Zombie popularity may mean society is unhappy. But it doesn’t mean fans want to be the Zombies.


I read an article yesterday about the theory that zombie fads peak when society is unhappy. The researcher and writer of the piece is an American who is not a zombie fan herself. She is an English teacher who ‘can’t stand violence’ but found it interesting that zombie popularity in the US peaked at a time when ‘people felt that they hadn’t been listened to by the Bush administration’. The rise of popularity in the genre is a puzzling one, and it seems very plausible that the spread of ‘Zombie Walks’ and the growing popularity of zombie films and TV Series’ like the Walking Dead have something to say about society – and about our dissatisfaction with it. Otherwise surely we’d pick something a little less, you know, rotten.

I have been a horror fan, and fan of zombie flicks in particular since I was a little kid. Yes, I know you aren’t meant to watch that stuff when you’re a little kid, but I was a sneaky one. I think my first foray into the world of horror was watching A Nightmare on Elm Street when I was about seven after being expressly told by my mother not to, which, obviously, is why I watched it.

I have also been on one of the zombie walks that Lauro mentions in her article, although I wasn’t a zombie, I was on the run from them all over Bristol. The following year I played the part of a zombie myself. It was great fun.

Zombie’s aside, I love horror films, trashy horror novels, old and twisted children’s fables, Munch paintings, Grosz paintings, horror film scores, I could go on. So on one hand, I clearly have a passion and intrigue regarding the macabre in general, which partially explains why zombies appeal to me. However, on the other I think the appeal of zombies in particular, to me anyway, is something slightly different. And I do think it has something to do with dissatisfaction with society, but not quite in the way that Lauro mentions.

It was after all a comment on society that made zombies popular in the early days – when Romero and Savini were making their now cult classics. Their films clearly expressed dissatisfaction with society. While Night of the Living Dead commented on race and intolerance, Romero’s original Dawn of the Dead was the film that really struck a chord with me. It is a deviation, evolution or mutation of this original societal statement that has held my interest in the genre ever since, and it is that original statement I feel has led to the growing popularity of the zombie genre in recent years.

The original film was, among other themes, a comment on capitalism, and the lack of any real meaning that comes from blindly chasing things that aren’t necessary. That’s both the undead who unthinkingly chase flesh they don’t need to consume, and the group of survivors who end up in an abandoned shopping mall surrounded by all the things money can buy for the perfect consumer lifestyle, which now mean nothing at all.

It is this blind pursuit of material things without application of reason that is intriguing. Further than that I think the genre has gained popularity due to its theme of survival in it’s most raw and basic sense. It’s the theme of hunting, of going back to basics, back to the wild, to the brutal and unembellished skill of taking care of yourself without all the unnecessary things that we now pursue that appeals. It is also interesting that this theme first appeared in the genre in the late seventies, just before the ‘greed is good’ capitalist eighties. However, it is an unrest that has reared it’s head in horrific pop culture manifestations ever since, with the publication of books like Bret Easton Ellis’ American Psycho portraying the same loss of direction and retreat to violence in order to feel something real and visceral.

As we become increasingly removed from nature and buried in city life, and as new technology distances us from reality and throws us into the virtual, zombies represent something animal and a return to our roots.

In a horribly escapist, simplistic and brutal way of course.

Whether or not fans would want the situations we love so much on screen to occur in reality, (let alone whether we could actually survive them, softened as we are) it’s a way to use the neglected part of our psyche that wonders what would happen if zombies really were.

The genre also addresses a loss of traditional ‘masculinity’. I say this for lack of a better word, as I am a woman, and feel the same way. What I mean is a lack of hands on, necessary pursuits, a lack of having to fight for your survival and fend for yourself. A disconnect from nature and necessity.

Modern living, in places like Britain and America at least where the genre is incredibly popular, is often so sterile it can lead to a lust for getting back to basics. We live a life full of internet friendships, of shrink wrapped meat that bears no resemblance to what it once was, of vitamin pills, fashion, music that appears for judgment in various ‘streams’, likes and shares on Facebook and other social media, design and cult interests that are supposed to display your personality.

You can log in your location to show people the trendy places you have been. You can hire people to do your odd jobs, learning a practical trade has lost it’s respect and doesn’t pay as well anymore. Industry is dying – contracted out to the point that we see no assembly at all, we just buy the finished product. The closest we get is the pre-cut and sanded kit complete with allen keys from Ikea, with that confused little bloke on the manual, baby stepping us through the process just in case we still can’t work it out. We make up for this lack by doing a bit of DIY on the weekend, you know, with real tools. Nothing is hands on anymore, and like the zombies, we are lost and lacking a sense of purpose.

To me, zombies are appealing as they are something to fight against. They make me picture myself as the survivor, fighting that dead, decaying and purposeless part of myself. The survivor is free from banal and pathetic concerns about Spotify appearing in their stream to be judged by someone else, the concerns about the place they live and the way they dress. They are immune to and unaware of marketing, of unnecessary embellishment.

They just survive the way they want to and have to, roaming and fighting their way out of the droning, baying crowd who so badly want to bite them them and make them just another zombie – senseless, rotting, consuming and mindlessly wandering in herds. Without ever wondering what the purpose of it is.

But then maybe that’s just me.


Green Fingers – Has decreasing farm industry increased the Cannabis trade in the Caribbean?

A while ago I interviewed a couple of dealers about the difference between the drug trade in the north, dealing in the south, and about the scene in good old Brizzle town. Although the towns varied, the reasoning behind dealers entering their particular trade was similar – as was their attitude toward dealing as not differing much from any legal business transaction. When I got the opportunity to interview a dealer in the Caribbean who briefly worked in New York but had to return for ‘business reasons’ I was intrigued. Turns out, we may be miles apart, but people’s motivations are similar the world over.

Bit of background – I met Jason in Trinidad. He lives with his girlfriend, (who he met in Queens, New York) and their two year old son. Jason grew up in Rio Claro, on the less wealthy agricultural side of the island. The divide between rich and poor in Trinidad is huge, and obvious. The housing ranges very visibly from traditional shanty accommodation on one side to Americanised gated communities on the other.

Jason moved to New York after getting into trouble with the Trinidad for growing and selling cannabis, and was told to either leave the country or face charges. He returned after getting into an altercation with dealers in Queens which ended in hospitalisation after a knife fight. Due to his girlfriend falling pregnant, he hoped to start a new life in Trinidad, free from the drug trade.


Sign in a typical trini rum shop – one of the bars in Rio Claro

This is what Jason told me about his experiences and motivations for getting in to the trade to begin with, and why he remains in the trade now despite the trouble it has caused him.

“It first occurred to me that I could make a bit of cash selling [cannabis] because I was around it with my family all the time. They didn’t sell, but they smoked a lot, and bought from friends who came round to chill lout, have a beer and a smoke. It always seemed pretty normal and relaxed to me. The main trade by us was growing sugar cane but that all went, so it was just growing peppers and avocadoes and whatever you had space for in the end. It’s really easy to grow good stuff here, and when I planted a couple of seeds from some weed my parents bought it was really easy to get a good plant”.

“We never had any money, but we did have a lot of space, so it seemed kind of stupid scraping by trying to make money growing peppers to sell, which everyone can grow themselves in their gardens anyway. You can make so much more money growing weed in the same space. From one seed you can grow about a quarter of Mary Jane, and it’s so easy to get hold of, so it just made sense”.


Weed grown from a couple of seeds – rather than grinding weed, Trinis’ smoke it pure, wrapped in a rizla and added to the top of a straight cigarette.

“Most of the police here smoke too, and the government and police make a lot of money off the sale of weed and coke. As long as you aren’t causing them trouble, they pretty much stay out of your way. I don’t really see what I’m doing as wrong. I’m not hurting anyone. I have a field out in the middle of nowhere, and people want to buy what I’m selling. I feel like it’s a pretty honest job. There are so few jobs available over here unless you can afford and education. It’s either selling stuff you grow at market, or trimming weeds or filling pot holes in the roads. I do that too in the mornings, before it gets too hot and so do most of my friends, but the money is bad and you can only do it when you’re young really. It’s really manual tiring work”.

“I have family now and I want them to have a nice home and look after them. I bought the house with the money I made selling and I couldn’t ever have bought it otherwise. Most people in their twenties are still living with their parents, the girls get married young so they get a house. If you are a man you need to have your own home or they won’t be interested. That’s what got me in trouble over here. One side of the island is still really poor, and no one wants to look worse than anyone. I couldn’t get a house over on the San Fernando side – that’s where all the educated people with the oil money go (oil has replaced growing sugar cane as the islands main export, and many of the men now work out at sea on the rigs). I wouldn’t fit in. But the guy with the pepper field next to mine got jealous that I was making money”.


A traditional Trinidad market selling a variety of goods grown locally on the island

“People here hate seeing other people do well as most of the island is so poor. They don’t think it’s fair, and it’s not. It’s really hard for people here to get out of their situation because there’s so little else to do unless you leave the country. It’s getting better, and more people are getting educated now, but the island is small, and the inequality is so easy to see every day. It makes people angry and jealous”.

So for the moment, Jason is back in the drug scene but he is he is keeping that fact from his family. He hopes to find better work, and would like his son to get a better education than he did and stay living on the island.

The issue in this case is the cost of education and the limited number of jobs available. The culture on the island is changing fast and traditional Trini ways of life are being rapidly replaced by American values. With the biggest of those values being capitalist and material ideals – which are incredibly at odds with the islands traditional Hindu values – the wealth divide is an uneasy one. Combine that with a very public knowledge of a corrupt policing system, and it seem for now at least that illegal trades will take a lot to reform. There is currently government debate about legalising sale of the drug, and whether this will limit the problems that arise from widespread illegal trade.

<p><a href=”https://plus.google.com/112871526562974380630″ rel=”author”>Natalie</a></p>

Argh! Algebra! The danger prescriptive learning.


I was pretty cheerful last month as I managed something that this time last year I never thought I would be able to do. I passed my Google Analytics IQ test. One reason among many that I would not have been able to do this last year, is that I had no idea what Google Analytics was.

I am not by nature a techy person. I did a degree in Literature and Philosophy and work in Marketing, so I’m used to having room for creativity and for shades of grey.

However, since I started working at a web design company, I have become aware of all sorts of things I never knew existed – techy things, you know, logical, geeky things. I have also really started to enjoy learning them, in large part becuase the people I work with are very encouraging and willing to teach me. I also enjoy them becuase now I’m teaching myself, I have realised logical things don’t exist in a vacuum. The techy stuff is in fact very creative, and more importantly, that logic and creativity overlap so completely that by learning many different areas, your knowledge of all of them is augmented and improved.

I have started to learn to code, which I am enjoying a surprising amount. I don’t have to learn this, it is just something I stumbled upon through work and which I wanted to learn more about. Thankfully, the internet is full of places that will teach you things for free. I went to a very traditional all girls’ school in Lincolnshire, and was from an early age made very aware by my teachers that I wasn’t any good at maths or statistics. For fear of my GCSE grades reflecting badly on the school (an 11+ streamed school) I was dumped into the bottom set where the teachers attempted to drag my dim mind up to at least a C-Grade for the sake of the league tables.

The thing is, as with many of the other subjects taught in a ‘traditional’ way, I had no point of reference to demonstrate how what I was being taught fit in with anything outside it. There was no creativity, or inkling to encourage an inquisitive nature regarding the wider implications of the lessons. That is why I was so pleased to pass my Analytics exam – it served as a reminder that the sight of anything that looks vaguely algebraic can still (17 years on!) strike fear and disillusion into my soul, but that the fear is in the main unfounded.

Through much effort, it seems I am better at teaching myself, and thankfully, due to the good old internet, I have the opportunity to do so. I can learn with people from all over the world, for free. There are forums where you can ask others who are learning, and work things out together. It’s interactive, subjects and cultures overlap, and the context of what you are learning can be applied in your life. You also have the opportunity to be inquisitive, and like never before, the ability to find things out for yourself.

This seems to be something that Michael Gove is keen to deny, despite evidence, expertise and advice to the contrary. Prescriptive learning simply doesn’t fit in today’s society. Learning by rote and limiting study areas to that of your nationality is surely a step backwards. It’s not that the topics on the curriculum are not worthwhile, as I say, I’m a literature and philosophy graduate so Shakespeare and romantic poetry get my thumbs up. But that can’t be it. Limiting what children learn and taking it out of context makes it inapplicable, and much harder to understand.  It also stops children’s natural inquisitive side wanting to learn more.

Thankfully, children are more imaginative and intelligent that Mr Gove gives them credit for. More realistic and knowledgeable people like the quite brilliant Sugata Mitra have realised the potential of children to learn without the restrictive and outdated methods proposed by the education secretary. In this brilliant TedTalk, he shows just how capable children are if given the freedom and opportunity to work things out for themselves. He also shows the way in which globalised learning – and learning about places and events unrestricted by geographical limits – comes quite naturally. Surely this is hugely important in an age where global trade, travel and communication are so intrinsic to the way we live.

The curriculum Gove proposes harks back as many people so often do, to a fictional ‘golden era’ of education and national pride. Even if such an era did exist in the way it seems to in Gove’s mind, it is limiting, and it simply doesn’t fit anymore. We should encourage children to use the new resources they are so comfortable with to learn about the wider world, about how disciplines overlap, about how people have progressed throughout history without propaganda. They should also to be given freedom to see how what they are learning really applies to the world around them.

If we do this, odds are they will be much wiser and more tolerant than the generation before them, not to mention a lot more confident about their skills.





Doesn’t seem that long ago…

I went to a friends wedding at the weekend, a friend from uni that I lived with for my first two years in Bristol. I lived with her and another lovely lady, who got married a couple of weeks ago.

The wedding was beautiful, and it was really good to see them both again. It struck me looking round while the speeches were going on how much we had all changed. Everyone was chatting about jobs and houses and kids, everyone seeming happy and settled.

However, the nice thing about this wedding was how well we had known each other before all the settling, about the amount of times we had discussed what the hell we would be doing, right about now. The nicest realisation was that we were all, in one way or another, doing it, or at least heading roughly on the right road to doing it, give or take the odd diversion en route. The other thing about this wedding was the feeling that some of the mystery had gone out of it. It’s an odd thing to explain, but I mean that in a really good way.

When we were all at uni together, we thought and chatted many times over incalculable glasses of Tesco’s cheapest wine about things like weddings and where we would be in the next few years. But there was a sort of mystery and magic, coupled with a complete lack of understanding or reality about how it would work. The kind of fluffy non-comprehension of marriage that comes from watching a million cheesy films where finding a bloke and getting the ring and the dress were the end of the story.

In these conversations, the thought of planning the bloody thing and the practicality of still being together, changing names on bills, fitting jobs and places to live around each other and all that stuff didn’t really factor in. However, having known this couple for a long time, having seen the ups and downs and reality of them being together, and then knowing they are still willing to take the big leap, realistic understanding in place is so much more impressive.

I am still a million miles and a mass of confusion off making the same leap, and it does seem strange and a little scary to be so far off given how many friends, many younger than me, seem to have got it all sorted, but it’s in a way a nice feeling.

I don’t pretend to understand anything to do with love more than I did a few years ago, but I do feel a little more realistic about it. I also feel a little more hopeful and honest with myself about the things you need to do to get it right. Yes, I still keep getting it wrong and messing it up, but at least I know that I want it, difficult bits and all.

Seeing two people I really care about, with all their differing personality traits and differing opinions getting to the point where they are so comfortable and full of understanding for each other made me so happy, and hugely proud of them. I hope one day I can be that happy too.

The nice thing is though, that there isn’t the urgency or the fear that used to go along with that feeling. Just the hope that one day I do figure it out the way they have, and the death of that expectation that it will be fluffy and perfect and all the other crap that you are led to believe it will be. It seems to be finding someone who really understands and can put up with your particular brand of crazy and love you anyway, the same way you love them. I think!

So good luck to Kezza and Paul, you’ll be an amazing and mad Mr & Mrs I’m sure. The day was beautiful for all the right reasons, and it’s lovely couples like you that make you see through all the bullshit and fluff and know that the reality of romance is much better than the nonsense and expectation you get taught to believe.



Don’t Try


I felt I needed to write something down. Something I wanted to share by way of advice, as catharsis and as a way to get anyone who has ever regretted anything (and who has not been honest with themselves or anyone else about it) to have a bit of a think.

I also wanted to share a poem (heave a sigh of relief, it’s not mine) by Charles Bukowski that I have been thinking about a lot lately in light in light of the aforementioned regrets and fuck ups.

In a nutshell, I’m speaking to anyone who has had something happen to them that they could not control which they have tried to bury or ignore. To anyone who has dealt with something in a way they wish they hadn’t and has found that situations have resulted as a consequence that they have lied to themselves about and felt ashamed.

If things have made you feel like a caricature of yourself, a self indulgent one sided myth that takes away all the tiny minutea of detail and shades of grey that actually make up the situation – because it’s easier to lie to yourself and those around you and ignore those details. Because to deal with them is much too scary.

If any of that strikes a chord, please read this poem. It’s wonderful, and had been forgotten to me until events lately put it repeatedly to the forefront of my mind.

It’s called Bluebird.

There’s a bluebird in my heart that wants to get out
but I’m too tough for him,
I say, stay in there, I’m not going to let anybody see you.
There’s a bluebird in my heart that wants to get out
but I pour whiskey on him and inhale cigarette smoke
and the whores and the bartenders
and the grocery clerks
never know that he’s in there.

There’s a bluebird in my heart that wants to get out
but I’m too tough for him,
I say, stay down, do you want to mess me up?
You want to screw up the works?
You want to blow my book sales in Europe?

There’s a bluebird in my heart that wants to get out
but I’m too clever, I only let him out at night sometimes
when everybody’s asleep.

I say, I know that you’re there,
so don’t be sad.

Then I put him back,
but he’s singing a little in there,
I haven’t quite let him die
and we sleep together like that
with our secret pact
and it’s nice enough to make a man weep,
but I don’t weep,
do you?

I wanted to share that with anyone who hid and imagined they were tougher than they are because they lied to themselves so effectively it was easy for other people to miss. You can easily construct a lie that people who don’t know you and don’t really care can accept. I wanted to share bluebird with  anyone who did this so they could hide themselves in other people.

Whether you hide in a crowd, or in booze, or in socially acceptable mind numbingly meaningless bullshit, it makes no difference. Mortgages, drugs, nice outfits and small talk, they’re all the same. The most dangerous thing you can do is convince yourself of something that isn’t true, just because you think bluebirds are too delicate to be seen. You need to sit on your own and acknowledge that they are there. Because everything else is a distraction, and distractions, even life long ones are plentiful and much easier to come by.

So to those I have hurt, disappointed or misled (and I include myself in each and every one of those groups) I am sorry. Sometimes you mess up so completely that it shows you a side of yourself you should have acknowledged rather than trying to choke it to death.

Bukowski’s tombstone reads ‘Don’t try’. Which sounds negative, but is, like all of his writing, beautifully and brutally honest. Those words refer to another poem ‘So you want to be a writer‘ which in an oversimplified summary advises you not to try. I suggest you read that poem, too.

What Bukowski means is if it’s honest, you don’t need to try. It’s when you stop trying that you realise are who you are, and it’s only when you accept that, you stop fucking things up.

So here’s a line from that to end on.

‘Unless it comes unmasked out of your heart and your mind and your mouth and your gut, don’t do it’.


Five thoughts…


I have been thinking more than writing for the last few weeks. Which is probably a good thing. In fact, thinking, then writing would be the best thing, but I haven’t managed to pull the two together for a while. Anyway, rather than writing a huge long post, I thought I would just check in, with a few things I have been pondering this week; for your perusal, for you to ignore, or for you to offer some answers should you have any. So, here goes…

1. Do people settle down when they are nearing thirty because they have just about managed to understand themselves? By this I mean everyone you went out with before was an effort to understand yourself, but when you do, you don’t need to try out different parts of yourself, so therefore the next person you get with is, by default, the one?

2. Are geeks actually much nicer than most of the people you meet, you just didn’t notice them because they were in their bedroom coding or whatever? This may mean all your cynicism about humanity is ill founded, it’s just that you met the wrong people because they were the only people out and about.

3. Are there a million couples who don’t actually get on, and have had nothing to say to each other for ages, but they haven’t noticed yet because they both have laptops and IPhones to play with? As an addition, are there people who only have fun when they are telling someone about it on twitter or similar? Would it be fun if a stream of online friends couldn’t see it?

4. Are the people who seem conservative and responsible, and who the disorganised sorts who feel irresponsible imagine they are being judged by, actually just better at lying? I.e., some people tell their friends all the silly things they have done, and some of them keep it a well guarded secret because as long as the house looks nice, it doesn’t matter anyway. Are their secrets actually worse, but they are better at PR?

5. Do I overanalyse/stereotype everything too much?

So there’s your five thoughts for the day. Discuss.


Red wine and sweet peas

images-1I’ve started noticing some things lately. These things have been happening for a while. However, I have always felt like an observer, not a part of those things. But now I am, and I see they’ve been creeping up on me, growing on me in tiny increments. I only noticed because of the sweet peas.

I went round to my good friends house for dinner the other night. There were three couples there and he made us a lovely meal. I met him when we were both woking in a pub together and we had lock-ins that regularly lasted until ten the next morning. We would have an hours kip on the sofa upstairs and then open the pub up again at eleven. We were all in our early twenties and I’m sure I couldn’t do it now. For a start, work begins before eleven and you now actually require your faculties to be in working order when you get there.

So I know we’ve all grown up a bit, but I didn’t really notice how much until Helen showed me her sweet peas. She’d planted them all as little seedlings in separate little square pots by the door. I was also growing sweet peas in the garden at home, and they were a little bigger, so I had some sweet pea advice to impart. You know, about how long to keep them inside, about where to position them when they were big enough to go to in the garden, and about what sort of trellis to buy.

Holy shit. There it was. The dreaded plant conversation. The night went on and we talked about jobs, and among other things, about the best grocer to go to on Gloucester Road and how much better it was then buying from Tesco. Cheaper and better quality. We talked about careers and about houses. And we obviously still drank too much wine.

Me and Niall were still the biggest wine drinkers and were the last ones chatting, but the days of pub lock-ins were gone. But we were all in it together. We’d all got to the same point via a shit load of bizarre, ridiculous, unrepeatable and inexplicable nonsense, and we all had the same kind of plans, (with numerous variations of course, but we all had plans, which was new) the same kind of kitchens and we had all started to make the place look nice. That kind of thing had always scared the crap out of me. But it wasn’t as dull, or as scary as I had imagined, because the people were still the same.

It was a weird sort of feeling, a bit like that feeling you get when you’ve all stayed up all night and you sit on the hill in the park in the morning with whatever is left over (invariably warm flat rum and coke in a litre bottle) watching the sun come up while people are on their way to work looking fresh and rested. You watch the workers and are glad you are with your friends, watching but not involved, like some kind of secret.

It’s like you survived something together. And oddly, this feeling was sort of like that. The feeling that you knew a secret. The secret being that we were all just as silly as we ever were, despite talking about mortgages. The feeling that we would all keep the secret for each other. The feeling that one day, we would know when our kids (those of us who decide to have any) had been smoking, drinking or doing one of the many other fun things that they shouldn’t have been doing because we would recognise the signs. And although we would tell them off for it, we would know that we were no better, and that would be a secret too. Now I realised that I wasn’t eighteen anymore, and that despite denying it for the last ten years, real eighteen year olds would see us in a club and think we looked pretty old, and that was fine.

But seriously, the oddest part was that I had anything to say about sweet peas. Who knew? Certainly not me.


Too Much Knowledge Porridge

‘Stuart Pearson’ from Armando Iannucci’s The Thick Of It

Last weekend something awful happened. Someone hacked my website and deleted everything I have even written. I logged in to add a post, and there it wasn’t. What was there was a completely different site, full of links to computer games and a whole different theme, layout, everything.

After trying and failing to retrieve, well, anything, my poor long suffering sister had to put up with me sitting on her sofa for an hour crying into my beer. At least I bought the beer.

If any fellow writers have had the same experience, I really feel for you. More so because it is very difficult to explain to anyone else the extent of your upset over the situation. Which got me thinking about what it was that had so deeply upset me about the loss of my work.

Obviously, the complete thoughtlessness of deleting it, and the speed at which it had disappeared had made my very, very angry. In addition, I have always used my site as a sort of portfolio, a place that proves that I have had work published, in different styles and for different purposes that I can show to employers.

But it wasn’t this that had upset me most when I really thought about it. It was the other work, the posts that served no purpose and that hardly anyone ever bothered to read that had really got to me. I have been writing for the last five years (much longer if you include things I have never published anywhere but my own numerous note books) and I used to write about things that I genuinely felt passionate about.

When a colleague died, when I got angry about politics, when I felt work situations were unjustified and simply when something ridiculous or irritating happened in my life – they were the things for which I found writing the only outlet that was fitting.

And it was those things that I missed. Not the ‘corporate’ copywriting I do so much of these days, which is obviously backed up elsewhere. And that is what I have been thinking about.

As is the case for so many writers, I have ended up working in a job where I can utilise my skill, which is a wonderful privilege in many ways, however, in the main, I write marketing, and that is not what I initially set out to do.

The thing is, with the way that the world of marketing works, it has become increasingly difficult to separate writing for pleasure from writing for a business and career purpose. I had briefly toyed with the idea of starting a separate, anonymous blog, but I didn’t quite think that would work either.

I wanted to find a way that the two can co-exist together, as I enjoy both in different ways. However, in this age and industry, your online ‘brand’ is such an important consideration, it is difficult not to limit the scope of what you choose to portray outside it. And the line between your genuine self and the self you put forward is so difficult to define.

The thing that has been bothering me is that I started this blog as I wanted a place where I could be honest.

That is what I wrote on my home page, and lately, I have been so unsure about how to do that, that, well, basically, I haven’t. There are so many elements of the marketing world that I find amusing and ridiculous, and that don’t fit with my personal values that I would love to write about, but how do you do that in the same space as the space you publish industry articles?

The answer is, you can’t.

I am about to write a document outlining the procedures staff at work need to follow regarding their social media output. And, honestly, I’m unsure where to start. With your LinkedIn profile so inextricably linked to the company you work for, your twitter account often the same, and to a lesser degree, things like Facebook a potential source of embarrassment for your employer and trouble for you, it is hard to know where personal ends and work begins.

However, what I do know is that I don’t want to lose sight of why I wanted to write in the first place. And now, thanks to my very wonderful friend Craig (don’t know how he did it, but I love him for it!) I have everything back . So I think it is time to get back to the point.

The point being that there is no point.

Sometimes things in the world are wrong, and marketing is sometimes dishonest, and I often find things in that world are ridiculous and hilarious, and it seems unfair to not give other people an honest opportunity to laugh at it.

So the blog is back, for anyone who cares to read it.

As spin doctor Stuart Pearson told Malcom Tucker in The Thick Of It, most of the time, Knowledge is Porridge. Which is why it is important to see through and mock the meaningless buzz words from time to time and just be honest.

Which is what I intend to do.


Bristol Art Review – The Skeleton Frame by Katy-Jane Riches


Yesterday I went to the Philadelphia Street Gallery in Cabot Circus for the final day of up and coming Bristol photographer Katy-Jane Riches exhibition ‘The Skeleton Frame’.

The gallery was quiet, with more people thinking about January Sales shopping than buying Katy’s wonderful prints.

“I picked a bad time of year to exhibit I wanted to make any money!” admitted Katy, with an honest and cheerful optimism, despite clearly looking forward to a week off after a hectic couple of month touring Bristol with her beautifully shot portraits.

I had seen Katy’s work before, but until now had only seen her landscapes, which greatly appealed to me because of her wonderful ability to take raw industrial ugliness and juxtapose it with nature – the result made beautiful by her ability to shoot in a way that captures the scenes in vivid natural colours, giving the often broken down features of the compositions a whole new appeal, life and hew.

I had previously bought a print of an industrial plant outside Nottingham, pumping out billowing smoke over a motorway, which Katy had managed to catch in such a way that a passing lorry reflected the bright pink sunset as the smoke blended into to the cloud over head on the reflective, rain soaked tarmac.

However, ‘The Skeleton Frame’ was something different entirely.

Katy said she worked on the concept behind the exhibition for three months before putting lens to subject. The main subject being vintage beauty that takes us on a classically rose tinted journey through what Katy describes as the ‘Skeleton Frame of life on which we build, adding necessary tasks that make up every-day life”.

The pictures exhibited are all limited editions, (Katy made just five of each) shot in black and white, and split into two parts, ‘The Skeleton Frame’ and ‘The Meaning’.

The first part looks at the necessities that we require in order to exist before we add anything to the life we live. The interesting thing about this exhibition is that rather than concentrate on the absence of these things, the portraits bask in the beauty of having – or enjoying these simple necessities in a style that is both retrospective and softly beautiful.

They show the enjoyment of the subject in the smallest of pleasures, from shots entitled ‘Drink –because water sustains all life’ to ‘Age – The inevitable process that faces us all’.

It would have been easy to focus on the melancholy side these two themes, on the absence of, or the restrictions that, these things can place on our lives. And in a post-modern world, focusing on these absences is a popular thing to do.

However, having met Katy, what shines through in both her work and her personality is her uniquely optimistic take on the subjects she portrays. In the skeleton frame, the meanings  and themes she builds upon are viewed positively, and focus on the happiness and pleasant nostalgia life has to offer, however fleeting.

She explains this saying “I have chosen a vintage theme for most of the images within my work, this is to show the timeless nature of the skeleton frame and the relevance of it through generations”.

She was also very deliberate in her choice of model and subject. As well as enjoyment, the pictures portray the mundane nature of everyday existence, and using the fifties inspired vintage theme, Katy also aims to comment on traditional ideas of femininity. Pieces like ‘Housework 1’ and ‘Housework 2’ inspire the feeling of a fifties billboard advertisement, yet the look on the subjects face belies a disinterest, and a determination. Katy says through these pictures she aimed to ‘draw a contrast between the mundane nature of routine and the beauty of a woman empowered’.

Her title piece, ‘The Skeleton Frame’ was shot in an empty swimming pool in Bishopsworth, Bristol. The artist said “The shot portrays the idea of an empty space that needs to be filled to enable purpose”.

And that, overall is the theme of the exhibition. A beautiful look at the life we are given, with Part Two, ‘The Meaning’, looking at the small but equally important things we do in order to build on that frame of necessity – little things that culminate to build a fulfilling life.

One of the most moving pieces ‘Lasting Love’ is a simple shot of two aged hands resting on one another. Katy took this shot of her grandparents shortly before her grandfather died. The caption below simply reads ‘Since the age of 12 and 13, my grandparents shared their lives and love with each other; true love that lasts a lifetime’.

It is this simplicity, made beautiful by honesty and a touch of the kind of glamour we unintentionally add through memory and fondly looking back that makes Riches work so unique, and so uncomplicatedly striking.

You can find Katy on Facebook, or visit her website for more information on upcoming exhibitions.


Here we go again… 2013!

So here we are…with the usual drunken fanfare and the inevitable hangover having subsided, slap bang in 2013.

Once again, the usual deluded resolutions are wearing thin (yes, I’m drinking a glass of wine and smoking as I type, even though it’s a week night – oops) and the glance-back nostalgia is wearing off, leaving the realisation that, as has ever, another year has dropped off the calendar.

I’m feeling pretty positive.

Now the difference this year is that the positivity isn’t sprung from a hope, it’s born out of a resignation. A happy resignation that, wherever I try to be, I will always be myself. And I don’t mean that in a happy hippie, bullshit sort of way.

I just mean that at 16 I thought I should be doing something ‘better’, and at 20 I felt out of my depth doing the ‘better’ thing I aimed for, and at 25 I had big plan for a fancy career in this or that (hadn’t quite decided) and… I just mean that now I’m quite happy being a bit of  juxtaposition between what I was and still am, and what I thought I wanted to be.

I have realised that you can be six of one and half a dozen of the other. I have realised that the fancy city stuff I wanted to leave the country to do will always be something I lovingly mock myself for, because a lot of it is ridiculous (fucking about on Twitter all day? With a wrist rest?* – Seriously). But the operative word is lovingly. And that’s new. Additionally, whatever that part of me thinks, I really enjoy my job, and I enjoy doing it well.

Basically, I could descend into a self- indulgent over analysis, and being in marketing now, I could even make it sound fittingly meaningful, but this is my blog, so I’m not going to.

Rather than explain myself in a wordy, well put together heart-string pulling, emotion inducing justification, I will sum up my 2013 revelation, moment of clarity, whatever you want to call it, in a small and short anecdote. I shall entitle this blandly as; ‘My lovely Saturday with Dave’.

We built a rabbit run. And a new door for the hutch. (If you have read this blog before, you will know I have a pet rabbit called Mischief, and once again, yes, I am a grown up).

I have forever wanted to have a ‘proper’ job. And now I do. I get to write, which I love. I get to work sensible hours. I get my opinions asked in earnest. There’s no innuendo. People don’t expect me to flirt with them or clean toilets. I get to wear nice clothes without getting them covered in ale when changing barrels while some racist arse demands to know “Are Muslims are allowed to work behind a bar”. (I am not Muslim, I am half Caribbean, but if you’re serving casually racist drunks, this doesn’t really factor in – foreign is foreign after all).

However, last Saturday, I put on a football shirt (for comfort, nothing else) bought a crate of Stella, and went to Bishopston Hardware (who I would very much recommend if you are doing DIY – very friendly and reasonably priced. N.B., this link is to their postal address, it’s one of those old school shops with no website) to buy wood and chicken wire to make Mischief a run for the spring – and a new door as the crafty little bugger had eaten through the wood, and managed to escape into next doors veg patch.

They were less than impressed.

Me and Dave spent the day sawing, drilling, making smutty and inappropriate jokes and getting quite tipsy (whilst wielding power tools and shooting at each other with a staple gun – health and safety!!) and I realised I missed it.

As much as I wanted a city job, (and as I said, I now have one I love) and as much as I hated the bar work, and living in the country, I realised you can’t just swap one for the other.

You are always you.

I’ve grown up working with men and being a little crass. And I love that now I don’t have to. But that doesn’t mean that on occasion, I don’t want to.

I love and get irritated by both sides of the coin in equal measure.

And – shock horror – I think that’s all right. It’s so easy in your twenties to mistake having a career goal with actually and irrevocably putting yourself in a box.

So chill the fuck out you marketing wannabes in the wonderful outfits. That’s the kind of thinking that leads to a mid-life crisis, too many gins, an affair and a divorce/breakdown by 40.

You are who you always were. And that isn’t at all bad.

So in conclusion, the rabbit run looks ace. I’m very impressed with mine and Dave’s efforts. I enjoyed it because it was a break from the norm, and a nod to what I am familiar with. But you need the knowledge of, and the comparison between each experience to make either enjoyable. And so to 2013. Realise who you actually are, then think about what you actually want.

I don’t mean the you in your head with the immaculate hair and amazing outfits. We both know come February the ten minutes in bed will seem much more appealing than super straight hair. And no one notices that your earrings match your skirt anyway.

And if they do I would advise you speak to someone else immediately.  Those people are clearly wankers.

Happy New Year!

*I need the wrist rest. RSI is a real thing. It hurts!

Lovely picture courtesy of The Gatehouse.