Jamie and the Robin

Jamie crossed out the 22nd December on his bedroom calendar, feeling a wave of anticipation as he did so. Only two days to go. While he pondered over what was yet to come, he recalled his mother’s words upon mentioning Christmas earlier that month: ‘Please, Jamie. Don’t get your hopes up this year, okay.’ But it was impossible not to. He loved everything about it. The colours. The music. The festive cheer. Yet he had never experienced it himself. Only through the television. The dusty block of metal in the living room was the only thing that gave him a glimpse into the world outside their walls. Other children his age enjoyed watching cartoons, but Jamie preferred to turn to the local news. At this time of year, it often provided the insight he desired. It showed him what was happening in the town right outside their door, which for him just out of reach.

‘Jamie! Come down here.’

He went immediately at his mother’s call. On his way, he regarded the locked door across the staircase. His father’s old room. The room he knew he would never be allowed inside. Nevertheless, with every day that passed, his curiosity continued to grow. Downstairs, his mother was sat at the dinner table. Jamie watched as she scraped the edge of her key over her weekly scratch card. From the expression that followed, Jamie could tell this one was another let down.

‘I’m expecting the Tesco order any time now,’ she said, without looking up. ‘So stay where I can see you. I don’t want you going anywhere near that door until they’re gone.’

Jamie nodded. He had always been a quiet boy; one that did what he was told, even if it didn’t always make sense. This was one of those times. He always knew there was something wrong with his mother. How she would frequently look over her shoulder, then twitch when there was nothing there. Above all, it was the eyes. Dark-rimmed and clearly deprived of rest, yet always alert. It was like she could sense something in the room that he never could. Jamie didn’t know if she was ill, or if something else had made her this way – but even at his age, he could tell from those eyes that she wasn’t stable. A knock at the door made her jump.

‘That’s them.’

Jamie lingered in the kitchen as she went to answer it. Several bolt locks later, his mother opened the door to a stranger –  her worst nightmare. The door chain remained attached, leaving them to converse through the resulting, narrow gap. Jamie crept closer so he could hear.

‘Yes?’

‘I’ve got some post for you, ma’am.’

‘Leave it on the door step.’

‘Umm, okay. But –’

‘Just do it, please!’

‘But, ma’am. It needs to be signed for.’

She hesitated, yet she had no choice. After a deep breath, she took the chain off and opened the door fully. Jamie wondered what the package could be. His mother often ordered to the house – seeing as she never ventured out herself – but with Christmas Day in sight, he couldn’t help but speculate. The second his mother had given her signature, she snatched the package away and slammed the door. Her hand shivered as she bolted it shut once again. Jamie was right behind her when she turned.

‘What did I say about coming near the door?’

She stormed upstairs with the parcel. Jamie stood for a moment, feeling the slightest chill seeping in from the doorway. Then, he heard rustling. Letters were being fed through the letter hole. He watched them drop, but did not approach right away, instead waiting until the postman’s footsteps could no longer be heard. When he knew it was safe, he picked them up. A few had “URGENT” written in bold, while others bore both his mother’s and father’s names. Among them, however, was a bright red leaflet. Jamie gasped as he read it:

“SANTA’S GROTTO: ONLY HERE UNTIL CHRISTMAS EVE!”

Of all the aspects of Christmas that Jamie had seen on the television, Santa Clause was by far his favourite. He loved the idea of waking up on Christmas morning to see presents everywhere. But then, he loved the idea of meeting Santa even more. Jamie’s excitement soon diminished, however – because his mother would never let him go. He couldn’t miss out on this. This was an opportunity he might not get again. Jamie spent the next day watching his mother closely, waiting for the perfect moment. He had his woolly fleece at the ready the entire time. The moment finally came in the afternoon, while she was preparing their meal for that evening. When he knew her back was turned, he threw on his jumper and one by one slowly unlocked the bolts for the front door. With one last look in the house, Jamie slipped silently outside.

 

The first thing that hit him was the cold. He shivered at the initial breeze, but grew to appreciate the freshness of the air. Frost coated the grass on the lawn before him and crunched beneath his feet as he took his first steps into the outside world. There was tweeting nearby. Jamie scanned and noticed a small robin was perched on a naked tree on the footpath ahead. The robin’s calls seemed to beckon Jamie. Before he could fathom this, however, it flew away. After ensuring his mother had not seen him leave the house, he journeyed further up the street.

Passing the other houses, he noticed how each one was decorated with pretty lights of varying, vibrant colours. Upon reaching the end of the street, he found a sign for the town centre, before heading in that direction. Although his fleece was far from sufficient – and although he remained apprehensive of what he might encounter – the thrill of breathing in fresh air and seeing the outside world with his own eyes brought him much joy. Jamie was then caught off guard. A group of children, similarly aged, were strolling his way. They were the first children he had seen other than himself. How was he to interact with them? He panicked and stepped aside to let them pass. He refrained from making any eye contact. When they were well out of sight, he carried onwards.

Soon enough, cosy gift shops began to appear either side of the street. More people swooped into view. Adults, carrying bag after bag of shopping wherever they went. Above him, lights like those before were suspended from building to building as far as he could see. Choir music faded into earshot. And as Jamie pushed further into a now lively high street, he spotted a huge Christmas tree in the centre of the square. It towered above everything else, boasting baubles the size of his head. And right at the top, there sat a glittering star. Everything was just how Jamie imagined it. The spectacle left him in awe.

He maneuvered his way through the crowd. Just as he arrived at the base of the tree, he saw it. Across the square was a modest, colourful hut, covered in glittering fake snow and surrounded by children. At the centre of the pen, resting on his throne, was Santa. Jamie rushed towards the Grotto and joined the queue. A girl, no older than five, was sat on Santa’s lap, telling him everything she wanted for Christmas. The child’s mother stood nearby, taking photographs – and it was here Jamie realised that he was the only child who had come alone. After half an hour of waiting in line, the child in front of Jamie jumped off Santa’s lap and headed inside the Grotto.

‘Who’s next?’ Jamie was taken back by the man’s deep, calm voice. ‘Ho Ho Ho! What’s your name little fella?’

Jamie didn’t answer, overwhelmed by the situation. Santa pulled him up onto his lap.

‘You’re a quiet little guy, aren’t you?’

Jamie nodded, sensing the children in the queue watching him.

‘Can you talk?’

‘Yes, Mr. Santa.’

Santa surveyed the crowd.

‘Did you come here all by yourself?’

‘Yes, Mr. Santa.’

‘Where are your parents? Are they shopping?’

‘No, Mr. Santa. It’s just me.’

‘Do you at least have money on you.’

Jamie shook his head. The parents in the queue exchanged dubious glances. Santa frowned.

‘I see. Well, I’m afraid I can’t let you into my Grotto without any money. If I let everyone in for free, my elves in the North Pole won’t have a Christmas this year either. Understand?’

‘I don’t care about the presents, Mr. Santa. I just came here to see you.’

Jamie heard one of the children pleading to his father with impatience. Santa sighed.

‘It was very nice to meet you, little one. Why don’t you run off home now. Your parents must be wondering where you are.’

‘Okay.’

Saddened, Jamie jumped from his lap and began to walk back home.

‘Hang on!’

Santa reached into his coat pocket and pulled out a candy cane. It glistened in the glow of the Christmas lights. Jamie smiled and took the sweet. He glanced up with hope at the big, bearded man.

‘Will you be at my house tomorrow, Mr. Santa? To bring me my presents?’

‘I’ll certainly do my best, little one.’

 

The trek home was a long one. By the time Jamie reached his house, darkness had fallen and the street was illuminated by the neighbours lights alone. As quietly as he could, he opened the front door, sneaked inside and bolted it shut. But as he turned to go upstairs, he found his mother stood before him. The look she gave him was filled with fury.

‘Where the hell have you been, Jamie?’

She screamed at him. It was so piercing it caused Jamie to drop the candy cane.

‘You went into the town? Why would you do that?’

It was the eyes again. Jamie couldn’t bear them. He could feel tears brewing.
‘I went to see Santa …’

‘I’ve told you so many times about what’s outside that door. There are people in this world that want to hurt you, Jamie. Bad people. And they all live out there. You can’t trust anyone. Not even Santa!’

His lips wavered.

‘But, mummy …’

‘I told you not to get your hopes up and what do you do? You run off! I could have lost you. I already lost your father, I am not losing you as well. You hear me?’

Jamie burst past her and ran up to his room, sobbing uncontrollably. He remained there for the rest of the night, unable to sleep while his mother sat on the stairs, shivering in the cold.

 

When morning came, Jamie sneaked downstairs in the hope that Santa had kept his promise from the day before. He tip-toed into the living room, but then his heart dropped. There was nothing. No presents, no lights, no music. He collapsed on the sofa, disheartened.

‘Jamie?’

His mother appeared in the passageway. She joined him on the sofa, much calmer than the last time they spoke.

‘I thought you might be up.’

Jamie refused to acknowledge her.

‘I’m so sorry, Jamie. I never meant to ruin Christmas for you. I was just so afraid that something would happen to you. You mean the world to me and I don’t think I could take it if I lost you. Everything I do, I do to keep you safe. I hope you know that.’

He continued to sit in silence.

‘Come with me. I want to show you something.’

Hesitant and uncertain, Jamie took his mum’s hand. He was led upstairs, where they halted outside his father’s room.

‘I think it’s time you saw what I’ve been hiding in here.’

She pulled out a key. Jamie was suddenly nervous, having waited so long for this moment. When the lock clicked open and she let him through, that anxiety disappeared. The room was just like any other, furnished with the most basic furniture imaginable. On top of the bed, however, lay a pile of Christmas presents. Jamie threw himself into his mother’s arms and giggled in delight. His mother cradled him and kissed his forehead.

‘Merry Christmas, Jamie.’

Santa had kept his promise.

‘Come on, let’s get some light in here,’ she said.

Jamie went to the window and pulled the curtains apart, then stared in shock at what he saw outside. A minute later, Jamie was downstairs unlocking the front door.

‘Jamie, what are you doing?’ his mother cried.

But it was too late. He flung the door open and everywhere they looked – the grass, the trees, the cars – it was all coated in a thick layer of pristine, real white snow. The mother stared, mesmorised.

‘Please, mummy! Can I play in it?’

‘I don’t think …’ His mother scrutinised the snow with great discomfort. But after a long pause, she gave a faint nod.

‘Really?’

‘Yes. But don’t leave the lawn! Stay where I can see you.’

Jamie had never seen snow in his life, let alone walked on it and felt it to the touch of his fingertips. It was everything he hoped it would be. Should he build a snowman, like the kids on television? He remembered his mother in the doorway. She shook her head, knowing what he was going to suggest. He went to her with his arm outstretched. She stared at it with terror, but found solace in Jamie’s expectant, loving stare. Still shivering, she took his hand and ever so gradually, Jamie led her out into the snow.

She yelped at the chilling moisture seeping through her fluffy slippers. Neighbours across the street clocked their presence and waved merrily. She gave them a feeble smile. On the tree at the end of the lawn, there sat the robin like before. It tweeted at the pair, seemingly glad to see them. Then, once again, it flew away. This Christmas, Jamie had done what he never thought he could do. For the first time in many years, his mother had taken her first steps in the outside world –  and Jamie had a feeling they would be the first of many to come.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Rock & Metal: Just Hear It Out (Part 2 of 3)

Here we go! Part 2. Once again, I plan to introduce you to 15 more bands in an attempt to win you over and transform you into a Rock & Metal enthusiast. If you haven’t looked at my first list, I strongly suggest you do. Because this week we’re cranking it up a notch. The bands featured in this list will be a teensy bit heavier than the previous ones – but if you listened to the artists from Part 1 and have taken a shine to a few of them, then I believe you’ll grow to like these bands as well.

Before I jump in, I would like to make one thing clear. This blog series is not me listing out the best artists of all time. If it was, you’d undoubtedly find the likes of Bruce Springsteen and Guns N’ Roses here. Instead, I’m suggesting various bands that I think you should listen if you want to get into Rock & Metal. I feel that if you grow to like these bands, then you’ll go on to enjoy plenty more within this broad and diverse genre.

What’s more, these suggestions are based on my own experience of music. Although I do everything I can to broaden my music library, I’ve not listened to every Rock & Metal band on the planet. For this reason, I can only draw from my own experience. I’ve done my best to take every music artist into consideration; however, I’m certain to miss out a few that people like. If I have, I apologise in advance and urge you to suggest the band you think deserves a mention. The comment section for this is below – how handy!

Right, then. Let’s get this week’s show on the road. The first band for Part 2 is …

(FYI: Like last time, only artists that have toured in the last ten years can make this list.)

 

Alter Bridge

Suggested Album(s): Fortress (2013), Blackbird (2007), AB III (2010)

What happens when you combine the unquestionable prowess of guitarist Mark Tremonti with the born-to-be frontman Miles Kennedy? Alter Bridge is what happens. Kennedy lends his style not just to thrilling thrash numbers like Addicted To Pain and Ties That Bind, but also emotional ballads like Watch Over You and Life Must Go On. And he does so with such grace and finesse, it almost makes you jealous that he can be that good. But you can forgive him, because Alter Bridge are an incredible band to experience – both live and on record. While 2007’s Blackbird is the album that set them on course, it’s the flawless track list of Fortress that showcases their work to perfection.

 

Billy Talent

Suggested Album(s): Dead Silence (2012), Billy Talent II (2006), Afraid Of Heights (2016)

A lot of good things have come out of Canada over the years. But as far as Rock & Metal is concerned, Billy Talent has got to be among the best. Benjamin Kowalewicz’s vocals are wonderfully unique to say the least. Moreover, they’re complemented by some of the best backing vocals since ever. You’d think that great backup singers might overshadow the lead singer in a band; but here, they don’t. They only make Kowalewicz’s more prominent for tracks like Red Flag, Viking Death March and Devil In A Midnight Mass. What’s more, they’re latest record, Afraid Of Heights is proof that they’re still going strong. You could almost say that they’ve become Louder Than The DJ.

 

Iron Maiden

Suggested Album(s): Somewhere In Time (1986), Powerslave (1984), The Number Of The Beast (1982), Brave New World (2000), Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son (1988)

Here’s Iron Maiden in a rather condensed nutshell; the band’s skeletal mascot, Eddie, is featured in some of the greatest album artwork known to man; they’ve released sixteen studio albums since their formation in 1975; and their lead singer, Bruce Dickinson, is considered to have one of the best voices in the genre. To say these guys have had a fruitful career is putting it lightly (they have a fricking plane now!). Nevertheless, it’s truly well deserved. Just a few stand out songs include Wasted Years, 2 Minutes To Midnight and Hallowed Be Thy Name. But considering their range of albums, you’re better off exploring Iron Maiden for yourself. On an unrelated note, they’re branded craft beer, The Trooper is also very, very tasty. If it happens to be on draught at your local pub, I highly recommend it.

 

Heaven’s Basement

Suggested Album(s): Filthy Empire (2013)

Heaven’s Basement exploded onto the Rock & Metal scene a few years back and made a lasting impression. Although frontman, Aaron Buchanan has since moved onto other endeavours, you can still get a taste of his charisma on Filthy Empire. This is about as a great as a Hard Rock album gets, boasting fast-paced singles like Fire, Fire, while throwing sing-along tunes into the mix, such as Lights Out In London and Nothing Left To Lose. You’re bound to love Buchanan’s trademark “Yeyah!” as well; whether you do so ironically or not, though, is down to you.

 

Rage Against The Machine

Suggested Album(s): Rage Against The Machine (1992), The Battle For Los Angeles (1999), Renegades (2000)

New to rap metal? Well get ready to hear it full on. As the name suggests, no one gets more furious about the establishment than Rage Against The Machine. Their 1992 debut became an instant classic upon its release thanks to both its relevance at the time and because Killing In The Name, Take The Power Back and Bombtrack all offered fans something to shout about – literally. Meanwhile, The Battle For Los Angeles offers energetic numbers like Guerrilla Radio and Testify; and cover album Renegades is a masterful take on others’ work. How I Could Just Kill A Man is particularly hard-hitting, in the best of ways.

 

Airbourne

Suggested Album(s): Runnin’ Wild (2007), Black Dog Barking (2013)

Imagine AC/DC, but younger, faster and heavier. Airbourne is what you’d get. It’s blatantly clear that this Aussie group is directly influenced by Angus Young’s juggernaut band, but that’s what makes Airbourne so enjoyable. When you listen to the likes of Runnin’ Wild, Live It Up and Stand Up For Rock ‘N’ Roll, you realise they’re here to have a good time – and all you want to do is grab a can of beer, crack it against your head and have fun with them. It’s comforting to know that when AC/DC are no longer able to tour, Joel O’Keeffe and the rest of Airbourne will be here to keep their spirit alive.

 

Halestorm

Suggested Album(s): The Strange Case Of … (2012), Into The Wild Life (2015)

It’s high time a female artist had a say in this whole Rock & Metal malarkey, do you think? I’m glad you agree. Enter Lzzy Hale. Fans of Paramore and Evanescence are sure to draw similarities with this four-piece from Pennsylvania – but Halestorm are far from novel. 2015’s Into The Wild Life is a solid effort, introducing suitably tough riffs into songs like Apocalyptic. They’re earlier stuff can get a bit corny, sure – yet it’s evident from The Strange Case Of … – with favourites like Love Bites (So Do I) and I Miss The Misery – that Hale’s gruff screams do justice to some excellent Hard Rock material. What is there to lose?

 

Tenacious D

Suggested Album(s): Tenacious D (2002), The Pick Of Destiny (2006)

“What? Jack Black is in a band?” Yes, he is. Granted, much like the acting roles he takes on, Tenacious D are immature and preposterous in every conceivable way. But somehow, it works. The debut album of this comedy rock duo can barely be called an album – as it mainly consists of the pair arguing – and yet it does have some actual songs on it. Good ones too! Like the hilarious Tribute and F**k Her Gently. And while The Pick Of Destiny is indeed a soundtrack from the comedy movie of the same name, this too has tracks that – if you have a silly sense of humour – will definitely get you smirking. Kickapoo. Break In City (Storm The Gate). Beezleboss (The Final Showdown). Tell me I’m wrong.

 

Shinedown

Suggested Album(s): The Sound Of Madness (2008), Threat To Survival (2015), Amaryllis (2012)

This Hard Rock band is one of the first I ever got into. And when you discover Brent Smith’s vocals for yourself, it’s easy to see why. I won’t lie to you: they’re pretty naff live. Smith’s earnest, preachy monologues in between songs get a bit too much even for me. But that doesn’t matter. Not when you have an album like The Sound Of Madness under your belt. This record has the ideal balance of exhilarating head-bangers (including Devour, Cry For Help and the title track) and softer tunes, such as Second Chance and Breaking Inside. They’re newest record, Threat To Survival also digs deep and treats us to gold, in the form of Cut The Chord and Asking For It. Shinedown sure have a knack for writing catchy choruses. Finally, although Amaryllis is much lighter in tone (perhaps too light), the group still manages to leave an impression with Adrenaline and Enemies. What are you waiting for? Get your earphones now.

 

Andrew W.K.

Suggested Album(s): I Get Wet (2001)

Does anyone remember that Android ad with that awesome song on it? Did you always wonder who it was by? It’s time I shed some light on this mystery. That song was called Party Hard, and it was off I Get Wet by Andrew W.K. This artist actually has five studio albums. But honestly, this one is the only one worth listening to. I Get Wet is a heart-pounding thrill ride that consists of songs entirely about partying. Hard. There’s Ready To Die, She Is Beautiful, It’s Time To Party … what more could you want in life? Better rest your neck muscles, because your head’s going to be rocking to the max when you listen to this one. You have been warned.

 

Clutch

Suggested Album(s): Psychic Warfare (2015), Blast Tyrant (2004), Earth Rocker (2013)

“Let’s pour some gravy on these biscuits!” This is what Neil Fallon, the frontman of Clutch, said to the crowd at Download Festival in 2015, before jumping straight into their set. I wish, wish, wish I could have been there to see that. Regardless, this funky rock band is becoming more superb with every album they release. I’ll always have a soft spot for Blast Tyrant, if only for the intoxicating The Mob Goes Wild. Yet, in 2013, they gave us Earth Rocker, which provided everything from fast-paced numbers (Crucial Velocity) to mellow ballads (Gone Cold). Thanks to this – by the time last year’s Psychic Warfare came out – they managed to blow expectations out the water yet again. The whole thing is just brilliant, and I for one can’t wait to see what direction Clutch take next.

 

Papa Roach

Suggested Album(s): Getting Away With Murder (2004), Infest (2000), The Paramour Sessions (2006), F.E.A.R. (2015), The Connection (2012)

Papa Roach have evolved so much over the years, moving from Rap Metal to Hard Rock to Punk Rock. One thing that always stays the same, though, is Jacoby Shaddix’s gel-soaked hairdo. I love this band. They may not be the most well-known or even unique artists around, but they sure make some damn catchy tunes. Infest gets you pumped with Last Resort, Dead Cell and Between Angels And Insects; and on the rockier side of things, you have The Paramour Sessions, which features show-stoppers like Time Is Running Out, Crash and …To Be Loved. F.E.A.R. and The Connection actively cater to newer audiences. They manage this by incorporating more electronic elements into Face Everything And Rise, Falling Apart and Where Did The Angels Go to great effect. But Getting Away With Murder is the crown jewel for this band. The title track alone blends rap and metal seamlessly, but Be Free and Take Me both do equally well to cause a fuss. Papa Roach has earned they’re place in my books. Why not yours?

 

Tremonti

Suggested Album(s): All I Was (2012), Cauterize (2015)

If you took a liking to Alter Bridge, then the same thing is bound to happen when you listen to Tremonti. How do I know this? Mainly because both lead guitarists are the same person (the clue’s in the name). Although the two bands draw many similarities, Mark Tremonti takes front-stage, treats us to a surprisingly clear-cut vocal style, and elevates an established sound that step higher. As a result, All I Was is an excellent album to call your debut. So You’re Afraid and You Waste Your Time place heavy emphasis on power-driven riffs, while New Way Out and Decay provide some much-needed depth to the record. While Cauterize is also a well-executed outing – sporting numbers like Arm Yourself and a very brisk title track – All I Was is definitely the one to go for.

 

Sabaton

Suggested Album(s): Heroes (2014), The Art Of War (2008), The Last Stand (2016)

Allow me to define Sabaton: A Swedish power metal band that always bring a massive tank on stage and play songs about famous historical battles. Who could say no to that? But if you’re still dubious and want to get a feel for the music itself, Heroes is a fitting place to start. The opening track, Night Witches is epic beyond measure, and is followed up by heavy anthems like Smoking Snakes, To Hell And Back and Resist And Bite. Lead singer Joakim Brodén may have limited vocal range, but damn it’s still great to listen to. The Last Stand, released this year, is another consistently badass effort from the band. The album with the most fervour, however, has got to be The Art Of War. If you can’t see yourself marching into war with Ghost Division blasting from speakers in the background, then you should probably reconsider your application for the Army.

 

The Devin Townsend Project

Suggested Album(s): Addicted (2009), Transcendence (2016), Accelerated Evolution (2003), Epicloud (2012), Sky Blue (2014)

There are criminally underrated bands; then there’s Devin Townsend. Remember when I was talking about good things to come out of Canada? This guy is undoubtedly near the top of that list. His music is unlike anything that’s been done before. It’s niche, yet the sheer variety of styles and genres Townsend delves into means there’s certainly something for everyone. But this variety also means he owns a humungous catalogue of albums. For someone new to his stuff, it’s impossible to know where to start. My suggestion is that you begin with the main band he tours with today: The Devin Townsend Project. While he does include the odd scream every now and again, he makes plenty of use of his melodic vocals, as well as the talent that is Anneke van Giersbergen. Together, their voices complement the music beautifully. The band’s latest record, Transcendence, demonstrates this better than ever. 2009’s Addicted also borders on perfection from start to finish. And although both Epicloud and Sky Blue are bold, majestic collections, Accelerated Evolution could well be the best place to start your search. Slow Me Down. Track 9. Listen to it. Love it. And with that … cut to black.

 

There. Part 2 is over – which means there’s only one list left. Like I’ve mentioned, these bands have been a bit heavier than the last ones – and next time, we’re bringing out the big guns. For now, check out the bands on this week’s list, get a feel for the inner workings of the Rock & Metal genre, and maybe you could end up becoming a true metal head by the end of this blog series. My fingers are already crossed. Stay tuned for the encore … Bye for now!

 

 

 

 

When All The Coffee Is Gone …

I’m sure this isn’t exactly breaking news, but climate change is real. It’s happening as we speak. Melting ice caps are causing sea levels to rise, with sea ice at the lowest extent ever recorded for the time of year. [1] According to NASA, flooding, droughts and hurricanes are likely to grow more intense in the decades to come. [2] And increasing temperatures worldwide are resulting in further endangered wildlife – which means a 1.5°C average rise may put 20-30% of species at risk of extinction. [3] Even cosmologist, Stephen Hawking claims that if things carry on the way they do now, “a disaster, such as nuclear war or global warming will befall the earth within a thousand years.” [4]

The evidence is everywhere we look. Yet against all odds, our race continues to pump greenhouse gases into our atmosphere. The point just doesn’t seem to be hitting home. In fact, more than a quarter of Americans are climate change skeptics. [5] Yep, those pesky Americans are at it again. A significant portion of their population strongly believe that global warming doesn’t exist – meanwhile, the United States remains the second-biggest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions, just behind China. [6] It’s madness. So with scientists, charities, celebrities and organisations across the globe striving to make us change our ways, what could possibly make the whole world see how important an issue this is? I’m no activist, but I believe the best way to influence attitudes about the topic is to educate everybody on how it will affect them directly.

It’s all very well telling people that polar bears’ habitats are rapidly disappearing, but when those people are sat all cosy in their living rooms watching Breaking Bad thousands of miles away, it’s hard to contemplate how this could possibly affect them. This, my friends, is what I’m going to attempt today. How? By focusing on the single most influential and disastrous change that’ll soon become a reality thanks to global warming: Coffee. Laugh if you will, but this is a serious matter. For those who are unware of this, I’m sorry to be the blogger to break it to you – but the nation’s favourite hot beverage won’t be around forever. Not even close.

 

Image by fireskystudios.com on Unsplash

fireskystudios-com-286509.jpg

 

According to The Independent, due to rising temperatures, pests and fungi, ‘Wild coffee is expected to be wiped from the face of the planet by the year 2080.’ [7] The effects have already begun to surface. ‘Between 2002 and 2011, Indian coffee production declined by nearly 30 percent.’ [8] And it doesn’t stop at coffee. Global warming is effecting everything from bananas to grapes to cocoa. By 2050, the temperature is set to increase by 2.1% in Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana, the two countries responsible for producing half the world’s supply of cocoa. [9] Now, one might argue that the absence of chocolate would definitely have a more substantial effect on society than that of coffee beans, as many people enjoy the snack more than drink coffee. But I disagree. I believe that the death of coffee will change our daily lives much, much more.

For one, ‘Coffee supports the livelihoods of 125 million people around the world’. [10] But this fact alone isn’t enough to sway opinions and incite action. So, allow me to bring it down to our level. Apart from the fact that it tastes great and keeps you temporarily warm throughout the winter months, coffee is what for many makes those early mornings, harsh commutes and strict deadlines bearable. It gives us that extra little boost we need to get things done. Some of you might be asking yourselves at this point, ‘Wait a second, I thought this was supposed to be a creative blog? What does global warming have anything to do with the creative world?’ A fair question, but one that has an obvious answer.

The myth goes that many artists and musicians throughout history have been inspired by the use of drugs. Whether or not this is actually true is up in the air. What I can tell you though, from personal experience, is that coffee is a great thing to have in your life if you’re a writer. Because the drug of choice for writers everywhere is (you guessed it!) caffeine. Ian McEwan, of whom I am a considerable fan, said in an interview with The Paris Review, ‘I inherited my father’s work ethic – no matter what he’d been up to the night before, he was always out of bed by seven a.m.’ and also that, ‘I aim for about six hundred words a day and hope for at least a thousand when I’m on a roll.’ [11] Authors that churn out novels year after year for our pleasure are – there’s no other word for it – machines. I can barely get out of bed before eleven a.m. if I know I don’t have to. So how the hell do they do it?

Well the most likely answer is that they are driven individuals. They have an unrelenting passion for their craft, and it’s this that continues to fuel their creativity. If this is the case, fair play. I have nothing else to say on the matter. But, come on! Where’s the fun in that? Can’t we just theorise for a moment? Can’t we just imagine that there’s some sort of conspiracy going on? Something that all writers possess that, if utilised in the perfect manner, can transform any ordinary person into a famous, best-selling novelist? Of course we can! When we ponder for several milliseconds, there’s only one conclusion we can surely draw: novelists are only able to write as much as they do because they drink coffee on a daily basis. Mind … blown.

Jokes aside, while coffee is by no means vital for creatives, you might be surprised to discover how many of us actually resort to the infinite variations of the drink to keep our wits about us. I, for one cannot sit in front of a computer screen for hours on end without eventually sticking the kettle on. I’m certain that I’m not alone in this. So, with this in mind, what will happen to productivity when coffee is out of the picture? I’m not just talking about creative productivity here; I’m referring to every worker in every industry who relies on their morning cappuccino to get into the right mindset. My guess is that it will plummet. A lot.

Sure, coffee isn’t the only thing with caffeine in it. We’d still have energy drinks, Coca Cola – hell, even your average cup of a tea has a smidge of caffeine in it. But for many, the world just won’t be the same without coffee. That much is clear. If you have a favourite coffee house (Costa, Starbucks, Caffe Nero, Coffee Republic, Lavazza, Pret A Manger or just the independent café near your work) it will inevitably soon be in a fight for a survival. Coffee has become such a cultural staple – such a significant presence in our everyday lives – that we’ve grown to take for granted, like the many other things that will soon be gone because of this.

Can we change our ways and save coffee from extinction? Maybe. But honestly, it’s looking grim. The coffee bean has been around for longer than we have, but it’s future is now in peril thanks to us. We basically have two options: come together, mend our ways and try everything we can to save the coffee bean – or come to terms with its demise and just enjoy what’s left of it while we still have the chance. I’ve made my decision. What will yours be?

 

Sources

[1] https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/nov/25/arctic-ice-melt-trigger-uncontrollable-climate-change-global-level

[2] http://climate.nasa.gov/effects/

[3] https://www.wwf.org.uk/updates/effects-climate-change

[4] http://www.climatechangenews.com/2012/01/06/stephen-hawking-warns-of-climate-disaster-ahead-of-70th-birthday/

[5] http://uk.businessinsider.com/public-religion-report-climate-change-2014-11

[6] https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2011/apr/21/countries-responsible-climate-change

[7] http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/coffee-could-be-extinct-by-2080-due-to-climate-change-destroying-areas-suitable-for-growing-beans-a7222241.html

[8] http://www.ucsusa.org/global_warming/science_and_impacts/impacts/impacts-of-climate-on-coffee.html#.WEH69VyQrvg

[9] https://www.climate.gov/news-features/climate-and/climate-chocolate

[10] https://www.nytimes.com/2016/09/23/science/climate-change-threatens-worlds-coffee-supply-report-says.html?mcubz=1

[11] http://www.theparisreview.org/interviews/393/ian-mcewan-the-art-of-fiction-no-173-ian-mcewan

 

(Article correct as of November 2016)