Monday, 23 December 2013

Last post of 2013 (probably!)

It's been a while since my last post. I know that must be one of the most common blog quotes - but things have just sort of been out of control recently.

Work has been crazy. If you read more of my blog, I'm sure you'll find I'll be saying that again. But we've done some good things and got some successes under our belt.

My loved ones' problems have continued to batter them from all sides. And I've felt as though I've not been there properly for any of them.

But, as we approach Christmas, work is on a wind-down...and I'm going to get some time to be with those I love. I can't wait. It's time to be that better friend, brother, uncle, son and boyfriend.

I hope you get time to be with those you love this festive season, and have a seriously happy time.

I'll be back in the New Year, which, by the way, I'm expecting is going to be EPIC.

Thursday, 31 October 2013

"I like quotes"

I like quotes. I always seem to stumble across ones that say the things I want to say, so much better than I could ever say them.

And dear reader, I'll probably use this blog to share some of them with with you. Ones that mean something to me, or just make me smile. Or ones that may mean something to you, or make you smile...

Recently I stumbled across this great philosophical thinker, and was moved by some of his quotes. I wanted to share some of them with my blog-reading audience (*cough*), but, following yesterday's post, I think I'll pick just this one.

But I've bought a big bat.
I'm all ready, you see.
Now my troubles are going
To have troubles with me!”

― Dr. Seuss

Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Just a passenger on the road to hell

Life has a funny way of throwing a spanner in the works.

You think you’re cruising and everything’s going the right way. And then life bites you on the ass, and you find yourself in a place you hoped you’d never find yourself.

I’ve been there. You’ve probably been there. Or maybe you’re there right now. You know, the place where your world is turned upside down and you struggle to see how you’re going to get out of it.

It’s usually when you arrive at that place, or at least while you’re travelling through it, that you need your friends and loved ones to help you keep going and get you moving to the next, better place.

I’m writing this because right now, THREE different sets of people I know and love are in that place.

And while I know I haven’t got the roadmap to help guide them out of that place, remembering what it was like to visit it myself I know I have to be there as much as I can for each of them, and keep them company on the journey.

Friday, 18 October 2013

I'm quite big in China...

No, this is not a post about how much taller I am than the majority of people in Asia (although, at 6 foot 4 inches/193cms tall, and having spent some time in Singapore, I suspect this really may be the case...)

I was amazed to see that with only four posts, the number of times my blog has been viewed is approaching 170. This is quite surprising as my old blog, with 47 posts, only ever had 195 views. Also, given that I haven't even promoted this new blog anywhere (I've not written anything worthy of promoting to my friends on Facebook yet!) I was intrigued as to who was finding it (and how!)

According to the viewer stats, most of my "readers" are in the UK. No shock there, most of these posts will be written in British English, I hope.

But the second country in the list is China. And there have been quite a lot of views from there. I started to think that maybe my site had appeared on a blogging website there, and people were accidentally clicking on it. But more recently, I've started to think that maybe it's actually something to do with spammers.

For this reason, and because I'm always happy to hear from visitors from around the world (and there are some other great, far-flung nations in my list of page views), I want to invite anyone who's actually reading this to leave a comment. Even if it's just to say hi (and maybe say where you're reading it from?) You can tell me your height too while your at it, if you like.

I suspect I'll eventually get a whole two comments...from Mr. and Mrs. Stu (hi guys!)in the outer reaches of Yorkshire...

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Literally the most annoying thing in the world, metaphorically speaking

As one of my Linguistics professors at university once said, “English is a dynamic language”. And you know what? I get this, and I appreciate it. If it wasn’t, we’d struggle to communicate in an ever-changing world - we need neologisms and semantic shift is unavoidable. People will always start to use a word in a different way, and inevitably, in time, it will become a part of the language.

For example, “meat” used to mean all food, but now its meaning has narrowed. “Wicked” meant evil, not excellent or wonderful as the kids claim today. And we all know how “gay” came out…

But sometimes, just sometimes, I think we should say “No. That’s just stupid” and fight against the change. And certainly not add some ridiculous new meanings to the dictionary.

The reason for this linguistic ramble? Today, somebody reminded me that of one of my bugbears, the egregious* use of the word “literally”, had made it into the Oxford English Dictionary (OED). I’d heard a rumour of this a while ago, and dismissed it as being just plain ridiculous. So this morning I looked it up…and it seems the word “literally”, meaning “metaphorically”, was added to the OED in 2011. It’s just that no one seemed to have noticed.

Basically, it looks like they’ve added a new meaning because so many idiotic people don’t know the old meaning. No! That’s just stupid! Now you (Jamie Redknapp) can legitimately get away with saying “Wayne Rooney was literally on fire!” when you actually mean “he performed quite well”.

Not only is this just mildly annoying (as opposed to being “literally the most annoying thing in the world”), what it really does is rob us of a pretty useful word. I mean, how do I now emphasise to someone that I mean literally in the previous sense of the word?

“Did you see that Tibetan monk’s protest? He was literally on fire!”
“You mean he performed well?”
“Er, no. I mean he was actually on fire. You know what, never mind.”



*Interestingly (well, to me anyway) “egregious” itself has shifted semantically – originally this word described something that was remarkably good (from the Latin egregius: "illustrious, select", or literally, "standing out from the flock". Now it means something that is remarkably bad or flagrant.

Monday, 7 October 2013

First World Problems

Recently, a friend of mine, Shadeh, moved to Croatia.

I say ‘a friend’, but what I really mean is one of the most inspiring people I have ever had the privilege to meet. And I say ‘meet’, but really I mean that I was lucky enough to share a house, too many laughs to remember and too many unforgettable chats with her.

Now, for some time I’ve believed that you can learn something from everyone, and that you should never underestimate this. It doesn’t matter how old they are either. This friend is a good ten years younger than me, but has a wiser, kinder, more positive head on her shoulders than almost anyone I’ve encountered.

So why am I telling you all this? Well, I’m sure I’m going to mention this person over time, and I intend to pass on some of the things we discussed, and some of the thoughts I’ve developed as a result. I don’t wish to preach, but if just one person reads this and thinks “Hmmm, interesting thought”, well then that’d be just grand.

So I’ll start with this one: First World Problems.

I regularly work long hours, and I’d often come home tired and just a little grumpy. Sometimes I’d complain about something that in the scheme of things really wasn’t that important…and Shadeh would simply laugh and say “first world problems!”

You may know this concept, or you may not. Others may be like me - you’ve heard it said, but you’ve never really thought about what it means. Basically, it’s a kick up the bum to remember how lucky we are, and how good most of us have it. Most of the ‘problems’ we have are just mildly annoying, and somewhere in the world there is someone (if not a million other people) who would give anything to have this as their only concern.

And do you know what? Slowly, I started to catch myself saying it as I was about to complain about something. And then I’d think, “Ah, maybe things are not so bad!” Next I’d find myself saying it to others when they complained about their own problems. Probably to their great annoyance, but whatever.

So maybe, just maybe, next time you or someone near you complains about something, you know, really terrible such as “the water from the cold filter tap tastes funny”, “my hotel room isn’t big enough” or “the sandwich lady didn’t bring a big enough variety”, maybe you’ll think of those three small words. Maybe you’ll think of those less fortunate than us.

Or maybe you’ll just think, “I read something boring about this in a blog once. Ah well, looks like I’m going to have to have a cheese and pickle baguette for two days running”.

Tuesday, 10 September 2013

The wrong side of the law

Over the last year, I’ve had more than my fair share of encounters with the hard working law enforcement authorities of our great nation.

First our home in Oxfordshire was broken into. Two or more individuals used a crowbar to ‘jimmy’ the front door and enter the property before rifling through every upstairs room. A laptop, an iPhone, two cameras and handfuls of jewellery were stolen. Thames Valley Police acted fast. The gang was identified when one of its members tried to use a bank card they’d taken from a second property just after our home was raided. The cops swooped on one of the (well known) perpetrator’s addresses at the same time as he arrived home - in a taxi with a blue plastic sack containing all our belongings. However, as he denied all knowledge of the sack, or being in our house, police were unable to charge him, or anyone else, for the crime.

Next, a few months back, on a recent visit to see my parents in Lancashire, my car window was smashed and an individual accessed the vehicle and stole my satnav. Yes, I know it was stupid to leave it in the car, but we had arrived late and were in a hurry to get to the football with my father. And parking on a street surrounded by much bigger, nicer cars than mine must have lulled me into a sense of security. Lancashire Constabulary were very kind, even noticing that I was a long way away from my home address in Oxford, and helpfully provided me with my insurance details from the system as I didn’t have them with me. But they couldn’t send anyone out to see me, never mind investigate the crime, as “chances are they’ve not left any forensics and there’s next to no chance of us securing a conviction”.

Then, not long ago, TescoDirect alerted me to an unusual order I’d supposedly placed. I don’t buy anything from TescoDirect and so promptly followed this up with the bank. Together, we quickly established that someone, somehow, was fraudulently spending money from my account. Orders for almost £700 had been made so far. The good folks at the bank cancelled the card, and as it turned out, were able to stop any funds from being removed from my savings. They would investigate the crime, and would pass my details on to the law enforcement authorities to contact me if there was ever any follow up. There was never any follow up, and so, I presume, the master fraudster was free to attempt the same crime on some other unsuspecting victim. Possibly you. Or me, AGAIN.

Finally, a few months ago, we were again in the north visiting my mate Stu and his wife. We went for an afternoon out and parked (with about 15 other cars) on a nice fairly quiet, rural sort of street next to a country park with a nice cafĂ©, where we enjoyed a relaxing lunch. However, on return to our cars, we were met by a policeman, who had been sitting in his car wait for the drivers to come back to their vehicles. In turn, Stu and I were taken and put in the back of the police car and told that we had both committed an offence. You see, there were no lines down the side of the street, and no visible signs to say you couldn’t park there…and so we assumed that you could. But, as it turns out, there were double white lines down the middle of the road, and on roads where this is the case, you are forbidden, by law, to park.

I know that not completely understanding the Highway Code is no excuse for breaking the law. But, being shocked, and somewhat embarrassed, at being in the back of this gruff officer’s car, and putting on my most snivelling, apologetic voice, I was expecting to be given a slap on the wrist and let off with a warning. Oh no. I could pay £60 fine and accept three points on my licence, or I could pay £80 for the privilege of attending the police authority’s “What’s Driving Us?” course. I did my course a week or so ago, and while it was actually quite interesting, it didn’t cover parking offences (everyone else there had run a red light or had been caught on their mobile phones while driving!)

And so it’s a hearty “well done!” to West Yorkshire Police - for cracking down on serious crime, and for doing their bit to keep us safe against hardened criminals. Successful “case outcomes” figures (not to mention the coffers!) must be going through the roof.

Sunday, 1 September 2013

It's all about me.

I used to write a blog. It had a worldwide following.

OK, so it was a worldwide following of TWO people. But they were world-wide. Well, one was a random guy in California, and the other was my best mate Stu, in Rochdale.

The name of that blog was "On the Sunni Side". You see, my nickname is Sunni, and I try to stay positive. Clever name then, ey? Er, no. At the time my life was still kind of turbulent, and I used the blog to vent, whinge and generally get a bit self-indulgent. I thought blogging would be a good way to improve my writing, and that people would be interested in my life. It turned out my best mate liked to keep up with what I was doing while he was on the train to work every day, and a gay Californian dude checked in from time to time. Maybe he just liked my slightly-out-of-focus, black and white profile pic. Who knows.

Anyway, as you can tell by my following, that blog was rubbish. Writing every day at work also meant I could not be bothered to turn on the laptop and write any more when i got home. And so, after a while, that blog died a death.

Now though, life seems less turbulent again. Things are settled...things are...good.

But something has been nagging me again. I want to write. And things (good and bad) just seem to happen to me that don't happen to everyone. Maybe someone will want to read about these things. Maybe someone will enjoy my ramblings. Maybe...I could get a worldwide following...of as many as FIVE!

This then, dear reader, is the "Return to the Sunni Side". Enjoy. And if you feel like it, comment.

Oh. And no - the old blog will never see the light of day.