Making Connections: A Thursday Thought

For a reason I can’t explain I’ve been thinking a lot about connections.

It’s strange to think just how many connections we make in everyday life, be them professional or personal, big or small. The word itself has connotations of business, the old adage of “It’s who you know, not what you know”, and from there there’s a pressure around the need to network; the need to find people who can provide a helpful step up the proverbial ladder, a proverbial foot in the proverbial door.

In fact, connections can be something completely different; it doesn’t have to all be red tape and white collars. My blog was born over 5 years ago, a mere journal for me to jot down some thoughts at the time, but it was only ever something I looked at once a year, if that, and never really took seriously. Fast forward to last year, one of my best friend’s, Andy, convinced me to join a creative writing course, where we were introduced (and then ‘connected’) with Shelley. She convinced me it was worthwhile taking my blog seriously and really putting myself out there. From that connection, I’ve found many different people from all around the world; I’ve joined writing prompts, I’ve joined challenges, and I’ve joined Facebook groups. Connections leading to connections.

It can be easy to think a connection is something more tangible, it’s someone you can point to, someone who’s number you have, someone who ‘knows a guy’; really a connection can be something as small as a shared smile. By writing, by creating art, by simply giving form to our internal thought processes, we create potential connections that can span further and longer than mortal life. We are still connected now by works of art, by literature, by film or by photograph. We are connected to people we will never meet, or who’s names we’ll never know. To share our art is to create a connection en mass. To me, that’s beautiful. To me, that’s worthwhile.

Connections give us a power. They can give us support, they can give us guidance, and through them we can share our passion and our philosophy. We were born a social species, our evolution was encouraged by our communication, and through it we continue to better ourselves. By sharing our thoughts we are able to better each other; simply by increasing understanding and by portraying different perspectives. We live in a time now when our communication has transcended physical movement and speak; we exist in a world where we can learn from people across the globe. Right now there has been no better time to forge ‘connections’.

When I sat down to write this Thursday Thought, I wasn’t expecting to write so passionately, but now, writing this final paragraph, I feel genuinely moved. A connection is something more than a mere contact in a faceless industry, it is an ability to create understanding between us. When I write my blog posts, I first and foremost write them for me, but within them I try to include a positive angle; I try to promote my belief that we can all be good, that we can all be inspirational, and that we can all benefit from sharing. Nothing warms my heart more dearly than when I see us helping each other. Regardless of how we do it, be it charity work, random acts of kindness, or something as ‘trivial’ as writing a blog, we put aside differences and judgements to make the world a better place. If that isn’t making connections, I don’t know what is.

*****

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In 5 Years Time: A Thursday Thought

Where will you be in 5 Years time? Can you visualise it? These are the questions being asked today.

I’m doing something a bit different this Thursday, by answering the questions posed by Shelley’s Blog in her post January in Review!

Q1. Where do you see yourself in 5 years? What small steps can you take between now and December 31st to achieve it?

In 5 years I see myself as a writer/photographer. I’m out of the daily 9 – 5 grind, I’m out of the sterile, stressful, impersonal office, and I’m in a studio of my own. Level Up Photography is bringing in frequent customers, Dark Background is publishing my work and the works of others, and in the down time I’m writing my novels or working on the Clouds.

The small steps to get there are the usual: Do more! Write more! Greg and I over at Level Up have been meeting this week, we’re getting the paperwork sorted, the website sorted and we have a client meeting in a few weeks. Things are running smooth there. As for my writing, I just need to write more, as I always need to, but thankfully I’ll finally be getting my study set up this month so that should create a dramatic increase in productivity.

Q2. What does a day in the life of your dreams look like? Write your perfect day from the minute you wake up to when you go to bed. Where are you, who are you with, what would you do?

I wake up next to Kirsty. We snuggle for a bit before getting up.

We go downstairs and feed Toby (our Cat) and, if Kirsty has it her way, the dog (She’s Pug-Obsessed).

We cook breakfast and call down the kids (I’m assuming this is the 5 years’ time, scenario)

I leave for the studio, and drop the kids to school along the way.

I work on my latest novel, or read the latest manuscript, or edit the latest clients photographs.

When all my appointments are done I drive back home.

I spend some time with Kirsty before we have to pick the kids back up.

Then in the evening we all eat together, we watch TV, read, or play boardgames.

The kids go to bed, Kirsty and I snuggle on the couch, Toby tries to squeeze in between us as always.

We go to bed together, I read for a bit, then we fall asleep to begin the day anew.

Q3. If money was not an issue what career would you have or what lifestyle would you adopt?

Studio! Studio! Studio!

Writing, Photography, Publishing.  They’re my main aims; they’re how I want to make my livelihood.

That said, “if money was not an issue” I’ve always said I’d love to run my own small games company. It’s a daydream of mine that, when I win the lottery, I’ll hire a bunch of students and create video games… Put my writing into that form as well as books and blogs!

*****

So, there we have it. That’s where I will be in 5 years… Give or take. As always, thanks to Shelley for those reflective questions, was great fun to fill out! Why not give it a go? Feel free to ping back here so I can see yours too!

2016: A Thursday Thought

As we usher out 2016 in a hurry, and lovingly embrace 2017 as a welcome change, I wanted to use todays Thursday Thought to reflect back on what 2016 did right. All years have their ups and downs, but it’s the ups I want to remember and celebrate.

Arranged in a somewhat-but-not-really chronological order (which is actually just a giant mess of memories):

Derren Brown: My first memory of this year. I’ve mentioned “Theatre Trips” further down here, but this was deserving of a mention all of its own. Kirsty bought me tickets to see Derren Brown, which is perhaps one of the best presents I’ve ever had!

Madam Tussauds: Going down to see Derren also gave Kirsty and I an excuse to check out Madam Tussauds down in London. I was particularly excited for the Marvel experience, I have to say.

Boardgame Expo: I love boardgames, I love introducing people to boardgames, I love kickstarting boardgames… There’s so many out there, you just have to look past the infinite number of monopolys and risks. It was great to go to a convention that celebrated them, whilst allowing us to have some hands on time with games we hadn’t played yet. It also led into us having a…

Boardgame Nights: In 2016 we had many a boardgame night and each was as good as the other. We played: Codenames, Betrayal at the House on the Hill (For Halloween and I have an especially good memory of Woodys character being blown off a balcony one round into the Haunt phase), Catan, The Game of Thrones Boardgame, Deerlord (With Woody doing 3 different personalities in one), Munchkins, Poor Choices, etc.

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The first of 2016’s many boardgame nights!

D&D: On a similar note, we had many a good D&D session in 2016. Though we took a break in the latter half of the year, I’m looking forward to getting this back off the ground again.

DMing at D&D: Another similar note, 2016 actually saw me DM (Dungeon Master) a two part campaign in front of 5 (6 if you count Kirsty, watching from the side-lines) of my friends! I was a mess of nerves before it started but was possibly up there as one of the best experiences of 2016. The fact it was something I’d put on for Woodys 30th Birthday just sweetened it even further.

WWE Live: Also on the subject of Woodys 30th Birthday, as a gift we both went to see WWE Live when they came to our local Birmingham venue. It was a real laugh and, whilst the show itself wasn’t exactly amazing, the memories me and Woody will have of us chanting, drinking, and laughing will remain.

Gigs: I also went to numerous venues for numerous other reasons too; I saw The 1975 with Sid, Minus the Bear with Woody, Skindred with Kirsty, a Comedy show with the lads and even saw a live screening of some TED Talks.

Theatre Trips: 2016 continued me trying to visit the theatre more and more. I saw plays with my Mom and plays with Kirsty. My fondest memory is perhaps seeing The Alchemist at the RSC: Neither Kirsty or I had any idea what we were about to watch and I ended up absolutely loving it.

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Taking in a show!

College: Andy and I went back to college in 2016, where we studied Creative Writing! It helped to give us both a kick up the ass, it helped me to invest in my blog again, and it’s helped me put my dreams into perspective.

Geocaching: Speaking of walking, I have a fond memory of Geocaching at the start of the year with Common and Luke. It might have only been a few hours of one day, but it was great fun. It’s something I’d love to do more of in the New Year going forward.

Escape the Room: Something else I want to do more of going forward, is Escape the Room. I can’t describe the incredible fun this was; such a different experience unlike anything else! Andy, Jess, Kirsty and myself all tasked with solving a mystery. It could have been a recipe for disaster, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. We’re already booked in for February so 2017 will definitely have more Escape the Room antics.

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The Room from which we Escaped!

Alton Towers: My birthday this year involved a trip to Alton Towers. Though it was preceded by a dodgy McDonalds breakfast (never again) it was still a great day out and a ton of fun.

Cakes: 2016 held lots, and lots, and lots of cakes. My mom started baking more and more, and Kirsty even rediscovered her love for it. In fact, for my Birthday they both ended up making me the same cake! (It was pure coincidence)

Clockwork Clouds: June/July saw the resurrection of Clockwork Clouds and the increase in my writing overall. Thanks to going back to college, and thanks to taking part in some challenges, I’ve upped my blog, I’ve upped my followers, and I’ve got a semi-regular posting here on the Clouds. We got a little disorganised by the end of 2016, but with everything else I think it’s allowable. We’re back with a vengeance in 2017 and there’s plenty more to come!

Aladdin: So for Christmas 2015 I bought Kirsty tickets to see Aladdin – The Musical down in London. Something she didn’t shut up about for 8, yes 8, months until we went. Was an absolutely amazing night though, with a brilliant show and a lovely little weekend stay.

Lunchtime Walks: So work isn’t exactly top of my list, though I’m thankful I have a secure job that isn’t terrible. Work days wouldn’t be complete though without my lunchtime walks with Simon, where we played Pokémon go, vented off steam, and sometimes spent a lifetime in Greggs. These walks kept me going on my Monday – Friday.

New House: Need I say more? I’ve written about this so much recently. This was possibly the highlight of 2016 that overshadows everything else.

Toby: When Kirsty moved in she brought with her an extra member to our household. It’s been so long since I’ve lived with a pet, but now I can’t imagine my home without this big ball of fluff.

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Toby and I; just chilling!

Cozy Nights In: Some of my favourite nights this year have just been composed of lying on the couch, or in bed, with Kirsty on one arm and a good TV show or film in front of us. We’ve watched some great films and some fantastic television.

Cinema Times: Speaking of great films, there’s been some fantastic cinema outings in 2016. Civil War, Dr Strange, Arrival, Rogue One. I love going to the cinema, and seeing how on Jan 1st Kirsty and I signed up for Cineworld Unlimited, I think 2017 will have plenty more films in store.

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A Pre-Cinema, Date-Night Snack… (Rub Smokehouse, Birmingham)

Date Nights: A great excuse to pig out and go to the cinema! Kirsty and I had a lot of date nights in 2016; we think it’s vital to make time for each other, even when you live together! I will always love going out for food and drinks with her.

Weddings (as a photographer!): So 2016 saw more work for Greg and I over at Level Up Photography. We shot more weddings in 2016 than 2015, and we booked more for 2017 too. 2016 was the year we really took ourselves seriously!

Weddings (as a guest!): The biggest event of October ’16 was a trip across to Wales. It started with a fun, laugh filled car journey shared between Luke, Common, Kirsty and Myself, we picked up Pete along the way and all crammed into a car. That weekend we all stayed at the same hotel, we all got drunk together, we all got suited and booted, we all met up with old friends we hadn’t seen for years, and, more importantly, we all got to see Bronwen get married. It was such a happy occasion filled with an immense amount of love. Definitely one of the best memories of 2016.

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Having a great, if somewhat drunken, party for Bronwen’s Wedding!

Dr Who Experience: The trip to the Wedding gave us a good excuse to detour into Cardiff and visit the Dr Who Experience! Kirsty is a mega-super-duper Dr Who nerd, so it was a great time for the both of us (along with a confused looking Woody and Amy!).

Decorating: So stressful and time-consuming, but so rewarding! It was great to be productive with Kirsty and my family, whilst also making a big difference to our home. Now we can’t imagine it any other way.

Pokémon Day: When the decorating was all done, and Kirsty and I had chance to relax, I surprised her by buying us both the new Pokemon games, along with Pokemon onesies, and a copy of the Pokemon movie on BluRay! Needless to say, this was a really fun afternoon and a perfect memory for us to share in our cozy new home.

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Pokemon Day!

Nieces & Nephews: I don’t have any brothers or sisters, so I’ve never really experienced looking after kids or entertaining them; even as a kid myself I used to prefer the company of adults. Kirsty, on the other hand, has a niece and a nephew with another niece on the way. We looked after them for an afternoon at ours and it was pretty crazy, but I loved every minute of it, and not just because it served as a good reminder of what an amazing mom Kirsty will be one day.

Christmas: 2016 was our first Christmas in our new home. I was in love with how Christmassy and cozy our house looked, the tree, the decorations, the lights and the candles. It was magic.

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Our Magical Christmas Lounge

Secret Santa x2: So 2016 I finally got around to planning Secret Santa between myself and my friends; I’ve wanted to do it since I moved back to Solihull in 2013. This lead to me being in charge of Secret Santa at work as well, and then doing two Secret Santas in the space of one day (each time dressed as Santa! though that was my own choice). I was especially pleased with the thought and effort everyone put into it.

Pop Vinyls: Too many Pop Vinyls came into our lives this year; we don’t need any more for a while! Plus 2016 will forever be known as the year of the Three Illidan Stormrages.

Reading: One of my favourite achievements of 2016 was increasing my reading. Despite being a writer, despite having the goal of a published book one day in the, hopefully near, future, I had forgotten to actually invest some time in reading. Well, in 2016 I read more books than I have in perhaps the last 5 years combined. It was a good productive year for reading and, to top it all off, Kirsty bought me a Kindle Paper White for Christmas! Lots more reading to come.

All in all some great memories! How was 2016 for you? I’d love you to share some of your happy memories in the comments below!

5 Things to be Thankful For

 

Today it’s Thanksgiving over in America, but that’s actually just a coincidence. It’s very well timed, serendipitous even, but it really was a coincidence. As you’ll see from next weeks post, this is part of a new series of Thursday posts which will be along the line of Thursday Thoughts or Thursday Thanks (Or Thoughtful Thursdays? Or Thankful Thursdays? Who know’ s which is better! Maybe you do? Let me know!)

I’ve been a bit irritable recently, a bit stressed, and it’s been down to a few factors in my life getting me down, but I want to combat them by being mindful; by being thankful. So, without further ado, here’s 5 things I’m thankful for.

My home.

The big one first! I am thankful, so thankful, for my home; my little house. It’s needed a little work doing, and it’s starting to drain me looking at different shades of paint (notice I avoided saying Grey!), but in all honesty… I couldn’t be happier. I love owning my own home, I love not having to answer to a landlord, I love being able to decorate to my own desires. I am so thankful to have this home of mine, this sanctuary from the rest of the world. It’s been my biggest step of 2016buying a house, Kirsty moving inbut it’s been more than worth it.

My parents.

If I am thankful for anything on this list more than any of the others, this is it; I am thankful for my parents. My parents are absolutely always there for me with any kind of support they can offer. They’re there to help me financially, emotionally, physically… I wouldn’t have got through the house move without them; their DIY expertise and the like. They’ve made my home possible; heck, they made my life possible. I couldn’t be more thankful for them; I just hope they know how appreciated they are.

Kirsty.

How could I have a list of thanks without Kirsty? My house wouldn’t be a home without her. She’s the inspiration that keeps me going. We fight, we bicker, we have petty little arguments… but none of that matters. Kirsty is one of the most important factors in my life and together we get through. I like to think we understand each other better than anyone, that we can see and accept both our own and each other’s flaws. Kirsty knows I’m a dreamer, and whilst she helps to keep me down to earth when it’s needed, she also supports me and encourages me to go for those dreams. I’m very reliant on support, I’m not very confident in myself, but she gives me that confidence to push me forward; she helps me achieve things way beyond my own reach. Without Kirsty I wouldn’t be where I am today; I wouldn’t be half as motivated or inspired. She is so incredibly dear to me.

Books.

I thought I’d mix up the list with a different thing I’m thankful for… books! I’ve always enjoyed reading, but until this year I’d forgotten how much. I was a writer who didn’t read! – I mean, it has to be said I didn’t really write either, but still!  How crazy is that? Well 2016 has been the year I rediscovered books and I am so thankful I did. I honestly can’t believe I went so long without reading, it became a habit to just not pick up a book. Now I read almost every night, whilst I settle into bed with Kirsty by my side. It soothes me, it comforts me, it’s my own little happy place within the already happy place that is my home. I’m thankful I’ve rediscovered books before it was too late; they’re a passion, a resource, and an escape that I could no longer be without.

My job.

My job has been a source of a lot of frustration for me recently. I’m normally someone who can shake off the working day as soon as the clock hits 5, but recently it’s been coming home with me and hanging around; exacerbating matters it had no business exacerbating. The thing is, I’ve realised that the irritation I feel isn’t always due to my job, it’s to do with certain aspects of myself and my own perspective. Anyway, that’s a larger blog post waiting for another day. The purpose of today is that I’m thankful for my job. I’m thankful that I have a job in an age where they’re sometimes scarce, I’m thankful I get paid well for what I do when so many suffer in poverty. With my job I might not always be over the moon when I come home, I might not spend every day feeling fulfilled, but I am able to support my family, my friends, and myself; I’m able to enjoy the hobbies I want to enjoy and spend my free time the way I want to spend it. For that, I am thankful.

Lastly, if I can sneak in a sixth, I am thankful for you. I’m thankful for your comments, your shares, even just the few minutes of your day when you read a post of mine. Thank You.

What are you thankful for? Please let me know! The world moves smoother when we’re grateful and thankful for each other.