A very dry January

So, I did it.  I managed to go an entire month without any alcohol, an oft attempted NY resolution with a 0% success rate until now.  In fact I have never reached 3rd January before without falling off the wagon which is spectacularly bad, although in my defence 2nd January is my birthday.

Not wishing to go over old ground from my previous blog, let’s skip straight to the key points.  What have I learned?

I now know I can go a whole month without alcohol.  Whit-whew, whoop-di-doo, get me.  The objective in itself is meaningless without looking at the tangible benefits so here goes:

1) Financial
I estimate I drink 4 bottles of wine a week normally @ ~£6 a bottle, with one visit to a pub for a couple of pints @ £3.50 a pint.  Add to that a couple of G&T ‘sharpeners’ to kickstart the weekend and perhaps a cheeky late night Malt and that’s another £3-ish, so approx £35 a week.  £150 a month.
Impact: Significant

2) Weight
I lost around 4Kg from 1-31 Jan, approx. 9lbs, but there are a whole load of caveats here.  Firstly, it was January and I always begin the year at my heaviest after a libidinously indulgent festive season, and so by doing nothing different I would expect to shed around 3lbs anyway.  I also watched what I ate and did some 5:2 fasting and whilst I don’t enjoy the success my wife does, I suspect this also contributed to a couple of lbs of weight-loss too.  I’ve also been exercising a lot, although when I was training for the London Marathon in 2008, averaging 30-40 miles running a week, I still didn’t lose any weight, so not sure I can attribute much weight loss to exercise.  I would therefore suggest around 2lb in weight loss attributable to not drinking.  That’s still 24lbs extrapolated over a year.
Impact: Significant

3) General health
I definitely exercised more due to feeling good each day and not hiding behind the hangover.  I also saw a marked improvement in long term running injuries for the first time in years, which I would say is an indirect consequence of not drinking (not drinking -> more exercise -> improved strength & conditioning).  I have felt pretty fit and perky throughout, certainly more than usual and this might be psychological. Sometimes after a boozy session I just assumed I would be tired and therefore probably was.  Conversely now I expect to feel better and therefore do.
Impact: Moderate

4) Sleep
A big problem of mine traditionally.  Interestingly I have had a lot going on with work this month (a usual cause for poor sleep) and yet despite this I have definitely slept better than average.  Still had a couple of bad nights, so not a cure but a marked improvement in the quality of sleep if not the duration.
Impact: Moderate

So some tangible benefits there, the main one being financial followed by some weight/health benefits.  I haven’t done detailed blood tests which could add extra weight to these arguments.  For example a reduction in cholesterol or BP or glucose levels would certainly push this category more towards ‘Significant’.

Conclusions?
Much easier than I ever imagined.  During the last two weeks I even forgot to count and I had days where I don’t think I ever thought of having a drink.  I only went to a pub once and found that really hard.  I did stare a little too longingly at some blokes drinking pints of what looked like gorgeous tasting ale, but what I missed more than the taste was the ‘occasion’.  Going to a pub with friends/family and not drinking feels odd in a “why bother?” kind of way.  The best way to describe this is to say that I felt a bit sad.  I missed that chilled feeling, that warmth and relaxation, that light, heady fuzz that comes from the first pint, that feeling of walking back to the bar for a second one because you’re in the zone.  I really missed that as I drank my orange juice and tonic.  I also missed a glass of red with certain meals.  Wine just goes together with food like no other drink can. That wasn’t so much the need for alcohol, but the need for a full flavoured drink that isn’t gassy, suger laden or just plain bland.

I’m pleased with the results and pleased with my ability to remain resolute throughout.  Now I face a dilemma of what to do next.  My inability to moderate worries me – the ‘cheesy wotsit’ syndrome (see last blog) worries me.  I certainly don’t miss hangovers but I do miss the social side of drinking and the sensible answer is to resume drinking but in moderation.  Easier said than done in my case.

We’ll see.

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A revolution in new year’s resolutions …

Part I – History

When I was a school-kid, I loved it when I finished my exercise book and needed a new one.

Me: “Eyup Sir! ‘Av finished me book Sir!
Sir: “Then get a new one Ramsbottom! Cupboard!
Me: “Aw nice one, thanks Sir!
Sir: “And put that bloody bird down!

And I would giddily run over to the bleak looking store cupboard and select my new, clean, shiny, blank, untarnished exercise book.  It was exciting, an almost spiritual experience. That first page felt so soft and spongy, with all those other cleanly ironed pages behind, cushioning it. Tactile-tastic. Writing your name on the front in best handwriting “BILLY CASPER, 3BG” before opening it up to that fresh, virgin, welcoming first page.  Time for your first words, “12th January, 1973, in the top right hand corner.

I probably wrote the date in a special colour. And then next came the title, best handwriting, “How I Spent My Christmas“, perfectly centred, underlined, (oddly capitalised?). My shiny new exercise book was so soft, so easy to write on. This book was going to be different.  A game changer.  This was going to be neat all the way through. Best handwriting ever. And it would change my life, or so I thought. This must be where the saying, “Turning a new leaf comes from?” I jauntily mused in a light humoured and good natured fashion.

And then you turned the page, side 2 of page 1, the hard, cold, bare, unpleasant and most difficult page of them all. Oh you could rest your old exercise book underneath to provide some cushioned support, but it wasn’t the same, not like those pristine pages cushioning page 1 side 1. And the old exercise book didn’t quite fit all the way to the spine and so what cushioning you had disappeared two-thirds along the line, causing your words to fall off a precipice into the abyss of mediocrity, unpleasantness and typical untidiness.

And that was it. The love affair was over. Ink now rubbed from the page to your hand and back to the page again. Blotchy, scratchy, untidy, side 2 of page 1 had ruined the entire exercise book from hereonin.

Me: “Aw Sir!!  Can ar gerranother Sir? Av mucked it up Sir!
Sir: “Do you think I’m made of money Casper? Do you!? Why don’t you sell that bloody bird and then you can buy another book, eh?  How about that!?
Me: “Fcuk you Sir
Sir: “What did you say Casper?
Me: “Err, ar dint seh nowt Sir!

A memory from childhood, but a recurring theme throughout life, in various differing guises. And in a similar vein, that’s why New Year feels significant now, much more so than Christmas ever will for me. January 1st represents a brand new start, a full reboot, a metaphorical clean first page in a new exercise book, side 1 page 1.

I relish the chance to start again, looking forward to New Years Day when I can put all these foibles, errors, mistakes in life, all behind me, to start afresh again. Having said that, I am still appallingly bad at keeping new years resolutions, and in truth I have stopped talking about them as it got quite embarrassing, often failing, sometimes epically, occasionally spectacularly.

For years I have been going to write a book. I could see friends’ eyes glaze over when I trotted this one out, drunk, on 31st December around midnight.  Usually that was a sign that my wife needed to sort me out, not just for my sake, but for everyone else’s, as it was a strong indication that I had crossed the rubicon and was about to tell everyone all my plans for the new year, again:

Gone midnight and then some, NYE, every year:
Me: “Sod it, I’m gonna jack in my job next week and write a book.  This is it.  A new start.  I’ve seen the light and I’ve had enough.  I’m sick of it, sick of leading a hollow life, a slave to the corporate machine.  I want to break free, I know … I’m gonna write a novel!

Friends: “Donna?  Can you come here a minute? Quickly!
Wife: “Oh, there you are.  Shall we take you to bed?  It’s getting late and you’re tired
Me: “Wait I haven’t finished, things are changing, I’m serious this time.  I mean it.  I’m lost in a lullaby, caught by the side of the road, melted in memories, sliding in solitude, I want to read by the moon
Wife: “I know you do.  And you’re all of those things, really you are, but you’re tired, why don’t you get some rest?
Me: “I love you .. and her … and him .. he’s my best mate
Wife: “That’s a microwave, come along, say good night to all your friends?
Friends: “Night Andy!  Sleep tight! Happy New Year!
Me: “I LOVE YOU ALL!

My resolutions are usually thus:

– write a book
– change my job
– lose weight
– do voluntary work
– be less materialistic
– be a nicer person
– stop drinking

I have to admit it is getting a little boring, even to me, so I can only imagine what it’s like for everyone else, and sadly this year was no different. I couldn’t sleep as I made my plans for 2013, the list was forming in my head, this was it, I was adamant that this time it was going to be different after all, this was the year it would all change!

My list was revised and rewritten, it was much more pragmatic:

– forget ever writing a book you delusional idiot
– change my job
– lose weight
– do voluntary work
– be less materialistic
– be a nicer person
– stop drinking

So not a huge change then.

That my birthday happens to be 2nd January is somewhat problematic, as I often get drunk on my birthday, eating my take-away (birthday treat Chicken Dhansak) as I open my presents, which means stop drinking, lose weight and be less materialistic can be crossed off the list straight away, not even 48 hrs into the new year.

By the time January is completed, I’m usually left with “change my job” and “stop drinking”, and the whole resolution thing kind of fizzles away for another 11 months.

Part II – Present

The “stop drinking” resolution is a real pain.  I keep records and track my progress using a metric of “Alcohol Free Days” hitherto known as AFDs. In the 80s I used to note them in my paper diary, more recently I have developed sophisticated spreadsheets to track progress. I set targets – AFDs/year. In 1987 I achieved 32 AFDs, so just over 2.5 AFDs a month.  One year, 1991, I hit 100, over 8 AFDs a month.  They were my lowest and highest since records began, and they make pretty shoddy reading as I never once hit my target of 120 (10/month).

Over the last few years I changed tactics slightly and started to monitor Consecutive AFDs (CAFDs) on the premise that these were a) easier to track and b) healthier for you.  Someone once told me your liver starts to go into repair mode after four CAFDs, and that spurred me on.  I don’t want to know if that’s true or not, but it sounds good and it’s motivational.

Conveniently, four CAFDs also fits nicely into the working week.  Mon to Thurs means a mild liver detox and makes work a little more bearable ‘sans hangover’.  There was a slight problem though, as I usually got so excited at such a monumental achievement, that I got so drunk on the Friday, I undid all the good I had done over the previous four days. This ‘rebound effect’ is a bummer.  It’s like I have a new years resolution deathwish.

My wife is completely different.  For a start, she is only a light/moderate drinker, but if she ever feels she is drinking too much, she just cuts down. Instead of having two glasses of wine she has one, and I can only sit and stare in admiration at this alien concept of moderation. I can see it’s so healthy, and I am respectfully envious of people that can do that, but I know that if I open that bottle of wine, I finish it.  One glass is all it takes to sound the klaxons – PARTY TIME! LET’S ROCK! and before you know it, it’s 2am and I’m sat in the dark, in my underpants, eating Wotsits and playing Championship Manager on my iPhone.

Next day
Me: “I’m fed up, I’m never drinking again
Wife: “Oh really? Again? We’ve been here before though, haven’t we?
Me: “Yeah but, no but … no!  I mean it this time!  This time it’s for real! I’m never drinking again!
Wife: “Ok, by the way I found your underpants down the back of the sofa … inside an empty pack of cheesy Wotsits?
Me: {Awkward} {Embarrassed face}

2007 was a major milestone for me, I achieved 22 CAFDs which straddled Jan/Feb.  From 20th January to 10th February I was alcohol-less, and in so doing, I had achieved the longest CAFD run since records began.  One mistake I made was starting mid-January, so I lost the incentive as there was no symmetry to it.  I also remember we were invited to a neighbour’s for dinner on the Saturday, and I got all panicky and ended up drinking so much that I loathed myself for ending my record breaking CAFD run in such disappointing, crash and burn circumstances.  You can probably guess what happened next, suffice to say a fair few Wotsits were consumed.

So, onto today, January 24th 2013, which is significant for me as I have now gone 23 days without a drop of alcohol (CAFD = 23*).  And it’s symmetrical.  I haven’t had a drink since 2012.  I like that and it appeals to my Aspergers need for neat lines and numerical orderliness.  It even included my birthday, and it’s the longest I have ever gone without alcohol since I was a boy. Fact. On. A. Stick.

A shameful record for most adult humans, particularly a 48yr old human, but nevertheless a milestone for me personally. I do worry about the inevitable day when it all ends, so if you see me out shopping in the next few days, and I have a bumper pack of orangey coloured, cheesy flavoured snacks in my trolley, I suggest you duck down the next aisle and give me a wide berth.

Me: coming shortly (date: TBC)

* and counting …

Shitty fruit …

Today I did something I do a lot, I shopped local, not out of some grand gesture about saving the planet, although that plays a part, but it’s also convenient.  If I’m working from home I do the school run which means I pass through my local town at around 8.30am and if I need shopping it saves time if I do it then, whilst I’m passing through, it’s less hassle.

And in some vague, befuddled, semi diluted act of pseudo social conscience, I avoid Tesco Express and opt for the local Co-op instead.  I’m such an eco warrior.  Oh and the Co-op has a bigger car park too.

But shopping at the Co-op feels better than shopping at Tesco Express. It feels less corporate. I know the Co-op is a large corporation too, albeit nowhere near as big as Tesco, but it has some pretty cool foundations as a true ‘co-operative’, a shop for the people. It also has a local feel and many of their produce has an earthy/eco/fair-trade slant which appeals to my middle class guilt too. The staff are great value as well, the Co-op are definitely an equality employer and I really like that. You get all sorts in the Co-op, on both sides of the till, and it’s a real microcosm of our society in there. And I lead such a dull social life that I often meet friends in the Co-op. It used to be the pub, but these days it’s the Co-op, so a trip to collect some bread and milk is often accompanied by a natter with an old mate and a giggle with the chatty, always happy, always cheery shelf stacker who takes great pride in telling me they got to work FIVE MINUTES TOO EARLY TODAY AS THEIR WATCH WAS WRONG!!!

The problem with the Co-op is its still a large corporation operated from a central HQ, with a corporate attitude.  That’s obvious.  Unfortunately it also suffers from many of the problems of other large supermarkets in that their pricing is structured in such a way to encourage you to buy in bulk.  It’s only 20% more to buy two bags of clementines instead of one, buy 24 apples and get 12 free, etc.

The fruit and veg in the Co-op is a bit hit and miss too.  They must operate a pretty severe just-in-time stock policy which often falls the wrong side of just-in-time, becoming just-out-of-time. Frustratingly often, even staple basics such as bread or cheese are out of stock as new deliveries are awaited, but all in all it’s not bad, and still feels better than using Tesco Express.

However, today I did something completely different after dropping my son at school. I parked on the high street and sought out a local grocers, tucked away off the high street, certainly off the beaten track and well out of sight, presumably because he can’t afford the rent on the actual high street. I was pleasantly surprised to see the shop was open at 8.30am, when most of the town outlets don’t seem to wake up before 10am. After chatting to the grocer it turns out they open around 7am, “or whenever they’re back from Spitalfields market in London” and I love that. There’s no security guard stood by the door checking his watch, turning the lock as the clock strikes the hour, no, he opens as soon as he can.

It was minus 7 today, and the heating had broken in the grocers, but at zero degrees it still felt relatively warm.  The shelves were stacked high with fruit and vegetables, vibrant colours of reds, oranges, yellows and every shade of green, all laid out in open boxes.  It was a treasure trove in there, from the exotic to the basic and mundane, they had everything.

“If you need anything or can’t find anything just let me know” said the chirpy grocer who went about his business unpacking more produce as I browsed.

What struck me first of all was how everything was unpackaged, in open cardboard boxes.  Not uniform, corporately branded boxes all the same size, no confusing pricing information printed in Helvetica size 18 font. The boxes were whatever the produce was purchased in from the market, and the pricing was handwritten on a bit of cardboard.  In felt tip, remember them?

No packaging except for the basic and original cardboard box. I could have one apple, two apples, three apples, 11 apples, 23 apples, I could have one Pink Lady, two Braeburn and just one cooking apple. There were no BOGOF offers, no pre-packaged bags of 20 neatly sealed in a plastic box and then wrapped in another, hermetically sealed plastic bag upon which the enticing offer is printed, that if I buy two packaged boxes, I get 50% off.

I wanted some blueberries but I didn’t want a large carton full.  Blueberries were one of the few items pre-packaged.  Not a problem however, as the grocer broke open a carton and told me to put what I wanted into a paper bag which he then calculated as ‘about £1’ which incidentally looked like a great deal to me compared to the pre-packaged price.

Such warmth and simplicity almost makes me emotional. That’s true customer service isn’t it? The grocer didn’t have to advertise that they had relocated their Bangalore Service Centre back to Preston to entice new customers. They didn’t have Customer SLAs on the wall exclaiming that if your call isn’t answered within 24 hrs you will get your money back. No, you want a handful of blueberries? Have a handful and I won’t rip you off pricewise either. Awesome.

I wanted two fresh chilies.  I bought two fresh chilies.  No-one else in our house likes chilies and in the Co-op I have to buy a (pre-packaged) bag of six or eight, so I usually end up throwing more than half of them away.  And as much as I love Clementines, I don’t want to buy 2Kg to get the special offer, six will do me for now thanks.  I don’t like to watch my fruit slowly rotting away, making me feel guilty every night as they look slightly more sadder than yesterday.  The bizarre thing is because I can’t throw stuff away I only ever eat shitty fruit.  I look at the 18 apples in the fruit bowl and pick the shitty soft bruised one as that’s the closest one to being thrown away.  It tastes horrible but I feel good that I rescued it, for it breaks my heart to throw food away, I get emotional.  Which means that the next day, what was the second worst apple in the bowl is now the rankest, mankiest apple in the bowl and so I eat that, and so on, which means I only ever eat the shittiest, shitty fruit.

I yell at my kids if they pick up a fresh juicy apple:

“Don’t eat that! Eat that one! The bruised one!” I point
“What that really shitty one Dad?”
“No! the really, really REALLY shitty one next to the shitty one, the one with the big bruise on it!!”
“Sod that I’ll have a bag of crisps”.

No wonder obesity is becoming such a problem in this country.

At some point the system beats me, I can’t eat it all and so I end up throwing the last five apples away to replace them with another 24 I just picked up from the large supermarket because I got the last twelve for free.  It’s truly ridiculous.

At the grocers I bought six apples, seven clementines, four tomatoes, two chilies, three lemons and a scoop of blueberries. The tomatoes were ugly looking, they weren’t genetically groomed, nor perfectly spherical, instead they looked like they had grown as nature intended.  When I got home I couldn’t resist trying one and the flavour was immense, I really mean that, I kid you not.  So often I have bought tomatoes from Tesco or even the Co-op, six perfectly round tomatoes in a plastic tray covered in a plastic sealed wrapper, and so many times they taste of nothing. They’ve usually been shipped from somewhere sunny and exotic like South Africa.  But what a sell by date, two weeks.  They’re probably coated in Ronseal to make them last that long (which might explain the taste, or lack thereof).

My four not-in-the-least-bit-shitty tomatoes, what I bought

But I digress.  My four ugly tomatoes probably have a shelf life of 3-4 days, but I only have four so that’s not really a problem.  I don’t have to buy in bulk, I don’t have to buy bland, uniformly shaped, genetically modified, pesticide laden, tasteless produce any more.  I have a choice.  I can eat my four tomatoes and when I’m next passing by I can pick up another four.  No doubt these have been sprayed with pesticides too, and I’m not pretending that buying stuff that’s come from Spitalfields market necessarily means it’s organic, but it’s certainly bypassed a lot of the steps a Tesco tomato goes through on its journey from the ground and onto the shelf.  I bet its a more direct, a more traditional journey and I like that.

And I also love the fact that the grocer who is freezing his nads on in the freezing cold of his draughty shop tucked away round the corner, the bloke that was up at 4am to select his produce from the market in London and then opened his shop at 7am (ish), because he could, I’m so happy he gets my money rather than it go into the corporate coffers of some shareholder driven PLC HQ’d in London.

I spent just over a fiver in there.  The grocer scribbled some numbers on a pad of paper, did some mental arithmetic (get him!), told me my price and placed my produce in a plain brown paper bag.  I paid using coins of the realm, I didn’t get a receipt, no doubt he would have issued me with one but I really didn’t care.  And perhaps it would have been 20p cheaper per Kg in the Co-op, but perhaps not, it’s carefully designed and packaged to make the maths difficult and confusing anyway, but there’s certainly not much in it, and even if there is a small premium I am fortunate enough not to give a rats arse because it’s pleasurable, and fun, and gorgeous, and I have no packaging to get rid of, and hopefully next week I will have no rotten fruit to throw away.

I look forward to biting into a crisp, fresh apple later.  And I’m going to have another tomato this afternoon too, ‘cos they’re ace.  Shopping at your local is bloody ace and shame on me for not doing it sooner.

Isn’t it ironic …

As I get older, I find it even more frustrating that the precious, and increasingly scarce time I have left on this planet, is taken up being a corporate drone for someone else.

When you break it down to basics, being an employee is basically trading your free time for money.  Here’s how it works – I give you my time 9-5, five days a week, and in return you pay for my house, utility bills and a few treats, deal?  That’s 21.9% of your life incidentally (taking holidays into account).

Except it’s not quite that simple.  I don’t know many people that only work 40 hours a week. Most people in my industry work at least 8-6 (and many work more, but let’s be conservative here), and you can probably add 2 hrs a day commuting to/from work (1hr each way). For many that’s much higher and for some much lower, but let’s stick with the average here again. We are now up to 32.9%.

And if, like me, you worry about work, plan for work, check emails in the evening, send things over the weekend in readiness for the following week etc, let’s assume 1 additional hour a day given over to work and we find ourselves up to 39.8%. That’s over a third of our lives given over to our jobs in reality.

Hopefully you sleep well and get the average 8 hours sleep, but even if you sleep badly you probably at least try to get to sleep, and therefore we all spend somewhere in the region of 8 hours each night sleeping or trying to sleep.  That’s exactly 33.3% of our lives then, bringing the total time dedicated to working and sleeping to around 73%.

So for an average of 40 years, the best, most healthiest, most sociable, most family intensive years of your life, you have around 27% to yourself.  Except it’s not to yourself because much of that 27% is taken up with other jobs that have been neglected during the 73% of stolen time. You still have to clean the house, do the washing, vacuum, wash the dishes, empty the rubbish, inflate car tyres, fix leaky taps, clear up dog shit, etc. So let’s say we spend a very conservative 1.5hrs a day doing all those routine DIY/maintenance things – that’s another 6% stolen, taking our genuine free time down to a rather sorry looking 21%.

But of course for much of that 21% you are tired, or sick, or distracted, largely because of that 39.8% that insidiously creeps into other parts of your life, affecting your health, affecting your sleep (which further affects your health), further affecting your relationships with your spouse, your kids, your friends (how many times have you felt too knackered to go out?), and so that 21% ‘quality time’ is actually pretty poor quality after all.

If you’re like me, genuine free time is so valued that you waste much of it trying to work out what to do with it.  I immediately feel guilty and feel I have to fill it with more of those DIY/maintenance tasks (making that figure of 6% even bigger in truth).  So instead of watching the replay of Match Of The Day on that spare hour on Sunday morning, I do paperwork, bills that need paying usually.  So that 21% is actually less than 15% of genuine quality time.

And after all that, I really want to savour that quality time, and therefore I fill it with treats. I want to drink fine wines, I want expensive foods, I deserve those things after a hectic day don’t I? I want to eat in fancy restaurants on the weekend, I want to holiday with my family in sunnier climes thousands of miles away, flying on a big silver aeroplane to get there really quickly – after all, time is money.

I’m getting really prickly and defensive now. Fcuk you, I deserve it, I work hard. I want gadgets too. I deserve them, they’re my treats and hey I earn the money (said in an increasingly hostile and defensive tone). I’m also going to treat the kids because I feel guilty I haven’t really been there for them. I know, I’ll get them all an iPhone at Xmas too, they’ll be chuffed to bits. I noticed that family over there are going skiing because they just posted on Facebook, bastards, sod it, we’re going skiing too, you only live once! And in the summer I want some bloody sun. I deserve that. Yes, a villa in Spain with a private pool, that sounds awesome. I’ll post my pictures on Facebook so everyone can see how great and happy we are. I’ll upload photos from the airport, and then again when we land, and then again from the villa, and then from the poolside, and then from the restaurant, and then from the beach (remember to wear a t-shirt, do not show your belly and man-boobs, ffs).

Phew, that was good!  Damn, I’m skint, overdrawn again.  Life is such a chore.  I need a better job, one that pays more.  Yes it might mean more hours but think of the upside?  Ok, ok, so my 15% of spare time falls down to 5% because it’s a really stressful job, but what a 5% I will have!

That’s 72 minutes every day.  Awesome.  Now I really must make the most of that ever so increasingly precious time.  I need more treats.  Perhaps I should try drugs, they say the buzz is really quick and truly amazing.

And drugs is where the materialistic avalanche usually ends, for this is where people with too much money, usually the rich and famous, the celebrities to whom we most aspire, the people whose lives fill our TV screens, our magazines, our social media newsfeeds.  These are the people who become immune and hardened to treats, people who raise the stakes to such dangerous levels that it actually kills them.

And what differentiates ‘us’ from ‘them’ is poverty.  Not real poverty, but western poverty.  We have to run the hamster wheel constantly, we can’t stop, whereas they can.  Apparently sharks have to keep moving or else they die, and humans are no different, for when they stop, when there is no chase left, when they have everything, the real irony is that they lose everything.

Only humans could lead such messed up lives.  Kurt Cobain, Keith Moon, Hendrix, Amy Winehouse, River Phoenix, Jim Morrison, George Best – the list is endless.  Humans with immense, prodigious talent, people who had it all – fame, sex, money, mansions, fast cars, all those things to which we all aspire.

But of course that’s the nub of it all, because as much as we may whinge and moan, as much as we might stare in awe at the rich and famous, it’s the aspiration that keeps us alive, and not the acquisition.