Guest post with Nicholas Rossis.

My good blogging friend, published author, and all-round nice guy, Nicholas Rossis, has kindly published a guest post from me on his blog. It is about my experiences as an Amazon reviewer.
If you think this might be of some interest, please follow this link.
http://nicholasrossis.me/2017/12/11/guest-post-by-pete-johnson-being-an-amazon-reviewer-a-personal-experience/

Feel free to comment on his blog.

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Trying, failing, sometimes succeeding

(I am going to be away from the blog for a few days, probably until next Monday. Nothing dramatic, just to let you all know I will be doing my best to catch up on everything when I get back.)

I must be in a reflective mood today, as I got to thinking about how many times we try things, in a long life. I remember my Dad telling me, “If you never try, you won’t know if you can do it”. He was talking about swimming at the time, but as he had just let go of me in a sea-pool, and I had almost choked on the water, I didn’t get his point at that moment.

The next thing he wanted me to try was to be good at sport. He was the sort of Dad who wanted his son to be the winner, and the sporting prowess of his own youth drove him on. I tried playing football, even though I obviously lacked the natural talent that marks the gifted player. I finally settled for being the goalkeeper, at the age of eight. In my first Sunday morning match, I let in (or failed to save) seven goals, and the team lost 7-0. After that, they chose a different goalkeeper.

I did manage to do quite well at running, at least over short distances. I was chosen to run in the 100 yards for my primary school, and very excited. However, when the day came, my Dad was unable to attend the sports event, so never saw me come first, just that once. When I was older, I tried Hockey, something of an unusual sport for boys at the time. My Dad got me a professional hockey stick, but never managed to find the time to watch me play in a match. And I did OK too.

As I got older, he decided it was time for me to learn to try ‘manly’ tasks. Things like digging up the garden, using power tools, and servicing car engines. Although I had little or no interest in such things, I had to try. My skill with carpentry was non-existent, and that seemed to infuriate him. Perhaps because he was a trained carpenter, and assumed that skill would be inherited. The workings of car engines were also a mystery to me, and I had a tendency to drop important tiny parts as I fumbled in the depths of the mechanism. Digging was easy enough, so I was set to hard labour, re-modelling the large garden under his tutelage.

Next, I had to try to learn about hanging wallpaper, and painting doors with gloss paint. Once again, I tried, but had no apparent skill in these areas either. My brush left bristles in the fresh paint, and the folded wallpaper stuck to itself, before tearing. Dad concluded that I wasn’t trying hard enough, and preferred to do it on his own. When I stated “At least I tried”, he shook his head in disdain.

Once I was grown, married, and living in a place of my own, I had many new things to try. After much effort, I did manage to plumb in a washing machine, but a friend was giving me instructions over the phone, I confess. I bought an electric drill, and was so proud when I managed to put up a series of curtain poles, and a whole wall of shelving. Admittedly, the poles may not have been completely level, but at least one side of the curtains closed easily. Facing facts that I was never going to be a useful house painter or wallpaper-hanger, I paid a professional to do those jobs. I reasoned that I was providing much needed employment for the tradesmen concerned.

I even tried my hand at electrics. Changing plugs was easy, but that lulled me into a false sense of security. I rewired a fan heater, and very pleased with myself, I plugged it in, only to blow everything in the house. At least I then had to learn a new skill, replacing a fuse wire. When we bought a new central light, I decided that I would try to attach it to the fixture in the ceiling. But as I hadn’t thought to isolate the live connection first, I managed to blow myself off of the step ladder, and received a nasty electric shock into the bargain. After that, I employed electricians.

Cars were still a mystery, though I could manage to change a wheel, replace oil and air filters, and even once repaired a carburettor. For anything else, it was a trip to the car dealer, and an expensive bill. The time came when I despaired of trying anything, as I was convinced I would fail by default. Even house plants died in my care, rarely lasting a week. Trying to trim decorative bushes in the small garden resulted in lots of dead shrubbery, as I had presumably cut too deep, and at the wrong time. My wife at the time began to despair of me ever being able to do anything, and made her opinions known to all.

When I applied to join the Ambulance Service, she counselled against it. “You hate blood, you are not a practical person, and you cannot even watch an operation on television. How are you going to be able to do that job?”. “I won’t know, until I try”. Was my reply. So I tried, and for once, I succeeded. Not only did I manage to learn the necessary skills, I was very good at the job too. At the age of 28, I had finally found something that I could do, something that not everyone else could do too.

I can’t tell you just how good that felt.

When I stopped worrying

I couldn’t name the day, and I am not even sure what year it was. But it definitely happened. I stopped worrying. Not about important things, those things that we actually need to concern ourselves about. Just those social things, the acquired worries, all those unnecessary ones.

I stopped worrying about how I was dressed. After all, I was walking a dog in rain and mud. Why should I care what people thought about the clothes I was wearing?

I once worried about what my hair looked like. But then most of it disappeared, and I just cut what was left myself, into a short crop that looks like I have no hair at all. Why worry about hairstyles, when there’s nothing left to style?

I stopped worrying about looking old, and became interested in the change instead. I couldn’t do anything about it, and I certainly wasn’t about to endure a lot of painful surgical procedures to restore my youthful look. Better to just stop worrying. And it worked.

Having strong opinions is not always acceptable in polite company. But I got to that time when I realised I had been keeping them to myself when meeting new people for far too long. So, I became true to myself, and stopped worrying about what they thought.

I used to actually worry about all the places I had never seen, and the countries that I had wanted to visit, but never had. It dawned on me that save for a lottery win, that was never going to happen. So I stopped worrying about that too.

I worried about losing touch with people, especially after moving away to a place that few would ever visit. I tried my best to maintain contact with everyone, but it wasn’t easy. They had their lives to live, and it wasn’t their fault that I had moved 130 miles away. So I stopped worrying about that.

As my list of things not to worry about became longer, it got easier to accept more additions.

For a long time, I worried about upsetting people with blog comments, or alienating them by writing about things that they didn’t agree with. But one day I realised that a lot of those bloggers were no longer around, and new ones had replaced them. I decided that such things have a way of sorting themselves out, and stopped worrying about them.

Then I stopped worrying about doing things. So what if I said I would go to the post office today, and didn’t? It will keep until tomorrow, and there is no point worrying about something I didn’t do, when it is too late to do it. The lawn wasn’t cut on the day I said I would do it. No matter, let the grass grow.

There is real freedom in not worrying, I assure you. Everyone should try it.

Christmas Day

This is a work of fiction, a short story of 760 words.

Roger was much more than angry. Maybe furious would do, he wasn’t sure if that was enough though.
“Where the hell do you expect me to get cranberry sauce at this time, on Christmas Day?” Perhaps he had shouted too loudly at Samantha. After all, she had got him the new ten-inch tablet he had been hinting about. And she had been very gracious about the earrings, even though he had suspected she didn’t really like them. “Will anybody even want it on their turkey?” Sam shrugged. He knew it was no good, he would have to go out.

As he walked to the door, car keys in hand, he heard her call from the kitchen. “Try that small shop in Marlowes Lane. You know, the one past the garden centre. They are Indians or Pakistanis or something. They’re bound to be open, they don’t do Christmas.” He waved a hand in acknowledgement, not trusting himself to say more. Roger’s head was pounding when he sat in the car. A headache that was sure to ruin his afternoon was building behind his eyes, and the last thing he needed was a twenty-minute drive just to buy bloody sauce that nobody would want. Trust her to forget to buy it yesterday.

He was almost certainly driving too fast as he approached the roundabout, his anger transferring to his right foot on the accelerator. But he managed to control the car despite the speed, and took the last exit onto the far end of Marlowes Lane. Something seemed to snap inside his head. It was as if an elastic band in there, stretched far too tight, had just given up. Time slowed down as he straightened the car, and it seemed to get very dark all of of a sudden. He couldn’t focus that well, and stared at the dials behind the steering wheel.

Roger was not aware that he was dead. The car slowed, and drifted across into the oncoming traffic, hitting a family saloon coming in the opposite direction. He didn’t feel the impact, or hear the scrape of metal on metal and the sound of glass breaking. He was unaware of the airbag inflating, smothering his face momentarily, or the startled screams of the family occupying the other car.

There were lots of people around him. More people than he had ever seen in one place. Crushed together, like the crowd at a sports event. Nobody was speaking, yet everyone was undeniably talking. The countless conversations filled his head, but he was unable to isolate more than odd words. He was moving slowly carried along by the crowd, and unable to turn back, or move to the side. Everything was grey, opaque light barely illuminating the scene. He cast around, trying to find someone to ask a question of. Why was he there? What was happening? Where was the car? Was Samantha here too?

But everyone stared ahead, glassy eyes fixed on the crowd ahead of them. The man beside him had only half a face; the woman in front was very short, perhaps a child. He wasn’t sure. When he tried to speak again, no words came out, but the man turned and looked at him. Roger sensed the words, “I don’t know, none of us do. Keep walking”. The man had answered his question without moving what was left of his mouth. The pressure of the crowd kept him moving. More like a shuffle, than a walk. He realised he couldn’t hear anything; not the sound of movement, nor any ambient sounds whatsoever. He didn’t smell anything either, no odour from those tens of thousands of moving people.

They walked on, their destination unknown to all.

The paramedics and fire crews had taken their time dealing with the family. Luckily, it was mainly cuts and bruises. One of them had looked at Roger and shaken his head, moving across to the other car to help his colleague. The shaken driver was talking to a policeman. “He just drove across the road, straight at us. I didn’t realise, until the last second.” The policeman nodded his head. “Not your fault sir. You were all lucky, and cars can be replaced.”

Samantha was pleased. Everything was ready. When her parents arrived, she showed them into the living room and asked what they wanted to drink. Her Dad looked around. “Where’s Roger?”. She smiled at him. “Oh, he won’t be long. He just popped out for some extra cranberry sauce. I only got one yesterday, and it might not be enough.”

Another You Tube find

This You Tube post has already had well over 1,000,000 hits, but I have only discovered it today. I was thinking about featuring the American group Talking Heads on my Significant Songs series, when I came across this cleverly-constructed video.

I have no axe to grind about Mr Trump. As far as I am concerned most US politicians are as bad as each other, and I never expect anything of any of them. But this is really well-done, and combines the best of both worlds. The clever lyrics of the genius who is David Byrne, and a funny satire on a very self-important man.

See what you think.

Featured Blogger: Dani

I am very happy to feature the blog of the lovely Dani, short for Danielle. She is a bookaholic, and a prolific reviewer and promoter of new books online.

As you can see, she has a very different and exclusive look, and amazingly huge eyes! Since she followed my blog, I have been so grateful for her frequent comments, and regular engagement on my posts. New bloggers could learn a lot from her, with they way that she not only adds her thoughts, but interacts with other bloggers who comment too.

Her own blog is a literary feast, and she also espouses causes, and writes about many good themes and ideas. Her personal life story is fascinating to read, and despite her youth, she has already led a full and interesting life.
I really recommend her blog, which can be found here.
http://www.touchmyspinebookreviews.com

She has sent me her own short personal bio too. Here it is.

Hello everyone I am Dani, short for Danielle and I am a bookaholic. I started my book blog a few months ago because I have become more disabled recently and can’t go on adventures like I use to! I am a proud mother of 3 amazing children; Zoey(9), Gabriel(6), and Vincent(2). They give me the strength to push forward.💖 I am a free-spirited woman who loved working, volunteering, taking random road trips and getting involved with the community. When I became disabled and could hardly get out of bed, it tore my spirit down. Not only was I battling getting over liver cancer, I was trying to be a fulltime mother and care-giver to my son’s father. I wasted away until I remembered the days I used to get completely engulfed in reading, and it took me to places I have never been. Now with reading I am able to explore, and to go on so many adventures. Also WordPress has been a big part of my recovery. So many of my “friends” disappeared when I became disabled, but with the blogosphere I have met so many amazing and supportive people! Thanks so much Pete for featuring me! I am so thankful and blessed to have met you. You are an extraordinary gentleman! If anyone would like to follow me on WordPress, I always follow back and interact with all my followers! I hope everyone has a great day!😊

Please check out her blog, especially if you love books, and admire a very happy and enthusiastic young lady! I absolutely love her, and I am sure you will too.

Significant Songs (158)

Fighter

Sometimes, the popular image of a young singer can make you forget just how good they are. In my case, this applied to Christina Aguilera. I didn’t take a lot of notice of her early hits. A pleasant pop song, a pretty American girl, that was about it. At least as far as I was concerned. She had been a child star, and like some others of her generation, her looks assured she got enough attention to keep her career going into her teens.

Then in 2002, still aged just 22, she released a new album, ‘Stripped’. As the singles were released from this, and I began to hear them played constantly on the radio, I had to completely reassess my opinion of her. The vocals were quite literally amazing. There was such power coming out, it was hard to marry the voice to that tiny frame. This was something special indeed, and with professional promotional videos taking the songs to a cinematic level too.

She continued her very successful career to this day. On the way, she managed (along with others) to do something rare. The cover of ‘Lady Marmalade’ with Pink. Li’l Kim, and Maya, took on a classic track, and equalled it. For some, it was better than the original, and the sexy, sassy video certainly made for great viewing. Here it is, as a bonus. Well done, Christina.