Friday, 7 May 2021
Wednesday, 14 April 2021
On Friday, April 9, 2021 at 10.40am, I was proceeding in a north-easterly direction … okay, enough of that.
I was driving across a London bridge going from south to north when a police motorbike outrider - coming from east to west - drove up ahead of me and decisively indicated for me to stop. I did. There was no messing with that man.
Soon after, another outrider came by and, seconds later, a Range Rover passed speedily by, driven by someone who I recognised as a “minor” royal.
If I’d been part of the Twitterati gang, I’d have parked up and done a quick and concise indignant rant about how wrong it was that such a royal was taking up police time and my road space, etc. etc.
As it was, I just thought it and drove on.
At 12 noon, I was still in the car with my social-bubble permitted passenger and listening to some trivial and fairly bland radio programme. The notification from Sky News came through around 12.06 via my friend's watch. Prince Philip had died.
I experienced two sudden and unexpected emotions. On a personal level I was surprised and shocked at the news. That surprised me even further when I reflected that I’d known he was ill and he was also 99. The death of a man of that age should neither shock nor surprise me. However, that’s the point with emotions, they are not always what you expect them to be.
Professionally, as an ex-news journalist, I was on it. It was exciting. Breaking news, adrenalin-pumping stuff and a “proper” story, not something extended well past its sell-by date to fill a 24-hour news agenda.
And how had Sky got it first rather than the BBC (I was listening to a BBC radio station)? A story of such magnitude and Sky had beaten the BBC to it. Impressive. I asked my passenger to twiddle the knobs and see if it was on any other BBC radio station. It seemed not. But, just then, the BBC’s separate airwaves dissolved into one as the BBC announced the news with its own inimitable gravitas, followed by the playing of the National Anthem.
At the sound of the National Anthem, I felt a lump in my throat and my eyes filled with tears. As someone trained to notice the emotional reaction of others, I was quick to reflect on my own and, once again, quite taken aback. I’m not a great fan of the National Anthem which has a dirge-like quality to my ears and I’ve never had that sort of that reaction to it before. It was all a little strange.
My journey had some way to go so I listened to stories told about Prince Philip by people who knew him or had some connection. I knew many of them already but some were new and made for interesting listening. I liked the one or two clips they aired of Philip himself talking. He sounded thoughtful and reasonable and far more of a “whole” person than the figure-of-fun I and many others had laughed at as we read about his various gaffes. I enjoyed the tributes and was glad of the time to listen.
Some time later but still on the journey (it was a long, necessary one of three hours), I thought back to the moments soon after we’d set out. The police outriders, the Range Rover, the “minor” royal and companion who were dashing from east to west via the Embankment.
That was the road to take if you were going off to the M3 or M4. The outriders supporting the driver and passenger were speeding through at 10.40am. Had they already heard the news and were hurrying to Windsor?
I don’t know, I’m never going to know but it is a bit of a coincidence.
And then I reflected a little more about how I’d have reacted if I’d had that Twitter account to hand. Imagine a self-satisfied, smug outburst with my thoughts on what royals should and shouldn’t do. Once I’d heard the news, I’d have felt embarrassed and, perhaps, a little ashamed.
I was reminded of the Biblical proverb along the lines of: “Fools rush in where angels fear to tread.” Reflection and thought before action seems wise.
By Lulu Sinclair
Photo 2 by: Flickr user Steve Punter
Wednesday, 31 March 2021
It feels as though we’re in the middle of a witch hunt. Or witch hunts to be precise. Against anyone and everyone, whoever they are.
The most recent cause is the allegations against public schoolboys. I imagine it’s particularly about boys at those schools because they’re single sex and often boarding schools so you have rampant emotions (I’m saying that rather than hormones because we humans are more than the sum of our parts) in a confined space. A bit like lockdown really.
First, I need to do the disclaimer. Of course sexual harassment and abuse is unacceptable at any time. There is never any excuse for it.
And now we come to the “but” and it is a very big “but”.
Is it right that schoolboys who, if under the age of 18, are still regarded in law as children, should now be facing the same sort of stigma that the adult men from the #MeToo movement have, when convicted, rightly faced?
Head teachers, afraid of offending the strident social media brigade, are threatening to name and shame, suspend and do whatever it takes to keep their school’s reputation intact. And so we instantly lose the presumption of innocence principle, one of the key tenets of our law. And then what?
Well, that’s where the comparison with the witch hunts come into it. At that horrific, unjust time, women and girls were the victims, as they have been so often in history. Some might argue that it’s time the boys/men learned what it’s like to be a victim but surely it’s not okay to revert to a primitive and unlearned style of law just because we presently seem to be led by the witchfinder-generals of social media.
I’m wondering if the problem is connected with the “other”. That which we do not recognise - or wish to recognise - within ourselves, we put onto others.
The “other” carries the can for the qualities we disapprove of - we would never act inappropriately with a man/woman/girl/boy but the “other” would. It is a convenient way of forgetting that we all have a dark side and sometimes do things we would not like our loved ones to know about.
By joining in the baying of the crowd, we can disavow unwanted feelings within ourselves and push them into the “other”, distancing ourselves from our own darkness within.
This is not new; it is only human to want people to think the best of us.
What is new is the speed at which rumours and accusations circulate and quickly become accepted facts. Less than a month ago I had no idea such things were happening. In a month, unless I remember I’m a logical and rational adult, I will be taking these stories as fact.
I am concerned that we are so busy living in the parallel universe world that social media has become that we will begin to believe it is the real world. It is not.
Meanwhile, the young men and boys targeted will be at risk of being stigmatised as they go through life while the witch finders have moved on to another cause. How will that help us in our future society? I remember some years ago, a famous person was rightly chastised for saying: “All men are rapists”. Now, it seems to me at least, some groups in society are almost ready to accept this as true. Again, it is not.
For society to work as well as it can, men and women need to find a way of getting on together. At a very basic level, we need each other in order to have children and bring up the next generation. Humans work best in a group and the first group we all know of is the family one. Fortunately, in our western world, many of us manage that but my fear is the virtual world is encroaching too much on our reality.
Before this blog turns into despondency, I’d like to offer some positive thoughts. Perhaps parents could stop trying to be their children’s best friends and remember they are the responsible adults. They need to teach their boys to respect and like girls and women, acknowledging their differences and not seeing them solely as objects of desire or fantasy. I know that’s a big ask when it comes to teenagers but, hopefully, the inner cautions and considerations will remain in place.
As for the parents of girls, our society is very keen on women being compliant and feminine - think of the tough adjectives used to describe successful and uncompromising women and you’ll get my drift.
If we really want women to be strong and assertive, we need to respect and accept them as they are, not try to return them to the girlie mode with which we may feel more comfortable.
We need to allow and encourage our daughters to say “no” and to respect the girls when they do. We are sending out mixed messages all the time. We tell our girls they can be anything they like, they are equal to men. Great. That’s fine. But the problem is that we don’t like assertive women who we may be inclined to describe as “bossy” when it suits us. How can we expect them to say no with confidence and certainty that they will be respected if we don't show them that same level of approval from a very early age?
Our children - both girls and boys - need to be taught to respect and appreciate the “other” from a very early age. And they need to know we have their backs.
By Lulu Sinclair
Tuesday, 16 March 2021
Many people are familiar with seeing stage hypnotists performing the art of “putting people to sleep” and making them do things that they wouldn’t do in their ordinary everyday lives.
In reality, hypnosis is a phenomenon of the human mind. It is a natural state - a form of intense concentration or focus in which the state of mind is relaxed and open to suggestion. It is a state which most of us experience every day.
You don’t have to be “put to sleep” to be hypnotised. In fact, we have all experienced different levels of hypnotism.
For example, you could be described as being in a hypnotic state when you are absorbed in one activity - watching TV for example - while hearing someone talking to you but not taking in what they are saying.
Or you might be driving somewhere in your car with no conscious awareness of the tasks you were performing to get there - you just arrive at your destination.
Hypnosis has been around for many centuries and is considered to be one of the foremost psychological interventions, mainly in the form of self-hypnosis. People who meditate, chant, perform repeating rituals are all undertaking a form of hypnosis.
It is used in hospitals, clinics, and GP surgeries as a psychological tool to improve the health and well-being of individuals and, increasingly, psychologists are using it as an additional tool to change behaviours, habits and managing pain.
Hypnosis is often used successfully for breaking bad habits - such as smoking - as well as changing certain behaviours, for example overcoming insomnia. It has also been used as an anaesthetic for pain relief and operations.
In the medical field, dentists are increasingly using hypnosis to help patients control their fears of visits to the dentist or, once fears are calmed, as a way of treating teeth grinding and other mouth conditions.
Surgeons, too, are beginning to use hypnosis as part of their toolkit to help patients deal with pain and fears of surgery. Hypnosis is even being deployed as a sedation technique for a specific type of brain tumour where the surgery requires the patient to stay awake because the tumour is close to the areas that control vision, language and body movements and the surgeon needs to ensure these vital abilities remain intact.
Studies into how hypnosis works have found the brain of those people who were hypnotised underwent significant change. They also found that hypnosis is not about being unconscious or asleep but rather that the process involves a distinct form of consciousness.
Scientists found there were three significant changes when a person was under hypnosis.
1. There was a decrease in activity in the part of the brain associated with emotion and the processing of thoughts. That meant the person under hypnosis was so absorbed in the process they could not worry about anything else.
That allowed for a reduction of stress levels and the production of cortisol, a substance that is produced when the body is under stress but excessive production is not good for our general well-being.
2. There was an increase in the brain-body connection. This allowed for a change to occur between thoughts and behaviours. It is a powerful way to change the way we use our mind to control our view of things and our bodies.
3. Finally, they found that there was a disconnection between someone’s actions and their awareness of performing these actions. So, in reality, when we are engaged in doing something, we don’t think about it, we just get on with it. Hypnosis allows a person to engage in activities that are self-suggested or suggested by a clinician without being self-conscious. This enables them to practice new ways of behaving, thinking and feeling that they can incorporate into their daily lives.
The wonder of hypnosis is that it can be used across a range of disciplines and not just for mental well-being. It has also been used to improve sports performances - many athletes have used it to overcome physical and psychological barriers to progress in their field. Tiger Woods began using hypnotism at the age of 13 to help focus and block out distraction on the golf course.
Hypnosis is even used by the police, with the Crown Prosecution Service in England and Wales producing specific guidelines on the use of hypnosis for the police service. While evidence given under hypnosis may not be admissible in court, it has been used to pursue leads or open other lines of enquiry.
Finally, an important discovery by scientists is the essential link between the desire to be hypnotised and successful outcomes. In other words, hypnosis works best when a client is highly motivated and is working with a highly trained therapist who recognises and understands their client’s particular problem.
As a professional with some 30 years of experience in this field, I am passionate about using hypnosis to help people change their lives and I am proud to have the opportunity to showcase the many benefits that hypnosis can bring. Please get in touch if you'd like to learn more.
By Meera Mehat
Sunday, 28 February 2021
A social media posting by an unknown American has been viewed more than 100,000 times. That sounds like a pretty respectable number. What makes it more amazing, however, is that it’s a tribute to the UK.
Imgur user Chimichanga007 - no, I wasn't sure what Imgur was either - says s/he lived in the UK for a couple of years and now has “survivor’s guilt after experiencing living in a sane country compared to America”. The poster says the difference between the US - where s/he has travelled widely - is “night and day”.
Continuing in the spirit of my last blog in which I looked for the positives in our present situation, I thought it might be an idea to look outward again to find what I have to look forward to while in isolation and with a never-ending number of weeks still to go. There’s a saying that it’s always darkest before the dawn and I, at any rate, am not enjoying the darkness. I am impatient for release.
So, while we’re stuck in this limbo land, I’ve begun to wonder what we do have going for us now in Britain? Yesterday's day of sunshine was one to grab and cling to as a memory. Go outside every time you catch a glimpse, you never know when it’s going to return. It’s a real mood lifter at any time but especially now.
Spring is springing. I’ve spotted daffodils, tree blossom and the powerful yellow of my neighbour’s mimosa tree. It’s hanging dangerously over the weighed-down fence but there we go. It’s a privilege that will be worth paying for.
Other countries may have warmer and more consistent weather but our seasons certainly give us something to talk about. I wonder where else in the world people talk endlessly about the changeable weather and/or joyfully drop everything to go outside and just feel a bit of that warmth on our bones. Maybe some might say we - I - am easily pleased. That’s probably true and that may be while I can still find things to laugh at when I don’t feel much is a laughing matter right now.
And so we come on to the British sense of humour. That’s a tricky one to define, particularly if you watch the various and varied TV programmes and wonder what happened to our “world class” entertainment industry. Maybe it’s still in lockdown.
But on a personal level, many of us still have a wry and self-deprecating way of looking at life. It is seen as distinctly British and a characteristic that entertains and amuses those outside the country. Shows such as Fawlty Towers and Monty Python come to mind. I remember someone from overseas telling me they’d come to Britain purely on the basis of seeing Monty Python. I hope the reality wasn't too disappointing.
For the most part, we remain a tolerant and kind society. Some of our European neighbours have been showing their displeasure at their lockdown with increasing protests and resistance. We seem to have stayed put. Some have argued we are being too easily led in our acceptance of our leaders’ decrees; others would say we have to obey for the common good. Whichever side we take, most of us are abiding by the law very possibly with an emotional and financial cost to ourselves. I sense a spirit of generosity in this that’s a real positive.
Our blogger from across the pond tells how s/he became emotional when going to ER (A&E to us) because the free NHS treatment wouldn’t lead to debt. The blogger also says how the British don’t like excess emotions because it makes them embarrassed. That strikes a chord. Perhaps it’s the “stiff upper lip” encouragement of the past (fortunately, trembling a little more nowadays) but, on the positive side, it’s also a way of remaining modest or not blowing our own trumpet. A characteristic of reserve. I like that. Praise is great but it's better when it comes from someone else. It's not the same when you're having to build yourself up to try and persuade someone that you're the best. Particularly when it doesn't come naturally.
What really touched me about the social media post was it seemed to be so different from how I’m being led to believe Britain is. Social media - the angry, aggressive type - tells me we live in an unjust, unfair world and we’re completely wrong most, if not all, of the time.
Life is certainly not fair and the world should be a much more equal place. But all these social media posters seem to be in such a perpetual rage. It must be exhausting and it is most definitely not good for their mental health.
Just as I’m about to despair, along comes someone completely unknown who says generous and complimentary words about the country in which I live. How ironic that it takes someone from outside this small island to tell me how lucky I am to be here, even now when I’m confined to my home.
Chimichanga007 ends the post, saying: “I miss you UK and I am coming back when this is all over! I know EU gives you sh** but you're my happy place and have a lot of compassion in your society!”
Fancy a person considering the UK as their “happy place”. It's hard to say better than that.
By Lulu Sinclair
Photo 2: Fas Khan/Unsplash
Wednesday, 10 February 2021
February, a month that is still dark and drizzly and, to me at any rate, representative of a bleak time of year. The exception is St Valentine’s Day.
I looked up its origins and they, too, seem to be a bit dark, with the theme running through all the legends of a Christian priest - Valentine - martyred after being put to death by the Romans for the illegal practice of marrying Christian couples.
Let’s put that to one side for the moment; I’m looking for a story that cheers and inspires so let’s move on to how we think of the mid-month party event. Balloons, red-shaped hearts, dinner dates, marriage proposals, exciting cards with no signature from admirers we can only guess at. And, as the years go by and we may have settled for the one particular admirer, the lucky ones among us can still look forward to that card which reminds us of our youth and excitement and the dreams we had.
This year will be trickier, of course. Coronavirus was still creeping up on us last year but lockdown had not yet arrived. We could celebrate and go out and the young men and women’s fancies were turning towards spring with the delicious thoughts that season brings.
Those thoughts seem to have been flattened this year. There’s hope on the horizon but, for anyone searching for someone special, it’s hard to know how to look. No online dating; no pubs; no parties; no friendly introductions - it looks like this year’s Valentine’s Day might be a bit of a subdued affair.
For the purpose of this piece, how about we look at a different kind of love? Not the Eros type - the romantic or passionate love that will return soon enough - but the agape kind, the ancient Greek’s descriptive term for a generous or charitable love, one that encompasses all.
Unsurprisingly, there has been a lot of complaining about how restrictive our lives have become. We’re used to at least some freedom of movement and there’s not too much of that going on right now. None of us are quite sure who to blame but we live in a society where blame matters and we’re sure we can hold someone to account.
It’s been easy to continue in our polarised discussion - government, or not, NHS or not, obedience, or not - and so it goes on. It’s not surprising, really, we have little else to do except naval gaze and throw out accusations.
It’s been a long, hard haul but at last it is looking as though we are moving in the right direction. The UK’s vaccination programme seems to be moving through the population very quickly and, to the surprise of many of us, it really has been something by which we can be impressed.
And here we come to the agape love part. I have come across a number of people who volunteered to become vaccinators to help keep the programme going and they all report how moved they’ve been and how “teary” they became when they took part in the process for the very first time. Okay, one or two might have signed up because they wanted an early chance of the jab but most simply wanted to help and they wanted to be in at the start of something which has the potential to change/re-normalise all our lives.
Inadvertently, what seems to have happened is that those who took part have also experienced the benefits of agape love. Their charitable deeds have left them with that wonderful feeling of having done something worthwhile while basking in the glow of admiration from friends and family for doing something for others. Internal and external praise you might say.
I was on the receiving end of such treatment recently when I went to have my own test for Covid-19. I booked online - it was simple - and was given a date for the test two days later. I drove to it and was directed to a (free!) parking bay by the first of a number of charming and efficient people. Each was at least as kind, considerate and helpful as the last and the whole process took less than 20 minutes. I had my result within the hour.
In my own slight uncertainty and anxiety, I was on high alert for officialdom, bureaucracy, anything that could leave me feeling just that little bit more edgy and ready to rail. What I found, however, was an experience as good as it could be. The staff wore the same head-to-toe covering but, other than that they were as individual and diverse as could be found in this rich tapestry that is London. And what they did have in common, was a desire to put those of us coming for the test at ease. It worked like a dream. I left feeling a whole lot better than when I’d started out, with my young and enthusiastic supporters waving me off as I went. The experience lifted my spirits for the rest of the day and I’m smiling as I remember it. That is a personal glimpse of what agape love can do for each one of us.
So, in a month when we lost the inspiring Captain Sir Tom Moore and (my own personal idol) Christopher Plummer, aka Captain Von Trapp, the father-figure hero of my childhood, I’m going to take a moment to remember those who are no longer here. I feel sad but I take comfort in reflecting on the power of the unconditional love that is agape and how this testing and trying time is finally bringing out the good in us. I feel surprised, encouraged and strangely hopeful. Perhaps Eros can wait his turn for another year.
By Lulu Sinclair
Captain Sir Tom Moore portrait by kind permission of Alexander Chamberlin
Tuesday, 26 January 2021
The vaccination is being rolled out, Spring is (almost) within sight and yet I am finding many people feeling much gloomier than they were during the first lockdown.
It’s not turned out quite like that, has it? It has gone on and on with not too much insight into when and what the end of this pandemic will look like. Maybe that accounts for a certain amount of gloom. That and the uncertainty of when life really will get back to normal.
We all know that excess stress is not good for us and we are presently living in stressful times. We know, and we continue to stress - it’s one thing to be told to stay calm, it’s another thing to actively try and do it.
However, a recent report from scientists at Ohio University says we really do need to take care of ourselves at this particular time. The study suggests those who are not managing very well at the moment, may not get the full benefit of a vaccination against coronavirus. The scientists studied results from vaccinations over the past 30 years and found stress, depression and an unhealthy way of living may adversely affect the body’s immune response to vaccination.
Put simply, those not in a good-enough frame of mind were less likely to find the vaccine fully effective than those other people who felt better, both mentally and physically.
It’s hard, when you’re in a gloomy state of mind, to come up with reasons to be cheerful so I’ve been reflecting quite a lot on what I can do to change my state of mind.
For instance, this season is one that most of us rush through on the way to Spring. I hardly give it a glance. Bare trees, grey streets (if you live in the city), damp and a feeling of unremitting drudgery as I put the cheerful lights of Christmas behind me. That’s how it usually feels to me at any rate and this year it seems a highly exaggerated version of that.
I point out the tree phenomenon to the little person in my life and I’m relieved she’s not at the chatty point yet because that’s about the sum of my knowledge. To remedy that, I’ve bought a book on the outdoors. It’s a simple one for children about trees, birds, flowers etc but it’s doing me the power of good. I’m hoping that, by the time she’s ready for a full-on conversation, I’ll have slightly more knowledge than she does.
This time I was grounded and there was no need to be afraid. Instead, I dressed up, put on sensible walking boots and went out to take pictures - along with hundreds of others - in the local park. The air was fresh, fellow humans were laughing and we all somehow reconnected as the snow fell. It’s turned to mush now so it didn’t last long but the cheerful memory lingers.
A friend tells me he gets pleasure from checking out the hours of dawn and dusk. He’s a cyclist and he tells me it lifts his spirits to see the days getting longer. I haven’t tried that yet but I might. The clock watching, that is, not the cycling.
By: Lulu Sinclair