Walking down the street this afternoon I found myself in a part of town that I hadn't really visited that much of late, although it was an area I used to frequent more when I first moved down here some fifteen or so years ago.  Fifteen years!  Quite absurd of course to consider that such time had passed. It only seemed like the other day that I made my way down to the coast from London and...

Actually no. I realised that it did seem like a long time ago. The biggest difference was how I felt. Walking down that street again evoked in me a Proustian rush, I recalled just how free and excited I felt back then. I'd made a big change to my life and uprooted myself. The possibilities appeared endless, above me an infinite blue sky that reflected my state of mind.

I instantly became depressed. Things were so much more negative and gloomy now, the world a far more depressing place. What was it that had changed so much so as to skew my outlook to such a large degree?

Aside from the passage of time I could think of very little. OK, so I was now older but all that really meant was a few more pounds, a few more wrinkles and a few less hairs on my head. Surely that wasn't enough to have knocked my mood so badly off course over the period of a decade and a half? Other than that I was still in employment, single (which can be seen as both a positive and negative thing) and if anything better off and more financially stable than I had been in 1998. Furthermore in the intervening years I'd actually achieved a few things which the younger me would probably have been quite pleased with.

Why did I feel so trapped? There was no logical reason for me not to feel just as optimistic as I had back then and yet in comparison to times past I felt as if I was looking at the bright warm world through thick iron bars, locked up in a prison in my head, barely able to turn around in my cell. No hope, no future, no change in sight. The memory of how I used to feel was just another torture, taunting me with a glimpse of how I could never feel again.

It was obvious that I was my own jailer. I'd locked myself in there, the bars were of my own making. The opportunities and hope I felt all around me back in 1998 were all still there, and there was no reason I could not still grab hold of them with both hands in the way I perhaps should have back then. I just had to break out of the prison.

I am still not convinced that I have, but the sense that the bars were illusory is stronger now than it has been for a very long time. The only thing holding me back is myself which raises the question of why I have been doing it.

It could be fear of failure or fear of the unknown or perhaps a lack of imagination? Or maybe my surroundings having grown so familiar that I simply forgot how much potential lay within them.

There is nothing I cannot try. Who says I have to go home and go to bed after work every single day? There are a million things I could be doing and I have no excuse not to do as many of them as I can.

I am cutting through the bars with an oxyacetylene torch.

Once I have done so the trick will be to keep reminding myself that they don't exist.

Recently Channel Four screened an interesting drama - a bizarre eight part story from France called The Returned (Les Revenants). Like many TV viewers in the UK over the past few years I've found the subtitled European drama on offer quite gripping and what with the supernatural elements of the show that were obvious from the trailers, I made sure I watched the whole series.


It was as good as I hoped. For me the fact that it was made in a different country and therefore in a different language probably added to its otherworldliness, but nevertheless it certainly didn't need any help in that direction, being both alarming and disturbing in equal measure.  I had never seen anything quite like it before although - like many contemporary shows - it could be said to have some of the DNA of Twin Peaks in its genetic makeup. The show thrived on mystery, often the viewers being left to work things out for themselves. Personally I have always found drama that does this far more interesting. The concentration pays off and you get more out of it from having mentally contributed to the arrival of the narrative in your head. Far better than having obvious plot points and foreshadowing hammered home with the spoons they're using to feed it to you.

The end of the eighth and final episode of the first series was chilling and dramatic and furthermore left a lot hanging in the fine tradition of end of season cliffhangers back through "Not Penny's Boat" all the way to the grandparent of them all, "I am Locutus of Borg".  Whilst it is never a good idea to wish your life away I must say I'm impatient to see what happens in season two of The Returned in 2014.

However I was astonished by the violent reaction to this in some quarters - both online and in print. A number of viewers and critics alike seemed outraged that things had been left hanging. One even said they were so disappointed that, no matter how much they loved the show, they wouldn't be watching season two.

It's an end of season cliffhanger. It's what sometimes happens in TV shows, particularly genre ones. Why has this one in particular caused such a fuss?

I have no idea, but suspect that it might be because the audience was atypical for a genre show.  The vogue for subtitled European TV drama was kicked off by a number of Scandinavian crime or political shows and perhaps The Returned inherited an audience more used to Wallender, Borgen, The Killing or The Bridge, all of which had closure at the end of seasons (even if most of the time it was a very downbeat or even bleak closure).

Despite its increased popularity these days there may well be some snobbery about genre TV still floating about. The Returned was probably lucky to get a sizeable audience on the basis of its origin and language rather than its narrative category. And let's hope that, having enjoyed it, some of the audience who wouldn't normally touch them with a bargepole might be persuaded to watch more shows dealing with weird shit.

If they do then one thing they may have to get used to is the end of season cliffhanger. Whilst not used religiously in genre shows, a lot of the time one is expecting something as the final minutes of the final episode approach - even if it turns out to be more tongue in cheek such as the events heralded by David Tennant's "What? What?! WHAT?!" at the end of RTD era Doctor Who seasons.

Then again Breaking Bad has end of season cliffhangers. No-one ever threatened to boycott the next season of that...

Aside from all the science fiction I consumed, when I was a child my favourite books were those in which children visited other worlds - not via spaceships, but by using magic. Although to be honest I didn't see that much difference between the two methods of travel in my mind and as far as I was concerned Narnia may well have simply been in a parallel dimension.

I particularly enjoyed the alchemical feel of The Magician's Nephew - there was something pseudo scientific about the whole method of travel between worlds, with the logic of the green and the yellow rings and the Wood Between the Worlds with its portals into other universes. Furthermore when Digory and Polly discovered Charn my SF heart leapt at the description of its sun as a red giant with small blue dwarf companion star; likewise at Digory catching a glimpse of Jupiter "quite close - close enough to see its moons" whilst travelling back to London from the Wood Between the Worlds.

As far as I was concerned these tales were all pretty much the same; whether you reached the new worlds using by wardrobe, spaceship, TARDIS or magic ring, the important part was what happened when you got there. And that could be anything.

The only differences between these stories seemed to be what happened at the end. The science fiction ones continued onwards and outwards - often in a spirit of optimism but sometimes with a dark dystopian message. The main thing about them was that they were open ended. The fantasy ones on the other hand often had contrasting conclusions. More often than not the children involved in the story had to return to the real world and in doing so somehow deny the experience they'd had there in order to grow up and move on.

I was devastated at the end of Jennie by Paul Gallico when Peter - having spent the bulk of the novel as a cat exploring London and Glasgow with his tabby companion Jennie - not only becomes a boy again but then proceeds to forget about the entire experience. To be honest I would much rather he'd stayed a cat - his parents were inattentive anyway - but if he did have to return to his normal life then at least let him remember his cathood. Anything else was just cruel. I burst into tears when I finished it, unable to bear the compounding of the whole "it was all just a dream" trope with it being a dream that the protagonist no longer even remembered. It's still a fantastic book though and perhaps that's why I felt so let down by the ending.

What's so great about growing up anyway? Who says you have to put aside childish things like the imagination and a sense of adventure? Aslan, that's who. Apparently after an adventure or two most children are barred from Narnia; their own lives in late 1940s or early 1950s England being more important.

I think it's important to hold onto the way you felt as a child, to hold onto the sense that anything's possible. The adult world hold enough sway over our lives already, is it too much to ask that we be allowed to hold on to our imaginations at least?

One of my favourite stories as an adult is Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere which put a modern spin on the child in a fantasy world idea by having the protagonist as an adult (albeit one who still sometimes played with toys). But the best part was the ending. Having spent the whole of the story trying to get his real life back, Richard succeeds only to realise that's not what he wants after all. His despair at not being able to get back into London Below is palpable, as is the relief when the Marquis de Carabas relents and invites him back (with the unspoken price "...and now you owe me a favour").

That was how it should be done.

There is something about the imaginary worlds we play in as a child that borders on reality, which is why these stories are so compelling.  Our imagination was so strong back then. Remember those things that happened when you could fly or talked to a ghost or walked through a wall? Did they actually happen or was it only a game?

Maybe I'm wrong, but I don't see what's so great about being grown up if you have to give imagination up.

Our memories are a very useful manual on how not to live your life. Never mind the rose tinted spectacles, for a lot of us the events that really spring into sharp relief are those viewed through blush-tinged goggles. We torment ourselves over and over again over how much of a fool we made of ourselves in such-and-such situation, despite the fact that ninety-nine per cent of the time the only person that remembers these faux pas is ourselves.

There is one exception to this rule. When we get drunk and make a fool of ourselves there is a tendency of some people to never let us forget it. However this behaviour is most often observed in people who often do the same thing themselves and their attempts to get everyone else to remember that time you went swimming in the fountain in the town square at the end of the evening are merely an attempt to divert attention from the fact that they pissed on a policeman's shoes the week before.

But most of the time we're the only ones cringing at our own antics.

There is a very good reason for it and it's the same reason that we do virtually everything. Like many behavioural traits, mortification has been selected for by evolution with the result that we're probably all the descendants of a tribe of very shamefaced man-apes.  As George Santayana said, those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it. The truly shameless cave dwellers all died out because when they spent the evening dancing on the edge of the cliff after drinking the fermented apple slurry they discovered in that wood they thought nothing of it and the next time they got the opportunity they went and did it all over again with fatal results. Those who were mortified by their behaviour survived to pass the humiliation gene on to the next generation.

It's annoying that we don't dwell on those things we got right though.

How much healthier it would be for us in the long run if instead of cringing from the contents of the cabinet of disgrace we could open the cupboard of our past triumphs and bask in their glory for a little while? The positive reinforcement of having got some things right should in theory be just as strong a mental tool for long-term survival. If there is one thing we have learned - or at least have been told over and over again by the self-help authors and lifestyle gurus of our age - there is no point in living in the past and dwelling on bad memories. The important thing is to live in the present and plan for a future by laying down the foundation blocks for a fantastic life, taking the good opportunities when they are presented to you and not dwelling on anything bad. In theory this means that when we reach our autumn years we'll have a lot of good times to look back on.

In theory. It all depends upon whether we're life half-full or life half-empty people.  But when it comes down to it I am sure we'd all rather be happy when it comes down to it, even the pessimists.

The trick is identifying the key points in time as they happen. Are they opportunities for greater happiness or just another change to make even bigger fool of ourselves? The only way to find out is to do them anyway.

One right decision is worth ten embarrassing ones. And even an embarrassing memory is worth more than never having attempted it in the first place.

What might have been is the most irritating itch of all because you can never scratch it.

Firstly I'd like to make it clear that by writing this I am in no way implying that people taking part in today's boycott of Twitter are in the wrong. Freedom not to speak is as important as freedom to speak. This is more an explanation as to why I'm not taking part. Not that anyone would really notice or care one way or another whether I took part or not and this in itself is probably pertinent.

Of course the fact that I (and many others) feel the need to explain why they're not taking part is in itself interesting.  Despite statements that people are free to do what they want to do (or not do what they don't want to do) I feel an unspoken implication that the good people are taking part in the boycott and that therefore if you don't take part then...

Not that anyone is actually saying this or even thinks it - it's just an unavoidable side-effect of what's happening. Perhaps a side-effect that exists only in my head. But it's there.

I can't even begin to understand what it is like to receive online threats of the kind that sparked this off. I get upset when someone is slightly sarcastic to me. To be on the receiving end of such horrendous vicious bile, over and over again, without an end in sight would be my idea of online hell. I'd probably give up the internet altogether.

The closest I ever came to such a hell was when I was at school and the focus of attention for a number of bullies. Quite why they got off on this I have no idea. In retrospect I choose to believe that they were just scum and the power they felt at inflicting such torment gave them some kind of thrill.

But apart from the callous and incessant verbal and physical abuse, one of the worst things was that no-one ever did anything about it. I was too scared to speak up because the teachers, who were all quite clearly aware of what was going on, turned a blind eye and a deaf ear. The closest I ever got to an acknowledgement was a muttered aside from one teacher who told me that he thought I was "pathetic" for putting up with it. He seemed embarrassed even to have said that.

None of my fellow pupils said or did a thing - probably because they were afraid of the bullies' attention being turned on them.

And this conspiracy of silence in the face of a belligerent minority of gits can be observed to this day. Picture the brace of drunken thugs on late night public transport that cause other people to stare intently at the game of Angry Birds they're playing on their phone or pretend to be asleep in the hope that the focus currently being brought to bear on the poor soul three seats away won't be diverted to them.  If everyone in the carriage or on the bus stood up and decided to do something about it it would be a very different story.

To return to my school days I do remember one day when we all stood up and did something - although sadly this was not about the bullies in our midst. On the way home from school there was one stretch of road in which a group of kids from another school would lie in wait. When they saw one or two of us walking along they'd leap out and submit us to five or ten minutes of abuse of one kind or another.

So we decided to get organised.  We gathered together a group of twenty or so and hid around the corner from this stretch of road. I was one of two kids who were sent on ahead as bait. I actually felt quite excited. As expected, a group of three or four kids from the other school emerged from behind trees and swaggered towards us, grinning.

I remember to this day the sound of running feet and children cheering that erupted as the rest of the group came tearing around the corner. The bullies turned and fled and afterwards walking along that stretch of road on the way home from school was never quite as much of a problem as it had been.

The internet in general makes it far easier for people to do virtually anything. This includes abusing others and getting off on the power the abusers imagine this gives them. But I feel that the way to respond to this is to speak out, to name and shame and that silence is the compost which nourishes bullying of all kinds.

I expect I am missing the point of the boycott, but this is how it feels to me and I can't relax until I've written this down.