Saturday 11 February 2012

What have you done today to make you feel proud?

People are proud of doing all sorts of things, but really if it benefits you and no-one else really (for instance, round the world sailing followed by profuse crying and piles of cash coming your way) then it's not really much to be proud of in my view.

A few years ago some colleagues cajoled me into donating blood and I gave my 10th pint a couple of weeks back.

It's not a big deal compared with many donors, but as a kid I remember how my great uncle always wore his pin badge (probably for 50 or more donations!) with pride and getting my own, even for just 10, gave me a taste of why.

There's no direct benefit in giving blood, for the donor in the UK, except for a cup of tea and biscuits, but without people giving blood many wouldn't survive operations or cancer treatment.

I'll admit I was (still am!) a bit squeamish about the needles (don't look if you are - they're pretty thick!), but the actual experience is pretty much painless (an ant bite is about as bad as the needle going in at worst in my experiences), so if you want to do something easy, selfless and that you can feel a little bit of well deserved pride in for doing, get out and give blood!

See the "Give Blood" website for details of how to -

Friday 10 February 2012


A while ago I took out a trial on Audible, Amazon's audio book service.

I got a free book (The Jeremy Deaver Bond - Carte Blanche) and then, forgetting to cancel it, I had to pay £7 or so for a month's subscription, so got a Milton Jones 'audio book' - more a radio show really.

I then cancelled it as I wasn't using it (and I was rather frustrated to find I couldn't stick it on my MP3 player or a CD in the car - Seems you can do the latter somehow now), but in recent weeks I decided to give the Bond book a go.

Half way through and I think I can categorically say Audible isn't for me (probably Audio books aren't).

Reading is a pretty focussed activity. You can't watch TV and read a book, or hold a conversation and read a book. You might do both in a period of time, but you timeslice, breaking from the book whilst you talk or listen to someone and then picking up where you left off.

With an Audio Book I find a distraction takes my mind away from the 'book', but when I return to it, it's merrily ploughed on, knocking down a number of characters and demolishing an ornamental wall!

Unless you can focus entirely on the book, you will miss chunks.

Even a train journey has too many distractions - sunsets, nice cars in station car parks, odd looking fellow passengers, newspaper headlines - even an idle thought can mean you miss a character being killed off or some vital part of the plot.

The other thing is the reader. Toby Stephens, a fairly capable actor, reads Carte Blanche in a suitably sardonic style, but when the action moves to South Africa he proves that he doesn't really have a career playing Seeth Ifrikens! His accent is beyond poor and well into laughable (I did actually laugh the first time he spoke in it). When it's going on in your head, the accents are 'right' because you know what a REAL South African will sound like (and it's not Toby Stephens!).

I'm sure if you cannot read books for some reason, poor eyesight probably, audio books are a great way to get access to literature, information and just books for entertainment, but for me they're a dead loss...