how to welcome people, and how not to

Yesterday I received a communication from the CEO of a peer-to-peer money lending firm. The newsletter was so badly constructed and such a dog’s dinner that I had to write to her with a point by point comment about syntax, grammar, construction, layout. Now I know that you don’t write to the CEO of a company telling them that their newsletter is rubbish but I know that if I don’t do it no one else will because people are afraid of authority. I would rather stand up and do something and get told off for it than just put my head down and switch off my brain. She was barely self-controlled in her response but at least she did come back to me.

One of the features of my psychology that I very much appreciate is the ability to detect in advance which events are  potentially beneficial for me. In our travels throughout the world we seem to get it right time after time. In recent years the only problem I had was that my wife  had her passport stolen in Barcelona but then Barcelona have some of the best pick pockets in the business as they are in Rome. I believe that most of us have the ability to see ahead the problem is we don’t take any notice and then berate ourselves for not doing it. in the case of Barcelona  it was I’m afraid the case of a carelessly worn handbag which has is it that was easy to open. I remember going along to the main police station to see five or six groups of miserable tourists. Some had everything taken including purse and one lady has to go back to the United States the next day so I think we got quite likely. Anyway I digress.

We went yesterday afternoon on Thursday to the Victoria Art Gallery in Bath yesterday. An artist called Peter Brown was featured in a special exhibition. Art exhibitions come in various shapes and sizes, this one had just enough to give the visitor a full experience of life and work and not too much to give indigestion. I sometimes think that less is more. A huge bonus was the tape-recorded commentary that so often is offered these days notably at the Tate Gallery where you just tap in the number and listen.   Peter is remarkably unaffected and tells it as it is. His nickname is Pete the Street  due to his extraordinary number of paintings of street scenes and really making them come alive. He is charging up to £50,000 with average £25,000.

We then proceeded to an evening at the Bath Royal Literary and Scientific Institution. this was a new venture where Ph.D. students were invited to summarise their work in 5 min. My usual automatic guidance system worked here and I scanned through dozens of events but this one jumped out at me and I just knew that we had to go.  We were two hours early, and I thought ‘shall we call a friend and have a drink with him’. Something in me said no so we arrived very early and just sat there in the reception. It was a delight to see the whole thing happen from beginning to end, the organiser arriving 90 min before, the five speakers  arriving one after the other being introduced to each other and familiarising themselves with the situation.

Us English are fairly good at welcoming other people but there is  one aspect that people need to pay attention to. When people come into place for the first time, and they are a little bit shy, it is very important that they are welcomed at the door and not left standing. The first few moments are critical in setting the tone of the evening and the comfortable this newcomer has been with people that perhaps they have not met before. I don’t think people should be spoonfed but the first few moments you always remember. It’s not good enough to say, the meeting is upstairs, but to ask something bland such as “is this your first time”. Asking if you found us all right is a bit self-defeating because of course they have otherwise they wouldn’t be there.

I remember once going to my first meeting at the University of the Third Age. There were about 100 people in the room all sitting at tables chatting to each other and there was I standing at the door like an idiot not knowing where to turn. Do I just walk up to the nearest table and say hello? This should be part of staff training for any job no matter how menial or simple. Anyway, on this occasion, I walked around until I found the membership secretary and talk to them a bit but they were pretty busy and could not really have a chat. I went for a couple more meetings but then decided to place was a bit cliquey and did not go again.

The whole event when it started at 7:30 had an element of untidiness about it. I like untidiness because creativity comes. You could almost say structure or creativity. they gave their piece and the audience were invited to question them or make comments. Being English of course there was a pause but I was having none of it so I cracked in straightaway with a couple of questions and started and started the ball rolling. we had a wonderful evening wear not only did the audience a chance to ask questions about something they didn’t know about but the speakers got a chance to give feedback to each other and see how their presentations worked in public. I sometimes think that you don’t know what you know until you tell somebody.

The prelude to the whole event was as important to me as the event itself. The little voice in my head that said we shouldn’t call my friend on this occasion because we would have missed out on most of the fun. I think the most difficult thing is to follow your intuition when there is no reason to do something. In my earlier life I used to do a considerable number of counselling and psychic readings and so on; he never cease to amaze me the number of people who said to me, I should have followed my intuition but..intuition is given to us as a gift so let’s not ignore it.

Today I am sorting through my papers from the last 15 years. It’s amazing how much clutter you can collect simply through not throwing away items of correspondence. I have a great pile of contracts, invoices, writings, and it is a little bit of a wrench to throw them away. It’s a little back saying goodbye to a past version of myself.

Just watching a debunking YouTube account of the claimed fake journeys to the moon. An interesting comment was made about how the astronauts could have possibly got through the Van Allen belt with its super high levels of radiation. Dr Van Braun commented that since there was no atmosphere, the people presumably lend it would have had taken refuge in caves because micro meteorites travelling at 25,000 miles an hour will go through anything. It was also interesting that all the relevant tapes had been destroyed. This was a really good story, The Americans would have made a huge exhibition out of it shown for generations to come about how wonderful they were but in this case there is even a reluctance on the part of the astronauts to talk about their so called time on the moon.

reflections on travel

I have just finished review number 610 on my Trip Adviser page. Those who enjoy travel may care to read my utterances. I started taking this website seriously about 2008 when I began to realise how valuable it was to read the experiences of those who had travelled to a place that I might have been wanting to experience.

We all want different things when we travel and reading reviews is quite an art. You learn to dismiss reviewers who completely rubbish place or restaurant, especially if they have only written two or three reviews. An establishment that is completely bad would not remain in existence and it is often the case that the writer is having a bad day. There are five categories ranging from excellent to very poor. If you read the very good ones and the middle category you are more likely to get the most accurate impression.

how do I prepare for travel? I find that the vast majority of my  preparation takes place between four and two months before I leave. I find the information takes time to settle and that the inevitable jet lag or cultural shock is minimised when I’m already there in my mind.  However there are limits to what preparation can achieve. I remember once arriving in Sydney after a 36 hour journey, standing in a hotel foyer, and feeling that the floor was moving. I mentioned this to the receptionist and she just smiled.  Flying I view as a mixed blessing.

My sister has just come back from Australia where she was able to fly business class and tells me that there is such a difference between that and tourists or cattle class. Maybe one day when I have enough money I will treat myself but meanwhile I’d rather save the money and spend it on food at the other end. With regard to turbulence, I find the best thing to do is to focus on the far horizon. This acts as a stabiliser and is amazingly effective in reducing any motion sickness. Mind you I have to say that the modern jet is really very comfortable compared with let’s say a propeller airline flying at 10,000 feet and being buffeted around. Once I was on an Air India flight to New York and we suffered a bit with turbulence and I said to a pilot who happened to meet me on the back of the aircraft, how bad is this out of 10? He smiled slightly and said ‘a half’. from that moment I did not complain any more.

Flights up to 2 hours are neither here nor there especially if they are in a north or south direction. One of my longest flight was to Hong Kong which I think was about 14 hours. Mercifully we have videos and so on but I find a small image so unsatisfactory I think I would rather follow the flight Tracker.  I find I get into some sort of trance state, eat, sleep, drink, dream, stare at TV, read a book, go to the loo – time passes quicker than you think or perhaps time ceases to exist. I often wonder how many times we breathe in the air that has been exhaled by other people. It can’t be very healthy which is why we need a strong immune system.

I’ve been to America about 40 times mainly in the 80s and 90s. I felt the first few days very difficult, I would wake up at about 4 AM and go to have a pre breakfast breakfast at about 6 AM and then a proper one at 8 AM or so. I’ve never had so much coffee in my life and probably over eaten more chemical filled foods than I normally do. No wonder people are so fat. I wonder if the cars have special suspensions to cope with the extra weight, which is at a guess, easily double of the weight of the average person. Mind you were getting an obesity problem in the UK now with increasing numbers of people going from bariatric surgery. It’s all about ignorance. I think sugar is the main culprit.

The Man on the Clapham Omnibus

First of all, just to remind you of the derivation of this phrase which I quote from Wikipedia:

The man on the Clapham omnibus is a hypothetical ordinary and reasonable person, used by the courts in English law where it is necessary to decide whether a party has acted as a reasonable person would – for example, in a civil action for negligence. The man on the Clapham omnibus is a reasonably educated and intelligent but nondescript person, against whom the defendant’s conduct can be measured.

The term was introduced into English law during the Victorian era, and is still an important concept in British law. It is also used in other Commonwealth common law jurisdictions, sometimes with suitable modifications to the phrase as an aid to local comprehension. The route of the original “Clapham omnibus” is unknown but London Buses route 88 was briefly branded as “the Clapham Omnibus” in the 1990s and is sometimes associated with the term

Today Wednesday we went to the ceremony of Imbolc, which is the Celtic rite celebrating the first signs of spring. English people will be aware of Chalice Well some regard as a holy and blessed place from which particularly pure water flows. At such ceremonies many people dress up for the occasion with special walking sticks, colourful clothes and flowers in their hair. It becomes for a few hours a microcosm of how society should be. Everyone is  in a good mood is not elevated and conversations of sharing are easy to strike up.

The gardens were showing early signs of spring including snowdrops and daffodils. This secluded garden has its own micro climate. It is south facing and I believe protected from the worst depredations of frost. I did in fact put the proceedings on you Tube and you may like to be witness to some of the sentiments of the lady who led the half-hour celebration.

We left about an hour later after having sat round a log fire and went on to the Somerset levels. These are particularly prone to flooding and the water level was approaching road level. It is always pleasant to be there but better on a sunny day. Locals like to take their dogs. The local swans have learnt to ignore the barking.  Nature is never inactive; it is just going through phases and each phase is vital in the chain.


Garden images update

Update and questions

This job has turned into a root and branch no pun intended consisting of disciplining and modelling.  We have completed 75% .

Re the package. I was not certain how to leave it in the house so I have bought it to my place for safe keeping.

Ctrl and + to enlarge the images.

#1   This is the remodeled bush. There were three different species fighting for the same area and excluding light from their neighbors. The branches will straighten out over time.  You can now see out over the valley when you sit to have your coffee at the GWR bench.

#2   We have accumulated a huge pile of spoil, most of which was not suitable for bagging.  You asked me to leave it but it is fair to warn you that it would require 4-5 trips in your landy.   I can have it removed for £160 using my associate with a full sized truck. I suppose it depends on your personal preferences / whether you enjoy moving stuff.

#3  It was necessary to remove the apple tree branches which were causing the electricity supply (telephone line?)  to your house to come under pressure.

#4 My associate gardener who is also a builder said that sooner or later the ivy would weaken the brick work of the house though it is not the worst variety.  He suggested that the bottom branches could be cut and in 2-3 months time the whole could be pulled down having rotted.  Up to you of course. Just a thought.

#5   Do you want these items removed, also the kitchen sink unit at the side.

#6 with the willing permission of the chap next  door we have pruned back the hedge between the two properties thus opening up the garden.
NB  I did ‘his’ side otherwise it would have looked awful. No charge to you for that.

#7     The job has been fairly demanding on hours, but hopefully the work will last you for the next 18 months except the hedges.  I can do them for a good price.  I have remodeled the hedge so that you can do it with ease yourself. Your Bosch 70cm cutter has an excellent reputation and will deliver. You need a 25m cable though.



Life changing event

My life changing event happened on 9 October. I was doing a garden job for a woman whom I didn’t particularly get on with. She said that she would be away for the week. Another job was cancelled and I had some time on my hands so I thought I’d go along and make a start. I cut down a tree, quite a dangerous thing to do on your own, but that was successful and then I climbed up on a raised bed about 1 m high to cut some ivy. I was cutting away and stepped back to admire my work, but stepped back into nothing and the next thing I found was that I was lying on my back on concrete paving stones.

There was a certain difficulty in breathing which was not surprising because my right lung had collapsed. I remember opening my eyes and seeing the tines of my rake just 2 or 3 inches away. There was no one around and no one within shouting distance so I had no choice but to immediately get up, collect my gardening possessions as best I could and get in the car. I sat there for a moment then decided I had to do something so I drove home, a distance of about 5 miles. I rang my wife from home telling her to get back quickly and we went to the local hospital where I described what had happened. They had no x-ray apparatus or anything so I was given the proverbial pill and sent home.

About two hours later I was sitting on the settee watching TV and I realised that I could not get up.  My whole body had frozen and I had to get Francoise to phone 999. There is nothing worse than the feeling that you want to do something but not being able to do it. The body was not able to obey my commands – frightening. Two cheerful ambulance people arrived within about 15 min. By coincidence they were near when we called. It took about 20 min to get me in to the ambulance due to pain and inability to move but we managed eventually. I arrived at the hospital in Bath about half an hour later and the rest was frankly a blur. I think I had an ECG x-ray or whatever it’s called. You have to lie down and the completely still and you get slid in to this huge machine and then out again. It felt very claustrophobic.

slightly surreal atmosphere at night

I was taken by ambulance in an unconscious state to Southmead Hospital in Bristol because they have a Trauma centre and Bath could not deal with me adequately. I remember someone pushing a rubber tube into my right side to drain off liquid. The lung eventually reinflated and my oxygen level eventually went up to about 95 up from 50. The usual painkillers they give me, morphine etc, were only partially successful. I went to sleep in the triage unit and was dealt with by a lovely Chinese nurse who was so sorry about my pain and gave me painkillers at regular intervals.

I was in hospital for about a week. The main injuries were flailing of the ribs. I did things in style and broke eight posterior ribs on the right-hand side. I was told that breaking them in pieces was less complicated or less painful than cracking them. Since I had not experienced the latter, I was in no position to comment but laughing or coughing was excruciatingly painful and if I knew that I was about to cough or sneeze, I learned to hold a towel to my chest and hold on hard.

I did not move even within the bed for three days. My normal vital bodily functions stopped dead with the exception of urination and I ate very little. I felt as if my whole body was on standby. Basically the doctor said that this was one of the most painful things I could experience and there was nothing they could do. It would take up to 6 months to get better, and all I could do was to take the painkillers. Painkillers have their own set of problems, called side-effects, though I just call them effects. Tramadol is one of the worst. It dried my my mouth out completely so much that I could not speak. It must be terrible to run out of water in the middle of a desert. I can see why people drink their own urine or the water from their car radiator.

I decided to return home by taxi. I did not want francoise to make a 40 mile round journey. It was expensive but I only take taxis about once a year and I thought this was enough of an occasion to justify the expenditure. For the next two months, I was not able to sleep in my bed because I cannot sleep on my front and when I tried to sleep on my back or my side, the weight of my body caused great pain in my ribs. My only choice was to sleep sitting up in the armchair in the living room. It was a question of finding the exact right inclination of the limbs that would minimise the pain. The problem is that with ribs you can’t get away from them. There is nowhere to go. It is like at big snake moving around inside you.

I think it was about the middle of December 2016 that I made my first attempt to sleep in a bed. The first time, it was for 20 min and then I’d had enough but the second time, with the aid of numerous hot water bottles, I was able to make it for an hour and then I finally made it for the whole night.  In the early stages I was worried that my main source of income, gardening, would be denied to me for the rest of my life because I would no longer be able to work but here we are in the following April, lifting things around, operating a chainsaw, putting a row of potatoes in, doing everything I did before. I must admit that I get tired a little quicker than before but when I look back I think I was extraordinarily lucky. I did not break any bones apart from the rib cage.  There was no brain damage or neurological damage, I kept my sight and my hearing. I did however suffered some damage to my right jaw which moved out of alignment and which to this day causes difficulty in opening the mouth so I cannot for example open sufficiently to accommodate a quarter of an apple.

The stress on Françoise my partner was if anything greater than mine because she didn’t know whether she was going to lose a functioning partner and although we can be independent if we need to, the thought of discontinuity even at the comparatively early age of early 70s, is not something to be contemplated with equanimity. Anyway I did not undergo any particular personality change apart from being more sensitive to movement and noise than I normally am and we didn’t have any major rows that I can remember and we certainly stuck together.

I dread to think what it would have been like if I’d had young family, or if I was on my own, or if I had no money to live on, or if I didn’t get on very well with a partner. I am blessed in all these departments I must admit that it could have been so much worse. it is a rather corny thing to say but I do give thanks for each day far more fervently than I did for every day of health prior to the fall. I did perhaps assume that I was not going to have an accident but that is somewhat arrogant since it’s not the things you know about that trip you up but the things and combinations of circumstance that you are not aware of.

The Life of Brian

You have arrived at U.K.’s leading philosophical and pictorial blog inspired by the diary of Samuel Pepys. The blog has only been going since February 2017 – this year – but has attracted interest from around the world. I believe that everybody should consider keeping a diary. It is so therapeutic apart from being a good historical reference point. It’s also nice to relive memories.

Ideas are for sharing and visitors have found that the ideas expressed here act as a catalyst for the development of their own thinking as individuals as opposed to being one of the crowd. Many subjects are covered. You will find the search facility for all text (top right of this page) quite useful and more so as time goes on.

Myself and my wife Francoise. We live in Midsomer Norton, Somerset

Please feel free to share my life with its excitements, its ups and downs, its dreams and rude awakenings. I only write what I feel to be true for me so no posing or window dressing here! Comments welcome.

I suggest you open the diary at any date. The subsequent pages will automatically appear as you scroll. If you wish to make a comment you will receive as full an answer as I can supply.

You might like to put this site on your favourites as almost every day there is something new and you never know what you may find helpful.

I have no idea what I am going to write until a theme pops into my head.

Brian Snellgrove

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