The Truth About Snow Leopards

You might not have heard, but earlier this week, ITV’s This Morning hosted a debate about whether or not the moon was solid. One person, a cosmologist, thought the moon was solid. Another person, a bloke, reckoned the moon wasn’t solid. It’s just opinions. Everyone is entitled to their opinion. Cosmologist or bloke? The truth probably exists somewhere in the middle.

Is society dumbing down? Maybe. But perhaps the really stupid people are not the ones who think the moon is translucent but the ones who aren’t spotting the money making opportunities that widespread gullibility presents. You know the old saying: Who is the fool? The fool or the fool who isn’t really a fool but is prepared to pretend to be a fool to fool actual fools into letting him be on the telly?

And for that reason, I am considering giving up on the whole being nice idea and just becoming a professional idiot.

This is my conspiracy theory. This is my truth about snow leopards. Please share it widely.

Everyone says snow leopards are endangered but how can they be when THERE IS A SNOW LEOPARD IN EVERY CAR? Think about it. Cars can’t just move can they? But they do move. So how do they move? Have you ever seen footage of a snow leopard? What did it do? That’s right: it moved. Snow leopards move. So if cars can’t just move, but they DO move, and snow leopards CAN and DO move, then it’s pretty obvious there is a snow leopard in every car, moving it about. So how can they be endangered? They can’t can they. They can’t.

I know what you are thinking. Petrol. Explain petrol. Open your eyes sheeple. Petrol is an anagram of ‘lepo TR’. Do you see it? Lepo TR = Leopard’s Tasty Rations. Have you never questioned the stories about petrol? Liquid from the ground? Really? What’s more likely, we are getting liquid from the ground or we are just delivering soup for leopards? Have you ever made soup? Was it difficult? No. You open the packet, put the contents in a mug and then pour boiling water on it. Soup. Have you ever got liquid from the ground? No. I thought not. Because it’s IMPOSSIBLE. If there was liquid in the ground we would just FLOAT AWAY, wouldn’t we? Of course we would. That’s just common sense.

So there you are. That’s my idea. Pretty neat, eh? See you on the telly!

Midlife Niceness

OK, so I’m beginning to suspect I’m not going to have a midlife crisis. No sports cars for me. I’m quite pleased about it.

And yet…

Is it not slightly irresponsible to move into middle age without some grand futile gesture of resistance to the idea of mortality? I should do something. After all, the urge to recapture something lost is not completely alien to me. I get it. I’m old now.

I was never going to buy that sports car I always wanted because I have never wanted a sports car. I’m not going to take up a dangerous and expensive hobby because, you know, effort. I’m very happily married so having an affair is a non-starter. But I should do something. Shouldn’t I?

Last Sunday was my birthday. I am 42. That number has a significance to anyone who spent 29% of their teenage years reading and rereading The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. It’s the answer to the ultimate question. The meaning of life, the universe, and everything.


I had a think and what I thought was this: How can I mark this milestone? How can I celebrate this not even slightly significant birthday? And I asked myself, what is the meaning of life? Because it isn’t getting a fancy new car or taking up chainsaw juggling, is it? It’s being nice. It’s being generous and gentle and kind.

Now, I will happily admit, I am already a reasonably decent human being. I recycle. I’m in the PTA. I say please and thank you. You get the idea. But could I be nicer? Could I be a champion of niceness? I dunno. Thought I’d give it a go anyway.

An obvious first step would be to stop using Twitter to vent my anger at the world. Not that I think there is anything particularly wrong with being angry about, oh I don’t know, politics or something. You don’t even have to pick a side anymore. Conservatives, Labour, Lib Dems, you name it, they are all impossibly infuriating. Nor do I have any problem with people getting angry about stuff on Twitter (within limits, of course). It’s just that other people do it better than I do.

Step one then, use Twitter differently.

Step two is to be nicer to myself. Bit selfish? Maybe. But you know, I’M HAVING A MIDLIFE CRISIS OVER HERE, CUT ME SOME SLACK! During my thinking about what I might like to do now I’m, like, well old, I did some thinking about how I kind of like drawing but don’t really do it anymore because I am not very good at it. I also did some thinking about how practice makes perfect. I also did thinking about projects and how I like birds and how maybe I could draw, or attempt to draw, every bird on the British List* as a nice drawing project. Maybe I could even post the drawings on Twitter. It’s got to be better than another rant about Brexit. It will certainly be nicer. You could laugh at the early ones, then, over time, celebrate, or begrudgingly admit, that I have improved slightly. That would be nice.

I had other thoughts too, other ideas, but we can get to them later. We can keep them as surprises. Surprises are definitely nice.

Nice nice nice nice nice.


*For those of you who don’t know but want to, the British List is the list of every bird that has been seen in the uk, even if they only turned up once by mistake or, as in one case, now extinct. It’s a tad over 600 species, so it should take me a while.

How to Write a Novel: lesson one, giving it a fancy title.

Look, there is no right or wrong way to name your novel. Don’t worry about it. Chances are somebody will make you change it anyway. But if you can come up with something fancy, go you! Everyone likes a fancy title. When a reader spots a particularly sexy title on a bookshelf it can be like eyes meeting across a crowded ballroom. Hello, they think, I like the look of you.

Of course, relationships built on a foundation of nothing more than mutual physical attraction are almost always doomed from the start, but you don’t need to worry about that. The sex thing is just a metaphor. You are selling a book, not starting a family. Don’t over think things. We’ll worry about the text of the novel in a later lesson. At the moment we are just thinking about a title. One step at a time.

And as I say, you will probably have to change it. We’re talking ‘working title’ here, not ‘actual title’. Some writers don’t believe in working titles but I think they are good for focusing the mind. Let me give you an example. Say you want to write a historical novel. If you give yourself a working title of ‘All the Romantic Things that Happened at Whimberley Mansion in the Summer of 1910 (oh and Someone gets Murdered Too)‘ then you will have a reminder on the top of each page of your draft not to put any references to Twitter feeds or Rubik’s Cubes or Joe Pasquale etc in your novel (and also that you will need to weave a murder plot in at some point). Then, when you have finished your novel, you can let your editor change the title to ‘The Under-Butler’s Great-Niece‘ or ‘Summer at Whimberley‘ or what-have-you.

I have a working title for the novel I’m working on but I’m not telling you what it is in case some dirty thiever thieves it. However, I am offering up all my rejected working titles, for free, should any of you require any inspiration for your own novels. All I ask is that if you do use one you give me a mention in the acknowledgements bit at the back of your book. Something along I-couldn’t-have-done-it-without-him lines.

Anyway, here they are. Help yourself.

  • The Trouble With Oceans
  • Half a Walrus, Half a World Away
  • Labradors
  • It Happens All The Time (in Newcaste-under-Lyme)
  • Thin Gravy and Broken Promises
  • Remembering Woolworths
  • Elms
  • What Happened During the Week All the Coppers Went on Strike
  • Love at First Sight (on the Isle of Wight)
  • Ed Sheeran vs The Minotaur
  • Moonbase on Mars
  • That Day Me and Daz Fucked Up All Those Badgers
  • The Girl Who Was A Policewoman And, Like, She Found Out Her New Boyfriend Was A Serial Killer Almost Immediately After Having Sex With Him For The First Time
  • Doing the Splits (during the Blitz)
  • The Dragon Wars
  • The Dragon Wars II (Massive Dragons)
  • Bin Land
  • The Cowboys Who Voted For Nader
  • Oooh, But His Hands Were Clammy!
  • Love in the Sex Factory
  • Something Something Something Brexit Something
  • Naked Heathcliff
  • A Serial Killer-y sort of thing, but in Lapland? Greenland? Have a look on a map later
  • World War One but from the point-of-view of, let’s say, I don’t know, a dog?
  • A Cloud Atlas rip-off but better somehow?
  • Fuck it, just write a memoir but change my name from Ben to Den and set it in Whitby or something, that’ll do, won’t it?
  • A sequel to The Great Gatsby check if he dies in the first one or not