Monday, 12 March 2018

Recent Things & Happenings

Yesterday was Mother's Day here in the United Kingdom, and to celebrate the occasion me and Crina headed to Fareham to spend some quality time with her parents. It was a lovely few days, with us cooking our own home-made Nandos' chicken and spicy rice on the Saturday and, yesterday, looking around the beautiful Leeds Castle which confusingly is based in, er, Kent.

Next weekend we're off travelling again, this time returning to Dover to see Great Aunt Barbara. Mum and my step-dad Dave are joining us too. As I didn't get to see Mum yesterday, this is my gift to her. She'll come down to London on Friday, and after Dover we'll get to spend a lovely few hours back in London on Sunday together.

At home I've been watching the drama American Crime Story: The Peeople Vs O.J. Simpson. I have to admit that it started off a little slow, but it's grown to become a very captivating piece of television that I look forward to watching every night! (In fact, as I type these very words, I'm in the midst of episode 8, which the focus on the Jury of the case.)

Meanwhile I'm down to my last week working in my current division at work. Yep... this time next week I officially move away from my role in the marketing division for ventures new. I have to admit that I'm a little sad at the prospect, not least because it means I won't be taking part in signings anymore. They've always been my favourite part of the job; meeting key creators of books and comics, getting to know them a little, and see them meet their public. But onwards and upwards. New chapter coming soon!

Talking of chapters:

1) I'm paused on my Dredd reading for a few weeks, as I catch up with his various spin-offs. Last week I caught up on the first half of Calhab Justice (er... I'm sorry to report that I struggled to understand it!). Much better is Armitage, which I started today and is enormous fun! I think I've hit a bit of a lull with the Dreddverse stuff (popular opinion does say the early 1990s are slim pickings) so when I get something new and great, like Armitage, I can at least appreciate all the more!

2) I've started to collect the Roald Dahl books! I've only bought The Witches so far, but I'm hoping to pick up a new edition every month. I remember reading these books when I was younger, and watching the film/TV adaptations, and their storytelling runs through my veins; informing my creativity, and very perception of the world. No, seriously! That's the power of good writing, and reading it when you're younger.

Thursday, 1 March 2018

Weighed Down

Before I moved to London my weight was pretty consistent; I was skinny! Since then - the back end of 2010 onwards - my weight has ballooned and ballooned. I've gone from just 10 stone in 2010, to 15 and a half stone at the conclusion to 2017. It all comes about due to a flawed diet, and over-eating. I'm not pretending otherwise - but equally need to acknowledge that I haven't done enough to get back down to a healthy weight (which, for a guy of my height should be 12 stone 12, or under).

Sure, I've dieted before. Back in 2015 after leaving Vue I went running, and cut all the crap out of my eating habits. It worked for a while - bringing me within touching distance of being classified as a healthy weight again. But I couldn't sustain it, and months later it was creeping back on me again. The same goes for those spells in both 2016 and 2017 where I again attempted to shed the pounds; I made a small victory, but ultimately lost the war.

I hinted before that I was overweight until the end of 2017, implying a more recent change. Well, yes! I'm very happy to report that I've successfully lost enough weight over the last two and a bit months that I am now - officially! - classed within the 'healthy' BMI range again. Whoop!

Two questions you might have:

1) How did I do it?

2) How did I do it, so quickly?


Back in 2009 I attempted a year long experiment to cut out all junk food, plus any unnecessary/unhealthy from my life. It worked brilliantly, and I felt so much better for it that I repeated the challenge in 2012 (successfully) and 2015 (not so much). Maintaining that 3-year cycle, I knew going into 2018 that I'd be cutting out the crap once again. And so I did!

That helped immensely, but alone wasn't enough. I had to take it one step further. So every 2 out of 3 days (on average) I go for a 20 minute long run, all around Woolwich - which stretches about 5km. I also refuse to snack between meals - meaning my day consistently consists of:

Breakfast - one Weetabix, and milk.
Lunch - half a pack of soup.
Dinner - any number of things, which...

...I try and cook from scratch! My girlfriend Crina is a fantastic help on this front. We cook together all the time - everything from soups, to breads, to curries, etc. Having unprocessed meals is definitely paying off dividends.

And so... as it currently stands... I'm officially 12 stone 12.


Well done me.

Next mission: keep the weight off, for good.

Sunday, 11 February 2018

A Trip To Dover

I think Rose Heeley, my grandmother, was an amazing woman. I've talked about her on this blog before, but it's worth saying again.

Both during her lifetime and in the few years since her death, however, it's always been a regret that I haven't ever interacted all that much with her wider family. Did you know that my mum's first cousin Janet taught me for a whole year at primary school? Well now you do! But beyond that, I hardly ever saw aunts or uncles, or cousins.

Back in 2015 one of Nan's remaining sisters Barbara came to Manchester for a flyby visit. At the time I was living back home myself for the summer, and so joined my Mum for a lunch with Barbara. It was a lovely catch-up with Barbara, who although in her 80s was so full of vitality. We all came away from the meeting noting the similarities between Barbara and Rose.

But I also made Barbara a promise: to one day visit her in Dover.

So far, I've failed to live up to that promise. But then I met Crina, and wanted to introduce her to my family. Of course, she'll never meet Nan - so we decided that meeting Barbara and fulfilling the promise I made to her back in 2015 was the closest she could come to meeting my Nan and her family history.

Off to Dover we went day, for a very lovely day at Barbara's house and in the woman's company. She cooked a lovely roast dinner for us, as we discussed her background and my Nan. She was really interested in learning more about Crina and her Romanian heritage too, which was really fantastic to see. As an added treat, Barbara - amazingly still so full of life, now at a spry 86 years old - drove us around, taking us on a tour of the White Cliffs of Dover and the local surroundings.

Me and Crina came away from the day buzzing. More appreciative of our family. In fact, I sat on the train planning the next visit to Barbara and Dover which is happening as early as next week. Amazing.

Always good to put your regrets to bed, and grow.

Tuesday, 16 January 2018

Romania - The 1st Trip

My girlfriend Crina is Romanian, and I had the good fortune of joining her back in her home town of Craiova last week. She was already there, following a post-Christmas stay - and I arrived having not seen her for 10 days. 10 whole days!! I was so happy to be with her again - seriously, you should have seen the grin on my face when we reunited at the airport.

But the trip was also a fantastic opportunity to meet Crina's family. Sure, I'd spent time back in the UK with her parents but here in Romania I got to meet her brother and his wife, plus Crina's grandmas and various aunts/cousins. I was made to feel very welcomed by all, and feel I came away from my time understanding them, and Crina, a lot better.

I should add how charming I found Craiova to be. Sure, it's a bit rundown in places but it feels very alive - with a strong sense of family and community. It helped, naturally (read: cheapskate northerner) that everything was incredibly good value there! I picked up some new shirts and jumper at a bargain price. Of course, it's not about money - but rather, the experiences. And boy, did we have some good ones!

We went to various parks together, and I'd go off running. Plus, the zoo we saw together in one of those parks that contained various species likes wolves and bears!

Me and Crina took a trip to the cinema - Romanian style! - to watch The Disaster Artist together.

Games night with Crina's family. My tactic of not looking at the cards on display during Dix It.

Our date night - taxis, and snow, with a meal in a very fine, fancy restaurant.

Lots more besides. All of them reasons why this holiday will forever hold a dear, sacred place in my heart.

Sunday, 31 December 2017

Review Of The Year - 2017

So here we are then - it's the end of the year, and my annual rundown of the last 12 months. 2016 ended with me concluding that it had been a "barmy" old time, and I tried to pretend that 2015 had been a "good, solid year" but in reality, it was one of the hardest I'd lived in my adult life, owing to career and relationship changes. What a surprise then that - for the first time since probably 2014, or even 2013 - 2017 ends on a very positive upswing, leaving me terrifically excited for what comes next.


The beginning!

I start the year single, overweight, but genuinely convinced that this was going to be a great year.

Having not blogged on here for all of 2016, I felt like my batteries and passion for this online project were reinvigorated and started writing again. Initially I attempted two new diary entries a week, often writing at lunch times, but I struggled to keep this pattern up and ultimately fell back to just blogging when I could. But that's ok. I'm still enjoying the return.

Hand in hand with this, I throw myself back into my creative writing. I return to my post-apocalyptic drama Darkened Avenue for the first time in two years, writing issues 030 & 031. I make detailed plans to write two issues a month throughout the year. But more on that later... These two issues are great, very different to one another, and I'm immensely proud to have my name attached to them.

Some developments occur. My latest nephew - Donna's third child - Cole is born, though I wouldn't meet him until February. My friend Jonathan begins his career as an Assistant Editor at Titan Comics.

Despite being low on money, in part due to still being a 'casual' at Forbidden Planet (albeit one working full time at their head office) I found the time and money to enjoy myself. My good friend Dan O'Connor visits from Manchester, and we had a good catch-up over pizza. I watched the David Bowie play Lazarus at the King's Cross Theatre, too. The songs are great, the story ok. It starred Michael C Hall - an actor I've admired for many years.

Every night before bed, I read two issues of a series of graphic novels. It's a routine that continues into May; until I can't sustain the late night reading! It goes hand in hand with my continued daily reading of Judge Dredd stories.


I take a trip back home to Manchester in time for my nephew Jamie's birthday (amazingly, he was turning 4). We went trampolining and it was great bonding with him. Our relationship has really blossomed this year.

New scripts were Darkened Avenue 032 & 033, another two instalments of the series that I hold in high regard. They feel fresh, and well polished. Staying with comics, I'm amazed by Tiziana Ibba's finished artwork for my script, Little Green Running Man. She did it both proud. It's the first of my strips to ever be finished - and the first completed for the forthcoming Last Draft Saloon anthology. Unfortunately, that release is continually pushed back throughout the year, as other writers and artists struggle to finish their work. But I'm assured it IS coming... in 2018!

My new favourite comic series Judge Dredd celebrates a significant milestone this month, with a 40th Anniversary Bash held in Hammersmith. I snapped up my ticket early, and was very glad I did! Although the inital few minutes of the day made me feel nervous that the day was going to be a naff cosplay runaround for other 2000AD, more familiar with the series than I was. But actually... it was amazing! I met so many creators for the series, who generously signed my copy of Thrill Power Overload. It was impossible not to walk around that convention - a real mix of fans and creators - and not feel the love.

Two other significant events happen, as well. First of all I stumble upon The Room's Tommy Wiseau at the Prince Charles Cinema. A complete accident. I was there watching one film in the Wes Anderson season, get up to go to the toilet... and there he is, selling his tat! I seized my chance, and got a quick picture with him. How could I not?! (And having seen The Disaster Artist - I'm so glad I did!)

Then there's Steven Moffat... who signed at Forbidden Planet! And I ran it!! Doctor Who fan heaven.


Ok, this month I begin a process that will define my 2017 professional life. I begin to open boxes, scan photos, and thus archive the rich history of Forbidden Planet. The amount of times I'd uncover something, and wow colleagues around me, was amazing! I loved seeing these images for the first time in years, and then apply some sort of method to filing them away. It's a process I'm only partially through completing. It'll carry on into the new year, too.

Dad and Penny pay me a visit. We take a trip to the Huntarian Museum, and watch the fantastic Logan together. (Breaking from tradition I won't list all the films that I watched this year as, to be frank, I purposely took a step back and watched significantly less films this year. Like dropping blogging in 2016, I felt burnt out with cinema, needing a break).

Elsewhere I take a trip to the other end of London and find myself in Edgware. After stumbling around there for an hour or so, I head to a local Starbucks where I have the good fortune to run into a table of comic book artists, hard at work! Another trip taken this month - me and Jack visit St Albans.

As I continue my writing (Darkened Avenue issues 034 and 035, plus the short comic Starship S.O.S.! that I pitched to the Future Quake publishers, but never heard back from) I begin a new healthy eating diet and running combination. Between March and end of April, I lose a stone in weight - going down from 15 stone 3 to 14 stone 2.

My old stomping ground Vue West End finally closes down, for its much needed refurbishment.


I take my annual photo:

Doctor Who is back for the start of its tenth series. It starts really well, especially as me, Jonathan and colleague Tess gather to watch the series premiere. But... it doesn't sustain its greatness. I really do think that change is needed on the series, so bring on Chris Chibnall and... well, we'll get onto 'who' soon!

Archiving continues at FP. I'm still scanning contents from old folders, at great pace.

At home I write Darkened Avenue 036 & 037.


This month feels pretty routine, as if I've settled into a trap of work then home where I don't do much, before bed. Unfortunately it's a trend that continues for the next few months. I do manage to write Darkened Avenue issue 038, plus 039 which - strange fact! - I originally wrote a draft of back in 2004. So since then, I've been working myself towards that future issue. Well, here I caught up. Unfortunately... it's where my writing ends for this year.

My good friend the artist Svetlana finishes drawing Beautiful Ones: King of Wank! I think it looks good - you can definitely see an artist in the making. She enjoys drawing so much that she'll go on to study the craft at Dundee University from September. Here's wishing her well!

I assist with running the Forbidden Planet stand at MCM. It's not particularly busy.


Busy month!

I make a trip up to Scotland (Glasgow, then Dundee) to visit Svetlana and her partner. It's the first time I've been to the country since early childhood, and I like it. I return home, and my Mum and sister Lauren visit me. They're off to see the Adele Finale tour, that I've got them tickets for. They love it. We travel to Brighton which is... ok. A good one day trip. Not quite the amazing destination we'd predicting before going.

There was a general election, just in case you'd already forgotten. I was so pessimistic at the start of the campaign - convinced that Jeremy Corbyn's Labour Party were on course for a major, major defeat. After Brexit and Trump... I didn't hold much hope of the right thing happening. But do you know what? Despite not winning, it didn't feel like Corbyn was the loser either. Infact... Theresa May walked away the victor... but with definite egg on her face!

I go crazy selling items on ebay! Makes me a substantial amount of money, mind!

At the end of the month I return home for the first time since early February, and make a shocking discovery: a massive lump of my dog Willow's chest.


Continuing from that last point: Mum won't take Willow to the vets. She's an old dog, 15 and a half years old, and I know my mum is scarred; worried that Willow won't return to us. But I convince my mum to take her - emphasising that the lump was getting bigger every day of my visit and although Willow wasn't yet suffering, she soon would be.

Willow died on July 2nd, put down owing to a tumour mass on her stomach. It still pains me now.

Vue West End re-opens. It looks great. I'm jealous not to be working there myself! I approach Vue about returning to work the London Film Festival for them in October.

On one of the hottest days of the year, I head to Hyde Park where I watch a concert. It's a combination of Elbow/Tears For Fears/The Killers playing throughout the day, as part of British Summer Time. It didn't blow me away, as I went on my own and felt to appreciate it I should really have gone with somebody else, but I did enjoy it.

Another friend - Anya - visits London from her habitual Dundee.

I take a week off work, and use it to visit the library daily; researching family tree. I make some amazing progress on both my mother and father's sides.


I buy my first ever pair of Doc Martens boots. Sure... they cost a bomb, but I part with my money anyway. I trial a new look for myself - black jeans, and black boots. Up to now I've worn plimsolls and any number of different colour bottoms. Time for a shake up - one much needed, to make myself look a lot smarter. Can't keep wearing scraggy £15 trainers from Tesco that wear out after a month or so!

Keeping with the feet motif, me and Jonathan do something impossibly stupid. No, really. Really, really. We walk from London to Brighton. That's 50 miles. We set off at 4am, and go at it all steam ahead. Sadly we don't make the full distance because our legs can't take much more than about - ooh - 37 miles of walking. But it's a great stab at it! And it was kinda fun, spending time with and talking to my good friend for over 18 hours!

A new housemate - Uche - moves in at Brewhouse Road.

It's London Super Comic Con and I'm there representing Forbidden Planet. Artist David Roach is there too, and after finding him in Artist's Alley I discover he's selling original Doctor Who art from the pages of Doctor Who Magazine. And it's dirt cheap! I pick up a dozen or so pages for myself, spending some of that money I'd gathered from eBaying so much.


Although my archiving process continues at work, I've now moved on from scanning to digitally restoring the photos. I soon became a dab hand at the process, applying my technique to images and being amazed at the results. 2017: the year I went from Photoshop novice, to pro!

Dad visits London, and stays at mine. It's a visit that, thankfully, goes without any hiccups (or memorable stories to tell, unfortunately for you dear reader).

Russell T Davies signs at Forbidden Planet, and is such a wonderful guest! I really admired him and wish I could have got to spend longer in his company.

I work Raindance Film Festival 2017. It was the 25th anniversary, and so moved from the Piccadilly branch to the swanky new West End venue. Alas, the move was a difficult one. Everybody on board team Raindance were use to how things were done before, at the old place. Now they - and me - had to get use to multiple floors, more screens, and a new rhythm. To be frank - some people didn't adapt, and seemingly did as little as humanly possible. It put more on my shoulders, which led me to be massively stressed out on a good few occasions, and not really enjoy myself (like I had before) until near the very end of the fortnight.

However! (And it's a brilliant twist!!) I meet Crina during Raindance. She worked as a festival volunteer two years previous, but was now employed by Vue. During my many visits to the West End bar area, she caught me eye. Not just because I thought she was stunningly beautiful, but her personality shone through, and I fell for her immediately. We spend a lot of breaks together - but can't commit to a date until my commitments at Raindance and for Vue's LFF run are done.


The BFI London Film Festival comes and goes. To be honest, it's a bit of a damp squib. I don't really do much during it, and make my mind up that it'll be my last time returning to Vue for it. I'm still undecided about a return to Raindance. Once I'm out of festival mode I am extremely tired... ridiculously so. I'll remain that way for the rest of the year, as I work the year's second MCM Comic Con and travel all over the place, never getting enough time to rest up and recoup. But never mind that! Free at last from commitments, I go on the first official date with Crina (to watch Boy at the Prince Charles). It begins!

Little over a week later, it's Crina's birthday. As we eat pizza, I meet her friends - and smile at being introduced as her boyfriend. Although it really isn't much time at all, it feels like we've been in each other's lives for a long time. And I'm loving it!

This month's celebrity signing comes in the form of Armando Iannuci (The Thick Of It/Veep) - who is on hand promoting The Death Of Stalin.


After two years living together, Jack moves out of Brewhouse Road. My bedroom floods, and I suspect foul play from another of my housemates. It leaves me feeling very isolated in my own house. Gone are the days were me, Jack, Mafalda and Saranus sat around and enjoyed one another's company!

Sarah and Jamie visit London.

I venture to America's New York City.

Things continue to go great with Crina. We have a great Bonfire Night together, going to Tower Bridge, watching the fireworks, and then enjoying a nice meal at a Strada restaurant together. I meet her Mum, who visits London for the weekend.


Following the flood, it feels like I spend most of early December just drying ruddy books!!! It's a race against time. There's a hundred of them, wet, and in increasing risk of going mouldy. Sadly I don't think I did enough to ensure that the books kept their pristine look. Maybe. I also think there's not much more I could have done after they were soaked by an inch of dirty water!

My third month with Crina, and just before Christmas we head to Fareham, and spend the weekend with her parents. It's the first time I meet a girlfriend's father since 2007! Whoa. Lucky me and Crina's Dad seem to have hit it off well.

Me and Crina spent a wonderful Christmas together in London, watching films and television, cooking and playing puzzles. Oh - and we play a lot of Monopoly Deal! A few days later I head home to Manchester, and visit my family there. I get to attend Dan O'Connor's wedding to his glorious partner Jeni; helping to usher in a new age for me - as if all around me people are growing up, and in my new relationship with Crina, I'm joining them.

I end the year with my artist Jordan on the verge of completing Pfft... Queues! He's been messaging me updates for months now - and with one final push, we'll be there!

I have some goals for the new year:

1) My three-yearly healthy eating diet.

2) Hand in hand with that, to lose weight (I'm 15 and a half stone!)

3) To continue growing my relationship with the glorious Crina, exploring new places together!

And so... hours left to go... so ends 2017.

Not a "that'll do" year - but a triumph in most ways, that promises an even brighter 2018 to come!