Hello and a very warm welcome to my newly relaunched blog. I'm Paul a 40 year old family man from the UK. In this complex, information overload 21st century world, too often we lose sight of what's really important. Here I want to celebrate life, share inspirational stories, throw the spotlight on charities and causes close to my heart. Looking forward to sharing this journey with you all.

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Wheelie good fun - all are bored!

Its amazing how many times at the end of that seemingly never ending couple of days I've spent working in old London town, emerging squished and grinded on the signally challenged tube lines, despite a fevered dash around the mazey and baffling sequence of exits I arrive at that Golden board at Kings Cross and it hits me - I've just missed it - got to wait at least another twenty mins for the next one, the commuting law of sods in full progress

I've been a regular on the good old GNER now National Express east coast line to destination North for many a year now since I glided into the dark side that is IT infrastructure land so I've learnt a trick or two about getting through the frustrations of it all...

People watching is at its absolute peak here at the mighty Kings Cross, where the truly dedicated
Harry Potter afficinado can actually find the fabled Platform 9 3/4. But the prospect of thudding a trolley into a solid brick wall in the hope that the muggles won't be the wiser is nothing compared with the great challenge that lies ahead for me now.

For as the infrequent travellers gather in huge droves in front of the board, almost transfixed by the prospect of that all important platform announcement, the wiley few make their early plays. You'd have thought that at some point in proceedings those hoping to catch the next train to Leeds would be tempted to glance at that tiny little extra screen in the corner which tells you which platform the latest arrival has got into.

Now it doesn't take a degree in diesel engine studies to reach the conclusion - hang on, why don't I stand near the entrance for that platform then I'll be right up the front of the queue. And you see them a gathering, first one or two with knowing little smirks, maybe they get this train every few days, trying to look oh so casual, but the fidgeting with the portable suitcases marks them out - they are ready. Standing there, with these lucky few you get an overwhelming rush of satisfaction, safe in the knowledge it'll be a nice warm seat tonight.....

The minutes tick by, still no official confirmation -moments of panic set in, these trains are all pretty much the same, what if I've backed the wrong horse, what they change the platform -but thats quickly replace with the awareness that there are ever more lurkers gathering. And despite your sneaky positioning suddenly a small crowd of suitcase wheeling wanabees are surrounding you, boxing you in.

When the clock hits the 15 minutes to go, its literally seconds from show time and the adrenalin you long for after such a dull day finally arrives - and for me the experience is always heightened if you imagine the bassy tones of the BBC Formula 1 racing tune, and look across at the feisty characters lining up on the grid....

Then woosh, up it comes, and away they go, giddy little school girl steps a plenty on that initial lift off, a couple of early trolley clashes set the tone, but its all fair in competitions of this magnitude. The challenge is achieve the ultra purposeful stride - heaven forbid you actually break into a run at any point - it simply isn't cricket. A few of you may recall the classic Ben Elton sketch from shiny suited Saturday Night live days - "Double seat, Double seat, gotta get a double seat" - sorry to say Ben we're in a new millenium and there is a whole new enemy to overcome - the ability to reserve seats on line!!!!

You're charging along, but maybe you've got stuck a little behind a family with a pushchair,in the go-slow zone you can see a few streaming past you on the outside, but its ok we're still not past first class I can still make up the ground. But as you glance to the left at the dimly lit carriages, they are there for all to see, white ticket after ticket smothering every seat in site, you'll have to push on, get on now and the table a forelorn dream, a single seat with your legs rammed in tight all there is to hope for now but wait....

Beyond the rainbow, (or usually around about coach C) you may find those seats the early fools who ducked out in reservesville can only dream of - its a table, it has power, I have laptop, I have lift off!!! Whick whack the wheely trolley has served its purpose, into the racks, the finish line reached long before those poor unfortunates with the holdalls and the faith in the timetabling system, smugness and satisfaction abound, home james, thankyou very much.

But as the train fills again, the guilt zone appears - almost before you can stretch out those toes the half-term tripping family desperately trying to hold themselves together in the midst of bickerings arrive en mass in the gangways, smacking bags into shoulders and hunting for the miracle of a sit togther option. It goes on till I can't stands it no more, up I get with one last heroic flush squeak something about letting them sit together and switch to the backwards facing elbow crushing exile of an aisle seat - no power, a half-built tray to rest my battered laptop on but still the treasured memories of my triumph of human competitive spirit over common sense.

For in a small coach/ galaxy not too far away there are dozens of table seats with little white tickets on them just waiting to be sat in, because its London, the trains are every half an hour, and who knows which train you'll end up on, so they never took them up. And in them sit the saunterers, the casual ones, who didn't follow the trolley dash, they didn't even put in the work in carriage land, they just turned up, set off and sat down...where's the fun in that!!!

Monday, 16 November 2009

Appreciating your life and the people in it

How do you get the troubles and pressures in your life into some kind of perspective?

For me, it’s not always as simple as looking at things from the 'other people are worse off than me' point of view. While this maybe true, this actually can play negatively on some of your emotions.

You may actually end up feeling guilty that while you've got a good life and plenty going for you yet you don't appreciate it properly and you 'should ' you 'ought' to feel better than you actually do.

I believe the way to look at things positively is to think instead 'this is what I've got' Beautiful baby boy/ girl, your partner, all of your close family and friends, good career prospects / maybe even something you really enjoy doing - and I'm sure the more you think about it the better you'll feel. This is the life that you've built, it’s unique, so just believe in it.

But of course every one's feelings and moods change sometimes on a daily basis, sometimes things get on top of us, but that's only really if you let them.

The external world is never going to get any less complicated, or stop throwing up unwelcome surprises from time to time, but my anchors in this world are what keep me going forward, and I'm sure it’s the same for you.

In my life, my wife means the absolute world to me, my dear late Dad for all his ways is very much a part of me, my sister who's been through much more than me is always inspiring (and still constantly laughs at my feeble comedy attempts). I think about my Mum almost every single day but I also draw huge comfort from having a brilliant caring mother-in-law, who did everything she could and more to bring up my wife securely despite losing her husband 20 years ago.

There's a whole new generation in my family now, with my step sister who's a credit to her mum and my half-brother. My brother died when I was only 4 so it just seems incredible to me to get another brother 24 years later, and when I see the little bloke trying on my size 46 shoes and shuffling around in them it does bring a tear to my eye.

You build from that core, and then you realise what brilliant friends you've met over the years and also that it's a real priviledge to stay in contact with them. That's the real world with counselling available to you almost 24 hours a day 365 days a year, people who understand something of you.

No one can lay all the burdens and worries at your families door. In the long run, keeping a broad base of friends is so important, it really helps to get fresh perspectives and outlooks on things, and if for nothing else just the opportunity to have a really good laugh now and again.

When you retreat so far inward as I did for a time in my life, it takes some time to realise just how many simple pleasures you have in your life that you've almost taken for granted before. Just sitting all night in a pub, no music blaring, no big crowds, just a group of mates you have a lot of time for, loads of conversation and a feeling of getting the world back into the right perspective.

All in all with family first and then friends, and keeping it all in balance with your work and daily responsibilities what I've learned more than anything is despite all the apparent evils and injustices, deep losses, and even the stresses and irritants in this world there is no sense comparing your fate to others, or trying to work out just where you fit in to the big scheme of things.

I find it amazing though how often from one day to the next we get little flashes of thoughts about people we haven't seen for a while and the immediate reaction is often, I haven't been in touch with so and so for ages, I really ought to get in touch, I really should find time to write that letter.

Trouble is we all get swept along by the requirements and routines of daily life, and instead of those thoughts of people being positive, it becomes tinged again with a spot of guilt or almost fear, well I've left it too long, maybe they won't stay in touch now.

And sometimes you think, well we never see each other anyway, so maybe I'll just send a Xmas card , blah, blah blah. But for me the acid test is always this, I would wager any money that if that friend or relation came over for maybe half a day and had that time to share all the news and restore some of the old friendship bonds you would always think to yourself I'm really glad we got together, and you start thinking we can get together for this event, or meet up on such and such a date.

I met up with one of my mates from Germany days after I sent a mail out explaining my anxiety experiences and it touched me that he got back in touch straight away, virtually the same day.

As it turned out he then over the next week or so found out that he was getting a transfer to the US (St Louis) for a year and would be off within a month. So we got together for the first time in two years for a night in central London while I was working down there, and it just brought home to me , how when you find special mates they don't become any less special just because you haven't seen them for x number of weeks, months or years.

I have plenty of social aquaintance type mates who are great company, like a laugh and we can talk about the essential aspects of daily life, i.e. Football, beers and TV programmes, but when you've really got to know people on a deeper level there is no substitute. I must have spent less than 2 hours in the pub in London chatting with him but every minute was well worth it, and I just think if he'd gone off to the States I'd probably have virtually lost touch with him completely.

Close friends are still close even if they are in life situation or literally many miles away, and though I always feel I've got plenty to learn on how to manage my own emotions, I am so comforted by the knowledge that so many people go through so many shared experiences at different times in their life, and amongst your closest friends and family you will always find the empathy that keeps you going forward.

Just look around you, take it all in.

IAlways remember, it is your life, you built it.

You have so much to be proud of, there is so much love and support for you, so use that and you'll never feel alone.

Monday, 12 October 2009

Turning trickles into streams to achieve writing dreams

Most probably I'm just getting myself befuddled and in a state of panic about my earning prospects, but now that I'm really probing into this online writing universe, it does s peem that I'm getting the same message consistently.

There are literally no quick routes, shortcuts, time savers out there, all you can do is keep plugging away, building a network of contacts, reading and rating as ever.

The whole idea of a passive income stream now seems laughably unachievable within the time frames I've set myself, and all the don't quit your day job thoughts are very much back in the picture. It does seem you can go to an awful lot of trouble to promote your work for very little impact at least in the first say 100 or so years! Who knows perhaps internet generations of the future will be the first to discover the true majesty of my reviews about the Holiday inn stevenage and the like

Either way, I'm positive about two things - one is that I always enjoy the writing time the most and there's no reason not to continue in that way. Just need to lose that expectation that it's all going to happen in a week, month etc.

The second thing is that I can change the way I look at my current work situation. Sure it's a mind-numbing set of processes and problems that I'm wading through, but in the end effect, I still get paid the same good standard of money, and there really is nothing to stop me structuring my spare time to get writing -

So as riveting a read as this no doubt already is , let this be the day when I got real about it, chilled out about it, and started just getting on with it.

The grass is not greener on the other side of the IT fence, its a little wilder, a little more overgrown and you are at least allowed to tend to it , when it suits you. Maybe that's the best way of all

Friday, 9 October 2009

Freelance writing here I come!

Finally decided to get myself extracted from the misery of the IT world and get serious about my writing. I'm planning to use this blog to track my progress through the world of freelance writing on the web and beyond

My feelings at this moment are best summed up by the inspired lyrics of Big Chris (a.k.a Peter Kay) from Rory the racing car

"yes yes yes I can do it, yes yes yes I can try, I'll see you later, I'm the king potata it's all gonna work out fine!"

Monday, 13 April 2009

Treasured moments from the Easter holidays

I always look forward to spending the extended weekend with the family at Easter time. After a couple of days visiting our family and friends in Scunthorpe and up in Leeds, we set out for a local day out on Easter Sunday. Sadly, as always seems to be the case with our weather, the day never delivered the promised sunshine, instead a mixture of damp and drizzly stuff all day long.

In the end after a bit of a drive around, we settled on a visit to Doddington Hall Farm shop and cafe for a spot of lunch. They weren't coping too well with the extra visitor numbers, the coffee machine was broken and the only seating to spare was outside in the showery conditions. But, what they did have was a selection of golfing umbrellas, and as luck would have it, we managed to find one adorned with pretty much all the colours of the rainbow. Now these are the times when you need to zoom in a little, to appreciate the sheer delight that the simplest things in this life can bring. There we were, little man and me, sitting at our little wooden table tucked safe and warm under the brolly. As I twizzled it around, his little face was beaming, reflecting all the different colours swirling around above him.

We were singing in the rainbow, floating it up in the air Mary Poppins style one moment, then tucking right down under it. A couple of bottles of water became skittles, each coloured segment of the umbrella taking turns to be used to knock them over. Two hungry boys just having a laugh together, nothing on earth more precious to me that shared moments like these....

Sunday, 5 April 2009

They grow up so quick....

It comes to something when your 3 year old lad puts you to shame on the domestic responsibilities front. There I was dragged up bright and far too early by the little fella last Sunday morning, ready for him to head for his potty while I flicked on the telly.

"Daddy we must get Henry and pick up these crumbs!"

He'd instantly spied the lounge carpet scattered with various remnants of last nights bombay mix snacks and cheesy crackers, and unlike me, was straight on the case. We'd told him that his 4 year old cousin was coming to play on Sunday and he was a baba on a mission. So I dutifully retrieve our smiley faced vacuum hero Henry from under the stairs as simultaneously he purposefully fetches in the bag of attachments. Still in a daze I struggle to work out which bit screws on where, but yet again he leaps to my rescue - "No Daddy , this bit must go on there first, then we put this silver bit on..."

He's spot on, its only that we are missing a piece, but within seconds he's up the stairs to rescue the situation dragging his mummy away from a long overdue lie in potential. "Daddy say thank you to mummy" he chipped in, before I could even mutter my appreciation. All fixed, he leads me round the floor guiding the hose in all directions before finally nonchalantly strolling over to his potty for a well earned morning sit down!

Friday, 3 April 2009

Wii fit schmee fit, try the Chim Chim Cherooo work out!

For me, you can try all the latest and greatest entertainment gadgets you like to help with entertaining your children but sometimes the simplest things are the best.

The phenomenal success of the WII Console and particularly the WII fit, owes much to the fact that it encourages interactive and energetic play, something that all the family can do together.

But as I don't have one of these to hand, as tempting as it may be to sit them down in front of the telly for a quiet moment or three, it doesn't always have to be passive. Over Christmas we managed to catch the last part of Mary Poppins and recorded it on our digibox, including the classic roof top cocker ney Chimney sweeping dance shenanigans of the legendary Dick Van Dyke "SCCHHHTEPPP in time, all me pals, Muuurry Powpins!"

Despite its creaking age and almost laughable "special effects" by any moderen standards, it still amazes me every time just how much our little man loves it. So there I am moping in the chair, worn out from the day, thinking I'll just put this on that'll use up half an hour before babba's bath time. Then as they head up to the rooftops, little man gets up on his feet, and starts a little gig. Before I know it, we're both dancing around the living room like a couple of goofballs doing our best to reinact all the tumbles and swings and rooftop leapery that's going on before our eyes.

Again! Again! - what a fantastic work out; 15 minutes of hard core dancing, helping him with handstands and backlifts - that cheeky shared sense of enjoying the moment

Supercalifragilistic dancing was atrocious - but these are the things to treasure!!

Tuesday, 31 March 2009

First Impressions!

As a complete newbie to the world of blogging, in my initial web to web wanderings setting things up, I've been immediately struck by the near mind-blowing volume and variety of blogs out there. With so much content out there and only so much the casual browser is able to compute in the time available, I realised just how important a first impression can be, how decisions often have to be made in an instant.

Another scary thought is that potentially people can be dropping by from anywhere in the world, anytime of the day, it's not like when you have people visiting your house, at least then you usually get a few hours notice to scramble around and make the place look half decent.

Now given it's April the 1st with all the hype surrounding the expected onslaught from the gofigure/goldfinger whatever its called virus - that's it I remember now- coficker, it may well be that I'm talking to myself here as the internet grinds to a shuddering halt, but hey it might give me time to catch up at least!

When we talk about first impressions, inevitably the old debate surfaces about whether or not there is such a thing as "love at first sight". I have to say I've never really experienced that thunderbolt moment, and whenever I think about the subject, my mind wanders inevitably to that warbling James Blunt classic "You're beautiful". Forgive me if you are not familiar with his work, but the gist of it is that, one day while out and about he catches the eye of a beautiful lady as he passes by on a subway and is immediately completely in love. The only problem is she's with another bloke, but no worries, Bluntys got a master plan of how to win her over. However, it appears this plan is a little short on ideas to say the least, he just gets more and more despairing as he goes on, and ends up ultra melo-dramatically chucking himself off a pier in the video version to his impending demise. A bit extreme for me, surely he could have just spoke to her or something :)

Now my first meeting with my good lady wife of 10 years now is an interesting one. It was in my final university year, I'd moved into a new flat with a mix of new people and there I was in the kitchen one day. She walks in, I glance up, and to this day I swear this is absolutely true - the first thought that flashed into my mind (I was single at the time) was - she looks like the kind of girl I might marry one day. Nothing like , drop everything I must kiss her right now, but just a little recognition that she seems nice.

Sadly my second impression was then very swiftly formed when her then boyfriend walked in at that moment -and as he was the one flat mate I hadn't really warmed to, and as it clicked that they were together, it all evaporated in an instant. Specially as he didn't even introduce us. We left the kitchen without speaking, and pretty much didn't speak much at all the rest of the year. It was all done by association - she been going out with him for a few years and I don't get on with him, therefore she's not worth getting to know

Thankfully a year or two later, my future wife and I ended up sharing a house together, our friendship started again from a clean slate, and after 18 months of being housemates and close buddies, confiding our closest thoughts as singletons, we finally got together. So never mind first impressions, second ones ain't always so helpful either!!

I think an awful lot can also depend on your pre-conceptions and expectations going into any given situation, and how they match up to the reality you encounter. Take a very simple example from a few years back. With a couple of friends, we'd arranged a mini-weekend away, and fairly randomly, picked the historic University town of Cambridge as our base. Naturally as we took our first stroll into town that spring Saturday afternoon, we expected to have our senses inspired and enriched by fine architecture and culture oozing from every available vantage point.

So you can imagine we were some what taken a back when we turn a corner and next thing we know we are caught in the middle of some kind of seething mass of noise and aggression streaming towards us. Literally dozens of yobs, charging about the place, with police on horseback desperately trying to restore some sort of order. We dived for cover into the nearest shop, whereupon the shop owner gave us the heads up that today was the local derby match between Cambridge and Peterborough United and all the hooligans from the vicinity had assembled for the occasion.

Eventually we got past all this and enjoyed a couple of fairly blissful days enjoying the cafe culture and soaking up the sights, but do you know still to this day, that first impression being so far removed from expectations has made an indelible imprint in my perception of the town. Since that weekend we've only been to Oxford on our tours or days out, and Cambridge has never managed to make its way back into our plans (still I support Cambridge in the boat race - so that's something!)

So for me, first impressions are always interesting, but should never be treated as absolute. It also often depends on the context, where you meet them and when. One of our best friends in the world now, a loud-mouthed Essex chap, was so obnoxious and overbearing when my wife first encountered him on her University course she hated him in an instant. When she had to work with him on an assignment, she got to know a completely different side of him and they became good friends. A few years later, I had my first encounter with him when she invited him to a student party, and I just thought he was hilarious -his voice was booming out like a foghorn across the room and we hit it off straight away purely on the basis of a shared desire to sneak out for a pee in the garden while the toilet was occupied. So if those memorable first encounters somehow manage to lead to lasting friendships, all the better to have things to look back and laugh about.

There's one first impression though that I really can be certain of. And that was the first time I ever laid eyes on my precious son. There and then I knew this tiny little chap we'd just brought into this world meant more to me in than I could ever have imagined. But this was no flashing moment of inspiration, this was for keeps....

Monday, 30 March 2009

I write wot I like

OK, time to get scribing. I've decided that rather than launch into droves of self-promotion about my plans to conquer the web writing universe armed only with a keyboard (all in good time ha ha ha ha...) the best approach for now is for me to go back to the days of diary writing and just use it to record a few little things in my day that make me smile.

So now that British Summer time has finally arrived, sure the lighter evenings are very welcome, but right now the main effect is that it's slightly thrown our little 3 year old fella's sleeping clock out by that hour going forward. That means that at the moment as my wife has to head off for work by just after 7, sadly he's not waking up in time for a farewell cuddle before she sets off.

As he's still waking up in the middle of the night and heading for our bed, she could be forgiven for thinking that she's had more than enough cuddles with him overnight, but even when she got to work and rang this morning he still wasn't stirring to say hello. So when he eventually stirs around 7.45, he decides to ease himself awake gently by grabbing for a red balloon by the side of the bed and playing a little bouncing game with Daddy. Naturally he teaches me how to do it properly, with some side to side tapping followed by pulling a few funny faces. We continue on chuckling away merrily for a few minutes, and then something dawns on him. He whispers "I like mummy best", and his little face starts to break into a whimper...."I want a cuddle". One big hug and all's well again, we're off for breakfast and our daily dose of Takeshi's castle on the telly.

I find it so fascinating how even from such a young age we can go through such a wave of different emotions all in one moment, and at the same time as a parent, how one little person has the power to put the most complex troubles into perspective in an instant. I can't think of a better way to start a day....

First blog on the path to freelance freedom!

Welcome one and all to my blog!!

I'm Paul, I'm 38, happily married with a 3 year old little boy, living in the East Midlands in the UK.

Having gradually dipped my toes in with review writing over the last few months on sites such as dooyoo.co.uk (yabbadabbadoo), ciao.com, and helium, I've finally been persuaded to set up a blog of my own.

Please take a look at some of my review writing work at the following link and let me know what you think!