Is There Such a Thing as The Self?

Yes, folks – you get two for one today!  In addition to today’s exciting lizardyoga post, here’s the report on Monday’s Drink and Think…

Drink and Think Leicester

Well, these days we all know there is such a thing as the selfie – but is there such a thing as the essential self?  Or is it like peeling an onion and finding nothing in the middle?  To find out, seven of us gathered to drink ale and bandy ideas about at the Ale Wagon on Monday.

Genetics was discussed at the start, as our genes do seem to be a permanent part of us, at least while the body lives.  We decided that there was more to the self than just the brain; we have a social self, we have our experiences and we have persistence of memory (it is interesting to observe the effects of memory loss on a person’s sense of self).

We may be inventing ourselves from moment to moment; what seems certain is that without social contact our sense of self is likely to…

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Adolf Hitler: his Downfall’s Part in my Life

I have spent much of the last week trying to watch the brilliant film about Hitler’s last days, ‘Downfall’.  It’s 2 hrs 24 minutes long and downloading Downfall was the downfall of my efforts to watch it because it took almost as long to download as it did to watch.  In the end instead of seeing the whole thing with Mark I had to view it in shifts, occasionally coinciding with him for the odd ten minutes.  Even then I missed the last 20 minutes or so.  But it’s a hypnotic film.  At first it doesn’t seem very interesting but you are drawn in.  At first Hitler doesn’t seem very evil; but little by little his delusions and dementia overpower the viewer as they overpowered him.  The most heartbreaking scene is when Himmler and his wife poison the six children who have remained in the bunker with them: they first give them a sleeping draught and then place a poison tablet between their teeth and clamp the jaws together.  The children give a little convulsion as the pill takes effect.

It’s gone from the iplayer now but here it is on imdb:

Of course no week is complete without watching an episode of Rev; and the series sadly came to an end on Monday.  With the church closed, Adam decides he has the skills to be a management consultant: when this attempt fails he loses hope and takes to lying in bed like a lot of despairing unemployed people do (I know whereof I speak).  In a brilliantly scripted turn-around, the usual ‘talking to God’ slot is occupied first by his wife and then in turn by all his parishioners.  Like the disciples they have all shunned him and judged him – all apart from Alex – but in the end there’s a reconciliation: they break into the church and hold an impromptu Easter service.

Rev is a stunning combination of human failing and inspiration; what’s more, I can never guess where it’s going.  Can’t wait for the next series.  Please tell me there’s going to be one!

Kirk out

The Six Types of Facebook Post

What with taking time out of Facebook lately and everything, I’ve had time to think – and it’s occurred to me that there are basically six types of Facebook post.  Why not?  There are six types of just about everything these days, so why should social media be an exception?  So here they are, in no particular order:

1.  Trivia.  There is, as many people have spotted, an awful lot of trivia on Facebook: from photos of people’s pets (a perennial favourite) to stories of what happened the last time you dunked a biscuit in some overheated coffee or tried to sell your house.  Trivia is the mainstay of Facebook.

2.  Stories.  These merge into trivia but tend to be more serious, focussing on illness or hardship or tales of woe relating to claiming Housing Benefit (I know whereof I speak).

3.  News.  These take the form of takes on the day’s news; whether simply reporting it, giving a supposedly ‘insider’ slant on it, or commenting on it.  They are not specially reliable but can nonetheless induce feelings of anger or outrage.

4.  Causes.  These posts try to recruit people to good causes, whether to sign a petition, donate money or simply share a status.  They range from missing toys to genocide.

5.  Ranting.  Ranting is obviously related to both News and Causes, but need not be either.  People very often use Facebook to have a good rant, and the topics of these rants range from the temperature of their tea to the imminence or otherwise of global environmental catastrophe.  Food and drink are very popular subjects for a rant, as are people’s partners (and especially ex-partners).

6.  Cat.  There are so many posts about cats – photos, videos, stories, stories with photos, stories with videos and stories with photos and videos – that they need a – ahem! – category all to themselves.

And that’s the whole of Facebook.

Now please repost, have a rant about it, get people to sign the petition and post a photograph.

Kirk out


Don’t read this if you haven’t heard the most recent episode!

I can’t believe what they did with the Archers last night.  Normally they avoid the utterly, gratuitously cruel; the heartbreaking; the vicious – but Tom’s last-minute jilting of Kirsty took the biscuit.  It was horrid.  There was very little build-up to it, as there normally is with Archers story-lines, and frankly it was so unpleasant to listen to that it moved the entire series a giant step closer to the misery-gulch that EastEnders inhabits.  Not good!  Now, if they’d had some build-up over the previous weeks or months; some insight into what was going on with Tom and how John’s death had affected him, then it might have been understandable: but it more or less came out of nowhere.  There was no indication at all to listeners that Tom was anything less than devoted to his pigs and to the farm – if anything the break-up of his relationship to Brenda was caused by him being too devoted; too obsessed.  He and Kirsty seemed ideally suited: they were planning their house, she was understanding of his devotion to pigs – it all seemed good.  The only build-up to this catastrophe was on Wednesday night after Tom visited John’s grave – and frankly this whole plot-line – or plot-bomb – looks like a desperate headline-grabbing attempt to outdo EastEnders in shock and misery.  Bad move, BBC!  Bad, bad move!

If you can’t listen to the Archers any more, what can you listen to?

As someone on the message-board said, he’s only just got over Nigel’s scream and now he has to deal with Kirsty’s howl.


I have nothing more to say today.  Oh, except that I watched episode 2 of Jamaica Inn and had to resort to the computer so I could have subtitles.  Really indecipherable.

I wish last night’s Archers had also been indecipherable.

Kirk out


There was a time when Mark was convinced – improbable though it may seem – that Don Quixote was so-called because he travelled on a donkey.  Never mind that the Spanish for donkey is ‘burro’, nor that the spelling has nothing to do with ‘donkey’; he thought it nonetheless.

But enough of all this donkeying about, let us return to last night at an actual Donkey, the one on Welford Rd.  I was poeting there last night before a couple of bands played to accompany the giving away of books for World Book night.  It was great fun: I did some local poems including The Bowstring Bridge and Richard III and they were well-received, though it did get rather hot once they inexplicably lit the wood-burning stove.  The jazz/blues band which followed were also good.

Argh no!  I’m listening to the Archers and it seems like Tom is going to bail on Kirsty.  I can’t believe it!  I feel almost as devastated as I did when Doc Martin left thingy standing at the altar.

Please don’t, Tom!

Kirk out


St George Wasn’t British, I’m not Deaf and Liam Neeson isn’t God. Apparently…

Well, happy St George’s Day if that means anything at all to you – which it certainly doesn’t to me: especially since St George was, by all accounts, from somewhere in modern Turkey and not from Guildford at all.  Goodness only knows where the dragon was from.  Perhaps Mark knows?

But Mark is busy talking to the woman from BBC radio 4’s ‘Feedback’ programme.  I was all a-ferment when she rang, wondering what it could be about.  Apparently it was in response to his complaint about yesterday’s ‘PM’ and 6 0’clock news.  Having switched PM off during an extremely long discussion about the next Manchester United manager, we put on the news only to be confronted with a seven-minute-long!!! item about the very same thing!  This is NOT NEWS!  I don’t give a flying f*ck about football, but whether I do or not, it’s not bloody news!  England winning the world cup; Andy Murray winning Wimbledon – yes, that’s news: but the next effing manager of an effing football team does not deserve seven full minutes of a half-hour programme.  So listen to ‘Feedback’ on Friday and you might hear Mark ranting about it.
So yesterday was otherwise quite restful: in between Spanish sessions I watched ‘Becoming Jane’ followed by ‘Jamaica Inn’.  Now, i have been slightly worried on occasion by my hearing; but during the latter I became convinced that I was going deaf.  I couldn’t hear a word of the dialogue apart from a few snatches; and since Daniel has wrested his X-box from our control, I have no access to subtitles either.  So I was getting quite worried until this morning on a thankfully football-light ‘Today’ programme they revealed that the sound quality was awful!  Apparently no-one could hear it, and vast swathes of the populace were, like me, convinced that they were going deaf.
But what about Rev, eh?  I didn’t see that one coming!  I won’t spoil it if you haven’t seen it but bloody hell!  And I’m sure that was Liam Neeson as God, but he wasn’t credited.
Who is this God person anyway?
Kirk out
PS and come down to the Donkey tonight where I’m doing some poems for World Book Night.

Dandelions, Blackcurrants and Potatoes

Well, and where have I been for the last two days?  In my pit, that’s where.  Rising only perfunctorily to make dandelion wine and potato curry; I have spent yesterday and today in a state of stupor only partly accounted for by the deliciously blackcurranty Rioja brought round by a neighbour.  Yes! the neighbours came on Saturday, or some of them at any rate: two couples, one with a three-day-old baby!  Yes, you read that right – three days!  I was astonished at their going anywhere with a baby that small but I guess they didn’t have to come far.  So a good afternoon was had by all.

So that’s all good.

Blast, I did it again!  Still, the series has finished now.  Only four episodes!  That’s a weird length.

So.. the great news is that our financial problems are now at an end.  We are no longer threatened with homelessness, and this is such a relief that I have found myself in a state of exhaustion after all the anxiety.  Yesterday I slept till midday, and today I fell asleep in the bath for about an hour.  An hour!  I’m still knackered.  Think I’ll have a week off writing this week.

And that’s us up to date.  Happy Easter.

Kirk out

PS  Oh, and we’ve decided to hold our housewarming in June.  Watch this space!

It’s Bad News Week

Well, since it’s nearly Easter I am easing out of my news fast – and after only about 20 minutes of the Today programme I’d had enough.  ‘Turn it off,’ I said to Mark: already I was angry, frustrated and fearful, and it was only half-past seven.  This is not good.  I’m going to have to find a way past this, because it’s not good just to ignore the news: you need to keep up with what’s going on.  But you also need perspective.  You need to look after your mental health – and frankly, if I’d been listening to the news along with all the stuff I’ve been going through in the last few weeks, I would have gone under.  The news makes me feel that I’m carrying the world’s problems on my shoulders: each time I hear a terrible story I want to do something about it, but mostly there’s nothing I can do, so I end up feeling frustrated and powerless.  This is definitely not good.  Even in those cases where there is something I can do – a famine, for example, for which I could donate to an appropriate charity – I feel there’s too much suffering and I can’t donate to everything.

There is a view that the media do this on purpose to keep us all in a state of fear and helplessness.  Whatever the truth of the intention behind it, the effect is the same: fear, anxiety, anger – sometimes rage – and helplessness.  What I’ve found during Lent is that it’s much healthier to do something about the stories you come across.  This needn’t mean living in a little bubble of your friends and family: you can still be in touch with the wider world, but you hear about stories via people you know; often people who are involved in efforts to help and who can involve you too if you wish.  You get feedback on how things are going; you may even get to meet some of the people who feature in the story: in short, you feel included.  You feel powerful, not helpless.  And this is Good News, isn’t it?  It has to be.

So my advice is, for some part of your week or month, give up listening to the news.  Maybe take one day a week out; or one weekend a month.  It’ll still be there when you come back – and in the meantime you’ll be refreshed, encouraged and empowered.

Kirk out

Alas, Poor Gabriel

There’s an awful lot of death around these days.  Have you noticed?  I’m just coming out of my news coma – I know it’s a couple of days early but I thought I’d get myself acclimatised so I’m easing myself into it gently.  Besides, I have to do a talk tomorrow at Tomatoes about how it all went, so I need to find out what I’ve missed.  A lost plane, the death of bananas and the greed of Maria Miller, seems to sum it up.  And today, the sad news that Gabriel Garcia Marquez has died, aged 87.  Frankly, I was surprised he was still alive, so it didn’t affect me as much as you might think, but I fell in love with Marquez when I was in Spain.  Everybody was reading him then; especially ‘Cien Anos de Soledad’ (One Hundred Years of Solitude) and Love in the Time of Cholera; and I absolutely adored him.  There are very few people who can do magic realism well – you have to have it in the blood, I think – and Marquez is one of them.  I shall dig out my old copies of his work and re-read them.

Adios, Gabriel.  We’ll miss you.

So I’m slowly coming round and back to the world again – and I’m determined it isn’t going to have the same effect on me as it did before.  I will not get paranoid, anxious, angry and fearful; I will take the news in but not let it dictate my mood.

I find Lenten fasts can be quite life-changing.  For example, we used to give up TV for Lent every year and then one year we just thought; Oh, why bother?  Let’s give it up for good.  And we did.  That was around 1999 I think; and we haven’t looked back.  We didn’t even have the iplayer in those days, just videos to keep us going.  Many’s the video I learnt by heart.  Seriously, what do you need TV for?  It’s mostly ‘reality’ rubbish.

Read a book instead.  Read Gabriel Garcia Marquez.  Go on, read him now.

Hasta luego

Kirk out

PS  Oh, and I’m writing a new story based on Mark’s weirdness.  If anybody knows any magazines that publish trans stuff, let me know.

Kafka and Fries

I went to the Phoenix yesterday, courtesy of Steve, to see a film called ‘The Double’.  I was instantly hooked – this is a Kafka-esque film about a lowly clerk working in a strange incomprehensible firm, headed by a mysterious character called ‘the Colonel’ whose resemblance to the KFC Colonel cannot be coincidental.  Everyone ignores him or bullies him; accidents happen to him all the time; he has no self-esteem at all and he cannot make his voice heard.  There’s a woman he likes but though he has some chances he fails to make a connection with her in spite of being sympathetic and sensitive and painstakingly reconstructing all the pictures she makes.  Simon’s life is miserable enough, but when James, his exact physical double, comes to work at the firm it gets a whole lot worse.  James is over-confident, unprincipled and mean, and ends up taking over Simon’s whole life.  The ending is a bit depressing as the protagonist ends up jumping from a balcony and killing himself, so I could have done without the last half-hour – but still, it was well worth seeing.

The society Simon inhabits is very like that of Kafka – it’s bureaucratic and unfeeling.  There’s also something strange and off-centre about the perspective: people loom, machinery is somehow too big and the mechanical world dwarfs the human.

The cast is quite varied: there are American, British, Australian and Irish actors.  It stars Jessie Eisenberg in a role that couldn’t be more different from Mark Zuckerberg in’The Social Network’.  James Fox is the mysterious Colonel.

Take a look:

Kirk out