bookmark_borderTick Tock


My mother Doris passed away suddenly last week so I thought I’d pen a few thoughts. The over-riding thing I remember about Doris is her determination to do things her own way and sod the rules. The Doris I knew was completely unflappable, she played by her own rules whilst on this earth, she never worried much about what others thought of her.

The rules are that when you’re in your 80’s you should be settling down for a quieter life but not Doris (and Bob!), off they went to Australia to a wedding and of course there was a freak heatwave there and even the natives were falling to the ground with the heat but not Doris and Bob.

She spent a few weeks travelling around in the sweltering heat and then came back to a bitterly cold Ballymoney winter with frozen pipes burst in the home and the place a mess. I talked to her at the time and asked her if she was all right and she said ‘oh aye, sure, I’ve got Bob, that’s all that matters’ and it’s true, she had Bob by her side and that was the most important thing in her life.

She started having ‘issues’ a few weeks ago and needed an urgent operation. Having a medical background I flew over here last week to make sure that she got through her operation and past the danger-zone of the weekend. However, instead of finding Doris comatose in Intensive Care I found her sitting out of bed watching X Factor on Saturday evening telly. This was 24 hrs after a major op.

She was bright and sparkly and completely on the ball.

The rules are that when you’re on ICU you’re meant to be really sick but as usual Doris played by her own rules. The rules also state that when you’re 88 and just past a major operation you’re meant to be a bit fuzzy – but not Doris, she was able to tell me my mobile number quick as a flash on Saturday evening – something even I have difficulty remembering..

On Thursday evening, the night before her op I had a quick chat in private with her, I told her that she wasn’t allowed to die, that it didn’t fit in with my timetable, that it wouldn’t be very convenient – I told her that perhaps…. PERHAPS when I’m 65 and retired and she’s 100 then PERHAPS it would be OK then…

She roared with laughter and said that she’ll go when the man upstairs says it time and that’s the end of it!

Our last chat was an interesting one, we were talking about church and religion and she was trying to get me to go to church (as usual), lots of talk about Jesus, God and heaven and I remember holding her hand and telling her that I tried to be good, not because I wanted to get into heaven and not because I didn’t want to go to hell but because it’s the right thing to do, our motivation shouldn’t be the next world but trying to do our best for this world.. She looked at me and I knew she was OK with that and the subject wouldn’t come up again.

For 32,120 days Doris walked, strode, ran, swam, leaped, crawled and sometimes stumbled on this Earth. Not all of them days were good, some very hard, some were bad, some were a real struggle but in all the time I knew Doris I never saw her without a smile on her face.

And she told me that the last 2,258 days were the best because those where the days that she had been married to Bob.


When we were kids my gang and I used to play superheroes…like we were the only ones who could (and always did) save the world. This was way before the emergence of that strange new fangled interwebby thang, we had to use that other older system…now what was it called…oh yes – imagination…

We all wanted to be the hero, no-one wanted to be the villains so most of our villains were imaginary and if the worse came to worse we’d get shot/stabbed/arrowed/ray gunned/blasted/poisoned/disembowelled/nuked/pushed off a cliff  (always our choice) but have an heroic death – and our heroic deaths tended to last even longer than Hollywood heroic deaths which is saying something..

Advertisements at the time always showed rugged good looking heroic men rushing off to save someone life…Gillette Razors were masters at the genre and we would try to emulate them – even if we were too young to shave!

However, as I’ve got older I come to realise that Gillette and our gang didn’t have the hero market cornered, I’ve come across many examples of heroic people, the unknown heroes, the quiet heroes, the forgotten heroes who work away, slave away without thanks or recognition, simply getting on with the job as there was no-one else to do it and because of love.

I know a few mothers, struggling away to make ends meet, doing their best to keep a roof over the head of the children and just trying to do the right thing, trying to provide and be there when lesser souls would have given up the struggle..these are the real heroes in the world today, not me with my bedsheet for a cape and a stick for a raygun..although I have saved the planet from Vogons more times than I care to mention…pesky Vogns…getting grabbed by the Vogons always brought a tear to my eye…

People always think of doctors and nurses as being heroes too and to a degree it’s true but it doesn’t end there, I’ve cared for many patients were the wife (always the wife) cared for her long suffering husband through the many stages of cancer right up to the very end. And when I come across souls like that I always think wow, you’ve struggled all these years, many more hours than a full time job and no complaints, no cutting corners, no bitterness because it’s all done out of love.. real heroes..

But a lot of times the even bigger hero is missed, it’s the person with the cancer. By the time one gets past fifty one tends to know at least a few people that have passed over due to cancer and it’s these people that are the real superheroes. The souls I’ve known that have succumbed to cancer, they’ve always been very stoic, no raging against the unfairness of it all, no shouting at fate and God, no destructive benders, usually it’s quiet acceptance with lots of dignity, very quickly an acceptance of how things are going to be followed by trying to get as much living done in the so so so short time remaining. For me these are the biggest heroes, not the one’s on the cinema screen in 2D but the real life heroes, the souls that manage to open their eyes one more morning, even if it’s just for one more day.

To misquote Mr Bowie, we can all be heroes..even if it’s just for one more day…

bookmark_borderThe Perfect Husband?


Here’s a little but wise story from Nasruddin about this dance I’m doing;

Once there were two friends who would meet every New Year’s Eve and discuss their future plans.
The first one asked the second, “What are you going to do this year?”
“I’m going to find myself the perfect wife,” the first friend replied,
“Someone beautiful, cultured and kind.”
A year passed. The two friends met.
“Tell me, how did you get on?” asked the second friend.
“Not too well. I found a woman who was beautiful but had never read a book or played an instrument and we had nothing in common. Next year I’ll search further afield.”
Another year passed.
“How did you get on with finding your wife this year?”
“I searched even further and found a woman who was beautiful and well-read and I loved her for that but she was selfish – only ever thinking of herself.
Next year I’ll search even further afield.”
A third year passed.
“And how did you get on this year?” asked the second friend. “Did you find the perfect wife?”
“I did,” replied his friend. “I found someone beautiful, cultured and kind but there was a small problem. She was looking for the perfect husband.”

That made me smile and there’s a lot of truth in it, Rumi, another Persian thinker once said “Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.” and I’ve come to discover over the past few years that we nearly always are our own worse enemies, and knowing that, acknowledging that fact is half the battle.

bookmark_borderDog Logic


1. If I like it, it’s mine
2. If it’s in my mouth, it’s mine
3. If I had it a little while ago, it’s mine
4. If I can take it from you, it’s mine
5. If it’s mine, it must never be yours
6. If it just looks like mine, it’s mine
7. If I saw it first, it’s mine
8. If you are playing with something else and put it down, it’s mine
9. If I am chewing something up, all of the pieces are mine
10. If it used to be yours, get over it.
11. If it’s broken, it’s yours.

This applies equally to Toddler Logic

bookmark_borderIs there a such thing as a wrong turn?


You’re curious and smart and bored
All you see is a choice between working hard and slacking off
There are so many adventures that you miss because you are waiting for a fully formed plan

To find them, look for tiny interesting choices
Take wrong turns
Talk to strangers
Open unmarked doors
And if you see a group of people in a field, go find out what they are doing

Do things without always knowing how they will turn out

And always remember, you are making up your future as you go along

bookmark_borderThe Fault in Our Stars


Been reading The Fault in our Stars by John Green recently, the main characters in the book are sixteen year old Hazel and seventeen year old Gus, both of whom have cancer. It’s a lovely novel and John Green has obviously had some experience with cancer in teenagers or done his research thoroughly. And it’s a funny book too, gallows humour as we ex nurses call it, the story and characters resonated quite a lot with me because of my time working in hospitals.

However, there’s another character in the book, one of Gus and Hazels friends from the support group called Isaac, he has a rare form of cancer that’s cost him the sight in one eye and early on in the book he goes into hospital to have the remaining eye removed to stop the spread of cancer. Our sight is our most valuable sense, without it we really are severely limited, we lose a lot of our independence, losing our sense of taste is hugely inconvenient but it’s not on the same scale as losing our sight.

Strangely, John doesn’t explore this at all, Isaac goes into hospital and comes out again completely blind but it set me thinking, if I knew I was going into hospital to lose my sight in a few days time, what would be the last things I’d choose to look at?

I think there’s the obvious, my boys would be at the top of the list, I would ‘drink them in’. Knowing that I’d never see their faces again would be hard to take; in the years to come they would always have that youthful (and admittedly somewhat spotty) face, even when they’re bearded family men with teenage children of their own. And there’s so much in the future with my boys that I’m looking forward to, not being able to see their children’s faces, well, I can’t imagine how that would feel.

However, what else, at the end of the week you are losing your sight forever. Well, I’ve particularly enjoyed the colour of the trees this fall so I’d be out there drinking that in too but there are other pleasures that I’d miss terribly. Right now I can pick up my latest book The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry and read it, unless you get the unabridged edition audio books tend to skip bits, I suppose I could cajole/coerced/blackmail someone very patient/gullible into reading the actual book to me but it’s not the same, we all read at our own speed and even in these Kindle days there’s still a certain pleasure from holding the dead tree version in our grubby mitts; the smell, the feel and reading at my own speed.

And then there’s driving a car and the freedom that gives me. I know Al Pacino drove one as his blind character in Scent of a Woman but I’m not quite sure I’d get away with that in Londons green parks – plus I don’t know my left from my right so I’m bound to crash into a tree! And I think I’d miss the simple pleasures in life, being able to see a fresh orange as well as taste it and smell it, and flowers, and not bashing my head on the kitchen cupboard every time I walk in there. And art, I’ve haven’t got around yet to see Gustav Klimts The Kiss (above) and I can’t imagine not ever being able to see that one day, I have a few other favourite painting, imagine never being able to go to a gallery and see them, I’m sure the staff of the National Gallery wouldn’t be too happy if I started groping their paintings, wouldn’t they..?

However, there’s a restaurant in London that does something that seems completely illogical, it’s called Dinner in the Dark and the general idea is that you eat in complete darkness. It’s pitch black in the dining area and you’re taken through double sets of doors to your table by blind staff (as they are skilled at negotiating obstacles in the dark) and have a choice of four ‘surprise’ menus. The owners know that ‘the first taste is with your eyes’, sight is the dominant sense but they want diners to enjoy the smells, textures and flavours of the meal so it’s lights out time. I suspect a lot of the meal is ‘hands on’, trying to balance garden peas on a fork in pitch black is never going to work and I dare say most diners come out with at least some food down their front. I know I would, even when the restaurant’s fully lit!

Oh, one last thing, if you ever go to this restaurant then you will be pleased to know that the toilets are well lit, you aren’t taken there by a blind guy and have him pull your trousers down and assist you with your aim!

bookmark_borderSecrets of the OLDERhood?


I read this a while back and thought it was worth sharing;

The secret to getting my wife to be less inhibited had more to do with me than her. It wasn’t until I started listening to what she wanted from me outside the bedroom that changes happened inside the bedroom. I needed to show that I loved her by talking to her and treating her as my equal in all aspects of life. Once she became secure and felt deeply loved by me, all her inhibitions disappeared. Damn, I wish I had figured that out sooner.
Danny G, age 58, husband for 24 years

Danny’s a lucky bloke to have figured that out, most go through life in a daze, never really joining the dots, at least Danny figured this out eventually..

At this ripe old age of 52 I’ve figured out a few things too, you know, the usual stuff;

  • consistently be kind even when others are treating you like shit
  • figure out who you really are and be true to that person
  • never let your bare bottom touch a public toilet seat

you know, the normal standard things we’ve all figured out.. but I wonder if you’ve figured this out as well;

OK here’s something that’s going to throw you, it’s something that you will remember and come back to again and again and if you strongly disagree with it now then trust me, eventually you will agree totally with it. The secret of love, true love, the love that lasts, the love that makes it all worthwhile, is constant forgiveness.

I’ve seen it in partner relationships, one messes up and the other forgives, because that’s what true love is all about, and with most couples there’s this swing, it’s almost like they take it in turns, one goes through a stage of messing up and the other forgives and then later on the other one messes up all the time and the important thing is that eventually this should balance out, the messing up and the forgiveness..

And I’m not just referring to partner relationships. It’s something I have borne witness to all my life. I see it in parents with their children, especially during the teenage and early adult years when they should know better. I have seen young adults come home to mum with some terrible event they’ve done wrong and after all the shouting and tears, there’s always the forgiveness, because that’s what it is to love somebody with all your heart, you constantly forgive them, in fact you can’t help but forgive them and hold them in your heart, it’s what we do..

bookmark_borderSecrets of the sisterhood?


Apparently….. (always be wary of any sentence that starts with the word ‘apparently’, it’s usually a fib…or even worse, gossip!), apparently  the 2007 Meryl Streep movie The Devil Wears Prada is one of the all time greats. I know this for a fact as I met up with a potential date when it was released and she spent the entire (extremely long and tedious) date telling me so.  Knowing how fantastic an actress Meryl Streep is I was indeed tempted but having viewed the trailer I put it firmly in the chick flick bin (along with Twilight et al) having decided that even the mega talents of Meryl Streep couldn’t rescue it. This may  have been the wrong thing to say to my date.

One lives and learns but the completely  wrong thing to say was “I’m sure there were no straight men in the audience or if there were then they were definitely getting some that night”  Needless to say I never saw Ms Coffee Date ever again so my chances of getting some disappeared as fast as she did, actually I think she may have stormed off at that point.

Fast-forward six years and I’m starting to think I may have been mistaken, perhaps too hasty in my writing off The Devil Wears Prada. You see, being a typical (non-thinking) bloke I tossed The Devil Wears Prada straight into the chick flick bin along with any Twilight movie (in fact to be honest any movie with Kristen Stewart in it) but along with this I also tossed in Sex in the City and Bridget Jones. I’m sorry, I’m an ignorant bloke, I’ll blame the Mars/Venus thang.

However.. and I should pause here for effect..however, I read this quote from Bridget Jones, The Edge of Reason on Friday evening and had an epiphany;

“Keep thinking back about what Mum said about being real and the Velveteen Rabbit book (though frankly have had enough trouble with rabbits in this particular house). My favourite book, she claims of which I have no memory was about how little kids get one toy that they love more than all the others, and even when its fur has been rubbed off, and it’s gone saggy with bits missing, the little child still thinks it’s the most beautiful toy in the world, and can’t bear to be parted from it.

That’s how it works, when people really love each other, Mum whispered on the way out in the Debenhams lift, as if she was confessing some hideous and embarrassing secret. But, the thing is, darling, it doesn’t happen to ones who have sharp edges, or break if they get dropped, or ones made of silly synthetic stuff that doesn’t last. You have to be brave and let the other person know who you are and what you feel.”

― Helen Fielding, Bridget Jones: The Edge Of Reason

OK, it’s not Shakespeare, not even Milton but still… it’s very good! What a fool I’ve been,  it suddenly struck me that these books weren’t written to entertain woman, they weren’t written so woman can relate to all the angst about weight, bum size’s and does he love me or does he not, no, these books are written solely as instruction manuals for men! The fact that woman find them funny and can relate to them is a spooky co-incidence!

Helen Fielding has bravely spilled the beans about what makes woman tick and for that she’s bound to get excommunicated from the Sisterhood!

So there it is, in black and white, how woman’s minds work, how these strange creatures view things and I can’t believe I’ve been ignoring such a valuable resource, one can read Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus as many times as one likes but you won’t get as much insight into the woman’s minds (or be entertained so much) if you just stop and read The Edge of Reason.

(And yes, I do get the rabbit reference!)




A gang of workmen pitched at an electricity junction next to the Embankment in central London on Thursday night, put on safety jackets, hard hats and as the law requires, surrounded the area with ‘Danger Men Working’ signs. They then (rather cooly) broke into the substation and ripped out all the thick copper cables. It would have been hard sweaty work. They loaded all the cables into the truck, retrieved all their ‘Danger Men Working’ signs and drove off into the night.

I know all this because at around 10pm I stopped receiving the usual spam emails…in fact I stopped receiving any work emails and when I looked at our website it was down; so were the seventy other sites we manage. Oh dear.

At that same time the managers of about 25 other London Universities were having exactly the same experience. There’s a special site we check to make sure everyone’s connected to the internet on the Joint Academic Network and for the first time ever it was listing everything as ‘Down’ in bright red writing. Oops!

It was the end of the world. Armageddon.  I looked out the window and checked the news on the telly to see if World War Three had been declared. It was like someone had pulled the plug on the Internet. Thousands upon thousands of students across London suddenly not able to study or even more importantly, not access Facebook and Youtube’s funny cat videos. Looking around the University library it was like a scene from The Night of the Living Dead, students lost… trying desperately to use their phones to send emails and access non-existent teaching resources.

It was like (shock horror!) when I was at University when The. Internet. Didn’t. Exist.  I had to (OMG!) do actual research and learning from “books” and “journals”, I had to “write” things down on “paper” using a “pen” and try to “remember” it.  I know, it was a new experience for a lot of them, imagine not having Google and Wikipedia to answer any question you had…Imagine not having access to Youtube, imagine have to watch terrestrial TV, no search function, no fast forwarding, imagine being cut off from all the funny cat videos…shudders!

So, like any sensible and mature University we called in the counselling team and set them up in the library and they were inundated with students in acute withdrawal. However, on Friday morning we had to pass the word around that we wouldn’t have proper access until Monday at the earliest. This sent shock waves through the community. We managed to get some limited access by routing our connections through Wales of all places so if the internet connection smelled of sheep and went baaaaaa occasionally then this was the reason. Additionally, google would only accept sheep related queries. This would be no hardship for one for my friends as he only ever googles about good looking sheep.

I’ve no idea what the black market price for copper is these days (though I have a friend who does!) but it’s must have been worth it for the gang to take such a risk in central London. At a really busy area right beside a Tube station, on a Thursday night, kudos to them!  However, I’d like to make a suggestion to any gang of thieves thinking of swiping our copper cabling again. There are easier things to steal and there’s no having to get messy doing it, just ramraid your local supermarket for some of these items;

Christmas cards  – £4.50 for one card, for heaven’s sake, it’s a bit of card and an envelope, pound for pound they are more expensive than beluga caviar

Razor blades – Gillette Fusion Proglide Power Razor £15.49/unit. Yup, for one! At that price I expect it to make breakfast and do the laundry as well.

Roses – a fabulous investment opportunity, currently £30 for a dozen this week but in two months time, around Valentines Day the price skyrockets to £100 for a dozen. More than triple your money.

ANY Apple product. Massively overpriced. Apple made $8.8billion profit in the last quarter, that’s roughly $30billion in a year. To any thieves out there, if you wanna get rich then stop stealing our cables and just raid your local Apple store, it’s easier, there’s MUCH more profit plus you get an iPhone/iPad into the bargain. Win Win!

bookmark_borderChristmas Rapping?


I’ve decided I’m probably not human.

Possibly not even Leprechauniun.

The more observant of you will have noticed that the tag line for this blog is I’m not entirely sure this is my home planet, and it’s not without some justification. You see, every one of us are unique but some of us really are from another planet, or so it seems, especially when it comes to the London Leprechaun and Christmas prezzies.  This week I’ve been doing a survey at work and asking everyone at what stage they’re at with buying Christmas presents and the vast majority haven’t even started. However, I bought my first Christmas present in April and the last one on the 31st October. Told ya. Definitely not human. Probably the pointy ears gave it away.

I know this seems weird but I’m trying to pay attention here, we men get accused quite a lot (justifiably so) of not paying attention so this is my attempt to make ammends. Previously I have joined the last minute panic and bought my presents during the last two weeks before Christmas day and I’ve hated the madness of it all – and the freaking long queues, life’s too short to queue but I’ve done it for my family and friends. And in my twenties I’ve even bought flowers and chocolates from the petrol station on Christmas Eve, after all, what woman wouldn’t be delighted to receive a lovely bouquet of poinsettias with the heady scent of 4 Star or a box of no-name chocolates well past their sell-by date and with a taste slightly reminiscent of Turtle Wax car polish?  But I’ve been there and done that and have the scars (from thrown boxes of chocolates) to prove it, so when I turned forty I decided I would do what no man has ever done in the entire history of the planet and get organised for Christmas.

Consequently I’m now always on alert for presents for family and friends, it’s like my default mode, thus in April when I was wandering around Camden Market I saw something perfect for a friend and bought it, it’s been sitting in a box under the bed for eight months but that’s one item ticked off the check-list. And over the rest of the intervening months I’ve been gathering up presents, mostly in September but I bought the last one on 31st October. I know that sounds extremely smug (I can only apologise!) but the thing is, it’s important I learn from previous mistakes and I really really really REALLY don’t want to join the madness of the Christmas rush.

And if you needed further evidence that I’m non-human then it’s this. I know that all men are shit at wrapping presents, myself included, at the end of a wrapping session I usually have more sellotape on me than the presents and I’ve had to ask my sons to cut me free, one year I got so bound up with tape that I really did look like an extra from some kinky bondage movie.



Anyway, I digress, I’ve given presents that look like they’ve been wrapped by a puppy high on drugs, I’ve given presents that have been wrapped in brown packing tape, I’ve given presents that are nuclear bomb proof by having more tape than wrapping paper and required an acetylene torch and crowbar to get to the actual present. So I’ve learned that lesson and I spent last Tuesday evening wrapping everything up nice and neat and even putting string and bows on a few boxes.  Most of them look reasonably presentable, (from a man’s perspective they look bloody fantastic!) but even then I know that no woman would hand over a present looking so shoddy, really quite shoddy, so I’ve got to keep on practising my wrapping skills.  And I reckon that’s why websites like Amazon are so popular, because (1) they save us men having to queue and fight for presents but more importantly (2) they have fantastic gift wrapping service thus saving us men so much grief, and to misappropriate the Mastercard slogan, Amazon Gift Wrapping – priceless!


And to put you in the mood, Christmas Wrapping by The Waitresses