Wednesday, 30 December 2009

Perfect Year

Well, here we are again. For me it’s been a year like any other – highs and lows and lots in between. I’d like to think I’ve moved on as a person over the 365 and in better shape for the next. But clearly 2009 has been another strange old year for a lot of us. My non-blogging alter ego works for ‘Evil Bank Plc’ and it's been an interesting time, even though I haven’t had and will never see the crazy sums the tabloids tie to the pantomime villain banker. But I shouldn’t and won’t complain about the broad brush applied to all in the financial industry because, let’s face it, a lot of people are in far worse positions due in no small part to the workings of the banking system.

It may have been an odd year but in reality most years are - it’s all about degrees and your personal perspective. It's never plain sailing. Over the last two years I've known some bereavements (the expected: old age; the unexpected: suicide and a car crash; the inbetween: illnesses). But I wouldn't say 2009 was fundamentally bad really. I've seen a lot of good amongst it all. And I'm sure loads had a great year - some estatically happy on their wedding day, some with their first child, some with their first love. And although the media will provide a historical dimension to all that's been before us, 2009 is just another year. In one of those decade in review moments there’s a lot of history rhyming, as Mark Twain would say. Ten years ago we were getting all in a tizzy about the Millennium bug. Now, we’ve got swine flu. We had mass shootings in Columbine ten years ago. We had mass shootings in Fort Hood this time. We mourned the passing of John Kennedy Jr. ten years ago; this year we had Uncle Ted. And so we could go on. The world keeps on turning.

But beneath it all we (or maybe I should just say "I") shouldn't stop being grateful for what's there, right here, right now. I’m still standing. I’m still in the game.

So I'd like to wish you all a blessed New Year and in the words of the song "Perfect Year":

Ring out the old
Ring in the new
A midnight wish
To share with you
Your lips are warm
My head is light
Were we alive before tonight?

I don't need a crowded ballroom
Everything I want is here
If you're with me
Next year will be
The perfect year

It's New Year's Eve and hopes are high
Dance one year in, kiss one goodbye
Another chance, another start
So many dreams to tease the heart

We don't need a crowded ballroom everything we need is here
And face to face we will embrace
The perfect year

Tuesday, 22 December 2009

What a wonderful world

A slab of cheese and a heavy dose of schmaltz are par for the course at Christmas time. I’ve got to admit that the ending of films are brilliant at capturing a utopian ideal far removed from the stresses and strains of any Christmas that I’ve ever known. And I can’t say that I’m a great follower of the art form – the Christmas film art form, that is – but there are one or two that deserve a mention.

Okay, there’s “Love Actually”. I hated, absolutely hated, it with a passion, the first time I saw it, to the extent that I nearly walked out of the cinema. To this day I don’t know why it induced such an extreme emotion in me. Maybe it was the weather – having just spent over a year in Florida and too much time on the beach, the Odeon Holloway Road in North London was never going to cut the mustard on a bitterly grey December afternoon. Even Angelina Jolie wouldn’t have been able to shake me out of my mood (though I would have let her try hard). But over time, maybe in an effort to show my sensitive side to a young lady here or there, I decided to watch again. And before I knew it I was actually into the darn thing. And I still think it’s pretty cool.

Other than that there’s, well, “Die Hard”. Okay, it’s not a Christmas film in the conventional sense but it is set at Christmas. And Bruce is cool, so that’s alright by me. But the grande fromage of all Christmas films has to be “It’s a Wonderful Life”. I watched it again yesterday. I’ve probably seen it about 5 or 6 times now, I guess, but every time I see it the film leaves a warm and fuzzy feeling. The highs and lows of the human condition with James Stewart playing the lead. Exceptional. I’m no film critic but if you haven’t seen it yet and have 2 hours and 10 minutes to spare just watch it. "The Muppet Christmas Carol" it ain't. It’s a film for our time or any time. I'll spare you the Wikipedia moment and leave it to you to hunt it out but it’s one of my favourite films ever, Christmas or not. Wonderful.

Monday, 21 December 2009

Step into Christmas

I came home from work expecting to see everything looking pretty pristine, clean and tidy. You see, today was cleaning day. In actual fact, Tuesday is normally the day my cleaner comes around - not too far after the weekend for a bit of washing to pile up, is my view. Only Monday morning she called just as I was about to depart to see whether she could pop in today. She's very efficient and does a mean job with the duster and iron. But when you get her on the phone, she doesn't half drone on a bit.

Maybe patience isn't one of my finest qualities at times but today the moment I saw her name pop up on the mobile, I knew the conversation was going to go on about 50% longer than it needed to. I say 'than it needed to' because I could see the floor numbers above the lift door slowly tick up outside my apartment - 10, 11, 12.... And I knew that my polite British reserve wasn't going to cut her off in mid flight. There was me hoping that either she'd suddenly stop or that the lift would take its time. Neither were having anything of it. As I politely tried to talk over her in the descending lift that she was likely to get cut off, she got cut off.

Anyway, back to my original theme. So I got back from work expecting to see everything looking pretty prestine, clean and tidy, and indeed it was. But there was also a neatly wrapped Christmas present waiting for me. As I placed my new gift under my mini yukka next to all of my other presents, I did start to think about the idea giving. I wouldn't have thought that my cleaner had a lot of spare cash to throw around willy nilly but somehow I had made it onto the radar. Had I planned to give her a gift? Maybe, sort of; no, not really.... It just hadn't really occurred to me. And I guess I hadn't really given her much credit for being a someone that's more than just a person that scrubs the inside of my bath or picks up odd socks from the floor or talks a lot on the phone. Is she a wife, a mother, a sibling? Does she like cats? Not a clue. I hadn't given it much thought - which is a bit of a shock, really, given that she knows what the colour is of my favourite underpants (purple). I think it's time to make a bit more of an effort.

Wednesday, 16 December 2009

Simply having a wonderful Christmas time

Not long to go now. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. I don’t care what your religious predilection is or the fact that the holiday season is really the shopping season for many. Bottom line is the season stands for “good”. Not hatred, or anger, or retribution or all the many other meanie moods that just happen to pop up every day of the year. And it’s not as if we don’t see hurt and bloodshed and tears at Christmas. Because we do. But it’s what the time represents that’s important. You can’t help but expect some people to try to poo poo things like love and happiness and good. And you may not even be in the festive mood. But just remember this: it all comes out of a sense of goodwill to everyone.

Thursday, 10 December 2009

Man in the mirror

It’s funny when you read about the various skills and tools available to you to “harvest your human potential”. How to reframe this. How to anchor that. How to visualise, strategise or empathise. There are so many ways to skin this cat it’s no wonder that some individuals get a bit lost in the forest – maybe less analysis paralysis and more solution pollution. Nonetheless, it’s worth noting what works for you and acknowledge any successes along the way.

I sometimes forget about how far I’ve come in the last few years - an allergy to relationships, an unhealthy and detached relationship with my estranged father, confidence concerns, inertia issues, direction dilemmas. I’ve had it all, just like the next man.

So fast forward to where I am now and it’s great to reflect. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still a bit of a work-in-progress but I need to celebrate where I’ve been and what I’ve achieved. Some of it’s been down to taking a few baby steps in the right direction, some of it has been about falling over and getting up again, some of it’s been good old-fashioned growing up. Regardless, what’s the use of achieving something if you’re not going to celebrate either the success or the journey itself? So I’m just going to take a step back and take it in for a while.

Sunday, 6 December 2009

Ain't no sunshine

It's amazing what a Monday morning in December can look like. Maybe it would be another matter if I was somewhere in the southern hemisphere or was chilling in Arizona or Florida. But I'm not. No, it's always that time of year when it gets that little bit harder to roll out of bed; it's colder and damper and with the sands of time slowly ebbing away for the year, the holiday season is already weighing on your mind.

That's why this morning, I decided it was time for a "bout of the flu" and was only too happy to wrap myself up in my duvet while I emailed work my absence. To be honest, I've got a bit of a sniffle anyway but the dreary picture outside simply helped make up my mind. Still, it doesn't mean that the grey skies and constant pitter-patter of rain is going to ruin my day. The fact that I'm stuck inside means that I can finally do some of the many incidental chores that I need to do. I can plan. I can declutter. I can actually get some value out of this.

Thursday, 3 December 2009

Simply having a wonderful Christmas time

Christmas. Okay, let's face it, it's over-commercialised, expensive, sometimes stressful, full of excess, tiring and the lead up to it seems to start earlier and earlier every year. But at the same time, it's still Christmas. And I'm not saying it just from the religious angle (though clearly that's a very huge slice of the picture, despite the reason for the season being lost amongst the celebrity Christmas specials on TV). No, I'm looking at it from the perspective of it representing a time for giving, sharing, being with friends and families, whichever form of deity you observe. Okay, some parts of the world don't acknowledge it anywhere near as, say, the US and Western Europe. But for those of us brought up on the tradition, it's the one time of the year that people seem to make a collective effort - to spend on loved ones, to try and have a good time, to think about Christmas pasts. And at times like this you think about where you are in life - for example, I've got family on three different continents to me now and it wasn't like that some Christmases ago.


So as I swing into my first weekend of Christmas parties, having put up some token decorations only yesterday so as to stop denying that it's only a few weeks away, I'm going to make sure I kick the "bah humbug" into touch. Bring it on.

Thursday, 26 November 2009

A Little More Conversation

It's amazing what happens when you have a chat. With yourself. Not in a "walking down the street, talking to the trees, counting the hairs on your palm"-kind-of-way. No, it's more about once in a while being in a position to cut out the noise and fuzz from the inane soap opera on TV or the inane soap opera of your life in general, and being able to provide a bit of framework and focus to your existence. It's at those times your inner voice quite happily finds some purpose to what you're actually doing, as in reality it's you that's dictating the terms. It's a great attribute to have. The ability to shape your destiny through a bit of purpose. And on this day that offers us the chance to be grateful for all we've got, it's one more thing we can be giving thanks for.

Monday, 16 November 2009

Manic Monday

Maybe I was having a manic or, more like, morbid Monday, and thinking about how flimsy a form our sack of flesh and bones really is, but today I found myself drawn to a few stories that reinforced the view. The main trigger came from a friend that phoned me up seeking some assistance on a few things. In the course of our chat she mentioned she was at the funeral of a friend of hers over the weekend. He had been hit by a bus. My friend had been at his wedding only six weeks prior. I don’t know the guy personally and don’t know anything more about the story than she was willing to tell. But I guess it’s just another reminder for us all to live more, laugh more, love more. If not now, when?

Saturday, 14 November 2009

Never can say goodbye

In this ever-changing world of migration, globalisation and the collapse of barriers (be they physical, cultural, institutional or just plain-old mindsets), more and more individuals are coming into and out of our lives from near and far-flung places. Only last month, a friend of mine got offered an excellent and challenging job abroad. In accepting the position she knew that she would also be initiating a period of farewell drinks, dinners and tears along the way. As she packed up her life to-date, she noted on her blog the large number of boxes full of chattels and stuff she’d collected along the way. It was going to be a mammoth task. Yet as huge as the transportation effort was going to be, she did comment that the largest element storing her history was, in fact, the lightest. So much of her recent history was stored in her mind. Fond memories. There’s no knowing when the sounds, the smells and the sensations will be triggered again along the way. But they’re not disappearing any time soon.

I know change is part of life and with the end of one chapter comes the beginning of a new one. But it’s only human nature to want to hang onto the way things are. It’s not easy uprooting to a brand new country – I’ve done it twice. You invest a hell of a lot of time, money, energy and emotional capital making your new life work and it’s worth the effort. And then you have to give it up all over again. Change is good (often), change is natural (always). But still. I said au revoir and not goodbye to this friend (which is just as well as she was, after all, moving to France). Who knows when we’ll be able to catch up again? It doesn’t mean that there should be finality to it, though. New priorities, timezones and distractions are bound to have an impact. But in this ever-shrinking world shaped more by international travel and easy connectivity it really shouldn’t need to be the end of another friendship, now should it?

Friday, 13 November 2009

The world as we know it

Sometimes we really don’t realise what an amazing period of history we are living in. Okay, maybe all times in history are amazing, but still we just don’t realise some of the extraordinary stuff going on around us until hindsight kicks in. We sometimes look at history as if it’s some alien, distant world where things were so incredibly different. But with this week’s anniversary of the collapse of the Berlin Wall, it gives us a chance to realise what an amazing 20 years it’s been. History is always in the making and the next 20 years are probably going to look incredible when people look back on it. But it feels like a distant world 20 years ago when the Iron Curtain was cloaked across a large swathe of Europe, when Nelson Mandela was still in prison and Apartheid still had some ‘validity’, when the IRA continued to bomb mainland Britain, when it wasn't the done thing to travel to or from China, the Soviet Union, Hungary, East Germany etc etc.

In an era when everyone is jetting off for stags in Latvia, driving holidays around Germany, visits to the Beijing Olympics, and all creeds and colours holidaying in Cape Town, it’s amazing how different things were not so long ago – how we almost accepted that that was the way the world was. Thank heavens good men and women round the world asked enough questions about the status quo.

Friday, 6 November 2009

Play time

“What a horrible day!...Is it really morning already? …Woe is me!” I woke up in the foulest of foul moods yesterday. I had so intended on going to bed with a positive spring in my step but instead went to bed with a little bit of worry gnawing away, talking nonsense to me as I slumbered. And as I kicked around my apartment getting ready for work, I quite contently moaned about the weather, the state of the economy, etc etc.

This mood took me into the office and straight through to lunchtime. Everything was crap, I was rubbish at what I did and quite frankly nothing was going right. This state of being may have stayed put had I not taken a step back and stopped taking myself and some of the small stuff so damned seriously. All that petty noise in my head really had to stop. So I took on the ‘playful’ mode that I’d read about in the past and started ‘playing’ at doing things, started trying a few things out without a care in the world. Looking at the world through different eyes. Childlike, and all that. I'd read about the exercise sometime, somewhere but I've rarely stopped to try it out. Yet when I have given it a go, it’s made my surroundings feel so much lighter, so much more carefree. Maybe it won’t work all the time but this time my self-created sword of Damocles certainly disappeared.

Monday, 2 November 2009

This is indeed it....

You don't have to look too far to find some reference to a certain film that's recently been released - "This Is It". So the post-MJ circus rolls on. I haven't decided yet whether I'm going to catch this one or wait for the sequel (mmm, that's probably in bad taste) but the clever blokes at Sony have timed the release so that the DVD can also become that must-have stocking filler for grandma. Regardless of the rights, wrongs and the artistic merit of the whole Jacko event, I was actually more struck by the title. "This Is It". To the point. Pretty final, don't you think? The phrase suggests none of this hoping, waiting or praying for something or someone that may or may not be waiting around the next proverbial bend. No, this is it. Life. Or to steal another fine phrase that is the scourge of the procrastinator: "If not now, when?".

And if I were to be so bold as to put it into cold, hard terms: sometime in the future, when we're laying there taking in our final gasps of air, decades from now or not so, surrounded by friends and family or just faceless dudes in white coats, do we really want to be saying, “So, was that it?”. I'm guessing not. Best get a move on then.

Saturday, 31 October 2009

Keep pushing on

So continuing my new-found drive to go just that little bit further, this morning I attended a work family sports day. Now, to provide a bit of context, the idea of 'giving up' a Saturday morning just to indulge in some random non-Olympic games with individuals I felt I'd had quite enough of Monday to Friday, thank you very much, had overwhelmed me with apathy for the last few weeks. I could be doing something so much better like staying in bed a bit longer, watching the chart rundown on MTV or just spend my time staring out of my living room window. And I don't have family to take to this thing anyway.

But last night I had a "try it, you might like it" epiphany and before I knew it I was at the pick up point at 9.15 am sharp to meet up with a group of people whose names I still can't remember. Over the next four hours or so we bonded, sweated, won, lost, laughed, ate and sweated some more. And I'm not embarrassed to say I actually enjoyed it, not least putting a human face to some of the robots in the Finance department. So I guess I've got to keep pushing on with this new approach.

Thursday, 29 October 2009

The extra 5%

It's been a while since I've managed to find time to hit this blog. Or rather, I've managed to discover a whole host of genuine reasons and two-bit excuses that have halted my march towards finding and providing enlightenment.

I was just about to give the blog the old, "Well, I'm sure I'll find a bit of time at the weekend", when I remembered the 5% rule. Actually, it came to me earlier today while waiting for the lift as I escaped grey suit heaven to head home. But it's only now that I've realised it's actually quite easy to apply. In a nutshell, the principle is all about creating great things very slowly. It's all about seeing the value in small changes rather than an all-guns-blazing tussle with a gigantic life-changing challenge here and now - the likes of which quite frankly tend to send me running for the hills. Or at the very least, force my feet back onto the table and remote control back into my hand for a little while longer.

So this approach is about the slow and steady march in the right direction. Rome wasn't built in a day and all that. So what's that got to do with the blog? Well, today the approach was all about finding just 5% more effort (or 5% less TV time) to enable me to get writing again - which is a good thing. And, of course, the 5% approach gave me something to write about.

Monday, 5 October 2009

Making sure your 'but' looks good for all occasions

I woke up this morning and realised that I'd been pretty quiet on the blog front for a while. I've been fairly busy doing a bit of this, that and the other. Some of the stuff was quite tangible. Some of the stuff was just noise and fluff - distractions, really. So although I know I'm going to take another short soujourn away from the writing when I go on holiday in shortly, I thought I'd get back into the rhythm. Because that's what maintaining focus is partly about - getting in the rhythm. Plus, I like writing so I really should be finding fewer reasons for not to be doing it.

Anyway, I fell upon this comment earlier which is quite an interesting way of looking at the world of excuses:

"If you want to do something in life, there's no doubt that you'll find a way, no BUTs about it! If, on the other hand, you don't want to do something, you'll always find a reason not to. Instead of looking to avoid things, start looking for excuses to live life fully! All it really takes is a shift in attitude. Change your excuses."

Thursday, 17 September 2009

Time and money

I sometimes feel stuck - trapped by my own deliberations. For example, I've got a bit of money in my pocket, not ill-gotten, not intended for anywhere very, very important. It’s just there. Then the trouble begins. Maybe I should save it. Maybe I should buy that bright shiny thing that sits in the department store window. Maybe I should spend it on a slap-up meal even though I'm not hungry. Maybe I should really take that holiday that I know I really need but have been putting off because I always feel I should be spending my money on something more important... I guess we all get those days and moments - trying to align your time, money, energy with your priorities in life. I guess once you're aware of what your priorities are and it gets far easiest to make those important decisions.

Thursday, 3 September 2009

Hilary and the real world

I was having one of those days today. You know the ones. Bored, frustrated, annoyed with work and their clear disregard of my superior abilities/sensitivities/financial needs/wish to be somewhere less boring instead.

The petulant schoolboy was kicking around in my head for much of the day, realising how everything was "so unfair" and ensuring that, by royal command, I was next in line to be awarded a 'Victimhood' .

Later in the evening I found myself kicking around the internet and fell upon the amazing story of Hilary Lister, a female quadriplegic that became the first disabled woman to sail around Britain solo.

Another amazing example of human endeavour. One read of the story and I knew it was time to shut up.

Monday, 31 August 2009

Playing Games

It’s amazing what you can get up to with a little bit of imagination. Some time in the distant past I made up a game for myself. It’s quite simple. Close your eyes. After about 10 seconds open them again but pretend the “you” of 5 years ago, 10 years ago, whatever years ago, is the individual that is reopening the eyes. Now, look around and take in everything that’s all about you, as if you don’t have a clue (hopefully) where you are. Try and feel the surprise. Is the younger you shocked, surprised, bemused, impressed, disappointed, scared, wondering “why, just why?”. Is this picture the dream that you’d been dreaming about all those years ago? Is this picture exactly the same as all those years ago? What's that I'm watching on the television? Since when have I been playing the violin? Is that the sea I can see out of my window? Who is she/he laying next to me? No, we didn’t really get together, did we? Who would have thought…

It’s kind of a crazy game and it does spin the "visualising the future" principle on its head. But it’s a great way of looking at how you have moved on (even if you hadn't actually realised it), and you don’t need to pay a small fortune to a doctor’s couch to find that out either. You can’t go too far wrong with this game now, can you?

Thursday, 27 August 2009

Be thankful for what you’ve got

There’s a saying that I once fell upon: “You can complain because roses have thorns, or you can rejoice because thorns have roses.” Kind of cool in its thoughts on nature, but what’s that got to do with me, I hear you cry? Well, there are always things that we can obviously be happy about. Winning this or that, getting that date with that hot young thing, and so on. So what about the less good stuff? What about the really crap, nasty, rotten somethings that happen to you from time to time? Or maybe all the time?

Well, you could either wallow in your own messy existence. Or you could take a step back and smile. Smile at the rain, the noise, the hassle, the traffic, the pollution, the rude people, the smell. You’re alive. You’re there to make a difference. Don’t stand on the sideline being the armchair critic (that’s kind of mixing my metaphors, but you get my drift). Smile at the good and bad. There are so many people out there that would swap places with you in a heartbeat. Hell, you've even got internet. Remember that. Yeah, I no, I no – it’s easier said than done sometimes. But, hey, give it a try. The wallowing isn't really going to help raise you above the parapet. And you might even like it.

Tuesday, 25 August 2009

Sunday, 16 August 2009

Scary Carrey

I’ve never really looked too deeply into Jim Carrey films. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve tended to like his brand of silliness over the years - some reasonably sophisticated, some so lightweight you can almost visualise cogs churning as a chimp puts its finger to the typewriter for the first draft. But fairly recently I fell upon ‘Yes Man’, a film about a man that vows to answer “yes” to every opportunity, embracing all that’s thrown at him along the way. Carrey plays the lead character with typical comic panache. But taking a step back, I found the concept quite scary – scary what could be achieved if we really did say ‘yes’ to a bit more of life. And, of course, just plain scary, scary, scary. I know I’m mentally light years away from diving head first into a sea of yeses but if I can summon up the gumption to dip my toe in just a little more, who knows what treasures I may fall upon.

Thursday, 13 August 2009

The whole world's a stage

Here's a charming metaphor which I fell upon describing life or, I suppose, the theatre of life(well, I'm assuming it's a metaphor otherwise the writer thinks we all actually live in a theatre) :

"Some people are working backstage, some playing in the orchestra, others are onstage singing. Some are in the audience as critics, others are there to applaud. Do you know who and where you are?"

Monday, 10 August 2009

In Good Nick

On my way home from a rather late night out, I popped in on my local kebab shop – the sort of place that you’ll never see inside in the cold light of day but strangely seems to make sense after the witching hour. Anyway, while I was queuing up I fell upon a free newspaper that I occasionally breeze through. It’s called ‘Healthy Times’ and sells itself as a local health and wellness resource and can be an interesting read. However, this month’s edition really grabbed my attention. In it there was an interview with Nick Vujicic. I vaguely remembered seeing a brief TV feature on him and such was my state of being that night (and my inability to read a full sentence) I tucked the copy into my pocket to save for later.

The following afternoon I pulled out the piece and read the interview on this amazing guy. He’s probably already fairly well known and I’m just a bit slow to the party. But for those who don’t know him, in a nutshell, Nick was born without limbs. The article captures his earliest moments: “Arriving in this world without warning of his condition or any medical explanation, his father had to leave the birthing room to vomit. The nurses on duty broke out in tears and the doctor refused to show the baby to his mother.” At the age of eight he attempted to drown himself in a bathtub.

Fast forward to the 26-year old Nick, who holds a double degree in accounting and financial planning and now travels the world as a speaker bringing hope and motivation. Without wanting to patronise or condescend, his life experience really does put some of our day-to-day moans in full-unbridled perspective. I know in the past I’ve mentioned that ‘comparison is the mother of all misery’ but you can’t but take a step back from it all and acknowledge that when looking at his battles and victories most of us have got to learn to be a bit more grateful once in a while. I could go on and on but check out www.lifewithoutlimbs.org and www.attitudeisaltitude.com/.
Inspirational – that’s all I can say really.

Monday, 3 August 2009

Vive la difference

I sometimes think about the ills and tensions of the world, be it in the Middle East, in North/South Korea, or in your local pub, and wonder whether that whole big old noise could be eradicated if we were all exactly alike. 100% the same in our looks, right down to the anchor tattoo on the right bicep and left eyebrow twitch.

Unfortunately, even that wouldn’t be enough. Even if everyone looked exactly the same, with the same length and colour hair, same height, same bell bottoms, people would still be persecuted for being left handed. Even if we were all left handed someone would find a reason for persecuting those with the messiest handwriting. Or those that forgot to dot the “I”….And so on… Sadly, it's human nature and tribalism in its most exclusive form. Based on fear or superiority, there’s always an excuse.

But we shouldn't want to be all the same. We weren’t meant to be. We come in all sorts of shapes, curves, hues, religions, sexual persuasions, races, interests, heights, weights, abilities and ad infinitum. We should be celebrating these differences not trumping up reasons to attack it. So the next time you run into a left-handed person, be kind to them.

Tuesday, 28 July 2009

Viewed from the other side

I received an email yesterday which in a round about way talked about looking at the world through another pair of eyes. The email itself ended with the story recorded below. It’s one I vaguely remember reading some time ago but it was good to be reminded about learning to see things slightly differently:

There is a wonderful little story about a minister who, one Saturday morning, was trying to prepare his sermon under difficult conditions. His wife was out shopping. It was a rainy day and his young son was restless and bored, with nothing to do. Finally, in desperation, the minister picked up an old magazine and thumbed through it until he came to a large brightly colored picutre. It showed a map of the world. He tore the page from the magazine, ripped it into little bits and threw the scraps all over the living room floor with the words: “Johnny, if you can put this all together, I’ll give you a quarter.”The preacher thought this would take Johnny most of the morning. But within ten minutes there was a knock on his study door. It was his son with the completed puzzle. The minister was amazed to see Johnny finished so soon, with the pieces of paper neatly arranged and the map of the world back in order.“Son, how did you get that done so fast?” the preacer asked.“Oh,” said Johnny, it was easy.

On the other side there was a picture of a man. I just put a piece of paper on the bottom, put the picture of the man together, put a piece of paper on top, and then turned it over. I figured that if I got the man right, the world would be right.”The minister smiled, and handed his son a quarter.

“And you’ve given me my sermon for tomorrow, too,” he said. “If a man is right, his world is right.”There’s a great lesson in this idea.
If you are unhappy with your world and want to change it, the place to start is with yourself. If you are right, you world will be right.

Napoleon Hill

Friday, 24 July 2009

Waste Management

Time, money, energy – the fun we have trying to save a little bit here and a little bit there. Look after the pennies and the pounds will look after themselves, and all that. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with being conscious and conscientious about these areas. In fact, that’s what it should be all about – taking control. But I do sometimes wonder about the context. Thrift has its place in this world, certainly. Hell, there’s enough plastic, excessive living to last a good few lifetimes. And the culture of the daily time-devouring commute has destroyed many a balanced family life. But, still, I think there’s something to be said for how we view our savings.

In relation to time, for example, you don’t actually save time as such – as far as I can tell there are still 60 seconds in a minute, 60 minutes in an hour, and the rest. It’s more to do with how you spend that time. You can halve your journey home from work but if you then walk through the door earlier only to have a good old moan at your better half then I’m not sure whether that’s time well spent. You may have saved a couple of pennies here and there, which is great, but if you literally or metaphorically just stick it under your bed out of sheer fear of living a bit, where’s the value in that? And that’s what it’s about. Value. Oversimplified? Perhaps. It is true that sometimes some of us need to save something, anything simply to get us to the start line. And I'm not saying saving is wrong. But looking at the whole caboodle as all about how you spend/invest your time, money and energy to create value changes the dynamic. So if you’re going to do some saving, at least do it with some purpose, and hopefully that purpose will somewhere along the line have some bearing on enjoying life. Otherwise all that saving might actually turn out to be more about waste.

Sunday, 19 July 2009

It's all in the mind

I fell upon this cool take on how we should manage our minds:

“How do you manage the unending stream of thoughts that flow through your mind? Do you put a comma, an exclamation mark or a queue of questions? Why not apply a full-stop and begin to master your mind.”

Thursday, 16 July 2009

Making it big

I used to be in a band. Well, strictly speaking we never actually got to perform, but the original line sounds far better when in female company. Some context to the statement: one night I met this random guy in a pub, and after a few drinks had loosened the senses he decided that myself, him and his mate should start a band. I would be lead singer because I had “the look”, he was to be our guitar axe man and his friend would bash some drums. I thought, “This is it.”

So the following Wednesday this guy, Bob, turned up at my student digs with his 4-stringed battered guitar and we just jammed away. There was me just howling away to ‘Eleanor Rigby’ or whatever song it was in that “Play the Beatles with Four Chords” type of book, with Bob making a fist of his tonally-challenged broken strummer. In the next room my housemates politely turned up the TV, drowning out any desire to hear ‘the next big thing’ just yet.

But the great dream of performing at Carnegie Hall, or a step down, the Frog & Firkin at the end of our road, took a sudden turn. Bob decided that he would try and make a few extra pennies as a window cleaner, on account that his conviction for grievous bodily harm tended to work against him at job interviews (wrongful conviction as it was, he adamantly insisted). Sadly, his dexterity with a busted guitar wasn’t the same as trying to move his 6ft 8 inches bulk and he fell off his ladder on day one and broke his leg. At least that was the story he retold when he resurfaced 2-months after our first few sessions. Soon after that, Bob and the dream just disappeared, vanishing as randomly as its arrival. I bet Garfunkel never had this kind of bother with Simon. But it was fun daydreaming while it lasted. Ahh, what could have been…

Tuesday, 14 July 2009

Learning to live...off the wall

When the world is on your shoulder
Gotta straighten up your act and boogie down
If you can't hang with the feeling
Then there ain't no room for you this part of town
'Cause we're the party people night and day
Livin' crazy that's the only way

So tonight gotta leave that nine to five upon the shelf
And just enjoy yourself
Groove, let the madness in the music get to you
Life ain't so bad at all
If you live it off the wall
Life ain't so bad at all (live life off the wall)
Live your life off the wall (live it off the wall)

You can shout out all you want to
'Cause there ain't no sin in folks all getting loud
If you take the chance and do it
Then there ain't no one who's gonna put you down
'Cause we're the party people night and day
Livin' crazy that's the only way

So tonight gotta leave that nine to five upon the shelf
And just enjoy yourself
C'mon and groove, and let the madness in the music get to you
Life ain't so bad at all
If you live it off the wall....

Amen to that, MJ. Amen to that.

Monday, 13 July 2009

Going on holiday

I've been on holiday recently. Nowhere fancy, mind you. In fact, I found myself back in my old stomping ground in London catching up with friends and family that it had been too long in not seeing. It totally did the job. I stepped away from the noise and fog of my current day-to-day existence and stepped into London’s own melee, only in the latter's case reconnecting with a lifetime of familiarity - the cancellations on the London Underground because of the wrong kind of sun; the crazily busy shopping districts stuffed full of people not really shopping; the cardiac arrest-inducing pounding of the pocket; the choice of drizzle or a sheet of grey sky at the click of a switch. But that’s what made it all fine. It was bizarrely reassuring.

I know, I know we’re meant to look forward and avoid living too much in the past, and many of my memories are so very rose tinted. The fact is we all move on. But it was a world I know and had partly forgotten and one that was oddly comforting. And it wasn’t about, as those boys at Oasis may say, looking back in anger. It was just nice. After all, life doesn’t always have to be new, fresh and exciting, does it?

Thursday, 2 July 2009

Focus

What’s it all about? Dunno, to be honest. The great questions and answers of our existence aren’t normal dinner table conversation in my circles. And that’s fine. But there’s one thing I certainly do believe: Life’s all about what you choose to focus on. Minute to minute, hour by hour, year after year. If you see life as an adventure or an education or a trial or a game or half-empty or half-full, then that’s how your reality is shaped. If you believe the moon is made of cream cheese then fair enough. Let that shape your reality if you choose. I guess it’s all about attitude. If you want your perception of life to be different then change it. Sometimes you may be able to do it at the click of your fingers. Sometimes it may feel like you’re turning round a slow and cumbersome oil tanker. But for me focus is the key. I’ve had a couple of weeks of distraction, goodness knows what I've actually been doing, and have struggled to get back into the groove. But now that I’m aware of this , I realise that the main thing that has been missing is focus on the inside and on the outside. So I’m practicing the habit of getting back my focus and, hopefully, the moon will be made of cream cheese once again.

Thursday, 25 June 2009

Gene in a Bottle

I was spring cleaning a drawer a little earlier today and I fell upon a magazine page from 5 years ago. I guess I had originally ripped it out of the 'Observer Magazine' in a fit of "wow, that's kind of cool". I've fallen upon the piece a few times in recent years and each time gave it the nod of approval. And today was no different. The article was an interview with Gene_Simmons, he of the ordinately long tongue and odd make-up from the band KISS.

Now, don't get me wrong, Mr Simmons has a certain way of looking at the world that is, let's just say, unconventional. He's lived a life that's been full to the degree of scarily excessive at times. But equally he's got such a charming way of looking at stuff you don't really mind the crazier parts. A case in point is when he talks about his mother:

"Besides giving my life, she's given me the wisdom that all the holy books and philosophers have been unable to encapsulate into a single phrase, and here it is: every day above ground is a good day and nothing else matters....The secret of life doesn't matter. What it all means doesn't matter. You're doing great if you're alive...You're alive. You're in the game."

I hear you, Gene.

Monday, 22 June 2009

Finding yourself, creating yourself

There are a crazy number of books providing a template to life. How to speak to your inner soul, how to speak confidently within thirty seconds, how to become a millionaire overnight, and so on. And I, for one, have read a trailer load of the above.

I see nothing wrong with this kind of literature as they do a lot of good for a lot of people. Personally, however, I prefer to view them from a certain angle. Different bookstores will categorise the same books under different criteria. Maybe it’s just my bugbear but you walk into certain bookstores and it will be “Self Help", walk under others and it will be “Personal Development”.

I prefer to see it all from the development rather than the help angle. There’s nothing wrong with a bit of self-valuation. In fact, an unobserved mind and all that can be a little dangerous.

But while some people may see life as being about finding yourself and these books are a tool for doing so, I’d prefer to see life as more about creating yourself, which these books are perfectly positioned to do as well.

There’s probably no right or wrong answer to this. It’s probably more down to how we individually prefer to see the world.

Thursday, 18 June 2009

Everybody was kung fu fighting

Even after a year of doing kung fu, I can’t possibly bluff that I’m on the same page as some of the great exponents of the martial art – such as a big fluffy Panda voiced by Jack Black…

Still, the more I practice it, the more I see it beyond the slow mo acrobatics that good cinematography and a great head for heights brings to a movie theatre near you. The basic tenets of it all actually seem to apply to what I’m trying to stick to in real life. For example, there’s a basic sequence of movements that you rehearse, which are the basis of all Wing Chun kung fu moves, known as ‘Siu Nim Tau’. Think: an upright form of Tai Chi - and you can get the idea of a set routine, posture and way of applying yourself.

The more you practice it, the more you realise it’s all about the inner workings. It’s not just a slow, mimicking, shadow-boxing kind of act. It’s about how everything ticks within. My instructor boiled down Siu Nim Tau, and Wing Chun in general, to four major elements: being centred through the spine, relaxation, flexibility and having focus with intent.

The Bruce Lee flying kicks are great box office but real Wing Chun is all about looking from the outside inwards and not the other way round. You don’t focus on looking the right way; you focus on being the right way.

The other day the instructor outlined the correct way to move, fully focusing on both your poised structure and your arm rotations, rather than focusing on an object you may be hitting or blocking or whatever. Interpreting it for my real world, I view it as a call to focus on your goals/values/essence without being disrupted by those kinks in the road that suddenly appear from nowhere, called ‘real life’. Wing Chun isn’t a crazily theatrical martial art with arms and legs flailing everywhere. It’s all about keeping things simple and focused. The movements are deliberate and direct. No need to be excessive or undisciplined or wasteful. Relax – move forward…

Some day my whatever will come

There’s nothing wrong at all in setting goals. Hell, I give myself a metaphorical clip round the ear once in a while for my lack of goal setting. But just because ‘nice stuff’ can be expected from the resolution of an event or the achievement of a long-held desire, it doesn’t mean you should ignore all the time between the start and finishing lines. “When I finish this project, then I will be happy...When this situation is resolved, I will be fine... When I reach my goal, I will finally relax.” It’s best not to postpone your happiness for some future unknown. Enjoy what's in front of you. All that waiting could be for nothing anyway. It could all turn out to be for that proverbial cold dinner that you now realise wasn’t even that nice when it was hot.

Wednesday, 17 June 2009

Manifesting

Falling upon one of my favourite websites, I found the line: “I have manifested this because I like it.” It wasn’t talking about achieving some beautiful and wonderfully long-held dream.

Au contraire. It was all about the crap that we see in our lives. I started thinking about the mechanics of the idea and saw some truth in it. It’s the old ‘devil you know’ syndrome. If you really wanted to change your perception of a situation you can if you try a little.

But, oh no, you’d much rather be the victim, or the struggler, or over-worked, or the unloved, or the put upon, or the… And it goes on.

If you manage to take a deep breath and go head on against the comfort of feeling crap, as it were, you might actually surprise yourself. Get aware. As ever.

Friday, 12 June 2009

Getting busy

I’ve been busy in the last few weeks, hence I haven't had a chance to actually write much on this blog. Doing what? Busy being busy. The trouble is that it’s way too easy being caught up doing random stuff that doesn't actually fundamentally mean something to you. Think of habits, activities or 'priorities' that don’t take you along your road to fulfilment, enlightenment or whatever goal you may so choose. You get clogged up but not necessarily filled up spiritually or nourished, so to speak. In The_Tao_of_Pooh , they talk about ‘Bisy Backsons’ those characters that are always busy. Busy doing things, changing everything and everyone but sometimes just for the sake of it - always “busy but back soon” . And, of course, they forget to think about relaxing for their own benefit. They work themselves to death but don’t get much of anything in return for it. The question really should be: is all that rushing about really adding any value to you?

Saturday, 6 June 2009

Talking to the Self

Here's another gem from the people at Innerspace from a while ago:

When you talk to yourself in your mind, which self do you address? And how? Usually people do not talk to their divinity, but to the most superficial aspects of their everyday personality. And often its a stream of fears, complaints and mindless repetition of old things. If we talked that way to another human being, we would have to apologise. Learning to talk properly to the self is a spiritual endeavour. Thoughts from the past and worries about the future do not create good conversation. Instead learn to talk to your mind as if it were a child. Talk to it with love. If you just force a child to sit down, he won't. A good mother knows how to prompt her child into doing what she wants. Be a good mother to your mind, teach it good, positive thoughts so that when you tell it to sit quietly, it will. Love your mind. Stay happy.

Monday, 1 June 2009

Think Big

"Rise above little things. Be a big thinker. You are what you think. So just think big, believe big, act big, dream big, work big, give big, laugh big, live big." Innerspace

Friday, 29 May 2009

Big dreams

One of the guys in the office furtively ushered me over to his desk a few weeks back, like a little kid wanting to shield from the gaze of the masses and direct sunlight some very rare Panini football card. Anyway, I drifted over expecting him to show me a pic of some electric-blue, turbo-charged gas guzzler, or a picture of Miss Venezuela 2005. You know, standard boys’ stuff. No, in his hand was a photo of a castle. A castle he was thinking of buying. Now, I’m sure he’s very good at his job and had aspirations beyond the two-up, two-down in the suburbs. But a castle? Was he about to rob a bank or something? He said he’d been searching online for castles for sale in Scotland for some time with enough land on it for him and his family to eventually set up some sort of subsistence living cum business based around fishing. The price tag? Too many noughts for me to remember. But all he now needed to do was convince some of his very rich friends to invest in him.

And it didn’t seem to come across as a pipe dream of a thirty-something year old just going through a fad. He’d done his research and spoke with such candour and wide-eyed excitement that you could picture it all as if it were the shiny red bike he’d been promised for Christmas. True, it may well turn into that fad and for a second or two it kind of sounded a bit “very crazy”. But before long, I found it refreshingly so. Something kind of cool to shoot for.

Tuesday, 26 May 2009

Walking on Air

Many years ago I was sitting on the London Underground, thumbing my way through a freebie magazine that I picked up outside the station. It was the kind of mag filled with a whole pot pourri of information. You know the sort: goth band after goth band doing the student bar circuit, waiting for their big break; cheap deals to Alicante and anywhere more sophisticated; spare boxrooms for rent in 3-storey hovels. I’d managed to get my fill of the publication in the time it took for the train to get from Oxford Circus to Tottenham Court Road (which, for those who aren’t familiar with the Central Line, really isn’t that long at all). However, as I got up the last page of the mag grabbed my attention. Every week or month (however often this freebie was thrown together) there was a feature on “somewhere in the world”. I’d flicked through many of them in the past, but for some reason this one stuck in my mind: Gili Air.

Maybe it was being surrounded by upside-down smiles on the Tube, or the underwhelming UK summer temperature of that day. Maybe it was perfect escapism for a student too lazy to find a summer job. But I was drawn to this island off the coast of Lombok in Indonesia. The photo was classic picture postcard. No, it was more than that - it was like some airbrushed epic MGM production staring right back at me. All sunshine, palm trees, blue sea and unspoilt dreams. As I hit the streets, I ripped out the page and tossed the rest of it away.

I knew at that moment that I had to go there. More than any place before or since. It took me a few years. I can’t remember how long - maybe five years, maybe more. Regardless, I kept that page safe before resurrecting it for a backpacking trip over ground across South-East Asia – starting in Bangkok, ending in Lombok. After about five months of travel and heaven knows how many years of mental processing, I arrived at Gili Air.

And as I sat outside my hut, beer in hand and watching the sunset, I pulled out my picture. There I was in this low-tempo, no car space that I’d first come across on some drizzly London afternoon.

It hadn’t been the most extravagant or world-changing goal ever. And to be honest, neither had it kept me awake at night nor necessarily given me comfort in those darker moments. But it was always there. Quiet but there. And that evening, sitting on the porch of my hut, I just smiled and thought: “Nice”.

Saturday, 23 May 2009

Things aren't like they used to be...

“Kids today – they’re getting worse and worse…It’s such a dangerous world these days…In my day, this would have never happened…” I’m not ever going to deny that there are big issues in this world. Big, bad, ugly issues.

But if we only view a Hammer House of Horror version of the world (at the expense of the Disney classic, perhaps), it’s no surprise that we end up skimming over the better bits of our time here. As far as I’m aware, in Western countries you don’t get a hand chopped off for stealing apples anymore. Nor is it the norm to send kids down chimneys or ban people of a certain race, creed or gender from having access to certain types of public facilities. Yes, yes, yes, social equality and justice is yet to be accepted as a God-given right in many parts of the less enlightened globe. But at least there are people willing and able to stand up for the rights of people they’ll never even meet. And change still is gonna come...

Sure, there are tensions in this world but Northern Ireland has come along leaps and bounds, South Africa continues on its long road of reconciliation, the Communist block has collapsed and welcomed personal freedoms and the US answered “yes, we can”. Don’t get me wrong, there are many, many issues that we need to address and ones that are getting worse. Pollution, the destruction of our planet, the globalisation of terrorism, to name but a few. But there are many bright spots to think about along with the shades of grey. You can but hope.

Thursday, 21 May 2009

Smile

"Smiling is infectious. Please pass this on."

Twenty year plans

Kind of dove-tailing with my last post “about the future” is a conversation I had a couple of nights ago. I was chewing the fat with friends when one of them asked: “Where do you want to be in 20 years time?” The question kind of threw me. For many, this is a simple enough question – they can answer to the finest minutiae as to what street they’ll be living in, what they’ll be doing and with whom. Most of us have certain expectations in life – marriage, kids, a home of our own (or absence of these, if that’s your choice/expectation). And many of us assume that we can get to these points in a “it just happens” kind of way.

But for grander plans (not that these aren’t grand enough), sometimes it takes a little more. For all my best intentions, though, I’ve never been seen as one that plans much beyond my lunchtime. I know the value of a 5-year plan, in fact a plan of any sort. But I’ve struggled. Sometimes that reflects a stage in one’s life. Sometimes just choosing to block it out. It’s laziness. It’s fear.

Still, looking as far out as 20 years is a scary one. It’s all so unpredictable. To me, it’s like the weather. You can guess with some degree of certainty whether it’ll be fair or foul tomorrow, maybe until the end of the week. But what about in a month’s time? Or a year? Okay, there are always seasonal patterns to work with, and from a life-pattern perspective, I’m guessing that translates to the wife, kids and white-picket fence picture. But life doesn’t walk in a straight line. Well, that’s my excuse anyway…

To be honest, it helps to have some focus. True, worrying in the present about something that may never happen obviously drains your energy from the here and now. But drifting down some proverbial windy river in a canoe without an oar is a bit too random as well. I once heard a Chinese saying that went something like: “If you stay on the same road you’re going to end up where you are heading” – a statement of the obvious but with some value. The last thing you want is to wake up one day, believing that everything has passed you buy and wondering where the hell all the years went. So I’m biting the bullet a bit and dipping my toe in again with this planning lark. Still, 20 years time...Crazy….

Monday, 18 May 2009

Looking into the future

I was muddling through my emails a little earlier today and fell upon a message from FutureMe. Or rather it was a message from myself to me.

About five years or so ago a friend introduced me to the wonderful Future Me website. In a nutshell, the site allows you to compose a letter to yourself which then gets sent out at a later date specified by you. You can write whatever takes your fancy - I prayer that the new rather dashing chap in accounts finally notices you; a rave about how incredibly happy you are at this moment in time and wondering whether your new fly-fishing hobby will still be the love of your life in a year's time; a rant about taxation; or maybe some real or metaphorical shopping list that you want to have completed within a certain timeframe. Do what you want. You're the only one that's going to read it. Bottom line, it's little old you from weeks, months, years back talking to the older you today.

It's like a message from a time capsule, where someone that really, really knows you well (in fact, better than anyone else in the world) has chosen to disclose everything to you. So treat yourself to a message for your birthday, for New Year's Eve or, better still, some absolutely random day in the year. Then you can say: "It's so good hearing from you..."

Wednesday, 13 May 2009

Cheer up

In a world filled with makeovers, nips and tucks, lypo-this and botox-that, I fell upon a charming little comment today:

"Cheerfulness can make any face look beautiful. It is an inexpensive way to improve your looks!"

Yes, it's simple (probably even oversimplifying) and obviously it won't work for all people in all situations. Still, isn't nice to get back to basics once in a while? There's more to looking good than chucking money at a situation.

Tuesday, 12 May 2009

Something for the weekend

I was sitting at my desk on Friday afternoon, winding down and looking for a way to kill time when a colleague stopped at my desk to basically wind down and kill a bit of time as well. As we mosied through our plans for the weekend, we chatted about gym routines, his crazy fitness regimes and the all-action races that he now likes to compete in. As we chatted, another guy stopped at my desk and joined in the conversation. He too had this crazy affliction for intense endurance racing and was also doing one of these races over that weekend. As they chatted away about the merits of different energy bars and elastic strappings, I had nothing of value to add whatsoever, and for a split second felt a little jealous/unworthy/lazy (fill in the gap). Neither of the guys was gloating. It was just the way things were. This was their bag. After both had moved on, I realised a couple of things: 1) Comparison is indeed the mother of all misery (a phrase I fell upon sometime in the past and still like), and 2) I should see what they’re doing as a source of inspiration either to do something myself (but not necessarily of that ilk) or view it as a way in which I can appreciate these guys more. In other words, just leave the ego at the door, please.

Thursday, 7 May 2009

If it ain't broke...

A fair few years ago I was flicking through a random business-related magazine. I wish I could remember what it was, what the articles were about or why I was reading it - clearly it was that exciting. Anyway, in between snoozes I fell upon a comment made by a company CEO or a Professor of something or other (sometimes I find detail so over-rated...). The phrase in question was: "If it ain't broke, break it." The reworking of a chronically over-used line wasn't enough to keep me engaged and I filed the mag in the waste paper bin.

But over the years that phrase has had a habit of popping into my consciousness when I least expect, like some syrupy boy band rendition that you ignored at the time but now happily tap away to as it's ripened with age and isn't full of cheese after all... Indeed, the phrase in question has made me think a lot about those good old "comfort zones".

Now, don't get me wrong, I'm not the type that's had an epiphany telling me to sell up all my worldly possessions, renounce capitalism and build myself a treehouse in the Amazon (though there's nothing wrong with anyone taking that route, and maybe I'm limiting myself by assuming I'm not the type...). No, it's the idea that maybe sometimes you don't realise how much you really are coasting along, however natural it feels. Playing and 'clocking' the same video game over and over because you know you're good and you can; having your Friday fish dinner because you quite like it and always have fish on a Friday; every Saturday night hanging out with the same crew that you have in the same bar for the past many years. We all have our own conventional and random versions of the above.

Sometimes change for change sake is good, sometimes change for change sake is rotten. So I'm not suggesting this will work for everyone in every circumstance. Sometimes there is no need. But having myself tried to recollect what I did of value over a couple of samey years earlier this decade (years which personal evidence suggests never actually happened), I realised that once in a while it's worth thinking about shaking up the cosy, 'nice' little existence. Or at the very least consider ways of taking things to the next level. My approach is evolution not revolution. But if you prefer, go at it with a hammer...

Tuesday, 5 May 2009

Goodbye

Not that I want to have a run on death-themed blogs, but this one is going to be the third one associated with the subject in the last two months (and that's without even mentioning Jade Goody!). Trust me, I will return to my more irreverent self very soon but I thought I'd touch on the subject again as it's been a strange couple of weeks for me.

Firstly, two weekends ago my former boss lost her brave five-year fight against breast cancer. And then only last Friday, a friend took her own life. My boss was a very strong-minded, extraordinarily bright and passionate individual, who declined certain medical treatments early on, which may or may not have made a difference. My friend was cool, glamorous and gorgeous, but clearly was more of a tortured soul than any of us knew. The former was 55, the latter was 33.

While, in my head, I had originally set out to consider their relative states of being in their final days, the choices we make and the luck that life pitches at us, I think I'll keep the blog at a more simple level. No judgements, no "what ifs", no regrets. Just a special acknowledgement. You may or may not believe in an afterlife or in reincarnation, but one thing's for certain, there are friends and families still here that have been left with not only gaping gaps in their existences but also many fond memories.

So it's just really for me to say: "We'll miss you, Rima and Eve."

Tuesday, 28 April 2009

Kreativ Blogger


Well, what can I say! It's not every day that you get honoured with a coveted award. I'm a bit overwhelmed by it all and hopefully I'm suitably attired to receive the award, though I have a feeling my girlfriend might want her black dress back. I gratefully accept the Kreativ Blogger award kindly given by Sandi K on her blog Freedom of Thought http://sandi-k.blogspot.com/ . This also gives me an incentive to keep trying to evolve the blog thing (e.g. learn how to add pics easily - I'm so technically challenged it's taken me days just to add the Kreativ Blogger pic!).
In keeping with the spirit of the award, firstly I need to list a few (well, seven, in fact) of my favourite things:

* Travel - I've lived in a few different countries and have travelled to a few dozen others but have still only managed page one of most foreign language phrasebooks. Thank goodness for the MTV generation and learning English through the poetry of Madonna.

* My guitar - It looks really good in the corner of my room. Trouble is, it lets out a scary shriek any time I get near it.

* Sport - Years ago, I could have been 'a contender'. I'm convinced. In what sport, I don't really know but I can always talk a good game.

* Tony Robbins - The man with the fromage smile and unfathomably large hands. Actually, it's not him, per se, that is a favourite thing but the message that his ilk is seeking to put across - positivity.

* Friday afternoons - Friday night is just around the corner and Monday morning feels like weeks away.

* Music - I love Bacharach and David, jazz, acoustic instruments, soulful voices, classics... I could go on.

* Writing - I don't apply myself as much as I used to or would like to. But having come 23rd out of a class of 24 in art when I was 12, it didn't take me long to figure out that the pen was mightier than the paintbrush.

I'm going pass the mantle on to seven other deserving specimens - a mix of the real world, the irreverent and the inspirational. Definitely have a peek and well done all:

David at Authorblog: http://david-mcmahon.blogspot.com/

Ian at Or so I Thought: http://ian-lidster.blogspot.com/

Monday, 27 April 2009

Finding stuff

"The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes" - Marcel Proust.

You know when you're fiddling about, minding your own business and you fall upon something that makes you remember yourself - a phrase in a book, a line of a song, a simple saying. Well, I kind of had one of those moments when I came upon the above comment. When I was far younger and less wise (though wouldn't have admitted it at the time), I went through a period of pretty deep introspection. I couldn't come to terms with my mum's religious zeal, I couldn't come to terms with the parental separation, I couldn't come to terms with the poverty-laden upbringing that I was exposed to, I couldn't get comfortable in my own skin. As a result, I did a lot of searching - searching for meaning, searching for guidance, searching for that pot of gold or magic wand that would make this all go away. Fast forward to now and time and experience have smoothed out a few kinks. Don't get me wrong, I still have my moments of searching for answers to questions that were never asked in the first place or on the look out for the next new toy or experience. But generally speaking, I'm glad that my world has moved on. I like to see myself more as a finder or discoverer of things rather than someone in search of answers. It's so much better for your peace of mind.

Wednesday, 22 April 2009

Nothing in particular

I've been thinking over the last few days about what next to write about in the blog. Okay, it hasn't been keeping me awake at night but it's been enough to get me thinking about what I'm thinking about. The trouble was, I couldn't come up with anything. In fact, that's not the real problem. The problem is thinking that I always have to come up with something. Analysing and re-analysing what I'm meant to be pontificating about has really got me nowhere. I need to remind myself that I'm allowed to just be me, without needing to get results all the time and just let things flow. My viewpoints aren't always going to be earth-shatteringly original or inspired. People may not even read them. But that's okay. When I remember, I'll just be myself and have a bit of fun. And the less pressure I put on myself the more thoughts can flow. So there you go. I couldn't really think of anything much today but I'm all cool and the gang about that.

Sunday, 19 April 2009

Having a Plan B

I just bumped into a friend of mine while I was out hunting for some lunch. We both work in financial services industry so it didn't take long before we got onto discussing the poor state of morale at respective employers. To be fair, neither of us are in a position to cry "woe is me" as we're both working and neither have any dependents to think about. But that didn't stop us thinking about what we would do next if the brown stuff hit the proverbial fan.

You can't blame the tabloids for trying to sell newspapers and generically grouping anyone that works for such financial institutions as "bankers". Neither can you blame the public indigation over the huge excesses and losses that a number of individuals were party to (hell, I'm majorly peeved and I'm meant to be aware of some of this stuff). But at the same time, it would be equally misleading to group Harley Street surgeon with your village GP or dental nurse, for that matter. "Bankers" is way too wide a label. The vast, vast majority of us can't just walk away from our jobs and retire in our thirties, as did the 'hero' in the semi-autobiographical account "Citiboy - Fear and Loathing in the City" (http://www.cityboy.biz/). No, we need to still plan for our futures. And plan for the future is what I'm going to do. I've a few ideas about a change in career direction and as long as apply a bit more intent to these thoughts then I'm heading in the right direction - any direction is the right direction. Plan B, you're in my sights.

Wednesday, 15 April 2009

The Doc

As much as I'd like to pretend that I come up with a lot of my thinking out of nowhere, the fact is I get my inspirations from a whole array of sources - be it, highly spiritual scripture or highly cheesy Hollywood. In actual fact I wouldn't like to pretend that all my thinkings were created by little old me, as credit deserves to be given where credit is due.

One of my very favourite gurus, mentors, smart chaps is the 'Barefoot Doctor'. He explains the principals of Taoism in easy to digest and apply ways. While sometimes his commentary can come across so left-field it may as well be off the pitch, other times he's so on the money he makes me shiver. I've read his stuff for years, so indeed credit where credit is due.

Anyway, don't take my word for it, have a perusal of the website from time to time. You might see something that works for you.

http://www.barefootdoctorglobal.com/

Tuesday, 14 April 2009

Nothing in particular

It's amazing how easy it is to take your foot off the gas. When I started my detox a few weeks back, part of the grand plan was to write more of my blog in a more creative, carefree and erudite manner. I'd feed my mind with inspiring thoughts and I'd advance my cause towards wherever I need and intend to go.

Well, life kicked in and I didn't quite get round to all of that. In fact, only last night there I was sitting at home with the television on in the background, playing a random game on my mobile phone. I must have spent a good hour mucking about with that thing. And before I knew it, it was bedtime. As I started preparing for bed, I was (metaphorically speaking) kicking myself. It doesn't take a lot to distract me sometimes. But, hey, that's life. I had some very good periods during the detox. And in life in general, there will be the good days, there will be the grand days, and there will be the days I play a not-very-good game on my mobile phone. On balance, I think I can live with that.

Wednesday, 8 April 2009

Ground for Freaks

One book that had been on my to-read list for some time was 'Freakanomics' by Levitt & Dubner. It's an interesting take on how certain economic principles can be applied to understanding what's really happening under the surface of everyday life. The writers pose questions such as: "What do estate agents and the Ku Klux Klan have in common?" and "Why do drug dealers live with their mothers?". The book raises some interesting arguments, some perhaps more credible than others. There's always going to be a case for querying this on a "lies, damn lies and statistics" basis.

Anyway, the edition of the book I read included bonus material of published since the book was first released. The one that grabbed me in the context of this blog, and slightly away from the overall tone of the book, was all about self-experimentation. In a nutshell, a guy called Seth Roberts decided one day to turn personal problems into research subjects. Over 25 years, he poked and prodded, measured and recorded his way to being 160 lbs lighter with better skin. This period had seen him apply trial and error to everything from scientifically proven process to crank idea, looking for what worked best for him.

I'll let you delve into the book to find out what he discovered but it made me think about my faddish nature. At least, that's what some of my friends view me as having anyway. I'll try out a new thing, get bored and then move onto the next big thing. I guess if I had some sort of end expectation or goal in mind maybe my version of 'self-experimentation', for want of a better phrase, aimed at creating a 'better me' would create something concrete. Or maybe the experimentation is the end game from the start. Dunno. Just a few thoughts.

And as I continue to meander through this stream of consciousness, it also reminded me of the film 'Groundhog Day', where Bill Murray is trapped in a hell-on-earth of having to relive the exact same day, every day for eternity. There's a point in the film when he comes to terms with this reality and tries to work it in his favour. He meets a lady, tries a line, she bats him away. The next day, he meets the same lady, tries another line, she bats him away. And so this continues until one of the lines works and each day he builds upon it until... kaboom!...

There's a lot of random thinking in this blog today but 'Freak' and 'Ground' do give me some food for thought - who knows what can be achieved if you consciously focus on the little and often approach to life.

Friday, 3 April 2009

Father's day

A year ago today my father past away. We had an unconventional relationship, bordering on non-existent up until a year before his death. The whys and wherefores behind the 18-year gap between conversations weren't especially complex - simply human beings being human beings. I had my reasons, which when placed under the brightest of spotlights can be properly seen as excuses. Apportioning blame is always easy. Taking responsibility, less so. The breakdown in communication wasn't the fault of either of us in particular but, in reality, we were both at fault.

Reinitiating contact with him after all those years at the time didn't seem like a courageous act or a sudden awakening. It had been stirring for a little while but just found the trigger one day. It was like that scene out of 'Forrest Gump' where Forrest has been running across the United States, seemingly forever and for no particular reason. Along his journey hundreds of individuals join him, seeking guidance and inspiration from him. One day, Forrest suddenly stops running and says it's over. No reason, no warning, just that it was time to go home. Okay, this analogy is hardly 'The Illiad' but it works for me. One day, I just thought, "it's time".

So over the next year or so we spoke. We were separated by a generation, continents and very different views on the world but we were two grown-up men talking about grown-up stuff. I struggled to use the word "dad" and he struggled to avoid taking on the role of all-knowing father. But it worked for us. In his last few weeks, when it was still unclear as to how ill he was, we managed to make our peace. A lot of it was unspoken but the fact that our skating-round-the-edges conversations were happening at all was a major breakthrough.

A year ago I didn't entirely know how I was supposed to grieve. None of my siblings did either, as we all had varying degrees of detachment from him. Still, I didn't have a Mike and The Mechanics "Living Years" moment of not getting a chance to clear the air at all. It may not have been a perfect relationship but at least now, a year on, I'm not writing a angry piece (whether towards him or towards myself) and can wonder what might have been with a positive slant.

Thursday, 2 April 2009

Priorities

The great thing about this detox (or if you prefer, declutter) period is that it allows me to be less distracted by the slings and arrows of mindless TV living. Instead I get a chance to fall upon thoughts and ideas that I had previously looked at. I can be a bit of a hoarder - I blame my mother for that - and I'm a big fan of collecting newspaper and magazine cuttings. After sifting through a handful of articles warning of pending doom and gloom in the UK and US property markets (dated 2005, I'll have you know) I came across a piece talking about the search for balance in life. The article touched on a few well-oiled themes: inner peace, focus, values and so on. But what grabbed me was the part questioning how many of us truly know what our priorites, values and motivations are. We think we know, but how many of us have ever tried to articulate them? The piece then asks us to try and list them. Are these your real priorities, motivations etc or are they what you think they should be?


The killer test for priorities is for you to look at your chequebook or bank statement and your calendar or diary. Do these reflect what you have listed as your priorities? Our real priorities should ultimately show up in how we spend our time and our money. I suppose it's kind of obvious but I've never really thought in such straight-forward terms. If you want your priorities to be different to how they show up then there's a bit of an imbalance in the way you are living. It's quite easy to excuse away a lot with "I can't". Which is fine. Or "I would but...". It's your choice. But if you have five minutes to spare (and we all have five minutes to spare), it could be an interesting experiment. Give it a whirl. You might surprise yourself.

Wednesday, 1 April 2009

Meditation

"When the student is ready the teacher will appear". It's one of those phrases you hear from time to time which seems to provide a message without actually explaining itself in too much detail. For me, there are often "whys" and "hows" to ask in relation to such ideas. At the same time, sometimes you've just got to be aware of its reality and accept it.

Well, I'm a couple of days into my detox programme and I've been trying out some meditation. Generally speaking, I try to do 'meditative' things on a day-to-day basis anyway, somewhere on that road between "half hearted" and "token gesture". In other words, I haven't really got to grips with the thing for a long while. But this morning, after a decent bash at some meditation, out of the blue I remembered that on the lower shelf of my coffee table was a book sitting there simply entitled 'Meditation'. The book's been there for a good year and I kind of knew it was there without ever really acknowledging it. The first page I turned to when I opened the page was all about mindfulness. I think I've found my teacher...

Tuesday, 31 March 2009

Detox time

For the last four years or so I've undertaken a detox every six months. It's a way of righting some wrongs in my opinion. The term itself, "detox", comes in all shapes and sizes and guises. My one (or strictly speaking, one based on a Tony Robbins plan) removes from your diet meat, dairy, alcohol, caffeine, certain fats and artificial sugars; avoids combining proteins with carbohydrates; and ensures that a large percentage of each meal is 'water-based foods' (i.e. fruit or veg). On top of this, you've got to drink lots of water and do at least 15 minutes cardio six times over a ten-day period.


There must be thousands of detox plans out there, each one of them trying to add some value to you and trying to remove something less pleasant from you. For me, this one was the first I fell upon and has stuck ever since. It feels reasonably natural, where you eat actual food and remove some of life's stimulants and processed foods. Regardless of whichever approach you take, for me the detox period ultimately forces me to be a bit more conscious of what you're consuming - in simple terms, that's food and drink but for me it's more than that. I've tried to extend the principles of the detox period to focus more on my inner workings rather than just diet. It's a time when I seek to be a bit more aware of what I'm doing with myself, rather than the 24-7 autopilot that we're all very prone to. So this time round it's more meditation, less Facebook; more speaking to a financial adviser, less throwing money down the proverbial manhole; more writing, less TV for TV's sake; more spring cleaning, less dead New Year's resolutions; more quality time, less time flying right before my eyes. It's not a magic bullet to cure all ills or a way of putting me on the path to some golden pot. But it does help refocus me towards some of the more important things in life, while pushing me towards a few better habits. So hopefully my world over the next couple of weeks can inspire my writing as well.

Thursday, 26 March 2009

Hobbies

About a year ago, I was sitting at home watching something of no consequence on television when a friend rang me out of the blue. I say out of the blue because, although we had been friends for a couple of years, I don't think I had ever had a chat on the phone with her. The fact that she was a little bored and just fancied a natter with someone she hadn't seen for a while was beside the point - we had progressed. And ultimately the call had value for me.

In the course of the conversation she asked me what I did for hobbies. I paused. Well, I go to the gym. Mmm, that's a start but she didn't see it as something someone did as a passion, as such. More a health angle. I didn't 100% agree with the assumption but accepted it enough in my case as I've often just been a functional gym person. Get in, get out. Okay, what else? I like to hang out with people. Again, that didn't do much for her - "we all do that", was the sense of her response. I paused again. Somehow I'd managed to fill my non-working waking ours with "stuff". A 30-something year-old man with no dependents, not too onerous work hours and a degree of disposable income, and the best that I could finally offer up was "I watch a bit of television"...

It's not a judgement call on how people use their spare time and I was never going to be the wakeboarding, sailing, hiking individual that this friend of mine was. But in my head I'd always thought of myself as a hobby kind of guy. There are lots of things I reckon I'd be good at and would enjoy. Then I realised that it had often taken me so long to initiate with gusto any of my grand plans that I had been too often left floundering directionless at the start line. Anyway, that conversation gnawed away in my subconscious for a few months until I fell upon a flyer for a kung fu class. Trying out kung fu had been on my mind for a good 3-4 years prior and it became very clear that it was an "if not now, when?" moment. Fast forward to now, and I'm still doing the classes 2-3 times a week. I'll talk about the kung fu itself at another juncture as it has given me some interesting insights. But at least now I can walk a bit more of my wishlist talk. I do believe I can properly call it a hobby.

Monday, 23 March 2009

Respect

No one belted it out better than Aretha: “R.E.S.P.E.C.T. Find out what it means to me.” In a media world of war, prejudice, hatred and discourtesy, it’s a wonder that we human beings ever get along. But in the main we do. Sure, there are places in the world that can argue the case for everyday animosity, sometimes entrenched. And for the rest of us there are arguments, disagreements, differences of opinion, and so on. But deep down, the vast majority of us are able to discard our differences and embrace a greater good in our own uncertain environments. At least that’s what I believe.

If I ever got to run a newspaper I would hope to be able to call it “The Good News” – a voice that speaks of respect still thriving in this funny old world of ours. Not always, not in every state. But it does, or at least it can, in most places. It can if we take a bit more responsibility as to how we impact the lives of others. So if you’re having one of those days, one of those rages against the world and the people aimlessly in it, take a step back and think whether it's adding or subtracting from us all. Or as another vintage soul singer once sang: “Try a little tenderness".

Thursday, 19 March 2009

Natasha Richardson

Even if we've never even met them (and that's most often the case), it's always quite sad to see the passing of a celebrity in the prime of their life. It's not that their life is worth any more than the next person's or that they've necessarily left a mark on human civilisation for generations to come, but sometimes, somehow we feel that we kind of know them. Maybe we felt some emotional connection with them when at the peak of their power in whatever field they may have found success. Maybe the world of Hello! and OK! has given us an excuse to feel that we can actually relate to these individuals from music stage, screen or sports field. Regardless, such occasions do give us a moment to pause for thought and think about them, though a fair few notches below people you actually have a real-world connection with.

I'm saying all this following the sudden death of Natasha Richardson, the actress wife of Liam Neeson. The "gone too soon"-ness of it all is obviously sad. A young, attractive, talented, mother-of-two disappears due to a freak skiing accident. This sort of thing can happen to anyone and celebrities are not above the laws of nature. But what also struck me was an interesting comment she made back in 2003 following a motorcycle accident that her husband had had in 2000. She said that his serious injury had made her appreciate life more: "I wake up every morning feeling lucky — which is driven by fear, no doubt, since I know it could all go away." So very true. I hope that at least one or two of us can take something from that thought. Thankyou and God bless, Natasha.

Monday, 16 March 2009

Ups and downs

From time to time I'll refer to the yin and yang of everything. Good follows bad follows good. The important thing is how we deal with both the bad and the good. I've noticed this on a personal level over the last week as I've been pretty hard on myself, pretty hard on the world and very unfocused. When I'm in the zone I'm like a purring, high-octane, finely tuned machinery. When I'm not, I'm crap personified. Of late, I've been the latter. Well, now that I'm once again conscious of all the above I can "make that change", as Michael Jackson once sung. Mmm, now he's an interesting one to write about but that's for another time.

Tuesday, 10 March 2009

Moving and moving on

I moved into my current flat about a year ago. It's not anything fancy. A decent-sized lounge, a master bedroom which backs onto a poor relation of another bedroom, a kitchen that isn't really designed for doing much cooking in, and an uninspiring view of another apartment block out of the window. But it's home for now, which is fine by me.

But I was thinking recently that I've moved around a fair bit in the last eight years or so, for one reason or another, collecting all sorts of stuff along the way. And every time I've moved I've done a bit of preening usually on a cosmetic enough level to make sure everything fits in. Well, the other day I was browsing through some boxes that I'd had in storage from the year that I lived in the US. I went through the boxes item by item. My conclusion? What a load of rubbish! It's not that I had collected crap along the way, per se, but it was more the fact that some of the stuff had been stored away over six years ago and had in essence lost some of its charm or worth. Imagine hiding away your favourite camera six years ago and then digging it up now. Use it or lose it in some ways. But it wasn't so much the technology dating in this instance. It was more the fact that I'd moved on on so many levels. It's not always easy to gauge personal development over a time period but in this case I felt I had - time and tide wasn't going to wait around for anyone's bits and bobs of six years ago.

I don't like Mondays (sometimes)...

Well, I had such high expectations based on my thinking on Friday's blog. The idea that we can all easily manage the period between our wakening ups and falling to sleeps worked fine in weekend thinking. Then came Monday again. It was another one of those days that I got out of the wrong side of bed, which in my case probably means getting stuck between the left hand side of the bed and the wall. Yep, it was one of those days where the non-descript rain was wetter than usual, the standard Monday TV fare were worse than usual, my usual journey into work was less inspiring than ever, and all in all everything could do no right. Well, Monday rolled into Tuesday and all was right with the world again. All in all, it's good to remember that we're all human after all.

Thursday, 5 March 2009

TGIF and some

This morning my alarm clock radio kicked in with a bit of Neil Sedeka crooning away, with my eyes taking very little time to adjust to the new day and before I knew it I was simply bouncing out of my slumber. The grey cloud that had seemed to hover over my bed and which had followed me to the bathroom for much of the week had somehow disappeared. And out of nowhere I found an extra spring in my step. Yep, I've got that Friday feeling again. Let's face it, we all know that Friday has no more and no less seconds, minutes and hours to its bow than any other day. The air is no fresher and there's no guarantee, as far as I'm aware, of any extra sunshine. But what it does represent is a doorway to possibilities of the coming few days and that gives us that extra bit of a kick. I am truly thankful that I'm able to at least be in a position to get that extra push simply from a day in the week - let's face it, I'm a living, breathing bundle of fun with something to hope for. Still, my goal somewhere down the line is to be able to celebrate every day the same - when TGIF may as well be TGIM. That's really what I should be shooting for. A more balanced existence.

Monday, 2 March 2009

Speaking in public

As I've said in the past public speaking would never be my chosen 'specialist subject'. But today I went on a skills course focused on this area and was amazed that I'm not so bad after all. Breaks included, the dozen or so attendees were engaged in the mechanics of presentations and public speaking for nigh on 9 hours. I learned quite a lot over the day, such as techniques on how to relax and how to focus, and not least the fact that even after minimal practice my legs don't actually have to turn into strawberry jelly when I'm standing in front of people, nor does my voice have to climb up two extra octaves. The fact that we were all active participants proved to be key. I left the whole event warm and fuzzy, knowing that I'd added some value to my Monday and had engaged in something that had filled me with dread the minute I'd rocked up this morning. I'm glad that I pushed myself a little. Big gold star.

Thursday, 26 February 2009

The charm of children

There is something endearingly grounding about little children and the way they look at the world and express themselves. It’s something that us grown ups need to remember once in a while. Only recently I made a trek to foreign shores to catch up with my two American-lilted nieces, aged 2 and 3. This was the third time we had met, this time in their time zone, and after mere fleeting moments in the past, this time we had a full six days to get to know each other. And get to know each other we did. We played, we chatted, we watched fuzzy elephants speaking in strange voices on TV, we read bedtime stories that were over in minutes. I bought them the “Wall-E” DVD and all manner of brightly coloured clothes and chattels for little people.

And every one of us will quite happily swear to you that their nephew or niece is the cutest little thing that you ever did see. But this time it’s true. They are the cutest little things that I ever did see. Anyhow, one day, as I was chewing the fat with their mother, the older of the two piped up out of the blue. “You know that I love you, uncle.” She didn’t even look up, merely continued stroking her blue bear. This was enough to bring a smile to my face. You see, it was such an uncomplicated connection. So innocent. And yet so simple.

Monday, 23 February 2009

It's Oscar time again...

Let's be honest, the 81st Annual Academy Awards ceremony is not going to bring about peace in the Middle East, discover the cure for ebola or save a near-extinct species. It's fluff. High-profile, exquisitely-choregraphered, back-slapping, lavishly put-together fluff. Okay, that's a bit unfair, as I quite like it all - and there's nothing wrong with a bit of sequin here and tiara there, in my view. But it is what it is. Still, I quite liked the comments of the divine Penelope Cruz at the ceremony when she said that film was an artform that brings us together. It may not be a religious experience or anything like that but there's some validity in that. And anyway sometimes you just need to indulge in a bit of "honouring your own". After all, it's a celebration of the finest (or one view of the finest).

Sure, there's a lot of nonsense going on in the world out there but every once in a while it's nice to be able to celebrate something that has given a good many of us a few avenues of escapism over the last twelve months. And even if it doesn't change the course of human history, you can't help but get a warm fuzzy feeling from a film like 'Wall-E'.

Thursday, 19 February 2009

Little and often

As concepts go “little and often” is one I kind of like. It’s bite sized, easy to spell and is exactly what it is. Loads of people have grand designs to be this or to do that. Hell, I’m one of the billions afflicted with the human conditions of wishing and wanting. But what the phrase does for me is it gives me a workable roadmap that isn’t couched in some crazily scary grandiose framework. Yep, I could have a good old fashioned plan with a structured approach to meeting specific targets along the way. But all that kind of stuff scares me. It makes sense but sounds a little bit rigid for my disposition. All you’ve got to do is work towards whatever you want to work towards in a piecemeal bit by bit fashion. Evolution not revolution. Not scary at all really.

Saturday, 14 February 2009

Valentines? Love actually...

Is Valentine’s Day just another over-hyped excuse for commercial exploitation? Kind of yes, and kind of no. Of course, the Hallmark brand of love and kisses can be about as digestible as a pint of sugar. The teddies, the heart-shaped pancakes, the double-the-price-for-the-privilege dinner menus. All a little excessive, perhaps. But let's not lose sight of the bigger picture. Deep down, underneath all the noise and the schmultz, this day really is all about affection and thinking about loved ones. There’s nothing wrong with encouraging something a bit positive in the world. As a certain film tells us “Love, actually, IS all around us”. Let’s at least try to celebrate a bit of it.

Thursday, 12 February 2009

Keeping a diary

Diaries – nasty things sometimes. Spewing up your deepest darkest fears, hates and despairs; and as much bile that single-lined A4 can contain. I’ve looked back through some of the stuff I wrote back in the day and, Jeez, what a difference a fair few years make. Okay, I may have been an angst-ridden teenager or directionless student but there was a lot of strange thinking in those days. But it’s brilliant now being able to look and laugh at all that stuff. Absolutely brilliant.

Then there are the “must do, must, must do” lists I put together as a “grown up” to shape my world, sometimes ambitious, sometimes pithy. Either way, it was all about making myself a “better person”. Well, I’ve managed to dig up some of these lists as well from the early part of the decade and it’s kind of reassuring that I’m still talking about some of the same kind of nonsense. Getting fluent in Ecuadorian Spanish, developing multi-billion dollar streams of passive income, taking up Kung Fu – you know the score. Well, the way I see it, I’m still doing the rounds on this. Which is cool. Some will come to something and some to come to nothing. But I've got something to shoot for. I’m still in the game. And I’ll keep writing my lists.