Crisis? What crisis?

This is piece I wrote just before my (ouch) 50th birthday. I just bumped into it again and thought it was worth a read.

‘When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I reasoned as a child. But when I became a man, I put aside childish things,’ so wrote St Paul in an email to the Corinthians. In a little-known coda, he carried on: ‘and when I reached middle age, I said to myself, what the hell were you thinking? And that’s when I reformed The Apostles.’ Continue reading

I wandered lonely as a crowd

There is a school of thought that suggests that, when in a crowd, we make better decisions than if we think as individuals. It’s an extension of Rousseau’s general will. It received its most recent iteration in 2004, with the publication of James Surowiecki’s book The Wisdom of Crowds: Why the Many Are Smarter Than the Few and How Collective Wisdom Shapes Business, Economies, Societies and Nations, and is generally considered to derive from Galton’s observation that a crowd at a country fair guessed (on average) the weight of a bullock more accurately than most of the individual members. It’s an interesting concept, and naturally, it’s flawed. Its flaw is simple: no crowd ever makes a truly collective decision. Crowds are always susceptible to the loudest voice. And those with the loudest voices are often those with the least to say. Crowds simply want to be led. Continue reading

Me, myself and I(phone)

One of the classic tests regarding self-awareness was developed in the 1970s by an American psychologist, and involves observing whether the subject (an animal, naturally) possesses the ability to see itself in a mirror and know at whom it looks: self-awareness allows for self-recognition. Whether it truly measures what it purports to is another matter entirely, and it obviously wouldn’t work on vampires, but it has a certain logical aura. Of course, what is reflected is not necessarily what we would see were we able to look at ourselves, but then, who sees the world if not through a lens? Continue reading

Changing the world …

It’s an intriguing and at times nerve-wracking business being involved in a journalistic event such as the guardian’s disability diaries and the accompanying interview by Frances Ryan. One of the reasons for this is the fear of the comments section. It’s some irony that my contribution revolved around the articulation of how it feels to be fundamentally invisible in disability terms, and several comments seemed to have completely ignored both my presence and that of Craig: Continue reading

In memoriam

They say that one ought not speak ill of the dead, but with some people, it truly is an unnecessary proscription. If Simon had any faults, it was that he was too generous, too open-hearted, too damn agreeable. These are faults to which we all might aspire.

Simon was a living, breathing model of how life ought to be lived. Mortuary assistant, pig farmer, shoe cleaner, B&B proprietor, writer: his career path sounds almost mundane until you realise he established pig farms in Vietnam for a charity, ran Streetshine, a charity for the homeless and built his own tourist eco-lodge in Abene, Senegal. In between-times, he wrote two books, Squirting Milk at Chameleons and Chasing Hornbills, and numerous pieces on Africa. He wasn’t one to sit on his haunches. Apart from when sitting on one’s haunches was exactly the thing to do. It’s no surprise he ended up in Africa. Continue reading

The Scarlet Letter

Many have commented on the crass, arrogant and patronising attitude of the HuffPo’s UK editor to those who provide much of his content (and thus pay his wages):

“…I’m proud to say that what we do is that we have 13,000 contributors in the UK, bloggers…we don’t pay them, but you know if I was paying someone to write something because I wanted it to get advertising pay, that’s not a real authentic way of presenting copy. So when somebody writes something for us, we know it’s real. We know they want to write it. It’s not been forced or paid for. I think that’s something to be proud of.
Continue reading

Who you calling an asshole?

Things are getting rough on the interweb. The problem is, opinions are morphing into threats are morphing into actions such that people, such as Dan Hodges, in this rather disturbing but, I must say, refreshingly honest piece, are becoming afraid to post opinions or, what is worse, hold to their convictions for fear of retaliation. Dan begins his piece, naturally surrounding the Charlie Hebdo massacre, with these words:

Just before I started this piece I was about to tweet the picture of the cartoon of the prophet Muhammad published by the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo. I was going to do it “in solidarity”. And then I stopped. I stopped because I was scared. Continue reading

Age cannot wither him/her

Apparently there’s a hoo-hah over Stephen Fry’s imminent marriage to a twenty-something comedian. People (especially on that new-fangled instrument, the interweb), are without so much as a by your leave suggesting that the 30-year age gap is perhaps somewhat wide. Hannah Jane Parkinson has written an article which unwittingly explains exactly why scepticism surrounding the shelf-life of such relationships is rather well-founded. Continue reading

Don’t mind me, I’m just an artist …

bb stack

So, you’ve survived the hell that is Christmas and the purgatory (literally in some cases) of New Year’s Eve, and you’re staring at a blank screen, waiting for the words to be transferred from the very depths of your soul into 12pt Times New Roman by that magical process they call ‘writing’. Continue reading