A Quest for Normality

What is normal?

That is a question that has no right or wrong answer. It varies not only from person to person but from day to day. For some of you reading right now it may be completely normal and positively hum drum to wear frilly lacy panties because you like the way they feel against your skin. Some of you might even be male. Ugh a man in frilly pants, how is that normal? Normal for him, so it’s all good.

Of course we all have to conform to a certain degree to what society has laid out for us as normal. In the workplace for example it would probably be considered abnormal to fart loudly and shout “I’m a stinky monkey” whereas at home you can do this no worries, trust me you can, go on give it a whirl.

For the young at school the quest for the non-existent “normal” is strong. Your friends, even the ones “sticking it to the man” want you to conform to their perception of normal. Your parents want you to conform the family version of normal and then there is your teachers who demand a adherence to their classroom norm.

The classroom normal is the most dangerous and the most influential. As is proved now in the classrooms of North Korea and in history with the schoolrooms of Nazi Germany. A normal taught in a classroom with an agenda can influence a persons actions throughout their life, be it that your leader is indeed glorious and infallible or that Jacob sat next to you is sub-human.

Teachers outside of obvious oppressive regimes need students to be normal. It makes their life easier. If you as a student have a impairment that makes it impossible to conform then the school has three choices.
1.Belittle that impairment “Be normal!” (Pleading helps!) “We are not here to babysit”
2.Provide no support and deny the impairment exists. “Normalising”
3.Provide a quality education (Difficult, but not impossible)

In case you haven’t guessed 1 and 2 happened! The pleading came from the Head of of local academy. A man blinded by the quest for “normal” that he’d forgotten that the reason for schools to provide an education for all. But this is not just a dig at him, arsehole of the highest order as he is.

The normal ideal, conditions us to believe in a society where difference is something to be avoided for ourselves and feared within others. At best it promotes a boring closed life, at worse it provides an environment where it is ok to exclude, discriminate against or even exterminate others because their normality is different from our own.

Mexican curious monkey
Mexican Monkey… not stinky, but perhaps curious to learn.
A Quest for Normality

Friday Fiction: Morning Coffee

Hi Dear Reader,

This is the first in a series aimed at forcing me to write at least once a week. Every Friday I will make every attempt to write something fictional for you to endureenjoy. This is something a little different.

The 90’s has a lot to answer for Luke thought as he fumbled for £3.50 in change to pay for his daily coffee. The shop was strangely empty for a Tuesday morning, in fact as he continued to fumble in his pocket hopping towards the till like some demented antelope on ice, he noticed that he, Luke Russell, was the only customer. His train of thought stopped dead when she spoke.
“Hello Sir.” She said “What can I get you?”
Luke froze, hand still in his pocket. He opened his mouth to reply but no words could be found. She was quite stunning, he thought. She had long dark hair, blue eyes that had Luke mesmerised. He fell in love easily and with alarming regularity. It was happening again.
“Sir?” she repeated, “Are you OK?”
Luke looked down at his pocketed hand, and withdrew it faster than a catholic on honeymoon. He felt his face redden and he was suddenly glad for the apparent decline in Starbucks business.
“I wasn’t…” he began. “….My change.”
She smiled a wide perfect smile which caused Luke to fall in Love all over again.
“What can I get you?”
“Medium Americano” he said amazed finally managed to order.
“What’s your name?” she asked.
“…Luke” he said, pausing before remembering why she asked. For the cup.
“Sugar Luke?”
“No. You are sweet enough.” The very moment he felt the words leave his mouth he tried to reach out to stop them, now he was sure his face was crimson with embarrassment, if the floor wasn’t kind enough to open and swallow him he would take his coffee and sit far away, preferably outside. In fact he would never visit the store again yes….. She laughed ending his torment.
“Thank you Luke.” She said brushing a stray strand of hair away from her face. “Sugar for your coffee?”
“No thank you.”
“Take a seat, I’ll bring it over.”

Luke scurried away a corner table. He sat down and watched his coffee being prepared. The shop was still empty and very quiet. Aside from the grind of coffee beans and the gentle pan-pipe musak nothing was to be heard. The beautiful barista delivered Luke’s coffee as promised.
“Thanks.” He said. “Why is it so quiet today?”
“No idea. But it’s good for me. It’s my first day.”
“Oh, I thought I hadn’t seen you before. I come here most days. I’m Luke.”
She laughed again.
“I know I wrote on your cup. I’m Aubrey.”
Luke laughed.
“Pleased to meet you.” He said, extending his hand. “Feel free to sit down with me. I would offer to buy you coffee but..”
“You are silly.” She said as she pulled out a chair and sat down. “But that’s a good thing.” She added noticing the wounded look on Luke’s face.
He took a sip of coffee, remembering too late that, as the lid of his cup warned, contents were indeed hot. The Americano took the consistency of broken glass in his mouth. He felt it burn all the way down. Yet another stupid move, but one he felt he got away with.
“Hot?” she said.
He hadn’t.

“Than holy hell.” He replied with a pained smile.
“96 degrees. Just how they showed me.” She said, again pushing another stray strand of hair away from her face. “But my Mother told me when I was tiny to wait for drinks to cool down before drinking.”
“Smart woman. But then she will have never experienced the thrill and searing pain.”
“True.” Aubrey said and smiled. “Is it always this quiet here?”
“No, never seen it like this before. Usually full of suits with laptops.”
“Looking busy.”
“Yes exactly. “Luke replied, nodding and moving his hand tentatively towards his coffee. “Maybe they are all working from home or something”
“I’d love to do that, you could never be late then.”
Luke nodded and risked another try at drinking his coffee, a sudden dawn of realisation crept over his face.
“Late! Oh crap” he exclaimed and stood up from his chair. “Thank you so much for the coffee, but I am late for a meeting. Will I see you again?”
“Depends if you want coffee. Or if they fire me.”

He was about to reply, but his morning alarm went off in his ear. 6:30am, way too early but plenty of time for morning coffee.

Coffe time

Friday Fiction: Morning Coffee

Fiction: Match Maker, Match Maker, Make Me a Match

“You cannot underestimate the value of a perfect match.” Eddie said, clouds curling round his feet. “Get that right and this job is easy.”

It was Malcolms first day. Not with the company, he’d been with Cloud Solutions for five years, but this was a promotion, the big leagues, high profile matchmaking. He was nervous and it was clear that Eddie was looking for perfection, which wasn’t really helping. He’d been on top of Cumulus MMA for half an hour now and it just didn’t feel like he’d expected

“What happens if the match is wrong?” Malcolm asked, peering over his clipboard.
“Well at the very least you are looking at months of work. We don’t just randomly throw people together, my team have developed many algorithms that make sure every match we make is a hit.”

Malcolm was not a man who liked an “Algorithm”, he much preferred the personal touch. Especially when it came to matters of the heart. Eddie seemed cold and unemotional about it all but maybe it was the secret to remaining effective. Eddie was in his mid-fifties, chubby round the middle like he enjoyed more than the odd beer of a evening. He’s face was weather worn, and his features very defined, even though his mouth was almost hidden in-amongst thick stubble. He wore blue jeans topped off by an old leather jacket over a chunky knit black jumper.

Eddie caught Malcolm looking him over.

“What?” He asked.
“It’s just,” Replied Malcolm, hugging his clipboard for protection “you don’t exactly look like a typical match maker.”
“The clients don’t see us, we make the match and track how it unfolds. I could come to work in my boxers for all they care. They want us to do what is needed to fill the contract that’s it.”
“Oh. That’s not how it comes across in the magazines”
“What kinda magazines have you been reading? Jesus, look here.”
Eddie reached into the cloud and pulled out two files , opened them and began to talk through the contents of each in turn. “Look, this geezer here will be a great match for this girl. Really get the job done.”

Malcolm thought this to be a trifle blunt.

“He’s got a nice car, so that gives us options.” Eric continued. “He’s a big lad..”
“Oh please, do we have to..”
“Tall, gutter mind. He’s 6’7″
“Oh.” Malcolm replied tail firmly between his legs. “Does she have a say in this? I mean she might not like burly guys”
“Like him?” Eddie looked puzzled.
“Yes, have a general rapport, to begin with anyway.”
“You are twisted,” Eddie said, playfully punching Malcolms shoulder. “I like that.”
Malcolm rubbed his shoulder. He was, by now totally confused. Here he was starting a matchmaker job on Valentines Day, of all days. With a boss who didn’t seem to know anything about relationships or love.
“I have to ask,” he said. “Who have you put together? Anyone famous?”
“Well there was that south african guy. Oscar something.. with a beautiful girl. He did a really good job, excellent match. No-one expected that.”
“But he killed her. You think that was a good match.”
“Yes of course.” Eddie replied surprised. “Thats our purpose here.”
“What? But you are a matchmaker.. cupid, arrows everything.”
“Cupid?!” Eddie laughed. “The only arrow people get with us is right between the eyes. You got your paperwork?”

Malcolm fumbled in his pockets and handed the papers HR had given him to Eddie.
Looking at them he said. “Aha, I see. You want the lovey dovey crap on Cumulus MMC! I am a real matchmaker, I decide who dies and the best way for them to do it, to meet their match. Game over.”

Fiction: Match Maker, Match Maker, Make Me a Match

Pong Never Had Safe Mode

On the 3rd of January this year my Playstation 4 died. It returned from Sony on Monday. Last night 3 days after its return it promptly did a reverse Jesus and died again. This time however (at the time of writing) I managed to channel the gods of geek and fix it, not that there is much your average geek can do with a dualshock controller and closed OS.

I’ve been a casual gamer for a long time. I am not a pro, or semi pro or any good. I don’t care enough about “awesome headshots” in CoD or Levelling Up in WoW to trouble the top scores pages. I play for fun, I play online and whilst battling my complete lack of dexterity I occasionally manage to beat other people from all over the world in dazzling HD.

My PS4’s frailty of late has made me think back to the early years of gaming. Mid 80’s Commodore 64 for me. Press Play on Tape! Yes the games took ages to load, yes they sometimes crashed but the C64 remained in perfect working order for me to either try again or load something else. I even roped my family in for sessions of “Winter Games” My Mum ably representing the USSR in the ski jump.

Move forward a few years to my first console the grey box of wonder that was the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) Instant load times due to cartridges, age old tradition of “If it’s broken, blow on it” This technique worked with the SNES too and a simple tap of the reset button worked for everything else. No firmware updates, or patches. Everything worked 99.9% of the time.

Now with progress we get games that are released half finished (Watchdogs) because consoles are connected to high speed broadband. Even if you pre-order a title on disc your console will find an update the second the disc is inserted.

Don’t get me wrong, I love being a gamer in a era of epic titles like the Last of Us, a true work of art (if you haven’t played it.. go now) but as a console gamer who is a bit of a geek I am frustrated by the lack of info the system gives me if it goes wrong. When my console was returned by Sony no information was given in regards to what they actually did.

In conclusion I guess the price we pay for cutting edge is that we might fall off occasionally and we won’t know why. But we will join the queue to hop back on, and it will be different Oh yes it will be different.

PS4 and Dualshock 4

Pong Never Had Safe Mode

Lets Twist Again

Hello dear reader it’s been a long time for which I again apologise (to all 5 of you!) Worry not my desire to write has not decreased, hence this piece. Merely my motivation and inner quality control has intervened

My fictional ideas, well my real ideas about fictional things, have been poor or similar to things I have done before, or both. So the little starts on bits I made have remained just starts, under developed characters in unrealistic situations. “That never stopped Russell T Davies” I hear you shout. Whilst I agree with this self heckle Russell TD is an award winning writer (mostly about his love for the “D” but still) and I am blogger, so he wins.

My opinion pieces, so pant wettingly well put together in the past have suffered over the last year. Why? Well 2014 was such an event packed year, generally speaking all of it horrid. Personally I got my shit together, but the world was busy going crazy. Lots to write about you may think. Well no, not really. There are many things I can’t write about because of work, of things I can speak of I don’t really add anything new to the party, in that I agree, because who wouldn’t, with the common consensus. Gunmen in cafes and the offices of paris satirists are bad. People protesting over everything, from “corrupt police” to “Jeremy Clarkson” None of it really interests me. There is no contrast, no grey area. If you think your God is offended by a cartoon, not a very strong willed God by the way.

So that leaves poetry. Seems my type of whimsy is well suited for the web, being that it’s short and easily forgettable, much like me! I like writing it, and some of you enjoy reading it, but I never intended this whole thing to be a tribute to Pam Ayres (much maligned as she is, name 5 poets, she’ll be in most peoples lists)

I always have enjoyed writing, like most things, I’ll never be the best or the most popular but I will always try to write things I like in the hope that anyone who reads it might like them too. Hopefully I’ll hop back on the fiction wagon soon, with a twist so devious even Chubby Checker would be jealous. Who knows when motivation strikes.

Lets Twist Again

Poem: The Stone

Everyday, I place it on,
The stone around my neck,
Although the cord that it hangs from is not tight,
It suffocates my brain.
My freedom lost for eight hours,
Can’t think, cannot express.
I am not me.
The stone it casts a wicked spell,
I am someone elses.
I represent ideals that aren’t mine.
I smile at those I despise.
The stone keeping my hate weighed down inside.
The stone tells them who I’m paid to be.
Not who I am.


Poem: The Stone

This Goes to 11: IVA Survival Tips

1,826 long days, I have been officially skint. Well I was skint before that but I have a court judgement to prove it. The IVA is government legislation which whilst keeping you to a strict budget and forcing you to cut up your credit cards, allows you to reach an arrangement with all your creditors to pay back only part of what you owe. Unlike a debt management plan, both parties are bound to this so Barclays can’t suddenly decide they want all your cash tomorrow, or they send the boys round.

If you are in money strife as some of you might be after Christmas, worry not. A IVA or similar financial agreement is not a cakewalk but it is a proactive step to doing something to keep the wolves from the door. If you are thinking about taking one up, here are 11 (I like Spinal Tap) things I learnt along the way to help you sleep a little better.

    1. If you know you you are going to enter into the agreement and you need to buy something, shove it on the card before. If it’s a big purchase, don’t try and do it on the cheap. Two reasons for this, whatever it is will have to last you 5 years and it is the last chance you’ll have to “enjoy” spending for a while. I brought the Macbook I’m typing this on, yes I could have got a cheaper machine, but it wouldn’t have lasted me.
    2. Before you enter into the agreement, grab a meal out with your family and friends (or people you like!) It’s the last time you’ll do so without wondering if you really should.
    3. Get a decent administrator. I recommend Payplan. They do everything for you, and they are very friendly and sympathetic. They know arrangements inside and out and will assist you to keep as much money as you are allowed.
    4. Ask questions and be honest, when you are in £20k + debt, the time for bullshit and bravado is over. Ask any questions you may have, and above all be honest. Help them help you.
    5. Don’t respond to any letters or phone calls from creditors. They are trying to catch you out.
    6. If you didn’t before, look at bank balances and statements on a regular basis, no overdraft means you won’t ever be overdrawn, but knowing what you don’t have will save embarrassment at Tescos.
    7. Another way to not be embarrassed by cash running out in shops is to either, withdraw cash before shopping or use the self service checkouts. The machine won’t judge you if you can’t pay and you can just leave the stuff you can’t afford and haul ass to your car and sob uncontrollably.
    8. Sounds silly but pick some luxury every day items. Things that even though they are more expensive you will enjoy. For me it was Cheese and Tea, it’s amazing how much something little can brighten your day. Best not choose Caviar though eh.
    9. You will learn who your friends really are. Sounds cliched but it’s true. I have been very lucky to have so many people in my life who have been willing to lend a hand. I will always be humbled and grateful.
    10. Tell people in your life the restrictions imposed. I told everyone important to me, this helps because when your daughter asks for those new trainers and you say no, she knows it’s genuinely because you have not got the cash. Learn to say NO.
    11. It’s not forever. And with careful planning and the support of your administrators and your friends you will make it. Credit score zero is a wonderful place.

>Enjoy this, chances are you won’t be seeing fiftys for a while