Monday, 26 September 2011

Happy Birthday

Birthdays are funny things. They are the one day in the year that you are the centre of the universe, or at least that's how it used to feel. There are the gifts and the well-wishers.

There are the celebratory dinners or parties arranged in your honour. It's all about you. And then it's gone and the baton moves on. But for that one day, everyone is thinking about you, wishing the best possible things for you. Well, at least when you're young.

Then it really did feel like you were special and were the centre of attention. We even had a fake cake at primary school specially rolled out to celebrate birthdays, with all your classmates surrounding you and belting out 'Happy Birthday To You'. Yes, you felt it was all about you.

But as you get older birthdays seem to take on new roles. You benchmark yourself - I should be married, with child, promoted, climbing the Eiger, by now. You start to see your mortality - I'll be retiring in X amount of years, "Haven't my nephew and nieces grown?", "The President is only how old?", "When I was 20 I could....". You fall further down the list of other people's priorities - "Don't worry about it. I know you're busy with the kids/work/your business/your own life."

As you get older it's also easy to forget that it is still something worthy of celebrating, even if there's no one around you to tell you as much. You've seen life move on another whole year, and whatever the trials and tribulations you've experienced during the previous 12 months, you're still here to tell the tale. You're still in the game.

So as I add another notch to my number, I realise all this thinking about what could have been, what I should have done, where I should be in life etc is all pointless and draining. Birthdays should all be about celebrating what's there to celebrate. Life as we know it. And that's what I'm going to do.

Sunday, 11 September 2011


So here we are. September 11th. More than just another date. As we hit the ten-year anniversary of that fateful day, so much has been written about the events - the victims, the perpetrators, the families left behind, the survivors, the bravery, the 'war on terror', the Holy War, the Big Apple, the Homeland security, the conspiracy theories, the rebuilding of Ground Zero, the rebuilding of lives, the world we now live in. A lot. And future generations will have a lot more to say about the day, whether they view it as showing that everything has changed or whether this just reflects part of our evolution and, fundamentally, everything has actually stayed the same. The one thing that continues to resonate for me is how we are all interconnected. 9 / 11 is one of those events that we can all relate to on the human level, whatever your religious or political leanings and however you choose to recall that day. Most people I know seem to recall where they were and what they were doing when events unfolded - this generation's JFK moment that binds us all. But it's also a marquee example of the fragility of life. Yes, these types of events are extraordinarily rare but any one of us could have been on one of the planes, near the Pentagon or in and around the Towers. We could have been working for one of the emergency services on that day, we could have been doing a tourist tour or could have simply popped out for a packet of cigarettes nearby. Or if not us directly, someone that we are close to could have been. And for "9 / 11" you can also read London, Bali, Madrid and Mumbai, to name but a few other similar incidences of human tragedy. We can all relate. Something that was there to divide us, has united us. Lessons have been and should continue to be learned about that day in September and other corresponding events. But let's not forget the lives of those no longer with us - the innocent victims of this whole big mess. And for those of us still here it's still our duty to make the most of the living, loving and learning all around us while we still have the opportunity.

Monday, 5 September 2011

We Are Family

Life. You get up in the morning, brush your teeth, go to work, come back home, go to bed. So it goes on. Doing a bit of this and doing a bit of that. And through no real fault of your own a year passes you by. Life can be like that. On occasion, you make things happen, but more often than not things just happen to you. And in the process of time whizzing by it’s easy to lose track of "things"; things of substance. And in my case that includes our family spread across three different continents. But this summer, thanks to a little bit of planning, a fistful of air miles and a readiness for jetlag I managed to catch up with virtually all of my immediate family – one mother, two sisters, a brother and 5 out of 6 of the nephews and nieces. Quite a challenge. Social media can be a wonderful thing in terms of staying in touch but it's still only a poor relative to the real thing. It was great - talking to a very chatty teen nephew and niece about the world, no longer espousing their vows of silence; attending my niece's pre-school ballet class; listening as my nephew spoke with conviction about religion and his career situation; talking to my siblings and mother about our respective lives; introducing my partner to my sister and her family for the first time. It's good to reconnect with parts of your existence that matter as it's too easy to get caught up in every distraction under the sun.Hopefully it will happen again sooner rather than later.

Friday, 2 September 2011


Over the last couple of years I've continued to get my daily dose of 'Thought For The Day' from those lovely people at Inner Space ( While I was rummaging through some old emails today, I fell upon one of them. It so beautifully captures how, in our own individual way, we choose to engage in this game called life:

"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?"