Facebook Real Names Policy – Narcissism, Zuckerberg and me

Facebook are enforcing their real names policy like jackbooted fascists. Pressurising members to use their real legal names rather than any assumed, stage or preferred nom-de-plume. Please see my previous post for their reasons why – Facebook Real Names Policy – Intro.

This is the second post of this series.

 


People ask why I use the name Stegzy Gnomepants. I usually say “Mind your own business”.  Sometimes, however, I’m not so rude about it; the reason I use the name Stegzy Gnomepants is because people know me by that name.

A C64 connected to the internetI started using the internet in 1986, but back then the internet was bobbins and was more like Ceefax than the internet we know and love today. Back then I used the handle Stegzy and remained using that name until about a month later when my parents got their telephone bill and the internet was taken away from me.

Tardis yourself forward in time to 1998 when I bought my first PC. It was a Pentium 266. It cost me £1000 or there abouts. Top of the range. Fast modem (56kpbs). A whopping lump of RAM (something like 16Mb). A cavernous hard drive (approx 512Mb). I connected to the internet and restarted my online life as Stegzy.

Internet fashions came and went. AOL IM, CompuServe, that weird virtual world that Demon Internet had for a few years, Usenet newsgroups – all using the name stegzy. The Gnomepants bit came shortly after, when, as more and more people began using the internet, names were getting quickly claimed by other users. Yes, another Stegzy started to appear. I had to distinguish. Someone I knew then affectionately used to call me Gnomepants, I adopted that name as my online personalities surname.

Free serve logoThis was the early 2000s. Then came Freeserve chat. I used the name stegzy there as well as evilgnome. Sometimes, for anonymity, I would use the name gnomepants. It helped separate my real life from my online life. It kept people from my work, past and those I didn’t want to communicate with, out of my online adventures where, if they found out about my activities, they would have ruined it. Ripping me away from my special place. My escape. My hide away. Where I was safe from those that would interfere. A place I could be myself without fear of judgement or prejudice.

The Existential CompostNext came Livejournal. You can find me there using the name Stegzy too and all entries from there have been preserved here on WordPress too. That is when the real Stegzy Gnomepants blossomed. 2004 came and went. Sometime during this period a bloke called Zuckerberg created a service called Facebook…you might have heard of it.

So lets look at this again….1986 I begin using the name Stegzy. Stegzy Gnomepants circa 1998. People I meet on line know me as Stegzy Gnomepants. I spend the majority of the period 1998-2004 online as….Stegzy Gnomepants. Then some bloke comes along and creates a website called Facebook which nobody had heard of.

2006 yesterdayOk, let’s carry on…Myspace – Stegzy Gnomepants. Hotmail – stegzy gnomepants. Google! What name shall I use? Oh I know, I’ll use my real name…Nobody knows me…ok I’ll use my assumed name….Everyone knows me! Stegzy Gnomepants.

2006ish. Good online friend Dan4th (Hi Dan if you still read!) tells me about some website where American kids hang out. Fascist books or Fuctbook or something. Oh yes…Facebook…I’ll sign up. Stegzy Gnomepants.

Blogspot arose – Stegzy Gnomepants; WordPress – Stegzy Gnomepants; Hell, I’m Stegzy Gnomepants on the BBC, Ebay, everywhere. Search google. You’ll see me using that everywhere and I have been for a very very long time.

Once more lets step back and look –

stegzy_1398497700_140
Me – Yesterday
DrJuliusNo
Mark Zuckerberg – Yesterday

 

Me – Known online as Stegzy Gnomepants since 1998

Zuckerberg – Known online as Facebook since 2004.

Think that makes me win.

 

 

oculus-facebook2014. Facebook decide that I must use my real name. A name nobody on the internet knows me by.

I teach Social Media for Business during the day. In my lessons I advise that to be successful online you need to remain consistent across all platforms. Use the same username where possible. The same avatar. The same contact details. Thats how people know who you are.

Mr Zuckerberg, if I’m to change my name just for your silly little empire, then my influence will have no weight. Businesses will not use me as an influencer. I cannot be a potential brand ambassador for your clients. I am the celebrity. I am the authority. I am the connector, the expert, the agitator.  I am the journalist and the activist. I am the personal brand personified. That means my identity is nothing to you.

Yes I know you say I can create a PAGE but with a page I cannot interact with people as a person. Like things as a person. Interact, engage and amplify as a person online. Especially with products, services or similar which anyone can see me liking, make a judgement on my character. My beliefs. My choices. People that judge. People who I have no wish to share my identity with.

Someone said about my last post on this matter “If you don’t want to adhere to the Facebook’s terms and conditions don’t use it”. Something I am considering. Very hard. Perhaps over to Google+, who realised a very long time ago, forcing your “product” to use something in a way they don’t want to leads to failure. Isn’t that right Google Wave?


 

So when the call comes I will depart from Facebook. I will leave it never to return. You can continue to read my exploits here on WordPress or follow me on Twitter (@stegzy). Facebook postings will decline. I’m sorry if you, like Zuckerberg, no longer want, care or give a stuff about what I say, like or want to share with you. I’m sorry if you no longer want to fuel our social media narcissism together.  But if that’s the way you want to play, I’ll let you take your ball home by yourself. Just mind you don’t trip over those toys you claim I threw out of my pram.

Facebook: Real Names Policy – Intro

FacistbookRecently Facebook began enforcing their so-called “Real Names Policy”. You might remember this making the news back in September when Facebook began closing or suspending the accounts of transgendered people and drag artists who were not using their “real names” on their profiles.

After the wails of protests became too loud for the Facebook PR machine to quash, an agreement was made and some of the users affected were permitted to keep their chosen Facebook names. (http://bit.ly/14YEmTy) However, even after the apology, the Facistbook Facebook name policy police continued to crawl the site looking for suspicious names. No doubt using some hair brained algorithm which looks for commonly suspicious names.

Cat Woman isn't allowed a Facebook accountOften on Facebook, people create accounts for their pets and one of the more common Facebook profiles of yesteryear was Facebook profiles for cats. Profiles with names like Kitty Whiskers, Charlie Puss and other  feline similes would be common place. Similarly Doggy Woofwoof, Rover Dog and other animals were common too.  Facebook started to prevent such accounts being made but recently, two members of the Facebook community I know of who both have names with cat themes had their accounts suspended. So it seems likely that Facebook’s algorithm is working through its cat thesaurus.

Facebook’s terms of service state that people must use the same name “as it would be listed on your credit card, driver’s license or student ID.” Which is great. Except I know plenty of Mikes whose name on their driving licence says “Michael”, Jims whose passports say their name is James. Indeed, I know lots of people who don’t actually use their full name on social media because of safety, privacy and historical reasons.

stegzy_1398497700_140For as long as I have been on the internet, I have used the internet name “Stegzy Gnomepants”. Why? Because my real name is, quite rightly, none-of-your-fucking-business. I have been on the internet since 1998 using that very same name. Look for me on google, you’ll find my accounts everywhere. Stegzy Gnomepants. Occasionally Stegzonopolis Gnomicpantalon. Rarely some other variation.  It is my distinct expression of my personality. My expression of creativity. How I wish to be known on the internet.

This is what Edward Snowden has been trying to tell you for agesI also use the name because I realised long ago, the only reason people need your name is so they can compile data about you. Attribute demographic and personal information to form a picture about your personality and psyche. Your political beliefs. Your sexual preferences. Your needs. Not just for marketing purposes. But for sinister reasons. As dear old Edward Snowden pointed out.

There is no need to create a state like the DDR in former East Germany. Not when people freely give every aspect of their waking life to those who want it but don’t ask for it. That is the world now. There is no need to worry about people communicating anonymously when they are forced to use their real name on services they have tied to one identity. We’re being shepherded back into a society that thousands died to prevent 100 years ago. Technology designed to promote democracy is being used to control us. Prevent uprisings. Quash political unrest and difference of opinion. Exactly how Egypt and parts of the Middle East failed to do.

Where we are headingAnonymity causes people to misbehave. Anonymity allows people to do bad things. Anonymity allows people to abuse children. This is what those whipping up the pre-constructed moral panic are saying.

However, it’s the opposite. It’s anonymity that protects us from surveillance. Anonymity prevents abuse. Anonymity saves lives. Anonymity is a right. A way of life.

So, the axe is about to fall. The sword of Damocles may drop at any moment and over ten years of Facebook usage is about to come to an end. I will lose contact with friends I have made long before Facebook because that is how they communicate. I will lose memories. Fond and painful. Over the next few days I am intending to write about this situation. Discuss alternatives. Express distaste and moot alternatives.

Going forward. You can always find me elsewhere. Follow my comings and goings on WordPress (stegzy.wordpress.com). Tweet me on Twitter (@stegzy). Analyse my mind on LiveJournal (stegzy.livejournal.com). Say “Hello” on Ello (@stegzy). Flick me on Flickr (stegzy). Hell, if I’m on it, I’m on it as Stegzy. But as for Facebook. How long I am there is dependent on how quickly their police come for me. Enjoy my last days there. Because when they say stop. I will. By taking myself elsewhere.

 

Wet

I watched the last remaining survivors clinging to the life raft. They had been adrift for some time allowing the cold north easterly wind carry them through the mist. The waters were uncannily still and they observed little wavelets lapping at the shore of two distant islands.

Continue reading “Wet”

Holiday Part 2: The Isle of Man(anan)

I could regale you with tales of yore when I stayed at Port St Mary Station in 1983. I could relate tales of adventures, visits to the seaside, fine dining, light snacking and large breakfasts.

 

But I won’t.

 

Instead I present a pictorial representation of our holiday on the Isle of Man.

 

Behold

 

A Holiday on the Isle of Man from stegzy gnomepants on Vimeo.

Birthday

I’ve moaned about this for long enough. I think I’ve complained about it every year without fail.

Those that know me will remember I’m a stickler for tradition and I loathe breaking from it. So this year will not be any different.

I am one of the many people who are unlucky enough to have a birthday that falls within the festive season known as Christlemas. I’ve always pitied those that have birthdays actually on the big day or during the following week. While a birth at Christmas is a boon and a wonderful gift to most parents, to the child it is a curse.

Some would say “Oh but you must have a smashing Christmas, what with birthday AND Christmas presents”. Others would comment on the size of your sack (of presents) while others might discuss the finances behind present giving at this time of year and how they have had to down size your birthday present and some how merge it into your Christmas present. Yet still, there will be others who, for reasons of faith, do not have this problem over the period and flagellate themselves with barbed strips of salted linen.

Now, having had nearly 39 years of this festive cheapskatery, I am not as bitter about it as I might come across. Its kind of like having someone stab you in the arm with a pencil every day, eventually you get over the pain and it’s just a minor annoyance.

No, in fact it is not the presents nor is it the fact that nobody ever seems to be about for your birthday to go to the pub with (Office parties, Christmas shopping trips, visits to the temple, genuinely don’t like you). It’s the fact that year in, year out I have an ever growing stack of cards that I am unable to open prior to my birthday.

Now, it takes but a small amount of consideration to write on an envelope some sort of identifying mark. Like “Birthday” or “Do not open until 17th” or “I hate you I don’t know why I bother” to distinguish the Birthday cards from the Christmas cards. So why does this bother me so much? Well because I get this overwhelming feeling of popularity looking at the wedge of unopened cards on my mantelpiece. Yet when I open them they are 75% Christmas cards.

So I ask you, as I’m sure you know someone who shares a similar curse, please write on the envelopes of your cards this year “Birthday” or “Christmas” or “Death Threat” or “Go away”. That way people know and don’t go through life with a misguided sense of overpopularity.

The Old Grey Stegzy Gnomepants Test

So following the untimely passing of one of my fellow students, I have been digging around my old archive to see what stuff I have from the time.

One of my favourite all time things was when I directed and produced a “Live” broadcast as part of my Media Production Degree. The first we heard of it was when our lecturer, Alf, told us the previous day we were to be filming and mixing a “Live” performance of the Music students. I had always wanted to produce a music video and my this was my chance. However, before you judge, there are some things you should know:-

  • The whole thing was unprepared.
  • The musicians had never performed with each other as a group before.
  • The musicians had only 3 days or so to practice.
  • The sound mixing came from the Sound Technology students who also didn’t appear to be prepared (as you will hear from the video)
  • I started to get into the swing of it by the third set.

Anyway, as you will see, there are some talented people out there. I just wish I knew who they all were! If you know, feel free to post a link to the video on your Facebook.

Bands from stegzy gnomepants on Vimeo.

Holiday 2012: Part 2–Day2 Plymouth

 

Ah Plymouth.

So when I was a kid I had a healthy interest in lighthouses. This was piqued by stories in a school book regarding the Eddystone Lighthouse on Eddystone rocks just off the coast of Plymouth.

In case you were unaware the Eddystone Lighthouse has been built four (arguably five) times. The first was made of wood and got washed away during a storm. The second caught fire and melted onto the people trying to put it out, the third developed cracks, the fourth still stands (with modifications such as helipad). The whole romance of the sea, mystery and adventure surrounding lighthouses just fuelled my desire to become a lighthouse keeper. The third lighthouse, Smeaton’s tower, was dismantled and rebuilt on the Hoe for shits and giggles  as a kind of public monument to those lost at sea and a museum of lighthouseololology. Or summat.

Smeaton's tower

Anyway because the tower had been rebuilt on the Hoe, it had always been a place I’d wanted to visit. So when the weather turned for the grot on the Tuesday we decided to continue our previous nights walk along the Hoe after we had found somewhere to eat for breakfast.

Our choice for breakfast was Little Chef. My map of Little Chefs (well…the map on their website) was a bit crap. The two identified on the map had either gone, as in the case of the one at Saltash, Cornwall  or it had the wrong address (as in the one supposedly to the east of Plymouth). So we thought stuff it, and went for breakfast in a quaint cafe in the Barbican district as long as we walked it off.

Our next intention was to go to the National Aquarium. But because of the crap weather the queues to get in were round the block. So the walk to the Hoe took priority.

Plymouth Hoe

Walking round the back of the Royal Citadel we made our way towards the Wheel. I wanted to see the Smeaton tower but I wasn’t prepared to pay £3 each just to go up some stairs and down again. Instead we looked at the other monuments and Zoe offered to pay for a ride on the Wheel.

 

 

IMAG0212

Despite the rain and the clouds there were some good views from up there. I never knew Plymouth was bombed like Coventry during the Blitz. It was interesting listening to the commentary though. I liked how the avenue was designed to be a pathway from the station to the Hoe. It’s a shame that the architects who redesigned Coventry didn’t have similar artistic skills instead of a passion for concrete.

So after that we went into the town centre where I bought a new bag, a nice shirt and some new trousers. I had intended on wearing the trousers that evening but Zoe suggested I waited because the wet pavements would have made them mucky.

 

That evening we dined on fine fish at Platters. We both had white bait for starters and the seafood mixed grill for mains – Five types of fish, grilled and served with a mountain of chips. Ace biscuits!

 

Flat cap hour

Recently I reconnected with an old school friend. In honour of this reconnection I give you a post from my LJ from back in 2006.

—-

Eeeeh I remember when….

When I was wee we had a telly, an evening newspaper, a collection of reference books and plenty of old people. If I had a question or wanted to know about something I would do some research. First port of call would be an old or older person. The ensuing conversation would go something like this

Wee stegzy:- Dad, can you tell me who Jethro Tull was?
Dad:- No idea, ask yer mam.
Wee stegzy:- Mam, who was Jethro Tull?
Mam:- oooh stop askin’ complicated questions an’ eat your grilled marigolds

So then left with no answer I’d ask our kid who always seemed knowledgeable about such things.

Our Kid 1: Jethro Tull? Thats that bloke with the flute and the beard. Sings that song about underwater breathing apparatus1

Our Kid 2: Shut up I’m watching Sunday Night at the Paladium

Of course, if that answer was deemed also unsuitable, further questioning of elders would be required. My OLD gran was too old to even think but my other less old gran sometimes came up with the goods.

Less old Gran:- Didn’t he have an allotment down in Garston?

So when I wrote the answer to “Who was Jethro Tull?” for GCSE History, it would be no surprise that I would come away with a Grade D for writing “Jethro Tull was a bloke with a beard who had an allotment down by me nans. He played the flute and liked to grow turnips.”. Of course that is all lies2.

Should I want more indepth information I would be forced to consult the vast collection of out of date reference books dotted about the house. The house library consisted of the following:-

– a big heavy green coloured hardbacked dictionary with pages missing, a section on Modern Electrical wiring, several pages on the British Empire and a section containing a kind ofWho’s Who for 1952
– a big book entitled “Reader Digest Childrens Big Answers to Big Questions” containing such gems as “Is there a man in the moon?”, “Can dogs eat in the dark?” and “Where is Africa?”
– Several volumes of the Orbis publication “20th Century Science” which suggested that “by 2001 we may well be travelling in personal rockets to holiday destinations such as Jupiter.”
– An old dog eared copy of Calculus by E R Chewing, the first page of which was stamped Property of Liverpool Technical College, Aigburth3

Occasionally the Liverpool Echo or the Merseymart would yield some item about some key historical figure (but it was rare that these newspapers would regurgitate their treasure at the appropriate time), or the telly would have a TV programme about turnips or something but these programmes were usually flicked off in favour of Nationwide, It’s a Knockout or reruns of Magnum:PI.

Then someone invented the school library, either that or someone found the key to it and my knowledge base increased with back issues of the school magazine, ancient dog eared copies of popular science magazines, old books containing biro sketches of Ajax bottle shaped penises and 113 copies of To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee4. As if by some clever marketing scheme the council proclaimed that they too had libraries which the public could and had always been able to use.

Libraries are kind of like an analogue version of Wikipedia . A wealth of books with every single bit of information available to Jo Public should they require it. Of course only if they knew where to look for it. That was the trick you see…keep the public dumb but let them have access to the knowledge you see? You don’t? Ahh well let me explain further, nobody wants to admit they don’t have a clue how to use a library and nobody really wants to ask a librarian a question (ask zoefruitcake and see what happens ;-)) especially as asking librarians where a book is, in my experience at least, results in something like this:-

stegzy Hello I’d like to see a book about building my own spaceship out of a corrugated iron dustbin, some sticks and an old speedo from a Morris Mini
Librarian Tut…**huff**…Hmmm…You’ll want **huff** **sigh**…have you checked the catalogue?

This then resulted in half an hours fruitless search through a paper based card index before giving up and going off to draw Ajax Bottle shaped penises in copies of Catcher in the Rye. It was a small wonder I passed my GCSE’s and even more of a wonder that I managed to blag my way through my A’levels using cunning and a clever arrangement of mirrors and ESP.

Indeed, readily available knowledge was sparse and difficult to locate. Like wise, my musical tastes were trapped in the 1970’s with my 4 Yes albums and 3 Top Of The Pops albums (1973,1976 and 1977), until about 1990 when Mike Regan introduced me to Chris Isaak, The Doors and The Stairs. When new bands came out I’d only hear of them if they played at the Picket, were played on the radio or Mike Regan had their album. Later I discovered that Mikes musical knowledge came from reading wanky magazines such as Face, Rolling Stone and NME, I of course was still reading bollocks like MAD magazine, Look In and Just 175. I didn’t have a clue. If someone had asked me if I was street wise I’d have thought they were asking me if I knew my A-Z Street map. When I went to the likes of HMV or Virgin I’d spend hours leafing through the T’s and Y’s looking for bands that nobody in my class or the shop assistants had heard of.

Then in about 1997 I got the internet and for the first time in my life I became able to find stuff I’d always wanted to know about. Of course I had the internet before then in 1986. But it was known as Prestel and Micronet in those days and looked a bit like Ceefax.6 Prestel and Micronet were shite for finding information on. Not like today’s internet anyway. But even then in 1997, the internet wasn’t shit hot. It mainly consisted of saddo’s with fan sites, some occasional useful snippets of information and the back door to WOPPR7. Searching on Yahoo or AOL for information on something obscure like Triumvirat would yield an entry on someones basic home grown Prog Rock Encyclopedia and a couple of pages where someone had spelt the word fork wrong.

Those days have long passed. Now when you want information on anything all you do is whack it into google or some specialist website and lo and behold you’ll find the answer 8 out of 10 times. I reflect on the issue and think of how bloody easy my homework would have been, how my GCSE and A level grades could have been much much higher, how I wouldnt have wasted 10 years of my life wanting to be a lighthouse keeper8, how I’d of had an MA and a PhD by now and how I’d have known who Jethro Tull really was without having to choke on those blasted grilled marigolds.


1 Humour for those trained in the art of Prog
2 Jethro Tull was actually a Chinese woman who lived near Tranmere. She invented water in 1962.
3 Liverpool Technical College (for boys), Aigburth closed in 1953 and is now/was Shorefields Comprehensive School
4 Bet you didn’t think I knew who wrote that..
5 Pinched from Nicola Hughes via my paper round
6 2400 baud connections….well fucking fast that.
7 Humor for the Matthew Broderick fans
8Nobody told me they were all automated in 1973

This post originally appeared on my LJ on 13th September 2006

Further ruminations of holidays past

(An edited version of a post previously made on Livejournal in 2007. Now with pictures taken recently)

Recently I have been thinking about the sodden holidays we used to spend in my Uncle Nat’s cottage.

Uncle Nat sold the caravan in favour of a ramshackle husk of a cottage half way up a soggy Welsh mountain. This meant that instead of ending our holiday journey at Porthmadog we would travel the extra 20 or so miles to a remote and (then) little known area of North Wales called Rhiw.

The Cottage

My dad is very handy, DIYwise. So it came as no surprise that Nat would require his assistance when fixing up the cottage. My first journey to the cottage was on a rainy night in March with just me, my dad and Uncle Nat. My dad had a Ford Orion at this time which was a lot more comfortable than the yellow Escort of old but Nat had a lovely comfortable Volvo estate . Initially (and probably because we didn’t know any better) the route would take the same direction of the way to Porthmadog only continuing along the A497 through Criccieth, Pwllheli and Llanbedrog then a quick dash down the B4413 through Myntho and turning down the unclassified road behind the church in Botwnnog until reaching the telegraph pole with the crab on it and turning once again this time up a steep hill to the telephone box and post box which used to stand (until someone drove into them at high speed) at the bottom of the mountain driveway. The first night travelling was straight after school/work and as a result we were both very hungry by the time we got to Criccieth. So we stopped off at a fish and chip shop set back from the road and thus a new family tradition was born, Sausage, chips and Onion Gravy.

Sausage, chips and onion gravy you may think tastes the same the whole world over. It does not. I have travelled far (well at least to the tip of Cornwall and the craggy highlands of Scotland) yet no where have I ever tasted sausage chips and onion gravy as delicious as at that chippy. I defy anyone to tell me otherwise but unless you too have dined there then your opinion on such matters is moot. But since then I have tried to stop there when Aberdaron bound as a homage to the days of travelling to the cottage. Of course, traditions are meant to be forgotten and a further tradition would evolve which I will relate a bit further into this post.

Anyway, on arriving at the telephone and post box at the bottom of the drive it was clear that this would not be a caravan holiday. Far from it. For a start it was pitch black dark. Darker than dark itself. Had someone switched off the dark it would still not have been anywhere near as dark as it was that first night. The drive way was nought but a mud track and taking the Volvo up the mountain side would probably have tested the skills of even the most hardened rally driver. Even the Royal Engineers would have stood round scratching their head for a while trying to work out how to get the blasted car up the hill. My dad tried with the Orion on a future visit but was thwarted by gravity and lack of traction. Fortunately everything was not lost. With the cottage came a Land Rover (old style) so we would unload the bags into the back of the Land Rover and ascend the mountain through the pitch black using the power of 4 wheel drive. Mynnedd Rhiw really lived up to it’s Welsh name. (Mynnedd = mountain Rhiw = Steep).

Arriving at the cottage the coal fire was stoked into life to dry our sodden boots and clothes and I was introduced to the crockloft bedroom. A ladder in the living room led up to a door midway up the wall behind which was the bedroom consisting of two single beds and a very slanty “mind your head” roof in which a single frame window allowed the pitch darkness of outside to leak in. Hot drinks were consumed and the boys own adventure began with bedtime and the promise of mystery come the daylight.

Daylight battled with darkness and at 6am finally won the war. Fingers of light thumped through the little window like a hammer and woke me up. Accompanying the light came the faint sound of far off tractors and the not so far off sound of sheep bleating. I scurried down the ladder into the living room and switched on the old black and white portable TV so that I might watch some breakfast TV (either Wac-a-Day or something with Roland Rat). My disappointment at the black and white picture was soon joined by confusion as the people on the TV were talking in Welsh. I realised this was S4C (a channel my Nan used to watch regularly) but the confusion was brought about by the lack of any other channels. So remote was our location that TV signals refused to come there. Looking out of the window all I could see was grey. Grey and green. Through the grey was the black outline of the Land Rover and the occasional white blob. Closer inspection revealed these white blobs were sheep. The fog was bad but through the fog came the occasional blast of solar energy so it wasnt that bad.

After breakfast and a warming cup of tea I was allowed to go out into the mist (but not far) and explore what I could find. The neighbouring cottage had a swimming pool and the back field had a view of the slope down into the valley disappearing into the fog. Despite the outlook it was very exciting and on my return to Liverpool I told everyone and anyone that would listen about the cottage and how fantastic it was. My dad gave me a police issue whistle with the instruction that should I get lost in the fog or stuck in somewhere up the mountain then I was to blow as hard as I could on the whistle so that the Mountain Rescue could find me. I still carry that whistle on my keys. Just in case I get caught on the moors or somewhere remote.

We took several other trips to the cottage over the following years. Alternating the route through Porthmadog with a much quicker route along the A55 and the craggy North Wales coast. As the A55 route did not take us through Criccieth we would struggle to find a chip shop of equal quality. Instead it would take us past a Little Chef roadside cafe. For years I had wanted to stop at a Little Chef and our first stop was at the one just outside Conway near where the road goes through the tunnels in the mountain side. To celebrate my dad and I would always have the Early Starter Full English and to be a little bit different, a plate of maple syrup pancakes. This sustenance would put us in good stead for the continuation of the journey and heighten our spirits. Of course my Mum did not approve of greasy spoon cafes and so whenever she was with us we would be unable to dine in such salubrious surrounds, opting for sandwiches and juice at a road side table.

On future visits we were joined by Uncle Nat, Aunty Mary and their son Christopher (who, having spent a good deal of time there himself was able to show me where all the secret hidey places where and all the exciting nooks and crannies), my mum, my school chum Dominic Smith, my childhood friend Paul Midgely and my middle brother Chris. Furthermore my mum and dad would head off there for holidays with their friends Freda & Jim and Bill & Lil. So popular was the little cottage that we spent as many holidays as we could there. The cost took the form of renovations with my Dad doing what he enjoys the most – DIY.

On my third or fourth visit it became clear that the fog was low lying cloud. A trip into the nearest town, Aberdaron, revealed that while the mountain was shrouded in fog the rest of the world was enjoying glorious sunshine. That part of the Llyn Peninsula enjoys a micro climate of outstanding weather were when the rest of the UK is having piss poor weather and wearing cagools and wooly jumpers the Llyn would be walking round in shorts and tshirts enjoying the sun and the crystal clear waters of the sea. Indeed, this discovery lead to exploration of the locality by car and there upon we discovered some delightful parts of the world. Aberdaron with its tiny cafe and spectacular beach; Nefyn and Porthdinllaen with its golf course and pub on the beach; the various unspoilt beaches dotted about the coastline and Braich-y-Pwll over looking Bardsey Sound and the remote and holy Bardsey Island.

Braich-y-Pwll still to this day holds very fond memories for me. I try to take as many of my friends there as are willing to share the spectacular views, the peace and serenity of the locale. It is there that my father and I descended the unstable cliff top steps to St Mary’s Well, a natural fresh water well in the treacherous cliffside. In the well other brave tourists had cast coins of all denominations. Now to get to this well you have to be really careful. I get petrified when I go down there and I refuse to let Mrs Gnomepants go there knowing how unsure footed she is. One slip could result in certain death on the sharp and bastard rocks at the bottom of the cliff or failing that drowning in the nasty currents, swells and eddies of Bardsey Sound. Regardless, people to this day brave the journey and still, to my knowledge, cast coins into the well. On discovering the contents of this well, I am ashamed to say, my father and I fished about as best we could to raise £4 from its ice cold depths. There was still a substantial amount of coinage left there. I do not think anyone actually empties the thing as there were old pennies, shillings and farthings lurking at the bottom of the pool. Never the less we took our £4 and spent it in the cafe resturant down the lane.

Pen Bryn Bach is a fantastic restaurant. Owned by Roger, it specialises in locally caught fish. Years after the events I relate here I went there with Mrs Gnomepants and sampled their seafood mornay which is, as you know, my favourite meal ever! They used to do cream teas at lunch time but this practice seems to have ceased. But at the time of the great Well raid they did cream teas and the scones and cream were the best I have ever tasted!

Just as things were getting to be a habit, my Aunt Mary decided the prospect of having a stroke or diabetic event on top of a remote Welsh mountain was too scary for thoughts so, persuading Uncle Nat, the cottage was sold. It lay empty and nearly became derelict once more for almost 10 years after until about 1999 when somebody bought it and installed a tarmac road up to the cottage (the Land Rover having rusted away long ago). They also took down the wire fence my dad had placed around the cottage to keep the sheep out with a horrid wooden thing. They demolished the kitchen and built a new two storey thing and basically ruined the place fitting Velux windows into the crockloft and them nasty faux cast iron carriage lights on the gate posts.

Still, however, the area has a special place in my heart. I have begun my own traditions and discovered my own special places that I like to visit time after time. I try to visit when we can even if it is only for a day out from Anglesey. I hope that when I have children they too will hold the area in equal regard. I hope they too will be able to dine in Pen Bryn Bach and on Sausages Chips and Onion Gravy at the Chippy in Criccieth. But our family holidays became less of a family thing and I had nearly a ten year break from going away with my folks. Indeed, I had a break from going on holiday. It wasnt until 1998 when Mrs Gnomepants took me to Scarborough that a regular holiday period would once again arise. The following year I treated Mrs Gnomepants to the Solar Eclipse from the top of Braich-y-Pwll which inspired us to hire a cottage of our own there with Philip from Brighton and Stef from Cardiff in the summer of 2000 and again many times later breaking tradition briefly due to me going to university.

I rekindled my love for the area in 2010 when for the first time I went on my own. My fond memories clouding my judgement when it came to the weather as, following a couple of delightfully clement days, it turned nearly causing my tent to take off and glide towards the sea. I was there once more only this week, this time with old friend Nick. Nick hadn’t been to the area before and I hope that he ended up falling for the area as much as I already have. In fact, I challenge anyone to spend a week there and not fall in love with the place.

Thankyou for reading once more.

Holiday

I’ve been musing and fantasising about going to Wales, I got thinking about the way my Dad used to take us to Porthmadog in the 70’s and 80’s. Instead of taking the A55 along the north coast through Conwy and then down the A470 through to Betws-y-Coed and Blaenau Ffestiniog we would scuttle down the A494 via Mold and through Denbighshire to Ruthin and Bala before gimbling down the A4212 which goes round the beautiful Llyn Celyn.

During this time my Dad drove a yellow MkI Ford Escort. It had vinyl seat coverings. Alighting from the car on a hot day would always result in cries of pain as you left the upper epidermal layer of your thighs on the black seat coverings. Regardless of this inconvenience, it seemed like we would always stop at Llyn Celyn and have our lunch while my mum told us about the village that was flooded to make the Llyn.

Lunch on such occasions nearly always consisted of cold bacon sandwiches on white bread with a thickish layer of butter or margarine. The sandwiches would be wrapped in silver or aluminium foil and they would be accompanied by a melted KitKat and a cup of warm milky coffee served from a tartan thermos flask. We would eat our lunch at the road side picnic tables and watch the rest of the holiday making public go past to their destinations. This seemed to be a traditional repast in the Gnomepants household as whenever my Auntie Joyce took us on picnics, the same fayre would be served (though more often than not accompanied by sweets and cake).

Our hearty lunch devoured, we would then continue on our route, down some twisty bendy B Road across the Snowdonian moors bypassing Blaenau and then down the A487, along the causeway (paying our 5p toll…heh) before pulling into Porthmadog itself to do the grocery shopping that would see us through the week of staying in Uncle Nat’s caravan.


In case you don’t know From Left to Right:- Me mam, our Carl (avec trainee scouser moustache), me (the little one at the front in the Paddington Bear tshirt), me dad (balding one) and our Chris (looking thin there, now he’s a bit chunky).

The caravan was near the fabled Black Rock Sands in a caravan site called Greenacres. Now it has its own swimming pools, luxury static caravans, security watch towers and special 4×4 Chelsea Tractor parking facilities, Cocaine snorting area and swinging club. Back then, in the 1970’s/80’s it was a basic caravan site with a small amusement arcade containing table top Asteroids and Space Invaders. If you wanted a swim you would nip down to the beach and paddle in the sewage outflow safe in the knowledge that nasty diseases and child snatchers hadn’t been invented. (Now you need to take a prepreswimmingpoolshowershower, a preswimmingpoolshower and a swimming poolshower before you are even allowed to look at the swimming pool, then you are required to have a postswimmingpoolshower, a postswimmingpoolshowershower and then remain in quarantine for a week incase you pass something on to one of the precious little darlings that people insist on taking on holiday). The sea was unimaginably cold. Well. I suppose you lot that live out near the flipping North Pole (robynz,zelest and think4yrself for example) would probably scoff at me saying that. But Cardigan Bay was bloody cold.

Of course, at this time nasty skin cancer causing ultraviolet rays and holes in the ozone layer hadn’t been invented and if it wasn’t for my fair complexion requiring me to wear a tshirt when I went swimming which although protected my torso, didn’t do much for the arms and legs. Added to that, I wasn’t the strongest of swimmers because I had ear problems as a child and wasn’t allowed to go in water incase I did damage to the surgery. Not that it did like. All that meant was I couldn’t swim very well until I was about 10. But I digress. Greenacres also had acres and acres of sand dunes to explore and views of the Carn Fadrun, the Snowdonian mountains and Harlech Castle.

Further along the beach cars were permitted to drive. Two things stick in my mind about this privilege, the first being my first ever “drive” of a car. When the beach was quieter my dad would take the Escort onto the beach and I would sit on his knee and turn the wheel while he operated the pedals. The second thing being that often people would park their cars on the beach then bumble off to the pub or somewhere further along the beach to enjoy themselves. This would frequently result in people forgetting to check the tidal times and hilarity would ensue when cocky holiday makers would return to find their car somewhere in the middle of Cardigan Bay. Of course you wouldn’t get that today. Pretentious wankers in their smart pristeine cars would probably have some sort of tidal early warning system hot wired into their brain. Also the “risk” of having a car on the beach would probably be too great and the council have probably stopped the practice of cars on the beach in case someone mistakes a Porche for a tube of Smarties and chokes. Or in case it incenses someone’s religious beliefs or some other PC crap.

Happy times. Irreplaceable times. These days Porthmadog is spoilt by the frightful hordes of frightful families in 4x4s and other fat arsed cars. Screaming overly spoilt and cotton wool wrapped kids, disenchanted husbands and hyper-fussy mothers who either don’t give a shit about their kids or give too much of a shit about their kids. Cafe Bars, expensive boutiques, surf shops, stinky burger bars and snooty retired pensioners trying to recapture their lost childhood in their autumn years. But I doubt kids today have as much fun as I did dicing with death and mistaking cars for tubes of smarties when I was their age. This year I would love to travel to Wales along that route described. Eat cold bacon sandwiches and drink warm milky coffee from a tartan thermos flask. I long to stand on the platform of the Ffestiniog Light Railway, inhale the steam from the trains and admire the view across Cardigan Bay. Relive part of the magic but not all. Before such practices are banned because someone might get offended or some boffin discovers that there is too much salt in cold bacon sandwiches or that holidaying in Wales is bad for the environment. Happy fond times.

Thank you for reading.