This could be the last time

Good morning Tash Appreciators,

In the past, TF has said that dealing with perceived defeat requires nothing more than picking yourself up, dusting yourself off and moving on. That’s too simplistic.

Let me give you two examples of what I mean – they’re both from The Shawshank Redemption. The story of Andy Dufresne’s  imprisonment after he was wrongly convicted of the murder of his wife has become a classic movie. You’ll also probably remember that the other main character in the film was Ellis “Red” Redding.

At first glance, you might imagine that it would be Andy who would have the most difficulty in dealing with his situation. However, he comes up with the phrase “get busy living or get busy dying”, which seems to give him the encouragement he needs to press on.

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Andy was faced with a tangible obstacle to his happiness – prison walls. In a way, a prison wall or another tangible barrier is easier to overcome than a mental barrier. It’s like looking into the abyss and realising that there may be a path around it. Knowing that there is something tangible on the other side of an obstacle can give a person hope that, one day, they will overcome. Sometimes, thinking to ourselves “get busy living or get busy dying” will be enough for us to pick ourselves up from whatever has gotten us down.

Red, on the other hand, had a different problem. After spending decades in prison, Red became – to use his words – “an institutionalised man”. He was faced with a physical and a mental barrier in that he had spent so much time in prison that his mind couldn’t contemplate anything else. He had stared into the abyss for too long and he needed more than self-motivation to help him survive his freedom. Many of us will have times in our lives when we need the support of others in the same way that Red did.

So what saved him? Well, Red’s thoughts after he left prison give us a clue:

“I find I’m so excited that I can barely sit still or hold a thought in my head. I think it’s the excitement only a free man can feel. A free man at a start of a long journey whose conclusion is uncertain.

I hope I can make it across the border. I hope to see my friend and shake his hand. I hope the Pacific is as blue as it has been in my dreams.

I hope.”

Like Chris Moltisanti in the Sopranos, Red is looking at his future as a journey which he wants to start. Like all of us, he hopes that he gets to where he wants to go. However, crucially, Red has identified that seeing his friend is an essential part of that journey and, in a way, would mark the end of it.

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The point of these three editions of TF is that ambition and resilience are not all that’s required to be successful (in the widest possible sense) in life. The third – and perhaps most important aspect of success – is what old John Donne said: “No man is an island, entire of itself”. LCD Soundsystem put it another way in the TF anthem “All My Friends” (which charts a person’s life) by ending with the words: “where are your friends tonight?”

Like Red, the time has come for this Tash Appreciator to embark on the next long journey. Rather than simply being excited, it’s a fairly scary proposition and all I can do is give it everything I’ve got and hope that it turns out ok. Unfortunately, the start of the next journey means the end of TF, at least for now. Part of the reasoning behind this final TF has been to acknowledge the help and support that I receive from many of you – I really do appreciate it and I am lucky to be able to say that the expression on Red’s face when he sees Andy on the beach in Mexico is one which I understand and probably quite often mirror. I hope that in return TF has added something to your Friday mornings over the last three or four years.

Also like Red, I have plans to reach the blue Pacific ocean but, until then, I will make do with the blue of Blue Dog in Glasgow at around 9pm. I’m hopeful that a few of my friends will be there tonight – you are all most welcome.

I shall leave you with two things. Firstly, this week’s Tash, which of course is Morgan Freeman:

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And secondly, the question which I hope will continue to challenge all of us, regardless of whether TF is around to provide a weekly reminder:

What’s next?

2014 and Beyond – Part 2

Good morning Tash Appreciators!

Welcome to the last TF of 2013.

Last week, we looked back at this year and I said that adversity drew out our true character. This week, I’m going to challenge everyone (especially myself) to take our experiences of 2013 and use them to make 2014 count.

In order to look ahead to 2014, and beyond, I’d like to pose one question:

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My honest answer to that question is that I haven’t got a clue.

Not having an answer to that question doesn’t mean that I’m not ambitious or that I don’t care, it just means that there is a wide world out there and I don’t yet know where my place is within it. I hope I’m not the only one who feels like that; I suspect I’m not.

I also don’t mean that I feel lost or down about life – quite the opposite, in fact.  It’s just that, for too long, TF has been about “keep going”. Keeping going is all well and good, if you know where you want to go but, if you keep going without a thought as to where the final destination is, are you not lost? From now on, I’ll be thinking to myself: what’s next, what’s next, WHAT IS NEXT?

This week’s Tash (Samuel L Jackson in “Coach Carter”) was a leader: he  was able to encourage those around him to listen to their better angels. In order to draw out a member of his team, he kept asking him “what’s your deepest fear?”

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For a long time, the young man had no response until, one day, he came up with a secularized variation of a quote from Marianne Williamson. I’ll give you the full quote and you can choose to take the word “God” as meaning whatever makes sense to you:

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves: who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people will not feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It is not just in some of us; it is in everyone and as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give others permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

In 2014, and beyond, I’ll work out what’s next and TF will shine. Consider yourselves liberated to do the same.

Have yourselves a thoroughly wonderful Christmas and hopeful, happy, New Year.

What’s next?

Wait until the weekend…

Morning Tash Appreciators,

TF isn’t always easy to write, you know. Some weeks the editorial staff have nothing interesting to say and other weeks – usually following a mediocre week – there just isn’t the motivation to get a solid edition done. Those weeks’ editions are generally prefaced with something like: “just a brief TF this week…”.

It seemed like this week’s edition was going to be a short one: I was sitting on a later train than I’d hoped (the one I wanted to get having been cancelled); I was tired; and I couldn’t think of anything interesting to say [*insert joke about never having anything interesting to say*]. Then this man came to my rescue:

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James Murphy, LCD Soundsystem and their anthem “All My Friends” are TF regulars. However, tonight, as I stood on a crowded train in a day-dream, not really listening to what was blaring through my earphones, a blast of synthesisers came forth and I heard Mr Murphy sing, mid-way through the track “Dance Yrself Clean”: “wait until the weekend and we can make our dreams come true.”

And then I remembered – tomorrow is Friday! Things didn’t seem so bad after that. Now, when you’re reading this, it really is Friday, and everyone knows good things happen on Friday.

It is therefore with renewed enthusiasm that I turn to this weeks’ Tashes. I’m delighted to say that I have two superlative offerings from Appreciators.

The first is of a bouncer in a Boston, MA, bar. It was confirmed that, despite it looking too good to be true, this was an authentic Tash. It was also confirmed that, somewhat unusually for our friends across The Pond, Mr Bouncer was also wearing a poppy for Remembrance Day. I believe the correct description of this kind of display – using the “Baastaan” vernacular – is Boston Strong:

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Go Sox.

The other Tash comes from Bristol, the cultural heart of South-West England. Now, I was under the impression that I had a fairly good grasp on TF’s demographic. However, the short message accompanying the photo suggests that TF may have reached non-English speaking countries:
“Here you, ya mad raj! Huv yae seen ma Tash? It’s v-dot-beeeaaauuuut an’ the burds go pure daft fae it!” 
Make of that what you will, but my interpretation is that this chap is pretty delighted with his Tash; as he should be:
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Keep the entries coming folks!

Have a great weekend!


Dance or die

Buenos dias Tash Appreciators,

In a month’s time, a film is coming out called “shut up and play the hits”. I’m telling you about it now so that if any of you hear when I can book tickets then you’ll let me know. If you’re good, I’ll tell you the story of the film later.

For the moment I’ll just say that it’s about a band called LCD Soundsystem but, by virtue of the fact that he’s the heart and soul of the band, it’s really about James Murphy:


LCD Soundsystem were a cracking band with a bunch of good songs and one exceptional anthem. I’ve quoted this one song numerous times in these emails and, most of the time, I carry the core rhythm of it in my head. 

The reason this song is worthy of being the subject of a Tash Friday is because it talks about living life without regrets – “I wouldn’t trade one stupid decision for another five years of life”. However, I love it because it embraces a perfect contradiction: that living life to the full and without regrets will necessarily include risks which won’t always pay off and which you may later regret – “you spend the first five years trying to get with the plan and the next five years trying to be with your friends again”. 

It also talks about the audacity of youth – showing your age by setting “controls for the heart of the sun” – and realising that you’re getting older – “when the kids look impossibly tanned and you think over and over hey I’m already dead”.

You’d think that growing old and having regrets would make for depressing listening but this tune revels in the reality of life and the fact that you can’t win ‘em all. It ends in a crescendo of guitars, drums, bass and piano, and reminds us that “to tell the truth, this could be the last time” (my favourite line and a modern take on carpe diem). Its final message is that everything will be of okay if only you answer one question: “where are your friends tonight?”

This week’s Tash, Yoni Wolf from the band Why?, said that he tries to make music that you can dance or die to:


I don’t think his music quite has that effect on me but I would dance or die to LCD Soundsystem’s “All My Friends” any night of the week. In fact, I hope I die while dancing to it. I just hope that all my friends are on the dance floor with me at the time.  

In the meantime, I fully intend to keep “the engines turned on”; set a course for “the heart of the sun”; use the “memory of my betters to keep me on my feet”; and spend as much time as possible with All My Friends.

Have a fantastic weekend folks. If you don’t know already, ask where your friends are tonight – they want to see you.