Monthly Archives: July 2018

The Joys of Breaking Down Personal Barriers

For me life has truly been a journey and only one that I’m, only now, starting to see clearly. Still with self imposed barriers that I need to overcome, and do, and still angry that they’re there in the first place. Defence mechanisms for things I no longer need to defend myself against. Yet they persist hence, I believe, the drive to continue, despite the advancing years. Not that I don’t sometimes think “To hell with it all” until I remember that breaking down barriers can take you to places that you’ve long dreamt of or never even envisaged. The latter particularly satisfying. So it appears to be with me, now, with finally getting to grips with writing that novel.

To do this I’ve had to overcome some sort of internal hurdle that prevented me from combining my imaginative streak with my ability with words. Every time I tried, the ideas dried up so the novel became a short story and one that I couldn’t develop any further no matter how hard I tried.

Well, I’ve persevered and finally the words and the ideas seem to be coming together. Hesitatingly and in spurts at first but, gradually, getting into that rhythm that I recognise in my nonfiction. Furthermore I think I may have found a use for that short story. Interestingly, it’s not the beginning of anything but may well be the end of the novel.

So here’s to all those people who’ve always believed in me when I didn’t do myself. It looks like I may finally be joining you and that feels good!


As any of my friends will tell you, I’m fascinated by what makes each of us what we are and, by inference, what we are likely to become. Given my own transient early life and, subsequent, chequered career, that would seem to me to a perfectly reasonable stance. The fact that I have improved as I’ve got older and had some success at a late stage in my life, seems to me to be confirmation of what might have been in other circumstances. Perhaps that’s what drives me.

So, when I see others who seem not to be developing the potential that they have, I find that extremely frustrating. And, before we go any further, I’m of the belief that the vast majority of people have potential but often fail to realise it because “life gets in the way”, as it did for me for many years.

Now there’s a double bind in that set of circumstances, the first of which is personal and the second, social. The personal because of what any individual might have been and the second because the world would be a vastly different if all those who inhabit it did realise their potential. The Lowest Common Denominator society that I rail against would become a Highest Common Factor one and wouldn’t that be something. And please don’t tell me that this is a pipe dream as any reading of this country’s history shows that it needn’t be as does my own  direct experience.

The first of these could be said to have started with the Midlands Enlightenment, a period some 200 or more years ago, during which, through self improvement, working class people bettered themselves as never before. The second of these comes from a time when I was the Director of a charity which helped people who were homeless and/or unemployed, male and female, to build their own sustainable homes. Not only were all these amazingly successful but, according to one government minister, in doing so demonstrated the “extraordinary abilities of ordinary people”. Precisely.

In addition, in another remarkable project, a group of people with special needs, with other volunteers, built their own horticultural training centre. If you care to click onto the link you will see one of my books which features this project as its front cover.

So, the next time that someone says that the world can’t be the one you dream about, tell them to read their history, explain to them that the future hasn’t yet happened and ask them if they want a better world for their children. After all is everyone strived for the highest common factor, we might actually achieve it. And wouldn’t that be something?

Why Is It So Hard to Believe in Yourself?

For more years than I care to remember, I wanted to write a book; something which left me with a wee bit of a problem. You see, I didn’t believe that I could. Yes, I could draft a good fundraising letter that pressed all the right buttons in a coherent and imaginative way, but a book, that was a whole different ball game! Until, circumstances intervened in the form of needing to bring some more money in, I got down to it and started my autobiography.

As usual, for, I suspect, most of us who work from home, after 15 minutes, I decided that I needed a cup of coffee, so I got up and made myself one. Then I went back to the computer and kept going. Half an hour later, I remembered that I hadn’t done the washing up. So, I went back into the kitchen to do just that. The task completed, I went back to the computer and wrote some more. Another half an hour or so passed and I remembered that the some washing had to be put into the machine, so off I trotted and did it. Then I went back to the computer again.

Somehow this determination to keep going, despite the distractions that I was creating for myself, generated a sort of rhythm to the process and I found that the words started to appear on the screen without much thought. As a result, something started to flow and what I wanted to write appeared. Not only that but things that I never imagined, came out. So much so that I surprised myself on reading it back. At the end of that first week, I found that I’d written 20,000 words. OMG, I could write and write well. It was a revelation. Not only that but I had a writing style which I really enjoyed reading as, it turns out, do those who’ve read any of my books.

To have readers say, for example, that “Mike’s an incredible writer and this book is brilliant” or “This book is full of lessons for all generations and a thoroughly enjoyable read. Also, “I love the title and the style”. This latter from Jeremy Corbyn. And, finally, “I found it impossible to put this book down and would recommend it to anyone who has ever felt that they’ve lost their way in life”. Well, you can imagine how I might feel.

So, apart from patting myself on the back, why this blog? Well, the reason is that all my books to date are works of nonfiction and I’ve always wanted to write a novel. And here I find myself back, so to speak, at square one. This, fairly imaginative, person is finding that difficult. The ideas are there but the words don’t flow. Until, that is, I recently woke up at 3 am when all the words, painting all the right pictures, came into my head. So much so that I got up and wrote it all down in a notebook that my youngest daughter, Ellie, (also a writer) bought me. Task completed, I went back to bed. Some days later, I tried writing again and, again, it didn’t flow until I picked up the notebook a read what I’d written during those early hours. It was exactly what I wanted to say just as I wanted to say it.

So, now to try to break down the internal barriers and write that novel.


Keeping the Flag Flying

As you may have gathered from many of my previous blogs, I believe that the 1960’s was a golden age for people of my generation, ie those who were young at the time. And, just in case you should need reminding, we grew up during, probably, a unique period of social change. A time of optimism, hope, freedom, colour and the most amazing music. We were, indeed, the lucky generation.

In my case, that optimism and hope are kept alive within me despite the evidence to the contrary that I experience in my everyday life. You see, in my naivety, I never allowed for the re-emergence of the “Sod you, Jack” ideology that seems to be this current government’s default mechanism.  And, before you say anything, I would reiterate that “it really doesn’t have to be this way”. The future, after all, hasn’t yet happened.

So why am I writing this now, well partly because that attitude is something that I continue to rail against in words and some action but, also, because I was reminded of those times, if I ever needed to be, when watching a couple of documentaries last week. One on Eric Clapton and one about a train tour across America by a number of bands in 1970. The latter, especially,  reminded me of the fun of living through those times.

Well, I don’t know about anyone else but I will continue to do my, admittedly, small bit to keep the flag flying, largely through my books and my work with schools, for hope, optimism and a future where we offer the next generation something better than they have and the possibility of realising their dreams. Oh, and also some great music!