Category Archives: Special

A Story… And an Appeal

At long last, I’m back at the keyboard. I had to look up my password. Frankly, I’m even surprised that the system still knew my password. Please be assured that this chronic absence has had nothing to do with lack of desire; work and other things have got in the way. A whole story in itself…
But what has finally driven me back to the keyboard is a matter of urgency, which I am about to share. So please select an appropriate beverage (taking into account the time of day you are reading this) pull up a chair (or recline in one) and read on.

First of all, I want to recount a little story. It’s one that my father told me, many years ago.
Long ago, in France, there was a kind and wise mayor who presided over a small town. Unlike many such officials, who were greedy and only wanted to get rich and better themselves, this mayor was wise and kind, and always wanted to help the town and its people, often denying himself in the process. And so there came a day when everyone agreed that this kindness should be recognised.
Now this, as I said, was in France, and the South of France, at that. Even the least of the townsfolk had one or two vines: most had several. So a group of locals came up with a suggestion.
Their idea was, that after the next grape harvest and pressing of the grapes, every householder would bring a small jar of wine to the market square on an appointed day, where a large barrel would be set up, with a funnel in the top, so that each could pour his donation of wine into the barrel. The next day, the barrel would be presented to the mayor as a gift.
Everyone thought the idea was excellent, so the plan went ahead. But the day of the presentation ended, not in happiness,but in great embarrassment. After a short speech of thanks, the mayor placed a cup under the barrel tap, and opened it gently.
What came out was not wine, but… WATER!
What had happened, of course, was this: each householder had thought “If I just put water in, and everyone else comes with wine, no-one will be any the wiser!”

The moral of the story (I’m sorry for the triteness of the expression) is that everyone’s share – and therefore, your share – matters.

Now for the up-to-date bit: why am I telling you all this? Well, quite simply, because somebody needs our help. Your help.
Through Twitter, some of us know a young mum who is struggling, to say the least. Now, you’re probably thinking “Well, that’s hardly unique!” but let me explain; after her baby was born, two things in p-articular have happened to her: her partner (now ex) has walked out on her, and she has been diagnosed with  cancer of the oesophagus. Getting to hospital for treatment (chemotherapy) is not easy. Sarah (on Twitter here) has a carer who can drive – but needs to get her (Sarah’s) own car insured and MOT’d. Of course, many other unforeseen needs will, I’m sure, crop up. For those who don’t know, benefit claims, or adjustments to them, are often painfully long-winded in the processing stage.
Around five hundred pounds – quickly – would make an amazing difference. Sarah has, very bravely (no decent person likes to do this) asked for help; please read this, here.

Now, meanwhile, another Twitter friend, Kim (on Twitter here) has come up with an idea, and set up a separate fundraiser (look at her pinned tweet, and open the Paypal link in her Twitter header.)

So, right now, I’m asking you to do two things: firstly, donate to Kim’s fundraiser ONE POUND or ONE EURO or ONE DOLLAR. Secondly, retweet Kim’s appeal as often as you can. Alert others all you can. You will see that Kim is running a quote tweet competition as a further incentive! Oh, and if you could tweet out this blog post, I’d be delighted.

500 x £1 = £500 – it’s as simple as that. Now, can you see where the story we started with fits in?

Thank you for reading. And thank you, most of all, for helping Sarah.

With love,

Phil xx

This is not about the size of the jug, but what's in it!
This is not about the size of the jug, but what’s in it!
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#BML16: A Few Thoughts…

I know I’m late to this party, but I just want to grab a few minutes to put down, as I say, a few thoughts. It was great to be there again, even though there were a number of differences from the event last year, which was the first time I attended.
The most obvious difference was that the event was fitted into just one day, a Saturday. Views on this varied a lot. I know that it made attendance less workable for some, and more workable for others, the main issue being the impact on the necessary travel and accommodation for attendees. Some, like myself, could manage without staying away from home – a significant cost saving, if you were paying your own expenses. On the other hand, many would have needed to stay away for two nights in order to attend for one long day. Also, I felt this arrangement left less time for chatting to each other!
Another difference, though, and a very positive one, which I think was partly due to the one day arrangement, was that many more babies (and ‘on the way’ babies!) were present. I thought this was particularly lovely, considering that a lot of blogging is about parenting and related issues.
As before (last year) the content of each part of the event was excellent. I’d like to mention one thing specifically, namely, the address to us all from Anne-Marie Cockburn, who spoke with amazing bravery and openness about the death of her 15-year-old daughter, Martha, as a result of taking the drug Ecstasy (This included reading extracts from her book.) To listen was an extremely moving and eye-opening experience.
I’m going to get other small negative points out of the way: I didn’t find the range of commercial sponsors and contributors quite as exciting as last year (that may be just me.) Also, there were just a few moments when I didn’t feel quite as welcome as I’d have liked. (Again, I may be doing people an injustice.)
I’m very happy to say, though, that for by far the most part of the time I felt very much appreciated and accepted, and it was great to meet several bloggers I already knew, and many more whom I’d met ‘on line’ since last year, and could now greet face to face!
I have just one more important point to make, in similar vein to how I felt last year. I shall begin by adding a photo.
Railway Station RoofYou’re probably wondering what the roof of St. Pancras Station has got to do with BML16 and blogging. Well, materially, very little, apart from the fact that this photo was taken on the same day. But this sight on the way home got me thinking, from a symbolic and figurative point of view. It’s like this: the whole structure is very strong, functional yet beautiful, often taken for granted, and a great many people were involved in its design and construction.
Now, how like the blogosphere, as we call the world of blogging, is that? You see, I especially commend this to the many bloggers, some known to me, who feel their place in this scheme of things is not very significant. Maybe you were present at this kind of event for the first time, and, after the award ceremony, were left thinking “Well, that’s me put well and truly in my place!” You know, in one way, you’re right. You were put in your place. And your place, dear blogger, is a special one, just for you.

That place is right here. You matter.

That’s right. Alongside those winners of all the awards, many great people I feel honoured to know, you belong. Just like each and every piece of steel in that amazing roof, it would make a difference if you were missing. So, if you came, we are glad you did. If you haven’t done so yet, we’d love to see you next time.

Thank you for reading. Here’s to #BML17.

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Sound Advice…

I thought it was about time for a little light relief on this blog, after a long spell of photo posts only, and newly inspired by CHUCKLEMUMS, here we go…

By the late nineteen-eighties, the electro-mechanical automatic telephone exchange (just put ‘Strowger Switch’ into Google) had served telephone users for up to around a hundred years – although much less in the more remote parts of the UK, such as parts of rural Scotland, where you still spoke to an operator to connect every call, as late as 1970 (quaint, eh?)

But now, telephony was seeing the greatest revolution since Mr Strowger’s invention: the fully electronic telephone ‘switch’ that was much smaller, worked much more quickly, and needed much less maintenance. It could also manage all sorts of natty little party tricks that we take for granted nowadays, like three-way calling, call waiting advice while you were on another call, and automatic diversion of your calls to another number (with variations.)

But this wasn’t all. With this great new package of technology came another novelty: digitally stored speech that, for instance, told you “Sorry, there is a fault” (that one didn’t happen often) or “You have dialled an incorrect number.” And when dialling, after a pause of around twenty seconds of not entering a digit, we now got told to “please replace the handset, and try again.”

Around this time, I knew a little boy who was then about three, and was fascinated by this. He would sneak up to the phone at home, pick up the receiver, and wait, without doing anything else… until his mother would get wise. “Peter!”* she would say. “What did that lady say? Did she tell you to put it back?”

On one particular occasion, this kind of interrogation was met with a classic, priceless, carefully-intoned reply:

“Please replace the tea-set, and try again!”

Sound advice, in certain situations, I would think, for parents everywhere. Thank you for reading.

*The boy’s name has been changed, to protect, er, me.

modern telephone
For a little longer, yet?


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A Man’s Point of View: PND and a Question of Trust

I’ve been trying to get get my head round writing something on this topic for a while. The prompt, here, finally, well, prompted me. Which is what prompts are supposed to do, so there you are.

So, then… post-natal depression: depression after having a baby. Something which strikes new mothers all too frequently. Sometimes nick-named ‘The Black Dog’ – although, as someone remarked, this isn’t really fair; a black labrador, as a rule, is a friendly animal, but there’s nothing friendly about PND. That is, the mental condition itself. But, in case you don’t know, those afflicted with it are some of the most amazing, brave, and yes, friendly women you could ever meet.

Now let’s stand back a moment, and picture the scene: in a crib, newly asleep (for the uninitiated, this happens after one or more feeds plus one or more nappy changes, if you are lucky) lies a baby. Nearby, on a chair, or possibly on the edge of a bed, sits the exhausted mother of this amazing, beautiful, and frighteningly helpless week-old piece of humanity. This new mum has her head in her hands. For a moment, she lifts her head, and looks towards this baby, then covers her face again. She feels terrible.

At what, by all logic, should be a time of triumph (she brought this new human into the world) she feels a failure. She has just been promoted to the most important job in the world (it doesn’t have a pay cheque to match, but that’s another story) and yet she feels worthless; everyone, she thinks, would be better without her.

So she must be totally stupid, right?


Before we go on, there are a few physical issues to consider, not least, this one: inside this woman is a wonderful flexible container called a womb. Now, before she was pregnant, this organ had an internal volume of around five to eight cubic centimetres. (Think of one to two loaded medicine spoons.) Inside it grew a baby, and some other bits that the baby needed. As the baby grew, this womb expanded, until it had a volume of around six to nine litres. (Think in terms of a garden watering-can.) After the baby’s arrival, it did not revert to its original size in five minutes. Got that?

Now, then: as if the actual birth were not traumatic enough (every birth is a voyage through the unknown, because no two births are the same) this oh-so-cruel thing called Western society now plays an ace from up its sleeve; it decrees that the said mum shall forthwith appear in the wide world exactly as she was, mentally and physically, nine months ago, except holding a baby. What do you suppose this notion has done for her self-esteem?

You know what? Western society can get lost. And that’s putting it politely. Only this mum might not, just for now, have the mental stamina to say so. I ask you, can you blame her?

From the direction of that crib, we hear a whimper. A powerful reminder to our new mum that this tiny human depends on her, and trusts her implicitly, for everything. It it any wonder she feels inadequate, hopelessly caught out, and scared? Or that sometimes, these feelings, assisted by all kinds of chemical imbalances that have occurred, escalate into what we now identify as PND?

At this point, I couldn’t possibly claim to have given you, as they say, the top and bottom of this condition. I’m no doctor, or psychologist. I have only attempted to set out a very little of the background across which mothers walk today. And the point I especially want to make is that these feelings of worthlessness and so forth, however irrational they may seem to some of us, have a root in some of the truest, finest, and most noble feelings possible: the desire to provide the best of care and love for her child. And there we have the embodiment of what true society really needs. We must give her back her perceived value.

Now, here is where some more people enter the picture: not only her immediate family, but, by extension, you and me. Because, just as that little baby is trusting her, she needs to feel that, through the deep water, she herself can trust us all; sometimes, it may be, for a few moments’ practical assistance, but, in any case, to support as best we can, and to relay this vital message:

You are not a bad mum.

You are not mad.

You are not alone.

I fervently hope we can show by example, that we are worthy of her trust, and that we can, if needed, lead her to the help, not only of professionals (hard-working and skilled as they are) but also her peers.

Thank you for reading.


Brilliant blog posts on

Edit, 11 July 2016: This post has been linked to…

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Britmums Live 2015: The Day a Daddy Became a Mummy

I’ll just make one thing clear: if you were expecting a post about rapid gender-change operations, you’ve, erm, come to the wrong place. You weren’t? Then read on…

First of all, I should state that although ‘Daddy’ isn’t exactly my current title, I have been one. I have trodden before you the road that is being a parent. I have changed nappies and walked the floor, holding a restless infant, at night. But on Friday, the 19th June, 2015, I became, for the first time, a mummy. Yes, really.

Now, then: for the benefit of those of you who weren’t there, and haven’t since heard about it (can anyone not have heard about it?) BritMums Live 2015 was a blast. Everyone was kind, helpful, and friendly. For me, it was great to meet people who, up to now, had been on the other side of the internet (that ‘other side’ by the way, can be anywhere from down the road to across the ocean) as well as many more with whom I had made no previous contact. As I’ve remarked before, the blogosphere is a very warm, inspiring place – something that impressed me just about as soon as I found it.
Being a ‘newbie’ I attended as many tutorial sessions as I had stamina for; this amounted to every time-slot except the last one on Saturday, by which time is was ‘sessioned out’ or whatever the word is. Jim Reeves came to mind again: I had, quite literally, enjoyed as much of this as I could stand. (I hear your mutterings: “Phil and his old songs, again!” Yeah, all right, I know.)
In particular, for me, being past (ahem) a certain age, it was lovely to join in with the circle that was – and is – Post-40 Bloggers, and meet each other to discuss what this platform is really about. (Take a bow, Mel and the team.)
I should next particularly mention the ‘Brilliance in Blogging’ award ceremony on Friday, and the Bloggers’ Keynote recitals, by the authors of these brilliant posts, on Saturday. Others have, I am sure, covered the details of these two sections of the event in detail, and much better than I could. All I want to say about them is that, considered together, I doubt that anyone present was not (at different times) helpless with laughter, awestruck, and reduced to tears (unless they had hearts of stone – but there was certainly no evidence of that throughout the event.)
But now I want to tell you what I was particularly thinking about, as we all reluctantly dispersed from the venue. You see, it had by now occurred to me that a number of lovely attendees just might have been thinking something like this:

“It’s been great, but… oh, I dunno… All these amazing blogs and bloggers… What’s the point of me even trying any more…?”

Gentle blogger, there is every point, as I shall explain. The clue is in the title above. It has to do with a part of the event to which I have not yet referred.
The organisers had arranged with the people at what we call GWR to provide an icebreaker activity. No, not the Great Western Railway, much as I have a high regard for that oh-so-inspiring pioneer of engineering Isambard Kingdom Brunel (just look him up) but… Guinness World Records.
At risk of repeating myself by inference, I should say that any activity for that purpose alone would have been superfluous. The only ice in evidence was either (a) in ice buckets for cooling wine, or (b) inside large glass jars with taps on, which also contained either water, or an incredibly refreshing sparkling concoction that tasted of cucumber and elder-flowers (which it was meant to – it was gorgeous stuff.) But I digress… You do, Phil. All right, all right…
Well, the Guinness World Records people gave us some of the background and history of the organisation and the famous book, and told us that we were going to attempt – right then – to break an official record, under the watchful gaze of their adjudicators! And that record was…

The most people wrapped as mummies in three minutes!

So appropriate, eh? The team demonstrated the wrapping technique – using toilet paper – on their own model, so that we could see how it was done quickly. By this time, we had already formed small groups of about four. It was then necessary for each group to agree who would be the ‘mummy’. This is where the story gets a bit more personal; here in the group is Phil – not very tall, dressed simply, in trousers and shirt, and, of course, without those parts of the female form that tend to make the wrapping process more time-consuming. It would have been extremely bad form not to volunteer, yes?
At the start signal, the real fun began. Well, I can honestly say that getting wrapped thoroughly in toilet paper isn’t such a big ordeal, except that it’s quite hard to balance on one foot (so that the other foot can be wrapped) while holding your arms out as well. If you’ve never been mummified, trust me on this one. But, as I said, getting wrapped was no big challenge…
Getting wrapped, I said, was no big challenge. Staying wrapped until the adjudicator got to me (I must have been about the last) was quite another matter. Toilet paper traps air. Air and paper are both fairly good heat insulators. Add to this the fact that excessive movement of any kind will tear the vital mummifying loo-roll, and lead to immediate disqualification… you get the idea?
I was getting very warm, and very muscle-weary. Ten minutes (ish) seemed like two hours. Finally, my team-mates tore the paper off my face, assuring me that I had been counted in, not disqualified! (I’m sorry I can’t show you a photo, by the way. I should have asked one of my ‘wrappers’. You will appreciate that a selfie was out of the question. You’ll find photos of other ‘mummies’ elsewhere, quite easily.)
Later, we all learnt that the record had been broken – by just one mummy. The new record was fifty-one instead of fifty! I was ecstatic; Phil, at the back, must surely have been that vital fifty-first, mais non?

Phil! Really! For shame! Such egotism!

Ah, but wait: I would now like to address my partners in this hilarious tomfoolery (as well as the mummifying teams) and tell you all that you, each and every individual one of you, were also the fifty-first! Because, without you, the record would not have fallen.
And now, I’d like to give this message to anyone in the blogging community, who feels inadequate: I have the answer for you. You know, in just the same way, this warm, cosy, comfortable (and comforting) piece of internet wouldn’t be the same without… you. You are, to plagiarise our friends at Guinness World Records, officially amazing.
A word mentioned a lot during the serious parts of the whole BritMums Live event was integrity. And rightly so. Every true blogger feels that they blog on their honour. I need hardly add that this is of intense relevance where brands are concerned, but it applies all the time, in any case. A little tongue-in-cheek fun that doesn’t hurt anybody is OK now and then; deception or calumny is not. It is a quiet, solemn, yet intensely friendly commitment. And inside that mutual commitment, whether you like to blog about parenting, travel, craft, fashion, photography, technology… whatever style of memes and linkys (linkies?) you care (or don’t care) to participate in, we appreciate and love


Well, that’s about it, for now. Oh, just one more thing: if you’re feeling cold, forget that designer parka on that fashion website, that you’ve been drooling over, hoping that, when sale time comes round, they’ll have one left in your size. What you need is… three or four layers of good quality toilet roll. Applied from head to toe. Thank you.

A record was broken!
A record was broken!
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Dear So and So: A Little Piece of My Story

I’ve been thinking a lot, lately, about how to tell some of my own story. I’ve never attempted this before, but quite a few lovely bloggers have inspired me for a good while, now. And then, just in the last day or so, I saw that this blog hop is being revived by Michelle at Mummy from the Heart. Suddenly, I knew what I wanted to do. Here is the result. Oh, and to those of you who’ve supported me for the last two years, with tweets and messages, thank you all, too. I know this is only a tiny bit of ‘me’ and a few of you will wonder about the rest. Please bear with me. OK, let’s go:

Dear Lady at the ‘special needs’ table, at the college open day,

First of all, sorry to give you such a long name to be ‘also known as’. But for one thing, I’m sorry to say I’ve forgotten your real name, and for another, it’s perhaps for the best that I don’t put it here. I’m sure you would understand.

I think that the one and only time we met will remain with me forever. As I recall, it was like this: I’d been walking round the advice and information tables that evening, getting gradually more despondent about my chances of adding to my formal education, so as to be able to take my working life in a new direction, or at least feel more fulfilled in the work I do. For an hour or more, all I’d really learnt about was the extent of the problems in my way. I was reluctantly preparing to leave. After all, I was way too old, wasn’t I?

And then I came to your table, near the exit. Now in those days, I didn’t much appreciate what ‘special needs’ is usually supposed to mean. As it happened, that didn’t matter, because, as well as being able to advise would-be learners with all kinds of learning difficulties, you also knew all about advising those who were, for example, victims of unusual circumstances.

You smiled, and greeted me. I only hope I managed to smile back. As you offered to help in any way you could, I began to tell you some of my story of the hindrances to my education (not my parents’ fault) that had beset my earlier life. You pointed to a chair, and sat down yourself.

I felt as if I was slowly thawing out after a long time in cold storage. You listened, just throwing in a few questions and words of advice now and then. After a few minutes, life didn’t seem quite as bad. A plan was coming together, but there were still countless ‘what ifs’ running through my head. And then it was time to conclude.

We stood up, and you smiled again and looked at me as we shook hands.

What you said then is what I will always treasure. I hope I manage to pass it on to others. It was not some inspirational quotation from Winston Churchill, Thomas Edison, Rudyard Kipling, or Ernest Shackleton (although I love many of those.)

It was just this:


It’s not too late!”

By now, my eyes were filling. Trust me, it was all I could do, not to walk round to the other side of that table and hug you. I smiled through unashamed tears, and left, happy.

The story of the next two years, and the qualifications I have achieved, would take another letter. But, for now, I want to say that I feel calm about the way forward; even though there are still a good many ‘what ifs’ left, they don’t scare me any more.

Dear lady, thank you.

Love from

Phil xx

Dear So and So at Mummy from the Heart

I’m also linking this post to ‘Share With Me’ set up here, by Jenny at Let’s Talk Mommy.
This is especially because I’ve never posted anything as personal as this before. (But it feels right to do so now.)

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Friendship: What is it?

This is in response to the prompt on this topic here.

I’m sure we all know for ourselves, what a friend is, and by extension, what friendship is. But could you define it? A dictionary will give you something like ‘One who is held by another in warm regard and/or affection, especially if not part of the same family.’ OK, fair enough, I wouldn’t argue with a definition like that. But does it go far enough?

You might judge the warmth of a friendship according to how much you think a person would do for you, if you were in trouble or some kind of need. That would be fair, too, but what, exactly, is the motivating force?

Just try this little exercise: Grab a piece of scrap paper (yes, the back of that messed-up photo-copy will do nicely) and a pen. Holding the paper steady with your free hand, write your full name, followed by whatever else comes randomly into your head at that moment. Then sign it, fold the paper in half, an rest the pen on top.

There are now some of your dead skin cells on the pen and the paper. Some dead, no-longer connected bits of the physical you.

Now think about the last conversation you had with anyone you would call a true friend. You may have had hours of incessant chatter, or exchanged a handful of words; how did you feel afterwards, as opposed to beforehand? How did you hope they felt? If indeed you are true friends, something of each other should remain in your minds. Something alive, vital, fresh and special, powerfully connected with the whole person. And it will grow, right until you meet again. Rather like a signature. Only better.

What do you think?

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I Read the News Today…

This post was prompted by, er, well, ‘The Prompt’ here.

I read the news today. Or I should say, recapped on it a little. but first, let’s think about what, exactly, comes under that ubiquitous heading – the single word ‘news.’

The very word itself suggests what is new. Something to tell others about, that represents a change from how things were, or how they usually are. But then, this can include what is very public (items broadcast by the commercial media, that are of interest to a large proportion of the population) or, at the extreme opposite end of the scale, part of a letter or phone call from a loved one. This could be very sobering, such as news of terminal illness amongst close family; or exciting, like the statement “George rang me. Helen’s had a little boy at six o’clock this morning!”

It’s all news.

Now I want to focus on two items of news that were in this little recapping exercise of mine; one from the first category – the widely published news. The other, although not intensely intimate, probably only picked up by a relatively small number of followers of one particular Twitter account – although no less significant, to me at least, because of that.

The first one, most people in Britain will know something about; the details of the panic, chaos, and worse incidents surrounding the oh-so-ironically well-named ‘Black Friday.’ I quote: “Shops hit by chaos and violence… Three people arrested…” I could go on, but you’ve heard it all already.

Let’s think for a minute. In many parts of the world, countless thousands of people lack so many of the things we take for granted, like good fresh food, piped water, and sanitation. That’s to say nothing of general healthcare and protection by enforcement of the law. And let’s not forget, here in our own country, compassionate charities are picking up many who are falling through the net of the welfare system, often because of some quirk in the rules. And, erm, what, exactly, were we squabbling over?

A cheap telly? Fashion clothing at half price or less? Unbeatable offers on countless other ‘essentials’ of the Western world?

Now let’s look at the other news item I was thinking of. It’s really summed up in this picture, that was put out over Twitter, used by kind permission of the owner:

IMG_20141201_175928The little girl here has just put money in the East Anglia Air Ambulance collection box. She doesn’t know much about money, yet. But I’m quite sure she knows that you can get sweets or toys with it. She’s done something else with it. OK, she’s not a wage-earner. She was given to, then she gave.

Now have a look at some Black Friday news photos (any of the big news websites will oblige) and then look at that face above. The discontent of grabbing, or the joy of giving: Which is more ‘grown up’? Which fits better with the time of year? Which would you like to identify with?

Lots and lots of gifts like this little girl made, added together, mean that if, just before the week-end, sometime, you are injured and miles from help, somewhere in East Anglia where a road vehicle cannot travel (not that I’d wish this on anyone) it might, for you, not be quite such a…

Black Friday.

Thank you for reading.

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Be Positive Before Bedtime: A Reflection on a Year

Tonight, It’s just one year since the open twitter forum ‘Be Positive Before Bedtime’ – first conceived by Mischievous Mum – began. It is now supported by lots more hostesses and contributed to regularly by lots of followers. All you have to do, as the competitions say, is to simply tweet anything positive about your day between 21:00 and 22:00, any day of the week, using the hashtag ‘#bepbb’.

So… What good has it done – and does do still?

Well, it’s a lovely way to make friends, meet new people, and have a laugh. But more than that, what it’s done for me, at any rate, is to make me rethink my attitude to life. Are we each thinking about what we have and do enjoy, or what we haven’t got? Are we thankful for our blessings, or choked up with our troubles and wants?

Over the weeks and months, I’ve read many lovely nightly contributions from people I know are in many ways worse off than I am. This is arresting and humbling – in a good way.

OK – some days you wake up feeling awful. You eventually manage to stagger downstairs to make that morning cup of tea or coffee. That means, first of all, filling the kettle at the sink tap. But do you remember that thousands, no, millions of people in this world don’t enjoy the ‘luxury’ of a piped supply of clean water that’s safe to drink?

Next, you go to the cereal cupboard, only to be reminded that you finished your favourite kind yesterday, and forgot to get any more. You mutter a few unprintable words under your breath – but wait a minute… You won’t starve, will you? There are other things to eat. But, for a countless number of other people, that won’t be the case. Several thousand children in this world starve to death every day.

OK, so we have food, water, enough clothes to keep warm and decent, and somewhere to live. (I must, though, acknowledge at this point that many of the amazing and inspiring people I’ve come to know in the on-line community have had more than their fair share of worries in this regard.) What next? We have people near to us, family and friends, who together give us the sense of belonging – a priceless, wonderful thing. Together, we can encourage one another in the pursuit of honorable goals and desires, and share in the simple victories of achievement; jewels picked up along the road that is parenting, work or business, or any other facet of the complex entity that is life.

We can also share simple observations of the natural world around us. Together, we don’t need to go around blind or indifferent; we can appreciate a clear, star-lit night – of the colours of the spectrum in a dew-drop lit by the morning sun. Life can be interesting, if we allow it to be.

But yes… I know… Sometimes it seems that life needs a lot of input to get something out, doesn’t it? But, then, suddenly, there’s a result. As Iris Dement (born 1961) wrote:

Sweet is the melody, so hard to come by,
It’s so hard to make every note bend just right;
You lay down the hours and leave not one trace,
But a tune for the dancing is there in it’s place.

Have a listen!

Thank you for reading this. And feel free to join in with #bepbb any evening, from nine o’clock until ten. I’ll see you there, on this monitor screen, or my phone.

It's kind to share!

Shoulder to Shoulder to Day: The Last Post – or is it?

This blog hop has taken us on an incredible journey; it was founded with the motive of cheering up – and cheering on – Emma Day, who blogs at Crazy With Twins, through a period of enforced isolation from her beloved family, necessitated by treatment for thyroid cancer using radioactive iodine; a period of time estimated at around 32 – 33 days.

When we all found – oh, joy! – that Emma’s enforced isolation from her family could be ended very much sooner than anyone had dared to hope, it was decided to continue with the plan, to keep raising awareness about anything to do with cancer – and treating it – and try to keep it all good fun for everyone at the same time.

Now I want to tell you a funny story: A story which, moreover, really is true! All I’m going to do is alter the names of real people. These events took place at the large manufacturing firm where I had my first job – but before I worked there. The story was narrated to me by workmates…

In this small technical department, there once worked a fellow called Paulo. Now, Paulo was, let’s say, a little unusual; indeed, a little more unusual than most. He was certainly not stupid; he spoke several languages fluently, for one thing. One day, Harry, who was telling the story, was struggling to read a foreign instruction leaflet. “Paulo” he said, “What does [such-and-such] mean?” In reply, Paulo grabbed the leaflet, a pen, and some paper. “Give me that!” he said, and, without more ado, wrote out a complete translation, the only limitation of speed being the speed at which he could write!

There were many stories about Paulo’s activities both on and off the firm. When it came to practical stuff, though, was when the picture got colourful; in the department, we often had to make smallish one-off devices to perform certain functions in the various production departments. And on Paulo’s work, there were several trade-marks which far outlived his time at the company; when you took off the lid on one of Paulo’s creations, the mains terminals would be somewhere near the front, in just the best position for delivering an electric shock, the internal wiring would share its cosmetic characteristics with a bird’s nest, and the soldering would be vaguely reminiscent of less perfect examples of early Celtic jewellery. (I could go on. I, personally, saw one or two examples.)

Now, one day, Paulo was taken ill at work. It was agreed that he would be taken home in the works ambulance. He was, however, disappointed to find that his bike could not travel with him! When he found out, he threw a chain with a  combination lock onto a bench. “Harry” he said, “You know my bike. Lock it up for me, please.” And then he was gone!

As Harry said, why Paulo thought that Harry knew what his bike looked like remains a mystery. He’d never seen Paulo’s bike in his life! Anyway, at five o’clock, Harry enlisted the help of two senior members of staff, and together they trooped down to the bike sheds. First of all, they waited until most of the bikes had been claimed, but some remained. (Some workers biked intermittently; there was no rule to stop anyone from leaving a bike in the sheds overnight.) So now, our three friends examined the residue of two-wheeled, pedal-powered conveyances. Their eyes settled on one particular example!

It had an assortment of, let’s say, non-standard accessories. It looked in a general state of disrepair. Various components were precariously secured with pieces of string. The tyres were noticeably balding.  This one just had to be Paulo’s bike. Accordingly, they fitted the lock and chain, and went home.

A couple of weeks or so later, when Paulo was back at work, he, Harry, and  several others were in the small workshop which served the metalworking needs of the department. “Harry” said Paulo, “Have you still got my bike lock?”
“I locked your bike up for you!” replied Harry.
My bike wasn’t locked.” said Paulo. At this point, Jack, the workshop supervisor, interjected. “That’s funny” he said, “The other Friday, when I was just locking my tool-box, one of the blokes from Quality Control rushed in here, breathless! “Jack” he says. “You got a hacksaw? Some b****r’s locked my bike up!”…”

Later, an inspection of the bike shed led to the recovery of Paulo’s lock and chain. A saw-cut had been made, not through the chain… oh, no… but right through the middle of the lock!

OK, so it was funny. But now, let’s think: What error, exactly, did those three fellows make?

Quite simply, they fell into a trap that often catches any of us: They stereotyped the situation. And here is our link with cancer!

How many times have we heard – or even made – statements like these?

It can’t be prostate cancer – he’s too young!

A bloke with breast cancer? Don’t make me laugh…

But she’s too old for that…

And so on. True, there are trends. But let’s not turn trends into rules. Instead, if we’re unsure, let’s see a doctor, or beg our friends to do so.

And so, my friends, this is not ‘The Last Post’. It is ‘The Reveille’. A wake-up call about cancer. And, more cheerfully, a wake-up call about the wonderful spirit of camaraderie, caring, sharing, and generally helping others, that exists within the blogging community.

Many thanks to Emma for sharing the journey of her treatment with us, with such a valiant spirit; besides the time of her isolation, this included joining in the banter on Twitter, in the evening of the day when she underwent two general anaesthetics, then blogging using a phone, the next day, and then opening her regular blog meme, Wednesday Words, the following day, using a phone again!

A big thank-you to Vicky, whose drive, organising ability, blogging knowledge, and humour turned the merest germ of a idea into something that has worked beyond anything I imagined; and to Jaime and Sara who raised the awareness about raising awareness!

Thank you to everyone who has taken part in ‘#S2S2D’. I’m looking forward to visiting the contributions I haven’t looked at yet, though pressure of everyday affairs. (There are now over a hundred and twenty thumbnails on the blog hop!) Thank you for every post, every comment, every tweet, every retweet… every action to further the cause.

In the words of the old song (OK… “Him and his old songs” I hear some of you sigh…)

“Thank you very, very, very much.”

Shoulder to Shoulder to Day

Footnote – 2 July 2013

We should all remember that, whilst this blog-hop, which had a specific aim, is now closed, Emma’s battle is far from over; there will be further tests to be done, and a lot of anxious waiting. As I began to type this amendment, I thought I would check her blog.


Brave as she is, she will value the support of the blogging community through the days ahead. We wish her well.

Edit, 31 May 2016:
I have linked this post to #chucklemums this week.

It's kind to share!