Monday, April 11, 2016

Happy Ever Afters!

Someone left the cake out in an internet domain! Check out what we baked for you!

A short while ago in a galaxy close enough to this one to be considered pretty much the same galaxy, a friend of mine asked if I had any plans to release my Tortenschloss Chronicles in book form. My answer at the time was 'possibly', or words to that effect, but now that possibly has become reality.

We're pleased to announce publication of The Tortenschloss Chronicles ebook!

And this baby comes with FREE DLC. That's right: one purchase and we'll be adding to the stories contained in this collection.

Here's the cover blurb to explain and tempt you:



Welcome to the worlds of the Tortenschloss Chronicles.

These are worlds of Singing Swords, Prodigal Bulls and Extreme Unicorns. Of woolves and pandas and investigative jesters. Where bee-stings can be magical and cups can grant wishes without the aid of saucery. Where heroes might not always be heroic, but they will certainly be colourful.

This is a short story collection that will continue to grow after reading. Every few months, this Kindle version will be updated with two more stories, FREE bonus content, complete with accompanying illustrations and author’s notes. Just download when your device notifies you the updated version is available.

Pour yourself a cuppa and grab yourself several slices of fantasy adventure.

(Suitable for dunking.)



Now available for Kindle

The Tortenschloss Chronicles

And remember, you don't need to have a Kindle in order to enjoy this book. The Kindle app is free to download for PC and phones.

So go on. Treat yourself and tell your friends.

Enjoy some wholesome home-baked fantasy fiction.

SAF 2016

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Black Dog Dead - March

Last month I talked a lot about those pesky NATs (Negative Automatic Thoughts) and while I’ve not found the perfect insecticide to clear my head of them altogether, I believe I have made some progress.

It’s not the kind of progress that’s as easy to measure as, for example, the daily wordcount on any given project. And if I gauged my success by that, I’d have to report that March has been a variable month indeed. Up days, down days, active days, rather stay in bed days. But on the work/writing front I’ve kept things moving on the whole.

Even faced with the real struggle days, when the words are sluggish and my brain snailish, I managed to drag myself up and out for the morning and write something. And generally that had the beneficial side-effect of helping me feel that little bit better about myself. One definite improvement I’ve noticed is my conscious ability to congratulate myself for the minor wins.

Hurrah! Yay me! Etc.

But before we get too carried away, we’d best admit to the points we lost, whether through double faults, collapse of serve or whatever other tennis analogy you care to use.

Your sport of choice may vary, I just happen to prefer the tennis one, despite this month’s Sharapova-related disappointment – Maria, you let me down! But it’s still her mental approach to each point that I’d like to be able to adopt in the game of life. A setback should be just that – a single point, signal to move on to the next with the belief you can still win the match.

So, the principal enemy this month has been anger.

I’m angry with myself just thinking about it. For allowing it to get the better of me to the extent it has this past month.

Never really had anger issues until one upstairs neighbour embarked on a nine-month campaign of DIY (Do-It-Yourself and Daily Irritate Yourneighbour). Through the course of that constant daily noise and disruption, anger somehow embedded itself as part of my depression. Became a damaging additional symptom, almost, driving my stress levels through the roof long before the neighbour drove a hole in our ceiling. And made matters worse by laughing about it, through said hole. Perhaps the anger was an entirely separate ‘condition’, but it was tough for me to view them as distinct.

Anyway, once the Neighbour From B&Q Hell departed, the aftereffects remained and too often the smallest disappointments, frustrations, problems magnify into disproportionate irritants. It’s something I’ve struggled to control, because it’s an emotional, impulsive response and I’m at heart an emotional person. How do you govern what plays to your nature?

Still, I’ve managed to some degree.

Although I still swear profusely at my computer and anything technical that goes wrong. It’s inconsiderate, I know, but I expect machines to be dutiful slaves and do what they’re bloody well supposed to. I’m sure I’ll be one of those first against the wall when SkyNet launches its machine rebellion.

That aside, most days I have learned to take deep breaths, count to however many I need to count to see the spilt milks and other trifling mishaps in the appropriate perspective.

Most days.

But if exposed to anything that actually matters, I am prone to explode. And those days even the trivial stuff promotes itself right back to major annoyance.

News, global and national, is a frequent cause of that kind of volatility. So naturally I’ve had to avoid much of it or ration my intake. Even to the detriment of our pub quiz team’s performance in the current affairs rounds. But heck, there’s always a price to pay.

This month, the Tory plans to slash benefits (aka vital financial support) for the disabled in order to fund tax breaks for the already comfortably off, thank you very much, fuelled what was (obviously) entirely justifiable rage. And there was as little I could do about the anger as I could do about a government policy that even odious slimebags like IDS can’t defend.

Clearly, I should get angry about that sort of thing. Anybody in their right mind would. But when you’re not entirely in your right mind, your heart being in the right place can be a problem.

Anger can motivate action, of course, but what action can anyone take against a government so reprehensible? Beyond signing a petition or protesting or spreading word of their vile deeds on social media, etc. And I can’t actually enter into politics as a career, because I’d be completely unable to remain polite or civil in the face of these Right Dishonourable bastards. (And there I’m exercising restraint because with the written word I at least have a moment to pause and edit myself.) Anger and powerlessness are a recipe for a sense of futility and as such a dangerous source of sustenance for the Black Dog.

One consequence I became acutely aware of was that, even on some days when the writing wasn’t a struggle, while I could congratulate myself on what I’d achieved my subconscious would undermine me with the old poisonous questions: Why? What’s the point?

Toxic indeed. And as discussed last month, it’s essential to meet those NATs with positive answers. It can feel like mental warfare. With the enemy dropping dirty bombs and either you don loads of protective gear, isolate yourself, or you go out and meet the threat with whatever weapons you can get your hands on. And keep moving.

That latter approach has been key to my March.

While I’ve yet to come up with a concrete answer to those NATs that doesn’t just crumble some days and require rebuilding, I have stuck to my guns and I’ve all but put myself right back on schedule after those two weeks lost due to illness at the beginning of January.

I daresay I could have made myself busier and progressed further. But we don’t help ourselves by measuring where we are against where we could be. On the road to recovery, we do ourselves more favours by gauging our current position against where we began.

And if I can’t expect to control anger, then I might at least learn to compartmentalise it. Maybe use it.

In the face of opposition you can do nothing (or precious bloody little anyway) about, then the best you can hope is to use such enemies as anger to motivate unrelated action. Fuel for yourself, instead of food for the Black Dog.

In my case, that translates as continuing what I’m doing. Sticking with the plan. Working on my different projects, working on my mental good health.

And as luck would have it, part of that includes writing the fifth volume in my Evil UnLtd series, handily titled Vote Evil. So there’s some chance of channelling a quantity of the political anger into something positive and – hopefully! – funny.

If the darkest clouds lack for silver linings, I guess painting them on yourself is the way to go.

SAF 2016

Wednesday, March 02, 2016

Game Of Scones... And More!

Exciting news!

Grab a slice and pour yourself a cuppa.

For some while, I've been writing my Tortenschloss Chronicles short stories, serving up our fantasy fiction cakes in weekly slices, and a shorter while ago a friend asked me if I had any plans to collect them in book form. The answer, friends, is yes! Very soon!

In book form, the anthology will initially include twelve of the best tales, each with an accompanying illustration and some author's notes, providing insights into how my creative mind works. Scary, I know, but hopefully a nice little companion piece to each story.

Dependent on sales, I'm hoping to follow the ebook version with a paperback release later in the year and, fingers crossed, we'll be releasing the full fantasy novel Tortenschloss at around the same time.

As a bonus with the Kindle version, our plan is to add a couple of stories every 6 months, with illustrations and author's notes, so readers will continue to receive new stories as the Kindle version updates. Nice, huh? The bumper fantasy fiction anthology.

I wanted to call it the Neverending Story Collection, but have been advised against it for legal reasons, since it may one day end and people will sue me when the flow of free stories stops.

Even so, this has to be good news for anyone who likes a tasty slice of home-baked fiction. If I had the technology to include a cup of tea with your reading, I would.

The Tortenschloss Chronicles.

Coming to you this April. After you've stuffed yourself on Easter eggs.

Watch this space and spread the word.
SAF 2016

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Black Dog Dead - February

Back in August of last year, my then recently ex wife asked how I was doing and if I was eating ok.

The answer? Well, I was, I think, eating all right – I was consuming food anyway – but I constantly wondered why. Why was I eating at all? Food sustains life, but if you feel like you have none, what’s the point? That question - what’s the point? – was my principal enemy.

Other such Negative Automatic Thoughts (NATs) have plagued me in the past – and certain ones still do (there have been times I could swear the words NOT GOOD ENOUGH were tattooed on my brain at an early age), although I am generally much more aware of them and practised at catching them before they can flit around my head too long and make a major fucking pest of themselves.

But ‘what’s the point?’ is a particularly stubborn one to swat.

It’s returned today, just as I sat down to write this blog. But it’s not born of any questioning the worth of this exercise. Which is probably one reason why I’m still ploughing ahead and writing it. That, and I can be a stubborn bastard too.

Fortunately, I’ve progressed a long way since last August. Remembering that time serves as a helpful reminder of how far I’ve come. Of course, the days when these breakdowns still threaten serve as a counter-reminder of how fragile sometimes recovery can be.

Today’s blog post can be viewed as something of a test, then. How will I fare in confronting and handling this mini crisis point? Will the NAT win today? Or will I spray it with positive insecticide and watch it emulate a dying fly on the windowsill of February?

Where’d this NAT come from?

Well, NATs hover around all kinds of shit, but I remember this particular one from back in the middle of this month.

There I was still working away to get caught up after that first fortnight in January and I was doing pretty well, I reckoned. (At current estimate, one more month of playing catch up should get me back on the original schedule, yay!) Then someone kicked my sandcastle. Twas those nasty folks at the Inland Revenue. Mind, they were just following orders. Changes in the rules for Working Tax Credits, handed down from their Tory scumbag masters.

Briefly, in future, £54 per week of WTC will be dependent on my ability to show a profit in my chosen self-employment. This will require quarterly reporting, interviews, assessments etc. Because, obviously, the pressures of making a living out of writing weren’t enough already.

Now, I’m guessing, but maybe when normal, healthy people read these kind of official notification letter from government they grumble, bitch, moan, probably swear a bit. For me, it provoked huge anger, anxiety attacks, reduced me to tears, made me contemplate jacking it all in and question the worth of life. In short, resurrected that old NAT to come haunt me again.

What’s the point?

(Honestly, my heart goes out to those more vulnerable than myself who may identify with some of the above, but are finding themselves under greater pressures and suffering greater hardships.)

Battled through it and fought it off over the course of a day, which is to my credit. A case of being good to myself, giving myself a day off work (that’ll help prove my profitability), lots of music, modest amounts of creativity (I find artwork therapeutic – I’m no good at it, but oddly that means I don’t end up beating myself up about the quality – or lack of it – the way I would with a shoddy piece of writing). A combination, I suppose, of fighting the thought at the moments I was feeling strong and diverting myself from it when I wasn’t feeling up to the fight.

That spell aside, most of February has been productive and creative. I’ve been working hard on a number of projects, enjoyed a lovely little morale boost just by virtue of officially announcing one of those projects (a novel for the Lethbridge-Stewart range, by Candy Jar books – that’s right, me writing for the dear old Brigadier from Doctor Who), and achieving all manner of stuff that wouldn’t impress the Inland Revenue one jot.

(NB. All these efforts of mine may actually generate income at some point, but I’m just not sure hard graft and productivity will weigh heavily as evidence to present before officialdom. Time will tell.)

Wary of the power that added pressure had to sink me – even if ‘only’ for a day (and I put ‘only’ in quotes because it really was a horrible day) – I looked to be a bit more prepared for future torpedo attacks – because we all know there will be more. There are always more.

So I did an exercise in what we’ll call life accounting. Essentially, listing goals – the elements you’re missing or seeking in life, the ‘things’ you want (quotes because most of the things I want aren’t things) – and your principal enemies – the negatives, the qualities or habits, say, that hold you back, barriers or opposition etc – in Column B. Example: mine are largely internal – depression, obviously, stress, anxiety, anger, loneliness, tiredness.

See, I don’t even include the Inland Revenue, they don’t feature because although they have added to my pressures – thanks, guys – they are not the problem. My problem lies in how I deal with them. Indeed, I made a conscious effort to exclude anything that wasn’t dependent solely on me. Because anything you are trying to address or achieve in life that is reliant on someone else is open to huge amounts of uncertainty. And this, we don’t need. Not when we’re focused on our own recovery.

Anyway, in other columns, you then start to list your actions. The steps you might take to attain those items in Column A and the steps you might take to eliminate, reduce or overcome those in Column B. Broad strokes, at first, but it helps if you can then go on to break the broader steps down into smaller, more immediately manageable actions. Baby steps.

(As I said on Facebook, columns – they’re s supporting structure.)

No need to bore you with my entire spreadsheet, but it’s worth citing a specific example, particularly one where I know it’s helped and I’ve made measurable progress. If tiredness is an Enemy and physical fitness/health a goal, one response is physical exercise – I resumed my (old) habit of a morning swim. Just once a week for now, since that’s all the budget will allow for, but it’s a start.
That, as it happened, had additional side benefits. I felt good about myself just for doing it. Yeah, it took me until the last week of the month to apply this plan, but hey, I did it. Medal, please. Pat on the back. Muchos congrats.

And if my subconscious throws up that NAT – what’s the point? – about that, well, I can point specifically at the point. The point in this case, oh nuisance NAT, is physical health, feeling fitter (eventually!) and feeling generally better about myself (heck, feeling more attractive maybe – why the hell not) and possibly feeling sufficiently knackered for at least one day a week so that I actually sleep pretty well. Thanks for asking, NAT.

And if you have an answer for the NAT, there’s not much for it to do but sod off. For a while anyway.
Writing this has gone some significant way to answering today’s NAT. Hopefully it’s beating its head against a window somewhere in this café in its efforts to get out and leave me alone.

For the duration of March, at least. Because I have every intention of being too fucking busy to deal with NATs. And the action to take in the face of Inland Revenue letters of doom is to stick with the plan. It was a good plan. And it’s still a good plan. We have to trust in that.

In the months since that dark August I have battled to find raisons d’être and I believe I succeeded. Now I think I’m ready to start looking for raisons de vivre.

SAF 2016

Monday, February 01, 2016

Black Dog Dead - January

Wow, so 2016 started off a real downer, didn’t it?
Bowie, Rickman, Frey and the lesser-known to many but actually pretty significant to my early experiences of Doctor Who and other TV dramas, Robert Banks Stewart. Like a hero cull.

As I’ve said elsewhere, many of us are just at an age where we begin to lose our heroes. No matter whether it’s too soon or whether they have lived to a grand old age. We would much prefer them to be immortal. They are, in a sense. But we still feel their loss keenly. It’s impossible still not to feel a little sadness when I think of Elisabeth Sladen, Caroline John, Mary Tamm. Although that touch of sadness comes hand in hand with a great appreciation for their contribution to – well, I was going to say my childhood and so on – but, ultimately, to me. Heroes help shape who we are.

Of course, this has nothing whatsoever to do with depression. But if we happen to be suffering with it, then it is another of those contributing external factors that can really seem overwhelming, especially when combined with the general post-Christmas blues and frankly shitty weather that generally characterises this time of year. I’m looking at more of the wet-and-windy gloomfest through the café window right now and it’s not doing a whole lot to lift my spirits.

Fortunately, today, they need no external lifting. I’m – what’s the word? – okay. I’m tempted to say good. But something makes me wary of overstating how I am. There’s a cautionary note attached to my self-diagnosis. So let’s go comparative and say way better than I have been.

That first fortnight of the new year, I was fairly miserable. But the chief culprit there was a germ. Some pernicious virus invading my system through the protective barrier of alcohol consumed over the festive season and proclaiming “Contact has been made.” Once it made contact, bloody hell, it settled right in and seemed determined to stay like a malignant microbial squatter. I’d keep shouting at it to leave, in short exclamations ending in *cough* but it paid m no attention. Laundry day required an extra machine just for handkerchiefs.

All right, that last part is pure exaggeration, but it was a menace and I felt grotty. Partly because I wanted to be cracking on with so many projects and things, to make a really good start to 2016.

Two weeks in, it finally packed its biohazardous bags and left, presumably to make greener pastures in someone else. Yours truly was free to throw himself into those projects and, even if I didn’t have a whole lot of energy to burn I did feel highly motivated. Determined, I guess, to make up for lost time.

Here we are at the end of January and a rough estimate concludes that I’ve achieved approximately half of what I’d hoped in this month. And several things that I’d not planned on achieving at all.

Which is about what you’d expect plus bonuses.

Now, I’m training myself out of the habit of measuring my days, weeks or months purely in terms of what I’ve achieved. There has to be more to the mental health and self-worth scale than that. But for right now I can look at the things I’ve done in the face of a poorly start and take that as an indicator. On top of that, I know that in the latter half of January I’ve had far more good days than bad.

There were times, moments usually, when the Black Dog threatened and one seriously down and strangely tearful day. Like I hadn’t shed enough fluids already with the damned cold.

But even there I was able to identify a clear and distinct trigger. And this was a new phenomenon to me.

There were moments in the wake of a really really good day where essentially I looked for someone to tell, to share that with, and felt the lack as keenly as any loss. Ironically, it cut sharper than when I’ve felt a need for someone to talk to about a bad day. I guess in part because when I’ve had a bad day, a really bad day, my assumption is that nobody will want to hear it. Whereas a good day, a really good day, surely everyone wants to hear about those. Anyway, yep, I’ve a suspicion it’s that old devil called loneliness at work.

Again, nothing to do with depression and a common enough condition. But a dangerous contributor to the Black Dog. Might as well coat yourself in Baker’s Complete and invite the Black Dog in to feast.

So, what’s the course of action now, especially in light of the clear progress I’ve made throughout 2015.

Obviously, the ultimate goal is to take that Black Dog out back and put a shotgun to its head like Old Yeller. In that event it would probably rise from the dead and continue to shamble after me like a canine zombie, but they key word there is shamble. There’s every chance I can outrun it if it’s undead.

The mission then for this year ought to be focused primarily on tackling those contributing factors – or rather, how I deal with them. It’s akin to dosing up on Lemsip, Echinacea and burying yourself under several duvets and a cat to combat the symptoms of a cold. You can’t immunise yourself totally against the germs and once they’re in they’re probably going to run their natural course, but you can alleviate the effects to some degree.

Clearly, with the best will in the world, I’m not going to be able to prevent further hero culls. Although I am fighting the good fight there to a tiny degree, as royalties from my Evil UnLtd series will continue to go to Cancer Research UK. That and an appropriate spell of mourning coupled with a celebration of their lives and works is pretty much all anyone can do.

Loneliness? A trickier foe, perhaps. But there are measures that can be taken. Getting out, taking a night off. I’m very lucky to have friends I can go seek out or bump into randomly on the street (Penzance is a small town) and even luckier that some of them are such brilliant company they can lift me with just a few words or a laugh. One of my favourite people has a smile that I really think ought to be available on the NHS: one sight of that smile and you’re set for the day. And then there are the friends that you don’t see but they’re only a Facebook post away. It’s not proper social human contact, but many people’s personalities manage to shine through the screen.

Meanwhile, since I’ve been busier and more creative/productive than ever it would seem to make sense to continue in that vein. Besides the achievement factor, it delivers other – probably more significant progress – in terms of confidence and feeling generally happier within myself. That is a change that others are able to see.

Only the other day a friend told me, “You’re looking well.” It surprised me – my first thought was, “Am I?” But hearing it worked wonders. As though it needed someone else to observe the improvement in me in order for me to quite believe it. Gold dust. 

And I will take that and bank it and let it earn interest.

Am I rid of the Black Dog?

Probably not.

But I have shotgun and ammunition.

SAF 2016

Thursday, December 31, 2015

Black Dog Down - Happy New Year!

There are two questions that colour conversations this time of year.

1) Did you have a good Christmas?

2) What are your New Year's resolutions?

The second one is invariably answered with complete honesty, although we know in our hearts that there’s no way in hell we’re going to follow through on all those resolutions. But it’s not uncommon to have to answer the first one with a lie or two. Maybe you suffer with depression or maybe life just served you up one of its special curveballs.

Shit, let’s face it, is no respecter of calendars. Sometimes when Santa is delivering lots of goodies his reindeer crap all over your house.

If you’re already depressed or vulnerable, all that Christmas pressure to be of good cheer and not dampen the party atmosphere can prove too much. It has dangerous potential to isolate you further and although the act of pretending to be fine can work to beneficial effect – the old ‘fake it til you feel it’ approach – it can cost you dear and, as with any recreational drug, can result in a crash.

For me, this year, I’m glad to be able to say – without having to lie or give it any positive spin – I had a great Christmas, thanks for asking.

Shit happened. You can be certain of that. And it affected me – as it should. But amidst all that, despite of it, there were spells that qualify as one of my best Christmasses ever.

What the hell, as they say, is that about?

Worry not, I’m not about to go into describing every specific brand of shit that came my way over the Christmas period – nobody wants to read that on New Year’s Eve – but allow me to cite a few examples for their educational value.

In the run-up to Christmas, I learned I’d been blocked and unfriended by someone on Facebook. Not the most traumatic of experiences, I appreciate, but this was one that actually mattered. See, I’d met the guy a few times, disagreed on practically everything but got on like a house on fire all the same. Respected, admired the fellow greatly. And he once told me, “If you ever have a problem with me, just tell me to my face.” An approach, by the way, which I fully endorse and support. So for that and because of the kind of person he is, I couldn’t for the life of me imagine why the hell this guy, of all people, would choose to sever all ties like that. It upset me, dear reader.

Now, I couldn’t control my reaction. Couldn’t just tell myself not to get upset. What I managed to do though was give myself full permission to be upset... but only for a day. That’s right. I imposed a 24-hour time-limit on those feelings. And it worked! Woke up the following morning and was actually, genuinely able to shrug.

I’m relating the ‘incident’ now and it doesn’t even qualify as an incident. Somebody burns a bridge? Why automatically assume there was anything to be missed on the other side?

I daresay this whole time-limit method would not work on more serious upsets  – and how would you gauge in advance how long you would need to grieve, feel pissed off, cry your heart out etc for any given trauma? – but it’s something I intend to apply to the smaller stuff in the future.

Lost an aunt on Christmas Eve. There’s no statute of limitations on that. I deliberately refrained from acknowledging that loss on social media because I didn’t – and still don’t – wish to invite sympathies. Sympathies and heartfelt thoughts should go to my uncle and cousins because the loss is theirs, above all others. I mention it here because it does put other shit into perspective and because it’s the one thing I feel a little guilt over, for managing to still go ahead and enjoy Christmas.

But she always referred to me as her ‘favourite nephew’ and always wished me a Happy Christmas so, yeah, I went ahead and had one. I think what outweighs that niggle of guilt is how impressed I am with my ability to have a good time. For someone previously so easily knocked for six by (sometimes the smallest) provocations, the fact that I could feel the loss and yet do more than survive that day and actually feel part of the party atmosphere, among great friends and family (special mention to my very special sister) is probably one of the biggest indicators of the progress I’ve made versus the Black Dog over the course of this past year.

This does not, of course, mean I am suddenly impervious or invincible.

Whether or not I needed any reminder of that, life supplied one on Boxing Day. There I was in the pub, again in the company of brilliant friends and my favourite sister. And some dill-wallop, over-soused on alcohol and surliness, decides to turn on me for no reason whatsoever. I’m happy to speak my mind and take the consequences but in this case I hadn’t uttered a word or said boo to a goose. But I guess in the absence of any easier target this fellow who preferred to think with his fists advanced on me with menaces. It might have turned to a fight if his chosen opponent was at all given to violence, but all I did was back up and, succumb to the shock of the occasion. In fact, I’m afraid to say, dear reader, I cried. It was not a pretty sight.

Not something a ringside audience wants to see and definitely something that would’ve, in the past, had the capacity to spoil what had been a really fun night. It didn’t though. Because I didn’t allow it.

In similar fashion to my time-limited response to Mr Facebook I allowed myself only a short period to acknowledge the upset (dry the tears, for one), reminded myself of the bloody nicer, sparklier episodes of that evening and, I suppose, applied a bit of perspective. That is to say, demoted the unfortunate incident to its appropriate rank.

The fact is, the tears had far less to do with that dung-brained belligerent than he probably imagined. He was just the extra asshole I didn’t need at that time. And let’s face it, none of us requires an extra asshole. One of our own is quite sufficient at any time.

Ultimately, as the New Year approaches, all this brings us to a principle I’ve long held and endeavoured to apply. Not always successfully, but I’m still persuaded it’s a useful one.

Shed any weight that can’t be turned into muscle.

Obviously, I’m not talking about physical weight. That would require diet and exercise and I am hopeless at those. (And by the way, if you are unhappy with the way you look, by all means, tackle your own physical weight – but the key word there is ‘you’. Don’t be compelled by what others think or what you imagine they think of you.) No, I speak only of those things in life that burden you or drag you down and are of no benefit whatsoever.

Maybe that’s what Mr Facebook was doing. Maybe I’d ceased to be of any use to him. Well, fair enough then and clearly he’s done my job for me there. But I wouldn’t toss aside friends, online or otherwise, lightly. Because friends are a gain in and of themselves, to be welcomed and valued. Those go only if they’re proving detrimental, in which case ‘friend’ is too strong a word for them, isn’t it. You may well feel the loss of them, regardless, but my advice would be, sure, feel it, but not for long.

So, in summary, did I have a good Christmas?

Yes, thanks, really great.

What are my New Year’s resolutions?

Cut down on the drinking. But most of all, cut down on the shit. The quantity of shit that hits the fan and comes my way is not something I have any great control over, but I do have some control over how it affects me and for how long.

And as it happens even before 2016 has started I already have three – no, four – really brilliant things to look forward to and get excited about in the New Year. That, if you’ll pardon my language, is fucking awesome.

And excuse me while I go celebrate that in advance.

Happy New Year to you all.

SAF 2015