THE GYM VERSUS THE SOFA – MAN’S ETERNAL STRUGGLE

It’s a wet, cold Monday night in February. I had planned to go to the gym as part of my three-day training routine.

But the house is warm and the sofa is…responsive. It’s old, it knows how I like things, it encourages me to slouch like the evil soft furnishings monster it is. I start to calculate how if I don’t go tonight, I can go tomorrow night and two days after that and I’m back in my routine again. Easy.

After all, one night missed. It’s not going to hurt. Right?

Sofa apathy. What’s not to love? (Images by Unsplash)

But then I waver. What if it’s raining tomorrow night? I’d definitely have to go because I missed tonight and I’d look back at my 24-hour younger self with a resentment bordering on hate.

COLD CARS AND WARM NEIGHBOURS

So I pull myself off the sofa, partly because I’d be fearful of tomorrow night’s hatred, but mainly because I’ve made a commitment to my regular training habit. And that’s the key, commitment always trumps motivation because motivation can come and go. But if you’ve made a commitment to yourself, you do it whether you want to or not.

There is also the learned knowledge from years of backing out of a routine that it is a slippery slope to self-loathing. Slippery slopes and self loathing, it’s my thirties all over again!

So just go to the damn gym!

I get dressed in to my training clothes (so far no sponsorship deal) and try to block out any thought process that will convince me to stay. I turn out the light and head out of the front door. It’s drizzly, and cold, and everybody else is settled in their warm, comfortable houses. Putting on weight, I remind myself.

By now I’m in the car and that’s even colder so I get the engine turning, knowing full well it will be frustratingly warmed up just by the time I get to the gym.

LET THE SMUGNESS BEGIN..

As I pull out of my driveway I know the battle isn’t yet over, but I’ve landed a potentially fatal blow to apathy. I afford myself a self-satisfied smile. Before I know it, I’m pulling into the gym car park. I park as near to the door as possible, knowing full well one of the hardest and most difficult parts of all of this is still to come – the walk in the rain and the cold from my now heated car, to the gym entrance.

Once out of the car I stride swiftly to the gym doors, sidestepping the two people trying to come out at the same time I’m trying to get in. I can’t take any prisoners now, I have to get in at all costs.

And then I’m there! I’ve made it!

The sofa beaters rock it

As I saunter triumphantly to the cross trainer, I glance around to everyone else in there; the smooth latex brigade; the tattooed muscle men with their huge biceps and even bigger beer bellies; the casual poseurs on the treadmill tuned to the steady beat of the playlist plugged into their ears; to the late middle-aged men trying to address years of neglect by an attempted and ungainly burpee.

And back home, my sofa settles for defeat, safe in the knowledge that in three days-time, another battle will commence.

WHEN A PICTURE TELLS A STORY STILL TO BE WRITTEN

What is the favourite photo you have ever taken? What is about it that makes the image so special?

When I was asked this recently, I considered a photo taken of my father a couple of years before he passed away, back when he was still relatively healthy, delighted to be with two of his long-term friends at a blues music festival in 2016 he didn’t think he’d get to.

I also thought of a photo I took of myself at the Grand Canyon in 1987, the culmination of a decade planning the trip across the USA to reach this most majestic of wonders in Arizona.

But the photo I decided on was taken of my niece Laura at Allonby Beach in West Cumbria, UK. At the time Laura was approximately 7 years old and it was taken during a family afternoon walk in early autumn.

Several photos were taken on the day but this particular image just captures a moment when she crouched down as the sun was positioned at a point to create a silhouette and reflecting shadow in the sand.

Laura’s position in the shot also frames the picture nicely to take in the beautiful ocean vista beside her. Surrounded by footprints in the sand, I’ve always thought of the image as Laura considering her own footsteps she will create as she moves forward in her life.

Truth is, she was probably watching the family dog in the distance or wondering how likely it is she is to get an ice-cream. But hey, I’m aiming for something poetic here!

Now approaching her 29th birthday, with a first-class honour’s degree in Psychology and currently halfway through a Master’s degree to be a Physician Associate, it is nonetheless true Laura is creating her own footprints as she goes along.

On this particular day however, these were still to be made, and this is what helps to make it so special for me.   

FIVE THINGS I AM GRATEFUL FOR TODAY

What are the main things that we should be grateful for but are most likely to take for granted? Do we ever even think about them until they are under threat?

When prompted recently to think of five things I am most grateful for it was good to stop and consider those things upon which a rich and worthwhile life is built around.

We’ll all have different answers, and these can change slightly on any given day, but I imagine they would come down to similar basics which we all would suffer from if one were missing from our everyday lives.

So here are my five things I’m grateful for today, right now.

Image from Unsplash

FAMILY

I only have a small family and all except me live around 140 miles away in beautiful Cumbria. It’s true to say we have taken a bit of a battering over the last decade with the loss of parents and a marital breakdown. There have been rough times and challenges remain. The geographical distance between myself in Merseyside isn’t helpful except sometimes when it can sometimes give a bit of perspective.

My family are the first people I think of telling when a song of mine does well or my writing advances, and the first people who will pick me up when I hit a setback or frequent drop in belief.

So family is the first thing I am grateful for, and I would imagine for many of you it will be the same. Or maybe you would substitute friends above family; for you it may be difficult to differentiate between the two.  

HEALTH

I live about half a mile from a major hospital and most days I drive past it. When I need to stop at the traffic lights opposite, I can see a little into some of the wards that serves as a reminder that no matter what stresses I have in my normal day it’s still better than being in one of those ward beds.

Good health gives me the strength to earn my upkeep, to see friends and family, to keep fit and in turn feed my mental health, to go to the cinema, see gigs, to write, to go to sporting events. In short, do all of the things that I naturally love to do.

When our health dips life becomes harder, sometimes scarier, and smaller. When health is good, we probably need to be more grateful.

FREEDOM

For us in the Western world, our freedom is arguably the one thing we probably appreciate the least because we’ve not known anything different. The freedom to vote for the principles we believe in, our freedoms to state our beliefs even if they are at odds or even reprehensible to others, to travel, to advance our learning and our earning potential.

I sometimes look to the highly restricted and often brutal regimes of North Korea, Afghanistan, Russia, China, Nigeria and too many other places and can’t help but think we have no real appreciation of how lucky we are.

Where we are born is in many ways a lottery and I try to remind myself often that I am one of the highly fortunate winners. 

HOME

According to recent statistics from the Homeless Link , 268,560 households were at risk of or experienced homelessness between 2020-21, a 7.4% increase from the previous year and over 16% from 2018-19.

Shelter is one of the basic requirements of life all that should be available to all. Sadly, as we see from these figures; and for a myriad of different reasons, this is not the case.

For every day of my life, I have had a warm home to return to, four walls and a roof.

It may be need of a little TLC but as I walk through my front door each day I should consider all those for whom this a significant blessing currently out of reach.

MUSIC

Some people don’t like music. They don’t really get it. Professor Steve Pinkman once described music as ‘auditory cheesecake…as far as biological cause and effect is concerned, music is useless.’

Erm, pardon me?

Music, to quote sadly passed songwriter John Miles, was my first love, and it will be my last. It gets me dancing embarrassingly around a kitchen, it lifts my mood instantly at the end of a crappy day, it helps make tedious jobs bearable, it takes me back to a time and to people no longer in my life and makes them feel within touching distance, and it has me singing with strangers.

Image from Unsplash

Dementia patients who may not recognise the names of their own offspring can suddenly pick long-ago written lyrics out of the air and recite them in melody word for word. If that isn’t a biological cause and effect, tell me what is.

Music is an indefinable, inexplicable, ever-giving fountain of joy.

So, those are the everyday blessings I should be most grateful for. What then, are yours?

9 PIECES OF ADVICE I WOULD OFFER MY TEENAGE SELF

When I was a teenager, which of course covers the years when we are fully cocooned in school, to the years when we are released to the ‘freedoms’ of getting a job and actually earning money, we make many wrong choices and waver between undeserved confidence to unnecessary insecurity.

I was more the latter, in truth. The undeserved confidence was reserved for my unquenchable imagination were I was the superhero of endless scenarios that had grown-ups and females my own age enthralled by my feats of daring-do. In reality it was more staying in my room and daring-don’t.

Image via Pixabay

It’s easy to look back and think of what changes I would have made and to what advice I would give my teenage self. However, prompted by a suggestion to do so by my blogging site WordPress for Bloganuary, here are nine things I would have said to my sensitive, insecure, self-absorbed but caring teenage self that may have helped a little…

1 -To go for what I want and not for what people tell me to do, but to realise it takes hard work and dedication; that way people can see that you are serious.

2 -To try that little bit harder in school. To tell my English teacher that I love English more than anything else and ask their advice about what I should do about that.

3 -To talk to my mother, a former proofreader and avid reader in general about what I want to do, and ask for her input and support.

4 – Football is great, but not make it the main thing in your life, it will always be there. When I got offered a photography apprenticeship at 16 I turned it down simply because it would require me to attend weddings on a Saturday and thus prevent me from watching football, a decision I have regretted to this day, despite all the great football memories.

5 -To stop unfavourably comparing myself to others.

6 – Stop worrying about being thin.

7 -If I’m interested in making music, I have to learn to play the guitar or piano, and not give up so easily.

8 – To handle my finances much, much better

9 – Don’t be afraid of living

That last one is hard because at 17 I lost my mother quite suddenly to cancer. This impacts on all of your life and can make you fearful at a young age of what may be around the corner.

But it shouldn’t make you tentative about making everyday decisions to the point of crippling indecision, something that haunted me for years.

However, how many of us as teenagers would take advice anyway? Especially when it’s from someone pertaining to be our older selves sent to give us advice? And aren’t we told not to talk to strangers?

Maybe a question may be what advice will be giving ourselves in ten or twenty years time, and how will the experience of mistakes we have made in the past impact on the choices we make during that time?

THE DOMINO EFFECT OF FALLING FRIENDSHIPS

Friendships are part of the bedrock of life.

Even the more casual friendships can bring colour and humour and help with perspective. The banter (the type that is convivial and teasing and not the Yorkshire Cricket Club racist brand), can help us to not take ourselves too seriously and lighten our moods amid the stresses and strains of everyday life.

The deeper, long-term friendships can get us through the rockier periods; grief, physical, emotional and psychological hurt, periods of self-doubt, fear and anxiety. They can also be a voice of balance when we veer too far from reason and into a potential path of harm or self-indulgence.

A good friend is someone we build shared memories with and also share our closest confidences, and is ready to forgive when we occasionally take them for granted or step too far across the boundary. A friendship that encapsulates all of those ingredients is priceless and needs to be cherished.

What happens then when a cherished friendship suddenly gets damaged beyond repair?

Indeed, what happens when, as in my recent experience, three of my friendships implode over a relatively short period of a couple of years?

Have those friendships, all long-term and therefore seemingly strong and familiar, simply all ran their course at coincidentally a similar time?

It’s right to acknowledge straight off, that I am the common denominator in all three cases, and all three friends don’t know one another. Just me. So be free to make up your own mind on that one! But it is a serious jolt to the psyche, to think a trio of invested friendships have all stopped in their tracks.

SHOUT IT OUT OR STEW IN SILENCE?

Only one of my three friendship breakdowns have had the drama of argument, of throwing back the shackles on a to and fro of disagreement to a divide that can’t be bridged.

So is argument better, even if it leads to separation? Does it at least feel as though we were both passionate enough to shout/talk it through? Does that have more value than something that just fades away, or, as in one case, closes the door immediately after an apparent line has been drawn?

Image courtesy of Pixabay

Writer Mariam Khan wrote recently in the i Newspaper that during Covid lockdown she lost a long- term friendship not due to a big, anger filled argument but because of a series of small misunderstandings that grew bigger due to not being able to see one another face-to-face in an attempt to talk things through.

And the lack of face-to-face conversations that Covid has enforced has had an increased negative impact on friendships, with the University College of London reporting more than 20% of people have had some kind of relationship breakdown during the pandemic.

THE DESTABILIZING SHIFT

Friendships are built very much on balance. Sometimes that can mean a balance that leans slightly in one direction and it can operate somewhat successfully on that level for years. However, when suddenly, or even gradually, the equilibrium is shifted back even slightly it can expose crack lines beneath the surface that may not have anything directly to do with the friendship but can have a massive impact upon it.

In my experience a movement in one direction can unintentionally cause someone to feel more acutely aware of frustrations in their own life that the friendship had previously served in some way to balance out.

But the notion that anyone’s life needs to stand still or keep quiet about changes and/or progress we make doesn’t serve anybody well. Eventually those changes will out and the relationship can be the casualty.

As I try to reconcile myself with the loss of these friendship’s I am grateful for their place in my life and I don’t regret them for a second. And I am fortunate enough to have other attachments with people that are still standing the test of time.

However I have also become more increasingly aware how quickly things can change, and how much importance should be placed on their preservation.

THE FEAR OF SELF-PROMOTION FOR THE CONSTANTLY NERVOUS

One of the downsides to having to promote my songs or blogs is the need to do exactly that – promote.

I’m not a promote type person. My moniker is not Promotion Paul. At school my fellow pupils would never have voted me as Pupil Most Likely to Promote.

SOCIAL MEDIA SUPERMAN? OR JUST A SHY BOY IN A CAPE?

However, since I somewhat accidentally started song-writing again I have needed to stand up and shout; just a little, to get my songs heard. And believe me, there are a lot of artists out there doing a lot of shouting, on a multitude of platforms, be it streaming platforms such as Spotify, Apple Music, Deezer, Soundcloud, or video channels like YouTube and Tik Tok. So much shouting and of course, so much singing. And so many, many songs.

DRESSING UP FOR A PARTY OF ONE

I spend a great deal of time developing a song, making it as strong as I can, and spend hours and expense in a studio getting it as close as possible to how I’ve heard it in my head. I’ll spend considerable time on a video, an essential element for any new song to attract people to it. I’ll put the video on You Tube, and the song released on all major streaming platforms.

Yet when I announce the song on my song-writing Facebook page I’m tentative, almost apologetic. I limit the number of posts about a new song, worried in case the people who have liked or followed my Facebook page get sick of hearing about it. There is actually some sense to that, even though I’m trying to reach new audiences.

But it’s also counter intuitive; if people have signed up for my Facebook page it’s because they are happy to hear about my songs, right? Nope, not in my head. In my head they are simply being polite – even though most people who now follow me don’t actually know me and therefore have made the decision to follow me for the simple reason they like my music. But try telling that to my mixed-up sense of logic.

Doubt concept.

THE WHISPERING BLOGGER

Similarly with blogging there is also the need to get your blog read among all the others saying ‘read me, read me!’ – though usually a lot more politely than that. Blogs don’t tend to shout; they suggest, which suits me better.

But still there is a need to let people know you have published a new blog and for the likes of myself there is the constant voice in my head asking; are people going to be interested in what I have to say? Indeed, what do I have to say? And who do I think I am, thinking people would spend several minutes throughout the noise of a day reading my words, considering my opinion, reading about my life?

But if I’m sure about one thing, it’s that I’m not the only one who has misgivings every time they publish a blog, post a song into the world or give out a part of themselves out for praise, criticism or indifference.

THE POWER OF THE ALTER EGO

It’s almost a prerequisite of anybody who writes to be somewhat introverted, living life from the outside looking in. And so stepping into the limelight and actually saying ‘hey, look what I’ve done, look what I have to say’ is sometimes a strain. A big strain. And if this is met by disinterest then it is even more keenly felt, it just underlines the voice of doubt.

In Susan Cains book Quiet – The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, she refers to a college lecturer who lives an out-going, constantly conversational life but who is, by nature, introverted. His gregarious persona is actually that – a persona. He finds his required way of engaging with the world exhausting, yet to do his job successfully he knows he needs to engage, not withdraw. In fact, he does it so well most people who knew his true nature would, he says, be shocked.

Maybe there is something to be said for developing an online identity that’s more about confidence with just a hint of brashness. There is certainly enough advice out there about how to target song audiences and get more streams and You Tube views, should anyone choose to get strategic about it.

But for me, authenticity and a nice dose of doubt feel more comfortable. Certainly, in the blogging community my experience so far is of a lot of people just helping each other out and there is a virtue in developing a following organically and in smaller degrees. This can work for music as well as blogs.

It would appear then that I have talked myself into continued reservation and tortured hesitancy. Maybe I’m just addicted to it.

Or maybe I should write a blog about it, and wonder whether or not to tell anyone…

MY TRUEST FAITH IN THE CALIFORNIA DREAM THAT’S QUIETLY COME TRUE

A song of mine, Your Truest Faith, has just been selected for the playlist of internet radio station South California Singer-Songwriter Radio based in Rosemead, near Los Angeles. It’s probably not a career-changing moment but for myself, who saw the California singer-songwriter scene of the late 70’s and 80’s as the holy grail for anyone with enough ambition and musical snobbery to be a ‘real’ songwriter, it’s a significant thrill.

As the rest of the UK, went from Punk to New Wave, I, never a compass towards rock ‘n roll cool at the time (except for a growing obsession with the East Coast hard-edged grittier sound of Bruce Springsteen) absorbed myself in artists such as Jackson Browne, John David Souther and Dan Fogelberg who represented the high temple of introspective, melody driven songwriters.

Along with these came Don Henley and Glen Frey, the creative driving force of The Eagles, the band who eclipsed everybody from the area in terms of global identity and record sales.

Glenn Frey and Don Henley

My romantic notion of Los Angeles took in warm summer evenings and endless highways, the perfectly pitched harmonies of Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young and even my favourite British singer-songwriter at the time, Elton John, sang songs of the American west penned by the lyrics of his musical partner Bernie Taupin.

Indeed, Elton’s American breakthrough came at a run of gigs at the LA Troubadour in 1970, heavily featuring songs from his recently released Tumbleweed Connection album. It was actually at the Troubadour that Elton shed his skin as a folk singer-songwriter, kicking away his piano stool to leap into the air on the song Burn Down The Mission, thus reincarnating himself as the rock performer that would go on to fill huge stadiums to this day.

Well I’m no Elton John. Or Jackson Bowne. My little song will be played three times daily for the next week in the International Section of the show, it will no doubt then disappear into the ether filled with independent artists trying to get their songs heard amongst the powerhouse of streaming madness.

But for a few days the song will be heard in a smattering of homes and on phones and maybe the odd car stereo system in California. And for the kid from a small town in northern town in England who used to look to the far away golden horizon of the musical canyons of LA, the feeling will be sweet. 

FROM SCRIBBLES TO SPOTIFY – THE UNCOMFORTABLE BIRTH OF A SONG

The insecurity around releasing a song can be creatively traumatic. What if it’s rubbish? What if I’ve inadvertently stolen it? What if I love it and no-one else does? Can I still change my name and live in an igloo without any internet connection?

Putting a song onto streaming platforms such as Spotify and Apple Music and possibly an accompanying video is the somewhat glossy, shiny end of an often uncomfortable process filled with errors and doubt punctuated with shots of exhilaration. My new song ‘New Day Coming’ took ten months from conception to release and is a perfect example of such a process.

The structure of the song changed several times. I loved it then abandoned it. The theme was clear then I felt like it needed more ambiguity. The lyric got written then re-written several times. Crossing out and insane scribbling that meant nothing to anyone but me became my mad creative template.

The original and later much changed lyric scribbled and altered by a madman…yours truly

Then two nights before the recording my mood was low and something didn’t feel right. The lyric to the third verse and second bridge got radically re-written. Then the original third verse remained but I keep faith with the new second bridge.

Going into the studio the middle-eight section of the song that I was never quite happy with gets quickly re-written in the studio with guidance from producer and musical magician John Kettle.

Then the recording begins and the doubts fall away. The sound of guitars and drums bounce and crash around the studio walls. Unusually for me I start texting people about how well it’s going. The song that started as a melody in my head on the motorway several miles from home in early September 2020, is suddenly coming alive on 4th June 2021.

Over the next few days my initial euphoria gets dampened then re-lit again. I decide to release it on my birthday, July 5th. I work on 13 versions of a video to accompany its release, artwork for streaming platforms, social media.

Of course all of this and the song may be a damp squib, met with indifference. I’m a tiny tiddler trying not get swallowed up by the sharks. And with anything that is personal to yourself, emotions are fragile.

But now it’s out there, fending for itself in the crazy world of streaming and promotion, just trying not to be ignored. And if it’s not ignored by too many people, and is liked by some, it has all been worthwhile.

So here is the video. It’s unlikely it will cause Ed Sheeran to lose any sleep but it’s come a long way from the crazed scribbles of a few months ago. Hope you enjoy.

LOOKING AHEAD TO THOSE POST-PANDEMIC RUBBERNECK DAYS

Sitting in traffic on Tuesday morning it was hard not to get lockdown nostalgia. The hour- long delay to my journey brought about a reminder of a world it was easy to think lay in the distant past. It was my first traffic jam for over a year. Yet it felt so depressingly familiar.

The day before another, shorter delay had been brought about by three cars involved in a triple prang. No more than that, no gore or blood-fest, just three drivers walking round frustrated that the day ahead they thought would be straightforward would now involve police statements, undriveable cars and swapping insurance details with people who otherwise would have been strangers zipping alongside them at sixty-plus miles an hour.

Yet the delay wasn’t caused by the physical intrusion of the cars involved, but by the dozens of cars slowing down to get a better look at the unremarkable sight of smashed- in headlights and crumpled bonnets and boots. Despite a year of millions of lives lost, jobs and businesses being destroyed and the heroism of the few to protect the many, it seems it hasn’t quenched the thirst of drivers slowing down to get a good eyeful of other people’s misfortunes.

In someways it seems already that not every outlook has been changed or perspective realigned.

JETLAG DEPRIVATION

On the BBC last week I saw a young man being interviewed at an airport as his expected holiday had been curtailed by the government deciding to put his country of destination on the amber list. “I believe you haven’t been on a plane for two years?” asked the reporter in a tone that suggested a hardship equivalent to incarceration in a Turkish prison cell. “That’s right”, replied the young man solemnly. A nation wept…

These still are of course, relatively early days. Much of a return to our previous lives are to be celebrated. Seeing family and friends is wonderful and makes us feel more complete. Little things like going for a coffee somewhere and watching the world go by. I’ve just bought tickets for my first gig for this coming December and I relish the thought of seeing the first outdoor performance of the local theatre group Imaginarium Theatre in early July.

Yet what of those things we’d forgotten about that we’d like to see confined to a previous life? Will those lessons we should have learned about out the need to curb our manic, all-encompassing mass consumer-driven indulgences and the need to protect the vulnerable be slowly swallowed up as we hunger for a full and expansive life again?

Have enough of us learned the hard, fundamental truth of our own fragility?

MANAGING EXPECTATIONS

It would be of course, unrealistic to expect a global, complete epiphany were every soul we meet is changed and chastened sufficiently to radically change their lifestyle. And certainly many are facing genuine reopening anxiety regarding the gradual return of post pandemic life,and the calm public acceptance of the government’s decision to delay full reopening of society does point towards a shift in people’s outlook.

It will be interesting therefore to see how many of us in a few months’ time; should the control of the virus continue well enough to allow such freedoms to unfold, feel the urge to hark back to this calmer, overall more reflective period we have all been tiptoeing through.

Lockdown nostalgia. Whoever thought that could be a thing?

WORDS AND ALCOHOL: THE BOOZE-FUELLED ROUTE TO CREATIVE HEAVEN?

I came late to alcohol. Domestic circumstances, of which I won’t bore you to drink with, meant I was 25 before I was hit with the pile driver of my first hangover.

I was the lyricist in a two-man song writing partnership with composer Bob Mouat, and we had generated interest from a couple of London publishers and a young band from the Sunderland area. The publishers, eager to hear our songs in front of a live audience decided to travel to the north-east to the band’s local sell-out gig.

So, there I was, a deep-thinking, sensitive lad who’s previous drinking indulgence had been two pints in the local that had left me unreservedly giggly, suddenly being pumped with pints of Guinness simply for being ‘with the band’.

This was followed by a long and winding road trip to the after-show party in a packed car that included two pot smoking publishers and me with a liver trying desperately to process vast amounts of alcohol it was ill-equipped to deal with.

Long story short, my after-show party was spent face down on the lawn vomiting for Olympic Gold while praying for the blessed release of death. Thankfully, God wasn’t listening.

Ever since I’ve had an uncomfortable relationship with drink. We’re a little like cousins who see each other at family funerals and christenings and like to stay friendly but know essentially they have nothing in common.

But I’m a writer. Booze and the tortured soul of the writer go hand in hand, surely? Scott Fitzgerald, William Faulkner, Dylan Thomas, the list goes on, and on.

Novelist supreme William Faulkner. Don’t let the pipe and the ex-Army style moustache fool you – this guy could seriously put it away
SOZZLED WITH THE ‘IN’ CROWD

However slow alcoholic saturation does not, most free drinking writers agree, make for great work. Even that great literary lush Earnest Hemingway declared of alcohol ‘the only time it isn’t good for you is when you are to write or fight’. Does it however, oil the wheels that lead to commission heaven?

A good writer friend of mine from TV and radio once conceded she had got at least one job through “getting bladdered with the right people”. Indeed, when attending a meeting for finalists in the Red Planet Prize I recall Tony Jordan; writer and co-creator of shows such as Eastenders, Life on Mars, Hustle, declaring that he only wanted to work with writers he could ‘get pissed with’.

Maybe drinking stamina is subconsciously linked to a greater understanding of the excesses and vices of the human psyche, suggesting an ability to write flawed and ultimately more interesting characters. Conversely it could be argued that astute observation can benefit from social distance, a sense of looking in from the outside.

LIGHTWEIGHT AND LONELY

So, what about someone like myself, who is to drinking excess what Piers Morgan is to subtlety and sensitivity? Should I feel left out? Should those of us with a proud lightweight drinking status ever fear that it hampers our chance of a commission?

Well only if you’re looking for an excuse. Because ultimately all that matters is what we put on the page. Of course it does.

But then the cold, hard sober truth is that some extreme networking doesn’t do you any harm. Beat ’em or join ’em, one way or another.

Right, there’s a shandy over there with my name on it. Time to mingle.

In the meantime, a link to a Paul Ariss and Bob Mouat song from back in the day, written, as I recall, stone cold sober.