Thursday, 1 December 2011
Suffice to say, returning to Normal Life in London - school, work and routine - was not as difficult for me as it might have been, especially since I was so relaxed and slim. Alas, Normal Life takes a toll and I can no longer boast of such heights of relaxation or indeed such a svelte and tanned silhouette... Nevertheless, the past three months have raced by, full of school, work and routine. And the myriad highs and lows that accompany them; fatigue, homework, leaking pens, mean girls, new friends, horrible food... And that's just my set of problems. What must the off-Spring be going through?
With the Autumn has come global anxiety too: floods and devastation, the Eurozone crisis, challenging job markets, increasing prices.
Though it's not all terrible. The glut of good new tv shows is a silver lining this time of year (and the real reason for my long silence). I wish I could comment on things like X factors and dancing and celebrities in forests, but I can't. What could I possibly add? I do want to recognise though, the profile and publicity that celebrities lend to causes that are important to them, such as bullying.
I came across a very interesting article recently when researching bullying. I would recommend you read it if you or someone dear to you has faced bullying. Indeed read it in any case. As a parent, bullying looms large in the lexicon, if not the experience, of many. Yet, despite a theoretical understanding of the causes and myriad manifestations of bullying, there is nothing quite like the gut-wrenching, eye-watering sense of dis-empowerment and heartache that a parent feels when first learning that their child is a victim.
To be clear, I am not talking about playground tussles, squabbles over toys or friendly, mutual teasing. Anyone with a sibling is toughened up at home at the hands of brothers and sisters and prepared well for shenanigans such as these.
But sustained, systematic, mean and persistent victimisation is something altogether different.
The fact that such can occur in "nice" schools, under the noses of teachers who genuinely care, is staggering. At risk of sounding like someone's elderly mother, in my day (ie when I was a child) such things did not seem to go on to this extent, with this sort of frequency or in such a prolonged and damaging way. Perhaps one forgets. I will not stray into the world of cyber bullying for now. Even a cursory glance at comments left on some of the broadsheet's web pages would indicate that common courtesy in a scarcer commodity in the electronic world than face to face. While the language and abuse I witnessed in several discussion on a writer's forum I once logged on to were so vile, intimidating and aggressive as to leave me scared to post a comment at all, let alone defend the person or point of view that was being attacked.
But returning to schoolyard and classroom bullying, it seems to me that that as Izzy Kalman suggests in his article above, there is no actual "solution". There will always be bullies and anti-social behaviour. There will always be people who enjoy excluding and oppressing others. There will always be fear and suspicion of anyone different or who stands apart. There will always be naive and seemingly innocent jokes that cut to the quick. There will always be troubled children lacking in empathy and sensitivity, desperate to fit in, to be seen as powerful or cool or a force to be reckoned with.
Worrying, there will also always be "normal" children from "good" homes who bully others, who think it's "cool" to treat others badly; to ridicule or poke fun, to put someone else down and thereby make themselves feel better. And there will be adults who tacitly encourage such by their acts or their omissions. The pages of literature are strewn with heroes and heroines who faced far worse!
So, yes, I agree, making it stop is neither a realistic nor an achievable goal.
But that is not to say one should give up.
Perhaps we can find ways of helping adults see how their behaviour, language and tone contribute to and condone bullying. Perhaps we can learn that in a pressure pot, steam must eventually escape. In other words, in hot-housing and pressuring, living through, and failing to listen to our children, we may be part, or a source, of the problem.
Sure, everyone can be mean or self-centred. We all have days when we don't want to share. There is always someone who is not really "our cup of tea", who we'd rather not have to play with. Who of us has not stood by and said or done nothing when someone nearby was being hurt, left out, teased or worse? This is the human condition, afterall.
But it also seems to be incumbent on us as humans, let alone as parents, to help and guide young people to find within themselves the courage, wisdom, heart and intelligence, not only to forgive, deal with, learn and grow, from bullying, but just as importantly, never to become a bully either.
As an aside, when I was a child, back in my day, I watched the opening moments of "The Wizard of Oz". Captivated by all musicals made before 1970 (and "Enchanted") I was very keen to find out about the yellow brick road and to where it led. The psychologists amongst you can let me know what it means that I was terrified of the red shoes and those legs poking out from under the house. I fled in tears to my room, imploring my parents to "turn it down". Such was my fear that I never ever watched the film. Indeed, I would have to rank "Oz" as among my "top 5 scariest movies of all time" (along with Psycho, Nightmare on Elm Street and Dirty Dancing). Accordingly, until reading Mr Kalman's article last week I had no idea that "The Wizard of Oz" is at heart a simple tale about dealing with bullying. I did not realise the significance of the characters' quest.
Luckily, (despite what you may think of me, given my penchant for US TV shows) there are other sources of information and character formation at one's disposal... We don't need an Emerald City, a Wizard or a broomstick to guide us to the courage, heart, wisdom and way home.
But I will be watching "Oz" asap!
Monday, 22 August 2011
And so began a wonderful and relaxing vacation.
This trip has offered, as it never fails to do, a fresh perspective on modern life. Ghana is a democratic and modern nation, rich in natural resources such as cocoa, gold, fruit, oil and natural gas. And yet despite the plenty that abounds and which ensures that the famine of East Africa is at most only the remotest of possibilities here, there is abject poverty too. This creates for me - an Australian - a confronting conundrum. For I come from a nation rich in natural resources too. My home is also hot and dry and teeming with friendly and welcoming souls. Yet, the similarities stop there.
Smarter and better informed minds than mine will no doubt have answers to my questions and solutions to the problems. All I can do is paint a picture with my words and convey, I hope, a sense of the richness of culture, the depth of community and the spirit of hospitality and humour that transcends daily life.
Five minutes from the melee is a tranquil oasis of green and bougainvillea blossoms where behind high walls, lush lawns are tended and German cars are polished, satellite tv is watched and the latest in modern convenience and comfort is enjoyed. This is Accra.
Meanwhile, in a village less than 50 miles from here, we were welcomed by the incumbent King and his Queen Mother and court. The Chief in his palace accepted our visit, arranged by our friend his cousin and explained the role of the chief. He described the ceremonial as well as day to day meaning of his post. Negotiator and lobbyist, philanthropist and judge, arbiter and father to his people. It was poignant for us used to a diet of Grazia and Tatler, The Telegraph and Hello, to see real royalty at work. The Off-Spring were a little concerned at the absence of chandeliers in the palace - a simple house and courtyard set back from the street. But the King sat on a carved wooden throne, wearing special cloth and surrounded by his advisors - his linguists, his philosopher, his wife. The warmth of their welcome and their interest and delight in meeting the visitors from Australia and London was unforgettable. The value placed on family, ancestors and tradition is clear. So too, the ties with the land, the ceremonies and key events of life (naming events, engagements, funerals, memorials). While all around there seems a hustle and bustle, a clog of cars and a thronging of people, there is also order and structure, process and protocol, purpose and productivity.
Against this backdrop of unwritten rules and modes of conduct, expats (and I too, now) joke about "Ghana time". This means come late, stay long, take your time. But it also means - in good time, in God's time and in a word - "chill".
Leaving a city torn apart by looting and rampaging thieves and muggers - albeit only briefly and in disparate areas - to come here, is a journey filled with irony. For here, living on a few dollars a day, dollars made through hard and hot labour, thousands still smile and hope for more. Not rioting for trainers and TVs. yet who would blame them if they turned to violence to secure running water, a toilet or a pension, or to protest for basic healthcare, immunisations or electricity. Church, family, prayer and the belief that "By God's Grace" all is well, seems, miraculously, to be enough. Which is not to suggest a simplicity or lack of sophistication. Ghana is a safe haven in West Africa and as such a beacon, an example and a destination in its own right.
But how is this of interest to you? Perhaps it is not...
Perhaps as a mere travelogue? If so, I will continue.
Mr Springgirl. on our arrival, typically likes to take us for a drive with the windows down to help us acclimatise to the smells and the humidity. The senses are assaulted all day in a way that they rarely are elsewhere. From the rooster crowing and the wind in the leaves to the burnt out and obsolete mufflers roaring on the dusty and potholed roads beneath the roar of departing planes flying over the house, we are confronted by noise. Bats squeak in the mango trees. I awaken to the sounds of switch brooms at work and the gardener clearing his throat - with vigour. While English is the official language, hundreds of dialects are spoken proficiently and fluently. The language is musical but to me, unlearnable, with idiomatic expressions that leave me staggered. For example, at Christmas the locals in what sounds like five words proffer a wish "that the year will go out and come back to greet you".
And that is just the sense of hearing.
Visually the strong contrast between the red dust and the dark green of the trees and the steely blue grey of the ocean is dramatic. There are no rolling patchwork hills here, nor azure seas or cornflower skies. Yet the haze belies lush plantations of bananas and palms, seaside coconuts and hills of cocoa. And the local tie dyed fabrics and woven kente cloth offer the fullest of spectrum for the eye to savour. Choosing a table cloth can take all morning such is the choice of pattern and colour.
Meanwhile the olfactory sense is taking its own beating. Not one to miss a day's exercise I was keen this trip to take to the streets to maintain my fitness (such as it is) - the weather being milder and more permissive. However, even if I could manage the absence of pavement and the constant beeping of taxis alerting me to their presence in the strongest of terms (white lady should not be running around the streets like this - here take a ride), I could not endure any real distance in the humidity. Even in the cool weeks it takes one's breath away. The sweat literally pours off one if attempting outdoor exercise in daylight! And the smells? Well, given one's own sweat production levels (ditch the Dukan diet and come here to detox, I say) and the more than occasional pedestrian relieving himself roadside, the freely grazing sheep and goats, the oozing gutters and scant supply of rubbish bins, one is assured of a very rich and "ripe" running (let's be honest, strolling) experience.
But it's not always so. Picking a pathway across a nearby field, over a small stream in which goodness knows what flows to the Atlantic, to watch a local sharecropper tend his rocket and spring onions, I enjoyed a brief diversion. Under a tree off the track was a small soiree of locals enjoying their own crop - one they could smoke. The citronella lanterns and candles offer a sweet respite and the ripe mangoes, pineapples and bananas at the Fruit Lady's stall never smell this good in Tesco (or Waitrose!).
The senses of taste and touch also get a good going over in Ghana. Tantalising tropical fruit, seafood galore and tomato and nut based stews abound. Anything savoury - from beans to rice - is laced with pepper. Though the newly arrived KFC chain may provide an alternative for the western palate... As an aside, the eldest Off-Spring is convinced all the chicken shops (the only non-local form of "fast food" here) portray the chooks looking terrifically, and indeed, unnaturally, happy as they march to the counter to be eaten.
I should also note that my skin has never looked better. The humidity seems to remove all trace of wrinkles and fine lines (my Ghanaian mother-in-law looked younger at 70 then I did when I first got off that plane all those years ago to meet her). The tropical formula DEET (mozzy cream) is working wonders on my limbs - very moisturising. Indeed, who would bother bringing cosmetics here at all, given one is covered in repellent all day for fear of malaria, even with the daily dose of anti-malarial. The mosquitoes are prolific and bite anything not covered, despite screens, nets and sprays.
My only complaint would be the dearth of book stores. Hardly a problem in this era of e-books though, as I discovered to my delight - the new Andrea Camilleri Montalbano Mystery is waiting for me on this very laptop at a fraction of what I would pay in Waterstones! And it took me coming to Ghana to give up the so-coveted tactile experience of reading an "actual" book.
Speaking of which, I have made good headway on my new novel. There is something about holidays in Ghana, but one always finds the time and space to think here. Could be the large garden full of hammocks and balls entertaining the Off-Spring, the charming husband and staff tending to the chores (freeing one from all domestic responsibility), or maybe there is something in the (non-potable) water...
I swear this is the only place to holiday. If only one could provide sanitation, health care and a basic wage for the population by doing so...
Failing that you might enjoy some of what Ghana has to showcase...
Thursday, 7 July 2011
Thursday, 16 June 2011
Tuesday, 24 May 2011
Perhaps it's the metaphor that resonates most with me. Words describing nature at work best describe states of mind, emotional and interpersonal interactions; best conjure the image of what we mean or feel.
Floods of tears
Depths of despair
Heights of emotion
We stand on precipices and brinks, fall into abysses and jump off cliffs, we scale pinnacles, weather storms, overcome maelstroms, fight the tide, go with the flow, paddle upstream, tread water, have the wind at our back - all without leaving our offices or homes.
Some days seem like uphill battles. Or the quiet before the storm. Some days we feel as if we are caught in a rip and no one can hear our cries for help over the sound of the waves pounding on the shores of our lives.
And some days there is a life preserver right there if only we could see it through the salt and sand, the spray and even the volcanic ash in our eyes. On those days we feel our way to safe harbours, trust our instincts and somehow know where we can turn for the buoys we seek.
And on those days, despite the exhaustion and the heartache, when we sense or find the solace we need, the relief and the gratitude that follows is so deep, so palpable, so real, that it makes so much that we concern ourselves with seem small and trivial.
By and large, in its simplest terms, the road we hoe is essentially a solitary one. We surround ourselves with others, with noise and distraction, clutter, stuff, experiences. But basically, we're all just hoeing a bit of dirt, more or less alone. Sure, we're all out there seemingly together, tending our crops in one way or another, hopefully reaping what we have sown, or not, in some cases. Some of us have our noses down, some have our ear to the ground to hear what is coming. For some it is the zephyr that will herald the news we seek. For others the clouds. For we are all tending different crops. For some it's wheat, potatoes or rice - nourishment for many, for others sweet fruit and pretty flowers will bring joy and beauty. Still others will give their life to rare cacti or allow noxious weeds to take over their patch. And others will cultivate great forests and provide shelter and protection. And some will seem to reap it all.
And yet others will throw down their tools and wander off to some other man's field to steal some manure perhaps, to break a shovel or perhaps to help out after a drought.
There may be tough times out in those fields, but ultimately if we know what we are sowing, can the harvest be a surprise?
The youngest Off-Spring once said - "Some days (walking) feels like just pushing the world back."
At three, he was describing a physical sensation (I hope).
But his simple metaphor was profound and memorable, for some days that is exactly how it feels.
Sunday, 22 May 2011
What is fascinating too, is the degree to which the unconscious mind believes it can overcome the hardship or the challenge in each case. In the dream I am committed to getting to that exam, to working, rushing, pushing on, striving to overcome the obstacles, never so deeply perturbed or worried that I give up. The dream usually ends before the exam is sat or the results handed out, but in those moments when one can cram, choose whether to attend the exam, consult the campus map or not (so as to find the right room), pack the pens, one does all of those things. Is this a reflection of a persevering personality or something else? Is it true of all of us - that we dream of possibilities, even if our conscious self would drop out of the race, give up, cry off? The dreaming self is so optimistic and confident, unsullied by all those gremlins and limiting self-beliefs that the awake self has to deal with.
Or is it that a some level we know it isn' real - that it is only a dream and no matter what happens we cannot fail?
Imagine living that way? Imagine believing you could never fail?
There are fleeting glimpses of this fearlessness in conscious life. Last night was the Off-Spring's school Dinner Dance and Auction fundraising event. Together with a wonderful committee of mothers, I and my co-chair arranged the event. Safe in the knowledge born from experience that the night could not be an unmitigated disaster but rather, some version of a success, I was quietly confident that it would all go well. I hoped we could match previous years' funds raised. If we could just create a nice atmosphere and a convivial evening of socialising and merriment, then we would have something to be proud of.
Well we did all of that. And we raised a lot of money - almost three times more than I hoped we might raise (pitching expectations low being a great source of gleeful surprise and smiling in so many things one does). The school now has an even lovelier fund on which to draw for various initiatives for the children as well as much needed building restoration work. We were blessed to have received 30 donated items that were both sought after and valuable. Strong interest, good ticket sales, delicious food, generous and supportive parents and an inspiring and dedicated staff and headteacher contributed to the rest. It was a great event. Every person who contributed to it in any way should feel proud to have been part of it's success.
Running a PTA is voluntary work, charitable giving, community work, if you like. Many of us do it or something like it at some point in our lives. But why? Some say that acts of giving make us happy. Some say that we do such things for recognition, or out of guilt or a sense of obligation. For some it is a way of giving back. For others it is to use skills that we might otherwise not have a chance to use during years of parenting or retirement or when we are not engaged in paid work. It may be to please someone, to impress or to persuade, to gain leverage or to buy good will, to learn something, or to teach something.
Whatever the reason, and there are a probably several in combination on any given day, we do it. Perhaps the why is not so important, in the final analysis, but it weighs on my mind, for there is the question as to whether to stay on for another year as Chair person. In order to decide, understanding my rationale or purpose is important - at least to me.
Part of that means one has to work out why failure on the part of some to acknowledge a success holds a sting. One has to know one's limits, one's priorities, one's values. One has to be candid and authentic about how best one can play a role and the potential conflicts that the roles one plays can create in one'e wider life and circle. One has to understand that whether one is motivated intrinsically or extrinsically, or perhaps both, one would not do it if one thought in terms of merely success and failure.
Which leads one to value perhaps the best part of any challenge; the overcoming of an obstacele and the learning that goes hand in hand - particularly about oneself, but also about others. And the knowledge that there really is no such thing as failure, just opportunities to learn, to grow, to give (and to take) and above all, to wear a pretty dress now and then!
Monday, 2 May 2011
Here in London the magic was palpable that day. For the first time in several days the air was clear and cool. There was a cloudy sky, the first in weeks that morning, and the high pollen count had abated somewhat. Consequently for the thousands who descended on central London to catch a glimpse of the wedding party the atmosphere was very British - very Wimbledon - very amenable.
For me, a hayfever sufferer, the day could not have been more pleasant. Watching the wedding from home and then the gym, enjoying the company of my neighbours at the Royal Wedding garden party, feeling united with my English brethren in a proud and historic celebration of love, community, majesty and family.
But in hindsight I think the truly amazing thing about the event - and indeed - perhaps the reason for my malaise over the next three days - was the almost story book quality of perfection around the occasion (not unlike my own wedding day...). Everything was just lovely.
For me, the fact that someone really quite ordinary snared the future king of England is though, one of the most profound aspects of this happy tale. And by "ordinary" I do not mean "common" as the British press and establishment love to call her. Nor do I mean to be disparaging - for ordinary is truly what most of us are.
No - the really wonderful thing is that unlike so many elements of monarchy, this wedding seemed charmingly democratic and accessible. Kate, by all accounts, is a sensible and poised woman. Unlike some pundits and posters who have comments to make about make-up and social climbing, her weight and her hair, I really can find nothing to criticise her for. Isn't she the sort of girl one would have been friends with? The sort of girl one would like one's daughter to be? A nice, ordinary, straight forward, committed, dedicated, sweet person?
Ok, so those qualities may not be entirely "ordinary", after all, but I can't help wishing and hoping that they were or could be.
But the magic lies in the fact that this young couple are so discreet and polite and measured. Unlike the B and C grade celebrities (and A as well, let's be honest) that festoon the headlines most weeks, there is no controversy, no tawdry gossip, no drugs or indiscretions.
While they may be royalty the very fact that she shops on the high streets and does her own make-up and that he plays a little bit of football in the public park on the eve of his wedding, makes this couple, this very famous duo, breathtakingly regular and indeed - ordinary. She has worn the same thing more than once for the cameras!
This is not to say that their lives are ordinary, by any means. Nor is it to suggest that any ordinary Joe or Jane could or would swap places with them and assume their roles with even an iota of the dignity and aplomb with which they seem to carry off every public appearance.
All I mean is that it is refreshing and a little bit magical to witness a commitment and love outside one's circle of ordinary people that is just so nice and normal (despite the guest list and the budget for the wedding, the helicopter pickup the next day and the titles...).
The other thing that is so lovely and fresh, in this age where everyone has a website, a blog, a point of view, and in which so many mediocre and extraordinarily damaged and strange people harbour a yearning for fame and fortune, notoriety or celebrity, is that this couple to date has really said very little.
So yes, less is more. Silence is golden.
Friday, 22 April 2011
Meanwhile about 78 people/organisations follow me on Twitter. I cannot seem to break through the 80 people milestone and stay there. I pass it every few days, only to find that a day later 2 or 3 followers have de-followed me. I wonder if this is a reflection on the quality of my tweets, my politics as reflected thereby or my failing to follow them back.
It's a fickle old world.
And if those amazing stats were not enough, did you know that an estimated1 billion people around the world will watch the coverage of the Royal Wedding next Friday (superbly timed as a morning event to allow for all the Anglophiles in the far flung reaches of the Commonwealth to tune in).
Of course, if I start tweeting about the Royal Wedding things may begin to look up for me...
Instead, given today is Good Friday, I will post a few thoughts about this day.
Today is my favourite day of the year. Good Friday is a holiday here in England - from work anyway - if not shopping. The great thing about Good Friday - in most places I should think, is that the weather is good. None of the forced jollity under grey skies that is the English Christmas. Nor the stinking hot humidity of summer Christmases. April (or March) is generally mild and pleasant. But that is not why I love this holiday.
No the clincher is the reason for which we have this nice quiet long weekend - the weekend that never ends (especially when followed by the once in a generation treat of a Royal Wedding so soon after). Aside from the fact that I enjoy a holiday bereft of commercial pressure, I revel in the reminder of my humanity, the reminder that this weekend we remember that we are united in the pain and suffering of all people across the world and through the ages. Like Jesus, dying on the cross to complete his life on earth as a man, we all suffer. Today we remember the indignity, the shame, the humiliation, the self-sacrifice and the isolation that Jesus was subjected to, as a man. Most of us will face less than this, hopefully, in our lives. And yet, the fortitude and love with which Jesus faced this event, his passion and death, gives us all pause for thought - whether we believe in Him or not.
So I love this day. It is quiet, sombre, imbued with meaning. It helps me to be grateful for my good fortune. It helps me to pause and give thanks, to reflect on the suffering and hardship in the world around me. To contemplate those who suffer. To contemplate my own challenges and hardships with renewed courage and perspective.
And to look forward to a brighter day too and the triumph it will bring over evil, over pain and affliction.
That was Easter Sunday by the way - not the Royal Wedding day...
However, on a brighter note, the Royal Wedding is certainly exciting us all here in London. Union Jacks adorn the pubs walls and windows of many proprietors. The news reports tragic events abroad, smog levels that are dangerously high in the city, and great April weather that is breaking all records. Best of all is the wedding news though.
I think my next post will analyse the event, if not from a pole position on the Mall or Whitehall (where I once worked) then from a community of pleasant Londoners sharing a Kensington garden square and throwing their own Royal Wedding Garden party next Friday.
Call me an opportunist if you like. I bet my blog's popularity surges!
Thursday, 14 April 2011
Now it was a couple of years ago, that I wrote that..
Things have changed in many ways since. For a start all of the Off-Spring developed cycle proficiency without lessons - in the old fashioned way - spurred on by each other and the neighbourhood children. I run classes for adults and children now. Communication and negotiation being just two skills we work on (listening and resilience and tolerance prove to be more urgent needs, actually). We have also abandoned star charts some time in the past two years in favour of a points system that allows for demerits as well as merits and which allows for the accumulation of points for behaviour going above and beyond the expected. It works very well. I am currently top of the leader board....
Wednesday, 13 April 2011
I read with interest a headline in a tabloid yesterday concerning a "new slimline Kate". I was not sure to whom the article referred at first. Kate was once Kate Winslett. Or God forbid, Katie Price. Say no more.
Imagine my surprise to discover that they were referring to none other than Kate Middleton. Seriously, was she ever anything but slim? Guess what - a "femail" journalist wrote the article and managed to find an 8 year old picture of Kate looking slightly more puffy in the face - ie glowing with teenage good health. A page was thus filled with pathetic drivel about brides and nerves and weightloss and slimness generally. Poor Kate. As if she did not have enough on her very royal and gilt-edged plate.
What could be worse than being compared for ever to the mother-in-law you never knew? Having your clothes, body and hair commented on for the rest of your life, I should imagine. Still, married to a prince, there may be some compensations. Well I should hope so.
Meanwhile the Telegraph, inspired by Wills' and Kate's example, extols the virtues of inviting some "exes" to your nuptials. How many exes can a couple of twenty somethings who met in college have? I ask. But I am a tad old fashioned, I grant you. Westminster Abbey is a bloody big church. I'd have found a few exes too if I had been tying the knot there with an unlimited budget and a public holiday for the nation as well. And let's not forget that the All Black Captain graciously declined an invite - being too busy winning world cups or some such macho nonsense...
The things is, they are a lovely young couple. They are lifting all our spirits. Kate's outfits are super. Who cares whether she has the style of Moss or the panache of Blanchett. One day she will be queen and clothes will not be her only claim to fame.
Mind you, my dear friend Mara, in Australia, has asked for as much Royal Wedding Memorabilia as I can get my hands on. Tea towels especially. Goodness, where does one shop for that sort of thing. The online business ideas are almost overwhelming... I have visions of myself queuing alongside various women of a certain age in Home Counties towns. And those coffee/tea cups that are too hot to hold, and some of those layered cake plates. No doubt a very big hit at the next charity morning tea in suburban Brisbane.
Despite the general excitement - street parties (or in our case a garden party, with scones, tea cake, sandwiches and bunting) and lining the route of royal carriages aside - I have to admit that explaining the idea of a monarchy to the Off-Spring was not easy. The idea that nice, normal people more or less like us, are born into the role of king, or queen, was not easy to justify. It was particularly difficult to explain why Prince Philip is not a King. The relevant rules reflecting an attitude so antiquated and sexist as to be almost anachronistic in today's society - or so I tell myself, until I read that outfits, weight and hair styles trump intellect, ideas and gravitas, anyway, as far as women are concerned.
And yet, I read that Bridget Jones and Carrie Bradshaw have no place in the lives of twenty somethings, whose ambitions run to intellectual self-improvement, rather than securing husbands. Elsewhere that same group classes parenting as more important than the relationship they might have with a romantic partner.
Isn't slimline Kate in that group?
It's very confusing. I can think of many women over 35 who share these views, to a person, and yet...
So I can only think that it's all posturing, no?
Love is a timeless commodity. We'll take what we can get, within reason. But, we'll fight for a career as well. Til biology gets in the way and the good old employer can't manage the whole part-time equation...
At the end of the day, people are people. This generation will have different challenges and opportunities from those that came before, but at a fundamental level, we are still the same - keen to hear about happy endings, hoping for the best, wondering "what if", dreaming and aspiring, and in the Spring - overjoyed to know that for some - Love is in the air.
And that is just as well, for the pollen count is high.
Sunday, 10 April 2011
There is even a trend that suggests that well-being is more than just having good hair, heels and handbags.
This is great. The Zeitgeist is for once simpatico with my own interests and beliefs. The last time that happened I was perhaps 8 and my interests were the Brady Bunch, Gilligan's Island, Holly Hobby and tennis...
Anyway, perhaps in terms of column space and words printed nothing is very different, but they say one notices what one is noticing - and on that basis it seems every man, woman and their dog is jumping on the happiness bandwagon.
Google it and see.
Three years ago when I began running workshops for professionals in transition aimed at helping them identify and play to their strengths, align their values and interests with their work and hopefully achieve a greater sense of purpose and happiness, I coined the phrase "Spring to Mind Spa". Thinking I was onto something I even bandied the word around in the City. Then I waited for the in-house bookings to overwhelm me.
I admit, I am still waiting.
You see, the key selling point of coaching or learning interventions had to be geared around success and helping clients to meet their potential. Senior, successful and respected coaches advised me not to use words like well-being or happiness in pitching to law firms or corporate clients - to be sure to leave such concepts strictly to the new age life coaches working in the suburbs or the communes, the retreats or the workshops for crystal loving pottery and bead types. Wake up Springgirl, executives and their employers do not need, want or care about happiness and well-being! You will not win business if you even mention the word "spa" at work!
Now, not so much. Times are changing. This is the era of pay freezes, unemployment, price rises and middle class families who thought three holidays a year and private school was their entitlement, forced to move house to access state schools. Over the long, usually not very hot summer we now learn the tedium/beauty of the "staycation". Just as well we have a government that propounds a "Big Society", eh? Though just who will wind up footing the bill for housing, illness and education is anyone's guess.
So there was never a better time to champion the virtues of simple living, a sense of community, altruism, spending less. It's just as well money cannot buy happiness, 'cos there isn't any money to spend.
Employee wellness is not a strange idea. Indeed in the US tax incentives help to bring the idea to the threshholds of many small and medium size businesses. The US?!
One day the weird and crazy notion that a happy and engaged person is also a productive person may take root.
That day is coming. Watch this space!
Check out these resources if happiness and well-being are of interest to you:
Wednesday, 6 April 2011
Anything? Sweet? Bitter? Disgusting? Sickening? Tasteless? Pointless?
Well, it was your life so ....