A Dose of Christmas Cheer

(I feel like you need to be warned that there is a mushy message at the end of this post. Please try not to be alarmed when you come across it.)

Nine days until Christmas. It’s getting pretty close to the big day and I’ve just started building a delightful little Christmas buzz. The highlight for me so far? The other night I bought my first Christmas tree. It’s a modest little five-foot thing made of green plastic, but it’s the first tree I’ve ever bought and I got to decorate it with Lou whilst listening to A Christmas Sing With Bing (this album is played every Christmas by my dad and by his dad before that, so it’s a pretty big deal for me).

This has helped me to acquire a little holiday cheer, albeit a little late in the proceedings. A lack of festive feeling never used to be a problem. I think a lot of that is down to where I used to work. For several years, I worked for Starbucks Coffee Company (across many stores in many places). There, Christmas started immediately after Thanksgiving. I mean it. It was usually a day or so afterwards that the store’s decor would change completely and then Christmas had arrived. The red cups came out, the decorations went up and the holiday-themed music of all styles started. A solid month of festive bombardment has a way of either making you embrace the holidays or it forces you to check into some kind of institution that is stocked with rubber walls and medication. Being someone who is always eager to avoid situations that would put me in the news for all the wrong reasons, I learned to love the season and accept that Christmas now lasted for a whole month of every year.

I felt that way every year up until a few years ago when I left Starbucks and went to a different retail establishment. This place doesn’t have the same Christmas cheer that Starbucks did. There are little to no decorations (no tinsel or freely roaming Santa hats). Very little Christmas music is played (not even Mariah Carey gets a look in and she gets everywhere this time of year). No longer do I work with food and drink and so there are no festive beverages to warm me on a cold morning. No aroma of freshly brewed coffee with hints of gingerbread and nutmeg. Just the cold, hard scent of cleaned and polished commercialism. My current work environment just does not give off the same festive wintery zing. This isn’t entirely a bad thing. Now I rarely ever get to the edge of Christmas-induced psychosis, just one broken biscuit away from a string of scarily emotive headlines (there is such a thing as bad press).

This year, I’m working to build the cheer in different ways. Buying the tree was just one of them. Walking home in the crisp air with a tree under my arm and a bag of baubles, tinsel and lights in my hand, I felt like an extra out of It’s a Wonderful Life. This weekend I’m attending a legendary Christmas party that I’ve only ever heard stories about. That should help too as I have been promised good food, wine and Christmas songs at the piano (yep, classier than I deserve). The other night I watched a double bill of Scrooged and Elf (I highly recommended these films) and found myself thoroughly cheered up by the time the credits rolled.

Although I will be working all through the Christmas period and Lou will be away with her family for most of it, I intend to bring back some of the feelings of Christmases long gone (I’ve been mainlining gingerbread flavoured coffee, so that’s a start). Hopefully as I work to rekindle the sensation in myself I can spread it to others as a sort of Christmas wildfire (but, you know, without the risk of property damage or the destruction of wildlife).

Happy Holidays everyone. I hope whatever it is that you are celebrating brings you happiness and togetherness as we continue on into 2015.


North of the Border

Oh, Edinburgh. You are something special. I’ve spent this whole week thinking about how I could live there. This is no small consideration. There are only four places in the entire world that I’ve felt that way about: New York City (expensive and a little scary with guns and the like), Oxford (also expensive, less guns though I think), Manchester (already live there, so there’s that) and now Edinburgh.

If you’re wondering what makes Edinburgh so special, then I have to assume that you’ve never been there. It is something about the way that the city feels. It has the sense of a city of great age and importance but with a very young spirit. The buildings all over are centuries old but nothing feels rundown or shabby (I’ve got issues with London for this very reason; the sense of decay). You can look out through a window in one direction and see a castle (I’ll get on to the castle properly in a minute) and the other direction there will be rolling green hills and steep climbs (I’ll cover that in a minute too). It’s a beautiful place with something for everyone (that’s a tired old cliché, but I really believe it).

Let’s talk about the castle for a second. It’s incredible. I mean it. I could throw out adjectives like awe-inspiring, breathtaking, majestic, extraordinary and downright epic and they would all be true and would barely scratch the surface of what I could say about it. It’s a glorious fusion of engineering wizardry and raw incredibleness. Actually, though, the word ‘castle’ doesn’t really do the place justice either. It is far more of a fortress, really. It has layers of walls, numerous interior gates with lanes running between them all and the whole place is sitting proudly on a massive dormant volcano. It’s imposing and it is totally meant to be just that. But there is something beautiful buried within the seriousness of it all (many people have lived and died there over the centuries, let us not forget). One assembly of cannons is arranged in a crescent shape and is called (rather fittingly) the Half Moon Battery. From below it looks to be an amazing turret-like structure, desperately clinging to the rock. When you are standing up there, you realize that it houses several large guns that were designed with only the the most terrible of purposes in mind. Weapons of death and destruction housed in such a way as to take away the fear and replace it with beauty. You stop thinking of it as just a fortification and you start viewing it in the same way one would view a stately home; grand and beautiful, whilst remaining deeply intimidating. Such is the power of Edinburgh Castle.

The man-made side of the city is striking, but the natural side is just as spectacular. Right on the edge of the city, there there is an area of incredible beauty called Holyrood Park (more about it can be found here). Arthur’s Seat and The Salisbury Crags are the main points of interest within it. I set out to climb to the top of Arthur’s Seat thinking that it would be a standard hill climb, probably with steps, a bannister and maybe a sherpa to carry your things for you (maybe). This was incorrect. My error was compounded when I realized that one had a choice in which way to begin the ascent and I chose poorly. This meant starting off by climbing what felt like nearly vertical steps up the Crags, only to then discover that Arthur’s Seat was further up than I had expected (this is an understatement). Many rocky steps and lots of puffing and panting later, I reached the top. Only then did it hit me why so many people were up there with me; the view was absolutely amazing. That, coupled with the definite sense of achievement for making it to the top (I thought I was going to die halfway up, as I am so out of shape), gave me a positive spring in my step the whole way back down the (far more forgiving) downhill slope to street level. All of this right on the edge of town. No journeying to the middle of nowhere. Just a simple walk to the town limits. Wonderfully energizing and a perfect way to recharge and unwind (although my poor legs might disagree with me there).

Any discussion of the place would be incomplete without mentioning the people. I’ve met (and had the pleasure of working with) some genuinely awesome people this week. A lot of it seems to come from the people having a deep affection for their city (whether they are from Edinburgh or not) and the urge to share it with others. This may be due to the practice they’ve had because of the sheer quantity of tourists in town, but I don’t know that for sure. Either way, I haven’t met an Edinburger I didn’t like (and yes, they are called Edinburgers).

I suppose all that’s left to say is that I think everyone should visit Edinburgh. The only worry there is that if everyone feels like I do about the city, they all may never leave. But I think that’s what makes Edinburgh great. The place is fiercely Scottish (the sheer number of tourist shops and kilted bagpipists that I saw can attest to that) but it welcomes all who would wish to add something to it. The city adopts the best parts of those people, growing and evolving. People have been adding to it for centuries. I see no sign of that changing and I hope that it never does.

Thank you for this last week, Edinburgh. I will return (and next time I will definitely wear appropriate footwear when I decide to challenge the rocks and ridges).


Public Transportation

At 9:59 this morning, I should have been taking my second (and hopefully final) driving test. It may have been a long time coming, but my full driving license was finally within reach. Unfortunately, having had the test booked for around six weeks, I received an email at 8:15 stating that my test had been cancelled and rescheduled to another (far, far less convenient) date and time. Their reason was not explained, but they did apologise for the inconvenience caused. That was a nice touch, I suppose. I always appreciate fake remorse from big businesses.

My frustration is not that the test was cancelled. These things happen and although they failed to elaborate on why the cancellation was required (probably examiner sickness or something) I know that sometimes things like this are unavoidable. My frustration is the stress of the whole process. Stressing the night before about a test that I’m desperate not to fail. Stressing about not being able to sleep properly (tired driving is as dangerous as drunk driving, after all). Stressing on the morning of the test as I got ready to face an examiner. Stress about not wanting to let anyone down by failing again (my instructor’s stats matter to me and I’ve promised that I’ll start driving Lou around soon). I addressed my initial driving fears and aspirations a little while ago in Not Much of a Motorhead, and all of those feelings are still present and valid.

You might think that the cancellation effectively lifted this weight off of my shoulders, but what it actually did was copy the stresses to another day AFTER I had already suffered them. This sucks, but as I said before, I understand when these things are unavoidable.

I guess it is easier for me to be cool about it all because I’m sitting on a train right now, on my way to Edinburgh for the first time. It helps even more that I’m sitting in a First Class seat. What should be obvious is that I didn’t book this trip myself as I probably wouldn’t have done it on the same day as a driving test and I sure as hell couldn’t afford this seat. But I’m here, nonetheless, and it’s pretty awesome (the coffee isn’t great though, which is a shame). Can’t be too mad at the world when you’re busy travelling in style with rolling green countryside outside each window (the Lake District looks lovely today, by the way).

So, Edinburgh. I’ll be up here on behalf of the day job, but my intention is to use all of my spare time being a tourist whilst also working on some of my writing projects. I need to polish up my sitcom pilot script (the deadline is November 3rd *gulp*) and finish up a half-decent writing CV (I still don’t know what it’s meant to look like, but I’ll figure it out eventually). Maybe work on a second episode of the sitcom along with a drama pilot idea. I don’t know. Whatever takes my fancy whilst looking at the pretty Scottish buildings and the like (whilst also dodging the imminent wet weather).

Scotland! Visit the castle? Hell yes! Eat a deep-fried Mars bar? Definitely! Drink some whisky? Probably! Wear a kilt? Well… (!)

Business Card


This past weekend, I attended a wedding in Yorkshire. It was a wholly beautiful affair with a giant tipi, a vintage bus ride and a multi-tiered cake made entirely of pork pies (most certainly a highlight for a food addict and gross over-eater like myself). It was here that I met a young woman who, in the course of one brief conversation, helped me to make a realisation that I had previously struggled with.

The woman that I was speaking with (her name is Hannah, by the way) is an actress. Like many other creative types that I know, Hannah holds a separate day job. Nonetheless, when I asked what she did, she told me that she is an actress. When this entirely safe and neutral question was levelled back in my direction, I stumbled. For a while now, I’ve been assuring myself that when I get that question I’m going to start telling people that I am a writer. Yes, my day job is a retail one and that is where I currently earn my living, but it is not how I choose to define myself. However, when someone asks the question “what do you do?”, I inevitably find myself falling back on the safe, comfortable answer of “I work in retail”. Why do I do that? The question isn’t about how I earn money. If that is what was being asked, then surely retail would have been the correct answer. But the question isn’t about that. It’s about what you do. On days off, after shifts and on lunch breaks, I write. It doesn’t matter if it’s short scripts, blog posts or my manuscript… I write.

In our chat, the point was made that people in the creative industry often feel the need to justify themselves because so many others don’t consider their passion to be a ‘proper job’. It’s a proper job when George Clooney makes a movie, Taylor Swift releases an album or James Patterson writes a novel. Why should it be different when someone is just starting out? Creativity, imagination and bravery in performance are still definite skills. If someone uses those skills, then their job is no less ‘proper’ than any other. And just because you don’t earn a wage from it, doesn’t mean that it can’t be your vocation. How many film editors do I know who work in offices, answering calls and replying to memos? How many actors and actresses do I know who, even at this very moment, are ringing up transactions at a cash register in some shopping centre? How many musicians will be working at a bar in a club this weekend, pouring shots for crowds of drunken students? If these people have credits to their name or a body of work that they are proud of, why should they not label themselves with the title of their prospective craft? Why are we (and by ‘we’ I almost certainly just mean ‘me’ as this entire blog is pretty much just a projection of my concerns and worries onto the world around me) so concerned about our job title? The people that I have listed above should be happy to use the name of their craft when someone drops that bomb in a conversation. “What do you do?”

It’s up to you to decide who you are and how you define yourself to others. The people asking don’t know. That’s WHY they’re asking. Tell them what feels true to you and it is going to be the right answer, regardless of what you actually say.

I have decided that my answer to that question from now on is “I’m a writer”. That’s where my drive is. That is my passion. It’s funny to think that it required a conversation with a complete stranger (thanks again for that, Hannah) in order for me to realise something that should have been so basic and obvious. That is one of the funny things in life, I guess. We are always looking for that one defining moment when something finally clicks. That epiphany moment that is always accompanied by an interesting musical sound effect in the movies. When that does occur, we know that it is all that we’ve needed all along. A little affirmation and then it all makes sense.

Hi. I’m Dave and I’m a writer. What do you do?

Not my actual desk, but you get the idea.

Welcome Distractions

That’s not my actual desk up there, but you get the idea.

I’ve taken a little break from writing my book recently. I know, I know… I have a deadline. I haven’t forgotten about it (February 4th, completely self-imposed) but I have still been writing, so that makes delays acceptable, right? Anyway, I am going to finish the book so let’s not worry about it.

What am I writing that can warrant a break from ‘The Manuscript’? Short film scripts. Several of them over the last couple of months, as a matter of fact. This is a real departure from my usual method of sitting and staring at a blank page in a notebook for hours with no ideas forthcoming. I’m not usually an ideas man. I usually write in collaboration and an idea is formed collectively. In the past when I have written on my own, I’ve normally wound up with things half done and incomplete, or things that just weren’t very good (I mentioned the aptly titled ‘Untitled Mediocre Project in my last blog). That’s changed recently and I have no idea why. It must be practice and perseverance. Now I seem able to have an idea of my own, flesh it out sufficiently, make it half decent and then write it in a way that does the original idea justice. I seem to have developed an annoying habit of starting with a title and then I make an idea fit with it. I know that this doesn’t sound like the most practical way to write, but it’s working so far.

Of course, I’m not going to assert here that everything I’ve written recently is earth-shatteringly brilliant nor will I say that any of the scripts are going to shake up what we expect from short-form scriptwriting. What I will say is that I like them and I think they’re good enough to at least be seen by others, if not to actually be produced by someone.

It’s for that reason that I’ve set up a profile on IdeasTap to showcase some of these scripts. IdeasTap are a charity organisation that helps to find people in the arts work as well as providing access to competitions and funding opportunities. You can also build a network of other creative types and recommend each other based on you relevant experiences. I’ve used IdeasTap to enter a short script competition (I say ‘enter’ when actually the word ‘spammed’ is more appropriate). For the first time, my work will actually be judged by people who I don’t know. Exciting and terrifying, but I think it is necessary. How can I get any better without feedback?

One thing I have definitely learned from writing these things recently is that I really don’t want to produce or direct professionally. What really excites me is the writing. The creation and building of an idea is what I enjoy. I especially like writing dialogue (I don’t really know why where that preference came from but it probably has something to do with enjoying Kevin Smith films) and allowing characters to be wittier or more clever than I ever am able to be in real life.

The goal with all of this, really, is that I want to go pro. I need a body of work and I need to be judged. Contests are a good way to start. Maybe someone sees it, thinks it’s good and passes it on to someone higher. Maybe. One can dream.

Once all is said and done, we’ll see if my scripts take and whether anyone wants to take a shot at them. After that, I guess I’ll get back to that book of mine.


The Storyteller

“Let me tell you a story…”

That’s how my dad begins every one of his tales. He has a few to tell, I can assure you.

My dad has lived in the US, Italy, Germany and here in the UK. He has visited India and Malawi with charitable ambitions. He grew up with three brothers, two sisters and an often necessarily-absent father (due to his service in the military). My dad has also been married twice (with me to show for the first one).

So yeah. He’s got plenty of stories up his sleeve for pretty much any situation.

I think that’s one of the reasons why he’s been such an inspiration to me, in a social capacity. When I’m amongst a group I usually have something to say, an anecdote to share or a story of my own to tell. I very rarely have to shrink away from a gathering whether they’re new to me or not. Whenever I’m with a group of family members, my dad is almost always at the centre, holding court. It’s a kind of quiet confidence that I would really like to emulate.

However, more important to me than his social credentials are his creative ones. Professionally, he is a retail manager and has been for many years. Management is something that he is very good at (even at his most humble, I think he would agree) but I don’t believe that it is what he was born to do (I imagine he’d most likely agree with that too). He has a creative mind like few others I’ve ever met and an artistic flair with words in order to properly compliment it. I’ll always remember one of the opening lines from one of the short stories that were included as part of a game’s rulebook that he worked on (probably my favourite of what he’s written): “The night was wicked cold.” The argument that was put forward was that the line should be “wickedly cold” (something about the proper use of adverbs or some such nonsense) but my dad stood fast. “Wicked cold” just sounded better to him so that’s how it stayed. I’ve always preferred the line that way too.

As a writer, he’s always tried to write stuff that he knows he’d like to read. That’s an attitude that I’ve shamelessly tried to copy. Sometimes I’ve written things that weren’t very good, but they were what I wanted to write at the time. An uncompromising approach to creativity is something I’ve taken from my dad. People might not like something that I’ve written (hell, I might not even like it myself) but at the very least it will be practise. I actually have something in my drawer of old scripts and stories (yep, a drawer full of scraps and notebooks just sitting there) called ‘Untitled Mediocre Project’. It was a story about the crossing paths of three very different couples. Unfortunately, it was just a bit underwhelming. It had some very small good bits that I want to keep, though. I’ve always just considered it practice and I think I’m better for it.

That’s the thing I’m most grateful for. My dad taught me that being a good writer isn’t always about being good. It’s about writing what you want and not being deterred when what you want doesn’t turn out as good as you’d hoped. Being good at anything doesn’t just happen.

Keep writing. Keep getting better. Keep gathering stories. Then, maybe one day, I’ll have the confidence to hold court like my dad does.

One day, maybe I’ll be the storyteller.


Cutting the (Wireless) Cord

Yesterday started strangely for me. Why? Well, yesterday I forgot my iPhone and left it at home all day. I could picture exactly where it was; sitting on the side table, laughing at me. “Weak human,” it would probably have said, “try to live a day without me.”

Not having my attention buried in Facebook, Twitter, Buzzfeed, Engadget (or any of a number of other items plucked straight from the Master Procrastinator’s toolkit) meant that I had a chance to learn a little about myself.

1) I still know how to use a pen. However it should be mentioned that my handwriting was awful before and has probably gotten worse. Writing upstairs on a bus probably didn’t help either. You know how some professionals (doctors, psychologists, lawyers, etc) use a kind of coded shorthand for their notes and journals? My handwriting is just like that all of the time, but there isn’t a key to decipher it. It’s a little like trying to read the handwriting of a child who has just learned a foreign language; you recognize some letters, but there are just no recognizable words.

2) I really enjoy writing in a notebook. Despite my atrocious handwriting, I get a real kick out of seeing words on a page. I think it has something to do with the idea of permanence. Once I’ve written on the page, that’s where it stays. I could write it again or photocopy the page, but I can’t change what’s already been committed to the original paper and no duplicate I could write would ever be exactly the same. When I type on a phone, iPad or computer I can copy and paste all day long (although that would be a rather inefficient day).

3) I’m a bit like one of those crazy people that watches everyone and everything around me. I was being incredibly judgmental about some of the parking attempts made nearby (this might have something to do with having just failed my first driving test, maybe). A lady was debating whether a sibling should be given an iPad as a present or not, but I missed the resolution because the bus arrived (I was rooting for the kid). Had I a Twitter timeline to peruse, I’d have missed all of this.

4) My attention span is not what it once was. I guess years of jumping from timeline to newsfeed and back again will do that to you. I don’t even know if I’d be able to read a whole book. I like to think that I could, but…

5) I spend a lot of time travelling to and from work. When I’m focused on something like news or notifications, I don’t pay attention to how long my journey actually is. That travel time can be a lot more effective if I would just use it right.

Now let’s be honest. I already knew some of this stuff. I just don’t acknowledge it because I’m so regularly distracted. Part of me thinks that I should leave my phone at home more often. Unfortunately, that part of me is always shouted down by the other side of my brain that believes the phone’s lies.

“Live without me?” the phone would snarl, “unlikely.” Every once in a while, I’d like to prove it wrong. Even if only for a day.


Being Daddy Warbucks

That character in Annie. I’ve always loved the name. One day in the future, I’d like to be a dad. One of my biggest fears is that I won’t be a good parent. One of my other biggest fears is that I’ll be a great dad, but regardless of how good I am, the child will be awfully behaved all of the time. Or even worse if I’m a terrible parent with a perfectly well-behaved child. I’m probably massively overthinking it (pretty standard for me) since I imagine the whole thing is a bit of a compromise between being the best that YOU can be and handling the worst that THEY can be.

I started thinking about this the other day when I was travelling on a bus. I’ve seen a lot of families riding on a lot of different kinds of public transportation, but this was a little different. It was the first time that I felt genuinely uncomfortable and had the compulsion to get involved in someone else’s affairs. A young mother boarded (probably early twenties, but that doesn’t matter) with her little boy who was probably no older than three or four. The kid was chatting about something that I couldn’t quite make out, but that the mother clearly had no interest in hearing. The more the kid spoke, the more agitated his mother appeared. After a few minutes, the mother exploded and started ranting at the kid about being quiet.

I want to be clear about this part. She wasn’t just telling the kid off for talking. She was having a full-on rant. The kind of abusive tirade that people save for other grown people in the heat of an argument or an all-out fight when the other person can defend themselves. This went on for a few minutes. The kid was quiet throughout but she just kept going. Telling him how annoying he was. How she just wished that he would shut up. How she hated being out and about with him. When she was finished, he spoke again. She shouted him down. This happened a couple of times before the kid learned that there was no point in speaking further. He turned his head and stared out of the window for the remainder of the journey.

Now I’ve seen adults go misty eyed with lesser abuse. Not that kid. He just took everything that she had to give. Quietly. To me, this is a sign that this has happened before. The kid was just numbed to it and this made me feel cold and horrible inside.

No one on the bus said anything. What would they say? What would I have said? I had no idea what that mother was going through. I had no idea what might have happened minutes before boarding the bus or that morning over a bowl of corn flakes or twenty years ago when she was a kid. But the thought that remained with me throughout was how the kid took it. So well. So experienced.

Regardless of circumstance, I never want to be that parent. Screaming at a child on a bus is not how I want anyone to remember me. I can’t even imagine putting a child through that at all, let alone doing it often enough that the child develops such a thick skin.

My belief (completely lacking in any experience, of course) is that being a good parent has a lot to do with being a good person. Be good to the kid and hope that they’ll reward you with good behaviour, affection and awards from the school science fair. Maybe being a dad will be easier than I fear, or harder than I think. Won’t know until I’m there, I guess. One thing I do know is that I want to be the best parent I can be and that definitely means no shouting on a bus.



Yes, the spelling is intentional.

In the film Logan’s Run, every person in society gets to live to the ripe old age of 30. On their final day of life (cleverly referred to as ‘Lastday’) they enter the ritual of Carrousel and, with the promise of being reborn, are vaporized. Pretty grim, right?

Now, I know that my life should play out a little differently than that as there is no Carrousel ritual in the UK (although if Iain Duncan Smith could find a way to make it happen and monetize it, I bet he would), but I’m 29 and a half years old (at this point, the half matters). For me, the Big Three-Oh is approaching and it has already arrived for a number of my friends and loved ones. And although I don’t have a flashing red lifeclock in my palm (not yet anyway), it feels like this birthday will be a little bit different.

I have this theory that there are several milestone birthdays. These are (in no particular order except chronological) 18, 21, 25, 30, 40 and every ten years after that (people argue that 25 shouldn’t be included but it’s a quarter century, so it stays in). Now here we are and 25 was four and a half years ago, passing with little fanfare or excitement. Saying that, I did go to Amsterdam for my 25th birthday… on my own. It was a fantastic city to visit, but when you’re there on your own everyone looks at you like you’re some kind of filthy sex tourist. So don’t do that (unless you ARE a sex tourist, in which case go for it). I digress.

It’s the the final months of my twenties and I have the fear that the allocation of a new numerical value will change me somehow. I don’t think that I’ve seen any real change in people that I know who’ve already hit 30, but I’m concerned that it’s a more personal change. Something about the way you think or the way that you’re perceived once you’re out of your twenties.

Maybe the worry is present because I’m leaving my twenties and I haven’t really done many of the things that other people have done by this point on their personal calendar. I didn’t do a lot of drunken, hedonistic partying. I didn’t finish university (with more of the associated partying). I didn’t take a grand world tour or see parts of the world that took me far from my comfort zone.

But is that really missing out?

I made a web series and a comedy feature film with some of my best friends. I’ve written stories and scripts and acted in front of my peers. I met the woman of my dreams and she agreed to marry me (despite how many opportunities I’ve given her to change her mind). These are not small achievements.

Are any of the things that I’ve missed better than any of the things that I’ve done? They’re different, but they’re not better. In fact, had I done the things I mentioned, I may not be where I am now. I definitely wouldn’t be who I am.

Perhaps I don’t have to approach this milestone birthday with apprehension or fear. Maybe I’m going into my thirties with a set of experiences that differ wildly from some of my peers. Maybe that will make me a better person than I otherwise would have been. Maybe the change in personality or perception will be a good thing. I don’t think I ever thought of it that way. It could be that the change is brought on not by age, but by experiences. I think that’s the way I need to look at it from now on.

Someone far more clever than I am probably said it first, but I think I have a new mantra starting with this birthday: I’m not getting older. I’m levelling up.


Where I Belong

I’m the kind of person that gets asked a lot of questions in life. I’m rarely the smartest guy in the room and it isn’t because I know much of anything in particular. Mostly it is because my day job exists within the realm of retail technical support. However, the most common question I get is one that requires no technical background to answer. It’s also a question that has many variations. The core question is this: “Where are you from?”

That question on it’s own is no big deal (although the answer I choose seriously depends on the audience I’m addressing). I was born in London, raised across the United States for 13 years  before returning to Manchester (the UK one) 15 years ago. I usually tell people that I’m from Texas because I was there for most of those 13 years (and it’s easier than telling the whole story, I’ll tell that another time). That question isn’t really the problem. I have a funny accent due to travelling around so much, so people can’t always guess where I’ve been. The follow-up question is the one that takes me a moment to answer. The question I’m referring to, in its basic form, is this: “Why are you in the UK when you could be living in the US?”

There are two common incarnations of this question. One of them is simple and innocuous: “What brings you to the UK?” Usually asked by curious and well-meaning individuals, I have a very simple answer for this one: “Family.” That usually ends the questioning and everyone moves on smiling, happy in the knowledge that I’m some kind of world-travelling family man.

The other common version is the one that I have an issue with. The question is this: “Why are you here?” Now I know that there isn’t any existential meaning behind the question because it is invariably followed up with statements like “I’d rather be there” or “you’re crazy being here” or “how do you cope with this weather”.

I know that I’m being picky and overly sensitive about this, I know that I am, but I’ve never liked these questions much. The first one I’m okay with. It’s usually pleasant and meant as a gentle probe when a stranger finds a gap in the conversation. But the second one… I just feel like it’s intrusive. “Why are you here” sounds like the kind of question you’d get asked at the security desk at the airport, not the way that you’d get to know a stranger who legally resides in this country. “I’d rather be in the States” is all well and good but (by your own admission) you don’t know what I was escaping by coming here. “How do you cope with the weather” is fine until you realise that northwest Texas juggles pretty much every kind of weather system possible throughout the whole year.

There’s probably a case of ‘the grass is always greener’ going on for some people. They see what TV and movies show them about America and think that it is a glorious land of opportunity. For some people it definitely is and I would never say otherwise. Others think that anything other than what they are used to is an improvement. I’m sure that’s true for some people too, but I am much happier here.

I suppose the simple solution for this problem of mine (that isn’t even a problem, really) is to lighten up a little bit. I’m sure nobody is asking these questions because they’re in the mood for a little light interrogation. They hear an unfamiliar accent and wonder why. Nobody is being mean-spirited or negative about it… except me, I guess. The simple answer to the question is that I’m here because I want to be here. My family and friends are here. A lot of my history is here now too (15 years is a long time). That’s what I need to focus on. Not how they ask, but what they want to know and just how easy it is for me to give them that information politely.

It’s all about a little change in attitude. Starting today, when people ask me why I’m in the UK, I’ll give them the only answer that they need and the one that really makes sense to me.

Life brought me here. Now I’m here to stay.