About Me

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On the bright side of the road
Lover of words. Usually found with a book or a pen in my hand.

Monday, 29 July 2013

The Wrong Trousers

Photo courtesy of
Just lately I’ve been wearing the wrong trousers.

Like Wallace (of Wallace and Gromit fame) I took my eye off the ball and found myself wearing a pair of ill-fitting trousers.  Like Wallace, it came as a complete surprise and I found myself in a troubling situation, pushed and pulled in all directions, the trousers taking control.  True to form, I tried to go with the flow and enjoy the challenge.  Perhaps the trousers were Fate’s way of leading me in a new direction.  I devoted all my energy into working with the trousers and hoping that everything would slot neatly into place.

But it didn’t.  No matter how hard I tried, the trousers didn’t fit.  The struggle was making me miserable and I knew it couldn’t continue.  And so I decided to take some time to really think about the things that make me happy and the things that were missing from my life.

After weeks of pondering I came up with a very short list:

1.        A job where I can truly make a difference.

2.       Writing.

3.       Voluntary work/helping people.

I was surprised how simple the list was.

I loved the people I worked with but the job I had found myself in just wasn’t for me.  I’d given it my best but I was wearing the wrong trousers.  Because I worried so much about my job I couldn’t focus on writing and had let it slip.  I missed it.  Writing to me is like eating fruit and vegetables:  I can go for a short period of time without them but they are a necessary and enjoyable part of my diet and I don’t function well without them.  I hadn’t written anything for a long time, not even in my journal, and my mind felt foggy and in turmoil.  And with all my energies concentrated on the journey the wrong trousers were taking me on, I had no time for the voluntary activities that were so important to me.

So I made the decision to hand in my notice and look for a job in a not-for-profit organisation.  I said goodbye to the wrong trousers and took a month off to get back into the right ones, the ones that fit me well.  I secured a role with a great charity and started writing again.

There’s just one thing left on the list, number three, and I’m looking forward to bringing it back into my life.  And then I’ll be completely back into my own trousers.  The right trousers.

photo credit: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/plashingvole/5403591565/">Plashing Vole</a> via <a href="http://photopin.com">photopin</a> <a href="http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/">cc</a>

Sunday, 19 May 2013

Could you spare a moment to read my blog, please?

Who knew that there's an official National Campaign for Courtesy?  And that two of its patrons are June Whitfield and Esther Rantzen?  (Incidentally, two ladies I unashamedly admire.)

I love the idea of a more courteous society.  What happened to the old-fashioned values of respect for others, offering a helping hand and saying please and thank you?

Of course most people are polite to the people they know:  friends, family and colleagues but can't this be extended to all those we come into contact with?  Can't everyone go about their daily life with empathy and kindness?  I know that I'm an idealist and at times my state of mind is fragile, but sometimes it's hard to cope with aggressive drivers, surly shoppers or pushy callers.  Is it that people have become so focused on getting to work, speed shopping or bagging that sale that they simply dehumanise those around them?  It's as if they're in a real life computer game and the people around them are simply annoying obstacles put there to make their day more challenging.  The only course of action is to whizz around the annoyances as swiftly as possible, or even try to push or bully them to go faster, move out of the way or buy their product.  The obstacles are stopping them from doing what they want to do, in the timeframe in which they want to do it.

Yes, to them, it's all about me.

To these people nothing else matters, as long as they get what they want they are happy.  And the problem is, this attitude is growing.

I am sure that most people are courteous and kind but wouldn’t it be great if we could all join together to stop the all-about-me way of thinking?  Being courteous to others is rewarding:  it’s such a lovely feeling to hold a door open for another person and for them to thank you or smile.

And I know I’m old fashioned, but manners cost nothing – just a moment of your time.  And the warm feeling you get in return for your effort lasts much, much longer......and the benefits are immense for each individual and society as a whole........

I like the National Campaign for Courtesy and I really hope it gets a huge following.

Thank you for reading   :o)


Wednesday, 16 January 2013

His Master's Voice

In administration?  Say it aint so!  HMV’s news has shocked many people, but I suspect that most of them were teenagers at a very different time to today.

Many are saying how HMV brought it upon themselves:  slow to react to market changes, uneducated staff, only stocking new and commercial music……

Well, there is something to be said for that.  But shouldn’t the consumer take some responsibility?  I mean, if we used our feet to buy instead of our mice they might’ve stood a chance.

Is this the end of music-buying as we know it, Jim?  I fear it is but I am reluctant to face that final frontier of ordering online and digital downloads.  Call me old-fashioned (which I definitely am) but I like to spend lunchtimes browsing in HMV, listening to their music choice of the moment and feeling part of a community as I flick through albums and perhaps choose something on a whim.  I’ve had this love affair with music shops for most of my life.

It all started with Preedy’s.  Preedy’s was the place of my very first job, like so many youngsters of my day….the faithful paper-round.  Preedy’s was amazing, it wasn’t your typical little dark corner-shop selling cans of beer and Omo.  Oh no.  Preedy’s had aspirations.  This was in the day before supermarkets, retail parks and shopping malls.  But by the standards of the day, Preedy’s was big.  It had an aisle cutting the shop into two halves.  And then again into quarters.  And my favourite quarter was the record section.  One of my very first pay packets was spent on some chocolates for  mum and an LP record for me.  I can still remember it, it was called Good-byeee, Songs from 1914-18.  OK, so I wasn’t cool yet, but my love affair had begun.  The whole act of browsing, choosing, and taking something tangible home to put on my record player was joyous.

From the paper-round I graduated to the local fruit and veg shop and with more money in my pocket and maturity under my belt, next came the high street shop:  Our Price Records.  It was a fraction of the size of Preedy’s but it held a treasure-trove of records that were so trendy it felt almost indecent.  Always packed with spotty, sweaty teenagers and music banging out into the atmospheric dimly lit space, it was total bliss.

Roxanne (The Police) in blue vinyl and Life in Tokyo (Japan) on red, helped to shape my appreciation of not only the musicians but the artists and designers, too.  At school I was terrible at Art, but my favourite project (and most successful) was the task of designing an album cover.  I used screen printing as my method, thinking I was some sort of Andy Warhol and that David Bowie would write a song about me.

When I was at college, along came the Virgin Megastore in London – wow!  That store was revolutionary:  sophisticated shopping that was organised, spacious and brightly-lit.  Stocking any genre you could care to imagine, it was attractive to several different generations.  Were the youth losing their hold on the trendiness of music?

Now I’m older, our local town has a lovely HMV store:  not as big as Virgin Megastore and not as grungy as Our Price Records.  It may not always have what I want but the staff are always friendly and helpful.  When I look around the store, I see that mostly people are like me, on their lunch-break, respectable and perhaps looking for an old favourite album to buy on CD.

I feel sorry for the youth of today.  Their world is far less exciting than mine was.  I don’t believe that downloading or ordering online is satisfying – it’s an empty sort of experience.

Perhaps those people are right, perhaps HMV did take its finger off the pulse.  The shop has become middle-aged and that’s fine for those that are middle-aged but as a youngster, I wanted somewhere that belonged to my generation where oldies weren’t catered for.

I hope that HMV survives but what I’d really like to see is for them to launch some shops on the style of my old Our Price Records – cramped, noisy and dark.  Let’s get some excitement back into buying music.

Of course, I wouldn’t touch it with a bargepole – I need somewhere well-lit and organised with lots of room to manoeuvre.  Now, I wonder if HMV stock Good-byeee, Songs from 1914-18?  I think I’ll go and have a browse while I still can.