Wednesday, 22 August 2012

The Best of the Olympics - On the Tube!

As I write, the glow of the Olympic experience in the United Kingdom is receding in the lull between the Games and the Paralympics, which start next week. Now, if you were to ask people about their ‘games highlights’ you would get many different answers. I would bet money (which I don’t normally do) that most of those answers would be recalling great victories and achievements in the various arenas and stadia.

However, I would like to tell you about two people who, when asked for their highlight, each came up with an incident which happened well away from the Olympic Park. Both took place on a tube train.

Surprised? Well you will be even more surprised if I tell you that the two people were Seb Coe and Peter Wilson. One, obviously, is the leader of the organising committee of the Games. Peter Wilson won a gold medal in trap shooting (that is clay pigeon shooting). Let me tell you what they said.


Seb Coe's Story.
Seb was being interviewed on the radio during the morning of the middle Sunday, and was asked for his best moment so far. I have not read any report of this since, and it is certainly worth re-telling. He said that there were many great moments that he had witnessed, but the one that had made the most impression on him had taken place early one morning as he was on the tube travelling to the Olympic Park. He saw, in a nearby seat, one of the volunteer workers, so went over to him and thanked him for the work that he was doing.

‘No,’ said the volunteer, ‘I should thank you.’ For the next ten seconds they insisted on thanking one another, then Seb asked him where he was based, which turned out to be the boxing hall.

‘And what are you doing?’

‘I am a paramedic.’

‘Oh, what do you normally do?’

‘I am a consultant in A & E in one of the London hospitals.’

Then, as Seb told the radio interviewer, he said, ‘Well, I am glad to know that the boxers are in safe hands’ and he thanked him again.

‘No.’ came the reply, ‘thank you for giving me the opportunity, for it means closure for me.’

‘Closure? What do you mean?’

Then the volunteer told him that he had been an anaesthetist in another London hospital on the day of the 7/7 bombings in July 2005 (the day after London was awarded the Games). When he heard about the call for volunteers he felt that he wanted to enrol, but didn’t know if he would be able to do it, as the memories of that terrible day were still strong. ‘Even when I had the forms I hesitated, and even after filling them in I still was slow to put them in the post. However, I am glad I did, for this week I feel that I have been able to have closure. On that day of 7/7 I saw the effects of the worst that humanity can do. This week I have experienced the very best of people, and my faith in human nature has been restored. That is why I am thanking you.’

‘And I am sure that you can understand,’ Seb finished, ‘why that has been my highlight of the last week.’


Peter Wilson's Story.

Peter Wilson was on another radio programme a couple of days later and was asked a similar question. Obviously his highlight, indeed the highlight of his life so far, was his victory in the shooting. (It wasn’t only his, for Piers Morgan tweeted on the afternoon that Peter won a very close contest indeed, “You know that the Games have come alive when you can be excited by the clay pigeon shooting, on radio”) but other than that he had a memory almost as strong.

‘I was on the tube a couple of days later and opposite me there was a mother with two young boys. They were full of the games, talking about it non-stop. So, I tapped one of them on the shoulder - getting a very stern look from the mother - and said, “Have you ever seen one of these?” while taking my gold medal out of my pocket. The look of shock and wonder that lit up each of the boys’ faces is something that I will not forget for a very long time. It made the world to them, and it did the same for me.’


Two random chance meetings. One a lovely story that made the day for a couple of young brothers. One an immensely powerfully poignant conversation - how one man had been so affected on the horrific ‘first day’ of the London Games yet could now be at peace having become a part of it, and a part of that wonderful group of volunteers who made the experience so memorable for the hundreds of thousands of visitors.

These two stories bring home to me just how much of life depends upon the kindness of people. The games would have operated just as well if the volunteers had never said a word to the crowds, had never smiled, had never gone out of their way to help. The world records would still have been broken, the medals won. It would have been another memorable Olympics. However, the extra dimension of the carnival that was Olympic Park, the constant friendliness that hit you as you first passed through the perimeter gates and carried you through the day (when do you ever just chat to anyone who sits on the same park bench?) and stayed with you after you have left, was not merely an unexpected bonus, but it made the whole event into one of the best times to be alive. That is what kindness, care, attention, and love can do and, as both of these stories show, it takes little time to pass on the kindness that can make a great difference in someone’s life. 

September 12th.
Well, at least you know from Seb's closing speech at the Paralympics that I didn't make it up!

Thursday, 10 May 2012

Do You Really Want to be Rich?

There are loads of reasons why I am so grateful that Mary and I have seven children. Don't worry, I  don't propose to share them all with you here. However, there is one that has been in my mind for a couple of days. It is money.

As I spent my working life teaching there have never been vast sums in our bank accounts. Money has always been tight, as it was for our parents before us. So, there have been plenty of times when lack of cash = problems = worries. Just like many many people everywhere.
"So", you think, "what are you on about?"

Well, it is this. Now that our children are adults it is clear to me that their riches-free upbringing has been of real benefit to them. They have grown up very aware of the value of money. They, like us, would doubtless have preferred to have been surrounded by the latest gear, but having not had that experience, they appreciate what they now have. And that is good.

There was once a lad in my class whose family won a sizeable amount on the lottery. He didn't appear for three weeks while they all went off to the Caribbean. Great stuff. A life-changing amount. Yet, a few months later he said that he wished that they had never won it. The family had been changed - the money had caused friction. There was an element of mistrust that there had never been before. Life in the family was different, and not as good.

What started me thinking along these lines was a piece in a newspaper about a Premiership footballer. Kieran Richardson is 27, so has been playing at the top level for nearly ten years. Apparently he gets about £25,000 a week (£1.2m a year!), so he will not be worried about the price of gas. Anyway, he was talking about his lifestyle, and about when he was younger and thought only of fast cars, booze, and sex. "I would go out after a game, get drunk, go to nightclubs, meet women".

Then he went on, "You would think I was living a good life, but within myself I wasn't happy. People say that to be successful you need to have money and a good job, but that's not true".

What changed for Kieran was meeting his wife, Natalie. After that the money was less important. Love took over, and life now had, and still has, a meaning. Before, life was empty.

Now don't get me wrong. I would happily accept a large cash amount. Like you, I would know how to cope with the new pressures (of course we would!). Oh, the good that we could do with a load of wonga! Yet I do wonder. I heard a story last week about a man who lived locally. He used to visit a couple of pensioners regularly, help them with a bit of shopping, and generally keep an eye on them. Then one day he told them that he was moving away to live with his sister. So off he went. It was a few weeks later that someone told the couple that he had not gone to his sister at all. He had won £2m.

Rather than tell anyone of his good fortune, he had (almost) kept quiet about it. He thought that he could not live in the same neighbourhood anymore (what is life going to be like when you have got many times the income of everyone else?) and so moved house to a distant part of the country.

I wonder if he is happy with his 'good fortune'. Hopefully, life in the distant part of the country is blissful. But, if you are retired after a normal life of graft and struggle, is it easy to find new friends when you live alone, with a different accent, among people who have lived more affluently for decades?

So, there is something for you to think about today! I am still sure that I would cope very well if the win came to us, and it would be interesting to find out, but.......


My e-book, "How to Live and Die Without Regrets" will shortly be available directly from all e-reader outlets. More details soon....

Meanwhile, the following review has appeared on he Smashwords:

"Really superb. It's easy to read but not at the expense of substance and sets the reader thinking about their own life. You're left evaluating your own values in life, without feeling like you've been lectured or judged. It's an entertaining and amusing read, but one which will stay with you. I highly recommend it."

So wrote Philosopher's Stone, who awarded the book 5 stars.

Well, thank you Mr/Mrs/Miss/Ms Philosopher's Stone for that review.

If I read that about some other book, I would buy it!

For the moment it is accessible via Kindle, Kindle for PC, and

Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Mental Survival

My spies tell me that Terry Waite was speaking at an event in London today, and included the mantra of 'no regrets, no self-pity, no sentimentality'. If you are one of those who has read my book (see below) you will recognise that this was his plan, while held captive in Beirut, to survive mentally through his tremendous ordeal. He did not, of course, know that he would survive from one day to the next.

He added today that he found that in times of great distress your body comes to your aid. He said that while in captivity he had only good dreams. Then one when day he was told that he would die in five hours time he fell asleep for all of the five hours.

Part of that, I am certain, is that Terry had a clear conscience during the time he was held. He had no guilt for his situation, so did not beat himself up about the dreadful plight he had found himself in.

So, no guilt equals a clear conscience, which leads to greater mental resilience. If that worked for someone in the most desperate time of his life, then being guilt-free is a mighty fine way to live normally!

"How to Live and Die Without Regrets" is my e-book. It is available from,   for all e-readers, computers, smartphones & tablets

or through Kindle,

and at $1.99 in nearly free!

Saturday, 28 April 2012

Guilt - A Curse.

If you want to have a happy life it is vital to steer clear of having to carry the burden of guilt. Sure, we all have problems in our life history that we feel uncomfortable about. But there is a huge difference between the ordinary "I wish I hadn't done that" feelings and REAL guilt. Real guilt is something that is a constant companion, and is very hard to shrug off. It never goes away, and life is hard when it is present.

I know a priest who told me this story. It happened about 20 years ago. He was new in the parish and was visiting one old lady, aged about 80,  for the first time. As they talked, he felt that she was holding something back, and he asked if this was so. This is what poured out of her:

She had become pregnant when she was 19, which would be round about 1930. She felt shame about being pregnant at all, was desperate and had an abortion. This made her feel worse. So now she felt a double dose of shame, but could not tell a living soul about either the pregnancy or the abortion.

From then, each time she saw a small baby, or a pregnant woman, or even a pram, she experienced almost a physical self-loathing. Even later, when you might expect the memory to fade, she would be reminded of her lost baby around the date that it would have been born, and on it's birthdays, and when it might have started school, and so on.

The lady had married and had other children, but never told her husband. The guilt was too much. It would recur twenty years or so later when she grieved for the grand-children that she might have had (even though she had others!).

She had now been a widow for some years, and the priest was the first person that she had ever told. And why? She told him that as she got older and nearer to her own death she began to get scared. She was frightened of dying and meeting God.

Now it does not matter what you think of abortion or whether you believe in God. What does matter here is that she had led a life that was handicapped. Not by physical incapacity, but by the incapacity of guilt, which had wrecked her life for about 60 years. And that is "wrecked" with a capital WR.

For the priest, he told me that it took a long while and many conversations before she could accept that her God was merciful, was ready to forgive her. Only then did her personal Hell recede, though probably only to the back of her mind.

Hopefully, the remaining years of her life were more peaceful for her.

That is a bad case of guilt, but I am sure that there are very many people who suffer like that lady. They will have many different reasons for feeling guilty, but if they cannot dismiss the feeling from their mind then they are stuck with it. And that is a real problem for them.

So, what to do if you are cursed by guilt?

1. Whatever it takes, keep guilt out of your life.

2. If you do feel guilt about something, do all that you can to get rid of it. Fast!

Then, you will be happier, fulfilled, and regret-free.

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Carole Ann Rice- Daily Express Coloumnist.

Carole Ann Rice has a Monday column in the Daily Express. I cannot retweet it as it has not appeared on the newspaper's website, but the gist of it is this.  NO REGRETS!
She reckons that Edif Piaf (you know, of "Je ne regrette rien" fame, unless you are too young. It was a song.) had it right. There has been a study by Science Express, which says that when we are young it is easier to learn from regret, but as we age second chances become fewer, regret is more important to us and harder to overcome.
The study also says that the key to ageing happily is to let go of disappointment, and cut out seeing our problems in life with a sense of self-loathing.
As Carole writes, the here and now is a gift to us and that is why it is called the present.
So, if you are still younger than older you know what to do with painful memories. Get rid of them!
I'm not sure what age has got to do with it. Letting go of pain is a great idea whatever age one might be. You may stick with the past or look to the future. If you are 80 you may have less future than most, but what you do with that future is completely up to you. What do you want, peace or resentment?

Carole Ann Rice has a website at and she is a life and happiness coach.

How you might eliminate regret may be found by reading my e-book "How to Live and Die Without Regrets". It is now available on Kindle, and will soon be on other ebook reader applications.

Thursday, 19 April 2012

Gail Devers: Great Olympian, but You Could be Her Equal!

Gail Devers

Gail Devers is well known as a three-time Olympic Gold Medal winner. She triumphed in the 100m at the 1992 Barcelona games and again in Atlanta four years later, together with a win in the 4 x 400m relay. Gail was also a World Champion in the 100m Hurdles.

However, her story is not a straightforward one of glittering success on the track. In 1988 she had made the US Olympic team, but during training that year became prone to pulled muscles and tired legs. She had a bad Olympics with her slowest time since college and did not make the finals.

Gail’s condition did not improve. She began to suffer from migraines, hearing problems, convulsions, hair loss, fatigue, and weight loss. A number of doctors could not find the source of her problems. In 1990 her performances were again poor, but a team physician noticed that Gail had a goiter on her throat. Tests showed that she was suffering from Graves’ Disease, which is an immune disorder because of an overactive thyroid gland.

Gail had radiation treatment to destroy the growth. With most of her other symptoms relieved she resumed running. Then a year later complications set in. The thyroid problem had affected her blood supply. She now had blood blisters on her feet. Walking became so painful that Gail required help, sometimes even needing to be carried. Athletics for her appeared to be all over. There was also a possibility that her feet might have to be amputated.

Although scared that her athletic career was over, she wasn’t going to give up. The word ‘quit’ had never been part of her vocabulary. She even refused drugs for fear of being randomly tested. Fortunately, it was found that the blisters were a side effect of her radiation. From the time that the radiation was stopped Gail began to recover. She started training again, at first using an exercise bike. From that time, and this was now barely twelve months from the 1992 Olympic Games, Gail began to emerge from the darkness of the previous three years. She became a stronger athlete. She qualified for Barcelona, and when she won the sprint title it was in a personal best time.

At the press conference after that victory, Gail said that sheer determination that was the key to her success. Sure, she needed to have world-class athleticism, but that was only the start. "Use me as an example", she told the media. "I am here today because of the drive within me. I was going to let nothing get in the way of my ambition of an Olympic medal".

At the heart of the achievements of Gail Devers is her mind. Through the most debilitating illness, indeed almost a collection of illnesses, she will have endured many days of pain. There must have been times when she worried about more than the loss of merely her career in athletics. Yet, the intense drive that governs everything that she does was never diminished.

What success is to Gail is simple. It means that you have to give your all. That is it, in a nutshell. And this is what we may learn from her. We do not need to be triple Olympic Champions in order to be successful. All we have to do is our best, every time. Life really is that simple; because if you do your best every time, then in your own field, you are the equal of an Olympic Champion.