Monthly Archives: January 2018

Getting Used to Unknown Territory

Last week I wrote of the laws of unintended consequences; something I return to today. Well, life can, indeed, be full of such matters and like, I suspect, the rest of the population, I deal with them as and when they occur. Furthermore, I relish change and am actually very good at dealing with life’s vicissitudes, having had more than my fair share of them. Unfortunately, however, one of the ways that I did this has now come back to, somewhat, bite me on the bum. Critically, that way wasn’t an “add on” but was central to the way I managed my life. At which point, something by way of explanation might help.

You see, those uncertainties created in me a need to make certain those things which weren’t necessarily so. Indeed, I can remember arguing, almost, that black was white in pursuance of these. Rather silly examples have included a tendency to dislike some types of music until I actually listened to them more and found that I actually liked them. Van Morrison, a firm favourite, once came under this category; until, that is, I was given a copy of Astral Weeks! Friends of mine may well remember some of those occasions, especially after a few drinks when I would dig my heels in over something that I needed to feel right about. Acknowledging that I might be wrong didn’t come easily.

Well, thankfully, those days are well on their way out; with the result that I try to deal with things on their merits. I thinks it’s called growing up. However, one of the side effects of all this is having to deal with the considerable uncertainties of everyday life in a world that has more grays than the black and white that I used to reduce things to. Moreover to do this without creating an artificial certainty.

The outcome of all this is that I’m learning to deal with the sense of emotional discomfort that this creates in me. So right now, I’m in rather unknown territory. Fortunately, however, I have a map and a compass forged from a lifetime of experience. These will serve me in good stead while I try to deal with the landscape of greater contentment I now inhabit. Something that I hope will continue for a very long time.

The Benefits of Letting Go

Anyone who’s read anything that I’ve written in my blogs and my books, will know that I’ve spent  quite a lot of time sorting out my life; with, it has to be said, some success. So much so that I’m now a considerably less discontented and angry person and one who’s much more at ease with himself. I have to say that, not only does that feel good, but that it has allowed me to expend more of my energy into doing things that are even more constructive and rewarding.

In the past I’ve likened my life to one of those metal spinning tops that we played with as kids. By which I mean that an enormous amount of energy had to be expended just to keep it spinning and upright. If it was turned upside down and the spindle take out, it stood motionless and stable where it was, without any effort. Not, in my case, that I don’t still expend that effort, it’s just that it is no longer wasted on just getting through the days. As a consequence, I am now starting to achieve in specific areas of my life, writing being the best example. After all, even I can’t pretend that four books with others on the way, is nothing.

However, it’s in my personal life that there’s been an even more amazing difference. You see, in the past, I persuaded myself that I was in love. So much so that I thought I was when, really, I wasn’t. How do I know this? Well because my relationship now is so very different from those previous ones. Now I know it does me no credit to write this, but I don’t think I really knew some of those other people much at all. I tried hard to make them happy but under the circumstances that I determined. No wonder all those relationships failed. So, what has the difference been?

Well, for a start, I’ve learnt that I can’t really control what others do. More than that, if I do that, it’s quite likely to be counterproductive; as it is when others try to control me! It’s here that the law of unintended consequences comes into play. You see, I thought that that control would get me what I wanted. Yet I’ve found that giving up that control and being more accepting of others for what they are is far more productive, leading, as it often does, to the unexpected. Moreover, the result has been both beyond what this former control freak could ever have imagined and of a nature that he could never have envisaged.  The Pandora’s Box that has been opened as a result has, in my case, only been full of good things. Most of which have been a revelation to me. I don’t think I’ve ever felt more at ease and comfortable in a relationship and my wife’s response confirms the joys and benefits of letting go. Now at 28 years and counting, long may it continue.

How Will You Be Remembered?

Image may contain: 4 people, people smiling, people standing, suit and indoor One of the less pleasing aspects of getting older is that you get to go to more funerals than your younger self did. Well, Thursday was one of those days for me. Only this was one with a difference as it was for Rosemary, whose parents, my Aunt Doreen and Uncle Bill, themselves very special people, took me into their family when I was 9, about 18 months before Rose was born. So the irony is that the youngest out of the three of us, Mick, Rose and myself, and the one who never smoked or drank alcohol, died first, from cancer.

Now Rose was obviously special to her parents and Mick and me. She was also central to the life of her four boys, Alec, Neil, Sean and Jimmy; all now grown up, mostly with children of their own. Their mum was always there for them and gave them unconditional love, so it seems natural that that’s what they would do in response. Their love and respect for her was not just evident, it was palpable and beautiful to see. It reinforced your faith in human nature, something that is sorely needed in these trying times. This was manifested in the way this, not very tall woman, would look at these four men, who towered over her, when they were misbehaving. That look, given with much love, was complied with immediately. Furthermore, that love and respect was felt by everyone who met Rose, without exception.

Well, there’s now a hole in their lives which can, probably, never be filled completely. They will have to carry on, as they have done, passing those feelings and values onto their own families. Values that Rose, Mick and I got from Doreen and Bill. So, if you are judged by what you leave behind, Rose left riches beyond compare.

Rosemary Avery 27th January 1953 to 24 December 2017


Need a Double Lifetime

On my 40th birthday, I remember thinking that, from here on, it was all downhill; unless, of course, I did something about it. So, I did. That evening, I found a pair of shorts (they actually belonged to Jude, who I lived with), put on my pumps and an old tee shirt and off I went. I think I managed about 25 minutes or so through the local streets and around the Stray (in Harrogate). This continued most days with the distance that I ran gradually getting longer. That is until the nights drew in and it got cold and wet. At which point, going running in the dark after a day’s work seemed less of a good idea.

It was then that  Jude, who went to a local gym, suggested that I do so too. I think that, among the words that were used in the reply, were narcissistic and meatheads. Mind I didn’t have to look too far to see someone who might have tended towards the former of these characteristics. Still, nothing ventured, nothing gained so, off I went. To find, to my surprise that, although it had its fair share of people who were fitness freaks, many were like me; just wanting to get (and stay) fit. That was 36 years ago. Since then, many miles have been run (including two marathons) and much effort expended in pushing weights; a process that continues.

So, apart from self congratulation, what is the point of this blog? Well, to state the blindingly obvious, it’s that no one else can give you a long and healthy life. Indeed, even if you do stay fit, neither of these are guaranteed anyway. However, only you have the power to change things for yourself. No one else can do that for you. So, if you’re like me and getting older but, to quote a song by Loudon Wainwright, “Need a Double Lifetime”, give yourself the best of opportunities to have one. Besides, it does make you feel good!,


Make This the Day You Change

If anyone had told me that, when I got divorced in 1976, I’d be doing what I am now, I wouldn’t have believed them. Those sorts of things, I thought, weren’t for people like me. And, to ascertain the reasons for that perspective, you’d have to go back to 1947 when I was 5 and my mother died, my father left and I was fostered. Unfortunately, those dysfunctional childhood years created a template which caused me to live a somewhat transient life. So much so that, by the time I was 19, I’d moved six times with all my worldly possessions in a suitcase. Now, in case you’re thinking that this is just another hard luck story, I’d like to disabuse you of that notion. Rather it’s a story of what you can achieve, if you determine that you want, or need, to do something about your situation. To not, in fact, let your past be such a determinant of your future. Something I did in my 40’s.

Since those early years, I’ve been fostered (twice), signed into the army at 15 for 12 years,  married,  raised two children, left the forces to pursue a civilian career, worked in architectural practice, been divorced, a single parent, student, community activist, barman, cleaner, pizza chef, sacked and unemployed before joining the voluntary sector on a job creation scheme. I went on to rescue three charities from closure and turn them into successful organisations, for which I received national commendations.

To add to the picture, in my 50’s I ran the London marathon twice, have renovated five properties, had bouts of depression, a breakdown and many years of therapy. At the turn of the millennium, I again found myself unemployed and set up my own business. In my 60’s I started writing and five years ago became a motivational speaker. I now have four books published, another half way through and two more planned. As a result of therapy, I’m now happily married with a young daughter and, at an age when most of my peers have opted for cardigan and slippers, I’m on my sixth career and now live a life very different from the one I used to have. So there you have it, a life in 200 words.

So I think I can reasonably say that, whatever experience there is of life and work, I’ve probably had it. More importantly, I’m still around and planning to be active for some time yet. Perhaps that’s why one of my speaking colleagues dubbed me, “The Accidental Role Model”.

Which brings me to my point which is that I’m planning to run a number of courses on life and career change. If you’re interested, please just message me your mail address. You will then have taken that first step.