Hello and a very warm welcome to my newly relaunched blog. I'm Paul a 40 year old family man from the UK. In this complex, information overload 21st century world, too often we lose sight of what's really important. Here I want to celebrate life, share inspirational stories, throw the spotlight on charities and causes close to my heart. Looking forward to sharing this journey with you all.

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Wheelie good fun - all are bored!

Its amazing how many times at the end of that seemingly never ending couple of days I've spent working in old London town, emerging squished and grinded on the signally challenged tube lines, despite a fevered dash around the mazey and baffling sequence of exits I arrive at that Golden board at Kings Cross and it hits me - I've just missed it - got to wait at least another twenty mins for the next one, the commuting law of sods in full progress

I've been a regular on the good old GNER now National Express east coast line to destination North for many a year now since I glided into the dark side that is IT infrastructure land so I've learnt a trick or two about getting through the frustrations of it all...

People watching is at its absolute peak here at the mighty Kings Cross, where the truly dedicated
Harry Potter afficinado can actually find the fabled Platform 9 3/4. But the prospect of thudding a trolley into a solid brick wall in the hope that the muggles won't be the wiser is nothing compared with the great challenge that lies ahead for me now.

For as the infrequent travellers gather in huge droves in front of the board, almost transfixed by the prospect of that all important platform announcement, the wiley few make their early plays. You'd have thought that at some point in proceedings those hoping to catch the next train to Leeds would be tempted to glance at that tiny little extra screen in the corner which tells you which platform the latest arrival has got into.

Now it doesn't take a degree in diesel engine studies to reach the conclusion - hang on, why don't I stand near the entrance for that platform then I'll be right up the front of the queue. And you see them a gathering, first one or two with knowing little smirks, maybe they get this train every few days, trying to look oh so casual, but the fidgeting with the portable suitcases marks them out - they are ready. Standing there, with these lucky few you get an overwhelming rush of satisfaction, safe in the knowledge it'll be a nice warm seat tonight.....

The minutes tick by, still no official confirmation -moments of panic set in, these trains are all pretty much the same, what if I've backed the wrong horse, what they change the platform -but thats quickly replace with the awareness that there are ever more lurkers gathering. And despite your sneaky positioning suddenly a small crowd of suitcase wheeling wanabees are surrounding you, boxing you in.

When the clock hits the 15 minutes to go, its literally seconds from show time and the adrenalin you long for after such a dull day finally arrives - and for me the experience is always heightened if you imagine the bassy tones of the BBC Formula 1 racing tune, and look across at the feisty characters lining up on the grid....

Then woosh, up it comes, and away they go, giddy little school girl steps a plenty on that initial lift off, a couple of early trolley clashes set the tone, but its all fair in competitions of this magnitude. The challenge is achieve the ultra purposeful stride - heaven forbid you actually break into a run at any point - it simply isn't cricket. A few of you may recall the classic Ben Elton sketch from shiny suited Saturday Night live days - "Double seat, Double seat, gotta get a double seat" - sorry to say Ben we're in a new millenium and there is a whole new enemy to overcome - the ability to reserve seats on line!!!!

You're charging along, but maybe you've got stuck a little behind a family with a pushchair,in the go-slow zone you can see a few streaming past you on the outside, but its ok we're still not past first class I can still make up the ground. But as you glance to the left at the dimly lit carriages, they are there for all to see, white ticket after ticket smothering every seat in site, you'll have to push on, get on now and the table a forelorn dream, a single seat with your legs rammed in tight all there is to hope for now but wait....

Beyond the rainbow, (or usually around about coach C) you may find those seats the early fools who ducked out in reservesville can only dream of - its a table, it has power, I have laptop, I have lift off!!! Whick whack the wheely trolley has served its purpose, into the racks, the finish line reached long before those poor unfortunates with the holdalls and the faith in the timetabling system, smugness and satisfaction abound, home james, thankyou very much.

But as the train fills again, the guilt zone appears - almost before you can stretch out those toes the half-term tripping family desperately trying to hold themselves together in the midst of bickerings arrive en mass in the gangways, smacking bags into shoulders and hunting for the miracle of a sit togther option. It goes on till I can't stands it no more, up I get with one last heroic flush squeak something about letting them sit together and switch to the backwards facing elbow crushing exile of an aisle seat - no power, a half-built tray to rest my battered laptop on but still the treasured memories of my triumph of human competitive spirit over common sense.

For in a small coach/ galaxy not too far away there are dozens of table seats with little white tickets on them just waiting to be sat in, because its London, the trains are every half an hour, and who knows which train you'll end up on, so they never took them up. And in them sit the saunterers, the casual ones, who didn't follow the trolley dash, they didn't even put in the work in carriage land, they just turned up, set off and sat down...where's the fun in that!!!

Monday, 16 November 2009

Appreciating your life and the people in it

How do you get the troubles and pressures in your life into some kind of perspective?

For me, it’s not always as simple as looking at things from the 'other people are worse off than me' point of view. While this maybe true, this actually can play negatively on some of your emotions.

You may actually end up feeling guilty that while you've got a good life and plenty going for you yet you don't appreciate it properly and you 'should ' you 'ought' to feel better than you actually do.

I believe the way to look at things positively is to think instead 'this is what I've got' Beautiful baby boy/ girl, your partner, all of your close family and friends, good career prospects / maybe even something you really enjoy doing - and I'm sure the more you think about it the better you'll feel. This is the life that you've built, it’s unique, so just believe in it.

But of course every one's feelings and moods change sometimes on a daily basis, sometimes things get on top of us, but that's only really if you let them.

The external world is never going to get any less complicated, or stop throwing up unwelcome surprises from time to time, but my anchors in this world are what keep me going forward, and I'm sure it’s the same for you.

In my life, my wife means the absolute world to me, my dear late Dad for all his ways is very much a part of me, my sister who's been through much more than me is always inspiring (and still constantly laughs at my feeble comedy attempts). I think about my Mum almost every single day but I also draw huge comfort from having a brilliant caring mother-in-law, who did everything she could and more to bring up my wife securely despite losing her husband 20 years ago.

There's a whole new generation in my family now, with my step sister who's a credit to her mum and my half-brother. My brother died when I was only 4 so it just seems incredible to me to get another brother 24 years later, and when I see the little bloke trying on my size 46 shoes and shuffling around in them it does bring a tear to my eye.

You build from that core, and then you realise what brilliant friends you've met over the years and also that it's a real priviledge to stay in contact with them. That's the real world with counselling available to you almost 24 hours a day 365 days a year, people who understand something of you.

No one can lay all the burdens and worries at your families door. In the long run, keeping a broad base of friends is so important, it really helps to get fresh perspectives and outlooks on things, and if for nothing else just the opportunity to have a really good laugh now and again.

When you retreat so far inward as I did for a time in my life, it takes some time to realise just how many simple pleasures you have in your life that you've almost taken for granted before. Just sitting all night in a pub, no music blaring, no big crowds, just a group of mates you have a lot of time for, loads of conversation and a feeling of getting the world back into the right perspective.

All in all with family first and then friends, and keeping it all in balance with your work and daily responsibilities what I've learned more than anything is despite all the apparent evils and injustices, deep losses, and even the stresses and irritants in this world there is no sense comparing your fate to others, or trying to work out just where you fit in to the big scheme of things.

I find it amazing though how often from one day to the next we get little flashes of thoughts about people we haven't seen for a while and the immediate reaction is often, I haven't been in touch with so and so for ages, I really ought to get in touch, I really should find time to write that letter.

Trouble is we all get swept along by the requirements and routines of daily life, and instead of those thoughts of people being positive, it becomes tinged again with a spot of guilt or almost fear, well I've left it too long, maybe they won't stay in touch now.

And sometimes you think, well we never see each other anyway, so maybe I'll just send a Xmas card , blah, blah blah. But for me the acid test is always this, I would wager any money that if that friend or relation came over for maybe half a day and had that time to share all the news and restore some of the old friendship bonds you would always think to yourself I'm really glad we got together, and you start thinking we can get together for this event, or meet up on such and such a date.

I met up with one of my mates from Germany days after I sent a mail out explaining my anxiety experiences and it touched me that he got back in touch straight away, virtually the same day.

As it turned out he then over the next week or so found out that he was getting a transfer to the US (St Louis) for a year and would be off within a month. So we got together for the first time in two years for a night in central London while I was working down there, and it just brought home to me , how when you find special mates they don't become any less special just because you haven't seen them for x number of weeks, months or years.

I have plenty of social aquaintance type mates who are great company, like a laugh and we can talk about the essential aspects of daily life, i.e. Football, beers and TV programmes, but when you've really got to know people on a deeper level there is no substitute. I must have spent less than 2 hours in the pub in London chatting with him but every minute was well worth it, and I just think if he'd gone off to the States I'd probably have virtually lost touch with him completely.

Close friends are still close even if they are in life situation or literally many miles away, and though I always feel I've got plenty to learn on how to manage my own emotions, I am so comforted by the knowledge that so many people go through so many shared experiences at different times in their life, and amongst your closest friends and family you will always find the empathy that keeps you going forward.

Just look around you, take it all in.

IAlways remember, it is your life, you built it.

You have so much to be proud of, there is so much love and support for you, so use that and you'll never feel alone.