Monday, 29 November 2021


It goes back a long way, before the industrial revolution which itself led to our 24/7/365 world. To when the harvest was, as the hymn says: “safely gathered in”, the pig was in the last phase of being fattened up before being slaughtered, when the frown of winter deepening and getting under the cosy covers at night was the best time of the day. That was when we learnt to replenish and prepare for the next productive seasons starting in April. Like plant life we hid ourselves in a winter snooze.

Why Snoozing Makes You Lazier — Logan Lenz

The word “snooze” has a bad reputation. Today “having a snooze” is a slightly furtive thing to do. There is no longer room for the unproductive or the lazy. No room for re-fueling or replenishing. No time to snooze. 

Yet slowing down, meditating, rebooting, refreshing, and replenishing over the next two months is exactly what we should be doing. This means preparing for the next assault. It means taking stock and filling in the gaps in our lives. It means loving ourselves more, developing our talents, instincts, and potential. It means getting ready to live anew. And it’s easier to do when it’s cold and gloomy, when the days are short and indoors, in the warm, is your laboratory for crafting ‘The You of 2022.’

So, here’s “Project Replenish” and some ways of doing it: -

  • Sleep in … a lot. We’re told sleep is important. In the long, dark winter, it’s critical. Sleep experts recommend 8 hours a night. In winter go for more. Get up later. Have a nap after lunch. Make sure your bedroom is dark and quiet. 

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  • Slow down. Many of us rush around. We are busy, busy, busy. Stop - it’s ‘winter speed’ now. Take more time over breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Linger in the shower or bath. Have fewer things in your diary. Allow more time to reflect between events and meetings.

  • Taste/relish your food and drink. Part of replenishment lies in eating our meals more slowly and enjoying them. Food isn’t just fuel. It’s a luxury to savour.

             Why can't I feel satisfied after a meal? - Quora

  • Spend an hour a day just musing – musing means “to consider something thoughtfully”. Just musing on anything (or if you’re a “Super Muser” on nothing) will refresh your brain. Musing isn’t just amusing it’s replenishing.

  • Visit the neglected in your life. Say “hallo” to the 20,40 or 100 people you’ve forgotten about or remembered but lost touch with. Write a note, an e-mail or call a few of these every day. 

  • Read more, much more slowly. To replenish you need to relish. Don’t gobble up a 300-page book in 4 ½ hours. Read more slowly and re-read bits you really enjoy. This is not a “Reading Race.”

             Silhouette of woman reading lying down Stock Photos - Page 1 : Masterfile

  • Stop being angry about “stuff”. There’s a lot of stress around and a lot of rage about what other people think. If you come across something you think is crass, perverse, or just plain batty, think about it and reflect on why they (whoever they are) say that and think that.

  • Pamper yourself. Cold outside, warm inside equals dry skin. Use moisturiser. Spoil yourself with an occasional “be kind to yourself” present.” As L’Oreal rather coyly put it “Because you’re worth it.”

  • Stop reading the paper and watching the news for a while. Too much politics. Too many broken promises. Take a rest. They’ll survive.

We have this two-month opportunity to revitalise ourselves. The past two years have been unusually exhausting. Try some of these strategies. 

Replenish and prepare for 2022. 

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Monday, 22 November 2021


Between the ages of 16 and 50, I spent a lot of my weekends playing cricket. Over the past week I’ve been thinking about racism in cricket. I experienced hardly any racism although I was once described as a “honky” by a West Indian fielder. 

Back in the 1980s the power of the West Indian teams was such that any racist remark by someone stupid enough to make it would have resulted in some lightning fast short-pitched bowling aimed at their helmetless heads. One player in county cricket stood out. Wayne Daniels. He was called “Sir”.

200 Cricket ideas | cricket, sport of kings, sports

The most enjoyable cricket I played was when white players were in the minority, when talent was what counted, where sheer unbridled joy in the game was what stood out.

But there was a remark in the Azim Rafeeq hearing that stopped me. It came from one of the Yorkshire Cricket Club Board. It said that “Asim lacked White Rose qualities and attitudes”. This made me shiver.

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I recalled a particular cricket dressing room. The smell of BO and Brut, old unwashed kit spread around and a laddism that would have been at all levels unacceptable today. It was ghastly then, but it represented the cultural language of our team. It was misanthropic, misogynistic, homophobic, satirical, cruel, and crude. Almost certainly it was racist too. Everyone had a nickname – none of them pleasant. There was team-bonding and a slightly hysterically fueled hatred of our opponents. This was the same credo as the Allan Border-led Australian team of the late 1980s. He was known as “Captain Grumpy.”

Happy Birthday Allan Border - Interesting Facts, Trivia, And Records About 'Captain  Grumpy' On Cricketnmore

Dressing Rooms like Board Rooms can be dangerously self-deluding places. Last week has at least corrected that impression.

What bewilders me is anyone thinking racism is acceptable in 2021 yet the people who ran, and presumably some who still run cricket in Yorkshire, think it is acceptable, or maybe worse, they don’t even realise that they are being racist.

In the 1980s advertising had a slight smell of -ism about it. A black art director who liked his photography to be dark and moody who was called the Prince of Darkness. He seemed amused – but was he? A team at Saatchi & Saatchi who dressed as ‘The Blues Brothers’ – trilbies, dark glasses, black suits, white shirts, narrow black ties. They grimly told their clients they were “on a mission from God”. 

This was a world of alcohol, drugs, and beautiful women. It made ‘Mad Men’ look rather underpowered. It was not so much an -ism as a world in which to be politically correct (I’m not even sure we even knew what that meant back then) was to be out of step.

Mad Men: Shop the Mid-Century Look

Now, not to be politically correct is to be unemployable. It isn’t good enough to say the right things, you must not even think the wrong things. The result of last week’s hearing will be an upheaval in sporting governance, not just that of cricket. In Friday’s Times, Sports Columnist Matt Dickinson said:

“There’s no other word for it: the way we run sport is nuts”   

 He’s right. The comments of many of the leaders in cricket fill me with dread. Sport is no longer an amateur business. For better or worse (mostly if run well, for better) the money floods in to allow world class talent to be properly rewarded.

This is what happens if you don’t understand this simple truth. 

Sunder Katwala on Twitter: "My @EasternEye column on cricket & race.  The 'banter' defence is collapsing under political and sponsor pressure -  including from @sajidjavid @julianknight15 @DanJarvisMP et al How can  cricket

Money matters but our self-respect matters more. Our world has changed. We need to change with it or become just a footnote in history.

Cricket RIP.

Hopefully not.

Monday, 15 November 2021


When you don’t understand something it’s better to admit it than to bullshit. After years of fiddling at the fringes of social media in common with several acquaintances I have decided to become antisocial. No more Facebook, Instagram, Messenger, Twitter. I didn’t really understand them anyway except as a medium for sounding off.

Wednesday Wellbeing: How to use social media and retain your sanity – IT'S  A LAWYERS LIFE

We shall not miss each other.

But there was one occasion in my life in 1972 when despite a complete failure of comprehension, I changed someone’s life.

I was in advertising and one of my clients, James Arnold-Baker, who was Managing Director of a big record company called Record Merchandisers called to say he needed an urgent piece of advertising to promote the just released record of a Scottish unknown and his appearance in the biggest Woolworth Record Department in Glasgow. I asked him to send me the record. The artist was a scruffy banjo player called Billy Connolly. The record was called Billy Connolly Live!


I played the record, but I could barely understand a word. It sounded something like this punctuated by coughs, grunts, “fek dis” and banjo sounds:

“BANJO MUSIC – Oh fekin twat.....meh ahse twand...pie on cwarp ...fwackin hell...fwackin lad spit! – AUDIENCE LAUGHTER AND panna ...outavinda what penny throw...aaaggh...pennies...aaagh fekin larf doon ma breeks piss ahsel ... feckin darfme - AUDIENCE ERUPTS”

I wrote a conventional brief for the creative people, hyping the cultural strength of this new star.

“What Bruce Forsyth is to The London Palladium Billy Connolly is to Glasgow”... shameless.

But the creatives refused to create an ad because my client or I was “taking the piss. No one can understand this. Stop wasting our time”

So, I wrote the ad myself – an enthusiastic presenter saying where, when and why Billy would be on a given date followed by excerpts of Connolly and audience laughter. I managed to get as many what I supposed was the “f” word in as I could. And no one complained and Sauchiehall Street was jammed solid with eager crowds to meet Billy and buy the record.

From banjo player with a gift in chat to superstar comic in 30 seconds of nonsense.

Ignorance can be bliss.

Tory sleaze is no surprise when self-interest is the party's driving force'  - Kevin Maguire - Mirror Online

Or, of course, the reverse. Seldom can political missteps (starting with the Patterson fiasco) have been conducted with such cocky assurance that nothing could go wrong. The word “sleaze” has become inextricably linked to Tory. It’s started and will go on...too late to stop ... the sleaze wagon is on the move - the product of Government failure to understand the media would use this hook on to which to attach every Tory story.

Most of us are weary of the Covid story. Many think it’s yesterday’s news, that we know all we need to know, that the beast’s been conquered, that it’s party-time. 

Take it away Shakin’ Stevens: 

“Snow is falling

All around me

Children playing 

having fun

It’s the season

Love and understanding

Merry Christmas everyone”

Merry Christmas everyone! | Caremark

Hmm .... talk to people in Bavaria, in Austria, in Holland, in Norway and Sweden. Covid is back with a vengeance in retaliation for their having taken its disappearance for granted. Bavaria has declared a “state of catastrophe” with intensive care units close to collapse. In Germany nearly half the new cases are amongst the vaccinated due to the waning efficacy of vaccinations over time or to a new variant.

COVID: Fourth wave 'in full force' in Germany as WHO warns Europe is 'back  at epicentre' | World News | Sky News

Politicians there are talking about restrictions including isolation/house arrest for the unvaccinated; there are mutterings of the unspeakable – lockdowns.

All this the product of incaution and ignorance.

So, a not so Merry Christmas may be looming.

Monday, 8 November 2021


Officially winter starts on December 21st. Yet first thing on Friday it was really chilly with a frost. I recalled a poem First Frost by Edwin Curran an American poet born at the end of the 19th century:

The flowers grow in the garden pied
Velvet, imperial, laughing-eyed,
While on them all hovers a breath,
The whistling frost of silver death.

A Frosty Morning | At the Write Time

I’d been feeling pretty mouldy for several weeks so I empathised with phrases like “silver death” but more to the point the blue sky, the bright sun and that familiar ‘Brrr!’… feeling as I wound my scarf more tightly round my neck, made me feel so much more alive than I’d recently felt. I love seasons. Autumn, like claret, is my thing but I also recall the thrill of bleak midwinters as imagined by Christina Rossetti.

School Gate Etiquette: Five Do's and Don'ts

I was up early as we were taking our 7-year-old granddaughter to school. The children all “laughing eyed” were waiting patiently at the gate looking eager, happy and expectant. The tired dismay I’d been feeling earlier, based on a mess of dismal news about institutional racism, sleaze and sheer stupidity, together with unexpected Republican victories in America, ebbed away. These children were the future, and it was lovely to see. No prejudice, no-isms  just a joy in life and the present. There was also a sense of humour that was rich in wicked fun:- 

“So what did you do in school yesterday?”

“Oh, fighting and cutting up butterflies.”

Fall is yet to happen. The leaves are still withering but green on the trees. Winter is waiting. As are our fuel bills. Ours I’m told will be over £5,000. Eyewatering but it’s my wine cellar that will take the hit to accommodate that.

I’ve decided to stop grumbling about the racism, sleaze and sheer stupidity journalists are slavering over.


Blood & Beauty: The Borgias by Sarah Dunant

Instead I’m thinking about reading a good book – currently Sarah Dunant’s “Blood and Beauty” about the Borgias, sipping a chilled Pinot Grigio – tiny ones to savour - and listening to Bach’s Brandenburg Concertos.  His music has such a sense of fluent certainty about it.  He makes it sound easy.

The story of our times is not that complex; it’s happened before; it’s a perennial story. Old v New; Past v Present; Continuity v Change. As people get older they’ll often lament “why do they keep changing things?” The answer is because old naturally has to renew; because humanity is creative and keeps on trying to improve things and the sheer economic logic of change which creates work, money and jobs.

The biggest difficulty in life is people. Understanding them, hearing them and speaking to them. Persuading billions of people to be poorer more uncomfortable and colder is difficult. We are wealthier, healthier world than we were a century ago because we’ve worked harder, more creatively but also created more pollution.

But things are changing. In India a 15 year old has invented a solar powered ironing cart to replace thousands of previously coal powered ironing carts. Enterprise and determination win again.

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In the Dominican Republic a start-up business is working successfully on cultivating coral on land, making it more resilient to changes in temperature and acidity and then transplanting it to the ocean. Great story. 

Finally read Jeremy Paxman’s Black Gold.  It tells the story of coal and how it transformed us in the Industrial Revolution and then propelled us globally to where we are today. But we have changed. Coal is of yesterday as the horse is a mode of transport. And we can change further because, remember… winter is coming.

Hard Graft By Jeremy Paxman


Monday, 1 November 2021


There are many ways of making decisions. There’s the go-on-the-front-foot, “Action Man” approach. There’s reducing everything into a predictable routine. Then there’s the “busk-it” approach and there’s the “rely on experts” way, delegating responsibility for results on the clever who, blamed when things go wrong (as they often do), are dumfounded.

Action Man:

Last week at 4am our house alarm went off. Still more than half asleep I was up deactivating the alarm and running downstairs to see the front door swinging half open, shadows from the streetlights flickering through the darkened hallway.

At this point, out of character and still half asleep I started growling:

“... alright show yourself you disease weakened weasel...come on you pox raddled moron...I’m ready, I’m armed and can’t wait to mash you to pulp...stop hiding...come out, come to Johnny

The Shining' Movie Facts | Mental Floss

In my dozy half-awakeness I saw myself as Jack Nicholson in The Shining.... I had no fear, just a strong desire to thrash the intruder who’d woken me up. But there was no intruder. Just a strong wind and defective door catch.

The Routinists

The unexpected has become more commonly part of our life than it was. Back in the day, life had an inevitable and unchanging routine. The Scaffold in their 1966 record “2Days Monday” described a ritual week of clocking in and mining monotony.

2Days Monday – 

Monday’s Washing Day Tuesday’s Soup Wednesday’s Roast Beef Thursday’s Shepherds’ Pie Friday’s Fish Saturday’s Pay-Day Sunday’s Church..........

.........And so on forever and ever. 

Through the decades in the North East - 1960-69: From The Beatles to the  Fairs Cup - Chronicle Live

When we hear about levelling-up our country, this sort of routine is what we’re trying to eliminate. The litany ends “Is everybody happy? You bet your life we are” ... but of course the Scaffold weren’t really happy. Life in 1966 was hard for most people. And for many still is.

The Busker

I hope this story is true but even if it isn’t wholly accurate it captures a sense of the man, his methods and our times. Roll back the clock forty years. Boris Johnson was at school. A very clever boy with allegedly a strong sense of entitlement which exceeded even his considerable gifts. One of those gifts was acting, He sought and fought for the best parts. So far so good. The trouble was that he never bothered to learn his part properly. This meant he relied heavily on the prompter. The plays – tragedy, melodrama or farce all became a spirited dialogue between Boris and the prompter like that between a Dummy and his ventriloquist. The result was hilarious and – can this be true? – the prompter took a bow at curtain call

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Spare us your vote …..

The Expert

In my experience there are two kinds of expert. Those who describe complex problems as “fantastically straightforward” and speak very fast and incomprehensibly about them. And there are those who listen, ponder and then start dissecting the problem and outline a series of possible solutions.

They can’t make my decisions – only I can do that – they’re experts not decision-makers.

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Increasingly when looking at global problems I find myself thinking “You know I can’t engage with this anymore.” I sympathise with readers of The Guardian, the writing in which is so elegant but often bleakly depressing.

What we should do is focus on those issues over which we can potentially exert control (like my mythical intruder), ensure we don’t get locked in monotony and learn our parts properly (or don’t take part). 

And we all need to think.

When every day’s a thinking day will most of us be happier? You bet your life we will.

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