School – Halcyon Days?


I stumbled across a Facebook post about my old secondary school. Photographs of the empty shell as it was being dismantled. Corridors desolate, rooms empty yet all awash with numerous memories. Genuine goosebumps ensued as I was transported back to a tumultuous time in my personal life that shaped who I became. Ghosts of events, people, lessons and feelings flooded back. I know I am guilty of remembering the good and forgetting the bad and often dire times school brings, but in general that place was my womb; it served as my safe place when all around me caved in and collapsed.  

Having gone into the teaching profession myself, I know what it is like to have the potential to impact on young lives. I vowed to make a difference, to listen and support. Looking back, you remember the teachers who took the time to care, to treat us with respect. Mr Willsher, Mr Mantin, Mr Hyde, Mr Finn, Mrs Reynolds et al…you all made an impact on me.  I was amused and touched to learn I was mentioned by an ex-pupil in his head boy’s leaving speech back in July. I don’t think it was for bad reasons (phew!).  Happiness was always what I strived for in my classroom. Regardless of age, problems are problems, however petty or major. These worries do have correlation in the classroom, in their attitudes, in their positivity and outcome.  A lot has been written about teaching happiness in schools as part of the curriculum. I do feel that our education system is outdated in its approach to how it treats pupils. It is the herd mentality, rather than looking at what suits the individual.  Differentiation is not just for the page, it is for the whole being. With the emphasis clearly on tables and results these days, schools need to think about why children are not meeting their full potential? What is going on in their world that is having a monumental earthquake which makes school work so much more of a challenge? It is time to change our approach. The world is evolving, but not for the better. Schools can take the initiative. Listen, learn and lead. Lead to a better place. The crusade continues….

Changing your mindset can change your life!
Dream Big, Sparkle MORE, Shine BRIGHTLY



At last! Finally! It happened – we had a hot day in our summer… woop!

It depended on how your day panned out as to how much you enjoyed the day. I spent the day trying to keep small people cool, watered and entertained; not as easy as you think when they are out in the sun all morning for a school event. A previously delayed by rain event.

The joy of the sun took its toll on us all in the afternoon. The children were happy to be quietly busy inside, tired after the morning’s exertion under the beautiful clear blue sky. I could have done with a siesta!

I know that if I had rung my mother this evening I would have been given the standard response to a hot day; she hates them, her legs swell, her joints ache, it is all too much! But hey, life would be boring if we were all the same. What provides the source of happiness for some is the antithesis of smiles for others.

That ball of plasma in the sky is an ever-changing mass of awe. It is the ultimate life-giver. We bask in the rays, we yearn for the longer evenings of summer, we race to be outside lapping up the vitamin d. It is almost like the sun powers our happiness switch – unless you happen to be my mother of course! What cares we have are forgotten for that walk barefoot on lush green, freshly-mown grass, or toes dipped into water, all under the comforting glare of the sun.

There was less provenance given to creaming up when I was young. Sunburn was a common occurrence. I am glad that we now understand the beauty and the beast that is the sun. We have evolved through its millennia and it will continue to lay claim to moments of happiness long after we are just dust in its wake. The next time you decide that the sun is too hot, or that it has given you a headache, stop and think. Think how mind-blowingly fantastic it is that this ball of extreme nature is the our life force. Stop and appreciate and be thankful for what it brings, and in homage to the late Caroline Aherne, think, “ooo scorchio!” and smile.

“When the sun is shining I can do anything; no mountain is too high, no trouble too difficult to overcome.” Wilma Rudolph
Dream BIG, Sparkle MORE, Shine BRIGHTLY



Heads out of Sand


And so the dust has settled on the turmoil that was the referendum. My immense shock at the outcome has alleviated, but the concern for the future remains – or indeed didn’t remain! My future is unclear. The impact of the result will shape my up and coming choices and ultimately my career. The almost childlike behaviour from some of our politicians reminds of what I witness in the playground and does not fill me with any form of hope or confidence that there will emerge a sound leader to steady this ship. I hope I am proved wrong on every level.

So without stability in the outside world, this brings me back almost full circle to this time last year.  There was a void to fill, one which was an inherent need to assist those around me with achieving their ability to find the core of their own happiness. It is a word that gets bandied about freely, but to really have the mindset that allows someone not to panic, to find who they truly are without the hassle of the world clouding their judgments and decision, is not so easy. Our natural instinct is to bury our heads in the sand, any sand and say, “I’m ok!”. Maybe this unease in our nation will promote a chance to reprogram, a chance to think about who we are at our base level. For those who can, it really is a change for the better and for those who cannot, then help is available.  Time to heal? Time to find your happiness?

Dream BIG, Sparkle MORE, Shine BRIGHTLY

What did you say?


‘Words don’t come easy to me’, wrote F. R David in his classic song now synonymous to me with Bob Mills Goes Postal on Colin Murray’s Friday show on Talksport. Events over the past week got me thinking about the importance of words; words said and those left unsaid. With the deafening silence of so many who filled our screens with rhetoric for weeks and the realisation that there were those who deliberately kept their counsel, I have been drawn to the power of speech and who can or cannot say the words that help.  Politicians have an agenda. The agenda is set from those around them, as are most of what they deliver in speeches. It is calculated to create an energy, a buzz and often targeted to a particular audience. Understandable.

Working with children allows me to listen to real honesty in their words. They just say whatever they feel, they have not been conditioned to filter what will wound. Over the first few school years, that filter is put in place.  Their true selves will never again speak totally from the heart unabashed. In some ways that saddens me. What would life be like if we could literally speak how we felt even as adults? Instead, we look for clues as to the delivery in body language, eye contact and subtleties that give away the truth.

There are those who have a gift. Who can say exactly the right thing at the right time. These are people who speak from a place of love.  In times of turmoil, we turn to those people. When all around us is in chaos, we need someone to say exactly what we may or may not need to hear, to help declutter all the mish-mash of thoughts whirring around in our heads. These people are our go-to people.  You know who they are. They do not give platitudes. They are realistic, without wounding. They pull you back down to earth with the chosen language when you are way out in the ether struggling to hold on for dear life.  

To be this person, you have had to experience life in all its forms. But more than that, you need to have the wonderful skill of empathy. At the age I am now, my world is constantly shifting; births, illnesses, deaths, shocks. If I can reach out to someone with a few chosen words, I will. They will be taken or ignored, but I have tried. I appreciated so much those few people who made the difference to me through my living hell two years ago. We all need to give back. But some of us maybe should retune the filter first!.

‘Words mean more than what is set down on paper. It takes the human voice to infuse them with deeper meaning.’ Maya Angelou
Dream BIG, Sparkle MORE, Shine BRIGHTLY

Father’s Day Musings


Father’s Day! A fairly new accepted tradition in the wider world. A century of fathers having gained parity in recognition with the more established Christian concept of Mothering Sunday.

For me as a child, it was a day to pass on school-made cards and beer (not made at school!). I do not recall the day being a special family event in any way. A day constructed to celebrate, but more hijacked by card companies and shops as a way of increasing footfall and income.

In latter years presents became more thoughtful. As dad became a pensioner and his world shrunk, I liked to check out what events were on locally and often booked tickets for a talks with people he found interesting. We turned the present into things to do together, rather than tat that cluttered up the home. Dad was never materialistic, so I know that the time spent going out to the shows was more precious to him than anything.

When you no longer have a living dad, today takes on an entirely different meaning. It heightens the feelings that live with you day to day. Of loss, of grief, of a vacuum that will never be filled. This is my second vacuum. Easier than the first, yet hard in itself. Being of a more spiritual nature, I feel his presence with me all the time, I am not abandoned to my fate! Early evening, when the crowds have gone home, I shall take myself off to to stunningly beautiful place he was scattered and sit for a while. Thoughts of conversations past, jokes shared, angry clashes and moments of clarity will occur. He shaped who I am, and for that I will always be thankful that he wa my dad.

“My father gave me the greatest gift anyone could give another person – He believed in me.” Jim Valvano
Dream Big, Sparkle MORE, Shine BRIGHTLY

Time to be Happy!


In the news this week has been the debate between what makes you happier – time or money?

As someone not brought up with a wealthy background, money has always been something to work extremely hard for, to obtain and sustain a standard of living that has become my norm. I was brought up to believe that life should not be lived via credit; if you can afford it, you have it otherwise you do not! I have stood by those values instilled in me by my father. Perhaps at times being more frugal than need be, but money for me is security and security has always been my top priority.

So does having time make you happier than having money? I had to think about this quite carefully. Money has allowed me to make choices and has given me the chance to continue to follow my football team each season. This has given me untold happiness (as well as stress!) over the years. Do I value time? I think at the age I write this, life experiences have definitely changed the value I place on time.  When you are told that your loved one has a life-limiting illness with a small amount of time left alive it makes you appreciate every moment. Time becomes less of an expanse and more finite. Each moment is a chance for memories. That in itself is special. That in itself almost stops time and creates happiness in the mundane. Since that event my view of time in a work / life balance has shifted. We have all had deaths that have caused us to stop and take stock. Often we promise life will be different, we will change our bad habits, sort out our unhappiness, but realistically we revert back to the old tried and tested world because it is easier. Having time to be me, to do what I wish is now very important. I am fortunate enough to be able to earn money as and when through my experience and expertise. I know that and appreciate that not everyone has that capacity. Working oneself so hard that life becomes all about eat, sleep, work is not happiness. It is the hamster wheel and I do not wish to be on it 24/7.

Happiness to me is being at one with my core. Knowing who I am and surrounding myself with those who nurture and appreciate me for who I am. People come into life and go from life. The external happiness they can exert can be very intense, very passionate and all-consuming. Ultimately, they cannot provide you with your happiness; that has to come from within. To allow yourself to grow as a person, you need time to grow, to grieve, to think and just to be.

Money or time? Time or money? An easy choice for me.

“The moment you realise how important time is, your entire perspective will change.”

Dream BIG, Sparkle MORE, Shine BRIGHTLY

Here Comes The Sun…


How to spot a Brit in a crowd of people? Either inappropriately dressed for the weather or…talking about said weather. If there was an Olympic medal in weather chat, we would be reigning champions since time immemorial.
At last, we have seen a return to the higher temperatures of June, as opposed to the freezing, rain-choked days of last week – of course, it was half term! There is something magical that occurs when the sun adorns the ground with its rays of warmth; hope sets in, stress levels drop and the supermarket shelves are devoid of anything related to salad, bbq food and alcohol deals!
Migrations of people flock to the coastal towns, including my own. The population almost doubles. But, everyone is in good spirits – the sunshine really does stimulate endorphins. The sun has given me the kickstart to sort out the many hours of weeding and planting that was required in my back garden. Now with aching neck and knees, I can admire a job well done. Whilst sitting on the bench earlier, I closed my eyes and tried to engage with all of my senses. The chirping of the birds, the fluttering of the pear tree leaves, the gentle breeze on my face were welcome distractions from the usual frenetic pace of life. Walking barefoot on the soft, cool grass is a lovely feeling and helps me connect back to Mother Nature. The shrill laughter of children playing outside alongside the whir of the lawn-mower are all wonderful sounds to behold on a sunny summer Sunday.
Transfixed to the weather forecast, the next question is, will it last? It is as if our happiness depends on it. Rain equates misery, sunshine gives us something to bask in, a feel-good factor where we can tackle our daily rituals and make sense of our problems with more of a positive attitude. Being British means an inherent acceptance of cold, wet and damp. A wrapped-up approach to facing the world. Our smallest chance of a glimpse of summer sees us shed our clothing (not always a good thing!) and shed our inhibitions (same applies!).
Happiness for many, is as fleeting as the weather. Happiness for me is my core, enriched by the fleeting moments where the seasons stimulate my being and I appreciate my surroundings twofold.
“Sometimes you have to create your own sunshine.” You can do it!

Dream BIG, Sparkle MORE, Shine BRIGHTLY


Back in the carefree days of my later teenage years, I recall a conversation with an elder member of society that caused me concern, but subsequently dismissed the notion with the bravado of youth. I was told that when you are older that you could count your true friends on one hand! WHAT? How ridiculous thought I, with a core of wonderful friends and a fantastic social life.

Who knew – they were indeed correct. Happiness is….my friends.
My friends have been my family through some major life events over the past few years. There are a few key players in my life who will always be with me until we end our days. These friends are the ones that you may not see daily or even weekly, but you know they have your back and will be there like a shot if needed. These are the friends who can pick up exactly where you left off when you next meet up – no questions asked. These are your soulmate friendships. For me, the most important relationships I will ever have in my lifetime.
There are the transient friends, who come into life for a reason, at a certain time, who provide support and guidance for that period in your life when it is relevant, but may drift away at a later date. Never underestimate the power of a transient friend.
There are also friendships of the opposite sex. I do not agree with the old adage that you can never just be mates with someone, that there must be some form of sexual frisson. One of my longest-serving mates is a chap. Met when I was 18 and he hasn’t been able to get rid of me since. We have survived him travelling the world, working together and he is now in Africa for two years, but the bond remains. There are times when the viewpoint of a male is most welcome, there can be less rivalry and more stupidity. But… when it comes to confidentiality and opening up the real me…it has to be the ladies. I am ambivalent about being born a female, but I do thank my stars and the babymaking dynamics of my parents that I am me! The ability to be open about life’s issues, talk through events that cause angst; all these things allow me the freedom to have learnt who I am and not let things eat away inside of me.
As we get older, making new friends can become increasingly harder. Job changes and common interests herald one or two key additions. The power of social media can also have an impact. The shared joy of Twitter and love of my football team fostered one new friendship (yep…you!). So, back to the young me, panicked at the thought of a small clique of support, I would say – it will happen. What you don’t realise is the power, nurturing and unconditional love and support that those handful of friends give and receive is worth far more than the masses of air-kissing disingenuous.
“ Friends should be like books, few, but hand-selected.” C.J Langenhoven
Dream BIG, Sparkle MORE, Shine BRIGHTLY

Unity in the Beautiful Game


Human nature, particularly the southern-residing Brit’s nature, is to avoid talking to strangers, to avoid eye contact with anyone who looks like they may possibly want to engage you in conversation, to pretend to be in a highbrow discussion on one’s mobile…all to be allowed to get on with life unhindered.

Yesterday was different. Yesterday I spoke with many people whom I had never met and would be unlikely to do so again. It was a day of unity, a day of family, the Brighton and Hove Albion football family.   I immersed myself amongst the 6000 people who watched the most momentous monetary match ( love a bit of alliteration!) in our history at the gorgeous AMEX stadium.  People talked, had the classic ‘banter’ and togetherness that only something special can bring. I saw no nastiness, I witnessed no harsh words towards the fellow fan. It was the collective consciousness at play – the wartime spirit, the united front.

Post-match, deflated and in need of food, I stopped off at a local supermarket, only to come across other adults in BHA tops. We rolled our eyes and shared a few words. Even a small child in his top saw mine and did a sad face, thumbs down.  I accosted a lady unloading her shopping into her car, a total stranger. We stood discussing the match and our respective history of Albion support five to ten minutes. Unity.  Today when I eventually venture out into the later afternoon sun, to walk along the beachfront, once the daytrippers have returned home, I will again speak to no one. Back to normal in a very unnormal time.  The private southerner in her private world. And as for the team and the fans…As a former manager always said, “Keep the faith!”  


Dream BIG, Sparkle MORE, Shine BRIGHTLY …. Win the PLAY OFFS!! SEAGULLS!

A Happiness Fund!


So the UAE, the happiest nation in the Arab world,  has a Charter for Happiness and Positivity.  Stemming from that their theme park has recognised that staff work better when they feel happy and positive about life and have set up a Happiness fund which will offer support for major life events of the staff. A downside maybe that it is to be funded by the employees themselves rather than handouts from those in power. Nevertheless, any initiative to promote well-being can only be a good thing.

With the UAE launching its Ministry of Happiness earlier this year I do wonder if any other countries will follow suit! I can’t see any of our current political stalwarts fronting such a chamber when the mere word ‘politics’ drums up other words which are far-removed from positivity!

Something needs to change.

Dream BIG, Sparkle MORE, Shine BRIGHTLY