just over half of its target. Hmm, cutting it fine.

Although this post may come across as a bit of a dig at Worn By Heroes, I do wish them every success. I just think they should spend more time and effort promoting their own product and less time slating everyone else’s. I’ve never met an unhappy Last Exit to Nowhere or Dark Bunny Tees customer, they even have an impressive collection of celebrity fans, including Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Chris Martin and Ed Byrne, among many others.

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FROM LEFT: Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Matthias Kaufmann, Chris Martin (Coldplay) and Ed Byrne.

Happy shopping everyone!

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My most recent purchases.