Sunday, October 30, 2005

The view from my desk 

This has been the view on my desktop for the last few weeks. Nothing stunning photographically, but a very welcome reminder of the world beyond the walls - physical and metaphorical - of the present. The photo is of Glen Nevis, looking towards Steall Falls (hidden in the shadow) and An Gearanach, on the descent for Ben Nevis in spring 2003. Maybe I'll get back up there some time; I hope so - it's a beautiful spot.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Fire in the sky 

Glad I was up in time; twenty minutes later, all trace had gone.

More Meanderings 

The second and final day of the course, another lunch time wandering, more photos...

...plus a few more on Flickr.

Monday, October 17, 2005


I had a day at a training course in the West End of London today, and spent lunch time exploring the back alleys of Marylebone High Street; I'd forgotten what a delight it can be to wander, camera in hand, with no purpose other than to look...

New lamps for old...

A few more can also be found on Flickr

Sunday, October 16, 2005

37 days and counting… 

No, I don’t mean the second coming – well, I don’t think I do.

In the last few weeks, a couple of here-and-now matters have demanded more and more of my attention, and I’ve had barely a glance to spare for this online world. Not only have new projects with a new team and a new boss at work meant that I’ve been busier there than I can remember for several years (which is not in itself a bad thing – maybe more on that another time) but with this show coming up, for which I’m playing bass guitar in the band, almost every spare minute has to be spent practicing. I had to put the blogging for ThirdAge on ice for the time being – my supply of midnight oil ran completely dry.

I love doing shows like this, contributing to something where the whole is way, way more than the sum of the parts; I love the sense of belonging in a dedicated team, where, whatever our many differences, there’s an unspoken bond of shared musicianship; and I love the sheer thrill and exuberance when cast and orchestra come together as one on the night to create a unique experience for the audience.

I didn’t take up bass until I was in my early forties, and every new show –this is the fifth I’ve done - stretches me a little bit further; this one is without doubt pushing hard against the limits of my current capability. November 22nd still sounds far enough away not to panic just yet, but with 24 songs in the show, that equates to less than 2 days each to get them up to performance standard.

It’s going to be a demanding few weeks ahead, most probably with even less blogging than of late. So if you don’t see me around much, you’ll know the reason why.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Passion down the end of the garden... 

Passiflora somethingorothera

Six feet off the ground on a trellis arch - at times like this, with the camera held above my head, I'm glad the LCD tilts.

Digital Art 

Inspired by some of Andrea's recent beautiful art but lacking any skills with brush or pen, I thought I'd see what could be done with camera and computer instead.

They do say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, don't they?

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

A Great Coach is… 

Several years ago, I did a bit of coaching in a business context. This was at a time when the notion of coaches and coaching was just beginning to enter the workplace; it was still a very new idea and a long way from becoming an accepted part of business practice. At the time I had visions of making a living out of it, but I had difficulty getting the concept across to people. “What’s your product? Where’s the value added? You mean we pay you large sums of money just to have a conversation about a subject in which we’re more knowledgeable than you are? No; I think we can manage without that, thank you very much. Good day.”

In that sort of context it’s easy to get drawn into the mindset of the skeptic, so to keep me focused on what it was all about, I had a set of a dozen of so card-index cards with key reminders written out on them, that I could refer to before going into a coaching situation. I still carry those cards around with me now, over ten years later. In the workplace, unfortunately it’s still quite a novelty to make your aim the success of the other person, and have no agenda about scoring points yourself. But every so often something will occur which jogs a memory of that coaching paradigm, and I’ll dig the cards out to remind myself and try to apply coaching principles.

One such reminder occurred today – only this time it was me being coached. I instantly thought of these words, inscribed on one of those cards I carry:

A great coach is:

someone who lives your commitments,
someone who remembers when you forget;

someone who has you reaching for your sky,
someone who never lets you give up on your dream;

someone who has you think and discover and create,
a stand for the possibility that you are;

compassionate and ruthless, a lovable son of a bitch
who raises the bar just when you think you can reach it;

someone who has you see what you can't see,
someone who has you be great;

someone who loves you even when you are totally unlovable;
someone who lets you be you.

That’s a rare and powerful relationship; one to be treasured.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

How (not) to do it... 

A colleague sent me this slightly cryptic email:

City cycling - training video (not)

If your better halves think you cycle like this they'll never let you back on two wheels. Not ever. No Sir. In fact they'll probably have your most valued assets in a well-tightened vice. Or serve them up to the dog for Sunday lunch.

Here’s the link to the video – broadband essential, I’m afraid, since this is a 50Mb file.

I downloaded and watched it at the weekend; my cycle journey into work this morning (15 miles across London) was the fastest it has been for many a week. I swear those two facts are entirely unrelated. No, really. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it. I may not go to those extremes, but I sure can understand the buzz those guys must get.

Health warning: Readers of a nervous disposition, those suffering high blood pressure or at risk from heart attacks are advised to avert their gaze at critical moments. The video is, however, office-safe – unless you happen to be in a room of road safety officers, in which eventuality severe cases of apoplexy may result.

Saturday, October 08, 2005


Amazing what you find in your own back yard...

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Powerful Questions 

Chris Corrigan has characteristically come up with some thought-provoking questions that have the potential for turning conventional accepted wisdom on it’s head.

He says:

“I've just returned from a very interesting small conference in Arizona, where we were talking about philanthropy, discovery and education. And I have some questions for you all...

- What if the essential political questions of our time - the questions that ask "how should we do things?" - were not about right vs. left but bottom-up vs. top down? What would that do to the political spectrum and its discourse?

- What if our work was about creating space - for discovery, connection and collaboration - rather than narrowing down options and coming up with answers?

- What if accountability was about trust, intimacy and love, and not measurement, punishment and suspicion? How would we foster such a system? What would it mean for politics, governance, leadership and community?

I'd be really curious about your answers, or further questions that are suggested by this short list.”

Having spent yesterday morning in a meeting whose unspoken agenda was entirely about measurement, punishment and suspicion, I'm especially drawn to that third question, although I don't have any answers yet. If you have any answers, or further questions, go pay Chris a visit and leave him a comment. Or just pay him a visit anyway – it’s always well worth while.

A stranger in your own life 

It just dawned on me that I never posted a link to the last couple of pieces I did for the ThirdAge blog. Having submitted them, I breathed a huge sigh of relief at meeting the deadline, and then promptly forgot all about them.

It is, of course, a wonderful opportunity to have work published; nevertheless I really do need to get my act together and become more disciplined about the writing process - it’s just taking me way too long at present, and the worry about where the next piece is coming from soon supplants any relief at having completed the previous one.

Anyway, that’s my problem. For what it’s worth, this week’s offering can be found here. Here’s a taster:

“Imagine what it would be like to wake up one morning and find yourself in an unfamiliar bed in strange house; opening your eyes, the colours you see in the room around jar with your tastes; the view out of the window is of an alien landscape, and if there is someone beside you, you’re not altogether sure who they are. Even the body you inhabit doesn’t feel like yours. How did you get here? This isn’t your home, it’s some kind of lodging place…”

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Reunited with an Old Friend 

Just once in a while, what started out as a chore turns up an unexpected surprise. On my “to-do” list this weekend was sorting out a drawer than wasn’t shutting. Being fitted on screwed-in runners, that made it more than a 5 minute job, and hence eminently suited to putting off until another day. But eventually that other day comes, and this turned out to be it. Having removed the drawer and taken out the miscellany of junk that had gathered down the back, I was just about to put it back again when, squashed at the back and nearly buried, I spotted this old friend:

I’m amazed he survived this long; I made him at school, when I was about 9. I’m sure all his brothers and sisters must have died out long ago. The teacher told us how to make them - twisted wire forms the skeleton which is covered with papier mache and painted. That kind of thing was right up my street; much of my spare time as a kid was filled with making things, so my hands were completely at home with wire and pliers, paper and glue.

I was pretty pleased with the result, but when I got him to school my head really swelled – he was streets ahead of anything the other kids had made. Most of theirs bore a distinct family resemblance to worms, since they hadn’t the patience to build up the layers of papier mache. What really made my day though was that the teacher was so pleased she put it as a centre-piece on the staff table at lunch.

Unknown to me, my mother had kept him, then passed him on to me when she moved into a retirement flat. I must have stuffed him down the back of that drawer and forgotten all about him. I’m glad to be reunited with him – there’s something of me contained within that simple structure of wire, paper and paint; both the me I was then, and the me I am now. The me that had imagination and could turn something conceived only in my head into something tangible and real.

And what a strange coincidence; after writing twice about dragons in the last couple of weeks to be doing so for a third time. Has he come back after all these years to tell me something? That what I did with paper and wire as a kid I can equally well do now with less tangible but more influential resources?