Archive for April, 2014

Dreams – why you need them

April 26, 2014

Dreams have many uses in our lives – they help us to sleep and keep us healthy; they help us process the nonsense of our days; and they keep us alive, they give us hope and keep us going, moving forwards, not stagnating in the morass of nothingness.

Gabriel Garcia Marquez, who sadly died this week, was a man of words, wisdom and dreams – some of his stuff had to have come from his night-time visions. He has this wonderful, oft quoted point – “It is not true that people stop pursuing dreams because they grow old, they grow old because they stop pursuing dreams.”

Dreams have played a large part in the world we know. Here’s a few reasons why dreams should not be dismissed as romantic ramblings of useless losers, as the acerbic and altogether too cynical, Scaramouche had it of Galileo’s desire to share his dreams in We Will Rock You.

Literature, Film & Art

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson

Much of Edgar Allan Poe’s poetry came from dreams – Dream-land and A Dream within a Dream

Jonathan Livingston Seagull by Richard Bach

Misery & Dreamcatcher by Stephen King

Twilight by Stephanie Meyer

Terminator by James Cameron

Inception by Christopher Nolan

Persistence of Memory by Salvador Dali

Music – from and about

Yesterday by Paul McCartney came from a dream

No 9 Dream by John Lennon – came from a dream

Dreams by Fleetwood Mac

Dream Baby by Roy Orbison

All I have to do is Dream by the Everly Brothers

I Dreamed a Dream from Les Miserables

Dream On by Aerosmith, etc


Einstein’s theory of relativity came from a dream about electrocuting cows, or alternatively about sledding down a sleep mountainside!

Descartes apparently came to the scientific method forma dream where he was in a whirlwind pursued by ghosts, while craving melons

Kekule (1800s) had two dreams that led to significant discoveries in organic chemistry – about a snake seizing its own tail which led to the discovery of Benzene

Elias Howe (1845) invented the sewing machine after a dream about being a prisoner of natives who had holes in the tips of their spears

deviot road



Abraham Lincoln foretold his own death in a dream. Google came from a dream Larry Page had when he was 23. Insulin was discovered in a dream, as was x-ray vision and Hannibal based his battle strategy against the Romans on his dreams. And one of the most famous speeches of all times beings: “I had a dream…”

We can take on this inspiration as our own. We can let our dreams do some of the hard work that consumes our waking moments, let the back of the brain sort through the mess, find solutions, offer new ways of thinking and being. We may not have world shattering breakthroughs but we can solve the bits of our life that won’t co-operate in the harsh light of day. I find my writing – academic and creative – benefits enormously from dreams and baths!

deviot jetty

Keep your own dreams alive. However small they may be, they are your inspiration, what keeps you going. To deny dreams is to deny hope, deny the future. Okay, so you’re not Brad Pitt (as Shania Twain once said) but you can dream and hope and make plans for a big and wonderful future. To deny dreams is to deny yourself. Dreams let you into your inner most fears and hopes and desires. You need to go there once in a while because at the end of the day the only true knowledge is self knowledge and self knowledge lets you dream big and true.

So get your little dream journal out, sleep well and catch those fragments before they evaporate in the daylight and see where they might lead you… (Images from Private Collection)

Chocolate: Why you don’t need to feel guilty this Easter

April 19, 2014

Did you give up anything for Lent? Regardless of your religious affiliations or not, did you feel compelled to give up something you enjoyed? And was that thing, that denial of pleasure, the absence of chocolate from your life for 40 days?

I bet it was. How foolish of you, especially if it means you just go straight back to it as if nothing has changed – how many times can you give one thing up? I once gave up swearing for Lent – when I worked for the Catholics a few years ago. It didn’t hold and I think it made me worse than ever.

I am of the belief that the little evils of life like chocolate and swearing are good for you, providing the Moderation rule applies – you know, not the stupid education version of Moderation – the all things in moderation is fine. Of course it is.

But actually, as you should know by now, chocolate is good for you. Let me say that again – chocolate is good for you. Yes. It. Is. Medically proven and everything.


So, 6 reasons to eat chocolate (in case you need reminding)

1.It makes you feel good. On the tongue, in the mouth, down the throat and sticky on the fingers that must be licked. It is a sensual eating pleasure par excellence. Think Crème Egg…

2.It keeps you sane. It’s been known for years now that chocolate helps even out some of those chemicals that ‘help’ in the depression zones. Chocolate does things with the chemicals and calms and soothes and helps depressives see more light than dark. It also cheers you up cheaply and easily after a hard day.

3.It helps you concentrate and study more effectively. Just like oily fish is good for the brain cells, so is chocolate. It stimulates and soothes – what a wonder it is. So the best meal before a big exam is salmon and chocolate mousse, obviously. Perhaps instead of endless re-takes for GCSE we should simply stuff the kiddies with the chocolate bar of their choice?

4.It connects you to others. Most people love a bit of chocolate, from your cheap end chunky bar to the joys of Toblerone and Ferrero-Rocher and lovely rich melty stuff from Brussels and Switzerland – yes, we love Lindt too, and people who love chocolate must be all right.

5.It’s brilliant for celebrations – hence the joys of Easter. Nothing like a choccy splurge to celebrate the resurrection of Christ – I’m sure he was looking to his mates for a Mars Bar as they brought him down. Note that dining out often ends with chocolates and coffee… and a box of chocolates is a lovely simple act of love too.

6.It’s just brilliant anytime, anywhere – you know that. Make sure you have your own secret stash for moments of brilliance in your day.

Clearly there is no need to feel even the slightest glimmer of a twinge of guilt this weekend as you enjoy your bunnies and eggs, and myriad other treats. Know clearly that chocolate really is a health food, just like wine counts as one of your five a day. Happy Easter xxx (Images courtesy Private Collection).

Celebrity Death: are we all vultures?

April 12, 2014

People die every day. And mostly we don’t think about that, only when it directly affects us because it is a loved one. We pause for the victims of natural disasters, and political up-risings but we don’t tend to pour over the bones of those innocents the way we do the famous and dead. The death of famous people has famously stopped nations – you know: I remember where I was when JFK was shot, I remember the day Lennon died. But in our increasingly celebritised world we know the moment another is gone, usually at their own hands, always well before their expiry date.

Several questions arise: do we need to know about the untimely demise of Peaches Geldof and L’Wren Scott? Do we need to know the why and the how? (And we were told the how of L’Wren Scott) Do we need to see the suffering and pain of the ones left behind? Because let us be in no doubt both Bob Geldof and Mick Jagger are in extreme pain. Both men made eloquent, heart felt and loving comments in the wake of their loss. The Stones acted as brothers and their Oz tour was cancelled.

What is it about the way we live that people feel free now to not just offer sympathy and sadness about the recent losses from celeb-land but almost obligated to vent their spleens with vile outpourings of bile?

For all that Peaches Geldof and her family, and L’Wren Scott and Mick Jagger live a life in the public eye, we don’t know them. We have some idea about them as projected onto our screens and in our magazines, but we only have a version of them, a manufactured version of them that suits their and the media’s purposes. We, the audience, the fan, only get a highly mediated version of these people. We never, well hardly ever, meet them. We only know them in a very specific and artificial way.

So why might we feel as sad for Bob and Mick as we would for others we know who lose loved ones in tragic circumstances?

For me it’s simple: Bob Geldof is one of my heroes. I loved the Boomtown Rats when I was at uni and have a best of on my iTunes, often running through the set, so much more than I Don’t Like Mondays. Like a lot of other people I remember Band Aid and Live Aid and where I was when that concert happened. I’ve always appreciated his off-beat ways, his intensity, his devotion to causes and his adoration of Paula Yates and his oddly named girls. He is a man much blighted by tragedy and it seems to me that to be anything other than heart-broken for him at this time is to be inhuman.

bob g 1

When he was a child his mother went to bed one night and never got up again. He was brought up by sisters and aunts and suffered through the Irish Catholic Education system. We know what happened to him and Paula, how they were blissfully eccentrically happy but then she fell insanely in love with Michael Hutchence, left Bob, had Tiger-Lily, and then self destructed not longer after Michael Hutchence had, leaving Tiger-Lily alone in the world, the centre of a very ugly custody case.

Whatever you may think of Peaches Geldof, her being in the papers for all the wrong reasons, her desperate need for attention, her wildness and foolishness, there is no reason to wish her ill, then or now. She was clearly a deeply unhappy lost soul. To lose your mother young (as too many in the Geldof clan now have) is one of the worst things to happen. Paula Yates died on the birthday of her third daughter, Pixie, on September 17, 2000. She was forty and seemingly had much to live for but clearly troubled too. A life in the spot-light, often sniped at and reviled by the media she, overdosed on heroin. Was it accidental? You never know these things, do you?


To me, there is little doubt that Peaches was a deeply troubled soul. She had tried all sorts of things to make sense of her life and seemed to be settled and safe. But from her comments, over time and just before she died, it seems Paula was ever present in her life: a mystery that Peaches couldn’t sort through in a way for her to make sense of it. Why would your mother leave you if she didn’t have to? Weren’t you enough for her, wasn’t your love and need of her enough to keep her here? Has Peaches spent most of her life trying to feel okay about herself in the absence of a loving mother, despite a clearly loving father? But how ironically tragic is it that she has doomed her boys to her own feelings of abandonment all their lives. It is hard to believe she was in a hopelessly dark place. This is a girl who seems surrounded by love – father, sisters, husband, sons. But what do any of us ever know about the heart and mind of another?

So, from this unutterable sadness, what can we learn?

We should keep our own loved ones close, watch the signs that things may not be quite as well as they seem to be.

We should respect the grief of others, be they ordinary mortals like the rest of us, or the famous.

We should not presume to know anyone, we should keep our judgments to ourselves.

We should remember always and forever that being famous does not inure you against pain and suffering and being mortal. That being famous is a twin edged sword that both elevates and decimates.

Rest in peace, Peaches. Stay strong Bob. (Images courtesy  News BBC: Bob & Paula; cover of Is That It?)

Count Your Blessings

April 5, 2014

As I sit here this morning it’s warm, the sun is doing its weak British Spring thing and there’s a smell of promise and hope in the air, as bespokes the warming and lighting that happens in Spring. So, I turn my mind not to all that is wrong in my life, to the range of things that worry and beset me but to the things that I need to count as good in my life and appreciate what I’ve got, not what’s missing or entirely screwed up.


I am happy I have had my beloved fluffy boy for nearly nine years, that Zanz has brought me love and joy, loyalty and comfort, peace and protection, fun and laughs. I am so happy to have had such a dog, such a prince of a dog, even if not for as long as I wanted. So I am going to make the most of his much shortened time with us, and thank the sky for him being in my life and enriching it beyond measure.



I am happy I have children, who have become amazing young people. I look at them and wonder and marvel and forget the tears and tantrums, the struggles and frustrations, and know my life is infinitely richer for having them, even if my body has never quite recovered! It is not possible to imagine a life without them and I am so pleased they are in my life and will be forever. They have brought infinite joy. And I quietly, but without any urgency or rush, look forward to grandchildren.

Pal, Pi & Me


I am happy to be married. Amidst the disagreements, the conflict, the changing, the never ending challenge of being with one person, there is a love that has mutated and changed but remained, and remains still in the kindness and consideration we show each other. A long marriage means compromise and sacrifice, but it mostly means companionship, understanding and acceptance, and someone to talk to endlessly about the things you love most – the kinder and the woof.



I am happy to have friends, near and far. People to let off steam with, to be yourself with, to moan to, to laugh with, to trust and confide in. I love FB because it keeps friends in your circle, makes it so much easier to keep in touch, to stay in contact. And there’s nothing like a good chat with a mate, long distance or, even better if, in some bijou café somewhere, with wine a tapas and the day stretching before you, full of laughter and stories and wonder and amazement at the foolishness of yourself and the world.

Judy, Jen, Jac & Kim


I am happy that I live in a part of the world that, despite its injustices and idiocies, allows me and those I love to live in relative peace and freedom, even at increasingly exorbitant charges. I am glad we are not bound by the tyranny of fear and insanity that others live with daily, fearing for their very lives. I know it could be better, and therein lies one of life’s frustrations, but it is not as debilitating as so many other parts of the world, and for that I am grateful.

Trafalgar Sq


I am happy to be alive. To have survived ill health, major loss, career disruptions, disappointments and still be here, looking forward, making plans, living a hopeful life. I appreciate that I can make choices about my life, that, given a range of loose parameters, I am in charge of my life.

Jackie S


Finally, I am happy I am a reader, that I know the bliss of books, the pleasure of the page, the wonder of the word. I can happily spend a day, or more, lost in space and time in some other world, there on the page. I am so happy that there are writers who continue to make stories to share with us, to enrich us and challenge us and make us better people.

books & work room

What are you grateful for this weekend? Probably being a teacher, as we begin the Easter Holidays, which makes all the other rubbish we endure worthwhile! (Pictures from Private Collection)