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.

Tuesday, 10 February 2009

When will I be famous?

Those boys at Bros put it so well. Growing up on the mean streets of South London, I always wondered where I’d end up in life. Would I become someone or be a no-one? Would I get my moment in the sun, find my face splayed across the front cover of some daily tabloid red-top on the arm of a bunny girl or just be another face in the crowd. We've possibly all had that dream at some point of being rich and famous and celebrated and.... And what's the point here? There’s nothing wrong in dreaming about a “better” tomorrow as long as you’re living a bit in the right here, right now. Ok, we’re all conditioned to strive towards something – a good job, a brand spanking new bike, that knight in shining armour. But what if you get it? Will that make you happy? Not necessarily. So, when will I be famous? Don't know. Sometime if it’s meant to be. Sometimes it’s just going to take a little longer than you hoped. But in the meantime, there's a whole lot of living to be doing right now.

Saturday, 7 February 2009

I want to be a pilot when I grow up

Well, we all have the dreams when we're young - to be this or that, to own something or other. But I started thinking about "being a pilot". Okay, I'm stretching this whole thing a tad to make a point, so bear with me. In actual fact,what I'm really getting at is how much of us live our life in "autopilot". And the thing about living in autopilot is that some of it works for us. Getting up at a certain time, brushing our teeth, having a shower, and basically doing things in a certain sequence without even having to think about it. It's how we tick, how we move to our groove.

But what about those other times? Those times that we've conditioned ourselves to act and react in specific ways in certain situations, which don't work for us, which we don't actually like? Well, it's all about being aware and taking control - aware of what's going on, how we are reacting and being able to take control of our responses. Yes, yes, yes, it's easier said then done. But it's about giving it a try and a little bit of practice. Okay, a lot of practice. But before you know it you'll be doing it in autopilot.