Breath Of Life

The life and times of Mr Mark Allen....

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Quick Update!

Hello Blog-fans

Just a quickie (ooer) as in Burntwood Library (I have a new computer at home and am having teething problems with it...)

Typically the mouse doesn't work, the printer isn't recognised by its drivers and I need new Tiscali discs to make the modem work.....But apart from

At least it has Windows XP....I was runnning on Windows98 before this week. Slow as y'nan!

So while at the library I have got Rammstein, Enya and Eminem CDs out. Nothing like a bit of music/muzak to cheer one up! Eclectic as.....

At the weekend I went to John's BBQ.....We watched the England match and ate and drank a lot. It was a taxi home job...

On Monday I had an interview for a new job. It is at the newspaper group which published The Mercury, Tamworth Herald and papers in Walsall and Sutton....

I don't really know how I did....they will let me know by the end of the week.

The kittens had their jabs. (I am sure they will write about this themselves)....It is a busy week as got a cricket match tonight (had to dust up old 'equipment' and wipe off six-year-old grime!)

I'm off to Erik's for food tomorrow. (Kirsty, Diana and Mark Jnr will also be there....although I will resist eating them!)

My heart goes out to Katrin and Nath this week who had to take a lot of school kids the rain....bless.

Did anyone see that programme on Channel 4 about people who have had transplants who take on characteristics of the person whose organ(s) they received.

This is fascinating. It all leaves me wondering more about the person whose lungs I have. Have I taken on any of their talents....Will I eventually find a talent?! lol

Well I will love you and leave you now.....A nasty looking old bag is glaring at me (I think she has booked my computer!) A Bientot.

Monday, June 26, 2006

The day job....


From Lichfield Mercury (Cannock Edition) website.

This will interest my Cannock Wood bloggettes!

10:30 - 22 June 2006
Residents, the police, Cannock Chase Council and the Forestry Commission have joined forces to stop people on motorised vehicles churning up a historic landmark.

Adults on motorised skateboards are eroding the top of Castle Ring, Cannock Wood's Iron Age hill fort, one of the country's last remaining landmarks of its type. A resident, who did not want to be named, said the people had no respect for history.

"This fortress has been there for thousands of years, " he said.

"These people are destroying a bit of history for a few minutes fun - which they could quite easily have elsewhere.

"It is also unfair to all the people who bide by the rules and respect the area."

Information boards around Castle Ring ask for the public to phone the police immediately if they see anyone damaging the ring.

Residents took the vehicle number and descriptions of the men to the police and also informed Cannock Chase Council and the Forestry Commission.

The offence of riding on the ring is a police matter, which the council could prosecute under environmental health legislation, because of noise pollution.

Authorities are warning that any repeats of the incident could result in prosecution.

The problem was discussed by Cannock Wood Parish Council last week after being raised by a member of the public at the meeting.

Settlements on Castle Ring date back about 500BC It is estimated to have taken about ten years to complete.

In June 1915 surveyors from Ordnance Survey constructed a wooden platform within Castle Ring to record the physical features of the ancient hill fort.

They were able to see ships sailing on The Mersey reinforcing the fact ancient Britons knew well the site provided the most advantageous look-out in the whole Midlands.

They could easily see hundred of miles to detect possible invaders.

The 12 counties of Staffordshire, Lancashire, Cheshire, Derbyshire, Leicestershire, Warwickshire, Shropshire, Herefordshire, Worcestershire, Clwyd, Nottinghamshire and Northamptonshire were all visible.

Castle Ring is still the best preserved of the seven ancient Staffordshire hill forts commanding the highest position on Cannock Chase, standing 800 feet above sea

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Katrin and the Waves

Hello Bloggettes,

The pic is of York Minster - interesting, but not worth 250 years in the making!

Thanks again for your emails. I do TRY and reply to most to them so BIG APOLOGIES if I haven't (yet!)

Sorry for the pun in the title of this entry. All will be revealed!

Its been busy, busy, busy in Mark-ville as par usual. Last Saturday us 'Bandstand Housemates' were invited to a kind of Cannock open day thing.

But when we got there the thing was a farce. There was nothing for us to do. So we did, what any self-respecting Brit would and headed to the pub.

In the afternoon I drove down to Eastleigh in Hampshire (about three hours away) for Nathalie's BBQ....

There was an eclectic mix of food, drink and nationalities. Some new faces and some old.

The following day we went for a walk to Tichfield(?), near Southampton. It was nice to walk by streams and onto the beach and see the waves.

I chatted to Nath's housemate Katrin (cool, oboe-playing and from from Germany). German people DO have a sense of humour! lol

Anyway....on Wednesday I had to catch a train to Newcastle for my check-up and who was on-board but Katrin. How bizarre eh?! She was on her way to York.

After exhausting tests and an early morning everything went well in Newcastle. My lung function (FEV1) is up from 2.93 last time to 3.24 this time.

They also gave me the all-clear to play cricket I now need to dust off my equipment (ooer!)

Katrin invited me to stop off in York with I did. Because I could. It is so strange being able to do stuff like this again...

We walked along the wall, went on an night-time ghost hunt, saw the Yorvik Museum (excellent) and Clifford's Castle (not so good) and even ended up playing piano at a hotel. Surreal in a nice way....

I do so love getting to know new people...

Our hostel was noisy and there were lots of people (mix of age, sex and nationality) to a dorm....SO coffee was needed on Friday due to lack of sleep!

I rejoined the same train as I should of caught, but the next day, and got to Burton tired, but happy.

Oh yes. I have booked my New Lung Party of October 21st so write it in your diaries.

It must be BBQ season as it's John's do tomorrow (and a certain England match) and then I have a job interview on Monday over in Tamworth - I seem to be permanently filling in forms too. I sent in an application for a job in Lambeth today.

How come more people e-mail me when the kittens write a blog than when I do?! lol

Books: My Trade - By Andrew Marr
Music: Fightstar, random compilation of Icelandic music.

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Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Perdita and Portia

Hello Kittenfans, We are Perdita and Portia the lovely kittens that Mark goes all mushy about....

We live in his kitchen and back porch...Although we do like playing on the stairs too....

We have very posh names because we were both born on Shakespeare's birthday. Our favourite things are shoes, feet and cottage cheese.

We also like washing each other and getting lots of fuss so we can pratice our purrrrring....Portia is scared of feathers. Perdy knows no fear....But she has never seen a dog or a 'chav'.

Mark left us at the weekend to go to the 'Download' festival and told us about strange things called 'The Prodigy' 'Fightstar' and 'Guns'n'Roses'....

We don't think we would like Download...We prefer 'Cat Stevens' or 'Venus In Furs'...

Mark was preparing for a job interview and has application forms everywhere..these are good kitten toys.....AND he went to the gym and yoga so we were left on our own.

Although we did bring his friend Victoria - who gave us a lot of love.

We likr 'Blogging'...although are very confused about what Mark did in the 'Big Brother' house...

He says people can e-mail us through him via

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Tuesday, June 13, 2006


Thursday, June 08, 2006

Warts'n'All + Green Leotard

Hello Bloggettes,

No doubt you have seen the blanket coverage of the Green Dream in The Mercury - including my 'inside' (warts'n'all) view of the Big Brother house.

Thanks for the texts about the green leotard - I thought it was one of my better looks honey!!!

I went into Cannock today and had several people come and ask about the experience and tell me they had texted for me....blesss.

There is a story on me on the HoldTheFrontPage website at: CLICK
The Mercury coverage is on-line at: CLICK
I am slowly putting the pictures on my photo site at: CLICK

Been a busy boy! Spent last couple of days catching back up with my fitness regime (gym, yoga etc) and nipped into Cannock to buy the an invoice and a job aplicaiton to get out before badminton tonight......Tally Ho!

Good luck England and I may see some of you at the Download Festival on Sunday! (my new sponsor)

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

BB Dissected

Hiya Folks,

Well its all over...and it is a really strange feeling. I had been building up to the 'Big Brother' thing for ages.

But runner-up ain't bad. Especially as I was the runaway leader utill Kerry was evicted and her supporters started voting for Emma....Is this how politicians feel?

The sociology of it all would make somebody a good dissertation! (Or even a book!)

I escaped almost immediately to Suffolk where I had quality time with the kittens...(and Auntie Jen/Uncle Allan) and caught up with some writing work.... I visited Southwold Audeburgh(!?)and Norwich - didn't run into Alan Partidge or The Darkness!

The reality hit me again when I was in Burntwood this afternoon and a really good-looking girl said she had been watching me in the house......a friend of Frankie (although I can't remember who Frankie was!) Fame sucks eh?

I lose count of the number of autographs I signed too! It is all so surreal. All I did was live in a 'house' for five days. I didn't even win!

So what was it like in the Green Dream? (Oh yes....See all the pictures at http://groups/

In the bandstand in which we were like goldfish under constant viewing for a week, we had fish to look after, it was an irony not lost on us ‘Green Dream’ers.

The advantage we had was not forgetting where we were after every three seconds. Although as alcohol and cabin fever took its toll, days and people’s names did merge.

After four nights of little sleep in cramped confinement, I did look in the mirror and ask myself if I was Mark, John, David, Emma-Jane or Kerry! (Ideas on a postcard please!)

When I went along, with other hopefuls to the audition for the Green Dream, Cannock’s eco-friendly answer to Big Brother, I had little conception of what it would be like.

What made me foolish enough to put myself up for a glorified popularity contest, with the ego at risk of a serious battering if people didn’t text to keep me in?

Although we were all winners in the fact we had beaten 350 people to get into the house in all honesty I would have been devastated to be voted out early on.

I had been a ‘green’ kind of person – and that’s not just between my toes! - I lived with a Thai tribe, living off the land and had always tried to support local organic farmers.

Once, when living in Australia, even went out with a girl who belonged to Greenpeace! So I thought a week of testing my green-credentials would be interesting and fun.

With my well-publicised double lung-transplant this kind of event was something I couldn’t have dreamed of entering just six months ago.

I was apprehensive though. I knew the two girls chosen for the house knew each other; and the other two men were people I would probably not have met outside the artificial community of the house. It was going to be a bizarre social experience. Life condensed in eco-friendly nutshell – a bit like an organic soap opera - acted out for real.

‘Life Thru A Lens’ as Staffordshire’s favourite son Robbie might say. Perhaps another Robbie song ‘Let Me Entertain You’ would be more appropriate as we felt sometimes like zoo animals performing for our food - with DJ Jimmy Franks our lord and master!

I listened to the others being interviews on Radio WM and read with interest their profiles in The Mercury; I also ‘Google’d them to find clues about their character.

So I had pre-conceived ideas about what they would be like and who I would find it easer to get on with and who I wouldn’t. I also tried unsuccessfully to predict the ‘tasks’.

As the days got closer, my friends were split into two groups. Those who thought I was stupid and those who thought I was mad.

The week before the event I had been to a friend’s 30th in Newcastle-upon-Tyne and then a ‘Transplant Ball’ also in the North East and acquired two kittens. Not the best prep.

But I printed out the council’s recycling policy and read as much as I could on green issues on the train and in various cafes and bars in Newcastle. I was going in prepared.

But when I woke up on Monday morning with a hangover and a small bag, in which I had to fit enough clothes to last a week. I was excited, but nervous and in need of detox!

When we were picked up one-by-one in a Tipton Fire Engine – I had predicted a dustcart – and I got to meet my fellow band mates for the first time everyone was a bit nervous.

This made me feel better as I felt at once we were all in the same boat (or big red vehicle) and were all in it for a good time (a relief!)

I think it really hit me when I was the first called out of the engine and onto the stage, in front of hundreds of screaming Cannock folk. This was it. It was now or never.

I was amazed how Tardis-like the converted bandstand was. It seemed so much bigger on the inside than the outside. It had five camp beds, a sofa, cooking facilities and toilets.

We had running water (although this was temperamental and rarely hot) and a heater (although this arrived on day 2, was gas and couldn’t be left on at night.)

The fish, who we named Bob and Michelle after the organisers took it all in their stride. But they had forgotten where they were by then again so everything was continually new and exciting (except when Michelle died on day two!)

Our first real task was certainly an icebreaker, having pop-star costumes to fit into. I was Tina Turner and it mad us all instant extroverts on a rain-swept stage. My real worry was slipping and falling into the crowd or splitting Kerry’s mini-skirt!

Despite the appalling weather Cannock fold really warmed to us and made us welcome. In fact for the whole experience we had very few boos or bitchy comments – a total contrast to the real ‘BB’ on Channel 4!

The tasks were wide and varied and included aerobics, dressed in leotards - strangely (or not) the lads were much less embarrassed than the girls to wear these; making costumes from rags to wear to a ‘Captains Cocktail Party; writing a ‘green’ soap opera, based on Cannock folk and learning children’s books.

We also had to do self-portraits and read the news (adding a few eco-extras for effect!)
We had to place different town on the map, nominate member of the public to slide down an inflatable slide with water and crush cans and bend balloons while dressed as clowns.

Just another day at the office for this reporter then!
We felt the extra text given for our performance in the tasks were giving out at random. In the map competition John got the same points as me for getting nowhere near to the target and Emma, who clearly deserved to win the drawing competition was never told!

Personally I felt hard done by in the tasks, but this just meant I had to rely on the ‘real’ votes from the public, which was a much better test of support anyway.

But the main aim was to live inside the house in an eco-friendly way surviving on limited food, water, gas and clothes and recycling what we could (including in my case old ‘jokes’) and sleep (we were live on the radio 10.30pm at night and 6.30am)

There were shocks, like evictions of Thursday, at which the two with the lowest public support, Kerry and David, were shown the door and twists, like having to award 100 bonus texts to another housemate and nominating a housemate each for eviction.

But we did manage to turn the tables on the organisers somewhat by pretending on Wednesday we didn’t get on and three of us were threatening to walk out after a night when our water was turned off and we had limited supplies.

It was the only way we could pull back some power and leverage for ourselves in the good-natured mind-games we were having with the organisers.

They got their own back, piping ‘Happy Talk’ on continuous loop into the house the following morning. (Thanks to audio-boffin Merve ‘The Swerve’ for that!)

The most frustrating part of the house for me was the countdown to the tasks as it would be announced ’30 minutes to the arrival of the band stand mates’ down to five minutes.

By that time the often-bemused crowds would be there waiting and we just wanted to be out there, strutting around inside the ‘house’ like peacocks on speed.

An amazing thing happened in the house, which surprised me as much as the others in the bandstand. We really appreciated each other’s qualities and weaknesses.

Three of us were complete strangers (I think having five complete strangers would have been a better concept) but we all got on like a proverbial house on fire. (We were given extinguisher just in case we took it too literally!)

The two girls who did know each other did not ‘team up’ like I imagined they might while they were both inside and everyone seemed to have a good heart-to-heart chat with everyone else several times during the event. We were gelling better than David’s hair!

We chatted about our pre-conceived ideas of what a model, receptionist, former RAF bod, journalist and shop worker would be and found them totally wanting!

Another amazing thing happened outside the house. We had people coming back morning, noon and evening outside to lend us support.

These were not sad, bored people, but people who seemed to relate to us and felt they knew us – even asking for our phone numbers when we came out.

Sometimes we felt like monkeys at a zoo, performing for food. But at others it was the people outside who performed with their sign language and gestured and had us in hysterics – especially the nights we were given alcohol.

Certain people, who the general public may have looked as ‘backward’ or ‘simple’ showed how loyal and friendly Cannock people can be. This was a major positive I took out the house with me and will cherish.

Several offered to sneak us in extra food (of course we were always too honourable to accept - and the security was too clever!)

I think we all gained a sense of community in the house. With everyone pulling together to help with the tasks. Despite what people had told me about the housemates, nobody was egotistical when it came to helping and everybody was equal.

In fact it was the kind of situation the hippy communes in the 60s were built on – although I expect the ‘crusties’ smelled better than us – we had no showers!

One evening they took our furniture, clock, fruit and most of the matches away. We thought we would know the time by counting the ‘bongs’ on the church clock – but it was bell-ringers practice that night and there were more clangers than a Prince Phillip speech.

The last morning was really tense with Emma, John and myself feeling warm that people liked us enough to vote for us in droves but nervous about who would win.

It was a lot better doing it that way that having one evicted each day. For four days we really had the chance to build up friendships and bond.

In fact all of us, with the obvious exception of John who was in Stafford Hospital, met up for drinks immediately after the end of the contest (after we had signed autographs!)

What amazed me most when I arrived home was the e-mails and texts I had had over the week from complete strangers who had voted for me daily and people who had recognised me from the papers. People had even put notes through my door and stopped my friends in the pub or in the street to give me their best wishes.

Other people had voted for me because they read my columns in papers, magazines and on the internet, knew me from university or recognised me from TV, radio or had attended one of my talks on life before and after transplantation.

I am sure this happened to all the other contestants too which just goes to show what a high profile event this became and how it lifted Cannock’s profile nationwide.

BBC TV and Central covered the event as well as Radio WM and all the local newspapers and I had messages via my website from all over the country.

I think it was definitely an advantage being one of the two ‘well-known’ people in the house (although all felt like bona fida celebs for a few days!)

It was interesting that the people who seemed to have the most banners up for them from family and sponsors, were eliminated first. Perhaps not all publicity is good publicity!

A rival newspaper put a curse on the housemates. In hindsight this was pretty sick in light of John actually having to go to hospital with chest pains.

That was the low point for not only John but also Emma and myself in the house because we saw how John bravely was more concerned about not letting people down than for his own welfare.

This showed an honourable streak and dedication to duty that obviously made him the credit to the RAF he obviously was. But it brought us all closer.

This threatened to end the event on a downer and hit all our families hard, as nobody outside the house knew which one of us was ill and what was wrong.

I must admit I was flagging by the end and felt more of the extrovert nature put on for the public was forced in the last day. I think we just all needed a shower and good sleep.

The recycling bins inside the house needed emptying and the bedding was beginning to smell too – as were various armpits and bodily functions!

The toilets were surprisingly clean by the end, despite the efforts of the security guards who seemed to have definite bladder and bowel issues! (Just joking guys!)

But I think everybody inside and outside the house gained a lot of knowledge on recycling issues and living organically.

The event was also a real boost for Cannock. Personally I think it would be better as a one-off and a different event is needed next year to keep up the momentum.

One of the little lads who came along to support us every day had the idea of turning the bandstand into a permanent eco-café! If this happens I hope he is offered a Saturday job!

A big thanks must go to Bob and Michelle, the brains behind the Green Dream and to ‘showbiz personality’ Jimmy Franks (we knew him as ‘Davina’ who really put the hours in behind the scenes as well as fronting the event.)

I think the only downside was the some of the sponsors who either didn’t get behind their candidate or in one case got behind her too much and complained when she didn’t win. The song 'Can't Buy Me Love' comes to mind.

Some of the theory wasn’t always put into practice by people like ASDA who provided organic food, but it has been flown and shipped in from Egypt, Holland and Spain.

But these were teething problems in a well-run and polished event. If it makes people think before they buy and makes them more eco-aware it has done its job.

One also couldn’t have asked for a more deserved winner than Emma-Jane – which helped make defeat palatable!

I feel privileged, as I will also take away friendships that although fostered in an artificial environment are undoubtedly real. I also have a new empathy with goldfish!

Feel free to e-mail me on MAIL
For all the news from the house CLICK

Music: Andy Bell ‘Crazy’…Dirty Pretty Things ‘ Bang..’
Momus: ‘Little Red Song Book’ (my new sponsor)

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Newcastle and the Green Dream

Well my Blogettes,

Apologies galore this is only a quick 'un (ooer) 'taxi for one'....But I am off to Suffolk this afternoon for a few days (with kittens in tow - YES I HAVE THE KITTENS HOME!!!)

I went to Newcastle and had a great time with Sarah. We went to her 30th at 'Tiger Tiger' and the next day hit the 'Transplant Ball' and a gay club called 'Camp David' (who I thought was a homosexual Jew!!!) lol

Then came the Green Dream - Cannock's answer to Big Brother....and I CAME SECOND!!!! So although I did not win I want to say a big thanks to all of you who voted for me (and more than 2,000 of you did!)

I think you all did really well with your voting as the organisers made me fourth or last in most of the tasks!!!! - therfore getting few extra texts! Boo hiss!!!

My heart also goes out to anyone who listened to Radio WM in the mornings and evenings to hear us interviewed each day - Its like torture isn't it!!!?

I made some really good friends in the 'house' and hope we all keep in touch...I will ditch all the dirt next entry! (Only joking housematers...there was no dirt to ditch!)

By the last day-and-a-half I must admit I was feeling shattered and glad it finished when it did... I got home and just slept for 12 hours - longer than I ever have without anaesthetic!

Check out the website for all the goss and pics CLICK (If the link doesn't work log on to click on Cannock news and 'Green Dream' - you will find onesof me in a leotard AND dressed as Tina Turner...

Back to life....back to reality....Catch you l8r!