The ten paw tango

We’ve had Ozzy, our Labrador puppy, for six months now. And it’s over a year since I started Googling ‘getting a second dog’ and poring over the advice on how to make sure an existing dog and a new dog get on well. But on reflection, the internet only really gave half the story. So here’s my battle-scarred contribution to the great ‘second puppy’ debate. Continue reading

Taking a moment

I read somewhere or other that our lives are a series of moments. Now, the physicist in me is quick to point out that this is a statement of the bleeding obvious. But my philosophical side would counter that, in any life, there are likely to be some moments that have greater salience than others. They just might not be the ones we’d expect.

Continue reading

You don’t have to be an accountant to achieve career success

New research tells us that those from the upper echelons of society are most likely to secure the top jobs in Britain’s leading legal and financial services firms. It’s outrageous, sure, and we should definitely do something about it. But what we really need to combat is the bizarre notion that only lawyers, bankers and accountants can achieve career success. Continue reading

On the run

“Morning.”

I’d seen the chap in the green wellies way up ahead as I ran along the coast path this morning. And bit by bit, I’d gradually caught up with him.

“Morning,” he replied, stepping to one side of the path to allow me to overtake him.

He looked me up and down slowly, in the way that farming-types do.

“You alright?”

I tried to adopt the air of someone for whom it’s perfectly normal to run around the Cornish countryside while caked completely in mud down the right hand side of my body, from my ear right down to my trainers.

“Yup,” I replied. “Lovely morning.”

He glanced again at the blood oozing out through the mud from the large graze on my knee and dribbling its way slowly down my shin.

“Bit slippery out.”

“So I noticed,” I grinned, and limped on my way.

A quick update

To say that things have been a little hectic recently would be somewhat of an understatement. And they haven’t really calmed down, to be honest. So I guess I’m just going to have to live with this new level of frenzied activity. Which means I’m going to have to become a whole lot more disciplined about setting aside time to, you know, eat, think… and write! Continue reading

The tyranny of the training schedule

You might remember that I’ve rather rashly signed up to run the Somerset Levels and Moors Marathon. Well it’s now just a couple of weeks away, and I’m slowly tapering off my running so that I end up on the start line with at least some energy left. But while it’s been fun training for the race – and, hopefully, I’ll enjoy the race itself, too – I can’t help thinking that it has taken up a rather significant amount of time. Perhaps a little too much. Continue reading

Odd yet thought provoking quote #2 *

Quote

“Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well-preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming ‘Wow! What a ride!'”

– Hunter S. Thompson

* I mentioned back in January 2012 that this might become an occasional series. Turns out I was right. But it is, admittedly, very occasional. Let’s try to ramp it up. Send me your quotes and I’ll post my favourites.

Why I run (or, more specifically, why I can’t stop running)

I think I’ve been rumbled. I thought I’d managed to hide it, but it appears that the cat may be out of the bag. At some point during the last couple of years, I’ve somehow become a runner. Not just someone who goes for a run from time to time, but an actual runner. A proper runner. With all the shorts, mud and chafing that comes with it. Continue reading

A sense of place

It’s the question that I dread above all others. A conversation starter that stops me dead in my tracks. Four little words that confuse and conspire. An innocent enquiry that sends me spiralling into an abyss of self-doubt. I’m thirty seven years old and I’m still not able to answer that most simple of queries: ‘Where are you from?’

I want to say that I was born in Suffolk, that I grew up in Dorset and that I went to university in Staffordshire. That I have lived in England, France, Germany, Russia and the United States. That I currently reside in Somerset but have no idea how much longer I’ll be there. But all that comes out of my mouth is ‘Oh, all over, really.’ And what I mean is ‘I haven’t a clue’.

We all have many attributes that define us, from our gender and our physical appearance to our taste in music and our choice of career. But our geographical heritage lies at the heart of who we consider ourselves to be. Whether we’re a northerner, a southerner, Yorkshireman, Cornishman, Liverpudlian or Bristolian, these are still the ties that bind.

I can see why this was such a big thing in decades and centuries past, when people rarely moved more than a few miles from where they were born. But in this age of cheap travel, insecure employment and wide-eyed globalisation, what does it mean to ask someone where they are from? Do we mean where they were born? Or where they live now? Or where they have lived for the longest period of time? Can any of us, in fact, now even claim to be from anywhere at all?

I think we can. But it’s not as simple as it used to be. Some of us have a clear idea of where we are from. It might, for a privileged few, be the ancestral family home in Oxfordshire or the Scottish highlands. For others it is the house in which we grew up and where our parents still live. Indeed, I have several friends in their thirties, all with houses and families of their own, who still refer to visiting their parents as ‘going home’.

Others of us, meanwhile, lead a more nomadic lifestyle, moving from place to place in response to the demands of family, career or simple curiosity. We collect addresses and residency permits like our childhood selves used to accumulate stamps or football cards. Some places pass fleetingly through our consciousness, but others leave an indelible impression on our soul. They become part of who we are.

I challenge anyone, for example, to spend time in the wilds of Scotland and not develop a sense of awe at the majesty of nature. Or in Russia and not learn to reflect on the darkness of the human condition. Or in rural Provence and not long for the simplicity of a life built by one’s own hands.

Just as scientists can tell from our bones, our hair and our teeth much about when, where and how we have lived, the places we have called home all make a difference to how we think, feel and behave. We absorb a tiny part of that place’s culture, traditions and values, adding them to the ever-growing repository of ideas and attitudes that we call ‘me’.

So if you want to learn what makes me tick, ask me about the things that have influenced me the most. Ask me about the people I have known, the things I have done and the places I have been. Ask me where I have lived, where I have loved and where I have felt most alive. Just don’t, please, ask me where I’m from.