Time to be Nice

At this time of year many bloggers feel the need to put ‘pen to paper’ for the noble cause of commenting on New Years resolutions. There are tomes (do we still have tomes in this digital world I wonder?) of blog posts about how to lose weight, get fitter, stop smoking or just be a nicer person than we were last year.

So what about ‘being nice’? It may surprise you to learn that the current day meaning of the word is the exact opposite from when it was first conceived, when it meant foolish or silly  (for all you “word buffs”, here is a lengthy explanation of the etymology of ‘Nice” : “The Meaning of Nice”). This word is the bane of a writers life. It is seen as a rather boring word. A word that we use when we can’t think of a better adjective. “He was a nice chap”, is almost a damning indictment of the fellow who can rise only to being ‘nice’. Even my fancy piece of software that I use to check for cliche’s tells me ‘nice’ is one and to find an alternative.  But I beg to differ (cliche!) ‘nice’ is a good word to use, a positive word, used as an  adjective it means to be pleasing, agreeable or delightful (Oxford English Dictionary). Who wouldn’t want to be nice?

So in 2016 I am going to be nice. That’s it. That’s my one and only New Years resolution. I’m done with not being nice, that would make me unpleasant, disagreeable and ‘undelightful’. Surely no-one would ever have described me as such in 2015? Well not to my face anyway!

When I researched this post (ok, I just Googled “being nice”) I got lots of results, many articles on how to be nice or to be a nicer person to your partner, to your friends, to your colleagues and so on. Does that mean we all harbour a desire to be nicer than we are? It would be an interesting state of affairs if that were true. Imagine supposedly hard-nosed businessmen, used to outdoing each other in the tough guy stakes, trying to compete with each other by being nice – in a friendly rivalry of course. Amazingly there are some examples of really nice businessmen – I came across a number of articles about the US supermarket giant Costco or more specifically the CEO Craig Jelinek, calling for the minimum wage in the US to be raised – this against the backdrop of Costco bucking the trend and paying its CEO a lot less than Wal-Mart, but paying its employees a relatively high basic wage. That’s nice business leadership. There is a false perception that you have to be cut throat – and therefore not nice – to succeed in business. Look at TV shows like “The Apprentice”  where Alan Sugar in the UK version and Donald Trump in the US version pander to that stereotype, and contestants try to outdo each other in what ends up being a competition to be disagreeable, unpleasant, and anything but delightful. I’d love to see Craig Jelinek take over the duties!

There is even a website where you can sign up to “choose to be nice” – choosetobenice.com! I’m not sure that’s totally necessary but it won’t do any harm – certainly a lot of people seem to have signed up as part of their New Years resolutions. When I thought about it in more detail, it seemed to me that being nice is down to just a few things:

Empathy – the ability to put yourself in someone else’s shoes is not natural for all of us, but the more you try it the more you begin to see the world from other’s viewpoints.

Friendliness – it’s far easier to be friendly than to be unfriendly. It won’t always be paid back, but in my experience most people tend to default to friendly if that’s how they are approached.

‘Smiley-ness’ – there is actually a lot of scientific research that shows the more we smile, the happier we are and that there are real health benefits.

Patience –  For most of this this is a learned skill (I’m still learning!), the phrase “don’t suffer fools gladly” should be rarely used as the fool maybe you if someone just doesn’t see the world as you do. Used together with empathy, patience can help us see new perspectives and even learn something.

Good humour – This seems obvious, but if we can approach all that we do, and all who we meet with good humour it sets a much more positive baseline than to approach life as a ‘grump’ (yes, I am working on that one too!).

Tolerance – Goes hand in glove with patience. If we consider the reverse – ‘intolerance’ – meaning a lack of respect for opinions or behaviours that you disagree with – it’s fairly obvious that tolerance is the better position to take.

Of course with all of the above it does not mean that you have to be a pushover in any walk of your life. Principles are important, and you don’t have to tolerate poor principles, bigoted opinions, or bad behaviour. Not putting up with those things, and making a stand on principles, contributes to making you a nicer person.

 

Smiley-ness

Smiley-ness

I’ve met lot’s of nice people in 2015, I wrote about friendships in my last post, but there are others that come into our lives, sometimes just for a brief time but these genuinely nice people can have a very positive impact on our own perspectives and values. So here is my own New Years honours list of some people who have nicely and positively influenced me in 2015:

Karen Hobbs – friend, colleague, blogger, stand up comedienne and all round nice and very smiley person – check her out here – quarterlifecancer.com  Twitter: @karen_hobbs

Paul Geen – golf coach, probably the most patient person I met in 2015! I will be back for more coaching in 2016 Paul! http://www.paulgeengolf.co.uk, Twitter: @PGGOLFTIPS

The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust (Specifically Mareike in the library) for answering many of my research questions for my novel in such detail – I will be visiting soon! www.shakespeare.org.uk, Twitter: @ShakespeareBT

BMW Motorcycle Club (East Anglia Section) – looking forward to some great rides in 2016. Thanks to Dik Langan for his friendly, smiley and enthusiastic welcome! www.thebmwclub.org.uk/eastanglia, Twitter @BMWClubEA

Wishing you all a happy and really nice 2016!

Stepping Out

Since the 22nd December 2014 I have walked over 200,000 steps, at an average of 6,000 steps per day. That’s approximately 91 miles based on my stride length. How do I know this? Because I have an app. Like most things these days anything that can be measured has an app. And now I am addicted to trying to keep my average up and reach 10,000 steps (about 5 miles) a day – which is the “magic” figure that the experts say we should walk –  lest we become sedentary creatures and allow all manner of illnesses to take their hold for lack of exercise. That’s probably pretty sound advice!

Until recently, I have had a real struggle with achieving a balance with exercise and general wellbeing. For years as a young man I was an exceptionally fit athlete, running at county level, competing for selection in the all England youth athletics team, and generally able to excel in just about any sport I chose. Now in my 50’s I just cannot attain the level of fitness that my ego would like me to – I can’t be as fit as I was when I was 22! But that has not stopped me trying. I have pushed myself hard at the gym, but each time I come home exhausted and therefore not feeling the full benefits of the exercise.

It was my partner Caroline who, knowing what motivates me, finally persuaded me to try something different. Walking. She has been doing this for longer than me and introduced me to the app, also persuading me to join her for a walk in the grounds of one of our local National Trust properties (Anglesey Abbey for those of you who know Cambridgeshire). We covered more than 10,000 steps that day, and it has become a regular weekend walk.

Coincidentally our good friend and fellow blogger Elizabeth Marro (Betsy), wrote a piece about her own walking ambitions and her intent to walk 15 miles a week – you can read that blog here – http://elizabethmarroblog.com/category/walking-dispatches-from-the-journey/. Betsy is an inspiring writer, and her article wriggled it’s way into my psyche, and spoke to me about just how good walking can be for one’s soul, she writes “When I walk, I will not listen to music or talk on the telephone. I will look, feel, think, seek encounters. I will smile at strangers. I will open myself up to possibility. I will take one step at a time and maybe, at some point, it will become clear to me why I am walking and where I am going.”

Caroline has continued to encourage me to walk – though now I have something to aim for in terms of average steps I don’t need  so much persuasion (reminding me that I am goal oriented!). But walking does more than get a few steps or miles under ones belt just to be able to say “I reached my numerical goal”. Walking takes you out. It takes you into the outdoors, and it takes you out of yourself. I am fortunate enough to both work from home and live in an area with easy access to country walks. I don’t even have to get in a car and drive a few miles to a ‘walking spot’; where we live we have splendid rural isolation as well as being able to choose routes frequented by others if we don’t want to remain entirely solitary. Although I have to admit that often it is the solitary nature of a walk in the countryside that is most appealing. Unencumbered with having to make conversation you are free to look and listen to the world around you –  the variety of what you can experience is surprising.

My local walk: Fields stretch to the horizon

My local walk: Fields stretch to the horizon

One day this week I set off on a lunchtime walk under fairly gloomy and wintry conditions. I walked 2 or 3 miles with nothing more spectacular to see other than a few ploughed fields stretching across the flat lands of the fens to a razor-sharp horizon in the distance. But half way round my 5 mile circuit I was in for a surprise. And as I turned a corner the dark clouds above parted just a little – enough for the pale sunlight to shine through. So narrow was this cloudy aperture that it looked as though a spotlight was shining from the sky. As the clouds moved the ‘spotlight’ appeared to move, shining on the magnificent cathedral in the distance. It illuminated the stone so brightly that the ancient building stood out in sharp relief on the Isle of Ely. Dancing over newly ploughed fields and copses of trees the shaft of light then briefly seemed to follow a flock of wood pigeons, or maybe they followed it, before finally fading back to grey. It was almost as if this ethereal illumination had been just for me, no-one else was around to see it.

The view of the distant Cathedral from a country lane in the village just after the ‘spotlight’ had passed

A route revisited is never exactly the same. Yesterday Caroline and I returned to Anglesey Abbey, the ground was crisp with frost and a dusting of snow. The snowdrops are now bursting through the earthy undergrowth, whole swathes of them give the woodland areas an appearance of a white polka dot carpet. The silver birches, planted to create a stunning visual display, reach for the sky like slender brushes painting white clouds on a blue canvas. 10,000 steps went by very quickly and enjoyably. Through the simple act of walking and being outdoors, I may well have found the solution to my need for exercise at a level that suits me. Thanks Caroline and Betsy of encouraging me to step out!

The slender silver birch trees at Anglesey Abbey seem to touch the sky

The slender silver birch trees at Anglesey Abbey seem to touch the sky

Anglesey Abbey: Snowdrops are appearing

Anglesey Abbey: Snowdrops are appearing

Anglesey Abbey: Polka dot snowdrop carpet

Anglesey Abbey: Polka dot snowdrop carpet

Resolutions: The Importance of finding a “Bill Spratt”

When I was fourteen I wanted to be taller and faster. I’d been the skinny kid for all my school life up to that point, and I wanted to be bigger and to be able to win races. With a birthday just before the start of the New Year, I decided to combine the two and I resolved to grow as much as I could in the following year up to my fifteenth birthday, and to take up athletics to make me faster.

I embarked on a regime of exercise and a high protein diet which,  based on my limited knowledge of nutrition science, I decided would make me grow taller. I took up running, joined a local club, and ate more eggs and chicken than ever before – my mother however drew the line at letting me eat steak on a regular basis.

I trained hard. Beginning in the winter months proved to be a good test. My coach, a local man named William Spratt (known to all as Bill), was supremely fit although forty years my senior, and he would make me train in all weathers. Three times a week I’d run a mile, meet Bill and we’d continue on a circular route for another two miles that would bring us back to my house and then he’d continue on afterwards back to his house – I worked out later that he knew the distance from my house to where we met, and that I’d run three miles each time, but he’d run twice that. I also found out that Bill had been the first Cambridgeshire man to run a marathon, and he was something of a local legend, although he never mentioned it. I felt very fortunate to have him as my coach. He was a tough coach though, more than once I phoned Bill on a training night to say “it’s raining hard” or “the snow is quite heavy”, followed by “shall we give it a miss?” – we rarely did, the only time he would agree was if the conditions underfoot were dangerous – either too icy, or compacted snow. Rain was never an excuse. During our winter training Bill decided I would run the 400 metres on the track in the summer season, as this would suit my leaner frame and he would make sure that my endurance levels were high enough for this demanding distance, which is run as a sprint.

Bill - my athletics coach and mentor

Bill – my athletics coach and mentor

On winter weekends Bill would take a group of us to train at our local woodland, where there was a steep incline of about 150 metres (not easy to find in the flatness of the fens!). He would drill us up and down this slope, in what he called a “pyramid”; this involved running up the slope as fast as we could, jogging back down, and repeating this in cycles of two, four, six, four, and two – in that pattern with no breaks in between. This was designed to push our endurance and build stamina.

Bill entered me for local and regional cross country races, I rarely finished higher than twentieth in a field of forty or more. I later learned that, as a 400 metre runner, I wasn’t expected to, but this was all designed to improve my stamina and also test my resolve. I have to admit that I did feel like giving up in a few races that went ahead despite driving snow, but I never did – Bill had taught me to run through the pain and the dips in energy and confidence.

Wednesday evenings were club meetings, the club was big, and the evenings were well attended by juniors through to veterans. I was one of the youngest, yet found myself training with a group a few years older than myself. We ran circuits around the streets near the club meeting place, and the drills were long and hard, but I loved drilling with the older kids, always trying to prove myself against them, seeing if I could keep up with the sixteen and seventeen year olds – of course I rarely could, but as my training went on I found myself only just behind their pace.

Around March of that year it was our inter-house school cross country. I’d told no-one, other than a close friend, that I’d been training, and then I entered the cross country – actually volunteering for it raised a few eyebrows! It was only a three mile race, so just the same length as my training runs. At the start I didn’t sprint to the front, I held off the pace a little, letting the usual boys surge ahead, but I didn’t let them get away from me. After about a mile I realised that this race was being run at a very slow pace, well below what I was used to in my training, I let it carry on that way for a few hundred yards more and then I just got bored of running so slowly, so I upped the pace, hit the front and before I knew it I was 100 metres ahead of them all. I recall my friend, who was racing too, shouting “go with him, he knows what he’s doing” – but nobody could, and I waited a good thirty seconds for the next person at the finish line. That was a good feeling, and I realised that just as I had resolved, I was becoming faster.

Then we got to the late spring, and the track season opened. We started training on a proper running track. It was the old fashioned cinder surface, most of which have since disappeared and have been replaced by the much friendlier tartan all weather surfaces, but I loved that cinder track, which gave me my first taste of running on a real circuit in spikes. We trained hard that spring, club nights were now at the track, although I kept my thrice weekly training road runs with Bill. At the track there seemed to be more people than ever, I was put into a group with four other boys, all a little older than me. We focused on sprint training, and more pyramids (this time on the flat though).

We trained hard all spring and into the summer. My legs had started to get very large, with muscly calves and thighs, and I remember my mother getting quite exasperated at the speed with which I was growing out of trousers – not just by height, but by the girth of my muscles. That summer I ran my very first competitive 400 metres, I finished fourth in a field of eight, and clocked a time of sixty seconds – which wasn’t a startlingly quick time, but at that age was not too shabby for a first race. Bill was happy. If Bill was happy, I was happy.

That summer, following my cross country victory, I was expected to take a clean sweep at the school athletics house competition. But I knew there was one boy that stood in my way, Martin Cleary. He was tall and fast. I’d never beaten him in a straight sprint at any distance. I discussed this with my mum, and I remember her saying to me , “David, have you not noticed how fast you’ve grown this year? You are nearly as tall as your father”. So absorbed had I become in my short terms targets that Bill had set me, that the cross country race had presented, and that  weekly training had given me, with a focus on getting quicker, I’d forgotten about the first half of my resolution – to get taller. Of course, I had been able to control my running speed improvement; by sticking to a strict training regimen I had improved my endurance, my stamina and my speed – these were all variables that I was able to influence to a certain degree subject to my own discipline and dedication. What I could not control, was how fast I grew or how much I grew. As it happens between the ages of fourteen and sixteen I went from barely being five feet tall, to being almost six feet tall. At age fourteen and a half I was now taller than Martin Cleary. More importantly to me, I was now faster than he was, and I finally beat him! Later that summer I went on to run the 400 metres with my club in under 55 seconds, and progressed to county standard – I really had got faster! My personal best a few years later was 50.2 seconds.

The moral of this story from my own personal trip down memory lane? Well it’s quite simple really, what I did all those years ago, without even realising, was to make an ambitious resolution, only to have it broken down into more achievable shorter term objectives by my coach, who knew a lot more about how to achieve my goals than I did. If I had set myself the goal of winning the cross country, running under 60 seconds in the 400 metres, or beating Martin, then I doubt that I would have focused on the steps to get me there. Bill provided me with those steps. Maybe we all need a Bill, to keep us company as we work towards our grand objectives we set ourselves as New Year’s resolutions, it is the Bill’s of this world who have the wisdom to help us achieve those objectives stepwise. So if you are considering setting yourself a New Years resolution of losing weight, giving up smoking, eating a healthier diet, and so on, then don’t try and do it on your own –  find your “Bill”, and you will stand a much higher chance of meeting your resolution.

As for growing taller,  well I just happened to grow due to my genetic make up, so the lesson there is that there are some things we just have no control of at all, so don’t go wasting your time by setting totally impossible New Year’s resolutions – because if you don’t have the power to control the variables, then you cannot effect change.

So thanks Bill, you are long gone from this world, but you and the lessons you taught me are not forgotten.

Milestones

 

 

milestone

Last month my blog clocked up one thousand hits. I was quite surprised at how pleased I was with reaching that milestone. This got me looking back at all of my posts to see which had been the most read, and I realised that, with the exception of the “cooking trilogy”, every post I have written is related to some milestone or other (I suppose family meals could be milestones too!).  Why is this? – I wondered.

Perhaps it is because I tend to measure my life by those milestones – I know many people who do the same, perhaps we all do to a degree. Each marker in time  is some kind of right of passage to another stage, another chapter, of our constantly unfolding lives. I actually get annoyed with those count downs to milestones, as I see that as wishing one’s life away.The Christmas countdowns that start well before December are one such annoyance, wishing time away just seems plain wrong to me – we have only one life in this world, so why wish for it to pass more quickly? Like most people I’ve experienced times when I have wished time would pass more rapidly and give way to better times, but now those better times are here I don’t want the days and hours to flash by. Father Time though seems to have a wry sense of humour and, as the skilled illusionist that he is, gives the appearance of life passing slowly when things are  tough, but speeding it up when life is good.

Looking back at my blog posts, which only started in June 2014, the milestones are a combination of personal and societal. The death of my mother and the death of a good friend were two events that put life into sharp relief, a time for evaluation and re-evaluation of my own values, needs and desires. That’s when I began to write again and I have marked days of inspiration, reaching 15,000 words  in my book (20,000 now!), and now one thousand hits on my blog; these are small achievements, yet they mark my passage towards something I’ve always hoped for – some form of literary achievement. I haven’t recorded every milestone of course – that might be a little tedious for anyone who reads my blog  – but also some of these milestones are best kept private, so for example I’ve not recorded the details of my son’s departure for university and my daughter’s theatrical and musical exploits, they are things we talk about as a family, and that’s where the details stay – within our family.

Milestones though can be about more than just  personal achievement or marking the (hopefully) happy progress of our lives. Some milestones are marked on a national, and even global scale, there are some that will always be commemorated. In this blog I have written about the anniversary of D-Day and the observance of Remembrance Sunday – both all the more poignant as 2014 marks the 100th year since the outbreak of the first world war and seventy years since D-Day. Our nation marked those milestones with great respect. But they are still just that – milestones, they mark a point reached and another years distance from the real events, and the milestones become history themselves.

On a more upbeat note our US cousins have just celebrated Thanksgiving, a major annual milestone, and a time for friends and family to meet and give thanks for each other and what they have been blessed with. A positive and reflective milestone. Soon we will celebrate Christmas and then New Year, traditionally times when we look back at the previous year and it’s milestones.

Milestones become history the moment after they are reached. I am reminded of possibly one of the finest lines from a contemporary play, from Alan Bennet’s “The History Boys”, it is spoken by the pupil Rudge, who up to this point has been mostly monosyllabic: “How do I define history? It’s just one fucking thing after another”. It is a line played for wry laughs in the play, but of course it is true. History, is merely a sequence of events that occur in succession – whether that is our personal history or society’s. If we can do our utmost to make sure that “one thing after another” is made up of positive actions,valuable achievements, and enriching behaviours, for ourselves and those around us, then our personal histories we will have a strong influence on our society.

Perhaps there is a moral in here somewhere, and as we approach the end of 2014, for me that moral might be that in 2015 I am going to do “one good fucking thing after another”.

 

Note: Apologies if the expletive causes any offence, however it is a direct quote and loses it’s impact and emphasis if censored.

 

Shooting Stars

I have struggled to write something for this month’s blog entry. Not because I have nothing to write about, but because everything I have started to write has ended up being some self-indulgent waffle. I started to write about ‘change’, because change is happening all around me right now: after years of hard study, my son has just started University; my daughter has landed a lead role in her senior school production; my sister is embarking on an exciting new venture as an artist, and a good friend was recently ordained. I was going to write that ‘change is a good thing’; ‘we should embrace change’; ‘change is exciting’. I was going to write that ‘sometimes when lots of change is going on around us we can feel like a stationary object with shooting stars of change coming at us from all directions, and we just have a moment to see them before they pass us by.’

Then I realised where all this was coming from. My own pace of change has slowed considerably. I was recently approached by two headhunters for senior roles in my industry, and I turned them down flat. Ten years ago, even five years ago, I would have ruthlessly followed up. In my field of expertise it is not unusual to change jobs every few years, from the age of late 20’s until early 40’s the average tenure is probably something in the region of three years. My own average since I was 28 (excluding two periods of freelance work) is two years and four months, and as I have now been with my current employer for more than three years typically I should be looking for my next move. But I am not. For the first time in a long time, I don’t want to move. I enjoy my job, have an enviable work/life balance, a boss who gives me complete autonomy (but is there when I need him), and a loyal hard-working team that I have built and developed.

So why am I feeling like I am surrounded by shooting stars? It is because I am. All of those I mentioned earlier are taking their opportunities and making the most of them, they are moving at a much faster pace than I am. That’s how it should be. We cannot all be in a constant state of rapid change – we’d go crazy if there were not things or people that we could rely on, or if our own lives didn’t stay relatively stationary for long enough for us to decide what we wanted, or to recognise a new opportunity when it arises. But human beings, on the whole, are progressive creatures by nature; we crave new things, new experiences, and new challenges. But we are also creatures that can appreciate what goes on around us, whether that is art, theatre, literature, sport, music, the natural world, or technology advances in areas such as science & medicine. We can also appreciate the beauty of change in others. I listened to my son, offering a little advice when needed,  as he carefully chose which university he wanted to go to, and what course to study, and then watched him apply himself to his studies, achieve his grades and get where he wanted to be, I’ve watched  as my daughter has continued to expand her creative horizons and will now be one of the youngest leads ever in her senior school play, I’ve seen how amazingly creative my sister is (the illustration on this page is one of her paintings), and I’ve watched from a distance as my lovely friend Wendy was ordained into the priesthood, after agonising over her calling. All that time I have had the advantage of being relatively stationary – I’ve been the constant this time. As a result I have a completely different perspective than these shooting stars and, if I watch closely and carefully enough, I can see them approaching, their lights growing ever brighter, and when they come close to me they are dazzling, but unlike celestial shooting stars, they are not gone in an instant and fade to nothing, if I choose to I can hold them for as long as I like in my gaze as they approach, and watch them grow bigger, brighter and more brilliant.

It is a true privilege to be standing relatively still while I take in all this change. It is also a lesson in not being too hungry for change all the time.  No doubt my time for change will come again and hopefully I will be someone else’s shooting star. But, right now, I am more than content to gaze upon those stars around me.

.

DSC_2686_GreenShift_Sharpened_croppedInside

This painting by my sister, Sandra Brown, painted without my knowledge as I wrote this blog, perfectly visualises holding a star in my minds eye and watching it grow.

Touching lives: the ripple effect

Once in a while we meet someone who not only touches our own life, but the lives of many, with immeasurably positive outcomes. Immeasurable just because of the sheer number of people that they have influenced. Extravagant actions, self promotion and high profile recognition are totally foreign to this person.

This is the person who we miss most when they are not there any more; who we might take for granted and only realise just how important they are to us when they are no longer in our lives. This individual see’s beyond their own day to day worries, they put their own needs aside when others’ needs are more urgent. And they listen.

This is the person who can organise, who encourages, persuades and gently cajoles. This is the person who coaxes others out of a bad place, who arbitrates in times of discord, who see’s the positive in all situations and the best in all people. And they will always remember you.

Often an unsung hero or heroine, they may not hit the headlines with raising funds for deserving charities, they may not be the one-time absailing or parachuting fundraisers, but if they have a cause it will be a long term commitment that they will support through thick and thin.

Surrogate mum or dad for those away from home for the first time, surrogate big sister or brother for those who have no family but need support in the way that a sibling might provide it. A deep sense of empathy and sympathy defines them, their good humoured nature a cover for their deep emotional intelligence. But above all this is a practical person – hands-on helper, supporter, fixer and enabler. None of their support and advice will ever allow the supportee to wallow in self pity for too long. They will pick you up, but more importantly they will know how to encourage you to pick yourself up. They will know how to focus and refocus you. And that is because they will really know you – because you have trustingly let them get close – your trust is never betrayed.

This person may have set you on your career path, because they believed in you, saw your potential when others did not, they may have pushed you to explore and to extend yourself beyond your own perception of your capabilities. They will have seen something in you that maybe even you did not immediately recognise.

This is a person who we never can, or ever will, forget. The happy memories will be long lasting. They endure over time, their presence and influence still keenly felt long after they have gone. Their absence may not be permanent, there may be reunions to look forward to, and those occasions are joyful ones that are filled with feelings of “picking up where we left off” irrespective of the amount of time that has passed. When the absence is a permanent loss, the inevitable feeling of sadness will eventually give way to fond memories, flashbacks to shared experiences, recollections of parties and fun days, lazy days in the pub, raucous nights in the clubs, and sore heads after partying too hard – but above all there will be laughter. There will always be laughter. The laughter may give way to tears – and those tears will be joyous and sadness combined in equal measure. And just as the laughter and tears between you in life were healing, so after life your own tears mingled with others will offer a healing, as you hear that person in your memories through the crying, and soon you will hear the laughter again.

I am of course writing this about a specific person, but in conversations with others I have come to realise that many of us have a person like this in our lives. In a world that is rife with troubles it gladdens the soul to know that there are people who can be role models, who can show the way, who can support others along the expedition of life and it’s twists and turns, up’s and downs. Perhaps more importantly, if they can do it – we surely should be able to follow their lead. Now that really would be a legacy. The opportunity to be the next ripple and ensure that not just the memory, but the actions, that epitomised that one person are carried forward and increased is ours to embrace.

Dedicated to JDAb. With the love of many.

the-ripple-effect