Friday, 16 March 2012

Proud Grandfather at 18 years of age

I have a recommendation for the day: Friday nights in.
I have come to the sad realisation that I am a premature Grandpa in disguise. Today I got home from school at 4.30. The first thing I did was take off my suit and get into my one-piece (this in itself is unacceptable and I know it makes me a dick but it’s so comfortable that I simply won’t hear a bad word said against it.) I proceeded to watch Masterchef, which I had taped from last night- (hope Tom wins,) have a bath (no candles, but bubbles did feature,) eat a Chinese (plus a few bags of crisps) and read a bit of my book (for about 5 minutes before tuning in to New Girl and other shit telly.) You may be a very liberal individual and believe that this behaviour is totally acceptable- I appreciate your tolerance. However, the upsetting thing about my routine is the fact that 16-year-old Callum would be turning in his grave (metaphorical obviously) if he could see my actions (metaphorically again, because he is me and- as such can see everything.. Sorry if that’s confusing.) From the very day I turned 16 I was simply waiting to be 18, when my real life would begin. During the two intervening years I was patient and stoic, as I knew in my heart of hearts that they were simply “transition years.” For me ‘18’ was synonymous with sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll; it was a symbol of freedom and liberation from constraint as one entered the world of adulthood. Then I hit 18 and I realised that I’m not actually a sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll kind of guy. In actual fact, I’m the guy that is excited for the next series of Downton Abbey and finds it difficult to go out two nights in a row without a midday nap to keep me going. In short, I am a premature Grandfather.

What’s worse, I love it.

At 16, I longed to be a member of Skins, with “delirious highs and inevitable lows” (that’s the official tag-line of the show- how pretentious is that) characterising my lifestyle choices. Now, when I watch the programme, I am more concerned by how little revision they are doing for their exams and why they are seemingly oblivious to the fact that they clearly need a good bath. When I go out, I enjoy frequenting Halo, where the most hectic thing I have hitherto experienced was their free giveaway of santa-hats in a fit of festive good-will. The music isn’t dirty, grimy dubstep, but a mixture of whatever is in the top 40’s chart and a variety of 90’s hits. I dance like my Dad and at a recent party, I moved on to a cheeky Smirnoff Ice when I felt I’d had too much vodka.

The funny thing, is that all the time waiting to grow up so I could do all the grown-up things that looked so cool, provided me with the opportunity to actually grow up and realise that I’d rather actually have fun than just pretend to. Sure, it’s probably quite lame that I’ve spent tonight (a Friday night) with a cup of tea instead of a glass of jaeger, but at the same time, the occasional Friday-night is completely necessary, crucial even- to maintaining your sanity. The most dangerous situation I have put myself in is almost spilling a bottle of soy sauce all over my bed, and the closest I got to vomiting was unnecessarily finishing my prawn curry, having already wolfed down prawn toast, spring rolls and sweetcorn soup (man it was delicious.) Ultimately, being a Grandpa every now and again is good for your mind, body and soul, so there should be no stigma attached to it. It is nothing to be ashamed of, but something to celebrate!

I am an 18-year old Grandpa and proud (but then again, the chav at the bottom of the road can boast the same, though in a slightly different context.)

Sunday, 11 March 2012

The Big Questions.

I am hungover. This seldom occurs, as I don’t drink, except occasionally at communion (you don’t know whether I’m being serious, do you?) However, when it does happen, the logical response seems to be to watch The Biggest Loser USA. What could make you feel better about your current condition than seeing the largest individuals known to man in various states of crying, vomiting or screaming in pain? There is certainly something therapeutic to it, it provides an inner peace (though not literally, I’m sat with a bucket and my innards don’t feel very peaceful.) In spite of this, today, as I stumbled out of bed and took up my place on the sofa (a spot which I endeavour not to move from until bedtime,) instead of fulfilling my heart-warming plan of watching “losers” turn their lives around, I stumbled upon something that made me feel a hell of a lot worse.

The Big Questions. Now, I am not a Sunday-morning-TV kind of guy (I am much more partial to Saturday Kitchen,) and thus I have foregone the experience of enjoying weekly philosophical debate live on the beeb. I really have missed a trick, because the programme was completely absorbing (enough so that I have delayed my fatties until I wrote this post, which speaks volumes.) The motion was “is fundamentalism undermining faith?”

Now, I love an argument, but never before have I found myself literally screaming at a television (discounting my verbal abuse of Keith Lemon to “get off the screen-” admittedly using a few more expletives. Seriously, he’s not even funny.) I’m going to restrain myself from getting a bit too deep for what should be a day of rest (praise be to Jesus,) but I don’t think fundamentalists quite grasp the paradox of their ignorance. Now, I am clearly an expert in this field because I won the “Hook Religious Studies Prize” in Lower Sixth, so you should all bow to my superior understanding (except Isabella because she’s Christian faith leader and she knows her shit.) I would consider myself a man of faith; I’m not a practising Christian but I like to think there’s something out there (I’m pretty sure in writing that, Alex Rankine’s heart has just stopped. Also, upon reading it back I sound like I’m referring to alien life-forms, which I’m not, though who wouldn’t like a nice Martian buddy?) Personally, I’m of the opinion that everyone should entitled to think whatever they want to think- hey, I was even invited to be a Scientologist when I went to New York and I definitely considered it, though I was 12.

Now, without wanting to sound like I think the world is one big gap advert, things seem to work best when cultures are tolerant of each others’ differences. Therefore, I am baffled by the fact that intelligent men and women can say that “God loves everyone” and then in the same breath “but if you’re not part of my religion, you’re going to hell, soz.” Surely, if God is the master player and we are merely the sims, he wouldn’t create us just to go to down in flames (literally.) At risk of quoting Mean Girls... Hell, I’m just going to do it: “I wish we could all get along like we used to in middle school... I wish I could bake a cake filled with rainbows and smiles and everyone would eat and be happy.”

Literally, if God made man in his image, then that applies to all races, genders, sexualities, ages and people generally. Nowhere in any of the sacred texts does it say “and so God forgave man for his sins. Except the gingers. He made a mistake with those.” Believe or don’t believe what you want and let everyone else do the same. It’s all chill that way and we can sing kumbayah around a massive campfire.

I’m sorry that I have just blogged about this because I know it’s a bit of a risky move to write about religion, but I haven’t done that- I’ve written about intolerance and a pretty great TV show. If ever you have a free Sunday-morning then have a gander and you might be made as impassioned as I have been.) However, next time, I promise to write about something less controversial like gardening or Glee, so you don’t think I’m some sort of nutcase- (honestly, I’m not.)  

Anyway, in the wise words of Danny Kenny, “it’s all bollocks anyway.” I’m off to watch my fatties now.

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Let's get this show on the road!

I think it’s a shame that people don’t write. Today, reading a friend’s blog, I realised that in recent years I’ve been embarrassed about the very idea of writing things for people to read. I’m not necessarily talking about blogging- even during that pretentious phase when some of my friends thought that writing poetry reflected their deep and tortured soul, I cringed away from trying my hand.

Now, maybe that’s just because I’ve never been the sort of person who really goes to town on their teenage angst (although that’s unfairly denying some very melancholy GCSE drama performances: circa year 10.) However, I’ve got an inkling that it’s got something to do with the school system. If I think back to the days of primary school, I know for a fact that I was the sort of child who spent a lot of time with their nose in a book- it’s an occupational hazard of being an only child. It was my love of completely engaging myself in another world that propelled me (when most normal eleven year olds were playing football and discovering the delights of Grand Theft Auto on PS2,) to write my own stories. I loved writing. I loved people reading my writing, and so I did it (much to the horror of my year six teacher Mr. Bowlas who had the unimaginably excruciating job of providing me with feedback.)

Now, my point isn’t that I was any good. I wasn’t at all- the pinnacle of my “talent” was a series of short stories entitled The Dream Boy, co-authored by Holly Abel. (Before we go any further, I would like to clarify that it wasn’t, as it sounds, some sort of Jacqueline Wilson-esque number, but was actually a riveting mystery concerning a string of individuals trapped in their own dreams. Evidently we didn’t realise how gay the title sounded at the time.) My point is that, at eleven years old I had the confidence to do something that in the seven preceding years I have never managed to recreate.

(Be prepared for a huge generalisation alert- I am guilty of this quite often, but will try to dial it down;) I think that as soon as a child reaches high-school, their creative streak is somewhat stifled. Everything suddenly centred on “comprehension” and “evaluation.” Suddenly you are reading the great writers of the past, but worse, you’re discussing whether they’re any good. I think it’s at that point that people become incredibly self-conscious about writing. At what point are young people ever encouraged to write for themselves? All we write about is other people; we study their work and, at best, we admire them for it, at worst, we think that they weren’t all they’re cracked up to be. How gratifying is it to say: “well, T. S. Eliot, yeah he’s massively overrated in my opinion.” How unconventional do you feel to be bucking the trend?  At what point do we ever stop and consider having a go for ourselves?

I think there’s something about writing that makes you very vulnerable, and it’s that there is something definitive and concrete in front of a reader that they are able to criticise and pull apart. As something like a blog is a very personal extension of yourself, that’s a big risk to take- you really put your neck on the line, because people don’t really like to praise another person’s achievements. It’s very easy to read something and to think about how it could be improved- everyone does it, and in some ways it’s a very human defence mechanism. What people don’t acknowledge is the sheer amount of balls it takes to write something on a public forum like the internet, where you expose yourself and allow people to access your weaknesses.

Basically, that’s the point of this blog. I don’t mind if I don’t get a single reader. It’s me taking back my confidence and having a go at writing, something I love doing. One day I might like to write as a profession- who knows, but how am I ever going to develop unless I have a starting point?

However, I read a lot of blogs and I refuse to fall into some common traps. Therefore I have a number of pledges to make:

1)      I will try not to be pretentious. (I certainly won’t be emulating Tolstoy in this blog. I will write how I’d speak, and I’m not going to be using metaphors to convey deep, philosophical messages.)

2)      I will endeavour not to give people advice or try to “inspire them.” (Oh no, I’m not going to be giving an assembly or writing about the dangerous condition of the snow leopard. If you like the snow leopard that that’s very cool. If you don’t, that’s fine too- though they’re pretty cute so I don’t know why you wouldn’t.)

3)      I won’t write about things just because they’re cool or it will make me seem fashionably alternative. (I’ll write about what I find interesting. I’m not going to have a theme or suddenly spew forth about atheism just because I can.)

4)      I won’t pretend to be some sort of social reformer or make sweeping statements about society. (I’m not a politician and I don’t have an agenda. I have my opinions, and occasionally they might spill over- but I’m not going to urge you to vote labour; though you totally should!)

5)      I will proof-read my work. (I’m really bad at this and I’ll probably make loads of mistakes so sorry in advance.)

6)      If I break one or more of these rules, feel free to give me a slap.

Thanks for reading (though that’s going to be pretty awkward if no one does!) Peace and love.