The Rambles of Neil Monnery

Another pointless voice in the vast ocean that is the interweb

Archive for October, 2014

On falling out of love with football…

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Someone said to me the other day when I wasn’t watching a football match that usually I’d have on my TV that I’d have been watching it if they were trying to cook something. A fair point. For you see over the past few months I may have just become over saturated on football and I’m just footballed out. I sit here racking my brain trying to think of a game so far this season where I’ve been genuinely engrossed and I’m struggling. Not even the big matches have really grabbed me (although some games I have certainly watched and been more than entertained by).

I wonder if this is just a general malaise or whether it is more to do with me changing as a person. Maybe I’m growing up, maybe I’m diversifying but whilst years ago I was a football nut I think most who know me well will have noticed over the past few years (namely since I left my previous role of a Sports Editor) that whilst I still thoroughly enjoy watches some sporting events, they don’t rule the landscape as much as they did previously.

Take as an example last week. On the Tuesday I was in town doing some food shopping and saw a poster for a Dave Gorman gig the next day and instead of thinking ‘well Liverpool v Real Madrid is on otherwise I’d go’ I went home and looked up whether they had tickets left and when I saw they did I went ahead. I didn’t even think about missing a big time football match on the tellybox that I usually would factor into my thought process.

This isn’t an isolated incident. I have missed many football matches on telly recently to do social things instead. Obviously this year for the first time in three years I’m not working on radio broadcasts of games and maybe lacking that exposure to live action has been further part of the malaise but it has been a much longer process than that. I thoroughly enjoyed the early part of the World Cup as there was some terrific action and enjoyable matches before the coaches reined in the beautiful attacking play that dominated the early stages of that tournament.

Way back when the result of my team would affect my mood, now I am so disenfranchised it is ridiculous. If teenage me saw me now and how little I care about Pompey he wouldn’t recognise me and wonder what the hell had happened in my life for such a lax attitude to football to have come to the fore. I just think that as you grow up your interests and priorities change and whilst it is a slow change, you don’t notice it for a while until it is stark in your face.

I did contemplate whether it was just football or all sport that is I’m currently suffering a malaise from and looking back over the past few weeks there have been two matches where I’ve been totally into it. Penn State @ Rutgers and Denver @ Seattle. Both games I was completely into and enjoyed (and endured) them immensely. Had I not been unwell over the weekend and gone to bed early then I have no doubt that I’d have been completely engrossed by Penn State’s comeback but ultimate failure against Ohio State as well. Still though for me that is what, three games in the past couple of months that I was into.

This weekend sees Tom Brady v Peyton Manning (again) or more accurately Denver @ New England and I’m trying to get excited about it but I just can’t. I have no doubt if I’m at home I’ll watch but I can’t say I’m circling it in my calendar knowing that I can’t be doing anything else in the Sunday night window although lets be honest here, I don’t see me doing anything else in that window so no doubts I’ll be watching.

I was watching highlights of the 2010-2011 Ashes series on YouTube the other day and I immensely enjoyed that series. I watched so much of it live and was totally riveted by it. Looking back and there are several instances where England cricket away from home has done this to me so maybe cricket is relatively safe from this sport watching doldrums I seem to find myself in.

The thing is I must be into some other things to replace sport from my time and well maybe I am. I seem to be forming more of a strong political leaning and whilst I won’t say anger, I will say disquiet at what seems to be going on. The race to the bottom on immigration is repulsive from all sides of the political spectrum. I know politicians seem to think that you have to appeal to the lowest common denominator to win but that makes me feel sick and I am reading more about what interests me, not fiction, I’m not a fiction guy but non-fiction and enhancing what I understand and having a thirst for knowledge.

So maybe I’m just not the guy that I was and maybe I am just changing. Maybe it is just a phase, who knows but I certainly feel like I’m much less of a slave to the TV schedulers and that chain to the TV is a lot, lot looser than it was. We all change as we get older and we get new interests and maybe, just maybe, this has been going on for a while but I have just failed to notice it. The thing is when all is said and done is I am not upset about the changes that are seemingly going on. I am feeling like I might just be going through a bit of an identity crisis but it isn’t a bad one and it is just the evolution of me. Not even betting and the likes of Saturday Football Tips can keep me seemingly interested. In a way looking back I can see so much of teenage and early 20s me the now 30s me and maybe I should’ve evolved just a bit more than I have over the past decade…

I hope you enjoyed this blog post. Please leave any comments or contact me directly via the E-Mail Me link on the Right Hand Nav. You can stay in touch with the blog following me on Twitter or by liking the blog on Facebook. Please share this content via the Social Media links below if you think anyone else would enjoy reading.

Written by neilmonnery

October 30th, 2014 at 12:16 pm

It is time for the Lib Dems to be truly radical on education

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Nick Clegg has spoken today about how too much teacher time is taken up with box ticking and paperwork, which is pretty fair but he doesn’t speak about just what is wrong with our education system but also about the mindset of far too many people.

This is something that has been building inside of me for a long time and I have written about it several times in recent weeks and months. The crux of the issue is I disagree with what the primary function of schooling seems to be – exams. I would love to know a breakdown of parents thoughts as to whether they would prefer their child to be as best prepared academically for the world to give them the best career options or whether they would prefer their children to be as best prepared to make their own decisions and be the person they want to be.

This falls under the whole envelope I think about regarding the future of society and I could draw inspiration from many places. Last night I flicked over and saw a bit of a TV show called, ‘Secret Life of Living Dolls’ and it was about guys that like to dressing up as latex dolls. Not a fetish I’ve ever dabbled in I must admit but I can see the appeal. A group of them went out in public and got a pretty positive response until some douche started hassling them and screaming at them for doing it. Were they harming him? No. He just didn’t think that people should be allowed to express themselves in a way that he wasn’t comfortable with.

It didn’t shock me but that one person will have undoubtedly caused them more distress than all the positive the other people did. As a race we are generally accepting of those who are different and we are making strides towards making it even better. Homosexuality is now much more, I want to say mainstream but that isn’t the word, it is generally more accepted although some people still can’t do so, many of these people look at religion for a reason to treat these people differently. Religion is the biggest problem that the human race faces but that is a story for another day.

Going back to the education point. A few weeks ago I saw a piece on the BBC News where a failing school had been ‘turned around’ and the headmaster was telling the reporter how he’d done it. The kids are literally not allowed to talk at any time except in break and lunch times unless told it was acceptable by a teacher. Walking between classes had to be done in silence. He had the children line up in register order on three separate occasions during the school day in the main hall to take a register to ensure no-one was truanting. Of course this was in silence. Add to that incredibly strict uniform rules and people wonder why children do not feel free to express themselves.

I am sure Middle England loved it but I wanted to throttle the guy. He is doing so much damage to these young minds yet he is there patting himself on the back because exam results are up. The fact he has robotic children who I suspect are scared to find out who they are seemingly means very little to him.

The young mind is one of the greatest things about our formative years. We all have dreams and aspirations and good schooling can help that. I know what I wanted to be all the way through my younger years and I dabbled in it but here we are at 31 and that part of my life is seemingly in my rear view mirror. You grow up and you have other priorities. Yet I think every adult at some point comes to the realisation that all they truly want is to be happy. Oh happiness. There is a blog post all in itself. Money is great and having a good career is great but that alone won’t make most of us happy.

We all find happiness in different ways and what makes us happy as a teenager may well not make us happy in our 20s, 30s, 40s etc. We continue to grow and evolve as adults but for many of us that involves going back to our teenage years and remembering what our dreams were then and trying again as adults to achieve them. Last week Byron, a 27 year-old contestant in Masterchef Australia was eliminated but said that he now knew what he wanted to do for the rest of his life, he wanted a career in food because it made him happy. He hadn’t got involved in food after school for a variety of reasons but many of the contestants are like that. They chose a career path that they were expected to do or just fell into instead of going for what they truly wanted. This is a flaw in education and in society. We do what is expected of us instead of what we think will make us happiest.

I am all for being realistic but also I am slowly coming around to the fact that we are often better than what we think we are. We are amazing creatures who can adapt and grow in ways many of us never thought possible. Personally I have only taken one big career gamble in my life. One leap of faith that was not to do with happiness but in fact the total opposite. I was so unhappy and frustrated in what I was doing I had to break free and try something different, even if it didn’t work out. Luckily for me it did work out but it did feel like a huge risk at the time and it was done with my mental health squarely in mind.

This is what I want to see in our education system, people daring to be who they want to be. Being brought up in a very tolerant environment where people don’t judge you based on what sex you are, what sexual orientation you are, what colour you are, what clothes you wear, what make-up you wear, what style your hair is, what your teeth look like, what you do in your spare time, whatever. This all sounds very Utopian I know but unless we dare to dream and have the guts to act then we’ll never create the society that would be a truly wonderful place to live.

I want to see an education system where children have a plethora of opportunities and are able to explore them to the best degree possible instead of being taught a regimented syllabus that gives them the best academic possibilities as defined by the government of the time. Another thing I want to throw in here is the why schools deal with social studies. It is laughable. Social studies are marginalised for more academic lessons. I had five lessons of maths a week but in Year 10 & 11 I had no social studies lessons at all, at all. I’m not even sure I had any in Years 7 & 8 so it was only Year 9 where I had any social studies lessons at all and that was a joke.

Social studies is more important than algebra. It is more important than history, more important than geography, more important than science, more important than foreign languages and I could go on, I think you get my drift. Young people need to learn about the world and being part of a positive and welcoming society. This encompasses sex education as well. The hardest part of growing up is not learning academic things but learning about being part of society. These are the skills that many young people struggle with but we shun it as to give more time to academic pursuits.

Putting the social aspect firmly at the heart of education policy would be a giant step forward both for the children of today and for society as a whole. Teach young people about tolerance and about how our differences are only on the surface. Teach them about how to treat one another. Teach them that just because they dress or act a certain act then you shouldn’t treat them any differently. I know it sounds obvious to many of us but we are seeing a lurch away from tolerance and it scares the living bejesus out of me. This is coming mainly from the elder generation but it filters down.

We need a generation of people who feel free to express themselves without fear of persecution in any way shape or form. It isn’t going to be easy but until we understand the whole journey of life starts how we perceive ourselves and the world around us, allowing us the freedoms to live our lives how we see fit and how how society dictates that we should then we’ll always have a problem. I don’t mind taking small steps but we need to know what the end goal is and find the best way to get to that end goal. Ridding society of intolerance should be that end goal at it starts with our education system. Letting young people discover who they are and letting them express themselves is the starting point as the more different people we are exposed to at the young age then the more accepting we are.

We are all different and until we understand that and embrace that then we’ll never get to where we want to be. So it is time to be radical. Put forward a plan to let our young people grow and if they grow outside of the perceived norms that society expects then so be it. A diverse future will lead to a happier place and isn’t that what we all want at the end of the day – to just be happy?

I hope you enjoyed this blog post. Please leave any comments or contact me directly via the E-Mail Me link on the Right Hand Nav. You can stay in touch with the blog following me on Twitter or by liking the blog on Facebook. Please share this content via the Social Media links below if you think anyone else would enjoy reading.

Written by neilmonnery

October 22nd, 2014 at 12:06 pm

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Nigel Farage disgusting comments on HIV and my views of sex education

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Folks. Sometimes I wonder why I am involved and interested in politics. My political views are well known and the term, ‘bleeding heart liberal’ has been thrown at me more than once. I looked up the definition of the term, ‘a person of left-wing or liberal views (i.e. of helping the poor, siding with the oppressed) who is deemed to be excessively soft-hearted’ and I don’t think it is really justified in my case. I am not excessively soft hearted, I like to think that I have a good heart and firmly believe that our place as human beings is based primarily on equality and not on where we are lucky enough to live, or the circumstances we find ourselves in.

The problem is that there is a stirring in the UK, a stirring against that very notion. UKIP’s strength is coming primarily from people who believe that they are more important than others. If they have a problem then they deserve help but if another person has the same problem then they don’t. That I struggle with so much. I’m not saying that at times I’m not a selfish individual because at times sure I am, but I don’t ever think that people should be treated differently because of any circumstances.

This brings me on to an article I read this evening in the Independent. The piece entitled Nigel Farage on HIV: Why the Ukip leader’s remarks may actively hinder treatment in the UK made me so sad. I mean genuinely sad.

Nearly 60 countries from around the globe deny entry to people with HIV or Hepatitis B according to the United Nations. These countries include the Bahamas, the Kingdom of Brunei, Equatorial Guinea, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Papua New Guinea, Qatar, Russia, Singapore, Solomon Islands, Sudan, the UAE and Yemen. All of them very liberal and forward thinking democracies. Well maybe not.

Nigel Farage thinks that Britain should only accept ‘quality people‘ and when pushed he responded, ‘people who do not have HIV to be frank. That’s a good start. And people with a skill.’ I mean c’mon folks. C’mon. I haven’t been exposed to HIV and as far as I know, no-one that I know has HIV so my knowledge of the condition isn’t great but I know enough to know that people with HIV can live for a significant amount of time and be extremely valuable members of society. HIV is a disease that can be spread but the UN say that restricting entry does nothing to protect the public health. The best way to deal with the disease is to better educate people.

I like to think I’m relatively educated. I’m not the smartest guy in the world but I’m also far from the least educated. Education is a vital issue that as a nation and as a race we need to embrace when it comes not only to HIV but also to the potential spread of all diseases. The more we know then the more we will know how to prevent the spread of diseases. The implementation of better sex education will do wonders compared to illiberal and draconian measures about banning people from entering the country if they have a disease.

This is something I’ve written about before. I was severely unprepared in my education with regards to sex. I mean the sex education I received was pathetic. It consisted of one day in Year 9, so I was what, 13? and if I’m being 100% honest with you, I wasn’t ready to learn. I thought the whole thing sounded disgusting and I had no interest in it. We all grow up at different rates and there will have been others in my year who surely felt the same. No doubt many of my fellow students were tremendously excited. Still I do remember most of what we were taught and I don’t think many people were adequately prepared by the sex education we received.

Now it is what, 18 odd years later and my knowledge is more rounded and I’m more prepared but that is due to my own personal education. It is clear to say that I’m not your typical person. I have not exactly been that sexually active in my life. I am sure there are others who, unlike me, may well have been extremely sexually active but be just as uneducated. This is a problem we have as a society and this I firmly believe has helped allow UKIP to form views like this and not see their whole façade shatter.

The thing is the Tories aren’t completely clean of this stain. In January, the following Conservative MPs, Stephen Phillips, Stephen Barclay, Tracey Crouch, Dominic Raab, Graham Brady, Charlotte Leslie, Mark Field, Nigel Mills, Jonathan Djanogly, Chris Kelly, Bob Blackman, Jonathan Lord, Craig Whittaker, Conor Burns, Karl McCartney and Sir Gerald Howarth added their names to an amendment that two Conservative MPs (who are doctors) in Dr. Philip Lee and Dr. Sarah Wollaston supported to do what Nigel Farage wants to do, to refuse entry to the UK of anyone who has HIV or Hep B. Do these people not understand that by doing so, it doesn’t protect the public or is it that they are pandering to those who are ready to be scared because they don’t know the facts?

I saw an interesting stat the other day, an Ipsos-Mori poll asked the public how big a percentage of the UK population was made up of non native people. The public said 31% whereas the actual number is 13%. When people don’t know the truth then they’ll form opinions based on incorrect information. This is the scariest part of politics and is the reason that UKIP are free to pretty much say whatever they want and are relatively teflon. People will easily believe something when it backs up their uninformed viewpoint. If you then attempt to bring facts to the case then they’ll tell you that facts can tell you anything. It shows that more people than ever before seem to be willing to close their minds and if that isn’t the scariest thing then I don’t know what is.

On the other side of the ledger it should be said that younger people are more open minded than they ever have been and that brings hope. They might not be voting Lib Dem for whatever reason but more than ever before would describe themselves as liberal. Young people are more accepting of people who are different. We are all unique and we should be free to express ourselves as such. Society though still dictates how many of us live our lives and we are afraid of ruining our reputations or careers because we may be different to other people. This is something our education system is woefully failing at, education isn’t about exam results but it is about preparing people for the world and letting people find who they are. This is key when it comes to sex education. Without good knowledge and an open mind then young people will think they are wrong or twisted or weird or depraved or immoral or whatever if they have urges that differentiate from the perceived ‘norm’. I speak with first hand knowledge on this matter.

In a way I feel as though I’m lucky that I didn’t let these feelings engulf me and make me feel worse than I initially did. I always had the thirst for knowledge and learned that things aren’t wrong or twisted or weird or depraved or immoral. They are just different. Nigel Farage, those Tories and a depressingly large number of the people in this country though are intolerant of those who are different. Banning those with HIV or Hep B from entering this country wouldn’t help solve the problem of the diseases spread but would further stigmatise those who have the disease.

What needs to be done is clear. It is so clear. People need to be better educated with facts instead of scare stories or school yard gossip. The better educated not only the youth of today, but all of us are, then the better we’ll understand what the problem is and how best to deal with it, instead of just pandering to an uneducated vocal majority who are scared because they don’t know the facts. As human beings the more scared we are then the more desperate and receptive we’ll be to solutions that don’t actually solve the problem, but sound like they will. This is a real problem that we need to understand and deal with. This is why UKIP are doing so well.

People are scared and in all honesty I don’t know why. If you are scared of what you don’t know then the best way to deal with that is to become more informed and not do what too many people are doing, putting their fears and worries on to a political party who inflates this fears and worries. Maybe that is just me but I don’t understand why people are willing to listen to rhetoric without knowing the facts. That isn’t using the brain that we are blessed to have to the best of its abilities. I don’t care if people have different opinions to me, that is life, but when they have such strong and radical opinions based on a severe lack or even no knowledge then that makes me sad. My opinions evolve as I gather more information on many, many things, as do everyone’s. Unless you allow yourself to gather more knowledge and information then your opinions will never change and that isn’t part of the human journey.

I hope you enjoyed this blog post. Please leave any comments or contact me directly via the E-Mail Me link on the Right Hand Nav. You can stay in touch with the blog following me on Twitter or by liking the blog on Facebook. Please share this content via the Social Media links below if you think anyone else would enjoy reading.

Written by neilmonnery

October 12th, 2014 at 7:55 am

Posted in Politics

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A less serious blog – a word or two about my bed

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Last night I was sitting in this very seat and I commented in an IM that I was really looking forward to stretching out in bed when Peyton Manning was finished doing his thing. Sometimes I really do look forward to bed, maybe much more so than I really should. This feeling is more prevalent in the autumn and the winter and last night was the first time that I was genuinely anticipating stretching out and lounging around in the warmth of my bed.

So I laid there and thought that I’d write a blog post on it but there was this nagging thought that I had already done so. A bit of research later and I found that I had a blog post about my bed drafted but never published. Sometimes my brain does work in weird ways, so I’ll use some of that post along with fresh material to flesh out my thoughts. What is in italics are what I wrote months ago in a draft of a similar blog post.

I wanted to pen something a little less serious. For a while I have laid in bed and thought about just how much I like my bed. It might be one of my favourite places. I often talk about how amazing my 15-tog duvet is (it is so seriously awesome, trust me) and how it is one of my favourite ever purchases (£19.99 from Bookers Cash & Carry in Aldershot).

I had no plans to buy it but I was idly wandering about whilst one of my housemates was looking for something and I came across it. The moment I put it on my bed I was far warmer. Good times. I didn’t get the full effect until I had moved out of that place and bought my own bed. My mattress is extremely comfortable. Couple that with the 15-tog beaut and I’m a happy chappie.

Ah yes, my winter duvet. This is still the best thing that I have ever purchased. I’m sure if I was to really think about it then I could say I had bought better and more important things but in terms of simple things that make me happy, this duvet really does stand alone. At the moment I still have my summer duvet on but we are getting close to the crossover point.

So anyway when that warmth envelopes me, I feel at ease. In the winter months I tend to spend a lot more time in bed. I will watch more TV from there and surf the internet from there. My sleep pattern is pretty haywire as well but I really get a great nights sleep from this bed.

I really do. I’m very lucky that I have employment where I can be more flexible than most in terms of times I work. For example this weekend I was working both on Friday and Sunday nights but that meant I was very much up to speed and therefore when I went to bed on Sunday night, I knew I didn’t have to get up early on Monday morning to do any work. I knew I could wake up and instead of rolling over and checking e-mails and work, I could just lay there and let myself drift in and out of sleep for a while. There are few things better than just doing that.

Just laying there drifting in and out of sleep. I did this the other day and had a lucid dream, my first for ages, I was in the dream and promptly stated, ‘what on Earth are you doing in my dream?’ and knew it was a dream but was in a place where I could just lay back and enjoy the show. It was so much fun but was a very strange one.

Now I know a lot of people when in bed enjoy the company of another, I have never slept well when sharing a bed. I like to spread out and use the whole bed, moving from one side to the other as I love the coldness of the sheet but the warmth of the duvet. I often wonder if I’m crazy but I’m writing a blog post about how I love my bed but don’t like to share it, I think that answers the question of whether I am crazy or not pretty well.

Ah yes. When planning this in my head last night I was trying to work out just how many nights I had not slept alone and I had a number in mind. Cue some thought later and I think I was pretty much bang on. I think this should indicate just how infrequent this situation has been that I could guesstimate the number and be pretty much spot on. How do people share beds and still get good nights sleep? Do you get used to it? It is a bit like how I just can’t sleep in a single bed any more, whenever I have to I just sleep terribly. I am used to spreading out and rolling over instead of turning over.

So there we have it. A totally pointless blog post. Well aren’t most of them in all honesty? I just thought it was time to appreciate my bed. I spend around a third of my life in it. Sometimes I think too much in it. Sometimes I’m too restless in it. I don’t do half the things that most people do in their own beds depressingly but I still love my bed. Sometimes just stretching out in it with the sound of the rain beating down outside knowing that I have nothing urgent to get up for so I can totally relax is just flat out awesome.

Thank you bed. I don’t appreciate you half as much as I should.

neil bed

My sanctuary

I hope you enjoyed this blog post. Please leave any comments or contact me directly via the E-Mail Me link on the Right Hand Nav. You can stay in touch with the blog following me on Twitter or by liking the blog on Facebook. Please share this content via the Social Media links below if you think anyone else would enjoy reading.

Written by neilmonnery

October 6th, 2014 at 12:36 pm

Posted in Random Stuff

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