The writing blog of James Christopher Sheppard. I am a 26 year old gay male from London, UK. Here I present my experiences, poems, thoughts and opinions...

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Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Poetry Collection Coming & 2011 Round-Up

So I have been unforgivably abysmal at updating, or even writing, anything these passed few months. I do hope you forgive me- if you have even noticed, that is. I have been devoting all of my time to my job at Tropical Sky where I have received two promotions since joining the company in September. Since then I have been to the Maldives and am now gearing up for a trip to Dubai! It's all very exciting, plus I am now also Co-Chief Copy Writer so I am actually writing for a living. Hooray! I honestly wasn't sure I would see the day.

Great news! I am currently working on a very special project with a good friend of mine, Darren Fletcher, who is an incredible illustrator (see above for an example). We have compiled a selection of poetry from the past four years and will soon be publishing the collection alongside some of his superb illustrations. I am very excited! More news will follow soon. For more information on Darren, please take a look at his website Ghost Heart Studios.

As it's been three months since my last update, there is much to tell; my summery of 2011, my plan for 2012, my final most listened to music of 2011, a travel piece about my trip to the Maldives. If I write all these things here, then I *have* to do them. I do want to, it's just finding the time. From 5th March I shall be living in my shiny new apartment so hopefully I will find the space far more creative than my current living situation (in a room as small as a shoe box in my Dad's house).

Firstly then, let us begin with 2011- the year that has defined where I am now. Of course, most importantly I graduated from Kingston University with a 2:1 degree in Creative Writing with English Literature. I have wanted to write since I was 16, when I found that I could express myself far clearer through words typed or written than any other way. Taking the jump in quitting my job at 23 and moving to Kingston was a scary and life-saving move. I can't help but imagine that I would still be working in retail, going from job to job, being unfulfilled, earning shit money and being made redundant every few months as our high streets appear to be dying. The thing I loved the most about my University life was the learning- which may seem screamingly obvious to some, but may well be completely lost on others (as I'm sure it is with most that attend Kingston). I truly feel a more complete person. I was thirsty for knowledge and was sick of being bored. All I wanted was to learn and expand myself and move on with my life. Job done.

On top of my degree, I met some very memorable characters, some of whom I hope to remain friends with for the rest of my life. I learned how to live with people and found the freedom of being responsible for myself and myself alone completely liberating. Without University it is questionable how long I would have waited to take the same jump in terms of living arrangements. To be blunt, before Uni I was a pussy; I didn't take risks and I was totally bored.

So yeah, the boy that dropped out of college twice and with average GCSE's was 0.7% from getting a first for one of the top Creative Writing courses in the country. Not too shabby. Following University, I opted to move to Hull. There were two options- live with my Mum for a year in Hull or live with my Dad in East Grinstead. I thought Hull would be a challenge- interesting and new. It didn't work out and after the longest ten weeks of my life I got the train 250 miles south, turning up at my Dads with just a suitcase and my lap top. The bed I slept in that night in August 2011 is the same bed that I am sat in as I write this. Turns out sometimes you just belong somewhere. For me, I have no shame in loving the South East- it just makes sense to me. The North is literally another world- and not one I particularly care for. Within six weeks of residing in my hometown, I was employed and it has been non-stop ever since.

Christmas 2011 was the best Christmas in memory. I spent two days entirely with friends, where I received the warmest welcomes and unparalleled hospitality. New Years followed in a similar vain, with a small group of us sat in a circle sharing our best and worst moments of the year just passed. The idea is that you share your worst thing about the year and are thankful that the year is over and also your best and say you will remember 2011 for that best thing. Nothing like a bit of reflection on New Years Eve!

Monday, 28 November 2011

That really pisses me off

So I've been ill in bed with a stomach bug and flu for three days now so I am feeling a little... frustrated to say the least. It's especially worrying as I am flying to the Maldives on Wednesday so the pressure is really on to get better and fast. I'm sure I will be fine by then... Eek! Anyway, you know over time, as you feel that you get to know yourself better, you understand what you like and don't like more? Well I just thought that I now must have quite a comprehensive list of 'Things that irritate me', so I thought I may as well write them all down. It's just another step on the ladder of 'getting to know me', plus I am bored and thought it might be fun.

Things that really piss me off/irritate me include:

1. Heavy footedness. Is there any need? You're not a fucking elephant so try treading a little lighter. Thanks.

2. You have a stomach bug, yet are constantly asked- 'Oh, have you eaten something that hasn't agreed with you?' ...NO! I HAVE A BUG!

3. The Saturdays... what a personality-less, boring group of mediocre girls singing dull as arse songs.

4. When people can't accept a difference of opinion and they feel the need to argue with you that your view is WRONG. We are allowed to disagree. Get a grip.

5. Defensiveness when it really isn't needed. A sign of a good friendship is being able to disagree and share different points of view. You should be able to criticise each other and bring up absolutely anything- like if I owe you a tenner, remind me I owe you a tenner. If that top looks shit on you and you ask, I will tell you.

6. Being asked if I want children. Replying 'Oh God no, I could never be a parent, I'm not big on children.' and getting the response 'But there are ways you can have kids now, aren't there?' Did you not hear me?

7. People that don't like Kylie Minogue. I just don't get it.

8. Wheat irritates the fuck out of me. Quite literally. My insides go into meltdown.

9. Being the only single at a party. Really guys? If you're inviting me to a party of 14 other people and they are all with their other halves, do you not think you should mention this to me? At least then I could prepare and invite a friend along.  I am worryingly becoming Bridget Jones.

10. People with straight hair. Bastards.

11. Sookie Stackhouse's narration in the True Blood books. I'm sorry, I love the show and want to read all of the books, but by the second book, I felt like burning the lot. 'There was something I had to do. Part of me stood back in amazement at my own stupidity as I pulled on some shorts and a T-shirt and slid my feet into sandals. I looked even worse in the mirror, to which I gave only a sideways glance. I stood with my back to it to brush my hair.' Charlaine Harris writes at the opening of Chapter Seven. Don't get me wrong, you can't fault the detail, and the stories are brilliant, but reading them ALL from Sookie's point of view who feels the need to tell you every tiny little laborious detail about getting dressed every few pages is mind-numbing and about as gripping as a lake of ice.

12. When people make up bullshit excuses to get out of things. Just be honest. If you don't fancy doing something, you are allowed to say 'Actually I really don't feel like it anymore, sorry', not say 'Oh shit hun, I didn't realise but I've got no money left and I'm not feeling well and I forgot that I was meant to blah blah blah.' Why lie??

13. And on that note- bullshitters. I can not count the amount of times that I have had to listen to people blatantly massively exaggerating and bullshitting their way through a story. I don't know who they are trying to impress. And it's so obvious they are bullshitting too. Weird.

14. When people mock you for liking certain bands/music/tv etc. What are we? At first school? Really?

15. Critical comments that are quite tactless when they are not asked for. I used to work with someone who would actually say 'Oh James, you've put on weight, haven't you?' and 'Nope, sorry, I don't like the new hair colour'. Fucking bitch. There was no polite way to say 'Well, I actually think you look like a fucking moose and couldn't give two shits what your opinion is' unfortunately.

16. Men that say they have 'Man-Flu'. Do they not understand that man-flu is not an actual illness but is used to describe a man making out that he is really ill when he has a simple cold? I hear so many guys so 'I've got man-flu' and they are being deadly serious. Uneducated knobs.

17. 'You need to drive'. Well actually I don't. I'm in the twenty-seventh year on this earth and so far I have coped just fine without being a driver. I don't have kids and always live within walking distance of town and a train station. Driving is so ludicrously expensive and lazy.

18. Louis Walsh being the only original X Factor judge. He is so wet, clueless and never says anything of any interest. Why Simon Cowell renews his contract over and over again, I have no idea. I miss Dannii, Cheryl, Sharon and even Simon.

19. 'You'll find someone when you least expect it and aren't looking for anyone.' I have been single for eight years. Do you think I have been expecting to find someone that entire time or looking? No. I'd say I've spent about seven of those eight years quite accepting of my singledom. The biggest pile of bullshit thing to say to someone that says their single. Maybe I won't find anyone, ever! You have no fucking idea.

I think 19 points will do for now. Mainly because I really need the loo. That also annoys me.

Sunday, 30 October 2011

The Year I Found Me

So much can change in a year. In less than twelve months I have encountered several incarnations; from final year university student working on his dissertation in Kingston, to shop worker for less than minimum wage in Hull, to professional travel specialist on good money and getting to travel the world, while spending my weeks working away in a casual office environment in Sussex. And from non-smoking, gym addicted cyclist to chain smoking heavy drinker to serious dieter. Even my eyewear has changed multiple times in 2011.

The last time it was dark by 1730 on a Sunday afternoon I was living with Chloe in a large old Victorian flat in KT1. Now I am sitting here at my Dad's house in my hometown with the 'King's Speech' mumbling away in the background and I have to say, I think without the Hull episode earlier this summer, there is no way that I would have been content with sitting here right now. So yes, 2011 has been quite a roller-coaster of a year so far, but has certainly lead to me knowing myself better than ever. I understand better what drives me and makes me happy, what saddens and upsets me, where I like to be, who I like to be around, how much of myself to present in different situations and when people and places are and are not worth my time.

Now with graduation looming just around the corner, I can mark this period with a suitable and formal celebratory ending and beginning. Farewell to my life as an uneducated and troubled youngster and hello to James, an adult who knows exactly who he is and hasn't done too badly for himself at all.

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Student lifestyle VS Full time work lifestyle

I feel utterly deflated.

I started my new job as a Travel Consultant about a month ago and I am happy to report that it is going very well. The people I work with are great, the office and hours are cool, the work is interesting and I am learning more everyday. So all in all- horah!

Work is good and I feel so completely at home and comfortable being based back in East Grinstead, so what is puncturing me and making the air seep out? Could it be that I’ve been not been writing so much or going to the gym as much as I used to?

I am finding myself longing to visit Knights Park Student Union all the time. I am really missing the student lifestyle I had in Kingston- even down to my routine of cycling everywhere and hitting the gym regularly. It’s just not as easy to do it here. I miss my bike more than anything I think. Perhaps I should invest in a new one when I get paid next week.

The people around me in EG are brilliant, but naturally I miss all of the good friends I made in Kingston. The trouble is, only a few of them are left there now. Most people have had to go back home after Uni or moved away from Kingston so popping back (which is only an hour away) can actually leave you feeling more hollow than before. I genuinely miss my lectures and having fascinating and difficult literature to read and write about, as well as the spontaneous afternoons and evenings of drinking cocktails.

Perhaps I’m just struggling with change- although usually I pride myself on loving and even needing change. Like I said to Ben the other day though- if I was offered a temporary job abroad now, I would probably turn it down. I think I am longing to settle down and get some sort of routine back. Thankfully, I can see that in my not so distant future.

Hopefully Graduation on 1st November will satisfy my student lifestyle longing.

Bring it on.

Remember the Sky

by James Christopher Sheppard

With rushing and frantically trying to create
worth creating,
that would stand up and bow to the admirers and students
and band wagon jumpers,
it can reach the point of saturation
of having to stop through fear of burning out
or more realistically of failing to create
anything worth creating
for any eye to take the effort to
engage with brain and remember.
So I did look around
and noticed the sky
but not before realising I was stumbling off the trail,
off of the rubble and down a ditch
where trees stood tall and no man could prevail.
I took it all in,
the warnings and signs and noticed
that it couldn’t matter
if I created something worth creating
for eyes and brains to engage or not,
so long as I saw the sky and wasn’t afraid to look up
and risk falling down the ditch
filled with nameless men before me
that saw the sky just I have.

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Sore Throat

By James Christopher Sheppard

I’m so sick of talking
of writing and verbalising
screaming and shouting
just to explain myself to you.

I want to take pictures
and draw and paint
put together collages of images
to fill my empty days.

Brain disengaged in a way
but awakened to
sounds and sights that fill with delight
the space that once was words.

I want to want
to study and live and love and learn
and I do
yet I don’t hold the reigns tight enough.

I want to learn to relax
and to dance when asked
and to stand at the bar with confidence
and to not feel awkward as I walk through the room.

So it turns out I should have chosen a different path
or perhaps stuck to the original,
but I am not one to pick and stick
if not completely convinced.

I’m so sick of waiting
for something to grab me
and throw me onto the conveyer belt of dreams
and for life to finally begin.


It had been quite sometime since my last update, yet when I tried, all I could put together was this. So yes, in a nutshell, feeling like my degree is pretty much worthless in the sense of getting a decent job in the now as a writer. I keep looking at fellow Kingston University students online portfolios and archives and am blown away. The students that seem to be getting somewhere are the journalism students. Us creative writers alone, don't seem to be half as up on what they are up on. I'm now thinking I should have studied Creative Writing and Journalism instead of English Literature, but we can't change that now. I did love my course, I just hadn't given much thought to the technicalities of employment afterwards. Of course I can chase the freelancer dream, but as we were told in class, you have to have a day job for several years before you can have any hope of living off what you make as a freelance writer. 

Even as a freelance writer, I am barely trained, compared to the journalism students. Their sites are professional and concise, where mine is amateurish. I feel disengaged with writing about myself and what's happening in my life at the moment as I am pretty deflated by it all. As the poem depicts, I am sick of words and trying to piece things together. What I want is to just feel free, and even though I am, I don't posses the ability to embrace that. I don't know, I wrote a poem because it's hard to explain. 

Friday, 12 August 2011

This is Home

It's been four days since I arrived back in my hometown- the small West Sussex town of East Grinstead. Of course, people are always sharing their unwanted opinions- 'but you spent all that money moving all your stuff up to Hull' and 'you should have known this would happen', but ultimately we are in control of our own lives and their direction, so no-one needs to worry about what I'm doing and why.

Over the past four days I have spent every day catching up with friends and remembering my place in the world. These are the people that made me. These are the people that shaped me and have never judged. These people are my family- the one I have created for myself. Life without the people you hold dearest is a lot harder than I ever thought it could be. And it doesn't mean you don't care deeply for the people you have left elsewhere, but you need to be around the people that are driven by what you are driven by, enjoy what you enjoy and share a similar attitude for life. It is those shared values that lead to a happy existence- or at least that is what I have learned.

Beyond the people, it is also such a relief to feel happy and confident about leaving the house. The view out of my window right now is green- with hoards of trees and hills and fields. The walk home is down a dirt track, surrounded by woodland and nature- it feels so sacred and unexplored, like nothing a city can offer. The town is brimming with pubs and local restaurants, which by 27, is more than adequate to satisfy my social needs. What I spent so long trying to get away from when I was in my late teens and early twenties, is exactly what I have run back to now that I have experienced city life. London is an hour away and I am ok with that.