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Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Walking The Walk

I'm not one for making New Year resolutions, something I've talked about here before and which I'm intending to write a new post about soon by the way. But, if I was, one thing that would feature would be getting out into the great British countryside and doing some walking.
Walking is something I started to do some years ago now, mainly as an alternative to running as my knees were starting to grumble about that.
But, due to seeming to have less time over the past two years, for the right reasons I might add and also because you just get out of the habit of doing something, I've not done any 'proper' walking during that period.
So yesterday I decided that now was the time to try and get back into that habit, but where to go?

One of the great things about walking is that it can take you to new, interesting and sometimes spectacular places, places that you would probably never visit and see otherwise. That's usually because they are a bit out of the way, which is what I prefer anyway.
Of course walking can be done just about anywhere, but I've always preferred to go to places that allow you to be in relative solitude.
Going for a walk with a large group of people, who spend their whole time talking, seems to defeat part of the object of going to these places in the first place. That's not to say that I don't enjoy company when walking, even though I find myself walking alone more often than not.
The shared experience of a nice walk, in scenic surroundings and with good company, is something not to be sniffed at. But personally I'd draw the line at a maximum of four people and to be perfectly honest would probably prefer it to be less than that.
That's one reason why I tend to walk during the week and not at weekends. There are less people around to disturb you and you often have the whole area to yourself, which can be a pretty special experience.

When faced with a choice we often choose the familiar, which is why I ended up in one of my favourite spots in the East Sussex countryside yesterday, the area around the Long Man of Wilmington.
It's an area I've walked around many times before. Wilmington is only a 40 minute drive from my home and the area contains all the elements that make a great walk. Stunning scenery, history, wildlife and the challenge of some fairly tough walking conditions, with some steep climbs, as the photo above suggests.

Yesterday had the added bonus of frost as thick as snow and natural light that was simply amazing to behold. These two videos shot from part way up and at the top of the hill, in the photo above, will hopefully show all of that?

As this was pretty much an unplanned walk, I had no idea where I was going to walk after I got to the top of Windover Hill. After much indecision, I did a circular walk which brought me back to the Long Man via Alfriston, a pretty village now rather spoiled by traffic. A victim of its location and beauty perhaps?
Alfriston does host the first property ever bought by the National Trust though, namely Clergy House and a church sometimes called "The Cathedral of The Downs".

What Alfriston doesn't have though is any mobile phone coverage, at least not on my network anyway. I know this isn't something that should concern you when you're enjoying a walk to supposedly get away from it all. But if you compare that to the top of Windover Hill, in the prescence of ancient burial mounds and mystical hill figures, which has perfect 4G coverage, it does make you wonder.
From Alfriston, in the Cuckmere valley, it's a steep climb back to the top and a final chance to pause and take in the view, before the descent back down to the village of Wilmington.
Although it's only an estimate, I think I walked a total of around seven miles. Like a fool I forgot to take my pedometer with me, next time...
Nevertheless the crisp, fresh air and exercise were what I came here for, not to worry about the amount of miles I'd covered in the process.

For the vast majority of this walk I was alone, with not another soul in sight, but one nice aspect of walking in areas such as this, is that everybody you do meet says "Hello" or "Good Morning" to you. Maybe it's a recognition that you are a like minded soul, someone who appreciates where they are and the effort that it took to get there?

It doesn't matter how many times I walk around this area, there is always something new to see and discover. That's as good a reason as any to keep returning.
The photo above is of something very familiar to me though. This tree, once again on the top of Windover Hill, can be seen from the railway line mentioned in one of those earlier videos.
I've travelled on that line hundreds, if not thousands, of times and on just about every occasion I have looked across, through the train window, and seen that tree standing there.
Over the years, from before I'd ever climbed this hill, this tree has become a favourite landmark of mine. As you can see, Windover Hill is aptly named and I suspect that one day the wind will take its toll, but I hope that that day is well into the future.

To prove that you never quite know what you're going to find, or see, when you venture out into the countryside. Just as I was approaching Wilmington at the end of my walk, I came across a man walking his dog and 'flying' his pet Harris's hawk. A beautiful bird, and one I'd never seen before, but not something you expect to see sitting on a hedgerow when you come round a corner on a public footpath!
A surprising, but very welcome, end to a lovely stroll and a reminder, as if one were needed, of why I really should do this more often.
The 'plan' is that I will do just that.
Watch this space, as this is a topic I may well be returning to in the future.

PS: All video and photo's were taken by myself using my iPhone.

Sunday, 28 December 2014

They Just Don't Make Them Like That Anymore.

Over these past few days I have had the sudden urge to watch a few classic black and white films, all from the 1940's as it happens.
I don't really know why that is, but after watching the first, "It's a Wonderful Life" (well it was Christmas Eve), I've found myself watching a couple more. Yesterday it was "Casablanca" and today "The Third Man".
If you know any of those films, and if you don't I suggest you rectify that straight away, you'd probably agree with me that films don't come a lot better than that.
I've seen these films many times before, but as I said to someone yesterday, not having watched any of them for a few years, it was like being reunited with an old friend.
I must admit that I don't consider myself to be that much of a film buff. As much as I appreciate the artform and the entertainment provided by films, personally I'd much rather listen to music. But there does come a time when I have that sudden urge to watch a film, or two, or three. In fact, I remember thinking to myself a while ago now, that if I ever had the time to spare I'd like to watch a film a day. I don't expect that to ever happen, except over short periods, so maybe I appreciate films more than I think?
Having said that, the last thing I'd want to do nowadays is to watch a film in a cinema, those days are almost certainly gone. The thought of sitting listening to people eating, slurping drinks, talking on and fiddling with their mobile phones, while trying to concentrate on that film and having to pay for the privilege fills me with dread.
I'd much rather sit in the relative comfort of my own home and watch a film of my choice, at my leisure and with who I want, or even alone if the fancy takes me.
Anyway, back to my original point....
After posting a Facebook update yesterday about having just watched "Casablanca", I became involved in a discussion about these classic black and white films and why they still have so much appeal.
For me one of the main reasons is that, generally, films from that golden era are around 90 minutes long and never seem to outstay their welcome. Everything that needs to be said is crammed into those 90 minutes, with not a minute of film wasted. Many films today don't do that and quite often go on for far longer than necessary, usually well over 2 hours, a point often made by reviewers.
Then there is that aspect of those films being like old friends that you can return to again and again and never be let down. We all like to be entertained, or maybe even challenged by the new, but there's something about the familiar that is comforting and reassuring. Most of us will reach for the familiar if we want to chill out and relax.
During that Facebook conversation I made the comparison between those 1940's films and the classic three minute Pop song. That may seem like a bit of leap of the imagination, but neither outstay their welcome, they just get stuck in, do what they have to do and get out again, before anyone starts to shuffle uncomfortably in their seat.
Maybe I should start thinking about that when writing blog posts? Hmm........

Sunday, 7 December 2014

A Man Is Not A Man.....

Well, I've been looking through some of those old note books, mentioned in my last post.

They certainly make fascinating reading, as they go back quite a few years. I can see some themes among the many jottings and notes within the pages and some very interesting thoughts and ideas too. I've no doubt I'll be using at least some of them here, over time.

There was one note that jumped out at me though and it was one that I'd completely forgotten about too. It was a comment on an old YouTube video of mine, which I'd made a note of. I have no idea which video it was, but the comment said, "A man is not a man until his father dies".

I've just Googled that quote to see if it may have been an old saying, but I can't find any suggestion of it being so. It does sound like an old quotation doesn't it and the kind of thing you'd find in a book?

I'm guessing that the comment was on a video I may have made when my own father died, back in January 2010. I may just have to go back and check.
I'm not sure that I would agree with the comment particularly, but I can certainly understand the meaning behind it.

I was already in my early 50's when my father died, when he was 92, so whether his death had any major impact on my life I'm not that sure, that's apart from the obvious grief and emotional impact that is.

One thing I would say though, is that that event was just the start of a pretty momentous year for me and one that has changed and influenced my life ever since. The whole year was a bit of an emotional rollercoaster.

As mentioned my father died in January 2010. My mother-in-law then died suddenly, just over a month later. My father's death was not a shock, due to his age and the fact that he'd not been well for a while. But my mother-in-laws death certainly was, so you can probably imagine the impact that had on the extended family, especially the grandchildren, to whom she was very close.

One aside from this is that, at my fathers funeral service, I gave a speech about his life and one that was very well received as it happens. Strangely enough, I didn't find that anywhere near as hard as I thought I would.
This was one area where my past experience of vlogging and talking into a video camera was a help. I treated the speech as a kind of vlog and, in an ironic twist of fate, the person I concentrated on most of the time during that speech was my mother-in-law. I have no idea why, but her's was the face that I found myself using as a form of video camera lens (I hope that makes some kind of sense?)

Part three of my annus horribilis was losing my job and being made redundant in June of 2010. Once again this was a shock, as although I knew changes were afoot, nobody expected staff members to lose their jobs, least of all me. I wasn't the only one by the way.

Naturally, this had a huge impact on my life both then and since. I was lucky in that I came out the other side in a fairly good state and am happier doing what I do now, than I ever was at work back then.
I was also lucky in that I had other interests and potential projects to fall back on, some of which were in the pages of those old note books.
So, in many ways, I am better off now than then, although not financially. But, I have learned that money isn't everything.
One possible regret though, is that I've never had the chance to go back and thank them for getting rid of me.

In September of 2010 my younger sister was diagnosed with breast cancer. Thankfully that was detected early and the subsequent treatment has meant that she is now back to full health. But, once again, this was another of those episodes that makes you stop and think about life, the universe and everything.

Since that year, my life has changed in many ways and it has also been a lot less traumatic too, thankfully. But it has changed my whole outlook on life, work, pleasure and passions. I've made many changes and I suspect there will be more to come.
I'm looking forward to it.

Change may not always come in the ways that you want it to, or would like it to. It can creep up on you when you least expect it and often there's nothing you can do about it.

Sometimes, it's not the changes themselves that affect your life, it's how you react to them. I've always tried to have a 'glass half full' mentality and I think that helped me through that year and beyond.

So, although I'm not sure that the death of my father was quite the event that made me a man, that whole year may well have been, at least, part of the reason that I am now the man I am?

PS: I've checked and I made a whole series of videos about my father's illness and subsequent death.
This is the first one: A Matter of Life and Death the 2nd is: Life is a Rollercoaster and then are a few more on the Rollercoaster theme, if you're interested. As to why I made and shared those videos? Well, maybe that's a topic for another post?

Thursday, 4 December 2014

Write It Down

I mentioned in my last post about constantly having ideas, which if I'm not careful quickly dissapear without trace into the void that is my brain.

For that very reason, I usually carry some kind of notebook and a pen around with me. The size of which depends on what I'm doing and where I'm going.
Of course, these days a mobile phone can be very useful for the same purpose. So I also find myself jotting down 'notes', or recording voice memo's into the phone. The wonders of modern technology eh?

I've been doing this for a few years now and it's amazing how much 'stuff' you can commit to paper, or phone, over time. I am currently well into my second bigger notebook, as well as still using my smaller version too.

After all, you never know when inspiration may strike and, as often happens, it can hit at the most unlikely and inappropriate moments. So having a means of making a note about that great world changing idea, or thought, is very useful

I sometimes find that, when making those notes, they can almost turn into a kind of blog post as the idea grows and expands before your eyes and your pen is frantically trying to keep up with your thought process. In fact I've been known to fill up a whole sheet of A4 paper with scribbling, before transferring the salient points to the 'proper' notebook.

(I've just noticed that I actually have another four notebooks, with loads of video ideas in them, sitting just to the side of me on my computer desk. I'd forgotten all about them, as they are several years old now and are a bit of a leftover from the days when I used to make several YouTube videos a week. I know what I'm going to be doing after finishing writing this post....)

Looking back through those books can make very interesting reading (see above).
I have notes about ideas for long abandoned schemes, websites, and apps, quotes I've heard, or read, titles of books to be read, or music to be listened to and much more.
The original ideas for both the Pierless Music website/service and The Stinger magazine can be found within those pages for example.

Keeping those old notebooks for future reference can be very rewarding too, as you never know when one of those abandoned ideas may be resurrected. Sometimes ideas are written down that you know you don't have the time for, or can commit the effort to, at that moment. So the books become a kind of storage area, ready to be accessed when the time is right.

In fact, that exact thing happened to me yesterday.
I had a meeting with somebody and during the course of the discussion I mentioned an idea I'd had a year or so ago. The idea was favourably received and the upshot of this is that I'm now going to look again into the possibilities of getting that idea off the ground, literally.
When I originally jotted that idea down, I didn't really think it was viable, rather more of a pie in the sky scheme. I did some intial research and then turned the page and went onto something else.

I was reminded of another, partly forgotten, scheme recently as well. It's one of those that I don't have the time to take any further right now, but at least all the notes and original thoughts are still there, waiting to be acted upon at some time, maybe.

So you never know. And if there's a lesson to be learned here it's that jotting those ideas, schemes and thoughts down may seem like a waste of time, and a bit of hassle, but you just never know when they may come in handy. And if you don't write them down, you can be sure that you'd never remember them again.

I know I'm very pleased that I've taken the time and made the effort to do just that over the years.

How about you?

Wednesday, 3 December 2014

I'm Still Alive.

So here I am over a year since my last post on this particular site and if you happen to care about these things you're probably wondering where the hell I've been?
As it happens I've been busier than ever, but on other sites and with different projects.

My main focus has been with The Stinger magazine, a free independent local music magazine for the Hastings area. I'm the editor of the magazine and we're now building up to publishing our 6th issue in January. Here's a link to our website: The Stinger

I've also been busy with other projects, including my own local music website Pierless Music. You can find that here: Pierless Music

So, if I'm that busy why come back here? Good question and I'm glad you've asked it.

I guess the answer to that is that I feel inspired to do so. As to what has inspired me to start posting here again.... well that will have to wait for a future post, possibly.

All I will say is that inspiration comes from the most unlikely sources and at the most unexpected times.

I've recently found myself writing more frequent posts for the Pierless Music site and scribbling down ideas for other posts as well. All this has got me back into the habit of writing, something that I've had to do over the past year due to my involvement with The Stinger.
Being the editor of the magazine has naturally meant that I've been writing more anyway.

All that other writing has obviously been very music based and generally covering very local content too. Another aspect of this is that when writing for both The Stinger and Pierless Music, I'm not always writing for myself, more for the particular publication or website. Some of these posts are of a personal nature, but not probably the sort of thing I'd think to post here. And anyway, if you wanted to read those posts, you now have the web links to go and do so.

I've no doubt, in fact I know, that some of the posts I publish on here will be at least partly music based. That comes with the territory with me I'm afraid. But I do also intend these posts to be more personal.
I even started a personal Tumblr account some time ago, with the view to writing far more personal blog posts. That never came to anything, which in hindsight may well have been a good thing.

What I'm also hoping to do is to write in a far more 'stream of consciousnes's fashion. In other words, not to think about what I'm writing too much and just let the fingers do the talking and typing. In my experience, that usually leads to a more personal outcome anyway.
My plan is not to re-read, or edit things, too much. When writing for Pierless Music, or The Stinger, I frequently go back over the posts before pressing 'send'. There's a very good reason for that of course, but those reasons don't apply here.

For those who may know me from YouTube, that's something that I used to do there when making vlogs, but I seem to have got out of the habit of doing that, once again.

I do tend to find that both writing and making vlogs becomes a habit, which also means that it's a habit you can quite easily get out of. That's what has happened with my video making. Because I'm now having to write more, rather than record vlogs, that's the way my 'output' has gone.

My stream of ideas for either vlogs, or blog posts, has never dried up. One thing I'm never short of is ideas and topics to talk about. I forget far more ideas than I ever commit to print, or video.
For instance, I had a great idea for a post this morning, the inspiration for which came from something on my Twitter feed.
I promptly forgot what that idea was and only remembered it while walking around my local supermarket, as you do, which meant fumbling for my phone and making a note of what that original idea was.

So, let's see where this takes me this time. As always it's a case of wait and see. This may take off and develop into the kind of personal blog I've been meaning to commit to for a while now, or it could fall flat on its face, once again.

Ultimately though, it doesn't matter. After all it's a personal blog that answers to nobody but me. I just hope I don't disappoint myself along the way.

Thanks for getting this far.

I hope to 'see' you again shortly.

PS: I apologise in advance for any spelling mistakes and grammatical errors.