FIVE GOLD GIFTS: Bulletproof Sleep Induction Mat

In a world seemingly full of insomniacs one company claims that its product offers the ‘best sleep ever’. We put it to the test and find that it certainly has a point.

bulletproofThe Bulletproof Sleep Induction Mat is an unusual “>product in that is immediately uncomfortable. Not only slightly uncomfortable, but literally like sleeping on a bed of nails.

This is part of its power and charm. The makers recommend that sleepy people use it for the first time with a T-shirt on; the spikes are sharp and a slight movement engenders pain receptors, not the endorphins that are supposedly released. It takes time to get used to; but not too long.

After lying it out on the bed and staying stock still for 15/20 minutes, my body did manage to relax and anything that aligns the back is a good thing. After that time has elapsed, the company’s advice is to take the mat out of the bed and sleep in the normal way.

As for its soporific effect, there was no immediate improvement and, like most things, its benefits may work better in the pre-sleep brain than in the many levels of sleep. The placebo effect can take people a long way, not least insomniacs who are the world’s most neurotic people.

After a month of use, I didn’t feel as if I fell to sleep any earlier, but I did manage to turn off the perennial radio that accompanies me on the usual uneasy drift to sleep. Moreover, I did notice that when I was more refreshed in the morning, which proves such form of efficacy.

The price point is reasonable at £39.95 and the mat can be easily rolled up to use when travelling. Compared to the toxic value of 50 Valium tablets that cost £20 extra, the Bulletproof Sleep Induction Mat may all be in the mind, but don’t mind that.

BOOK REVIEW: The # Monumeta Social Media Book

Many have tried to write fiction based on social media with mixed success. Monumeta goes a long way to being the definitive work on the subject.

monumetaWhat is The #Monumeta Social Media Book? At first look, it appears to be a hashtag-led manual that will teach readers how to use the media. However, this is misleading, this book may finally be the fiction that brings together modern-day reality, old school storytelling and a possible future.

For fans of Dave Eggers’ The Circle, Mikhail Bulgakov’s The Master and Margarita and The Hitchhiker’s Guide to The Galaxy, this book is perfect. Part dreamworld, part comedy and part right-here-and-now, Monumeta could also claim to be a contemporary version of The Wizard of Oz.

Let’s sum it up. Based in the around-now future, Mee Corp is the developer of the world’s number one social network, The Stream, and is based at the recently sold-off Natural History Museum, it’s run by aliens whose human appearance masks a secret: their mission is to make (fake) people matter.

Tara Tamana, The Stream’s Head Architect and key to the story has gone missing. The only people who can save her are an ageing janitor, a large marble statue, a small bronze boy and a fairy queen. Their quest is to find Tara and save London from mind control, ham-fisted cloning, and a hungry arachnid.

The characterisation of these four people/objects is strong and the story wends around to an ending that does credit to the story leading up to it. Lots of fun, aimed at anybody from 8 to eighty years old, this is a great read.

The writer Roger Warner, once a football trialist at Charlton FC and who has built up and sold a social media agency knows his subject and clearly has a head with a lot, maybe too much, in it. But that’s what books are for, to let interesting people put their thoughts into print.

I loved this book, available for £9.99 on Amazon right now.

Technology finds a way to deal with the mortgage

For many people, acquiring a mortgage is a humiliating process. Help may finally be at hand.

mortgageThe contemporary mortgage crisis is the worst factor of living in a world where land is at a premium and the banks are only interested in mortgaging to those who fit into its primitive algorithm of who is reliable.

In the West before the recession of 2008, such crises were evanescent, banks were lending to anybody who could (and in many cases couldn’t) afford it and the global economy seemed as safe as buying property.

Then it changed forever. As interest rates plummeted, those who were smart enough to be on tracker mortgages saw their monthly payment similarly plummet, but for others the story was a nightmare.

In certain parts of the UK, not least inner-city apartments, people fell into negative equity, revisiting the terrible times of the late 1980s when interest rates were more than 20%.

Over the intervening eight years, however, the housing market in the UK didn’t crash and everything seemed good in the mortgage garden. However, the patina could not cover the rust within; the problem wasn’t with house prices or even mortgage prices, it was with the mortgages themselves.

Banks are now terrified to lend to anybody who lives differently or take risks. Imagine a world of entrepreneurs where venture capitalists refused to lend them money. A ridiculous situation, but that’s the current state of play with mortgages.

It seems incongruous in a world where technology has changed everything since the 2008 crisis that technology hadn’t improved the mortgage process.

At that time platforms such as Airbnb, Uber, JustEat and others hardly existed, but they all served a purpose – they updated legacy systems what were defunct. Where was that magnificent product that banks would use or be disrupted by?

Finally, that process may have been streamlined and it is one that has bypassed the banks. While the likes of Zoopla have also become platforms to search for and price property, its deal last week with UK online mortgage broker Trussle may mark a watershed in how people are judged when applying for money to make a home with.

Following a strategic partnership and investment round earlier this year, Zoopla and Trussle have joined forces to launch a digital service that transforms the finding and financing of a home into one seamless consumer ‘journey’.

This so-called ‘PropTech’ partnership and state-of-the-art algorithm allows homebuyers to search for a property and find out in less than 60 seconds if they qualify to borrow the amount they need for their property of choice.

No time-wasting meetings with bank managers, no modern-day humiliating cap-in-hand Means Tests, an online experience based on people’s real profiles and abilities, not the outdated ones used by banks.

If mortgage-searchers qualify, they will receive a ‘Mortgage in Principle’ in less than five minutes and go on to secure that mortgage within 24 hours.

This affordability data is then also used to drive future searches, presenting newbuyers with other affordable properties in desirable postcodes.

The new service is made possible by Trussle’s proprietary technology. an algorithm that compares more 90 lenders in real time to give potential homebuyers the best value mortgage on the open market, faster than any other broker, bank or building society.

“Innovation in the PropTech sector is accelerating fast, and this partnership with Zoopla will transform the way people buy a home. Whether booking a holiday or buying a car, people are increasingly expecting to use a single platform to make the experience as streamlined as possible.

“We think we’ve finally solve the frustrations of homebuyers across the UK to make the process of buying a home quick, clear and straightforward,” said Ishaan Malhi, Founder and CEO, Trussle.

Established in December 2015 as the UK’s first online mortgage broker, Trussle has been backed by some of Europe’s leading technology investors including LocalGlobe, Ed Wray (founder of Betfair) Ian Hogarth (founder of Songkick), and Seedcamp.

Recent research by the company found that the average homeowner is losing out on saving £2,844 a year by not switching their mortgage at the end of a fixed period. Until they do, banks will continue to make £57 million a day, which totals £22 billion a year.

As with most products of this kind, the success of Trussle will be determined by user acquisition and retention, one that startups often have to throw resources at. However, with the relationship with Zoopla, they go straight to an already engaged audience.

The wait for a modern mortgage product defined by the latest technology, unlike that held by complacent banks, has been a long one. Hopefully, Trussle will disrupt the market to such an extent that bad mortgage business will be over for good.

US road trip diary: Day Two – At the (flooded) crossroads

crossroadsAfter last night’s shenanigans with the Old Bill, today was going to be more Walt Whitman than Dean Moriarty/Neal Cassady, so I went to search for nature, not danger.

Back through Arkansas, no choice, last night’s life-changer, so onwards to Hot Springs to, well (boom-boom), jump in a hot spring.

Different, boring, a town built by the Mafia in the 1920s, all glitz and bling and natural hot water. The Boston Red Sox used to train there, gone to seed, but the only US national park that runs through a town, and the smallest one in America.

Disappointed, Spring Break, town full, got back on the road to Memphis, decided to change plans and go to Clarksville, Mississippi, the place where Bessie Smith died in 1927, went the very scenic route, crossed the mighty, engorged Mississippi river (never seen it before) and headed for the alleged home of the Blues, where Robert Johnson sold his soul to the devil for music at the crossroads, only to die aged 19.

A town called Clarksville, flooded not by the Mississippi expanded, but the worst rain-storm in 140 years.

Arrived, expected schmaltz, but found glory, a town of benign, crazy people like that book about Savannah, Midnight in the House of Good and Evil or something like that.

Expected tourist New Orleans, but went to a renovated open air cinema, the Roxy where Ike Turner was a cashier and Sam Cooke played between movies. Unbelievable, if in Shoreditch, a $10 million project. Twelve people at the bar.


Outside stage, at the back of the juke joint (American for shebeen), heard stories about Clarksville and Sam Cooke who was born there, asked where I could buy cigartettes, told the local grocery had closed a week before because the owner had been shot.

Then went to Red’s, a blues bar where Robert Plant and Keith Richard came, but never played. There were 30 people there and the band was amazing.

Clarksville is one of the fifth poorest boroughs in America, all 300 kids (95% black) failed the national algebra test, automation destroyed industry in 1970s, but people are coming back, population up to 20,000 now, up from 18,000 two years ago.

Like Hackney before Hackney was even Hackney, the King of Foreclosures, a three-bedroom mansion downtown costs $60,000. It was one of the best nights of my music life, and I was almost crying with happiness watching proper legacy, fucked-up blues.

I’m not bothering with New Orleans on this trip now, I would only compare it with the magic of Clarksville, ripe for hipsters, perfect for students of the blues.

Might pop into Graceland tomorrow on the way to rest up for some time writing in the Smoky Mountains in Tennesse, but today was as much Moriarty/Cassady as it was Whitman, but it also had Bessie Smith, Robert Johnson, Sam Cooke and the delta Blues I thought were now homogenised. It was a truly magical place, Clarksville, I implore you to go there.

I’m so privileged to have been there at this time, it will soar from here, mark my motherfucking, happy, happy, happy words.

US road trip diary: Day One – the Texan cops

I originally wrote this trip up on Facebook on the road in the spring of this year. Others were asking about it, so I’m republishing here every day this week.


Before I hit the road, my new best friend is Dave Silverman (pictured left), really top bloke and non-show off genius, worked with Jobs, the director of Monsters Inc, The Simpsons Movie and countless episodes including most of the Halloween ones.

He had the grace, after I asked for a photo for my son last night, to ask me whether I’d like him to draw my son something. I naturally came in my pants, and he drew a picture of Krusty The Clown and a message for my boy, wonderful to watch, took about 30 seconds. Bloody brilliant.

Did the music session, mentioned the Clash three times, then went to look for America. Came off the freeway going north to Dallas, got lost near Tyler, but accidentally found beautifully deserted Palestine Lake, had a dip, no fighting there between Semites, just big catfish.

Back on the road, decided to add Arkansas and Oklahoma to the list of states visited, motel it there and then tomorrow to meet a friend of a friend who lives near the CROSSROADS in Mississippi where Robert Johnson allegedly sold his soul to the devil to become the amazing blues guitarist he became.

There’s big flooding there (currently – sorry), but will find out tomorrow, we’re going out to a proper local blues bar tomorrow night in Clarksdale, Mississippi.

So, I’m at a motel called The End Of The Trail in Broken Bow, Oklahoma, it surprisingly has the internet; proper dump for truckers. However, I am still shaking as I drink this beer after events an hour ago (11pm).


Pulled over by the Police. Fuck. Got out, told I was doing 67mph in a 40mph limit. Then told that I was wobbling when I walked, looks like you’ve been drinking, sir. No I said, nothing all. (Not since 1am, but still worried it might be in the system).

Shone torch in my eyes, said they were pinned (might have been reasons for that as well), was I on any medication? No, just tired after driving 400 miles.

He told me to sit back in the car. Five minutes, later two cops come over, having trouble believing my story that my eyes are pinned because I’m tired and I was only going to Oklahoma to add a state to my list.

But the Engish accent was working and I stlll had my SXSW badge around my neck and that helped. Finally got let off, not even a caution, shook hands and lost another one of the dwindling lives.

And during it all, Badlands by Bruce Sprinsteen was playing on local radio in the car. So, I’m wearing the SXSW badge until I leave on Monday.

Onwards….but nowhere near Arkansas.