24) Darn those Flu Heroes

I had wanted to sit down last week and write my blog, but instead I was shivering, aching all over,wrapped up in bed with boxes of tissues and cough mixture by my side, with the smell of menthol, camphor and eucalyptus wafting

"Coughs and Sneezes Spread Diseases - As ...

around the room from my ‘breathe easy’ vapour plug. My lips were sore and cracked, my nose looked like an impression of Rudolph and my hair was a mess.

Simon had come home with a nasty sore throat a couple of weeks ago and then spent the weekend feeling lousy with a bit of a temperature, the usual sneezing, coughing, shivering type of thing.  He had said earlier in the week that a couple of people at work weren’t well and he felt they should have stayed at home, but they were too stubborn to give in.

When the Monday arrived Simon was no better and decided to stay home. For him to actually accept that he is not well enough for work is quite something, so I knew he was feeling very unwell.  He is not one of those men who has ‘man flu’, quite the reverse, he rarely, if ever, complains about anything.  Amazingly I was still ok at this point and was able to look after him for a change. He is an absolute saint putting up with all of my ailments, and for once I was able to help him.  After a few more days it was obvious that the bug, virus, flu, cold, or whatever it was, was not going away in a hurry and had gone to his chest, so he popped along to the docs where they confirmed that his chest was ‘crackly’ and put him on a course of antibiotics.

Within a few days I was beginning to have the same symptoms as Simon and took myself back to bed and started taking the usual over-the-counter remedies.  The problem with me, with my array of auto-immune diseases, is that once something like this takes a hold it is very difficult to shrug it off.  Frustratingly I had no option but to do virtually nothing and just rest, rest, rest.  If anyone has a virus for a week I tend to get it for at least a month.  Great, as we are at the beginning of December and I have Christmas to organise!

What I find so infuriating is that it only takes a couple of people to drag themselves into work sneezing, coughing and spluttering over everyone for a week or so before everyone around them becomes ill.  The worse thing is that they seem to think they are some kind of super-heroes.  The type who sit at their desks obviously not well, but think that they are either too important to have a few days off or they will be letting people down and so carry on, nicely spreading their germs.

So I would just like to say this to any so-called Flu Heroes: please ….STAY AT HOME!

Now,  hopefully I am well on the recovery road, and I can start with my blog again.  I wasn’t able to stick to my blog a day promise, and I doubt if I’ll ever catch up on that, but it was obviously just not meant to be.  What I did manage to do though, through my illness fog, was to read some really enlightening books, which I just know, had I not been ill, would still be sat on a shelf gathering dust.  I also found some beautiful meditative music on u-tube which I could put by the bed and drift away to, again something I know I should do far more often, but life always seems to get in the way.

So, although I am still cross about the stupid flu-heroes, looking on the positives, I have managed to catch up on some great reading, meditated at least once a day, and I have completed ALL my Christmas shopping on-line.  It wasn’t a total waste of ten days after all!

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23) Learning to say yes!

"Thumbs up" picture, mostly uploaded...

All too often we hear the phrase “it’s just so tough learning to say no”.  Granted, it is one of the hardest lessons to learn, but what we often overlook is the other, and in my mind, equally difficult lesson, which is learning to say yes.  Not a tentative maybe, or not now, or possibly, but a positive, resounding, unequivocal, confident, yes!

How many times in our lives do we really want to try a new experience, but something in us makes us hold back?  Often it might be fear of failure, or, and this can be true also – it might actually be fear of succeeding.  We can all stay in the same place, in the same town, with the same friends or in the same job.  Now there’s absolutely nothing wrong in any of that, but it is a dreadful shame if you choose not to move or change your employment or the people in your life, because you are afraid of success!  Afraid of change. Sounds crazy doesn’t it?  But look around you and see how many people you know who prefer to live a ‘safe’ life doing what they have always done, going where they have always been, eating what they have always eaten.  Then, they say that their life is dull or that they feel they missed opportunities. There are lots of them about.

I was on a wonderful week-long spiritual course run by Accolade Academy of psychic and mediumstic studies, in Margam, Wales.  Two of our course tutors, Debbie and Paul Rees, welcomed us all to the week with an uplifting and inspiring talk.  The students were split into two groups and I was with Debbie.  She asked us what we all hoped to achieve in the week and most of the responses were fairly standard for this type of course:  to strengthen our links with spirit, to learn to distinguish between our thoughts and those of spirit, and the answer that came up again and again,  to feel confident in our demonstration of spiritual communication.  She told us that the week was ours, it was only us who could push ourselves to the limit, it was only us who could choose how much to move ourselves forward.  It was only through practise, practise and more practise that we would feel confident. She rightly said that she couldn’t do the work for us, she could only facilitate our choices. She said it would be so sad if we went home wishing we had tried harder, wishing we had taken risks.  She said it was the perfect environment to test your skills, without fear of failure.

When she had finished talking she asked who of us, right there and then, would like to stand up and actually give a demonstration of our mediumship. I put my hand up. I was so surprised, because when I looked around I was the only one!  Hadn’t anyone else taken on board what she said? Someone always has to go first, but why was it me?  Was everyone else afraid of saying yes?

When you work with spirit you have to be able to say yes to them.  It would be all too easy to ignore them and just carry on with your earthly life.  But, the moment you say yes, they are very definitely there with you.  They know that you have acknowledged them and that you are willing to work with them. The very first time you tell someone that you have a spirit with you who wants to communicate, you have said yes, you will assist them.

The first time you do anything in your life you have in effect said yes.  Even at the very beginning of your life you are actually saying, yes, you will try eating solid foods. Imagine if you had said no, you would still only be drinking milk! When we are young and learning all about the world we say yes without even thinking about it. We say yes when new people come into our lives in the playground and want to be our friend. Yes, I will learn to skip, yes, I will learn to paint, yes, I will try peanut butter in my sandwich.  It’s all so easy when you are young.  Then as a teenager you say yes, you will listen to a new band, yes, you will try five-inch heels (if you’re a girl), yes, you will try a new hairstyle.  You get the gist of what I’m trying to say here.  But, there seems to come a time, when you have run out of yeses, maybe when you have become comfortable and settled and suddenly the yeses have become no’s.

I do wonder if children are more aware of spirit because of their open minds, because of their ease in saying yes to a new experience.  As we become older our awareness tends to shut down, but then so too does our ability to say yes. We seem to lose the zest for trying new things and I wonder why.  I did read a few years ago that people say that as they get older time appears to speed up and when they look back at when they were a child the days always seemed longer, time seemed slower. There is a thought that the reason for this is that everything takes on more importance when it feels new or when you are learning. If you look back over even the past month of your life can you say it went slowly or quickly? If you just carried on with your normal daily routines the chances are the month whizzed by, but had you started a new project or learnt a new skill, or went somewhere new, you might find that looking back, each day actually mattered, even the hours that you were involved with a new experience would seem far longer in your memory.

When I moved to Hampshire just over seven years ago, I didn’t know a soul apart from my sister and her husband.  Not being well made it difficult for me to get out and about and meet new people.  After several weeks of sitting watching tv with my sister and her family in the evenings, a friend suggested that I try internet dating.  My first instinct was to say no, but after much thought I decided why not and  joined a reputable site.  After several dates with the wrong men and two definitely wrong marriage proposals later, I was at the point of cancelling my membership.  However, one auspicious evening I decided to be quite forward and take at look at the men on the site instead of waiting for them to contact me.  One profile stood out from all the rest.  It wasn’t the usual ‘I love red wine and romantic moonlit walks by the beach’ type that I had read at least a hundred times.  This one had no photo and the profile was cheeky and funny and it was obvious the man didn’t take himself too seriously. I decided to send him a wink!  The next day he emailed me and introduced himself as Simon. What was amazing was that I had no idea where he lived when I had sent him the wink, but he lived only a five-minute drive away!  We got on really well and talked online for a while before I gave him my phone number.  After chatting on the phone he asked me out and I said yes.  When I met him he was absolutely great.  Simon and I celebrated our fourth wedding anniversary in March and he is still great!

Not all decisions have to be so life changing or mind-blowing. When I met Simon he offered me a chilli crisp.  Now I had never eaten a chilli in my life and must admit my first thought was a resounding no. I had tried a prawn curry years ago and absolutely hated it and thought all ‘hot’ food would taste the same,  but then I thought, why not, I only have to try one.  Much to my surprise I loved it.  Since we have been together I have learnt several new recipes that include chillies and can’t imagine not having them now. In fact my beef chilli has become a firm family favourite and has been requested, again, for the family get together on boxing day!

When someone asks you to try something, anything, that is new or different, why not just say, without a moment’s hesitation, yes.  How many wonderful experiences pass us by because we hesitate, and then, in an instant, the moment is gone, sometimes never to be repeated? Yes?

22) It’s good to share!

I obviously thought for this life-time I would choose not to be born alone and would instead have the fairly unique experience of being a twin.  When I was born there were far fewer twins than are born today, largely due to the fertility drugs that are available now, and so it was more unusual.  In all the schools we attended there was Monoamniotic-Monochorionic twinsonly ever  one other set of identical twins!

I wonder if my twin and I, in our soul existence, were in on the plan together, or whether having made the decision, separately, the higher powers decided who we would be conceived with.  It will be very interesting to find out one day. There are so many different facets to being a twin that one blog would be far too long, so for this posting I am just going to write about one aspect of twin-ship, if there is such a word!

Having shared my Mum’s womb for the nine months before my birth, I can actually say that I am a born sharer, as is my twin sister.

From my very first memories, I had no choice but to share.  Obviously we had to share the love of our parents and brother, but more of that in another blog sometime.  My identical twin sister, Tina and I, were born in the period after the war when, for most, including our family, money was still very tight.  For the first few months of our lives we had to share a cot and a pram, and it was only when we grew too large that we had our own.

Most  twins were always dressed the same in those days, but, unless it was for a special occasion,  Mum and Dad just couldn’t afford to buy two of everything, so we often had to wear  the very odd clothes that Mum made from old clothes that family or friends donated.  I remember Mum showing us a revolting pair of trousers that a rather large friend  had given her and thinking how utterly horrible the pattern was, a blend of browns and blues, totally yuk in my eyes.  The next thing we knew was that Mum had transformed the trousers into a couple of skirts for us – she was so delighted that she had managed to make two identical skirts, we weren’t – they were awful!  We used to sit for hours holding old jumpers whilst Mum would be undoing the wool and rolling it into a ball which she  would then use to knit us misshapen jumpers and cardigans.  She always said the next ones would be better, but they very rarely were.  I often wonder what we would have worn if Mum hadn’t been such a dab hand at sewing and knitting.  Damn that treadle sewing machine she was given!

At  school we had to wear a uniform, so we did look the same.  We were always put in the same class and strangely treated like one person.  It was quite bizarre.  If one of us did something wrong they would tell us both off – we would be in trouble. One teacher actually admitted to my Mum that they couldn’t tell us apart so that’s why she would discipline both of us – we both thought it was jolly unfair.

In the ballet school production of The Nut Cracker, we were both chosen to be butterflies, in the junior school Christmas play, we were chosen to be angels, in the school choir we were always given the same pieces to sing.  I think that everyone felt that we had to be treated the same, that there could be no distinction between us. There was also no favouritism.  Whatever I had, my twin sister had, and visa-versa, and what we couldn’t have individually, we shared.

Mum and Dad actually managed to save quite a lot of money by having us twins. Instead of having to buy two of many things, they just bought one, and we had to share.  We had one pram, which we would take in turns pushing round the garden, one tricycle, which again, we would take in turns riding, one scooter, one pair of roller skates.  Looking back I suppose that was a bit odd, but it felt normal because it was all we had ever known.

Christmas and birthdays were the same.  My brother would get his own presents, which he could use or play with, all by himself.   Tina and I  would often receive one present between us and we’d open it together and play with it together.  Our Nan always bought us joint presents, but, what we loved, was that she would also buy a dress for each of us for Christmas, always the same style, but maybe in a different colour – wow!

We even shared our baths until we were about ten years old, again, I thought nothing of it.  Dad was a frugal soul and wouldn’t for one minute have considered running two baths for us. We shared our bedroom, our clothes, our toys  and our books.  It was easy, we just took it in turns.  It never seemed a problem to me.  It didn’t bother me one jot.

There were very few differences between Tina and I.  At school our results tended to be neck and neck, our skills were normally at the same level.  However, when we were about eleven we went along to Richmond Ice Rink to learn to skate.  We were both put in the beginners class but Tina had her eye on another class where they were practising their spinning skills.  The teacher told Tina it normally took months until a student could get to that class.  Well by the end of the class Tina was in the spinning group – she was a natural-born skater – whilst I on the other hand never ever got the hang of it and spent the next three years of Saturday mornings hanging onto the edge of the rink or falling over.  Because Tina was such a good skater Mum and Dad bought her all the proper skating kit including her own white skates.  As I was such a klutz on the ice no investment was made in my kit at all and I had to make do with the dreadfully uncomfortable brown hire skates.  My ankles were so weak I even had to wear calipers that were attached to the skates – I looked a real treat!

Well, as I said, Tina had these beautiful white leather skates.  One winter it was particularly cold and we had the worst snow and ice for years.  I was  delighted when Tina suggested we could go out skating on the road and we could share her boots.  Imagine it, twins of about twelve, each with one skating boot on, what a pair of total nitwits, but we went out and had so much fun that day.  She thought nothing of sharing her wonderful boots with me.  Funny thing is I don’t think it even crossed our minds to take it in turns to wear a pair at a time – we were enjoying ourselves too much – how very odd we must have been!

On our seventeenth birthday Mum and Dad bought us a car between us. It was an ancient Ford Popular, 27 years old.  We called her Poppy .. how very predictable!   ‘She’ was green with white leather seats.  Sounds like a  luxurious interior, but I can assure you it wasn’t.  She always smelt like a jumble sale, had three forward gears, with no synchromesh, which meant we had to learn to double de-clutch – which was a nightmare, and she had those funny indicators that were like little arms sticking out the side of the car. The heater was a huge tube thing in the middle of the car where you either opened the flap and had very smelly hot air blasting over you, or the flap was closed and you froze.  The hand brake was very hit and miss on anything that had a slight incline, so was pretty scary when you are learning to drive.  We saved up together until we could afford driving lessons, which we took together too. She was our car for a couple of years and we lavished much love and care on her until one dreadful day her big end went and we couldn’t afford to have her fixed. We watched with sadness as she was towed away to the scrap heap.

We left home at an early age and rented a flat just outside London.  We shared the flat with two other girls.  They each had their own bedrooms but Tina and I shared ours.  Since we were about twelve  Mum had given us a clothing allowance, and we had always bought everything between us, clothes, shoes, make up etc.  We had one wardrobe  which we put our clothes in, and we always discussed each morning who was to going to wear what.  Even our shoes were shared as we had the same shoe size. It was fantastic because we had such a choice and I had never even thought of going out and buying a dress or pair of shoes on my own.  Fortunately we both liked similar clothes and colours, so it was easy. There were very few arguments and I never felt either of us really had to compromise that much either.   Our flat mates thought it was amazing that Tina and I shared everything, and it was the first time I had ever really considered that it was unusual.

We always saved up together for larger items, like our first record player, which we put by in a local hi-fi shop and paid off weekly until it was ours and we could bring it home. We went  together to buy our very first LP (long-playing album to those too young to remember), which was Dark Side of The Moon by Pink Floyd. We bought all our LP’s between us and ended up with an enviable collection.

We went along for interviews together and worked together for several years.  We shared jobs.  If they gave one of us a pay rise we would share it.  For a long time we had one shared purse with all our money in, and two separate purses that we would take out when we went out on our own.  When we opened our first bank account, it was a joint account and looking back they seemed to think that was a bit odd, but we didn’t. Everything was equal.

When we were twenty we decided that we had had enough of renting flats and decided to downsize to a very small one room bed sit to enable us to save a deposit to buy somewhere.  We shared a single bed for months, me one end and Tina the other.  We both had three jobs on the go and lived on cereals because they were cheap, but it meant we could save. The upside was that we were both really slim!

We both had day jobs, evening jobs working together in a wine bar where we would swap being either the cook or the waitress on alternate nights, and then we had a market stall on the weekend where we sold, of all things, children’s slippers.  We loved selling on the market, it was such good fun.  We would set targets for our sales and increase it every week.  When we were twenty-one we had saved enough for us to buy our first flat together in Twickenham.  It was a one bedroom flat as it was all we could afford, but one bedroom was fine for us.  We bought a double bed and shared it.  It was a dream come true and one that would have never come together had we not shared our dream and shared in the making of it.

Being a twin, and an identical one at that, is an adventure that I am so very pleased I chose, and one of my greatest pleasures has been learning  that sharing is the most marvellous experience.  I really think that if I could wave a magic wand everyone would be born a twin.  Sharing would become the most natural way for us all to be and I really believe the world would be a better place for it.  How many of the worlds problems are caused by selfishness, jealousy or possessiveness?  Those emotions just don’t work if you’re a twin.  Sharing is an easy form of generosity where you don’t have to give everything away, just share it with who you choose.  It truly is a soul growing  positive experience to share what you cherish, what you love.   I ‘think it would be great if people could try thinking like a sharer for just one week and see the difference it could make to their lives and those they love.   It would be interesting to see how much they could find to  share.

21) What are you thankful for?

In answer to the "Is the glass half empty...

What a fabulous topic!  Whoop!  Whoop!

The problem with this question is where to start?  It would be too easy to list everything I am thankful for, although I don’t think there would be enough space on my blog.   My list is endless.

Instead, I would like to take a little more thought about this, and consider what makes some people so thankful and others so lacking in thankfulness.  It could be the old glass half full or glass half empty scenario, or  the classic, are you an optimist or are you a pessimist question.  Do these personality traits play their roles in thankful appreciation?

We are all so individual, and why someone may find an experience a reason for celebration, another may find the exact opposite!  For arguments sake, if we just look at birthdays.  We all have them, and the more the merrier I say, but there are those who are delighted to be alive on, let’s say,  their fortieth birthday, whilst someone else may be devastated to be turning forty because they think it will make them feel so old.  It is all a matter of perspective.

When I was thirty-five I was diagnosed with breast cancer.  (I can’t  believe it, twenty years ago)   During my surgery and my various treatments, I was fortunate enough to meet the most amazing people.  My first contact was with a wonderful surgeon, Mr Knox.  At first he appeared quite brusque, but over time I felt a massive fondness for him.  He had an instinctive awareness of my fears and concerns and had a very reassuring presence.  He told me he was going to give me some important and life changing advise and I assumed it would be something to do with diet or exercise, but I was so wrong.  He told me  never to buy a newspaper again!  I was surprised and asked him why.  He said that  bad news sells newspapers, and that my life should be full of positivity and I must not allow negativity into my daily routine. He said that the world revolves around negativity and fear and he felt strongly that fear played a massive role in people’s recovery from serious illness. I have hardly ever bought a newspaper since!

I then met the wonderful and caring  Dr Hong.  She was in charge of my radiotherapy treatment.  She told me that she felt she was so honoured to work with cancer patients as they had taught her so much.  I asked her why and she told me that when people recover from cancer they never look at the world in the same way as they did before.  She felt that for those who recovered, having cancer was a real blessing!  At the time I must admit I found that hard to swallow, but she assured me that in the years to come, and she insisted there would be many of them, that I would look back and realise how lucky I was to have had cancer.

I do believe now that she was so right.  My whole outlook on life changed and I also became increasingly thankful for every blessing in my life.  I know that a huge shift took place within me and I desperately wanted others to feel the same.  The difficulty is that until you truly have a life threatening experience, you do somehow feel quite immortal and tend to take so much for granted.  When you have recovered from a life changing event even a previously insignificant and minor occurrence can fill you with appreciation and wonder.  Everything tends to take on a greater meaning.

I know that for me, my ambitions changed dramatically.  Suddenly so much I had worked so hard for, had strived towards, became inconsequential.  It caused many problems too, because at the time I was not surrounded by those who would share my new enthusiasm for a different way of life, away from the materialistic and career dominated existence of my past, towards a more meaningful, altruistic and spiritual pathway.

There are those of course who are almost born being thankful.  These, in my experience, tend to be happy bods, who bounce along in a happiness bubble and see and sense and feel so much to be thankful for.  Thankfully, pardon the pun, I have been the fortunate partner of one such soul for the past seven years.  He has never experienced anything majorly bad in his life but nevertheless, he is a thankful person.  He is always saying how wonderful everything is, how blessed he feels and how lucky we are.

However,  I also have a friend who has, in material terms, lived one of the luckiest lives I have known.  Is she thankful?  No, quite the opposite!  She is and always has been, stunningly attractive, very clever, very talented.  How sad, that whatever she does is not fulfilling, what she has is never enough, whatever she experiences is never good enough.  She takes several idyllic holidays a year and yet within weeks of her return is complaining that she needs another holiday!  She drives a brand new car and yet complains she cannot afford it – so why buy it???   Sorry, is that being unfairly critical? She has three wonderful children, she is so blessed, yet cannot see it and has such a negative outlook on life. I often wonder why.  To me it makes no sense.  Is there an answer?  Will she ever feel truly thankful for the many wonderful gifts in her life? I often feel  I would like to give her a bottle of spiritual tonic to open her awareness and for her to be able to see the wondrous world in which we live, to feel fulfilled by the simple things in life, to be content. To be totally honest sometimes I just feel like screaming at her … be thankful for goodness sake, but that’s not particularly spiritual of me, is it?

Is this taking me back to my soul choice questions all over again?  So much in my life seems to point me back to that, again and again.  Did I choose to have cancer to be able to experience life both before and after the massive shift I felt?  Did my husband choose a happy thankful personality for this lifetime, and did my friend choose a personality with such a pessimistic and ungrateful outlook?  Did they swap from their choices from their last lives? Do their choices enable others to grow and learn from them.  Funnily enough, whenever I have spent time with my unappreciative friend her negativity has the reverse effect on me and I always come home feeling so incredibly lucky and thankful for how much I have in my life.

20) Stairway to Heaven

My brother Ray

I would have thought that as a soul, when I believe I chose my earth family, I would have tried to incorporate even a little harmony into the mix. I often look at other families and to me they look ‘smooth’, it’s like they dovetail together and everyone fits in.  Through my life I have met many people who are fortunate enough to share an easy relationship with their siblings.  Of course, I’m not saying for one minute, that is always the case, but speaking generally it seems quite usual.  I don’t count the usual sibling bickering when growing up, as a major problem, because it  is quite normal  as people’s personalities are coming to the fore as major clashes.

If you watch a litter of young cats or dogs you will observe the same spats as they are growing up and trying to assert themselves within their ‘family’.  It seems to be the way of the world, not just with us humans but within the animal kingdom to a large extent too.

I am sure that I decided to choose one of my siblings who was so very different from me in many ways,  in order to challenge my views and to teach me a myriad of life’s lessons.  It is often said that you learn by example, but  in my case, I often had to  look at what my brother did, the decisions he made and basically do the opposite!  I refer to Ray as our older brother, because being a twin, I shared him with my sister, which maybe was a good thing, because I think it diluted him a little.

I often likened my brother to a diamond with its many facets because he had so many different aspects to his personality.  You were never sure what you were going to get and it was quite imperceptible to even understand from hour to hour which would be his dominant personality trait.  He could be the most gentle caring and generous person you could ever meet, but within a short space of time you could be faced with a very different man who appeared to be full of selfish needs and could be considerably rude and abusive.  He was certainly tough to understand, and I don’t think even now I could say I ever really managed that.

Our older brother, by five years, Ray, was  a massive personality.  On the plus side he was immensely talented as a writer (he won a national story competition when he was 11), a brilliant artist and a talented musician.  He was outgoing with the most engaging sense of fun and perfect timing for comedy.  He had what I would call a quiet interest in all things spiritual, and possessed an inner  knowing, a deep understanding of life and a wonderful appreciation of the natural world. Sadly very few people ever saw that side of Ray, it was like he wore a dark cloak of protection around him and only those incredibly close and trusted, one of whom I was so fortunate to be, would ever get to see the real gentle and spiritual side to him.

He was attractive to women, of whom he had many calling and falling for him from an early age.  All our friends thought it must be so fantastic to have such a talented and good-looking brother and would even ask if he would be home before they arranged to come and visit, just hoping for a glimpse or even just a hello from him.  He undoubtedly had a magic about him which endured throughout his lifetime.  He was a natural charmer, easily making  friends wherever he went.  He was a magnet that most people found almost impossible to resist.

On the negative side, he was outrageous with no respect for rules or authority. Always in trouble, from a very early age, he spent many of his teenage years in approved school, then in and out of  borstal, and as he matured, he advanced to prisons.  It never fazed him in the slightest.  The rest of the family would be falling apart but he took it in his stride. It was never for very long and Ray saw it more as an enforced break, often he would write wonderful songs or stories and use the time to learn new skills before he would rejoin the world.

Invariably his earlier custodial sentences were due to his involvement with illegal motor bikes and cars, and when he was older for driving dangerously and at crazy speeds.  He had a desperate need for excitement. When I would ask him why he would drive like a maniac, he just used to say that he enjoyed the high, the buzz, the thrill of it.  He said he enjoyed the chase, the adrenalin charging through his veins.  I never understood. We were complete opposites in this regard.  I have always preferred peace, quiet, calm and steady, and the safety of rules and regulations.

I watched as our parents tried everything they could to make their young son conform, but it was just a waste of time.  He truly was a free spirit, a young brave who would have been an asset to the tribe, had his father been a native American chief.  He would have ridden his powerful stallion across the open lands and bravely fought for his tribal rights.  He would have understood the nature spirits, the shamanic laws, the mother earth.  Adorned with headdresses of feathers and shells, with his wolf by his side, I am sure he would have felt complete.  Instead he felt confined in our western society and kicked like a young buck against the rules which he felt should play no part in his life.

With Ray as my older brother, the age gap appeared much wider when we were younger.  As a young girl of seven or eight, Ray being then twelve or thirteen, seemed so grown up. I always felt he was my defender, somehow I felt safe with him around, which in hindsight was quite the opposite of how I should have felt. He appeared worldly-wise and being so unafraid of anything, he would take us out on fantastic adventures.  He always made the most of every opportunity for experiencing anything and everything.  He would always give anything a try.

On our many excursions during school holidays we would often go much further than our parents would have allowed.  He would ask Mum if it was ok to take us to the village for a couple of hours, but then we would find that he had planned that we would catch a train.  I’m not talking the usual way of catching a train.  There was no way that Ray would line up and pay for a ticket, no, he knew where the holes were in the chain link fence near the station and we would crawl through the undergrowth, sneak along the tracks and wait in hiding behind the station buildings for a train to arrive.  Then we’d scurry on board, and with our hearts thumping with excitement we’d be off to wherever the train took us.  That was part of the magic, never knowing where we’d end up. I don’t know how we never got caught without a ticket, but we never did!

Buses were always more of a problem with their conductors on board.  Ray would buy us tickets for 2d (yes two old pennies!) and we’d know that we’d have to get off at a certain stop, but Ray would make certain that we’d travel on crowded buses where the conductor wouldn’t notice us straight away if we stayed on the bus a little longer.  His plan didn’t always work and many a time we were thrown off the bus because we had no more money to cover our extended journeys.  Then there would be the inevitable long walks, normally through forests and across muddy fields.  Even these arduous treks would be made magical by Ray’s wonderful stories about the nature surrounding us and the mysterious creatures that lived there.  He would concoct the most amazing tales to keep us enthralled as we wearily made our way home. We were far too loyal to him to ever tell our parents of our law breaking.

He had played a guitar since we were very young and my memories of falling asleep whilst he played to us are always close to my heart.  My favourite song through many of my earlier years was Yellow Bird, which he would sing so softly to us, ‘Yellow bird, high up in banana tree, yellow bird, you sit all alone like me.’ So very different to the heavy rock he would end up playing as lead guitarist and singer with his band.

Ray led his adult life as a rock’n’roller, rubbing shoulders with those who had ‘made it’, but never quite getting there himself.  He ran various businesses, many of which were very successful, but he would soon become bored.  He had his own commercial recording studio and was in his element involved in music.  He always felt the need to escape from the confines of our culture and sadly relied heavily on serious drug use and at times became embroiled in a life surrounded by drugs.  He tried many times to move away from drugs, but in a strange way, when he managed it, his senses appeared dulled and his lust for life diminished as he tried to conform. His was known locally simply as Animal – his friends said it was because he was a party animal – which he was through and through.

When I was in my mid-teens Ray and I would sometimes spend a couple of days together at his flat.  I  felt so blessed that the Ray I normally shared my time with was wonderfully funny, gentle, and considerate. I was sure he made a huge effort for me. He’d take me out to some wonderful bistro for dinner and treat me like a real princess.  We would have the most deep and meaningful talks about life, our family, our souls, our choices.  They are still magical memories which I will always treasure. When it was just Ray and I together I felt so proud that he was my brother, but when I, quite regularly, read local newspaper reports about his appalling behaviour,  I would wonder how he could behave so differently, and dreadfully, with his close bunch of friends. I never found an explanation and could never reconcile the two extremes.

Ray’s flat was painted completely in black, and had mysterious red lights shining out of dark corners, it smelt of odd substances,dust, wine and old ashtrays.    There were candles everywhere which had been replaced many many times, but the remains of the old candles were still evident. Heavy dark velvet curtains were hung at every window, and strangely were very rarely pulled back. It was like walking into an underground cave where you would expect bats to fly at you.

The furniture was odd and bulky with old dusty velvet cushions placed everywhere.  All the wood in the flat had been acid washed back to its natural finish, and somehow it always felt sticky.

He had built a large rustic wooden cabin over his bath, complete with psychedelic lighting and speakers, so that you could lay in the bath and listen to the heavy rock music that was always playing in his home.

Huge amplifiers and speakers were in the sitting room, and his collection of electric guitars were everywhere. Shelves upon shelves of albums of his favourite bands were jostling for space in the crowded room with an ever-expanding odd array of artwork, ornaments and writings adorning every wall or shelf.

Massive mugs of tea or coffee, barely washed from many uses before, were offered along with his unusual home-made cakes and biscuits which contained a selection of various herbs and spices and which had a reputation to make you feel quite odd!  I learnt to avoid them.

He’d always want to play me the latest album he had just acquired and on one particular visit he had just bought Led Zeppelin IV.  He wanted me to hear his favourite track, Stairway to Heaven.  As the music boomed out of the speakers, loud enough for the whole neighbourhood to hear, he opened his french doors and we stood, arms wrapped around each other,  looking up into the dark sky picking out each twinkling star we could find.  He was telling me how we are all  from the stars, from the universe, how massive the galaxy is.

I remember thinking just how perfect the evening was with my big brother, when a very strange feeling came over me.  The garden appeared to be moving and my head felt odd.  I started to feel sick.  I told Ray I wasn’t feeling well.  ‘Ah, darling’,  he said, with a wry smile, ‘might have been the tea’.  He had, he said, added ‘magical’ ingredients.  My legs were like jelly. It took what felt like hours to get from the french doors to my bed in the spare room, which was not easy as the bed was built only a foot or so from the ceiling and I had to climb a ladder to get up there. Ray was laughing and singing to me  ‘There’s a lady who’s sure all that glitters is gold And she’s buying the stairway to heaven’.   It certainly didn’t feel like heaven to me!

19) Will we ever stop greed?

Ugandan anti-corruption sign

Almost wearily, and with more than a hint of despondency, I opened my topic for the day email.  At least I had the right intuitive thoughts, which were confirmed when I opened it, although I would much rather have been wrong.  Here it is: Why does corruption exist? Can it be stopped? What can bloggers do to help?

Another fantastic topic with a positive thought for the day ………….not! Come on guys, give us a break!  I had looked back over the years ‘blog a day’ ideas and there were so many that I thought would be fantastic to write about, which is why  I signed up to this crazy idea.   Please, for tomorrow, give us all something cheerful and uplifting to blog about.  PLEASE.

Back to todays ‘must do it, only because I said I would, blog’.

The very first word that springs to mind has to be greed.  In every society it seems that greed is one of the most prevalent emotions/traits, whatever you want to call it, that drives so many people.

With corruption, what is even worse, is that sometimes the perpetrator coerces the victim by a form of blackmail … if you don’t pay me, help me, support me, whatever…………. then I won’t …. give you the order, let you pass your exam, assist you in any way.

The awful truth is that corruption can take many forms.  In the classic sense I am sure that most of us think of countries where corruption is rife.  Where whole communities are run by people in power who only work because of the gains they can make through their corrupting regimes. More locally, in the UK, I am sure you’ve heard in the news where planning permission has been granted because of some financial gain for the planner from the builder.  I believe it is called colloquially, a back hander. It brings to mind so many negative ideas about the people in power.  Thats the whole crux of the matter. Power.  Give anyone a little power and for some they will use it wisely, for the betterment of others, but the weaker characters, and I do firmly believe they are weak, use that power to gain control and use  people to give themselves an advantage.

I have, in a small way, personal experience of corruption, and even now after several years, it still makes me angry.

I was the financial director of  a business for many years, and fortunately I was never asked, and certainly never offered, to give an incentive to any of our customers.  We endeavoured to offer the best quality products and service at competitive prices. Our reputation grew and the company did well.  However, after twenty years we  made the monumental decision to sell our business because of my ill-health. We were advised to build a solid management team who were to stay in place after the sale.  We employed a sales director who had previously worked for a large American organisation. We had known him for several years, he had worldwide contacts and an excellent reputation in our industry.

Within a few months of his arrival at our company he came to me with a good-sized order from a new customer.  I thought nothing of it, and just assumed that our prices and products had obviously been acceptable to the client.  However, much to my absolute astonishment, a few days later the sales director came to see me with a claim for a receipt he had.  He wanted me to pay him for a personal computer. I was perplexed. Why on earth would I do that?  He explained that he had only received the order from the new customer because he had agreed to give him a personal computer! I was stunned and appalled, I immediately said that the customer could take back his order and that we did not work like that.  The sales director informed me, in the most condescending manner, that in ‘real’ business, that’s the way the world worked.  I stuck to my guns and refused to budge. I refused the order from the client.  Every part of me wanted to sack the sales director on the spot.  His way of working was against every thread of my being.  How could we tolerate such behaviour in our business?  Also, I wondered,  what had he personally gained from this transaction?  I never did find out.

I was though stuck in a moral dilemma.  At that very time we were in the final stages of selling  and the prospective purchasers would not have approved of my terminating this mans employment, almost no matter what the circumstances.  They had insisted that in buying the company they would also be employing all the well-trained and valued staff we had, including the well oiled management team.

In the final days of the company sale, new employment contracts were issued to key personnel, including the sales director. They had all been aware of the impending sale for several months and we had ensured that the terms of their new contracts were as good, if not better, than their current ones.  I was flabbergasted when on the way to a pivotal meeting he rang me on my mobile.  He said he would refuse to sign the new contract unless we made it worth his while!  To begin with I thought he was joking but it became evident he was not.  A massive part of me just wanted to tell him not to bother to sign it and to call off the sale, but it had taken over a year to get to this point, my health was appalling and we were only three days away from completion.  Against everything that I had ever believed in we agreed to pay him a substantial amount of money to sign his contract.  The company was sold and ironically within three months he had left, to set up his own business.   I do wonder how much bribery, corruption and blackmail he has used or been involved with to enable his business to grow. How does he sleep at night? Does he have a conscience?

So, how do we, how does anyone, stop it?  There are new laws … the anti-bribery laws were put in place in April 2010 in the UK, but I wonder how easy it will be to apply them. How can blogging help with this?  Would this be a name and shame type of blog?  I can see this could be extremely dangerous in many circumstances and it is also far too easy for people who hold a grudge against someone to use a public blog to cause an innocent person possible irrevocable harm.

Sadly, very sadly, I think there always will be greedy people.  People who think that they have found a way to make easy money, no matter the cost to others. People who want their own way, to go against laws and legislation by offering to pay officials. Are they here in our lives to give us lessons to overcome?  All we can do, even if only in a small way, is to hope that people become enlightened to a new way of life, a way that shows that materialism is not  important in the huge scheme of life.

18) The Perfect Society

Well yesterday was day one  of  ‘blog a day’.  I thought it was a bit of a tough call, trying to come up with a blog about naming a currency.  However, today, wow, the guys at WordPress have surpassed themselves.

"We, the people" iPhone Wallpaper

Some kind soul decided that nothing would be better than to confound us daily bloggers with this wonderful exciting topic:  Explain the difference between socialism, communism and anarchy.

My first thought was can it get any more difficult or dull?  Which saddo is behind these daily blog ideas?  But, the more I pondered on this, the more I came to realise that I’m quite a politically minded woman with some fairly strong views.

It’s difficult to be objective about different political ideologies when I have only ever lived my life in a capitalist society.  I can look up socialism, communism and anarchy on the net.  But, does it really give a true interpretation of life under their rules? I suspect not.

I live in a capitalist country, and if you look up capitalism it sounds pretty good. It is supposed to be a ruling system that encourages an individuals economic growth. From that growth the idea is that we individuals can enjoy enormous freedom in all areas of our lives.  But, how true is that statement? How many people truly have the opportunity to enhance their lives just through their own volition? I have lived for well over 50 years and I know very few people who have been in a position to use their talents to make major improvements in their lives, or the lives of their families. I know I am generalizing, but, it appears to me that those in power tend to have had the best opportunities from the very beginning of their lives.  I find it is rare that someone from a disadvantaged background has exactly the same opportunities as one from n privileged one.

One of my friends and I have often discussed our society. We both feel a great sadness when we realise that at its core tends to be an overwhelming desire for more and more materialistic trappings, more consumerism, more consumption, rather than working towards a fairer society which looks after its more vulnerable.

It seems crazy to me that someone who chooses a career of care, for example, nursing, is paid far far less than those in the public eye.   Here in the UK we have ambulance drivers and firemen who cannot afford to buy the most basic homes for their families.  These are people who work tirelessly to help others.  If you look at our celebrity culture in the west, it appears that anyone who can sing, act, or kick a ball around a football field, can earn vast amounts of money.  Even those who are celebrities, just because they have been on a reality show, earn huge amounts  compared to people who are employed as the backbones of our society. Surely that just shows how capitalism has failed.

Now, if you then consider living under communist rule, from our western capitalistic viewpoint, everyone in a communistic society should be paid the same. We gather they should live in standard accommodation and expect the same levels of education, healthcare etc.  I wonder how true that is?  It sounds like utopia until you realise that some people are hard workers and others are clearly not.  Some are highly intelligent, some are not.  How would you feel if you worked exceptionally hard and were paid the same, had the same standards of living and lifestyle as someone who shirked as much as possible?  What would be your motivation to study or enhance your skills? How would you feel if you felt that no matter how hard you tried you could not improve your life? My overwhelming feeling  is one of personal imprisonment.

My favourite aunt was a staunch promoter of socialism.  She felt the ethos embodied total fairness and equality for all. A society where the working classes and minority groups are considered worthy.  A constitution that rules for a fair distribution of wealth. She was dismayed at the lack of support for socialism by the ruling classes. How easy would it be for those wealthy in the capitalist countries to agree to re-distribute some of their wealth? I would say nigh on an impossibility.

Most people would think that anarchy means that there is no order, no rules, no governing body. However, looking at this from a totally different viewpoint, you might even think that it could actually work.  Instead of a centralised government, a country run with pure anarchistic rules, offers more of a collaborative system whereby all citizens have to be responsible and be able to compromise to achieve what is best for everyone.  It is almost like a series of local committees which all come together for the greater good.   The community itself would set its own standards for moral values, much like a family does now.  Was this the type of rule that was prevalent in the tribes of the Native Americans or in deepest Africa? Possibly.

I do believe there is not one perfect solution, not ‘one size fits all’ political constitution.  If we were all born with the same capabilities, the same intelligence, the same desires, it would be so easy.  We are not a planet of robots.  That is the problem.  We all have our own individual views, which is what makes us who we are.

I sincerely hope that one day,  throughout the world, the average Jo, the backbones of our societies, the vulnerable, the much talked about but seldom heard, silent majority, will be heard, will be considered worthy, will be able to enjoy a good standard of living.

If mankind could all just live by this one rule:  ‘treat others the way you would like to be treated‘ and that was carried throughout society,  from local councils right through to our world governments, wow, now that would be a perfect society.

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