Monthly Archives: September 2017

Who Said that a Leopard Can’t Change its Spots?

It is no coincidence that I’m writing this blog as summer gives way to autumn heralding those dark, dank and dreary November evenings that I dislike so much. It is, for me, often a time for reflection. In my case of a life that is starting to become the one that I always wanted to it to be and that, I hope, will lead me on to greater things. Now how satisfying is that?

You see, I used to be a person who ploughed on with life whatever; an admirable course of action you might think. After all, what better response could there be to whatever life throws at you than to just carry on regardless? Indeed, there is still a part of me that, even today, responds to problems with, “Sod you, you won’t beat me” as I knuckle down and overcome them. It is nothing else if not satisfying when you come out the other side.

However, more so these days, there is also another side of me that kicks into place during these times and it’s the one where I consider what got me into this mess in the first place. It can be less exhilarating than the sheer bloody mindedness of the first approach; however, it can be more intellectually satisfying and, in the longer term, more rewarding. After all, knowing the reasons for your actions should mean that you don’t repeat the behaviour that led to your current circumstances. It can also mean that you are likely to be less judgmental of others and their role in your misfortune; something I have been prone to in the past.

Now, apart from the fact that the latter isn’t a particularly pleasant trait, at the time it can be quite satisfying. However, I’ve found that, as well as helping you to gloss over the real issues, it can bring its own problems. You see, no matter how hard you try, you are unlikely to change other peoples’ behavior. Consider, for example, how you feel when people keep telling you what you should do! However, what you can do is change yourself and your response and that is likely to be far more rewarding; as it has been more me. Indeed, I’ve found that the negativity that can be involved in blaming others can inhibit the positivity that comes from sorting yourself out. Even more, it is no coincidence that, by this means, I’m now doing many of those things that I always dreamt of and share my life with someone who is mutually supportive so that we help one another. Now how good is that?

So, the next time someone tells you that a leopard can’t change its spots, point out that those spots are only a camouflage and, as such, skin deep. The real leopard lives within and it probably has no idea that it’s spotted or why. Anyway, you’re not a leopard.

Only the Future can be Created

Chris Smith, one of my oldest friends, stayed over last week on his way back to Otley. Now Chris is slightly younger than I am with a similar childhood history. In his case he was adopted and, for most of his life, knew virtually nothing about his biological parents. He is, as I’m sure he won’t mind me saying, a great singer/songwriter and a multi instrumentalist with a smokey blues voice. He is also a self effacing person who can take on a different persona on stage; where he mutates into a public person that often involves a double breasted pinstripe suit, correspondent shoes, white hat and dark glasses. In that guise, he is more flamboyant than I am in my speaking personality, where I swap my jeans and tee shirt for a three piece tweed suit.

He also has a wealth of stories, especially about his early days in the music business which I keep telling him that he should write about. Among these was, when he was an arts student, setting up a stage for a very young David Bowie to perform, being in a band called “Smile” which, when Freddie Mercury joined, became quite famous as “Queen” and being told that the music company liked his songs but thought that this other new musician was the better option. That musician turned out to be Bruce Springsteen. Chris can remember listening his demo tape over the phone line and has been an aficionado ever since.

We talked, as we always do, putting the world to rights and, specifically, how difficult it was to see this new generation inheriting a world that is a much harder place than it was for us. We also talked about how we were fans of “Long Lost Family” and found it difficult not to cry when watching it. The following morning before he left, Chris gave me a copy of his latest CD, “Shoreline Gold” about his search for his birth mother and his family which is worth a listen. I, of course, gave him a copy of my latest book, “Lessons from a Chequered Life”. A day or so later, full of his usual enthusiasm for what others have done, he rang me to say how much he was enjoying reading it.

In many ways and in common with a great many others, our lives are tinged by what might have been. However, given that we both like to live in the here and now, they are also about what is and what we do about the cards that we’re dealt in life. After all, although it needs to be understood, the past is the past and it’s only the future that can be created.

What is the Measure of a Life?

Even today, much of the tabloid press would have you believe that Mrs Thatcher was a leader much loved by her party. Yet, it’s reported that she died in a hotel room without any of her family around, cared for by people who were being paid to do so. I would suggest that that isn’t a situation that most of us would choose for the end of our lives. At which point, the title of this blog becomes obvious as, probably, will my age.

You see, I’m at that stage where I do think more about what I’ll leave behind and, on that score, I still have much to do. After many years during which I was a little lost yet still managed to raise my first two children, I now live a more stable life; one in which there has been a level of achievement that I never expected. And you will note there, that I don’t write of a “sense” of achievement, although I can recognize that there has been some. Having recently passed the 28 year mark, I am now in a really meaningful relationship with Gaynor, whose companionship I very much value and enjoy, and have three children and grandchildren, now mostly now adult themselves and people who really matter to me. Much of this because I am more at ease with myself and, as a result, with others too. So, what, for me, has been the measure of that life?

Well, it is a realisation that it’s been much more fulfilling than I’d expected. One during which, nearer the end than the beginning, I’ve managed to realise some of my potential and in which the usual barriers of what I enjoy doing and do to earn a living hardly exist. Lastly, it’s one in which I feel valued. Now for the next stage!

Another Little Piece of Wonderland

As regular readers of this or my wife’s blogs will know, we spend weekends looking for things just off the beaten track. What I refer to as “little pieces of Wonderland”, often where you least expect them. We’re rarely unsuccessful in our endeavours with Gaynor, especially, having an eye for detail.

Well, a few months ago, we were looking at an old building just by St Giles’ Church in Central London. What stood out were its, 3 storey high, doors. Situated on the edge of London’s theatre land, it had obviously been designed for making scenery. As is our wont, we then followed an alleyway to one side of the building to see where it led to discover Phoenix Community Garden. This, within just 400 metres of the hustle and bustle of the junction of Tottenham Court Road, Charing Cross Road and Oxford and New Oxford Streets and, currently, the site of the major construction work that is Crossrail. There could hardly be more of a contrast, literally, “just off the beaten track”.

At the time, however, it was closed for renovation and we determined to return later in the year. Well, looking for somewhere to visit last weekend, we noticed that the garden had an open day along with the adjoining church. We weren’t disappointed, as you can see from the photographs on Gaynor’s website You could also look at the project’s own website

The project also has a new building which is available for hire. So, if you want somewhere in Central London as a beautiful venue or just to eat your sandwiches in peace and quiet, you could do worse than visit (and support) this “little piece of Wonderland”.