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Sunday 31 January 2010

Strange Days Indeed.

Well, these past few weeks have been rather strange ones for me.

As some of you may be aware, my father died on Sunday January 17th.
This was not a huge shock, as he was very nearly 93 years old & had been in hospital right over the Christmas & New Year period. But, regardless of how well you think you are prepared for what we did see as quite possibly, the inevitable, the shock when that end comes, is still a little hard to take.

As i said in a recent YouTube video that i made, one of a series, the hardest thing to take is the sudden realisation that you will never see that person again. I still can't quite believe it & probably won't for a while to come yet. My mother, who has coped remarkably well so far, still has days when she fully expects him to come home from the hospital.

The word i would use to describe how i've felt over these past two weeks, is surreal. It's almost as if you are walking around in a slight daze.
I have not been overly affected by what has happened, which has surprised me a little. But i have still felt rather weird, especially at certain times.
Maybe the full effect has not hit me yet? This may be the case, as the funeral is not until this Wednesday. That will be a strange day indeed.

But, the main reason for writing this blog was not to concentrate on all of those negative things that, inevitably, come about because of a parents death. But, rather to accentuate the positive things that have come out of it.

For one, this has made me do some re-evaluating about my own life. It has certainly made me realise, even more than i did before, that life needs to be lived & it needs to be lived now.
I have always been someone who has said yes to opportunities that have come my way. But, now i wonder if i should be the one trying to create even more opportunities for myself?
Time will tell, i suppose, if these thoughts will ever lead to anything. But, if you don't have those thoughts in the first place, nothing will ever change will it?

Another aspect, has been the way that my fathers death has made us all revisit his life & realise just what a full & interesting life he actually led.
I've heard stories about my father that i had never heard before. One in particular that sticks in my mind was about the evening, in the 1960's, when he played the piano in a pub & was bought several drinks of appreciation by Brian Epstein, The Beatles manager. How cool is that?

My mother has also learnt a lot about his earlier life.
Because of my own interest in family history, i got my father to write down & tell me about his early life, especially about his service in World War 2. My mother had never heard many of these stories.
My father lived through The Blitz, in London. He was also at the Battle of El Alamein, in North Africa & was in London during the VE Day celebrations at the end of WW2.
As i said, an interesting life.

So, all of this has helped me to re-evaluate what my father meant to me.
One of the main things, i feel, is the influence that he has had on my own life. Right from the physical attributes, i am the same height, build & wear the same size shoes as he did for example.
There are also such influences as his love of music, reading & a general inquisitive ineterst in the world around him.
All of these things, i have inherited from him. I am very grateful for all of them.

So, as i said. There are even some positive aspects to come out of even the worst times.

We all know that we are influenced by parents. But, sometimes it takes an event like this to remind us of just how much of an influence they have.
And if, like me, you have children of your own. It makes you realise what kind of influence you will, inevitably, have on your own children.

Encore, Encore.

New YouTube video.

Just some thoughts on encores. Do we really need them & who should do them?


New-ish YouTube video.

I am, are you?

Friday 22 January 2010

The Rollercoaster Continues.

New YouTube video & a response to my recent video "Life Is A Rollercoaster".

Life Is A Rollercoaster.

Recent YouTube video & a response to my video "A Matter Of Life & Death"

Sunday 10 January 2010

A Tipping Point.

I woke early this morning, at around 3.30am. I have no idea why.
Yes, i know that's far too early & i did go back to sleep later.
But, as i lay there i started to notice sounds coming from outside of the house. It took a while, which is no great surprise at that time of the morning i guess? But, i eventually realised that it was the sound of water dripping.
Nothing unusual in that you might think. But, that was not a sound i was expecting to hear.

As i've said in many vlogs & blogs over the past few days. We, in Britain, have been experiencing some pretty cold & snowy weather recently.

When i went to bed last night, it was snowing & the weather forecast was of plenty more to come overnight. I was even planning another little excursion first thing in the morning, to have a nice walk in the snow & to take some more photographs.
So, the last thing i was expecting to hear was the sound of dripping water. Suggesting that it was either raining, or that the snow was thawing.
I got up, peeked out of the window & sure enough, the snow had already started to thaw. Hence the sound of dripping water.

This is one of the common problems with any snow that falls in this area. It tends not to last for very long. Partly due to the salt in the air from the sea & also because we just don't normally get extended periods of freezing temperatures.
This is was has been making this recent spell of cold weather unusual. It has lasted for a long time.

What must have happened, is that the temperature must have risen, very slightly, during the night. Just enough to kick start that thawing process.
The temperature had reached a critical tipping point.
That small rise in temperature had tipped the balance between, what would have been snow, to rain, or sleet. It was just enough to start the thaw.

This got me thinking & kept me awake for some time too!

This incident proved to me just what a difference a small rise in temperature can make.

In Hastings we probably live on the very edge of that tipping point between snow & rain many times every Winter, without even realising it. Most of the time the rain wins. Over the past few days, the snow has taken it's chance.

So, if this is what happens with a very small variation in temperature. Just think what would happen if the temperature were to change by a few degrees? As predicted by all of those climate scientists.
"It's only a couple of degrees" say the sceptics, or naysayers, "What difference is that going to make?"

I may be no climate scientist. But, i have very recent experience of the difference that a very small change in the temperature can make.
Climate change may well be a global problem, especially in the years to come. But, the effects of that change will be felt at a very local level.

I certainly hope we haven't reached that tipping point just yet & that there is a way to stop us ever reaching it.
As, i'm not sure i ever want to see over the edge.

And, by the way, i never did get to have that walk in the snow this morning.

Snow Vlog

An impromtu vlog in the snowy depths of Hastings.

Snow In Hastings - January 2010

A photo video.

Saturday 9 January 2010

A Walk In The Snow.

As i have mentioned in both vlogs & blogs recently, we are having a spell of unusually cold & snowy weather, both here in my local area & throughout the whole of Britain.

Although, locally, up until today at least, we had not had too much snow. Over last night & today though, we have had quite a lot. In fact it has hardly stopped snowing here all day today. Not always heavily, but snowing nonetheless. It is still snowing as i type this.

This morning, i decided to make the most of it & go out for a walk. I had to go out alone, as nobody in the house was ready to leave, or were still asleep!
I went out at around 8am, when it was still nice & quiet & when the recent snow had not been disturbed too much.

What is it about snow that brings out the inner child in all of us? Maybe it's a uniquely British thing, i don't know? I guess it has something to do with the fact that we don't get to experience a decent snowfall very often?

Because of this, in my opinion, you really need to get out early to make the most of it & to beat the crowds.

There is something about being out & about when they are very few people around. Even though this was 8am on a Saturday morning, because of the heavy snowfall, the streets were pretty empty. Just what i wanted & had planned.

Well, i had a great time. Walking through the virgin snow, taking photo's & generally just enjoying myself.

I realise that everywhere looks different in the snow. But, there is something strangely unique about a seaside town in the snow.
Things like the pier, the amusemant arcades & rides take on a completely different look when covered in snow. Maybe it's because they are not meant to be viewed this way. They are really meant to be viewed on a warm Summers day, not a snowy Winter one.
One of the photo's that i took was of some advertising posters, encouraging visitors to visit Hastings. Naturally these posters showed the town in warm sunshine & looked a little weird sitting there amongst the snow. Hence the photo.

Also, a fishing town like Hastings, has some even more unique features that look out of place on a snowy day. Fishing boats, fishing huts, the beach & even the sea itself look vaguely unnatural with a coating of fresh snow.

Every time that we have had a decent snowfall, i have always felt compelled to go out for a walk & to take photo's because of the way that the town looks.
I don't think that feeling will ever leave me & i certainly hope that it doesn't.

One of my favourite memories of living in Hastings. Where i have now lived for over 20 years. Is of walking to work in the snow.
This happened approx 10 years ago.
I had to leave for work at around 5am & had to walk approx 2 miles into the town. The previous night had seen a heavy snowfall & when i left for work there was around 5 inches of undisturbed snow lying on the ground.
I don't think this snowfall had been predicted & was therefore even more of a surprise than it might otherwise have been.

I vivdly remember that walk into work.
I don't think i saw another person on the entire length of my walk. I had that snow all to nyself. What a great feeling that was.
Apart from that, there was that eerie quality that you get when there has been a heavy snowfall. There was a seemingly complete absence of sound. Except for the crunching of my feet on the virgin snow. No cars & no other people around to disturb that silence.
There was something really magical about that whole experience &, as i said, it is something that i will, hopefully, never forget.

It was, almost, a pleasure to be going to work at that time of the morning. Almost....

And, in some ways, one of the best things about that whole experience, was that the snow only lasted a few hours, before it all melted.
So, i was one of the few people who saw & experienced that snow, before it all turned to slush.

That might sound a little selfish & maybe it is?
But, it is sometimes nice to experience something that only you know about. Something truly unique.

How many of us can say that that has happened to them?

It's Snow Joke

Some musings on the current bad weather.

Over Complicated?

Do we make things more complicated than they need to be?

Thursday 7 January 2010

Reading In Bed.

Last night i got to the point where i couldn't work up too much enthusiasm for the Internet (shock, horror!) Well, it was cold & snowy.
What that has to do with the Internet, i have no idea. But, hey...
So, i thought, "i know what i'll do, i'll go to bed early & read my new book".

Now, anybody who reads in bed can probably guess what i'm going to say next?

Anyway, a few pages into the book & my eyes are starting to get tired & i find that i can hardly keep my eyes open! The book was fine, interesting & very readable, so why did this happen?
I'm afraid i can't answer that question, but it's something that always seems to happen.

You feel wide awake. But, as soon as you get into bed, open that book & start to read. Suddenly, it's as if a switch has been turned on & before you know it, you can't keep your eyes open.

Now, i know that i'm not alone in this happening to me. So, i guess i can console myself with that. But, nevertheless, it is bloody annoying.

One of the worst aspects is that you end up reading the same page, or pages over & over again. You have to keep going back, trying to find the place, or page that you can actually remember reading. Another aspect, is that it obviously ends up taking far longer to read a book, which may well end up putting you off bothering next time around.

So, is reading in bed a bad idea?
I tend to think not. At least you are reading in the first place. Which can only be a good thing.
It's far better, in my opinion, than watching the TV.

So many people watch the TV in bed & use it as an aid to sleeping. For relaxation yes, but as an aid for sleeping? I've even heard people say that they need to have the TV on to actually get them off to sleep. Personally, that's one thing that i just don't understand.
Maybe, somebody can tell me why that is?

I fully intend to keep on reading. After all, i enjoy it too much to stop. But, maybe i should try & do it before i get into bed?
That way i might be able to fool my eyes into thinking it's actually alright for them to remain open.
At least for a while anyway.

Monday 4 January 2010

Is It Worth It?

A "new" video i've just posted to YouTube.
This video is one of several i found on my computer, that had never been uploaded. I'm not sure why.
This video was recorded in July 2009. I decided to upload it now, as i felt it was still relevant.

Sunday 3 January 2010

Running Free - A Jog Blog.

I posted a blog the other day, "New Years Resolutions - Why?", all about, guess what, New Years resolutions & the fact that i don't make them. Amongst other observations.

One of the aspects of that i talked about, was how many people at this time of year will be thinking about getting fit, or at least trying to lose weight. That is one of the most popular New Years resolutions that i hear & it's the same every year.
I suppose this is only to be expected, after the excesses of the Christmas period.

What made me think of this again, was that this morning i went out for a run. It was my first run of the new year & the first of the new decade for that matter.
As i've mentioned before, either here, on in my vlogs on YouTube, i have been running for over twenty years now.

I first started running when i gave up smoking, which was rather ironically around the New Year of 1985/86. I had tried to give up smoking on a number of occasions before. But, had always started again. I was only what could be termed a "social smoker", but a smoker nonetheless. For example, i never smoked at work. Maybe, for this reason, i found it easier to give up?

I gave up smoking, more or less, on a whim. It wasn't planned at all. I just woke up on the morning of New Years Day in 1986 & never smoked again.
Well, you know how it is on New Years Day morning? The last thing you want is a cigarette! So, i didn't have one. This went on for a fair part of the day & suddenly i thought to myself "why not use this as an opportunity to try & give up smoking for good?"

As mentioned in that recent blog, i didn't tell anybody i was giving up, or at least trying to. I just did it quietly on my own.
For me, this was the best method & it's a method i've stuck with when i've ever wanted to change anything about myself ever since.

A friend of mine had decided to give up around the same time & he suggested that maybe we should try running? To help us get a bit fitter & also to help us combat the evil weed.
I can still remember that very first run & i'm pretty sure my friend can too!
As is usually the case, you never feel that you are actually as unfit as you really are. So, that first run, even though it was for only approx 20 miuntes, was not easy. But, then what did we expect?

We continued these runs for a while & then my friend decided that he was going to stop. I can't remember why.
I now had a decision to make. Do i stop, or do i carry on on my own? Thankfully, i decided to carry on. This was partly because i had come to realise that i was actually enjoying running.
I realise that i am quite lucky to feel this way. So many people i know, who do run, don't really enjoy it & find it a real chore. I am one of the lucky ones who loves to be out there, running free.

I carried on running, gradually increasing the distances, for a few months & then an opportunity to run a real race came up.
On Sunday, May 25th 1986, myself along with millions of others across the world, ran the world for Sport Aid, an offshoot of Band Aid & Live Aid. It was only a 10k "race", but it set the ball rolling for me, as far as running races was concerned.

Since that day, in May 1986, i have run 7 full marathons, including 4 London Marathons, 23 half marathons & many more races of varying distances.
Those races are something that i am very proud of, especially the marathons.

I tend not to run races nowadays & haven't run a full marathon for over 10 years now. I always have good intentions of running races, but those good intentions are usually as far as it goes.
I do still "tick over" as far as running is concerned. I don't run as much as i could, or probably should. But, i still enjoy it when i do & that's the main thing.

I often look back very favourably to that New Years day in 1986, when i decided to give up smoking & also to that day when i forced myself & my friend out of the front door, to go for that first, life changing, run.

I fully intend to keep on running free, for as long as my body, or my heart, will let me.
Here's hoping that will be for quite some time yet.

Saturday 2 January 2010

Death Of The Movie Star?

I saw a piece in my newspaper this morning about the new film "Avatar" & the fact that it is already on course to become one of the biggest grossing films of all time.

But, as with all of these blogs & indeed my vlogs, thinking about this article led me on to thinking about another aspect of the film business.

What do you actually call a motion picture these days? Is it a 'film", or is it a "movie"?
This is one of those questions that pops up in my head whenever i refer to a motion picture.

As you can see from the beginning of this blog, i've started off by saying "film". This is probably because i'm British & this is what we still tend to refer to a motion picture as. Even in these days of American culture seemingly taking over the world, the term "film" is still hanging on by it's fingertips in the UK.

But, what is the correct term & does it really matter anyway?
Well, for me at least, it does matter. I, like a lot of people, spend an increasing amount of time online & a lot of that time is spent conversing with people from the USA. Now, as i'm sure we all know, the Americans always refer to motion pictures as "movies".

So, where did the word "movie(s)" come from in the first place?
Well, according to (a very valuable website & one i have to use far too often), as expected the word "movies" is a shortened form of "moving pictures". And according to the site, the word "movies" was first used in around 1912.

The word "film" can be used to describe the actual filming process itself, what the motion picture is recorded onto & also the finished product. Apart from several other unrelated definitions too.

So, i'm going to make a unilateral decision & say that, in future, we should just use the term "movie(s)" to save us all a lot of confusion & debate.
Just think how much shorter this blog post would have been, if i hadn't felt the need to clear this up first!

Anyway, on to the main feature. As they would say at the movies.

As i was saying, the movie Avatar has already grossed over $745 million, or £460 million. So, it is well on it's way to becoming only the fifth movie in history to gross over $1 billion.

There is nothing too remarkable about this, i suppose. Especially as the director of the movie, James Cameron, is resposible for highest grossing movie of all time, Titanic ($1.84 billion btw)

But, what is different about Avatar though, is that it's "stars" are all, with one exception, relative unknowns. The exception being Sigourney Weaver, who is hardly the biggest movie star in the world. Although she's still a fine actress in my opinion.

Apparently, James Cameron wanted to concentrate on getting the technology correct, to enable the movie to be shot in 3D. This, as you can imagine, cost a lot of money ($237 million) & probably didn't allow too much to be spent on signing up "A" List movie stars.

So, is this the beginning of the end for the "A" List movie star? After all, if a movie can become one of the biggest grossing of all time & without the draw of any of the big name stars, will this send a message to other directors & movie production studios?

Yes, i accept that the 3D aspect of Avatar is a big draw in itself & i know of several people who have seen the movie more than once, to enable them to see it in 3D. But, i also know of people who have been to see Avatar, more than once, for no other reason than that they thought it was brilliant.
But, nobody appears to have been put off going to see Avatar by the lack of big star names.

Too often these days, any new movie seems to be more about the star names involved & less about the actual movie itself. For, me at least, this can be a big turn off. I don't go to the movies to see a star name, i go to see what i hope will be a good movie.

We all have our favourite movie stars. Just as we all have our favourite authors, or musicians. But, we soon stop buying, reading, or listening when those favourites stop producing good material.
I think, with the movie industry in particular, there has been far too much substandard material produced over recent years. With far too much reliance on big star names to try & attract us to go & see that substandard material.

Maybe another aspect of this is the actual cost of making a movie, when you have to pay top dollar to get an "A" List star, or stars to sign up?.
Avatar cost $237 million to film, without any of those big star names. Would that movie ever have been made if it was felt a big star name was needed? Could the cost of have justified? Or, would the production values have been lessened by the need to pay top dollar for that star name, or names?

Hopefully, in my view anyway, the huge success of Avatar, which i haven't seen by the way, will make movie makers sit up & take stock.
Maybe now is the time to start concentrating on original story lines & production values, rather than on those big star names? Or, on sequels & tired remakes?
Or, maybe, in these credit crunch times, the big movie stars will have to take a pay cut?

I don't expect many people will moan about that?

Friday 1 January 2010

New Year Resolutions - Why?

It's that time of year again.
That time of year when everybody is busy making New Years resolutions. Resolutions that they will be determined to keep. But, which will probably be broken within a week, if they're lucky!

You know the kind of thing:
I will get fit, lose weight, stop smoking, read more, cut down on my drinking etc etc.

So, why do people make these resolutions in the first place?
My own theory is that most people make them because they feel that they should do so. There is almost an obligation to make those resolutions these days. After all, everybody else seems to be doing it, so why not me?

Maybe because i seem to have an inbuilt rebellious streak, i refuse to make New Years resolutions? But, not just because i don't wish to be told what to do. I also feel that for the vast majority of people, these resolutions don't really have much benefit.

As i commented to somebody on a YouTube video the other day. A video spelling out this persons own New Years resolutions by the way. Why wait for the New Year to try & change your life in some meaningful way? Surely, if something needs to change in your life, you should be making that change straight away?

We all need to re-evaluate aspects of our lives. But, this should be done all year round.
A resolution is for life, not just for the New Year.

As with most things in life, if you feel forced to do something, you will probably not carry it out. For something to work, so have to want to do it. Whether that be getting fit, or quitting smoking. If you are happy with the way you are, why change? Especially if it's just to please somebody else.
Of course, if there is a health issue involved & that person telling you to change is your Doctor. I suggest you listen!

I make resolutions all the time. But, i make them to myself.
Keeping them personal reduces the amount of pressure that you put on yourself to carry them through.
For example, when i stopped smoking, over 20 years ago now, i didn't tell anybody of my intentions. I just did it. That way, i didn't have people constantly talking to me about quitting smoking & asking how it was going.
You'd be amazed how much of a difference that can make to your resolutions success.

So, if you make one New Years resolution this year. Keep it to yourself, please.