Monday, 30 June 2014


The mini Madam has been binned. Her piano teacher has refused to continue teaching her, on the grounds that mini Madam never practises. She's got a point. Mini Madam doesn't practice. The teacher looks at me with undisguised reproach. Her view is that I - me particularly, as I can play the piano - should enforce a practice regime. My parents had the same view, did enforce a practice regime, and told me I'd be glad in later years that I'd be able to play the piano. I am.
But does that encourage me to toe the authoritarian parental line? No.
From the outset of mini Madam's piano playing adventure, I made it absolutely clear to all concerned that I wouldn't press her to practice and that progress and application were a matter for her and her alone. I still hold to this. I've felt the same about my sons' education too. I'm puzzled by things like parents' evenings, which lull us gently into the misplacement of responsibility.
It doesn't matter whether mini Madam does or does not grow up with piano playing in her accomplishments. It does matter that she grows up feeling fully empowered and self responsible about her life and its successes and failures.
In contrast to the piano teacher's approach (which, I might argue, has resistance built in) is that of mini Madam's singing teacher, which de-emphasizes practice, and is heavy on enjoyment, personalisation and following the student's own curiosity. Mini Madam sings almost all day every day.

Saturday, 28 June 2014



Who cares?

Wednesday, 25 June 2014


Shall we train and equip ourselves to be in the moment?

Saturday, 21 June 2014


Only kidding.

Back, due to overwhelming and sometimes surprising reader demand.

This blog shall, of course, NEVER end.........maybe.

Awake at 0500 this morning, with the cool, benign early morning air welcoming me to the equinox. I look out over the rows of hedges, and the coverts and can just see the Wolds, hazy in the early sun. Living isn't bad.

I have been wondering about autism. People say it is genetic, but I wonder if it's socialized, its characteristic inability to empathise being a learned behaviour from parents who gave little away to their poor infant. In teaching facilitation, coaching, and the person centred orientation, I've often played a game which I bill as teaching mind reading. I get people to sit in pairs, subject and observer. The subject is to think silently of a person to whom they have a strong emotional reaction - love, hate, jealousy, fear, whatever. The observer's job is to watch their face, and then, after observation, to say what the subject feels about the person they are bringing to mind. It never fails. Though I've never tried it with autistic people. What it shows up is our innate ability to see in the other how they are feeling. But what it also normally prompts is a discussion of how that hugely rich data so often goes ignored. I've heard it said that torturers won't look their victims in the eye. If true, I wonder if that is to add to the torture, or whether it is to protect the torturer from facing the inevitable pain of seeing someone else suffering? Perhaps I forgive too easily.

I also pondered a video I saw of a BBC camera team who got caught a bit close to the front line in Iraq in the ISIS conflict there (for the record caused by US - and Blair led UK - foreign policy). I was struck by how panicky everyone was - the Iraqi fighters, the cameraman and reporter. It was a far cry from British soldiers, who are admirably calm, determined and focused under fire. Indeed, I couldn't even be sure that the incoming fire on this video was especially effective anyway. In conflict situations, it is easy to panic. Calmness under fire, though, is not an innate thing, it is acquired through actual experience. I'm talking here about life in general. Very often what sounds like really dangerous stuff is just some idiots firing off in no general direction in an overdose of testosterone. The battle hardened know how to tell the difference.

Last night, during a really excellent night's sleep, I dreamt of sleeping and dreaming. Now what the hell does that mean?

Tuesday, 17 June 2014


This is the end of this blog.

If you read it, thanks.

If you enjoyed it, so much the better.

Good bye.

Tuesday, 10 June 2014


It's been a weekend of allsorts.

I made quite an idiot of myself by reprimanding a group of teenagers, failing completely until too late  to see their side of the story. I felt very sorry about that. I got suckered into a moral position that, if I'd had a few moments thought, I'd never have taken. I was boring in my atonement. But no one was greatly harmed, just my pride.

My pride was at stake at the boat, as the worst bit of boating is leaving and arriving at a berth, when there is almost always an audience to see one's hopeless attempts at controlling a large cumbersome object affected by at least three fluid media - water, wind and tide. My marina berth is tight requiring reversing with the helm hard over one way, and then firing ahead, ostensibly pointing directly at other boats, but with the helm hard over the other way, trusting that the bow will spin round. Hitherto calm, hidden boat owners appear during these manoeuvres, with furrowed brows, ready to take steps to protect their vessel as I seem intent on dinging both theirs and mine. Fortunately this time I got it right - just, and a kind lady aboard one sparkling boat gave us a thumbs up. So George said, anyway. I was way too concentrated to notice. But my fear, my true fear, is not damage of property, but, again, damage to pride.

In the conversation this weekend a prominent feature was the subject of men who go off with other women. A few examples have occurred. It's easy to rush to the same sort of judgement I made about the teenagers about this. And maybe moral opprobrium is more appropriate. But many a marriage is a loveless and lonely place, or worse, and that must surely go for men as well as women. Who knows?

I admired George for battling seasickness and still performing the essential functions of a crewman when asked. That takes some effort. A morally upright and righteous determination to do what one says.

I was very tired by the time we'd driven back from Plymouth. As I went to bed, there were two rabbits, gloating on the drive. I grumpily got the rifle out. I shot the first and he screamed. Really screamed. I hit him just beneath the head and he threw back his head and screamed. Then he skittered about, legs going like mad, running nowhere except into his own extinction. The second rabbit witnessed this, and was on high alert because of the screams. She froze. I shot her too. She bucked up, raced a few feet, and fell near the wheels of my car. That's what a moral bloke I am. That people shoot for sport baffles me. It leaves me feeling dirty and debauched. I've persuaded myself that the rabbits have to be shot as they eat everything in the vegetable garden. And that is true. But then, since I've had the boat, I've hardly touched the vegetable garden and, apart from a couple of rows of onions and potatoes and a few sad lettuces, its a weed jungle. So what am I protecting, Lord Bloody Protector of my land. I felt the same after shooting the rabbits as after reproaching the teenagers. Crap.

I went to bed and dreamt, horribly, of grotesque rabbit courts sentencing their rabbit felons for infidelity, and saving their harshest sentence for a pompous, fat man with rabbit ears, guilty of making a damned fool of himself with all sorts of ridiculous actions and judgements.

Friday, 6 June 2014


We live in freedom and democracy in our great country today because of the sacrifices made on the beaches of Normandy seventy years ago today. It is a direct lineage. We have inherited our freedom from those who fought and died for it then.

Visiting the Normandy beaches is a terribly emotional thing. It would be a hard person indeed who remained unmoved by the rows upon rows upon rows upon rows of crosses, marking the fallen. And whereas the Allied graves are marked with glorious monuments, backed by a moral rectitude, no less extensive are the plain grey crosses accorded to the German fallen. And they are no less dead, their families no less bereft.

My favourite story of D Day in my mind epitomizes the very freedom which was being fought for. Shimi Lovat, the Brigadier commanding the 1st Special Service Brigade, was a colourful character who, amongst other trademarks of his individuality, eschewed the khaki uniform sweater replacing it with his own white highland sweater with LOVAT embroidered on it, and replaced the standard Lee Enfield rifle with his own Winchester hunting rifle. He also had his own personal Piper, Bill Millin. Upon disembarking at Sword Beach, he commanded Millin to pipe his men ashore. This had been expressly forbidden in orders given to him, as Millin reminded him. "Ah," said Lovat. "Those are Whitehall orders. We're Scotsman. They don't apply to us. Now, for f*cks sake, play something cheery."

"I suppose you want me to march up and down as well?" asked Millin, amazed.

"That would be very good," said Lovat.

Thus the preposterous occurred. Millin, clad in a kilt, patrolled the beach playing Road to the Isles and Blue Bonnets, oblivious to the incoming fire. Later, German snipers reported a variety of reasons for not shooting him, including that they thought it would be bad luck, and that if he was mad enough to do what he was doing, he ought to be allowed to get on with it.

In both Millin and Lovat were men who epitomised the individualistic, slightly mad art of being British.

I cannot bring to mind such things without my eyes moistening. We owe so much to these men and their comrades. But to honour their bravery and sacrifices properly, I believe takes a personal commitment not to nationalistic patriotism, but instead to a desire to break national boundaries and closed minded entities which ultimately are the reason for conflict and war in the first instance. Our freedom, fought for and won at such a cost, contains as its essence a permission to think beyond what binds "us" to a deeper questioning of "them", and a more universal definition of "us" that includes all humanity.

In this way, at the going down of the sun, and in the morning, will we best remember them.