Next please ….

My friend Martin never normally makes voice calls.

It’s normally connecting by e mail or perhaps a short text.

So when he called me on his mobile phone on Sunday afternoon I was rather surprised to see his name appear on my phone screen.

“How are you?” I said cheerfully.

“Not brilliant. Are you free at the minute?”

The bottom line was that he had fallen over on his patio in his garden and had hit his right leg on the stone step.

As it had swollen almost immediately he phoned his local doctor who advised him to get himself up to his local hospital Accident and Emergency (A&E) Department as soon as possible.

I immediately drove over to his house to give him a lift and to give him some company for his A&E visit.

A&E reception was bursting at the seams, full of people, with every seat taken.

We queued up to register and, amidst the high level of background chatter, Martin managed to get his details across to the receptionist behind the glass screen.

We luckily found two seats free in the same row but a few spaces apart.

Some kind patients in between offered to swap seats so we could chat easily.

And we did.

For about 2 hours, in fact, before an impressive male nurse with a clipboard called out his name.

We rushed up to meet him and his look told us that he was surprised to see us.

He was surprised because he has called out the name Margaret and not Martin.

Full marks for his observation.

No marks for our hearing.

We were sent back to our seats, now taken.

Eventually we went in to see the specialist.

She was warm, amusing but professional.

She tested his leg and his ability to move his ankle and knee.

All seemed ok so she asked if we had any questions.

“I have two questions” said Martin

“Will I be able to swim with this leg?”

“If you could swim before with this leg, you should be able to swim with it now” she said with a smile.

And the second question?

“Will I be able to take part in the pantomime we are showing at my local theatre next week?”

“Especially so if it’s Treasure Island and you are playing Long John Silver” she said with a wicked smile.

We both came out into the main A&E reception laughing and joking.

Other potential patients waiting nervously for their calls must have wondered what we had both been prescribed ….

6 months a blogger …

At school I used to dread the annual reports on my progress.

The teachers told it how it was.

No holds barred.

“If he put as much energy into his school work as he does into his chatting to his mates he might do well”

My father would smile.

My mother would frown.

So I approach this half year report into my new experience of being a blogger with an objective and reflective stance.

I’ve realised that I just love writing.

I also enjoy reading what others have written.

I get a kick out of following other bloggers and commenting when I feel the urge.

And that’s often.

Quite simply it’s been both educational and amazing.

My e mail in box is full of notifications of new posts … and I don’t mind at all.

I love it, in fact.

I feel I’m building up a connection with lots of new people, continuously.

It’s been a really supportive and friendly community.

Yes, I know I am still chatting to mates – to quote my teachers.

But I think I’m doing quite well and enjoying the experience immensely.

Thank you blogging community – all of you! 😎

Waiting Room Blues …

This is not a song or musical genre.

It’s just that I’ve been in a couple of hospital waiting rooms supporting some friends lately and it’s been interesting.

I expected to see queues of people and overworked reception staff.

I was therefore not surprised as we lined up, almost out of the door, to check in.

I marvelled at the calm receptionists who were handling patients arriving late, in the wrong place, demanding attention.

Being difficult, looking stressed.

Phones were ringing everywhere (many from patients in the queue), hospital staff were barging through with trollies, with papers and clipboards.

People were trying to register their car number plates into the new parking permit system and banging the touch screen because it was not responding.

Nurses were coming out calling patient names over the general hubbub and patients were straining to work out if the name was theirs.

On one occasion the nurse called for a Mr White and two gentlemen stood up at the same time and tried to work out what Mr White she really wanted.

It’s easy being a support when you are not in the firing line (not literally) – you can practise your yoga breathing and reflect.

You can offer some observational humour.

Words of support too of course.

I’m not sure if I would feel so reflective as a patient though ….. on my side of the fence it’s so damn easy.

Driving me up the wall … Part 2

L and I arrived far too early for our climbing induction at the Colchester Climb Project.

We built in loads of contingency to our travelling plans because the roads at that time in the evening were normally full of slow commuter traffic.

We sat in the car outside the Climbing Centre.

We can’t go in yet. Too early.

We chat.

We don’t watch the clock.

We chat.

We realise we really have to go in.

We are greeted by a jolly chap wearing a bobble hat (and other clothes!) who asked us our shoe sizes so we could be issued with climbing shoes.

“They should be tight” he said.

Mine were excruciatingly painful so I asked for a size up.

Then Alex appeared (aka Aly) who was to be our instructor this evening.

A slim, bubbly lady with a great sense of humour. Also wearing a bobble hat.

It is chilly in this warehouse of climbing walls.

We were joined by Jeremy, a fellow inductee (is there such a word?) a charming Finance guy from the City, we learned, who looked remarkably fit.

Aly (who was simply an awesome trainer too by the way) has us doing warm up exercises before she leads us to the first wall.

She explained about the safety issues in some detail, what to watch for, how the walls were structured.

I did not want to go first so avoided eye contact with Aly.

Jeremy stepped forward and off he went up the wall.


I was next.

L looked on, hoping I would survive.

I surprised myself by following Aly’s guidance and reached the top and got down in one piece.

L did the same and when she got down we just hugged for a bit.

More relief than a need to keep warm.

A shared emotional experience.

We tackled other walls with gusto.

All encouraging each other.

No competitive egos here.

After 40 minutes Aly offered us the option of a cup of tea or a further 10 minutes climbing.

It was a no contest.

Tea always wins for L and myself as we watched Jeremy scale a few more walls.

We will be back.

We do hope we see Jeremy again too.

Next time with a family audience perhaps to confirm that we really did do it….

The trip into town …

I’d booked the exhibition tickets a month back.

I meet my friend Brian regularly to keep in touch and a “trip into town” normally takes us back to our days in business when we both worked together in the City of London.

We rarely talk about business.

We talk about our lives after business.

We talk about family, current events, we stray into politics, we share funny stories, we talk about writing (he’s a great writer).

It doesn’t really matter what exhibition/event we book.

It’s just another great opportunity to meet.

However he does his homework and reads up, in advance, on the exhibition background, history, future events.

It keeps me on my toes – I’d better read up too.

Time flies over the day as we chat and chat.

Topics at random.

Highs and lows.

Laughter and the occasional difficult moment where unexpected emotion might kick in.

And takes us both by surprise.

Another great exchange.

Another delightful, supportive, trip into town ….

Head in the clouds – Part 2

The electronic pager flashes and vibrates around my breakfast table.

I just about stop it falling on to the floor.

It meant it was time for my flying lesson and the pilot and plane were now ready.

My heart rate climbed a notch.

Well perhaps more than just a notch.

Mark was my instructor for the 30 min flight and I was wondering if he knew what he was letting himself in for.

Where do you live Steve?

“I live in Chelmsford” I responded.

“Ok we will have time to fly there and back, so I’ll take off and land the plane and you can look after the flying once we are up”

He must be kidding.

He wasn’t.

Mark was flicking switches, checking gauges, pulling out choke levers, moving the pedals, pressing radio buttons, multi tasking like he was in a competition.

And that was before we took off.

The plane was dual control of course and Mark, once we had taken off, let me just mirror his control of the plane early on to show me it was all quite subtle.

I’ve never been accused of that.

“Can I take a few photos?” I asked

“Only when I take back control of the plane” he said with a smile.

I got us to Chelmsford and spotted a few landmarks that I recognised – then I banked the plane to the right, deliberately, then levelled out and headed back.

I was navigating of sorts, lining up icons on the display in front of me with something that looked like a plane.

He kept changing where the icons were …. almost testing my calmness and concentration.

When we approached the runway at Stapleford Aerodrome it felt like he’d shutdown the engine completely and we were floating.

Heart rate up a notch again.

No admit it , up quite a few notches.

Mark’s landing was superb.

The flight was a sheer delight and I understand why you can get addicted to this.

I have two friends, Keith and Martin, who are pilots and I appreciated for the first time why they enjoyed it so much.

Thank you Mark, who made it look so easy (and I know it ain’t) and to Andrew for such a thoughtful and surprising birthday gift ….

I am just so lucky….

Head in the clouds – Part 1

I am not normally lost for words.

The opposite in fact – I’m often told to listen more, talk less.

I’m working on it.

We were meeting for one of our lovely chatty breakfasts at the local flying club, Stapleford Aerodrome.

Andrew, my friend, had recommended this place some time back and this must have been our 4th or 5th visit.

That’s a lot of breakfasts.

It was the day after my birthday so it seemed a nice opportunity to catch up.

The breakfast was delicious and, unusually, the weather was bright and sunny after a few days of wind and rain.

After the breakfast we chatted, and chatted – we always do.

“I’ve just got to hand this envelope into the flying club’s reception – do you want to join me or stay here?” asked Andrew.

“I’ll come with you for a breath of fresh air” I said.

At reception the lady behind the desk asked me if I was “ the birthday boy”

I thought that Andrew had tipped them off and they were going to wish me (or, worst case, sing me) a happy birthday.

“Your flying lesson is in 45 mins” said the reception lady with a big smile.

I was lost for words for a moment.

“Excuse me, there must be some mistake” I said.

“No, your friend Andrew (now quickly disappearing out of reception) has treated you to a 30 minute flying lesson today”

It was a very emotional moment.

A mixture of “he’s set me up” and “omg what an amazing surprise”

I was quite overcome by the gesture.

I’m still getting over it.

I need to take you through the flight in a separate blog post – that’s why this one is Part 1 …

A blogger lost for words?

Yes, I really was.

The 365 Update …

We meet once a year in London.

Normally in November because D visits her family in Australia for a couple of months in December and January.

We used to work together in my Corporate days and we have stayed in touch via annual update lunches.

She never forgets to remind me that it might be a good time for us to meet up.

A text message always asks me for some free dates.

We then meet up and have 3 hours of information exchange, amusing stories, recommendations on reading and films.

Both trying hard to not let our lunch go cold as the information flows back and forth.

She is bubbly, interested, a supreme listener and full of energy.

She reads more books, in more depth than me.

She sees more films of all types than me.

She makes allowances 😎

A review of our past year takes place minute by minute but is nicely topped up with a sharing of current perspectives and experiences from our busy and different lives.

A highly recommended annual event.

A bit like an automatic (and much needed) software update but much more fun.

I just need to remember a list of 4 or 5 highlights of my year so I can contribute to my side of the exchange.

And still gratefully reflecting on the fact that limiting to 4 or 5 highlights is still a real challenge – there is always so much more to highlight.

And for that I am extremely grateful.

Today was like a continuation from last year’s meet up.

Almost seamless.

Always enjoyable.

Thank you again D for that annual text message reminder ….

I am updated once more….

On the radar …

It was my birthday yesterday.

I’ve never been fearful of age – in fact I seem to positively embrace it.

I tend to confirm my age nowadays by taking my birth year from the current one but that’s not an issue.

My mental arithmetic is still good 😎

But yesterday’s birthday was something special.

Nothing to do with presents/gifts at all.

Although I did appreciate them (before I get into trouble!).

It was stand out special due to the number and care of the number of contacts I had with family and friends.

People who are often off the radar, due to their busy lives, just taking a moment to wish me happy birthday via social media, via text message, via a phone call.

People from Australia, Belgium, Canada, Greece, South Africa, USA and the UK.

Yes, I’m now quite surprised and humbled at the global reach.

I have been reflecting on why I am just so fortunate to be receiving this attention and care.

I hope it might be because I do try really hard to do it to others – just a moment of connection and support whenever the opportunity presents itself.

There really is no greater feeling.

Thank you … all of you.

There’s no grey …

I must be missing something.

I’m hearing more and more from people around me about how difficult it is keeping in contact.

“He/She never rings me, or sends me a text message”

“No point in me having a mobile phone, nobody ever calls me!”

Sorry to raise this but some of this is self inflicted.

I accept that we don’t all want too many contacts to manage, too many calls to handle, too many “friends” to look after.

But here’s the truth.

Do you want to keep in touch, yes or no?

It’s binary, it’s digital.

You either do or you don’t.

There’s no grey …

So decide what you want and make the effort … or not.

Contact those people you really want to connect with.

No delay, just do it.

Do it now.

Do it tomorrow.

And the next day too.

Use a text message to contact if it feels less embarrassing if they decide to ignore you.

Don’t expect the World to chase after you and seek you out.

Life’s not like that.

Don’t worry about rejection either.

Worry about not doing it.

I am blessed with contacts, friends, sources of support, numbers to dial on my phone.

I’m nothing special or super human.

I just care enough to want to make the effort.

I just keep at it, day after day, week after week, investing time, following up, remembering who’s on my list, treating it as important.

So if you really want to be connected to more people, or reconnect to those you have lost contact with over the years, just reach out and make the effort.

I do and I am richer for it.

Not wealth richer, but emotionally and spiritually richer.

You will be too… if you really want to be.