Eat the ice cream

What’s the last good advert you remember?

I don’t know either.

I mean, I see enough of them, on TV, on Facebook, on Instagram, on websites, on billboards, on every single piece of media I ever consume, ALL OF THE TIME, but none of them stick.

However, one thing that has stuck recently, is this dystopian film for ice cream.

Watch it, then watch it again, then wonder if it was real and watch it a third time just to make sure.

Yep.

Having first been sent it by my friend, I’ve since seen it talked about by a bunch of people who don’t think it’s very good. Some people, in fact, hate it.

Well, I’m here to take it upon myself to let you all know you’re mistaken.

This is the best piece of advertising I’ve seen in ages, and what follows is a list of perfectly valid reasons why your opinion is wrong.

Reason you’re wrong 1 – People are talking about it.

Already this sets it apart from almost any other advert you’ll see. Right now I’m watching an ad for Lor coffee. It tells me I shouldn’t pursue anything less than gold, and just like that it’s over and I’ve forgotten all about it. Will I tweet about that Lor advert? No. Will I send it round the office tomorrow in an all-office email? No. Will I do that with any of the other ads that are flicking past my eye holes behind my laptop? Not a chance.

But I will, and already have done, with dystopian ice cream. If advertising has any purpose at all, it is to get something talked about. Success.

 

Reason you’re wrong 2 – It wasn’t designed by data.

The reason a lot of ads are shit is because data is their inspiration. The data says the audience will like this. The data says they responded well to that. The data says your ad should look like this.

Data conforms your creative. It gives you the building blocks to make something, and whenever you build with a prescribed list of ingredients, you end up with something that looks very similar. That’s why most of what we see it bollocks – it’s not been inspired by creativity; it’s been inspired by facts and figures, which in the entire history of the world, have never lead to anything mildly interesting. Sure, a bit of data is nice. A brief and a proposition, that’ll do. But let’s not go overboard.

This ice cream ad wasn’t even made by an agency. A film studio did it, which is why it looks so sharp and finely produced. Ad agencies often fall into the trap of creative by committee, where if a room full of people don’t all love the idea, the idea dies.

No committee got anywhere near this, so the idea stayed original.

 

Reason you’re wrong 3 – It caused controversy.

If everybody likes an idea, the chances are it’s bang average. It’s been shaped by opinions, feedback, criticism, and round after round of amends and changes. While it might have started out as something fresh and new, an agency full of people whose jobs are to tell you ‘no’ have ended up making it boringly safe.

It then goes to the client, who makes it safer still, before you deliver something everyone is just happy to get off their desks and won’t put anywhere near their portfolios.

Every second a good idea dies. It’s the way of the world.

Dystopian ice cream is an idea that not everybody likes. Some people think it’s great, while other people think it’s a piss take. That means it’s the furthest thing away from average you could imagine. In the few days it’s been out, it’s already caused more conversation than anything that went through a panel of experts.

It’s fresh and new, and no-one killed it.

 

Reason you’re wrong number 4 – Excellent SEO.

Search dystopian ice cream. Need I say anymore?

 

I’d always much rather create something that is hated than something that is acceptable.
Acceptable ideas are what will kill the industry. Things like this are what will keep it striving to be different, which I’m sure was the reason we all got into it.

Advertising is meant to cause a stir and make products stand out from their competition. I can’t think of anything that has done that better recently than robots force feeding a captive OAP ice cream.

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Be more you

When you work as a copywriter, it can be quite easy to forget who you are. Not in a soul destroying, career doubting kind of way, (although that does happen too, at least every other Wednesday,) but more in a way that makes you forget how you speak.

As you first learn how to write, you’re encouraged to develop your own tone of voice, your own distinct style that makes you stand out from the crowd.

This is what gets you praised at school. This is what will make your English teacher stop and pay attention. This is what will help you pass your degree and get those early gigs as a features writer or social media manager. (Personal history, follow your own path, yeah?)

Your tone of voice will define your early portfolio and get you those first steps on the career ladder. People will want you because you are you. Or just accept you because you’re there, one or the other.

However, the longer your career goes on, the more being you becomes difficult.

Clients don’t want you because you can write in an irreverent, witty way. They don’t care much for your imagination and personality when simple, clear copy will do the trick just fine. If you can sell their product in plain English with a strong call to action, they’ll take that instead of the option you’ve given them that includes a dragon wearing chinos.

The more you write, the more this becomes a problem.

You learn to speak in other people’s tone of voice instead of your own, adapting your writing style to suit different briefs and different demands. Now, this isn’t a bad thing. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. Any copywriter worth their salt can change the way they write. To be able to slip seamlessly into writing for Client B when you’ve just finished a job for Client A is a skill not many people have, and it will stand you in good stead with anyone who relies on your words.

But by doing that, you can very easily forget how to write as yourself.

Some feedback I got the other week reminded me of this.

“This is great, but it’s a bit too Ash.”

That was the kind of comment I used to receive all the time. In fact, I’d respond to every brief with my own tone and character, offering it a twist that no-one else could and hoping that, this time, the client and my words would see eye to eye.

But recently I’ve been hearing it less and less. I’ve had to tone my ‘Ash’ down and ramp my clients up, and that’s a good thing if you’re my employers, or the people who pay my employers to do work.

But it’s a bad thing when it comes to Brand Billinghay.

This is a brand I’ve been building for 27 years now, and at its peak it saw me writing for numerous indie publications, a major British broadsheet, countless blogs, several arty creative types and some of the biggest clients in the UK.

Now I just do the latter, which I guess you can look at in two ways:

  1. My career is now shit hot. I mean, listen, haters, look at me now. I got paper.
  2. I don’t blog as much as I’d like to, and when I do, I struggle to remember how to be cool and alternative.

 

So which one of those matters the most?

The answer is neither and both of them. Somehow, in order to achieve true Ash happiness, or Ashiness as it shall henceforth be known, I need to combine writing fluently in client tongue with writing utter nonsense in my own language.

I need to rediscover what makes me, me. Otherwise I’m just the same as everyone else.

You’ll see countless copywriters who are very good at their jobs, but write just like any other good copywriter could. They’ll do their work well, but it won’t be memorable or cause any debate in the office. They won’t be told they’re being too Dean, or too Susan, or too Robert.

They’ll make life easy for their account managers and plod on with a perfectly happy career until they hit 40 and are no longer deemed relevant to their agencies, at which point they’ll go freelance and write some more perfectly good words for other people.

No problem with that. Good for them.

But I don’t want to plod. I don’t want to write like anyone else, or settle for doing things well.

I want to do things my way and make my own mark. I want to hit 40 and be looked at as a pioneer, invited into universities to deliver talks on how to stand out in, what by then, will be an industry full of hipsters who are all trying to do the very same thing.

I want to write books, change mindsets, and make ads that people will still be talking about in the future.

Or, more realistically, I want to be told to stop and seek professional help.

Can I do that by writing like anybody else?

In part, sure, but the best chance I’ve got is by writing just like me.

Be the client when necessary, but when it comes to my own time, be as Ash as it’s physically possible to be.

Dear First Utility

Dear First Utility,

Do you remember the good times? I do.

I remember switching to you on a hot summer’s day, gleefully accepting your very cheap rates and wondering how – just how – you could afford to be so, well, affordable.

Why couldn’t more energy providers be like you? The amount I would have to pay you each month made switching the easy choice, and I was happy with such service for the next two years. We never had a problem, you and I. I’d pay you the pittance you asked for, you’d keep my power on, and we’d get on with our respective lives.

Those were the good times.

The happy times.

The times that are long since over.

Ever since moving home and having to cancel my account, you’ve been far removed from the cheerfully cheap utilities provider I once admired.

You’ve been clingy, stubborn, and at times plain threatening as you refuse to accept our time is now over.

Having mistakenly tried to take you with me to my new address (something I could not do, due to my landlord controlling the power there), you refunded me the £30 you’d taken from my account. Sure, you shouldn’t have taken that money from me in the first place – I’d already cancelled my account by then – but mistakes happen, we’re all prone to them. I mean, I tried to switch my energy provider when I couldn’t. What larks!

You sent it back without much fuss, and I cashed the cheque in without a second thought.

Then you got annoyed.

The very next day I received an email telling me I still owed you money based on my final meter reading. I wasn’t sure how this could be the case, so I called you to talk it through.

I was on hold – as is always the case when I try and get through to you – for a very, very long time, before I was given the option to have someone call me back. They did, and explained to me that I did owe you money, and that I really had no choice but to pay it. So, being the law abiding citizen I am, and trusting in businesses like we’re told we can do, I paid you the money.

I was told by the lady on the phone that my business with you was now done. My account was cleared, and once and for all, would be closed down.

Easy as that.

Or not.

The next week I received a letter in the post. It told me that I owed you yet more money, and that despite several attempts to contact me I was still to pay it. Now, for the sake of the reader, I can confirm that no previous attempts to contact me were ever made. I assumed this letter was a mistake.

You disagreed.

A few days later you sent me an email in a much sterner tone of voice. You wanted your money, and were giving me one last chance to pay it.

I called you again, but as I’d previously discovered, getting through to anyone at your call centre was almost impossible. I’m a working man, and I couldn’t spend my whole day chasing you. What ever would I put on my time sheet?

Instead, I tweeted you, and someone got back to me immediately. I explained the situation to them – that I’d already cleared my account, that I owed you nothing else, that this was just a mistake – and you agreed.

Sorry, you said. It won’t happen again, you said. It was just a flaw in the system, you said.

Good old First Utility, I thought. They might make the odd error now and again, but they’ll hold their hands up and admit when they’re wrong. They’d always have a joke or two on Twitter too, and seemed like decent people.

But you wouldn’t give it up, would you?

Time passed, and then once again, up popped your name in my inbox.

“You owe us money, Mr Billinghay, and we assume because of your repeated refusal to reply to our REGULAR attempts to contact you, that you do not intend to pay this.

This leaves us no option but to involve external agents to claim the money back.”

Well, now things were getting serious. I’m a big fan of the Channel 5 programme “Can’t Pay? We’ll Take It Away,” but I did not want to ever appear on it. External agents sounded menacing, and me being a little old consumer was a tiny bit scared. Surely you wouldn’t keep making this mistake unless I really did owe you. Surely you wouldn’t send this kind of message unless I was really in trouble. Gosh, I must have done something very wrong. Bad me.

Again I called you. Again I heard your hold music. Again I resorted to Twitter.

The Twitter man told me that the money I owed was due to the following:

We (First Utility) mistakenly paid you back £30 on more than one occasion. We sent you two cheques, and also transferred the money into your account. That is why you now owe us.

You couldn’t be serious, could you? I’d received one cheque, not two, and no such payment had ever been made to my account. I proved it with a statement, and your Twitter man apologised (again) for your mistake, and promised to pass this information onto your payments team.

Phew. I was glad this whole mess was over with. I did not want external agents knocking on my door and taking my things away. I like my things.

ONLY IT WASN’T OVER WITH, WAS IT FIRST UTILITY?

While sitting at my desk I received a phone call, and unlike you I picked it up straight away.

“Hello, it’s blah from First Utility. Can I just confirm some details please?”

“Yes, here you go.”

“Good, thank you Mr Billinghay. I’m calling because you have an outstanding balance with us. Despite repeated communications with you, you still have not paid the balance you owe us. We need to take that money today to prevent legal action.”

It’s a good job I’m a nice man, First Utility, because I wanted to shout very unseemly things at the man on the phone.  I explained the situation to him, just as I had done numerous times before, citing the number of Twitter conversations I’ve had with you in which you’ve said sorry and promised to sort things out. I told you about the phone call in which you’d said the very same thing. I told you about the letters, the emails and the threats you’d made, and said that while I understood it was not the man on the phone’s fault, I was getting quite annoyed.

Guess what you did?

You apologised, accepted you were wrong, and said it would never happen again.

Again.

It better not happen again, First Utility, because there’s an energy ombudsman tab open on my desktop right now, and I will fill in various forms about your repeated nagging of me to pay you money I do not, never have and never will owe.

If you were doing this to any normal consumer, that may have already happened. But you’re not. You’re doing it to a professional copywriter who chooses to take his annoyance out via the way of a sarcastic blog post, so consider yourself lucky that only the few thousand people who visit my website will know of how bad you’re being.

You started out as such a breath of fresh air, but now that air is stale and smells quite bad.

But with service like that, at least I do now understand why your tariffs are so cheap.

Let’s get personal

I’m a firm believer in following a passion. Life is about living, after all, and if you let work get in the way of pursuing your dreams, you can quickly end up just existing.

Having a side project on the go has always kept me (relatively) sane. It’s helped me stay creative, even if my day job has been dragging me down, and kept my mind ticking over despite the urge to turn it off and burn it.

But as much as I know the benefits of doing it, actually making that passion a reality is a different thing all together.

Let me paint you a picture of my regular day:

6:30 – Alarm goes off. Wake up full of good intentions to get out of bed and make a hearty breakfast.

8.00 – Actually get out of bed.

9.00 – 12.00 – Write copy. Really good copy. Like, some of the best copy you’ll ever see. I’m shit hot.

12.00 – 12.45 – Lift weights. Really light weights. Like, some of the lightest weights you’ll ever see. I’m shit.

12.45 – 5.30 – Amend all the copy I wrote earlier.

5.30 – 6.00 – Walk home full of more good intentions.  I’ve got a great idea for a book, and today I’m going to make that idea a reality.

6.00 – 10.30 – TV.

10.30 – Bed.

I don’t know what happens between my walk home and arriving home. The urge to write is there, and the ideas I plan to put down are all swimming around in my head. But then, for whatever reason, in my head is where they stay. All cosy, cuddled up, and safe from the ridicule of the real world.

It should be much easier. I work all day as a copywriter, spending 8 hours planning, thinking of, plotting and playing with words. My fingers rarely leave the keyboard, unless it’s to pick up a pen, and writing thousands of words in a pressurised environment comes as second nature to me. Taglines, scripts, concepts, content, strategy, and everything that comes with it is easy. Piece of piss, mate. No problem.
My story, on the other hand…

Are my fingers ready for a rest? Is my mind too tired to do any more? Is it Theresa May’s fault? All these things are possibilities, but I think the reality is something different.

Pursuing your passion is meant to be hard, otherwise everyone would do it.

It’s an incredibly rewarding thing to do – to follow your dreams and see them come into fruition. To have an idea and turn it into something physical, touchable, tangible that you can hold in your hands and say, “Hey everyone, look what I did. That was me. I thought that up and then did it and isn’t it nice?”

I imagine that’s how parents feel about their new born babies, or dung beetles feel about their balls of poo. That’s definitely how I’d feel about my book, if I ever got on with writing it. It’d be my own, personal ball of poo that I’d rolled all by myself. It would have grown much bigger than me, but I’d have been determined enough to keep on rolling until it formed into a huge, shitty sculpture that I could Instagram for all my dung beetle friends to admire.

So, what can ya do? What’s going to shake you out of your lazy zone and give you the kick up the arse you need to go on to become an incredibly successful author? How are you going to have your work turned into a hit Sky drama that’s available to download in boxset form?

You’re going to set yourself targets, that’s what.

It was Christmas last year when I decided I was going to stop wanting to do something and actually get on with doing it. During that particularly pointless period between Christmas Day and New Year, when some companies insist you go into work anyway – ahem – I sat at my desk and whacked out a few thousand words to start things off.

That was when my first target was set. It had only taken a few hours, but I’d already set the scene for the story, identified my main character, and got the plot underway. The idea that had been swimming around in my head for so long suddenly had a home on paper, and that was a lovely thing to see.

If all I could give to my project was a few hours a week, that was still enough to achieve quite a lot.

Since then that’s what I’ve done. I’ve set aside even the tiniest bit of time to write something down, whether it’s a full chapter or just an idea for what might happen later.

The second thing that’s helped is to find an audience. If I didn’t respond to a brief at work, people would be disappointed. I have a crowd to please. The same applies with my story. My girlfriend wants to know what happens next, and she’s an absolute gem who’ll sit there and listen while I talk about the nonsense I’m planning. If I haven’t written anything that week, I’ll have nothing to tell her. That’s like disappointing a puppy, and we can’t be having that.

Finally, I’ve got an ambition. An ambition for what I want my life to be and what things will look like in the future. Sitting about and waiting for something good to happen is never how success comes about. No-one’s autobiography has ever included the line, “So one day I was just putting off doing anything, when suddenly I became really rich and all my dreams came true.”

That’s not how it happens. Wanting it won’t get it. Wishing for it won’t make it come true.

You’ve got to go out and make it, so for a few hours a week, that’s exactly what I’ll do.

Everything’s changing

To stand still is to move backwards.

That’s what one person might have said, once. I don’t remember. I didn’t take notes.

Anyway, it’s an idea I fully believe in. I think if you’re not moving forwards in life, you’re only really moving backwards. By standing still, you’re letting life and all of its many opportunities run away from you.  You’re getting left behind, enjoying the warmth of your comfort zone and missing out on what else might be out there.

You’re wasting your turn.

And there’s nothing wrong with that, not really. If you’re happy, you’re happy. Don’t go changing that for the chance that you might be happier doing something else. Having a comfort zone is seen as a bit of a bad thing sometimes, but it can be lovely and cosy, and I’ve found myself there a few times before. Enjoying it, supping on its wine, warming my hands in its bosom.

However, if that comfort zone starts to feel a little bit, well, claustrophobic, it’s time you look at getting out. When you realise that your comfort zone is stopping you from fulfilling your potential, you need to find the exit door and race on through it.

Hence why I’m here, sitting in Leeds and writing a blog about how it came to be.

My comfort zone wasn’t expanding as I’d have liked it to have done. I’d planned to build it an extension, filling it with furniture and making it bigger, brighter and better as I went along. I had big hopes for my comfort zone. I thought one day it might not only be comfortable, but it would also be rewarding, profitable and excitable.

I’d hoped that the more I put into my comfort zone, the more it would give me back.

Yet here I am, sitting in Leeds, writing a blog about how it came to be. It’s safe to assume my comfort zone did not deliver.

I’m a big believer that life won’t just work out for you if you sit and wait. If you want something to happen, you have to go out there and bloody well make it happen for yourself. That’s the only way you’ll achieve success, the only way your dreams will be realised, and the only way you’ll get where you believe you should be.

If your comfort zone is getting uncomfortable, make yourself a new one.

My new one happens to be in Leeds, where I’m sitting writing a blog about how it came to be. I’d only been to Leeds twice before – once for an eventful 22nd birthday party where a girl I liked at the time described me as being something of a brotherly figure (real boner killer, that), and again when I went to an equally eventful client Christmas party, where I was trapped in a corner and flirted with excessively by a middle-aged woman.

It wasn’t the best introduction to Leeds I could have had, but it certainly created stories.

This time round I’ve moved into a new flat, started a new job, ordered a new repeat prescription, and brought my relatively new girlfriend along with me for the ride. Leeds v3 is looking up.

Sometimes change doesn’t work out, but in this instance it’s almost certainly been a good thing. It’s brought me closer to my #lifegoals, and helped make paying my rent a little bit easier. I’ve also discovered that I need change to top up the ancient coin operated electricity meter in my new flat, so that’s something.

I’d recommend a bit of change occasionally for everyone. If you’re not happy, change it. If you’re feeling unfilled, change it. If you simply hate your haircut, you know what to do.

Standing still gets you nowhere new. Heading off over the horizon might not work out, but it’s definitely better than never knowing.

2016: A year in bloody review

Hello, readers.

Maybe you’re a friend, maybe you’re a social media contact, maybe you’re a family member, or maybe you’re a coworker who regrets following me online. Either way, you all have something in common – you’re here, and you’re about to read an incredibly sarcastic and at times deeply troubled review of the last 12 months of the life of me, Ash Billinghay MA.

I do this kind of thing every year. I know, I’m not sure why either. But at least some of you seem to enjoy partaking in the joy/success/failure/misery that has befallen me since January, and for those hardy few I will go on, forever summarising the great many things that have happened to me in as short, engaging and, hopefully, entertaining way as possible.

If this is your first time reading this bollocks, please refer to last year’s entry to give you an idea of how it works.

If this is not your first time, or you simply do not care, then please read on and enjoy my journey from happiness to despair and beyond. It’ll be a fucking riot.

January

What happened in January? What ever happened in that month so long ago that I had wiped it completely from my mind? I bet it was something good, I bet it was juicy, and I bet when I find it on my Facebook timeline (research!) it’ll blow my mind away. “Gee!” I’ll say, as if I’m in an Enid Blyton book, “What jolly good fun that was!”

Oh. Wait. It turns out in January all that happened was I wore the same jumper as my friend. Ah well, we looked fit.

meandselina

February

In February I got a whole year older and wondered where all my dreams had gone. Why had I not amounted to anything? Where was my life heading? Did I have any reason to be here anymore? It was a wonderful time to be alive and I think I got a cake. My friend sent me this photo of me on a beach.

ashmankini

March

I’m sure March was nice. I mean I’m only getting any of the information I need for this from my Facebook page, which is hardly ever updated anymore because I have nothing worth talking about and, if I do, I discuss it with real life friends over alcohol. So sadly Facebook for March is limited, as it may be for many of the months going forward. All that I know definitely happened is that I went to a football match with my dad, which isn’t especially different to anything else that happened this year, it’s just all I seemed to share. Here’s a picture of us looking a) freezing b) happy and c) suspiciously like brothers.

meanddad

April

Quite a bit went down in April, apparently. I know for a fact I went out with one of my best friends and got far too drunk for a Thursday. She’s a beautiful wreck of a human being who I treasure very much, but at one point in the night she spilt coke all over KFC’s floor and we had to sneak out without anyone noticing – a very hard task when you’ve had that much gin. At that particular moment I didn’t treasure her at all.

Later in April a very talented illustrator who I follow on Twitter drew this quite wonderful caricature of me. I’d like to make it clear that this photo was taken a very long time ago and I can now handle my drink in a much more sophisticated manner.

meandmyalterego

May

I didn’t know it at the time, but May would be the month I made some of the best friends I’ve ever had. Of course, at the time, how could you know these things will happen? You might meet people, think they’re alright at the time but later go on to realise they’re utter scum who deserve no oxygen, let alone any of your appreciation.
Fortunately this did not happen with these people. They turned out to be some of the greatest people you could ever hope to know, and I’ll cherish them forever like the little diamonds they are.
Here I am looking sternly into one of them’s eyes. I’ve already told her this to her face, but I’ll tell it to the three people still reading this too: She’s an utter gem and I’m lucky to know her.

meandalys

June

Ah, summer time. When days get longer, shorts get shorter and armpits get moister. As summer approached I was excited. For the first time in ages I had plans. I was going to show off my newly found arms in a variety of hipster t-shirts, I was going to drink almost every other evening, and I was going to take my then girlfriend to London for a holiday that would surely secure my place in her heart forever. More on that later, fans of other people’s drama.
Almost all of those plans became a reality. I did show off my arms. I did drink. I did indeed go to London. If only I’d known then what I know now, I’d never have spent all that money on treating the devil to a weekend away.

In the below picture you can see me about to enjoy an incredibly large pizza in Camden. Don’t I look happy?

meinglasses

July

I’m sure you’ve got more interesting things to do than read about my gran’s 80th birthday, but I’m going to tell you about it anyway as that’s all that seemed to happen in the month commonly known as July. My gran is a truly wonderful woman. She always laughs, always smiles and always tells you the same story at least three times before accepting that you already know how it ends. I love her very much, and as her first grandchild I am automatically her favourite.
To celebrate being a whopping 80 years old, a big chunk of my family got together and ate Italian food. It had been ages since I’d seen half of these people, and it may well be ages until I see them again. The last time I saw my cousin, for example, I was babysitting him. Now he’s in the RAF and probably does not require my attention.
Here I am ruining an otherwise nice family photo.

medadjaz

August

Ah, the month drama fans have been waiting for. I don’t really like airing my dirty laundry, but I do always like turning dark, sad situations into funny stories, so here goes. In August, through a series of highly unexpected events, I found out that the girl I’d been seeing for nearly two years had been seeing someone else the entire time. I found a Facebook profile that she insisted she didn’t have, the profile of her other boyfriend full of pictures of the two of them together, and various photos of him with all the family. Now here’s where it gets clever – I’d never been allowed to meet the family, or any of the friends. I’d been told this was due to anxiety, but it was actually due to some very smart manipulation. Fair play. If you’re going to trick a man into falling for you, drag him along for two years and accept all of the meals he pays for, gifts he buys you, love he gives you and space in his wardrobe he allows for your shoes – that’s definitely the way to do it.

August was a very sad time for me. August nearly broke my heart. But now, several months later, I can only stand and applaud at the incredible trickery that went into such a near perfect deception. One day I’ll dedicate the book to you for a laugh.

The below also happened in August. This was much more fun.

mealysed

September

September was when the red wine stain on my kitchen wall happened. That was about it. I mean, I could go into great detail about how the stain got there, how the cork broke the bottle because I didn’t own a corkscrew, and how wine was also spilt on my table, floor and clothes, but I doubt it would be that interesting. Instead I’ll leave you with this short poem about wine and the woes it can bring. Enjoy.

Red or white, bottle or glass,
Wine can help the sad times pass.
Tip it up, pour it down,
Wine will surely ease your frown.
Sadly though, with no corkscrew,
That wine will go all over you.
Never mind, drink away,
Your security deposit will save the day.

October

The role I was born to play – the leather jacket wearing prick in an American teenage coming-of-age film.

meandfriends

I also ate some bugs in October. It was a work thing, and when it comes to being the centre of attention I’m always the first to raise my hand. So when volunteers were required to eat bugs for charity in front of everyone else in the office, how could I possibly say no? I devoured meal worms, crickets and one big ass water beetle. I felt fine until the last one, which tasted like death itself had been released inside my mouth and was now working its way through my organs. Was it worth it for a few laughs and a lot of people looking at me? Hell yes it was.

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November

All I can recall about November is that new episodes of hipster favourite Gilmore Girls were released on Netflix. It’s sad that, isn’t it? I wish more had happened that I could tell you about. I wish this paragraph would go on to be greater than a small review of a fast talking, polo neck wearing American comedy/drama, but it won’t be. Brace yourselves.

I liked the new Gilmore Girls. It wasn’t as good as I’d remembered it being, but it was ok.

There, review – and November – over.

December

Finally, the end is here. The end of a long, painful, at times traumatic 12 months of shit, slogging, disappointment and anger all compressed and neatly packaged inside the head of a sarcastic, ambitious copywriter who keeps ramming his head into the wall of the future without ever seeming to make a mark on it. What did that last sentence even mean? Maybe that kind of shit is why I’m getting nowhere. Anyway, December happened. Christmas came. Exciting things presented themselves in unexpected ways. I got bought a lovely bottle of bourbon.

Was that a good enough year in review for you? Was last year’s better? Will next year’s be better still? Only fate will decide.

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I am Scrooge

It’s hard hating Christmas.

People look at you differently. Parents tell their children to avoid you in the street. Friends think you’re just being difficult because, you know, you’re a sarcastic prick who likes to have a difference of opinion occasionally.

“He’s just being Ash,” they say, as you turn your nose up at yet another Christmas song from the 80s. “He likes Christmas really, see, he’s smiling.”

Only you’re not smiling. Not at all. Contrary to people’s opinion that everyone MUST like Christmas, you really, really don’t, and as it gets closer you only get more depressed and find yourself longing for the Christmas party purely so you can drink enough to forget what time of year it is. Yay for free bars.

Hating Christmas is hard because people don’t think it’s possible. Some people are that happy about it that you having a different view point almost offends them. It’s as if Santa is a deity and you’re dismissing their religion. It’s like they’re a passionate Liverpool fan and you’re telling them that Steven Gerrard isn’t, in your opinion, the best player to have ever played the game. It makes them angry, it loses you friends, and worst of all it makes them turn up the Christmas music.

“We’ve heard ‘Step Into Christmas’ three times today,” you insist, but they ignore you as they prance about and hum the words they don’t really know. Maybe they’re right; maybe Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year and you really are a Scrooge for hating on it like you do, but you dislike it with very good reason and that – at last – is the point this blog post is getting to.

Things used to be different between me and the 25th of December. Growing up I was just like any other kid, apart from the dark visions at night and the things the family never talk about. Christmas used to be full of yay and woo, and I was equally as excited as any other middle class child growing up in a privileged country.

One year changed all of that.

That year was 2007, when in the build up to Christmas things started getting strange. I lost a lot of weight, I started feeling quite unwell, and during an annual trip around a shopping centre I realised just how thirsty I was all of the time. Drink after drink after drink, the thirst never ended and I constantly felt on the verge of collapsing.

A few days later, on December 23rd no less, I was told I had diabetes. That was when Christmas started to go downhill.

Being told you’ve got an incurable condition can really put a downer on an occasion, and that downer has returned every year since. Whether it’s been the time of year making bad things happen to me, or whether it’s been my festive bad mood making bad things come with it I’m not sure, but either way I have a recent track record of it being more no no no than ho ho ho.

I’ve had relationships fall apart, friends get unwell and pets die, just to name a few, but none of that has compared to the feeling that always lingers – one of the loneliness, hopelessness and despair that December 23rd 2007 brought with it.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m a really good diabetic now. I hardly ever fall over (much) and I can handle a needle in a way that would make Amy Winehouse proud. I’m totally ok with it, there are no hard feelings between me and my pancreas. (You useless piece of shit, what’s the fucking point in you? You’re just sitting there taking up space and enjoying the free fucking ride, aren’t you?)

But still, a bad memory can be hard to get rid of. As soon as the sleigh bells start ringing and Elton John starts stepping in, I can’t help myself but feel lost.

Forgive me, oh festive ones, for I can never be like you. Enjoy your excitement but let me off if my highlight is Lincoln City playing on Boxing Day.