The Diary of Millwold (4)


Entry four – 

25% complete

25% – that’s like a quarter. That’s like having only four Krispy Kreme doughnuts and then dropping one upon the dirty floor. That’s the equivalent of asking for a quadruple vodka and coke and getting a treble. Hell, that’s the same as having four kids then one of them dying! Yes, when looked at holistically, 25% is a massive dent into the wholeness of a sphere; it’s a one of four and that four is just not the same once one leaves. Millwold, remember the day John Lennon died leaving only three of the Beatles here to tread this troubled world? Of course you don’t, because you weren’t born back then and this is what this 25% comes right straight back to – you have now reached the age of twenty and are effectively, according to life-expectancy statistics, a quarter of the way through your life here on planet earth. Like a brief flash in the realm of the dark Universe, you have seen the first Krispy Kreme doughnut linger tentatively on the edge of the table, before falling agonisingly to the germ-etched floor below. The doughnut is now inedible, John Lennon has been shot dead and you are now, whether you like it or not, twenty years old. Scary stuff.

But fear not old timer – time is on your side and you still have three Krispy Kremes left at the table before you. If the statistics are to be believed, and I live my life as healthy as a ‘normal’ person (cough), then I actually in fact find myself yielding the time scale of another SIXTY YEARS. Just think of what I could do with that time. I could grow my Facebook friend list into the thousands! I could work hard enough to become an authoritative boss at a supermarket store! I could even become the mayor of the Coventry kingdom! I hope you, future Millwold, reading this diary back have got some good news to tell me….

Anyway, back to the present where I have just turned twenty and finished the first of my four Krispy Kremes. I figured the only true way to honour this special occasion and begin tucking into the second doughnut was to kick things off in my place of spiritual birth – The Colly nightclub.

Yes, as aforementioned in week two’s entry, and in case you forgot future Millwold, myself and Paul had been rewarded for our consistently good Facebook statuses about the Coventry nightclub; I had been granted free entry and a few free drinks by one of the chief owners and managers – and with this I was also given a neat little birthday treat. It took over three years of back-breaking, successive visits and about £3000, but finally I had been integrated into the friendship zone of my favourite club and had saved about a tenner! Emotional. As you can see below, the historic moment and landmark achievement was captured by the photography skills and smartphone of your fellow companion Mr Gregg Ramsay:

‘What a moment’ – I thought in my sudden realisation that alcohol tokens do exist. Thanos Staikos, one of the chief players of the club featured in the picture, had this to say following the our lucrative achievement:

“It is no worries, you and Paul deserve free entry and drinks, you make me laugh with your Facebook statuses”. The Greek nightclub manager added: “Which one of you wrote the Colly poem? It was beautiful, just beautiful”.

Of course, by poem he means the 70-liker status I achieved over the Christmas period that sits framed upon my proud bedroom wall (see entry one). If this honour was how I was ending the first of my four Krispy Kreme doughnuts then I certainly can’t wait to see what 50%, 75% and 100% throw at me! I might achieve something of real significance to the human race; I might cure cancer, aids or something! Perhaps I’ll produce a hard-hitting, effulgent piece of 21st century art that will inspire world peace or tip the wealth balance so world poverty no longer exists! Who knows Millwold, who knows…

Moving on anyhow and there isn’t much else to tell from this week. I guess it isn’t like it is in the movies when birthdays are spent in an Italian restaurant in downtown New York with your friends and family around you. In vivid contrast, I spent my birthday back in the dingy confines of the Iceland store located in the heart of the hectic city centre and where, instead of unwrapping smooth and shining wrapping paper, I was stood aimlessly hungover in a supermarket unwrapping the freezing plastic off a ten pack collection of £1 ready meals. The opening calories of the second doughnut weren’t tasting too sweet. It was a different kind of birthday, I’ll give myself that. But enough about the bad news – I know you future Millwold don’t want to be reminded about such a depressing occasion! Instead I’ll remind you about your return to action as you started training for your upcoming charity bike ride!

As mentioned last week, I had just turned the page onto the opening chapter of Seedy Cycles’ 2012 bike tour to Amsterdam. Following the Nelson Mandela-esque moment when my bike was released from it’s garaged cage, I had now started engaging in frequent bike rides around the countryside of the Coventry kingdom. I continued my voyaging into the inundating sea of fields and country roads that lay sprawled out around me as I put foot to the rusty pedal and prepared myself for this heroic quest in the coming Easter.  Yes, it all got a bit exciting for me at the thought of such a titantic adventure coming my way; I couldn’t hold back me and my camera device as I visited the surrounding towns and villages, enthralled by the wondrous scenes around me:


Just beautiful. The opening calories of the second doughnut were now tasting quite succulent, and with the pains of working on my twentieth birthday behind me, I managed to forget about being a quarter of the way through my life and began to steady the ascent into the dizzying heights of international biking. I was now already going for rides four times a week and had begun feeling much fitter already – certainly since week one when I had nearly collapsed in a heap as I went out running. With one eye on the country lane in front of me, I kept another on the mapping of mine, Mike Barnes and a now probable Joe Waterfield’s route to Amsterdam. Basically the plan of action at the minute is to swing between Oxford, Basingstoke, Crawley and Dover before setting sail across to France! With many further mapping and arrangements to come, I can only sit in anticipation as I write these gleeful words. I will continue to steer the second chapter of four toward the canals and cafes of Amsterdam. I will continue to train. I will continue to plan. And I will continue to Colly (from time to time anyway).

And basically that’s that! –  week four of the spiralling roller-coaster that is my life in Coventry, England. Again not much had happened this week in the solemn, desolate kingdom. Ultimately though, the times of week four in riding the life roller-coaster had been more about reflection then actual solid activities. Although I engaged in some drinking and biking adventures, the mood of the week had been more over pondering huge, life-affirming questions about space and time and our brief existence on planet earth. But what I had learned from turning twenty was that life is like a four-pack box of Krispy Kreme doughnuts; you slowly enjoy and eat through each one, enjoying the radiant and delicious sugar coating, feasting on it’s calorie-dense core, gnawing at it’s rich flavour, until one day – the box is despairingly empty and the loading has ceased. Enjoy it while you can but no matter how hard you try, and as long as the world exists, you can’t ever get up and walk away from the Krispy Kreme table to stop eating. Time can’t be stopped. The wheels will keep turning. You will get older.

On this engulfing thought I draw week four to a close by stating to enjoy every bite of the doughnut like it’s your last. With twenty years gone and only three Krispy Kremes remaining, I’m going to do my best and enjoy every last calorie as I hopefully live to the predicted eighty years old age. Cosmic.

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The Diary of Millwold (3)


Entry three:

Millwold – this corner of the internet, this little shady crevice right here, is the scariest place a guy like you can stumble upon. 

The talktofrank alcohol section is full of wonderful information and advice; some notable extracts from this high-profile website include: “After a night of heavy drinking, you shouldn’t drink for 48 hours to allow the body to recover” and the even more hilarious “Never drink more than once a week – and on that one day young men are advised not to drink more than 3-4 units”. Looking back upon the festive period that has just passed (well the whole of last year really), it really is quite worrying when I think back to the times when straight bottles of vodka were cascading down my throat, right after a bottle of wine had been swept dry in a time period of two standard FIFA games. It’s not just me engaging in these daring antics either; all of my companions are ‘good’ drinkers aswell (Frank may call it ‘bad’ I suppose). Yes, whenever a person sets sail from the Coventry kingdom to undertake their University adventure, they always return with a smile on their face, a glaze in their eyes and a spring in their step as they avidly express how much they could out-drink all of their flatmates. Some rumours breezing in from afar say it’s down to the challenging landscape of the Coventry kingdom that leads people no other way but to the door of a pub. Maybe those sweeping rumours are right. Is there really nothing else to do in Coventry but drink?

The point to all this is that I have had an empowering thought wash up on the shore of my once drowsy consciousness. And this thought, this ever-growing seed that continues to ripen in my brain, is an idea to actually listen to what Frank has to say and cut down on the drink. Shocking stuff I know Millwold. But yes, this has been what has happened over the last week and I’m not afraid to say I’ve set a new high score of being a full fourteen days sober. Originally I didn’t think I could achieve such a lucrative quest where upon I was rewarded with a new sense of self-being; and even though it seemed crazy at the time, I can now stand here sober and say that it was a good decision. The world looks different now: colours are so much more vivid – the air so much more purer. I can feel a sense of awakeness that has seldom been found in any recent age that I can recall. It really is all quite beautiful – a beauty that is soon to stutter however when my birthday comes round in a few days as Coventry’s greatest nightclub again becomes the neon-lit hunting ground of me and my companions. All-inclusive of course. It would be rude not to.

It doesn’t end there however. Although the sober run will fall victim to £1.50 pints and Colly jagerbombs, the lowered consumption of alcohol will continue to blossom over the coming months. WHY ARE YOU DOING THIS YOU IDIOT! – I hear a confused future Millwold cry out reading back his diary. Well let me just remind you of the cataclysmic quest that you are your companion Michael Barnes have set forward for the coming easter. A quest that will require the utmost courage, conviction and fitness to see it through to it’s eventual end. Finally Millwold, you have something other than Facebook and alcohol to talk about!

Let me introduce you first to the joint-founding member of ‘Seedy Cycles’.

Michael Barnes some call him – also commonly referred to as ‘barnesy’, ‘barnicle’ or ‘stop sleeping and get out of the fuck out of the colly toilets’. Barnes and myself founded Seedy Cycles in the summer of last; we drew together our strong biking skills and yearnings for horizon-hunting travel and decided it was best to form a pack. The values of the pack are extremely complex and they remain mind-boggling to some outsiders who fail to comprehend the intense ideologies and social commentary that Seedy Cycles aims to embed into the world around it. Seedy Cycles does recruit members from time to time: Joe Waterfield, Leo Craddock and Alex Goodall are but three of the names that have graced the biking stage recently, but ultimately the pack remains a mysterious and enigmatical affair.

Anyhow, the idea of the pack this year is to set off out upon a quest entitled ‘Bike Hard, Play Hard’  where we set sail into the European landscape around us and sail through the lands of England, France, Belgium and finally, Holland. The final destination to arrive at would be Amsterdam – in-keeping with the name of said quest. The time route for this illustrious task would be between the 5th and 20th of April – in between the Easter holidays and days off from our University timetables. The route would be complex; the planning would be diverse; the training would be hard (lack of beer and fast food); and the work overall would be tenfold. But ultimately the ride would be for a charity that has yet to be named, and the achievement of such an ambitious quest would be grand and life-affirming. There are many details to come as the events unfold but me, Michael Barnes, and a potential Joe Waterfield, feel we can throw out our biking ambitions and soar high and mighty towards the canals and cafes of Amsterdam. Over five-hundred miles. Taking eight to ten days. Costing around four hundred pound. The plans of everything are still in dispute; me and Mike have met this weekend to discuss a number of factors, with the route primarily being the key starting factor. And then of course, the keeping healthy and training part! Details are sketchy but here is the initial mapping route of the mammoth task ahead:

As you can very well see, the road is an interesting one – passing through the outer London towns, toward the ferries of Dover, into the green hills of France, past the quaint and picturesque scenes of Bruges, into the cosmopolitan cities of Antwerp and Rotterdam, before finally arriving at the luxurious pleasures of Amsterdam. Grand indeed. After pondering over the idea of putting foot to the pedal and actually doing this 500 mile + ride, I immediately felt a sense of excitement and urgency; I realised that I would need to get back into the frame of biking pretty soon as I had been absent for numerous months. With this, I decided that the best thing to do would be to dig out my hybrid weapon of aluminium and rubber that had been vacant in my garage all this time. I entered the garage almost apologetically as my bike lay vulnerable and forgotten, like a puppy left out in the cold – it’s owner long gone.

Whatever hostility there was, well, it soon emigrated from the atmosphere as I approached the Claud Butler designed device. Dusting it off and fixing it’s flat tyre, I continued to wheel my bike out of it’s garaged cage, into the open plains of Coventry and the countryside that sat nestled around it. Yes, I took part in my first seedy cycle of 2012 and although I could feel my lungs, kidney, liver and muscles strain agonisingly like they had in that run I did the other day, the fact still remained that I was officially back into the thick of it. Biking and breaking. Alive and ascending. Swerving and soaring. If I was really going to arrive at the finish line at Easter, well then this certainly was the starting point. Only you, future Millwold, reading this back will know where the long, meandering road will go and whether or not the 2012 Seedy Cycle quest was completed to it’s finale. I beg for the answer now but I know you will not respond until time-travel is invented or something.

Ultimately week three of the roller-coaster had not seen much action; but within that lack of action, ideas were built and paths were mapped; and in the weeks and months to come, time will show just how far Seedy Cycles are really going to travel in their never-dying quest for the horizon. Will we make it to Amsterdam? Will we raise a good deal of money for charity? Will we manage to quit to actually keep fit before the task? As aforementioned, only the future Millwold knows. Until then, I leave you with a lovely picture you took of the Coventry countryside as you rode gracefully around it’s majestic, expansive and supposedly ‘wintry’ scenes. Cosmic.

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The Diary of Millwold (2)


Entry Two

Welcome back future Millwold to week two of your rampaging roller-coaster of soaring through 2012 in the forgotten kingdom of Coventry city. With the sheer excitement and momentous happenings of last week, who would have thought that things could escalate further into the shrouded wilderness of ethanol, Facebook and professional procrastination that this dead city and age swamp you with. Yes, no one out there would have but unbelievably the roller-coaster has gone to new speeds, taken new turns and plunged new depths into the deepening levels of excitement and adventure.

I may aswell start with announcing the breaking, big news of the week. Following an online campaign between me and my partner in crime Paul Howkins, we have managed to obtain an all-inclusive night out in the only good nightclub in Coventry – ‘Colly’ (it’s new name being Kasbah – but only out-of-town, southern students oblige to THAT name). The development began when me and Paul both realised we were devoid of any alcohol tokens. God knows where they had gone and how I would get them back (student finance payment – cheers), but the most important thing is that I have my twentieth birthday night-out sorted. Yes, all it takes is to show a club that you have nothing better to do with your life than post Facebook statuses about them and you get free entry and drinks! Print-screening desperately, we visited our past statuses to retrieve the Colly adverts and likes we had spawned and created off the social networking site. And following this genius decision, Paul and I were met with this glorious, token-saving, beautiful and life-affirming message:

The monumental occasion is set to take place on the eve of the 23rd of January (my birthday commencing when the clock strikes twelve). It will no doubt be a joyous and rapturous occasion of which me and Paul have waited for a very long time. Yes, for an age now we have spent our hard-earned money at the Colly whilst simultaneously promoting it with hoards of statuses; for an age me and Paul have gnawed through the tempestuous toils of competition and continued to be their best advertisers and customers, fending off vicious competition from across all the sprawling lands of Coventry. The reward has been earned. And I can’t wait to reap it…

Oh, where are my manners! Incase I’ve forgotten about Paul in the future or he dies of alcohol-poisoning (god forbid but highly-likely), I might aswell do a low-down on the skills and attributes of my Coventry companion. Although I would like to give an in-depth, Shakespearian description of Paul, it can’t be avoided that Paul is a simple guy in a simple world; and so it is probably best if I sum him up in a simple way.

As you can no doubt tell, the guy is, like myself, a valued young member of this 21st-century British society. And if the word ‘seediness’ has gone out of fashion in the future, I might aswell clarify that it defines the skill of being a total and utter pest to females on nights out – one good approach is stand alone in the dark corner of a nightclub picking out targets skilfully before moving in like you’re in a game of hungry hippos. As is evident, Paul’s seedy skills are (from much practice) very defined and advanced – skills which are set to get deployed once more come the 23rd of January.

In other news, and in relation to last week when I spoke about the work situation, well I can now say I stand here in a better position; I am back into the confines of the city centre Iceland store with a tasty eighteen hours being completed over this token-building week – that of which should see me well in the neon-lit, alcohol-led future. I also managed to get those University assignments completed and this, coupled with getting a first for the last assignment, led to a mild form of content; a happiness that could only best be met with an original-glazed Krispy Kreme donut. The only downfall to University is travelling over twenty miles to north Birmingham to hand a piece of work in or complete an assignment; this was particularly interesting when Iceland and University inter-connected meaning I had fifty minutes to converse the public-transport jungle of rail-tracks and roads to get to work on time. Like a true Tarzan I managed to do it though! You know you’re living in a hyper-reality when one minute you’re sprinting out of class under evil looks from your lecturer in one city and an hour later you’re being harassed by a chav in another whilst packing out a box of garden peas. Cosmic.

Enough of that reality bullshit anyway Millwold; I can tell you’re getting bored when you’re reading this back in the future whining on about work and other non-important shit like that. Tell future Millwold what he really wants to hear! Tell him about the night out at Seven nightclub when you saw a man try to kill a bouncer!

Alright, calm down.

Yes, last weekend I went against all my plans to rid the alcohol for a few weeks and went out upon the devious Coventry town. It wasn’t my fault however; the workers at the local store seem to have something wrong with their hearing – either that or I just speak really weird to them. Imagine my despair when the shop attendant misheard my request for “a euro-millions lottery lucky-dip ticket please” thinking that I had actually in fact said “a bottle of your finest red wine please”. Not again, I gasped. It got even worse though: yes for about the fifth time in the last month I got pissed off and threw my wallet at the floor only to see my card bounce out into the cash machine. In further rage I punched the cash machine when, to my despair, forty pound sterling came rolling out! Unbelievable. Absolutely unbelievable! Anyway, numerous beers, shots and games of hungry hippos later, I found myself having a great ‘unplanned’ night – but it was all soon to get a little bit better. Here gaze upon my bearded mate Blake below:

Hey there

What’s that you ask? Who do the police have on the floor? Well, there I was sat innocently feasting on some late-night, takeaway chicken and enjoying the the company of my drunken companions. All of a sudden an angry man storms back in; he has just returned from arguing with a bouncer a few minutes ago and is now brandishing an excessively, large metal pole (one of the ones to stop cars driving through pedestrian areas). He continues to shout, bang and wave his steel weapon at the dingy doorway entrance to a shady nightclub, located just a few feet from me and my precious chicken. Now if this was television or a computer game or a dream I might have been still tucking into my food having a laugh; but I had to stop myself for a second and remember this was reality – this was a man trying to kill another man, or atleast ‘do him in’ – to a good extent. I might have choked on a drumstick for a second but before I could the huge bouncer came rampaging out of that dingy doorway, dropping the maniac and his steel bar to the floor, whilst then continuing to sit joyfully on him before the local police came. Luckily we managed to obtain a picture before the Coventry Feds threw him back into jail and out again. Evidently it was another good night in the confines of downtown Coventry.

Well Millwold – in a chicken-Colly-coated nutshell, that was the general gist of your happenings and events of week two of 2012. The mystic land of Coventry had but yet again thrown some titantic situations your way; whether in the form of establishing a tight relationship with your favourite nightclub, packing out box after box of garden peas or just simply watching a lunatic trying to kill a man in a chicken shop –  all I can say is you’re lucky to have these majestic, swirling adventures swarm your way. It’s no question that you will remember these events vividly in the shrouded future. Til week three on this roller-coaster, goodbye Millwold.

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The Diary of Millwold


Entry One

The author himself

We’ve said to keep a diary this year, so that I will start doing – a drunken decision made between two part-time alcoholics: me and Joe Waterfield. So much good shit happened last year and I still regret not documenting the adventures of Glastonbury, Ghana, countryside bike rides, Bestival and those sun-drenched days up the wedge where we sat beside a steady, flowing stream of which we would dip our bare feet and keep our bottles of beer and cider icy cold within it’s crystal waters. All in the past now, but I’m sure I believe myself when I say it was the best summer of my nineteen years on this planet. Point being anyhow, I’ve decided to start taking note so hopefully I will have something to gaze back upon in writing and, who knows, maybe smile upon with a bottle of bubbly one day! If I stroll close to the eventful path that I walked last year, I will be happy and content; I’ll be able to look back at the start of next year to where I am now, and appreciate that I started writing this. Well, here we go anyway – fingers on my keyboard, thoughts loaded in my head – strapping myself in to the spiralling roller-coaster that is my life of being twenty years old in the forgotten, mythical and misty kingdom of Coventry, England. Many twists and turns. Many ups and downs. This is probably going to be the shitest and best thing ever written by the nimble fingers of man.

Of course I’m already late as I start writing; I think it’s the 5th of January (can’t remember – was drunk again last night – hangover ensuing) which would mean by all accounts that I am a few days late starting this diary. Not that anything amazingly life-altering and brilliant was happening in those last few days, and it wasn’t like I was going to start writing this on New Year’s day anyway – I think I was getting raped by the hangover all day as I lay sprawled out across my clothe-covered bedroom floor, eventually summoning the mystical energy to stumble down stairs and get something to eat and hydrate – you know, to stay alive and shit like that. I went to a house party in Leamington and it was quite good to be fair; there was trampolines, fireworks, copious amounts of alcohol, multiple new year countdowns and Harry Potter –  the quintessential must-haves of any good party. Probably should have been where the vast majority of my best mates were though, which was all the way up north in the city of Nottingham as they hit the new year entry door hard. It was work’s fault though. Enough of that anyway.

Since then I’ve carried on doing the very bare minimal that would classify and define me as a valued and worthwhile member of society; and by this I mean I’ve lounged about in my house playing computer games before going out and hitting the drink again. Hell, I don’t even have any shifts at work this week which is directly down to the boss overspending her Christmas budget by a thousand pounds or something. Of course, she will only consider cutting other people’s shifts, and not hers – the integrated, greedy bitch – robbing me of my alcohol tokens. This also adds up to me being deeper into my overdraft than I ever thought I would be; I am four hundred quid into it to be precise, and I planned to be around one hundred to two hundred tops as I came out the Christmas period. Probably didn’t help going out last night. They say a picture paints a thousand words so I’ll paint you this to sum up last night in the mystical realm of Coventry city center (aka ‘Quids Inn’!).

Tasty

Just looking back at those shots brings back the headaches and the swirling stomach. And, at the time, I probably should have been leaping over the hurdles of University work which was due in within a few short days time; instead I was soaring majestically over hurdles of poisonous shots toward the final tequila obstacle (the pretty one with the lemon on) whilst destroying more brain cells and making the uni work that much harder with my dispersing intellect. I guess, like all good athletes, I just love a challenge.

Speaking of athletics (probably best to leave it at just those three words actually), I went for a run last night to see if I could move at some sort of real human pace without collapsing and dying in the Coventry streets. Suffice to say, by the time I reached the co-op (fifty metres down the road) I felt like the hard concrete beneath me was soon to become my rain-soaked grave; I could feel my lungs, liver, kidneys and muscles breaking down one by one with every metre I ran through the stormy wind and rain. It definitely had nothing to do with all the fast food and alcohol I had consumed over the past few weeks – it was more getting older I told myself. About to hit the grand age of twenty. Just nature taking it’s slow, decaying and unavoidable course…

Moving on anyhow and I’m already struggling to think of anything else of interest that happened in the past week. Who would of thought it. Oh, I got some good Likes on a Facebook status! Yeah I suppose that will do as the achievement and interesting thing for the past week. Thirty-nine Likes for my debut status of the year; representing a 10% Like per friend ratio with my 390 friends, which was, as I’ve figured out, a pretty good statistic. That’s the same as someone with a thousand ‘friends’ getting one hundred Likes; that’s the same as someone with two thousand ‘friends’ getting two hundred likes. Who needs grades and degrees when you can have Likes and acceptance from people on the internet! Of course, I’m still aiming to top my all-time high score and grade: the seventy-liker I got a couple of weeks ago (representing a whopping 17% Like per friend ratio). Here, check it out:

Get the fuck in.

There it sits upon my bedroom wall, smiling down at me as I log out and sleep blissfully at night. My parents must be so proud at how far I’ve come; they must just love that I’ve managed to grow up in the world to warp and bend words about going out and drinking to achieve Likes and feedback on a social networking site – some of them from people I don’t even know! Maybe if I show them my Facebook grades they will give me some tokens or buy me some beer as a reward! Oh, the possibilities…

Well I’m racking my brain some more and, apart from the oozing alcohol, nothing seems to be coming out. So I’ll leave it there for this week anyway. As you can no doubt tell Millwold, it’s been a pretty eventful one! There was twists, turns, ups and downs, thrills and spills – just like any good roller-coaster. There was Facebook, alcohol, no work, beer, Facebook, no work, alcohol. Anyway I think I’ve earned a break from all of this hard labouring so I’m going to head back to my room and recover my thoughts over some Fifa and leftover Thornton’s Christmas chocolates.

Just right after I grab a beer from the fridge…

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Grand Theft Ghana


Sometimes I can’t believe it, I’m moving past the feeling.

Culture – it’s a strange thing. You can spend years at a time in one culture, one way of life, continuously digesting thoughts and assumptions of what an opposing one is; yet, when the cards are smack down on the table and you plug in to take the step of transition – well, let’s just say it’s not the game you thought it was. Shocking, surprising, supressing – a juxtaposition of images running through the very social fabric of the society around you; a maelstrom of events that is as subtle as a handshake escalating to a goat being hacked to death in front of you. A place where the surreal currency and prices mean you have never-ending money. A place where police casually walk past you clutching their over-sized AK47’s. A place that is so laid back that a minute feels like a second.

Have you ever played Grand Theft Auto? Quite a strange way to sum up a culture but seemingly, as I sit in my hide out listening to the whirl of taxi horns invade my windows, well, it’s the most apt way to describe the settting that is Cape Coast, Ghana. I know what you’re thinking: ‘What the hell is he on about?’ – but for a long time now, not feeling, reacting or even acting like normal, for a long time I’ve felt like I’m in a video game; a virtual world and community where nothing is real but the thoughts in your head when you log in and play. Perhaps that says alot about the western world; in all the sights I’ve seen with all the power and majesty of the human brain, stepping into an African country for the first time is too much to continue functioning normally. Digesting the sights and experiences around you as a real person is too much as the smokescreen of culture shock remains streaming, forever embedded in your blurred senses. It is because of this very thing that I find the most fitting way to describe this new world is as a Grand Theft Auto game. We all remember the feeling of that teenage memory – picking up the controller for the first time as you walked around as a virtual person in a virtual 3D world thinking of the endless possibilities within the game. Everything around you caught your eye, nothing was real and you wanted to go explore everything within the genius design of the game. The similarities in Cape Coast, Ghana are endless; don’t get me wrong – I’m not saying everyone goes around killing each other, running people over (well, not to the same extent anyway) whilst working for some mobster boss who sits in his mansion overlooking the town below – the similarities are in the change of what you thought was reality. Living in England for 19 years, the closest thing to Africa I had seen was…. well, I hadn’t. As a westerner in Ghana, my reality is void; it’s a game, I’m in a game – It’s all a game.
——————————————————————————————————————————————–

The first thing I learnt when I landed and logged in to play was that my characters name was Kofi. Ghanaians name men and women after what day they were born you know – so from the extensive day list of around 7, we have 14 separate designs of character within the game. I’m the Friday character; yes, being born on Friday, 24th of January,1992 means I’m the Kofi design – just like the other 1 million or so Kofis.

The Setting

But what about the map I hear the critics call out? The design in the area of Cape Coast is detailed and impressive. The town is a rustic charm – the interweaving streets bare host to a hub of life and activity where the wandering goats and chickens avoid the barrage of taxis and plethora of life that ingrains itself within you to tickle the senses. Countless stalls line the roads selling items of interest. Fish. Chicken. Radios. Locks. Medicine. Literally anything your character needs. The noise beckons; ranging from the hapless groan of goats and blasting of Ghanaian music to the little kids continuously shouting ‘Obroni!’ as you walk past (Ghanaian for ‘white person’). The occasional stench of sewage lingers past you from the open sewers, all the while a disabled Ghanaian sits gazing intently at the crowds walking past hoping for a charitable donation. Toward the end of the map lies Cape Coast slave castle that stands aptly gleaming in white paint as it pokes it’s nose out in the horizon hunting Atlantic ocean. Beside it nestles the lush sandy beaches that serenade the shore as the back of them adorn the sight of the Rasta huts.

Now, every game has the good guys and, like all well designed games, Grand Theft Ghana very much does in the form of these Rastafarians. They sit in their huts beside the castle making craft items and continuing the never-ending mission of ‘avin a good time’. That they do as they drift around the local area smoking the good shit and helping any unfortunate person who is ‘avin a bad time’. Love and peace forever right? The bad guys, the real ones you have to watch out for, lie in the center of town late at night as they cast their smearing eyes out from the darkness to look for that glint of white skin – this gang, best known as ‘streetboys’, remain a consistent threat to your characters health and money. They see your white skin as representing wealth – wealth, which they think would best be transferred to them. Avoiding these certain areas at night or going round with the rastas will give you the protection to best avoid this decrepit gang.

Game Map

When thinking about the game holistically, there are numerous threats to your characters health in Cape Coast, Ghana. The taxi drivers, who come in their thousands, all burn rubber at breakneck speed as they race from one end of the map to the other. It is risky to your characters health whenever you are inside one of these machines – especially when there is over ten of you crammed in like sardines as the driver gleefully overtakes buses and trucks in the shadowy haze of night. However, beside all these threatening factors in Cape Coast, Ghana, the number one threat, without a doubt, remains the illusive gangs of mosquitos; they patrol the streets menacingly at night carrying the weapon of Malaria whilst they continue forever in their quest to hunt you down – one malaria ridden bite and you could find yourself waking up at the local hospital. Alone. Sick. Seeped of energy. It happened to a few characters I met here. The trick is to leave the house everyday with your body armor on; this comes in the form of insect repellent that is applied to your characters skin or anti-malaria tablets which, when taken consistently, represent your steroid-pumped knight in shining armor – coming to pull you out the pits of a disease that kills thousands and thousands every single year. Whilst this setting and these enemies may sound like an enormous death-trap, with the right preparation and the right street smarts, you should find yourself roaming the game’s map comfortably as you go about your daily business and progress through the game.

The Job

Business. We’ve finally got to the word; Carl Johnson had business to attend to, Niko Belic had business to attend to and now, following a large payment made to the organisation ‘Projects Abroad’, Kofi has business to attend to. I came to Ghana early July to start the game; training as a journalist, my job was soon made clear as I met with the editor of a local paper entitled: ‘Central Press Newspaper’. The bosses name was Kwamina; a hard-working, enthusiastic and slightly crazy character, he installed me into my job very quickly – about the only thing he did do quickly as countless times I found myself slumped on the busy, poverty-ridden street sides waiting to be picked up. Sometimes half an hour late. Sometimes an hour. Enough of that small glitch anyway. My job soon became clear and comfortable; occasionally I was dropped at press conferences where, as the stand out only white person in the room, I came armed with a pen and notebook, jotting down all the issues that arose. They were, as expected, stereotypical issues of a developing country – youth, aids, water, food, charities, violence – you know, the usual. Anyhow, as I progressed further into the game, my boss called on me increasingly to go out and find stories across the map of Cape Coast and, on occasions, further afar. That I did as I stumbled around the third world streets, roads, backpaths and communities of Cape Coast. Stories about the historic ills of slave castles arose. Stories about the sheer demonic hatred toward homosexuals came afoot. Cocoa farmers. Festival events. Crime. The stories for these missions grew ever interesting and expanding as I glided through my storyline at an unearthly pace. It was, however, outside the missions where the true experience began to surprisingly creep up on me. It’s a map where sewers litter the pot-hole eaten roads as the swelling stench rubs off on the wild animals that parade these very streets. A world where the ongoing poverty is apparent as the sweltering heat that warps in and out of your melting body. Yet, in what is quite often an ugly design, the ironic true beauty of the game lies in the characters that walk down these poverty-infected streets.

The People


I’ll always remember what I heard at one press conference: “Ghana is not poor; the wealth is in our minds”. I struggled to understand what it meant at first having just turned up on Ghana’s rusty doorstep. Further into the game the meaning soon shone through. Denotatively the characters here may have low money and supplies, yet, with a smile on their face and a glint in their eye, they remain truly wealthy – to a point where their quality of life is simply enviable. Always happy, helping each other out, laughing and joking; the majority of characters in this game are quite frankly winning. If I need directions, they will guide me to where I need to be. If I’m injured, they will do their best to help heal me (even if that does mean rubbing hot ash on an open wound). The people, 90% of the time, are of great design; a design that should be implemented more places in the world. While I began to meet more and more characters across the map of Cape Coast, there were some who, quite deservedly, stood out. On a few late nights when the sun had fallen off the horizon to be replaced by the purple, half-light of the moon, often I stumbled into a group of Rasta folk who called themselves the ‘4/20 crew’; they were Ghanaian men whose days consisted of making paintings and African craft to sell to tourists; if not engaging in these activities, they could be found on the opposite end of the map in the recording studio putting down material to be sent to local radio stations throughout Cape Coast. Their names ranged from ‘Moonshine’ and ‘Mickey’ to ‘Bow Wow’, ‘Shackles’ and ‘Black’. Whilst they kept themselves busy in the heated atmosphere of day, it was at night where the soul and spirit of the 4/20 crew shone through. They came out armed every evening with guitars, soul and plenty of the ‘gurd shit’ – as they proclaimed it. Of course this wouldn’t be a true Grand Theft Auto-esque experience without a bit of drugs; and that it was as, every week, a large delivery of weed from the capital of Accra turned up on the streets of Cape Coast. It was clear who the main players and dealers in this shady game were and it came as no surprise to find the rastafarians higher than Kilomanjaro every night sitting, gazing out across the ocean as they discussed god, power and life with a joint in their hand and a red glaze in their eyes. Occasionally the ‘muthafucka police’ would catch them.

the ‘muthafucka’ police

Now, by the letter of the law a 5 year sentence is in place by the Ghanaian authorities; however, we all knew that just wouldn’t happen. The police here are as corrupt a 3 pence coin and on the occasions that the rastas were caught smoking, they would be taken to the bank to get money out in the form of a bribe so that the corrupt cops and their huge AK47s would look the other way. Still, no amount of police or machine guns could stop the rastas from ‘avin a good time’. Truly entertaining, this is another part of what made the characters the most impressive design within the game. Although I began to meet more and more Ghanaians, my list of friends and associates quickly became more universal, incorporating characters from all over the globe. My job here was put in place by the aforementioned organisation Projects Abroad who, all over the world, run projects in a variety of countries; in such, with the group having headquarters in many nations worldwide, there was a considerable diversity of nationalities working in Cape Coast alongside me. English. American. Australian. Swiss. Dutch. Italian. French. Canadian. Belgian. Irish. The list goes on. All these characters coming together in the realms of Cape Coast led to some interesting developments. When walking down one of the busy downtown roads, through the scores of people rushing around the markets balancing items on their heads, you would, maybe, see one white person (or ‘obroni!’) every few minutes as you awkwardly stumble through the sea of Ghanaian people. On a rough estimate, I think it would be safe to say that one white person features for every thousand Ghanaians across the Cape Coast map – because of this design issue it is unavoidable that the obronis stick together through the game. Despite being so rare, it wasn’t hard to find these collector items; when I originally arrived, I was shown to my hide-out on the edge of town that would be my sleeping headquarters for the following two months. After setting down my heavy bags and beginning the game, I soon met my obroni housemates; there was four of us in total – a dutch girl by the name of Lenneke and two of my fellow Englishmen – Liam and James who, evidently by the empty bottles of vodka that greeted me, liked a ‘gurd time’. The place seemed cool; we were lodging with a Ghanaian host family who made us meals, looked after us and even did the laundry from time to time; suffice to say, I had landed a good joint to stay at. As the storyline integrated itself deeper, I began to meet vast amounts of obronis who I grew strong connections with. From the loud, American, party-animal Hannah to the adventurous Australians Cameron, Maddie and Darcy. From the work enthusiast Saul to the crazy Swiss guys Nick, Michelle, Shany and Margot. From the singing Canadian Tim to the joyful, Italian dentist Marco; the list really could glide on and on. The depth of these universal friendships remained huge in a world glittered in drinking, dancing and partying delights. There were times where I, Kofi, found myself sitting around a beach fire at 3 in the morning drinking and singing with ten other nationalities. There were times when I found myself cascading over a lush, maze of greenery with a young American as we paraded over the cagey canopy walk of the local Kakum rainforest.

The shady ‘Abura’ district by day

I once found myself up upon my homestay roof late at night with a Swiss medical student as we gazed out upon the sea of shady backstreets and busy late-night markets that made up the daunting district of ‘Abura’ – we watched dodgy proceedings occur in the distance under flickering lights as sketchy characters walked in and out the shadows: all the while we set our gaze out for a brief glimpse of the rare one-legged women who occasionally lingered her presence out from the darkness of the alleyways. All of this, coupled with the tranquil, atmospheric sound of Pink Floyd, well, it lead to some interesting conversations to say the least.

Oasis

In hindsight the majority of our neon-lit, substance-fueled adventures took place downtown in the pits of Oasis Beach Resort; situated on the edge of the map, lodged between the slave castle and pristine beaches, the adults playground that is Oasis played host to many a drunken night (and sometimes morning) as the games major characters came, united together, sailing through a sea of local shots and beer in the wake of Ghanaian nightfall. It really was the main hotspot in Cape Coast where the stacks of converted obroni cash came toppling in as the local spirits inturn flooded back out. The bar had a whole host of firepower in the armory; from the deadly ‘Herb Africa’ to the vicious bite of ‘Pusher’ – these gin bitters cost next to nothing: all this meant that there were more shots taking place than a Mafia gang war. The layout of Oasis looked relatively peaceful and laid-back; however, after this utter devastating consumption of alcohol, the tranquil setting of palm trees, old wooden tables and gravel paths soon transformed into a turf of illegal dance moves, loud sing-songs and blazing campfires. I suppose the scenic, wide-screen view of the vast Atlantic ocean was quite nice in the hands of day – however, the close location of the sea was just another threat to your characters health come nightfall; these deadly shots at Oasis would make you think almost anything: I.e. that for some overpowering reason, that you don’t know quite why, you had the apparent sudden urge to go for a swim at 2 in the morning. Now, I’m not going to say that the sea was rough because that wouldn’t be true. I think the best way to put it would be, quite frankly, that it was a fucking death-trap. Huge waves. Rapid stop/start currents. Unstoppable rips. No-one to save you if you’re washed out. Remember the first few Grand Theft Autos? You know – the ones before you could swim and a simple dip in the ocean would see your characters health drop rapidly. Well, yeah – it was a bit like that. Me, myself, Kofi, had many a near miss with the first occuring on my very first Oasis venture; following a billion local shots and a million local beers, me, Albert Einstein, had the sudden genius idea to go for a quick dip: that I did as I stuttered from the bar, across the lumpy sand pits and into the aqua death-arena of crashing waves and mountainous under-currents. It happened once. Then again. Then again. And a few times more as I progressed through the storyline. Luckily, I never went too far in, despite my senses being somewhat distorted at the time. This comes down either to the Canadian lifeguard Tim warning me or the health cheat I must have entered early on in the game. Did I tell you that I fell off a balcony at one point? Yeah, definitely must have entered that cheat. In all honesty I never really expected the game to feature so much alcohol: personally I blame Liam and James – my room mates. I suppose staying with two, stocky English rugby players means it shouldn’t be a surprise to see myself engaging in a war of alcohol with them – curse the guy who invented rounds.

Moving on

Balancing the social occasions and nights out with meeting my job and bosses needs proved to be a tricky mission; often I found myself spaced out in the confinement of a loud and busy press conference as I tried to pretend that my tender head didn’t feel like it had a million grenades exploding within it. Still, despite low health, I had to meet the criteria of the game’s job. That I did as I continued developing my stories and journalistic skills in helping produce the paper that went out to the streets and businesses of Cape Coast every fortnight. The newspaper was run by just a few characters; originally me and Saul were putting the content together as we addressed issues of worth to Cape’s citizens. Soon we were joined by a few more characters: Oliver from England and Australian Cameron who eventually came into the game as they arrived in town to help us and the boss in our journalistic quest. The stories and issues remained just as interesting through the progressing storyline. I covered factors such as the heaps of fake medicine and food brands that had found their way out on the busy market streets of downtown Cape Coast. I covered issues such as the ongoing debate that community chiefs needed more official power so that they could unite with the corrupt cops in helping settle conflicts – hmmmm. As the days went on and the sun continuously dropped off the Atlantic horizon, I became substantially integrated within the game; like a Carl Johnson in San Andreas, I confidently knew my way around the map of Cape Coast as I jotted through the packed, poverty strucken streets and side roads: I knew more and more local characters and things, generally, became easier. Still lodging in my hide-out on the edge of town. Still exploring the joys of Oasis. Still regularly completing my journalistic missions. The people came and went of course; particularly the parting obronis, who after finishing their stories, said their final goodbyes to everyone: many, never to be seen again, drifted down the road in a luggage, lumped taxi as they casually drifted out the game and out your life. No cheat to enter to bring them back. Forever gone with a simple car-ride down one of the many pot-hole ridden roads of Cape Coast. Soon I found myself living with just one other person at my Abura hide out – Lenneke and James had logged out and all that was left was me and Liam. Although the partnership was deadly resulting in many insane, alcohol drenched days and nights, the time came to pass seemlessly quickly. In the end it was just me, Kofi, alone continuing my quest in Grand Theft Ghana to the bitter end. My list of contacts and associates soon ultered; with a pick n mix of some Swiss characters, an Italian, an Australian and of course, a few more English guys, I soon picked myself up with this new gang to continue my storyline in the spiraling depths of this third world country. Of course the 4/20 crew remained a titantic force in our quest to have a good time; every night, and sometimes day, we would meet to patrol the streets, communities and bars of the Cape Coast map. The tacky, torn maze of streets downtown soon became a welcoming host to our mindset of having a good time – that we did as we drifted around the rustic, poverty bitten jungle of Cape. More good times came to the table. More missions arrived at the door; in and out they went as I progressed further through the game.

The Trip Up North

What the hell am I doing in Africa!?

Every game has the ‘big mission’ so to speak and this one bared no difference. I had been gearing up for it in all my long time here; weeks had passed and the journalistic missions became somewhat easy as they drifted casually by without a threat of failure passing through my character’s culture-shocked mind – suffice to say, yep, I needed, and wanted, a challenge. And boy did that challenge come after an early morning conversation me and my fellow journalist associate Saul had with the boss Kwamina. In a simple car journey around the Cape Coast streets, he set out to us a mission of apocalyptic size; resulting in potential death or a heroic homecoming of success, we were told to travel up to the north of Ghana independently in the mission to tour the forbidden, mystic land whilst simultaneously landing stories for the next edition of the paper. Originally it seemed quite daunting; what awaited us in the veiled northern land where stories of anti-tourism and extreme values had reached my southern, white ears. It was going to be a tough mission. Eventually we warmed to the criteria of this gigantic calling and we packed our bags and prayers as we set out upon our long, arduous journey into the realm of the north. Cape Coast, Ghana had been stereotypical of southern Ghana; evoking a laid-back atmosphere with it’s collection of tourist-friendly characters, christian morals and scenic beaches, it differed majorly from the north – well, atleast that was the word on the street anyway. We left the map of Cape on what was to be our transport for the next 5 days – a trotro.

A trotro engaging in battle

Now to say trotros were horrific would be an understatement: they were torture machines wrapped in rusty metal and crammed full of human flesh, all the while the engine grumbled as it stumbled along the pot-hole, crater-ridden roads at 25mph. Many deaths had taken place regularly with the use of these ‘machines’. The size of a standard minibus – 36 people at times were crammed in for the long, unbearable journeys as legs squashed together and heat burnt through the dusty air of the trotros. This is how we made our way to the north of Ghana; it took many long hours (13 to be precise) but eventually we reached the north as the trotro stuttered to a halt and we cast our crushed feet and tired eyes out upon the large, bustling town of Tamale. The mission had begun.

It was a strange alien world by Cape Coast’s standards; a sea of bikes and motorbikes greeted us as they flew menacingly through the busy Muslim crowds filling the streets that, in turn, paraded the titanic market areas. Mosques stood proudly peering out as they overlooked the sprawls of huts and busy roads below. There were dead animals everywhere; whether it was the head of a cow, crocodile or monkey, the stench of dead creatures wafted throughout the hectic town as me and Saul stood, notepad and pen in hand, dazzed and confused at this new game map. The delights of Oasis and the 4/20 crew were a long way away. We weren’t in Kansas anymore. Eventually, like a Russian Niko Belic clutching a shotgun, we warmed to it. We set out on our mission to fish stories from the cesspool of Alien culture: first we explored the fetish section district of the huge Tamale market – this was, to say the least, disturbing; a sea of dead creatures greeted us as lizard skins lied baked out in the searing sun – all the while a decapitated monkey head sat, staring up at you with it’s brain still rattling inside. It made an interesting story to say the least as we intently quizzed the sellers and buyers of these strange items which were, apparently, used for medicine and cursing…. . What a strange game this was.

We progressed further to some more friendly ventures on the other side of the map. We discovered some charities that helped women on the streets of Tamale turn their backs to poverty and prostitution and teach them skills such as hairdressing and dressmaking; heartwarming stuff, we knew the boss Kwamina would love content like this for the next edition of the paper. We even managed to squeeze another youth story in as we stumbled upon the Northern Region headquarters of the Ghanaian National Youth Authority. We were loaded with journalistic content as a trotro was with people. After getting adjusted to the map of Tamale and draining it of it’s journalistic stories, me and Saul set out to continue our mission in this deadly game; using Tamale as an anchor, we set out once more on trotros to visit the surrounding local areas. Staying in the tiniest, filthiest hotel rooms, we toured the north with an inner strength of finishing this mission to it’s heroic end. The game’s difficulty level had definitely took a gleeful step up. This was most evident during the time where we got briefly lost in the cosmic, dark universe of Northern Ghana. It was late at night and we had got off at the wrong stop and, in such, we were stranded in an unknown dark town; the lightning storms on the horizon didn’t help as we stood in the dark abyss of night as the only white people in the alien town. Although the surrounding area was covered in lush, seeping green scenery, the darkness of nightfall turned this area into a shady cave of confusement, danger and worry. It was one of the memorable moments of the game but alas, eventually, following the help of a few local characters, we made our way to the town of Bolgatanga that lied on the Burkina Faso and Ghanaian border.

The mission of touring the north progressed on and on. We visited more places. We stopped in more hotels. We rode more trotros. In the end we landed in the foreign pits of the village of Larabanga: this was a small community in the outback of Northern Ghana – we had stopped overnight in the Salia Brothers Guesthouse which was, to put it politely, very basic – still, I suppose it had character with it’s bucket showers and piles of bed bugs…. . On the contrary we were glad we did. We had been approached previously by a gang of youths who offered me and Saul a place to stay for the night with transport for the following day; originally everything seemed cool but after witnessing desperation to get us to stay the night, coupled with me spotting what appeared to be a stolen Iphone, well, let’s just say we warmed off the idea. Just another gang of enemies in the toils of Grand Theft Ghana. Standard.

Following our short stop in the small village of Larabanga we made our way, on rented bicycles, across the dusty, dirt roads and onward to the national park of Mole: this was a vast, green world of beautiful design incorporating the sights of never-ending lush jungles and open African plains. A plethora of wildlife sat in this world and, like true stalker journalists, we went hunting after them (all be it with a Ghanaian ranger and his trusty rifle). The visit to Mole national park was probably the most enjoyable part of the mission up north; we stood, overwhealmed on the plains of Mole, taking mental and physical snap shots of the surrounding elephants, monkeys, antelope and eagles that serenaded the senses and sea of of greenery around us. Suffice to say, we now had a wealth of quality content to write about. We put our notebooks away and prepared for the long journey home. The visit up north had been a cathartic experience; there had been danger, stress, running about and utter, utter, utter confusement – still, through the tough woodwork of shady characters, torturous trotros and horrific hotels, we had collected a warm, unforgettable experience that seeped out the rusty pores of Northern Ghana. After gaining seven quality stories, getting lost and riding our obroni luck, we were worn down – ready to pack our bags once more and travel another 13 hours back south to the comfort of Cape Coast. The comfort of home. Our mission had been a success. Grand Theft Ghana had progressed to it’s final stages as I arrived back on the map of Cape Coast for the final part of the game and storyline.

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The Descent

Feet back on the dusty concrete roads of Cape. Head back on the torn pillow of my hide-out’s bed. I was back in town for the remainder of the game. By now I was fully comfortable and integrated into this surreal society and culture; walking around town there would be people shouting: ‘ooo shit!’ at me and the other volunteers – it was originally a phrase me and Liam developed on drunken missions but it had now been swept into the community atmosphere of Cape. Still, the place was the same as how I left it. Goats and chickens still roamed the streets. Taxis still shot narrowly past the scores of people. The map was now easy to navigate; having been here for well over a month I needed no radar to jostle through the maze of markets, back-streets and paths that made up Cape Coast. My character’s attributes had increased and improved over the course of the game – I was now the Niko Belic of Liberty city. The Vince Viccetti of Vice city. The CJ of San Andreas. Still, the experience remained a video game; culture here was truly a surreal experience and one that after 7 weeks, I still couldn’t quite adjust to. I was well and firmly still in the game – along way away from the oxygen, food, water and surface of my past reality: England. If I had thought the integration into this Grand Theft Ghana had been crazy so far, boy, was I in the for a surprise when the festival came to town. Every week of the year, around the start of September, the map of Cape Coast transforms with an injection of street parties, music, traditional celebrations and ‘gurd times’. I’m not quite sure why but for some design reason the town just goes nuts; in an arena of drinking, dancing, sex, drugs and rock n roll, the map of Cape put’s away it’s laid back roots to breed a jungle of partying and festival spirit. Bars littered the busy roads as characters sat engaging in a feast of ethanol-based delights. People stood dancing on roofs, street corners and literally anywhere available. Speakers lay sprawled across the streets as they whipped up a hysteria of noise and bass from every oncoming angle. It was a sea of good time and I, Kofi, would be lying it I said it weren’t right up my alley. With this the end of my storyline here was set out to be one big party for the culture-shocked senses; with supplies stuttering and money drained out the bank, I was forced to become more Ghanaian as I weaved through the barrage of bars buying the cheapest (and worst) shots available to the liver of man. My characters health and money were at serious risk: still, it’s only a game, right? Saul had finished his story and logged back out this matrix of culture – back to the far away reality of England and the green hils that bestow it. Me, Oliver, Cameron and the new girl Rebecca were still plugged in to continue our journalistic missions and, more importantly, continuing having a good time in the world of Ghana. That we did as we put on our festival hats and tip-toed out to the third world streets of Cape and the festival that caressed it. The map had really transformed from it’s previous look; areas and districts that once laid quiet in the fall of night were now giant street clubs as thousands of people ganged together in a battle of alcohol, food and festival festivities. The flickering street lights peered down to reveal a river of partying people, all splashing their hard-earned cash in any and all items that caught their gleaming eyes. It really was the Glastonbury of Ghana. The biggest nightclub in the world – just with a roof missing. Everyone seemed cool and friendly and apart from the few coke heads and disease-ridden prostitutes that approached us, we really didn’t have trouble steering ourselves through this chapter of the game. The end of Grand Theft Ghana stood still on the distant horizon. This game of journalism, culture and partying was coming to an end as I approached the coming finish line – all that was left, honestly, was to have…. more gurd time. This was one mission I would happily repeat over and over again.

That I did as me, my fellow Obronis and the 4/20 crew came out into the festival sea riding a wave of alcohol as we swerved through the gangs, streets and parties that awaited us. Cameron from Australia was good at the game; he knew how to have a ‘gurd time’ with his weapons of vodka water melon and skittles vodka. In such, as if by some sheer coincidence, I found myself wasted with this partying character most nights. There was one night where me, Cameron and Harry from England found ourselves in pitch black bars having a good time before ending up in hysterics at one of the rastafarian’s house. Sure, we had work some mornings after but the boss had to realise the game was ending. And it wasn’t going to end without a bang. We breezed through the Cape Coast festival like a raging hydra jet; we left no bar untouched, no beer undrunk, no stone unturned. Through the seas of festival goers and booming music there we stood, a bunch of intercontinental obronis in the third world pits of a Ghanaian festival. Occasions like this never existed in my deepest obroni thoughts: we were definitely in a computer game – one from which we couldn’t pull the plug on. The closing days of Grand Theft Ghana whistled past pretty quickly; Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday….. soon it was the weekend and my time in this surreal game of culture was on it’s last breath as it lied face down in the street waiting for the engine of a plane to pick me up and take me home. Though it had been a life-changing and unforgettable experience, I was ready to drop the controller and log back out to the reality of England. The reality of home. The map of Cape and the country of Ghana had truly been a great setting for my adventure; the world of cocoa farms, busy markets, serene beaches and slave castles had been the ultimate host to my story in Ghana. The people I met here are undoubtedly some of the best characters this English obroni had ever stumbled upon. It had been a jungle of crazy culture and one from which this gamer didn’t want to leave. I packed my bags full of clothes, gifts, alcohol and of course, memories. Memories of drifting around Cape Coast with a gang of rastas. Memories of countless press conferences and dodgy media companies. Touring the devilish pits of the north with just one fellow Englishmen. Watching a monkey fight a dog on a beach. Falling off a balcony only to end up back drunk at Oasis the very same day. People. Places. Events. Good times – fears and joys with some of the craziest and friendly characters I’ve ever come across. There really were too many memories; atleast, too much to cram into this dusty, old obroni suitcase.

Culture is a Computer Game

So there you have it; after 8 long weeks in the game I reached the bitter end – credits rolling and violins kicking in, I had became the parting obroni saying my final goodbyes to everyone as I drifted down a pot-hole eaten road in a luggage, lumped taxi. Never to be seen again? Who knows. The most important thing after this crazy 8 weeks was that I had a ‘gurd time’; the people I’ve met, the sights I’ve seen, the experiences that have rolled my way – they will remain forever embedded in Kofi’s mind – and my real mind. I suppose the irony of this story is the fact I’ve described it as a video game. Yes, it did feel like one; I never quite got my mind in set as I found myself peering through a TV screen of culture as I stood burnt and tired on a Ghanaian road watching a woman balance 20 stacked towels on her head. I just hadn’t seen this kind of stuff before. I was a 19 year old obroni Englishmen in a jungle of sense-tearing events and people. Where else had I seen a rasta and his weed run from the police? Where else had I seen a monkey fight a dog on a picture-perfect beach? Where else do people click after a handshake and hiss at someone to get their attention? Would I ever see a motorbike drive past me again with a cow’s head attached to the back? And how long would it be until I sat with a Swiss medical student on a roof in Ghana late at night as we both got fucked up? Luckily I missed the headless, chopped up corpse on the side of the road that day…

I suppose that’s the obroni irony of it all: although nothing felt real at the time and I’ve conveyed my experience as a Grand Theft Auto game, the last two months in Ghana had, truly, been the ultimate ‘real’ experience. I had experienced the life of a working journalist in a third world country. I had sipped up the rewarding feeling of enjoying an alien culture. I had met some unforgettable people; had some unforgettable times; seen some unforgettable things. With this I leave the game of Grand Theft Ghana completed as I stumbled once more through the crowded busy streets of Cape and into my parting taxi. Kofi was leaving this joint. The quest had been completed.

The map of Cape Coast still stood beckoning with a hub of life and activity as I left – my obroni presence and experiences still seeping out the rusty wooden walls that surrounded the poverty-bitten streets. The sun still baking down upon my turned back. Truly a 5 star game. And with that thought I logged out and made my descent back to harsh reality; a place where you couldn’t sit singing on a beach with people from all around the world. A place where you couldn’t walk past elephants and monkeys in the lush, green sea of a Ghanaian jungle. A place where you couldn’t witness a poor town turn into a festival of richness. I guess if this was really a computer game and none of these incredible experiences were real, and none these great people actually physically existed, well – someone hit the restart button. As the Ghanaians say:

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Dedicated to: Alanna Rachelle-Shegog, Alice Foley, Alyssa Gerth, Amy Milner, Benjamin, Becky, Becky Cooke, Bush, Cameron Henderson, Caren Van Roekel, Caroline Nienhaus, Cat, Charlie Wing, Chile, Cyndel Thomas, Daniella Rs, El-Eini Michelle, Elizabeth, Elke, Eric Ekow Ewusie, Eva, Ewmon Hickey, Fran Long-Leather, Grant Appiah, Hannah Knox, Hannah Remo, Harry Abrahams, Hattie Clarkson James Quinn, Jane Beecher, Jenna Smith, Jery, Joseph Acqua and all my host family, Kate Potter, Kwamina Bamfo, Callum, Johnny, Paddy (all the GVP group), Lenneke Sipkes, Liam Sharpe, Liam, Ian, John, John, Seany, and all the Irish guys, Marco Tomasina, Madeline White, Margot Kaufmann, Marie Maab, Matt Andrew, Meghan Ingerick, Natasha Goran, Nicolas Murner, Oasis, Osman, Oli Griffin, Ogyatsa Mickey, Paul, Patience and Patricia, Prince, Moonshine, Sunshine, Bow Wow, Moses, Shackles, Black, Ayman (all the 4/20 crew), Saul Sebag-Montefiore, Shany Benzakein, Tequila the guard dog, Tim-Grieve Price, Wil Doran, and everyone I met in Ghana. Oh and not forgetting that lovely New York family who picked me up when stranded up north.

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Part Five – The finale to my guide ‘How to be good at Facebook’


The irony of it all

Ideally, as a committed student looking to learn the tricks of the trade, you have been reading and watching this guide in it’s development over the course of the last week. But I have been staring at something else. Something quite beautiful.

“Facebook user 1 likes your link”. “Facebook user 2 likes your link”. “Facebook user 3 likes your link”. Yes, this is the glorious sight I have had bestowed on my gleaming eyes all week. By now, hopefully after learning what I have sought to teach in this guide, you will be fully familiar with ‘the feeling’. Each time I gained a ‘like’, I felt a small sensation shoot through the nerves of my body – up to my face where a huge smile grew and a tear of happiness flowed down onto my keyboard. For you see, as a good student you would have been learning a lot from my intense research into social networking; after all, in 2011, being compatible and popular on Facebook says a huge amount about you and the quality of you as an empowered and informed member of society. But why listen to me – who am I to say how you retrieve a ‘like’ and become part of this post-modern society? Well for you see, I am very much just like you – in the social networking arena, standing naked before a sea of people with their ‘like guns’ ready to fire. Yes, I too am a student of this confusing change to our relationships with other humans; because do you know what? Things will never be the same again. We need likes to justify our existence in space and time; and with this cataclysmic burden weighing down upon us – every now and again, from time to time, one begins to feel the strain of waiting for that notification to come. I am no different. Having been running low on likes a week ago, I was slipping down that ‘like ladder’. The greyhounds and wolves had deserted me and I was under-nourished; suffice to say, I needed payment of likes to my account quick. Being skint, I took major steps to retain my place on the like ladder. How though? How does one go about turning the tides and gaining a large quantity of likes for himself. Well the solution was simple – and you are looking at it now.

I’m a walking paradox, no I’m not

Whilst you may have been learning about ‘like cookies’, varying values of likes and finding your audience, I have been learning that people love to read and learn about being good at Facebook. It’s the ultimate, quintessential post modern experience that evokes reactions such as ‘lol’ and ‘pmsl’. Each part of this blog I have made viewable in the big arena itself. Part one. Part two. Part three. Part four. And now, the finale – part 5. Each time I have uploaded one, I have immediately had a large quantity of likes transferred into my Facebook account. Here study these images below.

As you can see, the first one received double figures and I began to feel my target audience develop. Veiled in the form of a blog, my original social commentary cookie seen a solid payment of 15 likes.

The second one was my largest transfer of likes; gaining 33 likes off my Facebook audience, I began to no longer feel under-nourished. Instead I had my largest ever total of likes and I was very much full. Going back to the model introduced in part three, this achieved a massive 10% like per friend ratio! Kieran Cullen I am not.

The third one again put me back in that like fountain; arms in the air, smile on face – I was looking to the heavens with delight as those likes fell down upon me! All 29 of them! This wasn’t dinner anymore; this was just being greedy, helping myself to afters.

With my hands full with all these likes, I could afford to post the fourth part in non prime time territory. I stepped into the arena at quarter to 5 and again took a healthy serving of those magic blue buttons. God they were delicious; even narrowing my audience with some controversial facts about the female audience, I still seen the transfer of 17 likes!

The response to this post will reach double figures within 3 hours of the blog going up. Yes, I have also studied time travel (but i’ll blog about that some other time).

As you can see, I was no longer headless, out to rot in the wilderness with no likes to feed upon; the tides had turned and I had very much became what we all seek to achieve – yes, my ‘like balance’ topped up, I had again became like literate on the platform of popularity that is Facebook. Integrated into society, my existence was justified to the point where I had people (real physical people) in the real world actually coming up to me and congratulating me on this very blog itself! Many hands were shook. Many enjoyments were made known. The word ‘Like’ had again transformed; swept back into the air, it had became the literal word it once was where people in the real world genuinely ‘liked’ my blog.

I can’t really explain the feeling, but it felt good. It felt comforting.

The End

And isn’t that what we all really want? To be liked is to be of value to other peoples lives. This is why a facebook ‘Like’ says so much more that what people think. Yes, I have a dream. That one day – we will all be Obamas; empowered, informed and of ‘Like’ness to the rest of the society we live in. Only then can we move forward in this world. Wars will stop, John McCains will vanish, the TLS disease will be wiped out, crimes will fade into memories, enemies will be transformed to friends – through the skills of being good at Facebook, we can begin to incorporate our positivity into the world around us. The next time you click that ‘Like’ button just remember, you are making the world a better place; a place where everyone is happy, everyone is liked and everyone has some value to the other humans who share this world with them. You have seen through intense research and ethnography, not only upon my Facebook clients but also myself, you have seen how users can improve themselves as people – on Facebook and in the real world. So please, learn this ‘Guide To Being Good At Facebook’ and get your friends to learn it aswell. Maybe. Just maybe one day we will all be Obamas.

I have been Ryan Millward (Facebook theorist). God speed.

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Special thanks go to Ciaran Hamill, Paul Howkins, Kieran Cullen, Kieran Hartley, Billie Jay-Gurney, Emma Horton, Abdul Almajdub, Lauren Downing, Josh Knight, Bobbie Hall, Katie Singleton, Blake Carr, George Adams and Sam Lucas.

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Part Four of my guide ‘How to be good at Facebook’.


Picture Likes

Likes. As I’ve explained they are a fickle operation; hinging so much on a raging whirlpool of post-modern factors from the society in which you operate in, who knows when the next one will come your way! Whenever you are on Facebook developing your identity you are fighting in the election to be an Obama or a McCain. So then, what happens when one logs off and leaves the wrestling ring? Is that your responsibility for your Facebook identity at rest? You have nothing to worry about walking around in the real world, conversing physically with real people and actually being yourself – right? Wrong I’m afraid. You have learnt a lot so far but prepare to be catapulted deeper into the neon wilderness of the Internet.

The unknown fact is that a ‘Like’ is available anywhere; they are all around the very air you breathe, the space in which you trudge in and the distance is which you gaze. Look behind you now – there are hoards of potential likes floating around you this very second! The reason why you ask? Well this idea, this crucial factor to your Facebook popularity, all comes down to the historic invention of the camera. The camera is a device that was invented way back in the 19th century – before Facebook, even before MySpace! The way in which it operates is that it takes the image viewable through it’s lens and copies it to physical form; in such vast amounts of people, i.e. your Facebook audience, will be able to see this one image that was made viewable through the eyes of the camera. Being students of Facebook, I’m sure you will be well aware that such images are transferrable to your Facebook accounts as well as the whole website in general. And we all know what that means. As soon as someone fires off that camera at you and uploads it’s picture onto Facebook – well, you are very much back in the arena with those hoards of users pointing their ‘like guns’ at you. ‘Picture’ the scene- you’re sitting down with a nice cup of coffee and then boom, someone takes a picture, uploads it and pretty soon you have your whole social networking audience deciding whether or not to hand you a ‘Like’.

You might have asked to go back into the arena; you may have been speared back in with a surprise picture being taken – the fact is once it’s on Facebook, the picture is universal; copyrighted to everyone – especially Mark. Here is an example below of me, your teacher, being unaware of a photo being taken.

As you can very well see, I was none the wiser that this photo, this ground for people to judge my Facebook identity, was being taken and then distributed across a social networking audience. One minute I was in the real world just peacefully about to go to the toilet and then boom, I’m thrown back into the social networking wrestling ring. It just goes to show that one must consider that there are likes all around the air that surrounds them. Luckily for me there was a solid amount of likes in the space the image filled; it retrieved 18 likes in fact! (See below) The reason why? Well, I am about to explain later on.

The first thing to do is to separate the Adams from the Eves; yes it’s time to check what gender god has dropped you in. For you see, a ‘Like’ for a Facebook picture is all highly relative to whether you are female or male. There are different sets of rules, different strategies and game plans – you are in a different election all together! Follow me now where I will begin with the Eves of Facebook and how they become ‘like literate’ on pictures on Facebook.

How Girls Get Picture Likes

The first thing I will ask you to study are these images below.

A rare case of exponential likes (see bottom of page)

As you can see they have all had an extraordinary amount of likes distributed to the profiles of each subject within picture – this is called the page 3 effect. It seems these Obama’s very much had likes all around the space in which they stood. But why? Believe me; I’ve studied long and hard and decided that it’s not down to the quality of the picture; depth of field, composition, colour balance – some of this is relevant to increase the subjects appearance but it comes solidly down to an idea I am introducing called: “Tits or GTFO”. What do I mean by this you ask? Well if these Eves of Facebook are supplying pictures where they connote the notions of being attractive or ‘Fit’ (a derogative post-modern term for being of attraction to the other gender) then they will get large amount of likes which, again, can be cut into two – male likes and female likes.

One might automatically assume that the solid percentage of likes injected into the pictures would be highly representative of the male users throughout their audience. However, if one studies more carefully and monitors the likes, we soon realise that a large percentage of females are also each handing a ‘Like’ to the subject of discussion. This comes back to the last post where we discussed the notion of: you scratch my back I scratch yours. For you see, just like we need to feel comfortable with our Facebook profiles – girls also need to feel comfortable in the physical skin they actually live in. Therefore, for every ‘Like’ they distribute to a fellow Eves picture, they expect the ‘Like’ to be returned later on in their own pictures – thus the cycle begins to turn and operate in which every girl feels more confident and attractive to the world sat watching before them.

Male likes is simple however, the large majority of males liking females pictures want physical relations outside of the Internet to occur. That’s that.

So, I’ve established that if you are a girl and you want picture likes, then do your all mighty best to look as good as possible when that camera flashes and you step out of reality and back into the Facebook arena. But what, I hear a bunch of angry girls say, what can a girl do if she is not talented in the art of actually looking good? Well there are many treatments that can help treat your illness that threatens to steal likes off your account; the first is to hire a good photographer – the camera never lies, right? Wrong again; a skilled photographer will help even the Susan Boyles look a little Cheryl Cole; it’s just all down to those photography effects that I’m told you learn in A level photography. The second solution is to lie. Well, not lie but be skilled on the platform of PhotoShop – a piece of software that allows you to bend curves, brighten skin and increase your art of “Tits of GTFO”. Follow this advice all you Eves out there and you will soon be encumbered with a large payment of likes.

How Males Get Picture Likes

Males. We all love a laugh don’t we. Lets begin to look at the history of comedians; from Richard Pryor and Billy Connelly to Peter Kay and Lee Evans, all the best comedians of the human race have been Adams and not Eves (Miranda? exactly) – in such the male gender is expected to convey this sense of humour in everything they do. And no more so than on Facebook. For you see, a different set of principles guides the Adams of social networking toward gaining a picture ‘Like’. Unlike the Eves, other males can’t give each other likes for pictures in which a subject tries to look good. But alas, surely the girls will be able to distribute likes to their accounts by approving of their photos? Well, no, not really. Female Facebook users don’t distribute likes in the arena so easily when it comes to photos – why should they be chasing boys when the boys are already chasing them? In such, the only option is to draw back to what I just mentioned; we have to sweat hard to earn our likes by being funny in photos. Have a look at these images below.

Perhaps the most famous male example

If you managed to look at those images without so much of a small smirk on your face, then well, lighten up a bit. It’s quite clear they are all humorous images captured by the 19th century device. No one recognises this more than each subjects Facebook audience who in their numbers have made payment of a ‘Like’ to each picture. The first picture, for example, relies heavily on the ‘LAD’ component that subversively mocks the drinking culture. The second image is pure slapstick comedy dating back hundreds of years to when people used to have pies thrown in their face for humour – its similar now, just with more modern replacements such as Rice Krispies. The third is purely shock humour value that a user would not usually expect to see (you may need to zoom in). The fourth is such a bizarre juxaposition of images evoking a lava pool of likes with it’s straight forward laughable content. This therefore goes to show how the Adams of Facebook have to adapt and become comedians in which to hoover up those precious likes from their audience.

The different set of rules between the boys and girls still remain though; just look what happens when a male tries to look attractive in a picture to get likes off those female users.

As you can see, only one ‘Like’ has been retrieved. So therefore males, stick to what you are best at – being humorous in photos. Girls however; stick to what you are best at too – looking and/or trying to be attractive in photos. The rules are simple. I hope you follow them in your pursuit of climbing the ‘like ladder’ and becoming those Obamas you were so very much born to be! Just remember that potential likes, are all around you, in the very space you walk in; its just up to you to take the camera device and transfer them to Facebook!

Please join me next time in the fifth and final part where I will be drawing this guide to it’s end by discussing where exactly we stand as human beings once we have retrieved the likes we set out to conquer. Until then, practice your skills and keep honing your Obama technique!

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The exponential effectExtremely rare, the exponential effect is when users keep giving out likes on a particular photo or status just for the aesthetic value of seeing so many likes on one thing. No one wants to miss out, so they like it too – it’s sort of like signing your name on a piece of social networking history. Interesting stuff.

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Part Three of my guide ‘How to be good at Facebook’.


What is the value of an individual like?

Hopefully you’ve had time to practice what you learnt in the last post, all the while honing your skills and ‘Like’ trade. I however have been culminating a series of ideas revolving around the popularity value of a ‘Like’. OK – maybe you are a skilled learner, took what I had to say and distributed the like cookies into a variety of statuses and/or comments; you’ve achieved, say, double figures a couple of times and have been left with an enormous sense of self satisfaction upon your 21st century face. But slow down Obama before you take the next step and get all Martin Luther King on us! I have news – some likes are worth more than others! Yes, you heard it here – Just like a signed photo of a celebrity or a successful job application, some likes have more cause to rejoice over than other likes. Obviously without having to explain that your own ‘Like’ is worth nothing, I will press on to the value of other people’s likes.

It’s not a perfect world I’m afraid. Some people are riddled with diseases such as HIV, Cancer and Malaria: all the while there is an increasing, vast amount of mental problems being reported all across countries throughout the world. New diseases are forming all the god damn time and it bloody brings a tear to my pixelated eye. And next up to come trudging out of this wilderness of sickness is a new beast – TLS. Tourettes Like Syndrome. It has been spreading like wild fire in the past few years as some post-modern users find themselves unable to express themselves in real life; as such they are left shell-shocked, merely tapping that magic blue button in the hope that someone actually starts a conversation with them. It’s a sad sight to see – pretty soon you will learn who they are: my professional advice is to just discard the ‘Like’ and not mention anything as to cause offence. It WILL happen though I’m afraid (see below).

One man infected by TLS

However it’s not all bad news! Just as some likes are worth less than average, others are worth more than the average! Like all things in society, Facebook has a hierarchy of users – hopefully soon following this research you will be heading to the top but for now lets say for scholarly purposes that you are somewhere in mid table. It’s been a good season but it’s never quite looked like taking off. To get up there amongst the big dogs you have to start taking some likes off those greyhounds and wolves. They are like anchors – once someone with a high amount of respect on Facebook hands you a ‘Like’, they are effectively saying come and join me in my like fountain. Trust me – once you’ve perfected your skills enough to gather these high profile likes, take note and carry on with what you’re doing to climb the ladder and join those ‘Like’ kings in their fountains with their hoards of worshippers sat before them.

There is even more to take into account than this however! Yes this Facebook business is complicated unlike that twitter site. You’ve got 20 likes. Some of them from the high flyers. Congratulations. However before you get too carried away cross your eyes to the left hand side of your profile screen; oh – you have 2000 friends. Fundamentally the more friends you have, the more likely you are to get given a ‘Like’; it’s just statistics and odds. So with this very thought reverberating around your information overloaded mind, take time to consider the friend to like ratio proportion of your status or comment. Here I bring forward an anonymous guest speaker and contributor to bring forward the model and theory of this very discussion using the timeless case study of Mr K Cullen.

“Like Per Friend Ratio and The Rise of the Kieran Cullen effect.”

In this social networking world of Facebook there are rules and logistics. Generally, the more agreeable the status update, the more likes it will gather. However, there are cases where this rule does not always apply, usually when a subject has an extraordinary or falsely inflated number of Facebook friends (such as in the case of local club promoters – see below). I am about to explain in the most simplistic way how to distinguish between the Obamas and the McCains, and to make sure you don’t waste your precious likes on false egos.

If we take a look below at the case of a recent post by Kieran Cullen, we can see he has used one of the best methods to draw those likes from the public, a controversial statement. By singling out a group of people and calling them unfortunate, Kieran gains likes from the insecure crowd who do not want to be associated with such unfortunate people. In total he gains 16 likes.

However, to stop the disproportionate representations we experience from the ‘status likes/total friend effect’, the golden rule is to find the number of likes as a percentage of the total friends on Facebook. This is called the like per friend ratio.
Here Kieran got 16 likes, which considering he has 2241 friends means that his like per friend ratio for the status was 0.7%. Not too impressive anymore hey folks.

If we now re-analyse a previous example from the diary, Mr C Hamill shows us that he has what it takes to post a status that gathers almost 40 likes.

What’s even more impressive is that the subject in question has only 596 friends on Facebook, meaning that he has gathered likes from a whopping 6.5% of his total facebook friends. As you can all tell, C Hamill’s like per friend ratio of 6.5% is almost 10 times better than K Cullens 0.7%. (Remember you always compare the like per friend ratio rather than just the likes.) Hopefully you are now skilled in the art of telling the real Obamas from the John Mccains. I bid thee farewell.

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This model is obviously very poignant and relevant to us scholars and theorists of Facebook – it is also technically true; no user can argue that the less friends someone has, the more impressive a solid amount of likes is. It comes straight back to the first question – ‘Are some likes worth more than others?’ – well if you and someone with more friends have each retrieved a ‘Like’ – then your ‘Like’ is worth more. Got that? Stick with me now as I press on to how to establish your clients and customers.

Establishing audiences

The first thing to remember is that you can’t keep expecting to be hoovering up those likes from the Facebook floor – to get a little in this life, you have to give a little out. In such the theory is simple – the more people’s statuses you like, the more they will return that scratch on the back and like yours. It acts as a backup if you were. Simples.

After putting in the dirty work from time to time you can then focus on aiming specific statuses at specific audiences; the case study audience I will use here is males. Of course it is helpful to target this audience if you are a girl with a working pair of breasts who has lots of male friends (see below)

(please note all 11 likes were male)

But also it is possible for men to aim their statuses at a target audience of males aswell. Here is the flip side example of a male user calling out for the same established audience of males to hand over them likes to his piece of social commentary (see post 2).

(please note 18 out of 19 likes were male)

The fact that 29 likes out of 30 were males across both statuses show that these Obamas have tried the audience connection card before.

Maintaining audiences

Alas we are finally working our way to the top of the social ladder! Not only have you been following the studies and advice brought forward in this blog, you have also been experimenting and finding your very own Facebook voice. You’ve got likes falling out your pocket! People are actually starting to converse with you in real life following the posts you’ve made on Facebook! However one must remain calm and remember that the key to a successful business is to manage your relationship with your customers; quite simply if you are not supplying them with material and reason to hand out likes, then you just aren’t going to stay at the top of the ‘like ladder’. Did you know that Coca Cola once stopped advertising for a month and their sales dropped 7%? Enough of that anyway.

The users who you have retrieved likes from in the past, are all part of your fan base; sat there waiting and scratching themselves, they are are eager to see what like cookies you are going to feed them next. To stop yourself going all John McCain, you have to keep the supply and demand of those like cookies and give them out consistently. My subject of discussion here has been brought forward from earlier: It is Mr P Howkins again. Every week a club night operates in the local night life called ‘Colly Monday’: well known and enjoyed throughout Paul’s list of friends, he knows that statuses about this event will hoover up likes amongst his target audience. In fact, he goes so often that he finds the same fan base liking a good majority of his posts. Have a look at these examples below:

They are all regarding said event – Colly Monday, and by looking through who has each handed him a ‘Like’, it is apparent that many of his customers are returning week by week to hear about these drunken Colly antics. In such, he has found his target audience and is now regularly reaping the rewards off his loyal customers.

Closing comments

If you can take the time to learn these important issues of Facebook you will soon be finding and maintaining new audiences whilst climbing the holy ground that is the ‘like ladder’. Join those greyhounds and wolves at the top I say! And join me next time in part 4 where I will be evaluating what exactly picture likes mean by analysing the different sets of genders on Facebook! I will now leave you with the answer to the age old question:

“Do Frape likes belong to the Frapee or Fraper?”

The picture above says it all; high number of likes have been distributed to the Facebook account of Mr A Almajdub. Originally believed to be his own work, the status was in actual fact part of the new Frape phenomenon that has been established in Universities around England. When this was found out the question the public wanted answered were who do the likes belong to?! Is it a paradox? If a ‘Like’ represents acceptance into society, who has been accepted? The Frapee or the Fraper? The answer to this is complex. The reason people may have distributed the likes to this account could have been on the past relationships Mr A Almajdub had created with his Facebook customers (as discussed above with Mr P Howkins). However the content of the status, i.e. the words used, are 100% copyright to the Fraper. In such, with these two factors clashing together momentously we are left with the only fair outcome to distribute the likes equally to both parties involved. Therefore the 35 likes must be split into slices of 17 and 18 – then the Frapee and the Fraper must come to agreement of who takes what slice. If a decision can’t be reached the courts will be at the disposal of both clients. I hope a democratic outcome can be reached in tricky situations like this.

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Part Two of my guide of ‘How to be good at Facebook’.


As far as I see it there are two types of Facebookers in this world; those Obamas out there who connect with the masses by yielding an intelligent selection of statuses and comments on supply and demand. Then there are those John McCains out there who post non worthy efforts to the point where people can’t physically lift their arms to press that magic blue button. Facebook is now a fully working shiny mirror on society; the quality of your Facebook identity reflects the quality and value of you as an empowered human being: I’m sorry but that’s just the way things have turned out. Thus it is important to make sure you are an Obama of the social networking age and not someone who is forgotten about straight after the election. Luckily for you there are certain genres, themes and attributes of comments/statuses that magnet likes off your Facebook audience: through intense research and ethnography I have drawn out a series of ‘like cookies’ that you can incorporate into your vital posts. Please take your time to read them carefully below.

Original Social Commentary

Blah blah blah – there she is again: Mrs John McCain distributing another Facebook status about her bus journey or what time she has to stumble to work. We all know one of these people. Quite simply, and to put it bluntly, no one cares! We have heard these types of things hundreds of times before and I’m sure we will have to suffer them a few more times in the future. Don’t become this person – in this world it is recognised that people crave originality and something new; so if you’re going to say something about the world make sure it’s original and witty – hell if you can, try and even achieve some groundbreaking social commentary (although this may require inspiration at the best of times). If you have thought up an original and witty piece of social commentary – post it! Make sure it resonates with that audience sat intrigued before you with their ‘Like’ buttons ready to fire. Here is an example of an original social commentary cookie below. The subject of study is Mr C Hamill – a 19 year old male from the city of Coventry, England.

As you can see, this status has retrieved in excess of 39 likes, all distributed over a period of three or four hours. The reason why? Simply what I put above; it’s not generic and it’s not boring – it’s a original piece of social commentary that combines the witty and relevance of the words with criticizing a popular well known event that is suspect to much ridicule. What would Jesus do indeed. Next up is the ‘major life event cookie’.

The Big Life Event

Despite the amount of rapists, muggers, murderers and John McCains in this world, there still remains a large amount of kind hearted people out there who genuinely do like when someone achieves something in life. This can be either getting into university, getting in a relationship, getting a job, or winning a game or competition. Make no mistake about it though – the big whopper is most definitely passing your driving test; if this ever happens to you make sure you use large capital letters and exclamation marks to convey your happiness and for god sake make sure you don’t ruin your big moment with bad spelling and grammar! Successfully written, you should see your status reach double figures in no more than 20 minutes Facebook time. Here is an example below.

Not Taking Yourself Seriously

The next cookie to be located is the ‘Taking the piss out yourself cookie’. Deployed by many people commonly, it is seen to encode a message of not taking yourself seriously and just having a laugh in life – which, as we all know by watching famous comedians mock themselves, is sure to be of likeable quality to your Facebook audience. My subject of study towards this area of research is Mr P Howkins who was born 2008 in Facebook time. A descendent of Myspace, he has regularly posted statuses since his high profile move to Facebook; the more he has posted, the more he has refined and carved his craft of gaining likes by using the ‘Taking the piss out yourself cookie’. Look at the example below.

As you can see his lexical choice to use words such as ‘Loser’, ‘Drinking’, ‘Poor’ and ‘Retarded’ whilst mocking himself have enabled him to gather and collect 16 easy likes. Child’s play. We will return to Paul later in our research.

Spectacle

The next cookie up is the ‘spectacle cookie’; this derived from the theory of post-modernism where essentially everything in the world has lost it’s meaning as science has caused as much bad as good and cultural boundaries have collapsed meaning people have realised not everyone thinks the same – we are now all interconnected and anything goes for this brief moment of time where the world has no narrative. Because of this, we are able to sit back and write literally anything we want to; hell, this very blog itself is post-modern. What’s useful to us is the fact that shocking and post-modern comments have a tendency to also retrieve a respectable amount of likes. Have a look of the example of me, myself, Mr R Millward below.

I probably should be arrested. The social networking police came round they did: barged through the door shouting, about to slap the cuffs on me when they turned their heads to see what else, but, 14 likes sat neatly on my comment confirming that the Facebook audience found my spectacle text to be of ‘Like’ness to them. They slapped off the cuffs immediately and apologised whilst promising to each hand me a ‘Like’ when they got back to their office computers.

There are others you will learn about as you go through your Facebook Obama journey but this path right here is a great starting point. These are the core cookies you can add to your Facebook identity recipe in your pursuit of becoming an Obama. It is also worth noting that real time media issues such as a status about X factor whilst it is on will help support you on your way to double figures if you deploy it at just the right time. If you manage to have a status that covers multiple of these holy grounds then you may well find yourself sailing through the double figures with a new found sense of satisfaction sat upon your big face-book.

Stick with me until next time when I draw up some audience research! I will be developing my friend to like ratio model and also discussing some of the biggest new questions of society such as: ‘Are some likes worth more than others?’ and ‘If a Frape occurs – who do the likes belong to: the Frapee or the Fraper? (M, Hunt 2011).

Categories: Facebook Guide | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

Part One of my guide ‘How to be good at Facebook’.


Welcome

The word ‘like’ is now a noun. Yeah Mark, you’ve changed the way we communicate and now you are changing the English language. Of course you are probably wondering what I mean by such a bizarre sentence but cast your blurry eyes back to your computer or mobile screen. Facebook. It is the very pioneering force behind our relationships with each other in this post-modern world. So what does a ‘Like’ represent I hear you ask. Once a process or an application, the word was seen as reflecting someone’s apparent acceptance or enjoyment of something. It still means that now but the word ‘Like’ is no longer a literal word floating about in the air – it has now landed; it’s a physical thing, an object, here to have and to hold as a weapon of popularity in our age of mass society.

Denotatively it is just a click of a little blue button on a social networking site. Just some colour pixels on your computer screen. However it connotates so much more than that; that shiny notification in your top left hand corner informing you of an incoming ‘Like’ says that someone, out there, has gone to the physical effort of clicking that button just to let you know they approve and enjoy what you are saying. And what could be more rewarding than that? It’s as real as any form of acceptance in bygone eras; whether being patted on the back, brought a drink or welcomed into a group of people – you are all of these and more when someone hits that magic blue button. So when you see this event occur sing hallelujah and rejoice for you, now, are a likeable person!

Of course one doesn’t automatically retain the right for people to ‘Like’ what you say on Facebook – it has to be earned through blood, sweat and tears. It’s a common sense fact now that to retrieve some likes, what is actually being said has to be of likeable quality – thus a status or a comment on Facebook needs to have a strategy and game plan behind it. Maybe you’re going after likes consciously, maybe you are just putting what floats into your media saturated head; all that matters is that ‘Likes’ are not free – they are earned. Earned just as much as a worker earns his money or a sportsmen earns his trophy. Stick with me now as I evaluate and discuss how to become ‘like literate’ on the platform of popularity that is Facebook.

Categories: Facebook Guide | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

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