Tuesday, 21 January 2020

Self-Indulgent Birthday List #3 - my favourite 49 films EVAH!

My favourite 49 Films of all time

1.       Nobody’s Fool

2.       Vanishing Point

3.       Paris, Texas

4.       Cinema Paradiso

5.       North by Northwest

6.       Booksmart

7.       Jaws

8.       Withnail and I

9.       Death Race 2000

10.   Miller’s Crossing

11.   The Conversation

12.   It’s A Wonderful Life

13.   Harold and Maude

14.   Silver Linings Playbook

15.   The Green Mile

16.   True Romance

17.   No Country for Old Men

18.   The Fugitive

19.   Raiders of the Lost Ark

20.   Erin Bronkovich

21.   Dave

22.   Die Hard

23.   Midnight Run

24.   The Dead Zone

25.   Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

26.   Seven Psychopaths

27.   The Fugitive

28.   The Princess Bride

29.   Good Will Hunting

30.   Badlands

31.   Night of the Demon

32.   Local Hero

33.   The Apartment

34.   A Matter of Life and Death

35.   Accidental Hero

36.   Enough Said

37.   Casablanca

38.   Toy Story 3

39.   The Royal Tenenbaums

40.   Rushmore

41.   Magnolia

42.   Silent Running

43.   Leon

44.   Dead Man’s Shoes

45.   Sideways

46.   Billy Liar

47.   Ameile

48.   Office Space

49.   The Straight Story

Self-Indulgent Birthday List #2 - My Favourite 49 TV Shows EVAH!

My favourite 49 TV Shows of all time

1.       Breaking Bad

2.       The Wire

3.       The Sopranos

4.       Chernobyl

5.       Cheers

6.       Six Feet Under

7.       The Leftovers

8.       Watchmen

9.       The Boys

10.   Seinfeld

11.   Blackadder (the whole lot)

12.   The Young Ones

13.   Tiswas

14.   Game of Thrones

15.   The Americans

16.   Jam

17.   The Day Today

18.   Brass Eye

19.   Black Books

20.   Friday Night Lights

21.   The Office

22.   Mum

23.   Fleabag

24.   Fargo

25.   Yes Minister

26.   The Thick of It

27.   Spitting Image

28.   The Mr. Men (original series)

29.   Bulman

30.   The Beiderbecke Affair

31.   Holding On

32.   The End of the F---------- World

33.   Top of the Pops

34.   The Channel 4 incarnation of Big Brother

35.   Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin

36.   Mastermind

37.   Bored to Death

38.   The Rockford Files

39.   Get Shorty

40.   Father Ted

41.   The IT Crowd

42.   Better Things

43.   One Summer

44.   A Very British Coup

45.   GBH

46.   Barry

47.   Russian Doll

48.   Outnumbered

49.   Succession

Self-Indulgent Birthday List #1 - My Favourite 49 Songs EVAH

I'm 49 today so I'm not doing a #400steps update. Instead, bear with me, I've made three lists of my favourite songs, tv shows and films of all time. 49 of each as I'm erm 49 today. Did them off the top of my head - set myself 15 minutes to do it. And already I'm agonising.

My favourite 49 songs of all time.

1.       Walk Away Renee – Four Tops

2.       Temptation – New Order

3.       I’ve Been Waiting For You – Pixies

4.       Youth Against Fascism – Sonic Youth

5.       Girls of Summer – Arab Strap

6.       The Fall of Troy – Tom Waits

7.       Something on Your Mind – Karen Dalton

8.       Real Love – Big Thief

9.       Let’s Pretend – Tindersticks

10.   Send in the Clouds – Silver Jews

11.   Holes – Mercury Rev

12.   Rebel Without A Cause – Public Enemy

13.   4th Chamber – Genius/GZA

14.   Always on my Mind – Willie Nelson

15.   Harry Irene – Captain Beefheart

16.   Fantasy Island – Tight Fit

17.   Scarlet Beautiful – Beloved

18.   Left to my Own Devices – Pet Shop Boys

19.   Rock & Roll – Velvet Underground

20.   I Don’t Know Why – Stevie Wonder

21.   We Have All The Time in the World – Louis Armstrong

22.   Ice Hockey Hair – Super Furry Animals

23.   War of Nerves – All Saints

24.   Stronger – Sugababes

25.   Down Down – Status Quo

26.   Drive-In Saturday – David Bowie

27.   Racing in the Street – Bruce Springsteen

28.   Kinky Afro – Happy Mondays

29.   Tell Me That It Isn’t True – Bob Dylan

30.   Blindness – The Fall

31.   So You’ll Aim Towards the Sky – Grandaddy

32.   California Soul – Marlena Shaw

33.   Unfinished Sympathy – Massive Attack

34.   What Time is Love – KLF

35.   Ibithaj - Rapsody

36.   Dirty Epic – Underworld

37.   Wild Night – Van Morrison

38.   I Gave You – Bonnie Prince Billy

39.   212 – Azalea Banks

40.   Video Games – Lana Del Rey

41.   Life in a Glasshouse – Radiohead

42.   A Day in the Life – Beatles

43.   Surf’s Up – Beach Boys

44.   You Shook Me All Night Long – AC/DC

45.   Head Over Heels – ABBA

46.   Maps – Yeah Yeah Yeahs

47.   Lazy Line Painter Jane – Belle and Sebastian

48.   Moments of Pleasure – Kate Bush

49.   The Only Living Boy in New York – Simon and Garfunkel

Monday, 13 January 2020

400 Steps - Update Three - Go Fuck A Sausage

Diet starts today. I weigh a disgusting 17 stone 4lbs.  If I was ripped like some sort of rugby player, this weight would be acceptable for a 6 foot lad but I’m not. I’m off the booze nearly a fortnight now but it’s time to shift the heavy furniture. I’m not going to go all Men’s Health and all that GQ body image bollocks. Fuck that noise. All these London based 50k trust fund cunts giving it the large because Daddy paid for their membership and diet pills. I’m nearly 50, I’d need steroids and extensive surgery to look like that. Take a day off lads. Eat a Twix. Go fuck a sausage.

You’ve got a choice when you’re young. Rock and roll or gym and salad. Well, you did 30 years ago and clearly I chose the insensible thing. I chose the wrong thing every time and now my body stands before me, like Miss Lydia at the start of Fame, telling me it’s time to start paying.

Anyway, enough of that bullshit. Eat less, eat better, do more exercise. That’ll do. Let’s see where I’m at with this in a week.

Can you lose weight by crying? Things I’ve cried at this weekend. That Rugby League player who’s just been diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease – when he came on the pitch for the last time this weekend. Cried at that. Cried at that video of that all star band at a tribute to George Harrison with Jeff Lynne and Tom Petty playing “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” and Prince showing the world what it’s about to miss too. George’s boy is in the background playing an acoustic and for a moment or too he’s lost in Prince’s genius, gawping like a fan again, like a kid again and all that sadness and pain is for a moment lost, or appears to be. I guess that’s all pop music can or should be, respite from all the shit, just for a moment. Cried at my daughter telling me she loves me too. Fucking hell. It’s all too much this life at times but I crave more. Much more.

Read COKETOWN. Just fucking buy it and read it. And then buy and read DRUNKEN BAKERS too.

Days of self-improvement left: 374.

Thursday, 2 January 2020

400 Steps - Update Two - Control

I have very poor impulse control. Actually, that's overstating it. I have some control, but not as much as I'd like.

I don't know why. Something to do with growing up poor probably. Apparently you don't learn how to envisage potential potholes ahead properly. That's a lot of P words there sorry. Anyway, this control thing is at the heart of a lot of mistakes that I've made in all areas of my life. And it's absolutely at the heart of all the reasons I want to stop drinking for a while so I can recalibrate the old noodle, fucking work out what's at the dark heart of me. I keep saying heart, fuck knows why, I hate that station.

Anyway, Christmas is something I find stressful. Nothing bad has ever happened to me at that time of year but I don't like the pressure of it, the forced closeness of people. I like people all year round but for a few days each year I've got to somehow pretend that this is how I like it, got to join in with everybody else's sudden gregariousness. Then there's the money. I don't earn a great deal of money but even I feel pressured to spend what I don't have to feel like I've demonstrated a suitable amount of love on people who know how much I love them already. So many Christmas shopping trips have ended up with me, hammered, gift-free in a pub. I don't like crowds, I don't like panicking, I'll spot a fireside glow and a row of beer pumps and the consumerist hell is delayed.

I like to walk at Christmas, spend a bit of me time lost in a stroll somewhere. No music on the headphones, just a bit of quiet. I didn't get the time for that this year or rather I failed to make the time. I just spent time watching telly and getting fat instead and that didn't help me. I even failed at abstaining all of December but it was okay because I rationalised the choices ahead of me when a stranger offered me a glass of wine at a party on New Year's Eve.

I can a) say Yes. b) say No. b) means I might end up in a discussion with people who know addicts and want to tell you their story which is fine because my exercise in abstinence is just a tiny part of a wider conversation that people need to have with themselves and their loved ones and their colleagues about their own substance issues. All conversations have a context.

I'm torn. I've turned down several drinks over the last month because I wanted to. That is the crux of my problem. I've not listened often enough to what I needed. I've just wasted so much of my life getting drunk when I didn't really need to, when what I really could have done with is some quiet, sober time of self-reflection instead. And it's better to do that in the glow of not having drunk than in the existential aftermath of a hangover - the deep fug of post-poison gloom where you, already dealing with toxins wreaking havoc with your internal organs, now have to wrestle with the psychic defences having been breached.

So, my decision came down to all these other questions in my head. Did I feel like I could drink without getting drunk? Are people going to judge you whatever decision you make? Are you going to judge you? All of this stuff is bouncing around in the tired, end-of-year brain. And so I said Yes. And I had two small glasses in the space of four hours. And I went home. And the drink was nice. And I felt a little bit like I'd let myself down when I woke up. But I told myself this was the choice I'd made, and that I'd been restrained, and that I'd had a nice evening, and that no one had texted to ask if I was ok or chastise me for something I'd said or done the night before. And I can live with that.

I've reset the Days Since I've Drunk clock to zero again. And I will see how long I can go this time. Because I want to do this, I'm actually in control of it. And that's why you won't see me preaching about it because I have no idea how hard it is to give something up when you are addicted to it, properly snagged in it's nets. There won't be a 15 Tips to a Happier, Healthier You book. I'm no Puritan. This is purely about me saying I've got a lot of work to do on being happier and fitter and healthier in 400 odd days time. And if you read this and like it, fair play to you, thanks for the support. And if you don't read it, or don't like it, then that's good too.

To be honest, I'm more ashamed of having played fucking Charades.

Days of self-improvement left: 385

Tuesday, 31 December 2019

Mission Complete - the 365daychallenge

Fucking hell, we did it.

I wrote in May about what made me set out on this epic trek into foolishness. A lot of things happened to me in 2018, not all of them brilliant. A low ebb thus reached, and without the prospect of The Ghost of New Year Yet to Come to show me the potential for self-improvement and change, I set out on making my corner of Twitter somewhere to visit, park your arse and respond to a daily question.

Initially the challenge of the title was an in-joke with me, the famed dreamer, the fabled failer of projects, pipe-dreams and plans. Could I really see this through till Dec 31?

Well, I did. Or rather we did. If we've achieved nothing else (and my greatest hope for all of this was to emulate the brilliant comment made by Viz creator Simon Donald - "no one has ever put down a copy of Viz any cleverer than they were before picking it up")* - then we've made friends, built a little community of people with little in common other than looking out for a silly question on Twitter each day to respond to.

We started out highbrow with questions about getting pissed with the Mr Men and which country do you think is shaped like a celebrity (Belgium is shaped like Godzilla) and never really got any deeper or more profound than that.

Some stats for you erm stats fans - the challenge has been viewed overall over 7 million times so far this year. The most viewed question was by Kate Andrews (k8andrews) who innocently asked "Why is your best friend your best friend?" - seen by 167,230 people so far. The most replies (1,074) was to a challenge giving you the means of finding your Victorian villain name.

I've had countless (well, at least 8) messages telling me how much they look forward to the challenge each day, how they've found new "virtual" friends online and connected with people. People have asked me how I cope with that many notifications a day (clue - quiet, undignified spells of weeping and lots of tea) and am I going to continue in 2020?

Well, we've done it once. We can do it again. If you have a question that hasn't been asked before, DM it to me and we'll put it to the people.

Proper actual journo Dorian Lynskey recently described the challenge as like a "dream radio phone-in". That single comment made me smile more than anything else this Christmas. I do feel like a host of some tiny radio show in a remote community, regular callers, in-jokes and all of that. It's like my dream job really.

So many people to thank.

@BigPaulinWales for being the first challenge regular to meet me in the flesh and for his perfect set of questions to end the year.

@zellishrose, @Rover9495, @TheStevenThomas, @JuiceTerry, @deanoB24 and all the other regular question contributors.

Thanks to @k8andrews for the most popular question of the year. Thanks to @drunkenbutcher for becoming our first resident expert.

Thanks as ever to the "lads" @michaelglasper, @nalaknip and @riffraffhands.

Thanks to @cherryaimless and @sgtrendall for hosting in my absence. Thanks to @NickPettigrew for the love and support. Thanks to all of you who trusted me with DM responses along the lines of "I can't say this out loud but this happened" - I have alerted the authorities and await huge cash rewards.

Thanks also to @DuncanMcVey for his questions, enthusiasm and suggestions, @KathyBurke and @jamajestical for bigging it up whenever possible. Thanks to @MariaDonovanWri for being inspirational and @Sianz for being the person who innocently told me in 2011 that I should join Twitter.

Thanks to everyone who replied, retweeted, shared and enjoyed the challenges. I was the Shit Ratio King of 2019 and I loved it.

And last, but by no means least, my daughter Martha who recently asked if "I was doing that stupid thing again next year."

Yes, Martha, I am. I'm very sorry.

Accept no substitute, this is the premier question-a-day-with-a-shit-hashtag game on the internet.

A very happy New Year to you all. Look out for the imaginatively titled #366daychallenge hashtag in 2020.



* I can't find the exact quote. It's something like that by someone like that.

Tuesday, 24 December 2019

400 Steps - Update One - No Treasure But Hope

A few friends of mine have got in touch with me since my last blog post. They want to know what it is I’m doing to make these final 400 days of my forties happier, healthier ones.

I’m 23 days into abstaining from alcohol. This is the hardest time of the year to contemplate knocking booze on the head and the sobering blow of the General Election threatened to topple me early on but I’m glad I’ve done it. Do I feel happier? Ironically I feel sad that that part of my life is over for now. I was a heroic drinker at my peak but there were many troughs and no longer having to deal with the aftermath of those is better than any intoxication.

Things I’ve done in the first week.

I’ve tidied and Christmas decorated my flat. A tree, lights and cards everywhere. I cleaned my oven. I packed a box full of clothes to donate to the homeless. I’ve done my Christmas shopping.

I had to do this online as I had two panic attacks on the occasions I tried to go into town.  One of them was a proper full blown grip the walls bastard – the type I thought I’d left behind a while back.
Inadvertently I confessed the full extent of my anxiety problems to my mum. Something I didn’t think I could ever do. We spoke about the mental health issues my family have faced down the years. I felt like I knew and understood my parents better afterwards.

I spoke to my son for three hours. I don't see him very often. He lives hundreds of miles away and we do not see eye to eye on some things but we connected and we spoke about his own children and meeting up soon. I talked about the reasons I find it hard to see him sometimes and we seemed to be in a better place at the end of it.

I spoke to my three best friends, each of whom are seriously ill. You may draw your own conclusion as to whether or not I am the cause of these illnesses. Each of them, and many other people I’ve spoken to are struggling right now with facing the reality of what is to come. I don’t think I’m exaggerating when I say that this is the closest this country has come to electing an openly fascist government. And by a landslide too. People who are dependent on the NHS and other public services are genuinely scared. Those of us who want a country that acts up to the values and standards it proclaims it already has are fearful of fresh depths being plumbed. How do I, how can any of us begin to try to claw our way back to happiness in times like these?

I guess that in the end all we have is each other. That’s our strength to draw on, our winter fuel. The nights already are shortening, eventually Spring will return us to the long days and the bird-filled skies. For now, there’s no treasure but hope. Hold on to that. Hold on to one another. As long as we have that strength, the ability to support each other, then we can be sure that, just like the leaves on the trees, the good times will one day return and love will win.

Merry Christmas.