Why do you blog?

Why am I here? Why have I written six hundred (half are private) different entries onto this site? Because I find writing my thoughts down to be therapeutic. Putting in to words the thoughts in my head and then being able to read them back to myself gives me a clarity which thought alone does not.

Being able to look back at previous events in my life enables me to understand the here and now far better than memory alone does. This blog has served me well. When I forgot about good times this reminds me. When the reasons for decisions is lost, a read of these pages causes them to be found.

I wrote, briefly, about my reasons for blogging here: Why I blog | Blog Boards.

You see, the one thing I have always found about having a blog is the cathartic effects of writing. Sometimes the thoughts in my head need an outlet. They need to be allowed out for a walk. Sometimes they dance across the keyboard and words appear. Writing is therapy.

And it’s helped. It really has. When the thoughts in your head get too much for you to sort out, putting those thoughts down as words on a page or a screen is really helpful; even if those words don’t get published. They can sit in drafts for days or weeks or months. They can be written in private and then deleted. It’s entirely up to the writer.

There is something pure and clean about putting words on a page. Its not easy to explain, but have you ever struggled to understand why you feel some way, why you behave some way? This helps me to understand both feelings and behaviour. Often sitting with a blank page and just letting my fingers relay thought into words has helped me to overcome terrible feelings of loss and anger. Its a release to get it out in the open rather than keeping it bottled up.

I’ve never wanted fame or notoriety. I do not expect to be a ‘famous’ blogger. Its never been in my life plans to write for my dinner. This is a hobby and an excuse to see my thoughts ‘in the flesh’ as it were.

My efforts to populate these pages have been intermittent. When I read back its interesting to see that in the past I have turned to blogging when I’m struggling with life and relationships. The purpose of this challenge is to get back into writing about the good times. Tomorrow’s post will be a HUGE good times announcement. I know I’ll still write about the bad and the ugly, but I want to be able to showcase the good also.

I also want to link in with other bloggers. Not those who write for a living but those who write for their life. I want to read your good times and your bad times, to see the struggle and successes of ordinary people going about their ordinary business. That, to me, should be the purpose of blogging. It’s a journal, a story, a timeline of life.

I’ll finish with a little plug. If you are a blogger or want to make a start on becoming one, check out Blog Boards. It’s a small community for bloggers to get help, encouragement and support with their blogs. Check it out below:

 

Reviewing the  #august2020challenge

We’re into the final stretch now. Just three posts to go to complete the #august2020challenge. Its been hard work but a lot of fun. Hard in so much as I had to think of 31 different things to write about. Hard in so much as writing everyday – even a short post – has taken time out of my day when I could have (and maybe should have) been doing other things. Fun in so much as its given my a lot of pleasure getting back into writing; into getting the creative juices flowing once more; even if it hasn’t been overly creative.

What have a I learned? First that writing can be easy. Its not necessary to write about complex subjects. Sometimes the simplest topics make for interesting reading. Second, discipline and planning. There’s been occasions where I’ve struggled to find the time to sit down and put metaphorical pen to paper but planning when I will write and what I will write has taken the edge off the project. Making sure that I give myself the opportunity to publish something has taught me its possible to juggle competing demands and still fulfil promises/requirements.

I’ve also learned there’s a danger that I can spread myself too thin. Whilst writing these posts I’ve not been paying as much attention to other projects I’m working on. The Strategy Gaming Network forums have suffered somewhat as they have not had the attention paid to them in August as I did in July. I shall rectify that in September.

I feel like I have improved my ability to self-analyse and understand me through writing these posts. I also feel as if I have improved my critique writing when covering movies and games. This will stand me in good stead with the future of Strategy Gaming Network. The ability to review something is a skill worth having. Even whilst spending all this time on writing blog posts I still managed a decent preview of a game following an interview with game developers. Go me!

https://strategygaming.net/threads/the-commission-1920.415/

Would I do this again? It’s not the first time I have embarked upon a challenge of this nature and it probably won’t be the last. The reason for the challenge was to get back into blogging. If I can keep it up, with regular posts – weekly, bi-weekly, whatever – I shouldn’t need to do something quite so intensive in the future.

This challenge has rekindled my love for blogging. Its got me back into the zone when it comes to writing things down. This blog was always and only ever for me but its good to have picked up a few more blog follows along the way. The blogging community is a wonderful thing to be a part of. Happy to be moving in the right direction with my involvement.

Best,

Al.

August blog-a-day challenge midway review

When I started this challenge I was concerned that I might not finish it. It is very easy to sit and write 31 lines but each line, when you get down to writing, equals a lot of work. Between working, being a parent, running two new websites and maintaining relationships with friends and family there isn’t an awful amount of time to sit down and write stuff.

Some of the posts I’ve put up have been easy to do. I deliberately added easy ‘favourite’ style posts (photo, songs, quotes, books) to break up the task of writing a few hundred words a day.

Coming in the second half I’m going to attempt to get a few guest posts up. This not only takes a bit of pressure off me but it gives others a chance to promote their writing on my blog. I like to help people and if they get views from their writings here that’s great. Look out for them.

I am digressing, however, so lets keep focused on what was been posted before rather than looking to the future. Writing about personal concerns has always been therapeutic. Its interesting that the things with bothered me in the past still bother me now. I haven’t effectively dealt with the issues around my brother, for example, but I didn’t just want to revisit old themes. Writing about the #BlackLivesMatter movement was interesting. Its sometimes difficult to know what you think about something until you come to try and explain it. Having to research something you want to write about is a great way of improving your understanding of a subject:

The core focus of Black Lives Matter can be summed up like this. Shouting that All Lives Matter when someone says Black Lives Matter is like saying ‘save all forests’ when someone says, ‘save the rainforests.’

Yes, all forests matter, but it’s the rainforest which is being decimated and destroyed. When you consider that a man born black in the United States has a one in a thousand chance of having their life ended by a police officer you can understand why people may come out in support of the Black Lives Matter movement.

Sometimes you think you know about something but writing about it expands your knowledge and understanding.

Favourite quotes

He who fights with monsters might take care lest he thereby become a monster. And if you gaze for long into an abyss, the abyss gazes also into you.

Friedrich Nietzsche – Beyond Good and Evil

Do not go gentle into that good night, Old age should burn and rave at close of day; Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Dylan Thomas

I was going to publish this as is because I was feeling lazy but instead I think I’ll take a few minutes to explain why they resonate with me as they do.

Nietzsche’s quote has been known to me for decades but only recently has its appeal become personal. Doing the job that I do I encounter ‘monsters’ and not just as physical manifestations (violent abusers, hardened criminals) but also in themes across society. An underlying culture of cruelty and indifference applied by ‘the powers’ against the poorest and the most vulnerable. I see evil. I see wickedness. I see exploitation and abuse. I see all of the things which people who are sleeping safely in their beds on a night do not see. My colleagues and I combat these things.

Nietzsche reminds me to temper my response to wickedness and violence. It reminds me that I have to be the ‘good’ vs ‘evil’ and that my methods must remain true. One cannot fight with a monster by becoming the same as the monster. One must be conscious of one’s methodologies in that fight.

Thomas’ quote is clearly referencing death. I have seen death. Too much personally and too much professionally. Every day above ground is a gift. Every new dawn a privilege. This reminds me that old age is not guaranteed and that we don’t all make it that far. It instils in me a desire to fight for every last day, every last breath. Do not go gentle…

Favourite photograph from 2020

I love this. Taken in June 2020 on a rainy summers day. We took a trip to Thorp Perrow arboretum. The weather flitted between showers and sunlight hence why Lucas is wearing his rain coat. He loved to explore. He’s a real adventurer.

This photograph is beautifully framed and edited to bring to life the light through the trees. Little Lucas looks to be enjoying tramping and exploring the surroundings.

Bolton Abbey.

Following of from a great night of drinks and steak and laughs, which rekindled something, we drove out to Bolton Abbey today. We’d expected it to be just some ruins and maybe a tea-house. What it was though deserves a revisit, more time, a better planning. 


When we arrived L checked our guidebook and mentioned the ‘Valley of Desolation’ she’d heard about. So off we set in our jeans and trainers (“we won’t need walking boots”). The going got tougher and we climbed up hills and followed narrow winding pathways through trees and bushes down into the valley; following the sound of the falling water. The Valley of Desolation was well worth a visit. 


We followed the path again up the left side of the river and the path narrowed, steepened and increased in difficulty. Eventually we managed to rediscover civilisation and thought better to get a cup of tea then continue the ascent into the distant hills. That’ll wait for another time. 

After a tea break we visited the Abbey proper with its surrounding grounds. A family was crossing the stepping stones when a young girl lost her nerve and couldn’t continue. Not all heroes wear capes; and Granddad walked across from the opposite side and assisted her. Whilst the two older ladies stuck on the steps howled with laughter.  

We explored the Abbey – which was only a partial ruin – the central section still in use and occupied at the time by a choir. The acoustics drew us in and we stood listening to voices raised together. I’m not a spiritual man, but it seemed a peace existed there. 

Bolton Abbey deserves a return visit – and soon. 

Holiday day seven.

Home tomorrow and I’m going to do one of them one second videos of my day. Predominantly it’ll be flying home. It’s been a seriously fucking brilliant week. I mean, a seriously fucking brilliant week. We’ve shared laughs, food, drink. We’ve talked about family, friends, ideas, concepts, careers, sport, politics. We’ve cycled to the beach and sat in the sun. We’ve been to the pub and drank bottles of Sagres and Super Bock until fit to piss. We’ve caught the train (and ferry) to Spain and spoken in three different languages. 

The boys have watched Masters golf. I’ve taken too many photos. I’ve mourned a lover and celebrated friendships. I’ve laughed my fucking arse off. I’ve met people I never would have ever had the chance to meet. 

I’ve tanned. Got a little more fat and committed to get a little less fat. I’m leaving here positive, content, happy, upbeat, humbled, focused. 

Today we dropped the boys off at Vilamoura (with its 91 golf courses) and visited the resort of Albufeira. I read some, sunbathed some, and maybe snored and dribbled a little bit on the beach. This evening we’ve participated in a pub quiz where, it seemed, the older you were the more likely you’d be to get the answers right. Then we sat and talked and laughed with Julie, Robin, Glen, Paul, Barbara, Peter, Manuel, Derek, and many others. Everyone is so friendly and welcoming. 


It’s almost midnight now and we’re sat on the decking with a beer each. My bed is calling me. It’s time for sleep soon. Life is good. Family is good. Home tomorrow and I’m leaving here happy with life and content with my lot. 

Holiday day five. 

Easily the best day so far. Woke up too early this morning but managed to get back to sleep and stay there until seven thirty. Then after breakfast Bys & I got down into town for a few little bits. When we got back Mam & Ellis were at the pool so we joined them. Us boys took it in turns to swim the length of the pool underwater; or rather I swam it (three times) they failed (twice each). It was good spending time with Bys by myself in the morning and then as a family unit later. ​

​And it was around that time that I had my epiphany. You see, this is actually what life is about; spending time with family. I once posted something on Instagram or Twitter; 

“Collect memories not things.”

And as much as I bought into those words I didn’t entirely grasp their simple and beautiful meaning. I need to collect memories. Memories of mum, of Byron, of Eton and Ellis. Of Mike and Alex and Harrison. And of Tom. Mostly of Tom. And I need to give Tom memories of me and of us. Because one day I’ll be dead. And I don’t say that with bitterness, fear or regret. But more with the vigour of someone who’s finally understood what we are here for. I want Tom to grow up and be able to think back to all the good times we had. I want my family to come together, be together, live together and live together. That is what life is about. Not money or things. Fuck your money and your things!


This afternoon we got first the train and then a ferry across the Guadiana River from Vila Real de Santo Antonio to Ayamonte in Spain. 

And then we relaxed and ate and drank and chatted and told jokes. We looked in shops and I photographed us and the town. It was a perfect day. A perfect day. No squabbles. No differences. We saw eye to eye and we laughed together and with each other not at each other. 

We were only in Spain for a few short hours but I found such contentment in the company of my family. Finally life was exactly how it should be. 


We got the ferry back and the train back further. Then climbed – a little drunk – onto our bikes and headed for home, stopping once for more beer on the way. The sun was setting as we started our final ascent. 

We reached home, had tea, then me and mum went up to the bar for more beers. She introduced me to her neighbours; a Dutch couple who’s names escape me. We talked and drank and laughed some more. 

And now I’m in bed. A little tired and more than a little drunk. It’s been a truly magical day. Only two days left now, but I’ll be making the most of them.  

Good night. God bless. Time for bed.  

Holiday day four. 

I was up before dawn and took a short walk over to the eastern side of the camp to watch the sun rise over the hills. It’s so peaceful here on a morning. All I could hear was birds singing, a faraway dog barking and the wind through the trees. No traffic. It’s amazing when you think about it how much of modern life is soundtracked by the rumble of engines. 

Right on the edge of the site there’s a house standing in ruins. I’d like to, before I leave, take some photos inside. I only snapped the outside that morning. I love old stuff like that. There’s a number of derelict buildings between here and the beach. Maybe I’ll get the chance to photograph them one day. 

After my morning adventures and breakfast I took delivery of an apparently ancient Toyota Carolla with 220k / km on the clock. Last time I was here I hired a car and never felt entirely comfortable driving on the right (wrong!) side of the road. But this was something else. An automatic

I’ve never driven an auto before, not even in England where we drive on the left (right!) side. But my trepidation was misjudged and short-lived. Foot down. Go. It’s like a go cart. Brilliant! 

I took the parents down to the local Aldi for essential supplies of beer then back and more sunworshipping by the pool. It’s good to sit and chat. It important. We got talking about Mike. It’s a sad subject for all involved. I can tell my mum is thoroughly miserable about the entire situation. I cannot rectify his decision to marry a wicked woman, nor can I force his hand in seeing his child, but I can at least attempt to repair my part in the current awful state of affairs. 

I saw Mike at a funeral last month. We didn’t speak. Perhaps wasn’t the occasion. I’ve asked Ellis, who is going to see Mike when we get back, to hand-deliver a letter for me. He’s agreed. 

That late afternoon was spent sipping beers looking out over the countryside listening to music. Quality times. Perhaps one day those quality times may involve all mums children. 

An appropriate end to the day; watching the sun disappear over the horizon as I had watched it rise that morning: