By St Cuthbert’s Stricken Oak!

The only verified likeness of St Cuthbert of Liebster, currently on display in the Uffizi Gallery

For those of you who aren’t familiar with it, the world of blogging is awash with the notion of “paying it forward”. Doing good turns, passing on your good fortune, all good clean wholesome stuff. And that includes the awards, most notably the Liebster Award.

I’m a cynic most of the time, so you can imagine how other peoples’ Liebsters make me feel. But that’s all changed, suddenly and miraculously, as I’ve been nominated for one myself. And since nomination, in this sphere, is the same as winning, the world is my Liebster and I’m actually rather pleased about it.

The first and least onerous thing I now have to do is acknowledge my benefactor, Rose of But I’m Beautiful, a blogger who’s sharp, insightful, helpful and invariably amusing. She’s also the author behind the surprising and remarkable Deeper, which is in itself an inspiration because it’s demonstrated a truth that ought to have been obvious but of which I was suspicious until I read it: self-published novels can be great. Thanks Rose, and here’s to many more wonderful reads.

Next, I have to answer a bunch of questions about myself. I’ve adapted some of them, obviously, so that I can make myself look better or wittier than I really am. But other than the odd tweak they are identical to the questions St Cuthbert of Liebster found carved through the stricken oak tree the morning after that really odd dream where he crushed Cromwell’s New Model Army and invented the internet.

1) What was your dream job when you were a teenager?

Music Journalist. Yeah, I’d already given up being an astronaut, and although I was playing in bands that really weren’t that bad, for some reason I knew I wasn’t going to be an actual musician. And I liked writing. In the same month I played Wembley (Conference Centre, but still) and interviewed a band who were about to headline a night at Camden Palace. I was much cooler then than I am now.

2) What does it say on your LinkedIn profile? How far is that from your dream job?

It says “writer”, so not very far at all. Of course, you can put what you like on your LinkedIn profile. I could still put astronaut and NASA wouldn’t come after me. I might try that, actually.

3) How would you explain interest rates to a six-year old?

I kind of did. This week. During the “run on the bank” scene in Mary Poppins I made the mistake of trying to explain to my six-year old precisely what a “run on the bank” means. I don’t think I did very well. It ended with her saying “I’m glad you’re not a bank manager any more, Daddy”. I was about to explain that I wasn’t really that kind of bank manager anyway, but I didn’t want to complicate things further, so I just said “So am I” and left it at that.

4) Would you rather choose twenty weeks of holiday or a forty-percent increase in net salary?

Easy. The holiday. Some might say my life’s a holiday, but they’re wrong. Trust me.

5) Is there any company you really admire, but whose products you still do not buy?
 And is there any company you really detest, but whose products you still buy?

I haven’t changed this question at all because I appreciate being forced to admit that I am lazy. I will buy music I like from labels and retailers I don’t. Books, too. I still admire all those little indie labels I used to buy records from but I don’t even know if they exist any more.

6) How would you define the boundary between corporate entertainment and bribery?

When I used to work in the (for want of a better word) “corporate” world, I’d probably have bristled (or bridled, I’m not sure which) at the very question. I was always open to entertainment, but never to bribery. I’m still comfortable that I never consciously chose one bid over another or steered a client in any particular direction on the basis of something I’d received, and I think that for a bribe to be a bribe, it should be clear that there’s a specific quid pro quo expected. But now I’m out of that world and far more suited to taking pot shots at other people, I think the line’s a little blurrier and it does need to take into account the value of the item received. You might not think anything’s expected, but you should always be aware of how it will look to the public if your acceptance of a gift comes out and is linked to any decisions you may have made, even if you believe those decisions were entirely independent. Make like Caesar’s wife.

7) Suit & tie or jeans?

Jeans. With great big f*ck-off holes in both knees. And a coat that smells.

8) What was the coolest thing you ever bought? Why?

Once again, I haven’t changed this question. Cue misty-eyed reminiscence of the Mazda RX8 or the Korg M1. Probably the Korg. It made noises that I could only have dreamed of, back then. Of course now all you need is the internet, so thanks, St Cuthbert, for ruining everything.

9) What was the most worthwhile thing you ever bought?

Probably this laptop. It’s not a very good laptop, it wasn’t when I got it a couple of years ago and it was obsolete about forty minutes later, but I’ve written two-and-a-half novels on it so it’s done the job for me. I have no sentimentality, though. Soon, it will die and be replaced and although its hard drive may survive, there can be no doubt its successor will be genetically superior.

10) Please complete the following sentence: Happiness is…

Just out of reach when you’re almost on it, but surprisingly reachable when you think it’s a million miles away.

I also have the pleasant task of nominating other bloggers for the award. Now, most of the other bloggers I read may well have received it already, or won’t thank me for it, so I’m just going to pick a couple and hope like hell they’re as genuinely pleased about it as I was (am, still).

First up is the prolific and terrific David Emeron. I believe I’ve mentioned him before. He writes sonnets, and boy does he write them.

And then there’s Neil Jeffares. What Neil doesn’t know about the history of art and the modern-day practice of finance could in itself be the subject of a very short blog – 140 characters or less would do it. But as with all the best writers, it’s not what he knows that takes him beyond the ordinary, more the parallels, insights and occasional eureka moments he produces.

I have consulted with St Cuthbert and he assures me that I’m not allowed to pass the award back to Rose, so she can rest easy – for now.


If you liked this, there’s poems and sketches here, extracts from my novel here, and a selection of the best posts here. Oh, and please comment, like, share, whatever takes your fancy.



  1. Yay Joel!! Good answers! What the hell is a Korg!!!!

    1. A synthesiser from the 80s/90s. To be more precise, a true midi-enabled workstation comprising touch-sensitive keyboard, 8-track sequencer and one of the best synthesisers around, probably ever. Got mine second-hand around 1990 and even though someone fell on it a few years later and the technology is 25 years old, it still works!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: