The Top Twenty Records Of All Time, Part 2

A little while ago, I gave you the first four of eight songs I’d take away with me to a hypothetical desert island, as all guests do on Desert Island Discs. I promised that the rest would follow in a second post – since it was such a difficult list to devise – along with my chosen book and luxury. There’s no time like the present, so without further ado, I give you all my remaining choices. Songs first!

Just bear in mind that these will be listed from 1 to 4 again, as WordPress doesn’t seem to allow me to enter 5 to 8. I wouldn’t want to confuse you, would I?

  1. “The Boy With The Thorn In His Side” by The Smiths. Like Muse, I knew that The Smiths would be assured of a place here as soon as I started thinking about the lucky eight songs. There are many legendary musical names, such as Lennon and McCartney or Jagger and Richards, that are often grouped together in iconic pairings, but – somewhat bafflingly, in my opinion – singer Morrissey and guitarist Johnny Marr are rarely put up there with them. I view them as the greatest duo in history. The impact they had upon their band was such that when Marr left in 1987, they had no choice but to disband. This is because neither man was expendable, and no incarnation of The Smiths could have survived without either of them. They complimented each other perfectly, despite their differing styles – Morrissey’s melancholic lyrics and delivery shouldn’t match Johnny Marr’s upbeat and chiming riffs on paper, but in reality they were a force to be reckoned with and remain so to this day. Their talents have made Morrissey a legendary lyricist and vocalist – whatever you think of him as a person – and Marr the most distinctive and talented man ever to play guitar. Furthermore, their partnership was an incredibly fruitful one, in spite of the fact that it lasted just five years, from 1982 to 1987. During that period, the band produced four studio albums in quick succession, along with a whole host of compilation records – Hatful of Hollow stands out among these in my eyes – singles and other non-album tracks. You might expect that this level of productivity means there are many gems to choose from in The Smiths’ catalogue, and you’d be right. It was “The Boy With The Thorn In His Side” that eventually won the toss after much deliberation. It’s one of the songs I often find myself retreating to when I’m in a reflective mood, perhaps as a result of sadness or regret. Like many of the group’s tunes, it resonates with me primarily because of its lyrics. They tell a story of misunderstood love, something to which many of us can surely relate (“how can they see the love in our eyes, and say they don’t believe us?”) For reasons I’m not willing to elaborate on, it resonates very clearly with me (not because of “hatred” or “murderous desire”), and every time I hear the song I am transported immediately back to a difficult time. The song is a thing of such beauty, however, that I often overlook the darkness, feeling only the admiration stirred up by such a great piece of art.
  2. “Lift Me Up” by Moby. I have loved dance music for as long as I can remember, and for me Moby is akin to royalty within the genre. His album Play is my second-favourite of all time – when it comes to the albums I consider to be the very best, I always find that they offer something very different to anything else, and that’s usually something I can’t quite put my finger on. I found Play a relaxing and somewhat dreamlike record when I listened to it for the first time – tracks like “Inside” and its biggest hit single “Porcelain” are the best examples of this – but Moby’s interest in other musical styles, such as gospel, also caught my attention. “Lift Me Up”, however, does not actually feature on this album. It would not surface for another six years, until the release of Hotel in 2005, when Moby ventured into the field of alternative rock. My track of choice would be issued as its lead single, becoming a Top 40 hit in the UK. What seals its inclusion on this list, however, is the role it was given a year later as the theme music for ITV’s Formula One coverage. From 2006 to 2008 it formed part of a very prominent soundtrack to my weekends between March and November, so ignoring one of my biggest passions when choosing the music for this selection was simply never going to be an option. This is the first F1 theme tune that I can properly remember hearing from my formative years, and with the exception of Fleetwood Mac’s “The Chain”, it may well be a contender for the very best of all. Hearing it now takes me right back to watching some great seasons unfold – even though ITV would always insist on showing continuous adverts during the race…
  3. Murray Gold’s 2010 arrangement of the Doctor Who theme tune. Continuing on the TV train of thought for a moment, I give you one of the many awesome variations of this iconic show’s signature tune, composed by Gold for the fifth revived series – the first to feature Matt Smith’s Eleventh Doctor. I have chosen this version of the piece mainly because of my fondness for said series and the memories it evokes – described here – but it also stands out because of how it fuses a traditional orchestral arrangement with modern synthesised elements. This combination is, in my eyes, very effective. Although it arguably lacked the grandiosity and clout of the previous exclusively orchestral post-2005 themes, it did convey the start of something new and exciting while also retaining the sense of spooky alien mystery that makes Doctor Who great. A match made in heaven!
  4. “D’You Know What I Mean?” by Oasis. We have now made it to the eighth song on my list, and I have decided to save a slice of rock and roll until last in the form of one of the many barnstormers from Oasis’ Be Here Now album. My mind was made up because of my admiration for this record – the black sheep of the band’s catalogue, slated by fans, critics and Noel Gallagher himself – because it showcases rock star extravagance like no other disc I can think of. Those who enjoy it do so because of the very things that alienated its audience (albeit not before it sold eight million copies) – very long, very loud and excessively over-produced songs. “D’You Know What I Mean?” is the first of these, a bombastic, seven-minute number one hit often cited as one of the album’s saving graces. The moment walls of roaring sonic volume fill my headphones, I feel a sense of euphoria of the kind created by all great anthems. I also see the band as they were at that time, enjoying the peak of their fame and all it had to offer. The critics have said that this was to the detriment of Be Here Now, since it has been described as “over-indulgent and bloated”, but I don’t mind that at all. On every listen I revel in being transported back 21 years to an era where proper rockers like the Gallaghers still roamed free. Sadly, it seems that we can only dream of such people in 2018. On the whole, there seem to be very few true characters entering the music scene, and this makes me even more grateful for albums like Be Here Now and songs like the aforementioned. It’s a great shame they aren’t more widely appreciated, but I hope I can rectify that to some extent by listing one of them here.

Now that all of my songs have been selected, I must choose a book to go with them. I do consider myself highly literate and a keen reader, but although I have read quite a few books in my time, none have really made an impact big enough for them to be included here. The Writer’s Tale by Russell T Davies and Benjamin Cook is the only published one that really comes close, since it provides such a great insight into the production of modern TV and the lives of those who write it, but the one that has been most useful to me is one that is yet to be filled. My definitive choice is my own red Moleskine notebook, bought in Waterstone’s during a lunch break last year, in which I now record the majority of ideas that appear on this blog and in other musings. It goes wherever I go, resting snugly in my wheelchair’s sidebag with a pen accompanying it, and a few weeks ago it served as the receptacle for Christopher’s story during my taster session in Winchester. I can’t wait for it to be with me for many more when the course begins. If it’s going to go with me to a hypothetical island, however, it needs to be much longer – so I’ll take it exactly as it is, with all the notes I’ve already made, but with the minor addition of infinite pages so that it lasts forever. I’m going to be there a long time, after all. That’s doable, right?

Finally, we come onto my luxury, and something I was never in any doubt about. Quite simply, I want a TV – although how you’d connect it on a desert island remains to be seen – capable of showing full live and uninterrupted coverage of every Formula One Grand Prix. The future of Formula One on free-to-air TV is a very prominent issue among fans at the moment, and in the UK, Channel 4 is entering the last year of its three-year deal to broadcast the sport. It would nice to have no worries about losing it from weekend afternoons, and alone on a desert island I wouldn’t have to worry about anyone interrupting the start either!






The Pull, Part 5

Ever since it was decided that I would be going to university in Winchester, I have tried to increase the amount of time I spend writing, so that I can be as experienced as possible in my chosen field before I start. The first three months of 2017 saw just eight posts published on Third Time Enabled, but so inspired am I twelve months on – in no small part thanks to the adventure I will embark on in September – that double that is here for you to read so far in 2018. You can at least be assured that these “The Pull” posts will continue until my arrival in Winchester, and I’m sure that as always, there will be much more to come besides.

I’m not just talking about this blog. Since Christmas I have also been working on a script for a short film, of which I almost have a complete first draft. In addition, I have missed writing about Formula One since my abrupt departure from F1Today back in August, and ahead of the new season getting underway next weekend I am considering getting back into the game. I spent part of this afternoon browsing the Internet for F1 websites looking for knowledgeable volunteers, and I quickly found one that I believe could be an open door for me. In fact, you join me as I am peering at a contact form for it, in front of the Punta del Este ePrix on TV. An email demonstrating my enthusiasm for my craft and the sport, and my previous experience, could pay dividends. I’ll never know if I don’t try, I suppose.

Whatever endeavours I attempt will be united by their contributions to my ultimate goal of versatility as a writer. Regardless of whether the task at hand is a poem, an epic 300-page novel or anything else, I need to be able to work comfortably and confidently. Anything I try on the way to my target will be enjoyable, such is my drive to excel in what I do, but to combine one passion with another once again – in the form of F1, the fastest and most dramatic narrative on the planet – would be even more of a pleasure. Let’s see what this email brings, shall we?



I often find that amusement and humour can be taken from some of the smallest things that life has to offer, such as the conversations we overhear or the quirks we find in the personalities of others. I look and listen out for these wherever I can, lest they provide my notebook with useful inspiration, but just every now and again something seems to fall directly into my lap, begging to be written about. Such a gift was presented to me yesterday afternoon, when I got home and read a text that had been accidentally sent to me earlier in the day:

“Hi Oli – sleepover numbers for 16th March. 56 children, 11 adults and 4 vegetarians. Thanks, Sharon”.

Once I’d opened this, I had three options. I could either ignore it, take advantage of the situation to pretend I was Oli and completely mess up Sharon’s plans (“the vegetarians have cancelled, sorry – meat only”), or politely respond that she’d simply sent it to the wrong number and leave it at that. Being the gentleman that I am, I went for the latter:

“I think you might have the wrong number 🙂 sorry! Mason”.

I saw the smiley face as an important inclusion. Without it, the text could have seemed snappy and rude, and I couldn’t have that. Since the original message had put a smile on my face – thanks to its random and unexpected nature – I had to convey as much in my response, and that was obviously the thing most likely to do the trick. Having released it to Sharon, I put my phone down, expecting the matter to go no further. Ten minutes later, however, she was back again, having also seen the funny side:

“Whoops! So you don’t fancy a sleepover with 56 kids and 4 vegetarians? LOL”.

I obviously knew that the offer wasn’t genuine, but I was relieved all the same. To be quite honest, I wasn’t sure how being surrounded by 56 overexcited kids – probably all bouncing off the walls with no intention of getting any sleep – could be at all appealing to the 11 adults who would be there. I certainly kept them in my thoughts, as they’d need all the willpower and luck they could get. All that was left was to respectfully and jokingly decline Sharon’s offer:

“I’m afraid not! Best of luck with it though :)”

That really was that. Part of me hoped we had started a chain of updates as the seemingly chaotic sleepover approached – events that would provide me with more potentially useful material – but it was not to be. This particular flame of conversation had burned all too brightly and all too briefly, but it had once again proved that life’s most enjoyable aspects don’t necessarily have to be the biggest ones. Thank you, Sharon, for showing me that and, in doing so, improving a stressful day to a small extent. What’s more, if you are due to be an adult volunteer on 16 March – tasked with the welfare of 56 kids – I hope reading this has made you feel a little less apprehensive ahead of the big day. Look on the bright side, you’re only going to be totally knackered for one day!



Shortly after attending the taster session that was painstakingly described here, I decided to send a link to the University of Winchester via Twitter and see what resulted. Upon checking my tweets this afternoon, I was excited to find that they had indeed read the post – and, as a nice little bonus, they’d seemingly enjoyed it too! When I was writing it, I wanted every last drop of pure enthusiasm and joy to seep through the text, and to leave no stone unturned so that no reader could be in any doubt as to how much I was buzzing before, throughout, and after the day. It was clear that to some extent, Winchester must have got what I was trying to say. My sincere thanks go to them, first of all.

What was less clear, and therefore more of a surprise, was what their engagement with my little blog and one of its many entries led to. As it is hosted by WordPress, this has its own Stats page, on which I can check the performance of the site and the views that its content, tags and categories have had. At this point, just bear in mind that there must be millions of blogs on the Internet, all jostling for space and exposure – mine is a tiny dwarf planet in an infinite online galaxy of bigger rivals. I have a long way to go with Third Time Enabled before I can even begin to compete with them, so imagine how delighted I must have been when I noticed the 36 views it has had so far today. This must be due in no small part to Winchester’s interaction, and it is a monumental figure compared to what I can usually expect in a day. As a matter of fact, I don’t always get that in a week. Furthermore, the “University of Winchester” tag I attached to the post received 50 views, and whilst I like to showcase my own writing and experiences, I mostly wanted to convey just how awesome a place it really is, full of friendly and passionate people. If you don’t think I’ve managed to do that in any of the last three posts, my mission obviously isn’t accomplished yet – but if you have read this and my point has resonated, thank you very much indeed. You might just have made my day!


Accentuate The Positive

Politics dominates the news we wake up to every day, and in the last couple of years, particularly following the Brexit vote and the arrival of Donald Trump at the White House, the world’s focus on it has only intensified. Generally, it doesn’t make reassuring or uplifting reading, and whilst I do understand the importance of paying attention to the events that shape the future, I don’t feel I can write about them confidently on Third Time Enabled right now. This occurred to me only a short time ago, when I was looking over Angharad’s most recent post. It was incredibly well-researched and had been written with clear passion and concern in the aftermath of yet another terrible American school shooting. She did, of course, hit the nail directly on the head with her content – you can see it right here if you wish – but in seeing this I realised that I could never match what she had done, no matter how strongly I feel about the topic.

If you have read all of the posts I’ve written since the beginning of January, it might have struck you that life has been very good to me of late. University looms, accompanied by a fresh and exciting start, and in the wake of accepting my place, my mood has been lifted infinitely. A year ago, I wondered if my life was heading in any sort of direction at all, but now I feel as though anything really is possible. I’d like this new-found positivity to be reflected regularly in my writing, both in the lead up to my departure from Somerset and beyond, when I am fully settled in Winchester. This won’t be at the expense of the more hard-hitting aspects of life, as I will return to those on a day when I can bear to face them, but for now I will leave their exposure on this blog to those who are eager to speak about them, such as Angharad and Will. To cover them in a proper and well-informed manner, a lot of potentially difficult reading is required, and I can rest safe in the knowledge that both of them are capable of doing the job well. If I’ve mentioned it before, you may remember that Will once told me this blog has what it takes to save lives with its positivity. If this is true, I’d better make sure it lives up to the hype – and at this moment in time, I have more of a reason to accentuate the positive than ever.


Sliding On Out

It might not seem like an important detail at first, but when I entered my Winchester taster session last weekend I decided to sit on a normal seat. This was primarily so that I could access a table more easily (although Lara had offered to move it) and be more comfortable on what was effectively a big sofa, although the decision may have had a slightly deeper motivation behind it. As I stopped my wheelchair next to the seat, lifted the armrest up and began to slide over, I must have been partly determined to show all of the new people in the room the independence I am capable of. Whenever I do transfer to another chair, it does tend to make a scene – probably because some people don’t expect me to move at all – and maybe, on that one occasion, I subconsciously used that to my advantage.

Firstly, the footplates on my wheelchair are swung back, ironically to stop them getting in the way of my feet as I move. If there is not enough room for them to swing all the way, I take them off entirely, meaning that I have to find a surface they can lean against until they are put back on again. This usually involves at least a small amount of clattering about, and on Saturday that did turn one or two heads. Then, as aforementioned, my right armrest is raised, removing the only obstacle stopping me from shuffling sideways into my designated new seat. I start to move, and my bottom edges off of my gel cushion. At this point people are really looking, but I take no notice – I certainly don’t take it to heart. On the contrary, it is a good opportunity for me to show that I am not fused to my wheelchair, as one girl in sixth form believed until we decided to set her straight one day. I arrive in my new location, and sit back as far as possible to make myself comfortable – on Saturday, when I had positioned myself squarely in front of the table I needed, I took a moment to smile at one or two people who were looking, just to reassure them that I was OK.

Occasionally, I like to go the extra mile, just to demonstrate that I really can be fine without help. At Winchester this meant using my initiative to take my notebook and pen out of my bag before transferring, pairing them up together neatly on the desk as I leant across to it. I politely declined an additional offer of assistance from Lara (perhaps wanting to impress her and make a good first impression), and only asked for her help when I realised that getting my things back across to my bag would be slightly harder at the end. As I got back into my wheelchair again, she kindly kept her eye on me to make sure I would be safe, although she didn’t intervene directly – she could evidently see that I had everything under control, so I must have gotten my point across to her. We left with big smiles on our faces, having bonded so well – and, through something that is so normal to so many other people, I might just have shown her that I’m not completely helpless. That’s important, and I look forward to conveying it more often in September!


The Pull, Part 4

Any excuse to visit Winchester is fine by me – and on Saturday I had the best one possible when I set off with Mum and Dad to attend a second open day at the university where I will be studying from September. I knew from the outset that it would be just as immensely enjoyable and useful a visit as the initial one in October, and I was duly proved right. As we parked up and signed in after a three-hour car journey, my thoughts turned immediately to something I hadn’t initially had the chance to participate in at Winchester – a taster session in my chosen Creative Writing course.

In just one hour, the session would give me a condensed sample of what to expect in the three-hour classroom gatherings I will have as a student – and, predictably, I immediately liked what I saw. I have always felt comfortable as a writer, and any opportunity to demonstrate this is instantly seized, but even I was surprised by how naturally writing came to me in an academic setting. The session was well-attended, presumably by many of the students I will soon have the chance to collaborate with and befriend, and as I sat waiting for everyone to file in I found that was I seated next to a lovely girl called Lara. We hit it off immediately, and could hardly stop chatting – during the course of our conversation I discovered that she too had already accepted her Winchester offer, so I think we were both relieved that we’ll already know each other when we start! We worked really well as partners too, reading what we’d written to one another and feeding back accordingly.

What exactly were we writing, I hear you ask? Allow me to explain! After a brief introduction to the course, and a few minutes in which we examined short descriptive sentences and shared our first impressions, we were presented with a photograph to work from. It showed an open but secluded woodland spot, bathed in bright sunlight but surrounded by forest that was denser, darker and much more sinister. Just as before, our first task upon being shown this was to jot down what we thought of it. Rather than immediately noting what I actually saw in the image, I found myself thinking about its potential metaphorical significance, and seeing the part illuminated by the sun as a glimmer of hope – a hidden gem – in a sea of despondency. A light at the end of the tunnel for someone, if you will. When it came to placing a character in this setting, we were invited to choose anyone from a small child to an elderly pensioner, before taking a moment to think about why they were in the woods and how their behaviour might be influenced by their circumstances. I chose to make my character a teenage boy named Christopher – I’ve always given characters fairly random names, and he was bestowed with his for no other reason than St Christopher is the patron saint of travellers, apparently. Once I’d clarified these basic details, I started to think more about his background and what had brought him into the great outdoors. It emerged that he’d had an affluent upbringing with money in abundance, but that his life had been turned upside down following a kidnapping which resulted in him being a prisoner for some considerable time. On the day that he found himself amongst the greenery, he was running as fast as he could – terrified, dishevelled and devoid of the confidence he had been bursting with prior to his ordeal. He was running because this day represented his best possible chance of escape. I introduced him like this, joining him as he dashed through the gloominess and into warmth:

“Christopher sprinted through the darkness, trying to ignore the searing pain from the gash on his knee as each new bramble and thorn pricked at him. He knew he had to focus on escape, and that meant running and never looking back. He’d never have a better chance than this.”

I couldn’t quite write quickly enough to expand on that opening, so when we were told to stop after the sentence we were on, Lara had more than I did. Her story, if I recall correctly, concerned a woman who was out walking her dog in the countryside with her husband and child – both of whom had been driving her mad. She appeared worn down, tired, overworked and underappreciated, and neither they nor her mischievous dog, whom Lara named Scruff, were making things any easier. I thought it was a beginning with a lot of potential, and I was interested to see just how far the lady could be pushed, or if her luck might change dramatically. And what part would the scenery play in it?

My question was about to be answered. The next stage of story development saw us invited to pick an item from a table at the front of the room that our characters could find in the landscape – we could demonstrate how well we knew them by thinking about their reactions to these. Lara kindly went over on my behalf, and gave me a fading and slightly dirty blue denim cap, claiming she knew it was right for my story as soon as she saw it. Great minds think alike, don’t they? I agreed, and instantly began scribbling away just as it landed on the desk. Just as Christopher emerges into the sun’s embrace, the following occurs:

“Taking in the beauty and undoubted serenity of this hidden gem, Christopher spotted a faded blue denim cap lying unclaimed in the undergrowth. He thought little of the object itself – people lost things in the countryside all the time – but could it mean that he wasn’t the first to run out here? For a moment, Christopher kept his eyes fixed on the cap, briefly forgetting the desperation of his own situation. If its owner had escaped too, with or without their cap, had they found safety?”

As I finished this, I looked up to see Lara putting her own pen down. The object she had taken from the table was a jewel-encrusted brooch, which she also chose to cast to the ground in her story. By this stage, Scruff was off his lead and totally uncontrollable. He had rushed off, far away from his struggling owner, but stopped an instant when he saw the brooch gleaming before him. He alerted the woman to its presence, and she was immediately and understandably intrigued upon examining it. She may well have been distracted by its striking and colourful appearance, but was determined to get to the bottom of what it was, taking it to an antique shop. Lara never got the chance to reveal what had happened there, but it was definitely an interesting proposition in a well-structured story. Would the brooch make the woman and her family millionaires, or had she gotten her hopes up all for nothing? Alternatively, would it be something tainted in some way, or even cursed? Lara and I both saw that the possibilities were endless.

That was what made the session great. The amount of creativity in the task at hand made us both feel right at home and very comfortable indeed. Neither of us had any doubts about the university choice we’d made prior to the session and, if it was possible, we had even fewer when we emerged. Thanking the lecturer for such a fruitful and enjoyable hour, we left and said our goodbyes, even more excited for what is to begin in just over six months’ time. I was on cloud nine for the rest of the day, feeling certain that the session was the start of many things, including academic and creative satisfaction, endless social and personal benefits, and at least one wonderful new friendship with Lara. Life is good – very good indeed. You could say that just one year ago, I felt as though I was going nowhere. Twelve months on, with each passing day, I’m feeling as though anything is possible. What’s more, I’m going to make the most of every moment of it.

If you’re lucky, you might even discover Christopher’s ultimate fate one day…