Salisbury Pilgrimage

Salisbury has a massive cathedral. It has been a place of pilgrimage for the devout for centuries. It’s also home to the Magna Carta if you’re into your history. And the city itself is not far from Stonehenge, in case you like your monuments rectangular and ancient.

But none of that was of interest to me. I went there for the Terry Pratchett exhibition.

salisbury museum

I’ve been a Terry Pratchett fan for a long time now. I’ll be honest, I even shed a tear when the good man died on the 12th of March, 2015. But more than that, his books have been an inspiration for me in my own writing, showing me how to write engaging stories where no character could ever be considered to be incidental.

So when I heard that Salisbury Museum were holding a Terry Pratchett exhibition – Salisbury was Sir Terry’s home town – I knew I had to go check it out. I also like Salisbury a lot, so was glad of the excuse to go too.

keen

If you’re unfamiliar with the Discworld novels, they are a series of fun, funny, engaging and enlightening books that I would recommend to anyone. They are ostensibly fantasy novels, but don’t let that put you off. They are really just great stories about people going about their lives, trying to make sense of the world, a world that for them is a round disc flying through space on the backs of four giant elephants who are in turn stood on the back of a giant turtle.

great atuin and the disc

Sir Terry explains it better:

about the discworld

The books are great. If you don’t know them already I’d recommend giving them a go. But don’t start at the beginning. I know that’s counter-intuitive, but reading them chronologically is not necessary. And, to be honest, The Colour Of Magic isn’t the best one. For boys I’d recommend starting on Guards! Guards!, as it’s where the City watch stories begin. To me the best set of characters. For girls I’d suggest The Monstrous Regiment, a stand-alone book which is superbly written and features some strong female lead characters (something Sir Terry was particularly good at).

on having female leads

The exhibition was great. Lots of pictures by Paul Kidby, who illustrated most of the Discworld novels,

the librarian

plus a great number of artifacts belonging to the man himself, that give you just a hint of his character and wit.

terry's typewriter

terry's hat

The t-shirt, which he wore to conventions, reads:

“Tolkien’s dead. JK Rowling said no. Philip Pullman couldn’t make it. Hi I’m Terry Pratchett.” 😀

There’s a lot of love for Terry Pratchett and his work. He made you feel like a friend he had over for dinner. You’d laugh, cry, ponder and reflect together, always in a positive way, and always with tongue firmly in cheek. And at the end you’d feel like the world was a better place, if only for having someone like Sir Terry in it. I know that sounds schmaltzy but it’s true. Terry Pratchett was a friend to his readers, and they were all friends to him.

Don’t believe me? Just check out the love…

messages to terry

These are notes to and about Sir Terry, which the museum will pass on to his family. I wrote one too. Mine said:

Richard Stark taught me how to write.
Stephen King taught me how to write well.
Terry Pratchett taught me how I wanted to write.
An inspiration, now and forever.

They don’t all go on the wall. There wouldn’t be enough room for a start. There’s a postbox nearby where you can deposit your messages. In true discworld fashion, it has a monster living inside it. Can you see the eyes?

wizzard headstand

That’s me dressed as Rincewind BTW. You can do a bit of dress-up while you’re there too. The lovely staff lady who helped me do the headstand I wanted to do (below) suggested it. It’s tough doing a headstand in wizzard robes and a pointy hat, but I think I pulled it off.

My main reason for attending the exhibition was to check out the recreation of Sir Terry’s office. I wanted to get a feel for the man, and it seemed a good way to go about it.

terry prachett's desk

It was kinda special to see where the magic happened (or maybe didn’t, I can’t be sure. He apparently had several offices in his home, and could write in any of them), and I had to celebrate being there in the best way I know how, with a headstand.

80. terry prachett's office headstand

This is number eighty in the series. One day I’ll get to a hundred, but really, I’m in no rush.

I finished off my visit to Salisbury with lunch at the Cathedral Refectory. If you’re in town I thoroughly recommend it. The food is fantastic.

cathedral dinner

I got a lot of inspiration from my visit to the museum. It’s a great exhibition which I think everyone will enjoy, full of awesome artwork and amusing little tidbits from the man himself. In fact I’m going to conclude with one for all you aspiring authors out there. If you want to know how to be brilliant, you could a lot worse that this…

draft zero

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Work Is A Four Letter Word

I made a mistake in work last week that nearly cost me my job.

It wasn’t a big mistake. In the great scheme of things it was within the realms of understandability. But, it was the latest in a long list of mistakes that have happened recently, and the client was not happy, not happy at all.

There was a very real chance that they would be out for blood. And me, being a freelancer, am easy to get rid of. If the client wanted a sacrificial goat I’d be it, and really who could blame them? Get rid of one to help the many.

It was enough of a reality to keep me awake at night. I found myself lying in bed at 4am worrying about what was going to happen. I started Googling things like “I might get fired” and “What to do if I get fired tomorrow”, but they were no help. They just brought up long lists of ways to know if you’re on your way out. But I already knew that. I needed more practical advice.

Then I tried “Getting fired was the best thing that ever happened to me”, and that led me (eventually) to this video:

Here I was, lying awake, stressing about “…doing things [I] don’t like doing in order to be able to go on doing things [I] don’t like doing!”

The ridiculousness of the situation struck me. I realised something had to change. Maybe me losing my job would be a good thing? After all, as a friend of mine said, “…sometimes we all need a little push.”

As it turns out I didn’t lose my job in the end. Not over that incident anyway. But! a couple of days ago I got an e-mail telling me that the company was restructuring, taking on new permanent members of staff, which meant that come April there’d be a lot less freelance work available (ie: none).

So after all the angst and worry, the late night philosophy and the return to business as usual, I lost my job anyway. How’s that for a turn of events? Do you ever get the feeling the Universe is trying to tell you something?

Now, I was already thinking about what I really wanted to do? I’d been looking at properties in the Lake District (more late night musings) and thinking about finishing my novel, when I came home one day to catch the end of this documentary* about one of my favourite authors, Terry Pratchett. (*only available on iPlayer until 13/3/17)

Most of his story I’d heard before, but there was one line in there that really struck me:

“The thing is, I’d have written [the books] anyway, whether they’d paid me to or not.”

Terry Partchett wrote for the joy of writing. He wrote because he loved doing it, just as Alan Watts suggests in the video. Success was a by-product to him. He was doing what he loved.

I realised I wanted that. I wanted to be doing what I love, whatever it was.

That was a wake up call for me. I realised it was time for me to do what I really love.

The next day I finished third draft re-writes on my novel. I did the last half, 120 pages or so, in a day. Now I just need to type them up, get it proof-read, and then I can send it off to people, try and get it published.

The road ahead is/was clear.

I wasn’t prepared for the job offer that came my way.

It was TV work again, full time, 8 hour days, 20 days a month, €40 an hour (effectively €75,000 a year, or £65,000 at the current exchange rate). But it would just be until September. And it would mean relocating to Amsterdam. The minuses outweighed the pluses, but still it was a tempting offer.

Having learnt from my previous mistake I got some more information, then took some time to think about it, but in the end I turned them down.

If I’d gone to Amsterdam it would have just been for the money, and that’s not enough for me anymore. I want more out of the things I do. I want the things I do to be interesting, and fun, and exciting, and worthwhile. I want to do what I love and love what I do, and sod the money side of things.

Because if you do what you love not only are you already a winner, but eventually you’ll get good at it (because doing things is how you get good at them). And then one day someone will give you money for doing what you’re doing because that’s how the world works. People like what you do and they give you money for it, either so they they can do it with you, or they want you to do it for them, or to them, or they just appreciate that someone is out there in the world doing this thing so that other people can do something else. And even if they don’t give you money for it it doesn’t matter because you love what you do! You’re already way ahead of everybody else, pretty much.

You just have to figure out what it is you want to do? I need to figure out what it is I want to do? And I need to figure out now, because this is the first day of the rest of my life, and there’s not a moment to waste!

Match.com Hates Yoga

That’s the only conclusion I can come to after my recent experience, that Match.com have something against yoga.

It was a moment of weakness that led me to them. I’d just had enough of everyone going on about their new relationships, and how brilliant they were. It only underlined for me my very single status at the moment. It’s been a year now since my last relationship and, I’ll be honest, I’ve been feeling the loss. I like having a girlfriend, having someone to share things with and do things with, so late one night (ie: early in the morning) I decided to do something about it.

Everyone was meeting people through online dating, so I thought I’d give that a try. I’d done online dating before years ago, with mixed results, but the game has changed so much since then I wasn’t sure where to start (the site I used – Earth Wise Singles – no longer exists, for example).

I looked at Tinder, but it turns out you need a Facebook account for that. I’ve never had a Facebook account, and I wasn’t about to start one just for online dating, so Tinder was a non-starter for me.

I thought about going specific, like I’d done before, but all the yoga based dating sites I looked at threw up such a mish-mash of wishy-washy profiles – ‘Favourite Book: The Power Of Now!, Favourite Quote: Sieze The Day! – that I was instantly turned off by them.

Either that, or they were so totally inaccessible without registering first that I just moved on without wasting my time. I’m not going to register without first knowing what I’m getting myself into. My details are a commodity, and I’m not going to just hand them over without first seeing what I might get in exchange.

So that left me with the generic Big Boys. I looked at them all, but in the end I gave Match.com a go, on the strength of my neighbours recommendation.

Over the course of a couple of days I set up my profile. It took that long because trying to use the site from my mobile’s web browsers proved difficult. Quite a lack of functionality in fact. But anyway…

My problems really started when I tried to upload some photos. They were fine with the generic, smiley, big-face-head-on-to-camera ones, but when it came to my yoga poses they had some issues.

These were the offending photos I posted originally:

36. byron bay headstand
 
scorpion

I liked them because not only do I think I look good in them, but because I reckoned the backgrounds made me look like a fun, interesting, well traveled, date-able prospect, lol. Match.com, however, disagreed.

I received the following e-mail (twice) from them:

match.com hates yoga

I was a little frustrated, it seemed a little draconian, but I could see why they had rejected my photos; the first one because I’ve got me nips out, and the second one because you can’t see my face. But I really wanted a yoga pose as part of my profile, it was important to me, so I selected another photo to stick up there instead.

59. ghan/alice springs headstand

I thought this one would be fine. It ticked all my boxes – yoga, interesting, fun, well traveled – and it didn’t contravene any of their rules – no nudity, face on to camera, etc. – but no! Not good enough for Match.com apparently. This one was also rejected.

By now I was getting pretty frustrated with Match.com. I felt like I was having to jump through hoops to be allowed on their site. And that what I was allowed to put up there wasn’t really a fair approximation of who I am.

I was also shocked to discover that it costs £29:99 a month!, something they don’t mention until you’re deep into the process. Yes it’s cheaper per month if you subscribe for longer, but do you need a six month package? How good is their site if it takes six months to meet someone? And do you get your money back if you meet someone in month one?

It was all just too much for me. The aggro of setting up my account (there were a number of other frustrating issues), the cost, the innumerable e-mails they kept sending me that only served to underline my singleness, I’d just had enough. I deleted my profile.

I don’t blame Match.com. they’ve got a business to run. But I don’t think it’s the way for me right now. I was creating a profile from a negative starting point, and that’s no good. It wasn’t going to bring me what I wanted.

I still want to meet someone, but better maybe to get myself to a positive place and then find someone to share that with. I reckon I’ll have more success that way.

So for now I’m just going to work on myself, make Me happy, and hope that as I go through life someone comes along who likes what they see and wants to be a part of it. 🙂

Be Friends With Yourself

It might seem like an odd thing to say, ‘Be friends with yourself’. You probably just assume you are already friends with yourself. You must be, otherwise why would you hang out so much? But look at it like this…

do you like the hat?

Imagine you’re sitting with your best friend, and a long-time friend of theirs that you’ve only just met. During the course of the conversation your friend’s friend keeps making comments to your friend like;

“You’re getting really fat you know.”

“That was a really stupid thing to say.”

“No wonder no one fancies you.”

“God, you’re a miserable ****!”

Would you put up with it? No, you wouldn’t. You would defend your friend, pointing out the many good qualities they had. And you would recognise (quite rightly so) that this ‘friend’ of theirs was a poor friend indeed, and that they would be much better off not having them in their life.

So if that is the case, why do we put up with such abuse from ourselves?

I’m always doing it. Criticising myself for saying stupid things or doing stupid things (see, even now!), having a go at myself for not being the right shape, and, worst of all, putting myself down for not practising enough and not being more advanced in my yoga. In short, I put up with abuse from myself that I would never put up with from anyone else; ever!

A good friend is kind, helpful and generous. They want the best for us, and support us in the things we do. They are not blind to our faults, but they find a way to help us realise our mistakes in a way that doesn’t make us feel bad about ourselves. They are honest with us, but also accepting of us as we are. They want us to be happy, and they want to help us find that happiness wherever it may lie.

So be a better friend with yourself. Be supportive in your honesty, celebrate your achievements, laugh about your ‘failures’, and give yourself a break when your really **** things up; because that’s what good friends do.