Friday, 6 March 2015

Update on the Life of the Sophie

Well, it’s been around two and half months since I came out as Sophie, and it’s time for an update on my life. Unfortunately, it’s mainly bad news.

But first, things haven’t been all bad. I’m more confident in going out wearing feminine clothing. Yes, I get quite a few strange looks, but I tend to just ignore those. There was also one time where I walked past a group of school kids, and, once I’d passed them, I heard one of them say loudly, “Is that a man?!”, but I just ignored that too.

But, generally, it’s been OK. For example, the guy who works in the local comic shop, which I’ve been going in for many years, still has friendly chats with me in the same way he’s always done. And I was once recognised and referred to as Sophie whilst out – it was by a girl working in the local branch of Waterstones (I’d had a few interactions with the branch’s Twitter account), and we had a pleasant chat.

All in all, most people have been OK with my new identity. However, not everyone appears to have been OK with it.

A few days after I came out as Sophie, there was one guy who blocked me on both Facebook and Twitter. The only reason I can think of as to why he did this was that he wasn’t OK with my new identity. There doesn’t appear to be any other explanation, at least, none that I can think of. It’s not a major loss – I hadn’t known him for that long, and if he does have a problem with my new identity then good riddance. But it’s still sad that this happened.

There have also been some bad things in my life recently that haven’t been to do with my gender identity. I recently had to unfriend someone on Facebook due to them posting some very islamaphobic statements. He believed that all (or, at least, most) Muslims supported violence and terror. I pointed out that it was wrong to blame an entire group of people for the actions of a few, and that the vast majority of Muslims abhor violence and terror. I come from a Jewish family (although I don’t follow the religion) and all of the Muslims who I have personally met have been peaceful, law abiding citizens who I am happy to live and work alongside. However, this person wouldn’t be convinced by my arguments. He believed that Muslims wanted him dead because he was gay. Bizarrely, on one hand he claimed that he was tolerant of others, but, on the other hand, he expressed a desire for Islam to be made illegal in the Western world. In the end, I decided that it was pointless to continue arguing with him as it was going nowhere, and so I ceased to be his friend. And that was sad.

Elsewhere, I’m also embroiled in another dispute at work, the latest in a long line of disputes I’ve had there. I won’t go into the details of the dispute here. I’m having a meeting regarding it on Monday, but, either way, I’m now looking for alternative employment.

And finally, and most importantly, there’s been some other sad news, as earlier this week I split up with my girlfriend, and this has made me very upset. I won’t go into minute detail about everything here. But, over the past couple of months, she’d become very uncommunicative with me, and would sometimes not even reply to messages I sent her (including one I sent her on Valentine’s Day). In the end it became clear that she didn’t want to see me (not even when I offered to travel to go and see her where she lives, after she said she couldn’t travel long distances due to health reasons), and that she didn’t want to talk to me. When I said that we couldn’t carry on like this, she was all too keen to end the relationship. I’m very sad about this, and it isn’t how I wanted things to end up.

The worst thing is that I don’t know the exact reason why the relationship ended, why it was she wanted to end things – I don’t know if it’s to do with my gender identity (which she was aware of before we got together) or something else. I don’t know the real reason as to why she didn’t want to see me anymore, or why she had become uncommunicative with me. She never spoke to me about what specifically had gone wrong in the relationship, that made her act in the way that she did. She seems to be perfectly happy now, but I’m still feeling very upset.

So, overall, I’m feeling pretty miserable at the moment. I’ll live, and, somehow, I’ll get through all of this, but, right now at least, I’m feeling very sad and upset...

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Say Hello to Sophie...

Back in March I came out as being both bisexual, and femandrogyne. “Femandrogyne” refers to my gender identity, and it is one of many non-binary gender identities which are out there. “Androgyne” refers to someone who doesn’t feel fully male or fully female, but somewhere in-between. “Femandrogyne” refers to someone who is somewhere in-between male and female, but is leaning more towards the feminine side.

I recently decided to take an important step in dealing with my gender identity, in order to feel more comfortable and happy. And that step is to start living part-time under a feminine identity, by the name of Sophie.

I’m not going to be Sophie all of the time. I will still be Karl at work, and with my family. But, outside of these situations, I will be living as Sophie.

What this means in real terms is that I will start dressing in a feminine way, and I’m going to experiment with growing my hair longer. Recently, I shaved my beard off for the first time in 14 years. One day later I remembered why I’d stopped shaving in the first place – it’s really uncomfortable, and the results don’t last long. And so I’ve decided, in order to be comfortable, I’m going to keep the beard, but keep it very short. That way I don’t notice it’s there. (And, hey, if it works for Conchita Wurst...)

I’m also going to adopt the name Sophie, and so I would appreciate it if you call me this from now on (outside of work and family situations, where I will still be Karl), and use feminine pronouns when referring to me. But don’t worry if you slip up, it’s an easy thing to do. Even I may slip up on occasion (those of you who know me well know that I sometimes refer to myself in third person, and I may slip up these occasions).

With regards to social media, Facebook’s strict naming rules mean that my account there will only be safe there if the name I have on it is my legal name, and so I will still be Karl there, although the name Sophie will appear there as another name. However, on Twitter, I will be changing to Sophie, and my new Twitter handle will be @SophieKGreen.

Please note that I’m not, and have no plans, to ever undergo surgery, or have any other medical intervention to alter my body.

Please note that this isn’t any sort of sudden decision. I have been feeling this way for literally decades, but have been keeping it hidden until this year. It’s only now that I feel more comfortable about being true to who I really am.

I know that this may take some getting used to, it certainly will for me. But I hope I will have your support in doing this. I’ve already told some of my friends about this, and I’m pleased to say that they are all fine with it.

Many of you will know that I also have a girlfriend. I spoke to her about this before I told anyone else, and she is fine with it, and I love her very much.

So, there you have it. I’m Sophie now. I hope and trust you’re all able to respect that, and that I can be happy with who I am...

Sunday, 26 October 2014

My Top 10 Tips For NaNoWriMo

National Novel Writing Month (or NaNoWriMo for short [or Nano for even shorter]) is just around the corner. For anyone who’s unaware of what it is, people around the world challenge themselves to write a novel of at least 50,000 words during the month of November. That’s 50k in 30 days, or ~1,667 words per day on average.

I’m a NaNoWriMo veteran, having completed the challenge in the past seven years, and I’ll be going for my eighth win this year. I also set myself higher targets, my highest being 200k, although this year I’m “only” going for 150k.

So I thought I’d share my personal top 10 tips to help enable people to have a successful Nano:

1. Write every day. If you can get 1,667 words written every day, you’ll hit 50k by the end of the month. However, there may be days where you just don’t feel like writing, where you feel like taking a break. However, I would still advise you to write something every day, even if you only write 100 words. It will help to keep things moving, if only a little bit. If you choose not to write anything one day, then that one day may turn into two days, and then three, and then...

2. Tell everyone you know that you’re doing NaNoWriMo. Tell your parents, your brothers and sisters, your children, your entire extended family, everyone you work with/go to uni with/go to school with, random strangers in the street, random cats in the street... The more people you tell about what it is you are doing, the more questions you’ll get about it. And if you tell them about your wordcount, one of the things they’ll ask you about during the month is how your wordcount is going. Once you have a lot of people invested in your progress, it will help to spur you on, getting you closer to your goal.

3. If you can, break your day’s writing into chunks. Trying to write 1,667 words in one go can be quite difficult – even for Nano veterans like me! If you’re finding it difficult, break it into smaller chunks. 417 could be your new favourite number – that’s a quarter of what you need to write each day. Then find times in your day when you can write. Say, 30 mins in the morning before you leave the house, 30 mins at lunchtime, and two 30 mins periods in the evening, say, as soon as you get home, and shortly before you go to bed. If you can write 417 words in each of these periods, and you do that every day for 30 days, you’ll reach a total of 50k. And 417 is a much less scary number that 1,667.

4. Accept the fact that you’re only writing a first draft of a novel, and are therefore not expected to be producing you’re greatest writing. Yes, you may find that a lot of what you write is crap (this is certainly true for many of the first drafts of novels I’ve written!). But every novel goes through this process. Even well established writers like Stephen King and J. K. Rowling will struggle to produce solid gold in their first drafts. If you think that what you’re writing is bad, just keep going. By pushing on you may find yourself writing a few nuggets of gold, which you can polish up in future months as part of the editing process.

5. Don’t make life too easy for your characters. Say your characters are in town A, and they need to get to town B. They could just drive there. But a straightforward drive may not produce many words. So have something happen during the drive. Maybe the car breaks down. Maybe they encounter a hitchhiker. Maybe a storm brews up and they have to get off the road to stay safe. Make things happen. (And I’m sure you can come up with more creative ideas than these!) You may feel that such events may detract from your main plot, but you may feel that they reveal details of a subplot, or details about your characters which you weren’t aware of before. You may feel that such scenes aren’t helping to move your novel forward, but I advise writing them anyway. You may surprise yourself. Novels where everything is too easy for your characters can be boring. Set them challenges on the way to their goals. And, if you find that these scenes are genuinely not helping the structure of your novel, that’s fine. You can edit them out in future months. But November is for first drafts, so go ahead and experiment with such scenes – just don’t delete them before the end of the month.

6. Have an end point for your novel in mind. I always have a big twist towards the end of my novels, which I always look forward to writing. If you have an exciting end in mind for your novel, striving towards it can help spur you on during the tough middle part of the month.

7. Write with other people. Many regions (and I know this is certainly true for the London region which I’m a part of) will arrange numerous write-ins where many wrimos will gather and write together, often in silence. These can really help to push your wordcount on. I’ve heard several people say that they would never have won Nano if it weren’t for their attendance at write-ins. And if there are no write-ins where you are, why not set some up yourself?

8. Take part in Word Wars. This is where two or more people challenge themselves to write as many words as possible during a set period of time. These time periods can range from as little as 5 mins, to as long as the whole 30 day period of NaNoWriMo. There are usually no prizes for winning a Word War, other than the satisfaction of beating your opponents. However, everyone who takes part in a Word War will get more words of their novel written, getting them closer to their goal, and that’s the real prize.

9. Don’t worry about what everyone else is doing. We’re all taking part in the same challenge. In the latter part of the month, you may find yourself on around 30k, but then you may encounter someone who’s surpassed 100k already, and still going strong. Don’t let them put you off. Be proud of your 30k – that will still be 30k more than all of the people who haven’t chosen to take part in NaNoWriMo. Focus on your own goals. Everyone will have their own reasons for taking part in NaNoWriMo, and you will have yours. It doesn’t matter what everyone else is doing, just concentrate on what you want to do. Remember, just for taking on the NaNoWriMo challenge automatically means that you are awesome! (And, as we all know, anyone who has a six-figure wordcount target is clearly an idiot...)

10. Don’t forget to eat and sleep properly. This may sound obvious, but it’s important not to push yourself beyond your limits. In a previous year I wasn’t eating and sleeping properly, focussing on writing instead. This weakened my defences, and I contracted a cold, which made the last week of that NaNoWriMo especially difficult. If you’re hungry, eat. If you’re tired, sleep. Don’t make yourself ill over Nano – it’s not worth it. And in the long run it will be good for your wordcount. You can write much better when you’re well fed and fresh, than if you’re ill. Keep plenty of food in the house, especially meals you can prepare quickly. And make sure you get sufficient sleep each night, so that when you come to write again on the next day you’re fighting fit...

Well, there are my top 10 tips. They’re not exhaustive, or definitive, but they should help you along to your target. If anyone has any other tips they’d like to share, please do so in the comments.

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Where To Get Help With Depression

As with many people today, I was shocked and saddened to hear of the death of Robin Williams, apparently a result of suicide stemming from depression. Going through my Twitter feed served as a testament to how loved and admired he was. There was also much talk about how depression is a disease, and details of where people with depression can get help.

It's important to note that depression is a disease. It's not a question of being depressed about something, with the sufferer just needing to "cheer up". It's far more complicated than that, and I for one will admit to not knowing a huge amount about it. But here's a quote from Stephen Fry on the subject:

"If you know someone who is depressed, please resolve never to ask them why. Depression isn't a straightforward response to a bad situation; depression just is, like the weather. Try to understand the blackness, the lethargy, the hopelessness and loneliness they are going through. Be there for them when they come through the other side. It's hard to be a friend to someone who's depressed, but it is one of the kindest, noblest and best things you will ever do."

Amongst my Twitter feed was a link to a blog post on the Den of Geek website, stating where people can get help with depression, and where I took the title for this blog post from. You can see the original blog post here, but below is it's text in full:

If you're feeling depressed, low, or worse, then please take a look at this, and consider reaching out to someone.
There aren't many positives around today, with many of us shocked at the death of Robin Williams overnight. Williams had been suffering from depression for a long time, and chose to take his own life. Our heart goes out to him, and those who knew him.
If there's one 'good' thing to come out of such a horrible, tragic event, perhaps someone out there may just reach out for help now. It is the only reason we've used his picture to headline this article. Depression, and mental health, are not taboo subjects. They are affecting millions upon millions of people every single day. If you are one of them, no matter how much it may feel to the contrary, you are not alone. Really.
The title of this piece is 'where to get help with depression' and we fully accept that trivialises things a little. Because where do you start? How can you get help when so many people around you don't seem to understand what you face on a daily basis?
Thus, we've no intention of pretending to know the answers. But please: try and talk to someone. Anyone. These fine organisations are brilliant starting points, full of friendly people. Life might just have a few smiles waiting for you that you don't know about.
CALM is the Campaign Against Living Miserably, aimed at young men feeling unhappy. It has a web chat service, and freephone phone lines. You can find its website here.
MIND is an organisation that aims to make sure nobody has to face a mental health problem by themselves. You can find its website here. The MIND infoline is 0300 123 3393.
It's an old cliche perhaps to call a Samaritan, but then The Samaritans do such wonderful work. You can talk to them around the clock on 08457-90-90-90.
PAPYRUS is a group that supports teenagers and young adults who are feeling suicidal. You can call them on 0800 068 4141.
The Depression Alliance can help those around you gain a better understanding of what depression is, and how it affects you. It has a directory of support groups around the country, here.
Students Against Depression's website is full of resources and information. It's just as useful for those worried about a friend as it is if you're facing depression yourself.
Maytree supports people feeling suicidal, but in a non-medical setting. Its website is here.
Also: it's worth having a chat with your GP. We've been contacted by one or two people on Twitter, who told us that their fight against depression started there.
You have 100% permission to steal this article and repost it wherever you need to, without a linkback. If people can suggest more resources in the comments, this piece will be updated appropriately.
Please: if you're in a low place, let the outpouring of emotion over Robin Williams demonstrate one thing: more people may be on your side than you think.

In addition to the above, the following goes out to all who know me personally. If you're feeling depressed (or if you have any other personal issues going on in your life), and you want someone to talk to, or even just a friend to hang out with, then please feel free to contact me, at any time of the day or night, via any communication method that you have for me - even if it means calling me in the middle of the night. If you are in need of a friend, I will be here for you.

Sunday, 20 July 2014


Hi! I know I haven't blogged for a couple of weeks. I've been quite busy, and am currently on a two week break from work. I may not blog as regularly as I have over the past year or so, but we'll see. But I'm back here today to introduce you to an excellent YouTube channel which I recently discovered...

"WonderWhy" has videos produced from a man up in Scotland, who attempts to explain some of the more complicated aspects of our world. And he's very successful in doing so. He currently has 8 videos on his channel produced over the past year, and whilst they're all quite long, they're all worth it. I still have a couple to watch, but all I've seen so far have been excellent. I'll share three with you now.

First up, here's a video looking at some of the more complicated international borders in the world. (The bit about the border between Netherlands and Belgium is quite funny!):

Next up, have you ever wondered just how many countries there are in the world? It's a question that I've come up against in my day job, and whilst the question may seem simple, there is no straightforward answer to it. WonderWhy explains some of the issues as to why this is:

Finally, here's a video showing some of the more unusual time zones in the world, and how it is they came about:

There are five other videos to explore on WonderWhy's channel - they're all worth watching, and the channel is definitely worth subscribing to...

Sunday, 22 June 2014

The Unofficial Football World Championship

So, since my last blog post, England have been eliminated from the World Cup, with one group game left to go, which will be against Costa Rica on Tuesday. But it doesn’t need to be all doom and gloom for England. Whilst we won’t win the World Cup this year, we could still exit the competition as the Unofficial Football World Champions...

You can read about the Unofficial Football World Championship on Wikipedia, and on a dedicated website for the championship. But I’ll summarise what it is here.

In 1966 England won the World Cup. Their first defeat after winning the World Cup came the following year, when Scotland beat them in a British Home Championship match. As a result of this, Scottish fans jokingly claimed that Scotland were now the world champions, having beaten the World Cup holders.

Many years later, a journalist called Paul Brown took this idea and ran with it. He went all the way back to the very first international football matches. The first match was a draw between England and Scotland in November 1872. The teams met again in March 1873, and this time England won. England are therefore considered to be the first Unofficial Football World Champions. They remained so until their first defeat, which was in their next game against Scotland in March 1874.

Results were then tracked through history. Any full international match featuring the title holders is considered a title match. The results of that match determines who takes the title – so, for example, in the knockout stages of a World Cup, if a match goes to extra time or penalties, the ultimate winner of the match gains (or retains) the title. In matches which end in a draw, the defenders get to retain the title.

It turns out that when tracing matches like this, that match between England and Scotland in 1967 was a title match, and so after that match Scotland were the Unofficial Football World Champions.

The title has been traced all the way to the present day. As I write this, the current title holders are Costa Rica, who gained the title when they beat Uruguay earlier in the World Cup, and retained it when they beat Italy. The next title match will be on Tuesday, when Costa Rica take on England.

So, if England manage to win against Costa Rica on Tuesday, whilst they’ll still exit the World Cup, they’ll become the Unofficial Football World Champions, which will be the first time we’ve had the title since June 2000.

However, as the title suggests, this title is completely unofficial, and it isn’t sanctioned by FIFA. But at least we can pretend that we have something to play for on Tuesday!

So, to repeat my battle cry of last week: Come on England!

Sunday, 15 June 2014

Memories of England Past

Unless you’ve been living on the Moon recently, you’ll all be aware that the 2014 FIFA World Cup is now in full swing. I’m not a great football fan, but I do follow England in the major competitions. And (if you’re British at least, or Italian) you’ll also be aware that things haven’t gone well for England so far, as they lost their first game 2-1 to Italy.

And yet this World Cup feels different to any other major football tournament that England have been in, at least in my lifetime. It’s almost as if people are expecting England to lose. Most people (myself included) don’t seem to be too concerned that England lost to Italy.

As to how far England can get in the tournament, no one I know of seriously thinks that England will get any further than the quarter finals, and a lot of people think that England won’t even be able to make it out of the group. Expectations for England have never been lower.

In previous tournaments, things weren’t like this. The two best tournaments for England in my lifetime which I can remember were Italia ’90, and Euro ’96. For Italia ’90 I was only 9, and my memories of it are vague. The main thing I remember is that, before we faced Cameroon in the quarter final, my parents were saying that England weren’t going to win because Cameroon were too good. But we did win the match – 3-2 after extra time.

We then faced West Germany in the semi final. It didn’t dawn on me just how big a match this was – England’s first semi-final since 1966. With the teams level at 1-1 after extra time, we then faced the penalty shoot out, and then lost – the first in a long line of penalty shoot out defeats.

Euro ’96 I can remember more clearly, although I wasn’t even aware of it until it was upon us, even though England were hosting the tournament (and I don’t live too far away from Wembley stadium). I watched the opening ceremony, but didn’t bother watching England’s first match (a 1-1 draw with Switzerland). But I did watch our next match, a great 2-0 win against Scotland, and we then followed that up with a thrilling 4-1 win against Netherlands.

And, by this point, there was a buzz being felt throughout the country. People were genuinely getting excited by the competition. Next up was Spain in the quarter final. This match went to penalties, and for the first (and only) time in England’s history, we won the shoot out!

The buzz was now reaching fever pitch – people felt that we could genuinely win the whole tournament. But in the semi final we faced Germany.

However, the country was ecstatic when Shearer scored for England in that match after just 3 minutes. We were ahead! In the semi final! Against Germany! However, we then conceded a goal 13 minutes later, and the score remained that way until full time.

In this competition the Golden Goal rule was being used – if a goal was scored during extra time, the game would end there, with the team scoring the goal winning the match. Some people were concerned that this would produce defensive displays as teams held out for penalties, but this was not the case in this match. Both teams were going for the win, and at one point England came so close – if only Paul Gascoigne had been able to get 1 metre further forward...

The match once again went to penalties. After 5 penalties each we were still level. But then, we lost, and with it the dreams of victory died. The England men’s team haven’t reached the semi final of a major competition since.

In subsequent competitions prior to this World Cup there has been a slight buzz about England, rising slightly if we reach a quarter final, but it was never the same as in Euro ’96.

And that’s a shame. I have friends who are too young to remember Italia ’90 or Euro ’96, and so don’t know what that buzz feels like. Expectations for England seem to get lower all the time. More and more people seem disinterested in the England team, as there’s less and less to be excited about. Granted, there are many people with no interest in football whatsoever, and who wouldn’t even get excited if England made it to the final. But during Italia ’90 and Euro ’96 there were people who previously had no interest in what was happening, and then started to get interested...

Should England start getting good results, that buzz may just start to return. Should we somehow manage to reach the semi-final of this World Cup I dare say it will be back, and the belief that we can win will return. But, I have to admit, even I don’t think we’ll make it that far – to do so we’d probably have to face Brazil in the quarter final (even if we make it that far), and I can’t see us beating Brazil, in Brazil, in the quarter final of the World Cup. But maybe, just maybe, England will surprise us. I’d like for us to, one day, have that buzz about the country again. (And, of course, even better would be the feeling of the country going into meltdown should we actually win something!)

But first, there’s Uruguay to face on Thursday, a game both teams really need to win if they’re to have any hope of making it out of the group.

Come on, England!

Sunday, 8 June 2014

Nineteen Eighty-Four (as lived by Karl)

Whenever anyone mentions the year 1984, many people will think of George Orwell’s dystopian novel Nineteen Eighty-Four, originally published in 1948. In the novel, Orwell envisioned a future where the whole of humanity was in a permanent state of war, with people completely controlled by the state. Part of this control involved surveillance of the population, with people not always being aware of when they were being watched.

Fortunately, the real 1984 was very much unlike the world depicted by Orwell. I know, because I live through the real 1984 – although I was only 3 at the time. However, during 1984, I myself was under surveillance.

When I was 3 I went to nursery, and the staff at the nursery and my mother would exchange messages about me, in this message book:

I shall now share some of the messages from this book, which offer a glimpse of life in 1984, as well as what 3-year-old Karl was like... [N.B. Most entries aren’t clearly dated.]

Tuesday June 19th 1984

Dear [Karl’s Mother],

Karl has been fine today and enjoyed himself running around in the garden, especially as we had the swimming pool out.

He didn’t eat anything today, so I expect he’ll be very hungry when he gets home. [...]

Love [K]

P.S. Karl has just eaten 1 fish finger and a slice of bread – hooray!!! [...]

Dear [K],

Terrific news about the fish finger – it’s the first time he’s eaten one. [...]

[Karl’s Mother]

So, I can actually pin down the exact date when I first had a fish finger! (And I still like fish fingers...)

Dear [Karl’s Mother],

Karl has been fine today and especially enjoyed himself as we went for a picnic to a park where there were lots of animals. He even ate a cheese sandwich. [...]

Love [K]

22nd June

Dear [K],

[...] You might find Karl a bit tired and ratty today as he refused to go to sleep until after 11 o’clock last night, very unusual for him. He was up at his usual time as well this morning so he might feel like a sleep later on.

See you later,
[Karl’s Mother]

Nowadays, going to bed at 11 counts as an early night for me...

Tuesday June 26th

Dear [Karl’s Mother],

Karl has been fine but was upset for a lot of the morning. Perhaps he was just extra tired.

Hope he’s happier this evening.


Thursday July 19th

Dear [Karl’s Mother],

Karl has been fine today. He still isn’t eating anything for us. You said he liked egg. How does he like his egg? Have a lovely evening.

Love [R]

20th July

Dear [R],

He likes his eggs very softly boiled and then mashed up in a bowl so he’ll eat it with a spoon. Do let me if you persuade him to eat one then I’ll know not to give him one for his supper.

[Karl’s Mother]

Dear [Karl’s Mother],

He did not eat his egg dinner time.

Have a lovely weekend.

Love [R]

Oh dear, looks like I was a very fussy eater. These days I very rarely eat eggs, and then only as omelettes with lots of cheese. (And only free range eggs.)

Dear [R],

Karl came home from nursery yesterday saying he’d eaten some baked beans when he was with you. Did he? If by some miracle you manage to get him to eat something can you let me know, then I’ll know not to give him so much for his supper. [...]

[Karl’s Mother]

Hello [Karl’s Mother],


Karl didn’t eat anything, as usual, yesterday. He wanted some rock but [R] said only if he’d eaten some baked beans. Of course he didn’t so he went without rock, much to his disgust.

We didn’t manage any miracles at lunch time today. He picked up his knife and fork, and cut his chips, but didn’t attempt to eat them.


Now, I want to call a point of order here! Earlier this year, I watched a TV series called “Duck Quacks Don’t Echo”, which was a panel show which looked at so-called facts, and tested to see if they were true. The above messages imply that 3-year-old Karl told a lie about eating baked beans. However, one of the facts tested (and, apparently, proved) on “Duck Quacks Don’t Echo” was that 3-year-olds can’t lie (even when they’ve been naughty) – their brains haven’t developed to the point where they can lie. However, 4-year-olds could lie. At this point I’m about 3 and a half, and so I may have reached the point where I could start to lie. However, I think the jury’s still out on this one...

(Although, if it turns out that I did eat some baked beans, I want my rock!)

Dear [R],

I’ve Karl’s medicine with him again today. Can you give him a dose at 11.30 and again at 3.30, thanks. We’ve found that if you call it his “special Calpol” he has it without any trouble. [...]

[Karl’s Mother]

Hello [Karl’s Mother],

[M] here. We had cheddar cheese slice (puff pastry with sliced boiled egg, cheese and tinned tomatoes) for dinner. As usual Karl wouldn’t eat. After we had all finished I sat with him and fed him a very small piece and he ate the lot!

As a reward he had half a wafer biscuit. He knows that if he eats some of tomorrow’s dinner he will get the other half of the biscuit. You never know, it may work!

He has had quite a good day otherwise.

See you soon.


P.S. He had a fish finger and half a slice of bread for tea.

Hello [M],

I’m glad Karl ate so much yesterday, he had a good supper as well. [...]

[Karl’s Mother]

Hello [Karl’s Mother],

I’m glad Karl ate some supper, he must be going through an eating phase. He ate some of today’s dinner. He had a Hawaiian croquette (one of our soya meals). [...]


As you can see, many of the messages were concerned with what I was (and, mainly, wasn’t) eating. I’ll skip most of these sort of messages now, as there’s a lot more to get through!


Hello [Karl’s Mother],


Tomorrow we are going to Beconsfield Model Village. Then coming back for late lunch. If you want to send any pocket money it would be appreciated.



Dear [A],

I’m sending 35p for Karl for pocket money. If he seems rather familiar with the place it’s because we went there last Saturday! Have a nice time.

[Karl’s Mother]

P.S. He likes the trains!

Yes, little Karl did like the trains! When I was a little boy I loved trains, and went several times to Beconsfield Model Village, which I believe still exists. It was a large, open air, model village which had lots of model trains going through it...

Hello [Karl’s Mother],

Karl had a lovely time at the model village. He wanted a postcard of the train, and he also got a badge. [...]


P.S. His change is in the envelope.

Hold on a minute! Let’s look at this again. In 1984 you could buy a postcard AND an badge AND get change from 35p! You wouldn’t be able to do that now. That’s inflation for you...

Wednesday 3rd [October]

Dear [R],

Karl asked for Frosties for breakfast and then wouldn’t eat them. Then he asked for toast and wouldn’t eat that either, so he’s in the doghouse!

All the best,
[Karl’s Mother]

Tuesday 29th [October]

Hello [Karl’s Mother],

Karl ate all his dinner with help. He played in Playhall this afternoon, and this morning we all made little cakes.

Have a lovely evening.

Love [R]

Friday 7th December

Dear [R],

Could you tell [A2] about Karl’s stammer please? I don’t think it’s anything to worry about but I’d like to know what she thinks about it.

Have a nice weekend.

[Karl’s Mother]

Hello [Karl’s Mother],

Karl saw [A2] this afternoon and said his stammer is normal in children his age who try to say too much all at once. [A2] said it’s best to let him finish what he has to say. [...]

Love [R]

To this day I still have a slight issue in trying to say too much at once, with me stumbling over my words. Although, this now only tends to happen if I feel there’s a good chance that I’m likely to be interrupted before I’m allowed to finish what I’m saying, and these situations tend to arise when I have a lot in my head which I’m trying to get out of my mouth...

Tuesday 8th Jan [1985]

Dear [Karl’s Mother],

[...] This afternoon we all went in the garden and had snowball fights and rides on the sledge.

Love [L]

Friday [8th March, 1985]

Dear [F],


As you can see [Karl] has new bag which he would like to take to nursery with him instead of an old carrier bag. Unfortunately his message book doesn’t fit it so would it be OK if we bought him another one that would?

Have a nice weekend.

[Karl’s Mother]

Dear [Karl’s Mother],

We all love Karl’s new bag, and he’s been very busy showing it to everyone!!


As I’m writing this, Karl is telling the other children and [A{3?}] the story of Thomas the Tank Engine!!! Very entertaining.

This is the first written evidence of me being a storyteller. By this time I was 4 years old. I’ve always loved telling stories, something I still love to do to this day. What started as me retelling the story of “Thomas the Tank Engine” (there’s that love of trains again!) to everyone when I was 4, in a “very entertaining” manner, would eventually lead on, 22 years later, to me starting to write first drafts of entire novels in just a month. (And to who knows what else in the future...)

Unfortunately, we’re going to have to leave little Karl here, because here’s the final entry from the message book, from the same day:

Dear [Karl’s Mother],


Yes it will be fine for you to get a book that fits his nice new bag.

Have a good weekend.


And that, I’m afraid, is where this message book ends, and I don’t have the one that replaced it. But, for me, it was nice to have this glimpse into what part of my life as a little boy was like, and a hint of the early signs of my love of telling stories. Do you have any records of the early parts of your life? And, if so, how do they relate to the person you are now?

Right, I’m now going to be a good boy and go and eat all of my supper!

Sunday, 1 June 2014

Looking Back at Past Karl

Now that I’ve exhausted all of the video game related posts I could do for this blog, I was thinking about what to do next. One thought I had was to go through my old diaries, and share a few select entries with you.

I’ve never been a great diarist. I first started making diary entries back in 1991, when I was 10 years old. We’d just covered Samuel Pepys in our history classes at school, so I thought I’d start my own diary so that the historians of the future could use it to examine life in the 20th Century. (Somehow, I don’t think they’ll be making much use of my diaries...)

I’ve never been hugely consistent with my diary entries. When I was a kid I might make entries for a few days in a row, and then there’d be a huge gap until the next entry. During my uni years I kept up a diary for about 18 months or so, and I did so again in my adult life between 2008-11.

Recently, I had a quick through what I had written in my diaries, and came to the conclusion that sharing them on this blog would be a Bad Idea. Like I said, I am not a great diarist. Most of my entries are quite dull and boring. And the entries that aren’t dull and boring are too personal to share publically.

But that doesn’t mean that these diaries are worthless. They’re still of value to me, and they can give an insight to the sort of person I was back when I wrote them, the sort of insights that Past Karl would have been blind to.

I’m sure most of us, if we could, would want to tell our past selves a few things about their future, and about potential mistakes that they may be making, and I’m no exception. If only Past Karl knew what I know now...

One day I may compile these diary entries, together with various other sources of information (mainly e-mails), into an Official History of the Karl, but if I ever do that it will be a long way off. Until then, I’m sorry, but there’re remaining for my eyes only.

But there will be one thing I can share with you next week, where we’ll be going back in time, to the real 1984...

Sunday, 25 May 2014

A (Very) Long List of Video Games

(Apologies for being a week late with this blog post. Last week I was caught up working on my final Open University assignment. But I’m back this week with a list of all of the video games which I own. This is an update of a note I posted on Facebook 4 years ago. I’ve acquired a few more games since then...)

[EDIT 28/05/2014: Forgot I owned an Atari Flashback 3!]

How many video games I own isn't a straightforward question, particularly when you consider various versions of the same game, and compilations that I own. But I’ve gone through my collection, noted everything down, and come up with a final number.

The following list consists of the games that I can play directly on my consoles. It doesn't include anything that I have on my PC, which is a fair bit when you consider what I have on emulators. Nor does it include anything that I have on my mobile phone. For compilations I’ve listed each individual game within the compilation.

Most of the games I have are PAL (i.e. UK) versions. However, the main exceptions to this are my SNES games, which are mainly all US versions, although I do have some PAL SNES games (and a couple of Japanese SNES games). (I also have four imported Game Boy games.) The names that appear in this list are the names of the copies that I have. However, where I know of an alternative name for a game I’ve included it in brackets.

And so, without further ado, here is the list:

Atari Flashback 3
3D Tic-Tac-Toe
Adventure II
Air Sea Battle
Canyon Bomber
Championship Soccer
Circus Atari
Combat 2
Demons to Diamonds
Desert Falcon
Dodge ’Em
Double Dunk
Fatal Run
Flag Capture
Frog Pond
Fun With Numbers
Haunted House
Home Run
Human Cannonball
Maze Craze
Miniature Golf
Missile Command
Night Driver
Off the Wall
Realsports Baseball
Realsports Basketball
Realsports Soccer
Realsports Volleyball
Save Mary
Secret Quest
Sky Diver
Space War
Star Ship
Submarine Commander
Super Baseball
Super Breakout
Super Football
Swordquest: Earthworld
Swordquest: Fireworld
Video Checkers
Video Chess
Video Pinball
Yars’ Revenge

Master System
Alex Kidd in Miracle World
Alex Kidd: High Tech World
Out Run
Ultima IV

Mega Drive
World Cup Italia ’90 (part of Mega Games 6)
Golden Axe (part of Mega Games 6)
Streets of Rage (part of Mega Games 6)
The Revenge of Shinobi (part of Mega Games 6)
Super Hang-On (part of Mega Games 6)
Columns (part of Mega Games 6)
Rock ‘n’ Roll Racing
Sonic the Hedgehog
Sonic the Hedgehog 2
Sonic & Knuckles
The Story of Thor (aka Beyond Oasis)
Thunder Force IV

Brain Lord
Breath of Fire
Breath of Fire II
Chrono Trigger
Donkey Kong Country
Dr Mario (part of Tetris & Dr Mario)
EarthBound (aka Mother 2: Gyiyg Strikes Back)
Final Fantasy II (US release of Final Fantasy IV)
Final Fantasy III (US release of Final Fantasy VI)
Gradius III
Illusion of Gaia (aka Illusion of Time)
Joe & Mac: Caveman Ninja
The Legend of the Mystical Ninja (aka Ganbare Goemon: Yukihime Kyuushutsu Emaki)
The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past
Lufia & The Fortress of Doom (aka Estpolis Denki [Biography of Estpolis])
Lufia II: Rise of the Sinistrals (aka Estpolis Denki II [Biography of Estpolis II])
Mario’s Super Picross
Mystic Quest Legend (aka Final Fantasy Mystic Quest; Final Fantasy USA Mystic Quest)
Paladin’s Quest (aka Lennus: Kodai Kikai no Kioku [Lennus: Memories of an Ancient Machine])
Pop’n Twinbee
Robotrek (aka Slapstick)
Rock ‘n’ Roll Racing
Secret of Evermore
Secret of Mana (aka Seiken Densetsu 2 [The Legend of the Holy Sword 2])
Sensible Soccer European Champions
The 7th Saga (aka Elnard)
Sim City
Soul Blazer (aka Soul Blader)
Starfox (aka Starwing)
Street Fighter II Turbo
Street Racer
Super Aleste / Space Megaforce (I own both the PAL and US versions)
Super Bomberman
Super Bomberman 2
Super Castlevania IV
Super Mario Bros. (part of Super Mario All-Stars)
Super Mario Bros.: The Lost Levels (aka Super Mario Brothers 2 [JAP] - part of Super Mario All-Stars)
Super Mario Bros. 2 (aka Super Mario USA - redesign of Yume Kōjō: Doki Doki Panic - part of Super Mario All-Stars)
Super Mario Bros. 3 (part of Super Mario All-Stars)
Super Mario World (aka Super Mario Bros. 4)
Super Mario Kart
Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars
Super Metroid (aka Metroid 3)
Super Probotector: Alien Rebels (aka Contra III: The Alien Wars; Contra Spirits)
Super R-Type
Super Street Fighter II
Tetris (part of Tetris & Dr Mario)
The Twisted Tales of Spike McFang
Wings 2: Aces High (aka Blazing Skies)
Ys III: Wanderers from Ys
Zombies Ate My Neighbours

F-Zero X
Holy Magic Century (aka Quest 64)
The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time
Lylatwars (aka Starfox 64)
Mario Kart 64
Paper Mario
Super Mario 64

GameBoy / GameBoy Colour
Balloon Kid
Donkey Kong
Dragon Warrior Monsters
F-1 Race
Final Fantasy Adventure (aka Mystic Quest; Seiken Densetsu [The Legend of the Holy Sword]: Final Fantasy Gaiden [Side Story])
The Final Fantasy Legend (aka SaGa)
Final Fantasy Legend II (aka SaGa II)
Final Fantasy Legend III (aka SaGa III)
The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening DX
Lufia: The Legend Returns (aka Estpolis Denki: Yomigaeru Densetsu [Biography of Estpolis: The Legend Returns])
Metroid II: Return of Samus
Pokemon (Blue)
Super Mario Land
Super Mario Land 2: 6 Golden Coins
Wario Blast

Game Boy Advance (N.B. Whilst I don't own a GBA, I can play GBA games on my Nintendo DS)
Final Fantasy VI Advance
Metroid: Zero Mission
Sword of Mana

Nintendo DS
42 All-Time Classics (N.B. I'm counting this as one game as the 42 games within it were all made specifically for this collection)
Chrono Trigger
Dr Kawashima's Brain Training
Final Fantasy III
Final Fantasy XII: Revenant Wings
Final Fantasy: The 4 Heroes of Light
Mario Kart DS
More Brain Training from Dr Kawashima
Picross DS
Pokemon (Platinum)
Suikoden Tierkreis
Tetris DS

Powers Kingdom (aka Guardian War)
Star Control II
Total Eclipse

The Adventures of Alundra
Alundra 2
Azure Dreams
Breath of Fire III
Breath of Fire IV
Command & Conquer
Command & Conquer: Red Alert
Command & Conquer: Retaliation
F1 2000
FIFA 2001
Final Fantasy (part of Final Fantasy Origins)
Final Fantasy II (part of Final Fantasy Origins)
Final Fantasy IV (part of Final Fantasy Anthology)
Final Fantasy V (part of Final Fantasy Anthology)
Final Fantasy VI
Final Fantasy VII
Final Fantasy VIII
Final Fantasy IX
The Granstream Saga
Kurushi Final
Legend of Legaia
The Need for Speed
Ridge Racer
SaGa Frontier 2
Suikoden II
True Pinball
Vagrant Story
Vandal Hearts
Vandal Hearts II
Wild Arms

PlayStation Portable
Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII
Final Fantasy IV (part of Final Fantasy IV: The Complete Collection)
Final Fantasy IV: Interlude (part of Final Fantasy IV: The Complete Collection)
Final Fantasy IV: The After Years (part of Final Fantasy IV: The Complete Collection)
Gran Turismo
MotorStorm: Arctic Edge

PlayStation 2
24: The Game
The Bouncer
Breath of Fire: Dragon Quarter
Dynasty Warriors 3
2002 FIFA World Cup
2006 FIFA World Cup
Final Fantasy X
Final Fantasy X-2
Final Fantasy XII
Hyper Street Fighter II
Kingdom Hearts
Sonic the Hedgehog [Mega Drive version] (part of Sonic Mega Collection Plus)
Sonic the Hedgehog 2 [Mega Drive version] (part of Sonic Mega Collection Plus)
Sonic the Hedgehog 3 (part of Sonic Mega Collection Plus)
Sonic & Knuckles (part of Sonic Mega Collection Plus)
Blue Sphere (part of Sonic Mega Collection Plus)
Knuckles the Echidna in Sonic the Hedgehog 2 (part of Sonic Mega Collection Plus)
Sonic 3 & Knuckles (part of Sonic Mega Collection Plus)
Sonic 3D: Flickies' Island (aka Sonic 3D Blast; part of Sonic Mega Collection Plus)
Sonic the Hedgehog Spinball [Mega Drive version] (part of Sonic Mega Collection Plus)
Dr Robotnik's Mean Bean Machine [Mega Drive version] (part of Sonic Mega Collection Plus)
Flicky (part of Sonic Mega Collection Plus)
Ristar [Mega Drive version] (part of Sonic Mega Collection Plus)
The Ooze (part of Sonic Mega Collection Plus)
Comix Zone (part of Sonic Mega Collection Plus)
Sonic the Hedgehog [Game Gear version] (part of Sonic Mega Collection Plus)
Sonic Chaos [Game Gear version] (part of Sonic Mega Collection Plus)
Sonic Drift (part of Sonic Mega Collection Plus)
Sonic Labyrinth (part of Sonic Mega Collection Plus)
Dr Robotnik’s Mean Bean Machine [Game Gear version] (part of Sonic Mega Collection Plus)
Sonic Blast (part of Sonic Mega Collection Plus)
Sonic CD (part of Sonic Gems Collection)
Sonic the Fighters (part of Sonic Gems Collection)
Sonic R (part of Sonic Gems Collection)
Sonic the Hedgehog 2 [Game Gear version] (part of Sonic Gems Collection)
Sonic the Hedgehog Spinball [Game Gear version] (part of Sonic Gems Collection)
Sonic the Hedgehog Triple Trouble (part of Sonic Gems Collection)
Sonic Drift 2 (part of Sonic Gems Collection)
Tails’ Skypatrol (part of Sonic Gems Collection)
Tails Adventure (part of Sonic Gems Collection)
Vectorman (part of Sonic Gems Collection)
Vectorman 2 (part of Sonic Gems Collection)
Suikoden IV
Suikoden V
Suikoden Tactics
Unlimited SaGa
Wipeout Fusion

PlayStation 3
On Blu-Ray discs:
Burnout Paradise The Ultimate Box
The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion
F1 2010
2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa
Final Fantasy XIII
Final Fantasy XIII-2
Heavy Rain
Alex Kidd in the Enchanted Castle (part of Sega Mega Drive Ultimate Collection)
Alien Storm [Mega Drive version] (part of Sega Mega Drive Ultimate Collection)
Altered Beast [Mega Drive version] (part of Sega Mega Drive Ultimate Collection)
The Story of Thor (aka Beyond Oasis; part of Sega Mega Drive Ultimate Collection)
Bonanza Bros. [Mega Drive version] (part of Sega Mega Drive Ultimate Collection)
Columns [Mega Drive version] (part of Sega Mega Drive Ultimate Collection)
Comix Zone (part of Sega Mega Drive Ultimate Collection)
Decap Attack (part of Sega Mega Drive Ultimate Collection)
Dynamite Headdy [Mega Drive version] (part of Sega Mega Drive Ultimate Collection)
ESWAT: City Under Siege (part of Sega Mega Drive Ultimate Collection)
Fatal Labyrinth (part of Sega Mega Drive Ultimate Collection)
Flicky (part of Sega Mega Drive Ultimate Collection)
Gain Ground [Mega Drive version] (part of Sega Mega Drive Ultimate Collection)
Kid Chameleon (part of Sega Mega Drive Ultimate Collection)
Ristar [Mega Drive version] (part of Sega Mega Drive Ultimate Collection)
Shinobi III: Return of the Ninja Master (part of Sega Mega Drive Ultimate Collection)
Super Thunder Blade (part of Sega Mega Drive Ultimate Collection)
Ecco the Dolphin [Mega Drive version] (part of Sega Mega Drive Ultimate Collection)
Ecco: The Tides of Time [Mega Drive version] (part of Sega Mega Drive Ultimate Collection)
Golden Axe (part of Sega Mega Drive Ultimate Collection)
Golden Axe II (part of Sega Mega Drive Ultimate Collection)
Golden Axe III (part of Sega Mega Drive Ultimate Collection)
Phantasy Star II (part of Sega Mega Drive Ultimate Collection)
Phantasy Star III: Generations of Doom (part of Sega Mega Drive Ultimate Collection)
Phantasy Star IV: The End of the Millenium (part of Sega Mega Drive Ultimate Collection)
Shining Force (part of Sega Mega Drive Ultimate Collection)
Shining Force II: Ancient Sealing (part of Sega Mega Drive Ultimate Collection)
Shining in the Darkness (part of Sega Mega Drive Ultimate Collection)
Dr Robotnik’s Mean Bean Machine [Mega Drive version] (part of Sega Mega Drive Ultimate Collection)
Sonic the Hedgehog [Mega Drive version] (part of Sega Mega Drive Ultimate Collection)
Sonic the Hedgehog 2 [Mega Drive version] (part of Sega Mega Drive Ultimate Collection)
Sonic the Hedgehog 3 (part of Sega Mega Drive Ultimate Collection)
Sonic & Knuckles (part of Sega Mega Drive Ultimate Collection)
Sonic 3D: Flickies’ Island (aka Sonic 3D Blast; part of Sega Mega Drive Ultimate Collection)
Sonic the Hedgehog Spinball [Mega Drive version] (part of Sega Mega Drive Ultimate Collection)
Streets of Rage (part of Sega Mega Drive Ultimate Collection)
Streets of Rage 2 (part of Sega Mega Drive Ultimate Collection)
Streets of Rage 3 (part of Sega Mega Drive Ultimate Collection)
Vectorman (part of Sega Mega Drive Ultimate Collection)
Vectorman 2 (part of Sega Mega Drive Ultimate Collection)
Alien Syndrome [arcade version] (part of Sega Mega Drive Ultimate Collection)
Altered Beast [arcade version] (part of Sega Mega Drive Ultimate Collection)
Tip Top (aka Congo Bongo; part of Sega Mega Drive Ultimate Collection)
Fantasy Zone [arcade version] (part of Sega Mega Drive Ultimate Collection)
Golden Axe Warrior (part of Sega Mega Drive Ultimate Collection)
Phantasy Star (part of Sega Mega Drive Ultimate Collection)
Shinobi [arcade version] (part of Sega Mega Drive Ultimate Collection)
Space Harrier [arcade version] (part of Sega Mega Drive Ultimate Collection)
Zaxxon (part of Sega Mega Drive Ultimate Collection)
Street Fighter IV
Super Street Fighter IV

Bomberman Ultra
Gauntlet II [arcade version]
Little Big Planet
OutRun Online Arcade
Pinball Dreams
Pinball Fantasies
Rampage World Tour [arcade version]
Rampart [arcade version]
Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode 1
A Space Shooter for 2 Bucks
Street Fighter Alpha: Warriors' Dreams [PS1 version]
Super Street Fighter II Turbo HD Remix
This is Football Management
Wipeout HD Fury
Zen Pinball

And now to work out a grand total! The tricky thing with this is how to count different versions of the same game. What I’ve done is that where a separate copy of a game is more or less a direct port of an earlier version, I haven’t counted it (e.g. the Mega Drive version of the first Sonic the Hedgehog game has only been counted once, despite the fact that I can play it on my Mega Drive, my PS2, or my PS3; even though I have three versions of Final Fantasy VI, there isn’t much difference between them, and so it too is only counted once). However, where I feel there are significant differences between versions, I’ve counted them separately (e.g. all of the various versions of Street Fighter II have been counted separately as they all have something different between them; Tetris has been counted four times as I feel there are key differences between the Game Boy, SNES, Nintendo DS, and PS3 versions). Where I own more than one copy of a game, I’ve only counted it once. There are various different ways you could add up this list, but that’s what I’ve gone for!

So, if I’ve done my sums right, the grand total comes to: 323 games!

All I have to do now is try and find some time to play them...