The Biggest Weakness

Have you ever been so nervous that your stomach hurts? They call it ‘butterflies’ for some reason, but it’s actually just a reduction in blood flow to your stomach, as a result of the fight or flight reaction. I’m going to be quite gross and say when I’m nervous I get the urge to deffocate or even feel feverish or sick. No matter how much I prepare, or try to build my confidence; I always get nervous before a job interview.

Job interviews are confusing because the questioning is always based on distrust. They will never say “Can I trust you to undertake this task?” They will say “Give me an example of when you demonstrated X” but are hoping you will indirectly reveal your abilities of Y. The person holding the interview is never objective either. I look into the face of everyone who interviews me and there is always a catch in the eye as if they are judging me and getting a certain pleasure from it. No single employee will be under as much scrutiny in a job interview, as they would be in any other meeting, unless they were being disciplined. The notes are quickly jotted down as you answer their questions and you wonder whether their writing will do your answer justice when they review it again 24 hours later.

I once had an internal interview and learnt the hard way that you cannot have a laugh with the interviewer. Even if they know you very well, they will always read joviality as being too casual or unprofessional. You are much better off sticking to the robotic soul-less persona you normally hold when at work.

I have hosted interviews and it makes you feel powerful knowing someone’s life choice is now in your hands. You take pleasure in catching people out and I can’t imagine the amount of ridicule I have received after I leave an interview. I still have doubts about one interview when someone took out a banana mid question and proceeded to eat it in front of me. I managed to avoid asking questions through mouthfuls when I was the interviewer.

I normally prepare for my interviews by looking up example questions online and have a think about how I would answer them. I always see questions like “Why should we hire you?” and “What is your biggest weakness” but there is one question I have never been asked, but wish I had been: “If you could be any animal what would you be and why”. I have dreamt of this question and always had the following answer ready in my mind:

If I could be any animal I would be an Eagle. I would be able to soar majestically with a complete control of everything on the plain below me. I would be able to reach new heights and fly above the rain”.

My competing candidate would say “I dunno a bunny rabbit I guess tee hee” and they would get the fucking job, because poetry and intelligence is not important when you are applying for a non-managerial role.

The atmosphere found in most interviews is that of a clinical nature, and there is certainly no space for personality or even a soul. The responsiveness of those sat opposite you is as tepid as the complimentary glass of tap water they provided you with.

For it is only a handful of the worst human characteristics that help you thrive in an interview. Narcissism, Arrogance, big headedness, two faced ness and worst of all Greed. Let’s not deny Greed, because afterall why are you going for the position? to earn more money! To buy more useless material crap that will eventually break and then you’ll buy more crap. If people weren’t greedy you would have CEO’S on the national minimum wage.

If you are excellent at your job, you have superb levels of experience and perhaps even a few qualifications, but are useless at interviews you are fucked. Is the interviewer always right in their decision? have they always given the person the best chance to demonstrate their knowledge, or is that all clouded by trick questioning and unfair scrutiny. There must be thousands of people that will work very hard for a company if they could only be given a chance.

I have come to the conclusion that success in an interview is nothing to do with your knowledge or experience it is simply whether you can impress the person hosting it. When you leave the room after the interview has concluded, you stand a higher chance of getting the job if there are people fighting your corner. Never be afraid to show your true smile and don’t too be harsh on the interviewers if they don’t give you the job, every interviewer makes mistakes too.

Alexa, what have I done with my life?

I am now officially one of a large number of people who are obsessed with smart technology. If you are not familiar, I will fill you in.

Smart devices

You may have heard the phrase “Smart devices” being thrown around. Most mobile phones are considered as smart devices because of their ability to connect to diffrent things like TVs and run apps. Currently there is a market for smart devices such as the ‘Amazon Echo’ and ‘Google Home’ which are home audio speakers that have microphone attached to them allowing you to ask commands. You can program the speaker in certain ways so that a particular phrase will make it perform a specific set of actions.

I recently bought an Amazon Echo on a whim simply because I often listen to music in the kitchen and I liked the idea of being able to say “Alexa, play the Beatles” and in a second I have ‘love me do’ pouring into the room. I wasn’t thinking of the extra abilities when I bought it.

The device is great fun for saying things like “Alexa, tell me about quantum theory” or “Alexa, what is the distance from earth to the moon” but you soon realise that is the novelty factor, but there is a lot more to be achieved.

Greater things

A friend of mine is also an echo addict and we recently shared our obsession. Over the Christmas holidays it has been a lot worse. With Christmas. Money to spend, and staying up until 3am watching demonstration videos on advanced programming and tech for smart homes. When someone gets into smart tech it is all you think about. There are hundreds of possibilities out there to explore.

I have since upgraded my smart home to contain security devices, smart plugs, smart lighting, TV control, audio control, advanced Bluetooth capability. It is exciting (for the moment).

Currently when I get home I say “Alexa watch TV” and she will turn on my receiver to the right channel of audio, turn on the TV and specifically switch it to BBC1. She will then turn on the lights in the lounge. At any point I can pick up my mobile phone and it can control all of the devices and some of the lighting in my home.

There is certainly a lot of trial and error involved in getting this right, but when it works it saves alot of time.

My friend who also has an echo not only has the ability to call me through it so we can have phone conversations but he has the ability to “Drop in”. At anytime he can request to hear the microphones on my alexa so that he can hear what is being discussed in my house and to chip in when he feels like it. This is quite creepy. I can imagine this being an idea for a program such as black mirror. Obviously, you can only give certain people this ability and I only give this option to my family and close friends.

Setting the mood

I haven’t yet conquered the mood settings for alexa. You can buy wifi enabled smart bulbs that you can change the colour of and have dimming abilities. Someone online was able to say “Alexa, set the mood” and all the lights dimmed by 50% and changed to a warming yellow. You could program activities so that certain devices have certain colours. Watching a sci-fi film might make the room green, watching a horror: red. These bulbs aren’t cheap though, they’ll set you back £40 a bulb and with some Phillip’s bulbs you have to buy extra compatible devices which cost £50+.

What the future holds

The amazon echo is currently £69.99 and in my opinion the sound quality is good for music. It doesn’t necessarily compete with Sonos or Bose but it is good for a range of different genres. Amazon have released the amazon dot which is half the price. The dot has all the same functionality but the sound speakers aren’t as good. The dot would be useful if you want the listening ability for another room.

I am very excited about the amazon spot which has not come out in the UK yet. The amazon spot is an alexa powered alarm clock, except it has a camera built into it for face time abilities. You can wake up to your favourite music or news. It provides music in the bedroom whilst you’re getting ready for work and various other things. A lot of people are afraid about the privacy by having a camera on the device. In my view though you can just turn the device away from you when you’re changing or simply strap a piece of tape across the lense if you’re that concerned. It would just be cool to have a camera setup to talk with friends or to see outside when the postman shows up.

What you should try

There is a feature with alexa where you can ask her for a recipie and she will read it out step by step if you’re cooking. You could also theoretically set up the prep of a dish in a slow cooker the night before and ask alexa to start it at a set time so that when you get home there is a piping hot meal waiting for you! This would be cost effective as a slower cooker costs the same as a light bulb.

Sometimes if you don’t fancy music it’s fun to enable the Ted talks skill so you can say “Alexa, play a Ted talk on science” and she will go through a play list of talks from around the world.

Alexa is great fun. It is an expensive obsession but finally this tech feels like a step into the future of homes.

Orwellian Wisdom

If you haven’t already read some of George Orwell’s books then I highly recommend them. I can imagine though that the subject matter of some of his titles are not to everyone’s taste. Orwell focuses a lot on poverty and it’s effects of society as well as dabbling in the control the government has on us by painting dystopian futures.

George Orwell was writing his novels and essays between 1928-1950. Although some of the backdrops and parlance used in his books are old fashioned the stories are still relevant and his writing style is a pleasure to read as Orwell always wrote his prose in straight forward clean language. When reading Orwell I never found myself struggling to maintain concentration. According to Stephen Pinker this writing style is known as the classic style:

The guiding metaphor of classic style is seeing the world. The writer can see something that the reader has not yet noticed, and he orients the reader’s gaze so that she can see it for herself. The purpose of writing is presentation, and its motive is disinterested truth. It succeeds when it aligns with the truth, the proof of success being clarity and simplicity. 

(Steven Pinker, The Sense of Style)

Left or Right? 

Orwell also has other themes in his books such as totalitarianism, socialism, communism and fascism. There is an eternal argument between the left and the right politically as they fight between which side Orwell belongs to. When Orwell wrote about communism in 1984 and Animal Farm this was usually the reason that the right believed he was on their side politically. Those more well read in Orwell will realise that his other books more regularly project different points of view. Anti-colonialism and the drive for social improvement through focusing more on emotion needs than patriotic needs shows Orwell’s place in the camp of leftists. I think a more careful study of Orwell will see that he sits firmly on the left. Orwell claimed that it is the problem of capitalism that is creating the difficulties of the second world war.

Big Brother

As well as writing captivating books, Orwell shared some interesting concepts. Many people use the term “Big Brother” and don’t fully understand it is from Orwell’s 1984. You cannot deny that Orwell correctly predicted that our future is rife with security cameras and observailance. Out presence in the world is for everyone to see. I would never tell someone they can’t do this, but I find it scary that children are born, and before they can even develop the ability to process images, their image has been posted on facebook and is imprisoned on a server in America. Children go to school and their parents takes a picture of them in their school uniform before their first day, they are advertising exactly where their child is going to be alone 5 days a week.

Many writers & film makers have stood on the shoulders of Orwell when trying to paint these horrifying future landscapes. A great example of a similar social commentary is in a TV show called “Black Mirror” which is on Netflix. This series with clearly inspired by Orwell but paints a sickeningly bleak outlook.

The Money God

In an early title by Orwell “Keep the Aspidistra Flying” George Cormstock who is the main protagonist has an ending battle with wealth. He has a philosophy that without money you are nothing, you will be an outcast in society and nobody loves you. George let’s this hang over him wherever he goes. He let’s himself endure meaningless work and even prevents moving forward in relationships because he knows he can’t treat his partner. This books seems to reel from another book titled “Down and out in Paris” which is partly autobiographical about Orwell’s poverty when living in Paris.

I can certainly relate to George. I can’t help but think of lyrics from a song called Bittersweet Symphony by The Verve:

“It’s a bittersweet Symphony (that’s life) you’ve gotta make ends meat (you’re a slave to money, then you die)”

I am fortunate in that I have a steady job and earn a wage which is suitable for my means. I can remember earning less money than I did and was constantly being reminded by my parents that I didn’t earn enough. Even to this day they say to me “You should really be earning more money now”. I responded to them “The problem I have is that I can remember earning less money than I do now. I got to a point where I earnt a comfortable wage, then my wage had gone up again. I have noticed that since I became comfortable with what I earn, as my wage has increased my level of happiness has stayed exactly the same so I find it difficult to find the motivation to try to earn more money?” When I told my parents this they had no answer for me.

I can remember telling my mother about a new job and I spoke for about 4 minutes about the potentials for fun new challenges to which she watched with indifference. I then was asked how much the job paid, and when I told her she burst into tears. It seems that only the seal of a decent salary was enough to inspire her happiness. I was disgusted by this transparent display of devotion to the money god.

Final point

I think that deciding your own philosophy in life is an important exercise to understand the world we live in, but to also better understand how we fit in it. I have learnt so much from the wisdom presented by Orwell that it makes me wonder what is available in books I haven’t read. We are so privileged to have a wealth of authors to chose from, and this fills me with excitement.

I hope that people can recommend books for me to read, especially ones that have spoken to you personally.

How am I different

In this article I want to share with you one of my favourite musicians Aimee Mann and to discuss what her work means to me and how important it is for understanding mental health.

When I was about 20 years old I watched this film called “Magnolia” and it touched my soul. The feel of the film is very sad but contains some of the best drama I have ever seen on film. The film has some big stars like Tom Cruise, Phillip Seymour Hoffman and Juliane Moore. One of the elements of the film that attracted me was the music. On investigating this I found out that the director of this film Paul Thomas Anderson (Boogie Nights) was in love with Aimee’s music and so he asked her to score the entire film using her music. The music was like nothing I had ever heard so that inevitably led me to look through her catalogue of music.

I started with an album called “Batchelor No.2” which I believe to be one of the best albums I own. In this album Aimee doesn’t just give you music, she gives you a window to her own personal fears and anxieties. Many music critics have described the music as raw because it has a lot of depressing lyrics though the melodies are not always in a minor tone.

If you are the sort of person who has an inner dialogue that criticises you and tells you you’re not good enough like I do then you can hear this argument in her music. Aimee isn’t always writing about herself she plays the parts of different characters and can be offering advice too.

Lost in Space is one of my favourite go to albums when I’m feeling a bit low. The album is about people who have a drug dependency. Aimee would compare taking taking heroin to being lost in space. The album has a number of fascinating rhymes which really stretch the imagination. Aimee once rhymed “Margaret Thatcher” with “Compound Fracture”. For me the most moving track on this album is titled “Its not” which I have included an excerpt of below:

“So here I’m sitting in my car at the same old stop light. I keep waiting for a change, but I dont know what.

So red turns in to green turning into yellow, and I’m just frozen here on the same old spot.

And all I have to do is to press the pedal, but I’m not, no I’m not”

I find these lyrics beautiful and very clever in the way they play with metaphor to describe a feeling we all have in life. Hidden expectations we are all expected to live up to. People around us who all seem to know the right way to live their lives and know all of the choices they need to make it happen.

I think if you don’t like to think about your music then this isn’t for you, and if you’ve never dabbled in self deprecation then this perhaps isn’t for you but I’d try it anyway. This music might be downbeat but it sends an important message that we’re not alone in how we feel.

I recently found out bizarrely that Aimee in the past lent her vocals to Canadian rock trio Rush for their famous single “Time Stands Still”. Aimee also plays the girl who had her toe chopped off in the Coen Brothers film “The Big Lebowski”

Mental Illness is Aimee’s new album and lends itself to the territory of how people with mental illness cope in their day to day lives. I haven’t yet fully explored the content but I’m excited for what new fruit will come from it.

Aimee is still touring, I had the pleasure of seeing her in London and picked up a signed copy of Charmer. Aimee is such a bright and funny woman that you might not think she is capable of writing such sad music but perhaps this is one of those ironies in life, the funniest can often be the saddest inside. Please give Aimee’s music a try and let me know what you think.

What I need to do less of

1. Stop being miserable – even if I am sad at times I must always try to be nice to other people. I am very conscious that my resting face is the personification of watching my own mother being molested so I need to switch things up and even when I am knee deep in the dullest of conversations I need to plaster on a big old smile.
Being miserable doesn’t just hurt me and my life, being miserable rubs off on other people, and at social events people don’t like it when you answer their question of “What’s your favourite sport” with “I like the one that is played forever and ever on a constant cycle of winners and losers aimlessly until I die”.

2. Stop being selfish – altruistic behaviour is crucial for a happy life. It is hard not to be selfish because we are wired to work that way but we do have a choice. Doing good deeds for others is the main sweetness in the fruit cake that is life.

3. Stop eating so much – I accidently shaved off my beard the other day as the razor broke and I thought as I looked in the mirror, you fat chin-less nothing. I need to lose weight and always have but I am at the point now where I will live until about 60. The problem I have is that food is delicious. A chocolate bar is never going to taste the same as an apple. My girlfriend told me she ate at Apple the other day and it made her feel full up. I am considering renting out my stomach as storage space for when people move house.

4. Being afraid – I have moments where I am scared to try something or put myself in a tough situation but life is about living and sometimes if we push ourselves now we will thank ourselves later. I have a funny feeling about flying and fear of turbulence but I need to travel the world, so I must force myself to go against my instincts as I will thank myself for the life experience.

5. Start listening to my parents – my parents have a lot to say and often I will disregard them because they don’t have a complete grasp of the modern world. My parents are the only people in the world who will do anything for me so I need to appreciate that. Even if they don’t always show it, they have my best interests at heart.

6. Stop listening to my parents – My parents can say things that poison my mind and can tell me hurtful things. Sometimes rather than being direct and having a heart to heart emotional conversation instead they will say something hurtful as though I should know better and just indirectly pick up what they’re trying to say. I can always remember when I got offered a new job, I was so excited and when I called to speak to my parents the first thing they said was “How much is the salary?” A little bit put a back I told them and they were disappointed, they said I had to ask for more money. I tried with the employer and they turned me down. My mother then said in a passive-agressive tone “Oh well never mind, I suppose it’s a step in the right direction to getting a good job”. I felt so deflated, I couldn’t be excited again. It felt like a wake up call. I try to protect myself by not telling them things that make me happy because I don’t want them to undermine the happiness I have.

7. Acting like nothing matters – yer okay humans are insignificant! and yer okay there is no god!, and yer okay the planet is on a trajectory into a sun! and yer okay all humans are essentially animals that have predictable reproductive cycles that become about as cliché as the sun rising and setting but things have value. I need to take a leaf out of Stoicism and say to myself none of this is in my control. I am aware of all of the above and I can still wake up in the morning. Ignorance is definitely bliss and I must try to enrich people’s lives by being loving, caring and considerate.

8. Being a shit friend – I have always been a crap friend, I have paid for it in my life by losing some wonderful smart people. Life moves on and our lives change but I can’t help think of the NIN lyric “Through the stains of time, the feelings disappear. You are someone else, and I am still right here”. I need to do altruistic things to overcome my own anxieties and if I work really hard and make an effort I know I can earn back and retain the friendship of the many I have lost and will inevitably lose later on.

What I hate most about you

Have you ever read a great book? You know, the kind of book where it is so thrilling that you can’t put it down? You are taken on a journey and it is exciting! When you have finally finish reading it you are a different person! In terms of Fictional books, for me what makes them great is that the characters are relatable and the narrative is full of wonder and intrigue. Other books you read don’t live up to that same standard and are full of clichés and are a chore to read.

I have decided people are like books. Some people are like great works that you find thrilling and others are like the twlilight series, a life long yawn. Some people can speak so well and put their point across with such eloquence, that it could be compared to great prose found in literature. Some people though use tired old expressions and have no connection with you, simply because their experience of life is the size of a thimble.

Some people are just bland, they have no flair, no style. If these people were a cheese they would be cheddar. If they were a coffee they’d be a flat white. If they were a song they would be yellow by Coldplay. Predictable, boring, and worst of all I resent these people. Here is a non-exhaustive list of my distain

Crime 1: language

I love it when people can use language to perfectly describe their feelings but I hate it when people use tired old expressions or jokes. Someone approaches you at work and says “alright trouble?” I want to stab them through the heart with my biro. All of the below would be followed by a wink: 

  • Someone says to a pregnant woman “Must be baby brain!”
  • Someone is asked if they remember something “I’ve slept since then!”
  • A man is unwell “Must be man flu!”
  • You explain you have been shopping at Ikea “Hope you left some for the rest of us!”

    People stick to these ways of speaking because they have imitated other people. They have emptied their soul out and replaced it with dog shit. When people speak like this aesthetically there are no signs of life. I get so sick and tired of this tired drivel that I sometimes don’t even acknowledge their attempt at humour. For the likes of these boring people though this is a zesty enterprise, exchanging these tedious jokes back and forth and laughing all the way.

    Crime 2: Subject matter

    Some people can’t take deep or irreverent conversation. You get onto the subject of a popular TV series and they’ve never heard of it. You talk about a famously well known musician and they don’t know them. You asking them for cooking tips and they can’t remember the last time they didn’t heat up a ready meal. You ask them about how to live a life and they take a piss in your soup by trying to justify Christian scripture. You ask them what exciting things they want to do with their lives and they say it’s really hard because of looking after he kids. When you have squeezed a sponge for so long eventually not another drop is going to come out and you have to decide that there is nothing more to get out of this person!

    Crime 3: Status

    Some people have delusions of grandeur, they think they deserve a higher platform than most people. We all have narcissistic qualities but we dont all act on them. Not everyone is arrogant and obnoxious. Not everyone buys the most expensive sports car and brags about their six figure income. They think that wine is more sophisticated than beer. They think jazz is the only genre worth listening to. There are other people who love their families so much it consumes them. Ever other day they’re round their parents talking about old times, uploading pictures on facebook constantly of a stupid picture with their mum with a caption that reads “Me and my bestie”. These people talk about little Rupert’s first day at secondary school like we give a fuck. They show you a picture of their sons graduation from a degree at Bolton University and you just nod and smile. You look at the parents eyes and they say to you “One day you’ll know this feeling when you have children” Oh wow thanks, it’s so nice to know I can’t be truly content until I can ride off the achievements of my children! Modesty and self depreciating qualities are an endangered species now. Social media has convinced Britain of the American view which is that you are he most important thing in the world and everyone wants to know about you.

    Crime 4: Emotional Fragility

    How many times have you heard of someone getting upset because the conversation goes somewhere they don’t like. If boundaries were distances some people can circle the earth with the amount of subjects they can explore no matter how dark or frightening. Other people’s boundaries are about 6 feet. Please don’t talk about what upsets me. Well you know what, the world isn’t a bubble trying to protect you. If perhaps you allowed yourself to engage with conversations that scare you, you’d come out the other side being a stronger person. People who have a low tolerance for the horrible I call “Disneyland customers” They believe the world is about singing songs with clocks and candlesticks but refuse to digest the real world. If we’re all scared by the world surely we should pool our resources and share stories talking about what scares us? Instead though these people will block discussion at all costs and if you persist they take this as a personal insult.


    People are shit and they will always be toxic to be around. If you are different then I salute you. Read strange books, explore cultures, travel the world, expand your knowledge but most importantly never be afraid to express how you truly feel, whether that is through art or other passions. People deserve to be treated kindly and fairly. Some of the somewhat petty stuff above is a minor footnote on the struggle of life. If people chose to be a prisoner of the above mediocrity then that is their choice, but you don’t have to be a slave like the common man you can be your own person and break the chains!

    If you liked this drop me a comment and perhaps I could expand on more personal hatred.

    You should be afraid

    When I was a young boy I was fascinated with dreams and how they can take complete control of us. Although I often had fun telling tales of the places I had explored in my psyche I was still unsettled by them. As a young boy I was easily spooked and just so much as a 10 second clip of a horror film was enough to keep me awake at night and lent itself to nightmares. Some of the imagery in horror films plays on out fight or flight modes and gets the adrenaline running.

    I can remember when I was very young I would often sit awake in that darkness completely petrified. When you’re young a lot of basic things don’t make sense and you are constantly trying to make sense of the world. When you are having nightmares as a child you try to make sense of the madness and it is even more upsetting.

    I can remember a nightmare where I was on the moon trying to run away from some crazy surgeons with butcher knives. As I ran into the horizon I could see the whole of space and could see the earth glowing in the distance. As I was running away a sea monster larger than the whole planet appeared and swallowed the entire planet I was on. When I awoke from that dream I sat awake for 10 minutes trying to come to terms with what I had witnessed.

    The fear of nightmares used to ruin my sleep and it got the better of me. I used to go on this was for quite a long time. One evening I had a revelation. I was stirred from a nightmare like always and instead of staying in bed I stood up and walked to my bedroom window which looked out over the street I lived in. As I glanced out the window I saw the light from a large lorry zoom past and lit up the street. As soon as I saw that I realised that person is working. When I went to sleep I thought the whole world stopped but obviously it doesn’t. I started to think that actually the world is bigger than my nightmares. As I worried in bed people across the world were having the time of their lives, people getting married, holidays, new lives being brought into the world! I had nothing to worry about.

    As I grew older I watched horror films, played scary games and I kept testing my limits with horrors. As I have grown older I have learnt to appreciate the thrills of being scared. Life can be very hard and you don’t have to be afraid if you don’t want to. No matter what scares you, you’re much stronger than you think you are! 

    Open Mics (A guide)

    I have been to lots of open Mics at various setting and locations and I thought it would be good to offer some advice to those considering going.

    Finding the courage

    The first thing I would say is that Open Mics are not as scary as you might think they are. Normally the scary part is the build up to an open mic but once you’re on stage you soon find the strength to perform. Open Mics are a forgiving environment, and you don’t have to be a pro to be on stage. The crowd will understand if you fluff up a bit or if nerves get the better of you! And let’s face it, what’s the worst that could happen? You make a tit of yourself for 5 minutes, who cares, you can always try again! I often say to myself that if I go up there and I completely fail then that is a good thing because it gives me something constructive to work on. Failing is much better than never trying, as never trying is the ultimate failure. Take a friend or family member who will support you and whatever you’re trying out just have fun with it!

    Practice practice practice!

    Before you go approach Open Mics be confident with your playing abilities. Practice your songs every day and try to imagine a setlist. Find friends or family to try out songs in front of. If you throw in some covers they might just sing along 😉

    Looking at venues

    I have played at folk clubs, cafes, pubs, bars, restaurants and creative music centres and they’re all different. I would say for sure first time a bar is good because it will be busy but you can get a little bit lost in the room. I know this sounds bad but if you fluff it’s not going to make you that embarrassed. In pubs the setting can be quite intimate, so a few sing along songs wouldn’t go amiss. In a creative music centre you normally have more freedom and they encourage fresh material. I would recommend going in to the place and checking it out if it’s your first time and making sure you like the vibe and if it’s good book yourself up!

    Picking songs

    Don’t pick anything that is too much of a challenge to begin with, you’ll thank yourself for some easy ones so you can just enjoy the atmosphere.  I try to pick songs that people know that aren’t so obvious, but people don’t mind wonder wall or Bob Dylan, so if that’s your thing knock yourself out! 🙂

    Tips for the big night:

    1. Get there on time – organisers really appreciate punctuality. If you show up early you also get a better chance of a slot!

    2. Watch your food and drink – I usually not to eat any food 3 hours before a performance because some foods can interfere with your singing. I usually only drink water as this helps your throat! Don’t drink alcohol for your nerves it’s not worth it. I’ve seen people go up drunk and struggle through, they make asses of themselves, please don’t do this!

    3. Tune your instrument – before you go on stage find a quiet place to tune your instrument so it’s ready to play. Tuning on stage is time wasting a bit but if you get up there and absolutely need to its not the end of the world.

    4. Enjoy yourself – remember that not anyone can go up on stage, you’re very brave! Remember to smile and be courteous thanking those who listen.

    5. Listen to others – when the show is over, don’t be a dick and just leave. Stick around and enjoy others perform. It’s respectful and you might make some new friends. I make a conscious effort to approach a performer I enjoy after their set and thank them for the performance, this means so much coming from a stranger.

    A lot of opportunities come from Open Mics, so enjoy them and play your heart out.

    The pain of haircuts

    As I write this I am sat in a hairdressers which is completely rammed full of customers. It seems no matter how early I arrive it’s busy. There is something unsettling about having my hair cut. Sometimes you find that hairdresser that I don’t mind talking with, and they can strike up mildly interesting conversation. More often than not I have either met the silent type that just appear dead inside. They have an expression that tells me their punishment has been being reincarnated as a hairdresser to work in this shitty Barbers. Or I get the arrogant loud mouth who tells you their whole fucking story and stop the whole procedure to give you specific details.

    When you go to a Barbers run by women they try to style mens hair to what they think men want. You look up at the walls which are littered with examples of styles that a straight man wouldn’t dream of. Magazines are on the table that are insultingly stereotypical. Fishing magazine, classic cars, GQ! Yeah? cause that’s all men summed up isn’t it! We all love fishing. Even if we did like GQ I don’t know how much I would gleam from a 2007 edition with Shea La boeuf on the front cover!

    I have experienced an endless search for the perfect hairdressers. I once made the mistake of going to a hairdressers which doubled as an academy. Most of the students looked so bored. My hair was a pain to them. They were just counting down the hours before they got to go out drinking and dance the night away to Calvin bloody Harris or whoever is popular at the moment I don’t care. When the student saw me she insisted on washing my hair and it felt like she burnt my scalp with hot water as she chatted away about gossip to her colleagues. “Mark hasnt called me back yet” she said. Yes, its because youre a fat stupid bitch who cant even manage to wash someones hair properly. I never understood their weird basin sinks that bend your spine out of proportion. I should have been stationed by a stretcher and an Iron Maiden! They give you a towel but there is always water that pisses down my neck and soaks the shit out of my shirt. When I was eventually allowed to have my hair cut which is what I had been waiting for the girl seemed to have less of an idea than I did and was constantly catching my neck with her sharp scissors. Later investigation revealed I had bled from the encounter. I noticed something strange. Normally when your fringe is being cut the barber would use their hand to shield your forehead and eyes from being smothered in hair. This girl instead just scissored away in a scattered fashion. The hair began to coate my eyes and I felt the urge to release my arm from the confines of the straight jacket they put me in and wipe the hair off. I looked at the girl and said politely. “I’m sorry but you were getting hair in my eyes” to which the girl replied “Yer, that happens when you get a hair cut!” I never went there again!

    I went to a Turkish Barbers and it was like Scarface. They all told me when I get my hair cut my girlfriend will screw me really well and she’ll love it. He asked me if I would be watching the game tonight and I replied “I would rather take a shit in a hat and wear it for the rest of my life” The sarcasm was lost on him and he looked confused. The haircut at least was completed much quicker following my comment. I did like being shaved with a razor in the Barbers though, felt like I had travelled back in time.

    I hate having to stare at my stupid dumb face whilst I have my hair cut. The moment you sit down you are expected to give a list of requirements. Some customers start giving measurements, grades and language that is lost in me. I normally just say “Little bit shorter and need a tidy up” this gets mixed results. I’m always afraid when I say shorter that they’re going to buzz the lot off and I’ll leave looking like Grant Mitchell. Not Ross Kemp the actor that plays Grant Mitchell. The character, when he first appeared in East enders before he became buff.

    Right now I am sat next to unwatched children in the Barbers and they’re fucking around restless. They keep hitting me and it’s so annoying. I looked the child in the eye and said “I wish you’d been aborted you little shit”.

    Obviously I didn’t really!

    Taking the long way home (a 20yr old guide)

    It was the 20th May 2017 and after checking in to our hotel in Paddington after a long trip from the South West we had a freshen up and it was time to see Roger. This would have been the second year in a row seeing him, only this time we would be 6 rows from the front of the stage at the Royal Albert Hall!

    We took a walk through Hyde Park on the way to the venue and it couldn’t have been more perfect. The sky was blue and there was enough sunshine to see the glory of the Albert memorial opposite. A sign outside with Roger on it confirmed tonight was the night!

    Many people crowded at the entrance but then we realised we weren’t entering from Arena F, we needed to walk round to Arena A! The entrance was eerily quiet but we managed to go straight in, oh my gosh this was exciting.

    We bought a quick drink and navigated to our seats. The stage was set. A large drum kit at the back accompanied by synths and in the middle a beautiful Yamaha Grand Piano. Rogers acoustic guitars all stood proudly in front of them alongside his keyboard. To the right side of the stage there was a table of numerous brass instruments and gadgets and gizmos. The stage was lit in a calming blue and green shrubbery had been brought in especially as if to create a relaxed feeling.

    The Royal Albert Hall seated over 5000 people that night, and the atmosphere was wonderful. The excitement built until they all graced the stage kicking off with “Take the long way home”

    All of my friends have no idea who Roger Hodgson is and I have to explain he is the mastermind behind the popular group ‘Supertramp’. Normally a few songs being played from the album ‘Breakfast in America’ confirms to them that they know the group! As much as people should know who Roger is we like the fact that we get it and others don’t. Being in our 20s makes the music more special and sentimental to us.

    The night was full of staggering music and a quick glance round the room showed me that the audience was buzzing and having just as much fun as the group on stage. I believe that the group who play with Roger are just as incredible as the man himself and all deserve great admiration for their musical abilities. We found much amusement to learn that some of his Canadian colleagues tried hard to practice some of the lyrics which are required to be sung in a British accent.

    I am 29 years old and my girlfriend who is 22 both love Roger and have adored all of his music (yes all! Every album back to back). We don’t just love him because of his music alone. When you see him live he confirms to you what a good hearted man he is. I don’t believe it is possible to create such heartfelt lyrics as Roger does without knowing how to connect with people and he does that with ease.

    Roger played some great tracks from In the Eye of the Storm, Breakfast in America, Crime of the Century and an exquisite performance of Fools Overture from ‘Even in the Quietest Moments’ on Grand Piano. There were countless other tracks but he picked some lovely lesser known tracks, well, at least lesser known to most people.

    By the moment ‘Dreamer’ kicked in we both immediately stood up from our seats and started clapping and dancing for Roger. The people around us weren’t as quick and for a moment Roger was in direct eye contact. Roger looked directly at us and delivered that wonderful smile and a wink. Having that briefest of connections with Roger was a wonderful moment.

    The room was now anything but still. Everyone in the audience felt commanded to stand up and have a dance. Song after song it got better. The happiness was in the air around us and you could feel it right through your soul. Roger made us both intensely happy that night and he deserves great thanks.

    A well deserved encore brought more fun including most of the audience taking out their umbrellas and dancing to “Its raining again”. I didn’t want it to end. The bittersweet thing about seeing Roger perform is that it feels very fleeting because he takes you on such a journey through his own life with his wonderful music.

    I have learnt that Roger does take requests so if we are lucky enough to see him perform again next year I will request my favourite song “Poor Boy” from the album ‘Crisis what Crisis’. I can imagine his accompanying vocalist doing a superb job of those crazy sounds at the beginning.

    The show was now over and we loved every second of it. We stepped outside of the Royal Albert Hall confirmed that Hyde Park was locked for the night. Being unable to find a taxi we decided to “take the long way home” which seemed fitting.

    Thanks for the giving us young folks a wonderful night Roger, you move us with your music and for that we are all eternally grateful.