Category: The Word

My Triathlon for Epilepsy Action and Mrs. Robinson’s Homes

I’m swimming, cycling and running a sprint triathlon in Leeds on June 10 to raise money for Epilepsy Action and local Hull charity, Mrs. Robinson’s Homes. Both are great charities so please do donate. I’ll be swimming 750 metres, cycling 19km and running 7.5 km.

The pros – like me but less flabby and anxious

Epilepsy Action offers vital support to over 600,000 people with epilepsy, which can often be a severe life affecting illness. I have a relatively treatable form of epilepsy, but have still had to rely on the help of many at times when the disease has made me feel weak and vulnerable.

Those who have severe, less treatable forms of epilepsy, which can be life-threatening, have a much harder time and need much more support to survive and thrive. Epilepsy Action could be the difference between a happy life and one of imprisonment by the disease for them, so please donate generously at my Justgiving page: .

Mrs. Robinson’s Homes provides safe, affordable, modern and comfortable homes to those families and individuals in Hull who need our help and compassion. People who may otherwise be homeless or in dire need. The numbers of people in such situations are rising, so now is a great time to donate. I am still working through the details with the charity at the moment, so please watch this space or email me on if you want to promise a sponsorship for this charity.

Thank you!


Stranger Things Than Epilepsy?


A boy lies on the floor, shaking and writhing uncontrollably as those around him try to wrestle him into a safe position. A boy stands on a playing field, unconscious, eyes rolling, as his friends and mother try to understand what is happening to him. Both of these situations could be episodes in the life of someone who has epilepsy, but they are not. They are episodes in season two of Stranger Things, Netflix’s critically acclaimed eighties horror pastiche, where a monster is repeatedly attacking the boy in question.

If in the past, you have tried to understand what someone with epilepsy goes through when they are having a fit, you must watch Stranger Things. If you have watched it, then read this and watch it again.

Perhaps ‘episodes’ is an apt choice of words, as this is what the friends and family of Will Byers, the boy in question, call his strange experiences. They are confused by them, scared of them and unable to understand and solve the boy’s problems. This is something that I, as an epilepsy sufferer have experienced me, my family and my friends having to deal with.

Like me, Will has woken up in strange places scared and confused with no immediately apparent explanation of how he got there. Like me, him and his long-suffering mother Joyce have disagreed with the doctors and experts who think they know what is best for him. They call it the upside down, we call it epilepsy. But, much like in the series, the parallels run much deeper than that.

Let’s go back to the boy, Will, shaking with his eyes rolling. This scene was the most perfect allegory for an epileptic fit I have ever seen. It was a lightbulb moment for me and my attempts to really show those who want to understand what an epileptic fit, and epilepsy in general feels like. On the playing field, and everywhere else, no-one can see the monster coming and nobody knows when it will strike, not even Will. When it does strike, as it does toward the end of Season 2, Will’s terrified friends and mother see him unconscious and moving with rolling eyes for no apparent reason. To Will, he is a conduit for something irresistibly massive and monstrous; something which is slowly obscuring everything and replacing all perception with itself as it tries to force its way inside his head. He starts by confidently trying to make it stop, as I have with some success in the past, but it eventually presses into him, fighting against him as he resists and putting more pressure on his senses and his fragile brain. He tries to hold on to reality as it takes over more and more of what his senses indicate is around him replacing it with noise too loud, and imagery too absolute to comprehend or handle. Finally, there is only darkness. He finally loses consciousness and comprehension of what he is doing Whatever the monster was doing is done. When this comes, it feels like a welcome reprieve; the calm after the storm, which in the case of epilepsy is ironic, because this is the point when most sufferers’ thrashing reaches its peak with no conscious mind to control the fit.

The monster, aptly called the Mind Flayer, becomes part of Will, possessing him, draining him and occasionally seeming to replace him with another person entirely. No wonder Will often walks around in a quiet and subdued fearful state. His submissive anxiety is something to which I can very much relate. It is like looking into my past. Although I have grown in confidence and combative ability, I still can’t drive, I indulge in one of my passions, surfing, rarely and carefully. When I am feeling particularly vulnerable, as Will does occasionally, I am often scared of being alone, or in crowds.

Families and friends of those with epilepsy, do you feel a little déjà vu when I tell you that Will has trouble using words to describe his experiences with the Mind Flayer and in the scary ‘other place’ he calls the upside down? In his case, he finds it much easier to use visual representations, such as drawings. This is because he primarily experiences his so-called ‘episodes’ visually, whereas I experience mine in the form of sound. But we still try. Will tries to tell his mother and a local police officer how it felt

Will: “I don’t know. It came for me, and I tried to make it go away. But it got me”

Mum: “What do you mean?”

Will: “I felt it everywhere. Everywhere.”

Like the Mind Flayer, epilepsy is a hunter on the offensive that you feel everywhere. It emerges out of nowhere as an adversary that you can’t see, can’t do anything about and can only feel after it’s too late. Something irresistible that must be defended against, but rarely ever can be. And when it gets you it is everywhere in your world, filling it up until there is nothing of reality left outside the crazed, uncontrollable noisy mess of the fit.

Will talks to his mother about another aspect of the monster’s attacks that I find oddly familiar, saying: “It’s hard to explain. It’s like old memories in the back of my head, only they’re not my memories … I don’t think they’re old memories at all. They’re now memories, happening all at once, now … It’s like they’re growing and spreading. Killing.”

I’ve mentioned déjà vu already. It’s a big part of my epilepsy experience. A sequence of memories that don’t make sense. That all come all at once during a fit, pushing their way into my head for no reason and with no sense. They never feel like old memories, they always feel like they’ve just happened and yet they’ve been there forever. The perfect, imperfect déjà vu. And yes, they do grow … and spread … and kill. Until there is nothing left in my head except them … and darkness.

Epilepsy is always there. It’s a threat no matter where I am in the world, yet it’s always just out of sight. Just like Will’s monster.


A big week for me and Barton as Past Forward goes out with a bang

The Barton Past Forward project that I have been working on for nearly a year is almost finished, and like all great feats of entertainment, we’re going out with a bang.

It looks set to be one of the busiest weeks for me, Barton-upon-Humber and North Lincolnshire since I became Barton’s Heritage Marketing Officer a year ago. The Tour of Britain is coming to town as well as Heritage Open Days and one of the area’s oldest carnivals, all in one week.

Here are some thoughts, facts and bits of promo relating to everything.

The Tour of Britain

Broadcast in 129 countries, and watched by millions of people, the Tour of Britain is a cycle race that pits some of the finest professional cyclists from around the world against each-other.

The top-class bikers will be tearing up North Lincolnshire and ripping through my home town on the third leg of the tour on Tuesday September 5. It’s a great opportunity for local people to enjoy an international sports spectacle on their front doorsteps and for businesses to get noticed on the world stage.


Barton Heritage Open Days

 Heritage Open Days will give families and friends all over the United Kingdom an opportunity to get out, enjoy themselves and learn a little about their local history.  The museums and heritage sites of Barton-upon-Humber will be taking part by throwing open their doors to the public and putting on a whole range of special events.

After putting a lot of work into marketing the open days, which will take place from Thursday to Sunday next week, it’s good to see they have been steadily increasing in popularity, meaning 2017 looks set to be the biggest yet by far, with a massive response on social media and many event bookings already made.

Scunthorpe Telegraph HOD coverage
Coverage of the Heritage Open Days in the Scunthorpe Telegraph

As part of the weekend, visitors will get the rare opportunity to look around the only Anglo-Saxon church tower in England, travel back in time with Barton’s Hidden History Walk and enjoy Barton’s historic buildings including a medieval great hall and a school that helped change education forever.

Meet the folk of the Hidden History Walk – Promotional video.

There’s also a lot for children to do as well, including meeting Desperate Dan and the artist who drew him for years at the comic Desperado’s 80th birthday party at the Wilderspin National School Museum, a Hidden History walk with characters from the past and an Isaac Pitman themed treasure trail linking many of the Heritage Open Day sites.

Comic Capers Ad
A comic I made to promote a Desperate Dan themed event on Social Media.

Barton Carnival

One of the regions oldest carnivals will be hitting Barton on the same weekend as the Heritage Open Days, helping to fill the town with people and excitement. This year there are performances from Granny Turismo, The Black Eagle Acrobats, Rushby’s Dance and Fitness and Heatwave Entertainment, not to mention the cute pooches at the Barton Crufts competition. It’s on throughout the weekend, running alongside the Heritage Open Days.

I myself am looking forward to the birds of prey though.

I’m hoping to get to all of these events, so come and say hi. I’ll be the red-haired guy looking by turns excited and stressed!

Confidence and the Writer

I’m in love with writing and, like all relationships worth mentioning, it isn’t always easy.

It’s rewarding, but at times it takes guts. I don’t get to spend anywhere near as much time with my words as I’d like to. People get in the way, I get in the way, things need to be done and the situation is never just right for me and my keyboard to spend some quality time together. Everything gets easier though as I get more settled and more confident in my writing and my relationship with it.


Finding Confidence

I’m not going to keep stretching out the relationship metaphor, but I am going to tell you that I’ve been terrible at finding relationships in the past. I didn’t know what to do and I lacked confidence from the first impression to the last dance and beyond.

When I began to write as a hobby and a career, I found myself in the same situation. I knew on some level that I was a good writer, but I didn’t know how to convince people, including myself, that I was good. I second-guessed myself, I missed opportunities and clients and I deleted tracts of perfectly good writing, rather than let it be seen by potential critics. All of this because I lacked confidence.

I’d love to start this paragraph by saying “This all changed when…”, but there has been no great watershed moment when I was suddenly filled with newfound certainty. I have learned to tell myself that I’m a good writer and listen to others when they say the same. I have even begun to believe that I am a good writer whose work is worth attention and money. There was no giant leap though, just a series of self-affirming moments and actions combined with the support of others. I would advise other writers to keep reflecting on the good points of their work, even when they are not so obvious. It’s also important to listen to others when they support you and believe them when they complement you. After all, you are your own worst critic.

Keeping Confidence (and a little more of that metaphor)

When you have found your confidence, keep it with you when writing, when pursuing opportunities and when dealing with those who may help you succeed or put you down. I found out the hard way that where confidence is concerned, landing clients is like getting girls (or guys, according to your preference). Very few people notice the timid person in the corner, let alone give them a chance, even if they are the perfect person. The fact is that without a little pluck, a little mettle, no one will ever know you are ideal for them. You can even begin to kid yourself that you don’t have the skills or the experience to be the ideal candidate for anyone. So, nurture your confidence every day by believing in yourself and the words you write.

Setting out and Settling in: Both easier with friends

Setting out and Settling in: Both easier with friends

Every parent will know that the first day of school is exciting and daunting for a child, it’s like an adventure. In fact, most people will remember that mix of eagerness and fear of the challenges that lay ahead and the scary new people that lay in wait. I’m sure some of that anxiety remains whenever most of us go to a new place or try something new. We must still make new connections and deal with new challenges. Either way, we are not alone.

Continue reading “Setting out and Settling in: Both easier with friends”

Preparing for the Adventure of Modern Freelance Writing

Quality freelance writing is an exciting, cutting-edge business despite the rising threat from banal content farming, cheap SEO churners, and big data suedo-news. The situation has changed drastically over the years since I took up the trade and the increasingly multifaceted nature of the craft that makes it such a worthwhile pursuit is exactly what can confuse the unaware. Today alone I have written history blogs, Facebook posts, commissioned tweets and business profiles, all while keeping an eye out for consultancy call-ups … and that is just an average day at the office. This is no daily grind. It is an adventure where the writer must be prepared for anything


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Local Heritage and Me

Heritage is what makes us who we are. It’s what gives warmth to the places that we live and depth to the lives that we lead. This is why I was enormously proud and excited to be appointed as the Heritage Marketing Officer for Barton-upon-Humber, my hometown, earlier this month.

welcome-to-bartonIn this role, I’ll be working with a great team at The Ropewalk and The Wilderspin School Museum with support from The Civic Society (Apologies for all the links, but the museums are really worth a visit). We’ll be taking a little look at the amazing history that has made the town of Barton what it is today and working to build up the cultural profile of what is in fact, a town with an enormously colourful heritage and a lot of cultural depth.

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The difference between ‘value’ and ‘price’ : What our words say about us

The words we use say a hqdefaultlot about us and the way we think about the words we use says even more. This is something I considered whilst using Microsoft Word’s inbuilt thesaurus and comparing it to a much more thorough and useful one online. The difference was very telling, especially where Microsoft, money and the priorities of our society were concerned.

For the word ‘value’ for example, Microsoft came up with synonyms like price, worth and cost first – all very financially orientated words for what is really a very broad concept (admittedly this is less so for worth). The more complete thesaurus on the other hand came up with admire, application and appraise, to name the first three in the alphabetical list – a good variety of words relating to the multiple meanings of the word value.

Overall Microsoft came up with eight terms for value, five of which were financially orientated. By comparison, out of the first eight words the more thorough thesaurus came up with, only two were financial. Some were general synonyms for value and one was beauty, which got me thinking.

Continue reading “The difference between ‘value’ and ‘price’ : What our words say about us”

How Epilepsy Helped Shape Prince

Seven years ago Princeprincetavis_250.jpg revealed to the world that he had battled with epilepsy during childhood, a battle that shaped him as a man and an artist. Now, as the world mourns the death of a genius, it is worth considering one of the less prominent lessons he taught us.

Prince compared his fight with Epilepsy to that of the legendary black boxer and civil rights icon Jack Johnson “because he had to deal with seemingly insurmountable odds; if he knocked someone down people from the audience would get into the ring and pick him back up. I just related to it in a lot of different ways.”

“I was born epileptic and I used to have seizures when I was young and my mother and father didn’t know what to do, or how to handle it, but they did the best they could with what little they had.” – Prince

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Some Thoughts on Path-finding as a Writer

Any client focused freelancers or money hungry writers out there may find that, like me, your work is often defined by those you work for. Some may try to fight it as I did, but I’m here to say that sometimes it’s worth just following the path as it is laid out before you. You may even learn about yourself on the way.

Continue reading “Some Thoughts on Path-finding as a Writer”