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02.06.17

One Way To Make Better Self-Help Videos

Posted 2nd June 2017

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The other day, I snapped. And I snapped because of the following video, “7 Ways To Maximize Misery”.

The thing which especially annoyed me? Point #2:

“Which brings us to: Screw With Your Sleep. The Wraith of Insomnia will be your co-pilot on the Sea of Sadness. Her mere presence is unpleasant, but she also helps confuse the productive part of your brain which might look to navigate you toward the Islands of Happiness on the horizon. (More on that later.) A regular sleep cycle is a fragile thing and takes at least three days to establish. Be sure then to vary your bedtime, by several hours twice at week – at least. Even better: vary your wake time. Sleep in late, preferably very late, some – but not all – days. And tell yourself you are making up for sleep to feel like you’re doing something healthy, even though you feel terrible when you wake up early, and when you wake up late. Irregular sleep is another of the sea’s accelerating currents.

The more you vary your sleep, the harder regular sleep becomes, which makes your sleep more variable. To never sleep or wake at the same time naturally is the goal.”

Yeah, that does sound bad, and I get your clever reversal. Now, let me take you through my weekend.

In fact, I’ve actually been off work since Monday, which has been lovely. But just at the time when a lot of people are thinking about what to do with their days off, I’m gearing up for four 12-hour shifts at work. 7:30pm – 7:30am: going into work this Friday night, and coming off shift Tuesday morning.

So, what will I be doing? I work as a Playout Director, so when I get in I’ll take over transmitting TV shows for your primetime. I’ll do a bit of sport in the early hours, and then I’ll get to prepping tomorrow’s schedules. If there’s a problem with a programme that’s transmitting tomorrow afternoon, best we find out about it at 3am when there’s a chance of fixing it, instead of discoving the issue half an hour before broadcast.

In my job, I do many different kinds of awkward hours. Depending on my shift, I can end up starting work early in the morning, at lunchtime, mid-afternoon, or in the evening. In fact, the only time I’m never going to arrive at work is bang on 9am. Now, don’t get me wrong: I love my job. There are certain health risks associated with it, and planning your life can be fraught at times. But those are just things I have to deal with.

What I find frustrating though, is when people talk about the issues with irregular sleep patterns as though all anybody has to do is just “go to bed at a sensible time, man”. For me, that is just impossible. And let’s not forget: somebody has to do all these jobs, and many of those jobs are rather more important than mine. Somebody needs to make sure you have running water and electricity at all hours. Somebody needs to come and put out fires. And somebody – like my sister, a nurse – has to be around to pump you full of morphine and save your life.1 Regular sleep patterns are literally impossible for a great many people in the service industry. And I’m sick of being scolded and/or patronised for a job which if I didn’t do, somebody else would have to do instead.

Maybe it’s unfair to pin all of this on one seven minute video. This is a cumulation of things, and it just wandered into my life at exactly the wrong time. Still, let’s take another short section from it, and something else designed to cause misery:

“Make your bedroom your allroom. Live and work and play in the smallest radius you can.”

Some people literally have no choice but to live like this. In fact, I was one of those people until very recently. Lack of money is very much a thing these days. And all days. Forever.

The concept of the video is, of course, about turning typical self-help advice on its head in an attempt to get the point across in a more engaging way. But the advice it’s trying to get across is exactly the same as if you’d done the video straight. And the problem with all this advice is that it often assumes that you can create perfect circumstances for yourself. Hey, want to be happier? Live in a bigger house, and work 9-5! That’ll sort you out!

Anybody can paint a picture of a perfect life – or, in this case, a perfectly imperfect life. Advice on how to live better within the constraints society puts on us? That’s worth rather more.


  1. Me and my sister have had many conversations about how similar our jobs are. On the other hand, if my channel falls off-air, nobody dies. 

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12.02.13

A Few Notes on a Tour of BBC Television Centre, 28th January 2013

Posted 12th February 2013

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I often ponder what my ideal job would be. Perhaps it would be working in TX for BBC One in the 90s, at TV Centre. Or working in BBC VT in the 80s, at TV Centre. Or being a BBC cameraman in the 70s, at TV Centre.

You may have spotted a subtle link between all those jobs. Sadly, I will never enter TV Centre – as it stands now, anyway – as a professional rather than a telly nerd. So a telly nerd I remained, as I walked into the reception of TV Centre in January, to take part in one of the last BBC Tours of the building. I won’t try to detail everything that went on in the tour, but I thought a few observations may be of interest.

TV Centre from outside

[Read more →]

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13.12.12

“Stupidly, I very nearly cried…”

Posted 13th December 2012

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I take great – if possibly misguided – pride in being pretty much the same person now as I always was. Me when I was nine and when I’m 31 are rather too close to being the same person. When people tell me they used to love certain TV shows and then grew out of them, it always puzzles me – with the odd exception, if I loved a show when I was younger, I still love it now. Sure, my tastes have widened since I was younger – I used to dislike Press Gang for fuck’s sake – but very, very rarely have they shrunk. I’m the same person – why would I suddenly decide I disliked something?

Yet, there is one exception to recognising myself as the same person, one piece of history which I look back on with absolute horror: my old blog, which I ran around 2004-2005. It makes bizarre reading now in one sense, in that a lot of what I say is ideally suited these days to Twitter but feels a bit batshit insane on a blog – but hey, it’s still recognisably the same person.

Then, occasionally, there are posts like this one. Yes, that would be me giving personal details about exactly how badly my job was going on the internet, to anyone who cared to drop by, almost LIVE AS IT HAPPENED. There are a few more if you root round for long enough.

Now, I happen to utterly love my current job – and I’m far enough removed from my life working at makro not to worry about linking to that piece now. But even if I didn’t love my job, I wouldn’t even vaguely contemplate complaining about it on the internet these days. What the hell was I thinking? Why, in the name of holy fuck did I think that that was a good idea in any way whatsoever? Did I think the internet was my own little private place where nobody but me and a few close friends hung out?

Reading this stuff makes me feel completely distanced to myself. I just don’t recognise the mindset that made me put that kind of thing online. For someone who still makes the same excited noises as they did when they were nine, it’s an incredibly odd feeling.

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05.02.12

BEST. GRAFFITI. EVER.

Posted 5th February 2012

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The McDonalds at Leeming Bar services near Northallerton, July 2009:

Graffiti at McDonalds. THE WING NOW LOOKS LIKE A COCK.

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