8 May 2015

Good morning Tash Appreciators,

How about that election, eh? I was really disappointed/pleased that [insert name] won/lost. I voted but the campaigns were so annoying that I’d be lying if I said there weren’t times when I felt like saying:

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Rather than boring you with election chat, I’d like to talk briefly about something which is hopefully a bit more interesting to everyone: holidays. With spring upon us (seriously, I know it doesn’t feel like it, but it is), it’s time to start looking ahead towards summer and the prospect of some time away.

I know that one Tash Appreciator was waiting until today – 8 May 2015 (I warned you I’d remember) – to even contemplate a holiday. When we spoke about it, he claimed that he didn’t know whether he’d be able to get away and he made the whole thing sound like a bit of a chore.

At the risk of being blunt, this chap is a numpty.

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A holiday is absolutely essential – even the Daily Mail says it’s good for you! I won’t dig deeper into the benefits of a holiday – they are obvious – but I will look at the only question which I think is relevant: do you go somewhere just to get away or do you set the bar higher than that?

When the numpty was spouting his nonsense about not having time to get away, there were three of us talking about holidays: me, the numpty and a third pal. The third pal and I were reminiscing about an excellent trip that a bunch of us went on a few years ago. The numpty wasn’t reminiscing because he turned down the invite to come with us. Anyway, the third pal said: “isn’t it about time we made some new memories rather than talking about old trips?”

I couldn’t agree with him more. On that basis, the answer to the question about how high to set the bar is that you set it as high as your budget and time will possibly allow. Go somewhere far away; where there aren’t “British” pubs and you can’t get Eastenders on the telly; go somewhere you’ve always wanted to go and see the things you’ve always wanted to see.

To the numpty (and anyone else who’s swithering about getting away this summer): consider the gauntlet thrown. Get yourself online and get something booked as soon as you possibly can. When it gets to October, you’ll regret it if you haven’t been away. Hell, come with me or meet me there – I’m away from 21 July to 5 August.

As if the prospect of time off work and relaxation wasn’t enough, going on holiday gives you the opportunity to live like Tom Selleck: you too could lie on a hammock; with a terrible shirt; drinking cocktails out of a pineapple with pink flowers decorating it.

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Don’t worry ladies, you can get in on the action too. I found this delightful number on Amazon for a mere $12!

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Have a great weekend folks!

What’s next?

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Aged 30…

Good morning Tash Appreciators,

A couple of nights ago, I suddenly had a hankering to hear a song that I hadn’t thought about for years: “I still haven’t found what I’m looking for” by U2. I can hear the hipsters tutting already but, like T. Swift says: haters gonna hate hate hate.

It’s normal for TF to be written during the course of a commute but that’s traditionally been on trains. This week is slightly different in that I’m typing away while sitting in a cramped window seat on a Bombardier Q400, somewhere over the Irish Sea. It’s a clear spring evening outside and the sun is just dipping below the horizon.

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After take off – when I was allowed to put my earphones back in – I put my new tune on. I’ve listened to it a couple of times now and I’ve reached the conclusion that Bono isn’t looking for something which can be found just by looking for it (like a set of keys). I think the lines about “climbing the highest mountains” and “scaling city walls” are about looking for something intangible.

I know what he means – as I’m sure many of you do. We spend a lot of our time looking for things which, no matter how hard we look, we may never find – things that have to find us, so to speak. That can be religion, a career, the ideal home – anything.

At the moment, I am looking for a home. Not that I don’t have a home, you understand; I’m just looking for a new one. I’ve been telling people that there’s nothing out there and I’ve jokingly said I’m giving up the search. However, watching the sea, sunset and blue sky outside I’m reminded that there is a place out there which feels like home but which cannot be found in Scotland. Maybe I found what I was looking for a long time ago and that’s why nothing I’m seeing now seems quite right.

So where does that leave me? Because the captain has just said it’s 10 minutes until we land and I need to wrap this up before I’m told to put my phone away.

I’m reminded of a line I heard recently when I was watching a documentary about a media mogul who’s empire was at its height in the 1930s – William Randolph Hearst. The film starts with William’s father (George) working away on a small mine, trying to make his fortune.  Ultimately, George decides to  gather his possessions and leave the place of his birth. The narrator says: “aged 30, he went to California.”

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I’m beginning to think that Operation Zorro needs to look further than one year ahead. Unlike Bono, I might have found that intangible thing which has sparked something in my soul. Maybe that’s why I spend an inordinate amount of time watching  planes flying west and wondering whether they’re going to San Francisco. Maybe one day…

It’s not really a Tash but a big dream deserves a large amount of facial hair. Thanks for the inspiration, George Hearst:

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Have a great weekend folks.

As ever, I ask you: what’s next?

This could be the last time

Good morning Tash Appreciators,

In the past, TF has said that dealing with perceived defeat requires nothing more than picking yourself up, dusting yourself off and moving on. That’s too simplistic.

Let me give you two examples of what I mean – they’re both from The Shawshank Redemption. The story of Andy Dufresne’s  imprisonment after he was wrongly convicted of the murder of his wife has become a classic movie. You’ll also probably remember that the other main character in the film was Ellis “Red” Redding.

At first glance, you might imagine that it would be Andy who would have the most difficulty in dealing with his situation. However, he comes up with the phrase “get busy living or get busy dying”, which seems to give him the encouragement he needs to press on.

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Andy was faced with a tangible obstacle to his happiness – prison walls. In a way, a prison wall or another tangible barrier is easier to overcome than a mental barrier. It’s like looking into the abyss and realising that there may be a path around it. Knowing that there is something tangible on the other side of an obstacle can give a person hope that, one day, they will overcome. Sometimes, thinking to ourselves “get busy living or get busy dying” will be enough for us to pick ourselves up from whatever has gotten us down.

Red, on the other hand, had a different problem. After spending decades in prison, Red became – to use his words – “an institutionalised man”. He was faced with a physical and a mental barrier in that he had spent so much time in prison that his mind couldn’t contemplate anything else. He had stared into the abyss for too long and he needed more than self-motivation to help him survive his freedom. Many of us will have times in our lives when we need the support of others in the same way that Red did.

So what saved him? Well, Red’s thoughts after he left prison give us a clue:

“I find I’m so excited that I can barely sit still or hold a thought in my head. I think it’s the excitement only a free man can feel. A free man at a start of a long journey whose conclusion is uncertain.

I hope I can make it across the border. I hope to see my friend and shake his hand. I hope the Pacific is as blue as it has been in my dreams.

I hope.”

Like Chris Moltisanti in the Sopranos, Red is looking at his future as a journey which he wants to start. Like all of us, he hopes that he gets to where he wants to go. However, crucially, Red has identified that seeing his friend is an essential part of that journey and, in a way, would mark the end of it.

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The point of these three editions of TF is that ambition and resilience are not all that’s required to be successful (in the widest possible sense) in life. The third – and perhaps most important aspect of success – is what old John Donne said: “No man is an island, entire of itself”. LCD Soundsystem put it another way in the TF anthem “All My Friends” (which charts a person’s life) by ending with the words: “where are your friends tonight?”

Like Red, the time has come for this Tash Appreciator to embark on the next long journey. Rather than simply being excited, it’s a fairly scary proposition and all I can do is give it everything I’ve got and hope that it turns out ok. Unfortunately, the start of the next journey means the end of TF, at least for now. Part of the reasoning behind this final TF has been to acknowledge the help and support that I receive from many of you – I really do appreciate it and I am lucky to be able to say that the expression on Red’s face when he sees Andy on the beach in Mexico is one which I understand and probably quite often mirror. I hope that in return TF has added something to your Friday mornings over the last three or four years.

Also like Red, I have plans to reach the blue Pacific ocean but, until then, I will make do with the blue of Blue Dog in Glasgow at around 9pm. I’m hopeful that a few of my friends will be there tonight – you are all most welcome.

I shall leave you with two things. Firstly, this week’s Tash, which of course is Morgan Freeman:

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And secondly, the question which I hope will continue to challenge all of us, regardless of whether TF is around to provide a weekly reminder:

What’s next?

Todo debe pasar

Good morning Tash Appreciators,

This week has been a struggle at TF HQ. Cases of chronic post-holiday-blues have been reported in all departments following an exceptionally successful visit to California:

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I daresay that post-holiday-blues is a condition affecting many of us at this time of year. Fear not though, TF is here to ease your pain.

When you start working for TF, you accept that you are never off duty. I therefore took notes of quotes or places that I thought might be relevant to future editions even while I was away. The title of today’s TF – “todo debe pasar” – was one of the notes I took. I think it was quoted by one of the characters in The Jersey Boys (the stage show) as something his mother used to say.

In English, that phrase means “all things must pass”, which is apparently a slight variation on a verse from the Bible:

And ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars: see that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet.

Although TF definitely doesn’t subscribe to any particular faith, this passage seems fairly uncontroversial. I may not be a theologian, I think it’s basically saying that “stuff happens, but it’s not the end of the world”.

I think that’s useful to bear in mind in times where it seems that everything we were looking forward to, or hoping for, has passed us by. It also suggests that we should enjoy the good times as we have them, as they will surely pass in the same way as the bad times.

So go on holiday and enjoy it – it will be over before you know it. Alternatively, if you’ve been away and are suffering as a result of being back, don’t worry – it’ll pass. I recommend asking yourself the age-old question “what’s next?” and making a plan to give yourself something to look forward to.

All that remains is for me to leave you with a Tash. Despite the fact that his attire isn’t really breakfast-time appropriate, I wish I’d thought to look up this week’s Tash when I was struggling out of bed on Monday. I give you Mr Motivator!

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If you’re really struggling, you could always try some of the exercises mentioned in Mr Motivator’s music video…

Have a great weekend folks!

What’s next?

…You’ve seen it all

Good morning Tash Appreciators,

In this finale of another season of TF, I’ve decided to let you into a trade secret: not every edition of TF is a spontaneous reaction to the events of the preceding week. To supplement weekly events, TF HQ holds a stockpile of quotes, thoughts, questions, names and lyrics which can be drawn upon as and when required.

For as long as I can remember, the name of that stockpile has been a line from The Secret Machines’ “Lightning Blue Eyes”. I’ve always enjoyed the line and I find it helpful to be reminded of it when I’m struggling for inspiration.

The first part of the line was the headline for last week’s edition: “In your dreams…” As you might recall, I said that there were two ways of saying those three words: in a sarcastic or scathing way or in some other way which I would explain this week.

The second half of the line provides the context which allows us to correctly interpret the first: “In your dreams you’ve seen it all”.

Here at TF, saying “in your dreams” is not a reproach – it’s a direction. Dreams are the brain’s way of processing and rationalising what we have experienced while we are awake. They show our deepest fears and ambitions. In a real sense we have seen all of ourselves in our dreams. Therefore, if you want inspiration, your dreams aren’t such a bad place to start.

This time next week, the editorial team of TF will be visiting the organisation’s spiritual home – Moonstone Beach, California. You may have seen it before if you took a look at the photo at the top of the website:

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Above the beach is a hill and, on top of that hill, there is now a castle. The hill was once the favourite spot of a young man called William Randolph Hearst, who used to make a point of riding out there to enjoy the hill’s view of the sparkling Pacific Ocean. It turned out that the hill was more than just a hill to this young man – he called it La Cuesta Encantada. He was so enchanted by the hill that he dreamt of building a castle on it’s summit. Years later, when ownership of the hill passed to him, the dream started to become a reality. It now looks like this:

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I’ve spent a long time wondering why I don’t have the drive to do a particular job in the same way as many of you. I wondered whether I might be money-centric (not that I’m rolling in it now) or whether I just had a dull character. Thinking about Hearst caused me to change my mind.

Hearst didn’t spend all his time at his castle – he was a media mogul and so couldn’t be in such a relatively remote location for too long. He went there because he was passionate about the place. I daresay he dreamt about it.

I’m passionate about that part of the world too – I feel utterly content when I’m there. I find myself day-dreaming about it a lot while on the train. Maybe, my dream is to be able to regularly carve out time when I can feel like I do when I’m there. Maybe I’m the kind of person who doesn’t find satisfaction through an occupation but is searching for something less tangible than that. Maybe that’s why I became involved with TF.

Anyway, I shall leave you with the words of Mark Twain – a Tash I have been saving for a special occasion:

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”

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Have a great couple of weekend folks!

What is NEXT?

P.S.

An eagle eyed member of TF’s London office spied this in Thursday’s Metro. Hope you win the tournament, Fred!

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A wooden leg named Smith

Good morning Tash Appreciators,

Many thanks for the texts and emails of complaint following last week’s re-post of an old TF. I was working on an Operation Zorro activity and that had to take priority. Hey, I’m not perfect.

Perfection is something that I have been reading and thinking about recently. Mainly this is because I’ve been reading the incredible book “Daring Greatly” by Brené Brown. The book covers a multitude of interesting topics but, for the purposes of this week’s TF, I’m just going to talk about perfection.

You often hear people saying that they are perfectionists. I assume they are trying to say that they pay attention to detail or that they are thorough. That’s all very laudable but it isn’t really being a perfectionist in the proper sense.

If I were a perfectionist, I’d never get out of the house in the morning. I would have to try over and over again to pour the milk perfectly onto my cereal; I’d spend until the end of time trying to iron a shirt perfectly; and I’d spend so long trying to make the perfect knot with my tie that the threads would eventually come apart in my hands. I may be wrong, but I don’t think human beings are capable of perfection. We can get close (for example, the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel or Jimmy Page’s solo in Stairway To Heaven) but nothing we create will ever be perfect.

That being said, I do think that we sometimes experience perfection. I’m thinking in particular of those moments when weather, company, music, time, speed, location (and every other factor you can imagine) conspire to create something which is perfect. I remember one moment in particular which I felt was perfection and thinking that I had to try and capture it somehow. It’s not great photography (although the sunburst sums up how I was feeling at the time) but this tht exact moment:

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As we get older, we feel less free to enjoy ourselves and perhaps moments of perfection pass us by. We worry that things are going “too well” and that some disaster must befall us in order to balance the scales of life. Or we feel guilty that we’re happy when others are not. This weeks Tash lost the ability to enjoy life because he got wrapped up in his responsibilities and stresses. However, with a bit of help, he realised that life is best lived when you can laugh and enjoy the company of those around you. The man I’m referring to is Mr Banks from Mary Poppins:

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I wonder if Mr Banks felt that the kite flying out of his hands was a perfect moment.

Have a great weekend folks – enjoy it! Maybe go and fly a kite or something?

What’s next?