Make It Happen

Time for another update!

I find myself part-way along a brand new journey. For a while now I have been trying to network and catch gigs which are not so much paid, but are gigs that I’m using as music therapy to get myself back out into the land of the living … Where the focus is my health and energy levels rather than attempting to make a self-employed living at this stage.

It started off slowly and of course as offers didn’t happen too quickly at first I lost a little faith and found myself at a small point of despair for a while. Since then though, I have received loads of trickling offers of little performances here and there, and the simple fact that I have managed to do each little gig so far has kept me motivated and enthusiastic to get out doing more. The wheels are finally turning.

I’ve got one 90 minute gig under my belt, despite not having the energy, and that in itself was a really big achievement. I know I can’t do that very often… It made me poorly and that’s fine now and again… But to do one of that size really pushes the energy boat out and is as rewarding as running a marathon to someone in my situation.

I’m finding that doing 45 minutes is about the optimal for me at the moment. When I finish I feel exhausted, and have to recover for a day or two, but it feels manageable. The result of a two 45 minute set meant a recovery of nearly 5 days. That’s not very conducive to getting better, really.

The scenario I find myself in is a strange one. Since September I have been self-injecting an immunosuppressant called Humira. The results of that have been levelling out, so that now my tummy is working better than it has for a year, and although not perfect, is at least in a position for me to cope alongside it running at about 80% well compared to 20% 2 years ago. The Humira has definitely made a difference there. The side-effects though, are that Humira tends to tire me out. When I inject it, I feel like a tranquilised rhinoceros. I last about an hour or two at best before being fast asleep. I sleep through all alarms and awake with a sore leg but feeling refreshed a good 12 hours later. I take it every 10 days and still feel a little dip on day 9 so may be taking it even more often once reviewed… but this does make sense… My immune system, the thing attacking my tummy, is a very strong one. Before being ill with Crohn’s I was actually very well *all* the time. Days off work were only ever toothache related before all this. The everyday tiredness is one of a few side-effects of the Humira in that since September I have felt a level of fatigue that is double what I was experiencing before taking it. Joint pain and back pain fluctuate so that some days I need to take Tramadol and others I don’t, but fatigue is the last symptom in the chain of Crohn’s… and it is a real shame that the drug I take has this effect as well, doubling up the fatigue level. I could be taking this for a very long time… and so as of right now, I really do not know when I will start to feel an improvement in my fatigue levels. Some good news, is that I’ve been found to be low in Vitamin D and Folic Acid… (my tummy just doesn’t pull the stuff from food like yours does) and thanks to our wonderful GP service I am not able to get these extra supplements until April 7th, which is a big deal, as a lack of these things has a direct result of “Knackereditis” as well. I’m hoping with these supplements that I should start to feel a new level of energy… and it is at that point when I will know I have a better chance to start thinking about making a living again. As things stand though the best description currently is this. I feel like a car battery. I plan to do a thing, wind myself up to start the engine, get there, do what I need to, but my battery runs out after the first few turns of the key. My engine slowly dies, exactly like a car engine that starts fine, and then tails off into an unhealthy cough before an almighty silence… Then I have to recharge my battery with carbs and sleep for a day or two, sometimes more before I can dream of turning the key again. That’s me in a nutshell at the moment.

The good news is I am in the half of the Venn Diagram that allows my stomach to function a little more normally, even though some things still cross over from time to time. It is the better of two evils… to have a slightly better tummy but to be more tired all of the time. Even better news though, is at least I am back in the game, and that is what it’s all about after all, regardless of which symptom is holding me back today.

The amount of opportunities that have arisen since my Facebook plea a while ago have truly been overwhelming now that some time has passed and more people are aware that I’m trying to get back out there. Even though most things are on a voluntary level, the reason I am taking them on if I can is to maintain this momentum of having things to work towards, look forward to, and to have gigging as a form of stamina building and musical therapy for me. You have to understand, that we’re not just talking about gigging here either. I’m talking about even getting out of my house to get to the shops. I have to use a trolley to lean on just to do my big shop and a guy of my build should be throwing trolleys around the aisles not resting on them.

Energy should never be taken for granted… I can tell you!

My yardstick is the walk into town from my house. On a better day I can do the walk slowly and get there without stopping, but I need to rest when I get there before doing what was planned. On bad days I get to around Westgate bridge and simply have to stop as my tummy feels like someone is stabbing me and my bum is so sore that I have to call a taxi to take me home rather than do what was planned. This changes by the day.

Despite all that I’m gigging again and loving every minute of it, because every gig is like soul food for my batteries! It’s hard, granted, but I honestly believe I will never complain about hard work ever again, thanks to being forced to have so much time off, and so to be able to sit here and write a blog about how amazing it is to be gigging again really is a huge deal to me.

The excitement of waking up and not knowing what emails are sat awaiting you is extraordinary. What opportunities sit in the inbox today I now wonder daily… Is it a gig? Is it a mentor meeting with a brew with an ace hard-working musician? Is it an offer of radio play from the album? Do I have a Paypal notification that means I have to set an alarm tomorrow to go and post out my spanking new album to someone lovely?

It’s utterly uplifting and is getting me through this limbo period more than I could have ever dreamed.

And so to the next announcement, which is a happy accident relating to all things networking and volunteering, that has really inspired me, thanks to that simple old tactic… of saying yes to everything. I am delighted to announce that I am now the new official CD Editor at Leeds Music! :D

Many who know me have recently seen a journey of sorts into the land of writing in one form or another, whether it is as a blog, a diary, a CD review or another long-winded soppy Facebook message that thanks a million people again for the third time. My fingers seem to be happy at a keyboard, and my mind adores running away with internal monologue, and so for me I think this is a perfect fit. In terms of my health it is actually a great distraction from the symptoms to be able to focus on writing for a while even though I feel uncomfortable. I am incredibly delighted to have such an opportunity, within a group of lovely and hard-working volunteers which means that I will have the chance to hear SO much local new music, and have the chance to objectify what I hear in such a way as to give the review reader an accurate feel for what to expect from a record. Putting it simply… This is bloody exciting!! It’s something I can take at my own pace with no finances or pressures to worry about, and is also something I try to do really well… Helping people, free of charge. :D

I guess the important thing is that at least now I am able to say yes to things, and even though I cannot hope to do everything I am saying yes to, at least I am getting out and about and creating a little momentum, which in turn is keeping my health in check to a fashion. It’s a case of hoping people understand that even though I’m attempting to get out more and do more things, that it doesn’t automatically mean I’m well as such… it just means I’m refusing to let this beat me, and attempting things anyway. It does get a bit weird when people ask me how I am, that I simply can’t say yes I’m OK… But I am now able to say… I’m getting there. For someone who has been struggling for over 2 years now with this stuff… That is a ginormous leap forward, and is liable to make me write blogs like this, that highlight my gratitude for the good things in my life.

I hope I am going on about it less and less, and also hope that people don’t get too sick and tired of hearing about stuff when I do feel the need to be honest… It’s quite tricky when half “How are you doing?” questions are intended to be short questions and you know it’s not going to be a short answer… So I am also grateful for people’s patience. It is very easy to forget that not everyone lives on my wall, and not everyone sees how I struggle when I do get home and my body shuts down… leaving a scenario that feels like I’m not sure how much of yesterday’s episode of neighbours I’m in need of re-running before today’s episode. Silly… but that about nails it.

So thank you. Thank you for being understanding, and for wanting me to take part in everything and for offering again and again knowing I likely have to say no… I’m saying yes more often now… so your patience has been worth it. Please do keep asking! ;)

It seems that my patience has been rewarded too. My second announcement is an absolute belter. I have been asked to support the wonderful Antonio Lulic and the fabulous Nizlopi at Unity Works in Wakefield on May 7th, voting day. You likely know who Nizlopi are… if you don’t they are a wonderful duo who have some serious kudos and an amazing underground following after they released a highly successful song into the charts a few years ago called The JCB song.

Most will be aware that I am very good friends with Antonio as it is and so having us three particular acts on the same bill really is a dream come true for me. I feel giddy beyond belief in all honesty, not only because I’m a little star-struck… which of course goes without saying… but I am just so overwhelmed that such a lovely set of guys have given me an opportunity like this. I feel completely humbled and am looking forward to putting on a professional show and getting my harmonica out to play alongside Antonio just like the old days. Gigging with friends is one of the most amazing feelings ever. I can’t wait! *If* you don’t know who Antonio Lulic is… then feel free to watch one of my finest chums being amazing on this handy video which was on the telly!

And there we have it. A little update with some positives to look forward to, and a big dollop of thank you very much. :D

Happy Easter folks! xx

Ryan Mitchell-Smith


The Semi-Flaccid Election

The campaign to get someone into Number 10 has this year taken its journey into a brand new zone. The “campaign” is no longer an amount of simultaneously running attempts to get elected, but is seemingly one big drop of political gravy which engulfs the soggy bread of today’s British politics in one all-party umbrella ‘campaign’ that is designed to confuse, distort, and vague its way into the history books as the “What’s our policy again?” election.

What we seem to be witnessing today is the transformation of a classroom or playground tactic being put to use in a one-size fits all way in politics. To an observing ‘teacher’ trying to manage this mayhem looks a little like this;

Someone in class has said something that you didn’t quite hear but caught the back of and you KNOW it was negative and likely a swear-word but aren’t quite sure. You look to where the sound came from, but suddenly there’s a second kerfuffle a little further round the room.

Now it’s not Jo who you thought was misbehaving, it is actually Charlotte, who seems to have stolen Jessica’s pen. While Jessica makes her valid complaint, Nigel a little further down has passed on what the teacher thought Jo had said originally and now the incidents are cascading one after the other around the room, and you are spotting them one behind where you need to.

It’s a common yet rather primal group tactic that happens in classrooms when the circumstances allow… and it climaxes in its finale with a myriad of a thousand stories of who did what to who, who said what and when, with absolutely no chance of sorting any of it out, at least until all detention sitters write down their own version of events to be cross-checked and referenced by you. Let’s be honest… who in all fairness, has any chance of finding the genuine truth?

A version of this is now happening in British politics on a scale I have never witnessed before, but it is being realised in the lack of ANY depth to the policies that are being put forward… or not being put forward as the case may be.

In the political version of this scenario it seems that we are as individuals left to sift through the sea of lies and versions of events of the last five years that is now being laid out in front of us through our chosen media shop window. I don’t know about you, but I can’t help but feel for the masses on this one. When anyone says something often enough you start to assume that it is true. All the Parties are now saying different versions of what has happened over the past five years and it takes all my might just to maintain the real events from the stories.

Which facts are we supposed to believe? Which people’s opinions should make us change our own? Which moving video will convince us that the box we tick will make us feel like we haven’t made a mistake post-May?

The worry is that it seems as though the ‘policies’ have been the LAST thing any party has been concerned with working on or doing anything about. Why? Because when questioned, party leaders generally are failing to answer the simplest questions regarding their policies, which they have only just finalised, when in reality they ought to have been finished and part of the party leaders psyche a long, long time ago. Instead we have a “put the other party down” rhetoric which I have always found distasteful and utterly unnecessary, occurring alongside selected sound-bites that conveniently champion the current hot-topic-crossed bun.

We have the worst choice of parties to vote for in years and it is because of this playground style of politics that this has come to pass in my opinion. At the present time not one Party has shown *me* any real belief in its policies enough to convince me that ANY of them are worth voting for… meaning that as things stand, technically I am soon to be in the position of walking into a polling station in May, to mark the box entitled “none of the above”.

As yet, there are no options on the table that meet the needs or requirements of the people I care about. Not one Party has managed to deliver or maintain a professional appearance of honour or credibility thanks to the incessant putting down of the other parties when answering direct questions either. For example:

“What is your education policy?”

We are now answered in various disguises and from all sides with:

“Well I can tell you what it isn’t! It’s not the other Parties’ policy! You can bet your life on that!”

In my opinion the “revolution” is NOT what we need. The revolution is already happening and has been in existence for many years now while the Murdoch World was shaping. A revolution is a cycle, and that cycle needs to be broken. We need to break the revolution.

We need to break the cycle.

We need to stop the lesson, correct all guilty parties, detain them so that they are uncomfortable and miss their bus home, and then ask them to show up next time with a new attitude.

You have to acknowledge in this debate that there has never been a time where the options have been so awful to choose between. Let me put it like this…

For today’s pudding we have for your selection:

  1. Sago (mildly warmed)
  2. Semolina (includes lumps free of charge)
  3. Cold Rice pudding (no jam)
  4. Blancmange (skin left on – out of canned cream)
  5. Tell us that the options were not satisfactory.


It doesn’t look to me like breaking the cycle is going to happen any time soon. To do it would take something resembling a giant stick in the spokes of the political wheels that spin these days.

It’s called honesty.

The general public know “spin”. The general public smell “bullshit”. Politics is trying to combat that with vagueness and low-level distraction misbehaviour. All parties guilty.

I’ll vote for the Party who starts to speak correctly, with dignity, and without putting others down, and starts talking about the right policies that look after the people I care about. I would love it if they passionately believed in those policies too.

I for one will not tolerate politicians and the media telling me what they want me to believe. I never have, and that is why I have never voted until now. Every other year I could have voted, I was apathetic to going to cast a vote of no confidence, which is what I would have cast every year up to and potentially including right now. I have only decided to actually record my vote of no confidence this year, as a respected friend has convinced me that there is actually a point to marking the box that says none of the above, and so that is what I will do, despite my misgivings, if no party manage to convince me that they are not liars making promises that they will not keep. Previously I did not believe that making a vote of no confidence would make a jot of difference to anything… But my respected friend made me see otherwise, and pointed out that if the establishment do not know about my no-confidence vote, then how can the system be affected by it? It was a good point well made. I have now registered to vote for the first time, and I AM going to.

So my verdict? Go away and come back with better options… until then, I’m ticking the no-one box.

No doubt I will watch various compelling media in the upcoming weeks from celebrities I trust advocating which Party they think *I* should vote for… In fact I’ve just watched the Martin Freeman endrorsement video for Labour… which absolutely supports my point yet again.

Labour will do *this*, Conservatives won’t.

If it had just said Labour will do this and left it there I might have believed young Martin… he’s a great actor and a trustworthy sort. But then the last tagline comes in and reaffirms it all over again. This video is designed to say Tories are shit, much more than it is designed to inform us all of what Labour will do for our country, as positive and honest as the spin sounds. When will any Party realise that putting someone else down makes you look like a prick? It’s unnecessary, childish, and undermines the Party so that I can’t take them seriously… They might actually be able to do a better job than the Tories, sure, and I may decide to vote for them in the end, but I’ll grit my teeth for now for want of a better option.

I decided to look for the standard Party Political Broadcast for the Labour Party to make the experiment consistent and found that this latest one was from February:

Labour Party Political Broadcast 2015

Personally I felt like this one was rather heavily designed to combat the UKIP fears, seeing as it puts “immigration” as priority number 3 on its list of how things are to be reformed. Generally though, it ticks a few more of my boxes than I expected.

In the name of research I went on to look for a Conservatives PBB (Party Political Broadcast). Here’s where the latest video lives:

Conservatives Party Political Broadcast 2015

I couldn’t help but notice that there doesn’t seem to be any celebrity endorsed Conservative videos out there yet. Does this mean that the Tories have lost the confidence of celebrities? People in the public eye do not yet have the confidence to publish their opinion on whether they support a Tory Government it seems. I found it interesting that the video in this case was designed to paint Mr Cameron as a family man, trustworthy, the sort of chap who makes time to get to his sons football match. In my opinion, there is just as much spin in this video, as there is in the Martin Freeman one. The angle is different, and my complaint about Parties putting other’s down is well-met and countered here. It’s refreshing to see a Party not take the opportunity to slander the others and I commend them for that, however we can’t win… Because in this case it just looks like it’s missing to deliberately cement the trustworthiness of old Dave. Why? Because the imagery that accompanies the messages in this video are of children and families, but it focuses on the heart-strings like an episode of Hollyoaks the day after a car crash scene. I was half expecting Michael Parkinson to sell me my Life Insurance by the end of it! I wonder if he turned the offer of an endorsement video down? I know as well as you do that these videos are always going to be this archetypal, and that in some ways it’s how they should be, but my opinion is that times have moved on rather drastically more than this style of video caters for. I just don’t think people buy it anymore.

The last Liberal Democrat PBB I could find seems to be from a little while ago, but here it is:

Liberal Democrats Party Political Broadcast 2015

Mr Clegg gives a slightly different speech to Mr Cameron. I can’t put my feelings about this man going back on his student promises to one side as I will never ever trust him again, however analysing the film without that in mind shows a carefully thought out film that tries to lever the middle ground. It seems to focus on providing something that the other Parties do not whilst managing to not actually say which policies he disagrees with. A couple of the statements actually sound plausible for a second, but then the reality of his own making sets back in. This guy seems to me to be the worst type of politician… One that has absolutely no idea what he’s doing. If the Party got rid of him they might actually come up with something decent in a few years time… but the thought of the Liberal Democrats not suffering anything short of a mass exodus of support seems impossible to me. I suspect they might take a hammering this election.

The Green Party seems to have a much smaller profile but I have managed to find this:

This video is laughable. To focus on “travel” as its main issue of discussion is ridiculous… I would be brave enough to say that this video is completely in detriment to The Green Party, especially considering the rather machine gun attack on all other Parties. It does not come across like a PBB at all, and maybe that is not what this is intended to be… But this is one of the only videos out there that represents The Green Party that I could find, and so you have to wonder what the Party are playing at not to have a bigger online presence… It’s not hard to make a video these days… and you can even reduce your carbon footprint doing it too.

There are simply too many “Facts” that are being bandied about that no longer make any sense because the level of authority they have is merely that they have been published or broadcast “somewhere”.

How on Earth, unless we check ourselves, do we know that any of the facts being slung around are true?! There is just SO much ‘counter-facting’ going on! In my eyes, the only things we can ‘know’ are the things we actually experience, not the things that are written down in black and white and told to us at convenient times by politicians. I think the key here is to remember what we have been through ourselves over the past five years.

Just because someone says something is a fact… does not mean that it is.

The truth is until I actually get a politician on my Doortstep… a phenomenon which in my 9 years living here in Wakefield on the same street has never occurred, then I’ll find it hard not to be voting as discussed, and it really would take a mighty conversation from a Party representative to prove to me that they aren’t just like all the rest who I watch on Question time if I’m honest… which in the main appear to be liars, lying, and getting a round of applause if they say the right lie at the right time.

Why do I not get out there myself and locate these politicians to demand the answers to my questions!? I hear you cry. I don’t because it’s hard for me to “get out” to the shops, never mind taking my pitchfork up to Bank Street. I do my research from here and meet my side of the bargain that way. Politicians and local MP’s are supposed to make an effort to promote their values to win my vote. I suppose it’s up to them if they want to come round for a brew and try to capture my wavering yet impending vote of no-confidence.

I want straight answers. I want a politician who doesn’t answer the question they wanted you to ask regardless of what you asked them, but answers what you asked. Until I meet such a person… Then my vote stays with me, in the I ain’t eatin’ it box.

What I would say is this… The media that we watch and interact with is designed to be believable and is marketed to make you click it, share it and talk about it. It works. I’ve just written a blog about bloody politics for buggers’ sake! But if I was going to do that then I wanted to do it in such a way as to not influence people’s opinions, but to promote “doing your research”. That is why I have put the four main Parties videos in the same place, to make my own life easier in making an informed decision when the time comes.

It’s about having the energy to research each Party for yourself and to come up to your own conclusion whilst being vigilant to not believe everything you see or read. Vote because you have considered and chosen who to vote for, not because your friend told you who to vote for.

It’s not easy being one of the masses, is it eh?

As for me, I am sure that I will have different opinions by the day before the time to vote arrives… despite my resolute stance on Politics… changing one’s mind is what it is all about after all… otherwise we would never get anywhere… but as yet the point of conversion has not happened for me… I hope it does… but I’m not going to hold my breath.

Even having said all this, in May I do expect to have been converted, one way or another and that actually my first ever vote as a 37 year old man will be for a “Party” after all. I guess it’s just that by leaving my compass in the middle, I feel personally like it is for a Party to convince me, rather than to wrestle me from a previous camp so to speak… That way I know by May that my decision will be made on current information, rather than 5 year old information, if that makes sense? It makes sense to me anyway.

Politics on the other hand…

Politics makes no sense to me whatsoever.