Gone but never forgotten

It was 14 years ago today that my best friend of 16 years, Pete Barnes, was hit by the first of several strokes and then tragically died a few days later.  He was aged just 30, in great health and no one saw it coming.  I’ve written many times of how important he was to me, what a massive hole his passing left in me, and how the pain and loss have never lessened or left me.  I still miss him every day and I still feel intense guilt over the whole affair.  14 years on and I still hate this time of year and find my mind taking me back to that day…what I should have done…how maybe I could have saved him. The darkness swallows me for a few days. Yet, as I have said many times, since he left us, he has in one way or another inspired me to greater things and remains my best friend, constant companion and wisest advisor.

This year I wanted to mark the 14th anniversary of his death with some bare facts…because strokes can affect anyone of any age, yet so many of us, including health professionals, still think of it as an affliction for the over 60s.  So please, take a moment to read the information below from the Stroke Association, and make sure your friends and family know this stuff.  With early intervention many strokes can be survived, we just need to know what to look for, and not be afraid to tell our health professionals of our fears.  Don’t be a passive bystander, step up and be heard.

***If you can, in these hard times, please donate what you can to the Stroke Association – every penny gets us a step closer to saving more lives – just CLICK HERE***

You can recognise a stroke using the FAST test

FACIAL weakness: Can the person smile? Has their mouth or eye drooped?

ARM weakness: Can the person raise both arms?

SPEECH problems: Can the person speak clearly and understand what you say?

TIME to call 999.

If a person fails any one of these tests, get help immediately by dialling 999

A speedy response can help reduce the damage to a person’s brain and improve their chances of a full recovery. A delay in getting help can result in death or long-term disabilities.

Please click the link below for an explanation of the FAST test in an audio format.

FAST test audio file (331 kb)

Don’t ignore temporary symptoms

If symptoms disappear within 24 hours, the person may have had a Transient ischaemic attack (TIA), which is also called a mini-stroke. A TIA is still a medical emergency, because it can lead to a major stroke.

 

***For a lot more information of strokes please visit the Stroke Association website – CLICK HERE***

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Depression and the Desperate Desire for Change

Forgive me if this is self-indulgent, mopey nonsense, but I needed to get some stuff out of my head where it has been swirling around causing damage.

As I’ve admitted in the past, I’ve suffered from depression for a long time. My sense of self-worth drops pretty damn low on a regular basis, and feelings of self-loathing and hatred are long-time companions of mine. Like so many with depression, I’ve struggled with whether to talk about it with friends and family, whether to seek professional help, or whether to just shut the f**k up and stop my damn whining! I could say my depression started in 2003 when my best friend died…but honestly, I’d suffered for years before that terrible day. So much of it stems from my self-image and my loathing of who I am, how I look and my consistent failure to find love and friendship. As with so many, I realise that much of this is utter bull-crap…internalised circular thinking…pain building on negativity in an eternal miasma of black dog soupiness. I can see myself and my life objectively and, barring some horrible moments, it has been blessed and fantastic and thrilling and successful. But when I look subjectively at my adult life, often all I see is consistent failure, cowardice and loneliness. It’s a right old conundrum!

So why talk about this now? Well, it is August 24th and that means I’ve been single for 6 months, after my fiance and partner of 7 years walked out on me and moved back to Germany. Oh, and the same day I learned I was diabetic (type II) and needed to make some major life changes, or else! We humans do love our anniversaries! We love to judge our successes and failures by time periods. The longer or shorter something is, the relative success or failure. We can’t help it. We are linear beings inhabiting what we perceive as a linear existence (cue a lecture from Dr Brian Cox on the non-linear nature of the sub-atomic universe!) So as that big 6 month anniversary loomed, I found myself dropping in and out of a depressed state more and more. Usually I can hold my head above the waterline through my work…but of late that’s been getting more and more difficult to do.

Now, I don’t intend to go into detail about the end of that relationship…it was what it was and I know only too well one has to move forwards. But one of its impacts was to get me back into deep dark thoughts about failure and self-loathing. Lots of WHY? questions race through my head. They race around, zooming in and out of my consciousness, blaring their horns and make a hell of a racket. Damn those thoughts! Before this relationship, I’d never managed to get in to any serious relationships, I found such things to be ephemeral and ethereal…magical things that others found so easy to fall in and out of, but forever at a distance beyond my grasp. All my old fears of being too ugly, too boring, too dull, too uninspiring, too un-loveable all came screaming back. The darkness fell and I’ve been in its grip ever since.

I really don’t like myself…I don’t think I ever have. I don’t really know why this is. But in doing so, I project these feelings on others. I wonder why I have no contact with old school companions, or old work colleagues. Why is it the only time people seek me out is when they want me to do a job for them? Why do weeks and months go by and nobody calls or texts or emails just to say ‘Hey Neil, fancy a pint?’ – don’t get me wrong, I’m not fishing here…these are the negative thoughts my depression forces on me. I know they are not a real reflection of the world (unless they are?!) I am aware that when, as adults, we lose those closest to us (through death or relationship failure) it is almost impossible to cover those holes with new people…as adults we all have our busy lives, families and existing friendships…no-one wants you trying to force your way into their lives, no matter how kind or caring they are. Our best friends are exactly that because of our shared experiences and time spent together. Our closest relationships and friendships are strong because of the length of time we’ve enjoyed in each others company.

Anyway…this isn’t a pity party, it is an exorcism, of sorts.

Back to now. So, over the past 6 months I have devoted myself to making 2017 a YEAR OF CHANGE. Some has been forced on me (relationship failure, diabetes) and some I have chosen. Why not use the bad to increase the good, eh? If I have to face up to being single, why not use the time to improve myself, redecorate my home, rediscover things I truly enjoy? If I have to deal with diabetes and take medicine and go to the hospital a lot, why not dive in to exercise and healthier living, getting out more and making my self-image a little less hateful? And that’s exactly what I’ve been doing. CHANGE IS GOOD. It is scary and tough and tiring, and yes, it is depressing…doing it all on my own, just for me, is something I get depressed about. I can’t help it…I’ve always preferred to define myself by what I can do for others. Such a definition is, of course, very self-destructive…when those you want to help throw it back in your face, or treat you with disdain…well, it hurts and instead of blaming them, you blame yourself. But all that said, who else am I going to do this for, eh? If I don’t improve my health it is me who will suffer, no-one else. If I don’t improve my environment, increase enjoyable activities, the only person who will feel like crap is me…so I might as well get on with them.

But let’s look at this CHANGE thing a bit more. I’ll admit I’ve made some good progress with my year of change, all of the above things have meant that if I were to compare today to 12 months ago I would have to admit to being in a better place, albeit a lonelier one. But I’ve taken another REALLY BIG STEP. As you probably know, I’ve been running my own business for almost a decade now, and the audiobook studio/production side for 5+ years. This month I have decided to take a big step, and expand the business. I have leased a second office space in Croydon and am building a second studio facility. This has meant taking on a large loan, and working hard to persuade my clients to put more work our way. It will mean being responsible for double the titles, double the workload, double the accounting. I have to bring in a second producer, more check listeners and a 2nd editor. All this…and it is still just little old me running and owning the business. It could all go terribly wrong. The clients may not send us the work or at least not on a regular enough basis. I may burn out and screw everything up. It is a massive gamble. But I am doing it because CHANGE MUST HAPPEN. I simply cannot just sit here, safe, never moving forwards. Even with all those other changes I am making…I fear being here in years to come, never having moved forwards. A major part of my self-loathing is from looking back on my career and seeing just how much I’ve achieved but how static it has become over the past 5 years, This is a very negative way of looking at it, I know, and I am very proud of my career and of where I find myself and the esteem I think I am held in by colleagues and the audio industry. But I find that I am not progressing any more, and that’s destroying me. I am failing my creative side, and failing the younger me who hoped for bigger better things.

And this brings me to the biggest cause of my depression and self-hatred…I AM STUCK IN THIS DAMN FLAT! I bought my flat in 1999 with a 5 year plan to meet someone, get married, sell up and move on to a nice house, career progression, etc… When my friend died just 3 years into that plan I fell into the deepest, darkest hole imaginable…I hadn’t met anyone, and now found myself unable to do anything but my job. I threw myself into the radio production work, creating and running the Radio Independents Group, being a trustee of an education charity and the Radio Academy, renegotiating the BBC/Indies terms of trade, lobbying Parliament, etc… I was amazingly creative and found solace in working with as many people as I could offer myself to. I did ANYTHING to avoid coming home to an empty flat, in a town where I had no friends and no family. But come home to this flat I did, every evening and every weekend..alone and in pain. Don’t get me wrong, I love my flat. It has housed me, kept me warm, given me a home to offer to my beloved cats. But I HATE IT SO F**KING MUCH. I live beneath a family of 6 who, for 17 years, have made my life here utter hell. They never stop making noise, arguing, slamming doors, screaming and creaking floorboards at all hours. They grow drugs and sell them outside the flat. The father is a junkie paranoiac with violent tendencies who abuses his kids and wife. The mother is not much better! It is a twice-annual routine for the police to bust them for drugs, or because the father has been caught taking pics of kids in public spaces. All I want is to ESCAPE FROM THEM, and go somewhere peaceful and quiet at night…somewhere my cats can feel safe…somewhere I can enjoy music without wondering if the records will skip because of them crashing something onto the ceiling above. I’ve had four separate floods because of them (3 overflowing baths and 1 slowly leaking washing machine that destroyed my bedroom ceiling at Xmas!) With everything else I loathe about myself, what I hate the most is my complete and utter failure to earn enough money to get away from this hell. The flat is also riddled with memories…my nest friend died here, my only long-term relationship died here, and 6 cats have died here…it is all a little too upsetting at times. I wouldn’t care if all I could afford was some decrepit doer-upper a few miles out of Croydon…I’d happily spend a few years DIYing it…but I can’t even manage that! I am stuck…I am stuck…I am stuck….and I completely and utterly hate it. I can’t change this, and it is the one thing I desperately want to change.  I don’t have a partner to share the cost or help with getting a bigger mortgage. By the time I repaid the mortgage and 2nd mortgage and other debts I would be left with enough to buy a caravan! Right now, I’ve never felt lower, more of a failure. At 43 years old, with all this ‘esteemed’ experienced, I shouldn’t be where I am. But it isn’t anyone’s fault but my own…as I say, this isn’t a pity party, I know exactly where the blames should fall.

So here I am, at the end of this rant, with no idea what more I can change. I find myself in near-constant neck-pain and needing to take more pain-killers than I feel comfortable with (apparently it is caused by having Schuermann’s disease as a teenager and my spine becoming slightly deformed,,,nothing they can do, just learn to live with it, I am told…sigh!) I am proud of what I’ve managed over these past 6 months, and I promise I will not be giving those up. I am focused on fighting the diabetes and getting fitter and healthier. I am determined to brow my business and make it a success…I hope in doing so I can help others with sharing the work, and just maybe they will reciprocate by not just taking the paid work but taking just a little of the strain from my shoulders. BUT…I simply don’t know how to cope with my low self-image and living arrangements…my self-loathing and feelings of failure. I keep falling into melancholia and nostalgia. But this doesn’t help, all it does is make me feel worse. But I hope, by talking about it, I can fight back the worst of the negative feelings. By sharing it with you (and I thank you for getting this far and hopefully not thinking ‘what a tosser!’) I am shining a light into the dark and at some point maybe solutions will reveal themselves. I live in hope of a story Leo McGarry told in West Wing about a man in a hole, and a friend jumping in and the man says ‘But now we are both stuck in this hole’ and his friend says ‘Yes, but I’ve been here before and I know the way out.’

To those of you who know me (friends and family) please don’t take anything I’ve said here as a criticism of you. This is all internalised perception and insular circular thinking (well, unless you all actually DO think I’m a twat, of course – now THAT would make sense to me!) I just needed to make this public, take it out of my head and show the beast that there is some light in the world.

Any solutions gratefully received…please send them in on the back of a sealed-down envelope or postcard 🙂

Oh, any anyone fancy buying me a nice house in the countryside, perfect for 1 chap and 3 cats, I promise to be a diligent and reliable mortgage re-payer (just ask NatWest!)

here’s some kitties to cheer us all up…

Thirteen – horror audiobook anthology – Cover Art

Well, it is almost here…after two years of work and a lot of wonderful people donating their time, talent and enthusiasm, the THIRTEEN audiobook anthology is being released on 24th August 2013.

Edited by the mighty Scott Harrison (TWEET HERE), and recorded & produced by me, published by my Spokenworld Audio company (CLICK HERE) THIRTEEN contains 13 (well, obviously!) spine-tingling tales of terror, new short stories by some of our biggest and most beloved genre authors, read by some truly epic acting names.

THIRTEEN is an experiment to see how popular audiobook anthologies could be.  We already know genre fans love printed and e-book anthologies, so we hope the same will be true for audiobooks.  If we get good sales and support we hope to attract funding and backing from the likes of Audible to enable to release several anthologies every year.

Before we get to the full running order, and who’s who, let us first take a moment to gaze fully upon the cover art for the audiobook.  When Scott dreamed up the project he said he hoped we could have a cover that was reminiscent of a 1970s Pan Book Of Horror, or one of those classic spoken word horror LPs.  So, I turned to designer genius Matt Dillon (also a mighty fine author in his own right – TWEET HERE) and set him the challenge.  Well, as you can see below, he absolutely SMASHED it!  This is the cover art of our dreams…

Image

Gaze upon its beauty and loveliness…the single-eyed skull reminds me a little of the old ITV kid’s show Knightmare!  It oozes 1970s Pan vibes. Hopefully you’ll forgive us the UNDEAD STEREO pun…all those old LPs used to say LIVING STEREO, so we just couldn’t help ourselves.  Matt is a certified deity of cover art…flood him with commissions, he is worth every damn penny you spend!

Here’s the back cover (well, OK, so it’s a digital download, but LPs had two sides, so why can’t we?! which shows you just who has written for us, and who has done the reading:

Thirteen - Back Cover 2000

If you can’t read the text for any reason, here’s the running order:

Side A

1 – Hidden Track (part 1) by Scott Harrison read by Barnaby Edwards

2 – Dead Space  by  George Mann read by Greg Wise

3 – A Girl, Sitting  by  Mark Morris read by Jilly Bond

4 – Finding The Path  by  Kaaron Warren read by Trevor White

5 – The Hairstyle of the Devil  by  Martin Day read by Arthur Darvill

6 – Down  by  Gary McMahon read by Stephen Rashbrook

7 – Visions  by  Cavan Scott read by Michael Maloney

8 – Half Life  by  Dan Abnett read by John Banks

9 – Hidden Track (part 2) by Scott Harrison read by Barnaby Edwards

Side B

10 – With Her In Spirit  by  Stephen Gallagher read by Frances Barber

11 – Tabula Rasa  by  Alasdair Stuart read by Lalla Ward

12 – One Hit Wanda  by  Kim Newman read by Samuel West

13 – A Glass of Water  by  Mark Wright read by Gemma Arterton

14 – Ghost Pit  by  Simon Clark read by Jeff Harding

15 – I Wish  by  Johnny Mains read by Steven Cree

16 – Hidden Track (part 3) by Scott Harrison read by Barnaby Edwards

How I Remember, Remember the 5th November

It is the 5th of November once again, and whilst the past few days have been celebratory, feeling chuffed about my audiobook business (www.ladbrokeaudio.com) surviving its first year, the time has come once again to look back and mourn the death of my best friend, Pete Barnes.  He died, 9 years ago today, aged just 30, of a series of strokes.  I’ve written a lot about this before, so won’t bore you with it all again.  Suffice to say, he was my best friend (of 16 years) as well as my housemate, my brother-in-arms and the geekiest guy I knew.  He was fit and healthy. He had no obvious signs of an impending stroke.  We were playing a computer game on a Sunday afternoon and then…BANG…my best bud was dead. Gone. Never to hear him speak again.  9 years hasn’t lessened the pain, I still grieve everyday, still feel guilt every minute and still miss him every second.  So many great and geeky things have happened to me in the past 9 years, and while I know I had Pete with me in spirit, boy do I wish he’d been there in reality.

So here’s to Pete Barnes…a true top chap.  Taken too soon, but a joy to have known.

Now here’s the thing…stroke can affect ANYBODY!  Not just the old or unwell.  Many younger people suffer from strokes and you need to know the signs.  I didn’t and I blame myself for not getting him the medical help he needed (as well as blaming those at the hospital who were unable/unwilling/untrained to do what was needed as soon as possible).  This doesn’t have to happen to anyone else.  PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE, watch this video from the Stroke Association and learn about the FAST test…it really won’t take too much of your time and may save a life one day.

Thanks for reading this far, and thanks for taking the time to watch the video and learn the FAST test.  Pete was my best friend, my brother in life and my continued inspiration.  He is 9 years gone, but forever here. I miss you, mate.

Mission Report – Introduction to the new Team

Mission Report – Introduction to the new Team.

Bargain Basement Time

It is Neil’s Bargain Basement Time…that’s right, I have a few things to get rid of and they could be yours for VERY SILLY MONEY indeed!  There is but one rule to this game:

You MUST be able to come to Croydon, or arrange for delivery pickup from Croydon – these items are large, heavy and very tough to post!

OK, here goes:

THE WEST WING – ALL 7 SEASONS ON REGION 2 DVD (BOXSETS…NOT THE NEWER ALL-IN-ONE BOXSET)

The greatest TV show ever, bar none…well, that’s my opinion!  I’ve recently got the all-in-one WW boxset so no longer need my original season boxsets.  All 7 seasons are here, every DVD works and all are in good condition.  This is a great chance to get the whole wonderful WW experience in one hit.

Value – £70-100

ASKING PRICE – £25 + cost of delivery/pickup

 

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SOLD SOLD SOLD! – SEALY SYMPHONY MATTRESS – SOLD SOLD SOLD!

Size – Double (190cm long / 135cm wide / 22cm high)

Micro quilted mattress Posturetech springs to provide support A pressure relief inlay. POSTUREPEDIC.

Condition – AS NEW – slept on ONCE but was too small for us (we then bought a SUPERKING…oh, the wonder of it!) – comes with mattress protector

Age – 3 weeks old!

Value – £600+

Link to reviews by other owners – http://reviews.dreams.co.uk/5643-en_gb/113-00218/reviews.htm

ASKING PRICE – £200 O.N.O. + cost of delivery/pickup

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SOLD SOLD SOLD! – LG 50PS-3000 – 50″ Flat Screen Plasma FULL HD TV – SOLD SOLD SOLD!

Size – 50 inch plasma display

Age – 18 months old

Condition – As close to new as you could ever hope for.  This TV is in pristine condition, no scratches or marks, no screen burn or other damage.  Has been used daily and has a stunning FULL 1080p HD capability.  Works superbly with games consoles and Blu Ray players.  Has 3 HDMI inputs, plus 2 Scarts, FREEVIEW digital tuner and USB & PCMCIA card slots.  I have loved this TV and am only selling it as I just got a 3D version from the Best Buy closing down sale.

Link to product info page – http://www.lg.com/uk/tv-audio-video/televisions/LG-plasma-tv-50PS3000.jsp

Value – £699

ASKING PRICE – £200 O.N.O. + cost of delivery/pickup

NB We have boxed the TV up in the newer 3D TV box, so it is safe and easier to transport.  Would fit in back of a car with the seats down.

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So…there it is, BARGAIN BASEMENT is at an end.  If you are interested in any, or all of the above, drop me a line by email (CLICK HERE) or via Twitter (@HokusBloke) or Facebook (CLICK HERE)

8 Years On – F.A.S.T.

It was 8 years ago today that my best friend of 16 years, Pete Barnes, tragically died of a stroke.  He was aged just 30, in great health and no one saw it coming.  I’ve written many times of how important he was to me, what a massive hole his passing left in me, and how the pain and loss have never lessened or left me.  I still miss him every day and I still feel intense guilt over the whole affair.  Yet, as I have said many times, since he left us, he has in one way or another inspired me to greater things and remains my best friend, constant companion and wisest advisor.

This year I wanted to mark the 8th anniversary of his death with some bare facts…because strokes can affect anyone of any age, yet so many of us, including health professionals, still think of it as an affliction for the over 60s.  So please, take a moment to read the information below from the Stroke Association, and make sure your friends and family know this stuff.  With early intervention many strokes can be survived, we just need to know what to look for, and not be afraid to tell our health professionals of our fears.  Don’t be a passive bystander, step up and be heard.

***If you can, in these hard times, please donate what you can to the Stroke Association – every penny gets us a step closer to saving more lives – just CLICK HERE***

You can recognise a stroke using the FAST test

FACIAL weakness: Can the person smile? Has their mouth or eye drooped?

ARM weakness: Can the person raise both arms?

SPEECH problems: Can the person speak clearly and understand what you say?

TIME to call 999.

If a person fails any one of these tests, get help immediately by dialling 999

A speedy response can help reduce the damage to a person’s brain and improve their chances of a full recovery. A delay in getting help can result in death or long-term disabilities.

Please click the link below for an explanation of the FAST test in an audio format.

FAST test audio file (331 kb)

Don’t ignore temporary symptoms

If symptoms disappear within 24 hours, the person may have had a Transient ischaemic attack (TIA), which is also called a mini-stroke. A TIA is still a medical emergency, because it can lead to a major stroke.

 

***For a lot more information of strokes please visit the Stroke Association website – CLICK HERE***

 

Please Help The Stroke Association

It’s November 3rd once again, and for me a week of sadness, mourning, strange memories and a whole host of emotions starts, as it was 7 years ago that my best friend died suddenly from a stroke.  A year ago I posted a long piece about this, and instead of rehashing it all again I thought I would re-post it here.  Before I do…could I ask that if you have ANY spare money (and I know that is a daft thing in these times), would you please consider donating it to THE STROKE ASSOCIATION.  There is much work to be done to support survivors of strokes, those who care for them and to find ways to improve survival rates.  Stroke can hit anyone, of any age and any health.  Pete’s death devastated me, and still haunts me to this day.  My feelings of loss and guilt and anger are as strong today as they were 7 years ago.  I will never stop doing what I can to fight this evil monster…be it £5 or £500, every penny helps.  The website for donations is:

http://www.stroke.org.uk/donate/

Many thanks from me…and from Pete Barnes.  He may be gone, but he’s still with me everyday and pushing me to do better by myself and everyone around me.

N 🙂

Here’s that old post:

hornets_nest_stuff_125It’s just before midnight on Monday October 26th 2009, and after over 6 months work, I have finally completed the 5 episode that go to make up the DOCTOR WHO HORNETS’ NEST audio series, starring Tom Baker.  All the prep, recording sessions, rough editing, construction, SFX & atmos, fine editing, drafting, final editing and mastering…it is all done!  As I type this the final two master files, for episodes 4 and 5, are burning on to a DVD-Rom ready to be picked up by courier tomorrow lunchtime (we can’t trust the post in the UK right now!).  That courier will travel all the way from my home in Croydon (South East of London) to Bath (West Country near Bristol) and deliver the masters to the team at BBC Audiobooks who will then send them off to the duplication plant and thence on to distribution.  The third episode is out in a week or so and the final two CDs are released on the 14th December, just in time for Xmas!

DW Dead ShoesSo that’s it…no more WHO for me for the time being.  For the next few days I think I will be quite pleased about that fact.  Pleased that the deadlines have been hit, that the BBC bosses are happy with the series, that I’ve been a fairly important part of a pretty important new addition to the ongoing Whoniverse.  I’ll also be glad the work is done, I can send in the bill and I don’t have to spend every hour I have (including late nights and weekends) editing Dr Who audio.

But after a few days I fear the withdrawal symptoms will start.  No more WHO?!  What am I going to do?  I have loved being a part of this mad and crazy adventure.  Working with Tom, and Richard Franklin, and Rula Lenska…chatting with Paul the writer, talking SFX with Michael the commissioning editor, and most of all playing around with audio with the gorgeous Kate the producer/director.  I want more, more, more!  As you can imagine, I’ll be pushing the BBC Audiobook teams to let me produce and edit more of the DW audio adventures as soon as possible.  And you never know, at some point the “Doctor Who And The Dalek Invasion Of Earth” audiobook I produced earlier this year will finally be released!

drwho_hn_circus_doom_300So I am going to miss being a daily part of the Whoniverse, yes indeed.  But I want to say a few words about another loss I feel at this time, related to all this Who-tastic stuff I’ve had the honour to work on.

On November 5th this year (just a week away), it will be the sixth anniversary of the death of my best friend, Pete Barnes.  He died, aged 30, of a massive stroke…there were no signs or warnings, it came on suddenly one Sunday afternoon while we were playing a computer game in the flat we shared.  By the following morning he was gone.  No reasons…no rationalisations…a perfectly fit and healthy young man taken away and nothing for any of us to pin the blame on. Pete was just gone.

Pete and I had been best friends for 16 years, had worked at Tesco’s together collecting trolleys aged 15, started at Hospital Radio Bedford together, moved on to Supergold and Chiltern Radio together, then gone in separate directions work-wise for a few years but forever being the best of buds and supporting each other while doing all the stupid things guys do together.  We went on wild and wacky holidays together, saw far too many films and concerts, drove the length and breadth of the UK together, watched even more films, and sung a lot of songs BADLY while driving around.  Yes, we were a very real ODD COUPLE, we were brothers and we had a blast.  I suppose I was thinking we would even grow to become GRUMPY OLD MEN!! Eventually, in 1999 when I bought my flat in Croydon, Pete moved in as my lodger and we were able to enjoy living out all our earlier dreams of drinking cider on the couch while playing computer games, talking about Star Wars and then watching far far too many DVDs!

4 - A Sting In The TaleSo as you can imagine, having him suddenly die on Sunday in late 2003 came as a bit of a shock to me.  It isn’t too much to say that I am still suffering from the loss.  I threw myself in to my work as a means of escape, and Pete must have been smiling on me, coz work worked out!  Since 2003 I have been able to achieve just about all my professional goals in life, helped many talented people get on to UK radio, assisted charities and trade unions, fought the good fight and come out the other side with all my bits intact.  And here I sit, typing this blog, the owner of my own successful independent production company, relatively well-known and I hope somewhat respected for my producing and directing, and generally in a pretty good place.

But coming to the end of this WHO adventure has hit me with a reality shock…Pete would have LOVED this.  He was the true Who fan.  He had the VHS tapes and the DVDs, the books, the t-shirts, the toys, the signed this thats and the others.  he dragged me to conventions and signings so he could meet Colin and Peter and Sylvester.  He died before New WHO debuted, so he never got to see his beloved hero return to the small screen.  But he would have loved what the BBC has done over the past few years.  I’ve enjoyed the New WHO, but he would have been bouncing off the walls, reading every snippet of information, checking out every fan site and web site…he would have been insufferable, but in an endearing way (just as he was with Star Wars!)

DW HN ep 5 coverSo to have been so involved in the comeback of Tom Baker, well, that would have blown his mind.  I like to think that he is getting a buzz out of the fact that my home editing office is in his old bedroom, so in some small way he has had a part in bringing Tom back as well.  But I am sad, because I so want to play him the audio,  I so want to get his reaction, to see his smile and hear his thoughts.  I wanna have him bug me for a chance to meet Tom, to get an autograph or to come to one of the sessions.  Just as he would have fizzed at every moment of The Brightonomicon audio series, Pete would have been my biggest supporter, and most annoying critic (!) throughout the Hornets’ Nest series.

I miss him so very much, and I wish he was still here.  I forgive him the OTT anoraking of incessant Star Wars and Dr Who fandom…if I am honest, I loved it every bit as much as he did!  So I would like to, UNOFFICIALLY, dedicate DOCTOR WHO HORNETS’ NEST to him, to his memory, to his love of the Doctor, and to his friendship.  Without him I wouldn’t have gotten to where I got in life, and I wouldn’t have gotten to make a Tom Baker WHO adventure like this!

And please, if you have lost someone close to you, I would also like to dedicate the series to them…especially if they were a WHO fan, but even if they weren’t.  Doctor Who reminds us  that friendship and family are all-important…as are having fun, a sense of adventure and a child-like fascination with the world.  Our companions may no longer be with us in person, but they remain with us in spirit (and re-runs!) forever.

Love, Neil :-) x

 

Ep 7 – A Glowing Jan

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2010 FICTS Calendar – Available Now!


Well, it’s mid-November and you are sitting there thinking “I wish I had a calendar for 2010. One with FICTS all over it. One I could buy for myself and then buy at least 9 more for friends and family!”

Sing huzzah and praise all that is mighty for your dreams have come true and your wishes granted. The 2010 FICTS Calendar is now available courtesy of Zazzle.co.uk and Zazzle.com.

 

It is festooned with 12 of the very bestest FICTS by Robert Rankin and Neil Gardner and hangs perfectly from a nail in the wall.

So come have a gander at the gorgeousness and then buy 10 copies…help Rob and i prove that FICTS are so damn popular that we deserve a book deal! Oh, and you gets some mighty fine calendars out of the deal, too!

Happy Xmas 2009 and a FICT filled 2010 for you all 🙂

Watch Out World…Snurf Factor is here!

Kingdom of Snurf logo

+++ PRESS RELEASE +++

+++ Tuesday 29th Sept 2009 +++

sNurfCOM1, the Kingdom’s favourite state broadcaster has announced that starting this Saturday evening, and running for the next 147 Saturday evenings, will be the biggest entertainment audience participation educational investment portfolio renovation family programme ever devised.  Yes, that’s right, The SNURF Factor launches this weekend and is expected to get an audience of 100%, as THE THING IN CHARGE has decreed it is a hanging offence to not watch the show!

SNurf Factor Logo

The SNURF Factor is presented by  national broadcasting treasure Leonard Nimjohn, and features four startlingly chosen guest judges.  Head of the judges is THE THING IN CHARGE, who will attend each programme via audio-telecoms from his fortress in the sky.  Joining THE THING IN CHARGE are singing pop diver DANNY MINNOW, pop princess with the unfortunate heritage CHESNEY KOLE, and a small mad sounding round furry thing that constantly shouts “BUT BUT BUT BUT BUT BUT”.

Inhabitants of the KINGDOM OF SNURF have been queuing for months now for their chance to take part in the show…no-one has been told yet what that role may be, but it is thought that the recent culling of all experienced television personnel has left a number of jobs open on the production side of things.  But what of the rest?  Just what will the judges be judging?  Articulated lorries from around the world have been converging on the mammoth TV studios in the capital city SNURFDON, bringing a plethora of goods from every conceivable country, and several inconceivable ones!

THE THING IN CHARGE orders you to watch the show to find out more.  You will need a telephone to vote, a pen and some paper, a twenty sided dice and some shearing tongs.  You will find in this week’s sNurfCOM Times a weatherproof mack, three herring, some dimples and something special for the kids.  Ensure you have all these items displayed in your window 2 hours before the programme starts.  Inspection teams will be scouring the Kingdom.

So come one, come all (or else) to the biggest TV event ever staged.  THE THING IN CHARGE requires you to join in and have a fun evening, every Saturday for the next 147 weeks.

And who knows – it COULD be you!

N.B.  If it IS you, the employees and management of sNurfCOM1 offer you their condolences and ask that you wait patiently.  Due to the extreme numbers involved our professional and courteous staff will get to you as quickly as possible.  Please provide your own kneepads and arrange for a family member or friend to collect the bucket afterwards.

The Kingdom of Snurf – How to spot a CHESNEY

Kingdom of Snurf logo

+++ Article posted by Dr. Mamalian Despray of Snurf University for Stuff n’ Tings +++

In this time of dire national emergency, it may seem strange that there would be a need for a handy guide to spotting CHESNEYS…after all, there are hundreds of thousands of them all across our beloved land.  But here at the University we’ve been literally inundated with sightings, and all of them have been WRONG!  Yes, believe it or not, spotting an actual CHESNEY, and differentiating it from the hordes of native KINGDOM OF SNURF fauna, is no easy task. So, how to spot a CHESNEY:

[1]  Can you hear running water?  If so you may have a CHESNEY near by.

[2]  Do your noses perceive the faint aroma of perfumed aniseed rackets?  Then you could indeed be close to a CHESNEY.

[3]  Have you danced in the last 48 hours?  If not, a CHESNEY may be nesting in your shoes.

[4]  Do you have only 2 sides of equal length in your mandatory state-sanctioned Equilateral Traingle? Then either you have been visited by a, or indeed many, CHESNEYS, or else you are a traitorous seditionist risking life and limb and the national need for sleep by openly owning an Isosceles Triangle…you may be crumpled up for your crimes.

If you still think you are looking at a CHESNEY, please refer to the following composite-artists-impression-photofit-image-a-pictorium:

Not a CHESNEY no frame

THIS IS NOT A CHESNEY!

If you are seeing this creature we suggest you stop wasting our time, your time and the creature’s time.  You are a time waster, and in this time of national need, with CHESNEY coming out of our drains and sniffing our edges, we have no time for time wasters.  The THING IN CHARGE has decreed this time of crisis a time for no time to be wasted.

Good luck, go prepared and don’t engage the CARBALOIDS in conversation or debate.  You think the CHESNEYS are bad, don’t even start to consider what the CARBALOIDS might do if they are not controlled correctly.

And remember…THIS IS NOT A CHESNEY:

Not a CHESNEY no frame

Legal Notice – This guide is a guide and meant for guidance only.  Any use of this guide as a means of guidance except where guided to make such use will be considered a seditious act and punished by no less than several short sharp things and more guidance on the correct way to take guidance from a guide.

+++ END OF ARTICLE +++

Chesneys Invade and Infest The Kingdom of Snurf!!

Kingdom of Snurf logo

+++ SNURF NEWS – FRI Sept 25th 2009 +++

By Cub Reporter BERNARDO SPONGECAKE

The sleepy villages and towns of the beautiful KINGDOM OF SNURF awoke this morning not to the normal cries of the roaming croissants, or the mating pleas of the male Floating Hammerfists…instead they awoke to the sight of hundreds of thousands of smiling, effervescent CHESNEYS.  In every home and hearth, within buildings high and low, from inside and outside and from every place within and without, the CHESNEYS swarmed and bundled and in some cases, where the rivers flow, rafted!

Mayor of tourist-favourite hamlet Little Epstein, His Honour The Mighty Frump, said of the infestation,

“This is a disaster for the KINGDOM OF SNURF.  We simply can’t keep this many CHESNEYS amused.  And we all know what happens when just one CHESNEY gets bored or even just a little listless!  How do we cope with hundreds of thousands of the smiling bastards hoofing it around the place, sniffing the edges of things and making a noise?!”

The Mayor, along with all the other Mayors of the KINGDOM, called on the mysterious THING IN CHARGE to send out the CARBALOIDS.  Specially designed to cope with such times of national strife, these shock troops have only once before been sent into action.  In that instance over half the population found themselves with no socks for a month…a major reason why the CARBALOIDS are held in reserve.

But with chaos looming, a lack of support from the international community, and a dance organised for this weekend, we now face the prospect of 24 hours of CHESNEYS vs. CARBALOIDS brouhaha.  Official advice is to remain upright, unless lying down or seated, remove all packaging before heating, and never to look a CARBALOID in the face (they don’t have one!).  If you should find yourself corned by a herd of CHESNEYS, try to float upwards gently and throw sticklebricks at the beasts…they will soon lose interest and look for some edges.

+++ END OF NEWS STORY +++

The Kingdom Of Snurf

Kingdom of Snurf logo

So you wanna move to the exciting and bouncy KINGDOM OF SNURF, eh?  That’s cool, we love new people here, all sorts of people in fact, and animals and vegetables and rocks and water and birds and other things too.  BUT, there are rules in the KINGDOM OF SNURF…here are some of them.  If you can handle the rules, come on in and take a look around.  If not, head back home my friend, because in the KINGDOM OF SNURF we have these creatures made from nightmares and fluff that will hunt you down and do vile, unspeakable things to you with sprouts and giggles.

The Rules (part 1)

*  In the KINGDOM OF SNURF, you can be who you want to be, say what you want to say, do what you want to do…just don’t run in the corridors!

*  In the KINGDOM OF SNURF, dreams are ten-a-penny, goals are variable and life is enriched by the striving for aims that are achievable and attainable.  But we don’t like semolina and that’s that!

*  In the KINGDOM OF SNURF, you can fly like and eagle, soaring majestically above the towns and villages, rising on thermals and diving through canyons.  The sky is free for all to enjoy, but no colouring in the clouds, leave them as you find them please!

*  In the KINGDOM OF SNURF, the one-legged porcupine is the master of all, and the slave to none.  If you meet a one-legged porcupine be polite but move along promptly!

*  In the KINGDOM OF SNURF, three is the magic number, the only way is up, everyone loves Martika’s Kitchen, there are things that will make you go hmmmm, life is like a butterfly and everybody’s free to get real.  Just no encouraging the Jive Bunny!

*  In the KINGDOM OF SNURF, there is no right or wrong. There is no left or right.  There is no up or down.  There is no in or out. There is no forwards or backwards.  There is only a slight feeling of grooviness and all dimensions work on a voluntary basis.  Do not ask for fixed dimensions.

*  In the KINGDOM OF SNURF, there is but one day, and that day is FRUITDAY.  No mention may be made of other, spurious, days.

*  In the KINGDOM OF SNURF, there is a whole lotta shaking going on.  Failure to shake is punishable by mandatory cake icing and a visit to Arnold the Less-Than-Pleasant Pheasant!

Meet the Flat Life Gang

Over the coming weeks and months you’ll get to know the four ne-er-do-wells that comprise our Flat Life gang…but as a little prompt to what comes later, here’s a quick look at who is who:

(c) Neil Gardner, 2009

(c) Neil Gardner, 2009

(c) Neil Gardner, 2009

(c) Neil Gardner, 2009

(c) Neil Gardner, 2009

(c) Neil Gardner, 2009

(c) Neil Gardner, 2009

(c) Neil Gardner, 2009

Welcome to “Flat Life”

All new silliness from me…this is FLAT LIFE, charting the travails of being a 2D shape in a 3D world!  Every week a new FLAT LIFE will pop up as if by magic, here at the blog, so do keep coming back 🙂

FLAT LIFE #001 – “2D Troubles!” starring Box-boy

(c) Neil Gardner, 2009

(c) Neil Gardner, 2009

Fraggle Rock Noir

One of those mad late night ideas:

Fraggle Rock Noir

“Terror Stalks Where Doozers Walk!”

When there’s a murder on the Rock and Junior Gorg is found garotted and buried face first in the Almighty Trash-Heap, and the mutilated corpse of Sprocket is found dangling from the light fixing of the room in Outer Space, its up to Detectives Gobo and Wembly Fraggle to sort through the Doozer crap and discover which Fraggle has gone bad!

But can they solve the mystery in time to save Mokie as she runs for Mayor of Fraggle Rock, and just who is Red & Boober REALLY working for…the inscrutable King of the Universe, or the elusive Travelling Man?

Fraggle Rock Noir…a tragic tale of mutilated muppets and freaked out Fraggles!

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