My Sunday Photo: How Low Can You Go?

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It’s amazing what fun can be had even from a carpark barrier! Who needs the fair?
Although we were at one at the time 🙂
Photalife

 

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Negotiating With An 8-Year-Old

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Ellie likes to play “Truth Or Dare” with me – and also Jake when he’s in the mood.

No, don’t look at me like that! It’s a child-friendly version, OK?! Although the ‘Truth’ options can be a little ’embarassing’ sometimes. It’s possible that I’ve had to be, shall we say, “economical with the truth” once or twice.

She’d chosen “Dare” on this occasion, and I think it’s fair to say that she wasn’t too happy with the outcome: “Wear a sign on your back that says “Kick Me” for the rest of the day”.

Negotiations ensued. I started using the word “Forfeit”. She began panicking. It’s amazing how competitive 8-year-olds can be! She eventually agreed to wear it, but just for the duration of the game.  For the sake of peace and a quiet(ish) life I agreed.

When Jake heard what was happening he immediately stopped what he was doing. This is a thing unheard of, as it usually involves a screen of some kind which seems to turn on a Star Trek grade tractor beam whenever he looks at it. No, he was very excited about this, and set about enthusiastically making the sign especially, just for his twin sister. What a loving, helpful boy he is!

By the way,  I coloured it in. Yes, thank you; I thought so too!

Probably as a result of Jake’s involvement, Ellie was having further doubts! She insisted on my also wearing the sign on my back, which she very helpfully made for me. By this time I’d given up, and just wanted to get on with the game.

Anyway I was winning! I can’t think where they get that competitive streak from….

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Something immediately struck me about her sign. She’d added “Please”! So polite!

I wore my sign. Did hers stay on for the rest of the game? Guess!

And the moral of the story? When you negotiate with an 8-year-old don’t expect the deal to stick, but at least when she breaks it you can expect her to be polite about it!

Shank You Very Much

 

Three

Please don’t go. Stay here with me. It’s not my fault, I’m only three. I’m only three!

Giving adult voice to the thoughts and feelings of a three-year-old who misses their parent, this song tears me up: in more ways than one. It hit me like a silken sledgehammer with all those feelings of loss, of separation, all the guilt and recrimination that go with it,  and the “what-if” / “what could I have done differently?” thoughts that torture and taunt.

How old were Jake and Ellie when our separation became formalised?

Three.

‘We’ had been living here in Wales in a good-sized family home we were renting while we tried to sell our old place in the Midlands.  I was splitting my time between there and the little temporary place we first moved into which is now my home. The twins were just starting pre-school and only for a few hours a week, so I was still spending a lot of my time looking after them there. It was a ‘trial separation’ in all but name; “need some time apart” I was told.

I’d found a great new home for us all, right next to their school, in a quiet cul-de-sac; with a good-sized garden, a communal green outside and with friends they could play with nearby. It was perfect for ‘us’. I’d stayed up all of Christmas Eve cleaning up the incredible mess that a family with 3-year-twins will inevitably make, and finalising the packing and moving. I then drove through the night to London to join the family with my in-laws for Christmas. I didn’t want to miss opening the presents around the tree! It’s such an important and joyous time for young children.

I did all this in the full expectation that this would be ‘our’ new family home, that we would all be moving in there together as a family. I was wrong. That’s when our separation started for real.

They all moved in and I stayed where I was. Separated.

My wife had gone back to work after her maternity leave while I carried on looking after the twins when they weren’t at school, so for financial reasons (I thought at the time) it was only her name on the title deed. I hadn’t stayed overnight there so I couldn’t claim any right of residence.

I would still come over for evenings, have dinner there & play with them until their bedtime: that’s when it it became – for want of a better word – ‘difficult’.

In my life I’ve experienced grief and pain. My favourite uncle died when I was a young boy; I was a pallbearer at his funeral. I had to take the day off school and I think I spent most of it crying. My Dad died in 2005; he’d lived to a good old age, and I’d seen him only a few months before, but it was still tough. I’ve had abscessed teeth (several times), I’ve woken up in the middle of the night after a knee operation when the anaesthetic had worn off in such pain that – as an agnostic – I prayed to die.

None of that compared to what I experienced here though. As it became time for me to go the twins would become distraught. They would plead for me to stay, shouting, screaming, crying uncontrollably. They did everything they possibly could with their little 3-year-old bodies to stop me leaving. They would grab a leg each and hang on as hard as they could, gripping me like limpets and refusing to let go. They would throw themselves between me and the door to try to stop me from leaving: all the while screaming, crying & shouting “DON’T GO DADDY! STAY HERE!”. They’d try distraction, delaying tactics, everything they could think of, to stop me from going.  And I didn’t want to go!!

But what could I do?! It wasn’t my house! They were no longer under my care!

It was, is, and I think always will be the most painful, distressing thing I’ve had to go through.

You say you love me, then you walk right out the door; I’m left here wanting more.

I was left high and dry and didn’t feel I had the means or resources to look after them as they needed any more. They would come over to my little place, and still do, but when it became time to leave it was the same distressing scenario all over again. This went on several days every week, for many months. Over the ensuing years it’s lessened but it’s still there. To be honest, I’ve lost track of time for it all now.

I only found out quite recently that they blamed me for all this. They thought that I had left them, when the opposite was true!  It’s only in the last year or so as they’ve grown mentally and emotionally that I’ve been able to explain to them what actually happened – that I didn’t leave, didn’t want to, it wasn’t my choice and that it was the last thing I wanted to do! They thought this about me, that Daddy had left them, betrayed them – for all this time! Awful!

They’re great kids, balanced, largely happy, smart, doing well at school and socially, etc. I still see a sadness in them however, a Dad-shaped emptiness, and I just can’t help feeling – despite the circumstances – that I’m to blame. All those “if only”s!

Looking back I can think of things I might have said and done differently that may have made a difference. Who knows? I can’t rewrite the past so I’ll never know. “Hindsight is always 20-20”! At the time I was so shocked, distressed, confused, struggling with my own personal circumstances and, yes, depressed that I couldn’t see any alternative.

They were only three.

They’re older now, but they’re still children: my children. All I can do is try to do the best that I can for them with what I have, and that’s what I’m doing.

DIY Daddy
Shank You Very Much

The Golden Girl

While the twins were at my place on Sunday Ellie decided to do her homework!

Its theme was ‘mythology’. She didn’t know what that meant so she asked me and I explained as best as I could.

King MidasShe then went onto google on my PC (under my supervision of course!) and came up with the story of King Midas. I showed her how to click on the link she wanted and before too long she had written 2 sides of an A4 page with the story of King Midas & his ‘golden touch’. It was in her own words too, and not just copied, showing that she had understood the story. I’m a proud Dad!

She needed some help with some of the pronunciation and spelling – I mean how the heck do you pronounce ‘Phrygia’ or ‘Dionyssus’ anyway? I don’t know! It’s all Greek to me!* –  but her comprehension and written account of the story was excellent

    * sorry, couldn’t resist

Yes, it does seems a little strange her choosing to do her homework during the limited time that she has with me. She does love spending time here with her Daddy – that’s what she tells me anyway – but I think I understand. We were still doing something together, which I was enjoying & I which I think she was too. She & Jake however often don’t enjoy the same things, and even when we do all do something together they more often than not compete with each other rather than play together cooperatively. I often find myself having to break up a fight. I imagine that’s not unusual for young boy-girl twins!

When they’re with me they each mostly just want to do something with me and so are competing for my attention. I only see them part of a day on a weekend and one evening after school so we all try to make the most of our time together. It isn’t easy!

Minecraft warriorAnd to be honest Jake and I were engrossed in a series of intense one-on-one Minecraft battles that day, which he’d been preparing and planning for and looking forward to for some time. I said to both of them before they left that next time I was going to spend much more time with Ellie to compensate.

So Ellie was being ‘a good girl’, and she is that, in doing her homework here – but she had also put some thought into her reasons for doing so, which actually makes me think even more highly of her. She explained it to me:

When she’s at ‘home’ (or as I prefer to call it “her other home”) with Mummy she likes to play on the green outside with nearby friends of around her own age. More often than not, she explained, she gets called in from playing to do her homework, which obviously doesn’t usually go down too well in Ellie land! She thought then she’d take advantage of my little home office set-up to do her homework at my place, and then she’d have more time to play with her friends.

Smart girl!

Oh, and my Minecraft battle with Jake? 2-2. We are planning a rematch!

Now there is of course only one way to end this post:

Music, Music, Music. And More Music.

CDs? I have a few!

Even though I rarely buy them these days I still have a pile that I haven’t played & am getting to know. Despite my enthusiasm for new music I’m still old-fashioned enough to be into ‘albums’, not just single tunes. When I play a new CD I like to ‘get to know it’, as an entity in itself, not just a collection of individual tracks, so I’ll give it a good few plays before adding it to my collection and moving on. Unless of course, it’s rubbish! Then it gets fewer plays…

Being CDs, often ones that I bought some time ago,  they tend to be of older music, unlke the Spotify choices in my last post which were mostly newer.

Often they’re for playing in the car; I haven’t quite got my act together with digital music there yet – but I will. Because of that I like to have them in some specific and different flavours.

There’s the Mellow One: for winding down, relaxing. I often stick this on when I’m driving home late at night and want to relax before bed.

Then I like to have an Up-Tempo One. Something fast, lively & uplifting. Great for driving on a motorway or in preparation for a night out! Uusually fast, energetic rock or some bangin’ dance tunes!

At the moment I also want a Feel-Good Summery One. Warm weather: chilled, but uplifting, happy songs for a hot day. Yes, I live in Wales: never say I’m not an optimisist! And we do get some lovely warm days here y’know!

Aside from a few sundry picks that I just like the look of I also have a Wifely One! Yes, the “Separated and who gets the CDs?” thing! No fights here though: we seem to have been pretty clear about whose was whose. I think it’s fair to say that I’ve been into music more than her, although she has some great picks. I’m onto the last one – it feels momentous…

What I’m playing at the moment? These:

The Mellow One: ‘The Sound of Bread’

I did say there was some older music here! ‘Bread‘, fronted by David Gates with Jimmy Giffin, were a laid-back Los Angeles based ‘soft-rock’ band that was popular in the 1970s, known for their slow, countryish West Coast ballads. They’re sometimes “a bit sad Ted!” but they have some great songs, & my pick from this “Best Of” type album is the iconic ‘Guitar Man’. It wasn’t a big hit at the time but remains one of their best-loved songs.

 

The ‘Wifely One’: Original Music from the Motion Picture ‘Shine” feat. David Helfgott

I love many different kinds of music, including ‘classical’, and this album is a pleasure from start to finsh, full of wonderful music. ‘Shine’ is a bio-pic about David Helfgott, an Australian-born classical pianist who struggled with the mental illness schizophrenia. Superbly played (as an older man) by Geoffrey Rush, the film highlights his musical virtuosity and his personal problems, although his family have been very critical of its portayal of the latter. Helfgott himself provides the piano soundtrack. Anyone who’s seen the film will understand that there can only be one pick for a top track from this, the infamous and tortuously difficult ‘Rach 3‘!

 

The Feel-Good Summery One: 37 Brits 2001 Hits, Disc 1

You’re driving around in your car, it’s hot, the sun is shining, you have the windows rolled down, people around town seem almost happy: all seems right with the world. This is the sort of music I want playing! This is a mixed bunch, as you’d expect, with some stonking tunes & some – let’s be honest, rubbish – but overall I love it. Best of the bunch – although probably not the most ‘summery’ choice –  has got to be the fantastic Iggy Pop (again!), this time with Death in Vegas playing the stunningly sinister “Aisha”. (Warning: the video is quite ‘steamy’: best avoided if easily offended!)

 

The Loud One: The Freeborn Brothers, ‘Gypsy Hobo Trash Grass’

I’ve never seen anyone even remotely like this lot. The Freeborn Brothers  are a bunch of young Polish guys who are all incredible musicians. Every year as part of their Europe-wide tour they stop off to perform at a tiny pub in my small Welsh town, and just for the cost of a donation or two. They are honestly one of the best live acts I have ever seen, not only unbelievably talented musicians but also terrific showmen, taking their music into the realms of performance art. They are also very funny. Musically they’re hard to classify: a combination of traditional Polish ‘folk’ music, bluegrass & punk! I think. They simply have to be seen to be believed, and I am very grateful that I’ve been able to. The track I’ve picked is called ‘Down to Hell’.

 

Another Summery One: ‘Sounds of the Summer’, from ‘The Big Issue’ Magazine

I’ll be honest: I mostly chose this one from the title. It’s not my idea of ‘summer music’. Summer nights in a sweaty night-club or at a festival maybe, probably not for pootling around in my car! I first played it while in the kitchen cooking with my daughter Ellie (8); in hindsight probably a mistake. We both noticed about the same time “Daddy, they’re saying some rude words!”. I put on the Brits CD instead: that was better! I do like the music though, even though it wasn’t what I was expecting. My favourite so far is probably the seriously funky, Mark Ronsonesque ‘The Turnaround’ by The Herbaliser.

 

Dermot O’Leary Presents: The Saturday Sessions 2013

This album is taken from the former X-Factor host’s BBC Radio 2 show where top musical acts would perform live in studio, often doing covers of well-known songs. It’s full of beautiful live music, and this is among its best: James Blake just on piano covering Joni Mitchell’s ‘A Case of You‘. Entrancingly beautiful!

 

Let the music play on….

 

Music, Music, Music

Music has always played a hugely important part of my life, from pretty much as far as back as I can remember (which is longer than I care to think about too much!).

I remember when I was a young boy playing my first record – a ’45’ vinyl single (anyone else remember those? I’m really showing my age now aren’t I?!) – on my little plastic record player in the garden, playing it over and over again and driving my Mum and Dad insane!

Music has seen me through tough times – still does – and has kept me (relatively) sane during particularly tough times. Although that assessment is probably up for debate!

It even played a major part in the birth of my twins Jake & Ellie. The anaesthetist-come-DJ was playing Beyonce tracks during the birth and I’m pretty sure ‘Halo‘ was playing as they emerged! It’s been my theme song for them ever since.

 

In recent years too I’ve begun playing & writing music, relearning the acoustic guitar, to the extent that I am now a semi-professional musician. I love it!  But that’s another story.

As with so many other things, listening to music seemed simpler in the past. I’d buy a record / cassette tape / CD of what I liked and play it. Simple! After the iPod turned up I started ripping CDs onto my PC or portable player – now my smartphone. I loved this and still do – all my music available in a few clicks. Then music became available to download, as a purchase or free from now-infamous piracy sites. Now we have the likes of Spotify where you can stream almost anything you like as long as you have an internet connection. Then of course there is also now the ubiquitous YouTube. It’s a Brave New World!

I’m still coming to grips with streaming tech to be honest; it’s meant a radical adjustment in how I listen to music. I listen to Spotify a lot but the bulk of my music is what I’ve bought myself, mostly on my PC. I currently have 66,000 tracks there, which I’m still adding to, including a pile of CDs I haven’t listened to yet!  I still download tracks if I want them on my ‘phone for when I’m out, but I’ve pretty much stopped buying CDs now.

I like to work from home as much as I can, not least because that means that I can listen to music that I like while working. In those simpler times my regular ‘Playlist’ would just be my CDs, but it now includes streaming & downloading as well.

So – and this is actually the point of this post! – here is what I’m currently listening to:

Spotify’s ‘Discover Weekly’ Playlist

This is a playlist created by Spotify specifically for each user based on what they listen to there. It’s usually pretty good.  My favourite this week was from a musician I’d never heard of before: ‘Soft Rain’ by Damien Dempsey. A lot of it is spoken: his wonderfully expressive Irish lilt against a backdrop of chilled and relaxing but uplifting soft electronica, with his beautifully toneful singing voice bursting in on the chorus. Give it a listen: I think it’s wonderful!

 

The BBC 6 Music Playlist on Spotify

The BBC 6 Music radio station has become a national institution, even in its short history, in my opinion. It’s perfect for mature music lovers like me, who love not only classic ‘quality’ music, but also want to hear sounds that are new and innovative. There’s always something unexpected here! My recent favourite isn’t there at the moment, but is a real stand-out track: the collaboration between Underworld (remember ‘Born Slippy’ from ‘Trainspotting’?) and the living legend that is Iggy Pop. It’s called ‘Bells & Circles’ and it’s what you’d expect: crazy, high-energy, high-octane, dancilicious* brilliance!

* yes, that is a word. It is now, anyway…

The NOW UK Top 20 Chart on Spotify

Yes, here’s where I ‘let the side down’. ‘My generation’ – whatever that is – (especially the male side) is meant to be disdainful of ‘modern music’: “what do these kids know about music / it’s all computers and bleeps and manufactured” etc, etc. Well, yes, some of that may have some truth in it, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be enjoyable, for me anyway. Also, “manufactured music” has been around for much longer than I have, and isn’t necessarily bad: ‘Motown’, anyone? I’ve always been partial to a bit of ABBA, for instance,  so I don’t have a problem with good pop, and sharing the musical loves of my 8-year-old twins helps immunise me to a lot of modern pop too! I do often skip a few tracks, but right now I’m not at all and I think it’s actually not too bad! My pick of the current bunch is the rhythmic guitar-based pop-rock of George Ezra’s ‘Paradise’. It’s great for singing and playing on my acoustic guitar, although harder than it sounds!

 

Stalking Following Facebook Friends on Spotify

I like the social aspect of Spotify and I wish there was more of it. You can see what your Facebook friends are listening to, if they allow it, and it’s always rewarding! I love having a further insight into the likes and loves of people I know in person or online; it’s also another great way of discovering new music. So what stands out at the moment? Let’s see… And the winner is: a very talented local musician called Harvey, who chose: Psycho Killer (live) by Talking Heads!  This is a great live verison: mostly acoustic, and predictably eccentric. It’s also a song both Harvey & I love to play on our acoustic guitars. Your prize is in the post Harvey! Probably.

 

‘I Know of You’: My Own Spotify Playlist

This is made up of songs I’ve heard and liked and want to listen to again, and is the latest of many. It’s hard to choose a current favourite, but I’m going for: ‘Living in Disgrace’ by John Smith. I love the chiming, rhythmic guitar & his raspy but beautifully expressive voice. A real gem!

 

Spotify Album: ‘Melodrama’ by Lorde

I first knew of Lorde from her breakthrough and record-smashing song ‘Royals‘ (another which I love to perform) but it wasn’t until I saw her Glastonbury set (just on TV, unfortunately) that I realised how amazing she is. Still a teenager, she is multi-talented: a writer, singer, producer, dancer, trendsetter. A true young auteur! Also, being from my country of birth New Zealand – and those who know me ‘in real life’ will know we also have something else in common – it’s probably illegal there for me not to like her! This is her second album and is full of more great songs, both up- and down-tempo, but always engaging and thought-provoking. My pick is the very moving, heartfelt and personal ‘Liability‘, which despite the difference in our ages, gender and experiences I can still very much identify with it. It’s a theme for the ‘outsider’, the one ‘who doesn’t quite fit in’. As an ex-pat Kiwi I also love hearing someone who sounds like me!  It’s a very beautiful song.

The sound quality on this video isn’t the best – it’s fan-recorded – but I had to choose it as it was live from my old home town! Not only that but her introducton and explanation of her deep love of writing and music is very moving. (Contains some ‘strong language’).

 

I’m listening to a lot of music at the moment! I see this is a Very Good Thing.

I’ll post about the CDs I’m also currently enjoying another time; tomorrow if I have the time.

In the meantime, “If music be the food of love, play on!”.

 

5 Tips About Choosing the Best Flooring for Different Parts of Your House

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The floors are one of the most important parts of your house. Sure, the roof protects everything inside and the walls matter as well, but you walk on your floors daily. They get plenty of abuse. For this reason alone, they need to be well cared for – after you choose the best ones, that is. Picking out new flooring from grapevine flooring should be fun, not a chore. These five tips, courtesy of Wraps Studio, will help you with the process. We’ll go room by room, giving you some ideas for the most common spaces in your home.

1) Go with a Low Maintenance Option in Your Mudroom

Mudrooms get a lot of abuse. They’re the first room entered, as well as the place where your kids will track in mud (hence their names) and place all of their belongings. You need a mudroom floor that will last, such as ceramic or porcelain tiles. Both are easy to clean and can take quite a beating.

2) Pick an Easy To Clean Rug for Playrooms

Playrooms require soft carpeting. Your kids will spend hours sitting on the floor in there. The best carpeting for this room is something that’s tightly woven, yet soft. Consider something made of nylon or polypropylene fibers, since they’re easy to clean. Carpet tiles are another great option, since they can be switched out easily when they get too damaged or stained.

 

3) Consider Soft and Warm Flooring In Bedrooms

Many bedrooms have hardwood floors. They look great, but the problem lies in the temperature. There’s nothing quite like getting out of a warm bed and stepping on cold floors! (Unless you like that sort of thing, since it helps you wake up.) Instead of choosing hardwoods for the bedroom, consider going with a nice mid-pile carpet from grapevine flooring. Carpeting is comfortable to walk on, is warm, and since the room won’t receive a lot of foot traffic, you can get away it something that is a bit higher maintenance.

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4) Choose a Versatile Option for a Guest Room and Home Office

If you have a room that does double duty, such as the classic guest room/craft space/home office, then you need a rug that fits the décor, yet doesn’t shout that it belongs in one category or another. Instead, look for a colorful rug or patterned carpet that looks like it should be in such a versatile space.

 

5) Think Outside of the Box in Your Kitchen

Tile is the most common flooring option for the kitchen. Some people also choose linoleum. While both of these are valid, since they’re easy to clean and will stand up to such a high traffic area, they aren’t exciting. Instead, you should consider something a bit outside of the box, such as wood laminate, cork, or even rubber tiles from Wraps Studio. These are all comfortable to walk on, which is great for a room that you’ll spend quite a bit of time standing up in.

 

Collaborative post

A Design For Life

“I was not; I have been; I am not; I do not mind.”

The ‘Epicurean Epitaph’, a quote attributed to the ancient Greek philosopher Epicurus, often now used at humanist funerals.epicurus-3

I found myself thinking about this yesterday, prompted by a Facebook meme.

It doesn’t just apply to a way of looking at death. It can also be a way of looking at life.

The basis of Epicurus’ philosophy after all, his lifestyle and that of his friends and followers, was looking for the things that make us happy and then as much as possible having those things in our lives.

Not in Hedonism: self-indulgent and unrestrained behaviour – a common misunderstanding of his ideas – but more in a satisfaction with life: involving moderation, respect for others and friendship.

“I was not; I have been; I am not; I do not mind.”

This could just as much be about happiness as it is a way of coping with the concept of our mortality. We all have peaks and troughs in our lives. There are times when things seem to be going well, when we’re making progress, when we’ve achieved some of our goals and are looking to continue onwards.

There are other times when life seems bleak, when nothing seems to work, where everything is going wrong – even to the extent that we give up hope.

Basic needs like food & water, shelter, safety, health, relationships. Simply said – not so simply achieved! Certainly not all at once. Sometimes we seem to have them all; other times none of it!

“I was not; I have been; I am not; I do not mind.”

‘A while back’ – I’m shocked sometimes when I think about just how long ago it was! – I was living and working in and around London, working in Finance.  I was “doing OK”, not great, but “OK”.

I met a girl, we moved in together. She was also “doing OK”. We went to restaurants, pubs and gigs: together and with friends. We travelled a lot. We moved to Brighton, then to Sutton Coldfield. We got married, then had children. Twins: Jake and Ellie. Great kids! Having been made redundant earlier I became their full time stay-at-home Dad: for 3 years, until they started pre-school in preparation for school proper. By this time we were here in Wales.

Now, 5 years later, we’re separated. I live alone, in a small house: fine just for me but nothing like our old family home. The children who were my life I see now just 2 days a week: most of 1 day on the weekend and 1 evening after school.  And to be honest I’ve struggled to pick up with my career where I left off. The industry is very tech-driven and seems to have moved on, irrespective of all my experience. My age counts against me too I think; having to start again as it were a lot of the jobs I am qualified for I think are taken by young people.

We had a big house, and a good lifestyle: travel, good food, fun. Now I sometimes struggle even with the basics. Then I spent nearly all my time with my beloved Jake & Ellie; now I often feel like I hardly know them, like they’re growing up without me.

It’s very easy to look back and think things were perfect though isn’t it? I know they weren’t, even then.

Further back –  in New Zealand, for instance, before I found my feet career-wise here – I sometimes struggled, financially and socially. Even after I moved to the U.K. there were difficult times: I got caught up in the mortgage interest rate crisis of the ‘90s, and leaving the somewhat extreme religious group I got mixed up in was necessary, but still difficult, not least as it meant cutting myself off from all my ‘friends’ & having to start again socially.

“I was not; I have been; I am not; I do not mind.”

I had tough times before, some good times, and now difficult times again. Life has its ups and downs. It’s just a question of perspective isn’t it? I’m trying to be grateful for what I do have. Great children who love me, food & shelter, safety, reasonably good health, friendships.

That’s more than millions of people all over the world can say. In many ways I’m lucky, despite what the reality of my life seems to be a lot of the time.

“I had not; I did have; I do not have; I do not mind”

I’m trying very hard to improve the things I can, while learning to accept and make the most of life as it is.

Thank you Epicurus: those are indeed wise words.

Three Beautiful Things

Some time ago there was a meme doing the rounds of the internets called “Three Beautiful Things” (3BT). It may still be there and I just hadn’t noticed, in some corner of the internet that I haven’t caught up with yet: it’s quite possible.

The basic idea behind it is that no matter how bad your day seems to have been that you can always try to find good (‘beautiful’) things that have come out of it. “The Power of Positive Thinking”, and all that. It’s a cliche, yes, but it works: as long as you’re not blinded to reality to the extent that you completely ignore your problems. The buggers have a habit of sneaking up on you when you’re not expecting it and biting your backside if you ignore them for too long, in my experience!

‘3BT’ is particularly good when you’ve had ‘one of those days’ where everything seems to  go wrong, or you have a setback of some kind on your otherwise Glorious Golden Path of Progress.

On days like that you sometimes find yourself scratching around to find some positivity! The “Three Beautiful Things” are still there though: you just have to look.  They may seem trivial, unimportant even, but they’re still there: and that’s what matters. They are still things in what seems like a bad day that can lighten the gloom. “Small is Beautiful”. When you find them you can realise that maybe your day hasn’t been so bad after all. ( I believe psychologists and life coach types call this sort of thing “reframing“). 

Without boring you with the details, my day today has been a bit like that – so here are my Three Beautiful Things.

    • I got my hair cut. I tend to let my locks – what’s left of them! – get straggly, and – as with many other things – put off getting them cut. Today I decided to get smartened up, and a lovely lady named Helen gave me a good smart cut, along with an equally smart beard trim. We had a good chat as well; chattiness is a skill most hairdressers have along with their cutting prowess. I look and feel much better.
    •  I treated myself to a big greasy bag of chips. With salt and vinegar: all the trimmings, a guilty pleasure!
    • I found a site for freelance writers which I think suits my skillset and experience, and which I think could prove very rewardng in days to come.
    • I updated one of my CVs with my recent experience to help with the possibility of finding some sort of ‘real job’  – as my well-meaning friends keep telling me  I should – in addition to my self-employed earnings.

Yes, I know: that’s four, not three.

Maybe my day really wasn’t so bad after all!