Monday, 10 December 2018

Wake up and smell the coffee...parents - Day 10

(Monday 10th December 2018)

10 different letters are used in a Snellen Chart (an 

eye chart that can be used to measure visual acuity).
Snellen, a Dutch ophthalmologist, developed the chart in 1862. 

I hope you had a good weekend. I spent mine in Somerset with my mother and sister. Despite the awful weather, we managed to make a trip to a local farm and select a tree to put up for Christmas. 

We had a super celebratory meal with family and friends - I am beginning to feel a bit festive :-)  Family are so important and that, for me, is part of what makes today's post so impactful. I have lived first hand the impact that family relations can have on individuals, both good and bad - a member of my team has had a very traumatic relationship with their mother - this continues to torment them and has been very damaging. My own family is currently suffering due to harmful disputes and actions, many of which seemingly are originated from childhood issues - not a good lead into the Christmas period, so it was good to see some people laughing and enjoying themselves this weekend.

The author of today's post is Gavan Burdan, the founder and Managing Director of Burden Dare - an executive search and interim management business. Gavan has a huge heart and really cares about those less fortunate than himself. He is also social and engaging company - you can reach him on Twitter via  @burdendare. Gavan lives in Sevenoaks and is a passionate supporter of the local cricket team, Sevenoaks Vine CC, where he chairs the Management Committee and, when asked, still plays for the Old Vines (the Club's over 40's team). As you can tell from his post and from his comments in previous years), he is proactive in his approach towards supporting others; he is a mentor supporting individuals down on their luck in London (but more of that to follow).


Heartaches, Hopes and High Fives

With apologies to sensitive eyes & ears
They fuck you up, your mum and dad.
They may not mean to, but they do.
They fill you with the faults they had 
And add some extra, just for you.”

Philip Larkin goes on to suggest that we should all stop having children, and thus solve the problem!

Well that’s not very Christmassy is it?

You may remember my two previous Advent Blogs talking about the adventures of my previously-homeless-mentee; well, his tale continues, and his last 12 months have been “Heartache, Hope & High Fives” to a tee!

Let me take you back to December 2017.

After another storming year of advancement and achievement (he had been on the 6 O’Clock news; in videos; in The Times twice; promotion at work; he was really buzzing – wow was he moving on!), for the first time in 5 years he was looking forward to the 2017 Christmas break. We had even had laughs about Merry Christmas Vs Happy Holidays, whereas previously he would have been reflective and sad because this time of year has bad memories; his father had left home when he was young, he went into the penitentiary system, deportation, loneliness, and his birthday alone – all in these winter months.

But in 2017 things had gone so well.

Then, almost a year ago to the day, I got “that” call; just as we were putting our decorations together, he was falling apart. His mother had sent across a bunch of magazines from what had been home for 33 years, which he was quite enjoying actually, but tucked into the last fold was a short hand-written time bomb saying 

“I’m so pleased you are making a success of your new life in England, don’t fuck it up like you usually do”.

Heartache for him, it completely fried his mind. Heartache for me, I felt so bad for him – frog in well.

Why on earth do (some) parents do it, but at least we now knew the true cause of all the fuck-ups in his life?! It made me wonder about all the things I might have done, without meaning to, to affect my children over the years; I’d like to hope nothing that had come across as stupid!

But, we had fixed exactly this before; I told him we would do it again, he would get through this, he knew the ropes, he knew the small steps we would re-take – and he knew he could have hope; he would get over this, and that’s one of his most endearing features, he always has hope.

This year he’d hope that his first ever business presentation would help secure the coffee franchise on Virgin Trains; he’d hope that he wouldn’t be flustered giving his first ever corporate speech in Manchester; he’d hope that he might get the last sought-after place on a training course; he’d hope that he could feel good this Christmas.

Fast forward to this week.

Two friends meet in London for a Christmas catch-up and chat through that last twelve months, laughing and joking at past fears and worries that had been washed away by yet more success and further advances, and wishing each other Merry Christmas with high hopes for 2019.

And as they parted…………?

PS. If you buy coffee then please support “Change Please” when you see one of their coffee carts or travel on Virgin trains, and buy Tom’s blend in Sainsbury – you’ll be helping homeless back into sustainable employment.

Sunday, 9 December 2018

Hollows hopes and high fives - Day 9

(Sunday 9th December 2018)
nine-tailed fox (九尾狐), is a mythical fox entity originating from Chinese
, that is a common motif in East Asian mythology with specific names in
Japan, Korea and Vietnam. These mischievous foxes could shape shift (usually into
the form of a beautiful woman). 
Nine-tailed fox (illustration comes from the
British Museum and is a Chinese woodblock depicting a nine-tailed fox and a court lady,
made circa 1849). The nine-tailed fox is depicted as a character in both
League of Legends and Pokemon e-games.

I am humbled by the various ways in which people respond to the Advent Blog's call to write on a theme and to have their words shared for the enjoyment and benefit of others. Each year I am amazed at the variety of was in which people respond. Today's post, by Maggie Marriott is a poem. It has a subtle message about self-care and awareness and yet is based around an activity that each of us does, often without thinking.

Maggie is a devoted mother and a generous friend. She runs her own business based in Gloucestershire, England, an organisational change consultancy ENKI that provides "balanced business wisdom". She specialises in supporting individuals and groups through desired transformation and is an effective coach - she has been the coach of choice for members of the civil service supporting the UK Government, helping effect transformation, especially in the areas of cyber security and assurance, and also for the National Crime Agency. She also works as a coach for Ambition School Leadership, providing support to the leaders of the future within Education, and for the Relational Change Organisation.

Maggie is a qualified Gestalt practitioner (she won the British Gestalt Journal Essay Prize for 2015) and she believes in enabling humane change via the approaches she devises. Maggie is deeply empathetic and caring and is also highly analytical and systematic - she commenced her career as an IT programmer and worked for many years in the Public sector moving from a technical team leader to a business change specialist. It may come as a surprise that someone with such a background could write the beautiful and thought-provoking poem below that she has submitted for this year's Advent blog.  However, those who know her will not be as astounded. She is a deep thinker (as well as a deep breather!) and believes in authenticity. Maggie is a warm and active voice on social media - you can connect with her on Twitter, her handle is @maggiermarriott.


Each life begins and ends with a breath and so does each living moment. Becoming aware of the quality of each breath gives us clues about how I and those around me are feeling. Is the breath being held or released? Is the breath shallow or deep? Is the breath fast of slow?  And from this awareness, choices appear. And from choice anything is possible. And so my blog this year is a poem in celebration of the breath of life and hope.

Every breath I take - Hollows, hopes and high fives.

Breathing out

A hollowing


The pause



For air again

Breathing in

A heightening



The pause



For rest again

Every breath a moment of hope
Every pause a moment of choice

23,400 breaths a day

8,409,600 breaths a year

From the hollows and hopes of each breath I’m alive!

To my oft forgotten body I give a joyous high-five

 Pink Floyd, Breathe

Saturday, 8 December 2018

Here. Now. - Day 8

Day 8 (Saturday 8th December)

Eight is a rowing class recognised by the International Rowing Federation and is the
term for a rowing boat, propelled by eight oarsmen and steered by a cox, used in competitive sports.
owing started as a means of transport and progressed into a sport - its modern form was developed
in England in the 1700s. It is an amateur sport and an Olympic event. When Pierre de Coubertin
created the Modern Olympics, he modelled the International Olympic Committee on the
Henley Stewards. The stewards organise the 
Henley Royal Regatta, one of rowing's most prestigious events.
I was Captain and stroke of our crew at University but have also rowed bow and been a cox.

Normal service is slowly resuming at my end and as a result I am delighted to commence posting Advent Blogs that have been crafted specifically for us for this year. And what a cracker today is - especially for me, as it shows that there is light ahead and that emotional objectives can be achieved. I am grateful to people who have been so understanding to me in my current dejection. I am not ready to share on here as the situation I find myself in is not about me but hurts those I love and care about. Perhaps this is why I love today's post so much - it is all about love, emotions, self-awareness and finding happiness and contentment.. 

It is my good fortune that is the first blog I received for the 2018 season - as you know, the theme for this year is "Heartaches, Hopes and High Fives". It is an honest piece of self-reflection and an enjoyable read. I suspect that its words will resonate with many of us and I hope it raises a smile. Its author is Phil Marsland who, after a very successful career in HR, now runs a Leadership and HR consultancy, Blue Tree. Over the years I have got to know Phil - he is pragmatic and values driven with a dry sense of humour. He is active on social media, particularly Twitter where he tweets under his own name @FulfordPhil and also under his business' @BlueTreePhil. Phil is 
supportive and caring and does much to promote the HR profession 
as a mentor and speaker. 
He founded ConnectingHR York in 2015 and it is a thriving a vibrant 

As well as his passion for people, Phil loves music (and by love I really do mean love - it is his third space). He is also a keen fan of Manchester City Football Club. Although, perhaps the thing that drives Phil most (other than his devotion for his family) is his love of learning.


I normally write when emotions are high. The words just pour out, often getting published unedited, unexpurgated.

The process for this year's Advent blog has been harder.

I've been thinking about why that is, and I think I know.

I'm currently calmer, happier, possibly the happiest I've ever been since I got keys, responsibilities and bills.

Here's the kicker. It won't stay like that. It never does. I've always fluctuated, wobbled, rocked. Been forever in search of balance. Getting stuff wrong.

Prioritising work - whatever the hell that is?! - over family. Getting too attached to work, and people there. Too emotional, too passionate, too irrational and unreasonable. It's probably just me. Probably just how I am. I have peaks and troughs.

I have peaked at various things. Got really really good, then a bit bored, then look for something else. Don't get me wrong, I've never been world class at anything. But I've won stuff, captained teams, won tournaments, won cruises.

I think flow works for me as a wave. My peaks are better than most people. I excel at focus and intensity and real insight. But I can't hold it there, I have to crash down. Slump in my music room with a beer. Reflecting. Recovering.

It's taken me a half century of actual years, and probably a few decades less in conscious years to realise this stuff about me.

In the intervening haphazard-stumbling through life, I have coped less well. Been sharp verbally, been uncompromising, unreasonable. Pushed folk away. Felt lost, felt lonely. And wanted people and contact.

So 'Happy' is something of an undiscovered country for me, until recently.

10 years ago I set myself 3 objectives:

  • to be happy
  • for Chris to be happy
  • for the kids to be happy and have rewarding and fulfilling childhoods and the best possible start in life

We've got there... through risk and uncertainty.

And now I want for nothing. Not fancy clothes, possessions or holidays. I've done all that. For me, I don't want anything more. And in this state I'm loving music, mates, family time, footy and a beer or two. All of this is gravy.

And we all know that Northern boys love gravy.

PS this is the first draft, unedited.

Thursday, 6 December 2018

There will always be joy - Day 7

Day 7 (Friday 7th December 2018)
Seven Deadly sins - they originated with the "Desert Fathers" (a collection
of Christian hermits , aesthetics and monks who lived in Egypt in the 3rd century AD).
The sins as we know them were described as evil thoughts by Evagrius Ponticus.
Originally there were eight - the extra one being "dejection"

It is a pleasure at times to look back as well as forwards. My most recent past has been pretty grim, so it was reassuring and uplifting for me to revisit this post, which was crafted in December 2014.  I am very grateful to its author.  What a lot has happened in the past four years. It has been a timely reminder of the fact that things change, dark times do not last forever and that there are always good experiences and learning to look forward to.

Today's post was written by my dear friend Michael Carty. Michael is often described, especially by those who know him, as the glue that binds the HR community on Twitter together. He is alert, interested and very well connected. However, he is much more than just glue - Michael is a cherished contact for many and always there to provide support and advice. His Twitter handle is @MJCarty. He writes a delightful blog, , that illustrates how well read and far reaching his thoughts are. I love the powerful message of hope and anticipation behind his apparently simple words...


You were there then. You are here now. You will be there then.

The path you perceive isn’t the only one that exists.

Path beside a lake, Croatia
The path you are on isn’t the only one available to you. No matter how long you have been on that path, or how far it’s taken you.

There are other paths...
Ewoks fleeing an All Terrain Scout Transport (AT-ST) walker on a forest path
Original story board visual by Ralph Mac Querrie for Return of the Jedi, Star Wars film
You always have a choice. You are always free to decide if you can live with the consequences of making that choice.

You can’t be anybody else but yourself. You can’t have any other values than your own. Trust in them.

I think it’s time, as it always is, to let your values guide you through. Being you has got you this far. Being you has got you much further than you would ever have thought.

You can travel further than you think possible
Dr Who's Tardis
Being you will take you to places of which you have just plain no inkling right now. That is nothing of which to be frightened. That is the most exciting adventure of all.

There will always be setbacks. There will always be reasons for tears. There will always be joy.

Unexpected path (inside an aquarium)
A different path