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Joy and meaning.

February 25, 2018
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Joy and meaning…


I was recently sharing in one of Brian Draper’s helpful email series’.  This one mentioned Dr. Alastair McAlpine’s profound observations gained from working with seriously ill children: What terminally ill children taught this doctor about how to live”. “…the so-called small things were the ones that turned out to have enormous significance at the end.”

Obviously, it’s not the same, but sharing our house with two children, and working in a school, the simplicity of a refreshing childlike perspective is often pricelessly gifted to us. Yes, it might be difficult, it is difficult, to see past our cares, our worries, and the pressures and expectations our culture advertises. Also, the childlike growing teen is learning to fit in with our culture and testing our constructs – the growing-child’s behaviours are often challenging. What we are talking about here is an essential childlike spirit… Perhaps.

But it’s not just children that can realise a more honest way. What simple truths might we discover, as Brian says “if we as grown-ups, can subtract the ephemera of adulthood, to enter life more fully…” ?  Alastair McAlpine writes “The kids were not hung up on “stuff” … the happiest, most meaningful moments were simple ones that … embraced the importance of human connection”.

As adults, we engineer the question ‘What brings you joy and meaning?’, something children perhaps don’t ask but just do, be and are. They naturally(?) do, be, are, and embrace their joy and meaning in just being alive. Perhaps again, it’s that simple process of pause, stop, yield, relax, breathe

Riding to work recently, I slowed my bike to let two children and their father, also cycling their bikes, pass on the track in front of me. Unwarranted, they both individually proclaimed with joy and meaning “Thank you!”, “Thank you!”… The simple honest natural(?) action really made my day, I couldn’t help but smile – in fact further down the track I smiled and audibly laughed – happy daze!

The lack of interaction, as well as the intolerant and often ignore-ant interaction, we so often experience as adults, is bathed away by the joy and meaning that a simpler attitude (or lack of ‘attitude’) can bring.

Last month I shared Edward De Bono’s thoughts “A Child … enjoys the use of his mind just as he enjoys the use of his body as he slides down a helter-skelter or bounces on a trampoline”

Often (and especially on my commute) the happiest, most meaningful moments are: the simple ones that … embrace the importance of human connection.

I am reminded of a moment a few years back: the Morning Puja.
“The day was still grey and the bin lorry ahead was trailing musty decay but the bin men smiled and life or something inexplicable filled the air.

Pause, stop, yield, relax, breathe… give thanks … with someone.



Sleep Note

January 14, 2018

Sleep Note

This one has been sitting in my mind for a few weeks after my daughter left me a small card on my pillow at Christmas with this written on the envelope.

Kids can have such a fresh outlook on life and I’m aware that we’re privileged to share our lives with growing, inquisitive, vibrant young people.

Regarding the image above – This is what I do. Some people draw, some paint, some watch football, some like gardening. I make images. Often this is in the form of digital photo collages.

I was listening to BBC Radio 4’s Thinking Allowed recently, and they were talking about sensory landscapes. As ever, Laurie Taylor’s guests go off on one and get a little academic and wordy. But it’s true, we live in our selective sensory worlds. Each of us selects different elements from our environment. The programme talks about ‘scenes’ and ‘lifestyle bubbles’. They also talk about ‘-scapes’ and how we are always enveloped by sounds, as well as smells, mannerisms and culture. People’s practices mark people’s experiences. Monica Degen says“People sense in very different ways…”. Our selected practices, our selected perspectives, affect our selected views and experiences of things.

I love the phenomena of dreaming and dreams. I’m a great one for cheese before bed, though I doubt it affects one’s dream-life. One’s imagination resonating outside of the input from the sources we are daily surrounded by should be celebrated and enjoyed. This includes daydreams.

Children are often dreaming outside of the material they are presented with, and long may they be encouraged to think outside of the material we present them with. Edward De Bono says in his interesting book ‘Children Solve Problems‘, “A Child … enjoys the use of his mind just as he enjoys the use of his body as he slides down a helter-skelter or bounces on a trampoline”.

Back to ‘Sleep Note’, I hope we can all remember to enjoy the use of our minds, just as we might remember the exhilarating experience of bouncing on a trampoline. I love the idea of growing and inquisitively opening the envelope when our sensory world is cut of! Open the envelope when you go to sleep folks, vibrantly! x



January 4, 2018

We watched The Greatest Showman recently, a last treat of the festive season. Fabulous!
“People come to my show for the pleasure of being hoodwinked” says Hugh Jackman as showman Phineas Taylor Barnum in the film.
We went to see Scrooge at Leicester Curve at Christmas. Again, fabulous. I recall tweeting afterward, ‘if one could only suspend disbelief forever…’ 

Loe Bar, Porthleven Cornwall,

I wonder – Suspend disbelief, that life’s not just all a construct?
I wonder – Hoodwinked into thinking it’s all worth it?

The Showman’s songs go;
” ’cause every night I lie in bed
The brightest colours fill my head
A million dreams are keeping me awake”
“But I won’t let them break me down to dust
…For we are glorious”

Listening to some BBC Radio 3 Desert Island Discs recently a few people commented on the need for ‘structure’ in their lives.
One of Miranda Hart’s desert island choices was an old hymn from her memories of school, to her it resonated ‘structure’. Kirsty Young joked with her about a new motto for life: ‘relax within a structure’.
Dame Judi Dench talked about disliking having to ‘split the atom’ and break through the proscenium arch. For Dame Judi, it seems the performance of a character is one thing, but she hates making a real-life one-person personal speech. Directors have spoken about her ‘almost unbelievable ability to switch in and out of character’. Choice… “Acting, should be done” she says.
Einstein is quoted to have said: “One cannot help but be in awe when he contemplates the mysteries… of the marvellous structure of reality…. Never lose a holy curiosity.”

One can see that without some element of faith in some structure in our lives, much of it might crumble, fail to grow, and cease to breathe.


The December season for many is a time where we break routines, pause work, and enjoy other activities. It’s a time for entertaining dreams. We celebrate stories from the past – old narratives – a time where the hoary-headed might be especially respected. We entertain fantasy and myth. We suspend disbelief and perhaps we’re hoodwinked.

This holiday season I have beem entranced by a few paralell worlds. The absence of a familiar habitual structured daily routine has invited me to wonder into films, stories, paperback novels and the theatre. From Dickens to Mariani, Moana to Skywalker, Paddington Bear to P.T.Barnum…

It the words of Tom Jenkins Thank you very much  – A joy-filled thanks for the death of the squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous people in our worlds.

And in the words of Maui You’re welcome!”.  “Let us be grateful to the people who make us happy; they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.”
― Marcel Proust

You don’t need much suspended-disbelief to feel that perhaps it’s not hoodwink behind the lights, it’s song!

In the incandescent enrapturing songs of Hugh, Keala, and team…

From now on…” {must see video}

This is me…” {must see video}


“I saw the sun begin to dim, And felt that winter wind…  When the glitter fades…  These eyes will not be blinded by the lights…  A man learns who is there for him… From now on… this is me!”

‘Other stuff’ from 2017

December 24, 2017

Last year, I looked back at the turbulent 2016 and collated some snapshots of work I produced – you can see 2016 ‘here’.

This year, I have thankfully enjoyed full employment, and so there’s not been so much time to spend on ‘other things’. This year I’ve loved the day-to-day busyness of the work servicing the admirable staff at a local secondary school: 1000+ students and 100+staff keep a one-man reprographics department quite busy. (I’ve also enjoyed the bike-commute, now in my 7th Winter)

I have also had a great year with my ladies – they are my world, and I owe everything to them, especially Em. Em deserves the biggest thanks and praise for putting up with the introverted confused creative wonderer that I often am. I might not often feel as though I belong, but Em does her utmost to embrace me, and together with A and P they make life dearly vibrant and to be cherished, shared and celebrated.

Despite being busy at work, there have been a few out-of-hours projects:

Re-brandings,  LogosFlyersInvites etcNewsletters,  Banners,  YouTubes
and  TV appearances LOL!

You can see a collection of my design work on Flickr ‘here

As well as Flickr, Instagram has been my chosen platform for sharing visual notes and memories, you can see that here:



December 14, 2017

Christmas can be magical.

The delightful jingle of memories and tingle of warmth that comes with the spicy tonics and simple riches. ‘Joy to the world’ they sing, ‘have yourself a merry little Christmas’ they sing, ‘Silent night, all is bright’ they sing. The hope and energy of a newborn child’s breath… possibilities…

However two thousand years on, I can’t help think that Christmas’s hopes have been wrapped in sparkles and are far from being fulfilled.

Injustice, hurt, jealousy, illness, prejudice, fear… Beyond our snug plenteous plates of pies and puddings, struggle, disorder, and desperation permeate our world.

Stop the car. Turn off the radio. Close the book. Turn off the TV. Close the browser, empty your lungs… Awareness of our essential breath is one thing that has helped ground me recently.

Stop, pause, relax, breathe, breathe, breathe … smile … be thankful. Listen…

This December, this season of goodwill (?) I hope (some may pray) that some light breaks through into the cold, the damaged, and dark places around and within us. Like new stars, let there be light … let angels speak, and perhaps sing… let new voices be heard…

Then, after another breath, start the car, turn on the radio, open the book, turn on the TV, fire up the browser, fill your lungs…

Joy, jingle, and tingle to your world!

If music be the food of love

December 9, 2017

If music be the food of love, we are spoilt for choice, and we should be pretty much loved-up to the dolly’s wax! – Perhaps that’s one of society’s problems, surfeit, sickness and death of true music/love? Anyway, don’t get me started.

The Bridge

Over the last few years, I have unintentionally been through a sort of musical detox, and I’ve found myself withdrawn from popular musical consumption. Partly ‘cos I just lost taste for, and enjoyment of, what I was hearing. Partly a mid-life shifting. Also, we are all experiencing a move from the ‘ownership of music’, the purchasing of records, CD and MP3s to the streaming of music: where we can listen to almost anything at the click of a button, through providers such as Spotify, Deezer, Amazon Music, and Apple etc.

The music I have been listening to has come through selected BBC Radio 6, Radio 3, and even occasional Radio 2 programmes. Also through social-media’ prompts to Youtube and the like – for example, via Twitter I have found delights hidden on BBC S4C, seriously really good simple honest TV, hidden from mainstream.  The BBC has a feature called My Music where if you hear something while listening you can simply add it to your list of interesting pieces. You can then simply ‘click’ and export your list of ‘likes’ to a service such as Spotify. Over the last year, I’ve unintentionally accumulated a few dozen ‘liked’ tracks on my BBC My Music.

I thought I’d share this odd selection of stuff that has been ‘liked’ this year. Many of these tunes have made me stop, pause, cease, yield, and think again.
I just loved hearing Rebroff’s playfulness 2’30” into his unique rendition of Kalinka. I first heard this at 7.30am one morning on my bike, thanks to @PetrocTrelawny and team.
Ešenvalds’ Stars is just beautifully rendered by Voces8 again discovery thanks to Radio 3.
Lewis & Leigh have a unique sound that I have not been able to forget after discovering them live in Nottingham last year.
Some tracks are odd, some carry baggage, some just resonate like a shining bell in a darkening disquiet.

I look forward to discovering more next year! or indeed tomorrow!

Stuff from 2017 …


Wild natureness

November 26, 2017

Do you remember the nature table at junior school?  Most of us are intrigued by nature, wild animals. ‘Back to nature’ and the ‘greenwash’ industry is a big deal. Many of us are currently loving our serving of ‘Blue Planet’ on Sunday nights.

Please don’t yawn, it’s discussed ad infinitum elsewhere, but recently I have not been able to shake thoughts about our ideas of ‘nature’ and ‘wild’.

As I look up from these pixels on this ‘device’; through the window, the blue sky and green meadow, scribbled with autumnal browns and blacks is simply but significantly invigorating in an inexplicable way. Yes, I know I need to get out more.

I often I see a scene, a sunrise, passing colours and textures etc and feel (think) the urge to capture an image, seconds later it is gone as the colours and composition change in passing. Perhaps it was not the image, the visual phenomenon, the sight, that is exciting. Perhaps it’s our recognition of something beyond our natural thought patterns that is the energising thing. So perhaps what is amazing is something wild inside me that is triggered by what we perceive? We are not wanting to share the natural sight, so much as we would love to share the wild vision.

You may notice my morning instagrams. Many of my photos are of wildlife or of natural views. But, I struggle to understand, why, when we want to celebrate goodness in our world we often revert to celebrating ’all things bright and beautiful’, ‘the stars, the rolling thunder’, ‘like a river’, ‘fire’, ‘lights’, ‘the birds of the air’ etc. Human nature often seems flawed; we require pills and potions, corrective mechanisms and language to keep us sane.
We often prettify nature, ignoring its wild survival mechanisms. We seek to get back to ’nature’, as if ‘human nature” is to build on, over and above the wild. Yes, we create stuff out of natural chemicals, but is what we do with the stuff a ‘natural’ progression. Or is it cultural? Is our culture a step on and over the natural wild. Is culture a step away from the wilderness? As soon as we start being human, is it still natural?

Yes, we are all excited by the natural/wild light and energy of a new day, but if I am honest, I am more excited but the amazing intriguing simple cultural things people can do. The simple joy children share when honest childlike ways break the adult pretence, the unconditional smile or appreciation shown by a stranger, the sharing of food, the breaking of debt and dues, the forgiveness of injury, the wisdom of age combined with over the vigour of youth, the emergency services’ dedication, the steadfastness of community workers, the morning puja, the celebratory meal, the coffee shop chatter… Is the essence of these things more wild than natural?

We return to the natural to wash our transgressions, to cleanse our busy minds…  Some of us use music to connect with our inner wild. Like our cultural imagery, much of what passes for music in our culture is so prefabricated that its ugliness passes for cool. Over the last few years, I have discovered great soundscapes through BBC Radio 3’s Late Junction, and even other ‘stuff’ on Radio 3. When the choir I am in plays with sounds in practice, the experience can be far more affecting than the most celebrated compositions.

So back to a wild naturalness … With music, the noise is wild, the composition is a construct; what we feel & think upon perceiving the sound or music can be phenomenal.
With visual art, the mark and light is wild, the composition is a construct; what we think and feel upon perceiving the vision can be phenomenal.
Perhaps in life, the natural is a construct, underneath this construct is a wildness that if felt and thought about might perhaps be significantly phenomenal.