Frida, Fog and the Pursuit of Focus.


I sometimes draw.

No, that’s veering into exaggeration.

I often doodle and colour with my nearly-six-year-old daughter. But sitting down to do a project typically happens once a year, if I’m lucky (nothing in 2019). I drew this portrait of Frida Kahlo in 2018.

It took me somewhere between 17 and 20 hours – evenings mainly, over a fortnight. I drew it while on a month-long social media hiatus, essentially because I had all this spare time on my hands. The hiatus was planned. The drawing wasn’t. My concoction of obsessive concentration and a dearth of distraction turbo charged my ability to focus, in two definitions of the verb:

  1. Fine detail became so much clearer. Font on my phone and laptop took on a whole new pin-sharp life. It was though I’d gone from DVD to Blu-Ray. I don’t know if that’s a common side-effect, but I’d never experienced it before. Incidentally, my new-found superpower disappeared a day or two after I put down the pencil.
  2. My concentration skyrocketed as well – lessening a problem I’ve been plagued by for a number years:


Brain Fog

I think there are varying degrees of brain fog, from impaired cognition to a feeling of everyday detachment. Mine is the former, a diminishing of memory and focus that grew noticeable around spring 2016. At its worst, I could be mid-sentence and lose my train of thought completely. Short-term memory was merely an apparition. My writing speed slowed to a creep. The subscription to my pretty-good-for-a-copywriter vocabulary was downgraded from the Platinum package to Bronze. 5-star words were encrypted.

Thankfully, I’m paid to write and most people understand that writing copy takes time. However, my job does involve delivering the odd presentation or two. And when my words were verbal, it was often frustrating and embarrassing.

Repeat after me, “you’re not stupid, Sean.”

That’s not to say that I’m back to my normal self. I still lose words and am sometimes easily distracted. But I am much better. Maybe 85 to 90 percent on a good day.


What caused it?

I don’t really know. I’m a habitual night owl – a flaw I hope to fix this year (it’s now 00:43). I don’t drink enough water during the day; another one for the 2020 self-care list. And I need to reduce my screen time.

Sleep deprivation, dehydration and constant distraction are all said to negatively affect cognition. I also experienced short-term stress in 2016, which, some say, can trigger brain fog. Not bad enough to warrant sick leave, but I had some challenges to overcome nonetheless. Anyway, like I said, I can’t definitively call out the catalyst.


What am I doing to fix it?

I’m trying to address the above potential causes. I also exercise regularly. Mainly callisthenics, whose positive effects go way beyond clarity of mind. And I’ve started taking Lion’s Mane.

I first took this wonder mushroom in late 2018, after hearing Paul Stamets on the Joe Rogan Podcast championing the fungus’ effects on memory and the nervous system. Maybe it was placebo, but I began noticing improvements. However, I stopped two months in, due to a rash (apparently not too uncommon). This month, I’ve resumed Lion’s Mane but will only take the capsules endorsed by Stamets himself. If the rash fails to return, or at least abates under my dogged perseverance, then I plan to go the full year and record the effects.


Why am I sharing all this?

Well, I’d like to hear what other brain fogers have experienced. What do you think caused it? What worked for you and what didn’t? I’ll post an update of my Lion’s Mane experiment in a few months.


Image © Sean Rankine 2018.


Novel excerpt: Ocean’s Swim

I’m close to finishing my debut novel; a work I put on ice over five years ago. But now feels right. Or as my late grandfather would say, “nothing happens before the time.”

I’m going to self-publish it this year. However, I’m strongly considering a Kickstarter campaign to raise the cost of a good editor, cover designer, short print run and perhaps an audiobook. I also hope it will generate some momentum for Kindle sales.

If you read the below excerpt and would like to help bring this story to life, please let me know in the comments. Have you backed a book on Kickstarter? What rewards whetted your appetite?

The story: I’m going to hold back the book description for the Kickstarter campaign. What I’ll say for now is that it’s a story of a man caught between two existences. It’s about the subjectivity of ‘truth’ and the narratives we tell ourselves to deal with it.

This excerpt is a dream sequence. Thanks.


Ocean’s Swim.

I find myself on the beach of a lake that is large and surrounded by tall palm trees. Its white powdered sand is soft under my feet. A searching breeze creates ripples in the water’s surface that are echoed above in orderly rows of cloud. Flares of brilliant sunlight, and life affirming blue, bleed through. As the cloud momentarily obscures the sun, the temperature swings between a pleasing heat and a cool yet satisfying chill. Their quick succession makes the contrast intense, leaving little time for my body to adjust.

I hold my arm out, watching for the first goose bumps. Just as they surface, I feel the covering of a soft warm towel. As it falls from above and anchors on my narrow shoulders, I am greeted by the sight of my mother. She smiles at me and is almost immediately distracted by laughter from within a group on the beach. She pats me on my head and walks toward the adults hovering around a barbecue of fish and goat. She grabs a beer, held aloft by a tall man I don’t recognise.

I am wearing navy blue Speedos, with two stripes; white and red. My father emerges from the water. He receives no towel but runs past me and snatches one from a chair. He looks happy, motioning me to sit beside him on the sand. I walk over, using the towel to cover my swimwear. My father smiles beneath squinting eyes.

“The water’s good right?”

“Yes Dad,” I reply sheepishly, remembering to maintain the father-son hierarchy he so passionately protects. We talk and laugh, but the line between love and kinship is never crossed.

“See, this holiday isn’t so bad, is it?” He always addresses me through commands, wise teaching or questions. He never converses through opinion; that is saved for his peers, unless I pose a direct question. Real, self-exposing, vulnerable opinion could breach the line he sets between us, and potentially make him seem more human than fathers need be. I love him and hate him in equal measures. He is the hero father every young orphan dreams of. Physically strong. Emotionally impenetrable. Never seen crying or heard admitting he “doesn’t know.” Dependable; showing his love in the antiquated parenting style he inherited from his Jamaican father.

He brushes sand from my hair. This type of tenderness is reserved only for family holidays and severe illness. His rare touch temporarily sweeps away all memory of his inadequacy. Our moment is interrupted by my mother’s garish laughter coming from behind. My father grimaces, resists the urge to look back and instead turns to the lake and stares intently; his deep frown lines mirroring the lake’s surface. I look over his shoulder and see my mother in full on, head back laughter with one hand resting on the shoulder of the tall man who handed her the beer.

I hear another laugh to my left, which draws me away from my mother’s indiscretions. It’s Ocean. She, like me, shares the misfortune of being born into a messed-up family. Her name is perfect. She’s strong, majestic and constantly evolving. She seems years older than me but is in fact months younger. Her parents are polar opposites.

Her father sees positivity in all situations. As well as his perpetual smile, I know him for his toned calves, which always come out on our group holidays. Enviable anatomy when viewed in isolation, but cartoonish beside the rest of his body, which is of a below average build and tone. He is an encyclopaedia of useless information. Every statement Ocean’s father utters is followed by a farfetched statistic or fact, and the rolling of his wife’s eyes.

She is a complete pessimist, and perhaps more accurately, a manic depressive. Her reason for living seems simply to oppose her husband’s positivity. To create a counter balance to his glass-half-full sensibility. All that said, Ocean is surprisingly centred. She takes logic and makes it a science. She is a complete realist, which combined with her wit and forthrightness, makes her seem rude, arrogant and at best tactless. I think she’s amazing!

She looks at me apologetically as she does when her parents are around. I reciprocate; my father is still scowling beside me rubbing sand from out of his crutch and my mother’s laughs can be heard over the water and music. Ocean winks at me and shifts her eyes toward the lake. I smile at my father, discard my towel and return to the cold water. We race, dive and hold each other under. As the froth dispels, we float on our backs and look to the sky.

“If I have children, I will never force them to go on family holidays. So cruel!” Ocean broke the brief silence as though I were in her head and heard all the thoughts that led up to her statement.

“The only reason I agreed to come was because I heard you’d be here,” I reply. Ocean for a moment says nothing.

“Have you lost your virginity then?” she asks with her eyes locked to the flight path of a gull.

“Umm, well…not sure.” Ocean abandons the gull and sets her gaze on me.

“What do you mean not sure? Either you have, or you haven’t.”

“Well I guess…well… technically, no then.” Ocean finds another gull. The silence kills me. I imagine she is laughing inside. I expect more interrogation, but she just lies there floating, saying nothing. I think she is waiting for me to ask. I don’t. I’m afraid of the answer.

“Why do you think people who clearly shouldn’t be together, get together? They say love is blind, but surely you can apply a little logic in all situations; including love or let’s face it lust, I mean no one really falls in love at first do they? They want sex.” She says, now sitting in the shallow water with her back to the beach. I persistently float for a few seconds, and then, unable to resist her gravity, join her on my knees.

“I don’t know. Perhaps the way people feel in the beginning isn’t the way they feel later on. I guess you can’t predict the future, right?” I reply, feeling for once that I may be the one to have offered some food thought.

“My parents hate each other,” Ocean says looking out at the trees in the distant horizon.

“Your dad seems happy,” I reply, trying to put a positive spin on her family situation and offering her the chance to step away from her uncomfortable truth. She continues anyway.

“My dad is only happy when my mother is. I guess her mood swings have conditioned him to be that way. But you know there’s only so much conditioning you can take. I mean, you can only stretch so far, right? Sooner or later you’re gonna snap. You can only change so much, or else you lose your own identity. You forget who the real you is, or maybe in my dad’s case, was.” I stare at her in awe. She’s so deep. I am once again the student. Natural order has been restored.

“I bet he can’t look himself in the mirror anymore. I want to tell him, he doesn’t have to be such a pussy. I feel like I need to shake him up; tell him to shout or slam a door or something! He doesn’t need to keep up the pretence for me anymore. Shit, I’m almost fifteen for fuck’s sake.” I nod, saying nothing, only thinking to myself that Ocean swears more since we last met. I try hard to focus on her feelings but am distracted by the sexiness of her adult language.

“I think these trips are just a way of making things seem okay. A temporary fix. Papering over the cracks. It’s so unbearable having to spend time with them.” She speaks while watching her hand morph under the water’s surface. She looks vulnerable and is visibly worried. I remain seated saying nothing. I think I’m in love with her.

“My parents will probably be divorced by this time next year.” I say hoping to extract more emotion; I find myself enjoying the intimacy of her pain.

“Yeah, right.” She swims off toward the lake’s centre. Ocean has the natural ability to turn anything into competition. She swims with vigour without looking back. She knows I am following her. We swim hard. The crystal water swirls and foams around us. I look up, mid stroke and catch our chilled spray diffracting spectrums of sunlight. We swim through the centre and continue. Ocean shows no sign of stopping. My aim to out-swim her has now changed to simply keeping up. I try to hide my extreme fatigue. My arm and leg muscles ache. The water is still crystal clear. I look down to check whether I could safely stop and stand. I can see that the depth has altered abruptly in the last few metres. I could quite easily drown now, were I to get cramp. I ignore the thought of death or worse still, Ocean having to pull me back to the shore. Pride is my fuel.

I swim with what feels like hot charcoals between my shoulder blades. The gap between me and Ocean is lengthening with each stroke. I can feel my rhythm escaping me. Water, which was before my friend, is now the enemy. It beats me like an eroding coastline. I curse my decision to follow Ocean. I see her ahead clambering on to the beach that was before a mere slither of white. I take consolation from the sound of her heavy breathing and coughing. This wasn’t easy for her either. I make it onto the beach and collapse beside her. We lay here, heaving in agony and laughing from the adrenalin born from our flirt with mortality.

“You’re quite fit aren’t you?” Ocean says after a few minutes. I say nothing still catching my breath and enjoying the water playing with my toes. It’s my friend again.

After some time, Ocean looks up at me with eyes that seem to have aged. She just looks at me for a moment; her huge eyes framed in long glistening lashes; still wet. She looks at me, and despite myself, I stare back. I know my look betrays me, but I don’t care.

The stillness of the moment carries an electricity that shocks me into lucidity. I know I’m dreaming! I feel an outer body experience. I see the two of us, wet, staring deep into each other. Saying nothing. I see the lake rising to our knees. I watch as neither of us notice. I realise that from my vantage point, my vision goes beyond 20:20. I see everything with no degradation of focus. I survey the sand and can examine the smallest detail of every grain.

The clarity makes me nauseous. I wonder whether my new sight is a sign that this place somehow exists beyond normal fantasy or is a higher understanding of a reality I once inhabited. I consider whether death is actually both reality and fantasy; or the point at which the extremities of these inner opposites converge.

“I’m sorry,” Ocean finally says.

“Don’t worry. You didn’t force me to follow you,” I say from above without thinking, as though speaking words from a memorised script. I see the dream me speak my words a fraction of a moment later, like an unfading echo.

“No. I’m sorry that it had to turn out like this,” she replies. I watch the two us speak, but my ears are now deaf. I want to know what she is saying. I see the dampness of her long eyelashes; give way to that of her silent tears. I see my own.

In an instant, I’m back within myself. I’m now in my parents’ tent at night, pretending to sleep and watching as my mother climbs out. My father sleeps silently. I watch her leave and zip the tent shut. I get out of my sleeping bag, slowly unzip the tent and watch as she and her long, deformed shadow creep silently across the sand, illuminated by a full moon that devours the sky. She stoops beside a red tent. I see Ocean’s father clamber out, almost tripping over his calves. She offers her hand and helps him up. They stop, look at each other and walk into the forest behind them; its thick canopy shielding them from the bright lunar searchlight.

I hear stirring behind me. My father tells me to sleep. He spins around in his now roomier sleeping bag and faces our olive-green tent wall. I think I hear him crying. But I can’t be sure.


Intrigued? Hit the link to read the first 5 chapters of my forthcoming novel. 1mW7NGZZ2ipPDFsy4tjozmO6JAvKdB10GnOz3ulRLSMQ/edit


Image: © Sean Rankine 2019.

No Sale. My Flirt With Baby Modelling

I have two beautiful daughters. My youngest is just over six months old. Everyone who sees her asks if we’ve considered getting her into baby modelling. So after hearing the suggestion countless times, we decided to give it a try.

My wife and I are both creatives, as anyone who reads my rare occasional posts will know. Naturally we want our little one to be creative as well. (In my reoccurring nightmare I award her a bonus for finding me a new tax loophole).

The decision: I guess a part of us hoped that baby modelling would act as an introduction to the creative industries. In reality that makes no sense, as she’d be unlikely to remember any of it by the time she’s old enough to make any career decisions…unless of course we had her modelling for many years, which I fear would require the kind of selfish tenacity that is a little too close to pageant-parenting for me to stomach.

We also hid our now apparent selfishness behind the old chestnut of “the money going towards her future.” I think in reality we thought it could be interesting [for us] and we’d get some nice photographs of her for FREE.

So we sent an email with some pics to one of the most reputable agencies in Denmark. The very next morning (yes, those words were typed with a little smugness) they replied asking us to bring her in with a ‘selection of on-trend outfits’…okay (???).

Before I go on, let’s explore that smugness a little: what is it based on? My daughter’s beauty. How superficial is that?

In all objectivity, (as objective as a parent can be about their offspring) she’s bright and very advanced for her age. I think she’s going to do great things. But in the context of this agency’s eager response, I can only really be smug about her looks. They haven’t replied with haste because of her motor, social, speech and cognitive abilities…they just think she looks cute. And I, being a dad who hopes to bring his daughter up to value more than just looks, laps it up. Hmm.

Anyway, we arrive for our appointment at their surprisingly small but beautiful office, and something instantly feels weird.

Staff members come up to her and interact in a way that feels…well, odd. Maybe I’m looking for it, in reaction to my uneasy feeling, but they seem to be eyeing her up, much like how I imagine a car salesman examines a new saloon.

Not that it is at the fore. No, it’s tucked safely behind the usual oohs and aahs and the odd “I think she looks more like you.” But nevertheless it’s there – in their prolonged stares. They’re watching her; seeing how she behaves – taking mental notes.

One over-caffeinated woman comes over and ruffles her hair, in a manner that’s more ‘Vidal Sassoon’ than “aren’t you cute”. By now we’re already feeling weird about the whole thing. We don’t say it. The office is too small for discretion, but we can sense it on each other, the way people who’ve lived together for years can.

After some minutes, we’re introduced to the owner and told to lay out the clothing on a table – a table small enough to take only five items. My wife has chosen about 23. She precariously arranges her overlaid selections and we wait – for what we assume will be an in-house style guru. I imagine him tutting, while pulling out knitwear from behind squinted eyes and jazz hands, as a pubescent intern mops sweat from his glistening brow.

In fact, the owner simply returns, chooses a top and bottoms and hands them over, asking us to dress her. We do and wait.

Some more minutes later, we’re invited into a broom cupboard of a room. Without warning another chirpy young employee pulls out a brush and proceeds to apply blusher to my presently five and a half month old daughter. “Are you having a laugh?” I ask. In times of anger, my mind’s voice clicks into either business English, cockney or Jamaican Patois. Today is cockney.

I say mind’s voice because I actually say nothing. We sit there and let this woman put adult makeup on our daughter. I assume it’s adult, as I don’t think Max Factor has a line for the under 1s yet…

“Time waits for no one. But you can press pause on your baby’s youthful appearance with…”

I digress. Looking back, I can only put our silence down to shock and sheer disbelief. It’s over before we have a chance to snap out of it. Perhaps our faces object on our mind’s behalf, as she applies only two light and very timid brush strokes, before sheepishly inviting us back to the waiting area.

After some more waiting and height measuring, we’re asked into the studio (a bigger cupboard). Well my wife is asked, as only one parent can go in. I collect the surplus clothing and leave to sit in the car.

Ten or so minutes later my wife returns – daughter in hand. She looks at me and we almost simultaneously say we’re not letting our little girl do it. My wife tells me that the co-owner/photographer said they want her on their books, but warned that we needed to work on getting her to sit still and that she stares too much. (???)

So what did the experience teach me?

I think my strongest feeling was one of disgust and compromise. I felt as though I’d stuck a barcode on my daughter, given her over as a product, and in so doing, had erased some of the tacit rules of engagement that I expect of those who interact with her. I had given these complete strangers the authority to pass judgement on my daughter. Judgements and actions that wouldn’t be appropriate in any other scenario. And all in exchange for money. Put simply, I felt like I’d pimped her out.

Would I advise you to avoid it?

No. At the end of the day, I doubt that the above account is a typical experience. Perhaps they need to refer back to their manual. Perhaps we’re over sensitive. Who knows? No, I’d say try it, but be brutally honest about your reasons before going, and don’t allow those reasons to cloud your judgement when you’re there.

Returning to my reasons, I think I’d have to add that a small part of me thinks my girl is incredible, and liked the idea of other people seeing it too.

Hmm. That sound is me swallowing a very bitter pill.

Image courtesy of

Does Too Much of the Outside, Kill How We See Inside?

Memory is elastic. It’s been proven that our recollections aren’t finite recordings and snapshots from the past, but storylines that we edit subconsciously. With enough time, our minds can turn a negative occurrence into a not so bitter aftertaste. Our brain can even erase the whole thing entirely. Studies have shown that, with a little nudge, people readily create complete fabrication. I’m given a faked photograph of my father and I fishing, and my brain creates its backstory.

Regardless of the decisions of our inner editor, the vast majority of us don’t even realise the tape has hit the cutting room floor. We believe. After all the ‘memory’ is our own, so why wouldn’t we?

I believe a good creative writer has to be able to connect with the reader’s inner editor. Giving them just enough information to lead them along the plot’s pathway, but also enough space to allow their imaginations to fill the gaps. Because the more creative flesh we’re allowed to apply to a story’s skeleton, the more invested we become in it. The story in fact becomes our own. And so we believe.

A friend of mine has created a Facebook page for his son, pretty much from birth. He fills it with tagged statuses, notes, pictures and videos. I think its an admirable and sweet paternal effort, but I worry about what this notion’s inevitable progression will produce.

Google Glass is already out there, albeit for now on the slightly ‘too-far’ out there periphery. The purpose for which it was created however seems to have already seeded. Its purpose? Record everything, because nothing should be missed, everything should be shared and because, well…we can. But if in half a century’s time or so it’s common and acceptable to record everything – every last moment from cradle to grave, then surely won’t we lose those gaps – those grey areas that train our creativity? Won’t our innate ability to tell stories slowly become myth?

I don’t know. Perhaps I’ve watched too much sci-fi recently. Perhaps the power of storytelling is too embedded in our psyches to ever die. As a lover of stories and a teller too, I hope so.

Google Glass. Image courtesy of wikipedia.

How Shaking Hands With a Crocodile Changes Everything!

Musings of a Serial Procrastinator

So a few years ago, my soon to be wife and I were holidaying in Jamaica. My mum and dad suggested we take a trip down to Black River, the capital of my parent’s district of residence, St Elizabeth. Black River is a coastal town that is situated at the mouth of a river by the same name. We bought some drinks and food and meandered down to the river dock with soothed bellies and greasy smiles. This was Claudia’s first visit, so we decided to surprise her and introduce her to the island’s crocodiles.

My father ran into an old friend at the dock, who insisted we wait for a particular boat and captain. He refused to explain why, saying only that we’d thank him when we got back. The jerk Chicken and steam fish was still finding its final resting place in our stomachs, and a cool breeze…

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Some Post Pressed Analysis

When I received the email telling me that I’ve been Freshly Pressed, I replied with a tone of gratitude somewhere between an Oscar acceptance speech and a back stage Justin Bieber fan. I think I concluded with the line “you’re all on my Christmas card list.” Wow! Really?!!

It took a few days for the post to go on the FP page. In the interim, I bored my wife to tears, telling her about how great this was – how being FP’d was the Holy Grail of Word Pressism. How since I started blogging here, I’d flirted with the hazy, distant dream of getting on that hallowed bit of web turf. At first she congratulated me, as we do when one of us gets some measurable creative success. (she’s a photographer) By day three, her boredom was becoming visible – her eyes were glazing over and her smiles were looking a bit Lil Kim-esque (Botox restricted), so I stopped talking and waited.

Late that night (about 10ish CET) it went live. As the likes, follows and comments started rolling in, the humility I pride myself on began to wane. I started likening being FP’d to receiving the Pulitzer Prize for blogging. For a whole hour or so I thought I was the shit! Hands down…the SHIT! The next morning I woke with my grip on reality re-established, remembering that I’m just another blogger who wrote a good post that happened to get noticed.

Looking at the reaction to my and other FP’d posts, I’d say every interaction could be split into three distinct groups:

1. Coming from bloggers who are working Word Press hard!

2. Coming from bloggers who genuinely like your work.

3. Coming from bloggers who genuinely like your work, but are also working WP hard!

I must stress that I have no issue with group 1 – the guys who write pretty generic comments, who end their posts with URLs back to their page, and comment on almost every single FP’d post. You’re the kind of WPers the rest of us should emulate. You’re out there seeking full blogosphere domination and I respect that…honestly I do. That said as the ‘Pressee’, I clearly gravitate more toward camps 2 & 3, who I think make up the vast majority of my feedback.

My aim is to slowly work my way through everyone (regardless of which group you fall into) and have a read, like and follow back…perhaps. I don’t do reciprocal gestures, so if I follow you, it’s as a result of being entertained and out of a sincere need or curiosity to read more.

Thanks again for the love. I honestly appreciate it. (Exit stage left. Award ceremony orchestra plays the theme tune to Shaft)

Image courtesy of me.
Holding this pose whilst replying to comments isn’t easy.

Accent Anxiety

It’s late and I can’t sleep. My insomnia’s gorging on late night Discovery Channel. The crowd pleasing programming has retired for the night, leaving me with their less talented cousins. Tonight it’s “Moonshiners”, which as the name would suggest follows the ups and mostly downs of down-n-out hillbillies trying to make money through the production of illicit alcohol.

It isn’t entertaining, but I watch anyway, hoping the fumes from its dullness will carry me away like anti-smelling salts.

I watch in a near vegetive state, wondering which had the strongest influence on their current career choice: Their lack of employment opportunities, or their accents. I half doze and imagine a fully qualified ‘Jim Bob’ going for an interview in the corporate hospitality sector – cursing his decision to conclude his Powerpoint presentation with the line “…and y’all be shurda come back again, ya hear!”

Back in the UK I befriended a work colleague. He already had a masters and was studying further to become a fully qualified pharmacist. He told me about his background. His family is higher middle class. His father is a well respected doctor and his brother an executive banker. Their opulent home in its affluent location has staff and he generally has no reason to lift a thing. His family, their home and wealth are all back in Pakistan – unredeemable status currencies in the UK.

His English wasn’t great; coloured by his strong Pakistani accent. It was precisely that accent that lead less educated colleagues to talk to him as though he were ever so slightly stupid. Not in an overtly disrespectful way, but in that nuanced, polite faced manner. The sort of prejudice you can’t quite quantify in a tribunal; smart prejudice.

For some, it seems a bad accent and limited vocabulary equates to stupidity. It troubled me then, but here in Denmark, as a foreigner it’s become even more concerning.

I wonder whether my Danish accent will sound ever so slightly Jim-Bobish. I wonder whether my future children will find embarrassment in their father who sounds like a Danish Borat. I worry that a fear of sounding stupid will render me paralysed from the mouth; only able to reply in my occasionally half eloquent English.

Back in the UK I believed all immigrants should learn the language of the land. Not in a colonial, culturally irradiating way, but simply in order to promote integration. I fear now with my tables well and truly turned, I may be less willing to take my own advice.

My three years of FREE Danish language tuition (high taxes aren’t all bad) are starting soon, so I guess we’ll find out.

“Y’all be shurda come back to this here blog again, ya hear!”
Image courtesy of

Being Heard vs Being Believed

People don’t say things on social media solely for the sake of communication. They trade in subtext and reaction.

Subtext has always been there. No one says anything on social networks without considering, if only briefly, “what does what I’m about to write, say about me?” You generally don’t notice the exceptions to that rule, because you’ve already blocked or unfriended them.

That awareness of brand YOU is natural. But this widespread need to create reaction is a little newer and a little scarier.

Just as X-Factor has made the once mystical art of music stardom doable, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube have turned everyone into one person PR agencies. With video shows like Rude Tube giving brief exposure to anyone with a camera-phone and print and TV news outlets turning to hash-tags for live reaction where they would once interview a witness, it’s easy to see the appeal in going viral.

But at the end of the day what’s the point of it all?

I have friends who are artists and business owners. The vast majority work their social networks like there’s no tomorrow, and I get it. They’re pushing their product. Good luck to them. But to everyone else…to the guy who videos his dog barking in time to Dizzee Rascal, what’s the point?

It can’t be fame, surely? If a group of fame-hungries can stay in the Big Brother house for months with video cameras and microphones following their every move – subject themselves to disgrace and ridicule – come out to huge crowds and still not become ‘faymus’ then why would our grime loving Labrador owner think his video would get him in Forbes?

So if it’s not the fame itself, is it the flirt with fame, or fame on a smaller more realistic scale? Has yesterday’s 15 minutes become today’s millisecond? Is this just a modern manifestation of our age old pursuit of being a household name?

Or is it that the thought of making no cultural impression is unthinkable in a world where so many do just that with only 140 characters?

Whatever it is, it now covers everything I see online with a thick layer of cynicism. I’ve got trust issues! I read a blog, tweet or status and instead of accepting the narrative and simply enjoying the words/sentiment, I find myself questioning the motive; its credibility.

Sometimes a piece passes my test and I believe again, sometimes they don’t and I just read the words. A bit like watching Al Pacino and De Niro.

I watch Pacino and completely forget the actor and see only the character. I watch Bob and generally (or least since circa 1990) only see Bob. I read a rare Pacino interview, where he described his motive for staying out of the Hollywood limelight. He said he didn’t want his personality to become too big, so as to overshadow the characters he portrays. Perhaps our need to be seen through the words and not necessarily read, lessens our credibility. Perhaps sooner or later we’ll all just view every written word on social media in the way we view TV advertising and political speeches: It sounds nice, but deep down it’s all a load of contrived crap.

“Trust me. I wrote it online.” Image courtesy of

You’re Letting The Side Down. Fix Up!

So there’s an English man, an Irish man and a Scottish man…no this isn’t the intro to a slightly xenophobic gag, this actually describes my road’s demographic.

Betwixt my lovely Danish neighbours in my little village, there is an English man…me; and a Scottish guy; can’t remember his name – been in Denmark for 14 years, 2 kids, Danish wife, we plan to share a beverage – seems cool. And there’s an Irish man, at least I’m told there is. I’ve never seen him.

I’ve lived here now almost 6 months, I work from home and his front door is about 47 seconds away from ours; but I’ve NEVER seen the dude! He doesn’t cut his grass. His curtains seem glued shut. He’s never seen walking, only riding his motorbike (I’m told) and his Vitamin E levels must be shockingly low. The thing is, I can’t help but feel he’s letting the side down. Not that he’s willingly enrolled to be on this or any other side for that matter, but he just is – regardless; much in the way a face of ethnicity is when I spot one in my local town.

We look at each other, make eye contact, nod and if there’s a real connection, smile. That nod says it all: “Wow, you’re another black person! I’m not the only one!” There’s an old African lady who I see from time to time, who always looks as though she’s fighting the urge to come over and hug me, tightly.

I feel you old African lady…I feel you!

When you’re in an unfamiliar environment, you find commonality in the furthest of places. Take my friendly Scottish neighbour. If we were neighbours in the UK, we’d talk in the fleeting way neighbours do, but would we go out for a drink? Er, I doubt it to be honest. Not that the guy isn’t nice; he is, but I just think we’d probably move in different circles. HERE in Denmark, where we’re the ‘foreigners’, Scottish guy was biting my hand off to arrange a beer. He saw our common ground. I was on his team.

So back to our village’s other English speaking resident. I can’t help but think the Danes are judging me by his uncouth behaviour, so I cut our hedges to within an inch of their precision trimmed lives. Everyone else on my road either has a sit on mower or gardener. I have a cheap ‘Flymo’, but rest assured that said sub-standard garden appliance gets worked like an Apple rep on new iPhone day.

Do I enjoy gardening? HELL NO! Do I possess any green fingers? Er..nope, can’t say I do. But do I sit back at the end of a hard day’s gardening knowing I did my bit for ‘the team’? Oh yes! And as I pack away my harassed Flymo and water the veg patch, I look across at my Scottish neighbour weeding with a look of disgruntlement. We nod at each other. We find our common ground. We’re on the same team.


My mum and wife inspecting my work.