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.