Scraping off the mould.

Well, here we go for the first post of this year, and it is the penultimate day of February 2013. My last post was November 2012, and prior to that January the same year, so really my blog has gone slightly stale, a bit mouldy around the edges, the bulk of its ‘meaty’ content being during 2010 and 2011. Lets try this year to rectify the blank pages of the previous twelve months, although I think I need to try and take a different approach to blogging, that is to focus less on the life situation and personal soul-searching posts and try and broaden my blog out into less emotional subjects. I believe I have said enough about myself, and by that I mean that when I re-read previous posts I began to cringe at what I wrote and not only that, I also have doubts about just who has read it as well. That is another story for another time however. I enjoyed writing what I wrote however and it all begin really when I was on myspace (and that must have been around 2005) and started blogging on their groundbreaking social network site. I think also that the reason I studied the creative writing course was to learn how to write better and increase my literal ambitions which it did so to a large extent. I recommend studying creative writing classes for anyone with an ambition to write, either for themselves or even for the modest goal of getting written work published (and in these times, with the advent of e-readers such as Kindle, really is not such a major hurdle as it was prior to the internet becoming fashionable).

I believe I am what could be described as an eternal student; there is something in me that has an unquenchable thirst for studying and learning, whether that be still studying what I was taught in University or increasing my cookery skills that I was taught when I left school and so on. I love knowledge and developing myself intellectually and recently I am striving to try and develop myself spiritually as well, although maybe that is just an age thing, the fact that I am at the doorstep of those middle age years is constantly on my mind; I have never felt so mortal and vulnerable to the vagaries of age. Time has never looked, for me in my present state at least, so valuable and precious and yet still I think I waste it where I could be doing a lot more with the time I have remaining here. Perhaps it was because of my previous relationship, that I spent all those formative years with my ex-wife; maybe I did spend too long in college; possibly I did waste my twenties doing things, that when I look back, were a waste of time. However, whatever I did that maybe could be construed as being a waste of time and wrong, I still learnt lessons from the experience, and I would also wager and argue that I developed myself more than any of my peers mainly through the aspect of struggling without the support or guidance from parents. Again, these are issues that I might later write about on wordpress, produce a new post later on in the year. Avenues of thought.

Blogging as I have done since December 2008 was also a therapeutic experience, allowing me in my mind to deal and write about issues and events that had occurred in my life and were a cause of emotional upset, both from loosing my Mother and also spending the best, most healthiest and active years of my life living with a Woman who then estranged me to a great extent, not only from her, but also it has had repercussions amongst my own family as well. However, one thing I am glad about is that I still see my two sons almost every week which is a blessing, especially recently as my youngest son has been diagnosed as having special needs and he is probably the most sensitive of them both. I fear for his secondary school years so much. Again I want to cast a stone here, but I will drop it instead. But what am I writing? I started this blog with the intention of not writing so personal issues, but again its deteriorated into a self-obsessed post about ‘me’ again. Sigh. Maybe I need some counselling over this. They say your subconscious is the most telling aspect about you, that what you write, what you paint or draw – what you craft creatively really speaks volumes as who and what you are and have experienced in this life. I wonder if this is why so many artists have emotional issues/produce great works?

Right, wordpress and personal blog – I will try and update once a month, maybe more, but will try and get some more posts down this year about really anything. It was hard scraping off the mould, but once its removed, it looks a little more palatable. Even better if its toasted too.

‘All Apologies’ (Well, almost all)

Its been a while, yeah? I suppose after an eleven month absence from wordpress, I decided to try and brush away the cobwebs from a slowly decaying personal blog, a blog that for me is extremely personal, honest, open and soul searching about my life; its trials, tribulations, hardship, struggle and interspersed with a little romance too along with some quite personal poetry. I feel I had to say some of these things about me, just to make it clear to those who disliked me and let my life go down the drain that I was and still am (minus excessive alcohol consumption) underneath a good, caring, concerned, educated, intelligent soul. I may have personal problems, I may (almost certainly) have issues within me, I may not be very good in social situations, but I know I could not intentionally hurt folk either emotionally or most certainly physically. My Mothers influence stayed with me for most of my life, she really was a guiding light that did burn bright through some very difficult times I went through. I believe that your upbringing, your childhood, the love that you receive from your parents really are the most important things that have a great impact on how you turn out, how you develop, your morals, beliefs, attitudes and so on. Perhaps parenting skills should be on the national curriculum, become as important as Maths and English for both sexes. Just a thought.

I believe I have hit quite a serious problem with my alcohol consumption; I am now at a stage that I need a drink, not every day, but I do still feel the need to drink. It has become so bad that I have started to say some pretty questionable things on my twitter feed whilst I have, well lets be honest, been totally smashed out of my head. I wake up then the next day and totally regret what I typed in my alcoholic stupor the evening prior. I suffer that ‘cringe’ feeling, you know the one you get when you have been out the night before, drunk too much and did some awful thing. The feeling of ‘oh no, what I have I DONE!?’, and just want to pull the covers back over your head and hope that either the memory is distorted or that it never happened. I expect most of us have been there at some stage in our lives. It is like this for me and twice now I have temporarily deleted my twitter account in the vain hope that no one has read it, but I know they have, and so that makes it a worse guilt to bear. I will be honest – the outbursts stem from a few things:- 1) Having no social life or any meaningful friends where I live, and this I believe stems from my inability from not being that sociable , or finding it difficult to form friendships other than via the internet. Remember, I became addicted so much to the internet that, even though I became an IT professional person, I think it had an impact on my social life and maybe that stems from my late teenage years living on my own; 2) becoming so angry against my ex-wife and her family when she decided to make my life a living nightmare. I lived with this Woman for fifteen and half years and I actually married and had two children by her for seven of those years. Since I was twenty one years old we cohabited together and experienced a whole host of life events and so on. So this did screw with me emotionally to an extent that I found hard to forgive her after I ended up in an homeless hostel where I was assaulted, robbed and other things I do not wish to mention on here, and 3) being a total idiot, loosing my sense of rationality, décor, public politeness and so on. I hope, to those who I would have hurt (and I know I hurt a few who followed me), you can forgive me for being such an idiot. A drunk one.

I hope to blog a little bit more than what this year has not shown. It has been a rough year for me, stemming from a complete disintegration of my literacy, lack of reading books, a slow hold that alcohol has surely gained over me, trouble with my eyesight (my right eye has lost focus and I am not sure why this – I now need glasses), emotional feelings, a sense of being outcast and so on. Sorry for the hurtful comments on my twitter account (I fail to remember many, maybe thats good) although some comments that may even be just…be just slightly justified. x

Skyrim.

I wrote a sentence a while back on this blog, I believe it was for my review of Bioshock that stated ‘games come and go…’ and so on, meaning that really there are very few games that hit the excellent mark and really impress a vivid indentation upon the gaming world. Skyrim I would like to suggest hits this mark, quite spectacularly to say the very least. Skyrim is an Elder Scrolls game, a fantasy RPG that was initially developed for the PC during the 1990’s, and this is its fifth incarnation and I personally started playing this series with Morrowind, released around 2001. The main feature, or at least the most defining feature these RPG games had, were its open world design. Instead of having ‘levels’, these games were a first person perspective in a designed world whereby you could travel anywhere on the game map without having to complete levels as most games require you to do. Bethesda, the game company that created the Elder Scrolls games, created a open world game that was impressively dynamic rather than using scripted events to push the game along. Obviously some aspects, especially in Morrowind and Oblivion (the third and fourth games in this series) were scripted, but the whole concept, the major design ethos from this series of RPG games were its freeform map, its dynamic interactions with various NPCs (Non-Player-Characters), the trading system et al that made the games stand out compared to most RPG games during the late ’90s and early to mid 2000’s. Again, the games were quite a niche market – a fantasy first person perspective Role Playing Game set in an alternate universe created from a group of D&D gamers that went into game design – or at least this is what I have read about the company and how I understand its initial creation. It became less of a nerdy niche market I believe with Morrowind and most certainly Oblivion – especially Oblivion in fact as that game was coded and ported over to the Xbox and PS3, hence creating a larger market than they ever would have probably had if it had been just exclusively a PC game.

Now Bethesdas latest release in the Elder Scrolls games is Skyrim. I doubt if anyone has not heard of this title, it was impressively marketed and advertised, showing off some spectacular graphics. What you saw on those adverts, or what you have read about the game are not unfounded – it probably is one of the nicest, graphically spectacular game I have ever played on a PC. Again, it is an open world dynamic design, scripted only in the sense of the quest line (that you can start at any stage in the game, so in effect you could just play this title as pure sandbox and advance the main plot when and where you want to) and various task you have to do, but dynamic in the sense that it utilises Bethesda’s ‘Radiant AI’, creating missions off the cuff depending on things you have done and so on. The NPCs carry out their tasks as the day progresses; some are traders, some work – and they all have set times that they start and finish work, go to the inn after work and then go home to rest for the night. Scripted in the sense that they do things at certain times, but totally dynamic in the aspect of their daily interactions and so on.

All the misgivings and dislikes I had about Oblivion, such as the levelling up method (whereby every creature levelled the same time as you making the game very challenging at high levels) and using about five different voice actors (I think it was five…please don’t quote me on this) for all the NPCs have been eliminated with Skyrim. Again, as in Fallout 3 the voice acting is becoming something so impressive with modern games – we had Liam Neeson and Ron Perlman in Fallout 3; in Skyrim we have Max von Sydow. Christopher Plummer and Joan Allen to name but a few of the many talents included in the game. Musically Skyrim has the most impressive soundtrack I have ever, ever heard for a video game, with a four CD box set you can buy separately composed by Jeremy Soule who also composed Morrowinds and Oblivions soundtracks, but this time he has excelled. It is the same as movie standard. Graphically the game is beautiful – just travel to the top of any mountain and witness blizzards, with snow being cast from wind over the tops of rocks etc, or witness the Aurora Borealis, as Skyrim is set in the north of Tamriel, the world created for the Elder Scrolls games. What I found the most impressive however, and yes the game looks stunning visually, the AI is smart and interesting, but this game was designed with our current hardware, utilising the power and capabilities of current console systems and PC systems. You do not always need to have the best to make and code and design a game with the most modern specs in mind. This I think Bethesda did well, despite some glitches on some systems. A two or three year old PC, as long as its relatively half-decent, can run this on quite high settings.

When I first played Skyrim, I was initially dumbstruck at just how good it looked – I was completely taken in and hooked. After just under 100 hours into the game (and probably have only uncovered maybe twenty percent of the whole country of Skyrim) I still have to stop at certain locations and take in the awesomeness of the scenery and listen to the placid, spiritually sounding soundtrack – it is really that impressive. I remember also posting an article on my blog a while back about video games, and I stated then that I believed that we had reached a pinnacle in game design over the last several years, gaming has really began to become something interactive, social, important (with certain games at least) and this really has come from the advent of modern console systems and online gaming. It has altered the way we game too, although I do not want to go into FPS games – there are deep pros and cons over some titles and their levels of violence. However, with RPG games that require you to make decisions based around your own personal moral beliefs that I find the most interesting, it does make gaming slightly more than solving puzzles and shooting the bad boss at the end of the game. Fallout 3 I think held the ‘Karma’ system together really well, whereby doing evil deeds took a hit with your character you created. Unfortunately with Skyrim there is no such moral system in place, or at least it is not the same (you can join with the Imperials or Rebels, but the Rebels hold racist assumptions, hard to weigh up in many respects). Bioware (another game design studio) I think started this with its Baldurs Gate games, whereby decisions you made during your game had an impact on the end game and various events as the game progressed – really trying to encourage you to role-play your virtual character into something saintly or dark. Your choice.

In summary then, Skyrim really hits a top mark, probably really upping the bar of gaming for sometime to come. I am also amazed at how popular this title has become – whatever the cost of designing the game, I am sure that Bethesda have surpassed their initial budget in sales. When I first started playing Morrowind back nearly ten years ago, I doubt even then I could ever imagine a fantasy RPG ever becoming so popular as it has now become, especially an Elder Scrolls game. Kudos to Bethesda.

End of the year blues…

My wordpress blog has now reached three years old, updated usually on a monthly basis, although there are gaps on occasion between updates, the longest being from August through to December this year. I guess I ran out of steam or willingness to update after my fortieth year; hitting the big 40 in June and the really lack of contact with my Family really made me start thinking quite deeply about my life and my relationship with my Family. Somewhere on here I wrote about this, the fact that I had to grow up from the age of seventeen in a poky little room that was a bedsit, so this is why I suppose I have become more retrospective, more insular and such a deep thinker regarding things that have gone on in my life.

I still have a relationship with my children – I see them most weekends, although money being much more tight than it ever has been makes it difficult to afford to be able to buy them things and treat them as I want to. Struggling is not such a new thing; I remember working forty hour weeks, first on a Youth Training Scheme when I left school for around thirty pounds a week (this was in catering, and I did gain a qualification from it) then working in factories for more money (I had to pack in the catering as I suffered very severe from eczema and still do) but still I never seemed to have much money from my late teens up until I started working for a Market Research firm thanks to some Art Students that took an interest in my life, a couple that I always will be indebted too, not only for helping me climb out of a rut I was in when I was nineteen years old, but also broadening my horizons, not only for the job I started doing (Market Researcher) but also culturally as well. A time in my life that was so influential for me that I never forgot the brief spell of happiness that I experienced during 1990 till ’93.

I was not stupid whilst I was in secondary education. I was in one of the higher classes when in comprehensive school, and my chosen elective subjects were History, English Lit, Geography and Geology. I studied Humanities, because I was good at English and History. I disliked the sciences, although I did attend computing dinnertime classes (in the spare time), because I liked my Sinclair Spectrum back in the mid 1980’s. But my favourite subjects, if I had to look back and choose (which I guess is what I am doing here now) would have been History and English. Its worth noting as this juncture that I failed my ‘O’ levels, all except English Literature and had ‘CSE’ grades in Geography and I believe Maths. I never re-sat my exams, and looking back was a grave mistake, but my family life was not perfect so, thanks to advice of a Careers officer I ended up on a Government Youth Training Scheme in Catering for a small amount of cash whilst we worked and studied. Even though I dropped this scheme and ended up in a factory (for more money) I never lost what I had learnt from the chefs that taught me; I still retained the culinary skills and I still like to cook.

What I am trying to say is that it was only through luck that I met this student couple who moved into the same house I was living in; liking their music, they befriended me and it was only from them and their friends that I started broadening my horizons, listening to different music (I was a rocker prior to this), watching more interesting films, reading more than I had done since I had left school and so on. In fact I then went on to study at University as a mature student– and this is coming from a pretty fucked up youth who had nothing and then went to Swansea University to study Social History and Sociology. Not bad going no? One reason why I feel so much indebted so much to people who took an interest in me.

These blogs of mine…well….I suppose, as I think I blogged somewhile ago, were an attempt to just try and explain my life, my life of hardship and the fact that I, on my own, pulled myself from a rut of ‘no hope’ and certainly ‘no future’ whilst I was living in that bedsit, into a well educated, intelligent, cultured, creative, caring person. It was not easy to do so either, and probably for reasons that are only my own, I, along with the Woman I was living with from the age of twenty-one onwards, still suffered from hardship and distinct lack of money because I was studying and had no money. This blog I produced – I started writing this in temporary accommodation a few months after the council rehomed me from being homeless – was quite seriously an attempt, not only to open my feelings up to the internet and, at a base level the whole of the online community, but to try and write about what I felt and the injustices that happened to me from mid-summer 2008, but also now I believe a lot longer. It is getting to a stage now, for my blog, that I do not know what else really to produce here. I think I have explained what suffering I went through, the total horrors of living, briefly, in a homeless hostel, a hostel in Newport South Wales, that had seen a girl hang herself only, as far as I can remember, a few weeks before I ended up there. It really was an horrific place to have ended up, especially for a Father of two boys whom was prior to this living in Usk, Monmouthshire, living with his Wife, taking his children to school and collecting them every day, producing websites in his part time (I am so out of touch with that skill now, I never kept up to date with the scene) and so on. At this stage now, I am not so much totally blaming my wife, but my family also must and should take a degree of the blame for what happened to me whilst I was homeless in Newport. If my sons, if any of my sons had ended up without nowhere to go, then I would never, ever have allowed them to become homeless.

And the red colour fades…

Love pt.II (deux)

The night lay outside your open window,
the sounds of the city were letting themselves be known;
the revelry of intoxicated traffic,
adorned with occasional sirens urgently, wantonly calling,
whilst you both lay naked on the bed,
lights off, allowing the street-lights to send their halo-
their electronic, ethereal glow –
through the panes of your window,
trying to illume all that lay inside.

You were laying naked with your woman,
your limbs entwined around each others natural states;
touching each other sensitively, finding the secret places,
as if each of your bodies had been mapped before –
you each knew where your fingers should go,
could go, did go…

Finding the warm, wet, moist circle;
exploring tentatively, lovingly, gently-
probing the initial discovery with a thrill,
the thrill being met with a low, sensual, moan.
She reciprocates; her fingers grip your sex,
and both in unison, as if predetermined,
you lips touch –
gently at first, then the deepest passion takes control…

From both your deepest desires you met;
your bodies start to crave each other,
your sex slowly, but with an urgent purpose,
enters into your lover.
You fill her with a passion, a longing;
a deep rooted enchantment,
something both your souls feel from deep within…

That these memories, this recollection,
this time – was twenty years ago,
makes this time glorious, nostalgic;
but it leaves your soul feeling so forlorn,
so lost on a distant shore,
as if waiting for some vessel to rescue you…

George Orwells’ ‘Homage to Catalonia’ – a short review.

This is a re-read of Homage to Catalonia, George Orwell’s autobiographical adventure of experiencing the Spanish Civil War during late 1936 till mid-1937. George Orwell managed to get to Spain to fight for the Republicans against the Fascists with the British Independent Labour Party (the ILP) as he was refused by the Communists in Britain to go and fight with the International Brigades. I think this is one of his best journalistic novels; his descriptions of the Aragon front in Catalonia are really incredibly descriptive, detailing the privations all the militia at that time had to endure, and also this combined with several months of really no activity on the front lines – they just held their positions and suffered from cold, louse, poor weapons, bad food, limited tobacco with nothing really going on to relieve the boredom, apart from the occasional sniping that took place between the trenches (of note, there is little to distinguish this part of the front with the 1914-18 war of trenches – a period starting to change gradually in warfare stemming from the Great War, with the first proper use of aircraft with any real effectiveness; this was the end of ‘old warfare’ and the entrance into the ‘new’).

At the start of the book, Orwell explains distinctively what was going on in Barcelona when he arrived in December 1936; he, as George Orwell considered himself a Democratic Socialist, experiences a city in the throws of Revolutionary élan, with no class distinctions in any part of the city; Red and Black flags, denoting the CNT-FAI (Anarchist-Syndicalist) colours flying everywhere and so on, and he states in the first few pages that this was a city ‘with the working class in the saddle’; it seems as if he had never been so inspired to what he believed he was fighting for – against fascism and for some sort of workers democracy. A defence against the increasing dominance of fascist powers from Italy and Germany that had taken hold of Europe at this time.

However, this is a journalistic book, and later on, it becomes full of disillusionment; he witnesses first hand the May days in Barcelona, a period where the Republican Government try and take control of CNT-FAI owned collectives, the Telephone Exchange being the most notable, under influence from the Stalinist Communist Party (PSUC) to try and halt any further advance of any form of social revolution that had occurred from the first days of the attempted coup from Franco’s fascists (falange). It confuses Orwell that how could two sides, despite their ideological differences in their theories of Socialism, end up causing a ‘civil war within a civil war’, which is how it was portrayed? How could two sides, both equally hating Franco, end up causing internecine strife that could only strengthen the opposing side? This makes Orwell think more deeply about the role of the Stalinist Communist Party, and the fact that he slowly begins to understand their role in suppressing both the Anarchists and POUM (a quasi-Trotskyist organisation of some forty thousand members) because they saw that the only way to win against the fascists was to continue their program of collectivisation and workers control, whereas the official Communist line was that of ‘win the war, then social revolution’.

Orwell became wounded when he returned to the front after the May Days, with bullet through his neck, which meant he was out of action. He mentions towards the end of his journalistic novel that several of his ILP friends ended up being incarcerated in the dreadful Spanish Prisons, such as Bob Smillie, grandson of the Scottish miners leader, who later died. However, I would argue and like to suggest that Orwell, being a Socialist of a Democratic viewpoint, saw through what was actually occurring with the suppression of the POUM and CNT-FAI with the official Comintern line that a social revolution in Spain could only have weakened Stalinist Russia, that in effect he saw the Communists as actually the harbingers of, and eventual defeat, for both the Spanish workers along with its peasants whose land had been, early on the civil war, collectivised. Only a few years later, did Stalin make the Soviet-Nazi pact. A total kick in the teeth for all the old revolutionaries who had struggled and fought in Spain during this period. The accusations of ‘Trotsky-Fascism’ against the POUM and CNT-FAI led, maybe I would suggest, into the Second World War and the total defeat of the Spanish Civil War. And I could go on. But I will not. Old history, but still, in a modern society, holds many ramifications.

The Train’

This is roughly a 30 minute story (with editing), an attempt to shake from my head the dusty, thick, cobwebs; an attempt to try and make my blog still retain some of its creativity instead of writing too personally about my own problems and my lack of being able to cope with issues that I should never have bared publicly on a very public blog. Stupid.

The Train hurtles through the deep night, like a thing possessed from the very fiery depths itself; it’s whistle screeching an ear-piercing scream, a scream so loud that people cover their ears in abject terror; this in effect warns folk in advance to lock their doors, shutter their blinds, to hide,and turn their heads away from its passage, as if the very visual contact in itself would be enough to make one mad, delusional, to end up where this mystery train is said to be headed, or even to have arrived from. There was talk of mad people in the local Sanitarium who screamed and shouted, caused from having witnessed The Trains passage, turning them insane, but this is something of folk legend however and allegedly, so the tale goes, on a certain night, in a certain month, one can hear the mystery train; if you are brave, you can see its passage in the depth of this cold night, the red sparks from its chimney billowing behind it, leaving a cloudy, red tinted haze that looks as if it spawns fire, like some fiery comet blazing a trail of smoke and ashes from its passage.

The Train. No, that should read ‘The Train’. You knew about this tale many years ago, again it was one of the folk-tales that you read as a boy – and turned the page, not really taking it in, yet another story from the past containing old superstition, formed into a moral warning to scare, to try and keep you on the straight and narrow, to warn you, or at least subconsciously so, of what could happen if you strayed from the path, to wander, to become enticed to wonder just what actually lay from the beaten track, the path well trodden. Away from safety. As you grew older, and these old folk-tales became something of a distant, hazy memory – gone, but still stuck within your mind, at the very back, deep within your subconscious, this tale stayed with you, because it was a tale that scared, that turned your body cold; this one was the most terrifying in the book. You had seen it re-hashed in different formats and stories throughout your life; Ghost-Trains, trains with one-way tickets, screaming their passage along railway tracks fallen into, a long time ago, states of disrepair, in memory of maybe a train crash, or some other disaster. But ‘The Train’ stayed with you, never to be forgot, because there was something quite shivering and very very scary about it…