8 May 2015

Good morning Tash Appreciators,

How about that election, eh? I was really disappointed/pleased that [insert name] won/lost. I voted but the campaigns were so annoying that I’d be lying if I said there weren’t times when I felt like saying:

Tash Friday 8:5:15

Rather than boring you with election chat, I’d like to talk briefly about something which is hopefully a bit more interesting to everyone: holidays. With spring upon us (seriously, I know it doesn’t feel like it, but it is), it’s time to start looking ahead towards summer and the prospect of some time away.

I know that one Tash Appreciator was waiting until today – 8 May 2015 (I warned you I’d remember) – to even contemplate a holiday. When we spoke about it, he claimed that he didn’t know whether he’d be able to get away and he made the whole thing sound like a bit of a chore.

At the risk of being blunt, this chap is a numpty.

Tash Friday 8:5:15 4

A holiday is absolutely essential – even the Daily Mail says it’s good for you! I won’t dig deeper into the benefits of a holiday – they are obvious – but I will look at the only question which I think is relevant: do you go somewhere just to get away or do you set the bar higher than that?

When the numpty was spouting his nonsense about not having time to get away, there were three of us talking about holidays: me, the numpty and a third pal. The third pal and I were reminiscing about an excellent trip that a bunch of us went on a few years ago. The numpty wasn’t reminiscing because he turned down the invite to come with us. Anyway, the third pal said: “isn’t it about time we made some new memories rather than talking about old trips?”

I couldn’t agree with him more. On that basis, the answer to the question about how high to set the bar is that you set it as high as your budget and time will possibly allow. Go somewhere far away; where there aren’t “British” pubs and you can’t get Eastenders on the telly; go somewhere you’ve always wanted to go and see the things you’ve always wanted to see.

To the numpty (and anyone else who’s swithering about getting away this summer): consider the gauntlet thrown. Get yourself online and get something booked as soon as you possibly can. When it gets to October, you’ll regret it if you haven’t been away. Hell, come with me or meet me there – I’m away from 21 July to 5 August.

As if the prospect of time off work and relaxation wasn’t enough, going on holiday gives you the opportunity to live like Tom Selleck: you too could lie on a hammock; with a terrible shirt; drinking cocktails out of a pineapple with pink flowers decorating it.

Tash Friday 8:5:15 3

Don’t worry ladies, you can get in on the action too. I found this delightful number on Amazon for a mere $12!

Tash Friday 8:5:15 2

Have a great weekend folks!

What’s next?

Advertisements

Money talks

Good morning Tash Appreciators,

In 2002, a man from Grand Rapids, Michigan, was given a six-month suspended sentence; two days of house arrest; and ordered to undertake 48 hours of community service following his conviction for two counts of domestic violence and one count of battery.

In 2004, he was convicted of two counts of battery against women; was given a one-year suspended sentence; counselling; and either a $1,000 fine or 100 hours of community service.

In 2010, he was again found guilty of domestic violence. This time, he was sentenced to 90 days in prison; 100 hours of community service; and a $2,500 fine

Tomorrow, the same man will make a minimum of $180m for a maximum of 36 minutes’ work.

Tash Friday 1:5:15

Disturbingly, it seems that all of Floyd Mayweather Jnr’s illegal acts of violence against women are nought compared to the 47 times he’s entered a professional boxing ring and left victorious. I’m sure this appalling turn of events has everything to do with television companies supporting the rehabilitation of convicted criminals rather than it being purely about the vast amounts of money which people will pay to watch the fight.

Apart from his character as a man, I also question Mayweather’s claim that he’s the greatest pound-for-pound boxer of all time. His argument seems to be that he is the greatest because he’s won all 47 of his professional fights.

Boxing is strange in that way: it’s basically one massive game of “winner stays on”. Mayweather is the boxing equivalent of a 38-year-old student (who’s been a student since they were 17) in the Uni Union who claims to be a world-class pool player just because they’ve beaten every punter that’s had the audacity to play them. You know the guy I mean, he brings his own cue and refuses to let you play against your pals.

Mayweather has avoided Manny Pacquiao (his opponent on Saturday) for so long that you have to assume he’s only fighting him now because he’s sure he’ll win.

Speaking of Pacquiao – who’s this week’s Tash, by the way – apart from an issue about not paying his taxes, he’s much more my type of guy: he’s fought everyone (he’s had 57 fights compared to Mayweather’s 47); has lost five times; come back from each defeat; and even been elected twice to the Philippine House of Representatives.

I really hope that Mayweather catches a glimpse of the following image a split second before finding himself flat on his back looking up at the lights in the MGM Grand Garden Arena.

Tash Friday 1:5:15 2

As it happens, the big fight in Vegas isn’t the only Battle Royale taking place this weekend. I’m due to enjoy a “sociable” bike ride up some stupidly unpleasant stretches of road in horrible weather on Saturday. The trash talk for this race has been raging for weeks and we’ll see who comes out on top. I suspect no-one will leave with their dignity intact. Perhaps more about that next week.

Anyway, whether you’re staying up until 4am on Sunday morning to watch Mayweather get clobbered, or just taking it easy, have a great weekend folks!

What’s next?

Aged 30…

Good morning Tash Appreciators,

A couple of nights ago, I suddenly had a hankering to hear a song that I hadn’t thought about for years: “I still haven’t found what I’m looking for” by U2. I can hear the hipsters tutting already but, like T. Swift says: haters gonna hate hate hate.

It’s normal for TF to be written during the course of a commute but that’s traditionally been on trains. This week is slightly different in that I’m typing away while sitting in a cramped window seat on a Bombardier Q400, somewhere over the Irish Sea. It’s a clear spring evening outside and the sun is just dipping below the horizon.

Tash Friday 24:4:15

After take off – when I was allowed to put my earphones back in – I put my new tune on. I’ve listened to it a couple of times now and I’ve reached the conclusion that Bono isn’t looking for something which can be found just by looking for it (like a set of keys). I think the lines about “climbing the highest mountains” and “scaling city walls” are about looking for something intangible.

I know what he means – as I’m sure many of you do. We spend a lot of our time looking for things which, no matter how hard we look, we may never find – things that have to find us, so to speak. That can be religion, a career, the ideal home – anything.

At the moment, I am looking for a home. Not that I don’t have a home, you understand; I’m just looking for a new one. I’ve been telling people that there’s nothing out there and I’ve jokingly said I’m giving up the search. However, watching the sea, sunset and blue sky outside I’m reminded that there is a place out there which feels like home but which cannot be found in Scotland. Maybe I found what I was looking for a long time ago and that’s why nothing I’m seeing now seems quite right.

So where does that leave me? Because the captain has just said it’s 10 minutes until we land and I need to wrap this up before I’m told to put my phone away.

I’m reminded of a line I heard recently when I was watching a documentary about a media mogul who’s empire was at its height in the 1930s – William Randolph Hearst. The film starts with William’s father (George) working away on a small mine, trying to make his fortune.  Ultimately, George decides to  gather his possessions and leave the place of his birth. The narrator says: “aged 30, he went to California.”

Tash Friday 24:4:15 3

I’m beginning to think that Operation Zorro needs to look further than one year ahead. Unlike Bono, I might have found that intangible thing which has sparked something in my soul. Maybe that’s why I spend an inordinate amount of time watching  planes flying west and wondering whether they’re going to San Francisco. Maybe one day…

It’s not really a Tash but a big dream deserves a large amount of facial hair. Thanks for the inspiration, George Hearst:

Tash Friday 24:4:15 2

Have a great weekend folks.

As ever, I ask you: what’s next?

Trust Your Power

Good morning Tash Appreciators,

This week marks the beginning of what will hopefully be the return to normal service of TF. I say “hope” as editions may not appear every week but it wouldn’t be TF if we didn’t at least give it a go. You know, daring greatly and all that.

I wonder if any of you know who this chap is:

Tash Friday 20:3:15 3

His name is Derrick Coleman – he won the Superbowl with the Seattle Seahawks last year.

What’s interesting about Mr Coleman isn’t that he won the Superbowl (loads of folk have done that) but that he’s been deaf since he was three years old. That’s a problem in a sport where a key part of the game is hearing and implementing a particular play. If you’ve ever seen an NFL game, you’ll have seen the coaches giving instructions from the sidelines and plays being called on the field.

You’d think that a deaf person would find it difficult to play football at any level; let alone in the NFL. You’d be right. Derrick Coleman was told from the beginning that he couldn’t play. Even after he’d played in college, NFL teams didn’t think he had what it took and none of them picked him in the 2012 NFL Draft.

Looking back on those who said he’d never play in the NFL, Coleman said: “I’ve been deaf since I was three, so I didn’t listen.”

He was in an excellent series of Duracell adverts called “Trust Your Power”. It’s worth a watch:

I like that phrase: “trust your power”. I like it even more when you add “it’ll take you anywhere you want to go”. I take it to mean that if you back yourself and your own ability to get where you want to be; you’ll get there. The other point is that if you don’t trust your own power, and your own ability, no-one else will.

The other interesting point about Derrick Coleman, at least from my perspective, is that he’s almost exactly the same age as my younger (but bigger) brother.

Unlike Derrick Coleman, my brother isn’t deaf. He doesn’t have a Superbowl winner’s ring either. However, he has recently beaten very daunting odds by trusting his own ability and persevering when others would have either given up or compromised. His achievement is testament to the fact that hard work will take you literally anywhere you want to go.

There is one further similarity between my brother and Derrick Coleman in that most of us would love to work in their offices. Coleman’s office is a stadium but my brother’s office will look like this:

Tash Friday 20:3:15

Congrats, pal – you deserve it.

All that remains is to roll out this week’s Tash.

He did a different type of flying but, who knows, maybe the Wee Man will do a bit of flight instruction when, sometime in the distant future, he packs in the jet-set lifestyle. This week’s Tash is Tom Skerritt, aka Mike “Viper” Metcalf from Top Gun.

Tash Friday 20:3:15 4

Have a great weekend folks!

What’s next?

It’s not about space

Good morning Tash Appreciators,

Alas, this week’s edition does not mark TF’s return to normal service. Hopefully that will come in the New Year. Until then, consider this a Christmas card.

My birthday was a few weeks ago and my brother gave me the exceptional present of a book containing pretty much every TF that has ever been written, all the way back to April 2011. It’s a great thing to have and I’ve been showing it off to anyone who swings by TF HQ:

Tash Friday 19:12:14

Apparently, when my brother took the book to be bound, the woman in the shop asked “you mean he’s written 66,000 words about moustaches?” Putting it that way, the whole thing does sound ridiculous. However, as I trust has become clear over the last three years, TF isn’t really about Tashes at all.

Around the same time as my birthday, I had the pleasure of seeing Interstellar. The IMDB synopsis for Interstellar reads: “a team of explorers travel through a wormhole in an attempt to ensure humanity’s survival”. There’s so much more to it than that. It’s a film which can easily be spoiled by a mis-placed comment but describing it as being about “a father’s desire to get home to his children”; or “a documentary on physics and interplanetary travel” would be equally accurate and equally mis-leading at the same time.

Even though it doesn’t involve space or wormholes or fifth dimensions, this picture sums up Interstellar for me:

Tash friday 19:12:14 5

Similarly, the traditional meaning of Christmas bears very little resemblance to the commercial behemoth which we are all experiencing at the moment. For many of us, it means time off work; a few decent nights out; food; presents; and stress (?) rather than a celebration of the birth of Christ.

In the same way that TF isn’t about Tashes; Interstellar isn’t about space; and Christmas isn’t (for most of us) about religion, life isn’t just about the simple exercises which make up our daily existence. It’s about so much more than that, isn’t it?

Unlike editions of TF, films and even Christmases, we can’t look back on life after it’s finished and work out what it was really all about. By the time we get to that stage, it’s too late to do anything about focussing on what is actually important. However, I wonder whether one way of taking stock and evaluating priorities is to think back on the memories that we cherish the most. If we have plenty of memories that we look back on fondly, we must be doing something right,

It’s for that reason that I’m not really giving my normal array of (outstanding) presents this Christmas. Instead, where finances allow, I’m giving envelopes. Inside the envelopes will either be tickets, or the means to buy tickets, to some kind of experience which I think/hope the recipient will remember for a long time. I’ll perhaps do another TF in the New Year on whether folk prefer getting envelopes to something which they can unwrap…

Speaking of presents, this week’s Tash was particularly pleased when I emailed him with my wish-list and mentioned that he would be featuring the end-of-year TF:

Tash 19:12:14 4

I wish you and yours a Merry Christmas and a memorable 2015!

As ever,

What’s next?

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.

Tash Friday 31:10:14 3

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.

Tash Friday 31:10:14 2

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:

Tash 31:10:14

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?

If you’re worried about the weather then you picked the wrong place to stay.

Good morning Tash Appreciators,

When we’re young – let’s say between the ages of 15 and 18 – we’re asked what we want to be when we grow up. We’re usually then told to take that notion and pursue it for the rest of our lives on the basis that we’re following our dreams by doing so.

I can see the logic of that in some respects. After all, when we’re young we tend not to be encumbered with cynicism or, put another way, a sense of reality. I used to be very interested in the idea of pipe dreams and whether it was naive to pursue them. I ended up spending a few months putting that to the test.

The evidence I found suggested that pipe dreams weren’t pipe dreams at all – they were just aspirations that we hadn’t quite reached yet. I found that we tend to be limited by barriers of our own making rather than impossibility.

Tash Friday 24:10:14

On that basis, I could tell you that if you want something badly enough then you can achieve it. I could go on to say that if you find something impossible then you’re simply not working hard enough.

But that’s not life, is it – it’s not that simple.

I’m not persuaded that the aspirations we have when we’re 15 or 18 become impossible in later life. Maybe we realise that we have developed different aspirations as we get older. We might say that our old aspirations have become impossible as a way of getting ourselves off the hook for not pursuing our childhood dream.

Even that’s too simple though. Sometimes, we do everything possible to achieve what we want and we still don’t manage to get where we want to be. I don’t have any explanation for that other than the truism that life isn’t fair.

It doesn’t seem satisfactory for TF to simply say that life isn’t fair and that sometimes we won’t achieve what we want. This week’s Tash, Friedrich Nietzsche, said:

“Battle not with monsters, lest ye become a monster, and if you gaze into the abyss, the abyss gazes also into you.”

Tash Friday 24:10:14 2

In the same way that we shouldn’t wait for something to happen before we engage with life, we also shouldn’t let something which has happened hold us back. Our lives do not stop the moment that something unfair happens or when we don’t reach a goal which we set ourselves. Life carries on regardless.

If we spend too much time gazing into an abyss of disappointment or wrestling with the inner monsters which tell us that we have failed, then we risk being overcome by disappointment or a sense of failure. The only answer is to not dwell for too long on perceived failure or disappointment and to press on with whatever comes next.

It’s also worth remembering, in the same way that what we wanted when we were 18 might not be what we want now, that our aspirations will continue to change and there will be another target at which we can aim and gain satisfaction. As we talked about last week, life is full of pivotal moments and we have to pivot with them. We may not always perceive what life throws at us as being “fair” but we can choose how we react and whether we move forward.

The difficulty which so many of us find is in freeing ourselves from our inner monsters and avoiding the gaze of the abyss. I’ll offer a view on that in Part 3.

Have a great weekend folks!

What’s next?