Cops and Robbers

Good morning Tash Appreciators,

I hope you all had a good break over the Easter weekend.

While most of us spent the weekend relaxing / nursing hangovers, others had to work hard. In particular, a group of burglars were working hard smashing through concrete walls; drilling through 18-inch-thick metal doors; and abseiling down lift shafts in order to ransack 70 safety deposit boxes in the Hatton Garden Safe Deposit building.

The papers claim that the burglars got away with up to £200m of jewels – like it was an Ocean’s 11-esque heist…

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but I’ve seen enough episodes of Storage Wars to know that the majority of those boxes were probably stuffed with old towels and Christmas decorations.

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Such a cinematic sounding crime got me thinking about who the robbers might be and what made them turn to their life of crime. However, rather than thinking about the social circumstances which led them to take their criminal path, I started to think more about what they would look like. It was then that I started to worry. If popular culture is to be believed, at least one of these villains was bound to have a moustache – and that’s bad for business. Just take these ruffians and baddies as proof that “the media” discriminates against the Tash by portraying it as the facial hair of choice for all villains:

Ming the Merciless

Ming the Merciless

Danny Trejo - the man who's been type-cast as the must-have baddie in any film involving Mexicans.

Danny Trejo – the man who’s been type-cast as the must-have baddie in any film involving Mexicans.

White Goodman - the evilest man in Dodgeball.

White Goodman – the evilest man in Dodgeball.

Dick Dastardly - with a name like that, he was never likely to race by the rules.

Dick Dastardly – with a name like that, he was never likely to race by the rules.

Thankfully, though, I remembered that the position of the Tash as a symbol of truth and justice has been somewhat saved by two of the greatest crime-fighting minds ever:

Hercule Poirot

Hercule Poirot

and

Jacques Clouseau

Jacques Clouseau

Thankfully, these righteous men protect the reputation of the Tash and go to show that the moustache is really the most democratic and fair of facial hair: it looks equally good on the robber as it does on the person tasked with putting the robber behind bars.

Have a great weekend folks!

What’s next?

Trust Your Power

Good morning Tash Appreciators,

This week marks the beginning of what will hopefully be the return to normal service of TF. I say “hope” as editions may not appear every week but it wouldn’t be TF if we didn’t at least give it a go. You know, daring greatly and all that.

I wonder if any of you know who this chap is:

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His name is Derrick Coleman – he won the Superbowl with the Seattle Seahawks last year.

What’s interesting about Mr Coleman isn’t that he won the Superbowl (loads of folk have done that) but that he’s been deaf since he was three years old. That’s a problem in a sport where a key part of the game is hearing and implementing a particular play. If you’ve ever seen an NFL game, you’ll have seen the coaches giving instructions from the sidelines and plays being called on the field.

You’d think that a deaf person would find it difficult to play football at any level; let alone in the NFL. You’d be right. Derrick Coleman was told from the beginning that he couldn’t play. Even after he’d played in college, NFL teams didn’t think he had what it took and none of them picked him in the 2012 NFL Draft.

Looking back on those who said he’d never play in the NFL, Coleman said: “I’ve been deaf since I was three, so I didn’t listen.”

He was in an excellent series of Duracell adverts called “Trust Your Power”. It’s worth a watch:

I like that phrase: “trust your power”. I like it even more when you add “it’ll take you anywhere you want to go”. I take it to mean that if you back yourself and your own ability to get where you want to be; you’ll get there. The other point is that if you don’t trust your own power, and your own ability, no-one else will.

The other interesting point about Derrick Coleman, at least from my perspective, is that he’s almost exactly the same age as my younger (but bigger) brother.

Unlike Derrick Coleman, my brother isn’t deaf. He doesn’t have a Superbowl winner’s ring either. However, he has recently beaten very daunting odds by trusting his own ability and persevering when others would have either given up or compromised. His achievement is testament to the fact that hard work will take you literally anywhere you want to go.

There is one further similarity between my brother and Derrick Coleman in that most of us would love to work in their offices. Coleman’s office is a stadium but my brother’s office will look like this:

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Congrats, pal – you deserve it.

All that remains is to roll out this week’s Tash.

He did a different type of flying but, who knows, maybe the Wee Man will do a bit of flight instruction when, sometime in the distant future, he packs in the jet-set lifestyle. This week’s Tash is Tom Skerritt, aka Mike “Viper” Metcalf from Top Gun.

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Have a great weekend folks!

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?

From Scotland With Love

Good morning Tash Appreciators,

Almost exactly five years ago, I was enjoying a three-week road trip in the US with a group of pals. These were the days before Bluetooth and aux cables so our driving music was restricted to CDs. Between the nine of us (and our two cars) we had only three CDs: a David Guetta album, a Black-Eyed Peas album and a mix-CD titled “Scot Rock”.

The Scot Rock CD had been prepared by the musically minded member of our group. It had the usual Deacon Blue and Proclaimers tracks but it mostly contained songs from Arab Strap, Frightened Rabbit, We Were Promised Jet Packs, Belle & Sebastian, Idlewild etc. It was a cracker, actually, and I still regularly listen to many of those tracks.

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Like many people, there are some songs which take me back to very vivid memories. One memory which comes to mind every time I hear any of the songs from the Scot Rock CD is from one particularly long day of driving. I remember that the weather was not good but that all of us in the car were gazing out of our respective windows in that way which only happens while travelling.

Although none of the songs we were listening to were particularly about Scotland, they all seemed to capture something which reminded us of home. It was strange – even though we were all thousands of miles away and having a great time, it was clear that each of those tracks made us think about home. Although we were looking out at a foreign countryside, our minds were in Scotland.

That brings me on to the independence referendum. Some of you will be sick to death of this topic but hopefully what follows will be constructive.

Thinking back to how the Scot Rock tracks caused five guys to sit and think of Scotland in their own way got me thinking about how personal the referendum vote will be to all voters. For most of us, we are not just thinking about who will run the country for the next five years but what the future will hold for the place we call home. The future which each of us is thinking about will be entirely unique.

For example, when I think of Scotland, I tend to not think about castles, mist or saltires fluttering in the sky; I think of pipe bands at Murrayfield and walking home from Central in the rain. My vision of the future will derive from those memories and the particular way my brain has processed them.  Your vision will be based on your own memories and your own thought processes, which can only result in an infinite number of ways to approach what appears on the face of it to be a very simple question.

As most of us have lived here for a long time, it’s only natural for each of us to have a strong reaction to the question of whether Scotland should be an independent country. It’s probably an excellent thing that so many of us are passionate about our views. But when we’re dealing with each other, it might help if we remembered that there aren’t many things closer to each of our hearts than our homes. I wonder, with all that in mind, whether we might all be kinder to each other, regardless of how certain we may be that one view is right and one is wrong.

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I’ll leave you this week with a relevant Scot Rock recommendation and a Tash.

My recommendation is King Creosote’s One Night Only – it’s a track from his album From Scotland With Love, which was the soundtrack to a BBC film of the same name, made up of vintage Scottish footage and aimed at showing Scotland’s modern history in a new light.

Finally, the Tash. As one might expect of someone with credentials in music appreciation, the lad who created the Scot Rock CD has rocked a Tash for many years. He still does, even though he’s also developed a goatee type thang. Some of you will know him as Stuart, I know him as D-O-Double-B.

Have a great weekend folks!

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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Helplessness Blues

Good morning Tash Appreciators,

This week, I watched the last episode of The West Wing for the umpteenth time.

There were a few TF related points to take from the last 5-10 minutes before the curtain fell on President Bartlet’s regime:

  1. As he stands in the West Wing for the last time, President Bartlet looks out the window onto the White House lawn. It’s clearly hitting him that his time in power is coming to an end and he’s thinking whether he could have done more. His wife reassures him that he “did a lot of good” but he’s clearly not convinced.
  1. Later, at the end of his first staff meeting in the Oval Office, the new president (I won’t tell you his name just in case any of you want to watch it in the future) asks “what’s next?” and smiles. He’s full of ambition and determination to achieve all of the things that Bartlet didn’t.
  1. Finally, in the last scene of the series, President Bartlet is flying on Air Force One to his family home. The new president has been sworn in and Bartlet’s job is at an end. Again, he’s staring pensively out the window as the sun sets in the distance. This time, when his wife asks him what he’s thinking, he simply smiles and says:

Tomorrow.

I suspect that from time to time we’ve all experienced those emotions. We’ve all been full of enthusiasm at the beginning of a great undertaking and, by the time we reach the end, we have all found ourselves wondering whether there’s more we could have done.

That’s where perspective comes in. Once we realise, as President Bartlet did when he looked out of the window of Air Force One, that we are but functioning cogs in this great machinery we call humanity, we understand that it’s an achievement to have made even a small positive change to the world around us.

Peppered through this week’s TF are references to a song called “Helplessness Blues” by Fleet Foxes. The song starts by describing someone suffering from the helplessness blues but in a line that marks a change of pace and message Robin Pecknold sings:

What good is it to sing helplessness blues?

Why should I wait for anyone else? 

As much as we all sometimes feel helpless, or that we could have done more, a bit of perspective should change that. The only way to deal with that feeling is to remember that our  feelings of helplessness will continue only for as long as we choose not to take control; that we cannot wait for someone to tell us what to do; that we must think of tomorrow rather than yesterday; and that we must ask “what’s next!?”

Although President Bartlet doesn’t rock a Tash, it turns out that the actor who plays him did. Martin Sheen, take a bow, this is a smashing effort:

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Have a great weekend folks!

What’s next?

Walkabout

Good morning Tash Appreciators!

During TF’s unscheduled absence over the last fortnight, I made a couple of journeys into rural Scotland. The first of those trips in particular was to a fairly remote part of the country and offered some spectacular scenery:

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I found being out in the countryside very therapeutic. I’m not sure whether it was the road trip which made me feel like I was totally detached from the reality of everyday life or whether it was the views; but that’s really how it felt.

It strikes me that I am a fairly late convert to the therapeutic properties of leisurely travel and beautiful vistas. Australian Aborigines, for example, would go Walkabout during their adolescence and I suppose that gap years, these days, are a similar thing. Closer to home, there are plenty of examples of folk whose lives have been immeasurably enhanced by wide open spaces. One person in particular springs to mind, as he was born only 30 miles from where I’m currently sitting but ended up passing away 5,000 miles away, after a life devoted to the outdoors.

The chap I am referring to is John Muir. Although he was born in Dunbar, he moved to the US as a child and subsequently ventured to TF’s spiritual home, San Francisco. Immediately after arriving in San Francisco in 1867, he left for Yosemite; a place which would take the breath of even the most indoorsy of city dwellers:

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Interestingly, Yosemite’s protection from commercial exploitation was secured by a couple of TF regulars. In 1864, Abraham Lincoln signed the Yosemite Grant, which set a precedent for the creation of the first national park at Yellowstone. In 1890, following lobbying by Muir, Yosemite National Park was created.

The Park’s current form was created after Muir took President Theordore Roosevelt (he of “daring greatly” fame) camping for three nights in May 1903. It was then, after the President awoke under a light dusting of snow on Glacier Point, that Muir persuaded Roosevelt to take the Park into the control of the Federal Government, which he duly did in 1906. There’s a great photo of Muir and Roosevelt up on Glacier Point. If you look at the waterfall on the right side of both the picture below and the picture above, you can get an idea of what the view was from Glacier Point, which in turn explains why Roosevelt took action to protect it:

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In times when we are encouraged to broaden our horizons, and look beyond our current circumstances, I wonder how many of us get out to places where our horizons are literally broadened; where we can really experience the size and beauty of the world around us. I also wonder how many of us would be changed if we saw and appreciated the kinds of things that Muir did.

Naturally, this week’s Tash is John Muir. He had much more of a beard than a Tash but, to be fair, it would have been difficult to maintain a clean cut Tash when out in the wilderness. Also, who would have been looking at it? Muir had Yosemite all to himself most of the time.

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Have a great weekend folks!

What’s next?

Protest

Good morning Tash Appreciators,

On Tuesday of this week, the Scottish Parliament passed a Bill which will allow same sex couples to marry. The passing of the Bill means that Scotland is catching up with England and Wales, where same sex couples will be able to marry by the end of March.

The rights of gay communities around the world are in sharp focus at the moment, particularly as the Winter Olympics formally open in Sochi today. The homophobic laws and attitudes of some in Russia (particularly President Putin) have attracted a great deal of criticism.

Some say that politics has no place in sport and there is merit in that point of view. After all, athletes cannot control the laws of the places where they are sent to compete. However, it’s also true that sport is a leveller and can be a real-life example of many of the qualities of human nature.

We’ve seen in the past that sport can be an ideal opportunity to challenge inequality. Think of Jesse Owens in 1936 (when Owens confounded Nazi propaganda by winning gold in three sprint events and also in the long jump) and in 1968 when Tommie Smith and John Carlos raised a fist in the air for Black Power (they said at the time that it was for human rights in general and that is reflected in the human rights badges which they and the Australian athlete, Peter Norman, wore on their jackets):

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Given the iconic pictures which resulted from Smith and Carlos’ stance on the podium, it can be no surprise who this week’s Tash will be. This is Tommie Smith these days:

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It’s not just people on the big stage that can be a catalyst for change. We all can be. Indeed, if change is ever to happen and take root, it has to happen at a local level as well in full view of the public. To conclude this week, I thought it might be useful to give an example of an individual who took a stand in a more personal way. This is a letter which Bertrand Russell sent to Oswald Mosley, the founder of the British Union of Fascists, in 1962:

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I really appreciate the terms of this letter: it’s polite, concise, yet emphatic. I would urge everyone who discusses issues like gay marriage, or anything where people have strong feelings, to take the same approach. It’s not often that one person is always right or always wrong and the chances are that the person you’re talking too has something interesting to say, even if you disagree with most of their views.

Have a great weekend folks!

What’s next?

 

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?