Friday, 28 February 2014


On a recent writing job, I went through the profiles of some of the biggest companies and corporations in the world. For the job at hand I had to cherry pick the good points, but I took in a lot worrying information as well. Out of all the consumer companies I looked at, only one - which for legal reasons I’m not allowed to name - had an acknowledged, functioning responsibility to the environment and the world around us – in other words, a business plan that took responsibility for its actions without neglecting product or service quality.

I live in Southampton. Not a mile from my bed is the Port, wherein ships filled with cargo and passengers come and go, all through the day and all through the night. When I’ve nothing else to do, I go there. I look at the ships, the ferries, and think of all the thousands of people on board these vessels. I think of all the cargo, and how strange and wonderful it is that all these passengers, and sailors, and commodities, have come all this way. Long-time readers might even remember an incident in which I drove a completely-assembled kitchen to a dock in Holland. 

However, it only recently struck me that all this global infrastructure might all be unnecessary.

Retail website Made Closer is a company with social responsibility written into its constitution, founding itself on the principles of ‘progressive localism.’ As a person who scorns ‘localists’ who stand in the way of wind turbines so that they still have a nice view to look out on, I was sceptical at first, but the more I read, Made Closer’s ethic of selling you the product you want from as close as possible seems to make more and more sense.

Founder John Palaguta-Iles is a self-confessed ‘craver of convenience.’ Like many of us, he would rather go to the same website every time to buy whatever it was he needed. His idea relies on the fact that if there were someone near you who did the same job for a better price and gave some of that price to charity, you would go there.

Multi-national companies pour money into advertising and marketing to make themselves the most obvious and easiest option, immediately putting themselves in front of local businesses. To make it worse, prices for high street locations are soaring, making it impossible to start a shop without a huge income or a risky loan. These things make it hard for would-be ethical shoppers to support the businesses that need it – but with the help of Made Closer, it doesn’t have to be difficult.

The website acts as any other online retailer does, letting you search for products and giving you people who make them locally. As the amount of manufacturers signing up to the site increases, so do the products. Whether you want thermal underwear or handmade iPad cases, they’re right there on the site.

A functioning, ethical, online retailer? That’s not even the best part. Made Closer gives two thirds of its profits to charities that it lets the customer choose. Still not convinced? Previously, John Palaguta-Iles has run companies that have turned over £15-20 million a year, making Made Closer not only a good idea, but a good idea in the right hands.

People who are conscious of the realities of our big business economy tend to be rather pessimistic about things - and rightly so. What Made Closer brings is a sprinkling of forward thinking.

This post is sponsored by

Wednesday, 26 February 2014


Image: Clare Hudson
Ask your average man or woman in the street and they will probably tell you that a Buddhist is a mysterious creature that lives in the mountains (probably in a country such as Tibet or Nepal,) wears brightly coloured robes, and hums a lot.

For many people, this is not the case.

Click here to read the full article on

Monday, 3 February 2014


Photo - Daniel Olgren
J.K. Rowling is easily one of the sweethearts of the publishing industry, having not only created a world of much-loved characters, but also having stood up for the little man, making her views on tax evasion widely known.

But if that small display of opinion-holding wasn't enough, Jo-Ro has stirred up a veritable fan-base shit-storm this week, by admitting that Harry Potter characters Ron and Hermione shouldn't have been married after all.

Talking to Emma Watson in an interview for Wonderland (an interview I could only guess was fraught with awkwardness) she admitted that the pair ended up together "for reasons that have very little to do with literature and far more to do with me clinging to the plot as I first imagined it."

The interview led many journalists to realise that the word 'Hermione' doesn't actually come up on spell-check as a real word, and many die-hard fans to cry into their first editions.

More importantly, the story brings up many debates of authorship - mainly the degree to which an author has the sole property of the characters or story that they created. Young adult novelist John Green is often quoted on the subject, saying of his books:

“They belong to their readers now, which is a great thing–because the books are more powerful in the hands of my readers than they could ever be in my hands.”

This idea was explored on it's head in his most recent novel The Fault in our Stars,  in which literary novelist and drunken bastard Peter Van Houten is followed to Amsterdam by a fan of his novel intent on finding out what happens to the characters in his book after it finishes. Being the drunken bastard he is, Van Houten makes a point of reminding her that the characters don't exist beyond the end of the book.

Rowling-gate also brings up a point of realism. Her regrets bring to light questions of whether or not the characters would have been compatible at all, going as far as to say that the pair would have likely needed marriage counselling, (an idea that might provoke a scoff from people with a distant relationship with fiction.) Is realism this important however? With the fan-base for the series being the record breaking size that it is, Rowling foresaw " the rage and fury it might cause some fans" - opting nonetheless to be honest about her feelings.

Personally I can sympathise with Rowling. As a person who has spent hours of my life putting to paper events, people and worlds that don't exist, I really do get the idea of writing things as I first imagined them. Nothing compares to knowing a character so well that you can conjure up facts about them with a convincing confidence.

However, with the considerably less amount of experience I have in the craft, I don't know where I stand in terms of letting what I imagine and what would really happen see eye to eye. Either way, it's evident that realism is hugely important: even if you write about wizards for a living.


Saturday, 1 February 2014


It’s official, I’m rejecting people. I’m going to sit in the dark for… most of the time. Wall-E will be my only company. If old friends come by they’ll say ‘But Lewis, you hate Disney!’ And I will tell them to go away and throw empty Nutella jars at them until they do. Wall-E serves as a wistfully palatable criticism of consumer culture; you just haven’t realised it yet.

In a few years, the only people who will care will be VICE journalists looking to write a shocking article about the man who ‘REJECTED REAL PEOPLE IN FAVOUR OF AN ANIMATED ROBOT.’

I will be like the Captain of the Axiom, sat in a darkened room, sleeping and getting fat until I’m needed.

I will rely on the sun for Vitamin D. I know I’ve got at least that much of my nutrition covered, because the guy in the film Oldboy said that’s where we get vitamin D from and it helps boost our immune system. I haven’t yet checked what nutritional properties Nutella has in it, but it’s got ‘Nut’ in it and so does nutrition so there’s obviously some.

Someone will have to pay the rent on my bedsit for a few years so the landlord doesn’t bother me. In return, I may or may not produce a saleable manuscript for a novel worthy of a Nobel Peace Prize, the proceeds of which I will happily give you in return. I’ve already got a working title, actually. ‘Nutella and Robot.’ Like I said, it’s a working title. We can change it if needs be.

Domino’s deliver, and also do vegetables all sliced up and ready to eat on top of the pizza itself. The only problem will be getting them to the door of my room. Maybe I will have to come to an arrangement with the landlord. Maybe my benefactor will have to pay for these daily pizzas as well.

I don’t know. I haven’t quite thought this through yet.

Anyway, fuck people. Time for lunch – in a jar!

- Lewis