YOUR new year’s resolutions (‘cos I’m sick of setting them for myself)

From the excellent Hark! A vagrant.

From the excellent Hark! A vagrant.

In the biblical book of Matthew, we’re asked: “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust/mote/speck in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the log/beam/plank in your own eye?”

The answer is obvious, isn’t it? It’s easier. It’s always easier to give expert advice on other people’s problems than to sort out one’s own life.

Does that make me a hypocrite?

Well, according to the bible – yes. But let’s quickly skip over that and on to the part where what you’re about to read is actually gentle benevolence from which you all will benefit. So buckle up. Here is YOUR list of new year’s resolutions…

1. Feed your brain  – Subscribing to Brain Pickings – A library of cross-disciplinary interestingness and combinatorial creativity – where else will you learn about what is love or the sleep habits of great writers?

2. No limits just epiphanies – That’s a lyric from this song Best Day of My Life by American Authors.

3. Expand your musical tastes – Subscribe to the World Music blog.

4. Get more kooky clever funniness in your life from Hark! A Vagrant.

5. Or just a quick smile from I Know I Made You Smile. (And he’s got a book out too!)

Happy New Year

6. Trying looking at things differently – with the help of Variations on Normal  http://variationsonnormal.com/

7. Ask for me help – If you’re lucky you’ll get it from guys like these guys. I’ve been helping a small boy do something amazing and these guys helped a lot with the campaign…

Ramana in India

Grannymar and Fionn from Autistic and Proud and Emma and her adventures of an unfit mother and Polo in Ireland

Maxie and Laurie and Barbara by the sea in the USA

Icewolves of Europa and Life in the Slow Lane and Swazi at Chocolate is not the Only Fruit in Great Britain.

8. Make more effort to appreciate those other people who help you, who you might have temporarily forgotten. (OK, that’s aimed mainly at myself. No list is ever complete without it’s omissions. Or in other ways, no list is ever complete. Hmm… that’s sounds resonantly philosophical.)

9. Never be daunted. Something good might happen. Especially if you wait till the end.

10. Try to avoid the mother of all hangovers descending upon you – starting with tomorrow. Or more properly, tonight.

What’s that you say? Still not satisfied? Oh, you want to know what I’ll be doing Continue reading

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It was Christmas eve, babe…

Sons of the Desert - they look Christmassy, don't they?

Sons of the Desert – they look Christmassy, don’t they?

You may recognise those lyrics – they belong to what used to be one of my two favourite Christmas songs (along with the Sons of the Desert cover of Lonely This Christmas – they’re not the US country band – I saw them in a pub at the Elephant and Castle years ago).

But this past year – my new favourite Christmas song has been The Spirit of Christmas by Fynnjan – see past posts.

Well, the Christmas charts have come and gone. It’s too soon the assess Fynnjan’s impact. But I’ll tell you, oooh… next year.

In the meantime, thanks very much for your support with the Fynnjan campaign and for dropping by this blog. Best wishes to you all. Happy Christmas to those of you who celebrate it. Good times to everyone.

And here’s a lyric from Fynnjan that seems appropriate…

“…seeing the people that I love, is why Christmas is the best.”

(And a good reason to behave like it’s Christmas every day.)

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Squeaky bum time (with zombies)

Squeaky bum time - it's not rude - it's a potato for goodness sake. It's saying, please download The Spirit of Christmas by Fynnjan. You'd better do it. That spud has got it's eye on you. Geddit?

Squeaky bum time – it’s not rude – it’s a potato for goodness sake. It’s saying, please download The Spirit of Christmas by Fynnjan. You’d better do it. That spud has got its eye on you. Geddit?

It’s crunch day. Almost zero hour. Teensy weensy bit stressful.

You know the 11-year-old boy with Aspergers called Fynnjan that I’ve been helping – and you’ve kindly been supporting – and his song The Spirit of Christmas for autism charities? (The National Autistic Society and Nordoff Robbins music therapy.) Well – tomorrow/Sunday – is UK Top 40 day. If enough people have downloaded the song from iTunes and HMVdigital.com, then we’ll get into the Top 40 and thereby attract media and public attention and radio play. That platform will be a huge boost towards the Christmas no1 spot and a fantastic news peg. So all the hard work and support has been working towards that point.

If it doesn’t get into the Top 40 tomorrow, then we’re probably stuffed. Stuffed being a euphemism. So it’s squeaky bum time (as ex Man Utd boss Alex Ferguson used to say).

Charlie Adlard unleashes The Walking Dead in support of Fynnjan.

Charlie Adlard unleashes The Walking Dead in support of Fynnjan.

Against us are ranged money, money and money. And the Xfactor. And Beyonce’s surprise release. And retreads with cover versions. And paid-for front cover advertising. And the corporate machines.

But FOR US – a genuine good story, a small boy’s courage, a tiny band of dreamers and… AND ZOMBIE MAN!!!

Charlie Adlard is the artist for The Walking Dead. He’s ace. He’s drawing a one-off piece of artwork in his inimitable style. There’ll only be three copies. You – or any other fan of his work – can get it for free by downloading Fynnjan‘s song The Spirit of Christmas from iTunes or HMVdigital or via www.fynnjan.com Very cool!

1 Zombie

The artwork is a series of frames depicting Fynnjan’s interpretation of what Aspergers and other mental health issues are like for those that have them.

According to Fynnjan, life has three rooms. Most people are born into the second room. They go through the door into the third room to reach their potential. Children with Aspergers and autism are born into the first room. they don’t know that there are any other rooms. They don’t know there’s even a door. But with the right support, they can find the door and catch up and then work towards realising their own potential just like everyone else. He received great support from special educational needs staff at primary school. He knows he was lucky. He wants the same for other children.

This post is not a plea to get behind Fynnjan or to support him. Because many of you have done so already – with posts of your own, sharing, comments, downloads of the song too, and even donations to the charities. It’s been moving and humbling. I want to thank you properly, but I don’t have time just now. Because it’s squeaky bum time.

So – if you can – please share this post. Or copy the picture with the details of the Charlie Adlard competition and post it on facebook, twitter, instagram or wherever. And maybe we’ll do just enough to squeak into the UK Top 40 tomorrow.

Here’s the video:

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All life’s important questions answered

Black Santa of Belfast

Black Santa of Belfast

You’re asking: What is THE DARK SECRET? Where does Santa Claus live? Is world peace possible? And who won that tricky competition?

Read on and be enlightened…

1. Where does Santa Claus live? It’s not the North Pole. It’s not Greenland. Or Lapland. Or anywhere Scandinavian. Father Christmas – Santa – lives in Ireland. In Belfast Continue reading

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You South African beauty

Nelson MandelaWho could resist that winning smile? Well… 28+ years in prison proves there’s no accounting for taste.

What a beautiful man.

He may have been a bit of a rubbish MK leader of the armed struggle, but Rolihlahla the troublemaker went on to be the world’s most effective ambassador for peace and reconciliation in prison and afterwards. (Though here’s a less rosy view of Mandela’s legacy.) He changed tack on HIV/Aids too. If only more of us were able accept enlightenment.

I was fascinated with South Africa when I was young – one of the causes. So in 1984, when “Mary Manning of Kilmainham, a 21-year-old cashier” (as the song goes) and IDATU member was suspended for refusing to sell South African (apartheid) produce in Dunnes Stores on Henry Street in Dublin, Irish Anti Apartheid Movement members like myself got up to mischief at other Dunnes branches in support.

The strike never really grabbed the popular imagination in Ireland, but it also led to a law change on the import of apartheid produce to the country, and the strikers eventually had a street named after them in post-apartheid Johannesburg. Back then the strike made me proud to be Irish. (Here’s the song – I can’t find the Ewan MacColl and Peggy Seeger version.)

Nelson Mandela mural, Falls Road, Belfast 1988

Nelson Mandela mural, Falls Road, Belfast 1988

Nelson Mandela has long been (appropriated as) an icon in some parts of Belfast. However, to be fair to the appropriators, the same man seemed pleased and sympathetic.

I guess it was at least partly because of Madiba that I travelled to work and wander in South Africa. Lots of good times.

Among the highlights – taking a street paper seller to Cape Point (he was the only black visitor), operating an informal taxi service for the day round Khayelitsha Continue reading

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Daydreams

Brenda FassieI never daydream. I don’t have time. Maybe sad. But true.

But since you* asked, I had a go today. A driving daydream that transformed my twisting route through the dark wet leaf-strewn lanes of England into a roar across the big bright dry spaces between Bethlehem** and the Free State border. The soft relentless rhythm of Vuli Ndlela by Brenda Fassie (right) helped transport me. My smile grew to fill the imagined landscape.

But why dwell on daydreams when I can see a crazy impossible becoming reality every day this month – and hopefully the next. I’ve told you before about my wee friend Fynnjan, who has Aspergers and is trying to get the song he wrote to Christmas number one, to raise funds for autism support. Well, he now has a proper music video. (Please share it.)

From being written off as a no-hoper, bookies are now offering odds on Fynnjan succeeding of 16 to 1. We’ll have to wait and see. Though if you want to nudge him forward, you can pre-order the song (in two versions – so you can do it twice) from iTunes here https://itunes.apple.com/gb/artist/fynnjan/id728507389

And his redesigned website with more information is here www.fynnjan.com

The issue of Fynnjan’s unusual name has been raised – or more specifically, its spelling. It’s unique (I think) and distinctive – which is great. It means the best url was available. But people tend to spell Fynnjan incorrectly when searching for him online – finjan, finyan, finnian, etc – which means they don’t find him.

What should be done? Change his name to Continue reading

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My favourite book

Sam "Remember the Alamo!" Houston - who used to be an American Indian, according to the Childcraft Encyclopedia.

Sam “Remember the Alamo!” Houston – who used to be an American Indian, according to the Childcraft Encyclopedia.

I think the sequence of my favourite books may have gone something like this…

The Biography volume of the Childcraft Encyclopedia (or was it Cyclopedia?) – the obscure pasts of famous Americans.

Followed by Ulster, A Sunday Times Insight Investigation – oh look, they’re writing about us.

For a while it was… The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams. I found it in an odd place. “It was on display in the bottom of a locked filing cabinet stuck in a disused lavatory with a sign on the door saying ‘Beware of the Leopard‘.”

Then it was… Lucky Jim by Kingsley Amis – happy endings, but don’t read while hung over: “He lay sprawled, too wicked to move, spewed up like a broken spider-crab on the tarry shingle of morning. The light did him harm, but not as much as looking at things did; he resolved, having done it once, never to move his eyeballs again. A dusty thudding in his head made the scene before him beat like a pulse. His mouth had been used as a latrine by some small creature of the night, and then as its mausoleum. During the night, too, he’d somehow been on a cross-country run and then been expertly beaten up by secret police.”

It is (and has been for a while)… A Time of Gifts by Patrick Leigh Fermor – robust and exquisite. (And I want part 3 for Christmas.)

But the best books I’ve read lately are The Little Friend by Donna Tartt and We Need To Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver. I was late getting to both of them. Both arrestingly good. (Never mind the reviews to which I’ve linked.)

But if I really really have to choose one, from the very very many I value and return to, it would be Continue reading

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