Seasons of Summary

It’s that opposite time of the year again. For most people going about their daily lives the longer days and expected sunlight create a natural momentum and a flow of movement. If people are going to exercise at all, this is certainly the time. Just look at the available number of cycling, running and walking events and you’ll see that spring into summer is flex time.

For many students however, the opposite applies. It’s a case of heads down over the laptop, writing out index cards, slurp a warm drink, procrastinate a little, sip a little more, realign the pencils and hunch again back over the laptop.

As an examiner it’s an odd summer for me because for the first time in 6 years I’m not on the cusp of marking any papers at all because this time around; I’m the student!

I’m finishing off a 10 month course in educational assessment and although I do not have to sit exams, I do have a long report to research and write up and from a seasonal perspective; it feels wrong. I wrote an essay over December and January and found it much easier to lock myself away, pull the curtains and do what was required. The winter months feel like a much more appropriate time to spend indoors and think.

I suppose it has to be this way because the academic year runs from September to June (and nobody’s rushing to change that in a hurry) and we in the system have constructed a necessity for assessments, tests and all other Systems Of Summary to come along now, like a pan national swarm of full stops.

I’m not offering any change or amendment, but I am saying to students and parents do remember that teachers, moderators, invigilators and examiners know what you’re going through. We live through it ourselves each year and remember our own time at the sharp end. We are in fact still there because your success it ours. Educators do it for the vocation and the desire to help. If things go wrong the Sunday Mail will be quick to point and blame and quite frankly, even when things go well, they’ll do the same.

Take it from an insider, your teachers are better than ours were. What you learn is useful and of great value and a secret that others may not like to share; there’s no immediate rush. There’s always tomorrow. See a poor result not as a sign that you’re not up to it but that you’re travelling at a slower pace than the system wants, but you’re still travelling. If you can extract some enjoyment from the subject, you can definitely make it and even if you don’t like it that much, with time you can still arrive.  

YOU MAKE AN OLD MAN VERY HAPPY

Walking Football 3 years on.

Readers will know that in 2016 I started playing walking football (WF). Three years later I’m still playing. It began as an activity for people aged 50+ and has expanded so much that there are 1000’s of WF teams throughout the UK and Europe.

https://www.imagekind.com/Soccer_art?IMID=9b45c8da-3bc5-4386-acf6-4de08ca15392

At Barnet Football Club we have 2 weekly sessions and there is plenty of opportunity to take part in competitions too. I, however, do not get involved in these. A practical reason is that as I have not yet retired, I do not have spare time during the week.  The second reason is that I do not like the way that competitive games make me behave. I took part in a tournament last June and I played quite well. My team got to the semi-finals and among my team mates, developed a reputation for being a pragmatic, no-nonsense player. This is code for saying that I kicked opponents and demonstrated toughness and gamesmanship. My colleagues liked it and to be honest, I enjoyed their plaudits. However, aggression is a bad, if unapparent trait in me and considering I once ruptured my ACL trying to foul somebody, I do not wish to tap into it again. Also, it is not how a middle aged person should behave. Absolutely. Not.

I took up football again because I wanted to get fit doing a sport I love and to make new friends. Whenever we play I spend much of the time laughing out loud and enjoying the fact that the many errors we make are funny. I know I look foolish trying to do something I couldn’t even execute properly in my teens but I’m amused that my brain still imagines me doing a back-heel, even though my chocolate knee crumbles each time I pivot on it. Last year, two teenage footballers were watching our slow clumsy efforts through the fence. As I trotted towards them to collect the ball, one of them called out ‘’Scuse me, are you playing Walking Football?’ After I confirmed her suspicion, she turned to her conspirator and gleefully told her; ‘You see, they’re meant to be slow. Dummy!’

This filled me with joy. The idea that two people were mesmerized not by our prowess or rugged mature looks (yes, somebody did suggest this) but by the fact that we reminded them of their parents or quite probably; their grandparents but doing things parents and grandparents simply do not do.

Our football group is diverse. We have a men with new hips and knees, a female (although once upon a time we had more), a typical ‘London’ racial mix and some younger men that contribute towards the evening with passion and energy. The group, however, has changed. As recently as last summer we had four or five other, much better players all of whom have moved on, I understand, to higher planes of walking football. On one level I prefer this because as one of the better Mediocres, I look better by their absence but I am also disappointed to have learned that these people, all of whom I like, have rejected the pleasures of playing among mixed ‘talents’ and are aiming towards excellence.  

1973; our knees could bend without snapping

Walking Football has done a strange thing; it has brought back dreams to some ageing men. When we began I was enchanted by the notion that I could once again play the sport until I die. Something that abandoned me in the 1990’s had returned and I had my chances again. I love buying boots and other bits of kit and feel a real sense of recreational purpose. I did not however dream of being a champion. When I sat down to write this piece I was minded to be critical of those who have moved on but in writing this I realise it would be churlish to deny them their fantasy. After all, why should their dream be less valid than my non-dream?

So I say ‘go for it boys, just don’t get hurt’.

Me, me, me.

Some thirty odd years ago I wanted to be an actor. I spent much of my spare time during my 20’s in theatre groups taking improvisation workshops and actually became quite good at it. I even ran some groups myself and for the most part, enjoyed being in a creative setting where we would conjure up something deep and meaningful or and this was my preference, something funny. Observers and other actors would clap and/or cheer and I’d feel that warm glow of validation.

My romance for the stage began to wane when I visited an actor friend who was working in The National Theatre. My friend was a very talented performer and was in a play with some very well-known players including one who was already very famous and is now, some 30 years later (and here’s your clue), is known as a national treasure (NT). When I went backstage after the performance I was shocked at how small my friend’s dressing corner was in comparison to the established star’s room. We went to the actors’ bar and I spotted NT. I said to my friend I would like to meet NT. ‘No’ my friend said, ‘we’re not allowed to cavort with the ‘grown ups’. Apparently the hierarchy was so strict that unless one of the stars invited a young actor for a drink, they couldn’t mix. This is not a ‘Me Too’ story, but you can see how that whole thing happened. The star summons a junior over only if they ‘want’ something from them.

My stage ambitions were finally killed off when I was in a restaurant with some friends and we could hardly hear ourselves because a group of noisy young theatricals was behaving badly and loudly. I knew the type instantly and when they refused to quieten down I told them that singing aloud and throwing food was no substitute for talent. A few bitchy comments were exchanged but considering the people involved (me included) were more at home with vicious (you hit me with a flower) put-downs than fists, the whole thing calmed down.

What struck me was how the most annoying thing about some actors is self-aggrandisement. I stress ‘some’ because I have known others that are not in it purely to patch up their own emotional failings and are professional.

Which brings me to the so-called ‘Awards Season’ which this week culminated in the Oscars. What a steaming pile of …! This event and the others that lead up to it are simply a way of converting weak egos into big money for the industry. What is equally annoying is how the media willingly fan these peacock plumed flames, presumably to obtain exclusives to sell their own load of rubbish.

I know these awards can be seen as a harmless break from politics and the misery of daily grinding life, but it is ridiculous that true talent and creativity becomes secondary to fame and showing off.

Peacock credit; https://kitcheninterviews.com/14322/peacock-pictures-to-print/

Duck Billed Platitudes

For my sins I was scanning my Facebook page and was found by a video of an Australian male offering unique advice on how to expand ones consultancy and coaching business. Like any sucker that momentarily forgets that an advertiser is only promoting for his own benefit, I watched 2 minutes of his pitch. Idiot me. This now means that Facebook have told this person I am interested and now I’m sure to get all sorts of unsolicited messages.

The video was captivating to start but as soon as I heard him saying that people like me adopt a marketing plan based on hope rather than strategy I realised that this youthful wide boy was making wild assumptions as well as being patronising and incorrect. His one astute comment; that freelancers are deeply interested in doing what they do was nullified by the claim that freelancers do not want to invest in building their passion into a proper business because they just want to do their work. His whippersnapper error was thinking that we come at it without experience or market knowledge. I turned off realising that nothing is new.

Over the last year I have faced several challenges in business but have come through them. My colleagues and I have achieved this by being dogged, persistent, flexible and above all, client centred. We have also reminded ourselves that rules are there to be adhered to only as far as the letter is concerned and that their spirit is not so important. Like the Video Boy above who pretends he is in it to help others, rules are only really there to benefit the rule makers. We cannot break rules, especially moral ones and those that are bound by law, but with experience we can learn to manipulate them. Having just Googled ‘How to get more coaching and consultancy clients’ I have found several organisations that offer the same as Video Boy and at a glance (I refused the cookie assault option) most appear to be fronted by young sales people of the same ilk that used to sell double glazing, used cars and Encyclopaedias. Not only is nothing new, but it is clear that selling services and products is still being done in the same old pushy style as ever before. Tap into peoples’ frailties and convince them that as it was you that guessed their weaknesses, you can fix them.

Some years ago I asked a psychologist friend what she thought of Neuro Linguistic Programming (a.k.a. NLP) and she replied ‘same old wine, new bottles.’ Nowadays you’re more likely to hear people discussing CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) and believe me, it is once again that same soured vinegar but now it’s in biodegradable bottles.

Last night we dined in a very pleasant Indian restaurant in a London suburb that served delicious subcontinental dishes in small portions and labelled them ‘tapas’.  It reminded me of Cuisine Nouvelle from the 1980’s and more recently, Balti style Indian food which still exists but has, I am reliably informed, retreated to Birmingham.

My point dear reader is that as we creep over the calendar border into a new Anno Domini, you should eschew resolutions and avoid pressurising yourself just because other people are telling you to. By all means pick a new name for what you are selling and begin a new health regime but do it when it suits you, not when the media and pushy sales people from Slimming World or WW decide you should.

Change and improvement is always possible and even when it seems improbable, it is worth trying but to give yourself the best chance; do it when you want to.

Remember; a carrot is worth more than a stick because it helps you see in the dark.

carrot-stick-article

CREDITS

This is not the video I saw, but it is similar: https://milliondollarcoach.com/events-aus/

image; https://medium.com/@Bravado/on-closing-week-quotas-and-pushy-salespeople-8204164b3ee

image: http://www.mcpheeandrewartha.com.au/motivating-employees-carrot-stick/

Evaluation across the Nation (thin end of a fat wedge)

I am an exam marker.

A question I am currently marking asks students to describe how a department store’s customer service standards should be set to ensure that they are maintained. The learners are meant to answer that the standards have to be measureable so that ups and downs can be monitored. E.g. if the store consistently opens its doors at the scheduled time or if all phone calls are answered within, say, 5 rings, a standard has been met.

Newton-WilliamBlake
No Apples!  Isaac Newton by William Blake

Of the 120 plus answers I have seen so far, I’d say that no more than 30% have been correct. Some of the wrong answers could have been construed as right in other contexts e.g. some students wrote that a customer survey, mystery shopper or a Trust Pilot review could reveal the truth about the quality of service but the question has to be answered in relation to the taught criteria and as the  examiner, I have no latitude. Whether the teachers taught the students badly (it can happen) or the candidates forget and come up with creative alternatives, nothing can be done. Wrong is wrong.

My gripe is not specifically about the example above (which has been doctored anyway to avoid me getting a detention from the Assessment Organisation) but it’s about the fact that it exemplifies a societal shift towards evaluating everything as yes/no or right/wrong. Whereas some topics like mental health and gender orientation are being considered in non-binary and more spectrum way, it seems that in other areas there is a move towards facts being correct and everything else being ‘fake news’. You might think it is this way to make it is easier for people like me to mark papers but this really is not the case. Examination setters do not prioritise assessors having an easy time and are dedicated to the task of testing various combinations of students’ knowledge, exam competence and memory. The problem in my view is that there is pressure from above to tie everything up quickly and neatly and in this process variations, nuance and out-of-the box thinking are being dismissed.

It feels that in the shadows of Brexit and Donald Trump there is now tacit permission in hard reaction to fluidity and spectrum and the power brokers are kicking back at the ‘thinking classes’;  ‘We’re fed up with your liberal open minds. By all means carry on talking among yourselves but in the meanwhile just do what we say or we either won’t pay your wages or we’ll pulp you.’

Art Science
Science currently rules over art as a way of avoiding the unanswerable questions.

Scientists do not lack creativity and artistic people aren’t illogical. Intelligent people can be any combination of scientific and artistic but annoyingly the employer classes pick and choose systems that are expedient for their own means and currently this means that reducing costs and/or making high profit trumps (LOL, as they say) gut reaction, thin slicing and provocative thinking.

It’s easier to think that data provides the answer because it means we can look away from the scary internal infinity that swirls around inside every person.

Why not read:

https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2009/mar/07/first-impressions-snap-decisions-impulse

https://www.theguardian.com/science/2012/aug/19/thomas-kuhn-structure-scientific-revolutions

Run to and run from but don’t run there.

I have been running for almost a year now and like most people that have taken up the activity, I find the arrival of the winter evenings with their wind and rain rather off putting.  Although I successfully ran through last winter, it still looms like a rude giant that places his pock-marked face right up to mine and dares me to ‘have a go’. LA BAGNAIA

Of the various winter running strategies I have come across, the one that currently appeals comes from a conversation I had with a friend. He told me that he has taken to thinking about blue skies. This is not a re-hash of noughties’ blue sky thinking or any other management school hyperbole but is something literal.

He confided that each day he thinks of a simple and good thing to get an appreciation of life and a blue sky, when it’s here is wonderful. I have invested much time over the years in seeking out deep meaningful clues (to life). I’ve had temporary successes like when I began my ‘silence project’ two years ago, but little has endured and I think the reason is that I sought out obscure ideas because they felt clever rather than simple ones. The idea of ‘think of something good’ now appeals because it is just so straightforward.

A few weeks ago I went to Tuscany (see my previous blog) to attend a UNESCO tourism event. I have been to many exhibitions over the years but due to the fact that the invitations have become fewer, I now value them much more when I get the chance to attend.

As I checked into the hotel (Hilton’s La Bagnaia Resort near Siena)

scenic view of the field from the road
Photo by bruce mars on Pexels.com

I was told both good and bad news. The good news was that the resort had a gym and the bad news was that it is 1.5 km along the road. I had brought my sports gear and wanted to run but was put off by the fact that the gym was a five minute drive away. I realised however that I could run to the gymnasium, do more running there and then run back.

It was Friday evening in early October. As I left my room and stepped onto the cobbled yard I was struck by how temperate the weather was. There was a pleasant caress of warmth accompanied by a hay like aroma that reminded me of somewhere I had never been. I walked downhill through a stone arch and began to run. It was easy to begin as the descent continued and the scenery was ancient and calm. To one side was a manicured golf course which although pretty and green is a manufactured construct that bends nature to reinventing itself in the name of a rather pompous pastime. The other side was more natural and rough and the high hedge along the route obscured me seeing over it. I had to be careful with the running as the country road had a grass margin that was as bumpy as the pot-holed road and I am always aware of the risk of twisting an ankle. I managed however to grab a few upward skyward glances and noted the friendly deep blue above.

After 9 or so minutes I approached the building that housed the gym and realised I did not have enough time to run in the gym here and then get back so I eschewed the indoor facilities and completed my 3km by running back to the resort. I found it amusing that because I had run to and from the gym I had rendered its existence rather pointless.

 

I can remember standing by the wall

SIENA Ren Photo

…which was some 20 metres in front of me. As I had been in front of hundreds of  other Renaissance walls over the last 30+ years, the tour guide’s explanation was rather easy to switch off to. She knew her stuff and dispatched her lines with passion but the fact that I had been travelling for a whole day and it was now late evening meant I was not open to learning new material.

That was until I heard her comment that this mural was created almost 700 years ago. The sheer old age of the massive painted wall struck me much more than the work itself. That is not to say that the painting lacked impact but it was the realisation of its ancientness that really impressed me. I stared at the expanse and imagined a team of committed young artists (presumably all men) perched high up on wobbly ladders and wielding heavy brushes in cold damp winters and hot sweaty summers. Each one would have had the mind set of an intern doing his best to impress the maestro and would have been exuding a deep concentration. And like an intern, the artists probably suffered from the nagging fear that this was the proverbial ’it’, their career apex and that the next gig was not guaranteed because other hopeful apprentices were coming through the ranks and would be the next in line to be underpaid.

Another realisation was the absolute attention to detail that the artist and his team would have invested in creating and interpreting the picture. Being a very large piece, the translation from say an A3 sketch to something around 10 meters tall would have been a labour of complex (what we now call) logistics. The artists were clearly technically adept at drawing and painting on ‘normal’ sized canvases, but to magnify the effort to around 30 times the regular size must have been a serious challenge.

I found myself wondering what motivated artists to take on such colossal and difficult projects? I suppose the main creator would have enjoyed a decent pay out from his client which would have been the city council (as in this case), a wealthy benefactor or the church, but I don’t think people became artists to make big money. The motivation would I suspect have been from faith, both religious as in most Renaissance paintings and in their own artistic journey.

It’s hard for me to relate to religious faith because I have no compelling beliefs of my own, but when I consider that the artists of the period could not express themselves other than through formal topics I am rather envious that they could conjure up inspiration, even if it was based on what I consider to be a stifling and obligatory (religious) premise.

In this, the 21st Century we see ourselves, in the west at any rate, as having a free access to expression. I can write this blog and although some people may criticise it (not that I allow any comments) I won’t be imprisoned for it. I wonder though how helpful this liberal backdrop actually is. If people created valid works of art under the constraints of religion and politics how valid is freedom of expression in the creative context? The present seems to throw up so many mercenary artists that go for the money that I wonder if freedom is the bed fellow of cynicism.

damien-hirst
A modern day so called artist channelling his inner Jackson Pollock in a literal way. 

 

 

 

 

 

Top picture: Il Guidoriccio da Fogliano, rifacimento quattrocentesco di un originale di Simone Martini (1330) Siena, Italy

Damien Hirst photo: https://www.designboom.com/art/damien-hirst-winning-caption-first-instagram-competition-veil-paintings-08-18-2018/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Shift of a glance (Eagle’s view)

 

August lies beyond the middle of the year but somehow affords a better position to see the span of the months than the end of June. I envy the Eagle that swoops where she wishes and appears to be able to look backwards and forwards in the shift of a glance and a tilt of her span.

Aigle
‘Fly it all out like an eagle in a sunbeam. Ride it on out like you were a bird.’

Future gazing offers a sense of hope which wafts in on the cooler air. I don’t buy into that concept that autumn is a season of decay and I greatly prefer nature’s ‘turn to red’ hues to the pressing heat of the summer dog days which as a non-sun worshipper have, especially this year, been burning for too long.

 

I was recently in our family home in the French Alps. We are located half way up (and so too, halfway down) a mountain. The daytime temperature in August is hot and brings along bees, butterflies and less glamorous bugs. The night time, heralded by the quick sinking of the sun behind the western ranges brings a sharp coolness that dovetails into cold at which point the moths break out and flap towards the lights when the stillness of the evening gets too complacent.

Looking to the south one can see the continuing summer of Italy and when I turn west-by-north-west, the snow/glacier peaks remind me, without much subtlety that winter approaches.

The passing of time was a topic of this brief sojourn. It came about because I was helping my brother Dan to tidy the house in an attempt to make it ready to be rented out. We have as a family been going there for 26 years and although most people have over this time only stayed for holiday length periods, there was still a considerable amount of clutter that needed moving to the figurative ‘deleted’ file.

The clutter itself was interesting and tells not only its own story but also that of whoever left it there. My mother, in whose image the house essentially is, was highly organised. We found her neatly folded bed linen in plastic bags with labels detailing the sizes and bed types they matched; ‘long single duvet’ and ‘ plain pillowslips’.

Sheets LabelMR SHeet

 

A pristine double white sheet bears the red sewn initials MR.  Its provenance being my mum’s haberdasher Aunt; Millie Rom and it must be nearly 100 years old. Crockery and kitchen aids date back to the 1990’s and being unused since before my mum passed away in 2001, sit in a cupboard. Despite Daniel trying to move them around to occupy more accessible spots they remain again in the exact same and most logical and reachable position as before our ‘big clean.’ We discussed why our mother had labelled and organised to such detail but didn’t really conclude much as it was just what she had always done. We got the feeling that she wanted to facilitate all our lives through planning and her system definitely cut through the years and made their passing less violent than in the wake of the sort of mess I shall probably bequeath.

Some 4 or so years after my mum died my father began living with Ruth. Her tale is for another day but what I found of hers tells a story too and can be seen succinctly in a small pot of her L’Oreal face cream. Ruth was of small stature and intelligent. She loved art and reading books. These interests aside what really came across in the 12 years I knew her was that she really hated getting old. The small pot of cream is to this day barely used and I can imagine her taking a tiny dab, as per instructions, in order to defy the passing time. Her death, the result of pancreatic cancer was rapid and unrelenting. It was very nasty but ironically and despite her being in her 80’s the speed of the disease helped her defy time and her period as a poorly person was brief.Ruth's Cream

My father, now in his 90’s fights time by looking to the future. One of his preoccupations was how he was going to transport a shoot from one of his mountain plants back to London without it suffocating in his suitcase from the fumes from his other contraband; salami and cheese.

Looking at the bees harvesting pollen from the lavender bush it amused me to think that they and he just carry on planting for the future with only a vague guarantee of inclusion within it.

lavender
Bees to lavender

The loneliness of the long distance training deliverer (and other stories)

I recently I took part in the London Adidas City Run. Along with my close friend, Gis, we ran for 60 non-stop minutes around a marked-out circuit by St Paul’s Cathedral, London. This was a culmination of ten month’s training that began with the couch-to-5k programme which helped us develop from two slow moving middle aged men into two fit slow moving middle aged men that can run 7.25 km in an hour.

When in 1970 we were forced during PE lessons to take part in our school’s weekly road-run, we habitually finished in positions 28 and 29 out of 30 boys. We couldn’t run and hated the pain, the humiliation and the bullying PE teachers (in those days the sports teachers were barely qualified to do anything other than wear tracksuits and go bald in their twenties). REN RUN2

By contrast, The Adidas City Run was a fantastic triumph. The feel-good factor kicked in after 40 minutes and I completed the last third of the event with a smile on my face and a literal spring in my step. I felt as though I was in a great new place and fuelled by the optimism of finding an activity I can potentially do until my legs give up I grinned my way to the finishing line.

Three days later I delivered a training session. It was miserable.  Regular readers will know that I have been training people at work for many years and I can predict within minutes of starting a session how it’s going to turn out. I arrived on time but the company I was doing it for had not arranged for an up to date Laptop and my memory stick just wouldn’t load properly. By the time it was working the delegates had already settled down and I knew that all they had seen of me was my back. I was immediately on the defensive because normally I like to greet the delegates as they file in because the mutual smiling and eye contact has an immediate atmosphere warming effect.

Eventually the computer worked. I was able to deliver and perform to a good level for a full 16 minutes and 14 seconds, at which point when an embedded video begins, it failed. The screen froze while the projector spewed out white hot light. The only way I could show the video to the delegates was to invite them to gather around the laptop. I attempted to paint the moment as cosy but it was painfully obvious that of the 8 people, 3 of them, possibly because they were from ‘management’, were uncomfortable with rubbing shoulders with the hoi polloi (their thoughts, not mine).

The mechanics of the event were pathetic. The company had organised it poorly and annoyingly this reflected badly on me and affected my performance. I stuttered and stumbled and at one point even forgot a definition I have been explaining for 12 years. What was worse was that this was my own material! The responses from the group were at a low level throughout and to a trainer this is dreadful because whatever the underlying reasons, it means I was not engaging with them and this was my fault. I can usually break through barriers but sometimes the frustration gets a grip and once my mood drops it’s hard to ‘keep the dressing room’.

In the past I have dealt with technology failure by delivering ‘naked’. The results can be much better and the learners, by having no choice but to focus on me rather than a screen, usually respond better. I wish I had thrown the laptop away and done the brave thing on this occasion but I was aware that I was rusty and opted to hold onto the crutch that calls itself Power Point.

The lesson from the week?

Practice.

My running has grown better and better with practice and attention to detail. By contrast, my training session was below standard because I had not rehearsed it enough and when the little glitches came along, I allowed them to derail me. It’s all very obvious, but sometimes one needs a reminder and this is it.

 

{im}perfect is as good as it gets

 

The nearing horizon flattens and remarkably the third World Cup since I’ve been blogging about football bends into view.

I have in some ways detached myself from the sport. There are ‘good’ and ‘bad’ reasons for this. The primary ‘good’ reason is that I have as far as my writing is concerned, successfully transferred my football thinking over to other topics and because of this have reached more people. I always intended to use football as a metaphor and am glad my hunch was right, people do ‘get’ it. BALL BEARING

The ‘negative’ reasons for me being less involved in football are more basic. Both my domestic and my international teams have embraced mediocrity and achieved little. There is nothing as powerful as failure if you want to un-love something and both Arsenal and Italy have done this for and to me. They have lost a lot and are withered, weak and imperfect.

I have frequently written about the emotional pain that is football’s inevitable long shadow and that fans buy into a team because they somehow value the particular flavour of the pain/pleasure doled out by their side. I have also confessed how I’d like to be completely un-committed to any team and am frustrated as to why I am forever pulled towards an entity, a pseudo tribe that knows nothing of nor cares for me.

In 2012 I began to sidestep soccer and address other (more important) subjects such as mental health, emotional wellbeing, isolation and nostalgia. Although these subjects may have random elements in common with each other I now realise that as a group they reflect the fact that our lives and our world are dominated by flaws. It always was and shall always be this way. Even if something appears to be perfect e.g. a ball bearing, when examined under a microscope it is dented and scratched and even worse its constituent neutrons keep shivering and shaking. Dancing a jig as if to poke fun at observers who talk about objects being solid and reliable. There is basically nothing fixed or in a steady state in the world. It’s all in flux and vulnerable.

It’s as if hidden within the collective psyche people sense the imperfections of existence. It defines our mortality and confirms our impermanent nature and I suggest the single greatest reason why humans have invented and bought into faiths and dogmas is that they come with seemingly perfect frameworks on which questions and answers are hung side by side. As theories and paper-bound manifestos these things appear all knowing and protective but the physical realities of life can undermine any scheme in a moment.

Being of a Learning & Development disposition I have tried in these blogs to come up with ways of vaulting over or at very least, accepting life’s pitfalls. However, ‘Positive thinking’ and I divorced some six years ago when I was picked up in a seedy bar by a dominatrix called Madame Stoicism. In no time at all she signed me up and ever since then I’ve been an almost committed (reminder, I am Mr 70%) modern stoic. Phrases like it’s pretty bad, but as not as bad is it could be and expect the worst and hope for something just a bit better have helped me see things from a better perspective that has its strength based around having lower expectations

wabisabi-cup
This old Japanese tea cup is cracked. The fissure has been enhanced in gold to show how a flaw can enhance an object, and does not need disposing of.

Taking matters further, Madame S. introduced me to the Japanese philosophy of WABI-SABI. A concept more sedate and demure then stoicism, Wabi Sabi is based on the notion that flaws are inevitable and can be seen as differences not errors. They should therefore be embraced and even enhanced. A good example is that of older people. An old person has crinkled skin and failing eyes but their insight and experience can add to many situations and ought to be valued. Equally, a person with an Autistic Spectrum Disorder might have different ways of dealing with life and can bring other skills to the party such as deep knowledge of a special interest or have the ability to see into and around a quagmire of numeric data that looks like random digits to most neuro-typical people.

Completing the centre circle.

WABI SABI is purloined from Buddhist teachings that look at the three marks of existence; suffering, impermanence and emptiness.

If this trio doesn’t sum up being a football fan, then nothing does but when it brings in the acceptance of differences as part of the whole we can maybe feel the suffering a little less. It also brings us nearer to the Olympic ideal that: The most important thing in the Olympic Games is not winning but taking part; the essential thing in life is not conquering but fighting well. (Baron Pierre de Coubertin). Given that my team is not in this World Cup I shall observe the unfolding events and with an impartial view accept flaws and difference within the concept of a beautiful game without having to feel sad.

 

Some useful references:

https://savvytokyo.com/wabi-sabi-the-japanese-philosophy-of-embracing-imperfectionism/

And here’s a cynical and predictable counter argument;

https://www.telegraph.co.uk/men/thinking-man/wabi-sabi-new-hygge-spare-half-baked-philosophies-new-age-bilge/

 

http://www.bbc.co.uk/ethics/sport/overview/introduction.shtml

Ball Bearing; https://www.brickwerks.co.uk/ball-for-gearlever-detent-t3-5spd.html

Wabi Sabi Cup: http://eclecticgirldesigns.com/index.php/2017/01/21/the-wabi-sabi-of-collecting/