Suddenly You Were Gone

I volunteered at a local school careers fair on Valentine’s Day this week. I felt a little out of place at first, among the banks, airlines, engineering companies and more, but as I set out my stall, I appreciated I had something useful to offer, and relaxed. I took along some of my art, and some work made by clients and various community groups, and spoke with kids at the school about aspects of running your own business.

In between the conversations, I sketched out a few mini guardians. I enjoy making and I thought it might be useful for others to see the process of me making too.

As I was making, some very sad news was unfolding. I found out after the careers fair ended, that our dear friend Cate had died suddenly, unexpectedly. I’ve known Cate for years, and though others know her better, she’s always been a lovely friend, lively, kind, and equally, fierce when needed. I saw her many times on her adventures to the UK and when I was fortunate to travel to Melbourne, she and I met up for a lovely evening of conversation, laughs and a glass or two of good white wine.

Cate was also a supporter of my work, and on that trip to Australia I hand delivered a Winged Heart print to her. I’m going to hide a Winged Heart and two of the miniature guardian figures together for this week’s art drop. The print recognises Cate’s friendship and support, and the guardians represent her and her lovely son, who we are thinking of and sending best wishes to right now.

Life is short. Hug someone you love.

Father’s Day

Earlier this week I was going through some old papers, searching for news cuttings which Dad had kept that connected us as a family, to the local area. Leafing through the stack of documents, I found much more than I was originally looking for. I uncovered some of Dad’s old school reports, his St John’s Ambulance certificates, and his membership of The Noddy Club, carefully stored in an envelope post marked February 1965.

Noddy Club

I also found Mum and Dad’s birth, marriage, and death certificates. Alongside these papers, I had stored a few sentences, hand written in 2012 by our then nine year old daughter Keira. These sentences form the eulogy which she wrote, and asked to read at Dad’s funeral. I thought you might like to take a look.


As you might imagine, this piece of paper stopped me in my tracks. I remember at the time, how proud I felt that someone so young felt able to contribute to a funeral in such a meaningful way. It turns out I still have that feeling. I’m not particularly big on ‘Hallmark Days‘, yet they can and do offer us moments to reflect, and be thankful. If your Dad is around I hope you get time to see him today, and if not, may he be in your thoughts.

‘We’re only immortal, for a limited time’. N Peart.

Fifty at Fifty

If the importance of survival to a particular age is measured in celebration and an outpouring of generosity, love and goodwill, then staying alive for fifty years is quite the achievement. The lovely people I know have made acknowledging the reality of ageing a total pleasure so far (I only turned 50 on October 28th so there’s time for me to change my mind on that yet!).

In the run up to this milestone, I’ve been accumulating a bunch of brain farts, a few quotes (mostly lyrical) and other assorted things that matter to me. Fifty things sounds a lot, and I’ve tried to keep it brief. As such I’m sure most of these things are unfinished. I sincerely hope something in this pile of stuff I’ve cleared from the attic of my brain resonates for you.

1 – Less hope (hoping?), more action

2 – More now, less future. I am tired of people going on about the future of work. Fix the now of work first, please. I know it’s less sexy, but it’s much more important.

3 – Taking what works for you. I recently watched some interesting TED talks by people I would normally shy away from. A friend recommended I watch the talks and not get hung up on the personalities, just take what I needed. I enjoyed the experience and I will use this method to help me see past my limitations and dislikes.

4 – Counter point: Offer an alternative point of view, it’s usually needed and often wanted too. And if you find that it’s not wanted on a regular basis, maybe get another job?

5 – You are never more dangerous/stuck/scared than at the moment of committing, of making the decision, of believing you are right. At that point you close your mind to all other possibilities and are at great risk of being wrong. People, including me and you, don’t like to admit being wrong.

6 – Absolutes are rarely the answer.

7 – Trust chasm – The gap between what you say and what you do. Mind the gap.

8 – Building Trust – investing time to know your stuff, and knowing when to ask for help. Taking decisions and actions which go beyond self interest, caring about your work and people.

9 – ‘Without People You’re Nothing’ Joe Strummer

10 – Event + Response = Outcome. Your response ability changes everything. I recently heard Jamil Qureshi say this, or something very close to it.

11 – Think, feel, act – in that order.

12 – Mixed feelings. You cannot know joy without despair, happy without sad. Life is a wonderfully mixed bag, and to deny this is unhelpful, even dangerous.

13 – Belief: I’m fascinated by my (our?) ability to talk ourselves into and out of stuff. We all know from experience that finding the courage to have a go at something different can be tough, and we see good things happening to others and without even trying ourselves, we believe ‘that will never happen to me’. Try it – prove yourself wrong. I did.

14 – Meditation…time to just be there. Don’t call it meditation if the word puts you off taking time out for yourself, but please practice the art of being.

15 – Going for a walk – I don’t know may things that can’t be improved by a long walk. Except maybe sore feet.

16 – Willing participants beats hostage learners

17 – Blame looks backwards – responsibility looks forwards

18 – Taking it personally leads to growth

19 – Letting grief work with and through you is a hugely painful, rewarding experience

20 – Coaching is great, and sometimes I just want you to tell me what to do (see trust)

21 – Draw for the bin

22 – Honesty built on sharing your observations of your own shortcomings creates a powerful invitation to reciprocate. Good people don’t expect you to be invincible.

23 – Show your work. Get over yourself – it’s ready.

24 – How much is enough? Only you know the answer – and this is such an important question to ask…often.

25 – Facilitation. Don’t assume. Ask: What is a good outcome to leave here with? What do you need from each other, and from me to make that happen? I attribute this to Meg Peppin.

26 – Write often, draw oftener

27 – Small things make big differences

28 – All exits are final

29 – ‘The measure of a life is a measure of love and respect, so hard to earn so easily burned’ Neil Peart

30 – I just can’t be happy today. Sometimes, feeling miserable is the best option. Give a happiness guru a slap, you’ll feel much better.

31 – Don’t be stingy (see how much is enough?)

32 – Clarity. It’s always on the move, always worth searching for, refining.

33 – Don’t forget to breathe

34 – Try to be kind, and when you can’t, save your unkindness for those who really deserve it. You know who they are.

35 – Most work is coercive, it is done to you. The best work is coactive and cocreative, it is done with, for and by you. It is totally human to want, need and expect that our views be taken into consideration and yet we defy these wants, needs and expectations at almost every step in our working lives. Never do anything about me, without me. I am hugely fortunate to relate the positive aspects of this point to so many people I have worked with and do work with – thank you folks.

36 – We are all artists

37 – We stop being artistic because we are judged. Do someone a favour – suspend your judgement once in a while and watch them flourish.

38 – ‘Nothing is original. Steal with pride and acknowledge your inspiration.’ Yours truly, stealing from Pablo Picasso, Jim Jarmusch, Malcolm McLaren, and no doubt a few others besides. Acknowledge and disclose.

39 – ‘I think I’m in love. Probably just hungry’. Jason Pierce

40 – Grab a pencil and paper and write someone a letter.

41 – Coming up with 50 brain farts at my age is tough.

42 – ‘It’s a long way to the top if you wanna rock n roll’. Young, Young and Scott. See 41

43 – Want something? Ask for it – nicely.

44 – I went to Summer Brandcamp this year – it changed how I felt about going to conferences, in the best way possible. I encourage you to find an event outside the usual tracks and furrows you plough and invest in it.

45 – Facebook is great for birthdays – real life is greater.

46 – Buy a book, read the book, pass it on. Repeat.

47 – I went to a conversation recently which employed the ancient method of using a talking stick. There were a few other simple conversational guidelines too, but for now it’s noting the stick which is important. I sat and listened in total silence for 45 minutes before saying anything. This experience showed me how much of a battle conversation can become. Thank you Johnnie Moore.

48 – Go gently. With thanks to Julie Drybrough

49 – The road of true love is the best road to follow. Thank you Carole and Keira.

50 – Proceed Until Apprehended. Come on – you were expecting something else?!