The Never List (Ain’t Nobody Got Time Fo Dat!)

There are things in life that people do or achieve that I just don’t get. These things are considered milestones, or cathartic. Achievements too talk about at work or in social situations, the kind of thing that people feel they should be interested in or, at the very least, impressed by.
The most notable thing is, most of the achievements take a long time, anything from several hours to several weeks. They also tend to be uncomfortable. Case in point:

1.) The marathon
My day job for most of the last two decades has been fitness related. I was an aerobic instructor for a bit, but quickly realised that I only really liked teaching kickboxing as a class. I also started personal training. Anyone who does fitness for a living has encountered the question; have you ever run the marathon? Now many a young buck or buckess, who has become a trainer after finding the rat race pays well but is really, really competitive. So they are overly enthusiastic when it comes to fitness. They feel they have to prove their fitness credentials, not only on paper but in deed as well. They will generally do some sort of extreme fitness thing; triathlon, snowboarding, run a marathon!
I like running. Love it in fact. Feels great, it is cheap and you can do it anytime. I’ll run for half an hour, forty minutes at a push. I am not going to run for four plus hours! No. Not when I really don’t have to. I like to race as much as the next man. Sprints? I am your man. Over quickly, taxing without destroying my knees. A marathon, twenty-six point two miles, is hard on the knees, back, feet and unless you are among the elite Ethiopians, soul destroying. You’re not going to win. No hope. You might place, I don’t know, twelve thousand, four hundred and thirteenth? But all you got is a great time, along with your battered vertebrae, feet and knees. No thank you.

2.) Climb A Mountain
Hell no. I do not even enjoy walking up hill! The amount of people that try to scale Everest on an annual basis is astounding. It’s a big rock! Why do people get so excited by the thought of climbing – conquering – a rock? And whilst I mention it, because it is in same vein, why do people feel the need to go to the Poles? They are whiteouts. Nothing to see here. Just ice and penguins. And they’re only at one of the Poles!
If you’re an explorer – not a job, but if you can persuade some sap to pay you to do it, more power to you – I accept that you have to undertake certain ventures. For the rest of us, I think I’ll just catch the highlights on television.

3.) Sailing
When I say sailing, I am not talking about a leisurely punt around the bay. No, I’m talking the full on man-against-the-elements, calloused hands, sleep in a hammock, water all around but not a drop to drink, land ahoy kind of sailing. The kind that only people who have never had to work embark on. Sailing is expensive and, if you traversing oceans, time consuming. I think that it appeals to the romantic in people; out on the high seas, one with the world. And the not working of course. For me, I can think of very little, not already mentioned, that would be worse. I get sea sick on a ferry, I am not going to survive for weeks on end in a boat! It’s out for me.

4.) Triathlon
Think marathon and then add swimming, me with my brick like aerodynamics in water, and cycling. I hate cycling. So you swim for a long time. Then cycle for a long time. And then run. For a long time. No. Several levels of hell all packed together. Not only that, it is a sport of posturing. Expensive… Everything! Bikes, wet suits, trainers, training. Speaking of training, triathlon takes over your life. If you embark on any distance longer than a sprint, you are going to spend every spare minute training for it. If, like most people, you pay to enter an event, you are not going to win. People who win triathlons get paid, They do not pay. You’re just participating, making up numbers. Have fun.

Test Drive

She looked around the restaurant. A couple on the next table received their meals. Gemma looked enviously at their plates. Roast lamb, potatoes and vegetables. Was that a Malbec red they had as well? She glanced forlornly at her glass of white. Meh.

“Don’t order red wine!” Kerry had warned. Gemma had been mortified.
“I love red wine! Nice Merlot with steak – what?” Kerry had looked incredulous.
“You are not going to eat steak! What is the matter with you?”
“I’m not eating salad! What does it matter if I’m eating steak? He asked me to dinner. I’m going to eat!”
“He asked you to dinner.” Kerry stated. Gemma nodded; yes. “Dinner. Not lunch. He wants it to go somewhere.” Kerry surmised.
“What? No, don’t be silly…he just wants to thank me for helping him settle in. What?” Kerry was smirking at her. “You cannot be that naïve.” Gemma blushed slightly. She was not.
“I shouldn’t have accepted should I? I’ll tell him I’ve got a meeting -”
“You’ll do no such thing! How often to you get taken out to dinner?” Gemma did not answer, it had been a while. Kerry carried on. “It’s nice to get asked out; wined and dined. Makes you feel like a woman, an attractive woman.”
“I feel like woman, all the time.”
“Really? As you jostle to work on the tube, deal with emails and eat lunch at your desk?”
“A working woman.”
“How about being a sensual woman?”
“Instead of a, how did he put it? Besuited, high flying, emasculating, ball buster.” Gemma recalled, remembering a night a year since past, when she and her partner, Pete, ten years a hospital porter, got into an argument.
It had been her fault. Maybe.
A bad day at work, Pete came in a little frazzled. Gemma had returned from work an hour earlier. Her day had been brilliant. She had been headhunted by a competitor in front of her boss. Not wanting to lose out, her boss had not only offered her a salary increase, he had also given her a promotion. She was all smiles as a scowling Pete came to greet her. Noting his mood, she inquired about his day. Mistake.
“Bloody awful! Worked me like a dog! Denis, the useless prat, called in sick, so I had twice as much work to do! On the way back, got stuck in traffic, car cuts out and won’t start! That is going to cost a fortune to fix!” Gemma, trying to look sympathetic but too excited, blurts out her news. How she got a promotion and a raise and probably will get a bonus. Pete nods, a wry smile.
“Well, don’t be too happy for me!” Gemma spits sarcastically, wounded by Pete’s lack of enthusiasm at her news.
“I’m sorry, no it’s good, good that you got promoted.” Pete softens. Gemma is grinning again.
“Of course it is! And don’t worry, I’ll sort the car out.”
“What? No. I can do it myself.”
“But I want to help. It’s alright -”
“It’s not alright! I might not earn as much as you but I can look after myself!” Pete was angry. Gemma stunned.
“I didn’t mean -”
“What did you mean?”
“We’re a couple. I’m just trying to a -” And Pete interrupted again, letting her know exactly how he saw her.

“Which you are not! Not all of the time anyway.” Kerry brought her back to the present.
“He was just angry. Pete loves me. And I love him.” Gemma stated, as though she needed to hear it out loud. Kerry was smiling again.
“Gem, I love Pete. I love my Volkswagen as well. I would still test drive a Mercedes. That’s all your doing; test driving.” Gemma looked at her grinning friend. She still felt guilty, but she liked the idea.

“Sorry, I was gone so long.” Gemma snapped out of the memory, smiling at the handsome man who spoke as he sat down opposite her. Stephan. Handsome, slim, cultured with an accent, easy to smile. Gemma felt like a teenage girl with a crush, as he settled himself into his chair, picking up the menu. He looked up at her.
“What looks good?”

“Try and get fish. It digest well, won’t bloat you.” Kerry had counselled. Gemma had nodded, “goes with white wine as well.”
“Why can’t I have red?”
“Gem, you don’t go on dates. You’re going to be nervous enough without worrying about spilling your wine and staining!”

Gemma had been glad she took that advice. She had been trembling with fantasy inducing anticipation all day, only mildly guilty and relieved that she was not going home, thus not having to lie to Pete about why she was so dressed up. It had been worth it. Stephan had been so complimentary.
“I had thought you were impressive whilst at work, but seeing you like this….!” He had let the comment hang, his eyes finishing what words could not convey.

“Shall we get some bread?” Bloat. Bloaty. Bloated.
“No, thank you. I had quite a big lunch.” Gemma lied. She was starving and the wine was making her head swim. Stephan tilted his head; as you wish.
The conversation flowed easily. They spoke of life and dreams. Childhood and fear and the future. She had not felt so engaged, so alive in a long time. Was this not how life was suppose to be?

“What if I liked the Mercedes?” Gemma challenged. Kerry paused, looking thoughtful. “You’re always going to like the Mercedes. It’s new, it’s shiny, it works perfectly, does all the right things.” Kerry looked at a photograph; her on her wedding day, ten years before. She looked back to Gemma, serious now, but still in allegory mode.
“I’ve maintained my old banger for ten years. Not all easy. I’ve had test drives. Even took a long one once.” Gemma goes to open her mouth, but Kerry shuts her down. “But you know what I found? They all become bangers eventually. I can’t afford to upgrade every couple of years!”

Stephan, a gentleman throughout, paid the bill. They left the restaurant. Out in the evening air, Gemma did not want the evening to end. Stephan extended an invitation; “Would you like to come for a night cap?”

“When….when is the test drive over?” Gemma inquired, eyes wide looking for a sign, a glimmer of permission from her friend. Kerry lent forward, taking Gemma’s hand.
“You’ll know when it’s over Gem.” She squeezed her hand. “You don’t need a new car.”

She looked at the almost model handsome Stephan. Just one drink. One would be….nice.

Exceptional Mediocrity: Rose Tinted Living

I read an article this morning by Mike Rowe, talking about following one’s passion and how it was poor advice. You can check it out here
There are plans, dreams, plans of dreams and dreams of plans. Growing up, most had dreams. Generally, before the over saturation of ‘talent’ shows and the world of unexplainable job titles, beside the normal wishing to be famous, people would dream of getting a high paying job, being a manager of some description.
That was different time. A time before one could find out at the press of a button what your peers earned, how they lived, where they holidayed. Such envy inducing information required more than foggy dreaming. It required a plan. Thus the uni generation came into existence.
What, you may ask, is the uni generation? As a child of the urban city, born in the late sixties and schooled at a local comprehensive and secondary, my peers also occupying the same, working-class strata, had a particular outlook on life. Only the super-intelligent had any expectation of going to university. The rest of us, living in the era of high unemployment and depressing prospects that was the eighties, just wanted to gain a paying job that would afford some life luxuries. The expectation, education wise, was sixth form or college at best. It was also a time of winners and losers; a discernible separation between the rulers and the workers, the affluent, leaders of society and the common masses.
Less than a generation later the expectation of going to university is normal. Every young person, smart or dumb, has been, or expects to go, to university. Get their degree, ready to take on the world. No longer the small dream of just getting a job. Now it had become a step to something, some amazing career path, filling out an impressive cv, whilst increasing the bank balance and changing the status on your LinkedIn account.
With the move away from manual, trade based, working, everyone pursued an artistic or office based, computer related career. Dressing nicely and preening to work. Handsomely remunerated, the uni grad hides in plain sight, a ‘success’.
Does the work they do matter? No doubt some, yes. Are they, as they hustle to work, mobile offices denoting their import, changing the world? Maybe a few. The vast majority have been sucked into a race to the middle. Flat screen televisions, latest mobile phones, best post codes, organic produce, all things that denote a visible, lifestyle magazine matching, polite, blasé, isn’t-everybody’s-life-like-this, lunchtime conversation, middling comfort. Everybody wants the best, but the same. Same phones (form an orderly queue), frequent the same clubs and bars, same cars, same post codes. When they check the mirror of their peers, they pretty much see the same stuff. They’ve arrived.
Is it a bad way to live? No, not at all. Nice things; good food, wine, travel, items and trinkets, it is not a failing to want these things. Living for the accumulation of stuff, the pursuit of oneupmanship, that is perhaps, a goal not worthy of chasing. After all, as amazing as one’s life can look, someone else’s will always look rosier.

Before I Die: 101 things to do – part three

And the list continues….

15.) Be in the majority
Having been born and raised in the UK and never having lived or visited, in adulthood, either Africa or the Caribbean, my view of the world; media, populace, histories, is that it is all white. As a black person I am curious to see it from a different, less minority heavy, perspective.

16.) Surprise myself
A strange one I know. It is more about pushing my limits and challenging myself. Something we all should do.

17.) Become an expert in something I generally learn enough to get by in a given situation, like most people. It is impossible to be an expert in everything. There are a few things that, personally, I feel I need to have more than passing knowledge of, mostly things filmmaking related, these are what I will focus on.

18.) Have more than one million pounds in bank account.
I realise life is not about money, nor does it denote happiness or necessarily success. But it can help.

19.) Sell a script
This is a goal that is a ‘looking for validation’ thing. Having not done any of the conventional courses or followed the  routes that people take for filmmaking, I sometimes can feel a fraud in the film world. This would go some way to countering that.

20.) Be spontaneous
This goes with the surprising myself and making a million. What money can afford you is freedom. Freedom allows spontaneity. Simple.

21.) Complain less
This is a western problem,  a problem for people who have too much and do not realise it or appreciate it. If you’re not in a third world country, terminally ill or chronically challenged, you probably could complain less. That does not mean accepting meekly, it means finding solutions.

That’s all for now. More to come.

The smartest guy I ever knew: ignoring the Joneses

Robert Jacobs was boy in my class at school. He was popular, funny, good at sport, though not outstanding, intelligent and able to get along with just about anybody. Let me explain; I went to an…urban school. The school was ninety to ninety-five percent black students, mostly of working class, labour parented backgrounds. It was the late seventies into the eighties. Before social media and blogs. Before the proliferation of ‘talent’ shows, before everyone owned a mobile phone, before having a new car was a common thing, before it was necessary to have a college degree to work in a retail outlet and before metrosexuality. I went to a boy’s school where being a man was not only an aspiration, it was expected.
Life then was about appearance. We were teenagers, some with older brothers, trying to be men. How tough you were – I wasn’t – what trainers you had – strike two – and how good you were at football – always a last pick – school was tough.
We aspired to the things most urban, cash strapped, youth do; to be respected, famous maybe, make money. This was the message we had got from our parents and elders; make money, live better, be respected.
For most of us, our family members and their friends were not exactly captains of industry. For a lot of boys, the ‘big’ dream was to become a mechanic, a footballer or an entertainer of some description.
Robert Jacobs was, as I mentioned, talented. In fact he was so talented, that he earned a scholarship to Italia Conti performing arts school, the best and most prestigious of its kind in the country. He was on the up. As I said, he was popular, so no one begrudged him the opportunity. Even so young, we understood that he was perhaps destined for better things than the rest of us. Good luck.
Fast forward a decade of so and I see his older brother, also a nice guy, but much more a background kind of person, chilled. We chat, pleasantries, and we get around to chatting about Robert. I ask what he is up to, expecting that he is on the road to some sort of media career. What I hear takes me aback. He’s moved to Jamaica, the country of his parents birth, grown locks and become a farmer! A farmer?! Why would he do that? It was simple. That’s what made him happy. He had the talent, charisma, intelligence to do whatever he wanted. He decided he wanted a simple life. He wanted to be a farmer.
I have recalled that moment a few times over the years; as I’ve negotiated the rush hour traffic, struggled with weight, tried to build a business, changed relationships and tried to keep up with the Joneses. Robert Jacobs was not only a talented guy, he was a smart one. He knew where his happiness lay; not through the eyes of his peers or expectations of the wider world. He followed his heart and found his bliss. How many people can say the same?

Before I die: 101 Things to do – part one

I was watching a video on YouTube on Xmas night. Jack Canfield, author of Chicken Soup For The Soul, was giving a talk – see it – here he makes a lot of interesting points, speaking positively, he encouraged the listening to follow their instincts and do that which they loved. Not the most original thing ever said in a positive thinking seminar, but always worth repeating. Amongst the many wonderful titbits Jack offered, was the idea of listing things that you want to do before you become worm food. He suggested a list of one hundred and one. That is a lot of stuff for a person the wrong side of thirty! Anyhoo, what the hey, what is life without challenge eh? So, in no discernible order and – for some at least – no concrete plan, here is my list of 101 things to do before my final parade.

1.) Win an Academy award.
This is a, not to state the bleedin’ obvious, big one. I love making films. I would do it for free. I have done. Ultimately I want what everybody who works wants; to never feel like I am at ‘work’. Making films gives me that. I don’t want to make films to fill up YouTube however. There are plenty who do that already. I want to make big films, memorable films, Oscar winning films. Is that too much to ask?

2.) Visit Japan.
No reason. Just interested in visiting a culture vastly different from mine.

3.) Reboot the Xmen franchise.
This one is like my ultimate dream. It is a massive one. I will need to work really hard and get so, so, so lucky, I know this, but it is still going on the list.

4.) Take three months holiday
Because working only nine months of the years and living the other three would be awesome!

5.) Learn Spanish
I have been to Lanzarote over twenty times. Been to mainland Spain twice and can still only order beer, say hello, thank you and goodbye! It’s laziness and a certain English apathy on my part. Habla espanol?

6.) See a boxing match at Madison Square Garden
There are not too many greats about in the fight game anymore. Money, attention span, mixed martial arts and a paucity of genuine, mouthwatering match ups – the Klitchkos having singlehandedly made heavyweight boxing pretty much unwatchable – have all contributed to the decline of a once dominant spectacle. Still a show at the home of boxing would be worth it.

7.) Meet Joss Whedon
They say you should not meet your heroes, as it might disappoint, but the works of Whedon are probably the most inspiring reason for me wanting to be a writer/director, it would be great to meet him and thank him. Even if he turns out to be an arsehole.

Okay, seven in, ninety-four to go. I will put a few more in the coming weeks – or months – onward and upwards.

What about the rules?

For your fledgling scriptwriter, filmmaker, auteur, there are certain precepts that are recommended. Try and avoid voiceover; don’t film conversations flat on; don’t be static. For the director, Ivan Barge and screenwriter, Matthew Harris, these loosely defined rules were obviously missed. In their seven minute short film, “Snooze Time” they happily ignore all those rules, fashioning an engaging and clever film. Following the lives of Evie and Thom, the film charts their lives from young, awkward couple to an elderly Thom being watched over by his long time, committed spouse Evie, whilst in a hospital bed. 
   To take a seven minute film and encompass five decades is some achievement. The  meticulous attention to detail and the use of the mundane, everyday activities as story momentum, is clever and inspired. The images are accompanied by a poetic voiceover, charting the passage and relentless advance of time. Justyn Pickles’ music mirrors the voice, a constant, unavoidable rhythm.
   A story about the one thing that no one can control; time. A beautifully executed and complex subject, presented in an understandable, relatable way. You will not hit the snooze button whilst watching this.

Watch it here –