10 Days of Positivity – Day 10 – Over to you…


I have genuinely got up every day for the last 10 days with a different outlook on things. I struggle to get up midweek mornings normally, especially Mondays, I usually snooze for at least an hour, but have been happily getting up every morning bright and early! I knew my target for each day was to be as positive as I could, regardless of how I felt inside and to try and pass a bit of it on wherever I could.

Since the initial self-doubt started to fade away and I could feel it working, I can honestly say it has become one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done. I have loved every minute of this week for so many different reasons and I certainly feel a whole lot better about life than I ever usually do on a grey week in early January. Hopefully I managed to do what I set out to and have spread a bit of that among some of you too.

I think it was because it’s been on my own terms, my goal was to be positive and productive in everything, rather than just dragging my arse out of bed and going through the motions. But the truth is, everything we do is on our own terms, maybe if we can make positivity a priority more, then perhaps we can wake up with a zest for life a bit more often.

Thank you so much to everyone who has liked, commented, shared, discussed, read the blog, forwarded things to me and for your amazing messages of support for what I’ve been up to. And thanks to all the amazing people I have met along the way! You have made this 10 days something that I know will genuinely change my outlook on things long term. Maybe not all at once, but I can already feel a difference. My foot and leg have been yelling all week since my run on Monday morning. I clearly thought I was bobby big bollocks (I don’t know where that phrase came from or how big bobby’s big bollocks actually are) but clearly I didn’t work myself into fitness gently and was limping for a few days. Having said that it hasn’t slowed me down as it once might have and I haven’t moaned (much). I completely soaked my foot the other morning while loading my car up and was already running behind schedule, something which would have usually resulted in me feeling annoyed and negative or swearing at the world; instead, I laughed. I didn’t force it, I didn’t have to stop and breathe or count to ten, I just giggled, walked inside, changed my shoes and socks and left. On Thursday, my car started chugging a bit and the engine warning light came on, pretty sure it’s on it’s death bed. That would normally have set me on a negative path, worrying about how much it will cost to fix it or how will I get around. But I just didn’t feel that way. I know these things might seem insignificant to some of you, but these are the sorts of things that would add up and eventually make me feel like the world was against me. If I am conquering these small hurdles with positivity already then I know that overall my state of mind will improve!

While I’m saying thanks to people I need to mention Simon G. This was his original concept, I just grabbed hold of it with both hands because I thought it was awesome and believed it could work. Simon looks after people, it’s what he has always done for as long as I’ve known him. He also knows exactly who he is and how to be honest with the world about it. If we could all be a bit more like Simon then the world would be a better place.

Even though she is terrible at taking credit for all of her incredible attributes I also want to say a special thank you to my gorgeous Anna. She helps me remember everything’s always OK and keeps me from floating off into obscurity or sinking down into the abyss. When I started the week unsure if I should be sharing it with everyone and if it was OK to be as honest with my feelings like this, she reminded me why I was doing it and that it’s alright to show vulnerability sometimes. This 10 days has been as much for my personal improvement as a partner as it has about trying to be a better part of the human race.

So a few positive pledges for the future:-

Make a mix out of those awesome songs people were posting on my wall yesterday, I was so chuffed at how many got posted and how great they all were! Be nice to have them all together so I’ll get to it.

Finishing my online course on gravity which I started over Christmas. It’s free and it’s fascinating. There’s tons of other free courses on there too which you can just do in your own time. Have a look!

Continue with volunteering. I’ll be helping with Film at The Folk Hall on a monthly basis and looking after the Facebook page so keep an eye out and come along if you fancy any of the films! I will also be hoping to work more with any Joseph Rowntree opportunities that come up and I will be sure to keep you posted on those too!

I am going on a coaching course next week to discuss opportunities at work where coaching might help me navigate my career with some support or help me to do the same for someone else.

Reading more! I had just started Stephen Hawkings ‘Brief History of Time’ and need to get back into it. I’ve been rubbish at reading since I left school, mostly because by the time I switch the TV off every day I am almost asleep! It’s never too late though, to push yourself, feed your brain, learn something new that excites you!

While I’m on about reading – I was blown away by an awesome little invention I heard about. It’s like an add-on app that works with kindle type programs and it allows you to choose the speed you are capable of reading at. It takes our eyes longer to cross a page and build the words in our brains than it does to actually comprehend them if they are fired directly at our centre of vision. It means that, with a bit of practice, some people are capable of reading over 4 times the speed of conventional book reading which is about 220 words a minute, and with less eye fatigue. Try it HERE. I can comfortably read at 500 words a minute and uncomfortably do 600, and that’s without practice. How awesome is that? Technology giving us the ability to be more efficient at learning and improving ourselves!

So in a time when we are more connected, intelligent and provided for than ever before, why is ‘bad still stronger than good?’ Why does the human condition see us leaning, more often, towards the glass being half empty? Not for all of us, but a vast majority lean toward the negative. There’s loads of studies and information on Negativity Bias available and it does kind of make sense. We are pre-programmed through evolution to assess risk, and there is a higher risk of harm to us if we don’t respond properly to most negative events, than there is if we don’t respond to positive ones. It seems that we worry and look on the dark side in order to protect ourselves. Perhaps understanding that and taking ownership of it could help us to overcome the fact that those same ‘protective’ emotions can also be harmful to our mental well-being.

I don’t believe we can choose our thoughts and feelings, I think they happen to us subconsciously based on our experiences in life, which is why I believe telling someone who is down to cheer up or telling me to stop over thinking things just doesn’t make sense. I am, therefore I think. But I do know our actions can be chosen and this week I have chosen to take positive action towards the world around me to counter the negative thoughts which normally get me this time of year. I can promise you, it has worked. My week has gone quickly but I feel like I have squeezed the opportunity out of every last minute. It’s left me with a buzz and a renewed sense of gratitude to life that I will always remember when my brain starts looking towards the gloom. Check out THIS TED talk on gratitude.

Live one day at a time

Someone posted a video clip a few months back showing a man trying to explain why we can become weary of the world as opposed to living in the moment, and it hit home. It stated that because we spend so much of the day either consciously or subconsciously worrying about things in our future or regretting the things from our past, we spend very little time focussing on the moment we are living in and enjoying it or using it to better ourselves. He asks why children have so much energy and enthusiasm for life in comparison to adults? We are far bigger, more powerful, intelligent and creative, yet we have lost our zest for the world and our excitement for the moment. He believes because they have yet to learn regret and worry, children simply find enjoyment in living for the now. I like this idea. Because I feel like it’s something I can practice and train myself to improve on. Starting from now!


Care to join me? I’m not going to ask people to do their own 10 days; that was more something I felt I needed to do for me. I’m also not saying that I assume people aren’t positive, I know so many of you are! I’m just saying, let’s go above and beyond and take people by surprise, let’s let our guard down and be honest about how we feel, good or bad, then let people cross that threshold between our online or projected personality and who we really are and aspire to be. We all need each other to make our journey more fulfilling and exciting, so let’s be there for each other with bells on. It might have been small but I know I’ve made a positive difference on my world and if we all did that as often as we could, how awesome could life be?

Just believe in yourself!



10 Days of Positivity – Day 9 – Elevator Music


I’m sure I can speak for most of us when I say that music has a powerful effect on us. Most of us, at some point, have felt like we can’t be bothered going out but then a great tune comes on and suddenly, something changes and we’re up for it. You probably also know that feeling where you’re in an average mood, but then Dre comes on and suddenly you become a cold ass pimp. It also brings emotion to movies and makes them infinitely better, have a look at the two clips from Star Wars below, without music it’s just awkward!



Music can and does change our mood if we let it and can enhance our lives. It has gotten me through some dark times and elevated me when I needed it to (yes I know, that must be all of the time due to my size, jeez, let it go…)

A wise man tells me that Sundays are made for music so I’m spending a day on it today! I’ve asked for Facebook friends to post their happy songs on my wall to see what tunes are important to them and it’s been so good listening to so many awesome songs! I am in SUCH a great mood right now so thank you to all those who have posted!

I’m fortunate to have lots of  friends who DJ so I’m always surrounded by great music and it’s given me a chance to learn a bit and have a go myself. I have posted a few of my mixes below. I’m still a beginner so don’t expect anything too professional, they are a bit rough, but they were fun to do and I hope you like them!

First and foremost, the first mix I did of some of my favourite songs.

Second. A mix I did for my friend Simon G’s birthday. As he has made hundreds of mixes for people over the years I thought it was about time someone made one for him of his favourite tunes. It just so happens that they are all brilliant, uplifting songs too!

I’ve also put together a mix of the most positive songs I know, a fitting soundtrack for my 10 days of positivity. Listen to this when you need reminding how amazing the world is!




10 Days of Positivity – Day 8 – Life is like a camera

So I’ve been having a few memory issues, nothing serious and my memory has never been particularly good but since noticing this more recently, I have taken even more care to try and get a photo of the great things that happen around me, just in case I might go and forget them! I think it’s so cool how cameras use a method similar to our own eyes (LOOK!) and capture photographs that can be like extensions to our memory.

To help me be mindful and thankful for the people and experiences around me, I am devoting today to photographs!

To try and make the most of my photos, I set folders of them as my screen saver. It helps that my computer is plugged into my TV so I often have photos cycling through. Most TVs nowadays have a USB slot so even if you don’t have your computer plugged in, you can fill a USB up with your photos and do the same. It is a nice way to make sure the photos we go to the effort of taking get the enjoyment they deserve, instead of just sitting on a hard drive as they so often do!

I have also started making little videos of some of my photos. Here’s one of family times over Christmas and Boxing day!

And of the fun times bringing in the New Year at the Freeman’s!

I enjoyed doing them so much I went back through the amazing year I have had and included some of the best bits which make me feel lucky to be alive surrounded by the amazing, creative and legendary people I am!

I know this is all very personal to me but I just wanted to show people how it’s a nice way to make use of photos! All you need is Windows Movie Maker and it’s dead simple! I would love to see some of your videos! Why not give it a go?!

Photo’s are pretty awesome now, but I grew up in a time when they weren’t so convenient. 1 reel of 25 photos cost a fair few quid to get developed, you had to wait a few days to get them back and that was just for the little tiny prints. So not only did you have to remember your camera, which was a big ugly bulky thing anyway, but you also had to be ready for the moments that were worthy, then wait for the right second to take just one snap and hope it was a good one. Suffice to say I have hundreds of shit, badly focussed photos in my loft now gathering dust.

Now, how about a look at the biggest space photo ever taken? Some German astronomers took a 46 billion pixel photo of our galaxy. It’s 146 gigabytes and is the biggest ever photo of the Milky Way! You can click here for a tool that lets you scan around it and zoom in!

Or the Blue Marble photo. Imagine being out there and knowing that everyone in the world is being captured in your photo!


Here is a collection of 100 non photo-shopped photos and pretty much all of them are breath taking!

How awesome is it that a majority of us now have a camera in our pocket which is capable of taking great photos? And if they aren’t great, they can be instantly deleted without cost to us and then years worth of them can all be stored in this tiny organised electronic box (Here’s some interesting info about our current levels of data storage). This gives us a much better chance to enhance our memories than ever before and let’s us keep our life altering moments safe forever, well providing you back them up!

I think it’s important to mention that while taking photos of the things we do is fun, it is changing us and having that technology in our pockets can make it tempting to constantly feel like we should be using it. Prince banned cameras and phones from his last concert and, being vertically challenged, it was really nice to have a clear view for once! As much as I love to take loads of photos I am also trying to keep reminding myself to enjoy the moment for what it is too so that I don’t just see life through a screen! Check this article on how selfie culture is changing our lives.

10 Days of Positivity – Day 7 – Facebook Stalking

Social media is amazing. It allows us all to keep in touch regardless of distance and creates a perfectly organised online chronology of certain parts of our lives that we can forever look back on. But like with any life altering development in technology, it creates its own, brand new problems. And perhaps worse, it can make us lazy at properly communicating with each other.  Clicking like on someone’s post, or posting a quick – ‘sorry to hear that’ on someone’s bad news, is easy enough to do. But it lacks meaningfulness. That’s not a fair statement is it? It may or may not lack meaningfulness and it’s impossible to tell either way. A bit like a ‘How are you?’, ‘I’m fine, thanks’ type of exchange. A pleasantry swap where neither party is any closer to understanding each other’s true feelings. We no longer need to be in physical touch to know what is going on with someone so we are able to sacrifice that direct contact, but how can we be sure they are ok without looking them in the eye?

Take a look at this video showing how powerful eye contact can be, stick with it, it gets good after a few minutes!

Facebook launched in February 2004 and I started using it in 2007, 9 years ago, and even though I do make great use of it, I’m still, for the most part, able to step back and see it for what it is. But it’s been around so long now that 9 year old children are in a world where Facebook has always existed. Add 7 or 8 years on for the years before you understand what it is and how it works and that means that 17 or 18 year old young adults now live in a world where social media has always been around and has likely played a large part in their lives. Their parents are likely to be on it, all their friends will undoubtedly be on it, it’s a part of who they are. By December 2014 there was 1.39 billion users of Facebook. The world population is estimated at 7 billion so well over a seventh of our planet is on Facebook. Now and again an invention comes along and changes things, for better or worse, it becomes part of life and we have to accept it or be in the extreme minority who don’t.

But is it a true reflection of who we are? For most of us we put our best bits on there. Uploading photos from the fun things we have done and posting jokes or silliness on each other’s walls, we use it to arrange events and start group messages. And in doing so it paints this picture that, for most of us, everything is ok!

My relationship with Facebook has been a weird one over the years. When I have been through tough times in the past I have tended to just deactivate my account for a while. I opted for this rather than using it to vent my frustrations or be honest about any pain I was feeling. I think deleting it was the easier option for me, mostly because I felt like I didn’t want to see everyone else having a great time while I wasn’t. I remember starting to resent other people’s happiness a bit and it just added to my feelings at the opposite end of the spectrum. Plus I didn’t want to be invited to things and have to click ‘Not going’ or feel like I should be clicking ‘like’ on nice things when I didn’t actually like anything at all, it was enough for me to just say ‘I’m out’ and leave. It never lasted for long though and I always reactivated soon because the truth is that it is incredibly useful and I eventually did feel I was missing out by not being on it.

Some people do opt for using it to vent, share problems or ask people for help. This lets others know there’s an issue and gives them chance to offer advice, which could lead to a solution. Then there’s certain posts which make finding a solution much harder, let’s just say for example, ‘you really know who your friends are’. These are aimed at someone in particular, but to the casual passer-by, the peeker over the (Facebook) wall, they lose their underlying meaning because we have no context, there’s no direct emotion in it for us, so we just see negativity directed out at the world. Please, if you are reading this and thinking that my raising this is aimed at you then please try to see the irony of that fact and remember that I am not trying to single you out, I am just trying to make sense of a modern day miscommunication. When one of these anonymous posts addresses a topic such as friendship breakdown toward someone who is then not directly addressed it can have negative effects on the reader. This might well have nothing to do with me, yet due to the way my brain functions, I read it and immediately can only use the context I have to hand which is my own, and ask myself, ‘Well I haven’t been in touch lately, do they mean me? Am I a good friend? Even if they don’t mean me, should I have been in touch? Is it too late?’ And so on. Now I know some of us over think things more than others, but whether you scroll past this and don’t think twice about it, unfollow the person’s posts, take it personally, or if indeed you are the unnamed subject of the post, surely this cannot be considered a productive exchange between human beings? There is a person at the other end of the post with a problem who has felt the need to reach out. Is the very fact that things are being shared on Facebook to the anonymous world, instead of confiding in trusted friends, a separate and perhaps more concerning issue in itself?

Inner demon

It can be such an anonymous, pre-edited world online if we allow it to be and considering how connected we all technically are, we can be so disconnected from who we want to be and how we view each other. Facebook has generated new types of self-esteem and loneliness issues that simply didn’t exist 30 years ago. See this link for more info.

Is it surprising that with so many Facebook friends, people still feel lonely.

Now I am aware that I am reaching out to all of you via social media and using an online platform to do so. I acknowledge that I myself am painting a picture of who I want to be and sharing it with the world and this is why I felt it important to share some of my negative feelings with you as well. Even though this is an attempt to spread overall positivity, in order to genuinely do so and actually connect, I believe that we really need to be able to experience the full cross section of a person and this is even more important in a virtual environment.

So today I wanted to try and turn a negative use of Facebook on it’s head by ‘Facebook stalking’ for good!  No matter how good we get at typing, actions will always speak louder than words, so today I have been looking out for people on Facebook who appeared to need something positive. I’m restricted to what’s on my news feed and I’m not sure exactly how Facebook decides what I see and don’t see but I’ve wanted to give this a go for a while. Because I know how hard it can be to admit when you’re down, I also put a status out asking if people would assist me by passing on the details of anyone who they believed might need a pick me up. Whether it be in the literal sense with a lift somewhere or maybe help with the shopping; or by sending them a little something through the post to brighten up their day.  I’ll be honest I wasn’t sure how it would work and it turns out I didn’t have any requests for visits or physical help. That’s ok though, I have had quite a few names and addresses sent to me and have spent this aft getting my little gifts ready to post out. Hopefully they will brighten up someone’s day!

I didn’t really have a clear idea of how today was going play out or how this blog entry was going to go when I started it so apologies that it’s not been all that positive in the end! I guess what I’m trying to say is that regardless of how people may come across online, positive or negative, we are all so much more complex than the simple and often glammed up version we present ourselves as online and we should try to reach beyond that superficial connection whenever we can, especially when we see someone we care for trying to reach out.

10 Days of Positivity – Day 6 – Volunteering

Today has been another amazing day. I have been lucky enough to meet loads of really incredible people again! This morning I paid a visit to one of York’s food bank warehouses. I called them yesterday to find out what they needed more of and to see if they minded me coming to see them rather than leaving my donation at a supermarket. (It turns out it’s not so much food but things like toiletries they often get short of!) So while I was at Aldi yesterday I got a few extra bits and bobs for them. My whole shop cost me about 60 quid and this included my own stuff too. I can’t have spent more than 40 quid on top of my shopping but managed to get 4 extra crammed bags full of toiletries and food! Money goes so far in Aldi! The people working at the local bank in New Earswick are all volunteers who were spending their morning sorting through mountains of donations from people and businesses and were all really chatty and happy to be doing an amazing job. They were too shy to pose for a photo but were happy for me to take one of the huge pile of stock they had! It’s lovely to see so many people trying to help those in need.

Food bank

To find out more about it, click HERE!

I know I am really lucky to have the life I do. I’m fortunate to be surrounded by so many amazing friends and family who do awesome stuff all the time. It’s hard to imagine life without them, even worse, if it was just me I’d drive myself even more bonkers than I already do! But I’ve been spending so much time being insanely busy trying to do everything that it had started getting me run down and a bit forgetful, so I’ve been trying to make fewer plans and just relax a bit more. In doing so, however, it’s reminded me that there’s people out there who can’t do a great deal even if they wanted to because they don’t have the money or mobility, or sometimes the motivation to. I wanted to start giving a bit of my spare time, on a regular basis, to people who could really use it so I started looking for something close to home which I could get involved with.

I live round the corner from Rowntree’s chocolate factory. Joseph Rowntree, as well as making Rowntree’s one of the biggest confectioners in the world before Nestle bought it, was also a philanthropist who did a huge amount to improve the quality of life for his staff, including building quality housing and schools near his factory. 90 years after his death and the foundation and trust which he started now offer a huge range of care, support, retirement homes and social housing across Yorkshire and the North East and are dedicated to overcoming social problems, just as Joseph Rowntree was himself. Find out more about this amazing Yorkie here.

A 5 minute walk from my house is a Joseph Rowntree development called New Earswick, where there are lots of elderly residents. There is a local group who arrange events out of the Folk Hall there including a café for local residents called NELLI (New Earswick Less Lonely Initiative). NELLI was set up after a research project into loneliness by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation.

Here’s the Age UK video which follows on from the famous John Lewis Christmas advert. Warning – It is a tear jerker!

A year ago this group set up a Community Cinema in the local Folk Hall called NELLIvision which started as a great way for local residents to get together, meet, chat and enjoy movies in their own community. There is already a great team working on this, with one incredible and inspiring lady in particular devoting a huge amount of her time to making it work. It turns out they have been in need of a volunteer to get involved with the technical side and to help out with running screenings and acquiring licenses and I am proud to say they have welcomed me into their team!

I genuinely can’t believe I didn’t know this existed so close to home. I love movies, I love people (especially the oldies) and I’ve been in need of something positive that I can really get my teeth into, so this couldn’t have come at a better time for me, or for them, it would seem. It just shows that sometimes the right thing is literally round the corner, you just have to make the time and go look for it. Our next job, to ensure longevity of the project, is to get more people through the door on a regular basis.  We are looking to appeal to a wider audience and hopefully attract people from further afield too. With a giant screen, amazing projector, welcoming bar and extremely cheap prices, I’m hoping that won’t be too difficult. As of January we have changed our name to ‘Film at the Folk Hall’ in order to try and steer away from it being for one particular group of people – If you haven’t already, then it would be great if you could give our Facebook group a ‘like’ or a share so you can keep up with our screenings. If any take your fancy then please come along and show your support – Our website is here.

For the cinema’s first birthday they screened the new Cinderella movie and so many families came along, it was amazing! My beautiful girlfriend, Anna, came dressed as Cinderella and brought presents for all the kids and made the day even more spectacular for everyone. She makes me feel like I can do anything and is a huge inspiration for me!

Getting involved with Film at the Folk Hall has introduced me to some of the awesome staff from Joseph Rowntree. They have just opened a community space called ‘The Open Shop’ in an old post office in the village and their launch night was tonight! They are going to be running a ‘trade school’ there and have been scouring the City for people to come in and run a class on something they enjoy, they don’t have to be an expert, just able to share their knowledge or skills in return for something similar. When I first saw the shop it was just a dusty, empty run down room but by networking with local people and businesses they have turned it into a really lovely little space, ready to fill with the buzz of community spirit and a shared vision of creating something special together.

I have offered to run a beginners DJ class for some of the younger people in the area. Now, I am very much a beginner myself (more on that later in the week!) but I know enough to teach some young people the basics and I’m excited to spend an evening doing something different in my community! Tonight I went for a first meeting at the space to chat to the organisers and other teachers about their classes! I took along some speakers and my amp to lend them so they can plug their phones / iPods in and have music during the sessions. We all did a sort of ‘speed dating’ thing where we had a few minutes chatting to each of the people so we could learn about how we all got involved and what we are each offering. Again, I’ve been blown away by how many people just want to be involved. There are so many people helping this project to get off the ground and they have already filled up 70 sessions of different things including art workshops, furniture repair, storytelling, cookery and so much more! We will definitely be attending lots of them! If this three month trial works then they will be hopefully be looking for a more permanent spot and to roll the project out across their communities!

For further info, have a look at their lovely website – Here!

10 Days of Positivity – Day 5 – Helping Hand

This 10 days has been about trying to step back and look at my life and ask what’s missing. I know for sure, I am rich in a lot of ways, but I rarely pay anything back. I’m not balancing my books properly. If our time on this planet is about progress and productivity and improvement for future generations then how can I say I have added to any of that? What have I done that I can honestly say I am proud of myself for or where have I helped make someone else’s life better? I think that’s what I’ve been lacking. I know I am capable of more but I constantly question things like, am I in the right job? How do I move forward? Am I getting stuck in a rut? I feel like I race through life at a million miles an hour but I don’t balance my work and social life out with any food for the soul, so it’s no wonder I’m still hungry. So today was about me starting to give a bit back and lend a helping hand where it’s needed.

As most of you will know, York was hit pretty badly by flooding over Christmas. Hundreds of properties and businesses were affected across the City in parts that don’t usually flood, and due to it being Boxing Day and people being away with families etc, very few were prepared for it. At the peak of the flood there was 30 tonnes of water a second flowing down the river Foss with heights over 4 metres above normal levels and people were trapped inside or unable to get in to protect their possessions. Following this, there were also reports of people looting and rogue traders taking advantage of people.

Here’s some drone footage of what some of the areas looked like.

One thing that has shone through this whole crisis though, is the overwhelming amount of people who want to help and are willing to come and give their time and resources to assist. Electricians and plumbers giving free safety checks, volunteers wading into people’s homes to help salvage belongings and people opening up their doors to victims who had nowhere to go. Everyone has really been pulling together where they can. This morning I went along to volunteer at the Guildhall. City of York Council had staff and volunteers organising and handing out food parcels and cleaning products for victims, including a huge donation from Nestle of coffee, chocolate, water etc. It’s still early days though, I spoke to one couple with an 8 month old baby who said it could still be up to 6 months before they can move home and are on a friends couch until their insurance sorts a flat out for them. Even though times must be so hard for them right now they were upbeat and chatty and even said they felt awkward about asking for a hand out. It reminded me of an interesting article I read on – The Neglected art of receiving.

Iain Dunn and I also took some bits and bobs down to a food trailer on Huntington Road today and I met two amazing ladies there. Huntington Road, not far from where I live, was hit pretty badly and work will be ongoing in the area for some time so there’s lots of residents, volunteers and workmen out on the street. These two kind souls decided it would be nice if someone was there to make drinks for people in need. Now dubbed Fossy’s Flossy’s (due to being right next to the river Foss!) these two girls, one a hairdresser and the other a carer, have gone from strength to strength. They started off with a small gas camping stove, making cups of tea and coffee as best they could. People obviously saw them struggle in the cold and rain trying to do a good deed with the tools they had. Since then they have had a company loan them a trailer, an electrician wire up a generator so they have lights and heat and they told me how people now pass by and honk their horn and hand them bags of fresh bacon, burgers and home baked goods for them to cook and give out. All this with jobs of their own to go to. They do it with huge smiles on their faces just because they enjoy helping people. I salute you, Fossy’s Flossy’s! I had a great time working with some awesome volunteers today (and of course Iain!)

Today was also my first time giving blood. The reason it was my first time is because I am a total wuss when it comes to needles! The thought of them has always made me shiver. But to be honest so has the thought of getting up at 0630 for a run or putting my feelings on the internet for others to see, but this week is about getting shit done so it seemed like the right time to stop making excuses and do it.  Stevie P was sending words of encouragement to me about 1 little prick today, at the same time as getting over a hundred per second into his arm for his new work of art!

Totally glad I went though. Anthea, the nurse looking after me today was a total pro and was happy to chat and explain everything to me. She helped me work out that what bothers me most is the size of the tiny vein and the size of the needle that has to go in but not through it, and then sit in there while an eighth of my blood drains out of me. And all that is in the hands of someone I don’t know. It’s still freaking me out thinking about it now and it was 6 hours ago! As my sister kindly reminded me though, she just gave birth to my 8lbs 12oz nephew Lucas, with no pain relief, clearly I needed to man up. Especially once I found out I had O negative blood type, which is rare and in an emergency transfusion, can be given to anyone.

Blood has always fascinated me, it’s like our equivalent of fuel except we can make more of it ourselves if we need to and we just charge it up every time we breathe. Imagine if we could mimic that in our cars. It’s the most precious liquid we will ever know and we make it for free. To carry it around our bodies we have around 60,000 miles of blood vessels. Sorry but what?! That’s more than twice round the world… That’s like a quarter of the way to the moon! I mean bloody hell (sorry!) We are complex beings and so when something goes wrong, we need donations to fix us. I might need some one day and so it’s only fair I donate now while I am fit, healthy and have the chance.

Click here to register and book an appointment, it’s really easy!

To finish off here’s a nice video of some very loving hearts which made me smile!

10 Days of Positivity – Day 4 – Complimentary Gift

After having a really good experience in the supermarket a couple of months back, I noted the names of the two staff I had got chatting as they had been really helpful and positive and so I notified customer services. They seemed surprised that I had taken the time to say thank you and asked if I would fill in a compliment form. While I did I was told it doesn’t happen that often and the two members of staff would now be invited to a special lunch for staff who go the extra mile for their customer. It’s awesome that the company run this scheme to give team members incentives like this, but it was quite sad how infrequently the customers give credit where it’s due. The customer experience works both ways too, I am usually most impressed by service when I have been a good customer and joked with someone or asked lots of questions. People become more helpful and happy to give advice and I walk away glad to have had the exchange, but I haven’t always been good enough at giving proper compliments about this sort of thing.

It felt good knowing those two helpful people, who put effort into doing their job well, now get much deserved praise and are reminded that every now and again being positive pays off. It cost me nothing but 2 minutes of my time and I genuinely had been chuffed with the service.

I work in a job where credit or thanks from customers is very rare, and that’s ok, that’s the nature of my job and luckily my colleagues and management let each other know when we are doing something right and that’s just about enough. But some people work in jobs where they don’t get the credit they deserve from anyone or the chance to chat and be praised on their awesomeness. Today and yesterday has been about putting that right!

It’s not just service providers though, I’ve realised that lately I’m having less meaningful interaction with strangers in general than I used to and I know it’s down to my phone. It’s often joked about how, in London on the tube etc. people ignore each other and walk around with their heads down, but it seems to be happening everywhere now. I have found myself getting more and more guilty of this. Don’t get me wrong, I love technology, I think Facebook is an amazing tool and I love having a question in my head and being able to find informative articles to provide me with an answer in seconds. There’s no doubt our smart phones are helping us progress at connecting to each other and to the information we need. I sometimes even congratulate myself about my time management skills when, between leaving the car and getting to work, I have checked my Facebook, WhatsApp and done all my personal emails and started on some work ones; but in that same time I have also blankly passed York Minster, walked over the river and avoided eye contact and pleasantries with hundreds of people. I’ve missed out.

Here’s a link with an interesting insight to this modern issue – https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/rewired-the-psychology-technology/201507/the-real-reason-you-cant-stop-checking-your-phone

Do those extra few seconds sorting things out on my journey to work actually make a huge difference to my day or would they be better spent admiring and connecting to the people and world around me before I get into the office? I know this week has been about connecting with people using this very same technology but I know I need to use it responsibly for my own wellbeing too. From now on, I am going to try and be a bit more mindful of the world around me and remember its ok to talk to strangers. Ok, not a great piece of advice for kids, but definitely one for the grown-ups! Check out this funny video about kids talking to strangers, via adults:

So after my experiences in Asda and my own workplace and having realised my connection to technology could be limiting my connection to the world, I’ve been spending some time complimenting people for the good that I see in them; from workers to passers by, buskers to friends and even a shop for their punny name and great decor! Everyone I see doing something right, or being good to me or other people has got either a supersized high 5 and / or one of my cards and some ‘Good work!’ stickers! Thanks to Simon G for the unexpected help yesterday and my girlfriend Anna for taking some cards into work for her hard working colleagues. I went into work today and took some cakes in for my tirelessly brilliant colleagues, as they most definitely deserve a treat!

Now I am fully aware that this is all a tad cheesy, but everyone so far has seemed happy to be complimented on their good work and perhaps once they read their card will be inspired to give away a sticker or pass on some kind words to someone else for their efforts.

This is a nice link which shows people’s reaction to being told they are beautiful. It’s an amazing reminder of the power of how much people can value an opinion, even from a stranger and it can make them feel amazing.

This isn’t just about this week either, this is a pledge to be better at reminding those who deserve it ‘you are doing great’! Whether the effect lasts for 2 minutes, 2 hours or 2 days, I’m not sure it matters.  I know I have made some people feel better today and that knowledge is genuinely making me feel awesome too. We all have the power to make someone’s day. Care to join me..?

10 Days of Positivity – Day 2 – We Close Our Eyes

Positivity is one of those things that can be faked. I know because I fake it sometimes. I’ve gotten really good at it too. Not always, but sometimes I find in my speech, actions, thoughts and even in my social media use that negativity can creep in. Often in the form of self-doubts and misplaced guilt, fear of missing out or anxieties about the future. The fact that I am healthy, employed, loved etc. can all so easily be taken for granted when I allow much less important things to get the better of me and ruin my day and even bring the people around me down, rather than moving on and reminding myself I am rich in the things that matter. I know I can’t be the only person out there who does this to themselves and I’m not saying I can change you or even myself. But it’s worth a go, right..?

This LINK has some interesting points on such negative thoughts and a few ideas about how to combat them.

A wise man told me that worrying is a misuse of the imagination. It’s rung out in my head ever since I heard it. It feels wrong that so often we use our immense creative power to invent possibilities we don’t want to exist and outcomes that might never happen. It’s like an evolutionary failure. Spending time worrying or accepting negativity takes us away from acting on whatever it is bothering us, and it prevents us fully appreciating the time spent between now and the moment whatever it is either happens, or doesn’t.

It probably doesn’t help that the media loves a bad news story, relishes in telling us how rubbish things are, how great things would be if we had more of this or looked more like that, who wants us dead and who we should want to kill in return. It’s impossible to watch the news and be happy about much of what we hear. Bad news sells papers. Well I want this 10 days to be about good news and fun, happy things.

I made a silly VIDEO for my friend Stainless Steve a while ago and people seemed to like it. So I made another one, with another huge power tune, this time it’s for anyone who needs a giggle or a pick me up, or just reminding that you’re all awesome and only limited by your imagination and your responsibility to use it in a positive way.

Thanks to my gorgeous girlfriend Anna for helping me film this and to Chris Walsh for the saxophone!

10 Days of Positivity – Day 1 – What’s real?

If there’s one thing I know, it’s that I don’t know enough things! I’m forever questioning stuff. The advice people give to those with my condition seems to be ‘stop thinking too much!’ To anyone else similar in that respect, I’m sure you agree, that doesn’t work. I’m not consciously choosing to over think about the things around me, it just happens. Though, when your Nana tells you, mid conversation, ‘you need to take a chill pill’, you know somethings wrong. I sometimes feel a bit like JD from Scrubs, my inner monologue constantly picking each moment apart, looking for possible puns or contemplating what my or someone else’s motives are for acting a certain way, or is there even any damn point to all this anyway. Except for me it’s not always funny and the credits never roll. Maybe everyone’s like this and we just don’t talk about it! Either way I’m fascinated by everything and seen as asking questions is what separates us from every other known species in the universe, I thought perhaps putting fingers to keys might help to calm the endless mess of unanswered things bouncing around in my noggin and leaving little time for any kind of rest. I’m not claiming to have any answers, nor am I expecting people to offer me any, or even choose to read it for that matter. But if it’s mine and it’s out there then maybe it will help me connect… Rest assured it’s (hopefully) not going to just be the ramblings of a tiny mad man, it will be ramblings of a tiny mad man who loves space and science and shit. So, here we go.

CAPTAIN’s BLOG, DAY ONE. (Sorry, couldn’t resist!)

So I felt a good place to start would be with reality and our connection to it. I feel like it’s important because we all have our own version of it and how it affects us. What we believe to be real and what actually is, can be vastly different. I’ve been lacking something for quite a long time and haven’t been able to put my finger on what. I know that I am fortunate to have the life I do and that there are many people in the world who are not so, so shouldn’t this make me content and happy? I’ve been blaming it on work, or negative influences rubbing off on me, but those are things I am capable of changing so why worry about it?

A celebrity interventionist called Jeff VanVonderen from America came to visit my friend’s church last year and I went along to hear what he had to say. I spoke to him after his talk and told him I sometimes feel a bit empty with the world and can’t explain or understand why. He asked me if I believed in God to which I replied I didn’t. I assumed he would tell me to find God, but he said ‘You have to find out what you really believe in. People and material things are all imperfect just like you and will never quite be enough. Find something beyond all that and put your faith in it.’

I was talking to my nana, a fascinating and devout catholic lady who I often sit and put the world to rights with. We got talking about faith and religion. I love that she is happy to delve into topics with me and I’m always rewarded with her direct and straight forward views so I asked her what she thought would happen when we discover life elsewhere in our universe. She didn’t hold much of a view on alien life and being a technophobe too, I didn’t go into the fact that we know our own galaxy contains an estimated 100 million habitable planets and there’s another estimated 500 billion galaxies out there too. NASA’s chief scientist Ellen Stefan has even stated she believes we will find definitive signs of life elsewhere in the universe within 20 – 30 years. Ok, it might only be microbial, but it’s a start. We have even sent out messages to potential neighbours; the Voyager 1 and 2 were both sent out with a golden record on the side to give the receivers an idea of what life on earth is like. They also have a uranium clock so anything finding it could use the rules of nuclear decay to determine how long it had been out in space and a map to show our exact location in the universe in relation to pulsars… let’s hope they’re friendly! Voyager 1 has already left our solar system and is going at 100,000 mph through interstellar space. Granted it would take 40,000 years to even reach the next star but it is a nice way for NASA to say, we know you’re out there and we want to hear from you.

Check out this VIDEO of the 116 images that NASA felt would best depict life on earth.

But I really wanted to know how aliens would fit into the views of someone whose reality is based on a belief system from an ancient book written before we had the tools to understand our universe. Bearing in mind the New Testament was written in the same era that Ptolemy had written the Almagest which had the world accepting it was the centre of the universe and did not move. In universal terms 2000 years is the blink of an eye and where we might have been to in another 2000 could revolutionise our understandings all over again.

Would the church adjust their beliefs of what is written as we evolve as a species, as they have had to for example with female priests or gay marriage? And if that can be done, at what point is the whole thing subject to change and actually just one of many stories told in the olden days? Having given a lot of thought to this subject lately, and respecting her views on the world, I had to ask her about it even though it felt somewhat taboo considering how much her faith means to her.  I’m so glad that I did. She told me that we all have our beliefs and things we choose to spend our time putting our faith into. She asked me why I thought millions of people around the world still chose to believe in ancient scripts about incredible stories of power and miracles? I told her I thought it was like how children want to believe in Santa. An amazing story promising gifts of heaven and acceptance, but once we are open to it being untrue and learn more we realise it is not the case. She told me that she knows of course, not all faiths can be right and even if one of them is correct, billions of people across the world are still believing in something which doesn’t exist but that the important thing is the fact that they believe at all, no matter what we learn or how far along we come, people all over the world are still willing to put their faith into a reality beyond what we know to be true. We are all trying to connect to the world we are in and most of us, at some point in life will need more than the material things we can see in front of us. Without giving me a straight answer, she had answered my question.

When my grandpa died, my nana found strength in her faith and was the strongest person in our family. Her acceptance that everything is the plan of a higher power was enough for her to be strong and help her family through the hardest time of her life. It has allowed her to live a full and happy 85 years without questioning such things so much. This is her reality and it works for her. It’s a reality that means there is more to life than just what we see around us.

Now I may not be able to put my faith into something which feels so far from reality to me, but some of the things I do spend time thinking and learning about are not much further from reality than the concept of a virgin having a baby, or someone coming back to life after death…

It’s easy to think that as we know so much about what matter and forces make up our world we would have all the answers about our own reality from a scientific point of view. We finally gained the knowledge and technology to look beyond our little planet and understand the way that we interact with our star matches planets interacting with their stars billions of light years away, in the same ways that apples fall from trees here on earth. Gravity is second nature to us and we feel it every day. But zoom in to the building blocks that make up the matter we know and things start to get interesting. Weird, but interesting.

Entanglement, for example, makes me question reality every time I think about it. Two particles are basically put in an entangled state. This means that their properties are linked, i.e. if one is spinning up, the other will be spinning down. These particles can then be moved away from each other and isolated ready for measurement and their properties remain entangled. Then by affecting the properties of one, the properties of the other change instantaneously. We have proven this to work at a distance of over a kilometre but it was done with such accuracy that the distance could be millions of kilometres and would still work.

Now Einstein talked about this in 1935 with his incredibly scientific ‘spooky action at a distance’ but back then there was no technology around to do any experiment that could be deemed accurate, but now we have. Einstein stated that nothing could travel faster than the speed of light and backed that up with scientific theory, this was widely accepted since then but having finally carried out an experiment with no loopholes we know it works. Somehow information about the state of a particle is being passed without light or by any other medium, over vast distances and instantaneously changing the state of another.

Now if that doesn’t blow your mind, the way that these properties are affected might too. Until the particles are observed, they are considered to be in both an upward and downward spin state. Only when observed or measured do they decide on which direction this spin is. I’ll give you a moment to pick up the shattered splinters of your reality while you comprehend all this… Have a look HERE if you want to read more.

Then there’s the famous double slit experiment, I feel like there’s a lot of reading here already so I’ll let Dr Quantum do the explaining –

I know all this seems to only affect the very small, but it also opens up pretty huge questions about reality and our connection to it. If merely observing a particle could have an instantaneous effect on another particle at the opposite end of the universe then what does this mean for how we as the measurer are connected to such things, why do particles care whether we are looking at them or not? Why do the basic principles of what we understand reality to be, not always apply? What are we missing?  We might not understand it all yet but we are already devising ways of using entanglement and superposition to build quantum computers (unlike normal binary computers with 1’s and 0’s, particles in superposition can be in both states at once until measured and therefore should be able to perform at much higher speeds), who knows, maybe they will help us find the answers.

It might be that a reality based on religion can be changed by science and evolution, but a reality based on science seems to also be changeable. Part of connecting with our universe must be accepting the reality that surrounds us. We move through life with a connection to time, space and matter as much as our brain power will allow us to comprehend. But what happens when we learn that reality as we know it, does not follow the rules we understand. Does that open up the idea that other parts of our connection to the universe might also be superficial, and once we find the answers and peel back the next layer, what will that mean for how we perceive our place in the universe?

What do I believe? I believe in the power of me and you and I believe that science will one day have the answers to my questions.  That’s what this blog and my 10 days of positivity is about. I intend to work on that connection with people and with my universe.