Matt Gemmell

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My book Raw Materials is out now!

A collection of personal essays, with exclusive content and author's notes.

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Sponsor: Alzheimer's Research

My sincere thanks to Fernando Olivares for sponsoring my writing this week. This piece doesn’t contain sponsored content, and was written entirely by me.

This week’s sponsorship slot was booked months in advance by Fernando, and he got in touch recently to enquire about doing something unique: instead of promoting his business or products, he wanted to use this slot to promote a charity.

We had a conversation about it, and it transpired that both of our families have been affected by Alzheimer’s Disease, the most common form of dementia. People afflicted with this neurodegenerative condition lose their memory, and can suffer from mood swings, behavioural changes, and language problems. It’s a devastating condition, both for the sufferer and for their loved ones. Dementia affects about one person in ten, and nearly half of those over 85 years of age.

Consequently, we’d like to encourage you to support Alzheimer’s Research UK, a charity that funds research into dementia at various universities. We have an ageing global population, and dementia-type illnesses will only become more and more of an issue. By funding scientific research into the causes and possible treatments for dementia, we can one day rid the world of this debilitating disease.

This is a subject that’s very important to me, because my wife Lauren’s extended family has been touched more than once by dementia. It’s something she’s witnessed first-hand, and she’s frightened by the possibility of falling victim to it herself one day. That’s a chilling thought for me, as you can appreciate.

As a writer, the idea of losing my memory and my command of language is also terrifying. The author Terry Pratchett suffers from a rare form of Alzheimer’s, and supports this same charity.

I’m donating the entire sponsorship fee for this week to Alzheimer’s Research. My sponsorship broker, Syndicate, have also waived their commission, so the entire amount will go to charity.

I’d like to thank Fernando Olivares once again for his generosity and for proposing this idea, and I’m also grateful to the Syndicate for their support.

If you’d like to contribute towards scientific research into Alzheimer’s Disease and other forms of dementia, please do visit Alzheimer’s Research UK.

Beginning

This has been a year of big changes for me. I’ve put aside a lot of the assumptions I’d made about myself, and switched careers.

I’ve also noticed a change in how I decide what to write, both here and on social media.

Haunted

Writers are haunted creatures.

Everyone is a writer, of course. You invent stories every day. Your flights of fancy, your daydreams, your alternate scenarios, your fears.

But if you make things up explicitly, all the time, it changes you. You exist in the eye of a hurricane. Everything around is in flux.

Aurora

There were nine of us in the expedition vehicle, including two guides. The van was solid, well-built and reliable; quintessentially German. Individual climate controls were set into the ceiling above each seat. It had ice spikes in the tyres, blinding extra high-beams mounted on the front grille, spare fuel, and all of our equipment.

Craft

You’re reading too much into it.

We all had that thought at some point during high school English, didn’t we?

In Winter

The clocks have gone back.

The evenings are darker now, which is grim, but it’s a small price to pay for light in the mornings. I wake with the dawn spreading below the hem of the curtains, and it’s always a relief.

Temperatures are dropping, but it’s a very mild November so far. That first truly cutting breath of frozen air that heralds the real beginning of the final season - Winter’s edge - hasn’t yet arrived. There are even rare years where it never comes at all.

Trying

The University of Glasgow has some magnificent buildings, but The Boyd Orr Building (known affectionately and universally as the Boy George) is not among them. Indeed, it’s widely accepted to be the ugliest building in the university.

I’ve spent untold hours in there, during my Computing Science degree. We had some lectures in the building, but mostly my time was spent in the various labs upstairs. I whiled away a big chunk of each week of term-time in those labs, then when the Summer of 2004 arrived (after the third year of my degree), I thought I’d take a break.

I was sitting at home when an email came through on my academic address mentioning a couple of Summer scholarships, to work on research projects for the department. I left the email sitting in my inbox for a few hours, then decided to make a phonecall.

Workout

On the last day of December 2013, I was getting dressed to go out and celebrate the New Year (which we call Hogmanay here in Scotland). As always, I was wearing a suit. I hadn’t made any resolutions yet.

I noticed that my trousers were a little tight around the waist, but I struggled through. By the time I was undressing again at home in the early hours of January 1st, I had a red mark around my middle.

Two years earlier, in November 2011, I got married. I remember my wedding suit fitting comfortably, and those trousers were a 30” waist. The ones I wore last New Year were 32”, and I had trouble fitting into them. Those don’t sound like big numbers, but I’m short (5’6”), and I have a very slim build - thanks to my mother’s ballerina DNA. I’d let myself go a bit.

My 2014 resolution followed naturally: my project was going to be myself. I’d like to talk a little bit about my journey towards getting back in shape.

Incipio Feather for iPhone 6

I’m currently trying out an iPhone 6. I’ll probably write about that in due course, but for the moment I can summarise my feelings as: great build quality, improved battery life, but it’s just too big.

I’ve been trying a few cases for the new phone too, and I’ve found one that suits my needs perfectly. You might also be interested in taking a look at it.