Monday, 11 July 2016

Life Lessons - Desert Island Discs

Keith Richards, Hugh Bonneville, Lily Allen, Alex Crawford and Berry Gordy have been keeping me company lately. On long car journeys to visit clients or when I’m working from home. Mainly after a long day whilst I’m soaking in the bath, face mask on, eyes closed. 
45 minutes of music and conversation on the BBC iPlayer with people who really have something to say. Or perhaps it’s not that they have something to say, it’s just that they are worth listening to.

Desert Island Discs has been around forever, since 1942 to be exact but until recently I’d never paid attention. Now I find myself addicted. I need my fix at least twice weekly, more if I make the time. Time to listen. Time to quieten the noise of my brain and really focus on just one thing.

The conversations inspire me. They are full of answers to questions I didn't know were puzzling me. I have a lot of Eureka moments when I listen. My approach is to look at the names on the list and choose someone I’ve never heard of, or type a first name into the search box and see who appears. ’Alice’ brought me the joy of listening to Alice Walker talk about activism and writing The Colour Purple, a book that I love. 'John' uncovered John Timpson talking of the challenges of fostering children, being swindled in a family business and second chances. Noel Gallagher talks of a fast rise to fame, sibling rivalry and cleaning up his act for his missus. Architect Zaha Hadid is an interesting listen, awkward at times but incredibly frank and honest. Inga Beale, CEO of Lloyds Bank talks of building strong teams, when to walk away, and risk. Yinka Shonibare, Lemn Sissay and Ray Winstone moved me to tears.

There’s magic in these recordings.  I feel the need to share because they are full of wisdom, and experience and considered thought, compassion and honesty. If you've watched the news lately it feels like the world is drowning in a sea of hate, violence, financial ruin and political chaos. There's little mention of hope. Hope doesn't make the headlines. 

The problems we face as individuals, in personal relationships, in business and as families are nothing new. The back catalogue of desert island interviews is testament to that and also to the strengths of humanity. It fills me with hope.

Tune in, really listen and see what you discover. 

(Thanks to K and N for suggesting I give Desert Island Discs a second chance, initially the theme tune put me off. Sacrilege I know, it's a classic but well, I've still to appreciate it's melody.)

*Image by Roman Craft via Unsplash.

Thursday, 9 April 2015

A Tribute to Life

Climbing the hill to the top where the grand Duke sits on his stone horse and looks out over this beautiful city the note caught my eye. A card lying on the ground, its curled corners waving at me in the lush green grass. I lifted it and turned it over to read ‘Lily Rose, you are forever in our thoughts and hearts. Always xxx’ and glanced up to see a bunch of flowers tied to the branch of a tree. I placed the card with the flowers and stepped away feeling sad, it was impossible to tell if the ink was stained by rain or a sea of tears. 

The park is awash with emotions, declarations of love, pride, heartache, affection. Benches with unusual engravings ‘In loving memory of Harry, a nosey git who loved to sit here and watch the world go by’ or on plaques under trees for ‘My One True Love’.

These public declarations are part of the joy of park life. My imagination goes into overdrive as I wonder who these people were. I sit on the benches and create fictitious and heroic stories of their lives. I think about Lily Rose and Harry's relationship with the person who chose the words for the plaque. I wonder in life if they knew how loved they were?

Some people don’t ever say the L word. There are whole generations of families and friends who never say 'I love you.'  Instead they buy presents, they cook favourite dinners, or if they’re Scottish it’s likely that they say goodbye with the words ‘take care’….. then stand in the rain on the doorstep waving until the visitors car disappears into the night.

Maybe for them the words aren't needed? Maybe the point is it’s a knowing thing. A feeling. A mutual understanding. It’s personal, it’s up to you if you keep your emotions deep inside or share them out loud, as long as the people that matter know how important they are to you. Are you confident they know?

It’s not all about love, sometimes the sentiment is closer to like or admire or respect. People who share our lives, who plant ideas in our heads, who encourage us to dare to be, who challenge our thinking, who inspire us or who simply make us laugh. How often do we actually tell them how much we value their time, contribution, words and support? 

Once someone has gone, departed this life, you can buy a bench, a plaque, a tree if it brings you comfort, if it helps you grieve. I understand that completely. But surely it’s worth opening your heart and telling people how much they mean to you when you can still see the smile on their face and hear the joy in their voice? Do it whilst you can still put your arms around them and squeeze tight.

Tribute acts can be good, but they’re a poor substitute for the real deal.

Comments welcome.

(Images from istock.)

Sunday, 11 January 2015

Until Next Time

We’d agreed on drive-by goodbyes. The kind limited by parking restrictions where the passenger is left on the kerb with a case, a kiss and a heavy heart. Much less painful than the drawn out farewells in airport cafes or at security gates. It’s not really goodbye, it’s just ‘until next time’ ….whenever that may be…..but it hurts just the same. 

The aching in your heart that spreads to form a lump in your throat that ends in a waterfall of tears and an embrace so tight it’s hard to let go. It is so hard to let go.

Time is very precious. Invest yours wisely.
Spend it with the people you love, doing what makes you happy.

Please don’t wait because sometimes tomorrow doesn't come.

Monday, 24 February 2014

Difficult Conversations - Finding The Courage To Open Up

Whilst researching a work project I came across this TED Talk by Ash Beckham and I really wanted to share it because it is possibly the best talk I've ever seen. Ever. Ash talks about facing her fears and finding the courage to live the life she wants to live, not the life that she was expected to live. 

I'd never heard of Ash before but her message struck a chord with me and I think it applies to the majority of people I know. No-one likes to be vulnerable and at some point in life we've all worn a mask, hidden our true feelings, avoided saying what we really feel in order to fit in, to be accepted or do what was expected of us. 

There's a scene in the film 'Meet Joe Black' where Quince and Joe are having a conversation about love. Joe asks 'How do you know she loves you?' and Quince replies 'because she knows the worst thing about me, and it's okay.' In my experience the 'worst thing', the big secret, the thing you are most scared of sharing with others is much less scary when you've put it out there. Sometimes, it turns out to be the thing they love about you the most. It's not easy being brave but if you are 'stuck' living a life that makes you unhappy then there really is only one choice. 

You'll find @AshBeckham on twitter and if her talk helped you in some way then please do share it. You'll find more inspiring talks on a wide variety of subjects on TED. Some of my personal favourites are here

Tuesday, 2 July 2013

Lessons in Love

I've been in my element this last week watching a series of programmes on Channel 4 about people looking for love. A fly on the wall documentary, filmed in a restaurant where singletons meet potential suitors for the first time. Particular favourites were 62 year old glamour puss Lynda, whose party piece was doing the splits. She was widowed and searching for a new partner in crime. Then there was the confident 22 year old Londoner who confused himself with JayZ and tried to impress by rapping through most of dinner. A stark contrast to the guy who’s hands shook as he presented his date with a box of chocolates. Some had no clue how to impress; others were hitting it off and having a rare old time. All were open to opportunity and putting themselves forward to at least give it a go.

If you've been following this blog since the very beginning you’ll know that I once ran a dating agency and that I go weak at the knees for a bit of old fashioned romance. This could be the result of reading Rapunzel and Cinderella stories as a child, or my teenage years spent watching Dirty Dancing and longing for someone to say ‘Nobody puts Baby Annie in the corner’. Whatever the reason I just can’t help myself when it comes to affairs of the heart and it seems I'm not alone.

On the tube home the other day a guy was attempting to chat up a girl, and from her body language the attraction was mutual. The 50 something year old man seated beside me winked and said ‘I hope he gets her number.’ The whole carriage tuned in and we were all fighting the temptation to shout ‘Just Ask Her Out’!!!! Everyone loves a bit of romance.

I'm no relationship expert but I think there are lessons for us all to learn in love regardless of our situation. The singletons, the happily married, those who stay with a partner because they are scared of being alone, the ones who want to fix things but can’t find the words to make that happen, the lonely, the stubborn, the dreamers.

The lessons in love are there for all to see if you look closely enough. The parts of the stories I, we, choose to ignore are the blatantly obvious ‘in your face’ realities. I mean can you imagine how painful it must have been for poor Rapunzel’s head whilst that bloke climbed up her ponytail into the tower? Or how nervous Cinderella must have been prancing around in a pair of slippers that were made from glass? Ouch!

If Rapunzel had a voice she’d tell you straight that love can give you a headache but sometimes it's worth buying extra strength conditioner for your hair. Cinderella would show you the blisters she bears from dressing to impress her beau whilst telling you there’s nothing better than shiny new shoes.

Compromise isn't sexy but if you want love to last it seems to be part of the deal. In order to find love in the first place you've got to be willing to give it a go, so next time you're on the subway take your headphones off, put down that paper and have a good look around. You just never know .....

Saturday, 11 May 2013

Too Old

More and more I find myself saying the words ‘I’m too old for that’ to which people reply with a list of reasons why I’m not old. I know I’m not old. If I get hit by a bus tomorrow and die people will say, ‘It’s terrible. She was only 37’. So let me explain what I mean and why at this stage in my life, being too old is something worth celebrating.

Yesterday, in a cold and rainy Glasgow, whilst queuing in a shop, I found myself looking at a young woman’s bottom. I prefer big strapping men with hairy chests so this was quite unusual, but it was hard to miss. As I placed my shopping basket on the floor my eyes were in line with her tiny shorts, where her peachy cheeks were on display for all to see. She looked great but I'm so happy that I'm too old to dress like that. My days of literally freezing my ass off in the name of fashion, and the self-consciousness that goes with it, are long gone.

I'm so happy that I'm too old to fancy boys in low slung, waddle walking jeans, with One Direction haircuts. My youth was spent fantasising about Michael Hutchence and Jim Morrison, and let’s not put the cat amongst the pigeons, with those double denim hunks from Bros. 

I'm so happy that I'm too old to go clubbing. My days of batting my eyelashes at the bouncer to try and jump the queue, paying a tenner to get in, and fighting for room on the dance floor are over. Nowadays I do my dancing at gigs, house parties and weddings.

I'm so happy that I'm too old to not be taken seriously because I'm ‘only young’!

Being too old is brilliant because it means that I have worn the mini-skirts, had the bad perm and found out the hard way that drinking Sambuca shots was not a clever idea. I've had my heart broken by a bad boy and know real love isn't like that. Being too old means I don't put up with any nonsense, I've stood up to the pushy people, and found my voice to say No when I was expected to say Yes. I've learned who my real friends are and stuck to them like glue. Some of these experiences were exciting adventures, others big mistakes or huge disappointments but I don't regret any of them. Most were great fun!

So perhaps I need to change my expression from ‘ I'm too old’ to ‘I don’t want to do that any more'.

Now, if you’ll excuse me I'm going out tonight and need to try on every outfit in my wardrobe, faff around for half an hour and then decide to wear the first thing I tried on. I might be too old for hot pants but some things never change …..

image via

Sunday, 28 April 2013

Love at First Sight

This is just beautiful. Take seven minutes out of your life to watch this little film, I guarantee it will make you smile and might even give you some hope!
(If only people's emotions were so obvious as to be sticking out of their chest!)