Listening to…

…new stuff from Bruce Conlon.

His solo album “Audience of One” isn’t far away and I am quite excited about that.

Listen to a sneak preview here.


A bitter day

Yesterday I ventured out into the arctic wastes of Horfield to attend the Bristol vs. Quins Heineken Cup match.

Meels and I managed to make it to Zest where we enjoyed a very fine lunch. I opted for fajitas purely on the grounds that they would be the hottest (literally) dish on the menu. They did the trick and they also handily cleared my nose too.

So, on to the ground we strolled but Lord, was it cold!

Knowing it would be -3 I opted for suitable kit:

  • Walking boots
  • Snowboard socks
  • Thick jeans
  • Thermal long sleeve top
  • Bristol Rugby shirt
  • North Face fleece
  • North Face Mountain jacket with built in mountain fleece
  • Bristol beanie
  • Windproof gloves

So, do you think all of the above made me feel any less cold?

Nope, especially when you are standing on a cold terrace. Even the occasional crowd joy when Bristol were winning did little to lessen the feeling that I was not the warmest of supporters.

Though my heart was warmed by the rugby on offer, my extremities were not. Tims had the right idea and was wearing snowboard gear including his gauntlets (memo to self: wear mine next week).

I also had to lend Paul one of my fleeces as he decided to turn up wearing just a tee shirt under his duffle coat, a scarf and no hat! I think he has roundly learnt his lesson and I expect him to come more suitably attired next week; I think I may just come in full snowboarding gear with a polar bear to keep me company.

And despite winning 20-7, we lost DWS to a broken hand and the Magic Man to a broken ankle- not a good day at the injury office.

Still, Anthony Elliott (left) was spritely and did more work in his debut appearance than Lee Robinson has managed the whole season, so the game was not entirely without redemption.

But lets hope it warms up a little next weekend…

Friday night frolics

As it was Crossman’s birthday on Friday night and to help him celebrate his 26th in style, a few of us decided to gad about town in the Top Gun style.

Beers, callsigns and a few rousing renditions of “You’ve lost that loving feeling” to suitable lovely ladies were a feature of the evening, which ended in fine style with chocolate cake and dancing to Lionel Richie at the Nevil Road hotspot .

A very fine Friday night out!


Friends Unlimited, Bebo, Myspace; remember them?

Yes they were once flavour of the month, just as Facebook appears to be now. But for how long? Hopefully not that long, as I can’t stand it.

You don’t have Facebook? How do you stay in touch with everyone?

I swear I will go mad if i get asked that question again. I did sign up to Facebook and had a profile on there (I had 177 friends if you must know). Then I stopped because I realized how horribly insidious and invasive it is.

I want nothing to do with it. Here are a few reasons why:

There’s a common reason that many people join Facebook. To “stay in touch” with people from their past.

Therein lies my first issue: people from my past are just that: from my past. If I wanted to “stay in touch” with them, I never would have “lost touch” with them.
Don’t get me wrong, there are people from my past that I wish I had more contact with and to be honest, I probably should make more of an effort with them again. However, I know that I can always pick up the phone and get together for a chat with them if I ever wanted to.

On your Facebook “friend list”, can you honestly say that everyone on there would love to hear from you and grab some coffee and talk about how they have been? No, I didn’t think so.

Talking of contact, I loathe the fact that people cannot grasp the concept that communication without Facebook is possible. No really it is.

I have the number/email of all my close friends, so I don’t need to go through a third party website to contact them, or arrange to go for a beer (just as I’m doing tonight and all arranged by phone!)

Call me strange, but I still enjoying actually speaking to my friends to arrange things every now and again. Real friends are ones that are there for you, who you talk to you on the phone, who you meet up with you face to face, not someone who writes on your wall.

Stupefying though this may be, I recently sat down and wrote two long letters to friends overseas. We email and text occasionally but I thought it would be nice to take some time out and write a letter. Not only was it cathartic for me but very relaxing and something that required time, effort and commitment on my part. I don’t know if I will get any letters back, but it’s not the point; for me it was something I wanted to do for our friendship.

No doubt if I was a Facebok addict I would have gone and written on their bloody wall but you know what, that’s simple, doesn’t require much effort and probably wouldn’t be appreciated half as much as a letter that has travelled across the seas.

Now I know many people say, “I only add my friends that I know”.

Oh please, why don’t you try actually seeing some of them occasionally, or do you see them, say nothing, and then rush home to write on their wall? You really have over 100 genuine friends that you see on a regular basis? Give me a break.

I guess there are some people who just love talking about themselves, love looking at pictures of themselves, and are just generally so self absorbed they can’t think of anyone else. “Oh my God so and so has put a picture of me on their site and I look so drunk!

Call me old fashioned but I personally would be mortified because to me that is not funny. I don’t need the ego stroke of having 100+ friends of whom I only really speak to 10 with any regularity.

Why do we need to know what someone else (who we really don’t know that well) is doing every minute of the day? Why is it so many people want to broadcast their life to a network of people across the country and the world.

To me, who cares if today I woke up, showered, went for a jog, read the newspaper, called in sick and now I’m shopping online while drinking tea and watching Top Gear re-runs on Freeview? Or what music I’m listening to or the number of ‘friends’ I have adding me on Facebook compared to my next door neighbor.

Why can’t people just life their lives as lives…there’s so much more out there in our world than Facebook, online blogs, (yes, including this one!), chat forums. For God’s sake go and live a little.

Not that long ago, in the infancy of the web, people would say…get online as you are missing out. Now it’s get off the computer and get outside.

Wow, I can join a group on Facebook? How exciting!

How about joining a real life group, getting out and seeing the world, meeting real people and discussing real life topics?

How about reading a book, going for a walk, going mountain biking, going round to your neighbours, going and doing something for someone else that is tangible and practical.

There are other factors that have sharpened my loathing of Facebook.

Some dissenting voices against Facebook (and they grow in number every day) believe there is something murky about Facebook hidden beneath the bright and colourful façade of a ‘fun, social networking utopia’. It has been touted as a more ‘adult’ service, and actually tries to make people think they are being “semi-sophisticated” simply by using it.

A number of demographics suggest that Facebook users are generally ‘white, middle class with well paid jobs’…. gosh, I had better get using it before I get left behind or I might be considered ‘common’ by my peers. That is, assuming I care about my social standing…

Another thing that is disturbing about Facebook is what it is. It is, in basic terms, a user-allowed privacy destroyer.

Not only that, with Facebook at your hands, there really is no point in asking people how their weekend was; if you need to ask that, it’s simply because you were too lazy/busy to read about it on their Facebook, right?

I simply do not want every facet of my life put online for God knows who to read about at their leisure. I know you can restrict what you share anywhere, but too many people are clueless about just how much information is safe to be put on Facebook.

I also don’t want to willingly hand over all my personal information and habits to a big database that I’m am sure will probably be built; as who knows what it will be used for in the future. I’ve certainly got nothing to hide but that doesn’t mean I want to provide anybody with so much as a passing interest in me, the ability to learn all about me with such ease.

By putting everything about yourself out there in the open, you leave yourself vulnerable from a lot of creepy people. It strikes me that Facebook is open to all sorts of abuse, and I know some people who think it’s a stalkers paradise. I wouldn’t go that far, but I can understand why people hold that particular view. Let’s cite going on a date as an example. If the other person seems to know exactly what you like/dislike, it’s probably because they read up on you, not because they are a “perfect match”.

It’s also pretty ripe for ID theft, especially with the vast amounts of personal data that people are stupid enough to put online. People just seem ever so keen to divulge everything online and I’m not sure if people realise how easily they can be tracked down from the information they put online.

You might say “but Marts you’re writing this on a website powered by Blogger”. You have a very good point but it’s not the same.

While I am using Blogger to write, or Flickr to post photos, I have the self restraint to not let everyone know about the things I consider my absolute favourite or things I despise greatly.

A large number of Facebook users haven’t grasped the basic tenet that they don’t have to post some of their most private thoughts, dreams and ideas or that not everyone really needs to know this detail. If you share everything of yourself across the internet, it means there is so little for someone to discover in person.

But the truth is that people are content to share themselves on secure terms by using Facebook. And who can blame them? It’s safe, sterile, comfortable and you can hide behind the internet and carry out your relationships vicariously.

Real relationships ask difficult questions of you, seek accountability and above all, actually cost you something. They can cost you time, honesty, effort, openness and commitment. They can cost you your heart if you have given it away. Of course it is hard, of course it hurts and of course people are human and let you down.

That’s the real world that exists outside of Facebook. Deal with it.

The sad thing is, a number of people would rather do “friendship” or “relationship” through something like Facebook because real life what they are trying to avoid it.

They can be whoever they want to be, on their terms, rather than engage with the cost that is asked of us in human, fragile relationships. They are scared of loving truly, because they might have to change their agenda or actually sacrifice something of themselves. They want everyone to change for them, rather than meet them halfway. That is not a real relationship, whatever form it takes.

While this last year, and especially these last few months, has been pretty crap, it has, for me, polarized what is required of me in relationship, on any level.

I am called to give of myself unconditionally, without reservation or merit. After all, it is to the cost of everyone to believe in someone.

I mean, isn’t that what Christ did for us? And if He chose not to avoid the cost, why should we?

So all of the above is why I really don’t want to join Facebook; in fact me even thinking about Facebook injures the moral fabric of all humanity.

Enjoy your “friend list”. I will be out with mine.

Here’s to the fathers

Here’s to the fathers, who always begin,
on the outside of children, but looking in.
Such curious men snapping cameras like mad,
recording the moment, they turn into “Dad.”

Here’s to the fathers, who put in their time,
who don’t say to mother’s “that’s your job, not mine”.
Who wipe chins and noses and never say “won’t”
who do with the nappies, what some fathers don’t.

Here’s to the fathers who manage to stay
when so many fathers are turning away.
When so many run, leaving families to rot,
here, then, a cheer, for those who do not.

Here’s to the fathers whose big money dreams,
die in the corner while their baby screams.
And yet without anger, dread or regrets,
they comfort the child, hold it close to their chests.

And as the child grows, they grow with it too,
learning a depth, that they never knew.
And soon they are older, their hair slightly gone,
chasing two children around the front lawn.

Or car pooling teams to football games,
buying them hamburgers after it rains.
They mend broken dolls and fix broken wheels,
they cringe when their daughters, try their first pair of heels.

They reach in their pockets, but never keep count,
they pay dear for parenthood, awful amounts
They postpone their plans to sail across seas,
instead they sing “Wiggles” and bandage skinned knees.

Here’s to the fathers who miss on promotions,
who forego the bonus for birthday commotions.
Who come home from work and a boss they don’t like
pull into the drive…. and run over a bike.

Here’s to the fathers who get off the phone,
to hear their sons practice their new saxophone
Who leave work to see their daughter’s recital,
Here’s to the heroes who work without title.

For this is a world now full of neglect,
with everyday stories of lives that are wrecked.
Of fatherless children who take up with guns
to kill other children of fatherless sons.

Divorce shattered families, childhoods derailed;
mothers still waiting for cheques still unmailed
You wonder what wrongs these souls ever did
to make a grown man turn away from his kids.

So here’s to the fathers who won’t compromise,
who see a light shining in their children’s eyes
And feel a rare glow as if from a gem
and know that once someone saw this glow in them.

For all the good boys they have raised in the world,
for all the examples they set for their girls,
For all the loved children whose stories they’ll tell;
Here’s to the father’s that taught them so well.

Dedicated to Neil Hopkins, Ian Wroe, Mark Millard, Matt Turrigiano and other great fathers, both now and in the future.