Latest Read: June 04 2019

The Western WindThe Western Wind by Samantha Harvey

Glad I stayed with it. ****

I almost gave up on this book as initially it moved too slowly for me but I'm glad that I stayed with it and almost wish it hadn't finished. The story unfolds in 15th century Oakham, a village backwater in Somerset. Its central character is a priest, John Reve who narrates the story in reverse chronological order about a wealthy parishioner, Thomas Newman, who has been swept away to his death in a nearby river. I wondered about the unusual chronological device and the reason for it becomes clear in the final chapter. I found myself going back to the beginning to try to ascertain the ending!
Much of the story takes place in the village church and particularly in the new confessional booth that has been constructed there. Parishioners confess litanies of sins in the run up to Lent but will anyone confess to the killing of Newman? It becomes clear that the priest John Reve has a secret of his own, something he does not dare to admit or confess to his own superior, a local Dean who has been summoned to the village to investigate the mysterious death.
The Dean is an ominous presence and Reve's feelings toward him ebb and flow in a gentle exploration of the nature of authority. I didn't much care for the Dean but felt that Reve, despite his flaws, became more likeable.
I also liked very much the many descriptive passages and turns of phrase, stopping every now and then to go back over them and reflect on the point being made. And this then was for me the ultimate appeal of the work, its saving grace. It developed a meditative quality, a kind of examination of conscience and an exploration of guilt.
Glad I stayed with it.

View all my reviews

Tiger resting haiku

Could not see at first
Pictured where others pointed
Lone tiger resting.

- Ranthambore National Park, India 


What a difference a year makes.

There you go! It's been nearly a year since the last post and the intervening period has marked the end of the freelance role and launches a new chapter in which I'm constantly thinking of ways to repurpose this blog.  I've been here before of course with my old improvingwithage blogspot but this time the intention is to carry on with a new (middle) focus on things that catch the senior eye - old dog, new tricks comes to mind or maybe that old Yiddish expression - Too soon old, too late smart!

Retirement has been gentle so far and has offered plenty of scope for reflection. Maybe some of that thinking and new/old insights will find their way into this blog, who knows? The past year has been a time of letting some things go, holding on to others and finding new things to seize upon.

A friend once remarked that retirement is so good that he wished he'd done it when he left school!  Don't know about that but I can honestly say that I'm enjoying this time as the last year has seen visits abroad, cuisines sampled, dozens of books read, films viewed and new music heard.

Turn back time?
No thanks!
Growing up we learned that one door never closes but another opens. My dad, who worked for a while in a watchmakers, once remarked in the face of a major political upheaval that "there are some clocks that cannot be put back!" - referring to the fact that the mechanism of some old clocks had to be adjusted in a clockwise direction, letting them chime out each hour.  Patience, Time was needed for the recalibration.  Taking the quick and easy approach of turning the mechanism anti-clockwise risked upsetting the delicate balance of the timepiece.

Retirement is rather like that. There's comfort in slowing down from a busy career but also excitement - experiencing new things, places and people; savouring refreshment. But always moving forward - Clockwise.

So the posts here will continue but with different chimes, different focal points; reflecting new directions or giving vent to new insights on old interests.

We'll see where it goes.  One thing's certain: Time may pass but friendship remains.

A different approach to social media

If you are anything like me when you use social media apps like Facebook and Twitter then you know how time somehow slips by without you realising it.  On some social media, I manage different accounts within the same platform so the problem simply gets bigger.

Rather than cut out social browsing and interaction completely I decided instead to take a different approach.  I grouped the various apps into a folder on my iPad and iPhone - I'm sure this is possible to do on Android devices as well.  This hides them to an extent which means that I have to go look for the folder among other groups.  I decided also, at least for the time being, to add the clock app in the folder as well.  That means that it is readily available for setting the timer to limit how long I want to spend browsing.  An advantage is that closing the Facebook app for example brings you back to the folder where others such as LinkedIn and Instagram can be readily accessed.

Then when the allocated amount of time is up, that's it !  A bit of discipline and out of the folder.
To add a little bit more clout to the app folder idea, you can use the facility for naming it.  In my example it's called - Social but it could also be labelled as 20 mins only or Limit use!

What about you?
Are you disciplined in relation to how much time you spend on social media? Do you ever lose track of time? Have you a different approach? Or an idea for using time productively when online?
If you have please share.

Simply on a roll

You know that moment?

You see something and straightaway it reminds you of something else.
There I was in a little coffee shop when I spotted a clever and so simple means of showing what the day's food offerings were.  The menu was presented on a large roll of brown wrapping paper attached to one of the walls making it easily visible and yet well out of the way.  All that's needed each time the menu changes is for someone to tear off the previous choices; pull down a clean portion and add the new.   Clever and so simple.

And that reminded me of a proponent of Simplicity - Dr Edward de Bono - who in 1998 provided us a book of the same name.  He gave us many other ways to think of course, including his ground-breaking Six Thinking Hats.  In a post some years back on decision-making I mentioned his PMI technique which you might like to come back to here.

Why did it remind me of Dr de Bono?

I had the great good fortune to be present at one of his seminars.  He had been invited along to the educational organisation I worked for at the time and all staff were invited.  He had asked only for an Overhead Projector (an OHP remember those? I loved them!) and a roll of transparency film - Getting the connection?

Sitting at the projector with a handful of OHP pens, he spoke and wrote at the same time, mesmerising us with his ideas.  And those ideas kept flowing and as they did so too did the acetate roll; clearing the bright write on platform at the speed of creativity.  It was an experience that I shall never forget.  Clever and so simple.

I've since seen and applied variations of thinking on a roll.  In workshops when we needed to generate loads of ideas we would sometimes get participants to write their thoughts onto a roll of cheap, plain wallpaper.  Strips would then be torn off and left on the table, the floor and obviously attached to any available wall.  At the end of the session the roll would be rolled, ready for recap or reuse at another session.

Rather like our workshop wallpaper, Dr de Bono also left with his roll.

I wonder how the menu has changed at the coffee shop.