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Movie Reviews Politics Religion

Understanding Brian

As my daughter, Joanna, has always had a similar sense of humour to mine, we decided to Watch Monty Python’s The life Of Brian to kill a slow afternoon. Both of us Christians, I warned her that some people have been offended by the content and the apparent slur on the New Testament of the Bible. As we watched, and laughed, I started to see something deeper underlying the obvious debate between comedy and blasphemy. Social Media seemed to resonate throughout this movie.

Running With The Crowd

Watching the huge crowd that quickly gathered to follow Brian thinking he is the Messiah reminded me of how quickly a moral message can explode across the world on Social Media. The same sad fact seems to be reflected in equal measure in the movie and reality. To be seen to support the cause is far more important than understanding, or actually supporting it.

The movie blatantly shows us the irony of the crowd blindly and loudly pledging their life to a non descript person just as the masses on Social Media appear to blindly and loudly jump on the latest moral cause. Few people seem to take the time to truly understand their ’cause’ nor commit to the risks and sacrifices required to truly follow it.

Blind Judgement

The crowd in the movie never question Brian. They proclaim his every word as ‘a sign’ and loudly proclaim their dedication to his every instruction, though they never quite manage to follow them. Instead, they just ask how they should follow them.

To me, countless people are equally blinded on Social Media. The doctrine of Brian becomes the doctrine of our moral cause online and there is no tolerance of opposition, or openness to discussion. All too often the ‘Heretics’ or ‘Unbelievers’ from the movie are the ‘Racists’ or ‘Super Spreaders’ of the same society reflected on Social Media. Such demonization of any opposition of, or discussion around, the cause of the day sadly reflects the very evil such causes are meant to oppose.

From Monty Python’s The Life Of Brian

Responsibility Relinquished

Everyone looks to Brian in the movie to tell them what to do or how to live. His endorsement of anything, even his perceived endorsement of anything, is reason enough to do something. In that context, innocent people are killed even though Brian, being a good guy, didn’t want any harm to come to them.

If we think it’s not ok to do something, it’s not ok to do it. Not in the name of the law, the Pandemic or perceived social injustice. I think it’s wrong to smash a shop window and run out with a telly. If I do this during a protest or a riot it’s still wrong. No matter how wrong or corrupt I think the fabric of society or those who enforce the rule of law are, such actions can only further damage the fabric of society and the rule of law. Not carrying out this action does not make me either a coward or a racist even though someone would label me as such on Social Media.

Rent or buy Monty Python’s Life Of Brian on Amazon

Gestures Rather Than Action

As the movie reaches it’s conclusion, many people with the power to save Brian do many things, none of which is even intended to save him. In one example, the group who could save him arrive and read him a message of support before heading back down the hill. The scene is hilarious even if the reality it reflects is sad.

All too often on Social Media, people display gestures of support but it’s almost as if the gesture itself is enough. To me, it’s all very well to post the words, “Be Kind,” and I fully support the sentiment they express. But, even though it can be harder at times to actually be kind, it’s the action, not the words, that changes the world around us. Telling the world to, “Stay Safe,” does not stop the spread of any virus and calling someone a Racist does nothing to remove any of the prejudice held by the sender.

At first I was quite shocked at how closely The Life Of Brian seemed to portray the behaviour of society 40 after it’s creation and decades before Social Media had even been conceived. Then I realized it wasn’t predicting how society would evolve, it was actually reflecting society 2,000 years before it was conceived and drawing parallels with the society of it’s time. Society has been the same blind and judgemental social entity since the time of Jesus. Neither he, Monty Python or Social Media has been able to change it. It’s just how we are and what we make it.

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Anecdotes beauty Comedy Dating Funny Stories Health Humour Life and Wellbeing Pictures

Abducted By Aliens

It was a moment of every Dad’s nightmares. Sean McBride, blogger extraordinaire and international adventurer, received a chat on Social Media from his daughter. It looked like she was wearing some form of space suit and was in the process of being transported into an alien spacecraft.
Picture seems to show daughter in ‘space’ clothing taking a frantic selfie as she is abducted by aliens. 2 large lights are seen above her which appear to be beaming her up.

Following a frantic call to Emergency Services, Julia McBride’s location was urgently traced via the signal from her Mobile Phone and police rushed to the scene. Julia was quickly located safe and well in a Glasgow Hairdressers. No aliens or spacecraft were anywhere to be seen.

After an urgent investigation of the scene the strange ‘light like’ objects from the picture were found to be… lights. Investigators could not find any trace of teleportation or other transport qualities about them. The popular theory is that they are in place just to light the area up.

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Julia had taken and posted the horror picture whilst in the process of having her hair dyed. Following the incident, Julia is now seeking minimum association or contact with her Dad.

“I’m just glad she’s safe.” Sean said once Julia had been found. “Oh… and her hair looks amazing…”

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You Are Amazing

Learn how to get the best from your body and become inspired to chase your dreams. Listen to the Worth Your Weight In Gold Podcast Series

Listen to the series on Youtube

Episode 6 – The Dream Of Everest Base Camp Worth Your Weight In Gold

When you've seen a place in your dreams and a hundred times in Youtube, it's truly special to finally see it in front of you. Referring largely to my trip to Everest base Camp in 2016, this episode contains heaps of inspiration to help you feel what it's like to realize a dream.
  1. Episode 6 – The Dream Of Everest Base Camp
  2. Episode 5 – 9 Ways To Get Moving Again After A Muscle Strain
  3. Episode 4 – It's A Stretch But You Can Do It
  4. Episode 3 Putting Your Heart Into Your Dreams
  5. Episode 2 – How The Tortoise Won That Race

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Adventure Travel Exercise Health Mountain Kit Review Mountain Travel Mountaineering Trekking Trekking Boots

Made For Walking

A Review Of My Meindl Bhutans

I bought my first pair of Meindl’s 4 years ago. I was becoming less steady on my feet on rough terrain and was looking for something with better ankle support than my previous boots. A pair of Meindl Bhutans with their high ankle support, solid leather outer and the comfort of a memory foam inner, seemed to fit the bill perfectly. Though they felt a bit on the heavy side as I took them up a local mountain called Tinto Hill, the stability and balance I had on the decent was amazing and I’ve never looked back.

Anyone who’s wandered round Glencoe in the rain will well appreciate the need for everything to be completely waterproof. Meindl Bhutans have a leather outer layer which has never let me down. Whether crossing streams, plodding through miles of boggy terrain or even in snow, my Meindls have always kept my feet dry.

The memory foam inside them which moulds to the shape of your feet gives an amazing level of comfort. Now on my second pair of these boots, I’ve never had to break them in and rarely had any blisters. The rugged and sturdy Vibram soles are another aspect of the comfort and stability offered by these boots.

If you’re considering a trekking boot which will take you for miles and last you for years, I would definitely give Meindl Bhutans a shot.

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Inspiration For A Monday Episode 3 – High On Mera Peak

Despite turning round before the summit, I still found a moment of my dreams.

Mera High Camp 5,800m

I woke in a panic, gasping for air as I had done a dozen times during the night and, as each time before, reassured myself that all was actually well. One tends to work through a cycle when trying to sleep in the thin air of high altitude. As your conscious mind drifts off to sleep, your subconscious triggers an alarm that there’s not enough air and you wake with a start gasping like a newly landed fish. This time I realized there would be no more sleep tonight as the sound of the Sherpas rousing people in the other tents broke through the wind and the canvas of the tent flapping in the light breeze. It was close to midnight and the summit bid was on.
Inspiration For A Monday, Episode 3 – High On Mera Peak
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Previous Episodes

Inspiration For A Monday Episode 3 – High On Mera Peak Inspiration For A Monday

This short Podcast tells the story of the highest picture I've ever taken.
  1. Inspiration For A Monday Episode 3 – High On Mera Peak
  2. Inspiration For A Monday Episode 2 – Summit Night Kilimanjaro
  3. Inspiration For A Monday Episode 1 – The Dream Of Everest Base Camp
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High On Mera Peak

Despite turning round before the summit, I still found a moment of my dreams.

Mera High Camp 5,800m

I woke in a panic, gasping for air as I had done a dozen times during the night and, as each time before, reassured myself that all was actually well. One tends to work through a cycle when trying to sleep in the thin air of high altitude. As your conscious mind drifts off to sleep, your subconscious triggers an alarm that there’s not enough air and you wake with a start gasping like a newly landed fish. This time I realized there would be no more sleep tonight as the sound of the Sherpas rousing people in the other tents broke through the wind and the canvas of the tent flapping in the light breeze. It was close to midnight and the summit bid was on.

My brother Abel, more up for this than me, was quickly out of the tent having a smoke and getting ready. He took a tin cup of hot tea from the Sherpas and passed it in to me. I sat inside cradling it for comfort. I could see that the snow storm which had plagued us for most of the time since we had arrived in camp had past and the night was crisp and clear.

We were at High Camp, high on the Mera Glacier in the middle of the Himalayas. Perched on the edge of a huge cliff at an altitude of 5,800m we’d just slept as high as I’d ever been. Ahead of us was just under 700 vertical meters to the top of Mera Peak. I’d secretly hoped that the snow storm from the previous afternoon would compel the Sherpas to call off the summit bid. No such luck. I finished my tea and wearily lurched out of the tent into the night to get ready.

Rab Valiance Jacket on Amazon

Abel told me to watch but it was too late and I slipped off a small ledge and landed headlong in the snow. I hadn’t put on my gloves yet and by the time I stood up and tied the lace on one of my boots my hands were frozen stiff and I couldn’t move my fingers. I was allowed a brief moment for a pee before Ang, the lead guide, and Nemar, one of his colleagues, set about the task of strapping on my harness, lacing up my other boot and attaching my Crampons. In the meantime Abel ripped the liners out of my gloves and slipped them over my frozen fingers so that I had some form of protection from the freezing cold. Seeing how the day panned out, that act literally is the only reason I still have all my fingers. I stood among them motionless like a Christmas Tree being decorated.

The lead group in our party hurried through and on their way as Abel and I roped together with Nemar and joined the growing queue of climbers on the path out of High Camp. Someone from another group collapsed unconscious in front of us and we waited for them to be hauled off the route into a nearby tent before we could move. Between getting ready and that delay it was an hour and a half before we finally got moving. Slowly we trudged through the deep snow in the darkness as a thin line of distant head torches glittered along the trail.

High Camp, Mera Peak – Oct 2017

Turning Round

My mindset changed at the same agonizingly slow pace as the ascent. I went from being convinced we had no chance of summiting to harbouring a glimmer of hope as the very first hint of sunlight lit the summit ridge high above us. During the steep ascent to that ridge, at 6,140m, Ang met us while descending with one of the others from the group who had become unwell. Concerned by my obvious state of exhaustion, he persuaded me to turn round and descend with the guy he was bringing down. I turned to see the utter beauty of the Himalayas glowing in the newly risen morning sun. Everest, majestic and towering among them. I gazed on her from this unique place and time. Seeing her from where she is rarely seen. As though I was gazing at a lover.

The dream photo. Mera Peak – Oct 2017

When I was really young I used to climb the stairs and say I was climbing a mountain. Later, when the snow landed, I’d sometimes stand on the hills in Queens Park in the South Side of Glasgow and pretend I was high on the snow covered mountains. Shortly before I left for this trip, realizing I might not be fit enough to summit Mera Peak, I decided it would be enough just to stand high on the mountain in the snow to actually be the person I’d always dreamt of being. I took a picture of the mountains in the sunrise. At 6,140m it’s the highest picture I’ve ever taken and, standing in the snow high up in the Himalayas, it captured a moment of my actual dreams.

The Physical Cost

Though the moment was magical beyond words, my time at such altitude took it’s toll on my body. I ended up with frost nip on my fingers and toes. I didn’t feel the tips of 8 of my fingers for weeks and the skin began to peel away. It was the same for both my big toes. One of my eyes started to sting just before the flight home. Though it turned out merely to be a mild infection, the optician told me that some small blood vessels behind the other eye had burst. This was another side effect of the altitude we had climbed to. Despite all of this, it turned out I was one of the lucky ones.

Some of the team had frost bite. Mera Peak – Oct 2017

The guy who’d descended with me had frostbitten fingers and was airlifted off the mountain next morning along with one of the guys who had summited and ended up with frost bitten toes. By the time we made our way down the Hinku Valley to Kote next day, it became apparent that two of the others in the group had frost bite. They were lifted out by helicopter the next morning.

The Impact Of A Moment

Though I never made the summit of Mera Peak, I’m proud to have reached that place above 6000m high on the Mera Glacier and able to count myself among those who have climbed to that altitude. Mera was exhausting for me from the first step out of Lukla airport to its hair raising conclusion coming down off the Zatra La in heavy snow 16 days later. Yet the years of dreaming, planning and training and the long days of exhausting climbing will always shine in the glow of that fleeting moment high on the mountain. The moment I experienced the joy that is to live a dream.

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Anxiety depression inspiration Mental Health Stress

Learning To Smile Out Of Happiness

It’s time to stop worrying about who you were. Or what you’re not. Or who you might be in the future. Just look inside your heart. Right here. Right now. This is who you are. And it’s OK to think you’re amazing.

“Are you happy?” She asked me. Then she played down my overly cheerful, long winded reply. “All you’ve done is tried to justify to me, to yourself, that it’s ok to be in the place you’re in but are you really happy with that?” We both knew the answer. I just didn’t want to admit it, to hear myself say it.
I wanted to hide my deep sadness from everyone, deny it to myself and take shelter in it from the terrifying reality of needing to change. “No.” I answered quietly as tears started to roll down my cheeks. Even as my therapist comforted me and explained that it’s ok not to be happy and not quite ready to change anything, the change had already started with the first of my tears. It was the end of a long and difficult journey.

Asking For Help

I was never one to readily ask for help. I’d been a soldier for a decade and, after a stuttering start in Civvie Street, I started to climb the professional ladder as a Manager in a Telecommunications Company. Pressure was nothing, I could handle it. I was successful because I could handle it. Then it all started to break down.

My happiness was the first thing to suffer. I’d changed role within my company and moved away from a support role I’d been covering for 20 years. Now I had to be a Businessman and a Salesman. I’d never related to the people who succeeded in those roles and I just didn’t fit in. Soon my confidence faltered, then shattered. Anxiety became frequent, high blood pressure became a problem and then finally I lost the ability to sleep. I’d sit up through the night as scared of falling asleep as I was of waking up. Exhausted, depressed and close to a complete nervous breakdown, I stopped working, called in sick and went to the Doctor for help. Those actions may have literally saved my life.

Learning What Was Wrong

Finally away from the rigours and demands of the corporate world, I had time to reflect on what had been going wrong. Having admitted to another human being that I had a problem, I had the chance to talk about how I was feeling. I had my brother and my best pal in the whole world beside me doing everything they could to help. But there were things I couldn’t tell them because I didn’t want to hurt them or I didn’t want them to see that side of me. Doctors and phycologists on the other hand, I could tell them anything. Through reflection and talking I started to learn what was wrong.

In his book, The Fear Bubble, ex Special Forces Soldier Ant Middleton uses the analogy that we can get stuck in a corridor of fear, scared to open any of the doors of opportunity that line it’s sides. I read his book during this time of personal reflection and, in that corridor analogy, made a startling discovery. It wasn’t fear preventing me kicking in the doors that was holding me back. It was what I was finding behind them when I kicked them in, the same thing behind every door, that was steadily breaking my heart.

It was me! Behind every door I’d see a fearful, tearful me looking back and it was never enough. I’d shake my head and slam the door and carry on my search. I was always looking for something more. Seeing my life framed up in that analogy helped me to realize that there is nothing more. But that’s more than enough. To move on, I had to break through that door and give the ‘me’ behind it a hug. I had to value that person, accept them for who they are and get to know them a bit better.

It Wasn’t All My Fault

Through Counselling I was able to see how much guilt and self hate I was carrying and had been doing for decades. To admit everything about me to another person and hear them affirm that my faults and my fears were actually common and completely understandable and acceptable was huge.

Finally we got to that moment of truth where, already more accepting of myself, I was able to admit that I wasn’t happy with my life as it is. That admission set me free to explore what a happy life would be like.

You’re reading this because I’ve started a new life as a writer. There’s still a lot about my life that could do with changing but that I’m not yet ready to change. But now I’m fine with that. I’ll change when I’m ready. There’s a new journey for me now. To move forward from a time where I wear a smile to hide my feelings to a time where a smile will be an unstoppable reflection of my feelings. I hope you can make that journey with me as I write it out.

The thing is we are all vulnerable, anxious or even depressed at times. There’s nothing wrong with us, it’s just our nature. Having the courage to admit to those vulnerabilities and explore them in a safe atmosphere of trust, discussion and reflection is the start of finding a way out of what can feel like a trap. As much as we are vulnerable we are also amazing. Capable of the breath-taking miracles of love and transformation.

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Inspiration For A Monday Episode 2 – Summit Night Kilimanjaro

Episode 2 – Summit Night Kilimanjaro

“How do you feel?” My Guide asked as I sat hunched in the darkness panting heavily. “Absolutely…. exhausted.” I gasped back at him between pants. “Are you sick or do you have a headache?” “No… Just…. exhausted.” This was the conversation during a fleeting moment which changed my life. In the short podcast which follows you can hear the story of the years leading up to that moment and the incredible few hours which followed.
Inspiration For A Monday, Episode 2 – Summit Night Kilimanjaro
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Previous Episodes

Inspiration For A Monday Episode 3 – High On Mera Peak Inspiration For A Monday

This short Podcast tells the story of the highest picture I've ever taken.
  1. Inspiration For A Monday Episode 3 – High On Mera Peak
  2. Inspiration For A Monday Episode 2 – Summit Night Kilimanjaro
  3. Inspiration For A Monday Episode 1 – The Dream Of Everest Base Camp
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Audio Recording Home Recording How To Music Musical Instruments New Music Recording Equipment

How To Set Up A Home Recording Studio

If you’re a creative who likes the sound of your own voice, this is for you.

“Recording in 3… 2… 1…” I said and then hit the record button on my PC’s Audio Software. My announcement lead to an uneasy silence in the Living Room as my daughter realized that any movement from her might mean another take. I hit the play button on my keyboard and the music started. My mic picked up the raw audio coming out of the keyboard’s speakers. Then a biker revved his engine down on the Main Street and the recording was ruined. Time to change this setup I thought.

Back in the days of cobbling bits and pieces to my PC to record with whatever I had to hand, it was excruciatingly difficult to get a decent recording. I’ve burped, farted and sneezed my way through take after take and even recorded heavy breathing as a result of concentrating so much on keeping quiet. The fact is you need to invest in the right equipment to get a quality recording. Surprisingly, it doesn’t cost that much. I guess it also depends on whether you’re a podcaster or a band or anything in between. I’m a blogger, podcaster and composer. Here’s the basic building blocks which I use.

  • PC or Laptop
  • External Mic
  • Musical Instrument/Keyboard
  • Recording Software (Which manages Audio and Midi)

PC/Laptop

I haven’t found the need for any mega spec machine to be the hub of my studio. I bought a basic spec Lenovo home PC a few years ago and it has supported anything I’ve plugged or loaded into it since. Of course the PCs mic is not that great a spec for any kind of professional recording.

Lenovo All In One PC on Amazon

Mic

At this point I would agree with a lot of the Podcasters out there who say that you can get a decent recording through the mic on most mobile phone headphones. This is what I used for ages and the only headache was converting the M4A files that a mobile records into the more usable MP3 format. This conversion can be achieved through freeware or an app either on your PC or your phone.

Eventually however, I bought a pro mic with all the trimmings. I bought the economy grade, so I only paid around £43. For this I got a mic, an extendable mic stand which bolts onto my desk, a shock mount and a pop filter. There was an option to plug it into either USB or the 3.5mm Audio jack in the PC. I chose the audio jack.

Mic Kit on Amazon

All I can say is the vocals are amazing through this set up compared to previous and, of course, I can now record live without any file conversions. You can hear the quality in my podcast below. (I also recorded the music in this Podcast) If you like it, click Subscribe to get the new weekly episodes of the Podcast every Monday. It’s also available on most Podcast Players.

Inspiration For A Monday Episode 3 – High On Mera Peak Inspiration For A Monday

This short Podcast tells the story of the highest picture I've ever taken.
  1. Inspiration For A Monday Episode 3 – High On Mera Peak
  2. Inspiration For A Monday Episode 2 – Summit Night Kilimanjaro
  3. Inspiration For A Monday Episode 1 – The Dream Of Everest Base Camp

If Podcasting is you’re thing, I’d say your studio is now set up. Composers and musicians however, read on…

Recording Music

The two building blocks for making decent music recordings on your PC are your instrument (Musical Hardware) and the software which manages it’s input on your PC. For me, I have a midi enabled keyboard, cabled via a standard USB Cable into my PC and managed by Midi Software.

Simple Midi Input Keyboards can come in as low as £30 and may be all you need if you know what you’re playing and can work around the delay between hitting a key on the device and hearing the note from your software. For me, I compose so I need a keyboard you can play without the software. I’ve opted for a basic model and use a Yamaha PSR-S670. It has a good range of instruments and a few catchy features such as live controls if you’re into creating and working with loops. I mainly kinda just play piano.

Yamaha PSR-S670 on Amazon

You can use midi software to play the instruments and manage the features to arrange it. The better the software, the wider the range and more authentic the instruments and the more you can do with the samples you record. Previously I had used Cakawalk and I’m currently working through a trial with Abelton.

Below is my song, Crush, which I recorded using Ableton (with the vocals recorded through my new mic 🙂 )

Crush is part of my EP called Lockdown Love Songs. It’s available for stream and download on any of the major music players out there or you can buy it directly from me at a discount here.

So there you have it. A recording studio that people can generally relax much more around and produces a decent quality of recording without breaking the bank.

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Beer Comedy Funny Stories Humour Life and Wellbeing

What’s The Last Thing You’ll Ever Think?

A Morbid idea I came across in Youtube that I ended up having fun with

Surfing the internet with my morning coffee and a donut. I headed to Youtube to see if my latest video; viewed by me, a spammer, a strange stalker and a relative, had suddenly trended across the world. It hadn’t. But there in my feed was a video entitled, ‘The Last Thought You’ll Ever Have.’

“That’s a bit morbid,” I thought. Good thing is I then thought a few things after that. One thing was not to check out the video. I don’t really fancy Youtube telling me the last thought I’m ever going to have. Just imagine thinking anything Social Media suggests!

There’s also the fear that, once you know what the thought is, you’d spend the rest of your life desperately trying not to think it. You’d end up in a meltdown, a sobbing heap screaming, “Lalalalalalala” and your bewildered friend saying, “I only said biscuit?!”

Anyway, then I started thinking, I wonder what the last thought I could conceivably have could be. I wrote a list…

  • Should I tell her I preferred her hair longer?
  • Does that thing bite?
  • Do they drive on the right in this country?
  • Aw crap! I keep forgetting that facemask!
  • I guess I’ll just push the button and see what happens.
  • I’ll cut the blue wire.
  • They look like a nice crowd. I’ll ask them.
  • What’s the worst that could happen?
  • I’ll just have the one.
  • Would you look at the size of that!
  • Nice dog.

Go on… you know you’ve thought something I didn’t. Drop it in the comments and, while you’re at it, share and subscribe to this page.