blogging, days out, Hotel Review, Musings of Matt Doy, Uncategorized, Weekends Away

The Cobden Hotel and Birmingham – Don’t stay there

So a few months ago, Emma was planning to attend a networking event in Birmingham. I hadn’t ever been to Birmingham before, so it was going to be the first time for the both of us. Emma needed a hotel that was reasonably priced, within distance of the venue and one that needed on site parking. This seemed to rule out a number of hotels in the city.

We eventually found one called the Cobden Hotel in the Edgbaston area. It ticked the necessary boxes and seemed quite reasonable with some fair customer reviews. The journey was just over 3 and a half hours, so we left late morning. The drive wasn’t too bad until we got closer to the Midlands. People think drivers down this way are crazy, you simply haven’t seen some of them up in the Brum.

Anyway, having eventually arrived at the hotel, all seemed ok. We went in and to be honest it wasn’t the most welcoming hotel reception. Dour and drab and not exactly welcoming. The reception staff were hardly the most chirpy. We let that go as we know reception staff are only human and have all sorts of customers to deal with.

We got into the lift and boy did it stink, it was hard to guess or even want to take a guess at what the aroma was. Thankfully it was only three floors. I’m was almost sure it couldn’t get any worse… We arrived at the room and er well, it wasn’t the greatest. Just like the reception, there was no life. Yes I know it was a reasonably priced hotel, but you would still expect more warmth than a mortuary. Well there was warmth in fact too much. Two radiators giving out more warmth than either of the receptionist.

The remaining interior of the room was much to be desired too. The desk was slightly damaged and could have been patched up, the mattress was a bit springy in fact too springy.

We decided to head out to the Bull Ring  ventured to TGI Friday down the road and after a 45 minute wait which turned out to be more than an hour and a disappointing meal. I ordered a chicken burger, thought I’d go for something different, sadly the chicken burger was disappointing, disappointing to the fact that I had tasted better from a local chip shop in St Peters, is quite something.

Having returned to the hotel room, which yet again sounded an alarm when using the key to open we flicked the tv on. What choice we had on Freeview, BBC1, BBC2, BBC3,Red Quest, ITV and other usual channels seemed to have ‘No Signal’. I know you don’t go to a hotel to watch tv but when you want to relax before sleeping, limited tv doesn’t help. I guess though with the walls being not so thick that we could hear the people in the next room talking away as loud as they could.

There was no fridge either. Some may say so what, but I have stayed in a £20 a night B&B that had a room with a fridge. In order to keep the milk cold that we bought, we had to fill up the basin. That of course didn’t help when we wanted to make a cup of tea as not only did we have to empty the basin, but because of the tap size and angle, I ended up having to fill the kettle with a plastic cup that we were provided. The water needed running a while so it became clear. Talking of water, the toilet hardly flushed properly. I would have complained but I had dread to think what the alternative could have been.

Sunday faired better, a trip to the Sealife Centre was enjoyable. For all the fuss of being a city, it seemed no busier than a Sunday in Canterbury. We had lunch in the Smoke Haus. A fab meal and a mocktail. The burger was freshly made and had the home made feel about it. The Smoke Haus though is something that I would recommend for anyone going to Birmingham.

Come Sunday evening an attempt at going to bed early disappeared quicker than a Kent batting line up. We decided to check out before midnight even if it meant a 4 hour journey home in the early hours with added thick fog every so often.

Safe to say we won’t be making another leisure visit anytime soon.

Just to sum it all up, just down the road was a Premier Inn WITH PARKING!!!!!!

blogging, Flashback 40, Musings of Matt Doy, Uncategorized

Films TV & Music of 77 – Flashback40

I may have entered the world close to the end of the year, but I have to say it was most definitely a fine year for film and music. The notable films from that year are of course Star Wars: A New Hope, Close Encounters of The Third Kind and Saturday Night Fever, but 1977 was one that saw a wonderful collection of different film genres.

It appeared to be comedy, action and Sci Fi in 1977 with an odd horror film thrown in.  A Bridge Too Far, even Smokey and the Bandit was a hit in the states grossing second in the top ten films, surprisingly beating Close Encounters.

Ray Harryhausen’s talents were shared once more in Sinbad and The Eye of The Tiger. Eye of The Tiger was the third outing in the film franchise. Another film making its third outing in its Franchise, was Aiport 77. The final film sees a private 747 being hijacked before crashing into the sea in the Bermuda Triangle area. The year wouldn’t be the same without a Bond film and 77 had its turn with Roger Moore returning in the The Spy Who Loved Me.

If adventure appealed to you in 1977, you would have been rewarded with some fine films. Jabberwocky, Pete’s Dragon, Gulliver’s Travels and The Man in The Iron Mask.

Horror fans had a fair few films to enjoy, some well known and some not so well known. The Hills have Eyes, Exorcist II, The Child, EraserHead and The Island of Doctor Moreau.

So if people weren’t going to the cinema, they were more than likely watching tv and in the late 70’s there were many things to enjoy, some already on tv included favourites such as Corrie, Match of the Day, Blue Peter, Crackerjack, Doctor Who, to name but a few. There were some making their debut,  The guys at Ci5 and the Professionals were starting their time on tv, Krypton Factor with Gordon Burns that saw many sitting watching contestants carrying out various challenges and of course everyones favourite outtake show (well maybe not everyones) It’ll be Alright On The Night started its journey entertaining us with bloopers from various tv shows.

It was quite a year in the world of music, great albums, singles and sadly some big names departing the world. Whilst I will take a look at albums and singles separately, there were a lot of moments that took place. Some good, some crazy and then the music stars that passed away.

Kicking off 1977 in a punk rock stylee were The Clash. They were playing at the opening night of The Roxy, the short lived punk rock club. The Sex Pistols kicked off a long and controversial year. One single down and EMI terminate the contract after band members behaviour at Heathrow at the start of January. Never fear A&M to the rescue….or maybe not. On 10 March they sign the band in front of Buckingham Palace and six days later its game over. Band members behaviour towards staff sees the end of another deal.

The Sex Pistols get signed up by Virgin Records in May and last longer than six days. They didnt even get fired for trying to interrupt the Queen’s Silver Jubilee. Their album Never Mind The Bollocks, here’s the Sex Pistols got to number one in October despite major retailers refusing to stock it.

Of course it wasnt just about the Sex Pistols in 77. The B-52s were making their first public performance. Yes they have been around that long. Fleetwood Mac released the album Rumours and what an album that was, still strong 40 years after its release.

Having been the victim of a technicians strike in April, the 22nd Eurovision Song Contest took place. France beat off the UK and Irish entries to win.

The second half of the year saw death and accidents. Grateful Dead drummer Micky Hart survives driving his Porsche off a canyon, injuries to Joe Perry and Steve Tyler from an explosive see a number of dates cancelled. A plane carrying the band Lynyrd Skynrd crashes. It kills lead singer Ronnie Van Zant, guitarist Steve Zaines, backing vocalist Cassie Gaines and assistant road manager Dean Kilpatrick. Others are seriously injured. It spelled the end for the band, who had hits Sweet Home Alabama and Freebird until they reformed in the late 80’s.

On the 16th August The King Elvis Presley was dead. He was found at is home in Graceland. It was because of his death that my mum gave me my middle name Aron, which was the same as Elvis, not sure that my mum was a big fan of his though. Presley’s passing wasnt the only death of a great. Marc Bolan of T Rex was killed in a car crash he was only 29.

It was Bing Crosby’s final Christmas show in 1977, but it did include the iconic duet of Peace on Earth/Little Drummer Boy with David Bowie.

December 77 saw Elvis Costello make his US debut and having decided to change a song, found himself banned, quite some way to go to be honest.

Over the year of 1977 many a musical act were making their way into the music scene. Adam and The Ants, The Buggles, Def Leppard, Dire Straits, The Human League,INXS,Martha and The Muffins and Men Without Hats were just some starting off 40 years ago. The Cars, Police and Van Halen also signed deals with their respective record companies.

Well that end the look at 1977. What a year for entertainment it was. Still to come will be the years 87, 97, 2007 with a few other flashback years to come.

friends, Q & A, Uncategorized

From one Matthew to another – A Q & A with Matthew Munson

I have known Matthew for a few years and seen his writing exploits, his charity work his plan to get Dyspraxia more noticed. So I thought lets find out how he gets on and how he manages to do all those marathons.
Hi Matthew, thank you for taking the time to take part.

It’s a pleasure to be here on your blog, Matt – thanks so much for the invite.
1) Matthew, many will know you for your book releases, but how did your book writing journey come about and who were your favourite authors?
I grew up in a house where words were respected and revered, which was a wonderful experience for a child who adored language anyway. My dad was a journalist for fifty years before he retired, and both of my parents have always loved reading, so I was able to appreciate fiction and its power. Someone once said to me, “Oh, so you were indoctrinated into words very young then?” and I had to fight the urge to clip them round the ear. No, I wasn’t indoctrinated at all; the flames were fanned, certainly, but the flames were already there.
There were three points in my life that then really built on that; my dad used to occasionally work from home, and he left me use his laptop – an early Mac, back in the days when laptops were still clunky and boxy models with the processing speed of a chicken farm – when he didn’t need it. So I learnt how to touch type on that, and learnt how to play around with words, scenes, and little vignettes just for fun.
Secondly, books were an open – aha – book in my house. There was no such thing as a book that was too “old” for me; I suspect my parents knew that, if they’d tried to ban anything, I would have still tried to read it, just at three o’clock in the morning instead. So I was allowed to pick up books that intrigued me, and then encouraged to ask questions, talk about them, and so on. There were a lot of crime thrillers in my house – my mum was worryingly interested in them, especially during my neurotic teenage years – and so I learnt the art of pacing, intelligent plotting, and craft from those sort of tomes.
And thirdly, a Year Six (fifth year in old money) geography was a turning point; Mrs Cooper, my teacher, recognised that I had completely switched off from the lesson (I never liked the subject, and still don’t), and so challenged me to write a story during the class. She gave me carte blanche to write about whatever I wanted – to let my imagination run riot – so I wrote about a cowboy who rode into space on the back of a dinosaur. It really did seem like a completely normal plot at the time, and the fact that I wasn’t challenged to write something more mainstream really kickstarted my interest in science fiction and fantasy – I’d been given permission, almost, to explore the outer limits of my imagination.
As for who my favourite authors are, I’ve got to start with Terry Pratchett; his prose have always lifted me up and been so intelligent. There are so many layers of meaning and intelligent discussion within the frame of a damn good story. The same could be said of China Mieville, who came onto my radar a couple of years ago, and again is a magnificent writer. Joe Abercrombie, Stephen King, Douglas Adams, Neil Gaiman … these are gods of writing, and I can’t state it any clearer than that. Looking back at that list, I realise that they’re all men, but please don’t think I’m excluding women, but sadly, they are fewer in the science-fiction / fantasy fields. When they appear – Ursula K Le Guin, J K Rowling, Anne McCaffrey – they’re exquisite, but don’t appear as often as men. I hope that changes.
2) You had two books published, Fall From Grace and Leap of Faith, how did the story idea come about. Will it remain at two or is there a third outing possible?
To be honest, because the two books are a duology, it was really easy to consider them both as one continual story line, in a round about kind of way. I remember reading a bible during my childhood and teen years – I’m not religious in the slightest now, but I was then – and then, when I lost my faith, found myself reflecting on the textual elements of the stories I’d read in the book. I wanted to express them in my own way, and look at an alternative history to the one suggested in the gospel. I’ve always liked a good story, and that seemed like too good an opportunity to turn up when the idea formed in my head.
How do I come up with the full story, though? Well, I’m fairly relaxed about when I start writing; I don’t often know precisely how it’s going to end. I much prefer to be guided by the characters; it feels right to let things develop as they should, rather than be too rigid in my planning. My characters feel more genuine that way, and it’s more fun as well. For the first book, I knew – funnily enough – how I wanted it to end, but I didn’t have a clue how I was going to get there. But the characters led the way, and they also made me change a significant part of the ending when the original plan I had didn’t work. It was easier to go with the flow.
There’s definitely no third part to this particular storyline! I utterly loved writing the characters, as I was – perhaps unconsciously – channelling a lot of my own psyche and personality into them. It was quite cathartic in a way, but I came to a natural end with them after the second book; I didn’t feel that I could take them any further. That’s not to say I’m not curious to know what the characters are doing now, but I prefer to leave that entirely to them; they’re content, I know that, so I prefer to leave them in peace.
3) It’s NaNoWriMo and you are putting pen to paper, how are getting on this year and how many years have you entered?
I’m getting on very well, thank you; I’ve finished, so that’s lovely. I actually finished really early on; really early, as I’d set myself a stupid, practically impossible target, and I achieved it. Never again, though; next year, I intend to go back to my usual pace of 2,000 words per day. That’s a far more manageable amount.
This is the fourth year, I think; I’ll confess that I don’t actually remember precisely, but then I have a terrible memory for most things. I belong to a Facebook group called Nano Kent (as that’s where I live), and it’s a pretty active group all year round – as well as being very friendly. We’re a great community, and it acts as an online writers’ group for all of us. I like it for that alone, and there are many more reasons to like it as well.
4) The idea of writing 50,000 words in 30 days to many seems a scary proposition, how do you prepare for it and do you ever find yourself thinking why?
I can understand why NaNo doesn’t work for some people, certainly; some writers I know are very anti, and that’s fine. I think it encourages a lot of writers to write, and gives them a discipline that they might struggle with for the rest of the year – or just enjoy the social side, as writing can be quite lonely at times. I like writing with my peers from time to time, and NaNo gives me that good excuse – so that’s why I like it anyway.
My own prep is very minimal, usually – like I said earlier, I’m not a natural planner for my fiction, and prepare to go with the flow. That works for me, but some writers I’ve spoken to react with the screaming ad-dabs at the merest hint of doing that; they much prepare to plot every single point out. The actual writing of the story then becomes more of a process than a creative exercise – Frederick Forsyth works like that, so who are we to argue? – and if people find that easier, then whatever works.
I never wonder why for myself, because it helps me feel part of a wider community, but I wonder why for other people sometimes, especially if they’re totally unprepared for it and seem surprised by the time factor involved. Of course there’s going to be a commitment; you need to write a minimum of 1,667 words per day (or have the capacity to catch up), and if that’s not possible, then just write what you can. But the important thing, of course, is just to keep on writing.
5)Rounding off the subject of writing, what can we look forward to next from yourself in the terms of a published book and do you think everyone is capable of writing a book?
I’ve got my next book due to be published in September 2017, again by Inspired Quill, and it’s a complete departure from the contemporary fantasy I’ve written up to now. This book – that will have to remain nameless just for the moment – plunges into more classic science-fiction, and it’s lovely to face a new challenge.
I can feel fantasy calling me back, however; I’m currently working on a sequel to the sci-fi book, and then maybe I’ll go back to fantasy again. I hope so; I miss it, as much as I like science-fiction. I’m also working on a non-fiction book around dyspraxia as well; that’ll get published when the time is right.
Interesting point regarding your final question there; does everyone have a book in them? Yes, I would say so, but is every book worth writing? Well, that’s an entirely different conversation. I’m quite controversial; I don’t think every kernel of an idea can be expanded to a story; I know I’ve written enough false starts to realise that there are some stories that just need to stay locked away in the confines of my head. For some people, the concept is a non-starter for them, and that’s sad, but not every story is automatically a good one.
6) You were diagnosed as dyspraxic in your teens, how difficult did you find it in regards of getting information and finding others who were also diagnosed, especially with social media being limited?
Difficult, to be frank. I grew up in the eighties and nineties, when the internet wasn’t still understood as a mass engagement tool – the world wide web wasn’t invented until 1989, for heaven’s sake, and I spent my teen years with nothing more powerful than dial-up. Online information, and meeting people who were like me, was practically impossible.
Printed literature was the same; there weren’t many books for people with dyspraxia, except for a book by Dr Amanda Kirby – who, despite being neuro-typical (or non-dyspraxic) absolutely gets it. She’s still active now, and she works hard at the Dyscovery Centre in Wales to support people with the condition as well as raising the profile of it. I applaud it, but there’s definitely a huge place for dyspraxic people themselves to be at the forefront of public engagement about the condition.
Dyspraxia is, essentially, a disorder to do with the neural connections in your brain; in a dyspraxic brain, some of these connections aren’t properly formed, affecting things like movement, memory, coordination, balance, and so on. But it also gives you added creativity and an ability to think far outside the box, so in every cloud …
But yes, it was frustrating to try and get information; I didn’t find out I was dyspraxic until I was 15, and I didn’t meet another dyspraxic until i was in my late 20s, when social media began to bring people together far more easily. Suddenly, everything fell into place, and I felt a massive sense of relief, that I wasn’t alone any more. I never had been, of course, but this was a liberating experience.
7) Together with your friend Barbara Neill, you set up The Two Dyspraxics that started with youtube videos. You also have a facebook page with 1369 likes, how has the response been to the page and how has the group taken off on facebook.
Yes, it’s been a wonderful experience so far, and it just proves what I’ve said in the previous answer; that people with the condition want to understand the practicalities of how to deal with it and realise their potential. We set up the The Two Dyspraxics Youtube channel not long after we met and discovered a mutual frustration with the lack of information out there in the ether, as well as a mutual appreciation for public communication and a shared sense of humour and love of the absurd.
We’ve discussed so much on our channel so far, and are always looking for new ideas. As for our The Two Dyspraxics, it’s really taking off; people feel really supported by it, and it’s sparked up some wonderful friendships as a result. We get new members every week, and it’s really grown since it started with just the two of us – again, doesn’t that show the demand that’s still out there?
We’re very proud of being a part of this engagement work, and it’s really key; we need to make sure the condition is better understood and valued. I’m also getting to work with one of my best friends on something that I absolutely love doing.
8) WIth The Two Dyspraxic work, do you intend to expand more or keep it with just the two of you and recording more youtube information videos?
I think this is something that’s best kept as just the two of us; that’s not to say other people haven’t got a valued part to play, but our part of the spectrum is something that works best with our own dynamic. We have genuinely big plans for T2D, including setting it up as a charity and spreading the message through as much media as possible; books, videos, talks, training sessions, and whatever else we can possible think of – so watch this space. You heard it here first, T2D is branching out! There’s so much more work to be done.
9) The Two Dyspraxic work isn’t the only charity involvement.You are involved in TG Pals, you did a walk earlier this year, could you tell us more about it?
TG Pals is a charity focused on support for transgender people, who have either transitioned, are in the process of transitioning, or are questioning their gender. We’re also going work on raising awareness of transgender as being something that’s entirely normal; so many people are trans, and there’s so much bigotry and misunderstanding about the spectrum, that TG Pals is badly needed. We’re looking to broaden our capacity in the future to offer a full support service, counsellors, and a lot else besides, but that costs money, of course.
As a trustee, my involvement in the day-to-day of the charity is limited – of course, there are experts for that – but I can use my profile to promote it, as well as helping to raise funds. You mentioned the marathon I did earlier this year, but I won’t pretend I did it alone; there were six of us, and it was a lot of fun. We based it on the Monopoly board, walking round every point, as well as the utilities, community chest, chance, etc. It was actually the second year we’ve done it, and were sponsored by so many people; the generosity we saw from people was overwhelming, and every penny goes straight to the charity to help people.
The suicide rate amongst trans people is massively higher than in the population at large, and that’s a horrible statistic; every death under such terrible circumstances is a life lost and a family devastated, so whatever we can do to change that, the better it is for all of us. We become a better, more inclusive society, and a trans individual becomes able to accept themselves far more easily.
10) Finally and continuing the the walks theme, you are known for doing various charity marathons, how do you manage to keep going and keeping up with them all. Do you ever think about just raising funds on a more relaxed method.
Relaxed? Gosh, that sounds rather boring to me. I like to be active. I’ve completed eleven marathons so far, plus a half marathon and various other shorter walks for charities, and they’re all brilliant – night marathons, colour runs, a half-marathon where my friend and I came first and third … yeah, they’re brilliant fun.
How do I keep going? Well, you get into a habit after a while, and I adore doing them. They’re a brilliant way to keep fit, they raise money for causes, and I know I’m contributing to excellent outcomes. I don’t do it alone, though; every marathon I’ve done has been with one of my best friends, Diana, who is an absolute legend. We support each other during the marathons, especially when we hit the wall; we’ve never let the other one give up. We did the annual Shine marathon at the end of September 2016 for the fifth time, and I hit the wall at about mile 20, but Di just pushed me on past the pain and made me remember why I was doing it. I soon got over the wall and carried on like nothing had happened … aside from the aching muscles.
It’s a privilege to be healthy enough to take part in these events, and for as long as I possibly can, I intend to keep going. Me – take it easy? Where’s the fun in that?
Well thank you Matthew for taking the time to let us in to your world, good luck with your continual work on getting Dyspraxia more noticed together with TG Pals.
Matthew’s books, a Leap of Faith and Fall From Grace are available in all good book shops now. You can also follow Matthew on twitter too.
Musings of Matt Doy, Pokemon Go, random thoughts

Goodbye common sense, hello stupidity

So this past week we saw the launch of Pokemon Go and the instagram photo of Victoria Beckham kissing her daughter Harper on the lips. The two differing stories but in a way connected.

Im no fan of Pokemon, I wasn’t when it  was first released and not now with the appearance of Pokemon Go. However I do find myself defending the game. For those who dont know what Pokemon Go is, let me explain. It is ann augmented reality game that allows you to take the virtual into the real world. You can capture pokemon in your own home, in your garden as well as  out and about. You may have seen people out and about stopping in various places and swiping their smartphones. A couple of weeks ago it might have been someone fed up with their smartphone, but now its more likely to be Pokemon Go.

People though are naturally getting concerned. Pokemon and the Pokemon stops appear in various places. Whilst there will be many within your own property and various public places, they have popped up in some inappropriate places. Reports of Holocaust memorials, 9/11 memorials etc. Now I dont mean to sound horrible,but if you play Pokemon Go and still find the need to play it around such sensitive areas, then you really need to think about yourself and your morals.  There may also be ones you can see but cant reach. Dont be stupid and risk your life by trying to reach the unreachable. Use your common sense and dont do the stupid things. Whilst there will be ones you cant reach,there will be those in unfamiliar places. The younger player that maybe on their own,  just don’t do it. In fact if you too young to be out alone then you are probably too young to be playing the game.

Victoria Beckham celebrated her daughter Harper’s fifth birthday by posting a photo of her giving a kiss on Instagram. Nothing wrong with that you might think. Well when it shows mum kissing daughter on the lips and boy did all hell break loose. People across the internet claimed  that it was sexualising,wrong,weird etc. For me it is something out of nothing. Whilst Ive never been a fan of the woman, I see no harm in what she has done. Im sure she wouldn’t want to put her daughter in any difficult  position. To be honest I imagine she is no different to many other loving parents up and down the country and indeed around the world.