Hannah: I feel safe with you
Joseph: Nobody’s safe with me

Every so often you come across a beautiful film that on the face of it is incredibly bleak, yet manages to convey so much about personal journey and relationships. If you haven’t seen Tyrannosaur, I’d urge you to get hold of it.

This 2011 film directorial debut by Paddy Considine is a masterpiece. Although the cast lists a number of roles, the vast majority of screen time is taken up by two individuals – Hannah, played by Olivia Coleman, and Joseph, played by Peter Mullan. I find Peter Mullan an utterly compelling actor, and frankly anything with him in it I would watch. Olivia Coleman was described by Village Voice as ‘A revelation’, and I wholeheartedly agree.

The film really looks at the lives of both characters. Joseph is a violent man, whose life is full of issues as a consequence of his attempts to deal with his destructive personality. Hannah is a Christian charity shop worker, who faces issues in her own life in a very different way. Redemption is a theme of the movie, as both characters learn a huge amount from each other.

To say more would spoil the film, but I would urge you to watch it. A compelling view of humanity, and the interractions we have with those around us.

You can watch it on lovefilm.com, or if you prefer to get your hands on physical media, then you can purchase it at amazon.co.uk.

Image credit: matsuyuki.

Volunteer 2014

The thing that impressed me most about the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games was the Gamesmakers. People from all over the place giving up their time to be a friendly face and help visitors to the capital get the best out of the games, and to ensure the games ran smoothly.

You now have the opportunity to note your interest in volunteering to help out at the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth games. A new site has opened where you can register your interest. All that you’d need would be 8 days for the games themselves, 3-4 days for training, and one day to pick up your uniform and offical pass. Perhaps most importantly, as the site says –

If you can still smile when the 76th person asks you the way to “Saucy Hall” street, we want to hear from you.

Register your interest at volunteer.glasgow2014.com.

Know thyself

Man, know thyself, and thou shalt know the universe and it’s Gods… – The Oracle at Delphi

The origins of this quote are disputed, as I’ve read it as attributed to Pythia the priestess at Delphi, Egyptian theology, Gnostic mysticism, Socrates or Aristophanes, but whoever said it first, gave us something wonderful to ponder. To many people, their introduction to this quote was the film the Matrix, as the Oracle had it written above her kitchen door.

This year, I lost four months of my working life to anxiety. When you undergo such an experience (and would hope you never do), it causes you to question many ideals that you hold, and to get to the heart of the question of who you are – work after all forms a very large part of our persona.

The quote really asks us to work at understanding the microcosm of our existence, as it reflects or forms part of the much bigger macrocosm. How we live and act, plays a tiny part in a much bigger interconnected environment. In life, we are often presented with tasks or challenges that seem very big to undertake, or that will have consequences far beyond the locus of our being. Work first at knowing yourself, and your actions and achievements will maintain a consistency with your inherent values – the very things that make you, you.

Image credit: Erwss, peace&love.

On yer bike!

As I mentioned on Tuesday, I’ve been commuting to work by bike. For the cycle nerds that may be interested, I thought I’d add in some stats and interesting observations (well, interesting to me!) each week on a Saturday. Once I’ve returned to a phone that has a data tarrif, this will become far more automated and technical, (yes, I have joined strava, and have a phone full of apps, but without a data tarrif, these are proving worthless) but for now, it’ll serve as a way to keep track of things for me.

I used to cycle a lot, and was at one time a member of Glasgow Ivy Cycling Club. Aside from the odd ‘sunny day’, I’ve had the past 10 years effectively off a bike, so it’s wonderful to get back on a bike, and enjoy the fresh air, exercise and sense of well-being that cycling brings. I also re-joined British Cycling, which for £2 a month seems like a great cause to support. I’d love to say my return to cycing is part of the renaissance that British Cycling is undergoing that the moment, but I’m afraid my return is prompted by two hard facts – trying to maintain a healthy lifestyle/work-life balance, and a change in income!

For those interested, I’m presently riding my ‘cycle to work’ bike courtesy of the Scottish Government. It’s a hybrid – Giant Seek 3 (which I’ve changed the bars, seat, pedals and tires on, and added mudguards, lights and a rack)

My daily route to work takes me along the A814 to Dumbarton, where I pick up the Sustrans route 7 which I follow to the junction with the A814 again at the Beardmore in Dalmuir. There, I join Dumbarton road and take it as far as South street, at the end of which I rejoin Sustrans route 7 into the city centre. Google tells me this route is 22.7 miles, and should take 2hrs 25mins.

This week:

Tuesday – 45.4 miles – in 1hr 42mins, out 1hr 23mins (hybrid)
Wednesday – 45.4 miles – in 1hr 39mins, out 1hr 42mins (hybrid)
Thursday – Train! (sorry…)
Friday – 45.4 miles – in 1hr 38mins, out 1hr 32mins(hybrid)

Image Credit: Roderic Page.

The best shoe shop sales person in the world!

When I was around 15, I met a girl called Karen from Stewarton. She and I were taking part in a Summer Mission organised by the Church of Scotland.

At one point in the week, she was asked up in front of a large group of people to say a bit about herself. She was a student with a part time job, but when asked what she did when not on summer mission, she replied “I’m a shoe shop sales person”. Her interviewer, (who knew her well, incidentally) said “Is that what you do? I thought you did something else. What’s your ambition in life?”. She replied dead-pan “To be the best shoe shop sales person in the world!”

I don’t think that was Karen’s ambition, but it got me thinking – what a great sentiment! Perhaps our society would be a much better place if we could have such ambitions – not to pursue some fanciful goal, but to truly transcend and work hard at what we do, whatever that may be.

Image Credit: Yukon White Light.

If you’re reading a good book, you’re not wasting time.

At school I was taught English by a chap named Richard Maudsley who would have us start each lesson in silent reading with the phrase “If you’re reading a good book, you’re not wasting time”. He would then sit quietly working on something himself, whilst the class read the book they had each brought with them.

Whilst I may not have enjoyed school much, I loved these five minutes at the start of his lessons. It was wonderful to be given time in school to do something you had complete control over without any interruptions. Occasionally, he would look up during this five minutes and ask someone what they were reading. He’d ask them to briefly summarise it, and to say what they thought of it so far. Clearly a well read man, from his own experience he would then suggest other books that they might like to read if they were enjoying that one, or if they weren’t enjoying it, make other suggestions that they might like to consider.

There has never been a better time to read than now. Public libraries are an absolute goldmine, and online there are cheaper and cheaper ways to buy books, or to read books for free from the vast online libraries that exist.

Each Thursday, I’ll share my thoughts about a book that I have read that has made an impression on me. Where it exists online for free I’ll share a link to it, so that you can read it yourself. Where it doesn’t exist online, I’ll share a link to amazon.co.uk where you can buy it for yourself. Please note that I am affiliated to amazon.co.uk, so I may recieve payment for any purchase you make as a result of following a link from my site. In no way does amazon.co.uk influence the choice of titles I may discuss.

Image Credit: T1m0thy77.

Do you love films?

When I started this site, I proposed to use Wednesday’s to talk about movies that I have watched that were worthy (or not) of comment. I’ll return to the real purpose of Wednesday’s next week, but permit me an indulgence today.

In 1997, I subscribed to Sky TV. From the outset of this story it’s worth noting that I have virtually no interest in television. I don’t watch television. I subscribed to Sky purely for the films. Over the years, I’ve probably watched more than my fair share of quality movies, and definitely more than my fair share of complete and utter dross. Sky, in their infinite marketing wisdom, kept changing the content of the movie package and increasing the price, resulting ultimately in what I felt to be a poor return for my money. So, earlier this year, we cancelled Sky TV. [note – Dear Sky, please stop phoning me and sending me utterly pointless promotional materials through the post – I’m not coming back. Period.]

Then we discovered Lovefilm.com. If you haven’t checked out lovefilm.com then you should. If you have broadband, you can stream their vast collection of film and tv show for the small amount of £4.99 per month. If you’re like me and still enjoy getting your hands on physical media, for £7.99 they’ll send you a DVD through the post from your wishlist which you can keep for as long as you need in order to watch it. Once you’ve watched it, simply put it in the post (for free) and they’ll send you another one from your wishlist. There is no contract, and you’re free to cancel at any time.

Whilst I know the cynic in you is thinking this is a shameless marketing message, then consider how much you may currently spend on your satellite or cable TV subscription. I’m now £42.01 a month better off. Now consider how many times you sit with your remote in hand complaining that from thousands of channels, there is nothing on! Also consider how time rich you’ll be if you stopped watching dross on TV?

Each Wednesday I’ll talk about films that I’ve watched that have left an impression on me. For each of these films, I’ll either link to lovefilm.com where you could watch it for yourself, or Amazon.co.uk where you can buy it. I am affiliated to both lovefilm.com and amazon.co.uk, so if you click a link from my site, then I may receive payment based on any purchase you make. In no way is my selection of films influenced by either company.

Are you ok?

How many times each day do you either ask or respond to that question? We’re very good at asking it of those that we are close to, and being genuinely concerned about their response and their welfare. But what of complete strangers?

I’ve recently returned to cycle commuting. It’s wonderfully liberating to start and end each working day with a cycle, and as my commute is a significant distance, it gives me plenty of time to both unwind from work, and ponder things that I’ve either read, heard or seen. My journey to and from work is taken by a number of other cyclists, and there is a lovely sense of camaraderie or joie de vivre (can it really be ‘camaraderie’ when encounters are so fleeting? Perhaps joie de vivre’s ‘exultation of spirit’ captures it better…) when cyclists pass each other and briefly raise a gloved hand from the handlebars, or nod of a cycle helmet in acknowledgement or greeting. Occasionally there is enough breath to say “Hello”, or a sarcastically sanguine “Turned out nice again” owing to the joy that is the west coast of Scotland’s rain.

Occasionally, you meet someone who has had to stop at the side of the road, more often than not to repair a puncture. It’s lovely to see other travellers offering assistance, starting with the phrase we hear so often – “Are you ok?” How life affirming it is to hear complete strangers offering assistance, and being concerned about the welfare of others.

You might not cycle to work, or meet people fixing punctures often, but each day you come across complete strangers who would benefit from you asking such a simple question – “Are you ok?” What’s the worst that could happen? You end up talking to someone you’d rather not talk to. What’s the best that could happen? Two people enjoy a lift of spirit over a simple interaction.

Perhaps ‘joie de vivre’ is a better phrase after all…

Image Credit: Mark-Hobbs.

Decay is inherent in all compound things…

Decay is inherent in all compound things. Strive on with mindfulness. – Sidhartha Gautama

These are attributed to be the final words of Gautama, and offer great focus on some of the hardest challenges we face. Compound is difficult, and something that needs hard work and careful, considerate thought in equal measure. If we want things to work, then we need to be mindful not just of where we are or where we would like to be, but cogniscent of where we’ve come from too.

My first encounter with this quotation from the Buddha was actually a misquote, but equally apt. My introduction to this quote made the second sentence read “work out your own salvation with diligence”, but it seems more likely that the Buddha would be concerned with both strife and mindfulness than salvation and diligence.

Image credit: Mike D. Green.

Ambitious targets…

When I set up this site, I had huge ambitions, but little time. I’d planned to post every day, but didn’t manage that very well! Instead of feeling bad about not publishing every day, perhaps I should just feel better about when I do manage to share my thoughts?

So, intermittent service will now be resumed – after all, I’ve got loads to write about, and I’m conscientiously trying to manage my time much better now too.

Image Credit: Michelle Ward.

the digital home of Andrew Brown