NOT another Resolutions List

I received an email today from someone who has inspired me with a great idea.  It may or may not be her own original, but y’know – I don’t care.  I’m going to try it, and promote it, anyway!

Instead of having a ‘New Years Resolution’ list of things I want to achieve, I’m going to concentrate on how to achieve those goals I’d otherwise have written down.

Here’s a starting point:

Your thoughts become your words
Your words become your behaviour
Your behaviour becomes your habits
Your habits become your values
Your values become your destiny
– Mahatma Gandhi

So there’s my challenge.  Not just ‘think positive’ – I already do a lot of that.  But speak that way too, and act it.  Create some new habits.

“Getting better every day” may be a cliche, but cliches only become so by repetition, and repetition doesn’t necessarily mean something isn’t true.

I will try to do my best, and the more I do it, the better that ‘best’ will become.  And that, my friends, sounds like the road to success.

Wherever your roads lead you in 2017, may you travel them with courage.  We can’t always control our destination but we can control the way we carry ourselves in getting there.

Peace.DSCF0203

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The Tribe That Lost A Piece Of Their Soul And Discovered A World

Here’s a little Christmas present for you all –  it’s one of my favourites of all the things I’ve written “for kids”.  But really, it’s for everyone who understands…

William Bowmore Wise liked to travel, and he liked to take pictures.

He especially liked to take pictures with his very expensive and very clever mobile phone that had a very clever camera built into it. He had a big camera too, but his phone was easier to carry around.

William B. Wise lived in a big city in Australia, but he really liked to travel.

Fortunately he was quite rich, so he could afford to visit a lot of interesting places.

William liked taking pictures of people who had less than he did because he thought they were interesting. He wasn’t being smug or unkind. He just didn’t quite understand them.

He’d always been quite rich and didn’t know what it was like to have to make his own clothes or bake his own bread. He couldn’t imagine what it must be like to grow his own food or catch his own fish or build his own house.

William didn’t even really understand what it was like to have to work hard to have enough money to buy food or a place to live.

He took pictures of people working and building and fishing and farming because they were things that to him were different and unusual.

When William took pictures of people, he didn’t think of them as people. It was like they were just things. Things to take pictures of, just like bridges and buildings and sunflowers and sunsets.

*

The Williwilli people were a very small, very ancient tribe who lived in Central Australia.

There weren’t many of them any more. They didn’t have a home. They hadn’t had a home for thousands of years.

dscf3840The Williwilli people were nomads. They wandered from place to place, and built rough shelters to sleep in for just as long as they stayed in one place.

Sometimes they would hunt, sometimes they would fish, and sometimes they would gather the fruits and plants that grew in what other people called the Outback.

The Williwilli people knew a little about things like cars and cameras and computers. They’d seen them when they happened to be at a place where there were tourists visiting.

They knew about such things, but they weren’t very interested in them.

Those were things that the Williwilli people had never had, so they never missed having them. They were quite content with their lives and the way that they lived them.

But one thing that none of the Williwilli people liked was to have their picture taken.

They really really believed that if someone took a picture of you then they took a piece of your soul. That was the thing inside you that made You who you were, and if someone took a piece of it then you would be less You.

*

Continue reading The Tribe That Lost A Piece Of Their Soul And Discovered A World

The Clicking Thing

200 years ago Mary Shelley wrote a wonderful novel called Frankenstein.  There was a competition to celebrate the anniversary.  The challenge was to write 1000 words or so on “The relationship between creator and creation.”  Here’s what I did.  (I set up this post on what would have been my Dad’s 96th birthday.  I know he’d have gotten a kick out of it.)

A remarkable inventor was Professor Thaddeus Plumpton-Green,

The man who was responsible for a most unique machine.

It turned out to be one of the best the world had ever seen.

 

He wasn’t very popular with other scientific brains.

They thought him odd, old-fashioned, and not up with modern gains

And in return he thought them trapped in unimaginative chains.

 

How things should work was what the Prof and his colleagues most would clash on.

Electronic new technology and computers may be fashion

But he didn’t care – gears and springs and clockwork were his passion.

 

He worked with cogs and wheels and springs and widgets made of tin.

Rack and pinion joints, and spools, and wire he’d coil around a pin

And the hammering of metal sheets that created quite a din.

 

The sound of his constructions could be as loud as you’d predict

So he lived and worked outside of town where the noise rules weren’t so strict,

And in that lab he called his home, he built the Thing that clicked.

 

Although he lived all by himself he seldom felt alone.

So much went on inside his head – a heavy traffic zone

But the Thing that clicked was company, in a way he’d never known.

 

Of course it could do more than click, if given half a chance.

It could nod and bow, and smile and wave. It could walk and run and prance.

When it was moved a special way the Thing would even dance.

 

That delighted old Prof P, who’d dance when on his own

To foxtrot records, classic jazz, on his wind-up gramophone.

If he tripped, or didn’t keep in time, the Thing would never moan.

 

Its clicking fitted with the jazz, in rhythm with the beat.

A dance partner who did not complain was, for clumsy Prof, a treat

For the Thing, it didn’t feel a thing if he trampled on its feet!

 

Once he told his Thing a joke and it gave him back a wink. It

Startled Plumpton-Green. He loved his animated trinket

But to call it ‘life’ was just too much – best not overthink it!

He hadn’t made a monster, of that he was quite certain.

The Thing was all of clockwork with no feelings to be hurting,

But Plumpton-Green still fretted as he peeped out round his curtain.

 

He went into town as he sometimes did to buy food, supplies and tools

When he saw some children as they walked to playgrounds or to schools.

“If they like my Thing I’m safe,” he thought, “For the young are no-one’s fools!”

 

Back in his lab he made more Things – just a few at first to share.

No monsters these, but playmates, each made with skill and care.

“If these kids like them I’ll make more for children everywhere!”

 

He took the new Things into town and gave them out for free

They clicked as they ran and danced and played and filled young hearts with glee

And parents seemed quite satisfied with his safety guarantee.

 

As children played with their clicking Things two men in suits walked by.

The fun the children clearly had caught one shrewd man’s cold eye.

He nudged his pal, said: “The next big thing! Let’s get rich, you and I!”

 

The men in suits were already rich from selling other stuff

But the funny thing with money is for some, there’s never enough.

When Professor P. said, “Not for sale!” they left him in a huff.

 

They found a boy who swapped his Thing for a computer game and sweets.

The lazy lad would rather play inside than on the streets

And the company of friends was less important than his treats.

 

So the men in suits had got their Thing and hardly spent a penny.

They had plenty cash, and grand ideas, but morals? Hardly any.

“If a few of these are such big hits, what dough we’ll make with many!”

 

“We can make more faster, cheaper, better too when we understand the trick!”

So their smart guys took the Thing apart to see what made it tick.

They even found the little bit that had given it its click.

 

They built a grand new factory with machines all big and fine,

Even automated polishers to give a brilliant shine

To New Improved Things by the thousand, off a huge production line.

 

Professor Plumpton read a press release of what the men in suits would do.

They’d flood the market with new Things, click-free, and cheaper, too.

He sighed and patted Thing the First and said, “At least I’ve still got you.”

 

But the New Improved Things didn’t sell – no-one wanted them as toys.

“What’s wrong with them? What’s wrong with you?” the men asked girls and boys.

The answer came, “They’re not the same. We liked the clicking noise!”

 

The men in suits were horrified at what the children spoke.

The factory, sales plan, marketing had all gone up in smoke.

Their production line of monsters left the men in suits quite broke.

 

The men in suits sold all their Things to the sheikh of a far-off land

Who used them as cheap labour to construct his buildings grand.

But alas, they didn’t last for long as their gears were clogged with sand.

 

Tastes change quickly nowadays and novelty wears thin.

Even those few Things that clicked were soon no longer ‘in’.

But the Prof back in his lab still wore his quiet contented grin.

 

For he still had his Thing the First to proudly call his own.

They’d stay up late and dance to jazz on the trusty gramophone,

As years went by old Plumpton-Green never had to be alone.

 

When the old Professor passed away, the Thing it couldn’t cry.

It didn’t have the means for tears, however it may try.

It hadn’t been designed to weep or mourn or even sigh.

 

It held his body to its breast and danced a gentle sway.

The music stopped, the Thing still moved in a tender, loving way

Until the gears at last wound down, and the last click died away.

 

 

Cancer has limits.

Cancer is so limited.

All it can do is damage cells.DSCF1746

 

There is so much it can’t do.

 

It cannot cripple love.

It cannot shatter hope.

It cannot dissolve faith.

It cannot destroy peace.

It cannot kill friendship.

It cannot suppress memories.

It cannot silence courage.

It cannot invade the soul.

It cannot steal eternal life.

It cannot conquer the spirit.

 

It can take away the ones we love,

But it cannot take away the love.

The ones we notice

I used to drive around Australia a lot. Various routes and journeys connecting Brisbane, Canberra, Adelaide, Melbourne and Beechworth, there and back again. A short trip might be three or four hours, a longer one twelve or fourteen or more. Much more of the driving was done at night than during daylight hours.

Many of the trips were made on my own, with only the cassette deck for company (provided it was working). Regional radio was a matter of chance, with reception fading in and out and the actual content of the airwaves often being a choice of earnest chat or country music, neither a preferred choice for me.

Melbourne by night
Melbourne by night
Brisbane by night
Brisbane by night

One of my regular strategies for staying awake was to count trucks as they approached or overtook me. I seldom seemed to overtake them. If I was ‘stuck’ on any number for a while because the road was quiet I’d turn my memory to what I connect with that year. So trucks #79, or 179, or 279 might prompt memories of a show I worked on, or a new romance, or a band I sang with.

In the early hours of one dark morning I was a little way outside of Yass approaching Canberra. So far I’d counted 491 trucks on an uneventful drive. I was on my way up a winding hillside road when my rear view mirror went white.

It was the glare of the high beam headlights of an eighteen wheeler semi-trailer, thundering onto my tail at high speed. Have you ever seen the movie Duel? Dennis Weaver is a motorist pursued on a winding mountain road by the unseen homicidal driver of a monster truck.

I was having flashbacks to the movie as I put my foot down and threw my sedan around bends trying to stay ahead of the semi that seemed to be a split second away from driving right over the top of me. To my enormous it didn’t take long to find a space at the side of the road wide enough to pull into and let the truck roar by.

As I sat there waiting for my heartbeat to come back down to normal I cursed and swore at “bloody maniac truck drivers that think they own the bloody road – something should be done about them!”

Remembering to breath I gradually calmed down. As I pulled back out onto the road a thought occurred to me.

“There have been 491 quite unremarkable, well-behaved truckies on the road with me tonight. Number 492 is the dangerous lunatic I’ll remember and complain to people about. That’s not fair on all the others, is it?”

There are thousands of priests and elders of various religions across the globe. I’m sure many of them took their vows out of genuine devotion to their faith. I seriously doubt that one in five hundred of them world-wide is a child molester.

There are millions of Moslems on Earth, some in pretty much every country on the planet. I honestly don’t think that one in five hundred of them truly believe they have a responsibility to kill anyone who disagrees with them, or that such an act means a reward of however many virgins in the afterlife.

It’s the exceptions to the rule that we notice. The outstanding ones, or the ones that are made outstanding by the publicity they get.

When you see footage of a shamed Father Whatsisname being led into a courtroom please think of all the humble and decent parish priests who’ve spent their lives earnestly serving their flock as best they could to little recognition and little earthly reward.

When your TV screen is full of images of men in black balaclavas waving guns and celebrating a successful suicide bombing, please think of the millions of followers of Allah who live in peace with their neighbours and who believe that their scripture preaches tolerance.

The 492nd truckie didn’t mean all the others on the road were dangerous. Whatever dreadful stories make the news, please remember the ones we don’t notice. The safe and the sane ones. The ones like you.

Sharing love at Christmas

Christmas looks like this somewhere, I'm sure!
Christmas looks like this somewhere, I’m sure!

Christmas is a time to share with those we love, and who love us.

They may be near and dear – that’s a fine thing.  To hold and be held.  To look someone in the eye, smile and say, “Thank you for caring.”

They may be far away.  A phone call or an email or a postcard away.  Maybe as far as the realisation of a shared thought about each other.  A smile and a nod and a wink of the mind’s eye.

They may live now only in our memory.  Passed on or simply passed out of our life.  Take some time to remember the good things shared and be glad of them.  Acknowledge but try not to dwell on the moments missed.

Take time to honour and thank the person most loyal and faithful to you.  The one who’s put up with your faults and failings, and shared your joys and triumphs every single day since last Christmas.  Look in the mirror, even if the view isn’t all you’d like it to be.  Look that person in the eye, smile, raise a glass even, and say, “Thanks – I appreciate your being here.”

It’d be nice to do this more than once per year.  The messy business of Life gets in the way too often.  But Christmas is a time to make that time – to share and acknowledge that love.

Merry Christmas, my friends.  Thank you for being here.

Renoir

A Traveller’s Tale

A friend of mine, Julia, just got back from a cruise along the coast of Alaska and Vancouver Island. It’s a great trip, I know – I did it a couple of years ago!

Comparing notes, I asked what her highlight had been. Her answer surprised me.

“It was about seven o’clock on the first actual morning of the cruise,” she said. “I was out doing a little run around the promenade, getting my miles up, you know?”

I get it. I’m used to seeing Julia walking or doing a gentle trot along the beach near where we live.

“A door opened and this lad walked out onto the deck. Nearly collided with me. I suppose he was about eleven. He just stood there, looking around, kind of hugging his stomach and going ‘Wow!’ a lot. I asked him if he was okay – it looked like he might have a tummy ache or something.”

“The boy shook his head and explained he was from a little town in central Canada. It was already dark when they got on the boat last night. He lived near a river, but this was the first time he’d ever seen the ocean.”

“The sight literally took his breath away. That was my highlight – sharing that moment with that boy.”

And moments like that, my friends, are why some of us travel as much as we do!

The blind leading

I’m always impressed by people who overcome adversity to achieve the stuff they really want to do. Economic, social, psychological or physical adversity.

That last one used to be called ‘disability’ or more recently, being ‘differently abled’.

I was chatting to a bloke recently who works for a really big Information Technology company based in Europe. With enormous respect in his voice he told me about a small group of programmers in his company.

The distinguishing feature of this group is that they’re all blind.

Think about that for a moment. Blind computer programmers – they have Braille keyboards but can’t see any monitor screens. As my mate explained, they retain the equivalent of whole screens full of coding (the raw data of programming) in their heads.

I wonder if they’re able to do it because they don’t have the distraction of a lot of visual information cluttering up their memories?

Tears

I’m not ashamed to admit I’ve cried more than I would have liked in the last couple of days.

I’ve lost a dear friend in John Bos, who I’d share a drink and a laugh with. We’d help each other out without question or pause. I had the pleasure of actually getting him to appear on stage, just once. He wouldn’t memorise lines, but he did dance, more than willingly, with the woman he loved.

And I’ve lost a mentor, inspiration and yes, even a friend in Sir Terry Pratchett. The privilege of adapting his books for stage was wonderful – even better was the joy of watching his genuine laugh-out-loud delight when I wrote something new for him and he saw it performed for the first time.

I’m not crying for John or Terry. They’re both out of their pain and suffering, gone on to whatever is next in their journeys. I’ve wept for me. Selfishly, for my loss – for the conversations not had, the laughs not shared.

That’s what grieving is. My life is a richer thing for having been touched by both men. Thank you, guys. Be seeing you.

Renoir, Terry Pratchett, Discworld, fantasy writers
Renoir (L) and Sir Terry Pratchett discussing characters

Happily Ever After

“There’s no such thing as living happily ever after!”

said a mother to her children.

“You shouldn’t read silly stories that tell you such untruths!”

“Bad things happen to good people!”

“You’ll be disappointed!”

“Promises get broken, and things end!”

All of that is true, of course.

But remember this, my friends:

Living happily is not the same as being happy all the time.

Sometimes you will be hurt.

Sometimes people will upset you, or let you down.

Even your friends and the people you care about.

But there is always someone who loves you.

They may be right beside you.

Or they may live in your memory and your heart.

Or you may not have met them yet.

But they’re there.

There is still beauty in the world.

Beautiful places, beautiful things, beautiful people.

Look out for them.

Find them, and cherish them.

Remember the things that have been good.

Believe that there will always be more.

Live happily.  Ever after.