Saturday, 27 February 2010
If I ruled the world... I would make you happier. There are always things in life that makes us sad, and it is our ability to ignore them or deal with them that make us stronger or reveal us as weaker.
If I ruled the world...I would make life so much more simpler. Our worlds are far to complex and confusing. Confusion is rarely a nice sought after characteristic and an unfortunate circumstance we all find ourselves in almost on a daily basis
If I ruled the world...We would all know each other, like we know our best friends. We would all be best friends, and small talk would cease to exist
If I ruled the world...We would all have 'someone', we would all be with the one person we wanted to spend the rest of the life with, and we would just know that was the case
If I ruled the world...there would be no news. We have so much news, the news is often negative and bad, I would resolve to reinstate the fundamental principle that 'no news is good news'
If I ruled the world...we would all live in one house (the barn).Geography would be the thing of the past and we would all be within a stones throwing distance, distance is an major discomfort in all of our lives, and it often beats us.
If I ruled the world...I would never need or desire to write this blog, as everyone would know my thoughts and feelings like they know the back of their own hand, I would not have to write letters and emails, and you would just know completely and entirely.
If i ruled the world...families would be perfect. Our society is often stated as cracking at the seams, with the nuclear family being obliterated into tiny fragments of an ideal family unit
But I don't rule the world... x9
How you (could) feel...
There are days where you believe. You feel like the most significant person is you, especially when you wear a suit for a day. You feel like your hand is on the lincoln bible being sworn into office and the most important leader. You feel like there is a new hope inside you, and that you have the power to change the world. You knock down the barriers constructed on your path. It is your path and you own it. you 100% own it. You laid every millimeter of it, and you walk it with pride, and you feel like nothing could stop you, no barrier exists, and if they do, you walk straight through them.
With all those feelings I just mentioned, the irony is that, I feel like the more and more I walk down this path, I realise that in reality no one else cares too much for it, and more precisely no one cares for where it goes my path goes. I am fortunate enough to have people around me, of whom I care deeply for, and I know they care deeply for me, but as for the path I walk on... After all its yours, not theirs. I shall explain.
You walk a Path...
If we truly take a look at everyone around us. Imagine all there lives are paths, and they lead in a billion different directions, they cross (see cross-pathing) and they are random, events cause new directions, and all we can do is to continue to walk, someone confidently, sometimes in pain, sometimes running, sometimes crawling, sometimes skipping. But the reality is that we dont mind. We all occupy a space in our very small and insignificant existence (and very small we all are indeed) and as long as we dont impinge on others in a negative way, you are very much left to your own devices. What rings nicely is those common phrases we all hear like 'dont fix it if it isn't broken' and 'leave you to your own devices'. These are so so unbelievably true. You exist as a number, and as a statistics and as long as you remain in a normal distribution an insignificant statistic you remain. To come back to the 'leave you to your own devices' phrase, people care very little about your devices, and are very much focusing on their own. They are looking down at their feet, on their own path, wondering where it will take them? how they will get there, and what they should expect. They too have their own barriers in front of them, and they constantly think or ways to overcome those barriers, The world to me is just a giant mixture of paths and walls, and we all play the same game. We all follow our own paths, most have no idea where it is going, and to be honest most really don't care. As a great and admired woman in my life once said 'it is the means, it is all about the journey, and not the ends'. I think we walk in such a way that we can only see the means directly in front of us, and at most we have a idealistic view of the ends. At the very very most, the ends is an ideal. I realise recently that you are set to your own devices, and you often stop and compare paths of others, you mold and shape friendship to mimic people's in recognition that your paths are of similar suit and direction (sad truth). Despite all of this, I do not take the egalitarian approach and I go against pre-existing ideas of morality by not helping think 'I must look down at my own two feet, and I should look down my path'. I genuinely believe that my family as a whole takes a very honest and intelligent view, and takes life for what there is. They accept the basic premise that, if you work, and you live from work, you do well in life. This is a concreted idea instilled into my head time and time again, by my mother and particularly by my grandparents...well the cynical and curious side of me says...what is that? Is that a realistic tone of those far more experienced in life than me? or is it the sign of a cultural norm firmly embedded into a cliche and institutionalised family unit? Is it a case they simply know more about life than me, or do I see something different to them. Something out of the fog.
England is unquestionably a foggy place at times, and we manufacture it, time and time again. We I don't want to manufacture, and people should not manufacture, people should not accept the weather for 'just how it is', and aspire to something greater than the sum of their parts of which they were born into. You should show everyone what you can do, and aspire. I aspire to something far better than I have walked down. I jump barriers, mostly and admittedly not with intelligence, but with hard work. I just live in the hope I learn and acquire knowledge on the way. I live without the conventional digger, or saw, but with a pen and paper. The weather is grim, and remains grim. and the rain gets heavier. (In advance, I apologise to any English students, whom are far more knowledgeable on this subject matter but...) It was Shakespeare who often cited the forces of nature are interlinked with actions and behaviours of the common man, I think he never really intended it as a literal play convention and rather as a deeper analogy. Questions pour into my head like why don't you accept the weather? Will accepting make you simply humble, or will it make you unfulfilled, or perhaps unhappy, and once again out of place. I believe that with a little more life experience points people can reach those aspirations and in order to do so they must give it their all, you must realise that it is something you want, you must accept you will often be left to your own devices. We are all shapers of our own life, and we must carve out our lives out of the materials you have been given, fog, rain or shine. I have always believed life is a game, and too often people have jumped through the hoops, learning the rules of the game, and playing by those rules. For me, It has got me so far, and now perhaps its time we, myself included, roll our own dice, and play our own game, and stop being so dependent on the path behind and worry about the way our life will be shaped in the future
Sunday, 21 February 2010
"Remember, remember the Fifth of November,
The Gunpowder Treason and Plot,
I see no reason
Why the Gunpowder Treason
Should ever be forgot"
Remember, remember the 5Th of November indeed. This well-known traditional English rhyme is one that permeates my life, and my thoughts. We all know the story of the 5th of November 1605 when Guy Fawkes along with his Catholic co-conspirators Robert Catesby, Sir Everard Digby, and Thomas Bates (to name but a few of the rather surprisingly long list) tried to blow up the houses of parliament using barrels of gunpowder, in an attempt to kill King James 1st
We all know how the plan was thwart and a number of the conspirators including the infamous Guy Fawkes were executed for crime of treason against the crown. Well, if you didnt know, you do now.lol
The 5th of November, or its more commonly phrased bonfire or fireworks night is my favourite day of the year. Unquestionably. There are a number of reasons why this is the case. Firstly, up to the age of 17 I had spent every single bonfire night, almost religiously on the Midsummer Common, Cambridge which had a huge firework display. The display used to fascinate me, and the firework display was incredible. Didn't you find, especially as a child that somehow they seemed that even more incredible. As you get older, that sense of ingeniuity, that sense of naivety, and wonderment was something that was entirely overpowering, mesmerising and fascinating, and you would look up to the fireworks, freezing, and often with a sore neck. Yet despite these adverse winter conditions and physiological setbacks, nothing, and I mean absolutely nothing would be able to distract you from watching something that just made you feel amazing. Just purely amazing. You didnt know why, or what was so amazing, and you seemingly didn't care for such answers. It just made you feel amazing. I remember fondly years were I was right by the giant bonfire that would feel like it was burning you from over 100 yards away, or standing on the ledge of a bridge, looking down at the reflection of the fireworks in the river creating a distorted firework display. One year I remember sitting on the opposite side of the river, right by the Cambridge University boathouses admiring the whole spectacle in the same way, but in my own little world, over the river. I remember the fair with all the cliche rides, the vans selling the most greasy and unecessary calorific items, and guys going around selling the latest random form of glowsticks, whether a necklace, a yo-yo or even flying disks. I used to go down with family when I was younger, and throughout my teenage adolescence my fruitless pursuit of 'coolness' and social acceptance meant I was accompanied by my closest of friends.
So as you can clearly see, its something I hold fondly as a memory in my life, and i'm sure you could reel off a number of similar examples in your life that give you a similar effect. This is why, as of last year I started a Dowling tradition, that I wish to keep and continue for many a year to come.Every 5th of November, I dedicate to two things. The first is me. I know it sounds rather self-indulgent, but we don't spend enough time thinking about what makes us happy, (despite my recent flurry of blogs over the subject matter), we dont. We sadly dont. I dont think it is too much to ask, to say that atleast one day, just one day out of 365 a year is yours. Scratch it off the calander, what difference does a day make? (I would argue conversly, and say quite a lot, but thats beyond the scope of this particular blog). The second dedication is to fun (common themes, emerging in blogging?). I have said it before, and I say it again, we should have more fun in our lives. A lot of things in my life in the past two years have taught me that, and given me an entirely new perspective on what life is really about. A good friend of mine once described my character within our teenage years as 'you were quite...intense', and it took me a long time to realise how very right he was. I hope this illustrates a step in the opposite direction.
Just as Guy Fawkes et al had an intention to make a difference to the country, I intend to take a similar approach in a mircoscopic level, that is my own life (we really are an insigificant part of a massively infinite greater world arent we?). So lets go into the tavern of curiousity and light the fuse of interest and talk about the plot itself....
Last year, I composed I list of 9 items. Nine being the greatest number in the world (not 1,2 or three, although 2 is better than 3 darragh...im sorry it just is!) Of those who perhaps don't know me that well, atleast on a physical level, I have a tattoo on my upper, central back depicting the numnber 9 in roman numerals, it looks like this in fact ---> -IX- <--- . I love it, its one of the best things I have ever done, and I got it done with one if the greatest guys I have ever met, my best friend Scott. *takes cap off and nods with mutual respect*. So that is indeed why there is nine items. The nine items are generic, and are considered more of guidelines that concrete definitions. They are as follows: 1. Something spontaneous 2. Something romantic 3. Something with someone else 4. Something (vaguely) intelligent 5. Something Sporty 6.Something relaxing 7.Something you wouldn't normally do 8. Something Naughty 9.Something nice for someone else Of which every year I comprise the exact list of what I will do on that day, and on the 5th of November I do them. For example, 2. Something romantic, I wrote a text to to my girlfriend (at the time) in french (of which I studied, but don't speak lol).It was a small gesture, but I suited. It was genius. The something sport last year I also managed to combine with the something with someone else. I raced a coursemate of mine, from one lecture to another by sprinting across campus. It was quite a sight to be seen, and I looked like a complete plebe, but I was so liberating (thank you Mr Branigan, a true scholar and a gentleman). The game also had stipulations. Firstly two of the 9 had to be suggested my friends or family, one of the nine had to be drawn at random from a number of possibilities, and you have to do atleast one of them with someone. Its a game. A pure game, for games sake, and last year it made me feel great. There is no doubt that I do remember the 5th of November indeed, and although many consider it a day to remind us of the terror and tyranny of man, I remember it as a day to have fun, a day to play a game. I invite you to at very minimum, pick a favourite day, and remember that on your favourite day, its your favourite day! There is a nicety in that alone. For those a little more open-minded I invite you to play your own game in a similar fashion. Go on, I dare you, live a little. Its not complicated, and it can become a fun but personal game. Why not? you set the rules, you play the game. Life is often a game, so what is the harm in playing with life. Its a small gesture, I small thing, but I guarantee it will make you question your daily routines, and your view on life. I find it a beautiful thing to do. I leave you with the lines I opened with, in an attempt to open you to an idea, a thought, that remember, remember the 5th of November, the gun powder, treason and plot. I see of no reason why it should ever be forgot" indeed, I could not agree more... x9
Thursday, 18 February 2010
Have a read of the classic story, and whilst you do, consider two things:
#1: What are the underlying moral values of this story?
#2: Place the story in a modern context. What I mean by that is, put yourself into the story and consider the thousands of variables and scenerios that occur and/or could of occurred to alter the outcome of this fable...
* The [original] Story of the Three Little Pigs *
Once upon a time there were three little pigs, who went from home to seek their fortune. The first that went off met a man with a bundle of straw, and said to him:--
"Good man, give me that straw to build me a house."
The man gave the straw, and the little pig built his house with it. Presently came along a wolf, and knocked at the door, and said:--
"Little pig, little pig, let me come in."
But the pig answered:--
"No, no, by the hair of my chiny-chin-chin."
So the wolf said:--
"Then I'll huff, and I'll puff, and I'll blow your house in."
So he huffed, and he puffed, and he blew his house in, and ate up the little pig.
The second little pig met a man with a bundle of furze, and said:--
"Good man, give me that furze to build me a house."
The man gave the furze, and the pig built his house. Then once more came the wolf, and said:
"Little pig, little pig, let me come in."
" No, no, by the hair of my chiny-chin-chin."
"Then I'll puff, and I'll huff, and I'll blow your house in."
So he huffed, and he puffed, and he puffed and he huffed, and at last he blew the house in, and ate up the little pig.
The third little pig met a man with a load of bricks, and said:--
"Good man, give me those bricks to build me a house with."
The man gave the bricks, and he built his house with them. Again the wolf came, and said:--
"Little pig, little pig, let me come in."
"No, no, by the hair of my chiny-chin-chin."
"Then I'll huff, and I'll puff, and I'll blow your house in."
So he huffed, and he puffed, and he huffed, and he puffed, and he puffed and huffed; but he could NOT get the house down. Finding that he could not, with all his huffing and puffing, blow the house down, he said:--
"Little pig, I know where there is a nice field of turnips."
"Where?" said the little pig.
"Oh, in Mr Smith's field, and if you will be ready to-morrow morning we will go together, and get some for dinner."
"Very well," said the little pig. "What time do you mean to go?"
"Oh, at six o'clock."
So the little pig got up at five, and got the turnips before the wolf came crying:--
"Little pig, are you ready?"
The little pig said: "Ready! I have been and come back again, and got a nice potful for dinner."
The wolf felt very angry at this, but thought that he would be a match for the little pig somehow or other, so he said:--
"Little pig, I know where there is a nice apple-tree."
"Where?" said the pig.
"Down at Merry-garden," replied the wolf, "and if you will not deceive me I will come for you, at five o'clock to-morrow, and get some apples."
The little pig got up next morning at four o'clock, and went off for the apples, hoping to get back before the wolf came; but it took long to climb the tree, and just as he was coming down from it, he saw the wolf coming. When the wolf came up he said:--
"Little pig, what! are you here before me? Are they nice apples?"
"Yes, very," said the little pig. "I will throw you down one."
And he threw it so far that, while the wolf was gone to pick it up, the little pig jumped down and ran home. The next day the wolf came again, and said to the little pig:--
"Little pig, there is a fair in town this afternoon; will you go?'
"Oh yes," said the pig, "I will go; what time?"
"At three," said the wolf. As usual the little pig went off before the time, and got to the fair, and bought a butter-churn, which he was rolling home when he saw the wolf coming. So he got into the churn to hide, and in so doing turned it round, and it rolled down the hill with the pig in it, which frightened the wolf so much that he ran home without going to the fair. He went to the little pig's house, and told him how frightened he had been by a great round thing which came past him down the hill. Then the little pig said.--
"Ha! ha! I frightened you, then!"
Then the wolf was very angry indeed, and tried to get down the chimney in order to eat up the little pig. When the little pig saw what he was about, he put a pot full of water on the blazing fire, and, just as the wolf was coming down, he took off the cover, and in fell the wolf. Quickly the little pig clapped on the cover, and when the wolf was boiled ate him for supper.
Dowling's ['Dr Freud'] Analysis of the Three Little Pigs
So what did you think? Interesting story no? Here is my take on it, and I would love to hear your own thoughts and opinions on the fable, I would be very interested and intrigued. Now I will explore those original two considerations made before...
Lets talk about the pigs! I guess the first consideration within the story has to be the pigs leaving home. Clearly the pigs are very akin to any adoslecent being introduced to the world, students leaving home to university perhaps, moving house for the first time. Perhaps renting a house or those first time buyers on the property ladder. I think the first moral teaching here is don't leave home until your ready, and if you do, listen to your mother! They know everything. fact.Secondly if you buy a house, don't buy one that is made of straw or sticks, its not big and its not clever. If you do, quite honestly you deserve to be eaten. Ok, ill stop being too anecdotal. But you do have to question the immediate moral that you should respect your elders.
--> Pigs are not politically correct?!
There are also more modern variations of the story you might have heard whereby the pigs are not in fact eaten at all, and they move to the next house, eventually all of them are safe in the brick house. These modern adaptations, I believe, were attempts to be more sensitive to the brutuality of murder on the part of the wolf. How PC is that though, lets change the story so no one dies except the bad guy. No way, I say if the two pigs were stupid enough and behaved in such a way, then rightly so, they should be punished! There is a certain concept of cowardice on the part of the inferior pigs, who quite literally run to the safety of the next pig isn't there? How good of an moral teaching is that? when your in shit, run to someone cleverer and generally better in life than you! ha. Perhaps that is why pigs were cast as the lead trio within this story. Why wasn't it horses, or cats, or dogs, chickens even (chickens would have worked well!), interesting isn't it. There are a number of characteristics associated with pigs that may suit the story. The clumsiness, the apparent laziness of pigs etc that might have been criteria for their shortlisting. Perhaps it suited the british ideology of those who are inferior overcoming, the 'underdog' (or pig in this case), that as a collective you cannot kill us all. You may get most of us, but one day, one of us will get you Mr Wolf. May I call you Mr Wolf? (hoodwinked reference, if you haven't seen the movie, I highly reccommed it, it was one of the things that inspired this blog). Saying that, this is a classic case of three vs one. The wolf is very much outnumbered by the pigs, surely the pigs might have been more successful i.e. alive, had they have worked together. collectivism! solidarity! all thses things clearly the pigs lacked. Why weren't they savvy enough to consider just living together. They could have quiet easily built a mansion with a surplus of materials they all clearly managed to forage. They could have had a better standard of living, with company. Its just stupidity. Interesting thoughts in their own right nonetheless.
Whilst we are on the subject of PC, a number of modern versions have also been written with 'puppies' or 'cowboys' instead of pigs, mainly because of the insult to muslims on the account of pork. How stupidly, stupidly PC is that. Sorry everyone, we must change hundreds of years of fable, and entirely deny the existence of a particular animal in the pursuits of 'fairness' and appeasement. high amusing, yet bollocks.
Oh the stupidity...
On the other hand, I would question the parenting abilities of the mother who willingly lets two of the three pigs into the forest knowing fully well the educational and inherent ability of them to 'look after themselves' is not quite up to scratch, especially as the cost of ineptitude is your life. How bad must she have felt as a parent, to lose two kids out of three to a wolf. Why is she not out there with a ram or something knocking some sense into either the wolf (an obvious preferential) or her kids saying you cant life in a house made of straw you idiot, I can push it down with a hoof.
Furthermore right, how stupid and moronic does one have to be to establish that building a house out of anything other than oak, brick and metal is just plain wrong. I don't pretend to be anything of a builder, but seriously! I simple question of whether it would be watertight and resist the lightest of elements such as wind would have crossed my mind at some point during the planning and construction phase of my first house, no?
Also, how seriously powerful does one's lungs have to be in order to blow down an entire house, the wolf was officially a superhero, no question. Their is no question that the wolf is a god like character. The obvious moral story in the case of Mr Wolf is not to 'bite off more than you can chew', literally. The wolf should had only taken what he needed, and obviously three helpings to the same dish was one too many. The wolf is obviously the villainous protagonist in the story. Of which you would expect bad guys to get his comeuppance. In his case it was an eye for an eye. He killed, and in return was killed. Would the story have been different has he just committed destruction or a mild form of vandalism. Would a simple 'ASBO' of been his judgement? A restraining order perhaps? As for the episodes of trying to trick the third pig out of his house, surely with enough repeated games (game theory) the wolf would have clocked onto the third pigs strategy and caught him. Failing that, wait til the bugger leaves the house and jump in it, hide and hey presto espionage. Had he not heard the story of little red riding hood? Impersonation and identity theft was clearly a more fruitful pursuit, no? On that note, right, is the wolf within the three little pigs a relation to the one in little red riding hood? brothers perhaps, distant cousin twice removed? Seriously, wolfs have a bad rep. Similarly to the pigs clearly there is an inherent and subtle suggestion that wolfs have characteristics that portray evil, cunning, tricky and so on and so forth. Equally why was the wolf not a badge, or a monkey, or a rodent, or a bird. In the case of a bird the chimney method would have been far more successful. What about an elephant, you would be buggered them wouldnt you piggies!
(Jerry Springer's) Final thoughts...
I appreciate that most if not all of what I have said is highly ancedotal, and of course its just a fairy tale and all that jazz, but I just wanted to share with you a number of simple, highly amusing observations that can be made about the most taken for granted things. I just wanted to share with you the general idea that we don't question things around us enough, and that the seemingly 'taken for granted' world can very often hold some interesting, stimulating and fun ideas
Hope you enjoyed it :)
Monday, 15 February 2010
Hello you, and welcome to the 'great fight', the 'great bridge',(and I don't mean Cambridge,although true)and the relentless list of analogies to explain something we all feel at some point in our lives. This combined with a journal 'of sorts' of my own thoughts and ideas provides you with a rather intricately blended blog for your literature reviewing, liking or even critiquing pleasure...
Sometimes you reach a point in life that everything is chaos. You can't help but look around you at what life has become and wonder 'how did I end up here?' I guess the most cliche examples would be a middle life crisis, or a marriage that honestly should have never happened (I am glad to say I have yet to experience either). When things go right they go very right. Equally when they go wrong they crash and burn into the infinite abyss never to see the light of day again. Can you tell I have a connotative predisposition to the later? After 16 months with someone I genuinely believed I would marry, not bad for a 22 year old.
Its scary isn't it? This sort of age, whereby if ever the even the concept of marriage, and kids arises. The typical adolescent response would be to shrug it off for future me to handle. Rather annoying at the age of 22 your view your life, consider babies, and consider those around you who are either married and/or have children, and think...shit...your actually at a stage whereby all that becomes, well...viable. damn you viability!
Anyway, marriage rant and tangent aside...you try to pick yourself up, through an intricate network of old (and some new) friends, and old comforts both virtuous (gym, working harder, helping someone) and vice (ben and jerries, drinking etc). You defend yourself mentally like Fort Knox on moderation or inspection day by shifting to any near priority, any and plan or objectives towards something that...well wasn't. For all INTENTS AND PURPOSES (thanks Matt :) ) it doesn't matter what. The what matters very little, just as long as it is not aimed at, or conjunction with, her. You try and force all those feelings into a shoe box under your bed in the form of a Polaroid photo,a few letters, and random objects or something, and then fail miserably.The memories you hold with someone like that are not just still frames or silent movies in your mind (if only). They are covered and intertwined with emotions that would make your blood boil and your heart just sink straight through you. All it takes is a voice, a word, a text, something that suddenly everything you wanted to say just dissipates out of every part of your body. As for me, 6 weeks on, of what is seemingly a lifetime, I find myself still will the mental age of a five year old. Nonetheless For me relationships constantly change, and people don't.
For now we sit somewhere between an arms race and 16 month computer desktop (I will explain in due course). We sit in our trenches with loaded weaponry, and times slows, the voices around you dimmer and all your hear is the very sound of your own breathing. The question which racks my brain is 'where do we go from here?'
The short tale of the optimist...
The optimist with his half full glass would say, it will all work out. You'll be great. They know you better than you know yourself (a sad fact that everyone should admit im afraid). Anything shy of the optimistic stance would be a shame and a waste. What I took away from it all was not a waste, and I feel I am in a situation (i seriously hope) that none of it was a waste. none of it. It was worth every fuck up, every annoyance, every grievance, but equally it was worth every smile, every high, every moment of pure genius (there were a lot), and there is nothing more that makes you feel more alive.
The short tale of the pessimist...
Conversely the pessimistic, you my know him? yes, no? well, just in case you don't he is the one in the corner, head down, with a limit colour pallete and limited ambition or hope left. His glass is indeed half empty. He opens his mouth and says somethings don't change, you cant change, they shouldn't change, and despite circumstances, you were something to her, at some point. Just not now. She was the world to you and vice versa. But now your paths don't cross, and you exist in a parallel world full of differences. When you see her all that water that is supposedly under the bridge either evaporates and rains down on you (geography reference for the girls over the road), and soaks you making you feel like your cold and wet and wishing you never tried to cross that bridge in the first place. The moisture (or poison) is in every word you say, every sentence you compile. You both fight your minds trying to convince yourself that you have moved on, or that things just wont work. Truthfully, and brutally honestly you don't need each other, not now. But then again you never really did. Nevertheless you fight your own consciousness to round 3 until something eventually KOs you. You reach a point whereby a simple phone call ends up another blow, and your worse off than before you pressed dial. Your cold and shivering with the warmth ever so slowly fading and dying.
The conclusions of the realist...
So what of the realist? What of the middle man in this argument. By the way can you tell I'm a Libra (balance, justice and all that jazz). Well rather interesting I think the realist establishes that both the optimist and pessimist are in fact both right. Now I hate fences, and consequently people who sit on them. In any situation hard wood up your arse is never a good thing and I have yet found a scenario or circumstance to falsify that. It does not matter which way you look at it, the glass still contains half air, half water. no question.
Right now I still keep hold of that Dougal past in recognition that either way, I have a future. I also accept that plans and people change just like the weather itself. The reality comes down to a rather annoying, yet grounding remarks of my mother, who reminds me, still to this day 'I want, never gets...' damn you mother! Mothers are annoyingly always right, its a phenomenon I have yet to fully grasp. So this is my understanding of it. This is what I do know. I do know that we have never been just friends, best friends interweaved in something which goes way way beyond friendship...yes. Both, rather aptly, grew in harmony and simultaneously as we did. All I see now is something which is messy. It is somehow, somewhat, of an organised chaos bound by the social and physical constraints, restraints and cultural norms of a Cambridge-Gloucester born, middle class, young adult. What became seemingly familiar is now a total unknown. Somehow I reach a point of memory loss, I have tried to clean up the disks, and attempted to delete those temporary files of hate, anger, sadness and immaturity that she (am I) so hates, and look at the bigger picture to find...hope. I have realised though, the hard qustion of what recycle bin files should and should not be restored. I very long and arduous task and believe me I suck at more than she does. She calls herself a technophobe... I think not, well at least you are seemingly not in this case. After such a incidence has occurred you find yourself trying to defrag, and its not something whereby you can leave your computer on overnight and in the morning everything is all nicely aligned (I wish). The files and pieces of information all over my mind and all within hers are being clustered and tidied, in an attempt to regain organisation that we had built upon for 16 months. Right now I believe we are both running faster, and perhaps those important and integral files still remain, and in the end the pain will be first be replaced with an apology..........after that, even a thank you......Even if never said.
Saturday, 13 February 2010
This blog is one very different from the previous ones, in that it is (extremely) unconventional (much more than usual), but it is also another side of me that, somewhat sadly, most people do not know. I will admit that this blog will be of niche interest, but I wish to share it with those people who truly wish to understand a little more about what the hell I want to do in my life and why. In recent times I have realised that my work, and what I study is something that I rarely talk about in person. My studies have always been personal to me. What follows is a whistle stop tour of my educational background, some of if I admit is rather akin to 'blowing wind up my arse' and some just plain self-embarrassment . But a good friend of mine once told me that "whatever you do in life, you should always sell it". I guess to some degree this is my sell. The later part of the blog outlines my future intentions of study, which as I said, you may, or may not find interesting. Without any further adue, lets go!
My roots come from a quaint public school called St Faiths, of which I was, for all intensive purposes, an average pupil. At the age of 11, my mother made one of the biggest decisions in her life to send me to a state school. Her decision was primarily based on finances. I attended Cottenham Village College (CVC) of which was it was decisively average. Both schools could not be any further apart in terms of upbringing, background, expectation, opportunity and attitude. They were polar opposites, and I took a lot away from both. To illustrate this, Scott fondly tells a story of our first day at Cottenham Village College whereby I walked into school with a 'bowl' cut hairstyle and a brief case. Yes...a brief case. Social suicide, yes, but to me not having a briefcase at my previous school in itself was social suicide. As I said, polar opposites. I recall coming back from Cottenham in year 10 (15 years old) when my mum and I were discussing my likely GCSE grades results which were still pending at the time. Of which I expected, and was predicted a series of Bs and under. My mother being the savvy business women she is, along with her usually effective psychological ploys, gave me a proposition. She said ‘Mat if you get 5 As I will give you £500’. This was an empty proposition, in that she felt her money was well and truly safe. To be truthful, I also agreed. Thus by results day, I had practically forgot our little agreement. To my surprise my results were considerable better than I ever expected, and I made the quota mum had set. Rather admirably she kept her promise, and I brought my first laptop off my Nanna with the money, which I would use at Sixth Form. At secondary school I had no idea of what I wanted to do, and I honestly had no real ambition to go far in life. I had no idea what life was (I still don’t).I was very much the sheep in the flock, and subsequently went to Hills Road Sixth Form purely on the basis ‘it was the thing to do’. It is. My family, as a whole, are far more vocational in their pursuits. I know a number of labourers, plumbers, painters, electricians and so on. None of my extended family ever pursued the world of academia, and left as soon as it was legally possible. Therefore, I had no form of expectation, yet no form of instilled ambition. So when I went to sixth form I held a basic philosophy of ‘do what you enjoy’. I had no idea what I wanted to do, and thus the only form of rationale I could base my decision on was enjoyment. I asked myself what was the fundamental things I really enjoy. I studied what I enjoyed, Philosophy, Business Studies, Psychology, Media Studies and Physical Education. You know what... I loved it. The subjects to this day intrigue, interest and enthral me constantly, and I would have words with anyone who thinks otherwise ;).The decision of university very much took a similar rational. If the decision of 4 out of 25-30 subjects was hard enough, the decision of over 120 universities with countless courses was a far greater one. I stuck, rather naively perhaps, to the same philosophy of what I enjoy. I loved Physical Education and I loved Business more than anything, and on paper I was pretty good at both. I chose to go to Loughborough University and read BSc in Sports and Leisure Management (Phyiscal Education and Business).What I studied, and still continue to study is often misunderstood. It is an interdisciplinary course primarily drawing on the principles of business such as economics, law, human resources, finance and accounting ,marketing, strategic management and so on, in addition to more broader disciplines such as sociology, psychology and policy which we often dabble in. People often think of you as a ‘sports scientist’, of which is incorrect. I study business. It just happens that my business course is rather interesting, and tailored by applying business theory to an industry. I do not intend to run Greens Health and Fitness, nor do I run around a field.
Once I had finished by BSc, and narrowly missing out of a 1:0 Class degree (I tried, I really did), I was the 2nd in my entire extended family to achieve a degree qualification of any kind. Of which I must note my awesome older cousin Nicola Boak, who I believe very much pioneered and paved the way. I took and take a lot of confidence from her. She studied Equine Management at Cirencester, and did very well, of which I admire her for greatly, more than I ever could say and more than she ever realises.
The plot thickens when I applied to do a PhD the following academic year on a whim. It was in July when I saw the advertisement for a PhD at Sheffield Hallam, looking at Sport Policy. I would have ignored it, hadn’t it been due to a combination of a perfect fit of my own academic interests, which I had developed over the year from my dissertational research and one very interesting module entitled ‘Sport Policy Analysis’ (SPA for the cool kids), and one inspirational man, Dr Mick Green who changed my life. Dr Mick Green was a Senior Lecturer at the Institute of Sport and Leisure Policy at Loughborough University. He had taught me for a couple of my first year modules, and I chose him as my supervisor for my final year project. Partly because of his ingenious ability to lecture very complex ideas in the simplest of ways possible and do it in the most confident, critical yet convincing manner. But also because he had helped me through a tough time as my personal tutor when my dad died. Back on track now, so I applied for this PhD over the summer whilst working a full time job at OCR examinations board as a data capturer (a story for another day). The PhD application required you to write a 1500-2000 word proposal of what you intended to do. It was like a huge assignment. I would come back from work on one computer, and start on another writing the proposal. I had begun the job almost immediately after my exams, so thus whilst everyone else, rather understandably, was chilling out and going out, still staying in Loughborough, I had moved home, acquired a job, and tried to fit in a proposal of research. I had never done something so demanding as working a full time job, let alone a full time job with essentially excess homework. After I had finished and sent off all the documentation, I had built up a desire to succeed. I had massively worked to achieve a finished application, so by the time the interview came around I was determined to see it through. Of the 15 applicants, 5 got interviewed. Of the 5 interviewed, I came 2nd. I came 2nd to an academic with a MSc in Sport Management, from Loughborough. My feedback was extremely positive (and lengthy, approx 20 minutes long over the phone). They said that on paper, my application was the stand out application, of which they were highly interested, but for them I was considered ‘more of a risk factor’ due to not obtaining a MSc. I accepted, and took on board their comments. Interestingly, despite losing out, I came away from the whole experience, extremely determined and motivated. I had beaten 14 other applicants, presumably all of which has MSc’s, and had been told that my proposal was very strong and that the work I had produced was of ‘an extremely high calibre’.Which was a very positive and humbling statement from an established academic. Unbeknown to Sheffield, I had applied for the MSc in Sport Management at Loughborough University prior as a contingency plan. In fact I had done it way before the summer on the basis that I had no idea what i wanted to do post undergraduate. It was after this experience that for the first time I my life, I knew what I wanted to do. I had drive, I had ambition and I had a goal, and I had the means. I am now half way through my MSc in Sport Management, and this year I have already applied to four universities for conducting a PhD. Two in Canada (Alberta and Edmonton), and two in the UK (Uclan and Stirling), hopefully there will be a few more in the pipeline. The proposal I have given is practically unchanged from the one I gave to Sheffield. So I say role on next year, I can’t wait for it. For those who are a little interested, or perhaps curious. Below is that proposal. This is what I am extremely, but intrinsically passionate about, and wish to share with you, even in blog form. It is what I intend to spend four years of my life studying, studying for the sake of studying. I have no idea where it will lead me afterwards, and to be honest I think it matters not. PhDs shouldn’t necessarily be a means to an ends, but an ends in itself. I cannot think of anything more pure, more personal than the conduction of a PhD, proposed and carried out by you over a substantial period of time. I would love and welcome any feedback or just thoughts on it....
This is what I want to do for four years of my life...
“The Pursuit of Performance Excellence through Policy: An analysis of the relationship between UK Sport and the Priority National Governing Bodies of Sport”
By Mr Mathew Dowling
Statement of Aims & Objectives:
i) To review and analyse the developments in sports policy which have led to funding prioritisation of the current five National Governing Bodies (henceforth NGBs)
ii) To examine the changes in funding patterns and the conditions for grant funding to NGBs
iii) To analyse the impact these funding conditions have on the functioning and organisation of the priority NGBs
UK Sport recently announced its funding for the current quadrennial period leading up to the London 2012 Olympics, with a clear indication of its sporting priorities. The most heavily invested sports include Athletics (£25,110,900), Sailing (£23,389,800), Rowing (£27,470,000), cycling (£26,922,700) and Swimming (£25,606,000). Thus of the total UK Sport funding equating to £256,588,649 of tax payers money, this oligopolistic cohort pertains a healthy 40.1% share (UK Sport, 2009). The research proposed seeks to examine this continual shift towards a systemic and ever increasing funding prioritisation of the five main priority sports (National Audit Office, 2003; UK Sport, 2009) and to analyse what effect this ‘resource dependency’ (Lukes, 1974) on Government, namely UK Sport, has had on their respective structures.
The project will primarily draw upon and incorporate a plethora of elite sports policy literature, but will be founded upon a combination of two key studies. The first is the joint initiative SPLISS (2004) and subsequent conceptual ‘SPLISS’ framework (Bosscher et al, 2006). The second of which is the seminal works of Green and Houlihan (2004; 2005). Moreover an analysis of UK Sport publications such as the ‘Guide to Income Generation for Governing bodies of Sport’ (2005) and the insightful ‘UK Sporting Preferences’ (2008) publication will also be examined. These are discussed in more depth within the main literature summary below.
To put the proposed research into its respective context, a quote from the SPLISS study (2004) concluded that “....the best predictor of output appears to be the absolute amount of funding allocated to elite sport” (p16) which more specifically referred to Pillar 1 with its framework. In Eastonain terms funding refers to the ‘input’ within the political arena (Easton, 1957), or economic injection (Downward, 2009). Yet despite this clear cut elite policy understanding of financial input and output of international success, namely at the Olympics, little is fully known about the qualitative implications this policy approach has on the organisational and structural make-up of these National Governing Bodies which deliver targets so diligently.
Moreover a considerable amount of research has focused on explaining what has led to elite sports development both nationally and internationally (Bosscher et al, 2006; Green & Houlihan, 2005; Green & Houlihan 2008, UKSport, 2004), yet little attention has been paid to the consequences and impacts of such approaches. The main exceptions have had a tendency towards ‘macro’ economical factors and event management (Baade & Matheson, 2002; Gratton et al, 2000; Gratton et al, 2005), or micro focused on athletes and/or coaches (Jowett & Lavallee, 2007; Lavallee & Wylleman, 2000). This research is derived from the growing consensus within sports policy literature that despite their utility in understanding elite sport policy “...macro-level factors such as population and GDP are becoming less accurate predictors of nations performance...”(Bosscher et al, 2006) and that a more valuable understanding of the policy-performance relationship lies within the ‘meso-level’ analysis (Green & Houlihan, 2005; p13).
2. Critical Summary of the Main Relevant Literature
What follows is an outline of the main literature which provided impetus for the research design and will be reviewed, analysed and drawn upon in detail throughout the proposed research development and its conduction. Analysis of these documents in addition to historical based literature, such as Houlihan (1997) and Houlihan & White (2002), should go some way in achieving objective i). For purposes of continuity this summary will be brief.
SPLISS (2004; 2006)
The primary research examined attempted to operationalize the Sporting Policy factors Leading to International Sporting Success (henceforth SPLISS) SPLISS was initially study by a consortium of researchers from Belgium, Netherlands and the UK, later expanded to include Canada Italy and Norway. A combined methodology of surveys to athletes, coaches and co-ordinators and semi-structured questionnaires sought to operationalize 9 pillars of factors leading to international success. The proposed research looks at the first of these pillars financial support in particular 1b) financial support to governing bodies. SPLISS (2004) states that “...where the UK appears to have its greatest advantage is in Pillar 1 “...this finding suggests that elite sport in the UK is funded considerably better than in other sample nations” (p11). Thus bringing to light the question of what are the consequences of huge injections on our sporting organisations? This research seeks to answer this question by examining the effect this ‘considerable’ financial support has had on NGBs by examining those who have received the greatest amount of funding.
GREEN & HOULIHAN (2005; 2008)
The work of Green & Houlihan will also be explored. The focus of which is policy development that has lead to our current state of affairs within elite sport by looking at two sports; Swimming and Track and Field Athletics, along with their respective NGBs, across two countries Canada and the UK (Green & Houlihan, 2004).This cross-cultural study was later expanded to include three NGBs across three countries with the inclusion of Sailing and Australia respectively (Green & Houlihan, 2005). Their most recent publication incorporates an ensemble of scholars and academics who contributed towards a cross-cultural analysis of policy development across nine different nations (Green & Houlihan, 2008). The proposed research will build on this existing literature, to examine in detail the sighted significant developments within elite sports policy, which has, and will continue to be, exasperated by the inherent ‘arms race’ phenomenon (Green & Houlihan, 2005).
CONCEPTUAL APPLICATIONS OF ELITE SPORTS POLICY
Moreover within policy literature many argue that a coalition dominance exists towards an elitist sports policy paradigm (Green & Houlihan, 2004; Parrish, 2003), such work is primarily derived from mainstream policy conceptualisations including the Advocacy Coalition Framework (ACF) by Sabatier (1988) and Kingdon’s (1995) Multiple Streams approach (MS) which purports a more anarchic approach to policy development. Within the research considerations will be made to these models and frameworks as explanations of how and why these changes in policy have occurred, and thus as plausible explanations for the change in NGBs. My dissertational work provides an illustration of this; in being able to explain HE Sports Sector policy changes through the MS conceptual framework.
UK SPORT (2005; 2008)
Other key supportive literature examined will be UK Sport publications over the past decade. These include a review and analysis of funding from UK Sport to attempt research objective ii) along with a qualitative documents including the ‘Guide to income generation for governing bodies of sport’ (2005) developed by UK Sport in conjunction with a number of ‘good examples of innovative practice’ (p2) such as Deloitte, Goodform, and the British Judo Association. Furthermore UK Sport commissioned a report in UK public sporting preferences pre and post Beijing Olympics (UK Sport, 2008). From which policy intentions and political priorities for NGBs can arguably be deduced, and thus merit significant attention within the literature analysis.
3. Methodology of Data Collection
The research methods purported are semi-structured interviews supported by a document analysis. Given that elite sports policy is ‘discursively constructed’ (Green, 2004), research into the area of elite sports policy “…would be better served by getting material which provides more in-depth insight into the topic, drawing on information provided by fewer informants” (Denscombe, 1998: p163)
By studying the five NGBs and UK Sport a ‘multiple case’ research design will be employed (Yin, 2003). Such analysis should elicit ‘focused comparisons’ (Green & Houlihan, 2005; p9) and reveal the intricacies of the UK Sport-Priority Sport relationship. According to May (1997) a case study approach “gain[s] a holistic understanding of a set of issues, and how they relate to a particular group or organisation...” (p97) with emphasizes on depth over breath, the particular rather than the general, process over outcome and the holistic over isolated (Denscombe,1998). Primary data from the interviews will be supported by secondary data in the form of document analysis, with emphasis on the funding pattern shifts since the establishment of the National Lottery and the ‘focusing event’ (Kingdon, 1995) of poor performance in Atlanta 1996 widely seen as the injection and impetus for the hegemony of elite sports policy in the UK (Green & Houlihan, 2004).
Semi-structured interviews will provide considerable in-depth material in an attempt to holistically gauge the complex organisational and policy processes between UK Sport and the priority NGBs. Interviews will be conducted using a ‘key informant’ sampling method (Allison et Al, 2006). Key Informants will be considered based on their involvement within and knowledge of the organisations, both at presently and historically. This is employed in an attempt to “...gain a more (agent) informed understanding of direction... [And] allow distinctions to be made between the ‘rhetoric’ and the ‘reality’...” (Green & Houlihan, 2005; p7). Interviews will then be transcribed and used as primary data to answer the main objectives outlined above, namely iii). Document analysis will provide an understanding of “...how different discourse structures the activity of actors and how they are produced, how they function, and how they have changed” (Howarth, 1995: p115), in this case reference will be made to UK Sport and the financial input structural change and the influence this has had on the priority NGB. Thus the two methods combined within its elite sports policy context should provide an insightful discourse for the future implications on NGBs of changing funding patterns (i.e. objective iv).