Category Archives: Random

Father and Daughter Cycling British Coast to Raise £10k for Charity

I love everything about what this family are doing; awesome concept, awesome cause, any donations are much appreciated…

roundtheedge

Holfold (nr Bridgwater) – Ilfracombe

48.55 miles

5810 feet climbed

2998 calories burnt

Total cumulative miles cycled = 2,659.65 miles

As I woke this morning, I tentatively tensed my quads to see whether there was any residual pain left from yesterday’s problems. I was pleasantly surprised and it was just a bit of tenderness in my neck on the right hand side.

It was nice staying in Moorhouse Campsite, as opposed to the usual lay-by, as we had full use of their facilities meaning we could shower and wash in something bigger than a postage stamp.  The Motorhome is absolutely fantastic and definitely fit for purpose, but after yesterdays tiring day, it was nice to have a little luxury!

Over breakfast, Dad and I decided to cycle across to Lynmouth for lunch, around 30 miles. The weather with us, as with the rest of the country is not doing too…

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Lovely Lovely

The way is not in the sky.

The way is in the heart.

Buddha

Yellena James Art

Thousands of candles can be lighted from a single candle, and the life of the candle will not be shortened.

Happiness never decreases by being shared. 

Buddha

Yellena James Art

We are shaped by our thoughts; we become what we think.

When the mind is pure, joy follows like a shadow that never leaves.

Buddha

Yellena James Art

The whole secret of existence is to have no fear.

Never fear what will become of you, depend on no one.

Only the moment you reject all help are you freed.

Buddha

I appreciate I’m in danger of incurring the wrath of the Trade Descriptions Act with the abundance of visual posts as opposed to literary masterpieces but I think these beautiful drawings by the insanely talented Yellena James are too pretty not to share…

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Hillsborough; Who Will Guard the Guards?

The recent events of the Hillsborough inquiry – more about this later – have lead me to the conclusion that philosophy, like Burger King and the music of George Harrison, is – in my not-so-humble opinion – criminally undervalued.

SUPERIOR.

Why?

Because the study, dating back several millenia, helped to form the basis of all rational thought, classification of knowledge and establishment of education for humanity.

Rather important then.

World peace and philosophy for all.

All very noble sounding – but what exactly is philosophy? And what place does it have in modern society?

Stripped bare, I suppose you could call it speculation; the asking of questions to create opinions and ideas, as a way of seeking the truth.

Nearing my tenth year of trying to read all 842 pages. Would make a wonderful murder weapon.

Debate continues as to whether philosophy is an outmoded concept with any place in today’s world.

Through various guises; it’s very much alive and and visibly weaved through the very structures of contemporary and popular society.

Marxist philosophy relates to capitalism; perhaps the most significant catalyst for all human activity in modern age, the pursuit of material wealth.

Law has it’s very foundations rooted in ancient philosophy, the definition of ethics and morality stem from early debate in  ancient Greek and Roman times and the justice system is built upon the subsequent ideals. For wrong or right, it’s intentions are simple and based on the execution of the principles of fairness.

This week, the U.K finally saw the disturbing discoveries of an inquiry into the tragic events at Hillsborough in 1989; for anyone unaware of the situation;

On 15 April 1989, at the start of an FA Cup semi-final, a crush on the steel-fenced terraces of Sheffield Wednesday’s stadium resulted in the death of 96 Liverpool fans and left hundreds more injured.

The key findings of the report essentially established a number of injustices and unveiled a conspiratorial veneer, lasting nearly a quarter of a century, finally shattered, leaving a trail of destruction in it’s wake.

While the findings were unquestionably welcomed as progress for all affected by the tragedy, the natural evolution into angry questions being asked and accusatory fingers being pointed begs the question; as relevant now, as twenty three years ago, as when initially conceived as a Platonic concept; Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? Who will guard the guards?

Essentially, in a hierarchial society, order is established by the categorising of its citizens. At the top, we place guards, given the responsibility to oversee the safety and security of the society, ensuring it’s inhabitants are lawabiding and avoiding chaos.

Only what happens, when the guards themselves do not follow the laws, when their actions – intentional or not – instigate the chaos? When those who we look to for protection are the very ones causing us the harm?

In the Hillsborough case specifically, there were several factors to take into consideration when examining the behaviour of the police officers involved, not least the fact that many experienced post-traumatic stress as a result of the horrors that they witnessed that day

If the inclination to follow the in-built moral compass; the natural urge to do what is right and just – were to clash with the instinct for selfpreservation; blindly following the orders of superiors for fear of reprisals – a decision between fulfilling the given role of  guardian versus application of rational self-interest would have to be made. So, theoretically; the ethics of the guards themselves – if subject to any kind of discipline for actively embodying the required characteristics of their positions – would be compromised.

The philosophical concept – and question – of the guards requiring guarding seems to have found some kind of answer through the implementation of independent panels.

A collection of non-biased individuals who essentially police the police –  but who guards them? Are these organisations immune to the temptations of corruption; bribery and preferential treatment? Intimidation tactics?

It would seem the latest findings support the impartiality of the inquiry conducted and it’s believed that the deception uncovered could lead to criminal proceedings.

So will the guards being guarded by the people lead to a safer and more just society for the people being guarded by the guards?

What of the safety of the guards themselves?

The tragic murder of two Manchester police-women earlier this week bore witness to the vulnerability and bravery of those who, for the purest of reasons, choose to dedicate their lives to the preservation of public security and justice.

The legacy left by Hillsborough, unfortunately, casts a shadow over an organisation that, in actuality, is composed almost entirely of honest, well intentioned people.

In the same respect that human nature is more complex than simply right or wrong – the actions of those involved in the incident go deeper than being defined as ‘good’ or ‘bad’ – though even the most morally reprehensible would have to agree that police corruption; from the bottom rung to the top food-chain, poisons any hope of a just democratic society.

At last, as the families of the ninety six killed begin the final leg of their epic journey to gain a sense of closure, it seems the holding up of  hands indicates that justice – a long time coming, could soon be on the way…

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Water off a ducks…

Just for a moment, indulge in the opportunity to imagine the infinitely blissed out benefits of being able to maintain your positive mind frame in pretty much any scenario. Exhibiting a quiet strength and dignity amid a sea of chaos. Keeping your cool. Leaving the ruffled feathers on the headless chickens, as it were.

Entirely possible.

Brain training isn’t just the game that jolly old people, celebrities and irritating children seem to, quite bizarrely, enjoy playing via small portable computers. Oh no.

Training the brain to achieve mental ‘equanimity’ ; we’ll go into this a little later, is an invaluable skill requiring only an open mind, a willingness to practice and an aversion to going through life getting dragged into judgemental, negative and unfulfilling mindsets.

Were you aware that it’s actually entirely possible to possess a Superman/Bruce Lee level of mental defence to the wearing, emotional impact of being continuously bombarded by stress/irritation/boredom inducing events faced on a day to day basis?

… well it is!

A small shift in attitude, based around accepting rather than rejecting, is all it takes. Flash the V’s for Victory to living in a constant state of defensive annoyance, confronted by irritations and obstacles, you can actually learn to be less aggravated, less affected and less stressed out and helpless when a situation isn’t exactly as you’d like it to be.

“But I don’t want to adapt to the situation – it’s not fair. I want the situation to adapt to me!”.

Tough shit. Unfortunately sunshine, life isn’t always that kind.

There will be occasions where things don’t go quite to plan, when circumstances beyond your control dictate fate and there’s not – physically – a great deal you can do about it.

So, what mentally can we do?

It’s all about perspective and how we perceive a given event/situation/set of circumstances.

The golden ticket comes when it hits home that while certain circumstances may be beyond our control, our emotional response is not.

It is in fact, something that can we can, with a little commitment, control to our own advantage.

But how? If I’m pissed off, I’m pissed off – right?

Wrong.

The message “I’m pissed off”  is a decision you make, subconsciously.  A decision you then choose to re-affirm both psychologically and physiologically; through your re-inforcing thoughts…

…and through your physical reactions.

Now it’s consciously possible to actually pause,  take a step back, literally, if you’d been tempted to headbutt said source of irritation,  and remember that your reaction is something you do have power over. That by reacting in a negative way, you won’t alter the past – a concept currently considered metaphysically impossible, you’ll simply be creating further unfruitful implications for the future.

Consider the last thing you got annoyed about enough to put you in a bad mood. Will it really matter this time next year? Chances are, probably not.

It’s a case of realising that any emotion, be it unbridled rage, loved-up contentment, euphoric joy; all have their time, they come, they stay a while and they go, giving way to some other mood or state.

 

The whole concept of equanimity is based upon not allowing these emotions to bring about too much in the way of knicker twisting.

The font of all knowledge officially classes it as;

Neither a thought nor an emotion, it is rather the steady conscious realization of reality’s transience. It is the ground for wisdom and fredom and the protector of compassion and love. While some may think of equanimity as dry neutrality or cool aloofness, mature equanimity produces a radiance and warmth of being. The Buddha described a mind filled with equanimity as “abundant, exalted, immeasurable, without hostility and without ill-will.

“Life is never fair. And perhaps for most of us, it is a good thing that it is not.”, said Mr Oscar Wilde. And why ever not?

Because it’s through adversity that we discover out who we are, realising our strengths and what we’re capable of withstanding, without trials and tribulations, life would be boring.

Studies show that manageable amounts of stress can actually be good for us; motivating  our psyche and boosting the immune system. So the next time someone cuts you up at a roundabout, don’t do the angry fist shake thing, instead give them a big genuine thumbs up. They’ve potentially assisted you in swerving a nasty bout of lurgy. Plus, their reaction will probably be comedy gold. If this wasn’t enough, you’ve also got the smug satisfaction of being the bigger person.

So all in all, practicing equanimity is not a case of trying to go through life in a robotic indifferent kind of way, more a conscious realisation that cirumstances and emotions are an ongoing process and  by not attaching too much weight to moods and feelings, it’s absolutely possibly to live a much more blissful existence. The diamond sutra illustrates the point beautifully…

Thus shall ye think of this fleeting world:

A star at dawn, a bubble in a stream;

A flash of lightning in a summer cloud,

A flickering lamp, a phantom, and a dream.

*An absolute fabrication for the record.

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Oi, Beardos…

You may be aware that tomorrow is indeed World Beard Day.

Beards

Shalom.

Since beard wielders aren’t stereotypically the kind of fellows to go making a song and dance of such things, it’s entirely likely this is news to you.

Beard funny

In the glitzy social world of facial hair celebrations, it could be said that World Beard Day is the poor relation of the trendier, more widely followed Mo-vember. For the unaware; Movember is an annual event occuring every November – you see what they did there – in which gentlemen are encouraged to allow the fuzz residing on their top lips to flourish and grow.

Mustaches

The goal of Movember is to “change the face of men’s health”.

Participation in the Mo-movement is considered  a sporting sort of thing to do; not only for its generally entertainment factor and vivid measure of the mo’d mans capacity to tolerate irritation – having been told the growing of mustaches can be an irksome business.

The real motivation is actually significantly more  worthy; aiming to increase awareness of men’s health issues, encouraging check-ups, an emphasis on healthy living and ultimately, attempting to avert preventable deaths.

World Beard Day has no such noble intentions. It is essentially a satirical piss-take bit of fun.

The humble beard. It’s evolution through history has seen a swathe of  attitudes towards it’s presence on the face; revered, condemned and tolerated. The facial hair equivalent of Tiger Woods.

Tiger Woods Beard

Although, for the record, women with beards have never truly been deemed too hot.  If you do happen to be a bearded lady reading this and your intention is to capitalise on your unusually fuzzy face and become a super-rich circus freak, I commend you. A grand plan. If however, you’re seeking a husband, perhaps best to get the old wax pot out.

Girl with beard

The ancient Greeks believed that  a full, well groomed beard indicated manliness, virility and wisdom. In fact, they took their bearding so seriously that it was considered a huge crime to mess with another mans beard, punishable by fine and even jail-time. Being de-bearded was considered such a source of shame, it was employed as a punishment. Riled up Spartan warriors would shave off half a mans beard to signify less-than-warrior-like behaviour whilst dining in hell.

300 Spartan Warrior

Shamelessly gratuitous.

The ancient Romans however, came to diss the mighty facebush. A men’s hairdresser; barber, or Barba means “beard” in Latin, and when the Romans called hairy foreigners barbarians they were’t originally being horribly condescending, the phrase literally translated to “bearded men,” though in time, the word did evolve into the modern day definition of “rude, uncivilized people.”

Subsequent years saw the popularity of the beard rising and falling periodically, with various  famous faces contributing their own signature styles to the equation…

Santa ClausBin Laden

Recent research shows that men seem to be inclined towards growing a beard when knee deep in clunge the marriage market is favourable, preferring to be clean shaven when romantic lady-prospects are considered to be in short supply. The motivation behind this is believed to correspond with the findings of a study indicating women perceive the bearded vs the cleanshaven to be ;

  • 38% less generous.
  • 36% less caring.
  • 51% less cheerful

This supports existing research that the fairer sex are instinctively programmed to seek out a mate who appears to have good fathering skills and the propensity to provide.

Having said this, studies reveal women also consider a beard to be indicative of maturity, respect, high status and power, so, for appealing to the girls, it seems to be a lot to do with individual preference.

Brad Pitt Beard ScruffyJoaquim Phoenix Beard Scruffy

It’s been established that keeping a beard enables men a great deal more time (around 3350 hours to be precise) to get on with other worthwhile ventures. This is based on embarking upon a shaving career at 15-years-old before retiring 55 years later. A massive 139 days that could have been spent watching more sport and internet porn helping orphans and feeding the hungry.

In addition, beards are proven to help prevent respiratory problems, diseases of the throat and gums, as well as making a wonderful inbuilt chin/neck scarf during nippy spells.

So if you wish to get into the true spirit of World Beard Day, grab yourself a scotch on the rocks – the kind of true badass drink consumed by beard sporters, crank up some Metallica, find a willing chin-fringed guinea pig and get folically fantastic.

Funny Crazy Beard

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Laying down the law…

With these words, I set forth the following grand plans;

to entertain and inform,

educate and delight.

Documenting, analysing, debating and demystifying.

To occasionally piss people off,  stir, provoke and challenge.

Inducing the odd snort laugh, brow wrinkle and fervently shaken head – though perhaps not simultaneously*…

Fingers crossed.

* The looker above is, for the record, not me.