My new YouTube channel

I started a YouTube channel purely for uploading videos. Probably it’ll mostly be videos of friends and family; things and people that I manage to see most days in spite of my really bad eyesight. The videos might be a bit funny too I suppose. Here’s the link






Llandudno, North Wales

Aron Ralston: Superman or Man?

I just finished reading Between a Rock and a Hard Place by Aron Ralston. I had heard about the Danny Boyle film and while I was waiting for it to come on general release I picked up the book. It’s an incredible read and is, having now seen the film as well, just as powerful an experience as watching an account of the same events on the big screen.

The most surprising thing is the quality of the writing. Ralston is evidently brainy which is not something you automatically expect of an outdoorsy, climby-mountainy type of person. But it’s not just the fact that he knows a lot of clever words… He can put the words together in a really thoughtful, spritual and philosphical way. Added to this, the book is a real, suspenseful page turner which is a big surprise considering we all know the ending (the same was true of the movie!).

One note of caution… The film version takes the angle of portraying Aron Ralston not as some kind of superhero but as a man who makes the mistake of thinking that he is invincible; by the end (as he weakly calls out ‘I need help!’) he has learned the humbling lesson that no man is an island. On screen, he learns to value family and relationships as being more important than climbing a mountain ten minutes quicker than the previous bloke. I’m not sure I quite get that same feeling from the book. He certainly does come to appreciate his family and friends more than previously but I don’t pick up on much humility in the final few pages of the book. It’s more a case of him being pissed off that he can’t get back to climbing rocks quicker. Maybe I’m wrong. I do know that, in real life, Ralston went on to suffer a crippling depression in the years following his experience in the canyon. I really do hope that he’s found some kind of peace now because I truly do regard him as a fascinating  person.

I would highly recommend this book. I haven’t been as affected this much by any factual book since I read Peter Maas’s Serpico. I think it is great not because it’s a self portrait of an exceptional man but because it shows what we are all capable of when we need to be. Danny Boyle’s a clever man too, I reckon.

My view of the place where I live

These are some pictures I took of the place where I live; a small industrial town in the North West of England.







I watched Howl tonight which is the film about American Beat poet Allen Ginsberg and his notorious poem of the same title. It’s not a biopic as such but concentrates on the trial of the poem’s publisher on obscenity charges and uses a combination of live action and animation to make points about freedom of speech and artistic integrity.

I loved it. James Franco gives an amazing performance as does the supporting cast and the animation sequences are stunning and compliment the lines of the poem well. The real star of the film, though, is the poetry of Ginsberg which is funny, shocking and touching all at once. I’m not a particularly big reader of poetry but this film has made me want to look up some of this man’s work. The events shown here reminded me of all the times throughout history when art has been put on trial by narrow minded bigots (think Wilde, Lawrence, Joyce etc). I’m sure there’ll be more sad occasions like this in the future and when they come I know for sure who’s side I’ll be on.

I’m on drugs!

Last week, loads of people asked me what the hell I was doing taking photos of bottles of wine on the checkout conveyor belt at ASDA. I know what you’re asking this week; for what stupid reason is he taking photos of pills? Well, I started off trying out my new camera (only a cheapie Pentax Optio from ASDA – I’m not on commission from there, honest!) and wondering how close to an object I could get and still get a sharp picture (oh God, now you know for sure I’m a real weirdo!). The result is these photos and I suppose the answer was that the camera can get pretty close considering its only a budget model.

It got me thinking about the tablets that I take every day; usually I don’t even glance at them, just swig them down. I take 75mg of Dosulepin each night before I go to bed. If you look that up you’ll find that it’s an anti-depressant but I actually take them to prevent migraine. I’ve suffered with migraine since I was in my teens (not that long then? Ha ha!); it manifesting as bad headaches, visual nasties such as flashing lights and other weird hallucinations, numbness all down one side, and a bizarre sensation where I can’t think of what words to say to say what I want to say (obviously I have that problem to some extent anyway judging by that last sentence!).

I don’t know if anyone else out there suffers with this condition but if you do I really really recommend this medication. Like I said, you don’t just take this when you get an attack you take it all the time in order to prevent an attack. And 9 times out of 10 it does. I was getting about 3 or 4 migraines each month and now I’m getting maybe 1 every 5 or 6 months. It’s brilliant.

Some people (my dad for example) have problems taking medication on a permanent basis and I suppose it is something you should think carefully about. But for me the advantages far outweigh any possible drawbacks. Another great plus for me is that it makes me drowsy which is superb because I also suffer with insomnia so if I take my 75mg before bed I get to drift off to sleep much easier than previously. Also, they’re anti-depressants so I get to be relatively perky most of the time (that didn’t used to be the case!). Everyone’s a winner. Oh and I just thought of one more advantage…. the little orange capsules are great for testing out your new camera on.



Now (2011) and Then (1900)

I took this picture of an ordinary street in Runcorn, Cheshire, UK where I live.
This is the same street from the same angle but this photo was taken over a hundred years ago. I didn't take this one of course. I was busy that day.


I love these kind of ‘now and then’ photos where you see the same place from the same angle but taken at different points in time. This is the corner of Greenway Road in Runcorn where Highlands Road branches off towards the park. I couldn’t get exactly the same angle without being mowed down by traffic but it’s pretty close. I don’t know who took the original photograph; a print of it hangs on the wall in my mum and dad’s house.

The building to the extreme right of both photos is exactly the same but the walled garden in front of it is long gone and the original pavement has been replaced by a new one where the garden used to be. What looks like a barn in the old picture is completely missing from the new one but the stone wall on the opposite side of the road is still there with the gate in the same place. Nowadays a house with big bay windows stands behind that wall which you can see in the modern pic.

Those two women in what looks like Victorian clothing have always fascinated me; they seem to be looking upwards at something in Highlands Road. You can pinpoint the exact spot on which they stood and look up Highlands Road and see almost the same view that they must have seen all those years ago. Wonder what they were looking at.

Pancakes make you thirsty


Had a great Shrove Tuesday with lots of tremendous pancakes but felt that the day would not be complete without 3 extra items which I managed to track down to Widnes ASDA



‘Paul’ wins Oscar for most average movie

I think Simon Pegg and Nick Frost make funny films. Their latest, Paul, looked like it was going to be the latest in a series of funny films including Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, and Run Fatboy Run. I saw it on Thursday at Runcorn Cineworld and I have to reluctantly report that I didn’t find it very funny. It’s had reasonably positive reviews but I can’t really see why as it’s undoubtedly the weakest of the films mentioned above.

I hate to have to say this stuff because, generally speaking, I’m a fan of Pegg and Frost but in Paul it feels like things have been spread a bit thin; the comedy watered down a bit too far. First thing, the plot is rubbish; sub-standard road movie crap with the usual sub-mental FBI pursuers. How could such brilliant scriptwriters allow themselves to be so lazy as to use the old chestnut of ‘hilarious’ FBI agents take up so much screen time? I realise the whole thing was supposed to be sending up the SF, ET type movie but this wasn’t sending up those characters it was just trotting them out for another clichéd airing. Second thing; it’s not that funny. I laughed out loud maybe once. I smiled maybe three times. I almost fell asleep twice. I mean, that whole sequence in the SF memorabilia store where ‘hilarious’ FBI agents mistake Paul for a rubber alien…. a despicable abomination which would look lazy in a Bless This House script! If they were aiming at an audience of 11 year-olds then fair enough but the bad language ensured a 15 certificate so presumably they were aiming this garbage at actual adults with actual brains.

On the plus side; I loved the bible-basher bashing, the Comic-Con scenes, and the first five swearing jokes. Can’t think of anything else positive to say. Maybe I’ve been a bit harsh here… I’m thinking of the review I wrote for Little Fockers recently (another average film) which wasn’t anywhere near as critical. The thing is… my expectations were higher for this one. I have huge respect for Simon Pegg and Nick Frost and I expect them to turn out exceptional movies. Usually if I see an average film I just snort and call it average. When I see an average film from these two fellas I produce blood from my eyes and call the thing an abomination. Double standards and pretty unfair really but it’s their own fault for being so brilliant initially.

Maybe this little review has done you a favour. If you see Paul after reading this you’ll be expecting an abomination. What you’ll actually see is an average film and you’ll be pleasantly surprised. You’ll come out of the cinema saying ‘hey, that wasn’t so bad, in fact I’d go so far as to say it that in parts it was actually average! Fancy a pizza?’