Monthly Archives: October 2018

Keep the Dream Alive

A good friend of mine once, rather kindly, said of me, “To Mike, age is just a number” and, until very recently it really was. So, despite the passing of the years, I still work, run, go to the gym, walk for miles around London at the weekend with my wife and generally do still do all those things that I’ve done for years while pushing myself into new areas of endeavour. My first novel, now underway, being one of them. I’m also more reconciled to the person that I am while, changing those aspects of my behaviour that I feel need changing and find all this both worthwhile and rewarding. Indeed, I think that I would argue that these things help me to remain fit and healthy in mind and body. However, I can’t deny a certain drive that makes me do all those things in the first place. Moreover, it’s a drive that doesn’t seem to go away. Perhaps I’m making up for those first 30 years, when life got in the way, by making sure that it doesn’t these.

Yet, I have to admit that the past few years have tested even my youthful dreams, forged in the 1960’s, in ways that I didn’t imagine that they would.  This has, of course, been compounded by the death of some of the iconic figures from that remarkable period; one characterised by enormous social change for the better, opportunity, hope, optimism, colour and some amazing music. Glorious, it was to be young and alive during those heady times.

Well, I may have been tested but, stubborn as I am, that doesn’t change my ideals or my desire to “keep on trucking on”. Something I intend to do for quite some time yet. So, when your ideaIs are put to the test, just redouble you efforts. If nothing else, it will keep the dream alive for those that follow.  After all, anything that shows up these nightmare times for what they are, needs to be celebrated. Even if it is just to show that there is another way. So, take that first small step towards changing your own life and, in doing so, have more of an impact on the wider world. If you do and I’m any example, I guarantee that you’ll never look back and your life will be much the better for it.

A Real Big Society

As I’ve described in my autobiography, “The Other Side of the Doors” (, I used to live what, to most people, would have seemed a normal life. I was married, had two children, a mortgage, a job and commuted to London every day. Yet I knew that a different life existed; I just couldn’t find the door into it. Well, as you might have gathered from the title of the book, I did. In my case, it was via a divorce, following which, with custody of my children, I moved to another part of the country to become a full time student. It was life changing. So much so that I started on a long road that led me to where I am now and not somewhere that I ever thought I’d be. On my sixth career as an author and speaker. So, apart from the self promotion, what’s this got to do with anything?

Well, it’s got to do with realising your talents and putting them to good use in a way that benefits both yourself and the wider community. Building, in fact, those “little pieces of Wonderland” that I write about (

Now, I’ve been lucky enough to have had the opportunity to do this for almost 40 years, mainly in sustainable development and self help projects. These latter, ones in which, those normally on the receiving end in our society, are given the opportunity to solve their own problems in the most practical of ways. That they were very successful was demonstrated by the comments of one government minister who, on visiting one of these projects, described it as “demonstrating the extraordinary abilities of ordinary people”. The minister shouldn’t have been surprised at that untapped talent and what, once realised, it was capable of.

Now, in this scheme, not only did people, who were homeless and unemployed, build their own homes but they also learned skills other than building. They learnt about organisation, management, budgets, planning, design and a whole host of other things. They also developed self confidence. So, the next time I write about “little pieces of Wonderland”, please consider that they don’t have to be just “pieces”. If more people were given the opportunities, those pieces could be joined up to become more of a whole. In this way, developing that, previously unrealised, talent makes for a better society. You might even call it a “Real Big Society” made up of more fulfilled people in a more sustainable land. Now wouldn’t that be something?

Common Purpose, Integrity and Style

Just coming down to earth after an exhilarating weekend. On Saturday I met up with, an estimated, 700,000 other people who’d decided to commit their day to travelling to central London to walk through the capital in a common pursuit; the purpose of which was, ultimately, to remain in the European Union. Peaceful, humorous and good natured, it was a demonstration of much of what I believe to be good about the culture of this country. In sharp contrast to the deceit, xenophobia, small mindedness and prejudice of the campaign of two years ago that created the need for us all to be there in the first place. What was also interesting was that we saw hardly any police officers, something surely unheard of in a demonstration of that size.

We left home at 10 am, popping off for my, NHS provided, flu jab, to meet up with family and friends who’d travelled many miles to get there. The NHS, of course, another example of what is good about this country. My wife and I got home at about 5.30pm to relax before setting off for an Eddie Reader gig in Hammersmith. As usual, she didn’t disappoint and, again, we spent nearly three hours in the company of like minded people in a common pursuit. This time to witness a wonderful singer and musicians who certainly know how to entertain with some style and integrity.

Now, I really like those two words as they describe qualities that I consider to be of some importance. Furthermore, they’re also words, like many others, that have greater impact in comparison with their opposites. In my dictionary, the latter is described as “soundness, uprightness and honesty” and the former, “notably superior in quality”. I leave you to consider those opposites and which you might prefer were best used in describing your common endeavour.

The Joy of Realising Untapped Talent

Having written and published four books of nonfiction (, I have now turned my attention to writing a novel; something that I’ve been promising myself that I would do for nearly 40 years.

More recently, this was given some impetus when a friend of mine, on reading my latest book, said “Mike’s an incredible writer and this is a beautiful book”.  It received even more impetus when I asked my wife to read the opening chapter of said novel “Conversations with my Mother”, for her to comment, “Mike, this is beautifully written”. You can’t imagine the pleasure that gave me. This, in turn, prompted me to return to other things that I’d started; one of which I’ve now turned into a short story. It’s called “Judgement Day” and will be submitted as a competition entry that I’ve found on the internet.

Now the really interesting thing about all this, is that, for years, I’d convinced myself that, although I was quite good with words, well, a book was, that would be at least, 50,000 of them. The problem with this was that I didn’t see how I could actually write that much and, if I did, who would want to read it? After all, it was only me.

Well, as I’ve often said, the breakthrough came when I decided that I really must do this and sat down in front of the computer to write the story of my life. Only this time, I stuck at it. So that, whenever I got up to make a cup of tea, I went back to the computer. Similarly when I wanted something to eat, to do the washing up, put the washing in the machine, feed the cat or whatever other distraction I could find, I forced myself to go back to the computer and carry on writing.

The outcome was that I got into a rhythm or, rather, the writing did. And that made all the difference. By the end of the week, I’d written 25,000 words and realised that I really could write. Not only that but I could write well. As if by magic, words came, unbidden, out of my head directly onto the screen. Even more, I loved what I wrote. The result was a book of 120,000 words followed by three more of about half that much each. All are now self published so I’m now an author and publisher. Who’d have thought that when I was an unemployed single parent on benefits all those years ago? So, why am I writing this now?

Well, firstly because of the sheer joy of realising a talent I never thought I had. Secondly because my youngest daughter seems to have inherited her father’s talent and, thirdly, to say that the only time that it’s too late is when they nail the coffin lid down. So, if you’re stopping yourself from doing something that you want to do, just go ahead and do it. After all, you have nothing to lose and everything to gain.

One last thought. Once those words are in print, they’re there forever. Now there’s an epitaph for you.



The Benefits of Sharing and Caring

Roots and Shoots (2) Oct 2018

The picture shows another of those “Little Pieces of Wonderland” that I often write about. Places that might  be described as “hidden within plain view”. Ones that can be defined by four conditions. The first is that you are likely to have walked past them n without realising that they’re there. The second is that their location might well be in the busiest of areas with which they are in some contrast. The third is that they are little oases and the fourth, that they are centres of community activity. One such is “Roots and Shoots”, just off the busy Kennington Road, 5 minutes from the, even busier, Waterloo Station in London. I’ll bet most travellers don’t even realise that it’s there. Indeed, to step over the threshold can seem like a step into another world. So, perhaps, a link to their website might be useful Set up as a registered charity in 1982, it’s still sustained by local voluntary effort.

So, why am I writing this blog? Well, partly because I’ve been lucky enough to have been involved with a number of these projects over the years and partly because they show what can be created from the starting point of “sharing and caring” instead of “Blow you, Jack, I’m OK”. The main difference being that one tends to be inclusive enabling people to contribute, often with talents that even they never realised that they had. Whereas the other tends to be exclusive and unrealising of talent. This latter not good for the individuals concerned or the country as a whole.

“Here endeth the lesson”, as my old headmaster used to say.

All I Had to Do Was Ask

Like many people, I find it extremely difficult to ask for help. Not that I don’t want to, it’s just that I can’t. Correction, that should read “couldn’t”. You see a few years ago, I did manage to ask Jeremy Nicholas, a good friend in the Professional Speaking Association, to find that, not only was it forthcoming, but that it was so with some joy that it was done. It was a first for me. Since then, although I still don’t find it easy, I make the effort and it is usually reciprocated. After all, as Alan Stevens, another fellow speaker once pointed out to me, “If you don’t ask, the answer is always “No””.

As a result, a few of us, in line with others in the profession, formed ourselves into a small Mastermind Group at which we would discuss problems we were experiencing in order to be able to support and advise one another. We meet every month, usually for the whole day. And it works.

Recently the topic of concern was the use of social media, specifically Linked In, to help us to publicise what we each do. It was an area in which we all felt that we weren’t using well enough, mainly due to lack of expertise in regard to the technology. At which point, we made use of a video by one of the PSA’s Linked In go to experts, Philip Calvert. It took three sessions to cover the subject and relate it back to our individual needs. Now what was interesting was how Linked In uses algorithms to consider any blogs that you upload to the site. I thought that it would be straightforward. After all, if you press the button that lets you upload to LinkedIn, you’d think that that was what would happen, wouldn’t you? Well, it seems not as I thought it would. Well, among Phil’s little gems was to show us how to get around the algorithms so that we could upload and publish what we’d written so that it would be seen.

So, I spent a couple of hours yesterday with the lovely Mike Blissett, one of my Mastermind buddies, and he helped me to reformat my Linked In pages. In the process, I delved into my archives and reposted an old blog using this, to me, newly discovered method. Well, not only did it work but this morning, when I went to my Linked In page to rewrite my profile (a work still in progress), there were my old blogs. Going back some years.

Job done and all I had to do was ask. Thanks, guys (and gals).