Once in a lifetime

“Letting the days go by, let the water hold me down” – Talking Heads ‘Once in a lifetime’

Yesterday was one of those once in a lifetime moments. The London 2012 Olympics is shortly upon us and so leading up to it there is the ubiquitous ‘Carrying of the Flame’.

Yesterday the moment came upon me, in my lifetime I don’t believe I will get another chance to see the Olympic Flame carried past me – particularly less than half a mile from my own front door.

It wasn’t the best weather to view the event – in fact it was probably some of the worst type in that it was Thundering and Lightning and absolutely teeming down with rain. While the day was going by the water was trying its best to hold down the audiences’ spirits but wasn’t succeeding one bit.

Having said that I am conscious that under normal circumstances water and flames don’t mix particularly well and so it was with some trepidation I braved the elements (alongside many hundreds / thousands of others) as I was fully aware the flame had already been extinguished once on it’s UK journey and had to be re-lit by the ‘pilot’ flame carried on a back-up vehicle (I have no idea how they get round the Health and Safety implications of that one – possibly some type of Davy Lamp set up ?).

Anyway the moment was nearly upon us and we watched patiently as the convoy approached. Leading the way were about a dozen Motorcycle Outriders from the Metropolitan (London) Police force who were quite obviously miles from home and appeared just along for the ride – god knows how much overtime was being paid out by the taxpayer for this one. (yeah I know Bah Humbug moment !)

This cavalcade was followed by numerous vans and buses carrying people and I guess equipment needed for such an event plus there were also a few sponsors’ vehicles. This produced another once in a lifetime moment as based on the current drug issues the inner city is suffering from I don’t think I will ever again hear the words “Free Coke” shouted out into the eager crowds whilst half of Nottinghamshire Constabulary looked on without so much as a raised eyebrow.

What confused me though was the very large number of Police Cars – not that Police Cars were unexpected but every other was designated ARV1..then ARV2 etc etc. I wondered at first what it stood for but as one slowed down in front of me all became clear – Three very heavily armed Police officers were sat in each vehicle (ARV being Armed Response Vehicle).

Now I know Nottinghamshire hasn’t had the best reputation in the world for Law Abiding Citizens but personally I believe that the authorities were taking the legend of Robin Hood just a little too far. I mean who would want an Olympic Flame especially a second hand stolen one – not as if you could place it un-noticed on eBay and just think of the damage an open flame would do if placed near the Major Oak in the Centre of Sherwood Forest.

And then to cap it all came ‘our’ Torch Bearer. Now these in the main were chosen from the general public and as such they didn’t have to be the most athletic of beings however I think ‘ours’  lied on her application form about her prowess.

The bearers nominally carry the flame for about half a mile however it became very apparent she wasn’t going to last the distance. She started of slowly then after a matter of 50 yards or so actually started a slow jog. This got a little faster (not much) as she passed by me but then it was all downhill (literally). Although the road starts to follow a mild decline I don’t think the bearer should as well. My son who was let out of school for the occasion was stood with his peers just about 200 yards down the road from me and by the time the Torch reached his position they had to swap to a male Bearer. Maybe her plastic overcoat caused too much drag or maybe the added weight was something she hadn’t factored into her training regime.

Now there are stories of brave souls overcoming adversity who were tasked with carrying the torch – soldiers who had lost limbs in conflict, severely disabled people and all of these managed the task admirably. Not so ‘our’ lady – there appeared on face value to be absolutely nothing wrong with her and subsequently looking up her profile proved that to be the case.

I suppose I’m just a tad jealous as even though she only managed less distance than a 400 meter runner she still got to hold the flame aloft and wave to the crowd.

The thing that made me chuckle the most though was something maybe I shouldn’t laugh at all at but found it hard not to… just down the way from me in the crowd there was an elderly lady who every time a bus came by held out her arm as if to beckon it to stop  – she looked confused when they didn’t and despite several others trying to explain the situation to her appeared totally bemused at the size of the queue – all she wanted to do was get a lift to the shops !

Once in a lifetime occurrences…definitely.

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Quote for today 29.06.12

“‎Though nobody can go back and make a new beginning… Anyone can start over and make a new ending.”
― Chico Xavier

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You always hurt the one you love

“You always hurt the one you love, the one you should not hurt at all;
You always take the sweetest rose, and crush it till the petals fall;
You always break the kindest heart, with a hasty word you can’t recall;
So if I broke your heart last night, it’s because I love you most of all.”

– The Mills Brothers

To me it seems quite simple to understand why if I didn’t love another person I may break their heart without any regret, without the faintest piece of guilt – when we do not love someone who loves us, it is easy to hurt them. However, the above song refers to hurting the one we do love. How can you both hurt and love the exact same person?

When I have found myself in a position where I have had nothing whatsoever of value to lose, I have seldom if ever at all experienced disappointment. Conversely when I’ve been in love, when I have cared for someone greatly, which involved my happiness and many of my most precious experiences, there was then a great deal to lose. Hence, disappointment and frustration, and consequently a hurt bordering on physical pain, were the feelings I received when it ended.

I am not by nature a wary type of person and this combined with emotional overtones I believe makes me more vulnerable in ways that enhance the possibility of anguish. I open myself up to the greatest pain of all that of potential heartbreak and through the years haven’t learnt from my mistakes.

If I recall I seem to always have been on the receiving end of heartbreak never the one who made the break. I don’t mean by that I am perfect and the other was at fault but I am always totally honest and totally focussed on trying to make things work – maybe my issue is that I am too much so.

I guess when I believe the chips are down it could be overwhelming to those who do not recognise how much of ‘myself’ I open up, how my expectations and sheer stubbornness and will to try to work through the problems may prove unmanageable and in the end there is only ever one loser in that case. It may be I get so blinkered that I ignore what it being said to me and bullishly fight away only serving to make things worse. I am a victim of my own passion.

I do not set out to court angst but when I think of my life I can reflect that I would always prefer for it to have appeared that I tried my best and end up (at least from my viewpoint) being treated harshly than to let the relationship just drift away and be treated with complete indifference because I for one gave up to easily – there is nothing worse than not knowing the truth, nothing worse than feeling ignored, nothing worse than just giving up on something you treasure so much.

Jose Ortega y Gasset says that the person in love “prefers the anguish which their beloved causes them to painless indifference.” Similarly, the saying goes that “it is better to break someone’s heart than to do nothing with it”. Concerning those who are near and dear, psychologists report we do generally prefer anger to indifference – we would much rather they disliked us than ignored us.

If those statements are true then it’s rather ironic to know then that the people that have treated me the worst, the ones in my life who have hurt me more than I probably ever deserved even if they never set out with the intention to do so, have only done so because they love me – now where’s the sense in that ?

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The Miracle Worker

Hellen Keller“The infinite wonders of the universe are revealed to us in exact measure as we are capable of receiving them. The keenness of our vision depends not on how much we can see, but on how much we feel.”
― Helen Keller, The World I live in

Today is the anniversary of the birth of Helen Keller, in Alabama in the United States.

Young Helen Keller, blind, deaf, and mute since infancy, was in danger of being sent to an institution. Her inability to communicate left her frustrated and violent towards those around her. In desperation, her parents sought help from the Perkins Institute, which sends them Annie Sullivan to tutor their daughter.

Through both persistence and love combined with sheer stubbornness, Annie gradually broke down the walls of disability and taught Helen to communicate. Helen was six when Annie first made her breakthrough, her perseverance paid off when Helen finally learned that things have names  (I won’t post the film spoiler in case you want to see it)

Helen’s story shows the strength and power of the human will and its ability to triumph over the most devastating disabilities. Helen Keller went on to excel in all aspects of her life. She graduated from college with honours and spent the rest of her life writing, lecturing and on an ongoing basis inspiring people worldwide.

Her story is told in the film ‘The Miracle Worker’ – a film worth watching if you ever get the chance. I don’t know what it is about black and white films but to me they always seem more real than those you see today – maybe it’s the grittiness of them, the fact that they aren’t as polished and ‘perfect’ as today’s examples.

Watching the film did leave me with a question though – who ultimately was the miracle worker ? Helen or Annie ? Maybe it was both ?

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Rats in the neighbourhood

I used to adore Fairy Tales when I was a child in fact if I think about it I still do – something about the escapism from the perils of the ‘real world’. One of the books I was given to read as a small child was entitled ‘Fairy Tales and Legends of this World’ . Even one of my favourite films is ‘The Princess Bride’ which although more comedic still has the basis of a fairy tale.

During my travels I have managed to visit a few places where references to stories I read as a child have become more real, one of them being Hamelin in Germany about 30 miles from Hannover.

On the 26th June in Hamelin the Germans celebrate (if that’s the right word) Rat Catcher’s Day a somewhat macabre event still familiar through a well known children’s fairytales more than seven centuries later.

But beyond the rats painted on the streets you follow on a tourist trail and the colourful souvenirs and other blatant tourist attractions, the town of the Pied Piper is full of references to a real tragedy – one recorded on the walls of the so-called Ratten­fängerhaus, or House of the Piper:

“In the year of 1284, on the day of Saints John and Paul, the 26th of June, 130 child­ren born in Hamelin were seduced by a piper, dressed in all kinds of colours, and lost at the calvary near the koppen.”

Even today, the town of Hamelin hasn’t forgotten. The street where it is alleged the children were last seen is called Bungelosen­strasse: street without drums” and by local by-law no one is allowed to play music or dance there.

When I got back to the UK, I looked into the tale and as far as I can gather there was no Piper who lured rats to their deaths by drowning in the Weser – whilst as an old mill town Hamelin was undoubtably full of rats it appears to me to have been a story that was told to mask the real event.

In fact despite what it says on the wall at the Ratten­fängerhaus there is still a question as to whether any children were lost at all – particularly after being seduced by the notes from a pipe played by a rat catcher.

Not that that really matters…the fairy tale as told by the Brothers Grimm is a good story nonetheless.

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Quote for today 26.06.12

The loss of a friend is like that of a limb; time may heal the anguish of the wound, but the loss cannot be repaired

– Robert Southey

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Upgraded…I wish !

Another day, another airport…why oh why can’t everyone just be consistent.

I was flying to Hannover via Schipol as due to the late booking I couldn’t get a direct flight, nor because I hadn’t booked them did I end up with business class tickets. Nightmare of a journey as once I arrived in Hannover I still had to get on a train to Wolfsburg where I had a meeting with Volkswagen at their production plant.

Added in to this traumatic journey was the fact I was delivering a tool that firstly was particularly expensive but secondly also fragile due to the sensitivity of the mechanism. It was decided (on my behalf by someone infinitely more senior than I – well my client at the time which amounts to the same thing) that instead of packing it in the hold to get thrown about by the luggage handlers I would be tasked with braving the hand-luggage option as I was assured it wasn’t on the ‘dangerous items’ list and there’d be ‘no problems’.

Everything went well at Heathrow (for a change) and I boarded the plane without any fuss at all. Not so when the transfer process started at Schipol.

Approaching the security check I placed my hand-luggage on the belt and walked through the metal detector hoop.

It seemed to take ages as the operator kept moving my stuff backwards and forwards through the machine until eventually it came into grasp. I was just about to take it when a man from behind the counter said “is this yours ?”

I could almost feel a sarcastic moment appearing “no of course not…in a heavily guarded closed facility surrounded by men with guns and security cameras following your every move I have decided that now is the exact time I want to try out a new role as a petty thief and pinch someone else’s hand luggage ! – are you a complete moron ?”

But instead I just said ‘yes”.

“Your item will have to travel separately from you.”

“What…why ? Do you think it’s dangerous or something, I was told it’s not on the forbidden list ?”

“Sorry sir for security purposes I’m not prepared to discuss the reasons why, but I’m informing you it will need to travel separately.”

“Can’t it go in the baggage hold ?” I ask in trepidation of the potential explanation I’d have to make should it get damaged.

“No, that’s impossible as it’s too late, it will have to be sent on the next flight”.

“But I need it – isn’t there any other way?”

Now whilst being very strict about their internal rules in some way this guy was also (like most Dutchmen I’ve met) trying to be helpful at the same time. He thought for a while and then said “Let me just check something Sir, just wait a moment and I’ll ask the pilot to see if he’s willing to take it”

A few minutes passed and then….

“He says its okay but it will have to travel at the front of the plane with the steward.”

“you’re telling me it’s going business class?”

“Yes, sir. You can pick it up from the flight steward once you’ve reached your destination and the plane has landed.”

I was relieved it was going on the same flight but at the same time somewhat shocked that not me but my hand luggage had been upgraded. I wasn’t therefore quick enough to selfishly suggest I swapped places with it so I sat up front with the steward and it had the reduced legroom halfway down the plane in my seat instead !

So for the rest of the journey through the air I had to sit drinking coffee and eating biscuits whilst my luggage was offered the luxury of free champagne and chocolates !

Upgraded…I wish !

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Quote for today 25.06.12

” Being in love doesn’t mean taking a piece of someone’s mind and changing their way of thinking, it means you took a piece of their heart and changed their way of feeling.”
– Melissa Gaug

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Create

Here’s something that someone else created that I just happened to take a picture of.

This ‘dress’ was created especially for a woman who obviously wished to take attendance at a networking event to the next level 🙂

Made from Cat5e patch cables and other assorted computer leads I’m sure you’ll agree it’s very unusual creation indeed.

In fact there’s really only one person this could have been made for…

Yes you’ve guessed…

It is another for Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta (or as you probably know her better)…

Lady Gaga.

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Quote for today 24.06.12

“I know that pain is the most important thing in the universes. Greater than survival, greater than love, greater even than the beauty it brings about. For without pain, there can be no pleasure. Without sadness, there can be no happiness. Without misery there can be no beauty. And without these, life is endless, hopeless, doomed and damned.”
― Harlan Ellison, Paingod and Other Delusions

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