Seriously Good!

The likelihood of this page being empty, one could be forgiven for thinking, is great. However, I do crave balance and still believe that with dark comes light and despite everything, there is still good to be found in this world; all the more important that anyone or anything deserving of praise is applauded. True, this page merely showcases my opinion and, of course, it is up for debate but, that said, I welcome the opportunity to flag up little gems I come across in everyday life or, equally important, causes close to my heart long term.

The Born Free Foundation

Nobody who knows me will be surprised that this charity is top of my list. As a little girl, the 1966 film had such a lasting impact on me. A true story, I read everything I could get my hands on about Elsa and the Adamsons vowing, one day, to visit her grave in Meru. I did that in 2000 with The Born Free Foundation and Virginia McKenna, my friend since the days of Zoo Check.

Zoo Check was founded in 1984 by Virginia, her husband, Bill Travers, and their son, Will, following the untimely death of Pole Pole at London Zoo – a little African elephant with whom they had worked in the making of the film, An Elephant Called Slowly (1970). They desperately tried to secure her freedom following the film but to no avail and, having been taken from the wild, she was gifted to London Zoo by the Kenyan Government. Her death, aged 17, following a miserable existence in captivity, inspired the founding of Zoo Check. A charity committed to preventing animal suffering and protecting wild animals in their natural habitat. Keep Wildlife in the Wild.

Seems obvious but, as with most things in life today, money talks and the ‘conservation’ industry is big business.  There are huge revenues to be gleaned from the public in return for the opportunity to see a wild animal behind bars: a lifetime of captivity for human entertainment …

Thirty-five years later, campaigning tirelessly and achieving so much, Zoo Check has grown into the Born Free Foundation, recognised the world over.  An inimitable force for good, I cannot praise this charity enough and it is imperative that we support the work of those who, recognizing the very real danger of extinction, are so desperately campaigning to protect all wild animals in the wild!  Please take a look at their website and the magnificent work they do.  It cannot be underestimated.

The African Medical and Research Foundation

(AMREF)

I promise this page is not all about charities I support but, like the Born Free Foundation this, too, is a very worthy cause.

Founded in 1957 by three surgeons as The Flying Doctors of East Africa, it was initially a mobile air-based service; however, gradually, land-based services and mobile clinics were introduced as well as training for local healthcare providers.  Now known throughout sub-Saharan Africa as being ‘an African organization that understands local culture and the realities on the ground’, maternal and child health is the main focus, as is sexual and reproductive health and rights. Striving to provide access to safe water and sanitation facilities in rural and urban communities, the best thing about AMREF, in my book, is the foresight.

A non-governmental organization, funding is directed at providing healthcare training on the ground, in local communities, in order that it is sustainable and capable of longevity. Never a case of ‘taking the money and run’, AMREF understands what is needed and a focus on training and education is key.

I have huge admiration for this charity and hope that including it on this page may bring it to the attention of someone unaware of its existence and good work. Tick!

Mainstays on my ‘Seriously Good!’ page, the above are my heavyweights!

Now for the everyday stuff deserving of acknowledgement …

Friday, 13th March 2020

The Little Things …

For some reason, I had no idea it was Friday the 13th.  The most glorious day – bright blue skies, sunny and crisp – somehow, the weight of the world just seemed lighter as though to balance the all-consuming gloom of the Coronavirus.  The omnipotent hand of Nature restoring calm.

I couldn’t bring myself to write, this week, as I searched, in vain, for positives.  The endless winter together with more of the same constant battering of the good guys … better to refrain and ponder the reasons why we live here.  Not really much scope for travel at the moment, as it happens, and, as Italy declares a lockdown, our hopes of seeing Andrea Bocelli in Rome on 21st June are fading fast.  He will re-schedule, I’m sure.

So, how did I come to be writing on the Seriously Good! page?  Well, it was the perfect morning for a walk on my beach and that’s exactly what I did.  The colours were stunning.  The faded golden hue of the dunes flowing into the wet sand, taupe from the tide now miles out; a glorious, deep blue, the waves capped in white as the water merged into a cornflower sky.  The perfect day, once more consigned to memory as I bemoaned my inability to paint.

I have an old, old photo album which takes two photos on each page.  On one such page – captured in a moment in time – there is my friend, Morag, and myself on the tube in London.  It must have been 1984/5?  Below it is a photograph I took of Pop on the West Sands, deserted and stretching for miles.  A day just like today.

Suitably buoyed, I nipped to Marks for supplies and it was, here, that my faith was restored.  Weighed down with my basket of vegetables and everything wholesome – only one bottle of wine, I might add – I was heading for the checkout when, out of nowhere, this lovely, older gentleman stopped me and asked if I could use a £5 off voucher!  Yes, yes, I know.  I had made no effort with either hair or make-up, this morning, so, perhaps, he just felt sorry for me.  Regardless, I thanked him profusely.  He will never know how much that small gesture of kindness meant to me as I steeled myself to cross the road to the Funeral Directors to collect the ashes of both my parents.  It is the little things …

Thursday, 27th February 2020

Feel Better in 5

You know me and my books but this one was definitely not of my usual genre.  However, I happened to see the author promoting it, and discussing its concept, on television and it was one of these ‘had me at ‘Hello’ moments!  Well, not in the same context, obviously, but Dr Chatterjee spoke my language and was utterly convincing.  What was it about him?  Despite being a long-time practising GP, he just connected.  He seemed kind and, more than anything, full of common sense.  Life is hard.  Fast-paced and stressful, the tendency is for over-medicalisation.  Time is limited and it is quicker to treat the symptom rather than ascertain the root cause.  Here’s a prescription for a drug which will definitely have side-effects – you can’t pump chemicals into your system and not expect that – but if the symptoms don’t improve (may take a while until you feel sufficiently numb), then come back in a few weeks’ time; or a few months’, depending on your ability to break the cold, impersonal wall that is Reception in a bid for a five minute debrief!  Not at all sceptical …

Dr Rangan Chatterjee breaks the mould.  For starters, it is the first book I have bought – and loved – and given away almost immediately!  I knew the perfect recipient and have, since, been proved right.  The fact that the dedication inside reads, ‘To my mother, Thanks for everything.’ comes as no surprise at all …

Feel Better in 5 is a programme that doesn’t force you to bend your life around its demands.  It bends around your life.’

A beautifully presented book, it is inviting and easy to read.  As Rangan (feels like a friend; sure he would be!), spends the early pages explaining his reasoning and the justification as to why ‘Just five minutes of your time, three times a day’ will change your life, it all make sense.  That’s what it amounts to, though, good, old-fashioned common sense!  He takes you back to the values of a bygone era; a life pre-technology and social media when ‘mindfulness’ wasn’t a word but a given.

Divided into three sections – Mind, Body and Heart – he covers all bases and there is a glossary of ‘Health Snacks’ from which to choose one’s three.  The names, themselves, are evocative and endearing!  For my part, I chose ‘5 Minutes in Nature’, ‘The Classic 5’ and ‘The Gratitude Game’.  How could I not?  Takes me right back to Pollyanna and ‘The Glad Game’!  He is right, too.  It is so do-able and, one week on, I am still doing it – and I feel almost human!

So, in the words of Dr Rangan, ‘Ditch the pills, beat the sleepless nights and banish the yo-yo diets.’  I couldn’t recommend this book highly enough.  In fact, I loved it so much, I bought two!

Saturday, 22nd February 2020

That Extra Mile

In a world where you can be anything, be kind.’  Jennifer Dukes Lee.

The quote of the moment, and rightly so.  In a climate of gloom, subjected to the daily onslaught of depressing news emanating from every medium before even venturing out into the incessant storm, it is hard to remain receptive to the positive.  A page entitled Seriously Good!?  Laughingly, a challenge but, realistically, all about one’s mindset.  If you look, you will see … 

I welcome the opportunity to flag up little gems I come across in everyday life …’.   One such ‘little gem’ is Scott!  A Personal Trainer by trade, he is, for so many, the face of the gym at the Old Course Hotel, St Andrews.  Young or old, fat or slim, beyond help or just there for the apples, he has gauging one’s personality down to a fine art – and, so, engages!  A natural with people, he is in the perfect job and his success rate is testament to his expertise.  Obviously, however, there are those who prove more challenging!  Persuaded into joining in August, I am the antithesis of a gym person but, for some reason, a Boxercise class seemed the perfect induction.  Gloves on, image in mind, it is therapy – but no doddle.  The ‘music’ is horrendous and would drive one to the brink while Scott, seemingly, has eyes in the back of his head as I use every excuse to slack off.  Astute, he knows exactly what’s going on.  Sense of humour?  A necessity! 

So, now svelte and fit, Scott’s work with me is done – in another universe!  Things took a turn for the worse when swimming in my pool before Christmas, I was, repeatedly, joined by hairy, fat members of the male species.  I’ve never moved faster!  Then, there is the Coronavirus.  Suddenly, the North Sea seems more inviting …  Yes, I have returned to the outdoors and the sanctity of the West Sands, ever frugal, saving on a mask and anti-bacterial wipes.  Should summer ever return to the sunny land, however, I shall need Scott on speed dial!

Seriously, he is long overdue for a mention on this page.  One of the good guys, he has been an inspiration to Becca and shown her kindness beyond any call of duty.  His expertise and encouragement are responsible for her disciplined attendance as she strives for herself and the trainer who has become her friend.  Testament to someone who, naturally, goes that extra mile.    

Tuesday, 4th February 2020

Always Look Up!

Just remember to always look up.  The advice of Ben Fogle, one of the most inspirational speakers who should be bottled – or, at the very least, available on the National Health!  His list of achievements are deserving of huge respect but, aside from successfully summiting Everest, his captivating programme, Ben Fogle: New Lives in the Wild, is one of the only justifications for a television licence!  Intelligent, good-looking, courageous, classy and kind, he is of that outdoor, manly breed; a lover of animals, of course, he, also, happens to be self-deprecating and humble.  Phew!  Could he give Jack Savoretti a run for his money?  Put it this way, along with Piers Morgan, they would top my dinner party guest list!  Confused?  I am!

Back to the point …  Ben Fogle: Tales from the Wilderness.  Touring the country, one is privileged to spend an evening listening to this man as he speaks, openly and honestly – and with great humility – about his life and the path from self-appointed failure to conquering the likes of Antarctica, the Atlantic and, most recently, Everest.  In his quest to prove to himself that he could, he not only overcame immense challenges but discovered his design for life.  Never one to run with the crowd, he is, now, confident in singing to his own tune whilst adhering to the values he holds dear – and which he is determined to pass on to his own children.

Two hours in the company of Ben Fogle is nothing short of a detox!  At one with Nature, he found himself in its midst, gleaning strength, self-confidence and the knowledge of what is truly important in life.  There is a great big world out there and we, alone, can choose whether to succumb to the rat race or to get out there and experience it.  Ben Fogle is living testament to the latter.  The pride he has instilled in his children and the stories he has to tell, no money could buy … 

It’s simple.  Just start by looking up!

Saturday, 25th January 2020

Alice & Blair

Anyone for headbands?  Becca has become obsessed with them so much so that she has a whole drawer devoted to them. Am I responsible?  Well, I did make her wear a padded red one with her school uniform throughout primary – ensured I could pick her out in a crowd!

Anyway, this is a deserved shout-out for Alice & Blair – ‘specialist designers of headbands, hair accessories and jewellery, expertly made by hand using Swarovski crystals and pearls.’  Real statement pieces. 

I think, perhaps, the fervent interest in designer headbands may have been sparked by the Duchess of Cambridge who, last year, often favoured one instead of a hat.  Comfortable, so pretty and no ‘hat hair’!  Inspired, Becca found a beautiful blue velvet one, encrusted with Swarovski crystals, in Anthropologie – an Alice & Blair design.  Yes, they can be found in exclusive stores, too, as detailed on the website.  Her go-to statement piece, it lifts any outfit – casual or otherwise – and is subject to compliments galore.  Surely reason to purchase another?

She chose a black velvet one, this time, encrusted with pearls and it arrived beautifully packaged in its own black Alice & Blair pouch.  It’s the little details …  Disappointed to discover it was too wide, she contacted the family-run company by phone, speaking to James who couldn’t have been more helpful; in fact, he sent her a video demonstrating how to tighten said headband.  Successful, up to a point, Becca being Becca decided she needed to be able to compare so … back to James who, no questions asked, immediately sent her out another one.  Amazing!  I was so impressed.  James doesn’t know Becca from Adam but, having chatted to her on the phone, he used his own judgement offering the personal touch – and there’s the difference.  A family-run business prepared to invest in each customer ensuring a return of positive feedback.  It’s a win-win.

So, remember that name; better still, take a look at the website – https://aliceandblair.co.uk/.  Highly recommended.  In a world obsessed by everything disposable and fast, Alice & Blair pride themselves on unique, handmade, quality pieces offering not only comfort but the personal touch to boot.  Definite ‘must-have’s – or a special present!  

Friday, 24th January 2020

Why?

Entries to this page have been a little thin on the ground of late!  I have no shortage of negative criticism on life today; let’s face it, a thesis entitled ‘Manners: the demise of …’ would keep me occupied from dawn to dusk.  Add to that the significance of John Donne’s words, ‘No man is an island’, seemingly unrecognised by 99% of the human race, and the onus is firmly weighted on one page – ‘Seriously?!’.  I have tried, I really have but items newsworthy in the positive have proved somewhat rare – seemingly, a worldwide phenomenon!  Mankind is complex and the constant struggle between good and bad ever-present thanks to one little word – ‘ego’.  Meanwhile, the great irony is that Mother Nature is the ultimate power for whom a lack of respect is dangerous folly.  As one contemplates all the ‘Seriously?!’s, the ever-changing palette in front of me is forever worthy of ‘Seriously Good!’ but anything human-related?  Time for some recommendations …

Saturday, 5th October 2019

Wild Geese

Autumn has always been my favourite season.  As the year draws to a close, I relish the crispness in the air, nature’s colours which abound and the encompassing cosiness.  Time to wrap up and enhance both character and mood with warm jumpers, jackets and beautiful scarves. No more guffawing at the horrific fashion faux pas summer produces, the over-spilling flesh and the characteristic orange fake tan.  A season naturally demanding of more decorum, it is, moreover, one of reflection: reflection on the joys and inevitable struggles of another year as thoughts turn to those we have lost or who are no longer with us … and Christmas!

The wild geese, too, are creatures of habit.   Have wings will fly.  Who needs Thomas Cook?!  Follow the sun …  Forever one of my favourite sights – and sounds – wild geese in the autumn sky.  So it was, last Saturday, as I was upstairs on the phone to Manny, I heard that familiar sound and rushed to the window to see two large groups flying overhead, one formation behind the other.  Why? How?  A sight and sound of which I shall never tire, these wonderful creatures are just another reminder of our place.  Nature is incredible; all-powerful and deserving of respect.  We are privileged to be a part of it.

Sunday, 15th September 2019

Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?, Jeremy Clarkson

It’s back!  Jeremy, though, is taking no prisoners and even draw breath at some of his remarks.  It is addictive viewing, however – and largely due to his characteristic unpredictability. Sunday’s episode was proving bleak for those who made it to the chair and one such contestant was not prepared to sacrifice £4,000 in a bid to go further.  Jodie said “I’ll take the money.  Final answer.”  To which a typically frustrated Jeremy quipped, “It’s who wants to be a millionaire not who wants to win four grand!”  Made me laugh and I understood exactly where he was coming from.  You have nothing to lose and everything to gain. At least have the guts to go for it instead of wasting a once in a lifetime opportunity.  Sometimes cautious is just another word for boring.

Sunday, 15th September 2019

‘Don’t Look Back in Anger’, James Bay (Radio 2)

In a montage of Radio 2 guests – a filler between acts on A Festival in a Day on Sunday (15/9/19) – there was potentially awkward footage of James Bay who had chosen to sing ‘Don’t Look Back in Anger’, unaware that his fellow guest on the Breakfast Show was to be Noel Gallagher! Fearne, standing in for Zoe, empathised with poor James while Noel seemed to relish his reluctance, finding the whole thing amusing.  James Bay had the last laugh, however, as his acoustic version of the iconic Oasis song was absolutely superb!  As with Jack Savoretti’s acoustic version of ‘Human’, it was haunting and so melodic.  Noel?  You could tell he appreciated the unique take on his song but … he remained in character! Anyway, please type into YouTube – James Bay ‘Don’t Look Back in Anger’.  Guaranteed to love!

Friday, 13th September 2019

Celia Walden article in The Telegraph

Do you ever feel as though you are a lone voice in this crazy, mixed up world?   Watching Seahorse: The Dad Who Gave Birth (BBC 2, 10/9/19) did nothing to help but then I opened my emails and found one from the Editor of The Telegraph online recommending articles I might like.  Come in Celia Walden in possession of not only a voice but a brain!

‘How dare the BBC teach children that there are ‘100 genders’?’ is the title of her article in Thursday’s Telegraph (12/9/19).  Apparently, there are nine new BBC Teach films to be shown in schools in support of the personal, social and health education (PSHE) curriculum. In one of them, a little boy asks what the different gender identities are, only to be told – by a Relationships and Sex Education teacher (oh help!) – that, aside from the originals (that’s male and female, by the way), the very exciting news is that there are, now, over 100, if not more!  Well, a little poetic licence, perhaps but, still … help!  Or ‘noxious nonsense’, according to Celia.

At last, someone of intelligence refusing to submit to the tyranny of tolerance.  Who knew that ‘your local GP will ‘only’ recognise six genders: male, female, gender-neutral, non-binary, gender-fluid and gender-queer’?  (Have we been infiltrated by aliens?!)  The BBC’s Relationships and Sex Education teacher, meanwhile, suggests – no, insists – that this might be too limiting for children who, rather, decide ‘I am just going to be me.’

That’s it!  ‘I am just going to be me.’  The writer cites this concept as the root of this ‘gender-diversity madness’, fearing that ‘we’ll make this new generation of children as self-obsessed as the supposed grown-ups wilfully warping their minds.’  The new age focus on self-expression gives the green light to a game of identity for which there are no rules; giving rise, in turn, to a generation of selfish, narcissistic, totally confused children.

The article concludes that this supposed freedom of expression is nothing but a con.  All very well if one is seen to conform – the right way: the majority against tradition.

Restored my faith.  At last, an intelligent, sarcastic jibe at the utterly ridiculous but oh, so potentially dangerous world of self-expression. Please read.  My little synopsis has done it no justice whatsoever.

Tuesday, 10th September 2019

That Special Place

Everyone must have a favourite place; that place which is guaranteed to feed the soul and restore calm in this non-stop life which has a habit of throwing curved balls!  I mean that special place, accessible in emergencies of the daily kind rather than one’s favourite place in the world.  For me – and for as long as I can remember – it has always been the West Sands, St Andrews.  I don’t know how many times I have told my children that I want them to scatter my ashes there – morbid, I know, but better prepared and, hopefully, some time away!  Anyway, today was one of those ‘nothing going right’ days so I took a walk and positively wallowed in that iconic backdrop renowned throughout the world.  The most beautiful beach with an expanse of golden sand which stretches as far as the eye can see, it remains as nature intended. Unspoilt, clean and never crowded, one can be totally alone with one’s thoughts.  There were white horses today, as the waves lapped the sand, and the wind was gentle and warm.  I didn’t really want to walk but, rather, just stand still and soak it all in. Unchanged since I was a little girl, I can almost see the ghosts of my childhood.  I stopped to pick up shells, as always.  Truly humbling and still ‘paradise’, Pop!

Wednesday, 5th June 2019

Jack Savoretti’s cover of ‘Human’ (The Killers) – Radio 2 Piano Room

The content of this post was lost in transition but, suffice to say, I can still recall my enthusiasm that day on listening to the above. ‘Human‘ has long been one of my favourite songs – although I am still no closer to understanding the lyrics – and Brandon Flowers is second to none. That being said, who would dare to approach it differently? Jack Savoretti – and the result is absolutely superb! An unplugged version with a slower tempo, as he accompanies himself on the acoustic guitar, one cannot help but listen to the words and the beautiful melody. His wife’s favourite song, I now see Jack Savoretti in a different light. His take on this classic is inspiring and so worth a listen on YouTube!

Monday, 25th February 2019

Jubilee Road, Tom Odell

How often can one truly say that one comes across an album that one can put on and play, start to finish, loving every track?! This is it! Yes, yes, of course I am a huge fan of Tom Odell but, regardless, I didn’t like every track on Wrong Crowd, his second album. Jubilee Road is different. Reminiscent of an early Billy Joel, the personal attachment of the writer to these songs is obvious and, thus, each has a heart. Whether upbeat or ballad, the story-telling is supported by good old-fashioned tunes which, once heard, are not forgotten. Tom’s voice is instantly recognisable lending itself to heart-tugging ballads such as my favourite, ‘Half As Good As You’. Such a good album and, so rarely out of the CD player in my car that I bought a spare, just in case!

Tuesday, 19th February 2019

Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?, Jeremy Clarkson.

This programme, hosted by Chris Tarrant, outlived its appeal but Jeremy Clarkson … pure genius! Chris Tarrant became too smarmy, oozing arrogance, whereas Jeremy is as he is, an unpredictable grumpy old bear who, I believe, is a big softy beneath it all. Clearly out of his comfort zone, he strives to be affable to the contestants, for the most part curbing his ascerbic tongue, but there is always a chance that … and that makes it more exciting. Add to that the fact that one of the lifelines available to the contestants is – and obviously a source of great consternation – himself, and the recipe is perfect. Self-deprecation is not normally a trait one would associate with Jeremy Clarkson! (A snippet of information re ‘Jezza’ which I find rather endearing: his mother designed the first Paddington Bear – which, apparently, paid for his school fees – and he is the owner of the original! He actually is a bit Paddington-esque) … So, another week of nightly entertainment to look forward to in March. There is a God!

Wednesday, 13th February 2019

The Clinton Affair (More4)

Probably the best thing I have seen on television for a long time, this six-part series finished last night (24/2/19). Look for it on Catch Up, if possible. It is absolutely superb following the build-up to and the impeachment of President Bill Clinton leading to his trial in January/February 1999 on two charges: perjury and the obstruction of justice. How the hell he survived is beyond belief! Such a revolting character, he thought he was invincible preying on women at every turn – Hilary, too, is some independent woman remaining married to a man like that who thought nothing of humiliating her time and time again. With lots of footage of Monica Lewinsky (whom I ‘met’/saw when she came to Waterstones, Edinburgh in March 1999 promoting her book immediately after the trial – I have the signed copy I bought for Pop for his Birthday!), there is a sinister note as one is privy to the political and press machinations at work. Of course, justice is not forthcoming and one is left with the suggestion that this was only the tip of the iceberg as far as Clinton’s ‘mistreatment’ of women – never underestimate the power of smarm!

Monday, 4th February 2019

Handwritten Letters

Sadly, now, a rarity, I received one such letter last week – so exciting! To have the chance to study the handwriting whilst guessing who may have sent it is a forgotten joy. No luck on this occasion, though, it proved far more rewarding when I discovered it was from someone with whom I crossed paths through riding, as a child, forty odd years ago! A mutual friend discovered the connection and gave him my address – hence this wonderful handwritten letter. He has even written the date in Roman numerals. I love it! Now, tell me that doesn’t warrant a mention under ‘Seriously Good!’.