Category Archives: friends

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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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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When I was young… I was a pop star.

Cover Art FynnjanIt’s true. Early morning calls from TV – “Can we come round and film you?” Radio stations. Promotional CDs. Music video. Posters. The lot.

My song was even played at half time Wycombe Wanderers v Cheltenham FC. And that’s the epitome of pop stardom.

OK, OK – I admit it. I’m not talking about myself. I’m looking into the future at the memories that my friend Fynnjan will have. He’s 11 years old, he has Aspergers – and he’s in the midst of an audacious bid to get to Christmas number one with a song he wrote himself. It’s called The Spirit of Christmas.

He spent Wednesday doing that very difficult thing – smiling on cue, again and again, for hours on end – with film cameras glaring surrounded by the main crew and then the “making of” film crew – all braced themselves for “Just one more run through.” That was for the music video – it’s still being worked on.

So what’s this really all about?  Fynnjan tells it better than me:

Sometimes I just get tunes in my head. In October 2012, when I was 10 and had nothing to do at my Granny’s whilst my parents were on their honeymoon, I decided to write one down. I thought it would be nice to show my music teacher, Mrs Smith. She said it was so good that she wanted me to perform it at the school Christmas Concert, if I wrote some words to it. At the concert, I sang the opening verse and my Dad, Wink filmed it.

Fynnjan centre with mates in studioAn awful lot of fuss was made and Mum was really happy as she had not ever heard me sing before! Mum sent Wink’s video to her sister in Australia. Auntie Sarah also made a fuss and suggested Mum get it recorded professionally. Luckily, Mum had spent the last year recording an album for my Dad’s band Buzz, so she had an idea about how to do this. She asked me if I wanted to record it. I said this would be OK as long a I could use it to raise some money for Asperger’s.

I wanted to raise money for Asperger’s to help other people like me and also to help my school to help other children who have special needs. I needed a lot of help from my school and if it weren’t for them, I would still be crawling about under tables refusing to come out. Now I have the confidence to sing in front of my Mum and the whole school.

nas-logo.ashxI went on the internet to see what the biggest charity for Asperger’s is and it is The National Autistic Society, NAS for short. I sent them an email and they thought it was great idea and would support it.

I asked Buzz if they would play the backing on my song and together we sorted out an arrangement which would be right for a single, about 3 minutes long. We recorded the music and I sang a guide vocal so Mrs Smith could teach my Y6 class the new arrangement ready for the recording. I recorded my actual vocals on 13 July and on 16 July my whole class came to Runway Studios to record their parts.

Three girls in the studioIt was the hottest day of the year and funny to think we were singing about Christmas trees and sleighs! During the day the word got out and Mix 96, an Aylesbury Radio Station wanted to interview me. So we did that on the way home.

We all had an epic day out and it was a great way to spend time with my friends on one of the last days we would all be together. Five days later, we broke up and are now at different Secondary schools. Since the big recording day, I got busy designing the look of the website, drawing the buttons, etc, which I hope you like!

My aims are:
To raise lots of money to help people with Asperger’s and Autism.
To raise awareness of Asperger’s to show that with quite a lot of help, people like me can understand how most of you see the world so we can live more happily in it with you.

Nordoff Robbins Logo Landscape Colour JPEGSince then, another charity, Nordoff Robbins music therapy has come on board as well as the National Autistic Society. And 10% will go to help special educational needs provision at Fynnjan’s former primary school in Seer Green in Buckinghamshire.

Lots more has happened too. Fynnjan and his mum Su were featured on BBC Radio 4 (you can listen here – fast forward 1 hour 15 minutes in). Su said on air that trying to learn about the music business in such a short time was like studying for a law degree – but crammed into just a couple of weeks. Among the people who heard this mum taking on the music industry’s corporate giants were some other spectacular women – respected professionals in music management, plugging, social media and film making. Like the rest of us, they were already busy. But somehow they’ve pushed everything else (including their livelihoods) to one side, to help Su and Fynnjan in what, all of a sudden, is no longer quite such an impossible dream.

The director Cathy Jones (right) arranges the children for The Spirit of Christmas music video shoot.

The director Cathy Jones (right) arranges the children for The Spirit of Christmas music video.

I’ll celebrate them another time – perhaps in a post on the subject of female solidarity. Because along with Su, it’s women taking the lead. Not considering it. Not assessing it. Not talking about it. Doing it.

I can’t share the video yet. But it was huge fun to make. (The director wouldn’t let me be filmed. Apparently I looked so fabulous I would have distracted attention from the children who sing the song. Or something like that.)

ITV News interviews Fynnjan

ITV News interviews Fynnjan

But you can see Fynnjan on ITV News – here. Now other outlets are taking an interest. Generous businesses lend a hand. Volunteers muck in. It’s a daunting, crazy, wonderful thing.

Not long ago Fynnjan‘s mum had never heard him sing. Now he’s aiming for the top of the charts. If ever there was an example of what a child could achieve – he’s it. The boy with an aversion to the limelight is enduring it to give his classmates an experience they’ll never forget. The kid who had communciation problems is holding his own in live broadcast interviews with complete strangers. (He even had a reporter from Italy to cope with.) The stone which the builders rejected has become the cornerstone.

So it’s all lovely. But what’s the catch? Yes – there is a catch.

This all depends on people pre-ordering the song via Fynnjan‘s website – www.fynnjan.com or you can search for him by name on iTunes. All the pre-orders will kick in on the official December 9th release date and – hopefully – rocket his song The Spirit of Christmas up the charts.

Fynnjan and his mum Su

Fynnjan and his mum Su

You can also “like” his page on facebook or follow @fynnjan on Twitter.

This is a post for the Loose Bloggers Consortium. (Sorry I missed last week folks, but you have an abundance of words this week.) The LBC members sharing stories of their youth include  Ramana, Delirious, gaelikaa, Grannymar, MaxiPadmumShackman and The Old Fossil.

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I’ve struck it rich in the movies…

The Big Steal trillion dollar noteIt’s finally happened. I’ve really made it this time. I’ve invested in three films and one of them has really paid off.

I’ve just received my first huge return. I’ve taken a photo of it in case you’re sceptical.

Yup. There it is. A trillion smackers. $1,000,000,000,000. My good intention has been rewarded.

I’m thinking of buying a few trips on the space shuttle – or maybe 2,000 of them. Nah – something closer to my heart. I think I’ll spend it on Ireland. With Turkey thrown in too, if I can’t get change from a trillion dollar note.

Trillion dollar noteWhatever I do, I can’t let the larcenous crew who got us into this financial mess get their grubby paws on my cash. Who? The bankers of course, according to The Big Steal.

Because my $1tn note is my return from my friends’ movie The Big Steal. They’re Julian Darley and Celine Rich, of Mysterious Movies – just two of the many outraged at the greed of the banks and the cynical way taxpayers’ money has been transferred to dodgy banks and then moved offshore or transformed into bonuses. So what? Lots of us are cross about it – but what can you do? Well, you can turn it into a film. That’s what they’re doing. The film will be called The Big Steal – but unlike most heist movies, this time the thieves are behind the counter, not breaking in. Can anyone stop them? Watch the film and find out.

But before you watch it – they have to make it. And they need help. They’re looking for lots of mini-donations, from a dollar upwards, to crowdsource the film and take it to the Cannes Film Festival this year.

So if you’re looking to bash the banking system and get a bit of retaliation in – here’s a way of doing it. Lots of good perks too. Being part of the film, getting your name in the credits Continue reading

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No doom and gloom just bravery and beauty

Chantelle Msumbuga

What’s the connection between Charles Dickens and this: Should have died in infancy. Didn’t. At the age of four had meningitis and went into a coma. Recovered. Had a stroke with complications that lasted a year. Survived. Major blood transfusions. Long term organ damage. Hours of chelation therapy five times a week to reduce iron overload from blood transfusions. Bruising, discoloration, pain, pain, pain…

Dickens is renowned for cataloging the suffering of the poor and downtrodden, but this is not the torment visited by his imagination on some poor character. It’s real suffering. It’s what happens when a young girl is born with sickle cell anaemia.

A young girl like Chantelle Msumbuga. She’s now a young woman – almost 16 years old. Last weekend she told me and some others about the succession of pain and setbacks she’s undergone in her short life. And she was so cheerful and beautiful as she told it. Her blog is here. She educated us about the condition and the very invasive and intensive treatment she received at Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH) for Children.

Liliane’s lovely buns – you have to bite through the head of Charles Dickens to taste them.

Now do you get it?

After JM Barrie and Peter Pan, Charles Dickens is the famous figure most associated with this London hospital for children. Shortly after it opened, he helped save it from bankrupcy and to double in size.

That’s why Charles Dickens fan Christopher West (who also lectures under the nom de plume Charles Dickens London) arranged a special Dickens Day to raise funds for GOSH – to mark the connection between writer and hospital during this year, the 200th anniversary of Dickens’s birth.

Liliane the beautiful cake maker from the Cote d’Ivoire

Oh – there’s another reason too. It’s not just Chantelle who medical staff at GOSH are helping. They also saved the life of Christopher’s granddaughter not so long ago. So, like Chantelle he’s also saying thank you for personal reasons.

Chantelle and Christopher were helped and supported by lots of other people too. People like the Kings College Chorus, schools, experts and Liliane. She’s from the Cote d’Ivoire, has beautfully accented French, beautiful buns (no not that! I do actually mean the buns in the picture) and is just beautiful.

There was a lot of beauty around that day – and that includes Continue reading

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How to be a Christmas cracker

To keep you going till Friday, here are some top tips of how to win friends and influence people this festive season. In other words – how to be a Christmas cracker.

1. Challenge your friends to these ten bets you cannot lose. (Unless they read this post.) Up to you what you wager – mince pies, whiskey, truth, dare or embarrassing forfeit?

2. Confound gender stereotyping by presenting gifts of toy guns to girls and dolls to boys – as recommended by this Swedish toy catalogue.

Actually, that’s not quite fair. They’re portraying the toys as gender neutral, rather than suggesting one sort of toy should be for girls and one for boys. But still – the pictures did not look at all as odd to me as I was expecting.

Oh no! I’ve become irredeemably right-on. On the other hand…

3. To redeem myself. I’ve been driving around with a 72-pint barrel of beer in the boot (trunk). How manly.

Not a full one obviously. Mostly drunk by now. Oh, and there was the little matter of the tap coming loose and the barrel leaking. Leaking over the boot. Swilling around. Pooling in the spare wheel cavity. How stinky.

If I get stopped by the police it’ll be very difficult to persuade them that I’m absolutely sober behind the wheel.

4. And finally. You remember how I callously sent Top Boy out hiking into the hard rain, iciness, windiness and mist? Some of you (ie Nigel) were wondering how he got on – especially considering that he had to have special permission to take part as he was underage – the youngest competitor in the overnight competition. It was nasty weather – you may have seen it mentioned on the news this week – and many teams and individuals pulled out during the competition. The Grimsdyke Hike. Grim by name. Grim by nature. But – and you can probably guess where this is leading – guess who won the Senior Competition? Oh yeah. Oh yeah. He and his Scout team mates rule.

It’s okay to boast about someone else’s achievement, isn’t it?

Look. I had to tell someone.

So I thought I might as well tell everyone.

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Classroom rule number one: Never smile before Christmas

Two excellent short films. The first is clever and imaginative. The second may induce feelings of vertigo or unsettled stomach – IT”S THAT EXCITING!

So – first – The Old Man and the Sea – Ernest Hemmingway’s book and John Sturges’s film starring Spencer Tracy – now an animation drawn by Marcel Schindler.

I saw this film on the excellent Brain Pickings website. My only quibble with the animation is that the role of the boy is omitted – though, to be fair, he doesn’t board the small boat on the trip depicted.

Next – short film number two. Some of the camera shots may make you queasy. Here’s the film called People Are Awesome.

It’s the going over the edge skiiing shot that has me holding on to the table for balance. Though I suspect it’s the sort of thing Lesley “Get” Carter does every morning before breakfast. I presume they used the same crew as this Carling Black Label advert (based on cameraman Graham Henry’s exploits with Anneka Rice in Treasure Hunt).

The nearest Continue reading

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