Soundtrack of a developing me.

So according to the listing business of social media and internet type websites it’s the top xxx albums of the decade time where xxx is a suspiciously convenient round number and not a swan in top hat and cape.

Anyway, because I like joining in and being part of the party, I thought I’d offer up my list of a top twenty album of the past ten years that I’ve found particularly astounding and soul embiggening – because I’m the sap who watched Almost Famous and believed every word of the script, that’s what the best music does to me, makes my heart beat faster,little shivering sparks dancing up and down my spine.

These are in only the order in which the albums occurred to me and yes some bands will appear more than once because that’s what their music means to me so ya boo sucks to you frisbee. No images but you can google this lot pretty easily, soo, here we go:

  • The Get Up Kids – Problems
  • A Wilhelm Scream – Party Crashers
  • Polar Bear Club – Death Chorus
  • The Wonder Years – The Greatest Generation
  • The Wonder Years – No Closer to Heaven
  • Laureate – Landmarks
  • Save Ends – A Book About Bad Luck
  • Beach Slang – The Things We Do to People Like Us
  • Beach Slang – A Loud Bash of Teenage Feelings
  • The National – High Violet
  • Sleater-Kinney- No Cities to Love
  • Thursday – No Devolucion
  • Touché Amoré – Stage Four
  • La Dispute – Rooms of The House
  • Titus Andronicus – The Monitor
  • The Menzingers – After The Party
  • Iron Chic – The Constant One
  • Cayetana – New Kind of Normal
  • Tiny Moving Parts – Swell
  • Best Coast – California Nights

Comments, questions and duck impressions? Do your own list and think about this sort of thing, have fun.


Big gay books of the year And other ones

So 2018 in books? well as promised and unlike the fickle business of the literary world my blog comes to fruition in 2019 and not November/December 2018.

So was there a theme to my reading and the sixty novels I consumed over the twelve months just gone? Well as with so many things these days, queerness was at the heart of it, both in stories told and the authors telling them. Indeed, the four fantastic books that I read to finish the year were all by gay authors and three of them featured queer characters – gays, lesbians and enbys. Consulting my list I see that as many as 20 or 20.5 ( Brideshead Revisited is in the eye of the bookholder) books that were by queer authors and/or featured queer themes.

I count myself fantastically lucky to be alive and reading at a time where this representation is available and I can see myself or better versions of me in such novels and the characters that I could see myself hanging out and falling in love with.

The best books I read this year were the majestic novels of Alan Hollinghurst – The Sparsholt Affair and The Spell. Hollinghurst writes perfect gay prose that I want to dance to, but all too evidently can’t.

Elsewhere though I spent most of my time in the genre waters that were the lakes of sci-fi and fantasy fiction. Highlights included Sam J. Miller’s brilliant polar bear-tastic and wonderfully queer dystopian novel Blackfish City and Jen Williams’s triumphant Mieville-ish with dragons fantasy novel The Bitter Twins, gay/queer characters emerged and developed beautifully and the story raced along in thrilling clever tones. Also with dragons, James Bennett’s Burning Ashes finished his Red Ben Garston trilogy in thrilling and melancholic fashion – I am biased over this, but boo sucks to you frisbee it’s a brilliant book.

Continuing the finishing of trilogies, Revenant Gun rounded off Yoon Ha Lee’s Machineries of Empire series in splendidly clever fashion whilst also being gripping to the end, queer themes also ran amuck through the narrative so harrumble for that. Not the finish of a trilogy but also in the fantasy fiction world, Hal Duncan’s Vellum was starkly crackers and a superb smashmouth piece of fiction dancing through your feeble need for linear narratives and sense – splendid use of gay characters here, and hurrah for gay SFF authors.

The non-reading higlights of my literary year were my visit to the Leeds LGBTQ Lit fest this Summer and the chats I had there, especially the book club and gay tea/coffee sessions – any excuse to meet my people in enthusiastic involved books spaces are welcome and will have to go again in the future. The other was my visit in February to Gay’s the Word Bookshop. What an amazing shop, just stepping in and seeing all that LGBTQ bookery on display made it feel the most amazing bookish piece of my heart that I hadn’t known I’d needed until that moment.

The shopping there also helped me read classic gay fiction like Dancer from the Dance, the most enchanting love letter to the gay New York scene between Stonewall and AIDS. I also encountered for the first time the work of Philip Hensher and Iain M. Banks through Consider Phlebas and should read more of them when time allows.

I do feel that queer YA novels are very important – both to me now and to LGBTQ teens and young adults figuring out their worlds for the first time and The Inexplicable Logic of My Life by Benjamin Alire Saenz and Becky Albertalli’s Leah on the Off Beat were superb in adding pieces to the puzzle.

Old favourites also reared their heads this year, I can’t say enough good things about Elly Griffith’s Ruth Galloway archaeology/crime series and The Dark Angel was a fantastic addition to Ruth’s world. Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman was pure magic, and re-reads of Brideshead Revisited and The Maltese Falcons brought as many gifts as they have e’er offered upon reading.

So I suppose there should be some sort of thoughtful conclusion to this rambling wrap-up and it’s this – I can’t say enough thank yous to the authors whose works I read in 2018 for the escapes and magic they offered. Especially though the LGBTQ authors and stories – whose offerings gave me extra important pieces of the ongoing puzzle of putting myself together as a coherent whole and hanging on. Your magic has been everything this year xx. Also visit Gay’s the Word, you really really won’t regret it. Promise.

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A Queer in the life

A year ago today, I slipped onto my twitter and sent out a request for advice on coming out to ones friends in the big scary real world. This marked my emergence outly gay both online and in real life. So this blog is a marking of my ‘coming-out-aversary’ and a reflection on me since and how I’ve come to terms with this since that fateful evening, because as sayeth the Trevor project videos on youtube which I urge you watch some time, it really does get better.

Unlike say Wolverine’s powers and skeleton, my sexuality doesn’t have a cool Hugh Jackman portrayed origin story and we’re all just going to have to live with that. Instead it was more a growing realisation of how I felt and where my heart lay, In July last year I finally took the step of moving out of home into my own flat in a new city and the effect of having my own new separate space in giving me the oomph to come to terms with who I am and how I express that was a major one.

The first thing that’s struck me and I’ve seen mentioned many times is that coming out is not just one ‘Ta-da!’ moment and then everyone’s up to speed and we all move on, it’s more a series of curious events each in their own moment and context with differing reactions and degrees of awkwardness or not as the case may be. The first one with one of my best friends of nearly twenty years went as well as could be hoped, we were sat outside in a pub garden so I broke it over a pint, we agreed I was still me and we moved on. In fact my offline friends have all reacted in that very British low key supportive manner, including my friend who I came out to via email, something that took me nearly three quarters of an hour to compose because damn finding the right words to share with someone a key part of who you are is a hard business. When I came out to them in November after a few months of crumbs being left around facebook, my parents have been nothing but supportive so harrumble, and Book Riot Live the weekend after that was a splendid coming out party as it were and Sara Farizan’s hug still means the world.

As I mentioned at the start of this post I first came out on twitter and the responses and support of my twitter friends have been a wonderful rock to lean on in the past 12 months, and yes I do when needed look at the replies to that first tweet and others when I need a pick-up so there. The key aspect of twitter has been the essential that I’m not alone in this, and in friends/inspirations James Bennett and young Benjamin Dreyer it serves reminders that when I grow up I can have my gayness and everything else besides.

In yer actual real life (much as I loath that odd expression) I’ve been massively helped by the local brewery’s monthly LGBTQA+ evenings where a bunch of us from surrounding environs get together and chat, drink, hug, exchange absolutely filthy jokes, laugh and just get to be us in our own safe space, and that sense of friendship and finding your own tribe and savoring it has been reinforced by going to Pride for the first time.

My mind still whispers questions in the dark though, as one finds oneself worrying if you’re gay enough or doing it properly when you have to admit that you’re not a fan of Cher or Whitney Houston or any one of half a dozen film staples that everyone else has seen but you’ve no idea about. These though fade as you remind yourself that being gay isn’t some mad perfomative event like wrestling a puffin or racing a possum over 400 metres but just a statement of who and how you love.

So, to bounce off a quote a new favourite and important band of mine, Laureate and their ace song ‘Coming Around’ – “I can’t say that I feel good yet but I almost feel alright. – I’m not 100% in focus of who I am as a gay man, but its falling into place and it can only push forward from here.

Finally if you’re reading this, thank you – as I say above the support from my friends on and offline has been everying and I’d never have made this far without you, Love y’all so much it would make a really gay unicorn explode in rainbow sparkles. xx

Golden Pints 2016

So, 2016 a year of good beer, good pubs and good people. Thus, as best I can remember, these are my 2016 Golden Pint nominations…

Best Cask Beer: Redemption Trinity – could’ve drunk all afternoon – the perfect session cask beer.

Best Keg: Gloucester Brewery Session IPA: Pale, hoppy and bitter, the glorious trifecta for beery purposes.

Best bottled beer: Five Points Brewing Co Hook Island Red: All red, hoppy and sticky, maybe my favourite all round beer. gorgeous stuff.

Best Canned Beer: Five Points IPA – a classic of the style and just hits the spot for me, so there.

Best foreign beer: From my New York sojourn I can report that there is much fine American beer out there and more at session strength, so my pick was Solemn Oath Power Sax session IPA – yes another session IPA, but that’s a favourite style of mine at the moment, so there, suck it Willis.

Best Bar/Pub/Orangutan in a jaunty titfer – UK: The Pelican Inn Gloucester – my de facto local pub, all Wye Valley cask ales + guests, friendly, minimal music – no food but otherwise a perfect spot.

Foreign: Of the the NYC bars I popped into, my favourite in part because I did it with Rick Freeman (@rwfreeman) was Valhalla. Runner up, Pony Bar Hells Kitchen.

Best Brewery: Gloucester Brewery – they’re local, good beer and pub and importantly for me, strong in being LGBTQ+ friendly, so harrumble indeed.

Retail : Best supermarket : M&S still ahead of the game just, best indie – Favourite Beers in Cheltenham and best online – Beerritz for me.

Best beer blog/website -dual winners, the fascinating mixture of historical note and current analysis/quirky tastings that is the wonderful Boak and Bailey, and the more journalistic story focus that is the all rounded talented Matt Curtis and occasional chums over at Total Ales.

Best beery twitterer: Matt Curtis almost wins this as well over at @totalcurtis, but for me as for many others I suspect, it’s Dave Bishop @broadfordbrewer/@beerdoodles – a genuine stand up good chap with top mind, great taste in puns and interesting beery thoughts.

2017 : More Black IPAs please – also Marble Dobber. And for me, more trips – another go deeper in London’s beery environs and meet more top beer people

Right, there you are, move along and ta for reading 🙂











Ian V.s. The Booko Sapiens Agenda


BOOK RIOT LIVE: November 12-13 2016, NYC.

So, my hat what a week. It began on such a high too, on the afternoon of Sunday November 6 I came out to my parents, which they took dashed well, and then packed for what I hoped would be triumphant cap upon what has been a banner year of sorts for me, my trip to Book Riot Live that coming weekend. Then, the event happened on Tuesday night which really took the edge off Wednesday and Thursday, the two days I took to travel from home to NYC.  The worry took me that that BRL would instead be a gloomy wake.

Thankfully, as Saturday morning dawned and we queued and entered Metropolitan West to collect name tags, goodie bags and such, I need not have worried at all. There was there spirit of warmth, friendliness and community that has made BookRiot one of my online homes.  I got to meet all the cool kids,  Rebecca, Amanda, Jeff, the force of bookish nature that is top hugger Liberty, also ace hugger Swapna, Wallace, Cassandra and many more.

To the events then, which kicked off with an ‘ask me anything’ session with Jeff and Rebecca and a wonderful cleansing primal roar to get ‘it’ out of our systems. Obviously though you can’t just drop and move on from so disastrous a change in political climate, with a lot of good people feeling scared and threatened, it was heart swellingly encouraging to see so many people filled with anger and determination.  If the turnout at the Activism going forward discussion on Sunday is anything to go by then things might just be OK after all.

Saturday also featured other strong highlights, the BookRiot podcast especially and the panels on writers finding their voices and how they wrote about historical events from their own perspective were also extremely interesting, both Meg Medina and Patrick Phillips were particularly eloquent speakers – I’d have sat there watching (and listening honest ) Mr Phillips go through the phone book.  The comic highlight was ‘If we’re not laughing, we’re crying’ featuring Jade Chang, Tara Clancy and Negin Farsad, who as well as being moving, also had me and the rest of the audience crying with laughter as they discussed how they used humour to deal with the darkness of our times and their stories.


Comedy from a slanted angle

So that was Saturday then – Saturday night though a good many of us gathered at the rare books room at the Strand bookshop by Union Square for mingling and wine. Mingling comes from the ancient Sumerian for making a big gay labradork out of yourself whilst hanging out with good people and trying to discuss what Bookriot means to you and failing, but we’ll come back to that.  Anyhoo, moving along was some great conversation and excellent to meet people who’d been at the day’s events but not been able to stop and chat.  There was even an international contingent as I met Emily from Sweden and Justine and Paul from Australia, all of whom were smashing fun, and Justine has even kindly supplied photographic evidence of

From L-R: Paul, Justine, me (trying some disco moves apparently) and Emily.

Sunday then rolled on as it is wont to do. ANd begun with the fabulocity that was a recording of the All the Books podcast featuring Bookriot’s very own Anne and Leslie, Liberty and Rebecca, who bless their daft hearts, were game for photos with any old daft mug.


The highpoint then came for me in the afternoon’s sessions –  the Rise Up: Using Your Voice to make Change panel, featuring again the splendid Meg Medina, Sona Charaipotra, Maria Dahvana Headley and a new hero of mine (warning upcoming labradorkiness) Sara Farizan. To hear Sara say an equivalent of I’m here, queer and not going anywhere’ just made me cry a bit. I realise that in the scheme of things it’s not a big deal but to someone like me who’s only been out since August and still getting the hang of the whole business it means so much.

Behind the scenes I got to meet some more fine and even young people including Liz who was also from England, the lovely Jennifer Gladhill and Devin from Canada, best known as husband to ace twitter prescence, blogger and teacher person Dr Brenna Clarke Gray., who was damned fun to hang out with over the course of the weekend.


Gilbert and George The Next Generation 🙂

The day and event then finished on a glorious joyful note with Nerd Jeopardy, as blogger Mark Oshiro, Mara Wilson of Mathilda movie fame and Sara Farizan  did battle in bookish rounds of Jeopardy. After which came a signing session in which I think I just about got away with making a bit of a nit of myself with Sara, but she gave me a hug and left the loveliest of dedications in signing my copy of her book. Then all that was left were goodbyes and the end of an event that had been everything in terms of warming ones heart and soul.


Jeopardeers getting their nerd on

So then, an apology to everyone I labradorked over, but it was just so wonderful to meet y’all in this context, Bookriot has been so important to me, both as a space and resource in terms of coming to terms with my queerness and coming out to friends and parents and finding my bookish tribe and to get a chance to meet and say this to the people who make this all possible meant the moon on a stick, so there you go.

In a weekend where much was obviously made about the importance of diversity and readers especially young ones seeing themselves in what they read, the dive into gay YA has been everything to me, books like ‘Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda’ ‘Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe’ and ‘Tell Me Again How A Crush Should Feel’ have and will be so important to me, as even if the characters don’t mirror me, their thoughts and ideas about discovering themselves and problems about the weirdness and awkwardness of coming out’ have rung so true it’s as if the books have been written just for my head and heart, and as I think I tried to say on Sunday, this has been and will be so important and inspiring in my full emergence as myself in the world, or something like that.

So then, to everyone who organised this, say hey, hugged, hung out or just was along for the ride, thank you for making this what it was, a glorious defiant stand against the oncoming storm. I love you all very much, and let the fight carry on in the same style.

Ian. xx.




And It’s Surely to Their Page Count

So, that was 2015 in books was it? My hat a fine year it was too, so harrumbles all round. However, there’s depth to be explored here beneath the comic effect, so let’s dig down to what it meant for me.

My goodreads 2015 year in books tells me that I read sixty one books, and they seem a reasonable mix of non-fiction history, crime, science fiction, fantasy and the dread cove that is literary fiction. The overarching theme of this is though that 2015 was the year in which I was firmly dragged down into the whirlpool of science fiction and fantasy literature, more on that later though, so let’s pick up a few highlights shall we?

Starting with crime novels’, apart from the wonderful comfort reads that are the works of Jasper Fforde, especially the Thursday Next series, my pick of my 2015 crime reading was definitely The Ghost Fields , the seventh in the Ruth Galloway series by the superbly talented Ellen Griffiths. Ruth is just well Ruth, not perfect or totally likeable by any means, but fully realised and human, and it’s this humanity that has you rooting for her throughout the novel, especially with the equally flawed but sympathetic DCI Nelson, so great crime writing with archaeology, what’s not to love?

Literary fiction was another goldmine, Marlon James’s Booker Prize winning sprawling masterpiece A History of Seven Killings was everything you would hope it might be, as was it’s predecessor in the Booker winning stakes, The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton, and Salman Rushdie’s The Satanic Verses was an enthralling read from first page to last.

Non fiction though is where we begin to hit the real first class gold with Helen Macdonald’s ‘H is for Hawk. As I said in my review, it is an achingly personal beautiful book, dealing with love, loss, depression, goshawks and much else. To read it is almost to feel like one is intruding on the author’s private space, and you feel an improved slightly different person for having read it.

So then, on we come to sci fi and fantasy, an area in which as mentioned above, I have well and truly become sucked into this past year, through immense works like City of Stairs by Robert Jackson Bennett, Anne Leckie’s Ancillary Justice‘ and Ancillary Sword, and the masterpiece that is N.K. Jemisin‘s The Fifth Season. I’ve also entered the apparent goldmine that is Chinese science fiction through Cixin Liu’s Three Body Problem. Sci-fi and fantasy lit are diverse worlds that I can’t wait to explore deeper in 2016.

Before signing off though, there were in my reading this year, some works that set their authors as for me, what Russell Hammond might refer to as ‘Golden Gods’ and in this case it is China Mielville with Perdido Street Station, who takes the 2nd spot on my pantheon. However, and this is purely a matter of personal taste like ranking your favourite otters or hats, just edging him to the top spot are the duo of Ned Beauman and Nick Harkaway, both Boxer Beatle and Angelmaker confirmed that for me their status as the best British authors out there.

So, in conclusion, a wonderful year, and you may have noticed that I tend to wear my passion on my sleeve when discussing the books I’ve read. Well, that’s just how I am with art I love, and frankly like CJ doing the jackal, some things just are. And with that goodnight and good luck, and onward to 2016’s reading delights.

Golden Pint Awards 2014

Well, time for another blog post then and as it’s the last day of 2014, it seems a fortuitous day to post my Golden Pints of 2014 for my best beery tastes and experiences, harrumble!….

Best UK Cask Beer: Blue Bee Brewery American 5 hop – hon mention, Oakham Citra. – both havens of hoppy deliciousness

Best UK Keg Beer: Magic Rock High Wire – Hon mention, Butcombe Brunel Atlantic IPA – By jove Highwire was a delight, the Butcombe though was a fantabulous surprise, a mini juicy banger, could be a real hat-rattler in cans.

Best UK Bottled Beer: Brasscastle Sunshine IPA – hon mention Gloucester Brewery Cascade

Best UK Canned Beer – Beavertown Black Betty Black IPA – clear winner, just gorgeous and thus

Best overall UK Beer: Beavertown Black Betty Black IPA

Best Foreign Beer:  Dockstreet Brewery Dock Street Rye IPA (Philadelphia USA)

Best UK pub/bar – The Rutland Arms Sheffield – hon mentions, Bath Hotel Sheffield and pick any one of the Bristol pubs.

Best overseas bar: Cavanaugh’s Rittenhouse, Philadelphia – staff, especially Sam and a lady who’s name I can’t remember, were very friendly, the wings, oh my hat the wings, were sensational, beer was good, and the atmosphere captured that perfect American mix between sports bar and drinking destination, real winner.

Best UK Brewery: Mallinsons, – I’m convinced they don’t make bad beer, be it on cask or in bottle, consistent and delicious to a fault.  Hon mention – Gloucester Brewery, my top local choice, a pleasure to shop with and good beer too.

Best foreign brewery – A toughie, but Yards.

Best supermarket for beery shopping: Waitrose, runaway here, good local and national selection.

Best offie: Favourite Beers Cheltenham, great range and friendly staff and dog.

Best online: Beerritz.

Best bloggers and book: Boak and Bailey, and their book ‘Brew Britannia;

Best beery twitterer: Chris Hall.

So there you go, I’ll be hopefully be blogging more in the New Year, but till then, drink well and be happy.

My 3 Books – Reading, The Arts and Who I am

So, last Tuesday, NPR books too to their twitter and posed the question, “what 3 books summarize YOU?”  and in trying to come up with a response to this that would be slightly more erudite than just yelling ‘BOOOOOKS” and drooling in the corner, this got me thinking about my relationship to books, reading, the other arts, what they meant to me and how they define my identity and sense of self.

When I pick up a novel, poem or comic, I think about it as embarking upon a mental journey into the world created by the author, be it the Mycenaean age of heroes conjured up by Homer’s Iliad or the 1920s West Egg of the Great Gatsby.  It’s as if the writer has painted a three dimensional picture into which I have stepped and am exploring.  When reading a novel, I especially treasure a sense of place and time in the prose, giving a sense of tangible to the words in my head that I can reach out and touch.

Is it escapism?  To some extent I feel all fiction is, the other that transports us away from the everday to somewhere where if we choose, we can never be found.  and oft times I’ve found a good read can do that to me, not make me a different person per se , but to take me somewhere that the real world can’t reach. On the other hand, though the effect that powerful fiction can have on the real can be transformative.  Good writing can touch us, soften and lighten the dark corners or amplify the light, or expand one’s mind and knowledge. Each book read, or re-read like revisiting a hug from a good friend changes us gradually in some way, leaving us a different person from the one who started the tale.

Musically, I find the same thing happens, though in different ways, some subtle, some not so subtle. Mostly I find the reactions more visceral in terms of light and heat generated, in the way say a guitar riff or song can race across my mind like a cheetah across the Serengeti. Classical music is a different story though, despite my atheism, I find choral music, especially renaissance polyphony like Tallis or Josquin really moves me, the beauty, the ambition are both uplifting and soothing simultaneously.

Well, you might have noticed, I’ve got this far without mentioning my three books, you cunning devils.  Even as I type this the question of what is meant by defining you, haunts my thoughts on the question.  So, I’ve taken it to mean the three books that would best summarise who I am and reflect my personality.

So, (drum roll…) the three books then, Firstly, Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh, for the sense of smart lost Englishness, that yes I play up to on twitter, especially with my American friends, but seriously does feed into my dress sense and liberal values.  Secondly, yes the Iliad by Homer, for shaping my love and sense of the epic, and the curiosity of what those living through the end of an age go through.  Finally my third book is Terry Pratchett’s ‘Guards! Guards!’, not perhaps on my Desert Island Books list, but I think his Terryness was crucial in defining and shaping my sense of humour, the mischief in the surreal, the absurd and the terrible pun.

So there you go, three books, yes all fiction, but the non-fiction side would be a whole other story to be woven, perhaps for a future time.  Good night and good luck.

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On Brogues and the theory of everything


Well, finally a new post as promised, and it covers the title and my relationship with ideas of fashion and style in a short sharp and salacious fashion.  As it suggests, I am very fond of a nice pair of brogues. To me they are as smart and elegant as the shoe gets, in black, brown or other colours such in my case blue., they just tick my sartorial boxes.

So then, you’re probably saying “Yes, that’s all very nice, but what of this relationship with fashion and style?” and “Just let me go you oddball, put down the kettle and there’ll be no trouble”, but anyway let us continue.  This feel of smartness ties in with my

wardrobe choices – usually a shirt, tie and smart jacket/trousers – wool, tweed or other fabrics – especially if I can get away with it a tweed jacket, because TWEED, but more on that in the future.  Really, to run the risk of repetition, I try to operate by the rule of ‘always dress as if you may be invited to dinner in smart company’ and also would such an outfit repel armed woodland creatures? Well, oh alright, not that second one then.

This somehow, mainly because I say so, ties in to my theory of everything.  involving books and beer and other stuff, that whatever it is, it should interest you, grip you, amuse you, or make you feel good about yourself and your image and suchlike, and involve a nice pair or brogues.






What Ho My Man, what ho!

So yes, hello there and good day Sir/Madam/significant other, this then is my blog that I thought I try to see if I have writing skillz as the young say – featuring thoughts on fashion, books,beer and other things that may cross my mind, more to come soon, so check back then.