Why I’m phoning myself – for 33 hours

At the end of January, my 3Gb giffgaff goody-bag expired. I use it to access the internet from my BYOD via a dongle at one of my clients. I don’t set it to top up automatically, as often, I don’t visit said client for a few days after its expiry.

So I went to the giffgaff site to renew the expired £12 goody-bag. But when doing so, I noticed an £18 goody-bag that had unlimited internet. Wowzers! (It also came with 2,000 free minutes of calls, but that’s of little use to dongle-using Dan. Although as you’ll see, it’s relevant to the story.) I added it to my basket and bought. Happy days!

A few days into my new goody-bag’s life, I received a warning message from giffgaff saying that I was not allowed to tether on an unlimited data plan, and that my internet access had been halted until such time that the tethering stopped. (Neat that they could tell.) I was mildly irritated at that specific condition not having been actively presented to me upon buying (I’d had no idea), but accepted their judgment and tried to go about rectifying the issue.

I posted a comment on their forum asking how I might downgrade immediately to the 3Gb goody-bag. Ah, it seems I can’t. You can only buy a goody-bag if the previous goody-bag has either (a) expired; (b) run out of data; or (c) run out of minutes.

Hmmm. The unlimited goody-bag wasn’t due to expire until 28 February, so that wouldn’t do. I needed it before then. It had unlimited data, so it was unlikely that it’d run out of data. Ever. So I was left with one course of action: drain the minutes.

Harder than you might think.

I needed an old phone, one that could accept the old-style chunky giffgaff Sim card. The only one I had was an old iPhone that literally would no longer accept any charge. So my good friend Bal hand-delivered a cutting-edge Sony Ericsson W995 to my door this morning.

After giving it sufficient charge for it to function, I discovered that it was locked to the Orange network. Expletives abounded. So I took it to a shop to get it unlocked for £12. (Hope that’s OK, Bal.)

And now the phone is sat downstairs connected to its charger. At 8:09pm, it made a call to my main mobile. That call is currently two hours and four minutes old, and counting. To make sure the call doesn’t get cut off (I’ve heard that silence on both ends of a phone line result in it being cut off), I’ve positioned it in front of a speaker playing a Spotify playlist on repeat. (As I type, it’s piping Lionel Richie’s Hello into my main phone.)

My plan is to continue the call to myself overnight tonight, and ideally throughout tomorrow. Assuming no interruptions, my 2,000 minutes (33 hours and 20 minutes in old money) will expire at 5.29am on Monday morning, at which time I’ll be able to buy a 3Gb goody-bag.

Utterly ludicrous.

Secret Cinema: A review (contains spoilers)

When the Secret Cinema tickets for Back To The Future were released on 5 June, I jumped at the opportunity. Too much so, some might say. I bought six tickets for 7 August, not knowing who might want to come along.

I told a few friends about it, and my other five tickets were snapped up quickly by some truly lovely friends.

My anticipation built throughout June and July. There were a few articles about the event which I tried hard to avoid. And then there was the hoo-ha surrounding the cancellation of the first four screenings. Rumours abounded that this was owing to a lack of sign-off from the local council.

The first showing eventually went ahead on Thursday 31 July, and again, I tried to steer clear of people’s feedback and reviews. Further showings took place throughout that weekend, and next would be our turn, on Thursday 7 August.

We were told to arrive at Hackney Wick station at 5.45pm. For the evening, I took on the persona of Charles “Chuck” Penland. And I was accompanied by Patricia “Patsy” Lott, Bruce Wilson, Jason Cooper, Alicia Butler and Treva Guill.

Our party convened, all coming via Stratford, and we were then asked to walk past the Olympic Park. Back up towards Stratford. Well that’s all rather odd.

We climbed the hill and could see a Ferris wheel off to the right. We were made to discard/drain water bottles (safety or revenue?), and then had to hand in our mobile phones. Yikes!

We then climbed the hill further, passing Otis Peabody’s farm, complete with goats, and some of the Hill Valley residences – single storey temporary dwellings with artificial lawns out front, complete with sun loungers, mailboxes and acting occupants. One such occupant used his American accent to express confusion when I changed my socks on his front lawn, using his sun lounger to sit on. (My socks that day sported a logo on one side only, and I had donned them that morning with the logos facing one another. Upon discovering this, they simply had to be switched.) All very amicable; but the pretence was impressive and fabulous. I apologised, we shook hands and we were on our way.

We picked up some drinks and walked in, to be presented with the town square: a full-size 1955 town square. The centre was carpeted in a lush, thick artificial grass with a picket fence around the edge. And it was enclosed by a road, with zebra crossings to the shops around its perimeter. Across the full width of the square at the far end was the Department for Social Security, complete with clock tower. In the centre of its façade was a huge cream rectangle, onto which the movie would be projected. Across the back edge of the square was Lou’s Diner, where you could pick up some dinner.

And down either side of the square were shops and outlets, included Bank of America, a Texaco garage, a barber’s shop, a comic store and a record store. Down the right-hand side was Hill Valley High School. And off the rear corner of the square was Hill Valley Fair, complete with a Ferris wheel, one of those rides where you swing around on seats connected precariously to the top with chains, more food stalls (including a converted American school bus) and lots of funfair-type activities. It was 6.30pm. It was 25C. And the place was magical.

After setting out our stall (picnic blankets) on the square, which was already busy and buzzing, we went off exploring. We had a little dance to a live band at the Enchantment Under the Sea dance. We rode the Ferris wheel while ’80s music piped out across the square, a picture-postcard deep amber sun dropping through the horizon off to the west (as is its wont). We even noseyed around the lockers in the school, which were rich in detail, including half-completed math(s) homework.

A postman stopped us asking whether we knew a Susan Smith, as he had a letter for her. Marty McFly himself wandered around in a red life vest looking dazed and confused.

And then we settled down on our blankets, ready for the film to start. There were some announcements from the stage in front of the clock tower from the mayor. A little live music, and some health and safety announcements from the local police. No jaywalking was the big one. He wasn’t joking. Cars would be travelling around the square’s roads during the performance, and so we weren’t allowed outside the picket fence, unless escorted across a zebra crossing.

And then all went dark.

STEVEN SPIELBERG

Presents

The cheer was enormous. As if the prelude wasn’t enough, the main event was about to start.

As you’ll be aware, the film itself is fabulous. But this was no ordinary film. The film played in its entirety. And key moments of the film were reenacted around us. Marty skated round the square while clinging to the back of a truck. The DeLorean reversed out from the huge doors beneath the clock tower, engulfed in steam. The Libyan terrorists drove in from one corner of the square in a Volkswagen Type 2 to shoot Doctor Emmett Brown. The DeLorean hit a speed significantly less than 88mph and disappeared in a cloud of smoke. The timings were utterly impeccable. The illusion was magnificent.

The fight scene took place in the diner. Marty stepped over Biff’s moving car, skateboard in hand, and carried on boarding on the other side. It was all utterly brilliant.

And then, the finale. Doc Brown appeared way up high, clinging to the clock face. Our actor couldn’t see the screen. Yet his every movement mirrored that of his on-screen namesake. It was clear that he was tethered in place, yet his actions put the fear of God up the audience. And yes, he zip-wired down to the roadside to make sure the cable was connected ready for Marty’s arrival in the DeLorean.

The whole evening was utterly epic. The shops. The atmosphere. The short queues for food. The feeling of not being ripped off. The unbelievable sunset. The perfect ball of fire touching the horizon seen from up high on the Ferris wheel. The tropical temperatures. The car chases. The lockers. The cheering. The music. Oh God the music. The fabulous faux-American accents. The lack of mobile phones. The laughter. The five hours of constant, ear-to-ear grinning. The professionalism. The attention to detail. The relentless attention to detail. The synchronisation. The value for money. The actors. The square. The spectacular last scene. The friends.

I had massive expectations of Secret Cinema. Those expectations were not met. Instead, they were blown out of the water. Fabien Riggall clearly stretched his dreams way further than they’d ever been stretched before. But he pulled it off. He so pulled it off.

The heated discussions that surround thermostats

Well that was all rather bizarre. Some time ago, I joined a Facebook group called Photo Of My Thermostat. As its name suggests, it involves people taking pictures of their thermostats, or those they encountered upon their travels. The group’s description is as follows.

A group for people who wish to post a photo of their thermostat. Please note that only one photo of your thermostat is permitted, though if you have more than one thermostat (perhaps through inhabiting more than one property, or due to having an atypical central heating regime), you may post a photo of each thermostat*. In the event of one thermostat being shared by more than one group member, each member must post their own photo of the thermostat. *For these purposes thermostatic rad valves count as individual thermostats.

It’s an “Open Group”, meaning that anyone can see who’s in it and what its members post. But membership must be requested; and granted, refused or cancelled.

The group is humorous. It’s dry. It appeals to my geeky side, and, it seems, to that of its 200+ members. Its purpose is exact and exacting, and its members seem to relish in the geekery and humour that accompanies the subject matter. To me, it holds a similar allure to the Pencil Museum in Keswick.

I was alerted to the group a few months back through a friend’s status updates. I thought that it might be fun to join, and so requested the group’s owner to allow me membership. My request was accepted, and I was granted membership. I never got round to posting a picture of our thermostat, but I enjoyed the updates that the group yielded. And on the odd occasion, I contributed to the friendly banter, both with people I knew and those I didn’t.

Until recently.

One member of the group, Sharon, posted a picture of her air conditioning unit, complete with remote control in the foreground. Naturally, some lighthearted banter ensued surrounding the definition of a thermostat – specifically whether the device or the remote control technically constituted the thermostat. As you can imagine, things got pretty heated. (Ha!)

But actually, they did. I chimed into the discussion with a viewpoint, and agreed with Sharon when she cited what she saw as a constitutional crisis for the group. I suggested, rather glibly, that the group be renamed to “Photo Of My Thermostat And/Or Its Associated Remote Control, Wireless Or Otherwise”. The group’s owner, Neil Edmond, who had already shown frustration at the possibility of a constitutional crisis, seemed to come in heavy-handed with Sharon, challenging that there wasn’t a constitutional crisis beyond her that of her own making.

He was right, of course, although I would argue that Sharon’s comment was meant entirely in jest. At first, I thought Neil Edmond’s retorts were also in jest, but their frequency and lack of humour suggested otherwise. Greg chimed in.

It’s tantamount to anarchy, what’s next? Pictures of ceiling fans???

At this point, I posted within the comments a picture of a remote-controlled ceiling fan, with the comment:

Look at this bad boy!

Neil Edmond then took what was clearly banter that the group was enjoying, and thoroughly shat on it. Figuratively.

You see, Dan, that’s just you being provocative while knowing that it’s an infringement of the Thermostatic regulations, so you may either remove it or leave the group.

His comment was lovely and warranted, apart from the threatening and rather sinister final clause. After some further banter surrounding the word “umbrage”, there was another comment from Neil Edmond, recognising the quality of my involvement and then further threatening me.

Dan, yes, that’s good. However, it does not compensate for your inflammatory fan. You have until 11:00 GMT today to remove it.

Oddly, in the height of summer, he was still operating in Greenwich Mean Time. I would expect better from someone whose Facebook group is doubtless so seasonally aware. I left the picture up, and posted the following comment.

I’m sure the fan picture will be taken with the humour with which it was meant. If the authorities deem its posting to warrant expulsion from the group, then I relish the 53 minutes that I have remaining.

Some further banter. Then, shortly after 1200 BST, I was expelled from the group. And, indeed, all of my comments on said post were removed. (I know that this latter piece was a specific action on the part of Neil Edmond, rather than a symptom of being removed from a Facebook group, as my comments on other posts remain intact. A subsequent comment compared Mr. Edmond to General Augusto Pinochet, the Chilean dictator. Neil Edmond threw in his final oar.

There have been some very nice Photos Of My (Their) Thermostats posted today. That is why the group exists. I do not enjoy people deliberately testing the boundaries of the Regulations because they think that’s the point. The Regulations in place allow tasteful, playful self-governance. Demands and accusations – which disrupt and overshadow the advice, discussion and communal invention which this Group is full of – will be met with warnings and action.

I believe the “demands and accusations” comment was directed at me, though I have no idea what demands I was making, nor indeed what accusations I was levelling.

All in all, I find his reaction all rather hilarious. Yes, I lose out for not being part of a rather enjoyable group. Yet I feel strangely freed from the dictatorial regime that seems to define it – though I quite enjoyed the support I received from fellow members.

Someone who has clearly set up a group partly for amusement purposes has come in heavy-handed on one of its newer members. Cuntitude of the highest order.

Here is a link to the diatribe-fuelled discussion in the Facebook group itself, after the edits that Neil Edmond made. Below is an image of the full discussion, complete with ceiling fan image, with many names redacted purely to protect the innocent. Click through (three times) to see it in all its glory. And notice the lack of a comment box at the end, signifying my lack of right to reply.

PoMT (reduced)

Being a contractor

Tonight, as I arrived at the train station to start my journey home, my client emailed me to ask whether I was still around. I picked up the email on my phone.

I called him straight away. He needed something urgently.

Five minutes later at my interchange station, I got my laptop out on the platform bench and VPN-ed into work using my 3G dongle. (My 4G one arrives next week.) When my London-bound train arrived, I boarded and continued my investigations, connected all the while. Upon arrival in London, I wasn’t yet done. But I emailed my progress through.

I descended into the Underground and boarded the first Tube to arrive, not before connecting to the Wi-Fi with my phone. An email arrived from the same client asking me to call him. I alighted the train immediately, just before the doors closed and without having travelled anywhere, and used Skype to call him from the Tube platform. Neat!

I then took the Tube to my home station and popped into the pub. I had been intending to catch the end of the Italy–Costa Rica match. But needs must.

I got my laptop out and logged in again via my 3G dongle. A quick Skype call to the US helped me complete my analysis, leaving me free to go and watch my daughter recite her Brownie Promise and beam with pride.

As a contractor, I pride myself at being always on. There are rarely times when I cannot be contacted, and usually I’m able to react quickly to a request for help.

I surround myself with tools that allow me to do just that. My dongle allows me to connect my laptop pretty much anywhere. My phone alone allows me to accomplish an awful lot without delving into my bag, and allows me to stay on top of things on the go.

And PowWowNow and Skype (including Skype On The Go) give me the edge. I can call internationally without worrying overly about cost. And I can schedule a conference call without a moment’s thought.

All of this costs money, cost that is not passed onto the client directly. But in my view, it’s an essential part of being a contractor. The extra mile, if you like.

Driving range shot tracking: this, my friends, is the future

Today, I witnessed the future. Not only that, I *experienced* the future.

I took my daughter to play crazy golf at World of Golf’s Dinosaur Golf in New Malden. Our first visit to that venue. Thoroughly recommended. (I had a good round, scuppered by a woeful effort on the 16th, comparable only to Rory McIlroy’s efforts on the 10th in his final round at Augusta in 2011. I digress.)

After an intense 18 holes, we bought 100 balls to crack off on the driving range.

A big banner told me that my shots would be tracked and measured at no extra cost. This had me rather excited. Data meets golf. What’s not to like?

This is how it works.

You choose your bay. We chose bays 45 and 46 on the top deck. (If there are two decks, you have to choose the top one, right? It’s the law.) Then you log into the Wi-Fi with your smart phone, hit a website and tell it which bay you’re in. And you put your phone on a stand in front of your tee.

Then you start cracking off your balls. (Not a euphemism.)

Cameras track your shots. Don’t ask me how. It’s voodoo I believe. Your screen shows you the arc of your shot. (The right side of my screen was becoming well-worn and overheated.) And it tells you the take-off angle and speed, as well as the distance the ball carried and its maximum height. Utterly mesmerising.

And it seemed pretty damned accurate.

I didn’t figure out a way of you telling it which club you were using. I’m sure there’s a way, but I was too busy being blown away by the concept to worry about that.

Apart from the odd 5I shots, I stuck to my lovely new driver and my equally delightful new 3W. It was only the second outing for the 3W, yet it proved rather fabulous, equalling the driver for distance and being more reliable in direction. (This was probably more down to my poor handling of the driver than my prowess with the 3W.)

Here’s a link to my stats. Only 25 shots were recorded. (My daughter took half of the balls, and the technology had me sufficiently baffled for many of my own. For the record, she strikes the ball consistently and well, and while she lacks distance, her aim is probably better than mine.)

I’m happy carrying over 200 yards on a few occasions, some of those with the 3W. But I need to work on my direction consistency.

Utterly blown away by the technology. It really is rather special. And I will most certainly be going back.

2013: When I found my creative mojo

The year 2013 has been an interesting one for me.

Work has been hectic yet rewarding. Proofreading has started to take off in a much bigger sense. And I have developed a new passion in the form of my mapping. (I know I keep wanging on about it, but it’s important to me for a few reasons, so please forgive me.)

First, to me it’s amazing to think that at the beginning of 2013, I didn’t have a creative bone in my body. Yet now, I am able to create pieces that I consider to be beautiful. And indeed, that others consider beautiful. The creative bone was always there. But my inability to draw in the traditional sense (my brother got those genes) prevented me from finding it.

In April, I had no demonstrated ability on the artistic front, nor did I have a desire. On 17 May, the desire suddenly came, as did the impetus to do something about it. I have no idea where it came from, but it was sudden, immediate. I realised that my life involved little in the way of creativity (in the traditional sense of the word), so I decided to do something about it.

So I drew some maps. I started on A4. I liked what I did, and moved up to A3, refining my approach. What I previously liked on A4 began to look amateurish. Such is the way with things, I guess. When you do them, you think they’re the mutts’. When you get better, you look back on your previous work with a more critical eye.

And I’ve now graduated to A1. Maps of epic proportions that look rather good, if I may be so bold.

I’ve given some maps away: one to my dad, three to some good friends and one to the lovely lady whose work inspired me to get into all this.

I’ve created an online shop. And I’ve sold some. Not that many so far, but enough to make me proud of the pieces I’m producing. The thought that someone wants to hang what I’ve created on their wall, and pay for the privilege of doing so, gives me a rather fabulous feeling.

And I’ve also been asked to do a commission: a work specific to someone’s interests.

It won’t pay the mortgage, nor would I want it to. But the thought that people are willing to part with their money to pay for things that I have created is special beyond belief.

Here’s to more of the same in 2014.

And here’s a link to the shop, for those that are interested.

Kindle or tablet? Silly question

I’ve been involved in a few debates recently over why people need a Kindle when they have an iPad or other Kindle-enabled tablet.

It’s a ridiculous argument, in my view. For two reasons.

First, battery life.

My Kindle stays charged for weeks. Literally. I’ll probably charge mine every three weeks or so, more to top it up than necessarily because it’s running low on juice. This is of massive appeal. I can pop it in my bag, just as I would a book, and forget about it until such time that I choose to read it. If I had to take it out of my bag each night to charge it, something would be lost. Something very important.

Second, and more importantly, experience.

When I read my Kindle, I’m reading a book. It’s the size of a book, and the utterly delightful E Ink technology makes it feel like a book. A beautiful, imperfect book, even with slight “printing” flaws owing to the technology.

When reading on a tablet, I’m reading a magazine. Even when the screen’s brightness is set low, the experience is completely different to that of the Kindle. It’s backlit, and that fundamentally changes the reading experience. My eyes are working, not dancing. I’m no doctor, but I expect that their state while reading a Kindle is very different to that when they’re reading a tablet.

And that’s why for now, there’s absolutely a place for the Kindle in your bag, even if you’ve got a tablet.

(Note: I don’t own a tablet. But I’ve borrowed them, from the likes of my daughter.)

My first ever sale

A little under four months ago, I made a conscious decision to become more creative. And I started creating maps.

I experimented with a few styles and did some pieces on A4 that at the time I was pleased with, but looking at them now, I’m less convinced. I moved up to A3, a size much more at one with the subject matter, and honed my style through nothing but iteration.

And I became comfortable. Comfortable in the sense that the act of creation was fulfilling, that it was therapeutic, that it was emotionally rewarding.

But as I guess is the case with anything creative, and indeed things beyond creativity, I was caught between two pillars. On the one hand, I thought that what I was doing was amateurish. On the other, I thought it was rather impressive. Maybe it was a bit of both.

And out in the field, the very few people who have been exposed to my “work” have had varying reactions. Some love it, some aren’t particularly impressed.

Anyway, I gave away prints of a couple of my early creations to friends and family as presents. One particular friend framed hers and put it up in her hallway.

And her girlfriend, who I don’t know, popped round at the weekend to visit her. And she loved the piece of work on her wall –my map of the UK mainland. So much so that she asked where it came from. Three days later.

Last night, she ordered a print of my London map as a wedding present, for the handsome sum of £30. She received it this evening, saying that it was “clever” and that “[she] love[d] it”.

To create something from scratch that someone loves is an immense feeling. For it to delight so much so that someone is willing to part with £30 for a piece of it is mesmerising and utterly humbling. And to know that the creation might be hung on someone’s wall, someone that you don’t even know, puts a spring in your step and a smile on your face.

It’s a feeling I’ve never experienced before. And I love it. I didn’t decide to be more creative to make money. But the money signifies the value that people place in the stuff I’ve created. And that, to me, is much greater than the money could ever be.

Here’s my shop, btw.

One in 20 million

I am one in 20 million. I genuinely believe I am.

Out of all of the people in the world, I would argue that I’m in the top 0.2% of people when it comes to Excel prowess. That equates to being one of the top 112,000 people in the UK, assuming equal global representation. Old Trafford plus White Hart Lane. A safe bet, I reckon. It becomes even more realistic if you consider that only around 50% of the UK’s 28m workers are office workers, so the majority of the rest will not even feature.

And out of all the people in the UK, I reckon I’m in the top 0.5% of people when it comes to proofreading prowess. Just look at a YouTube comments board and you’d struggle to argue.

Finally, I reckon I’m in the top 0.5% of people when it comes to unicycling prowess. An estimated one million Americans can unicycle, or 0.32%. So 0.5% is probably quite conservative, given that Americans are probably more likely than most to unicycle, and given that I might even be better than the odd one or two.

So assuming the three skills are not correlated (there may actually be some correlation between Excel and unicycling), if you’re looking for an Excel-trained proofreading unicyclist, I’m a better choice than the next person, and the next 19,999,998 people after that.

This isn’t arrogance, by the way. It’s intended to highlight that every one of us can identify certain skills that we’re better than most at. And when we combine those skills, we’re on top of the world.

(My ability to find the butter in the fridge, my cooking prowess and my creative artistic ability probably also combine to make me one in 20 million. But at the lower end of the spectrum.)

So find those skills. Hone them. And make sure people know how good you are at them.

(Oh, and as an aside, make at least one of those skills fun, and also choose one that can make you some money. If all three fall into both categories, you’re golden. I made 10 Deutsche Marks juggling in Köln (spelt thus to avoid aftershave gibes) in 1993. Not enough to pay the mortgage. But a fun experience nonetheless.)

Losing my creative virginity

On Friday 17 May, I made a conscious and important decision: to force myself to be more creative.

You see, I haven’t been creative since leaving school. Yes, creativity comes in various forms. I could easily argue that I am creative in my analysis of data. I love to make data sing. And I like to think that I’m more creative than most in my emails. I like to craft them and try to make them pleasing to the reader. Only their recipients can vouch for my success in this area.

And arguably, this very blog, all nine years of it, is a symbol of creativity.

But no. Here I mean creativity in the sense of art. I don’t draw, I don’t paint, I don’t sculpt, I don’t write music or make things. And I haven’t done anything in this field since leaving school. (At school, I made an ace keyring for my mum, which I believe she still uses to this day. It’s a rectangular piece of brass, maybe 3cm x 2cm, adorned intentionally with vice marks and drill holes. I also made a supremely shit owl in pottery class. I also happened to write a full orchestral symphony for my music GCSE. Pretentious doesn’t come close!)

But since 1991, I’ve not done anything remotely artistic.

It seems that my brother got all the creative genes. He can pick up a pencil and things just flow. He draws for fun. He’s created artwork for CDs. His works litter his own apartment—sketches, black and white ink work, watercolours, the list goes on. And it’s all fabulous. If we were both asked to draw a horse, any genealogist could only conclude that one of us was adopted.

A couple of months ago, I stumbled upon some work done by a Twitter follower/followee. She’s a friend of a friend who I’ve never met, and likely never will. But I liked her artwork and felt an urge to do something in a similar vein. So I did. (She was nothing but supportive of my endeavours, btw.)

I bought some paper whose gsm count would make my printer weep. I bought myself some tracing paper, traditional pencils (2B), some mechanical pencils and some fine-tipped black pens. And I set to work.

The idea involves tracing from printouts and a degree of creativity thereafter. (I’m not going to share any more detail at this stage, for reasons that I won’t go into. Suffice to say, I will share some of the pieces at a later date.) I like to think that I’ve taken the idea that formed the inspiration, and put a spin on it that has made it my own—although at first, I felt a small sense of guilt at the similarities.

I started off doing a handful of pieces on A4. And I’ve since graduated to A3, a size that seems beautifully suited to the style of work. Thus far, I’ve done three full-size pieces (ha, “pieces” sounds *so* pretentious).

At first, I was nervous. I was uncertain of my own abilities, scared of putting pencil or pen to paper, much like the act of hitting a key on a traditional typewriter. There’s no turning back once the ink is on the paper. But once I’d overcome this initial fear, things started to flow and form.

And now, I’m thoroughly enjoying myself. I would guess that the big pieces are averaging about 15 hours each. The process is therapeutic. And liberating. And my production from scratch of something that I consider to be quite beautiful is rather exhilarating.

It’s also wonderful that one or two people have voiced genuine (I think) appreciation of the pieces produced. (I have always been the type of person who needs some form of external validation in life. Weak? Maybe. But honest.) So this goes down well. (Some people have even suggested that it’s saleable at a far from insignificant price. These people are deluded.) And as with everything, there are the nay-sayers (“it took you how long??”), and that’s fine. They’re welcome to their opinions, and I won’t foist my efforts upon them.

I have planned another piece, and have another variation on the theme to play with. And the nature of the work means that the only limitation to its possibilities lies in my own imagination.

So if you’re one of those people who, like me, is devoid of any true creative outlet, I encourage you to challenge yourself. Like me, you might be pleasantly surprised at what you find.

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