The stars look very different today

My soul feels heavy.

I have been pretty intensely sad since yesterday. In fact, a huge number of people have been. I was quite surprised (thrilled, in some ways: more common ground we share) to find how many of my friends have revealed themselves as Bowie fans. But I was more surprised to discover just how deeply his death has affected me.

It’s been a pretty shitty time for losing heroes. Terry Pratchett went last March (is it really that long ago?) and I was cut up about that – his wit, his insight, the very real, fantastic world I lived in throughout my teens, no more. Oliver Sacks shuffled off in August – I had a shorter but still intense relationship with the good doctor: he helped me see another side to psychology (ironically, a more human side) which I believe has intrinsically changed the way I work.

But this new loss is different. For me, it is more profound. Context is needed. It’s not a very unique story, but it is mine, and it’s part of me.


I was (like many) an awkward, misfitting youngster. I was in that strange limbo between “I don’t care what people think of me!” and desperately trying to fit in. It was a confusing place, and I pretty much just papered over the cracks by being loud and obnoxious (and for those of you still putting up with me today: sorry, that trait stuck). My chosen hypothesis for getting people to like me was to try and be a bit more like them, to like the things they liked (turns out this hypothesis is bollocks, by the way – be yourself and all that). So when I was 12, and met a boy I really really liked (like liked), I did some detective work to find out what he liked, so I could like them too, because that’s how you get people to like you, right?

Most of his interests were so crud that I couldn’t even recount them if I tried to (although, at the time, I’m sure they were veeeeeer’ important). But one of the things he was a BIG fan of was David Bowie. So off I toddled to Napster (remember when that was a thing?) to see what all the fuss was about.

From Hunky Dory through to ‘Hours’ and everything in between, I couldn’t make sense of it. It was all freaking awesome, obviously, but was this all by the same guy? And then I saw pictures of Bowie through the ages – he was a chameleon. Some of it was really bloody wacky. But he was so cool. And in the few TV interviews he did, he didn’t seem to give a rat’s ass. He was just doing what he was doing, and that was that.

He was a really accomplished musician, a self-made man, an experimenter, he was unafraid of being. I found him instantly and inescapably inspiring. Why spend one’s life trying to be other people in the hope that other people will like you and what you’re doing (especially considering my own experiments in this line had hitherto been unsuccessful)? Better to be who you feel like being, whatever that happens to be today, and enjoy the ride. If people hang about, great, if not, they probably weren’t worth chasing anyhow.

But Bowie has brought me closer to a lot of people. There are still Bowie songs that instantly transport me back to (cliché alert) simpler times with friends, sharing our mutual love of this strange and enchanting beast. I even had the opportunity to see him live at Wembley when he released “Reality” (my first big stadium concert). I remember my friend ducking out for “Bring Me the Disco King” because she hated jazz, and I had my first ever cheeky Vimto (mum, if you’re reading, that’s DEFINITELY a soft drink, because I was 16 and why would I be drinking booze? Jeez).


The boy (I can’t even remember his name. Andrew? Anthony?) is long forgotten, but Bowie has been with me ever since. Although I may not talk about the man every day of my life (there has been a bit of “closet Bowie fan” bashing going on. Off you fuck), Bowie made a subtle but indelible impression on my life. I am richer for it. Thank you, Starman.




For some lovely examples of Bowie being Bowie (sans Spiders or facepaint), try his response to Proust or this lovely animated interview of the great man talking about his creative life.


Some thoughts on yoghurt

Stick with me on this one.

Recently, Arla (Denmark) released a new dairy product in the UK called skyr. You’ve probably seen the advert –

(They’ve got a couple of other cute adverts, too, here and here)

Unsurprisingly, Arla have come under a bit of fire from furious, patriotic Icelanders. Because Arla isn’t an Icelandic company, and this is not an Icelandic product, even though it’s pretending to be.

I feel for the Icelanders, I really do. But Arla are a business, and skyr is a product (which, as far as I know, is not PDO) and Arla just got in there first. If Iceland felt they had a unique and wonderful product, then why didn’t they produce it for export long ago?

That said, apparently Icelandic company MS will be releasing their own skyr on the British market later this year. I look forward to it.

In the mean time, a word on Arla’s skyr!

I really, really like it. I have tried some of the flavoured skyrs (and they come in some fun flavours – lingonberry and the like) but I’ll be sticking with plain from now on. It’s all it needs, and if I want added sugar, I’ll add it.

Which brings me on to macronutrient break-down: Arla skyr claims to be uniquely healthy in that it has high protein, fat-free and with very low sugar. But a lot of yoghurts claim to be healthy, so how does it compare?

I made this handy table. Enjoy.

Yoghurt Plain Skyr Honey Skyr Plain Greek Fat free Greek Natural yoghurt Low fat natural yoghurt
Calories 65kCal 73kCal 124kCal 55kCal 81kCal 65kCal
Fat 0.2g 0.1g 9.5g 0.4g 3.8g 1.4g
Protein 11g 9.4g 4.2g 7.3g 5.0g 5.0g
Carbohydrates 4g 7.8g 5.5g 5.3g 6.6g 7.0g
of which sugars 4g 7.2g 5.4g 5.3g 6.6g 6.9g

(values given per 100g of yoghurt. Greek & natural yoghurts as Tesco own brand)

Lower fat, lower sugar, higher protein than any other major yoghurt on the market. And it is REALLY THICK.

p.s. this one time, I went to Iceland, and pretended to fall off a glacier.


Why I Run

I am not a runner.

It’s a crass phrase, but: I am built for comfort, not for speed.

I’m good at picking up heavy stuff, and punching things.

I am not a runner.

But this is exactly why I run.

Running frustrates me. I’m not fast, I complain a lot, running makes me very “phlegmy”, it ruins my feet. I do not enjoy running. I enjoy the feeling of having run, but that is different.

Physical exercise is important – everyone knows that. I’m bored of saying it as much as you’re all bored of hearing it (but here are a couple of articles if you want to know more…). But we thankfully have a broad spectrum of methods of exercise available to us – some of the more fun ones in my opinion are kickboxing and swimming, but hey, these look fun too.

My younger memories of running are pretty awful – in secondary school, because I was not popular, I didn’t really get a look in expressing a preference for participation in school sports days. If they’d have let me do the shot put, we would have killed it every year. But no – I got lumped doing the 1500m, i.e. the Four Laps Of Shame.

But things have been better since – I did the ol’ Race For Life 5k, but more than that I did a Spartan Sprint 2 weeks before my wedding. But then in some ways I’m more built for Spartans than I am for straight-up distance running – we didn’t really do much running in Spartan Sprint, but hey I am BOSS at pulling-a-massive-weight-on-a-pulley-until-it’s-at-the-top-of-the-thing, and drag-a-massive-lump-of-concrete-around-a-short-course, and at climbing-over-a-wall. So I would argue that was no more or less of a personal achievement than Race for Life.

So why run? Having said I am not a runner, that I’m not built for running, that I do not enjoy running…

I am not a natural runner. And that is EXACTLY why I run.

I find it very difficult, genuinely challenging, misery-inducing on particularly bad days, but when I’ve finished a run, I have beaten it, not let it beat me. For the heady minutes following a good run, I genuinely feel that having done that, I can do anything.

Because if you can master something you hate, you can do pretty much anything else.

I am always doing that which I cannot do, in order that I may learn how to do it. - Pablo Picasso