Back to basics

Good morning Tash Appreciators,

When Tash Friday first started, it was aimed at finding something that everyone could appreciate. That’s a harder task than you might imagine – we don’t all like the same music; we don’t all like the same food; and we certainly don’t all like the same people. However, the Tash was, and is, different – everyone can appreciate a well-worn Tash.

TF’s theory about why everyone appreciates a Tash is that it’s about class. Not social class but the kind of class that cannot be taught; cannot be bought; and cannot be faked. The men (and, occasionally, women) who can really wear the Tash correctly are generally the ones with real class. There are exceptions, of course, and not all of the people who stand in the great pantheon of Tashes wear one all the time. But when they do, their class shines through. As discerning people, Tash Appreciators understand that quality and, as the name suggests, appreciate it.

In the recent past, examples of that class have included these two:

Matthew McConaughey in Dallas Buyers Club

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True class, or form, as others might put it, isn’t found in the amount of money you make or the clothes you wear. It’s about being yourself, being at ease in your own skin and making those around you feel at ease in theirs. It’s about bringing the best out of others because they have faith in your ability but doing it in a way which empowers them rather than overshadows them. People with class will not stop learning or giving maximum effort in all of their endeavours. They dare greatly and are gracious in both victory and defeat.

This week, I think I’ve found someone with all of those qualities. He’s dedicated to his profession and is not part of the celebrity “scene”, saying in response to questions relating to his private life: “I chose for a long time not to answer these questions because of the manner in which they were asked, and because I was never talking to someone I trusted, so why should I?” Every film, theatre production and television series in which he appears or produces are improved by his input. If anything, he has improved with age. To finish off the package, he manages to pull off the old receding hair-line look!

This week’s Tash was in Se7en, The Usual Suspects, L.A. Confidential, American Beauty and the tremendous Margin Call. He’s been Henry VI, Richard II, Kaiser Soze and (my favourite) Frank Underwood:

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He is probably my favourite actor – Kevin Spacey. He’s also been known to wear a Tash pretty bloomin’ well – there’s nothing this man cannot do:

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Have a great weekend folks!

What’s next?

Shut Up Legs

Good morning Tash Appreciators,

I’ve been making my way through a series of documentaries on the initial training of Navy SEALs this week. The series followed one class from the beginning to the end of their training.

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It turns out that SEAL training, particularly the first three weeks of it, is even more horrific than I had previously imagined. They call the first phase “two weeks and one long day”. The “one long day” refers to the third week of training, also known as Hell Week, where those wanting to become SEALs get up very early on Sunday morning and next go to bed on Friday night.

The purpose behind this torturous form of training turns out not to be a test of physical ability – these guys are already in good shape – it’s to teach them a lesson. The lesson is that their bodies are capable of withstanding more than they think possible and that the only thing holding them back is their mind.

To put the lesson in context, the first two weeks involve a series of “evolutions” which are carried out by boat crews of six. The evolutions range from each boat crew doing exercises while holding very large logs above their heads; to paddling rafts through/over impossibly large waves; to lying in freezing cold water for long periods of time.

Hell Week involves doing all of that for five or six straight days.

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As far as I’m concerned, surviving Hell Week should be impossible. That view is supported by the fact that the vast majority of those who start Hell Week do not make it past day two or three. However, by the third day, you can see that the prospective SEALs have simply stopped thinking about the pain and the fatigue. They no longer think; they simply do. They have gone beyond the mental barrier which in normal circumstances would have caused them to stop and they just get on with it.

In a less hostile environment, something similar happened last night. Jens Voigt, the 43 year old German cyclist, pushed his body to its limit by cycling a staggering 51.115km in one hour. That’s 400m further than the previous record.

I’m quite certain that Jens could have been a SEAL if he’d wanted to be. He’s well known – and incredibly popular – among cycling fans for his no-nonsense approach to riding and his seeming indifference to pain.

For those who haven’t heard of “The Jensie”, he retired last night but all year he’s been racing in a team where he’s been a pro longer than most of his team mates have been alive. But despite his age, the punishing pace which he sets when he’s racing is one that few can keep up with. That’s not because he’s physically in better shape than other riders (he’s clearly not), his ability comes from his mental strength. When his legs are screaming at him to stop, he simply says “shut up legs” and presses on. Seriously.

Not everyone can work at the level of Jens or SEALs – most of us will find that our brains will take over at some point and say “that’s enough”. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t keep taking ourselves to our limits and try to push them just a bit further away. In some cases, even where logic and reason says that something is impossible, we find that it is not. Sometimes glass ceilings can be smashed through and closed doors can be knocked down. I found that notion reassuring this week.

As for the Tash, Jens obviously rocked one:

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and it turns out the SEALs have been enjoying the benefits of a Tash since 1992 at least:

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Have a great weekend folks!

What’s next?


The McConaissance

Good morning Tash Appreciators,

Just a brief edition this week due to the fact that I wasted time contemplating whether it was too much to send a tweet @scotrail wishing a literal plague upon their house (true story – I despise “them”).

Anyway, while I was pondering how one might bring down Scotrail, I got to thinking about what I would do when I finally got home. I decided that my treat to myself would be an episode of a TV programme which I’ve slowly been watching – It’s the small things in life.

That, in turn, got me to thinking about one of the stars of the show and his marked rise to critical acclaim in the last few years. “Maybe he had to put up with the horrors of a monopolised public (but privately run) transport system too”, I thought.

I couldn’t find anything to suggest that this chap had ever been on a Scotfail train but I did find a marked pattern in his career which gave me encouragement. His career trajectory was essentially as follows:

  1. 10 years in TV shows, adverts and music videos.
  2. 10 years in romantic comedies; almost exclusively sans shirt. He became known by one leading critic as having the surname Mahogany on account of his perma-tan. He wasn’t thought to be much of an actor but I understand he was a hit with the ladies. I’ve no idea why.
  3. Tash Friday 5:9:14The current status of his career is that of a critically acclaimed Academy Award winning actor. He does TV these days because he’s able to explore the character in more depth but he’s also due to appear in Chris Nolan’s next blockbuster – Interstellar, which looks cracking, by-the-way.

The chap I’m talking about is Matthew McConaughey and the TV programme to which I am treating myself tonight is True Detective – both he and it are tremendous.

Interestingly, his change in fortune was not luck – it was planned. He knew what he wanted to stop doing and what he wanted to do instead, so he did. I suppose that if Matthew McConaughey was having to put up with Scotrail then he would just stop taking their trains. Maybe I should do that too…

To the Tash. In his Oscar-winning role (in Dallas Buyers Club), McConaughey played a guy suffering with HIV. The role required dramatic weight loss and he was regularly in the papers because of his painfully thin frame. I could point out that he had to go through tremendous physical and emotional stress to play the role and that there was a point to be taken from that, but that would be too obvious. All I have to say is that the weight loss was barely noticeable because of the splendid Tash which he was toting:

Matthew McConaughey in Dallas Buyers Club

As far as I’m concerned, that Tash, not the Oscar, marked the completion of the McConaissance.

Have a great weekend folks!

What’s next?

Waiting ain’t no game

Good morning Tash Appreciators,

I was reading this week about how in 2012 callers spent the equivalent of 760 years on hold to Government telephone help lines. That’s a lot of waiting. I read some other facts about waiting too:

  • British people spend around 6 months of their lives waiting in queues;
  • We each generally spend 62 minutes per day waiting for one thing or another; and
  • We each spend 653 hours of our life waiting for trains. Anyone who has endured Scotrail’s diabolical service can testify to that.

These figures are almost certainly utter nonsense. Are thousands of people asked to measure how long they spend doing things for their whole lives and then an average is taken? I think not. The point from my perspective is that looking up these fatuous facts has killed ten minutes; ten minutes I would otherwise have spent waiting.

As I write this week’s TF, I’ve been waiting for in excess of 60 hours. By the time you’re reading this, that number could have increased to around 120 hours. It’s an email I’m waiting for – just an email. I don’t care if it’s in the ASCII medium usually associated with the early incarnation of electronic mail or if it arrives via the process standardised in the Internet Engineering Task Force’s RFC 2045 to 2049 – yes, I’ve got the stage where I’m looking at exactly what an email is to distract myself – all I care is that I get the email; preferably within the next five seconds.

Some of you will say that patience is a virtue. If you feel it necessary to make an incredibly helpful comment such as that, I refer you to the work of Aurelius Clemens Prudentius, the chap who set out the seven heavenly virtues (I looked that up too!), and ask whether you can lay claim to having the virtues of chastity, temperance, charity, diligence, kindness or humility. If you’re missing any of them, feel free to run along, lock yourself in your greenhouse and leave me to my torment.

Having made my point about waiting being roughly equivalent to the removal of finger nails with a rusty pair of pliers, let’s move on to this week’s Tash. I got to thinking about people who no-one in their right mind would keep meeting; the kind of person even an automated answering service would know not to trifle with. The person I immediately thought of has a reputation as being Britain’s most dangerous prisoner and happens to have an absolutely cracking Tash. This week’s Tash is Michael Gordon Peterson:

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You may know him better as “Bronson”, as played by Tom Hardy:

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Have a great weekend folks!

What’s next?

P.S. The email came in – it was worth the wait.

Words and ideas.

Good morning Tash Appreciators,

The human body is a strange thing. It’s capable of incredible ingenuity, creativity, feats of strength and endurance. It can experience love, hate and everything in between.

However, the problem with a complicated machine, like the human body, is that a tiny change in it’s structure can throw the whole thing off-kilter. A change in the chemicals fizzing around the brain or an experience which hasn’t been comprehended in a healthy way can have catastrophic consequences. It can get to the stage where it cannot fix itself and, for want of a better phrase, it self-destructs.

The seemingly randomness of how the human body can react is only too evident in the case of Robin Williams – it brought one of the funniest men on the planet to the point where he couldn’t bear to live through another day. All of the goodwill in the world couldn’t save him from his own body.

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I thought long and hard about what I wanted to say about this. I thought about tearing into those who called him selfish, but I realised that very few people think like that these days. I thought I’d look at the statistics and bemoan that more can’t be done to help those suffering from mental illness, but after a bit of reading I found that dozens of organisations are already doing formidable work in this area and it seemed wrong to criticise their efforts.

To find something constructive to add, I looked to the man himself. He said this:

“No matter what people tell you, words and ideas can change the world.”

If words and ideas can ever change the world, it’s in the field of mental health.

Someone with a mental illness, particularly someone suffering from depression, relies on words and ideas to get them through. Those words and ideas often don’t come from within. Instead, they have to come from someone else. Often, the person who is suffering is blinded by a seemingly never-ending fog which clouds their brain and hides all that is good in their life. As a result, the only person who can guide them safely through is a friend or family member who has noticed that something is wrong.

If you were affected by Robin Williams death; if you thought it was a tragedy for someone who brought so much joy to others to feel like they had no option but to take their own life, remember that the chances are that someone around you is feeling the same way today.

If the idea strikes you that someone might be suffering from mental illness, find the words to take action – doing so might be the way in which you can make a really positive difference to someone else’s life.

What’s next?

The Phantom Punch

Good Morning Tash Appreciators,

Operation Zorro activities have kept me busy this week and so this edition of TF will be a brief one. Luckily, this week’s topic is an event which was over in the blink of an eye. In fact, it happened so fast that many people in the audience didn’t believe it happened at all.

I wonder how many of you are familiar with this week’s Tash, Sonny Liston:

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I suspect that his face is not familiar to many of you. In 1962, Clay became the heavyweight champion of the world and was thought to have unrivalled punching power and toughness.

However, in 1964, he came up against a young man with a relatively modest 7-1 record by the name of Cassius Clay. Clay, who would later change his name to Mohammed Ali, was the underdog but by the end of the 6th round he had put Liston under so much pressure that he sat on the stool in his corner, said “that’s it”, spat out his mouthguard and ended the fight.

In 1965, the two men fought again. This time, Liston was knocked out after 1 minute and 44 seconds of the very first round. I suspect you might be more familiar with this picture of Liston lying on his back:

Muhammad Ali vs Sonny Liston, 1965 World Heavyweight Title

The punch which floored Liston came from nowhere. Ali called it the Phantom Punch. Some of the crowd didn’t see the punch being thrown at all and there was speculation that the fight had been fixed.

Whatever happened that night, that moment, 104 seconds into a world championship fight, shows how quickly a person’s life can change. Liston’s reputation from that moment onwards was ruined; while it marked the beginning of Ali’s journey to the almost legendary status he enjoys today. It also changed the life of the person who took the photo – Neil Leifer. The image that he captured in that split second is one of the most iconic in sport – I reckon most, if not all of you, have seen it before.

I guess TF’s message this week is that things can change almost instantaneously and without warning. That can be for better or worse but I wonder if there’s also something about being in the right shape (mentally and physically) to make things change in your favour. On one view, Liston was already beaten when he sat down in his corner during the first fight and called it quits; Ali was definitely the younger and hungrier of the two; and, while Neil Leifer was perhaps lucky in that he was in the right place at the right time, he took his chance.

Have a great weekend folks!

What’s next?

At the Copa Copacabana

Good morning Tash Appreciators,

My enjoyment of the Daily Mail Online got the better of me this week as I’ve been following the ongoing “beef” between Orlando Bloom and Justin Bieber.

For those of you who aren’t following this scrap – hopefully none of you are – Bieber is alleged to have gone on a date with Bloom’s ex-wife and Bloom isn’t chuffed about it.

The two men (I use that term very loosely in this context) met in an Ibizan club, at which point Bieber apparently made an inflammatory remark and Bloom threw a punch. I imagine it was like the Barry Manilow song “Copacabana”:

“And then the punches flew and chairs were smashed in two;

there was blood and a single gunshot; 

but just who shot who!?”

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Unfortunately – this being a celebrity fight – no punches connected, no chairs were smashed and, unfortunately, both men lived to tweet another day.

I was conflicted about who to support  in this spat. On the one hand, Bieber is clearly very irritating. I’m forced to see his smirking face every time I check The Mail Online. However, Bloom behaved badly on several levels (a) he shouldn’t bother with Bieber; but (b) if he does feel the need to engage with Bieber, he should definitely have battered him, rather than swinging and missing – that’s just embarrassing.

If any of you are having a similar problem regarding who to support – again, I hope this doesn’t apply to any of you and that you have better things to think about – this photo should put the matter to bed:

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You may not be able to see it but the caption underneath the photo reads: “sunburnt and mustache”. The fact he thinks that scraggly mess is a Tash says it all – he’s lost any grip he ever had on reality.

Bieber cannot possibly be this week’s Tash and a counter point to his disgraceful attempt is required. If Bieber took the ex-wife of this week’s Tash on a date, I think we can all rest assured that a punch would fly; Bieber would be thrown to the floor (hopefully smashing a chair into two in the process); and no gunshot would be required. This weeks Tash is The Dancing Destroyer, The King of Sting, The Count of Monte Fisto, The Prince of Punch, The Master of Disaster, The One and Only Apollo Creed!

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Have a great weekend folks! That is, unless you’re reading this, Bieber – I hope you have a shocker you absolute roaster.

What’s next?

The rhythm of my heart is beating like a drum

Good morning Tash Appreciators,

With so many readers in Scotland, this week’s TF could only have one subject: The Commonwealth Games.

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Many of you will have reservations about the games because of the historical context, the sporting context and the cost. However, it’s sunny, the Games are here, and it seems wise to make the best of them. If nothing else, the Games really seem to be letting Glasgow flourish and it’s worth enjoying the atmosphere, bars and restaurants all around town, even if the sport isn’t for you.

The talk of the town so far has been the opening ceremony. The majority opinion seems to be muted contentment, with only a bit of criticism from some in relation to the opening “tour” around Scotland by John Barrowman and Karen Dunbar.

One highlight for me was that the volunteers brought in chairs for the athletes after they did their dance routine. If the commentary is to be believed, the inspiration for that came from an experience which one of the show’s director’s had at a Scottish wedding. Apparently, there was a shortage of seats at the wedding reception but the local folk saved the day by going home and bringing their own chairs back for the guests.

I have no difficulty in believing that, after I attended a wedding in a remote location near Inverness a couple of months back.  The locals insisted in giving the visitors lifts back to their respective hotels and cottages. They didn’t expect anything back in return – they just wouldn’t have had it any other way.

The fact is that the real character of Scots can’t be found in the caricature portrayed by John Barrowman. It’s in the small acts of kindness and hospitality that we tend to do for visitors. We saw our true character in the volunteers who danced and welcomed the athletes on Wednesday night. We will also see it during the next two weeks as the same volunteers keep the Games going by giving visitors directions, officiating and generally doing long hours for no pay just to support a worthy endeavour.

Given all of that, this week’s Tashes must be people involved in the Games.

The first is Prince Imran, the President of the Commonwealth Games Federation, who was unlucky enough to be the person tasked with opening the Queen’s Baton. I have to say that if I’d been Prince Imran, and I couldn’t get the Baton open, I’d be telling the Queen to open her own Baton. However, he’s clearly a more patient man than I and he dealt with the problem with a smile and the help of Sir Chris hoy. It was fitting really, after all, how many times has a Scottish sports team failed to carry out a simple task even after plenty of practise?

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The second Tash can only be Billy Connelly. Surely Glasgow’s favourite son, he has all of the characteristics required to become one of TF’s all-time favourites: wit, grit, intelligence and a charitable streak. Pure class:

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I doubt the Big Yin would be cynical about the Games, I reckon he’d just get stuck in and enjoy it. I hope you get the chance to do the same.

Have a great weekend folks!

What’s next?

Todo debe pasar

Good morning Tash Appreciators,

This week has been a struggle at TF HQ. Cases of chronic post-holiday-blues have been reported in all departments following an exceptionally successful visit to California:


I daresay that post-holiday-blues is a condition affecting many of us at this time of year. Fear not though, TF is here to ease your pain.

When you start working for TF, you accept that you are never off duty. I therefore took notes of quotes or places that I thought might be relevant to future editions even while I was away. The title of today’s TF – “todo debe pasar” – was one of the notes I took. I think it was quoted by one of the characters in The Jersey Boys (the stage show) as something his mother used to say.

In English, that phrase means “all things must pass”, which is apparently a slight variation on a verse from the Bible:

And ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars: see that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet.

Although TF definitely doesn’t subscribe to any particular faith, this passage seems fairly uncontroversial. I may not be a theologian, I think it’s basically saying that “stuff happens, but it’s not the end of the world”.

I think that’s useful to bear in mind in times where it seems that everything we were looking forward to, or hoping for, has passed us by. It also suggests that we should enjoy the good times as we have them, as they will surely pass in the same way as the bad times.

So go on holiday and enjoy it – it will be over before you know it. Alternatively, if you’ve been away and are suffering as a result of being back, don’t worry – it’ll pass. I recommend asking yourself the age-old question “what’s next?” and making a plan to give yourself something to look forward to.

All that remains is for me to leave you with a Tash. Despite the fact that his attire isn’t really breakfast-time appropriate, I wish I’d thought to look up this week’s Tash when I was struggling out of bed on Monday. I give you Mr Motivator!

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If you’re really struggling, you could always try some of the exercises mentioned in Mr Motivator’s music video…

Have a great weekend folks!

What’s next?

…You’ve seen it all

Good morning Tash Appreciators,

In this finale of another season of TF, I’ve decided to let you into a trade secret: not every edition of TF is a spontaneous reaction to the events of the preceding week. To supplement weekly events, TF HQ holds a stockpile of quotes, thoughts, questions, names and lyrics which can be drawn upon as and when required.

For as long as I can remember, the name of that stockpile has been a line from The Secret Machines’ “Lightning Blue Eyes”. I’ve always enjoyed the line and I find it helpful to be reminded of it when I’m struggling for inspiration.

The first part of the line was the headline for last week’s edition: “In your dreams…” As you might recall, I said that there were two ways of saying those three words: in a sarcastic or scathing way or in some other way which I would explain this week.

The second half of the line provides the context which allows us to correctly interpret the first: “In your dreams you’ve seen it all”.

Here at TF, saying “in your dreams” is not a reproach – it’s a direction. Dreams are the brain’s way of processing and rationalising what we have experienced while we are awake. They show our deepest fears and ambitions. In a real sense we have seen all of ourselves in our dreams. Therefore, if you want inspiration, your dreams aren’t such a bad place to start.

This time next week, the editorial team of TF will be visiting the organisation’s spiritual home – Moonstone Beach, California. You may have seen it before if you took a look at the photo at the top of the website:


Above the beach is a hill and, on top of that hill, there is now a castle. The hill was once the favourite spot of a young man called William Randolph Hearst, who used to make a point of riding out there to enjoy the hill’s view of the sparkling Pacific Ocean. It turned out that the hill was more than just a hill to this young man – he called it La Cuesta Encantada. He was so enchanted by the hill that he dreamt of building a castle on it’s summit. Years later, when ownership of the hill passed to him, the dream started to become a reality. It now looks like this:

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I’ve spent a long time wondering why I don’t have the drive to do a particular job in the same way as many of you. I wondered whether I might be money-centric (not that I’m rolling in it now) or whether I just had a dull character. Thinking about Hearst caused me to change my mind.

Hearst didn’t spend all his time at his castle – he was a media mogul and so couldn’t be in such a relatively remote location for too long. He went there because he was passionate about the place. I daresay he dreamt about it.

I’m passionate about that part of the world too – I feel utterly content when I’m there. I find myself day-dreaming about it a lot while on the train. Maybe, my dream is to be able to regularly carve out time when I can feel like I do when I’m there. Maybe I’m the kind of person who doesn’t find satisfaction through an occupation but is searching for something less tangible than that. Maybe that’s why I became involved with TF.

Anyway, I shall leave you with the words of Mark Twain – a Tash I have been saving for a special occasion:

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”

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Have a great couple of weekend folks!

What is NEXT?


An eagle eyed member of TF’s London office spied this in Thursday’s Metro. Hope you win the tournament, Fred!

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