Long Dark Winter

Long Dark Winter

News Years Eve 2020. Coronavirus. Pubs closed. Shops Closed. Social contact restricted. It is most assuredly going to be a Long Dark Winter.

I think few would disagree that this winter is going to be hard work. I believe those that already suffer with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) will be joined by many other people.

The conditions are surely set for Mental Health challenges like no other year. There has been much talk about the looming mental health crisis caused by the COVID lockdowns. To use a popular phrase, “I don’t think we’ve seen the peak yet”.

From a personal perspective, I would admit that I have struggled in the last couple of years with the dark, wet weather of January and February. I have dealt with this by booking a holiday or trip for March. A target if you like. Something to look forward to. Again, this winter, that approach is removed. As is the social interaction that the pub brings. Working from home means little interactions there either.

The human being is by nature a social creature. We rely on it. When it’s not there, we notice. We most assuredly miss it.

It is more important than ever that we carry forward the lessons of the past year. The community spirit. The check up phone calls. The caring. The good deeds. looking after each other.

It has probably never been more important than ever to spend time to look after each other.

As well as looking after each other, we must look after and cherish the NHS. This most cherished of British institutions is in the fight of its life to keep us safe and well.

Please use the NHS wisely. Follow the guidelines. Allow them the space to help us. But if you genuinely need help, ask for it.

There are people and organisations out there waiting to help.

  • Family members
  • Friends
  • Your local GP
  • The Samaritans – 116 123
  • Mind – mind.org.uk
Grumpy Child

Hope for me yet

I write this blog as a sometimes grumpy old man. Sometimes as a thoughtful old man. I do this because I so often feel that way. However, I witnessed something a few weeks ago which made me think there is hope for me yet.

It’s true, I am not as bad as I thought when compared to others!

The event that I will describe, was a local one. Very local to me. An example of people growing old disgracefully.

Most people are aware of the measure IQ. A simple number that indicates your level of intelligence. Your IQ is established early in your life and generally stays the same throughout your life.

Most people are not aware of the measure EQ. This is your emotional intelligence.

Your emotional intelligence grows steadily until the the age of 40-45. After this, your emotional intelligence slowly drops. With effort, you can maintain it at a higher level for a few years, but not many.

Once your Emotional Intelligence (EQ) starts to fall, you know that your actions may upset other people. The further it falls, the less you care.

I am early on this downward curve!

The event that I witnessed was on the local bus service. The number 18.

The bus links a large residential area with the local town and the nearby city. It is very popular with the elderly.

On this particular day, the bus was busy. The average age of the passengers was well over 70.

As the bus rounded a corner, a delivery lorry was trying to manoeuvre into position so that the crew could make a delivery. As it did this, it was momentarily blocking the road. A very common occurrence. A minute or 2 of patience and all is good.

The thing that struck me was the vitriol, anger and abuse that the elderly passengers let forth.

Some of the comments that were shouted up and down the bus are not repeatable on this blog. However in summary, they questioned the drivers intelligence. His common sense was called into question along with accusations of being selfish, uncaring and stupid. 

As the lorry got into the space, the bus was able to squeeze past. The man in the seat in front of me did no more than lean across to the window and provide a gesture to the driver of the lorry. 

The gesture was followed by a proud announcement to all the passengers on the bus saying “Thats the international gesture for D**khead” he announced.

I was initially annoyed and angry about the behaviour of the older generation.

Why so angry? why so aggressive. It delayed the journey by just 1 or 2 minutes. The bus driver was calm. I was calm. We were probably the only 2 with a timetable to keep.

I soon calmed down. The events had given me an idea for a blog post!

It also made me realise that there is still hope for me yet. I don’t want to be those people.

If you ever think you don’t care about if your actions will upset others, please please think about your actions. It just takes a moment of pause to consider your actions rather than your reactions.

There is hope for me yet!


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Why say no to vaccines?

The first vaccine has been approved by the UK regulators. Good news? I personally think it’s great, however some disagree. So I ask, Why say no to vaccines?

Before I start, I would like to say thank you and congratulations to the scientists that have done such amazing work. So often the human race relies on science to get us out of problems. It seems it is about to do so again. Thank you!

So why say no to a vaccine? I find it difficult to comprehend and understand this attitude. Much thought and research has gone into my thoughts and reasoning. Please allow me to put forward some answers that I have come up with. To what I consider bizarre statements.

It can’t be safe, it’s only taken 10 months. Other vaccines have taken years.

This argument is easily and logically answered. As a result of the global pandemic :-

  • The scientific community has had access to virtually unlimited funding around the world. A situation that does not normally occur.
  • Every available scientist and resource that was required, was made available.
  • Co-operation and information sharing has happened on a global scale.
  • The virus has been rampant meaning the trials were easier to complete.
  • There has been great co-operation between scientists, drug companies, and regulators.

All this put together in an unprecedented fashion, linked with a bit of luck has made this achievement possible.

I don’t know what’s in it, therefore I am not having it in my body.

Really! Do the people that say these things understand everything that they put in their body? I strongly suspect not!

Have they never eaten at a restaurant? Have they never had a burger at a fair? Are they all scientists and understand the drugs and vaccinations that they have likely had throughout their lives?

I have a feeling they don’t. This alone makes it a ridiculous argument.

No one can know everything. You have to have trust that the appropriate experts know what they are doing. If you didn’t have this faith then you would likely need to live naked and in a field! I bet these people take holidays and fly on aircraft. Do they know sufficient to make and fly or plane or do they trust the experts? Do they trust the builder of the house they live in? The water company that supplies their water?

The government is trying to track us.

So firstly, what makes these people so Interesting out of a population of 66,000,000 in the uk?

If we get over that question, then there are simpler ways for the government to track them. If they drive a car, they can be tracked by number plate cameras. Perhaps they make purchase in a shop and use a card payment? Perhaps they do a google search on their destination before they go. More than that, what’s the betting they have a mobile phone of some description.

In other words, even if governments were efficient enough and creative enough to fake a global pandemic so they could inject everyone, why would they when there are ways already in play?

I’m not taking it, we don’t know if there are any long term effects.

Now the statement about not knowing of any long term effects is perhaps a valid one. However, how do we find out if everyone adopts this attitude?

As I have said in previous blogs, life is about risk. You take a risk getting up in the morning. Stepping g outside your house is a risk. Eating food is a risk. If we never take risks, we may as well live in the field naked (oh hang on, that’s probably risky as well!)

We all take risks on a daily basis. Probably more than we actually realise. Life is a risk management game.

I do not suggest that you blindly place your faith in others. After all, it is your body and your life. Do your research if you like (please acknowledge you are probably not an epidemiologist). Ultimately the question must be, am I at more risk if I don’t take it. My opinion (for what it’s worth) is, yes you are more at risk. Not only that, you can potentially put others at risk.

You should also consider, that if no one ever took these risks, we probably would not have the medicines and medical knowledge that helps so many of the population on a daily basis. Have these people never taken a paracetamol? Antibiotics?

Grow up and get over yourself.

For all those using the above arguments and others, I say, ‘Get over yourself’.

Life is a risk. It is however less risky if we all work at it together. Spreading doubt and conspiracy theories is not helpful at a time of national crisis.

We all want our lives to go back to normal. We can achieve that. However, to do so, we need to work together and move forward. Nothing was ever achieved without risk.


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For many, Autumn is a sublime time of the year. I am not in disagreement with these people.

As the weather cools, nature entertains and cheers us with a stunning display of colours. A rich mix of Browns, Yellows and reds. These colours are contrasted against the bright blue sky of the autumnal sunshine. The air becomes crisp and fresh.

As summer clothes are swapped for winter attire, the cacophony of natural colours are matched by bright scarves and hats of people walking through nature.


This autumnal showcase is, alas, short-lived. The vibrant colours fade to a dull brown and disappear leaving trees devoid of foliage and colour.

Gone is the greens of summer, and the reds, yellows and browns of autumn. As the warmth of summer is replaced with the chill of winter, the human race prepares itself for the short days and long nights that accompany the winter season. The flower buds of spring seem somewhat distant.

Whilst I do love the few weeks of colour, I am reminded that it signals the start of the long, cold, dark winter evenings. I find these evenings something of a challenge. I am not a homely person, I like to be out. However, this year I must learn to love my home.

More challenging than ever

This year, I fear will be more challenging than most. Coronavirus and being seperated from friends and family will be a hard addition to the normal challenges.

Gaps in the photo album

There will no doubt be events that will be missing from the calendar that can never be replaced. Moments in life that will not be captured and remembered. I have in mind the parents that may miss out on a school carol service or nativity play. These moments can not be recreated at a later date and will be missing from the photo album forever.

The festive celebrations will, for many be subdued and challenging. We know not what form these celebrations will take. Due to this lack of knowledge, preparing ourselves for it to be different is a must.

Some of the activities that we partake in over the festive period will take on more significance and importance. More joy must be extracted from the simple activities such as decorating the tree. The giving and receiving of gifts. The music. Remembering the true meaning of the festive period.

Remember those that may struggle

More than that, we must remember and support those people who may be alone. Those that struggle through the dark evenings in the best of times.

I truly hope that the community spirit that was so welcome and prevalent earlier in the year will return. Once more, the local community becomes more important than ever before.

I for one, look to the next couple of months with a sense of unease. I feel strong mentally at the moment and I hope that I can maintain this. However, we must look out for people who struggle. We must help each other. Together, as a community, we will work our way through this.

It would be true to say, that we never really know what the future holds. This autumn, that statement is more relevant than ever. Undoubtedly there will be difficulties that need to be overcome. Overcome them we surely must.

As always, I have a plea to you all.

Obtain joy and satisfaction from every place that you can. Allow yourself to be entertained and cheered by the simple things. Use the technology that is all encompassing in our world for good. Focus on the local community, the people on the street where you live. Always remember that the smallest acts of kindness will make a real difference to people. Please remember that your small actions really matter.

You perhaps think that this post is mis-timed. However, the normal routines of winter will need to be thought about and planned. We need to think ahead. Identify those that may need help. As a result, we need to start now.

And Remember..

Following autumn and winter, Spring and summer will surely follow.


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Stick with me


A single word in the English dictionary, but with such powerful meaning: Loyalty

Not only powerful, but desperately important, both in friendship and in business.


Can you imagine not knowing if you’re your friend will be your friend tomorrow? I have often written or spoke about the importance of friendship and real friends. Equally in tough times, showing loyalty to a small local business is so very important.

I am going to discuss both types of loyalty as they mean so much to me.


When it comes to friendship, I judge a real friend to be a person that you know will be there for you during thick and thin, good times and bad. You know that no matter how the friendship started, that person will be there for you. That is true loyalty. Loyalty that can’t be measured, nor should you feel the need to measure it. I will repeat what I have said in previous blogs, if you have 2 such friends, you are rich indeed.

Give and take

As with anything in life, it is not just about accepting loyalty. Giving loyalty is possibly even more important. It may not always be easy. They do say that a friend in need is a pain! I don’t consider this to be true. A friend in need who comes to you for help is a friend that recognises the friendship and loyalty. They trust you will be there for them. That alone is recognition that they value the friendship and know you will be there for them. There can be no greater complement.


In my opinion, it would be true to say that human friendship and loyalty is simple and clear cut. The world of business loyalty is far more complex and confusing.

As with loyalty in friendships, loyalty in business is a two way street.

You know who you are loyal to

If you are like me, there are certain businesses or brands that you trust implicitly. It may be a small local shop. Perhaps your local boozer. Maybe it is a big chain store.

The loyalty that you have is likely to have been built up over a long period of time. Months, years or perhaps even decades.

I am absolutely certain that you can name half a dozen such businesses that you will go out of your way to use. Those businesses will have served you well. Been there when you expected them to be. They will provide the service that you have come to know and appreciate.

That loyalty will have been hard earned by those businesses. Perhaps long hours. They may have tolerated you when you perhaps unknowingly upset them. It is possible that they helped you even when they knew you were wrong.

For their hard work, you choose to use that business or service over others when you can. You probably go out of your way to use them and support them.

In other words, they work hard for your loyalty and you choose to give it.

Some don’t get it

In other words, they work hard for your loyalty and you choose to give it.

How many times do you have to change company when they don’t recognise your loyalty? Perhaps when they give a better to deal to a new customer than they would to a long term customer. In 20+ years of owning a house, I think I have changed my insurance and utility providers in all but one year. Why? Simple, they are not willing to work for that loyalty, nor recognise it. Where is the loyalty in that? It is the same with banks and building societies, after an introductory period, the interest rates will rise or drop depending on the product.

For me, this defies any sort of logic. Surely it is better (and cheaper) to keep the customers they have. Attracting new customers is expensive and time consuming so why do they choose to alienate the customers who may become loyal if they were treated fairly.

Lies, Damn lies and statistics

Sure, in business it may look better on the balance sheet and reporting to show that they have gained x number of customers and hope that those customers will fall onto the ‘normal’ rates after a period of time. It’s what the shareholders like to see. What doesn’t show on a balance sheet is customer good will. They figures won’t show how much it cost to acquire those customers with cheap deals, advertising, on boarding etc. In many ways, what the shareholders are told goes back to the topic of lies, damn lies and statistics.

From my perspective, the best customers a business can have a rare loyal ones. They will promote your company more than a disgruntled one will. They will also respond with loyalty if, as a company, they earn it.

That has got to be better for customer and company alike. Surely that must be true. Put even in more simplistic terms, is it not just doing what is right?

In both of these scenarios, there is probably more to discuss and consider than I have time for in this blog and podcast. My view may be overly simplistic, potentially flawed in someways. It is however The rule that I live by. I want to offer my loyalty if I can and I so very much appreciate the loyalty that I believe I can count on and trust.

If the local community and high street achieved such levels of loyalty in terms of community and business, how wonderful would it be? The stress and pressures of life would reduce. Perhaps we would even be happier in our lives.

My plea to you

As is often the case,  I am finishing this weeks entry with a plea to all the people who read or listen to this. The please is simply to try and offer loyalty whenever you feel you can. Both to your closest friends and the those small local businesses that are close to you.



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Face Mask in hand

The mind behind the mask

Right now, face masks are very much in the news. However, I am more concerned with the mind behind the mask (or lack thereof).

I don’t believe that anyone likes wearing these masks. However, for the common good of everyone, the law demands that we wear them in certain circumstances.


It is perhaps a good time to understand the theory behind the rules and who they protect.

The mask is intended to stop the wearer infecting those around them by limiting the distance that water droplets from the person can travel. In other words, we are protecting those around us.

What does this say about the non-wearers?

When I consider this question, I arrive at two different answers.

The first is that these people do not understand the purpose of the mask and think that the risk of not wearing one is there’s. Perhaps they think they won’t get it.

The second is that these people just don’t care about others and have no morals.


This is such a massive question. Why do people think the rules don’t apply to them? What makes people think they can use the health loopholes without the actual ailment?

I am no psychologist so I just cannot answer that question. However, the question is largely irrelevant. Indeed, it should be replaced with the question; why can’t they obey the law?

I really do not know that answer to this question either. I can only suggest that they are either stupid, selfish or ignorant. Perhaps even all 3!


I think it is really sad and worrying that these people are out there. Right now, we need everyone to obey the rules. It matters not to me if you agree or like the rules or not. Rules are rules.

If we as a country are to get this virus under control, we must all obey the rules. Indeed the law.

Wearing a mask is a simple thing to do. Not massively pleasant, but simple non the less.

For those people who think they don’t need to wear them, I say, “Grow up. Play your part. Don’t be ignorant”

Be the good mind behind the mask!


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Do I have it wrong?

As a country, the United Kingdom has been in lock down for several weeks. The rules that we are operating under are simple, or so I thought. Seeing some people, I have to ask, Do I have it wrong?

I am very fortunate as I have a nature reserve on my doorstep. I am able to undertake my 1 hour of exercise alone, with social distancing very much in mind. I understand that many people do not have such a wondrous resource to use on their doorsteps. As such I note that for some, it is less pleasant. However, this is no excuse for stupidity, ignorance and arrogance.

They say you can’t teach stupid. It seems you cannot quarantine it either.

In Nottingham, it is believed that cycle activity was up over 300% during the last weekend over normal levels. In essence this is good news; people are exercising. However, I have witnessed groups of 5 – 20 cyclists out together. Clearly they don’t all live together, so it is against the rules. Do I have it wrong?

I have witnessed groups of mums out walking together with their kids. I find it hard to believe that they all live in the same house. It is a group of more than 2. Not only this, but judging by the car keys they were carrying, they had clearly driven to meet up. Do I have it wrong?

On my way home from the hospital earlier in the week, I felt so tired that I used the bus rather than walk. I was the only passenger on the bus at first. Another traveller boarded and sat on the seat behind forcing me to move. Is this social distancing or common sense? Do I have it wrong?

The rules are really simple

The rules are really simple. The vast majority of the population is doing an amazing job of staying in and being sensible. To all of those people, I thank you.

For those cockwombles that think they know better. Believe the rules don’t apply to them. Perhaps they feel it won’t happen to them. To this people I say don’t be so selfish, arrogant or stupid.

Consequences of stupidity

For those breaking the rules, I have one simple message; Stop!

I care not a jot for you. I do care for the people you may infect. The people in the emergency services and the NHS that put themselves in harms way to look after you and your victims are heroes and they should not be put in more danger than they already are.

When I see your actions, I weep for humanity.


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It has been suggested to me that what we are living through now is something that you would normally expect to read in a history book. Coronavirus is indeed writing a new chapter of that book. Perhaps the chapter can be called the Coronavirus legacy.

The disease does not recognise rich or poor. Nor does it select who to infect based on age or race.

Approaching the peak

At the time of considering this particular blog post, the United Kingdom believes it is approaching the peak of the pandemic. There is little more I can do right now. I will continue with social distancing and staying home. All that is left for me to do right now is consider what legacy the virus may leave behind.

A change is happening now, let us not change back.

It is probably no understatement to say that the country, indeed the world, will never be quite the same again.

Whilst there can be no doubt that the virus is powerful, we can also be sure that we will overcome. As a human race, we do come together when the need arises.

Staying positive

It is at this sort of time, that a person needs to stay positive. The crisis does seem to be bringing the best out of people. There are so very many positives to take.

Over 700,000 people have volunteered to help the NHS. There are hundreds of local schemes to help support the community. So many great stories. Examples of the community becoming one in a way perhaps not seen since the war.

If you have read any of my other blogs, you will know that I often appeal to people to slow down and ‘be in the room’. This crisis is forcing us to do that. The space in schedules is allowing people to think about others. To consider the community and the greater good. It is allowing people to rekindle the spirit and to consider others. I consider it truly glorious that what people call ‘the war time spirit’ is being rediscovered and acted on.

Keeping the legacy

I really hope that once this crisis is over, that each and everyone of us reflect on what has happened. We must remember the bad and learn those lessons. We must however ensure that we really remember and embrace that good. Would it not be a wondrous Coronavirus legacy for even some of this awesome community spirit continues.

Please consider how you can carve out some time to continue this legacy when we return to normality.

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Respect for Opinions

Do you have respect for opinions held by others?

In a perfect world, this should not even be a question.

Each and everyone one of us has opinions and beliefs. We have likes and dislikes. This is a very positive situation. So why do some people not respect this?

I am sure most of us have acquaintances with whom we avoid topics of conversation. We do this because we know they won’t listen. There is a certainty that they will do nothing more than force their opinions on others.

This is shows no respect for opinions.

My belief is that opinions are wonderful and personal. I believe that they should at least be heard. Even if people don’t agree with them, at least do me the courtesy of listening. In return, i will listen and consider your opinions.

No one person can know everything

Opinions are not facts. Rather, they are beliefs and ways of thinking based on assumed facts.

No single person, knows everything. This is a fact that I truly believe. This is why opinions are so important.

Through vibrant discussion, active listening, deliberation and consideration we can build true opinions. These opinions should never be set in stone. They should constantly evolve. Only then will the opinion be the best it can be.

Constant improvement

Like anything in this life, we constantly try and improve. Rarely is the first iteration of anything the best it can be. This is why it is so desperately important to garner opinion from many sources. And to listen to that opinion.

The best opinions are those forged by listening. Absorbing information and formulating it all into your own opinion.

Please remember, the opinion will only remain valid and relevant if you constantly adapt it on new lessons.

Be open, and most importantly, respectful to the opinions of others.


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Home Comforts

Home Comforts

I do not believe that there is a single person amongst us that does not appreciate home comforts. After all, home is where the heart is.

No matter if your home is small or large, house or flat, it is still your home. It is the place that you can return to. A place of safety. Somewhere we you can shut out the world and be yourself.

Does size matter?

For some, the home is a show piece, a statement of where they think they are in life. Perhaps a cry for social acceptance. For many, the home is modest, comfortable and safe. A place to escape the world. Personally, my home falls into the latter grouping.

For me, a home is functional. It is not a statement of who I am. Nor is it a statement of importance or wealth. My home is my home.

As I travel around, I often reflect on the dwellings that are rich in variety as well as size. I view the larger houses with a measure of puzzlement. Is the size and price of a large house a sign or wealth or debt? Does a large house offer the occupants more comfort? Are the stress levels of ownership greater or less? What is the cost to the environment and the housing shortage of such large houses.

An Englishman’s home is his castle.

The most important function of a home is to provide a safe & comfortable refuge from the world. For me this is my nest, my burrow, my bolthole. It is a place where I can be completely relaxed, It offers no pretence of social standing. No matter where in the world I travel, returning home is always a relief; call it my comfort blanket!

The United Kingdom is also my home. I feel safe when in the country.

Can you move your home and your heart?

I am aware that people manage to move house but also move their home to another country. As a result, I ask myself not only how they do this, but where does their heart really lie? Is it possible to move your home, really move it. Moving to another country is a big step, but is it possible to really take your heart there? Having lived in the same city all my life, thinking of moving elsewhere is beyond my comprehension.

Possibly the most important question

How do you determine where your home is? Perhaps it is your first home? Maybe the city is really your home? What about your country? Does it actually matter?

Being honest with myself, I really don’t have the answer to this question. I do know that it is important to know where home is. Knowing where you can be truly safe is so important.

All I do know is that home comforts as so very important.


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