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Who do you present to the world when you’re online?

In the first moments of a conversation with Dr B Price Kerfoot on Skype did he not think what I was thinking? That the public images we had of each other were probably a decade old?

I didn’t take a screen grab, but the 30 something doctor in collar, tie and white coat taken in the sunshine, perhaps on the day of a promotion could have been his younger brother, when, if he can excuse me describing him thus, I saw the same person, a thick head of greying hair, a face, like mine, like the bark of a mature tree rather than a sapling.

As I write below, his spirit, like mine (I hope) remains that of an enthusiastic twenty-something.

The same occurred with the Elluminate session we had in H800 the other day … Shaun on the webcam (initially in a scratchy black and white image) is not the person who goes by in the General Forum. Are we all guilty of this. men included? We go with something in our late thirties or early to mid-forties?

What image should we use to portray ourselves?

Is their such as thing as best practice? Ought it to be like joining a gym, we have a snapshot taken on a webcam and this current image, no matter how it comes out, becomes who we are?

There’d be a riot of complaints.

Do so few of use dislike or distrust what we see when we look at our faces in the mirror each morning?

It has been the subject of research, role play in online education; I’d like to do some of my own.

I began a year ago with this. I liked the picture, felt it was healthy, robust and confidenct and reasonably confident. I should have looked at the date on it. August 2004. Happy and sunny days. You age under stress and from the mid-40s it doesn’t take much to add ten years -all that sun in the past, being unwell.

I then went with this.

An image I long ago used in my eleven year old blog. I wanted something that was indicative of the content and would last. I’m still inclined to run with this. It is indicative of what I think blogging is all about – the contents of your mind, what you think i.e. you ‘mind bursts’ as I call them on numerous blogs.

In my three Facebook personas I am in turn:

While on Skype I use a image taken with the webcam on the day of an online interview – this is a month ago, so as contemporary as it gets.

I have this image fronting Tumblr taken 21 years ago, in moments of euphoria having just successfully negotiated a 15m pond of slush on a pair of skis in front of a crowd of early May skiers below the Tignes Glacier, France. The day I proposed to my wife. We’d be ‘going out together’ for three days … we’ve now been together, well 21 years.

In my original diary we could create banner adds to publicise what we had to say to fellow writers. One of these has a spread as long as the contents of my diaries and blog: they run from a 13 year old Head Chorister in cassock and ruffs, though gap, undergrad, to ad exec, video director, with four woman I didn’t marry.

My first professional ‘portrait’ for the Worth Media corporate website was this:

Increasingly, I am thinking of using a self-portrait, that this attempt to capture myself through my minds eye is more telling that a photograph.

I could use the drawing I did of a 14 year old .. with sketched in variations of what I imagined I’d look like with a beard or moustache. What amuses me most here is how I superimpose these attachments as if I were in a school play, the beard is clearly on the soft face of a pre-pubescent boy – I should have looked at my grandfather for the face I’d get, with the more bulbous nose and pronounced chin.

Talking of which, I find it both intriguing and damming that I am the spitting image of my grandfather, that my own children see images of him age 20 and think it has to be me. All that changes as he ages into a 40 and 50 year old is he goes bald, whereas I am thus far limited to a thinning of the crown.

This I’m afraid, if the age of my children in the rest of the picture is something to go by, is some seven years ago 🙁

My only reason for picking it is that I haven’t renewed my contact lenses and am inclined, after twenty years wearing them to give up. Maybe laser surgery when I have the cash?

This is contemporary. It doesn’t say who I am, just ‘what’ I am. Wearing a child’s hat (he’s a dad), the head-set to record notes onto a digital recorder (for a podcast), a coat he bought for honeymooning in the Alps (we went skiing) 18 years ago …

I have of course. not changed much since 1979:

The Dracular Spectacula, People’s Theatre, Newcastle. The teeth were made from dentine and fitted by an orthodontist.I rather foolishly sharpened the fangs and bit through my own lip on the last night. I had to sing while gargling my own blood. The joy of memories.

Which rather takes me back to the original point – who are we? how do we representative ourselves online in a single image when we are all a sum of a complex of parts?

Is it any wonder that we present multiple selves online, the more so the longer we’ve lived?

I don’t remember my father being around to take this picture. though clearly he did. I do remember the great-big wellies though and the joy of water spilling over the top if I could find a puddle or pond deep enough. And the jumpers knitted by my granny (sleeves always too long). And the trees in the garden I climbed behind. And my sister and brother …

How set in were the learning process by then?

My behaviour and responses? What learning experiences would count? At home or school … had I even started, or was I climbing up the curtains at the nursery school at the end of Pollwarth Drive?

David Pelzer author of ‘A Boy Called it’ has some life lessons to share.

Dave Pelzer author of ‘A Boy Called it’ his some tips on sticking to your plans;

Life Lessons

I like this book for its simplicity; it is also very short. Five or six ideas are enough to keep in your head at any one time.

1. Be resilient

2. Learn to fly

3. No one is perfect

4. Let go of your past

a. ‘You cannot move forward until you free yourself from the shackles of your past.’

5. Deal with everyday problems

a. ‘Settle your problems as promptly and as thoroughly as you are able.’

6. Rest your mind.

a. Get a good night’s sleep.

7. Let go, let rip daily.

8. Purge your soul

9. If you have been subjected to negative surroundings, use them to make you strive for something better.

10. Limit your response to negative settings and, if necessary, make a clean break.

11. Overcome your guilt. Make amends and move on.

12. Don’t give yourself away in the vain hope of appeasing others.

13. To help yourself, be yourself.

14. Never go to bed upset.

15. Resolve matters before they envelop you. Compromise.

16. Hate no one. It is like a cancer.

17. Forgiveness cleanses.

18. When life’s not fair.

a. ‘Before you quit on yourself when life isn’t fair, exhaust all your options for making things happen.’

19. How badly do I want it?

a. Resolve to make things happen to you.

20. What have I accomplished?

a. Ask yourself what can you not accomplish when you truly commit to that one thing?

21. Know what you want and determine to make it happen.

22. What is truly important to me?

23. Attempt the so-called ‘impossible’ until it becomes an everyday part of your life.

24. Don’t give your best away.

a. ‘We allow self-doubt, time, situations or whatever else to erode our dreams. We quit on ourselves. We carry regret, regret turns into frustration, frustration into anger, anger into sorrow. We’ve lost one of life’s most precious gifts: the excitement, the fear, the heart-pounding sensation of taking a step outside our protective womb.’

25. Go the distance.

a. ‘Part of the thrill of success is the journey of the struggle. If it were easy everyone would be doing it.’

26. Be happy.

a. The older we get, the more complacent, hopeless and despondent we become.

27. A consistent, positive attitude makes a world of difference.

28. There may not be a tomorrow to count on, so live the best life that you can today.

29. Start saying positive, rather than negative things about myself (and everyone around me).

30. Focus. If you have no goal or the self-belief that you can accomplish them, you will end up going nowhere.

a. A little bit of adversity can help to realign you, make you humble and make you want it more.

31. Deflect negativity.

a. Flush it away and replace it with something positive (from a positive environment).

32. Every day see the brighter side of things.

The art of writing and love. Henry Miller and I.

Henry Miller

‘Recognition and reward are two different things. Even if you don’t get paid for what you do, you at least have the satisfaction of doing. It’s a pity that we lay such emphasis on being paid for our labours – it really isn’t necessary, and nobody knows it better than the artist. The reason why he has such a miserable time of it is because he elects to do his work gratuitously. He forgets, as you say, that he has to live.’

(Henry Miller, Sexus)


As Anais Nin finds little time to catch up on the backlog of her diary, so I have a stack of eight or more volumes which need to be typed up, edited, expanded and cropped. I’m writing this at work. In theory in my own time. Lunch time. Had to switch gear, to settle into the writer’s mode. So hard to write criticisms, lampoon or caricature the staff, to slag off the area, the accents and the weather.

Perhaps I need a job which does not need to absorb me, that is more predictable, which earns me a living but gives me enough time to myself.

If I lived down the road it would help, I could go home for lunch and have two hours more than I currently have every day in which to write.

And so one day I find myself putting in a few hours during the day and evening, ostensibly to cover some living expenses while I write. Which I do. I write. But I flounder at 70,000 words. I come unstuck on the umpteenth edit. I over plan or don’t plan at all. I get little out. I hate it all until its a decade old. I finish nothing.

Early signs of A.D.D?

Fits and starts. That describes me. Peaks and troughs. Moments of enthusiasm followed by in action, one action followed by another. I remember a Blue Peter programme long before Roy Castle started to present ‘Record Breakers’ in which a man who span plates on top of long sticks set a new world record for the number of plates kept spinning.

A Guinness Book of Records.

That is me at my worst. It explains my behaviour which as a child my mother thought was a problem. The child psychiatrist might have described as hyperactive, might have told Mum of my high I-Q, might have told Mum to tire me out physically as she was unable to tire me out mentally. I tired of activities quickly. I’d do something then want to move on. Other children like to do and redo ad infinitum as if they could never believe they’d done what they just did. I didn’t go for that. Once I’d done something it was over. ‘I’m bored Mum, what can I do ?’ I’d say ten minutes after I’d been set a new task.

Love Hurts

In the autumn of 1984 Suzy B had just gone to France. I had just begun JWT. Suzy B and I discussed our break up, then did ourselves up again. The mess lasted for 18 months.


I’m being greeted by Suzy B off a train in Limoges at 3.00 a.m. She has a hotel booked. The train to Tulle is later that morning. Having been so apart for so many weeks we got at it …

Henry Miller

‘The gate was locked and I had to turn away from Louveciennes. Foolishly I thought you would be waiting for me ! In the afternoon I tried calling you but was told the phone was disconnected Sundays. At six I gathered up my copy and rushed away – caught the train without a ticket. Figured it all out, what I was going to say to HUGH – I was going to sweep him off his feet and carry you both back to Paris. The last thing in the world I expected was a dark house. I couldn’t believe it. How different it all seemed then when I paced the station platform. I remembered distinctly what time I had waited for the train – your gestures, your words. And now I saw only the stars. My night off ! Christ, couldn’t believe that I would not see you.’

(Letter from Henry Miller to Anais Nin. March 13th 1932)

If I am to be reminded of similar such moving times during various episodes of various affairs. Years too late, not long after she had moved, I walked along her street. Where she had lived for three years, where I could not claim a single encounter. I stood in the lobby and looked at her postal box thinking that this was where a letter I had sent, the thickness of a Mills & Boon, had been delivered.

A few months earlier, amidst a secretive affair, amongst her parents, back at XXX, as nervous as a guinea-pig in a dog kennel, I was shown the designs her architect father had made for her flat shared with XXX. She did more than show me it, she took me inside it, she lead me through the rooms, sold me the place, had me there as we spoke. I overhead Brenda trying to understand why Suzy B should be showing me her flat. Dennis shrugged his shoulders.

Three months later I’m engaged. This time the rebound was powerful enough to land me in the arms of someone who would matter even more.

The Experience of Love

Often as an adolescent I exhausted loves for the experience, I exhausted their possibilities as a means of having something to observe, analyse and write about. What I once considered excessive blue fluff in the belly button inspection of the worst kind I now consider to have been proper preparation for the way I now write.

When we fall in love


‘When we meet those we fall in love with, there is an aspect of our spirit that is historian, a bit of a pedant, who imagines or remembers a meeting when the other had passed by innocently, just as Clifton might have opened a car door for you a year earlier and ignored the fate of his life. But all parts of the body must be ready for the other, all atoms must jump in one direction for desire to occur.’
The English Patient, p 359 Michael Ondaatje.
I could expand on everything I have written by offering such insights, either as the author, or from the point of view of the characters involved.
“When we meet those we fall in love with” we become many things.
We deny our first reactions.
My diary comments on Suzi’s bad breath after our first kiss. Ooops. We kissed at the bottom of the stairs in the Elizabethan lobby of Appleby Castle, Cumbria. He father had come to pick her up after a day with me; he was at the gates, he’d rung the bell by the 15th century gate house.
Only years later did I reflect on when, where and how we were first introduced outside her school. And only then did I realise I’d seen her before, at a party packed with drunken teenagers in Jesmond.
I have been besotted by a number of people. My affections were tickled but turned away. I loved Antonia too; I was condemned to ‘go-out’ with everyone but her, even though she was the one I wanted. Rather than be rejected I did nothing to ‘open up’ the relationship.
With Darlingest everything was different. I knew her sister and brother well, I’d met her mother too – she and her father were the two missing parts of a family I’d come to like. We were introduced at a dinner party I gave.
Part of ‘our story’ is used, when a character is able to ‘move on’ when he finds their lovemaking beats anything he’d done before – they came together, often, without fail, joyously, nosily and with great enthusiasm!
Death and loss do strange things to the mind
You see her in the crowd, you stand behind her in queues, and you think that is her driving towards you. It never is, not in reality. In fiction, she is everywhere.
I collect article on writers. The other week there was a piece on Anthony Burgess to mark the opening of the Anthony Burgess Foundation in Manchester (Just around the corner from the Red Lion pub). I’ll have toe read him, just as I have read J G Ballard. I’ll have to see what I make of ‘A Clockwork Orange.’
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