#WorldMentalHealthDay: A word on Anxiety

For several years now I have suffered with mental ill health. I never used to talk about my depression or anxiety, not because I’m ashamed to admit or acknowledge my body’s frailties but because I didn’t want to be an encumbrance on people around me. I, like so many others, have come to realise that attitude is wrong.

I used to be a depressive who could not cope with the world, somebody who struggled to function on a daily basis. On World Mental Health Day, I want to share the story of my anxiety, and how I took back my own life.

Mental illness is a hideous thing, it is consumptive, it can take over the very essence of your being, it suffocates you until it renders you unable to fight back. As recently as 18 months ago, I was heading in to an abyss I would have struggled to escape, I was chronically sad, and more importantly for this story, chronically anxious. Anxiety is not simply a state of just being scared of things, it can manifest itself in multiple ways including nervous ticks, irritability and panic attacks.

In fact, it was a panic attack that eventually set me on the path to freedom. I was used to panic attacks at this point in my life, I didn’t experience them that often but they weren’t infrequent either. One afternoon, whilst I was alone in my Dad’s house, I heard several bangs outside. Despite the fact they weren’t particularly loud or close, my stomach sank, and a sense of imminent jeopardy took over me.

I tried to carry on whatever I was doing when the banging sounded again. Instinctively, I flung my body to the ground and crawled in to the hallway. By now, despite lack of any other evidence, I was convinced there was a gunman on the loose in my vicinity.

The banging went on for half an hour, I flitted between sitting in the hallway, on the stairs, and behind the sofa – anywhere where I couldn’t be seen from the window. Eventually, convinced that the ‘assailant’ was getting closer and closer, I ran in to the bathroom, locked the door, and sat in the shower, clutching my knees to my chest. My heart pounded and I sat sobbing, waiting to be killed.

A few minutes passed and the door downstairs opened, I had managed to lock it in the peak of my anxiety, so I knew it was my Dad returning home. I heard him call up to me and I felt a relief like no other. I had ‘survived’ a massacre made by my own mind.

For hours afterwards, I would not stand in eyeshot of any window, I was still terrified, despite the fact neither gunman nor any gunshots had ever existed. That night I returned to my Mum’s house to try and escape the scene of my episode, and whilst there, I made a decision to take back my life from my irrational mind.

It may seem so small to the average person, but I forced myself to go outside and grab a coffee with a friend the very next day. I had to prove to myself that I could be safe outside again, and I had to do it quickly – and it worked. (P.S. thank you, Emma)
Following my traumatic episode, my Mum and Dad came together and got me the help I needed, my Mum came with me to the GP and I was prescribed anti-depressants, and my Dad encouraged me to return to counselling, which helped me learn to rationalise the irrational thoughts that plagued my headspace. Ever since then challenging my illogical thoughts has become easier and easier.

Today, I am able to do things that just two years ago would have been unmanageable. I can go to London on my own, I can go for a coffee on my own, I even managed to live on my own for a year – I am mostly free from my own mind. And even when it tries to snatch back control, I am equipped to put it right back in to place.

The reason I’m sharing this story today is to make it clear that battling mental illness is not easy. My brain was ill, it was imbalanced. If I didn’t get the medical and cognitive help I needed I would still be in that place now. It is not weak to seek help for mental ill health; it’s not even strong; it’s just smart. Mental ill health is real, it is chemical, and it is science. With every other illness you get treatment, don’t let stigma make you treat depression, anxiety or whatever else any differently.

Though, I am far better now, I still suffer. But I have found a recipe for tough love that has helped me manage. I am tough on my anxiety when I have to be, I rationalise and scrutinise each and every nervous, irrational thought I have – it’s gruelling but it’s worth it. And on days when I feel lower than low, I wrap myself in love. I indulge myself with all my favourite things, I remember only the things I like about myself , I remember all the things other people like about me, no matter how small, no matter how few. Eventually, my irrational brain is quietened, and lets me be.

My irrational brain used to be my nemesis, now it is a just a nuisance I could do without, and am doing without.

2016–17 Premier League Predictions

Last year, my Premier League predictions were pretty good, and the end result of the season even better. I haven’t quite been put off giving Premier League premonitions another stab – so without further ado here are my fully unqualified assessments of all 20 clubs.



Last season: 2nd
Bookies’ prediction: 4th
Random prediction for season: Fans at the Emirates to hold at least one half-hearted “Wenger Out” protest. 

Once more, Arsenal failed to meaningfully challenge for the Premier League title, after apparently winning it with a late winner against 10-man Leicester in February. The Gunners pinned all of their joy on their accidental triumph Spurs last term instead. It seems to be a never-ending case of deja vu with Arsene Wenger, once again he has failed to make any game-changing signings in the transfer window, meaning they’re unlikely to scoop the title. As has become customary, I predict Arsenal settling for a place on the podium without ever really looking close to gold. 3rd. 



Last season: 16th
Bookies’ prediction: 14th
Random prediction for season: Eddie Howe to win a Manager of the Month award.

There is no doubt that Bournemouth have one of the country’s most capable managers in Eddie Howe, and after a promising first season in the top-flight, avoiding “Second Season Syndrome” will be the Cherries main aim. I expect next season to be tougher for the South Coast Side but shrewd signings in Lewis Cook and Jordan Ibe should add to a squad capable of keeping their necks above water. 16th.



Last season: 1st (Championship)
Bookies’ prediction: 19th
Random prediction for season: Sean Dyche to bemoan a lack of transfer funds following a defeat to a wealthy side.

The Clarets’ main asset is their togetherness. Sean Dyche has been able to instill a great work ethic and stability to what is, on paper at least, an extremely modest squad. Burnley have done tremendously well in the last three seasons but they don’t seem to have learned from their errors two years ago. Even great teams need quality additions following promotion to the top-flight, and we know given the value of that promotion, Burnley aren’t lacking in cash. Dyche needs to put his money where his mouth is or the Clarets are doomed. 19th.



Last season: 10th
Bookies’ prediction: 3rd
Random prediction for season: Jose Mourinho to win at the home of his former club.

There is little doubt that last season’s placing belied Chelsea’s actual quality. The Blues have made a good appointment in Antonio Conte and their flagship signing of N’Golo Kanté will prove to be a very good one. That being said, there is little to suggest that any changes this Summer at Stamford Bridge have done enough to eradicate the gap between them and last season’s front runners. A season of rebuilding for Chelsea. 4th.

Crystal Palace


Last season: 15th
Bookies’ prediction: 12th
Random prediction for season: Alan Pardew to be the first manager sacked.

The Eagles crashed at the end of last season, winning just two league games after Christmas. Alan Pardew is no stranger when it comes to overseeing calamitous spells of form following an extended purple patch. In truth, I fear the second Crystal Palace we saw last season will be a fairer reflection of them this term. They’ve made smart signings in Andros Townsend and Steve Mandanda but their season rests on Pardew’s ability to get them out of a rut. 17th.



Last season: 11th
Bookies’ prediction: 9th
Random prediction for season: Romelu Lukaku to score 15+ goals again

Despite their being major upheaval at the senior level of Everton Football Club, the on pitch-personnel remains much the same. Whilst I expect the Toffees’ new found wealth and appointment of Steve Walsh as Director of Football to pay dividends in the long run, their crucial appointment for the next campaign will be Ronald Koeman as manager. He’s a man who possesses the ability to get an underachieving side producing more acceptable results. 9th.

Hull City


Last season: 4th (Championship)
Bookies’ prediction: 20th
Random prediction for season: Hull to scalp Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium

Hull have seemingly mirrored Burnley’s conservative approach to transfers following their return to the Premier League. That alone would have been enough to make a case for Hull to go straight back down, given how unprepared the looked for the top-flight in the second half of last season. But, as we have learned in the last few days, manager Steve Bruce, who has been integral to their recent success has departed. Things are looking weary on Humberside. 20th.

Leicester City


Last season: 1st
Bookies’ prediction: 7th
Random prediction for season: Leicester to reach the knock-out stages of the Champions League.

The Champions of England (that feels so good to type) shocked the footballing world last term with their stunning domestic triumph. Whilst, the ‘experts’ are ready to knock the Foxes down a peg or eight, there is little to suggest that Leicester have depreciated as a side. Losing Kanté will be a big blow but the Foxes have recruited well and Demarai Gray and Ben Chilwell can come to the forefront next term too. Leicester’s test this term won’t be maintaining their standards but will be balancing their title defence against an extremely testing schedule and a bigger pool of competition. 5th.



Last season: 8th
Bookies’ prediction: 5th
Random prediction for season: Liverpool to beat Manchester United at least once.

Despite being lauded by football hipsters the nation over, Jurgen Klopp’s appointment in October 2015 did little to boost Liverpool’s prospects. Of course this is Klopp’s first chance at shaping a side at Anfield from the very start of a campaign and the signings of Sadio Mané, Joel Matip and Georginio Wijnaldum are intriguing but do little to convince me that the Kop will have anything great to shout about this time next season. 7th.

Manchester City


Last season: 4th
Bookies’ prediction: 1st
Random prediction for season: Pep Guardiola and Jose Mourinho to have a touchline row. 

Chelsea aside, Manchester City were the most disappointing of all the ‘big boys’ last season. A squad that has delivered so much in recent years was reduced to a damp squib with the Citizens barely keeping pace until February. Pep Guardiola’s appointment should prove to be a masterstroke. He’s the man in management with the Midas touch, if anyone can reinvigorate this side then it is him – and I predict he will do just that. 1st.

Manchester United


Last season: 5th
Bookies’ prediction: 2nd
Random prediction for season: Ibrahimovic to be United’s top goalscorer.

It will be intriguing to see how Jose Mourinho’s managerial prowess has been affected by the calamitous form that led to his Chelsea exit. Whilst there is no doubt Mourinho is a world class manager and that are United are one of the world’s great clubs, both have known better times. Mourinho should be able to get Manchester United to loftier heights than his predecessor, particularly if his big-money motormouth can score goals. 2nd.



Last season: 2nd (Championship)
Bookies’ prediction: 18th
Random prediction for season: Middlesbrough to beat Sunderland home and away.

It’s been a fair old while since Premier League football graced Teeside, and it’s never been readier for it’s return than right now. Thanks to excellent facilities and a top-class manager, Middlesbrough have arguably done the best transfer business pound for pound. The recruitment of Alvaro Negredo and Victor Valdes are statements of real intent. I would have made a real case for Boro surviving without these marquee signings but with these star turns included, I’d say their survival is near certain. 12th. 



Last season: 6th
Bookies’ prediction: 10th
Random prediction for season: Southampton to beat Koeman’s Everton at home.

When will people learn? There is nothing Southampton do better than rebuilding. Sadio Mané, Graziano Pellé and, of course, Ronald Koeman are the big names out the door this Summer but there core of a squad that broke the top 6 last term remains. The Saints will continue to make the smart recruitments and rebuild once more. It’s not like Claude Puel is a bad appointment either. In other words, Southampton are far from panic stations but equally far from progressing. 10th. 

Stoke City


Last season: 9th
Bookies’ prediction: 11th
Random prediction for season: Stoke to lose at home on a cold Tuesday night.

Stoke City are without doubt the most stagnant club in the Premier League. Mark Hughes’ men have remained virtually unchanged but there were early signs last season that this Stoke side’s best days were behind them. There are too many teams in the division worse than Stoke for them to fall in to any real trouble this term, but it could be a precursor of what is to come if the Potters continue to rest on their laurels.  13th. 



Last season: 17th
Bookies’ prediction: 16th
Random prediction for season: Sunderland to be relegated on the final day of the season.

Things looked rosy for Sunderland at the end of May, with yet another great escape accomplished and bitter rivals Newcastle dumped out of the division in the process. In fact, Sam Allardyce’s side look buoyed by survival, in part, spearheaded by their January signings. Now, Big Sam has taken over the national helm and David Moyes has taken post back in England. Things may play out all too familiarly for the Black Cats but Moyes’ more conservative approach directly opposes the gutsy displays Allardyce had managed to instill in his former side. That attitude suited Sunderland and reversing that could be their downfall.  18th. 

Swansea City


Last season: 12th
Bookies’ prediction: 13th
Random prediction for season: Swansea to resign Wilfried Bony before the end of Summer.

I ambitiously tipped Swansea to break the top six last season, and let’s face it, I was very wrong. However, I still believe that Swansea are a tidy side, and one that improved under Francesco Guidolin. If the Swans can keep hold of their best players and snag Wilfried Bony back from Manchester City, then there is every reason to believe they will be comfortable this season.  11th. 

Tottenham Hotspur


Last season: 3rd
Bookies’ prediction: 6th
Random prediction for season: Harry Kane to score less than 20 goals next season.

I’m in two minds about this Spurs side. There is clearly an abundance of young talent in the squad, and a manager capable of nurturing it. But last season’s capitulation is psychologically crucial, when sides experience these dramatic dips they go one of two ways – it makes them stronger, or it hits them for six. Given how Harry Kane and Dele Alli performed in the Euros, it seems as if things may need to get worse at Spurs before they get a whole lot better. Contenders in waiting, but not now. 6th. 



Last season: 13th
Bookies’ prediction: 17th
Random prediction for season: Watford to survive an entire season without a managerial swap.

The Hornets looked sharp following their return to the Premier League, in fact, had it not been for Leicester, they would have been the story of the early party of the season by keeping the pace with the top six. Watford have done well to keep hold of their captain Troy Deeney but it’s their trigger happy approach to managers that concerns me. We often see that stability breeds success in the modern game, and Watford’s set up is anything but stable. 15th. 

West Bromwich Albion


Last season: 14th
Bookies’ prediction: 15th
Random prediction for season: Tony Pulis to leave his post by the end of the season.

The Baggies are at a similar crossroads to their West Midlands rivals, Stoke. They’re comfortable in mid-table – so do they stick or twist? Just like the Potters they’ve chosen the former. Under Pulis, West Brom have been moulded in to a sturdy outfit, assured defensively and resolute, there is little progression to be seen in this squad, and that should worry those at the Hawthorns. It is well documented that Tony Pulis has never led a side to relegation from the top-flight but that record is in great danger. 14th. 

West Ham United


Last season: 7th
Bookies’ prediction: 8th
Random prediction for season: The Hammers to win their opening game at the Olympic Stadium.

West Ham are a side I criminally under-rated last term, I expected them to struggle following Sam Allardyce’s departure but instead they came on leaps and bounds. Again, if it wasn’t for my own club’s exploits, West Ham would have adourned many more plaudits last season. If Slaven Bilic can keep hold of Dimitri Payet, who is the focal point of the Hammers’ exhilarating attack then expect them to have another exciting season, this time in a new home. 8th. 

The Leicester City Alternate End of Season Awards 2015–16

The Claridge Shin ‘Scenes of the Season’ Award

Oooya fuckoh… Hazard’s goal gives City the title

We’re going to kick off (pun intended) this year’s set of awards with a bit of controversy. Whilst the joyous and vociferous celebrations after Leonardo Ulloa and Nathan Dyer scored their crucial late winners against Norwich and Aston Villa, this year’s award is going to an off-the-pitch moment. The 2016 recipient is Hazard’s goal against Spurs. How could it possibly be anything else? Chisits across the globe piled in to bars and pubs to watch Spurs go toe-to-toe with the incumbent champions. After a sparkling first half from Tottenham, things looked bleak, and Chelsea look bruised…both physically and mentally. But Gary Cahill pulled one back and Eden Hazard, Leicester legend found the equaliser with a one hit wonder to make Owl City blush, sparking the wildest celebrations Leicester has ever seen.

The Dennis Wise ‘Twunt of the Year’ Award

Chat shit get banged…

So many contenders, well, there always are. This year’s winner is so deserving of this spack-olade, Jon Moss. Mr. Moss, has two choices; accept that he knows nothing about football or that he’s an attention-seeking foghead desperate for a part in Jamie Vardy’s Hollywood biopic. Of course, if he was actually given that choice it would be the wrong one. Apparently, winning the ball in a slide tackle and tangling legs with a defender merits a red card but grievous bodily harm on four counts doesn’t if you’re wearing a West Ham shirt. I will still never forgive this dumpy attention seeking moron for sending Schmeichel off at Nottingham Forest for throwing the ball back to the centre circle. Perhaps Jon Moss should take up a new career at Gringotts bank, he certainly looks the part.

The Yann Kermorgant ‘Stupid Decision of the Year’ Award

HOOOOOOOF…. Huth fires the ball in to Row Z… of the West Stand

I was going to give this award to Riyad Mahrez, for deciding to take and miss yet another penalty away at Aston Villa, which ended up costing us two points. But, then I remembered that that’s ridiculously harsh and I owe our resident Algerian some reparations for not voting for him in the actual End of Season awards. So instead, this year’s winner is letting Robert Huth take *that* free-kick. I love Robert Huth, he’s a frighteningly good centre-back who could part a tidal wave by his sheer presence but taking set pieces clearly aren’t his strong suit. In fact, the shot was so bad, it was probably closer to a Stoke corner than a Leicester goal-kick. Either way, it was good for a laugh – same old Leicester, taking the piss.

The Zoumana Bakayogo ‘Signing of the Season’ Award

This justification is somewhat of an open love letter to my favourite player, so here it goes; N’Golo Kanté is a phenomenon. No, not a phenomenal footballer, just a phenomenon. Describing him as a footballer would imply that he’s human when he clear isn’t. Golo is clearly a sentient god-like being sent to planet Earth as some sort of reward for inventing the beautiful game. There is nothing this guy cannot do. He flies from box-to-box in minute one and minute ninety three, extending his Stretch Armstrong legs to win the ball every…single…time. If you don’t love him for his alien sporting abilities alone like how cute/cool he is in the gif above. Genius.

The Alan Birchenall & Tony Currie ‘Romantic Moment of the Season’ Award

One King in Leicester…

Romantic moment of the season? I should just choose the whole sodding thing. The entire story, sub-plots included is like a literary masterpiece. A squad of rejects bound by a brotherly bond, representing a self-deprecating club that has underachieved for 130 years, in comes a man with the same history of underachievement. In a climate of uncertainty, the nearly man and the nearly club combine and this band of brothers win the league at odds of 5000/1, led by three players who were lower league nobodies just months before. What a season and story it’s been. Wes Morgan lifting that trophy was a sight I’ll never forget but the real romance was portrayed by a latter holder of the famous trophy. Seeing Andy King lift that trophy was special. He is a man who has stuck with this club at it’s lowest ebb, for his entire career and has been rewarded for his fierce loyalty in the most glorious way, in an era of football where players are so fickle. To cap it off, it was fitting to see King score on Leicester’s historic coronation, a true Filbert Way great getting his just desserts.

The Claudio Ranieri ‘Claudiism’ of the Year Award

Ranieri is a such a charismatic man. His forays in to the media’s all pervasive glare couldn’t be more different from his predecessor’s. Whilst Nigel Pearson was more adept at measured snarling, King Claudio is much more jovial, so much so that his Dilly Ding Dilly Dong outburst will long live in the memory of Leicester City folklore. It has taken on a life of it’s own, a popular slogan, a disgustingly catchy chant. Claudio has become every fan’s surrogate grandfather, a man you just cannot dislike no matter what, with a charisma so stringent he can melt the most sour-faced Foxes fan like butter. Thank you for blessing our club with your footballing prowess and charming humour, we owe you a pizza.

The Paul Gallagher ‘We Forgot That You Were Here’ Award

Spuds… Spurs bottled it

How’s the head, Tottenham Hotspur? I know crying relentlessly can be really dehydrating. So… when exactly are you coming for us? We have one game left this season and we’re ten points clear. In fact, since you started singing that, we’ve pulled further away from you. So,  are you coming to get us after you write us off as ‘nobodies’? Are you coming after your fan groups make a video on YouTube so arrogantly explaining why you’ll win the league on goal difference, despite being so far behind? Or are you coming after your entire outfield side gets suspended for kicking seven bells out of Chelsea in a futile attempt to keep your title hopes alive? By the way, are we the same ‘nobodies’ that have spent eleven times as many days top of the Premier League this season than Spurs have in their history? There’s no doubt that Spurs had a great season, they’ve been a truly exhilarating side to watch, but you didn’t finish 1st in the most important statistical ranking -so thanks for the tacit competition, you made it interesting for a few weeks but we are the champions, and your 2015/16 season will be a forgotten footnote in football history.

Why It’s Time To Abolish The Inheritance Tax

The saying goes that there are just two things in life that are certain; death and taxes. The Inheritance Tax inconveniently combines both of those pretty undesirable inevitabilities in to one fundamentally unfair package – and it’s time we got rid of it.

There is nothing nice about loss. The grief and mourning families go through when faced with the deaths of loved ones can be extremely traumatic. With that in mind, it seems simply wrong to take from families at times like these.

Of course, these sentimental reasons alone cannot form the basis for sound policy on taxation but they are valid nonetheless. Enthusiasts of the Inheritance Tax argue that taxing inheritance diminishes income inequality, a pertinent argument at a time where the gap between the have and the have-nots is getting wider and wider.

That being said, inheritance is money that has already been taxed, through income tax, property tax etc. This makes Inheritance Tax a double tax, an additional levy on money of which a fair portion has previously gone to the state.

This is profoundly unfair and one of the numerous reasons why the Inheritance Tax was voted the least popular in the United Kingdom. On top of this, the Inheritance Tax code is extraordinarily lengthy at almost 1,000 pages long and would take the world’s fastest speaker 10 hours to read out loud, a testament to reducing and reforming the ridiculously complex tax regime in this country as a whole.

Whilst income equality continues to be an economic ill that plagues British society, taxing people twice over is not the way to rectify it. The government’s cuts to Capital Gains Tax and inability to close down loopholes on giant corporations and the richest in society, who have hit the headlines for evading taxation in recent weeks, is a much more just way of remedying this issue. And, this approach would provide the bursary with far more than the Inheritance Tax could ever yield – which is a mere 0.25% of GDP by the way.

There is a case to be made that this tax is imposed to redress a society that is increasingly non-meritocratic – but this point is flawed. Surely it is conducive to a meritocratic society to allow a person to work hard, pay one lot of tax on their earnings, estate and other capital and then pass on whatever is left at the end of their life to the people closest to them?

It is an accepted instinct to provide for those closest to you. If the government comes swooping in to claim yet more money from a now deceased individual, who has worked hard for their entire life to leave for their family, how can we earnestly call this meritocratic? Where is the incentive to knuckle down and earn for your family if up to 40% of your savings are snatched from the hands of your grieving children?

Perhaps it isn’t fair that scrapping this tax could lead to a string of people benefitting from the work of distant ancestors, therein lies the real argument for the Inheritance Tax promoting meritocracy – however it isn’t convincing enough. Economic liberalism insists that an individual has control over their own earnings, even in death – after all, many benefits and privileges people have in life are determined purely by chance and luck.

If we are serious about giving people greater power over their own finances and futures whilst promoting meritocracy and reducing inequality then an Inheritance Tax, which is more punitive on the aspirational middle class than the slippery super-rich, is not the way to go.

Instead the government could place emphasis on a Luxury Goods Tax and by closing down tax loopholes and evasion – that is the fair way of getting the wealthiest to pay their share without squeezing the middle classes at an emotionally distressing time.

We must stop disincentivising people to earn enough to leave money to better their families’ lives once they have passed. After all, this money has already been taxed once; making it liable for taxation again is deeply unfair, unnecessary and not financially justifiable. The only things certain in life are death and taxes, who knew this old adage meant that death was taxable too?


Top 10 Game of Thrones Characters

I resisted the urge to watch Game of Thrones  for years. This was a social urge by the way, not a personal one. I had assumed it would be along the lines of Lord of the Rings and not entirely tolerable but alas it’s appearance on Sky box sets meant I gave it a chance and some five weeks later, I’ve seen all fifty episodes, I’m obsessed and counting down the days until the new season.

I’m a fully-fledged bandwagoner.

So, to sate my current need to talk to everybody I knew about Thrones I thought I would rank my ten ‘favourite’, and I use the term loosely as some of these characters I don’t actually like, characters.

10. Oberyn Martell

Prince Oberyn only appeared in seven episodes but he certainly made an impression on me, if not only for his weirdly attractive unattractiveness. As a visitor from Dorne, the home of the socially liberal, free-thinking, open-minded people of Westeros, Oberyn hosted bisexual sex parties and tried in vain to avenge his sister and her children. His smutty charm and progressive attitudes created a charming charismatic persona that had us on his side very quickly. Unfortunately, his humility and ability to finish off a job were lacking, and well, you know the rest.

9. Ned Stark

Poor old Ned Stark, his appearance in just one season of the show made an impression. As we have heard persistently since that sadistic bastard Joffrey had his head removed, Ned Stark was a man of real honour, and one of the few in the Seven Kingdoms who didn’t really deserve to die. In ten episodes, Ned Stark did little to warrant anything but admiration, and his legacy, if you like, will be setting out the show’s brutal tone, where anyone can die…at any time.

8. Jon Snow

Jon Snow is a little dry a lot of the time if we’re being totally honest, but his pretty Northern face just about excuses it. Like his father, he’s a genuinely good guy, on a continent where there are precious few. He’s pretty much served as the only hero against the White Walkers. With that in mind, his ‘death’ certainly wasn’t warranted and making him the victim of hostile tribalism against wildlings, whilst the White Walkers are advancing, probably wasn’t the Knight’s Watch’s best idea. Having said that, I don’t for one second think he’s gone anywhere – but like the bastard himself, I know nothing.

7. Brienne of Tarth

The feminist icon of the series is not-a-knight Brienne of Tarth. Having faithfully served Renly Baratheon and Catelyn Stark, even after both’s deaths, she has shown her unwavering loyalty to her oaths. Plus, she’s an absolute behemoth, possibly the most fearsome warrior in the entire series, looking like Draco Malfoy’s mother with Hagrid’s power. She has uprooted gender stereotypes, which, let’s face it are probably harder to usurp in a world such as the Seven Kingdoms, and she deserves a lot of respect for it. However, I fear that her storyline is coming to an end, and if I had my wish, it would do next season, as one of her former ‘masters’ returns from the beyond…

6. Sansa Stark

For the first three seasons, I was begging and pleading for this girl to have more respect for herself. I actually viewed her as a pathetic shrinking violet but when I think back, for a young girl to lose pretty much her entire family, deal romantically with two violent psychopaths and to be at the top of King’s Landing’s most wanted list, you’ve got to be pretty damn strong. Like Brienne of Tarth said of Sansa’s mother, Catelyn, she’s got courage, and plenty of it. The best of Sansa is yet to come, for sure.

5. Cersei Lannister

I loathe this hateful cow. In fact, nothing gave me more satisfaction throughout the series than seeing Cersei covered in blood, shit and spit, walking through King’s Landing being heckled like she deserved.  That being said, any character that can stir up this sort of venom from a viewer has got to be celebrated as a bloody good one. In fact, she’s the best villain in the show. Let’s not forget that the butchering of the Starks, the imprisonment of the Tyrells and the unjust attempts at convicting Tyrion for crimes he didn’t commit, were all, in some way, orchestrated by her. What a poisonous bitch. Bravo, Lena Heady.

4. Tyrion Lannister

Yeah, everyone’s favourite character is only number four on my list. And it’s not because I have anything against Tyrion, I just think there are better characters. He’s the only Lannister who you’re always on the side of, which is a testament to him, given the bloodline of arseholes he comes from. That being said, Tyrion often seems to be there for comic relief more than any sort of epic quest, a role he plays exceptionally well but one that’s kept him off the top spot.

3. Olenna Tyrell

The legendary Dame Diana Rigg takes bronze in my countdown. As the matriarch of a dynasty that only really came to the forefront in season four, the Queen of Thorns has captured my heart in a short space of time. It’s my belief that she has everyone’s number in King’s Landing and they don’t even realise it. Her barbed tongue, sharp wit and wily plots are no match for the Lannisters/Baratheons. Plus, she killed Joffrey, she deserves the Iron Throne herself for that alone.

2. Daenerys Targaryen

Is there a person alive who doesn’t love Daenerys Stormborn of House Targaryen, mother of Dragons? I can think of no character more deserving of being called fire, like, she literally is fire. Whether she’s liberating oppressed slaves or resurrecting the coolest mythical creatures known to human folklore, our Khaleesi has often possessed the most enthralling plot lines in the series. If we were honest, we are all desperate for the day, Daenerys and her dragons fly to Westeros and take back the Iron Throne she truly deserves. All hail Khaleesi!

1. Catelyn Stark

An unconventional choice, I know, but not a surprising one if you’ve spoken to me at any point over the last few weeks. There has quite simply been no person in Westeros dealt a worse hand than Lady Catelyn Stark. Her husband is beheaded, her son crippled, her daughters held captive or missing and then her family and allies brutally murdered at her own brother’s wedding. Sure, sympathy isn’t enough to place her at the top of the list but her poise in dealing with all this hardship is admirable. She never wavers. She even faces her brutal untimely death with the most poetic air of peace possible. Catelyn is the strongest woman in the show, right until the end she is defiant in her instinct to protect her family. Perhaps, she is so loveable and so respectable because she is the only character who acts selflessly, and whose motives aren’t fuelled by a desire to better her own social standing. Here’s to Lady Stoneheart in Season 6. Please.


I know this has almost become an annual thing and I guess people think I’m looking for attention but I’m not. I’m scared to be honest, I’m really really scared and I would be so grateful if somebody could help me.

I thought I had shaken the being dumped stuff but it’s coinciding with being taken off my anti-depressants and it’s not going and I’m annoyed at myself for still being upset because I know he’s a wanker in my head but my heart doesn’t. He dumped me by text and gave me no reason after ending a relationship we both agreed was “going really well”.

I hate my appearance, I hate it. I try so hard to work on it and improve it but I feel so inferior to so many other gay guys.

I keep seeing attractive gay guys everywhere and they make me feel so inferior in the looks department, make me hate my appearance and miss having someone I feel very unfulfilled and I’ve been trying a lot to broaden my horizons but nothing seems to stick – none of my friends at university seem very pro-active with taking me up on offers to hang out.

I have no money, can’t find a place for next year and all of my friends who I hang out with outside lectures are leaving at the end of this year meaning my social life will be even worse – I’m not even exaggerating. All six of the friends I regularly hang out with are all going.

Plus, at home my three best friends aren’t coming home for Summer and nor is my sister so I’ll be lonely for 5 months there too and I just don’t know what to do with myself. I’m constantly stressed about my lack of money and it’s too late in the day at uni to get a job this year and I don’t have the travel arrangements to be able to do so at home.

My family have had a lot of loss over the last year and I don’t feel safe and protected at ‘home’ anymore. My Mum’s home is just a different place and my Dad’s home is different and new.

I always seem to end up back in this place and I can’t work out how to avoid it because it feels like I’m doing an awful lot to prevent it but to no avail. I actually miss my ex, even though I’m pretty angry about how it all ended.

I’m desperate to escape to pastures new and to live the life I’ve been waiting to live for years. I want to go to London and live my life, I can’t bear 15 months, minimum, of this. I swear I haven’t known happiness since I was 13

It all feels a bit helpless, I feel like I’ve been waiting my whole life to get off the sidelines and now I’m actually trying to I can’t get anywhere with it. I know I’m feeling sorry for myself but yeah, I often wonder what the point is. I keep ending up back in the same place.

Clinton or Sanders?

The race to be in the race for the United States presidency is heating up, with the primaries in sight. To be honest, I don’t like the American style of elections but this year’s is of particular importance nonetheless.

As a member of the Liberal Democrats in the UK, you can pretty much disregard entertaining any notion that I will support a Republican candidate in their quest to take residency in the White House.

In fact, that race seems all but one by Donald J. Trump, meaning the battle to be the Democrats candidate is more crucial than ever.

Martin O’Malley, thanks for coming, but you haven’t a prayer of running in this race. The Democratic nomination is between veterans Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders.


The internet is littered with tests to match your views with those of each candidate and with each test I have taken, I have found myself with Hil-Rod in second, and Sanders or even O’Malley in first place.

There is a lot to be admired about Bernie Sanders’ pledges to tackle the shocking socio-economic inequality seen throughout the United States, looking to emulate the social democratic governments of Scandinavia.

These aren’t my politics but they’re admirable nonetheless. Clinton, on the other hand is a seasoned liberal campaigner, who is seemingly getting more liberal as her career progresses.

A lot of criticism for Hillary has come from her previous stances on same-sex marriage which saw her oppose the legislation. Of course, this isn’t really relevant. As Americans would say, you have to give props to Sanders for having the foresight to champion such a law for the last three decades at least but the fact is, Clinton is now committed to progressing and protecting LGBT+ rights.


On perhaps the biggest security issue in the States at the minute, Sanders is taking a devolved stance on gun control laws and failing to launch a meaningful assault on the lax tyranny that leads to thousands of slaughtered Americans every year.

On the other hand, Hillary’s stances on gun control are far less moderate and are a much braver stance against what is a resolute opposition in Republican ranks.

It is also worth remembering that Clinton has recently served as the US’ foreign secretary, and in a world where problems are becoming more and more globalised, she can lead from experience and expertise.

Ultimately, Sanders’ social policy is admirable but Clinton’s political brand is closer to my own. And given the threat that their likely opposition, Donald Trump, presents with his brand of US nationalism and fascism, the progressives Stateside needs someone who can actually beat his bombast in a two candidate run-off.

Sure, Bernie Sanders seems like a lovely guy, with economically questionable ideals, such as his 90% tax rate call, but if you give Americans the choice between socialism and fascism, they will pick the latter every single time.

Hillary is not perfect, of course she isn’t, but she is a competent politician with sturdy political ideals, economic sensibility and a history at the forefront of American diplomacy. She can beat Donald Trump’s brand of neo-fascism, whereas Sanders cannot.

Winner: Hillary Clinton


The Force Awakens… And Bursts Back To Life!

Last night, the Force and my childhood awoke. JJ Abrams’ long-awaited first installment of Star Wars‘ sequel trilogy hit the silver screen this week and, spoiler alert – it was epic.

I have been fanatical about Star Wars ever since I was four years old. Having been first introduced to the galaxy far far away in 1999 with the release of Episode 1: The Phantom Menace. From then, I began a love affair that has lasted throughout my developing years and now in to my early adulthood. Now at the ripened age of 20, I can appreciate that, though they were tantalising to me as a child, the prequels were, cinematically speaking, kind of dire.

It took all of fifteen minutes for The Force Awakens to teach the prequels a lesson, the start was brooding, intriguing, exciting and fresh. It perfectly introduced the new era of Star Wars and set up what fans would be facing for the next three installments.


The film’s greatest triumph was that it managed to marry the familiarity of the original trilogy with a new direction for the franchise in almost perfect balance. The new characters, notably Rey, Finn and BB8 are instant fan favourites – they are interesting, likable and just as worthy of a place in Star Wars folklore as the rebellion’s original gang. But, importantly, whilst the new blood provide the potential for an exciting trilogy, the old guard were still put to good use. There is still a need for Princess Leia, Luke Skywalker, Han Solo and Chewbacca. C-3PO and R2-D2 are still the ever-present faces in the saga’s long run – but Abrams’ didn’t make this all about them and it wouldn’t have worked if he did.

The plot itself was a nostalgic throwback to the bygone years of the Empire. The bad guy, who was linked to a good guy, and is ruled over by a seemingly old, evil yet sentient being. Then the baddies build a big old weapon and the goodies have to blow it up. Hey, it worked in half of the previous six films and it’s a formula that makes sense as a device to reboot the series – as long as we don’t have two more films of it.


I was also really pleased to see a female given the prominent Jedi role in this trilogy. Rey, played by Daisy Ridley is enthralling, exciting and a positive step for a franchise which has a healthy section of female fans, as well as male ones. Whilst John Boyega’s character, Finn did shine in the new film, Rey is the real stand-out debutant.

Kylo Ren, as a villain, was inconsistent. The fanaticism he holds for Darth Vader, his grandfather is a good motivation for his First Order links, and whilst his parentage to Leia and Han was all too obvious, it’s a neat plot dynamic to keep revisting – and again, it serves to promote the nostalgic links of the film’s famous predecessors. However, it was confusing how a Dark Jedi so powerful in the force, as we saw in the film’s opening, was so easily overpowered by Rey, a newly discovered force-sensitive being with no training whatsoever. Let’s remember, Ren is the direct descendant of Anakin Skywalker, the most powerful jedi of all time – but was bested by a scavenger.

Of course, this gets even muddier when we consider the implication that Rey could be a descendant of Anakin herself. Why else would Luke’s (and previously Anakin’s) old lightsaber call to her? If that is the case, then it makes sense how she was able to defeat him in combat. Although, I hope it’s not the case, given the fact that rehashing every old theme from the old films will delegitimise the saga.

Now, let’s address that big Elephant in the room. Han Solo is dead. Yes, it’s terrible and we are all devastated. As a plot point, I don’t really have an issue with Solo being killed off. It cemented the villain status of Kylo Ren, who, for Han’s death to make any sense, must survive the explosion of the Starkiller Base and torment the new Resistance for the remainder of the trilogy. Harrison Ford was a big fan of being bumped off, and given there’s a spin-off for his character planned, we should have seen it coming. I disagree that his death didn’t fit with the character. In fact, his death showed us the desperate father he’d become behind his bravado, and it was a welcome new dimension to the one of the franchise’s greatest characters. The only thing wrong with his death was the timing. We didn’t get to see enough of Han and Leia, we saw none of Han and Luke and Chewbacca will just look absurd for the rest of the trilogy.

These are very small criticisms for a film that blew the prequels out of the water. The Force Awakens is a cinematic triumph with the perfect balance of new age and nostalgia – the second greatest film of the franchise, behind the legendary Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back. Of course, my opinion may change the more I watch the film but for now, I am seriously, seriously impressed. The Force Awakens is the epitome of the cinematic space epic, a film that relaunched the greatest film saga of all-time and covered it in glory, and a film that showed George Lucas exactly how to make a follow-up trilogy. May he never touch his franchise ever again.



What TFA got right

  • The perfect balance between old Star Wars and new.
  • Very little Luke Skywalker.
  • Exciting new characters and worlds.
  • Impressive and more realistic battle sequences.
  • A more polished cinematic experience.
  • Han’s emotional death scene.
  • The prevailing formulas and themes (as long as this is the last we see of them).

What TFA got wrong

  • The inconsistency of Kylo Ren.
  • The lack of explanation of who Snoke is.
  • The pointlessness of Captain Phasma.
  • Giving John Boyega an American accent for no apparent reason whatsoever…

2020 UK General Election Prediction

The idea of trying, and likely failing miserably, to predict a General Election in five years time appeals to me – so I’m doing it.

I’ve tried to be objective and somewhat scientific by looking at previous trends in UK elections but here is my prediction for 2020.



Buoyed by their shock majority win in 2015, the Tories enjoy five years in charge on their own. The Tories won’t be particularly affected by the EU referendum result. The party will continue to fudge economic figures and their austerity will still be preferred to weak opposition from Labour. The election of widely popular Boris Johnson will be a big boost prior to 2020.


Perhaps the hardest to predict. Jeremy Corbyn’s reign won’t stretch until the next election, eventually moderates and the electorate will kick him out of office. Hillary Benn seems like the front-runner to take the helm, so let’s assume he’s successful. Labour will avoid another SDP style split and perhaps won’t be as battered as many expect.


After, the EU referendum defeat, Nigel Farage’s party will slow down in the polls – their purpose will be spent. Of course, they won’t vanish in to a puff of smoke, the SNP had been buoyed by referendum defeat. The reactionary politics on issues like immigration and terrorism which give their party life will still be prominent in 5 years time.

Lib Dems

There is no bigger opportunity for a centrist party in the UK than now. Of course, as fate would have it, Britain’s liberals are at their lowest recent ebb. Tim Farron is a great campaigner and at his best can lead the fightback. However, if he fails, they face terminal irrelevance. No party’s place is more precarious than the Lib Dems’.


The SNP train will come to a gradual break by 2020. Nicola Sturgeon will be unable to keep civic nationalism sexy in Scottish politics in 5 more years as their poor record in Holyrood shines through, along with a string of corruption scandals. They will still be the largest party north of Hadrian’s Wall – comfortably in fact.


The toughest to predict, their steady upward trend will probably be interrupted by Labour’s lurch to the left and whatever scale of revival the Lib Dems undertake. It’s hard to make a case for political obscurity for the Greens, they still have a purpose.

Plaid Cymru

Scottish nationalism won’t quite be replicated in Wales. I think Leanne Wood’s prediction that Plaid’s time is yet to come may take a little longer to come true, but they could win votes from unsatisfied Labour supporters.


Popular vote

CON: 39.9% (+3.0%)

LAB: 25.9% (-4.6%)

LDEM: 14.9% (+7.0%)

GRN: 7.9% (+4.1%)

SNP: 4.0% (-0.8%)

UKIP: 3.4% (-9.2%)

PC: 0.7% (+0.1%)


CON: 355 (25)

LAB: 190 (42)

SNP: 46 (10)

LDEM: 34 (26)

PC: 4 (1)

GRN: 2 (1)

UKIP: 0 (1)


Oh Canada, How I Envy You

How I envy Canada. Their General Election campaign came to a thrilling conclusion this week after the three main parties; the Conservatives, the Liberals and the New Democratic Party (NDP), each took turns polling as clear front runners. However, it was Justin Trudeau’s revitalised Liberal Party that claimed a majority government, coming from third place four years ago. I could quite easily wax lyrical about Canadian politics for 600 or so words but instead, I think I could make better use of my time by reflecting on the more sober thought of how the Liberals can inspire their sister party in the UK.

For pretty much the entirety of Canada’s parliamentary history, the Liberals and the Tories have jostled for power. In 2011, the Liberals fell to being the nation’s third party for the first time in its history, slipping behind the NDP. Since then, the Liberal Party have been rejuvenated by breaking the shackles of establishment politics and becoming a political movement first, and a politics playing party second. As a result they now preside over a majority government that seemed unthinkable a few months ago.

New Canadian Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau

Remember the 2010 General Election campaign here? For about a week, it seemed the Liberal Democrats may shock the nation and actually win an election. Cleggmania was building on the momentum of successful leaders Paddy Ashdown and the late Charles Kennedy, and the party were genuine contenders, even topping the opinion polls. The Lib Dems were riding the wave of being outside the ‘Westminster bubble’; they were fresh, invigorated and exciting.

The Grits, as the Liberals are known in Canada, managed to recapture that essence over the last four years and made meaningful, passionate, principled policies at the heart of their crusade. The Liberals championed fringe issues like marijuana legalisation, open politics, voting reform, campaign spending reform, Trans rights among other things.

Whilst it is absolutely key that here in the UK, the Liberal Democrats continue to be a strong voice on big issues like our membership of the European Union, the positives of immigration, the housing crisis and the Snooper’s Charter, our party must also extend its message to the issues people care about but other politicians won’t dare touch.

Liberal Democrats need to shout louder about changing laws on drug use and possession, about being meaningful guardians of our environment without the crazy economics, and about championing social justice for those most oppressed in our society. Whilst I know that their message is vitally important, it’s a disgrace that in 2015 there is even such a need for Sandi Toksvig’s new Women’s Equality Party.

The Liberal Democrats are vehemently unapologetic, and probably rightly so, for entering in to Coalition government in 2010. In government the party was able to enact some of its best policies and retract some of the Tories’ worst – but it has come at a price. The party is now tainted with the plague of establishment and has seemingly somewhat lost its way.

If there is to be any hope of a Lib Dem ‘fightback’, the party must rediscover the gritty radical roots that made them so popular pre-Coalition. Despite the fact that the Liberal Democrats and the Liberal Party of Canada are not the same, they are very similar, they are sisters and there can be great parallels drawn between the two. If the Liberal Democrats are to win again, they must be like their Canadian sisters; loud, bold and more importantly, brave. In fact, as simplistic and vapid as it sounded, the Canadian Liberals’ campaign slogan is the most concise blueprint you could offer to the Liberal Democrats right now; Real Change.