Tumour Has It: Show preview

My good friend and fellow blogger Karen Hobbs (https://quarterlifecancer.com) is barking mad! Diagnosed with cancer at the age of 24 she has made a remarkable recovery through much chemo, surgery and an indomitable spirit. Sounds like any other cancer patients story? Think again – here is why. A few weeks ago I attended Karen’s one woman show “Tumour Has It’. I cried with laughter. I cried with sadness. I cried with empathy for her parents. Then I laughed some more. “Irreverent”could be Karen’s middle name. Karen has used her talents do talks with the Eve Appeal, been featured in local and national media and continues to raise awareness around cervical cancer and associated challenges. All at once funny, inspiring and thought-provoking, Karen’s ability to laugh at her cancer while not detracting from the serious issues associated with a cancer that is largely preventable, and highly responsive to treatment when caught early, is honest, hilarious and nothing short of courageous.

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A born actress and comedienne Karen has now gone completely loopy by deciding to take her one woman show to the Edinburgh fringe. Is the fringe ready for vagina humour? Is the fringe ready for Karen Hobbs? Well I guess we will find out soon! It’s a brave move by Karen, and underscores her absolute commitment to raise awareness about cervical cancer and the need for screening and for the de-stigmatisation of sexual health issues. Did you know that 22% of women in the UK do not attend their cervical smear appointments and that 49% of women are too embarrassed to go to their doctor if they have a “problem down below”?! Yes, it’s true, in the supposedly enlightened 21st century women are somehow discouraged to take their sexual health seriously!

Of course there is a major problem with giving up your full-time job and taking on the fringe. It’s that other “dirty” word. Money! Lucre! Dosh! It costs around £7,000 to stage a show of this nature at the fringe. Karen doesn’t have that kind of money, but she’s risking it anyway! We hope she will sell enough tickets to cover some costs, but most shows don’t.

I have no doubt that Karen is a real star in the making – so if you’ve read this far I’d like to try to convince you to become part of the “crowd” that is crowd-funding Karen through this experience. It is probably best now to hear from Karen herself, so please take a look at her crowd funding page below, complete with funny video (with a couple of cameo’s of yours truly saying “penis” and “vagina” – it’s go to be worth viewing for that alone right?!). Once you’ve watched the video, please don’t just think “yeah that was funny” or “what a great cause, good luck Karen” – just click the link that says “Pledge” and join the rest of the crowd funders – every little helps, so maybe £5/$5 (which let’s face it are close to being the same value these days!) as a minimum donation. For backers outside of the UK Karen might not manage those personal appearance for pledges of larger amounts (unless you fund the trip!) 🙂

On average my blog gets two hundred hits, so at a minimum if you’re all generous we could raise another £1,000 to help get Karen’s show on the road, hopefully the associated press coverage will get the messages out there – I know I’m already “nagging” the ladies in my life to make and keep their cervical screening appointments, the more women that do the better, and the greater the chance for catching these cancers early before they get to ruin lives. Anyway, without further ado, here is what Karen says:

http://www.crowdfunder.co.uk/karen-hobbs-tumour-has-it/

 

 

Happy Day

Today is Fathers day. I’ll celebrate with my children, and I know that they have prepared and wrapped presents for me. But I won’t celebrate it with my own father. I saw him yesterday, but the grip of Alzheimer’s disease grows ever tighter on his misfiring brain. He was unable to comprehend what Fathers day is for. It was funny at the time as he asked me would I get presents too. I should be sad. But I am not. He has been caught between a place of muddle and confusion and a place of occasional clarity for some time, but the mental mist now softens things for him. He is less aware of what goes on around him, other than those things that affect him immediately. He is living in the moment more and more. I am not sad about that, because I would rather he be happy in his mist, than muddled and confused when it clears. He is less miserable for it, though he forgets much. So it is a very different Father’s day this year, and I suspect next year he will be unaware as to why he is being given presents, though he will delight at opening them as he did yesterday. My own children gave him cause to laugh and smile when we visited as he recognised their faces, but names – even his own – are sometimes difficult to recall. They spoke to him with much kindness and a generosity of understanding – an understanding that I find hard to give – and so the smiles that they brought to his face was the best Father’s day present they could have given me. For all those of you that find Father’s day a difficult day for whatever reason, I hope you can find something to smile about too. Perhaps for my father and for many of us it should just be a ‘Happy Day’ wish – every day.

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!

Remembering 7/7 2005

On July 7th 2005 I started my daily commute from Ely to London as normal. Except for one difference – I left an hour earlier to be in a client meeting for 8am. Any other day I would have caught the 7:25am train arriving at Kings Cross at around 8:35am, I’d be on the platform of the Piccadilly line at about 8:44am and on the tube  between 8:45am and 8:50am heading via Russell Square to Holborn. The significance of those times is starkly obvious. But that day I was sitting in a glass walled meeting room with my client from 8am for an hours presentation. At around 8:55am we saw the TVs go on outside in the open plan office and watched as the rest of my colleagues heard the news. My boss came to the door and explained what had happened. We all sat in a stunned silence. The topic of our meeting now an irrelevance. I phoned my usual travelling companion immediately – he was safe having arrived late and unable to get on the tube, but he was shell-shocked having witnessed the bus explosion in Tavistock square.

Plaque_at_7-7-2005_bombings_memorial,_Hyde_Park_-_geograph.org.uk_-_1757634

Later that morning we were advised to head home so, with London in a transport lock down I, and thousands of others, walked calmly out of central London heading for suburban stations where the trains were still running in order to get people out of the capital. I will never forget the silence of the crowds as we walked together. There was nothing to say. Some wept as they walked. Some tried to reach loved ones on the overloaded mobile networks. As the full extent of the bombings trickled through, the mood on that sunny summers day was sombre. Nothing anyone writes now could possibly capture the horror and devastation of lives and of families that happened on that day. Nothing can capture the sheer mass disbelief and shock of those in London on 7th July 2005. My words here are not intended to say “thank God I was early that day otherwise I could have been on that bombed train”, though that is true. I write this on the 10th anniversary of that horrific day and think of those fellow commuters, who I may well have seen before, going about their usual day, many of their lives changed forever through injury and post traumatic stress. Anniversary remembrance is all very well, but lets not forget those who suffered and continue to suffer until the next milestone. We should remember them always.

I remember the 52 who lost their lives:

Lee Baisden, Benedetta Ciaccia, Richard Ellery, Richard Gray, Anne Moffat, Fiona Stevenson, Carrie Taylor, Michael Stanley Brewster, Jonathan Downey,David Foulkes, Jennifer Nicholson, Colin Morley, Laura Webb, James Adams, Samantha Badham, Philip Beer, Anna Brandt, Ciaran Cassidy, Rachelle Chung For Yuen, Elizabeth Daplyn, Arthur Frederick, Karolina Gluck,Gamze Gunoral, Lee Harris, Ojara Ikeagwu, Emily Jenkins, Adrian Johnson, Helen Jones, Susan Levy, Shelley Mather, Mike Minh Matsushita, James Mayes, Behnaz Mozakka,  Mihaela Otto, Atique Sharifi, Ihab Slimane, Christian Small, Monika Suchocka, Mala Trivedi, Anthony Fatayi-Williams, Jamie Gordon, Giles Hart, Marie Hartley, Miriam Hyman, Shahara Islam, Neetu Jain, Sam Ly,  Shyanuja Niroshini Parathasangary, Anat Rosenberg,  Philip Russell, William Wise, Gladys Wundowa.

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.

Thanksgiving: what’s the big deal?

 

Thanksgiving

I’ve never understood Thanksgiving. Or to be more accurate, as a “Brit”, even though I’ve visited the USA many times, worked with American colleagues and have many American friends, I have never been able to fathom why the Thanksgiving holiday is such a major event, possibly even eclipsing Christmas in its national importance and observance.

I’ve read about the origins of Thanksgiving, the debate about how it came to be, the influence of the English reformation and the puritans, the possible connections with the Dutch concerning the siege of Leiden (1573), the suggestion that the holiday has its roots with the early pilgrims in Plymouth, Massachusetts, fabled tales of feasts between pilgrims and Native American Indians, the Unionist rationale for fixing the date and so on. But nothing really explains why Thanksgiving has the national importance and significance that it does. Other countries have Thanksgiving holidays, but on the whole they are celebrated to a lesser extent than in the USA. Is it a holiday that exists solely to give thanks for the Harvest? In a country as vast as the USA surely harvest time varies depending on where people live and therefore so would their periods of thanksgiving. It is certainly nothing like a traditional harvest festival in Britain which, while a notable Christian celebration (particularly in rural farming communities like mine), is not a national holiday nor as major an event as Thanksgiving – maybe it should be. Harvest has it’s place in Thanksgiving – that much is clear – but it appears to be much more than a glorified harvest festival. And maybe it is because of that, that the religious and secular observance of the holiday is united.

If I’m honest, I am actually a little envious of Thanksgiving. From my observers perspective it seems to be a holiday that has retained a genuine meaning, relevance and significance that transcends belief systems (although what that meaning is founded on is still unclear). Of course it has it’s commercial elements – I’ve been to the Thanksgiving sales – but at its heart Thanksgiving seems to be a holiday of, well, Thanksgiving. I’m not sure it really matters that much what you are giving thanks for, whether it is the harvest, your family, home, community, and friends, maybe it’s giving thanks for your country and your freedoms.

It doesn't really matter what you are giving thanks for

It doesn’t really matter what you are giving thanks for (image courtesy of gallery hip.com)

 

In Great Britain, despite our long and vast history, we actually do not have a day like Thanksgiving, nor for that matter do we have a day like Independence Day; it would be a whole other discussion to look at the make up of the holidays in Great Britain and their origins, but we do not have a day where we celebrate who we are, or a day that we give over to giving thanks. As British citizens I fear that we may be morally poorer for a lack of a Thanksgiving celebration; for we too have much to give thanks for.

So tomorrow, when my usually hectic afternoon of telephone calls and video conferences with my US colleagues will be strangely quiet, I will pause for a moment and make sure that I give thanks for the things that I might otherwise take for granted. I will of course also enjoy the peace and quiet (maybe I should give thanks for that too!).

To all my American friends, colleagues and readers, I wish you all a very happy Thanksgiving holiday.