Sunday, 8 January 2017

Writer Problems#10: Productivity!

So, this is something I have obviously struggled with the last few years. I have done very little in
terms of blogging and I haven't written much. This is because, when I come in from a long day of work in the office or an eight hour shift on my feet, I am so tired and instantly lack productivity!

We have to find ways to be productive. Different things work for different people. Much like revising for upcoming exams, you have to find the motivation to be productive in your efforts to become a writer.

Here is a list of 25 productivity secrets from some of the greatest minds throughout history.

Tuesday, 3 January 2017

My Top 10 Films of 2016.

2016 was an interesting year in the world of Hollywood. At the moment, we are seeing a lot of sequels and the continuation of various franchises. Actually, I must say that a lot of my films were new things or book adaptations or stories that took a franchise in a new direction.

Here are my top 10 films of 2016. Please note that this is based on my own personal enjoyment. I cannot wait to see what 2017 has to offer.

  1. Deadpool
  2. 10 Cloverfield Lane
  3. Zootropolis/Zootopia
  4. The Girl With All The Gifts
  5. Arrival
  6. Hail, Caesar!
  7. The Girl On The Train
  8. Collateral Beauty
  9. Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them
  10. Moana

Sunday, 1 January 2017

My 2017 Resolutions.

Okay so following my reflections on aspirations post, here are my resolutions for 2017. Obviously, anything I can tick off of my B425 List is also a huge help.

My goals:

  • Lose weight and get in shape
  • Go to New Zealand
  • Plan wedding with my gorgeous fiancee. 
  • Buy a house
  • Find a new job
  • Read every Anne Rice book (I haven't read quite a few of her new ones and non Vampire Chronicles ones)
  • Write again.
That's it, I think. I don't want to overload myself as I think it's going to be a really big year for me. I want to travel. I mean I have been saying I'll go to New Zealand every year for the past five years at least! At least in 2017 I will do it - and I truly feel that my partner and I need to do this trip before we have mortgage payments to consider every month. We will hopefully take some serious strides in planning our wedding and hopefully, this time next year, I will be writing to you from our very own house. 

Saturday, 31 December 2016

Reflections on Aspirations.

Hello blog.

So... it's been a while.

I can see that my last blog post was posted in the month of August.... in the year 2015. So it has been about a year and four months since my last post, written in a flurry of anger. I must admit it feels like a lot longer.

I am sitting down to write this on the last day of the year 2016. If you could have told me in 2015, at the time of my last blog post, what 2016 had in store, I am not sure how I'd have reacted. So many celebrity deaths, some of which still hurt, particularly the loss of David Bowie and Carrie Fisher. 

In 2015, you could have told me that the following July, I'd be engaged (perhaps I shall post a blog post of my engagement story to follow - it really is quite a tale) and that I would be sitting here now with a stunning six sapphire engagement ring. 

Anyway, 2016 for me was a long year. It was a tough year in many ways. For the majority of this year, I found myself working two jobs at any given point. It would be rare for me to have a day off. However, this was the way in 2015 also for most of the year. Truth be told, I've been breaking my back the past two years working as hard as I can so that I could put away enough money for a decent deposit for a house for my fiancee and I to live in. 

In that time, I haven't written much. I haven't blogged. I've not really had much spare time to develop hobbies and pursue interests. To tell you the truth, I have felt like a total fucking zombie. 

So here I am, a few hours from midnight on New Years Eve, and the topic of Resolutions came to me. I have previously posted my resolutions for the new year on this very blog. So as I was sitting here, I began to think of what I want to achieve in 2016.

Suddenly, I thought of another list I had written here: My B425 List. 

When I was merely 21 years old, about to finish my course at university, I felt that in my three years of study, I hadn't really been living. I had just focused on my studies and had few opportunities to do much around that. So I sat down and wrote a list of things that I wanted to achieve before I turned 25. 

Well that list has been in the back of my mind for the last four years however, as I am turning 25 in just two months. I started to think about the list a lot more. Today I found myself thinking about it quite a bit. I thought to myself, God, it's such a shame. I've hardly done any of the things on my list and soon I will be out of time. I'll have to carry all of those items over onto a list of things to do before I'm 30. Well, maybe it's the Jack Daniel's I had earlier, but as I read the list I found myself getting quite emotional, not only because I have actually ticked off more itms on the list than I previously realised, but that 21 year old me had absolutely no idea what was around the corner.... 

So please, indulge me as I go through my B425 list on the last day of 2016 before writing my resolutions. 

- Stick with your pescetarian diet and maybe try going vegan for a month just for the experience.
Well, I am still doing the whole pescetarian thing and I've actually considered trying the vegan diet for a month in 2016. Watch this space.

- Make a savings account. Ok, that sounds like a really dull one but in a few weeks I'll be looking for a job and I want to have money to put away for my future that can go towards a deposit on an apartment, paying for a nice holiday, paying off student debt etc. It seems kinda lame, but I feel at this stage it's a sensible thing to do. Even just £10 a week will do the trick, however much I can put in there.

Okay. so this one seems so crazy to me. I started a savings account and very soon my fiancee and I are actually going to be buying a house. I can't believe that a few years ago, I was sat in our tiny apartment, hoping to scrape together the funds for a basic apartment when my fiancee and I are now looking to buy a three bedroom house as our first home. This one really warmed my heart.

- Stand out in public with a 'Free Hugs' sign for at least an hour just to spread some joy. Maybe do it to raise awareness of/raise money for a charity that helps with mental health.

I haven't done this one yet but it seems like a nice idea! Again, watch this space. I wish I'd done this in 2016. After a year like this, people probably needed free hugs. 

- Revisit places that made me happy. I want to travel to the islands around my home country, Scotland, and return to some of the places that have brought a sense of inner peace. I want to be the old me that swam in waterfalls, danced til dawn and even skinny dipped in the North Sea. I also want to revisit Venice. I'd return to Venice every year if possible. There's no place ever I've felt more at peace in.

Sadly, I don't think I've actually been to Scotland these last four years. May have to make a visit. However, I have been to some other truly awesome places.

- Finish at least one novel and seek publication for it. Pretty self explanatory but I'd like to be a published writer by 25. Before you say it - yes, I know how tough it will be, but there is no harm in being ambitious.

As I read this one, I truly started tearing up..... how was I to know that a few months later I would land my first ever publishing deal? My first book came out in 2013. I have the guts of a novel written. I have other ideas and projects in the works too. I've not really finished anything because I've spent the last few years working every damn day to save up to buy a house and a tired brain doesn't necessarily create great literature, but soon.... soon I hope to have the time to write again. So glad I completed this one. You have no idea.

- Try to learn how to make sushi., even just one basic kind.

Haven't done it yet. Give me time. I just need rice, nori and bamboo rollers, right? Hmmm.... we shall see.

- Take up a class in something new. Maybe I could do one each year. Maybe I'll finally learn to knit or take up karate. Or both. Knitrate.

With the whole work thing, I've not really done much in terms of hobbies. SOOOOON.

- Get back into hiking. Once your leg is healed, try jogging again.

Okay, so I wrote this one in because I had recently had a severe injury to my knee which has caused years of long term, chronic pain and it has been incredibly difficult to do, well, anything. But I've done a lot of walking and hiking and long walks so I'd consider this a success. 

- Roadtrip. It seems like a dreadfully cliche thing to do but I'm gonna do it... Straight after I learn how to drive and buy a car.

Didn't do it. 

- Learn to drive.

Didn't do it. 

- Buy a car.

Didn't do it. 

- Act again. I used to be involved with amateur dramatic societies and really enjoyed it. It was relaxing to spend an hour a week playing dress up with your friends and pretending to be someone else. I may also follow in my father's footsteps and attempt to write a pantomime. Maybe I'll direct a play.

I totally did this one and got really close to directing, I just didn't have the time. 

- Get in shape. One day I'll probably be acting as an incubator to a human being and that will make my tummy swell to the point I'll have little pink lightning bolt style stretch marks all over. I would like to slim down as much as possible and enjoy a few good bikini years before the whole baby thing.

Again, because of the whole knee injury thing, it has made exercise difficult. My knee causes great amounts of pain and discomfort. I have put a lot of work into making this better though. Almost every day in November, I went to the gym to build up strength in and around my bad knee. It's a work in progress, but such injuries take years to heal. I'm healthier, but there is still work to be done. 

- Visit at least one of the following places, at the very least: New Zealand, Australia, USA (preferably for a road trip style holiday), Canada, Spain, Ireland. If you hit more than one, even better. Anything beyond that is just gravy. Also, take more trips/short breaks with friends like Kavos this summer. Find a nice mixture of travelling alone and travelling as part of a group. New Zealand is the most likely at this point in time - but if the changeover is in America, that technically kinda crosses USA off the list for the time being.

I am so pleased to say that this year I went to the USA and Canada. Haven't done Australia or New Zealand but my fiancee and I are actually headed there in 2017 because, aside from just saving up for a house, I also secretly put aside money to take us on the holiday of a lifetime and I am so excited. In the last few years, I have also been to Germant, Greece, Budapest, Italy and France.

- Try your hand at journalism.
Not long after posting my B425 list, I actually was accepted to write for The Huffington Post UK. 

- Write some form of fanfiction, just for shits and giggles

*cough* I did this. 

- Get a job. Any job. I don't mind what, but I do know that I want to be working as soon as I am done with university. How else am I going to support some of the more expensive entries on this list such as world travel?

Did this. Did this a lot. 

- A list I read featuring things to do suggested to write a song and put it out there. I'd like the idea of just recording a couple of songs with friends to contribute to the ever growing monster that is music. I miss singing. I want to get back into singing again, strengthen my voice and my lungs, and record a few songs... maybe even perform them live to an audience.

I have written songs. Haven't recorded any. Give it time.... 

- Get involved with charity again. Do fundraising or donate each month. Something. In this world it's far too easy to forget these things
I've donated to charities and raised money for charities so another success on this one.

- Learn to cook. Ok, I will admit it. My cooking is pretty basic. I've been meaning to try to learn how to cook Chinese cuisine for some time and after university I shall probably try. I'll also look into interesting vegetarian recipes and maybe try to come up with my own. If I write them down I could create a vegetarian cookbook. Ha! Me with a fucking cookbook. It's actually a pretty funny idea. Actually, you know what? I'll try it.
I am so much better at cooking now. Another success. I mean, I could be better. I'm still learning, still improving....

- Try to write a vegetarian cookbook of your own recipes. If no one wants to publish it, which is probably what will happen, start a blog about it.
I have started my notes on this project. 
- Take up some sort of dance class. Come to think of it, future me, you've always been shit at dancing and learning how to move your own body might be good. Ballroom, salsa, whatever. It's cool. Just not disco. We tried that once. We quit after the first session. DEAR GOD, EVERYONE WAS WEARING DENIM AND DANCING TO COTTON-EYED JOE AND SEEMED TO ENJOY IT.
Not done this due to the whole knee thing. Something for the future....

- Try to pay off your student debt as soon as possible. Good creddit, yada yada. Weight of debt forever looming until you do, yada yada. You get the point.
Too busy saving for a house but have made some student loan repayments.

- Start writing/filming/creating short films and sketches. These can be for YouTube or to pursue a career in film. Anything! I'd love to direct my own film or TV show that I had written and was therefore there from the point it was created and seeing it through the whole process.
Tried, wasn't keen on it.

- Take up photography. It used to be something that you were so interested in. I'm not saying you have to do a course in it or anything but as long as you can see something pretty, hold a camera and press the right button it could be a nice way to spend your time.

- Buy cheap clothing/accessories and modify them, make them really personal. Like your Bauhaus shirt... but better.
Not done yet.

- Read all the books on your "To Read" list. Maybe even do the challenge of setting yourself 50 books to read in a year and get through some of the classics you've neglected, and the books that have been lying around on your shelves for years that you said you'd get around to.
I don't even have to check the list. I'm sure I haven't done this.

- Get back into writing poetry, maybe try and get a book of poetry published. Also support current poets and go to more poetry readings.
I wrote a whole book of poetry and submitted it to a publishing house.

- Go canoeing.
Didn't do it.

- Try to learn how to make proper French style macaroons.
Didn't do it.

- Skinny dip again. Because it's fun and nudity is fun. FUN.
Did it, 

- Go to a gay pride parade or Slut Walk.
Didn't do it...yet.

- Try to get over your fear of needles and give blood. You're Type O Negative. Not only do you share your blood type name with a band, but it can save a lot of lives.
Didn't do it. Still afraid, Damn it.

- See if you can take up taiko drumming. Gotta love taiko drumming. You're shit at instruments but you can probably bang a big drum.
Googled it. Haven't had the opportunity yet.

- Take up a sport, even if it's badminton in the back garden.
Did a lot of running, weight lifting and swimming.

- Get into weightlifting with Hannah and get physically stronger.
Done it,

- Take up bellydancing. It's something I've always wanted to do and I've not done any sort of bellydancing since my poor attempt at it on a coach on the way back to Cairo. That reminds me... if I ever get the chance to ride a camel again, I promise I won't scream a second time round. They're wobbly fuckers.
Didn't do it. 

- Maybe try getting involved with the Cambridge Film Festival again. Last time was so much fun and it'd be a great experience. 
Didn't do it - the internship I did previously is no longer available due to funding issues. I have, however, done a lot of exclusive marketing work in the world of cinema.

- Plant a tree. Somewhere, anywhere. Just do it at least once.
I have planted several.

- Spend more time with your family and pay for it. Take them out to dinner, do nice things and foot the bill. Lord knows they must have spent a fortune raising you.
I have done this. Woo! Adulthood!

- Help your sister revise so she can achieve great results in her exams. I know you were always worried she'd come along and outshine you but you love the little bugger so you really don't mind at this stage if she does.
My sister is almost 18. I tried to help her on exams as best I could. She's getting ready to go to uni now. 
- Host a themed party. Growing up I was known for throwing big scale themed parties. My Moulin Rouge! themed party was still the topic of conversation when I was leaving the town, about three years after the party itself. I threw three big parties, each having a theme. I'd kinda like to do it again. Maybe not on so grand and house-trashing a scale - that Moulin Rouge! party was great but we were still pulling beer bottles out of bushes years later.
Not done it.

- Get involved with local volunteer work.
Hmm.... I wouldn't say I'd really done this one.

- Take up meditation. I tried it in my teens and I probably just wasn't as emotionally mature back then to do it any justice. Even just one or two attempts will allow me to score it off of this bucket list.
Haha - I've tried this one. It helps a little but my mind is too busy. 

- I know I've already discussed cooking, but why not try a cooking challenge? Like in the film Julie & Julia where the protagonist gave herself a year to cook every recipe in the Julia Child cookbook, I'd love to do that. It'd certainly whip me into shape and I could hold dinner parties, maybe get some feedback for my efforts.
Not done yet, but I do own several cook books.

- Further explore your family history to better understand your roots. 

- Try vlogging.
Did it, not a fan.

- Study a language. I've already studied French (A* at GCSE level, and then I took it all the way onto sixth form), Spanish (A at GCSE) and I also did Italian and Japanese (both without exams) and I'd like to either learn and revisit one of these or learn something completely new. Languages were always something I was good at.
Gotten back into French and Italian, but not a new language

- Get a tattoo. Well, this one is optional, but you've always liked them so I figured I'd put it on the list.
My skin is still naked.
- Try yoga.
Not done yet. I downloaded some apps and tried for a few good minutes but man, I am not flexible.

- Take photos and create beautiful scrapbooks full of memories. We seem to live in an age where having photos is all about putting them up online. Am I the only non-hipster who truly misses old Polaroids? I want to document this ol' life of mine in general, really. Hence vlogging.

- Try taking up art. I used to draw, I tried painting. I mean... why not?
Nope. Will try again at a later date.

- Go zorbing/zorbballing or whatever it's called.
Haven't yet but I really, really want to do this. 
- Try to climb a mountain - or as high as you can get with your vertigo.
Haha, not climbed a mountain yet.

- Get drunk at Disneyland. There. I said it.
I erm.... did this one. Don't tell Mickey.

Saturday, 29 August 2015

Shona Sibary, I Have Someone You Should Meet...

Animal lovers across the internet are fuming over a Daily Mail news story about Shona Sibary, a woman who claims she buys puppies and gets rid of them when they are no longer 'cute' and easy to care for. Sibary claims that she spends huge amounts of money to splash out on pet accessories, veterinary operations and the dogs themselves. Some have offered compassion and understanding to this woman saying that the problem is probably rooted in some sort of emotional difficulty. Others have been less forgiving. Being dubbed the new Katie Hopkins/Samantha Brick, she has already faced a huge backlash on Twitter. Dog rescue groups and charities like Dog's Trust have written to her offering to show her the impact of abandonment on dogs... Let me introduce you to someone.
This is Bailie. My future mother and father in law just adopted him this week. Someone abandoned him too. He is a real sweetheart but he's got a lot of problems. The dog behaviourist who consulted us before Bailie came home says it's because his owner abandoned him when he was young. It's okay - we're working on it. In fact, he's not the first rescue dog my future in laws have rescued. Before Bailie they had taken in another rescue dog called Dylan. Dylan was an integral part of the family unit, always offering up a cuddle or escorting you around the house in the most gentlemanly fashion. Both dogs, having been abandoned by their previous owners, came with their own problems from having been abandoned. Dylan would howl sometimes, staring out the window as if waiting for someone. If he heard certain soap opera theme tunes he would wail out a sad cry. We never knew anything about his previous owners but we often think these things set him off because they reminded him of his past. My future mother and father in law noted that his ears pricked up and he looked around if anyone ever said the name 'Andrew'. His origins will forever remain a mystery to us as he was handed off to a shelter with no back-story. Bailie, it seems, is a lot happier. He's just a puppy but, as a Spaniel x Beagle cross he got a bit bigger and more boisterous than his previous owner had bargained for. Once he was 'too big' and harder to handle, he was given up. Being part spaniel, his owner found him too energetic and too much to handle. Rather than dealing with his behaviour with training and showing patience, it's just easier to get rid of him, right? He is now living with a lot of anxiety. When someone so much as speaks to him he pees himself unexpectedly and without warning. He can't help it. He also cannot be left alone. He becomes distressed and starts to chew on things and tear them apart. To some, this may not sound like the ideal dog. If Shona Sibary had a dog like this she would have rehomed him pretty quickly by the sound of it. It doesn't seem to have occured to her that dogs, like people, do well with a bit of subtle training. If she's so happy to fork out for her pooch-purchasing habit, why did she not throw some money on a canine behaviourist and dog training classes? Thankfully he came to owners that realised he is a living being, not just something there to be cute and entertain us. Like all living things he has a personality as complex as our own. He wants love and attention and a stable home. Dogs don't understand why they've been abandoned. No one can explain to them why they weren't good enough. Bailie has been adopted by a family that will see his behaviour and offer him patience. He has been taken in by a family that will put in the time to train him and help him work through his problems with as much love and affection as we can possibly give. Sometimes we have to form an orderly queue to do so. My point is that dogs are living things and not some hot commodity. They form an attachment to you and I have seen first hand the heartbreak they endure at being left behind. They cannot comprehend why you left them and it stays with them for life. Shona's dogs probably thought more of her than she did of them. Sure, Shona says that her dogs all have happy homes now (although details of her stories differ), but those dogs probably still wonder why their original family let them go so easily. Dogs, like wine, are good at any age. Last year my beloved pup, Hamish, passed away. I was a child when my parents brought him home and he lived with us until he was old. Two days before my birthday he passed away. I loved him just as much as an old mutt as I did when he was a puppy. Dogs, they say, are man's best friend and I've always found them to astound me with their depth of understanding. Hamish would always seem to sense when I was having a bad day and he would come and sit by my side as if to reassure me. In his old age he was very sick and had lots of health problems but I did not turn my back. I took care of him because that's what friends do. I miss him all the time. I would urge anyone with a heart big enough to adopt an animal from a shelter to give dogs like Shona's a second chance at a forever home with a good, loving family. Many shelters will often accept donations and volunteers to help socialise the dogs in their care. They will never, ever understand why you left them and why they weren't good enough. Now someone hand that woman a Tamagotchi and be done with it...

Monday, 24 August 2015

Who? Where? YOU? THERE?

I'm forever happy to see people all over the world stopping by to read my humble little blog that I started with no major plans for it. Here I am many months later and still raking in views from all over the world.

Here is a list of the countries that have stopped by my blog so far. Thank you for reading and making me feel awesome on a daily basis. Don't forget that you're awesome too:

United Kingdom
Isle of Man

Côte d’Ivoire




United Arab Emirates
Sri Lanka
Macedonia [FYROM]



South Africa
Trinidad and Tobago


Saudi Arabia


United States
South Korea


Puerto Rico





Hong Kong (as special administrative region of the People's Republic of China)
Czech Republic
New Zealand
Bosnia and Herzegovina

Monday, 17 August 2015

New Years Resolutions 2015: A Review

Earlier this year I wrote up a few New Years Resolutions for 2015. I have decided to re-visit those resolutions to see how I've done so that I can endeavour to complete everything on the list for a successful year. Let's review....

Learn to say YES.

Everyone always seems to regret not taking risks. In hindsight we see they may have lead to something good. I feel that I need to learn to say yes and be more pro-active. I've lost out to many job opportunities because I forgot to respond to them by just thinking 'Eh, I will keep the window open in my browser and get to it later,' but when later comes, the position has been filled. Like in the film "Yes Man" I want to learn to say yes and grab opportunities when I see them. This could mean going on more nights out or taking up extra shifts or anything that could benefit me somehow.

How have I done with this?
I've tried to be a little bit more spontaneous. I go out more upon invitation, I've tried to pursue opportunities. I could be better though. Now we're in August so I have a few more months to say 'yes' a lot more.

Procrastinate less, do more.

This really follows on from the last one. I probably lost hundreds of hours to procrastination in 2014. All those times I went to sit down and write a novel and ended up on Tumblr or Pinterest or YouTube. I have so many things that I want to achieve and I will only do this if I kick my procrastinating ways. I need to focus on my work this year because I feel that this year could be a big one for me.

Well it's been tough. I work a lot. I mean a LOT. You'll see why when we get to the final point. I've not had much time to do anything so I have procrastinated less and have therefore become so much more organised with my time. I would say I've procrastinated a lot less and have really learned a lot about how to manage myself and to organise my time well.

Write a thing.

I want to write a thing. Any thing. A book thing. A script thing. An anthology thing. Anything. I want it done by the end of 2015.

Again, I have tried. I spectacularly missed out on NaNoWriMo even though I really wanted to take part. I work two jobs full time so there's not much time to write. I am about 27,000 words into a project and I'm hoping to have more time but it is hard when you work as much and as often as I do.


I want to at least go somewhere outside of England. Just once. I meant to last year but work and personal restraints held me back. Hopefully, this year will be the year...

I haven't left the UK so far this year. I do, however, have plans to make one or two trips later in the year when winter rolls around. I'm hoping to do a mini-break with my family in Berlin and hoping to do a trip with my partner to Italy or France. Again, work has been a priority this year

Make a career change

I have been in my current job for over a year now and I can safely say that, although I've enjoyed some aspects of my time here, it's not the job I was aiming for when I left university. Now it is time to find the job I want, the job I'm qualified to do. This may mean working at my current job as well as a new job and doing both simultaneously. This may be one big career move altogether. I've not decided yet but let's see what the New Year brings...

This is the one I have already succeeded in pretty hard. The job I mentioned in the previous paragraph is one I've been working at for a year and a half now, maybe more, and I am still there. I was up for a promotion there at my old job. A few days before the promotion interview I was offered a job elsewhere. This job offer was a salaried position. Obviously I took the job. I had my own desk, a good salary, won many of the incentives and competitions. However the job wasn't working for me so I resigned. It was scary - I'd never written a letter of resignation before. I was scared but I knew I had to resign. I was working an hour away from where I live and worked long hours - there was no way I was going to ever get enough time to make a job interview closer to home when I worked so far away. I resigned and applied to several jobs. I actually received quite a high level of positive response. Quite a few jobs wanted to arrange an interview or discuss the role further. I landed an interview a day or so after leaving my old office job and, within seven days of my resignation/leaving, I landed a new job. This new job is closer to home so no long commute! The new job is an area of interest to me with excellent career progression and I could not be happier.

Having reviewed everything I think I've done well. I'm on track. I just need a holiday and some time to write and it'll all be grand. Fingers crossed...